Saturday, 28 March 2009

Bishop of Rochester to step down

Bishop Michael announces his intention to step down as Bishop of Rochester

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has announced his intention to step down as Bishop of Rochester as from 1st September 2009. He will have been Bishop in the Diocese for nearly 15 years and during this time has played a major part in the life of the church.

Bishop Michael is hoping to work with a number of church leaders from areas where the church is under pressure, particularly in minority situations, who have asked him to assist them with education and training for their particular situation. Details of this arrangement are still being worked out.

Bishop Michael, who will be 60 in August, is the 106th Bishop of Rochester. He is originally from Asia and was the first non-white Diocesan Bishop in the Church of England. He was appointed to Rochester in 1994. Before that he was the General Secretary of CMS from 1989-1994 and before that Bishop of Raiwind in Pakistan and theological Assistant to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Since 1999 he has also been a member of the House of Lords where he has been active in a number of areas of national and international concern.

Bishop Michael’s farewell service for the Diocese will be held at Rochester Cathedral on 12th September 2009 at 3.15 p.m. and further details will be circulated at a later date. Details about the process of appointing a new Bishop and the arrangements during the interregnum will also be published later.

Canon Tony Smith
Personal Chaplain and Press Officer to the Bishop of Rochester
Phone: 01634 814439
Fax: 01634 831136
Mobile: 07791 968819

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The tyranny of liberalism

[...] Q: What about the distinction between Anglo-American liberalism and continental liberalism, and their different models of secularism? Is it inaccurate to lump everything together under the heading of "liberalism"?

Kalb: The fundamental principle is the same, so the distinction can’t be relied on.

In the English-speaking world the social order was traditionally less illiberal than on the continent.

King and state were less absolute, the Church had less independent authority, standing armies were out of favor, the aristocracy was less a separate caste, and the general outlook was more commercial and utilitarian.

Classical liberalism could be moderate and still get what it wanted.

Liberalism is progressive, though, so its demands keep growing. It eventually rejects all traditional ways as illiberal and becomes more and more radical.

For that reason state imposition of liberal norms has become at least as aggressive in Britain and Canada as on the continent.

The United States is still somewhat of an exception, but even among us aggressive forms of liberalism are gaining ground. They captured the academy, the elite bar and the media years ago, and they’re steadily gaining ground among the people.

The international dizziness about President Obama and the violent reaction to the narrow victory of Proposition 8 concerning same-sex marriage in California show the direction things are going. Read more
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Friday, 27 March 2009

Fulcrum leadership question inspectors' report on Wycliffe Hall

A member of the Open Evangelical group Fulcrum has challenged the assessment of Wycliffe Hall theological college presented by the Chair of the Church of England’s Ministry Division in a recent letter to the Church of England Newspaper.

Bishop Graham James had himself written to criticize the headline in the previous week’s CEN that Wycliffe had “failed” the inspection. This, Bishop James said, was “plainly wrong.” He continued,

On the contrary, the inspection team found Wycliffe Hall ‘fit for purpose’ displaying ‘a rich mosaic of evangelical traditions which come together in a community which shows respect for difference, and in which women are fully accepted and integrated’.

Now, however, Jody Stowell, one of the Fulcrum leadership team, has explicitly questioned that conclusion and the effectiveness of the inspection. Writing in a thread about the Bishop’s letter on the Fulcrum discussion forum, she stated,

i [sic] for one would be very interested to know the process by which it was determined that women are fully accepted and integrated.

which women were asked, if any? was this done in a way that the subtlety of power imbalance was avoided in order to get a true representation?

Challenged on this via another post, she responded that she,

... questioned the statement about the women because the way that it is articulated in the quotation [in the Bishop’s letter] removes it entirely from any context in which the women themselves define whether they feel accepted and fully integrated

Later she added,

i would like to know how the female ordinands feel, i would like to know the ‘atmosphere’ of the college, i would like to know that women called to be priests are still feeling able to attend wycliffe if they choose and that when they do they will not feel marginalised or neglected ... but accepted and fully integrated ...

Wycliffe Hall, and its Principal, Revd Dr Richard Turnbull, have come in for considerable criticism in Fulcrum discussion fora, particularly since the termination of the employment of two other members of the Fulcrum leadership, Drs Andrew Goddard and Elaine Storkey, as staff at Wycliffe Hall. Dr Storkey later went to an industrial tribunal, where Wycliffe Hall defended the dismissal, but acknowledged that it was unfair on the grounds that the statutory procedures had not been followed. Dr Storkey threatened a further claim for religious discrimination, but the case was eventually settled out of court.

Revd John Richardson
27 March 2009

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Brown in talks to let women and Catholics inherit throne

Gordon Brown has opened talks with Buckingham Palace and Commonwealth leaders over abolishing the Act of Settlement which bars Catholics from the Royal Family.

Mr Brown is also pressing for collective action to end primogeniture which favours males over over female heirs to the British monarchy.

The bar on Catholics has long been regarded as a symbol of sectarian prejudice but according to some legal opinion its abolition requires legislation in every nation of which the Queen is sovereign. Read more
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Thursday, 26 March 2009

Murder enquiry "hit a dead end"

I couldn't resist this one from The (Brighton?) Argus:

Bolney torso removed from Mid Sussex grave

An unidentified body has been removed from its grave after 15 years.

Police reopened the ‘Bolney torso’ murder inquiry this week in the hope of identifying the headless and handless corpse which baffled detectives in the early 1990s.

A hearse collected the coffin yesterday from the cemetery in Western Road, Haywards Heath, where it has lain since a three-year police investigation hit a dead end in 1994. Read it here.

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Wycliffe Hall "did not fail inspection" - Chair of Ministry Division

Sir, Your front page headline in last week’s edition (20th March) was plainly wrong. Wycliffe Hall did not fail its recent inspection. On the contrary, the inspection team found Wycliffe Hall ‘fit for purpose’ displaying ‘a rich mosaic of evangelical traditions which come together in a community which shows respect for difference, and in which women are fully accepted and integrated’.

Under the revised inspection system (one of the revisions is the full publication of inspection reports for the first time) there are thirteen areas of enquiry. It was in only one of these that Wycliffe Hall registered a ‘no confidence’ judgement from the inspectors.

It is clear that the Wycliffe Hall Council and the Principal are alert to the need to address the concerns of the inspectors, and it is not simply misleading, but false, to translate that single judgement into the sort of headline you saw fit to publish last week. Such inaccurate reporting does little service to those of us who have been arguing for full public disclosure of inspection reports.

The Rt. Rev Graham James
Chair, Ministry Division.

Subscribe to the Church of England Newspaper. (The irony of this suggestion in the light of the above letter does not, however, escape me. I also wonder when the folks at Fulcrum who are still picking away at this will catch up with the Min Div's verdict. Ed)

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Lambeth’s £288,000 deficit due to incompetence

POOR PLANNING, inexperienced management, and weak financial controls contributed
to a £288,000 deficit for the 2008 Lambeth Conference, a report released
last week by the Archbishops' Council and the Church Commissioners has concluded.
The management team, conference structure and business practices were not
up to the job, the report found, stating that the “arrangements in place for the 2008
conference were less robust than they needed to be.”

The conference's opaque management structure had left no one in charge, with
the result that there had been a “disconnect between design on the one hand, and capacity and execution on the other.” The lack of clear lines of authority had
led to cost overruns, with the financial team “not always aware” of the commitments
made by conference management staff. Two examples cited by the report were the “failure to recognise a commitment for expenditure of £411,000 on the
Big Top” the blue tent that served as the principle venue for conference meetings,
and IT support.

The conference finance director “did not know” about the Big Top bill, while the
conference “organiser did not know it wasnot in the budget.” Rather than charging a
flat fee for internet usage by conference goers, the University of Kent changed the
conference for individual log-ons, leading to a bill of £80,576---over £65,000 over budget.

Read more by subscribing to the Church of England Newspaper.

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Religious tensions rising at universities

FAITH IS becoming increasingly polarized on university campuses according to both Christians and secularists. Students are becoming more animated about defending their individual world view rather than fighting Labour’s university fees or other hot issues. Speaking to the Church of England Newspaper, both UCCF and the British Humanist Society (BHA) admitted that the atmosphere in university had changed in recent years.

Pod Bhogul, press officer for UCCF said that the trend reflected the polarisation demonstrated in culture as a whole. He said: “Christian Unions exist to give every student in Great Britain an opportunity to hear about Jesus Christ whilst they’re at university.

Universities are, of course, a market-place of ideas where different views can be shared, providing a healthy context for dialogue, debate and discussion.”
He went on to say: “The expression of strongly held views, be they secular or spiritual, can only be a good thing for Christian Unions seeking to engage with these worldviews in a way that is meaningful, loving and honouring to the gospel.” Read more by subscribing to the Church of England Newspaper
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God 'will not give happy ending'

God will not intervene to prevent humanity from wreaking disastrous damage to the environment, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned.

In a lecture, Dr Rowan Williams urged a "radical change of heart" to prevent runaway climate change.

At York Minster he said humanity should turn away from the selfishness and greed that leads it to ignore its interdependence with the natural world.

And God would not guarantee a "happy ending", he warned. Read more
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Abortion advice ads 'to be aired'

Pregnancy advisory services - including abortion information - could be advertised on TV and radio under proposals due to be released.

Restrictions on condom adverts could also be relaxed, as part of plans aimed at reducing high UK rates of teenage pregnancy and sexual infections.

They suggest condom adverts could be shown before the 2100 watershed.

The idea is part of a review of advertising codes, which will now be put to the public for their views.

The review - by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee on Advertising Practice (BCAP) - has also proposed tighter controls over environmental claims and stricter rules to protect children. Read more
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Wednesday, 25 March 2009

It’s the Christians who practise intolerance

The voices are becoming more shrill. Bishops and commentators and some parliamentarians have got themselves the same hymn sheet from which they are singing very loudly. The refrain, in essence, is that a monstrous regiment of British secularists is denying Christians the right to practice their faith freely while poisoning the well of social policy with immoral initiatives.

The outgoing leader of UK Catholics, Cormac Murphy O'Connor, recently spoke of "the new intolerance directed against those who maintain pro-life and pro-family views". They fret about Godless Britain across the pond, too.

This week, Peter Glover, in the online journal First Things, wrote of "an anti-Christian bias in Britain". And he felt moved to add that "by making Christian practice difficult, if not outright illegal in British public life, the British courts and public authorities have contributed to an increasing awareness that a vacuum exists where the nation's Judaeo-Christian spine used to be".

And then there is the gospel according to Christine Odone, former editor of the Catholic Herald and a still trenchant commentator on all matters theological. She rails against what she characterises "God-bashers", suggesting "for them it is not enough to exclude those who do not subscribe to their soulless scientism, or one-dimensional rationalism. Pariah status is only the first step in the punishment they mete out to those who refuse to follow their lead".

At which point I want to say: hang on - just who is practising intolerance here? Within the past couple of weeks the papal visit to Africa has been dominated by the pontiff's criticism of condom promotion in the campaign against HIV/Aids, and of countries where abortion has been made legal.

Where are the legal and moral rights of those who take a different view? Why should it be acceptable to suggest that those who do not embrace a particular world view are bound for the big bad fire? It seems to me you could make an entirely coherent case that the people under threat in Britain are the secularists. It is extremely irritating, to put it no higher, to be labelled extremist for holding the view that contextualised sex education is important, and that it is not for any church to condemn contraception use within communities who do not subscribe to the same beliefs. Read more
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Church has only itself to blame for ignorance of Christianity, says cleric

Churches only have themselves to blame for widespread ignorance of Christianity, according to The Very Rev Adrian Newman, the Dean of Rochester.

Mr Newman said the Church of England had just assumed that people would "absorb" knowledge of its traditions and teachings because it is the state religion.

But he said that the culture of the country has changed in recent decades and become more secular, with the result that young people are growing up without any understanding of Christianity.

This means that many of them have no idea that Easter is an important festival commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and not just an opportunity to enjoy a Bank Holiday or eat chocolate eggs.

Writing in the latest issue of Rochester Link, the diocese magazine, Mr Newman said: "As our culture has become distanced from our Christian roots, the meaning of Easter has somehow got lost in translation.

"These days, when people encounter the great Christian traditions, it's like they are stepping into a foreign country where the language and the customs are unfamiliar and odd."

He went on: "We in the churches have only ourselves to blame for this state of affairs. Read more
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Tuesday, 24 March 2009

NIGERIA: Standing Committee stands in 'full communion' with conservative North American entity

The Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria declared at a recent meeting that it stands "in full and abiding communion" with the Anglican Church in North America, a conservative entity that is not officially recognized as a part of the Anglican Communion.

Members of several self-styled Anglican organizations, known collectively as the Common Cause Partnership, announced the new entity in December 2008 to serve Anglicans who have decided they no longer want to be a part of the Episcopal Church or Anglican Church of Canada for theological reasons.

Deposed Bishop of Pittsburgh Robert W. Duncan, moderator of the Common Cause Partnership and archbishop-designate for the Anglican Church in North America, told the Standing Committee that the new entity consists of "seven hundred congregations representing more than one hundred thousand Anglicans in the United States and Canada who have held true to the faith once delivered to the saints," according to a resolution from the March 11-14 meeting, held at Obafemi Awolowo University in Osun State, Nigeria.

The Church of Nigeria is led by Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, one of the Anglican Communion's leading critics of the Episcopal Church and its inclusive theology. Akinola has maintained that homosexuality is incompatible with Scripture and has supported legislation in Nigeria that would have gays and lesbians incarcerated for up to five years. He has called for the Episcopal Church to repent for such recent actions as the 2003 consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, a divorced gay man living in same-gender relationship, and some dioceses' provisions for the blessing of same-gender unions. Read more
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The sound of silence: The Cuckoo is vanishing

[...] The one certainty is that, led by the cuckoo, the spring-bringers are rapidly being lost from our lives. I gradually began to focus less on the causes of it and more on the meaning – trying to work out why this particular wildlife loss seemed more disturbing than the others.

These birds mattered to us, I knew from the outset, because they signalled the most marvellous of all the season changes, and to hear the cuckoo, say, for the first time in a given spring was a moment of true exhilaration. Yet underlying the exhilaration there was something more, something deeper than mere delight; and eventually I realised that it was not simply the fact of the birds' arrival, and its marking of the seasonal shift, tremendous though that was – it was the recurring nature of this event.

For, in coming back year after year after year, against all the odds they face, the spring migrants are testaments to the earth's great cycle. They remind us that although death is certain, renewal is eternal; that although all life ends, new life comes as well. Perhaps what they mean to us, really, is hope – every one of the whole 16 million a feathered piece of hope, fresh from Africa.

But if the birds don't come back, then something is going awry at the heart of things. Something is going wrong with the earth's great cycle, something is going wrong with the spring itself – something is going wrong with the very working of the world.

Spinning around at a thousand miles an hour, on its axis tilted at 23 degrees to the plane of its orbit around the Sun, the earth in its motions has always seemed dependable to the last degree. In human history it has always worked entirely reliably, giving us day and then night, spring and then summer, autumn and then winter, with a regularity so unshakeable that these are the only real certainties, apart from death itself, in our uncertain lives.

That any of this should alter, other than on the Day of Judgement, has never been part of our intellectual currency. But here we have one of the world's profoundest motions, a living announcement of spring, coming to an end.

We have grown used to wildlife losses, but it will be far more than the loss of a species to say goodbye to the cuckoo, and to bid farewell to its fellow summer visitors, as we are now on course to do sooner rather than later. It will be something so momentous in its implications that perhaps it is better not to think it through. Read more
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What do you get if you divide science by God?

A prize-winning quantum physicist says a spiritual reality is veiled from us, and science offers a glimpse behind that veil. So how do scientists investigating the fundamental nature of the universe assess any role of God, asks Mark Vernon.

The Templeton Prize, awarded for contributions to "affirming life's spiritual dimension", has been won by French physicist Bernard d'Espagnat, who has worked on quantum physics with some of the most famous names in modern science.

Quantum physics is a hugely successful theory: the predictions it makes about the behaviour of subatomic particles are extraordinarily accurate. And yet, it raises profound puzzles about reality that remain as yet to be understood.

The bizarre nature of quantum physics has attracted some speculations that are wacky but the theory suggests to some serious scientists that reality, at its most basic, is perfectly compatible with what might be called a spiritual view of things. Read more
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Monday, 23 March 2009

Church of Nigeria Formally Accepts Emerging Anglican Province

The Church of Nigeria, the largest province in the Anglican Communion, has become the first to formally accept a new orthodox province emerging in North America.

Although official recognition from the entire 77 million-member Anglican Communion is expected to take years, the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria resolved unanimously to be in "full communion" with the emerging Anglican Church in North America and recognize it as a branch in the global body, according to an announcement on Friday.

Bishop Robert Duncan, who is to lead the Anglican Church in North America, praised the decision.

"In this one action, leaders representing every diocese in the Church of Nigeria, which in turn count as members more than a quarter of the world’s Anglicans, have declared themselves to be full partners of the Anglican Church in North America," Duncan said in a statement.

"They have stated clearly that we stand together on the authority and trustworthiness of the Bible, the historic creeds and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as our only Savior and Lord," he stated.

Duncan and a host of conservatives in North America as well overseas had been calling on The Episcopal Church – the U.S. arm of Anglicanism – to repent and get back in line with traditional Anglicanism and Scripture, particularly since it consecrated an openly gay bishop in 2003. But the conservative group saw little hope that the U.S. body would change direction from what breakaway Anglicans claim to be a departure from Christian orthodoxy. Read more
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Rwanda: ABp Kolini Lauded on Efforts Against Homosexuality

The leader of the Province, church of Uganda, Archbishop Luke Orombi has lauded the Primate of the Province of the Anglican church of Rwanda, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini for his dedication in the fight against homosexuality in the Anglican Communion.

He said this on Thursday 19 during a farewell dinner organized by the Province of the Anglican church of Rwanda at Kigali extension guest house.

The prelate who was accompanied by his wife Mama Fibi Orombo was in the country for nine days.

He came to Rwanda to have a rest as well as learning from Rwanda's experience after the 1994 Mayhem which left over one million Tutsi dead.

"Kolini, you are a great leader. You have shown the whole world that God is powerful, may God keep using you at any time of need," Orombi said, adding that both Rwanda and Ugandan churches will continue fighting for the good cause of the bible.

He also commended the good leadership of President Paul Kagame, describing him a statesman and a unique leader on the African continent. Read more
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