Saturday, 25 April 2009

Giles Fraser: No tasks left for the risen Jesus

THIS WEEK it is 900 years since the death of Anselm of Canterbury, argu­ably most noted for his inven­tion of the ontological argument, and for putting up the scaffolding for the theory of penal substitution, only really finished off by Calvin in the 16th century.

Now, while I think the ontological argument is a pretty harmless par­lour game for brainboxes with too much time on their hands, penal sub­stitution is a very bad thing indeed.

Some Christians get very worked up by anyone’s having a go at penal substitution. This is largely, I think, because they confuse this medieval-cum-Reformation reading of salva­tion with the gospel itself, and just cannot see that penal substitution is one reading of the text among others.

The basic idea is that human beings owe God an unpayable debt on account of their sin, and that Jesus pays off this debt by being nailed up on a cross. To many of us, this account turns God into a merciless loan shark, deaf to our pleas for forgiveness. Whatever hap­pened to “I desire mercy not sacri­fice” (Hosea 6.6, Matthew 9.13)?

Another weakness is that it gives the resurrection nothing to do in the overall scheme of human salvation. If we are saved on the cross, then there is no saving work left for the resurrection to do. Thus it gets sidelined as a spectacular after-party to the main event, which gets wrapped up on Good Friday.

That just can’t be right. Those who insist otherwise might like to take a closer look at Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo? (“Why a God-Man?”), where he sets out his understanding of salvation. It is made up of 47 mini-chapters; all have titles, but not one of them refers to the resurrection. Indeed, the resurrection hardly merits a mention throughout the whole book — a book on human salvation. No wonder so many of us find penal substitution so uncon­vincing. Read more
No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the

Evangelical appointed Bishop of Sherborne

A leader of a prominent evangelical grouping in the Anglican war over gays has been appointed bishop to one of the oldest historic Episcopal seats in the country.

Although Sherborne, founded in 705, is no longer a see in its own right but an area in the Salisbury diocese covering Dorset, the appointment Dr Graham Kings as its bishop is one of the strongest signs yet that the Archbishop of Canterbury is winning the battle for Anglican unity.

Dr Kings is founder of the increasingly influential group Fulcrum, which publishes the writings of conservative evangelical Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright.

Fulcrum, based at Dr Kings’ present church of St Mary’s Islington, has campaigned for orthodoxy without schism in the Church of England.

Fulcrum is aligned theologically with conservatives in North America who are also attempting to maintain a conservative agenda without schism.

Unlike other conservative bishops, clergy and laity who have already left, the centrist conservatives are resisting moves to defect over the consecration of a gay bishop and the blessing of same-sex marriages.

Fifteen of these bishops in The US Episcopal Church, who belong to the Anglican Communion Institute, this week published a statement arguing for the recognition of the individual diocese as “church” rather than the national province.

If these were accepted, it would mean that dioceses could individually sign up to the new unity document, the Anglican Covenant, even if a national church refused to do so because it wished to pursue a more liberal pro-gay agenda.

Dr Kings said he believed the strategy of Dr Rowan Williams to attempt to keep most conservatives and liberals on board through the “covenant process” was working. Read more
No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the

Friday, 24 April 2009

Doctors criticise Anglican Mainstream conference on 'gay treatment'

Plans to promote medical treatment for homosexuality at a religious conference have been criticised by doctors.

The event will hear from prominent American psychologist Dr Joseph Nicolosi who said he had helped many people to become heterosexual.

But the Royal College of Psychiatrists said there was no supporting evidence and such treatment could be damaging.

The two-day conference being held in central London has been organised by the church group Anglican Mainstream.

Dr Nicolosi said he had been helping people to "increase their heterosexual potential" for 25 years, and put his success rate among men at about two out of three.

He said he was offering a choice for people who were unhappy being gay. Read more

Full details of the Conference may be seen here.

Sex and the City

A Judaeo - Christian conference for all

With Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D. (NARTH)

author of Shame, Homosexuality and the Practical Work of ReparativeTherapy (IVP, to be released April 2009)

Jeffrey Satinover, M.D., Ph.D. author of Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth

Arthur Goldberg, J.D. author of the just-released Light in the Closet:Torah, Homosexuality, and the Power to Change, with others.

Friday and Saturday, 24th and 25th April, 2009, 9:30 am - 5:30pm
Central London venue

COST £30/day, £50/both days (including morning coffee and afternoon tea), drinks reception/panel discussion Friday evening, 6.30- 8.30 pm, materials and registration


No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Bishops' Statement suggests approach of TEC endgame

A very lengthy statement signed by a number of conservative TEC bishops has been published by the Anglican Communion Institute.

The gist of the paper seems to be that the historical basis of The Episcopal Church as a conglomeration of independent dioceses without a formal Primate or Metropolitan means that the existing Presiding Bishop has been acting consistently ultra vires - beyond her proper powers.

It is possible to read comment on this on a number of blogs, both Liberal and Conservative, such as Thinking Anglicans, Baby Blue Online, Stand Firm, and so on.

One thing that seems clear, however, is that the present atmosphere within TEC, even amongst those committed to staying, admits no quarter on the issues dividing that body. This provides further support to the suggestion on the Ugley Vicar Blog that we have reached the point of 'Game Over' as regards a covenant-based rescue plan which will restore the Anglican Communion to the point at which it was pre-Lambeth 1998.

There seems, as yet, to be little response from English 'Communion Conservatives'.


No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Faith Diary: Kosher exorcisms

Bumps in the night, unearthly sounds, deathly cold rooms - all the usual ingredients of a supposed haunting. But as Robert Pigott reports in this week's Faith Diary, the kosher solution to a Jewish poltergeist doesn't involve a bell, book and candle. Also this week - what was cooking between the Queen and the Cardinal and why Jordan is praying for a windfall of tourist dollars.


When Jesus miraculously cast "unclean spirits" out of man and into a herd of swine at Gadara in Jordan 2,000 years ago, he was setting the stage for exorcisms which continue in the present day.

Each diocese in the Church of England provides a priest to take on the role of exorcist for those rare occasions when it is deemed necessary.

But the most recent need has emerged in a London synagogue.

The rabbi at Enfield and Winchmore Hill synagogue had recently moved into the accommodation attached to the synagogue when he found he had been joined by an unseen force capable of opening windows, as well as knocking at doors and making other inexplicable noises.

Corroboration for the presence of a spirit has come from members of the synagogue's congregation, who say they have noticed the spectral activity before.

The ghost was believed to be that of the rabbi who founded the synagogue and who died 40 years ago. Read more
No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the

Gay marriage row at Miss USA show

The runner-up at the Miss USA beauty pageant says her outspoken opposition to gay marriage cost her first place in the competition.

During the televised event, Carrie Prejean - Miss California - said she believed that "a marriage should be between a man and a woman".

She had been asked for her views on the subject by one of the judges, celebrity blogger Perez Hilton.

"It did cost me my crown," said Ms Prejean, after the competition.

The eventual winner of the pageant was Kristen Dalton, Miss North Carolina. Read more
No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the

Church of Scotland magazine backs gay partnerships

A potential rift within the Church of Scotland over gay relationships emerged yesterday after the Church’s house magazine backed civil partnerships and openly gay ministers.

Accusing religious traditionalists of selectively quoting the Bible to support their attacks on homosexual relations, the editorial in Life And Work urged the Kirk to show strong leadership on an issue that has threatened to split the Church of England and could prove just as divisive in Scotland.

The article, which was written by the magazine’s editor, Muriel Armstrong, comes ahead of next month’s General Assembly in Edinburgh and has been timed to influence a key debate on whether openly homosexual ministers can be appointed to the Church. Read more
No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the

Monday, 20 April 2009

Genetic research in a "blind alley" in search for cures for common diseases

Professor Steve Jones, one of Britain's top geneticists, said the belief that a few genes held the key to ridding the world of conditions such as cancer and diabetes has proved to be "plain wrong".

In most cases hundreds of genes are responsible, and often they have less effect than other factors such as diet, lifetstyle and the environment people live in.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the academic and author led calls for a complete overhaul of the "scattergun" approach, which is backed up by millions of pounds in funding by governments and medical charities such as the Wellcome Trust.

He said he was one of a number of "renegade" scientists who were beginning to question such research: "It's not done to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, nor to bite the hand that feeds you - nor, in my own profession, to criticise the research programme of the Wellcome Trust, an enormously rich charity that paid much of the bill to read the message written in human DNA. Read more
No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the

The Anglican schism widens quietly

In an airport hotel there is no avoiding the impression that everybody else is on the way to somewhere more important, or is already there. The feeling grew when I walked into yesterday's press conference outside Heathrow: the Renaissance suite could have held 360 people. In fact there were half-a-dozen archbishops and bishops connected with the Anglican conservative tendency, plus fixers and hangers-on. And me.

This was no reflection on the archbishops, of course, and only a little on the hotel. It was principally, I'm sure, that in the week after Easter, heading up to Low Sunday, religious journalists, like everybody else, want to take a break. Tough on the press officer, but these things happen. So we moved some chairs and sat in a small circle, and I asked questions for 45 minutes, and then they went off to lunch, and I got back into my car and drove home.

And as I sat on the M25, I reflected on what I'd heard, trying desperately to avoid the traffic analogies that came unbidden into my mind. For the international Anglican Communion, all 38 provinces and 77 million worshippers of it, has been coming apart over the past decade or so, and these archbishops were saying they want to put it back together again. Except that, to many of their fellow Anglicans, these archbishops have been leading a breakaway movement and have been instrumental in the divisions. Read more
No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the

TEC files suit against Bishop Iker

The Episcopal Church’s headquarters in New York, along with a group of loyalist supporters in North Texas, has filed suit against Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker and his diocese’s officers, seeking possession of the diocese’s properties.

In a statement released on April 14, US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said the national church and the loyalist group were asking a Texas court to declare them the “rightful owners of all diocesan property, real and personal, including funds and endowments.” Read more
No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the

Fried or frozen, the solar systems that may have had life

A glimpse of the bleak fate that awaits the Earth in billions of years has emerged from research into dying stars that once blazed as brightly as the Sun.

Astronomers have discovered that at least one in 100 white dwarfs — the burnt-out remnants of Sun-like stars — once had solar systems, with planets that were destroyed or deep-frozen by the death throes of their stars

The research, by a team led by Jay Farihi, of the University of Leicester, suggests millions of other solar systems have endured the destiny predicted for the Earth when the Sun dies.

“What we have seen is a possible fate for our own solar system,” Dr Farihi said. “Many of the systems we are studying will have been similar to our own. It’s a possibility that some of them could once have held life.” Read more
No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Church of England bishop accused of trying to set up rival church

The Very Rev Colin Slee, the liberal Dean of Southwark has publicly attacked the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, and said that he was one of three bishops whose position was now "open to some debate".

The Dean's broadside, delivered in the introduction to the annual report for Southwark Cathedral, will infuriate evangelical supporters of the Bishop, 59, and further widen the gulf between the traditional and liberal wings of the church.

The report was distributed to worshippers who attended last week's Easter Sunday celebration at the Cathedral.

In the article, Mr Slee argues that the decision by the Bishop of Rochester, Lewes and Willesden to boycott last year's Lambeth Conference, a meeting of Anglican bishops from around the world which is held every ten years, raises serious questions about their future within the Communion. Read more
No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the

Wilders plans new film about 'Islamisation' of West

The far-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders is planning a follow-up of his provocative anti-Koran film, Fitna. The outspoken, peroxide-blond leader of the opposition Freedom Party, who has labelled the Koran "fascist", says the new film will deal with the growing Islamisation of Western countries.

"Our doors are wide open to mass immigration from Muslim countries and I want to show the consequences of this," Mr Wilders told the newspaper De Telegraaf. The film would tackle freedom of speech and Sharia. "And I will offer solutions," he said.

Fitna, a 17-minute video that juxtaposes the turning pages of the Koran with images of terrorist attacks, was released on the internet last year after months of speculation over its content.

Fearing attacks on his country, the Dutch Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, had even called for it to be censored though the public response was in the end milder than expected.

Dutch Muslim organisations condemned the film but it did not spark violence, despite a final scene showing a hand tearing up a page of the Koran (Mr Wilders later said the sound for the scene had been taken from the tearing up of a telephone directory).

However, the National Counter-Terrorism Coordination Services said yesterday that they had "taken note" of the new announcement and would monitor the security situation. Read more
No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the