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Victory for pro-life group at Aberdeen University

Mon, 20/05/2019 - 00:18

A student group suing Aberdeen University for discriminating against pro-lifers has been granted affiliation by the Aberdeen University Students’ Association (AUSA) after a legal challenge and months of abuse, intimidation, and delays.

AUSA refused affiliation to Aberdeen Life Ethics Society (ALES) in October 2018 on the grounds that ALES’ pro-life position directly contravened AUSA’s pro-choice policy.

AUSA’s pro-choice policy, adopted in November 2017, directs AUSA “to campaign against” groups that offer pro-life advice and to give “no funding, facilitation, or platform” to pro-life associations.

Insisting that “fundamentally access to abortion is an issue of bodily autonomy,” AUSA’s policy calls upon the student union to “oppose the unreasonable display of pro-life material within campus and at AUSA events.” The policy does not offer any explanation of what AUSA deems to be “unreasonable.”

After a year of obstructing by Aberdeen University and AUSA, delaying and rejecting ALES’ application for affiliation, the Christian Legal Centre (CLC) filed a lawsuit against AUSA in Aberdeen Sheriff’s Court in April, alleging unlawful discrimination and violation of rights protected by UK law.

Roger Kiska, acting for CLC, argued that the University had violated its statutory obligation to guarantee freedom of religion or belief under provisions of the Equality Act 2010 (UK) and the Human Rights Act 1998.

Section 10 of the Equality Act treats “religion” or “philosophical belief” as a “protected characteristic” and the European Court of Human Rights has specifically ruled that opposition to abortion falls within the category of belief guaranteed by Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Describing AUSA’s no-platforming policy as “a naked show of aggression to any viewpoint that dissents from their pro-abortion worldview,” CLC argued that the Students’ Association was part-funded by student tuition fees, “creating a direct financial interest whereby the discriminatory application of policies to reject legitimate societies from AUSA affiliation becomes all the more egregious.”

In a sudden U-turn following the court filing, AUSA suspended its pro-abortion policy, prompting ALES to re-apply for affiliation. That application was accepted and affiliation was offered to ALES on May 14.

Earlier, pro-lifers led by PhD ethics candidate Alex Mason were booed and abused at AUSA’s Annual General Meeting when they attempted to democratically repeal AUSA’s pro-choice discriminatory policy. 

During an earlier hustings, a female student Sabbatical Officer gave Mason the finger and told him to “F**k off” because he did not have a womb and called security to remove him. Over 100 students voted to uphold the discriminatory policy.

Attacking the pro-lifers, a pro-choice student posted on Facebook: 

On @AbdnStudents Twitter feed a student wrote:

Another student using the Twitter handle @Aandtheuniverse posted: 

On Facebook, student Andrea Hernandez wrote that Alex Mason was “white, cis, male and the most entitled idiot I’ve ever come across. Of course he would not understand what it is like to be an oppressed minority and of course he is from America and his privilege prevents him from being anything other than entitled.”

When pro-lifers asked the University to intervene on behalf of their application for affiliation, senior management delayed their response despite the University’s commitment to resolve complaints within 20 days. They also did not inform the pro-lifers about the reason for the delay as required by Section 3.6 of the University’s Complaints Handling Procedure (CHP).

Two months later, the University’s Academic Services department told the pro-lifers that they had declined to get involved and suggested that ALES should go back to AUSA for redress.

Aberdeen University’s Religion and Belief policy and its statement on ethics and diversity states that it is “committed to providing a learning, working and social environment in which the rights and dignity of all its members are respected, and which is free from discrimination, prejudice, intimidation and all forms of harassment and bullying.”

Writing in The Gaudie, the Aberdeen student newspaper, Mason called the no-platforming policy “a prime example of censorship” pointing out how “the pro-life ethic, specifically as it relates to opposing abortion” was one of the most-heavily censored viewpoints on university campuses.

“The various efforts by students’ associations to prohibit, restrict or even de-ratify pro-life societies have been well-documented at universities around the UK including Strathclyde, Cardiff, Dundee, Oxford, Glasgow, Newcastle, Stirling, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Warwick, Cambridge, and Manchester. But this kind of censorship isn’t limited to other campuses. It’s happening here at Aberdeen, too,” wrote Mason, who is from Virginia.

The University’s Catholic Society and Christian Union have supported ALES in their pro-life campus activism. Over 60 % of ALES students are Catholic, while 40 % are Evangelical.

The case is part of a disturbing trend across over 100 UK universities where 48% of universities have implemented speech codes and policies which limit religious expression. At least 108 universities in the UK have censored free speech through direct action or over-regulation.

In March, Glasgow University agreed to grant affiliation to Glasgow Students for Life following a legal challenge when their application was similarly rejected.

Unaffiliated student groups have limited access to campus facilities and funding and cannot advertise or recruit new members at Freshers’ Fairs.

(Originally published in Church Militant.

The post Victory for pro-life group at Aberdeen University appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

Justin Welby on Capital in the 21st Century: the William Temple Foundation Lecture

Sat, 18/05/2019 - 16:10

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, delivered the annual William Temple Foundation Annual Lecture at Lambeth Palace on 13 May 2019 on the theme: ‘Reimagining Britain: Faith and the Common Good’.

As an oil executive in a previous life, I know a fair bit about oil rigs. An oil rig, as you might have guessed, is an offshore construction which drills to explore for oil. There are various forms, but what I am referring to is a semi-submersible rig which is kept in place by four legs, which are filled with water to the right degree and therefore give it stability, and with advanced GPS technology ensure that it remains in the right place through stormy seas and bad weather.

It is anchored as well usually in most depths of water but not all, and it needs to have the right balance between anchors and movement. It needs to find the right tension point between flexibility and stability.

I would want to suggest this evening that at this time, facing storms, buffeted by waves and sometimes, it might feel, out on our own at sea, our own nation and a number of others across Europe seem a lot like one of those oil rigs.

Finding the balance between anchors and movement. And not always doing it very well.

It leads us to two questions then: first, what are our anchors? What will keep us rooted and stable in our traditions and heritage? And secondly, what is the movement? Where can we be flexible and innovative, adapting to our modern challenges with courage and creativity?

But to continue this metaphor, before you can approach those questions, you have to understand the weather itself. What are the storms that we are facing? Are the waves coming our way just ‘weather’, or are they a more existential threat such as climate change?

Are they a storm that will pass, or are they indicative of a new global pattern? We will need to identify and name these storms, these troubles we face. We see remarkable changes in the political climate, as we know not only in the UK but across much of the Global North. There is nothing that exceptional in this country.

New parties are emerging, the memories of world war and genocide are fading. If you landed on D-Day at the age of 18, as my wife’s uncle did, you would now be 92. That’s a very long time. None of our leaders have the memory of global and total war.    

And as is widely recognised, in this country we are at a pivotal moment in the life of our nation, on a scale which we haven’t seen perhaps arguably since the end of the World War II.

Or in peace time since long before that. We face many choices about what kind of country we want to be. Like all such times the way we respond will show whether these are threats or opportunities.

In other words, at moments of great change we can make the weather, but to do so, we also have to see what weather is coming our way. We also grapple with the reality of rapid social, cultural, economic and technological change which offers great potential for our country and community but also major risks if not handled with care and managed appropriately.

For example, the loss of Christian faith as a principle basis of morality was first welcomed by John Maynard Keynes and then recognised by him as leading to unmanaged change; he refers to the possibility of such change in a letter to Virginia Woolf in 1934.

He says this: “Our generation – yours and mine  …. Owed a great deal to our fathers’ religion, and the young, who are bought up without it, will never get so much out of life. They’re trivial: like dogs in their lusts.” (He had a way with words.) “We had the best of both worlds. We destroyed Christianity yet had its benefits.” Extraordinary quotation!

So change is something that can unbalance everything, or something that can be managed and seized as opportunity.

There is, to some degree, ‘natural’ change in response to globalisation and rapid social change. The world we live in today is different – and in many ways, most ways I would say, far better – from the world of ten, fifty or a hundred years ago, and we need to acknowledge and adapt to that. It is a blessing that things continue to change, but our institutions need to change with them if they are to be effective in our modern world.

The success of the post-Second World War economic Bretton Woods settlement, and the implementation of the Beveridge report, have made for a far more civilised, caring and compassionate society both internationally and domestically. But also perhaps for a less resilient one. Decades of relative calm – at least compared to the first half of the century – have led to complacency about the structures which maintain us.

To some extent, perhaps, some of the waves we face aren’t worse, but they’re different, and we need different approaches to acknowledge that. 

What is new is that the storms arise from the calms, especially the relative calm we felt after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and subsequent end of the Cold War and the discrediting of the collectivised economies.

They are storms today which are a challenge, as we know well, to the rule-based order. They are a challenge to liberty, in the sense of the human dignity of individuals, and they are a challenge to our relationships, both in our communities and globally.

They threaten either to disable the stability of the rig, or if is there is not enough flexibility, to render the structure incapable of bearing the strains. 

And the origin of these storms is not principally economic but ethical. The victory of market-based capitalism in the 1970s and 1980s, which in the end was a massive contribution to the collapse of the USSR, and the welcome liberation of central and eastern Europe, in some ways had within it the seeds of its own destruction.

In some places, such as the USSR, 70 years of avaricious atheism meant that any sense of ethical foundations to markets had long since passed.

In others, such as the USA and the UK, the invisible hand of the market identified by Adam Smith was misunderstood as the market being a deus ex machina which would sort things out at the right moment.

Smith’s understanding was that markets could only function as invisible hands when they were in a rule-based world, the rules coming from elsewhere. Moral rules, ethical rules. Once it has been turned into a deity the market has all the morals of Zeus and all the mercy of Pluto. 

As a result, as we have seen through the work of economists such as Thomas Piketty, wealth inequality has soared, as has income inequality to a much lesser extent, although that has diminished since 2016, at least in the UK.

The problem is not merely income inequality though, but more fundamentally inequality of outcome, of hope, of aspiration, of consequences. These inequalities were revealed in the global recession of 2008 and following. 

In 2008, the UK Government, in September I think it was, announced a bank rescue package one weekend, that totalled £500 billion. That was necessary because the costs of letting the banks fail were magnitudes greater than the costs of rescuing them.

Yet after a couple of years the financial services industry absorbed the subsidies that could have renewed entirely had they been available on that scale earlier, the ex-mining or heavy industry areas of this country.

According to the National Audit Office, the outstanding support to banks stood at £46 billion still in March 2018. While I know the old saying that a billion here, a billion there and you’re soon talking about serious money, but nevertheless, £46 billion is still a lot of money.

In addition, it is often forgotten there are subsidies which continue today in the form of unconditional Government backing of the balance sheets of the biggest banks, the ones that are too big to fail. And even they estimate that those are worth some £30 billion a year to them in saved interest payments.

Combine wealth inequality – which by the way, lest you think I’m only hitting at capitalism, is also a hidden feature of many so called socialist systems – combine wealth inequality with the power of the certain sectors to socialise losses and retain profits, and you have a serious threat to the system.

Many would add, a serious threat that is justified. Injustice by itself may be managed: inequality by itself is a containable threat. The two together deny the dignity of the human being made in the image of God, reject the ancient ideas of what is right, and provoke fury.

Such, in over compressed and simplified form, were the alterations to the systems of weather, which like the proverbial butterfly’s beating wings in the Pacific lead eventually to a hurricane in Florida.

The world economic structure is not a system, even a chaotic one: it is rather a part of something infinitely more complex of which it is paradoxically both master and servant. 

Yet there is one more aspect, and this one is genuinely unprecedented. That is the speed and form of modern communication through the web and social media.

At the Archbishops’ Council last week, we had another presentation from the Head of Digital Communications for the Church of England – who is brilliant by the way – who made comments about the impact of social media.

At its best it connects people. It provides spaces for people to explore and discuss, which they might not have access to in real life. For many, many people social media has provided solace, connection and community. The housebound, the disillusioned, the lonely… and many other groups. 

Meanwhile, social media has helped people build powerful, effective and hope-filled social movements. It has enhanced people’s ability to hold power to account. It has given consumers a voice to challenge unfair or unethical behaviour by businesses of many kinds.

The Church of England has seen the positive impact of social media in engaging millions with the Christian message at major moments in the year such as during Lent, Advent and Christmas.

Digital plays a key role in encouraging people to think about attending one of our 16,500 local churches for a baptism, a wedding, a funeral or an Easter or Christmas service. 

It has a capacity to give a voice to the voiceless, that great call to action in Proverbs chapter 31 verse 8, the writer says, speak out for those who cannot speak – says this to the king. For the rights of all the destitute, speak out, judge righteously, defend the poor and needy. Words often used by the church, and not so often practiced.

But in the world of social media, difference can all too quickly become enmity, diversity can be seen as mere menace, disagreement can be a threat. Mistakes can be unforgiveable. 

The online world can be very exposing. People can reveal details of personal struggles which they may later regret, but it’s there forever. And we know many examples of individuals who have been subjected to vicious personal attacks – there seems to be a lack of accountability online which people think somehow gives permission to be more vicious than perhaps they would be in real life. 

And the hermeneutics of social media have scarcely been addressed. We have not yet developed a framework to hold all of this – the good and bad– and it is something that does need to be addressed urgently.

Yet this entirely new form of interaction, international, engaging across cultures, without the translation of relationship, does not address the hermeneutical conundrums thrown up by the hyper modernists, does not allow for reader response, even though they are written and read, and gives no time for horizons of understanding.

Any yet, and yet… there is this risk that, at its worst, social media enables people to exchange information and communication without relationship. 

And yet, and yet again …. Social media also allows for protest to be heard, for failure to be detected.  In this country people have identified the pain of those who the establishment of vested interests ignores.

In the United States, President Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders did the same. They and many others – populists, nationalists, right and left – have recognised the capacity of social media to give that voice to the voiceless.

We may disagree with them and especially with their solutions, but we need to listen for we have been caught flat aback by the squall as the wind has backed and veered in the coming storm. 

So, as one did on a rig, watching the barometer fall, we turn to think about our anchors. What will restore justice and challenge inequality of power and voice? 

There is a narrative that says only apocalyptic change can make a difference. On several occasions last year I quoted from a very interesting book, which Chris may know, published in 2017 called “The Great Leveller”.

The author, Walter Scheidel, proposes this pessimistic thesis that inequality and injustice have only ever been addressed through war, famine, disease, revolution or natural disasters.

Quite rightly on some editions they have the four horsemen of the apocalypse on the front cover. He gives an example of privileged societies; among many he looks back to the Aztec elite who, as he put it, “wore feather-work and jade ornaments, lived in two-storey houses, ate the flesh of human sacrifices, drank chocolate…and did not pay taxes.”  

Well, if you will excuse a sarcastic remark, thank goodness we’re not like that. By the way, I like chocolate and, in that area, alone I have every sympathy for the Aztec elite. But we have not yet resorted to human sacrifice here at Lambeth Palace.

Yet, apocalypse is not the answer of the church, the church was started not with power but incarnation and crucifixion, not with dominance but with washing feet, not with ambition for Empire, but with service to the Kingdom of God. T

he horsemen of the apocalypse are in the hands of God alone, not the response to market forces, and when we are told in the Gospel of Luke that, 

“He has shown strength with his arm;

He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

And lifted up the lowly; 

He has filled the hungry with good things,

And sent the rich away empty.”

We are not told to do it ourselves with violent revolution, hatred or the destruction of our enemies, but with love and faith and hope. 

Mary’s song is indeed revolution in immortal verse. However, it is describing God, not human action, and says that righteousness and  justice are at the heart of the very nature of God (Psalm 89:14).

They are not merely what God does, they are who God is. Who God is sets the pattern for who we should be, and what our society should be.

But if not apocalyptic ,many would say that our first anchors are strong leaders. Leaders who will do what is right, even when it is not necessarily easy or popular.

And, of course, there are many kinds of leaders in our society. Not just politicians, but teachers, priests, CEOs, from our local communities, intermediate organisations, to the MPs making decisions in parliament, often so unfairly attacked. 

Indeed, we do need leadership. We need leadership that isn’t in the Yes Minister “I am their leader, I must follow them” style, but people who are willing to forge bold new paths, make decisive choices.

Yet there are many powerful leaders in our world, always have been, but being human, and therefore sinful,their leadership is or was too often based in self-interest, conceit, narcissism and manipulation. Leadership must be based on eternal principles and values – honesty, duty, service, inclusion, compassion, confidence.

Nelson Mandela, for example, whose leadership ended apartheid, was brave enough to call for peace, justice and freedom when many wanted revenge.  We need leaders that are able to unify people around a shared vision of a just society that enables all to flourish. We need leaders who are servants.

Jesus’ words in Mark 10:44-45 – “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” 

While most who choose to be public servants enter politics to make a positive difference in the world, there has never been a golden age of perfect public service.  You only have to read Trollope’s political novels or a good biography of Disraeli to see the reality of how politicians were viewed historically.

Disraeli famously brought down the government, when he was leading the opposition, for their introduction of a second reform bill, took office and introduced a more radical one. Now that is certainly how to turn on a sixpence!

Yet there is a pattern of seeking the common good that has been eroded, not by the politicians – I’m really not against the politicians – but by the ideological climate shift since the 1970s. By the breakdown of Bretton Woods and that climate change has made room for what Philip Bobbitt, in his superb book Shield of Achilles, rightly calls the emergence of the market state, where justification of the ruler springs from the ever-growing prosperity of the ruled. 

It is worth remembering that Bretton Woods sprang from the ever fertile, eclectic and supreme genius of John Maynard Keynes, who was caught up by the idea of the Common Good, both after World War I, during the Depression, and after World War II. His ethical base set his economic trajectory, and it is manifest providence that he reached the height of his powers at the same time as Beveridge, Temple and Tawney. 

The failure of market capitalism, however we identify either the disease or the symptoms, left a great gap in the hubristic triumph of so-called ‘western values’, or as some might call them, money and financialisation.

The nihilism of hypermodernity was itself challenged not only by those like MacIntyre and Thiselton (respectively writing on ethics and hermeneutics). But it was challenged also superbly by my predecessor, who, along with Temple was the greatest intellect to sit on the Throne of St Augustine for some centuries, and is wildly underestimated for the brilliant work he did as well, incidentally, for his personal holiness. 

I want to suggest that one part of the heart of the issues before us is not the economics. That is a symptom. But it is a question of identity, or to be exact, how we form identity. Before turning to responses from faith to the need for the common good I want to point to two trends. They could be summarised in the fashion for Nietzsche and Schmitt – or how we find identity through wielding power.

In this gathering I am not going too say much about Nietzsche – because you all know more than I do probably anyway -except to remark that misunderstandings of his views continually surface, especially his phrase ‘the will to power’.

In its simplified and I suspect wrongly explained form it speaks of the will to power as a means of establishing identity, indeed a necessity for identity.

For the purposes of this lecture it does not matter whether that has any truth in it, for it is what is often understood. It also influenced someone less familiar, Carl Schmitt (I am grateful to an article in the FT some months ago for pointing this out).

Carl Schmitt was a jurist and political philosopher of the Nazi era, and went out of fashion, perhaps not unsurprisingly, more or less exactly 74 years ago last week. He died in 1985.

Yet there are increasing mentions of him, especially by the thinkers of the far right. He seeks the formation of identity through the necessity of an enemy, and he rejects liberalism.

Let me quote: ”The essence of liberalism is negotiation, a cautious half measure, in the hope that the definitive dispute, the decisive bloody battle, can be transformed into a parliamentary debate and permit the decision to be suspended forever in an everlasting discussion“ (Political Theology, 2nd Edition, 1934, Chapter 4).

“The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy” (The Concept of the Political 1927, 2).

I could go on at length, but suffice to say at present and for these purposes only, that Schmitt is much influenced by Hobbes, and of course by Hegel.

The outcome of the revival and reinforcement of these ideas is a solidly political philosophical basis to the politics of extreme nationalism, to the end of a liberal rule-based order, and to the authoritarian overthrow of elites and establishments, who seek their own power and privilege without accountability. To overthrow them at any point of weakness.  

And the conclusion I want to draw at this point is simple. The storm of 2008-2009 global recession challenged the idols of finance, materialism and market-driven consumerist hyper-autonomy.

Nothing could withstand the strain, and there is thus a free-for-all in the search for identity and a new weaponizing of public discourse through communications.

So how does faith respond, can it be an anchor in an uncertain time? Where can we find the basis for a new idea of the Common Good?

First, churches and faith communities must adapt to the changing times and circumstances. ‘Traditioned Innovation’, a phrase used by the theologian Greg L. Jones, is an act of remembering while continuing. Adapting without abandoning. In times of change we need to find the balance, just like the semi-submersible, of change and stability. Calling for radical change without being aware of or having respect for the traditions that make up the foundations of our structures and institutions will inevitably leave our society drifting. So, one mistake would be to try and change everything. 

The second mistake, however, would be to try not to change anything. Bishop Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church whom you might remember from the Royal Wedding last May, said recently in an interview – and this is a short quote, not the thirteen minute one:

“Often change is not so much about discarding the past as about reinventing it in a new way for a new time. You need to go back to the real original mission of an institution or a tradition, not just how it manifested itself at one time. Ask what was driving this tradition at its best, and then ask what that would look like now. It won’t look the same, but there you’ll find the energy that can give it new life.”

So, we need to return to our mission, our core aim as we reimagine and reconsider and reinvent our vision for the role of faith in service to our country and the world in the 21st Century and beyond.  

This kind of ‘traditioned innovation’ appears again and again in scripture as the Israelites struggled to remain faithful to God through exodus and exile, the kingdom united and divided, under foreign rule and in foreign places. It is a story of constant adaptation to change while maintaining their unique Jewish identity. And identity is essential. It requires us to have a history and a heritage, as does innovation. We cannot innovate or reimagine from a vacuum, and we have the blessing of being able to draw on the wisdom and work of our predecessors. 

The concept of ‘Traditioned innovation’ reoccurs in scripture and reoccurs in church history. It has happened most often in the church in response to crisis – when the cracks have deepened and the structures of society shown themselves as fragile – God has shone through.

When the Western Roman Empire collapsed, when the Eastern Roman Empire was overrun, when the Church had divided in the Great Schism and again in the Reformation and in innumerable times since, on each occasion new life has sprung up when Christians have found ways of ‘traditioned innovation’.

Perhaps our understanding of faith to tradition and ongoing lively discernment in each new generation have something to say to how our nation adapts now?

Perhaps our changes during the industrial revolution from the agrarian revolution – what Bobbit calls the long war of the 20th century from 1914 – 1989 – the advent of science and technology in a new way, the enlightenment. Perhaps those changes can inspire us.

So what is the role of faith in establishing the common good? The Christian faith is lived in the constant response to the call of the Spirit through the word of God and the history of the Church and its methods of understanding the word. As Christians and as a Church, there is a constant interaction between scripture and circumstance. 

There is first the simple act of prayer. We recognise God as the one who raised Jesus Christ from the dead, whose intervention in history is decisive and whose judgement is final. We may be a minority in this land, but we are not around the world. To speak of the role of prayer is not to believe in fairies, but to relate the common good as we experience it to the source and origin of all good. Christians must pray. 

The Christian faith puts social affairs within the overarching framework (2nd Peter) of a loving God, a God of justice, mercy and redemption, demonstrated most powerfully in Jesus Christ. It places our relationships with each other in the context of our common humanity – so greatly needed in these times when divisions exist both within and between societies. 

Faith communities place social affairs into a new realm. They are fundamental intermediate institutions. They place social affairs into a new realm – one where the marginalised are central, and the leaders are servants.

They lift it into a framework of love and faith, as we have respect for the human dignity of all people as made in the image of God. Isaiah 58 talks of the hypocrisy of fasting on the sabbath, whilst exploiting our workers and quarrelling with one another. The kind of fasting God has chosen is not piety on a Sunday, it is ‘to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke’.

Social justice is a fundamental part of the radical message of the Gospel. When prosperity and justice go hand in hand, every part of society benefits and they should be seen in the community life of the church. First we pray, second we live rightly as community.

We need to recognise ourselves in community, not just as atomised individuals, but, as we read in 1 Corinthians 12:27, ‘You are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it’. We may perform different functions with the gifts given to us by the Spirit, but ‘the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

Jean Vanier, who as we know died a week ago, the founder of L’Arche communities, was a visionary who took hold of this – living out the idea that we are strong in our weaknesses and in our human relationships with one another.

As Christians, we must recognise that it is not in our independence but in our interdependence that our strength and humanity is found.

We need to love the whole more than ourselves. There is too much of a tendency in our world, and even in the church, that we would sometimes prefer to rule over the ruins than to serve in the intact structure. As Desmond Tutu wrote, ‘We are different so that we can know our need of one another, for no one is ultimately self-sufficient.’

If the first action of Christians must be prayer and basing what we do in the source of love, and in the expectation of the presence of God, the second is therefore to be a visible community of diversity and disagreement that yet loves one another.

Christians are anchored by the certainty of that which cannot be shaken. We are the recipients of the unshakable kingdom, as we read in Hebrew 12:28, an eternal kingdom of heaven.

Governments may come and go – people…Archbishops thankfully –  but the Kingdom of Heaven cannot be shaken. That is what sustained St Benedict and drew him to the creation of communities of obedience to God, and thus incidentally communities that transformed of society.

Monasteries, like all Christian community today, are among the primary exhibitors of interdependence, without destroying individuality. They demonstrate, at best, liberty in service and service as the way to identity. 

And we also believe in Christ who calms the storm. And not only that – he asks his disciples ‘why are you afraid? Have you no faith?’

We fear when we do not feel in control of our lives, when we do not know our identity, when we do not understand our circumstances, when we feel isolated and alone. We fear when we think there isn’t enough – money, love, life.

But in Christ we our offered the gift of faith to replace fear, through Him who was resurrected and transformed death into life, and scarcity into abundance. Out of the Christ who calms the waters of the storm to become the waters of baptism arises new life and new possibility. Out of chaos, there is new creation. 

This exemplary role for faith communities is often underestimated as we look for grand magic solutions, perhaps in Harry Potter style with a correct whisk of the wand and a new spell that JK Rowling has not yet invented – perhaps “Pacificus” or something like that. 

Thirdly, after prayer and community, there is the aspect of faith of prophetic word and action. Communities that love but do not engage become pietistic. People who simply shout are ignored, even if they are prophetic. The well-known verse from Proverbs tells us that ‘Without a vision the people perish’.

Christians are called to be a people of hope. The role of the Church is not piously to wring our hands or preach self-righteously, but to live out our faith in Christ, putting the vulnerable and marginalised at the centre of our ministry, as did Jean Vanier.

The Church and other faiths have a role to play now, in opening doors, modelling good ways of disagreeing well, helping people feel like they belong, providing welcome and love to all, and speaking and challenging injustice.

The Church can lift up the voices of the voiceless, speak truth to power and love all unconditionally, as God loves each one of us. 

Pope Francis understands better than any other global leader the power of symbol, as we saw at the South Sudan peace talks a few weeks back, at the Vatican.

When at the end of an extraordinary address on the gaze of Christ, he got up, walked to the four political leaders, the president and the four vice presidents engaged in a six year civil war where 400,000 have died and 2.5 million are refugees, and fell to their feet. Kissed their feet and implored them to make peace.

That three minutes had more impact because of its symbolism, its active prophesy, than perhaps all the words of the previous 24 hours.

In the Church of England, we are part of the work done by churches, temples and mosques all over the country. We participate in over 30,000 social action projects, from foodbanks to debt counselling. All these are a tangible sign of the community of faith at work in the world, not to be seen to be ‘doing good’, but because they are compelled by Christ to act. 

Faith communities have the long view, the effective example and the eternal courage to be self-critical, constantly in reform, always active in service without seeking recognition, and always concerned with the common good. 

So in conclusion, there are no easy answers to the challenges we face.  We can, however, know the steadfastness of God’s love, He who promises never to leave us or forsake us. The promise of Jesus to return to make all things new. We are given the gift of the possibility of bringing about something of that on earth.

Faith commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves, challenges us to pray and thus deepen our understanding of God, inspires us to act prophetically and challengingly.

As we navigate the challenges over the next few years, there is a need to find the balance between anchors and movement, between tradition and change, between flexibility and stability. 

Ultimately, facing storms out at sea, we can nevertheless know that, somewhere out there, there is something precious to be found. Like the oil platform, at least until electricity takes over (that metaphor doesn’t really work anymore when you’re going to have stranded assets all over the North Sea does it?) We can help create a vision for our country that overflows with hope and brims with promise. Something that makes it worth braving the storm.

Thank you very much.

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Bishop of Pittsburgh responds to the appointment of Bishop David Hicks to lead a parish in his diocese

Sat, 18/05/2019 - 15:56
[17 May 2019] I’m happy to announce that St. Peter’s, Butler, has called the Rt. Rev. David Hicks (former Bishop of the Diocese of the Northeast & Mid Atlantic in the Reformed Episcopal Church – a subjuristiction of the ACNA) as their new Rector. The discernment on all sides has been very clear and Bishop David will begin his new ministry in our midst on August 1. I am thrilled to welcome Bishop David and his wife, Lisa, to the Diocese. They will be a blessing to us.

I realize that this is surprising news at a lot of levels: a bishop leaving a diocese to serve a parish, a Reformed Episcopal bishop coming to Pittsburgh, etc. The blogs are likely to have a field day! Some of you might have some concerns. Let me assure you that this is a gift. Early on in my time as bishop, I visited +David in his diocese, asking him (as the Chair of the Holy Orders Task Force) to help me understand the various perspectives on women’s ordination that were present in the ACNA (especially the more Anglo-Catholic ones). He was very gracious and gave me two days for significant conversations. His kindness, openness, patience, hospitality, collegiality and wisdom made a deep impression on me.

+David and I disagree on whether women should be ordained as presbyters. His coming to Pittsburgh represents no shift in his thinking nor any shift in my support of women in ordained ministry. We do, however, share a deep mutual respect and believe that this issue should not divide the Church. Female priests who have known or worked with +David (including Mama Shari) have experienced him as respectful and gracious. +David loves Jesus and His Church and is committed to living on mission. All of us share that with him.

Bishop David has a pastor’s heart and will be functioning as Rector of St. Peter’s. If need arises, however, and Bishop David is available, I may call on him occasionally to function as a bishop.

I look forward to you getting to know him. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to let me know. I’d be happy to talk.



The Rt. Rev. James Hobby, Bishop of Pittsburgh

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Anglican Unscripted 504 – Hijabs for Bishops

Fri, 17/05/2019 - 17:32

It is amazing to see the news and pictures coming out of the Church of England around Ramadan.

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Mauritius bishop appointed director of the Anglican Centre in Rome

Fri, 17/05/2019 - 17:05

Archbishop Ian Ernest, the Bishop of Mauritius and former Primate of the Anglican Church of the Indian Ocean, is to become the Archbishop of Canterbury’s next Personal Representative to the Holy See and Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome. He will take up his new role towards the end of the year following an official Papal Visit to Mauritius by Pope France in September.

In his current role, Archbishop Ian has worked closely with his Roman Catholic counterpart, the Bishop of Port Louis, Cardinal Maurice Piat. The two have written joint statements on environmental and social issues and have delivered joint Christmas messages for Mauritian television.

The two co-lead one of the top schools on the Mauritian island of Rodrigues, the ecumenical Rodrigues College, which was formed in 1973 by the merger of St Louis Roman Catholic School and St Barnabas Anglican School. When Archbishop Ian’s mandate as Archbishop and Primate of the Indian Ocean was renewed in 2012, he invited a Roman Catholic priest to preach the sermon.

“I feel deeply honoured and humbled by this appointment”, Archbishop Ian said. “It is a calling from God which I accept with all humility. I will try my best to honour this calling and to honour the office.

“I look forward to working in close collaboration with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Board of Governors of the Anglican Centre in Rome.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said that he was “delighted” with the appointment, saying that it “comes at an exciting time in the growing and important relationship between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church.”

He added: “The Anglican Centre in Rome was established just over 50 years ago at the time of the first public meeting between a Pope and an Archbishop of Canterbury since the Reformation. Over the past 50 years the relationship between my predecessors and successive Popes; and the connections between people involved in official ecumenical dialogues, has deepened that relationship. It is bearing much fruit – as the joint Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian retreat at the Vatican last month for the political leaders in South Sudan demonstrates.

“Archbishop Ian will bring to his new role a wealth of experience in practical ecumenical engagement; and significant connections throughout the Anglican Communion. I look forward to working with him as we continue to develop our relationship with the Catholic Church.”

Bishop Michael Burrows, the Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory in the Church of Ireland, chairs the Anglican Centre’s Board of Governors. He welcomed the appointment, saying that Archbishop Ian “brings with him to Rome great enthusiasm for the task, a warm personality and vast experience of his own province and the wider Anglican Communion as a former Archbishop of the Indian Ocean.

“He will be very well suited to the work of an ambassador for the whole Communion in Rome, and to strengthening the role of the ACR as a place of hospitality and study. His track record in practical ecumenism is highly impressive, and the Governors look forward to working with him in the coming years and cherishing his great vision and energy”.

His experience in ecumenism dates to his childhood, when his father became the first Anglican priest to preach in a Catholic Church in Mauritius. He attended Roman Catholic primary and secondary schools and, when he was studying for ordination, attended some courses at a Roman Catholic seminary.

Archbishop Ian has been involved in wider ecumenical work with other Christian churches, and worked with other Christian leaders in Mauritius to establish an ecumenical training college for both clergy and laity.

He was awarded the Cross of St Augustine for services to the Anglican Communion in 2008 by the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. In March this year, he was made Grand Commander of the Order of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean (GCSK) – the highest rank or distinction of Mauritius’ civilian honours – by the country’s Acting President, Barlen Vyapoory.

He is a member of the Archbishop’s Task Group, established following the 2016 Primates’ Meeting to “restore relationships, rebuild mutual trust, heal the legacy of hurt and explore deep differences” in the Anglican Communion, and was a member of the Design Group for the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops.

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GAFCON-NZ elects bishop

Fri, 17/05/2019 - 13:09

Today representatives from twelve churches throughout New Zealand gathered and formed the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa/New Zealand. By the grace of God we are a new Anglican Diocese in these Islands, standing firmly in Anglican faith and practice, and structurally distinct from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

This new Diocese is united in the crucified, risen, ascended and glorified Christ, committed to the authority of the Bible, and dedicated to our common mission of proclaiming to all the good news of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. We praise God for his guidance and grace, and the sense of unity and common purpose we shared as we met.

We also prayerfully elected as our first Bishop the Rev. Jay Behan, Vicar of St Stephen’s Anglican Church, Christchurch. Jay is a man of humility and grace, committed to the authority of the Bible and the Lordship of Jesus. He is an excellent preacher and caring pastor, and will serve and lead the Diocese as together we seek to reach these Islands with the transforming power of the gospel.

We were delighted to receive greetings from many Anglicans around the world, and particularly from Archbishop Foley Beach, Chair of the Gafcon Primates, who wrote and conveyed the text of a motion passed at their recent meeting in Sydney: The Primates’ Council thanks God for the courage and faithfulness of those churches and individuals in New Zealand who are remaining as Anglicans in the faith as we have received it, as they establish a new Anglican diocese. The Council gladly endorses the new Diocese, recognizes it as authentically Anglican, declares itself to be in full communion and celebrates our common life. The Council encourages the participation of Gafcon bishops in the consecration of the new Bishop, once duly elected for the Diocese.

We invite all Christians to join us in prayer at this time. Give thanks to God for his grace and mercy towards us in Christ. Pray for Jay, his family, and the church at St Stephen’s. Pray for the eleven other churches of the Diocese in their mission and ministry, and for the many other churches we pray will join and be planted in our new Diocese for the glory of God.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 
Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)

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Bishop of Lincoln suspended by Archbishop of Canterbury

Thu, 16/05/2019 - 16:37

Statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury 16 May 2019

“Following information provided by the police, I have suspended the Bishop of Lincoln Christopher Lowson from office, having obtained the consent of the Bishops of Birmingham and Worcester (the two longest serving bishops in the Province of Canterbury). If these matters are found to be proven I consider that the bishop would present a significant risk of harm by not adequately safeguarding children and vulnerable people. I would like to make it absolutely clear that there has been no allegation that Bishop Christopher has committed abuse of a child or vulnerable adult. The Bishop of Grimsby, David Court, will take on episcopal leadership of the diocese. It should be noted that suspension is a neutral act and nothing further can be said at this stage while matters are investigated. I ask for prayers for all affected by this matter.”

Commenting today the Bishop of Lincoln said: “I am bewildered by the suspension and will fully cooperate in this matter. For the sake of the diocese and the wider Church I would like this to be investigated as quickly as possible to bring the matter to a swift conclusion.”

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Malawi diocese responds to misconduct claims leveled against its bishop

Thu, 16/05/2019 - 01:48

A press release from the Diocese of Upper Shire defending its bishop, the Rt. Rev. Brighton Malasa, on charges of malfeasance in office.


Diocesan Theme: “Establish the Works of Our Hands, Oh LORD, Yes establish the Works” (Psalm 90:17)


The Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire in Malawi wishes to provide correct information on the status of matters in the diocese against what the so called concerned parishioners have been informing the general public.

The Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire wishes to inform the general public that all that the so called concerned parishioners have been telling the general public is flawed and erroneous.

The Diocese therefore, wishes to highlight the following factors:

1. The Administrative structure of the Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire;

2. The appointment, duties and functions of a Diocesan Secretary;

3. Parish Quota; and

4. Governance bodies within the Anglican Church in Malawi and therefore the Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire.


The Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire is one of the four dioceses of the Anglican Church in Malawi which is part of the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa – the Anglican Church in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

The Church operates through the Canons and Acts of the Dioceses which are its guiding principles.

Its authority is delivered through Church Councils such as the Diocesan Standing Committee [DSC] and the Holy Synod.

The Church is an Episcopaly led and Synodically governed.

Administratively the ADUS operates through a Diocesan Secretariat comprising the following key officers namely:

The Diocesan Bishop, The Diocesan Secretary and the Diocesan Accountant. The Diocese also has principal officers like the Chancellor and Registrar (legal practioners) who provide legal counsel or advice to the Secretariat. T


According to the Diocesan Acts and Canons particularly paragraph 3.3 (page 11) of the Anglican Council in Malawi 2010 edition. “the Diocesan Secretary shall be a communicant and an official acting on behalf of, and appointed by the Diocesan Standing Committee with the consent of the Bishop and his functions shall be to:-

a. Act as Secretary and to keep minutes or have minutes kept, of the proceedings of the Synod and of its DSC as well as of the Diocesan Trustees;

b. Assist the Bishop with all official correspondence affecting the Diocese; c. Assist the Bishop and DSC on administrative matters such as -Employment and dismissal of the staff thereof; and -Determination of remuneration for staff and any issues relating to their conditions of service such as their pension scheme;

d. Preserve official documents which are entrusted to him/her for safe custody; and

e. Report to each session of Synod or DSC as the case maybe the actions taken concerning resolutions passed at the previous session.

With specific reference to the current Diocesan Secretary we wish to emphatically confirm that she was appointed in strict accordance with the above quoted procedures following a DSC meeting in November 2017.

This was, for the avoidance of all doubt, confirmed by DSC meetings held in April and November 2018.


The following governance structures exist in the Diocese namely Parish, Archdeaconry, Pastoral Committee, Diocesan Standing Committee and the Diocesan Holy Synod.

Issues arising within the parish are first dealt with by the Parish Church Council.

If necessary they may be taken, in that order, to the Archdeaconry Council, the Pastoral Committee and the Diocesan Standing Committee which convenes in between the Holy Synods.

Any resolutions made and passed by the above bodies are legally binding until set aside by a higher body.

Specifically referring to grievance handling mechanisms it is the procedure that any complaint shall first be brought before the Parish Church Council and, when necessary, taken through the Archdeaconry Council, the Pastoral Committee, the DSC up to the Holy Diocesan Synod.

Accordingly and in accordance with the above no grievance will be entertained unless it follows the above grievance handling procedures.

In the matter of the grievances raised by some parishioners from Saint George’s Parish in Zomba, we note with the deepest concern that the same are being dealt with outside known and acceptable Church structures.

Meetings are being held, for instance the one on Saturday 15th December 2018, and other parishes invited contrary to the Acts of the Diocese and Canons and without permission from relevant Diocesan authorities as explained above.

Such meetings are illegal and the decisions arrived at are of no practical effect.

We wish to notify the general public that the said “ concerned parishioners presented their grievances to the Primate and Archbishop of Central Africa, the Most Reverend Albert Chama, who came to the Diocese of Upper Shire – Malawi and provided his archiepiscopal guidance on the matters in a communiqué dated 10th day of March 2019 in which he emphasized that the Anglican Church is strictly guided by the green book (Canon Laws) and none other.

Violence and intimidation will not yield anything. He further provided the following guidance; In giving guidance on the specific issues the Archbishop guided as follows:

1. As far as finances were concerned he guided that the Standing Committee of the Diocese must engage an External Auditor and take action based on the report rendered;

2. In respect to the appointment of the Diocesan Secretary, the Archbishop guided that this was wholly a matter for the Diocesan Standing Committee.

3. On the issue of clergy intimidation, the Archbishop guided that as clergy, they had a “direct” line to him and he was rather taken aback that none had communicated this concern to him.

Going forward, he encouraged the clergy to make direct contact with him when issues of this nature arose;

4. As regards the Diocesan Bishop’s holding the chairmanship of several Church Boards, his guidance was that this was a matter that squarely belonged to the Standing Committee, as the body running the Church in between Synods. He enjoined the Standing Committee to fully exercise its mandate as the “Executive Committee” of the Diocese;

5. As far as the allegations of interference in the election of office bearers in the various institutions of the church, the Archbishop guided that the Diocesan Bishop’s concerns should be restricted to ensuring that such intending leaders in the church were in good standing and leave the rest to the church membership to elect freely and without interference or intimidation;

6. Regarding negativity towards spiritual development the Archbishop said that mission was at the heart of the church and that this was an administrative/pastoral issue that required the intervention of the Standing Committee and allowing the Archbishop to walk with the Bishop on the matter.

7. Regarding the issue of politics, the Archbishop guided that a Diocesan Bishop must do a delicate “balancing” act between his individual private interests and concerns and those in the public interest.

In respect to the public interest, the Diocesan Bishop is expected to work with the government of the day; and when it comes to private concerns, he must ensure that every parishioner, of whatever political orientation, finds sanctuary and safety in our church.

The Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire is therefore surprised that the said concerned parishioners are behaving contrary to the guidance of the Archbishop who is the leader of our Church.

The Bishop has extended an Olive branch to all concerned and continues doing so for the building up the Church of God.

The concerned parishioners continues to misinform the media and the general public that the Right Reverend Brighton Vita Malasa – Bishop of Upper Shire must resign in order to meet their selfish interest.

This is not good for the church and is disturbing peace and frustrating the Church of God.


In conclusion, we wish all Parishioners and clergy in ADUS to note the following:

1. That there is no truth to the allegation that the appointment of the current Diocesan Secretary of ADUS did not follow laid down procedures and was therefore improper;

2. That the quota remittance system and its application are Anglican Council of Malawi/ADUS policies properly provided for in the Diocesan Acts and Canons;

3. That the manner in which the Diocesan Bishop has dealt with the willful and unjustifiable non-remittance of quota from St George’s Parish is in accordance with the Diocesan Acts and Canons and previous acceptable best practices;

4. That all complaints pertaining to Diocesan matters should be brought in accordance with the prescribed grievance handling mechanism set out above;

5. That complainants, all Parishioners and Clergy should refrain from presenting their grievances in the media;

6. That all Parishioners and Clergy should refrain from acting on the basis of innuendo, baseless allegations and generally actions clearly calculated to bring the Church and others into disrepute;

7. That we have the highest assurance from the Diocesan Bishop and the Diocesan Secretariat that all Parishioners and Clergy are at liberty to seek information about any of the above matters from the Diocesan Office; and

8. That we have the highest assurance of the Diocesan Bishop that all Parishioners, all Clergy and all Parishes shall at all times, and without fail, be treated fairly, equitably and equally.

Finally let us quote Psalm 127,”if the Lord does not build the house the works of the builders is useless, if the Lord does not protect the city, it is useless for the sentries to stand guard”.

The Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire condemns the violence that the so called concerned parishioners are doing in some parishes which are not suitable for the Church of God, but also wishes to sensitize the general public that they should not trust the group which at the moment aims at destabilizing the Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire.

Kindly take note that the group does not reflect the general opinion of the Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire and that it represents the views of a few people who have personal grudges against the Right Reverend Brighton Vita Malasa – The Bishop of Upper Shire.

May God reign in our hearts during this Eastertide.


“Establish the Works of Our Hands, Oh LORD, Yes establish the Works” (Psalm 90:17)

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Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East poised to divide into three new provinces

Thu, 16/05/2019 - 01:10

The upcoming provincial synod of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East is poised to split the province into three. The division of the provinces comes amidst discord within the diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf which may also divide over issues of finances, doctrine and discipline.

The Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf newsletter, the “Synod Scene” in its report on the February 2019 session of synod held in Larnaca stated: “The Diocese of Egypt has put forward a proposal to Provincial Synod to become a province in its own right. Jerusalem has indicated it plans to do the same. If both are successful only [the diocese of] Iran and [diocese of] Cyprus and the Gulf would remain.”

A commission led by the Ven Bill Schwartz, Archdeacon in the Gulf was tasked with reviewing the proposal, but the Synod Scene reported the decision to divide has already been taken. “Egypt in particular is pressing for a speedier resolution and there are fears that it could be presented as a fait accompli at the next meeting of the Provincial Synod in May [2019].”

The Rt. Rev. Michael Lewis, Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf told synod the call to divide had “not been thought through.” He put forward a motion to synod that “affirms the current and potential benefits of living with diversity, variety and mutual interchange in the existing configuration of the Province; and requests Central Synod to give close consideration to the impact of proposed changes” on each of the four dioceses.” The bishop’s motion was adopted by synod without dissent.

In his letter to the 6-9 May 2019 Egyptian synod, the Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, the Rt. Rev. Mouneer Anis confirmed the division of the province was underway.

He wrote: “[Y]ou may remember at Synod 2017 we decided to start the process of transforming the Diocese of Egypt into a province that is composed of four dioceses: Egypt, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and Gambella (Western Ethiopia). We thank God that all the primates of the Anglican Provinces of Africa welcomed this step in their meeting in May 2018. Last week the Anglican Consultative Council agreed to send a committee in order to investigate the matter and report back to their standing committee.”

The Diocese in Jerusalem has also expressed its desire to become a stand alone province. Sources at the top of the province tell Anglican Ink, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, has offered oral support for the plans, but has not committed himself in writing to the project.

If the province divides, the internal divisions within Cyprus and the Gulf may see the dissolution of its current structure. It was formed in 1974 by amalgamating chaplaincies to British expatriates in Cyprus with congregations serving American and European oil industry workers and their families, and Indian and Sri Lankan evangelicals.

Congregations in Dubai, Qatar, and Oman have pulled away from the diocese and withdrawn their financial support for Bishop Lewis, while the chaplaincy in Aden has been shuttered due to the civil war in Yemen.

Under the headline“Hijacked” the Synod Scene reported control of the Anglican Centre in Doha, Qatar had been turned over to the parish council by the Qatar Foreign Ministry. The parish said that it would now reduce its contribution to the diocese by 60 per cent — a 30 per cent reduction in the diocese’s annual income.

The newsletter denounced the parish move, reporting the synod adopted a non-binding resolution asking the parish to return financial control of the Anglican Centre in Doha to the diocese.

A 25 March 2019 open letter from the parish to the diocese noted the Synod Scene account was not accurate. The parish had raised the funds to build the Anglican Centre without diocesan support, but in 2005 the Qatar government gave control over the property to the diocese. The diocese then charged rent to the parish on the property it had built as well as to the other Christian groups that use the multi-purpose property. Christians in Qatar asked the government to review its decision and earlier this year the government vested control in the parish building with the parish council.

The division between Cyprus and the Gulf over finances is mirrored by a division over doctrine and discipline with a liberal catholic ethos on Cyprus competing with an evangelical worldview in the Gulf. The former Archbishop in Wales, the Most Rev. Barry Morgan was invited by Bishop Lewis to address the synod, prompting some evangelicals to stay away.

Should the Gulf pull away from Cyprus, diocesan insiders tell AI, the Gulf would have the internal financial resources to be a stand alone diocese. Cyprus, however, would not and would likely have to be absorbed by the Church of England’s Diocese in Europe.

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Open letter to the Home Secretary on Islamophobia

Wed, 15/05/2019 - 22:59

Open Letter: APPG Islamophobia Definition Threatens Civil Liberties

Addressed to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid

The APPG on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia has now been adopted by the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats Federal board, Plaid Cymru and the Mayor of London, as well as several local councils. All of this is occurring before the Home Affairs Select Committee has been able to assess the evidence for and against the adoption of the definition nationally. Meanwhile the Conservatives are having their own debate about rooting out Islamophobia from the party.

According to the APPG definition, “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”.

With this definition in hand, it is perhaps no surprise that following the horrific attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, some place responsibility for the atrocity on the pens of journalists and academics who have criticised Islamic beliefs and practices, commented on or investigated Islamist extremism.

The undersigned unequivocally, unreservedly and emphatically condemn acts of violence against Muslims, and recognise the urgent need to deal with anti-Muslim hatred. However, we are extremely concerned about the uncritical and hasty adoption of the APPG’s definition of Islamophobia.

This vague and expansive definition is being taken on without an adequate scrutiny or proper consideration of its negative consequences for freedom of expression, and academic and journalistic freedom. The definition will also undermine social cohesion – fuelling the very bigotry against Muslims which it is designed to prevent.

We are concerned that allegations of Islamophobia will be, indeed already are being, used to effectively shield Islamic beliefs and even extremists from criticism, and that formalising this definition will result in it being employed effectively as something of a backdoor blasphemy law.

The accusation of Islamophobia has already been used against those opposing religious and gender segregation in education, the hijab, halal slaughter on the grounds of animal welfare, LGBT rights campaigners opposing Muslim views on homosexuality, ex-Muslims and feminists opposing Islamic views and practices relating to women, as well as those concerned about the issue of grooming gangs. It has been used against journalists who investigate Islamism, Muslims working in counter-extremism, schools and Ofsted for resisting conservative religious pressure and enforcing gender equality.

Evidently abuse, harmful practices, or the activities of groups and individuals which promote ideas contrary to British values are far more likely to go unreported as a result of fear of being called Islamophobic. This will only increase if the APPG definition is formally adopted in law.

We are concerned that the definition will be used to shut down legitimate criticism and investigation. While the APPG authors have assured that it does not wish to infringe free speech, the entire content of the report, the definition itself, and early signs of how it would be used, suggest that it certainly would. Civil liberties should not be treated as an afterthought in the effort to tackle anti-Muslim prejudice.

The conflation of race and religion employed under the confused concept of ‘cultural racism’ expands the definition beyond anti-Muslim hatred to include ‘illegitimate’ criticism of the Islamic religion. The concept of Muslimness can effectively be transferred to Muslim practices and beliefs, allowing the report to claim that criticism of Islam is instrumentalised to hurt Muslims.

No religion should be given special protection against criticism. Like anti-Sikh, anti-Christian, or anti-Hindu hatred, we believe the term anti-Muslim hatred is more appropriate and less likely to infringe on free speech. A proliferation of ‘phobias’ is not desirable, as already stated by Sikh and Christian organisations who recognise the importance of free discussion about their beliefs.

Current legislative provisions are sufficient, as the law already protects individuals against attacks and unlawful discrimination on the basis of their religion. Rather than helping, this definition is likely to create a climate of self-censorship whereby people are fearful of criticising Islam and Islamic beliefs. It will therefore effectively shut down open discussions about matters of public interest. It will only aggravate community tensions further and is therefore no long term solution.

If this definition is adopted the government will likely turn to self-appointed ‘representatives of the community’ to define ‘Muslimness’. This is clearly open to abuse. The APPG already entirely overlooked Muslims who are often considered to be “insufficiently Muslim” by other Muslims, moderates, liberals, reformers and the Ahmadiyyah, who often suffer persecution and violence at the hands of other Muslims.

For all these reasons, the APPG definition of Islamophobia is deeply problematic and unfit for purpose. Acceptance of this definition will only serve to aggravate community tensions and to inhibit free speech about matters of fundamental importance. We urge the government, political parties, local councils and other organisations to reject this flawed proposed definition.

Emma Webb, Civitas
Hardeep Singh, Network of Sikh Organisations (NSOUK)
Lord Singh of Wimbledon
Tim Dieppe, Christian Concern
Stephen Evans, National Secular Society (NSS)
Sadia Hameed, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB)
Prof. Paul Cliteur, candidate for the Dutch Senate, Professor of Law, University of Leiden
Brendan O’Neill, Editor of Spiked
Maajid Nawaz, Founder, Quilliam International
Rt. Rev’d Dr Gavin Ashenden
Pragna Patel, director of Southall Black Sisters
Professor Richard Dawkins
Rahila Gupta, author and Journalist
Peter Whittle, founder and director of New Culture Forum
Trupti Patel, President of Hindu Forum of Britain
Dr Lakshmi Vyas, President Hindu Forum of Europe
Harsha Shukla MBE, President Hindu Council of North UK
Tarang Shelat, President Hindu Council of Birmingham
Ashvin Patel, Chairman, Hindu Forum (Walsall)
Ana Gonzalez, partner at Wilson Solicitors LLP
Baron Desai of Clement Danes
Baroness Cox of Queensbury
Lord Alton of Liverpool
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
Ade Omooba MBE, Co-Chair National Church Leaders Forum (NCLF)
Wilson Chowdhry, British Pakistani Christian Association
Ashish Joshi, Sikh Media Monitoring Group
Satish K Sharma, National Council of Hindu Temples
Rumy Hasan, Academic and author
Amina Lone, Co-Director, Social Action and Research Foundation
Peter Tatchell, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Seyran Ates, Imam
Gina Khan, One Law for All
Mohammed Amin MBE
Baroness D’Souza
Michael Mosbacher, Acting Editor, Standpoint Magazine
Lisa-Marie Taylor, CEO FiLiA
Julie Bindel, journalist and feminist campaigner
Dr Adrian Hilton, academic
Neil Anderson, academic
Tom Holland, historian
Toby Keynes
Prof. Dr. Bassam Tibi, Professor Emeritus for International Relations, University of Goettingen
Dr Stephen Law, philosopher and author

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ACC-17 — a foretaste of Lambeth 2020?

Wed, 15/05/2019 - 21:54

At the end of April (2019) two church bodies met, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-17) in Hong Kong and the Gafcon Primates in Sydney. The Gafcon Primates published a Communiqué of their meeting. The ACC does not normally produce a summary document and so one has to rely on church news services (here and here), which are often spotty and biased.

Fortunately, this year Andrew Atherstone has published a separate analysis titled “What Really Happened at the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-17).” Dr. Atherstone’s piece is of particular interest because he is an English Evangelical theologian, who along with Dr. Andrew Goddard, represents, if I may borrow the term, the “Remainer” party of conservatives in the Church of England.

Atherstone and Goddard, for instance, edited Good Disagreement? Grace and Truth in a Divided Church (2015), and wrote in the lead essay: “On some issues, ‘good disagreement’ will mean renewed efforts to hold together despite inevitable strains. On other issues, it may require discipline, differentiation, and even separation among professing…” (page 19). Dr. Atherstone’s response to ACC-17, therefore, should give some indication of how he assesses the current state of the Anglican Communion.

Although Dr. Atherstone devotes most of his report on ACC-17 to matters of church order, he does note that “our deep doctrinal disagreements as Anglicans rumbled along in the background,” because provinces “have changed their doctrine of marriage.” It would appear that he considers “disagreement” on marriage to be among the issues requiring “discipline, differentiation, and even separation.”

His discussion of the 3-year set of restrictions – a.k.a. “consequences” – imposed on the Episcopal Church in 2016 is curious. He notes that these restrictions have now “timed out,” that “the situation is farcical,” and that the “consequences” need more substance, but he refrains from framing the issue in terms of repentance. What makes the situation farcical indeed is that fact that Communion “Instruments” did not require TEC to change its teaching or practice, and now they are talking about moving on to the “healing phase.” Common sense parenting teaches that you do not send a child to a “time-out” without requiring on his return an apology and a promise not to do it again!

Dr. Atherstone apparently considers this failure of discipline a reason for differentiation, personally at least. Hence he declined each day to take Communion with TEC delegates at ACC-17 and suggests that this practice should be offered at Lambeth 2020 because “we are all part of the Anglican Communion but we are not all ‘in communion.’” While one can sympathize with his dilemma, his response is strangely individualistic. Did he commend his position to others at ACC-17? He argues that by allowing separate eucharistic gatherings at official Anglican meetings, “it becomes possible to meet together and discuss our differences and common concern, without pretext…and the pain of our disunity motivates us to renewed efforts toward unity.” As I have argued (see here and here), sitting at table with false teachers at a church council is just as problematic as sitting at the Lord’s Table (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:12). Certainly the early church councils saw it this way (yes, Arius attended Nicaea but was defrocked and exiled from there).

Giving formal recognition to false teachers at a church council, even if it is on the pretext of “listening,” serves to legitimate their position (some call this “open reception”). This is precisely how revisionists advanced their innovations within the Episcopal Church and took them on to the Communion level.

Dr. Atherstone seems strangely naïve about how the game is played. He contrasts the “informal” way the meeting in Hong Kong was conducted with the tightly controlled agenda and autocratic rule by the chair, the table groups gagged by long lectures, and the avoidance of sensitive subjects (“we don’t do doctrine”). But this contrast is not a bug in the program, as they say, but a feature. Welcome to indaba!

His own attempt to bring resolution to the divisions at ACC-17 is revealing. On the key resolution concerning membership in Anglican bodies, he thought his “Oxford” amendment – that LGBTQ advocates should be “welcomed” rather than “included” – would make peace, and he was surprised when the Africans “found their voices and stood one after another to denounce the resolution.” Why should this be a surprise? Meeting after meeting for twenty years, they have strongly defended Lambeth Resolution I.10 and its normative statement that homosexual practice is “incompatible with Scripture” and “cannot be advised.”

This brings me to Dr. Atherstone’s discussion of the status of the Anglican Church in North America. He rehearses the various institutional objections which led Lambeth authorities to claim that the ACNA had “left the Communion” and were not truly Anglican. In particular, he mentions the 1930 Lambeth Conference, which declared that membership involves being “in communion with the see of Canterbury.” One should also note the 1930 Conference acknowledged the “autonomous” nature of the Provinces and anticipated the possibility that an irreconcilable difference might arise:

This freedom [autonomy] naturally and necessarily carries with it the risk of divergence to the point even of disruption. In case any such risk should actually arise, it is clear that the Lambeth Conference as such could not take any disciplinary action. Formal action would belong to the several Churches of the Anglican Communion individually; but the advice of the Lambeth Conference, sought before action is taken by the constituent Churches, would carry very great moral weight. And we believe in the Holy Spirit. We trust in His power working in every part of His Church to hold us together.

That untoward circumstance did occur after 1998, when the Episcopal Church rejected the clear teaching of Scripture and Lambeth Resolution I.10. After ten years of seeking to resolve this matter through the formal Instruments, seven autonomous provinces took action at GAFCON 2008, forming a “movement in the Spirit,” breaking communion with TEC, and recognizing the ACNA as a legitimate Anglican Province with its own Primate.

Andrew Atherstone discusses the status of ACNA without mentioning the role of Gafcon. This won’t do. Gafcon has formed an alternate structure to the Lambeth Establishment and has given a theological rationale for doing so in its conference statements from 2008 to 2018. It currently represents eleven Provinces and six “Branches” that have broken ties with TEC and its followers. At least three large Provinces and over 300 bishops will not be attending Lambeth, again. This is the alliance that the ACC Secretary General heedlessly accused of threatening schism due to “deliberate ignorance” of Anglican ecclesiology.

There will be no way, Andrew, for the Archbishop of Canterbury to convene a task group to deal with ACNA without dealing with Gafcon, and there will be no way to have a fruitful dialogue with Gafcon without backing up to Lambeth 1998 and the “consequences” that flowed from it. And such a turnaround by Canterbury has been repeatedly refused.

The ACC-17 meeting is almost certainly a forerunner of Lambeth 2020. The script has already been written, the handwriting is already on the wall, and it says the same thing as in Belshazzar’s day (Daniel 5:22-30). Gafcon urged its bishops not to attend unless Canterbury reversed his invitations to TEC and ACNA, which by his actions he has clearly rejected. For this reason, Gafcon is offering an alternative bishops’ conference for fellowship and counsel. While I continue to think that going to Lambeth entails moral compromise, perhaps those bishops who proceed from Kigali to Canterbury will discern the difference between the “faux disagreement” among those who continue to tear the fabric of the Communion and the spirit of Gafcon.

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Durham Church offers to cover crosses while hosting Muslim prayers

Wed, 15/05/2019 - 14:50

A parish church in the Diocese of Durham has been criticised for “being ashamed of the gospel” after saying it would cover crosses and other sacred images in order to host Islamic prayers and an Iftar meal for the local Muslim community.

The Church of St Matthew and St Luke, Darlington, also agreed to provide separate worship space so men and women could offer segregated worship.

Muslim representatives met with Vicar Revd Lissa Scott and agreed to set apart two small rooms for Muslim ladies to pray and clear one aisle of chairs in the church’s sanctuary for Muslim men to offer worship, according to the minutes of the meeting held on May 9.

The first set of minutes also recorded the group’s decision to “cover Christian crosses/photographs in small rooms for ladies to say prayers,” a lay source from Celebrating Communities, Darlington, told Rebel Priest.

However, the Venerable Rick Simpson, Archdeacon of Auckland, refused to give permission for Muslim prayer in the main body of the church.

Local councillor Gerald Lee emailed the group the next day to inform them of this development suggesting that the Muslims “revert to using the two rooms that we inspected—one for the males and one for the ladies.”

“Gathering with Muslims in a Christian Church is an important step in bringing communities together so we do hope that you can see the importance of this event for everyone and compromise a little by using what our church has to offer,” he added.

Following the Archdeacon’s intervention, a revised version of the minutes was issued with the note to cover the crosses and images deleted. “Please note that this letter and attachment supercedes (sic) the one I sent to everyone yesterday,” Mr Lee’s email stated.

Sources described Vicar Lissa Scott as a “liberal” who uses “gimmicks like Café Church to offer a gospel-less diet of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.”

The parish website advertises ‘Meditation, Mindfulness, Relation’ sessions which “have their basis in Buddhism, so now she’s saying we can sample a bit of Islam too,” a local told Rebel Priest. “What does the gospel have to do with being ‘calmer, more aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, and more able to relax,’” he asked, quoting the website.

“Jesus warned that one of the conditions of not being banished from eternity, was that we were not to “not be ashamed” of him,” Bishop Gavin Ashenden said. “Covering the cross or any Christian symbol to placate those who reject Him is in fact a most serious betrayal,” he lamented.

“Christians who out of a misplaced generosity are more faithful to the Mohammed’s requirements than to Jesus’ claims risk being separated from God for ever. They will have to choose between Mohammed and Jesus,” he added.

London Assembly Member David Kurten said it was “preposterous” to cover up crosses to not offend Muslims. “Muslims, or people from other faiths should be welcomed to churches so they can hear the message of salvation through Christ.”

But for “so-called Christian leaders to give over a Christian church to a Muslim religious event and then to cover up Christian symbols is a disgrace,” he maintained.

“Christian leaders are called to ‘not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ,’ but these ones are hell-bent on contorting themselves every way they can in order to accommodate every perceived demand of every minority, while they neglect and offend their own faith and their own people. They are not fit for purpose,” he added.

However, local councillor Gerald Lee has called the event “a big and wonderful step to help reduce barriers between our Darlington people.”

Meanwhile, Durham Cathedral sent out a second email confirming it would be participating in the Gay Pride Parade on May 26 and invited staff and volunteers to join.

Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, who named former Conservative MP Enoch Powell to Scotland Yard as part of a paedophile ring with links to ‘ritual satanic abuse,’ has remained silent on his Cathedral’s participation in the Pride March.

As in the case of accusations against Bishop George Bell, no evidence emerged to support these claims. Nevertheless, the Bishop of Durham did not apologise to the Powell family for any distress he may have caused them.

“My great great uncle was Handley C. G. Moule, Bishop of Durham, a hundred years ago,” scientist Dr Andrew Bosanquet wrote to Bishop Butler, saying that he and Bishop Moule’s relatives were “deeply saddened by the stand of the present Durham Cathedral authorities in so openly supporting Gay Pride. We believe that Bishop Handley Moule would have been adamantly against this.”

Bishop Butler did not respond to the letter.

The Iftar meal and Muslim prayers will go ahead on June 2 in the parish.  

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Irish churches urge politicians to work together to halt sectarian discord in Ulster

Wed, 15/05/2019 - 14:40

In a joint statement today (14 May) the leaders of Ireland’s main Churches said that talks between Northern Ireland’s political parties to restore the devolved institutions, were ‘a fresh window of opportunity, born of tragedy, but nestling in hope for the future that now requires courageous and compassionate leadership.’

The leaders of the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Roman Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Irish Council of Churches, were speaking today at Stormont House in Belfast, as they met to encourage those taking part in the inter–party talks.

Church Leaders’ joint statement in full

‘As leaders of Ireland’s main churches, we want to add our collective voice to support and encourage everyone taking part in this new round of political talks to seize the opportunity for a new beginning that lies before them.

‘In welcoming this fresh initiative, together, we hope and pray that there will be substantive progress over the next number of weeks that builds relationships, bridges the gaps that remain and leads to the establishment of a sustainable power–sharing executive – one that is built on accommodation and trust, has reconciliation at its heart and is focused on the common good and welfare of all.

‘Having met with the five main party leaders last autumn, and since then having organised a series of meetings on the ground with elected representatives and many in civil society, we have been impressed by the genuine willingness of those involved to engage. At the same time, we all need to be realistic about the significant challenges that lie ahead in finding the necessary agreement.

‘In our churches and faith–based charities, as in other areas of society, we are witnessing daily the damaging and continuing impact of not having a functioning devolved government. Across our community, there is also a growing sense of hopelessness and even despair at the lack of progress. For the sake of the most vulnerable in our society, for the sake of the victims of our past, for the sake of children in our schools and for the sake of people who need improved health and social care services, now is the time to find a resolution to the political impasse.

‘The Lord Jesus calls us all to go the extra mile for one another and to do what is necessary for the greater good. While the timing for these talks may not be perfect, we believe this to be a fresh window of opportunity, born of tragedy, but nestling in hope for a future that now requires courageous and compassionate leadership.

‘At times we can all become so focused on the issues that are significant to us, that we can fail to adequately take into account the concerns that are important for others. However, a way forward can be found when we all have a genuine desire to find a balanced accommodation that can serve the common good. That can be a difficult, but not impossible task. Today we want to support and encourage all those taking part in the search for such an accommodation.’

The Most Rev Dr Richard Clarke
Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of All Ireland

The Most Rev Eamon Martin

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of all Ireland

The Rt Rev Dr Charles McMullen

Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

The Rev William Davison

President of the Methodist Church in Ireland

The Rev Brian Anderson

President of the Irish Council of Churches

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Call for the Church of England to repent over its slander of George Bell

Wed, 15/05/2019 - 14:33

Since October 2015 when the Archbishops’ Council announced that they had paid compensation to the woman given the pseudonym ‘Carol’, who alleged that she had been abused by Bishop George Bell, his defenders have criticised the Church authorities for never once affording the Bishop the presumption of innocence.  Now, after the inquiries of Lord Carlile and Timothy Briden, it can be seen that the allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded in fact.


The Carlile report, whose conclusions (save as to publicity) the Church accepted, criticised the investigation of Carol’s allegations as a rush to judgment predicated on Bell’s guilt. It concluded that the decision to settle with Carol was indefensibly wrong and that the process completely ignored the Bishop’s reputation and the interests of his surviving family, including his very elderly niece.

The original statement by the Archbishops’ Council in October 2015 claimed that none of the expert independent reports had found reason to doubt Carol’s veracity. But Lord Carlile discovered that the only expert consulted by the Church thought it very likely that Carol’s experience of abuse in her first marriage had affected her recall, and that the possibility of false memories was a real one.

Regrettably Archbishop Welby added his authority to the destruction of Bell’s reputation: on Good Friday 2016, before the Carlile report was completed, he told BBC Radio that the investigation of Carol’s claim had been ‘very thorough’ and the finding of abuse correct on the balance of probabilities. We now know how far from the truth that was.

The Archbishop told Lord Carlile during his inquiry that if there had not been a proper investigation of Carol’s story, the Church would have to apologise. But sadly, when the Carlile report was published in December 2017, he chose not to do so. To the disappointment of Bell’s defenders, he appeared to reject the presumption of innocence; instead he commented that there was still ‘a significant cloud’ left over Bishop Bell’s name without giving any explanation of why he continued to hold that view in the face of Lord Carlile’s conclusions.


The publicity given to the Carlile report appears to have triggered a copy-cat claim by the woman given the name Alison. The Core Safeguarding Group which had been responsible for the shambolic investigation of Carol’s claim now set about trying to substantiate that by Alison. They may well have hoped that the similar facts alleged by Alison would corroborate the discredited Carol. But within weeks the police, to whom the Core Group had reported the matter, closed their enquiries.  Next an investigation by a senior retired police officer commissioned by the Church quickly showed that Alison’s evidence was unreliable and incapable of supporting any adverse finding against the Bishop.

Mr Briden reported that her account not only had internal inconsistencies but was also contaminated by her having read Carol’s story, a contamination revealed by her repeating verbatim some of Carol’s words which had been reported in the press. He ended his report by saying that all the allegations against George Bell remitted to him were unfounded.

Many will have hoped that on reading Mr Briden’s report Archbishop Welby would have publicly acknowledged that the cloud of which he had previously spoken had been dissipated. He did not do so.


The history of the treatment by the Church of England of the reputation of George Bell has become a scandal. It is now the plain duty of the Church of England, nationally and in the Diocese of Chichester, to make amends by working to restore Bishop Bell’s reputation, not least in institutions which were once proud to adopt his name.

We welcome the decision of Canterbury Cathedral to revive a commission to create a statue of Bell and note the expression of ‘delight’ with which the Archbishop of Canterbury has responded. We acknowledge with gratitude the firmness with which the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford have maintained and cherished the chapel there dedicated to Bell’s memory throughout the controversy. We note that the meeting room dedicated to Bishop Bell remains, as before, at the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

It is only in Chichester itself, the place in which Bishop Bell lived and worked for almost thirty years and where his ashes are interred in the cathedral, that any public adoption of his name is now suppressed.

We find the public stance of the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, incomprehensible and indefensible. The Bishop’s ‘Response’ to the Briden Report, published on 24 January 2019 and now promoted on the websites of the diocese and cathedral, only went as far as to acknowledge that ‘Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty’. He added that it could not be ‘safely claimed that the original complainant [i.e. Carol] had been discredited’. This is a most regrettable insinuation that there was, or likely was, substance to Carol’s allegation and hence that Bell was to be suspected of abuse.

The Bishop emphasised the defamatory innuendo by asking ‘those who hold opposing views on this matter to recognise the strength of each other’s commitment to justice and compassion.’ There is, regrettably, no evidence in this response of the Bishop’s commitment to justice or of any compassion towards those who are wrongly accused. His words have been repeated verbatim by the Bishop at Lambeth in response to a Question at the recent session of the General Synod of the church. Indeed, the Bishop even invoked the authority of the House of Bishops in support of this view. So far as we are aware the House has never even discussed the matter.

Such words simply preserve the impression that there was, and remains, a case against Bell. A not dissimilar state of mind was revealed by the Chichester Diocesan Safeguarding Officer when he told the Child Abuse Inquiry in March 2018 that ‘all the indications we have would suggest that the simplest explanation for why someone comes forward to report abuse – because they were abused – is likely to be the correct one’.

As the High Court Judge Sir Richard Henriques has pointed out in his report to the Metropolitan Police on allegations against prominent individuals, such an assumption results in an investigation which does not challenge the complainant, tends to disbelieve the suspect and shifts onto the suspect the burden of proof, ignoring any presumption of innocence. It becomes a premise for a miscarriage of justice such as can now be seen to have been inflicted on the reputation of George Bell.

It should be sufficient to observe that like Professor Anthony Maden, Lord Carlile did interview this first complainant. We note Lord Carlile’s statement of 1 February 2019, made to the local campaigner Mr Richard Symonds: ‘The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and that after due process, however delayed, George Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him.’

We are more than conscious that this saga represents a wider pattern in the Church and across society where many other such miscarriages of justice have become notorious. Now it is surely essential that if all the many safeguarding bodies, national and diocesan, are to be retained by the Church of England their work must be placed under real legal discipline and in the hands of officers who observe fully the expectations and rule of law and act without fear or prejudice.

There must never again be any repetition of such a discreditable, indeed disgraceful, performance.

Andrew Chandler, Convenor of George Bell Group, 9 May 2019

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Fight against diabetes begins at church schools

Wed, 15/05/2019 - 14:27

The Anglican Church of Melanesia Education Authority will vote next month on proposed ban on the sale and consumption of high sugar and processed foods in church run schools. The Solomon Islands has one of the highest rates of diabetes mellitus in the world, and church leaders believe addressing the environmental factors driving the non-communicable disease will help lower its prevalence amongst future generations.

A study performed by researchers at the University of Washington calculating Years of Lost Life (YLL), a health care metric that quantifies premature death, found that in 1990 diabetes was ranked ninth amongst causes of death, accounting for 3.2 per cent of deaths and a YLL of 4. By 2010 diabetes had risen to first place amongst causes of death, accounting for 7 per cent of deaths and an YLL of 11.  Studies released by the World Health Organization report the incident of the diseases in the Pacific nation continues to rise and and accounted for 8.83 per cent of all fatalities in 2017, while the government’s health ministry claims diabetes and its related conditions were responsible for over 50 percent of hospital admissions.

A 2003 article published in the British Medical Journal reported that diabetes was virtually non-existent in populations indigenous to the Pacific maintaining a traditional lifestyle. However the disease was found to be widespread among the urbanized Pacific population across Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia.  Rapid changes in lifestyle and risk factors such as obesity, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity have become widespread throughout the region, while health education programs have historically focused on health promotion rather than health protection. Pharmacological interventions common in Western societies to combat diabetes are often unavailable or prohibitively expensive in the Solomon Islands.

The churches 31 schools and training institutes do not provide meals for students, but allow market vendors to set up stalls outside the school to sell prepared meals and soft drinks. Other students bring their meals from home.

The proposal set for vote on 21 June 2019 at the church’s headquarters in Honaria on the island of Guadalcanal would ban vendors from school premises and launch a health education campaign to educate families on the consequences of a “fast-food” diet on their health of their children.

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Heather Cook freed from prison

Tue, 14/05/2019 - 23:21

Heather Cook walked out of the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women in Jessup, a free woman today.

On 8 Sept 2015 the former suffragan Bishop of Maryland pled guilty to manslaughter and accepted criminal responsibility for the death of a Baltimore cyclist whom she struck and killed while she was driving while intoxicated on 27 Dec 2014.

Cook (62) pled guilty to vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence of alcohol, leaving the scene of a fatal accident and texting while driving. Prosecutors have asked the former bishop, who was deposed from the ministry of the Episcopal Church on 1 May 2015, be sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, with ten years of her sentence suspended, followed by five years probation. The court sentenced her to 20 years imprisonment, but suspended 13 years of her sentence, stating she would serve five years for manslaughter followed by a two year term for leaving the scene of the accident.

In 2010 Cook, then serving as the canon to the ordinary of the Diocese of Easton on Maryland’s eastern shore was convicted of drunk driving and sentenced to four years probation. Her record had been hidden from the diocesan convention that elected her bishop, but had been known to the diocesan standing committee which came under sharp criticism for its decision to remain silent.

Cook’s attorneys had sought parole, early release or modification of her sentence, and in November 2018 succeeded in having her terms run concurrently, making her eligible for early release. Under Maryland law her crimes are categorized as “non-violent” offenses.

Cook will now serve five years of court supervised probation.

The family of Thomas Palermo, Cook’s victim, have opposed her attempts to gain early release. Last year Alisa Rock, the sister of Palermo’s widow told the Baltimore Sun:

“Each of Cook’s attempts to reduce her sentence — applications for parole, house arrest, work release, now … one for modification — traumatizes my sister and her family anew.  This trauma will affect them all for the rest of their lives, and it’s only appropriate that Heather Cook serve out her original sentence not only for the act of killing Tom, but for leaving him there. Especially for leaving him there, for abdicating responsibility for what she did.”

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Anglican Unscripted 503 – The Failure of Compromise

Tue, 14/05/2019 - 20:26

Compromise is so tempting, but history and church history has shown it justs leads to death.

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Church of England commission recommends maintaining sanctity of the seal of confession

Mon, 13/05/2019 - 02:23

Interim Statement: The Seal of the Confessional
08 May 2019

Jesus’ ministry was marked from beginning to end by the offer of the gift of God’s
forgiveness. The church through the ages rejoices in this gift and witnesses to it.

Those who follow Jesus continue to stand in need of God’s forgiveness. Since the sixteenth century, the regular Sunday worship of the Church of England has included
time week by week for recollection of wrong-doing, corporate confession of sin and affirmation of God’s forgiveness. Anyone who attends services in the Church of
England will have taken part in what the 1662 Book of Common Prayer called the
‘general Confession’.

The Church of England also recognizes that some people may want to add to this
‘general Confession’ as part of the Sunday congregation by making a ‘special
confession’ of sins individually and privately to a priest. There is no requirement to
do this: it is an invitation that most people will never feel the need to take up. Others
will do so perhaps once or twice only in a lifetime, as they struggle to come to terms
with particular situations in which they have been involved, either because they feel
weighed down by guilt or because they are struggling to be clear about where their
guilt lies and what they should be doing in response. For a minority in the Church of
England, it is part of their regular spiritual discipline.

It is publicly advertised as a ministry in a relatively small number of places, primarily
churches that belong in the Catholic tradition within Anglicanism, but it can always be asked for. This may be especially likely in some chaplaincy contexts, such as health care and prison chaplaincies. Any Church of England priest may be approached by a person who wants to speak about something that troubles their conscience, though not all priests will be used to responding to such requests.

There are some differences in how ‘confession’ (as it is often called) features in the
Church of England compared to other churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, where it is far more widespread. Both share in a common tradition, however, that anything said by the person making their confession in this context should be said with complete openness before God, and therefore with complete confidence that it will not be repeated or disclosed by the priest under any circumstances. This obligation on the part of the priest is known as the ‘seal of the confessional’.

Having listened to the person’s confession of sin before God, the priest will help
them to know God’s forgiveness afresh. That includes a formal prayer for ‘absolution’
(i.e. being released from guilt for sin), and also guidance about how to walk the path
of repentance. That may mean a readiness where appropriate to face the legal
proceedings by which justice is upheld within our society. The current Guidelines for
the Professional Conduct of the Clergy state that ‘If, in the context of such a
confession, the penitent discloses that he or she has committed a serious crime,
such as the abuse of children or vulnerable adults, the priest must require the
penitent to report his or her conduct to the police or other statutory authority. If the
penitent refuses to do so the priest should withhold absolution’ (3.6).

Such ministry has been referred to in a variety of ways, including ‘confession’ and
‘ministry of absolution’. Over the past 50 years, there has been a shift towards
reconciliation as a term that encompasses the various dimensions of this ministry
and places them more clearly in relation to God’s reconciling work in Jesus Christ. It
also underlines that point that while what is said by the person confessing their sins
will never be disclosed by the priest, this is no private transaction between the
individual and God. In Christ, our reconciliation with God cannot be separated from
the call to reconciliation with one another, including those to whom we have done

In recent decades, churches around the world have begun to face the many ways in which they have failed to keep people safe from abuse and failed to respond well to
those who have suffered abuse. Listening to their voices has raised some significant
questions about the ‘seal of the confessional’. This became evident, for instance, in
the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in
Australia, and there has been discussion in the UK context as well.

Two situations in particular have been a focus for attention. The first is where the
person confesses to sins that include abuse of a child or vulnerable person. Why
should the normal duty on a priest to report such information appropriately not
apply? The second is where it is claimed that if the person confessing their sins has
referred to abuse committed by them or by someone else, that cannot then be
repeated in another context, such as a statement to the police. This is simply wrong:
the ‘seal of the confessional’ applies to the priest who hears the confession, not to
the person who makes it.

In response to these concerns, the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops
of the Church of England commissioned a Working Party on the Seal of the
Confessional. It first met in 2015 and completed its report in 2017. As well as
examining legal, historical and theological perspectives, it received evidence from
survivors of abuse and from clergy who have extensive experience of the ministry of

At present, the ‘seal of the confessional’ is upheld in the Church of England’s
ecclesiastical law. The Working Party did not reach a consensus as to whether this
should change. The diversity of view within the Working Party would be reflected
more widely in the Church of England. Some Anglicans feel very strongly that the
ministry of confession is an integral part of the church’s life of the church, and that its
proper practice is inseparable from the unqualified observance of the seal. Some
observe from their experiences that the Seal of the Confessional can offer comfort to
survivors of abuse who, trusting in the absolute discretion it promises, may confide in
a priest for the first time and by so doing find that they are able to unburden themselves and begin the process of healing. Others feel very strongly that the church cannot continue with any aspect of its practice that stops information being passed on which could prevent future abuse or enable past abusers to be brought to justice. The House of Bishops has been giving these issues very careful consideration.

The Working Party was, however, unanimous in its recommendations in a number of
key areas. One was for improvements to training on the ministry of confession in
relation to safeguarding issues, with training itself becoming obligatory for all those
ordained as priests, since any priest might be asked to do this. Another was for the
appointment of an adviser on the ministry of reconciliation in each diocese who can
be a point of reference for training, supervision and advice.

The House of Bishops is fully supportive of these recommendations. Addressing
them has required consultation with a number of different groups and individuals.

Further information will be given in due course about how the agreed recommendations of the Working Party’s report will be taken forward.

William Nye, Secretary to the House of Bishops

Seal of the Confessional – Full Document – FINAL May 2019 by Anonymous JD8lbVnu on Scribd

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Statement on Human Sexuality from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente

Sun, 12/05/2019 - 00:31

Editor’s note: Anglican Ink missed the release of this statement at the time of its release in August 2017 from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, a partner church of the Anglican Communion. While it represents a major cultural shift for the hitherto conservative Philippine church on the treatment of those with same-sex attraction, the communique is ambiguous as to the morality of same-sex acts and whether the church will permit same-sex marriage, partnered gay clergy, and other innovations.


“In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” (Galatians 3:26)

As we gathered to study and pray, we, the Supreme Council of Bishops of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, strived to find unity in our Christian faith and to discover new ways to make the Church more reflective of God’s universal, unconditional love; more reflective of the nurturing and complementing diversity within the mystery of the Triune God.

The Church’s vocation is to live out God’s boundless truth (Acts 13:47); her mission to make the world a more just and joyous place for all (Isaiah 1:17). Constantly needing renewal, the Church always works to reform herself through the inspiration of God’s Spirit, so as to enable herself in a more effective way in bringing the Gospel of Christ to its own communities and the wider society.READ:  Looking forward while living with HIV

Faithfulness to God’s mission requires that sincere efforts be made to see that justice is done for God’s people as the Iglesia Filipina Independiente engages herself in and confronts the challenges of our present generation. Enlightened by the Scriptures, the Church has been vigilant against unjust systems, confronting racism, slavery and sexism within and without, in a continuous process of theological reflection and pastoral engagement. Continually following the Spirit’s inspiration in history, our Church has joyfully affirmed the gift of women priesthood as part of the life-giving mission of Christ three decades ago.

Now, we are confronted by the universal challenge to stand on individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning and who identify with the other sexual minorities, also known as LGBTIQ+.

We believe that the Church must openly embrace God’s people of all sexes, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions (SSOGIE) as we embark on a journey toward a just and peaceful world. God’s love and compassion, and the core message of peace and justice in Jesus’ life, lead us in taking this humble step to give objective recognition to LGBTIQ+ individuals, and promote their dignity and rights as human persons.

Seeking to incarnate the rich message and meaning of God’s Word in our generation, the Church upholds the revolutionary reading of the Scriptures as she endeavors to keep herself unstained from the world (James 1:27) and worldly prejudices (James 4:12). We uphold the rich treasure of human sexuality being brought to light in our present generation.

Thus, we reaffirm our commitment to proclaim the Gospel to all the world so that people, of all SSOGIE, may receive God’s grace through faith in Christ (Galatians 3:26-29). Conforming to God’s design for His grace to freely flow to all people, we hope to break down the walls of stigma and prejudice within the Church.

Our Church proclaims the universality of God’s love. Our God is love (1 John 4:8;16), not hate and hostility; and love is a mighty force (1 Corinthians 13:13). We follow the footsteps of Jesus, who embraced all people with equal love, respect and compassion (Luke 4:18-19) and who extended his friendship to LGBTIQ+ individuals (Matthew 8:5-13).

We recognize and rejoice in the presence of the LGBTIQ+ community amongst us. We applaud their persistent belief in God’s embracing love. The judgment, intolerance and non-acceptance have not stopped many from serving the Church, even through the priestly order. They have enriched the life, work and witness of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

We humbly ask for forgiveness for the many times we have shown indifference, and have made the LGBTIQ+ people feel less human, discriminated against and stigmatized. We apologize for instances they felt that, through our thoughts, words and deeds, God’s love is selective.

The Gospel teaches us to live in love (Ephesians 5:2), to live out love (1 John 3:18), to offer love to each other (John 13:34). It instructs us to love God through the oppressed (Matthew 25: 34-40); to love other people as we would ourselves (Hebrew 13:1-3). We are told to cast out fear with perfect love (1 John 4:18). The greatest expression of love is liberation (James 1:25), especially for the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, who was given birth by the Filipino people’s struggle against historical injustice and inequality. We steadfastly hold on to our historic heritage in proclaiming Jesus’ message for the marginalized.READ:  Vien: ‘Learn self-acceptance first’

We offer our Church as a community where LGBTIQ+ people can freely and responsibly express themselves. With them, we pronounce God’s all-inclusive love. Being God’s children, LGBTIQ+ individuals are imbued with God’s gift of human dignity. The discrimination against them is part of the struggle for human rights. The Church affirms that LGBTIQ+ individuals have all the right to love and be loved, and commits to offer them opportunities to realize their full potential and dignity as human persons, as God’s children.

LGBTIQ+ individuals are called to give witness to our faith through living an exemplary Christian life. To become bearers of God’s compassion and charity in the world, they are exhorted by the Church, as all faithful, to abide by Article of Religion 12: “Holiness, altruism, obedience to God’s Commandments, and a zeal for His honor and glory are incumbent upon Clergy and Laity alike, therefore all should be trained in a clean and disciplined life, not neglecting prayer, study, and the exercise of moral discipline.”

The Iglesia Filipina Independiente offers herself as a welcoming Church for LGBTIQ+ persons. We commit our local churches and communities to LGBTIQ+-affirming ministries. We celebrate God’s grace through the Sacraments, and are grateful for God who does not discriminate anyone from receiving His grace in the Sacraments.

We believe God’s love is both encompassing and supreme, and that we must strive to share the same to the world. We pray for God to make the Church a continuing testament of his motherly love (Matthew 23:37). We, your bishops, offer our hands and warm embrace in Christian friendship (John 15:13) to LGBTIQ+ persons, so they may celebrate their gifts and calling, and fully and responsibly express themselves through the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

We hope this move can effect change among Churches and church people. Through this declaration, we implore agenda-setters to discuss laws and initiatives challenging LGBTIQ+ discrimination. Only through this can we truly protect our brothers and sisters in the community, against issues such as abuse and the rise in HIV and AIDS cases in the sector; against avoidable fear, suffering and caution.

Our collective existence as human beings, our shared aspiration and struggle for a just and peaceful world, our common humanity, tell us that we are not at all different from LGBTIQ+ persons.

With this statement, we publish a prayer for equality:

Our Creator God, who intended the diversity of Creation, we come to you now with all humility. In your image, you blessed us with equal dignity, but we’ve imposed our own inequalities. We have scarred your Order, in which all are free, in which all matter despite sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. Allow us to see beyond our persistent traditions and biases; our hurtful hate and suspicion. May we see your vision, where all are equal in the pursuit of your abundant blessings. Reveal to us our common humanity, our shared dignity; make crumble our many walls with our united wills. Send us with passion and strength to mend the world divided, so that it may transform into your unified reign of peace based on justice. All this we seek in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Rt. Rev. Antonio Ablon
Supreme Council of Bishops

Rt. Rev. Rhee Timbang
Supreme Council of Bishops

Most Rev Ephraim Fajutagana
Obispo Maximo
Iglesia Filipina Independiente

August 2017

The post Statement on Human Sexuality from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

Abortion activists fail to shut down pro-life rally in London

Sat, 11/05/2019 - 23:23

Militant abortion advocates attempted to disrupt and drown out an abortion survivor’s testimony at London’s March for Life as they parodied a popular song and sang: “We need abortion and if it’s quite alright.”

More than 5000 pro-lifers gathered on May 11 to mark Lifefest 19, the second London-based rally, organised by the U.K.’s March for Life movement.

Marching under the banner of “Life from Conception: No Exception,” thousands knelt in prayers of repentance for the nation, after a procession from Emmanuel Centre, Westminster, to the Houses of Parliament in the heart of London.

People were shedding tears as Melissa Ohden from the United States shared her testimony of how she survived a “failed” saline infusion abortion 41 years ago after being soaked in a toxic salt solution that was injected into her mother’s amniotic fluid intending to slowly scald her to death.

“My medical records indicate that I soaked in that toxic solution for five days—two days longer than what was typical for the procedure,” she told the shocked audience. “No mercy was shown to me over those five days. There was no mistake made that spared my life,” she said.

“On that fifth day of the saline infusion abortion, my birth mother’s labour was finally induced. I should have been delivered dead, as a successful abortion, a deceased child. But quite clearly, God had other plans that day for me,” she said. Pro-lifers shouted “Hallelujah” and cheered as she spoke.

Ohden recounted how her grandmother demanded that the nurses leave her to die when she saw the abortion had failed. “Leaving children to die, making them ‘comfortable’ while we discuss what will happen to them is infanticide,” she said, referring to recent U.S. debates “as some lawmakers work to protect abortion to the point that they would deny us protection and in doing so, continue to mark us for death.”

As Ohden narrated her testimony, a group of around 75 pro-abortionists began shouting abuse at her and began loudly and repeatedly singing the chorus from Engelbert Humperdinck’s song “I love you baby, and if it’s quite all right” to the words “We need abortions and if it’s quite alright.”

Ruth Rawlins, Head of Communications for Centre for Bio-ethical Research UK tried to engage the protestors in dialogue and a couple of young pro-choice women came forward to respond but pro-abort leaders pulled them back instructing them not to respond saying they would speak only to the media.

Bishop John Keenan, Catholic Bishop of Paisley, Scotland, who addressed the gathering and closed the rally in prayer highlighted William Wilberforce’s role in abolishing slavery and how slaves were dehumanised as non-persons. Similarly, abortionists needed to dehumanise the unborn child so they could kill it in the womb, he said.

“Let it not be said that I was silent when they needed me. You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know,” he challenged the audience, quoting Wilberforce.

“If you’re a leader in society, civic, as an MP, or in the church as a priest or a bishop, be brave, be courageous, because this battle will be won not just by the truth, but it will be won by courage, too,” Keenan said.

Participants, overwhelming Catholic, supported by smaller numbers of Evangelicals, said they found the morning workshops and afternoon march based on the theme ‘Irreplaceable,’ to be inspirational, informative, empowering and joyful. A workshop speaker described “the very large number of young people and children” as “an unexpected blessing.”

Other speakers included biomedical scientist Obianuju Ekeocha, a Nigerian-born Catholic, and Jennifer and Jeff Christie. Jennifer narrated how she was brutally raped and left for dead by a serial killer but survived, only to find she’d conceived as a result of the rape. It was her husband Jeff’s support that helped her to keep her son, she said.

Tim Dieppe, Head of Public Policy at Christian Concern, Dr. Ronan Cleary from Doctors For Life Ireland, and Pastor Darnell and Karen Starks of the Crookston Baptist Church in Glasgow also spoke during the morning workshops.

Not a single bishop from the established Church of England or the leadership of the major conservative Evangelical churches was represented at the march.

The Anglican Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, a former midwife in Britain’s National Health Service describes herself as “pro choice rather than pro live [sic],” adding, “although if it were a continuum I would be somewhere along it moving towards pro life when it relates to my choice and then enabling choice when it related to others.”

In 2017, the Royal College of Midwives was accused of pushing for “an abortion free-for-all.”

Originally published in Church Militant

The post Abortion activists fail to shut down pro-life rally in London appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.


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