Blogroll Category: Christian Resources
I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 139 posts from the category 'Christian Resources.'
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The post The “gay agenda” of western Anglican churches is “demonic” says Archbishop Ntagali appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.
The Winsome Trio returns to talk about the unforgiveness of the WOKE world and the insaneness displayed by the Amazonian Synod and the Southern Baptists last week.
Newcastle Anglicans joined with Anglicans in Ballarat and Willochra in signalling strong support for LGBTIQA+ Australians. The Synods of each Diocese met over the weekend.
Newcastle Anglicans gave strong support for changes to church rules that would allow clergy to bless same-sex marriages and protect clergy in a same-sex marriage from church discipline.
Bishop Peter Stuart, the Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, spoke at the conclusion of the Synod to remind the Synod that these decisions were still to be considered by the church’s highest tribunal, the Appellate Tribunal. He indicated that no change would be permitted in the diocese until the Appellate Tribunal made its ruling.
Bishop Stuart said, “The Synod debate was measured and highly respectful but also indicated significantly different views. Synod members spoke personally and profoundly about their life experience and decisions. They reflected on the bible, church law and the pastoral needs of parishioners.
“We are going to have to be diligent in finding good ways of working together with competing views.”
Bishop Stuart gave a formal address to the Synod on Saturday saying,
“Faithful Christians within the church who recognise the authority of Holy Scripture do not have a consensus view on how LGBTIQ+ people, especially LGBTIQ+ Christians, are to be engaged, embraced and supported.
To be a Diocese that affirms comprehensive Anglicanism means that we are willing to live with the fact that there are people with whom we disagree. The complex question centres on which perspective should dominate what occurs in diocesan life and how we will respond graciously to conscientious difference.
I am very conscious of the harm that has been done by the church to LGBTIQ+ people and those who love them. Our conversations have often come over as demeaning. In each LGBTIQ+ person, as in all people, we see the image of God – God bearing himself to us. That simple fact should shape our discourse.”Archbishop Glenn Davies
Bishop Stuart briefly commented about recent remarks by Archbishop Glenn Davies, the Archbishop of Sydney. He noted that for many years, “The increased rapport among the bishops of New South Wales is a result of Glenn’s leadership. He has guided us in staying in the difficult conversations as fellow disciples. Archbishop Davies comments to his own Synod, just over a week ago, did not reflect the rapport that he has created among the NSW bishops. He and I have spoken frankly with each other in the last few days. I have previously invited the Archbishop to the Diocese before he retires. I affirmed my invitation to him, and he intends to be amongst us.”Significant Statements on Social Justice
The Synod made some significant statements on social justice.Uluru Statement from the Heart
The Synod acknowledged and celebrated the Uluru Statement from the Heart and called on the Commonwealth Government to introduce a Bill for a referendum to bring about constitutional change to enshrine a First Nations’ Voice in the Constitution.Welcome and Care of Refugees
The Synod recognised the ever-present theme in Holy Scripture of welcoming and caring for the stranger and called upon the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia to develop more humane and life enhancing policies to meet the Refugee crisis.Newcastle Anglican Schools
The Synod commended the governing body of the Newcastle Anglican Schools for recognising that every person is created in the image of God and for being welcoming of families from all backgrounds while helping students to build respectful relationships with one another. It celebrated that students will experience our schools as a safe place to explore their identity, vocation and purpose.Background
160 lay people and 63 clergy gathered with the Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, Dr Peter Stuart, in Christ Church Cathedral Newcastle for the Anglican Synod.
Bishop Peter’s Presidential Address to the Synod can be downloaded here.
The post Newcastle Anglicans Support LGBTIQA+ Australians, Uluru Statement of the Heart, Care for Refugees appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.
At their recent Synod this weekend, the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle passed two bills to enable clergy to bless what God in His Word deems to be sinful, to bless what the Bible says is an expression of an anti-God state of mind (see Romans 1:18ff), to declare holy what God states keeps people out of the Kingdom of God, and redefined the doctrine of marriage. This move mirrors that of a similar proposal passed by Wangaratta diocese in Victoria.
The Bishop of Newcastle in a letter that was made public a month before describes the first bill as follows:
“A Bill for Blessing of Persons Married According to the Marriage Act Regulation 2019 which would provide for a form of service for the blessing of a marriage conducted in accordance with the Marriage Act. The Bill proposes that the Bishop would have to stipulate a date on which the Regulation would come into effect.” This would allow the diocese to wait until the Appellate Tribunal rules on the Wangaratta matter before offering blessings.
A second bill was also introduced that “would remove any disciplinary process for a member of the clergy who pronounces or declines to pronounce a blessing of a marriage in which the persons being married are of the same sex and would remove any disciplinary process for a member of the clergy who is married to a person of the same sex.”
I am very saddened by this. For it was was in the Newcastle Diocese that I was ordained to the diaconate and to the priesthood. It was a very moving experience. (I am the man in the chasuble that is is almost all white). It was very powerful hearing the exhortation to both in my public and private ministry oppose and set aside teaching that is contrary to God’s Word, to be told to encourage and build up the body of Christ, to preach the Word of God, lead God’s people in prayer, declare God’s forgiveness and blessing. Also the reminder to pastor after the pattern of Christ the great Shepherd, to lead the people of God as a servant of Christ; to love and serve the people with whom you work, caring alike for young and old, rich and poor, weak and strong; to studying the Scriptures wholeheartedly, reflecting with God’s people upon their meaning, so that my ministry and life may be shaped by Christ. I was reminded of how great a treasure has been placed in my care and that I will be called to give an account before Jesus Christ. It was in the Newcastle Diocese that I openly declared my conviction that the Holy Scriptures contains all doctrine necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and declared by God’s grace determination and intention and desire to instruct from these Scriptures the people committed to my care, teaching nothing as essential to salvation which cannot be demonstrated from the Scriptures.
It was in the Newcastle Diocese that I served as the Chaplain for Scone Grammar School and was given the platform to preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to hundreds of students on a weekly basis. It was in that capacity that I was able to preach the Gospel to hundreds of teenagers and the senior leadership of the Diocese at a Newcastle Anglican Schools combined service at Christchurch Cathedral in Newcastle (right pic).
It was in the Newcastle Diocese that I discovered and Cranmer’s jewels of Scripture soaked liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer; the rhythm of liturgy and the church calendar; the encouragement of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper).
But I am not at all suprised but this. The Newcastle Diocese is infected with a condition, a sickness. A sickness whose symptoms are apparent in almost every media item that pertains to the Newcastle diocese in recent years. A sickness that reminds me of my late Father’s yacht.
I grew up around yachts, and remember my Father bought a Swanson 32 (see top pic) which was moored out the back of our place in Drummoyne on the Parramatta River (left pic). It was a lovely upgrade from his previous heavy PR25. However, the Swanson had a sickness. Deep down under the surface, the fiberglass hull would bubble due to a condition called Osmosis. My Father would have to have the boat put in dry-dock and have it treated, more than once. He was told that they got it all but it always seemed to come back and end up back in dry-dock.
I asked an old Yachtie about it and he told me that it was due to the ratios of the fiber-glass resin being incorrect due to the builders transitioning from using wood to fiber-glass not getting the mixing ratios correct in the first place. I had no way of knowing if this were true, but if it was true then no amount of treatment on the surface would fix the problem as the problem was at the fundamental level. They had to in essence “go back to formula”.
Just as my Father’s old Swanson had osmosis, the Newcastle Diocese has theological osmosis, indicative of mistakes made at the fundamental level. Two examples stand out for me during my four years in the diocese that highlight this sickness and the necessity for it to go back to formula:
Example 1: Interviews for ordination
The first year serving in the diocese consisted of being discerned for ordination. I was interviewed several times, was required to take a rather extensive independent psychological profile testing, and then undertake further interviews – with the one goal – to assess my suitability for ordination. At these interviews, various questions were asked of me as part of my ordination discernment. They were not all asked by the Bishop and the newly appointed Assistant Bishop of the time (who is now the current Bishop) but also various (yet key) people within the diocese, lay and ordained, at that time. However, I believe the questions speak for themselves as to the nature of this sickness that the diocese is infected with, thus I have deliberately chosen not to provide my answers (though it is helpful to add that my answers were often the basis for the proceeding question).
- What do you think of homosexuality?
- Do you think homosexuals can be Christians?
- What do you think of GAFCON?
- Are you anti-gay?
- What is your view on women’s ordination?
- Could you work with a woman rector?
- Do you think it is right for women to be Bishops?
- It is likely that the Newcastle Diocese could elect a woman bishop, what do you think about that?
- How do you feel about the fact that the majority of clergy in this diocese don’t believe in Penal Substitutionary atonement?
- Do you feel that you have an obligation to correct other clergy when it comes to their different views, particularly when it comes to penal substitutionary atonement?
- Do you think you can serve in a diocese where your view is the minority?
- How do you think you would go serving in a parish where: a)Your Bishop is a woman b)Your Rector is a woman and a lesbian c)Your Rector also does not believe in penal substitutionary atonement d) The majority of people in the parish don’t believe in penal substitutionary atonement e)There are homosexual couples in the church?
- How do you feel about serving in a diocese that is sacramental?
- What are your views about wearing robes?
- If you were visiting a patient in a hospital who was a Muslim and they died? Do you believe that they would go to heaven?
- What if the person was a Buddhist?
- How you would respond to the fact that many clergy in the diocese would find your views to be OFFENSIVE & ZENOPHOBIC?
What was apparent to me then, and even more so now eleven years later, are the questions that I was never asked:
- Will the gospel be faithfully preached by you?
- What is your understanding of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ?
- Will you aim to ensure that the Bible is taught with clarity and passion?
- Are your sermons manifestly rooted in the text of Scripture?
- Will you exercise personal care over the flock? How will you do this?
- Do you believe in the complete trustworthiness of all of Scripture?
- Do you devote adequate time for study and preparation?
- How is your personal godliness going?
- How is your prayer and Bible reading?
Instead of discerning whether I met the qualifications for the church office laid out in the New Testament and the Ordinal; instead of asking me if I believe and eagerly rejoice in my denomination’s (Anglican) statements of faith, creeds, and confessions, the concern of the diocese were primarily my views on homosexuality, Penal Substitutionary Atonement, women’s ordination (to the priesthood and especially to the episcopate); and how I would respond to clergy who are either female and/or gay and/or do not believe Penal Substitutionary Atonement and laypeople who are gay and/or do not believe in Penal Substitutionary Atonement.
Example 2: Discernment Retreat
Towards the end of my discernment year, the Bishop invited me (along with other candidates) to attend a discernment retreat over a weekend.
Two things stood out. Firstly, I remember the week leading up to the Discernment retreat, the then Director of Ordinands rang me rather late at night me in a stupor over the fact that I did not send the certificate proving that I was baptised in the Anglican Church (because I did not keep the certificate when I was 16 years old), and referring to my other material (papers I had to submit pertaining to what I believed to be the essence of Anglicanism – I wrote extensively as I recall on the prime authority of Scripture, the saving death of Christ, his physical resurrection from the dead, the 39 Articles, the Ordinal, the BCP, the Anglican Constitution of Australia) as “all this s**t!” .
Secondly, on arrival at the retreat, all candidates were given an envelope and told not to open it until the final day. The contents of the envelope turned about to be a hypothetical scenario and we had to sit in a circle and discuss as a group how we should deal with it. Our circle was surrounded by another circle consisting of clergy and laypeople whose role was to take notes and assess our responses. It was rather intimidating, but I could see the logic behind it. It was designed to see how we would respond in a group context dealing with an issue that we may not be prepared to answer, which in my years of ministry makes sense as parish ministry is not always predictable.
As we opened our envelopes, my scenario was not a surprise – teenagers throwing rocks at the church building; because it is a situation I had already encountered in real-life ministry. As the candidates went through their hypotheticals, they were all predictable in my view, (with one or two being pastorally tricky) but then… the last candidate read out her scenario:
Anthony and Stephen have come to church seeking…
I knew what was coming next…
… to have their relationship blessed by the Rector, what advice would you give your Rector?
I remember inwardly groaning and thinking this was the end of the ordination journey for me. Everyone had their say, and I said nothing, hoping to get out of it. But the candidate who was leading this discussion said these fateful words to me:
“Joshua, what do you think?”
I could have retreated to cowards corner and have said “no comment” or attempt to obfuscate around the issue. But there was no evading the question. I knew I had to respond. So I answered by saying that what matters is not what I think or what anybody else thinks, but what matters is what God thinks and furthermore, we can know God’s mind on this issue as He has revealed it in Holy Scripture. I then very briefly summarised how God endorses and blesses only two types of sexual expression; heterosexual sex between a married couple and celibacy for those who are not married. I also mentioned that for the Rector (or any clergy) to bless the union between these two men was not only in violation of Holy Scripture but also went against the Lambeth 1:10 resolution. Thus the right thing to do was to point this out to the Rector and say to him:
“It is obvious that Scripture is very clear on this issue”.
I said nothing further and the poor candidate who was given this hypothetical thanked me for my contribution and then concluded that if this were a real situation, the best way forward would be to form a committee to meet with the Rector to talk about it further.
After this final exercise, it was not hard to see amongst some of the examiners what they thought of me. Though there was some orthodox clergy in that group who gave me supportive subtle smiles.
Fitting In over Fidelity
When I reflect on my four years in the Newcastle Diocese, and on my journey from ordination candidate to priest, what is clear to me now is the Newcastle Diocese’ concerns regarding my suitability for holy orders were not based on my fidelity to the Lord Jesus Christ (and to Scripture, the BCP, the Ordinal, the Creeds, and the vows I would make at my ordination), but on my fitting in – fitting into a diocese that appeared to have very specific views and agendas pertaining to:
- Homosexuality (gay clergy, lesbian clergy and homosexual couples in church)
- Women’s ordination (to the priesthood and especially to the episcopacy)
- Penal Substitutionary Atonement (chiefly, its denial)
- The wearing of robes (in particular anglo-catholic vestments)
I have a friend named David Ould. He too is an Anglican priest, and his website has a far-reaching national global readership and David blogs extensively about current Anglican matters pertaining to the National church. One time he wrote about the decision of the Newcastle Diocese to appoint a priest to the role of Archdeacon on the Central Coast. (Pictured here promoting a “fabulous pride mass” in October 2016.)
The inference behind his post was that this appointment was controversial or perhaps radical due to the fact that the newly to be appointed Archdeacon is a man who openly denies the very things he promised to believe, affirm, uphold, teach and defend at his ordination. I rarely disagree with Rev Ould, though this time I did, as I believe that this appointment was neither controversial or radical.
Although the appointment was made by their Bishop who was relatively new to the role at the time (and has since resigned), with all fairness and due respect to him, he was acting in line with the dominant theological stance, ethos, emphasis of the very diocese that elected him as Bishop. The appointed Archdeacon is very much an advocate of LGBTQIA+ ETC rights and the lifestyles that goes with those who identify themselves as such. He affirms women’s ordination to the priesthood and to the episcopacy. He denies Penal Substitutionary Atonement and the authority of Scripture as God’s Word Written, denies the Biblical teaching of the future state of believers and unbelievers. He holds to the centrality of the Eucharist, and he loves wearing vestments. In short, he fits in.
Fast forward to August this year; the Newcastle Diocese approved and promoted Newcastle Pride Week and with it yet again, another ‘Pride Mass’. This is what it said:Next Friday 23 August Saint Luke’s Wallsend is hosting a ‘Pride Mass’ in conjunction with Equal Voices Anglican as an opportunity for this parish and the broader Anglican church to celebrate and affirm LGBTIQA+ people in Newcastle and the Hunter during Newcastle Pride Week, especially within the church.
“We intentionally used the word affirm, as that is the place we believe the church needs to move to if it has yet to do so,” says Reverend Canon Andrew Eaton, Minister of St
“An affirming church is one that says we are not just including you in our community, as if we were doing you a favour by not excluding you. We are affirming your presence in the community, and your equality in the eyes of God. We value what you bring, all of you. We would be diminished if you are not part of this community, this expression of the body of Christ.”
The preacher at the Pride Mass will be Fr Stuart Soley, vicar of St Mark’s Anglican Church, Fitzroy in Melbourne. Fr Stuart is a fearless advocate for the LGBTIQA+ community both in the Anglican Church and wider community. He comes to Newcastle Diocese from a parish with a proud history of affirming LGBTIQA+ Christians and working with the marginalised in their community.
“This Eucharist, like all services at St Luke’s is open to all people,” says Rev’d Canon Andrew. “It also must be a safe place for the LGBTIQA+ community, many of whom have suffered terrible bigotry and exclusion by the church.”
Newcastle Pride Week runs from 22 August to 26 August, 2019. The ‘Pride Mass’ is taking place at Saint Luke’s Wallsend on Friday 23 August at 7pm. Refreshments to follow.
The Newcastle Diocese has a sickness. It has the wrong formula, it has rejected the Apostolic gospel for a false gospel, a gospel that says “come as you are and stay as you are”; a gospel devoid of repentance. With the exception of some faithful orthodox parishes, clergy and, laity, the Newcastle Diocese has turned its ears away from the voice of God revealed in the Holy Scriptures and has listened to the voice of this age; replacing the infallible Word of God with the fallible words of men. The Newcastle Diocese has swallowed hook, line and sinker, the pan-sexual zeitgeist of our time which is ruining lives in the present and will ruin souls eternally. .
Incredulously the diocese desires and prays “to be seen to be making a valuable contribution to the region and people they serve”, however, unless the sickness is removed at the theological fundamental level (i.e. the diocese repents and submits to the Word of God and the Apostolic Gospel ) and “goes back to formula”, any contribution the Newcastle Diocese makes will be akin to putting a boat in dry dock and merely scraping off the bubbles and relaunching it to the water. That being the case, barring a miraculous intervention from God, the Newcastle Diocese will continue to sail further and further towards the horizon of irrelevancy on the currents of the western pan-sexual zeitgeist it has embraced, driven by the winds of a secular culture it vainly attempts to harness; whilst under the waterline, the hull will continue to bubble away and rot away leading to its eventual sinking.
The Newcastle Diocese is the Swanson Diocese.
In this episode we catch-up with Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor at The Village Church and author of Joy in the Sorrow: How a Thriving Church (and its Pastor) Learned to Suffer Well.
Matt and James talk about the intense suffering of so many at The Village Church and how that prepared Matt for his own battle with a malignant brain tumor.
He shares the fear he had of his brain and character being affected dramatically by surgery, why he chose to suffer so publicly and how we can help people who are suffering.
Find out more about the book at www.thegoodbook.co.uk/joy-in-the-sorrow
On Saturday 19 October the Reverend Jay Behan, a former cleric in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (ACANZP), was ordained bishop for the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa/New Zealand (CCAANZ).
We have previously set out our concerns about this new denomination
Here we acknowledge that members of our church are very concerned to see photographs on social media and other news sites which clearly identify that among the consecrating bishops at the ordination were bishops in communion with our church who have crossed boundaries without informing either the Archbishops of this church or the Bishop of Christchurch or the Bishop of Te Waipounamu.
The disrespect for the normal protocols of the Anglican Communion and the lack of courtesy shown to our church by these boundary crossing bishops is disturbing and we will be making an appropriate protest about their actions. We are especially concerned at the boundary crossing of bishops from the Anglican Church of Australia. We value our trans-Tasman relationship with our neighbouring church and are disappointed to find a lack of respect for the jurisdiction of our church.
As further consequences of the disaffiliations from our church in 2018 are experienced, we wish to place on record our immense thanks for all members of ACANZP who have chosen to remain in this church, including those with similar convictions to those who have disaffiliated and our takatāpui whanau (LGBT+ family), in order to faithfully serve God in a church which values diversity, inclusion and respect for a difference of viewpoints within our common understanding of being Anglican.
Archbishop Donald Tamihere Archbishop Philip Richardson
Te Pihopa o Aotearoa Senior Bishop of the New Zealand
The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
Te Hāhi Mihinare ki Aotearoa, ki Niu Tīreni,
ki Ngā Moutere o te Moana Nui a Kiwa
The post Statement by the Archbishops re the CCAANZ Ordination appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.
The Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand says it is disappointed that bishops have “crossed boundaries” to support the ordination of a bishop in a break-away church.
A former cleric in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (ACANZP) the Rev Jay Behan was ordained in Christchurch on 19 October as bishop of a new church.
Jay Behan was an outspoken critic of an historic General Synod decision in May last year in New Plymouth which paved the way for bishops to authorise individual priests to bless same sex civil marriages.
Worshippers in four Christchurch parishes subsequently decided to leave the church.
Anglican leaders say last weekend’s ordination was “irregular” and they do not regard the new Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa/New Zealand Church as Anglican – but would relate to them through their Council for Ecumenism.
“While they have co-opted the well-known identifiers of “Anglican” and “Aotearoa New Zealand” within their name, they are not a part of, nor in relationship with the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia,” Archbishop Don Tamihere said.
“It is disappointing that this group has chosen to be so disrespectful to our Church, and to denigrate us in their public statements while also seeking to co-opt our name and history as their own.”
He said it was more disappointing “that they claim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the basis for their exclusion and denigration of our takatāpui whānau”.
“We want to reiterate to our takatāpui whānau, including the LGBTQI community that we are committed to being a Church where all people are loved and valued.
“We know that we have done wrong in the past, and we may well make mistakes in the future, but we are committed to listening, to learning, to repentance and to forgiveness. More than that, we are committed to offering to all people the same unconditional love that God first offered us through his Son, Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop Philip Richardson said he believed in working for a church and a society in which all human beings could flourish and where none were judged “unworthy of the love of God or inclusion in this Anglican Church” because of their culture, their language, their race, their gender or their sexual orientation.
The Archbishops in correspondence last year with the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, who proposed establishing a second Anglican Church in New Zealand, said there had been work in the Church on the question of the blessing of same-gender relationships for more than 40 years.
They said in adopting a way forward, enormous care has been taken to honour and protect the integrity of people who held irreconcilable views.
“We are deeply saddened that some feel unable to remain in this Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia,” they wrote.
They also spoke of the colonisation of New Zealand and the impact on Māori.
“Sadly, a lack of compassion by the settler church led it to being complicit in the marginalising of God’s people in their own country.”
They said it appeared the Archbishop of Sydney’s proposal “has used our context and our story for wider purposes and does not understand or respect our history nor the consequences and responsibilities of our foundational and ongoing relationships”.
Earlier this month in Sydney Archbishop Davies – who attended last weekend’s ceremony in Christchurch – told clergy supporters of same-sex marriage to “please leave us”. His comments were met with dismay in churches in Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria.
Archbishops Richardson and Tamihere were disappointed to see Anglican bishops in full communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and therefore in full communion with the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, attending the gathering in Christchurch last weekend, and effectively supporting it.
Their view was echoed by Dr Peter Carrell, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch, who said he was particularly concerned at the boundary crossing of bishops from the Anglican Church of Australia.
“We value our trans-Tasman relationship with our neighbouring church and are disappointed to find a lack of respect for the jurisdiction of our church.”
Dr Carrell echoed the sentiments the two archbishops had offered in an earlier statement that “we wish to place on record our immense thanks for all members of ACANZP who have chosen to remain in this church, both those with similar convictions to those who have disaffiliated and to our takatāpui whanau”.
The post Outrage from ACANZP over consecration of Jay Behan appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.
23 October 2019 3.07 pm
Baroness Cox (CB)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made in implementing the first recommendation of The independent review into the application of sharia law in England and Wales, published in February 2018, in order to protect Muslim women in Islamic marriages which are not civilly registered.The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Keen of Elie) (Con)
My Lords, the review recommended creating an offence that would apply to celebrants of religious marriages that do not confer legal rights. We continue to explore across government the practicality of such an offence among other potential options and whether it would achieve the change of practice intended.Baroness Cox (CB)
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply, but we have seen no evidence of any progress on this crucial issue, which causes so much suffering to so many Muslim women in this country. Is he aware that many noble Lords were deeply concerned by his response to a similar Oral Question in July, in which he suggested that the plight of Muslim women,
“is more of a social issue than a legal one”?—[Official Report, 4/7/19; col. 1516.]
Given the recommendations of the sharia law review, the Casey review and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the number of Private Member’s Bills that I have submitted since 2011, will the Minister give an assurance that the government legislation will at last be introduced with great urgency, as so many Muslim women are suffering in ways which would make our suffragettes turn in their graves?Lord Keen of Elie
My Lords, I fully understand the concern about this issue in relation to marriage law. We do not agree with the recommendations in the sharia review. The Council of Europe’s view on this was, I regret to observe, inept in so far as it used the concept of “civilly registered”, which is not a legal concept in the context of the marriage laws of England and Wales. On 29 June, it was announced that the Law Commission would undertake work in relation to the law on how and where marriages may take place in England and Wales. The commission will not consider directly the sharia review’s recommendations, but it will consider rationalising the system of offences within marriage law.Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab)
My Lords, the Minister may understand the concern, but the question is what the Government are going to do about it, having set up this commission. Are they content with a situation where, under sharia courts, women are constantly discriminated against in terms both of inheritance and particularly evidence, the weight of their evidence being half that of a man’s?Lord Keen of Elie
My Lords, we do not recognise sharia courts in this country; we do not recognise sharia law in this country. It is necessary that people carry through their relationships in accordance with the law of England and Wales. However, the Government do not prevent individuals seeking to regulate their lives through their religious beliefs.Lord Cormack (Con)
My Lords, as one who has supported the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and admires her persistence and courage, I ask my noble and learned friend to ensure that action is taken soon to give these women—I have met some of them with the noble Baroness—the basic equality that they are denied, and which everyone in this country deserves.Lord Keen of Elie
My Lords, one is clearly concerned where equality of treatment is not available as it should be under our law, but I repeat a point that I made on a previous occasion, albeit the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, may take issue with it: this is as much a social issue as it is a legal issue. Many people in this country choose to cohabit rather than go through any form of marriage but, within the Muslim community, cohabitation is severely frowned upon. It is for that reason that we find that many go through this informal form of marriage, which is not recognised under our law.Baroness Hussein-Ece (LD)
My Lords, religious marriages that are not legally recognised is an issue that affects women and girls from many faiths and backgrounds. A third of cases dealt with by the UK’s Forced Marriage Unit involved children under the age of 17. The Minister will be aware that, under existing law, children can be married and, shockingly, an adult marrying a child in this way is not in itself a crime; it is simply not legally binding. Will the Government take action to close this loophole by increasing the minimum age of any marriage to 18 and protect all children from all backgrounds?Lord Keen of Elie
My Lords, forced marriage is a criminal offence in this country and has been since 2014. Indeed, in 2017 we introduced lifelong anonymity for the victims of forced marriage to encourage more people to come forward and report it. The age of marriage is 16 but, in the period from 16 to 18, marriage can of course be carried out only with the consent of the parent. There are no immediate plans to increase the age in respect of marriage.Baroness Flather (CB)
My Lords—Baroness Afshar (CB)
My Lords, are the Government aware that these courts deprive Muslim women of not only their rights but their Islamic rights? They do not give them the rights that the Koran gives to women: to independence, to charge for housework and to charge for motherhood. It is high time that someone who is familiar with the Koranic teachings of Islamic rights intervened to prevent this façade of sharia courts imposing absolutely unjust and unlawful demands on women. What will this Government do about that?Lord Keen of Elie
My Lords, we do not recognise sharia courts and we do not recognise sharia law. We recognise the law of England and Wales, and it is that to which we must look for protection of rights and to which individuals must have recourse. Of course, I understand the social inhibitions that exist in parts of the Muslim community in seeking to vindicate their rights. That is why, for example, we introduced anonymity in the context of forced marriage.Lord Elton (Con)
My Lords, the Government may not recognise the courts but a great many people in this country do, of whom a large proportion cannot speak, read or understand the English language. Do the Government realise that there is a huge barrier around this problem, which needs to be solved quickly to avoid terrible injustice?Lord Keen of Elie
My Lords, I entirely concur with the observations of my noble friend. There is a very real need for education and information in this area. If we can achieve that, we can take strides to deal with this inequality and injustice, which we readily recognise, but which is more difficult to cure than to identify.
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It’s that time of year again when the seasonal aisle in the supermarket is filled with fake cobwebs and pumpkin buckets, and Christian parents everywhere wonder whether buying the spooky cat-shaped gingerbread biscuits is allowed.
Let me share three experiences that have shaped my view on halloween, and one Bible verse that I hope will help.
Experience one—as a child. I hated Halloween. It was forbidden in our house, and I was frightened by it, but also fascinated by what happened at the parties my friends went to in witch costumes to bob for apples and get lots of sweets. My family would pretend we weren’t in and I would hide behind the sofa if trick or treaters came to the door.
Experience two—as an adult without kids. When my husband and I first moved to our new house on a cul-de-sac, I remember chatting to the neighbours' kids playing on their bikes in the street and asking them what I needed to know about living there. The kids pointed to the houses around and said, “They are alright … They are nice … But them ones in there are dead grumpy, they always pretend they aren’t in on Halloween when we know they are, but they knock on our door with the Christian Aid envelopes.” Now, as then, our only interaction with many of the families on the street is on Halloween. My neighbours will be watching me go to church and do what I do all year, but this is the one night that they will knock on my door! I don’t have to be grumpy. I want them to know that the good news I have to share is what makes me generous. Giving sweets does not mean I think Halloween is wonderful, but I want them to get a better impression of what it means to love Jesus.
Experience three—as a mother with my own children. I want my kids to know that they have nothing to fear. We can dress up as whatever we want, but because we really love Jesus we don’t want to pretend to be people who don’t, even for one night. And because the Bible tells us the truth about what happens when we die, we don’t need to be confused or afraid. So, because we have more to give our neighbours than we have to take, we’ll get a bucket full of sweets, we’ll put our superhero outfits on, we’ll carve a “Jesus - Light of the world” pumpkin, we’ll leap round the living room at our very own pumpkin party and open the door to whoever knocks with a smile, because Jesus lights us up!
Ephesians 5 v 8 says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”
This verse calls you to remember who you were. You were in darkness—you were once far from God, and dead to him. So don’t feel superior to your neighbours. We only know better because God has opened our eyes. Those with eyes closed to the things of God need our love and compassion—not our grudging exasperation.
And remember who you are—you are light in the Lord. You have been made alive, and you have his spirit at work in you to help you live as a light in a dark world. You don’t do that well from behind a sofa—you don’t bring glory to Jesus by hiding.
Your neighbours are knocking, so don’t be afraid. Remember who is with you to help you and lighten up—literally! Be the light so that others' eyes may be opened to the wonder of loving Jesus.
What do you think? Tell us in the comments below. We’ll have an alternative view from another Christian parent next week on the blog. Listen to Amy talking about her approach to Halloween on the Faith in Kids Podcast here. Find out about Halloween resources here.
The Rt Rev Laish Boyd used his presidential address to the 116th synod of the Diocese of the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Islands to urge the nation to welcome migrants from Haiti to the islands.
Speaking on 21 Oct 2019 at Christ Church Cathedral in Nassau, Bishop Boyd urged Bahamians not to look down on Haitian immigrants, and urged the government of Prime Minister Hubert Minnis to halt deportations of illegal Haitian immigrants.. The tone of the debate had gotten out of hand, he noted.
“Some of the rhetoric and extreme language I have heard thus far — those supporting the migrants and those who are not — is extremely provocative, and not helpful to the cause of harmony in our country,”
The Minnis government has come under fire from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for deporting Haitians in the wake of the September’s Hurricane Dorian that devastated the Abacos and Grand Bahama.
“The topic of migration is an extremely hot topic worldwide, and Hurricane Dorian has pushed the issue to the forefront of our national agenda all too suddenly, once again,” Bishop Boyd told synod,” the bishop said, noting “Our country could very easily get a ‘black eye’ from the international community if we do not make a most valiant effort to get it right. We are indeed a sovereign nation and we expect the world to appreciate this fact. However, the world will ‘mark the manner of our bearing’ in immigration matters, in particular.”
Bahamians must stop saying that Haitians, “come and take while giving little or nothing to the country,” the bishop said, adding, “this is simply not true.”
Haitians were not a drain on society’s social capital, he argued. “Their work ethic is very good. They have a keen sense of family life and look after their children in the vast majority of cases. They attend PTA meetings, when many of us Bahamians do not; many of their children excel academically because that is a priority in their homes.
“My brothers and sisters, let us be honest and realistic, and let us find ways to live together in peace and harmony as God, who made us all, would have it,” Bishop Boyd said,
“We would all want to ‘get this right’ as we work to secure our borders, as well as to treat humanely the migrants in our midst, whether they are documented or not. The way we treat others who are different from us is a true mark of our Christianity …” Bishop Boyd told synod.
The 116th synod runs from 21 to 24 October 2019.
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Dear Citizens of Hong Kong, and Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
May the freedom and the peace of the Lord be always with you!Over the past five months, we have witnessed the seeds of hatred taking root in Hong Kong: confrontations, conflicts, insults, threats, brutality, abuses, terrorism, excuses, white terror, vigilante justice, etc., are terms that we see frequently in the media. Freedom from fear has become an unattainable luxury for Hong Kongers.
Every one of us yearns for freedom and peace, but in the face of the intense social conflicts and the level of rising anger, conducting rational dialogue has become difficult. Verbal attacks that deteriorate into armed conflict only give rise to more violence, causing deeper hatred and damage. To attain freedom and peace, we implore everybody to pause and give one another a moment of calmness to explore our future path. If you are a Christian, we hope that you can dispel the fear, anger and anxiety in your hearts through prayer, contemplation, and spiritual exercises.
First of all, no matter where you come from, whatever side, party, or team you belong to, please lay down your weapons, because they will only bring more pain.
Secondly, all verbal abuses, defamations, bullying, insults, condemnations, and irresponsible utterances should be stopped, because rather than putting an end to hatred, they will fuel its endless spread.
Thirdly, although we cannot stop others from circulating unverified or irrational stories, we can adopt a rational attitude in the face of those that breed discord and distrust, and stop forwarding them, especially when they have not been verified. When we forward messages, we have to understand that they will neither change another person’s views nor persuade them to join our side. Instead, they will destroy the trust between people and breed disharmony, confrontation, and division.
Lastly, for us Christians, freedom and peace in our Lord are our eternal pursuits. We should leave space to empty ourselves and repent before our Lord rather than harbour grudges, and let them lead us to offend or frame others. In the face of this violent world, anger is not out of the ordinary, but we must not let ourselves fall into the bottomless pit of hatred. When we cannot avoid the people or events that bring us anger, we have to pause and calm ourselves, then pray for these people and for God to comfort us and calm our anger. We need to learn to replace the old law of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” with the teaching of “forgive one another” from the New Testament. We need to understand that the Lord’s justice can only be fully manifest through His grace and not through the private settling of grudges. This is the only way for God’s freedom and peace to fill our hearts and descend upon earth.
“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32; 16:33)
Once again, may the freedom and peace from the Lord be with you always.
20 October 2019
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Melbourne Synod has expressed sorrow at the Wangaratta diocese’s decision to approve a form of blessing for married same-sex couples.
Synod also welcomed the formation of the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa/New Zealand for members of 12 congregations who left the Anglican Church of Aotearoa NZ and Polynesia, which is in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Church of Australia, over its decision to allow the blessing of same-sex marriages and civil unions.
And it affirmed a resolution of the National Bishops Meeting in March last year affirming that the doctrine of the Church was that marriage was a lifelong union between a man and a woman. The bishops’ resolution followed changes to the Marriage Act by Federal Parliament in late 2017 to permit same-sex couples to marry in the wake of a national postal survey in which 62 per cent of Australians who participated expressed support for such a change.
The Synod votes on a matter described as “the issue of our times” by Archbishop Philip Freier in his Synod Charge on 16 October came late on Friday 18 October and as this year’s Synod meeting drew to a close on the morning of Saturday 19 October.
The Wangaratta and NZ resolutions withstood attempts to amend them and, in the case of the former, a motion that it not be considered by Synod.
Archbishop Freier announced that the Deputy Chancellor of the Melbourne diocese, Justice Clyde Croft, would absent himself from Synod during the debate on the Wangaratta motion – as Justice Croft did from Wangaratta synod, where he is Chancellor, when it considered the same-sex blessing issue in August – because he is a member of the Church’s highest court, the Appellate Tribunal, to which Dr Freier as Primate referred the Wangaratta resolution for its consideration.
The Revd Robert Miller of Merri Creek Anglican, who proposed the Wangaratta motion, said the developments there were “profoundly disappointing, upsetting and saddening to many people”.
“The most obvious and immediate cause of distress is the way we, and the rest of our Anglican Church of Australia, have been treated by these actions,” Mr Miller said. “The national church has put in place a process for addressing the issue of same-sex marriage and for thinking through our response to the recent change to the Marriage Act. There is a desire for a careful, deliberate process that enables us to move forward in a unified way, while welcoming all people into our Church.”
He said General Synod had commissioned Marriage, Same-sex Marriage and the Anglican Church of Australia: Essays from the Doctrine Commission which had been published in late June this year to facilitate a respectful conversation in the Church.
“There has hardly been time to begin to digest the contents of that book, and obviously General Synod has not yet had the opportunity to discuss it. Yet now we have a diocese acting alone before this important work has been considered. We can only feel for the members of the Doctrine Commission who put a huge amount of effort in to producing the essays, only to have their efforts undermined before this respectful conversation has even commenced. And it’s reasonable to wonder how such a respectful conversation can now take place when it seems such disrespect has been shown.”
Mr Miller said concerns raised by other Anglicans around Australia had not been taken seriously by Wangaratta’s retiring Bishop John Parkes and his synod.
“I know that sorrow does not express what some members of this Synod have been feeling,” Mr Miller said. “I know that some are pleased and delighted by what has happened in Wangaratta.
“I also know that some feel deep sadness that this diocese is not moving in the same direction, and that there are some here who want just such a blessing for themselves or one of their friends or family members. I acknowledge that, and welcome those people to speak when the motion is debated.
“I’m also well aware that many of us have friends on both sides of this debate, and that means that this is a painful thing even for us to discuss.
“The wording of the motion is deliberately moderate in tone. I think this is a good way to honestly express our initial reaction and response, to let them know that we are dismayed, while also giving them the space to reconsider what they are doing, and so I commend the motion to you.”
The Revd Angela Cook, Priest-in-Charge of St Augustine’s Moreland, said the recent history of the Anglican Communion had shown that when there had been changes to the doctrine of marriage in dioceses or provinces, the result had been significant division and pain, broken fellowship, litigation and ongoing distraction from the mission of the Church.
“The Church in Australia is now experiencing the same painful disagreement around the doctrine of marriage and how are we to graciously welcome all people in to the life of the church?” Ms Cook asked.
She said the actions of the Wangaratta Synod lacked humility, asserting its autonomy over and against both the Scriptures and the national church.
“I’m also distressed at the way the use of such a liturgy would undermine those seeking to live the life of chaste singleness, which is commended to us by our Lord Jesus, by the apostle Paul and by faithful Christian men and women through the ages. Those who experience same-sex attraction, but desire to live in conformity to Christ, deserve our support and encouragement.”
The Revd Professor Mark Lindsay of Trinity College Theological School opposed the motion on two grounds, saying he was not sorry that the Synod of Wangaratta chose to bless and not to curse; and for reasons of process and mutual trust. Wangaratta Synod had sought the same guidance from the same God as Melbourne Synod had done.
“That Synod, having asked for God’s guidance just as we have done, decided not with a wafer-thin margin but with a decisive majority that blessings for all peoples in all legal marriages were gifts that the Church could and should offer,” he said.
“We are free, of course, to disagree with their conclusions. But for us to express our sorrow, and therefore implicitly our disapproval of their decision, would be to claim that we have heard God better and more clearly than they did. It would be to claim that their prayers and their hearing were, through either ignorance or wilfulness, wrong-headed or misplaced. And I for one, trusting that they prayed to, listened to and sought God with as much sincerity and fidelity as I trust that we have also done, cannot accept that premise. And so I cannot support this motion.”
The Revd John Baldock, Vicar of St John’s Camberwell, proposed that the question not be put – in effect, moving that Synod not consider the motion at all.
“As those who have been here for a while would know, I enjoy Synod. I never enjoy these moments, however, when Synod is so clearly divided on an issue of controversy,” Mr Baldock said. “I’ve never liked it whether I’ve been on the winning side of the debate or the losing side of the debate.
“I don’t believe that our synods are places where we should create winners and losers on issues of like these. I think these issues are too close to the heart of too many people for us to force a decision on others on a matter like this and I would like to move that this motion not be put.”
Mr Baldock’s motion was lost 201 votes to 226.
Bishop Genieve Blackwell of Marmingatha Episcopate, who facilitated the working group that led to the resolution adopted by the March 2018 National Bishops Meeting, said it was important for Synod to know that all bishops felt able to sign the resolution.
“We may disagree, or not, by action taken by one of those bishops but it was in good faith a resolution of all bishops,” Bishop Blackwell said.
Synod adopted the original motion on a show of voting cards.
The successful motion on the Church of Confessing Anglicans in NZ was moved by the Revd Tim Anderson, Vicar of Holy Trinity Hastings, who said some Anglicans in NZ were “in a very real sense refugees” who felt unable to continue to be part of their national church because of changes it had made.
“What this motion asks you to do is to welcome them, just as we welcome other refugees,” Mr Anderson said. “We don’t welcome the situation that caused them to become refugees … They have stayed true to the faith that has been handed down to them. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we welcome them.
“These Kiwi refugees have lost church properties, lost vicarages and been made unwelcome in an organisation that they were part of for generations.”
Mr Anderson said the motion also assured the Church of Confessing Anglicans and its Bishop-elect, the Revd Jay Behan, of Synod’s love and prayers.
Mr Behan was consecrated on 19 October in Christchurch at a service attended by some members of Melbourne Synod as well as Sydney’s Archbishop Glenn Davies and Bishop Richard Condie of Tasmania and bishops from around the world associated with the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON).
“The third clause of this motion asks us to pray for all Anglicans in New Zealand as they seek to proclaim Christ faithfully to their nation,” Mr Anderson said.
“We don’t of course want to forget the existing Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Much good gospel ministry has been done within its structures and will continue to be done. Rather, we recognise that like in Australia, the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. So we ask for God’s blessing on all Anglicans in New Zealand as they seek to proclaim Christ faithfully to their nation.
“There’s something else that’s not in the text of this motion before you and it’s a call to reflect on our own situation … Do we want that situation to occur here? Do we want to take the kinds of decisions in Australia that have caused churches elsewhere to become refugees from their national church?
“As we welcome these brothers and sisters, let’s consider carefully the direction we take ourselves.”
The Revd Sophie Watkins, Vicar of St Silas’ in Albert Park, opposed the motion, saying she was troubled by the name of the church as it suggested that those in the Anglican Communion were not confessing Christ, to which she took offence.
“I have no trouble in understanding how painful it is to be in a church that proclaims words with which I disagree and acts in ways which sometimes make me shudder,” Ms Watkins said. “I choose to stay in the Anglican Communion because it is my home and I am committed to the Anglican way.
“We have been asked to welcome the formation of and pray for this Church of Confessing Anglicans. I will pray for anyone who asks me. I will pray for their wellbeing, I will pray for their growth in faith, I will pray for their future. But I cannot pray for the formation of a church that calls itself Anglican without remaining within our Communion.”
The Revd Dr Craig D’Alton of Christ Church South Yarra unsuccessfully proposed an amendment that, in part, noted rather than welcomed the formation of the NZ confessing church.
Dr D’Alton said the presenting issue had not been mentioned by the mover – that of welcoming another group that had been victimised by the Church, gay people.
“It is exhausting to stand here again, facing three more motions in a row designed to exclude me and my partner and those who support us from fellowship in the Anglican Church.
“However, I am not prepared to take the Archbishop of Sydney’s advice and ‘Please, just leave’. It is my Church as much as it is his and it is God’s Church first. And God made me as well as He made all of those who hold views contrary to me in the Church.
“… I propose these amendments because it seems to me to be self-defeating for this Synod to welcome schism.”
The Revd Canon Matt Williams of St James’ Old Cathedral in West Melbourne supported the unamended motion, saying he had links to both groups of NZ Anglicans.
“I do not celebrate the rift in the Anglican Church there,” he said. “I do understand it in part, though I wish it had worked out differently.
“I want to remain friends with them both. I want to listen to them both. I want to tell each that I am remaining friends with the other.
“To my mind, this is actually what Melbourne Diocese does best. We constantly feel the tension of it, especially at synod, but actually, we do this unusually well in the Anglican Communion. This is like a microcosm of the national and international Church and somehow we manage to simultaneously hold hands with people who would refuse to hold hands with each other.
“It is the thing I love the most about this diocese and I think it is our gift to the Church and is our distinctive charism.
“So I am voting for this motion and against the amendment. Let’s reach out to Confessing Anglicans in New Zealand. This is not a time to be stingy with love and prayers. Let’s assure them of our love and prayers, not instead of the others, but as well. As part (c) of the motion says, ‘We pray for God’s blessing on ALL Anglicans in New Zealand’. And I take it that part of God’s blessing is reunification.
“In a church that sorely needs unity, perhaps we can be that unity. We can hold both of their hands and watch and pray and wait. But we can’t do that by standing back.”
The amendment was lost 235 votes to 195 and the original motion was carried 235-193.
Archbishop Freier invited the Revd Dr Turi Hollis, the Vicar of Christ Church St Kilda who seconded Dr D’Alton’s proposed amendment, to offer a prayer in Maori after the vote.
The successful motion affirming the 2018 resolution of the National Bishops Meeting was moved by the Revd John Forsyth, Vicar of St Jude’s Carlton, who said that the bishops’ resolution on marriage recognised the seriousness of the issue at hand, offered “a way forward together in unity”, and also recognised the deep pastoral issues involved.
“This issue is deeply pastoral as it affects real people in our churches,” he said. “Sadly, our church has not always displayed the love of God to LGTBI people and we must repent of such ungodly behaviour. Additionally, we should not reduce our care and love of LGTBI Christians simply to this issue alone. We must be a church where grace and compassion abound and where the love of God is expressed to all people, including those who identify as LGTBI.”
He said, “There are strongly held views on both sides of the debate. There are many us – myself included – who believe that the proposed changes to the doctrine of marriage are contrary to the teaching of Scripture and bring the gospel into disrepute.
“At the same time, there are others who believe that to withhold the opportunity to offer blessing or solemnisation of same sex couples denies of the love and inclusion that the gospel calls us to.”
In conclusion, he said: “Friends, we face a challenge that has the potential to continue to divide our church. As a church that is episcopally led and synodically governed, I commend the Bishops’ agreement as a way of committing to working together to manifest and maintain unity as we together discern the truth.”
The Revd Canon Professor Dorothy Lee of Trinity College Theological School spoke against affirming the resolution, saying that the Doctrine Commission of General Synod had since published its book of essays on marriage and same-sex marriage and that it would be premature to affirm a position that might change.
“What gets to the core of the issue is that word doctrine,” she said. “To my mind as a theologian, doctrine refers to our love of Scripture, our commitment to Scripture and to the ecumenical creeds of the church, not to what the church might teach on marriage, or any other secondary issue.
“It disturbs me greatly that we are losing unity when we all have in common a love of Scripture, a commitment to Scripture, a love of Christ, a belief in the most Holy Trinity, and yet we are dividing ourselves … surely we can disagree on these matters, surely the bishops themselves can disagree on these matters, and yet hold our unity in Christ.”
Following the debate on the bishops’ resolution, Melbourne assistant bishops Kate Prowd and Paul Barker led synod members in a time of reflection and prayer. Bishop Prowd said, “In light of the debates that have occurred during this synod about motions that have aroused a range of emotions, that have challenged our thoughts, that have stimulated our theological perspectives, we, the members of the episcopate, want to encourage and urge you all to commit to our common call to love God and one another, in, and with, difference.
“We recognise that approximately 600 people come here to synod each year from different perspectives, places and life experiences. And we come here, often, as part of our preparation, having engaged in rigorous discussion about what matters to us as Christians.
“Our common life as a synod is a rich one and let’s give thanks to God for this! Our common life also, as we know, can expose our vulnerabilities, and we can say and do those things which perhaps do not show us in our greatest glory.”
Bishop Barker offered a prayer which included the words:
May your Spirit deepen our love for each other, especially when we disagree;
help us welcome and love those who struggle with the issues we have been discussing, especially those who feel unloved and alienated
May all find their safety and refuge under your outstretched wings.
Help us to listen with grace,
to speak with care,
and may we model to a fractious world Christlike love and mercy.
* Bishop Brad Billings gave a presentation on the diocesan Visions and Directions and the implementation of the strategy on 18 October, followed by a presentation on the Melbourne Anglican Diocesan Corporation by its CEO, Mr Ken Spackman.
* Synod also passed resolutions urging its members to encourage their parish leadership to complete the child safe assessment tool, to be distributed by Diocesan Project Officer Ms Amanda Lincke, by the end of November; urging big companies, banks and governments to set aside a percentage of positions to employ members of emerging communities “so they have a sense of belonging and connection to the large community of Australia”; and asking the Finance Committee to conduct a global review of the financing of the mission and ministry of the diocese, including the parish assessment process and the use of money from the sale of properties, and to report to the next meeting of Synod in 2020.
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A foray into party politics by a retired Ceylonese bishop has earned him a rebuke from his colleagues.
On 15 Oct 2010 the Rt. Rev. Gregory Shantha Kumar Francis gave an interview to Sri Lankan television discussing political and ethnic issues. Sri Lanka will elect its eight president in national elections scheduled for 16 Nov 2019.
His comments prompted the Bishops of Colombo and Kurunegala, the Rt. Rev. Dhiloraj Canagasabey and the Rt. Rev. Keerthisiri Fernando, to criticize their colleague saying he had no authority to speak on behalf of the Church of Ceylon, especially in the polarized political atmosphere current on the island.
Of Tamil ancestry, Bishop Francis was consecrated Bishop of Kurunegala in 2010 after serving as a parish priest and college chaplain in the Church of Ceylon. On 6 Jan 2015 the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, the metropolitan of the Church of Ceylon, announced that Bishop Francis had resigned.
At a 5 Jan 2015 press conference Bishop Francis said he was stepping aside after having received threats from Tamil groups living overseas, who objected to his support of the Sinhala-dominated government.
Bishop Francis told the press conference: “I value and stand for the unitary state and sovereignty of the country. I came under pressure from the Diaspora groups due to my position in this regard despite being a Tamil priest. They asked me why I had taken up such a position instead of speaking for the rights of minorities. I have two options – to resign from my priesthood or to embrace their agenda. I will stick to my position. That is to appear for the unitary state and sovereignty of the country. This is what we have achieved after 30 years of war. I will quit my position as the Bishop of the Kurunegala Diocese to serve the interests of the country.”
However, in his statement announcing the resignation of Bishop Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury said he had asked the bishop to resign in connection to charges of financial misconduct. The Lambeth Palace statement said:
“The visit by Bishop Shanta to Canterbury last week was to consider with him the various options for dealing with his position as a bishop who had voluntarily stood down following numerous complaints that he brought his Church and ministry into disrepute. A particular cause of concern was his involvement in unresolved criminal proceedings relating to misappropriated pension funds. Members of his own Diocesan Standing Committee had requested that he should resign, and he agreed to do so.”
Bishop Francis’ politicking on behalf of the ruling party played no part in the push to remove him. Lambeth Palace added: “Any suggestion that the Church of Ceylon or Archbishop of Canterbury is seeking to influence the outcome of the forthcoming presidential election is categorically untrue.”
In their statement released this week, the Ceylonese bishops wrote:
“The Church of Ceylon categorically states that the utterances made by Bishop Greg Shantha Kumar Francis, which were telecast on the 15th of October 2019, were not authorised by the Church of Ceylon, and the Church of Ceylon disassociates itself from the utterances made by him. The Church of Ceylon wishes to emphasize that it is unaware of the truth of any of the utterances made by Bishop Greg Shantha Kumar Francis.”
“It is significant to note that shortly before the Presidential Election in 2015 as well, the said Bishop made certain unauthorised utterances, which prompted the Metropolitan of the Church of Ceylon (the Archbishop of Canterbury), to issue the statement referred to above.”
“The Church of Ceylon notes with serious concern that in a similar manner when a presidential election is pending, Bishop Greg Shantha Kumar Francis has ventured to make utterances of the same nature. The church of Ceylon unreservedly condemns this act.”
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In September 2019, Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, shared some reflections with clergy and laity in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles on the state of the Anglican Communion.
“I am saying ‘Anglican family’ rather than ‘Anglican Communion’ because we’re a very fractured communion but we’re still family – like so many families, quarreling till the cows come home,” he said…. There is uncertainty, division, a measure of suspicion still and a sense that our conventional and inherited ways of being Anglicans together across the world have come under almost unmanageable strain.”
Archbishop Williams’s switch from “communion” to “family” reminded me of something I had written fifteen years ago, titled “The Divorce,” because while “quarreling until the cows come home” is a nice sentiment, it is not the way many families end up. Fifteen years on, real repentance and reconciliation seem as far away as ever.
So at the risk of reviving unhappy quarrels around the supper table, here it is:
Let’s face it: the Anglican Communion is breaking up. Statements about “breaking ties,” “impaired communion,” and “loose federation” are commonplace since the election and consecration of Gene Robinson last year.[*] Call it what you will, Anglicans throughout the world are going through a divorce.
Divorce is a painful and contentious reality and has been so since time immemorial. God put the prophet Hosea through a divorce in order that his experience might testify to the overwhelming consequences of unfaithfulness to God’s covenant. Current wisdom holds that it takes two to make a marital tangle, but it is also true that it takes one party to will a divorce. The prophet’s wife Gomer’s reported attitude – “I will go after my lovers,” reveals another essential feature of divorce – willfulness. Indeed one party’s unfaithfulness often causes the other to separate.
Unfaithfulness and willfulness are at work in the current break-up of the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church – call her Gomer – has been unfaithful to the historic and biblical faith.[†] Her husband, represented by the bishops at Lambeth and the Primates, has repeatedly exhorted her to turn back – but she will have her way and follow her lovers. And she will not repent. A solid wall of defense has been thrown up by the Episcopal establishment over the past twelve months. The Presiding Bishop has called for all manner of dialogue, but repentance and reversal are clearly off the table.
Another thing about divorce: while the parents may indulge in denial, the children always suffer. Hosea’s children took on shameful names, “Unloved” and “Not My People”; and no doubt their childhood was affected by the break-up. The Episcopal Church is a family of dioceses, parishes and individuals. Despite assurances from on high that all is well, many have become ashamed to call themselves Episcopalians; some have walked away from the church of their upbringing or choice; some have withheld their tithes; some have set up alternative structures looking to the day of divorce.
Divorce battles usually focus on salvaging reputation and property. As to the former, even in no-fault societies, people know that the marriage broke up because Father was having an affair, or because Mother left home in mid-life to find herself. And denial is the bedmate of shame. The shamed partner will react by denying that there is a problem, or will even try to turn the tables and blame the innocent party.
I cannot help but think that shame and denial are at work in the defenses of the Gene Robinson affair. Why don’t church liberals act liberally and say something like this: “OK, we admit our actions are a radical innovation from the biblical and historical tradition of the Christian Church. We believe God is doing a new thing, but we acknowledge that many Episcopalians don’t see it that way and in fact can’t live with it. So if you must, take your churches and go your way. May God bring us back together in time.”
But they don’t say that. They have stonewalled every attempt that would give true autonomy to the consciences of traditional Episcopalians. They’ve patronized us, saying “We’ll give you our form of deputed oversight – take it or leave it.” And as for disputes about property, they respond as if they are the offended party: “Go if you wish,” they say, “but leave the family heirlooms behind or we’ll see you in court.”
Divorce in one house is bad enough, but the divorce we are facing is international in scope. The current Eames Commission may struggle to find a “middle way” around the crisis, but it won’t succeed because the true Anglican via media has always held that there are biblical essentials that cannot be tampered with. And that is exactly what the Episcopal Church has done. This simple truth may evade the loftiest theologians and cleverest canon lawyers, but it is transparent to the vast number of Anglicans worldwide.
In Africa, for instance. On 23rd August, the Archbishop of Uganda [Henry Orombi] confirmed that parishes formerly in the Diocese of Los Angeles have been admitted to the Province of Uganda (Diocese of Luweero). The Presiding Bishop’s [Frank Griswold] reaction was shock, shock, that any bishop would dare cross territorial boundaries.
This same man signed a Primates’ Statement in October 2003, which says: “If [the consecration of Gene Robinson] proceeds… this will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level and may lead to further division on this and further issue.” Two weeks later he proceeded to officiate at Robinson’s consecration. Now the consequences forewarned are coming upon him, and he does not like it. Radical adjustments to polity are required when a church deviates radically from the historic Christian faith.
The Anglican Communion is breaking up. Christ promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church, but not any particular branch of it. Will this branch ever be reconciled and reconstituted? I know of several miraculous remarriages of divorced spouses, but they have always occurred when one partner has been converted and come back on bended knee. Hosea bought his wayward wife back as a sign of God’s grace in the face of Israel’s stubbornness. Did she ever turn to love him and not her Baals? We don’t know.
So it is with the Anglican Gomers of North America: maybe in the mercy of God a remnant will turn back before this crisis is over. But it is also possible that God will raise up a new generation of Anglicans in North America. Maybe they will be black immigrants, maybe they will be (gasp!) fundamentalists who love episcopacy and liturgy. And it may be that this new group of Anglicans God will call “sons of the living God” (Hosea 1:10).
[*] Robinson married his wife in 1972 and had two daughters with her. In 1986, he “came out” as gay and divorced his wife. In 1988 he began a relationship with Mark Andrew. They were married in 2008 and divorced in 2014.
[†] I am not going to argue this point. Robert Gagnon (The Bible and Homosexual Practice, 2001) has demonstrated irrefutably that gay ordination and unions are contrary to Scripture. I and many others have argued repeatedly that these innovations constitute a breach of catholic doctrine and Anglican essentials. The issue now facing Anglicans is not a matter of biblical interpretation or moral theology but ecclesiology.
The post Divorce in the Anglican Family: A Look Back at the Break-Up appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.
“Hair is everything. We wish it wasn’t so we could actually think about something else occasionally. But it is.”
So said Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag in a scene which met with huge approval from the show’s audience. Finally, the struggle was understood and articulated. We all know we shouldn’t care so much about hair, but we do.
Hair can change the way people perceive us (or at least the way we think they perceive us). A bad hair day can set everything else back. And a drastic cut or a sudden bristle of facial hair often accompanies a big life change.
Hair really isn’t everything. But it isn’t nothing, either. And the Bible backs this up.Hair tells a story
There are some great hair moments in the Old Testament.
There’s the bride’s hair described as “like a flock of goats descending from the hills of Gilead” (Song of Solomon 4 v 1). What a compliment!
There’s Absalom, David’s son, whose handsomeness and vigour is proved by the fact that his yearly haircut results in more than two kilograms of hair lying on the floor around his barber’s chair. (Yes, he weighs it. See 2 Samuel 14 v 26.)
And there’s the Ammonite king who humiliates David’s envoys by cutting off half of each of their beards (2 Samuel 10 v 4-5).
Given that “people look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16 v 7), it might be surprising how significant hair sometimes is in the Bible. Hair is an expression of what is going on inside. It tells a story about who you are and what has happened to you.
So, those envoys are told by David to lie low until their beards have grown back: he doesn’t want them around when their defeat is so evident. Similarly, healed lepers shaved their hair to display their new beginning (Leviticus 14 v 9). Cutting or tearing hair could also be a sign of grief (e.g. Jeremiah 7 v 29; Ezra 9 v 3).
In the New Testament, Paul takes his hair seriously enough to use it as a symbol of a promise he has made to God (Acts 18 v 18)—keeping it long and then cutting it off when he has fulfilled his vow, as the Nazirites did (more on them below). It’s true that Peter and Paul both advise women that the best kind of beauty doesn’t lie in elaborate hairstyles (1 Peter 3 v 3; 1 Timothy 2 v 9-10); but that doesn’t mean that hair can’t be meaningful. In Bible times as much as today, hair was a significant part of everyday life. It isn’t everything, but it does mean something.A sign of something important
The most famous head of hair in the Bible might be that of Samson, whose story is told in Judges 13 – 16. From birth, Samson is dedicated to God as a Nazirite. Among other things, this means he will never cut his hair (Numbers 6 v 1-8). It’s a sign of holiness and devotion. This time, hair doesn’t just tell a story: it tells a story about God.
Samson’s vow also means that God gives him miraculous strength. When Samson shares this secret with his treacherous lover Delilah and his hair gets cut off, this strength—and God’s Spirit—leaves him (Judges 16 v 19-20).
Why does God care so much about Samson’s hair? He doesn’t just dislike the new style. Telling Delilah about his hair suggests that Samson has begun to take God for granted: he no longer guards his vow of dedication. When his hair is cut off, it symbolises the end of his vow. Samson is turning his back on God. That’s why he loses his strength.
Yet God does not abandon Samson altogether. Verse 22 notes that his hair begins to grow back, and this seems to be a sign of returning favour. When Samson prays for one last moment of strength in verse 28, it is granted: in his dying moments he pulls a building down to defeat God’s enemies. God values and uses Samson even after Samson has failed him.Every hair on your head
This brings us to the most enduring meaning of hair in the Bible. Hair shows that God values and protects his people.
There are a lot of hairs on the human head. Bible writers recognized this, and the expression “hairs on the head” came to mean “an uncountable number” (e.g. Psalm 40 v 12)—just like “grains of sand” or “stars in the sky”. Yet in Luke 12 v 7 Jesus tells us that God knows that number: he has counted every hair on your head. God knows each one of us that intimately.
Jesus’ application of this point is: “Don’t be afraid”. This is because hairs on the head express not just a big number but also how much God values the lives of those who love him.
The hairs on the head also signify total protection. In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are thrown into a furnace, yet emerge unharmed. We are not to imagine them coming out of the fire coughing and burnt, just clinging to life. No: “the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed” (v 27). These men are so valuable to God that not one hair is left unprotected by him.
Astonishingly, God promises the same experience to us. In Luke 21 Jesus predicts the suffering Christians will have to endure: war, famine, illness, persecution, and more. “Everyone will hate you because of me,” he acknowledges (v 17). Then he says: “But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.”
Of course, the hairs on our heads will perish. They will fall out or go grey. That’s okay, because hair isn’t everything. But once again, hair does mean something. Jesus is picking up on the symbolism of hair in the furnace story and elsewhere (see 1 Samuel 14 v 45; 2 Samuel 14 v 11; Acts 27 v 34) to emphasise the complete protection he guarantees for his followers. He is telling us how greatly he values us, and how totally we can trust him.
If we trust in Jesus, then the hairs on our heads can remind us of our absolute security in him. We may, like Samson, fail to keep our vows. We may lose all our hair. But God is still faithful, and he promises life everlasting.
The Mission to Seafarers held a maritime service and lunch in Yokohama, attended by its President, HRH The Princess Royal and Sir Timothy Laurence to celebrate the Mission’s long service in Japan.
The Mission to Seafarers has a long and distinguished history of service in Japan, stretching back well over a century and operates in the ports of Yokohama, Kobe and Tomakomai. The Celebratory Maritime Service was held at Christ Church in Yamate, Yokohama, where Her Royal Highness was able to meet volunteers and supporters.
Following the service, the Royal party travelled to the InterContinental Hotel, Yokohama to meet distinguished guests including Mr Kei Moyria and Mrs Ayako Moriya, formerly Princess Ayako, the youngest daughter of the late Norihito, Prince Takamado and Hisako.
The lunch was attended by many dignitaries and guests from Japan’s shipping industry and the Anglican church in Japan, including HE Paul Madden, British Ambassador to Japan, Mr Hitoshi Nagasawa, President of NYK, Mr Takeshi Hashimoto, Director and Executive VP MOL, Mr Masamichi Morooka – President and CEO of Yokohama Kawasaki International Port (YKIP) and Mr Hiroshi Imura President of ConocoPhillips, Japan.
Speaking after the event, Chris Eve, Chairman of MtS Japan commented:
“The Mission to Seafarers has a proud tradition of supporting seafarers here in Japan since the 1880s, when a small centre was opened in the fast-growing port of Yokohama, initially as a refuge from alcohol but quickly widened its purpose to offer a welcome to all seafarers. Since those early days, the Mission has expanded its presence to Kobe and Tomakomai and today, all three locations offer a range of services for visiting seafarers, irrespective of nationality, race or creed.
Centre: HRH The Princess Royal; right seated: Mr Masamichi Morooka; left seated: Mr Takashi Uyeno
“We are here for seafarers of all faiths and none, offering welfare services, practical support and a warm welcome. The challenges facing seafarers may change over the years, but the urgent need for the support that we provide is undiminished. We are honoured that HRH The Princess Royal could join our celebrations. With the ongoing support of our generous donors, we hope to continue our work for years to come.”
Revd Canon Andrew Wright, Secretary General, The Mission to Seafarers, added:
“We are very proud that The Mission to Seafarers Japan is part of our global family of welfare centres, chaplains, staff and volunteers in over 200 ports around the world. For well over a century, seafarers visiting Japan have benefited from their support and it is an honour to celebrate their contribution to the wellbeing of the men and women serving at sea, not least at a time when the tragic impact of Typhoon Hagibis in Japan reminds us all of the perils faced by our seafarers. We are grateful, as always, to our President, HRH The Princess Royal, and to all the dignitaries and honoured guests who joined our celebratory service and lunch here in Yokohama.”
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Former Episcopal priest and convicted child abuser Howard “Howdy” White, Jr. has been sentenced on 21 Oct 2019 by North Carolina court to 12 years imprisonment after having pled guilty to three counts of second-degree forcible rape, eight counts of second-degree forcible sexual acts and seven counts of indecent liberties with a child.
In 2017 White pled guilty to five counts of sexual assaults committed against students at St George’s School in Middletown, R.I. where he served as chaplain in the early 1970s. The assaults were committed during a trip with students to Massachusetts. He was not charged by Rhode Island authorities for alleged crimes committed at the Episcopal boarding school as the time permitted to charge him under the statute of limitations had passed. White was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment by a Massachusetts court but was released after 12 months, and transferred to North Carolina to answer charges that while he was rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Waynesville from 1984 to 2006 he molested two girls.
The victims in the North Carolina assaults reported their claims to police in 2015 after the St George’s School released on a report on historic sexual abuse at the school. The report found White had been dismissed as chaplain in 1974 after the school learned of his conduct, but the headmaster failed to take further steps to prevent him from reoffending.
White, (78), was serving as a non-stipendiary priest in charge at a Central Pennsylvania parish when he was arrested. The bishop of Central Pennsylvania deposed him from the ordained ministry in 2017.
The post Ex-priest sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for child abuse appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.
In his address to the Synod today [19 Oct 2019], the Rt Rev. Daniel H. Martins, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield announced his intention to retire and called for the election of his successor, who will be consecrated in June of 2021.
Bishop Martins was consecrated on March 19, 2011 and has shepherded a diocese comprised of 33 congregations throughout 60 counties in Central and Southern Illinois. His ministry has included an emphasis re-imagining the way the church operates in an increasingly secular age. Specifically, he sought to begin to change the culture in the diocese about how the nature of mission in a post-Christian culture is understood and practiced. Under his tenure the constitution and canons were revised to give voice and vocabulary to this emerging attitude, whereby “parish” has become a geographic territory in which the Eucharistic Communities bear the primary responsibility for developing mission in that area. Central to this has been a canonical requirement that Eucharistic Communities develop annual Mission Strategy Reports to take their community’s corporate vocation “into the neighborhood.”
The Standing Committee will oversee the election process for the twelfth bishop for the diocese and holds ecclesial authority when the office of the bishop is vacant. Standing Committee President, Fr Mark Evans, who spoke on behalf of the diocese, “We give thanks to Bishop Martins for his service. Now we turn a new chapter in the diocese’s life. It is my prayer that we engage with that shift faithfully, support one another spiritually and practically and that we discern through the Holy Spirit who will be our next shepherd.”
Speaking of his remaining time as Bishop, Martins emphasized the need to focus on the mission of the diocese during this time of transition, “Even as we’re obsessing about the election process—and I’ll surely be obsessing along with you—let’s not forget that we have a mission to pursue, a gospel to proclaim, souls to lead to Christ, and baptisms to perform. We are and remain one church, organized for mission into geographic parishes, manifested in eucharistic communities and communities-in-formation, with a goal of being concretely incarnate in all of the 60 counties of central and southern Illinois. Thank-you for the indescribable joy of sharing this ministry with you.”
Extinction Rebellion promise to subvert democracy as well as capitalism to promote the new apocalypse
One of my favourite childhood stories was the Emperor’s new clothes. I’ve always been suspicious of the pressure from crowds to make us believe things may not be true.
There was something about Greta Thunberg’s furious eruption at the United Nations last month which made me want to take a step back.
The more the media resonated with congratulations as she trumpeted “don’t believe me believe the science”, the warier I became.
Two things about the green eruption of angst and anger worry me; aspects of the science despite the fact that Greta insists the science is incontrovertibl,e and the taste and smell of the politics that occasionally peeks out from behind the Green movement, both set all my alarm bells ringing.
A couple of days ago, the deputy leader of the Extinction Rebellion movement said something casually alarming in a TV news interview. She was commenting on the direct action in London, and that both democracy and capitalism had failed us and were partly responsible for the the apocalypse we were facing, I smelt a rat.
I don’t think much of either democracy or capitalism, but every other political system is worse than democracy and capitalism, for all its one-eyed ruthlessness has lifted more people out of poverty than any other economic system. If the Green agenda is to replace both of them, it won’t just be the weather than causes us trouble.
So, what’s wrong with the science? Karl Popper, one of our best philosophers of science explained the scientific method best when he wrote that it’s all about falsification. You test a theory, until it either proves untrue, or partially untrue and needs modifying; or doesn’t prove untrue and can be relied on.
But climate science doesn’t work that way. It’s all about prediction. That’s not science as Popper knows it. It brings in models that suggest what the future might be. When they get it wrong they have to be tweaked or radically changed. But they are never ‘right’ because they all deal with the future and that can’t be tested or falsified, since we are in the present.
Rupert Darwell, has written two books looking at both the history and the politics of the green movement. The ‘History of Global Warming’ and ‘Green Tyranny: Exposing the Totalitarian Roots of the Climate Industrial Complex.’
In the first he points out that predictive science has a woeful record in the past. It was only a couple of decades ago that we were being told the best models were predicting a new ice age and disastrous global cooling. It’s not obvious that the global warming models of today are as reliable as they are treated as being.
Darwell’s second book looks at the politics that publishes and massages the so far predictively-unreliable science. He is especially critical of the International Panel for limate Change. He claims that at the U.N. climate change meetings, politics trumps science as a process. `The best examples of this are the IPCC Assessment Reports. Every six years or so, the IPCC issues a massive report assessing the issue of climate change. But because the report is so dense, the work of the scientists is handed to a group of public officials, who then write a summary. In the end, science is relegated to a bit part in a political drama.
The politics gets murkier when the enormous investments in green technology appears to have struck a political bargain with both science and governments to maximise the returns. Neither the economics not the efficiency of green energy stack up in Germany for example, which is at the front of the experiiment. Even the environmentalism doesn’t hold water when it is alleged that wind farms kill up to three million bats a year as pressure waves from rotating blades cause their lungs to explode.
The Ivanpah solar project in the Mojave Desert, in which Google invested 178 million dollars, uses 300,000 mirrors over a 3500-acre site and incinerates “an average of one bird every two minutes; a contractor for the plant, estimates 6,190 bird deaths for the year there.
How was Greta Thunberg ‘discovered’? A financier called Ingmar Herzhog who was trying to maximise his profits from his investments in green contracts was auditioning for fresh green faces to push the PR credentials. Greta’s mum was trying to publicise a book on how green issues saved her family, and a new star was born.
Greta, completely dedicated and utterly personally innocent, is the public face of a movement which involves compromised science, problematic investments and flawed environmentalism. A level of popular anxiety fed with apocalyptic alarm day after day in the media is spearheading a movement which says it intends to subvert democracy.
Before we surrender our popular vote to the new warm-mongers with their special interest which go further than fixing the weather, we need to be a bit more wary of what lies beneath.
Many longtime members and former Integrity leaders have expressed frustration and concern at what they consider mismanagement and a lack of transparency, and with tension boiling over on social media within the past two weeks, board members say they are making a renewed effort to improve organization and communication.
“I have failed to be perfect … and I fear that the spiritual, mental, and physical health of Integrity has suffered because of it. For this, I am profoundly sorry for any part that I have contributed to with regard to the health of our organization,” the Rev. Gwen Fry, president of Integrity, wrote in a statement posted on Facebook and Integrity’s new website, which went live on Oct. 17.
Founded in 1974 by Louie Crew to help gay Episcopalians gain acceptance within the church, Integrity grew to have 58 local chapters and about 2,000 active members by 2011, the last year for which it released a complete annual report. With its official mission of full inclusion of all LGBTQ people in the sacramental life of The Episcopal Church, Integrity has been an active presence at General Conventions since 1977, helping draft resolutions and gathering support. Its primary goal was accomplished in 2015, when General Convention approved marriage equality for same-sex couples.
Fry’s term as president has been marked by instability and uncertainty, but Integrity’s struggle to stay afloat in a radically changing environment runs deeper. According to IRS filings, Integrity had $516,152 in net assets at the start of 2013 and had been taking in well over $200,000 per year for the preceding several years. By 2015, the last year it filed a full return to the IRS, Integrity reported $134,029 in net assets. That year, it reported just $54,574 in revenue, but $225,225 in expenses. In January 2018, Integrity laid off the last of its paid staff. The Rev. Gwen Fry, the previous vice president of national affairs who formerly served in the Diocese of Arkansas, was elected president for a three-year term in June 2018, and during the Integrity Eucharist at that year’s General Convention, she announced that Integrity had been renamed The Episcopal Rainbow, though that change has apparently not taken effect.
Much of the confusion expressed by Integrity members focuses on who is actually in charge of the organization. In late 2018, between March and June, Deanna Bosch, treasurer, Letty Guevara-Cuence, secretary/communications director, and Brent Cox, vice president of national affairs, all resigned, leaving Kay Smith Riggle, vice president of local affairs, as the only remaining elected board member.
“It really had to do with other things going on in those people’s lives and they realized they just didn’t have the time,” Smith Riggle told Episcopal News Service. “We weren’t really trying to hide anything. Things were moving really quickly and it was difficult to respond to what was happening in addition to getting the information out.”
Integrity’s bylaws specify that if the president is “unable to perform his/her office,” the Stakeholders’ Council (made up of Integrity’s chapter- and diocesan-level leaders) elects a new president to serve the remainder of that term.
Smith Riggle told ENS that a new election was “under consideration” at one point but directed further questions to Fry, who did not respond to requests for an interview.
Over the summer, Integrity announced on Facebook that the Rev. Frederick Clarkson had been appointed treasurer, Lindsey Harts had been appointed secretary and director of communications, and Paul Horner had been appointed vice president of national affairs. Integrity’s bylaws allow appointments to fill board member vacancies. It also announced that an internal audit of Integrity’s assets and a new website would be completed by Sept. 1.
But by October, with no audit and the old website (featuring the previous board of directors, whose terms expired in 2018) still up, members began venting their frustration on the official Integrity Facebook group.
“This should be profoundly concerning for all of us who love and believed in this organization and its role within our church, and who play a role on the ground in our parishes and dioceses. We are a people who believe in resurrection. When can we have a serious discussion about what it would take to have a proper resurrection for Integrity USA? Is it better to officially close down, then choose to re-launch after this (long overdue) audit?” wrote Jason Crighton.
“The board seems not to have any funds to work with, and also seems to value a culture of secrecy and distancing itself from the membership. It may be time to let it go,” wrote Frank Dowd, a view shared by other commenters.
Several commenters wrote that their dues checks had been cashed without any acknowledgment or confirmation, that the website’s map of welcoming congregations had not been updated since 2014, and that commenters’ questions were not being answered. Members have repeatedly expressed concern about Integrity’s financial transparency, noting that it has not released a full financial report since 2011 or filed a full 990 return with the IRS since 2015, and have wondered whether the organization is in danger of losing its tax-exempt status.
Although most tax-exempt nonprofits are required to file 990 returns with the IRS annually, organizations that bring in under $50,000 per year can file a 990-N, an “electronic postcard” listing just the group’s basic information and affirming its gross receipts have not exceeded $50,000, to satisfy IRS requirements. Integrity has done that for 2016 and 2017.
The internal audit, which was ordered by the board as part of the administrative transition and done by Clarkson, the treasurer, and Horner, vice president of national affairs, was completed on Oct. 13 and made available to chapters by request. A draft copy of the conclusion provided to ENS said that that “no discernible irregularities were discovered” and listed bank transactions for 2019 to date, all of which were for typical administrative expenses and disbursements to local chapters. Clarkson told ENS that Integrity has about $53,000 on hand as of Oct. 17.
“I think one of the things that most people aren’t aware of – Integrity has no building,” Clarkson told ENS. “Integrity basically was a box of documents that were sent to me and had to be reorganized. … Part of the issue that occurred is that Integrity’s infrastructure, like its website, is ancient.”
Along with the new website, Integrity announced that it is taking a census to figure out exactly how many active chapters and members it has, and that it will be distributing grants of up to $3,000 to censused chapters. Clarkson said that money comes from a bequest from an estate of just over $30,000.
Smith Riggle said changes will be made to the payment system this week so that members paying dues will receive an automatic confirmation. The board is meeting by conference call every two weeks, Smith Riggle said, and further financial information will be posted on the new website.
Clarkson said he has dedicated his time to Integrity because he believes it is still needed – particularly for transgender people, and in more conservative areas of the country – and he wants to help local chapters succeed.
“The most effective thing that integrity can do is support its chapters, because they’re really the ones who do the work.”
Reaction to Integrity’s recent statement has been mixed, with some calling it too little, too late and some grateful for the update but confused about what Integrity’s purpose will be going forward.
The Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity from 2003 to 2009, told ENS she’s disappointed at the state Integrity is in now.
“Where there’s no vision, people wallow around and make decisions,” Russell said. “I think that what we’re seeing right now is sort of the last gasp of an organization that has outlived its legacy.”
Russell says she cares deeply about Integrity and wants to see it succeed, but the board has a lot of “deferred maintenance” to do.
“I’m hopeful that something could come out of this. But in order for that to happen, there has to be some healthy leadership and there’s got to be some transparency.”
– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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