Wednesday, 30 June 2004

John Henson interviewed

John Henson, editor of the book Good as New that indirectly caused the blogriot was interviewed today by Martin Reynolds. Part of that interview is reproduced below. The full interview will appear in the next issue of Lesbian and Gay Christian, and the material is © LGCM.

When shown the blog comments about the book, John Henson said:

For someone who is uncomfortable with the telephone, perhaps old-fashioned in preferring to look people in the face when I talk to them, the web and blogriots is a little beyond me. It seems all too easy to snipe at people and deprecate them, very little Good News - from our rendering of Philippians 2:

Don’t throw your weight about, or scheme to get your own way. Regard everyone else as someone to cherish. Spend your time seeking to other’s needs rather than your own.

MR - Tell me, John, about the history of this translation?

JH - The text has been published over the last 12 years in serial form. These little booklets have had a very wide circulation, used as a tool for evangelisation for people who would not read the Bible or grasp the language if they did.

One of the reasons we did that was to have feed-back on the work. We have had a lot, from a wide range of people, bishops and inmates of Dartmoor Prison, all have helped contribute to this rolling translation.

In some way, it was not my choice to do this, it had a momentum of its own - but others kept the pressure up on me when I was slacking otherwise it might never have been finished.

I said “finished” and that’s not quite true - the publishers make it clear that this continues to be a rolling translation, we are looking for people to contact us with improvements and comments, there will be a second and third editions and hopefully each will be enriched by those who have read it.

This version is:

An inclusive translation
A cultural translation
A contextual translation

any of these is likely to cause something of a controversy for those who love the KJ version, all three……….

MR - What do you think you have achieved with this translation?

JH - I think people will have a sporting chance to understand Romans and maybe even Hebrews! We also think that John Ch 1 is more accessible. We are pleased with 1 Corinthians 13, Philippians 2, the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes.

Someone commented Mark “reads like a novel” - I think Mark would be pleased about that.

Baptists will be over the moon at translating baptism as dip! (smile)

I think people have been told there is more about sex in the translation! I’m afraid they will be disappointed, but they may be gripped by the text all the same.

MR - Tell me about yourself?

I am a Baptist, a retired Minister (65) an Evangelical, teetotal, the son of a Baptist Minister. My only purpose, the thing that drives me is proclaiming the Good News. For the moment there seems to be a lot of emphasis on misery and hidden guilt in Evangelical circles, but that will pass, I see signs it has already had its day. I suppose I can be as bigoted as the next man, but I have chinks in my armour windows of opportunity for change. What frightens me is the people who cannot possibly be wrong, strangely, even after they have changed their mind!

MR - You say this is an inclusive translation - how do you understand that?

JH - Passages that have been used with a homophobic slant have been widened to include all forms of abuse - here the homophobic glasses have been taken off.Some people want a Bible to hit homosexuals on the head, while at the same time taking a relaxed view of say,…..the allied abuses in Iraq, they will find no comfort here.

MR - Rowan Williams has come in for some criticism for his foreword.

JH - Well I did see the Times article, atrocious piece, using the book to attack Dr Williams - I am responsible, if anyone should be criticised it should be me. It is a fair translation of the Greek, the idea put about that it advocates more sex is not true. All the early work on Romans was done by a Calvinistic Fundamentalist scholar.

As to the foreword, that was originally written for my book “The Other Temptation of Jesus” - that book used this translation for its Biblical passages. The publisher asked if he could use the same foreword and that was approved.

As the texts have been circulating for 12 years I’m not sure how much Dr Williams has read or used them. They have constantly been refined so I am not sure even if he saw the final work.

This is a piece of work aimed at primary evangelism, it is hardly surprising a bishop should approve it.

As to the omission of seven books and the inclusion of the Gospel of Thomas, that was my editorial choice. There were good reasons for that, even Luther wrote a “health warning” for Revelation, but this is not a completed work, its in progress, maybe it will come later. Those for whom the Canon of Scripture is a sacred cow will perhaps have had problems with the serialisation of the separate books, it is not an issue for me. This is a work for a 1st time reader, it has already moved people and changed their lives, it is achieving its goal. We can all be happy with that.

MR - A lot of people will buy this book just to pull it apart.

JH - I am looking forward to all constructive criticism, I hope they share it with me.

MR - Some people seem to want to burn it.

JH - People who burn books, burn people.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 30 June 2004 at 8:41 PM GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Archbishops Warn Blair

Today The Times published the full text of a letter sent privately to Tony Blair last Friday by the archbishops of both Canterbury and York, on behalf of all the bishops of the Church of England.

In The Times Ruth Gledhill has two stories: one on the front page Archbishops accuse Blair of double standards reports the content of the letter. Th other Blair floored by right and left from Church gives background on the House of Bishops meeting etc.
And The Times has a leader which comments editorially on the letter Epistle to Rowan.

Other news reports about the letter:
Press Association Archbishops Warn Blair over Iraq Prisoner Abuse (from Scotsman site)
and Archbishops condemn Iraq jail abuse (from Guardian site)
and Archbishops condemn Iraq jail abuse (from Telegraph site)

Reuters Archbishops attack Blair over Iraq abuse

BBC Archbishops slam Iraq jail abuse

ITV Archbishops warn Blair over Iraq


From The Archbishops of Canterbury and York:

Dear Prime Minister,

During their annual meeting earlier this month, the bishops of the Church of England discussed recent developments in Iraq and the Middle East. It was the wish of those present that we should write to you to put on record a number of the points made during the discussion.

At the same time as we were meeting, the United Nations Security Council unanimously endorsed Resolution 1546. We warmly welcome the clear international consensus this now expresses on the importance of the transfer of sovereignty to a transitional Iraqi government.

There are bound to be further testing times before elections can be held there and the future arrangements for governance established. Sustaining a wide measure of international support, under the auspices of the United Nations, should be a key objective during this period.

We believe that the priority now must be to do everything possible to help the Iraqi people to rebuild their own country after many years of oppression and hardship. The establishment and maintenance of the rule of law are clearly prerequisites for stability and eventual prosperity.

Yet, the credibility of coalition partners in advocating respect for the law and the peaceful resolution of disputes will, we fear, be undermined unless the necessary moral authority is clearly demonstrated at every level. It is all the more important and challenging as a task when murderous and arbitrary violence, which we condemn utterly, is being used against westerners and others in Iraq.

It is clear that the apparent breach of international law in relation to the treatment of Iraqi detainees has been deeply damaging. The appearance of double standards inevitably diminishes the credibility of Western governments with the people of Iraq and of the Islamic world more generally. More fundamentally still, there is a wider risk to our own integrity if we no longer experience a sense of moral shock at the enormity of what appears to have been inflicted on those who were in the custody of western security forces.

We welcome the assurances of the British and American authorities about their determination to establish the facts and bring those responsible to justice. Nevertheless, there remain serious questions over how such brutal and indecent behaviour could have come about.

Since September 11, 2001, the moral case for making counter-terrorism capabilities more effective has not been in doubt. This needs, however, to be achieved in a way that avoids any perception that the commitment of Western governments’ to internationally agreed standards on the treatment of detainees is diminished. Perceptions can be as important as the reality in terms of the signals which they send to members of the security forces about what constitutes acceptable conduct. We cannot afford to be other than tenacious in our commitment to the Geneva Convention and other relevant international agreements.

Among Muslim and Arab opinion another litmus test of our respect both for human rights and for international agreements is our stance on the continuing Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It is of course a matter of historical record that UN Security Council Resolution 242 — the reference point for all attempts to provide a settlement since 1967 — was a British proposal. The terms of an eventual settlement must, ultimately, be for the Israelis and Palestinians themselves. Nevertheless, British willingness down the years to respect the legitimate interests of both sides in the conflict has previously enabled our representatives, in partnership with others, to be accepted on both sides as honest brokers. It is vitally important that this position is not eroded.

International tensions have undoubtedly been exacerbated by attempts to cast many problems in crude terms of religious confrontation, most obviously between Muslims and Christians. In calling on the Government to take the necessary action to counter these perceptions we accept that we too have a part to play. Many of us have been working with Islamic leaders in our own communities, nationally and indeed internationally, to build greater trust and mutual understanding wherever they are threatened.

Within the wider Christian community we also have theological work to do to counter those interpretations of the Scriptures from outside the mainstream of the tradition which appear to have become increasingly influential in fostering an uncritical and one-sided approach to the future of the Holy Land.

The need for resolve and determination in the face of terrorism is not in doubt. Nor is the need to nurture greater understanding between religious communities and promote religious freedom. In our view the way forward is give a lead in showing that respect for human dignity, the rule of law and religious freedom are indivisible. As a new chapter opens in Iraq and as the search continues for an end to the present cycle of violence in the Middle East, we urge our Government to keep these principles at the heart of its own policy making.



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Monday, 28 June 2004

Gledhill on Conger

I reported yesterday what George Conger had said about Ruth Gledhill’s Times article that had caused the blogriot I described last Friday.

Today, Ruth Gledhill accepted Kendall Harmon’s invitation to respond and you can (nay should) read what she said in full here. A couple of excerpts dealing with the Lambeth Palace end:

…Sometimes beautiful stories just ride along the production line, like this one, and they almost construct themselves. They are so perfect that I wonder why some press officer or functionary - and there are enough of these at Lambeth Palace - hasn’t picked it up before it gets to me and binned it. That is the question George should be asking - why after all the hours of media courses, all the training and expense, no-one managed to see what an obvious and great (but clearly not entirely helpful to them) story this was.

…I really, really wasn’t taking pot shots at Rowan Williams. I adore him and think he is a wonderful archbishop, even if he does get lost in the poetry of his allusions sometimes - or at least lose the rest of us in them. My big, big, humungous plea for the Church of England is for his staff to see what his selling points are and capitalise on them. For goodness sake, the world would love an Archbishop who is a part-time Druid, who writes poetry, has a prophetic beard, can string several sentences together in one and peppers every paragraph with arcane references to City of God. They would love him if only his staff would let them. He is utterly brilliant and the perfect man for the job in the present age. They all need to lighten up a bit and let him go on radio and television more and charm everyone with his desert-like ascetic spirituality and his poetic take on the love of God. He could do it, he really could. I would like to think that their letting this book get out with his endorsement was actually a constructive attempt to begin doing just this, but somehow, I just don’t think so. I am afraid it probably slipped out on to my desk without them even knowing about it.

My own opinion remains unchanged: the most significant story here is the way internet blog readers responded to the report, rather than the report itself, and rather than the book or its foreword. But Ruth raises some other questions which may provoke comments from readers who have no interest in the bible paraphrase that started all this.

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The Archbishop and the Network

The following article is by Mark Harris, a priest in the Diocese of Delaware, USA.

It was originally written for the HOB/D mailing list. and appears here with Mark’s express permission.

Note also that Mark specifically invites corrections to his work. His email address is at the bottom of his resumé.

On the Matter of the Archbishop of Canterbury naming, suggesting or otherwise initiating the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes

Two weeks ago I wrote the HoB/D list asking for information regarding the widely stated proposition that the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes was set up at the suggestion of, given its name by, or was the idea of, the Archbishop of Canterbury. I received a number of replies, for which I thank HoB/D list readers.
What follows is my effort to untangle the various strands of this history. It is unfortunately a bit long, so be forewarned! Now is a good time to stop unless this bit of historical detective work is of interest. I hope it helps to set out the issues in some coherent way.

June 25, 2004

The claim in recent days:

This claim that the ABC is the source of the idea of the Network continues to find its way into the record. The Living Church in its June 27, 2004 issue, in an article by Sarah Tippit-Johnson, repeats the claim, where she writes,

“…national leaders from the American Anglican Council (AAC) and from the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (the official name for the CAN) stopped short of calling for a full-out separation —- even though they acknowledged that the ACN, a network of ecclesial bodies set up on the suggestion of the Archbishop of Canterbury, is structured exactly like a province.” (p. 5)

Bishop Robert Duncan restated this claim in his response to Bishop Parsley on May 13, 2004.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury first recommended formation of a network of “confessing” dioceses and congregations.”

Neither attribution is a direct quote, and neither states that the ABC actually suggested the form and structure of the network that happened under AAC guidance. “Suggestion” and “recommendation” allows for a variety of interpretations as regards detail, etc. But the recital of the phrase “network of confessing dioceses and congregations” would lead one to believe that the ABC gave prior approval to the Network as it came to be formed, even though its name is The Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, rather than The Network of Confessing Dioceses and Parishes.

So there continues to be the claim made, or the claim reported, that the Archbishop of Canterbury made the specific suggestion for the name or for the idea of setting up the Network.

And the truth of the matter? It is hard to say. However, here is what has come to light.

The argument for such a suggestion:

(i) Anglican Mainstream, reported on the AAC preparations for realignment on October 24, 2003 and in that report quotes Canon David Anderson,

“A first component of the new realignment is the establishment of a “Network of Confessing Dioceses and Parishes,” which is actually a name given to us by the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

So Canon Anderson claims the name is given by the ABC, although the name used differs - “confessing” being replaced by “Anglican Communion.”

(ii) George Conger reported by email to the HoB/D list,

“Yes, the Archbishop of Canterbury made the statements cited by Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh in support of the formation of the Network. He made them on October 15 at Lambeth Palace to four bishops and David Anderson and Martyn Minns. I have questioned Lambeth Palace on this point and have received confirmation of the veracity of Bishop Duncan’s claims.”

Mr. Conger does not tell us the nature of that confirmation (letter, email, conversation?) nor its source. His source concerns the idea of forming a network.

(iii) Bishop Duncan, in response to Bishop Parsley on May 13, 2004 says

“The Archbishop of Canterbury first recommended formation of a network of ‘confessing’ dioceses and congregations. In response to that call the Anglican Communion Network is developing as a biblically-based missionary movement dedicated to upholding a faithful expression of Anglicanism in North America.”

Bishop Duncan attributes to the ABC the recommendation that a network be formed.

Problems with the affirmative answer:

Anderson and Anglican Mainstream make no mention of the occasion on which the Archbishop might have given this name or made this suggestion. Anderson’s remarks followed an ACC special board meeting on October 22-23, 2003, so we know that if made it was before that date. The Anglican Mainstream article references a meeting between the ABC and four ACC bishops and two clergy leaders on October 17, 2003. The Anglican Communion News Service, in an article by James Solheim, mentions only this meeting of the ACC leadership and the ABC. That article makes no reference to an earlier meeting.

So does George Conger know of another meeting held before the Primates Meeting by anyone who could have picked up on the ABC’s idea and taken that to the AAC leadership?

When would that meeting have to have been held? Conger supposes October 15, 2003, but as has been pointed out by others (L. Deimel and J.R. Gundersen) Bishop Duncan already used the title, “Network of Confessing Diocese and Parishes” at the Plano Meeting on October 8, 2003.

Bishop Duncan must too have been making reference to some statement by the ABC prior to October 8, 2003, otherwise it is he and the AAC and not the ABC who gave rise to the idea and name to the effort.

The question is, then, is there a source prior to October 8th for any statement by the Archbishop in which he might have said something like:

“I think it would be important to establish a network of confessing dioceses and parishes,” or

“Here’s an idea: why don’t you set up a network of confessing dioceses and parishes,” or even more ambiguously

“Some kind of network of dioceses and parishes would make sense; why don’t you take up that effort.”

References to meetings between the ABC and AAC leadership after October 8, 2003, are not relevant to the issue as to whether or not the ABC suggested the name or the idea of the Network.

One suggestion (by Joan Gundersen) is that there might have been some sort of conversation at the CAPA meeting the first week of October. See this Virtuosity report referenced by Joan Gundersen, which has the only reference I can find to a meeting between Episcopal Church bishops and CAPA Primates in early October.

In order for this to be of interest it would need to be shown that the Archbishop of Canterbury initiated the idea there himself, or caused that idea to be floated by someone representing him, and that someone from the AAC was there to receive it. It does not serve the interest of the claim to have one of the American bishops or AAC leaders provide the name or idea for discussion, for if the idea is to be the ABC’s it must come from him.

Barring further revelations (or at least citations) I see no convincing basis for the claim that the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested the name, or even the idea, of the Network of Confessing Dioceses and Parishes.

Arguments against the ABC naming or suggesting the Network:

The question of encouragement: The wider background for the claim arises in the context of also claiming that

“With the Archbishop of Canterbury’s encouragement, the AAC Bishop’s Committee on Adequate Episcopal Oversight is coordinating requests for oversight.” (see Anglican Mainstream news cited above.)

It is in the larger context of “encouragement” that much of the claim for the ABC’s initiation is paced. Encouragement of a general “networking” effort is not the same as either naming the network itself or endorsing the specifics of this particular network’s actions.

Bishop Duncan, in the Anglican Communion News Service article of December 23, 2003 is quoted as saying that the ABC

“has encouraged the formation of such a network in private dialogue with members of the orthodox caucus.”

This statement is clearly more cautious than that made by Canon Anderson two months before. Encouraging the formation of “such a network” is quite different from naming the network, or even initiating the idea. Bishop Duncan does not specify the date of that meeting. This is of course somewhat different from Bishop Duncan’s own statement of May 13, 2004.

Bishop John Howe identifies only the one meeting between the AAC leadership and the ABC: October 17, 2003. While Bishop Howe does say that he remembers the ABC encouraged a network, he later understood that the ABC

“has made it clear that he believes any provision for Episcopal oversight must be worked out within ECUSA itself, and that he will not be personally involved.” (press release December 19, 2003)

One other meeting, the December meeting of AAC leadership in London, is sometimes mentioned in relation to the question of the ABC’s initiation of the idea. The AAC web page report of the meeting in London to draft a Memorandum of Agreement, reported on December 18, 2003, and the press release related to that make no mention of the claim of ABC initiation, and no mention of meeting with the ABC at that time.

Given the various opportunities for the ABC or his office to acknowledge the claim or for the AAC in later publications to state it as clearly as Canon Anderson had initially, the silence seems to step back from the bold assertion that the

“Network of Confessing Dioceses and Parishes,” is actually a name given to us by the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

We are still left with two questions:

(i) What of the “private dialogue” and whether or not it took place before October 8th, when the name is first used at the Plano conference? It becomes clear that whatever was said and to whom, the ABC in December did not claim ownership of the idea and/ or engagement with the details of negotiation. The matter of response to the issues of oversight was clearly understood to be something that needed to be worked out within the Episcopal Church.

(ii) What of the notion of being in sympathy with the efforts of the AAC and Network? On February 9, 2004, at the Church of England General Synod the Archbishop of Canterbury said,

“I’ve been following sympathetically the discussions around the setting up of a network within the Episcopal Church of the United States of America engaged in negotiating some of these questions of episcopal oversight.”

This clearly indicates some real interest by the ABC in the development of the Network, but the lack of any suggestion of providing leadership - by idea, suggestion, or engagement - is telling. “Following sympathetically,” is as supportive as he wishes to be.

On February 10, 2004 the AAC wrote commending the ABC for

“the sympathetic reaction that the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes received from the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

The commendation goes on to state that

“This acknowledgement of work with representatives of the Network and the American Anglican Council clearly refutes statements from ECUSA leaders implying no such discussions have occurred.”

But the question is not about there being discussions, but rather about whether or not the ABC indeed named the Network or initiated the idea. For that to be true there must be an event prior to October 8, 2003 in which to place the specifics of that discussion.

Interestingly, of course, the ABC’s statement of February 9, 2004 names no parties or individuals as regards work done. I assume that when he speaks of “the discussions around the setting up of a network within the Episcopal Church.” he is indeed speaking of the AAC efforts. I also assume that when the ABC says, “I have been involved in working with several parties there towards some sort of shared future and common witness, so far as is possible,” he is referring to contacts with the Presiding Bishop’s office as well as with AAC leadership and others. But none of this is stated clearly.

What is most interesting about the AAC commendation letter of February 10, 2004 is that it does not reiterate the claim that the ABC is the source of the idea of forming the Network, much less the person who named the network.

In Summation:

(i) As yet there is no source confirmed for any meeting prior to October 8, 2003 in which the Archbishop of Canterbury or his spokesperson floated the idea of “A Network of Confessing Dioceses and Parishes.”

(ii) That title was used at the Plano Conference by Bishop Duncan thereby making any subsequent mention of the name derivative.

(iii) The ABC did meet with four bishops and two clergy on October 17, following the Primates Meeting. The ABC no doubt listened attentively and sympathetically to the concerns of the AAC. There is some memory that at that meeting he used the term “Network of Confessing Dioceses and Parishes.” But because that term was already in use he can not have then invented it. He might well have referred to the idea and perhaps may have been sympathetic to its goals as they were spelled out at the time.

(iv) Later references to the notion that the ABC had initiated the idea and named the group seem to be references back to the initial claim of Canon Anderson, with the exception of Bishop Duncan, who in the letter to Bishop Parsley restates the claim. I wonder if the Duncan statement is written by ACC staff persons who by that time had accepted the earlier Anderson claim. If not, of course, Bishop Duncan has memory of another source. It would be very helpful if he would share that source, the time and date, etc.

Were there discussions with the ABC in which the idea of a Network was floated? No doubt.

Was the ABC the source of the idea, the name, or any sort of recommendation for something not already in the works? I have considerable doubts.

Does any of this matter at all?

Only to the extent that historical memory is a product of those in contention remembering what they want to remember as well as what actually took place, and the extent to which such memories lend credence to the efforts of those in contention.

If the ABC had indeed suggested the idea, named the group, etc, it would raise issues of the extent to which the ABC or his office were attempting to set the course of Episcopal Church development and intervene in the internal affairs of an autonomous church. But it would be a sign of encouragement to the AAC from one of the “instruments of Unity.”

If he has not done so it would raise issues of the spin by the AAC put on otherwise less promising meetings and would confirm the sense by some of us that the AAC overstates its case considerably.

Unless clear and verifiable information is brought out, the claim that the Archbishop of Canterbury first gave name to the Network, or initiated the idea of its formation remains clouded in the memories of a few.

I gather that efforts to get a definitive statement from the ABC’s office have gone unanswered, with the exception of that offered by Mr. Conger. The supposed meeting of October 15, 2003, reported by him, seems immaterial given the address by Bishop Duncan on October 8, 2003, which specifically speaks of the Network by name.

So we are left with the probability that the Archbishop of Canterbury may be sympathetic, supportive, interested, attentive, etc to an idea proposed by others and that something like the network was in the works and the words bandied about for some time. But sympathy is a long way from endorsing or encouraging, much less commissioning the specifics of the Network.

I continue to be amazed by the presumption of calling the “Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes” the “Anglican Communion Network” thereby giving it the supposed status of being THE real connection among member churches in the Anglican Communion.

I stand ready to be corrected on any or all parts of this.

Mark Harris, Clergy delegate to ECUSA General Convention, Delaware.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 28 June 2004 at 2:09 PM GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 27 June 2004

Bates interviewed

On this morning’s Radio 4 Sunday programme, Stephen Bates of the Guardian was interviewed by the BBC’s Edward Stourton about the forthcoming installation of a new Dean of St Albans.

Listen here with Real Audio.
It’s only 3.5 minutes, but it gives a very accurate summary of the matter.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 27 June 2004 at 3:05 PM GMT | TrackBack
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blogriot unquelled by Conger

The Revd George Conger, a well-known Anglican commentator with impeccable conservative credentials, has attempted to pour cold water on the blogriot among conservative American Anglican blogreaders.

titusonenine published his comments here. Part of what he said:

“For what it is worth …. this is a manufactured story. It is yellow journalism of the most egregious sort …. the journalistic equivalent of a drive by shooting.

Rowan Williams wrote a forward for a dynamic translation version of the Bible … a few years ago Williams wrote the forward of another book by the same author … and as a kindness and courtesy RW did it again.

Williams sought to encourage the project of attempting to make the Scriptures accessible to the non-Bible reading public. He wants to make the Bible part of the lives of the majority of Englishmen for whom it has no meaning …. and he is willing to commend projects that press the margins (some would say of good taste, or theological rigor).

He did not give his nihil obstat and imprimatur (which we don’t do in Anglicanism anyway). There was no attempt to suggest the book was free of doctrinal or moral error. Nor was there any indication that Williams agrees with the content, opinions or statements expressed.

The story was released in the Times on Wednesday. If you read the story with a critical eye, you see that the author did not speak to Williams or to Lambeth Palace. Nor did she speak to the author of the book. She took Williams’ general commendation at the beginning … and then set it up against a few hippy dippy passages : the implication being that Williams endorsed, or commended some sort of antinomian sexual ethic, coupled with a “with it” hipster language suitable for clerical hepcats circa 1965.

The article does not say when Williams wrote the commendation. It does not ask Williams what the commendation means. It does not ask the author what he thought the commendation means. Instead it plays on a psuedo-Roman notion that what Rowan Williams commends is nihal obstat (without error) and thus imprimatur (let it be printed).

Has this quelled the riot? At the time of writing, another 42 comments, some of which accuse Conger of being a “revisionist” himself. FWIW, I think George Conger’s analysis of this matter is entirely correct.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 27 June 2004 at 3:02 PM GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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weekend columns

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about Westminster Abbey, Don’t embrace the corpses

If Americans wander around in baseball caps, eating, at least they don’t embrace the corpses. It has been estimated that 4,000 are buried in the Abbey, and I have gained a new appreciation even of the sepulchral architecture from the wonderful new book by Richard Jenkyns. It is called Westminster Abbey (Profile Books, £15.99) and the author is Oxford’s Professor of the Classical Tradition, whatever that is. If Dr Jenkyns is an example of it, I’m all for it.

In The Times Roderick Strange uses the feast of the Birthday of St John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, to write about the power of God.
God is not some kind of Superman with special powers

At its root, all unaware, there is a presumption about the nature of divine power. God, we say, is all-powerful. If God is a God of love, why does He not exercise His power to prevent such tragedies? I would if I could, but I can’t. My power is limited. But God’s is not. If He exists, why doesn’t He act? But the flaw in this question lies in supposing that God’s power is just like ours, only greater.
I do not pretend to know what divine power is like, but I am confident that, whatever else, it is not simply an excess of human power. When we call God all-powerful, we do not mean that God is Superman, merely possessing the extra muscle to do what we cannot.
We may wonder why a different world was not created where such disasters never occurred, but that is a distraction. Creating is not the same as physical making. And we have to make sense of the world in which we actually live, not a world formed by our fantasies of perfection.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 27 June 2004 at 2:35 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Good as New: Henson interviewed

From the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme, Edward Stourton interviews John Henson.

There’s a new translation of the Bible out – or, as it chooses to style itself, “A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures”. The Archbishop of Canterbury apparently likes it – he’s written the forward - traditionalists won’t. John the Baptist becomes John the Dipper, St Peter is given the nickname Rocky, and Jesus, instead of being the “Son of Man” is the “Complete Person”. I asked the translator, a retired Baptist minister called John Henson what he was trying to achieve.

Listen here with Real Audio.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 27 June 2004 at 1:08 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Friday, 25 June 2004

Good as New causes blogriot

Not sure how to categorise this item.

This week, The Times ran a story by Ruth Gledhill St Paul urges more copulation for couples in sexed-up Bible. A follow-up story appeared on the Ekklesia website Radical new translation makes Bible accessible to unchurched and on the BBC Canterbury backs updated Bible.

The Times article was picked up on titusonenine and reported here verbatim. This provoked an amazing 200+ comments in 2 days from outraged readers. So much so that Kendall Harmon contacted Lambeth Palace himself and reported further which so far has generated another 50 comments so far.

MCJ reported it this way and on the Free Republic site it generated three threads with 142 comments , 89 comments and 49 comments so far.

At first some of those commenting thought it simply must be a hoax. But then they found the book was on sale at CHP Bookshop and the publisher’s own website and even the publisher’s official registration with the Charity Commissioners. And they found that Rowan had previously endorsed another book by the same author. So they realized it was for real.

The expressions of outrage continue. But, so far as I can determine, mostly in America. Not in the British newspapers certainly, not even in The Times where this one letter did appear.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 25 June 2004 at 11:07 PM GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Discipline unwelcome (2)

Today the Church Times weighs in on the matter of Clergy Discipline.

Glyn Paflin has an excellent summary of the report on Clergy Discipline (Doctrine) in Report offers new rules for heresy trials and the CT Leader is also on this subject: The trials that beset us which expresses serious reservations about the proposals. It concludes:

…Who would want to go to law over the rubrics of Common Worship?
Some might, we suppose. Of possible beneficiaries if the proposed legislation is enacted, one group might be news-gatherers; though they would want to object that the proposals allow the Church of England’s doctrine to be determined, case by case, in secret.
Another would be church groups with an appetite for control who believe that other Anglicans need to feel their whip hand. Of such helpers, the gospel today has little need. Unless the Synod can produce a Measure that is not, as past law has been, either dead in the water or a charter for persecutors, it will tarnish its reputation considerably.

This news-gatherer also endorses the objection to hearings being held in secret.

Anyone wanting to read the report in full should go here.

Margaret Duggan has a comprehensive summary of the agenda at Synod to debate drugs, Europe and penance. The agenda itself can be found from here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 25 June 2004 at 9:58 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Thursday, 24 June 2004

Discipline unwelcome

The Church of England Newspaper reports mixed views about the proposed Clergy Discipline (Doctrine) Measure in Bishop says discipline measure will kill Anglicanism.

Predictably, Bishop David Jenkins is against the measure. But more interestingly the CEN says:

In The Times on Tuesday the religion correspondent, Ruth Gledhill reported that the measure “could enable the evangelical wing of the Church to lay siege to the liberals in ways that they have previously only dreamed of.”

In reality it is evangelicals who have the most to fear since many of their clergy routinely defy the canons on dress and liturgy – a matter which is much more easily proved in a tribunal than allegations of uttering dodgy doctrine during a sermon.

Archdeacon Alan Hawker, the author of the new tribunal system of discipline in the Church of England and a supporter of bringing worship and doctrine under the new rules, argued that evangelicals were more likely to be targeted than liberals.

He said that many safeguards had been built into the Measure, to prevent frivolous complaints. “The problem in my opinion is not evangelicals of the Reform-type going after liberals, all the evidence of America is that evangelicals will be targeted,” he argued.

This was precisely my own reaction on first reading the report.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 24 June 2004 at 10:20 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 23 June 2004

Kanuga report

The ACO website has now published material from the second meeting of the Lambeth (Eames) Commission, held in North Carolina from 14 to 18 June.

The new documents can all be found on this page.

Other background material is available here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 23 June 2004 at 5:46 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Philip Lovegrove resigns

“In the light of recent events surrounding the appointment of a new Dean of St Albans”, Philip Lovegrove, who has been chairman of the St Albans Diocesan Board of Finance since 1970, has resigned from that post, and also as an Honorary Lay Canon of the Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban, which he became in 1998. He remains an elected member of the General Synod from St Albans diocese.

The Bishop of St Albans has issued a statement which can be read in full on the diocesan website.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 23 June 2004 at 11:15 AM GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 22 June 2004

synod news stories

Peter Owen has started to list the documents issued for the July session of General Synod at York, and will report official CofE website links to electronic copies of the documents or press releases about the synod. See Peter Owen’s Journal for details.

I will now start linking here to news stories from the media about synod.

Jonathan Petre got in first with this report on Monday, before the press briefing.
Telegraph Bishops face demand to halve their pay

Today both Ruth Gledhill and Stephen Bates wrote about the proposal to replace the current legislation relating to discipline for matters doctrinal or liturgical. This would bring the handling of such matters into line with the other recent legislation on clergy discipline, which has now been approved by Parliament.

Guardian Debate on unorthodox clergy
The Times Liberal clergy facing the threat of heresy trials

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 22 June 2004 at 4:07 PM GMT | TrackBack
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fewer, better bishops

Earlier I reported on plans to cut the number of bishops: turkeys vote for Christmas?

Yesterday the Telegraph carried a report about the private member’s motion to be debated at the General Synod meeting in York next month.
Bishops face demand to halve their pay

Bishops are to be urged next month to give up nearly half their pay and live on the salaries of parish priests.
The General Synod in York is to debate a private member’s motion which argues that all clergy should earn the same, irrespective of their jobs.
If adopted, the measures would apply to all newly appointed bishops, who earn £33,930 a year, archdeacons on £27,660, deans earning £27,850 and even a few well paid parish clergy.
They would have their pay pegged back until they came into line with the average stipend of a parish priest, which stands at £18,480 a year.

But today, the Telegraph editorialises on behalf of Fewer, better bishops and this concludes with:

There is a very strong case for cutting the number of bishops, which has almost doubled over the past 100 years, while the numbers of church-goers and clergy have fallen. But those who remain should be paid more. In every profession, quality costs money. The Church needs fewer, better bishops.

I don’t often agree with the Telegraph.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 22 June 2004 at 11:06 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Monday, 21 June 2004

disestablishment report

A think tank called New Politics Network has issued a report entitled The Church of England and the State.
A press release of 7 June is here: Church of England “would be freed” by reforming establishment, says new report.

The report, The Church of England and the State, argues that the present system of establishment should be reformed to create a greater degree of separation between the State and the Church of England. It holds that this is not disestablishment, as it proposes maintaining the Church’s status as the national church in England. The paper advocates removing political control over Church affairs, and allowing it the same degree of self-governance that the Church of Scotland has enjoyed since 1921.

Furthermore, the paper advocates the removal of the bishops from the House of Lords and any successor body on the grounds that they constitute an unfair and ineffective mechanism for the faith groups of the United Kingdom to influence political decision-making. In seeking to move to a more fair and equitable foundation, the paper advocates the creation of a United Kingdom Council of Faith, thus giving all faith groups political recognition and a fair mechanism through which their voice can be heard at Westminster, and in society as a whole.

A second press release dated 16 June, New Report Proposes Council of Faith as Alternative to Bishops in the Lords has provoked news reports today in both The Times and the Guardian but only the latter mentions that Bishop Colin Buchanan contributed a foreword to the report.

Guardian Bishop calls for end to link to state

A bishop today describes the Church of England’s established status as indefensible, in a pamphlet arguing that the church should lose its political ties to the state.

The Rt Rev Colin Buchanan, Bishop of Woolwich, says: “In this, as in so many other things, the Church of England prefers to live by fantasy rather than look coolly at the facts.”

The Times Support fades for Established Church

Today’s report, The Church of England and the State, indicates that this support may be fading. In a project headed by Iain McLean, Professor of Politics at Oxford University, researchers interviewed leading representatives from the Roman Catholic, Scottish Episcopal, Methodist, Quaker, Presbyterian and Baptist churches, as well as senior figures from the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist faiths.

One third of the respondents favoured the present state of establishment, a third opposed it and a third had reservations about the present system. Opponents objected to the presence of bishops in the House of Lords and raised questions over the role of the Queen as Supreme Governor.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 21 June 2004 at 10:12 PM GMT | TrackBack
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who said that?

Today the Telegraph carries a report Gay bishop must go ‘or the church will split’ in which Jonathan Petre claims that the Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali may be one of the anonymous authors of a document which Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies submitted to the Lambeth Commission of which he is himself a member. (I am extremely doubtful of this claim.)

The story was reported in the Church of England Newspaper on 17 June under Robinson appointment ‘invalid’.

The document was one of two he submitted, both of which were published on the internet on 15 June. No authors are listed for either document, not even Drexel Gomez himself.

They can be found here:
Called to Witness and Fellowship
The current crisis in the Anglican Communion – what are the ecclesiological issues involved?

Petre writes in part:

Anglicanism’s first openly gay bishop was invalidly consecrated and must be stripped of his post if the worldwide Church is to avoid schism, a leading conservative demanded yesterday.
In an extraordinary twist in the civil war over homosexuality, the Primate of the West Indies, Archbishop Drexel Gomez, said Bishop Gene Robinson, of New Hampshire, must be replaced or the Church would split in two.
The ultimatum by Archbishop Gomez, a member of the Lambeth Commission set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury to broker peace between the warring factions, will outrage liberals and further polarise positions.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 21 June 2004 at 7:25 AM GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 20 June 2004

Reading saga revisited

Update 24 June
Reading Chronicle Book’s revelations over gay cleric set to spark row

Stephen Bates, religious affairs correspondent of the Guardian has a new book coming out on 8 July, entitled A Church at War. This week, the Guardian printed an initial extract under the title Canon fodder and ran an accompanying “news” story, Williams twice agreed to appoint gay bishop. The story was then picked up by the Independent and others.

You need to read the whole extract to get the flavour of this book, which I expect will be required reading for everyone who attends the next General Synod session, which conveniently assembles at York on the day after publication (available from Amazon at 30% discount).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 20 June 2004 at 10:28 PM GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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St Albans synod reported on

As previously mentioned the full text of the presidential address is here.

The Church of England Newspaper carried Jeffrey John appointment defended which says:

The Bishop of St Albans defended his appointment of Canon Jeffrey John as Dean of the Abbey amid a chorus of complaints in the diocese over the appointment.
Addressing his diocesan Synod on Saturday Bishop Christopher Herbert apologised for causing hurt and dismay, but called on his critics to recognise that theirs was not the only legitimate interpretation of the Bible for a Christian to hold on homosexuality.
While the bishop firmly denied that he approved of same-sex blessings, he questioned what weight the Christian tradition should put on scripture, the Christian tradition, the language of psychology, understanding of genetics and culture in determining such issues.
He said that huge and important issues surrounding the question of homosexuality remained about which the church had not been able to come to an agreed conclusion.
But evangelicals in the diocese, representing two churches which have already withheld quota and others which are considering such a step, put strong questions to the bishop about the process of the appointment.

And the Church Times had Evangelicals will boycott Dean

MEMBERS of St Albans Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship (DEF) say they will boycott the installation of the Rt Revd Dr Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans next month because of his homosexuality.
Speaking on Wednesday, Canon Nick Bell said that his “conscience and integrity” would not allow him to attend, and that this was true of other DEF members. He said that there was a mood of “unhappy resignation”.
In his presidential address to the diocesan synod on Saturday, the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Christopher Herbert, responded to criticism of his acceptance of Dr John’s appointment by the Crown. His intention had not been to hurt those opposed to Dr John’s views.
He urged patience in order to “bring greater mutual understanding and reconciliation. “I also ask that, just as I recognise the sincerity of Christian conviction which moves the hearts of those who criticise what I have done, so my own desire to be a disciple of Christ be recognised.”
Replying to a question, Bishop Herbert said he would not ask Dr John to stop speaking publicly on certain issues, particularly same-sex blessings, once he was Dean.
But he said: “I have absolutely no doubt, given the experienced pastor and teacher that he is, that Jeffrey is aware of the complex sensitivities that surround the debate about same-sex unions.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 20 June 2004 at 10:17 PM GMT | TrackBack
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weekend columns

Geoffrey Rowell writes in The Times about Holy places on a path that leads to the love of God. He starts from TS Eliot’s Four Quartets and Little Gidding. Some of what he says:

Holy places are significant, for they are places which have a power to point beyond themselves, and challenge us, and raise questions about meaning, and purpose, and what the life we have been given is for and how we are to use it. They are always, of course, ambiguous.

God cannot be imprisoned in holy places, any more than the mystery of God can be pinned down in words and concepts. Yet places where prayer has been valid, the places of witness to the faith and of martyrdom, are powerful. They naturally become places of pilgrimage, for they are “thin” places, places where men and women are conscious of the intersection of the timeless with time.
Christianity is a religion of incarnation, in which the Word of God becomes flesh, embedded and embodied in the world. Yet this world which God chooses to know from the inside is a world which in its created reality already points to his presence.
Through that same Word all things were made. Incarnation is the fulfilment of creation. It is from that reality that the sacramental power of place derives, just as the sacraments which incorporate us into God’s new creation, the water of baptism and the bread and wine of the Eucharist are the very stuff of creation.
Faith is distorted whenever an abstract idea replaces the God whose overflowing love holds all things in life and reaches out in self-giving. The disengaged, remote first cause of Deism is a negation of the God revealed in Jesus Christ as creator, redeemer and sanctifier, whose life we are called to share. It is that God who can find us in holy places, be they cathedrals or simple, village churches, desert monasteries or islands such as Iona. They call us out of the stress, muddle and conflict of our lives “to be still — to let go — and know that I am God.”

In the Guardian Jonathan Bartley writes that God goes to Brussels. An extract:

It is a safe bet that among the one in six Euro-electors who voted to “take their country back from Brussels” there were quite a few churchgoers. Why should the opinions of the man or woman in the pew be distinguishable from anyone else’s - even when it comes to the question of whether God should get a name check in the preamble to the EU constitution?
Nonetheless, there is a strong argument that the very concept of a European community is essentially a Christian one, with its roots deep in the biblical narrative. The story of the Tower of Babel suggests that the existence of separate nations can be seen as a consequence of sin. Humankind had concentrated power in one place in a challenge to divine power, so God confounded them with a sudden diversity of language, and they scattered and divided.
On the Day of Pentecost, however - when the church was born - those divisions of language disappeared as everyone heard the disciples speaking in their own tongue. A new community came into being, whose identity centres on citizenship of a kingdom that takes precedence over every nation and state. Now, as Paul said, “there is neither Jew nor Greek”. A key word the New Testament writers apply to the church is ekklesia , a secular term that suggests a political community.
Christians have since fallen into the error of aligning their religion with national loyalties. Secular leaders, too, have used Christianity to establish a coherent national culture. But Christian eschatology - the perspective that considers the ultimate destiny of the world - challenges such thinking. Rather than looking back to an imagined golden age when religion was central to the national psyche, the Christian vision of the future involves nothing less than the abolition of the nation state.

Christopher Howse writes about a Lucky strike on a building site.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 20 June 2004 at 9:56 PM GMT | TrackBack
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turkeys vote for Christmas?

You may recall that the General Synod recently considered a report named A Measure for Measures which found general favour with the synod, and also another one Future Use of the Church Commissioners’ funds which was not at all well received. The former recommended setting up a revised Dioceses Commission with powers to propose changes in diocesan boundaries and to require each suffragan bishop vacancy to be reviewed before any new appointment is made. The latter proposed transfer of most funding for bishops from the Church Commissioners to the dioceses.

This week two papers reported that the House of Bishops was actually talking about doing something in response to all that. Extracts from both are below.

The Telegraph reported that Bishops may lose jobs to cut costs

The Church of England is scrutinising the role of bishops and other senior posts in a review which could result in swingeing cuts.
Senior figures are concerned that the hierarchy is top-heavy and some believe that as many as 35 top jobs should be shed, shaving millions of pounds off the Church’s annual budget.
Particularly vulnerable could be the Church’s 69 suffragan, or assistant, bishops, whose numbers have more than doubled in the past 100 years. The review is being undertaken by a top-level working group established at a private meeting of the House of Bishops in Liverpool last week.

A Church spokesman confirmed the existence of a bishops’ working group but said that there were currently “no plans” to axe any posts. One senior figure said: “The subject has to be tackled as a matter of urgency but obviously it will not be easy to bring about as there are so many vested interests.”
While bishops are unlikely to be sacked, their posts could be left unfilled when they retire or they could find their jobs merged with those of other senior clergy or shared with neighbouring dioceses.
Critics of the hierarchy point out that in 1900 there were 57 bishops (31 diocesan and 26 suffragan) and about 24,000 clergy.
While the bishops now number 110 (44 diocesan and 66 suffragan), there are only 9,000 full-time parish clergy, supplemented by 9,000 other clergy and licensed lay people.
The average annual cost of supporting a bishop’s ministry is now £160,000, taking the total annual bill to about £18 million.
The Church is already preparing to sell some of its ancient bishops’ palaces and houses, which include Auckland Castle in Durham and Rose Castle in Cumbria, as part of a cost-cutting review.

and the CEN had Plans for drastic cut in number of bishops

The number of bishops in the Church of England could be drastically reduced under plans to restructure its hierarchy.
At a meeting of the House of Bishops in Liverpool last week, a paper was discussed that proposed a mechanism for reorganising the areas of responsibility in dioceses across the country.
The paper, called Suffragan Bishops, follows on from the Diocesan Pastoral Measure, and is set to be discussed at regional level, as the Church looks at ways of saving money. There are now 113 diocesan and suffragan bishops, costing the Church Commissioners £13.8 million last year in covering stipends, pension contributions and staff salaries.
Up to a quarter of bishoprics could be cut, and the diocese of London has already held top-level talks to consider which area could do without a bishop.
The bishops are said to be split on the plans, but the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, is confident that the size of the House of Bishops will be contracted. “I think we will do it,” he said. “I would want to see a reduction. The system is crying out for change. Financial problems are driving this, but it would be very good to have clearer roles.”
Bishop Broadbent said that the role of archdeacons and bishops could overlap, and that a better structured Church would be more effective in mission: “We don’t want to proliferate roles. There are very few people in the pew who actually see what we do and form misconceptions.”

(I think he means that the many people who do not actually see what bishops do are the ones who form misconceptions.)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 20 June 2004 at 9:27 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 16 June 2004

St Albans news

The St Albans diocesan synod met last Saturday. The diocesan website carries the presidential address and will no doubt have more reports in due course.
Neither Charles Dobbie nor Nick Bell bothered to attend. On the other hand Hugh Symes-Thompson not only attended, and asked a number of questions during the synod, but also distributed a flyer (which is reproduced in full here below the fold), and was thanked by Bishop Christopher for the courteous way in which he and Cranfield parish had expressed their disagreement.

The St Albans DEF released this week, via a third party, a letter they have sent to the Eames/Lambeth Commission.

A slightly odd story about the proposed National Front march appears in this week’s St Albans Review.

Cranfield Church Responds to Bishop’s move

At the May meeting of the PCC of St Peter & St Paul’s, Cranfield, the following motion was passed after considerable discussion: “In the light of the Bishop’s precipitate appointment of Canon Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans this PCC agrees to suspend quota payments forthwith and urges continuing dialogue with the Diocese.”

The PCC was responding to a letter opposing the Bishops endorsement of the Dean-elect and signed by more than 20 members of the regular congregation urging it to take practical action. Many others, also unhappy with the situation, had spoken to the Rector. It was clear at the meeting that while there was considerable pressure for an urgent reaction there was a need for more information on how to relate the references to homosexuality in the Bible to our own day. Many of those present knew friends or relatives living in homosexual relationships. God loved people whatever their sexual orientation but this did not mean that every sort of sexual lifestyle is equally valid or that we could ignore what the bible teaches. The motion to suspend quota payments will send a strong message to the Diocese but it has no time condition so we can be flexible if circumstances change. It gives us space to consider the issues at greater depth so that we can plan a medium to long-term strategy - co-ordinated perhaps with other likeminded parishes.

The Anglican Church worldwide is now in turmoil over whether homosexual activity can be acceptable. Recently 18 Archbishops from provinces representing 55 million Anglicans, mostly from the ‘Global South’, demanded that the Episcopal Church of the USA be expelled if the appointment of Bishop Gene Robinson, an openly practising homosexual, was not revoked. They said, “This deliberate disobedience of the revealed will of God in the holy scriptures is a flagrant departure from the consensual and clearly communicated mind and will of the Anglican Communion.” In St Albans the lines are not quite so clear-cut, yet they are part of a worrying trend. Canon Jeffrey John claims to be in a celibate relationship with a fellow Anglican priest. And he is to be a Cathedral Dean and not a Bishop. But he is a leading campaigner for the acceptance and blessing of homosexual relationships by the church, as shown by his recently reprinted booklet “Permanent, Faithful, Stable” and by the press conference at which his appointment was announced. The Bishop of St Albans is clearly signalling by this appointment that such teaching can be permitted. But while Christians should be tolerant of those who hold different views it is absurd that they should welcome those who undermine the Scriptures and Church.

It is a great pity that this divisive issue has been raised in our Diocese and that it may divert the energies of local Christians from more worthwhile and important matters. I (and the PCC) will be glad to hear your views on this matter — whether for or against - as we seek to determine what should happen next. We hope that we will be able to provide input for an informed discussion within the Church and village. In the meantime further information can be gleaned from the Diocesan website and that of Anglican Mainstream. Further if you wished to write to the Bishop, the Queen or the Prime Minister then I should certainly encourage you. It is a critical time for the Anglican Communion.

Hugh Symes-Thompson

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Sunday, 13 June 2004

22 primates?

The number 22 has appeared twice recently in news reports about the Anglican Communion.

First it appeared on 29 May in Gregory Cameron’s speech to the Canadian General Synod when he said:

Within our own Communion, the leaders of twenty-two of the thirty-eight provinces of the Anglican Communion, representing about forty-four million Anglicans, have pronounced …

And on 7 June it appeared in Jonathan Petre’s report of a statement allegedly issued by Gregory Venables after the Canadian synod:

In a statement on behalf of 22 Global South primates, Archbishop Gregory Venables, the Primate of the Southern Cone (South America), said:…

So far, the latter statement has not appeared anywhere on the internet, nor indeed has its existence been reported by any other source.

But the number 22 is new: previous claims related at most to eighteen and even then it was not possible to confirm that many names with certainty. Thirteen currrent primates signed their names to this statement.

The following seem to be the most likely further four names and the strongest evidence for them is in the links attached (many thanks to Karen B for her assistance in tracking these down):

14. Remi Rabenirina - Indian Ocean

15. James Ayong - Papua New Guinea

16. Samuel Ndayisenga - Burundi

17. Emmanuel Kolini - Rwanda and this link

The eighteenth name would probably be Justice Akrofi - West Africa whose status as primate is not yet confirmed.

But so far I can find no data at all to support claims of 22 primates doing anything. Again, I would welcome further information on this from anyone.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 13 June 2004 at 4:41 PM GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Pooter's book

A lot has been published about the Carey autobiography, what follows is selective.

Christopher Morgan reviews the actual book today in the Sunday Times
KNOW THE TRUTH: A Memoir by George Carey. Here’s how it starts:

In the 11 years of George Carey’s leadership, the Church of England lost more than a quarter of its worshippers, a catastrophic decline in attendance - the sharpest in the church’s history - that gets no mention here. Perhaps the truth is too embarrassing. Carey also fails to acknowledge some uncomfortable facts about himself. He seems unaware that his brother bishops believed he was ill-equipped to become Archbishop of Canterbury. Senior churchmen spent the 1990s cracking cruel jokes about him. “I like George, but he’d be out of his depth in a font” was one of the milder examples.

In the very same newspaper, the very same person reports Carey told: shut up about royals

A SENIOR Anglican bishop has told Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, to “keep his mouth shut” after he revealed details of conversations with the royal family.
David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury, is the first prelate publicly to advise Carey to observe silence about his pastoral work and to accuse him of undermining the work of Rowan Williams, his successor. A number of bishops have privately said they are appalled at the revelations in his memoirs.

and columnist Atticus reports that

Ok, Carey’s not Kilroy … but he’s a bit of a killjoy
And now, an apology. I was very wrong to refer to George Carey not long ago as the Robert Kilroy-Silk of the Anglican Church. Especially as he is much more like the Church of England’s answer to Edward Heath: sulky, outspoken, and apparently dedicated to making life difficult for his successor. Why else would he have chosen Lambeth Palace for the launch of his memoirs tomorrow evening? Senior bishops, meeting last week in Liverpool, begged Archbishop Rowan Williams to intervene and cancel the event but he said it was too late. Can nobody rid him of this turbulent priest?

And that’s not all. Over in the Sunday Telegraph a related story is reported: Lord Carey faces complaint over Royal revelations

One lay member of the Church of England said yesterday that he would ask the Bishop of Southwark, who officiates over Lord Carey’s pastoral responsibilities, to investigate his comments.
It is the first time that a senior clergyman has been accused of breaching guidelines of confidentiality. If found to have broken the rules, Lord Carey could face censure. The draft of the Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of Clergy were drawn up in 2000 and 2001 when Lord Carey headed the Church. He retired in 2002 and the guidelines were finally approved by Synod last year.
The complainant, a London barrister, said that he would write to the Bishop of Southwark tomorrow asking for an investigation. He said: “Carey has forfeited the right to a licence to officiate by breaching the guidelines as published by the Church of England last year - which applies to all priests, irrespective of their status.”

The Guidelines For The Professional Conduct of The Clergy state that members of the clergy should not pass on details of private conversations to third parties.
“What is said to clergy in confidence must be understood to be confidential at all times. Information may only be divulged with the other parties’ informed consent,” the guidelines read.
Neither Lord Carey nor the Bishop of Southwark would comment.

Earlier, The Times had reported Carey defends secret Camilla revelations while
Denise Robertson in the Teesside Journal had Shame on you, your lordship

It’s amazing what some people will do to publicise their books, but George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has struck a new low, coming out with a savage indictment of Diana, Princess of Wales, as his book hits the stands.

The Church Times reported I haven’t broken confidences, says Carey

Mr Pooter himself wrote a letter to the editor of The Times and said:

Lord Carey’s memoirs
From Lord Carey of Clifton
Sir, No pastoral confidence has been breached in my memoirs (letter, June 5). Astute readers will have observed in the extracts published by The Times that the “secret revelations” amounted merely to disclosing the location of one of my private meetings with Mrs Parker Bowles. The fact that such meetings had taken place was already in the public domain.
I also expressed my opinion that Mrs Parker Bowles was not the ogre depicted in the media at one time and is in fact a delightful lady, and my view that it was natural and right for her and Prince Charles to marry.
When the dust has settled, I hardly think that this is likely to cause offence or lead anyone to the conclusion that they cannot trust a priest to keep a confidence.
Yours faithfully,
House of Lords.
June 7.

A piece about how the book was written appeared last week in the CEN An Archbishop’s journey By Andrew Carey

And in the Independent Terence Blacker wrote this (extracts from a column entitled Reverend Pooter and the Royal Family which is more about the Royals than Pooter)

Eagerly scattering soundbites as he goes, the man who once was Archbishop of Canterbury has this week provided a very useful insight into the Church and the Crown. Promoting his memoirs, he has also reminded us that the very contemporary disease of publicity-addiction is not restricted to the young, vain and pretty. Being only one of those things, Lord Carey has nonetheless found himself in the news with the help of some light indiscretions from his book, goosed up by a bit of headline-friendly opinionising.
Carey’s big story is that when, in 1991, the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales was reported to be in trouble, he asked himself, “What can I do, and what ought I to do?” The answer that he came up with was that, since he was “the Royal Family’s parish priest” and because the future of the monarchy was in jeopardy, it would be irresponsible not to get involved.
With the hilarious self-importance of a Reverend Pooter, Carey then recounts how he had “conversations” with each of the unhappy couple, bringing pastoral help and a Christian perspective to the problem. Although he disapproved of the fact that they had both committed adultery, he bravely decided that speaking out would have been “a betrayal of my pastoral duty”.
No such problem seems to have occurred to him when it came to writing the book, which includes some low-grade gossip about the Prince (“more sinned against than sinning”) and “the darker side” of Princess Diana.
Years later - what a surprise - he was “dragged into the controversy” involving Camilla Parker-Bowles when, after the death of Princess Diana, he blabbed to a journalist that a constitutional crisis would be caused if Charles remarried. “I knew with a sinking heart that this was the news that would speed round the world”.
As recently as 2002 - coincidentally the moment when he must have been writing his memoirs - Carey “began to worry about Mrs Parker-Bowles” and wrote to her suggesting that they meet. The royal girl-friend agreed on the condition that the meeting was strictly private. Sure enough, here it is, reproduced in the strict privacy of his lordship’s memoirs.
This Carey version of priestly duty, which seems to involve meddling in an unhappy marriage, prating about his Christian perspective and then serving up privileged information for a book, should perhaps come as no surprise. It is the autobiographical money-shot, the ecclesiastical equivalent of Glenn Hoddle revealing what went on in the World Cup dressing room with the England football squad, or of Jordan sharing with her public details of how she took the virginity of Gareth Gates.
The Church will worry little about Carey’s book: Rowan Williams, who has already proved to be considerably brighter yet less puffed up than his predecessor, has helped the Church of England recover a degree of seriousness and moral authority…..

And finally, the Sunday Telegraph a week ago had this profile

Once, Dr Carey was lampooned as among the dullest of the Anglican archbishops; today, there are few controversies in which one cannot glimpse his clerical hand performing a vigorous stirring motion.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 13 June 2004 at 2:46 PM GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 9 June 2004

National Front protest

Updated Sunday 4 pm Today’s Observer had this In Brief squib:

‘Gay priest’ protest attacked

The National Front’s decision to organise a protest march against the appointment of a gay man as Dean of St Albans has come under fire from anti-fascist groups and gay rights organisations. Canon Jeffrey John, a gay but celibate priest, is due to become Dean on 2 July. The NF, which says up to 150 of its members will march on St Albans Cathedral in the next few days, says it is protesting at the ‘subversion’ of the church.

Updated Thursday 6 pm

The St Albans Observer website reports today that the far-right racist political party The National Front is going to stage a protest in St Albans. The National Front is a political movement based on the principle of Racial Nationalism.
Far-right to stage gay dean protest. Part of the story (which is not in the printed edition of the Observer, but rather in the sister paper the St Albans Review) reads:

FAR-RIGHT group the National Front is organising a protest march against the installation of a gay priest as Dean of St Albans.
Deputy chairman Bernard Franklin said the NF was aggrieved at the “subversion” of the Church of England and said up to 150 members would be taking action in protest at Canon Jeffrey John’s appointment.
Members will march to St Albans Abbey for the installation ceremony next month and distribute leaflets outside outlining their concerns at the “watering down of the Church’s message”.
He added: “As Christians we are concerned that the Church is failing as an institution.
“The pews are empty and what is preached now is more about being nice to each other than anything else. It’s meaningless in our view.
“We have nothing against Jeffrey John as a person and he is probably a nice enough bloke but the Church has been infiltrated and is being destroyed from within.”
The installation of Canon John takes place at 5pm on Friday, July 2. Hundreds of local dignitaries and clergymen will attend.
The Prime Minister’s secretary of appointments William Chapman will officially install Canon John as dean while the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Christopher Herbert, will induct him as Rector of the Parish.
The National Front has not yet confirmed where and when the march will start.
Police said they were not aware of the NF’s plans but said members of the public had a right to peaceful protest, hinting that the march would not be prevented.
Chief Inspector Jeff Taylor said: “If such an event does take place, the police would be required to ensure the event passes peacefully. The police role is to protect public safety and prevent a breach of the peace.”

The St Albans Review also carries an editorial comment:

Opposition to the appointment of gay priest Canon Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans has come mostly from the Church of England’s own evangelical wing.
But this week the Review has learnt that the National Front has added its voice to the chorus of disapproval, adding an unsavoury element to an already polluted story.
Up to 150 members of the extremist movement intend to march to St Albans Abbey on July 2, the day of Canon John’s installation, to make their opposition felt.
These are the bare facts. The nature of the National Front’s opposition is less clear-cut.
It claims to have nothing against Canon John on a personal level but professes to be concerned at the way the Church of England has been infiltrated - like most other public institutions - by a shadowy cabal hell-bent on the destruction of nation states in favour of their own commercial interests.
It wants to see the Church restored to its supposed former glory with more emphasis on what it sees as the true message of Christianity.
Essentially it believes political correctness has diluted what is preached to the point where no-one is permitted to question the notion of racial and sexual tolerance.
The problem is that any legitimate concerns the movement has about the concepts of free speech and democracy are largely undercut by the utterly racist and extremist ideology it espouses.
Dismissing the National Front as an offensive fringe movement is too easy. Highlighting the intrinsic inaccuracies of their spurious and intolerant message is the more favourable course of action.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 9 June 2004 at 4:34 PM GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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DEF speaks

Today the St Albans Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship issued the statement reproduced below and the Diocesan Bishop issued a reply. To put this in context, the DEF previously issued two other statements, first this one and then this one.

DEF Statement
9th June 2004
10am for immediate release

St. Albans’ parishes prepare action plan.

An open meeting convened yesterday in St. Albans diocese considered a range of issues arising from the Diocesan Bishop’s support for the appointment of the new Dean of the Cathedral.

Over 70 clergy and laity were present and 17 others had sent indications of support. Thirty-seven parishes were represented.

Having received reports from a number of members who had recently met with the Bishop, considerable concern was expressed and in particular the following issues were discussed.

1. That the Bishop’s action has caused a breakdown of trust and divided the Diocese impinging upon the desire of the Bishop to be seen as a focus of unity.

2. The possibility of seeking alternative Episcopal oversight.

3. The ability of parishes to pay parish share (quota) in the light of lay giving being redirected and members leaving the Church of England.

Reports were received of PCCs considering withholding or suspending parish share commitments.

There was agreement that the grace and glory of the gospel of Christ is being undermined by the issues underlying this appointment.

The Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship, which convened the meeting, was asked to take appropriate action to pursue the matters raised and to work with other evangelical organisations not least to reaffirm the traditional Christian teaching on marriage.

For further information, please contact:
Revd Canon Nick Bell, Vicar of St Mary’s Parish Church, Luton
Tel: 01582 721867, Email:
Canon Mr Philip Lovegrove, OBE, Chairman of the St Albans Diocesan Board of Finance
Tel: 0207 448 4754, Home: 01462 481880, Email:

Bishop’s response
Response by the Bishop of St Albans to the press statement entitled ‘St. Albans’ parishes prepare action plan’ issued on June 9th

The Bishop of St Albans has noted the press release, dated 9th June, issued by the Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship. As that press release has made clear, the Bishop has already met members of the DEF, collectively and individually. He continues to leave the door open and welcomes the opportunity for further dialogue to take place.

What is needed, however, is not simply a conversation between groups and the Diocesan Bishop but also conversations between clergy and laity in the diocese who hold, in sincerity, views about the appointment which differ one from another. Real dialogue is based upon respect and takes place best in an atmosphere of prayerful reflection and mutual charity.

Contact. Capt A Crooks, Bishop’s press officer. 01727 853305

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 9 June 2004 at 2:37 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 8 June 2004

More about Canada

Last week’s reports are here.

First this week, a BBC radio interview with Stephen Bates on the events of last week, broadcast last Sunday morning. Listen here with Real Audio. The Sunday programme squib reads:

Homosexuality and Anglican Church of Canada
The Anglican Church of Canada came within a whisker of a potentially explosive vote on same sex blessings this week. At the last moment they changed their minds and the General Synod elected to put the decision off until their next meeting in 2007. Stephen Bates, the Religion Correspondent of the Guardian and who has a book on the whole area of homosexuality and the Church coming out shortly - was at the meeting in Ontario.

This report by Stephen in Saturday’s Guardian Evangelicals shatter ‘unity’ in gay debate lays the blame for disunity at the evangelicals’ door, which upset conservatives considerably.
Update see also Doug LeBlanc’s comments on this article here.

The same day, Saturday, the Telegraph carried Archbishops want church expelled but mentioned no numbers.
Yesterday, Monday, the Telegraph had Bishops call for Canada’s expulsion in gay crisis and mentioned the number 22.

So far - and this is now Tuesday - the text of this alleged statement, supposedly from 22 primates has still not been published anywhere on the web, much less a list of who the 22 primates that reportedly signed it actually are. Have we been around this loop before?

When Gregory Cameron spoke to the Canadian synod he said:

Within our own Communion, the leaders of twenty-two of the thirty-eight provinces of the Anglican Communion, representing about forty-four million Anglicans, have pronounced that they reject the moves in New Hampshire and in New Westminster as incompatible with the Gospel and with the Christian fellowship of which they are part.
They have said that these developments tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level, and a state of broken communion now exists between ECUSA and some twelve to eighteen provinces of the Communion.

Answers to this numbers game are still earnestly sought.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 8 June 2004 at 1:18 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Thursday, 3 June 2004

second parish protests

Update Tuesday 8 June
Further reports about this on the websites of BBC 3 Counties (local) radio and Anglia TV (regional commercial television).

The Bedfordshire parish of Cranfield is reported to have decided to withhold its £23,500 quota from the St Albans diocese. See Church leads protest from the Barnet Times this week.

The story is also reported by the Press Association Another Parish Stops Funds in Gay Cleric Protest

The parish which reported an electoral roll of 99 persons and 58 Easter communicants (out of a civil population of 3436) in the 2003 diocesan year bookis held in plurality with Hulcote and Salford (combined population 162, electoral roll 31, Easter communicants 15) by Hugh K. Symes-Thompson. He was a signatory of the letter to the Bishop of St Albans sent by Church Society on 11 May 2004 and available here as a pdf file (html version here).

The quota sum to be withheld by Cranfield is less than the amount paid by the diocese to cover the stipend, pension, and housing costs of the Rector.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 3 June 2004 at 10:01 PM GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Lambeth denies Times claim

Update Friday
The Telegraph repeats its denial of the claim in the Times Charles ‘has not discussed marriage to Camilla with archbishop’

In the Guardian Stephen Bates reports that Lambeth Palace quashes royal marriage rumours.
In the Telegraph Jonathan Petre and Richard Alleyne say that Williams ‘has not approved Charles wedding’.

This refers to the report in The Times by Ruth Gledhill and Andrew Pierce that Church says Charles can marry and also reported secondhand by Reuters.
Update Reuters has now issued a story that reports the denial: Archbishop denies approved royal wedding

The Telegraph says:

Lambeth Palace denied last night speculation that the Archbishop of Canterbury had sanctioned the marriage of the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles.
A spokesman said claims by The Times that Dr Rowan Williams had dropped his objections to the union after secret talks with Prince Charles were untrue.

Stephen Bates’ report includes:

A source very close to the archbishop denied that he had changed his mind or offered the couple any prospect of a church marriage in the immediate or long-term future.
Other Lambeth Palace sources speculated that the newspaper may be disappointed at the lack of publicity given to its serialisation of the memoirs of Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who yesterday disclosed in an interview with the paper that he had offered the couple private counselling and hoped that they would marry.

Meanwhile, the Guardian also editorialized about what George Carey said yesterday, in Affairs of state.

That makes it all the more cruel and contemptible that “traditionalists” like Lord Carey demand that homosexual Christians live up to stricter standards than straight ones. The only justification for this double standard is not theological, but political: gay Christians, unlike divorced ones, or women, are a minority whom it is safe to persecute. A storm of international evangelical hatred will break over the Anglican Church of Canada if it decides this week to sanction the blessing of gay relationships; and the present Archbishop, Rowan Williams, will be pressured to disown the Canadians in order to preserve “the unity of the communion”. But this unity does not exist, any more than the communion does. There is only a loose federation of churches, which cannot agree on liturgy, doctrine, or even whether women can be priests or bishops. It would be wicked and absurd to make homosexuality the touchstone of orthodoxy, however much this would gratify the noisy bigotry of some African churches.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 3 June 2004 at 7:13 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 2 June 2004

George Carey interview

The Times today has a long interview with the former archbishop.
Just marry Camilla now, Charles by Robert Crampton
This is also reported as a news story co-authored by Ruth Gledhill as The natural thing is to marry, says Carey

The interview covers a range of subjects other than the one indicated by the headlines. One interesting section is copied below.

But if somebody is a homosexual and a Christian, and they feel called to become a priest in the Church of England, then he believes they should either abstain from sex or find something else to do. “That’s why,” he continues, “I think Jeffrey John is quite wrong. He’s now become Dean of St Albans. I would not have accepted that.”

Jeffrey John, it will be remembered, is the former canon theologian of Southwark cathedral who was peruaded to withdraw from his new position as suffragan bishop of Reading last summer. He is also openly gay. “Rowan Williams had a choice in that matter,” says Carey, “and if the State said ‘take it or leave it’ (the Prime Minister rather than the Archbishop appoints deans) that is the moment when disestablishment kicks in.

He must have said, ‘Yes, I go along with that’.” Carey then almost immediately backtracks. “It may or may not have gone before Rowan. In my case I always saw these appointments and, much as I like Jeffrey John as a person, I could never have given my assent.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 2 June 2004 at 8:01 AM GMT | TrackBack
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