Category : England / UK

(AM) Andrew Symes–Transgender liturgies and the secular, postmodern re-shaping of church and society

I was alerted to a major new development in the Church of England: the publication of liturgies to mark ‘gender transition’. (Press release, and my comment here.) Well that wasn’t such a surprise, as this was accepted by General Synod last year, and then agreed again in February 2018. What is alarming is that the new services, which have been developed by clergy who are transgender activists, have been commended for use by a leading evangelical Bishop. No doubt he will argue that while he believes that God created us male and female, this is a way of offering welcome to those who don’t feel they fit into the traditional gender categories. But in speaking about ‘trans people’ and supporting the liturgies in this way, this Bishop has inevitably accepted the validity of the new ideology of gender, which is incompatible with Christian anthropology, colluding with a fiction which cannot ultimately be pastorally helpful, and based on propaganda and fake science rather than evidence.

Should faithful Christians just accept the decisions of their leaders in these matters, and keep quiet, perhaps focusing on evangelistic courses and foodbanks? Or can we counter this trend? If so, perhaps our challenge is to tell a “better story”. We know that heterosexual marriage and sexually abstinent singleness, living within the physical sex God gave us, are the most effective ways of living a flourishing life as individuals and communities, and for our future. Numerous studies prove that stable marriage and family life, and sexual self-control are beneficial for individuals and society; likewise it is clear that family breakdown is linked to crime and mental health issues, and immorality to sexually transmitted disease. The Judaeo-Christian ethic is commanded and explained in Scripture and has been taught by Christians and Jews for millennia. It makes sense. It is the truth. Surely, if the church demonstrates an attitude of love, and tells a positive and exciting counter-story, society will be convinced of the truth of the gospel and how we are supposed to live our lives?

In this paradigm, ‘truth’ is contained in God’s word, backed up by scientific research based on observation of an ordered world. Truth must be communicated clearly, imaginatively, winsomely with love, but it exists as an entity in itself, like a Platonic ideal, or indeed God himself. God exists and his word is true whether or not we communicate it effectively with love. One plus one equals two, regardless of how effectively and relationally it is taught, or how I feel about it and about myself.

But in the secular postmodern paradigm, things have changed. God, and truth, do not exist outside of the reality which is the interweaved matrix made up of millions of human beings’ individual consciousness and experience. The personal story, and the emotions it evokes, is not just a method of communicating truth. It is truth. If feelings of same sex attraction or gender dysphoria lead someone to embrace a gay or trans identity, this is a discovery of truth, and the church’s job is to affirm it through liturgies. To suggest that someone with these feelings might be able to explore a different direction is seen as hurtful, even abusive, and should be suppressed by law. 

Because of this tendency in us to be drawn to personal constructions of reality and reject Reality, the biblical writers insist that it’s not enough to simply repeat God’s true message, and to find better ways of communicating it, including demonstrating God’s nature through acts of love and mercy. It’s also necessary to enable the faithful community to reject the false messages they are being fed constantly in the world around them.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s full speech in last week’s Lords debate on the Brexit deal

What is obvious is that we are choosing a new path. For although a Remainer, like the noble Lord, Lord Hope, I fully accept the decision of the referendum, which must now be implemented, and the shape of which is now in the hands of parliament and particularly of the other place.

With that responsibility there is a moral agency and moral choice, and it is that that should guide our votes.

It must reflect a genuinely hopeful vision for our nation and its place, because there is a hope and global influence, a vision of that, to be grasped in this country with proper leadership.

Second, whichever way we go there is a requirement for national reconciliation, for restating what the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, calls core values of civilised discourse, and for ensuring they are lived out.

The negative impact of the previous referendum is why I see another one as a possible but not immediately preferable choice, and then only if parliament has failed in its responsibilities.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Politics in General

(CEN) One-fifth of Britons ‘living in poverty’ according to new report

One in five of the UK population (22 per cent) are in poverty, according to he latest state of the nation report by the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

According to the latest figures released this week by the leading authority on poverty in the UK, in-work poverty has been rising even faster than employment. There are now four million workers in poverty, around one in eight in the economy.

According to their latest figures, of the 14.3 million people in poverty , 8.2 million are working-age adults.

The report examines how UK poverty rates have changed in our society over the last few years, as well as over the longer term.

The report found that four million workers are living in poverty –a rise of more than half a million over five years; and that in-work poverty has been rising even faster than employment.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, England / UK, Poverty

(Yorkshire Post) The Archbishop of York: I voted Remain, but now I’ll be backing the Brexit deal and here’s why

The “Brexit deal”, negotiated by Her Majesty’s Government and agreed by the Cabinet, is a government deal and not Theresa May’s deal. She may have secured it, but it is now a deal the Government is putting before Parliament and the people of our four nations. Having read the document and gone through it with a fine-tooth comb, I have come to the conclusion after much thought and prayer, I will walk in the content lobby in the House of Lords. One of the enduring British characteristics, nurtured and honed by the Christian ethic in its application to human responsibility, accountability and the ever changing challenges, is that of tenacity. Like a Yorkshire terrier never letting go and doing so only in order to get a firmer grip, we should stick to the rule book when we disagree with others’ decisions and interpretations.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

The Church of England releases its Latest Statistics in Mission Report

The latest annual Statistics for Mission report shows that while traditional Sunday attendance edged lower in 2017, in line with long-term trends, the numbers attending Christmas services increased by 3.4 per cent to 2.68 million.

It was the fourth successive rise in Christmas congregations since 2013 and the highest figure since 2006. Combined with figures for special services in churches during Advent, including carol services, there were nearly eight million attendances over the festive season.

The Statistics for Mission 2017 were published as #FollowTheStar, the Church of England’s campaign to encourage people to attend Advent and Christmas services this year, was launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Meanwhile separate figures also published today show that the Church of England more than doubled its monthly reach on social media – from 1.2 million in 2017 to 2.44 million this year.

Read it all and make sure to follow the links.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Lancashire Telegraph) Blackburn Cathedral promises no repeat of Islamic call to prayer

The controversial incident, involving a white-robed Muslim cleric or Imam, took place during a pre-Armistice Day concert by the town’s music society.

It came during a performance to 400 people of Karl Jenkins’ work The Armed Man (A Mass for Peace) which included the often-omitted second movement containing the call to prayer.

This was given by a local Imam and contains the phrase ‘there is no other God but Allah’.

Following a film of the event in the nave on Saturday, November 10, being posted on the internet, the Cathedral authorities came under criticism from Christian traditionalists. The Rev Kevin Logan, former vicar of Christchurch in Accrington, said: “It was inappropriate. It was wrong but we are all fallible and make mistakes. It should not happen again.”

The Dean of Blackburn, the Very Rev Peter Howell-Jones, said: “I only found about the inclusion of the Islamic call to prayer minutes before the performance.

“It was inappropriate and should not have happened in the Cathedral.

“I am sorry it took place and I am sorry if anyone was offended by it.

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Posted in Church of England, England / UK, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) British Jews apply for foreign passports as ‘insurance policy’

Thousands of British Jews have applied for foreign passports since 2016, driven mainly by a desire to retain EU citizenship after Brexit but also by fears over rising antisemitism and the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn coming to power.

New figures obtained by The Times show that more than 3,600 Britons have applied for German nationality under a 2015 scheme inviting the descendants of those driven out on religious, racial or political grounds by the Nazis to reclaim citizenship, with most applications from Jewish people.

Michael Newman, of the Association of Jewish Refugees, said those who fled the Third Reich for Britain might find it “emotionally or psychologically difficult” to reclaim German citizenship, but their children and grandchildren wanted to enjoy freedom of movement after Brexit. Some had also raised fears of rising antisemitism.

More than 180 British Jews of Sephardic heritage have applied for Portuguese passports and more than 50 have been granted Spanish passports under 2015 schemes to restore citizenship to descendants of Jews persecuted in the 15th century. The Jewish Community of Oporto said it received “thousands” of inquiries from British Jews.

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Posted in England / UK, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(Observer) Bullying claims at Oxford ‘medieval fiefdom’ take toll on reformist dean

It is a quintessential institution of the establishment, producing 13 British prime ministers, 10 chancellors of the exchequer and 17 archbishops. Among its former students are King Edward VII, Albert Einstein, Lewis Carroll and WH Auden. One fictional alumnus, Lord Sebastian Flyte, came to personify its privileges in the pages of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.

But Christ Church, one of Oxford’s most venerable colleges, was plunged into turmoil last week when its dean was suspended from duties and barred from taking services at his own cathedral after being challenged under archaic and opaque rules.

A formal complaint has been filed against the Very Rev Martyn Percy with the college’s governing body. Few people know details of what is being alleged, or who is behind the move. Even Percy is largely in the dark, according to his friends.

The complaint is believed to centre on issues of governance; no one is suggesting improper personal conduct. It will be heard by a tribunal, which could dismiss Percy. A date for a hearing is yet to be set.

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Posted in Anthropology, Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Religion & Culture

(ADNE) The Rev. Andrew Williams elected the Next Bishop of the ADNE

Prior to his election, [the] Rev. Williams served as pastor of Trinity Church in Greenwich, CT. He began his professional life as a lawyer in the United Kingdom. From 1989-1998, he was a corporate litigator specializing in defending law suits brought against the legal profession. Despite a successful career, it was during this time that he began to sense that something significant was missing in his life, and much to the surprise of Rev. Williams and his wife, Elena, they found themselves drawn into something far deeper, and ultimately came to a living faith in God through the love, support and friendship of their Anglican Parish. A time of discernment followed, and after much prayer and strong encouragement from those who knew him, he resigned from his law firm and began training for ordination at Trinity College, Bristol. He graduated with an honors degree in theology and was ordained in the Diocese of Exeter in 2000. Drew spent six years as Associate Vicar of St. Andrew’s, Chorleywood, a vibrant suburban congregation just outside London. Prior to coming to Chorleywood, he served a congregation in the southwest of England….

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Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained

(Church Times) Find a way for the UK and EU to coexist, Archbp Welby and Bishop Bedford-Strohm tell politicians

In a joint statement issued by Lambeth Palace on Friday morning, Archbishop Welby and Dr Bedford-Strohm said: “European relationships are changing, not least as a result of Brexit. We do not know what will happen and what the relationship between the UK and EU will look like after 29 March 2019. However, what we do know is that the relationship between the Church of England and the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland goes back over many centuries — long before the European Union.

“As churches, we urgently appeal to all politicians to find fair and sustainable solutions for the future coexistence of the UK and the EU. United in Christ we are drawn together in hope, faith and love, and those things which divide us are of much lesser importance.”

Last week, during a Q&A at Great Yarmouth Minster, the Archbishop said that there was “no necessary defeatism, no necessary outcome either to staying in Europe or leaving. . . The big problems in our society of inequality, of unfairness, of the abandonment of an understanding of a moral and ethical framework which helps us choose how to treat people — that is the thing that will decide our future. . . Being in Europe or being out is obviously important, but there is as much hope out as in or in as out.’’

Read it all and the full joint statement may be found there.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Other Churches, Politics in General

(NYT) At Brexit Crunch Time, Theresa May Takes a Pummeling

Theresa May rose to her feet before the British House of Commons on Thursday to make the sales pitch of her life, promising that the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union would be “smooth and orderly.”

It was not supposed to be a laugh line.

But the members of Parliament laughed out loud at Mrs. May. They laughed uproariously, and for long enough that she had to pause, eyes flickering over her papers, and wait for them to stop, so she could continue.

Over the past two and a half years as prime minister, Mrs. May, 62, has plenty of experience being derided and conspired against. On Thursday, the day she publicly presented her long-awaited, 585-page deal to withdraw from the bloc, or Brexit, she took such a pummeling that her survival as prime minister was in question….

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

The Bp of Oxford on WWI–this is our Long Story

We are wise enough to know now that the battles our grandparents fought did not end at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month when the artillery fell silent on the Western Front. The battles against tyranny and isolation and prejudice and inequality continue. The search for purpose and meaning and love continues still. Those battles need to be set in an eternal perspective. They recur in different ways in each generation.

Paul writes of that new and eternal perspective which flows from one person, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. God has reconciled us to himself through Christ. The destiny of humankind is not fragmentation and war but common purpose and unity and a new creation. We are part of this bigger story. God has now entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation. It is our mission, in every generation, to work for peace and freedom and justice with the same commitment shown by the generation who fought the Great War.

As we look back one hundred years it is possible to see in our nation then a greater common purpose than we see today. We are not blind to the weaknesses of the war generation nor to the mistakes that were made. But we do see a commitment to a common cause, a confidence in the values of peace and truth and the common good, a desire to see the world reconciled and a willingness to face together the great challenges of the age.

Such common cause today defeats us. We are finding it difficult as a nation even to rethink and reimagine our relationship with Europe in a way that brings unity and common purpose. We grow more not less fragmented along lines of race and religion and politics and wealth. Our common discourse all too easily admits the language of hate and violence.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, History, Military / Armed Forces

Blessed Armistice Day

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Europe, History, Military / Armed Forces

([London] Times) Wilfred Owen obituary

The influence of his mother is never far away in Owen’s work. Likewise, his interest in religion is often just below the surface. Anthem for Doomed Youth describes a funeral held on the battlefield rather than in a church, opening with the line: “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?/ — Only the monstrous anger of the guns.” Another poem, At a Calvary near the Ancre, a tributary of the Somme, links the sacrifice on the battlefield with the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and other New Testament references:

The scribes on all the people shove
And bawl allegiance to the state,
But they who love the greater love
Lay down their life; they do not hate.

Wilfred was brought up in Birkenhead and Shrewsbury, the family moving around with Thomas’s dispiriting work as a clerk and later a station master with a railway company. He was educated at Birkenhead Institute and Shrewsbury Technical School. As a boy he enjoyed swimming in mountain pools, reading Oscar Wilde and wearing a favourite green suit. Before joining the army he had floppy hair.

Already he was writing poetry, taking inspiration from the work of John Keats, whose house at Teignmouth he visited in 1911 while on holiday with an aunt and uncle in nearby Torquay. He marked the occasion with a sonnet. According to Stallworthy, “Owen warmed to the sensuality and musicality of the older poet, and Keats’s physicality (heightened by his study of anatomy and experience of illness) accorded with his apprentice’s own precocious awareness of the human body.”

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, History, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature, Religion & Culture

(BBC) Sports Minister Tracey Crouch resigns over ‘delay’ to betting crackdown

Sports minister Tracey Crouch has resigned over “delays” to a crackdown on maximum stakes for fixed-odds betting machines.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said in Monday’s Budget that the cut in stakes from £100 to £2 would come into force in October 2019.

Ms Crouch said pushing back the date was “unjustifiable” and it could cost the lives of problem gamblers.

She tweeted: “Politicians come and go but principles stay with us forever.”

Prime Minister Theresa May said she was disappointed Ms Crouch had resigned but there had been “no delay in bringing forward this important measure”.

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Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Politics in General, Poverty