Category : * Anglican – Episcopal

News and Commentary about the Anglican Communion

(TLC) Church of England General Synod Discusses Transgender Guidance

Many questions sought to clarify the bishops’ intentions in issuing the guidance, the process by which it was developed, and the permanence or provisionality of its suggestions.

Some confusion in the bishops’ answers arose about the intention behind the service and whether it was making any theological claims.

Prudence Dailey (Oxford) asked, “for the sake of absolute clarity,” whether the House of Bishops “intended … that the service of affirmation of baptismal vows should be used to mark gender transition.” The Bishop of Hereford, Richard Frith, said that it was “not intended at all.”

Some lack of clarity on this point continued, however, with the Bishop of Willesden later saying that the service was primarily developed to meet the needs of people who had “already in this situation” before joining the church, rather than those transitioning within a congregation. “We’re not at the moment making any more theological assumptions about where we go after that. That’s something that the [Living in Love and Faith] project is seeking to address.”

Dailey asked a supplementary question on whether “in addition to the pastoral concerns which they quite rightly considered,” the bishops had considered the significant “philosophical considerations” raised by these pastoral situations.

Cocksworth said the pastoral, philosophical, and theological questions raised by the guidance would be addressed by the Living in Love and Faith Project: “That is giving exactly the sort of theological and philosophical attention to the matters you raise now.”

Read it all and you can find the questions and answers here.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology

(Stuff) New Zealand Anglican group who are unwilling to compromise Christian sexual standards for leaders is growing

Since the vote to allow same-sex blessings last year, three Christchurch parishes have split from the Anglican church – St Stephens in Shirley, St John in Latimer Square and Christchurch South. About 80 per cent of worshippers in Woolston have also left to form a new church. Vicars have resigned in Avonhead, Papanui and Rakaia, taking some worshippers with them.

Last year, St Matthew’s church in Dunedin left the Anglican church, with vicar Stu Crosson writing in a parish newsletter that same-sex ceremonies were blessing “something that God calls an abomination”.

Rangiora vicar Andrew Allan-Johns declined to comment, but confirmed he had resigned and started a new church.

The worshippers, priests and parishes that have left the Anglican diocese intend to form a new church.

St Stephens minister Jay Behan said West Hamilton Church, which left the Anglican church in 2014 over same-sex blessings, will join the new church. He said the new church would hold its first synod in May to agree on a new name, constitution and bishop.

The first same-sex blessing in Canterbury gave Behan a “sadness”, he said.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(ACNS) Archbishop of Canterbury calls an Anglican Primates’ Meeting in Jordan in January 2020

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Anglican Primates, Archbishop of Canterbury

The Yorkshire Post speaks with the new Dean of Wakefield, the Very Reverend Simon Cowling

People are increasingly being corralled unwittingly into certain positions – corralled by social media, traditional media, being encouraged to take positions about things. Politicians are forced into not saying things or saying things because everyone wants to know where they stand on a particular issue. And all of us are being encouraged to do that.

I want Wakefield Cathedral to be a place where people can reflect on these issues without feeling they are being forced into a particular position; where they can have the space to think these things through. We want people to know that this beautiful building is for everyone.

Here at Wakefield Cathedral they can experience that sense of peace, quiet and tranquillity that is so often denied us but which is so important for reflection. I want it to be a place where people can understand something about themselves and about others, a place which enables them to test their sense of identity in a kind and supportive arena.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

(CEN) Andrew Carey–A diminished Lambeth Conference

It is absolutely no surprise that the Anglican provinces of Nigeria and Uganda [and Rwanda] have already stated that they do not intend to go to the Lambeth Conference in 2020.

This is entirely consistent with the view of many global south Anglican leaders that the fabric of communion has already been broken by the actions of North American Anglicans – initially by consecrating Gene Robinson as a practising homosexual bishop in 2003. The process of discipline that was begun through the Primates’ Meeting and the Windsor Report was rapidly abandoned and the can was kicked down the road. But it was plain to anyone that communion between Anglicans was so badly damaged that never again could Anglicans pretend to have an interchangeable ministry and common worship.

For 10 years after the consecration of Gene Robinson there were various attempts to put the show back on the road but even Rowan Williams’ valiant attempt to create an Anglican Covenant, which might help to set some limits to the diversity of Anglicanism, was rejected by the General Synod of the Church of England. I still cannot quite believe that Synod members humiliated their Archbishop in such a brutal way.

When Justin Welby picked up the pieces, he travelled tirelessly around the world meeting with Anglican leaders. It is clear he picked up the message that the Communion was ‘broken’ in a very fundamental way. But he concluded that, because Anglican leaders were willing to meet with him, they might be willing to start meeting together once again. It was a risk worth taking but it hasn’t paid off. The boycott by…[three] of the biggest Anglican provinces will stand. Like the 2008 Conference in which almost a third of bishops refused to participate, the 2020 conference will be a diminished gathering.

 

Can the Anglican Communion be saved?

 

In a fascinating essay the evangelical theologian Andrew Goddard agrees that the signs are not good for the Lambeth 2020.

The great risk facing Justin Welby, he argues, is that a failure to gather all the bishops of the Anglican Communion will mark the end of the Lambeth Conference as an ‘effective Instrument of Communion’. He cites four factors, which could equally be applied to the other instruments of communion – the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting – which are:

  1. The failure to discipline
  2. The Archbishop’s changed approach on invitations to the Lambeth Conference
  3. An unwillingness to explore the logic of impaired communion
  4. And the conscientious objection of a large number of bishops.

I admire Goddard’s optimistic outlook that the Anglican Communion can still be saved. He sees the Communion as breaking down, whereas my slightly more brutal approach is to say the faultlines are too great and can never be bridged. The damage limitation exercise that Archbishops must engage in is to keep all the parties talking but it is long past time to abandon the so-called instruments of unity/communion and the pretence that Anglicans are in the same ‘Church’ in any meaningful sense.

But where I mostly disagree with him is on the obscure but important point that Justin Welby is wrongly acting out of step with his predecessor by issuing invitations to the Lambeth Conference on a different basis. Readers will remember that Rowan Williams refused to invite Gene Robinson to the Lambeth Conference in 2008, but even this little gesture backfired because those who refused to attend weren’t opposed in any petty sense to one single bishop, but to a heterodox theology that led to his consecration.

But Rowan Williams was wrong to think that he had the power of invitation to individual bishops. In fact his invitations should have been directed to all bishops in good standing with their own provinces. It is an over-mighty Archbishop who thinks he can personally decide for himself who he is in communion with, and therefore who is in the Anglican Communion. Archbishops of Canterbury have never been this powerful.

One of the problems that resulted from the Gene Robinson crisis in 2003 was that Anglicans pretended they had powers that they didn’t. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s clear choice in 2008 was not the petty power to single out one particular bishop but the greater and properly exercised power not to invite the Episcopal Church of the USA because through its actions it had torn the fabric of communion.

That was the only way to save the Anglican Communion. Of course, he didn’t and the rest is history.

–This appeared in the Church of England Newspaper, 15 February 2019 edition, on page 11; subscriptions to CEN are encouraged

Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, --Justin Welby, --Rowan Williams, Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC), Global South Churches & Primates

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s presidential address to General Synod

In one extraordinary verse Peter brings together salvation, truth, holiness and love.

Even if there were not hundreds of other examples in scripture this one verse puts paid to the absurdity that truth and love are somehow alternatives, that we can be in favour of one but not the other.

To separate them is like separating breathing from the beating of the heart. The absence of either stops the other and brings death.

In holiness God brings salvation through Jesus the truth, overflowing in love to every person on earth, and as we respond to that love we cease to be what we were and become something new.

Yet Peter writes this letter because there is so much pressure to conform, and so much behaviour which is what the recipients had been, behaviour like those around them in their culture, the absence of love, competition, no grace, no hope.

There is too much of what they were, too little of what God in Christ has made them.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE)

Stephen Lynas on what will be discussed this week at the Church of England General Synod

Officially, the chief focus of the week is evangelism. But, as ever, there are other, unofficial currents flowing through the week, and so the other prominent thread will be human sexuality – both the work under the title ‘Living in Love and Faith‘ (long-term, official) and the ongoing rows about liturgy to be used with people who have undergone a gender change (current campaigning, unofficial).

We’ll get to the transgender row in a minute. But first of all, note the time being given to evangelism-related debates this week:

  1. On Wednesday, three contributions from Anglican leaders from elsewhere – North India, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya.
  2. Thursday is an evangelism-free day. But on Friday we have three major items – Evangelism and Discipleship, evangelism on estates, and the Growing Faith debate on ministry among children and young people.
  3. On Friday we return to the subject with a Private Members Motion from Church Army’s Mark Russell about encouraging youth evangelism.

Read it all (and follow the links). Also, there is a good link to the General Synod papers there. As ever, the main General Synod page is there.

Posted in - Anglican: Commentary, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

(CEN) Peter Brierley–Understanding midweek attendance figures

The Church of England publishes both its Usual Sunday Attendance (USA) across its 15,600 churches and also the Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) which is higher (5 per cent in 2017). It also publishes the weekday attendance across a church’s various activities, and, since 2013, separately the number who attend weekly school services in church. All are broken down between adults and children.

In a sentence, these various numbers may be summarised as “Sunday attendance is dropping; weekday attendance is increasing.” The increase in weekday just about compensates for the decrease in Sunday attendance, though the change in total attendance between 2013 and 2017 is slightly down, having dropped -2 per cent. It is also true that the total number of adults attending church is declining while the total number of children is increasing!

It may readily be seen that the total adult numbers at school services increased a little between 2013 and 2015 but has been much the same between 2015 and 2017. Adults at the weekday services have dropped a little since 2015, down from 121,000 to 115,000. Children’s school services participation, however, has increased very markedly in this period, weekday total rising from 103,000 in 2013 to 151,000 in 2017 – a 50 per cent increase.

Read it all (subscription).

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

Stephen Noll–Lambeth Hypocrisy: Disinviting the Spouses

I was present at Lambeth 1998 and have explained it on more than one occasion. The Resolution is a clear statement of Christian moral doctrine. In brief it states:

  1. that God has ordained and blesses sexual relations in two and only two forms: heterosexual, monogamous, and lifelong marriage and abstinent singleness;
  2. that many people experience same-sex attraction and the church is called to listen to them, counsel them, and welcome them into its fellowship so that they may by God’s grace live transformed lives, either by remaining abstinent or finding fulfillment in traditional marriage;
  3. that homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture, and therefore the church cannot legitimize the ordination of practicing homosexuals or the blessing of same-sex unions.

What is fatally absent in Bishop Fearon’s recital of the Lambeth Resolution is #3. God not only ordains and blesses what is good, He declares what is sinful, which He calls immorality (porneia). Homosexual practice is by its very character sinful, as is heterosexual promiscuity and cohabitation.

So the problem is not just the scandal of the non-episcopal spouses but of the episcopal spouses themselves. Indeed, as bishops their sin is the greater (1 Timothy 3:1-2). The accountability goes even deeper. These bishops were nominated by canon, elected by their synods, and consecrated by their fellow bishops. Since judgment begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17), it is those churches and bishops who should be disinvited.

The shamelessness of invoking Lambeth I.10 is that they do not really believe it. They have already abandoned the prohibition on ordaining openly homosexual priests and bishops. They claim they are upholding the prohibition on same-sex marriage but only half-heartedly and until Lambeth 2020 is past. How likely is it that Justin Welby phoned the couples involved and explained: “I’m sorry, but you are in violation of Scripture and Resolution I.10, which as you know speaks of marriage as only between a man and a woman, and it will cause a scandal if you appear in Canterbury together”? And if he did say that privately, why will he not say it publicly?

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Analysis

(ENS) Same-sex spouses not invited to next year’s Lambeth Conference of bishops

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Posted in - Anglican: Latest News, --Justin Welby, Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC), Marriage & Family, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops

([London] Sunday Times) Bishops in same-sex marriages told: don’t bring your spouse to the upcoming Lambeth conference

‘Canon Jeremy Pemberton, who in 2014 became the first Church of England priest to marry his same-sex partner, said: “They will be no doubt be inviting all sorts of spouses of bishops who have been married before or remarried once, twice or several times, so it is the usual hypocrisy from the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

“There is no sense to it. The basic problem is they don’t understand hospitality. The same-sex partners should be invited. If they don’t wish to come, they don’t have to come. But this is grossly inhospitable. It is just rude and bad. It is not complicated.”

Issues of gender and sexuality are convulsing the Church of England. More than 3,000 clergy and laity have signed a petition urging it to reconsider proposals to allow transgender baptismal ceremonies and it is working on a teaching document on human sexuality’

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Marriage & Family, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

(ACNS) Josiah Idowu-Fearon clarifies an aspect of the Partial Lambeth Conference of 2020

I need to clarify a misunderstanding that has arisen. Invitations have been sent to every active bishop. That is how it should be – we are recognising that all those consecrated into the office of bishop should be able to attend. But the invitation process has also needed to take account of the Anglican Communion’s position on marriage which is that it is the lifelong union of a man and a woman. That is the position as set out in Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. Given this, it would be inappropriate for same-sex spouses to be invited to the conference. The Archbishop of Canterbury has had a series of private conversations by phone or by exchanges of letter with the few individuals to whom this applies.

The Design Group, which comprises members from all of the regions of the Communion, is continuing its work on the programme under the wise chairmanship of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. In his video he has spoken of creating a “beautiful rhythm” of gathering together to pray, worship, walk and talk, wrestle with issues, break bread and reflect. He also makes an important point about difference. The Communion has always had what he calls “push and pull” on issues and this should not be a distraction – it is something to be celebrated. The Conference is not a meeting of like-minded people; it is space in which we can gather to express difference. And so everyone who is invited should come.

The Design Group’s task is not easy: there are so many issues competing for space in the programme. A number of important subjects will be discussed including mission and evangelism; reconciliation; economic justice. Human sexuality will also be one of them.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Latest News, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Global South Churches & Primates, Marriage & Family, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Stephen Noll–“6 Resolutions for Lambeth”: A Quick Response to Ephraim Radner

Can any good come out of this creative proposal? Frankly, it feels like a “lifeboats on the Titanic” idea, and I simply cannot imagine it will go anywhere with the Lambeth Establishment. It might, however, force the Establishment to show its hand (as if it hasn’t already). Since Dr. Radner is a close colleague of Bishop George Sumner of Dallas, who is a member of the Lambeth Design Team, I would urge George Sumner to bring these Resolutions to Archbishop Welby immediately and ask for a clear public response. If it is true that the Archbishop of Canterbury has a unique “inviting authority,” he alone can give legs to these resolutions. But they must be set in place prior to the Conference, or they will lack any shred of credibility.

When he was enthroned in 2013, Justin Welby preached on St. Peter stepping out of the boat at Jesus’ command, and he spoke of his vision for the Communion thus: “We are called to step out of the comfort of our own traditions and places, and go into the waves, reaching for the hand of Christ.” There is little reason to think Archbishop Welby had or has the same vision as Dr. Radner, but who knows, perhaps like his great predecessor Thomas Cranmer he might step up to the fire and say:

This shall be my first exhortation: That you set not overmuch by this false glosing world, but upon God and the world to come. And learn to know what this lesson meaneth, which St John teacheth that the love of this world is hatred against God.

As for North America, is it significant that this proposal is coming from one of the leading spokesmen of the “Communion Partners”? For more than a decade there has been a rift between the so-called “Communion Conservatives,” who stayed in TEC and ACoC, and the “Federal Conservatives,” who left or were expelled (for the terminology, see here). If there is any good to come out of this proposal, perhaps it may be to open the door to more honest discussion among those who hold to the faith once for all committed to the saints. For them indeed, “there is a Holy Spirit,” and we would invoke his guidance as we move forward.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Analysis

Prayers for the Diocese of South Carolina this day

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer

[Oxford] Bishop Stephen Croft–Rethinking Evangelism

Over 400 people assembled in the Vatican over three weeks. The initial work of the Synod was to listen to five-minute contributions from every part of the world. There was widespread agreement that we live in a time when the passing on of Christian faith is challenging and difficult everywhere.

There was widespread agreement around two further themes. The first is that the Church therefore needs to reflect more, not less, on the reasons for this and our response. The second is that as a Church we need to begin not with techniques or methods but with Christ: dwelling deeply, seeing the face of Christ afresh, exploring again the joy of the gospel.

There have been very significant shifts in our culture and the place of the church within our culture. We understand them only in part. But I believe more and more of the Church of England recognises now that technical solutions are not the answer. I have found more and more over the last three years that when I speak about church growth and how to do evangelism the energy leaves the room.

If I show even a hint of a downward sloping graph, I lose my audience completely. But when I speak of Christ and the wonder and character of Christ and the need to begin from a place of hope and love and nurture the Church as the Body of Christ in very simple ways, the energy levels rise and there is fresh hope and vision.

This is not because people are unwilling to face reality. I think our congregations and communities understand the reality of our situation very well indeed. I think we recognise together that technique or finance or strategies cannot of themselves “solve” the problem. We need as a Church to gather again around Jesus Christ and his gospel and find there renewal and healing and life for us and for the world. These convictions undergird the vision and call we are exploring in the Diocese of Oxford, to be a more Christ like Church for the sake of God’s world: more contemplative, more compassionate and more courageous.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

(Christian Today) Split grows over same-sex blessings in the Anglican Church in New Zealand

The Synod of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (ACNZP) passed a resolution last year stating that although there was no change to its teaching on the nature of marriage ‘as between a man and a woman’, vicars could request permission from their bishops to hold a ‘non-formulary service’ to bless a same-sex relationship.

That move has disappointed some vicars who are choosing to break away and start new churches instead of remain in a Church that they feel has strayed from the Bible.

The latest vicar to go is Andrew Allen-Johns, who stepped down from AnglicanLife Rangiora in Christchurch to lead a completely new church outside of the ACNZP.

Anchor Charismatic Anglican Church, of which he is senior pastor, has just started holding services this month. His new church is getting off the ground just as the first same-sex blessings in Canterbury – the region in which Christchurch sits – are starting to take place.

In May 2019, the church plans to apply for affiliation with the Extra Provincial Diocese which is being formed by those who have left the Anglican denomination over the issue of same-sex blessings. Under the Extra Provincial Diocese, the churches will be faithfully Anglican and yet distinct from the Province.

In a letter to his former parish, Allen-Johns said his vision for Anchor was for a ‘new church designed to be millennial-friendly, more intently focussed on evangelism and making disciples’.

‘I now view the disruption this church is going through over same-sex relationships as a major opportunity to strengthen the church for its mission in the next few decades,’ he said.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

(TLC Covenant) David Goodhew and Jeremy Bonner–The Growth Of The Anglican Church In North America

ACNA faces many challenges, notably over gender in ministry and how its various traditions relate to one another. As the time lengthens since the break with TEC, the unity evoked by having a common opponent may lessen and have less ability to hold ACNA together.

A different question is how ACNA relates to wider culture. ACNA is not only at variance with TEC but, as a theologically conservative church, it is at odds with the elite culture that dominates the media and academia. Conversely, it faces the delicate question of how it relates to the polarized America of Donald Trump. Navigating the waters of popular culture can make navigating ecclesial division feel tame in comparison. At the same time, ACNA’s combination of theological conservatism with liturgy and episcopacy may have a particular appeal to American evangelicals seeking greater historic rootedness while retaining orthodox theology within an English-speaking culture. This could be a fruitful furrow for harvest in the future.

Notwithstanding all the qualifiers, members of TEC and the wider Communion need to recognize that ACNA is now of significant size and is expanding. And in terms of church planting, ACNA is streets ahead of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. There is growing evidence of its ability to connect with minority ethnic communities, especially recent migrants.

Whether ACNA could ever catch TEC up is impossible to answer — and not that important right now. It is more important for all Anglicans to recognize that, 10 years on from its foundation, ACNA is a substantial and growing force in North American Anglicanism.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA)

(Church Times) Government too soft on gambling ads, warns Bishop of St Albans

Dr Smith said, however, that there were insufficient penalties for companies who ignored the new standards. “With little consequences for companies flouting the rules, and few teeth to enforce these new directives, the Committee of Advertising Practice needs to step up their approach.

“With so many of the proposals relying on betting firms to self-regulate, I sadly have little hope for major changes to the way gambling advertises.

“This endless barrage of adverts has normalised gambling, and we now have 55,000 children who are problem gamblers and it is time for the gambling industry to take this issue seriously.

“It is our moral duty to protect young people from gambling-related harm, and I hope the Committee of Advertising Practice will support my General Synod motion demanding tighter regulation around gambling advertising.”

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Media, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Will Jones Responds to Bishop Andy John–Should we extend the boundaries of ‘gospel freedom’ in sexuality?

All in all then, we see that Bishop Andy’s argument, while initially plausible perhaps, falls apart on closer examination. On none of the issues he mentions has the church changed its teaching by setting aside the plain meaning of scripture in favour of ‘other sources of authority’. This means the pattern he is wishing to follow is not there, and neither is it endorsed by scripture or church practice. The inclusion of the Gentiles is not a model for the affirmation of conduct that scripture prohibits, and there is nothing in the New Testament or Christian history to suggest it should be. Scripture does not mandate us to go beyond scripture, and any move in that direction must be regarded as a move away from Christian orthodoxy.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture, Wales

A TLC article on Jane Williams’s latest book, The Merciful Humility of God–God and the Lived Reality of Humility

“One of my big obsessions is that we shape our characters and our lives day by day in our regular choices and decisions. … I am who I am because of the life I’ve lived, the decisions we’ve made, some of which are not under our control but some of which are. The questions: What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of world to you want to live in? They’re not questions we can just sit around and hope something can happen.”

She pointed to two particular moments in her life when she felt presented with a clear choice to act on the basis of her faith. “In my early teens, I was mildly anorexic. It was a sort of real encounter with the incarnation that made a significant difference. God likes bodies. God does not think that bodies are unreal, unimportant; and there’s no way of encountering God outside of our bodies, our embodied selves. So with that sense of alienation from my bodily self, which I think is a part of anorexia, doctrine was an actual turning point.”

Williams alluded as well to the decision to lead a life of understanding amid the difficulties of the Anglican Communion: “At a point of life where my husband was undergoing some trials, I remember feeling a choice. There were one or two people in groups who were making our lives harder — that’s not what they were trying to do — and I remember in a prayer session feeling that I was almost offered this choice: You can go down the route of hating and obsessing about what they’re doing wrong, and that will affect you, that will shape you; or you can choose to try and see what they feel they’re defending. … And that will also shape you. And the simple question is: Who do you want to be? It’s very uncomfortable. It’s not nice and it spills out into other things that are not part of the same problem. I thought: I’m going to try to choose to see these people as God sees them. … It was a choice that was entirely in my hands. I think a lot of us have those choices.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

(CEN) Evangelism to take centre stage at February General Synod meeting

In an unusual move, this month’s General Synod will take the subject of evangelism as its theme.

In particular, Synod members will be asked to urge every diocese to launch new missions and ministries to housing estates up and down the country.

The ‘Estates Evangelism task group’is working on plans to extend the reach of each parish to ‘hard-to-reach’places. The Rev Helen Shannon, who sits on the task group, said that there needed to be changes made to clergy selection, deployment and training to implement a change in thinking.

She said the task group wanted estates ministry to be ‘part of every diocese’s budget’.

She pointed out that while most such parishes were made up of 500 dwellings, they constituted one-fifth of all parishes. “Fifty per cent of the population of England live in these areas,”she said.

A motion on Friday 22 February will hear the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Rev Philip North, ask the Synod to ‘give thanks’to the Christian leadership offered from such communities. His motion calls for the establishment of a ‘serving, loving and worshipping community in every significant social housing estate in the country.’

But despite declining church numbers nationally, the secretary-general of the Archbishops’Council, William Nye, said the focus on evangelism emerged from a sense of urgency.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Evangelism and Church Growth, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

(TLC Covenant) Ephraim Radner–Cleaning Up The Playing Field: Six Resolutions For Lambeth

1. This Conference reaffirms the 1998 Resolution I.10.

There is no need at this conference to revisit the rationales and counter-arguments about this resolution. It has been reaffirmed several times in other Communion contexts, and in the past 20 years there have been no significant new pieces of information — scriptural, dogmatic, sociological, or medical — that have altered the shape of the theological and pastoral realities surrounding this debate. And the debate has raged unabated, so that it requires no renewed engagement. Let the conference decide.

2. Those bishops and churches who contradict or contravene this affirmation (I.10), or who punish others on the basis of this affirmation, stand outside the boundaries of Anglican teaching and witness as this Conference understands it.

This resolution is aimed solely at definition, for the sake of Anglicans and for the sake of others — Christians and non-Christians — who seek clarity about what the conference means with regard to its identity by making its affirmation regarding I.10. No penalties are proposed; no systems of adjudication are offered.

3. We request that other Communion Instruments of Unity pursue their work on the basis of this teaching and witness.

This resolution marks a simple request for Communion coherence on the matters taken up in I.10. The conference cannot impose its corporate views on other functioning councils or leaders of the Communion (though many will have participated in the conference). But by making it clear that the “understanding of this conference” is one ordered to the unity of Anglican teaching and witness, it lays out some of the parameters according to which any future rethinking of the Communion’s deliberative structures can be measured.

4. We recognize the missionary and pastoral integrity of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and its related member churches; and we urge serious deliberation, locally and at the international level, over how these churches can be integrated fully into the life of the Communion.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Ecclesiology, GAFCON, Instruments of Unity, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

(ENS) Thomas Brown elected 10th bishop of Maine–Massachusetts priest is first priest in a same-sex marriage to be elected to lead a diocese

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Episcopal Church (TEC), Marriage & Family, Sexuality, TEC Bishops

Martin Davie responds to the Bishop of Bangor [Andy John] on same-sex relationships

For the reasons given above the argument presented by the Bishop of Bangor in his letter is not convincing. He simply does not make out a convincing case for changing the Church’s teaching and practice.

Where he is right, however, is in saying that many people with same-sex attraction experience the Church as a hostile place. However, the proper way to address this is not to change the Church’s teaching.

As the Ed Shaw, himself same-sex attracted, argues in his important book The Plausibility Problem,[3] the problem lies not with the Church holding that sex should only take place within heterosexual marriage, but with the way in which people within the Church collude with the culture in suggesting that you can’t be happy without sex, value marriage and family life above singleness, and wrongly identify godliness with heterosexuality.

What the Church needs to do, he argues, is recapture the importance of celibacy and singleness and provide a place where everyone is valued, loved and supported regardless of their sexual attraction. That is what is needed, not same-sex marriage.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Church of Wales, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CA) Stephen Noll–When Is “good Disagreement” Not Good? When It Contradicts God’s Word

Finally, the Rev. Dr. Brett Cane, a Canadian Anglican serving in Egypt, has written an article on “Biblical Perspectives on Staying in Fellowship.” Having noted Paul’s exhortation to seek the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace and Jesus’ parable of the wheat and tares and His prayer for unity (Ephesians 4:1-4; Matthew 13:24-30,36-43; John 17:20-23), Dr. Cane concludes:

It is often uncomfortable to be in fellowship with those with whom we disagree… From my perspective, liberals are good at asking questions – conservatives are not. In that sense, Jesus was a true liberal in relationship to the religious establishment of his time. However, Jesus was deeply rooted in the Scriptures and was able to give answers. In my opinion, that is why the liberal needs the conservative – to give answers from a Biblical perspective. We need one another; we need to stay in fellowship.

Is it really true that conservatives are not liberal? In the pre-Gafcon book The Way, the Truth and the Life, we wrote:

Besides its emphasis on the Gospel, Evangelical Anglicanism has another side: a spirit of liberality… Liberality of spirit characterizes the Anglican via media approach to doctrinal, liturgical and pastoral matters, which seeks to be firm in matters of salvation and modest with regard to secondary or ‘indifferent’ matters (adiaphora). Going back to John Jewell and Richard Hooker, this “sweet reasonableness” (Titus 3:2) has been a hallmark of Anglican writers, with George Herbert, C.S. Lewis, and John Stott being prime examples. (page 36)

By contrast, my experience of contemporary liberals is that they are supremely illiberal. Take the example of the Episcopal Church USA and Anglican Church of Canada. Having been warned by the Lambeth Conference in 1998 not to proceed with homosexual ordinations and same-sex unions, they bulldozed their way ahead, reducing the Communion to rubble. And now various other “liberal” churches are following suit, with the Church of England not far behind. Does anyone really imagine that as a result of weeks-long indaba at Lambeth 2020, the “liberals” will listen to the conservative answers from Scripture? Is there any way “liberals” will come to one mind with Richard Hooker when he says: “what Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit [faith] and obedience is due”? The Bishop of Bangor is a case in point.

In a recent collection of essays titled Good Disagreement: Grace and Truth in a Divided Church, two Anglican New Testament scholars examine the way in which Jesus and the apostolic church dealt with controversy and division. Dr. Michael Thompson explains that Jesus’ own teaching and ministry caused a “tear” in the garment of Judaism and a “sword” splitting families apart: “there is no indication that Jesus sought deliberately to divide his hearers; it was the inevitable result of a message which some joyfully accepted but others rejected or simply did not understand” (page 44). One might say that “grace” and “truth” are not really opposites: the Good News of God’s grace and truth in Jesus causes some to turn to the light and others to hold fast to the darkness (John 3:17-21).

Dr. Thompson points to texts in which Jesus warns against judging one another (Matthew 7:1) and others where He insists on church discipline (Matthew 18:15-18). He goes on to consider texts in which, on the one hand, the apostles warn against factions in the church (e.g., 1 Corinthians 1-3), while on the other hand they condemn false teachers (2 Peter 2).

Thompson notes in conclusion that the apostles excluded individuals and not entire congregations. I do not think this is quite right. The early church was not an institution in the modern sense but a fellowship recognized by the apostles and their successors. Hence St. John can declare concerning a heretical faction: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).

The Gafcon and Global South movements have warned repeatedly concerning a false Gospel in the Episcopal Church and others. Unfortunately, since the formal “Instruments of Communion” have failed to deal with this “leaven of the Pharisees,” it has infected the entire communion. Hence Gafcon has stated: “We are not leaving the Anglican Communion; we are the majority of the Anglican Communion seeking to remain faithful to our Anglican heritage.”

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(FT) Britain’s burial crisis – and how to solve it

On a wet, windy Thursday in December, Bicester Village swarms with shoppers. The Oxfordshire retail complex receives about seven million visitors a year, lured by designer clothes at discount prices.

Across the road, there’s a sports field. Beyond that, in view of the shopping centre, is Bicester’s cemetery. It’s a pleasant, simple space: a long path runs through it, flanked by lines of trees. The oldest of the weathered gravestones I saw dated back to 1865.

Above ground, at least, the cemetery doesn’t look particularly crowded. But almost all the 5,000-plus plots are occupied. When it ran out of space in the past, it just kept growing. It took over one field, then another. To clear space for more graves, workers removed benches and dug up trees — a practice known in the burial industry as cramming.

Now, however, the cemetery has expanded as far as it can. As of last April — the most recent date for which Bicester council provides figures — it only has 36 unreserved burial plots left, and another 23 for cremated remains. In a town of 30,000-plus, that’s enough to get it through the next couple of years, provided there aren’t any severe flu outbreaks.

Bicester is not alone. At a time when, each year, 140,000 people in the UK still choose to be buried, cemeteries around the country are running out of space. In 2013, a BBC study found that a quarter of England’s local authorities — which oversee the overwhelming majority of cemeteries — expected those they managed to be full by 2023.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Eschatology, Religion & Culture

(GL) Carrie Boren Headington on Michael Green as a Hero of the Faith

“Excuse me. May I ask you a question? Is that man a preacher?” asked the nurse at the Oxford Radcliffe Hospital.

“Yes. Why do you ask?” I said.

“Well, after a long day, when all visitors have left, he gets out of bed and goes from room to room. I think he is preaching and praying with people. Frankly, we cannot keep him in bed at night. We say, ‘Mr. Green, you must rest and get back into bed.’ He did just have a heart attack you know. He politely agrees but in no more than five minutes he is back up with the IV machine in tow going from room to room. We cannot keep him down.”

I knew what compelled him. He had just called me (along with a stream of students) to his bedside, unsure if he would make it out of hospital this time. He said, “Whatever you do with your life Carrie, share the gospel at every turn. Tell everyone. This is the greatest thing you can do with your life. Follow Jesus, love Him and share Him.”

I went home that night and prayed, “Lord, please heal Michael Green. And if possible, may I please learn from him.” I knew I had met a modern-day Paul. I knew right away Michael Green was a man compelled by life in Jesus Christ! Compelled to share! Compelled by joy!

Two weeks later, Michael Green was back at our theological college, Wycliffe Hall, in perfect health. I knocked on his office door and there opened my soon-to-be mentor. Shorter in stature, eyes piercing and electric, smile wide, and palpable energy seeming about to combust. How to even describe this man… feet steady and deeply rooted in faith like a fully leafed live oak tree planted by streams of living water combined with the courageous, nimble posture of a boxer. A soldier with shoulders back, chin up, ready to defend with a low strong voice alongside a warmth, sense of humor, bubbling laugh that reached high pitch, and abounding joy.

He literally bounces when he walks. He is a man on mission.

I asked him if I could learn from him. Thankfully, he agreed and this began a mentorship that changed my life….

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Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

(Telegraph) Canon Michael Green, leading Evangelical theologian who taught Dr George Carey and whose adoption of charismatic forms of worship caused some surprise – obituary

Canon Michael Green, who has died aged 88, was in his time one of the Church of England’s leading Evangelicals and was known and valued worldwide as an outstanding preacher and teacher.

He had much in common with Billy Graham, the American evangelist, but had not quite the same charisma, and lacked an organisation that would mobilise huge crowds to hear him.

None the less, his influence was considerable since be combined evangelical gifts with those of a scholar and, besides training many future clergymen, one of whom, George Carey, became the Archbishop of Canterbury, he was, from 1975 to 1987 Rector of St Aldate’s – the most dynamic church in Oxford, attracting to its life several generations…

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Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth

(Telegraph) Facebook ‘delusion’ can’t replace religion, says Church of England bishop Rachel Treweek as social network’s numbers surpass Christianity

The idea that Facebook can replace religious communities is “a delusion”, a Church of England bishop has said, as the social network surpasses global Christianity in numbers.

Figures released by the social network for 2018 show that it has 2.32bn monthly active users, more than the most recent available figures for the reach of Christianity.

Data from the Pew Research Centre suggests that the faith has 2.3bn adherents worldwide.

Facebook was founded 15 years ago last Monday, and in a blog post to mark the occasion chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said that “people’s experience in the past was defined by large hierarchical institutions – governments, mass media, universities, religious organisations – that provided stability but were often remote and inaccessible.

“Our current century is defined more by networks of people who have the freedom to interact with whom they want and the ability to easily share ideas and experiences.”

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology

(CEN) Peers bid to make clergy conduct same sex marriages

The Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell stated that ‘the Church of England seeks to welcome all people’, including those in civil partnerships and same-sex marriages but explained that ‘the reason we are having this discussion is that there are questions about how this welcome can be expressed’.

He said that the amendment introduces ‘a discordant note into your Lordships’ consideration of a Bill which is otherwise uncontentious and likely to receive clear support’.

He said that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 ‘seeks to strike a balance between the right of individuals to marry a person of the same sex, and the rights of churches and other religious bodies — and of their ministers — to act in a way consistent with their religious beliefs’.

“No religious body or minister of religion is compelled to solemnise such a marriage,” he said.

He pointed out that in its second report on the then Bill, the Joint Committee on Human Rights said that ‘religious liberty, as granted under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights is a collective as well as individual right’.

It stated that religious organisations have the right to determine and administer their doctrinal and internal religious affairs without interference from the state.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality