Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Bishop of Willesden concluded by saying:

"We lack a consensus on what we mean by "good disagreement" - is it about process or is it about outcomes? I think that many who want change believe that it's possible, on the basis of good disagreement, to have pluriformity of practice in the Church. Others don't believe that it's possible to live in that way because of the canonical and legal constraints of uniformity that exist in our Church.

We will find this debate a continuing source of disagreement because we haven't coalesced around an end point. When we legislated for women to be bishops, even those opposed came to the view that the Church of England had to make it possible for women to be bishops in the Church of God according to our canons and formularies. In this debate, we haven't even begun to find a place where we can coalesce. The Bishops' Report acknowledges a place of starting. More conversation is needed. We don't yet know the next stage - nor yet when and whether we can bring any further report to Synod. Please make the fullest possible use of the groups and the debate to enable those deliberations."

Read it all and the presentations are below.



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Posted February 15, 2017 at 6:50 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We are both reassured to know that there are already processes in place to continue a necessary conversation and pursue a deeper theological reflection on what it is to be fully human. The archbishops have spoken of the need to fashion a new, properly informed, and radical ‘Christian inclusion’ in the Church. We look forward to sharing in that debate.

We recognise that there is hurt and distress surrounding the disagreements we have had, and that the hurt and the distress is being felt most deeply by some who engaged in the shared conversations. We share that distress. We reaffirm our recognition that the gospel calls us to a common humanity in Christ and to the joyful celebration of good and flourishing relationships.

We are committed to truth, and to living in hope and love where there is disagreement.

Read it all.

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Posted February 25, 2017 at 4:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Whatever moment this may be, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Statement calling for a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church” did not address any of the layers beneath the surface of the iceberg.

Another example of leaving the issues unaddressed, and/or misdiagnosed, was found in a speech during the General Synod. A Synod member used the story of Jacob wrestling an angel and demanding a blessing to represent the LGBT community in the Church. Dr. Ian Paul, a conservative in the Church of England, lamented the analogy noting that such misappropriation of a Biblical text to support something which the Bible nowhere blesses is nothing less than a pretext, that is, a text without a context. “And as this happens,” Paul observes, “God is silenced:”
“This process of atomisation, isolation and decontextualisation is writ large all over the argument for change in the Church’s teaching, and it is why the debate is about so much more than just sex and marriage. It is about whether we will allow God to speak to us by his Spirit through the pages of Scripture, and in so speaking will form us in the likeness of Christ.” (Emphasis Ashey's).
And so we have two Bishops of the Church of England now openly breaking ranks with fellow bishops, joining the crowd that repudiated the “take note” resolution, and taking up the Archbishop’s banner of “radical inclusion” (intended or not) to advocate for “much much more than the maximum freedom” bishops offered pastorally, and to go to places “in relation to law and guidance where we have not previously gone.” - including, presumably, not yet authorized prayers and blessings for same sex unions. This is how Biblical revisionists establish facts on the ground, as we called them in TEC, right up to and including the change in the doctrine of marriage through the authorization of same-sex marriage.

Read it all.

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Posted February 25, 2017 at 1:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The BBC has appointed a second Muslim executive to be in charge of religious television programming after attracting criticism previously from those who thought the job should go to a Christian.

The corporation has appointed Fatima Salaria, a BBC editor who commissioned Muslims Like Us, a reality-style show, and a series of programmes about radicalisation.

She attracted criticism last year by giving Anthony Small, the convicted fraudster and former boxing champion a platform on Muslims Like Us. Small, now known as Abdul Haqq, was a member of the inner circle of Anjem Choudary, the hate preacher. He had previously expressed support for Islamic State but was cleared in 2015 of trying to join the jihadist group.

Read it all (requires subscription).


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Posted February 25, 2017 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Hidden gems from London's ecclesiastical past - and present - are uncovered through a new project exploring the capital's Anglican chapels through the eyes of a unique chronicler of church buildings.

London's Unseen Chapels: From the Notebooks of Canon Clarke, a Heritage Lottery Fund-supported project, will leaf through the pages of Canon Basil Fulford Clarke's (1907-78) notebooks.

The project uncovers the ways in which institutions such as Temple Church and Charterhouse Chapel provided spiritual care to those from all gradations of society, and continue to do so successfully today.

Read it all.

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Posted February 23, 2017 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Many Muslim parents send their children to church schools because they prepare young people for “life in modern Britain”, a senior figure in the Church of England has said.

The Rev Nigel Genders said that church schools offered a “deeply Christian” education yet were attractive to families of other religions because they took faith seriously.

Mr Genders, chief education officer at the Church of England, which has about 4,500 primary schools, said that they would never drop their religious character even though more children from non-Christian families were attending them.

Read it all (requires subscription)

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Posted February 22, 2017 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Liddell lived life to the hilt, but not in the modern “I am tenaciously dedicated to my own hedonic brand” kind of way. Liddell’s vision of an all-out life was to assess his options, count the cost, and then take the most risky step in the name of Jesus Christ. The calculation was a simple one: “Each one comes to the cross-roads at some period of his life,” Hamilton quotes Liddell as preaching, “and must make his decision for or against his Master.” This Christocentric logic made great sense to Liddell, even if it made little sense to the world. Liddell faced fierce skepticism for his attempts to live out his faith, whether in his famous decision not to run on Sundays or his withdrawal from competition in order to answer the missionary call.

This example can help inform contemporary engagement for believers. Much effort is made today by younger evangelicals to get the cultural backflip just right, to strenuously befriend unbelievers while never offending them with over-stressed Christianity. Liddell’s was a more straightforward approach. Drafting off of the Sermon on the Mount, his favorite section of Scripture, he stood for his convictions without flinching while loving his neighbor without hesitating. The resulting model of Christian witness is as simple as it is inspiring.

Liddell was not a perfect man, of course. Hamilton covers his lengthy separation from his family with a clear eye. Married in 1934 to the untiring Florence, Liddell fathered three children. He loved his wife and kids, but as Hamilton notes, his first priority was the work of missions. This meant lengthy periods of separation as Liddell worked in Siaochang and later Tientsin. The work was always grueling, and China in the 1930s and 1940s was a very fearsome place indeed. Liddell was often robbed, frequently hungry and dirty, and regularly accosted by officials seeking to impede his work.

Read it all from Christianity Today.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryMissions* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureSports* International News & CommentaryAsiaChinaEngland / UK--Scotland

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Posted February 22, 2017 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

God whose strength bears us up as on mighty wings: We rejoice in remembering thy athlete and missionary, Eric Liddell, to whom thou didst bestow courage and resolution in contest and in captivity; and we pray that we also may run with endurance the race that is set before us and persevere in patient witness, until we wear that crown of victory won for us by Jesus our Savior; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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Posted February 22, 2017 at 5:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"My overall conclusion: the appellants are right.” These were the words of Lady Justice Arden in the Court of Appeal today – and yet we lost our legal challenge to the government’s ongoing ban on mixed-sex civil partnerships.

Lady Justice Arden’s two fellow judges disagreed – and outvoted her. All of the judges were critical of the status quo, whereby civil partnerships are still only available to same-sex couples, despite 13 years passing since their introduction and clear demand for them among mixed-sex couples. But the other two judges concluded that the government should be allowed more time to make a decision on whether to extend civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples before its position becomes unlawful.

Naturally we are deeply disappointed by this ruling. The narrowness of the defeat makes it all the harder to swallow: we came so close to winning, yet lost on a technicality. Nevertheless, there is so much in the ruling that is positive.

Read it all from the Guardian.

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Posted February 21, 2017 at 6:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more
--Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843)

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistorySpirituality/Prayer* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--Scotland* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesPresbyterian

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Posted February 19, 2017 at 6:09 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

..The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our common humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ - all of us, without exception, without exclusion.

Nevertheless while the principles are straightforward, putting them into practice, as we all know, is not, given the deep disagreements among us.

We are therefore asking first for every Diocesan Bishop to meet with their General Synod members for an extended conversation in order to establish clearly the desires of every member of Synod for the way forward.

As Archbishops we will be establishing a Pastoral Oversight group led by the Bishop of Newcastle, with the task of supporting and advising Dioceses on pastoral actions with regard to our current pastoral approach to human sexuality. The group will be inclusive, and will seek to discern the development of pastoral practices, within current arrangements.

Secondly, we, with others, will be formulating proposals for the May House of Bishops for a large scale teaching document around the subject of human sexuality. In an episcopal church a principal responsibility of Bishops is the teaching ministry of the church, and the guarding of the deposit of faith that we have all inherited. The teaching document must thus ultimately come from the Bishops. However, all episcopal ministry must be exercised with all the people of God, lay and ordained, and thus our proposals will ensure a wide ranging and fully inclusive approach, both in subject matter and in those who work on it.

We will also be suggesting to the Business Committee a debate in general terms on the issues of marriage and human sexuality. We wish to give the General Synod an opportunity to consider together those things we do affirm..

Read it all.

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Posted February 17, 2017 at 11:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Although it had been a difficult and tense week, my own sense was that the debate itself was the General Synod at its best. I've been in difficult debates on several occasions (most noticeably on the legislation of women in the episcopate). This did not feel like those debates. Over 30 people spoke. There was a 3 minute time limit throughout. Jayne Ozanne, Martin Gorick and Sam Alberry all spoke well, from different perspectives. I saw other Oxford members standing seeking to make a contribution. Over 160 people wanted to contribute. The debate was expertly chaired by Aidan Hargreaves.

We came to the vote which is normally a formality in a take note debate. As expected, it was closely contested. The House of Bishops voted 43 in favour and 1 against (the Bishop of Coventry later admitted he had pressed the wrong button by mistake). The House of Laity voted 106 in favour, 86 against with 3 abstentions. The House of Clergy voted 93 in favour and 100 against with 4 abstentions. The take note motion was therefore defeated.

Given the strength of feeling across the Church and the Synod this seemed to me an appropriate outcome. The Bishop of Norwich said afterwards: “I can guarantee that the Bishops will listen carefully and prayerfully to all the contributions made in the debate today”.

Talking with people afterwards, this felt a very significant moment but not that the Church of England is in chaos or turmoil (as the newspaper headlines indicated the following day).

Read it all.

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Posted February 17, 2017 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Church of England is to undergo a major "culture shift" to mobilise lay members to spread the gospel in their everyday lives. General Synod has given its support to the report, "Setting God's People Free", which calls for Christians to be equipped to live out their faith in every sphere - from the factory or office, to the gym or shop - to help increase numbers of Christians and their influence in all areas of life.

The paper is a key element of Renewal and Reform, an initiative from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, to help grow the Church. It asks a key question of how to empower around 1 million Christians who are not ordained to live out their faith in all aspects of life Monday to Saturday as well as Sunday.

Introducing the report, Canon Mark Russell, CEO of Church Army, said: 'We want to help Christians be even better influencers for the gospel in their everyday lives. We see this report as marking the start of a vital journey.'

Read it all.

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Posted February 17, 2017 at 6:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...clearly, Genesis 2 and Matthew 19 demonstrate that all sexual expression outside the lifelong and permanent union of one man and one woman is sinful. It’s contrary to God’s purposes. We have the picture of Christ who will come for his beautiful bride clean. He died for her. We rob society of that picture when we seek to destroy the truth of what marriage is.

God’s people are called to be set apart and clergy are to be examples to their people, to model holiness, chastity, purity, to model the way of the cross.

If sexual immorality were simply a secondary issue as opposed to a first order salvation issue then the Bible would not link it specifically with salvation (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). And that is why it is so important to speak clearly with regard to sexual sin, because, actually heaven and hell depends upon it. Our very eternity depends upon it. That’s why it’s loving to hold firm to it. And it’s also beautiful and freeing for all that hear this message.

Read it all.

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Posted February 16, 2017 at 7:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What practical difference will the vote make? It will not lead to a new report, since we cannot consider one on the same issue in the life of this Synod. It is difficult to see how the position of the bishops will change; if some break ranks, many will respond ‘Why didn’t you speak up earlier?’ It might lead to a fracture in the House of Bishops, as some clearly hope—which will mean dioceses diverging in their teaching and policies. If so, evangelicals will start to withdraw both cooperation and funding—so keep an eye out for the next diocese to run out of money. It has perhaps raised hopes for change again—which are likely to be dashed once more, at least in terms of formal change in the Church. In introducing the report, Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, emphasised yet again that changing this teaching, shared in much of the Anglican Communion and ecumenically, wasn’t in the gift of the Church.

What it has done is highlighted the deep divisions in the Church—but done nothing to heal them. Not only do we disagree, we even disagree about what it is we disagree on. And it has set clergy against their bishops. Some will ask what the bishops have been doing all these years, in terms of teaching and training and holding clergy to appropriate account, to lead to such a deep level of mistrust. But others might ask clergy what they think they are doing in rejecting the teaching of those to whom they have pledged canonical obedience. Either which way, it is incoherent, and no way to run a railway. And in the end it has demonstrated the power of this issue to break the Church. Those seeking change have demonstrated their determination to continue pushing, regardless of the consequences.

As Zachary Giuliano concludes: there are no winners.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

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Posted February 16, 2017 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There is no easy way to dress up what has been an embarrassing night for the senior leadership of the Church of England.
After three years of so-called shared conversations costing the church more than £300,000, General Synod has chosen not to take note of the Bishops report.
It was neither the Bishops nor ordinary members of the church (the laity) who chose to reject the report. It was the vicars, rectors and priests that decided they could not continue with the current prohibition on blessing or marrying same sex couples in church.
For lesbian and gay Christians, there is widespread rejoicing. But conservative evangelicals are dismayed, the vote confirming what they say is their worst fear that the authority Scripture is no longer the rule of faith and practice.

Read it all.

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Posted February 16, 2017 at 7:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There were impassioned contributions from all sides of the argument. Lucy Gorman (York diocese) argued that the Church’s current stance was devastating its mission to the nation, especially among young people, who saw it as homophobic.

The Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain, who married his male partner in 2014..., begged the Synod not to take note of the report. “Your LGBTI brothers and sisters are not beggars looking for entrance on the borders of the Church,” he said. “We are your family in Christ. We are baptised, faithful, prayerful. I am not a case study. We are flesh and blood.”

Others, including a “same-sex-attracted” Evangelical, the Revd Sam Allberry, said that, while the report was not perfect, they were glad that it had held the line on the traditional marriage teaching. “I was bullied at school for being gay,” he told the Synod. “I now feel bullied in Synod — for being same-sex-attracted, and for agreeing with the doctrine on marriage.”

Read it all.

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Posted February 16, 2017 at 6:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Church of England's clergy have issued an extraordinary challenge to its conservative line on marriage by throwing out a bishops' report on sexuality.

In a major revolt against the CofE's hierarchy, members of the Church's General Synod rejected a report by top bishops that said there was 'little support' for changing the view that marriage was between one man and one woman.

The shock result plunges the Church into confusion on its stance on marriage with the bishops' report barred from being discussed until the end of this synod in 2020.

Read it all.

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Posted February 16, 2017 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Church of England clergy have appeared to signal support for gay marriage after they rejected a bishops’ report which said that only a man and woman could marry in church.

The report recommended that the bar on same-sex church marriages continue but that a more welcoming attitude towards homosexuals should be shown by congregations.

However, the motion was rejected by clergy at the General Synod who voted 100 to 93 against. Sources said they believed the recommendation had been rejected by the more liberal members of the clergy who thought the Church should ultimately drop its opposition to gay marriage.

Read it all.

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Posted February 16, 2017 at 6:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The first paragraph of the report states, “As St Paul writes, ‘I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me…’ (Galatians 2.19ff). For St Paul that meant setting aside even the wonderful privilege of Jewish identity and giving priority to the cross and resurrection of Christ. It is in this light that the Church of England has to consider the difficulties over human sexuality that have been a source of tension and division for many years.”

What this introduction misunderstands and misses is twofold. Firstly, in both his letters and in the Acts of the Apostles, Paul is a Jew and identifies clearly as a Jew in the present tense. To state that Paul is “setting aside” his “Jewish identity” misunderstands Paul. Second, such misunderstanding in the very first paragraph means the report misses the nuance of Paul’s writings and the reality that he too is grappling with “tension and division” both within his communities and in terms of his own identity. To recognise such a nuance would make clear that questions of identity are not as simple as this report’s introduction suggests and that identity with Christ is not as simple as “setting aside” one’s identity at birth (which itself is a loaded and potentially harmful assumption in a report on sexuality and identity).

In Philippians 3.4-6, therefore, Paul writes that in terms of confidence “in the flesh”, he has more for he is: “a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews.” Even if these “gains” are now regarded by Paul “as loss because of Christ” (Phil 3.7) and as “rubbish” (3.8), Paul’s Jewish identity is not solely in his past. This is made clearer in Romans 11.1 where Paul states in his defence of God’s promises that “I myself am an Israelite, a descendent of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.” Paul’s testimony before the tribunal in Acts 21 is even more direct, demonstrating unambiguously what the Evangelist thinks of Paul’s identity. Paul begins his defence with the words, “I am a Jew” and then repeats this same claim “in the Hebrew language” in Acts 22 (“I am a Jew”) after which he immediately recounts in the past tense that he previously “persecuted this Way”. Moreover, returning to his letters, Paul counters Corinthian boasting with his own in 2 Corinthians 11.22: “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? … I am a better one.”

And here we encounter first-hand the tension in Paul’s identity. Paul is still a Hebrew, an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, in other words, he is a Jew. But he is also a minister of Christ; he is also one who suffers for the sake of the gospel. Paul’s identity is inextricably wrapped up in both.

Read it all.

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Posted February 15, 2017 at 6:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

So what we have seen over the past few days, and particularly now during Synod, is that pro LGBT activists have embarked on an attempt to force the Church of England to change its teachings on sex and marriage, firstly by means of appeal to the rational and reasonable middle ground in the church, branding conservatives as extremists and proposing an alternative conclusion to the Bishops GS 2055 report (eg here).

And then, the fist inside the velvet glove: an all-out assault on the tenets of basic Christian orthodoxy in the public domain outside the church, through the parading of pain and fury at every opportunity on the floor of Synod, and through the secular media. The aim here is to appeal to the public at large, particularly the powerful and influential figures in Government, law and the media, to force change on the church from the outside.

How can this powerful lobby with its emotional force be resisted? In the short term, we can perhaps pray that the Bishops and the majority of Synod members would see through and refute the hypocrisy of the campaigners, who claim to want diversity, when in fact they want to eradicate orthodox faith; they claim to be powerless victims or standing on their behalf, when in fact they stand with the most powerful lobby in the nation. They speak with the language of Christian faith but have imbibed a philosophy that is implacably hostile to the teachings of the bible about the human person, sexuality, marriage, self-control and chastity – and ultimately, as we have seen, hostile to the idea of a Saviour who takes away sin’s deserved consequences.

But what of the longer term? It should be obvious that a church which allows such views with their bullying tactics to flourish as part of legitimate theological diversity, has abandoned any concept of apostolic deposit based on divine revelation. Such a church will soon be forced to reflect the secular ideology of the powerful lobby group more and more, as has happened in north America. The orthodox can agree to being one view among many, and be gradually erased. A better option: stand firm and if necessary force a schism, and at the same time plan for an alternative jurisdiction.

Read it all.

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Posted February 15, 2017 at 6:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There is wide recognition on all sides that one of the central issues revolves around how Scripture is interpreted both in and across cultures. It is our conviction that the hermeneutic task is not simply a matter of ‘correctly’ interpreting Scriptural texts, but must involve reading any given text in the light of the whole gospel, with a heart that is open to what the Spirit is saying to the Church in each and every generation. The Reformation principle of scriptura sui ipsius interpres (scripture interprets itself) must give us cause to pause and consider such texts in the light of Jesus’ overriding call to ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’ (Luke 10:27)

There are three issues that we believe we, the evangelical community, need to be honest about.

The first, which causes us significant concern, is that of the high levels of homophobia that appear to go unacknowledged and unchallenged. Obviously, we understand that to assert a traditionalist position on same-sex relationships is not in itself homophobic, and that those who take a conservative line may not be individually hostile towards LGBT people. However, we would plead for some recognition, reflection and repentance of the fact that Christian teaching on this continues to function as the lynchpin, not just in the Church but also in secular society, of a widespread and sometimes subterranean nexus of negative attitudes that frequently manifest in overt homophobic behaviour. LGBT people are all too familiar with the impact of this, and whilst some are able to withstand it, many find themselves internalising feelings of shame and self-hatred, which all too frequently then result in depression, self-destructive behaviours, and even suicide. Are these really to be seen as the side-effects of the good news of Jesus Christ? Credible Christian witness cannot just be a matter of repeated verbal denials of homophobia but must involve active steps to combat it. Should not the churches be as well known for their efforts in this area as they are for, say, supporting issues of social justice? The issue is even more pronounced in countries across the world where Christians are known to be condoning and at times positively supporting proposals for severe penalties, including capital punishment, for homosexual behaviour. Should not the repudiation of this by churches in this country be immediate, public, and categorical?

Read it all.

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Posted February 15, 2017 at 6:28 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Despite a warning from the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow, that protests and campaigns at General Synod meant that “hackles will rise” and the media “circle like wolves”, efforts to mobilise a vote against taking note of the Bishops’ report on marriage and same-sex relationships are gathering steam.

On Tuesday, OneBodyOneFaith (the group formerly called LGCM) published a series of proposals offering an alternative way forward to that proposed in the Bishops’ report. The recommendations include the publication of a teaching document to “to make clear that clerical civil marriage is not of itself . . . a matter for discipline”.

Other proposals include a new sexuality-and-relationships working group of the Archbishops’ Council, “responsible for holding the theological diversity of the Church of England”, a national lead for LGBTI matters at Church House, and the publication and recommendation of an approved liturgy for prayer and thanksgiving with same-sex couples after a civil partnership or marriage.

Read it all.

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Posted February 15, 2017 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The General Synod has rejected moves to end the legal requirement to read banns for couples intending to marry in church services.

Members voted against a Private Member's Motion brought by Rev Stephen Trott, from Peterborough Diocese, calling for draft legislation to be drawn up to transfer 'ecclesiastical preliminaries', the legal paperwork currently carried out by Church of England clergy before a church wedding, to civil registrars.

The motion called for a similar system to the one in operation in Scotland since 1977, when banns were replaced by a Marriage Schedule issued by the civil registrar.

Rev Trott told the General Synod that administering banns was 'fraught with difficulties' and a cause of 'great concern and even stress' to clergy.

Read it all.

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Posted February 14, 2017 at 11:21 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Last week’s announcement from government that it will close the route opened for some of the most vulnerable refugee children to Britain by Lord Dubs falls far short of our better selves and the example set by those before us.

The route was opened by Lord Dubs to enable a safe passage to Britain for the most vulnerable refugee children. His amendment last year drew exceptionally wide cross-party and public support. Lord Dubs was himself a survivor of the Kindertransport efforts to save Jewish children fleeing the Nazis on the eve of the Second World War.

Those efforts typified something of the best in us. A steadfast and quiet determination to protect children and the most vulnerable and to do so in time when the threat is urgent.

Read it all.

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Posted February 14, 2017 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Senior Church of England ministers look set to be allowed to work beyond 70, as its ruling body votes on the issue for the first time amid concerns about a shortage of clergy.

The Anglican Church faces a recruitment crisis as hundreds of ministers are due to retire over the next decade and there is not enough younger staff to replace them.

A vote on the new rules, due to take place on Tuesday at the Church of England synod, will come after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, addresses the meeting on Monday.

Read it all.

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Posted February 13, 2017 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Everyone needs to be heard. There has been much talk (on social media) of people boycotting the small groups at General Synod. I am saddened by the thought that I won’t hear their voices. The assumption may be that I won’t listen because I wear purple and the report has already been written and everything is decided. I don’t believe that is the case. I have much to learn in my own pastoral response to LGBTI people and I can only learn it by listening.

Everyone needs to be seen. There has also been much talk (on social media) of gestures of defiance. There will be protest groups outside Synod and others inside proposing alternatives to the ‘take note’ debate. I understand the motives behind this but wonder what will be achieved. Will it lead to change and a greater acceptance of LGBTI people in churches? I’m really not sure. The media will circle like wolves and everyone’s hackles will rise.

We need each other. My sincere prayer is that the new relationships generated among members of General Synod by previous small groups will triumph over the old pattern of playing to the public gallery. Vent your anger at me, but please do it face to face in a small group. Tell me of your frustration, but please do it in such a way that we can talk together about new ways of decision making which model to a war-torn world how we can live well together.

Read it all.

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Posted February 13, 2017 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The House of Bishops’ report on marriage and same-sex relationships...is a “morally reprehensible document that needs to be rejected by the Synod”, the Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury, Canon Simon Butler, said on Wednesday.

Describing it as a “betrayal of trust” that left “weapons on the table”, he expected a “very close vote” after the take-note debate scheduled to take place on Wednesday evening.

“If it is defeated, that is a clear signal to the House of Bishops that Synod is unwilling to progress in the direction they are taking,” he said. “If it is a narrow vote, the Bishops would be very unwise to continue down this course, because the whole of the Church’s wider agenda will be subsumed into a conflict that will last for the next period of the life of the Church. That would be a disaster.”

Read it all.

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Posted February 13, 2017 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon




The Church of England is facing a fresh crisis over its stance on gay relationships following unprecedented criticism by a group of leading retired bishops over its failure to provide leadership on the issue, and its marginalisation of LGBT members.

The highly unconventional intervention comes before this week’s synod, which will be dominated by rancorous divisions over sexuality. Officials hope the 500-plus members of the church’s general assembly will approve a recent report from bishops which upholds the traditional teaching that marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman.

But a rebellion is being orchestrated by supporters of LGBT rights who are dismayed at the bishops’ restatement of doctrine. The church insists that gay clergy must be celibate, and clergy are forbidden from conducting same-sex marriage services. An open letter from 14 retired bishops, led by Peter Selby, the former bishop of Worcester, and including Richard Harries, former bishop of Oxford, urges their successors to think again. They say serving bishops have sought to manage a conflict “rather than perhaps enabling or leading”.

Read it all.

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Posted February 13, 2017 at 6:22 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Anglican church is set for a renewed clash on the divisive question of gay marriage this week when its ruling body votes on a key report from the Bishops on same sex relationships.

The Church of England synod, the governing body made up of Bishops, clergy and laity which decides on church law and policy, will vote on Wednesday whether to ‘take note’ - confirm - or reject the report confirming the status quo against gay marriage.

Liberals within the church are hopeful the synod will reject advice from the Bishops’ to leave its policy against gay marriage unchanged.

A vote by the synod in favour of same-sex marriage could eventually pave the way for a fundamental change in Anglican teaching.

Read it all.

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Posted February 13, 2017 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From there:
Dear Fellow Bishop

The Bishops’ Report to Synod on Sexuality

Most retired bishops would be prepared to admit that participation in the synodical processes of the church is not what they most miss about their role as diocesan or suffragan bishops. They also feel some reticence about entering into the current debates occupying their successors on the basis of information that is partial and becomes more and more dated with the passing of the years. There is a dilemma, though: you don’t work for years as a bishop and then easily and suddenly lose the bond you feel for the bishops, your successors and former colleagues. Nor do you lose your concern that the church of which you continue to be a bishop should be faithful in its commendation of the Gospel to the society at large.

So when a report emerges that is the subject of major controversy within the church and society some retired bishops will wish to do what the signatories of this letter are seeking to do, namely to reflect from their particular perspective on what our successors are seeking to say and do about an issue that has been a longstanding source of concern and contention.

Your statement is the product of enormous time and effort, our memories of such situations suggesting perhaps too much time and too much effort. The ‘too much’ comes from the enormous sense of responsibility your document shows to manage a conflict that you and we know causes huge amounts of grief and argument. The result, dare we say, is that whereas it used to be said that bishops often sounded as though they spoke with a pipe in their mouths, now that pipes are rare they sound more as though they see their task as managing – rather than perhaps enabling or leading – the conflicts that are bound to occur. And we remember how exhausting that is, and how it seems to blunt the edge of bishops’ own passionate convictions, which might divide them but also invigorate the conversation.

You write after the Shared Conversations. We well remember having had lots of those, even if they did not have capital letters. But their integrity rested on the assurance that in reporting them the voices of those who participated would not be drowned out by the ‘majority view’ or ‘established position’. Our perception is that while the pain of LGBT people is spoken about in your report, we do not hear its authentic voice. Our experience would lead us to doubt whether there was an expectation around that canons and doctrinal statements would be changed within any reasonable timescale, and that focus seems to have taken far more time than it would have done if the authentic voices of lesbian and gay people had been allowed to express the major focus of their hopes. Going down the road of seeking a change in the law or doctrinal formulation would indeed not have been realistic – but you might not have had to spend as much time explaining why if those other voices had been allowed to come through more clearly.

The result of that focus on the issue of a change in the law is that your call for change of tone and culture, while absolutely right, does not carry conviction. Indeed, from the perhaps luxurious perspective of retirement the tone and culture of your document are incredibly familiar – we’ve been there and talked in that tone of voice, and it prevents calls for a change of culture, of course offered in complete sincerity by you, from ringing true.

We’ll avoid making too many detailed points just now; but hard as you have tried you have really not allowed the theological voice of some of us to be heard properly. In para 8 you draw a contrast between ‘the many who [hold] a conservative view of scripture [for whom] the underlying issue at stake is faithfulness to God’s word’ and others for whom ‘the imperative to read scripture differently stems from a parallel conviction’. If the second group are to recognise their voice in theological conversations their ‘parallel conviction’ needs to be expressed and not just alluded to.

May we end by assuring you that we continue to sympathise with the challenging nature of the task you have in this and other matters. You will receive much negative comment about your report, and we hope that these brief remarks may illuminate the reason for that: it is not that the Shared Conversations were thought to herald changes of law or doctrine; rather there will be deep disappointment that those who are not officially part of your meetings, who experience at first hand the struggles you only allude to, have once again been spoken about by their bishops instead of being enabled to speak in their own voice about their future and the future of the church they belong to and care about.

Yours sincerely in Christ

The Rt Revd Dr David Atkinson, formerly Bishop of Thetford

The Rt Revd Michael Doe, formerly Bishop of Swindon

The Rt Revd Dr Timothy Ellis, formerly Bishop of Grantham

The Rt Revd David Gillett, formerly Bishop of Bolton

The Rt Revd John Gladwin, formerly Bishop of Guildford and of Chelmsford

The Rt Revd Dr Laurie Green, formerly Bishop of Bradwell

The Rt Revd the Lord Harries, formerly Bishop of Oxford

The Rt Revd Stephen Lowe, formerly Bishop of Hulme

The Rt Revd Dr Stephen Platten, formerly Bishop of Wakefield

The Rt Revd John Pritchard, formerly Bishop of Oxford

The Rt Revd Dr Peter Selby, formerly Bishop of Worcester

The Rt Revd Tim Stevens, formerly Bishop of Leicester

The Rt Revd Roy Williamson, formerly Bishop of Bradford and of Southwark

The Rt Revd Martin Wharton CBE, formerly Bishop of Newcastle

Please note that there is also information on the additional signatories to the letter here.

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Posted February 13, 2017 at 5:50 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"I was saddened and shocked to read in the Ministerial statement released yesterday that only 350 children will be received under the regulations in the Dubs Amendment. Our country has a great history of welcoming those in need, particularly the most vulnerable, such as unaccompanied children.

Refugees, like all people, are treasured human beings made in the image of God who deserve safety, freedom and the opportunity to flourish. Jesus commands us to care for the most vulnerable among us:

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40).

Read it all.

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Posted February 10, 2017 at 6:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The good news is that the Bishops’ report on human sexuality is reassuring to evangelicals and traditionalists in its determination to adhere to the canonical and biblical understanding of marriage. But like all recent reports, the House of Bishops holds the line in the Church of England by treating this teaching as provisional and subject to change.

The latest report has the character of a staging-post. The Bishops are ultra-apologetic to the LGBT community and the overwhelming subtext is that traditionalists are not dying off quickly enough for the bishops to risk changing doctrine and thereby splitting the Church over the matter. It’ll only be a few years, they reason, before the Church of England can completely capitulate to culture.

Now, of course, many of the more conservative members of the House of Bishops will deny this entirely and I have no doubt that they have personally acted in good faith. But the equivocal language in which the report is hedged indicates that we are involved in a process. This in itself comes from a narrative of progress with which we are all familiar.

According to this widespread cultural narrative, the Church and other archaic organisations are on the wrong side of history and it is only a matter of time before they are dragged kicking and screaming into modernity by any means necessary – including changes to the law, placing facts on the ground and by attrition.

The Church’s integrity and faithfulness is a necessary casualty of these forces of change.

--This appears in the Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2017, on page 11

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Posted February 9, 2017 at 6:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We welcome the bishops’ reluctance to be drawn into sweeping ‘solutions’ or idle ‘resolutions.’ We wonder why one part of the body of Christ continues to be regarded as a problem rather than as a gift. We look forward to a genuine transformation of tone and culture away from one that rejects people simply for the way God has made them.

We welcome the bishops’ call for maximum freedom within the current legal constraints. We wonder if the bishops really want to endorse such an uncomfortable contrast between love and law, covenant fidelity and ecclesiastical disapproval, the manifest grace of God and a precise reading of select scriptural texts, the increasingly warm embrace of society and the apparently inexplicable inhibition of the church. We look forward to a time when pastoral care is not invoked to tend wounds the church has so often itself inflicted.

We welcome the call for a new teaching document on marriage and relationships....

Read it all.

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Posted February 9, 2017 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I remain hopeful about the next moves, and the idea of a teaching document. In answer to MTH’s question about its value, I think that it is perfectly possible for a teaching document to articulate a biblical theology of sexuality and look like good news to many people. For me, it would need to include:
1. Sex is God’s good gift in creation. The Church has often struggled with that but, as Diarmaid McCulloch pointed out, that was often because the Church paid too much attention to Greek philosophical ideas, and too little to the teaching of Jesus and Paul.
2. Human life is bodily, and our bodies are inherently good. We are not spirits (or internet browsers) trapped in an unfortunately material world.
3. Sex differentiation is a normal, natural and inevitable part of this bodily life.
4. Our sexual lives should form one part of an integrated physical, emotional, relational, communal and spiritual life.
5 Sex is powerful—powerfully good when used right, and powerfully damaging for so many people when it goes wrong.
6 Humanity is fallen, and this affects all aspects of our sexuality as well as every other area of our life.
7 Sexual activity is therefore bounded, not because sex is bad, but because sex is powerful and we are fallen. The boundaries God has put in place are, rightly understood, there for our flourishing and well-being, and in particular serve to protect the weak from exploitation by the strong.
8 Sex is penultimate—it is not the most important thing about us, and there are more important ways to understand who we truly are.
There is much here which offers good news to a world and a culture in which the misuse of sex does so much harm. Read it all.

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Posted February 9, 2017 at 5:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If this is a reasonably accurate account of how the bishops ended up with the report they did then, in evaluating it, among the questions raised are:

Can this process be recognised and received as a reasonable way of faithfully seeking to do what the bishops sought to do in the exercise of episcopal oversight?
Can a plausible case be made that any of the rejected options would have accomplished their goals – particularly the goals of unity and doctrinal coherence and serving the whole church – better than this one?
Can any of the options considered and rejected be implemented within the existing doctrine and law or do their advocates acknowledge that they really require a change in doctrine and/or law and that is therefore what they are demanding?
Can a convincing case be made that one of the three other paths not followed should have been offered as more faithful to the bishops' vision of what is involved in exercising episcopal oversight?

Read it all.

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Posted February 8, 2017 at 3:50 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Should teachers be able to use body cameras to record the disruptive behaviour of some pupils or, indeed, to celebrate the achievements of others? The question arises because of an experiment doing just that. A criminal justice academic at Portsmouth University, Tom Ellis, has revealed that teachers at two schools in England are using video cameras to record incidents and then play them back to the pupils concerned and to their parents. The practice is not widespread but it is legal. It may be a harbinger of things to come.

It is easy to see the possible utility of such cameras. Disruptive classroom behaviour is a constant problem that blights the education of children and the careers of teachers, and may be getting worse. In 2014 Ofsted released a report entitled Below the Radar: Low-level Disruption in the Country’s Classrooms, which was based on the inspection reports of a sample of nearly 100 schools conducted in the first six months of that year.

Read it all (requires subscription).

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Posted February 8, 2017 at 11:06 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Taken together the CORAB recommendations are completely at odds with the realities of twenty-first century life in Britain. At a time when the majority of the British population belongs to no religion at all, proposals to extend the public role of faith amount to little more than an attempt to shore-up the crumbling towers of unwarranted religious privilege.

And while secularism is often presented as involving a curtailment of religious freedom, as an authoritarian attempt to force religion out of public life and to impose a particular (usually non-religious) worldview, the reality is that a secular state – by distancing itself from all systems of religion or belief – provides the best possible framework for guaranteeing equality for all citizens, and the best means of fostering a free, inclusive and democratic society in which people of all faiths and none can live harmoniously together.

The recommendations of the CORAB report, which defends and promotes religious privilege, are a recipe for increasing unfairness and division. Our response highlights the critical need for secular voices to be heard

Read it all.

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Posted February 8, 2017 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There is growing concern about the impact of automation on employment - or in crude terms - the threat that robots will eat our jobs.
But if you want to see how important robotics and artificial intelligence can be to a business Ocado is a good place to start.
"Without it we simply couldn't do what we do at this scale," the online retailer's chief technology officer Paul Clarke told me. With margins in the supermarket business wafer thin, continually bearing down on costs and waste has been vital.
At its Hatfield distribution centre I got a glimpse of how far the process of automating the sorting of thousands of grocery orders has come. For now, you will struggle to spot a robot - unless you count a machine that inserts plastic shopping bags into crates - but software is doing a very complex job of sending the right goods in the right crates to the right human pickers.

Read it all (video recommended if you have the time).

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Posted February 7, 2017 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Bishop Chartres has had a very untypical episcopacy. The congregations of his diocese have grown. He has opened a new theological college to train future priests. He has never closed a single church. How has he done it? By a clever combination of being traditional and up-to-date.

Traditional because he regards the inherited liturgy, buildings and public role of the Church of England not as burdens but advantages which can draw people to God. I asked him to be the Ecclesiastical Patron of the Rectory Society, which I set up to foster interest in every sort of parsonage. He blessed our tenth anniversary service....

Read it all.

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Posted February 6, 2017 at 4:12 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As the Queen sits at home reflecting on her long life and her long reign, we too could profitably do the same. First of all, hers has been a lifetime’s commitment to the role given her by Providence. In a world of chopping and changing, she has remained steady. This is a good reminder to us all of the lifetime commitments that we have taken on, in particularly our lifetime commitment that comes from our baptismal covenant; as well as the other lifetime commitments made by married people, those in religious life, and the clergy. The Queen is a wonderful example of faithfulness to a call.

The second thing about the Queen that comes to mind is her unshowy devotion to duty. It really is not about her at all, but about the nation, and of course, the Commonwealth. She serves us, not the other way around. In 65 years she has never failed in her duty. This makes her not simply the most remarkable and admirable woman in the country, but perhaps in the world. Her style is in marked contrast to the celebrity culture that is all around us.

Read it all from the Catholic Herald.




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