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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Only two per cent of Anglicans in England and Wales are converts, a new study suggests.
The director of the Benedict XVI Centre at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, Dr Stephen Bullivant, has gathered statistics on religious affiliation from the annual British Social Attitudes surveys. His report, Contemporary Catholicism in England and Wales, launched on Tuesday in the House of Commons, deals mainly with the Roman Catholic Church, but looks at other denominations for comparisons.
His deduction is that, in a group of 100 Anglicans, 93 will have been brought up as such, five will have started life in another Christian denomination, and only two would have belonged to no religion. (The sample group was 1681 Anglicans.)
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) Church of Wales * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Sociology * International News & Commentary England / UK --Wales
In 2008, Christine was appointed Vicar of St Mary and St Lawrence, Goring-by-Sea, and it was during this period that her middle daughter died from cancer. Within a year of being at Goring-by-Sea, she was recruited as Archdeacon of Chesterfield in 2010.
Christine is also a non-executive director of Ecclesiastical Insurance, and has held several national church posts, including membership of the General Synod, the Anglican Communion Indaba conversations that seek to energise mission and build the international community of Anglican Christians through respectful listening, one of the eight female participant observers on the House of Bishops, and as a vocations consultant and selector, helping to discern those who are to be recommended for ordination. Christine has also been a member of Derby Cathedral Council.
“I was thrilled, and a little daunted, to be offered the post of Dean of Lincoln,” said Christine.
Read it all.
The Columba Declaration has been discussed for the past 15 years and officially ties the two churches, which have been seperate since the 16th century Reformation. It was passed at the Scottish Church's general assembly on Wednesday. The CoE's general synod passed the measure in February.
The Archbishop of Canterbury became the first CoE leader to join a debate at the general assembly and urged support for the report. Justin Welby acknowledged significant differences in the doctrines of the two churches but said the Columba Declaration provided a framework to affirm common ground.
Earlier in the assembly's five day meeting the CoS agreed to accept ministers who are in same-sex marriages, something the CoE has not done.
"We won't always necessarily find ourselves walking in step with one another, something I've been particularly conscious of, as, like you, we have been considering the issues around same-sex marriages, and following your earlier debate on ministers in same-sex marriages," Welby said in his address.
"But what we believe we are providing in this report is a sound framework for us to affirm and build on the agreement we have, for the sake of our common witness to Christ."
Read it all
Teaching of Christianity in schools is set to be transformed by a new resource from the Church of England, launched today. Understanding Christianity is a set of comprehensive materials and training which will enable pupils from age 4 to 14 to develop their understanding of Christianity, as a contribution to making sense of the world and their own experience within it.
Available to all schools across the country the resource was written by a team of RE advisers from RE Today Services, in collaboration with more than 30 expert teachers and academics, and has been trialled in over 50 schools.
Understanding Christianity was commissioned by the Church of England Education Office with the generous support of Culham St Gabriels, The Sir Halley Stewart Trust, the Jerusalem Trust and an anonymous donor.
Read it all.
The House of Bishops of the Church of England met on 23-24 May 2016.
On its first day the Bishops received an update on the shared conversations process, received a report from the Faith and Order Commission and discussed the contribution and vision of the Church of England on Education. A substantial amount of time was spent on safeguarding including receiving the report of the Elliot Review from the Bishop of Crediton, Sarah Mullally.
Read it all.
The Revd Charlotte Bannister-Parker, 52, is an assistant priest at St Michael and All Angels Summertown in the Diocese of Oxford, and acts as the Bishop’s Advisor for Special Projects, including inter-faith initiatives. She is an Associate Faculty Member of the Theology Department at Oxford University, and has a long Oxford pedigree, having been previously on the staff of the University Church of St Mary’s.
On 7th May, according to reports in Cape Town’s City Press, she officiated at a same-sex marriage in South Africa. Oxford has a long standing relationship with the Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman in South Africa. Rev Bannister-Parker lived there for a while in 2008, helping the Church to develop its HIV/AIDS ministry.
Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth, the daughter of Desmond Tutu who has long been an advocate for the Anglican Church to welcome fully same sex relationships and bless gay marriage, was ordained in the Episcopal Church USA and now works as the Executive Director of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.
Questions are now being asked about the participants in this story. A licensed clergywoman in the Church of England has conducted what looks very much like a same sex marriage or certainly a blessing of a civil marriage, even though it is in a different Province. Many clergy travel overseas to conduct the increasingly lavish weddings of their parishioners or relatives – when they do so, are they bound by the canons of the Church of England? Were Revd Bannister-Parker’s actions approved by her parish Rector and by the Diocese of Oxford, given the high profile nature of the ceremony? Is there any connection between the Tutu Foundation funds and the Diocese of Oxford’s “Special Projects”?
Today the media reports that Revd Tutu-van Furth has resigned as a licenced priest in the Diocese of Cape Town, as the Province does not accept clergy in same sex marriages. Rev Bannister-Parker should do the decent thing and do the same, having acted in a manner contrary to her ordination vows where she promised to uphold the doctrines of the Church and abide by the teachings of Scripture.
Readers may like to read the City Press article and look at the photo again, and decide for themselves what was happening on that day. We are also free to ask whether there will be similar ceremonies taking place in England soon, with equally strong denials from official spokesmen that they have anything to do with ‘weddings’ or ‘blessings’.
Read it all
And Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s giggle rang out over the Mont Rochelle Hotel’s terrace near Franschhoek, as his wife Leah rocked beside him.
Marceline had been a little overeager, leaning in for a kiss before Reverend Charlotte Bannister-Parker – who led the ceremony – had decreed they were married.
“No! Not yet!” shrieked Mpho.
However, soon enough Bannister-Parker said: “We now recognise you as wife and wife. You may kiss each other.”
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The acting Bishop of Oxford authorized one of his clergy to perform a same-sex blessing. On 3 May 2016 the Rev. Charlotte Bannister-Parker, (pictured) an associate priest at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford presided over the blessing of the marriage of the Rev. Mpho Tutu and Dr. Marceline van Furth at Sir Richard Branson’s Mont Rochelle Hotel in the Western Cape.
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Oxford said: “The Revd Charlotte Bannister-Parker accepted the invitation of Mpho Tutu to lead a celebration of her marriage to Marceline van Furth in her capacity as a friend of the family. She did so with the permission of both the Bishop of Saldanha Bay, the Rt Revd Raphael Hess, and the Acting Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher.”
Read it all and an update with some wriggling from the Diocese of Oxford here
..The Rev Canon Tutu is executive director of her parents’ eponymous charitable foundation and divorced with two children. She married her long-time partner Marceline Van Furth, an atheist academic who is also divorced with children, in her native Netherlands in December.
The pair held a second ceremony that was attended by the Tutus and officiated by Revd Charlotte Bannister-Parker, a priest from Oxford, on Sir Richard Branson’s wine farm in Franschhoek earlier this month.
Read it all
The Evangelical Alliance has cautioned against plans for new laws to tackle extremism, announced in today's Queen's Speech.
Head of public policy Simon McCrossan commented:
"It's extreme to try and tell religious groups what they can and can't teach under the guise of fundamental British values. It's extreme to threaten to send Ofsted inspectors into churches if they don't teach British values. This government's trying to fight extremism with extremism and the main casualty will be our fundamental freedoms.
"We are deeply concerned that the definitions of 'extremism', especially the extension of 'non-violent extremism', threaten to trample on the freedoms that have been hard won, long enjoyed, and underpin our democracy. To date, the definitions are so broad there could be many unforeseen consequences to fundamental freedoms in our plural multi-faith society."
The Evangelical Alliance has previously spoken out against government plans to regulate out of school settings, and the threat of Ofsted inspections over a wide variety of clubs and societies, including churches that provide youth and children's work in every corner of the UK.
Read it all and there is an article on the context from Lapidomedia here
(For the original piece to which this is responding please see here--KSH).
There are likely to be many Anglicans, not least in the Church of England, who will welcome the idea that there might be a viable ‘third way’ between supporting same-sex marriages and simply maintaining the Church’s traditional position. However, I would want to argue that there is in fact no viable ‘third way’ on this issue. This is for three reasons.
First, the position of those advocating for LGBT equality has moved on since the days when a blessing of same-sex partnerships might have been seen as acceptable.
Now that same-sex ‘marriage’ is legal in an increasing number of jurisdictions around the world, including England, Scotland and Wales, LGBT advocates will not be content with anything less than the Church coming into line with society and practicing ‘equal marriage’ as well. For example, those Gay and Lesbian Christians such as Canon Jeremy Pemberton who are already ‘married’ are not going to be content with anything less than the Church’s full recognition of their marital status.
Furthermore, even the recognition of same-sex ‘marriages’ is now a relatively conservative position. The new focus of LGBT activism is now the call to move beyond the ‘heteronormative gender binary’ (the idea that humanity is divided into men and women) and recognise a whole multiplicity of different gender identities (Facebook UK now gives you seventy one gender options to choose from) and a whole range of forms of personal relationship to suit these different identities....
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) Scottish Episcopal Church * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK --Scotland * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
Choirs may be the ultimate training ground for hopeful boy bands and ensembles. Choristers—who in British and American cathedral choirs usually range from eight to 13, with continental choirs retaining their singers until the age of 19—typically rehearse together daily, making their decision to team up in ensembles of their own making less risky. They form an immediate talent pool of skilled musicians who enjoy making music together, and know one another’s musical likes and personalities. “[British cathedral] choirs are an ideal place for future bandmates to grow up in,” says Simon Kirk, director of music at St John’s College School, which educates the boy choristers of St John's College Chapel in Cambridge. “You work as part of a professional team that tours and records. From the age of nine to ten, the boys work as professional musicians.”
When Barnaby Smith graduated from Westminster Abbey Choir School at 13, he already knew that he wanted to keep singing with some of his fellow choristers. Several years later, four of them formed the acapella ensemble Voces8, which has since won numerous competitions and is now the singers’ full-time occupation. “A small ensemble is like a family,” Mr Smith explains. “Having sung in a boys’ choir was vital. Choir school is a very professional environment where boys depend on one another. It’s not something you do on your own.”
Though top-level choirs are fertile band-making territory, establishing an ensemble can be awkward if it takes place while the boys are still choir members. “You decide who you get along with,” explains Louis Weise, a 17-year-old member of the St Thomas Choir in Leipzig. “If you’re going to do additional rehearsals together and also try to make money together, you really have to get along.”
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship * Culture-Watch Education Men Music Teens / Youth * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. England / UK
Responding to asylum seekers and developing younger people as leaders will be among the topics at a refreshed Fresh Expression conference this year.
The November conference will also look at whether those attracted to Fresh Expressions events are from non-church backgrounds, or whether they are returning after feeling rejected by traditional church settings.
Jointly run by Fresh Expressions and the Diocese of Leicester, there will be 16 talks and 25 pairs of consultants will be on hand to share their expertise.
Read it all (may require subscription).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology
What should the church commissioners, who are responsible for its £7 billion investment portfolio, do? They are charity trustees. They have a duty to make a return on the funds entrusted to them. And every penny they can raise means another pound from the collection plate can be used for something else. The answer is, of course, that they must exercise judgment.
The good news is that they are already allowed to. The church commissioners do not, as a result, invest in pornography, tobacco, gambling, non-military firearms, high interest rate lending or human embryonic cloning. But on tax abuse, surely the clearest measure of a company’s social responsibility, they’re not so clear.
Their advisers stated three years ago that “tax ethics should be a subject for investor engagement where it appears that a company’s approach is blatantly aggressive or abusive”. In other words, investment in such companies is permitted so long as the church makes clear that it expects high ethical standards on tax. In this respect, the commissioners have clearly failed.
Read it all (requires subscription).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Taxes Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The Bishop of Salisbury has called for environmental issues take a more prominent role in the debate over Britain's future in the EU.
Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam said Britain has taken stand on the environment in recent years which has made other countries "clean their acts up".
The Church of England speaker on climate change also called for the voices of younger voters to be heard ahead of the June 23 referendum.
“It is not the job of a Bishop to push people to vote in any particular way," he said. "The scope of the debate, however, is something where I do have a duty to speak out.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK Europe * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The Church Commissioners for England have announced their latest financial results with the publication of their annual report.
The Church Commissioners' total return on their investments in 2015 was 8.2 per cent, exceeding their long-term target rate by 2%. Over the past 30 years the fund has achieved an average return of 9.7% per annum. After taking account of expenditure, the fund has grown from £2.4bn at the start of 1995 to £7.0 billion at the end of 2015.
In 2015, the charitable expenditure of the Commissioners was £218.5 million, accounting for 15% of the Church's overall mission and ministry costs. Commissioners-funded projects ranged from clubs and drop-ins to youth work and food bank hubs, all supported by local churches.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Stewardship * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Credit Markets Stock Market * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The Church Census 2016 will not go ahead, Churches Together in England (CTE) has said, after the Church of England became the latest denomination to decline to participate, on the grounds of concerns over the administrative workload and time constraints.
The general secretary of CTE, the Revd Dr David Cornick, said on Wednesday: “Our understanding is that the census will not now be taking place in October, and we have informed our members of this.
“The steering group, and a number of national church leaders, have realised that too much remains to be done in too short a time for that to be feasible. Given those circumstances, the data produced would not have been accurate or useful enough to justify the exercise. The steering group will be meeting again to consider how to proceed in the light of this.”
Read it all.
It is not a surprise that York Minster clergy are offering Zen meditation. Last year Canon Michael Smith gave a ‘blessing’ on the Gay Pride march which assembled in front of the Minster before processing through the city, with the full backing of the Dean. This is a place which seems to have abandoned Christian doctrine in any meaningful sense of the word.
But this does not explain why the Diocese as a whole, under the leadership of the Archbishop of York, is simply not mentioning the big prayer and evangelism initiative which Dr Sentamu himself is promoting nationally. It’s one thing for his Diocese to talk about Jesus publicly while in the background there are some clergy secretly blessing gay relationships or holding Zen meditation. It’s another thing altogether for the Diocese to openly support worship of a different god in the precincts of its main worship centre, and hide an initiative which promotes prayer at Pentecost for the coming of God’s Kingdom and sharing faith in Christ.
This raises several questions. First, who is in charge in the Diocese of York? Second, how can the Archbishop expect to unite the Church of England in prayer and mission when there is such complete confusion in his own back yard about what we believe and whom we worship?
Read it all and there is more here and here
In the interview, the Archbishop said: “This week of prayer seems to have touched a chord that none of us really expected to the degree it’s happened. Port Stanley Cathedral in the Falkland Islands has joined in Thy Kingdom Come. There’s people in Israel and all across the UK. People find they’re motivated and excited about praying with others for those who they long to find the love of Jesus Christ.”
The week of prayer will culminate this weekend with special ‘Beacon’ worship events in numerous cathedrals around the country, led by bishops and contemporary worship leaders. The event at Canterbury Cathedral, led by Archbishop Justin Welby, Pete Hughes and Hannah Heather, with worship led by Seth Pennock and Tim Hughes, will be broadcast live on Facebook.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK
Leading voices in the world of education come together in a new book to show how their approach to education can transform young lives for the better.
Schools for Human Flourishing is a collaboration between Woodard Schools, the Schools, Students and Teachers Network and the Church of England Education Office. Set against a background where evidence shows the young are increasingly stressed by modern life this book will be of interest to teachers, students and their parents.
Authors from a range of school settings from inner city London to the privilege of public school, from church schools in England to a school born out of the fragmentation of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, show how they bring fresh approaches to learning and prioritising progress for each child.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Books Children Education Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK
We are looking for a wise and godly Vicar who is
--firmly grounded in the Bible, both in personal life and teaching;
--devoted to prayer and open to the leading of the Holy Spirit;
--an effective communicator able to interpret and apply scripture to the culture and society we inhabit
--an experienced, collaborative, friendly and approachable leader.
Read it all.
'For 200 years the Church of England has been a stable and consistent provider of education for children in communities across the country. Our aim has always been to focus on academic excellence in an environment which equips young people to live life in its fullness. Working in partnership with government and regional school commissioners, the Church of England Education Office will continue to aspire for the best educational experience for all. Where academisation is the best way forward, the Church of England will take an active role through its Dioceses, as set out in the Memorandum of Understanding.
Read it all and follow the links.
Jesus Christ calls every person to follow him. As Christians it’s our duty and joy to share that invitation. That’s why the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are inviting every church in England to join a week of prayer this Pentecost, from 8-15th May — let’s pray for every Christian to receive new confidence and joy in sharing this life-transforming faith.
Read more about it there.
Whilst there are places of growth, the overall pattern is one of slow but continuing decline in church attendance and discipleship. We want to grow more confident in sharing our faith and enabling others to meet and follow Christ. We also need to place a greater focus on releasing and nurturing the gifts of laity and clergy so that ministry is increasingly a shared venture.
Read it all.
The chatter is getting louder. More voices are joining in all the time as people of all ages and from all backgrounds begin to talk more openly about death, dying and funerals. And Christians have much to contribute: after all in Easter services every year, if not every Sunday, we remember and celebrate our great hope that death is not the end, and that God will bring comfort for the bereaved.
And now the big conversation is really emerging in our culture. The taboo around death and dying is being pushed and challenged . Almost every week there are articles, opinion pieces and comments about death and funerals, sometimes triggered by the death of well-known individuals, and sometimes triggered by personal events. Movements such as Death Café are growing quickly as people begin to face the issues, whether making good financial plans or talking more widely about bereavement and loss.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Eschatology
Although a consistory court has a discretion to take into account pastoral considerations relating to a bereaved family, the churchyard rules must not be disregarded when erecting memorials in a churchyard.
Unauthorised memorials that violate those rules are a trespass, and liable to be removed by the PCC or on the orders of the Chancellor of the diocese. The fact that there were older memorials that had been installed without authorisation in the churchyard was not a reason for allowing more recent unauthorised memorials to remain there, the Consistory Court of the diocese of Durham said.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Children History Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology
The Church Commissioners for England have taken home two prizes at this year's Portfolio Institutional Awards - the Best Charity / Fund / Trust Award for the first time since 2013, and the Best Implementation of Responsible Investment Award for the second year in a row.
The awards come as the Church Commissioners have also been given the highest AAA rating in this year's Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP) Global Climate 500, coming 10th in the index. The rating recognises the work done by the Commissioners to mitigate the investment risks of climate change through engagement and shareholder resolutions, as well as the Commissioners' support for low carbon investment.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Stock Market Energy, Natural Resources * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Religious education is not just like learning French. At the Passover meal a few days ago the youngest there asked: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Unless you are taking part in the meal in the prescribed way, it is not different. If you are, the question has a deep resonance, which is even picked up in Christian Easter rituals (in which a cantor sings the Exsultet (or Easter proclamation) before a lit candle in the dark, with a repeated phrase “This is the night...”).
I fear that the dreary headteachers think we are all the same. They think religion is much of a muchness and a private thing like violin practice. Just as one lot of teaching unions holds its conference over Easter weekend, God forgive them, so the headteachers held theirs this weekend over the Orthodox Easter Sunday. They prefer resolutions to absolution and unholy union business to Holy Communion.
The fundamental question is: whose children do they think they are teaching? It is as though they thought children belonged to the state and must be protected from the beliefs of their parents.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Children Education Marriage & Family Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Pentecost Spirituality/Prayer * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations
It’s so easy to take things for granted, but what we learned is that people certainly want to be thankful for the people and things that they hold especially dear. What a place of worship or a Christian community can do is provide space and time for people to be able to do that in the midst of their busy lives. Thankfulness and gratitude are at the heart of generosity, which is a response to knowing the love of God.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Sports Urban/City Life and Issues * International News & Commentary England / UK
The Archbishop is to celebrate Ascension Day at St John the Baptist & All Saints Easingwold on Thursday 5 May at 7.30pm – all welcome. He is visiting Strensall Barracks to meet with soldiers and their families at Hurst Hall on Saturday 7 May at 10.15am and following this, is to join in the fundraising paper-chain event with Kidz Club – linking St Mary’s Church to the Methodist Church. An ‘Ask the Archbishop’ question and answer is taking place at The Ship Inn, Strensall at 11.45am on Saturday– all welcome. Join the Archbishop at St Helen and the Holy Cross Church, Sheriff Hutton for a 10.30am Eucharist on Sunday 8th May– all welcome.
In a busy week which includes a community soup lunch at Oulston on Tuesday and meeting with USA/UK Youth interns on Wednesday, the Archbishop will also be leading Pilgrimage Prayers at 11 local churches and calling in at eight schools at Husthwaite, Crayke, Shipton, Brafferton, Alne, Easingwold, Sutton on the Forest and Huby. The Archbishop will also be meeting the community at Easingwold Market Place on Friday morning.
Read it all.
We have now had confirmed what many recognised to be true from the outset of this tragedy. Yet there remain unanswered questions and unresolved accountabilities. No judicial action can bring back the lives of those who were lost or undo the sorrow of those who continue to mourn them. And we cannot escape the reality that this verdict comes too late for some who did not live to see the consummation of their tireless quest.
At the heart of the Christian faith is a narrative of justice, and justice must be allowed to take its course. But our Christian message is also one of forgiveness, grace and mercy. It is only now that some of the wounds can begin to heal and that some of the hurts can begin to be released – truth and justice are crucial to that process, but grace and mercy must also play their part in the journey forward.
Now is the time for us to show our true dignity; we must not now become consumed by bitterness, recrimination and hate, as we allow justice to take its course. We continue to pray for the families of the 96 and everyone whose lives are affected and scarred by this tragedy.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Sports * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Eschatology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Watch and enjoy it all.
The Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, is to become the 44th Bishop of Oxford in the summer, Downing Street announced on Tuesday morning. The see has been vacant for 18 months, since the Rt Revd John Pritchard retired in October 2014.
Dr Croft has been Bishop of Sheffield since 2009. He said that he was excited about his new position in one of the Church of England’s largest dioceses. “We have had seven really happy, fulfilling years in Sheffield. I will miss the people I work with the most. But I am looking forward to that new challenge.”
The three area bishops will free him to focus on strategy and a personal ministry of mission and evangelism, he says. “Initially, I will listen and discern what is happening locally, but I would hope to be engaged with adults and young people in places where they are — schools and workplaces.”
Read it all.
One of Liverpool’s historic churches is set to be sold to the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox church.
St Paul’s in Old Swan has become too expensive to be retained by the Church of England - but locals are angry at the plans which would also see the graveyard moved.
The last service was held in St Paul’s Stoneycroft on Easter Sunday and services have now been joined with the neighbouring St Anne’s parish.
A note on the St Anne’s website from vicar Emma Williams said they now hope the Egyptian Coptic Church (ECC) will take over the St Paul’s site.
The church was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, who at the time St Paul’s was built had been appointed to design Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.
Read it all
"If you have a very rigid curriculum, there will be an increasing mismatch between what lecturers are doing in their research time and what they're having to teach," Zachhuber seeks to explain.
"The major driver for change for theology and religion is the dramatic change in the way religion is seen and practiced in the UK," Zachhuber continues. "The dominance of the Church of England has been receding but at the same time religion hasn't disappeared. We want to offer to potential students what is interesting for them and that has changed a lot in the last 30 years."
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The new Bishop of Oxford is to be the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Downing Street announced today. Bishop Steven succeeds the Rt Revd John Pritchard, who retired in October 2014 after seven years in post.
Bishop Steven, who is 58, is currently Bishop of Sheffield, a role he has held since 2009. He serves on the Archbishop’s Council and Chairs the Ministry Council of the Church of England. He has been a member of the House of Lords since 2013.
He has a passion for mission and evangelism and for finding creative ways of sharing the Gospel. He is the co-author of the Emmaus and Pilgrim courses, both of which are resources to help people engage with the Christian faith.
Read it all and the official announcement is here and there are more links and background from David Pocklington here
The Christian claim from the beginning was that the question of Jesus's resurrection was a question, not of the internal mental and spiritual states of his followers a few days after his crucifixion, but about something that had happened in the real, public world.
This "something" left, not just an empty tomb, but a broken loaf at Emmaus and footprints in the sand by the lake among its physical mementoes. It also left his followers with a lot of explaining to do, but with a transformed worldview which is only explicable on the assumption that something really did happen, even though it stretched their existing worldviews to breaking point.
What I want to do here is to examine this early Christian claim, to ask what can be said about it historically, and to enquire, more particularly, what sort of "believing" we are talking about when we ask whether we - whether "we" be scientists or historians or mathematicians or theologians - can "believe" that which "the resurrection" actually refers to.
Read it all from ABC Australia.
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What difference does it make that Christ is risen? I’m not asking what difference we would like it to make: I guess we want resurrection to be the answer to our questions, the happy ending to all our doubts and fears. I’ve spoken about ‘before’ and ‘after’, but I don’t mean that Easter is closure. Far from it: it pulls us into new journeys whose end we can never predict. So how does Easter change everything?
What it doesn’t do is to wind back the clock, as if this wilting daffodil could somehow regain its freshness and vitality. It’s the opposite. Easter winds the clock forward to the time where there will be a new heaven and a new earth, where everything we know is transformed. The Easter garden where Jesus comes to Mary and calls her by name – this is the paradise that an ageing, hurting world has looked forward to since time began. She thinks he is the gardener, and of course he is, exactly that, the divine Gardener who by rising on the first day of the week has begun to re-make creation and bring beauty out of ashes. And this new Eden is our destiny as human beings caught up in the renewal of creation that is Easter. Our first reading said: ‘when Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory’. It is coming, yet it has already begun: with Mary in the garden, with the disciples Jesus greets, with those who have not seen yet believed, with all who worship and love and follow him on this Easter Day.
For Easter takes our fear away, and gives us back our lives.
Read it all.
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Bishops and other prominent Christian figures have called on the new Work and Pensions Secretary, Stephen Crabb, to reverse cuts to welfare for the disabled.
Mr Crabb, a former Welsh Secretary, and a Christian, was promoted to the post after the departure of Iain Duncan Smith, who resigned saying that further planned cuts to disability benefit were a step too far. Mr Crabb reversed those cuts, which had been announced in the Budget by the Chancellor, George Osborne....
An open letter, signed by four bishops — including the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan; and the leader of the Iona Community, the Revd Peter MacDonald; and the directors of the think tank Ekklesia and the Centre for Welfare Reform — welcomes the reversal of cuts to Personal Independence Payments. Mr Crabb is urged, however, to go “even further”, and to reverse earlier changes to the payments, which are said to have left thousands of people housebound.
Read it all.
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In this tomb, also, you may see, A pledge to us...Yes, verily, it is a pledge,
Of Christ's power to raise us to a spiritual life — The resurrection of Christ is set forth in the Scriptures as a pattern of that which is to be accomplished in all his followers; and by the very same power too, that effected that. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul draws the parallel with a minuteness and accuracy that are truly astonishing. He prays for them, that they may know what is the exceeding greatness of God's power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places." And then he says, concerning them, "God, who is rich in mercy, of his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us usi together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus^" Here, I say, you see Christ dead, quickened, raised, and seated in glory; and his believing people quickened from their death in sins, and raised with him, and seated too with him in the highest heavens. The same thing is stated also, and the same parallel is drawn in the Epistle to the Romans ; where it is said, "We are buried with Christ by baptism into death; that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." But can this be effected in us ? I answer, Behold the tomb ! Who raised the Lord Jesus? He himself said, " I have power to lay down my life, and power to take it up again...."
--"Horae homileticae, Sermon 1414
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In parallel, I got to know Kit’s parishioners who worship at St James’, as well as the group of people who support Kit - all full of faith, kindness, generosity of spirit, care and consideration for each other (and a knowledge of the Bible that puts me to shame!). I saw and experienced, first hand, the positive differences that the church can make in a local community, and the value of community that the church can offer to those that seek it.
And I found myself being steadily drawn back to God and my faith. There wasn’t any ‘sudden moment’, just a growing recognition that I wanted this to be part of my life again. I now attend Kit’s church every Sunday when I remind myself to be considerate, loving and helpful to others; to be kind; to be generous…and I find this weekly reminder a very helpful ‘pause’ in my busy life. And I have also experienced, first hand, the value and power of prayer.
I have enjoyed immersing myself in supporting Kit’s church, seeking to bring my business experience to bear to the PCC and our Finance and Buildings committees. We are currently wrestling with the usual realities of a roof that needs a major overhaul, and a need for funding!
Read it all and do not miss the photo and the further link for more.
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When all is done, the hell of hells, the torment of torments, is the everlasting absence of God, and the everlasting impossibility of returning to his presence...to fall out of the hands of the living God, is a horror beyond our expression, beyond our imagination.... What Tophet is not Paradise, what Brimstone is not Amber, what gnashing is not a comfort, what gnawing of the worme is not a tickling, what torment is not a marriage bed to this damnation, to be secluded eternally, eternally, eternally from the sight of God?--From a sermon to the Earl of Carlisle in 1622
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I can bring it so neare; but onely the worthy hearer, and the worthy receiver, can call this Lord this Jesus, this Christ, Immanuel God with us; onely that virgin soule, devirginated in the blood of Adam but restored in the blood of the Lambe hath this Ecce, this testimony, this assurance, that God is with him; they that have this Ecce, this testimony, in a rectified conscience, are Godfathers to this child Jesus and may call him Immanuel God with us for as no man can deceive God, so God can deceive no man; God cannot live in the darke himself neither can he leave those who are his in the darke: If he be with thee he will make thee see that he is with thee and never goe out of thy sight, till he have brought thee, where thou canst never goe out of his.
--John Donne (1572-1631), Preached at St. Pauls, upon Christmas Day, in the Evening, 1624
Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town to'another due,
Labor to'admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly'I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me,'untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you'enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
--Holy Sonnet XIV
And this is where the oddity of today’s celebration touches our lives in challenging ways. If I may speak personally, I find it increasingly difficult to resist the onslaught of information that is directed at me or required from me. My life feels as though it is regulated to the point of near extinction, by Government, by economic responsibility, by social and cultural suspicion, by commercial bureaucracy. And this is before I start on the day job! My space as a human being sometimes feels so thoroughly invaded and occupied that I just want to switch off, cut the wifi, abandon the mobile, stop the emails, and regain some quality of human and spiritual equilibrium.
It is no wonder that so high a percentage of young people in Britain today register anxiety as a dominant emotion. The tank of our potential for human flourishing is cluttered up with too much stuff. It’s as though we’ve filled the empty tomb so full with an unhappy blend of debt, regulation, kitsch memorabilia, and a craving for novelty, that there is no longer any expectation of room for glory, space for mystery, allowance for the confounding of limited expectation.
This is a situation that was recently described by Jonathan Sacks, in his masterly book, Not in God’s name, where he observes that we have attained “unprecedented achievements in knowledge, freedom, life expectancy and affluence….[and] the result is that the twenty-first century has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning”.
Which is why the symbol of the empty tomb is so powerful and haunting. Here is the sign of our mortality and death. One day the frame of this body will come to resemble that tomb, when the breath stops and the agency of control and demand is lifted from us. Then, as now when we celebrate the dawn of Easter glory and the glory of life, the very breath of God will be able to fill the space within us, to satisfy our deepest longing, to give freedom to our best and greatest loves, to perfect our every thought and deed that has already expanded the meaning of goodness, truth and justice.
As Easter celebrations begin, those of you who gave up alcohol, sweets, cakes and biscuits, can look forward to your Easter gin and tonic, the glass of remarkable claret, and unbridled pleasure as you accept the offer of a chocolate after lunch. This is your enactment of the reception of divine love in the glory of resurrection; you have made an empty space in your appetites and desires, in order to rehearse what it will be like to receive, all over again, a perfect and eternal gift in the new creation that evokes something you have already known so well. The full to overflowing font is the symbol of that perfect gift and what resurrection means. It is the recovery of our total capacity to expand into the divine life of God, as in baptism we are united with Jesus Christ: “In him the whole fullness of divinity dwells in bodily form, and you have come to fullness in him” – is how St Paul describes it (Col. 2.9) So, happy Easter. Savour the gin, raise a toast to the CofE with the claret, enjoy the chocolate, and expand into the freedom of a bank holiday. But more than these transient celebrations, attend to the eternal fulfilment they betoken. Don’t run away from the empty tomb; it is your destiny. Let its haunting beauty inspire you. Make space for the glory of God to begin its transformative effect in your life now.
Read it all (emphasis mine).
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Cigarette breaks between hymns, candlelit services in pubs and parties serving halal food to welcome Muslim neighbours are among unlikely new ideas helping revive the fortunes of once run-down inner city churches, highlighted in a new report.
The breach with traditional ecclesiastical style is singled out in the study into an at-times controversial plan by the Church of England to “plant” new congregations into historic parishes where numbers in the pews have dwindled for decades.
The policy, backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other senior clerics, involves asking a group of often young, enthusiastic members of successful, growing congregations to move to another church as “planters” to inject new energy and ideas.
Read it all.
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‘For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’ Paul’s classic challenge to the wisdom of the world echoes down the centuries and confronts us once more as we come face to face once more with the great events which not only stand at the heart of our faith but are etched into our geography and architecture, as this great building makes clear. One of the paradoxical signs of the continuing and urgent relevance of the message and meaning of the cross is that it is once more under attack from several directions; and we who today declare that we will be true to our ordination vows, and who will this evening and tomorrow commemorate those high and holy, disturbing and decisive events in the story of Jesus himself, must take a deep breath, summon up our courage, and learn again what it means to discover the wisdom of God in what the world counts foolishness, the power of God in what the world counts weakness.Read it all.
The first challenge comes from within, in the temptation to water down the message of the cross so that it becomes less offensive, more palatable to the ordinary sensible mind. We must of course acknowledge that many, alas, have offered caricatures of the biblical theology of the cross. It is all too possible to take elements from the biblical witness and present them within a controlling narrative gleaned from somewhere else, like a child doing a follow-the-dots puzzle without paying attention to the numbers and producing a dog instead of a rabbit. This is what happens when people present over-simple stories, as the mediaeval church often did, followed by many since, with an angry God and a loving Jesus, with a God who demands blood and doesn’t much mind whose it is as long as it’s innocent. You’d have thought people would notice that this flies in the face of John’s and Paul’s deep-rooted theology of the love of the triune God: not ‘God was so angry with the world that he gave us his son’ but ‘God so loved the world that he gave us his son’. That’s why, when I sing that interesting recent song and we come to the line, ‘And on the cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied’, I believe it’s more deeply true to sing ‘the love of God was satisfied’, and I commend that alteration to those of you who sing that song, which is in other respects one of the very few really solid recent additions to our repertoire.
But once we’ve got rid of the caricature, we are ready to face the reality, the reality of the foolishness and weakness, but in fact the wisdom and the power, of the cross of Jesus Christ.
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Let man’s soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
Th’ intelligence that moves, devotion is ;
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey ;
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirl’d by it.
Hence is’t, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul’s form bends to the East.
There I should see a Sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget.
But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for me.
Who sees Gods face, that is self-life, must die ;
What a death were it then to see God die ?
It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,
It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.
Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes ?
Could I behold that endless height, which is
Zenith to us and our antipodes,
Humbled below us ? or that blood, which is
The seat of all our soul’s, if not of His,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God for His apparel, ragg’d and torn ?
If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
Who was God’s partner here, and furnish’d thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom’d us ?
Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
They’re present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them ; and Thou look’st towards me,
O Saviour, as Thou hang’st upon the tree.
I turn my back to thee but to receive
Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rust, and my deformity ;
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou mayst know me, and I’ll turn my face.
–John Donne (1572-1631)
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Fifty years ago, on March 22nd 1966, a new centre was set up in the heart of Rome dedicated to the building up of Anglican-Catholic dialogue. The Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey presided at the dedication ceremony in the ancient Doria Pamphilj palace, the day before his first historic encounter with Pope Paul VI that took place in the Sistine Chapel.
Exactly half a century on, Christians of many different denominations gathered in the Anglican Centre chapel on Tuesday to give thanks for those events and to commit themselves anew to the task of reconciling their divided Churches.
Read and listen to it all.
The Church of England has today released its film marking Easter 2016 featuring a passion play which features individuals who have struggled with drug addiction, crime and homelessness on their journey to faith.
The film is based on Psalm 22 and contains the lines "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?" words spoken by Jesus on the Cross.
The striking imagery in the film includes a re-enactment of a passion play with Christ's Crown of Thorns being replaced with a crown of syringes to reflect the struggles of addiction faced by those who have recently come to faith in a Halifax Church called "The Saturday Gathering".
Read it all and follow the links.
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At the Bloxham Festival for Faith and Literature, 19-21 February 2016, the short list of six books for the Michael Ramsey Prize 2016 was announced.
I was asked to present:
- Francis Spufford, Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense (London: Faber and Faber, 2012) and
- Frances Young, God’s Presence: A Contemporary Recapitulation of Early Christianity (Cambridge: CUP, 2013)
Alison Barr, Senior Commissioning Editor at SPCK, gave an overview of the prize and the books.
The following is a development of my comments at the Bloxham Festival on the two books by Frances and Francis.
1. Unapologetic by Francis Spufford
This could win a prize for the longest sub title. The publishers, Faber and Faber, have even managed to squeeze it onto the spine of the book.
Spufford explains that he wrote the book ‘to try to extricate for people, from the misleading ruins of half memory, what Christianity feels like from the inside.’ (p.22)
(a) What kind of a book is this?
Well, unapologetically, it is a popular defense of the Christian faith from emotional sense and a presentation of the good news of Jesus Christ in the face of New Atheism..
Read it all
A bishop has to be a teacher of the faith. That is, he or she has to be someone who is animated by theology and eager to share it — animated by theology in the sense of longing to inhabit the language and world of faith with greater and greater intelligence, insight, and joy. So, yes, bishops need that animation and desire to help others make sense of their commitment....
This means that I would plead with the Church to take seriously the need for investing in theological education at all levels — to recognise that there is a huge appetite for theology among so many laypeople, and thus a need for clergy who can respond and engage intelligently. The middle-term future may need to be one where there are more independent centres of theological study outside universities, given the erosion of resources in higher education, and I think it’s time more people started thinking about what that might entail in terms of funding.
Read it all.
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By Thomas Pascoe
It is worth quoting the Reverend Kate Bottley at some length on what the programme seeks to do. The Telegraph reports her as saying: “I don’t think any of the other disciples were whiter than white – we just probably didn’t hear about it – because they were all human and we are all a bit messed up. Up until that moment of betrayal, Judas seems no better or worse than any of the other disciples. But he has been defined by the worst thing he did. What Judas did is not OK but I think he holds up a very important mirror to our own human condition.
“Jesus forgave people as they were putting the nails in to his hands and there is no reason why he would not have forgiven Judas but he just didn’t hear that.”
There are a number of things which strike me as worrying about this summary. They are worthy of debate because of the deep theological ignorance of modern Britain, the fact that its national broadcaster has chosen to use one of its few headline religious programmes in Holy Week to propagate this message, and because the Anglican communion, which abounds with clerics making statements such as the one above, is still the main conduit in this country through which the layman with no particular religious instruction encounters Christ.
Read it all
Tucked away in England’s magnificent landscape lies the small village of Peterchurch. At the annual crafts fair the Anglican church bustles with activity. But this kind of church could become an endangered species, in part because of changing demographics as people migrate to the city.
A Church of England report shows that more than half of its churches are in rural areas, although only 17 percent of the population lives there. This means smaller congregations, fewer resources, and a bleak future, given the average age of attendees hovers around 55.
“A lot of it is about the demographics,” said Anni Holden, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Hereford. “But also, you know, we have to be realistic, secularization amongst the indigenous population. There’s no two ways about that.”
Read it all.
Eleanor is an actress and a theatre maker living in North London, trained in both musical theatre and pure acting. She has spent 2 years with a theatre company doing everything from acting training to devising and directing pieces. She has been a part of Euston church since it was planted from St Helen’s Bishopsgate 5 years ago, and one day she would like to create her own theatre company.
What does being an ambassador for Christ mean to you?
In the house I used to live in with my aunt and uncle I remember seeing a postcard from their church, and it said: If Jesus were born in your place, in your time, with your job and your circumstances, how would he live? That’s always stuck with me as a challenge to be as Christ-like as I can in every situation I’m in. I need to use my personality and my specific skills to attract people to him.
Read it all.
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The Church of England’s safeguarding procedures in cases of reported sexual abuse have been condemned as “fundamentally flawed” by an independent review, which was commissioned by the Church.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has promised to implement the changes that the review calls for, and to do so quickly.
The review, which was carried out by Ian Elliott, a safeguarding consultant with the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service, considered the Church’s response to allegations of sexual abuse by the Revd Garth Moore, a former Chancellor of the dioceses of Southwark, Durham, and Gloucester, who died in 1990... It concerned an attempted rape by Chancellor Moore of “Joe” (not his real name), which took place while Joe, then aged 16, was staying as a house guest at Chancellor Moore’s rooms in Gray’s Inn.
Joe was then drawn into what he has described as an exploitative and emotionally abusive relationship by Brother Michael Fisher SSF, who later became Bishop of St Germans.
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Members and visitors at All Saints, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife celebrated 125 years of worship in the lovely Church on the north of the island on Sunday 13 March.
The parish has a fascinating history. When the Church was opened for worship in 1891 it was under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Sierra Leone, who also looked after the Gold Coast, the Yoruba District of modern Nigeria and other territories in West Africa! Today it is very much part of the Diocese in Europe, but aware of its history in the Canary Islands, once a crossroad of the world in the 19th century.
Read it all and do not miss the fantastic pictures.
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Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, might have helped prevent a sex abuser bishop being brought to justice for more than 20 years, a public inquiry has been told.
He allegedly failed to pass on "very detailed" allegations made in the early 1990s against the former Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball - who was jailed last year for abusing a string of boys and young men - it was claimed.
It was one of the reasons a "proper" police investigation into Ball's abuse was delayed for more than two decades, the inquiry into historic sexual abuse in England and Wales being overseen by Justice Lowell Goddard was told.
Read it all from the Telegraph.
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"We welcome the plans outlined in today's preliminary hearing by Justice Goddard, for the Anglican Church, as it examines the extent to which institutions and organisations in England and Wales have taken seriously their responsibility to protect children.
As a church we will be offering full cooperation and are committed to working in an open and transparent way, with a survivor-informed response. We are already reviewing our 2008 Past Cases Review, referred to in today's hearing.
Read it all.
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The question then is what exactly Jeremy Pemberton is seeking and how it can be justified. If the argument is that the church’s doctrine is in error or that the bishops are in error in their statements and applications of that doctrine then there are means within the church to rectify those errors. To seek for the state to correct the church’s alleged errors – by judging that the bishops are mis-stating its own doctrine or that the substance of that doctrine must be abandoned - is a step which needs to be defended. Yet I have seen no serious defence of this approach. The decision of Canon Pemberton and his supporters to continue to press their case through the courts means they must address this issue of their chosen means to secure their desired end and clarify what they are wanting the court to decide in terms of directing the church in relation to its doctrine and requirements of ministers....
Finally, looking ahead as we draw near the end of the Shared Conversations, this case highlights the difficulty of implementing what some call for under the title of “good disagreement”. If the case is lost then it has been established that the church has a doctrine of marriage which bishops are right to uphold by refusing to issue a licence to someone in a same-sex marriage. The judgment is clear that canonical obedience is “a core part of the qualifying of a priest for ministry within the Church” (para 120) and that Canon Pemberton is obliged to undertake to pay true and Canonical Obedience to the Lord Bishop but that (given its conclusion as to church doctrine), “Self-evidently he is not going to be able to fulfil that obligation or has not done so….and therefore objectively he cannot be issued with his licence” (para 121). Any bishop who therefore issued a licence to someone in a same-sex marriage would therefore be open to legal challenge. Any attempt to allow clergy to enter same-sex marriages would, it appears, need first to redefine the church’s doctrine of marriage. If, however, Jeremy wins his case then, as noted above, no bishop could refuse a licence on the grounds of the priest being in a same-sex marriage.
In other words, if the church keeps it current doctrine of marriage then it will be very difficult to justify licensing clergy in same-sex marriages but if it changes it or somehow declares it has no fixed doctrine of marriage then it will be very difficult to justify refusing a licence to clergy in same-sex marriages given equality legislation. So, even if it were considered desirable, it is therefore hard to see how, given the law, the church could “agree to differ” on this subject in a way that both enabled same-sex married clergy to be licensed and also protected those unable in good conscience to license clergy in same-sex marriages.
Read it all.
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...[Church of England] clergyman Jeremy Pemberton has won the right to appeal against a ruling by an employment tribunal that he was not discriminated against.
Canon Pemberton took his case to the tribunal after he was refused a licence to work as a hospital chaplain because he had married his partner Laurence Cunnington.
Read it all from Christian Today.
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The Church of England is to make far-reaching changes to the way it deals with cases of sex abuse, following a highly critical independent report that details how senior church figures failed to act upon repeated disclosures of a sadistic assault by a cleric.
The first independent review commissioned by the church into its handling of a sex abuse case highlights the “deeply disturbing” failure of those in senior positions to record or take action on the survivor’s disclosures over a period of almost four decades.
The Guardian understands that among those told of the abuse were three bishops and a senior clergyman later ordained as a bishop. None of them are named in the report by Ian Elliott, a safeguarding expert, but the survivor identified them as Tim Thornton, now bishop of Truro; Richard Holloway, former bishop of Edinburgh in the Scottish Episcopal church, now retired; John Eastaugh, former bishop of Hereford, now dead; and Stephen Platten, former bishop of Wakefield and now honorary assistant bishop of London.
The church acknowledged the report was “embarrassing and uncomfortable” reading.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will spend Holy Week visiting community projects, groups, schools and Christians in Canterbury diocese.
The Archbishop will be assisting the Sittingbourne deanery in its outreach, mission and evangelism from 20–26 March, encouraging Christians in sharing faith through worship, service and evangelism.
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A year of shared conversations on sexuality, held across the Church of England, and involving more than 700 people, concluded this week. The next conversations will take place at the York meeting of the General Synod in July. Madeleine Davies spoke to the last set of participants about their experience and expectations.
Andrew Cox, lay person (diocese of St Albans)
Coming from a conservative position it was helpful to be able to “look into the eyes”’ of those who held an opposing view and be able to see more of the person, experiences, and, often, pain that lay behind their view. I was also grateful to have the chance to present my views face to face, which helped those I disagreed with to recognise that the words I spoke, whilst hard to hear, were spoken from the heart and out of love.
My one regret, which I did express, was that none of the carefully designed programme was dedicated to opening the Bible together. As we are a church who believes in the authority of the scriptures I had hoped that listening to God’s Word would be a fundamental part of seeking to come to one mind on this issue. It really seems to me that this is key, as it is the truth of the scriptures that unites us. If we don’t wrestle to understand the truth together, what is it that will hold us together?
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Rowan Wlliams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has urged the government to intervene to halt the rise of “poisonous” anti-semitism on British campuses.
In a letter to a student victim of anti-semitic comments, Lord Williams, now master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, disclosed that he had written to Jo Johnson, the universities minister, because of the “muted” official response so far to rising anti-semitic behaviour.
It follows complaints by Jewish students that they feel isolated or silenced after incidents at a growing number of universities that include Oxford, Cambridge, the London School of Economics and York.
In a letter to Zachary Confino, a Jewish law student at York University who received anonymous anti-semitic comments on social media — including the remark “Hitler was onto something” — Williams said he had been “very shocked” by what he had seen. “It is truly appalling stuff but sadly seems not to be that unusual at the moment,” he writes.
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Justin Welby captured the attention of the nation in 2013 when he declared war on Wonga and pledged the support of the church in the fight for financial inclusion. And yet, alongside the positive headlines, a common question emerged in response: what does the church really have to offer to people struggling on low incomes and preyed on by exploitative lenders, except perhaps a some spiritual support and comfort?
The answer has come in the form of the Church Credit Champions Network, a project funded by Lloyds Banking Group that has been piloting in London and Liverpool since the spring of 2014. It helps equip local churches to engage with money and debt issues, and has formed a key part of the task group set up by the archbishop of Canterbury and chaired by former City regulator Sir Hector Sants.
The church has both an unmatched “branch network”, with a presence in every community in the country, and a range of different resources, such as people, money, skills and buildings, which are all potentially of value to credit unions and others seeking to increase access to savings and affordable credit in their communities. The network helps churches to listen and reflect on what is happening within their local community in terms of money and debt, and then trains up clergy and church members as ”credit champions”, ready to take practical action.
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The House of Commons has defeated the Government’s attempt to relax Sunday trading restrictions. On Wednesday evening, MPs voted 317 to 286 to maintain the current rules.
Twenty-seven Conservative MPs defied the Government to vote against a proposal to give local authorities the power to extend Sunday trading hours.
They were joined by Labour and the Scottish National Party (SNP), who announced their opposition to the changes on Tuesday, after press reports had earlier suggested they would abstain or vote in favour. Although there are no Sunday trading restrictions in Scotland, and the Government’s plans affect only England and Wales, the SNP argued that allowing seven-day shopping across the UK would lower the premium pay-rates that Scottish workers currently receive for working on Sundays.
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Citing the Anglican Consultative Council's Five Marks of Mission the Bishop stated "the church exists by evangelism as a fire exists by burning. Evangelism is not a department. Evangelism is not an option." He added "I do not seek the growth of the church for reasons of power and fear. I seek from a place of humility and simplicity and compassion for the poor to call forth love and to share the news of the beautiful shepherd who has saved us and who casts out all our fear."
The Bishop added: "In the snarling, angry, frightened culture of the West, which closes the door on the poor and which seeks to hold on to and make a fortress of wealth and privilege, we say that we want to share. We will share our goods, as far as we can. We will share our lives, as far as we can. And as far as we can we will share our news – the good news of the beautiful one who loves us."
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Grace Church Muswell Hill is part of a group of churches journeying together as they seek to equip and commission 100,000 ambassadors representing Jesus Christ in daily life. Philip Sudell, the Vicar of St Mary’s, writes:
“Well it all sounded so clear and coherent in church on Sunday – I knew exactly why trusting in and seeking to follow Jesus was the best thing for me to be doing – but when it came to telling my work colleague on Monday morning somehow the words deserted me, I couldn’t put two sentences together and to cap it all my knees were almost audibly knocking at the thought of how they might react!”
If that rings any bells with you then you are amongst friends at least here at Grace Church in Muswell Hill. When the London Diocese shared its Capital Vision 2020 of being Confident, Compassionate and Creative, the aspect of being “..more confident in speaking and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” was something that really resonated with us and tied into some thinking we had already been doing about how to better equip ourselves to share our faith with friends and family and colleagues.
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Archbishop Sentamu said: “When Jesus was telling his disciples to let the children come to him, he told them that whoever welcomes a child in his name welcomes him. It is both a great responsibility and a great privilege to be involved in the lives of young people. We owe them our very best because in them we encounter the face of Jesus Christ.
“I know this for myself, as my wife Margaret and I fostered two children who have now grown up and we continue to be immensely proud of them.”
The council is currently looking to recruit new foster carers, (who don’t necessarily have to live in the East Riding), particularly for children aged from five to 15.
Councillor Julie Abraham, the council’s portfolio holder for children, young people and education, said: “Our foster carers and their families are exceptional people and we were delighted to be able to talk about their work to the Archbishop, who has a personal understanding of the importance of their role...."
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A Clergyman who was the new man in his parish when Harold Macmillan was the new man in No. 10 is looking forward to celebrating 60 years in post.
The Revd James Cocke, who, at 89, is still Vicar of All Saints’, Highfield, in Oxford, celebrated the 59th anniversary of his collation last week. He has ministered to the parish since 23 February 1957, which is thought to make him the longest-serving incumbent in the Church of England.
On Monday, he said that plans were already being prepared to mark the diamond jubilee of his ministry at All Saints’, next February.
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These are lovely--look through them all.
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The Right Reverend Dr Michael Ipgrave has been named as the new Bishop of Lichfield.
He assumes responsibility for one of the Church of England’s largest dioceses, leading an episcopal team with the Bishops of Wolverhampton, Stafford and Shrewsbury.
Bishop Michael (57), the current Bishop of Woolwich in the Diocese of Southwark, will be the ninety-ninth Bishop of Lichfield, in a line going back to St Chad in the seventh century. He succeeds the Right Reverend Jonathan Gledhill, who retired last year.
Today, Bishop Michael is visiting Wolverhampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Little Drayton and Lichfield on a tour meeting churches and communities across the Diocese.
In this personal welcome message to the Diocese, Bishop Michael says:
“I’ve had twelve wonderful years in London but I am so looking forward to coming back to the Midlands. Lichfield is the mother church of the Midlands, and the city of St Chad, a man of great humility and profound Christian faith.”
Read it all and the official announcement is here
Supporting efforts to resettle vulnerable Syrian refugees is part of the Church of England's mission alongside its work with food banks, street pastors and debt advice services, one its leading bishops says today.
Writing in a blog, Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, says church groups can provide the 'welcoming flesh on the bones' to efforts by local authorities and other agencies to resettle vulnerable Syrian refugees.
"We are talking about a careful, realistic, grown-up setting about the task of welcoming Syrian refugees, just people in extreme need with all the complexities and riches of any human being. This is not the church saying 'look at us being charitable', but the people of God letting their deeds speak for Him," he writes.
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The Church of England has been urged to fast-track Asian and black church leaders in the same way it has done for women bishops.
The call came at a meeting during General Synod last week at nearby Westminster Central Hall. The day before, Archbishop Welby had said to Synod that British colonial history makes the laying down of edicts by white, middle-class Christians from the Global North a process that is rightly deeply resented.
One former member of Synod, Vasantha Gnanadoss, pointed out that there had been no senior appointment from Black and Asian clergy to episcopal office since 2002.
“In their promotion of the Bill to get women bishops into the House of Lords immediately, the bishops were giving a very high priority to redressing unequal treatment of women clergy. Unequal treatment of black and Asian clergy has been allowed to continue.Read it all.
O almighty Father, giver of every good and perfect gift, who hast made the light of thy truth to shine in our hearts: Make us to walk as children of light in all goodness and righteousness, that we may have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
--Bishop William Walsham How (1823-1897)
The debate on Britain’s membership of the European Union reflects a loss of confidence, and is testing the goodwill of other members who are growing frustrated with it, the Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, said this week.
Speaking on Tuesday, after the Prime Minister’s announcement last Friday that the referendum on EU membership would take place on 23 June, Dr Innes said that he would be “very sad” if the vote favoured Brexit.
“We British inherit a huge stock of goodwill towards us but I am aware that that goodwill is being used up,” Dr Innes said on Wednesday. “At a time when Europe has some huge issues to deal with, people have been a little frustrated that Britain has actually used a huge amount of the time of its leadership in dealing with what seem to some rather small issues that only pertain to one country.”
He was “saddened”, he said, “that the debate seems to reflect a loss of confidence in Britain in dealing with our European compatriots and neighbours. We are a big player. . . I’d like to see us be a leader.”
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The priest allegedly sent a report containing evidence of abuse he had discovered to Lord Carey and said that Bishop Ball had agreed to live quietly in a French convent.
Lord Carey has denied any knowledge of a Church- or Establishment-led attempt to cover up the crimes or intervene in the police’s investigation. Ultimately, Bishop Ball was given a caution for one charge of gross indecency and lived for years in a cottage rented from the Duchy of Cornwall, before a second investigation in 2012 revealed the full extent of his crimes.
Dame Moira, who was previously director of social services for the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and then chief executive of Camden Council until 2011, is expected to complete her review in approximately 12 months.
While her review does not have statutory powers to require anyone to give evidence, Dame Moira said that she expected everyone within the Church to co-operate fully. “Our remit is to independently set out for survivors and the public what actually happened,” she said on Wednesday.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, consecrated the new Bishops of Sherborne and Dunwich today during a ceremony at Westminster Abbey.
The Ven Karen Gorham was consecrated as the Bishop of Sherborne and the Revd Canon Dr Mike Harrison was consecrated as the Bishop of Dunwich.
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David, 21, doesn’t do parties. The graduate from Reading University lip-reads because he lost his hearing when he had meningitis at the age of two. As it’s almost impossible to lip-read in a group, it makes parties a challenge. “If I’m in a group I tend to stay at the back because I can’t hear what’s going on at the centre. That makes me feel as though I’m on the outside looking in,” he says. “I told myself I didn’t mind not going to parties, but then I’d find I wasn’t invited and I’d think: ‘Why wasn’t I invited?’ It would be nice to feel that someone was inviting me.”
On his first day at Reading, David discovered the chaplaincy, a homely place where you could go to be quiet or chat or just chill. “The kind of people you find at the chaplaincy are people who also feel on the outside of groups,” says David. “People go there to find a connection with somebody and that’s what I would find there. It’s where I met Mark [the Anglican Chaplain] who became my confidant and counsellor.”
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced the appointment of Dame Moira Gibb to be chair of the independent review into the way the Church of England responded to the case of Peter Ball, the former Bishop of Gloucester, who was jailed last year for sex offences.
Dame Moira has worked at a senior level in the statutory sector - she was Chief Executive of Camden Council until 2011 - and holds a range of non-executive roles. Most recently she was the chair of the Serious Case Review (published January 2016) into safeguarding at Southbank International School in the wake of the crimes committed by William Vahey.
She will be assisted in the review by Kevin Harrington JP, safeguarding consultant and lead reviewer on a range of Serious Case Reviews; James Reilly, former Chief Executive of Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust (until Feb 2016); Heather Schroeder MBE, currently vice chair of Action for Children and formerly held senior positions in social services and children's services in a number of local authorities.
The review will be published once Dame Moira and her team have completed their work which is expected to be within a year. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) chaired by Justice Goddard will also be looking at the Peter Ball case but have made it clear that institutions should continue with their previous commitments on safeguarding and the Church is in ongoing touch with IICSA on this.
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Durham in the north of England is the diocese where Christians are least likely to go to a service of the Church of England, according to latest figures.
Church attendance data analysed by the Manchester Evening News shows just one in 81 Christians attended an Anglican church in Durham in 2014, a fall of nearly 10 per cent since 2009.
The figures indicate the continuing decline in church attendance over centuries but that has been particularly marked in the last few decades.
Read it all from Christian Today.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury’s opening address in which he told us what really happened at the Primates’ Gathering, behind all the spin. Remember that report that the Primates had had their phones taken away? Not true! In fact they delighted in waving them at the Archbishop to prove it. On the positive side, there were clearly moments when prayer and the presence of the Spirit changed everything, and made communion real. Alleluia!
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A former homeless addict has revealed how he would be dead if it was not for his faith in an interview to accompany the second teaser film released by the Church of England today for the justpray.uk website.
In a blog and podcast released to accompany the film, the 46-year-old admits he had to harden his heart to survive living rough and addiction before feeling resurrected through his faith and the love he found at the Saturday Gathering Place in Halifax, West Yorkshire. "If a human being can get resurrected after dying, He's done it to me. I haven't died but I feel like I've been resurrected away from a life of crime and trouble to peace, love, understanding, calmness."
Rob's story "I am poured out like water" is the second in a series of films based on Psalm 22 for Lent and Easter launched by the Church of England featuring men and women who all came to faith through a Homeless and Food Drop In Centre in Halifax and most have experienced crime, alcohol, drug addiction, homelessness or violence in their lives.
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It's a rare insight into her religious beliefs – and a touching tribute to the beloved father she lost.
In a new book, the Queen writes of her enduring Christian faith and shares a treasured memory of the moment George VI prayed for the nation during the Second World War.
It comes in a forthcoming book from The Bible Society, published to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday later this year.
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Mr Sentamu said that the Church had no intention of moving away from traditional teaching on marriage and sexuality, however he confirmed it was trying to find a way to bridge the divide between conservatives and liberals.
Writing a letter to the Daily Telegraph, Most Revd Sentamu said: "The Archbishop of Canterbury and I have not 'signalled' that the Church of England is 'poised to rethink its centuries-old doctrine of marriage to accommodate same-sex couples', as you report.
"However it is true that discussions are taking place and will continue at next summer's meeting of the General Synod, not to overhaul Church doctrine, but to 'help forge better understanding between different groups over the issue of sexuality'."
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The General Synod has called on the Government to initiate “a full independent review” of its “highly punitive” benefit sanctioning system.
The call came in a debate on a motion that originated in the Airedale Deanery Synod in the diocese of Leeds. During the debate, the Synod heard a catalogue of examples of how sanctions had been “inappropriate and disproportionately” applied to claimants of Jobseeker’s Allowance.
The Archdeacon of Sheffield, the Ven. Malcolm Chamberlain, said that these included the case of a lady who “had been sanctioned for attending a funeral; she had informed the authorities of this in advance,” and another who missed an appointment because they were “dealing with the police after a burglary in their home during the night”.
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..Ed Shaw is an evangelical pastor in Bristol and is gay — or, as he puts it, he ‘experiences same-sex attraction’. It’s a less misleading term, he tells me. ‘If I say to people in conversation, “I’m gay,” they tend to presume that I’ll be delighted if they match me up with their gay friend Barry.’ Which isn’t what he’s looking for: ‘I’d love to meet any of their friends, but I don’t want to be match-made with people because I’m not interested in that sort of relationship.’
Shaw is one of the founders of Living Out, a website written by gay people who are also traditionally minded Christians. As he points out, this is quite a large constituency. The ‘horror stories’ about churches rejecting LGBT people dominate media coverage, he says: Living Out exists partly to record more positive experiences.
Shaw’s is one of them. ‘As a pastor,’ he says, ‘I thought being open about my sexuality would be a disqualification for the job, and would mean that people would stop coming to me.’ Instead, they started calling on him more than ever. ‘Because they think, this guy finds life tough, it’s not easy for him, he might be able to help me..
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An historic agreement recognising the longstanding ecumenical partnership between the Church of Scotland and the Church of England and paving the way for future joint working between the two churches has been backed today by the General Synod.
Members voted to approve the Columba Declaration and welcome Growth in Communion, Partnership in Mission, a report by the Joint Study Group of the Church of England and the Church of Scotland, as a 'significant development' in the relationship between the two churches.
The General Synod also called on the Council for Christian Unity to oversee the implementation of the commitments in the Declaration and to set up a Contact Group to coordinate future work between the two churches.
The motion backed by the General Synod also notes the Church of England's valued relationship with the Scottish Episcopal Church within the Anglican Communion and requests that the Council for Christian Unity ensures that the Scottish Episcopal Church is invited to appoint a representative to attend meetings of the Contact Group.
Read it all - there is some informal background from Stephen Lynas here. The Moderator's address to General Synod may be watched here
Read and watch it all and there is a press release from the Church of Scotland here
I watched the debate in which the Columba Declaration was approved by the Church of England with a sense of unreality. The Scottish Episcopal Church was like a ghost at the party – often referred to and talked about but not present. Concerns which have been voiced within the Scottish Episcopal Church about the Columba Declaration focus significantly on the Church of England. The Church of England and the Scottish Episcopal Church are partner-Provinces in the Anglican Communion. We are the presence of the Anglican Communion in Scotland and we expect the Church of England to respect that. The concerns are that the Columba Declaration places the Church of England in a compromised position in relation to the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Read it all and a previous statement from the SEC is here
The Church of England is facing at least another 30 years of decline according to internal projections revealed for the first time.
Even if it sees an influx of young people to services, the sheer numbers of older worshippers dying in the next few decades mean it is unlikely to see any overall growth in attendances until the middle of this century, officials now believe.
The stark calculations were revealed during discussions at the Church’s decision-making General Synod, which has been meeting in London, about ambitious plans to tackle declining numbers.
It is preparing to pump £72 million into a “reform and renewal” drive which includes plans to ordain 6,000 more clergy in the 2020s to build a younger priesthood which is less male dominated and less white.
Mr Spence, chairman of the Church’s finance committee, said that current attendance figures suggest that an 81-year-old is now eight times more likely to attend services than an 18-year-old.
Currently around 18 in every 1,000 people in England regularly attend Church of England services – a figure which includes mid-week and other special services.
But Mr Spence said that in 30 years time that proportion is likely to drop to 10 in every 1,000 – or one per cent.
That rate of decline suggests that attendance at Sunday services across the whole of England would dip to just 425,000.
Recent figures published by the Church showed that Sunday morning congregations stood at 764,700, with total weekly attendances – which include week-day services - just slipping below one million.
Mr Spence said that "on all likely measures of success" the demographic reality meant that the Church is unlikely to see net growth in the next 30 years.
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"The high points of the calling to serve God in His Church are the times when he works to draw people to himself. The times when hearts begin to thaw with his love, eyes open to his light, and shoulders lift as He comes alongside to bear burdens, as those who have carried around guilt, like in the Pilgrim's Progress, that has weighed down memory with regret and shame know a freedom and release they never dreamt possible, as those who assumed that they had no worth realise their inestimable and infinite worth to God.
"God works through his Spirit to draw people to open their hands to receive his love and transforming power - and we have the huge privilege of seeing this happen. For me some of the most memorable and grace-filled moments of the last three years have been seeing God at work in the lives of those who would not call themselves Christians, but who I have had the privilege of seeing gently and profoundly drawn to Jesus Christ.
"This is our duty, our privilege and our joy. There is nothing like it.
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David Walker, Bishop of Manchester
A play that portrays Jesus as a transgender woman who refers to God as 'Mum' is to be performed in a Church of England church today.
To the fury of critics who say the play is deeply offensive, the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, will not block the staging of The Gospel According To Jesus, Queen Of Heaven.
The one-woman play by Jo Clifford, an award-winning Scottish playwright who has herself changed gender, imagines Jesus returning to earth as a 'trans woman' and retelling the parables with a transsexual slant.
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Report on Wednesday Morning Business
Report on Wednesday Afternoon Business
Wednesday Morning's timetable - Order Paper
Wednesday Afternoon's timetable - Order Paper
Topics: Impact of sanctions on benefit claimants; Renewal and Reform; Ministerial Education, Resourcing the Future
Tuesday February 16th
Report on Tuesday Business - [Audio of Sessions here]
Tuesday's timetable - Order Paper
Topics: Evangelism; Relations with the Presbyterian Church of Scotland while keeping the Scottish Episcopal Church onboard; Wedding and Funeral Fees; and Simplifying unbelievably cumbersome Church Legislative Procedures
Monday afternoon February 15th
Report on Monday PM Business - [Audio of Sessions here]
Monday's timetable - Order Paper
Presidential Address by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the Primates Gathering 2016
Update from Canon David Porter on the Shared Conversations on Sexual Immorality planned for General Synod in July [Listen here]
■ Press release about Agenda
■ Timetable [See order papers for each day above]
■ Full Daily Agenda and Timetable [pdf]
■ Brief Agenda and Papers
■ Live Video Feed when in session or perhaps listen here for prior recordings
■ Twitter: #synod and it may be worth following: CofE Official Synod tweets; and @C_of_E if interested.
Suggestions for prayer from Anglican Mainstream
Vicar of Battersea (Southwark) and Prolocutor of the Convocation of Canterbury in General Synod, Canon Simon Butler, an openly gay priest, told us he has not interpreted the actions of the Primates’ Meeting as primarily an attack on The Episcopal Church (TEC USA) or on LGBT people, but instead has come to see it as reaffirmation of the bonds of communion from the Primates.
He said it was a statement of love and fellowship that steadfastly refuses to exclude American Anglicans, including those who are LGBT, while at the same time reaffirming ‘what cannot be but obvious to most people’ – that the majority of the Communion’s member Churches have not reached the point where they can go along with TEC’s position.
“The Primates’ ‘consequences’ should not, I believe, be seen as punitive, but as a reflection of the current state of play in the Communion with respect to marriage equality,” he said.
“The same must be true of the current situation in the Church of England,” he said. “Like it or not, those who wish to see our Church change its position have to accept that we have not done so yet. That may be an offence to the Gospel for some of us – and an enormous mission challenge among the under-40s in most of our urban and graduate cultures – but it is the reality.
“We have not yet changed enough minds.”
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First of all, what is R&R? I would describe it as a set of initiatives and activities intended to improve the support that the national church institutions can give to the Church proper (the Church in the dioceses, parishes, schools etc) in its work of mission. It’s coming from the National Church Institutions because it’s about things that those institutions (the Church Commissioners, the General Synod, the Archbishops’ Council etc) can do. But it comes from the national church institutions in response to what the dioceses said when members and staff from Church House asked what they wanted, to help the Church for the future. And because it’s a response, it’s not a national plan or a national strategy for the Church.
Secondly, what’s it for? This bit’s easy. For me, the purpose of R&R is to contribute to turning around the decades-long decline in the Church: a decline which we all know is there, on almost any measure we choose to look at – but also a decline which we know can be reversed, because in many places there are hopeful signs of how it can be done. R&R can only be a contribution, because the Church exists in the parishes, not in Synods or Councils. But Synods and Councils can contribute – and they can help work towards a hopeful future, in which we once again have a growing Church, with more people coming to faith, with more people deepening their faith and living Christian lives, and the Church doing more good for this country.
Thirdly, why now? If the question is “why not before now?”, I can’t answer that. If it’s “why do we have to do it now?”, that’s because our Church is shrinking fast, and it could start diminishing faster at any moment without action. Only the Church of England has a national mission to be a Church for everyone, in every community. Other denominations have shrunk and withdrawn from great swathes of the country.
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Men and women who found faith at a homeless centre are to star in a series of short dramatic films for Lent and Easter launched by the Church of England today. The five film stars have all recently come to faith through the Saturday Gathering, a fresh expression of church in Halifax - and most have experienced crime, alcohol, drug addiction, homelessness or violence in their lives.
The "Psalm 22 project" follows on from the Church of England's "Lord's Prayer" campaign which was banned by cinemas before Christmas and promotes the justpray.uk website.
The new justpray.uk campaign will feature short teaser films over the next five weeks concluding with the launch of a two minute film on Easter Sunday which casts the five main characters in their own interpretation of a scene from the Passion of Christ. The film is based on Psalm 22 which includes the words "my God, my G
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“Recent media comment regarding Bishop George Bell has focused on my recent contributions made in the House of Lords in response to a question on the Church’s actions in this matter.
On reflection I believe my words were not as clear as they could have been and I welcome this opportunity to provide further clarity.
Almost three years ago a civil claim was made, raising allegations of abuse by George Bell, the former Bishop of Chichester.
In response to the claim independent legal and medical reports were commissioned and duly considered. The evidence available was interrogated and evaluated. This led to a decision to settle the claim and to offer a formal apology to the survivor. This decision was taken on the balance of probabilities - the legal test applicable in civil claims.
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