Archive for October, 2008


Thursday, October 30th, 2008
Art Babych

The bishop of the diocese of Ottawa, John Chapman, at the 2008 Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, England.

The bishop of Ottawa wants to open the door  to same-sex blessings in his diocese and will ask permission from the Canadian house of bishops at its meeting Oct. 27-31.

“It is important that I honour the collegiality of the Canadian house,” said Bishop John Chapman at the opening of the annual synod of the diocese of Ottawa in Christ Church Cathedral Oct. 23. “We are, after all, an episcopally-led and synodically-governed church.”

The bishops are expected to discuss tomorrow the Canadian Anglican church’s response to renewed proposals for moratoria on the blessing of same-sex unions, the ordination of persons living in same-sex unions to the episcopate, and cross-border interventions.  The proposals were made at the  2008 Lambeth Conference, the once-per-decade meeting of bishops from around the world, in response to bitter divisions among Anglicans over the contentious issue of homosexuality.

Bishop Chapman said he would make a “conclusive statement” to the diocese within a month after the house of bishops’ gathering. It would state that after “an appropriate rite” is developed, permission would be given for one parish to offer the blessing of civil marriages between same-sex couples.

“This hope is not and must not be understood as a conclusive statement affirming that the church must and ought to proceed with the blessings of same-sex civilly married couples,” said Bishop Chapman. “As the church was not able to come to a clear mind regarding the priestly ministry of women, so we must take the process of discernment to a place beyond discussion.”

The issue has been discussed in the Anglican Church “since I was a seminary student in the mid-‘70s,” he said. “In order to further the discernment process, we must ‘experience’ the issue as church before clarity of heart and mind might be attained.” For this reason, he added, “I hope to proceed, but slowly and cautiously.”

If Bishop Chapman gets approval from the house of bishops, the diocese of Ottawa could become the second Anglican diocese in Canada to bless same-sex marriages. The diocese of New Westminster approved the blessings in 2002.

At the synod of the diocese of Ottawa last year, delegates voted 177- 97 to ask the bishop to allow clergy to “bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages between same-sex couples where at least one party is baptized.” Bishop Chapman said he wanted time to study the issue and consult with other bishops before making a decision. Since then, the dioceses of Montreal, Niagara, Huron and, most recently, the assembly of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (APCI) have passed similar motions favoring same-sex blessings but none have initiated the practice.

On Oct. 5, the congregation of St. George’s in Ottawa voted 130 to 27 to leave the Anglican Church of Canada and align itself under the authority of Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Early this year, the congregation of St. Alban’s, also an Ottawa parish, voted 77 to 1 to accept the episcopal oversight of Bishop Donald Harvey, moderator of the Anglican Network in Canada, under the authority of Archbishop Venables.

“I need to remind this synod that parishes do not leave the diocese,” Bishop Chapman said in his address to synod. “Sadly, some individuals elect to move on while parishes remain with the diocese, subject to all the rights and privileges of the diocese living under the constitution, canons and regulations of the diocese.” Many are wondering what will become of the parish communities, he said. “I assure you that everything will be done to provide pastoral care for those members wishing to continue their faith journey as members of the diocese and under the pastoral oversight of the bishop of Ottawa.”

Bishop Chapman also said he has responsibility to care for all property held in the name of the diocese. “Ownership of the properties of St. Alban’s and St. George’s has not, nor will they ever be transferred to the Province of the Southern Cone,” he said.

London evicts congregation from church

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

By Ruth Gledhill, TimesonLine

2695914763_d93673df78_o As the figures show, London is bucking the national trend and churchgoing is up. This is a small blip however in the overall decline that has seen Church of England attendance slump to 880,000, a figure that should be rememered by all who read the Anglican Communion Office’s oft-touted boast of up to 27 million Anglicans in Britain’s established church. The Anglican Communion starts to look a lot smaller when proper attendance figures are accounted. But perhaps the London Diocese’s success explains why, or is even explained by, its recent tendency to close churches and force reluctant congregations to move elsewhere. Earlier this year the Welsh church of St Benet’s was shut. And now the unfortunate souls who liked to worship at St Mark’s Mayfair have been evicted. Lady Sainsbury was at the church for its last day before lock-out. Her speech is reproduced below. The London diocese wants to sell the church to George Hammer, who already lives in its vicarage, next door. He developed The Sanctuary at Covent Garden and wants to turn St Mark’s into a centre for well being, with a spa included.

Susie Sainsbury said:

‘I became President of Save St Marks Action Group Because I feel passionately that what is happening here – to this community and to this building – is totally wrong and wrong-headed of those promoting it.

‘We are here to protest at the Diocese’s failure to try to keep this wonderful building, and even worse wanting to evict a thriving congregation and then to be willing to sell it for a wellness centre – pampering for the few.

‘The congregation here has been serving the local community for the last 14 years. In that time they have been doing the things that Social Services can’t do; they teach children to avoid getting involved in knife crime; they visit people who are alone; they open their doors to the distraught and needy.

‘This building was dedicated to the glory of God to be used as a place of worship, built on land given by Grosvenor for the local community – now a scarce community resource. We deplore the way the Diocese is treating it – as no more than real estate – to be sold for 30 pieces of silver, and we deplore the way the Diocese have continued to extend the contract with Mr Hammer. English Heritage regard this church as one of the most important buildings in Mayfair.

‘It has seen anti-slavery debates. Eisenhower worshipping here, D-Day landings planned and prayed over here; society weddings, work with the poor and marginalised. The work in the community is not over, the needs are still here.

‘We now appeal to our local Councillors to ask the serious unanswered questions that still surround the planning application. When the scheme from Hammer Holdings comes before the Planning Committee on 13 November will you ask: –

Why has no viability appraisal or business case been submitted. Why have applicants refused to give assurances that they will fund the repair and restoration of this grade 1 building?

‘Has the Diocese put pressure on HTB not to put forward more detailed proposals?

‘At the heart of this issue is a Grade 1 listed church of exceptional quality – it can and should be maintained as a place of worship – that surely is the objective that should be shared by Grosvenor Estates, the Diocese, the congregation , the community and the City Council.’

Get off the bus – ‘there is no God’ AND a godly reponse!

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Atheistbus Richard Dawkins is helping fund a campaign by the British Humanist Association to persuade people that God does not exist. Posters are to be placed on 30 bendy buses in London in January with the slogan: ‘There’s probably no God. So stop worrying and enjoy your life.’ The campaign is the idea of comedy writer Ariane Sherine, who suggested it on a blog after hearing about a Christian campaign promoting the concept of everlasting flames in hell for unbelievers. The Atheist Bus Campaign will come shortly after the annual church campaign promoting Christianity during the festive Christmas season. My colleague Adam Sherwin broke the story first in The Times. As Ekklesia reports, the Methodists were among the first to welcome this. Read more about it on the JustGiving blog.


Without God, there’s reason to worry

Contrary to what the atheist bus advert suggests, religion can provide an antidote to the anxieties of everyday life

Chris Sugden

There’s plenty of worry around at the moment – the governor of the Bank of England is worried about the imminent recession. People are worried about losing their jobs and negative equity in their homes. People will be worried about the pressure then on their relationships. Worry is destructive. It consumes energy. It distracts attention from getting on with life. It keeps you awake at night. It is always worse at night.

But it’s alright. Supported by Evangelist Dawkins, atheists are emblazoning an answer across our capital city for all to see: accept the probability that there is no God and you can stop worrying. This atheism is anything but theoretical.

Jesus of Nazareth was in touch with real people and real life. He said this: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than birds!”

For Jesus, the existence of a creator God and the evidence of his provision for birds of the air, was, contrary to what the campaign suggests, not an argument for, but specifically an argument against, worry.

Jesus identified the origin of worry in the human desire for security and predictability. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” He identified the human solution: to build storehouses to secure the enjoyment of life. He told of a man who built large storehouses to store his goods so that he could then take life easy.

Jesus identified the flaw in this solution – thieves steal, moths corrupt, and death comes unannounced.

Once in this hole, the human antidote to worry is to keep on digging: to seek ever more secure solutions. Much advertising and selling is based on this. Are you fully insured? Do you want to take out a five-year guarantee? Have you a burglar alarm?

Jesus calls this solution folly and madness. He offers one simple antidote: God. God knows that people need food and clothes and shelter and security. God made us the way we are. “Your Father knows you need them,” he says. We just need to seek God’s kingdom which he is pleased to give those who will receive it and “all these things will be yours as well”.

But will this solution be enjoyable – the other measure that bus advertisement employs? It may be secure, but will it be the security of a silent monastery?

Jesus says there are two choices before us: life or death. He says that he offers life in abundance, overflowing, welling up, life that is eternal.

We are faced with those who suggest that if we are not living our dream, then life is not worth living. This was tragically brought home last week with the debate around the very sad story of Daniel James, the rugby player, with a mum and dad, two sisters and a lovely home, who decided he did not want to live a “second-class existence”. Who had suggested his paralysed existence was second class – in comparison with what? Jesus says: “How much more valuable are you than birds.” (Read Jesus’ words in Luke 12: 13-34 and John 10.10).

My late brother, an accountant, was achondroplastic – among his other accomplishments was as an actor in professional productions of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Towards the end of his 54 years of life he said that in all likelihood under present legislation he might not have been allowed to live at all. Some might have considered his life, and his last six months in spinal paralysis, as second class.

Human personhood, human enjoyment, and the value of life will always be measured. The question is, “By what standard?” Remove God, probably, and we are at the mercy of our own solutions to security, and other people’s decisions about the value of our life. There’s reason to worry.

Lambeth Conference and its (non) follow up – George Conger

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

By George Conger,  Institute on Religion & Democracy

“The pieces are on the board” for the resolution of the Anglican conflict, Williams asserted. “And in the months ahead it will be important to invite those absent from Lambeth to be involved in these next stages.”

However, as of October 16, eight weeks after the close of the conference, Dr. Williams has yet to contact the boycotting bishops to take part in the “next stages.”


Dr. Williams acknowledged at the start of the conference, the communion was “in the middle of one of the most severe challenges,” but noted the “options before us are not irreparable schism or forced assimilation.” The way forward was through an Anglican Covenant – the pact proposed by the Windsor Report to help ensure unity in basic beliefs and mutual accountability among historically autonomous Anglican provinces.

A covenant would allow “an Anglicanism whose diversity is limited not by centralized control but by consent – consent based on a serious common assessment of the implications of local change.”


The first open clash in the conference came on July 22, when the Episcopal Church of the Sudan released a statement calling for the Episcopal Church to repent and immediately cease its advocacy of gay bishops and blessings. Three Roman Catholic cardinals attending the conference then rained on Dr. Williams’ parade, offering progressively harsher assessments of the state of Anglicanism and its relations with Rome.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor urged Anglicans to put their house in order, and decide what they believe. “If Anglicans themselves disagree” over contentious issues like women priests “and find yourselves unable fully to recognize each other’s ministry, how could we?”

Dialogue between Anglicans and Roman Catholics now appeared pointless due to the ecclesiological anarchy spreading across the communion. “If we are to make progress through dialogue, we must be able to reach a solemn and binding agreement with our dialogue partners. And we want to see a deepening, not a lessening, of communion in their own ecclesial life,” Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said.

The Russian Orthodox Church was blunt. Women or homosexual bishops would exclude “even the theoretical possibility of the Orthodox churches acknowledging the apostolic succession” of Anglican bishops, Bishop Hilarion of Vienna told Dr. Williams on July 28.

In its closing week, the conference turned to a discussion of the Anglican Covenant.  Liberal bishops objected to the creation of a mechanism that would impose constraints upon theological and liturgical experimentation, while conservatives expressed fears a covenant would be too little, too late.

A second committee called the Windsor Continuation Group (WCG), created by Dr. Williams earlier this year, briefed the bishops on recommendations for repairing the broken fellowship between the U.S. Church and a dozen churches from the developing world.

The WCG called for maintenance on the ban on gay bishops and blessings and for the creation of a “Pastoral Forum” tasked with responding to future conflicts within the communion. However, in the case of both the Covenant and the WCG, the bishops at Lambeth were only briefed on the work of the committees; they were not given the authority to develop the relevant documents.

On August 3, the conference released a closing statement that noted the broad desire for a “season of gracious restraint” marked by abstentions from the consecration and blessing of partnered homosexuals, and foreign incursions into the jurisdictions of the North American provinces.

Written as a “Reflections” paper, the 42-page statement was described as a “narrative” of the meeting, and attempted to summarize the bishops’ discussions. It was not a consensus document or a position paper. The bishops were asked not whether they agreed with the document, but “whether they could see their voices” amidst the various reflections it contains.

Looking Forward

In the closing press conference, Dr. Williams said Lambeth had proven that the bishops could speak to each other respectfully and prayerfully, and had a “strong commitment to remain unified.”

Read the full article here.

Anglican Mainstream endorses and supports the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

October 20th, 2008 Posted in News |

The Anglican Mainstream Steering Committee issued this statement following their October Steering Committee meeting:

“We have received the reports of GAFCON (The Global Anglican Future Conference – Jerusalem June 2008).  In the light of these reports and as an expression of our continuing commitment to the Anglican Communion, we endorse and support the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration.”

The false faith of scientific reason

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008
The false faith of scientific reason

Jewish Chronicle, 17 October 2008

It is an article of faith (except, of course, among those who actually have a faith) that the dethronement of God by the apostles of secularism has ushered in an age of reason. Belief in the Almighty is now widely held to be a priori evidence of primitive stupidity.

In fact, we are living in a deeply irrational age, where millions are putting their faith in such mumbo-jumbo as astrology, parapsychology, paganism, witchcraft or conspiracies between sinister groups and extra-terrestrial forces. All of which goes to prove the truth of the old adage that when people stop believing in God, they will believe in anything.

Nevertheless, the belief has taken hold that religious faith is inimical to reason, as defined and exemplified by the scientific mind. Such belief expresses itself in the near God-like status afforded to Professor Richard Dawkins — the Savonarola of atheism — on the basis of his aggressive contention that evolution accounts for the origin of life, and that anyone who believes the world had a creator and a purpose should be exiled altogether from intelligent discourse

Interestingly, over the past few months Dawkins has been meeting his match in a remarkable Oxford mathematics professor called John Lennox, who argues for the existence of a creator on the basis of science — and demonstrates that, on his own scientific terms, Dawkins’s arguments fail the test of reason.

Next week, the two of them will slug it out in a debate freighted with historic resonance at Oxford’s Natural History Museum — the very place where, in 1860, Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, tried to pour scorn on Darwin’s Origin of Species, only to be savaged by ‘Darwin’s bulldog’ TH Huxley. I wouldn’t put money on the same outcome this time.

The fact that secularism has taken on the characteristics of religious fanaticism, in espousing dogma inimical to human flourishing and punishing dissenters in order to slam the lid on debate, is explored in a timely monograph by Herbert London, president of the Hudson Institute, the influential American think-tank.

This institute is a front-line combatant in America’s culture wars, in which it seeks to defend the values of western civilisation against the onslaught from those trying to destroy it. In his book, America’s Secular Challenge: The Rise of a New National Religion, London argues that the rise of secularism has so hollowed out Western society that it has left it acutely vulnerable to the predations of radical Islam.

The decay of religion, he says, has given rise to moral relativism, which regards all beliefs and principles as being of equal value and truth as a relative concept. This has given rise to multiculturalism, which masquerades as the promotion of equal rights but is actually a disguised form of cultural and national self-loathing.

This in turn lies behind the idea that nations are illegitimate or passé, and that the world’s problems can all be solved by everyone on the planet coming together to harness the power of reason to arrive at a solution. But, in robbing people of their national identity and capacity to believe in anything except the fiction that reason trumps all, this is an essentially irrational negation of self-interest.

No less irrational is the overreach of science which, as London writes, has been hijacked by secular fundamentalists who want to supplant religion by asserting that only in science can truths be found.

Such ’scientism’ — as this overreach is termed — goes beyond the ability of science to explain the nature of the world around us and claims to tell us how life began. Yet the assumption that science provides a complete theory of knowledge is itself fundamentally unscientific.

Science generates more questions than it can answer. The more science unravels the mysteries of the world for us, the more mysterious it becomes. And, as the many scientists who are also religious believers demonstrate, there is no inherent conflict between religion and science.

The dogma that science provides the answer to every question and so supplants religion has led to a junking of the moral codes deriving from Judaism and Christianity that underpin western society.

This loss of cultural nerve has created an unwitting collusion between secular zealots and the Islamists who have declared war upon western civilisation, and who believe — correctly — that a secular west will be unable to resist them.

Science, rationality and the pursuit of truth are intimately related to the religious traditions of the west. If those traditions are not defended from within against the threat from without, this will be how the west was lost.

Disease of Unbelief Hits All Areas of The Episcopal Church

Friday, October 17th, 2008

and Spreads Overseas

Episcopal Church Continues to Decline Latest Figures Reveal

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

If Episcopal Church leaders thought they could get away with it, they were sadly mistaken.

If they thought the church would be “saved” by belief in Millennium Development Goals, they were twice mistaken.

If Episcopal bishops thought that sitting on the backs of late model convertible cars advertising their support of pansexual behavior in “gay parades” would jump start dying parishes with a new generation of “inclusive” American Christians, they were also mistaken. It’s not happening.

A moderately conservative bishop told VOL that the House of Bishops is so “fundamentally dysfunctional,” that he feels he will be casting a lot more “abstain” votes in the future, even if such a vote will likely be interpreted as a conservative/traditional vote. He considers his actual voting at all to be an acknowledgement of the dysfunctionality of the HOB. Even moderate bishops unsympathetic to the actions taken against Bishop Robert Duncan were pushed over the edge when the canons were trampled on by Mrs. Jefferts Schori and David Booth Beers. Look for more rebellion in the HOB in the future.

If Episcopal leaders thought it was a slam dunk that they would automatically win all the lawsuits over properties, they again misread the cue cards.