Archive for July, 2014

Church sex ‘obsession’

Thursday, July 24th, 2014


Reverend Michael Hewat


IN THE WILDERNESS: Reverend Michael Hewat has forfeited his licence to preach in the Anglican Church.

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The church’s perceived obsession with homosexuality has seen an Anglican pastor break camp and lead his flock into the religious wilderness and find a new home in the city.

Reverend Michael Hewat, the vicar of West Hamilton Anglican Parish on Rifle Range Rd, was the second high profile Anglican leader to leave the Anglican Church in opposition to Motion 30 – a national declaration by the governing body to bless same sex relationships.

He said homosexuality had dominated the church’s agenda for two decades and “it amounts to an obsession”, he said in a letter to Waikato Times.

His refusal to submit to General Synod on the motion passed in May that aimed to recognise same-sex relationships meant a forfeiture his licence to practice as an Anglican pastor.

In May, former Auckland pastor Charlie Hughes walked away with his congregation and Hewat said more would come.

In a letter to the Waikato Bishop, the Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, and the Bishop of Taranaki, Rev Phillip Richardson, Hewat said Motion 30 would “prove to be a disaster” to church unity and by 2016 “the flood gates will open”.

His last service in the Dinsdale church he administered for 20 years was a harrowing time for his congregation.

“It’s an emotional day but we always say the church is the people and not the buildings,” said Hewat.

He surrenders his licence this Friday, July 25 – a move he called a formality – and will vacate church property.

A special general meeting was held earlier in the month where he received 94 per cent support from parishioners and a further postal vote brought that figure to greater than 95 per cent.

“It’s a family breakup and even though its only 5 per cent it still hurts,” he said.

There were about 250 members on the parish roll but children were too young to vote and some older members were unable to make it to the meeting.

A handful of churchgoers were expected to show up at the church next Sunday but the rest – more than 100 who voted and their families – were looking for new place to call home in Hamilton’s western suburbs. “We’re not pushing it too far and we’re not going to some promised land but we believe that our ministries will continue and that’s what is important.”

Motion 30 was an “unmitigated disaster” and illegal as it contravened the Church of England Empowering Act, he said.

“It makes a commitment to changing the constitution of the church which means it probably needs an act of parliament and Motion 30 says that.”

The Anglican Church’s General Synod set a two-year deadline to develop formal rules around the blessing same-sex relationships but Hewat said doctrine was enshrined in the constitution and couldn’t be changed by anyone.

“To change doctrine, in effect, means you have to change sources of doctrine so, in other words, the Bible is no longer the source of doctrine.”

Parishioners fundraised to build the church and there was “great sadness” at the final service but the decision of the General Synod had left them in an untenable position.

“Unfortunately, the trigger is the whole issue of sexuality which we find rather irksome because it is not on our agenda but it keeps coming up.”

Hartley and Richardson sent out a region-wide letter expressing deep pain and anguish for the church.

The motion started a process to find ways to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people into the flock and Hartley denied claims it contravened church doctrine and broke the law.

“It is an indication of the church’s willingness to engage in a further process to explore ways in which different views can exist together, in the same house,” said Hartley.

Churches were not required to adhere to Motion 30 but all licence holders had to accept the authority of General Synod to hold a licence and there was no room to manoeuvre.

“Michael had, in fact, signed it when he became vicar so what he has done is withdrawn that assent,” she said. “If you withdraw assent then the bishop has no alternative to accept that as a forfeiture of the licence. It’s very clear.”

She said many in the church were willing to engage in the Motion 30 process and the General Synod had taken a brave leap forward.

“It’s a motion that emerged out of a very intense period in General Synod. I do believe strongly that it is a brave step which offers an opportunity rather than anything that would be seen as diminishing or taking away from our core doctrines.” OPINION: Once were Anglicans, page 7.

– Waikato Times

Russian Orthodox Church Statement on Unilateral CofE Women Bishops Decision

Thursday, July 24th, 2014
Posted by The_Elves
Statement by Communication Service of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations regarding the decision of the Church of England to allow women to serve as bishops

At the session that took place on the 14th of July 2014, the General Synod of the Church of England made a decision allowing women to serve as bishops. The Communication Service of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations is authorized to make the following statement in this regard:

The Russian Orthodox Church has been alarmed and disappointed to learn about the decision of the Church of England to admit women to the episcopate, since the centuries-old relationships between our two Churches had shown possibilities for the Orthodox to recognize the existence of apostolic succession in Anglicanism. As far back as the 19th century, the Anglicans, members of the Eastern Church Association, sought “mutual recognition” of orders between the Orthodox and the Anglican Churches and believed that “both Churches preserved the apostolic continuity and true faith in the Saviour and should accept each other in the full communion of prayers and sacraments.”

The decision to ordain women, which the Church of England took in 1992, damaged the relationships between our Churches, and the introduction of female bishops has eliminated even a theoretical possibility for the Orthodox to recognize the existence of apostolic succession in the Anglican hierarchy.

Such practice contradicts the centuries-old church tradition going back to the early Christian community. In the Christian tradition, bishops have always been regarded as direct spiritual successors of the apostles, from whom they received special grace to guide the people of God and special responsibility to protect the purity of faith, to be symbols and guarantors of the unity of the Church. The consecration of women bishops runs counter to the mode of life of the Saviour Himself and the holy apostles, as well as to the practice of the Early Church.
In our opinion, it was not a theological necessity or issues of church practice that determined the decision of the General Synod of the Church of England, but an effort to comply with the secular idea of gender equality in all spheres of life and the increasing role of women in the British society. The secularization of Christianity will alienate many faithful who, living in the modern unstable world, try to find spiritual support in the unshakable gospel’s and apostolic traditions established by Eternal and Immutable God.

The Russian Orthodox Church regrets to state that the decision allowing the elevation of women to episcopal dignity impedes considerably the dialogue between the Orthodox and the Anglicans, which has developed for many decades, and contributes for further deepening of divisions in the Christian world as a whole.

Read it all and also this and you can find the response of the Catholic Church in England and Wales here

VATICAN: Austrian bishop: Pope Francis told me ‘gender ideology is demonic’

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Austrian bishop: Pope Francis told me ‘gender ideology is demonic’
June , 2014

VOL NOTE: While the Roman Catholic Church condemns “gender ideology” The Episcopal Church has in fact embraced it. The Episcopal Church’s open acceptance of LGBTQII sexualities has not resulted in church growth. It has in fact resulted in even more people fleeing the Church.

Pope Francis strongly condemned “gender ideology” in a private conversation with Austrian Bishop Andreas Laun earlier this year, the bishop related in a recent essay.

In doing so, the pope follows in the footsteps of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Nearing the end of his pontificate, the pope emeritus spoke twice about gender ideology as “a negative trend for humankind,” and a “profound falsehood,” which “it is the duty of pastors of the Church” to put the faithful “on guard against.”

“In response to my questioning, Pope Francis said, ‘Gender ideology is demonic!’” Bishop Laun wrote in his essay, adding that the pope was not exaggerating in his comment. Steve Jalsevac/
Bishop Laun, auxiliary bishop of Salzburg, wrote about the words of Pope Francis in March in an essay for the German Catholic news publication Bishop Laun told LifeSiteNews that he met the pope briefly on January 30 as part of the Austrian bishops’ ad limina visit, a meeting with the pope that bishops must do every five years. Laun added that he was the last of the bishops to speak with the Holy Father.

“In response to my questioning, Pope Francis said, ‘Gender ideology is demonic!’” Laun wrote in his essay, adding that the pope was not exaggerating in his comment. “Indeed, gender ideology is the destruction of persons, which is why Pope Francis was justified in calling it demonic,” he said.

Writing of gender ideology, Bishop Laun explained that “the core thesis of this sick product of reason is the end result of a radical feminism which the homosexual lobby has made its own.”

“It asserts that there are not only Man and Woman, but also other ‘genders’. And furthermore: every person can choose his or her gender,” he added.

“Today,” he said, “it is promoted by governments and VIPs and substantial amounts of money are spent on spreading it, even in teaching materials for kindergartens and schools.”

For more information on the subject, Bishop Laun encouraged the reading of the latest book by famed German Catholic sociologist Gabriele Kuby, Die globale sexuelle Revolution: Zerstörung der Freiheit im Namen der Freiheit (The Global Sexual Revolution: Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom).

Kuby, a long-time friend of Pope Benedict XVI, formally presented the now-pope-emeritus with a copy of the book in November 2012. “Thanks be to God that you write and speak (about these things),” Pope Benedict said to her.

For Kuby it is no shocking thing to call gender ideology demonic.

“Gender ideology is the deepest rebellion against God that is possible,” Kuby told LifeSiteNews. “Man does not accept that he is created as man or woman, no, he says, ‘I decide! This is my freedom!’ – against experience, against nature, against reason, against science!”

“It is the ultimate perversion of individualism,” she explained, “It robs man of the last remnant of his identity, that is, to be a man and a woman, after having lost faith and family and nation.”

“It is indeed diabolical,” she concluded, “that an ideology, which every person can discern as a lie, can capture the common sense of people and become the dominant ideology of our time.”

In his December 21, 2012 address to the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict gave an extensive warning on the use of the “term ‘gender’ as a new philosophy of sexuality.”

“According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society,” he said. “The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious.”

The pope continued:

People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question.
Benedict XVI noted the philosophy’s harm on human dignity, family, and children. ”When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being.”

Pope Benedict again addressed gender ideology a month later in a January 19, 2013 address. “It is the duty of pastors of the Church,” said Pope Benedict, “to put the Catholic faithful and every person of good will and right reason on guard against the trend of these ideologies.”

“It is a negative trend for humankind, although it may be disguised by good feelings in the name of alleged progress, alleged rights, or an alleged humanism,” he said. “Thus the Church reaffirms her great ‘yes’ to the dignity and beauty of marriage as an expression of the faithful and generous bond between man and woman, and her no to ‘gender’ philosophies, because the reciprocity between male and female is an expression of the beauty of nature willed by the Creator.

Anglican Patriarch J.I. Packer Still Going Strong at 87

Monday, July 14th, 2014
LATROBE, PA: Anglican Patriarch J.I. Packer Still Going Strong at 87

LATROBE, PA: Anglican Patriarch J.I. Packer Still Going Strong at 87

An exclusive interview with the Rev. Dr. J.I. Packer.

By David W. Virtue

The Rev. Dr. James I. Packer is the Anglican Communion’s most widely known, most respected evangelical Anglican author, theologian, churchman and scholar. He was a speaker at the recent Anglican Church of North America’s 2nd Annual Assembly meeting at St. Vincent Archabbey and College in Latrobe, PA, on the occasion of the induction of a new archbishop of the ACNA and a farewell to the Most Rev. Robert Duncan, the ACNA’s first leader.

VOL sat down with Dr. Packer and asked him about his life, work, ministry and writings along with a few leading hot button questions that has brought the Anglican Communion to the edge of schism. He is physically somewhat frail but his mind is razor sharp. He admits to some short term memory loss, but one would never know it in discussion with him. He is alert, lucid, direct, and completely in charge of his thoughts. Next month he turns 88. With some 40 books to his credit, he is a small one family publishing business.


Born in Gloucester, England, the son of a clerk for the Great Western Railway, Packer won a scholarship to Oxford University. He was educated at Corpus Christi College, obtaining the degrees of Bachelor of Arts in Theology (1948), Master of Arts (1954), and Doctor of Philosophy (1954).

It was as a student at Oxford that he first heard a paper delivered by C. S. Lewis whose books influenced his life. In a meeting of the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union in 1944, Packer committed his life to Christian service.

He spent a brief time teaching Greek at Oak Hill Theological College in London, and in 1949 entered Wycliffe Hall, Oxford to study theology. He was ordained a deacon (1952) and a priest (1953) in the Church of England, within which he was associated with the Evangelical movement. He was Assistant Curate of Harborne Heath in Birmingham 1952–54 and Lecturer at Tyndale Hall, Bristol 1955–61. He was Librarian and then appointed warden (Principal) of Latimer House, Oxford 1961–62 and Principal 1962–69. In 1970 he became Principal of Tyndale Hall, Bristol. From 1971 until 1979 he was Associate Principal of Trinity College, Bristol, which had been formed from the amalgamation of Tyndale Hall with Clifton College and Dalton House-St Michael’s.

In 1979, Packer moved to Vancouver, BC, to take up a position at Regent College, eventually being named the first Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology, a title he held until he was named a Regent College Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology in 1996. Packer had a huge impact on students during his time at Regent, as evidenced by one of them, author Gary Thomas, dedicating his book Holy Available,and including a lengthy tribute, in honor of Dr. Packer’s 80th birthday. He is a prolific writer and frequent lecturer, but he is best known for his book, Knowing God. He was a frequent contributor to and an executive editor of “Christianity Today”.

Packer served as General Editor of the English Standard Version, a revision of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, and Theological Editor of the Study Bible version.

Packer is associated with St. John’s Vancouver Anglican Church, which in February 2008 voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) over the issue of same-sex blessings. St. John’s joined the Anglican Network in Canada. Packer, on 23 April, handed in his license from the Bishop of New Westminster. In December 2008 Dr. Packer was appointed an honorary Clerical Canon of St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney in recognition of his long and distinguished ministry as a faithful teacher of Biblical theology.

VOL: How old are you now Jim?

JIP: 87 rising to 88 next month.

VOL: How many books have you written?

JIP: About 40, but truthfully I have never counted.

VOL: What is your favorite book?

JIP: A Quest for Godliness

VOL: Why that book?

JIP: It expresses so much of the Puritan understanding of Christian spirituality which has been an enormous inspiration to me since I first discovered the writings of John Owen in 1946.

VOL: Which of your books has sold the most copies?

JIP: Knowing God has sold between 3 and 4 million copies. It has been established as a book of nurture in the English speaking world and translated into 25 languages. The most interesting is Urdu.

VOL: I gather you listen to a lot of Jazz music. Who is your favorite Jazz artist?

JIP: There are many I like, but Jazz music between 1923 up to 1940 is my favorite era when it ceased to be fashionable and Big Band Jazz took its place. There was a New Orleans revival in the late 40s of Jazz and I enjoy that.

VOL: On the issue of eternal judgment. You and the Rev. John Stott disagreed. You, I believe, hold to the view of eternal punishment, Stott believed in the ultimate annihilation of the damned. Do you still maintain your position, or have you changed your mind at all?

JIP: No. I have not changed my mind, I maintain that position. The Bible clearly teaches the eternally distressed positon expressed in terms of fire. That figure of speech recognizes an eternally painful state. I believe in the classic doctrine of hell taught since the 2nd century. I agree with Tertullian.

VOL: Do you believe that there is a second shot at salvation after death for those who have not heard?

JIP: Affirming Christ as ones Savior and Lord is confined to this life. After this life, people will know he is Lord without having the desire or without the possibility of confessing him that becomes salvific.

VOL: There is a third view being promulgated by some evangelicals, including Waldron Scott, a former General Secretary of the World Evangelical Fellowship, who now holds the view that the purpose of judgment is not condemnation, but what he calls restorative justice. That is, God will ultimately redeem the whole universe, that there is nothing in it for Him to destroy millions of souls who have neither heard nor rejected the gospel. Every knee will bow etc. Is this view reconcilable with classic Christian teaching?

JIP: I think, however precisely, the proponents of this view that this is an eccentric view. I find nothing in scripture to suggest that God’s dealings with those who die in unbelief and the guilt of sin will find any form of restoration after death.

VOL: Can you elaborate on this please?

JIP: I believe that everybody receives light from God that points us to God. The light that comes from God is a universal fact about the human race. I believe that people who have died without faith, whether they have heard the gospel or not have received the light from God which declares our obligation to worship and serve God and with it the guilt of not doing so. Everybody who dies in unbelief does so with a bad conscience deep down and the judicial process after death will bring that realization of guilt to consciousness and it will be part of the reality all those who are condemned will live in existence for all eternity.

VOL: Can God, who is all love, and Hell live side by side for all eternity?

JIP: I believe God’s hostility to sin remains an eternal fact, and I think the promise of unending life also remains an eternal fact. I don’t like this doctrine; it makes me shudder but it seems to me that scripture teaches it and that Scripture teaches to those who have faith in God’s nature and name and their experience of God for all eternity is an experience of love which will focus the mind and the heart so one will not grieve over those who are not saved. Those who are not sharing fullness of eternal life with Christ in God will not think of love for the lost nor will they brood on the condition of those who are not in the life with them.

VOL: In 1978 you signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which affirmed a conservative position on Biblical Inerrancy. Anglicans by and large are not inerrantists, rather they believe in the authority of Scripture, inerrancy has been more associated with extreme evangelicalism or even fundamentalism. Your comment?

JIP: I believe that all who recognize the authority of scripture should embrace the doctrine of the total truthfulness and trustworthiness of the Bible; that is what inerrancy means. We cannot explain the idea in isolated terms or words. The lines of thought in Scripture are totally true and trustworthy and thus inerrant.

VOL: How painful was it to be forced out of the Anglican Church of Canada?

JIP: Not very painful, personally, but it was distressing because the congregation was being forced out also and that brought considerable hardship to a number of people.

VOL: Do you regret that decision you made or do you still stand by it?

JIP: I stand by it. There was nothing else I could do. When you are confronted with a diocese of a church that insists that for some people that a particular form of sin (homosexuality) is a viable form of holiness, then extreme dissociation is the only option that one can embrace in good conscience. It was not so much a case of being forced but a case of conscientiously required withdrawal.

VOL: You were the first theologian to call on Archbishop Rowan Williams to resign as archbishop. What were the issues you felt necessitated that call for him to resign?

JIP: It was over the same issue of homosexuality. The impossibility of being a minority within a church unit that committed itself to the holiness or some of a particular major sin. When it was decided in the Anglican church of Canada by New Westminster Bishop Michael Ingham, made in the St. Michael report, that homosexuality is not one of the major sins. Homosexuality cannot be treated as a major doctrinal matter because it is not mentioned in the creeds to which I replied that the doctrine of creation mentioned in the creeds is distorted in a fundamental way by the sanctioning of homosexual practice and the explanation of that is that the doctrine of creation reveals that God made male and female. Homosexual relations rule out the purpose of procreation and thus cut across the divine intention in crating the two genders.

VOL: Looking back on 60 years of ministry, what are the very high points of your life’s work?

JIP: The highest point of all is the way that God gave me the literary gifts by enabling me to produce books that have sold widely and edified many Christian people. The second high spot is that over the p60 years that I have taught theology, I have been provided to help form the minds of a number of pastors whose evangelistic and nurturing ministry has been much blessed in the wider church.

VOL: What would you have done differently if you had your life over?

JIP: In retrospect I cannot name a single thing I that I would have done differently and I thank God that at this stage of life I don’t have to live with any regrets.

VOL: What is your greatest regret?

JIP: In terms of ministry, no regrets at all.

VOL: What would you like to hear our Lord say to you when you meet Him?

JIP: I hope he will judge me faithful and tell me so.

VOL: Thank you Dr. Packer.


Dumbfounding Dhimmitude

Monday, July 14th, 2014


Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day…

When they hand out prizes for mental and moral meltdowns, as well as prime examples of deluded dhimmitude, I would think this fellow could win hands down. He checks all the boxes for rank ignorance, damaging deception, paralysing political correctness, and major moonbattery.

islam 94 scottI refer to an English lord who has come up with one of the more remarkable – and idiotic – suggestions of recent times. This clueless dhimmi actually said that Christians should marry Muslims in the interests of peace and harmony. Yes he actually said that. Yes he actually is that foolish.

Here is how one news report carries this story:

Christians should be encouraged to marry Muslims as a way of tackling Islamophobia, a senior peer claimed today. Lord Scott, a former Supreme Court Judge, cited his own family – in which two of his four children married Muslims – as an example of how interfaith families can thrive.
The peer, who sits as a crossbencher in the Lords, made the comments during a debate on how to improve relations between the Muslim community and other faith groups in the UK. He said: “Of my two sons one has become a Muslim and of my two daughters one of those has become a Muslim, and I have 12 lovely grandchildren, seven of whom are little Muslims.

We can say this with complete assurance at the outset: this guy knows absolutely nothing about Islam, and he knows absolutely nothing about Christianity. Yet he dares to lecture both camps with his great wisdom. Mind-boggling.

Does he not know that Islamic law of course forbids Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims? Is he really that uninformed – or that stupid? He might as well suggest that Jews married Nazis in the interests of world peace. Or that blacks marry KKKers to promote social harmony. Or that nuns marry porn producers so we can all just get along.

Just how mentally short-changed is this guy? And let’s suppose this num num proposal is carried out. What if in the interests of family peace the Muslim decides to convert to Christianity? Does this guy not even realise that such a move is considered to be apostasy in Islam, deserving of the death penalty?

I guess not. But he is equally clueless about biblical Christianity. He seems completely unaware of the clear biblical teaching about Christians not becoming too closely bound up with non-Christians. Marriage is a prime example of this. Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 is unequivocal about such truths:

“Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their god, and they shall be my people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you’.”

Marrying a pagan would be utterly inconceivable to Paul. And marrying someone from a religion which vehemently denies the very heart of Christian doctrine (the Sonship of Christ, and his death on a cross and resurrection) would be even more incomprehensible to him.

Yet here we have this complexly confused lord telling us this is a jolly good idea. Muslims of course would love the proposal. Marriage is another way for Islam to spread, and to conquer all infidel resistance. Things are all one way traffic in Islam, which is why this idea in particular, and interfaith dialogue in general, are always lousy ideas from the Christian point of view.

So put this down to any number of possibilities: sheer ignorance, rank stupidity, or wilful blindness to reality. But one thing we have here most certainly: dhimmitude in action. This dhimmi takes the cake. And of course once Islam consolidates power in his neck of the woods, it will be his neck which first feels the sharp edge of the sword.

Helping people to die is not truly compassionate

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Justin Welby

Elderly people and others would be put under pressure to end their lives if assisted suicide were permitted by law

The Assisted Dying Bill will be debated in the House of Lords next week. This bill suggests that it is the only truly compassionate response that a civilised society can make to those who are terminally ill and who wish to end their own lives. This opinion is sincerely held and well-intentioned, but it is both mistaken and dangerous; quite literally, lethally so.

The compassion argument, as presented by proponents of the bill, runs something like this:
1 It is always right to act in a compassionate way;
2 Some terminally ill people face unbearable suffering and wish to have help in ending this suffering by bringing their lives to an end;
3 It is compassionate to provide
this help;
4 The law ought to be changed to allow this to happen.

Even if we leave to one side major difficulties in determining what legally constitutes “unbearable suffering” and “terminal illness”, the above argument is deeply flawed. Were it to be presented by a candidate in a GSCE religious education exam, I should expect an examiner to take a dim view of it.

The matter is, however, of more than academic interest; it is, in truth, a matter of life and death.

Few people would take exception to the first two points in the argument and I know that in many (though by no means all) cases, compassion is the primary motive for participating in assisted suicide. The main problem lies in the conclusion that on this basis the current law ought to be changed.

Compassion literally means “to suffer with”. The problem with the argument above is not that it fails to show compassion, but that it fails to show enough compassion. It restricts compassion to the immediate and the personal instead of extending it to everyone. It fails to recognise the truth contained in the parable of the Good Samaritan: every person is my neighbour; every person deserves my compassion.

It is entirely understandable that when we see someone we love suffering we will suffer along with them and we will want to do almost anything to alleviate their suffering.

All of us will have had some experience of that — some of us in extreme and terrible ways.

In the last few weeks I have sat by the bedside of someone dying while unnecessary treatment was given. I have sat by the bedside of one of my own children, having to agree to treatment ending.

Even in the face of such agony, I would make a plea that the deep personal demands of one situation do not blind us to the wider needs of others.

There are many people whom we will never meet who face suffering every day of their lives. Among these are vulnerable people, often elderly or living with severe disabilities. Action on Elder Abuse, for example, states that more than 500,000 elderly people are abused every year in the United Kingdom. Sadly, the majority of such abuse and neglect is perpetrated by friends and relatives, very often with financial gain as the main motive.

Compassion must be extended to these people when we consider changing the law to accommodate the smaller number of people who wish for help in ending their lives. If we are showing compassion only to those we know and love, there is a danger that it becomes a self-centred sentiment. True compassion suffers with all, including those whom we do not know or might never meet.

It would be very naive to think that many of the elderly people who are abused and neglected each year, as well as many severely disabled individuals, would not be put under pressure to end their lives if assisted suicide were permitted by law.

It would be equally naive to believe, as the Assisted Dying Bill suggests, that such pressure could be recognised in every instance by doctors given the task of assessing requests for assisted suicide. Abuse, coercion and intimidation can be slow instruments in the hands of the unscrupulous, creating pressure on vulnerable people who are encouraged to “do the decent thing”. Even where such pressure is not overt, the very presence of a law that permits assisted suicide on the terms proposed by Lord Falconer of Thoroton is bound to lead to sensitive individuals feeling that they ought to stop “being a burden to others”. What sort of society would we be creating if we were to allow this sword of Damocles to hang over the head of every vulnerable, terminally ill person in the country?

This is a moral decision: it is not compassion if in voting for my companion I expose others to danger. This is precisely what would happen if the Assisted Dying Bill became law.

This is not scaremongering. I know of health professionals who are already concerned by the ways in which their clients have suggestions “to go to Switzerland” whispered in their ears by relatives weary of caring for them and exasperated by seeing their inheritances dwindle through care costs. I have received letters from both disabled individuals and their carers, deeply concerned by the pressure that Lord Falconer’s bill could put them under if it became law.

Compassion is not simply a feeling; it is a commitment to sharing in the suffering of others while trying to alleviate it. True compassion can be shown through care, through expending time and resources on those suffering and through offering hope even in the darkest of circumstances.

The recent Supreme Court judgment has suggested that parliament might wish to discuss the possibility of finessing the current law to take greater account of the small number of individuals who are the exclusive focus of Lord Falconer’s bill, but not in the manner that his bill proposes.

That is an invitation to careful discussion, with proper compassion at its centre. What is certain is that compassion cannot be shown through the sort of discrimination that elevates one person’s experience, however dear he or she might be to me, above the experience of many others. That is not only my personal view; it is also the long-established view of the Church of England and almost all other churches and major faith traditions, as well as numerous groups representing the vulnerable.

Anglican Vicar Marries Atheist in Same-sex Wedding

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

The BBC reports:

Rev Andrew Cain has defied Church of England rules banning its clergy from marrying same-sex partners.

He is one of only two vicars to have had a same-sex wedding since the law allowing gay men and lesbians to marry came into force in England and Wales in March this year.

Rev Cain told Jeremy Vine that he found the service “surprisingly moving” and the day was “very special”.