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Kasper family values: GetReligion, February 28, 2014  April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
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In a break with 1500 years of tradition a leading Vatican official announced that Catholics should now read the Bible. In an address to a gathering of prelates in Rome last week Cardinal Walter Kasper conceded Scripture might play a role in developing church doctrine. The confession came amidst internal debates over ending the automatic excommunication and damnation of divorced and remarried Catholics — a practice polling data found not to be relevant to most Catholics. The change, experts say, was an admission that the Catholic Church had been out of touch with modern thinking on sexuality — and most other important issues — for centuries.

No, this was not the lede of the Associated Press’ story entitled “Cardinals delve into divorce-remarriage debate”, but the AP did tack very close to the wind with this story on Cardinal Walter Kasper’s address to an extraordinary consistory for the family attended by approximately 150 members of the college of cardinals. The topic of Cardinal Kasper’s address , which was not released to the public, was on the church’s pastoral sacramental support for divorced and remarried Catholics.

The story comes close to hyperbole in its statements about the place of Scripture in the life of the Catholic Church, while also repeating the now rather tired bad Benedict / good Frances (or Walter Kasper) theme.

The tone of the lede sets the direction for the remainder of the story. The “liberal” Catholics are praised while “conservatives” are rubbished.

Cardinals from around the world delved head-on Thursday into one of the most vexing issues facing the church, how to find ways to provide better pastoral care for divorced and remarried Catholics who are forbidden from receiving Communion and other church sacraments. German Cardinal Walter Kasper, a pre-eminent theologian who has called for “openings and changes” in dealing with these Catholics, delivered a two-hour keynote speech to the two-day meeting, which is serving as preparation for an October summit of bishops on family issues.

What does pre-eminent mean? Eminent over whom? Is the point of comparison is the conservative Pope Benedict XVI — the one whose policies call for “openings and changes”?

And, is it correct to say that divorced and remarried Catholics are “forbidden from receiving Communion and other church sacraments?”  The AP doubles down on its assertion in the next paragraph.

Church teaching holds that unless the first marriage is annulled, or declared null and void by a church tribunal, Catholics who remarry cannot receive Communion or other sacraments because they are essentially living in sin and committing adultery. Such annulments are often impossible to get or can take years to process, a problem that has left generations of Catholics feeling shunned from their church.

Again the tone is needlessly harsh. It is correct to say that divorced and remarried Catholics may participate in the worship service of the Eucharist, but not receive.

Other sanctions include being allowed to participate in communal celebrations of Reconciliation and, visit privately with a priest in Confession but not receive absolution. They may serve as an official witness at a Catholic marriage, but not as a catechist, teacher, Godparent or Confirmation sponsor.

However, they may celebrate the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick when in danger of death and have a Catholic funeral and be buried in a Catholic cemetery, have their children baptized and enrolled in Catholic school or religious education program participate in the public spiritual and social life of the parish, but not serve in public ministries or leadership positions. The ban is not universal as the AP suggests — but it is none the less strong.

The article then shifts into the bad Benedict / good Francis mode, adding Walter Kasper to the good team. It states:

Kasper frequently cited the Bible as a source of inspiration in a signal, almost Protestant in nature, that the answer to the problem lay in scripture. He told reporters that Francis had asked him to pose questions to the 150 cardinals to begin a debate on the issue.

This could have come from the Protestant anti-Catholic song book. Catholicism is not Biblical and Catholics are ignorant mackerel snapping left footers. Their teachings float free from Scripture. Which is of course all rather silly.

It is true Scripture plays a greater role in the life of the Protestant churches than the Catholic Church, but the AP’s almost Protestant jib is unfair and unprofessional as it does not explain the role of Scripture in the development of doctrine or in the liturgy of the church. While the Protestant churches have from the beginning encouraged its members to study Scripture and its scholars dominated the field of Scriptural interpretation for centuries that changed after 1943 when Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu. This not only allowed Catholics to study Scripture, it encouraged them to do so. It is fair to say the Catholic Church has changed its attitude towards the study of Scripture over the last century, but the AP goes too far when it suggests that it now has discovered Scripture as a source for doctrine.

There was an opportunity here for the AP to tell a fascinating story about an issue close to the hearts of many Catholics. But it chose not to.

First printed at GetReligion.

Sausage making and news reporting on Zanzibar: GetReligion, February 27, 2014 April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Tanzania, Get Religion, Press criticism, Terrorism.
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Otto von Bismark’s reputed maxim: “Laws are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made …” could be applied to the crafting of a news story.

Most readers do not concern themselves with how a story came to be and accept the finished product of a news story as “the story.” In the age of the internet and declining standards and budgets for the once great news outlets this is not always a wise move.

Now approaching everything one reads with absolute skepticism is a tedious business. There will always be cranks who see the hidden hands of Freemasons, international Jewry or the vast right wing conspiracy lurking behind the text. Readers must balance their skepticism against the trust they have in the publication or author.

If Walter Cronkite said it, it had to be true. If it appears in the National Enquirer it has to be false.

But as history has shown us, the icons of of good and bad journalism, like the sayings everyone knows to be true because we’ve heard them so often, are not always so.Walter Cronkite in his broadcast of Feb 27, 1968 was wrong about the Tet Offensive, the National Enquirer was right about John Edwards in 2007, and Otto von Bismarknever said anything about laws and sausages.

These musings were prompted by a story in the Washington Post from the Religion News Service entitled “Bombs explode Zanzibar calm as religious tensions flare” where RNS bungles the lede.

In the classical Anglo-American style of reporting the lede sentence is where the voice of the author is heard. The lede lays down the tracks that sets the destination for the news train that follows. My instructors in the craft likened the process to organizing a goods train. While the lede gives the destination and names the passengers and freight, the paragraphs that follow are akin to freight cars — each with its own cargo.

Opinions are welcome, but they should be from identifiable third parties, as is analysis, but it should be identified as such. This differs from advocacy reporting where facts are interspersed with opinion throughout a story in order to convince the reader of the merits of the writer’s view.

The RNS story begins:

After months of calm in Zanzibar, two homemade bombs exploded Monday (Feb. 24) near St. Monica Anglican Cathedral and the Mercury restaurant, a popular hangout for tourists visiting the Indian Ocean archipelago.

No one was hurt, but one day earlier, four people were injured in another explosion, targeting an Assemblies of God church.

The article then proceeds to lay out the name of the suspected attackers, offer a comment from the Anglican bishop of the island, and then provide background on past attacks by Islamic militants on Christians and tourists in Zanzibar. These paragraphs are fine, but the lede I find problematic.

A disclaimer — I have visited the cathedral in Zanzibar and know its dean (the priest in charge). This having been said, the name of the cathedral is Christ Church Cathedral. St. Monica’s is the hostel next to the cathedral.

The dean emailed me shortly after the blast with news of the attack stating the bombs exploded at the entrance to the cathedral compound. In 2012 St Monica’s was damaged by a mob of Islamic militants — but this time round it was the cathedral that was attacked.

It might well be the case that the bishop quoted in the article said St Monica’s had been damaged in the blast and this was interpreted by the reporter to mean the cathedral. This is not a fatal error.

What concerns me more, however, is the opening phrase “after months of calm”. The article appears to contradict this assertion by noting an Assemblies of God church was attacked earlier in the week. But if the author means to imply that this attack came out of the blue — and broke a tranquility of the island, then he is seriously misinformed.

There has been an on-going campaign of aggression against native Christians in Zanzibar waged by the Islamic terror group named in the article. Western news sources pick up reports of European tourists, Catholic priests and Anglican cathedrals being attacked, but the harassment of the Christian minority is a daily fact of life.

Setting the direction of the story by implying the bombing of Christ Church Cathedral was an aberration that broke “months of calm” creates a false framework. While this is a wire service story and there is only so much context that can be given — it would have helped explain the story by noting there will be a referendum in April in Zanzibar on Tanzania’s new constitution. The militants want Zanzibar to secede from Tanzania and establish the island as an Islamic republic.

The story would have been improved had RNS tied the political to the religious aspects of this story.

Sausage making photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

First published at GetReligion.

Breivik the liar: GetReligion, February 23, 2014 April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism.
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The news that Anders Behring Breivik has written a letter to the Norwegian media stating his protestations of Christian faith, pro-Israel opinions and anti-Nazi convictions were a calculated lie has left me stunned.

Breivik now says his manifesto and early statements were a bluff designed to focus public and media outrage on Christians, Jews and conservatives by tainting them with his actions. His early denials of being a racist or hyper-nationalist were false, Breivik writes. He lied in order to protect the good name of the neo-Nazi movement (Yes, I find that to be incredible on several levels, but that is what he said.)

What is one to believe? It is easy to dismiss this latest prison epistle as the ravings of a madman. Save that he is not mad (according to psychiatrists). Does being merely evil make them less credible?

On July 22, 2011 the 32-year old Norwegian detonated a bomb outside an Oslo government building killing eight and then proceeded to shoot to death 69 people,  mostly teenagers, attending a Worker’s Youth League (AUF) camp on the Island of Utøya. The Oslo District Court rejected Breivik’s insanity defense and on August 24, 2012, found him guilty of murdering 77 people. He was sentenced to 21 years imprisonment, but is likely to serve a life term as he can only be released if the courts determine he is no longer a danger to society.

The narrative adopted by many press outlets was to label Breivik a “Christian fundamentalist” terrorist. My colleagues at GetReligion: Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, Terry Mattingly and Arne Fjeldsted questioned this conventional wisdom. And their concerns about the snap judgments made by many news outlets about Breivik have been proven prescient.

In her piece “The Atlantic has this terrorist all figured out” Mollie noted the welter of confusing claims and statements from the shooter, but questioned The Atlantic for its dogmatic assertion as to the man’s motives. She wrote:

But The Atlantic has figured it all out. Turns out the shooter was led to do all this by his fundamentalist interpretation of Christianity. This hasn’t been a good week for The Atlantic and religion news, but let’s see. Maybe they have something to teach us.

Note the url: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/07/christian-fundamentalist-charged-death-toll-norway-soars-past-90/40321/. The headline? “The Christian Extremist Suspect in Norway’s Massacre”

Wow! They must really have access to some exclusive information. I can’t wait to find out what it is.

Turns out there wasn’t any.

A week out from the attack, Tmatt noted some newspapers were moving away from the Christian claims.

At this point, I think most journalists have reached the point that they know that Anders Behring Breivik (a) has self-identified as a “Christian,” (b) yet he also made it clear that he is not a Christian believer, in terms of beliefs and practice and (c) that it is bizarre to call him a “fundamentalist,” in any historic sense of the word.

The early facts indicate that this was a political radical committing an act of political terrorism for political motives, motives that happen to include some idealized vision of resurrecting some kind of old, glorified, “Christian” European culture.

Yes, I know plenty of activist and advocate journalists are sticking with the “Christianist” template. Also, there are academics who are sharpening their swords and taking the usual swings at orthodox forms of religion (“When Christianity becomes lethal“) Nevertheless, most mainstream journalists seem to be staying in the middle of things and, perhaps, waiting for facts about this terrorist and whatever ties he did or did not have to real people and institutions outside of history books and cyberspace.

Tmatt closed his piece by asking reporters to keep digging.

Well, we now know more about what he has said — the manifesto plugged that hole, for journalists. We know a bit about what he may or may not have been reading. We know nothing whatsoever about his own religious life and the practice of his faith, if he ever did so. There are no signs of institutional links or real, live clergy of any kind. Again I urge journalists to look for financial ties.

The ultimate question, in terms of religion: Was this man truly a loner, a man living out a brand of faith that he created on his own and, in the end, one in which he serves as the prophet who produces the private scriptures that guide his life and work? In other words, if he calls himself a “Christian,” where is his church, his pew, his altar and his pastor-priest?

Journalists must keep looking for the facts.


And Arne noted the initial police statement that Breivik was a Christian fundamentalist did not stand up.

The first explanation by Deputy Police Chief Roger Andresen in Oslo has been quoted by many media: “He confirmed that Mr. Breivik belongs to a Christian, fundamentalist, extreme-right environment in Norway.” (Source in Norwegian: from the newspaperAftenposten.)

However, this description may have been largely misunderstood and misinterpreted, if not simply mistaken and false.

Now, courtesy of the Gates of Vienna blog (one of the sources for his ideas Breivik claimed — falsely? — in his manifesto) the killer has written to the Norwegian press revealing his true motives. It was easy to fool the press and to channel their outrage against his  enemies, Breivik wrote. (Quotation as written)

When dealing with media psychopaths, a good way to counter their tactics is to use double-psychology, or at least so I thought. The compendium was, among other things, of a calculated and quite cynical <<gateway-design>> (the 2+?+?=6-approach), created to strengthen the ethnocentrist wing in the contra-jihad movement, by pinning the whole thing on the anti-ethnocentrist wing (many of the leaders are pro-multiculti social democrats or liberalists), while at the same time protecting and strengthening the ethnocentrist-factions. The idea was to manipulate the MSM and others so that they would launch a witch-hunt and send their <<media-rape-squads>> against our opponents. It worked quite well.

And Breivik’s alleged pro-Israel views? He writes:

I know a lot of people will be dissapointed when reading this, but my love for Israel is limited to its future function as a deportation-port for disloyal jews. I am aware of the sad fact that all available statistics confirm that only aprox. three percent of eurojews oppose multiculti (but from an anti-islamist perspective), and that only aprox. 0,2 percent support nordic indigenous rights. I wish it wasnt so… However, there is in fact a strong anti-nordicist/ethnocentrist wing within the counter-jihad movement, represented by Fjordman and his Jewish network, the EDL-leader, the SIOE-leaders, Wilders, Farage etc., but their organisations are so heavily infiltrated by nordicists and ethnocentrists that its hard to say which wing are actually controlling them.

The blogger Fjordman, who was vilified for his alleged influence upon Breivik, is part of Jewish conspiracy that includes the UKIP’s Nigel Farage and Dutch politician Geert Wilders, Breivik tells us — and it was Breivik’s intention not only to kill 77 people but to “manipulate the MSM and others so they would launch a witch-hunt … against our opponents” who include Fjordman, Farage, Wilders et al.

To add insult to injury, I have not seen this latest story covered by the Anglo-American news outlets who were so quick to speculate in the immediate aftermath of the shooting — though it is beginning to break through on the internet.

If Breivik was lying in 2011, what is to stop him from lying in 2014? Is his claim of a double-bluff a triple-bluff? Is it worth even trying to understand this man’s thinking?

Should the press ignore these latest revelations? Or should it return to a story that was misreported early on — and remains clouded? The answer for any journalist worth the name is yes — go back and dig.

First printed at GetReligion.

What’s God got to do with it — in Maidan square?: GetReligion, February 21, 2014 April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Russian Orthodox, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Ukrainian Orthodox (Kiev Patriarchate), Ukrainian Orthodox (Moscow Patriarchate).
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I’ve said it oncetwice, and I’ll say it again — there is more than one Orthodox Church in the Ukraine.

Does this matter? Is this pettifogging carping — dull minded pedantry? Am I just showing off a store of useless knowledge, or Is it important to distinguish between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate) (KP) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriachate) (MP) when reporting on the demonstrations in Kiev?

If you want to understand what is going on and break free from the narrative being peddled that this is a conflict over “fundamental European values” (Guardian) with the protestors “defying the post-Soviet order imposed by Russia” (Economist) in order to build what British Foreign Secretary William Hague believes will be a “free, sovereign, democratic” Ukraine — then it is important to understand the local issues driving this conflict. Contrary to what the Western European politicians want to believe, this is not a rerun of the Cold War with Angela Merkel and David Cameron replacing Ronald Reagan as the hero. What then is going on?

On page A8 this morning the Wall Street Journal ran a story entitled “CathedralTurns Into Hospital as Ukraine Protests Worsen.” Casualties from the fighting in Independence Square, or Maidan Square as it is know to the locals, have been brought to the cathedral for treatment by volunteer doctors.

The lede states:

KIEV, Ukraine – In St. Michael’s Cathedral, Orthodox priests chanting prayers have been replaced by doctors calling for medicine.

The golden-domed church has been transformed into a field hospital of sorts for protesters injured or worse in days of deadly clashes with police.

And then the story shifts to interviews and man in the street accounts from doctors, volunteers and patients being treated at the cathedral. The article is strongly written and crisply presents the sights and sounds observed by the Wall Street Journal’s man in Kiev.

 

“We’ve had four or five corpses here already today,” says Taras Semushchak, a 47-year-old surgeon from Lviv in western Ukraine. “Most had gunshot wounds from snipers and Kalashnikovs.”

Yet for all the color reporting, the article does not ask the question why are the wounded being treated at St. Michael’s? Why not at St. Sophia’s Orthodox Cathedral on Volodymyrs’ka Street? Why a cathedral in the first place?

Is this a Kievan counterpart to the Occupy Wall Street crowd seeking to use Trinity Wall Street in lower Manhattan as a base of operations? With the difference being the Episcopal Church said no while the KP said yes?

Is a better analogy St. Paul’s Cathedral in London permitting protestors to use their precincts?

In our past posts on this subject, tmatt and I have explored the religious dimensions of this story noting there are three principal churches in the Ukraine: the Moscow Patriarchate, the  Kiev Patriarchate, and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church).

The leaders of the three churches have taken differing stands on the protests, with the Kiev Patriarchate and the Greek Catholics backing the country’s realignment towards Europe, while the Moscow Patriarchate backs the president’s alignment with Vladimir Putin’s regime in Moscow. In late December the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, including its Ukrainian bishops, released a statement condemning proposals for the Ukraine to move closer to the EU at the expense of its relations with Russia.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation in Washington last November Patriarch Filaret of the Kiev Patriarchate urged the Ukraine to break free from Moscow and secure its political, economic and religious independence. He was reported to have said:

[T]he Ukrainian Churches would benefit from an Association Agreement. For one thing, it would place the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) in a new situation. With Ukraine committed to Europe and continued independence, that Church would have to decide which side it was on – that of Russia, or that of the Ukrainian people. By siding with Russia, the UOC-MP would assume the role of a fifth column for a hostile state. If, on the other hand, it sided with the Ukrainians, it would be obligated to unite with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) into a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church, independent of Moscow.

The Kiev Patriarchate and the Greek Catholic Church have lent their support to the demonstrations — and as the Wall Street Journal story reports, the KP has opened its churches as sanctuaries for the wounded. The Moscow Patriarchate in Kiev has backed President Yanukovich — and its calls for calm echoes the president’s public statements to date.

Leaving out the affiliation of the cathedral to the KP blurs the ethnic-religious elements of this conflict. And it makes the setting of this story meaningless. It could just as well have been a school, museum or other large civic structure.

But aside from the spiritual resonance of a cathedral serving as a hospital for the souls of the sick and a cathedral serving as a shelter for the wounded — there is a practical link between St. Michael’s, its clergy, the KP and the unfolding demonstrations in Kiev. That’s a fact. It matters.

First printed at GetReligion.

Balkan absurdist reporting by Reuters: Get Religion, February 19, 2014  April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Bulgarian Orthodox, Get Religion, Islam, Press criticism.
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At Get Religion it is usually considered bad form to criticize wire service reports for lacking context. There is only so much information that a reporter can pack into a 300 word story. The absence of an explanatory sentence or two that gives the reader some clues as to the meaning of the story is seldom fatal to an article’s journalistic integrity — but it can at times lead to an article coming across as a Haiku.

This article from Reuters entitled “Bulgarian police detain 120 after mosque attack” I readily concede does not fit into the 5 – 7 – 5 sound (on) pattern of classical Japanese poetry nor the 17 syllables of contemporary English Haiku. Nevertheless the imagery created in this short piece does a great job of telling the story.

A problem with imagery, however, is that the reader must be aware of the symbolic meaning of the nouns being used. The story has a wonderful lede:

Bulgarian police detained more than 120 people on Friday after hundreds of nationalists and soccer fans attacked a mosque in the country’s second city Plovdiv, smashing its windows with stones.

Why is this wonderful you ask? On one level there is an absurdist quality to this sentence with overtones of Monty Python, Lemony Snicket and Eugene Ionescu. A mosque has been attacked by a mob casting stones. A Bulgarian mosque has been attacked by a mob casting stones. A Bulgarian mosque in Bulgaria’s second city has been attacked by a mob casting stones. A Bulgarian mosque in Bulgaria’s second city has been attacked by a mob of soccer fans and (Bulgarian?) nationalists casting stones.

Each iteration makes the story ever so slightly more ridiculous, but at the same time it conveys the absurdity of life through the incongruity of its elements and apparent absence of reason. But this is the Balkans.

The story continues:

 

Over 2,000 people had gathered outside a Plovdiv court as it heard an appeal case dealing with the return of an ancient mosque in the central city of Karlovo, taken over by the state more than 100 years ago, to Bulgaria’s Chief Mufti, the Muslim religious authority.

The soccer fans and nationalists then marched on a mosque in Plovdiv and pelted it with stones. Given the limitations of space Reuters did a great job in reporting this story. At its close the article offered two small bits of context:

Muslims make up about 13 percent of Bulgaria’s 7.3 million people. The Chief Mufti has launched some 26 court cases to try to restore Muslim ownership of 29 mosques and other property across the Balkan state, prompting some public opposition in the predominantly Orthodox Christian population.

These help the reader, but for those not au courant with the modern history of the Balkans, the incongruity of elements might make this story hard to follow. The mosque in Karlovo that served as the flashpoint for this controversy was confiscated by Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria after the Second Balkan War of 1913. That war saw an exodus of many Turks and Muslim Bulgarians — the Pomaks (Slav converts to Islam who speak Bulgarian but follow Turkish customs) from the region West of the River Maritsa or Evros. For Bulgarian nationalists the return of the mosque in Karlovo (which is in ruins but preserved as a historical site by the city government) is a political — ethnic — religious insult. Turkish nationalists might react in the same fashion if Hagia Sophia were returned to the Ecumenical Patriarch. An admittedly bad analogy might be if a Mexican-American group petitioned Texas for possession of the Alamo.

That might explain the nationalists in the mob. But soccer fans? In an American context that conveys images of mothers with mini-vans. In Europe it is code language of skin heads, or neo-nazis, or violent nationalists — whose energies are channeled into supporting a particular football (soccer) team and engaging in violent conflicts with the fans of other teams.

Tie all this into recent statements by the Turkish prime minister about his country’s role as a protector of Balkan Muslims, you have all the makings of a Balkan imbroglio.

How do you tell this story in less than 300 words? Reuters did a pretty good job. But it fleshing the story out with a word or two of “why” on the inter play of religion, politics and ethnicity would have made this piece even better.

IMAGE: courtesy of Shutterstock.

First printed in GetReligion.

Miscues in news on gay blessings and marriage from London: GetReligion, February 18, 2014 April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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The Valentine’s Day statement from the House of Bishops of the Church of England on gay marriage has fluttered the Anglican dovecots.

The story received A1 treatment from the British press and it spawned commentaries and opinion pieces in the major outlets. The second day stories reported some activists were “appalled” by the news whilst others were over the moon with delight — but being British their joy did not rise to continental expressions of euphoria.

The story continues to move through the media and on Sunday the BBC had one bishop tell the Sunday Programme that clergy who violated the Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage protocol might be brought up on charges — and could well be sacked.

So what did the bishops do? A scan of the first day stories reports that they either said “no to gay marriage but yes to gay civil unions” or “no to gay marriage and no to blessing gay unions.” The first day reports were evenly divided between the “no/yes” and “no/no” schools.

The Independent interpreted the document as no/yes.  The lede  in its story entitled “Gay marriage: Church of England to offer prayers after weddings but no same-sex marriage for vicar” stated:

Gay couples will be able to have special prayers following their weddings but members of the clergy are banned from entering same-sex marriages when these become legal next month.

The Church of England issued its new pastoral guidance following a meeting of the House of Bishops to discuss the issue on Friday. Despite condemning “irrational fear of homosexuals” and saying all were “loved by God”, the document sent a clear signal separating the Church’s concept of marriage and the new legal definition. …

Civil partnerships will still be performed and vicars have been warned that married couples must be welcomed to worship and not subject to “questioning” or discrimination. Same-sex couples may ask for special prayers after being married but it will not be a service of blessing.

The Telegraph also took the no/yes line. The lede to its story entitled “Church offers prayers after same-sex weddings — but bans gay priests from marrying” stated:

Gay couples who get married will be able to ask for special prayers in the Church of England after their wedding, the bishops have agreed. But priests who are themselves in same-sex relationships or even civil partnerships will be banned from getting married when it becomes legally possible next month.

Compare this to the dispatch from Reuters which took a no/no line. Its lede stated:

Church of England priests will not be allowed to bless gay and lesbian weddings, or marry someone of the same sex themselves, according to new guidelines issued by the church, which is struggling to heal divides over homosexuality.

Why the disparate interpretations? Was this a case of the Church of England speaking out of both sides of its mouth at the same time? Offering an ambiguous statement that allows individuals to read into it what they are predisposed to find?

Perhaps. One should never underestimate the skill of the Sir Humphrey Appleby’s at Church House in churning out drivel. But in this case I believe the reporters’ suppositions as to the meaning of phrases drove their interpretations. The problem was not imprecise language from the bishops but a lack of understanding of technical language from reporters.

Here are the pertinent paragraphs:

19. As noted above, same sex weddings in church will not be possible. As with civil partnership, some same sex couples are, however, likely to seek some recognition of their new situation in the context of an act of worship.

20.   The 2005 pastoral statement said that it would not be right to produce an authorized public liturgy in connection with the registering of civil partnerships and that clergy should not provide services of blessing for those who registered civil partnerships. The House did not wish, however,  to interfere with the clergy’s pastoral discretion about when more informal kind of prayer, at the request of the couple, might be appropriate in the light of the circumstances.   The College made clear on 27 January that, just as the Church of England’s doctrine of marriage remains the same, so its pastoral and liturgical practice also remains unchanged.

21.  The same approach as commended in the 2005 statement should therefore apply to couples who enter same-sex marriage, on the assumption that any prayer will be accompanied by pastoral discussion of the church’s teaching and their reasons for departing from it. Services of blessing should not be provided. Clergy should respond pastorally and sensitively in other ways.

Paragraph 19 restates there will be no same-sex church weddings, but notes that some same-sex couples might seek to have their unions prayed for, or over, by the clergy. The bishops are not giving their permission to do so, but are stating what they acknowledge to be the “facts on the ground” in some parishes.

Paragraph 20 notes the current practice is to permit “informal” prayers offered at the discretion of the priest that are appropriate to the circumstances, while paragraph 21 states no blessings of same-sex unions will be permitted.

However, clergy are permitted to offer prayers. What exactly is a prayer in this situation? A blessing? No. A mark of approbation or thanksgiving by the church? Not according to the document. The bishops have left this crucial bit undefined, save in the negative — saying what it is not.

The emphasis missing from the Telegraph and Independent stories is that in the context of these private informal prayers, the priest is to reiterate to the same-sex couple the church’s teaching on sexuality and ask they “their reasons for departing from it.”

The assumption made by the Telegraph and Independent is that a prayer for a same-sex couple must be, by its very nature, a prayer of affirmation. That is not stated in the document, and the reference to existing teachings would make affirmation of a gay union difficult at the very least — if the priest were to honor the bishops’ guidance.

There is ambiguity here — I can’t let the bishops off that lightly — as a clergyman who will be asked to give informal private prayers by a gay couple will most likely to be known to them and would offer prayers of affirmation. He is not forbidden to do that, but must also tag on the party line as their union is not one the church believes is in line with God’s plan for mankind, is contrary to Scripture and to right reason.

Is this then a failure of the press to Get Religion? To one degree yes — Reuters and other newspaper picked up the no/no line that the Telegraph and Independentmissed. But at the same time the bishops were not as clear as they could have been.

The bigger journalism issue is not the insiders’ Anglican game — but the difficulty in communicating to the wider world the symbols and code language of religious institutions. These sorts of miscue and missteps happen all the time in reporting on the Vatican — and the farther a faith moves from the comfort and knowledge zone of reporters the more apt we are to see the gaps. The answer, of course, is to use specialist reporters to write on these topics. Which I’m afraid is not likely to happen in the near future.

First printed in GetReligion.

Bible Society at work amidst Kiev protests: The Church of England Newspaper, April 4, 2014 April 11, 2014

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The Ukraine Bible Society has responded to the street protests in Kiev and the unrest in the Crimea with a campaign to distribute Scriptures in Russian and Ukrainian. “We believe that only God can bring peace and reconciliation so, with clergy and church volunteers, we went out onto the streets, getting close to government forces and protesters. Local churches set up prayer tents all over Maidan (Kiev’s Independence Square, scene of the conflict between police and protestors), and together we provided food and drink, helped the injured to get medical help, and distributed more than 8,000 Scriptures. People responded so warmly that we completely ran out of free Scriptures to distribute”, reports Rostyslav Stasyuk of UkBS. “We pray that with God’s help, Ukraine will emerge renewed and re–devoted to Him,” he writes.

Blackburn to host Royal Maundy service: The Church of England Newspaper, April 6, 2014 April 11, 2014

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Blackburn Cathedral will be the site of this year’s Royal Maundy Service on 17 April 2014.

The Queen will present “Maundy money,” specially minted silver coins to pensioners who have made a “significant contribution” to Church or civic life. The number of recipients is by tradition set by the age of the monarch-88 men and 88 women will receive the coins from the Queen, who celebrates her 88th birthday this year.

This year’s recipients will come from Lancashire. The Dean of Blackburn, the Very Rev. Christopher Armstrong said welcoming the Queen was “a huge privilege as well as a great responsibility. I am sure the visit will be a wonderful experience for all involved.”

The Rt. Rev. Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn, who was appointed in October, added: “It will be wonderful in my first year in the diocese to be able to welcome Her Majesty to the cathedral. Normally people visit Her Majesty to receive honours, so it is symbolic this is the only occasion the Queen travels to make an award.”

The distribution of alms on Maundy Thursday has its origin in Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet.  Beginning in the 13th century, the Sovereign would give alms of money, food and clothing to the poor and wash their feet.  James II, who was the last monarch to exercise the traditional gift of healing touch of the king, was also the last monarch to wash the feet of the recipients.

Beginning in the 13th century the ceremony was traditionally been held at Westminster Abbey.  The Queen changed this practice and services are now held at cathedrals across England—in 1982 the Church in Wales played host at St David’s Cathedral in Dyfed and in 2008 the Church of Ireland’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh hosted the ceremony.

The word “Maundy” is derived from the first antiphon traditionally sung at the ceremony: “Mandatum novum do vobis”: ‘A new commandment give I unto you.’ John 13.34.

Sussex cleric banned for Life: The Church of England Newspaper, April 6, 2014 April 11, 2014

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The Diocese of Chichester has banned a retired clergyman imprisoned for child abuse in 2013, the Rev. Wilkie Denford from “ministerial practice for life.”

On 21 March 2014 the diocese released a statement saying: “Following the conclusion of criminal proceedings and a subsequent statutory disciplinary process under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003, sentences of prohibition for life from exercising any functions of ordained ministry within the Church of England have been imposed upon the Reverend Keith (Wilkie) Denford. The sentences are imposed under Section 30 of the Clergy Discipline Measure following the respondents’ convictions and imprisonment for a series of indecent assaults, including offences against minors.”

In May 2013 Denford was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment by the Hove Crown Court for sexually abusing two teenage boys.  “There can be no greater breach of trust than a man playing the role of a man of God, and as the spiritual adviser to the family concerned, to take advantage of that position to abuse small children,” Judge Paul Tain told Denford at his sentencing.

In a 9 May 2013 statement released after the sentence was handed down, the Bishop of Chichester, the Rt. Rev. Martin Warner, said “today will mark a milestone for the survivors who have had to live through this trial.  To them we offer an unreserved apology and an assurance that we have heard and we believe the terrible story they have had to tell.”

TEC appeal dismissed in SC: The Church of England Newspaper, April 4, 2014 April 11, 2014

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A South Carolina appeals court has dismissed the appeal of the Episcopal Church and its allies in the Diocese of South Carolina, seeking review of a lower court order rejecting the national church’s demand that attorneys for the diocese turn over copies of their correspondence with the Bishop of South Carolina, the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence.  A spokesman for the diocese stated they were “grateful” the court had dismissed the appeal. “Their strategy of using legal motions to delay court decisions caused eight months to be wasted when they asked the federal court to override the state court injunction. As in that matter, the courts sided with the Diocese of South Carolina,” Canon Jim Lewis said. The ruling renders moot a motion filed by the diocese last month for the state Supreme Court to take jurisdiction over the appeal and return the dispute to the trial docket, which is scheduled to adjudicate the case in July.

Texas Supreme Court rejects TEC appeal: The Church of England Newspaper, March 28, 2014 April 11, 2014

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The Texas Supreme Court has rejected the petition of the Episcopal Church in the Texas property cases, denying a rehearing of its dispute with the Diocese of Fort Worth and a parish in the Diocese of Northwest Texas that had seceded from its diocese.  The 21 March 2014 ruling sends the disputes back to the trial courts with instructions to adjudicate the case without reference to church canon law, looking only at civil property law. “We are greatly relieved by the finality of the Court’s ruling,” said the Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth. “TEC’s rehearing strategy has delayed us from moving on with this case by more than six months and at the cost of several thousands of dollars to oppose it. My advice is that TEC cut its losses and get on with their life without the Diocese of Fort Worth. Their litigation strategy has failed.”

Arab Spring turning into winter: The Church of England Newspaper, March 28, 2014 April 11, 2014

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The Arab Spring was “not a spring or even an autumn, it was a winter,” said the Patriarch of Alexandria, Tawadros II, denouncing the revolutions that had stirred the Middle East and North Africa since 2010. In an interview broadcast on 22 March 2014 on the al-Watan network, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church said Western support for the revolutions had been profoundly misguided as was its support of the former President Muhammad Mursi, who ruled “in the name of religion” while distorting the tenets of Islam.  The Patriarch gave his blessing to General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, leader of the coup that had ousted Mursi calling him “the hero of the June Revolution who had saved Egypt”, adding support for the general’s bid for election as the country’s next president was an act of “patriotism”.

South African church back Thuli: The Church of England Newspaper, March 28, 2014 April 11, 2014

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Church leaders in South Africa have defended the country’s Public Protector – the top anti-corruption official – from attacks made by allies of President Jacob Zuma over corruption allegations. In a statement released on 18 March 2014, the Most Rev Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town said: “We in the churches deeply regret that certain clergy have ganged up against the Public Protector in the name of the Church. They have done so without adequate knowledge of her reports and their intervention only serves to undermine the fight against corruption.” On 19 March 2014 Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, reported that almost £24 million of public money had been spent to improve the private residence of President Jacob Zuma. The expenditures were not related to security but were luxurious upgrades to the country estate. “It is shameful to see the dirty tactics being employed” to smear the Public Protector the archbishop said.  The Rt. Rev. Rubin Philip of Natal along with other religious leaders of KwaZulu-Natal released a statement noting the Public Protector’s office is “a vital institution which should be given all the support that it deserves, rather than be undermined. If we are patriots with a genuine love for our beautiful country and willing to see it occupy its rightful place in the world of nations, then we have no option but to unreservedly stand in solidarity with it.”

Half a million driven from their homes by Boko Haram: The Church of England Newspaper, March 28, 2014 April 11, 2014

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The insurgency in Northeastern Nigeria waged by the Islamist terror group Boko Haram has forced nearly 500,000 people from their homes and threatens the stability of West Africa, U.N. High Commissioner for Human rights Navi Pillay has warned.  “With thousands of refugees fleeing from Nigeria, and arms and fighters reportedly flowing across international borders in the other direction, this terrible conflict is no longer solely an internal matter,” she said last week during a tour of the country. Human Rights Watch reports that 2014 is on track to becoming the deadliest year of the insurgency with 700 people reported  dead so far.  Speaking to the media following a service commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Archbishop Vinning Memorial Cathedral in Lagos on 8 March 2014, the Primate of Nigeria, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh warned that no one was safe, adding “As we pray for God to help this nation, we also call on the Federal Government to double their effort.” The Bishop of Lagos West, the Rt. Rev. James Odedeji added “government should take full responsibility of securing the life and property of its citizenry which it took an oath to do.”

Ghana archbishop to lead Church of the Province of West Africa: The Church of England Newspaper, March 28, 2014 April 11, 2014

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The Archbishop of Ghana, the Most Rev. Daniel Sarfo, Bishop of Kumasi, has succeeded to the post of Primate of the Church of the Province of West Africa (CPWA) following the 21 Jan 2014 death of the Most. Rev. Tilewa Johnson, Bishop of the Gambia and Archbishop and Primate of West Africa. In a statement released last month the CPWA stated that under the terms of its constitution Dr. Sarfo “automatically” became the 10th “metropolitan archbishop of the CPWA”.  Formed in 1951 from the Anglican dioceses along the West African coast, in 2012 the CPWA divided into two internal provinces, Ghana and West Africa, in preparation for the secession of Ghana to form its own freestanding church. In 1979 the sixteen dioceses of Nigeria withdrew from the province to form the Church of Nigeria, now the Communion’s largest province in terms of active members.

South Carolina accepts archepiscopal oversight from Global South: The Church of England Newspaper, March 28, 2014 April 11, 2014

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The 223rd annual convention of the Diocese of South Carolina has voted to accept an offer of temporary archiepiscopal oversight from the Global South Primates Steering Committee. On 15 March 2014 the delegates voted unanimously to accept the offer made in the February Cairo Communique of the GS Primates, while also aligning itself with the GAFCON movement. In his speech to the convention, the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence said “this will give us gracious oversight from one of the largest Ecclesial entities within the Communion: one wihc includes Anglicans from a diverse body of believers from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, the Indian Ocean and many, many others.” In 2012 the diocesan convention voted to quit the Episcopal Church in response to disputes over doctrine and disciple with the New York based national office, which led to moves to dismiss Bishop Lawrence from the ministry.

Misconduct charges filed against Presiding Bishop: The Church of England Newspaper, March 21, 2014 April 11, 2014

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A Washington-based conservative group, the American Anglican Fellowship has filed charges against the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, alleging he $30 million legal campaign against church conservatives is an abuse of office and violates church canons. The organizations website stated that on 19 December 2013, it filed “information with the Intake Officer concerning possible violations of the Episcopal Church Constitution and Canons by the Presiding Bishop … We acted only after prayer consideration, and exhausting all reasonable means of communication to the Presiding Bishop and Executive Council. Our letters went unanswered and letters from other organizations, including letters form five bishops and a petition signed by more than 5000 Christians remained unanswered. The Intake Officer will decide if the information, if true, constitutes a violation of the Canons. We await his decision.” Public comment from the national church on the merits of the charges is unlikely as the disciplinary process requires the parties to remain silent while a review is underway

Celibacy in marriage a sin, bishop warns: The Church of England Newspaper, March 21, 2014 April 11, 2014

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Celibacy in marriage is a sin, the Bishop of Sunyani told his diocesan Mothers Union last week. The Rt. Rev. Festus Yeboah-Asuamah to the MU that wives who withhold sexual congress from their husbands are sinning against God and their husbands, prompting their husbands to commit adultery.  “This does not mean men should also over-stretch their wives in sex,” he observed, but noted some wives placed church work above sex.  “Some women had engaged themselves with religious activities to the extent that they do not even have time to satisfied their husbands sexually. This habit, the Bishop said, was a contributory factor to sexual promiscuity by men, which had torn homes and families apart.” The bishop affirmed the church’s teaching that marriage was a lifelong union of a man and a woman and whose purposes as set forth in the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer.  Mutual flourishing was based not on a mirrored set of responsibilities, but upon the complimentarity of man and woman. Husbands and wives had distinct rolls to fulfill in marriage, but it was a mistake to segregate the relationship into mens’ and women’s work. Each had a responsibility to raise the children, maintain the peace and purity of the marital home, and provide economic support, he said.

Supreme Court declines cert in Falls Church appeal: The Church of England Newspaper, March 21, 2014 April 11, 2014

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The United States Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal from the Virginia Supreme Court over the case of The Falls Church v. the Episcopal Church of the USA, ending seven years of litigation over the ownership of $13 million of property and assets of what had been the Diocese of Virginia’s largest congregation. After relisting the case for its conference four times, the case failed to garner the support of five of the court’s nine justices to allow it to be adjudicated. The decision not to hear the case leaves the state of American Church property law unsettled with the state supreme courts divided over the interpretation of the US Supreme Court’s 1979 ruling in Jones v. Wolf, with some states granting priority to canon law while other states have granted priority to civil property law and have allowed congregations who own their property to quit the church and take their buildings with them.

Gay rights are not human rights, Archbishop says: The Church of England Newspaper, March 21, 2014 April 11, 2014

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Gay rights are not human rights as understood by the Christian tradition of natural law, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Most Rev. Eliud Wabukala told reporters on 9 March 2014 after services at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi. His remarks came in response to demands made by MPs that the country’s colonial era sodomy laws be stiffened along the lines of recent reforms of Uganda’s criminal code. The archbishop said he did not support change stating it was unnecessary as “Kenya’s constitution clearly outlaws” gross indecency. From the Anglican Church’s perspective, “we are very clear when it comes to matters of relationship which should be between two opposite sexes,” he told The Star, adding it was a false anthropology, however, to conflate actions with individuals. A person was much more than his sexual appetites. It was also wrong to raise an action to the level of a human right. “Human rights and rights are different. Human rights have no values while rights have values,” he told said.

Terry Fullam dead at 83: The Church of England Newspaper, March 21, 2014 April 11, 2014

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One of the founders of the Charismatic Renewal Movement in the United States, the Rev. Everett “Terry” Fullam has died at the age of 83, reports the Bishop of Central Florida. In a 15 March 2014 Tweet to his diocese, the Rt. Rev. Gregory O. Brewer wrote “Just heard that Terry Fullam passed away. A generation ago he was a hero.” Trained as a musician, Terry Fullam was educated at Gordon College and Harvard University and was ordained in 1967 by the Bishop of Rhode Island after studying privately for holy orders.  In 1972 he was appointed Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Darien, Conn. During his tenure at St Paul’s, (1972-1989) the parish saw significant revival and became one of the fastest growing churches in America.  A 1980 book about his ministry at St. Paul written by Bob Slosser, entitled Miracle in Darien brought his ministry to worldwide attention, and remains one of the most influential books on church renewal in the Protestant world. Upon retirement, Terry Fullam moved to Ormond Beach, Fla., and remained an active teacher and preacher. A 1998 stroke forced him to discontinue his ministry.

Tsunami devastated cathedral reopens in Japan: Church of England Newspaper, March 21, 2014 April 11, 2014

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The Anglican Church in Japan, the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, has re consecrated Christ Church Cathedral in Sendai City in the Diocese of Tohoku, three years after it was severely damaged by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. On 11 March 2011 an earthquake with a recorded magnitude of 9.0 with an epicenter 70 km of the eastern coast of Japan struck, creating a tsunami tidal wave that devastated 20 prefectures in North East Japan. On 10 February 2014 Japan’s National Police Agency reported that 15,884 people had been killed by the earthquake and Tsunami while 2,633 remained missing, while 127,290 buildings were leveled and a further million damaged. In a statement released by the NSKK, the Rt. Rev. John Hiromichi Kato, Bishop of Tohoku thanked the wider church for its help in rebuilding which was “made possible not only by the donations and huge efforts of the laity of the church but also the prayers and support of the whole of Anglican Church in Japan.”

Anglican Unscripted Episode 95: March 21, 2014 March 22, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican.TV, Church of England, Property Litigation, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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Anglican Unscripted is the only video newscast in the Anglican Church. Every Week Kevin, George, Allan and Peter bring you news and prospective from around the globe.

STORY INDEX
00:00 The Pope a year in review
10:00 Global South adopts Diocese of South Carolina
18:10 ABC Canterbury year in review with Peter Ould
29:11 Why would anybody bring charges against Saint Schori?
38:14 R.I.P Terry Fullam
45:57 Closing and Bloopers

Supreme Court intervention requested in the South Carolina case: The Church of England Newspaper, March 14, 2014 March 20, 2014

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The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina has asked the state’s Supreme Court to take jurisdiction over its dispute with the Episcopal Church and its allies, arguing the national church has been pursuing a legal strategy designed solely to “interfere with the purpose of a speedy and inexpensive resolution.”

Lawyers for the diocese on 6 Feb 2014 filed the motion after the national church appealed a ruling by the trial court that rejected its request the diocese turn over all copies of correspondence between Bishop Mark Lawrence and his attorneys. American law forbids discovery of such correspondence as being protected by attorney-client privilege. The national church had argued that as they were the true diocese and thus the client, they could waive the privilege on Bishop Lawrence’s behalf.

Judge Diane Goodstein dismissed the request, prompting the appeal from the national church. Under South Carolina law the judge’s interlocutory order is not normally subject to appeal, however while the appeals court rules on the motion the proceedings in the trial court halt.

In its 24 Jan 2014 appeal of Judge Goodstein’s ruling the national church said it should have access to the correspondence between the bishop and the diocese’s attorneys. It argued “in this dispute where both sides claim to be the one and only continuing Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina after the split in late 2012, the Respondents’ exclusive possession and access to the prior legal positions of the then-unified Diocese gives the Respondents an unfair informational advantage. The fact that the same lawyer is now representing the Respondents in this litigation only compounds that unfairness.”

A diocesan spokesman said the Episcopal Church and its local allies, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina were “misusing the judicial system to delay resolution of this case.”

“Their strategy of appealing an interlocutory order is evidence of that intent. This is the same strategy that caused eight months to be wasted at the start of this case in federal court where they asked the federal court to override the state court injunction.”

The national church and its supporters also filed an appeal with the Federal Court on 5 Feb asking for a review of its January decision not to take jurisdiction over the dispute.

“We are disappointed in TEC’s appeal, but it does not surprise us,” said the Rev. Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese. “The Episcopal Church has a long history of dragging out legal battles in hopes of draining the resources of parishes and dioceses it seeks to punish for leaving the denomination,” he said.

Since 2000 the national church has incurred approximately $34 million in prosecuting 83 lawsuits and defending itself in seven church property lawsuits.

Zanzibar Cathedral attacked by terrorists: The Church of England Newspaper, March 14, 2014 March 20, 2014

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Islamist militants have bombed Christ Church Cathedral in Zanzibar. The attack comes amidst a rise of political and anti-Christian agitation as the East African archipelago prepares to vote in an April referendum calling for independence from Tanzania.

On 24 February 2014 two explosions rocked the main entrance to Christ Church Cathedral and the Old Slave Market – the island’s largest tourist attraction. A tourist bar in Stone Town and a Pentecostal church were also attacked.

The Vicar General of Zanzibar told the Church of England Newspaper there were no fatalities in the blast. “We thank God there were no injuries,” he wrote in an email shortly after the attack.

“Police are investigating and have swept the compound. We are assessing the situation, in contact with multiple agencies and Western government officials. The British Consul was on site almost immediately and a tremendous help to us. The people here are obviously shaken.”
Zanzibar has been the scene of several attacks on native Christians and Western tourists. In October 2012 the cathedral was attacked after militant Islamists rioted in the wake of the disappearance of a leading Muslim cleric.

Anglican leaders were evacuated after Islamist militants issued death threats against Bishop Michael Hafidh and foreign clergy serving on the island. Built on the site of the former slave market of Zanzibar, the Nineteenth century cathedral is one of the island’s leading tourist attractions. It also hosted Dr. Rowan Williams and the primates of the Anglican Communion in 2007.

The Muslim Mobilization and Propagation Group (UAMSHO) has called for the dissolution of the United Republic of Tanzania and the creation of an Islamist state for the island of Zanzibar. UAMSHO cadres have also demanded the expulsion of Zanzibar’s Christians, saying they have no place on the island.
UAMSHO has also been suspected of involvement in a series of shootings and acid attacks on Christians, as well as arson attacks on rural churches on the island.

In August 2013 Islamist terrorists attacked two British teenagers, throwing acid on the girls as they were walking in the Shangani section of Stone Town, the island’s capital.

A Roman Catholic priest was severely injured last September after terrorists threw acid in his face while he was walking along a busy street in the town’s commercial district. A Catholic priest was shot to death while standing at the doorstep of his church in Zanzibar on 17 Feb 2013, while on Christmas Day gunmen shot and seriously wounded a Catholic priest as he was returning home from services.

 

Suffolk clergyman arrested for fraud: The Church of England Newspaper, March 14, 2014 March 20, 2014

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A Suffolk clergyman has been suspended by the Diocese of St. Edmundsbury & Ipswich following his arrest last week on suspicion of fraud.

Last month the diocese placed the Rev Canon Ian Finn, the rector of St Mary the Virgin in Haverhill,  on extended leave after allegations of misappropriating wedding and funeral fees were raised.

The Suffolk Constabulary released a statement noting a “55 year old man from Haverhill who was arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation on Tuesday (March 4), and taken to the Bury St Edmunds Police Investigation Centre (PIC) for questioning, has been bailed to return to Bury PIC on April 2 pending further enquiries.”

A diocesan spokesman said confirmed Canon Finn had been suspended and but added the “police are investigating and it is therefore inappropriate for the Church to make any comment at this stage.”

Last month the diocese released a statement stating Canon Finn had explained the misappropriation of funds was “entirely the result of administrative and accounting mistakes, rather than any deliberate acts.

“He has already refunded to the diocese what he currently believes to be owing.”

“He has already cooperated fully over the matter and will continue to do so.”

Secret Cairo meeting yields dividends for Justin Welby: The Church of England Newspaper, March 7, 2014 March 20, 2014

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The Archbishop of Canterbury has bolstered his wavering support from overseas church leaders following a closed door meeting last week in Cairo with Asian, African and South American archbishops.

The day after the House of Bishops approved its Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage, the Most Rev. Justin Welby met in private with the steering committee of the Global South Primates at All Saints Cathedral in Cairo to explain the Church of England’s stance on same-sex marriage and the blessing of same-sex unions.

Accompanied by his director of reconciliation, Canon David Porter, Dr. Welby alleviated fears the Church of England would be changing its teaching on the morality of homosexual practice by permitting the blessing of same-sex unions and allowing married gay clergy amongst its ranks.  The archbishops of Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda had warned publicly the archbishop in recent months that they were prepared to break with Canterbury should the Church of England follow the British government’s lead on gay marriage.

Sources tell The Church of England Newspaper that while the overseas primates did not relent in their demands that Dr. Welby take action to discipline the Episcopal Church of the USA, they were pleased with the Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance and applauded the course taken by the Church of England and in a statement released on 20 Feb applauded the “faithfulness of the Church of England in this regard is a great encouragement to our Provinces, and indeed the rest of the Communion, especially those facing hardships and wars.”

The statement, which received the backing of all but the Church of Nigeria who abstained, withdraws pressure on Dr. Welby from the specter of the Anglican Mission in England – the shadow organization backed by the 2013 Gafcon meeting in Nairobi to support traditionalists should the Church of England slide into chaos.

The 14-15 Feb 2014 meeting was conducted in secrecy. Queried by the CEN as to the archbishop’s activities when Dr. Welby was spotted on the ground in Africa, Lambeth Palace declined to answer.  A spokesman for the archbishop later confirmed Dr. Welby had visited Cairo at the invitation of the Bishop of Egypt Dr. Mouneer to “hear from the Global South Steering Committee.”

However, the Lambeth Palace spokesman said this meeting was not out of the ordinary as “he is visiting all the Primates of the Anglican Communion to listen to their perspectives.”

In its statement the Global South group welcomed the “frank discussion, open sharing, and spirit of unity among us. We are also encouraged by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s emphases on renewal, mission and evangelism within the Church of England and the rest of the Anglican Communion.”

However they asked Dr. Welby to convene a primates meeting in 2015, but at this meeting they requested the agenda focus on the “deteriorating situation facing the Anglican Communion.”

The Anglican Communion was not working, they said, and was “currently suffering from broken relations, a lack of trust, and dysfunctional ‘instruments of unity’.”

“We realize that the time has come to address the ecclesial deficit, the mutual accountability and re-shaping the instruments of unity by following through the recommendations mentioned in the Windsor Report (2004), the Primates Meetings in Dromantine (2005) and Dar es Salam (2007), and the Windsor Continuation Group report,” the Global South leaders said.

Church property cannot be used to compensate abuse victims says archbishop: The Church of England Newspaper, March 7, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Anglican Church of Australia has urged a Royal Commission investigating child abuse to distinguish between legal and moral responsibility for the crimes of abhorrent clergy and church workers, noting the national church is not liable for the actions of individuals.

Church lands and buildings thus cannot be sold to compensate victims of child abuse, the church argued.

submission made following investigations into the Diocese of Grafton’s handling of child abuse at a church run children’s home in Lismore stated, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, the Most Rev. Phillip Aspinall wrote “However, as the assets of all dioceses in Australia are usually held on charitable trusts the Commission should examine the terms upon which assets are held before concluding that they are available for a purpose such as paying compensation claims.”

The paper prepared by Dr. Aspinall, the Anglican Church of Australia’s General Secretary Martin Drevikovsky and the Diocese of Brisbane’s Professional Standards Director Rodney McLary came in response to a finding by the counsel assisting the commission, Simeon Beckett, that the Diocese of Grafton had sufficient assets to settle abuse claims arising from the North Coast Children’s Home abuse cases.

In a harsh indictment of the diocese and its leaders, Mr. Beckett concluded the church had put its financial interests ahead of the good of the victims.  ”The evidence established that the diocese was able to liquidate a substantial number of assets in order to service the debt incurred from the Clarence Valley Anglican School,” Mr. Beckett wrote, “but did not do so for those claiming they had suffered from child sexual abuse.”

While not excusing the actions of the Bishop of Grafton and diocesan officials, Dr. Aspinall urged the commission to be more precise in its terms.

“The Anglican Diocese of Grafton was at all relevant times an unincorporated association with a fluctuating membership. At all relevant times prior to 1 January 1962 the Anglican Diocese of Grafton was part of the Church of England. The Anglican Church of Australia did not exist until 1962. It is submitted that the Commission needs to be explicit as to what is meant by the term ‘had responsibility’. If it is legal responsibility then that was with the particular Management Committee constituted from time to time. If it is ‘moral responsibility’ it raises a range of issues and circumstances in which individuals could, in good faith, reach different conclusions about what are the relevant moral principles and how they should they be applied,” the submission stated.

The question of compensation for abuse has arisen in a number of the cases examined by the commission, however under Australian law the charitable trust status of churches and some institutes is a legal bar to their being held liable for abuse.

Uganda plea to the CoE: The Church of England Newspaper, March 7, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Church of the Province of Uganda.
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The Primate of the Church of Uganda has urged the Church of England not to follow the Episcopal Church into the abyss by endorsing gay marriage or blessing gay unions.

The Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali told The Church of England Newspaper that while the Church of Uganda “has had no discussions about breaking away from the Church of England or the Anglican Communion,” it was troubled by its apparent indecision over sin and sexuality.

“It’s true that the fabric of the Anglican Communion was torn at its deepest level in 2003 when the American Episcopal Church consecrated as Bishop a gay man living in a same-sex relationship. Not only was this against the Bible, but it went against the agreed position of the Anglican Communion. Our current concern is that the Church of England seems to be drifting rapidly in the same direction,” he said.

In a sermon delivered on 1 March 2014 the archbishop stated the Western churches appeared unaware of their double mindedness. “Many people have spiritual blindness but let us not mix issues. One hundred and thirty six years ago, the Church of England sent graduates from Oxford University to Africa to evangelise. America is a super power built on Christian principles… but in all this money is involved,” he said.

In a note of clarification to his sermon, the archbishop told CEN: “We are very grateful to them for sending missionaries who told us about the good news of Jesus Christ. Ironically, they seem now to be reversing themselves. Fortunately, we no longer need to be directed by them. We can read and interpret the Bible for ourselves, and we know what it says about sexual behaviour belonging between one man and one woman in holy matrimony.”

“Homosexual practice is incompatible with scripture, and no one in the leadership of the church can say legitimise same sex unions or homosexuality,” Archbishop Ntagali told AFP, urging the “governing bodies of the Church of England to not take the path advocated by the West”.

Last week the Church of Nigeria congratulated the Church of Uganda for standing strong against overseas pressure for it to accomodate Western cultural practices to its preaching of the Gospel. In a letter dated 21 Feb 2014, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, Primate of All Nigeria, commended the Church of Uganda for “uphold the authentic Gospel and the historic heritage of our Church, by rejecting the erroneous teaching and practice of homosexuality.”

Episcopal Church to put more money into the indaba project: The Church of England Newspaper, February 21, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Consultative Council, Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
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The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the USA has asked the church’s executive council to give an extra $312,000 to the Anglican Consultative Council to support the work of the continuing indaba process.

At its meeting last week, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori proposed increasing the three year grant approved by the 2012 General Convention from $700,000 to $1,012,000. Unless the grant were increased, the presiding bishop noted, the US church would only contribute $25,000 to the ACC in 2015, as it had budgeted giving $675,000 to the London-based organization for 2013 and 2014.

Organized by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, indaba is a project of facilitated conversations between the US and Canadian churches and the churches in the developing world. Organized and staffed by the Anglican Consultative Council in London, the project has come under fierce criticism from conservatives and has been denounced by the Gafcon movement for its perceived bias in favor of the progressive agenda.

While the proposal is likely to be approved by the October meeting of the executive council which will set the budget for 2015, the request highlights a growing split between the General Convention and the executive council over the limits of authority within the church.

The amount budgeted for the ACC was the subject of strong debate at the 2012 General Convention with many deputies to the meeting questioning the value for money provided by the ACC. Unilaterally raising the ACC budget by the executive council follows its rejection of the General Convention’s vote to sell the New York office building that houses the presiding bishop and her staff, and relocate to a cheaper and more centrally located facility.

 

Lifetime ban on 2 Chichester clergy imposed: The Church of England Newspaper, February 21, 2014 March 20, 2014

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Two Chichester clergymen jailed for child abuse have been given a life-time ban on exercising any functions on ordained ministry.

On 14 February 2014 the Rt. Rev. Martin Warner said that in light of the conclusion of the criminal cases against the Revs Gordon Rideout and Robert Coles and their subsequent incarceration, the ban had been imposed under Section 30 of the Clergy Discipline Measure.

“A sentence of prohibition for life is the most severe sanction that can be imposed under the Clergy Discipline Measure and is a further indication of the gravity of the offences committed,” the bishop said.

“Whilst neither of the clergy in question has been permitted to function as clergy in the Diocese of Chichester since their respective arrests, the imposition of these sentences now concludes the Church’s disciplinary processes. I hope this announcement is of some comfort to the survivors of abuse, both within the Diocese of Chichester and more widely.”

In February 2013 Coles (72) was jailed for eight years Brighton Crown Court after he pled guilty on 14 Dec 2012 to 11 counts of child abuse committed between 1978 to 1984 in West Sussex, Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and the Isle of Wight.

On 20 May 2013 the jury found Rideout (74) guilty of 31 incidents of abuse at the Barnardo’s children’s home — Ifield Hall in Crawley, West Sussex — and one in Barkingside, Essex between 1962 and 1968, and four indecent assaults at the Middle Wallop army base in Hampshire between 1971 and 1973 where he served as a chaplain. He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

Last month Rideout was taken from prison to a local hospital. He has since been returned to jail, but has petitioned the Ministry of Justice for an early release on compassionate grounds.

A spokesman for the ministry declined to speak to Rideout’s petition, but stated compassionate release could be granted if the prisoner had a terminal illness or was bedridden or otherwise permanently incapacitated and would prove to be no harm to society.

 

Nigerian church support for sodomy laws: The Church of England Newspaper, February 21, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Marriage.
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Faith leaders in Nigeria have unanimously applauded the revisions to the country’s sodomy law, and have denounced as imperialist, racist and condescending Western pressure to change the country’s attitude towards homosexuality.

Leaders of the Muslim community as well as the head of the country’s Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches applauded President Goodluck Jonathan for signing a law banning same-sex marriage, gay clubs and public displays of same-sex affection into law on 7 January 2014.

While overseas Catholic and Anglican leaders including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have expressed reservations about the new law, their Nigerian counterparts have endorsed the ban on gay marriage.

In an open letter written to President Jonathan published by the Catholic News Service of Nigeria, the press arm of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Kaigama called the new law “a bold and clear indication of the ability of our great country to stand up for the protection of the highest values ​​of the Nigerian and African cultures around the ‘ institution of marriage and the dignity of the human person, without giving in to international pressure to promote unethical practices of homosexual unions and other related vices. ”

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh stated his church also opposed the introduction of gay marriage into Nigeria. In a speech given at a banquet honouring retired Archbishop Peter Akinola, Archbishop Okoh was reported to have said the underlying issue was not homosexuality itself, but man’s rebellion against God’s law.

“Many people do not realise that what is referred to as the homosexual trouble is not the homosexual or lesbian trouble but people’s refusal to accept the Scripture for what it is, authority for life and practice following God.”

“In the beginning, man questioned the authority of God in the garden by saying did God actually say that you should not eat the forbidden fruit. That challenge to God’s authority dethroned God’s power and enthroned man’s power. So they concluded that God has no right to tell man what to do and that they were the people who knew what to do. So man set God aside and took over the command. Consequently, disaster followed,” he said according to Channels TV in Lagos.

The question for Nigeria was not merely government sanction for sexual sin, but the decision Adam and Eve faced in the Garden of Eden to defy God, he argued.

The controversy over gay rights and gay marriage in Nigeria has also been played out in the national legislatures of Uganda, Tanzania and Cameroon which are in the process of adopting laws banning gay marriage.

Both Nigerian prelates were sharply critical of overseas political pressure to adopt Western sexual mores.

Archbishop Kaigama  thanked President Jonathan for his “brave and wise decision” to sign the bill into law and prayed that God would protect his “administration against the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent as a dumping ground for the promotion of all the unethical practices, that destroy God’s plan for man.”

Diocese found to have put money above justice in child abuse cover up: The Church of England Newspaper, February 14, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse in Australia is expected to hand down a report that will accuse the Diocese of Grafton of withholding information from police and failing to exercise proper oversight of a church run children’s home.

Last week the counsel assisting the commission, Simeon Beckett, released a report stating the church’s “legalistic and cumbersome” clergy disciplinary process allowed priests accused of child abuse to escape punishment if they retired or left the ministry.

Mr. Beckett further stated that he believed the Diocese of Grafton’s first priority in addressing child abuse claims was to minimize potential claims for compensation from victims and make the problem go away rather than seeing that justice was done.

In his report Mr. Beckett said the former Bishop of Grafton, the Rt. Rev. Keith Slater, failed to refer allegations of sexual abuse at the North Coast Children’s Home in Lismore to the church’s professional standards director. This failure to act had prevented police from investigating the claims, he concluded.

The report further stated that while the diocesan registrar was aware that one priest associated with the home had been convicted of sexual offences against a child, he failed to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the sex offender clergyman.

The report recommended the diocese initiate an investigation into two priests accused of abuse and “regularly review” its clergy disciplinary proceedings and keep its professional standards director appraised of all outstanding claims of sexual abuse. Final submissions arising from the November public hearings into abuse at the home closed on 24 Jan 2014.

In May 2013 Bishop Slater resigned in the wake of charges he had mishandled the Lismore abuse investigations. Last August the diocese released a statement saying it “apologises  unreservedly to children who, in the past, suffered from sexual abuse, harsh punishment or a lack of appropriate and nurturing care while resident at the North Coast Children’s Home, Lismore.

“We also apologise, and ask forgiveness, for the unacceptable manner in which those who in recent years reported their abuse were hindered by church leaders. Our Diocese acknowledges with sadness the serious and long term effects of such abuse. We are committed to assist in the provision of appropriate support and assistance for those who were harmed and who continue to suffer.”

Uganda Martyrs Shrine fundraising campaign begins: The Church of England Newspaper, February 14, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Uganda.
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The Church of Uganda has launched a fundraising campaign to build a shrine to the Martyrs of Uganda at Namugongo.

At a press conference held last week at the provincial offices in Kampala, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali announced that former Archbishop Livingstone Nkoyoyo would spearhead the campaign to raise funds to build a guest house and museum at the site of the martyrdom of 23 Ugandan Anglicans.

The Uganda Martyrs were Christian converts – Anglican and Roman Catholics — who were murdered for their faith by the King of Buganda between 1885 and 1887, after they refused to offer sacrifices to the traditional gods and because they resisted King Mwanga’s homosexual practices.

In 1964 Pope Paul VI canonized the Catholic martyrs and the Roman Catholic Church built a basilica near the site of their martyrdom.  Anglican and Catholic pilgrims from across the Uganda gather at Namugongo on June 3rdto honor their faith and celebrate the conversion of Uganda to Christianity.

The Anglican site presently consists of a small chapel, park and the restored hut of the King’s executioner. The museum and guest house will enable tourists to “understand our rich culture but also understand the power of the Gospel to bring hope and transformation to people’s lives because of the testimony and legacy of the early martyrs,” Archbishop Ntagali told the press conference.

 

Pakistan terror trial in danger of collapse: The Church of England Newspaper, February 14, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Terrorism.
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The trial of two men accused of murdering a Pakistani government minister is in danger of collapsing, after key witnesses fled the country in fear for their lives.

The sole Christian cabinet minister in Prime Minister Yousaf Gillani’s government, Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated outside his home in Islamabad in March 2011. Two gunmen sprayed the minister’s car with bullets and dropped pamphlets next to his body, denouncing him as a Christian infidel.

Islamabad police arrested Hammad Adil and Umer Abdullah, in September 2012 and charged them with the murder. The two men confessed to the police their guilt in the attack and are being tried by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi

However, the complainant in the case, Shahbaz Bhatti’s brother Paul Bhatti, chairman of the All Pakistan Minority Alliance, has fled to Italy for safety.

“Punjabi Taliban dropped pamphlets at my office in Lahore and warned me of dire consequences for pursuing the murder case of my brother,” he told a Pakistani cable television channel on 8 Feb 2014. But added that: “I will not give up this case despite the threats.”

Mr. Bhatti said he had asked repeatedly for protection from the Interior Ministry and police, but they ignored his requests. His attorney Rana Abdul Hameed told Newsweek International that he too had been threatened for mounting the private prosecution against the killers.

Mr. Hameed also represented Rimsha Masih, the Pakistani Christian girl who had been arrested in 2012 for allegedly desecrating pages of the Koran – but was later found not guilty after police discovered an extremist mullah had fabricated the case — said: “Pamphlets are dropped in my office warning me to disassociate myself from the case.”

“They say you freed Rimsha, now you are trying to convict our comrades, you should be taught a lesson.”

He added: “Paul Bhatti is abroad. He cannot come to Pakistan. Our witness has been threatened. We are receiving constant threats. What can you then expect from the case? It won’t go anywhere.”

Richard III tomb design under review: The Church of England Newspaper, February 14, 2014 March 20, 2014

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Representatives of the Dean and Chapter of Leicester Cathedral met last month with the Church Fabric Commission for England to find a way forward through the impasse on the proposed design of the tomb for Richard III.

On 24 Jan 2014, CFCE chairman Frank Field MP and members of the commission met with church and local leaders along with members of English Heritage and the Richard III Society to review plans for the tomb. Last year plans for the tomb were put on hold after the CFCE objected to some of the proposed renovations to the cathedral to accommodate the tomb including plans to change a 1920s wooden rood screen designed by Sir Charles Nicholson.

The CFCE declined to give its assent to the million pound project until legal challenges mounted by members of the Plantagenet Society – who wish to see the king buried in York – were resolved by the High Court review into the Ministry of Justice exhumation licence.

Details of the meeting were not released, but a member of the chapter said that while more work needs to be done, the meeting had been productive.

On 13 March the High Court in London will hold a hearing to review the Ministry of Justice’s licence to rebury Richard in Leicester. Should the cathedral prevail in court, it must then secure approval from the CFCE. The Mayor Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby, told the Leicester Mercury that should the CFCE give its approval to the revised design plans it will be “at least six months” before Richard will be reinterned in the cathedral.

Concerns over archbishop’s accolades for Katharine Jefferts Schori: The Church of England Newspaper, February 14, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has applauded the news that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the USA, the Most. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, is to be awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity by the University of Oxford.

However, the fulsome praise offered by the archbishop has pained conservatives, who see his commendation of her “intellect and compassion” to be a slap in the face to traditionalists.

On 6 Feb 2014 the University announced that Bishop Jefferts Schori would be one of six people awarded an honorary degree at Encaenia, the University’s annual honorary degree ceremony, on 25 June 2014.

In a statement from Lambeth Palace released later that day, Archbishop Welby said he was “delighted” by the news.

He went on to say: “This award, richly deserved, reaffirms Bishop Katharine’s remarkable gifts of intellect and compassion, which she has dedicated to the service of Christ. Prior to becoming ordained, Bishop Katharine pursued a career in oceanography, and her enduring deep commitment to the environment has evolved into a profound dedication to stewardship of our planet and humankind, especially in relieving poverty and extending the love and hospitality of Christ to those on the edges of society. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said of Bishop Katharine, “In her version of reality, everything is sacred except sin.” It must be noted, too, that Bishop Katharine’s achievements serve – and will continue to serve – as a powerful model for women seeking to pursue their vocations in the church.”

Commentators questioned the wisdom of the archbishop’s penning such a statement, fearing it would alienate the overseas church and conservatives in the UK and US. However, in a post on Facebook defending Archbishop Welby’s actions, Bishop Pete Broadbent dismissed concerns that the statement reflected a shift in favor of the revisionist wing of the church by the archbishop.

“Lots of us here think that [Katharine Jefferts Schori] is thoroughly bad news for the gospel, but you’re not going to get the ABC to slag her off in a press release. It just ain’t that simple. You can’t really stick out a release saying “Congrats, but…” Most congratulatory things smarm it up a bit. You might think ABC shouldn’t have said congrats at all (knowing that Oxford have been put up to this), but once you go down the line of doing official congrats, you have to be nice. Cos that’s how Brits do it,” he explained.

Interview: Issues Etc., March 7, 2014 March 8, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Issues Etc, Press criticism.
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Here is an to an interview I gave to the Issues, Etc. show of Lutheran Public Radio broadcast on 7 March 2014.

1. Media Coverage of Islam – George Conger, 3/7/14

George Conger of GetReligion.org

Podcast: Download (Duration: 21:04 — 8.6MB)

GetReligion

Anglican Unscripted Episode 94, March 7, 2014 March 8, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican.TV, Church of the Province of Uganda, The Episcopal Church.
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Anglican Unscripted is the only video newscast in the Anglican Church. Every Week Kevin, George, Allan and Peter bring you news and prospective from around the globe.

Story Index
00:00 Can Jesus bake cake?
06:54 Imagine there is no Episcopal Church
14:14 Ashes to choke on
19:19 How to clarify an secular interview
21:50 closing and bloopers

Anglican Unscripted Episode 93, February 21, 2014 February 22, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Anglican.TV, Church of England, The Episcopal Church.
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Anglican Unscripted is the only video newscast in the Anglican Church. Every Week Kevin, George, Allan and Peter bring you news and prospective from around the globe.

Story Index
00:00 A House in Wisconsin
16:08 Interview with Bishop Salmon
24:28 Where’s Welby?
30:27 Agnostics Have Theology
44:50 The New Iron Lady
49:10 Facebook Diplomacy
53:22 Closing and Bloopers

Camels and tigers and bears, oh my!: Get Religion, February 15, 2014 February 17, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Biblical Interpretation, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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The silly season is early this year. With editors and most top-tier reporters away in August on vacation (along with the subjects of their stories — need to set the proper precedence of seniority at the start of this story) the late summer is the time when the second team knocks out stories that leave readers asking: “what were they thinking?”

True — there are exceptions to this venerable custom. What would Easter or Christmas be without stories proclaiming what “the science” tells us about such events. Perhaps the massive snowstorms in the Northeast have kept the A-team in bed for some publications? Otherwise I would be hard pressed to explain the thinking behind the editorial line taken in a spat of stories reporting on a paper published by two archaeologists at Tel Aviv University.

The gist of the report in publications like the Huffington Post, IBT and the Fashion Times (yes the Fashion Times) among a score of others is that “No camels = No God.”

The absence of camel remains at an archeological site in Israel dated to the time of Abraham demonstrates the Bible is false — or as the Fashion Times headline tells us “Historical ERROR in Bible’s Old Testament, REVEALED: Radiocarbon Dating of Camel Bones Shows Inconsistency.”

I like the screaming ALL CAPS used for error and revealed — one need read no further to see where that story is headed.

The New York Daily News was a little more cautious in its story “Israeli archeologists’ discovery suggests the Bible is wrong about camels.” It reported:

New archeological evidence is throwing cold water on the biblical image of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph riding camels through the desert. A team of Israeli archaeologists has studied the oldest-known camel bones from this ancient period and the results are in — camels reportedly started plodding around the eastern Mediterranean region centuries after the Bible tells us they did.

After analyzing the facts from radioactive-carbon dating, Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University claim the domesticated animal arrived on the biblical scene near the 10th century B.C. Scholars believe Abraham lived at least six centuries before that, Time reports.

Still, stories about the Jewish patriarchs contain more than 20 references to the domesticated camel, according to The New York Times. In Genesis 24, Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. The servant traveled on his master’s camels.

I laughed out loud when I read this. Perhaps it was out of caution that its reporter might not have been able to verify the information the New York Daily News cites the New York Times for the flash news that there are camel references in Genesis.

Time does a much better job with this story. Reporter Elizabeth Dias lays out the facts and then proceeds to pour cold water on the hyperbole — taking as her target the New York Times’ account.

The New York Times, in a story about the finding today, announced, “There are too many camels in the Bible, out of time and out of place … these anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history.” Behold, a mystery: the Case of the Bible’s Phantom Camels.

The discovery is actually far from new. William Foxwell Albright, the leading American archeologist and biblical scholar who confirmed the authenticity of the Dead Sea Scrolls, argued in the mid-1900s that camels were an anachronism. Historian Richard Bulliet of Columbia University explored the topic in his 1975 book, The Camel and the Wheel, and concluded that “the occasional mention of camels in patriarchal narratives does not mean that the domestic camels were common in the Holy Land at that period.” Biblical History 101 teaches that the texts themselves were often written centuries after the events they depict.

Time also puts this story in context, noting Biblical scholars have long been aware of apparent anomalies. It quotes a number of liberal Biblical scholars to flesh out the conundrum of Biblical history v. a Biblical faith.

The Bible has also never been a history book or a scientific textbook, explains Choon-Leong Seow, professor of Old Testament language and literature at Princeton Theological Seminary. Interpreting the Bible is a little like studying Leonardo da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper, he says. Modern viewers do not consider the Christ figure in da Vinci’s painting an accurate portrait because we know it was painted centuries after the supper happened, but that does not take away from the artist’s spiritual message about Jesus’ last night with his disciples. “For us who believe that this is Scripture, Scripture is important as it has formative power, it forms the people, and it transforms,” Seow says. “It is poetic truth rather than literary truth.”

Understanding the Case of the Phantom Camel as a fight between archeological evidence and biblical narrative misses the entire spiritual point of the text, as far as scholars are concerned. Anachronisms and apocryphal elements do not mean the story is invalid, but instead give insight into the spiritual community in a given time and place. In this case, camels were a sign of wealth and developing trade routes, so it is likely that the biblical writer used the camel as a narrative device to point out power and status. “We needn’t understand these accounts as literally true, but they are very rich in meaning and interpretive power,” [Duke University's] Eric Meyers says.

I would have liked to have seen Time ask conservative Biblical scholars — say someone from the Dallas Theological Seminary — for their view on the camel controversy. It would have improved an otherwise great story.

Contradictions and difficulties with the historical veracity of the Pentateuch were a major news item at one time. That would have been in 1862 when the Anglican Bishop of Natal (South Africa) John William Colenso released the first of what became a seven part series of books examining the historicity of the first six books of the Old Testament.

Colenso, a one time mathematics teacher at Harrow and the author of the standard mathematics textbook for secondary schools in the mid-Nineteenth Century, demonstrated that some of the claims laid down in the Pentateuch were mathematically impossible. The battle has raged back and forth for the last 150 years, but some newspapers will always report the latest developments as breaking news that will shatter the foundations of faith.

It is a commonplace of the Jewish and Christian scholarly tradition that the Torah or Pentateuch was not written contemporaneously with the events it describes. Conservative scholars who follow the traditional teaching that Moses was the author of the Torah would not dispute the fact that he lived long after the events described in Genesis.

The author or authors of Genesis who transcribed the oral tradition of Abraham may have understood a word to have a meaning in their day that differed from its historical past.

Perhaps the word gamal was one such word. Could it have meant a beast of burden in Abraham’s time and by the time the stories were set down in writing a gamal came to be understood to mean the domesticated dromedary, the one-humped Camelus dromedarius?

As an aside, I find it amusing that some of the newspaper stories on this issue are assuming Abraham was a true historical figure, but the stories of camels in Genesis is a myth. Much of the historical critical Old Testament scholarship of the Twentieth century would believe the camels were real, but it was Abraham who was the myth.

Walter Beltz for example dismisses Abraham as mythical character akin to Aeneas.   … eine mythische Person… Die Gestalt Abrahams ist eine mythische Schopfung. (Walter Beltz, Gott und die Gotter: Biblische Mythologie, Aufbau-Verlag Berlin und Weimar, 1975, p. 109.) Or they have held that the accounts of Abraham’s life as portrayed in Genesis “is an inextricable tangle of history and myth.” (Manfred Barthel, Was Wirklich in der Bibel Steht, trans. by Mark Howson, What the Bible Really Says, Wings Books, 1992, p. 63.)

Time does the best job of all in presenting this story. But it too could have used a bit more balance. Better yet, read the original piece from Tel Aviv University and decide for yourself. You might be surprised in light of the press reports cited above to discover there is only one reference to the Old Testament in the paper when in the first paragraph the authors state the “Patriarchal narrative” had led some scholars to suggest an earlier date for the domestication of the camel in Israel than could be supported by their archeological finds. That’s it.

First published at Get Religion.

Muslim vs. Christian in the Central African Republic?: Get Religion, February 11, 2014 February 17, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism.
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The pictures and reports out of Central African Republic are grim. The country is in the grips of a civil war that is pitting predominantly Muslim tribes against Christian and Animist tribes. The violence is especially fierce around the city of Bangui, the capital. The city is home to a Muslim minority of migrants from the East and North and neighboring Chad as well as soldiers of the Séléka militia of former President Michel Djotodia.

The carnage around Bangui has received great play in the French press — most likely because that is where the reporters are. Muslims have gathered at the city’s airport to seek protection from African Union and French troops, while in the city individual Muslims and Christians have been murdered by rival mobs. Le Monde and Le Figaro reported on one particularly gruesome incident, which both newspapers saw as emblematic of the country’s collapse into chaos.

The French newspapers have done a sterling job in reporting on this unfolding crisis. One of the ways their work has stood out is that they did not come to Bangui unencumbered with knowledge about the country’s past. A former French colony, the Central African Republic’s squalid history (remember Emperor Bokassa I?) is not new news. The French press has refrained from describing this as a religious civil war — but has treated the fighting as a tribal and political clash with religious overtones.

Yes, their is an al Qaeda angle, and the CAR is on the tenth parallel — the front line between Islam and Christianity in Africa. But the French press has not resorted to the easy answer of religious hatred driving this conflict.

So what’s been happening?

On Wednesday the country’s interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza, attended a military parade in the capital. A man watching the review was seized by some of the soldiers and accused of being a spy for the Séléka militia. In full view of Western reporters and some government ministers the man was beaten to death.

Le Figaro wrote:

La scène a duré de longues minutes pendant lesquelles des soldats de l’armée régulière, certains en uniforme, ont lynché à coups de pieds, de briques, de barres de fer l’un des leurs, accusé d’être un ancien Séléka, la rébellion à majorité musulmane. L’assassinat, mercredi en plein jour et en public, a engendré une fureur et un plaisir effarant dans la troupe. La vue du corps démembré a fait l’effet d’une fête.

Ce massacre d’un homme mercredi à Bangui n’était pas un simple massacre de plus dans une ville qui en a déjà connu beaucoup. C’est le symbole d’un pays qui ne parvient pas à calmer ses esprits, à juguler les vengeances. «C’est un drame, un mauvais signal. Je ne comprends même pas comment on peut être aussi bête et aussi méchant», assure, affligé, un officier français.

The scene lasted several minutes. Soldiers of the regular army, some in uniform, lynched a man they accused of being a former member of the Muslim Séléka militia, kicking him and beating him with bricks and iron bars. The assassination on Wednesday in broad daylight and in public  created a furor as well as great pleasure for the the crowd. < The sight of dismembered body created a party atmosphere.

The massacre of a man Wednesday in Bangui was not a simple killing in a city that has already experienced many more deaths. It is the symbol of a country that fails to calm his mind, to curb revenge. “This is a tragedy, a bad signal. I do not even understand how people can be so stupid and so mean,” said a distressed French officer.

The Washington Post‘s reporter in Bangui has also written of the fear gripping the city. In a story entitled “Tens of thousands of Muslims flee Christian militias in Central African Republic” published the day after the lynching, the Post offered vignettes that illustrated the dire situation facing Muslims in Bangui. These human interest angles made this piece stand out — and demonstrated the value of having a reporter on the spot. Well done.

But the article also illustrated the dilemma of reporters and editors covering a story from the ground but neglecting to offer context and history. The article begins:

Tens of thousands of Muslims are fleeing to neighboring countries by plane and truck as Christian militias stage brutal attacks, shattering the social fabric of this war-ravaged nation.

In towns and villages as well as here in the capital, Christian vigilantes wielding machetes have killed scores of Muslims, who are a minority here, and burned and looted their houses and mosques in recent days, according to witnesses, aid agencies and peacekeepers. Tens of thousands of Muslims have fled their homes.

The cycle of chaos is fast becoming one of the worst outbreaks of violence along Muslim-Christian fault lines in recent memory in sub-Saharan Africa, tensions that have also plagued countries such as Nigeria and Sudan.

The brutalities began to escalate when the country’s first Muslim leader, Michel Djotodia, stepped down and went into exile last month. Djotodia, who had seized power in a coup last March, had been under pressure from regional leaders to resign. His departure was meant to bring stability to this poor country, but humanitarian and human rights workers say there is more violence now than at any time since the coup.

The article does state the violence is not all on one side:

Christians have also been victims of violence, targeted by Muslims in this complex communal conflict that U.N. and humanitarian officials fear could implode into genocide. Several hundred thousand Christians remain in crowded, squalid camps, unable or too afraid to return home.

But attacks on Muslims in particular are intensifying, aid workers said.

To which I would write — “Yes, but … ” and point to the contrasting tone of the French stories.

The attacks on the Muslim minority are appalling, but there is no explanation from the Post as to why the attacks are taking place now — and why they are so vicious. The language used in this story — though understandable to American ears — does not paint a true picture of what is going on. It is tribe against tribe — tribes who happen to be predominantly Muslim or Christian or Animist — that is driving this.

The violence we are witnessing began not in the past few weeks but in December 2012 when a coalition of rebel groups from the eastern CAR called Séléka (primarily composed of Muslim ethnic Gula bolstered by Chadian and Sudanese volunteers) launched an assault on the government of President François Bozizé, an ethnic Gbaya.

This civil war has forced nearly one million people to flee their homes, a majority of them from the northwestern region of the CAR that borders Cameroon and Chad, with over 370,000 displaced persons now in Bangui Reuters reported last month. The U.N. reports approximately 2.2 million people, more than half of the country’s population, are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance

Following Séléka’s seizure of power in Bangui in April 2013, the organization’s leader, Michel Djotodia, was elected as interim president. Séléka, although officially disbanded by Djotodia, was accused by Human Rights Watch and several other NGOs of engaging in a regime of terror against their opponents, systematically killing, raping, torturing Gbayas (who are mostly Christian).

In response to Bozize’s ouster and the violence that followed, President Bozize organized an anti-Séléka village based militia called the anti-Balaka that are concentrated in Bangui and in the northwest, Liberation reports. Agenzia Fides reported on January 27 there were significant numbers of non-Christians, followers of animist and indigenous African religions, among the  anti-balaka militias.

… not all members of Séléka are Muslims and above all the majority of the anti Balaka militia are not Christians. These militias existed before the seizure of power of the coalition Seleka in March 2013. According to a survey published by the newspaper Ouest France, which interviewed a member of the anti Balaka, self-defense groups were created in the north of the Country at the instigation of former President Bozizé (overthrown in March 2013) to protect the people from bandits raging in the region.

“Before the anti Balaka fought street bandits because the police and the army were incapable of fighting them”, explains Fr. Jean Marius Toussaint Zoumalde, a Capuchin of the convent in Saint-Laurent in Bouar (north-west). According to the Capuchin most of the members of these militias “are animists, not Christians. Their marabouts give them amulets (gri -gris) to protect them from bullets. They are young people who for years have protected their villages and their territories”.

The anti Balaka are present in all communities whether they are animists, Christians or Muslims. But most of them are animists.

Why this excursion into CAR politics? Because the Post is not telling the full story about the war in the CAR. While American ears can hear Muslim v Christian and comprehend their meanings — I would expect most would tune out if presented with a story about the Séléka and the anti-Balaka militias.

The writers at Get Religion seek to raise omitted or distorted religion angles in news stories. That does not mean we see religion as the key issue in every story. Religion is one of many factors in human experience. The Post has, in my opinion, put too much emphasis on faith at the expense of other issues missing the nuance of the interplay between faith and politics.

First published at Get Religion.

Ethical investing monitor hired for Church of England: The Church of England Newspaper, February 7, 2014 February 17, 2014

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The Church of England has engaged an American firm to help monitor its investments to ensure it conforms to church policies on ethical investment.

The Church Commissioners, the Church of England Pensions Board and the CBF Church of England signed the deal with MSCI ESG Research to identify within their £8 billion of assets firms engaged in the tobacco, pornography, gambling, armaments, coal extraction and pay-day lending industries.

Companies that have breached standards set by the UN Global Compact – a set of 10 principles covering human rights, the environment and anti-corruption – will also be identified from the over 9000 firms in which the church holds direct or indirect investments.

Last month’s agreement follows revelations last year the church had indirectly invested in pay-day lender Wonga. While the £75,000 investment represented 0.3 per cent of the pooled fund in question, the Archbishop of Canterbury was ridiculed in the press as he had previously denounced pay-day lending as predatory and unethical.

Edward Mason, Secretary to the Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group, said “The Church of England national investing bodies have a very broad suite of ethical investment policies. We are delighted by the commitment that MSCI ESG Research has shown to meeting our changing needs as we continue to seek to reflect the Church’s values in an ever more complex investment environment.”

No charges for Bishop Ball: The Church of England Newspaper, February 7, 2014 February 17, 2014

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The former Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt. Rev. Peter Ball, who was arrested in November 2012 on suspicion of child abuse, has not been charged following an 18 month investigation by detectives from Sussex Police.

On 28 Jan 2014, the Crown Prosecution Service said it was still considering the case against Bishop Ball, who was arrested in his Somerset home in November 2012 as part of Operation Dunhill. The bishop was reported to have been taken ill following his arrest.

Sussex Police had initiated an investigation after the Church of England turned over the results of its internal review of Bishop Ball.

In 1993 Bishop Ball resigned after he was cautioned by the police for having committed an act of gross indecency against a teenager. The now 81 year old bishop was licenced to officiate at church services following his resignation, but has not had the licence renewed since 2010.

In 2012 a Sussex Police spokesman it had “received from Lambeth Palace two reports from a Church safeguarding consultant, which contain reviews of Church safeguarding files relating to historic issues in the Chichester Diocese. We have also received the files themselves.

“The reports and files relate to matters more than 20 years ago and we will review the contents in order to establish whether any police investigation of possible criminal offences would be merited.”

The late Bishop of Chichester, the Rt. Rev. Eric Kemp, was skeptical of the veracity of the charges brought against Bishop Ball. In his 2006 memoirs, Shy But Not Retiring, Bishop Kemp stated: “Although it was not realized at the time, the circumstances which led to his early resignation were the work of mischief makers.”

Chichester priest arrested for abuse: The Church of England Newspaper, February 7, 2014 February 17, 2014

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A retired Diocese of Chichester priest has been charged by police with a host of sex crimes dating back almost 40 years.

On 28 Jan 2014, the Sussex Police released a statement saying the Rev. Vickery House (68) had been charged with 8 counts of sexual assault “on the authority of the Crown Prosecution Service following an investigation by detectives from Sussex Police over the past 18 months”.

Mr. House of Handcross, West Sussex was arrested in November 2012 and has been on bail pending the outcome of the investigation.  He faces two charges of molesting a 15 year old boy in Devon between 1970 and 1971, two charges relating to a man in East Sussex between 1976 and 1978, and 1983 and 1985, one charge relating to a man in East Sussex between 1978 and 1980, one charge relating to a man in East Sussex between 1981 and 1984, one charge relating to a man in East Sussex between 1984 and 1986 and one charge relating to a man in East Sussex between 1984 and 1986.

The Diocese of Chichester released a statement last week saying it was “aware that a retired priest, previously arrested as part of Operation Dunhill in November 2012, has been charged today with eight counts of indecent assault.”

“As this case is under investigation no further comment will be made. The Diocese of Chichester has been assisting Sussex Police with the inquiries and continues to do so,” it reported.

Mr. House has been granted bail and is charged to appear before the Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 27 Feb 2014.

No action on fracking church lands: The Church of England Newspaper, February 7, 2014 February 17, 2014

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The Church of England has not yet entered the fracking fray, the Second Church Estates Commissioner told Parliament last week.

In response to a question from the member for Thirsk and Malton, Ann McIntosh (Cons.) who asked if the Church Estates Commissioners had granted licences to oil exploration companies to drill on church lands, Sir Tony Baldry stated the church had received no applications to drill.

“The Church Commissioners believe that the Government has awarded a number of Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDL) which cover wide geographical areas and these include some interests held by the Commissioners. To date no approaches have been made to the Commissioners and no applications have been received from any potential Licensors,” the Second Church Estate Commissioner said. (HC Deb, 27 January 2014, c382W)

Fracking, the common term for induced hydraulic fracturing, is a mining technique where water is mixed with sand and chemicals and injected at high pressure into a wellbore. The mixture creates small fractures in the rock allowing natural and gas and oil to migrate to the well shaft, allowing its commercial extraction.

Fracking has proven successful in the United States in developing shale fields for oil and gas production and has led to the creation of over one million jobs, the Society of Petroleum Engineers reports.

However, critics of the process fear it will contaminate ground water and despoil land, leading to protests by British land owners, who must give their permission for firms to exercise the PEDLs granted to exploration companies by the government.

Prime Minister David Cameron has criticized opponents of the government’s fracking policies as hysterical and ill informed. Speaking to a Commons liaison committee on 14 Jan 2014, he stated opponents “simply can’t bear the thought of another carbon-based fuel being used in our energy mix and I think that is irrational … .”

Archbishop says “no” to Hagia Sophia mosque plan: The Church of England Newspaper, February 7, 2014 February 17, 2014

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The Archbishop of Canterbury has lent his support to the Ecumenical Patriarch in the battle with Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) over plans to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

Following the conquest of Constantinople the Ottoman Turks turned the ancient church into a mosque. However members of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ruling party have called upon the government to overturn the decision made in the 1930s by Kemal Ataturk to turn the cathedral into a museum.

Archon news reports that during his visit with Patriarch Bartholomew I last month the Archbishop of Canterbury said Hagia Sophia “should not become a mosque.”

“That would be another loss, in which a great symbol of civilization throughout the world was transformed into a particular symbol of exclusivism,” the archbishop was quoted as saying.

No mention of Hagia Sophia was made, however, in the formal press statement released after the 13-14 January 2014 meeting in Istanbul between the Anglican and Orthodox leaders, and the archbishop’s comments could not be confirmed by his staff.

According to the Lambeth Palace Press Office, Archbishop Welby said that Patriarch Bartholomew had been “an example of peace and reconciliation, politically, with the natural world, and in your historic visit to the installation of His Holiness Pope Francis I.”

“Such reconciliation [is] very dear to my heart and is one of my key priorities. It is the call of Christ that all may be one so that the world may see. I will therefore be taking back with me the warmth of your hospitality and also, after our discussions today and tomorrow, a renewed and refreshed focus for greater unity and closer fellowship. We want to carry the cross of our divisions, but be filled with the hope and joy that comes from the grace and the love of Jesus,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop of West Africa dead: The Church of England Newspaper, January 31, 2014 February 17, 2014

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The Primate of the Church of the Province of West Africa, Archbishop Tilewa Johnson, died last week of an apparent heart attack yesterday whilst playing tennis. He was 59.

The Most Rev Solomon Tilewa Johnson (27 Feb 1954 – 21 Jan 2014) was born in Bathurst in the Gambia and educated in Nigeria and at the University of Durham. Ordained deacon in 1979 and priest in 1980, in 1990 he was elected the sixth Bishop of the Gambia, the first Gambian elected to the post.

An avid sportsman, Archbishop Johnson was a member of the Gambia national basketball team from 1970 to 1977.

Archbishop Johnson attended the 2013 Gafcon conference in Nairobi, but had not joined the organization’s primates’ council as of the time of his death. In November 2013 he was elected to the central committee of the World Council of Churches at the group’s 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea.

In a letter of condolence, Archbishop Justin Welby wrote Archbishop Johnson’s “gifts were not confined exclusively to the Church, and he had an active role within the national life of Gambia.”

“I know that all my colleagues, the people of the Church of England, and especially those in the Diocese of Chichester with which the Diocese of the Gambia is linked, as well as your brothers and sisters across the Communion, will be holding [the church in the Gambia] in prayer and love at this time,” Archbishop Welby wrote.

St James Piccadily “Wall” not anti-Semitic, Parliament told: The Church of England Newspaper, January 31, 2014 February 17, 2014

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The construction of a mock “Wall” outside St James, Piccadilly, was not an anti-Semitic act, the Second Church Estates Commissioner told Parliament, but a condemnation of Israeli government policies.

Discussion of the London replica of the separation barrier constructed by the Israeli government to keep terrorist attacks at bay arose during Oral Answers to Questions asked of Sir Tony Baldry on 9 January.

The member for Harlow, Robert Halfon (Cons.) asked Sir Tony about the Church Commissioners’ discussion with government on the “promotion of religious tolerance.”

Sir Tony responded that in “this country, we have learned through the Reformation and the counter-Reformation and beyond the essential need for religious tolerance in our nation,” which prompted Mr Halfon to ask if the Church Commissioners would discuss “religious intolerance” with “St James’ church, which has held a shockingly anti-Israel exhibition over the past couple of weeks? Far from promoting religious tolerance, it did much to undermine it.”

Sir Tony responded that this question “raises a conundrum: to what extent should the tolerant tolerate the intolerant? The demonstration at St James, Piccadilly, was not against Judaism or Jews but against the illegal occupation under international law in the west bank and some of the settlements. In this House, we must be careful about what is seen as religious tolerance and about not tolerating intolerance or breaches of international law.”

The Speaker, John Bercow encouraged Sir Tony to “prepare a detailed paper on the matter and to lodge it in the Library of the House where I feel confident it will be a well-thumbed tome.”

Parliament told BBC provides adequate Christian programming: The Church of England Newspaper, January 31, 2014 February 17, 2014

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The Second Church Estates Commissioner has assured Parliament there is an adequate amount of Christian programming on radio and television.

During Oral Answers to Questions of the Church Commissioners on 9 January, the member for Strangford, Jim Shannon (DUP) asked Sir Tony Baldry “what discussions has the Commissioner had with media outlets such as TV and radio with regard to Christian programming? Does he agree that it is important to retain a level of programming that reflects the Christian status of this nation? What can be done to promote such programming?”

Sir Tony stated he did not believe there was a problem as if one looked, one could find religious programmes.

“To be honest, I do not think that Christians do too badly. If one gets up early enough, one can find a perfectly good programme between 7 and 8 o’clock on BBC Radio 4 every Sunday. I do not think we can feel that we are in some way discriminated against by the broadcasters.”

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