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Arrests made in CMJ murder in Jerusalem: The Church of England Newspaper, Feb 4, 2011 p 8. February 5, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Mission Societies/Religious Orders, Terrorism.
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Kristine Luken

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Kristine Luken, the CMJ staffer stabbed to death while hiking in a forest outside Jerusalem, was murdered because her attackers thought she was a Jew, Israeli police report.

Last week the Israeli police announced that two Palestinian men had confessed to the Dec 18 stabbing of Ms. Luken and her friend and fellow CMJ staffer, Kay Wilson.  Four other Palestinians from the West Bank also have been arrested, accused of providing logistical support to the killers.

According to indictment, the alleged killers, Kifah Ghneimat and Iyad Fatafa, were part of a gang responsible for a series of violent crimes committed over the past two years.  Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told ABC News the gang’s “activity had an initial criminal orientation,” but took a political turn following the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

On Jan 19, 2010 al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas military commander reputed to be a liaison between Hamas and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, was killed in his hotel room at the five-star al-Bustan Rotana Hotel in Dubai.  Suspicion initially fell on Israel, and Hamas claimed the killing was an Israeli government sanctioned assassination.  However, at the time of his death, al-Mabhouh was wanted by the Israeli, Egyptian and Jordanian governments and the murder remains unsolved.

The murder of Kistine Luken was in “revenge” for the al-Mabhouh assassination, Mr. Rosenfeld said.

According to the indictment, the two Palestinians “decided to enter Israel illegally in order to kill Jews.”

They chanced upon Luken and Wilson, who were hiking through a forest southwest of Jerusalem, and attacked them.  Wilson “tried to convince them they were not Jewish, in order to convince them not to hurt them,” the indictment read, but one of the attackers grabbed a Star of David necklace worn by Wilson, shouting in Arabic, “What’s this?” and proceeded to stab the two women.

Stabbed 12 times, Kaye Wilson feigned death.  After her attackers fled, she was able to make her way to a parking lot where a passerby found her and alerted the police.  Kristine Luken, however, bled to death.

The alleged killers were arrested within 48 hours of the attack, the police spokesman said, but held in secret while other members of the gang were sought.

The rector of Christ Church, Jerusalem, the Rev. David Pileggi, said the Anglican community was “relieved at the capture” of the alleged killers.

However the arrests do not “end our grief, nor does it bring healing,” he said.  “We look for that consolation in God’s presence amongst us and in the hope of the resurrection,” Mr. Pileggi said.

Two way traffic between Canterbury and Rome, Church Commissioners report: The Church of England Newspaper, Feb 4, 2011 p 7. February 4, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
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Anne McIntosh MP

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

At least 14 Roman Catholic priests have attempted to join the Church of England in the past five years, the Second Church Estates Commissioner told Parliament last month.

In response to a question concerning the pension liabilities of former Roman Catholic priests who had entered the ministry of the Church of England submitted by the member for Thirsk and Malton, Anne McIntosh, (Cons.), on Jan 18 the Second Church Estates Commission Mr. Tony Baldry said there was no pension liability as the Church Commissioners were responsible only for pensions earned by Church of England clergy before 1998.

He went on to say that there was no exact figure on the number of ex-Roman Catholic clergy serving in the Church of England.

Mr. Baldry said that the “figures held centrally by the Ministry Division of the Archbishop’s Council show that in the period 2005-10 the division’s candidate’s panel dealt with 14 former Roman Catholic priests seeking ordination in the Church of England, of whom 11 were accepted for ministry.”

However, as there is “discretion at diocesan level over the requirements for acceptance into ministry, not all cases are centrally recorded, meaning the national figure is likely to be higher,” Mr. Baldry said.

Church call for sex education in primary schools: The Church of England Newspaper, Feb 4, 2011 February 4, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Education, Youth/Children.
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Bishop Calvin Bess of Trinidad (left) Archbishop John Holder of the West Indies (right)

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Anglican Church has joined in National Parent Teachers Association (NPTA) of Trinidad in calling for sex education classes for under-12s.

On Jan 20, the Rt. Rev. Calvin Bess, Bishop of Trinidad said the education minister’s statement last week to the island’s senate that seven primary schools students were compelled to suspend their schooling after they became pregnant was troubling.

Notwithstanding the moral issues at play of children having children, “this state of affairs” was “most regrettable as it will impact on those students’ academic career, and ultimately their future,” the bishop said.

The Anglican Church in the West Indies welcomed plans to combat teen pregnancy, “even if it means introducing some measure of sex education in the school system,” he said.

Trinidad & Tobago follows the British education system, with children enrolled in either state or church-affiliated primary schools from age 5 to 12, and in secondary schools until aged 16.  At the end of their primary school education, children sit for the Secondary Entrance Assessment exams, which govern where they will be educated for secondary school.  After completing secondary school, children sit for their CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) examinations, akin to the GCE O levels, and those with high scores may continue in school for two further years and sit for their A level exams.  The free and compulsory education system has given the island one of the highest literacy rates in the world, exceeding 98 per cent.

The president of Trinidad’s NPTA, Zena Ramatali, last week urged the government to introduce Health and Family Life education programmes as “young people are being bombarded with sexual encounters and teenage pregnancy at an early age.”

However, Bishop Bess said the church believed it was important to have the right programmes in place.  A poorly designed curriculum could “produce opposite effects than those which were intended,” prompting children to experiment with sex.

Young people “need to understand that their body is something sacred and that it was a gift from God, so it must be carefully looked after and not abused,” the bishop said.

Senior US military chaplain joins ACNA: The Church of England Newspaper, Feb 4 2011, p 8. February 3, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Church of England Newspaper.
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Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) John B. Ellington, Jr., of the ACNA

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The senior serving chaplain of the US National Guard was ordained a priest in the Anglican Church in North America last week at a ceremony in suburban Virginia.

Maj. Gen. John B. Ellington, Jr., was one of three priests ordained by Bishop Martyn Minns on Jan 15 at The Falls Church in Falls Church, Virginia.   The new priest becomes the ranking Anglican priest serving in the US military.

Organized in 2007, the Deanery for Chaplains of the ACNA is led by Bishop Derek Jones and has 100 clergy serving in the US military, Bureau of Prisons, Veterans Administration and in the health care industry.

This is a “joyous occasion” for the ACNA, Archbishop Robert Duncan said.  “We are blessed to bear witness to the Chaplaincies’ continued growth, and we look forward to the way in which Christ will work through our newly ordained chaplains.”

One of four ‘two-star’ chaplain flag officers, (Major Generals and a Rear Admiral), serving in the US military, Maj. Gen. Ellington oversees the 2,200 Army and Air Force National Guard Chaplain Corps personnel and is the primary advisor on religious, ethical, moral, and morale issues to the 450,000 members of the National Guard and to the National Guard Bureau.

Ordained in 1975 in the Christian Church-Disciples of Christ, Maj. Gen. Ellington served as a parish minister at Indian Lake Community Church in Russells Point, Ohio before he was commissioned in the Air National Guard in 1979.

“Chaplain Ellington’s movement to the Anglican Church comes after more than 40 years of significant active ministry,” Bishop Jones said, adding “Chaplain Ellington is just one of many experienced chaplains who have journeyed on a ‘Canterbury Trail’ to the historic church and Anglican Faith.”

The number of ACNA chaplains has almost doubled over the past year Bishop Jones told The Church of England Newspaper, with many coming from other Protestant denominations.  “For many” of the new chaplains, the Anglican option for ministry in the United States was blocked because “the only option for them was the Episcopal Church.

With the creation of the ACNA “these chaplains realized an orthodox option was now available and began making applications,” he noted, adding that the “training and education” of the those from outside the Anglican tradition takes from six months to a year.

A number of chaplains have also come from the Episcopal Church he said, and “there are many chaplains with the Episcopal Church who have inquired about transferring, but we have encouraged them to hang tight” for now.

The reception process for Episcopal priests depends on the individual’s circumstances, Bishop Jones said, and is based on their “home diocese, current maturity within rank, grade, and seniority structures, and the chaplain’s ability to ‘weather the storm’ should they become identified as wanting to move to an orthodox communion.”

He added that he had advised a number of Episcopal clergy “to be patient so that they may remain supportive of their bishop, many of whom are under the crosshairs [of the national church hierarchy]” for their traditionalist views.

Zanzibar episcopal election cancelled: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011. February 2, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Tanzania, Church of England Newspaper.
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Tanzanian Chief Justice Augustino Ramadhani

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Internal tensions have derailed the election of a Bishop of Zanzibar, sources in Tanzania tell The Church of England Newspaper.

Vacant since the death of Bishop Deogras Toto in 2006, the Diocese of Zanzibar had been scheduled to elect a new bishop in November 2010 from a list of three local candidates.  Since the death of Bishop Toto retired Archbishop Donald Mtetemela and Archbishop Valentino Mokiwa have exercised episcopal oversight for the diocese.

The original delay in electing a new bishop sources tell CEN was due to the canonical requirements that a bishop be at least 40 years of age and hold a diploma in theology—a hurdle the local clergy could not jump in 2006.  However the latest delay the Guardian newspaper of Dar es Salaam reports came after one of the diocese’s senior lay leaders and the registrar of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, the Chief Justice of Tanzania Augustino Ramadhani, declined to give his support to any of the candidates.

Diocesan secretary Nuhu Salanya said he was unaware of the Judge’s views, but said the election had been postponed due to “misunderstandings” between the diocese and the church’s national offices in Dodoma.

Bishops back ‘Save England’s Forests” campaign: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011 p 5. February 2, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Environment.
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The Rt. Rev. Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Leaders of the Church of England have given their support to the “Save England’s Forests” campaign, endorsing an open letter printed in The Sunday Telegraph calling for the government to halt the sale of state owned woodlands.

In October, the coalition announced plans to sell of 15 per cent of the 620,000 acres owned by the Forestry Commission in England.  The sale of timber and land in the New Forest, the Forest of Dean and Sherwood Forest, could generate upwards of £100 million in revenue.

However, on Jan 23 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, actress Dame Judi Dench, Lord Rees the astronomer royal, pop singer Annie Lennox, explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes and approximately 100 public figures called the sale “unconscionable” and “ill-conceived”.

“We, who love and use the English forests, believe that such a sale would be misjudged and shortsighted,” the letter said.

“It is our national heritage,” they stated, adding that it was “unconscionable that future generations will not be able to enjoy the guarantee of a public forest estate.  They called upon the government to “suspend any significant sales, until the public has been fully consulted.”

The president of Save England’s Forests, Rachel Johnson stated the “great and the good” who signed the letter “stand as the mouthpiece of the nation. Our message, in no uncertain terms, is that the Government cannot rush through legislation that will change our English countryside forever.”

The Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Perham, one of the signatories of The Sunday Telegraph letter, said the proposal to sell of parts of the Forest of Dean, which lies within his diocese “saddens me greatly.”

He noted the proposed law would alter the character of the Forest communities and make it “vulnerable to any plans for sale or development.”

“I am concerned that this Bill will retract the acknowledgement of the unique nature of the Forest of Dean, established in the early 1980s,” he said.

In 1981 Parliament limited the powers of the Forestry Commission to sell land in the Forest of Dean, the bishop said.  “The current Public Bodies Bill proposes to remove this exemption, undermining the importance of special situation of this area of Gloucestershire,” he said.

The Bishop of Guilford would present an amendment to the Public Bodies Bill to the House of Lords on Jan 25, Bishop Perham said, that would preserve the historic character of the Forest of Dean.

Archbishops: Do not allow criminals to escape justice by appeals to tribe!: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011 p 8. February 1, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper, Crime.
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Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya

Tribal and ethnic tensions must not derail the pursuit of justice and truth, church leaders in Kenya declared last month.

Speaking at All Saints’ Cathedral in Nairobi on Christmas Day, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala urged Kenyans not to view life through the prism of ethnicity, while his Roman Catholic counterpart Cardinal John Njue urged politicians to be “agents of peace and not the other way round.”

On Dec 15, International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo brought an indictment against six prominent Kenyans.  Former higher education minister William Ruto, Minister for Industrialization Henry Kosgey and radio broadcaster Joshua Sang were charged with conspiracy to commit murder and ethnic cleansing against supporters of President Mwai Kibaki.

In a separate indictment Moreno Ocampo charged Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura and former police commissioner Maj. Gen. Mohammed Hussein Ali with committing crimes against humanity upon the supporters of Prime Minister Raila Odinga in the post-election violence.

The 2007 general election sparked a sharp clash between supporters of President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga.  Over 1000 people were killed in tribal and political clashes and tens of thousands were driven from their homes.

In his Christmas sermon delivered at the Holy Family Basilica, Cardinal Njue said the uncertain political climate required political leaders from all parties to eschew violence and tribal passions.  “This is not time for hatred,” he said.

Archbishop Wabukala lamented the tendency of some Kenyans to protect members of their own tribe.  Politicians accused of corruption were defending themselves with appeals for tribal support, he said.

Archbishop condemns bankers’ bonus culture as ‘immoral’: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011 p 6. February 1, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church in Wales, Church of England Newspaper, Popular Culture.
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The Archbishop of Wales, Dr. Barry Morgan

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Wales has called on bankers and businessmen to adopt a moral code governing their professional conduct.

In a speech delivered on Jan 12 to the Profession Wales Group, Dr. Barry Morgan said the current climate of bankers’ bonuses was “immoral” and urged those taking a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree to adopt a code of conduct akin to the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians.

The international financial crisis, the bankers’ bonus culture and the MPs’ expense scandal were evidence of the moral decline of the business professions, he argued.  Ethical behavior was seen by some in industry as being contrary to good business practice, yet without the standards of trust and behavior the capitalist system would collapse, he said.

“To talk about ethics means talking about how we should live our lives and the kind of people we ought to be and the way we would like our communities to function. In the context of business this used to be regarded as irrelevant, pious or even weak. It was not seen as ‘businesslike’ in a world where competition ruled and financial growth was the only marker of success,” Dr. Morgan said.

Government regulation would not fix the problem, however, as the issue was at heart one of morality rather than economics.  He urged business to adopt a code of conduct proposed by professors at Harvard’s Business School.

“The MBA Oath is something worth considering because in the end conventional regulation cannot cure moral blindness or rule out greed,” Dr. Morgan said.

Top executives should set an example for their staff, he argued, calling upon British industry to foster a “culture, customs, traditions and an ethos where people are valued.”

“If we separate economic life from longer term goals for humans and fail to ask the questions of what life is for, and assume that the profit motive is paramount, then we will not be seeking the wellbeing of all, especially the most vulnerable and our society will unravel.  Shared wellbeing and how we achieve it are the most crucial questions that our country and world faces,” the archbishop said.

Sudanese Christians have the C of E’s ‘absolute’ support: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011 p 6. January 31, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Church of England has pledged its full support to the Christians of Sudan, the Second Church Estates Commissioner told Parliament last week.

Speaking in response to a question from the member for Congleton, Fiona Bruce (Cons.), about the degree of support given by the Church Commissioners to the “Christians in Sudan,” Second Church Estates Commissioner Tony Baldry told the House of Commons on Jan 18 the Church of England’s support was through the Episcopal Church of Sudan.

He noted the dioceses of Bradford and Salisbury had companion link relationships with the Sudanese Anglican dioceses and they had “done great work in the region to support the Christian community,” as had Christian Aid.

Ms. Bruce then asked that in light of last week’s independence referendum for Southern Sudan, did the Church Commissioners not agree that the “Christian minorities in the north of Sudan will face continued persecution?”

She asked whether the Church of England would “support and protect Christians and other minorities in the north of Sudan, while also helping, where appropriate, in Southern Sudan?”

“Absolutely,” Mr. Baldry said, noting that “minority groups in northern Sudan have faced persecution, which is one of the many problems facing people in the region.”

The problems facing the South were formidable, he said.  “Most southern Sudanese live on less than $1 a day, the country has almost no infrastructure-there are just 38 miles of tarmacked road in an area the size of France-and people are traumatised by years of rape and killings.”

The Church of England, along with Christian Aid, Christian Solidarity Worldwide and other NGOs “will give the people of Southern Sudan all possible support,” Mr. Baldry said, adding that “it behoves all of us to do what we can to support what may soon be the newest member of the United Nations as it sets out on the challenging road of nationhood.”

Handle with care militant Islam, British diplomat warns: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011 p 6. January 31, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Islam, Terrorism.
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Justin Bedford (right) speaking to Vatican Radio. Photo: Foreign & Commonwealth Office

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The EU should tread warily when dealing with militant Islam and not be seen as supporting Christian minorities in the Muslim world, the deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy to the Holy See said last week.  “We need to be very careful as to how the West, and the EU as part of the ‘western construct’, approaches the question of religions,” Justin Bedford told Vatican Radio on Jan 12.

His remarks come in contrast to comments made by the Second Church Estates Commission to Parliament on Jan 18, who condemned the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world and denounced the killing of the Governor of the Punjab this month—murdered for his support for Pakistan’s oppressed Christian minority.

Asked to comment on Pope Benedict XVI’s Jan 10 address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Vatican, where the pope voiced his concerns over the persecution of Christians in many Muslim majority countries, Mr. Bedford said the speech showed the pope’s belief in “protecting religious freedom as a fundamental human right.”

When questioned about what steps the EU might take to support or protect Christians in the Middle East, Mr. Bedford said “we need to be very careful as to how the West, and the EU as part of the ‘western construct’, approaches the question of religions.”

If the “West took the concept of Christianity under its umbrella,” it could “provide a reason for extremists to continue to divide those societies…we would seek to avoid that, if possible,” he said.

“If this question is discussed in the EU we would need to find an approach which did not divide societies, but sought to unite them and present solidarity between Christians and Muslims as they confront extremists.”

Speaking in response to a question from the member for Gillingham and Rainham, Mr. Rehman Chishti (Cons.), as to “what representations the Church Commissioners have made in support of Christians in Pakistan?”, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Tony Baldry, said “It is a sad and terrible fact that Christian minorities who have lived peacefully in Muslim countries for generations are finding themselves subject to increasingly violent persecution.”

“Churches have recently been attacked in Egypt, Iraq and Nigeria, and the assassination in Pakistan of Salmaan Taseer for defending a Christian woman who had been sentenced to death was particularly horrible,” Mr. Baldry said.

Dr. Rowan Williams, Bishop Alexander Malik of Lahore and “the Christian community as a whole in Pakistan” were “working hard to foster inter-faith collaboration in Pakistan during this time of difficulty,” he said.

The murder of Governor Taseer was a “tragedy for Pakistan,” whose people appeared to have forgotten the maxim of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, “the father of Pakistan, who said: ‘you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship’.”

“What I suspect every Member of this House hopes for is that there shall be freedom of religion throughout the world,” Mr. Baldry said, “and I am sure that, as a Chamber, we will continue to campaign for that wherever we have the opportunity.”

Coup warnings from Nigeria: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011 January 31, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria.
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Archbishop Nicholas Okoh

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria has urged Africa’s most populous nation to reject extremist politics and sectarian passions ahead of this year’s general election, and work towards building a better Nigeria.

The oil-rich West African nation has witnessed an outbreak of sectarian violence in the central Plateau State while separatist and criminal gangs have paralyzed portions of the southern Delta region.  Church and civil society leaders have urged Nigerians not to respond to the blandishments of extremists to solve their problems, and have also called on the government to reign in rogue elements of the army that appear to be setting the groundwork for a military coup.

On Jan 25, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that soldiers were behind a raid on a village in the Plateau State.  On Jan 23 armed men dressed in military uniforms attacked a village.  The villagers returned fire and wounded one man—who turned out to be a solider billeted at a nearby army post.

At the close of their Jan 3-9 retreat at the Ibru Centre in Agbarha-Otor in the Delta State, the 159 Nigerian bishops released a statement saying there were “very conscious of living at a time of great tension” in Africa’s most populous nation.

The “ability to conduct a free and fair election, an essential and necessary condition for the future of democracy in our nation, has been seriously compromised by the breakdown in basic security on the roads and in our communities,” the bishops said.

The “Christmas time bombings in Jos and Abuja and the recent killings in Maiduguri are yet further examples that we are in the middle of a deadly struggle for the soul and survival of our nation,” the bishops said, condemning there “terrible acts of violence.”

They urged the government to redouble it efforts to “bring the culprits to book immediately to forestall further deterioration of our security situation,” and voiced concerns that the chaos was being fostered by those who “have no credible or hopeful project for our beloved nation” in a bid to seize power.

The bishops urged the government to turn its attention to domestic matters: decent schools, safe roads, public order, corruption-free government, rebuilding the nation’s electrical grid and honest elections.

“This catalogue of concerns reflects not only our love for our nation and all its people but also our conviction that strong, honest, visionary leadership is vital if we are to give our people the hope that they deserve,” the bishops said.

Nigeria was a land of “amazing God-given resources and talented people capable of exercising not only national leadership but also taking their rightful place on the global stage.”

However, these gifts would not be fully realized until the nation placed itself under God and trust in him “who has promised that He will lead us into glorious future.”

Canadian ‘no’ to repeal of the Act of Settlement: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011 p 8. January 30, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Ecclesiology.
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MP Keith Vaz holding aloft his bill to repeal the Act of Settlement

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Canadian government has rejected the pleas of Labour MP Keith Vaz to support his bill to repeal the 1701 Act of Settlement.

On Jan 23, Mr. Vaz, the member for Leicester East, presented a Ten Minute Rule Bill to the House of Commons calling for the “removal of any distinction between the sexes in determination the succession to the Crown” and to remove prohibition that the monarch and his or her consort be members of the Church of England.

In a statement released this week on his website, Mr. Vaz stated that “with the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, we have a once in a generation opportunity to change the law. Prince William looks like a very modern Prince. If he has a daughter first, it is only right that she become Queen of England.”

Mr Vaz has sought the support of the Royal family, the government and the leaders of the 15 Commonwealth nations were the Queen is head of state for their support, and has claimed a majority of his constituents support “equal rights in succession” for the monarch.

However the coalition government and past Labour governments have not taken up the issue.  In a written answer given to the House of Commons on June 30, Cabinet Office minister Mark Harper stated “there are no current plans to amend the laws on succession.”

Passed by Parliament in 1701 to govern the succession of the monarch, the Act requires the sovereign to “join in communion with the Church of England” and forbids marriage to a “papist.”  It also adopted the principle of primogenitor, giving the eldest male child of the monarch precedence over any older sisters.

In 2001 Prime Minister Tony Blair raised the issue but did not take the matter forward while Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2008 stated that “most people recognise the need for change. Change can only be brought about by not just the UK but all realms where Her Majesty is Queen making a decision to change.”

However, he took no further action and did not raise the issue during the 2009 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key reported at the time.

Altering the Act of Succession must be approved by the governments where the Queen is the constitutional monarch and sovereign: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, St Christopher and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tuvalu.

While a popular sentiment would support a change, the political costs make its repeal unlikely.  In Canada, the provinces must endorse a change to the country’s constitution—including the status of the monarch.  Amending the Canadian constitution would reopen the intractable debate over the status of Quebec, and possibly led to the unraveling of the country.

A spokesman for the Canadian prime minister told Postmedia News last week “this issue is not a priority for the government or for Canadians without further elaboration on the merits or drawbacks of the proposed reforms.”

No plans to ground the flying bishops, Parliament assured: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28 2011 p 4. January 29, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Women Priests.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Church of England will keep faith with traditionalists opposed to the consecration of women bishops, Parliament was assured last week—until the Act of Synod providing for provincial episcopal visitors (PEV) is rescinded.

On Jan 18, the member for Kingston upon Hull, Diana Johnson (Lab.) asked the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Mr. Tony Baldry, “what assessment the Church of England” had made of the “likely requirement for provincial episcopal visitors” should legislation be adopted “enabling the consecration of  women bishops?”

Mr. Baldry stated the question was premature.  The PEV scheme operated “under the terms of the Act of Synod, which will be rescinded if the draft legislation to enable women to become bishops is approved and brought into force.”

However, “it will on any basis be at least two more years before that stage is reached and there remain important questions about how suitable episcopal oversight will be provided under the new legislation and associated code of practice for those with theological difficulties over the ordination of women,” Mr. Baldry said.

Ms. Johnson responded that given the current climate of “cutting costs and removing superfluous posts” was not sensible that any “new flying bishops be grounded now?”

This would not do, responded Mr. Baldry.  The PEVs were “there under the Act of Synod. Under the Act of Synod, the archbishop is expected to take steps to secure the appointment of up to two additional suffragans” to act as PEVs.

“Even if the Synod gives final approval to the draft legislation, the Act of Synod will remain in place for some time to come. We must keep faith with all sorts of different groups in the Church of England until there is a final decision on women bishops within the Church,” the Second Church Estates Commissioner said.

New Rwandan primate installed: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011. January 29, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Rwanda, Church of England Newspaper.
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President Paul Kagame and Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje greet the press following the archbishop's installation as primate of Rwanda. Photo: Bishop Silas Ng

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church and State must work hand in hand to better the lives of the people of Africa, President Paul Kagame said on Jan 24 at the installation of the new primate of Rwanda, Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje.

In his address to the congregation gathered at the Kigali University stadium, President Kagame said the “government cannot do much without the help of the church, the private sector and the community itself.”

When church and state work together they fulfill God’s plan for his people, he said.

The president thanked outgoing Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini for his ministry in the wake of the 1994 genocide.  “Understanding and action goes together,” the president said, adding that he had witnessed how the Anglican Church of Rwanda during the past 13 years under Archbishop Kolini had taken positive steps toward rebuilding the nation and fostering peace and unity.

The present also pledged his government’s support for the new archbishop.  Archbishop Rwaje responded by noting the Anglican Church of Rwanda has been “working with other Christian denominations and the Muslim community in fostering peace and educational development, I also pledge to continue the relationship especially by strengthening the fight against poverty and HIV/Aids.”

In his sermon, the Primate of Burundi, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, expounded upon 2 Kings, likening the passing of authority from Elijah to Elisha to the changing order within the Rwandan Church, with God’s power and authority passing onto a new anointed leader.

Corruption charges laid against the Bishop in North Kerala: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011 p 8. January 29, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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Bishop K P Kuruvilla of North Kerala

The Church of South India (CSI)’s synod has taken charge of the administration of the Diocese of North Kerala after its Bishop, the Rt. Rev. K P Kuruvilla failed to convene the diocesan council.

North Kerala has been the scene of heated debates between its bishop and lay leaders.  In a letter to the moderator of the CSI dated Jan 21, the CSI North Kerala Diocesan Laity Fellowship accused the bishop of pocketing school funds.

They alleged that since June 2010 the bishop had collected approximately Rs. 85 million rupees (£1.2 million) “through the appointment of thirty two teachers in four of the newly sanctioned higher secondary schools” in the diocese.

At a meeting of the diocesan executive committee held on Oct 20, questions about the disposition of the funds were raise.  The diocesan treasurer “admitted to have received only Rs. 15 million (£207,000). When asked about rest of the amount, bishop responded that the amount received cannot be divulged and the executive committee members [would] have to just trust him on this matter,” the complaint said.

A new diocesan council that included critics of the bishop was elected at the end of October, but the bishop did not convene the council.  Critics have charged the bishop with seeking to derail the new council so as to avoid an inquiry into diocesan finances.

Under the CSI’s constitution, if a diocesan council is not convened within 90 days of its election, its administrative responsibilities pass to the synod.  On Jan 24 the synod appointed an interim council that included Bishop Kuruvilla and directed that a new council be elected and installed by May.

A number of CSI dioceses have witnessed conflicts between their bishop and clergy and lay groups.  In May 2010 six clergy and a lay member of the Diocese of Rayalaseema staged a protest before the diocesan offices, calling for the ouster of Bishop K.B. Yesuvaraprasad.

A lay member of the diocese, Dr. Y.S. Thomas Reddy, had distributed tracts accusing the bishop of misusing diocesan funds and called for a protest at his residence on May 25.  Bishop Yesuvaraprasad requested police protection, and when the protesters arrived they were arrested for a breach of the peace when they did not disperse.

Allegations of misconduct have also been leveled against the moderator of the CSI, while a criminal investigation is underway into the finances of the Bishop in Coimbatore, the Rt. Rev. Manickam Dorai.  Last year the CSI synod dissolved the diocesan council and suspended Bishop Dorai pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings.

Two other CSI dioceses are currently under the administrative oversight of the CSI synod.  In the Diocese of Madhya Kerala the Bishop in East Kerala has been given temporary charge of the diocese following the retirement of the Rt. Rev. Thomas Samuel on Jan 24.  In November the Diocesan Council nominated the Rev. Thomas Oommen and Dr. Oommen George to stand for election at the Jan 18 meeting of the diocesan synod.  However, a dispute over the balloting has postponed the election pending a review by the provincial ecclesiastical court.

On Dec 25 the former moderator of the CSI, Bishop John Gladstone retired as Bishop in South Kerala.  The Synod has appointed the Bishop in Kanyakumair to oversee the diocese until a new bishop is appointed.

Redundant churches question before Parliament: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011 January 28, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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Nelson St Mary's

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

In the past five years, 93 redundant churches have been converted to other uses, the Second Church Estates Commissioner told Parliament on Jan 18.

In response to a question from the member for Pendle, Andrew Stephenson (Cons.), on the number of churches converted to secular use, Second Church Estates Commission Tony Baldry said “in the last five years, there have been 117 schemes for dealing with churches that are no longer being used as regular places of worship, 93 of which have resulted in their being provided for alternative use.”

Asked by Mr. Pendle about the status of St. Mary’s church in Nelson, which was “last used for worship in 1989, and it has remained boarded up and empty since its deconsecration,” Mr. Baldry noted that when Nelson St Mary was closed in 1987 it was subsequently sold in 1989, and at that “point the Church Commissioners responsibility for the building ceased.”

Empty for over 20 years, the grade II listed church of Nelson St Mary’s has been acquired by the Heritage Trust for the North West and is slated to be converted into a traditional building skills centre.

The member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, Alan Beith (Lib-Dem) rose in response, asking if the Church Commissioners would commend the work of English Heritage in converting redundant churches to productive use.

Mr. Baldry said he was pleased to support their work, noting that “increasingly, churches are being put to other uses, ranging from post offices to shops, and from community centres to internet cafés.”

There are “19,000 churches across the country and in many communities the church is the most prominent public building,” Mr. Baldry said, “so we want to make sure that churches are used as much as possible, rather than just for a couple of hours each week on a Sunday.”

Londonderry Bombing Condemned: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 21, 2011 p 6. January 26, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Terrorism.
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The Rt. Rev. Ken Good, Bishop of Derry & Raphoe

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe has condemned the Jan 17 bombings in Londonderry.

“Those who took it upon themselves to set off an explosion in Guildhall Square display a shortsightedness that is breathtaking,” Bishop Ken Good said.

At approximately 0330 GMT on Jan 17 an explosive device was detonated.  No injuries have been reported and no group has yet to claim responsibility for the blasts.

Bishop Good said the suspected sectarian attacks would not derail Northern Ireland’s push for peace.  Londonderry “has a growing desire to move forward peacefully and positively. This is a city of Culture, a city of enterprise, a city of welcome, a city of hope. Those who placed this explosive device seek to extinguish this growing sense of hope. However, our hope will not be extinguished. Its roots are already too strong,” the bishop said.

The explosion follows a series of attacks on Orange Order Halls in County Tyrone.  Four Orange halls were vandalized this past weekend.  The windows at Strawletterdallon Orange Hall outside Newtownstewart were smashed on Friday, while on Sunday an oil drum was placed against the door of the building and set alight.  The windows of three other halls were broken or covered with paint.  The Police Service of Northern Ireland has taken a 41 year old man into custody for questioning.

“The recent attacks on Orange Halls in County Tyrone are to be outrightly condemned,” Bishop Good said.

“These attacks cause great distress. If their intention is to damage good community relationships I am confident that they will not succeed”.

Canadian ordinariate organizing conference called: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 21, 2011 p 9. January 26, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church, Traditional Anglican Communion.
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The Rt. Rev. Peter Wilkinson OSG, Metropolitan of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto has issued an invitation to Canadian Anglicans interested in “the implementation of Anglicanorum Coetibus” to attend a conference this March in Ontario.

Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins, who has been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to serve as the Vatican’s “delegate” to Canadian Anglicans seeking to join the Pope’s Personal Ordinariate, has scheduled the meeting for March 24-26 at Mississauga’s Queen of Apostles Retreat Centre.

Defined by the Vatican News Service as aa canonical structure that provides for corporate reunion in such a way that allows former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of their distinctive Anglican patrimony,” the ordinariate has already drawn one Canadian parish: St John the Evangelist in Calgary.  On March 12, 2010 the bishops of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (ACCC)—a member church of the Traditional Anglican Communion—petitioned the Vatican for the creation of a Canadian branch of the ordinariate.

However, the number of members of the Anglican Church of Canada set to depart for Rome is unclear.  Further secessions from the ACC are likely to go to the Anglican Network in Canada—part of the Anglican Church in North America—rather than to the ordinariate, The Church of England Newspaper has learned.  Following the ACCC’s decision to accept the pope’s invitation, 12 of the church’s 42 congregations withdrew rather than go over to Rome.

Fair play for Pakistani Christians petition presented: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 21, 2011 p 1. January 25, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Persecution.
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Bishop Michael Nazir Ali, Pakistan High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan and Andy Dipper of Release International speaking to the press outside the Pakistani High Commission in London. Photo: Release International

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A petition bearing 51,000 signatures has been presented to the Pakistan High Commissioner calling for fair treatment for the country’s religious minorities.

On Jan 13, the former Bishop of Rochester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir Ali, and the CEO of Release International, Andy Dipper met with Mr. Wajid Shamsul Hasan in London urging his government to protect the country’s embattled Christian minority.

The hand over came as Christians gathered outside of the High Commission in Lowndes Square in Knightsbridge to pray for the Pakistani government and for jailed Christians—including Asia Bibi, a mother of five sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Release International reported the High Commissioner came out of the embassy to welcome those taking part in the vigil.  ‘We share your concerns, and we will do our utmost in the best possible way to provide security for the minorities and to alleviate their sufferings,” Mr. Hasan said.

The High Commissioner denounced the recent murder of the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, saying he had been killed for “defending the right of a member of the minority. We will not surrender to such blackmail, we will fight them and we will eliminate them.”

Pakistan was in the “forefront of the war against terrorism,” the high commissioner said.

“It’s a war against those who abuse Islam, who declare themselves Muslims but are not. They are in my personal view more or less pagans, who have no consideration for human life,” Mr. Hasan said.

Bishop Nazir Ali stated that in addition to handing over the petition, he and Mr. Dipper had an “in-depth discussion of the legal and social situation in Pakistan” with Mr. Hasan.

They discussed “what can be done to ease the lot, not only of minorities, but of other people from the majority community who are in danger from some of these discriminatory laws,” the bishop said.

Arizona bishop blames Tucson shooting on overheated political rhetoric: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 21, 2011 p 9. January 25, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Arizona, Church of England Newspaper, Crime.
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The Rt. Rev. Kirk S. Smith, Bishop of Arizona

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Arizona has condemned America’s heated partisan political discourse, saying it was one of the root causes behind the Jan 8 shooting in Tucson, Arizona that left six dead and 14 wounded, including US Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

In a pastoral letter released on Jan 10, Bishop Kirk S. Smith said the “shootings in Tucson opened many old wounds for those of us who lived through the Kennedy and King assassinations, and cause new shame that one of our own residents has been part of the systemic hatred and violence that our country cannot seem to escape.”

While the attack by lone gunman Jared Loughner has shocked America, the aftermath of the shootings has sparked recriminations as many liberal commentators sought to blame conservative leaders for the attack on the Democratic congresswoman.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote in the wake of the shooting, “We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was.”

Liberal blogger Markos Moulitsas blamed former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin for the attack, as she had marked Representative Giffords’ district on map with rifle cross hairs, denoting Democrat held seats she hoped the Republicans would pick up in the 2010 elections, while MSNBC television commentator Keith Olbermann called for Mrs. Palin to leave public life unless she repented of her role in the tragedy.

Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Pima County, site of the shootings blamed “the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government,” and called Arizona “the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

In his pastoral letter, Bishop Smith noted that “whether the young man was rational or not, he certainly was influenced by the escalating violent language which seems to characterize our political discourse these days, when anyone who disagrees with you is labeled as an ‘enemy’ or as ‘evil’.”

However, interviews with friends and acquaintances of the shooter indicate Jared Loughner was uninterested and unaware of the political passions of the day—and had been fixated with Representative Giffords since 2007.  Friends and family of the shooter have described him as being mentally unbalanced—and no political motive appears to have been involved.  The political pendulum quickly swung back against the left, with public opprobrium showered on those who sought to use the tragedy to score political points on their opponents.

Bishop Smith urged Americans to pray.  The word ‘prayer’ had been “tossed around a lot by people who normally would not give God a second thought, but we as followers of Christ are people of prayer and we know from experience that prayer works–not always in the ways we would expect, but prayer brings God directly into the epicenter of things we cannot understand, and has the power to bring new life even out of death and despair.”

Moderation in all things, HK archbishop advises: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 21, 2011 p 6. January 24, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui.
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Archbishop Paul Kwong of Hong Kong addressing a press conference at Lambeth 2008

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Hong Kong has urged Chinese Christians to live frugally and give graciously to those in need.

In his Christmas address, Archbishop Paul Kwong noted that more than 1.2 million people lived below the level of subsistence in Hong Kong, while the number of newly rich businessmen and property speculators had grown sharply.

The archbishop said it was a worthy ambition to grow rich through hard work.  But success was incomplete if giving did go hand in hand with wealth.  The rich should not “pocket the last penny” or squeeze the poor in their pursuit of wealth, he said.

Nor was the opulence displayed by some of China’s nouveau riche conducive to social harmony.  While some hoped to emulate their conspicuous consumption, others were disgusted by their hedonism.

The archbishop urged Christians to emulate those who gave.  “Hong Kong would be a more civilized and warm place if more people followed the example of the customs officer who donated his liver to save his colleague’s life, or of those people who lost their lives in saving victims of natural disasters.”

In November, customs officer Simon Hui Sai-man donated part of his liver to save the life of a colleague, Yuen Wai-cheung who was critically injured during an anti-smuggling operation. Hong Kong volunteer worker Wong Fuk-wing died rescuing children during the Qinghai earthquake in April.

The message of Christmas was one of God’s love for all people, irrespective of race, class or political opinion.  “However, for many Hong Kong people, this Christmas brings them neither joy nor warmth because they live at the level of subsistence and despite the long hours of work, many still cannot make ends meet,” the archbishop said, urging his congregations to reach out to those in need.

“To be moderate with others is to leave a space to the needy and to give them a light of hope. This is the meaning of Christmas,” Archbishop Kwong said.

Bishop of Hereford steps down as chair of church child protection board: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 21, 2011 p 6. January 24, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Rt. Rev. Anthony Priddis, Bishop of Hereford

The Bishop of Hereford announced this week that he will step down as head of the Church of England’s Central Safeguarding Liaison Group.

Appointed in 2002 to oversee the joint Church of England – Methodist Church body that coordinates child protections polices, the Rt. Rev. Anthony Priddis stated it was time for him to move on.  “I am now not only a full time diocesan Bishop but also a member of the House of Lords, a position I take very seriously.”

“I also believe we have reached a point when a lot has been achieved and so I feel it is time to move on and let someone else take over,” the bishop said.

Under his chairmanship, the Central Safeguarding Liaison Group completed a two year review of the Church’s handling of child abuse and protection issues.  The Review, released in February 2010, looked at 40,747 diocesan files dating back more than 30 years from each of the Church of England’s 44 dioceses.

As a result of the investigation, 13 cases were identified as requiring formal action and 11 were referred to the statutory authorities.

“The safeguarding of children in our care is central to all our activities and any case of harm that occurs is a source of deep regret and pain,” Bishop Priddis said at the release of the Review’s findings.

The Review found there were “no outstanding issues of which the Church has previously been made aware relating to any clergy or other office holders’ suitability to work with children that have not now been investigated by the police or other relevant professional authority” and that as a result “we are now able to say that nobody representing the Church in a formal capacity has allegations on file that have not been thoroughly re-examined in the light of current best practice, and any appropriate action taken.”

The findings from the Review were incorporated in Protecting All God’s Children, the House of Bishops’ detailed child protection policy, published late last year.

Iran Pak pact signed: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 21 2011 p 7. January 23, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East.
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The Rt. Rev. Humphrey Peters, Bishop of Peshawar

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Dioceses of Peshawar and Iran have endorsed a link agreement to bind the two dioceses located astride the world’s religious and political fault lines to the evangelism of southwest Asia.

At a Nov 21 ceremony at St John’s Cathedral in Peshawar, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province—formerly known as the Northwest Frontier Province, the Rt. Rev. Humphrey Peters, Bishop of Peshaware and the Bishop in Iran, the Rt. Rev. Azad Marshall signed an agreement to “partner in the Great Commission and service of Christ’s people in the South Western region of Asia, encouraging one another and promising pastoral care to advance the work of the Kingdom in the region.”

The link programme will support visits and exchanges between the two dioceses, parish to parish links; mission team exchanges; evangelism programmes; a common prayer or intercessory calendar; training in ministry; renewal programmes; faithful communication; seminars and conferences ; work camps; attendance in diocesan conventions; assistance in time of need and working together on development projects.

The former Bishop of Rochester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir Ali, during a visit to Pakistan welcomed the exchange, the Diocese of Peshawar writes, as being “crucial for the future of the gospel in the area and for the emerging partnerships among Biblical Anglicans throughout the communion.”

Abbey to host Royal Maundy service: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 21, 2011 p 4. January 23, 2011

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Westminster Abbey will host the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh for the annual Royal Maundy Service on Maundy Thursday, April 21, which will also be the Queen’s birthday.

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-85 men and 85 women will receive the coins from the Queen, who celebrates her 85th birthday this year.

This year’s recipients will come from the wider Abbey community and from the Diocese of Sodor and Man and the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe.

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.

The ceremony had traditionally been held at Westminster Abbey.  Under the present monarch the tradition was changed and the services are 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 Abbey has hosted the Maundy service 14 times since 1952. The last occasion was in 2001.

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.

The service will be televised live on BBC 1.

North Dakota bishop downsized: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 21, 2011 p 8. January 23, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, North Dakota.
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he Rt. Rev. Michael Smith of North Dakota

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Financial pressures have prompted the Bishop of North Dakota to ask his diocesan council for permission to down grade his post to a part-time position.

On Jan 17, the Rt. Rev. Michael Smith requested permission to combine the post of bishop with that of Dean of Gethsemane Cathedral in Fargo—giving one third of his time to the diocese and two thirds to the cathedral congregation.

The Bishop/Dean position was an example of the “Fresh Expressions” movement within the church, Bishop Smith said.  “It is a movement that seeks to meet the increasing secularism in our culture and institutional decline in the mainline denominations with new and creative ways of engaging in the ancient ministry of the Church.”

“Almost all agree that the old ways of doing things are not working anymore,” Bishop Smith said, and “a renewed manner of functioning and organizing for mission is necessary if our expression of Christianity is to live much beyond the next generation.”

One of the smallest dioceses of the Episcopal Church, North Dakota’s 22 congregations saw an average Sunday attendance of 790 in 2009.  The total membership of the diocese fell by 16 per cent over the past ten years, from 3091 members in 1999 to 2596 members in 2009.  However, the average number of people in the pews fell by only 50 people over the past ten years.

A bishop possessing a pastoral cure was a common practice in the Episcopal Church up to the end of the Nineteenth century.  The practice died out by the beginning of the Twentieth century, but was revived last year.  In August, the rector of Christ Church in Hutchison, Kansas was elected Bishop of the Diocese of Western Kansas—average Sunday attendance of 751.  The new bishop, the Rt. Rev. Michael Milliken, moved the diocesan offices to his parish and has divided his time, and costs, between the two.

The shared ministry model has “been given the blessing” of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Smith noted, adding “such a move would actually be a return to the original practice of The Episcopal Church where all bishops served as rectors of congregations.”

Activist appointed Brazilian church general secretary: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 21, 2011 p 7. January 22, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, Church of England Newspaper.
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Brazilian church general secretary the Rev. Arthur Cavalcante

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil (IEAB) has selected a new general secretary.  On Jan 16, Archbishop Mauricio Andrade announced the appointment of the Rev Arthur Cavalcante, rector of Holy Trinity Church São Paolo to succeed Canon Francisco de Assis da Silva, who was elected bishop of Southwestern Brazil last November.

The new provincial secretary trained as a dentist before entering the ministry, and was educated at the Anglican Seminary in Recife.  Fr. Cavalcante served as executive secretary of the Diocese of Recife from 2002 to 2003 and was appointed rector of Holy Trinity São Paulo in 2005.

An active member of the church’s national Liturgy Commission, Fr. Cavalcante has been a member of the state of São Paolo Working Group on Religions – HIV / AIDS, as well as a sponsor of Latin America’s first “Gay Anglican Choir.”  In 2009 Fr. Cavalcante coordinated the Anglican Church’s participation in São Paulo’s gay pride festival, and has been a vocal supporter of former President Luiz Lula da Silva’s proposed “Homophobia Law,” PLC 122/06, which would make it illegal to criticize homosexual behavior in Brazil.

The breakaway Bishop of Recife, the Rt. Rev. Robinson Cavalcanti, was sharply critical of the appointment saying the appointment of a gay rights activist was “one of a number of former evangelicals who seized control of the IEAB in the middle of the last decade,” the bishop said.

However, the IEAB said Fr. Calvalcante’s appointment came after an “intense process of consultation between bishops, the Chair of the House of Deputies and leadership” of the church, and was widely welcomed.

US Churches back Obama’s easing of Cuba blockade: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 20 2011. January 22, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Cuba, Southeast Florida.
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The Rt. Rev. Leo Frade, Bishop of Southeast Florida

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders in the United States have welcomed the Obama administration’s decision to modify the terms of America’s blockade of Cuba.

On Jan 14, President Barack Obama issued an executive order permitting religious, cultural and educational groups to sponsor travel to Cuba and to “support civil society.”

US airports will be allowed to schedule flights to Cuba and Americans will also be permitted to send up to $500 every three months to non-family members in Cuba “to help expand the economic independence of the Cuban people and to support a more vibrant Cuban civil society.”

The Eisenhower Administration instituted a partial financial embargo in October 1960 after the Castro regime nationalized the American properties and on Feb 7, 1962 President John F. Kennedy ordered a total economic and travel embargo.  The Anglican Communion has opposed the blockade on humanitarian grounds and the bishops of  1988 and 1998 Lambeth Conferences called for the “cessation of the embargo of the USA against Cuba.”

On Sep 2, 2010, President Obama extended the embargo for a further year, finding that the embargo “is in the national interest of the United States.”

However, the president believes his new rules “combined with the continuation of the embargo, are important steps in reaching the widely shared goal of a Cuba that respects the basic rights of all its citizens,” the White House said.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Albany, Msgr. Howard Hubbard, released a statement on behalf of the US Catholic Bishops Conference welcoming the revisions.

“These needed new policies are modest but important steps toward advancing our hopes for a better relationship between our people and the people of Cuba, a relationship which holds great promise of fostering positive and real change in Cuba,” the bishop said.

Cuban-American lawmakers voiced their disappointment with the president’s decision.

Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey called it a “gift to the Castro brothers” that “will provide the regime with the additional resources it needs to sustain its failing economy, while ordinary Cubans continue to struggle under the weight of more than 50 years of economic and political oppression.”

Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida added that what should change were the “Cuban regime’s repressive policies towards the independent press and labor unions, its imprisonment of political prisoners and constant harassment of citizens with dissenting views, and its refusal to allow free multi-party elections.”

However the Bishop Leo Frade of Southeast Florida said it was high time for a change in policy.

“I don’t believe in telepathy,” Bishop Frade explained.

“I say to those that support keeping the old harsh measures that after 50 years of trying their policy of isolation it is about time for us to try something different. This new policy of the Obama administration helps to enhance the independence and frees the common people from government control. We need to bolster the civic society and I believe that churches are the best vehicle to achieve this.”

He added that past US policies were “so controlling and obtrusive” that it discouraged US church aid to Cuba.  “Only by direct contact and not by telepathy we are able to make the changes for the better and really encourage democratic changes,” Bishop Frade said.

Jersey bid to protect parish system: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 21, 2011 p 6. January 22, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Dean of Jersey, the Very Rev Robert Key

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The States of Jersey has been asked to approve the first revisions in 400 years to the laws governing the Church of England in the Channel Islands.

On Dec 6, the Chief Minister of Jersey, Senator Terry Le Sueur, tabled before the island’s assembly a bill to endorse the amended Canons of the Church of England in Jersey.  Some 15 years in the making, the legislation was prepared by the current and former Deans of Jersey in consultation with the Deanery Synod and approved by the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Scott-Joynt.  If adopted by the States, the Canons would be submitted to the Queen with a request that an Order in Council be made to bring them into force.

The revised canons would block potential moves by the cash-strapped Diocese of Winchester to amalgamate the island’s 12 historic parishes, or assign a single clergyman to multiple parishes.

In his address, Mr. Le Seuer said the Canons for the Isle of Jersey approved in 1623 by James I had three guiding principles: “The direct relationship of the Island to the Crown.  The Canons should follow the English pattern wherever possible.  And, Jersey custom and tradition should not only be respected but take precedence.”

The revisions maintain these principles, he said, but “reflect today’s needs rather than those of the 17th Century.”

“The Christian faith remains unchanged so, as you would expect, all the Canons about belief are based on the Scriptures and shared tradition of all major Christian Churches,” Mr. Le Sueur said, noting the Church of England “has changed in language and liturgy, in structure and governance, and in the way it shares with society at large a concern for human rights.”

The Dean of Jersey, the Very Rev. Robert Key told the BBC the revised canons would preserve the island’s parish system.  “The Jersey parish system is a very special part of what makes it special. This reaffirms it and gives it a 21st Century context. It says parish life really matters in Jersey in 2010, and the church reaffirms its commitment to that part of island life.”

The Parish system is “the foundation of so much of our unique way of life. It is enshrined in Jersey Canon Law that one Rector cannot hold more than one Ancient Parish. This is not something that England finds easy to understand, but it remains an essential part of our Amended Canons,” the chief minister told the States.

Mr. Le Sueur added the “project had run into the sand on the issue of Clergy Discipline” and “until recently it was hard to see how this could be taken forward.”

However a compromise was found whereby the “Ecclesiastical Court retains Jurisdiction through its Clergy Discipline Division. The Bishop and the Dean work together on reconciliation and the search for agreement in any dispute. The Royal Court becomes the appellant authority.”

“This preserves the integrity of the Court system of Jersey, of which the Ecclesiastical Court is part. It maintains the authority of the Dean in the governance of the Church in the Island and strengthens the partnership between the Bishop of Winchester and the Dean of Jersey,” the chief minister said.

New year sees no let up in Episcopal Church lawsuits: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 21, 2011 p 8. January 20, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Property Litigation.
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The Rt. Rev. George Councell, Bishop of New Jersey

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A new year has brought new twists and turns to the Episcopal Church’s legal wars.  The national church beat back the secession of a West Texas congregation from the Diocese of the Rio Grande, saw reasons for optimism and gloom from Presbyterian property cases in Georgia, Indiana and Missouri, found its lawyer in the Fort Worth cases accused of professional misconduct, and witnessed the amicable settlement of a church property split in New Jersey.

On Dec 16 the 210 District Court of Texas issued judgment in favor of the Diocese of the Rio Grande against St Francis on-the-Hill Anglican Church in El Paso.

The congregation of St. Francis on-the-Hill Episcopal Church on Oct 21, 2008, voted to secede.  Litigation commenced and on Feb 10, 2010 Judge Gonzalo Garcia granted summary judgment in favor of the diocese.

However, on Feb 26 the judge reconsidered his ruling and rescinded his order, asking for further pleadings.  In his Dec 16 ruling, effectively reinstating his Feb 10 decision, the judge held that as the “Episcopal Church is a hierarchical church as a matter of law,” the congregation was subordinate to the diocese and did not have the power to alter its parish by-laws to withdraw from the diocese absent the diocese’s permission.

While the order gives possession of the multi-million dollar property to the diocese, the parish has thirty days to appeal the order.

The Indiana Court of Appeals in December struck down a lower court ruling that granted a Presbyterian congregation ownership of its property in a dispute with its presbytery.  In 2006 the Olivet Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Evansville, Indiana withdrew from the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) to join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).  The Ohio Valley Presbytery declined to allow the congregation to leave with its property and litigation commenced.  Earlier this year the trial court awarded ownership of the property to the congregation saying that under neutral principles of law, whereby the court looks only at the property deeds, the presbytery had no claim on the land.

However, the Indiana Appeals Court applied a different interpretation of neutral principles of law and ruled in favor of the presbytery.  As the congregation accepted the benefits of being part of a national organization and acknowledged in its bylaws that it was bound by the national church constitution, which contains a clause providing all property titled to local congregations is held in trust for the benefit of the national church, the property of congregations were bound by the national church rules, even if there was no language of subordination found on the title deeds, the court concluded.

A Missouri court came to an opposite conclusion on the same legal principles in the case of Gashland Presbyterian Church and the Heartland Presbytery.  A Clay County circuit court ruled the congregation was entitled to keep its property when it quit the PCUSA for the EPC in 2008 as Missouri church property cases were governed by the neutral principles of law, rather than the hierarchical-based argument that church property is held in trust for the denomination.

“The trust provision” in the PCUSA’s Book of Order was “insufficient as a declaration of trust under Missouri law” to give the national church control over local properties, the court held.   “Mere participation and cooperation in denominational affairs alone does not demonstrate a church’s intent to be bound by a denominational trust clause,” Judge Lawrence Harmon found.

On Nov 30 a Georgia Court of Appeal reversed a lower court ruling that awarded the property of an Atlanta Presbyterian congregation to its presbytery.  The appellate court found that Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church was free to leave the PCUSA with its property under the neutral principles of law theory.  The absence of trust language in favor of the national church or presbytery in the property deeds and articles of incorporation defeated the national church’s arguments that an implied trust in the property was created by virtue of membership in the denomination.

“In applying neutral principles of law as required by the United States Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Georgia, we cannot ignore relevant statutes, documents of the local body, or the actual language of the relevant deeds, in favor … of the rules of the national body,” the court held.

The Timber Ridge court came to the opposite conclusion of law from the appellate court that heard the case of Christ Church in Savannah, the Episcopal congregation that quit the Diocese of Georgia.  Christ Church has appealed that ruling,  and as the appellate courts in Georgia have now entered contradictory rulings on the same point of church property law the state’s Supreme Court will take up the issue.  On Jan 14, the state supreme court said it would hear oral arguments on the Christ Church dispute in April.

Parish council president David Reeves said he was “gratified” the court would hear their appeal.   “Since this case will have ramifications for all Georgia churches, regardless of denomination, we think it is appropriate for the highest court in our state to rule on these issues,” he said.

In the Fort Worth cases, attorneys for the majority faction led by Bishop Jack L. Iker filed pleadings on Jan 7 in opposition to the national church faction’s motions for partial summary judgment.  A hearing on the issue was held on Jan 14.  The court has taken the matter under advisement and is expected to rule shortly.

In its pleadings, Bishop Iker’s attorneys noted that the attorney for the national church faction, Jonathan Nelson, in 1993 had represented the Diocese of Fort Worth in a lawsuit with a congregation that had attempted to quit the diocese to join the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

Those pleadings and affidavits prepared for Bishop Iker and the diocese by Mr. Nelson were now being offered by Mr. Nelson on behalf of his new clients against the interests of his former clients.

“This is an unsavory attempt by an attorney to use words he drafted for a client against that very same client and in favor of a new one,” Bishop Iker’s attorneys said, adding that “having been paid [in 1993/1994] to draft documents for them, he now attempts to use his own words against those he used to represent.”

Bishop Iker’s attorneys stated the argument proffered by Mr. Nelson that the relationship of a parish to the diocese was akin to that of the diocese to the national church “takes a lot of nerve, as it is based on documents drafted by Plaintiffs’ counsel back when he was counsel for the Defendants.”

They further added that the legal conclusions drawn by Mr. Nelson from his 1993 legal work, did not favor the national church’s arguments but those of the diocese.  They urged the court to strike the new claims.

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and the Diocese of New Jersey have come to an amicable resolution of the status of a former Episcopal congregation that quit the diocese for the Convocation of Anglicans in North American (CANA).

On Nov 23 the diocese agreed to sell the property of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Helmetta, NJ to St. Georges Anglican Church.  In Feb 2008, the congregation and its rector voted to secede from the Episcopal Church.  Negotiations began over the fate of the congregations building in 2009 and a settlement satisfactory to both sides was reached late last year.

The decision to sell the church buildings to the breakaway group by the diocese places it at odds with the wishes of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who has called for a ban on sales of parish properties to breakaway groups.  Testifying in the Virginia cases in 2007, Bishop Jefferts Schori stated that had the buildings of breakaway congregations been offered to sale to Methodist or Baptist groups, she would not object, but “the Episcopal Church, for matters of its own integrity, cannot encourage other parts of the Anglican Communion to set up shop within its jurisdiction.”

Sudan independence referendum ‘free and fair’: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 21, 2011 p 7. January 19, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan, Politics.
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Archbishop Daniel Deng of the Sudan greeting former US President Jimmy Carter at a polling station in Juba on Jan 9.

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Southern Sudan’s week long independence referendum was free and fair, independent poll monitors have reported and turn out heavy.

The results of the referendum on independence for the Southern African, Christian half of Sudan from the Northern Muslim, Arab governing in Khartoum are being tallied this week, but preliminary returns suggest an overwhelming vote for independence.

On Jan 17, the chairman of the Unity State referendum committee, Michael Mayil Chol, reported that 494,196 voters (98.8 per cent) had cast their votes in the oil rich state along the border with Northern Sudan, the Sudan Tribune reported.

Speaking on Southern Sudan Television the Chairman of the Referendum Commission Prof. Ibrahim Mohamed Khalil said preliminary estimates of voter turnout was 97 per cent in Southern Sudan, 54 per cent among Southerners residing in Northern Sudan, and 91 per cent among members of the Sudanese Diaspora.

Initial tallies show an overwhelming vote for independence.  In Yei County along Sudan’s border with Uganda, 83,182 votes for secession were cast and 836 votes for continued union with Khartoum.

The Archbishop of Sudan, the Most Rev. Daniel Deng and his Roman Catholic counterpart Archbishop Paulino Lukudu traveled to the Hai Jalaba Junior School polling station in Juba on Jan 9 to cast their votes

“We have been waiting fifty five years for this day,” Dr. Deng said. “This is the day, this is our time.”

The Episcopal Church of the Sudan reports that after the two archbishops voted, they were introduced to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, one of 4000 domestic and international observers monitoring the vote.

The church reported that “on inspecting the two archbishops hands” which were marked with ink to show they had voted, President Carter “quickly noticed four inky fingers and thumbs between the two archbishops instead of the two he had expected.”

The former US president “was quickly reassured by the Archbishops that this was standard procedure, and not an indication that they had voted twice.”

Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the international observers’ assessment that the referendum process has been conducted in a credible manner.

“Last week the people of Southern Sudan turned out in large numbers to cast their votes in the historic Referendum,” he said on Jan 18.

“We have seen people queuing for hours at polling centres, waiting patiently and calmly for the opportunity to express their view,” he said, adding that the “successful conclusion of voting represents a momentous step towards completion of Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).”

There remain major challenges ahead in the coming months, Mr. Hague said.  “I welcome the clear and united signal from the international community of its strong support for Sudan at this critical moment. During polling I spoke to both Vice President Taha and Southern President Kiir about the need to resume negotiations on the outstanding CPA issues as soon as possible. The British Government will continue to play its part to help ensure a lasting peace,” the foreign secretary said.

Anglicans locked out in Harare for second Christmas: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 14, 2011 January 19, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Zimbabwe.
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St Mary and All Saints Cathedral in Harare

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Christmas services in Harare were celebrated out of doors this year, Bishop Chad Gandiya tells The Church of England Newspaper, with Anglicans locked out of their churches for a second year by breakaway bishop Dr. Nolbert Kunonga.

Last month Dr. Gandiya, the Church of the Province of Central Africa’s Bishop of Harare, told CEN there was “no movement” in resolving the impasse that has split the diocese since its former bishop, Dr. Nolbert Kunonga, seceded in 2007 to form the Anglican Church of Zimbabwe.  While almost all of the members of the diocese have remained loyal to the province and to their new bishop, Dr. Gandiya, Dr. Kunonga has retained control of their properties.

In 2009 a high court judge has ordered the two sides to share the church properties pending a final resolution of their dispute before the Supreme Court, while a second court in December 2009 issued an order to the security services instructing them to desist from attacking Anglicans seeking to use their churches. Dr. Kunonga has ignored the rulings—drawing upon his support within the upper echelons of the ZANU-PF government and the police to flout the judiciary.

“There are efforts going on to try and get us back in our churches but we are meeting extraordinary hurdles,” Dr. Gandiya said, but “we don’t lose hope.”

“Our people tried going back to their churches last week but were turned away by the police. We thought we had reached an agreement that we went back. We will keep working on it,” he said.

However, “nothing has moved in the courts. We continue to wait for a hearing in the Supreme Court and the courts are on break till February next year,” the bishop said.

Empty of parishioners, Dr. Kunonga has turned many of the diocese’s properties over to secular use.  The Cathedral Church of St Mary and All Saints’ parish hall and ancillary buildings “have been turned into a school,” Dr. Gandiya said, but the “cathedral proper seems not to have been affected except the occasional odd function.”

Following 2009’s Christmas Day lockout the Archbishops of Canterbury and York denounced Dr. Kunonga’s tactics. They condemned “unequivocally any move to deny people their basic right to worship. To prevent people from worshipping in their churches on Christmas Day – unable to receive the church’s message of hope – is a further blow to civil liberties in Zimbabwe.”

The archbishops’ pleas fell on deaf ears this year, however.   “We will be celebrating Christmas but not in our churches,” Dr. Gandiya said.  “I will have a Christmas Day service in the open air and so will some of our parishes. Others will use other denominations’ church buildings and school premises, probably for the last time because we are no longer allowed to use them,” the bishop said.

Archbishop urges government compassion for illegal immigrants: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 14, 2011 p 7. January 17, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper, Marriage.
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Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The South African government has acceded to the pleas of church and civic leaders to extend the deadlines for migrants to register to avoid deportation back to Zimbabwe.

Statistics South Africa estimates the number of migrants from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi in South African at two million, while the police service reports three million and NGOs such as a Médecins Sans Frontières  place the total at four million.  All agree the bulk of the migrants have come from Zimbabwe following the economic and social collapse of the country under President Robert Mugabe.

In May 2008 riots erupted in the townships around Johannesburg with residents voicing anger at the influx of foreigners in their midst whom they blamed for a rise in crime and competition for jobs.  Periodic xenophobic attacks in the poorer black townships continue to be reported in the South African press, while political pressure has been growing to force the government to take a stand against illegal immigration.

However, in September, the government announced it would halt the deportation of Zimbabweans who had entered the country illegally, and allow them to regularize their status by applying for work, business or study permits.

The migrants were given until December 31 to submit their applications, and approximately 275,000 applications were submitted before the deadline.  However the International Organization for Migration estimated that “only about a sixth of the estimated Zimbabwean irregular migrant population applied for legal status.”

In a Dec 30 letter to the Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town urged the state to exercise compassion.

He thanked the government for its forbearance, but noted that “because of the very great numbers, because of the need to apply when people can take time off work, and because many have faced problems in obtaining Zimbabwean papers, there are great fears that, for reasons largely beyond their control, not all will be able to complete the process timeously.”

Following the intervention by the archbishop and other civil society leaders, the government announced that it would extend the deadline to March 31.  “There will be no deportations until the end of March,” said Ricky Naidoo, spokesman for the South African Department of Home Affairs.

However, the extra 90 days may not prove to be enough time for most migrants to return to Zimbabwe to gather the necessary documents.  Last month, the Zimbabwean registrar general’s office said it was suspending the production of passports, national identity cards and birth certificates.  An electrical fault had disabled its database, the government said.  However, the Harare Herald reported the government would begin processing passport applications on Jan 10.

Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, head of the refugee and migrant programme at Lawyers for Human Rights told the IRIN agency that before the shutdown the Zimbabwean government had only issued 500 passports a day.  At its past rate of production, it would take over a year to process the current applications, before any applications were received.

In his letter, Archbishop Makgoba said he agreed the government should not extend its deadlines for “those who continue to fail to get their act together. But my great concern is that no-one who is wanting and attempting to normalise their presence in our country should be penalised because of capacity constraints or delays that are not of their own making.”

“What matters most is that throughout the period ahead, true humanitarian standards are upheld. Every individual must be treated – and feel themselves treated – with dignity and respect,” the archbishop said.

South Africa will be judged on how it handles this issue, he noted, and urged the government to “not shirk the opportunities we have to promote peace and prosperity at this time of year – so that God’s promises of peace and goodwill may be truly known by all.”

Bishop of Liberia dies: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 14, 2011 p 6. January 17, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of West Africa.
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Bishop Edward Neufville in 2009

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Liberia writes that his predecessor, the Rt. Rev. Edward W. Neufville II died on Jan 10, 2011 after a brief illness at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.  He was 74.

Elected bishop of the West African diocese in 1995, Bishop Neufville returned from exile in the US to Liberia to take up his post at the close of the six year civil war that killed over 150,000 people and drove over 750,000 people out of a population of 2.6 million into exile. Much of the diocese’s infrastructure and property was destroyed in the violence and its clergy and people scattered by the war.

Founded by American missionaries in the 1840’s, the Diocese of Liberia was a part of the US Episcopal Church until 1982, when it transferred to the Province of West Africa.  While the diocese provided leadership in the form of Archbishop George Browne for the Church of West Africa, the weakening of financial ties with the Episcopal Church came shortly before the start of the civil wars that all but destroyed the country.

The church-affiliated Cuttington College, West Africa’s oldest university and the diocese’s theological school, was wrecked in the fighting after one of the rebel armies used its facilities as a base camp.  Bishop Neufville’s episcopate was dedicated to rebuilding both Liberia and the Episcopal Church in the wake of the civil wars.

Educated at Cuttington College, Bishop Neufville served as priest of St. Martin on the Mountain in Yekepa, Nimba County, and was appointed archdeacon of the church’s Northern Archdeaconry, serving Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties. Elected suffragan bishop in 1980, then bishop in 1995, Bishop Neufville retired in 2007 upon reaching his 70th birthday.

Misconduct suspension for Soho rector: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 14, 2011 p 3. January 16, 2011

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The Rev David Gilmore

The rector of St Anne’s Church, Soho in the Diocese of London has been found guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy and suspended from office for two years.

On Jan 10, the diocese released a statement saying a “provincial tribunal convened under the provisions of the Clergy Discipline Measure found Fr David Gilmore, Rector at St Anne’s Church, Soho, guilty of conduct unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders.”

“He has been removed from office with immediate effect and will be prohibited from exercising ministry as a priest for two years.”

Fr. Gilmore had been accused of making sexual advances towards two men, who were guests at his rectory in December 2009 and were in London to attend a meeting of gay and lesbian members of the military.

The Soho vicar was found to have entered the bedroom of one of his guests, absent his clothing, and made an indecent proposal to his visitors.  The two men declined his advances and left the following morning and filed complaints about his behavior.

Such conduct was “inappropriate” and “unbecoming” of a clerk in holy orders, the tribunal held in its judgment.

The diocese noted in its statement that it was “providing David Gilmore with pastoral and spiritual support following his dismissal and has made arrangements to ensure he has accommodation and financial security in the short term.”

South Sudan independence referendum begins: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 14, 2011 p 6. January 16, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan, Politics.
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Yusuf al-Qaradawi

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a call to prayer as the South Sudan begins a week of voting on a referendum on independence from the Khartoum government, while Muslim leaders have issued a fatwah against secession—saying independence for Southern Sudan was a mortal threat to the spread of Islam in Africa.

In a statement released on Jan 7, Dr. Rowan Williams said the vote, which begins on Jan 9  and ends on Jan 15 “is an immensely important day for Sudan.  The people of Southern Sudan will be exercising their right of self-determination enshrined in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed exactly 6 years ago.”

Dr. Williams urged “everyone to stand with the Sudanese people to ensure that the referendum takes place peacefully and that the process and the results are fully respected.  I ask everyone to support this process and to pray for Sudan at this momentous time in its history.”

An overwhelming majority of Christian African southern Sudan is expected to back independence from the Muslim Arab north.  The Episcopal Church of Sudan has taken no official position on the referendum, but has urged all Southern Sudanese to register their vote this week.

The opening days of the voting have seen scattered violence.  Thirty people were reported to have been killed in clashes in the Abyei region, a disputed area on the border between the north and south, while ten people were killed in an ambush on Jan 10 while returning to their homes in the south to vote.

Dr. Williams noted that “concern remains for timely implementation of the outstanding elements of the peace agreement in Abyei, where a separate referendum is due to take place, and the popular consultations required for the peoples of South Kordofan and Southern Blue Nile.”

“We also must not forget the people of Darfur where a resolution to the conflict is so long overdue,” he added.

The potential for violence and the mass movement of minority populations has been ever present in the debate surrounding independence.  The majority of Sudan’s oil fields lie either in the south or in disputed regions along the border.

Muslim leaders across the Middle East have rejected the South’s bid for independence.  Last week sixty Islamic scholars issued a fatwah against independence, saying it was forbidden by Islam.

The group, including Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential Egyptian preacher associated with the Muslim Brotherhood who hosts Al Jazeera’s most popular show, “Shariah and Life,” said the division of the Sudan was not a question of civil war, but a global conspiracy to exclude Arabism and Islam from Africa.  They saw the fell hand of Zionism behind the call for independence, as the Southern Sudan was the gateway for Islam and Arabism in Africa, the Ikwan website reported.

Arrests mark new wave of persecution for Christians in Iran: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 14, 2011 p 7. January 16, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Iran, Persecution.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

In a series of pre-dawn raids on Christmas morning, the Iranian security services have arrested leaders of the Evangelical Christian movement in Tehran.  Twenty-five were detained, Elam Ministries said on Jan 5, with reports that another 50 had been arrested over the past two weeks.

The Governor of Tehran, Morteza Tamaddon, on Jan 4 told the state IRNA news agency “the leaders of this movement have been arrested in Tehran province and more will be arrested in the near future.”

Evangelical Christians were a danger to the state and a “corrupt” foreign influence, the governor said.  “Just like the Taliban, who have inserted themselves into Islam like a parasite, they have crafted a movement with Britain’s backing in the name of Christianity,” Governor Tamaddon said.

Approximately 200,000 or one percent of Iran’s population, belong to officially sanctioned groups that have historic ties to the region such as the Armenian, Assyrian and Catholic Churches.   The number of Protestant Christians is not clear.  In 1979, there were less than 500 known Christians from a Muslim background in Iran.  “Today the most conservative estimate is that there are at least 100,000 believers in the nation,” reports Elam Ministry—a British based Christian ministry to Persians.

On its website, Elam Ministries reported that on Christmas morning in Tehran the security services “forcefully entered the homes of Christians while they were asleep, and verbally and physically abused them. They were handcuffed and taken for interrogation. Among those arrested were five married couples. One couple was separated from their two-year old baby. Another couple was also forced to leave their baby that the mother was breast feeding. A number of single young women were also among those taken.”

“After many hours of interrogation, eleven of the detained were released. The other fourteen are still in prison. There has been no contact from eight of the arrested. Six have been able to make a very short call to their families. In one of the brief calls, one of the arrested complained that they are being subjected to sleep deprivation,” Elam Ministries reported.

Iran expert Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute has reported that his sources claim 601 Christian converts have been arrested in over the past four months.  “It’s a very big campaign,” he added.

Andrew Johnston, Advocacy Director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW0, condemned the “brutal attack on evangelical Christians in Iran. The arrest of 70 members of one group reveals the clear targeting of individuals along religious lines. Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and is therefore legally obligated to uphold international standards of religious freedom for all its citizens.”

“What’s most troubling about this wave of detentions is the fact that Iran is continuing its recent trend of targeting Evangelical Christians, which they’ve been doing for years, and also leaders from the recognized and protected Armenian Christian community,” said Leonard Leo of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The US government commission called on the “Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release those Christians who have been detained and urge[d] the U.S. government and international community to condemn these detentions and demand the detainees release.”

No charges have been filed against those still in custody, nor have they been afforded legal representation, Elam Ministries said, while the names of all those detained have not been made public by the Iranian government.

On Jan 5 Elam Ministries released the names and photographs of some of those arrested and urged “Christians all over the world to intercede for our brothers and sisters in prison in Iran.”

“Let us pray that they will experience the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit, even in their prison cells,” it said, asking also that those in prison for their faith “will have supernatural endurance and courage through this trial, and be shining witnesses to the guards and other inmates. Pray for peace and wisdom when they are being interrogated. Pray for their health. Pray for comfort and confidence for their families. Pray they will soon be released.”

Bishop questions Elton John’s fitness to be a first time father: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 14, 2011 p 3. January 15, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Popular Culture.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The former Bishop of Rochester, Dr. Michael Nazir Ali has raised ethical and moral concerns over the artificial insemination of an American woman to produce a child for Sir Elton John and his civil partner, David Furnish.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Bishop Nazir Ali questioned the wisdom of the arrangement and its baleful consequences for the child: Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John.

“I believe that surrogacy, inevitably, introduces a ‘third’ party to the legal parents,” the bishop said and “will affect the welfare of the child, psychologically and in other ways.”

In 2009 the 62 year old pop star and his partner were refused permission by the Ukrainian government to adopt a 14-month-old HIV-positive child because he was too old and unmarried.

The Ukraine requires potential parents for adopted children to be no more than 45 years of age and married.  While John and his partner David Furnish celebrated one of the first civil unions in the UK in 2005, the Ukraine does not recognize gay civil unions as marriage.

Bishop Nazir Ali noted that the age of John, who turns 64 in March, was troublesome.  “It is very important for a child’s parents to be of an age that provides the child with a fair chance of being brought up by them without unnecessary disruption,” he says.

“Although society must support single parents who, heroically, bring up children on their own, all the evidence shows that children are best brought up in the context of a stable marriage where they can relate to a mother and a father, so that they can develop healthy relationships with people of both genders,” the bishop said.

Politics, not religion, behind violence in Northern Nigeria says bishop: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 14, 2011 p 6. January 15, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Politics.
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Dr. Josiah Idowu-Fearon at his installation as a Six Preacher at Canterbury Cathedral in 2007

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Kaduna has written an open letter to political leaders in Northern Nigeria urging them to get God out of politics.

Writing in the Jan 10 issue of the Daily Trust newspaper, Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon asked
“Muslim and Christian leaders should stop promoting political leaders on the platform of their religious affiliation.”

Politicians should not be elected out of sectarian considerations, he argued, but chosen from among those “who fear God, love the people as fellow citizens and are willing to be accountable to the electorate.”

The bishop’s call comes amidst rising political passions and violence in the run up to Nigeria’s April 9 general election.

Seven explosions in Jos, Plateau State, killed 32 people and injured 74 on Christmas Eve, while an armed Muslim mob attacked a church in the city of Maiduguri, killing five.  A second church in Maiduguri was attacked by three armed men, who murdered a security guard, while last week car bombs were detonated in the capital of Abuja.

Bishop Idowu-Fearon noted the Governor of the Plateau State “finally has attributed the violence to the works of his political opponents while his prophet has attributed it to a non-existing Muslim group with a very, very dangerous name.”

The hitherto unknown Islamist group Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad, (People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad) has claimed responsibility for the attacks, Al Jazeera reported.

Bishop Idowu-Fearon asked Muslim politicians not to compare the Christian – Muslim divisions in Jos with the Crusades, or urge a second Battle of Al-Mansurah, where in 1250 Louis IX of France was defeated by the Mamalukes and driven from Egypt.

He urged them to “be careful with the concepts they use as we find solutions to our problems in the north. Al-Mansurah takes us back to the seventh Crusade and the humiliation suffered by the crusaders at the hands of the Muslims. Do we need this at this time in the northern parts of the country and the efforts being put into resolving the crises in Jos north local government? “

The bishop said it was his experience that “Muslims and Christians from Plateau are genuinely committed to working together for peace and peaceful co-existence with their neighbours.”

The region’s social collapse was unnatural, noting that in the Yoruba states where the “Muslim-Christian mix is almost the same” as in the Plateau State, “we have never heard of this zone degenerating to the level of destroying their places of worship and killing each other in the name of Islam or Christianity.”

He added that “we are of the opinion that there must be some religious leaders working in tandem with political leaders on the Plateau who are bent on not allowing peace to reign in that state.”

The failure of Northern Nigeria to live in peace was a political, not a religious failure.  Politicians in the “northern states have disappointed the populace by their greed for power and wealth; it is time they made up their minds on leading us with the fear of God,” the bishops said, urging the region to adopt a post-sectarian, pan-Nigerian view of social and political development.

Boston Cathedral celebrates first lesbian marriage: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 14, 2011 p 7. January 14, 2011

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Canon Mally Lloyd, Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, and Dean Katherine Ragsdale on Jan 1 at St Paul's Cathedral, Boston

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Massachusetts married two women priests last week.

On Jan 1, Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE celebrated the marriage of the Very Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School and the Rev. Mally Lloyd, the canon to the ordinary for the Diocese of Massachusetts.

“God always rejoices when two people who love each other make a lifelong commitment in marriage to go deeper into the heart of God through each other,” Bishop Shaw said, according to a press release from the Episcopal Divinity School.

“It’s a profound pleasure for me to celebrate with God and my friends Katherine and Mally their marriage today.”

The New Year’s Day wedding at St Paul’s Cathedral in Boston comes one year after Bishop Shaw permitted his clergy to perform same-sex marriages.  The Ragsdale-Lloyd wedding was the first marriage of a lesbian couple Bishop Shaw has performed, the press release noted.

The 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church authorized bishops, “particularly in those dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal” to provide a “generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church.”

Responses to the lesbian wedding have been low key.  Gay activists celebrated the event as a victory for “full inclusion” while conservatives repudiated the ceremony as a caricature of the church’s theology of marriage.

A spokesman for the Gafcon movement said he was not surprised by the news, but declined to comment on the latest news out of America.  A spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury said Dr. Williams was on retreat, but noted “this looks like it’s a provincial matter so not something we would comment on.”

Dr. Ephraim Radner, a member of the Anglican Covenant design team, and professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College, Toronto, however, expressed disappointment with Lambeth Palace’s view of the affair.

“While I am not surprised at Lambeth’s response at this point, it is nonetheless very disappointing:  that is, the marriage in question continues to underline the degree to which the Episcopal Church has no interest in abiding by the teaching and discipline articulated by the Instruments of Communion, and thus emphasizes her incoherence as a province with the rest of the Communion in these fundamental areas of Christian life together,” the Anglican Communion Institute scholar noted.

“Why is this fact not worthy of comment?  Does the Church of England as a province have no interest in this ever-strengthening rebuff?  Does the Archbishop of Canterbury have no interest in this?  Will he continue to act as if nothing has happened?  If so, the avoidance of “response” constitutes ongoing Communion negligence,” Dr. Radner said.

CMJ staffer murdered in Israel: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 7, 2011 p 6. January 12, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Israel, Mission Societies/Religious Orders, Terrorism.
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Kristine Luken

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

An American staff member with the CMJ UK, the Church’s Ministry among Jewish people, has been murdered while on vacation in Israel.

Kristine Luken (44) an administrator with the CMJ in Nottingham was hiking in a forest southwest of Jerusalem on Dec 18 with fellow CJM staffer, Kay Wilson, a British-born Israeli, when they were approached by two Arab men asking for water.  The men attacked the two women, stabbing each repeatedly.  Ms. Wilson feigned death and survived the attack, but Ms. Luken bled to death.

“They came to kill,” Ms. Wilson said, telling the Israeli media that one of the attackers ripped a Star of David from around her neck and stabbed her where in the place where the star had lain.

“I saw that the stab had not penetrated my heart, and I played dead. While I lay there, I could hear my friend dying. Her breath sounded like bubbles,” Ms. Wilson told Haaretz.

“I waited two minutes, we lay in the corridor. Our hands tied behind our backs and something was covering my mouth,” she said. “It was terribly hard for me to get up, but I managed to go. I saw that we were in a bush area and I did not know then that they had fled. I felt myself getting tired, all I wanted to do was sleep but I knew I could not.”

Ms. Wilson, bleeding from 12 stab wounds, was able to make her way to a parking lot near the popular recreation area, where a passerby found her and alerted the police.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place near the border with the West Bank, nor have any suspects been detained.  Israeli police are treating the attack as a political crime, though they have not ruled out sexual assault as a motive.  Ms. Luken’s body was returned to her family last week and was buried near her home in West Virginia.

The murder has been “an incredible shock,” said Rev. David Pileggi, the vicar of Christ Church Jerusalem said. “We were just weeping. I would describe it as one wave of sadness after another. We still have not recovered from this by any means,” he told an Israeli newspaper.

The CEO of the CMJ, Robin Aldridge, stated the organization was “deeply shocked” by the murder of their “much loved administrator Kristine Luken.  Kristine had worked for the ministry for one year having previously worked for the American government.”

Ms Luken had “just taken on responsibility for Shoresh Tours, a CMJ company that organizes tours to Israel” and was out hiking with her close personal friend, Kay Wilson, Shoresh’s senior tour guide, when they were attacked, he said.

The murder of Ms. Luken was a “tragedy,” and the staff of the CMJ was “praying for her friends and family at this tragic time.  However, CMJ will continue to share the gospel with the Jewish people and to work for forgiveness and reconciliation in Israel.  This is a mandate that God gave us 201 years ago and we are confident that the best epitaph we could give Kristine is to continue to that to which she was totally committed to supporting,” Mr. Aldridge said.

Alexandria church bombing sparks world outrage: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 7, 2011 p 1. January 12, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Coptic Orthodox, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Terrorism.
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Pope Shenouda III

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church and government leaders around the world have condemned the New Year’s Eve bombing of a Coptic Church in Alexandria that has killed 23 people.

The Egyptian police believe a lone bomber detonated a bomb outside the Coptic Church of the Saints killing himself and 20 others instantly.  Two others have since died from their wounds, while over 100 were injured in the attack.

The attack has prompted strong reactions from Egypt’s Christian minority, with Copts accusing the government of ignoring warnings from al Qaeda linked groups that they planned on targeting Christians.  ‘We cannot prevent people from expressing their sorrow, yet I ask them to express their feelings without violence,’ said Pope Shenouda III, in a Jan 3 interview on state television, after protestors clashed with police for a third day in a row in protest to the attacks.

“I call on our sons for calm, as calm can solve all issues,” Pope Shenouda said, according to a transcript of his address released by the state news agency.

Writing from Cairo on Jan 1, the President Bishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt offered the condolences of Anglicans to Pope Shenouda.

Dr. Anis stated that it was “very clear from the nature of this attack that it was planned by Al Qaeda, especially after the threats that were made against Egypt after the attacks on the church in Baghdad on 31 October 2010.”

Anglicans in Egypt were cooperating with the security services to improve church security, he noted, and had installed barriers and security cameras.  “We are not used to such measures, but we have been requested to do this,” the bishop said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams condemned the attack as “yet another dreadful reminder of the pressure Christian minorities are under in the Middle East, echoing the atrocities we have seen in recent weeks.”

We “know the long and honourable history of co-existence of Christians and Muslims in Egypt and are confident that the overwhelming majority of Egyptian people will join in condemning this and similar acts,” Dr. Williams said.

Speaking to a crowd gathered in St Peter’s square on Jan 2, Pope Benedict XVI said the Alexandria bombing was a “vile and murderous gesture … offends God and all humankind.”

“In the face of these strategies of violence, which aim against Christians but have consequences on the entire population, I pray for the victims and their relatives, and encourage ecclesial communities to persevere in the faith and in the witness of non-violence which comes to us from the Gospel,” the pope said.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department of External Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion said that there was no “doubt this atrocity is aimed at further fomentation of interreligious enmity. The confrontation that the terrorists mean to enkindle by their actions brings nothing but grief, tears and suffering and threatens the human race with self-destruction.”

The bombing has also sparked reactions from Egypt’s moderate Muslim community.  On Jan 3 the influential Cairo newspaper Al-Ahram in an editorial entitled “J’Accuse!” attacked Egyptian society’s indifference to the growth of militant Islam.

“I am no Zola, but I too can accuse,” editor Hani Shukrallah  wrote, denouncing government corruption and cynicism in dealing with fundamentalists.

“But most of all, I accuse the millions of supposedly moderate Muslims among us; those who’ve been growing more and more prejudiced, inclusive, and narrow-minded with every passing year.”

“I accuse those among us who would rise up in fury over a decision to halt construction of a Muslim Center near ground zero in New York, but applaud the Egyptian police when they halt the construction of a staircase in a Coptic church in the Omranya district of Greater Cairo.”

He also accused “the liberal intellectuals, both Muslim and Christian who, whether complicit, afraid, or simply unwilling to do or say anything that may displease ‘the masses’, have stood aside, finding it sufficient to join in one futile chorus of denunciation… even as the massacres spread wider, and grow more horrifying.”

Unless steps were taken immediately, Al Ahram warned, Egyptian society would collapse in a welter of sectarian madness.

Church land dispute leads to riot in Zanzibar: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 7, 2011 January 12, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Tanzania, Church of England Newspaper.
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Ruins of St Mary's Mission School in Mbweni, Zanzibar

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Anglicans in Zanzibar have repossessed a church cemetery nationalized by the government, storming onto the grounds and tearing down a building constructed by its purported new owner—the daughter of retired President Amani Abeid Karume.

In a Dec 30 sermon to the members of St John’s Anglican Church in Mbweni, a coastal community located four miles south of the Zanzibari capital of Stone Town, the Rev. Canon Matthew Mhagama urged the congregation to repossess their cemetery, after construction workers toppled grave stones and pulled down crosses in preparation for developing the site.

“We’ve dedicated these prayers to this site so that God can help us by touching the hearts of the Lands officials so that they return our land. We’re appealing to God so that others with similar grievances can be assisted,” Canon Mhagama said, according to local press accounts.

The site of one of the first Christian missions in Zanzibar, in 1871 Bishop George Tozer of Nyasaland purchased 30 acres of land in Mbweni from the Sultan of Zanzibar to settle freed slaves. Charge of the land was given to the Universities Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) which built St John’s Church for the new community, and opened a girls’ school, St Mary’s.

Caroline Thackeray, a cousin of the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, was appointed headmistress of the school in 1877, remaining until her death in 1926. In 1920s the UMCA closed the school and sold the buildings after it moved its operations to the mainland, but retained ownership of the church and its environs.

In 1964 the newly independent Republic of Zanzibar nationalized all land on the island, allowing the congregation continued use of the church.  St Mary’s school soon fell into ruins, and the ownership of the surrounding land became clouded.

In 1998 the congregation applied for a title deed to the property, after developers discovered the area and began to construct beach hotels.   Questions about the status of its application went unanswered in 1999, and in 2006 the Ministry of Water, Works, Energy and Land told the congregation their application was being processed.  Subsequent inquiries have gone unanswered, until church members learned the former president’s daughter had been given title to the land.

President Karume told reporters that it was proper that his daughter be given title as she had been maintaining the grounds for several years.  The former president added that his daughter’s application for the land had been duly received and title properly transferred from the state to her, and she was now free to do with it what she pleased.

The growth of tourism in Zanzibar has spawned a rash of controversial “land grabs”, with state controlled land being sold to foreign developers and politically connected Zanzibaris.  During the October presidential campaign, presidential candidates, Dr Ali Mohamed Shein and Mr Seif Sharif Hamad, both vowed to stamp out cronyism and corruption in the distribution of land.

Anti-discrimination laws not binding on church agencies, court rules: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 7, 2011 p 6. January 11, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Politics.
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Peter Kell of Anglicare

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders in Sydney have applauded a tribunal ruling that places freedom of conscience above state anti-discrimination laws.

Last month the New South Wales Administrative Decisions Tribunal held that a foster care agency affiliated with the Wesley Mission was exempt from the Anti-Discrimination Act and could refuse to accept homosexual couples as foster parents.

The decision comes over a year after the same tribunal ordered the foster care agency to pay a £5500 fine and amend its selection criteria so as not to discriminate against homosexuals.

The Wesley Mission’s foster care arm, Wesley Dalmar Services, appealed the decision and on Nov 1, 2009 an appeals panel held the agency was not obligated to accept a gay couple as foster parents.  Presiding Magistrate Nancy Hennessy instructed the lower court to take into account the religious sensibilities of Wesleyanism, and whether the agency would be obligated to reject  same sex couples in order to be faithful to its beliefs.

In its Dec 27, 2010 decision the tribunal conceded it was obligated to grant the exemption as the language of the Act permitted church affiliated agencies to receive government payments for foster care, while claiming an exemption from the obligation of placing children for foster care with same sex couples.

In its ruling the tribunal commented the grounds for requesting a religious exemption were “singularly undemanding” and noted that “this may be a matter which calls for the attention of parliament.”

However, a spokesman for the NSW Attorney-General said there were no plans to review the Act as the legislation was an appropriate middle ground between the claims of religious freedom and freedom from discrimination.

Cardinal George Pell welcomed the decision and said churches must be able to choose whom they wanted to use in the provision of services.  A spokesman for the Diocese of Sydney told the Church of England Newspaper that it also welcomed the ruling.

The diocesan-affiliated social service agency, Anglicare Sydney, had also lobbied the government last year to reject an amendment to the Adoption Act that would permit the adoption of children by same sex couples.

In a twelve-point statement summarizing its views, Anglican CEO Peter Kell argued that gay adoptions were not in the best interest of children and that there was not a “strong need” to change the law, as there was “no shortage in the supply of suitable parents willing to adopt children.”

Mr. Kell stated that “no adult has the right to adopt a child” and that the appeal to anti-discrimination laws by gay adoption and fostering advocates put the “rights of adults ahead of children.”

“Childrens rights are precious – they should never be a political football for others,” he observed in a statement published on the diocesan website.

NSW did amend the Adoption Act in 2010 and allowed gay couples to legally adopt children, but allowed church adoption agencies the right to refuse to provide services to gay couples without breaching anti-discrimination laws.

Nigerian coup warning: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 7, 2011 p 6. January 11, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Politics.
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Archbishop Nicholas Okoh

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh has urged the government of President Goodluck Jonathan and the people of Nigeria to stand fast in the face of a terrorism campaign, designed to destabilize the country and bring back martial law.

Speaking at a New Year’s Day service in Abuja, the Primate of Nigeria said “We are about to experience joy in this nation, some people decide to use that time to throw a spanner in the wheel of progress.”

The country has been hit by several deadly bomb attacks and ongoing Islamist militant violence over the past month. At least 80 people were killed in coordinated explosions at churches in the central city of Jos on Dec 24 launched by the Islamist Boko Haram sect.

The northern city Maiduguri saw suffered a series of church attacks on Dec 24 by suspected Boko Haram militants that killed six.  December closed with more violence as an explosion in a market in the capital Abuja killed at least four people on New Year’s Eve and a political rally in Bayelsa state was hit by two bombs.

In his New Year’s address, the archbishop said that “as we are about to enter the New Year, which signals a new beginning for our nation, another bomb blast occurs, more so in the military barracks.”

The attacks were designed to foster a sense of chaos, paving the way for a military coup, Archbishop Okoh, a former army chaplain, said.  However, the president and people of Nigeria should not respond with fear, but work towards bringing those responsible for the violence to justice, and working towards holding the country together.

Ballarat bishop hits back: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 7, 2011, p 6. January 10, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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Archbiship Philip Freier of Melbourne

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The battling Bishop of Ballarat has struck again.  On his final day in office, Bishop Michael Hough sacked the interim bishop appointed to oversee the diocese in his absence.

On June 19, Bishop Hough told his diocesan synod that he would step down from office effective Dec 20.  The bishop of the rural diocese west of Melbourne had been under investigation by the Episcopal Standards Commission since July 2009, facing allegations of bullying his clergy.

In consultation with the Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr. Philip Freier, Bishop Hough appointed the Assistant Bishop of Melbourne, the Rt. Rev. Philip Huggins, to serve as vicar-general of the diocese.

In his final sermon on Dec 19, Bishop Hough attacked his opponents in the diocese, likening them to the “evil one.”  To illustrate his point, the bishop placed a ceramic chalice in a bag, then smashed it with a hammer to symbolize the destruction he believed his critics had wrought.

In a surprise move Bishop Hough sacked Bishop Huggins as diocesan vicar-general, appointing the Rev. Arthur Savage—a supporter within the diocese—in his place.  The bishop announced his decision via email at 10:03 in the evening, one hour and fifty-seven minutes before he left office.

The following day, Archbishop Freier sent his own email to the clergy, questioning the legality of Bishop Hough’s decision.  ”It is a matter of considerable regret to me that Bishop Hough, on his last day in the diocese,” Bishop Hough “would act in a manner which effectively unsettles all the good work that has taken place over the last months,” Dr. Freier wrote.

“I would strongly advise against anyone assuming the authority of office of vicar-general, archdeacon or area dean until these matters are settled,” the archbishop said.

Bishop Huggins has visitations scheduled through Easter, Dr. Freier noted, and would honour those commitments.  A new bishop is scheduled to be elected this year.

Lichfield vicar escapes prison sentence: The Church of England Newspaper: Jan 6, 2011 January 6, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Rev. Dominic Stone

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A Staffordshire vicar has avoided imprisonment following his November conviction for possessing child pornography.

On Dec 16, the Rev. Dominic Stone received 16 nine-month sentences for possession of child pornography.  The sentences will be served concurrently and have been suspended for two years.  In addition he was subject to a two year supervision order and must complete a sex offender’s treatment programme.

The Stafford County Court also banned the 47-year old father of two from seeking employment or a voluntary position which would bring him into contact with young people.  It further forbade him access to the internet and ordered him to sign the sex offender’s register for the next 10 years.

Following sentencing, Lichfield diocesan spokesman Gavin Drake said Mr. Stone had resigned his position as team vicar, and “he no longer holds any position within the Church of England.  And he does not possess a licence to serve or minister as a priest.

“Incidents like this are extremely rare,” Mr. Drake added.

“Parents and the wider public can be assured that the Church of England has robust procedures in place to protect the children entrusted to our care, and that the protection of children is of primary importance,” he said.

2010: A year that brought further dismay to the Communion: The Church of England Newspaper, Dec 24, 2010 pp 8-9. December 30, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church News, Church of England Newspaper.
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Rev Canon Diane M. Jardine Bruce, left, and Rev Canon Mary Glasspool congratulate each other after their ordination and consecration ceremony

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

For the Anglican Communion, 2010 was not a year on which it could look back with undiluted pleasure.  While not quite the Annus Horribilis that was 2003, the communion remained divided and distracted, nursing a colossal hangover watered by decades of doctrinal abandon.  While individual provinces, dioceses and church movements flourished in different parts of the globe—as an international body the Anglican Communion ended 2010 crapulous, dispirited and decrepit.

The pace of decline has quickened: 2008 saw the collapse of the Lambeth Conference as a pan-Anglican body, losing its credibility through the absence of a majority of the African bishops and its rationale for being; 2009 witnessed the breakdown of the Anglican Consultative Council at its meeting in Kingston; and 2010 foreshadowed the end of the primates meeting as a credible body of leadership for the wider church and a mounting distrust of the London-based bureaucracy.

On Nov 7, 2006 the Primate of Uganda, Archbishop Henry Orombi told his general synod: “There is a proverb that says, ‘When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold’.”

Beware “the sickness that is coming from America,” he warned.

While the American church flu’s effects are still ravaging the communion, unlike past years it has not dominated the news, either as the source of controversy, or as the point against which the rest of the communion has reacted.  War, civil unrest, globalization, militant Islam, climate change, nuclear tensions, poverty and disease continued their march.  While the councils of the church have proven themselves unable to act, the wider church has focused its energies on local issues, and carrying on.

The true issues dividing the church, however, are becoming clearer.  The fight over homosexuality, while still bitterly waged by the combatants, is slowly giving way to a new fight over the nature of truth and divine revelation.

Gay bishops and blessings—and lawsuits—topped the news from the Episcopal Church.  The American church continued in decline with the national office reporting that in 2009 average Sunday attendance (ASA) fell by 3 per cent to 682,963.  As of the end of 2009, the Episcopal Church reported having 2,006,343 active members—at its peak in the 1960’s the church counted over 3.5 million members.

In May the Diocese of Los Angeles consecrated the Episcopal Church’s second “out” gay priest: Suffragan Bishop Mary Glasspool, while a number of dioceses and the national church’s liturgical commission began work on crafting same-sex blessing liturgies.  Unlike the 2003 consecration of Gene Robinson which prompted an emergency meeting of the primates to discuss the Episcopal Church’s consecration of the first ‘gay’ bishop and worldwide media attention—the 2010 consecration of Bishop Glasspool did not register on the nation’s conscience, nor did it spark any official reaction from the wider church.

On Aug 5, Bishop Charles Bennison of Pennsylvania won his appeal of his conviction of conduct unbecoming a clergyman—and returned to office following a three year suspension.

Financial woes have led to the mortgaging of the church’s national offices in New York, while a study by canon lawyer Allan Haley reported the church had dedicated over $21,650,000 to lawsuits and disciplinary actions against the clergy since 2001.  Parish-diocese lawsuits continue to make their way through the courts, with results favoring dioceses in 2010, however, lawsuits between dioceses and the national church saw intermediate wins for the breakaway dioceses of San Joaquin and Fort Worth.

Canada’s property disputes continue as well, with the breakaway Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) filing an appeal in December with Supreme Court of Canada, asking it to overturn a British Columbia Court of Appeals ruling that awarded control of the property of its four Vancouver-area congregations to the Diocese of New Westminster.

In June Canada’s General Synod voted not to make a decision on the issue of same-sex blessings.  Meeting in Halifax it adopted a resolution that recognized that same-sex blessings were being performed in the dioceses of New Westminster, Niagara and Ottawa, but declined to affirm or condemn the innovation.  In November, the Diocese of Toronto released its guidelines for same-sex blessing services.

The church also entered the public eye after Toronto parish re-envisioned the Eucharist as a marketing and evangelism tool, providing Holy Communion to a dog as an act of welcome.

The decision to offer the wafer, but not the wine, to ‘Trapper,’ a four year old un-baptised Alsatian mix-breed, prompted outrage and mirth in the Canadian press, and an apology from the interim rector of St Peter’s Anglican Church in Toronto.

The Anglican Church of Mexico became the first province of the Communion in 2010 to formally adopt the Anglican Covenant.  La Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America (IARCA)—the Anglican church in Central America—elected a new primate in April, with the conservative Bishop Armando Guerra of Guatemala succeeding the liberal Bishop Martín Barahona of El Salvador.

The Bishop of Barbados, Dr John Holder was enthroned as Primate of the Church of the Province of the West Indies, while diocesan synods wrestled with the problems of the region’s endemic crime and sluggish economies.

In November, Bishop Hector “Tito” Zavala of Chile was elected Presiding Bishop of la Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur (the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone).   The province’s general synod also rejected allowing the ordination of women to the priesthood—prompting the Diocese of Uruguay in December to petition for release to join another province that would permit it to ordain women.

Political instability continued to plague the Solomon Islands, as the church sought to stem tribal violence across the Central Pacific.  In a speech commissioning the new members of Parliament, Archbishop David Vunagi of Melanesia on Sept 12 warned the MPs the country risked sliding back into anarchy if they could not work together.

Political and social instability also plagued Papua New Guinea, but on June 11 the Anglican Church elected the Bishop of Popondota, the Rt. Rev. Joseph Kopapa, to serve as primate and archbishop of the province.

On May 12, the General Synod of the Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia meeting in Gisborne, New Zealand announced it had affirmed the election of Dr, Winston Halapua as Archbishop of Polynesia, while in the North Pacific, the Bishops of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK), the Anglican Church in Japan, agreed to issue a formal apology to their Korean brethren for their country’s conduct on the 100th anniversary of Japan’s annexation of Korea.

The decision came at the second joint meeting of the Korean and Japanese House of Bishops in June.  The 11 bishops of the NSKK and the three bishops of the Anglican Church of Korea (SHK) discussed the lingering hostility many Koreans and other East Asians feel towards Japan for its conduct during the early and mid-Twentieth century.

At its May General Synod, the Japanese church also overruled a recommendation from the theological committee of its House of Bishops, and voted to go forward with discussions on an Anglican Covenant.

In September, Archbishop Paul Kwong of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui (HKSK) dedicated the Revised Chinese Union Version (RCUV) of the Old and New Testaments, the first new translation of the Bible in Chinese since 1919.  The HKSK has also been engaged in talks with the China Christian Council—the state approved Protestant Church in China—seeking to build a common witness for Christians in China.

The Anglican Church in Myanmar remains under the watchful eye of the country’s military junta, while in Malaysia 2010 started off with a spate of church arsons set by Muslim militants.

The Anglican Church of Australia continues to deal with a spate of sexual abuse cases, most arising in the 1970’s and 1980’s, while the Bishop of The Murray was deposed for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy and the Bishop of Ballarat resigned in the face of an investigation into charges of bullying.

The Diocese of Sydney bucked the trend of Anglican Churches in the developing world and reported 5 per cent growth in attendance in 2009—a result of its Connect09 outreach and evangelism programme.  Sydney, along with Melbourne and a number of other dioceses, were also heavily involved in a number of local issues ranging from Christian education in schools, euthanasia, and immigration reform.

The church in Ceylon saw the retirement of its two bishops—both strong critics of the country’s conduct in its war with Tamil guerrillas, while the Church of South India was plagued with corruption trials and property lawsuits.  The Moderator of the CSI remains under investigation for fraud, while the Bishop in Coimbatore faces multiple criminal counts of theft and fraud while property litigation and communal violence and anti-Christian persecution have bedeviled the Church of North India.

Persecution has also been a marked aspect of the life of the Church of Pakistan in 2010, with a number of attacks reported against churches and individual Christians, while the nation’s blasphemy laws remain a threat to non-Muslims.

Development, corruption, education, the environment, political reform and independence were among the issues dominating the churches of Africa.  The Episcopal Church of the Sudan is preparing for a January 2011 referendum on independence for South Sudan—and dealing with the expectations of a people emerging from almost 30 years of civil war.

Church leaders in Kenya campaigned unsuccessfully for the rejection of the country’s new constitution, arguing that it would give Islam a privileged place under the law, while also opening the door to abortion.  The Tanzanian church pressed its government to review its economic and tax policies, but also remained internally with a minority faction opposing the church’s break with the Episcopal Church.

The Anglican Church of Rwanda saw the retirement of Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini and the election of a new primate, Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje.  The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Burundi in June reelected Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi to serve a second five-year term as primate of the East African nation’s church.

The Anglican Church of the Congo continued to be ravaged by civil war, with many of its congregations and clergy scattered by fighting between rival militias and war lords.  In April, the Bishop of Bukavu narrowly escaped death when gunmen invaded his home and threatened to kill him unless he paid a ransom for his life.

The Church of Uganda played host to a meeting of the continent’s bishops in August, and continued a strong course of growth.  Fighting in the north with the Lord’s Resistance Army died down, but attacks by Islamist terrorist in Kampala have raised security concerns.

A new primate, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh was enthroned in Nigeria—and the communion’s largest province remained fully engaged in the life and work of the continent’s largest country.  Political crises, ethnic and sectarian violence in the north, criminal and guerrilla activity in the Delta, corruption, a failing education and health system and a declining economy were a major focus of the Nigerian church in 2010—coupled with a spirited church planting and evangelism programme.

The Church in West Africa also was actively engaged in the political life of Ghana.  The Church in Ghana continued to press political leaders to foreswear tribalism and sectarian politicking—while the church advanced plans for dividing the province to form a Church of Ghana out of the Province of West Africa.

The last vacant see in Central Africa was filled in 2010, allowing the first new primate to be elected since the retirement of Archbishop Bernard Malango in 2007.  The Anglican Church in Zambia continued to play an active role in pressing the government to crack down on corruption, while the government in Zimbabwe cracked down on the church—the split caused by renegade bishop Dr. Nolbert Kunonga continued unhealed with Anglicans locked out of their parishes by police for the past year and a half.

In Southern Africa, the church’s House of Bishops returned to the subject of same-sex blessings, for the third time in six years, preparing guidelines for the clergy on the church’s response to the legalization of gay marriage by the state.  The church has continued its prophetic role as a voice of downtrodden and oppressed, championing migrants and the poor, while also pressing the government to combat corruption and set a higher moral tone for the country.

The African archbishops have also pressed Dr. Williams to suspend the primates meeting scheduled for Jan 2011 in Dublin.  On Aug 24 during the All African Bishops Conference in Entebbe the African primates told Dr. Williams that if US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Archbishop Fred Hiltz were invited to the 2011 primates meeting, they would not come.  This view was reiterated in a Nov 9 letter to Dr. Williams.

In Entebbe, Dr. Williams said he had not the power to withhold an invitation to Bishop Jefferts Schori and Archbishop Hiltz, and on Nov 17 Lambeth Palace stated that “given the closeness of the time, and the fact that the majority of Primates have already indicated that they will attend, the Archbishop of Canterbury is not minded to postpone the meeting.”

A quarter to a third of the communion’s 38 primates, will not attend the January meeting—absenting themselves due to the presence of the Americans and Canadians.  African leaders have also privately expressed their exasperation with Dr. Williams, and have “given up” on him—Archbishop Henry Orombi noting that while they respect the office of Archbishop of Canterbury, they will likely have to wait for Dr. Williams’ successor to be installed before the breach is healed.

The breach with Dr. Williams also extends to the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council—which a number of primates have dismissed as lacking credibility.   While its members have pledged a new transparency and openness in its dealings, the ACC’s staff has declined to state which provinces have approved the creation of the new body.  A number of provinces have stated they were never consulted on the adoption of a new constitution for the organization.  Bishop Gregory Venables told CEN that he reviewed all his correspondence with the ACC and its secretary general and can find no record of a request to approve the group’s new governing documents.

The Standing Committee has been plagued with institutional missteps, conceding that an appointment made by its members at its Dec 2009 meeting was unlawful, while its staff’s actions have raised questions.  A request for guidance on the legality of the Anglican Covenant made by the New Zealand General Synod and forwarded to the July meeting for action, as of November 2010 remained unmet, the church’s general secretary told CEN.

The Anglican Covenant remains alive, but came under attack from an Anglo-American coalition that argued its strictures were too harsh and “un-Anglican” and urged its rejection.  Conservative primates of the Gafcon movement also attacked the Covenant, but arguing it was too weak with the revisions adopted by the Standing Committee in 2009 insufficient to hold the communion together.

At year’s end, Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the flashpoint for many of the communion’s battles, announced he would take early retirement, and step down in 2013.

In an important series of articles printed in December in the Washington Post on the Bible and homosexuality, Bishop Robinson identified the key divide between liberals and conservatives.

The question was not so much about what Scriptures says about human sexuality, Bishop Robinson argued, but what it says about truth and on-going revelation.

“In John’s Gospel, which is largely made up of the conversation Jesus has with his disciples at the Last Supper, Jesus says: ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth’.”

“I take this to mean that Jesus is saying to the disciples, ‘Look, for a bunch of uneducated and rough fishermen, you haven’t done too badly. In fact, you will do amazing things with the rest of your lives. But don’t think for a minute that God is done with you – or done with believers who will come after you. There is much more that God wants to teach you, but you cannot handle it right now. So, I will send the Holy Spirit who will lead you into that new Truth’.” Bishop Robinson wrote.

Canon Peter Carrell, a New Zealand commentator, noted the true issue facing the Communion as encapsulated by Bishop Robinson’s commentary was not the morality of homosexuality and the second order issues addressed by the Covenant, but “what is the nature of the truth around which we fellowship as Anglicans in the communion?”

“Is it the old, old story of Jesus and his gospel, or is it the new Truth of Bishop Robinson and his peers? It cannot be both. We are in a rift because truth is non-contradictory,” he observed.

The year 2010 saw a subtle shift within the communion, away from political battles and committee fights, to an articulation of what was at issue—is the Bible trustworthy or true, or has a new spirit and age brought forth a new truth for Christians to behold.

Bishop smashes chalice on his cathedral altar to shame his critics: The Church of England Newspaper, Dec 24, 2010 p 6. December 30, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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Bishop Michael Hough

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The embattled Bishop of Ballarat closed out his episcopate with a bang, smashing a chalice placed on the altar of Christ the King Cathedral during his final sermon on Sunday.

On June 19, the Rt. Rev. Michael Hough told his diocesan synod that he would step down from office effective Dec 20.  The bishop of the small rural diocese west of Melbourne had been under investigation by the Episcopal Standards Commission since July 2009, facing allegations of bullying his clergy.  The bishop’s opponents had also pledged to bring a no confidence motion before the synod and were circulating a petition calling for his resignation.

In an emotional 30 minute sermon, Bishop Hough stated that his resignation did not mean that his opponents “have in fact won their guerrilla wars.”

The bishop then presented an analogy of his travails.  Holding aloft a ceramic chalice he had commissioned from a local artist, Bishop Hough said he had come to love this “beautiful pot” which he felt represented his ministry in the diocese.

“But then along comes someone who hates the beauty of the pot, who resents the fact that it is slaking the thirst of the peoples in need of water,” the bishop said, according to local press accounts of his sermon.

“He does not want the pot there as he has a pot of his own which he thinks is better … so the bitter man gathers a few others around him who support him in his dark intent and they come and smash the pot to pieces.”

The bishop then placed the chalice in a bag and laid it on the altar, smashing it with a hammer.  The pot was now “gone forever,” he said and the “evil one is happy as he can now put forward his own pot as the answer to the needy thirst of the people.”

The bishop then spoke of the sufferings and false accusations of Jesus.  However, as Christ overcame his sufferings on the cross, so too could the diocese overcome its difficulties, the bishop said as he held aloft a cross adorned with pottery shards.

Without naming his opponents, the bishop rebuked those who disagreed with his leadership, and said that while the number of clergy and communicants had declined over the past twenty years, the church had been blessed by lay ministers and women clergy.

“Yes, the pot that was the church of 50 years ago is not the same pot of today,” the bishop said, adding, “I have no idea where we are going, but I am confident and comfortable in leaving that in God’s hands.”

Over the past year twenty clergymen have left the diocese, and attendance at Sunday services has fallen by two-thirds, the ‘Ballarat Laity Against Bullying’ coalition had charged.  In 2009 five clergy brought formal charges of misconduct against the bishop, citing a confrontational management style.  Bishop Hough had dismissed his opponents as “malcontents” who were unwilling to modernize the church.

Currently out of the 23 dioceses of the Anglican Church of Australia, only the Dioceses of Ballarat, North West Australia, Sydney and The Murray do not ordain women as priests. Bishop Hough had angered some traditionalists by ordaining three female deacons, but had said he would go slow over ordaining women priests.

Colombo bishop quitting Sri Lanka: The Church of England Newspaper, Dec 24, 2010 p 6. December 30, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper.
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Bishop Duleep de Chickera

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Colombo has announced that he will step down from office on Dec 31 and leave Sri Lanka once a successor has been appointed.

On Dec 19, the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera said he was retiring after nine years in office, and would serve as vicar-general of the diocese until a successor was chosen at the May meeting of the diocesan synod. The bishop has not offered an explanation as to why he was leaving the country.

A strong critic of government human rights abuses, Bishop de Chickera has been a leading voice in seeking reconciliation between Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka after the decades long civil war.

In a submission last month to the country’s Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation written with the vicar-general of the diocese of Kurunagala, Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe, Bishop de Chickera called for an independent investigations of war crimes committed by the government in the closing days of the civil war.

Bishop De Chickera has also played a high profile role in the Anglican Communion, and was selected by Dr. Rowan Williams to preach to the bishops attending the 2008 Lambeth Conference.  From the pulpit of Canterbury Cathedral, Bishop de Chickera called for the bishops to be agents of social and political change and for the communion to “resuscitate the challenge of unity in diversity.”

“In Christ we are all equal,” Bishop de Chickera said, there is “space for all” within the Anglican Communion regardless of “color, race, gender or sexual orientation.”

The Anglican Communion must exercise its “prophetic voice” and be the “voice of the voiceless,” calling into “accountability those who abuse power,” the Ceylonese bishop said.

The bishop also created a small fracas by closing his Aug 3 sermon to the 2008 Lambeth Conference with a traditional Buddhist chant.  Bishop de Chickera however, failed to say he had substituted the Buddhist text for a Christian one, which in English stated: “I take refuge in God the Father, I take refuge in God the Son, I take refuge in God the Holy Spirit, I take refuge in the One Triune God.”

A short lived outcry arose among non-Sinhalese speaking traditionalist bishops at the conference, who were perturbed by the reciting of a Buddhist chant at Christian worship.

Newcastle halts abuse case pending supreme court review: The Church of England Newspaper, Dec 24, 2010 p 7. December 28, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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Dean Graeme Lawrence

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

An Australian diocese has suspended disciplinary proceedings against the retired Dean of Newcastle pending a review by New South Wales Supreme Court.

On Dec 17 Justice Patricia Bergin accepted a petition from of the Very Rev. Graeme Lawrence and the Rev. Graeme Sturt, and agreed to schedule a February hearing to review their claim of misconduct by the diocesan Professional Standards Board.

The two are among five men, four priests and a church organist, who were brought up on charges before the Professional Standards Board for sexual abuse and misconduct.  On Dec 15, the board found that Dean Lawrence and his partner—church organist Gregory Goyette—had engaged in sexual relations with a 17 year old man at a church camp in 1984, and that Mr. Sturt had observed the act.

The board recommended Dean Lawrence and Mr. Sturt be defrocked and Mr. Goyette prevented from working in the church.

The alleged actions had “to do with breaches of trust and maintenance of standards and quality of pastoral relationships,” the Director of Professional Standards for the diocese, Michael Elliott stated.

“They also have to do with the restoration of confidence in the clergy that the community seeks,” Mr. Elliot said, according to local press accounts of the proceedings. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation also reported the “proceedings against the former Dean and his partner have nothing to do with their sexual orientation.”

The accused had denied the allegations and have maintained their innocence.  Following the determination by the board, they filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking it quash the recommendation that they be defrocked, declare the standards board failed to observe procedural fairness, and permanently restrain the diocese from giving legal effect to the determination.

The petitioners have also accused the standards board of setting itself up as a court competent to judge the accused, when it lacked the powers of a court or ability to gather and hear evidence.

On Dec 16, Bishop Brian Farran distanced himself from the board’s proceedings, writing his clergy the board was an advisory panel that was not under his direct control.

Dean Lawrence, who served as Dean of Newcastle for 25 years until his retirement in 2008, was a member of the Anglican Church of Australia General Synod Standing Committee task force that in 2003 created the recommendations for the current professional standards proceedings.

The 2003 Sexual Abuse Working Group recommended that the church change clergy disciplinary proceedings from an adversarial procedure involving a prosecution for an offence before a tribunal, to panel review process that looked at the fitness of the church worker to hold office.  The Standing Committee subsequently accepted these recommendations, which were subsequently adopted by the 2004 General Synod.

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