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Second Church Estates Commissioner rejects govt’s gay marriage bill: The Church of England Newspaper, February 8, 2013 February 14, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Marriage, Politics.
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The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry MP, broke ranks with his party’s leadership this week and spoke against adoption of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill.

Rising to speak during the debate following the Second Reading of the Bill, Sir Tony stated that while he would vote against the bill, he wished to thank the government for their assurances that the legislation would protect religious freedom.

Speaking in his capacity as Second Church Estates Commission, Sir Tony said he wanted to “make clear to the House the views of the Church of England on the provisions that the Government have included to safeguard religious freedoms. Let me make it clear that I entirely accept the Government’s good faith in this matter and am appreciative, as is the Bishop of Leicester, who convenes the Bishops in the other place, and as are senior Church officials, of the attempts the Government have made.”

He noted the government was correct in ensuring that “every Church and denomination can reach its own conclusion on these matters and be shielded so far as possible from the risk of litigation” and he accepted the government’s pledge that the “quadruple locks” would protect the rights of the Church of England.

“The so-called quadruple locks are sensible and necessary,” he said, adding the “simple point” is that the Church of England and the Church in Wales “have not wanted anything different in substance from all other Churches and faiths—namely, to be left entirely free to determine their own doctrine and practice in relation to marriage.”

However, Sir Tony noted the Church of England was not a creature of Parliament. While it had a common law duties to marry all parishioners, the issue was rather “complex” as its “canon law remains part of the law of the land and it also has its own devolved legislature which, with Parliament’s agreement, can amend Church legislation and Westminster legislation.”

He noted that in changing marriage, the government was creating a “number of extremely difficult second-order issues. Although the failure to consummate a marriage will still be a ground on which a heterosexual marriage can be voidable, the Bill provides that consummation is not to be a ground on which a marriage of a same-sex couple will be voidable.”

“It also provides that adultery is to have its existing definition—namely, sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex. It therefore follows that divorce law for heterosexual couples will be fundamentally different from divorce law for same-sex couples, because for heterosexual couples the matrimonial offence of adultery will persist while there will be no similar matrimonial offence in relation to same-sex marriage. The fact that officials have been unable to apply these long-standing concepts to same-sex marriage is a further demonstration of just how problematic is the concept of same-sex marriage.”

“There is an inevitable degree of risk in all this,” he said. While the “Government believe that this is a risk worth taking. The Church of England does not.” Sir Tony said.

The New York Times’ Conservative love affair: Get Religion, February 4, 2013 February 5, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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The New York Times may not love American conservatives, but they are certainly enamored with a British one, David Cameron. His push to introduce gay marriage in England, over the objections of the rank and file members of his party, has the paper swooning.

There does not seem to be a way to keep gay issues or advocacy out of the New York Times. The Gray Lady finds this angle in just about any story. Today’s example comes in an article that combines the news of the confirmation of election of the new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby with the first vote in Parliament on the government’s gay marriage bill.

Unfortunately the article tries a little too hard to link these stories. Combining the two events may have seemed a good idea to an editor not familiar with the issues, but it does not work as a single piece. “New Archbishop of Canterbury Takes Office” has some factual errors, faulty assumptions, insufficient context and a lack of balance.

The article begins:

On the eve of a divisive vote in Parliament on the legalization of same-sex marriage, Justin Welby, the former bishop of Durham, on Monday took over formally as the 105th archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the world’s 77 million Anglicans, saying he shares the Church of England’s opposition to marriage among people of the same gender.

The lede is fairly straight forward, but I wondered why the author tortured the opening with such strained language — “marriage of people of the same gender”. Have I missed a new style directive to mimic “people of color” when describing gay issues?

And, how many Anglicans are there? The New York Times says 77 million. In the interview cited later in the story, the archbishop says 80 million — which includes 20 odd million Englishmen and women (when only a tenth of that number attend services). What is the source for this number? But I digress.

The article notes the new archbishop took office today replacing Dr. Rowan Williams, and then moves to a post-ceremony interview.

In an interview broadcast on the BBC after his inauguration, the new archbishop said he was not on a “collision course” with the government. But he endorsed the traditional view that while the church has no objection to civil partnerships between people of the same gender, it is, as a recent church statement put it, “committed to the traditional understanding of the institution of marriage as being between one man and one woman.”

This paragraph also struck me as odd. Not for what it reports about the new archbishop’s sentiments, but in its report of who reported what. The BBC story did not have the “collision course” phrase. That appears in an ITV story. The story broadcast by the BBC I saw cut the “collision course” phrase, while ITV ran the segment uncut. Perhaps there was a second BBC story that used the quote? I do not know. The Religion News Service printed at the Huffington Post account of the ceremony made this mistake as well, but it embedded both videos — BBC and ITV — with their story.

The article then moves to commentary.

His stance did not come as a surprise since he had made it clear at the time of his appointment in November, but the timing of his remarks was certain play into both the political and the ecclesiastical debate about the issue. The church has long been locked in debate over gender issues, including the consecration of female and gay bishops and same-sex marriage.

Now I understand the language of the lede — gender is the plat du jour for the Times allowing it to link the women bishops vote to the same-sex marriage vote in Parliament. (Wait, it is now same-sex marriage by paragraph six.) The article notes:

In December, the church voted narrowly to reject the notion of female bishops, despite support from senior clerics including Archbishop Welby. In January, the church followed up with a ruling admitting openly gay priests in civil partnerships to its ranks, provided that, unlike heterosexual bishops, they remained celibate.

Some more mistakes here. The women bishop’s vote took place in November, not December 2012. Clergy were permitted to register gay civil partnerships in 2005 not in January 2013. A condition of their being allowed to register these domestic partnerships was that they be celibate. Clergy may be “openly gay”, whatever that means, but may not engage in sexual relations outside of marriage (marriage being defined as being between a man and a woman). The question of how rigorously this is enforced is a separate matter.

In December 2012 the House of Bishops ended a ban imposed in 2011 that forbade clergy who had entered into a civil partnership from becoming a bishop. Heterosexuals may not contract civil partnerships in Britain, so the analogy offered by the Times is inexact. However all bishops — heterosexual and homosexual — who are unmarried must be celibate also. There have been homosexual bishops for quite some time — by homosexual I mean men whose dominant sexual attractions are to other men. However, these bishops do hold to the church’s teaching that to act upon these inclinations would be sinful, and are celibate.

Using the pivot of homosexuality, the article then moves to the House of Commons.

Parliament is set to vote on Tuesday on a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage that has been championed by Prime Minster David Cameron. The issue, however, has inspired one of the most toxic and potentially embarrassing rebellions among Mr. Cameron’s Conservative Party colleagues since he took office as the head of a coalition government in 2010.

British news reports have suggested that as many as 180 of the 303 Conservative Party members of Parliament might oppose Mr. Cameron or abstain from voting.

Here we have a “yes, but” situation. Yes, the Second Reading of the government’s bill that would legalize same-sex marriage and allow those in civil partnerships to convert them to marriages is set for tomorrow. However, the issue will not be decided tomorrow. Here is a link to Parliament’s web page describing what happens at a Second Reading. MPs will be given a chance to discuss the bill and vote on whether it should be sent to a committee or be kept before the House of Commons as a whole.

The leaders of the three main parties — Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour — support the bill. A vote to send it to committee where they appoint the members is a way to prevent the issue from being debated before Parliament as a whole. Voting to keep it before the House allows greater involvement from backbench MPs. There is an element of political gamesmanship here. While Labour is in favor of the bill, they are also in favor of allowing the Tories to do as much damage to themselves as possible. Keeping the bill before the whole House allows the Conservative rebels to give full voice to their displeasure with their party leader, weakening the prime minister.

The Times however quotes the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Ed Miliband, but displays an acute lack of awareness of what really is going on.

Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, said Monday that he would be “voting for equal marriage in the House of Commons, and I’ll be doing so proudly.” He also said he would urge his 255 legislators in the 649-member body to vote with him. “I’ll be voting for equal marriage for a very simple reason: I don’t think that the person you love should determine the rights you have,” Mr. Miliband said.

The Times neglects to mention the political calculus involved in the passage of the bill, which when it goes to committee is then subject to amendment before it goes to the House of Lords. If the Times wanted to tie the Church of England into this story more tightly it could have mentioned that all of the bishops who sit in the House of Lords will vote “no” and may offer wrecking amendments. And, Miliband’s urging his party’s MPs to vote for the bill is a recent change — Labour was going to make this a party line vote, requiring all its MPs to vote the same way, but senior leaders of that party refused to go along — changing Miliband’s song from must vote to should vote for gay marriage.

The article then closes out with two quotes from a government spokesman who dismisses the church’s objections to the bill — but offers no rejoinder from the Church of England, the Catholic Church (which by the way is also strongly opposed) or MPs who are opposed to the legislation.

So what do we have in this story. Minor points such as the BBC v. ITN. Larger mistakes such as dates of actions and the misstatement of actions. Omission of context and explanation — as written a casual reader would assume that gay marriage was about to be passed, when it has only just started its legislative journey. And a lack of balance coupled with the framing of the story in such a way as to make clear the Times‘ support for gay marriage.

Should we expect better of the Times? Is this story an example of carelessness or bias? What say you Get Religion readers?

First printed at GetReligion.

Church of England says “no” to gay marriages in church: Anglican Ink, December 7, 2012 December 8, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Church of England, Marriage.
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David Cameron

Same-sex marriage is an non sequitur, the Church of England has told Prime Minister David Cameron, stating it will not support his plans for church gay marriages, nor will it allow them to take place in its churches.

In advance of the release next week of the text of the government’s bill authorizing gay marriage, the prime minister said his government was reversing course and would now permit churches to solemnize gay marriages. “I’m a massive supporter of marriage and I don’t want gay people to be excluded from a great institution,” the prime minister said, adding, “but let me be absolutely 100% clear: if there is any church or any synagogue or any mosque that doesn’t want to have a gay marriage it will not, absolutely must not, be forced to hold it,” he said on 7 Dec 2012.

However, the Church of England said the imposition of gay marriage on the country by the coalition government as undemocratic. “Given the absence of any manifesto commitment for these proposals – and the absence of any commitment in the most recent Queen’s speech – there will need to be an overwhelming mandate from the consultation to move forward with these proposals and make them a legislative priority. In our view the Government will require an overwhelming mandate from the consultation to move forward with on these proposals and to make them a legislative priority,” it said in a statement released today.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Seinfeld Nation: Get Religion, January 28, 2012 January 28, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Popular Culture, Press criticism.
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The front page of Wednesday’s Independent is devoted to a story that chronicles the collapse of public and private morality in Britain.

The story entitled “Britain facing boom in dishonesty …”  reports that according to a study by the University of Essex, the British are:

becoming less honest and their trust in government and business leaders has fallen to a new low amid fears that the nation is heading for an “integrity crisis”.

Lying, having an affair, driving while drunk, having underage sex and buying stolen goods are all more acceptable than they were a decade ago. But people are less tolerant of benefits fraud.

The Independent summarizes the results of a study carried out by the University of Essex’s Centre for the Study of Integrity and suggests the “integrity problem” will get worse as the young are more tolerant of dishonesty than the old.

The article cites statistics illustrating the decline in trust in government and in falling moral standards and concludes with a warning from the study’s author that this collapse in civic and private virtue will have political consequences. The study’s author stated:

integrity levels mattered because there was a link between them and a sense of civic duty. If integrity continues to decline, he thinks it will be difficult to mobilise volunteers to support David Cameron’s Big Society project.”If social capital is low, and people are suspicious and don’t work together, those communities have worse health, worse educational performance, they are less happy and they are less economically developed and entrepreneurial,” Professor Whiteley said. “It really does have a profound effect.”

The Independent put some effort into this story — front page coverage, man in the street interviews, trumpeting the story as an exclusive and advance look. Overall, they do a pretty good job — well written, thoughtful interviews and comments, strong insight into the consequences of the findings.

But … no mention of religion or faith in this story. It may well have been the Essex study did not include religion as one of the strands of civic virtue, but even so that would have been worth a mention. The reader is confronted with the assumption that religion is irrelevant to morality.

I would contrast this story with the prime minister’s recent speech on virtue.  Remember when Tony Blair’s press secretary famously said “We don’t do God”, even though Mr Blair was known to be a believer. Nine years later the current prime minister, David Cameron — whose public utterances about his personal faith have been less rigorous than Mr. Blair — did not find himself similarly constrained.

At celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of the printing of the King James Bible, Mr Cameron affirmed the centrality of the Christian faith in forming a tolerant civic society. Tolerance was not a product of secularism, he argued.

Moral neutrality or passive tolerance just isn’t going to cut it anymore. … Put simply, for too long we have been unwilling to distinguish right from wrong. ‘Live and let live’ has too often become ‘do what you please’. Bad choices have too often been defended as just different lifestyles.”

These social observations flow naturally from a speech marking the KJV, the prime minister said, because:

The Bible is a book that has not just shaped our country, but shaped the world. And with three Bibles sold or given away every second… a book that is not just important in understanding our past, but which will continue to have a profound impact in shaping our collective future.”

The Bible permeates “every aspect” British culture, language, literature, music, art, politics, rights, constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy and welfare provisions, Mr. Cameron said, adding that:

We are a Christian country. And we should not be afraid to say so.

While he was not addressing the crisis of public and private morality in Britain, writing in the Wall Street Journal on 21 January 2012, Charles Murphy described a similar disease afflicting America. In his article “The New American Divide”

Over the past 50 years, that common civic culture has unraveled. We have developed a new upper class with advanced educations, often obtained at elite schools, sharing tastes and preferences that set them apart from mainstream America. At the same time, we have developed a new lower class, characterized not by poverty but by withdrawal from America’s core cultural institutions.

For Murray, religion is a component of the common civic culture and its decline a mark of the collapse of civic virtue.

Whatever your personal religious views, you need to realize that about half of American philanthropy, volunteering and associational memberships is directly church-related, and that religious Americans also account for much more nonreligious social capital than their secular neighbors. In that context, it is worrisome for the culture that the U.S. as a whole has become markedly more secular since 1960, and especially worrisome that [working class] Fishtown has become much more secular than [bourgeois] Belmont. It runs against the prevailing narrative of secular elites versus a working class still clinging to religion, but the evidence from the General Social Survey, the most widely used database on American attitudes and values, does not leave much room for argument.

The bottom line … the Independent article presents a classic example of a religion ghost in a secular news story. The topic under review — public and private morality — is inherently connected with religion, yet no word about religion appears in the story.

Should the Independent have noted the absence of religion in the public morality report? Is religious belief intrinsic to morality? Can the two be separated? Given Prime Minister David Cameron’s widely publicized December speech about Christian Britain — how could the Independent not touch upon religion in its report on collapsing public and private morals.

Or, have we reach the point where Britain become a Seinfeld nation? Where it is no longer news that the majority can now affirm with George Costanza. “Jerry … It’s not a lie, if you believe it.”

First published in GetReligion.

Qaddafi ousted: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 24, 2011 August 24, 2011

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Two days after rebel troops breached the defense perimeter around Tripoli, the situation in the Libyan capital remains uncertain, with Christ the King Anglican Church reporting attacks against the city’s Catholic Church and sporadic violence.

The four decade rule of Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi appears to have come to an end on Aug 21 after rebel troops entered the city after encountering what was reported as only light resistance from the Khamis brigade commanded by one of Qaddafi’s sons.

Col. Qaddafi’s whereabouts remain unknown, and rebel troops have surrounded the Bab al-Azizya—the presidential compound.  Western television networks have broadcast anti-Qaddafi celebrations in the city’s Green Square, and on Aug 22 the rebel coalition’s Transitional National Council chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil reported that two of the Libyan leader’s sons, including heir-apparent Saif al-Islam had been captured.

However, on Aug 23 Saif al-Islam surprised foreign journalists when he visited their hotel in the heart of the city, disputing claims he was a prisoner of the rebels.  The regime continues to control the national television network and pro-Qaddafi military units remained in control of pockets of the city.

US President Barack Obama welcomed the collapse of the Qaddafi regime, saying his government would “continue to stay in close coordination with the TNC. We will continue to insist that the basic rights of the Libyan people are respected.”

On Aug 22, Prime Minister David Cameron stated “the latest information is that the vast majority of Tripoli is now controlled by free Libyan fighters, although fighting continues – and some of it is extremely fierce.”

Qaddafi’s “regime is falling apart and in full retreat,” Mr. Cameron said, adding “our task now is to do all we can to support the will of the Libyan people, which is for an effective transition to a free, democratic and inclusive Libya.”

While Libya appears to be free of the Qaddafi regime, foreign policy experts are not optimistic the new regime will be democratic or inclusive.   Jonathan Schanzer of Washington’s Foundation for the Defense of Democracy predicted a “bigger battle” may be on the horizon.

“Qaddafi exploited tribal hatreds in Libya for four decades. He also robbed the country of any semblance of civil society. Now, after months of fighting, the country is awash with weapons. There should also be concerns about the ideology that will ultimately characterize the new Libya, when the guns have gone quiet. Qaddafi’s Green Book, a bizarre amalgam of socialism and Islam, was the ideology he imposed on Libya. Nobody there ever embraced it, but other ideologies were effectively banned. With Qaddafi’s ouster, we open Pandora’s Box,” Mr. Schanzer said.

In an email from the worn torn city to the Bishop of Egypt, the Rev. Hamdy Doud, an associate vicar of Christ the King Church in Tripoli, wrote: “At last, things are getting better” and internet communications have been restored.

“We praise the Lord for our safety here in Tripoli in such difficult situation,” Mr. Doud wrote.

“Now all people here are so glad of experiencing improvements and developments. But we still need to pray for the current transitional time to witness safe consequences of development. The Catholic Church was stolen by force last night, but we thank God that nobody was hurt. For the time being it is not safe to move around, and it will take us some time, but we are glad of having some relief,” he wrote.

The prime minister stated Britain was ready to assist with the transition to democracy.  “We have a strong mission already in Benghazi consisting of Foreign Office, military and aid specialists, and we will establish a British diplomatic presence in Tripoli as soon as it is safe and practical to do so.

“Six months ago this country took the difficult decision to commit our military to support the people of Libya,” Mr. Cameron said.

“I said at the time that this action was necessary, legal and right – and I still believe that today.

“It was necessary because Qaddafi was going to slaughter his own people – and that massacre of thousands of innocent people was averted.

“Legal, because we secured a Resolution from the United Nations, and have always acted according to that Resolution. “

“And right, because the Libyan people deserve to shape their own future, just as the people of Egypt and Tunisia are now doing,” the prime minister said.

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