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Kunonga closes cemeteries to Harare’s Anglicans: The Church of England Newspaper, April 15, 2011 p 7. April 19, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Zimbabwe.
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Bishop Nolbert Kunonga

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The property dispute in the Diocese of Harare has passed from churches to cemeteries, with supporters of former bishop Dr. Nolbert Kunonga blocking the burial of Anglicans loyal to Bishop Chad Gandiya.

Sources in Zimbabwe tell The Church of England Newspaper the latest skirmish between the Kunonga faction, which through the backing of the security services has seized control of all church property in Harare, and the supporters of Bishop Gandiya occurred on April 10 at a cemetery outside Harare.  However, the incident at St Mary’s Cemetery in Chitungwiza was one of several confrontations between government supporters and the security services against Christians in the Central African nation.

Last month the MDC accused President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party of infiltrating the country’s churches, coercing its leadership and “further inflicting harm on religious practices by constantly interfering with the operations of the house of God.”

On April 8, Mr. Edward Rinashe (70) a life-long Anglican died at home of natural causes.  On Sunday his family brought his body for burial at St Mary’s Cemetery in the Harare suburb of Chitungwiza.

However, supporters of Dr. Kunonga refused to allow the coffin into the cemetery for burial as Mr. Rinashe had been a supporter of Dr. Gandiya.  The body was returned the funeral home and the family was forced to make other arrangements.

A spokesman for Dr. Kunonga, Bishop Alfred Munyanyi told the Voice of America the bishop would not relent and would continue to forbid access to churches and cemeteries to those who did not recognize his authority.  Bishop Munyanyi also accused Dr. Gandiya of being a British stooge who was not sufficiently loyal to the regime.

The graveyard scuffle came the day after riot police raided the Church of the Nazarene in Glen Norah, tossing gas grenades into a packed ecumenical memorial service.  With guns drawn and welding sjamboks the police emptied the building of worshippers, who had gathered to pray for the peace of Zimbabwe.

“Police just stormed the church and began to throw tear gas, wantonly dismissing people. They simply ordered people to get out and get home,” Bishop Ancelimo Magaya told Metro Zimbabwe.

The assault came shortly before Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, was scheduled to arrive.  The MDC also reported that its Harare province vice chairman, Shakespeare Mukoyi, was kidnapped by ZANU-PF thugs during the turmoil.


Call for prayer following Rio school shootings: The Church of England Newspaper, April 15, 2011 p 7. April 18, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, Church of England Newspaper, Crime.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders in Rio de Janeiro have expressed their deep sadness in the wake of last week’s school shooting that left 12 children dead.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta said he “deplored what happened. I am praying and uniting my sorrow with all those who were killed, and with their parents, families and friends.”

The primate of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, Archbishop Mauricio de Andrade commented that “in this tragedy, people close and people far away are sorry and are united in pain with the parents of the 12 murdered children. We too, from the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, are sorry and praying to God that He may comfort these families, wipe their tears and renew their hope in the resurrection.”

City spokesman Evandro Bezerra said Wellington Menezes de Oliveira (23) arrived at the Tasso da Silveira elementary school, where he had studied as a child, and was “well dressed and carrying a backpack” on the morning of April 7.

De Oliveira told school officials he had been invited to speak with students for a conference, but once inside the school he climbed to the third floor of building and began shooting.

Two students were able to escape from the building and alerted two policemen nearby.  They exchanged gunfire with de Oliveira, hitting him in the leg.  The gunmen then turned his pistol on himself and took his life.  Twelve students were killed, and twelve others wounded in the rampage.

Mr. Bezerra said de Oliveira “came to the school prepared to do what he did. The letter that was found on him is something that no normal person would write. It is an incomprehensible letter written by an eccentric person, by someone who has no love for life.”

“The moment is of pain,” Archbishop de Andrade said

“Pain for the parents of Larissa, Bianca, Géssica, Karine, Marissa, Samira, Ana Carolina, Luiza Paula, Laryssa, Milena and Rafael,” he said.

“Our prayer today is that ‘God, in all his kindness and mercy, comfort all these families in their pain, hold them together in His love so that they may be strengthen by his Grace. That they trust in His mercy and face the future days with courage and confidence in God’s Grace’,” the archbishop said.

Zambia rejects new constitution: The Church of England Newspaper, April 15, 2011. April 16, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa, Politics.
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Bishop William Mchombo of Eastern Zambia

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders in Zambia have welcomed Parliament’s rejection of a draft constitution, saying its defeat will allow consideration of a new constitution that reflects the will of the people.

On March 29 supporters of the constitution bill were unable to muster two-thirds support from the Zambian parliament.  Support broke along party lines.  MPs from the ruling MMD (Movement for Multi-Party Democracy) party endorsed the document, while MPs from the PF (Patriotic Front) and the smaller UPND (United Party for National Development) abstained or voting ‘no’.

The “people” were the “ultimate losers in this game,” a spokesman for President Rupiah Banda, Dickson Jere, told reporters after the vote.

However, church and civil society leaders, including the first chairman of the constitutional review commission, Willa Mung’omba, welcomed the outcome.  “It’s a positive thing and an opportunity for everybody to stand back and say ‘what do people want?’,” Mr. Mung’omba said.

In 2003 Mr. Mung’omba was named chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) which prepared a draft constitution in 2007 after a national consultative campaign.

President Levy Mwanawasa appointed a National Constitution Conference (NCC) to review the Mung’omba draft.  However, the president’s appointments to the NCC drew protests.  The PF, Zambia’s churches the Law Society and many of the country’s NGOs refused to participate in the constitutional process, charging the president with stacking the NCC with MMD men.

While the NCC draft contained a number of well received elements, including laws that codified women’s rights to own and inherit property, it dropped key elements of the Mung’omba draft including an economic and social Bill of Rights and the requirement that the president be elected by 50 percent plus one of votes cast.

The Anglican Bishop of Eastern Zambia, the Rt. Rev. William Mchombo told the Zambia Post the failure of the constitutional reform process was a national embarrassment, but also an opportunity for the country to get things right.

“The failure of the constitution draft bill to go through in Parliament is not what we as a nation can be proud of. It is very sad and unfortunate. It sends wrong signals to the outside world that we are not capable of managing our affairs when the opposite is very true seeing the collective intelligence that we have as a nation,” Bishop Mchombo said.

He noted the Anglican Church’s opposition to the NCC bill had been vindicated, “and as much as the Church has been vindicated, it is really sad that colossal sums of taxpayers’ money were spent to receive submissions countrywide followed by the sitting of the NCC only to reach a dead end.”

However, the rejection of the NCC Draft was “an opportune time for our leaders to retreat and reflect on the need to deliver a truly people-driven constitution,” the bishop said.

Bishop denies ‘sweetheart deal’ to defraud diocese: The Church of England Newspaper, April 15, 2011 p 8. April 16, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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Bishop Lawrence on the way to inauguration of the 4B St Werbugh CSI Hospital in Nandyal

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Nandyal in the Church of South India has denied accusations of misconduct put forward by an anti-corruption watchdog group.  The claims put forward by the Christ Centered Campaign (CCC) that he was defrauding the diocese by “gifting” a church owned hospital to a private company were untrue, Bishop PJ Lawrence tells The Church of England Newspaper.

On March 31, the CCC, a lay led advocacy group that has led the charge against corruption in the Church of South India, released a statement accusing Bishop Lawrence of having “virtually gifted away the CSI-owned St. Werburgh’s “ Hospital “in the heart of Nandyal” to a foreign controlled “private limited company.”

On March 8, 2011 the bishop granted 4B Healthcare a 30 year lease to operate and manage St Werburgh’s Hospital.  Built in 1931 by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to serve the city’s poor, the CCC said the hospital’s land, clinics and rental properties have a market value of £8.5 million.

In return for the lease, the Diocese of Nandyal is to receive “15 per cent of net surplus” from the operations or a minimum of Rs 25,000 (£350).  The CCC claims that “no payments to the CSI are likely to  materialize” as 4B Healthcare is given “sole control over accounting” in the contract, and has the right to deduct from its payments “any outstanding liabilities” for the hospital at the time of the takeover.

The CCC notes the contract gives 4B Healthcare the right to “develop the entire property by modifying, demolishing or putting up new buildings, equipment and facilities” and at the end of the lease “should the CSI want to get back the property it will have to first pay 4B for all the developments done on it.”

The anti-corruption watchdog also questioned the credentials of the buyer, noting that it had been formed in January 2010 by an American entrepreneur, who “a mere three days after the deal between 4B and the Nandyal Diocese was inked,” sold a 99 per cent interest in the company to Opportunity International Australia (OIA).

The CCC urged the CSI to “consider legally challenging the transfer of the Nandyal Hospital to a private company on terms that virtually ensure the hospital and its vast land bank are lost to CSI members forever.”

“This deal sets a very unhealthy precedent as it can be used to justify similar ‘virtual sales’ of valuable CSI property elsewhere,” the CCC said, adding that “for the many corrupt bishops who dominate the CSI this novel model shown by 4B could just be the answer they are seeking to circumvent the challenges a vigilant laity is throwing at them” to stop the stripping of the church’s assets.

Asked about the allegations, Bishop Lawrence told CEN he wished the CCC had “checked with me the fact before circulating such information” as “there is no truth in what they are saying.”

The 4B Healthcare deal was “done with the approval of the executive committee of our diocese for the good of the hospital,” the bishop said, and it was unfortunate that “a hand full of disgruntled people” were raising objections.

Bishop Lawrence added that the “so-called CCC is focusing on dissidents in every diocese to malign the bishops.”

The bishop stated that “anyone, including the CCC is welcome” to visit Nandyal “and get the facts.”

Pittsburgh petitions Pennsylvania Supreme Court: The Church of England Newspaper, April 15, 2011. April 15, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Pittsburgh, Property Litigation.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court asking it to overturn a lower court ruling that gives almost £12 million in endowment funds and control of 22 parishes to the faction aligned with the national Episcopal Church.

On Feb 2 the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court let stand a lower court ruling that awarded property held by the diocese to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh rather than the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, which withdrew from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2008.

The Anglican diocese led by Archbishop Robert Duncan on April 6 asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to review the trial court’s decision which interpreted an October 2005 stipulation between the Diocese and Calvary Episcopal Church to settle outstanding litigation.

The lower court interpreted the language of the first paragraph of the stipulation, which required the diocese to continue holding its assets for the benefit of all the parishes of the diocese regardless of how many sought to quit the Episcopal Church, to mean that if the diocese left the Episcopal Church it would turn over all of its property to the national church—a contention disputed by the diocese.

The underlying issue of whether a diocese may leave the Episcopal Church has yet to be litigated in Pittsburgh.  However, on Feb 17 Bishop Kenneth Price of the Episcopal diocese sent a letter to the 42 congregations of the Anglican diocese offering to enter into negotiations over their property.  However those congregations which did not respond by a March deadline would be considered to be in violation of the Episcopal Church’s canons and their vestries and clergy would be replaced.

A spokesman for the Anglican diocese told The Church of England Newspaper the congregations responded that they accepted the invitation to discuss the question of property, but did not accept Bishop Price’s contention that they were part of the Episcopal Church and subject to its canons.

Two congregations of the Anglican diocese have so far entered into settlement agreements with the Episcopal diocese.  One, which had already given up its property agreed to return an assortment of Eucharistic vessels and prayer books, while a second purchased their building from the diocese and agreed not to affiliate with the Anglican diocese for a period of five years.

At this point “we are in a holding pattern,” diocesan spokesman David Trautman explained.  “Some congregations may walk away from their buildings” believing their real estate is “not essential to their mission.

“Some may try to negotiate,” he added, while those parishes where title is held by the congregation and not the diocese, are likely to take no action unless the Episcopal diocese attempts a “hostile takeover”, he noted.

While the Episcopal Church’s legal strategy had left some “scared and worried,” Mr. Trautman said the overwhelming majority of the Anglican diocese’s clergy and lay leaders were committed to the fight.  Bishop Price’s February letter and the two settlements had served to “unite the clergy and lay leaders,” he said, to a degree he had not seen before.

Some “good has come out of the litigation,” Mr. Trautman noted.  “What has happened is that when people are put in a position where they are threatened” it “makes them start thinking about their mission, about what is important,” he said.

One canon lawyer familiar with the case told CEN the factions need to think through carefully their next steps.  If the Episcopal diocese pushes too hard it may find itself with a number of empty buildings which it must maintain.  If it moves against those congregations that own their own properties, which are among the largest and wealthiest of the Anglican diocese, it will have to litigate the issue of whether a diocese may withdraw from the Episcopal Church—an issue currently before the courts in Fort Worth and Central California.

The Anglican diocese must weigh the costs of pursuing the case to the state’s Supreme Court, against making an offer for the 22 congregations the Episcopal diocese now controls, he added.

Canon lawyer Allan Haley observed the current ruling is “unpublished” by the courts, and will not “set any precedent for other cases in Pennsylvania” or elsewhere.

The Pittsburgh “result once again bears out the haphazard nature of litigation — you can devote hundreds and hundreds of hours, and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars, to it, but it all comes down in the end to what, in this case, three justices—who might spend at most four or five hours on the case—think,” Mr. Haley said.

American decadence a sign of the end times, archbishop warns: The Church of England Newspaper, April 15, 2011 p 8. April 15, 2011

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

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The creeping acceptance of homosexual conduct as a moral good may be a sign that the end times are near, the Primate of the Church of Nigeria has warned.

In an interview published by the Church of Nigeria News, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh said the cultural hostility towards Christian morality in the West and the celebration of lust as godliness was a sign that “we are getting deeper and deeper into the age that was spoken of by Timothy when people will love themselves more than God, when the pleasure and comfort will determine many things.”

“We are in the end time and in this end time there are boundless opportunities of evil,” the archbishop said on April 7 drawing upon 2 Tim. 3:2, but added “but the joy of it all is that evil will not win in the end.”

While the former primate, Archbishop Peter Akinola, had led the coalition of churches opposed to the innovations of doctrine and discipline over homosexuality introduced by the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada over the past ten years, Archbishop Okoh has so far taken a lower profile on the international Anglican stage, focusing his efforts on the Nigerian scene.

However the political vacuum created by the collapse of the Lambeth Conference, the primates meeting, and the Anglican Consultative Council, along with the opprobrium in which the ACC’s staff is held by many African churches appears to have pushed the head of the communion’s largest province out in front once again.

While no formal break with the London-based instruments of the communion is likely to be announced, structures for a communion within the communion are quietly being put in place.

In a speech to the Church of Nigeria’s standing committee on March 3, Archbishop Okoh announced that a second Gafcon conference would be held in 2012, a Gafcon leaders meeting would be convened this year, and a delegation of conservative Anglican primates would make a formal visit to the Chinese church in September.

In his interview, the archbishop reiterated the Church of Nigeria’s belief that homosexual conduct was “unbiblical, ungodly, unnatural, unacceptable.”

He was fully cognizant of the charges that those who held this view were “ignorant,” and that the new understandings of same-gender relationships were foreign to the Biblical writers.  “They think we are living the old past time, [the] ancient days,” he said, noting his critics see this as a “post modern day.”

A consequence of this new age is “that they can rewrite the Bible to suit their culture the way they want it,” Archbishop Okoh said.

Special pleading by Western churches to accept their local cultural values concerning homosexuality were unconvincing, he said as the Gospel of Jesus Christ was neither time bound, geographically restricted nor culturally circumscribed.  When the Gospel came to Nigeria, the scriptures “identified areas where we were not living well and the Gospel corrected us, the Gospel transformed our lives.  For instance we were killing twins here and when it was exposed to us that we were wrong, we dropped it.”

The “irony of the situation” was that Britain had brought the Bible to Nigeria, but now Britain was saying the practices condemned by the Bible “are right.  Thank God we are not very confused, we are not confused at all,” he said.

For the African churches along with “some parts of Australia, some part of America, some parts of United Kingdom” the Scriptural condemnation of homosexuality was reinforced by the lessons of natural law. Nor was a plea to sentiment persuasive to the Nigerian Church.

Some argue the moral standard should be that “two people love themselves,” however, this is a “very selfish perspective.”

“The issue at stake is not just a case of if it will make two people happy if they love themselves.  I think that the rejection of absolute truth, absolute right and wrong had turned everything to the doctrine of relativism,” the archbishop said.

“We are in a kind of free moral fall and we do not know when it is going to stop,” he said.

However, the archbishop urged patience and perseverance in the face of the moral rot coming from the West.  “This is God’s own world and according to Daniel 4;17, the Lord rules the affairs of men and the whole book of Revelation is telling us that no matter the strength of evil God has the victory at last,” Archbishop Okoh said.

Bishop calls for decriminalisation of homosexuality: The Church of England Newspaper, April 14, 2011 April 14, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Uganda, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A former Ugandan bishop has urged a UN panel in New York to press for the decriminalization of homosexuality to help fight the HIV/AIDs epidemic.

On April 8, Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo told the panel the “criminalisation of homosexuality remains the most significant barrier” to halting the spread of the disease.  “We need to ask if our laws or beliefs help or prevent the spread of HIV and hinder or support families caring for loved ones,” the bishop said according to press accounts of the gathering.

The one-time Church of Uganda bishop is not the sole African Anglican voice urging moderation of the continent’s sodomy laws, with bishops in Central, South, East and West African urging a rethink.  In March, Bishop Brighton Malasa of Upper Shire, Malawi urged caution over government calls to criminalize lesbian behavior, while the Church of Uganda and the Church of Burundi last year quietly lobbied their governments against introducing harsher regulations governing homosexual conduct.

A controversial figure within the African Church, Bishop Ssenyonjo has been a public advocate for reforming Uganda’s sodomy laws, and changing the Church of Uganda’s teachings on homosexuality.

Supporters of Bishop Ssenyonjo, who retired as the second Bishop of West Buganda in 1999, have often brought him to the US and UK to campaign for gay rights causes.  In 2010 the bishop participated in the consecration of the suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool—the Episcopal Church’s second ‘gay’ bishop.

However, reports on the bishop’s background provided by his partisans have misstated his status, the Church of Uganda tells The Church of England Newspaper.  Claims the bishop was deposed in 2007 for his support for the gay community or his association with gay pressure groups are false, the church notes.

Bishop Ssenyonjo was deposed on Jan 17, 2007 by the Church of Uganda after he took part in the consecration as bishop of a former Anglican priest for the independent Charismatic Church of Uganda, the Ugandan provincial secretary told CEN.

“One of the co-consecrators was another deposed Uganda Bishop, the former bishop of North Mbale. He had been deposed because he took a second wife. So, Ssenyonjo was not deposed because of his association” with gay advocacy groups, the spokesman said, but for having conferred episcopal orders upon a priest in a church not in communion with the Church of Uganda.

Tohoku ‘annihilated’ archbishop reports: The Church of England Newspaper, April 8, 2011 p 7. April 13, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Disaster Relief, Nippon Sei Ko Kai.
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Bishop John Kato of Tohoku at the 2008 Lambeth Conference

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Primate of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK), the Anglican Church in Japan, writes that two weeks after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami struck northeast Japan, the number of dead and missing has risen to over 30,000.

“Villages and towns along the coastline of Tohoku region were almost all annihilated,” Archbishop Nathaniel Uematsu said in a March 30 report to the Anglican Communion.

“In addition, because of the fear of the radiation leak as a result of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor, people who live in the 30km radius of the reactor were told to evacuate. They are having a difficult life in evacuation centres in places far away from their homes. In fact, the fear of nuclear contamination is felt not only by those people who live within the 30km radius, but also by people in Tokyo, which is more than 100km away. Many people are living with uncertainty,” the Archbishop said.

On March 26 the Archbishop travelled to Sendai City, the largest city in the Tohoku region and site of the Cathedral of the Diocese of Tohoku. “Parts of the walls had fallen down, the walls were cracked. It looked to me as the whole building was lopsided,” Archbishop Uematsu said, adding that because of the risk of aftershocks, the congregation was worshipping in the neighbouring church hall.

Accompanied by the Bishop of Tohoku, the Rt Rev John Hiromichi Kato, the Archbishop visited the “devastated area along the coastline of Sendai City. The devastation caused by the tsunami was simply beyond our imagination. The tsunami reached the fourth floor of buildings destroying everything. The wreckage of houses and the huge number of cars are simply still lying there. Police and members of the Japan Defence Regiment were still looking for corpses. There was no sign of life there. Standing in that area surrounded by nothing but wreckage, all we could do was silently look at the scene in front of us and pray.”

The troubles at the Fukushima nuclear reactor have compounded the misery of Tohoku, the Archbishop reported as fears of “radiation contamination” have left people “wary” of delivering relief supplies. “As a result, the evacuees are in real dire straits because they are not receiving enough food,” the Archbishop said.

However, “Japan is a wealthy country and I imagine that once the transport infrastructure is restored and fuel is once again available that local supplies will reach the affected areas,” he said.

What the church in Japan “really would like” is for Christians “across the world to do is support us by praying. The Japanese Church is a small church, but knowing that brothers and sisters in the worldwide Communion are praying for victims and the Church’s relief activities, that gives them strength. I would also be very grateful if they would support us financially now and in the future so that we can help restore people’s lives and our church communities,” the Archbishop said.

Dorset dog walker saves church from fire: The Church of England Newspaper, April 8, 2011 p 3. April 13, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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Firemen inspecting the roof of St Mary's Maiden Newtown after the March 30 blaze

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

An early morning stroll saved a 12th century Dorset church from destruction last week, when a dog-walker saw smoke rising from St Mary’s Church in Maiden Newton and called for help.

While out walking his spaniel, Alex Adair-Charlton (39) of Maiden Newton saw a cloud of smoke or mist hovering above the village’s medieval church.  His curiosity turned to alarm, however, when he saw flames rising from the church’s roof, and he telephoned the fire services from his mobile phone.

A team from the village fire service arrived within four minutes of the 6:20 am alarm, and by the end of the day approximately 30 firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze. An aerial platform was brought in to fight the blaze, so as not to damage the church’s wooden doors, believed to be among the oldest in England.

In a letter to his congregation, the Team Rector of Melbury, the Rev. Graham Perryman stated it was “almost certain” the fire had been “caused by an electrical fault.”

The “obvious damage sustained consists of a hole in the roof about a metre square, damage to the roof felting under a larger area of the roof, fire damage to some of the roof timbers, the destruction of the electrical cabling and meters in the chancel, blistering and damage to the lime render/skim on the walls of the chancel, and some minor water damage,” he said..

However, the “most significant damage has been caused by smoke,” Mr. Perryman said, adding “Truly, ‘the smoke filled the temple’,” a reference to Isaiah 6.4.

“Everything will have to be cleaned, or discarded and replaced, from hymnbooks to monuments,” he noted with an “estimate of the cost to put things right is about £250,000.”

The church was “saddened and shocked, but in good spirit, and looking forward,” Mr. Perryman said.

“We are blessed with fully committed churchwardens, a dedicated and gifted DCC, and a flexible and enthusiastic congregation. We are convinced that ‘All things work together for good’ (Rom 8.28). We give thanks to God for the swiftness of the response to the fire, for the efficiency and care of Ecclesiastical Insurances, who have been superb, for the prompt attention and attendance of the Bishop, Archdeacon and architect, and the overwhelming offers of support and sympathy from the community and other churches,” the vicar said.

St Mary’s Maiden Newton is no stranger to misfortune.  In 2009 a burglar stole the church’s Elizabethan altar plate, making off with silver chalices, servers and a flagon.

Mr. Perryman told The Church of England Newspaper only one item has been recovered so far, a silver plated flagon.  The stolen flagon was “discovered by a dog in a rabbit hole near Chard about 9 months ago. The theft was covered by insurance , and we bought the flagon back from [EIG], as it had the name of the church engraved on it.”

No plans to update House of Lords prayers, govt says: The Church of England Newspaper, April 8, 2011 p 4. April 12, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords.
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Bishop John Packer addressing the House of Lords

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The government has no plans to alter or end the practice of reciting prayers before the start of business in the House of Lords.

The March 31 statement came in response to a question from Lib Dem peer, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, who asked whether it was now time for prayers to reflect thedifferent faiths and different denominations we have, not only in the House but in the United Kingdom”.

While Labour peer Lord Hughes of Woodside, the honorary vice president of the British Humanist Association, stated that his “personal preference is that we should not have prayers at all,” the sentiment in the Lords was against altering the current practice.

Lord Roberts, a one-time Methodist minister, suggested adding a “minute of silence or reflection” in addition to the prayer offered by bishops of the Church of England at to the start of business.

Lord Anderson of Swansea state that while he was a Welsh non-conformist, the Labour peer said he was “wholly satisfied with the timeless sentiments and superlative prose of the present prayers.”  He added that it was his hope the House of Lords would emulate the House of Commons “all repeat the grace” at the close of prayers “as is done in the other house.”

Conservative peer Lord Cormack noted there were “many in this House who are not of the Christian faith, such as my noble friend who sits beside me and is a Hindu,” referring to Lord Popat, who nonetheless welcomed the “sentiment contained within the prayers and the majesty of the language with which they are uttered.”

The Chairman of Committees, Lord Brabazon of Tara, stated at attendance at prayers was voluntary, and noted that bishops sat as Lords spiritual “by being representatives of the established church and the prayers reflect that”.

The current practice of reciting prayers began in 1558, he noted, and reached its current form during the reign of Charles II, with slight modifications in 1970 and 1979 to allow for a range of Psalms.  “It might be a little premature to consider changing them” at this time, Lord Brabazon added.

The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt. Rev. John Packer, told the House that Lord Roberts “makes an important point about how the House is to demonstrate its inclusivity while retaining what is good and worthwhile in its living heritage. In this year of celebration of the King James Bible, and its continuing inspiration 400 years on, will the Chairman of Committees comment on whether our Prayers, which date from the same era, also embody virtues which are simple, eternal and unifying?”

Lord Brabazon responded he was sure the “right reverend Prelate is right. If there are further recommendations for changes to the Prayers used, I would be happy to look at them.”

Harare Mothers’ Union ordered to sign pro-Mugabe petition: The Church of England Newspaper, April 8, 2011 p 8. April 12, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Mission Societies/Religious Orders, Zimbabwe.
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Mothers Union members in Zimbabwe

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Mothering Sunday took on political overtones this week in Central Africa, with church leaders marking the 4th Sunday of Lent with spirited addresses to diocesan chapters of the Mothers’ Union.

On March 26, Agatha Kunonga, wife of Dr. Nolbert Kunonga—the breakaway Bishop of Harare—instructed members of the Mothers’ Union loyal to her husband to sign a petition prepared by Robert Mugabe’s ZANU(PF) party protesting sanctions imposed by the international community against the Zimbabwe strongman.

But across the Zambezi, the Bishop of Lusaka marked April 3, Mothering Sunday, with a call for all Zambians to register and vote in this year’s general elections.

In an address to the Zambian Mothers’ Union at St Peter’s Church in Lusaka, Bishop David Njovu urged all Zambians to exercise their right to vote, and to do so in a peaceful and orderly fashion.

The bishop said the Anglican Church would not take sides nor endorse candidates in this year’s election, which will pit incumbent President Rubiah Banda of the ruling Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) against his 2008 challenger, Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front (PF) party.

Bishop Njovu urged partisans of both parties to be careful in their language, and urged those who will be disappointed by the outcome of the vote not to resort to violence.

An implicit threat of violence for those who opposed President Robert Mugabe and the ruling ZANU(PF) party in Zimbabwe was given in an address to the Mothers Union at St Mary’s Cathedral in Harare the prior Sunday.

In Harare two groups claim the mantle of Mothers Union: a faction led by Mrs. Kunonga and the larger group recognized by the worldwide Mothers Union and is led by Mrs. Faith Gandiya–wife of Bishop Chad Gandiya.  In an address to her faction, Mrs. Agatha Kunonga marked the annual Zuva raAmai Maria ( Lady Day) ceremony at the cathedral with a fierce denunciation of Britain and the West for its sanctions against President Mugabe and his allies.

“The sanctions have affected every Zimbabwean regardless of political affiliation. They have also hit hard on all sectors of the economy, ranging from agriculture, industry, tourism and even sport; so this calls for collective denouncement of the sanctions,” Mrs. Kunonga said, according to a report broadcast by the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.

Mrs. Kunonga, whose husband is among those banned from entering the EU or US, and whose assets in the West have been frozen due to his complicity in the crimes of the Mugabe regime, led the blue and white clad members of the Mothers Union in hymn singing and ZANU(PF) party songs.

Each member of the Mothers Union in Harare was directed to sign the anti-sanctions petition launched on March  2 by President Mugabe.  The government is seeking to gathering over 2 million signatures, and has allegedly arrested political opponents who have bowed out of the campaign.

On March 29 The Zimbabwean reported that an MDC activist was arrested by the secret police for refusing to sign the petition.  Opposition leaders have rejected the national petition campaign, claiming it is an attempt by the government to shift the blame for its failed economic policies which have rendered Zimbabwe destitute.

Octavia Hill estates sold: The Church of England Newspaper, April 8, 2011 p 7. April 11, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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Octavia Hill, by John Singer Sargent

The Octavia Hill estate has turned out to be a financial loser for the partnership that purchased the 1500 residential housing units in Walworth, Vauxhall and Waterloo in 2006 from the Church Commissioners for almost £200 million.

On March 21 Genesis Housing Group announced it had sold its fifty per cent stake in the Grainger Geninvest LLP venture to property giant Grainer PLC for £15 million.

In a March 23 statement, the companies said the sale followed a “strategic review:” by Genesis which will focus “on its core portfolio to allow reinvestment in other parts of the Genesis business such as building more affordable homes as well as continuing to invest in refurbishment and maintenance of existing properties.”

The companies’ 2010 annual reports offered conflicting assessments of the properties’ prospects.  Genesis stated that as a result of ongoing operating losses due to interest charges continuing to exceed rental income, “the value of the group’s investment in these portfolios has been reduced below cost.”

However, Grainger’s 2010 annual report noted the “residential values in Grainger Geninvest increased by 5 per cent in the year to the end of September.”

In 2005 property giant Grainger and Genesis Housing Association formed the 50/50 joint venture to acquire a £70m portfolio of 461 residential units from the Church Commissioners. The partnership acquired a further 1,138 units for £196m between March and June 2006.

The 2006 sale generated sharp protests from the tenants and political pressure to cancel the deal.  On Feb 6, 2006 Labour minister Harriet Harman, former minister Kate Hoey, and Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes urged General Synod to intervene and cancel the “deplorable” deal.

“We understand that the Church Commissioners have received at least two reasonable offers from social housing associations and urge you to ensure that these bids are recognised as having far greater value than any private bid. These London properties are centrally positioned and we are concerned that residents will be priced out of their homes if a private bid is successful,” they said in a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Octavia Hill housing estates, named after the social reformer and co-founder of the National Trust–Octavia Hill, were built in the 19th century to provide affordable homes for working tenants.  Tenants protested the 2006 sale of 1138 units as Grainger Geninvest LLP had imposed above-inflation rent rises on the residents of the 461 units it purchased from the Church Commissioners in 2005.

Lambeth Palace chief of staff Chris Smith assured the MPs Dr. Williams was aware of their concerns.  “The archbishop held an urgent meeting to ensure that those responsible for the decision were fully aware of your and other’s concerns. It has been important that the assets committee is advised about the whole range of issues surrounding these proposed sales.”

Apart from his assurances of concern, Dr. Williams took no other action in the affair.  However, the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt. Rev. Thomas Butler told the House of Lords “many of us in the church would be greatly disturbed if the Octavia Hill houses were not sold to a social landlord.”

The government said it would not intervene.  Local government minister Lady Andrews told the peers the Church Commissioners were “a private landlord, and their statutory obligation is to manage their investments in the wider interests of the Church community.”

Complaints over the consortium’s management of the properties have ensued since the purchase.  In September, Inside Housing reported a dispute had arisen between the tenants association and the partnership.   The Church Commissioner’s tenants’ handbook stated that a tenancy could be handed on to a spouse/partner, or to a family member if they had lived in the unit for more than two years.

A spokesman for the consortium said it would not be bound by the Church Commissioner’s handbook as the “legal right to a succession” was “defined in law rather than in a handbook produced by the previous owners.”

Bishop backs call for govt to implement the UK Bribery Act: The Church of England Newspaper, April 8, 2011 p 6. April 11, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Corruption, House of Lords.
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Bishop Michael Langrish addressing the House of Lords

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Exeter has joined with other public figures in endorsing a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron calling upon the government to bring the UK Bribery Act into force.

However, Treasury minister Lord Sassoon on March 17 said the government was committed to bringing the Bribery Act into force in “a way that tackles corruption while not imposing unnecessary cost and uncertainty on legitimate business and trade”.

The open letter endorsed by the bishop and seven other religious leaders and prepared by Christian Aid, Tearfund and Cafod called upon the government to implement the law, which was adopted with cross-party support in April 2010.  “The Act will help to reduce the bribery that has such a damaging effect on poor communities worldwide and fulfil Britain’s international obligations – notably the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention,” the statement said.

Concerns over the mechanics of enforcement and implementation raised by industry caused the government to delay its implementation from October to April 2011, with the director general of the Confederation of British Industry, John Cridland, describing it as “not fit for purpose”.

In February the government said the implementation of the act had now been delayed indefinitely.

The delay has angered anti-corruption activists.  “Bribery is neither the victimless crime nor the necessary evil that some UK companies may suggest,” said George Boden of Global Witness.

“It cripples development and it’s bad for our long-term business interests. British companies should back their superior technical capacity with high ethical standards, not compete in a race to the bottom to see who can pay the largest bribes – which we would likely lose anyway,” he said.

“’Bribery is already illegal, but companies are operating under laws which are chronically outdated,” argued Mr. Boden.

Opening a debate on the UK’s record on bribery and money laundering legislation, Lib Dem peer Baroness Williams of Crosby, who was a Labour cabinet minister in the 1970s, said Britain needed to “stand up and be counted” among countries which find “corruption and bribery utterly unacceptable”.

“To try to escape the bribery convention would be deeply damaging to British business, because it would suggest our business and our trade depends upon special deals often with very dodgy regimes indeed,” Lady Williams said.

Labour peer Lord Davies of Oldham noted his party was “anxious about the degree of delay not least because we look a lot weaker in this area than the US.  We look a lot weaker than Hong Kong.  We look a lot weaker than our direct international competitors.”

Treasury minister Lord Sassoon responded that the government did not consider bribery an “acceptable way to do business, it distorts markets and causes immense damage in developing and emerging economies,” he added.

The minister said guidance on the Act would be published “shortly” and the Act would come into force three months after that date.

1000 dead in Ivory Coast church massacre: The Church of England Newspaper, April 8, 2011 p 7. April 9, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of West Africa.
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President Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Over a 1000 Christians have been killed by Muslim soldiers at a mission station in Duékoué in the Ivory Coast, the aid agency Caritas has reported.

Details of the massacre remain unclear, with conflicting reports on the number of dead.  However, wire service reports and news bulletins released by the Salesian Info Agency (ANS) report the killings began on March 29 and are tied to the civil war between President Laurent Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara.

Anglican leaders in West Africa have lamented the growing unrest, and have called upon Christians to turn to the Scriptures and reflect on the paradox of a region endowed by God with tremendous material resources that is also home to tremendous poverty, sickness and political instability.

On March 31, ANS reported that approximately 10,000 refugees had taken shelter at the Salesian Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus mission in Duékoué some 300 miles west of the capital of Abidjan near the border with Liberia.  “The flow of refugees is extraordinary. The arrival of those from the Carrefour district together with those from other parts of the city means that the courtyard of the parish has quickly become totally occupied,” Roman Catholic news service said.

Over the past two weeks Ouattara’s “Republican Forces” have moved south from their bases in the predominantly Muslim northern region of the Ivory Coast and have taken the capital Yamoussoukro and the major port of San Pedro.  The Republican Forces, with Western backing, have now encircled President Gbagbo’s forces in the commercial capital of Abidjan.

The killings began when the Republican Forces, whom international observers declared the winner of the December 2010 election against President Gbagbo, moved into the region—which voted heavily for President Gbagbo.  The attackers were described by The Herald Scotland as “soldiers descended from Burkina Faso immigrant Muslim families loyal to Ouattara.”

According to the International Committee for the Red Cross, the victims were mainly men who had been shot and left for dead.  The UN has reported that “hundreds” of bodies have been found around the mission, but Caritas estimated that over 1000 were killed.

On April 4, ANS reported “at present there are only two Salesians there who have to try to respond to the appeals for help from about 20,000 people. UNO is helping to provide some provisions for the mission but distribution is not easy and the quantity is not sufficient to satisfy all the needs.”

The violence in the Ivory Coast was a sign of the failure of the region’s political and social institutions, church leaders said.

At the close of the March 21-25 Synod of the Church of the Province of West Africa held in Conakry in neighboring Guinea, Anglican leaders gave thanks to “God for the abundant grace of natural and mineral resources” of West Africa, but noted they “also had reason to be pained by and to be penitent for the numerous and seemingly incessant hardships and misfortunes made manifest in political instability, wanton destruction of human life and property, displaced and in-between peoples.”

“We are struck by the irony that the region so well endured by God has become almost synonymous with disease” and “poverty,” the synod said, and urged a turn to Scripture for the “discernment of the will of God” for the future of West Africa.

“We urge all Christians to be pro-active as well in joining others to create structures that will approximate to the vision of the Kingdom of God” and affirmed the propriety of Christian “engagement with socio-economic-political issues as a means of realizing of God’s kingdom on earth and reaching out to the world outside the Church.”

Episcopal Church aging and out of touch survey finds: The Church of England Newspaper, April 8, 2011 p 8. April 8, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
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Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori protesting US immigration policies on the Arizona border in 2010.

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The leadership of the Episcopal Church is out of touch and unrepresentative of its membership, a report published by the national church’s statistics office reveals.

A paper released last month by the church’s department for Congregational and Diocesan Ministries finds the membership of the national church is evenly divided along theological grounds, and also offers a snapshot of the denomination’s health.

Based upon responses received from 837 Episcopal parishes the findings paint a picture of an aging and divided church.

Over half, 52.4 per cent, of the congregations are small, with an average worship attendance of less than 70 people with the median parish having 66 persons at Sunday worship in 2009, a decline of 15 per cent since the fight over the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.

The median Episcopal congregation had 160 members in 2009, down from 182 in 2003.  Sixty per cent of these members are female, 86.7 per cent are of European (white) descent, and 69 per cent of all congregations report more than half of their members are over 50 years of age.

Episcopalians are older than their neighbors, with 30 per cent aged 65 or older, compared to a national average of 13 per cent.  Children and young people are found in Episcopal congregations at less than half their rate in the general population, the survey found.

Some 89 per cent of Episcopal congregations reported having conflicts or disagreements in the last five years, with “ordination of gay priests or bishops” cited as the “most frequently mentioned source of conflict.”  This rate of conflict within the church is down somewhat from the rate of 93 per cent in 2005 and 90 per cent in 2008.  However, of congregations that had serious conflict: 93 per cent saw members leave the church, 50 per cent saw members withhold funds, and 26 per cent saw staff turnover.

The proportion of parishes in financial difficulty rose sharply over the past decade.  Only 28 per cent of congregations reported being in “excellent” or “good” financial shape in the survey, compared to 56 per cent in 2000.

While the national church’s leadership as reflected in the Presiding Bishop, Executive Council, the elected Deputies to the General Convention and its bishops have swung sharply to the left over the past decade, this trend has not been repeated among people in the pews.  These findings have also been reflected in the disconnect between the pronouncements of the House of Bishops on social issues, most always from a left wing perspective, and surveys of membership on issues such as immigration and economics, which find the church’s members more closely aligned with national secular survey samples.

The survey found the church evenly divided along theological grounds.

5 per cent call themselves “very liberal or progressive”; 24 per cent call themselves “somewhat liberal or progressive”; 41 per cent call themselves “moderate”; 23 per cent call themselves “somewhat conservative”; 7 per cent call themselves “conservative”.

The report also found that conservative congregations were “much more likely to have experienced serious conflict during the last five years regarding the ordination of gay clergy than more liberal congregations,” the report found.

Fort Worth cases halted pending appellate review: The Church of England Newspaper, April 8, 2011 p 7. April 8, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation.
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Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A Texas trial court has suspended proceedings in the Fort Worth property disputes, until the state’s appeals court rules on issue of whether a diocese may secede from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

On April 5 Tarrant County Judge John Chupp granted the motion brought by Bishop Jack Iker and Diocese of Fort Worth to sever and stay all further proceedings in the main lawsuit  “pending a final determination of the severed claims through the appellate process.”

The order follows the judge’s January 21 ruling in favor of the national church, which directed the diocese to turn over all of its property within 60 days.  The diocese subsequently asked Judge Chupp to stay his ruling requiring the diocese’s assets be turned over to the national church.  The diocese argued its 6000 active members, parochial school students and the participants in its social service programmes would be irreparably harmed by turning over the properties to the national church while the issues remained outstanding.

On March 31, the day of the hearing, attorneys for the national church and its supporters in Fort Worth filed an additional 2000 page pleading, asking the court to rule on their “seventh amended original petition and new motion for partial summary judgment before he addressed Fort Worth’s request for a stay.  The judge responded six days later by moving the entire case to the appeals court for review.

In his January decision, Judge Chupp stated the Episcopal Church was a hierarchical church, and as such, the diocese’s property could be claimed by the national church.  At the March 31 hearing the Judge said it would now be up to the appellate court to decide whether the Episcopal Church is a “hierarchical church or not.”

However the legal issue in question lawyers for Fort Worth have argued, is not the theological question of hierarchy, but how the “neutral principles of law” approach adopted by the Texas and US courts should decide the issue.

In a statement released after the January decision Bishop Iker said, “We are obviously disappointed by Judge Chupp’s ruling and see it as fundamentally flawed. We are confident that the Court of Appeals will carefully consider our appeal and will rule in accordance with neutral principles of law as practiced in the State of Texas.”

No bishop for Tuam: The Church of England Newspaper, April 8, 2011 p 7. April 8, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland.
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Bishop Richard Henderson of Tuam

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The March 30 meeting of the Church of Ireland Episcopal Electoral College for the United Diocese of Tuam, Killala and Achonry, meeting at Church House in Armagh was unable to appoint a new bishop for the small rural diocese.

Under the constitution of the Church of Ireland, the appointment of a new bishop rests with the House of Bishops.  However, the appointment of a successor for Dr Richard Henderson, who stepped down as bishop last year to take up a parochial cure in Cumbria is uncertain.

On March 5 a special meeting of the Irish General Synod in Dublin rejected a bill put forward by the House of Bishops to postpone appointing a new bishop for the diocese of 2000 active members gathered in nine parishes, or unions of congregations in County Mayo and portions of Counties Sligo and Galway in the far west of Ireland.

While the bill was defeated by a ten to one margin in the lay order and a five to one margin in the clergy order, questions were raised about the feasibility of the current diocesan structures.

In a statement released after Bishop Henderson announced his resignation, Reform Ireland asked whether Ireland  could “afford so many bishops?”

It noted the number of bishops had remained unchanged for over a century, while the numbers of active members had declined as had the church’s “ability to finance itself. Just recently, the Church of Ireland was one of the biggest losers in Ireland’s banking fiasco, losing €17million euro in its share values,” Reform Ireland noted.

While “no-one wants to see Church of Ireland people not episcopally catered for” Reform Ireland asked if the church needed its current structure of 12 diocesan bishops to oversee approximately 500 clergy.  “The Church of Ireland has faced difficult days before and these are similar times when some tough decisions about the number of bishops need to be taken,” the conservative evangelical group said.

The Anglican Church in the West of Ireland has been undergoing consolidation since the early Nineteenth Century. In 1834 parliament amalgamated the diocese of Killala and Achonry with the Archdiocese of Tuam.  Following the death of Archbishop Power Trench in 1839 the province of Tuam was united to the Province of Armagh and its episcopal officeholder changed from an archbishop to bishop.

Malaysia ends Bible ban: The Church of England Newspaper, April 8, 2011 p 8. April 7, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia, Persecution, Politics.
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Bishop Bolly Lapok of Kuching

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Malaysian government has lifted its Bible ban.  On April 2, cabinet minister Idris Jala announced that Malaysians would be free to import and print the al-Kitab, the Malay-language Bible.

However, several conditions were attached to the “10 point solution” proposed by the government in response to the unprecedented protest campaign waged by Church leaders.

Last month the government demanded that as a condition of their release, the 5100 copies of the al-Kitab imported by the Bible Society of Malaysia be stamped with a government warning that read: ““Reminder: This ‘al-Kitab Berita Baik’ is for the use of Christians only. By order of the Home Minister.”

The Bibles were also to be sequentially numbered and registered with the government and the cover of each book was to bear the seal of the Home Ministry.  A second shipment of 30,000 Malay Bibles imported by the The Gideons, but held in customs in Kuching, would also have been subjected to the government warning label and stamps.

Church leaders denounced the government’s actions.  The Anglican Bishop of Kuching, the Rt. Rev. Bolly Lapok said the demand was “ridiculous because it is illegal constitutionally,” while the Anglican Bishop of West Malaysia, the Rt. Rev. Ng Moon Hing, speaking on behalf of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, rejected “the government’s contention that the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia is prejudicial to the national interest and security of Malaysia.”

On April 2, Mr. Jala said the government’s “10 point solution” to the dispute would permit unfettered access of imported copies of the al-Kitab into Sarawak and Sabah.  Local publishers would also be allowed to print the al-Kitab as well as offer editions of the Bible in local languages.

However, in West Malaya, the al-Kitab would be allowed to be distributed and imported freely, but the cover of each book must bear a cross and the words “Christian publication.”

“I hope this 10-point solution will be received positively by the Christian groups as being fair and reasonable. I think the Bible issue is very unfortunate and, in the spirit of Lent, it is time for sacrifice, reconciliation and forgiveness,” Mr. Idris said.

“And for all our shortcomings in handling the Bible issue, I hope the Christians will find it in their hearts to forgive us,” the minister said.

Church leaders have offered mixed responses to the government’s offer. Bishop Lapok said he was pleasantly surprised by the “generosity and sensitivity” of the decision.

While the government’s actions were but “an ointment for a symptom,” Bishop Lapok was nonetheless heartened by the “government’s commitment to work with the churches to address inter-religious issues.”

However the Roman Catholic Bishop of Malacca & Johor Paul Tan called the two sets of rules “evil”.

“If the policy is one for Sabah and Sarawak and another for Peninsula Malaysia, this is tantamount to using the insidious tactic of ‘divide and rule.’ I adamantly condemn and reject such means,” the bishop told the Malaysiakini website.

Kenyan call to combat the “vice” of corruption: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2011 p 8. April 6, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper, Corruption.
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Standing Committee members meeting in Nairobi

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

New dioceses, a new university and concerns over government corruption and political wrangling topped the bill of the Anglican Church of Kenya’s standing committee meeting last month in Nairobi.

Meeting from March 2-3 at All Saints Cathedral, the standing committee began work on a ten year plan for the church taking as its slogan, ‘Together for Christ’.  In 2011 the church will focus its energies on Kenya’s “education debate; our commitment to developing the Anglican University and engaging intentionally in programs that will address peace building and conflict management.”

Church leaders discussed the proposal to create a new diocese from the Marsabit Area Mission—some 350 miles north of Nairobi near the border with Ethiopia.  The standing committee also approved the creation of the Kenya Anglican University Trust to oversee the construction and operation of the new school which is to be built at Kanyuambora in the Diocese of Mbeere.

Sunday March 27 was designated “Provincial Education Day” by the standing committee, and a goal of raising 300 million Kenyan Shillings was set to begin the first stage of construction.

Every Kenyan Anglican was asked to contribute to the school: “at least 100 Shillings for adults,  50 for youth and 20 for children;” (20 Shillings equals 15 pence.)

The church leaders also urged government leaders to stamp out corruption and implement responsibly the constitution adopted last year, and “commit themselves to working towards ensuring an equitable distribution of resources and the strengthening of institutions that will ensure good governance and put a stop to the relentless pursuit for power.”

“We urge all our national leaders to focus on keeping Kenya united especially as we move towards 2012 general elections by desisting from dividing people along ethnic lines or running into ethnic enclaves for support in political contests,” the standing committee said, urging President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga “to rise above personal interests and focus on national issues by ensuring continuous and meaningful consultations” with the people.

The Church “notes with a lot of concern that some of our political leaders have been misleading the nation with their careless utterances,” the said, reminding politicians that they must comport themselves in a “dignified manner as they discharge their official duties in and out of Parliament and respect the codes of conduct that govern various institutions.”

Corruption was not solely a government problem, they said, and “winning the war against corruption will not be just confined to the top leaders.”

“We encourage all Kenyans to once again take the fight against corruption seriously and personally. In order to achieve this, every Kenyan must support the institutions and structures that have been put in place to fight this vice,” the said.

Army families counselling offered by the MU: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2011 p 7. April 6, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Mission Societies/Religious Orders.
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Lord & Lady Dannatt with the Lord Lieutenant of Kent at Canterbury Cathedral

The Mothers’ Union (MU) in the Diocese of Winchester in conjunction with the Armed Forces Christian Union has launched a pilot programme to provide family counseling services to active duty members of the armed forces.

Using a group of qualified therapists, the MU will fund up to six sessions with a counselor for couples where at least one spouse is currently serving in the military.  “At present, we are only able to make the offer to couples with some connection with the Winchester Diocesan area (covering parts of Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire),” the MU reported, but the “connection can be that of birth, residence, posting or family residing within the Diocese.”

The need for support services for military families “came about through the awareness of members in this Diocese of the number of military bases in our region, and contact with some forces families” through MU projects, the organization said.

One member, supported by the Mothers’ Union Trustees of this diocese, has worked closely with the Armed Forces Christian Union and senior chaplaincy staff, with the support of the former chief of the general staff and his wife, Lord and Lady Dannett.

General Lord Dannatt and Lady Dannatt have expressed their “absolute delight at the launch of this pilot scheme” to provide funding for relationship counselling to armed forces personnel, and “wish it every success,” the MU said.

Lady Dannatt’s own experiences as a counsellor and army wife have encouraged her to draw attention to the difficulties facing the families of soldiers and the lack of support currently available to them. Making available professional relationship counselling is one of the ways in which the MU and Armed Forces Christian Union can help those in need, she said.

‘Life sentence’ for abuse for US priest: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2011 p 7. April 5, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Central New York, Church of England Newspaper.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

An 84 year old former Episcopal priest has been imprisoned by a Pennsylvania court following a March 24 conviction for raping two boys.

Ralph Johnson, who served as a parish priest in Pennsylvania and New York for over 30 years, was sentenced to a 4-1/2 to 18 year term of imprisonment by the Susquehanna County Court, following his November guilty plea.  At the sentencing hearing last week, Mr. Johnson’s attorney, John Petorak, asked the court for mercy.  He asked that his client be given “some hope of coming out” of prison “while he’s still alive.”

“He is probably going to serve out the remainder of his life in prison,” said the defense attorney.

However, a statement read to the court by one of Johnson’s victims said the former priest’s “use of religion as a means to harvest young men is more blasphemous than those who are not true believers.”

The victim, who was between the ages of 11 and 15 when he was abused by Mr. Johnson and is now in his 30s, urged the court to be firm, just “as he gave his victims no leniency.”

The second victim, who was 14 at the time of the assault is now in his 20’s and is mentally disabled.

While Johnson was convicted for crimes committed in Pennsylvania, allegations of misconduct have also been raised in neighboring New York.  In 2002, the Rev. David Bollinger, a successor of Johnson’s as rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Owego, told Central New York Bishop Gladstone Adams of reports of misconduct by Johnson shared with him by parishioners.

The bishop initially declined to act as the Owego victims did not come forward.  However, on Jan 12, 2005, one victim executed an affidavit, witnessed by Fr. Bollinger and a second Central New York priest, accusing Johnson of having assaulted him 20 years earlier on a church camping trip.  In May 2006, Johnson renounced his priestly orders without admitting his guilt.

Fr. Bollinger told The Church of England Newspaper the “courage and persistence of the victims should be praised given the resistance of the church to face the truth” of the abuse.

“Justice has finally come to the victims,” he said.

Contempt citation handed down by court in Indian church corruption trial: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2011 p 8. April 5, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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Bishop Vasanthakumar

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Karnataka high court has issued a contempt notice to the Bangalore police after they failed to carry out a judge’s order to investigate fraud and corruption charges leveled against the Moderator of the Church of South India (CSI).

On Dec 9, Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar asked the police to complete their investigations “as soon as possible, but not later than the outer limit of two months” into a criminal compaling filed against the CSI Moderator, Bishop Suputhrappa Vasanthakumar, his wife Nirmala, daughter Aparna, and personal secretary Patricia Job.

On April 30, 2010 Mr. I Sounder Raj, a member of St. Peter’s parish in Kolar Gold Fields filed a complaint in the Bangalore magistrate’s court alleging the bishop and his wife had embezzled diocesan funds.  The thefts had been on-going since April 2002, Mr. Raj said, and involved theft, forgery, fraud, and the sale of admissions to church schools.

Prosecutors told the court last year that the police had investigated similar accusations lodged against Bishop Vasanthakumar and had filed a ‘B’ report—a police form that states a case could not be made against the accused.

The Raj complaint, however, was brought after the B report was filed, attorneys told the court.  Judge Shantanagoudar ordered the police to complete their review of the case and report their findings by the end of February.  The police have so far declined to act on the judge’s order, prompting the contempt notice from the court.

London memorial services for slain Pakistani leader: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2011 p 7. April 5, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan.
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Shahbaz Bhatti

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Memorial services for slain Pakistani government minister Shahbaz Bhatti were held last week in London.

On March 16, the Pakistan High Commission hosted a memorial service for the slain Minorities Minister, who was murdered on March 2 after calling for the reform of the country’s blasphemy laws.

Mr. Bhatti, a 42 year old Roman Catholic, was leaving his home when a gunman sprayed his car with 20 bullets.  He died while being transported to the Shifa Hospital in Islamabad.  The government minister was usually accompanied by security guards, but he had told them that day not to accompany him.  The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the murder.

At the March 16 memorial service, the High Commissioner of Pakistan in London, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, told mourners he hoped his country would recover the vision of its founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and fight for a non-discriminatory Pakistan.

The former Bishop of Rochester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir Ali, who led the Christian prayers for the service said Pakistan’s blasphemy laws had been abused and misused.  While Pakistan needed laws to prevent incitement to religious hatred that lead to violence or discrimination, the punishment for such a law should be commensurate with the seriousness of the crime, Bishop Nazir Ali said.

The murder of Mr. Bhatti, the chairman of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, underscored the need for interfaith dialogue on how Christians and Muslim could live in justice and harmony in Pakistan, Bishop Nazir Ali said.

On March 17, St Margaret’s, Westminster held a memorial service attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Alexander Malik of Lahore, and the former Bishop of Peshawar Mano Ramulshah.

“Shahbaz knew the meaning of the cross which he followed all the way, to his last breath. But he also knew that the cross is not the end. He knew the power of Christ’s resurrection,” Bishop Tony Robinson of Pontefract told the congregation.

During the service, a recording made by the late government minister was played to the congregation. “When I’m leading this campaign against the Shariah laws and for the abolishment of the blasphemy law and speaking for the oppressed and for the persecuted Christians and other minorities, these Taliban threaten me,” he said.

“I’m ready to die for a cause. I’m living for my community and suffering people and I will die to defend their rights. So these threats and these warnings cannot change my opinion and principles. I will prefer to die for my principles and for the justice of my community rather to compromise,” Mr. Bhatti said.

“Our tribute to Shahbaz will be to follow his love of truth and justice,” Bishop Robinson said, and not be “limited by fear in the face of adversity and persecution.”

Plans for an Anglican University for Eastern Uganda unveiled: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2011 p 8. April 4, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Uganda.
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Mrs. Margaret Sentamu

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The dioceses of eastern Uganda have begun talks with local government officials to build a church-affiliated university in the Mbale region.

However, Ugandan press reports that Mrs. Margaret Sentamu had been named chancellor of the new university were premature.  A spokesman for the Archbishop of York told The Church of England Newspaper that Mrs. Sentamu had not yet been approached by the university’s founders about the post.

Speaking to the Sunday Monitor of Kampala, the building committee chairman Mr. Charles Walimbwa Pekke, said “the university will be set up as a multi- disciplinary campus and will be located in various dioceses of eastern Uganda. Building will start soon.”

The first phase of construction will be centered at the church’s Bishop Usher Wilson Theological College in Buwalasi, he said.

Education remains a high priority for Anglicans in the developing world, with church affiliated universities and colleges under construction in Tanzania, Ghana and other African nations. From Feb 17-24 the steering committee of TEAC, Theological Education in the Anglican Communion, met in Harare at the invitation of committee member, Bishop Chad Gandiya.

The TEAC steering committee, under the chairmanship of Archbishop Colin Johnson of Toronto discussed plans for the May 2011 meeting of Anglican theological college principals in Canterbury, and also offered two days of theological education to approximately 80 Zimbabwe clergy.

In a statement released by TEAC last week, the steering committee noted the on-going harassment of Anglicans in Harare.   “Almost all the churches of the Diocese are not currently accessible to the priests and people, so congregations meet in a variety of locations, halls, schools, even a racing club.”

“But the harassment and persecution that has been experienced over recent years has, if anything, made the Church even stronger, with worship locations being packed out and over-spilling, and worship itself marked both with great dignity and great joy,” the TEAC report said.

Kampala cathedral foundation stone laid: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2011 p 9. April 4, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Uganda.
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An artist's rendition of the new All Saints Cathedral in Kampala

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Uganda has laid the foundation stone for a new Anglican cathedral at a groundbreaking ceremony on Jan 27 in Kampala.

The first phase of the All Saints Cathedral £6.6 million construction project is scheduled to be completed by Christmas 2012, in time for the cathedral’s centenary.  On Feb 27 Mr. Shem Byakagaba, the building project committee chairman said the entire project would be completed within three to five years.

The design includes a two level underground parking garage, two galleries, two chapels, offices, two boardrooms and a 45-metre bell tower.

In his address to the congregation, the Archbishop Henry Orombi said God had “appointed this generation to build for him a house of worship because the spirit of construction of houses is ripe in this country.”

The 4000-seat cathedral will be funded by Ugandans for Ugandans, the archbishop said.  “People have money” to give towards the building, he said, and most of the materials will come from Uganda.  “If we want tiles, we shall get them, if we want cement, we shall get it, if we want iron sheets, we shall get them,” the archbishop said.

Not all of the funds are in hand, however, to complete construction £127,000 must be raised each month until the project is completed.

Founded in 1912 as a chaplaincy to the city’s colonial hospital, All Saints catered to Kampala’s European population for its first 50 years.  Following independence in 1962 All Saints was incorporated as a parish church and its members changed from being exclusively European to include people of African and Asian origin. In 1972, the church was elevated to a Pro-Cathedral and later to a Cathedral for the newly created Kampala Diocese.

The present church building was constructed around 1938 and has been enlarged over the years.  The present congregation of some 10,000 members, however, overflows the current 800 seat church.  For the past seven years, the cathedral has used tents to accommodate the crowds, holding three services each Sunday that each draws in excess of 1200 people.

Death threats may be linked to chaplain’s murder: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2011 p 8. April 2, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper, Crime.
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Bishop Jo Seoka of Pretoria

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Death threats made against the Bishop of Pretoria, the Rt. Rev. Jo Seoka, may be linked to the unsolved January murder of the bishop’s chaplain.

On March 15, the South African Council of Churches reported that “five men armed with guns arrived at Bishop Seoka’s Pretoria home, declaring their intention to kill the bishop and his wife.”

“The Bishop and his wife were not at home at the time, but the intruders returned later in the day looking for them,” the SACC said.  The following day “two different people telephoned the Bishop’s home enquiring from those present about the Bishop’s whereabouts. The callers reiterated their threats against the Bishop and left a message that he should pack and leave the house.”

The SACC speculated the death threats may have been politically motivated.  It noted that Bishop Seoka, who is president of the SACC, “has long been an outspoken advocate for social and economic justice and a courageous opponent of corruption and unethical business practices in his capacity as a leader of the ecumenical movement.”

However, the Pretoria News reports the death threats may be linked to the murder of the bishop’s lay chaplain, Ntombekaya September.

On Jan 7 the body of Ms September (45), a prominent property developer who recently became the first lay chaplain to the Bishop of Pretoria, was discovered in her home by Bishop Soeka and her maid.

The police have withheld details of the murder, but police are seeking a Congolese man who worked for a security company and was known to the dead woman.  Following her death, a number of people close to the murdered woman began receiving spam emails from her email address—it is unknown if the emails are related to her murder.

The bishop discovered the body of Ms. September, after he was contacted by her servant, who was unable to enter her home.  The bishop and the servant searched the home and found Ms. September, lying face down on her bed, fully clothed.

Bishop Seoka said “we have tried to identify who our enemy might be but we cannot come up with anybody.”

“People are also saying these threats might be related to the murder but I do not want to believe that,” the bishop said.

Pre-election manifesto published by Scottish churches: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2011 p 6. April 2, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Politics, Scottish Episcopal Church.
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Scottish church leaders unveil the 'Churches Vote' initiative in Edinburgh on March 22

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Jobs, social justice, and support for ‘life’ are the center piece of the Scottish churches pre-election manifesto launched last week in Edinburgh.

On Mar 22, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Bishop David Chillingworth, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland the Rt. Rev. John Christie, and other church leaders launched the “Churches Vote” initiative at a meeting held at the Holyrood Hotel.   The manifesto calls for Scottish Christians to vote according to the dictates of their faith when they go to the polls on May 5 to elect a new Scottish parliament, church leaders declared.

“A fair and just society must place the value of every human life at the centre of its thinking,” they said. “This is only possible in a society which respects human life at every stage and supports the family in which life is born and nurtured.”

Elections are “community events” that allow individuals “to express the needs of the whole community” through the ballot box.  “Let us look beyond the selfish and fearful parts of ourselves and aspire to build a society where everyone has equal access to opportunities and can live with dignity,” they said.

The churches’ manifesto called for a “fair and just society” that respected human life “at every stage”, provided economic security and the opportunities “for sufficient material wellbeing to flourish” and jobs.

“For generations” Christians have “served society and been at the heart of civil and political life,” they said.  This was a “tradition we are committed to continuing. Motivated by faith, Christians are particularly aware of the need, found at the heart of the Gospel message, for a just social order where the government and economy function properly in contributing to social harmony.”

“Electing a government that is capable of doing this in a way compatible with the dignity of each human person is therefore a task of utmost importance,” the churches’ manifesto said.

A website: http://www.churchesvote.org created by the Scottish Elections 2011 Working Group, a collaboration between the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office, the Catholic Parliamentary Office, ACTS, CARE, the Evangelical Alliance and others, to educate voters about politicians, party policies and political issues, they said.

Signatories to the Churches Vote initiative include: the Baptist Union of Scotland, CARE for Scotland, Christians Count, the Church of Scotland, the Congregational Federation, Destiny Church Network, the Evangelical Alliance, the Free Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church in Scotland, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the Roman Catholic Church, The Salvation Army, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the United Free Church of Scotland, and the United Reformed Church.

Govt backs Jerusalem bishop in residency row: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2011 p 9. April 1, 2011

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Israel.
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Bishop Riah Abu al-Abbas

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The government has given its backing to the Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, in his dispute with the Government of Israel over the bishop’s right to visit Jerusalem.  However, the intervention by the Foreign Office appears not to have shifted the Israeli government’s views, which may be driven more by factional battles within the diocese, than the Arab-Israeli dispute.

In a written statement released on March 28 in response to a query from the former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries, Foreign Office minister Lord Howell stated the government was “very concerned” by the revocation of Bishop Dawani’s residency permit.

The Foreign Secretary, William Hague had “raised this with the Prime Minister of Israel last November. Our embassy in Tel Aviv continues to press regularly,” Lord Howell said.

On March 3, the Diocese of Jerusalem released a statement saying that “all Anglican bishops” in Jerusalem, who had not held Israeli passports, historically had been “granted residency permits to allow them to live in Jerusalem where the Bishop’s residence, diocesan offices and cathedral are located.”

The bishop and his family had renewed their permits in 2008 and 2009, but when they attempted to renew their permits last year, the bishop was told by the Ministry of the Interior that his documents would not be renewed.  The government said “Bishop Suheil acted with the Palestinian Authority in transferring lands owned by Jewish people to the Palestinians and also helped to register lands of Jewish people in the name of the Church.”

“There were further allegations that documents were forged by the Bishop. The letter also stated that Bishop Dawani and his family should leave the country immediately,” the diocese reported.

Bishop Suheil Dawani

Bishop Dawani responded that the allegations leveled against him were false,.  His letters protesting his innocence of the charges have so far gone unanswered nor have his accusers been publicly identified.  On advice of legal counsel last month the bishop filed suit in a Jerusalem court seeking legal redress.

The diocese stated that private representations had been made on the bishop’s behalf by the UK and US governments, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi of Israel and other Anglican leaders with the Prime Minister’s office, but so far had no effect on the dispute.

The bishop’s residency dispute appears to have begun at the same time as the long-drawn out legal dispute between Bishop Dawani and his predecessor, Bishop Riah Abu al-Assal, came to a close.

Last year, an Israeli court banned Bishop Riah, an Arab Israeli, from trespassing on diocesan property and has rejected his claims of ownership of a church school in Nazareth.  Over the course of the three year battle, charges and counter charges of fraud, forgery and violence were leveled against the bishops by their partisan opponents.

The Jerusalem bishops’ battle centered round a dispute over Christ Church School in Nazareth.  Shortly before his retirement in March 2007, Bishop Riah established a charitable trust staffed by members of his family and sought to transfer the assets and administration of the diocese’s Christ Church School over to the “Bishop Riah Educational Campus.”

The diocese said Bishop Riah had collected tuition fees from the students while the school’s expenses, including staff salaries, were being paid by the diocese.  In his court filings Bishop Riah countered that he had provided the funds for building the school, which employed his son as headmaster, and that he had raised funds for the school in his personal rather than episcopal capacity.

Following attempts at mediation, the diocese brought suit against Bishop Riah and his family trust for possession of the school and the tuition fees, and on Jan 22, 2008 a magistrate court granted the diocese control of the assets pending final adjudication.  In April 2010 a final decision was handed down by the Israeli courts on the real estate.  It denied Bishop Riah all rights and access “without express written permission of the diocesan Bishop Suheil Dawani,” or involvement “at all in any matter, without exception, in the matters of church and the school.”

Bishop Dawani’s troubles with the Ministry of the Interior began shortly after the court handed down its decision in the Christ Church Nazareth school case.

Copper thieves cause gas leak at Darlington church: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2011 p 6. April 1, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Crime.
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Holy Trinity, Darlington

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A Darlington church almost became a deathtrap for its churchwardens, after thieves stole copper gas pipes from Holy Trinity Church—causing a gas leak.

When churchwardens entered the building on the morning of March 23 to prepare for a funeral, they were met with the strong smell of gas.  The building required a full airing before the service could go forward later that day.

The priest in charge of Holy Trinity, the Ven. Nick Barker, the Archdeacon of Auckland in the Diocese of Durham, told his local newspaper that while some regarded metal theft as a “victimless crime”, but “it’s the wardens who have to spend two days mopping up the mess, and the little old ladies who keep the church running who suffer.”

“There is a real threat on the capacity of the church as a whole to sustain the present level of theft that is going on,” he said.

On March 31, Archdeacon Barker and other church leaders will meet with representatives from the Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland police forces, English Heritage and the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) in Bournmoor, County Durham to discuss strategies to fight metal thefts.

Many northern churches have been victims of theft, Archdeacon Barker said, some “several times.”

“The insurance cover has had to be limited and any repair is vexatious, time consuming, morale sapping and costly,” he said, adding that “repeated attacks threaten the long-term future of some churches and church communities.”

Defections to Rome hit Fort Worth: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2011 p 9. March 31, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ordinariate, Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth.
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The Fort Worth 4 with Bishop Vann in 2008

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Two senior priests of the Diocese of Fort Worth have left the breakaway Anglo-Catholic diocese for the Anglican Ordinariate.

On March 8, Bishop Jack Iker announced that his number two man, Canon Charles Hough, and Fr. Louis Tobola had resigned their posts effective March 31.

The bishop noted Canon Hough had served as Canon to the Ordinary for the past 17 years, and he and Fr. Tobola had each served for over 30 years in the diocese.  “Though they have not yet resigned from the ordained ministry, they are expected to do so at the time the Ordinariate is established for former Anglicans who wish to come into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church,” Bishop Iker said.

“Though we regret their departures, we wish both of them nothing but the best in this new chapter of their lives. They will be deeply missed,” Bishop Iker reported.

While the secession of the two Fort Worth priests will hurt the morale of the diocese, it was not unexpected.  In 2008 Canon Hough and Fr. Tobola and two other priests, all members of the Society of the Holy Cross, met with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Fort Worth to discuss uniting the Episcopal diocese with the Roman Catholic church.

In a paper summarizing their talks, the four Fort Worth clergy, concluded the “See of Peter” was “essential not optional” for the true church; a “magisterium” was needed; the “Catholic Faith is true”; the ecclesiology of the Anglican Communion was flawed as was that of the Episcopal Church; an overwhelming majority of Fort Worth’s clergy favored corporate reunion with Rome; Pope Benedict XVI “understands our plight”; and that there was a “charism which the Anglican ethos has to offer to the Universal Church.”

As Anglicans “we realize that Henry VIII, the monarch who wrote ‘Defense of Seven Sacraments’ and who was granted the title ‘Defender of the Faith’, never intended to make any substantive or permanent changes in the Catholic faith. Indeed, the Reformation itself was intended to be for a limited time only,” the four clergy said.

“We believe that it is now time for a new Season. It is perhaps, time for a church of Reformation to die and a new unification among Christ’s people be born: Unification possible only under the Holy Father,” they argued, asking the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth provide the guidance necessary so that we might ‘make a proposal’ that would lead our Diocese into full communion with the See of Peter.”

Following the release of the 2008 report, Bishop Iker said he was “aware of a meeting” between his four priests and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Fort Worth and they had his “trust and pastoral support. However, in their written and verbal reports, they have spoken only on their own behalf and out of their own concerns and perspective.”

“They have not claimed to act or speak, nor have they been authorized to do so, either on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth or on my own behalf,” Bishop Iker said.

Archbishop calls for supression of sex slave trade: The Church of England Newspaper, March 25, 2011 p 7. March 30, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of York, Church of England Newspaper, Crime.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of York has applauded the government’s decision to rethink its policies on combating human trafficking and join forces with the EU in combating sex slavery.

On March 22 Immigration Minister Damian Green announced the government will apply to opt in to a Europe-wide effort to help tackle human trafficking.  “Opting in” to the EU Directive on Human Trafficking sends “a powerful message to traffickers that Britain is not a soft touch and that we remain world leaders in fighting this terrible crime,” the minister said.

Last year Dr. John Sentamu expressed dismay at the government’s decision to ‘opt out’ of the EU Directive. Writing in the Yorkshire Post on Sept 3 the archbishop said that “sex trafficking is nothing more than modern day slavery. This is women being exploited, degraded and subjected to horrific risks solely for the gratification and economic greed of others.”

He said he was “stunned to learn” of the coalition government’s decision.  “Generally, I am no great supporter of European directives, because of the supremacy of our Parliament, but this seems to be a common-sense directive designed to co-ordinate European efforts to combat the trade in sex slaves,” the archbishop said.

However the news this week of the government’s change of heart “delighted” Dr. Sentamu.  “I am pleased the Government now acknowledges that ‘opting in would send a powerful message to traffickers that Britain is not a soft touch’. Our Government should be ensuring Britain leads the way on tackling slavery, just like it did in the days of William Wilberforce,” he said.

“We need a united front against the traffickers, pimps and gangsters – and we must speak out for those that don’t have a voice. There should be no loopholes for those abusing and terrorizing the vulnerable,” the archbishop said, adding that he was pleased Britain “will now be joining with our European brothers and sisters and put an end to this evil trade.”

“At a time when fewer traffickers are being jailed than at any other time in the last 5 years, we need ambitious and binding legislation to make anti-trafficking policy more effective,” Dr. Sentamu said.

Mr. Green said Britain already carried out most of the EU measures to combat trafficking.  The government’s decision not to opt in last year, he explained, was due to the need to review the final text to “ensure that it would benefit the UK. This has now taken place,” said a statement released by the Home Office.

“Tackling human trafficking is a priority for the Government. The UK has an excellent record on fighting human trafficking and the organised criminals who profit from misery,” the immigration minister said.

Archbishop’s letter from Japan: The Church of England Newspaper, March 25, 2011 p 8. March 30, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Disaster Relief, Nippon Sei Ko Kai.
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The Most Rev. Nathaniel Uematsu, Primate of Japan and Bishop of Hokkaido

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Primate of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK)—the Anglican Church in Japan—has released an update on the situation in Northeastern Japan, ten days after an earthquake and tsunami devastated the region.

“We Japanese are accustomed to earthquakes and tsunamis,” Archbishop Nathaniel Uematsu wrote, “however no one could have imagined that such a major earthquake or tsunami could have happened. As of [March 22], more than 8,400 people are confirmed dead and still 12,000 people are missing. There are more than 300,000 people who are enduring hardship at various evacuation centres.”

The safety of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex reactor remains in doubt, and has led the government to evacuate all those living within 30 kilometres of the reactor site, he said.  While Tokyo Electric has been “working tirelessly” to prevent a nuclear accident, “people are already discovering levels of radiation in the milk and vegetables” from local farms, the archbishop reported.

The archbishop thanked Anglicans around the world for their encouragement and support since the earthquake, and welcomed the offers of assistance the church had received, but asked for patience from those who wished to volunteer their services.

“Because there is no structure or system to receive these people in the devastated areas at the moment, only the official public servants such as doctors, nurses, Japan’s Defence Regiment personel and fire fighters, police, medical centre staff and local council staff members are allowed to provide care to those affected,” by the disaster.

However, once the extent of the damage is known to the churches and homes of the people of the Tohoku and Kita Kanto dioceses, there will be a need for volunteers to help rebuild.

However, the NSKK “consider the people affected by the disaster to be the church’s priority. In most of the areas affected by the disaster there are no Anglican churches, however it is the NSKK’s desire to stand with all people there and to do whatever we can to support them.”

The first rescue and relief phase will soon come to an end, the archbishop said, but the “restoration phase will go on for a long time. As the NSKK, particularly as Tohoku Diocese, we believe that it is during this second phase when God will most use us to do his work.”

“I would like to express my utmost gratitude for the prayers and warm words which were sent to me from everybody. I would like you to continue to pray for the ongoing relief and restoration work,” Archbishop Uematsu said.

Mothers’ Union presents petition to 10 Downing Street: The Church of England Newspaper, March 25, 2011. March 30, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Mission Societies/Religious Orders, Popular Culture, Youth/Children.
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MU Worldwide President Rosemary Kempsell presenting a petition to the Prime Minister

The Mothers’ Union (MU) has delivered a petition to 10 Downing Street calling upon the government of Prime Minister David Cameron to ban sexually explicit advertising directed towards children.

On March 14, a delegation led by MU President Rosemary Kempsell, supporters, and a cross party group of MPs: Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland, Lab), David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale, Cons.), Fiona Bruce (Congleton, Cons.) and Jim Dobbin (Heywood and Middleton, Lab.), presented the petition of 18,500 names.

Mrs. Kempsell said she was “delighted” the government was taking “action to tackle the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood through the Bailey Review. We would like to see this Review make strong recommendations to Government to ensure childhood can remain a precious time free from commercialisation.”

In February, the government asked Reg Bailey, MU Chief Executive, to undertake a review that looked at the pressures on children to grow up too quickly.

The Department for Education asked Mr. Bailey to submit his findings to the government in May, and focus on four issues.

“Whether and to what extent sexualised imagery now forms a universal background or ‘wallpaper’ to children’s lives; whether some products are inappropriate for children, and others in dubious taste: parents are anxious about what is appropriate; whether businesses sometimes treat children too much as consumers and forget that they are children too, with particular concerns about the kinds of marketing techniques associated with digital media; how parents can tell advertisers, broadcasters and retailers about the things they are unhappy about and how they can make an effective complaint.”

The Bailey Review will also incorporate research conducted by Prof. David Buckingham on the impact of the commercial world on children’s wellbeing, by Dr Linda Papadopoulos on the sexualisation of young people, and by Professor Tanya Byron on child safety in a digital world.

The March 14 petition is part of the MU’s Bye Bye Childhood campaign to “hold the UK government accountable” to its pledge to fight the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.

Speaking after the event Helen Goodman MP said “Once again Mothers Union is at the forefront of a really important campaign to support families. I’m giving the Bye Buy Childhood campaign my total support.”

Archbishop calls for prayer in response to jihadist attacks in Nigeria: The Church of England Newspaper, March 25, 2011 p 7. March 29, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Persecution.
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Archbishop Ben Kwashi of Jos

Tragedy was narrowly averted this week in the city of Jos in Nigeria’s Plateau State, after bomb bombs destined for two packed churches exploded prematurely, killing the would-be assassins.

On March 20 two men riding a motorcycle approached the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Jos.  A large crowd was gathered outside the church as the morning English language service was ending and worshippers were waiting to enter the building for a Hausa service.  A bomb carried by the motorcyclists detonated prematurely, killing the two men.  A third motorcyclist was killed by a mob after the explosion, accused of being a scout for the two dead killers.

A second bomb attack at the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church in Jos on Sunday was foiled after a bomb planted by two men riding a motorcyclist failed to explode.  The two would-be bombers escaped and are at large.

“We’re deeply concerned about these latest attacks,’ Release International CEO Andy Dipper said.

“The continuing targeting of Christians appears to be a deliberate move to provoke a backlash and sectarian violence – an attempt to destabilise the community ahead of the elections. Release urges Nigeria’s Christians to stay vigilant, but to refuse to be drawn into a spiral of violence,” he said.

CSW Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston celebrated “the fact that many lives were spared by the failure of these bombs to detonate as intended,” however it is “deeply regrettable that these men were prepared to carry out carnage against their fellow citizens purely on account of their religion.”

The Archbishop of Jos, Dr Benjamin Kwashi told Release the failed bombings were part of a larger campaign to terrorize Christians and destabilize the community.

“No one is willing to accept that the Christian church is under attack.  It is difficult for people to understand that Jos could be overrun. The government has been negligent, and the world will not help,” the archbishop said.

“Even the Muslims are not safe,” from the predations of the terrorists, he added.

However, Dr. Kwashi urged forbearance.  “Revenge I will never support. But those who wish to defend themselves, I cannot stop.  People have had enough of this.  It’s been going on for 30 years. The government must do more to provide security for everybody.”

“But you know, the only real answer is prayer,” he said.

“I trust God to defend us. I have been threatened with death personally three times. In all three times, the Lord has rescued me,” Dr. Kwashi said.

Warning: Reading this Book can seriously damage your health: The Church of England Newspaper, March 25, 2011 p 8. March 28, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia, Persecution.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Malaysian government has announced that it will stamp a government warning on the cover of Malay-language editions of the Bible, as a condition of their being allowed to enter the South East Asian nation.

The cover of the al-Kitab, the Malay-language version of the Bible must say: “Reminder: This ‘al-Kitab Berita Baik’ is for the use of Christians only. By order of the Home Minister.”

In 2009 the Home Ministry confiscated two shipments of the al-Kitab, the Malay-language translation of the Old and New Testaments, bound for Christians in Borneo.  In 1986 the government banned Christians from using the word “Allah” in their literature, saying it would confuse Muslims and could lead to their converting to Christianity.

Last year the country’s High Court overturned the ban, but the Home Ministry has so far refused to allow Malay Bibles to enter the country—Chinese and English language Bibles have not been affected by the ban.

Church leaders launched an unprecedented public campaign to shame the government this month, and in response to their demands, the Home Ministry on March 15 told the Bible Society of Malaysia that it could collect its shipment of 5100 Bibles if each were stamped with the seal of the Home Ministry and individually numbered, with the numbers recorded and registered with the government.  The cover of each Bible was also required to carry the government warning.

This demand was “ridiculous because it is illegal constitutionally” the Bishop of Kuching, the Rt. Rev. Bolly Lapok said, and violated the “human rights” of Borneo’s Christians.  The General Secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, the Rev Hermen Shastri, told the Press Trust of India the Home Ministry’s actions were unprecedented as “none of the Bibles was ever defaced in such a manner.”

The chairman of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, Anglican Bishop Ng Moon Hing denounced the government’s decision as well.  “We wholly reject the government’s contention that the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia is prejudicial to the national interest and security of Malaysia.”

The Malaysian Insider reported the second shipment of 30,000 Malay bibles imported by the Sarawak chapter of The Gideons remains in a customs warehouse in Kuching.

Speaking to reporters last week, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said his department’s decision to stamp the Bibles with a warning conformed to past government practice.  He said the al-Kitab uproar was a manufactured crisis, spurned by the Malaysia Bible Society’s demand that the Bibles be released immediately.

The Bible Society wanted their shipment to be released “quickly” the minister said.  “If they want to find fault they can find fault,” he noted, adding that one could say “the Bibles are smelly after being kept for so long, if you want to find fault.”

However, Bishop Lapok warned that Christians would not stand for the status quo of unequal civil rights and religious freedoms.  Speaking to a meeting of the Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS), Bishop Lapok said the country’s multi-ethnic multi-religious foundations were being stressed by the demands of militant Islam.

“It is indeed ironic that what is so beautiful about our culture has become a source of our undoing as it has exposed some of our communities to be taken advantaged of and become easy prey for exploitation,” he said, according to an account published in the Borneo Post.

Churches must not stand back from confronting injustice in society with the plea that its voice should remain outside of politics, the bishop said.

“If indeed our preaching has been out of touch with the harsh realities that our people are grappling with each day, on this crossroad point, our various congregations are looking up to us for light and guidance for their journey,” said Bishop Lapok.

Metal thefts force change in insurance cover from EIG: The Church of England Newspaper, March 25, 2011 p 6. March 28, 2011

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

The Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) has announced that it will withdraw insurance cover for metal thefts effective July 1, for churches that do not use the SmartWater system to mark their metal roofing.

In a statement released last week, EIG reported that over the past four years it had paid out over £21 million to cover over 7,000 metal theft claims.  The church insurer expected the “epidemic” of metal thefts to continue due to high scrap prices for copper and lead.  Claims submitted for the year to date are already at a “level higher than expected for this time of year.”

Using the SmartWater system was a current condition of insurance cover, EIG noted, but many churches had not used the SmartWater kit sent to them in 2007, or if they had, they had not registered the product, which allows police to identify stolen metal.  As a result EIG was withdrawing metal theft coverage from churches that did not apply SmartWater, display SmartWater warning signs, or register their kits with the company, as of July 1.

SmartWater is a solution of a vinyl acetate polymer in isopropyl alcohol which contains millions of minute particles.  The particles are etched with a unique serial number which can be registered with police to show the owner’s details.  The particles can be read under ultra-violet light and are resistant to the effects of weather and corrosion.

A study published in 2008 of interviews with criminals found that 74 per  cent would be put off from stealing metals marked with SmartWater if they knew the substance was present.  Sales literature distributed by the company claims that over 600 convictions have been possible due to the evidence provided by SmartWater marking.

EIG said parishes that have complied with the SmartWater policy conditions in their insurance policies will not be affected by the change, and will be covered to their policy limits.

Archbishop’s head examined: The Church of England Newspaper, March 25, 2011 p 6. March 26, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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The head of Archbishop Simon of Sudbury, from the collection of the Sudbury Historical Society

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The head of the Archbishop of Canterbury was subjected to CT scan last week at West Suffolk Hospital

On March 16, forensic scientists led by Professor Caroline Wilkinson from the University of Dundee scanned the mummified head of Simon of Sudbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury killed during the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381.

The CT scan will allow a forensic sculptor to reconstruct the face of the archbishop in clay.  The finished model will be unveiled later this year.

Born in Sudbury, Suffolk, Simon was named Bishop of London in 1362 and was translated to Canterbury in 1375.  In 1380 he was also named Lord Chancellor by King Richard II.

In 1381, the 14-year old king levied a poll tax to finance military campaigns overseas.  Attempts to collect the tax prompted uprisings in Essex and Kent, and a march on London.  Archbishop Sudbury and Sir Robert Hales the Lord Treasurer took refuge in the Tower of London, but were seized and taken to Tower Hill where he and Hales were beheaded on June 14, 1381.

The archbishop’s body was buried in Canterbury Cathedral, but his head, which had been placed on a spike on Tower Bridge, was brought back to Suffolk in a barrel of brine, and buried at St Gregory’s Church in Sudbury.

The Rev Jenny Seggar, assistant curate at St Gregory’s Church, said: “Simon is thought to be one of the best preserved mummified heads in the country, so his skull is a quite important historical artifact.”

“We are really quite excited about the project, which is a fantastic opportunity to find out what he looked like. Although it is difficult to tell from a skull, we have all stared into his face so often that I think we have a reasonably good idea of what to expect,” she said.

Nigel Beeton, imaging services manager at the hospital, said his staff at the West Suffolk Hospital were “enthusiastic about working with such an unusual and interesting artifact and are looking forward to seeing the final results once the reconstruction work has been completed.”

Tax investigation launched into Indian church finances: The Church of England Newspaper, March 25, 2011 p 8. March 25, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India.
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Former CSI General Secretary Pauline Sathiamurthy: Photo from the World Council of Churches website

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

An investigation into the misappropriation of Tsunami relief funds by the Church of South India (CSI) has been launched by India’s income tax authority.

On Dec 16, 2010, the Deputy Director of the Income Tax Department in Madras sent a formal notice to Bennett Abraham, the treasurer of the Church of South India Trust Association (CSITA), asking for an accounting of foreign donations, including cash collected for the “Tsunami Relief Fund” managed by the church.

The CSI was also asked to account for the proceeds from the sale of church properties including the American College in Kodaidanal, provide a listing of bank accounts maintained by the synod and dioceses, account for funds donated to the “Gujarat Earthquake Relief Fund”, and account for the proceeds of commercial property rents collected by the Karnataka North Diocese, the Deccan Chronicle reported.

The CSI treasurer’s office was asked to furnish the information within five days.  However, two extensions of time have been granted to the church to gather the requested information.

Corruption has become a major issue within the life of the CSI as fraud and misconduct charges have been leveled against several bishops over the past year, with one bishop, Manickam Doria, under criminal investigation for fraud.  In October 2009, a warrant was issued for the arrest of the former General Secretary of the CSI, Dr. Pauline Sathiamurthy, accusing her of stealing almost £1 million of the tsunami relief funds donated to the CSI by the Episcopal Church.

Southern African bishops chided for their indecision on gay blessings: The Church of England Newspaper, March 25, 2011 p 8. March 25, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Southern Africa House of Bishops

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Evangelical leaders in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa have called upon the church’s Synod of Bishops to clarify their ambiguous statements on human sexuality.

On March 17, the Fellowship of Confession Anglicans (FCA) in South Africa published an open letter on the internet, making a “plea for clarity on the position and teaching of our faith” in light of bishops’ February pastoral letter.

At the close of their Feb 7-12 meeting in Natal, the Southern African bishops deferred taking action on adopting guidelines for the blessing of same-sex unions, citing legal difficulties and theological divisions within their ranks.

A draft document entitled “Pastoral Guidelines in Response to Civil Unions” was reviewed by the bishops at their Sept 2010 meeting and distributed to the dioceses.  The February 2011 meeting, however, stated the bishops were not able to approve the document.  “It is difficult to give blanket guidelines [on same-sex blessings] because the position is starkly at variance in the legal systems of the seven countries where we work.”

“We continue to work on creating guidelines in several areas of difficulty raised by the issue of civil unions,” the bishops said—which are legal in South Africa, but illegal in the six other nations in the province.

The FCA called upon the bishops to be faithful to their mission to “guard the faith.”

By failing to make a clear statement, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa appeared to have aligned itself “with the dying (revisionist and liberal) minority” within the Anglican Communion and failed to heed “seriously the concerns of the orthodox majority.”

“Sexuality is the touchstone in this Anglican fragmentation,” the FCA said.

However, the issue is not “sexuality per se” but a “rebellion against our creator and his ways which he gives to us” as found in Scripture.  Sexuality was not a dividing issue in itself, “but a leadership in the church which chooses to ‘play at being god’ is a much more serious issue,” they said.

Offering encouragement to people to engage in behavior “which is unacceptable to God (which the Bible describes as sin) is not a pastoral role that God can endorse,” the FCA said, adding that they were concerned the Southern African bishops “find it hard to call sin, sin.  We are answerable to God not to a human-centred ideology.”

The February bishops’ statement displayed a failure of “godly pastoral leadership,” the FCA said.

“It matters not what the legal position may be in the seven states in which our Province is represented. God’s standards call all laws into question” that do not conform to his word, the FCA said, urging their bishops to take their place with the majority of the Anglican Communion against unbelief and error.

Bishop’s call to give up foie gras this Lent: The Church of England Newspaper, March 25, 2011 p 6. March 24, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church in Wales, Church of England Newspaper, Farming.
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Bishop Dominic Walker

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Monmouth has urged Welsh gastronomes to give up foie gras this Lent.

In a letter to the Western Mail published on March 19, Bishop Dominic Walker OGS claimed eating the duck’s liver pâté supported animal cruelty and urged Welsh gourmands to follow the moral example of the Prince of Wales and down their forks in solidarity with animal rights.

Bishop Walker asked readers of the Western Mail during the Lenten season to think about “foie gras production, which involves force-feeding ducks and geese until their livers become diseased and painfully enlarged to up to ten times their normal size – it is a practice so cruel that it is prohibited in the UK and many other countries, although foie gras is still imported and sold in some stores, and served in many restaurants.”

“The Prince of Wales refuses to allow foie gras on menus at his royal residences, and stores like Selfridges, House of Fraser and Harvey Nicholls refuse to sell it,” the bishop said.

“Unfortunately, other stores and restaurants continue to sell and serve foie gras in spite of the terrible animal cruelty that is involved in its production.”

“I would urge Christians to refuse to eat foie gras and to write to those stores that stock it and to those restaurants that serve it and to help end this cruel trade,” Bishop Walker said.

The animal husbandry technique of gavage—fattening birds through force feeding—is an ancient farming practice and is illustrated on wall paintings dating from 2500 BC in Egypt.  However, in recent years animal rights activists have denounced the practice and a number of European countries including the UK have outlawed the gavage method of force feeding.

The Council of Europe’s European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes signed by 35 countries prohibits gavage.  However, those countries “where it is current practice” are permitted to continue using the technique.  Five European countries produce foie gras and in France the delicacy has been given protected status.  French Rural Code L654-27-1 states, “Foie gras belongs to the protected cultural and gastronomical heritage of France.”

The culinary world is divided over the use of foie gras, with some restaurants having removed the delicacy from its menu.  However, the acerbic food writer and chef Anthony Bourdain has taken to task foie gras critics, saying their criticisms are without scientific merit.

However, Bourdain’s ire is reserved for those who see foie gras as a moral issue.  Speaking to Salon magazine in 2007 Bourdain said “telling people what they should and shouldn’t eat is cultural imperialism — and deeply disturbing.”

Saying that “how you eat” and “what you’ve been eating for hundreds, if not thousands, of years” is “wrong and should not be allowed,” Bourdain finds “offensive.”

Such attitudes are “ethnically insensitive, jingoistic, xenophobic, anti-human and disrespectful of the diversity of cultures on this planet, and for human history,” he said, adding that laws banning foie gras are a “win for the forces of darkness, willful ignorance and intolerance.”

Leesfield vicar convicted of theft: The Church of England Newspaper, March 25, 2011 p 6. March 24, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Crime.
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Manchester Bishop Nigel McCulloch and the Rev. Vaughan Leonard

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Oldham magistrates’ court has convicted a Manchester vicar on two counts of theft.

On March 16, the Rev. Vaughan Leonard plead guilty to diverting to his own pockets over £14,000 in fees paid to conduct weddings and funerals.

The court heard that Mr. Leonard’s peculations began a week after took office at St Thomas Church in Leesfield in June 2006.  Evidence was presented that from 2006 to his departure in 2009 the vicar pocketed £7,484 in funeral fees as well as £6,859 paid to him for reading marriage banns.

The thefts were discovered upon his departure as incumbent of St Thomas Leesfield, to become Priest in Charge of All Saints, Rhodes.  The parish council asked for an accounting of fees paid to Mr. Leonard during his tenure that should have been turned over to the parish.  After the funds were found to be missing and Mr. Leonard was unable to make good the loss, the police were notified of the theft.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Manchester said: “We expect our clergy to be honest in their dealings with money and it is highly unusual for this trust to be broken. Mr. Leonard is now prohibited from exercising any duties as a vicar.”

Mr. Leonard will come before Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court for sentencing on April 5.

Church Army Evangelist jailed in Winchester: The Church of England Newspaper, March 18, 2011 p 8. March 23, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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Jade Watson

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A cashiered Church Army Evangelist has been jailed by the Winchester Crown Court for smuggling contraband into HMP Winchester.

Judge Keith Cutler, Recorder of Winchester, sentenced Jade Watson (44)—the former chaplain at HMP Winchester—to eight months imprisonment on March 11.   The married mother of two had entered a guilty plea before the Basingstoke Magistrates of smuggling alcohol and other contraband into the prison for a convict with whom she was having an affair.

Mrs. Watson met the prisoner, Daniel Thornton, while he was incarcerated, and commenced a sexual relationship once he was released from jail.  When he was jailed again between May and December 2010 at HMP Winchester, she brought vodka, a mobile phone and protein bars into prison for Thornton.

Mrs. Watsons confessed to problems with alcohol and told the court she had been blackmailed by the prisoner, who threatened to share explicit photographs of her.

As he pronounced sentence, Judge Cutler told Mrs. Watson, “You knew as a chaplain you were there not only to befriend and guide and assist but also you had the training and you knew the boundaries.

“You shouldn’t be [in court]. You should be out doing the work you have been called to do,” he said, adding that he hoped her actions would not bring the profession into disrepute.  “Chaplaincies in prison are certainly a very special calling,” he said.

Mrs. Watson was commissioned by the Church Army in the summer of 2007 to work with the community and prison in Winchester.  Before she entered the Church Army, Mrs. Watson served as a full time youth worker for five churches in Kent, and ministered to young offenders in prison in Dover, where she was active in the Alpha for Prisons programme.

In a statement released following sentencing, the Church Army said it “takes this matter extremely seriously, and as well as withdrawing her commission as a Church Army Officer she has been dismissed from Church Army’s employment for gross misconduct. The Bishop of Winchester has also withdrawn her licence to operate as an Evangelist in the prison as it was limited to her employment with the Church Army. Church Army has co-operated fully with the prison authorities, the police and the Diocese of Winchester throughout this case.”

“I am really saddened that Jade’s ministry should come to an end in these circumstances,” said Church Army Chief Executive Mark Russell.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected. As Jade Watson is no longer a Church Army Evangelist or employee and is now serving a custodial sentence it would not be appropriate to make any further statement,” added Mr. Russell.

Brazil to have a Protestant majority in 10 years time, report claims: The Church of England Newspaper, March 18, 2011 p 8. March 23, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, Church of England Newspaper, La Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America.
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Bishop Robinson Cavalcanti of Recife

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The world’s most populous Roman Catholic country, Brazil, will have a Protestant majority within 10 years, the International Mission Agency serving Pastors and Leaders (SEPAL) reports.

In a study released last month, SEPAL researcher Luis André Bruneto stated that by 2020 the number of Brazilian Protestants would total 109.3 million out of a projected population of 209.3 million, or 52.2 per cent. Statistics released by the Brazilian government census bureau and the Datafolha Institute show that as of 2010 the Protestant population stood at 57.4 million out of a population of 190 million, or 30 per cent.

Mr Bruneto told the Christian Post his estimates were based on the current annual growth rate of evangelical and Pentecostal churches of 7.42 per cent holding steady. The growth of Protestant churches will not come through mass conversion, he said, but by a “profound transformation in a society’s way of thinking, orientated by the influence of redeemed Christians.”

Brazil’s growing middle-classes were the most fertile ground for Protestantism, he noted. Protestants were “militant in evangelistic outreach, and are adopting rules that are less strict. Christian life is getting greater visibility in society where there is a greater flexibility of customs.”

Not all Protestant groups are witnessing growth, however. The Lutheran Church, brought to Brazil by German immigrants, has lost members to more conservative evangelical churches, while the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil’s membership has been stagnant for some time.

However, the breakaway Diocese of Recife reports strong growth in line with that witnessed by other conservative Protestant denominations. In January Bishop Robinson Cavalcanti of Recife reported his Diocese had more than doubled in size since it withdrew from the IEAB.

Bishop Cavalcanti stated that as of year’s end, the “Diocese has a membership of 5,102 in 47 congregations – Parishes, Mission Plants and Points – and has a presence in nine Brazilian states, with 61 clergy and an ample network of social outreach ministries.”

He noted that “since its expulsion” from the IEAB five years ago, the “Diocese of Recife has more than doubled its number of congregations, clergy and members.”

On March 15, Bishop Cavalcanti reported his Diocese had been welcomed as a member of Brazil’s Aliança Evangélica, and that he had been elected a member of its Council of Reference.

The Diocese of Recife, “of an evangelical and charismatic ethos,” would not rejoin the IEAB, the Bishop said, claiming that it “refuses to repent of its doctrinal and moral heterodoxy” and did not “maintain the Apostolic Faith and the Resolutions of the Lambeth Conference.”

Recife would, however, “within the current realignment process” of the Anglican Communion, seek to maintain “links” with the Church’s “orthodox sectors.”

Oldest Anglican priest to retire: The Church of England Newspaper, March 18, 2011 p 8. March 22, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies.
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The Rev. Edward Gatherer

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The oldest stipendiary priest in the Anglican Communion, the Rev. Edward Gatherer (89), will retire on March 27 after serving 55 years as the incumbent of St Andrew’s Parish Church in Barbados.

While the Church of the Province of the West Indies, like all other Anglican provinces, has a mandatory retirement age, Fr. Gatherer took the Diocese of Barbados to court when its bishop, Drexel Gomez—later to become Archbishop of the West Indies—attempted to force him to retire when he turned 65.

The case of Gomez v Gatherer eventually came before the Privy Council in London which in 1992 held the failure of a Church to follow its rules of procedure served as a bar to enforcement of acts not properly enacted.

The Gomez case centered round the issue of whether a church was required to conform to civil legal practices in issues not touching upon doctrine.  In 1969 the Church of England in Barbados was disestablished and the 1947 Anglican Church Act governing the clergy and church was rescinded. New regulations were made by the church, in its new capacity as a non-established religious body that provided for retirement of clergy upon reaching 65 years of age.

However, the church failed to publish the new regulations in the Official Gazette as was required by law.  The Privy Council held the Diocese of Barbados was not free to act outside the boundaries of civil law.

After a two year suspension, Fr. Gatherer was returned to St Andrew’s by the court and awarded $200,000 in damages.  He vowed to remain at St. Andrew’s until he had to be carried out dead.

Archbishop John Holder of Barbados announced last week that he had named Fr. Gatherer an honorary canon of St Michael’s Cathedral in Bridgetown “in appreciation of his 60 years of ministry in the diocese.”

“I think that he has made a contribution to the diocese and he takes his ministry and his priesthood very seriously,” the archbishop said.

While there are older priests at work in the Anglican Communion, the introduction of mandatory retirement rules has seen older active clergy take up honorary or non-stipendiary work.

A spokesman for the Church of England told The Church of England Newspaper that there were “about a dozen Church of England incumbents still in stipendiary ministry because they are not caught by the mandatory retirement legislation” and are still working past the age of 70.

“However, we can’t find anyone still in post older than Mr. Gatherer in Barbados,” the church spokesman noted.

Soho vicar appeals to Court of Arches: The Church of England Newspaper, March 18, 2011 p 6. March 22, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Rev. David Gilmore

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The London priest suspended from office for two years after having been found guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy has filed an appeal to the Court of Arches asking that his conviction be quashed.

The Diocese of London confirmed that the Rev. David Gilmore had appealed the Jan 10 finding by the provincial tribunal, and that the appeal would be heard in April.

Fr. Gilmore was found to have made 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 having made an indecent proposal to his visitors.  The two men declined his advances and left the following morning.

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

After a short absence from the parish, Fr. Gilmore returned to the rectory and lodged his appeal with the Court of Arches.  The churchwardens and a majority of the parish church council have endorsed the priest’s appeal.

On Jan 22, the Bishop of London, the Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres, led services at St. Anne’s and confirmed Fr Gilmore had lodged an appeal.  He declined to comment on the case, however, as it was awaiting adjudication by the appeals court.

“The Rev Lindsay Meader, the Associate Priest at St James’s  Piccadilly has been appointed Acting Priest-in-Charge, until the outcome of the appeal is known, and has been taking services and overseeing pastoral care in the parish,” a diocesan spokesman told The Church of England Newspaper.

Archbishop of York leads service of thanksgiving for saved steel mill: The Church of England Newspaper, March 18, 2011 p 5. March 21, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of York, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Archbishop of York leading a service of Thanksgiving for the Steel Industry at Christ Church, Redcar on March 13.

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of York led a service of thanksgiving for the steel industry at Christ Church in Redcar this week.

Joined by Bishop Terry Drainey of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesbrough, Dr. John Sentamu and 200 worshippers offered thanks that a Thai steel firm had purchased the Teesside Cast Products (TCP) plant in Redcar, saving over 700 local jobs.

The Teesside has been hard hit by plant closings in recent years, with the Corus steelworks closing its Redcar plant in 2009, and laying off 1700 workers.  TCP’s owner’s, Tata Steel UK, had begun mothballing the plant after a consortium of four international steel buyers reneged on a deal to buy steel slab from the plant.

However on Feb 24, Tata Steel announced a deal to sell TCP to Sahaviriya Steel Industries UK Ltd (SSI), a subsidiary of Thailand’s largest steel producer, in a deal valued at £289 million.

After the deal was announced, Tata Steel CEO Karl-Ulrich Köhler said he was “very encouraged that after all our efforts we have been able to reach this agreement, which is good news for the highly skilled and dedicated Teesside workforce.”

The Secretary of State for Business, Vince Cable MP told reporters “this deal is very good news for workers at the Teesside plant and the region” and was a “significant inward investment by SSI which will help to sustain the 700 jobs at the plant and create new ones at the site and the wider local economy.”

Speaking ahead of the thanksgiving service, Dr Sentamu noted the “steel industry lies at the heart of the community on Teesside and this event provides the opportunity to celebrate the industry’s future as well as the past.

“The news that the steel plant at Redcar will reopen soon is good news as it will bring hundreds of much needed jobs to the area.”

The vicar of Christ Church, the Rev Alison Phillipson welcomed the news but added “we still have a long way to go in securing decent jobs for Redcar and Teesside.”

Diocesan finance officer imprisoned: The Church of England Newspaper, March 18, 2011 p 8. March 21, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Crime.
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Mark Pilkington

First published in The Church of England Newspaper

A former member of the Diocese of Sodor & Man’s finance board has been sentenced to 20-months imprisonment for theft.

Last week the Court of General Gaol in Douglas on the Isle of Man imposed sentence on Mark Pilkington (39) following his conviction on seven counts of deception and six of false accounting.

A compliance officer at Royal Skandia, and a former staffer of the island’s pension authority, Pilkington admitted stealing £21,000 from the diocese while on its financial board, and £23,000 from the Manx Festival Chorus while treasurer to the choir.

Mr. Pilkington admitted writing cheques to himself from the choir’s bank account, submitting false end-of-year reports and transferring diocese funds to his own accounts.

Diocesan spokesman the Rev. John Coldwell said after the sentence was handed down “the very sad thing is the breach of trust that comes about for all involved.  Where people have had a relationship with people, and trusted them implicitly.  From the church’s point of view it is a very difficult, very sad situation that we find has occurred here.”

He told Manx Radio the “judiciary system has taken its path” and it was now for the diocese to “support Mark, his family and friends” through these difficult times.

Sex emails leads to sacking of Armagh vicar: The Church of England Newspaper, March 18, 2011 p 6. March 21, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland.
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Ballgawley parish church

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Church of Ireland has defrocked an Ulster priest for engaging in an “inappropriate” relationship with a teenager.

On March 13 the Archbishop of Armagh, Dr. Alan Harper, stated the parishioners of the Errigle Keerogue, Ballygawley and Killeshill union of parishes in Co Tyrone were informed their vicar, the Rev. Ivan Alister Williamson had been “deposed from holy orders.”

In a statement released to the press, Dr. Harper said the disciplinary tribunal of the Church of Ireland had found Mr. Williamson “guilty of conduct unbecoming” a clergyman.  Mr. Williamson had engaged in “electronic communications of a sexual nature” with a young person over the age of 16, and with other persons “which the tribunal determined were inappropriate.”

This exchange of sexually explicit emails and by “allowing an inappropriate personal relationship to develop with a young person Mr Williamson acted in breach of the current Church of Ireland child protection policy” the archbishop said.

The tribunal ordered Mr. Williamson, who had been suspended from office on June 26, 2009 while the investigation was underway, to be “permanently deprived of his office” and “deposed from holy orders.”

However, the archbishop noted the “order deposing him from holy orders is subject to a stay for a period of one year and shall not be implemented if satisfactory medical reports are received.”

Church protest over Malaysia Bible ban: The Church of England Newspaper, March 18, 2011 p 7. March 20, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia, Islam, Persecution.
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Bishop Bolly Lapok of Kuching

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders are “fed up” with the Malaysian government’s discrimination against Christians and have condemned the seizure of 35,000 Bibles imported from Indonesia for Malay-speaking natives of Borneo.

In a statement released on March 10, the Anglican Bishop of West Malaysia, the Rt. Rev. Ng Moon Hing, speaking as president of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, said the government’s refusal to release the Bibles, seized in 2009, threatened religious liberties.

Malay-speaking Christians were “greatly disillusioned, fed up and angered by the repeated detention of Bibles,” the bishop said.

“It would appear as if the authorities are waging a continuous, surreptitious and systematic program against Christians in Malaysia to deny them access to the Bible;” known in Malay as the al-Kitab.  Imports of English and Chinese language Bibles, however, are not banned.

The Bible ban centers round the use of the word “Allah” in the Malay Bible to refer to God.  In 1986 the Malaysian government introduced legislation forbidding the use of “Allah” in non-Muslim texts.  Christians in Borneo and other Malay speakers, however, have used “Allah” to refer to God since British missionaries brought the Christian faith to the island in the Nineteenth century.

In 2009 a Roman Catholic newspaper, The Herald, successfully challenged the ban, and the country’s High Court struck down the Allah law.  The Home Ministry appealed the ruling, but no re-hearing has yet been scheduled.

The chairman of the Associated Churches of Sarawak (ACS), Bishop Bolly Lapok of Kuching  last week said using the word “Allah” was “fundamental to our faith.”

The word has been used “for centuries and is already in the DNA of our vernacular” he told an ACS meeting on March 14 and was “banned for the exclusive possession of a certain race.”

The government’s ban served only to foster tension and mistrust, he said and would fuel sectarian tensions.  “It is restrictions such as these that provide a perfect recipe for murdering the spirit of goodwill and peace among neighbours,” the Anglican bishop said.

The Allah fight was a defining moment for Malaysian Christians, he said.  “I call it a crossroad because never before have the churches ever encountered, [been] rattled and stunned by the events that occurred during our tenure of office,” he said

Bishop Lapok’s views found support in a separate statement issued by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Malacca and Johore, Paul Tan.  The church would not back down from their 1989 declaration “not to relinquish its right to use the word ‘Allah’ in its rituals of prayer and worship, and the dissemination of its teachings to the faithful,” Bishop Tan said on March 14.

“This right is grounded on history, etymology and now by secular jurisprudence,” he said, asking the government to honor its commitment to religious freedom, and “match deed to word as otherwise sloganeering becomes mere posturing, and words become platitudes.”

Episcopal priest banned from practicing Islam: The Church of England Newspaper, March 18, 2011 p 7. March 20, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Missouri, Multiculturalism.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

An Episcopal priest’s decision to give up Christianity for Lent has not been well received by his bishop.

On March 10, the Rev Steve Lawler, an assistant at St Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Ferguson, Missouri, distributed a press release announcing that he would be practicing the rituals of Islam for the 40 days of Lent. However, Bishop George Wayne Smith of Missouri informed Mr Lawler that if persisted in this Lenten devotion he would be defrocked.

Speaking to a reporter for the St Louis Post-Dispatch about his spiritual exercises, Mr Lawler said that on Ash Wednesday he began the five-times-a-day Salah, the formal prayers to Allah required of all Muslims. He also began a study of the Qur’an and followed Muslim dietary laws. Holy week, Mr Lawler told the reporter, would see him fast from dusk to dawn in imitation of Muslim customs during Ramadan.

Mr Lawler obliged the photographer accompanying the reporter by performing the Salah, and faced east towards Mecca for the camera and prayed on his knees on a tasteful prayer rug. However, the priest stopped short of reciting the Shahadah, the Muslim declaration of belief in the oneness of God and acceptance of Mohammad as his prophet.

Bishop Smith was not amused, stating Mr Lawler “can’t be both a Christian and a Muslim.”

“If he chooses to practise as Muslim, then he would, by default, give up his Christian identity and priesthood in the church,” he told the Post-Dispatch.

“Playing” at Islamic practices was disrespectful, the Bishop said, telling the Post-Dispatch that as a priest Mr Lawler “remains responsible as a Christian leader is to exercise Christianity and to do it with clarity and not with ways that are confusing.”

While he could commend the priest’s desire to learn more about Islam, the way he went about it was wrong, the Bishop said. “You dishonour another faith by pretending to take it on. You build bridges by building relationships with neighbours who are Muslim.”

Informed of his Bishop’s views, Mr Lawler ended his Islamic flirtations.

A diocesan spokesman told The Church of England Newspaper that Bishop Smith “did not issue a pastoral directive having received Steve Lawler’s assurance that he will desist from the practices of Islam.”

However, the Bishop told Mr Smith, “I stand ready to issue a pastoral directive, if that proves necessary.” In the Episcopal Church a pastoral directive is a formal notice by a bishop to a cleric. Violating a pastoral directive can lead to being deposed from the ministry.

The Diocese noted that Mr Lawler “sent a letter of apology to his congregation but was unable to deliver it to them in person this past Sunday,” as he had left for Europe on vacation the day before.