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Gafcon II is a go: Anglican Ink, September 27, 2013 September 26, 2013

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Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya

Last week’s terror attack on the Westgate Mall will not derail the Gafcon II conference set for 21-26 October 2013 at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi, the secretary of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans tells Anglican.TV.

In an interview recorded on 26 September 2013 with Anglican.TV’s Kevin Kallsen, Dr. Peter Jensen stated that he and Bishop Martyn Minns had flown to Kenya to meet with local conference organizers to discuss security arrangements. Dr. Jensen said he was satisfied with the precautions taken by conference organizers to forestall disruptions of the proceedings and noted the Kenyan government had matters well in hand.

The archbishop’s flying visit coincided with a special meeting of the Anglican Church of Kenya’s synod on 25-26 Sept 2013 at All Saints’ Cathedral to discuss the attack on the Westgate Mall by terrorists linked to the Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab and the Gafcon meeting.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Sydney churches lobby parliament to defeat euthanasia bill: The Church of England Newspaper, May 19, 2013 p 6. May 22, 2013

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Church leaders in New South Wales called for the rejection of a private members bill that would legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide, urging parliament to support palliative care.

“This is a dangerous bill. If enacted, the bill will redefine the value of the lives of some people as not worth living. Our challenge as a society is to transform the experience of people who are disabled or dying, not to intervene to end their lives,” the President of the NSW Council of Churches, Dr Ross Clifford, said on 8 May 2013.

Greens Party MLC Cate Faehrmann on 2 May 2013 presented “The Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill” to the NSW Legislative Council for debate. Supporters stated the bill would ensure that a patient who has a terminal illness and who is experiencing unacceptable pain or suffering can lawfully receive assistance to end their life if that is their wish.

The bill states that to receive assistance to kill themselves a patient must be: at least 18 years old, be suffering from a terminal illness that is causing severe pain or distress unacceptable to the patient, be fully mentally capable and able to make informed decisions, be a resident of NSW, and have received counseling on other options, including palliative care.

NSW President of Dying with Dignity, Richard Mills said “This legislation provides for people who are suffering terribly and with no prospects for recovery the choice to determine when their life should end,” he said, adding the bill reflected “community attitudes” toward euthanasia.

“Advances in palliative care make assisted death unnecessary. Instead of wasting taxpayers’ money on reviews of every death by euthanasia, the NSW Government should improve resources for palliative care so that terminally ill patients in our community receive the care and comfort they deserve at the end of life to minimize suffering,” Dr. Clifford countered.

In his 2010 Synod address the Archbishop of Sydney Dr. Peter Jensen said: “My fundamental problem with [euthanasia] is that we are sinners and we do not have the moral capacity to administer it. It is the myth of so-called voluntary euthanasia. At a moment in time of adversity and suffering we ask people to make up their minds about termination of a life. We cannot – we can never – know what is going through the mind of the sufferer or of those whose lives will be changed by the death of the patient.”

Dr Jensen said the assertion that autonomy was the paramount moral value was a”boldly sectarian and secularist assertion. It is based on the denial of original sin and it leads to a denial of the full humanity of others, since it asks us to be self-centred.”

“It really says that no matter how many cultures there are in modern Australia, the only culture which can be trusted to provide moral guidance is the culture of unbelief. And this is the horrifying culture of individualism, the culture, the cult rather, which is bleeding our society dry of compassion and friendship.” Dr Jensen said.

Easter messages from across the Communion: The Church of England Newspaper, April 7, 2013 p 6. April 9, 2013

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Easter messages from the overseas leaders of the Anglican Communion sounded a common theme this year of hope and joy. While the archbishops of the church touched upon issues of local concern, each spoke to the victory of Christ over death and the grave.

The Archbishop of Uganda Stanley Ntagali urged Christians not to lose heart in the face of economic and political uncertainties. “There could be social pressures in the country and many people might have lost hope. Many people no longer trust fellow human beings, but let the risen Lord Jesus whose victory over death we are celebrating this Easter give us a new hope.”

He also warned of the dangers of alcohol. “I urge our people not to celebrate [Easter] by drinking. They should go to church and worship the Lord and return home. This a time to repent and make our homes, offices, schools and business places more enjoyable and suitable to glorify God who gave us the greatest gift of salvation through his Son Jesus Christ,” he noted.

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya, Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council, also spoke of the joy found in life in Christ. “In his resurrection from the dead there is the glorious ‘yes’ of the fulfilment, actual and yet to come, of the promises and purposes of God. Through repentance and faith we share in his risen life and at its heart, our calling is to simply say the ‘Amen’ and glorify the God who has triumphed over sin and death.”

The GAFCON leader also urged Christians to reject the “ungodly innovations” coming from Western liberal churches which seek to “substitute human effort and speculation for divine grace and revealed truth.  It is a profound contradiction to say this ‘Amen’ and then go on, as some do, to deny the real physical resurrection of Jesus.”

When Christians say ‘no’ to false teaching it is for the sake of truth. “There can be no more positive a movement than one which gives an unqualified ‘Amen’ to the fulfilment of all God promises in Jesus Christ.”

The Archbishop of West Africa Dr. Tilewa Johnson said the Christian’s response to the sufferings was to turn towards God. “Where to start? We have tools and guidelines to hand. One of the greatest tools we have is prayer. Prayer is a means of communication with God.”

“As with so many things, it requires practice. We know what it is like when we become close to another human being – a husband, wife, brother, sister or close friend. In time it is possible to read their thoughts, and know what they are going to say before they say it. It is the same with God. To sit in the presence of God – maybe in silence; maybe with a few words – it is possible increasingly to come to know God and the will of God. Gradually we know the way to go,” the Gambian archbishop said.

The Primate of All Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh said that when celebrating Easter it was “important” to “re-emphasize the incontrovertible fact that Jesus has risen from the dead and He is alive for ever. Through His resurrection power, therefore we can overcome all sorts of challenges we might have as an individual, as the Church of God and as a Nation.”

The Archbishop called on “all Christians and Nigerians as a whole to reaffirm their trust in God, and in corporate Nigeria.”

“Let us remain resolute and resilient, having our hope in the strength and power of the Almighty God. Our prayer for our country, Nigeria is that we shall overcome the present challenges of lingering insecurity: bloodshed, destruction of lives and property; poverty and political squabbles. We should keep hope alive of a corporate Nigeria,” he said.

Preaching at the Easter Vigil at the Cathedral of St. George the Martyr in Cape Town, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba told the congregation he had just returned from a retreat in “frozen rural North Wales”, staying in an attic room overlooking the Irish Sea in the mountains of Snowdonia.

“I was there to follow the 30-days Full Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola,” he explained “to explore what God was wanting to do in my life.”

But even found that the spiritual journey did not end there as God was leading him “to integrate all I’ve experienced and learnt into my ministry and life” –  “And I certainly came back to find an awful lot had been going on,’ he said.

“The over-riding lesson of my retreat is that God, in his redeeming love, is everywhere. Nothing is beyond his care, or his desire to bring healing and new life to you, to me, to everyone,” the archbishop said.

“If you truly want to know what Easter is all about, look at the places where there are tough challenges, difficult issues, hard wrestling, painful contexts – and where God’s people nonetheless dare to go, and to stay for as long as it takes, witnessing to light and hope and life.” Archbishop Makgoba said.

In in his final Easter message before he retires in July the Archbishop of Sydney Dr Peter Jensen reflected on his tenure in office. “As I think on my time as Archbishop, naturally I look back and try to judge myself – not with much success!” he says. “Like you, I have a real judge. Think how much more God, who knows all the secrets of our hearts, must be able to hold me to account. It should make us tremble.”

But Easter filled him with hope. “What happened at the first Easter reminds me of the love of God. Through the death of Jesus even I, and all of us, can have forgiveness as we turn to him in sorrow and trust him for our lives” he says.

“Our failures are not the last word over our lives. And, through the resurrection of Jesus I have a great and undeserved hope of my own resurrection and future,” Dr. Jensen said.

Archbishop-elect Philip Richardson of New Zealand reminded Kiwi Christians that “life comes out of death; the horror of crucifixion bears the fruit of redeemed and renewed humanity; the worst that we are capable of becomes the access way to that intimacy of relationship with God that Christ makes possible; it is in the bowl and towel of the servant that true power is expressed; it is in losing ourselves that we are found.”

The “heart of the message of Easter,” he observed was not the “passion or the suffering, but the resurrection.”

“As Martin Luther King rightly reminded us, ‘Hate begets hate, anger begets anger, killing only begets more killing. The only thing that can turn an enemy into a friend is the power of love’,” he said.

In a joint message released with the leader of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz of the Anglican Church of Canada celebrated the bonds of friendship between the two denominations and also urged Christians to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem”.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori the Episcopal Church stated: “Easter celebrates the victory of light and life over darkness and death.  God re-creates and redeems all life from dead, dry, and destroyed bones.  We are released from the bonds of self-obsession, addiction, and whatever would steal away the radical freedom of God-with-us.”

At Easter “our lives re-center in what is most holy and creative, the new thing God is continually doing in our midst,” she said, “practicing vulnerability toward the need and hunger of others around us” thereby cultivating “compassionate hearts.  We join in baptismal rebirth in the midst of Jesus’ own passing-over.”

The Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, writing from Juba where he was standing holy week with Archbishop Daniel Deng of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, wrote: “This Easter I am looking back,” he said – “I am asking, ‘What does it all mean?’ Whether in Juba or in Pittsburgh – and wherever you find yourself – what I testify is that the Gospel is my strength and my song, and that Jesus has become my salvation.”

“Easter is the day that lights and gives meaning to all the others, wherever I – we – spend it and with whomever I – we – spend it.  The tomb is empty.  The world, the flesh and the devil are defeated.  Jesus is alive.  In Him, the alien becomes familiar, loss becomes gain, sorrow becomes joy, and death becomes life.  This Easter I am also looking around and looking ahead,” Archbishop Robert Duncan wrote.

The Archbishop of Armagh Dr. Richard Clarke said what Ireland need this Easter was “confidence – a full–blooded confidence – that we actually want to allow Christ to run loose and dangerous in the world around us. We need to recover that spirited confidence to assert that Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, is not our private property as churchy people, but is truly for the whole of society and the entire world.”

Dr. Barry Morgan the Archbishop of Wales in his Easter sermon preached at Llandaff Cathedral stated that: “If you wanted to sum up God’s work, He is a God who is in the rescue business.  That is the root meaning of the word ‘salvation’ – it means being saved from something or someone.”

“Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we too as members of His body, are rescued from sin, despair, meaninglessness, disaster, and death,” he said, adding that “this offer of rescue, of salvation, by Jesus, is for all people not just for the select few – a bit like being rescued by a lifeboat.   When a life-station receives a distress signal, no enquiry is made about the social status of those who need rescuing, or whether they can pay for the service, or whether they are at fault for having got themselves into danger in the first place by being careless in going out without life jackets when a storm was forecast.  Lifeboats simply go to the rescue.”

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church Bishop David Chillingworth of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane stated: “We greet with joy the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We look forward to welcoming many people to worship in our churches at Easter.  We hope and pray that they will experience joy and hope in our congregations.

“As disciples of Jesus Christ, we believe that we are people of the resurrection.  We are Easter people – shaped in our baptism through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We feel deeply the pain of the world and its people.  We bring compassion and care to the ministry which we exercise in our service of others.  We have a passion for justice.  We are also people of hope.  Because of the resurrection, we believe that good will triumph over evil and life over death.”

Overseas Anglican applause for Francis: The Church of England Newspaper, March 24, 2013, p 6. March 26, 2013

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Anglican leaders around the world and joined with Archbishop Justin Welby in applauding the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as the next Pope and 226th Bishop of Rome.

The Bishop of Argentina and former primate of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, the Most Rev. Gregory Venables, gave Francis high marks as a champion of the poor and critic of government corruption.

In a note released after the election of Cardinal Bergoglio who has taken the name Francis on 13 March 2013 Bishop Venables wrote: “Many are asking me what Jorge Bergoglio is really like. He is much more of a Christian, Christ centered and Spirit filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written. I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as Cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary.”

“I consider this to be an inspired appointment not because he is a close and personal friend but because of who he is In Christ. Pray for him,” Bishop Venables said.

Other Anglican leaders have also praised the election of Pope Francis. Archbishop Peter Jensen, in a statement released just after the election, said “The papacy continues to have huge global significance in testing times for humanity.  We join those who pray that Pope Francis will use the office to further the gospel of Jesus Christ for the sake of all humanity.”

The Most Rev David Chillingworth, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church welcomed “the election of Pope Francis. He is known for his simplicity of life and his compassionate humility. The church in South America expresses vigorous life and a deep commitment to justice for the poor. God has called him to this ministry at a time when its demands seem overwhelming. We pray that God will equip him with the grace which he needs to fulfil the task. We also pray that his many gifts and his experience will enable him to lead the church forward in mission and service.”

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said, “We welcome and assure Pope Francis I of our prayers and our best wishes for his future ministry. We hope he will bring an ecumenical perspective to the role, a desire to work with Christians of all traditions and a goodwill to people of other faiths.”

Dr. Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland wrote: “In company with millions of men and women throughout the world of different Christian traditions to his own, I assure the new Pope of our prayers as he begins his new ministry. An Argentinian of European parentage, he brings together in his own person the cultures, hopes and spiritual needs of the first world and of the developing world, so much to be valued amidst the complexities and apprehensions of our globalised earth. He has been a champion of the needs of the poor and dispossessed, and, in the simplicity of his own lifestyle, he has sought to reflect the life of the much–loved saint whose name he now carries in the future, Saint Francis.”

“As the Church of Ireland’s Archbishop of Armagh I extend also to Cardinal Seán Brady, to Jesuit friends throughout the island and to all the Roman Catholic people of Ireland, our best wishes, with the hopes and prayers of many fellow–Christians, as Pope Francis now embarks on the ministry to which he has been called,” Dr Clarke said.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz of Canada noted: The new Pope comes from humble beginnings and he is known to have lived modestly throughout his entire ministry.  In taking the name of Francis after Francis of Assisi he has already given us some indication of the holiness, simplicity, and courage of gospel conviction he will bring to this new ministry.”

“As the new Pope endeavours to call people back to the Faith, to rebuild the Church and to strengthen the integrity of its witness to the Gospel in very diverse global contexts, we join our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers in upholding him our prayers,” he said adding “for Latin Americans this is a particularly proud moment — a moment of great rejoicing!  For from the church there the new Pope carries a passion for evangelism, a stance of solidarity with the poor and a posture of perseverance in the pursuit of peace and justice for all people.”

The presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Katharine Jefferts Schori was less effusive. The Episcopal Church will pray for the new Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis I, and for the possibility of constructive dialogue and cooperation between our Churches.”

Call for Royal Commission on child abuse in Australia: The Church of England Newspaper, November 25, 2012 p 7 November 29, 2012

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Anglican leaders in Australia have welcomed Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s creation of a national Royal Commission to investigate institutional responses to instances of child sexual abuse.

“The Diocese of Sydney expresses its unqualified abhorrence of child abuse, wherever it occurs,” Archbishop Peter Jensen said on 12 November 2012.

“While the terms of reference have yet to be decided, we will work and pray for an outcome that will result in a safer society for the most vulnerable,” Dr Jensen said.

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Dr Phillip Aspinall, voiced his support for the Commission also. “Of the nearly 3.6 million Australians who call themselves Anglican, statistically, one in four women and one in eight men are victims of abuse, so it is something that affects our Church on many levels,” he said.

A spokesman for the Primate said: “A decade ago Brisbane Archbishop Dr Phillip Aspinall called for a national Royal Commission into child sexual abuse. His call was dismissed by the Prime Minister of the time, and also rejected at a state level. Archbishop Aspinall believed then, as he does now, that the evil of child sexual assault needs to be addressed nationally, without fear or favour, respecting only the facts.”

On 12 November, the Prime Minister told reporters that she had asked the Governor General to charter a Royal Commission with wide-ranging powers to investigate church, charitable and state child care institutions as well as the responses of child service agencies and the police to allegations of abuse.

The formation of a Royal Commission comes amidst mounting media pressure in Australia to investigate child abuse committed in institutions such as orphanages, hostels and foster care homes. Last week a senior New South Wales police official accused the Roman Catholic Church of covering up child abuse in its institutions and protecting paedophile priests.

“The allegations that have come to light recently about child sexual abuse have been heartbreaking,” Ms Gillard said at a Canberra press conference.

“These are insidious, evil acts to which no child should be subject.”

“Australians know… that too many children have suffered child abuse, but have also seen other adults let them down – they’ve not only had their trust betrayed by the abuser but other adults who could have acted to assist them but have failed to do so.

“There have been too many revelations of adults who have averted their eyes from this evil.

“I believe in these circumstances that it’s appropriate for there to be a national response through a Royal Commission,” the Prime Minister said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Australia rejects gay marriage: The Church of England Newspaper, October 21, 2012 p 6. October 27, 2012

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The Australian parliament has rejected gay marriage. On 19 September 2012 the House of Representatives rejected the private members bill by a vote of 98 to 42. Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition Conservative leader Tony Abbott voted against the bill.

The Archbishop of Sydney welcomed the vote, rejecting claims made by its supporters that gay marriage was “inevitable.”

Dr. Peter Jensen said it was now up to the church to be clear about what marriage was. “The problem is that we have become so confused about the nature and purpose of marriage that it is easy for those with unbiblical ideas to trade on this confusion and to distort the meaning of the fundamental institution of human society.”

Citing the centrality of a mother and father to the propagation and rearing of children, Dr. Jensen said “the solid platform on which a family is built is the public exchange of certain promises – promises of exclusive, life-long faithfulness – consummated in the marriage-bed.”

He added that “at the heart of our difficulty is the exaltation of the individual self and the idea of freedom being the capacity to choose as we will. If the self is the  most important person in the world and the desires of the self have the right to be satisfied, it is not surprising if sex becomes unsatisfying and marriage very difficult to create and sustain.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Australian Christian leaders appeal to MPs to reject gay marriage: The Church of England Newspaper, September 16, 2012, p 5. September 20, 2012

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The Anglican and Roman Catholic archbishops of Sydney have endorsed a public letter urging the Australian parliament to reject calls to widen the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

The statement endorsed by Dr. Peter Jensen and Cardinal George Pell and by over 250 other Orthodox, Anglican, Catholic and Protestant clergy comes as parliament in Canberra on 10 Sept 2012 takes up four bills that seek to amend the Marriage Act to permit same-sex weddings under law.

Marriage is the “lifelong commitment and faithful union of one man and one woman. As such, marriage is the natural basis of the family because it secures the relationship between biological parents and their children,” the preamble to the statement declared.

“As Christian leaders” those signing the statement affirmed their “commitment to promote and protect marriage. We honour the unique love between husbands and wives; the vital place of fathers and mothers in the life of children; and the corresponding ideal for all children to know the love and role modelling of a father and mother.’

“Marriage thus defined is a great good in itself, and it also serves the good of others and society, as it has done for thousands of years. The preservation of the unique meaning of marriage is therefore not a special or limited interest, but serves the common good, particularly the good of children.’

They called upon Parliament to “protect this definition of marriage in Australian law, and not change the meaning of marriage by adding to it different kinds of relationships.”

On 16 June 2012 Dr. Jensen released a statement urging Anglicans to lobby their MPs to vote against the proposed amendments to the Marriage Act. He stated the “parliamentary success of this revolutionary re-definition is not inevitable. It will help however if in the near future Christians who wish to stand for marriage, as instituted by God, would thoughtfully and courteously let their views be known to their Federal parliamentary representatives.”

“We should speak up for the sake of love,” he said, “however hard it may be and whatever pressure we may face, we do not love our fellow Australians if, knowing God’s grace and his written will, we do not speak up and point them to God’s plan for the flourishing of human relationships.”

The first votes on the amendments are likely to take place by month’s end.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Archbishops’ ‘no’ to gay marriage in Australia: The Church of England Newspaper, June 24, 2012 p 5. June 27, 2012

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Peter Jensen

The Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox archbishops of Sydney have urged Christians to reject gay marriage. The “revolutionary re-definition” of marriage was not “inevitable”, Dr. Peter Jensen said in his 17 June 2012 letter, but those “who wish to stand for marriage, as instituted by God, would thoughtfully and courteously let their views be known to their Federal parliamentary representatives.”

In separate letters read to congregations last Sunday, Dr. Jensen, Cardinal George Pell, and Archbishop Stylianos Harkianakis called for the rejection of two private members bills that will amend the Marriage Act introducing same-sex marriage.  A social policy and legal affairs committee inquiry report was presented to Parliament on 18 June, but declined to endorse or reject the bills introduced by Australian Greens MP Adam Bandt and Labor MP Stephen Jones.

Archbishop Stylianos urged Orthodox Christians to lobby their representatives in government to vote against the bill.  The proposed legislation was ”diametrically against” the teachings of the Christian faith and Greek Orthodox tradition and must be stopped, he said.

Cardinal Pell told Catholics that said same-sex relationships were “contrary to God’s plan for sexuality.”  The proposed amendments to the Marriage Act would harm Australia.  “Instead of removing discrimination and injustice, [it] will cause them.”

A spokesman for Australian Marriage Equality Alex Greenwich responded the churches’ views were behind the times.  ”With polls showing a majority of Australian Christians support marriage equality and with prominent Christians … and a growing number of clergy endorsing the reform, I don’t expect many people will be influenced by their priest this Sunday,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

In his letter, Dr Jensen urged Anglicans to “oppose this move as out of keeping both with the word of God and also of the best interests of our community.”

The Anglican archbishop opened his letter by saying it was important that the debate must be civil.  “God’s love for all teaches us that we must not be glib or unfeeling as we discuss, pray and act according to our convictions.”

But civility should not be construed as weakness.  “Christians are led by the word of God itself to bear witness to our strong commitment to marriage understood as the public joining of two persons of the opposite sex from different birth families through promises of enduring, sustaining and exclusive love, consummated in sexual union.”

Marriage “is one of God’s blessings upon us as a race” the archbishop said, for “through it God allows for the pure expression of our sexual natures, for the faithful companionship of one we love and the opportunity for the nurture of children.”

It was a “tragedy” he said that “marriage is so little understood or honoured and that so many people are denying themselves or others the experience of a public commitment and life-long union.”

“The education of children must not be distorted by the state-imposed idea that a family can be founded on the sexual union of two men or two women as a valid alternative to that of a man and a woman,” Dr. Jensen said, as the call for changing the law “only adds to the confusion by taking a God-given social institution for the creation and nurture of families and extending it to those who by God’s design and by nature cannot be married to each other.”

“This is not a matter of ‘marriage equality’ nor of human rights, since the right to be married extends equally, but only to those who are qualified,” he said.

Debate on the bills is not expected until year’s end, however, as its supporters concede they do not have sufficient support to pass the amendments to the Marriage Act at this time.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Overseas reactions to Dr. Williams’ resignation: The Church of England Newspaper, March 22, 2012 p 7. March 28, 2012

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News of the resignation of the Archbishop of Canterbury has prompted reactions ranging from sadness to glee across wider the Anglican Communion.

The 16 March 2012 announcement that Dr. Rowan Williams will leave office by year’s end prompted the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Bishop David Chillingworth to write: “Archbishop Rowan’s time as Archbishop of Canterbury has been marked by great difficulty.  To be the person who is called to foster and to embody unity will always be a costly ministry.  He has fulfilled that ministry with a wonderful grace and personal warmth.”

The Primate of All Ireland, Dr. Alan Harper concurred.  Dr Williams was “held in high affection across the Anglican Communion and, on behalf of the Church of Ireland, I offer him prayerful good wishes as he decides to step down from the hugely demanding role as Archbishop of Canterbury to take up his new responsibilities – and enter a new phase of his life.”

The Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba wrote the church had been “inordinately privileged to have such an able theologian and deeply spiritual thinker, as Archbishop of Canterbury over the last decade,” adding that “I …  will miss him very much.”

However, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria said he was not sorry to see the archbishop go.

When Dr. Williams assumed office, the Anglican Communion was a “happy family. Unfortunately, he is leaving behind a Communion in tatters: highly polarized, bitterly factionalized, with issues of revisionist interpretation of the Holy Scriptures and human sexuality as stumbling blocks to oneness, evangelism and mission all around the Anglican world.

Since Dr. Rowan Williams “did not resign in 2008, over the split Lambeth Conference, one would have expected him to stay on in office, and work assiduously to ‘mend the net’ or repair the breach, before bowing out of office. The only attempt, the covenant proposal, was doomed to fail from the start,” Archbishop Okoh said.

For Nigeria, the “announcement does not present any opportunity for excitement. It is not good news here, until whoever comes as the next leader pulls back the Communion from the edge of total destruction.”

American Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote that she was “grateful for Rowan Williams’ service as Archbishop of Canterbury during an exceedingly challenging season. We can all give thanks for his erudition and persistence in seeking reconciliation across a rapidly changing Anglican Communion.”

The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Peter Jensen observed that Dr. Williams was “universally admired for his intellectual stature and his personal warmth.  In his time as Archbishop, the Anglican Communion has been subjected to unprecedented stresses which have hastened an inevitable tendency to regional independence and decentralisation. With the majority of Anglicans now from theologically conservative churches of the Global South, the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the future will demand a deepening appreciation of their place in the Communion.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Anglican “no” to gay marriage in Australia: The Church of England Newspaper, December 16, 2011 December 17, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Anglican leaders have called for the rejection of the legalization of gay marriage in Australia.

Statements made by the primate, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall of Brisbane, and Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney follow upon the 3 Dec 2011 vote by delegates to the Australian Labor Party’s national conference to support gay marriage.

However, the conference also endorsed Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s call to allow ALP MP’s a free vote when amendments to the federal Marriage Act come before parliament next year.  While the governing ALP and the Greens support gay marriage, the opposition has instructed its members to vote against the change, while a number of Right Labor MPs have voiced opposition to the change.

In a statement released last week, Dr. Aspinall said that while the Anglican Church “acknowledges and continues to participate” in the national debate over gay marriage, it does so from the position of “commitment to the present definition of marriage in the federal Marriage Act.”

He noted the 2010 General Synod had expressed its “commitment to the present definition of Marriage under Commonwealth Law: that marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”

Dr. Aspinall added that while many Anglicans supported state recognition of same-sex civil unions, “changing the definition of ‘marriage’ away from the exclusivity of male and female is not consistent with the Church’s current view.”

The Archbishop of Sydney rejected the philosophical and ethical premise behind the push for gay marriage.  In a 3 Dec 2011 statement, he said the ALP had a “proud history” of supporting equality, “so it is disappointing to see it divided over the false rhetoric of ‘equality’ surrounding same-sex marriage.”

The definition of marriage under law “is not a denial of rights,” he said, noting that “issues of inequity regarding the financial and legal status of same-sex relationships have already been addressed by the Parliament and I have supported these changes.”

But the ALP must consider the cost of tinkering with marriage.  “Redefining marriage will have unintended and unwelcome consequences for the meaning of parenthood, our openness to other forms of marriage, sex education and our commitment to religious freedom,” Dr. Jensen said.

Sydney synod begins: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 14, 2011 p 7. October 19, 2011

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Dr. Peter Jensen

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Sydney has denounced the use of church courts to bypass the Anglican Church of Australia’s General Synod to set doctrine and discipline. However, Dr Peter Jensen also reaffirmed the diocese’s commitment to the Anglican Church of Australia, saying Sydney Anglicanism had a central place in the faith life of Australia.

In his hour-long presidential address to the diocese’s 49th synod on 10 October, Dr Jensen addressed social questions, noting the parlous state of family life in Australia and urged politicians to push back against the country’s “gambling culture.”

He also touched upon the spiritual and financial health of the diocese. Participation was ”more than holding its own,” he said. Growth was “not vast but in a world where clubs, political parties and voluntary organisations are struggling to stay alive, it is significant.”

Taking as his text 1 Kings 19, Dr Jensen stated that “Like Elijah, we sometimes feel alone … But what we have is what Elijah was given – not God in earthquake, wind and fire, but the God in his Word. We live by faith, not by sight. Our business, whatever our situation, is to consult the Word of God, to trust it and to keep it.”

As Elijah was “emboldened by God’s Word, so you too take heart,” he told synod.

Speaking about the diocese’s difficult relations with the national Church, Dr Jensen noted the “division or dismemberment of the Anglican Church of Australia is not in the best interests of Christianity in this country.” The Archbishop’s remarks follow an attack last month upon the diocese by journalist Muriel Porter on the ABC, who accused the Sydney diocese of perverting Anglicanism.

The Archbishop stated that from Sydney’s perspective it was “best” if the national Church was “committed in form and fact to orthodox doctrine and behaviour.”

Sydney also laboured “to retain the integrity of the national Church,” he said, adding the diocese “always insisted that the national federation be decentralized in ethos and diocesan in structure as it is under the Constitution. Sydney also had an ongoing “role to encourage and support the growth of evangelical ministries throughout the national Church,” Dr Jensen said.

He also criticized the process by which women were permitted to be ordained to the episcopate, saying the circumvention of the national synod by an appeal to the church courts harmed the integrity of the institution.

“We want to establish the point that the ready appeal to the law to solve relational and political problems is unfruitful and to ensure that there is minimum interference with the life of the dioceses, in line with the spirit and intent of the Constitution,” Dr Jensen said.

He also touched upon the “For Kid’s Sake” report prepared by Sydney academic Patrick Parkinson. The Parkinson paper chronicled an increasingly dysfunctional youth population, with alarmingly high rates of substance abuse, self-harming behaviour and sexual promiscuity. The rise in bad behaviour could be linked to the decline of the family, he said. “The missing ingredient [in Australian family life] is commitment – a public commitment in the marriage vows,” Dr Jensen said.

“There is a cultural malaise here, a tsunami is beginning which, should it be unchecked, will engulf us. At the base of it the problem is spiritual – it is sin and evil, broken promises and broken hearts, our abandonment of God and our elevation of the individual self to the throne,” the Archbishop said.

Over the next two weeks, the synod will address the diocese’s financial situation and plans for future growth.