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Channel 4 keeps it all in the Anglican family: Get Religion, January 22, 2013 January 22, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Get Religion, Women Priests.
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January has been a wonderful month for lovers of Anglican ecclesiastical drama. The resignation of Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury at year’s end should have led to a few month’s peace and quiet for the Church of England and the wider Anglican world. I had even thought of taking a vacation this month as little of substance appeared on the radar as of late December.

I could count on the penchant of Episcopalians in the United States to sue each other over church property disputes — 88 cases and counting. And there would certainly be some sort of gay story — thank you Washington National Cathedral for announcing you will host gay weddings! But I could write those stories in my sleep — and to tell the truth I would have had a hard time selling them. I could hear the editors say: “You want me to publish another gay Episcopal story? Tell me how is that news?”

But thank goodness for the Church of England. When life get’s me down. When I begin to think my mother in law is right and there is still time to go to law school and have a “respectable” career, the Church of England comes to my rescue. What a month it has been. Fights with the government over gay marriage, fights over gay bishops, and fights over women bishops. The CoE is at its most interesting when it is at war. Liberal and conservative wings in full war cry, possessed of the certainties of the Israelites who went out boldly to hew Agag in pieces and to smite the Amalekites hip and thigh.

Last week the fight over women bishops flared anew, illuminating the dreary skies of Westminster as the lay members of General Synod met at Church House in London to hear a motion calling for the impeachment of the chairman of the House of Laity.

Channel 4 News — which is the fourth British television network (BBC1, BBC2, ITV and Channel 4) — ran a story entitled “Women bishops: laity votes in no confidence motion,” previewing the meeting. It began:

The debate over women bishops in the Church of England is reignited today as one of the houses of the church’s governing body meets to consider calling for the resignation of its chair.

The House of Laity, part of the General Synod, is meeting in London for an extraordinary meeting to vote on a motion of no confidence in chair Dr Philip Giddings, who spoke against women bishops – directly after the Archbishop elect, Rev Justin Welby spoke in favour.

Canon Stephen Barney, who will propose the motion after setting up a petition, says Dr Giddings’ action “undermined” the speech of the archbishop-elect and were not representative of the house.

The story goes on to give the background to the meeting, noting it was the laity who blocked passage of a bill permitting the consecration of women clergy to the episcopate. The story then quotes the mover of the resolution, giving him space to summarize his views:

Speaking to Channel 4 News ahead of the meeting, Mr Barney, who has insisted the motion is not a personal attack, said the purpose of the meeting was not to debate women bishops in this particular incident, but whether Dr Giddings was representing the house which he chaired.

He said: “I hope that we will have a proper debate. It’s a question of whether this was appropriate given that he was not representing the view of the vast majority of the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and indeed all but 74 of the House of Laity.”

Three more paragraphs of quotes from Mr. Barney are provided, followed by the line:

Dr. Giddings has not yet commented on the issue and said that “the time for debate is when we have the debate.”

Oh, and at the bottom of the page is this announcement:

The author of this piece, Katharine Barney, is the daughter of Canon Stephen Barney.

Is that clear. Katharine Barney the author of the news article is the daughter of the subject of the news article, Stephen Barney.

Is it possible for a daughter to write a balanced news article about her father? Yes, it is possible. A good journalist can detach themselves and write a story that is fair to both sides.  Love or hate Dad, a good reporter can still do their job. Yet the appearance of impropriety remains.

In this case, the balance expected of a reporter — a normal one, e.g., not the child of the subject of the piece — is absent. The British blog Cranmer — one of the best written and more intelligent religion blogs out there — had this to say:

This debate will attract an awful lot of media attention: it touches on theology, equality, morality, the governance of the Church of England, and the right separation of powers. One might expect Channel 4 News to have done rather better than get the daughter of the motion’s proposer to write a superficial and thoroughly biased article on the matter.

Standing outside the issues, the Channel 4 story failed as journalism. It was unbalanced. While Dr. Giddings declined to speak to the issues, there were dozens of others in the Church of England — bishops, lay leaders, commentators — who could offer a contrary voice. The context for this story was insufficient. How did the Church of England get to this place? Has this happened before? How much does it cost and who is paying for it? What happens if Dr. Giddings is impeached, or if he survives censure?

Where these problems addressed in the article, then it could be argued that having the daughter of the subject of the story write the story was a bold move by Channel 4’s editors to show the professionalism of its reporter. This did not happen.

Opprobrium should not be heaped on the author of the story, however. We do not know what the original story she submitted looked like, and by her lights this may have been a balanced complete account. The fault lies with the editors at Channel 4. What were they thinking?

First printed in Get Religion.

Bishops ignite firestorm over gay bishop ban: The Church of England Newspaper, January 13, 2013 p 7. January 10, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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The House of Bishops has ended the moratorium that banned clergy in same-sex civil partnerships from being appointed as bishops. The announcement, buried in the seventh paragraph of a 20 Dec 2012 report, has sparked protests and praise from across the church and wider Anglican Communion – and handed the Archbishop of Canterbury-designate Justin Welby with his first international crisis eight weeks before he takes office.

A spokesman for the Church of England told CEN the announcement and subsequent clarification of 4 January 2013 was not a reversal of policy, as no changes had been made to the church’s underlying teachings on human sexuality or its standards of moral conduct expected of clergy.  But “given the moratorium imposed by the House in 2011, It would however be true to say that the moratorium has been lifted” on clergy in civil partnerships being appointed as bishops, he said.

However, the distinction drawn by the House of Bishops has been overwhelmed by the reactions from left and right. Liberal pressure groups have hailed the announcement as a step forward for gay rights within the Church of England, with one commentator stating the announcement paves the way for Dr. Jeffrey John to be appointed Bishop of Durham.

Conservatives are aghast by what they see as a unilateral reversal by the bishops of church policy, while the leader of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, Dr. Eliud Wabukala the Archbishop of Kenya, warned that the policy served to institutionalize hypocrisy in the Church of England.  The appointment of a partnered gay bishop, he warned, would devastate an already crippled Anglican Communion.

In 2011 the House of Bishops formed a working group led by the Bishop of Sodor and Man  to the review of the 2005 pastoral statement on Civil Partnerships.

At its 2011 launch, the Bishop of Norwich said this committee’s work “will include examination of whether priests in civil partnerships should be eligible for appointment as bishops. The 2005 statement was silent on this issue.”

While the committee was studying the issue the “House has concluded that clergy in civil partnerships should not, at present, be nominated for episcopal appointment.  The review will be completed in 2012.”

The bishops also formed a second committee chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling to revisit the church’s pronouncements on human sexuality. In their December announcement, the bishops said they head presentations from Sir Joseph’s committee — but were silent as to the progress of the Sodor and Man committee.

The bishops stated that “pending the conclusion of]the Sir Joseph Pilling] group’s work next year the House does not intend to issue a further pastoral statement on civil partnerships. It confirmed that the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate.”

On 22 Dec the gay pressure group Changing Attitude published an article on its website drawing attention to the announcement, and on 2 Jan Dr. Andrew Goddard, writing on the website of the Anglican Communion Institute, published an appreciation of the bishops’ statement and concluded their “decision is, therefore, a reversal not a confirmation of the existing policy” on civil partnerships.

Stories in the church and secular press soon followed leading to a statement of clarification issued by Bishop Graham James on behalf of the House of Bishops released late on 4 Jan.  Bishop James stated the bishops had heard reports from both committees and had lifted the moratorium as the Sodor and Man working party on Civil Partnerships had issued its report.

“The House believed it would be unjust to exclude from consideration for the episcopate anyone seeking to live fully in conformity with the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline. All candidates for the episcopate undergo a searching examination of personal and family circumstances, given the level of public scrutiny associated with being a bishop in the Church of England. But these, along with the candidate’s suitability for any particular role for which he is being considered, are for those responsible for the selection process to consider in each case,” Bishop James said.

A spokesman for the Church of England explained the decision to end the moratorium was not a reversal of policy, but an extension of the policy adopted in 2005 for the ordination of deacons and priests to now include episcopal appointments.

The Bishop of Carlisle said the bishops’ decision was a matter of justice. “The situation now is no different to the situation in 2005 which referred to clergy. What we’re saying for Bishops is exactly what we said for clergy.”

“It would seem wrong to set a different bar for Bishops than clergy,” said Bishop James Newcome on 5 Jan.

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement welcomed the announcement, but offered a different interpretation from the bishops. The LGCM’s chief executive the Rev Sharon Ferguson said the church’s “discrimination” against gay and lesbian clergy had “undermined the church’s credibility in sharing the good news of God’s love for all. Removing the ban on bishops in civil partnerships is a positive measure but we must now see it come to fruition.”

Guardian columnist, the Rev Giles Fraser also hailed the news of the announcement, telling The Sunday Times that in light of the relaxation of the ban, “Jeffery John would be the perfect person to be Bishop of Durham because he has all the right skills.’

However Dr. Philip Giddings and Canon Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream argued a “decision to move from the current position would be a grave departure from the Church’s doctrine and discipline it should be made by Bishops in Synod not by Bishops alone.”

“A bishop known to be in a civil partnership could hardly be a focus of unity nor be a bishop for the whole church,” they said, adding that “such an appointment would be a very divisive move both within the Church of England and in the wider Anglican Communion.”

Part of the problem was the “ambiguous nature of civil partnerships,” they argued. “Most people assume that civil partnerships are sexual relationships. It is casuistical to claim that they are not.”

The Ven. Michael Lawson, chairman of the Church of England Evangelical Council stated the current system was not working.  “Some bishops are known to be lax about questioning civil-partnership clergy about their sex lives,” he said, noting the “church has a poor record already” in upholding the “requirement of celibacy and traditional teaching.”

“At the very least” the announcement will “spread confusion and at worst will be taken as an effort to conform to the spirit of the age,” he said.

The Archbishop of Kenya, Dr. Eliud Wabukala concurred, saying the announcement “will create further confusion about Anglican moral teaching and make restoring unity to the Communion an even greater challenge.”

The “proviso” that clergy in civil partnerships remain celibate is “clearly unworkable. It is common knowledge that active homosexuality on the part of Church of England clergy is invariably overlooked and in such circumstances it is very difficult to imagine anyone being brought to book,” the archbishop said on 6 Jan.

However, “the heart of the matter is not enforceability, but that bishops have a particular responsibility to be examples of godly living,” he argued.   “It cannot be right that they are able to enter into legally recognised relationships which institutionalise and condone behaviour that is completely contrary to the clear and historic teaching of Scripture” and the teaching of the church.

“The weight of this moral teaching cannot be supported by a flimsy proviso,” Archbishop Wabukala said.

However, commentator the Rev. Peter Ould has argued that liberals and conservatives have been too quick in responding to the announcement.

The “problem” with civil partnerships and the clergy has not been “clergy not being truthful, it’s bishops who haven’t asked them to be truthful,” he said. Evangelicals would be better served by concentrating “on those responsible for enforcing discipline and Biblical pastoral care rather than those caught in the cross-fire over this issue,” he said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Evangelical backlash follows England’s decision to allow “gay” bishops: Anglican Ink, January 7, 2012 January 8, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Church of England, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda

Conservative Evangelical leaders have charged the Church of England’s House of Bishops with hypocrisy, denouncing the 20 Dec 2012 announcement that gay clergy in civil partnerships, who remain celibate, may be appointed as bishops.

“A bishop known to be in a civil partnership could hardly be a focus of unity nor be a bishop for the whole church,” the leaders of Anglican Mainstream said over the weekend, while the Archbishops of Uganda and Kenya have warned that appointment of a partnered gay bishop would be a grievous blow to the wider Anglican Communion.

“Our grief and sense of betrayal are beyond words,” Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda said on 7 January 2013.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.