Reconciliation in the Middle East – A Christian View

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VIDEO: About to give up on reconciliation in Israel-Palestine? Don’t. Watch this interview with Salim Munayer. – [CMS]

Are you thirsty for a different kind of voice in the maelstrom of voices over Israel-Palestine? How can we look with clear eyes at the conflict? Is there a hopeful path to follow? Has anyone got anything to say that is not ultimately one-sided? Salim Munayer does.

Dr Salim Munayer is director of Musalaha reconciliation ministry in Israel-Palestine and a trustee of the Church Mission Society. He co-authored Through My Enemy’s Eyes, with Lisa Loden.

Here, he discusses the ABC of reconciliation, what might be a Christlike response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and challenges the Church in the West about its apathy and seeming lack of desire to speak up for Christians in the Middle East.

Salim also sheds light on the competing historical narratives and theological frameworks, and the implication of the church in the conflict.

Salim talked to Jeremy Woodham at the CMS offices in Oxford on 11 August 2014.

26 August 2014 | Vimeo | Open media

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The ACNS (Anglican Communion News Service) offers this most enlightening video interview on the complications of any attempt at reconciliation  – first in the middle-East, and then in relation to Christians everywhere. How best do we approach the Christ-given task of reconciliation? This video, is a profound viewpoint of someone deeply involved in the situation.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand
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Muscular Christianity – a Titan’s Fall?

HOLY HIPSTER MARK DRISCOLL CONTINUES TO FALL

 
driscoll2
 

Following the news that 21 ex-Mars Hill Church pastors asked lead pastor Mark Driscoll to step down, he returned from his planned vacation on August 24, 2014 and announced he will be taking at least six weeks off while the charges are being investigated. Mars Hill has retainedevangelical PR strategist Mark DeMoss, son of the religious right funders behind the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation and former advisor to the Romney campaign, to assist the church during this time.

Earlier this month Driscoll suffered a major career blow when the Acts 29 Network, the all-male coalition of over 500 Reformed evangelical church planters that he co-founded, removed him and his Seattle based Mars Hill Church from the organization’s membership, and asked him to step down as a pastor.

Following this news, Lifeway Christian Stores, the second largest distributor of Christian books, announced it will no longer carry his books, and Mars Hill cancelled their annual signature Resurgence Conference scheduled for October 2014. Driscoll continues to find himself persona non grata at events such as the the Act Like Men Conference.

Driscoll’s “difficult season” escalated on August 3, 2014 when approximately 80 ex-members of Mars Hill protested Driscoll’s misogynyongoing plagiarism allegations, and abusive tactics, as well as the church’s overall lack of accountability and financial transparency.

Hailed as a rising young hipster pastor destined to revitalize a graying evangelical leadership, Driscoll, age 43, earned the moniker “the cussing pastor” for his profanity-laced preaching. His ongoing mission to reach “fatherless” young males attracted to muscular Christainity made him an international star within Reformed Christianity with his podcasts ranking among the top 10 in religion in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Norway.

In January 2012, he became a #1 New York Times bestselling author heavily promoted by hispublisher, until Mars Hill removed this designation from his bio following revelations that he had paid ResultSource, a marketing firm that “creates”bestsellers. At present, Driscoll seems to have been dropped by his agent, and his relationship with his current publisher Tyndale remains unclear.

A cursory glance of Mars Hill’s history illuminates a church embroiled in “dissent” since the formation of Mars Hill Church LLC in 1995 (though Driscoll, Leif Moi and Mike Gunn co-founded the church itself the following year, in 1996).

Mars Hill’s growing controversies remained hidden, due in large part to a drastic change to the church’sbylaws in 2007 that shifted oversight from 24 male elders to a select group of executive elders, with Driscoll as the lead pastor. Those few who protested the change, or any subsequent decisions made by the executive elders, found themselves fired and shunned. Also, many employees are prevented from speaking publicly about Mars Hill due to a non-disclosure agreement they had signed as a condition of their employment.

After Wendy Alsup, the former leader of women’s ministry at Mars Hill whom Driscoll truly respected,critiqued Real Marriage in February 2012 and later ex-elder Jeff Bettger felt compelled to share his story online in December 2013, other leaders began to come forward and tell their stories publicly, regardless of the repercussions. This shift from outsider voices critiquing Driscoll to insiders sharing their stories is perhaps best exemplified in a recent piece by The Stranger‘s Brendan Kiley. Unlike previous coverage of Driscoll that focused solely on his bad boy persona, Kiley went out and collected the stories of those who felt victimized by their time at Mars Hill.

Yet despite the growing cacophony of victims seeking justice, Mars Hill’s Board of Advisors & Accountability continues to support Driscoll, recently stating that “There is clear evidence that the attitudes and behaviors attributed to Mark in the charges are not a part and have not been a part of Mark’s life for some time now.”

It doesn’t help that while Mars Hill once claimed to have an open book policy regarding its financial records, it now hides behind the IRS regulations that allow churches to keep financials private. For instance, Mars Hill lists total personnel costs of $12,047,038, though church leaders continue to refuse requests to release the salaries of individual staff members.

According to reliable sources, this breakdown would reveal massive discrepancies between the compensation of executive elders and that of staffers who must supplement their church income with food stamps. Also, a quick review of Mars Hill’s LLCs indicates that the executive elders and not the church are listed as members, thus raising the question: “Who Owns Mars Hill?”

Now that a former employee has gone public with proof that funds donated to the Mars Hill Global Fund were allocated elsewhere, perhaps others will come forward to unearth documents Mars Hill refuses to release despite repeated requests.

But to focus solely on Driscoll and Mars Hill overlooks the other Christian leaders who find themselves mired in similar problems stemming from a lack of accountability structures. For example, among those whose stars also seem to have fallen include Driscoll’s colleague Steve Furtick of Elevation Church in Charlotte, now under scrutiny for not disclosing the connection between the church’s income and his personal finances; former president C.J. Mahoney of scandal-plagued Sovereign Grace Ministries (and one of Driscoll’s mentors for a brief period of time); and the now defunct Emergent Village, an offshoot of the Young Leaders Network (whose official vision group Driscoll was once a member of), which also has a history of cyberbullying women.

It’s tempting to ask whether there’s something in the masculine Christianity playbook that makes its proponents so scandal prone.

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In direct contrast to my last post – showing Jesus as champion of children – here we have an article from ‘Religious Dispatches’, that details the downfall of a macho-cultural American Pastor, Mark Driscoll of the ‘Mars Hill’ Church in Los Angeles. His recent fall from grace includes criticism – not only for alleged manipulation of his book publications, but also his handling of controversy about the place of women in the Church.

Mars Hill is renowned for its Male Headship policies – obtained, it has been claimed, from a particular exegesis of Scripture that prevents women from tasks of Church leadership. This is not unknown to be a driving force for misogyny, homophobia and a confrontational ethos of Christian proselytization that can be problematic in a multicultural community – such as now exists in most civilised countries of the world.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand 

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“Suffer the little children to come unto me” – Jesus

I nominate these guys

Posted: 25 Aug 2014 01:07 AM PDT

baptismal candidates

Can you change the world by pouring water over someone?

Well, we had a go yesterday in St Mary’s with two lovely baptisms in a great service yesterday morning.

In the course of the service, we were reminded of Moses being scooped from the water of the River Nile and going on to set a whole people free from slavery. Then we heard a bit of St Paul which reminded us that transformation of the heart was connected with accepting that we all have gifts that differ. (What a fabulous reading for a baptism). Then we had a reading from the gospels which told us that in trying to work out who Jesus was, Peter the apostle actually found himself named and commissioned for service.

What will these children do in their lives?

There is so much trouble in the world at the moment that it is important to be reminded of the hope and the joy that isn’t just part of what happens when new life comes into a family with the birth of a child but also the new life  and hope which is intrinsic to our faith.

Yesterday morning was a little Easter for us at St Mary’s. And a packed church was buzzing with the ideas that new life, hope and love are real and for sharing.

I don’t know who is going to sort the world out and allow the kingdom of love to be seen for real. But I nominate these guys, freshly baptized, and all like them who are entering the world anew. May they be a generation that brings faith, hope and love to bear on a world that needs to be baptised with every drop of goodness it can get.

The post I nominate these guys appeared first on What is in Kelvin’s Head?.

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A cheering blog-entry from Provost Kelvin Holdsworth, of St.Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow, shows us just where the future of the Church is coming from. Anglicans around the world are still admitting little children to the Body of Christ in Holy Baptism, and where this is being done – together with the discipling of their young parents – there is no need to worry about the future of the Church. Where little children are gladly and sensitively welcomed, the Body of Christ flourishes.

What needs not to be done with our young people,as they grow into adolescence, is to lure them into the Church with the promise of entertainment. The Church has survived though many centuries without the strident sound of synthesizers, drums and mind-numbing rock-beat, that seems to be employed today in many evangelical centres of spirituality. There is much to be said for prayer and praise that reflects the dignity and solemnity of meeting up with the Creator of all. If we trivialise our worship with rap-like mantras, how can we expect the Spirit of God to speak to us, while we wait upon the Divine Majesty to enfold us? “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” – and sometimes, SILENCE!

Father Kelvin Holdsworth is no fuddy-duddy. He is an openly Gay clergy-person in the Episcopal Church of Scotland, and has a lively eclectic congregation of people who are encouraged to worship God in a setting of catholic sacramentalism – in the expectation that God is a Spirit, and those who worship Him can trust in His mercy, love and forgiveness – a paramount need in the hearts of ALL people – regardless of ethnicity, age, gender or sexual-orientation.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

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Global South Anglican Primates welcome S.C. Schismatic Diocese

21 August 2014
Announcement regarding the Diocese of South Carolina
My dear Brothers and Sisters,
Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

The Global South of the Anglican Communion welcomes the unanimous request of The Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, XIV Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, and the Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina to “accept the offer of the newly created Global South Primatial Oversight Council for pastoral oversight of our ministry as a diocese during the temporary period of our discernment of our final provincial affiliation.”

The decision of the Diocese of South Carolina was made in response to the meeting of the Global South Primates Steering Committee in Cairo, Egypt from 14-15 February 2014.1 A recommendation from that
meeting stated that, “we decided to establish a Primatial Oversight Council, in following-through the recommendations taken at Dar es Salam in 2007, to provide pastoral and primatial oversight to dissenting individuals, parishes, and dioceses in order to keep them within the Communion.” Recognizing the faithfulness of Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina, and in appreciation for their contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, the Global South welcomes them as an active and faithful member within the Global South of the Anglican Communion, until such time as a permanent primatial affiliation can be found.

Yours in Christ,
+ Mouneer Egypt + Ian Mauritius
The Most Revd Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis, Primate of Jerusalem & the Middle East
Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa
Chairman, Global South Primates Steering Committee
The Most Revd Ian Ernest Primate of the Indian Ocean, Bishop of Mauritius
Hon. General Secretary, Global South Primates Steering Committee

The full statement of the Global South Primates Steering Committee held in Cairo, Egypt from 14-15 February 2014 may be found on the Global South Anglican website

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This Statement issued by the ‘Global South Anglican Primates Council’ – not officially affiliated with the official ACC Primates Council –  gives a distinctive regional welcome to the schismatic bishop and diocese of  South Carolina (formerly bishop and diocese of South Carolina in TEC) to join its regional ‘G.S.A.’ Church.

The complication arising from such an event, is that Bishop Mark Lawrence and his secessionist Diocese of South Carolina – an entity out of communion with its parent church: The Episcopal Church in the United States of America – have become an associate part of a recently-formed Anglican entity calling itself the ‘Global South Anglican Primates’, which exists only in a selected part of the territorial area of the Southern Hemisphere.

This will provide a testing of relationships between the Anglican Consultative Council, which includes Western Provinces of the Communion that are not part of G.S.A.P.C. and the fore-mentioned ‘Global South Anglican Primates Council’

Although there has been no official severance of the GSAPC from the ACC; the inclusion of a ‘rogue’ diocese into GSAP’s jurisdiction – now ‘de facto’, by this proclamation – without the common consent of the ACC Primates, will obviously present embarrassment at any future meetings of the Lambeth Bishops from all parts of the Communion.

However, it has already been suggested that there might not be another Lambeth Conference, and the Archbishop of Canterbury himself has suggested that it might not happen in 2018 (the normal, projected, date) – so, one wonders, is this the ‘thin end of a wedge’ that spells the division of the world-wide Anglican Communion into two separate entities. This could possibly be compared with the co-existence of the Roman Catholic Church and its Uniate Churches of the East that manage to live together in ecclesial fellowship.

The more militant group in the Global South Anglican Provinces, The GAFCON, which have already declared their own doctrinal structure in their ‘Jerusalem Statement’ of Faith, chose not to attend the last Lambeth and ACC Meetings – in protest against what they have determined is the heterodox praxis of certain Western Provinces of the Communion, in ordaining clergy and bishops in Same-Sex relationships – and have now, seemingly, by this latest action, received the imprimatur of the GSAPC to follow a process of disengagement from those Provinces they see as not signing up to the ‘Jerusalem Statement’. 

We now wait upon the action of the Anglican Consultative Council, in response to this latest development of the GSAPC.

If the Anglican Communion is to remain a fellowship of Anglican Churches in every part of the world, there will need to be some sort of revision of its structure – perhaps based upon regional and cultural affiliations, which may not be a bad thing..

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch

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Pope Francis – Papal Innovator – (‘The Tablet’)

Pope Francis has transformed the Church – it’s time the Church stopped stifling groups who embrace that transformation
22 August 2014 by Chris McDonnell

There are times in all our lives when an event is transformative, when something happens that makes a difference; there is a step-change and the person we were before is radically different from the person we become. There is no going back.

Such a step-change occurred in the life of the Church in March 2013 with the election of Francis as Bishop of Rome. The present successor to previous holders of that office is within the tradition of the Church, there is no argument with that. He has however shown us a willingness to break new ground through his evident easy relationship with people. Over recent months the internet has been littered with his examples of a simple life style that seems natural to him and puts others at their ease.

One key word must be dialogue, not just the dialogue of words but also of relationships. In recent years, groups have been formed in various parts of the world seeking dialogue, bringing together people whose commitment to the Church is faithful, but who also recognise real problems that cannot, must not, be ignored.

Such groups should not be seen as a threat, for their giving voice to current issues is all part of their pilgrimage as Christian people. They often meet with resistance from many directions, from those who seek the holy comfort zone of what used to be, or are fearful of where we might be heading. 

Richard Rohr, in his recent book, Falling Upward, puts it this way. “This resistance to change is so common, in fact, that it is almost what we come to expect from religious people who tend to love the past more than the future or the present”.

Because some people are willing to take the risk of a journey, to question where we are and where we might be going, that should not make them the subject of suspicion. Their courage in leaving home should be applauded.

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in Ireland has raised serious questions over the last three years and have often been castigated for it. In the US, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, who met this week, who live out their vocation in a real and messy world, has had its integrity challenged by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Here in the United Kingdom, the establishment of the group a Call to Action (ACTA) in 2012 following a gathering at Heythrop College in London raised concern in some quarters when the only wish of those involved was to establish open dialogue for the good of the Church.  Likewise, the Movement for Married Clergy, MMaC, has since 1975, sought an honest discussion on the “necessary” relationship between ordination and celibacy. Sincere discussion should be welcomed by both the hierarchy and the laity, for the good of the Church.

In the early days of August, we celebrated the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. We should remember that, now and then, we too are transformed, transfigured even, and the dwelling of God in us is allowed to shine through. Others see it, and are grateful for our being alongside them. Others feel it, in the gentleness of our touch or the carefulness of our hug. Others value it when we truly listen to their words of joy or pain and share with them times of great personal happiness or the darkness of desolation.

We mustn’t be afraid of challenging voices from whatever quarter they come, but ask only questions of their sincerity and then be willing to dialogue a way forward together.

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In these days of fear for the future of the Church, and Christian values, one needs to understand the motivation of Pope Francis towards the opening up of the Roman Catholic Church to the priority of relationships between human beings – made in the Image and Likeness of God. Doctrine needs to be constantly up-dated to keep pace with the reality on the ground.

In today’s appalling situation of religious wars that are prompted by fundamentalist jihadists, who believe that they have the right to overturn the human rights of other people who do not conform to their own standards of religious purity, the Church has an urgent need to re-examine its doctrinal and social connectivity. The God and Father of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has much more to offer humanity than the stark promise of vengeance – based on strict adherence to credal formulae, rather than the eirenic parameters of the Gospel. Freedom from hypocrisy and self-righteousness was one of the battles that Jesus had to fight during his short time on earth. The Church needs to expand its understanding of God’s openness to ALL people – regardless of race, tribe, social class, ethnic purity, gender or sexual-orientation. Pope Francis may yet turn out to be this century’s proclaimer, par excellence, of ‘The great love of God as revealed in the Son’ that this world sorely needs.

Jesu, mercy, Mary, pray!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

Chris McDonnell is the secretary of the Movement for Married Clergy

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‘Religion Dispatches’ – LGBT News

This week’s global LGBT recap again highlights vast differences in legal status for LGBT people, and in the role played by religious leaders in advancing equality or advocating discrimination – or death – for LGBT people.

Uganda: New Anti-Homosexuality Act Considered, HIV Criminalization Law Signed

We noted last week that Ugandan religious and political leaders were pushing for a quick re-passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in the wake of an August 1 decision by the Constitutional Court that the law was invalid because it was passed without a quorum in Parliament. ThinkProgress reported last week that there are signs that President Yoweri Museveni will try to slow the momentum. All Africa hasreported that Museveni will back a new version: “According to MPs backing a new version of the bill, the law will be watered down and focused on the threat of supposed homosexual recruitment of children.” Medard Bitekyerezo, an MP supporting the law, said it would not “harass” consenting adults.

A Catholic Bishop said people frustrated by the Constitutional Court’s action “should not take the laws into their hands and harm homosexuals since they are also human beings though with different sexual feelings.’

John Baptist Odama, the bishop of the Church in Gulu, has reminded Ugandans that homosexuals are also human beings created in the image of God.

‘Let us learn to love God’s human creatures. It is not that I am advocating for homosexual practice in the country, but we should not take laws into our hands to harm and hate the homosexuals because we all have weaknesses,’ he has said.

But according to activist Denis Nzioka, six LGBT people were stoned to death in the Ugandan countryside last weekend. A press release from the Friends New Underground Railroad and the Safe Passages Fund says that Christian leaders responded to the Court ruling overturning the Anti Homosexuality Act by stepping up anti-gay messages on evangelical radio programs. According to the release, “Since the Railroad’s debut in April, a total of 448 Ugandan LGBT individuals who sought help to leave Uganda were successfully helped with funding from Quaker groups, The Safe Passage Fund, churches, nonprofits and individual donors.”  [Update 8/22/14: BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reports that some human rights activists and investigators in Uganda are skeptical about FNUR’s claims about stonings, and are questioning the group’s unwillingness to provide more information about its allegations. Feder reports that Ugandan activists are concerned that non-credible claims of violence may undermine their own work, and have called for further investigations to clear up the matter as soon as possible.]

FNUR also says that a campaign has been waged against students at Christian schools:

In recent months, students attending Ugandan Catholic and Christian universities, colleges and other schools have also been major targets of the national antigay witch hunt being coordinated by Ugandan evangelical bishops and clergy. They have demanded that Catholic educational institutions identify and expel any students suspected of being LGBT. Dozens of students have recently been “outed” and expelled at three universities, some then evicted by their families, their names and details of their private lives, including names of friends, have been broadcast oncommunity radio stations. Attacks and threats have followed.

From May thru July, 22 gay male seminary students, over two dozen self-identified lesbians, and several trans students at three different Catholic universities were outed, went into hiding, and were provided successful safe passage out of Uganda. The 22 seminarians have been granted asylum and are now resettled in European countries. Several of the lesbian and trans students are also in the process of being permanently resettled. Currently, 13 lesbian university students at another university are in hiding and hope to leave after being outed, according to FNUR sources.

The Observer reported on Monday that the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda had fired its staff after USAID withdrew funding that accounted for about 90 percent of the group’s revenues. IRCU leaders have been vocal supporters of the Anti Homosexuality Act, and the Observer reports that relations “soured” when “religious leaders questioned American’s support to pro-gay activists within Uganda.”

The local organization says it is a victim of its anti-gay stance, which the donor finds unacceptable, although some sources claim IRCU failed to meet some of USAID’s rigorous accountability procedures.

Suspension of funding was communicated to IRCU in a June 26 letter by USAID Country Director Lislie Reed. She told the religious body that their partnership was being terminated effective July 31….

The money was part of USAID’s five-year HIV/Aids support project. The major components of the project included care and treatment of people living positively with Aids, prevention, psycho-social support, support for orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs), coordination and advocacy.  At least 70,000 patients were supported under palliative care, 40,000 on anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment and 45,000 children under OVC support.

A senior member of staff who has been laid off told The Observer that USAID was maintaining support for all the beneficiaries of the projects previously executed by IRCU but now under a different framework. The IRCU brings together Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Seventh Day Adventist churches to address issues of common interest.

This week Museveni did sign a law criminalizing the transmission of HIV. The U.S. had denounced the legislation back in May when it was passed by Parliament, saying stigma, discrimination, and fear would “further fuel the epidemic by deterring those most in need from accessing lifesaving HIV prevention, treatment, and care services.

Meanwhile,Joan Tumwine, a Ugandan who moved to the UK in 2013 to work for a Christian charity, Youth for Christ, lost her employer’s support when she sought asylum as a lesbian. According to Pink News, “The charity said it could not trust her to work with children because she is a lesbian.”

Tumwine says she applied for asylum without coming out to her employer

On considering whether to come out, she said: “I studied each one of them and the way they used to talk about gay people was not good and that made me not trust them with my problems and not only that, being Christians they did not like gay people.”

She did not come out as gay, but when she attempted to seek asylum in the UK, she says the charity would not support her, and instead tried to remove from the UK, forcing a plane ticket on her.

The Out and Proud Diamond Group African LGBTI is mobilizing a petition campaign to stop her deportation to Uganda, which is reportedly scheduled for this Friday.

UK: Bishop Opposes Church’s Marriage Ban; Debate Over ‘Conscience’ Exemption for Registrars

Last week the Right Reverend Dr Alan Wilson, a Church of English bishop, spoke on behalf of same-sex marriage, in spite of the fact that gay weddings are still prohibited by the Church of England. According to the Oxford Mail:

Bishop of Buckingham the Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson this week spoke at a debate on the issue at Kidlington’s St John’s Church.

A prominent supporter of gay marriage, he told worshippers at the Broadway church that the Christian tradition holds “the root of marriage is not sex but companionship”.

He said: “The idea that marriage is about friendship has become extremely powerful in England.”

Christians must symbolise “good news”, he said: “One of the really painful things I have had to learn is how the Church can be really bad news to people”.

This can “stir feelings of guilt and lack of self worth”, but he said: “God has made us like that. If he wanted to make us another way he would but he didn’t.”

Echoing the ongoing debate over “religious exemptions” in the U.S., a columnist for the Telegraph argued that the state should protect registrars whose religious views will not allow them to marry same-sex couples. Pink News notes that last year, a former civil registrar from Islington lost an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Christina Odone, former editor of The Catholic Herald, argues in the Telegraph that religious believers receive fewer protections from the government:

“Sexual preference and gender equality are taken seriously: laws and a host of employment regulations protect these rights with a convert’s fervour. A schoolboy who calls another one ‘gay’ as a term of abuse faces arrest; a woman can sue the pants off her boss if she can prove his sexual discrimination

“But people’s beliefs are of no account. The conscientious objector who cannot marry a gay couple because to do so would run counter to her religious beliefs will lose her job; the pharmacist who won’t sell the morning-after pill because he thinks abortion is a sin will lose his.”

She added: “The state will not protect belief – and in some countries it will actively quash it: as the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination on Christians in Europe found two years ago, the EU has introduced more than 50 laws that discriminate against Christians.”

According to Pink News, Odone formerly opposed same-sex marriage, but announced last year that she had reversed her opinion based in part on Vladimir Putin’s homophobia.

Prime Minister David Cameron said in a speech this week that his government is taking steps to remove lingering inequalities for same sex couples and said that “prejudice” should not stop gay couples from adopting children.

“When there are children in need of a loving family, and gay couples with so much love to give, we should not allow prejudice to stand in the way of progress for our children or for our wider society. “That sends a powerful message about who we are as a country in the modern world.”

He also said that Britain has not properly recognized marriage in its tax system and his government is changing that.

“Let me be clear. I don’t think that this will suddenly mean people deciding to get married for a few extra pounds. That’s not what it’s about.

“It’s about sending a clear message that in Britain we recognise and value the commitment that people make to each other. And that’s just as vital whether the commitment is between a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and another woman.

“I believe in the right of marriage for all people.

“As I’ve said, when people’s love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change.

“So we’ve changed it.”

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At least one Roman Catholic Bishop in Uganda is against his country’s tendency towards the persecution of LGBT people – as stated hereunder”

“John Baptist Odama, the bishop of the Church in Gulu, has reminded Ugandans that homosexuals are also human beings created in the image of God.

‘Let us learn to love God’s human creatures. It is not that I am advocating for homosexual practice in the country, but we should not take laws into our hands to harm and hate the homosexuals because we all have weaknesses,’ he has said.”

How different is the reaction of certain  ‘Evangelical’ (Anglican?) Bishops, reported here:

“In recent months, students attending Ugandan Catholic and Christian universities, colleges and other schools have also been major targets of the national antigay witch hunt being coordinated by Ugandan evangelical bishops and clergy.” 

Conversely, here is a report on Prime minister David Cameron:

“Prime Minister David Cameron said in a speech this week that his government is taking steps to remove lingering inequalities for same sex couples and said that “prejudice” should not stop gay couples from adopting children.

“When there are children in need of a loving family, and gay couples with so much love to give, we should not allow prejudice to stand in the way of progress for our children or for our wider society. “That sends a powerful message about who we are as a country in the modern world.”

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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EHRC Consultation – re Religion v. Secularism

This attempt to redefine religious bias marks a shift from hard secularism

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s consultation does not seek the functional re-establishment of Christianity – it’s prompted by the rising importance of IslamShare1
Peter and Hazelmary Bull with Christian demonstrators
Peter and Hazelmary Bull, the B&B owners who attempted to deny a gay couple a double bed, with Christian demonstrators outside Bristol county court. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has launched a consultation on whether it is handling religious equality appropriately. This marks a significant unease with the way in which equality law has dealt with Christians, in particular since 2010. The central question is whether there is anything more to Christian discontent than whingeing about the progress of gay rights.

The Evangelical Alliance sees this move as a triumph. Don Horrocks, a Baptist minister who is its head of public affairs, says the commission has “failed religion and belief totally”.

“Evangelical Christians have absolutely no confidence in the commission whatsoever. People of faith are generally quiet. Now the commission wants to know how many xians and others are being bullied.”

In a reference to the case of Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who attempted to deny a civilly partnered gay couple a double bed because they do not believe in sex outside marriage, Horrocks said: “Look at the B&B couple who just wanted the freedom to run their house on Christian principles. What about the Christians who are told their faith should be left at the door when they enter the workplace? What about all the organisations who wish to maintain a Christian ethos and are told they must actively promote things they don’t believe in?”

So the Evangelical Alliance, which claims to represent 2 million Christians, is asking its followers to write to the EHRC about their concerns. Given the strength of evangelical feeling against homosexuality, this could result in a lot of letters. The difficulty is that most of the alliance’s cases appear to the outside world to be Christians claiming that unless they can discriminate against gay people, they are themselves the victims of discrimination. This is not a view with wide appeal.

Mark Hammond, chief executive of the EHRC, points out that of the four cases on religious liberty that have gone to Strasbourg in the past three years, his organisation has sided with the Christians in two and against them in two. The commission took the view that Christians were not allowed to discriminate against gay people, however sincerely they want to, but it backed their right to wear crosses at work even when the secular courts disagreed.

For the EHRC, this is no more than a slight adjustment of course: a check that it is interpreting the law as it is supposed to be. But I think it is rather more than that and represents the start of a swing of the pendulum away from the kind of hard secularism that regards all forms of religion in public life with suspicion. Examples of that would be attempts to ban prayer before council meetings.

This is not a move towards the functional re-establishment of Christianity, which has been effectively disestablished over the past 30 years. If anything, it is prompted by the rising importance of Islam. It is obviously dangerous to social cohesion if the idea gets around that Muslims can get away with things that Christians can’t, and there is some basis for that kind of reasoning. Christians who preach homophobia are sometimes harassed by the police in a way that Muslims who do the same aren’t; if Muslims come to the attention of the police for their beliefs, it is in connection with terrorism rather than crimes against liberal sexual orthodoxy.

What the law suggests is a position inimical to both sides in last century’s debates about secularism – those who imagined it was about preserving the privileged position of the Church of England and those who supposed that it was all about driving the church out of the state. A state largely neutral between religious faiths, as the Equality Act presupposes, will please neither of those sides. Christians will get their rights as religious believers, rather than as possessors of the truth. But the rights of the religious are to be protected where they do not infringe on others.

This places a kind of enlightened secularism in the position the established church once enjoyed, of being the arbiter of what kinds of belief are needed to enjoy full participation in English life. It’s difficult to see how else we can manage a plural and largely post-Christian society. The assumption that religion would wither and die is clearly false. It may be that even the C of E will survive. Last year, churchgoers gave £969m to keep it going: this is more than 10 times the declared income of all the political parties put together. Religion is a force that no government can ignore.

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Andrew Brown’s ‘Comment is Free’ article here, from the ‘Guardian’ U.K. newspaper poses a conundrum that faces certain Evangelical Christian interests with a possible problem, if the European Human Rights Commissio, amends its legislation to include rights for other than Christian Faith Communities. Here is a typical paragraph from A.B.’s  summation:

“So the Evangelical Alliance, which claims to represent 2 million Christians, is asking its followers to write to the EHRC about their concerns. Given the strength of evangelical feeling against homosexuality, this could result in a lot of letters. The difficulty is that most of the alliance’s cases appear to the outside world to be Christians claiming that unless they can discriminate against gay people, they are themselves the victims of discrimination. This is not a view with wide appeal.”

There is no doubt that some conservative Christians in ther U.K. – including the ex Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey – feel that Christians are being persecuted in Britain. however, any new legislation, which might be enjoined upon other Faith Communities, may actually even up any perceived prejudice by the Human Rights Commission!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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