Anglican Peace and Justice Network –

At a time when the government of Botswana has rejected a movement to repeal the legal protection of LGBTQ people of that country; Alice Mogwe, a Botswana activist and lawyer, has just been awarded the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Human Rights Award 2021, for her ongoing Human Rights activities, which include her active involvement in the Anglican Communion’s Indaba – a process of engaging in political and spiritual conversation on topics which might, hitherto, have been found too difficult to address.

Here is the record of Alice’s Speech at the Award Ceremony:

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What I learnt Along the Way

Posted On – Author Admin – (Anglican Peace and Justice Network)

Speech of acceptance of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Human Rights Award 2021. 1 December 2021. Gaborone, Botswana.

Alice Mogwe is a Botswana activist and lawyer. She is the founder and director of the human rights organization Ditshwanelo. She is currently the President of the International Federation for Human Rights. She played a vital role in the Anglican Communion Continuing Indaba Project.

Mogwe’s work focuses on protecting political freedoms, abolishing the death penalty, and ensuring rights for minorities, women, children, LGBTQ people, domestic workers, and refugees and other migrants.

Personal understanding of Human Rights – Dignity, Inclusive Equality and Justice

I began my journey with human rights many years ago; long before I knew that they were known by that name. I was conscious of my place in my family and in my community. I was conscious of what was appropriate behaviour and what was not. I learnt the importance of greeting others – whether or not I knew them or would ever see them again. I later learnt that it was an important way of reaffirming that I was a part of my community and that it was a part of me. I learnt that it was important to respect everyone. I also learnt that there was special respect for those who were older than I. I later learnt that this was to reaffirm life’s journey which they had walked, long before I was born. I also learnt that the nature of my relationship with my community and my community with me had a special name – it was botho.

Botho

Botho has been variously described as ‘an attitude’, ‘a way of life’, ‘a culture’, ‘a value’, and ‘a concept’. It lives in social relationships. It defines and characterises the nature of relationships. It distinguishes between what is appropriate behaviour and what is not.  This norm is determined by the community of which one is a member. I am Tswana-Sotho (my father was a Motswana and my mother was a Mosotho) and have absolutely no doubt that botho is the basis of the recognition that all human beings are people and are worthy of being treated with respect. All human beings should be able to live their lives in and with dignity and to be treated accordingly.  I also learnt that we had collective responsibility to and for others.

Region

In the 1980s, I lived in a Botswana which was surrounded by peoples engaged in liberation struggles. Liberation from colonial rule and apartheid in Mozambique, Angola, South-West Africa, Rhodesia, and South Africa. Botswana hosted refugees. I learnt that Botswana was ‘the island of peace’ in the midst of a region in struggle. I also learnt that as a result, we were vulnerable to attacks which were justified by those resisting liberation. There were supposed exercises ‘in hot pursuit of terrorists who were being harboured by Botswana’. I learnt that power seemed to give people the right to do as they please, with little regard for ideas such as ‘independent states’, ‘sovereignty’ and ‘respecting the will of the people’. Powerful states could invade less powerful states in the name of ‘self-defence’. I learnt that bullying happens between states.

I learnt that the racist ideology of apartheid – the epitome of the dehumanisation by one human being of another – was but a tangible, formalised version of the indignities thrust upon human beings by other human beings and that it is alive and well in our contemporary world. The murder of George Floyd in 2020, marked a moment of truth for us all – for some, to learn and for others, to re-recognise – how de-humanising another, makes all atrocities possible. To fail to respect the botho which binds us all (regardless of religion, of gender, of skin colour, of social class, of nationality, of ethnicity, of political persuasion, of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, etc.) – one human being to another – is to ‘other’ the other. ‘Othering’ others enables one human being to commit heinous atrocities against another, as noted, in a 2017 BBC interview, by Ben Ferencz, the youngest Chief Prosecutor of the Nazi Nuremburg Trials after World War II. I understood why, during the difficult days of apartheid in South Africa, (with regular deaths in detention, with the South African army in the townships, with the torture and murders of anti-apartheid activists), Archbishop Desmond Tutu called upon us all ‘to pray for the oppressors’ while engaging in activism – a reminder of our common humanity!

Most recent learnings

I have learnt that what drives me is the need to protect botho which is inherent in all human beings. The human rights framework is a mere tool to do just that.  However, sometimes the tool risks becoming the reason for its very existence, regardless of the context within which it is used.

I learnt that ‘cultural relativism’ is a dirty word, often used when non-western norms are used to justify actions of discrimination which offend others, but not when western norms do the same. I also learnt about the concept of the ‘right to offend’. It emerged as justification for the use of ‘cultural satire’ against those from different cultural paradigms, when their fundamental belief systems were lampooned. I learnt that my conceptualisation of a ‘universality of dignity’ as the basis of a ‘universality of rights’ was often not shared by others. I learnt too that there are major differences between the theory and the practice of the ‘universality of rights’. Many a time, the certainty of implementation is shaped by space and time – geography and political history. I have again learnt this through the ‘right to health and COVID-19’. I have also re-learnt this through the recent COP26 on climate change, as powerful countries struggle to take responsibility for the impact of their legacies on less powerful countries, as we collectively and globally face an existential threat. What does and can a ‘right to health’ realistically mean in our world of social and economic inequalities, inequities and discrimination?

My Headmaster at Maru a Pula Secondary School, Deane Yates, repeatedly taught us in the 1970s, that everyone should have a right to education, but that, that was not the reality in our society. He also told us that those of us who had the privilege of access to education, had a responsibility to ‘’give back’’ to our society … and I believed him! I chose to ‘give back’ through working in civil society. Through seeding and nurturing, ideas grew into projects, programmes, independent organisations and solidarity coalitions, such as BONELA (The Botswana Network on Law, HIV and AIDS – 1995); LeGaBiBo (Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals – 1998); the Domestic Workers’ Foundation (2013); and BoLAMA (the Botswana Labour Migrants Association – 2015) – all began life as DITSHWANELO projects, which grew into organisations. I learnt, as many of us Africans do, that ‘if you want to go fast you go alone, but if you want to go far, you go together’. Our solidarity coalition action was not only for Botswana (through the Central Kalahari Game Reserve CKGR NGO Coalition) but also for peoples in our region, through the Botswana Civil Society Coalition for Zimbabwe (BOCISCOZ) and most recently through the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) – all of these actions were driven by recognition of our common humanity.

At global level, international promises are made and targets agreed upon. Shared commitments to principles are also publicly proclaimed, such as ‘leave no-one behind’. The COVID-19 pandemic has tested us all – do we actually mean what we say? Are we truly committed to treating everyone equally? As Dr Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alikija of the African Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance stated on 28 November 2021, the latest variant appears to be a result of ‘the world’s failure to vaccinate in an equitable, urgent and speedy manner’ as well as of ‘the hoarding of vaccines by high-income countries’.[1] The politics of it all was sharply displayed in what she described as ‘keeping the unvaccinated Africans out’ through the immediate travel bans which were implemented targeting the southern Africa countries of Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho,  South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.  This was later extended to include the entire southern Africa region by countries in other regions, which themselves, began to register cases. Will the travel bans be extended to all countries which register cases, I wondered?

Are we prepared to address the legacies of our varied histories – of racism, of colonialism and other forms of abuse of power and exploitation? That in 2021 we should be applauding the return of a miniscule portion of African property stolen during the colonial era as part of the colonial project marks a teeny-weeny step along a long journey of reckoning, apology and acceptance. This includes the return of the Benin Bronzes to Africa. According to some reports, approximately 90% of Africa’s heritage is not on the continent. We too, need to look into our own societies to address not-yet-atoned-for acts of injustice towards one another. That in 2021 we should be debating whether respecting intellectual property rules and unequal power relations is more important than ensuring justice and the saving of lives, is deeply disturbing. Where is the botho in this scenario?

I have learnt that those with power (political, military and ‘money power’) can exercise it without regard to the botho of others. I have learnt that this self-centred exercise of power can happen in the family, in community, nationally, regionally and globally. The inequitable access to vaccines marked yet another moment of truth for me. COVID-19 landed on the uneven grounds of socio-economic and cultural stability: some were standing on terra firma, others not. Its ability to wreak havoc on families and communities began to level the ground through high rates of hospitalization and death, until what many call vaccine nationalism (when countries hoarded vaccines) and vaccine apartheid (the concentration of vaccines in wealthy countries) reared their ugly heads – distinguishing yet again, the powerful from the less-powerful, those with access from those without. Gone were the platitudes of ‘allocation on the basis of need’ and ‘no one is safe unless everyone is safe’ [2] and ‘leave no-one behind’ while we were already talking about ‘building back better’. Producing vaccines for Africa in Africa is emerging as the way to go as South Africa, Rwanda and Senegal work on this approach. ‘Each to their own’ appears to be the way to long term solutions – with less regard for notions of common humanity and global social justice.

So, what about rights? What about our role as civil society? What are we doing about the unacceptable gap between the rich and the poor? How do we attain inclusive social justice?

What we all have in common is the desire to live and be treated with dignity – to have access to political, social and economic opportunities. This is a universal truth. It forms the basis of the human rights paradigm – regardless of where you live, how you look, what you say or which religion you follow. In our contemporary global world our focus is increasingly on how different we are: where you live has determined the extent to which you experience the ravages of climate change; how you look determines your social acceptability; what you say may make you a ‘foreign agent and a danger to the safety, stability and reputation of your country’; and which religion you follow determines whether or not you are considered to be a terrorist. The universality of human rights speaks to a universal commitment to ensuring that the dignity of everyone is protected – both as individuals and as member of their communities. At times, the ‘legal frame working of human rights’ can lead us to applaud legal victories which risk remaining hollow victories if they are not able to change the lives of the violated, for the better. Does a legal recognition of the ‘right to health’ lead to increased access to vaccines in our unequal world? We see this too in the international and regional declarations, conventions and covenants. These are all lofty expressions of ‘good intent’, but our daily challenge as human rights activists and defenders is how to make those real for those whom we serve and accompany, on the ground.

What I have learnt is that democracy is rooted in recognising the value of the person – the motho. Botho is therefore the bedrock of our democracy in Botswana. It should in turn provide a conducive environment for the recognition, promotion, protection and respect of human rights. It all sounds rather straightforward, right? However, societies are held together by the glue of culture – which is not static and which is open to change. Whenever I have had doubts about how to make sense of confusing situations, I turn to what I know best, my north star – botho.

I have learnt that our culture shapes our thinking, our world-view and how and where we see ourselves fitting into the world. It also shapes our understanding of human rights and how they can be implemented – with respect for one another; with respect for diversity of thought and opinion; and engaging with one another, with respect. So, what does democracy mean in Botswana?  It would appear that we have slipped into the formalistic, cut-and-paste version of three arms of government, regular multi-party elections, an independent judiciary, independent institutions, and what else? It has become a box-ticking exercise; perhaps it always was simply that for many of our people. How do we make it mean much more? How do we shift the discourse from us being what Uli Golazinski has referred to as ‘political consumers’ of democracy to ‘true participants’ of democracy? For Botswana, process is critically important and colours the legitimacy of its outcome. If it is not inclusive and consultative it is followed in rote fashion and it effectively loses its meaning and significance. For human rights to truly take root in our society, the concept has to be an inclusive one which is understood by our people. Botho has been understood and accepted as part of our DNA for generations. This does not always seem to be the case for our youth who continue to explore ways of finding the fit between the global world and Botswana for longer than those precious twitter seconds. Active citizen engagement needs rootedness for it to be sustained. This is a challenge of our times – how to effect it? Leadership, mentoring, supporting, active listening, and constructive engagement are critical. Human rights activism is not a time-bound project, able to be assessed by logical framework tools of analysis. It has no expiry date. It is a life-long mission.

Global

That we live in an intricately inter-connected world is not disputed – as the recent drowning of 27 migrants in the English Channel between France and the United Kingdom shows. What has shockingly emerged is a blame game between two countries and finger-pointing at those engaged in people-smuggling instead of cutting to the chase. Authoritarian governments, climate change, violence, and economic opportunities drive migration. Governments need to be realistic about the drivers and existence of migration, as well as their own roles in all of these. Inclusive social justice needs to be truly on their agenda, tacking causes and not only symptoms.

The opportunities which I have been given by others to experience, to make mistakes and to grow from and through them, to journey and to ‘just be’ – have all provided me with a rich tapestry of valuable learnings. Through my work at the Presidency of FIDH, through my board membership of International Service for Human Rights, the International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law and The Other Foundation, I have learnt of violations across the world – from Zimbabwe to Yemen, from Afghanistan to Brazil, from India to France, from Belarus to the United States of America and South Africa to Sudan – and learnt that solidarity with those being persecuted for holding different opinions, for having different religious beliefs, for looking different – can be shown through protest action, through social movements, through litigation, lobbying and activism. This has been my minute contribution, from Botswana, to the efforts of selfless human rights defenders, activists, and communities.

Conclusion

I believe that FES can continue to play a critically important role in supporting, not leading, us as we ‘re-discover’ who we are, as we see what needs to be done to ‘build back better’, and as we determine how best that can be done, as we journey along that path. We are at a global crossroads, faced with major populations displacements due to floods, droughts, wars, deficits of peace and non-accountable leadership. I believe that we can focus on the reaffirmation of the ‘universality of dignity’ – that which reaffirms our human connectedness, our botho.  With that, accountability for past wrongs, prevention of future wrongs, and honesty about current wrongs can provide us with hope, trust, and faith in one another. This will be the basis for democracy and social justice for all. In a recent conversation, Lorato Moalusi and I agreed that ‘we need to pass the values onto the next generation – about our work being based on conviction, a mission, a calling – it is more than just being a job’. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us – we should never be under the illusion that we can do anything on our own, without others!

I have learnt that cultures can learn from one another. In 1785 Friedrich Schiller wrote: ‘Thy enchantments bind together, what did custom stern divide. Every man becomes a brother where thy gentle wings abide’. In 1824 Ludwig van Beethoven immortalised in his Symphony No. 9 – Ode to Joy. It later became the national anthem of the European Union.

As I draw my comments to a close, I would like to thank each and every one of you present and online, who have journeyed with me so far – sometimes in peace and at other times under less peaceful conditions. We still have some way to go. In thanking you all, I wish to dedicate this honour to my parents, the late Archibald and Lena Mogwe, to my Maru a Pula Secondary School Headmaster, the late Deane Yates, to our DITSHWANELO Patron Archbishop Emeritus Khotso Makhulu (who strongly encouraged my work on Basarwa/San issues), to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and to my families – my DITSHWANELO family and my own family – Ruud, Marc, Bahumi and Mosele. They have all, every single one of them, played a hugely influential role in my life and I thank them all from the bottom of my heart.

Thank you. Kea leboga. Danke schön

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Institutional Hypocrisy and The Church

The need for ‘covering up’ one’s sexual-orientation, sadly, seems still to be a problem for those people who feel called by God into ministry but are afraid of being turned down because of what they know to be their unalterable sexual attraction which is different from the binary ‘norm’.

Despite one’s own understanding of the FACT that this is a non-negotiable part of their intrinsic being; prospective ordinands – in the current situation – are often encouraged to keep their inner sexual reality a secret from anyone connected to the discernment process who might be led to deny their calling, purely on the basis of their gender/sexual difference.

Until the Anglican Church is ready and open towards the fact that God can (and does) actually call LGBTQ+ people into active ministry in the Church, there will always be an atmosphere of enforced duplicity; which is not helpful – either to the candidate or the authority examining their suitablility.

Now that the Church (officially) no longer considers ‘being gay’ or ‘different’ to be an aberration or a mortal sin; one longs for the time when institutionally-enforced hypocrisy will be brought to an end.

(For this splendid article from Via Media News, cover the link below and retrieve it:)

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.viamedia.news%2F2021%2F12%2F02%2Fmaking-a-stand-from-kilroy-to-synod%2F%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR3F0dIUDNFeNY-eqUy6HHDwFusJhbAE8lxzBpeu-2QuELf0o2L3uyMy2Vo&h=AT3SYros07PumLHcArkGeDqr3lu8cwbV2huuWua-eNKkmHDf3xFjBGFvYdg6dJa66JE-S4VNXj9WHImJ40rqNWcEwvFO02rA3tzyf_R8VQC3Qf6w2FedxRhfMuyq0PbSLC7IVotJv3ocOwbY5Q&tn=%2CmH-R&c[0]=AT1Gfx8KUYzfRrWGVfrzMTfS4RwC9FA3XLHlmEX7LcYa89muJcZ3ZGeUrur0jWQfAkRlk_dl2Fl7KsWmZLz4Yf84ESJ67kfU4hi70gCDl7vb0kHtq1UYF7jWUdfc5P8WkAUCdHlx5jLAqhC97Lq-GRB2Nx3gUdUx5GyEg1RbDU4-RO1PPuWK8-FBzIX_hWzIrmmdNFv0SAX-cZ73_r3H

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The Gospel virtues of Mercy and Justice for ALL

I met Savi Hensman 10 years ago, at an Anglican Eucharist in Stoke Newington, England in a parish where people were welcomed from all situations of life. Savi was – with her family – an immigrant from Sri Lanka, who came to realise in her early life that she was ‘different’ from other females. She came out as ‘gay’ in her early twenties and, living with a strongly Christian family in the U.K., became quickly aware of the prejudice that can be levelled against anyone who is different – whether racially, ethnically, sexually, or culturally – and sought to overcome, first in herself and then in other, the effects of unjust prejudice, especially in the Christian Community of which she was, and still is, a part.

To speak to this gentle, unassuming and yet persuasive Sri-Lankan woman, is to encounter a strong, intelligent and powerful advocate of equality for all people – no matter what differences may be found in their personal life or situation. She sees the Love of God in Christ as paramount in the battle for equality of opportunity for everyone, irrespective of their background or cultural setting. This article was written by Savi specifically for the U.K. blog of Jayne Ozanne.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Advent Reflections: Seeking Justice; Showing Mercyby Jayne Ozanneby Savitri Hensman, community worker, author of “Sexuality, Struggle and Saintliness” and LGBTI+ equality activist

Advent is a season of eagerness and patience, yearning for change whilst feeling the uneasiness about what this might mean, for us as well as others.We are reminded that God’s love is bound up with justice (Isaiah 11.1-4, 42.1-4). We may cry out from the depths, longing for the day when we and our loved ones will be safe, that our oppressors will be punished and that we will finally be treated with dignity – yet all of us benefit from God’s readiness to pardon (Psalm 130, Luke 6.36-38).

Forgiveness and redemption are on offer but personal and collective healing can sometimes be slow and painful.Thanks largely to my late parents, I grew up aware that faith, care and resisting injustice are all linked. I became involved in anti-racist activism in church and society in my teens and then from the age of about twenty on sexuality – after coming out as lesbian. I had to rethink some of my own prejudices (internalised or otherwise) and am grateful for those who were willing to challenge me in non-destructive ways, always going the extra mile (Matthew 5.41).I learnt the importance of persuasion and persistence as well as protest and that equality might not be achieved all at once.

Changing institutions that are facing multiple pressures can be a complex process. Though living in England, my connection with Sri Lanka continued and, as the situation there deteriorated horrifically, I saw even more graphically what could happen when states and armed groups wielded too much power. I joined with others in defending human rights, even for people with views starkly different from mine.I discovered that others were more likely to listen if they felt at least partly heard and understood and that hurt and anger, if not channelled constructively, could get in the way of achieving goals.

Even in the pre-internet era, the people who were most forceful, or willing to do most damage to those seen as oppressors, often won admiration, yet their tactics could backfire in the long term.Over the years too, including as a community worker and volunteer, I found out more about the hazards of unintended consequences. Life seemed messier, uncertainties greater, than when I was a child. Yet there were also moments of joy and major achievements by the movements of which I was part, reflecting I hope the Holy Spirit at work despite human errors and weaknesses.Edging towards LGBT+ equality in the Church of EnglandOver the years, it has been encouraging to see a huge shift in views amongst both theologians of various denominations and ordinary Church of England members.

There is far greater acceptance of committed, physically intimate partnerships between couples of the same sex or gender and recognition of gender diversity. It is excellent that so many churches, including some in the UK, have moved forward – but highly frustrating that progress in the C of E has been so slow and fragile.I understand why some people might want to demand complete parity with no exceptions so that, for instance, all parishes might be required to celebrate marriage for partners regardless of gender. But groups and networks such as the (currently inactive) LGBTI Mission and Equal have taken a different approach, which allows space for freedom of conscience within reasonable limits.

I believe there are good reasons for this that are both pragmatic and value-based.Other UK-based churches which have moved further towards full inclusion have tended to do so on the basis of respect for conscience. I suspect it would have been nearly impossible for resolutions which took a different approach to have won enough votes at decision-making bodies. Allowing local discretion is also in line with national law, which in turn reflects international expectations around freedom of belief.Additionally, whilst I recognise the damage which non-inclusive beliefs can do, I fear that a purge of ordained and lay ministers not yet able to embrace full equality would be even worse.

I would not want leaders who have been welcoming and caring towards me booted out because they interpret the Bible in ‘traditional’ ways or are still undecided.But I would like to see the archbishops and more diocesan bishops publicly recognise that for those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)+ this is a generous stance, especially given the human cost of discrimination. And while leaders should maintain space for Christians who read Scripture and tradition differently on matters of sexuality and gender identity, favouring people who do not face discrimination and buying ‘unity’ at the cost of the excluded is in stark contrast to Jesus’ example and teaching (Mark 2.23-3.6).

Three interconnected biblical themes often linked with Advent come to mind which might help the Church to move forward on this issue: justice as an outworking of love, equality,  and  rejection of idolatry. Theologians have written libraries-worth of books on each of them, martyrs have sacrificed their lives: I believe it is therefore time to give these due weight in official pronouncements.It is unjust for people with plenty to hoard God’s generous gifts to humankind while others’ needs go unmet. This applies to both material goods (e.g. Isaiah 5.8-10, Luke 16.19-31) as well as freedom and dignity (Jeremiah 34. 8-17, James 2.1-12) – unless there are truly compelling reasons why some should be denied what others have. Many take it for granted that they can marry or be open about their gender without being prevented from being Church leaders.

Those who nevertheless deny this to others should ask themselves searching questionsAnd behaviour towards some people as if they were second-class Christians based on their identity (e.g. as working class, disabled, minority ethnic or LGBT+) is at odds with the radical equality of Jesus’ vision (Matthew 23:1-12, Luke 22.24-27).It can be tempting to treat mortals, institutions or concepts as objects of worship. Throughout history, unequal treatment of women and girls has done much damage, blatant and subtle. Yet most senior clergy seem reluctant to speak against theologies promoting male domination, which are harmful and can unintentionally foster idolatry. LGBT+ people who do not fit neatly into roles rooted in sexism are affected too.Such imbalances distort relationships with God and neighbour.Mercy is important; so is justice!

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Breakaway Anglicans in Canada to open their own Theological College

Ever since the Anglican Church in Canada – like the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. – opened up their ministry and mission to ALL people, including women and LGBTQ+ people, the oppositional Anglican Churches attached to a new conglomerate, GAFCON, together with their offspring in countries like the U.S.A., Canada, and the U.K., have been struggling to attract mainline Anglicans away from their local Churches in order to re-align with GAFCON’s radical conservative Evangelical (CON/EVO) ethos.

In North America, the breakaway Churches of ACNA and ANiC, have been desperate to provide their own educational centres for conservative clergy, in order to compete with existing Theological Colleges which reflect the majority Anglican view that allows for the ordination of LGBTQ people and Women; thus doing away with the Sexism and Homophobia that, sadly, is still embraced in some of the African and other GAFCON-related churches and independent dioceses which have formed their own ‘Anglican’ sodality, in competition with mainstream Anglicanism connected with the Founding Church of England.

The sad outcome of the intentionally schismatic GAFCON Movement – which had formed its own entity, based on what they are pleased to call The Jerusalem Statement, together with the formation of their own Bishops Conference, which is seen by them to virtually replace the traditional LAMBETH CONFERENCE called together by the archbishop of Canterbury and inviting all traditional Anglican Bishops on what was – before COVID a regular 4-yearly basis – is that this schism has drawn attention to division among Anglicans on issues of gender and sexuality which the modern world has long found to be open to a more just and equitable treatment than that of the former unjust stance of institutional homophobia and entrenched sexism in the Church.

With the establishment of the new Packer Theological College in Canada, this enables the breakaway Churches of ANiC and ACNA to more easily perpetuate the conservative elements of evangelical quasi-Anglicanism, in direct opposition to the traditional ethic of ‘Unity in Diversity’ of the majority of Anglican Churches in the West that are striving to do away with sexism and homophobia in the Church.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Packer College to open in Fall 2022

By Sue Careless -November 21, 20211680

JI Packer. Photo: Sue Careless

NEXT SEPTEMBER the Anglican Network in Canada plans to launch its own theological college in St John’s, Nfld, to be called Packer College after world-renowned theologian J.I. Packer. 

Dr. Packer, author of the Christian classic, Knowing God, was a member of ANiC who died in 2020. His widow Kit gave permission for his name to be used with “much joy” and “hearty approval,” said Diocesan Bishop Charlie Masters when he made the announcement in his opening charge to the ANiC Synod held online on Nov. 17 Bp Masters hopes the seminary “will raise up a new generation of pastors.”

Packer College would be housed in the Good Samaritan Church in downtown St. John’s. (Last year, through an anonymous donation, the Good Samaritan congregation was able to move into its own large building on a spacious property.)  When asked by Bp Masters if they would be willing to house such a college and allow its theological students to be involved in parish worship and outreach, the parish council unanimously endorsed the idea.

The residential coed college would aim to represent the Anglo-Catholic, Evangelical/Reformed and Charismatic traditions within Anglicanism. It would facilitate Anglican spiritual formation, which would be centred on the chapel life of the college – with daily Morning and Evening Prayer, and Feast Day Eucharists. The academic program would be primarily the study of the Scriptures (including biblical languages) together with church history and historical theology. There would also be a focus on church planting, mission, pastoral care and supporting the faith of children and families.  

A working group, chaired by Canon David Short of St John’s Vancouver, had been researching the possibility of launching such a seminary for the past year.  

An anonymous donation allowed ANiC to hire Dr. Gary Graber as Advisor to the Bishop on Theological Education. He concluded his term with Ryle Seminary in Ottawa in June 2020 after serving there as Professor and Academic Dean for nine years. Dr. Graber is a member of the working group tasked with considering the accreditation and legal requirements of launching the new college. He presented his findings to Bp Masters on Sept. 1. Currently ANiC ordinands are studying at several Canadian seminaries: Regent College in Vancouver, the Artizo program out of St John’s in Vancouver, Ryle Seminary in Ottawa (which has a Burlington campus), Christ College (an online seminary based in Abbotsford, B.C.) and Wycliffe College in Toronto. 

Starting in 2007, a number of Anglican individuals and congregations chose to leave the Anglican Church of Canada for doctrinal reasons and form a more theologically conservative body – the Anglican Network in Canada. On its website, ANiC describes itself as “a continent-wide family of churches which, like the majority of Anglicans worldwide, remain faithful to established Christian doctrine and Anglican practice.” 

Today the denomination has 80 churches. It has five predominantly Chinese congregations, as well as one Japanese, one Filipino and one Sudanese congregation. ANiC is a founding diocese of the Anglican Church in North America and a member of the global Gafcon movement which represents about 70 of the 90 million Anglicans worldwide.   TAP

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Pro Gay-Conversion Lobby meets in London

There is a ‘Christian’ website, run by a one-time fellow Kiwi now working in the U.S. and presuming to speak on behalf of all ‘Orthodox Anglicans’ around the world, under a title that might beguile readers into thinking that it is dedicated to the upholding of ‘Christian Virtue’, while at the same time haranguing any Christian who dares to challenge the traditional understanding of gender and sexuality as confined to what was once known as ‘binary’ gender/sexuality – that is; limited to the human race being either ‘male’ or female’ – with no variation or fluidity within the concept. Below the line is one such article:

What is now known, from both scientific and spiritual research, is that there is a range of different responses between genders that can draw other than purely binary attraction, exposing a different way of ‘being’ in the world. Unfortunately, there are people whose reaction to this obvious reality is that they want to claim ‘biblical evidence’ – from a series of books written two thousand years ago – to shore up their own prejudice and uncertainty about anything different from the model they perceive as being divinely ordained, claiming infallibity for a biological proposition that, though true for most people, may not be true for ten percent of all humanity.

Where homosexuality was once considered to be immoral, un-Christian, and against the ‘natural law’, it has now been recognised that there is a range of gender/sexual responses among humans (and also in the animal kingdom) that vary between absolute masculine to the absolutely feminine; which renders the possibility of a binary sexual relationship uncomfortable, if not impossible, for a significant minority of human and other sensient beings.

There are also people who, being convinced of the need for humans to conform to either the male or female sexual model, are encouraged to undergo some form of therapy – whether spiritual. chemical, or psychological – for either religious or societal reasons – and will agree to undergo such therapy, being reassured by their mentors that this is ‘the best thing’ for them. However, when such therapy fails to bring about the ‘change’ that is promised by the mentors (and this is the experience of the majority) then the person undergoing the therapy can be considered to be ‘uncooperative’, and therefore ‘delinquent’ in their inability to ‘control’ their ‘un-natural’ sexual impulses. One very unfortunate result of this outcome – which has been experienced all too often amongst younger people – can be mental illness or suicide!

The actual number of people who have survived ‘therapy’ – whether spiritual , psychological or chemical – is quite small and usually restricted to those whose spiritual conversion has encouraged them to try to assume a more acceptable ‘moral’ outcome, allowing a small number of them to enter into heterosexual marriage and to produce children. However, for a truly exclusively homosexual person, this is not possible, and could lead to an unsatisfactory outcome for such a marriage arrangement. Such persons who claim to have been ‘converted’ from homo- to heterosexuality can more logically be assumed to be ‘bi-sexual’, having the capacity to respond, sexually, to both binary gender types.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Banning conversion therapy will cause more harm, say experts

Staff writer
https://www.christiantoday.com/
24 November 2021

People of all ages should have the right to seek out help for unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria and achieve their own life goals, an international symposium has heard.

The symposium, held in London on Tuesday, was organised by the International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice (IFTCC), to debate the implications of the UK government’s proposed conversion therapy ban. Under government plans, therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation or gender identity will be completely banned in the case of minors and vulnerable adults, but remain available for over-18s if they give “informed consent”. Christians fear it will lead to evangelical pastors and churches being criminalised for ordinary church activities like prayer and pastoral counselling.

Dr Elizabeth Woning, pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, California, spoke about her work for the Changed Movement, a community of Christians who have left the LGBT lifestyle behind.

“This is a population that most people believe doesn’t exist,” she said.

“Anyone who’s benefitted from prayer ministries and programmes that specifically address unwanted same-sex sexual behaviours have been maybe intentionally or unintentionally excluded from the majority of the studies that are being used to substantiate the harms of so-called change-allowing therapy or conversion therapy.” Dr Woning was a lesbian and former activist for LGBT ordination before being healed by a radical encounter with Jesus and marrying her husband in 2005. She said that the lived experience of ex-gay people was “vitally important” to the current debate, and that therapy bans risked “great harm” to people looking for a way out.

“Therapy bans threaten the lives of individuals like us, whether minors or adults, who are in pain over their LGBTQ feelings,” she said. “Bans cause harm because they don’t ever allow you to address the pain. They disallow personalised exploration with a professional to address the factors that could be formitive in the development of same-sex sexual behaviour.

“LGBTQ-identifying people must have the right to follow their faith wholeheartedly and pursue their own life goals, even when it means moving away from LGBTQ or gender confusion, and identifying as heterosexual.”

She said it was important that pastors and therapists be allowed to create safe spaces and opportunities for people to explore the pain of their unwanted sexual attractions or identities. “For most of us at Changed, our religious convictions fundamentally guide our worldview and sense of personal identity. It’s important that legislators grasp the gravity of forcing a person with unwanted same-sex attraction, no matter their age, to disavow their religious faith to embrace LGBTQ identity or same-sex feeling or behaviour,” she said. Dr Woning also questioned why under-18s should not be allowed to receive such help.

“In an era when gender identity has such high stakes, pointing to life-altering drugs and surgeries that frequently cause sterilisation, shouldn’t children be given every opportunity for self-discovery and relief from trauma that might alleviate gender dysphoria,” she said. She added: “People like us want answers … saying ‘I was born this way’ just doesn’t cut it.”

The symposium was co-organised by Christian Concern, which has warned of the dangers of a conversion therapy ban not only to pastors but also parents wanting to raise their children within a traditional sexual ethic. Christian Concern CEO Andrea Williams expressed concern at the impact on free speech. “A whole load of people will just go silent,” she said. “When there’s an Act that comes in and subdues free discourse and how people interact pastorally and professionally, there will be a chilling effect. “It’s a very easy way of targeting those who seek to do good.”

Dr Laura Haynes, a psychologist and experienced therapist, said the proposed ban and the research supporting it was being driven by ideology and that the end result would be “unpractical and unsafe”. “Everyone should have the right to walk away from sexual or gender practices and experiences that don’t work for them and have support to do so without government approval for their reason and without discrimination,” she said.

“The government proposal forbids minors the right to help to live according to their religion. It is a serious attack on the human rights of minors to freedoms of speech, religion and belief. “There are rational reasons why people want and freely choose change-exploring therapy.”

Registered physician Dr Andre Van Mol warned that minors were simply too young to fully grasp the implications of losing their fertility or full sexual function forever. “Banning counselling choice condemns already at-risk sexual minority youth to experimental and unproven hormonal and surgical gender affirming therapy (GAT),” he said. “GAT permanently and prematurely medicalises minors for a condition that overwhelmingly resolves by adulthood.

“Why do that? It is not proven to be effective or safe, it does not reduce suicides, and is not the standard of care for gender dysphoric minors.” He continued, “Minors cannot give truly informed consent for a life of sterility and compromised sexual function. They have developing brains, their minds change often, and they don’t grasp long-term consequences.

“Gender Affirming Therapy’s suicide reduction claim is a myth, used as emotional blackmail against parents and the public. “The chemical castration and surgical mutilation of otherwise healthy young bodies is not health care.”

IFTCC Chairman, Dr Mike Davidson, agreed, saying: “There is no reason to believe that talking therapies for sexual orientation cause harm, yet there is a mountain of evidence that transgender affirmation, puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgery cause significant damage to adults and children. “How can the government possibly justify a ban on conversion therapy while paying for these damaging transgender treatments?”

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Freedom of Religion? For Con/Evo Christians only?

Below is an article showing the arguments of David Ould (and other fundamentalist Christians in Australia) that, when you read it, can be easily interpreted as ‘Freedom of Religion’ for Christians in Australia – but without considering the democratice freedom for those of other mainstream religious beliefs to practise and advertise their own spiritual and religious faith. Also, sadly, what Mr. Ould would like is for his brand of Christianity to be free to discriminate against Same-Sex Marriage and the freedom of LGBTQ+ people to be themselves. Australia is not (not should it become) a Theocratic State

In a democratic country – such as Australia claims to be – both David Ould (an Evangelical Anglican) and the Australian Prime Minister (who is a Pentecostal Elder) are intent on actually endeavouring to secure rights for their own particular Christian understanding of religious rights that do not include the right of other people in society to – for instance – to undertake the legal provision of Same-Sex Marriage, and the right to celebrate their gender/Sexuality as LGBTQ+ people; rights currently legally guaranteed by the State in Australia.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION: WHY I WELCOME A NATIONAL LAW

NOVEMBER 27, 2021 / DAVID OULD / HOT TOPICS / 2 COMMENTS

  • Religious Discrimination: Why I Welcome a National Law

The Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 and related legislation which is now before the Federal Parliament, is much-needed and long-awaited. While not perfect, it has many good aspects which Christians—as well as those of other faiths and all Australians—ought to welcome.

First, it fills a huge gap in Australian legislation. Did you know that here in Sydney where I’m writing you could put a sign up outside a restaurant saying “we don’t serve Hindus” and you’d actually not be breaking the law? That’s the current situation both in New South Wales and South Australia and obviously needs to be rectified. The bill standardises a national approach where states’ laws vary greatly. Not only that, but it gives us legislative implementation of Article 18 of the UN Human Rights Charter which has been in place since 1948 but will only now gets recognition in Australian law:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

(UNHRC ARTICLE 18)

That last clause is important because religious belief involves all-of-life observance. We’re Christians both on Sunday morning and when we walk out of the church doors. A mature democracy will not only recognise but protect the right to manifest religion seven days a week.

Second, the bill clarifies the law in a number of areas where there’s been uncertainty about what people can and cannot say in public. Current laws vary from state to state and we’ve seen pretty punitive actions taken by some using current laws in some jurisdictions.

The Porteous case is a striking example. Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tasmania Julian Porteus issued a pastoral letter, “Dont Mess With Marriage,” during the same-sex marriage debate of 2015 which not only set out orthodox Christian belief on human sexuality but also argued that same-sex marriage was not good for children in those marriages (a contested position but one that is more than amply demonstrated by a number of research papers[1]).

Porteus was targeted by activists who were not even the intended recipients of the letter, yet they nevertheless complained that they were “humiliated” and “offended”. Under Tasmanian Law this meant that the Archbishop entered an Anti-Discrimination process. The complainant eventually dropped the complaint, despite originally claiming that the letter “caused immeasurable harm,” without having to reimburse any of Porteus’ numerous expenses.

This is just one example of why clarity in the law is required. Numerous other cases can be read about at Australia Watch. The new bill will deal with these disparities of approach and provide protection for those who simply want to manifest their religion.

Third, the bill actually brings our laws into line with what most people think they should be. According to the latest research published by the respected McCrindle, “Australia’s Changing Spiritual Landscape,” 29% of Australians say they have been discriminated against because of their religion or religious views and 80% are in support of passing legislation to protect against religious discrimination. There is a real problem out there, as we’ve already seen above, and a real desire to do something about it.

And, perhaps most fundamentally of all, this bill marks us out as a mature democracy where we understand the difference between discrimination and disagreement and genuinely recognise that everyone gets a fair go—including the freedom to express and manifest our (often very deeply held) religious beliefs without fear of being discriminated against. Legislation is important, not only because of the laws themselves, but also because of the values that they communicate. That was, of course, exactly the argument made around same-sex marriage: changing the law sent a clear signal about Australia’s valuing of such relationships. Well the same is true now. A well-drafted religious discrimination bill sends a very clear message that Australia is a nation of adults who can cope when others disagree with and even strongly criticise them. Again, the McCrindle research tells us that most Australians think in exactly this way:

90% of Australians believe that in Australia, people should have the freedom to share their religious beliefs, if done in a peaceful way, even if those beliefs are different to mainstream community views.

This, ultimately, is going to be where the main point of contention comes: the right of Christians and others to live out our religion; to speak of it to others; to freely organise ourselves into associations such as schools that uphold our own ethics—even if the wider Australian society takes strong issue with us on fundamental aspects of that belief.

Most of all, of course, wider Australian society (or perhaps the loudest voices within it) has several shibboleths that it cannot tolerate being criticised, the greatest of which is a fluid view of sexuality and gender. This has already become the battleground issue for debate around the new bill, with articles about gay teachers being “fired” from Christian schools etc.

But this is precisely why we ought to welcome the new bill. We could evangelise without it (and we certainly have been) but it does protect and reinforce something very important and, indeed, life-giving for our nation.

One of Jesus’ very first recorded words in the Scriptures is “repent!” (Mark 1:15). He walked into his own nation and told them that their lives needed to change. The call to repent is the natural and necessary precursor to the announcement of the gospel. Jesus’ call is to a wonderful new life in his kingdom, but it is also a clear challenge to the life we may be currently living.

This challenge offended people then and it still offends people today. A law which allows us to offend people in this way is therefore a law which is good for Australia; it is good for a healthy intellectual life in general (and western culture is sorely lacking in healthy intellectual discussion). It sends a signal that profound disagreement is not only allowable but good and that’s a society in which Jesus’ radical challenge to “repent!” may even gain a fresh ear.

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‘Apostle’ Brian Tamaki advertises his quest for ‘Spiritual Sons’

Self-appointed Apostle Brian Tamaki in Aotearoa/New Zealand, who was recently brought into a New Zealand court charged with a ‘Breach of the Peace’ for rallying supporters of his Anti-Vax Campaign in a time of lockdown in the Auckland Region, is here on FACE BOOK advertising his credibility as a religious leader, set to ‘make apostles’ of anyone (preferably men) willing to listen to his message.

One wonders how his message can possibly be credited – which includes advice not to be fooled into taking the life-saving anti-COVID vaccines – (now available to everyone in New Zealand to prevent the country from falling into the same situation in others countries where the Delta version of covid is taking many lives – especially of the unvaccinated, many of whom have been fooled into thinking that the Vaccination Campaign is an ‘agency of the devil’ calculated to undermine one’s personal faith that true believers are immune to the virus).

People need to read his spiel (below) and decide for themselves whether his is a mission of salvation, ot the message of a leader who wants to recruit ‘Sons for God’, or sons for apostle Brian Tamaki.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

STOP PRESS – I’ve just looked in on Tamaki’s original FB page which baldly states: “Some comments have been filtered out” I wonder why? Fr. Ron Smith

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Australian attempt to enshrine religious protection law

When one examines the theory behind the recent attempt by the U.S.Catholic Bishops Conference to ban non-conforming Catholic politicians from receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist – a measure which has largely failed because of the opposition of Pope Francis and the Vatican Doctrinal Commission – one is now confronted with the prospect of a Pentecostal Prime Minister in Australia, Scott Morrison, wanting to saddle his government with legislation that would allow religious bodies in Australia to discriminate against people whose ‘moral probity’ is considered to be against the precepts preached by any religious organisation. This is not too different from the sort of moral suasion that the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference were intent on exercising on behalf of their dogmatic beliefs, in a way that could impinge on the legal rights of non-Catholic American citizens.

In a well-known case in Australia, the Kiwi-born sportsman, Israel Falau, used his sporting personality to publicly support a cult of homophobia in a speech he made in Australia, condemning homosexuality on his own private religious grounds. For this, his sporting code banned him from taking part in further sporting events on their behalf in Australia. If the Australian Prime minister’s legislation comes into effect with his proposed legislation, this could criminalise the action of the sports association that dismissed Falau for his transgression of the code of conduct upheld by the association that sacked him for what – to them and to most Australians – was an eggregious act of hatred against LGBTQ+people.

If this proposed legislation is allowed to go ahead in Australia, it will enshrine, in law, a policy of direct intent to allow for religious people to avoid penalties for the exercise of targetted discrimination against people who do not measure up to the religious code of a section of the communuty, in ways that do not agree with the civil rights of other people that are already enshrined in civil law.

In it interesting to note that Pope Francis, in his cautioning of the American Bishops who wanted to publicly penalise President Biden for his acceptance of the pro-abortion laws already enhrined in U.S. legislation, advised them that the Church cannot enforce Catholic dogma, willy nilly, on the legal system of a country where Catholics are free to worship. Government officials are not, per se, legal representatives of the Church they happen to belong to! If that is so for Roman Catholics; then surely Scott, Morrison, a Pentecostal, could not expect all Australians to be bound by the dogmatic polity of his own – or any other – religious organisation in a country where there is ‘freedom of religion’.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Australian PM revisits religious freedom fight

Australian religious freedom fight

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has reignited the Australian religious freedom fight with a reworked bill protecting expressions of faith-based views even if they offend others.

Morrison’s religious discrimination bill, a 2019 election pledge, will shield Australians from prosecution if they express reasonable and genuinely held faith-based views despite offending others.

Senior government sources said the revised bill removed some of the more controversial or “extreme” measures in earlier drafts and offered a “sensible compromise”.

The government has removed the ‘Folau clause’ but retained exemptions guaranteeing that professional bodies cannot dismiss people based on religious beliefs. The clause refers to rugby union player Israel Folau who was stripped of his  contract in 2019 after posting “hell awaits” gay people on social media.

It is understood faith-based groups have adopted a pragmatic approach to the bill, realising that outcomes gained from the proposed laws would offer more protections than they currently have.

Catholic Bishops Conference spokesman Peter Comensoli, the Archbishop of Melbourne, said a religious discrimination bill was “an important progression towards parity with other anti-discrimination protections”.

However, doctors have called for a halt to draft federal laws to enshrine religious freedom out of concern the changes would curb access to health services for women. They believe it will also compound discrimination against gay and lesbian Australians.

“It’s unnecessary to introduce ‘religious freedom’ laws when these rights are already protected under Australian law,” said Dr Karen Price, president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

“Furthermore, we remain concerned about the potential impact of the bill on the delivery and access to some women’s health services, and vulnerable groups’ access to suitable healthcare or particular health services.

“The proposed law could compound negative community attitudes toward those most vulnerable, including minority groups and the LGBTQI+ community.

“Given Australia is already in the grips of a mental health crisis, we must do everything in our power to prevent this.”

The religious discrimination bill will be debated by the lower house next week. It will then be sent to the Sen

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C. of E. General Synod – a Protest against Ghana’s Anti-Gay Bill

The New Church of England General Synod contains what may well be a truly representative proportion of LGBT+Anglicans in its assembly. If 10% really is the estimate of the number of people in the British population whose gender/sexuality identity challenges the ‘binary norm’, then this latest gathering of the General Synod contains an average sampling of that sector of the population.

This is not to say that only 10% of Synod holds the more popular view that homosexuality is neither a ‘criminal offence’ nor a sinful distortion of the gift of sexuality – such as has been proclaimed by the Ghanain Anglican Bishops in their support of a bill in Ghana to criminalise homosexuals. It has been estimated that there is a significant number of other G.S. members who disagree with the stand of the Ghanaian bishops in their recent proclamation of support for state persecution of Gay people in Ghana.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has generated strong criticism from many members of the Church of England for his seemingly contradictory statements about his conversations with the Ghanaian bishops in the wake of their open support for a new law in Ghana, which would imprison people for being open about their non-binary sexual identity. This article from the British ‘Church Times’ describes the scene of silent opposition to the ABC’s handling of the situation, together with a record of the speech to Synod by the Prolocutor, Simon Butler, who identifies himself as being gay.

What does need to be understood in this situation is that, though the archbishop of Canterbury has no legal authority over other provincial Anglican Churches – outside of the Church of england – it has been thought that his positition as ‘Primus-inter-pares’ within the worldwide Anglican Communion, ought to have given the ABC a strong position of moral persuasion that would discourage all Anglicans around the world – including Ghana – from the promotion of homophobia and sexism, currently considered to be an outdated attitude of moral approbrium that Western society no longer tolerates.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Archbishop Welby greeted by silent protest in Synod over Ghanaian Bill

 by TIM WYATT – 16 NOVEMBER 2021 – CHURCH TIMES

GEOFF CRAWFORD/CHURCH TIMES

LGBT members of Synod stand in silent protest during the opening session on Tuesday afternoon

A SILENT protest was held by LGBT members of the new General Synod on Tuesday, moments after the Archbishop of Canterbury attempted to draw a line under the row sparked by his conversations with the Anglican Church in Ghana regarding the proposed criminalisation of the LGBTQ+ community there.

Speaking during the opening session of the new quinquennium on Tuesday afternoon, Archbishop Welby reiterated his strong opposition to the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021 (News, 29 October). The Bill, which has been backed by Ghanaian clergy, imposes a maximum of five years in prison for someone identifying as LGBTQ+ and makes advocating LGBTQ+ rights a crime punishable by up to ten years in prison (News, 15 October).

Last Friday, Archbishop Welby apologised for not having spoken directly to Ghanaian clergy before releasing his initial statement condemning the Bill (News, 19 November) — a move that was criticised in the UK.

He told the Synod: “As I said in my first statement, which still stands, homophobia, including the criminalisation of LGBTQ+ people, is always wrong in any context.” This was reinforced, he said, by the 1998 Lambeth Conference’s Resolution 1.10 and by the communiqués of numerous Primates’ Meetings since. He also said that the Anglican Church in Ghana did not, contrary to reports, endorse the proposed criminalisation of the LGBTQ+ community in the Ghanaian Bill, although it maintained its opposition to same-sex marriage.

GEOFF CRAWFORD/CHURCH TIMESLGBT members of Synod stand in silent protest during the opening session on Tuesday afternoon

Archbishop Welby said that he continued to pray both for people who suffered among the LGBTQ+ community and “all those who suffer also from the ongoing effects of colonialism and imbalances of global power”.

In an apparent rebuke of the people who had criticised his engagement with the Ghanaian bishops, however, Archbishop Welby insisted that these conversations and his subsequent statement of apology had been vital as an “instrument of communion” and focus for unity within the Anglican Communion.

His assurances, however, did not forestall a protest minutes later by dozens of LGBT members of the Synod.

Speaking immediately after the Archbishop, the Prolocutor for Canterbury, Canon Simon Butler, said that it was important for everyone to “think very carefully about the messages we deliver”. Gay Anglicans in England, like himself, suffered alongside their LGBT brothers and sisters in Ghana, and, as such, he said that they wished to make a quiet statement of witness.

At this, dozens of Synod members stood, holding rainbow flags and wearing signs that read: “Soon to be imprisonable in Ghana.”

Canon Butler said: “This is just a simple gesture to remind us this is about real lives. At least ten per cent of this Synod are LGBTQ+. These coming years will determine if we are equal members or merely tolerated.”

Several members of the Synod raised the issue again during Questions on Tuesday evening. Archbishop Welby refused to offer any further comment, however, except to repeat that the House of Bishops had no jurisdiction over the Church of Ghana, and that, when making statements of any kind, he considered carefully the impact on persecuted Christians around the world.30

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Us Catholic Bishop Conference’s Document on the Eucharist – Avoiding Confrontation

The outcome of a plan by conservative Bishops in the U.S. Catholic Church has been largely influenced by an opening caution from the Apostolic Delegate to avoid confrontation with the U.S. President’s non- intervention on Governmental policy on abortion – explaining the inadvisability of using the denial of access to the Eucharist as a ‘weapon’ rather than God’s provision for the reconciliation of people to God.

Despite attempts by the Concervatives of the Bishops’ Conference (led by Archbishop Gomez and other bishops of the U.S. Catholic Church who supported the re-election of Donald Trump) to disenfranchise President Biden from participation in the Eucharist, on the grounds of his apparent disregard for the Catholic stand against abortion, Pope Francis and the Vatican doctrinal authorities had advised the U.S. Bishop’s Conference not to use their proposed ‘Statement on the Eucharist’ to penalise politicians who, in the carrying out of their civic duties, did not measure up to the standards of extant doctrine of the Catholic Church. Recognising the broad religious and non-religious secularity of the American public, Pope Francis warned the bishops not to exceed their capacity for influencing the diverse population of the U.S. to subscribe to a set of ideals expected of a believer in the Catholic Tradition – to which the majority did not belong.

In the end, it would seem that the concluding document avoided confronation on this important issue.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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After year of divisive debate, US bishops approve tepid document on Communion

Nov 17, 2021by Brian FragaJoshua J. McElwee N.C.R –This article appears in the USCCB Fall Assembly 2021 feature series. View the full series.

A bishop looks over paperwork during a Nov. 17 session of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS/Bob Roller)A bishop looks over paperwork during a Nov. 17 session of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS/Bob Roller)

BALTIMORE — After more than a year of intense debate on a controversial document originally intended to target pro-choice Catholic politicians like President Joe Biden, the U.S. bishops on Nov. 17 instead approved a milquetoast text summarizing Catholic teaching on Communion.

The 30-page document was passed by the bishops at their Nov. 15-18 assembly here only a day after the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S. addressed the prelates and told them to tamp down divisions among themselves. The document makes only one oblique reference to laypeople who “exercise some form of public authority.”

Such persons, the text says, “have a special responsibility to form their consciences in accord with the Church’s faith and the moral law, and to serve the human family by upholding human life and dignity.”

The bishops approved the text in a vote of 222-8, with three abstentions, after a fairly tepid debate on the floor of their assembly, being held at the Marriott Waterfront hotel. Although several prelates asked for small amendments to the final proposed text, they mostly focused on grammatical or linguistic issues, including the meaning of the phrase “et cetera.”

The document — immediately criticized online by conservative Catholics hoping the bishops would address politicians like Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — appears to represent something of a whimper ending to an initiative first begun by Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, after Biden’s November 2020 election win.

Just two weeks after Biden’s election, Gomez issued a warning that Biden’s position on abortion created a “difficult and complex situation” for the country’s bishops. He also announced the prelates would form a working group to address the issue. That group would eventually recommend that the conference’s Committee on Doctrine draft a document on the importance of “eucharistic coherence.”

Speaking at a press conference on Nov. 16, Gomez seemed to misstate the origins of the eventual Communion text. The archbishop told journalists the intention was never to address Biden specifically, but rather to help Catholics understand the importance of the Eucharist in their faith lives. Gomez called the text “absolutely necessary.”

Massimo Faggioli, a theology professor and church historian at Villanova University, told NCR that the events of the past year risked turning the Catholic Church in the United States into a partisan and sectarian institution.

“Especially when the president of the USCCB shows a partisan understanding of movement for social and racial justice in the U.S.,” said Faggioli, referencing a controversial Nov. 4 speech in which Gomez denigrated modern social justice movements, such as antiracism groups like Black Lives Matter, as Marxist-inspired, anti-Christian “pseudo-religions.”.

Faggioli said the Communion document controversy signals the “risk of an escalation from a culture war Catholicism that politicizes the sacraments, to a full-blown ‘evangelicalization’ of U.S. Catholicism — ‘evangelicalization’ in the sense of U.S. conservative white evangelicals, and the loss of a Catholic sense of the church.”

It was not immediately clear whether the U.S. bishops would be seeking Vatican approval, known as a recognitio, of their new Communion document. During votes on several other items on Nov. 17, conference officials noted the need for those items to receive a recognitio, but did not make such a declaration about the Communion text.

One canon lawyer consulted by NCR suggested that without the request for a recognitio, the text could not be considered a “doctrinal declaration,” under the norms laid out for bishops’ conferences in Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter Apostolos Suos.

Unlike during the bishops’ last meeting in June, which was held virtually, the debate in Baltimore over the Communion text was minimal. Only four bishops offered comments during an initial presentation of the document on Nov. 16, and three interjected in an open discussion during the final debate on Nov. 17.

The bishops also were known to discuss the text in executive sessions, which are held behind closed doors. One of those sessions took place on Nov. 15, another in the morning of Nov. 16, and a third in the afternoon of Nov. 16.

At the Nov. 16 briefing, bishops framed the closed-door sessions as a normal part of their process, although assemblies in recent years have usually included only one executive session.

“That’s part of what we do,” said Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Communications. “We do have that time allotted to be able to talk to one another, as brother bishops.”

Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, president, listen to a question during a Nov. 17 session of the bishops' fall general assembly in Baltimore. (CNS)Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, president, listen to a question during a Nov. 17 session of the bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore. (CNS/Bob Roller)

The final Communion text carries the title “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church.”

Before the final debate on the text on Nov. 17, the doctrine committee recommended to the bishops that they accept nine slight amendments to the document proposed by individual bishops. They also recommended the prelates decline to adopt 19 other proposed changes.

The bishops largely accepted the committee’s recommendations.

One accepted amendment was a request from Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron that a line be added to emphasize that scandal, caused by those who receive Communion in a state of mortal sin, weakens “the resolve of other Catholics to be faithful to the demands of the Gospel.”

In accepting Vigneron’s amendment, the committee added a footnote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2284, which expounds on scandal as “a grave offense” that damages other people and deliberately leads them into sin.

Another accepted amendment was proposed by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, a conservative prelate who has openly clashed with Pelosi and had been pushing for the document to address Catholics in public life who support legalized abortion.

Cordileone sought to include the unborn in a section of the document that addresses categories of vulnerable people, such as the poor and victims of racial injustice. The bishops voted to accept that amendment, as well as another from Phoenix Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Nevares to name migrants and refugees.

Among amendments rejected by the bishops was a suggestion by Bishop Oscar Cantú of San Jose, California, that the text reference the Second Vatican Council document Gaudium et Spes‘ affirmation that “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age … are the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the followers of Christ.”

Among other items on Nov. 17, the bishops also voted to review the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the set of procedures originally adopted in 2002 to protect children from clergy sexual abuse.

Presenting the review proposal, Bishop James Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, chairman of the bishops’ child and youth protection committee, said it was necessary to address the various changes mandated by Pope Francis in handling sexual abuse cases.

The proposal passed after several interjections, including one from retired Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, that appeared to ask that the charter’s procedures for taking accused priests out of ministry be modified.

DiMarzio, whom the Vatican recently exonerated of allegations of sexual abuse dating back from half a century ago, asked the committee to address “the issue of priests being taken out of ministry because they are actually taken as guilty until proven innocent.”

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