Changing Attitude – up-date by Colin Coward

If the rumours are correct, the House of Bishops will next Thursday, 26 January, publish the outcome of work started in January 2012, when the working party chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling was commissioned. The report was published on 28 November 2013 and its recommendations led into the process which became the Shared Conversations.

The current leaks from conservative sources reported to me indicate that the bishops are going to offer nothing that really changes current practice. I have been reflecting on the implications for my place in the Church of England if this is true, and on the preparedness of our various groups to respond to the news.

I’ve taken a glance through the Osborne report this morning, wondering how next week’s announcements and proposals will compare with those made twenty-eight years ago. Here are a few excerpts which are still apposite. I smiled ruefully as I read. Some things have changed, such as the conservative attitude of lay people. The bishops have done some work. I’m not sure they’ve done the work Osborne thought necessary.

#358. We noted that the bishops did not comment, possibly because of the way we asked our questions, about lay experience on the one hand, or about their attitude to homosexuals in the House of Bishops on the other. The issue seemed to be at a distance from them and mainly about clergy problems.

#359. The bishops’ replies suggested that they felt to be under some pressure on the issue. [C]oncern about the conservative attitude of lay people and the effect this would have if they took a different line, concern about scandal and its effects on opinion, the lack of an agreed policy was seen as both a good and a bad thing, and the general climate of the present times- all these were quoted as matters of concern. Some bishops felt themselves to be in the public eye at present.

#360. Many bishops commented on the outstanding contribution made by homosexual priests. Some saw this as a result of the struggle such priests had had with their own sexual identity. This was directly related to their growth to maturity and to the developments of skills for the work of a priest.

#366. Some bishops clearly feel that they are colluding with deception and encouraging dishonesty which are themselves morally corrupting.

#368. It is important that bishops, if they are to offer pastoral help to individuals and guidance to the Church, should have done their own personal work on the questions. The understanding of ourselves, as far as we may, is crucial to the task. Attitudes to matters of sexuality and specifically to homosexuality may be rooted deep in personal training and development. There may be a considerable contrast between the attitudes which prevailed in the generation in which the present episcopate was brought up and those which prevail for younger clergy. The relationship between ‘feeling’ and ‘thinking’ is crucial to this question. The capacity to reflect on personal development is vital in those who wish to offer help to others in their personal relational growth.

Jayne Ozanne has commented about her expectations on her blog. Towards the end she writes:

“This time [the bishops] know that they have to make some clear and concrete decisions, because otherwise they will undermine all the trust that has been placed in them, at their own request, by the LGBT community, by those desiring an inclusive Church and by society as a whole.

“Because otherwise the trust we have put in them would be broken. And as we all know – it would be impossible to rebuild. Many would just walk away knowing that yet again they have been let down by an institution that is bound by fear and compromise.”

All indications are that the clear and concrete decisions will be to do nothing to respond to the hope of the majority that the celebration and blessing of relationships will be authorised and marriages recognised.

If this is so, my trust in and respect for the bishops, including my own, will have been broken and I will probably walk away from the church, following many of my friends and colleagues. This will be as much because the spiritual landscape is richer and healthier and more creative and adventurous outside the church. My faith is deeper than ever. The institution fails to respect and enrich me.


This recent Statement by Fr. Colin Coward of ‘Changing Attitudes’, bespeaks the disappointing expectation of ‘business as usual’ in the Church of England by those whose hopes had been pinned on a positive outcome from the recent round of ‘Conversations’ on Sexuality, that took place in the Church of England over the past year.

The secret meetings of the C. of E. House of Bishops (no Press reports came out of those meetings) seems to confirm the probability of ‘No Change’ in the current situation of a conservative stand-off from the prospect of the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions within the Church of England let alone that of any recognition of Equal Marriage – despite the civil recognition of such marriages in the public realm.

Here in the relevant commentary on the Osborne Report, is a note about the evaluation of C.of E. serving clergy who are known by the Bishops to be  Gay:

“#360. Many bishops commented on the outstanding contribution made by homosexual priests. Some saw this as a result of the struggle such priests had had with their own sexual identity. This was directly related to their growth to maturity and to the developments of skills for the work of a priest.”

Surely, this paragraph alone ought to alert the Bishops to the urgent need for an agreement on the just treatment of clergy who happen to be of a sexual orientation that is different from the majority but no longer considered by society to be either pagan or toxic.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Sexuality and Anglican Identities

The University of Chester is engaged in a two-year project, Sexuality and Anglican Identities.

This seeks to engage the Academy, Chaplaincy and Church in conversation about current issues relating to sexuality within the contemporary Anglican context. A particular focus will be on how articulation of various positions on these matters, contribute to competing claims to Anglican identity. The project is funded by the Church Universities Fund.

The first of two open forums at Chester Cathedral, The Past, Present and Future of Christian Marriage, was held on Saturday 22 October, 2016. The second open forum, New Directions in Sexualities and Christianity, will be held from 1 pm to 3 pm on Saturday 11 February. The speakers will be

– Professor Adrian Thatcher, University of Exeter

– Dr Susannah Cornwall, University of Exeter

– The Rev Dr Mark Vasey-Saunders

– Dr David Hilborn, St John’s School of Mission

On Saturday 6 May there will be a day conference, for which there is a call for papers. Proposals of not more than 300 words to be with Dr Jessica Keady ( by 28 February.

More information is on a public Facebook page here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 14 January 2017


Simon Sarmiento, of ‘Thinking Anglicans’ U.K. website, here advertises a series of open forums on matters connected with the Church’s long-running debate on Human Sexuality scheduled to take place at Chester’s Anglican Cathedral.

There will no doubt be many people seeking to understand the attitude of the Church of England’s Bishops, whose recent closed shop discussions have given no clue as to what will be the outcome of their own debate on a matter exercising the minds and consciences of a range of people interested in the prospect of the Church’s upcoming General Synod opening up the Church to Same-Sex Blessings.

Open discussion of the whole matter of sexual ethics – especially relating to the subject of LGBTI people (including clergy) in the Church of England – in an academic environment but also taking place in an English Cathedral Church building; ought to be welcomed by everyone concerned – not least those most intimately involved.

One does wonder, though, whether this series of discussions will make any real difference to the seeming determination of the C. of E. Bishops to keep the subject of Same-Sex Relationships out of sight and out of mind in the Church; while in the world acceptance of Same-Sex relationship has become a legal and moral reality.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


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George Conger blog repudiated by Archbishop Mouneer

Egyptian Archbishop rebuts “lack of support” claims against Archbishop of Canterbury

Posted on: December 31, 2016 2:29 PM

The Bishop of Egypt, Mouneer Anis, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, chat during Archbishop Welby’s visit to Cairo in June 2013.
Photo Credit: Lambeth Palace

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Primate of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt, has issued a statement to refute allegations made in a blog post by an American priest. The Revd George Conger claimed on his Anglican Ink website that Archbishop Mouneer was “perturbed” by the lack of support from Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby over ongoing legal hearings about the status of the Diocese of Egypt and its relationship with a protestant church group. Conger also said that the recent appointment of the Dean of Alexandria, Samy Shehata, to Archbishop Welby’s Anglican Communion Task Group force was a “deceitful” act.

Dean Samy was approached following discussions involving Archbishop Justin, Archbishop Mouneer, and the secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon. Archbishop Mouneer made it clear that the Dean had decided not to take up the offer because of his forthcoming appointment as the area Bishop of North Africa.

Archbishop Mouneer went further, saying that he was “troubled and disappointed” by the article written by Conger, saying that it “was not accurate.”

He continued: “In regards to the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Diocese of Egypt in its struggle with the Protestant Church Association who are trying to bring the Anglican Church under its umbrella, it is important to say that Archbishop Justin Welby has been so supportive to me and to our Diocese on this issue. I am so grateful to him for his great support and for writing to our President in regard to the recognition of our Church in Egypt.

“The other misunderstanding was regarding the participation of Dean Samy Shehata in the Taskforce of the Anglican Communion. Dean Samy is going to be the Area Bishop of North Africa in addition to his responsibilities as the Dean of Alexandria and the Dean of the Alexandria School of Theology. For this reason, he apologised for not being able to participate on this Taskforce because of his very busy schedule.”

He concluded: “I hope this provides sufficient clarification of the real situation.”

The Anglican Ink article also repeats allegations of forgery relating to the attendance at this year’s Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Lusaka by members of the Anglican Church of Kenya. Those allegations were refuted in April by Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon.


The Revd George Connor, a well-known rebel against TEC and a supporter of the schismatic ACNA associates in the USA, has his own eponymous blog, which is often engaged in anti-TEC rhetoric.

However, this time, Mr. Conger has come a cropper with an item on his blog which asserts that the Anglican archbishop in North Africa, The Rt. Revd. Mouneer Anis has been wrongly treated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt. Revd. Justin Welby. In this article, from the Anglican News Service (ACNS), Archbishop Mouneer criticizes Conger’s attempt to defame the ABC. He also refutes Conger’s insinuation of deceit concerning the participation of Dean Samy Shehata in the Taskforce of the Anglican Communion.

This published rebuff of Conger by the archbishop should alert Anglican observers to the damage that is inflicted by George Conger and his friends at the web-site ‘Anglican Ink’ (perpetrating at this time what might be called a ‘blot on its escutcheon) whose intention seems to be concentrated on casting slurs against the official Anglican Communion organization, with a view to supporting the schismatic tendencies of ACNA and GAFCON.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Pope Francis and The Enemy Inside The Gate


04 January 2017 | by Christopher Lamb | Comments: 0

The opposition to the attempts by Pope Francis to reinvigorate the reforms that the Second Vatican Council initiated does not come from outside the Church but from some of those closest to him

Pope Francis will face the toughest test yet over the next 12 months for his vision of a compassionate, pilgrim-like Church, which refuses to take refuge in old certainties but instead takes the Gospel message out into the mess of a deeply divided world.

As he approaches the fourth anniversary of his election, Francis faces stiff resistance to his fragile Vatican reforms from inside the Church’s headquarters, while a group of furious conservatives bang on his door, demanding crisp answers to their accusations that his blurry pronouncements are allowing the faithful to drift into heresy.

The early part of 2017 could well see Francis’ chief critic, Cardinal Raymond Burke, issuing a “formal act of correction” against him for letting local bishops’ conferences issue guidelines that, without changing Church teaching, would make it possible in some cases for remarried divorcees to receive Communion.

What an “act of correction” looks like is anyone’s guess. It would appear to have no basis in canon law. Would it be a Luther-style nailing of theses to the door of St Peter’s? But what Burke and his supporters have succeeded in doing is to make it look to outsiders as if – once again – the Church is squabbling over a less than vital matter.

The conservative opponents are in fact a small minority; the vast majority of Catholics are fully behind Francis’ reform programme. Like most people outside the Church, they see in this Pope’s compassion and concern for the poor and the marginalised the authentic ring of the Gospel, as well as something profoundly authentic and attractive.


This latest news from ‘THE TABLET’, the U.K.’s foremost Roman Catholic newspaper, should not surprise those of us who have been following the trajectory of this modern Pope who has brought a breath of fresh air into the Vatican enclave in Rome. 

After the relatively conservative papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, which did much to roll back many of the eirenic initiatives of Vatican II – instigated by Pope John XXIII with a limited follow-up by PopePaul VI – the former Argentinian Cardinal, now reigning Supreme Pontiff;  Pope Francis seems determined to open up the doors of the Catholic Church to a class of people formerly kept at a distance by the Church. Divorcees, for instance, were not admitted to the rite of Holy Communion because of being party to a divorce.

The pastoral implications of Pope Francis’ proposed measures, which offer reconciliation to many families excluded from the Sacraments of The Church; seem to be at the heart of what many Vatican conservatives – and some of the Princes of the Roman Church in other countries, including U.S.  Cardinal Raymond Burke – consider to be a case of blatant encouragement of heresy. (This, from a Church which already allows a marriage to be dissolved in circumstances approved by episcopal fiat – on payment of a fee).

Pope Francis is trying to bring the Roman Catholic Church kicking and screaming into the 21st century and this is obviously a cause of great scandal to some of his colleagues in the Roman Curia – especially among those, like Cardinal Burke, who strongly disapprove of the measures being advocated to further the openness of the Church to people formerly considered to be persona non grata because of their particular seeming unsuitability for inclusion in the administration or sacramental ministry of the Church (women are high on this list), or because of their unworthiness to receive the Sacraments by virtue of the breakdown of their marital relationship.

From being considered, in the heady times of Vatican II, a necessary reform of the Roman Catholic Church; The Vatican Council’s forward movement had been slowly but progressively downgraded by successive papal administrations – until the arrival of Pope Francis; whose own disinclination to assume the panoply of papal privilege seemed to shock the College of Cardinals at the Vatican into panic – at the thought that this might affect their own security of tenure in the splendour and comfort of their own places of residence at the Vatican or in the City of Rome.

One can only pray that the reform of Vatican II, which gave the Church a credibility it had long been lacking under the successive mismanagement of its extensive resources, may yet be carried forward under Pope Francis, for whom ecclesiastical openness and integrity are at the forefront of his hopes for the future of his Church. May God protect him from those determined to scuttle the reforms he feels must be made to further the mission of the Church in this modern day and age.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Irish Catholic Priest Pleads for Married Clergy

Allow married Catholic priests to halt decline in Ireland, says clergyman

Father Brendan Hoban predicts ‘huge eucharistic famine’ amid falling numbers and warns of rising depression and suicide

Priest holds communion cup
‘Without the priests there is no mass, and without the mass there is no church,’ said Hoban. Photograph: Con Tanasiuk/Design Pics Inc.

The Catholic church should accept married men for ordination in an effort to prevent the extinction of priests in Ireland, a prominent clergyman has urged, amid warnings about rising rates of depression, isolation and suicide among the ageing priesthood.

Father Brendan Hoban, a co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), said urgent action was needed to counter the “vocations crisis”. As well as ordaining married men, those who had left the priesthood – sometimes to get married – should be invited back, and women should be ordained as deacons, he told the Guardian.

Married priests would be a “massive change”, he conceded. But he added: “At the end of the day, without the priests there is no mass, and without the mass there is no church. So we see in Ireland a huge eucharistic famine in a few years’ time.”

The number of parish priests in Ireland fell by almost 17% in the 10 years to 2014, from 3,141 to 2,627, according to the church’s most recent statistics. About a quarter of the 2014 figure were thought to be retired already, and “the vast majority of those remaining in the priesthood are in their 60s and 70s – or even 80s,” said Hoban.

A survey by the ACP in 2012 found that almost nine in 10 Irish Catholics wanted priests to be allowed to marry. “The situation is imploding because priests as a body are getting older and older and there are very few priests coming after us. So people see this huge dilemma,” said Hoban.

Pope Francis – who is to visit Ireland in 2018 – was reportedly keen to examine the possibility of married priests at his next synod of bishops. However, the Vatican announced in October that its theme would be young people and vocation after the issue of celibacy was voted down by the body that decides the synod’s agenda.

In an address given in November to the ACP annual general meeting, Hoban warned that the priesthood in Ireland was a “lost tribe; we’ve come to the end of a long line”.

When he was ordained in the 1970s, he told the meeting, “parish priests took for granted that they were admired, respected and supported by their parishioners. Their words were infallible; their decisions confident and unquestioned … Now, we’re often pitied, patronised, reviled, insulted, disrespected, ignored and resented.”

At best, he added, “we’re now little more than a ceremonial presence on the sidelines of life”.

He said priests who “can’t wait to get off the stage” by retiring were manipulated into staying on beyond the age of 75 because of a lack of younger clergymen.

“We’re expected to work longer and harder … The effect of our increased and ever-increasing workload is that as we morph into sacrament-dispensing machines, we find pastoral work less and less satisfying.”

He went on: “With the implosion of our church, the unease and inconvenience and isolation of our lives, with the regrets and ambivalences that disturb our waking hours and with our singular lifestyles, we’re prone to depression in one or other of its malevolent manifestations.”

He told the conference suicide had increased among priests in Ireland, but speaking to the Guardian he acknowledged that there was no firm data available.

“A lot of this is hidden. But certainly in the past number of years, there have been five suicides. We’ve no doubt at all that it is increasing and it hides a whole subculture of depression, isolation and loneliness that priests are now experiencing in parishes and that we ignore at our peril,” he said.

His said his speech had triggered a huge reaction from priests and the public, but a “very muted” response from bishops, whom he accused of at best ignoring the problem and at worst bullying clergymen into working longer and harder.

Since the ACP was established six years ago, it had sought “realistic and respectful engagement with [bishops] to discuss issues that we believe are really fundamental to the future of the Catholic church”. The ACP has about 1,100 members – more than one in three priests in Ireland.

He said meetings with bishops had been friendly. But he added: “They don’t seem to want to talk to us very much any more. We’re very disappointed that they haven’t taken on board what we’re saying. They’re effectively in denial about the problems facing the Catholic church in Ireland.”

Hoban acknowledged that the church had lost respect in society “because of what’s happened particularly in respect of the child sexual abuse scandals and the way they were handled – denials, lack of transparency and openness”.

Individual priests and some bishops continued to have good relationships with their parishioners but “institutional authority and respect has gone. It’s been a huge revolution, a huge drop in the status of the church.”

The ACP was not a trade union nor a thorn in the side of the church, Hoban said. “We’re loyal to the church, and loyal to Rome and loyal to our beliefs, but we also feel a huge responsibility to say what we think needs to be said at this critical juncture.”

In response to a request for comment, the Irish Catholics Bishops’ Conference forwarded a letter sent by Raymond Browne, the bishop of Kerry, to Hoban in October, which said: “The current challenging situation for the future life and mission of the church in this country requires that all of us work together.”

It added: “Overall, the bishops are committed to working with priests at every level in ensuring that we are all wholeheartedly proclaiming the gospel and serving the people of God.”


Father Brendan Hoban, a co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in Ireland is not the only Roman Catholic who is contemplating the future of the Church in Ireland. The dearth of male vocations to the priesthood in that country might come as a surprise to those who have always considered the ‘Emerald Isle’ to be a securely Catholic country, from which trained clergy were sent out to other countries in mission.

Despite this earlier reality of life in Catholic Ireland – the country to which Pope Francis is planning to make a visit in the near future – there has been a gradual decline in vocations of both women and men to the Religious Life; as well as of men to the life of parochial priesthood. Where mission in former British Colonial countries was once a target for the output from Irish seminaries; such ministry is now largely supplied by priests from Asiatic countries. In New Zealand, for instance, this fact has been borne out by the recent situation in local parishes here, where Asian priests are filling the role of parish clergy, which was once the sinecure of priests from the ‘auld country’.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealansd

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H.T.B. Now Open to Women’s Ministry (p.p The B.V.M)

Women In Leadership: Is 2017 The Year HTB Will Practise What It Preaches?

Nicky And Pippa GumbelHTB

Last Sunday, the Vicar of Holy Trinity, Brompton (HTB), Nicky Gumbel, and his wife, Pippa, gave a talk entitled: “Mary: mother of women’s liberation”.

Both men and women were called to ordination, Nicky stressed. HTB had a “long way to go” to achieve a balance of men and women clergy and speakers. Leadership gifts, bestowed upon both sexes, must be “not frustrated but fulfilled”.

While some might regard these words as a mere stating of somewhat dispiriting reality, I hope that they will prove to be significant. Despite being one of the most influential churches in the country, HTB tends not to join the public arguments of the Church of England, described by Justin Welby as a family shouting at one another in the garden. It didn’t proffer a prominent voice during the debate on women bishops, for example.

A consequence of this, is that the leadership’s beliefs on several issues are the subject of speculation. What I know is often gleaned from “off the record” conversations and anecdotes.

So, to hear the Vicar preach on women’s liberation and admit that there is a lot of room for improvement in his own church is encouraging. This is particularly true given the expansion of HTB’s footprint in the Church of England. In recent years it has produced more than 30 church plants and grafts, and it is clear that its ethos has become increasingly influential in the hierarchy. Only one of these related churches (not listed on the HTB website) is led by a woman. HTB’s stance on gender has real implications for the wider Church.

Take a look at HTB’s talks and it’s striking how few are by women, and still fewer by its women clergy. In Sunday’s sermon, Nicky’s wife, Pippa, talked about reluctantly agreeing to do “a little bit” in it, explaining: “As a woman I want sometimes to be up here to give permission for everybody else to know you can do this far better than I can.” While this is well-intended, it does reinforce an implicit message that a woman’s best chance of preaching at HTB is marrying one of the male clergy. There are four women curates on the staff but when I looked through the talks put online over the past year, I could only find one by an ordained woman. It was good to hear Nicky describe Mary the mother, on Sunday. But I hope that we hear more sermons on the women described brilliantly here as the “grandmothers of Christmas”, who do not fit the mould most likely to be visible and celebrated at HTB. I’m told that one of the most popular recent HTB talks this year was by Philippa Savile, a widow who preached on hope.

None of this is to say that progress isn’t being made. It’s encouraging to see that at St Mellitus, the training college that has some of its origins in HTB, just under half of the more than 200 ordinands (trainee clergy) are women. The Assistant Dean, Dr Jane Williams, argues that the model of training – context-based – works well for women, as well as men. “It means that they are exercising their gifts in ministry throughout their training, and also enabling their churches to see women training for leadership and priestly roles, thereby raising the profile of women in local churches,” she argues. There was a force to Nicky’s assertion, on Sunday, that “God is calling men and women.” Within the HTB network of churches, including the ‘plants of plants’, there are a handful woman curates.

I am also told that there are still complaints whenever a woman speaks at HTB. Nicky’s talk on Sunday helpfully provided a biblical basis for gender equality, in anticipation, perhaps, of more. He emphasised the revolutionary nature of Jesus’s interactions with women: how he “repeatedly liberated and affirmed women, treating men and women as equals” and how, even in the Early Church, women began to experience “the liberation of the Kingdom of God”. Galatians 3:28 was a “three-stage time bomb”, he argued, with the third stage (“nor is there male and female”) finally taking effect during our century. Helpfully, a database of women speakers is already being compiled, with this very verse as its calling card.

Nicky also acknowledged “shocking and widespread violations of human rights” and an ongoing “struggle for equality”. He quoted his tutor at Oxford, Rev Dr David Wenham, who once wrote: “Just as changes in society made it possible and indeed imperative for slavery to be abolished, so discrimination against women in ministry has now had its day and should be ended.”

The whole sermon had the feel of a manifesto: a clear and robust statement of belief and intent. It also contained a confession. There was a “long way to go”, at HTB: “Balance of speakers, male and female clergy is not right yet. But we are working on it and we will get there.”

Part of that work must surely involve asking challenging questions about how this imbalance arose in the first place? What attitudes lay behind it? What conscious or unconscious biases exist? What would it look like to confront these attitudes and dismantle the imbalance that has arisen? Is the desire to do so shared by all of the leadership? I hope women are given the opportunity to share their own experiences of the effects of the existing culture, and suggest possible solutions.

Aware of the potential for irony in his delivery of a sermon on women’s liberation, Nicky argued that it was “not just a women’s issue”.

“It a men’s issue as well, and we men have to face up to our responsibility in this. Mary began a revolution that would lead us to recognise God’s gifts and calling. We need to treat people according to their God-given gifts and abilities, not their gender. Leadership gifts need to be not frustrated but fulfilled.”

Leadership has become an important strand of HTB’s work. In addition to its annual Leadership Conference it runs a Leadership College, seeking to train “young leaders who are called to develop their gifts and transform society”. It’s encouraging to see women featured in its testimonies, but notable that the vast majority of speakers advertised for its annual conference are men. Again, there is some way to go.

There is so much that is wonderful about HTB. But I hope that this talk accelerates long overdue action so that it truly reflects the diverse body of Christ. Without the gifts of women, and other unrepresented groups, the entire church is impoverished. Mary, as Nicky pointed out on Sunday, was the only witness to all three moments of our redemption: Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection. What encounters with the Good News could today’s women give witness to? I hope we hear more in 2017.

Madeleine Davies is deputy news editor at Church Times, writing here in a personal capacity.


In a dramatic turnaround in polity, it would appear that the leadership of Holy Trinity Brompton – in the person of the Revd. Nicky Gumbel, the Vicar – has taken a step towards the emancipation of women in its new openness to them in ministry.

Madeleine Davies, who is a Church Times deputy news editor, writes to this effect in ‘Christian Today’, describing HTB’s sudden announcement, in a sermon about the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in God’s plan of redemption – through her Son, Jesus –  that women are called equally with men in the propagation of the Gospel – both as clergy and laity.

This seems, at last, to be a sign of the reality of the place of women in the Church, that a conservative evangelical Church body, like Holy Trinity Brompton – which has exercised a great deal of influence in the Church of England and beyond with its effective ALPHA discipleship program, opening up new branches of the Church in England – has now come to realise as basic to its survival as an outreach of the Gospel of Christ to the world.

In a Church Tradition – Evangelicalism – which is not noted for its attention to the role of Mary as Mother of Christ and, therefore, Mother of the Church – this can only be seen as a miracle, brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives and work of the originators of the eminently successful HTB program of Evangelism in the C. of E.

Rather than being suspicious of such a move forward by Nicky Gumbel and his wife, Pippa, we Anglo-Catholics who already have opened up to this reality, need to give them due credit for their breakthrough into a more balanced theology of gender distribution in Christian Ministry. Who knows, this openness to a new understanding of the Gospel as being God’s Good News to, and through, ALL people, might yet become extended to others who are presently marginalised by the Church because of their perceived ‘difference’.

Do take a look at this link, for a bird’s-eye view of Nicky Gumbel, proclaiming the BVM as ‘The Mother of Women’s Liberation:

2017 may yet become a ‘Year of Good News’ to and through the Body of Christ

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Cathedral in The Square – Decision Delayed

Decision on future of Christchurch Cathedral delayed

Posted on: December 23, 2016 3:06 PM

A decision on the future of Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand has been delayed.
Photo Credit: PeterL / Wikimedia

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The future of the partially-demolished earthquake-ravaged cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, remains uncertain after an expected pre-Christmas announcement was delayed. Cathedral and diocesan officials had wanted to demolish the remains of the building, which was severely damaged in the 2011 earthquake, and build a new cathedral. But a series of legal and political challenges followed from opponents who are pushing for the previous building to be effectively restored.

In January, a New Zealand government-appointed mediator, Miriam Dean QC, said that restoration work could lead to a new building which was “indistinguishable” from the one that was all-but destroyed by the earthquake. But she said that the “costly and risky project” would be significantly more expensive and take much longer to build than a contemporary replacement.

The cost of reinstatement had been estimated at $105 million New Zealand Dollars (approximately £58.9 million GBP), with work set to take six or seven years. In contrast, the cost of building a completely new cathedral has been estimated at costing up to $66 million New Zealand Dollars (approximately £37 million GBP).

Following the release of Dean report, confidential talks took place between government officials and the Church Property Trustees; leading to the creation of a Cathedral Working Group in June “to investigate whether the issues of cost and safety outlined in the report are able to be addressed in order to reinstate Christchurch Cathedral as it appeared prior to the earthquakes.”

The working group presented “non-binding” proposals to the government and church officials last month and a public announcement about the future was expected before Christmas.

“We came so close and I will always be deeply grateful for the sacrificial contribution of the Cathedral Working Group, which was Government appointed; the staff of Church Property Trustees and the Church Property Trustees themselves,” Bishop Victoria Matthews said in a Christmas message to her diocese. “. . . In a sentence: we almost got there, and earlier this week we did think we had arrived.

“We will now have a break over Christmas and decide where and how to proceed in the later part of January. Please pray for all involved in this matter thus far.”

In a joint statement with the Church Property Trustees, Bishop Matthews said that she was “greatly saddened” that “the much-anticipated announcement on the future of the reinstatement of the damaged Christchurch Cathedral will not go ahead before Christmas, as hoped.”

The statement said that Bishop Matthews “said 48 hours ago [that] she and Church Property Trustees were sure there would be a positive announcement in this week before Christmas.”

Bishop Matthews said: “The Trustees will keep working towards a resolution in the new year. I can assure people that there will be a Cathedral in the Square at the heart of our city.

Since August 2013, the cathedral congregation have been worshipping in an award-winning pioneering “cardboard cathedral”.


As this is my private blog – not in any way connected with decisions to be made by either the Christchurch Anglican Diocese or the Government-Appointed Commission that looked into the feasibility of a complete re-build of the original building – I can state my own opinion of what I think has delayed any resolution of the current situation. I really believe that the delay in getting on with the project – a matter of six years after the first earthquake damage – is entirely the fault of interference by the local conservationist organisation (GCBT) which has used legal tactics to try to prevent the Christchurch Diocese from following its agreed plan of action to build a brand-new Cathedral on this valuable inner city site. 

Despite the fact that the original building was considered by the Diocese and the Board of trustees to be beyond saving, and was actually deconsecrated in the expectation of being demolished at the earliest opportunity; the Greater Christchurch Buildings trust (GCBT) – which has no connection with the Church Property Trustees – decided to take out an injunction against the Cathedral owners (CPT) to prevent the demolition and the planned building of a new, modern building fit for purpose. This injunction was denied, despite a further appeal by GCBT, which has now resulted in a stand-off necessitating mediation by a Government-appointed Mediator.  

The Mediator has since met with the Diocesan Bishop and Board of Trustees (owners of the Cathedral), but, despite a promise of resolution before Christmas;  this has not produced any positive result.

My own presumption is that this is the direct fault of the Greater Christchurch Building Trust’s continuing opposition to the original intention of the Diocese to erect a brand new modern building that would be more cost effective than the complete restoration that is still being insisted upon by the non-diocesan, non-Anglican, GCBT.

It seems to me that the owners of the derelict building – The Church Property Trustees (CPT), who will be responsible for the major costs associated with the building of a Cathedral in the Square – and who had already reached a majority decision on how best to meet the circumstances of the most appropriate replacement building – ought to be given the prior right to determine the best outcome that will satisfy the Anglican Church, which owns both the site and the building. I hope that natural justice will prevail!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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