The ABC on ‘Disestablishment’ – “Not a Disaster”

Justin Welby: separation of church and state not a disaster

Archbishop says removal of C of E’s privileges is decision for parliament and people

Justin Welby
 Justin Welby: ‘Would disestablishment be a disaster? No … Nothing’s a disaster with God.’ Photograph: Sebastian Nevols for the Guardian

Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, has said disestablishment of the Church of England would not be a disaster, and removal of the church’s privileges should be “a decision for parliament and people”.

In an interview with the Guardian ahead of the royal wedding, Welby acknowledged that disestablishment – separating church and state, and removing the C of E’s official status – would be a “complicated process”.

“Would disestablishment be a disaster? No,” he said, adding: “Nothing’s a disaster with God.”

As the leader of England’s established, or state, church, Welby will take Prince Harry and Meghan Markle through their marriage vows at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on Saturday. The archbishop also officiates at state occasions, including the coronation of the monarch.

Some critics say it is inappropriate in an increasingly multi-faith and secular society to accord special status to one church or faith over others. For example, 26 seats in the House of Lords are reserved for Anglican bishops; the only other country to include clerics by right in its legislature is Iran.

Welby said: “I think, in the end, establishment as a legal thing is a conglomeration of different bits of history, there’s no ‘Establishment of the Church of England Act’ that you could repeal – it’s a complicated process.

“And if you mean by privilege that the archbishop of Canterbury very often is involved in royal weddings, or crowns the monarch or whatever, that’s really a decision for parliament and people.”

Welby declined to disclose his private conversations with Prince Harry and Markle in preparation for their marriage, but said he always stressed the importance of communication with brides and grooms. “You talk about communication when things go well, when you’re under pressure, when you’re tired, when things are tricky, when you’re fed up, you do that with every couple,” he said.

Welby also told the Guardian he hoped to stay in the job for another eight years, until the compulsory retirement age of 70, and that of his first five years he was most proud of the ordination of women as bishops.

“I’m more than delighted that it’s happened and I’m even more delighted that since it became possible in law, that round about half the bishops that have been appointed are women,” he said.  He would like to see a woman appointed as his successor “at some point”.

On the contentious issue of sexuality, he acknowledged changes in his attitude. “Are my views different to 25 years ago? Yes.”

Asked if they were different from five years ago, he replied: “I hope they’re deeper. I’ve not changed in the sense that I believe the scriptures, properly interpreted, remain for me the final authority in matters of doctrine, in matters of practice. But the phrase is ‘properly interpreted’.

“And we are continuing as a church to debate with each other, to discuss with each other, and to listen to particularly the voices of LGBTIQ+ people who historically have been appallingly treated and never listened to. I think we are changing very distinctly. You talk to [the bishops leading the C of E’s work in the issue] and I think they would say the whole church is on a journey … and I’m part of that.”

On sexual abuse, another critical issue for the church, Welby said that “to fail in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults is the absolute denial of what we are called to in Jesus Christ. Jesus calls us above all to care for the vulnerable and the poor and the weak. And to privilege the institution over that is utterly shameful and wrong and must never be allowed to happen.”

He was “conscious of the possibility” that the church’s reputation could be damaged further in hearings this summer and next year at the national child abuse inquiry, but added: “I think that the worst of all things that we could do is worry more about our reputation than the truth.” The church should be “utterly truthful and transparent and honest”.

He dismissed claims that he has failed to turn around decline in Church of England attendance as “ultra short-termism”. “I believe that over time at some point that will turn it around. While there’s one Christian in this country, it’s not time to stop talking about that.”

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This Guardian article by religious correspondent Harriet Sherwood, shows the Archbishop of Canterbury, ++Justin Welby, to be cognisant of the distinct possibility of a Church of England without the privileges of being the ‘State Church’, which guarantees protection by the State; but which also offers certain disadvantages, in that the State can dictate to the Church on matters of doctrine and discipline – which other religious organisations are not bound by law to observe.

However, it is interesting to discover that the Archbishop, when he was speaking to the press, was also challenged about the Church’s attitudes towards the LGBT community; on whether or not the Church’s official position has changed. The Archbishop has admitted that his own position is different from what it was even five years ago. He believes the Church s beginning to come to grips with the fact that hermeneutic research into certain texts of the Bible needs to be updated – in order to deal with the reality of sexual differences that should be properly and justly dealt with in the light of modern discoveries about the complex nature of gender and sexuality:

” I’ve not changed in the sense that I believe the scriptures, properly interpreted, remain for me the final authority in matters of doctrine, in matters of practice. But the phrase is ‘properly interpreted’. “

This new thinking is also contiguous with the modern understanding of the place of women in the Church, which has had to be adjusted to catch up with society’s emancipation of women in the modern world. The ABC mentions his own pleasure at the Church’s decision to recruit the services of women as both priests and bishops – expressing the hope for a more equitable distribution of genders in the leadership of the C. of E.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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GAFCON offers support for FCANZ

GAFCON-UK offers support to FCA New Zealand after same sex blessings vote

By Bishop Andy Lines
GAFCON-UK
http://www.gafconuk.org/
May 10, 2018

Bishop Andy Lines, speaking on behalf of GAFCON-UK, said today:

We are not surprised, but nevertheless deeply saddened and concerned by the decision by the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa to accept Motion 29 and so pave the way for the blessing of same sex relationships.

We note that only those in civil marriages or lawfully recognised partnerships will be eligible for these blessings. This shows that while a short time ago many church leaders around the world were arguing for such blessings but drew the line at same-sex marriage (as in the Church of England’s Pilling Report), now that line appears to have been removed. With this decision, another Anglican Province follows TEC, Canada and Scotland in believing it has the authority to redefine marriage, and offer the Church’s blessing to relationships which the Bible and centuries of Christian tradition clearly teach that God warns against and cannot bless.

It is encouraging that despite the huge pressure to conform to Motion 29 and the secular humanist ideology behind it, many courageous New Zealand Anglicans not only voted against the Motion, but are already looking to the emergence of new Anglican structures, which remain faithful to the Scriptures in contrast to those who have departed from them.

We pray for Rev Jay Behan and others in Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans New Zealand and rejoice in their close association with the majority of Anglicans worldwide who continue to preach the biblical gospel of repentance from sin and new life in Christ. Jay and other representatives from FCANZ will receive a warm welcome and full support from all at June’s Gafcon gathering, and ongoing solidarity from Gafcon UK as they plan for the future.

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That FCANZ – the so-called ‘Fellowship of Confessing Anglican, New Zealand’ is a direct offshoot of the separatist group that is currently operating under the title of GAFCON, cannot any longer be denied.  This is GAFCON’s own report.

The recent resignation of FCANZ leader, The Revd. Jay Behan (currently Vicar of Shirley in the Christchurch Diocese in New Zealand) from his position on the General Synod of ACANZP – after its decision to allow for the blessing of legally sanctioned Same-Sex Married Couples and Civil Partnerships – signals FCANZ’s opposition to the proposal, prior to the expected presence of Mr. Behan and other FCANZ representatives at the upcoming GAFCON Meeting, where they will be welcomed as members of that alliance. 

What this may turn out to mean for the clergy and parishes in New Zealand currently linked with GAFCON/FCANZ is open to anyone’s private speculation. However, in the present delicate situation of the hope and expectation for those of us in our Church who are looking forward to some agreement on the pastoral recognition of legally married or civilly-partnered same-sex couples in our churches – which has now been made possible by the direct decision of our local diocesan synod and the General Synod our our Church – this intimation of a possible schismatic separation by FCANZ is a cause for concern – especially for people in affected parishes who may not go along with the conservative agenda of GAFCON, ACNA and AMIE on matters of disputed theology affecting the pastoral treatment of the lives of a small minority in the Church. 

We can only hope that the practical application of the new rules of engagement for the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions within the Anglican Church in New Zealand (This does not affect the Anglican Church in the Pacific Islands) will enable those parishes and clergy that wish to take advantage of the new provisions to do so without let or hindrance from FCANZ leaders and parishes that will not be accessing them.

“Come, Holy Spirit, re-fill the hearts of your Faithful with the fire od your love. AMEN.”

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Dean Vivienne Faull – Next Bishop of Bristol

New Church of England bishop: Church must stop driving away gay people

The Very Reverend Vivienne Faull (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

The Very Reverend Vivienne Faull (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

The Church of England has appointed a new Bishop who says the institution must do more to reach out to LGBT Christians.

It was announced this week that Rev. Vivienne Faull, who is currently Dean of York, would become the next Bishop of Bristol. She is the fifteenth woman to be made a bishop since the ban on female Bishops was lifted in 2015.

Faull said: “It was 24 years ago that Bristol was the first diocese to ordain women as priests, and I want the diocese to continue to show that pioneering courage. “I look forward to leading a church that shows the love of Christ to everyone, whoever they are.”

Christian Today notes that Faull is an outspoken supporter of LGBT-inclusive Christianity, who has previously criticised the Church’s “dreadful” stance on gay unions.

The Church does not permit members of the clergy to perform or bless same-sex weddings, though they are permitted to carry out informal prayers.

The Very Reverend Vivienne Faull (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

Speaking to the Radio Times in 2014, she said: “That’s a very, very significant change [on LGBT issues] and I’m not sure the House of Bishops has quite got that. “It’s very difficult for leaders of organisations to be right in touch with how fast things are changing in the country.” She said: “The blessing of a gay relationship is not theologically a problem for me personally, but I’m under the discipline of the Church and I keep the rules.

“[But] when people have come to me in the past and said, ‘We’re looking for a way of celebrating our civil partnership, how shall we do it?’, we’ve found ways of doing it.” She added of the Church’s ban on gay blessings: “I’m getting approached by young people of the same gender planning their marriages. “They understand in their heads what the Church’s position is, but they no longer understand in their hearts.

“It’s driving people away and that’s dreadful.”

Faull joins a number of other Bishops who believe in reform on the issue.

The Very Reverend Vivienne Faull (Christopher Furlong/Getty
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Next Bishop of Bristol – Dean Vivienne Faull

First female bishop of Bristol on gay blessings: ‘Not theologically a problem for me’
Harry Farley Tue 15 May 2018 10:50 BST

The new bishop of Bristol has been announced as Vivienne Faull, the current dean of York, and the first woman to take up the role. Faull was the first female cleric to lead a Church of England cathedral as provost and then dean of Leicester in 2000. She will become the fifteenth woman bishop in the CofE but only the fourth in a senior diocesan post. She has previously said she would have no problem theologically with blessing a gay relationship and condemned the Church for ‘driving people away’ with its stance on sexuality.

Diocese of Bristol
Vivienne Faull was the Church of England’s most senior female cleric in a time before women bishops were allowed. Rules designed to increase the number of women bishops in the House of Lords means she will leapfrog more senior male bishops when the next bishop with a seat in the Lords retires. The bishop of Derby, Alastair Redfern, will reach the compulsory retirement age of 70 in September.

‘It was 24 years ago that Bristol was the first diocese to ordain women as priests, and I want the diocese to continue to show that pioneering courage,’ she said on her appointment. ‘I look forward to leading a church that shows the love of Christ to everyone, whoever they are.’

She will be consecrated as a bishop at a service in St Paul’s Cathedral on July 3 and be installed in Bristol in the autumn.

In a 2014 interview with the Radio Times, Faull said bishops had not ‘quite got’ how much attitudes to gay relationships had shifted in the UK and people in Britain no longer ‘understand in their hearts’ the Church’s position on homosexuality. She also revealed she had ‘found ways’ of celebrating civil partnerships without flouting the Church of England’s legislation.

‘The blessing of a gay relationship is not theologically a problem for me personally, but I’m under the discipline of the Church and I keep the rules,’ she said. ‘When people have come to me in the past and said, “We’re looking for a way of celebrating our civil partnership, how shall we do it?”, we’ve found ways of doing it,’ she told the Radio Times.

‘I’m getting approached by young people of the same gender planning their marriages,’ she added at the time. ‘They understand in their heads what the Church’s position is, but they no longer understand in their hearts. It’s driving people away and that’s dreadful.’

Faull has family roots in Bristol and will spend the day visiting a homeless centre in Bristol, a village church in Wiltshire, a church school in Chippenham, and the newly announced Pattern Church in Swindon before finishing at Bristol Cathedral.

The archbishop of York, Most Rev John Sentamu, said: ‘I rejoice with the Diocese of Bristol that Her Majesty the Queen has accepted the nomination of the Dean of York, the Very Revd Vivienne Faull, to be the 57th Bishop of Bristol. ‘Dean Faull leads by following Jesus’ way with insight and oversight, with a readiness to be led as well as to lead. She has been a great Dean for York, taking risks for the Kingdom of God, for example persuading the Dean and Chapter to put on the Mystery Plays inside the Minster. ‘She has made the Minster a great home of hospitality, worship and friendliness. A comment I will never forget was made by the head of one of the Minster’s biggest departments who had been prepared for confirmation. I asked “Why confirmation now?” and the reply came back with a beaming smile, “Because the dean has, and is, making God credible and believable.’

Lee Rayfield, who will be one of Faull’s juniors as bishop of Swindon and has been acting bishop of Bristol, said: ‘Having begun to get to know Viv, I am seeing many of the qualities and experience she will bring to this next season of ministry in our diocese. As the next Bishop of Bristol, Viv will help us to build on what is and has been fruitful while enabling us to make progress in areas where fresh approaches are needed.’

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The fact that the Church of England and H.M. Queen Elizabeth II have nominated the current Dean of York – The Very Revd. Vivienne Faull – to become the next Bishop of Bristol is a clear sign of the Church of England’s determination to respond to the need for a new understanding of the LGBT+ community in that Church.

With her history of support for the Church’s acceptance of faithful monogamous same-sex relationships, Dean Faull is able to encourage young people into a more broad and open understanding of how the love of God can work through the open acceptance of people of the margins of the Church.

Her work in the Diocese of York, and specifically within the Minster Community, has been praised by the Archbishop of York, ++ John Sentamu, who – as described above –  as Dean of York Minster she is and has been “making God credible and believable”  to even long-standing members of the Church.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Joy Cowley – Reading the Bible

CathNews NZ

Reading the Bible

Reading the Bible – Joy Cowley

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Recently I read this statement from a progressive rabbi: “It is a sin to read the Torah as historical fact.”

He then went on to describe the importance of reading scripture as parable,  allowing the Holy One to speak to us through it. Ah, I thought. He’s talking about the Catholic tradition of lectio divina.

Some of us who were brought up on the Bible, have come a long way from believing it was dictated word for word by God. Basic research reveals the Bible as a library of books, a faith history written by men in another culture and other times. Like us, they were trying to find the meaning of life and the sacred Presence that interacted with them. That Presence was beyond human language.

People could only understand God through their culture and speak about God in metaphorical language that related to their lives.

Don’t we all do that?

Talk about dry

As a teenager in the early 1950s I attended a Bible study course on the Gospels. Three learned men talked about the life of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as historical fact, ironing out inconsistencies and contradictions. I was disappointed. The talks were as dry as dust. When I opened my Bible to read these gospels, words came alive. Some words jumped up at me. Some danced, tingling in chest and arms. A phrase or verse could be a companion for a day or more and take me to a wider place that could not be described.

My friend Jesus seemed very close.

The Bible study course had nothing to do with personal experience.

It left me disappointed and bewildered.

Many decades later, I realised I’d been reading scripture as lectio divina, and had placed wrong expectation on an academic course. I also learned that Mark, the first gospel to be written, was at least 60 years after Jesus. Until then the teachings had been oral, passed down by the apostles. So of course, there was no point in making idols out of words. Human memory isn’t that accurate.

How do we read the gospels today?

The clue is in Mark and Matthew where we read that Jesus taught everything in parables. Matthew emphasizes this in the Aramaic way of stating something twice – as a positive and then a double negative making a positive. “Jesus spoke all things in Parables. Without a parable was not anything he said.”

Dear old Mother Church is wise.

The books of the Bible are part of our heritage: in them we have the history of covenant from Abraham to fulfilment in Christ Jesus. We gain much from reading these texts through the process of lectio divina. The words do not stay trapped in our heads but flow through the openness of prayer, to our hearts. There they will feed us. The nourishment we need for the moment will stay with us and the words we don’t need will pass us by.

This is the Spirit of Jesus at work.

And because parables meet us where we are, their meaning will change as we change. Reading the gospels this way brings us to the realisation that all of Jesus’ teachings come down to two things – love and non-violence.

I guess that can be further reduced to one thing. It’s all about love.

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  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.

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           Here is a welcome bit of womanly wisdom – coming from the mind and heart of our very own New Zealand Roman Catholic, JOY COWLEY.

           Having, in another situation, being part of an audience listening to and questioning this local Catholic woman sage, I have come to relish her occasional writings accessible to us from various of her books and from this current source – CATHNEWS NZ – to whom I am grateful for this article.

           Perhaps because she is a wife, mother and grandmother in a believing Christian family, Joy’s words are part and parcel of the treasure that can sometimes be found among the faithful laity of the Church. Her sanctified common sense shines through her ruminations about life – in the context of her Christian faith and practice.

           This description of her experience of ‘Lectio Divina’ – a way of reflecting upon the writings of Scripture that is perhaps more common among clergy, monks and nuns in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches – may seem to the supporters of the ‘Sola Scriptura’ (Scripture alone) school to be a purely humanly-inspired diversion from the discipline of Scriptural literalism. However, when one consider Joy’s arguments here, one comes to realise how basic and sensible is her contention – that ‘literal  translation of the meaning of ancient texts  out of context can be a very different experience from prayerful reflection on the deeper message of the Scriptures – which can be adequately  understood only in the deliberate context of Jesus method of teaching – through the medium of parables.

         A parable, for instance, does not depend on a literal translation of an historical happening. Its value is in the way it opens up the mind to adapt the story to the substance of our own reality and lived experience – in ways that can be apprehended more clearly and thus applied more effectively. That the Scriptures actually do contain the story of God’s relationship to the people God has created – in the context of the reality of the ongoing activity in creation – cautions us against the folly of trying to relate the circumstances of a specific situation in order to translate it, literally, into our own situation of the present day. Yes, the elements of the story are similar, but they are not the same. They need to be interpreted for our day and age, in order to fulfil their deeper meaning and effective teaching for the Church and society of today.

           One only has to look at the proscriptions of the O.T. Books of the Law to realise that some of them are no longer applicable to our own societal circumstances. Messages about taboos; like the eating of certain foods, the wearing of garments of mixed fabrics; the exclusion of women from society during their monthly periods; the obedience of slaves towards their masters – all products of the local culture and unsuitable in today’s social and cultural environment – were taboos applicable to Jewish culture of that time and, obviously, not applicable for us. All of which reasons support the understanding of Scripture as ‘Written for our learning’ but not as a definitive prescription for our contemporary understanding of observable, historical, verity.

           Lectio Divina is the direct antithesis of Sola Scriptura (a mediaeval literal understanding of the Bible)  giving us a rather more reflective – and therefore humanly accessible – method of relating to the God whom Scripture presents to us through the individual experience of the divine by its human authors. There really was no divine teleprinter for direct transmission of the Word of God. In fact, The Word (definitive) “became flesh and dwelt among us” – the Gospel of John.

                   Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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TEC Presiding Bishop to preach at the Royal Wedding

Who is this preacher who backs gay marriage and opposes Trump?

Renowned for his stirring preaching style, self-deprecating humour and raucous laughter, Curry is the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church — the Church of England’s sister body in the US.

Michael Curry
Reuters: Michael Curry, is the 27th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the official Anglican church in the US.

While the choice reflects Ms Markle’s own African-American heritage and the couple’s transatlantic relationship, it is a break from tradition in that typically royal preachers are senior CofE clergy.

On top of that Curry is an outspoken figure on issues ranging from civil rights and Donald Trump’s presidency, to same-sex marriage in church and poverty. The couple’s decision to ask Curry is made all the more interesting by the fact they do not have a personal relationship with him. Rather the decision was made in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who baptised Ms Markle into the Church of England in a private ceremony and will officiate at the wedding.

A spokesman for Kensington Palace said of the Prince and Ms Markle’s choice: ‘The couple and the archbishop discussed a number of possibilities for a preacher.

‘Whilst Bishop Curry is not personally known to the couple, it was felt that given the fact that he is the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church as well as a wonderful speaker and preacher, it would be highly appropriate for him to be invited to speak.’

Welby warmly welcomed the announcement.

Archbishop of Canterbury

@JustinWelby

Welby has a close relationship with his American counterpart, despite backing the decision to impose sanctions on the Episcopal Church for allowing same-sex marriage. The ‘consequences’ came after the Episcopal Church first consecrated an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003, and officially authorised gay marriage in 2015.

Curry, who is descended from slaves and sharecroppers in North Carolina and Alabama, has spoken of how his background influences his own passionate defence of same-sex marriage in church.

Last May he filed a ‘friend of the court’ briefing in support of transgender people’s right to use the bathroom of their choice.

And in response to the 2016 decision against the Episcopal Church, which was made by the other leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion, most of who are from the socially conservative global south, Curry issued a robust commitment to his pro-LGBT stance.

‘Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all,’ he said.

‘For fellow disciples of Jesus in our church who are gay or lesbian, this will bring more pain. For many who have felt and been rejected by the church because of who they are, for many who have felt and been rejected by families and communities, our church opening itself in love was a sign of hope. And this will add pain on top of pain,’ he added.

Speaking to his fellow Anglican leaders who had imposed the sanctions, he added: ‘I stand before you as a descendant of African slaves, stolen from their native land, enslaved in a bitter bondage, and then even after emancipation, segregated and excluded in church and society. And this conjures that up again, and brings pain.’

But it is not just sexuality that Curry is outspoken on.

Shortly after preaching at the royal wedding on May 19, Curry will take a leading role in a march on Washington to denounce Trump’s ‘America First’ policies as ‘heresy’.

The demonstration outside the White House on May 24 is aimed at ‘reclaiming Jesus’ after Trump’s administration has received unfettered support from leading white evangelical figures. It is accompanied by a damning statement, signed by Curry, which is heavily critical of developments in US public life.

‘We are living through perilous and polarising times as a nation, with a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches. We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake,’ it begins. ‘We reject the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership.’

Signatories also reject ‘misogyny, the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women that has been further revealed in our culture and politics, including our churches, and the oppression of any other child of God’.

The declaration represents a comprehensive attack on President Trump’s agenda, continuing: ‘We strongly deplore the growing attacks on immigrants and refugees, who are being made into cultural and political targets, and we need to remind our churches that God makes the treatment of the “strangers” among us a test of faith (Leviticus 19:33-34). We won’t accept the neglect of the well-being of low-income families and children, and we will resist repeated attempts to deny health care to those who most need it. We confess our growing national sin of putting the rich over the poor. We reject the immoral logic of cutting services and programmes for the poor while cutting taxes for the rich.’

In an apparent personal reference to Trump – without naming him – it says: ‘We reject the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life. Politicians, like the rest of us, are human, fallible, sinful, and mortal. But when public lying becomes so persistent that it deliberately tries to change facts for ideological, political, or personal gain, the public accountability to truth is undermined.’

None of this is to say that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are making a deliberate statement in their choice, although Ms Markle herself has branded Trump ‘divisive’ and ‘misogynistic’. But they are hardly going to be ignorant of Curry’s profile and the implications that will be drawn from their choice.

The service will be broadcast to millions around the world. For Curry, who refers to himself as the CEO of the Episcopal Church – the Chief Evangelism Officer – the opportunity to talk passionately about what he calls the Jesus Movement won’t be missed.

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‘th(is) decision was made in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who baptised Ms Markle into the Church of England in a private ceremony and will officiate at the wedding.’

This little sentence in Harry Farley’s article for ‘CHRISTIAN TODAY’ indicates not only the willingness of the ABC to ‘go along with’ the couple’s decision to nominate TEC’s Presiding Bishop, The Most Revd. Michael Curry, an African-American, as designated Preacher at their Royal Wedding in Saint George’s Chapel, Windsor this weekend; but also, Archbishop Justin Welby’s positive encouragement. Having recently Baptized the Bride-to-be, the Archbishop of Canterbury is proving to be a loving pastor to those who seek his sacred ministry. 

Considering the fact that the American Episcopal Church (TEC) is still embargoed (largely as a result of GAFCON’s disapproval) from taking part in any ecumenical discussion purporting to represent the worldwide Anglican Communion – because of its innovative openness to Same-Sex Relationships – this has obviously not affected the Archbishop of Canterbury’s  decision to allow a non-Church of England bishop to preach at this Royal Wedding. (Normally, it would have been expected that a Bishop of the Church of England would have been invited to preach on such an occasion).

When one considers the fact that Bishop Michael Curry, TEC’s first black Presiding Bishop, is the leader of an Anglican Church that has spearheaded the movement towards the radical acceptance of Same-Sex Marriage, and the ordination of clergy and bishops in same-sex relationship – as well as an openness to all LGBT+ people in the Church – it is encouraging that the Head of the Church of England is willing to officiate at the same Wedding ceremony as the Presiding Bishop of TEC. 

One cannot but think that the ABC has come a long way along the road of acceptance of a new and welcoming attitude towards people on the margins of the Church – the epic mission that Jesus encouraged his followers to emulate. In articulating the message of love – rather than rejection of sinners (all of us are sinners – no less the membership of the Church – as acknowledged by Pope Francis, who once said: “who am I to judge?”) – Jesus said that this would be how their true discipleship would become known: – “They will know you are my disciples by your love”. This is in contradistinction to those conservative Churches which consign LGBT people to outer darkness, believing their own righteousness will secure them a place in heaven.

The fact that this Royal bride is ‘black and comely’, and will be hearing the Gospel of inclusion from another black American at her Wedding, is a sure sign that the Church of England, and its titular Head, H.M. The Queen, are ready to embrace the God-given diversity of creation in all its wonderful richness and variety.

“God has gone up with a merry noise, Alleluia!.  He has gone up with the sound of the trumpet, Alleluia, Alleluia!” God is LOVE.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Anglican Diocese of Lichfield offers ‘Open Table’

Welcoming and honouring LGBT+ people


Lichfield Diocese News –  DATE  9 May 2018 – AUTHOR, Pete Bate

The bishops of Lichfield Diocese are calling for a Church where LGBT+ people feel welcomed and honoured.

In a letter sent to all clergy and lay ministers in the diocese, the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave; the Bishop of Stafford, the Rt Revd Geoff Annas; the Bishop of Wolverhampton, the Rt Revd Clive Gregory; and the Bishop of Shrewsbury, the Rt Revd Mark Rylands, emphasise that “everyone has a place at the table.”

The letter updates clergy on discussions underway in the national Church on the ‘radical Christian inclusion’ called for by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and draws attention to the work being done on a major new Teaching Document.

In Lichfield Diocese, Bishop Michael has convened a consultation group for LGBT+ Christians to share their views and concerns, and this has met several times.

The letter concludes: “We want Lichfield to be a diocese in which people of any sexual orientation or gender identity feel welcomed and honoured in our churches.”

It focuses on the pastoral dimensions of the issues involved and says: “… as bishops we are committed to encouraging people with differing views to meet, pray and talk together.” The letter does not address the blessing of same-sex relationships or same-sex marriages.

The bishops highlight the practical consequences of ‘radical Christian inclusion’ locally including the importance of access for all to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the affirmation of LGBT+ people in roles of leadership and the importance of mission to and alongside LGBT+ people.

The Diocese of Lichfield has almost 600 churches in an area with a population of over two million which includes Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, the Black Country and most of Shropshire.

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In my clerical vocation, I have pastored congregations of two Churches whose patron was Saint Chad, the saintly Bishop of Lichfield. I think, considering his great pastoral gifts, Chad would, in our day and age – when much more is known about the aetiology of human sexuality –  have supported this initiative of the Bishops of the Diocese of Lichfield to issue a proclamation of inclusivity extended to the LGBT+ community.

The Bishops said: “Our basic principle is that all people are welcome in God’s Church: everyone has a place at the table”. When one compares this theological nicety with the discrimination of the Prelates of GAFCON and their offshoots in the worldwide Anglican Communion, whose disrespect for LGBT+ people has led them to proclaim their own exclusive doctrine of salvation in the Jerusalem Declaration of Faith (virtually condemning homosexual people and others of diverse gender identity to eternal damnation), one cannot but wonder whether they believe in the same God and are living on the same planet as the rest of us.

Sadly, the puritanical outlook of the GAFCON Primates relates directly to the Victorian ethos of prurient sexual mores that was taught and practised by many of the earlier Christian missionaries, for whom sexuality was a spiritual and political minefield. The conservative Evangelical Puritans who believed that sex was only for procreation and was otherwise banned from polite society were not slow to inculcate what became know as the ‘missionary position’ advocacy to the local native people, whose tribal customs were overcome by the inhibitions of the Victorian era of sexual mores.

Hitherto, the Church has supported the myth of binary sexual exclusivism, a  culture which was inherited from the Jewish tradition of creating a race and nation of Jewish adherents – which militated against the need to accommodate the reality of other nations and cultures in the diverse world created by the same God and Father of ALL  peoples God had created. With the arrival of Jesus, the Son of God – a Jew who thought differently – an understanding of the multiplicity and variety of humankind was brought into being destined to create a revolutionary idea of an inclusive community bound together – not by force of The Law but by the advocacy and polity of LOVE, the charism by which Jesus proclaimed his followers would be known and identified.

With his respect for women, and his treatment of sinners, Jesus in his day overturned the ingrained entitlement of the tradition of patriarchalism, by advocating the equality of all humanity in the sight of God – a plurality which did not sit well with the Jewish traditional ‘Keepers of The Law’, and a reason for which they conspired with the secular (Roman) authorities to have Jesus put to death. One of the areas in which, for instance, his Jewish critics vilified Jesus was in his pastorally light treatment of the perceived sexual sin of the ‘woman caught in the act of adultery’ while the men involved with her were seemingly let off the hook. This specific action of Jesus challenged the male superiority complex in matters of sexual responsibility and judgmentalism.

Although Jesus did not directly address the matter of committed same-sex relationships, he was careful to say that heterosexual marriage was not for everyone. In his epic statement on the need for faithfulness in marriage, he appended a statement on the minority function of celibacy, where three types of eunuch were described. One of these, which may well have included LGBT+ people, Jesus describes as “so from their mother’s womb”  – thus either incapable or not destined for a life of procreative heterosexual marriage, which was considered to be ‘the norm’. When one considers the Genesis statement that ‘man was not destined to live alone’, this surely meant that partnership could also have referred to a non-procreative relationship of same-sex persons akin to that of heterosexual marriage, with monogamy and faithfulness as the criterion.

Bishop Michael Ipgrave of Lichfield; the Bishop of Stafford, the Rt Revd Geoff Annas; the Bishop of Wolverhampton, the Rt Revd Clive Gregory; and the Bishop of Shrewsbury, the Rt Revd Mark Rylands, emphasise that “everyone has a place at the table.” In doing this they are bringing the message of an Inclusive Gospel denied by GAFCON, which has pointedly refused to share with other members of the Body of Christ at the Eucharistic Table. In direct contrast, Churches like TEC, SEC and the Anglican Church of Canada – have taken care to include members of the LGBT+ community as ‘part and parcel’ God’s family – especially in the sacred context of the Celebration of The Eucharist.

The Diocese of Lichfield is obviously opening up the Church of England to an era of radical inclusion of a category of people in the Church and community whose needs are, at last, being  recognised and met by the leadership, which traditionally has always been slow to overcome outdated understandings of the diversity of the children of God, for each one of whom Christ came into this world to bring God’s love and redemption 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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