Church in Wales Challenged on non-appointment to Swansea

Church investigates official complaints into homophobia against gay cleric

Insiders have lodged an official complaint after a gay cleric was barred from being appointed Bishop of Llandaff.

Five members of the Church in Wales’ secretive electoral college that debates and votes for candidates have spoken of ‘deeply inappropriate’ references to Dr Jeffrey John’s homosexuality when considering his nomination, Christian Today can reveal.

In a letter to the Church’s most senior executive Simon Lloyd, the electors said the remarks against Dr John ‘prejudiced’ the process making it ‘invalid’.

A formal investigation has now been launched into the process and a legal panel chaired by a judge will decide whether to scrap the decision not to take Dr John’s nomination forward.

The electoral body met in Llandaff Cathedral for three days but failed to elect a candidate despite Jeffrey John winning more than half the vote and unanimous support from local representativesWikipedia

The complaint signed by five of the 47-strong body read: ‘We object to the raising at electoral college of the matter of sexuality or civil partnership status, in direct contravention of the Church in Wales’s own policy that sexuality or civil partnership status is not a bar to appointment as a Bishop.

‘We consider that this action was deeply inappropriate, and prejudiced the electoral college proceedings so as to render them invalid.’

In response, Mr. Lloyd asked members of the electoral body to approve that normal rules of confidentiality should be waived to allow an investigation.

The appointment of a new bishop is now on hold and may be delayed until the investigation is complete. 

Mr. Lloyd told electors: ‘The timescale is a matter for the Legal Sub-Committee and is dependent upon the amount of analysis required and how many times they need to meet. The deliberations of the Committee cannot and should not be hurried.’

A statement from the Church in Wales read: ‘Five members of the Electoral College, which was assembled to elect the Bishop of Llandaff in February, have now submitted a complaint to the Secretary of the Electoral College. Their complaint is in relation to certain aspects of the conduct of the College. This matter has now been referred to the Legal Sub-Committee, which is a body in the Church in Wales assembled to consider legal and governance matters.

‘The responsibility of appointing the next Bishop of Llandaff has passed to the Bench of Bishops. It is too early to say whether the deliberations of the Legal Sub-Committee will have any effect on the timing of an announcement.’

Dr John, currently Dean of St Albans Cathedral, was nominated to be Bishop of Llandaff and despite winning more than half the votes and unanimous support from local electors, he narrowly missed out on the two-thirds needed to be appointed.

The decision was then passed to the Welsh Bench of Bishops who refused to reconsider his nomination in a new shortlist.

But in a letter following his dismissal, Dr. John said the only reason he was blocked was his sexuality.

‘The only arguments adduced against my appointment – in particular by two of the bishops – were directly related to my homosexuality and/or civil partnership – namely that my appointment would bring unwelcome and unsettling publicity to the diocese, and that it might create difficulties for the future Archbishop in relation to the Anglican Communion,’ he wrote in a highly unusual open letter to Bishop John Davies, the senior Church leader in Wales.

‘To ride roughshod of the very clearly expressed, unanimous view of a diocese in this way is extraordinary, unprecedented and foolish,’ he told Bishop Davies.

‘You decided, arbitrarily, to ignore the submissions that you had asked for, and to declare that those who were discussed at the Electoral College were now, in fact, no longer to be considered. This is a clear and ludicrous breach of process, and a further insult to the people of the diocese, and very many others who took the trouble to contribute their view.’

The Church in Wales strongly denies allegations of homophobia.

A statement from the Church read: ‘Neither homosexuality nor participation in a civil partnership is a bar to any candidate being either nominated or elected as a Bishop in the Church in Wales. Moreover, this was made clear to members of the Electoral College by its President, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon.’


This is a Report from the newspaper ‘Christian Today’

In view of the brouhaha that has erupted since the (non) election of the New Bishop of Swansea in the Church of Wales; it seems logical that those who protested against the seeming prejudice of the Electoral College against the election of Saint Albans Dean Jeffrey John (native Welshman, theologian, and S/S partnered celibate clergyman) should challenge the Welsh House of Bishops’ determination to exclude any further consideration of Jeffrey John’s candidature.

Seen in the context of the Electoral College deliberations, which – despite participants being warned not to exercise prejudice on the grounds of  J/J’s homosexual status –  then went forward to actually exclude J/J from inclusion as a candidate.

It then seems natural that the ‘Five members of the Church in Wales’ secretive electoral college that debates and votes for candidates have spoken of ‘deeply inappropriate’ references to Dr Jeffrey John’s homosexuality when considering his nomination’ in their Letter to the General Secretary in the Church in Wales.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Muslims Raise Funds for London Terrorist Victims

Muslims raise thousands of dollars to support London terror attack victims

A police officer reaches out to floral tributes in Westminster the day after an attack, in London, Britain March 23, 2017. (Reuters)
 The Muslim community in the UK has come together to lead a campaign in support of the victims and their families of a terror attack outside Britain’s parliament.

The campaign – which aims to raise $12,000 – has already raised half the amount just hours after launching.

Funds raised by Muslims United for London will be used to support victims and victims’ families of the terror attack in Westminster on Wednesday in which four people died and 40 injured.

“The British Muslim community stands with the community during these difficult times and extends their support in raising funds to help with the immediate, short-term needs of the families of Keith Palmer, the other victims and the families of the victims,” a statement said on the website.

“While no amount of money will bring back lives lost or take away from the pain the victims and their families are going through, we hope to lessen their burden in some way.”

Last Update: Thursday, 23 March 2017 KSA 16:34 – GMT 13:34


To those Christians who believe that ALL Muslims are terrorists; here is proof positive that the majority of Muslims around the world are law-abiding citizens of the countries they live in – together with those of Christians and other faith communities.

The Mayor of London is himself a Muslim – dedicated to the common good of all who live in this heavily-populated European City. If Londoners were afraid to elect a Muslim as their civic leader, they would not have given him the prestige he deserves.

What God desires of all people – irrespective of their own faith community – is to learn to live together in peace and harmony – a bit like the Church itself, really.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Independent Church of the Phillippines embraces Diversity

“In Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith.”
(Galatians 3:26)

As we gathered to study and pray, we, the Supreme Council of Bishops of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, strived to find unity in our Christian faith and to discover new ways to make the Church more reflective of God’s universal, unconditional love; more reflective of the nurturing and complementing diversity within the mystery of the Triune God.
The Church’s vocation is to live out God’s boundless truth (Acts 13:47); her mission to make the world a more just and joyous place for all (Isaiah 1:17). Constantly needing renewal, the Church always works to reform herself through the inspiration of God’s Spirit so as to enable herself in a more effective way of bringing the Gospel of Christ to its own communities and the wider society

Faithfulness to God’s mission requires that sincere efforts be made to see that justice is done for God’s people as the Iglesia Filipina Independiente engages herself with and confronts the challenges of our present generation. Enlightened by the Scriptures, the Church has been vigilant against unjust systems, confronting racism, slavery and sexism within and without, in a continuous process of theological reflection and pastoral engagement. Continually following the Spirit’s inspiration in history, our Church has joyfully affirmed the gift of women priesthood as part of the life-giving mission of Christ three decades ago.
Now, we are confronted by the universal challenge to stand on individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning and who identify with the other sexual minorities, also known as LGBTIQ+. We believe that the Church must openly embrace God’s people of all sexes, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions (SSOGIE) as we embark on a journey toward a just and peaceful world. God’s love and compassion, and the core message of peace and justice in Jesus’ life lead us in taking this humble step to give objective recognition to LGBTIQ+ individuals and promote their dignity and rights as human persons.
Seeking to incarnate the rich message and meaning of God’s Word in our generation, the Church upholds the revolutionary reading of the Scriptures as she endeavours to keep herself unstained from the world (James 1:27) and worldly prejudices (James 4:12). We uphold the rich treasure of human sexuality being brought to light in our present generation. Thus, we reaffirm our commitment to proclaim the Gospel to all the world so that people, of all SSOGIE, may receive God’s grace through faith in Christ (Galatians 3:26-29). Conforming to God’s design for His grace to freely flow to all people, we hope to break down the walls of stigma and prejudice within the Church.

Iglesia Filipina Independiente
1500 Taft Avenue, Ermita, Manila, Philippines 1000

Thus, we reaffirm our commitment to proclaim the Gospel to all the world so that people, of all SSOGIE, may receive God’s grace through faith in Christ (Galatians 3:26-29). Conforming to God’s design for His grace to freely flow to all people, we hope to break down the walls of stigma and prejudice within the Church

Our Church proclaims the universality of God’s love. Our God is love (1 John 4:8;16), not hate and hostility; and love is a mighty force (1 Corinthians 13:13). We follow the footsteps of Jesus, who embraced all people with equal love, respect and compassion (Luke 4:18-19) and who extended his friendship to LGBTIQ+ individuals (Matthew 8:5-13).
We recognize and rejoice in the presence of the LGBTIQ+ community amongst us. We applaud their persistent belief in God’s embracing love. The judgment, intolerance and non-acceptance have not stopped many from serving the Church, even through the priestly order. They have enriched the life, work and witness of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.
We humbly ask for forgiveness for the many times we have shown indifference, and have made the LGBTIQ+ people feel less human, discriminated against and stigmatized. We apologize for instances they felt that, through our thoughts, words and deeds, God’s love is selective.
The Gospel teaches us to live in love (Ephesians 5:2), to live out love (1 John 3:18), to offer love to each other (John 13:34). It instructs us to love God through the oppressed (Matthew 25: 34-40); to love other people as we would ourselves (Hebrew 13:1-3). We are told to cast out fear with perfect love (1 John 4:18). The greatest expression of love is liberation (James 1:25), especially for the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, who was given birth by the Filipino people’s struggle against historical injustice and inequality. We steadfastly hold on to our historiccheritage in proclaiming Jesus’ message for the marginalized.
We offer our Church as a community where LGBTIQ+ people can freely and responsibly express themselves. With them, we pronounce God’s all-inclusive love. Being God’s children, LGBTIQ+individuals are imbued with God’s gift of human dignity. The discrimination against them is part of the struggle for human rights. The Church affirms that LGBTIQ+ individuals have all the right to love and be loved, and commits to offer them opportunities to realize their full potential and dignity as human persons, being God’s children.
LGBTIQ+ individuals are called to give witness to our faith through living an exemplary Christian life. To become bearers of God’s compassion and charity in the world, they are exhorted by the Church, as all faithful, to abide by Article of Religion 12: “Holiness, altruism, obedience to God’s Commandments, and a zeal for His honor and glory are incumbent upon Clergy and Laity alike, therefore all should be trained in a clean and disciplined life, not neglecting prayer, study, and the exercise of moral discipline.”
The Iglesia Filipina Independiente offers herself as a welcoming Church for LGBTIQ+ persons. We commit our local churches and communities to LGBTIQ+-affirming ministries. We celebrate God’s grace through the Sacraments, and are grateful for God who does not discriminate anyone from receiving His grace in the Sacraments. We believe God’s love is both encompassing and supreme, and that we must strive to share the same to the world. We pray for God to make the Church a continuing testament of his motherly love (Matthew 23:37). We, your bishops, offer our hands and warm embrace in Christian friendship (John 15:13) to LGBTIQ+ persons, so they may celebrate their gifts and calling, and fully and responsibly express themselves through the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.
We hope this move can effect change among Churches and church people. Through this declaration, we implore agenda-setters to discuss laws and initiatives challenging LGBTIQ+ discrimination. Only through this can we truly protect our brothers and sisters in the community, against issues such as abuse and the rise in HIV and AIDS cases in the sector; against avoidable fear, suffering and caution.
Our collective existence as human beings, our shared aspiration and struggle for a just and peaceful world, our common humanity, tell us that we are not at all different from LGBTIQ+ persons.

With this statement, we say our prayer for equality:

Our Creator God, who intended the diversity of Creation, we come to you now with all humility. In your image, you blessed us with equal dignity, but we’ve imposed our own inequalities. We have scarred your order, in which all are free, in which all matter despite sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. Allow us to see beyond our persistent traditions and biases; our hurtful hate and suspicion. May we see your vision, where all are equal in the pursuit of your abundant blessings. Reveal to us our common humanity, our shared dignity; make crumble our many walls with our united wills. Send us with passion and strength to mend the world divided, so that it may transform into your unified reign of peace based on justice. All this we seek in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

(Sgd) Rt. Rev. Antonio Ablon
Supreme Council of Bishops
(Sgd) Rt. Rev. Rhee Timbang
Supreme Council of Bishops
(Sgd) The Most Rev Ephraim Fajutagana
Obispo Maximo
Iglesia Filipina Independiente
Approved during the regular meeting of the Bishops Council


This very fulsome and moving Statement by its Council of Bishops affirms the place of LGBTI people within the Independent Episcopal (Anglican) Church of the Phillippines. A defining paragraph of the determination of the Bishops to avoid homophobia and sexism has this to say:

“We recognize and rejoice in the presence of the LGBTIQ+ community amongst us. We applaud their persistent belief in God’s embracing love. The judgment, intolerance, and non-acceptance have not stopped many from serving the Church, even through the priestly order. They have enriched the life, work and witness of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

“We humbly ask for forgiveness for the many times we have shown indifference, and have made the LGBTIQ+ people feel less human, discriminated against and stigmatized. We apologize for instances (when) they felt that, through our thoughts, words, and deeds, God’s love is selective.”

Such a statement of acceptance must truly gladden the hearts of all Christians who, though themselves not doubting God’s love for them personally, have for too long felt the discrimination of the Church against their innate gender and sexuality difference. The Philippines Episcopal  Church now recognizes the need for reconciliation on an issue that still divides other Provinces of the Churches within the Anglican Communion.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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LGBTI Liaison Officer Appointed in the Chichester Diocese

Bishop’s Liaison Officer for LGBTi Community appointed

The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, has announced the appointment of Reverend Andrew Woodward, Priest in Charge of St Mary’s Kemp Town and Rural Dean of Brighton, as the first Bishop’s Liaison Officer for the LGBTi community in the Diocese of Chichester.

The aim of the post is to provide the bishops and parishes with up to date information about the pastoral needs of the LGBTi community and to identify what ministry among this community might look like if it is to be more effective.

The new officer will also represent the church in this community so as to build bridges and enable pastoral support for a substantial group of people who feel the Church is alienated from them. Many feel they are tolerated but not included.

Dr Warner said today: “This post is about pastoral bridges in line with our diocesan strategy, know, love, follow Jesus. It is primarily about building, opening and crossing new and existing bridges towards great understanding and mutual flourishing.”

The Bishop added: “I think it is important to stress that the post holder is not expected to be an advocate for change in legislation or theological position. Neither can the creation of this post to be understood as establishing a particular policy change or a new direction of travel in the Diocese’ position on same-sex issues. Rather, it is essentially and creatively to enable the fulfilment of the established Church’s responsibility to offer a pastoral presence and a place of inclusion for all.”

“Reverend Andrew said: “I am very much looking forward to building relationships with colleagues across the Diocese and in particular ensuring that all are affirmed and included as part of the pastoral ministry of the Church, irrespective of their sexual orientation. I am keen to build relationships with people who may hold differing views, so that together we can work in trust and respect for one another, for the good of all. My priority within all of this process is to ensure that all voices are heard and that you feel able to approach me and share your views openly”.

The appointment comes shortly after the archbishops of Canterbury and York established a pastoral oversight group to advise Church of England dioceses on how to fashion a pastoral response to those in same-sex relationships following the recent debate at the General Synod of the Church of England. Link here

Biography: Fr Andrew Woodward has a long background in working within the banking Industry where his last role until 2013 was as Relationship Director with Lloyd’s Bank in their Commercial Banking Division. Following ordination training with the South East Institute for Theological Education, he was ordained in 1999 and has worked in parishes in the Dioceses of Guildford and London before moving to Chichester Diocese in 2007 and becoming Rural Dean of Brighton in January 2015.

Fr Andrew’s skill set has involved setting up and managing teams. He has experience of managing conflict and facilitating ways of allowing disparate voices to be heard and acknowledged, with a view to enabling “good disagreement” based on fruitful and positive relationships.


It is very gratifying for all who support the LGBTI community in the Anglican Communion to note this – the very first – appointment of a liaison officer in an Anglican Communion diocese – the Diocese of Chichester in the Church of England.

The fact that, within the Diocese of Chichester, the town of Brighton on England’s South Coast, quite probably contains  a larger percentage of LGBTI people than any other city outside of Sydney, Australia; should not blind us to the fact that this is the very first attempt by an Anglican Bishop – in this case, Dr. Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester, to proactively welcome the presence of Gays within his diocese.

Though quick to state that this appointment does not imply any change of doctrine in the Church of England – with regard to the ecclesiastical accommodation of ‘Equal Marriage’ for same-sex couples – Dr.Warner, by this action, does at least acknowledge the welcome presence of LGBTI people within his part of the Church of England, Furthermore, he also acknowledges the need for a pastoral initiative that will be welcomed by his  community.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Lenten Wisdom from Pope Francis

Lent with Pope Francis: Seeing Those Closest to Us

Posted by Diane Houdek on 3/20/17 6:00 AM

Pope Francis waves to the faithful at the Vatican in Rome.A Word from Pope Francis

In our imagination, salvation must come from something great, from something majestic: only the powerful can save us, those who have strength, who have money, who have power, these people can save us. Instead, God’s plan is different. Thus, they feel disdain because they cannot understand that salvation comes only from little things, from the simplicity of the things of God. When Jesus proposes the way of salvation, he never speaks of great things, but only little things. The little thing is represented by bathing in the Jordan and by the little village of Nazareth. Disdain is a luxury that only the vain, the proud allow themselves.

Taking the Word to Heart

Read: 2 Kings 5:1–15a; Luke 4:24–30

Every day people begin extreme diets because they simply can’t believe that losing weight is simply a matter of burning more calories than they consume. Exotic dietary supplements and steroids in sports fuel the belief in a magic formula to ensure victory when hard work and training isn’t enough. Ads for new pharmaceuticals herald the next cure for whatever disease is holding us back. We overlook the simple, everyday ways to better health and wellbeing because they don’t make any remarkable claims to instant results.

Our technology and communication methods might be twentyfirst century, but the impulse to seek a spectacular, magic solution to the common plight of humanity is as old as our Scripture readings today. Naaman seeks healing, but he’s also hoping for a great spectacle from the famed man of God. The people in Jesus’s hometown are hoping that he will wow them with the wonders they’ve heard he performed in other towns. But he disappoints their expectations and they fail to see the wonder that he is.

The virtue of humility reminds us that the ordinary and the everyday is often where God’s gifts shine most brightly. The quiet person we overlook in a meeting might have the solution to a vexing work issue. The chicken soup your grandma made when you had a cold really does have healing properties. The friend who listens patiently while you work out a difficult time in a relationship isn’t giving you advice about a quick fix, but the solution you discover in the process has long-lasting effects.

Bringing the Word to Life

Lent is a fine time to examine our attitudes toward everyone in our lives. Take time to acknowledge some contribution by someone you have previously overlooked or dismissed as insignificant and unworthy of recognition.

Pope Francis Prays

Lord, give us the grace
to understand that the only way to salvation
is the folly of the Cross,
the annihilation of the Son of God,
of his becoming small.


This article, from the American Franciscan, gives evidence of Pope Francis’ accent on the need for poverty and simplicity in our everyday lives. Lent may be a time, for instance, of refraining from our too-ready criticism of other people’s piety (or seeming lack of it) and to concentrate, instead, on our own human weaknesses. This fasting from criticism, especially in a time of every ready communication on the Internet, may be a real test of our willingness to be still and commune with the Author and Finisher of our Faith. Pope Francis is a great example of a simplicity of lifestyle, and charitable witness to the power of Christ at work in our redemption.

I, myself, am not too good at this internal discipline and must make a greater effort, this Lent, to remember the great sacrifice God has made in Jesus Christ to effect my own salvation.

Jesu, Mercy; Mary, Pray!

(See Also:)

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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‘Homophobia’ row over Bishop of Llandaff selection

Dr Jeffrey JohnImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionDr Jeffrey John was made Dean of St Albans in 2004

A gay clergyman has accused the Anglican Church in Wales of homophobia after he was rejected for a job as a bishop. The Dean of St Albans, the Very Reverend Jeffrey John, was not chosen as the Bishop of Llandaff earlier this month. A current bishop said it would be “too much of a headache” to appoint him, he claimed.

The Church in Wales “strongly denied” the accusations of homophobia.

Dr John said he had been told appointing him would be difficult because he was in a civil partnership, although celibate in line with church teaching.

‘Unsettling publicity’

He wrote to the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon – the Right Reverend John Davies, who is currently the church’s senior bishop – after an electoral college of bishops, clergy and lay people failed to reach a decision about who should replace Dr Barry Morgan as bishop.

It is understood Dr John received a majority of the votes, but not the two-thirds required by church rules. He said homophobic remarks had been made at the electoral college meeting. “Much more importantly, the only arguments adduced against my appointment – in particular by two of the bishops – were directly related to my homosexuality and/or civil partnership – namely that my appointment would bring unwelcome and unsettling publicity to the diocese,” he wrote.

Llandaff CathedralImage copyrightCHURCH IN WALES
Image captionAttempts to select a new Bishop of Llandaff have so far been unsuccessful

Dr John said he had been told by a bishop by telephone they were “‘just too exhausted’ to deal with the problems they believed [his] appointment would cause. I put it to you that this is not a moral or legal basis on which to exclude me,” Dr John wrote.

Under the church’s rules, the decision has passed to its bench of bishops, who failed to reach a decision when they met last week.

A Church in Wales spokeswoman told BBC News: “At the recent meeting of Electoral College no one candidate secured the necessary two-thirds majority to be elected Bishop of Llandaff. The appointment will now be made by the church’s bishops. “After a process of consultation, they have drawn up a shortlist of names which is confidential. However, the Bishops strongly deny allegations of homophobia.”

Dr John, who was born in Tonyrefail in Rhondda Cynon Taff, was nominated as Bishop of Reading in 2003, but was asked to withdraw from the role by the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. He entered a civil partnership with Grant Holmes in 2006, but said at the time he had remained celibate, in line with church teaching.

He is a public supporter of same-sex marriage, writing in the Church Times in 2012 that “theologically, ethically, and sacramentally, there is no difference between a gay couple and a heterosexual couple who cannot have children. So, yes, same-sex marriage can be as holy and sacramental as heterosexual marriage. Yes, God is in favour of gay marriage and so should the Church be,” he added.

Gay rights campaigners have previously called for him to be made a bishop in Wales.

Dr John’s nomination as Bishop of Reading caused controversy in 2003 when Dr Rowan Williams summoned him to Lambeth Palace and asked him to withdraw from the post. Some conservative Anglican leaders had warned they would split from the communion if Dr John’s consecration went ahead.

Friends of Dr John told the BBC last year that he had “painted the house, finished the episcopal training sessions, and been given the keys of the official car when the job was taken away.”


This woeful story of events surrounding the current Dean of St.Alban’s Cathedral in the Church of England needs little commentary from me – except to say that the saga of institutional homophobia and sexism involved has not yet flown the coop of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The disturbing story of Doctor Jeffrey John’s recall from his election as the Bishop of Reading has been followed by institutional injustice towards him in other instances – the latest of which is his recent rejection by the Church in Wales of his popular preferment to the See of Llandaff. His own letter to the current leadership of the Church in Wales, described above, sets out Dr. John’s feelings about the root cause of the Church in Wales’ hierarchical negativity towards his appointment.

It does seem that despite Dr. John’s assurance that his legal same-sex relationship is celibate – in accordance with the regulations of the Church – there is still a whiff of homophobia in the attitude of the Bishops towards his candidature. The plea made by the dissentient voices is that his election would cause more trouble than it was worth to the Church! This, I submit, is hardly the premise on which the church should base the election of its bishops.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


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Anglican Evensong at St.Peter’s Basilica in Rome


14 March 2017 | by Christopher Lamb

Director of Rome’s Anglican Centre responsible for making the unthinkable thinkable

Earlier in the day there had been a cool breeze, but by mid-afternoon Rome was basking in spring sunshine allowing a brilliant white light to stream through Bernini’s window of the Holy Spirit in St Peter’s Basilica. 

As the spirit-dappled rays shone down, the choir of Merton College, Oxford began singing the introit to evensong. Soon after, Catholic and Church of England clergy processed in together to the hymn “O Praise ye the Lord” before taking their seats on the altar beneath the chair of St Peter, the throne used by the first Bishop of Rome. 

This was history in the making. For the first time, an Anglican liturgy was being celebrated at the heart of the Catholic Church, a symbolic moment showing that Christians really do have more that unites them than that which divides. 

In his sermon Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary of the Vatican’s liturgy department, said the outpouring of the holy spirit symbolised in the window above breaks down barriers so that “the unthinkable can be made possible.” 

A few years ago it would have been unthinkable to celebrate a liturgy written by the English reformation’s hero Thomas Cranmer in the bosom of the Roman Church. Yet on Monday a 300-strong congregation made up of Anglican ex-pats, Catholic seminarians and diplomats stood next the tombs of Popes singing “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” and reciting prayers from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer asking God to “create and make in us new and contrite hearts.” 

Such an English liturgy in Rome could have felt strange but it didn’t. In fact, it was perfectly natural to participate in an authentically Christian act of worship in the great bastion of Christendom. 

Credit must go to Archbishop Sir David Moxon, the director of Rome’s Anglican Centre, who got special permission to celebrate the service. A New Zealander who studied theology at Oxford, Archbishop Moxon’s gentlemanly and scholarly approach has helped build bridges with the Vatican since he arrived in the Eternal City almost four years ago. Monday’s service was timed to mark the feast of St Gregory of the Great – the Pope who sent Augustine of Canterbury to evangelise England – and evensong concluded at Gregory’s tomb. 

The event was also a reciprocal gesture by the Vatican for allowing Australian Cardinal George Pell to celebrate Mass at the High Altar of Canterbury Cathedral last July. The cardinal was at the evensong service on Monday, with his flowing red robes adding a flash of scarlet to proceedings and a reminder that over the years there have been many former Cardinal Archbishops of Canterbury. After the service ended one thing stood clearly in my mind: while the history of Catholics and Anglicans has been one of division today the spirit of unity is truly alive. 


What a lovely testimony to Pope Francis’ proactive friendship with the Anglican Representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury! It seems only a few days ago that Pope Francis himself was present in the Anglican Church of All Saints in Rome for a similar act of worship – another great milestone in the warming of relationships between the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches.

There can be little doubt – as this article in the U.K. Tablet by Christopher Lamb suggests – that the presence of New Zealand Archbishop David Moxon, the current Anglican Representative in Rome, has generated a more active relationship with the Vatican and the reigning Pontiff, because of his membership of the inter-Church Anglican  & Roman Catholic Commission (ARCIC) and his ecumenical endeavours, fed, no doubt by his active relationship with the Roman Catholic Bishops back in Aotearoa, New Zealand. 

It is interesting to reflect that, despite the internal wrangling going on in the Anglican Communion Provinces, largely on issues of Women’s Ordination and Human Sexuality, this does not prevent contact between the hierarchy of our two Church bodies.

This augurs well for the basic unity of Christendom reflected in the common sacramental life of our two Churches: “We are one bread, one body; for we all partake of the One Bread – Jesus Christ”.  

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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