Lord Carey Approves of ‘Assisted Dying’.

Assisted dying would be ‘profoundly Christian and moral’ – former Archbishop of Canterbury

Lord Carey dismisses ‘pain is noble’ claim as Church of England brands assisted dying criminally naive

 George Carey

Lord Carey Photo: Andrew Crowley/The Telegraph

Allowing doctors to help terminally ill people to take their own lives would be a “profoundly Christian and moral thing” to do, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has insisted.

He dismissed arguments that enduring pain at the end of life is a “noble thing” and insisted that proper legal safeguards could be devised to ensure vulnerable people are not pressurised into ending their lives by greedy relatives.

His remarks, ahead of a Commons vote on assisted dying, underline a growing rift with the official position of the Church he once led.

It came as one senior Church of England official condemned the attempts to change Britain’s euthanasia laws as “criminally naive”.

The Rev Dr Brendan McCarthy, the Church’s national adviser on medical ethics, claimed that dying people would “most certainly” be put at risk by a change in the law.

The row erupted ahead of a debate next month which amounts to the first ever serious attempt in the House of Commons to overturn the ban on assisted suicide.

Rob Marris, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton South West, is use a guaranteed slot for backbench legislation to bring proposals put forward by Lord Falconer in the Lords last year to the elected house.

Lord Falconer, left, and Rob MarrisLord Falconer, left, and Rob Marris  Photo: Express & Star/Christopher Pledger

The new Assisted Dying Bill would allow patients thought to have no more than six months to live and who had demonstrated a “clear and settled intention” to end their lives to be prescribed a lethal dose of drugs on the authority of two doctors.

It also includes extra safeguards introduced by Peers during discussion of Lord Falconer’s bill giving a High Court judge a role in any future system of assisted dying.

Lord Carey, who has maintained a strongly conservative stance on questions such as gay marriage, stunned the Church of England last year by announcing that he had changed his mind on the issue of assisted dying.

He used a short video promoted by the campaign group Dignity in Dying to underline his support for the new bill.

“Some people have said on the issue of compassion that actually pain is a noble thing, to bear pain and to say that we are suffering with you is, in my view, a very poor argument indeed,” he said.

“There is nothing noble about excruciating pain and I think we need as a nation to give people the right to decide their own fate.

“And in my view it is a profoundly Christian and moral thing to devise a law that enables people, if they so choose, to end their lives with dignity.”

But in an interview with Premier Christian Radio, Dr McCarthy said: “Some half a million elderly people are abused each year, now to think that if an assisted dying bill were passed that some of those wouldn’t

be put under pressure to think of ending their lives, I think, would be criminally naive.”

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I remember attending a series of seminars on ‘Christian Ethics’ in the early 1970s at the Church of All Saints, Margaret Street, London, as part of the ‘Institute of Christian Studies’ hosted at that central London fortress of Anglo-Catholic spirituality by the local clergy.

One of the discussions was concerned with this very subject; should doctors be allowed to give palliative medicine in order to enable a patient to die in circumstances where extension of medical care might cause undue pain and suffering?

Of two doctors present in the seminar group, we were led to understand that this practice is not entirely unknown in the medical profession – in cases where the patient has clearly expressed the wish to undergo no further treatment to extend their life, in a situation of severe loss of quality of life’s comfort through the presence of pain and anxiety on the part of the patient.

In the same series of lectures, we were treated to a talk by a medical professional working in the English Hospice Care movement, sponsored by Doctor Cicely Saunders, explaining what was already being done to provide the best possible care for terminally ill patients, whose relatives were unable to provide them with the level of care needed.

As part of a study group connected with this series of ethical questions, I was privileged to pay a day-long visit to the Dorothy Kerin Home of Healing at Burrwood, Kent, where the provision of specialist medical and spiritual care of seriously ill patients was undertaken, with the expectation that, in the atmosphere of a specifically Christian community, patients would have every chance of being healed of whatever ailed them! Having read a book about Dorothy Kerin’s remarkable ministry of healing after her own miraculous recovery from a serious illness, I was prepared to find encouraging stories of healing that had been achieved through the collaborative ministry of  medical and spiritual resources at Burrwood. I was not disappointed.

As a result of these experiences, my own understanding of the Ministry of Healing is that is indeed present in the Church, and we neglect its provision to our eternal deficit.

However,I am also profoundly aware that there are people who suffer constantly chronic, debilitating pain and anguish in illnesses which have no hopeful prognosis, and who wish only for a peaceful and pain-free exit from this life. I can no longer believe that their personal hardship – when the prospect of alleviation lies only in an existence without any redemptive features to commend extension of life in their particular circumstances –  should not be able to be medically dealt with by every lawful means at our disposal. I now believe that medical intervention should be allowed to facilitate the ending of such an existence.

I am surprised, though, that ex-Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, should now have come around to this idea. His opposition to other contentious justice issues is well-known. Despite his acceptance that divorce and re-marriage are no longer taboo in the Church; he is still, apparently, convinced that Gay people are not qualified to minister in his Church, and has been very active in support of anti-Gay legislation in the past.

Miracles are not unknown in the Church of England. Perhaps Bishop George might yet see his conscience cleared on the issue of issue of Same-Sex Marriage. Although, myself,  I wouldn’t be willing to place a bet on it.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Clothes designed for the kingdom of heaven

A New York exhibition shows how liturgical vestments embodied a language of belief

Textiles(like this 17th-century silk) were woven with crosses in the Ottoman Empire even after the fall of Byzantium

Textiles (like this 17th-century silk) were woven with crosses in the Ottoman Empire even after the fall of Byzantium Photo: METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART

I had grown used to seeing in museums gryphons and suchlike fabulous beasts woven into textiles that had been produced more than 1,000 years ago in Syria and other lands of the Islamic world but then used to make liturgical vestments and the linings of reliquaries. But I had not realised that, after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, textiles incorporating the Cross continued to be produced in the Ottoman Empire for use by Orthodox Christians there and in Muscovy.

Some of are on show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in a fascinating exhibition, Liturgical Textiles of the Post-Byzantine World, on until the end of October. I have not seen it, but a New York professor, Warren T Woodfin, has written some interesting things about it.

He rightly stresses that figured vestments were not “merely a means of self-aggrandisement by the clergy; rather, they point beyond themselves to the mysteries of the liturgy as a dramatic reenactment of the life of Christ and microcosm of the divine kingdom”.

 St James, dressed as for the divine liturgy, painted in Greece by Stephanos Tzangarolas in 1688

St James, dressed as for the divine liturgy, painted in Greece by Stephanos Tzangarolas in 1688

Looking at an icon such as that of St James painted in Greece by Stephanos Tzangarolas in 1688 (pictured), a Westerner recognises that the saint is dressed as for the divine liturgy, but the vestments do not quite match those of the Latin Church.

Like Latin vestments they had derived from the ordinary formal wear of the late Roman Empire. So the Roman paenula, a sort of cloak, developed into the chasuble, which the priest wears at Mass in the Latin Church. In the Greek Church it became the phelonion, which in the picture of St James is covered with a starry, floral motif resembling a field of crosses.

Beneath that, St James wears a garment patterned with different coloured flowers (the sticharion, the equivalent of the Latin alb). This derived from the plain linen tunic that everyone wore. In the West, as a liturgical garment, it was consciously connected to the metaphorical whiteness worked by the cleansing waters of baptism. As the priest put it on before Mass each day, he would say a prayer beginning Dealba me, Domine, et munda cor meum: “Make me white, O Lord, and cleanse my heart.”

This invokes a passage in the book of Revelation about those who have mystically washed their clothes in the blood of the Lamb. Verbally it also recalls the familiar Psalm 51, recited at the Asperges, the sprinkling of holy water: Lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor: “ Thou wilt wash me, and I shall be washed whiter than snow.”

If there were any idea that liturgical vestments are just a form of high fashion, it is dispelled by the importance given in the East and the West to the vestment distinctive of the clerical office. This is the stole, called in Greek the epitrachelion. Worn by priests even on a battlefield as they tend the dying, it was carried by mission priests at the risk of their lives in hostile territories, such as Elizabethan England, for use at the celebration of the Mass.

The epitrachelion or stole derives from an ordinary scarf. As he puts it on, the priest says a prayer: “Lord, restore to me the stole of immortality.” St James is depicted in an epitrachelion ornamented with panels embroidered with priests, kings, and prophets from the Bible, representing the triple role of Jesus Christ in the liturgy, which ordained priests carry out in his name.

All these garments and prayers may be unfamiliar but they demolish any insultingly reductive notion of priests as men in frocks.

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To those of you reading this blog who may not be particularly enamoured of the use of vestments by clergy in the various celebrations of The Divine Liturgy, here is a very good example (and explanation) of their use in both the Orthodox and Catholic Traditions of the Christian Church.

Vestments in the Liturgy are meant not for the aggrandisement of the clergy wearing them; rather, they are an indication of the glory of the God to whom the worship of the Church is offered by the clergy who take the trouble to use them. After all, if one were called to pay homage to an earthly potentate, one would probably be encouraged to wear clothing suitable for the occasion. Similarly, when one becomes an ordained minister of the Church, with a duty to lead others in worship of the Triune God, there is a long-standing tradition of ‘dressing for the occasion’, which has been handed down through the posterity of generations of the Christian priesthood.

In the Reformed Churches, which may have decided to dispense with the tradition, it can be discerned that the vestments have been replaced with other signs of dignity which, however, may be said to attach to the person officiating, rather than respect for the God they have elected to worship. Thus, doctoral gowns and hoods and academic dress are sometimes substituted for the vestments of the bishop, priest or deacon at the Eucharist.

While such substitutes for the ‘tradition’ may find favour in non-episcopal Churches, they do not conform to what has found favour through many generations of the Church in its long history of the tradition. However, the absolute basic garment for celebration of the Sacraments of Christ, demonstrated here in the stole (or ‘epitrachelion’ in the Greek Tradition), is not always adhered to. In some evangelical parts of the Anglican Church, it seems that the ‘celebrant’ is content to wear a collar and tie, or even jeans and T-shirt! While such a Eucharistic celebration may still be accounted ‘valid’, it can sometimes seem sufficiently far away from the nicety of ‘tradition’ that onlookers can fail to discern the respect due to the presence of the King of Kings present in the Eucharist.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Controversial Decision on Women Clergy Licensing

Multi-parish women’s licences found to be ‘deficient’

Madeleine Davies

by Madeleine Davies

Posted: 14 Aug 2015 @ 12:08 (CHURCH TIMES)

Click to enlarge

Under licence: All Saints’, Cheltenham

“UNRESTRICTED Licences” granted to two women priests in a multi-parish benefice that includes a parish that does not accept the ministry of women are “deficient”, and fresh ones should be reissued, an independent review has concluded.

The adjudication by Sir Philip Mawer, who was appointed by the Archbishops to consider grievances from those who become concerned that the principles in the House of Bishops’ Declaration on women bishops are not being adhered to (News, 7 August), was published on Monday. It followed a letter to him from the director of Forward in Faith, Dr Colin Podmore, in April.

Dr Podmore expressed concern that the Revd Angela Smith had been licensed as an “Associate Priest in the North Cheltenham Team”, despite the fact that the Team Benefice included the parish of All Saints’, Cheltenham, which was to be treated as having passed Resolutions against the priestly ministry of women. He was writing on behalf of Forward in Faith, not the parish (which is not a member of the organisation), because this was an issue “of general relevance”.

Mrs Smith was licensed by the Bishop of Tewkesbury, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow, on 22 January. She is married to the Team Rector, the Revd David Smith.

Dr Podmore emphasised that there was no intention of criticism of Mrs Smith or her husband. He argued that the Bishop could have licensed her to minister in certain named parishes rather than the whole benefice. Instead, Bishop Snow had offered an “oral assurance” that she would not minister as a priest in the parish of All Saints’.

Dr Podmore’s letter includes as “background” the suggestion that, under the leadership of the previous Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Michael Perham, the diocese of Gloucester was “widely perceived as hostile to traditional Catholics”; it also suggests that the Bishops have failed to help them to flourish.

In his reply, Bishop Snow confirmed that he had recently issued an identical licence to the Revd Liz Palin. Both women had been licensed to serve in the benefice rather than the team, and this was “highly significant”, he argued. Ms Palin had already exercised pastoral and diaconal ministry in the parish of All Saints’.

He conceded that during consultations on the appointment of Mrs Smith, the particular wording of the licence had not been discussed, but should have been. No concerns had been raised before the day of the licensing, he said, but he had given “verbal assurance” to the Bishop of Ebbsfleet on the day of the licensing that Mrs Smith would not minister at All Saints’. Assurance was, in fact, unnecessary, he argued, given that Resolutions were in place. Bishop Snow argued that to seek further written assurances “does nothing to build trust”, and could call into question the integrity of the Bishop, Archdeacon, and Team Rector.

He also argued that Dr Podmore’s assertions about the diocese were based on the comments of “one or two individuals” in the parish, and that “the vast majority of the congregation are more than satisfied with recent appointments.” A letter from Bishop Perham also disputed Dr Podmore’s characterisation of the diocese, and asked that the assertion that it was “hostile” be withdrawn.

In his judgment, Sir Philip said that the Resolutions passed by parishes had ceased to have legal effect, and so did not provide “clear legal protection”. Thus Bishop Snow was mistaken in asserting that he did not need to qualify Mrs Smith’s remit.

Sir Philip said that he did not doubt that, in deciding not to restrict expressly the scope of Mrs Smith’s ministry, Bishop Snow was “acting from the best of motives and in what he perceived to be the best interests both of Mrs Smith and of the whole benefice”. He had, however, “failed to make the appropriate pastoral and sacramental provision” for the parish of All Saints’. He noted that it “does not help the priest or anyone else concerned for there to be a lack of clarity on this matter”.

Sir Philip concluded that the fresh licences should make it clear that the authorisation granted to Mrs Smith and Ms Palin did not extend to undertaking priestly ministry in the parish of All Saints’.

He did not, however, accept Dr Podmore’s recommendation that all licences to assistant clergy in such benefices should spell out in which parishes the priest was licensed to minister. He drew a distinction between priests who were members of the team in a team ministry — whose ministry could not be restricted in such a way — and those who were to serve otherwise than as a member of the team. In the latter case, he recommended that the PCCs of the parish should be consulted, before the licence was granted, about the nature and extent of the priest’s ministry, and that the licence should then specify these things.

His adjudication spoke of the appointment of a female diocesan bishop, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, as the opportunity for all to “make a fresh start. I can only hope that they will take the opportunity to do so.”

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The protest by the ‘Forward in Faith’ sodality in the U.K. against the non-specificity of the Team Ministry Licence of a woman priest, that does not state that it does not cover her ministry in an F.i.F.-style Parish in her benefice; is already causing doubts about the efficacy of the ‘Code of Conduct’ agreed by all parties before the decision was made  to legally ordain women as bishops in the Church of England.

While it was expected that women ordained as bishops would ‘respect’ the needs of F.i.F parishes to maintain their embargo against women ministering as clergy in their parishes; there has been no equivalent legal expectation of a special written embargo against women clergy being licensed to work in such ‘no-go’ areas in the Church of England.

At the licensing of The Revd. Angela Smith (wife of the Revd. David Smith, Team Rector)   as an “Associate Priest in the North Cheltenham Team”, it was not thought necessary by the licensing bishop, +Martin Snow (Tewkesbury) to endorse her Licence as ‘restricted to non-F.i.F. parishes in North Cheltenham. Presumably, it was probably assumed by the Bishop – according to the accepted protocols (code of practice) – that Mrs. Smith would not be called upon to minister in the F.i.F Parish of All Saints, Cheltenham.

However, this obviously does not provide the sort of cast-iron legal protection the leaders of F.i.F. (especially Dr. Podmore, who complained, successfully, to the ombudsman) want guaranteed. Immediately, this requirement of a legal guarantee that F.i.F. parishes will never receive the ministry of a female clergy-person could be said to go beyond the ‘code of practice’ that both sides of the argument agreed to at the relevant General Synod meeting that secured the legislation for the Ordination of Women Bishops.

Will this new initiative on the part of ‘Forward in Faith’ now incur doubts about the wisdom of making compromises towards the minority of Anglicans who resist the ministry of ordained women in the Church of England? It seems the battle against theological  sexism is not yet over in the C. of E. 

One now is led to wonder; if specific conditions have to be written into the licence of a female clergy-person, prohibiting her from ministering in ‘no-go’ areas; what does this say about the need to do the same with legally restricting the license of a woman bishop against ministering  in similar ‘no-go’ parishes in her diocese? 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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ABY takes action against popular Lay Preacher

Jeremy Timm: further comment and reports – ‘Thinking Anglicans’

The Church Times has Reader ‘faced with choosing between marriage or ministry’

James Little, Team Rector of Howden Team Ministry, has published the following statement on Facebook

The CT asked me to comment as Jeremy’s Team Rector but didn’t include what I wrote, so here it is—

The Howden Team Ministry is a group of typically rural churches centred on Howden Minster in the East Riding of Yorkshire. We strive to be open, inclusive and welcoming to all and engaged with the communities we serve. The folk around here have known Jeremy since he was a lad and he is a popular and well-respected member of our ministry team. The removal of Jeremy’s PTO (for taking an entirely legal step) runs contrary to the message of welcome we proclaim.

I rejoiced when Bishop Alison was appointed as our new bishop for the East Riding and I applaud Archbishop Sentamu’s leadership in bringing this about. I was delighted to attend her consecration and her welcome service last month, seeing this as a great step forward on the road to equality, long overdue. However, I am saddened that our archbishop’s profound commitment to equality does not extend to the LGBTI community. I believe that the full involvement of women AND the full involvement of LGBTI Christians in the Church of England are, essentially, the same issue. All are one in Jesus Christ.

The Churchwardens are sufficiently concerned to take the unusual step of convening a meeting for later this week, to which I have been invited.

Jeremy will continue to have my full support.

The Telegraph also reports the story Gay Anglican preacher forced to ‘choose between marriage or ministry’

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Wednesday, 12 August 2015 at 6:06pm BST
Add a comment | Read comments (2 comments)

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Here we have the very latest P.R. Disaster in the Church of England – this time afforded by the Archbishop of York’s withdrawal of the P.T.O.  (Permission to Officiate) of a Civil-Partnered Lay Reader in his archdiocese, who now wants to get married, according to the law of the land.

Having previously said that there were 3 possibilities for Church authorities to take in response to Clergy or lay ministers converting their Civil Partnerships into the situation of of the ‘Equal Marriage’ legislation made available to British citizens in England and Wales; one of which was ‘to do nothing’, Archbishop Sentamu, of the Province of York, has now decided not to take that option – in the case of Jeremy Timm, a long-serving, well-qualified, Lay READER in the Parish involving the Howden Team Ministry.

Jeremy’s Team Rector in the parish,The Revd. James Little, here speaks of his, and the parish’s, full support for their hard-working Lay Reader, venturing to ask why, when Jeremy’s relationship with his partner has been found acceptable to the Church, while participating in the ministry and enjoying the status of a Civil Partnership, Jeremy should suddenly be found unacceptable in parish ministry when he and his partner decided to take up the government’s option for Civil Marriage, now that this has become legally acceptable in England and Wales.

Members of the parish are obviously unhappy about this development, and in a mood to do what they can to have what they see as an obvious injustice overturned. Let’s hope that the public meeting planned by the Church Wardens of the parish will stir up enough concern in other parishes of the Church of England (which undertook a recent drive to increase the involvement of Lay Ministry in the Church), so that the Archbishops of York and Canterbury will do something to overturn this silly situation; where a person’s legal status as a married person can prevent him/her from exercising a viable lay ministry.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Archbishop of York in Tonga – Climate Warming

Polynesia: Archbishop of York plants for the future

Posted on: August 5, 2015 11:04 AM

Archdeacon Taimalelagi Fagamalama Tuatagaloa, Archbishop John and Margaret Sentamu.
Photo Credit: Anglican Taonga

[Anglican Taonga] The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd & Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu, visited one of Tonga’s smallest islands [on 3 August] where he prayed and took action to prevent erosion.

On a mission to promote awareness of climate change and to protect the environment, he preached at an Oceanic Eucharist on Pangaimotu Island led by Archbishop Winston Halapua and attended by priests of the Anglican Church of Tonga [Diocese of Polynesia], members of the local Anglican community and the St Andrew’s High School brass band and students.

On the exposed side of the island where the sea is rapidly eroding the land and trees have died, Archbishop Sentamu and his wife Margaret planted mangrove seedlings. They were assisted by the Acting Prime Minister, Hon Siaosi Sovaleni.

On Sunday, 2 August, the Archbishop ordained two new priests, Fr Laiseni Liava’a and Fr Steven Vaka, at St Paul’s Cathedral in the Central Business District.

He attended a groundbreaking ceremony at the Anglican Church in Fasi, accompanied by Hon Frederica Tuita Filipe.

On Monday afternoon he met local church leaders during a luncheon. He was due to leave Tonga for Fiji on Tuesday.

Leadership reflections

The Archbishop is in the Pacific to lead a series of leadership reflections on climate change at the invitation of Archbishop Winston Halapua.

The Islands are particularly vulnerable to climate change. The Archbishop’s visit is timely, ahead of the Paris summit in December 2015, where 196 countries are expected to sign a new climate change agreement.

Dr Sentamu said: “Climate change affects everyone:  agriculture, tourism, fisheries, water, health and wellbeing.  The skills and capabilities of local populations, national governmental authorities and regional organisations must act to ameliorate the effects of climate change.  I am delighted to join Archbishop Winston Halapua for this diocesan visit.”

This month the General Synod of the Church of England overwhelmingly welcomed the new climate change policy adopted by the church’s investing bodies.

This is the first time that the Archbishop of York has come to these islands.

In addition to the leadership reflections with clergy, lay and ecumenical leaders, Archbishop Sentamu will also address young people on Pangaimotu Island as part of the ‘Moana’ Oceanic Eucharist. He is to attend ‘Lotu’ youth mission events at Suva and Ovalau.

The Archbishop will also visit the Pacific Theological College and the Pacific Regional Seminary In Samoa.

Dr Sentamu blessed a new school building in the presence of Samoa’s Prime Minster, Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi.

He also visited Poutasi Village, which was extensively damaged by a tsunami in 2009, and preached at two ordination services in Samoa and Tonga.

Mrs Sentamu will address the Anglican Association of Women in Fiji. She also will meet young mothers at New Town and Suva, and accompany the Archbishop on his visit to the Sisters of the Community of the Sacred Name where they will meet children of St Christopher’s Home in Naulu.

Mrs Sentamu will visit the House of Sarah, a diocesan initiative to combat domestic violence. She will also address a Lay Ministry Training Group at the Anglican Cathedral of the Diocese of Polynesia in Suva.

______________________________________________________________This high-profile visitation of the Pacific Island, In the wake of the Church of England’s recent dedication to the cause of amelioration of the problems of Climate Change, in one of the places on earth where the practical liabilities are most expected; and at the invitation of our Archbishop of Polynesia, the Most Revd. Winston Halapua; is a most timely intervention on the part of the leading Province of the world-wide Anglican Communion.

No doubt, Archbishop John Sentamu’s presence in the Islands will have a beneficial effect on the efforts of the Anglican Communion to come to terms with the stark reality of how the changing climate situation is already affecting the Islands of the Pacific, which are part of ACANZP, where Archbishop Winston exercises a charism of pastoral care for all of the Islands under his jurisdiction.

It is wholly good that the Archbishop of York and Mrs Sentamu become acquainted with the particular threat to Pacific Island communities from the effects of Climate Change. As part of the New Zealand group of Church of the Anglican Communion, Fiji Tonga and Samoa and the other Islands around them become more and more aware of the problem, this show of support from the mother Church of England must come as a welcome, if not altogether surprising, intervention.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Us (former USPG) Conference on Gender Justice

Spotlight on gender justice at Us annual conference

Posted on: August 3, 2015 10:55 AM

Ms Anjum Anwar MBE, exChange and Dialogue Development Officer for Blackburn Cathedral, leads a workshop looking at interreligious living.
Photo Credit: Us/Leah Gordon

[Us] Gender justice was the theme of the annual conference of Us (formerly USPG), held at High Leigh Conference Centre on 20–22 July.

Speaking passionately about the plight of women in Pakistan, the writer [and educational trainer in the Church of Pakistan (United)] Sheba Sultan said: ‘The gospel does not stop women, culture does.

‘The concept of subordination is ingrained in our minds, upheld by our culture and strengthened every day by our practices.

‘We need a change in our scriptural interpretation and preaching. We need to make heard the good news that men and women are created equal and that authority belongs to Christ.’

Canon Delene Mark, CEO of Hope Africa – which is the social development department arm of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa – spoke on how the church can ensure the gospel is good news for women.

She said: ‘Justice must prevail for both men and women. We need to join together to stop these atrocities of women. The gospel is good news for women. How? Only through us.’

Another highlight of the conference was a discussion between the Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, vicar of Belmont and Pittington, Durham, and author of The Essential History of Christianity, and Dr Paulo Ueti, a theologian and New Testament bible scholar from Brazil.

They offered a particular focus on how the church can use – and misuse – the Bible and theology to perpetuate gender injustice.

Dr Threlfall-Holmes commented: ‘There is a lot of academic research, which the church is often very uncomfortable about receiving, which shows absolutely conclusively that there is a very strong correlation between places where there is a stronger theology of women’s subordination to men and places where there is a higher incidence of gender-based violence.’

Dr Ueti offered: ‘There are lots of theologies in the Bible – there is not just one. And not a developing theology in the Bible, in terms of a linear thing. No, it’s conflictive theologies within the Bible.… We are actually reading some ideological approach.

‘There are some words that have been deliberately forgotten to be translated… We have to be very curious about the language that has been used… [for example] when we see the word “man” instead of “humanity”.’

A further highlight was a Bible study presented by the Revd Dr Monodeep Daniel, of the Delhi Brotherhood Society, who focused on the Rape of Tamar, likening the atrocity inflicted upon Tamar to the plight of India’s Dalit people.

Ms Anjum Anwar MBE, the exChange and Dialogue Development Officer for Blackburn Cathedral, took part in workshops looking at research she undertook on behalf of Us looking at interreligious living around the world. Anjum commented: ‘We first need to feel very safe and comfortable with our own values and beliefs before we are able to extend a hand of friendship to those who have different values and beliefs.’

Us Chief Executive Janette O’Neill said: ‘Our annual conference drew in all the delegates into the different contexts that were presented from around the world, and challenged us to think what we can and should do, both individually and corporately. Our challenge is to break through the constraints of culture and embrace a practice of faith that honours the dignity of each and every human being.’


Hear all the talks at www.weareUs.org.uk/conference

Read Sheba Sultan’s reflection “The status of women in Pakistan”

______________________________________________________________

The former foremost missionary society U.S.P.G. – now named simply ‘Us’ – has held its very first Conference dedicated to the cause of Justice For Women in the Church and society.

In the wake of the Mother Church of England’s recent break-through on the ordaining of Women as Bishops in that Church, this movement on the part of the former USPG Missionary Society to promote the full acceptance of the place of Women in society comes not too soon. The evidence of the female Speakers at the Conference – especially testimony given by Sheba Sultan of the United Church of Pakistan gave evidence of the fact that there is still a long way to go for Women to be recognised as equal citizens and partners in that country, where the subordination and ill-treatment of Women is still the norm.

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes pointed out the correlation between the subordination of Women and the position of local Churches, where such a theory is taught as being biblical – where the modern concept of women’s equality with men is considered too radical a concept to be entertained. Now that the Church of England is moving towards the equality of Women as Leaders (Bishops) in the Anglican Communion, maybe other, more conservative Churches in the Communion might be encouraged to follow suit.

However, with regard to the provision still being made in the Church of England for Women Bishops to be ignored by Church members who will not recognise their status as bishops, there is still a credibility gap between the ideal and its practical outworking.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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What is at stake for the Church and Same-Sex Marriage?

“We appear to be on the edge of a complete failure of communication within both Church and culture. Mark Vasey-Saunders goes on to comment about Open Church:

‘I should say clearly that I would defend to the utmost the need for gatherings like this (‘Conversation on Sexuality’), which are safe spaces for LGBTI Christians and their allies, but it concerned me that even the conference organisers seemed unable to recognise the extent to which it was not safe for others.’

(And this is why I declined to attend.) And this ‘lack of safety’ has even encroached into the Shared Conversations. John McGinley was taken aback by being taken aside:

‘I will share one particularly difficult example of this. In a facilitated session one person said that the orthodox position was responsible for their friends’ suicide. While I showed concern for their loss, and acknowledged the hurt caused by prejudice and judgemental attitudes within churches, I rejected the direct link between holding an orthodox understanding of sexual relationships and their friends’ decision to end their life. I then shared how I felt that the celebration of same-sex relationships was deeply damaging to society through the confusion it brings to issues of identity, relationships, gender, sin, etc. and how it undermines the position of heterosexual marriage which is God’s intended pattern for sexual relationships. Following this facilitated discussion the facilitator approached me privately to say that a complaint had been made against me for expressing the above views. The facilitator explained that they had answered the complaint by saying that they didn’t think I had expressed that view and didn’t believe I held it. When I confirmed that I did they were surprised as they didn’t think anyone would hold such views and then suggested that what I had shared was unhelpful. I suggested this was exactly the purpose of these conversations, to share our views feely, and stood by my views.’

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In his blog post, set forth on the U.K. ‘REFORM’ web-site, the Revd. Ian Paul reports on his own view about the problems he, and other conservative Evangelicals in the Church of England, so far have encountered, in their participation (or not) in the C. of E. ongoing ‘Conversations on Sexuality’  being hosted in various Church of England diocesan group meetings.

In this extract from Mr. Paul’s ‘Reform’ article, he highlights the reaction of  opponents of same-sex relationships, in the words used by his friend, John McGinley, who complains of his own treatment at one of the sessions in these words:

I then shared how I felt that the celebration of same-sex relationships was deeply damaging to society through the confusion it brings to issues of identity, relationships, gender, sin, etc. and how it undermines the position of heterosexual marriage which is God’s intended pattern for sexual relationships.”

The use of the words ‘deeply damaging’ in this context – that of the possible recognition of same-sex relationships by the Church as being ‘deeply damaging to society’ – especially when society itself, in its legislation of Equal Marriage has enshrined such relationships as part of the Civil Code – seems not only ridiculous but deeply damaging to the people concerned, many of whom are practising Christians – Anglicans among them.

Even Mr. Paul seems slightly discomfited by such an extreme reaction to the fact that monogamously-paired Same-Sex couples may be joined together in a legally binding relationship known as Marriage, without causing public scandal in the process.

The real question is; how is the Church of England going to deal with such relationships, now that the State has concurred in their legal right to exist? And, in the light of the sola-scriptura sodality objections to the new status quo; how possibly are the continuing ‘Conversations’ going to make any progress towards the Church’s acceptance of the right of Gay people to sustain stable , mature relationships in society? Having rejected the idea of offering a Church Blessing of such relationships; the Church may rightly be considered to have hoisted its own petard, in regard to the new situation of legally-sanctioned Marriage for same-sex couples.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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