Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christian health worker Margaret Forester faces sack over anti-abortion booklet

A Christian mental health worker is facing the sack after giving two colleagues a leaflet warning of the physical and psychological damage some women suffer after having an abortion.

Margaret Forester passed the booklet to family planning staff at the health centre where she works because she felt that the NHS was not offering patients enough information about the risks associated with terminating a pregnancy.

But Ms Forester, 39, said she was suspended from her job as a psychological wellbeing practitioner based in Westminster because managers at Central North West London Mental Health Trust disagreed with her personal beliefs.

She will appear in front of an internal disciplinary committee on Wednesday, charged with “distributing materials some people may find offensive”. Read more

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Lawyers cry foul over leak of Julian Assange sex-case papers

(Ed: You do have to laugh, though.)

LAWYERS for Julian Assange have expressed anger about an alleged smear campaign against the Australian WikiLeaks founder.

Incriminating police files were published in the British newspaper that has used him as its source for hundreds of leaked US embassy cables.

In a move that surprised many of Mr Assange's closest supporters on Saturday, The Guardian newspaper published previously unseen police documents that accused Mr Assange in graphic detail of sexually assaulting two Swedish women. One witness is said to have stated: "Not only had it been the world's worst screw, it had also been violent."

Bjorn Hurtig, Mr Assange's Swedish lawyer, said he would lodge a formal complaint to the authorities and ask them to investigate how such sensitive police material leaked into the public domain. "It is with great concern that I hear about this because it puts Julian and his defence in a bad position," he told a colleague. Read more

Stockholm bomber: banned extremists recruit near Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly's Luton home

The outlawed Islamist group al-Muhajiroun is openly recruiting near the home of the suicide bomber who blew himself up on a Stockholm street last week, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

MI5 and anti-terrorist police are attempting to unravel what transformed the father of three into an extremist.

But moderate Muslims in Luton, where Iraqi-born Taimour Abdulwahab lived for almost 10 years, claim the authorities are to blame for turning a blind eye to the activities of hard-core jihadi sympathisers.

Unimpeded by the police, the group, now calling itself The Reflect Project, is accused of mounting a campaign of intimidation and violence against those who disagree with it.

The group's members are followers of the radical cleric Omar Bakri Muhammad, who is being held in jail in Lebanon on terrorism charges, and are led locally by Ishtiaq Alamgir or Sword of Islam – a former inland revenue accountant.

Earlier this year, Mr Alamgir helped to organise a protest at a homecoming parade in Luton for troops who had served in Afghanistan. The demonstration ended in violence and arrests. Read more

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The British Army Blog: The silent liturgy of our farewells

In this blog, Padre Robin Richardson writes from Camp Bastion about the death of Private John Howard on 5 December.

I’m writing this entry back at Camp Bastion; I don’t get back here that often, and this time my reason for being here is a sad one. Private John Howard was killed in action this week, serving with the Brigade Reconnaissance Force and making the ultimate sacrifice in the struggle to give the people of Helmand Province, and Afghanistan, the future they’re asking for at every meeting I’ve been to. ‘If we can have security, if you can keep the Taliban away, then things will be better for us.’ I’m not a commander and I’m not a reporter or a spokesman for anyone other the Church who have loaned me to the Army, and yet I hear the same thing again and again. So, as I sit here having to accept the death of one of our bravest and best, I know that Jack (it’s how John was known) was making both a difference to the lives of people who for decades have been largely voiceless and a measurable mark in the history of ISAF’s support of the people, government and security forces of Afghanistan. Read more

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Switzerland considers repealing incest laws

The upper house of the Swiss parliament has drafted a law decriminalising sex between consenting family members which must now be considered by the government.

There have been only three cases of incest since 1984.

Switzerland, which recently held a referendum passing a draconian law that will boot out foreigners convicted of committing the smallest of crimes, insists that children within families will continue to be protected by laws governing abuse and paedophilia.

Daniel Vischer, a Green party MP, said he saw nothing wrong with two consenting adults having sex, even if they were related.

"Incest is a difficult moral question, but not one that is answered by penal law," he said. Read more

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Sepp Blatter: Christians new enemy of World Cup soccer

[...] It has been reported that just prior to the vote by the 22-man committee, Blatter (who does not cast a vote unless there is a tie) reminded his charges about “the evils” of the British media. A BBC show recently alleged widespread corruption in FIFA’s ranks.

The humiliating vote was a clear reprisal on Blatter’s part.

But in his reaction to English outrage, he may have overstepped.

It was one thing for him to tell the Swiss weekly magazine Weltwoche that England are “bad losers.” They are. They have every reason to be. But they still are.

It was another thing to cast this controversy in the divisive terms of race and religion.

“I really sense in some reactions a bit of arrogance of the western world of Christian background. Some simply can’t bear it if others get a chance for a change,” Blatter told the magazine in an issue that will be published Thursday.

For the record, Blatter is a western Christian. But his power-base within FIFA has always come from cliques within the developing world. Read more

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

How should Christians think about sex? Jesus take me as I am

Ed: Part of a Guardian 'Comment is Free' discussion to which I have been asked to contribute. The writer of this first piece is Stephen Tomkins, contributing editor of and deputy editor of Third Way magazine.

[...] Augustine believed that this was how original sin was passed on from one generation to another. By being conceived in an act of passion, we are born damned. So, in order for the Mother of Christ to be free from sin herself, her parents were miraculously enabled to do the deed without physical pleasure. The obvious corollary is that the church should embrace in vitro fertilization as a way to create sinless humans (with complete mental willy control in men). I can't understand why it hasn't.

Not all western Christians today would take Augustine's word for all that, of course, but it's still a pretty dysfunctional spiritual heritage for us to have to deal with. Then again, secular society has the same ancestry if you go that far back, and its own sexual obsessions, though different to the churches', are evidently forbidden fruit of the same family tree.

Protestantism has escaped from much of the sex phobia of Catholicism, but not from the obsessive policing of private relationships, and putting sexual rules at the centre of right living.

If only western Christians could rediscover Augustine, and see that our whole sexual ethics is based on a man who was more scared of his plonker than he was of talking like one, and who wished he could work it like a finger puppet. Maybe we could clear away some of these obsessive regulations and get back to basics. Read more

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Empty seats in Dublin as Primates opt out

AT LEAST ten Primates from the Global South are now expected to boycott the Primates’ Meeting in Dublin in January.

In a statement released on Wednesday, five African Primates, members of the GAFCON Primates’ Council, confirmed that they would not attend the two-yearly meeting. In addition, it is understood that the Primate of South-East Asia, Dr John Chew; the Primate in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Dr Mouneer Anis; and the Primate of the Indian Ocean, the Most Revd Ian Ernest, will not go to Dublin.

Furthermore it is expected that two new Primates, Presiding Bishop Tito Zavala, Primate of the Southern Cone, and the Most Revd Onesphore Rwage, Primate of Rwanda, will also boycott the meeting. Read more

BlackRock's Larry Fink predicts euro will fall to $1.20 (0.76p)

The boss of the world’s largest money manager predicts that the euro, which has been hit by fears that Ireland's financial woes could spread to Portugal and Spain, will fall 10pc to $1.20 against the dollar.

Mr Fink told the Financial Times: “The fundamental problem is most European sovereign credit is owned by the banking system. The banking system was supported by the regulators’ credit ratings of sovereign credit, so you could have bought Ireland and it had the same credit rating as Germany at one time ... that policy was clearly wrong.”

On the huge amounts of government debt that European banks now hold, he added: “You have something that was freely understood and traded and people invested in it, to something that nobody wants.” Read more

Somali-born teen arrested in US car bomb sting

A Somali-born teenager was arrested yesterday for attempting to detonate what he thought was a car bomb at a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in Oregon, US authorities said.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in connection with an alleged plot to bomb the annual event in downtown Portland, the FBI said in a statement late yesterday.

The bomb was a fake and had been provided to Mohamud as part of a long-term sting by the FBI. It also said Mohamud had been in contact with an unnamed individual overseas believed to be involved in terrorist activities.

"The threat was very real. Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale," said Arthur Balizan, a senior FBI agent in Oregon.

Agents shadowed Mohamud, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, for months and met him several times as the plot developed, officials said, adding he had told them that he had thought of waging violent jihad, or holy war, since the age of 15. Read more

Friday, 26 November 2010

Obituary: The Very Reverend Colin Slee

... Slee was an obvious choice for appointment to the provostship of Southwark Cathedral in 1994 (all provosts were restyled deans in 2000). Although the heady days of 1960s' "South Bank Religion" were long gone, Southwark retained some radical aspirations, and the unsolved problems facing the Church in the back streets of south London still demanded new and often unconventional methods.

But nothing in Slee's approach or reputation was ever likely to endear him to the diocese's wealthy Evangelical parishes in Surrey. He, in turn, candidly described this growing movement as exhibiting "a strident, partisan, doctrinaire and frequently self-righteous churchmanship that alienates and excludes seekers after the truth".

Inclusiveness should, he believed, be at the heart of the Church's life and this was reflected in the large Sunday morning congregation in Southwark Cathedral, where young and old, black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight mingled in a lively community. Read more

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Bishop of Chelmsford prepares for installation ceremony

The new Bishop of Chelmsford, the Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell, is preparing to officially take up his post.

The former Anglican Bishop of Reading, who was born and raised in Leigh-on-Sea, will be installed at a ceremony in Chelmsford Cathedral on 27 November.

He will become the 10th person to lead the country's second largest diocese. Read more

Public is not realistic about terrorism, Scotland Yard chief says

In his first major speech on terrorism, Sir Paul Stephenson said most of the country remained “relatively untouched” by terrorism, despite the events of July 7.

The Met Commissioner said that had led to a “simple inability to accept the real potential for such devastating, murderous attacks.”

He said he did not want to overstate the risk but added that society had “unrealistic expectations of security” and those were “expectations that can never be satisfied.” Read more

Anglican church faces 'piece by piece dissolution', warns archbishop

Dr Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, warned of the risk of "piece-by-piece dissolution" of worldwide Anglicanism in a heartfelt personal plea today to warring factions in the Church of England.

At the opening of the church's general synod in London, he called for all parties to put aside their disputes and agree on a fresh framework for settling differences across the 70 million-strong international communion.

The synod votes tomorrow on the Anglican covenant, which has been seven years in the making, and sets the Church of England at a crucial crossroads. The church is already facing probable defections to Roman Catholicism by some priests opposed to the ordination of women bishops.

The covenant was devised in response to divisions caused by the US Episcopal Church's decision to endorse the election of the openly-gay bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, and it has to be endorsed by all 38 previously autonomous provinces of the communion across the world. The vote will be crucial as not only is the Church of England the mother church of the communion, but Williams is its spiritual head. A senior church official told the Guardian: "There is no Plan B. If this falls, the communion is in ruins." Read more

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A statement from the Bishop of London regarding Bishop Pete Broadbent

See here.

Bishop suspended over Wills and Kate comment

The Queen was today spared the embarassment of coming face to face with the Church of England bishop who said William and Kate's marriage would only last seven years and decried the "nauseating tosh" surrounding the royal engagement.

Bishop Pete Broadbent, who made the remarks on his Facebook page, was this morning suspended indefinitely as bishop of Willesden, London, shortly before the Church of England General Synod - its governing body - was due to be addressed by the Queen.

News of the suspension came hours after The First Post was tipped off by a source close to the bishop that he would not be attending the Synod meeting.

Read more

Queen opens Church General Synod amid signs of change

After a special service at Westminster Abbey later, the Queen is to open the Church of England's General Synod.

The synod gets the honour of a royal inauguration because this is the established, state church and the Queen is its supreme governor.

The synod - the Church's legislative body - is the only institution outside parliament that can make laws, even if it does have to get its decisions approved by a special parliamentary committee.

One of the most important laws likely to emerge in the synod's five-year term starting on Tuesday is the introduction of women bishops.

It has already been a debate that has deeply divided traditionalists from progressives, and led some on the Catholic wing of the Church to say they will take up the Pope's offer of a place in the Roman Catholic Church.

To many outside the Church - and to some Anglicans as well - so much anguish and dispute over what they regard as a logical progression from the ordination of women priests 16 years ago is unaccountable.

But for traditionalists - from both Anglo-Catholic and Protestant backgrounds - there is something fundamental at stake. Read more

Monday, 22 November 2010

Why we waited 15 years for an Ordinariate: the inside story

On Saturday evening, I received a telephone call from a Catholic priest, formerly an Anglican clergyman, who had been one of a group of influential Anglo-Catholics (the most senior being the Rt Rev Graham Leonard, formerly Bishop of London) who in the early 90s had entered into negotiation with a group of Catholic bishops led by Cardinal Hume, on the possibility of devising a method whereby Anglicans might convert to the Catholic Church not individually, but in parish-based groups. My caller was clearly excited, having learned in more detail than has yet been published, the terms under which the Ordinariate will be set up. “They’ve given us everything we were asking for,” he said. “It’s all there.”

I had been in contact with him throughout those long-ago negotiations, about which he had kept me fully informed as each meeting took place. I kept copious notes, later confirmed by the minutes of the meetings, which were leaked to me by more than one participant. This information formed the basis of a detailed and accurate account of what had happened, which appeared in my book The Roman Option some time after the whole thing had been torpedoed by the opposition of certain English Catholic bishops, as a result of which Cardinal Hume – who in the negotiations had been entirely supportive of the Anglican negotiators – lost his nerve and withdrew his support. The scheme foundered and sank, some thought without trace. In Rome, Cardinal Ratzinger asked “what are the English bishops afraid of?” Pope John Paul asked the former Bishop Leonard: “Why are the English bishops so unapostolic?” Read more

New bishop of Chelmsford: My hopes for the Church of England in Essex

THE new Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell has been speaking of his new role and his determination to be the voice of the Christian church in Essex.

He affirms: “I am most excited by the work I can do outside the Church, even more than inside it.” Read more

Bishop 'sorry' for royal wedding rant

A Church of England bishop has apologised for a "deeply offensive" rant about Prince William's engagement.

The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, posted that he did not care about royals and gave the prince's marriage to Kate Middleton seven years.

"We need a party in Calais for all good republicans who can't stand the nauseating tosh that surrounds this event," he wrote of the wedding day.

The bishop has now apologised for the "distress" his comments caused. Read more

Monday, 15 November 2010

Catholic Church to welcome 50 Anglican clergy

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, will reveal on Friday the Vatican's plans to welcome the departing priests - including five bishops - who are expected to be received into the Catholic Church early in the new year.

Hundreds of Anglican churchgoers will join them in the Ordinariate - a structure introduced by Pope Benedict XVI to provide refuge for those diaffected with the Church of England.

The number of worshippers who leave the Church is predicted to double as the new arrangement finally begins to take shape. Read more

Twitter joke trial: Paul Chambers loses appeal against conviction

[...] Paul Chambers, a 27-year-old accountant whose online courtship with another user of the microblogging site led to the "foolish prank", had hoped that a crown court would dismiss his conviction and £1,000 fine without a full hearing.

But Judge Jacqueline Davies instead handed down a devastating finding at Doncaster which dismissed Chambers's appeal on every count. After reading out his comment from the site – "Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!" – she found that it contained menace and Chambers must have known that it might be taken seriously.

He was also saddled with a legal bill three times higher than his original £384 with £600 costs, as the court ordered him to pay a further £2,000 legal bill for the latest proceedings. Read more

Converting Anglican bishop says papal action changed the landscape

The Anglican Bishop of Richborough told his flock that he plans to become Catholic because Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic constitution “completely changed the landscape” for Anglo-Catholics and he now believes that he must lead the way to union with the Universal Church.

Bishop Keith Newton of Richborough, England said in a pastoral letter to priests and people in the Richborough area that he will resign as bishop as of Dec. 31. He will not conduct any public episcopal services. This “difficult” decision followed much thought and prayer, he remarked. Read more

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan 'for blasphemy'

Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother-of-five, denies blasphemy and told investigators that she was being persecuted for her faith in a country where Christians face routine harassment and discrimination.

Christian groups and human rights campaigners condemned the verdict and called for the blasphemy laws to be repealed.

Her supporters say she will now appeal against the sentence handed down in a local court in the town of Sheikhupura, near Lahore, Pakistan. Read more

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Aussie bishop joins exodus to Catholic Church

A RETIRED Australian Anglican bishop has joined an exodus of British bishops to the Catholic Church.

David Silk, a former Bishop of Ballarat, has joined four other bishops who yesterday expressed their "dismay" and "distress" at the church's liberal direction and announced they would join the Roman Catholic Church.

In a statement yesterday, the British bishops said they believed that modern reforms, including women bishops, were "incompatible" with historic Anglicanism.

The Bishop of Fulham, John Broadhurst -- whose wife, Judy, and three of his four adult children will convert with him -- predicted lay Anglicans would flock to the Catholic Church in their thousands.

"There are lots of people interested. Some are actively looking at it," Bishop Broadhurst said. Read more

Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of Richborough

To priests and people in the Richborough Area



I imagine most of you will already know that I have resigned as Bishop of Richborough as from 31st December and will not be conducting any public episcopal services between now and then. I will, in due course, be received into full communion with the Catholic Church and join the Ordinariate when one is erected in England, which I hope will happen early next year. This has been a very difficult decision and has not been taken without much thought and prayer over the last year. For more than 8 years I have enjoyed being Bishop of Richborough; I have particularly valued the many visits to parishes for confirmations and other occasions. I am more grateful than I can say for the warmth, friendship and support I have experienced from so many priests and faithful lay people. I did not deserve it but I thank God for all I have received from you.

I am sure it will be said that I am leaving because of the issue of the ordination of women to the episcopate. While it is true that this has been an important factor in my thinking it is not the most significant factor. The publication of the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, just one year ago, came as a surprise and has completely changed the landscape for Anglo Catholics. Since the inception of the ARCIC process, set up by Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey in the 1960s, most of us have longed and prayed for corporate union with the Catholic Church; union which in our own time has seemed less likely because of the new difficulties concerning the ordination of women and other doctrinal and moral issues affecting the Anglican Communion.

Although we must still pray for sacramental and ecclesial unity between our Churches that now seems a much more distant hope. The creation of Personal Ordinariates within the Catholic Church provides an opportunity for visible unity between Anglicans and the Catholic Church now, while still being able to retain what is best in our own tradition which will enrich the Universal Church. This is a hope which has been expressed many times by Forward in Faith and many others within the catholic tradition of the Church of England So I hope you will understand that I am not taking this step in faith for negative reasons about problems in the Church of England but for positive reasons in response to our Lord’s prayer the night before he died the ‘they may all be one.’

Some of you, of course, will be thinking that I am leaving just at the time when episcopal leadership for our parishes is vital. I have great sympathy with this view but there are a number of ways of understanding leadership. Some may think the leader should stay to the bitter end like the captain of a sinking ship, but the example in scripture is that of the shepherd and every instructed Christian knows the eastern shepherd leads from the front rather than following the flock from behind. This is what I hope I am doing. I am leading the way and I hope and pray that many of you will follow me in the months and the years ahead.

However, I know many of you will wish to remain in the Church of England if that is at all possible and for some they will do so whatever provision General Synod eventually adopts. For those I could not continue to be your bishop with any integrity. My pilgrimage is now leading me in a different direction and I can no longer provide the episcopal leadership you need and deserve. You need a new Bishop of Richborough who has the same vision as you have and one for whom a solution in the Church of England is a priority. My priority is union with the Universal Church.

For those whom I have let down and disappointed, I ask your forgiveness. I am only to well ware of my own failings and inadequacies but I have tried, though often failed, to be a loving and faithful bishop for you. I hope you will continue to pray for Gill and me as we take this significant step in our own Christian pilgrimage, as we will continue to pray for all of you.

May God bless you now and always,

Yours in our Blessed Lord,

+ Keith
Bishop of Richborough

Monday, 8 November 2010

Bishop of London: Bishop of Fulham will be replaced

The Bishop of London has today confirmed the arrangements following the resignation of the Bishop of Fulham and has also announced the Revd Luke Miller as the next Archdeacon of Hampstead.

In his letter to the Diocese, Bishop Richard said:

"The Bishop of Fulham has signed his resignation deed and is set to retire on December 31st after well over 40 years service in various roles within the Diocese of London.

"After consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, I intend with the assistance of representative figures in the Diocese, to appoint a successor to the Suffragan See of Fulham. I envisage that any new Bishop of Fulham will be more closely related to me as the Bishop of London in serving the Two Cities Area. Read more

Archbishop accepts resignations of suffragan bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, today gave the following statement in response to the resignations of the suffragan bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough:

"I have today with regret accepted the resignations of Bishops Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton who have decided that their future in Christian ministry lies in the new structures proposed by the Vatican. We wish them well in this next stage of their service to the Church and I am grateful to them for their faithful and devoted pastoral labours in the Church of England over many years."

The Archbishop will now set in train the process for filling the vacant sees. In the interim, arrangements have been made for pastoral care to be provided by Bishops John Ford, Mark Sowerby and Lindsay Urwin for those who formerly looked to Bishops Burnham and Newton for their episcopal support and have decided to continue ministry in the Church of England. Read here

A one-way pilgrimage to Rome

The Archbishop of Canterbury is expected to announce this week that two Church of England bishops are becoming Roman Catholics. It will be a historic moment – but it’s fair to say that, given the choice, Dr Rowan Williams would prefer not to be involved in making this piece of history.

In the past, a few bishops have converted to Rome as private individuals and everyone has politely looked the other way. They have swum the Tiber solo, as it were. This time the Anglican prelates are stepping on to a ferry sent for them by the Pope himself. The Rt Rev Keith Newton, Bishop of Richborough, and the Rt Rev Andrew Burnham, Bishop of Ebbsfleet, will be the first passengers. Two other bishops, the Rt Rev John Broadhurst, Bishop of Fulham, and the Rt Rev Edwin Barnes, retired Bishop of Richborough, are expected to follow shortly. Moreover, Benedict XVI has made it clear that there will be space on the new vessel for any number of Anglicans who want to convert together – and, crucially, stay together once they have arrived.

Bishops Newton and Burnham are leaving to join the English Ordinariate, a new structure, similar to a diocese, created for former Anglo-Catholics. Separate Ordinariates are being formed by the Vatican for traditionalists in Scotland, America, Australia and other English-speaking countries. Read more

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Essex church adopts 'rolling worship'

St Michael's Church in Galleywood reports that 2010 has been a momentous year,
with the "death" of two congregations and the launch of "Rolling Worship", in
which worship and teaching in a variety of styles is offered all Sunday
morning. Parishioners are invited to "come when they can, leave when they like"
and there is a refreshment break every 30 minutes to make coming and going
easier. Read more (pdf file)

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Flying bishops' resignation announcement 'on Monday'

BRITAIN'S Archbishop of Canterbury is expected to announce the resignation of two bishops on Monday, in the first of what is feared will be a wave of departures from the Church of England by traditionalists converting to Roman Catholicism.

The Bishop of Richborough, the Right Rev Keith Newton, 58, is expected to become leader or the Anglican Ordinariate, set up to provide Catholic refuge to Anglicans who leave the Church of England over the issue of women bishops.

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Right Rev Andrew Burnham, 63, is also expected to join the Ordinariate, along with the Bishop of Fulham, the Right Rev John Broadhurst, who announced last month that he will be resigning at the end of the year. A fourth retired bishop, Edwin Barnes, is also expected to join the Ordinariate.

Sources said that the Ordinariate is to be launched at Pentecost next year, seven weeks after Easter. Read more

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Website used by woman who stabbed MP encourages further attacks

A radical website has praised the stabbing of the MP Stephen Timms and published a list of other MPs who voted for the war in Iraq, along with details of where to buy a knife.

The website, Revolution Muslim, is hosted in Bellevue, Washington, and includes a disclaimer invoking the first amendment of the US constitution, protecting free speech.

Dame Pauline Neville Jones, the security minister, has complained to the Americans that they are allowing radical websites to be run from the US. Read more

The Rural Ministry Seminar

This is intended primarily for ministers of rural churches of any denomination, but space permitting, others are welcome.

9:30am Coffee available

10am - 4pm Tuesday 1st March 2011

Venue: Warbleton area, between Hailsham and Heathfield in the lovely Sussex Countryside (Warbleton Church Rooms, Church Hill, Warbleton, East Sussex, TN21 9BD - subject to numbers).

Cost: £5 including coffee, biscuits, soft drinks etc. & materials. Please pay on the door. Please bring a packed lunch or head to a near by pub.

Speakers / facilitators:

Rev'd David Hall is the Vicar of Danehill with Chelwood Gate nr Haywards Heath in East Sussex where he has ministered for over seven years. During this time the churches have seen significant growth, including in the music ministry and amongst children, young people and families. David is also a training incumbent supervising a curate. David's first degree was in Business Studies with Marketing Honours. After graduation, he joined the graduate training scheme of a top-ten public relations consultancy, before moving into a management role advising major companies on everything from consumer PR to crisis management. He has met with and learned from Christians all over the world from Africa to North America and firmly believes that small rural churches can have the ministries of large ones!

Rev'd Dick Farr was the senior minister of 3 growing rural evangelical churches for 19 years (Henham and Elsenham with Ugley in the Diocese of Chelmsford on the north Essex Hertfordshire border from 1990 - 2009) working with an ordained and lay team. He is currently the Associate Vicar at St John's, Tunbridge Wells.
Please spread the word.

Please email me ( if you are interested in attending. Booking is essential. Places may be limited.

Please let me know if there are particular issues / questions you would like to see addressed. I will let the speakers know in advance and we will try to cover as many as possible.

Practical and theological issues will be discussed. Sessions will include material on Understanding The Rural Context Today and Ministering in a Rural Context Today as well as considering the particular challenges and opportunities of life and work in the countryside and of being responsible for more than one church building / congregation etc.

There will be some substantial plenary input but also lots of time for comments, questions, discussion and real interaction etc.

Other events may be planned in the future if there is an interest in some kind of on-going group / regular meeting.

Watch this space for more details.

Chelmsford FCA Meeting: Anglicans, by Accident or Design?

About 80 clergy and laity gathered for second public meeting of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in St.Peter’s Church, Harold Wood.

The vicar there, David Banting, emphasised the meeting began with lunch to stress the ‘FELLOWSHIP’ side of our unity. So time was given to a great lunch as friendships were formed or deepened.

Our unity as a group ‘confessing’ shared orthodoxy was then fostered by 3 speakers that represented the Anglo-Catholics, Charismatics and Conservative Evangelicals.

Ed Tomlinson described his move from an Evangelical position into Anglo-Catholicism. His Father was SAMS missionary, but his convictions took him towards Rome. His decision to join the Ordinariat will complete that journey. Ed hinted he thinks the differences between Anglo-catholics and others are too great (in areas like sacraments, authority and priesthood) to allow unity. He sees the only future for Anglo-Catholics is to join him and leave the Church of England.

Simon Coupland’s father was an URC minister. Simon was attracted to the CofE because it was more ‘congregational’ (in every-member ministry)! He also loves the ‘connectedness’ of churches within the denomination (esp ‘New Wine’ networking), and the way it encourages a commitment to others (i.e. everyone in the parish). He sees the need for involvement in politics, but personally prefers to
leave that to others.

Jonathan Fletcher spoke of his conversion to Christ and of his subsequent choice about what sort of Evangelical he would be. He wanted to be an Anglican one because of Cranmer’s clarity on the authority of Scripture, and on penal substitution. He said the 39 Articles avoid fudge. He urged those who hold onto our historic faith to simply call ourselves ‘Anglican’.

Overall it was a day that reflected the strengths and weaknesses of this new Fellowship. Ed’s hopes that all Anglo-Catholics will go with him will not suit everyone. Even if some wanted to change, their churches would not. The strength of CFCA is that it will provide a place for catholics to be valued. Jonathan said they’d been treated awfully in the past. Simon’s awareness that joint action is important, is a boost to a Fellowship that is
setting up for team work. But a ‘let someone else do it’ approach can also be a weakness. Jonathan’s encouragement to ‘pray for the impossible and to plan for eventualities’ puts fuel into the engines of this fellowship. We may next need to consider how to draw together a membership (as opposed to a mailing list). We can then continue to enjoy fellowship (meals with everything), and furthering orthodoxy to the glory of Jesus.

Mike Reith

Wallace Benn's 'January 1939' speech

Monday, 1 November 2010

Chelmsford cleric "happy and content" after sham marriage applications dry up

THE rector of a church in Tilbury once besieged by a “flood of sham marriages” says there hasn’t been a trickle since he enlisted the help of the UK Border Agency.

Father Tim Codling, of St John the Baptist Church, Dock Road, told the authorities that he believed a marriage of two foreign nationals he was due to conduct in August was fake.

They set up a sting and stormed the wedding on August 25, arresting five people, including the bride and groom.

Three months on Father Tim has nothing but praise for the UK Border Agency and Essex Police, but the diocese of Chelmsford is a different matter.

He said: “The support we have had from the UK Border Agency and Essex Police, both secular organisations, has been phenomenal, they have kept us fully up to date.

“The church is seen as a caring organisation, after the sting we requested a meeting with the bishop at the earliest opportunity “Sadly the earliest opportunity isn’t until November 28, I’ll let people draw their own conclusions from that.” Read more

MP Stephen Timms stabbed 'in revenge for Iraq war'

(Ed: Looks like Timms was a victim of what has been called 'Sudden Jihad Syndrome')

A woman stabbed Labour MP Stephen Timms twice at a constituency surgery in revenge for his vote for the Iraq war, the Old Bailey has heard.

The Labour MP for East Ham said he thought Roshonara Choudhry wanted to shake hands when she smiled before lunging at him in Newham on 14 May.

Miss Choudhry told police she wanted "to get revenge for the people of Iraq", prosecutors said.

The 21-year-old is accused of attempted murder and having an offensive weapon. Read more

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Fulcrum: Framing the Anglican Covenant: Trick or Treat? A Response to Inclusive Church and Modern Church

The propaganda on the Anglican covenant produced by Inclusive Church (IC) and Modern Church (previously MCU) and published in the church press reveals a most frightening development in contemporary Anglicanism. Two of the Church of England groups most associated with an appeal to reason have demonstrated themselves to be incapable of reasoned argument. They have also revealed themselves so hermeneutically challenged when faced with a relatively simple and short text whose contemporary context is well known that, did I not know some of the groups’ leaders, I would conclude they were deliberately misrepresenting the situation and framing false charges just in order to rally their troops and engender fear in those relatively uninformed of the covenant’s background and content.

The advertisement’s distorted account of the covenant brought to mind Mrs Thatcher’s perception of Europe as described in Geoffrey Howe’s famous resignation speech - a “nightmare image...conjured up by my right hon. Friend, who seems sometimes to look out upon a continent that is positively teeming with ill-intentioned people, scheming, in her words, to "extinguish democracy"”.

We are presented with a vision of the covenant as an oppressive mechanism which will be used against us by such dangerous elements as “neo-Puritans” and “Anglicans in other parts of the world”. It has allegedly “been kept so quiet” because it will “impose restrictions on any future church developments which another province opposes”, “make the Church of England subject to an outside power for the first time since Henry VIII” and “subordinate” General Synod to “new centralised authorities” in order to “make Anglicanism more dogmatic” instead of “Classic Anglican theology’s balance of scripture, reason and tradition”.

Every one of these claims and every answer to the seven questions IC & MCU ask is flawed, at best incomplete, often simply erroneous. Read more

Police given advice on arresting witches and pagans

It is Hallowe'en and the witching hour is drawing nearer, but don't be alarmed – police officers are on the case, having been issued with official guidance on how to deal with witches.

The advice is contained in a 300-page "diversity handbook" which gives officers a range of "dos and don'ts" when approaching followers of a range of religions and other beliefs, from atheism to Zoroastrianism.

Instructions include avoid touching a witch's "Book of Shadows", which contains their spells, or handling their ceremonial dagger.

The online handbook also advises officers not to jump to conclusions if they encounter a situation where a blindfolded, naked person is tied by their hands – they could merely have stumbled upon a pagan ritual, where such activities are normal practice. Read more

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Investigation reveals thousands of bogus church weddings may have taken place

Thousands of bogus weddings may have taken place in Anglican ceremonies throughout the country, an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has uncovered.

One vicar said he had been instructed by the Church to conduct marriages even after he warned officials that he believed they were bogus.

A senior Government source accused Church officials of failing to take sufficient steps to stop bogus marriages, which can grant foreigners the right to stay in Britain and claim benefits.

The investigation found that the issuing of marriage licences, required for foreigners to marry in church, has almost trebled in five years. Church figures show that the number of common licences issued rose from 1,650 in 2004 to 4,632 last year. Read more

Chelmsford Cleric accuses Church leaders of ignoring his warnings over sham marriages

Waiting for the bride at the altar, Fr Tim Codling began to realise that something wasn't quite right when he saw her at the back of the church pulling her wedding dress out of a black bin-liner.

In full view of everyone present, she proceeded to change into the dress. It became clear it was twice her size as she walked down the aisle, struggling not to trip over it and with the sleeves hanging down to her knees.

As she stood next to the groom, there was not only an obvious lack of affection, but more alarmingly a complete lack of recognition.

"It was as if they'd never met each other before," says Fr Codling, rector of St John the Baptist in Tilbury, Essex.

"Looking back now, I realise that they probably hadn't."

The wedding was one of dozens of marriages at his church that he believes were part of a scam designed to allow immigrants to gain British citizenship. Read more

Pagans celebrate Halloween as part of the country’s newest religion

In a riverside meadow in the Dorset town of Weymouth, a witch is using a broom to sweep a sacred circle in the grass.

The rest of the coven stand, some in hooded gowns, in a circle around an iron cauldron where a fire is burning.

They've met to celebrate Samhain, pronounced "sah-wen": the turning of the year from light into dark.

Many think of Halloween as a time of ghouls and ghosts, and for some retailers it has become the third most lucrative event of the year.

It is the time of year when some churches remember the souls of the departed.

For the witches of Weymouth it is one of their most important religious festivals, a time when they believe the barriers between the physical and spiritual worlds are at their thinnest.

They invite the spirits of north, south, east and west into the circle, and cut apples to share with the spirits of people who have died. Read more

Is Halloween Evil?

[...] Sure it is, if it involves the glorification (or, worse, the trivialization) of things satanic, and playing nasty pranks on neighbours who simply forgot to pick up a bag of sweets earlier in the day. Beyond that, a community dress-up involving opening our doors to each other and giving sweets to kids in fancy dress is a lovely idea. It might even build friendships in a society hungry for community.

For my part, I am sad that Halloween no longer has much to do with honouring the faithful departed and learning from their example. But that shouldn’t stop believers from making it so. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer of 1662 has the perfect Halloween prayer: “And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear; beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom.”

One last thing. I’m not sure that Christmas in the wider Australian context is any more pleasing to the Almighty? If there are grades of sins, I reckon the Aussie worship at the shopping mall in the build up to Christmas and the consequent neglect of the poor until we’ve paid off the credit card are much more ‘satanic’ than allowing our kids to dress up as goblins. And what is a goblin, anyway? Read more

Haunted houses: Got ghosts? A little daily exorcise should help

[Ed: Note at the bottom in the list of "What to do if you think you've got ghosts", Ask the vicar Most dioceses have a designated house-cleanser (oh, all right, exorcist). If yours hasn’t, contact the Church of England (020 7898 1000)]

The scene is a dark basement in an 18th-century town house, built on the site of an ancient monastery, within the walls of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

A couple is busy doing routine DIY tasks, when suddenly they put down their tools. A cacophony of banging is coming from upstairs. And that’s strange, because there’s no one else living in the house.

“At first, we thought the noise must be coming from next door,” says Cate McKeon. “Then we realised it was coming from our kitchen.

“So we ran upstairs, and when we got to the kitchen, we found the cupboard doors, about a dozen of them, all standing open at right angles. Yet they had been closed when we went down to the basement. It was inexplicable.” Read more

Muslim man told Skype divorce joke stands

The ruling, made in an online fatwa by the Darul Uloom Deobandi seminary in northern India, regarded as one of Islam's leading authorities on religious law said that the woman would have to first marry another man before she could remarry her first husband.

The man, from Qatar, wrote to the seminary following his Skype joke to seek clarification.

"Jokingly typed 'talak, talak, talak' (I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee) to my wife on Skype chat. I don't understand Islam very much and did not know about how talaq works. We love each other very much and want to be together but right now [we are] caught in this thing. Want to know a way out," he wrote.

His hopes of a "way out" were dashed when the seminary issued a fatwa confirming his wife must first remarry another man, consummate the marriage, and then divorce him before she could be allowed to remarry her first husband. Read more

Friday, 29 October 2010

Chelmsford Diocesan Evangelical Association meeting, Saturday 30th October 2010

Science, psychology and same-sex attraction: what does the research actually say?

Meadgate Church, Meadgate Avenue, Great Baddow, Chelmsford, CM2 7LJ

Saturday 30 October: 10.00 to 1.00
Coffee from 9.30, please bring a packed lunch. Non-members: £3.00.

Glynn Harrison is emeritus professor of psychiatry at Bristol University. 'Evidence' from scientific studies is quoted in debates about human sexuality. We will look at how it is used and misused on all sides of the debate and ask how insights from biology and psychology can be integrated within an orthodox Christian framework for the ordering of human sexual desire.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Who won the General Synod elections and what hope for women bishops?

[...] There are still a large number of issues to be thought about and resolved. We still need a more thorough debate on theology, and indeed on Reform’s claims that the opposition is from scriptural grounds. (Other evangelicals strongly disagree.) But to decide so far ahead of time how you will vote on a measure which has not been presented in a final form, suggests an incapacity or unpreparedness to listen and debate. For if minds are already made up along party lines, even on issues we have not yet discussed, then what is the point of Synod? All we would need to do is to assemble the tribes and count the numbers.

In fact, in my own twenty–three years as a member of General Synod, this is not what happens. The real work goes on in the interaction of those who disagree, in the exposure of people to views and outlooks which are different from their own. It is in the readiness to hear the Bible through the presentations of others that understanding is developed. It is in the listening and weighing up of the argument where decisions are best made. It is in the openness with which we concede that none of us has the whole truth, for that belongs to God alone, that humility and generosity begin to flourish. Read more

Monday, 25 October 2010

Facing the axe: Diocese that has twice as many Muslim worshippers as Anglicans

A historic Church of England diocese where Muslim worshippers outnumber Anglican churchgoers by two to one is set to be scrapped.

According to sources, the Dioceses Commission is drawing up proposals to axe the cash-strapped Diocese of Bradford in Yorkshire and merge it with neighbouring Ripon and Leeds.

Some are pressing for both dioceses to be subsumed into the adjoining Diocese of York, to create a ‘superdiocese’ under Archbishop of York John Sentamu, the Church’s second-most powerful leader.

The first major shake-up of dioceses for almost 100 years could also see senior ­bishops replaced by lower-paid juniors, and ­millions of pounds shaved off central administration costs.

Read more

An ungodly row: Dawkins sues his disciple

Josh Timonen was one of a small coterie of young protégés around Richard Dawkins, sharing his boss's zealous atheism. But now he and the evolutionary theorist have fallen out spectacularly. Professor Dawkins's charity has accused Mr Timonen of embezzling hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The two atheists had become close in recent years, with Dawkins, the best-selling author and Emeritus Professor of Biology at Oxford University, even dedicating his latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth, to him. But Mr Timonen and the Dawkins foundation are now preparing for a legal wrangle.

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, has filed four lawsuits in a Californian court alleging that Mr Timonen, who ran its online operation in America, stole $375,000 (£239,000) over three years. It is claiming $950,000 in damages, while Mr Dawkins is suing him for $14,000 owed to him personally. Mr Timonen strongly denies the allegations. Read more

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Archbishop of Canterbury moves to flush out Anglicans plotting to defect to Rome

In a surprise announcement, Dr Rowan Williams said he wanted to establish a new joint group of Roman Catholic and Church of England figures to oversee the conversion process.

The proposed group would be designed to enable smooth and less painful transition for those who want to leave the Church of England to become Roman Catholics in protest at the ordination of women bishops.

It would also bring into the open the negotiations between disaffected Anglicans and the Vatican which have been taking place in secret for months.

Dr Williams’s suggestion came in his first public remarks since a parish in Kent and a London bishop announced their intention to accept the Pope’s offer to convert to Roman Catholicism. Read more

Archbishop Rowan Williams: "Despite challenges, Anglican Communion life is strong"

The mutual life of the Anglican Communion is “quite strong and perhaps getting stronger” according to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

In an interview with The Hindu newspaper, Dr Williams indicated that the state of the Communion was not as black as some have painted it. He called it “a very mixed picture.” Read more

Geert Wilders hate speech trial collapses in Netherlands

The hate speech trial of the controversial far-right Dutch leader, Geert Wilders, collapsed in disarray at the last minute today when the panel of judges in the case were deemed to be biased. A retrial was ordered.

Wilders, who is enjoying soaring support at home and propping up a new minority anti-immigration government established last week, has been in the dock since earlier this month on five charges of inciting racial and religious hatred for his robust denunciations of Islam as fascist and demanding the Qur'an be banned.

During the trial he has been lionised as a modern-day Galileo as well as branded a "little Hitler". Today was the final scheduled day of the trial, with the verdict from the panel of three judges at Amsterdam district court due next week.

But in the past 48 hours it emerged that one of the appeal court judges who ordered Wilders to stand trial had dinner in May with a potential witness, a Dutch expert on Islam, and that the judge had sought to convince the professor of Arabic studies why Wilders had to be prosecuted. Read more

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Google must name YouTube cyber bullies

A US court has ordered Google to reveal the identities of anonymous YouTube users who posted unauthorised videos of a business consultant with offensive comments about her.

The company, which owns YouTube, has two weeks to provide Carla Franklin with the users' identities and contact information.

Franklin said she hoped her case would help others with similar problems. "The internet cannot become a safe haven for harassers and stalkers," she said in an email after Tuesday's ruling.

Google declined to comment, saying it did not discuss individual cases to protect users' privacy. Read more

Hardliners call for deaths of Surrey Muslims

Islamic extremists have started openly calling for the destruction of a controversial Muslim sect in a major escalation of sectarian conflict within British Islam, an investigation by The Independent has revealed.

Members of the Ahmadiyya Community have seen a significant upsurge in threats and intimidation over the past four months, sparked by an extremist attack on two of their largest mosques in Pakistan earlier this year.

Hardline Islamists in Britain have been distributing leaflets calling for the murder of AhmadiMuslims in Kingston-upon-Thames whilst mosques have been vandalised in Newham and Crawley. Preachers in south London have also been orchestrating a boycott of Ahmadi businesses and Ofcom has had to reprimand an Islamic satellite channel for repeatedly calling the sect "Wajib-ul Qatal" - an Arabic phrase used to describe those who digress from mainstream Islam that translates as "liable for death". Read more

Somali schoolboy tells of how Islamists cut off his leg and hand

He has learned to button his shirt using only his left hand, to roll his sleeve with his teeth, to balance on his right foot in the shower. He cannot forgive, though he is desperate to forget. But at night his dreams betray him.

This is how it happened, Abdulle told the Guardian. He was a prisoner in an insurgents' house in Mogadishu, lying on his side, one hand chained to his ankles. He was 17, with fluff on his cheeks and unspeakable fear in his heart. Three other young men were with him – Jalylani, Ali, Abduqadir.

A guard, from the Islamist group al-Shabaab, which is trying to overthrow the Somali government, gripped his shoulder. "Ismael Khalif Abdulle, come with me." Read more

Penguins are not gay, they are just lonely

The homosexual behaviour of male king penguins has already been noted in zoos.

Now in a new study, scientists have found the evidence of male pairs in the wild. The research found that more than a quarter of the colony in Antarctica were in same sex partners, mostly two males.

In the past, it was claimed that penguins could not discern between the sexes because they looked alike. Male pairs in zoos in the US and Germany have hatched and reared ‘adopted’ chicks.

However the new study by the Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology in Montpellier, France found that the penguins are only pairing up with other males because they are “lonely”. Read more

Will the cuts change the role of women?

[...] So, one of the consequences of the shrinking state outlined today may be that women stay at home rearing children and building the "Big Society" instead of going out to work. Whether that is a good thing, a bad thing or a "fair" thing will be hotly debated. Read more

Monday, 18 October 2010

How radical Islam seduced the academics

[...] Vice-chancellors and their staff do not engage in robust debate with extremists and try to show vulnerable students the moral and intellectual virtues of liberalism because they are frightened. By far the most revealing comment on Abdulmutallab did not come from Philippe Sands or Malcolm Grant but from UCL's professor of English, John Sutherland.

He described how a friend of his, "an eminent scientist", strolled in to take a look at an art exhibition organised by the UCL Islamic Society. "'Was he a believer?' asked an obviously Muslim student. 'No,' replied my friend, 'he didn't believe in any god, as it happened.' 'Then,' the young man confidently informed him, 'we shall have to execute you.' My friend laughed it off after lodging a mild complaint. It could, of course, have been Abdulmutallab who made the threat."

I am willing to bet that the laughter of the eminent scientist was of the tinny and nervous variety. I will wager further that equally tinny and nervous laughs are being heard on campuses across Britain. Read more

Army chief demands Channel 4 cancels Prince Harry kidnapping documentary

[...] The programme includes scenes showing the Prince, played by actor Sebastian Reid, being held behind enemy lines while negotiations are carried out to free him.

At one point he is shown having an unloaded gun pointed in his face before one of his captors pulls the trigger and he is also made to appear in Taliban and al-Qaida propaganda.

A Channel 4 spokesman said that the broadcaster intended to go ahead with the film, which is scheduled to be shown this Thursday at 9pm, despite Sir Jock’s protests.

“We have written to Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup replying to his concerns. The film is rooted in expert testimony and is a serious journalistic examination of a current issue. It treats the subject matter sensitively,” said the spokesman.

“It is a legitimate subject for documentary to explore the risks that Prince Harry faces as a high value target, and to seek to understand the full nature of the dangers to a royal in the modern theatre of war as well as the political implications of a high profile kidnap.” Read more

Church of England parish sings battle hymns as it plans move to Rome

In the church of St Peter on the East Cliff in Folkestone, Kent, this morning, the sermon was of battles. It was the Trafalgar Day service – marking the 205th anniversary of Nelson's victory this Thursday – so, with many old sailors in the congregation, Camperdown was mentioned and Lepanto, the Glorious First of June and other long-gone actions at sea.

But it was another battle, in a different sort of see, that was clearly uppermost in the mind of the priest, Father Stephen Bould: his parish may be the first to defect wholesale from the Church of England to Rome following Pope Benedict XVI's offer of a safe harbour for Anglicans disaffected by their church's decision to allow women priests to become bishops.

Bould told his ageing flock: "It is a battle we are fighting now. Let's fight it with flair, imagination and spirit."

The high-Anglican Victorian church on the cliffs above the port has become the scene of the latest twist in the Church of England's agonizingly drawn-out wrestle over women's ministry, 16 years after its first female ordinations. Read more

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Church of England is fascist and vindictive, says bishop defecting to Rome

The Rt Rev John Broadhurst, the Bishop of Fulham, accused the Church of England of breaking promises to make provisions for opponents of women's ordination.

He warned that the Pope's invitation to disaffected Anglicans to join the Catholic Church would appeal to traditionalists dismayed at their treatment.

His comments came as a parish in the Archbishop of Canterbury's own diocese became the first in the country to announce that it would defect to Rome, with one parishioner declaring: "The Pope's offer was the answer to our prayers."

St Peter's Church in Folkestone, Kent, has decided to join the Ordinariate, a system designed by the Vatican to allow Anglicans to convert while maintaining parts of their heritage.

Bishop Broadhurst, who announced his decision to resign on Friday, predicted that many more would leave the Church of England in the months ahead. Read more

Anglicans' regret over bishop's conversion to Rome

A traditionalist Anglican group has voiced regret after an Anglo-Catholic bishop said he would convert to Rome.

The Bishop of Fulham, John Broadhurst, has become the fourth Anglican bishop to make the announcement.

He intends joining the Roman Catholic Church because of his opposition to the way the Church of England plans to introduce women bishops.

Meanwhile, a Kent Anglican congregation has become the first to take up the Pope's offer to convert to Catholicism. Read more

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The left has to start asserting its own values

(And Christians might carry on doing the same - ed).

[...] Common Cause proposes a simple remedy: that we stop seeking to bury our values and instead explain and champion them. Progressive campaigners, it suggests, should help to foster an understanding of the psychology that informs political change and show how it has been manipulated. They should also come together to challenge forces – particularly the advertising industry – that make us insecure and selfish.

Ed Miliband appears to understand this need. He told the Labour conference that he "wants to change our society so that it values community and family, not just work" and "wants to change our foreign policy so that it's always based on values, not just alliances … We must shed old thinking and stand up for those who believe there is more to life than the bottom line". But there's a paradox here, which means that we cannot rely on politicians to drive these changes. Those who succeed in politics are, by definition, people who prioritise extrinsic values. Their ambition must supplant peace of mind, family life, friendship – even brotherly love.

So we must lead this shift ourselves. People with strong intrinsic values must cease to be embarrassed by them. We should argue for the policies we want not on the grounds of expediency but on the grounds that they are empathetic and kind; and against others on the grounds that they are selfish and cruel. In asserting our values we become the change we want to see. Read more

In Holland, Free Speech on Trial , By AYAAN HIRSI ALI

(Originally from the Wall Street Journal)

Imagine if a leader within the tea party movement were able to persuade its members to establish a third political party. Imagine he succeeded—overwhelmingly—and that as their leader he stood a real chance of winning the presidency. Then imagine that in anticipation of his electoral victory, the Democrats and Republicans quickly modified an existing antidiscrimination law so that he could be convicted for statements he made on the campaign trail.

All of this seems impossible in a 21st-century liberal democracy. But it is exactly what is happening in Holland to Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders.

Read more

Monday, 11 October 2010

Bishop of Chelmsford: Together we will be a transforming presence and make Christ known.

The Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell has been legally confirmed as the new Bishop of Chelmsford.
Bishop Stephen has said: “The Archbishop of Canterbury has asked me to be loyal and faithful in seeking to lead God's church in this diocese, and ensure that, together, we are a transforming presence in every community, and that we make Christ known. I look forward to beginning this ministry with you and ask for your prayers.” Read more

Gender pay gap progress 'grinding to a halt'

[...] Total household wealth of the top 10% in society was almost 100 times higher than for the poorest 10%, while one in five people lived in a household with less than 60% of average income.

The report also suggested that men and women from the highest social class could expect to live for up to seven years longer than those from lower socio-economic groups; and black Caribbean and Pakistani babies were twice as likely to die in the first year of life as Bangladeshi and white babies.

The report also said that conviction rates for rape were "stubbornly low", that obesity was on the rise, and that two-thirds of gay, lesbian and transsexual secondary students said they had been bullied.

Mr Phillips said: "This review holds up the mirror to fairness in Britain. It is the most complete picture of its kind ever compiled.

"It shows that we are a people who have moved light years in our attitudes to all kinds of human difference, and in our desire to be a truly fair society, but that we are still a country where our achievements haven't yet caught up with our aspirations."

He said that 21st Century Britain faced "the danger of a society divided by the barriers of inequality and injustice". Read more

The left should recognise that equality is undesirable

(Ed: I managed both to agree and disagree with this article, so thought it worth posting.)

In the early days of New Labour it is said a media adviser whispered into an ambitious minister's ear after an interview: "We don't say equality, we say fairness." The former reeked of socialism – all taxes, empowerment schemes and regulation. The latter was as inoffensive as a scented candle. Everyone can agree to be fair – which is the problem.

A fairness boom is under way. Two parties used the word in their election slogans. In their conference speeches Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and David Cameron all promised to pursue fairness. In his new book Will Hutton argues we should do the same. Tomorrow the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) publishes a 700-page report entitled How Fair Is Britain?, which turns out to be only partly about fairness – in the sense of discrimination – but about inequalities of outcome too.

The fashionable flag under which to fly this autumn, however, is the F-word. And it's too unspecific. Cuts aren't fair. Student fees aren't fair. Benefits aren't fair. Welfare scroungers aren't fair. Cancer isn't fair. Britain isn't fair. We're being asked to judge our society on a vague and catch-all value, and we fail. It simply isn't fair. Read more

Saturday, 9 October 2010

George Soros warns China of global 'currency war'

Mr Soros, the hedge fund manager best known as the man who broke the Bank of England” after he made a billion betting against the value of Sterling on Black Wednesday in 1992, said the China had created a “lopsided currency” system.

He criticised China for deliberately keeping the yuan - its currency - low in order to keep exports cheap, which is hurting US competitors.

Mr Soros told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that China had a “huge advantage” over international competitors because it can control the value of its currency.

He said China could also influence the value of other world currencies because they have a “chronic trade surplus”, which means the Chinese have a lot of foreign currencies. “They control not only their own currency but actually the entire global currency system,” he said.

Writing in the Financial Times, Mr Soros added: “Whether it realizes it or not, China has emerged as a leader of the world. If it fails to live up to the responsibilities of leadership, the global currency system is liable to break down and take the global economy with it.” Read more

Thursday, 7 October 2010

First female priest to serve Christ Church in Warley and St Mary's in Great Warley

THE first female priest to be appointed to a historic parish is ready and waiting to convert any sceptics sitting among her congregation.

The Rev Ellen Goldsmith has been licensed by the Bishop of Bradwell to be the first woman to serve Christ Church in Warley and St Mary's in Great Warley, but not all her flock were in favour of appointing a lady.

A close vote of St Mary's parochial church council saw them agree to a woman preacher while Christ Church had already given a green light to the principle, which to this day is opposed by some in the Church of England on "theological" grounds.

This, however, opened the door for Mrs Goldsmith to be appointed associate minister and join her husband and parish vicar, the Rev Chris Goldsmith. Read more

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Monday, 4 October 2010

Outrage as agony aunt tells TV audience 'I would suffocate a child to end its suffering'

Television pundit Virginia Ironside prompted outrage yesterday after saying she would suffocate a child to end its suffering.

Shocked BBC viewers complained after the agony aunt said she would hold a pillow over the face of a child in pain.

Minutes earlier the controversial writer said 'a loving mother' would abort an unwanted or disabled baby, and praised abortion as 'a moral and unselfish act'.

Miss Ironside said: 'If a baby's going to be born severely disabled or totally unwanted, surely an abortion is the act of a loving mother.'

She added: 'If I were the mother of a suffering child - I mean a deeply suffering child - I would be the first to want to put a pillow over its face... If it was a child I really loved, who was in agony, I think any good mother would.'

Read more

'Hate' trial for far-right politician Wilders

Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders went on trial for alleged hate speech today, even as his popularity and influence in the Netherlands are near all-time highs.

Prosecutors say Wilders incited hatred against Muslims with remarks comparing Islam to Naziism and by calling for a ban on the Koran. Wilders argues that he has a rightjavascript:void(0) to freedom of speech and his remarks were within the bounds of the law.

If convicted, he faces up to a year in prison. He could keep his seat in parliament.

On his Twitter account, Wilders said the start of his trial was a "terrible day". Read more

Saturday, 2 October 2010

As schools lose charitable status, Druids are recognised for charity tax-breaks

If it were not so laughable, you might weep with incredulity. At the very time when private schools are losing their charitable status because of Labour's overhaul of a new 'public benefit' test, minority religions like Druidry, which has just a few hundred adherents, are being officially recognised and granted tax breaks because their activities are deemed to fulfil the requirements of the Charity Commission.

How can it be that the provision of education - which is, ipso facto, a public benefit to the country - has ceased to be of public benefit unless schools spend thousands on bursaries and fee remission, while prancing around Stonehenge at the summer solstice and hugging trees whilst listening to Enya - which are, de facto, minority pursuits of benefit to no-one - are now judged to be of benefit to the wider public?

The Charity Commission for England and Wales, the quango that decides what counts as a genuine faith, has effectively just added another tick-box to the 2021 census form. And if it is not there, there will be cries of 'discrimination' as they refuse to be classified merely as 'other'. Read more

Friday, 1 October 2010

'I faked religion to find a school'

Odious, despicable, hypocrite – those are just a few of the words that have been used to describe me since the publication of my book School Daze: Searching for Decent State Education. My sins? There are two, according to my critics.

The first is that I faked being a Christian to get my children into the local Church of England primary school. My plea: guilty. I am an atheist, but for at least two years before my son reached primary-school age I went along to the local church, along with my wife. And so it came to pass that our son got the school place.

My mitigation is this: whose fault was it that we had to go to church to get our son into the local primary school? I didn't choose the selection criteria that meant that half the places were reserved for churchgoers, thus discriminating against local families who did not follow this particular brand of religion. This was not a situation of my choosing. I went to church under duress, because that was the only way to be sure of a place, even though that school was literally the other side of the road from our house. I didn't pretend to be a Christian for several years because I wanted to offend anyone, or because I thought it was fun – I promise you it wasn't. I did it because I wanted my son to attend the local state primary school. Is that too much to ask? Read more

Thursday, 30 September 2010

"Anglo-Catholicism crumbles as traditionalists prepare to enter the Ordinariate "

Anglo-Catholicism within the Church of England is dispersing like a cloud of incense rolling down the nave. Those Anglicans who have decided to take advantage of Pope Benedict XVI’s historic offer of special privileges within the Roman Catholic Church are already constructing a network of Ordinariate communities that will bear fruit in new Catholic parishes. Crucially, they are led by two “flying” Anglican bishops, the Rt Rev Andrew Burnham of Ebbsfleet and the Rt Rev Keith Newton of Richborough.

Meanwhile, Anglo-Catholics who don’t feel ready to make the move yet, or perhaps at all, have muddied the waters with the creation of a body called the Society of Saint Wilfrid and Saint Hilda (SSWSH) whose role is unclear, to say the least. Depending on who you listen to, it’s either a group of traditionalists who want to stay in the Church of England, playing the role of Japanese jungle fighters who don’t know the war is over, or a holding body for people who will join the Ordinariate eventually but need more time to prepare. Read more

Divine dispatches: Action-packed Anglican edition with talk of a UK ordinariate and the new splinter group trying to accommodate Anglo-Catholics

[...] Anglican anoraks will understand the implications of the word "society". It was rejected by the revision committee, which decided "there was some risk of creating a society that was an even weightier body than a diocese. This was because some of the representations made to us seemed to envisage that jurisdiction would in some way be conferred on the society itself and through it to its bishops". The bishop of Manchester made the point in a slightly less churchy way here.

Incidentally, there has been no comment from the bishop of Manchester or Lambeth Palace about these bishops setting up something that was voted down, but that's a sideshow.

These bishops are endorsing, nay spearheading, the charge against a code of practice that will be drafted later this year by the House of Bishops. Conflict of interest much? As Swissh itself says: "The unveiling of the Mission Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda reflects a determination not to accept a code of practice as currently suggested by the General Synod but to work for and create a more realistic approach that allows the integrity of those who cannot accept this innovation to be preserved, to flourish and grow within the Church of England. This development represents a constructive initiative on the part of those who cannot accept the innovations proposed in legislation and who are hurt and frustrated by the General Synod's inability to provide for their theological position."

A society would have the support of two constituencies – the Anglo-Catholics and the conservative evangelicals – but they would need to move quickly to set this up. This feverish activity takes place against diocesan synods discussing the draft legislation, General Synod elections and the annual gatherings of Forward in Faith and Reform taking place in the next few weeks. It is worth remembering that attempts to introduce provisions for opponents have failed on several occasions. Moves by, say, the House of Bishops, to remedy this would need to be approved by the General Synod. Unless the complexion of the synod changes drastically, it would be hostile to attempts to undo in a backroom committee what was openly decided in the synod debating chamber. Read more

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Deadly traps lie in wait as Nato surge begins to drive Taliban out of Kandahar

[...] Haji Zikraya Khan and Mehboob Ali, both members of Kandahar's provincial assembly, had spoken out repeatedly against the Taliban. Last month they paid the price, both of them killed in a bomb attack. Mr Khan's family say that as well as being victims of insurgent brutality they, like many other Kandaharis, have first-hand experience of the rapacious police. "My uncle died because he was speaking out against oppression by the Taliban and revealed how the Pakistanis are supporting the terrorists." said Zulmai Mohammed.

Mr Mohammed's sister, Amina, used to be a clerk in government service. She stopped working after receiving a warning from the Taliban to stay at home. "They do not want women to have any independence. I will know security has improved when I can go back to work. A lot of other women feel the same way. Maybe things are getting better, but we are still afraid, we know women who have been killed for refusing to stop working."

Mr Mohammed conceded that there are some signs of improvement. "The security has improved in the city but there are still Taliban around, and we believe some of the police still sell them information. Things can get bad again. I am a target of the Taliban because of my family, because of what I have said. I must stay careful." Read more

Professor slapped with £155 railway fine for getting off his train one stop EARLY

A professor who got off his train one stop before the destination on his ticket was ordered to pay a £155 penalty to leave the station.

Martyn Evans was told he would be fined for disembarking at Darlington, near his home, rather than waiting until Durham, where he works at the university’s philosophy department.

The state-run East Coast train company said ticketing regulations meant he could get off only at the stop he had paid for – and nowhere else.

Read more

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Rowan Williams's authority goes up in smoke as he replies 'Pass' to a question about future gay bishops

From behind the Times’s paywall, the sound of an Archbishop of Canterbury digging a hole for himself so deep that it will soon swallow him up.

Dr Rowan Williams has given a disastrous interview to the paper today that leads his interviewer, Ginny Dougary, to describe his position on homosexuality as “both confusing and rather revolting”. Well, she’s certainly right on the first count. Here’s my paraphrase of the Archbishop’s current position:

Does he still think it’s OK for gay couples to have sex, as he wrote years ago? “That’s what I wrote as a theologian, you know, putting forward a suggestion. That’s not the job I have now,” he tells Dougary.

No gay bishops, then? Actually, gay bishops are OK, as long as they don’t have sex. (The same prohibition doesn’t apply to lay people, for reasons lost in the mist of time.)

So it’s appropriate for the celibate Jeffrey John to be a bishop? Here +Rowan really squirms, saying he “let down” John by blocking him as Bishop of Reading. But we don’t discover why, this year, the still-celibate Dean John unexpectedly disappeared from the candidates’ list for Southwark.

But does the Archbishop hope that one day gay bishops can have partners? “Pass”.

Yes, he really did say that. Read more

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Anglicans are Coming: Archbishop Wuerl to Oversee Reception of Anglican Christians

The Vicar of Christ and successor of the Apostle Peter, Pope Benedict XVI, just returned from an extraordinary pastoral visit to the United Kingdom. There, he beatified John Henry Cardinal Newman; the great Anglican turned Catholic Churchman, beloved by Catholic and Anglican Christians. The visit was extraordinary. This humble, diminutive Pope won the hearts of the faithful of the United Kingdom and opened the hearts of many others. The United Kingdom is till unpacking the historic implications of the visit. For the best treatment see the excellent reporting of Rocco Palmo.

One of the reasons the visit is of such significance is because it comes right at the time that the Anglican Community is fracturing, splintering and falling apart. Some within it are abandoning the ancient faith handed down to us from the apostles. To many Anglican Christians, this is a tragedy. So, the Vicar of Christ has offered a juridical structure which provides a place within the full communion of the Catholic Church where they could maintain their Anglican Ethos and be a part of a new missionary age in a restored Catholic Church, finding a safe harbor. Read more

New Anglo-Catholic Missionary Society announced

Launched at the Sacred Synods in London and Leeds this week.

The Missionary Society of Saint Wilfrid and Saint Hilda

Open to Anglican laity, clergy and religious committed to the full visible unity of the Church for its mission in the world and also to holding central the gift of the three fold order of ministry shared with others, received from the first millenium and held in trust for an ecumenical future.

The Society of Saint Wilfrid and Saint Hilda is an initiative supported by the Bishop of Chichester, the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, the Bishop of Beverley, the Bishop of Edmonton, the Bishop of Horsham, the Bishop of Plymouth, the Bishop of Pontefract,
Bishop Lindsay Urwin OGS and others.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Ordinariate for Anglicans converting to Rome 'ready by the end of the year'

Breaking news from the Catholic Herald’s investigative reporter Anna Arco:

Britain could have an Ordinariate by the end of the year, it emerged today.

Sources say that the Rt Rev Keith Newton, the flying Bishop of Richborough and the Rt Rev Andrew Burnham, the flying Bishop of Ebbsfleet, will take up the special canonical structure, which allows groups of Anglicans to come into full Communion with Rome without losing their Anglican identity, before the end of the calendar year.

Groups of Anglicans are already forming across the country in preparation for joining an Ordinariate, according to the blog of the retired Bishop of Richborough, the Rt Rev Edwin Barnes. Read more

We may be beating the Taliban, but in this country you'd never know it

[...] Sangin will hardly go down in the annals of this campaign as a stunning success. The woefully under-resourced British contingent was never able to achieve its original objective of dominating the area surrounding this strategically important town. But through their heroic efforts, British troops did manage to defeat repeated Taliban attempts to retake the town, killing hundreds of insurgents and denying the enemy control of a vital supply route.

So why is it that all people want to discuss is our losses in Sangin, rather than our successes? Part of the answer lies in the strange reluctance of senior British officers to provide details of the scale of the carnage that is daily being inflicted on the Taliban. Normally, governments are only too eager to proclaim the military's successes in times of war, not least because of their propaganda value. Churchill sustained morale during the darkest hours of the Second World War with constant updates on enemy losses, while Thatcher was unequivocal in her praise of British victories in the Falklands.

Those responsible for prosecuting the war in Afghanistan, by contrast, fall silent when asked to provide details of enemy losses. The explanation, or so I was told by one Cabinet minister, is a concern that publishing details of Taliban deaths would play into the hands of anti-war campaigners, who would exploit the information for their own propaganda purposes. Politicians are also mindful of the impact the true level of Taliban casualties might have on British Muslims. There are already significant numbers who actively support the Taliban and its allies, and ministers have convinced themselves that the total would only grow if the movement's true plight were more widely known.

This policy of restraint, however, is self-defeating, because public support is crucial to the ultimate success of any military campaign. British backing for the effort in Afghanistan will continue to wane until we focus on our successes, rather than obsess about our failures. Read more

Civil Partnerships Formation numbers continue to fall

(See also Civil Partnerships in the UK 2009 for more detail.)

Same-sex couples formed 6,281 civil partnerships (3,227 male and 3,054 female) in the UK in 2009, a fall of 12 per cent compared with 2008.

The number of civil partnerships in both England and Wales in 2009 fell by 13 per cent to 5,443 and 244 respectively. In Scotland the number of civil partnerships fell by 5.1 per cent to 498. However, in Northern Ireland the numbers increased by
12 per cent to 96 civil partnership formations.

On average, 326 partnerships were formed in the UK each month between January and March 2009, rising to 656 between April and September and falling to 457 between October and December. Read more

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Men arrested in Gateshead over suspected Koran burning

Six Tyneside men have been arrested after filming themselves apparently burning copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Police said the men, all from the Gateshead area, were detained after a video appeared on the internet.

They were arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred and released on bail pending further inquiries. Read more

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

New website launched to mark 350th anniversary of Book of Common Prayer

The Prayer Book Society has launched a new website ahead of yearlong celebrations in 2012 to mark the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

The website,, details the history of the liturgy and national and regional events marking its anniversary.

It has been endorsed by politicians, Church leaders and commentators, including Tory MP Mark Pritchard, the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Rev John Saxbee, Lord Waddington QC and Joanna Lumley.

A spokesman for the Prayer Book Society said the website would also feature a new online version of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

“The website will become the centrepiece of all that 2012 means,” he said.

The website was launched during the Prayer Book Society’s annual conference last week.

The conference was joined by several high profile speakers, including newspaper columnist Peter Hitchens, who said the Book of Common Prayer was “the very stuff of inspiration”.

“The Prayer Book is beautiful precisely because it is true,” he said.

Popular blogger, the Rev John Richardson, criticised some contemporary Anglican liturgies for taking out traditional words like “wrath” because some clergy are “uncomfortable” with them. Read more

Richard Dawkins stirring up the atheists and others at the Protest the Pope rally

Lot's of cheers at the announcement, "Adolf Hitler was a Roman Catholic."

Moore College, Sydney, opens 'Priscilla and Acquila' centre

Jane Tooher has joioned the faculty of Moore College to become the founding director of the Priscilla and Aquila Centre. This Centre, a new initiative for the college, aims to encourage the ministries of women in partnership with men and has a number of connected aims:

1. to encourage and strengthen the training of women for ministry
2. to encourage and promote a wide range of ministries by women, in genuine complementary partnership with the ministries of men
3. to encourage and support women to pursue postgraduate theological study at Moore and to write and publish at both a popular and academic level Read more

BBC News: Computers show how wind could have parted Red Sea

New computer simulations have shown how the parting of the Red Sea, as described in the Bible, could have been a phenomenon caused by strong winds.

The account in the Book of Exodus describes how the waters of the sea parted, allowing the Israelites to flee their Egyptian pursuers.

Simulations by US scientists show how the movement of wind could have opened up a land bridge at one location.

This would have enabled people to walk across exposed mud flats to safety.

The results are published in the open-access journal Plos One. Read more