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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Living with Diversity


From left to right: The Rt Revd Gregory Cameron (Bishop of St Asaph); The Rt Revd Rachel Treweek (Bishop of Gloucester);
The Revd Canon Jeffrey Gainer (Chairman, Credo Cymru) The Rt Revd Philip North (Bishop of Burnley); The Rt Revd Jonathan Goodall
(Bishop of Ebbsfleet) and The Most Revd Barry Morgan (Archbishop of Wales). Source: Credo Cymru


'The English Experience of Living with Diversity' was the title of an address given by the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Rev'd Rachel Treweek, to the Credo Cymru conference held in Cardiff on 21-22 September under the heading 'That Nothing Be Lost: A Conference to Preserve the Breadth of Welsh Anglicanism'. 

Book ending participants in the above photograph are the Bishop of St Asaph and the Archbishop of Wales who chose not to live with diversity when the Governing Body of the Church in Wales agreed that women could be made bishops in Wales. In consequence many devout Christians have since left the Church in Wales with catastrophic effects on attendance figures and consequent finances. For those who have remained in hope, the current dialogue represents the best opportunity for something to be salvaged from a Code of Practice which not only lacks charity but smacks of vindictiveness.

In his address the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Rev'd Jonathan Goodall, quoted the then Archbishop of Canterbury replying to a Church of England debate on the same subject. Abp Rowan Williams said,

‘People have talked at times about differences of opinion and how the Church
can live with differences of opinion. I think that the problem is for those who
are not content with the idea that we should go forward along the line of
ordaining women as bishops, the problem is not one of opinion, it’s rather of
obedience. It’s one of obedience to scripture, or obedience to the consensus of
the Church Catholic. And, while that’s not a view I wholly share, I think we
ought to recognise that that’s where it comes from, that those who hold that are
not just thinking this is a matter of opinion, and therefore it is rightly and
understandably a lot harder to deal with dissent if you’re talking what
fundamentally comes down to a question of whether you obey God or human
authority. That’s why it’s serious, that’s why it's difficult. More than opinion.’

The Credo Cymru Media Release (here) quotes the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Rev'd Gregory Cameron, asking ‘hard questions’ in his keynote address:

 Did the Church in Wales really mean what it said in the canon enabling women to be bishops – that traditionalists should be given ‘a sense of security in their accepted and valued place within the Church in Wales’? Did traditionalists really want to be in communion with the Bench of Bishops? He thought it ‘very, very unlikely’ that the Church in Wales would establish any form of supplemental episcopal ministry, but recognized that traditionalists needed a corporate life. He encouraged them to explore ‘double belonging’: loyal both to the fellowship of their diocese (with canonical obedience to the diocesan bishop) and to their own (non-political) fellowship (with ‘affective loyalty’ to a bishop, whose friendship, trust and relationships with the Bench of Bishops would be crucial).

Obedience is the key. Conscience, or, as Abp Rowan put it, the problem of 'obedience' rather than 'opinion', whether you obey God or human authority. This cannot simply be superseded by loyalty to "the fellowship of their diocese (with canonical obedience to the diocesan bishop)". There has to be give and take on both sides, 'transformation of conflict' as Bishop Rachel Treweek succinctly put it. 

I have heard differing interpretations of what Bishop Gregory said, some more cynical than others. In my view it would have been the height of cruelty for the bishops of the Church in Wales to enter into discussions offering no hope. If 'double belonging' means anything it must surely mean living with diversity, something that the Anglican Communion is well accustomed to as a broad church. 

On 23 September the Church Times published an article under the headline‘Your Grace’ receives farewell tributes. The report was followed by another, 'Traditionalists try to build bridges', referring to the Credo Cymru conference. It reminded readers of the final straw for many of the only significant minority not to be favoured by the current Archbishop - closing the door to any meaningful pastoral and sacramental integrity: "Any attempt to approach another bishop elsewhere to provide episcopal ministry would have 'very serious implications' ", a threat one hopes is regretted if the Church in Wales is to live with diversity.

In the absence of a separate structure for Wales along the lines of the Church of England model, the simplest way forward is for visiting bishops from The Society to provide an additional episcopal ministry, the ‘double belonging’ as Bishop Gregory put it, for mutual flourishing.

Update [28.09.2016]

Two further papers delivered at the "That Nothing Be Lost" Conference last week have been added to those previously posted (here).

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Call to Persevere


The bishops of St Asaph, St Davids, Monmouth, Llandaff (Abp), Swansea & Brecon and Bangor.
 Credit: South Wales Argus


The Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of the Church in Wales to "all the faithful" concerning admission to Holy Communion of all the baptised "by virtue of their Baptism alone" has been published on the Diocese of St Davids web site. It can be read here. Its contents remained secret until it was introduced at the recent meeting of the Governing Body (GB) of the Church in Wales raising some suspicion that another round of duplicity might be expected from the Bench of Bishops.

Fine details have yet to emerge but whatever one's views on the subject one thing is clear, the Bench of Bishops has been inconsistent. They hark back to history and tradition to support their case in this instance while scripture and tradition have been confined to the bin on just about every other matter under Archbishop Barry Morgan's guidance.

Dr Morgan's final GB Presidential Address provided an excellent opportunity to sum up the current state of the Church in Wales as he prepares for his retirement as the longest serving primate in the Anglican Communion. That, instead, he chose to bend Holy Scripture to support his views on the divisive issue of same sex marriage rather than address the decline in membership of the church under his leadership suggests that his political agenda always takes precedence over the spiritual well-being of his flock.

Rumour has it that Dr Morgan wants one more liberal feather in his hat before he retires in January, the appointment of the first woman bishop in Wales. The diocese of St Davids will become vacant when Bishop Wyn Evans retires in October. Originally a monastic community founded c. AD 589 by Saint David, the Patron saint of Wales, St Davids has been a centre of pilgrimage since the Cathedral was built the 12th century. The shrine was regarded as so important that it was decreed that two pilgrimages to St Davids were equivalent to one to Rome, three were equivalent to one to Jerusalem. St Davids remains an important centre of pilgrimage to this day.

When David died in the year 589 the monastery is said to have been 'filled with angels as Christ received his soul'.  St David's final words to his followers were: 'Be Joyful.  Keep the Faith.  Do the little things that you have heard and seen me do.'

If a political gesture is allowed to take precedence over faith in the appointment to the See of St Davids it will be the final nail in the coffin for the faithful.

A Call to Persevere

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Self inflicted pain


The UK’s first LGBTQIA+ chaplaincy has been officially launched by the Bishop of St Asaph.                                                      Source: Church in Wales


Almost one third of the Church of England's General Synod members has signed a letter urging the Church to make an "unequivocal declaration" in support of congregation members who identify as LGBT:

"We are keen that the College of Bishops is unequivocal in its acknowledgement that all, including those who identify as LGBTI, are essential to the health and future of our church and mission to the wider world." Synod member and LGBT activist Jayne Ozanne said: "I think our bishops are aware of the strength of feeling on the need to be seen as a church for all. I do believe they know they can't fudge this any longer. It's time for them to give a clear and unequivocal embrace to a community that is hurting [my emphasis - Ed.]." - From Christian Concern. Text of the letter and signatories here.

One of the signatories is the Revd Dr Rowan Williams, not the Rt Rev and Rt Hon the Lord Williams of Oystermouth but one of the Chaplains in the Diocese of York. While the Church in Wales has become accustomed to chaplains waving the rainbow flag, refreshingly there is no reference on the York Chaplaincy page to the LGBT community, presumably taking the line that if we are all the same there is no need for positive discrimination.

The position is reversed in Wales. The Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron, a former Chaplain to Archbishop Rowan Williams, has officially launched the UK’s first LGBTQIA+ chaplaincy which is to be led by the Revd Sarah Hildreth-Osborn.

According to the St Asaph web site, the Chaplaincy exists because "the Christian faith has something to offer everyone including LGBTQIA+ people". True but it goes on to allege that because the Church has "caused such hurt" [my emphasis - Ed.] to the LGBTQIA+ Community over many years "we now need to create safe, sacred space, welcome them among us and allow LGBTQIA+people to be who they are, wonderfully created in the image of God and loved just as much as anyone else!"

The promotional material states the objectives of the LGBTQIA+ chaplaincy which are to:

  • Create safe, sacred space where LGBTQIA+ people can worship and share their stories
  • Engender a sense of welcome and acceptance of LGBTQIA+ people across the Diocese
  • Offer support to parishes who want to explore the creation of ministry specifically to the LGBTQIA+ Community
  • Provide support to Clergy and a listening ear in matters which involve LGBTQIA+ people
  • Initiate retreats and quiet days for members of the LGBTQIA+ Community and allies
  • Raise awareness among secular groups and organisations e.g Young Peoples LGBTQIA+ Groups and Social Services of the existence of the Chaplaincy
  • Work with existing Chaplaincies e.g. Coleg Cambrian Chaplaincy
  • Liaise with Changing Attitude Cymru
  • Become a continued presence within the Diocese and to be supportive in all that the Diocese is seeking to do in bringing the Gospel to all of God’s people
  • The Chaplain to undertake training and networking with others involved in this ministry

Against such a list one wonders how Ms Hildreth-Osborn landed the job (I use the word advisedly) of Vicar of Llanrwst but the truth is that there is no impediment.

We are led to believe that gays and lesbians in the Church in Wales are an oppressed minority despite their representation in the clergy from bottom to top. The LGBT community are not only very well represented, some would say disproportionately, but they are becoming increasingly vocal in their demands. Any pain they feel is self inflicted. Many of us campaigned for civil partnerships only to see ourselves branded as bigots and homophobes simply because we defend the sanctity of marriage.

Compare the Church in Wales bishops' promotion of the LGBT agenda and their support for 'women in the church' with their oppression of traditional Christians who simply want to worship God according to scripture and tradition following the example of Jesus Christ.

MAECymru – supporting women in the Church in Wales - is also promoted on the St Asaph web site. The application form requires applicants to assert "I support diversity and equality in the Church in Wales". Pray that the bishops of the Church in Wales also support diversity and equality as the Archbishop and Bishop Gregory prepare to attend the Conference to preserve the breadth of Anglicanism in Wales.

Postscript [14.09.2016]

Archbishop of Wales uses final Governing Body address to focus on same-sex relationships.

Archbishop Barry Morgan has used his final address to the Church in Wales’ governing body to argue that Christians can change their stance on homosexuality without abandoning their commitment to the Bible. See reports here and here, and here  and here for a more critical appraisals. He forcefully denied that the Church’s bishops had "ignored the Bible and were swayed by the liberal culture of our age".

As the Archdeacon of Cardigan William Strange put it, "I am sorry that the Archbishop has chosen as the subject of his final address a topic he has spoken on many times before, and on which his views are already well known. I would have welcomed something new on a less well-worn theme".

Women priests, women bishops, homosexuals and same sex marriage in a collapsing church. And ++Barry believes we have been waiting 2,000 years to have the Bible clarified by him. A sad end to a sad episcopacy.

Postscript [15.09.2016]

@PeterOuld - Looks like Barry Morgan made an excellent argument yesterday for the @ChurchinWales to bless polygamy and incest.
https://twitter.com/PeterOuld

There's more on Twitter:
Christians who have supported slavery did so *against* the clear teaching in the NT against it. Barry Morgan's speech today bad theology.

Postscript [16.09.2016]

A Response to the Archbishop of Wales’ Defense of Same-Sex Relationships from 'Bible and Mission' (H/T Anglican Mainstream):

"The Archbishop’s logic might suggest that, because Scripture offers different perspectives on certain other issues, it therefore must have different perspectives on adultery, or bestiality, or incest.  As it happens, Scripture uniformly condemns all these as well as homosexual acts." In full here.

Postscript [17.09.2016]

"We ‘have evolved’ from the Bible’s teaching on divorce, why not gay ‘marriage’?" - Archbishop of Wales speaking at the Governing Body in April 2014:

"Holy Scripture itself is far more nuanced, subtle and complex than we often realize...We cannot just quote Biblical texts on different subject matters and think that that settles an issue [my emphasis - Ed.]. It is easy to opt for prohibitions in Scripture and regard them as the word of the Lord and forget that the Bible contains stories which also convey God’s word to us. Jesus, he added, 'had nothing to say about gay marriage' as the archbishop counseled homosexuals to be patient with regard to the Anglican Church’s attitude towards homosexuality".

The speech was taken as 'encouragement' by homosexual activists. Average weekly attendance dropped 5% between 2014 and 2015.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Church in Wales attendance down 5% 2014-2015


Source: The Church in Wales Membership and Finances 2015


The average Sunday attendance of worshippers over 18 in the Church in Wales dropped another 5% between 2014 and 2015 according to the latest figures published in The Church in Wales Membership and Finances 2015. That represents just 0.9% of the population of Wales.

British Religion in Numbers (BRIN) puts the problem of declining numbers into perspective. In 2004 the Over 18 average attendance on Sundays was 41,771 making the 2015 figure of 29,019 all the more startling, a fall of 12,752 on the 2004 figure (-31%), but the Church in Wales simply carries on regardless continuing its "Gadarene slide" as VirtueOnline puts it in Viewpoints.

Attempts to bolster numbers by adding 'Non-traditional Acts of Worship' such as Animal blessings, Café churches, Teenscreen clubs and Interfaith engagement have served only to emphasis the decline: "Overall, it would seem that just over 30,000 people in total participate in some form of nontraditional worship, compared with 36,000 in 2014".

The Membership and Finance Report (pdf) is way down the Agenda at item 19 for the next meeting of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales to be held 14 - 15 September 2016. There will be a Motion: That the Governing Body do take note of this report.

Given the seriousness of the situation one would have thought that 'taking note' of the Report is somewhat short of the mark but with "Evangelism" coming last on the agenda it puts the current state of the Church in Wales in context. 

The Report follows "Admission to Holy Communion – Pastoral Letter " [item 18]. There is no clue as to what surprises the bishops have in store in their Pastoral Letter which is to be "distributed at the time", a device favoured by the bench sitters to avoid anyone with an enquiring mind being forewarned.

This is reminiscent of the same sex marriage manoeuvring and of the women bishops saga which provided a worthless code of practice for anyone who holds their faith in conscience making the forthcoming Conference to "preserve the breadth of Anglicanism in Wales" all the more confusing. Dr Morgan has remained true to his word that there would be alternative Episcopal oversight in Wales 'over his dead body'. He retires as Archbishop of Wales in January 2017 so is there to be new life? Simply to carry on as before would make nonsense of the conference.

The un-Christian Jackson/Wigley Amendment to the women bishops legislation established that unlike other Anglican provinces 'provisions for conscience should not be included in the body of  formal legislation' and that 'legislation should not include structural provision to accommodate dissent' thus removing the prospect of any meaningful sacramental and pastoral provision for church members who in conscience could not accept the ministry of women bishops.

It would be absurd to have a male assistant to a woman bishop on whose authority he would act so given that there will be no "structural provision to accommodate dissent" in Wales the way forward must be to allow Society bishops to minister in Wales. The Welsh bishops have already invited US women bishops to celebrate the Eucharist in the Church in Wales and I see from Item 20 on the GB agenda, "Evangelism – Report from the Evangelism Conference", that Bishop Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, was able to lead 2 key sessions. To refuse loyal Anglicans access to Society bishops would not just be uncharitable, it would be hypocritical.

As the Church in Wales continues to decline in numbers the Ordinariate is increasing and is gaining more priests. In this month's edition of New Directions, the Chairman of Credo Cymru (FiF Wales) quotes the previous Archbishop of Wales Rowan Williams who stressed the value of promoting internal ecumenism. By allowing bishops from outside Wales to minister to 'traditionalists' the bench would regain some much needed credibility and provide a reason for worshippers to remain in the Church in Wales.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Let me tell you


Upside down world


Last night my wife and I settled down in front of the television to enjoy an evening at the Proms. We were in for a shock. The second item was Hans Abrahamsen’s Let me tell you, written specially for the soprano, Barbara Hannigan. She was in good voice with clear diction so we concluded that Ms Hannigan was actually singing gibberish in tune with political and religious life today.

Most of the utterances of politicians and senior church people sound like gibberish to those of us who recall days when there was a sense of order and progression rather than regression. Can it be any surprise then that those of much riper years feel that the world has been turned upside down. Politics and religion are not what they were. Minorities rule.

In past decades 'Statesman' was a part of our vocabulary, used to describe a skilled, experienced, and respected political leader or figure. It has become redundant, even archaic. But how many political and religious leaders or figures are worthy of respect when the traditional values we hold dear have been turned upside down, either to court public favour or to justify a particular lifestyle?

The allegations of a double life led by Keith Vaz MP is the latest in a string of scandals to hit the political elite in Parliament and another blow for Mr Vaz who, according to a Telegraph article published in 2009, "claimed more than £75,500 in expenses for a flat in Westminster despite his family home being a £1.15 million house just 12 miles from parliament"!

Sadly there is seldom any sense of shame in politics. Let me tell you has become the motto in public life. When David Cameron's luck ran out following his promised Brexit referendum in which the government substituted scaremongering and threats for facts, he didn't hesitate to reward his chums with honours for their failure and award disproportionate pay rises to his advisers.

We should be able to expect better from the church, particularly the Established Church of England but the same thumbs to the nose is in evidence. Encouraged by the success of WATCH in ignoring scripture and tradition the LGBT agenda is in full flow. Following the 'revelation' that the Bishop of Grantham is living in a gay relationship, a letter quickly appears from fourteen Church of England clergy in same-sex marriages calling on bishops to do more to include gay people in the life of the Church.

If gay people are not already included in the life of the church why are there so many gay clergy? They are included. What they really mean is included on their own terms to legitimise same sex marriage in church.

The Let me tell you attitude is about 'me' rather than 'you'. It has seen the meaning of inclusion, equality, love and respect so perverted that their true meaning is no longer acceptable, bringing charges of misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia and the rest. Which brings me to transgender restrooms, the height of stupidity which puts minority 'rights' above the safety of women and children. It sums up the Let me tell you philosophy.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Two sides of the coin




"During his time as archbishop, Dr Morgan has championed many changes in the Church in Wales, including a change in its law to enable women to be ordained as bishops.
He also apologised "unreservedly" to gay couples for prejudice in the church." BBC Report


Such comments are the highlights of many fulsome reports of the impending retirement in January 2017 of the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, all written from a secular viewpoint including the announcement on the Church in Wales website:

"Dr Morgan, who is the longest serving archbishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion and also one of the longest serving bishops, will retire on his 70th birthday at the end of January. He will also retire as Bishop of Llandaff after more than 17 years service, having previously been Bishop of Bangor for nearly seven years....During his tenure as Archbishop, Dr Morgan has championed many changes in the Church in Wales, including a change in its law to enable women to be ordained as bishops and the implementation of a radical strategy, 2020 Vision, to help the church grow and prosper in the approach to its centenary year.  He has also played a prominent role in public life, campaigning most notably for a fair devolution settlement for the Welsh Government and speaking out on matters of moral concern."

Reading some of the tributes, "the Archbishop of Canterbury described Dr Morgan as an 'extraordinary servant' who would be 'deeply missed' while the First Minister of Wales praised his 'vast contribution' to Welsh life" and "Wales’ senior bishop, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, praised his 'courageous leadership' of the Church in Wales", the casual observer is left in ignorance of the decline to near extinction of the Church in Wales under Dr Morgan's 'leadership'. 

You can read a more balanced view of the Archbishop's secular agenda during his time in office in VirtueOnline Viewpoints from which I quote:

Morgan is among the most revisionist of Western archbishops in the Anglican Communion, whose only legacy was changing a law enabling women to be ordained as bishops and then apologizing "unreservedly" to gay couples for prejudice in the church. Under his tutelage, there was no evangelical revival and churches continue to wilt and die.

In Sept, 2014, I wrote about the The Washed up World of the Anglican Church of Wales and noted that Morgan said that he would resist the founding of another province with every fiber of his body. He was, of course, alluding to the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). He made this statement at the 2009 Virginia Annual Council.

Well, his body might need new fibers because his Church might not be around for very much longer at the present rate of decline.

According to the latest statistics (2013), the Anglican Church in Wales shows Average Sunday Attendance (over 18) of just a little over 31,000 and under 18 of just a few over 6,000. That's a drop of some 1,728 persons (over and under age 18) from 2012. The Church is not attracting Millennials.

The trend for the future will be much the same as the past as there are no green shoots of renewal extant in the province, a source told VOL. Wales is the former ecclesiastical home of the less than notable, Dr. Rowan Williams.

Dr Virtue also writes:

As the Episcopal Church sinks slowly into the sunset, with millions of dollars in Trust Funds, valuable properties worth millions of dollars strategically located in large cities and a healthy Church Pension Fund, the other side of the coin is that its pulpits will lose several thousand priests and close more than 1500 churches over the next six years.

The Episcopal Church will see a drop of more than 2,000 full time parish priests in the next half dozen years, as retirement numbers increase geometrically, with a likely decrease of ordinands going into the ministry, Church statistics reveal.

This translates into the number of full time priests being reduced by 65% - 75% of total congregations in the denomination. These numbers are from 2014, the last year reported in some cases. Indications are that the situation is probably worse now in 2016. The average age of an Episcopal priest is 59 (or the mean - half older, half younger) there is a tsunami of retirements headed their way in the next 5-10 years with no possible way of filling pulpits with new ordinands.

For all its efforts to double the Church by 2020 and TREC, an attempt to reimagine the Church, nothing, it seems, is working. The church continues on its Gadarene slide.

That Dr Morgan should have chosen the oceanographer and Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church (TEC), Katharine Jefferts Schori as his guiding light says it all.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Christ the Redeemer mimics Muslim icon


Source: Twitter #Rio2016

My 'In tray' this morning contained a recommended tweet, #Rio2016. Above is the lead 'photo'.

'Christ the Redeemer' is, for some, "the ultimate religious symbol", for others, an "irresistible tourist attraction". Read about the construction of this modern wonder of the world here

As celebrity cults continue to be pumped out by the media with the BBC frequently taking the lead, questions have been asked about why the BBC 'ignores Olympian Usain Bolt's commitment to Christ': "Usain Bolt is a Bible-believing, God-honoring, Jesus-worshipping Christian. But not a whisper from the BBC; not a word of explanation of the real significance of these 'moments to himself.'"

By contrast Mo Fara's Muslim prayers on the track are a constant reminder of his faith before displaying his characteristic 'M' symbol on his head.

Many interpretations will be applied to the changed Rio image of Christ, all detracting from the primary image of Christ the Redeemer but few today will care if Christians are offended by it.

The Olympic movement strives to strengthen its ideals by condemning the Egyptian judo star who refused to shake hands with his Israeli opponent after being beaten and there was widespread praise for the Olympic spirit when New Zealand and American runners helped each other during their race after collision.

If the BBC and the rest of the media displayed similar standards Christians would have less cause for concern.