FaithWorld

from John Lloyd:

A church divided against itself cannot stand

The Church of England voted not to ordain female bishops last week, a move widely seen as defying the modern world. Much justification was given for this view.

Both the retiring and the incoming archbishops of Canterbury deplored the vote. The former, the scholarly (and “greatly saddened”) Rowan Williams, said, “It seems as if we are willfully blind to some of the trends and priorities of … wider society.” The incoming Justin Welby took a more upbeat view, one appropriate for a former senior oil executive. “There is a lot to be done,” he said, “but I am absolutely confident that at some point I will consecrate a woman bishop.” Still, Welby conceded that the vote was “a pretty grim day for the whole church.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron, pausing in the midst of his battle to reduce European Union spending, snapped that the church needed to “get with the program” and that his task was, while respecting its autonomy, to give it a “sharp prod.” A succession of clergy, men and women, lamented the decision, some crying demonstratively on the street outside the hall where the synod – the church’s parliament – met.

The “victors” were a minority who scraped together a little more than the one-third of votes needed under the gathering’s constitution to block the change. The bishops and the clergy in the Synod voted overwhelmingly for gender equality, but the conservatives, the evangelicals and the Anglo-Catholics were stronger among the laity and “won.”

Immediately afterward, Ben Bradshaw, a former Labor Culture Secretary, said in the House of Commons that since the church “is established and answerable to Parliament,” that body should debate the question of whether it could remain exempt from equality legislation, which if applied would render its decision on women bishops illegal.

Kate Middleton confirmed ahead of royal wedding

(Kate Middleton, fiancee of Britain's Prince William, reacts to the crowd during a visit Witton Country Park in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011. A large crowd of well-wishers braved a downpour in northern England on Monday to cheer Prince William and Kate Middleton as they took part in their final official engagement before their wedding. REUTERS/Alastair Grant/Poo)

(Kate Middleton, fiancee of Britain's Prince William, during a visit Witton Country Park in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011/Alastair Grant)

Royal bride-to-be Kate Middleton has been confirmed into the Church of England ahead of her wedding to Prince William this month, his office said on Wednesday. The ceremony, carried out by the Bishop of London Richard Chartres who will give the address at the April 29th wedding, took place on March 10 with Middleton, 29, accompanied by her future husband, a spokeswoman for St James’s Palace said.

“Catherine Middleton was confirmed by the Bishop of London at a private service at St James’s Palace attended by her family and Prince William,” the spokeswoman said. “Miss Middleton, who was already baptised, decided to be confirmed as part of her marriage preparations.”

UK to allow same-sex marriage in church – reports

samesex

(Bride and groom figurines on wedding cakes at Cake and Art bakery in West Hollywood, California June 4, 2008/Mario Anzuoni)

Britain plans to allow same-sex unions to be celebrated in places of worship, removing a key legal distinction between homosexual civil partnerships and heterosexual marriage, newspapers reported on Sunday. The move would lift the ban on religious ceremonies for the registration of gay unions imposed when Britain legalised civil partnerships six years ago.

The government may also propose scrapping the legal definition of marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman, allowing gay men and women to call their partners husbands or wives, the Sunday Times said. Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone will launch a consultation on the issue next week, the Sunday Telegraph said.

Church of England to wash some Bible imagery from baptism rite

baptism 1

(Sistine Chapel fresco The Baptism of Christ c. 1482 by Pietro Perugino)

The Church of England has voted to use more accessible language during baptisms to help it connect better with congregations, especially non church-goers.  Members attending the Church’s General Synod, or parliament, in London, agreed that the Liturgical Commission should provide supplementary material to help prevent the eyes of  worshippers “glazing over” during important parts of the service.

The Reverend Tim Stratford, from Liverpool, said on Wednesday his motion was “not a request for christenings without Christianity.” Quite the opposite.  “I am not asking for the language of Steven Gerrard,” he said, referring to the Liverpool and England  soccer star. “Just references that could be understood by the majority.”

Parts of the service were difficult to use “without seeming inappropriately schoolmaster-like”, he said.  Stratford said he did not disagree with the words currently being used, such as “I turn to Christ, I repent of my sins, and I renounce evil.”

New Catholic subdivision for ex-Anglicans will not be a ghetto

anglicans (Photo: Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, (C REAR) follows former Anglican bishops (L-R) John Broadhurst, Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton after their ordination as Roman Catholic priests at Westminster Cathedral in central London, January 15, 2011/Andrew Winning)

The new Roman Catholic Church body set up to house disaffected Anglicans would not become a ghetto within the Church, the priest appointed to lead the group said on Monday. The ordinariate, a special subdivision in the Church created by the Vatican to allow the converts to retain some of their Anglican customs, would also seek to evangelise while maintaining good relations with Anglicans, the former Church of England bishop Keith Newton told reporters.

The ordinariate, announced by Pope Benedict in 2009, allows those Anglicans opposed to women bishops, gay clergy and same-sex blessings to convert to Rome while keeping many of their traditions. Newton said there was a danger that people would think of it as an ex-Anglican ghetto within the Catholic Church, but “we want to make clear it is not.”

“There are no second-class Catholics,” he added.

Newton, who will be the ordinary or leader of the ordinariate, was ordained into the Catholic Church on Saturday along with two other former Church of England bishops, John Broadhurst and Andrew Burnham.

Catholic Church launches ordinariate for Anglicans in January

benedict and williams (Photo: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (L) and Pope Benedict in London September 17, 2010/Stefan Wermuth)

The Roman Catholic Church will launch its first ordinariate for disaffected Anglicans in England and Wales in January and take in bishops, priests and laity over the following months, the Church announced on Friday.

Five traditionalist Church of England bishops have applied to join the ordinariate, a Church subdivision retaining some Anglican traditions, and about 30 groups of parishioners are due to cross over, Church leaders told journalists.

It was not clear how many priests would convert in the move, prompted by traditionalist opposition to Church of England plans to ordain women bishops. Married Anglican priests will be accepted but married bishops cannot retain their higher status.

First group of Anglican bishops to convert to Rome

williams benedict (Photo:  Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict celebrate evening prayer at Westminster Abbey in London September 17, 2010/Richard Pohle)

Five Church of England bishops opposed to the ordination of women bishops will take up an offer by Pope Benedict and convert to Roman Catholicism, heralding a possible exodus of traditionalist Anglicans.

The bishops will enter full communion with Rome through an ordinariate, a body proposed by the pope last October to let traditionalists convert while keeping some Anglican traditions, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales announced.

The ordinariate will let married clerics become Catholic priests, in an exception to the Vatican’s celibacy rule, but not bishops. Married Anglican bishops who convert may be granted a special status almost equivalent to their former rank.

Guestview: Will traditionalist Anglicans please make up their minds?

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Abigail Frymann is Online Editor of The Tablet, where this comment first appeared.

canterburyBy Abigail Frymann

A few hundred traditionalist Anglicans gathered in a charismatic church in London recently, a curious collection of dour-looking fellows who describe themselves with words like “pioneer” and “risk” – and heard that a breakaway group within the Church of England for clergy who don’t like the thought of women bishops was to be established. Somehow this is different from Forward in Faith, which already exists, and different again from the Ordinariate offered them by Pope Benedict XVI last autumn, which would require a leap into the Catholic Church. At first this seemed like a warm-up room for would-be leap-ers. Yet as soon as the new group, the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda, was announced, some senior traditionalists were nay-saying on their blogs that it wouldn’t and couldn’t work. (Photo: Canterbury Cathedral, December 23, 2009/Suzanne Plunkett)

Let me confess that I am an Anglican, though not a terribly high one. Traditionalist clergy say their communion with the rest of the Church of England is impaired because most Church of England bishops are prepared to ordain women. Women’s ordination has become a central issue. But among the ranks of those who oppose women’s ordination are those who would turn a blind eye to issues other parts of the Church would rightly or wrongly say are deal-breakers – gay civil partnerships for priests, for example. Devout women clergy argue that gay activity is prohibited in Scripture, whereas the case isn’t as clear regards women leaders. Traditionalist priests argue that female leadership is outlawed in scripture but these days the case isn’t clear as regards consenting long-term gay relationships. Either it’s not the end of the world (or the Church), or not everyone is one hundred per cent right, or God’s graciously holding it all together anyway.

Anglican gay bishops are okay if celibate, Archbishop Rowan Williams says

williamsThe spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Rowan Williams, backed gay people becoming bishops on Saturday as long as they remain celibate, risking more divisions within the Church on the issue.

Making one of the most explicit statements he has made on the subject, the head of the Church of England told The Times that he had “no problem” with their consecration. But he would not endorse gay clergy in active relationships because of tradition and historical “standards” that require celibacy, he said in the interview. (Photo: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, February 11, 2009/Kieran Doherty)

He said he had to decide against endorsing gay relationships for clergy and bishops because “the cost to the Church overall was too great to be borne at that point.”

from The Great Debate UK:

Pragmatism beats idealism in fight for women bishops

- Reverend Dr. Miranda Threlfall-Holmes is Chaplain and Solway Fellow of University College, Durham. The opinions expressed are her own. -

The Church of England’s governing body, General Synod, has over the past few days given the green light to women bishops once again.

Now each diocese in the Church of England will discuss the proposed legislation, and a final vote is expected to take place in two years time. If all goes to plan, the first woman bishop in the Church of England could be consecrated in early 2014.