06/22/17

Archbishop: Church of England ‘colluded’ to hide sex abuse

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The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby listens to debate at the General Synod in London on Feb. 13, 2017.

By Sylvia Hui

The Church of England “colluded” with and helped to hide the long-term sexual abuse of young men by one of its former bishops, the head of the church said Thursday.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby apologized to the victims of ex-bishop Peter Ball as his church published a damning report that detailed how senior leaders did little about allegations against Ball over years and even appeared to cover up the case.

Welby ordered the independent report after Ball was convicted and imprisoned in 2015 for misconduct in public office and indecent assaults against teenagers and young men from the 1970s to 1990s. Ball, who admitted to abusing 18 young men, was released after serving 16 months.

The report said Ball’s conduct “caused serious and enduring damage to the lives of many men,” but at the time the church trivialized it, partly because of a lack of understanding about safeguarding vulnerable adult men.

Some victims reported that Ball, 85, encouraged them to engage in “spiritual exercises” involving naked praying and cold showers. One of his victims, Neil Todd, later took his own life.

“The church, at its most senior levels and over many years, supported him unwisely and displayed little care for his victims,” the report said.

Ball was arrested in 1992 for suspected indecent assault and given a police caution. He retired as bishop of Gloucester, but was allowed to continue work in churches and schools for years. He was not prosecuted until two decades later.

The report said George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, believed Ball to be “basically innocent” and played a lead role in enabling Ball’s return to ministry.

Carey and other church leaders also appeared to try to cover up the problem when they failed to pass on letters that raised concerns about Ball to police, the report said.

The church said Thursday that Welby has asked Carey to “consider his position” as an honorary assistant bishop in Oxford in light of the report.

Describing the report as “harrowing reading,” Welby said: “The church colluded and concealed rather than seeking to help those who were brave enough to come forward.”

“This is inexcusable and shocking behavior,” he said, adding that while most of what happened took place years ago “we can never be complacent, we must learn lessons.”

Vickery House, a retired Anglican priest who worked under Ball, was sentenced in 2015 to 6 ½ years in prison for sex attacks on teenagers and young men in the 1970s and ’80s.

Last year the church published a review that said senior clergymen were reportedly told of an unnamed priest’s alleged abuse of a young man, but the victim’s repeated attempts to get help and justice didn’t get anywhere.

The Anglican and Catholic churches are among institutions being investigated in a wide-ranging British probe into child sex abuse after it emerged that entertainers, clergy, senior politicians and others were implicated in decades-old abuse.

Complete Article HERE!

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06/8/17

Church of Scotland just voted to allow same-sex marriage

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The Scottish Episcopal Church has become the first Anglican church in the UK to approve same-sex marriage.

by Lewis Corner

The Bishops, Clergy and Laity in the House of Synod all voted in favour to marry gay and lesbian couples in their churches.

The decisive vote saw the House of Bishops vote 4-1 in favour, the House of Clergy 42-20 in favour, and the House of Laity 50-12 in favour.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Scotland since December 2014, but an exemption in the law meant that individual churches were able to choose whether or not they wanted to perform such unions.

However, gay Christian couples will now be able to get married in a church in Scotland if they chose to do so.

The Church of Scotland’s decision comes after the Church of England released a report back in January that upheld their view that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

They added that there was still “little support for changing the Church of England’s teaching on marriage.”

However, the church’s democratic governing body rejected a call for continued opposition to same-sex marriage in February.

It meant that the Bishops have had to go away and produce a brand new report on the issue.

Hopefully the progress in Scotland will steer them in the right direction…

Complete Article HERE!

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04/30/17

First married gay vicar quits as minister in ‘institutionally homophobic’ Church of England

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Father Andrew Foreshew-Cain says he was told he would not find a new parish outside London because he is married to another man

Andrew Foreshew-Cain, right, and his husband Stephen, left

By Rachel Roberts

An Anglican vicar who became the first in Britain to marry his same-sex partner has announced he is quitting as a minister in the “institutionally homophobic” Church of England.

Father Andrew Foreshew-Cain, a member of the ruling General Synod, is leaving his church in north London to move to the Peak District with husband Stephen, but will not seek another parish as he said he was told he wouldn’t be given one.

“I’m resigning my parishes and won’t be a licenced minister anymore and, because I’m married to Stephen, it was made clear to me that I wouldn’t get a licence for a new church,” he told The Independent.

“In the normal run of things, I’d be looking for a parish up north but I can’t have one because of the institutional homophobia of the Church of England.”

At 53, Father Foreshew-Cain agreed he was young to retire but said it had become “wearisome” to constantly fight prejudice.

Officially, the Church forbids same-sex marriage for its clergy, but his was “tolerated” in his north London parish in a way he said it would not be in many parts of the country.

Having worked in the Church for 30 years – 27 of them as a priest – he said his overriding feeling now was one of “relief” as he waits to conduct his final service at St Mary and All Souls in West Hampstead in July.

“The Church of England is an organisation which is primarily institutionally homophobic, which has policies and statements which are harmful to LGBTI people, and I’m looking forward to not being responsible to an organisation which treats gay and lesbian people quite as badly as it does,” he said.

He stressed he still had his faith and would carry on going to church. He hopes to remain a campaigning voice for greater equality in the Church.

“There is a kind of pressure in being paid by an organisation which just treats you so badly, and you just have to keep on taking it because that’s how you make a living,” he said.

“I don’t know any of my gay and lesbian friends who intend to stay in the Church until the end of their working lives.

“Most of us are supposed to go on until we’re 68, but all of the gay clergy seem to want to take early retirement … I think it’s wearisome, actually, to be constantly the focus for other people’s nastiness.”

The two men show off their rings at their wedding, which is not officially recognised by the Church of England

Father Foreshew-Cain said he had been told he can’t be a “true Christian” and be married to a man by a senior cleric.

But he stressed that, in contrast to some senior Anglicans, his own congregation had been “wonderful” and very supportive.

“The problem lies in a small sub-section of the Church which is profoundly nasty and homophobic and in a leadership which is institutionally homophobic and refuses to accept that it is,” he said.

He said that while there has undoubtedly been real progress in his three decades working for the Church, there remained some way to go before true equality was achieved.

“I don’t expect to be able to see all marriages being celebrated in Church of England parishes for a long time yet. Although I do think there will be thanksgiving services and celebrations for gay marriages, I don’t think it will be full equality.”

Father Foreshew-Cain said his final message for the Church would be that there are risks associated with failing to move with the times.

“It has to truly be the Church of England and not just the church for the minority of people within it, and that means welcoming LGBTI people – or it will eventually become an irrelevance.”

Complete Article HERE!

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02/17/17

The clergy has moved on. It’s the bishops who are out of touch

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Synod’s rejection of the same-sex marriage report shows the problem of having glorified administrators focused on unity at the head of the church

A delegate walks past protesters outside the General Synod at Church House in London on Wednesday. ‘The problem is the bishops themselves, tense with self-imposed anxiety.’

By

It rained in London on Wednesday afternoon. Then the sun came out. And so it was that when the General Synod of the Church of England met to discuss the acceptability of same-sex marriage, a huge rainbow appeared over Church House, Westminster. Even God, it seems, was making his feelings known on this one.

The bishops had produced a report after a three-year listening process. This itself was just another kicking-into-the-long-grass exercise. After all, who can refuse listening? So church reports that seek no change always call for another report and more listening. But had anybody heard anything useful? The report called for a “change of tone” towards LGBTI people – yes, they always do that, and always in the same patronising tone – but no change of doctrine. The bishops refused to budge on the question of same-sex couples getting married in church. And so the clergy of the C of E threw the report out, leaving the bishops angry and embarrassed.

Recalling the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel in the book of Genesis, Canon Simon Butler – gay, out and partnered – told synod: “I will not let go until you bless me.” Those of us wrestling for equal marriage will not stop until gay people are offered the church’s blessing. We bless battleships with missiles. But not the love between two people. And the problem here is not the clergy or the people in the pews. The problem is the bishops themselves, tense with self-imposed anxiety.

On the same day the report was being sunk by synod, a British Social Attitudes survey found that only 17% of Anglicans now believe that same-sex relationships are “always wrong”, the lowest level since 1983 when people started measuring these views. Back then, the figure was 50%. In the intervening years churchgoers, like the population in general, have dramatically changed their mind over homosexuality. And hurrah for that.

But don’t believe that this is all the church wants to talk about. In my parish, it’s a non-issue. We’ve had openly gay clergy ministering here and many gay people in the pews. While the bishops take themselves away to discuss fictional case studies involving problematic gay-related situations (NB don’t say problem gay people – that’s all part of the “change of tone” directive), we in the parish just get on with doing the stuff we’re supposed to. No, the problem is within the episcopate. They voted 43-1 for the report. And the one who voted against wasn’t some brave bishop registering dissent. It was the bishop of Coventry who couldn’t figure out how to work his voting console.

Such is the high degree of corporate responsibility the bishops feel, that even those sympathetic to same-sex marriage voted for a report that condemned it. Thus the bishop of Liverpool wrote: “For some, the sense of betrayal is particularly acute when applied to people like me, who have spoken of the need for change in the church. Where was I? What happened to my voice? How could I have been so weak as to stand with this document?”

The answer is always the same. The job of the bishops, the current lot insist, is to provide a “focus of unity”. That’s why when bishops retire, and are freed from the responsibility of keeping their dioceses together, they write letters to the papers saying how much they disagreed with what they used to have to support. The bishops tell themselves that they sacrifice their personal views for the greater good. And they ask us to feel their pain. Responsibility for the way in which this need for corporate double-speak has blunted the prophetic witness of the episcopate is squarely on the shoulders of the secretive process by which bishops are selected. It’s a process that promotes the same sort of people – glorified administrators who are good at “tone” and are not given to bursts of independent mindedness. None of which are qualities associated with the prophets of the Bible.

What Wednesday’s synod vote revealed was not only that the church continues to move in a progressive direction – though with the engine of a lawnmower and the brakes of an articulated lorry. It also demonstrated the widening gap between bishops and their clergy. The C of E works best at the local level. Head office is out of touch.

Complete Article HERE!

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02/15/17

Church of England in turmoil as synod rejects report on same sex relationships

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Clergy vote against report by 100 to 93 in blow to archbishop of Canterbury as he tries to chart course between apparently unreconcilable wings of church

A member of the St Anselm community at Lambeth Palace walks past activists from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement outside the General Synod at Church House in London.

By  

The Church of England has been plunged into fresh turmoil after its general assembly threw out a report on same sex relationships in a rebuff to bishops following almost three years of intense internal discussion and intractable divisions.

The C of E’s synod, meeting in London this week, voted on Thursday to effectively reject the report, which upholds traditional teaching that marriage is a lifelong union of a man and a woman.

Although there was a clear overall majority in favour of “taking note” of the report, it needed the support of all three houses – bishops, clergy and laity. The clergy narrowly voted against, by 100 votes to 93, meaning the motion was lost.

The de facto rejection of the report is a blow to the authority of Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, who pleaded with the synod to accept the report as “a basis for moving on, a good basis, a roadmap”.

Welby presides over the House of Bishops, which has met four times since internal discussion groups wound up last July to chart the way forward between two apparently unreconcilable wings of the church.

Responding to the vote, Graham James, bishop of Norwich, said: “I can guarantee that the House of Bishops will consider carefully and prayerfully all the contributions made in the debate today.”

He added: “We have listened to those who have spoken, and those others who have made contributions to us directly. Our ongoing discussions will be informed by what members of synod and the wider church have said as a result of this report.”

Acknowledging that the next steps were unclear, Pete Broadbent, bishop of Willesden, said: “In this debate, we haven’t even begun to find a place where we can coalesce…. More conversation is needed. We don’t yet know the next stage – nor yet when and whether we can bring any further report to synod.”

The issue has dominated the current four-day session of the synod, and has been the subject of bitter debate within the C of E – and the global Anglican communion – for decades. At the moment, gay clergy are forbidden from marrying or having sexual relationships, and same sex marriage services are prohibited in churches.

In a debate lasting more than two hours, about one in three members of the synod requested to speak from the packed floor of the auditorium. Many contributions included personal testimonies from lesbians and gay men.

Jayne Ozanne of Oxford accused the bishops of putting “political expediency ahead of principle”. Fearing a split, they had “chosen not to lead but to manage”.

Simon Butler of Southwark, an openly gay member of synod, said that “only when fracture comes can new possibilities emerge”, and quoted Genesis: “I will not let you go until you bless me.”

Lucy Gorman of York told the synod that “outside these walls, we are being heard as lacking in love”. No wonder, she added, that fewer young people were coming to church. “Why would people become part of a church that is seemingly homophobic?”

But those on the conservative wing of the church also expressed criticisms and some voted against the report. Andrea Minichiello-Williams of Chichester said: “All sexual expression outside a lifelong permanent union on one man and one woman is sinful.” Sexuality was a “first order issue”, one on which salvation depends. “That’s why it’s so important to speak clearly with regard to sexual sin.”

Paul Bayes, bishop of Liverpool, said: “I honour the anger and, indeed, fury, of the LGBTI community who see in this report hard stones when they looked for bread.” However, he urged the synod to back the report, saying its encouragement for clergy to exercise maximum freedom within existing doctrine “may carry us to places we have not previously gone”. The report, he said, “cannot, will not and should not mark the end of the road” on the issue.

Welby, the final speaker to be called, said “how we deal with profound disagreement… is the challenge we face”. The church needed to be “neither careless in our theology nor ignorant of the world around us”, he added.

Before the debate, both James and Broadbent, who led the bishops’ group which wrote the report, apologised to its critics. “It has not received a rapturous reception in all quarters, and I regret any pain or anger it may have caused. And if we’ve got the tone wrong, we are very sorry,” said James.

Broadbent acknowledged it was “a pretty conservative document”, adding: “I do want to apologise to those members of synod who found our report difficult, who didn’t recognise themselves in it, who had expected more from us than we actually delivered, for the tone of the report. On behalf of the House [of Bishops], and without being trite or trivial, I’m sorry.”

While upholding traditional doctrine on marriage, the report said teaching should be interpreted with “maximum freedom” for same sex couples and called for a “fresh tone and culture of welcome and support” for lesbians and gays while proposing no concrete change.

Following the vote, Ozanne, a leading gay rights campaigner on the synod, said: “I am thrilled that this report has been voted down. We now look forward to working together to build a church that is broad enough to accept the diversity of views that exist within it, courageous enough to address the deep divisions that exist between us and loving enough to accept each other as equal members of the body of Christ.”

Simon Sarmiento, chairman of LGBTI Mission, said: “I’m pleased the report was not accepted. I am sure the bishops will have learned a lesson from this experience which I know has been painful. I hope they will now consult widely and proceed wisely.”

Andrea Williams, from the conservative Christian Concern, said the report had tried “to straddle positions that cannot be reconciled”. She added: “This shouldn’t be read as a victory for the LGBT activists within the Church. The reason why this happened was because there was no clarity in which direction the church will go.”

LGBTI Christians and supporters of gay equality held a vigil outside Church House in Westminster, the venue for the synod, during the debate.

Complete Article HERE!

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