Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Avi Shlaim: Israel and Palestine

Robert Fisk has written a useful piece in the Independent about Israeli historical revisionism and a new book by Avi Shlaim due out on the 7th September called Israel and Palestine: Reflections, Revisions, Refutations (Verso).

"Let us now praise famous men and their fathers that begat them. The famous man – he should be much more famous – is the Israeli historian Avi Shlaim whose wonderful "reappraisals, revisions and refutations" is coming out in September under the simple title: Israel and Palestine.

But to Avi's father first. I hope I tell the story correctly – Avi will be after me if I don't – but he first came to Israel from Iraq with his parents in 1950 and they found themselves in miserable circumstances, at least compared with the life they had left behind. And Avi's dad would always tell him: "The Jews have prayed for a state of their own for many generations – but they prayed in vain. Did it have to happen in my lifetime?!"

But to Avi. He recalls arguing with the late Edward Said – and there is a titanic voice to be ever missed, irreplaceable is the only word – over the Oslo agreement. Here is what Avi writes: "In the years since 1993, I have often asked myself: who was right and who was wrong? When things were going well, when progress was being made, when Oslo II was signed, for example, I thought that I was right and that Edward was wrong.

"When the political process (between Israel and the Palestinians) stalled with the inevitable return to violence, I thought that Edward Said was right and I was wrong. From today's vantage point, 16 years on, it is indisputable that I was wrong and Edward Said was right in his analysis of the nature and limitations of the Oslo accord."

Not often today do we find historians who are this honest and this bleak and this able – for some reason, I think here of T S Eliot's essays – to express truth so simply. The point about Eliot, I suppose (and here I recall the words of Dr David Craig, one of my English lecturers at Lancaster), is that he was unanswerable and that when he wrote, you felt he could not but be correct. There are few today to whom that can be applied (George Antonius being long dead) but Avi has, as we scribes say, a way with words.

Upon which note, a "deviation" as the French would say. I was once asked to give a lecture at the Hilton Hotel in London and invited my regular taxi driver if he'd like to park and come to the talk. He did. And as I emerged into the downpour, there he was waiting with the passenger door open. So how, asked Fisk – waiting for grovelling flattery – did he enjoy my talk? "Well," my driver replied, "you certainly know how to string the words together, don't you?" Deflation of Fisk.

But Avi does know how to string the words together. Here he is, for example, deflating Benny Morris, one of his Israeli academic colleagues who – after immense and scholarly research which proved that the Palestinian Arabs fled Palestine not with promises of Arab victory but in terror of the Israelis – suddenly believed that the Palestinians had brought the catastrophe of the second intifada on themselves. "His post-conversion interpretation of history is old history with a vengeance. It is indistinguishable from the propaganda of the victors. He used to have the courage of his convictions. He now has the courage of his prejudices."


Avi's splendid assault on Alan Dershowitz – the Harvard academic who managed to destroy Norman Finkelstein's career at the lamentable DePaul University in Chicago – and the so-called Campus Watch in the United States are classics. "As its mission suggests," he writes of Campus Watch, "this organisation is incompatible with the core values of higher education such as tolerance, free speech, and the dignity of difference."

Bang. There you have it. That last phrase – "the dignity of difference" – is the killer-takes-all. What does it say on Dean Swift's epitaph in Dublin? "Imitate, if you can, his strenuous vindication of man's liberty." No, Avi is no Dean Swift, but he is among those rare historians who will go into the whole Middle East fiasco and come out fighting. Here he is dissecting the events of 1948. "The UN resolution provided an international charter of legitimacy for the Jewish state. True, the Arabs were not responsible for the barbaric treatment of the Jews in the heartland of Christian Europe. Most Arabs consequently felt that the gift of part of Palestine to the Jews was illegal. However, a resolution passed by the UN General Assembly by a large majority cannot be illegal. It may be unjust but not illegal. Injustice and illegality are not the same thing. What is legal is not necessarily just."

Yet Avi has a dark humour which I always enjoy. When I called him yesterday – yes, of course I did, to check his dad's quote – he reminded me that the first suicide bomber was Samson, who broke the twin pillars (yes, we remember the other twin pillars), saying he wanted to take some Philistines with him. The Philistines lived in Phoenicia, a piece of real estate that would pretty much approximate to the sea shore just outside my Beirut balcony. And in Lebanon, we are all worried about earthquakes."

Source: Independent

Amazon has this quote and summary of the book:

“The only way to make sense of Israel’s senseless war in Gaza is through understanding the historical context. Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948 involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians. I write as someone who served loyally in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s and who has never questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. What I utterly reject is the Zionist colonial project beyond the Green Line. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the June 1967 war had very little to do with security and everything to do with territorial expansionism. The aim was to establish Greater Israel through permanent political, economic and military control over the Palestinian territories. And the result has been one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times.”

—Avi Shlaim, from Israel and Palestine

With characteristic rigor and readability, Avi Shlaim reflects on a range of key issues, transformations and personalities in the Israel-Palestine conflict. From the 1917 Balfour Declaration to the failure of the Oslo peace process, from the 1948 War to the 2008 invasion of Gaza, Israel and Palestine places current events in their proper historical perspective. It assesses the impact of key political and intellectual figures, including Yasir Arafat and Ariel Sharon, Edward Said and Benny Morris; it also re-examines the United States’ influential role in the conflict, and explores the many missed opportunities for peace and progress in the region. Clear-eyed and meticulous, Israel and Palestine is an essential tool for understanding the fractured history and future prospects of Israel-Palestine.

Source: Amazon and Verso

Avi Shlaim is a Fellow of St. Anthony’s College and a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2006. His books include Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace; War and Peace in the Middle East: A Concise History; The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World; and Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations. He lives in Oxford.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Summer Holidays

Just back from ten glorious days on the Cote d'Azur in France. No email, internet or newspapers, but more than enough sunshine to last the year.

We borrowed a kind friend's flat near Saint Tropez and their car and visited many of the beautiful perched villages between Toulon and Nice.

We climbed some mountains, explored some monasteries and sampled the wines.

To relax, I indulged one of my favourite therapies - reading detective and spy novels (ranked in satisfaction).

Joseph Kanon The Prodigal Spy
John Grisham The Client
John Grisham The Street Lawyer
John LeCarre A Most Wanted Man
Graham Greene The Human Factor
Graham Greene The Confidential Agent

See here for the photos (coming soon)

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The Episcopal Church Snubs the Anglican Communion

It is all over. By a majority of two to one, the TEC House of Bishops have voted with the clergy and laity to end their moratoria on same sex blessings.

Matt Kennedy writes, "Essentially the whole Convention has chosen to snub the Anglican Communion. Of course, over the next few days expect to see a plethora of statements from the same people about how much they cherish the Communion and how much they are committed to it. Which is, of course, about the same as a husband who moves his lover into the second bedroom and then tells his wife how much he loves her."

See more here.

The next move will come today from this side of the Pond when the English General Synod will vote on whether to recognise the ACNA (Anglican Church in North America) - the orthodox Anglican grouping.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, has warned of schism if Anglicans do so. Hopefully her threats will have the opposite effect.

The Archbishop's of Canterbury's recent words of regret over the earlier actions of the TEC clearly now do not go far enough.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Anglican Game of Chess: Are we ashamed of the gospel?

Is + Tom Wright about to join the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans? Will The Episcopal Church at their General Convention ignore ++ Rowan Williams and give the green light to gay blessings? Will the Church of England General Synod recognise the new Anglican Church of North America (ACNA)? Will + Gene Robinson perform a gay blessing at Greenbelt? Only two of these four moves will be needed to finally 'chess mate' the long running charade of global Anglican unity.

Jonathan Wynne Jones, writing in the Telegraph claims:

"The Rt Rev Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, said that the Church of England was considering recognising the new group, in a move could provoke fury among liberal clergy in this country."

While to be greatly welcomed, that is something of an understatement. Read more here.

Over at Fulcrum, trying desperately to hold on to a diminishing piece of the evangelical 'centre' - (the proverbial liberal 'middle of the road'), having failed to kill off the FCA at birth, they are now getting defensive over being accused of being only 'moderately faithful' by Charles Raven.

Yet their own website offers plenty of evidence that liberalism is alive and well at Fulcrum.

In an article by a good friend Tim Dean entitled,
'Christology, Messianism and Jewish-Christian relations' he appears to reject the position of the Scriptures (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and historic Church that "there is no salvation apart from personal faith in Christ, and every person must declare a personal faith allegiance in Jesus the Messiah, with no exception for Jews." (the confessional position + Katherine Jefferts Schori declared heresy this week)

Instead Tim favours the view that Jesus is the Messiah of both Christians and Jews.

Paul’s affirmation ‘All Israel will be saved’ applies to all faithful Jews in every age – those who in their lifetime believe that Jesus was their Messiah, as well as those who for the reasons outlined above, do not. This is not about two covenants in parallel operation, but rather one covenant with two expressions."

Tim claims that
"Significantly, no-where in Romans does Paul call for the evangelisation of Jews." How about Romans 1:16-17? "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." (see also Romans 10:14-17).

Don't be distracted. This is not a gentleman's debate about whether Fulcrum or the FCA is more or less faithful than the other, or indeed whether Anglican unity (and diversity) trumps orthodoxy. The ultimate question is "are we ashamed of the gospel?"

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Gene Robinson at Greenbelt

For many years, Greenbelt has been one of my favourite Summer festivals - combining great music, stimulating seminars and challenging mission projects.

Greenbelt uniquely brings together Christian and secular agencies committed to addressing controversial issues such as international justice, racism, climate change and ending global poverty.

This year will be no exception. I am pleased to know that Sami Awad and Jeff Halper will both be campaigning for peace with justice for Israel and Palestine and an end to the Israeli policy of demolishing Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories.

I am disappointed, however, to see that Gene Robinson, the episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire has also been invited. Here is his testimony offered at the 76th General Convention meeting in Anaheim, California.

David Virtue, over on Virtue Online writes,

The pansexual steamroller is underway. "Marriage equality is a reality coming soon to a state near you," Bishop Robinson told an appreciative audience here yesterday.

At a lunchtime gathering at General Convention, Robinson said The Episcopal Church should proudly proclaim itself as the "gay church" and told visitors to GC2009, that "LGBT Equality is a matter of justice." He also said that Resolution B033, which pledges that the Episcopal Church would refrain from consecrating gay bishops or authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions, should be disavowed and diocesan deputies and bishops should "stand up for what is right."

Robinson talked about the "great moveable middle" at General Convention. THAT, of course is a fiction. There is no "via media" any more in TEC. They have been silenced. They have rolled over and, with the departure of most of the orthodox in TEC, it is a clean sweep for all manner of sexualities in TEC led by revisionist bishops and deputies. A genuine liberalism that at once allowed for both sides of the table to hear, listen and work together is dead. Robinson is also on a book-signing mission reinforcing his, and The Episcopal Church's official sexual positions.

History will be made here, Robinson eulogized. He is right, it will be, but it will be a history that TEC will live to regret."

I hope next year Greenbelt will invite one of the orthodox Bishops from the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) who represent the majority of Anglicans and who uphold traditional and biblical views on human sexuality. I hope too that the invitation to Robinson does not reflect the theological position of CMS, one of the main Greenbelt sponsors.

Lisa Nolland, over on Anglican Mainstream, has written on Greenbelt, Gay Evangelicalism and CMS. She has this to say:

"According to its website, ‘Greenbelt is an independent Christian charity working to express love, creativity and justice in the arts and contemporary culture in the light of the Christian gospel.’ It is the largest Christian festival in the UK, almost 20,000 strong, with a fascinating line-up of speakers, subjects, genres and modalities. It also appears strongly pro-gay. Gene Robinson, gay bishop poster boy (although oddly, that information did not make it onto the site) and Giles Fraser, head of Inclusive Church (that bit was also not included) are on the rostrum, along with gay rights advocates Robert Beckford and Paula Gooder. Gay worship groups, OuterSpace and Journey, will be leading in worship while gay bands, Athlete and Royksopp, will be entertaining the crowds. Read here and here, also here

This is rather worrying: it is called the gayification of the church. Almost more insidious is that it exists, cheek by jowl, with other worthwhile, really important and solidly orthodox aspects, lulling those who might otherwise get upset into a false complacency that ‘things are not really that bad!’ I guess it all depends on what ‘bad’ means. That the Gay Pride flag was flown over London’s historic St Martins in the Field to celebrate Gay Pride just days ago and that the Archbishop of Canterbury met with a leading LGBT group in the US, although, oddly, there was no time in his schedule to meet with any of the orthodox being hounded out of their churches (which they have paid for and maintained) or representatives from some of the many wonderful ex-gay groups — two of the most recent examples of gayification — should speak volumes!

At some point we as a church will have to face the music. We have tacitly, incrementally forfeited an agreed-upon Christian sexual ethic (no sex outside heterosexual marriage) which had held for the past millennia. Now, in effect, we accept and promote the ethic that as long as ‘relationships’ are ‘loving’, ‘committed’ and ‘faithful’, they are blessed by God. Though there may be exceptions, it appears to me that this is the dominant sexual paradigm. Perhaps the most recent example is TEC’s Chicago Consultation, Christian Holiness and Human Sexuality, Chapter 4. In 2004, Changing Attitude published a report entitled Sexual Ethics and recently claimed that this report upheld a solid Christian sexual ethic. Please peruse pp 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 in the document and see if you agree!

Though its practitioners interpret the notion of a ‘pure relationship’ in various ways, I believe it is essentially unstable and completely subjective. For a start, what exactly constitutes ‘commitment’ and ‘faithfulness’? Those in so-called open relationships insist theirs are committed and faithful; they just happen to have what for them is an added bonus of being sexually open or non-exclusive (or sexually promiscuous, but that carries pejorative overtones). This ‘pure relationship’ ethic also legitimizes non-binary (three or more) plural ‘committed’ relationships of either a bisexual, gay or heterosexual nature. I have had close bisexual friends who shared with me their domestic situations which for them included male and female lovers during the same period of time. Such situations, known as ‘V’s in polyamory-speak, are not at all uncommon in the literature. Liberal Democrat, Simon Hughes, is perhaps the best known British bisexual today, with his admission that his sexual history involved ‘both homosexual and heterosexual relationships’ which were probably sequential in nature.

If those involved are more ‘traditional’, their ’pure relationship’ might mimic aspects of marriage and even successfully masquerade as marriage but at heart it is post-marital. It is really all about the needs, desires, aspirations and fantasies of the adult individual and her/his ‘partner/s’: they determine the rules of engagement. Anthony Giddens’ The Transformation of Intimacy has proved prophetic. Sadly though, as people live their lives according to this ethic, they get damaged. Their autonomy comes at a very high (but often hidden and pay-later) price, especially for those with the most to lose, their children, whose views are dismissed as kill-joy over-reaction.

Moreover, this ‘pure relationship’ ethic is post-orthodox, and not just post-evangelical (I had forgotten to mention post-evangelical Dave Tomlinson, another important gay advocate who is also speaking at Greenbelt). As Charles Raven observed, ’The score may still be there, but many of the orchestra are making it up as they go along and will continue to do so in the absence of any effective discipline.’

Is this satisfactory? I do not believe it is. I am even more concerned because highly respected Christian organizations like Church Mission Society are sponsors of Greenbelt. Unless it means very little to be a sponsor, surely CMS must be deeply embarrassed at this situation. Please do contact:

Bishop Paul Butler, Chair of CMS: paul.butler@bpsotonoffice.clara.co.uk and

Tim Dakin, General Secretary of CMS: tim.dakin@cms-org.uk with your concerns.

Finally, perhaps most galling is the deeply discriminatory nature of the programme, which presents itself as the antithesis of discrimination. Given the resources and people which such recent events as Sex and the City, The Big Question, and the Moral Maze, showcased, there is no reason why Greenbelt should only push one ideological agenda and only grind one axe, unless it is wanting to slant the argument and deprive its audience of expert opinion on the other side. What about equal air time for it? What about poster boys or girls for the ex (or post)-gay movement being handed the microphone, instead of just Gene Robinson (again), with his sadly amaturish biblical hermeneutic? Given that Greenbelt has invited so many people who strongly promote a different sexual ethic to that of a traditional Christan sexual ethic, the least they could do is allow equal air time for traditional sexual views."

Charles Raven of SPREAD adds,

"Significantly, the Church Missionary Society (CMS) is one of the sponsors of this event and its logo appears on every page of the Greenbelt website, yet many in the Global South hold the CMS in high regard for its historic missionary endeavour which did so much to establish the world wide Anglican Communion.

If the distinctive evangelical flavour of one of the great evangelical missionary societies of the Church of England can now be so diluted, does this not warn us of the extent to which the gospel has already been deeply compromised in the Church of England as a whole and, no doubt, in the other Anglican Churches of the British Isles? The GAFCON movement has understandably given its main attention so far to the acute problems facing the orthodox in North America, but with the ACNA now established, the parlous state of the Churches on the other side of the North Atlantic is coming into focus. In these circumstances, the FCA leadership, in the British Isles and overseas, will need to graciously yet firmly resist the old conventions if they are to be faithful to the Jerusalem Declaration; it is very difficult to see how the next stage of the struggle for the future of the Anglican Communion can avoid the Archbishop of Canterbury’s own back yard."

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Orthodox Anglicans see greater unity in new fellowship

Maria Mackay, writing in Christian Today offers this assessment of Monday's launch of the FCA, attended by over 1,600 church leaders including 14 English Bishops.

"The leaders of a new orthodox Anglican body launched on Monday say they want to unite the denomination, not pull it apart.

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans was launched in Westminster in opposition to liberal shifts in parts of the wider Anglican Communion away from the authority of Scripture and the uniqueness of Christ seen in the embrace of homosexuality by the US Episcopal Church and the consecration in some places of women bishops.

The Bishop of Chichester, the Rt Rev John Hind, told the gathering: “The source of our present crisis is to be found in attempts to minimise the uniqueness of Jesus.

“If a new reformation is in the offing or even already underway it will be important to return to Jesus, the high priest and pioneer of our faith, and place ourselves under the judgement of His teaching and word.

“What is at stake after all is not religious opinion but the saving truth of the Gospel.”

The Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Rev Wallace Benn, said the FCA wanted to stop the Church from being divided “by moving back to the core of our faith, the historic Christian faith”.

“We are a movement for the renewal and reformation and renewed mission focus of our church. We love our Church … we’re not going anywhere," he said.

He warned that where parts of the Anglican Communion like the British Isles and Ireland were “moving away” from that faith, they were causing “real problems and real heartaches” for Anglicans.

"We are trying to pull back together people whose Anglican identity has been made difficult or who find that it is threatened,” he said.

“We want to stand with people and support them and say you don’t have to go away, we will support you and stand with you.”

The new Fellowship has its roots in the GAFCON meeting of orthodox Anglicans held in June last year and the subsequent Jerusalem Declaration, in which it committed to defending orthodox Anglicanism against the “false gospel” of homosexuality.

The FCA’s launch brought together more than 1,600 Anglicans from 320 parishes, including the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, and the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Rev John Broadhurst.

A letter from the Queen, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, was read out to the gathering in which she said she “understands the commitment to the Anglican Church that prompted you and your brethren to write as you did” and sent her “good wishes to all concerned for a successful and memorable event”.

Goodwill messages were also sent by the Archbishops of Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya.

International guests Archbishop Bob Duncan of the recently inaugurated American Church in North America, the Archbishop of the Southern Cone, the Most Rev Greg Venables, the president of Forward in Faith in the US, the Rt Rev Keith Ackerman, and the Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Rev Peter Jensen."

Confessional Anglicanism is now Heresy says Schori

The Rev. Phil Ashey is Chaplain & C.O.O. of the American Anglican Council. He is attending the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church and writes these observations on the first day's proceedings.

"I am still trying to digest what I have heard. In stark contrast to the gathering of Anglicans two weeks ago in Bedford Texas, there was no opening worship. No praise. No prayer. Just a short introduction by a man in a sport jacket that had the same electric lime green tint, and a similar pattern, to that worn by the Riddler. Then the Presiding Bishop of TEC took the stand. She spoke about the crisis facing The Episcopal Church.

“Crisis is always a remarkable opportunity,” she said. Speaking from her own experience as a pilot, she said it is a time to “aviate, navigate, and then communicate,” in that order. Always keep the plane flying through the crisis—even when you are not sure where you are. She described the essential crisis within the Gospels as Jesus’ decision to set his face toward Jerusalem, and likened the decisions of this 76th General Convention to that decision to set one’s face toward Jerusalem.

And then in a cold, calm, defiant and defining voice she said,

"The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy - that we can be saved as individuals, that any of use alone can be in right relationship with God. It's caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of all being. That heresy is one reason for the theme of this Convention."

Wow. Did I really hear what I think I heard? Did I just hear the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church dismiss as heresy the confession of millions upon millions of Christ followers, from the Apostles to St. Augustine to the Wesleys to the GAFCON gathering of Anglicans last year to the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in the Church of England meeting in the UK right now to the multitudes throughout our own Anglican Communion who are invited to make a personal confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior — and who do so daily, often at great personal cost, as their churches and provinces explode with growth in numbers and mission?

How is it that a Church which has done everything to remove “heresy” from its vocabulary can now so confidently proclaim that confessional Christianity is heresy? How is it that a Church can dismiss the clear words of scripture (see e.g. Romans 10:9-10) as a mere “individualistic formula”?

What audacity and pride drives a leader of a church to ignore the wealth of an over 2,000 years of uninterrupted tradition that holds that a person must confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in order to be a Christian? I suppose the answer lies in part in what she went on to say: that Jesus Christ’s death on Calvary is "a waypoint in the larger arc of God's dream."

So I guess if I want to follow the Presiding Bishop and the vision she is casting, I must conclude that Jesus was wrong when he said at Calvary “It is finished.” (Tetelestai: once and for all time). It really wasn’t finished after all. I guess Paul was going way overboard when he wrote that God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Jesus Christ (Col. 1:19), and that “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).

I guess Jesus had one of those lapses of judgment when Thomas fell at his nail pierced but resurrected hands and feet and said “My Lord and my God!” Jesus should have corrected him and said, “No Thomas—my death and resurrection is just a point along the way to the fulfillment of God’s greater dream.”

Is Jesus’ death on Calvary just a “point along the way,” just a moral influence on our aspirations and behavior? Is he just one among a number of people worthy of our worship? Is any profession of faith beyond that an individualistic heresy—or perhaps even worse, a simplistic surrender to some “formula”?

Or is Jesus in fact who he and his followers claimed he is — the only way to the Father (John 14:6), the only name under heaven and earth whereby all may be saved (Acts 4:12), and the only one who had the character, authority and power to command us to make disciples of all nations, and to teach them to obey everything he commanded—including caring for the least, the last, and the lost? (Mattt. 28:16-20)

Thank you, Mrs. Schori, for making the choice so very clear.

Source: American Anglican Council

See also an update on USA Today

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Royal Blessing on Launch of the FCA-UK

Her Majesty the Queen

After the Jerusalem conference members of the FCA wrote to her Majesty the Queen expressing our concerns for the Anglican Communion, our loyalty to her as the Supreme Governor of the CofE, and the pressing need for the Anglican Church to remain faithful to the biblical gospel. This was her reply:

Buckingham Palace
26 June 2009

Dear Mr Perkin

I have been asked to thank you for your letter of 24th June, about the celebration of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans which is being launched on 6th July in the Central Hall, Westminster.

The Queen was grateful for the assurance of your prayers and appreciated your message of loyalty. In return, I am to convey Her Majesty’s good wishes to all concerned for a successful and memorable event.

Yours sincerely,

Mrs Sonia Bonici
Senior Correspondence Officer

The Most Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury:

‘I shall be glad to hold all of you in my prayers for the occasion’.

Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury

Dear brothers and sisters,

Be assured of my prayers as you gather at Westminster Central Hall today. My visits to different parts of the world reveal the grievous hurts to our Body caused by the lamentable actions of TEC in 2003. In such a situation your witness, your courage and your commitment to the gospel are grounds for hope. You are already facing suspicion and hostility from various quarters because of the launch of FCA in England. Nevertheless, attempt to build the strongest bonds of communion with the rest of the Anglican family. Remain steadfast in truth, and compassionate in unity. And be prepared to go the extra mile for others. With warmest greetings in Christ

George Carey
(Archbishop of Canterbury, 1991-2002)

Photos of the FCA Launch are accessible here

Monday, 6 July 2009

Historic Bible put Online

About 800 pages of the earliest surviving Christian Bible have been recovered and put on the internet.

Visitors to the website www.codexsinaiticus.org can now see images of more than half of the 1,600-year-old Codex Sinaiticus manuscript.

Fragments of the 4th Century document - written in Greek on parchment leaves - have been worked on by institutions in the UK, Germany, Egypt and Russia.

Experts say it is "a window into the development of early Christianity".

Preservation secrets

A fragment of the manuscriptDr Scot McKendrick, head of Western manuscripts at the British Library, said the wide availability of the document presented many research opportunities.

"The Codex Sinaiticus is one of the world's greatest written treasures," he said.

"This 1,600-year-old manuscript offers a window into the development of early Christianity and first-hand evidence of how the text of the Bible was transmitted from generation to generation.

"The availability of the virtual manuscript for study by scholars around the world creates opportunities for collaborative research that would not have been possible just a few years ago."

The original version contained about 1,460 pages - each measuring 40cm by 35cm, he added.

To British Library is marking the online launch of the manuscript with an exhibition - which includes a range of historic items and artefacts linked to the document.

For 1,500 years, the Codex Sinaiticus lay undisturbed in a Sinai monastery, until it was found in 1844 and split between Egypt, Russia, Germany and Britain.

It is thought to have survived because the desert air was ideal for preservation and because the monastery, on a Christian island in a Muslim sea, remained untouched, its walls unconquered.

The institutions' pain-staking work can now be seen at www.codexsinaiticus.org.

Source: BBC News

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Fourteen English Anglican Bishops at FCA Launch

Many of us over here are looking forward with great anticipation to Be Faithful! – Confessing Anglicans in Global and Local Mission taking place in Central Hall Westminster on Monday. As of Thursday night, over 1000 people were registered. We expect more to come.

We are encouraged by the number of Church of England Bishops who have indicated their attendance. These include:

Bishop Michael Langrish, Exeter
Bishop David Urquhart, Birmingham
Bishop Michael Nazir Ali, Rochester
Bishop John Hind, Chichester
Bishop Wallace Benn, Lewes
Bishop Colin Fletcher, Dorchester
Bishop Keith Sinclair, Birkenhead
Bishop John Broadhurst, Fulham
Bishop Andrew Burnham, Ebbsfleet
Bishop Keith Newton, Richborough
Bishop John Ball (Retd – Assistant in Chelmsford)
Bishop Colin Bazley (Retd – Assistant in Chester)
Bishop John Ellison (Retd – Assistant in Winchester)
Bishop Maurice Sinclair (Retd – Assistant in Birmingham)

Bishop Peter Forster of Chester, the Bishop-elect of Southwell and Nottingham, Paul Butler, and Bishop Michael Scott-Joynt of Winchester have sent public messages of support.

Archbishop Peter Akinola is also sending Archbishop Nicholas Okoh and Bishop David Onuoha from Nigeria to bring his personal message of greeting and support.

Change and repent, Bishop tells gays

In today's Sunday Telegraph, Jonathan Wynne-Jones, the Religious Affairs Correspondent, writes a controversial article ahead of tomorrows launch of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in London. It is based on an interview the newspaper conducted with the Right Revd Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester.

"A senior Church of England bishop has called on homosexuals to repent and "be changed" in comments that have infuriated equality campaigners. The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, has defended traditional biblical teachings on homosexuality and said the Church should not be "rolled over by culture".

Dr Nazir-Ali spoke as tens of thousands of people, including Sarah Brown, the Prime Minister’s wife, joined the annual Pride London march to celebrate homosexual culture. A war of words broke out between Labour and the Conservatives over the issue of homosexuality last week after a minister accused the Tories of having a "deep strain of homophobia" running through the party.

The bishop’s controversial comments will reignite the battle over homosexuality in the Church of England ahead of what promises to be a divisive week for Anglicanism.

Tomorrow, a new coalition of evangelical and Anglo-Catholic parishes, backed by Dr Nazir-Ali, will get under way, which critics have claimed is an attempt to create a "church within the church".

The organisers said The Queen, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, had sent a message to the leaders of the movement saying she understood their concerns about the future of the Anglican Communion. Next weekend the General Synod of the Church of England is meeting at York University. The following week, the Episcopal Church in America is expected to endorse liturgies for single sex marriage and allow more homosexuals to be made bishops.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Dr Nazir-Ali said: "We want to uphold the traditional teaching of the Bible. We believe that God has revealed his purpose about how we are made.

"People who depart from this don’t share the same faith. They are acting in a way that is not normative according to what God has revealed in the Bible. The Bible’s teaching shows that marriage is between a man and a woman. That is the way to express our sexual nature. We welcome homosexuals, we don’t want to exclude people, but we want them to repent and be changed."

The bishop added that it is not just homosexuals who need to repent, but all who have strayed from the Bible’s teaching. He said: "We want to hold on to the traditional teaching of the Church. We don’t want to be rolled over by culture and trends in the Church. We want a movement for renewal. We need a reformation of the Church and the life of the Communion."

Dr Nazir-Ali, who is resigning from his post in September, said there was a need for the new evangelical movement, called the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, because the Church is already divided. "We’re two different sorts of religion," he said. "One has a view of God and the Church and Christianity that is completely different from the other."

Derek Munn, the director of public affairs for Stonewall, the homosexual campaign group, criticised Dr Nazir-Ali’s comments. "It is unfortunate that in 2009, a church leader should continue to promote inequality and intolerance," he said. "Stonewall knows that most people of faith are accepting of lesbian and gay people. We also know that many lesbian and gay people who are themselves religious believers are not well served by some of those who claim to speak on their behalf."

The Rev Dr Giles Fraser, the president of the Inclusive Church, a liberal grouping in the Church of England, said: "Homosexuality is not a sin. It is the way many people love each other and is a gift from God. Ordinary people in the pews know this. And they are a lot more theologically aware than the handful of narrow- minded bishops who want to play politics with the Anglican Communion."

Dr Nazir-Ali’s views, which he will repeat in a speech at tomorrow’s gathering, will be seen as a direct challenge to the authority of Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, as he tries to keep the Anglican church together.

Dr Williams secured an uneasy truce over homosexuality in the dispute at last year’s Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops. However, this will be shattered if the American Church passes controversial votes on homosexuality which would defy the archbishop’s pleas for restraint.
Tomorrow’s gathering will be attended by some of the Church of England’s most senior figures, including the bishops of Exeter, Birmingham, and Chichester. Archbishops from around the world will also be present, including the Most Rev Henry Orombi, the Archbishop of Uganda, who last year challenged the Archbishop of Canterbury’s right to lead the Anglican Communion.
Many other Church of England bishops have signalled their support for the new alliance, which describes itself as "a home of focus and support for orthodox churches" opposed to liberal leadership.

The Rev Paul Perkin, a leading evangelical and vicar of St Mark’s Battersea Rise in south London, said the coalition was not intended to be "schismatic", but was needed to support "beleaguered evangelicals and orthodox parishes" across Britain.

"Evangelicals have often been ignored in the past when it comes to decision making," he said. "This should make people sit up and think and take notice. This represents a sea change in where the life and strength in the parishes lies."

Buckingham Palace said it would not comment on private correspondence from the Queen.

See also story featured by the BBC

And the latest news on Anglican Mainstream

Be Faithful

This week's Church of England Newspaper contains an article by the Right Revd Graham Kings which appears designed and timed to rubbish the launch of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in London tomorrow.

It distressed me to read Dr Kings speak of how "A strange, unlikely, unholy, coalition has been arranged between Reform and Forward in Faith." Is this the most honourable way of describing fellow evangelicals? "unholy"? The contrast with the article by the Right Revd Wallace Benn, on the same page, could not have been greater.

The Revd Andrew Symes has worked for many years in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, and is now Priest in Charge of an urban priority housing estate in central England. He has responded formly but charitably to Dr Kings.

"Dr Kings in his recent article states that true Anglicanism puts its faith in the Covenant Process to eventually solve all the problems within the Anglican Communion, and dismisses the new initiatives of the Anglican Church in North America and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. The points he makes deserve careful scrutiny as this debate moves forward.

First of all he deals with the ACNA. Dr Kings agrees with the conservative position on sexuality, but disagrees with the way that different groups have gone about protesting against the actions of the Episcopal Church. He thinks that the ecclesiology of ACNA is not right, and that ultimately it will secede and become just another ex-Anglican sect. Meanwhile Dr Kings is optimistic and convinced that the leaders of TEC will draw back from the brink and take resolutions and actions which gradually move them more back in the direction of the rest of world Anglicanism, in which case the Covenant will gradually be seen to work.

Two comments should be made. Firstly, anyone who has followed the twists and turns of this saga over the last seven or eight years as I have can surely not fail to see the continued bad faith of the TEC leaders; the reneging on agreements, the slippery doublespeak of their resolutions and statements, the continued appointments of radical liberals to key positions, the persecution and harassment of clergy and Bishops who simply want to be faithful to their vows and to preach the biblical Gospel. But for such as Dr Kings, this does not appear to matter: TEC must be regarded as the true Anglicans. Any movement set up against them, however Anglican in theology and worship, must be considered beyond the pale by the English Anglican establishment. This shows the clear position of the “institutional centre” of our church: ecclesiology is not related to theology (faithfulness to the biblical witness) but to loyalty to the processes of diplomatic manoevering within the institution.

Secondly, and related to the first point, Dr Kings sees the problem in America, and by extension in world Anglicanism, as one purely of differences in church polity, rather than matters of spiritual life and death. To put it more starkly, he simply does not “get” what all this is about. Its not about minor differences over the private actions of Anglican leaders in their bedrooms, or the breaking of protocols by inviting an African Bishop to lay hands on someone rather than an American one. It is about the massive gulf that has opened up in the church between two conflicting and opposing worldviews, two completely different understandings of what it means to be Christian. These views cannot be reconciled by a “covenant” process which owes more to Hegelian dialectic (the idea that truth is found in the middle ground between two positions) than to the Gospel.

ACNA have not broken away from TEC because of a desire for independence or instant and cavalier disregard for due process, but because, after years of exhausting all other channels, Christian Anglicans have felt the need to take a stand against the triumph of secularism and Gnosticism at the highest levels of the church. In such a time of crisis, when the very survival of orthodox Christianity is at stake, making a respectful but principled stand should be applauded not dismissed. But who will now have any confidence that the Covenant will be even handed when Dr Kings, one of its main apologists, finds himself on the side of the revisionists in this conflict of cultures that we find ourselves in?

Now to Dr Kings’ criticisms of FCA. Again, the barely veiled contempt for the small numbers (“only half the places taken up 10 days beforehand”); the divide and rule tactic (“unholy coalition between Reform and Forward in Faith”); the conspiracy theory (“behind the scenes organising by international lobbyists”) – these read like something out of a thriller novel. They don’t read as showing an example of respect and love towards fellow Christians with whom one disagrees.

It may be that there is a small number of conservative evangelicals within FCA UK who want an umbrella for what might be unfairly described as essentially independent protestant congregations. It may be that there are also some Anglo Catholics whose principal agenda is protection from woman Bishops. Dr Kings insinuates that this essentially is FCA. I don’t find myself fitting either of these descriptions, and yet I will be at FCA on Monday. There will be many others there either in person or in spirit who feel the same way. We are not interested in power or in party loyalty, we simply want to feel part of a movement within our Anglican church that is not ashamed to say clearly what it does and doesn’t believe, that resists aggressive secularism and the celebration of immorality, that can be a channel of God’s power and blessing because it is “confessing” the truth of Christ however inconvenient and unpopular it may be. And most of all we want to be part of a global fellowship, to stand together with the majority of Anglicans (whatever Dr Kings may say about “ratcheted rhetoric”) who are dark brown skinned and poor.

Unfortunately again, as with his criticisms of ACNA, Dr Kings has brushed aside the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans as irrelevant without addressing the fundamental crisis of doctrine that caused it to come about. His attitude is like the one taken by the Iranian leaders towards the opposition in that country: denial that there is a problem, misunderstanding of the grievances, a sincere belief that opposition is simply down to a few extremist troublemakers, and trust in the machinery of state to crush dissent and bring people back into line.

Finally, a word about Dr Kings’ image of the glacier. In comparing the Covenant process to a glacier, Dr Kings wants to say that it is slow but effective in “reshaping the landscape”. But it is thousands of years since a glacier did anything effective in the inhabited world. Today many glaciers are in retreat because of global warming. And when there is a crisis, a house on fire for example, a hose is more useful than a glacier: speed, and something more relevant to the context, is better than putting everything on ice."

For more information on the FCA see here

Thursday, 2 July 2009

+ Wallace Benn on the Launch of the FCA

The title for the launch of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in Westminster Central Hall at 10.30 on July 6th says it all: Be faithful. That is our calling as Anglican Christians today.

The Scriptures exhort us to remain faithful to the faith ‘once for all delivered to the saints’, to the Lordship of Christ and hence to Apostolic teaching and practice. Powerful cultural forces, exerted through social pressure, the media and legislation are forcing Christians to conform to the way of the world in matters of marriage and sexuality.

The Episcopal Church in North America, the Anglican Church of Canada and others have embraced these forces and, often without due process and against natural justice, are forcing out those Anglicans who seek to remain faithful to Biblical teaching and practice.

In the church in the West generally there is a gradual slide in the same dangerous direction. The gathering on July 6th will express the unity of Anglican Christians in their loyalty to the teachings and commands of Jesus.

A major step towards that unity was taken a year ago at the Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem. Many within and without the church were unsure about what Anglicans stood for. GAFCON issued the Jerusalem statement, which has been widely received by Anglicans around the world as expressing the heart of Anglican faith and practice. Over 900 Anglicans have already registered for ‘Be Faithful’.

They will consider the situation of the global Communion, and express their solidarity and support for Anglicans under pressure and persecution, both in North America and in the Sudan. They will address challenges to maintaining biblically faithful witness and ministry in the Church of England today.

The FCA is not another organization. It is not seeking to create another church. It is a spiritual movement and fellowship for renewal, reformation and mission – uniquely bringing together those whose key shaping and commitment, but not exclusive identity, has been through the Anglo-Catholic, conservative evangelical, and charismatic expressions of Anglicanism.

The FCA movement can do this because it is defined by its centre in the Christian faith as currently embraced in the Jerusalem Declaration and Statement. Vinay Samuel, a speaker on July 6th writes: “Gafcon is defined by its centre and not by any boundaries.

It is a fellowship of people who affirm the centre of orthodox faith as expressed in the Jerusalem Statement. Some who are uncertain whether they are in or out might be finding boundaries which were never intended by those who have taken the initiative to launch this fellowship.”

“Some orthodox Anglicans distance themselves from GAFCCON/FCA while affirming that they have much in common with the Jerusalem Statement and with the initiators of FCA. They are as keen to be seen as "inclusive" as they are to be seen as Orthodox. Inclusion is elevated to as important a basis for fellowship as orthodox faith. As an Indian Christian who lives in the west I am no stranger to exclusion, but I do not believe a biblical understanding of inclusion supports such a view.”

It would be premature to ask a movement to clarify all its terms or meet all the requirements set by others sadly hesitant to identify with it. What matters, as Bishop Bob Duncan told the launch of the Anglican Church in North America, is “to keep the main thing the main thing”. That is what ‘Be Faithful’ will seek to do by the grace and with the help of God.

Published in the Church of England Newspaper, 2nd July 2009

View two presentations by + Wallace here

Israel Committed War Crimes says new Amnesty Report

BBC Report:

Israel committed war crimes and carried out reckless attacks and acts of wanton destruction in its Gaza offensive, an independent human rights report says.

Hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed using high-precision weapons, while others were shot at close range, the group Amnesty International says.

Its report also calls rocket attacks by Palestinian militants war crimes and accuses Hamas of endangering civilians.

The Israeli military says its conduct was in line with international law.

Israel has attributed some civilian deaths to "professional mistakes", but has dismissed wider criticism that its attacks were indiscriminate and disproportionate.

Amnesty says some 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the 22-day Israeli offensive between 27 December 2008 and 17 January 2009, which agrees broadly with Palestinian figures.

More than 900 of these were civilians, including 300 children and 115 women, it says.

In March, Israel's military said the overall Palestinian death toll was 1,166, of whom 295 were "uninvolved" civilians.


The 117-page report by Amnesty International says many of the hundreds of civilian deaths in the conflict "cannot simply be dismissed as 'collateral damage' incidental to otherwise lawful attacks - or as mistakes".

It says "disturbing questions" remain unanswered as to why children playing on roofs and medical staff attending the wounded were killed by "highly accurate missiles" whose operators had detailed views of their targets.

Lives were lost because Israeli forces "frequently obstructed access to medical care," the report says. It also reiterates previous condemnations of the use of "imprecise" weapons such as white phosphorous and artillery shells.

The destruction of homes, businesses and public buildings was in many cases "wanton and deliberate" and "could not be justified on the grounds of military necessity", the report adds.

"All of those things occurred on a scale that constitutes pattern - and constitutes war crimes," Donatella Rovera, who headed the research, told the BBC.

The document also gives details of several cases where it says people - including women and children posing no threat to troops - were shot at close range as they were fleeing their homes in search of shelter.

Human shields

The Amnesty report says no evidence was found that Palestinian militants had forced civilians to stay in buildings being used for military purposes, contradicting Israeli claims that Hamas repeatedly used "human shields".

However, Amnesty says Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups had endangered Palestinian civilians by firing rockets from residential neighbourhoods and storing weapons in them.

It says local residents had in one case told researchers that Hamas fighters had fired a rocket from the yard of a government school.

The Israeli military has repeatedly blamed Hamas for causing civilian casualties, saying its fighters operated from buildings like schools, medical facilities, religious institutions, residential homes and commercial premises.

In the cases it had investigated, Amnesty said civilian deaths "could not be explained as resulting from the presence of fighters shielding among civilians, as the Israeli army generally contends".

However, Amnesty does accuse Israel of using civilians, including children, as human shields in Gaza, forcing them to remain in houses which its troops were using as military positions, and to inspect sites suspected of being booby trapped.

It also says Palestinian militants rocket fire from the Gaza Strip was "indiscriminate and hence unlawful under international law", although it only rarely caused civilian casualties.

Thirteen Israelis were killed, including three civilians, during the offensive, which Israel launched with the declared aim of curtailing cross-border rocket attacks.

Source: BBC