God-shaped hole will lead to loss of national sense of identity

May 8, 2008 by

By Ruth Gledhill, The Times The crisis facing Britain’s Christian churches is linked directly to the crisis of British identity now being addressed by the Government. Oaths of allegiance and citizenship ceremonies are under consideration. But one thing lacking from so many conversations about “Britishness” is any reference to a link between religious and ethnic identity. In contrast to the decline of Christianity in Britain, Islam and Hinduism are thriving here. One reason is that for Muslims and Hindus, wherever they come from, their religion is inextricably linked with their sense of identity. Even though the last Prime Minister was devout and converted to Roman Catholicism soon after he left office, and the present one is a son of the manse, the Government remains strongly secular. This is an inevitable result of the liberalising trends of the last century, and one not necessarily to be lamented.   But the consequences, good and bad, need to be faced. As the Religious Trends Survey shows, an ageing generation of churchgoers is about to die out and there could be, within a generation, a God-shaped hole at the heart of our society. It is a hole in the shape of the old fashioned, liberal Anglican God and it is a hole that is at the heart of the present debate about British identity. When the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, suggested that an element of Sharia would inevitably have to be incorporated into British law, he sparked a storm of protest. But perhaps the situation highlighted in this report was merely the reality he was facing up to. The decline forecast for the Church of England is so severe that its position as the established church of the nation with the Queen as Supreme Governor can surely no longer be tenable. First to go will have to be the 26 bishops in the House of Lords. Then the Act of Settlement, which inhibits Royals from marrying or becoming Catholics, must go. Autumn Kelly, engaged to the Queen’s grandson Peter Phillips, had to relinquish her Catholicism because of it – a shameful demand for an enlightened Western state to make of one of its future citizens. Parliamentarians have always balked at disestablishment because of the time involved and the complexity. The Prime Minister a few days ago pulled back from reform of the Act of Settlement, largely because of the implications for Commonwealth nations. This recognises that there is still a residual Christian identity in Britain. Few were more surprised than the bishops of the Church of England when the Government’s 2001 census established that seven in ten people considered themselves Christian. Of the Anglican Communion’s oft-touted tally of 70 million members worldwide, more than 20 million are the baptised members of the Church of England living in Britain. But with church attendance hovering around the statistically critical 5 per cent mark, that figure becomes increasingly meaningless. Most of the Anglican Communion’s active members are in Africa and Asia. It is likely...

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Archbishop of Canterbury – 'Religious Faith and Human Rights'

May 4, 2008 by

From ACNS The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams will gave a lecture yesterday at the London School of Economics entitled ‘Religious Faith and Human Rights’. Dr Williams sets out a fresh and original vision of how religious tradition – Christianity in particular – can help ground human rights thinking in ways that protect human life from violence, abuse or inequality. Dr Williams responds specifically to the challenge laid down by Alastair McIntyre to find a language, or ethics, for human rights which is robust enough to resist moral relativism on the one hand and political utility on the other. If McIntyre was right to say that the problem with the strict Enlightenment framework of human rights is that it leaves us ‘bereaved’, what might religion have to say about the ‘most secure foundations’ for a universal ethic of inalienable rights? In answering this question Dr Williams shows how theology can come to the aid of social, political and legal theory. Human rights cannot be allowed to become just a list of entitlements ‘dropped into the cradle’. If human rights theory is to be robust enough to rank as ‘the only generally intelligible way in modern political ethics of decisively challenging the positive authority of the State to do what it pleases’ it needs to be rooted more deeply than is possible within a purely secular rationale. Using the development of Christian thinking about slavery as an example, Dr Williams explores how the notion of bodiliness could be a key to a deeper rooting of our notion of inalienable human rights and how my rights and yours are inextricably linked: ‘my liberty not to be silenced, not to have my body reduced to someone else’s instrument, is nourished by the equal liberty of the other not to be silenced.’ ‘Equal liberty is at root inseparable from the equality of being embodied. Rights belong not to the person who can demonstrate capacity or rationality but to any organism that can be recognised as a human body, at any stage of its organic development.’ The full text of the lecture can be found HERE....

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Gospel Grip and Fulcrum Fantasy – a response to Tom Wright's Fulcrum Conference Lecture 'Conflict and Covenant in the Bible'...

Apr 15, 2008 by

 By Charles Raven, Virtue Online   http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/page.cfm?ID=297 12 April 2008 Fulcrum seems to take pride in being the voice of balanced orthodoxy, but Tom Wright’s recent lecture is evidence that the real function of Fulcrum – whatever the intentions of its members – is to try and hold the balance between post modern religiosity and the historic biblical Anglicanism which it mimics. Such a position is of course fundamentally unstable and the strained exegesis of this latest lecture shows the extent to which reality, not least in the form of GAFCON, is overtaking the Fulcrum fantasy. We are invited, in a manner reminiscent of Rowan Williams, to consider a middle way which avoids both the ‘shrill functional pragmatism of today’s muddled left’ and ‘the equally shrill and functional pragmatism of today’s muddled right’, those on the left preoccupied with breaking the old rules and those on the right with keeping them. These polarities, we are encouraged to believe, are transcended by an eschatological ecclesiology expressed in covenant community. Wright then quotes at length (in the online version of the lecture) from the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission Communiqué of September 2006 to establish the biblical credentials of this approach, although one looks in vain for any clear statement of the authority of Scripture in its plain sense or any reference to the classic Anglican formularies. Instead, the focus is on the emergence of covenantal beliefs through the development of ‘bonds of affection’ and it is this covenantal perspective which underlies the Windsor Process and the proposal for an Anglican Communion Covenant. So far we have been walking along a fairly well worn path, but things become more interesting when Tom Wright tries to interpret the acute stresses in contemporary Anglicanism in terms of the turbulent relationship between Paul and the Corinthian church. In fact he refers to this as ‘the heart of the matter, the re-enactment today of 2 Corinthians’. This has bizarre and provocative consequences. Firstly, Rowan Williams’ Advent pastoral letter encouraging attendance at Lambeth and the further letters which we are told are ‘in the post’, discouraging attendance on the part of those bishops deemed unsympathetic to the Windsor process, represent Paul’s personal and deeply painful appeal to the Corinthians as he seeks to re-establish his apostolic authority on the basis of an appeal to their shared participation in the New Covenant. It may be that the Archbishop is not quite so committed to this Pauline agenda as Tom Wright thinks because Ruth Gledhill http://timescolumns.typepad.com/gledhill/2008/04/our-absenting-m.html reports that Lambeth Palace have denied sending such letters. But whatever the case, the parallel is perverse; Rowan Williams’ apostolic authority has ebbed away because he himself has failed to uphold the basis of that authority, the authority of Scripture. He has never repented of his teaching and support for the gay/lesbian movement sustained over many years and it was his willingness to invite the consecrators and supporters of Gene Robinson to Lambeth 2008, a direct affront to the clear mind of the...

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Christian values only thing holding Britain together, says Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor

Apr 7, 2008 by

From the Catholic News Agency London, Apr 3, 2008 / 11:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, on Monday said that “Judeo-Christian values” were the only thing holding British society together, the Guardian reports. Speaking to the Guardian on the eve of a lecture series about the place of faith in British public life, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor criticized the “aggressive secularism” that he believes is advancing in the United Kingdom. He also defended the Catholic Church’s stance in the debate over human-animal “hybrid” embryos, and argued that Christian leaders should hold a privileged position over representatives of other faiths in debates about public policy. The Guardian contrasted the cardinal’s remarks with the controversial statements of Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who in February suggested that the introduction of some aspect of Sharia law in Britain was “unavoidable.” Archbishop Williams will also speak at the lecture series. "People are looking for a common good in this country. A very large number of people are saying, ‘What is it that binds British people together?’" Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said. “There is no other heritage than the Judaeo-Christian heritage in this country." Replacing that heritage with a “totally secular view of life,” the cardinal said, would lead the nation down “a very dangerous path.” Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor also defended the Church’s involvement in public debate. "I’m not in favour of an intemperate battle, but I understand there are very different views, and I think the Catholic church has a part to play with other Christians to make sure this debate is held in public, with respect and with great force." The Church recently led a successful campaign to persuade Prime Minister Gordon Brown to allow his MPs a free vote on a bill that would explicitly permit human-animal hybrid embryos. Several scientists accused church leaders of “misrepresenting” or even “lying” about the research. Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor told the Guardian that faith groups should not be considered together "as if [there were one] faith lobby – faith people are in that lobby, and non-faith people in that lobby … I think that’s too simplistic." When asked if that meant Christian leaders should have a privileged position in making interventions in foreign policy, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said, "Yes. I don’t see why not." Tony Blair, the former British prime minister who recently converted to Catholicism, will also speak at the lecture series, which is titled “Faith and Life in Britain.” He is reportedly expected to use his lecture to launch an inter-faith foundation. The lecture will be Blair’s first public statement of faith since his conversion....

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