Tag Archives: Church of England

The Church of England and Melanie Phillips

Church of England Inter-Faith Relations:

a Response to Melanie Phillips’s article in The Spectator

by Guy Wilkinson

National Inter-Faith Relations Adviserand Secretary for Inter-Faith Relations to the Archbishop of Canterbury copublished with the Spectator, 18 March 2009

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We have seen in recent days in Northern Ireland just how deep antagonisms go and how long their poisonous roots remain in the ground, ready to spring to life like nettles to sting. And to continue the metaphor, we have seen in Luton how some kinds of words can be the means by which such roots are strengthened and enabled to spread.

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Anything that matters deeply to people – religion, politics, football, patriotism – gives rise to passion and to passionate words. And passionate words can make for good or for ill, for peace or for violence. The words which tend to ill are those which are generalised, accusatory and inaccurate because they wound and lead to indignant responses which confirm everyone in their pre existing views of the other.

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Melanie Phillips, in her recent article (The Spectator, 7 March 2009) brought together a very personalised attack on three Anglican clergy with a very generalised criticism of the Church of England for a combination of ‘extreme hostility towards Israel’, ‘appeasement of Islam’ and “with Christians around the world suffering forced conversion, ethnic cleansing and murder at Islamist hands, the church utters not a word of protest”; and finally that: “the church is truly supping with the devil and setting the stage for a repeat of an ancient tragedy.”

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These are remarkably hurtful words for the very many in the Church of England who have worked for years in parishes and dioceses, at home and abroad precisely to find ways in which religious communities can live together peaceably and fruitfully in our neighbourhoods for the common good. This may be a naïve aspiration but it remains one which we believe to be not only worthwhile, but directly inspired by the Christian gospel. To be open to one religious community is not automatically to be hostile to another; to seek to live at peace is not necessarily to agree with the religious other; to speak softly is not to be fainthearted about our own faith nor to fail to witness to it in the hope that others might want to share it; not to grandstand in blogs and in the media when fellow Christians are under persecution is not to be taken to mean that nothing is done.

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The Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion can be proud of the role that they have played over many decades where relations with other religions are concerned.

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In relation to Judaism the record is clear. The earliest of its formal approaches goes back to 1942 with the formation of the Council of Christians and Jews at the instigation of the then Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple and every Archbishop since then has been the Chair of the Presidents of the Council. In 1988 the Lambeth Conference set out its approach to relations with Judaism and Islam in its document: “The Way of Dialogue” and the Church of England followed this is with a serious study of relations with Judaism in 2001: “Sharing one Hope?”. In 2006 the present Archbishop signed a joint declaration with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel which included the words: “We reaffirm our belief in the rights of the state of Israel to live within recognised and secure borders and to defend itself by all legal means against those who threaten its peace and security. We condemn without reserve those who deny a place for Israel and especially those who engage in the evil work of seeking to bring about its destruction.” Since then the Church of England has made a major submission to the All Party Committee on anti Semitism and the Archbishop has hosted at Lambeth the inter Parliamentary Conference on anti Semitism earlier this year.

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In recent years the Church of England and Archbishop Williams have made many initiatives towards Islam, building on the work of Archbishop Carey. These include the dialogue with Al Azhar University, the formation of the Christian Muslim Forum and the Building Bridges Seminars of Christian and Muslim scholars. And in case it should be thought that these two streams of relationship with Judaism and Islam never come together, the Archbishop with the Chief Rabbi led a visit of the leadership of all religions in this country – including representatives of the Muslim Council of Britain – to Auschwitz – Birkenau last October. Can this really be ‘supping with the devil’?

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Lest it be thought that this work is limited to the Church’s national leadership, the Presence and Engagement programme of the past four years, affirmed in the General Synod debate on it in February and alongside the debate and resolution on the uniqueness of Christ, highlighted the work of the thousand parish churches across the country whose parishioners include substantial numbers of Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and other faiths.

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As for the comment that the Church is indifferent to the suffering of Christians around the world, suffice it to say in a short article such as this, that nothing could be further from the truth.

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Last year the Church published an important document: “Generous Love – the truth of the Gospel and the call to dialogue”. The ‘generous love’ referred to is the generous love of God which embraces those who are persecuted for their faith, which encompasses all people of all faiths and which calls us to witness to the truth of the gospel and as part of that, to engage in dialogue with others.

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Canon Guy Wilkinson is the National Inter-Faith Relations Adviser and Secretary for Inter-Faith Relations to the Archbishop of Canterbury

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First published by Fulcrum

For a personal response to Melanie Phillips see here.

For the replies published by the Spectator see here.

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No Axis of Evil: Letters to the Spectator Editor

The following letters have been published in the Spectator in response to a libelous article by Melanie Phillips Beware the New Axis of Evangelicals and Islamists

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Sir: Melanie Phillips’s article (‘Beware the new axis of evangelicals and Islamists’, 7 March) contains untruthful statements about me. I have never said that I wish Israel, in her words, ‘to be destroyed’ or to ‘disappear just as did the apartheid regime in South Africa’. I have never believed this and categorically reject any position that threatens the integrity of Israel as a sovereign nation. I have, however, spoken out against Holocaust denial as well as religious extremism. Far from seeking to ‘appease radical Islam’, I have criticised Islamist attacks against Christians in Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan. I have never knowingly, to use her words, ‘given interviews to, endorsed or forwarded material from American white supremacists and Holocaust deniers’. My publishers in the USA, InterVarsity Press, occasionally arrange interviews for me. I trust their judgment.

I do wish to see the present illegal occupation of Gaza, the Golan Heights and the West Bank brought to an end, but only as a consequence of the peaceful implementation of all relevant UN resolutions, the road map to peace previously agreed by the US, EU, Russia and UN in April 2003, the Annapolis Agreement of November 2007 and Quartet Statement of December 2008.

What saddened me most, however, about Melanie Phillips’s article were her concluding remarks criticising the archbishops and bishops of the Church of England. I have been a Christian minister for just short of 30 years but have yet to meet a priest, let alone a bishop or archbishop, who displays ‘extreme hostility towards Israel’ or who wishes to ‘accommodate and appease’ Islam.

Stephen Sizer
Christ Church, Virginia Water, Surrey

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Sir: I did not, as Melanie Phillips claims, ‘rubbish’ anyone in my review of Global Jihad. I offered a measured but critical response to Dr Sookhdeo’s analysis of Islam and terrorism.

Phillips claims I justify Palestinian terrorism, but provides no evidence. In addition, citing a 2002 article of mine on contemporary anti-Semitism, she omits to mention that right after the part she quotes, I also describe how ‘European culture has a history of anti-Semitism’ partly rooted in ‘the shameful teachings of many in the Church’.

It is a shame if there cannot be disagreement on important issues without recourse to slurs and disingenuously selective quotations.

Ben White
Sao Paulo, Brazil

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Sir: Melanie Phillips accuses me of insinuating that the Jews were ‘people who are instructed by their religion to be violent, treacherous and imperialist’. This would, if I had said or meant it, be a thoroughly disgraceful piece of anti-Semitism. But anyone who reads my piece will see that it was actually a paraphrase of Dr Sookhdeo’s attitude to Muslims.

Andrew Brown
Editor, Belief, the Guardian, London N1

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Phillips and the facts

Sir: Melanie Phillips (‘Beware the new axis of evangelicals and Islamists’, 7 March) states that I was present at the meeting last July, at All Nations Christian College, Ware, Hertfordshire, organised by Global Connections and the group Christian Responses to Islam in Britain. I was not there. Facts are sacred in journalism. This is one of many inaccuracies in the article, which were mentioned in letters last week. Global Connections and Christian Responses to Islam in Britain are to be commended for their sensitive work.

Graham Kings
St Mary’s Church, Islington, London N1

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Smear by association

Sir: Melanie Phillips was so anxious to vent her wrath against Revd Stephen Sizer (‘Beware the new axis of evangelicals and Islamists’, 7 March) for his role in persuading the Church of England to divest itself of shares in Caterpillar, the American company which makes the armoured bulldozers used by Israel to flatten Palestinian villagers’ homes and uproot their olive groves, that she presented misinformation about me in order to perpetrate a smear by association against Sizer. The fact that Sizer’s email bulletins sometimes land in my inbox is no basis for suggesting that he and I are of the same mind.

Sizer approaches the plight of Palestine from his position as a Christian who, it seems to me, has an internationalist and non-racialist outlook. I am a religiously agnostic British Nationalist and racialist who recognises that the Palestinians, since 1948, have faced an invasion of their homeland by aliens who have set about expropriating Palestine for themselves. I see similarities between what has happened to the Palestinians since 1948 and what has happened to the indigenous British people over the same period.

The National Front — at least while I was involved with it from 1969 to 1983 — was not ‘neo-Nazi’. It was a nationalist party with a fully democratic constitution at every level. There were self-proclaimed neo-Nazi groups around at that time, but they were formally proscribed by the NF. All this is fully on record, including in various High Court proceedings. Phillips was also wrong to describe me as ‘the former leader’ of the NF. I served as its National Activities Organiser under a number of leaders.

Martin Webster
Via email

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For a longer response to Melanie’s article see here.

For the reply from the Church of England see here.

For an insight on Melanie’s political views see Wikipedia, that bastion of objectivity and truth, especially her views on Israel.

For the perspective of a Jewish Israeli see Jeff Halper here

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Mrs Beamish and the C of E

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High Noon at the OK Corral: GAFCON Primates meet the Archbishop of Canterbury


It is time for plain speaking: The Episcopal Church in the USA and the Anglican Church of Canada have prostituted the Christian faith and authorized that which God has anathematized.

The hour of reckoning has arrived. How the Archbishop of Canterbury responds will determine much. Early signs are not good. Whether the views of the Archbishop or his staff, the official Lambeth statement about the meeting tomorrow between six archbishops is terse if not defiant.

Ruth Gledhill writes, TimesonLine “Today Lambeth Palace, although not the Archbishop of Canterbury in person, has at last made a comment on this, and the comment at first glance seems to make it clear that this new province will not receive formal recognition any time soon. In fact it appears pretty brutal in its dismissal of the Common Cause initiative. Hong Kong, don’t forget, was recognised extremely fast once its three dioceses decided to seek independence.

Lambeth Palace says: ‘There are clear guidelines set out in the Anglican Consultative Council Reports, notably ACC 10 in 1996 (resolution 12), detailing the steps necessary for the amendments of existing provincial constitutions and the creation of new provinces. ‘Once begun, any of these processes will take years to complete. In relation to the recent announcement from the meeting of the Common Cause Partnership in Chicago, no such process has begun. This comes as the five Gafcon primates, Archbishops Akinola, Venables, Nzimbi, Kolini and Orombi, fly into London this afternoon and prepare to travel to Canterbury tomorrow, Friday, to meet Dr Williams to discuss the new province among other things.’

The meeting has been arranged at the request of the five primates. Next month, I understand, the Gafcon primates will then meet with the primates of the Joint Standing Committee, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori of TEC and Archbishops Morgan of Wales, Aspinall of Australia, Orombi of Uganda, Anis of Egypt and Dr Williams. At this meeting they will present the plan formally to the primates for consideration at the Primates Meeting which begins in Alexandria, Egypt the following day. But it is not at all clear whether this presentation will incorporate a formal request for recognition or not.

Apparently, the big question that is being asked inside the power structures of the Anglican Communion is: ‘Do they want recognition?’ Is there a desire to maintain unity or not? This is not at all clear, and so far the guidance from both sides on this is a bit fuzzy.

Read the rest of this entry »

With Archbishops Akinola, Venables, Nzimbi, Kolini and Orombi riding into town, it is literally high noon at the OK Corral. The fact is the Arcbishop and his staff do not determine who is, or who is not, recognised in the Anglican Communion. Let me explain what is going to happen next, although I make no claim to the gift of prophecy.

1. Conservative Evangelical organisations such as Anglican Mainstream, SAMS, Church Society, the Fellowship of Word and Spirit, Crosslinks, New Wine, REFORM, and probably Forward in Faith, CMS and the CEEC, will all recognise the new Anglican Province of North America, either immediately, or in the next few weeks. They are already working together with Common Cause partners, formally or informally, within the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. This Fellowship already includes whole Provinces, Dioceses, Bishops, clergy and laity. What representatives or Bishops within the Church of England have to say or threaten is now really quite irrelevant. After Gene Robinson was consecrated the die was cast. The showdown in Canterbury tomorrow became inevitable.

2. A majority of the Primates meeting in Alexandria in February (who thankfully are still orthodox) will recognise the new Province of North America. No question.

3. The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) will be tasked with completing the administrative processes necessary to give the recognition that is already there, legal status. Liberals on the ACC and Jefferts Schori especially, will do everything they can to stall or circumvent the will of the Primates, but time, history and the majority of Anglicans worldwide are not on their side.

4. TEC will be expelled from the Anglican Communion. OK, that was not prophecy just wishful thinking on my part.

“Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.” (1 John 2:18-20)

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The Church and the BNP

With the leaking, last month, of the names, addresses and occupations of the 12,000 members of the British National Party (BNP), media attention, such as the BBC and Guardian, has focussed on the handful of police officers, teachers and soldiers so identified. While membership of the political party is entirely legal, certain occupations are banned from being members of the BNP.

While I deplore the threats and attacks that ensued, I am encouraged by two aspects of the incident.

1. Membership of such parties is still perceived to be an embarrassment to the majority of people in Britain.

2. Given legitimate concerns over evidence of institutional racism and anti-semitism within the Church, I am relieved that so few Christian leaders were listed. Ekklesia claims five were identified.

“Further investigation has shown that one of the “Revs” appears to have gained his title through Universal Ministries, an online service which “will ordain anyone, at no charge, for life.” Another had previoulsy said he had joined the BNP by mistake and left the party – although blogs on the internet elsewhere suggest he changed his mind and joined the party again.

It has been previously suggested that the BNP is seeking to gain ground by playing on false fears about race and immigration, and by seeking to exploit the mythology of a white ‘Christian Britain’.

The BNP has also attempted to exploit hard-line Christian conservatism by seeking to set up a body claiming to be a ‘Christian Council of Britain’, by scaremongering about Muslims, and by getting in on anti-Jerry Springer opera protests promoted by the controversial group Christian Voice – which has since distanced itself from them.”

According to Haroon Siddique, writing in the Guardian,

“Ben Wilson, a spokesman for the Church of England, which is not a public body under the Race Relations Amendment Act, said it had seen “no evidence” that any serving vicars were on the list, despite media reports.

“The church’s General Synod passed a motion in 2004 stating that any political movement that seeks to divide our communities on the basis of ethnicity is an affront to the nature of God revealed in creation and scripture and is a grave danger to harmonious community relationships; consequently voting for and/or supporting a political party that offers racist policies is incompatible with Christian discipleship.

He said: “It would be difficult to take any formal action against a vicar on the basis of their alleged membership of the BNP, as membership of any lawful political party is excluded from the grounds for complaint under the clergy discipline measure.”

The best piece of reporting on the relationship between the BNP and the Church has been written by Richard Bartholomew. He identifies three ministers and records the comments of one thus:

“I’m furious. I used to be on the mailing list but I have never been a member. I don’t know why my name has gone out on the list and I’m now considering the action I am going to take.”

There may indeed be others who were ‘relieved’ that they too were not outed. Nevertheless the tally of church leaders associated with the BNP, while just a handful, is, in my opinion, one handful too many.

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Bishop Riah on prospects for peace in the Middle East

The Right Revd Riah Hanna Abu El Assal, the retired Anglican bishop in Jerusalem, was interviewed on Sunday about the situation in the Middle East. He speaks candidly about the plight of the Christian community and his hopes for peace. You can listen to the interview here

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Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) cites the Jerusalem Declaration to repudiate The Episcopal Church (TEC)

October 14th, 2008

The Church of England Evangelical Council issued this statement to express support for Bishop Bob Duncan and the Diocese of Pittsburgh after their meeting on October 10th.

CEEC deplores the recent deposition of Bishop Bob Duncan and expresses full support for him and sends warm greetings and prayers to him, the Diocese of Pittsburgh and their new home in the province of the Southern Cone.

We endorse the following two statements from six diocesan bishops of the Church of England and Anglican Mainstream.

“We declare that we continue to believe that Bishop Bob is a bishop in the Church of God and a bishop in good standing in the Anglican Communion.”

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“It is with great sadness that we have learned of the recent vote of TEC House of Bishops to depose the Bishop of Pittsburgh for abandonment of communion. To take such action is hardly in the spirit of the reflections at this year’s Lambeth Conference or the Archbishop of Canterbury’s final presidential address.

“We see this vote as further evidence that The Episcopal Church in the USA in its formal decisions and structures ‘have denied the orthodox faith.’ As the Jerusalem Declaration on behalf of 1100 Anglican church leaders around the world said: ‘We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.’

“Anglicans who adhere to the orthodox faith will continue to welcome and receive the ministry of Bishop Bob Duncan as a faithful Bishop and wish him and the people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh the Lord’s blessing in their faithful witness to the gospel.”

The CEEC is holding a NEAC Consultation at All Soul’s Church on Saturday 15th November to consider GAFCON and the Jerusalem Declaration. See www.ceec.info

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The Jerusalem Declaration: Why Anglican Churches should endorse it


The Jerusalem Declaration was endorsed by the 1200 Archbishops, Bishops, clergy and laity attending the GAFCON pilgrimage to Jerusalem in June. While it is simply a restatement of Anglican orthodoxy, it is nevertheless probably the most important document to be formulated by Anglicans since the Reformation. In a couple of weeks our own Church Council, like many others, will be considering whether it can endorse the following resolution:

“Recognising that the Jerusalem Declaration is consistent with the doctrine of the Church of England as stated in Canon A5, we stand in solidarity with the Jerusalem Declaration and Statement on the Global Anglican Future.”

Here are five reasons why I believe every indivdual Anglican and every Anglican Church Council should do so:

1. This act of solidarity will encourage those especially of the Anglican Communion in the USA and Canada who are being deposed and persecuted for their gospel stand and commitment to the Scriptures. It is lamentable that so few evangelical Anglican Bishops, for example, have shown solidarity with Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh recently deposed.

2. This act of solidarity will strengthen Anglicans in the Global South in countries such as Nigeria and Sudan who are being persecuted by Muslims because they are wrongly identified with the schismatic and immoral stance of The Episcopal Church in the USA and Canada.

3. Endorsing the Declaration in no way prejudices relationships with our Bishop, Diocese and the Church of England. Just the reverse – it is a restatement of the official teaching of the Church of England and demonstrates our fidelity.

4. Endorsing the Declaration demonstrates that we remain fully committed to the Church of England. We are not leaving, being schismatic or divisive. We are going to reform the Church of England from within. Endorsing the Declaration is a way of declaring our intent.

5. Expressing our solidarity with the Jerusalem Declaration does not commit us to any other decision or course of action. The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is precisely that – a fellowship of like-minded believers. We invite you to be a part of this growing fellowship.

“We stand in solidarity with the Jerusalem Declaration and Statement on the Global Anglican Future.”

Visit Anglican Mainstream to endorse the declaration as individuals and as Parochial Church Councils There is a separate petition for non-Anglicans

The full text of the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration

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