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Monday, 25 July 2022

The Anglican Lutheran Society Conference in Trondheim


Bishop Michael Ipgrave

The Bishop of Lichfield, Dr Michael Ipgrave opened the Anglican Lutheran Society Conference in Trondheim Norway today, and introduced the opening speaker, Presiding Bishop of the Church of Norway, the Most Revd Olav Fyske Tveit. Bishop Olav both inspired us and challenged us in recounting his years of experience in the ecumenical movement, including being the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches of 10 years. 

Presiding Bishop Olav Fyske Tveit of the Church of Norway, 

The theme of the Conference is “A Pilgrimage Towards Hope” and we are blessed to have such a gathering of Christian leaders, pastors and laity, who are committed to our common pilgrimage as Anglicans and Lutherans world-wide, to manifest the unity which is Christ’s will for the Church.

The first day of the conference coincided with the feast of St James the Apostle, the patron of pilgrims. It is a tradition in the Nidaros (Trondheim) Cathedral to honour St James, one of the saints whose statues adorn the great west front of the Cathedral, with a wreath at the start of the pilgrim’s mass, at which our conference delegates received a warm welcome. A priest was raised up on a boom lift to bring the wreath to St Olav. Now that is a new definition of "high church". 

Trondheim is itself at the climax of an ancient pilgrimage route, being the final resting place of St Olav. But the pilgrim mass was not merely a commemoration of the past, but reminded today’s pilgrims (and all Christians are pilgrims through this life, surely) of our need to tread lightly on our beloved planet, with the breathtaking model of our precious planet, just behind the nave altar with the image of our crucified Lord.

Our own Diocese in Europe has a presence in Trondheim with a vibrant community, part of the Anglican Church in Norway. Present at the mass were several members of our Anglican community, together with their Senior Chaplain, the Revd Canon Joanna Udal, who is attending the conference.

Saturday, 23 July 2022

The mind of the Communion


Lambeth 1998 Bishops

In the last few days the bishops going to the Lambeth Conference received the first information about decisions that may be before us. “Calls” is the term used, for declarations and affirmations that the bishops will be asked to consider and vote on. The Calls are largely non-controversial and many of them are, in my view, very good statements related to our work in areas of evangelism, reconciliation, Christian unity, environment, sustainable development and safeguarding among others. One particular reference in a section entitled Human Dignity has attracted some attention. The bishops will be asked to affirm:

It is the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole that same gender marriage is not permissible. Lambeth Conference I.10 (1998) states that the “legitimizing or blessing of same sex unions” cannot be advised.

I am likely one of only a few bishops going to this year’s Lambeth Conference that was present in 1998. I was not a bishop then, but on the ACC staff as Director of Ecumenical Relations and Studies and thus involved as staff of Section IV which dealt with ecumenical relations. (In 1998 the 800 bishops were divided into four sections, roughly 200 in each, for the best part of 2 weeks deliberations.) I had the privilege of being part of the daily steering group meetings when we received reports on the progress of the section discussions. I recall Archbishop Njongonkulu, the then Primate of Southern Africa who headed up Section I which dealt with human sexuality (among many other topics), reporting towards the end of the 2 weeks that there would be no resolution from the section bishops on human sexuality, as they did not believe the Communion was ready to agree such a resolution at that time. He did say that they had prepared a report, however, which summarised the range of the discussion and the journey so far. Resolution I.10 did not originate from the bishops in the section where the discussion on human sexuality issues took place.

In light of the insertion of reference to I.10 in the Lambeth 2022 preparatory document which we have just received, it is perhaps useful to recall what the bishops in the section which discussed the matter in 1998 actually said. It is a conservative statement overall and can be found here: Section I.10 - Human Sexuality ( But it makes some important points as to where the bishops were at that time. Here is an extract (emphasis mine):

We must confess that we are not of one mind about homosexuality …

We have prayed, studied and discussed these issues, and we are unable to reach a common mind on the scriptural, theological, historical, and scientific questions which are raised. There is much that we do not yet understand …

The challenge to our Church is to maintain its unity while we seek, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to discern the way of Christ for the world today with respect to human sexuality. To do so will require sacrifice, trust and charity towards one another, remembering that ultimately the identity of each person is defined by Christ.

24 years ago the bishops honestly stated they were not of one mind. In 2022 can we reliably state what is the “mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole”?


Monday, 18 July 2022

Scripture, Stones, Spirituality and human encounter: the MES study-pilgrimage to the Holy Land

The MES (Ministry Experience Scheme) is a programme largely funded by the National Church which places young persons, 18-30, who may be exploring ordination into parochial settings to get a sense of life in parish ministry. The MES programme of this diocese is one of the most successful across the Church of England. It is headed by Dr Clare Amos, our Director of Discipleship, with support from Fr William Gulliford our Director of Ordinands.

Dr Amos at the Dome of the Rock

One part of our diocesan MES programme which has not been able to be realised for the past two and a half years due to COVID has been a study-pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Finally this year we were able to restore this trip and so 10 interns spent from 7 to 15 July, visiting the Biblical lands, accompanied by Dr Amos, Fr Gulliford, the Revd Carolyn Cooke from the chaplaincy of La Côte, and myself. We were further very pleased that an intern from a similar programme of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in Europe, who is serving in Emmanuel Church, Geneva, was able to join us.

Birthplace of Christ

The days of pilgrimage, prayer and study began followed to a degree the earthly life of our Lord,  beginning with Bethlehem, journeying through various points in Galilee and ending up in Jerusalem, where the events of the passion, death and resurrection occurred. There were conversations with Palestinian Christians, including the Anglican priest in Nazareth, Fr Nael Rahmoun and Dr Elias Deis, of the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem, as well as with Debbie Weissmann, an Orthodox Jewish leader and member of the International Council of Christians and Jews. Our visit co-incided with the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, so we also were able to witness the devotion and the joy of the Muslim community as they prayed and celebrated this feast.

Dr Elias Daer at the Holy Land Trust

Fr Nael at Christ Church, Nazareth

Eid Prayers in Bethlehem

The Philip Usher Memorial Fund which focusses on the relations between Anglicans and the Orthodox East helped to finance the study-pilgrimage, so we took every opportunity to encounter the great Churches of the Christian East, Greek Orthodox, Syrian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian and Greek Catholic. We were received most warmly by His Most Holy Beatitude Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Greek Catholic (Melkite) Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Jules Zerey

With the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem

We joined in the joyful Sabbath worship at Kehillat Yedidya Synagogue. We gathered to celebrate the Eucharist on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and in the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu. Finally on the morning of our departure, we met at Abu Ghosh, one of the possible sites of “Emmaus”, where we celebrated a mass with confirmations for three of the interns, when we felt once again the presence of the Risen Lord encouraging and equipping his disciples.

On the shore of the Sea of Galilee

St Peter in Gallicantu

Confirmations at Abu Ghosh

The whole visit was designed to enable archaeology, biblical history, the biblical texts themselves, the sweep of Christian Tradition and the present context to come together to build a rich, multi-faceted impression of the Holy Land which will surely stay with the interns for years to come.

Thanks to all the interns for their excellent and stimulating company and to Clare, Caroline and William for their wonderful care and leadership. 

Saturday, 2 July 2022

Fr Solomon Ike ordained priest in Madrid

"Is it your will that Solomon be ordained priest?" was the question posed to the congregation of St George's Madrid. "IT IS!" was the resounding answer from those present. Fr Solomon Ike was thus ordained a priest in Christ's Holy Catholic Church.  

I was assisted in the ordination by Archdeacon David Waller, Canon Ulla Monberg the Diocesan Director of Ministerial Development, Fr Ray Andrews the Diocesan Spirituality Advisor, Fr Paul Dean from the Chaplaincy of Costa Blanca, and of course Canon Medhat Sabry, the Chaplain of St George's and Solomon's training incumbent. Deacon Frances Hiller was the deacon for the ordination mass, and Reader Celia Paterson, the Diocesan Director of Reader Ministry, was on hand to assist in the liturgy.

Fr Ray had led Solomon's pre-ordination retreat and was the preacher at the ordination. Fr Solomon is is a native of Nigeria but has lived in Spain for many years and is a fluent Spanish speaker. In his sermon, Fr Ray recognised that Solomon is a "bi-vocational" or a worker-priest, who has a demanding secular job, where most of his time as a priest will be spent. Fr Solomon was urged to remember that his priesthood is about being, rather than doing, and that his very presence among his secular co-workers is an essential part of his ministry. He continues as Assistant Curate in St George's Madrid.

A joyful meal of African dishes followed the liturgy, with warm testimonials in three languages from Fr Solomon's family and esteemed members of the Nigerian Community in Madrid.

¡A muchos años, Padre Solomon!