Gaff Prone NULBC Councillor Describes Church as a “ËœCult’

A gaff prone Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Councillor has once again put his foot it ““ this time on Facebook.

Ashley Howells, Conservative councillor for Loggerheads & Whitmore, previously described Stoke-on-Trent residents as idle and overweight on social networking site Twitter.

His latest gaff came courtesy of comments made by him on Facebook.

Councillor Howells used the world’s biggest social networking site to describe religion, in particular the Church of England, as a cult.

Councillor Howells commented on a link posted by a Facebook user to a story in the Telegraph newspaper that reports that CofE congregations have halved in the last 40 years.

He said that the demise of the Church of England would remove one more myth based cult.

”quite”¦..however it would remove one more myth based cult”

Cllr Howells comments drew this angry response form another Facebook user.

”Sorry to hijack your message, which I happen to agree with, but I fear that Ashley Howells however has given another reason by which his bigoted one sided views have been revealed.

You would think that a councillor wouldn’t cause offence to a good portion of his electorate and his comments on Twitter have caused him to make public apologies before.”

His previous comments about Stoke-on-Trent forced him to close down his Twitter account.

Will his latest gaff force him off the social networking site Facebook?

”Upon meeting many villagers, we found that the various priorities outlined by me matched their concerns and demands to a very great extent ““ for example, residents want to preserve the rural characteristic of the area whilst enhancing local services such as children/youth facilities and senior citizen activities; local folk see a police presence and rapid response rate as key in preventing crime and reducing the fear of crime; residents of all our villages are concerned about Wind Farm, Quarrying and Methane Gas Drilling threats; highway safety and speeding are worries for many ……

I know that Loggerheads Parish Council, responding to its parishioners via the Parish Plan, wants to plan for an improved village centre and I will continue to work with them and the Borough team to drive the initiative on.
I’ve met many from the various community and parish groups which do such important work for the communities of the rural area and I look forward to working with them to enhance our shared quality of life”.

It would appear that the important role played by churches in community life, especially in rural areas like Loggerheads & Whitmore, is being dismissed by Conservative Councillor Ashley Howells, despite what his blog comments say.

It is obvious that his blog article on the NULBC website misleads the electorate and his true beliefs are hidden behind the words written.

Cllr Howells Facebook comments fail to respect those members of society who a practise their faith and enjoy playing a part in church life.

Councillor Howells comments will offend some members of Loggerheads & Whitmore communities and may well affect his chances at the next election as well as seriously diminishing his chances of being invited to open any church fete in his council ward.

48 new clergy ordained to serve north-west Midlands

Lichfield Diocese hits “younger ordinands” milestone as Cathedral welcomes its first woman priest.

Two major milestones will be met during seven ordination service taking place this weekend in Shropshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands.

Amongst the 48 new clergy being ordained in the Diocese of Lichfield is the Revd Nest Bateman, the non-stipendiary curate of Lichfield Cathedral. Ordained a deacon last year; when she is ordained by the Bishop of Wolverhampton tomorrow (Saturday 19th June) in Penkridge, she will become the first female priest licensed to the Cathedral, outside the prebendaries, or honorary canons. She will preside at the Sung Eucharist in the Cathedral at 10.30am on Sunday.

The second milestone is a major step to reaching the Bishop of Lichfields’ target that half of all ordinands should be under the age of 35. The 22 new deacons, being ordained in the Cathedral next weekend, include 10 non-stipendiary (volunteer) clergy and 12 stipendiary (paid) clergy. Half of the new stipendiary deacons are under 35; and the percentage of all the new deacons under 35 is 27 per cent ““ continuing the progress made in recent years towards the total 50 per cent target.

Earlier this year the diocese of Lichfield commissioned television journalist Robin Powell to produce a video report to be shown in churches to support the Bishop of Lichfield’s call for younger ordinands to come forward. Those being ordained over the next two weekends had already been selected and had begun training before that video was shown.

The video is available below and is on the diocesan website: or the diocese’s You Tube channel: The diocese also has a special website designed for young people considering ministry in the Church of England:

There are three orders of ordained ministry in the Church of England: deacon, priest and bishop. New clergy are ordained first as a deacon; ordination as a priest usually follows a year later. New stipendiary clergy will serve as a curate alongside an experienced priest for their first three or four years; as a continuation of their training. Non-stipendiary clergy will work in a variety of roles, dependent upon the needs of the parish to which they will serve.

Petertide, the period around St Peter’s Day (29th June) is a traditional time for ordinations.

Southampton Street Pastor To Be Next Bishop of Stafford

A Southampton priest, who combines his parish role with a chaplaincy to the Mayflower Theatre and a Street Pastor in the south-coast port city, is to be the next Bishop of Stafford.

The appointment of the Revd Canon Geoff Annas was announced today by 10 Downing Street. He succeeds the Rt Revd Gordon Mursell who was forced to retire early on health grounds.

To mark the announcement, the bishop-designate was today embarking on a whirl-wind tour of his new Episcopal Area, which is larger than many dioceses.

He will begin his tour with a visit to Dovedale House, the Diocese of Lichfield’s youth centre in Ilam in the Staffordshire Moorlands; before moving to the County Town for the Staffordshire County Show. While there he will meet the President and Chairman of the Staffordshire and Birmingham Agricultural Society, the former national hunt jockey Johnny Greenall and farmer Michael Shelley.

He will then move to East Staffordshire with a visit to Burton Albion FC. He will tour the Brewer’s Pirelli Stadium before heading to Stoke for a visit which panders to his love of the theatre. The new bishop and his wife will tread the boards at the City’s Regent Theatre and meet some of the back-stage crew who make the magic of the theatre possible.

Geoff Annas was born on the 29th November 1953. His wife Ann is an ophthalmologist. They have two grown up children.

He is currently Vicar of St Christopher’s Thornhill, Southampton. In addition to this he is Actors’ Church Union Chaplain of the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, a Canon of Winchester Cathedral and assistant Area Dean of Southampton. As Area Dean in addition to thinking through pastoral re-organisations, he has overseen the establishment of the Southampton Street Pastor scheme and chairs its management committee; and does a monthly duty as a Street Pastor.

Prior to theological training at Salisbury and Wells and his ordination in 1983, Geoff was a senior social worker with Surrey County Council with a specialism in fostering and adoption. He was assistant intake team leader dealing with family crisis, non-accidental injury, mental health issues and vulnerable adults. He supervised team members and students and prepared and presented court reports.

Commenting on his appointment, he said:

“I have to be honest in that on hearing I was going to be the new Bishop of Stafford I was quite overawed, really. It is a huge responsibility, a great privilege; but also it is really exciting because, although I don’t know the area very much I’m looking forward to getting to know it and certainly getting to know all the people there ““ particularly the clergy but the communities as well. I hope I have something to offer and I’m looking forward to discovering it.

“I think the key issues on taking up office will be to get out of the office! What I really want to do is to get to know the people and the issues they are coping with in their day to day lives. Obviously I have a general knowledge of the area but it’s very different when you’re living there. So I want to spend a lot of time listening and seeing out how the church relates to people in their situations.”

His current bishop, the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester, is himself a previous Bishop of Stafford. Geoff Annas commented:

“Bishop Michael has been very good in that until a public announcement has been made he and I have not discussed it at all. However, I have said to him that when it becomes public knowledge, today, I’d very much like to go and have a cup of coffee with him and get the low-down on Stafford. He said he would be delighted to tell me all about it. What he has said is that it is a wonderful place and he was very happy as Bishop of Stafford. He’s quite thrilled that somebody from Winchester should be going there.”

He said the secrecy about the appointment leading up to today’s announcement was extremely difficult; but says it has helped him to understand the need to tell others about the Good News of the Gospel. He said:

“I’ve actually known for some months now that my name was going to be put forward but of course until the Prime Minister has passed that name to Her Majesty The Queen and she has signed giving her permission nothing is definite.

“As Bishop Jonathan in Lichfield described it when he said he was putting my name forward, it was entering a long tunnel; and it has been a long tunnel. Apart from the bishop here, Bishop Michael, there has been no-one that we have been able to share this with; so it hasn’t been easy. But what it has taught me is that if something is really, really special then actually you’re bursting to tell other people about it and it’s quite hard when you can’t tell people.

“So what I am hoping is that when I get to Stafford and as I get around I will find people who are desperate to tell others about the love God has for them. That telling of others is a very special thing and perhaps something we sometimes take for granted. It will be good to see how other people are hearing about the love of God in the Staffordshire area.”

Canon Geoff Annas will be consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury with other bishops from the Church of England and the Anglican Communion during a special service in Westminster Abbey on 21st September. He will be officially begin his new role when he is installed in Lichfield Cathedral on Sunday 26th September.

He will leave his current parish of St Christopher’s Thornhill after a weekend of celebrations, from 23rd to 25th July, to mark the 50th anniversary of its founding as a parish and the 40th anniversary of the church building.

Jesus and I

Its Good Friday and the most solemn , reflective day in the Christian calendar. One of the products of having a 6-year-old daughter attending a church school is that you are often called to answer some metaphysical questions on God and Jesus. Over recent months these questions have ranged from where does God Sleep to why does God allow bad things to children. This was after the Haiti earthquake.

She also makes up hymns on a keyboard the most plangent being one that began O God, help,help,help,help and she insists that we say Grace at mealtime.

Personally I think that’s its important that Phoebe has knowledge of the Bible stories for without a grasp of the Christian Tradition how can she understands much of Western Art, Literature and Music. Without knowledge of the Bible how do you deconstruct the work of Bach, Caravaggio, Milton or Rembrandt?

In such circumstances I thought that I would re evaluate my relationship with Jesus. I have always been drawn to the historical figure of Jesus as a revolutionary figure rather than the treacly rather spruced up figure that I used to see in the Methodist Sunday school I attended in Boothen.

I even made it to being a choirboy at the local church in Abbey Hulton although I did not take much notice of the service as I used to read a bird identification book under my cassock.

When I was 17 or so I was “converted” although in my case the conversion did not happen on the Road to Damascus. In my case it was the A6 on the road to Matlock since that brief infatuation with the evangelical movement I have maintained a deep scepticism with sometimes surfaces as the case of the Bethel City Church proved.

I enjoy visiting churches and cathedrals. I have visited most medieval founded Cathedrals in England with the exception of Rochester. I have seen the chapel of St Francis- my favourite saint- in Assisi. I have smelt rosemary in the Greek Orthodox monastery above the cave in which the Book of Revelations was written on Patmos. I have sat in the amphitheatre in Ephesus where St Paul preached. And above the most spiritual pace for me was the white sand of Iona.

I am or at least think I am a spiritual person but cannot make the leap of faith. Its partly rational and its partly embarrassment but mainly it’s the Christians

Part of the problem with Jesus is that Christians tend to get in the way. As I have explained before I regularly attend church and it is a truism that church going leastways in the Church of England is a middle class interest and a rather straight laced one at that. I went to an Easter Sunday service in Aldeburgh in Suffolk a few years ago and it’s was one of the more unwelcoming occasion I can recall.

It’s also an issue with me that the emphasis that some Christians give to sexuality over more pressing issues. Last June Churches in Leek arranged for the Bishop of Stafford to visit one lunchtime and answer questions in a local pub. I was always think of the Mencken comment that a Bishop is a figure who reaches a higher position in the church than did Jesus Christ. I went over and rather predictably someone asked a question of gay clergy. I forget what Bishop Gordon Mursell had to say. I was next and simply pointed out that a child in the developing world dies every 16 seconds of preventable disease, we have global conflict and environmental degradation and yet the Church or anyway its members have this obsession what adults do in the privacy of their homes.

But there remains the figure of Jesus and as I said its Jesus the revolutionary figure that I have the most regard for. Jesus the advocate of the oppressed, the vulnerable and the marginalised. And I see Jesus in the form of some of the great Christians of the 20th century Archbishop Romero of El Salvador murdered at the high altar by rightists 30 years ago, Thomas Merton peace campaigner and monk who reached out to eastern religions and Dietrich Bonhoffer the opponent of the Nazis who was hanged by them in the closing days of the war.

But it’s the representation of Jesus in the Pasolini film Gospel according to St Matthew that makes the most resonance dedicated to the peasant Pope John XX111. Christ becomes, in the hands of the Gay Marxist intellectual Pasolini, an expressly political figure – a serene, utterly self-contained messenger who recruits his disciples and preaches with a passion identifying completely with the poor and suffered for them.

I’ll be working at the supermarket this afternoon in the jostling, impatient crowds and I’m sure that the message of sacrifice and redemption will be completely lost on them

Family life breaking down because of texts and emails warns Bishop of Stafford

Source: The Telegraph

Family life is breaking down because of the emails and text messaging and the church is at risk of becoming a “lifeless, dangerous and useless distraction,” a leading Bishop has warned.

By Andrew Pierce

Rt Rev Gordon Mursell

Rt Rev Gordon Mursell

The Bishop of Stafford the Rt Rev Gordon Mursell also said that social networking sites had contributed to the demise of the family by replacing traditional conversation.

“In Britain, 33 per cent of our children hardly ever eat a meal with their parents. In the rest of Europe the figure is 17 per cent. In the city of Stoke-on-Trent, where I live, the principal industry is making china and pottery products ““ dishes, plates, cups, etc. This industry is in terrible decline, not only because of the world recession, but because families no longer have meals together.

“Children do not talk to grandparents or even parents. The art of talking together, of having a good social conversation, has been replaced by texts and emails. Nearly all the talking is done electronically, and almost all of it is carried out between people of the same age and background.

“Talking to people who are not like you is become more and more difficult, even in our super-technological society.”

The Bishop, who made his comments in a sermon in Güstrow Cathedral to celebrate a 20-year link between the diocese of Lichfield and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mecklenbur, also delivered a withering attack on the state of the church in Britain.

“Over the centuries, many people, including many Christians, must have asked themselves”¦ “ËœWhat is the point of the church?’ All those crusades, burning of heretics, wars of religion: what were they for? If there really is a God, why doesn’t he show himself directly to the people outside the Church? Well, of course he can and does. But, if he does, why do we need a church at all?”

He said it was a matter of not just what the church believed but how it lived its life.The Church had to make a home with God in a relationship of unconditional love

“When it fails to live like that, when it becomes preoccupied with its own structures and turns in on itself, it becomes lifeless, a dangerous and useless distraction.”


cofebnpimage3This just in to us here at pitsnpots……………..

The Church of England is to consider banning clergy from joining the British National party amid fears the far-right party is promoting its image as Christian.

Next month’s General Synod, the church’s national assembly, will debate a motion calling on Anglican bishops to formulate a similar policy to that of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) on the BNP.

The Acpo policy states that no member of the police service may be a member of an organisation whose constitution, aims, objectives or pronouncements contradict the “general duty” to promote race equality. This specifically includes the BNP, the policy states.

General Synod member Vasantha Gnanadoss, who works for the Metropolitan police service, will call for a similar ban to apply to all clergy, ordinands and employed lay persons who speak on behalf of the Church of England.

In a background paper to her private members motion, Gnanadoss said such action would make it “much more difficult” for the BNP or other similar organisations to exploit the claim that there are Anglican clergy or church representatives who support them.

“Of specific relevance to this motion are some of the tactics adopted by the BNP, which in recent years has sought to identify itself as Christian and sometimes specifically with the Church of England, in order to further its agenda,” she said.

The motion comes after a list of 12,000 names and addresses of BNP membership was posted on the Internet in November.

Five “Reverends” were identified on the list, but the Church of England said none were licensed or serving Anglican clergy although one was a retired priest.

The call from Gnanadoss, who is from the south London diocese of Southwark,  comes after several denunciations of the BNP by senior church figures.

The Archbishop of York, the Right Rev John Sentamu, took out an advertisement in the local newspaper in 2007 urging voters in the local elections to come out against the BNP and warning that they risked sleepwalking into a “wall of hate”.

The General Synod has backed a motion brought by the Rev Simon Bessant condemning voting for or supporting a political party that offers racist policies as “incompatible” with Christian discipleship.

William Fittall, the secretary general of the General Synod, said it was church policy that people should not enter ordained ministry if they held racist views.

But he said if the church were to vote for an identical policy to that of Acpo this would mean amending the recently passed clergy discipline measure.

Fittall said: “The Synod has discussed organisations that promote views that are highly contentious on racial issues and Synod has expressed very clear principles ? but this motion raises slightly different questions.

“It is whether the church should have formal policies that make it impossible for a member of the clergy or indeed a member of the lay staff to be a member of these parties.

“That is of course, a trickier question, not least because not long ago the Synod passed the clergy discipline measure which specifically said you could not discipline a member of the clergy for political views or membership of a political party.”

A spokesman for the BNP denied it was racist or had racist policies. He said: “I am aware of this, we were told by a member of the General Synod. There are members of the General Synod who are sympathetic towards us and we were made aware of this a long time ago.

“This is a disgraceful way to politicise the church. The church has got far more important things we feel to worry about regarding the collapse of morality and the collapse of attendance at Church and the advance of Islam rather than a vindictive campaign against a perfectly legitimate political party”

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that the  Church of England should allow their priests to be members of a far right party that openly prejudice against non whites. The clergy should preach peace and love for our fellow man. There is so much written in the bible that encourages us to embrace others and to live by a strict moral code. Remember how many people who are black and are practicing Christians, would it be fair to expose them to potential racists hiding behind priestly vestments. They say you should never debate about religion and politics, well here we’ve done both!

Over to you!…………………..