Ashers Baking Co. of Northern Ireland has lost its appeal against a fine and compensation award for refusing to bake and decorate a “Support Gay Marriage” cake.
A panel of three judges wrote on Oct. 24 that under the law the bakers were not allowed to limit services only to those who agreed with their religious beliefs.
The case was brought two years ago when Ashers, a family-run firm, declined to supply a cake ordered by Gareth Lee, a gay-rights campaigner. Daniel McArthur of Ashers expressed disappointment in the ruling, saying it undermined “democratic freedom, religious freedom, and free speech.”
The three judges said it did not follow that icing a message on a case meant the bakers supported that message: “The fact that a baker provides a cake for a particular team or portrays witches on a Halloween cake does not indicate any support for either.”
The judges said the Ashers would not have objected to a cake that said “Support Heterosexual Marriage” or “Support Marriage.”
“We accept that it was the use of the word ‘gay’ in the context of the message which prevented the order from being fulfilled,” they said.
Speaking publicly for the first time about the case, Lee said he was “relieved” and “grateful to the appeal court judges.”
In the original case in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, the judge said she accepted that Ashers had “genuine and deeply held” religious views, but said the business was not above the law.
Ashers received assistance for its case from the Newcastle-based Christian Institute. As yet there are no indications of any appeal.
Love Your Vicar Week
“Love Your Vicar Week” (Oct. 23-30), a new project by St. Luke’s Healthcare for the Clergy, says church members can do a lot to help their clergy avoid burnout or feeling isolated.
“We should never take our pastors or our clergy for granted,” said Claire Walker, chief executive of St. Luke’s. “They work incredibly hard in very difficult roles and a small ‘thank you,’ whether it’s from the adults in the parish or the children, can make a huge difference.”
Schools are encouraged to compose messages of gratitude for use during assemblies or religious education classes, and to hold fundraising bake sales, dress-up, or sports challenges in support of St. Luke’s.
“Thank Your Vicar Week is a great idea,” said the Rt. Rev. Geoff Pearson, Bishop of Lancaster. “We should honor them for the important role they have in building up their church families in faith to reach out and to serve their communities.”
St. Luke’s began its ministry in 1892 as St. Luke’s Hospital for the Clergy. In 2000 it sold its Central London facility and now uses the capital to fund preventive approaches to mental health and well-being for clergy.
Lord Carey Expects Criticism
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, is bracing himself for criticism of his support for a bishop who was jailed for sexual assault. He revealed he has been warned to expect “explicit criticism” for the way he and the Church of England dealt with the case of the Rt. Rev. Peter Ball, Bishop of Gloucester from 1992 to 1993.
Lord Carey, who previously relied on the church’s lawyers, has requested his own legal team to avoid any conflict between the church’s interests and his own.
Lord Carey’s actions in backing the then Bishop of Gloucester, now 84, who was being investigated for sex offenses almost 25 years ago, are under scrutiny in two separate inquiries.
Meanwhile, one of Lord Carey’s sons, the Rev. Mark Carey, 51, has been arrested on suspicion of historic child sex abuse claims, which date from his early to middle teens. Under church safeguarding protocols he has been suspended from work as a vicar.
Abp. Anis: Be ready to Suffer
Christians should be “ready to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Christ,” the Most Rev. Mouneer Anis of Egypt, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa told archbishops and bishops at the sixth Global South Meeting.
Archbishop Anis said the church in the Global South had many challenges and weaknesses, including “polygamy, tribalism, corruption, and harsh treatment of women,” as well as “false teaching” of the prosperity gospel, and the teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons.
“We cannot continue to focus on the faults of others while neglecting the needs of our own people,” he said.
He warned of an “ideological slavery” resulting from “some Western churches and organizations us[ing] their wealth and influence to push their own agendas in the Global South.
“We need to be aware of this, and resist all kinds of slavery, whether financial or ideological,” he said, or else face “cultural defeat and captivity.”
More than 100 delegates discussed the importance of ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. Guests at the opening session included representatives of the Vatican, the Coptic Orthodox Church, and Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the seat of Sunni learning.
The Rt. Rev. Bill Musk, a former Bishop of North Africa, said North African Christians were persecuted in the early centuries of Christianity as they are now, and said unity was vital to withstand such challenges.
He told of how the fifth-century Council of Carthage, which met in what is now Tunisia, decided that no diocese had the right to discipline leaders in another province, despite a deep cultural divide within the Church. Bishop Musk described the Church at that time as being riven between a Latin elite, which advocated a compassionate response to Christians who denied their faith under persecution, and local Berbers, who insisted upon faithfulness to Christianity until death.
The joint meeting of GAFCON and Global South constituencies says it represents more than 70 percent of Anglicans globally. More than 100 bishops and archbishops attended, some of them from countries experiencing serious troubles. Participants included representatives from Sudan, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Southern Africa, West Africa, Indian Ocean, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Southeast Asia.