Monday, July 24, 2006

Reconcilers in pursuit of the irreconcilable :: The Times

Ruth Gledhill doubts the Reconciliation and Peace Centre at Coventry Cathedral can do for the Anglican Communion what mediators have done for Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, Presiding Bishop Griswold reminds us
What does the Lord who said to his disciples "I still have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now" have yet to reveal to us through the agency of the Spirit of truth who continually draws from the "boundless riches of Christ" who is both wisdom and truth? This we know: neither the church nor the Bible can contain the continuous activity of the Spirit. The Spirit draws from what is Christ's and makes it known, often in ways that surprise and unsettle us.
I recall Jesus is also quoted as saying,
I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.
Given that the you doing the binding and releasing is you and me, my reading of this verse is that human agency is involved in discovering truth - it's not all in the Bible, and we discover it has we can bear it. The danger in the verse is that anyone can claim that the position or action they take is God's will. There's the rub - disagreement over who has the Spirit.

From Griswold's sermon:
As the prophet Isaiah tells us God’s ways are not our ways nor are God’s thoughts our thoughts. The divine imagination can stretch us to the breaking point.

Here I am put in mind of the words of Father Benson, founder of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, who observed that our life consists of being stretched not on the rack of human torture but rather on the glorious being of the Holy Ghost. Such stretching may oblige us to repent: in the manner of Job, to repent of our certitudes and presumptions in dust and ashes. Archbishop William Temple defined repentance as adopting God’s point of view in place of our own. The risen Christ continues to reveal truth to us through the agency of the Spirit of truth. Our deeper apprehension of God’s truth is less about possessing information and more about an attitude of mind. Having the mind of Christ, as St. Paul tells us, involves seeing as Christ sees and living with an open and undefended heart.
To which Sarah says:
Certainty is apparently something to be repented of. Uncertainty is the new piety. Amazing.
That's right, Sarah. Revisionists are not revising God. They are revising their understanding of God. Since God is not small, that's to be expected. It's a tradition given to us: "I still have many more things to say to you." And, as Griswold puts it, hearing those "more things" is more about attitude than information.

Bishop-elect Nathan D. Baxter

Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania:
The 136th Covention of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania has elected the The Rev. Dr. Nathan D. Baxter, Rector of St. James' Episcopal Church, Lancaster, PA as its bishop elect.

Nathan D. Baxter has been rector of St. James Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania since October, 2003. A native of Harrisburg Pennsylvania, he attended the public schools and the Harrisburg Area Community College. In 1976, he was graduated from the Lancaster Theological Seminary with honor prizes in homiletics and Christology. After canonical studies at the Diocesan School of Christian Studies, he was ordained deacon in June of 1977 and priest the following December by Bishop Dean T. Stevenson.

From 1991 to 2003, Baxter was Dean of Washington National Cathedral. Previously, he was Administrative Dean at Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass.; Seminary Dean, Lancaster Theological Seminary; Chaplain, St. Paul’s College Lawrenceville, Va; Rector of St. Cyprian’s Church, Hampton, Va; and Curate, St. John’s Church, Carlisle Pa.
Bravo. The Episcopacy just got stronger and more credible.

UPDATE. Abingdon Charlie emails, "New-Virginia-Church-Man's ancestry includes his great grandfather, The Rev. Alexander McMillan, who was rector at St. John's in Carlisle Pa. for the first three decades of the last century and his grandfather, The Rt. Rev. Samuel Blackwell Chilton, who was for some years a member of the board of trustees at St. Paul's College in Lawrenceville, Va."

Flying on holiday 'a sin', says bishop | the Daily Mail

Flying on holiday 'a sin', says bishop the Daily Mail: "The Bishop of London, who is married with four children, heads the church's 'Shrinking the Footprint' campaign. "

Friday, July 14, 2006

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Presiding Bishop: A word to the church :: ENS

I note here that a two-tier solution to our present strains raises serious questions about how we understand ourselves as being the church. I am put in mind of Paul's understanding of the church as the body of Christ of which we are all indispensable members in virtue of our baptism. I think as well of Jesus' declaration in the Gospel of John that he is the vine and we are the branches and that apart from him we can do nothing.

Such a two-tiered view of our common life suggests to me amputated limbs and severed branches without any life-giving relationship to the One who is the source of all life. A pragmatic solution in this regard is at the expense of the deeper truth that the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you.
. . .
Here I am put in mind of the Archbishop's observation in another context that in Baptism we are bound together in "solidarities not of our own choosing." Communion is costly and difficult to live in the concrete, and it is impossible to do so without the love, which is the very life of the Trinity, being poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Liberal Christianity is paying for its sins :: LA Times op-ed

Episcopalians at Columbus overwhelmingly refused even to consider a resolution affirming that Jesus Christ is Lord. When a Christian church cannot bring itself to endorse a bedrock Christian theological statement repeatedly found in the New Testament, it is not a serious Christian church. It's a Church of What's Happening Now, conferring a feel-good imprimatur on whatever the liberal elements of secular society deem permissible or politically correct.

You want to have gay sex? Be a female bishop? Change God's name to Sophia? Go ahead. The just-elected Episcopal presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is a one-woman combination of all these things, having voted for Robinson, blessed same-sex couples in her Nevada diocese, prayed to a female Jesus at the Columbus convention and invited former Newark, N.J., bishop John Shelby Spong, famous for denying Christ's divinity, to address her priests.

When a church doesn't take itself seriously, neither do its members. It is hard to believe that as recently as 1960, members of mainline churches — Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and the like — accounted for 40% of all American Protestants. Today, it's more like 12% (17 million out of 135 million). Some of the precipitous decline is due to lower birthrates among the generally blue-state mainliners, but it also is clear that millions of mainline adherents (and especially their children) have simply walked out of the pews never to return.
The author:
CHARLOTTE ALLEN is Catholicism editor for Beliefnet and the author of "The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus."
Actually, Charlotte, I think you are confusing tradition with faith.

Lost in translation

The Cincinnati Post:
At St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Montgomery, the Rev. Cannon George Hill III led the congregation in the Navy hymn, "Eternal Father, Strong to Save."
Emphasis added.

Southern Ohio diocese announces nominees :: ENS

Episcopal News Service:
The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Southern Ohio on July 10 announced the nominees for the ninth bishop of Southern Ohio. . . .

The nominees are:
• The Rev. Thomas Edward Breidenthal, Dean of Religious Life and of the Chapel, Princeton University
• The Rev. Robert Glenn Certain, rector, St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, Palm Desert, California
• The Rev. Susan E. Goff, rector, St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, Springfield, Virginia
• The Rev. John F. Koepke III, rector, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Dayton, Ohio
• The Rev. James B. Lemler, Director of Mission, The Episcopal Church, New York, New York
These priests join an additional nominee, the Rev. Canon George Hill, rector of St. Barnabas, Montgomery, Ohio. Hill was nominated by petition in 2005.

Susan E. Goff: "The commandment of God and the old traditions are not the same, Jesus said."

A Canterbury Tale :: American Prospect

Ever since the rise of the religious right, liberals have longed for a religious counterpart on the left. But that notion was always dubious, and the recent turmoil within the Episcopal Church should put it to rest for good. Without the wholehearted participation of the mainline Protestant churches, there can be no religious left remotely comparable to the Christian right in Protestant-dominated America. And churches in the throes of schism hardly have the wherewithal to marshal their resources in the service of battles in the secular political arena.

Though, on the surface, my pronouncement may seem disheartening, I must confess to finding a measure of liberation in letting go of the hope for a forceful new religious left. Over the last 20 years, I have witnessed attempts by well-meaning liberal clerics to construct various bodies and alliances in the hopes of creating a parallel movement to that of the religious right. Organizations have come together and drifted apart, leaving a trail of frustration in their wake. The fervent hope for the creation of a vigorous, cohesive religious left has amounted to a vigil for Godot -- the one who never arrives. And now I am grateful he never did.

In seeking to create a counterpart to the religious right, we tried to force our values through a narrow hole. In essence, we bought into the religious authoritarianism of the right, inferring that moral authority proceeds only from religion. In this, we have sold ourselves short.

Liberal values represent the essence of the world’s great religions. At the root of all of the great faiths are fundamental beliefs in compassion, justice, love, and charity. We have the right -- dare I say the duty? -- to express ourselves as moral agents without the imprimatur of ecclesiastical authority.
Thanks to Scott of Hybla for the link.

Monday, July 10, 2006

10 Questions For Katharine Jefferts Schori ::Time Magazine - Jul 17, 2006 -- Page 1

What will be your focus as head of the U.S. church?
Our focus needs to be on feeding people who go to bed hungry, on providing primary education to girls and boys, on healing people with AIDS, on addressing tuberculosis and malaria, on sustainable development. That ought to be the primary focus.

The issue of gay bishops has been so divisive. The diocese of Newark, N.J., has named a gay man as one of its candidates for bishop. Is now the time to elect another gay bishop?
Dioceses, when they are faithful, call the person who is best suited to lead them. I believe every diocese does the best job it's capable of in discerning who it is calling to leadership. Many Anglicans in the developing world say such choices in the U.S. church have hurt their work. That's been important for the church here to hear. We've heard in ways we hadn't heard before the problematic nature of our decisions. Especially in places where Christians are functioning in the face of Islamic culture and mores, evangelism is a real challenge. [But] these decisions were made because we believe that's where the Gospel has been calling us. The Episcopal Church in the U.S. has come to a reasonable conclusion and consensus that gay and lesbian Christians are full members of this church and that our ministry to and with gay and lesbian Christians should be part of the fullness of our life.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, who leads the Anglican Communion, wrote recently that a two-tier Communion may be a solution. What did you read in his message?
The pieces that I saw as most important had to do with the complexity of the situation and the length of time that this process will continue. He's very clear that we're not going to see an instant solution. He's also clear about his role: it is to call people to conversation, not to intervene in diocesan or provincial life--which some people have been asking for.
. . .

Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?
We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.
. . .

What is your prayer for the church today?
That we remember the centrality of our mission is to love each other. That means caring for our neighbors. And it does not mean bickering about fine points of doctrine.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Church rebels plan $1.85bn property grab :: Sunday Times

The lawyer has told him that if parishes that object to women bishops withdrew from the church, local bishops would have no power to take over their churches and vicarages.

Instead, parish priests themselves may be able to assert freehold rights and it is possible that only parliament would be able to resolve the deadlock. Traditionalists claim to control parishes containing about 10% of the church’s roughly £10 billion-worth of church buildings, church halls and vicarages.

The move comes as the General Synod yesterday voted that there was no theological bar to women becoming bishops, although years of further debate and wrangling are likely before the first ordinations.

Vatican official to Anglicans: ____ bishops would destroy unity :: Cathollic News Service

LONDON (CNS) -- A Vatican cardinal has warned the Church of England that a move to ordain women as bishops would destroy any chance of full unity with the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that if the Church of England adopted such a resolution the "shared partaking of the one Lord's table, which we long for so earnestly, would disappear into the far and ultimately unreachable distance."

"Instead of moving toward one another, we would simply coexist alongside each other," he said.
. . .
Although three of the world's Anglican provinces have already agreed to consecrate women as bishops, Cardinal Kasper said decisions made by the Church of England had a "particular importance" because they gave a "strong indication of the direction in which the communion as a whole was heading."

Saying that he spoke with "pain and sadness," the cardinal warned the bishops of their historic decision's grave consequences, both to ecumenical relations and to the interior unity of the Anglican Communion.

Among the most serious of these, he said, would be that the goal of restoring full church communion "would realistically no longer exist" because it could not exist "without full communion in the episcopal office."

A decision in favor of women bishops made broadly by the Anglican Communion, he said, would also represent a turning away from the "common position of all the churches of the first millennium."

He said this meant that the Anglican Communion would no longer occupy "a special place" among the churches of the West but would align itself closely to the Protestant churches of the 16th century.

Meanwhile: Women bishops could be here by 2012, says C of E.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


A Guide to Church Property Law: Considerations Specific to Episcopalians :: Transfigurations

(Via titusonenine.)

Will George be slayed as England's patron saint? | the Daily Mail

the Church of England is considering rejecting England's patron saint St George on the grounds that his image is too warlike and may offend Muslims.

Clergy have started a campaign to replace George with St Alban, a Christian martyr in Roman Britain.

The scheme, to be considered by the Church's parliament, the General Synod, has met a cautious but sympathetic response from senior bishops.

But it clashes with the increasing popularity of the saint and his flag in England. The World Cup brought out millions of St George crosses as the symbol became increasingly mainstream and less frequently dismissed as a badge favoured only by far-Right political activists.
George has become unfashionable among politicians and bureaucrats. His saint's day, April 23, has no official celebration in England, and councils have banned the St George flag from their buildings and vehicles during the World Cup.

The saint became an English hero during the crusades against the Muslim armies that captured Jerusalem in the 11th century.
Via Protein Wisdom. - Local / Regional News: Gays at Globe told to marry or lose benefits

Consequences consequences

Falls Church News-Press Opinion: Schism is a small price to pay
Is size all that matters to the Anglican Church? It appears that the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury, is willing to steamroll gays to prevent a seismic schism that would decrease membership rolls. . . . The painful nature of this debate brings up existential questions that leaders such as William seem unprepared to face. For example, is the more successful church the one brimming with members based on bigotry or is it the smaller institution walking in righteousness? . . . If the church thinks Equal-lite is the solution, it is headed for a schism. In a sense, this skirmish is no longer about gay people in the Anglican Communion. It is about whether the church is still a conduit for spiritual integrity and intellectual honesty. If members can no longer be true to their beliefs, then the institution will have lost much of its power and meaning. Is a church that dictates one’s conscience rather than allowing one to live as his conscience dictates worth saving? . . . As a practical matter, most church-goers won’t even notice the missing malcontents if the Anglican Church splits. . . . Yes, bigger can be better, but the Anglican Church may soon learn that the size of ideas matter more than the size of membership lists.
The HooK: "There have to be consequences"
Vander Wel says the new bishop is out of step with the Anglican Communion's governing body in England that in 2004 asked the Episcopal Church to express regret for consecrating Bishop Robinson and to place a moratorium on approving any more gay bishops.

"This is a fatal blow in the Anglican Communion if the Episcopal Church does not comply," says Vander Wel. "The Anglican Communion will cease to be as it exists."
. . .
Vander Wel, however, says the resolution does not go far enough-- because there are no built-in consequences for violating it. "The Episcopal Church is an undisciplined church," he says. "I have a little boy, and it'd be like saying don't throw food off your tray; and he throws food off his tray, and I don't do anything about it. There have to be consequences."

But the Diocese of Newark now has a metaphorical handful of Cheerios cocked and ready to test mother church. Just last week, on June 28, it nominated an openly gay priest as one of four candidates to be its next bishop.
The Rev. Brian Vander Wel is associate rector of Charlotteville's Christ Episcopal Church.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Archbishop of Canterbury goes Sci-Fi :: Reuters Photo

He is the very image of disembodiment.

The head cannot say to the lump of cancer, I do not need you, can it? With apologies to St. Paul and the Corinthians.

Via Cadenhead.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

On being a prophet: truth and consequences

The Lexington Herald-Leader asks, A church divided cannot stand -- can it? Quoting:
Around the world, friends in the 77 million-member Anglican communion are taking sides. In a letter this week, the Archbishop of Canterbury hinted that in a newly reconfigured Communion, the U.S. church and others who make "significant decisions unilaterally" might end up as "associate" members, observers with "no direct part in the decision making."

Noting that some provinces no longer have full communion with the Episcopal Church, Archbishop Rowan Williams made no apologies. "It isn't a question of throwing people into outer darkness, but of recognizing that actions have consequences -- and that actions believed in good faith to be 'prophetic' in their radicalism are likely to have costly consequences."

Regarding gays and lesbians, Williams said that "rhetoric about 'inclusion'" should not obscure the key issue -- whether a church which seeks to be "loyal to the Bible" must bless homosexual behavior or warn against it.
In other words, the Episcopal Church is acting as a prophet. If one examines the Bible, one quickly sees: (1) Prophets in the Bible are rarely popular, and (2) prophets in the Bible are rarely wrong as seen in hindsight by the faith community. This does not imply that the Episcopal Church is prophetic. No doubt the Bible includes only those prophets that proved right in the interpretation of the faith community.

Rowan Williams is saying that it is indeed possible that the Episcopal Church will prove to have it right, but that for now it is proving to be a voice that much of the Anglican Community does not accept. That's quite a complement.

In the meantime, acting as prophet - being an irritant to the faith community - necessarily means bearing the consequences. Rowan Williams is right: there's no way to be a prophet and avoid the consequence of being shunned by the faith community.

Are prophets good for the faith? The Bible tells us they are.

Therein lies the answer to question: Can a divided church stand? Answer that by asking this question: has God stopped sending prophets?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A letter to the Diocese of Virginia from the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, Bishop

Extract (my emphasis):

In a story in today’s Washington Times newspaper (June 29, 2006), reporting on the election by the Nigerian Episcopal Synod of the Rev. Canon Martyn Minns as a bishop of the Church of Nigeria, it is asserted that Truro Church, Fairfax and The Falls Church, Falls Church have informed me that they plan to leave the Diocese.

I have had no such conversation with either church. In fact, I received a call today from the Rev. John Yates, rector of The Falls Church, to apologize for the assertion in the story and to assure me that there is no such plan on the part of The Falls Church. I also received today an e-mail from the Rev. Martyn Minns assuring me that no such decision had been made at Truro.

The election of the Rev. Martyn Minns as a Bishop of the Church of Nigeria with oversight of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America is an affront to the traditional, orthodox understanding of Anglican Provincial Autonomy. Archbishop Akinola acknowledges as much in his letter to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. How that situation resolves itself remains to be seen. However, the request by Archbishop Akinola that Martyn be allowed to continue as rector of an Episcopal congregation while also serving as a Nigerian Bishop seems to me, at this point, to be impossible.
Here's the June 29th Washington Times article (and correction). In "A Note from Truro Church" (click, then scroll down) Minns writes "As the saying goes, don't believe everything you read. Thursday's headline in the Washington Times was terribly wrong-I literally groaned when I saw their headline this morning. I guess the true facts were not exciting enough for their headlines. The Truro congregation has not gone through its discernment process and so no decision has been made about our future plans." Finally, at The Falls Church homepage (under What's Happening @ TFC - Recent News): "The Washington Times reported that our church informed our Bishop that we are leaving the Diocese of Virginia and leaving the Episcopal Church. This certainly is not true and misrepresents where we are as a congregation. It is true that we think an extended period of study, prayer, and deliberation about how we are to respond to the serious rift in our denomination is wise and we are hoping to engage in such a time this fall."

ECUSA would become the "off brand"

Episcopalians Shaken by Division in Church - New York Times

Not stirred? Quoting from the NYT article (my emphasis):
Their parish, which celebrated its 150th anniversary last year, is solid and strong. It has 3,000 members, a historic stone building in good repair and a well-loved minister. But to the Episcopalians at St. Luke's Parish in Darien, Conn., who gathered with their pastor to grapple with the past week's news about their denomination, it was as if their solid stone church had been struck by an earthquake.
. . .
"So in other words," Martha Cook, a university professor and member of the vestry at St. Luke's, asked her pastor at the gathering, "the conservatives could literally take over our rightful spot in the Communion, and the majority of the American church would be on the outs?"

The pastor, the Rev. David R. Anderson, answered that while it was far from settled, "the scenario the traditionalists were seeking could actually come to pass."

"The vast majority of the Episcopal Church would be considered the 'off brand,' "
Father Anderson said.
Bewildered conversations like this took place in many Episcopal parishes last week.

For parishes that identify with the right or the left pole on the issue of homosexuality, allegiances are clear. But the vast majority of parishes are somewhere in the middle, with members on each side of the debate who feel connected to the Episcopal Church and to Anglican tradition, said the Rev. William Sachs, a St. Luke's member who was recently named director of the new Center for Reconciliation and Mission at St. Stephen's Church in Richmond, Va. "What's really going on in the pews of Episcopal churches is they don't necessarily want to align with either side," he said. "They want to get on with life. They want this thing resolved."
. . .

. . .
The parishioners at St. Luke's met in a lounge hung with an oil portrait of a rector who served the church from 1863 to 1912. Everyone in the room was white, many white-haired — a group atypical in the context of the global Anglican Communion, in which the typical member is now black, young and living in Africa.

"I used to be Communion ├╝ber alles," said Judy Holding, a student at Yale Divinity School and a chaplain at Greenwich Hospital, "but now I'm asking, at what price Communion?" Ms. Holding said later: "At a certain point for me, it's not worth the price. I would not sign that covenant if it means we have to compromise Christian love and social justice."

Father Anderson asked how many in the room had even heard of the Anglican Communion before 2003, when Anglican archbishops in places like Nigeria and Uganda began protesting the election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire. Only a third of the 30 parishioners in the room raised their hands.
. . .
Father Anderson closed the gathering with a brief sketch of Anglican history. Queen Elizabeth I gave the church the Book of Common Prayer, he told them, and the church came to be distinguished by its flexibility.

"We've never been bound by common belief, but by common prayer," he said. "Anglicans have always had a generous openness. I just feel that now there's a cold wind blowing. As someone here said tonight, it feels un-Anglican to me."
Indeed. What price communion? Schism often results in new growth. ECUSA could become the neo-Aglicans, and the so-called Anglicans would be the Un-Anglicans. I rather doubt the Un-Anglicans could produce, or attract, a Samuel Johnson, a John Donne or a C. S. Lewis. So be it.

Is anyone asking this question?

Parish property is owned by the diocese. That is one of the peculiarities of the Episcopal Church. A congregation that chooses to leave the Episcopal Church does not retain use of the parish property. This figures in the congregation's calculus of whether to leave. Of course not all agree about who owns the property or about what a court would rule if a congregation sued for the property.

The Episcopal Church (ECUSA) is in the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury has recently stated that ECUSA is at risk of losing its representation in AC, and that the representation of the United States in the AC could be transferred to another entity.

My question: If such a transfer of representation takes place, would that have any consequence for ownership?

My presumption: The diocese is a creature of General Convention. The diocese that is recognized by ECUSA is the diocese that owns the property.

My question and my presumption also, of course, apply to dioceses in the US that leave the ECUSA. ECUSA would simply recognize those persons in that region that have chosen not to leave to be that regional diocese. Those persons are the diocese.

Is anyone else asking my question?