Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Denominational Division

Is there division in the Episcopal Church? Of course.

But how do you write a headline when a parish votes to leave the denomination, and the denomination's constitution says that people can leave but parishes can't? "Parish departs" doesn't capture it. The locution "allegedly departed parish" does.

And what do you put in the headline when a denomination votes to secede, but the denomination says according to its constitution only it decides on divisions?

The Diocese of San Joaquin has voted to leave. But the diocese is still there. It is still there in at least two senses. First, because there has not been a division from the constitutional perspective there is still an Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. It is merely awaiting the appointment of an acting bishop. Second, if the diocese has left who are those people occupying diocesan property and the church property held in trust by the diocese? Shouldn't they be packing their bags?

Yes, I am. No, you're not.

I remember the arguments we had as children. "Yes, I am." "No, you're not." Ad infinitum. Maybe it was about whether you were in the top reading group in 4th grade. May be it was about whether you lived in the right neighborhood. What ever.

As a child it was very frustrating to "know" you were right, but to be told confidently by the other (with a smirk perhaps) that you were not. You wanted them to admit they were wrong, that they were only pretending in order to get your goat.

That's the way it is in the Anglican Communion these days. Who is in the Anglican Communion? Some people say they are even though their bishop is not invited to Lambeth. Or they are in the United States but not members of the Episcopal Church. Some people might decide I'm an apostate and say I'm not an Anglican for that reason.

No one can deny anyone their fantasy, or pretended fantasy that they are members of the Anglican Communion. It's not as if we have to swear allegiance the Archbishop of Canterbury or something. Maybe that's a good thing, I don't know.

But what it means is that there's no need for anyone to set up an alternative worldwide Anglican Communion. There's no point. We can all believe there's a man behind the walls of Lambeth who agrees with us. Or even if he comes out and says no he disapproves of you or me, we can ignore him. Whether you're in the Anglican Communion is all in your mind. And when that's so no one can exclude anyone from membership.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Vatican advocates unequal pay...

...for unequal work.

The Times has the story
The Vatican will offer a three-tier “level of merit” bonus system, with the top bonus being 10 per cent of salary. “Meritocracy has breached the Vatican walls,” Il Messaggero, the Rome daily newspaper, said. The deal, to take effect in January, was negotiated with the Vatican’s association of employees, the ADLV, the closest organisation to a trade union in the Holy See. There are also about 1,000 clergy and nuns in Vatican City – one of the world’s smallest sovereign states. It is not clear how their “productivity” is to be measured, but this should prove rather easier with the administrators, secretaries, gardeners and mechanics, and the staff of the Vatican Museums, the Vatican Bank and Vatican Radio and Television.
According to The Times, 'When he was once asked how many people worked in the Vatican, Pope John XXIII (1958-63) is said to have replied: “About half, I think.”'

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Who is most likely to beat Krugman in a debate?

Krugman 2007:
Lately, Barack Obama has been saying that major action is needed to avert what he keeps calling a “crisis” in Social Security — most recently in an interview with The National Journal. Progressives who fought hard and successfully against the Bush administration’s attempt to panic America into privatizing the New Deal’s crown jewel are outraged, and rightly so.

But Mr. Obama’s Social Security mistake was, in fact, exactly what you’d expect from a candidate who promises to transcend partisanship in an age when that’s neither possible nor desirable.
Krugman 1996:
Where is the crisis? Just over the horizon, that's where. . . . Responsible adults are supposed to plan more than seven years ahead. Yet if you think even briefly about what the Federal budget will look like in 20 years, you immediately realize that we are drifting inexorably toward crisis; if you think 30 years ahead, you wonder whether the Republic can be saved.
It's all explicated here in the Washington Post.

Don't get played for a sucker by Krugman. Not to criticize liberals in general, but beware someone who titles his blog Conscience of a Liberal. Well, at least he told us it's not possible to transcend partisanship. 1996. Let's see, what was the context of his remarks at that time?

Lesson learned: Apply a heavy discount to anything the man says.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Our Rowan he sent Howe a letter

By now you've probably seen or know where to find a copy of the email letter the Archbishop of Canterbury sent to Bishop Howe who heads up the Diocese of Central Florida. But I'm going to post it here with my comments interspersed. The ABC's letter is in italics.

14 October 2007

Dear John

I've just received your message, which weighs very heavily on my heart, as it must - though far more so - on yours.

Heavy hearted because a substantial number of churches in the diocese are contemplating leaving the diocese.

At this stage, I can say only two things. The first is that I have committed myself very clearly to awaiting the views of the Primates before making any statement purporting to settle the question of The Episcopal Church's status, and I can't easily short-circuit that procedure. The second is that your Rectors need to recognize that this process is currently in train and that a separatist decision from them at this point would be irresponsible and potentially confusing.

He's referring here to the recently concluded House of Bishops statement and the process he's set in place to review whether that response is adequate. The process to my understanding is not fully articulated but the next signpost in view is for the primate responses (and other ACC member responses) due late this month. I would be surprised if he saying that a decision is imminent or that he's concluded even who exactly has the authority to make such a decision.

However, without forestalling what the Primates might say, I would repeat what I've said several times before - that any Diocese compliant with Windsor remains clearly in communion with Canterbury and the mainstream of the Communion, whatever may be the longer-term result for others in The Episcopal Church. The organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial structure as such.

To paraphrase: "I'm saying nothing new. If your diocese is Windsor Compliant you are Anglican regardless of the fate of The Episcopal Church." I had not realized that this was the status quo under which we were operating. You'd certainly not get that impression from Bob Duncan, or from Martyn Minns. Why does one need to go seek another harbor if the ABC himself is giving you safe harbor (the Diocese of Virginia is Windsor Compliant, no?)?

This status quo, though, undermines the ability of a national church to cohere. What incentive do dioceses have to stay in dialog with each other, to listen to each other,to be mutually forebearing towards each other - to pay their dues - if they can opt out of the national church and still be Anglican? Is that what is implied?

Those who are rushing into separatist solutions are, I think, weakening that basic conviction of Catholic theology and in a sense treating the provincial structure of The Episcopal Church as if it were the most important thing - which is why I continue to hope and pray for the strengthening of the bonds of mutual support among those Episcopal Church Bishops who want to be clearly loyal to Windsor. Action that fragments their Dioceses will not help the consolidation of that all-important critical mass of ordinary faithful Anglicans in The Episcopal Church for whose nurture I am so much concerned. Breaking this up in favour of taking refuge in foreign jurisdictions complicates and embitters the future for this vision.

A criticism of those rectors cum churches who leave their dioceses. A criticism, too, of Common Cause bishops who have one foot out the door with their dioceses. And a criticism of foreign Primates offering harbor. (Notice: They're not Windsor Compliant. Hmmm.)

Do feel free to pass on these observations to your priests.

Translation: "I'm about to wrap this up. And I should say something tender. Oh, but here's another thought as I'm getting in touch with my feeling side...."

I should feel a great deal happier, I must say, if those who are most eloquent for a traditionalist view in the United States showed a fuller understanding of the need to regard the Bishop and the Diocese as the primary locus of ecclesial identity rather than the abstract reality of the 'national church'. I think that if more thought in these terms there might be more understanding of why priests in a diocese such as yours ought to maintain their loyalty to their sacramental communion with you as Bishop.

He's reiterating his core point about ecclesial identity. But then he throws in the phrase "abstract reality of the 'national church'." There's been much buzzing on the web about what that means. As in, isn't the Anglican Communion a communion of national provinces? Perhaps he means 'national church' isn't Biblical; nor of course then is the Church of England. Nor is the Archbishop of Canterbury nor the Pope. Nor the Primates! Or is he saying something specific about the organizational design of The Episcopal Church? My guess is, no. But it's only a guess.

But at the emotional level I can understand something of the frustration they doubtless experience, just as you must.

With continuing prayers and love,


Ok, I'm done. Stick a fork in it.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Quote of the week

The bellicose Rev. Don Armstrong:
I feel that T-19 has sort of sold out to TEC and itself has become a symptom of the problem, fighting but staying, feminized but claiming orthodoxy....
Kendall Harmon? Feminized? Is Don Armstrong calling Kendall a girlie-man? Pretty childish.

Recall Armstrong decided not to stay in The Episcopal Church only when he feel under a cloud of charges of financial misdeeds. Misdeeds that appeared to entangle the Anglican Communion Institute. Armstrong helped form the ACI and was its executive director. The mission of ACI was to reform TEC from within. I don't recall anyone during that time ever called Don a girl. Not that should be considered an insult.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Misplaced optimism

My hope that the leadership of Anglicans in Africa had turned their energy and attention to the problems of the continent turns out to have been misplaced. Despite Akinola's claims that this meeting of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa would be about poverty, disease and injustice, it is apparent that the energy at the meeting was spent fixating on homosexuality.

CAPA issued two communiqués. The first, covers everything expect homosexuality. The second, covers homosexuality. You be the judge - where is the energy?

Akinola, however, no longer leads CAPA.

African bishops focus on poverty at historic meeting

African Methodist bishops have better things to do than fret about social developments in America. Perhaps they have inadvertently shamed their Anglican counterparts.

UMC News:
United Methodist bishops in Africa ended their first continental meeting with a renewed resolve to work together strategically to fight poverty in Africa.
As we go through our struggles, God is sharpening our tools so that we can be instruments of change," said East Africa Bishop Daniel Wandabula. "Sharing and listening to my fellow bishops, I believe that the kingdom can come. We cannot separate the spiritual and the physical … to be the church; we should not shy away from the problems we face."
The bishops explored how issues of health, food security, governance and education intersect with poverty to negatively impact the quality of life of people in their congregations and communities. They agreed that a poor quality of life leads many Africans to migrate to Europe, North America and elsewhere, which hurts development efforts in Africa.

"(People) aren't able to live in their own communities and localities and so they move away to other countries in an effort to find a better place and life," said Nigeria's Bishop Kefas Kane Mavula. "We have to convince people that moving away is not the solution. … We have to make sacrifices, remain in our situations and try as much as possible to do what we can to improve those situations."
"Let us not wait for heroes; let us be the heroes. Let us not wait for disciples; let us be the disciples and let us transform our reality," said West Angolan Bishop Gaspar Domingos.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Fixation on Uganda's problems

Episcopal News Service:
Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) is providing emergency assistance to communities affected by severe flooding in Ghana and Uganda. Nearly 17 African countries have been affected by heavy rains which began in early June. Approximately 1.5 million people have been impacted, including more than 680,000 in West Africa alone.

Church of Uganda News:
The Episcopal Church USA (TEC) has clarified its commitment to continue on their path to abandon the Biblical and historic faith of Anglicanism. They, in fact, have decided to walk apart, and we are distressed that they are trying to take the rest of the Anglican Communion with them.
--The Most Rev. Henry Orombi
In the meantime the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa are meeting in Mauritius discussing the continent's problems. Chief among them is not the fear of a forced import of American theology. It's curious that the very apparent reason for being of the Global South is that unfounded fear. Or does the Global South take the fatalistic view that it has no control over the problems of poverty, disease, injustice and oppression?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Great Divorce Myth

Economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers writing in NYT
Last week’s release of new divorce statistics led to a smorgasbord of reporting feeding the myth.
The story of ever-increasing divorce is a powerful narrative. It is also wrong. In fact, the divorce rate has been falling continuously over the past quarter-century, and is now at its lowest level since 1970. While marriage rates are also declining, those marriages that do occur are increasingly more stable. For instance, marriages that began in the 1990s were more likely to celebrate a 10th anniversary than those that started in the 1980s, which, in turn, were also more likely to last than marriages that began back in the 1970s.
Why has the great divorce myth persisted so powerfully? Reporting on our families is a lot like reporting on the economy: statistical tales of woe provide the foundation for reform proposals. The only difference is that conservatives use these data to make the case for greater government intervention in the marriage market, while liberals use them to promote deregulation of marriage.

Adults, do you like hanging out with your parents?

New York Times
Not surprisingly, men and women often gave similar answers about what they liked to do (hanging out with friends) and didn’t like (paying bills). But there were also a number of activities that produced very different reactions from the two sexes — and one of them really stands out: Men apparently enjoy being with their parents, while women find time with their mom and dad to be slightly less pleasant than doing laundry.
Are young men shirkers? Or do their mothers pamper them? Do parents expect more of their daughters than their sons?
For a woman, time with her parents often resembles work, whether it’s helping them pay bills or plan a family gathering. “For men, it tends to be sitting on the sofa and watching football with their dad,” said Mr. Krueger, who, when not crunching data, enjoys watching the New York Giants with his father.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Yes, but what is his view of salvation?

Patrick (William Baldwin) is New York's attorney general, but he's hiding a transgendered girlfriend. Karen (Natalie Zea) is about to get married for the fourth time. Brian (Glenn Fitzgerald) is nasty, vindictive, he's got an illegitimate child — and he's an Episcopal priest. Juliet (Samaire Armstrong) is a talentless aspiring actress who's a bit Paris Hilton-esque. Her twin, Jeremy (Seth Gabel), seems completely lost.

Pillories in NYC?

The Ecubishop writes:
Where I live, in New York, we bishops will be pilloried if we make any concessions in a conservative direction. An 815 staff person walked out on Katharine Jefferts Schori after she reported on General Convention Resolution B033. It was too conservative.
Yes, that's part of the problem. You're being pilloried by your own staff? It may be uncomfortable to take a stand that someone close to you abhors so much that they walk out on you. But that's why you're getting paid the big bucks.

Friday, September 21, 2007

WSJ: US dissidents go global

Andrew Higgins writes this page one article in this Wall Street Journal of September 20th. The topic is the relationship of those who have left the Episcopal Church and the African bishops who have taken them in.

Like many WSJ stories it is gives one some of the color of the story at the cost of not covering all points of view about these boundary crossings.

Here are some excerpts:
The Rev. John Guernsey, rector of a church in a middle-class Virginia suburb, stood early this month before thousands of Africans here on a rickety, ribbon-bedecked podium. Clutching a wooden staff in his left hand, he shouted in Runyankole, a local tribal language: "Mukama Asimwe!" -- Praise the Lord!

Mr. Guernsey, 54 years old, had reason to rejoice. A defector from America's Episcopal Church, he had just been made a bishop -- by the Church of Uganda.

"I had no idea that this is what God had in store for me," said the bespectacled Virginia priest after a five-hour consecration ceremony in Mbarara, a Ugandan district best known for its long-horned cattle.

Mr. Guernsey represents a religious byproduct of globalization: A small but growing number of Christians in North America are turning to developing countries in Africa and elsewhere for spiritual direction. Some priests call the phenomenon "theological offshoring."
More than 200 American churches have relocated their spiritual guidance offshore, switching allegiance to more conservative Anglican churches in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Bolivia and Argentina. No longer part of the Episcopal hierarchy, they report to overseas leaders and follow the more orthodox theology espoused by their new foreign base.

Some of these are new churches created by dissident Episcopalians. Others are established parishes that bolted from the Episcopal Church.
Mr. Guernsey is now back at his All Saints' Church in the Virginia suburb of Woodbridge. The Episcopal diocese to which he used to belong now has three resident bishops in its territory. One was named by the Episcopal Church. Then there are the Uganda-ordained Mr. Guernsey, and the Nigeria-appointed Mr. Minns. Each has the accoutrements of a bishop -- a purple shirt, flowing red vestments and a special ring.
Uganda "is certainly very different" from Woodbridge, says Mr. Guernsey, who first visited Africa as a student. The average family income of around $54,000 a year in Virginia is 154 times that of $350 in Mbarara. But the African country's church is in tune with the Bible-based spirit of his Virginia parish, says Mr. Guernsey. "This is about fundamental issues of scripture that won't go away." Homosexual acts, for instance, are illegal in Uganda, where politicians and priests denounce them as Satanic.
After Uganda's independence from Britain in 1962, the church served as a rare pillar of stability in a country tormented by coups, war and economic collapse. In 1977, the dictator Idi Amin, a Muslim, had Uganda's Anglican archbishop murdered.
Which begs raises the question, where is the wisdom in the church in Uganda devoting its energy to persecution of homosexuals rather than building up the poor? Thanks to the Wall Street Journal for raising the issue.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Read the Bible rationally without losing God, maybe

James L. Kugel in his new book, How to Read the Bible
WARNING: ..... Precisely because this book deals with modern biblical scholarship, many of the things it discusses contradict the accepted teachings of Judaism and Christianity and may thus be disturbing to people of traditional faith. I should say that I count myself in this group, and some of the things I will relate have indeed been disturbing to me over the years. I hesitated for a long time before deciding to pursue modern biblical scholarship as my field of study, and I hesitated even longer before deciding to commit my thoughts on it to writing. If I nonetheless went ahead, it was because I felt that it was dishonest, and ultimately would prove impossible, to hide from the central question addressed by this book. Others, of course, may feel differently. It is up to them to decide whether or not to continue.
From the first chapter available at the New York Times.
Kugel, an emeritus professor of Hebrew literature at Harvard and, mark this, an Orthodox Jew, aims to prove that you can read the Bible rationally without losing God. He sets himself the monumental task of guiding readers all the way through the Jewish scriptures (the Old Testament, more or less, if you’re a Christian) and reclaiming the Bible from both the literalists and the skeptics.

The NYT book review calls it "an awesome, thrilling and deeply strange book."

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Check out Hungry for Ramadan - My American Ramadan Blog by Shahed Amanullah, a frequent Beliefnet contributor. It is at once touching and informative. Don't miss it if you are at all curious about the significance of Ramadan, or the lives of American Muslims. Or check it out simply to savour the clarity of Amanullah's writing.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Bob Duncan's summer reading

Praise for Strange Yokefellows

The Institute on Religion and Democracy has shed much light on how the NCC [the National Council of Churches], an organization founded for Christian unity, has become so divisive and divided over the years. It is a sad, but instructive telling.

The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh

The IRD itself has its own yokefellows.

Fragmentation of the traditionalists

Two voices of conservatism have me wondering if Anglicanism would fly to pieces if conservatives ran show and revisionists were excised from the Communion.

Writing in Church of England News, Andrew Carey writes
Of equal scandal to the theological drift of the Episcopal Church into a kind of uncommitted unitarianism, has been the failure of those who are theologically orthodox to stand firm together in opposing that movement. Individualism and schism has marked the response of American conservatives to their denominational tussles. And I still don’t see how separate Rwandan, Ugandan, Kenyan and Nigerian adventurism on American soil really helps create any kind of solidity around central theological convictions.
Jordan Hylden at First Things goes farther,
And neither will the break be into two groups, one liberal and one conservative. Theological disputes over issues such as women’s ordination and the sacraments (not to mention old nationalistic and racial quarrels) will divide churches even further. Like the rest of Protestantism, Anglicanism will wind up as a confusing and quarrelsome alphabet soup.
And he writes of "Conservative divisions, which have become manifest in recent disputes over the direction of Bishop Duncan’s 'Network'."

Hylden is predicting what the fallout would be if the Episcopal Church does not conform or is not disciplined. Are the conservatives really so divided and undisciplined that without The Episcopal Church to kick around they would go after each other? Can Anglicanism really afford to go without the glue that the Episcopal Church provides? Who will be the first to go and start the unraveling?

Who thinks they possess the truth? Each of them does of course, rather than the alternative which is that each of us possesses a piece of the truth to share which the other. And certainty over the authority of scripture and over doctrine breeds contempt. Which leads, Chris Sugden not to revolution but to schism.

As Graham Kings writes from Fulcrum/Renewing the Evangelical Centre,
These consecrations seem to me to follow a 'Federal Conservative' model of the Anglican Communion rather than a 'Communion Conservative' model.

The supreme irony of this is that they put a higher priority on 'independence' over 'interdependence' just at the crucial time that the model of 'interdependence' is being pressed on The Episcopal Church and its House of Bishops.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

False: "200 of the 7000 congregations in The Episcopal Church have opted out"

Just because you read it in The Times today doesn't make it so. Here's the offending sentence,
More than 200 of the 7,000 Episcopal congregations in the US have opted out of the covenant.
When the Washington Post made the same error back in June epiScope was there to correct the record,
There's no hard evidence presented to back it up, for one good reason: not all, or even most, of those congregations--however many there are--ever were TEC congregations.

Monday, August 27, 2007

To Nigerian Synods on the Journey towards Lambeth 2008

It's worth taking a step back and remembering that the Akinola/Minns letter is addressed "to Nigerian Synods on the Journey towards Lambeth 2008." Many of us taken the letter to be intended for a wider audience. But what if we take it at face value that the letter is intended for the Nigerian Synods? The polemic -- for that is what it is, not a balanced litany of events leading up to Lambeth 2008 -- then is a piece of proganda aimed at stirring up sentiment against The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. At the same time access to information in Nigeria is limited relative to our experience. In short, Akinola seeks to pull the wool other the eyes of the Nigerians synods. He needs to in order to strengthen his base of support in Nigeria.

Yet who is actually writing this polemic to Africans? Martyn Minns.

When Akinola speaks for himself he sounds like this:
Let me also say this: that in our human existence in this world, there was a time Africans were slaves; but we came out of it. But what again followed? Political slavery, under colonial administration. Somehow, we came out of it. Then economic slavery: World Bank, IMF would tell you what to do with your money and your own resources. Now, it is spiritual slavery and we have to resist this. They had us as human slaves, political slaves and economic slaves. They want to come for spiritual slaves. Now we won’t accept it.
Why then does he need Martyn Minns to speak to Church of Nigeria? It smacks of reliance on western advisors, doesn't it?

Also look at what The Rev. Samson N. Gitau has to say in the Living Church. I am most interested in these excerpts:
The colonization of Africa also featured the entry of missionaries evangelizing the new-found world.
Even though the missionaries preached love for one another, they did not practice what they preached. As the saying goes, the missionaries “preached water, but drank wine.” This was figuratively as well as literally true. The missionaries also were reluctant to include the indigenous converts in the church leadership. In Kenya, for instance, the first Anglican assistant bishops were consecrated in 1955, more than half a century after Christianity had reached inland.
The missionaries’ reluctance to obey the word of God they preached, and their reluctance to include indigenous converts in church leadership led to the formation and proliferation of the so-called independent African churches. These churches broke away from the mainline churches. The locally founded churches coined new names that gave them their African identity such as “the African Brotherhood Church.”

So for the Global South, the saying is true, “once bitten, twice shy.” It must therefore not be a surprise to see the strong reactions from Global South Christians to Western revisionism.
Yet the actions of Akinola are to put more faith in foreign advisors than indigenous bishops, to turn away from the gospel of love, and to threaten to break away from the Anglican Communion.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Standing Firm offers a primer on document and computer security

Last week major two documents of the Anglican Dissident Network fell into enemy hands.

The first, "Agonizing Journey," was a public document attributed to Archbishop Akinola. The text of this document was originally made public on the Church of Nigeria website, obstensibly as a letter to Akinola's bishops. It was, however, clearly meant for wider distribution. What fell into enemy hands was the electronic version of the document in a format that allowed the Church Times to track changes and draw the plausible conclusion that much of the document was written by Martyn Minns. Both Standing Firm and Titus 1:9 played this discovery as much ado about nothing.

The second was the draft of a document left on a public computer at Camp Allen during the recent meeting there of Windsor bishops. The letter was addressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, giving him the Windsor bishops' opinion of how he should handle his meeting with the House of Bishops in late September. The letter was designed to "manipulate" him if you will. (The public stance after the meeting was rather more humble.)

In a post at Stand Firm, Greg Griffith has now (1) given credence to the provenance of this second letter and (2) undercuts his own assertion that the authorship of "Agonizing Journey" is of no consequence. The post, "A Computer, Data and Communications Security Primer," contains this (... in the original):
Harris doesn't identify the bishop. Who wrote a letter on a publicly-available computer at Camp Allen.

And didn't save it.

Didn't delete it.

Just left it there.

For anyone to see.

Pardon me for a moment while I scream.


OK, there. All better now.

No, wait. One more scream.



OK, really better now.

This is perhaps the most boneheaded move I've read about in months. I don't know who the bishop was, although it's a good bet I know him, respect him, and am personally fond of him.

Still... what in the world were you thinking, bishop???

This falls completely outside the realm of not knowing about email headers, or document headers, or even the "track changes" feature. It falls squarely into the category of leaving your open briefcase full of private correspondence, or a large stack of cash, on a table and walking off. Unless the bishop left the letter on the computer as part of a cunningly devised scheme the genius of which I've simply been unable to discern, this should go down in the annals of bonehead history.
Lisa Fox shares similar thoughts to mine.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Ship God

Glynn Cardy has an opinion piece in today's Guardian that I recommend. An excerpt:
Much of the current Anglican debate is in house. It's a debate between those who want to protect the structure, strengthen the walls and keep foreign winds and doctrines out, and those who want to open the windows and doors to the world and be prepared to change time-honoured methods and doctrines in order to do so. The debate about homosexual clergy and blessings, for example, is largely about how accommodating the church can be without compromising its foundations.

Yet those of us who are pilgrim sailors tire of this debate, not because the issues are unimportant, but because the model is not true to our experience of God, faith and community. A house doesn't move. It isn't meant to. The model assumes that the land won't move either. It is essentially a static model, supportive of the illusion of an unchanging past and a predictable future.

The house God is at best a benevolent host who opens the gates to strangers, welcomes them, and dines with them. God may accommodate the strangers'
suggestions about rearranging the furniture, even knocking a hole in a wall, but the basic structure will remain unchanged. For God in this model is not only the host but also the landlord.

Compare this with the God who is the wind in our sails and the beat in our hearts. The ship God is less interested in structure and hospitality than in those excluded from structure and hospitality. Change is not a threat, inconvenience or prescription, but part of the divine nature. God is the energy of transformative love, and refuses to be tamed.
Read it all here, pilgrim. May pilgrims progress.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Wither the church? Or, is it all about sex?

Over at the Daily Episcopalian my latest essay is up.

Short version: It's about reproduction. Conservatives do it more. That's their missionary position. Or at least three quarters of it. The other quarter is ironic because it means increased apostasy amongst their children.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Cloths of Heaven

Aedh wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

by W. B. Yeats

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


One way to get them back in church as Ruth shows.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Quote of the day

Sunday's Washington Post carried a page A01 story on a Tanzanian tribe, the Hadzabe. It is an interesting story of the primitive tribe's encounter with modernity.

Among the "benefits" that have been brought to them are missions to spread Christianity. They have failed. I was struck by this wisdom from one man:

We just go to church as if we are pictures.
Our hearts and minds are not there.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Denominational fecundity,
conversion, and apostasy

I read today that:
The conservative denominations have grown more than the mainline denominations in large part because they have higher fertility, and that has given them a growth advantage. But part of conservative growth is attributable to the recent decrease in conservatives' rate of switching to mainline denominations. While the diminished influx has hurt the mainline denominations, it has not necessarily helped the conservative ones. That is because conservative denominations are losing the same fraction of their young people as they were losing 30-50 years ago; intergenerational persistence has not increased for conservative denominations. People leaving conservative denominations have just changed their destination after a switch. Conservatives used to switch to mainline denominations; recently they have chosen other religions (especially Catholicism but also some of the "other" religions) and no religion more often than they have chosen the mainline denominations.
-Michael Hout; Andrew Greeley; Melissa J. Wilde

Monday, June 04, 2007

Blogsite amplifies Church's cyber voice

Episcopal News Service provides a nice review, "Episcopal Café serves up nourishing spiritual food online." Try it, you'll like it.

I liked this bit the most:
The Café offers accessibility, Shott believes, like "a youth baseball game where people gather and talk about the real events in their lives, about what to do about an aging parent, or surgery, or some pressing deep consideration. I can't tell you how many of these conversations I've had. I look around the group and say 'boy, they don't know anything about the Episcopal Church, where are we?' This is where the church needs to be."

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Kit Carlson's essay today at the Daily Episcopalian:
I wonder why we have roared on past the thoughtful, balanced, relational and wise reflections of the Virginia Report, to make the Windsor Report a club with which to beat up on some members of the Communion. I wonder why we have abandoned discussion of koinonia and the doctrine of the Trinity to craft a Covenant that is neither interdependent nor relational. ...

How can we work through Windsor without understanding and living out the vision of Virginia? How can we craft a Covenant when we have yet to strive for koinonia?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Over at the Daily Episcopalian my monthly essay for Episcopal Café is up. It's about evangelism.

You may also find this post about free will and brain chemistry to be of interest.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Breeding Inequality

The Economist:
There is a widening gulf between how the best- and least-educated Americans approach marriage and child-rearing. Among the elite (excluding film stars), the nuclear family is holding up quite well. Only 4% of the children of mothers with college degrees are born out of wedlock. And the divorce rate among college-educated women has plummeted. Of those who first tied the knot between 1975 and 1979, 29% were divorced within ten years. Among those who first married between 1990 and 1994, only 16.5% were.

At the bottom of the education scale, the picture is reversed. Among high-school dropouts, the divorce rate rose from 38% for those who first married in 1975-79 to 46% for those who first married in 1990-94. Among those with a high school diploma but no college, it rose from 35% to 38%. And these figures are only part of the story. Many mothers avoid divorce by never marrying in the first place. The out-of-wedlock birth rate among women who drop out of high school is 15%. Among African-Americans, it is a staggering 67%.
The Undercover Economist has this to say:
There is little doubt that virgins achieve better grades. Yet is this because sex kills brain cells, or because kids who are already bored at school look harder for ways to amuse themselves? Professor Sabia’s article in Economic Inquiry uses data on the timing of the decision to have sex to show that kids who decide to have sex were already doing badly at school.

Professor Sabia’s results show that a girl does not seem to be distracted at all by losing her virginity - perhaps because young boyfriends are not competent enough to be terribly distracting.

Be careful, though, because it’s different for boys. Professor Sabia finds that deciding to have sex will knock a few percentage points off your grade.
See also David Brooks:
There are at least two things we know about flourishing in a modern society. First, college students who attend religious services regularly do better than those that don’t. As Margarita Mooney, a Princeton sociologist, has demonstrated in her research, they work harder and are more engaged with campus life. Second, students who come from denominations that encourage dissent are more successful, on average, than students from denominations that don’t.

Headline: Anglican diocese defects over gays

Has The Times retracted this egregious blopper of a headline? Day 11 and counting.

Their vaunted religion writer, Ruth Gledhill, wrote:
In the biggest rift yet over gays, an entire diocese in the Anglican Church is to defect from the Episcopal Church of the US.

Sorry, Ruth, it ain't happened yet. Not sayin' it won't.

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
- Mark Twain


The Times has detailed report of the exodus of Christians from the Middle East.

Ironically, in most Gulf Coast Countries like Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates there are large, unpersecuted Christian communities of temporary workers from around the world.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Episcopalians, Unitarians and Reformed Jews

Although the Episcopal Church is often considered part of the U.S. "Protestant establishment," a study of moral valuing across a national sample (Wood and Hughes 1984) found that Episcopalians formed a constellation with Unitarians and Reform Jews that stood separate from any other group of Christians. Because these two groups share with Episcopalians significant overrepresentation among elites today, this strongly suggests that the social status component operates in shaping life values.
William H. Swatos, Jr .

Woods and Hughes write,
In order to develop a dummy variable representing conservative religion, we used data from the General Social Surveys. Looking first at GSS samples for years not containing the pornography items, we examined the relationship between religion and a variety of attitudes (e.g. sexism, sexual behavior, abortion, tolerance) reflecting social conservatism. We found a consistent pattern that Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians and "other" Protestants (not Episcopal) were the most conservative. Those in the "other" category, largely fundamentalist, were found consistently to be the most conservative, the strongest believers, and the most frequent church attenders. We also found that persons indicating they were Jewish, Episcopal, did not have a religion, or were in some other religion (i.e., other than those mentioned here) were the most "liberal" on these issues. We then looked at a variety of issues among samples in survey years in which the pornography items had been asked, and found the same pattern.
My emphasis.

Is Akinola incensed?

Shannon Johnston, Centrist

From Shannon Johnston's hometown paper:
The man chosen to lead Virginia Episcopalians will look to the heavens as he shepherds the centuries-old diocese threatened by divisions over homosexuality - and to the 1960s Alabama of his youth. Then a small boy living in the Jim Crow stronghold, the Very Rev. Shannon Johnston paid close attention to sit-ins and freedom rides unfolding around him, as well as resistance by bristling segregationists. "I saw how those who stayed in the middle, and tried to keep people together and talk and understand ... set a strong example of how to build up community," said Johnston, 48, who spoke to The Associated Press from the diocese's Richmond headquarters. "That was a witness I think I've never forgotten."

The former Mississippi rector will rely on those lessons of cooperation as he steps Saturday into a new role as bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia - the nation's largest Episcopal gathering, and a flash point in a conflict over gay rights that's shaken the faith worldwide. Back in Tupelo, Miss., Johnston used his centrist theories to smooth congregation quibbles. In Virginia, where the church is split between those who support gay-friendly policies and others who feel the church has flouted biblical texts, Johnston hopes to again sweep people from both sides into the peaceful middle.

"Being in the center means finding a place and the ways in which people who are on either side of an issue can come together," Johnston told The AP. "Virginia has been known for decades, if not centuries, for being just such a place."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Headline News

We don't write 'em, we just pick 'em:

Solomons-led Anglicans Stay Clear of Gay Bishop - Something about splitting the baby in two?

Sunday Services with a Masculine Accent Better Fit for Bored Men
Related > 250,000 Christian Men to Re-Ignite Old Flame

I saw you staring at each other.
I saw your eyes begin to glow.
And I could tell you once were lovers.
You ain't hidin nothing that I don't know.
There's an old flame burning in your eyes
that tears can't drown and make-up can't disguise.
Now that old flame might not be stronger,
but it's been burnin longer
than any spark I might have started in your eyes.

My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi.
Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes.
Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green.
The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Why Conservative Churches are Growing

Why Conservative Churches are Growing (1972):
[Conservative churches] not only give evidence that religion is not obsolete and churches are not defunct but they contradict the contemporary notion of an acceptable religion. They are not "reasonable," they are not "tolerant," they are not ecumenical, they are not "relevant." Quite the contrary!

It is ironic that religious groups which persist in such "unreasonable" and "unsociable" behavior should be flourishing, while more "reasonable" and "sociable" bodies are not. It is not only ironic, but it suggests that our understanding of what causes a religious group to flourish is inadequate. Some dynamic seems to be at work that contradicts prevailing expectations.

(As quoted in Finke and Stark)
The author, Dean M. Kelley, was an executive at the National Council of Churches.

From Table 7.2 in Finke and Stark:
Membership per 1,000 Church Members (all denominations)

1940, 31.4
2000, 15.3
Southern Baptists
1940, 76.7
2000, 104.9
Church of God in Christ
1940, 2.6
2000, 36.2

Friday, May 18, 2007

Behind the times

Schism in the Greek Orthodox church persists between the moderate Orthodox establishment and the Calendarists who still follow the Julian calendar.

Taking things to the extreme? What would Noah say?
Mount Athos is best known for its centuries-old ban on women and even female animals (except for cats, which are needed to keep the rodent population down).
Afterall, sometimes we must be practical. If rodents allow females on Mount Athos, then so too must cats.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Figure 3.1 Religious Adherents 1776 and 1850

Finke and Stark:
Percent of All Religious Adherents
x = 1776
o = 1850

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 20.4%
oooo 4%

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 15.7%
oooo 3.5%

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 19%
oooooooooooo 11.6%

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 16.9%
ooooooooooooooooooooo 20.5%

xxx 2.5%
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo 34.2%

xx 2%
oooooooooooooo 13.9%

Church numbers and self inflation

Episcopal Life Online:
Jefferts Schori acknowledged that all mainline denominations have been reduced in their representation in the general population, "but Episcopalians have done better than others," she said. "Even though most Americans say that they pray regularly, only 21 percent of Americans are in worship services on an average weekend. That is very different than 50 years ago."

"Our challenge," she stated, "is to retain the children we produce and to reach to new populations in this country and the vast population of the unchurched to whom we are a highly attractive alternative."
Institutional Honesty

Mainline Protestant churches -- Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians and others -- are roundly criticized for hemorrhaging members for 40 years. And while membership has surely dropped, mainline churches are often the first to cleanse their rolls of the inactive to produce a more accurate figure.

The 15 million-member Seventh-day Adventists, for example, saw their U.S. numbers drop in recent years in part because a church audit found duplicates on membership rolls, said Kathleen Jones, an assistant for general statistics for the denomination. Those duplicates are being purged.

Often, new pastors want up-to-date numbers because they don't want to be blamed for any drops, said Lindner of the NCC. And some denominations assess fees to congregations based on membership, so the smaller the numbers, the smaller the fees.
Finke and Stark:
Hopelessly inflated statistics are precisely what are obtained when individuals are asked their religious affiliation. Ever since the start of public opinion polling in the late 1930s, surveys have found that approximately 85-95 percent of the population claims a religious affiliation.
Rather than being hopelessly inaccurate ... there are strong prima facie grounds for thinking that [U.S.] census statistics [based on reports by religious bodies] are relatively accurate.... The national rate of religious adherence based on the 1890 data is only 45 percent. ... the Bureau of the Census was very concerned with accuracy and provided extensive, sophisticated, and persuasive evaluations of its procedures.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Faith of our Mothers

Of attachments, religious and otherwise

From 1761 through 1800 a third of all first births in New England occured after less than nine months of marriage, despite harsh laws on fornication. [see 9] .... Single women in New England during the colonial period were more likely to be sexually active than to belong to a church -- in 1776 only about one out of five New Englanders had a religious affiliation.
--Finke and Stark, The Churching of America
One presumes that even if the baby weighed in well the father was not surprized by the premature arrival.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Why didn't AMiA celebrate with CANA?

David C. Steinmetz asks: "Which leaves observers with certain unanswered questions. Why did Akinola establish his own Nigerian alternative rather than support the already existing Anglican Mission in America established by Archbishop Kolini? What, if anything, will mark the difference between the two missionary initiatives? Why did the Anglican Mission, for its part, send no representative to the consecration? Does this action represent a further fragmentation of the conservative opposition?"


He also writes: Akinola "waited until May 5 to make his most important move.The reason for Akinola's delay seems to be that he wanted there to be no doubt that the leadership of the Episcopal Church would refuse to comply with the demands of the worldwide Anglican Communion before he acted -- especially the demand that it accept a "primatial vicar," or alternative chief presiding officer, for conservatives. Once the door to a primatial vicar was closed, Akinola offered a Nigerian alternative."

No, Minns was named and consecrated bishop of CANA last year. The secessions in Virginia occured in December. The ceremonial installation of Minns was going to happen no matter what. What Akinola did do was to attend the installation in spite of the wishes of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Was that visit to the US triggered by the rejection of the primatial vicar scheme? Perhaps.

Dawkinism versus fundamentalism

Ruth Gledhill blogging on her interview with Richard Dawkins:
What he is is passionate for what he describes as "the truth". Because he has aimed his writing, most notably in The God Delusion, at the fundamentalists he so detests, it carries something of the tone of the very preaching he decries. But with the rare and hugely appreciated luxury of being able to talk to him at depth, I had the privileged opportunity of being able to explore precisely what he does and does not believe. And what emerged was a man whose mind is not at all closed to the possibility of the transcendent. I would say - and indeed I did say this to him - that if some of our more intelligent and liberal Church of England and Episcopal bishops were quizzed in detail about what they really believed, and if they gave truthful replies, they might not be that far from the doctrine Dawkins is propagating. Indeed, I might go so far as to say that here we have a man who is in danger of founding a new religion of his own, a religion we might want to call Dawkinism.
More in Dawkins' own words: How dare you call me a fundamentalist.

I wonder what Dawkins would have to say about Alpha.

Related: See Michael Kinsley on Christopher Hitchens' latest God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. One bit:
most daring and original — would he embrace the old Church of England (Episcopalianism in America) and spend his declining years writing about the beauty of the hymns, the essential Britishness of village churchyards, the importance of protecting religion from the dangers of excessive faith, and so on?
Here's the first chapter.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Alphabet Soup

Thunder Jones draws our attention to the evolution of the names changes in CANA. (Thanks to Ann for the link.)

It's not news (the press release is from September 2005), but perhaps what's most glaring is the open statement "Church of Nigeria Redefines Anglican Communion" by taking the trouble to change its constitution to remove all references to 'communion with the see of Canterbury.' Since the Archbishop of Canterbury has always been a first among equals what the constitutional change signals is Akinola's determination to take matters into his own hands. (Compare this change to the preamble change by TEC described here (start at footnote 4 and work back).

The name changes are all documented at the Church of Nigeria website.

1. A word to Anglican Nigerians in American, April 7, 2005: "we announce the formation of the Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America."

2. Press Release, September 2005: Church of Nigeria Redefines Anglican Communion: "With a careful rewording of her constitution, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) redefined her relationship with all other Anglican Churches. All former references to ‘communion with the see of Canterbury’ were deleted .... This effectively gives legal teeth to the Convocation of Anglican Nigerians in Americas (CANA) formed to give a worshiping refuge to thousands in the USA who no longer feel welcomed to worship in the Liberal churches especially with the recent theological innovations encouraging practices which the Nigerians recognize as sin."

3. 16th November, 2005 The miracle of CANA continues!: "Earlier this year we announced CANA - a mission of the Church of Nigeria, a Convocation for Anglicans in North America."

4. Presently CANA says the acronym means Convocation of Anglicans in North America.


1. CANA = Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America
2. CANA = Convocation of Anglican Nigerians Churches in Americas
3. CANA = Convocation for of Anglicans Nigerians in North Americas
4. CANA = Convocation for of Anglicans in North America

I'd like to give you the html code for the above. Damned impressive.

That Covenant Design Group

You have to wonder what their designs are and who their covenant is with.

9th January 2007

The Archbishop of Canterbury today announced the members of the Covenant Design Group that he has appointed in response to a request of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates’ Meeting and of the Anglican Consultative Council.

The group will meet under the chairmanship of the Primate of the West Indies, Archbishop Drexel Gomez, and includes experts in canon law, the nature and mission of the church and ecumenical relations from around the Communion. ...

The members are listed below:

The Most Revd Drexel Gomez, West Indies (1)
The Revd Victor Atta-Baffoe, West Africa
The Most Revd Dr John Chew, South East Asia (1)
Ms Sriyanganie Fernando, Ceylon
The Revd Dr Kathy Grieb, USA
The Rt Revd Santosh Marray, Indian Ocean
The Most Revd John Neill, Ireland
The Revd Canon Andrew Norman, Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative
Chancellor Rubie Nottage, West Indies, Consultant
The Revd Dr Ephraim Radner, USA (2)
Ms Nomfundo Walaza, Southern Africa
The Revd Canon Gregory Cameron, Anglican Communion Office, Secretary


(1) "Bishop Schofield describes a Global South Steering Committee consisting of “John Chew,(8) Archbishop of Singapore; Drexel Gomez(9) of the West Indies and the Caribbean; Gregory Venables, Primate of the Southern Cone, South America, and a [sic] three Archbishops from Africa, including Peter Akinola of Nigeria as Chairman.” Bishop Schofield also asserts that representatives of 10 American dioceses met in Virginia and submitted to the authority of the Steering Committee." (See section H here.)

(2) Member of Board of Directors of Institute for Religion and Democracy. See footnote 2, here.

Robin Hood

The Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican), Peter Akinola has picked up a new title for himself over the weekend. Robin Hood.

In his letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Akinola writes:
This is not something that brings any advantage to us – neither financial nor political. We have actually found it to be a very costly initiative and yet we believe that we have no other choice if we are to remain faithful to the gospel mandate. As I stated to you, and all of the primates in Dar es Salaam, although CANA is an initiative of the Church of Nigeria – and therefore a bonafide branch of the Communion - we have no desire to cling to it. CANA is for the Communion and we are more than happy to surrender it to the Communion once the conditions that prompted our division have been overturned.
I'm not sure why he needs to provide such a defense -- surely he is taking property of the Episcopal Church out of conviction that they are better allocated elsewhere, not for financial gain. He has of course held down the costs of his initiative by this Robin Hood strategy. It's nice to hear that he's ready to give it back when these nasty disagreements are over.

More highlights over at The Lead.

Must reading

The Report of the House of Bishops' Task Force on Property Disputes is up over at the Daily Episcopalian.

It is well worth reading in full.

South Carolina lowcountry property disputes

Who's got the story right concerning the judge's orders in the AMiA versus Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina dispute over the Pawley's Island complex?

A. Kendall Harmon?: "As I feared, the Episcopal News Service article about the ruling is not accurate. But read it for yourself and see if you agree."


B. Adam Parker of the Post and Courier: "The judge ordered that the amendments made to the parish's certificate of incorporation, amendments meant to disassociate the parish from the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina, are to be cancelled, and he said members of the breakaway parish did not have a legal right to use the property."

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Quotes of the day: Tobias Haller and Martin Reynolds

Tobias commenting at Thinking Anglicans:
The ABC has again and again shown that his primary interest is the continued existence of the ecclesiastical institution, and has even sacrificed his personal beliefs about the underlying issues -- and called on TEC to do the same. By challenging the institution, Akinola attacks the very thing Canterbury has tried to protect. This is more than a tactical error; it is a strategic mistake.
Martin Reynolds, same place:
It has always been Dr Williams’ position that, having pulled back the Americans and Canadians to a Windsor position, the real crisis would come for the so called “orthodox” to live with the position of open debate and diverse opinions recognised in the Windsor Report.
Indeed. Or, in the words of Mike, "Who is 'Windsor Compliant' now?"

Myths and realities in the history of the Episcopal Church

The latest Church Times has a useful article about the history of the Episcopal Church. There are some things here to ponder:
The Episcopal Church in the newly independent United States made a virtue of necessity, and repudiated the state connection when it no longer had it anyway.

So much for the myth: the historical reality is that Episcopalians have performed a crucial part in witnessing to the common faith of the Church. Its eucharistic liturgy remains notable for its fidelity to the Early Church. Its involvement of laity in the governance of the Church after independence was a critical model in the revival of synodical government throughout the Anglican Communion.

The Episcopal Church revived “missionary bishops”, who went ahead of settlers rather than following them. These likewise became the model for the expansion of the Church in the British Empire.

American and Canadian bishops essentially forced the calling of the first Lambeth Conference in 1867 on a reluctant Archbishop Longley. They wanted to have their say on the theological developments represented by Essays and Reviews and by Bishop Colenso’s denial of the historicity of the Pentateuch. (They condemned them.)
The Americans also freely criticised the authority of the civil courts and the Privy Council over doctrinal disputes within the Church of England. All the time, they harked back to the model of the Primitive Church. English churchmen were resentful of colonials’ telling them how to run their Church.

Today, the issues are different and the roles are reversed. Now it is the American bishops who resist claims of reciprocal obligation. They resent the insistence that unless we are interdependent and mutually accountable, our Communion is meaningless.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Conservatives who embrace Darwin

The New York Times today has a story about how some conservatives have embraced Darwin:
Some of these thinkers have gone one step further, arguing that Darwin’s scientific theories about the evolution of species can be applied to today’s patterns of human behavior, and that natural selection can provide support for many bedrock conservative ideas, like traditional social roles for men and women, free-market capitalism and governmental checks and balances.

“I do indeed believe conservatives need Charles Darwin,” said Larry Arnhart, a professor of political science at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, who has spearheaded the cause. “The intellectual vitality of conservatism in the 21st century will depend on the success of conservatives in appealing to advances in the biology of human nature as confirming conservative thought.”

The arguments have played out in recent books, magazine articles and blogs, as well as at a conference on Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
The institutions that successfully evolved to deal with this natural order were conservative ones, founded in sentiment, tradition and judgment, like limited government and a system of balances to curb unchecked power, he explains. Unlike leftists, who assume “a utopian vision of human nature” liberated from the constraints of biology, Mr. Arnhart says, conservatives assume that evolved social traditions have more wisdom than rationally planned reforms.
Links can be found at Darwinian Conservatism.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Enough with the navel gazing

Quote of the day:
The Anglicans, getting used to the idea of their first woman primate in the US, really do need to stop looking inward....

-Ruth Gledhill

Standard procedure: sweep it under the rug

Further proof that the natural propensity of churches - Anglican, Roman Catholic, conservative, liberal, whatever - is to sweep sexual abuse by clergy under the rug so as to make it someone else's problem and avoid embarassment to the church: Child abuse: CofE cops it again (Ruth Gledhill).

Yes, churches have put into place procedures and structures to avoid such failures of the church in the future. But we must remain vigilant and mindful that the instituional church's natural propensity is evident and changes in declared procedure do not imply a change of - yes I will put it this - heart.

Mad Priest comments:
The problem we have in England is that it is impossible to do anything about potential abusers, no matter how obvious it is that there is a high possibility that they will abuse, until they actually commit a crime and are found out. With the security of tenure that incumbents enjoy by law in my country a bishop cannot move a priest to a child free environment without that priest's agreement.It's like a bomb disposal team standing around an unexploded bomb and the commander says, "Well, there's nothing we can do, lads, until it goes off."

In the case at hand, the bomb did go off and the church failed to act. But we do have a problem if the church must remain silent even when there are warning signs that someone might abuse. Worse, we only encourage abuse when we sweep things under the rug.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A second RSVP for the day

A few days ago I observed (link fixed) that it's not clear whether the traditional Anglican groups that have split off from The Episcopal Church were rivals or lovers. Today's Washington Times provides some insight:
"There's a sense that Akinola is a very strong leader. Does he want to take over?" said Bishop John Rodgers, the retired co-founder of the Anglican Mission in America, which was founded in 2000 as a U.S. breakaway group by foreign bishops.

Like many church leaders invited, Bishop Rodgers had prior commitments and will not come. He said CANA is perceived as recruiting ACN churches into its ranks, "although I know," he added, "Martyn just wants a safe place where people can be orthodox."

Not all conservatives are convinced CANA wants to be a team player.

"No one can be sure if they're competing against us or cooperating with us," an ACN source said.

The WT also reports:
A phone survey of 10 Episcopal dioceses that belong to the Anglican Communion Network (ACN) -- a confederation that opposes the Robinson consecration -- revealed that only its moderator, Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, plans to attend. Bishop Don Harvey, moderator of the Anglican Network of Canada, has also accepted.

CANA and Bishop Lee

Thank God no one take The Washington Times seriously. It is useful sometimes for revealing the image CANA-nites would project.

The Washington Times:
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is confronting Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola head-on with a new demand that he not install Truro Church rector Martyn Minns as head of a parallel denomination this coming weekend.
Archbishop Akinola does not have the permission to minister within the geographical boundaries of the Diocese of Virginia, which lost 11 parishes about 9,000 people to CANA last winter.

"We share the concerns of the presiding bishop," said diocesan spokesman Patrick Getlein, adding the diocese still refers to the 11 parishes as "occupied by Nigerian Anglicans."

The presiding bishop added that "such action would not help the efforts of reconciliation that are taking place in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion as a whole. Such action would display to the world division and disunity that are not part of the mind of Christ, which we must strive to display to all."
Bishop Minns called her actions "predictable."

"The truth of the matter is we are in a broken relationship right now and the normal things," such as asking a diocesan bishop's permission to minister, "aren't working," he said.
Bishop Minns pointed out the nondenominational 3,500-seat chapel was selected as the venue for Saturday's ceremony so as not to antagonize the diocese.

"We delayed this installation for months," he added, "and we deliberately did not have it in an Episcopal church. I really do want to make this event a positive not a negative witness for Christ."

Organizers have downplayed Archbishop Akinola's role at Saturday's installation. Unlike past visits to Virginia, the archbishop is neither giving the main sermon nor appearing at any press conferences.
Good idea. The more we hear from Akinola the better things get.

Bishop Lee yesterday wrote to his flock. I believe it useful for you to see the kinds of impolite comments it registered here, and here, but not here because I don't link to that dude.


Recently I asked the question, did our Presiding Bishop change her tune about inviting Akinola?

The Washington Times provides one answer:
The head of the 2.3-million-member denomination first made her wishes known last week in a request leaked to the New York Times. When that did not produce a response, Bishop Jefferts Schori sent Archbishop Akinola an official letter Monday.
Is the Washington Times implying a request was sent to Akinola? And why the PB's original statement being characterized as a leak? It wasn't a leak. The NYT asked for her views and she provided them with a statement.

What was made public was her letter to Akinola of April 30. That letter requesting that he not come to the US for the installation of the unelected Martyn Minns.

LATER. May 3 in The Washington Times:
Earlier this week, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sent Archbishop Akinola a request by e-mail and airmail that he not officiate at the gathering.

Canon Akin Tunde Popoola, a spokesman for the archbishop, e-mailed The Washington Times yesterday morning to say they had received neither request.

"It will however be strange that [the Episcopal Church], which had all along explained why the election, consecration and enthronement of Gene is irreversible," he wrote, "suddenly feels that of Martyn Minns, elected by the Nigerian House of Bishops, can be tampered with."

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Bishop Jack Iker and the Diocese of Fort Worth

No breaking news, but the Fort Worth Weekly has a good survey of life in the diocese under the leadership of Jack Iker. Well worth the read.

Don't come to US, Akinola?

Has Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori changed her tune?

Here's part of what she wrote in a statement issued April 28 (source):"I have only just become aware of the possible visit by the Primate of Nigeria. Unfortunately, my office has not been directly informed of his pending visit, but we will now pursue extending to him a personal invitation to see him while he is in the United States. I regret that he has apparently accepted an invitation to provide episcopal ministry here without any notice or prior invitation."

Characteristic of our Presiding Bishop, her statement reflects both hospitality and rebuke (but not anger).

On April 30th she sent Akinola a letter which opens, "I am writing this letter with my prayers for you and for the entire worldwide Anglican Communion from a fellow child of Christ. I understand from press reports you are planning to come to the United States to install Martyn Minns as a bishop in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. I strongly urge you not to do so."

The letter does not include "a personal invitation to see him while he is in the United States."

What happened to her hospitality? Perhaps it's still available, but has been quietly refused. Could it be that Akinola signaled he wished to be saved the embarassment of declining an open invitation to visit our Presiding Bishop?


The conservative Episco-blogosphere is aghast that the conservative Diocese of South Carolina has won its latest round to keep All Saints Pawley's Island. See: Court says church membership rulings rest with higher authorities. The ruling undercuts the leverage conservative parishes have by making it less likely they will leave The Episcopal Church.

So, why would the Diocese of South Carolina continue a vigourous legal battle to keep the Pawley's Island property? Is the diocese perhaps less likely to leave The Episcopal Church than previously thought? You will remember the stumbling block in the consents for South Carolina's bishop-elect -- statements that some interpreted as a willingness to follow the lead of Pawley's Island and take the diocese out of The Episcopal Church.

Has the Diocese of South Carolina blundered, or is it behaving rationally? There are at least two theories consistent with a rational legal strategy on the part of the diocese.

One is the power-politics theory. It stems from the current fragmentation of conservative Anglican-like entities. Consider the negotiations that would surround an attempt to reconsolidate orthodox Anglicans in lower South Carolina. Pawley's Island is presently the center of the Anglican Mission in America. Who would be most likely to be in leadership? There's no love lost between the diocese and AMiA.

Two is what I call the judo-schismatics theory. Consider the potential for property disputes should the diocese leave TEC. There is a well-organized group of liberal Episcopalians in the diocese who would oppose this move. The diocese does not have an interest in giving them tools to claim church property and stay loyal to The Episcopal Church.

My pet theory is the second.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A new kind of Episcopal Church property dispute

Property nobody can afford to maintain. There's more than one example today alone.

1. Everyone's washing their hands of this church - "An argument between the city of Belle Plaine and the Scott County Historical Society over who is responsible for upkeep of the empty church reached a symbolic moment this spring when the historical society mailed the keys back to the city, washing its hands of a 99-year lease.Built in 1868, the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration features charming prairie Gothic architecture, but it never had much in the way of parishioners."

2. Episcopal cathedral in Portage sold - "The Cathedral of Christ the King in Portage has been sold, members of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan were told. Who has purchased the church for $1.275 million and what will be done with the familiar landmark building and its prime property remain unknown. ... The cathedral was built in 1969 for $2 million. The diocese began thinking about a sale in 2004 because of tight finances and a dwindling church maintenance fund. In Gepert's letter Sunday, the bishop outlined some of the reasons the sale was decided, including the dwindling of a $1.5 million fund that had been set up for the operation of the cathedral when it was built." Let's just say it has adventurous architecture.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Every intelligent person asks himself that question

As a teenager at school, I remember a class ending one day. In the general hubbub as we gathered our papers and books, one of my brasher friends asked the teacher: “Have you ever thought of becoming a priest, sir?” “Yes, I have,” he replied. “What, sir? You, sir?” came the incredulous response. And he was told: “Every intelligent person asks himself that question.” That remark was not the start of my own path to priesthood, but its wisdom has stayed with me.

- Monsignor Roderick Strange is the Rector of the Pontifical Beda College, Rome

For the inquiring stranger in our midst

My monthly essay for Episcopal Café is up under Speaking to the Soul. It's about the catechism in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

Nigerian Catholic Church Condemns General Election Results

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigerian (CBCN) has joined local and international monitors and human rights groups in denouncing the recent violence-marred presidential elections. In a statement released on Tuesday, the bishops said that Nigerians had again failed to conduct free, fair and credible election.

- Catholic Information Service for Africa
We monitor the web from a similar statement from the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Secular government cleans up CoE miscarriage of justice

Quote of the day

Quoting from here:
It is in fact a remarkable and heartening truth about the contemporary western world that it has such a vibrant ethical debate as a distinctive part of its culture. Yes, the west does bad things - makes war, exploits and battens, pillages the environment, and much besides - but it also criticises itself about these very things, challenges itself, argues with itself, and sometimes makes things very much better for its denizens than almost anywhere else, at any other time, in the world and human history.

Think of it this way: would you rather live in a functionally secular western country, or in one where the moral climate is much more influenced by what (among others, religious) leaders say it should be?


ACI Appoints Treasurer - written by The Anglican Communion Institute

Former ACI Executive Director served to stand Ecclesiastical Trial in Colorado

Actually, I don't recall ACI exactly giving notice to the executive director that his services were no longer needed.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Mohler on Jefferts Schori

I like to bring views like this into the light of day. From The Christian Postin a story headlined "Episcopal Head Says Anglican Churches Will Make Same 'Journey' to Pro-Gay Stance":
"In other words, Jefferts Schori argues that time is on her side," commented the Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and one of America's pre-eminent evangelical leaders, in a blog post Thursday. "The African churches will simply have to grow up and learn to play the game. They will have to learn to replace the authority of the Bible with the authority of modern therapeutic ideologies.

"In time,” he wrote, “she expects the African churches to learn to play the game - relativizing Scripture, redefining biblical morality, and flaunting the moral wisdom the church has known for over 2,000 years.

"She may be right," Mohler added. "We must pray she is wrong."

The full article is here. Mohler's blog post is here.

I promised the Lord I’ll share the Gospel under any circumstance

It was not infidelity that moved another relative to tears but fidelity at any cost. We were breezing through the family photo album when she pointed at a picture from Saudi Arabia that showed her husband at an evangelical church. Church? That is a ticket to deportation or worse. Alarmed that her slip might place him in greater dangers, she started to sob. “I can’t stop him — that’s where he found his happiness,” she said. When I reached him, he encouraged me to mention his preaching, saying it was his way of thanking God for the chance to work abroad. “I promised the Lord I’ll share the Gospel under any circumstance,” he said.
That's from a wonderfully written (and long) essay on migrant workers "A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves" by Jason DeParle in the New York Times Magazine.

Here's another paragraph:
Earlier waves of globalization, the movement of money and goods, were shaped by mediating institutions and protocols. The International Monetary Fund regulates finance. The World Trade Organization regularizes trade. The movement of people — the most intimate form of globalization — is the one with the fewest rules. There is no “World Migration Organization” to monitor the migrants’ fate. A Kurd gaining asylum in Sweden can have his children taught school in their mother tongue, while a Filipino bringing a Bible into Riyadh risks being expelled.

The growth in migration has roiled the West, but demographic logic suggests it will only continue. Aging industrial economies need workers. People in poor countries need jobs. Transportation and communication have made moving easier. And the potential economic gains are at record highs. A Central American laborer who moves to the United States can expect to multiply his earnings about six times after adjusting for the higher cost of living. That is a pay raise about twice as large as the one that propelled the last great wave of immigration a century ago.

Primatial creep explained :: Loren Mead

Posted at The Episcopal Majority is Loren Mead's letter on state-side primatial creep:
I come from the branch of the Episcopal Church that knows that our constitution was not shaped by the federal Constitution (the way all the confirmation classes insist), but by the form of government the United States had when the Church constitution was produced: "The Articles of Confederation." So our constitution doesn't really have an executive branch (or president); its focus is in legislative authority that is bicameral – with only vestigial executive and afterthought judicial powers, and no provision for a president or for "national" taxation or rules. So we provided for a presiding officer for each of our legislative branches, but the presiding bishop has no authority in any diocese, and can only act in a diocese by the authority of the diocesan bishop.
I think it was in John Hines' time that "primatial creep" set in. The instrument was the General Convention Special Program (GCSP). ... You'll remember the fireworks and anxiety about national staff "interfering" with dioceses (especially dioceses in the South where racial issues were painful and keen). Primatial creep is not my name for what happened to the Presiding Bishop – but for what happened to the House of Bishops. The House of Bishops had to work with conflict between dioceses and 815. (By now it had been built. Remember, it was 1963 when it was finished and we actually had national staff located in one place.)That – in my opinion – was when the House of Bishops first began usurping the power of the bicameral legislative process that was in our constitution.
Emphases in the original.

Some things you may not know about Rowan Williams

From the BBC profile of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams:
In 1997, Dr Williams came close to be offered the post of Bishop of Southwark. There were fierce wrangles at the time between anti and pro-gay lobbies in the diocese. When George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, asked Rowan Williams to distance himself from his pro-gay writings on the subject, he declined. In 2000 he was enthroned as Archbishop of Wales.

Rowan Williams is regarded as a liberal, even a radical. But in general, his theology is orthodox. It's been nurtured by Anglo-Catholicism, Russian mysticism, and scores of encounters with other traditions. Many of his ethical positions are orthodox too. For example he is opposed to abortion and believes consumerism exploits, corrupts and causes a premature sexualisation of children.

Homosexuality has been the cause of recent criticism by fellow priests. Several years ago he employed a priest he knew to be living in a homosexual relationship. It is this, coupled with his conviction that the Church should reassess its approach to faithful gay partnerships that has alarmed conservative evangelicals.
* Rowan Williams is unable to drive. His chaplain used to drive him everywhere, so the chauffeur-driven world of Lambeth must have come naturally
* He is hard of hearing in one of his ears
* He insists on always travelling second-class
My emphasis.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Catholic and Anglican Bishops Diverge on Zimbabwe

The Voice of America has audio on the diverging views of Anglican and Catholic baptists on the crisis in Zimbabwe and the role of Mugabe. Go here to listen.

And SW Radio Africa reports:
In fact the targeted sanctions are specifically designed so that they do not affect ordinary Zimbabweans. They limit travel by senior government officials and deprive them of access to their assets in participating countries.

The Anglican Bishops also did not address the state-sponsored violence against the opposition and civic groups, or the corruption and mismanagement that has destroyed many government-run institutions. Father Barnabus Nqindi, an Anglican cleric in South Africa who read the pastoral letter in detail, said his first reaction was laughter because he was flabbergasted by the letter. He explained that the letter sounded like it was written by Bishop Kunonga, the Anglican Bishop of Harare who has been criticised for supporting the Mugabe regime, and the other 14 bishops just put their names down on it. Father Nqindi said he was disturbed by the fact that the bishops did not address the issues of governance, corruption and the lack of the rule of law that exist in Zimbabwe.