Friday, July 31, 2009

Update from the CANA Council Day 2

I'm here at the 2009 CANA (Convocation of Anglicans in North America) Council meeting at the Church of the Epiphany in Herndon, VA. We've had meetings and gatherings and teachings as well as the Bishop of CANA's pastoral address today. There is a wide-variety of folks here (talk about full inclusion!) - from low church evangelicals to high church Anglo Catholics, women who are nuns and women who are ordained clergy, lots of military chaplains (that's a ministry that is just exploding in CANA), midwesterners and southerners and westerners and every thing in between - church planters looking at architecture plans at the Scott-Long Booth to delegates hovering over the book table, seminars on healing and seminars on art, Trinity School for Ministry is here as well as many others who have ministry booths lining the halls going into the main church nave. The parking lot is packed with cars with plates from all over the country - there's far more blending in rather than staying in comfortable huddles as relationships continue to be built and expanded. It really does feel like a family now - and the family is growing!

Here is an excerpt from Bishop Martyn Minns' pastoral address where he outlines what has happened in the Anglican Communion over the past year:



You can read his entire address here.

One of the most interesting things to watch is how CANA will be folded in to ACNA. I've been doing a lot of thinking about that. For us in Virginia, we've seen CANA as a lifeboat - but not the Love Boat. The question is - when will we hit land? Is land far off - or will it come in sight soon? This is one of the major questions. There seems a lot of energy to move into the Anglican Church of North America (CANA is not a church, but is it a diocese?). But if it's a diocese then what are the districts that are springing up, following the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) model? Are those future dioceses in ACNA or are they more like regions or deaneries you'd find in a diocese? This is a time to ask questions - and realize that answers aren't going to be discovered by someone else. The answers are nearer than that - in fact, they may be as close as the person sitting next to you.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bishop N.T. Wright comments on post-Episcopal General Convention statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury

Note the Bishop Wright also numbers his paragraphs, just as Rowan William did. From here:

Introduction

1. In the two days since the Archbishop released his ‘Reflections’ on TEC’s General Convention, they have already generated widely differing responses. We always knew, say some conservatives, that the ABC was a hopeless liberal, and this has confirmed it. Not so, declare many horrified radicals: he has obviously sold out to the conservatives. Some have warmly welcomed the statement and hailed it as paving the way forward. Cautious voices in between are trying to discern strengths and weaknesses. In my view, there is much to welcome, and much whose implications need further unpacking. The two main sections of this paper deal with these two aspects.

2. I have tried to bear in mind that the Archbishop is himself not only an Instrument of Unity but the one which has to hold on to everything at this moment. Lambeth 2008 didn’t say much (apart from what the ABC himself said); the status of ACC and Primates are under question in various quarters; it is up to him. He therefore has an obligation to maintain as broad a conversation as possible, and that is continually to be seen in his statement. As often (for instance in his poems, and in his recent book on Dostoevsky) the Archbishop’s writing challenges its readers to pause, to ponder, to think things through. One commentator has suggested that he employs a characteristically British habit of inviting the reader to draw the really important conclusions and giving them the space to do so. This piece is an attempt to take up that challenge and invitation.

Points to Welcome

3. The ABC rightly indicates that the Communion is indeed already broken. In (2) he speaks of ‘the broken bridges [from TEC] into the life of other Anglican provinces’ as the existing reality, and stresses that GenCon 09 has done nothing to repair these broken bridges. Though his explanatory clause ‘very serious anxieties have already been expressed’ is (perhaps deliberately) imprecise, the whole passage indicates, as the Primates did in 2003, that the breach has already occurred. We are not, then, looking now at TEC choosing for the first time to ‘walk apart’, but at the recognition that they did so some time ago and have done nothing to indicate a willingness to rejoin the larger Communion. This is all the more the case if it is indeed true, as the Presiding Bishop has said, that the new Resolutions were ‘descriptive’, that is, stating what is already the case: that is a way of saying, in fact, what some of us thought at the time, that the supposed ‘moratoria’ of GenCon 06 were never binding. This is what the ABC means, in the penultimate section of the whole document, by saying that the different priorities identified by different parts of the Anglican family ‘are bound to have consequences’. For too long TEC, and various other parts of the Communion, have spoken and acted as though there were no consequences. The ABC has now made it clear that this is not the case.

4. Once we penetrate the complex language, the ABC is also eventually clear that the great majority at GenCon voted, in effect if not in so many words, against the two relevant moratoria. ‘The repeated request for moratoria . . . has clearly not found universal favour’ is a roundabout but ultimately unambiguous way of saying ‘the majority voted against the moratoria’. This puts in a different light the reference in the first paragraph to ‘an insistence at the highest level’ (i.e. a letter from the Presiding Bishop) that the relevant resolutions ‘do not have the automatic effect of overturning the requested moratoria’. That may be true in a strict legal sense, though many will see this as an example of typical TEC behaviour, a grandmother’s-footsteps game of creeping forwards without being noticed. But the resolutions that were passed clearly had the effect (a) of reminding people that the way was in fact open all along to the episcopal appointment of non-celibate homosexuals, and (b) of reminding people that rites for public same-sex blessings could indeed be developed. The ABC is now clearly if tacitly saying, throughout the document, that there is no reasonable likelihood, at any point in many years to come, that TEC will in fact turn round and embrace the moratoria ex animo, still less the theology which underlies the Communion’s constant and often-repeated stance on sexual behaviour. Nor is there any reasonable likelihood that TEC will in fact be able to embrace the Covenant when it attains its final form a few months from now. That is the reality with which the Reflections deal.

5. Section 2 of the ABC’s Reflections addresses the presenting double-headed issue of same-sex blessings and the ordination (not simply the consecration as bishops) of non-celibate homosexuals. Here he basically reaffirms the church’s traditional stance, articulated in Lambeth 1.10 from 1998 but universally held, prior to that, whenever the point had been raised. First, the church cannot sanction or bless same-sex unions. Second, since the ordained ministry carries a necessarily representative function for the life of the church, those who order their lives this way cannot fulfil this representative role – cannot, in other words, be ordained. This is perhaps the strongest statement that the ABC has yet made of the Church’s position, and it should be noted carefully that he refers to the whole ordained ministry, i.e. deacons and priests and not just bishops. This has of course always been the official position of the whole Anglican Communion, repeated again and again by Lambeth Conferences, ACC and Primates and never overturned, for instance, in the Church of England’s General Synod. The ABC’s clear statement indicates once again that the two moratoria here expressed (with the second one actually strengthened) should be explicit prerequisites of Covenant membership. However much people may protest – and they have and will – that in some cases this is honoured more in the breach than in the observance, that is not an argument that the position is wrong, but a challenge to the way the church’s order and discipline currently functions. Creating ‘facts on the ground’ which fly in the face of the church’s well-known official teaching does not, as some suppose, generate a moral high ground; it is a form of dishonesty. If people want to object, they should argue the point, not assume it.

6. An aside at this point: some in TEC insist that their theological position has in fact been argued, and that the rest of the Communion is ignoring these arguments. As far as I can discern, there are two main arguments routinely used.

(i) First, the supposed modern and scientific discovery of a personal ‘identity’ characterised by sexual preference, which then generates a set of ‘rights’. The Archbishop has commented on ‘rights’ in this connection. Without entering into discussion of the scientific evidence, it must be said that the Christian notion of personal identity has never before been supposed to be rooted in desires of whatever sort. Indeed, desires are routinely brought under the constraints of ‘being in Christ’. This quite new notion of an ‘identity’ found not only within oneself but within one’s emotional and physical desires needs to be articulated on the basis of scripture and tradition, and this to my mind has not been done.

(ii) This leads to the second point, the appeal to baptism. It is now routinely said in TEC that all the baptised should have access to all the sacraments, on the apparent grounds that baptism indicates God’s acceptance of people as they are. This appears to ignore the New Testament teaching about baptism, that it constitutes a dying to self and sin and a rising to new life with Christ, specifically characterised by a holiness and renewed humanity in which certain habits and styles of life are left behind. From the first century until very recently it was universally understood that this included sexual immorality, and that that included homosexual behaviour. To try to use a supposedly ‘baptismal’ theology to overturn the universal Christian tradition of the meaning of baptism, and with it the universal and biblically-rooted appeal for sexual holiness, is a bold move. Most theologians will think that the first argument above (the proposal of an ‘identity’) is not strong enough to justify it. God’s welcome is always a transforming welcome, as the ABC has elsewhere stressed.

7. Section 2 contains strong and important warnings against personal prejudice and bigotry. The ABC does not spell out the difference between prejudice and bigotry on the one hand and a principled, thought-out moral stance on the other, but he clearly indicates that the two must be sharply separated. It is most welcome that he indicates the Church’s calling to a genuinely prophetic lifestyle: ‘if society changes its attitudes, that change does not of itself count as a reason for the Church to change its discipline’. No indeed. One of the most astonishing volte-faces in my lifetime has been the change from a liberalism which sought to be counter-cultural, anti-establishment, ‘agin the government’, protesting against the drift of society, and the present would-be liberalism which insists that because society has now drifted in a new direction the church should follow where that culture, the new ‘establishment’, and now even the government, are going. The ABC is far too good a theologian to be taken in by that.

8. Section 3, on the global and local decision-making processes, is a great strength.

(i) Though the ABC does not say so, this is basically a combination of the very heart of the Windsor Report and the one really good section of the Kuala Lumpur Report (Communion, Conflict and Hope, para. 104). At this point the ABC is simply articulating what the Windsor Continuation Group had said clearly before, during and after Lambeth 08.

(ii) The ABC here does three vital things and then homes in on the key point. (a) He insists that this is not (as is often sneeringly said) about bureaucratic or centralized ‘control’; (b) he warns against churches becoming ‘imprisoned in their own cultural environment’ (cognate with the point at the end of my previous paragraph); (c) he broadens the question so as to make it clear that this applies equally to issues such as lay presidency or inviting the unbaptized to receive Holy Communion.

(iii) The key point then is this (his paragraph 13): though some things can indeed be decided by a local church, the decision as to which things can be decided locally is not itself one that can be taken locally. And the criteria upon which the global church can decide this all-important question are (as in Kuala Lumpur) ‘intensity, substance and extent’. This really needs spelling out, but within the ABC’s document, and for that matter the present one, this can be left for another occasion.

9. Within the same section, the ABC makes the vital point that in our ongoing ecumenical work is it vital that our partners know ‘who speaks for the body they are relating to’. If many Anglicans don’t see why these presenting issues should matter, the same is not true for our ecumenical partners, particularly among the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. What is at stake, as well as Anglican identity and ecclesial density (i.e. being a church with a high doctrine of Communion, rather than a loose federation), is ecumenical credibility.

10. Many will not regard the language of a ‘two-track’ Communion as a strength. Some have objected that this is forcing apart what ought to be held together. Others, conversely, have sneered that ‘two-track’ sounds like a vote for pluralism pure and simple, a kind of ecclesial version of ’70s pop-psych ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’: you go your way, we go ours, and we’re both just fine as we are. But the ‘two-track’ option is not intended as an indifferentist, shoulder-shrugging thing (though no doubt some who find themselves in the incipient Track Two will want to see it like that). To say ‘two-tier’, as some have done at earlier stages in the discussion, implies that the two are still ‘tiers’ of the same thing, whereas ‘tracks’ may be going in quite different directions. And it is one ‘track’ rather than the other which will possess the coherence to work together in full solidarity, not least in ecumenical relationships.

11. Finally, the ABC recognises that one of the most urgent questions concerns those within TEC who have remained loyal to TEC itself and yet fully intend also to remain loyal to the rest of the Communion. Having already mentioned in paragraph 2 ‘a significant minority of bishops’ who have clearly said they intend to remain within the Communion’s consensus, he returns to them towards the end. His paragraph 25 is tantalisingly brief where many will want it to be elaborated and explicated, but there can be no doubt that here he holds the door wide open for such people ‘to be free to adopt the Covenant’. How this might work out we must consider below.

Discernment and Further Questions

12. Sex and ‘rights’. In relation to Section 2, someone, sooner or later, needs to spell out further (wearisome though it will be) the difference between (a) the ‘human dignity and civil liberty’ of those with homosexual and similar instincts and (b) their ‘rights’, as practising let alone ordained Christians, to give physical expression to those instincts. As the Pope has pointed out, the language of ‘human rights’ has now been downgraded in public discourse to the special pleading of every interest-group. The church has never acknowledged that powerful sexual instincts, which almost all human beings have, generate a prima facie ‘right’ that these instincts receive physical expression. Indeed, the church has always insisted that self-control is part of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’. All are called to chastity and, within that, some are called to celibacy; but a call to celibacy is not the same thing as discovering that one has a weak or negligible sexual drive. The call to the self-control of chastity is for all: for the heterosexually inclined who, whether married or not, are regularly and powerfully attracted to many different potential partners, just as much as for those with different instincts.

13. The depth of the problem.

(i) Apparent Caution: We should be careful to read the ABC’s cautious words in paragraphs 22 and 24 in the light of the crucial paragraph 2 (see above). The ABC says ‘it would be a mistake to act or speak now as if those decisions’ [i.e. on signing up to the Covenant] ‘had already been made’; and he warns against speaking ‘in apocalyptic terms of schism and excommunication’. He also speaks of the ‘twofold ecclesial reality’ as a ‘possibility’ in the ‘middle distance’.

(ii) The Reality: But, as he himself has indicated, key decisions have been made (obviously not yet in terms of voting on the Covenant, but certainly in terms of taking stances which will lead directly to such votes); schism has already happened; and not just a twofold, but a confusing and pluriform ecclesial reality, is not just a middle-distance possibility but an on-the-ground and in-your-face fact.

(iii) Confrontation Already Exists: Warning against ‘a competitive hostility between the two’ tracks may seem somewhat unrealistic to many in TEC and Canada who have lost churches, livelihoods and in some cases their Holy Orders – and, we should in all fairness stress, to others who, though theologically orthodox themselves, have been sniped at or sneered at by those who use the ‘orthodox’ label as a pretext for personal gripes or power-games. Speaking of an ‘ideal’ whereby both ‘Tracks’ ‘should be able to pursue what they believe God is calling them to be as Church, with greater integrity and consistency’, will sound idealistic at best when several loud voices in TEC are saying that what God is calling them to is to spread the ‘gospel’ of ‘inclusivity’, and several other voices are saying that God is calling them to resist precisely this.

(iv) Mutual Respect? Pleading for ‘mutual respect for deeply held theological convictions’ will seem straightforwardly unreal both to those who are fed up being called hopeless liberals by unthinking conservatives and to those who are fed up being called hopeless conservatives by unthinking liberals. ‘Deeply held theological convictions’ of course characterize plenty of other groups, not least (for instance) serious Muslim theologians. I respect such convictions, while still believing it proper to argue against them. This kind of plea could simply park the question, insisting (in good Anglican style) that we treat everyone as being in reality what they are in profession, but seeming to ignore the call, to bishops in particular, to guard the faith, teach the truth and refute error. Did Athanasius respect the ‘deeply held theological convictions’ of Arius and his followers? Perhaps he did; certainly he took them seriously enough to refute them vigorously. If the separation of two ‘Tracks’ generated, at last, a full-scale theological and exegetical discussion of disputed points, rather than emotive sniping, we might all be better served in the long run.

14. Representation on Ecumenical bodies. In paragraphs 9, 15 and 23 the ABC speaks of certain people being unable to represent the Communion’s voice in ecumenical encounters. He does not say who he means or how this is now to be worked out (as it must be very quickly if major ecumenical work is to proceed). Presumably the end of paragraphs 10 and 14 are a reference to the dangers inherent in TEC’s position, but again he does not spell this out (no doubt because it isn’t only TEC that faces this danger). In particular, the membership of the newly constituted international Faith and Order Advisory Group raises some questions, particularly (see below) if this group is to advise on the future role of the Instruments and the future structural shape of the Communion. So, too, the Joint Standing Committee as presently constituted includes people who, according to the Archbishop’s own analysis, have gone with the decision to move away from the rest of the Communion.

15. ‘In Communion’? A pressing question in all of this must be: who, both during this process and at its end, will be ‘in Communion’ with whom? Once Tracks One and Two have been identified, will there be mutual recognition of ministries? Presumably not if Track One is committed to Paragraph 8 of the Archbishop’s paper while Track Two is committed to demolishing it. Will communicants be welcome across the gap between the Tracks? If the Covenant becomes the gold standard, and if ACNA sign up as they may well, will the rest of the Communion (including of course the C of E) be ‘in communion’ with ACNA? These are difficult and uncomfortable questions. But they will certainly emerge; there is already a motion on the subject slated for General Synod in February 2010, though by then all sorts of things may look different.

16. No Delay. As this process continues to unfold, there is one major problem with a proposal to put all the eggs into the Covenant basket. (I had always understood that the Covenant was not designed to deal with the post-2003 problem, but rather to head off quite different problems that might arise in the future. I remain wary of trying, now, to put all the weight for the full sorting-out of the 2003 problem on to the Covenant, especially on to one brief, dense and inevitably controversial section of it, and particularly when the final drafting of that section is in the hands of a very small group, albeit then reporting to the ABC.) Now that GenCon 09 has happened, even if the Covenant is completed within a few months TEC will assuredly say that it can’t consider it until 2012, and that such consideration could only be preliminary, looking to a more definite decision in 2015. This delaying tactic – twelve years from 2003, when the crisis really began! – must be seen for what it is, and headed off. The obvious way to do this is to declare that ‘Track One’ is open, right away, to Covenant signatories, and only Covenant signatories. How precisely that could be done (granted that the Joint Standing Committee, for instance, includes some from TEC and other sympathetic provinces) remains a question. But it needs to be done, and done quickly. I offer some suggestions on all this in the conclusion below.

17. Section 4 of the Covenant. Picking up the point just made: Section 4 of the Covenant needs to proceed swiftly to its final form. This process is far too important to be left to a small group advising the Archbishop. When the Archbishop receives the group’s work, he should consult with key Communion representatives to ensure that there are no remaining hidden problems. In this process, any reduction or limiting of Section 4 (clearly the hope of the majority in TEC, not least those who pushed the ACC to postpone a decision) will be a large step away from the mind of the Communion as the ABC has himself expressed it, and would have the effect of nullifying all that he has said in his Reflections.

18. Retuning the Instruments? A further problem, not too far down the line, is contained in the ABC’s brief references to a restructuring or reworking of the Instruments themselves.

(i) New Cross-Track ‘instruments’? In paragraph 24 he speaks of hoping and working for ‘the best kinds of shared networks and institutions of common interest that could be maintained as between different visions of the Anglican heritage’. What might these be? Clearly not the Lambeth Conference, the ACC and the Primates. They, we must assume, will be Track One institutions; if they are not, the whole point (not least the whole ecumenical point) will be lost. So do we need some new institutions to enable the two tracks to talk to one another and to work together on shared ‘mission and service’ projects? This would constitute an unprecedented kind of internal ecumenism, fraught with frustrations and bad memories; yet perhaps it needs to be attempted.

(ii) The existing Institutions: And what about the existing Institutions? Paragraph 26 speaks of the present structures needing ‘serious rethinking in the near future’. This, presumably, will be a task for the newly constituted international Faith and Order Advisory Group – though, since some of that Group come from parts of the Communion which now appear likely to be in Track Two, that raises other difficult questions. (Why was the group chosen and named just before General Convention?) But the thought of the complex discussions that might swirl around any reshaping of Lambeth, ACC and Primates, and any ‘covering-both-tracks’ new institutions, is daunting. We already have a highly confusing situation both globally and nationally, with the ACO and Lambeth sitting uncomfortably side by side and with the shape and role of the existing Instruments remaining unclear. We need, if anything, to simplify and clarify, not to create more complexity. Complexity simply hands power to those with time on their hands and with well-developed skills in political manipulation.

Conclusion

19. Having worked very carefully through the Archbishop’s Reflections several times, having read what several others have said, and having had various conversations, I can understand the frustrations of those who wanted something more obviously crisp and clear. Yet at the heart of this document are two things which the Communion has badly needed to hear, hedged about with all kinds of assurances which make it clear that this is neither a knee-jerk reaction nor a mere statement of prejudice: a strong reaffirmation of the Anglican position on sexual behaviour, and a strong insistence on the Windsor point that global issues cannot be decided locally – and that the decision as to what is global and what is local cannot itself be decided locally. The ‘so what’ of all this needs now to be drawn out, and in my view this needs to happen more or less at once, not postponed until Section 4 of the Covenant is redrafted and ratified. In particular, the Communion Partner bishops, and parishes and individuals who take that stance, need to be assured that what is said rather briefly in paragraph 25 does indeed apply, and will indeed apply, to them, and that ways will be found very quickly to turn that into a reality.

20. How then can this ‘so what’ become a reality? We remind ourselves again that the ABC has no juridical authority outside his own Province, and that he is aware of himself being involved in the danger of trying, as a local Primate, to decide things for the whole Communion. Yet, as Archbishop of Canterbury, he carries within the whole Communion immense moral and pastoral authority, rooted in his exposition of scripture and articulation of the whole Christian tradition; and this, as he himself has insisted, is the real heart of all authority within the body of Christ. Too often in recent times legal and juridical ‘authority’ has been used, and perhaps abused, in the place of the genuine apostolic authority of the word of God and prayer. It is thus up to the Archbishop himself to move swiftly to implement what he himself has said, counting on support from bishops around his own Province and the whole Communion. The Covenant (which the ABC has repeatedly affirmed as the new instrument of our unity and common life) needs to be completed and offered to all Anglicans for signature. Those within TEC who sign it need appropriate Communion recognition and relatedness – if bishops, a Primatial relationship, if parishes or individuals, an episcopal relationship. Ways by which this can be done have been worked out by the Communion Partner bishops, and it is with them, first and foremost, that the Archbishop must work towards the necessary and urgent solutions. What now follows are some suggestions for how this might be attempted.

21. A Way Forward?

(i) How do ‘Communion Partners’ sign on? The question presses, as in the ABC’s paragraph 25, as to how dioceses, parishes and individuals within TEC will be able to sign the Covenant and thus not only align themselves, but be recognised by the wider Communion as aligning themselves, with that wider Communion itself. The ABC is certainly here referring to the ‘Communion Partner’ bishops, and to the parishes and individuals who take the same line that they do. As the ABC says, ‘there should be a clear answer to this question’, and actually the ABC himself is now the main person, if not the only person, in a position to give a clear and authoritative answer. But some proposals here may perhaps help.

(ii) The Anaheim Statement: In his second paragraph, the Archbishop notes that a substantial minority have indicated their dissent from the position taken by TEC as a whole. The document they have produced (‘the Anaheim Statement’) could now form something of a bridge between the present confusion and the not-too-distant future when the full Covenant will be available for signature. Some reports indicate that bishops who voted with the majority in Gen Con are now realising the predicament they’ve put themselves in and are starting to sign up to Anaheim instead.

(iii) What about Parishes and Individuals? But here’s the problem: it is one thing for bishops and their dioceses to be ‘Communion Partners’, recognised by Lambeth and the wider Communion as full ‘Track One’ members. (That carries its own problems, but if the diocese is the primary unit, as the ABC has insisted, it is clearly possible.) But how a parish in a non-signing diocese, or an individual in a non-signing parish or diocese, can become a ‘Track One’ Anglican, recognised as such globally, remains to be seen. Many in that position neither want nor intend to join a movement like ACNA, nor should they be put in a position where they have no other option. But a way forward must be found.

(iv) Getting from Here to There: Covenant Sections 1-3. The Covenant, when completed, will provide a line in the sand. However, we do not need to wait until Section 4 is redrafted. The first three sections are already completed and agreed, and they (especially Section Three) already prohibit the kinds of things which General Convention has done, and which many TEC bishops are doing. These three sections could be signed and adopted right away by CP bishops and dioceses as a signal of their intent.

(v) Getting from Here to There: Anaheim. The Anaheim Statement itself could also function as a preliminary rallying point around which more may gather than had initially been supposed. Perhaps, indeed, signing this statement, along with Sections 1-3 of the Covenant, could function, ahead of the availability of the final version of the Covenant, as a prerequisite for participation, from this moment on, in representative Anglican functions and bodies and, not least, in bodies that deal with the Covenant itself and the future of the Instruments. That would give actual and practical expression to what the ABC has now said. Indeed, unless something like this is implemented at once it will be hard to sustain trust in the ongoing process.

(vi) Interim Structures? We need some interim structures to get us from where we are to where we need to be – and not only in TEC, but also in Canada and perhaps elsewhere. But we need these now, not in six months, let alone six years. The Communion Partner bishops should perhaps restate their willingness to provide, with the permission of the relevant Diocesan, alternative episcopal relationship and cover for parishes in Dioceses whose bishops might find their relation to the wider Communion to have changed. The now largely discredited ‘DEPO’ system (‘Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight’) may have been a signpost, albeit one that didn’t seem to be capable of working well at the time, towards some kind of a solution. Issues of polity should, if possible, be dealt with at a provincial, not a global, level.

(vii) Urgent meetings? Ideally, the CP bishops, and perhaps some of the Rectors, should meet with the Archbishop to discuss some kind of a revived DEPO. The ABC could then invite others, including both representatives of TEC leadership on the one hand and ACNA on the other, to further meetings to work out agreements that would avoid future confusions or accusations. There is a need, perhaps, for a call to mutual respect, and maturity of decision-making, in recognition of where things now stand. There is no point pretending things are otherwise than they are. We have come to the tipping point, and wisdom suggests that all involved take counsel in recognition of that.

(viii) What about ACNA? All this raises, then, the question of ACNA itself (and, indeed, other would-be Anglican bodies). Without some kind of clear steer on the issues just raised, we can expect that ACNA will continue to attract individuals, congregations and perhaps even dioceses. This is, indeed, already happening. However, though the situation on the ground is often confused, ACNA has expressed a clear willingness to work with the Communion Partner bishops towards whatever greater good may come. And ACNA itself has shown itself eager to sign the Covenant when it is complete. All this will go into the melting pot of whatever new alignments the Communion will discover over the coming months. It is important that bridges, not fences, be built during this period.

22. These are only suggestions, designed to help those on the ground not only to think through the issues but to take concrete and immediate steps. I have said many times that, for all those involved in this whole messy situation, the main priority at the moment is prayer. That remains my conviction and my plea. Prayer for the church; for our beloved Communion and the many other Christians with whom we seek to deepen fellowship; for Archbishop Rowan; for wisdom, courage, clarity and vision; for God’s glory, the extension of his kingdom, and the power of the gospel and the Spirit at work in hearts, lives, communities and throughout our world.

Read it all here. Fixed the fun typo in the headline. Write is now Wright which of course is right.

Thursday at the Cafe

The CANA Council kicks off today

HERNDON, Va. (July 27, 2009) – This week, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America will hold its annual council meeting featuring as keynote speakers Dr. Steve Garber of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture and the Most Rev’d Ignatius Kattey, Regional Archbishop of the Church of Nigeria. The Rev’d Canon Julian Dobbs also will be a featured speaker, addressing the challenge of Islam to Christians in the U.S. As CANA continues to grow throughout the United States and serve as a leading voice in the orthodox Christian movement, speakers will tackle tough issues such as:
  • Threats to religious freedom
  • The growth of Islam in the U.S.
  • The future of CANA and the Anglican Church in North America
  • Caring for the poor and the jobless
  • Raising up new Anglican leaders and planting churches
“Since CANA continues to grow both spiritually and in the number of congregations, we must address the issues we face in modern society to ensure that orthodox Anglicanism remains a sanctuary for those wishing to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and experience profound transformation through Him,” said the Rt. Rev’d Martyn Minns, Missionary Bishop of CANA, who will give a Friday address to the Council on the growth of CANA and orthodox Anglicanism in the U.S.

CANA Council is an annual gathering of clergy and lay delegates from member parishes across the county. The meeting will take place at CANA’s headquarters located at Church of the Epiphany in Herndon, Va., from July 30 – August 1, 2009. The Council will conclude with a festival Eucharist on Saturday that will include the ordination of several new CANA chaplains. More details can be found on the CANA website at www.canaconvocation.org.

The Convocation of Anglicans in North America currently consists of more than 75 congregations and 160 clergy in 21 states. CANA was established in 2005 to provide a means by which Anglicans living in the USA who were alienated by the actions and decisions of The Episcopal Church could continue to live out their faith without compromising their core convictions. Created as a missionary initiative of the Church of Nigeria, about a dozen of the congregations are primarily expatriate Nigerians. CANA is a founding member of the Anglican Church in North America, an emerging Anglican province that includes about 700 congregations.

PM UPDATE: What a day - a full day! The CANA Council continues to grow and this year the council seemed to move from "What's it all about?" to "We are family" - it did feel much more like a family this year, with not only reunions with friends from the past, but also lots of new faces - some I met at the ACNA Conference last month and other who have come into CANA since last year, as well as others who are in the process of transferring in.

The Legislation Session is not until Saturday morning when the real "news" will be made. Today was much more like Day One of a family reunion and meeting all the new members. Of course, much of the buzz is how we will work out being part of ACNA, not only as CANA but also as districts and individual parishes as well.

Daryl Fenton from Archbishop Bob Duncan's office is here and when I met up with him I said, "Ah, one of the Jedi!"

I don't think he's ever been called that before.

Tomorrow is CANA Bishop, Martyn Minns' "State of CANA" address. Kevin Kalsen of AnglicanTV is also here and we'll aim to put his videos. I will try to do some as well, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Archbishop of Canterbury's concer for unity reflects Vatican concerns

It just gets more interesting:
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Vatican concerns about how some recent decisions of the U.S. Episcopal Church will impact the search for full Anglican-Roman Catholic unity are echoed in a reflection by Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Communion.

Writing July 27 about the Episcopal Church's recent general convention, Archbishop Williams repeatedly referred to the need to keep in mind the ecumenical implications of local church decisions in addition to their impact on the unity of the Anglican Communion as a whole.

Archbishop Williams' reflection, titled "Communion, Covenant and Our Anglican Future," was published on the archbishop's Web site at http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/2502.

In a statement July 29, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity noted Archbishop Williams' concern for maintaining the unity of the Anglican Communion through common faith and practice based on Scripture and tradition.

The Vatican office "supports the archbishop in his desire to strengthen these bonds of communion, and to articulate more fully the relationship between the local and the universal within the church," the statement said.

"It is our prayer that the Anglican Communion, even in this difficult situation, may find a way to maintain its unity and its witness to Christ as a worldwide communion," it added.

The Episcopal Church's general convention adopted two resolutions that may further strain relations within the Anglican Communion and with the Catholic Church: One affirmed that all ordained ministries, including the office of bishop, are open to all the baptized, including gays and lesbians; the other called for the collection and development of theological resources for the blessing of same-sex unions.

Last year the Lambeth Conference, a gathering of leaders from around the Anglican Communion, strongly urged all members of the communion to respect moratoriums on ordaining openly gay bishops and on blessing same-sex unions.

After their general convention, the leaders of the Episcopal Church wrote to Archbishop Williams, saying that their resolutions do not signal the end of the moratoriums, but rather describe the position of the U.S. church.

Pope Benedict XVI and his top ecumenical officer have said the Episcopal Church's position on homosexuality and its ordination of women as priests and bishops make full Anglican-Roman Catholic unity appear impossible.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told the Lambeth Conference last year that what is at stake "is nothing other than our faithfulness to Christ himself."

While recognizing the Episcopalians' desire to respond to what they see as a pastoral need, he said the Catholic Church is convinced that its teaching that homosexual activity is sinful "is well-founded in the Old and in the New Testament" as well as in Christian tradition.

And, the cardinal said, the Catholic Church also believes the fact that Christ chose only men to be his apostles means the church is not authorized to ordain women.

Responding to challenges posed by modern sensitivities requires solutions that are clearly in line with the teaching of the Gospel and of Christian tradition, recognized not only by Roman Catholics, but also by the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox, Cardinal Kasper had said.

In his reflection July 27, Archbishop Williams said the Anglican Communion clearly opposes prejudice against homosexual people and denounces any attempt to limit their civil liberties.

But, the archbishop said, "if society changes its attitudes, that change does not of itself count as a reason for the church to change its discipline."

"In the light of the way in which the church has consistently read the Bible for the last 2,000 years," he said, any major change in church practice must have "a strong level of consensus and solid theological grounding," as well as take into account "the teachings of ecumenical partners."

Recognizing the authority of and particular circumstances faced by local churches, the archbishop still insisted that a local church needs "some way of including in its discernment the judgment of the wider church. Without this, it risks becoming unrecognizable to other local churches, pressing ahead with changes that render it strange to Christian sisters and brothers across the globe."

Accepting major changes to church discipline and practice without the consensus of the entire communion, he said, "would be to re-conceive the Anglican Communion as essentially a loose federation of local bodies with a cultural history in common, rather than a theologically coherent 'community of Christian communities.'"

Archbishop Williams' reflection theorized that the future of the Anglican Communion may involve two styles of relationships: one that fully shares "a vision of how the church should be and behave," and another less formal style of associated churches that work together in areas of common agreement.

Anglican Communion representatives to ecumenical and interfaith dialogues would be drawn only from members who fully share the communion's vision and teachings so that the Anglicans' ecumenical partners would know who they are talking to at the dialogue meetings, he said.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

L.A. Times: Archbishop of Canterbury outlines a different role for the Episcopal Church within the worldwide Anglican Communion.

From here:

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams suggested Monday that the Episcopal Church might have to accept a different role within the worldwide Anglican Communion amid U.S. leaders' decision to lift a de facto ban on gay bishops and to consider rites of blessing for same-sex unions.

Williams outlined his concerns in a statement to leaders throughout the communion, saying "very serious anxieties have already been expressed" among the 77 million Anglicans. The Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism, adopted the new policies during a 10-day convention in Anaheim that ended July 17.

Read it all here.

BB NOTE: Again, I also encourage you to read Anglican Curmudgeon's excellent review of the statement here before one finds oneself adrift in despair.

Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the statement - which does indeed read like a "call and response" of the Schori/Anderson attempts to recast what actually did happen at General Convention. Canterbury does not seem to buy it. This may be the letter we wished he'd written in 2003 - but it's written and it does seem to take the ecumenical view of how The Episcopal Church actions face serious consequences on other Anglican provinces outreach to other major branches of the Christian faith.

He also seems to agree with the Communion Partners who made the case that the Archbishop of Canterbury is in communion with diocesan bishops, not provinces. If The Episcopal Church refuses to sign off on the Anglican Covenant at the next General Convention (and there seems little energy to do so - why the MDGs got far more energy back in 2006, but of course the MDGs were MIA in Anaheim, guess no one's returning Bono's phone calls anymore). There is however energy to sign off on the Covenant not only in the Communion Partners dioceses, but also in the Anglican District of Virginia where the Anglican Covenant has all ready been embraced at the ACNA Provincial Assembly, embraced in full view of the Archbishop of Canterbury's official emissary to the gathering.

Monday, July 27, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: The Archbishop of Canterbury's Official Statement on the Episcopal General Convention

From here:
Reflections on the Episcopal Church's 2009 General Convention from the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion.

1. No-one could be in any doubt about the eagerness of the Bishops and Deputies of the Episcopal Church at the General Convention to affirm their concern about the wider Anglican Communion. Their generous welcome to guests from elsewhere, including myself, the manifest engagement with the crushing problems of the developing world and even the wording of one of the more controversial resolutions all make plain the fact that the Episcopal Church does not wish to cut its moorings from other parts of the Anglican family. There has been an insistence at the highest level that the two most strongly debated resolutions (DO25 and CO56) do not have the automatic effect of overturning the requested moratoria, if the wording is studied carefully. There is a clear commitment to seek counsel from elsewhere in the Communion about certain issues and an eloquent resolution in support of the 'Covenant for a Communion in Mission' as commended by ACC13. All of this merits grateful acknowledgement. The relationship between the Episcopal Church and the wider Communion is a reality which needs continued engagement and encouragement.

2. However, a realistic assessment of what Convention has resolved does not suggest that it will repair the broken bridges into the life of other Anglican provinces; very serious anxieties have already been expressed. The repeated request for moratoria on the election of partnered gay clergy as bishops and on liturgical recognition of same-sex partnerships has clearly not found universal favour, although a significant minority of bishops has just as clearly expressed its intention to remain with the consensus of the Communion. The statement that the Resolutions are essentially 'descriptive' is helpful, but unlikely to allay anxieties.

3. There are two points which I believe need to be reiterated and thought through further, and it seems to fall to the Archbishop of Canterbury to try and articulate them. To some extent they echo part of what I wrote after the last General Convention, as well as things said at the Lambeth Conference and the ACC, but they still have some pertinence.

4. The first is to do with the arguments most often used against the moratoria relating to same-sex unions. Appeal is made to the fundamental human rights dimension of attitudes to LGBT people, and to the impossibility of betraying their proper expectations of a Christian body which has courageously supported them.

5. In response, it needs to be made absolutely clear that, on the basis of repeated statements at the highest levels of the Communion's life, no Anglican has any business reinforcing prejudice against LGBT people, questioning their human dignity and civil liberties or their place within the Body of Christ. Our overall record as a Communion has not been consistent in this respect and this needs to be acknowledged with penitence.

6. However, the issue is not simply about civil liberties or human dignity or even about pastoral sensitivity to the freedom of individual Christians to form their consciences on this matter. It is about whether the Church is free to recognise same-sex unions by means of public blessings that are seen as being, at the very least, analogous to Christian marriage.

7. In the light of the way in which the Church has consistently read the Bible for the last two thousand years, it is clear that a positive answer to this question would have to be based on the most painstaking biblical exegesis and on a wide acceptance of the results within the Communion, with due account taken of the teachings of ecumenical partners also. A major change naturally needs a strong level of consensus and solid theological grounding.

8. This is not our situation in the Communion. Thus a blessing for a same-sex union cannot have the authority of the Church Catholic, or even of the Communion as a whole. And if this is the case, a person living in such a union is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond; whatever the human respect and pastoral sensitivity such persons must be given, their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church's teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires.

9. In other words, the question is not a simple one of human rights or human dignity. It is that a certain choice of lifestyle has certain consequences. So long as the Church Catholic, or even the Communion as a whole does not bless same-sex unions, a person living in such a union cannot without serious incongruity have a representative function in a Church whose public teaching is at odds with their lifestyle. (There is also an unavoidable difficulty over whether someone belonging to a local church in which practice has been changed in respect of same-sex unions is able to represent the Communion's voice and perspective in, for example, international ecumenical encounters.)

10. This is not a matter that can be wholly determined by what society at large considers usual or acceptable or determines to be legal. Prejudice and violence against LGBT people are sinful and disgraceful when society at large is intolerant of such people; if the Church has echoed the harshness of the law and of popular bigotry – as it so often has done – and justified itself by pointing to what society took for granted, it has been wrong to do so. But on the same basis, if society changes its attitudes, that change does not of itself count as a reason for the Church to change its discipline.
3
11. The second issue is the broader one of how a local church makes up its mind on a sensitive and controversial matter. It is of the greatest importance to remember this aspect of the matter, so as not to be completely trapped in the particularly bitter and unpleasant atmosphere of the debate over sexuality, in which unexamined prejudice is still so much in evidence and accusations of bad faith and bigotry are so readily thrown around.

12. When a local church seeks to respond to a new question, to the challenge of possible change in its practice or discipline in the light of new facts, new pressures, or new contexts, as local churches have repeatedly sought to do, it needs some way of including in its discernment the judgement of the wider Church. Without this, it risks becoming unrecognisable to other local churches, pressing ahead with changes that render it strange to Christian sisters and brothers across the globe.

13. This is not some piece of modern bureaucratic absolutism, but the conviction of the Church from its very early days. The doctrine that 'what affects the communion of all should be decided by all' is a venerable principle. On some issues, there emerges a recognition that a particular new development is not of such significance that a high level of global agreement is desirable; in the language used by the Doctrinal Commission of the Communion, there is a recognition that in 'intensity, substance and extent' it is not of fundamental importance. But such a recognition cannot be wished into being by one local church alone. It takes time and a willingness to believe that what we determine together is more likely, in a New Testament framework, to be in tune with the Holy Spirit than what any one community decides locally.

14. Sometimes in Christian history, of course, that wider discernment has been very fallible, as with the history of the Chinese missions in the seventeenth century. But this should not lead us to ignore or minimise the opposite danger of so responding to local pressure or change that a local church simply becomes isolated and imprisoned in its own cultural environment.

15. There have never been universal and straightforward rules about this, and no-one is seeking a risk-free, simple organ of doctrinal decision for our Communion. In an age of vastly improved communication, we must make the best use we can of the means available for consultation and try to build into our decision-making processes ways of checking whether a new local development would have the effect of isolating a local church or making it less recognisable to others. This again has an ecumenical dimension when a global Christian body is involved in partnerships and discussions with other churches who will quite reasonably want to know who now speaks for the body they are relating to when a controversial local change occurs. The results of our ecumenical discussions are themselves important elements in shaping the theological vision within which we seek to resolve our own difficulties.

16. In recent years, local pastoral needs have been cited as the grounds for changes in the sacramental practice of particular local churches within the Communion, and theological rationales have been locally developed to defend and promote such changes. Lay presidency at the Holy Communion is one well-known instance. Another is the regular admission of the unbaptised to Holy Communion as a matter of public policy. Neither of these practices has been given straightforward official sanction as yet by any Anglican authorities at diocesan or provincial level, but the innovative practices concerned have a high degree of public support in some localities.

17. Clearly there are significant arguments to be had about such matters on the shared and agreed basis of Scripture, Tradition and reason. But it should be clear that an acceptance of these sorts of innovation in sacramental practice would represent a manifest change in both the teaching and the discipline of the Anglican tradition, such that it would be a fair question as to whether the new practice was in any way continuous with the old. Hence the question of 'recognisability' once again arises.

18. To accept without challenge the priority of local and pastoral factors in the case either of sexuality or of sacramental practice would be to abandon the possibility of a global consensus among the Anglican churches such as would continue to make sense of the shape and content of most of our ecumenical activity. It would be to re-conceive the Anglican Communion as essentially a loose federation of local bodies with a cultural history in common, rather than a theologically coherent 'community of Christian communities'.

19. As Anglicans, our membership of the Communion is an important part of our identity. However, some see this as best expressed in a more federalist and pluralist way. They would see this as the only appropriate language for a modern or indeed postmodern global fellowship of believers in which levels of diversity are bound to be high and the risks of centralisation and authoritarianism are the most worrying. There is nothing foolish or incoherent about this approach. But it is not the approach that has generally shaped the self-understanding of our Communion – less than ever in the last half-century, with new organs and instruments for the Communion's communication and governance and new enterprises in ecumenical co-operation.

20. The Covenant proposals of recent years have been a serious attempt to do justice to that aspect of Anglican history that has resisted mere federation. They seek structures that will express the need for mutual recognisability, mutual consultation and some shared processes of decision-making. They are emphatically not about centralisation but about mutual responsibility. They look to the possibility of a freely chosen commitment to sharing discernment (and also to a mutual respect for the integrity of each province, which is the point of the current appeal for a moratorium on cross-provincial pastoral interventions). They remain the only proposals we are likely to see that address some of the risks and confusions already detailed, encouraging us to act and decide in ways that are not simply local.

21. They have been criticised as 'exclusive' in intent. But their aim is not to shut anyone out – rather, in words used last year at the Lambeth Conference, to intensify existing relationships.

22. It is possible that some will not choose this way of intensifying relationships, though I pray that it will be persuasive. It would be a mistake to act or speak now as if those decisions had already been made – and of course approval of the final Covenant text is still awaited. For those whose vision is not shaped by the desire to intensify relationships in this particular way, or whose vision of the Communion is different, there is no threat of being cast into outer darkness – existing relationships will not be destroyed that easily. But it means that there is at least the possibility of a twofold ecclesial reality in view in the middle distance: that is, a 'covenanted' Anglican global body, fully sharing certain aspects of a vision of how the Church should be and behave, able to take part as a body in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue; and, related to this body, but in less formal ways with fewer formal expectations, there may be associated local churches in various kinds of mutual partnership and solidarity with one another and with 'covenanted' provinces.

23. This has been called a 'two-tier' model, or, more disparagingly, a first- and second-class structure. But perhaps we are faced with the possibility rather of a 'two-track' model, two ways of witnessing to the Anglican heritage, one of which had decided that local autonomy had to be the prevailing value and so had in good faith declined a covenantal structure. If those who elect this model do not take official roles in the ecumenical interchanges and processes in which the 'covenanted' body participates, this is simply because within these processes there has to be clarity about who has the authority to speak for whom.

24. It helps to be clear about these possible futures, however much we think them less than ideal, and to speak about them not in apocalyptic terms of schism and excommunication but plainly as what they are – two styles of being Anglican, whose mutual relation will certainly need working out but which would not exclude co-operation in mission and service of the kind now shared in the Communion. It should not need to be said that a competitive hostility between the two would be one of the worst possible outcomes, and needs to be clearly repudiated. The ideal is that both 'tracks' should be able to pursue what they believe God is calling them to be as Church, with greater integrity and consistency. It is right to hope for and work for the best kinds of shared networks and institutions of common interest that could be maintained as between different visions of the Anglican heritage. And if the prospect of greater structural distance is unwelcome, we must look seriously at what might yet make it less likely.

25. It is my strong hope that all the provinces will respond favourably to the invitation to Covenant. But in the current context, the question is becoming more sharply defined of whether, if a province declines such an invitation, any elements within it will be free (granted the explicit provision that the Covenant does not purport to alter the Constitution or internal polity of any province) to adopt the Covenant as a sign of their wish to act in a certain level of mutuality with other parts of the Communion. It is important that there should be a clear answer to this question.

26. All of this is to do with becoming the Church God wants us to be, for the better proclamation of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ. It would be a great mistake to see the present situation as no more than an unhappy set of tensions within a global family struggling to find a coherence that not all its members actually want. Rather, it is an opportunity for clarity, renewal and deeper relation with one another – and so also with Our Lord and his Father, in the power of the Spirit. To recognise different futures for different groups must involve mutual respect for deeply held theological convictions. Thus far in Anglican history we have (remarkably) contained diverse convictions more or less within a unified structure. If the present structures that have safeguarded our unity turn out to need serious rethinking in the near future, this is not the end of the Anglican way and it may bring its own opportunities. Of course it is problematic; and no-one would say that new kinds of structural differentiation are desirable in their own right. But the different needs and priorities identified by different parts of our family, and in the long run the different emphases in what we want to say theologically about the Church itself, are bound to have consequences. We must hope that, in spite of the difficulties, this may yet be the beginning of a new era of mission and spiritual growth for all who value the Anglican name and heritage.

+ Rowan Cantuar:
From Lambeth Palace, Monday 27 July 2009
UPDATE: Anglican Curmudgeon has written his commentary and I encourage you to read it. I do believe that we do have a "call and response" from the Archbishop of Canterbury to Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bonnie Anderson and he basically refutes their points. At the same time, he generously does not rhetorically shut them down - he tries to state a case for hope while brilliantly stating the obvious. There are times he seems to put on rose-colored spectacles, especially in paragraph 24, but this is a win for the Communion Partners who will indeed be able to sign the Anglican Covenant as dioceses if The Episcopal Church opts out.

If The Episcopal Church does opt out, they can expect to be in some kind of "associated" status. Rowan Williams does not name names - in fact, he's very careful not to - and so a door is left open on who is permitted to speak for the Communion. Dr. Williams writes:
But perhaps we are faced with the possibility rather of a 'two-track' model, two ways of witnessing to the Anglican heritage, one of which had decided that local autonomy had to be the prevailing value and so had in good faith declined a covenantal structure. If those who elect this model do not take official roles in the ecumenical interchanges and processes in which the 'covenanted' body participates, this is simply because within these processes there has to be clarity about who has the authority to speak for whom.
Who has the authority to speak for whom? That is the question that is on the table and a "local church" that has stepped out in ways that fracture the communion and threaten ecumenical partnerships may not continue long as the official voice of the Anglican Communion. And the question then will be - who will be that official voice?

Read Anglican Curmudgeon's take on it here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Episcopal Church actions risk schism

Church of England senior bishop Michael Nazir-ali writes in the Washington Times:

The Episcopal Church in the United States has done it again. Having marched out of step with the majority of the worldwide Anglican Communion, American Episcopalians have declared their intention to walk even further apart.

The world knows about the ordination of a bishop in a same-sex relationship and the ways in which that has torn the fabric of the communion, as the primates have said, at its deepest level. (This, by the way, is also a classic description of schism.) It also is widely known that people have their same-sex unions "blessed" in many parts of the Episcopal Church and such people also can be candidates for ordination.

All this continues despite the clear teaching of the 1998 Lambeth Conference that it should not.

So what is new? In passing Resolution DO25, the General Convention has openly stated that ordination should be open to those living in same-sex unions, which it also regards as exemplifying "holy love." In a further resolution, CO56, the Episcopal Church has agreed to bring liturgies for blessing same-sex relationships to the next General Convention, in 2012, for final approval.

Why are all of these developments important? Are they not simply a formalizing of what happens anyway, and is the church not just reflecting the culture in which it is set?

Let it be said, straightaway, that this issue is not a second- or lower-order one on which Christians can agree to disagree. It profoundly has to do with how men and women are created together in God's image and together given a common mission in the world. This mission they fulfill in ways that are both distinctive and complementary.

No Bible-believing Christian can say that "men are from Mars and women from Venus." They are not distinct species but have been made for each other in their distinctiveness and complement each other. This is the burden of the earliest chapters of Genesis that are strongly and unambiguously affirmed in the teaching of Jesus himself. As a whole, the Bible's teaching on human sexuality clearly affirms that the proper expression of our sexual nature is within the context of married love. The alternative, for those who have this gift, is dedicated singleness in the fulfillment of God's purposes.

In the pagan world, in which the Bible was written, such a view was vigorously countercultural. Many of Israel's neighbors tolerated both heterosexual and homosexual practices that are rejected by the Bible because they violate the holiness of God, the order of creation and respect for persons.

It is often the case that where the fundamental teaching of the Bible regarding marriage is not upheld, the status of women, in particular, suffers and they are reduced to being either a source for male self-gratification or chattel who maintain the home while men seek gratification elsewhere.

Today also, in the context of permissive cultures, the church has sometimes to take a countercultural stand so that the dignity of persons, made in God's image, is not debased.

As to same-sex attraction, there may be a predisposition toward it, even if we do not know all the reasons for it. That does not mean it must be gratified. Not every desire can or should be given active expression.

There may be relationship issues with a parent or a seeking of the man or the woman "I want to be" in others of the same sex. Those in such situations need to be cared for and to know that God loves them. They need to be helped so they can conform their lives to the stature of the fullness of Christ.

As they are welcomed to church and hear God's word, they will meet with Christ and be transformed by the renewal of their minds, spirits and bodies. They will be nurtured by word and sacrament but also by friendship.

Again and again, people say it is the affirmation of Christian friends, the role model of a wise, perhaps older Christian and the fellowship of the church family that have brought them to a new place in their discipleship.

None of this seems to bother the decision-makers in the Episcopal Church (though it may bother the faithful more than we think). They will have caused a schism despite repeated entreaties by the rest of the communion not to take unilateral action that contravenes the teaching of the Bible, the unanimous teaching of the church down the ages and the understanding of the vast majority of Christians today.

There can be little doubt that the latest moves in the Episcopal Church will further damage the fellowship among Anglicans. There will be more talk of the rupture, impairment of communion and the like. The moves also will further damage ecumenical relations with other churches, such as the Roman Catholic, the Orthodox and various evangelical and Pentecostal bodies. Interfaith dialogue, especially with Muslims, also has been adversely affected, with dialogue partners asking how what they have hitherto regarded as a "heavenly religion" can sanction a practice that most religions do not permit.

In all this, those who remain orthodox in faith and morals will need to remember that any disruption of fellowship is for the sake of discipline and the eventual restoration of those who have chosen to go their own way to the common faith and life of the church. It is for this that we must work and pray.

The Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali is Anglican bishop of Rochester in England. The bishop was born in Pakistan to Christian parents.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Live at the Bob Dylan Concert

NEW UPDATE: BB's Review is now up at the legendary ExpectingRain.com.

UPDATED
with photos and video.


I'm sitting outside Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Maryland. It took, well, it took a long time get here but I'm here and waiting for the doors to open in about ten minutes. People are tailgating here in the parking lot as recordings of Like a Rolling Stone fill the humid summer afternoon air. It's hard to tell that people are here for a concert, most of them look like they are actually going to a ballgame but for the tie-dyed shirt here and there. The murmur from the lawn chairs stretched out throughout the parking lot is festive and happy. Like a rolling stone.

I'll be Twittering the concert and you can follow those posts here.

RSS feed of BabyBlueAnglica's updates

Here is the setlist:

1. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
2. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
3. The Levee's Gonna Break
4. Spirit On The Water
5. It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
6. I Feel A Change Comin' On
7. Honest With Me
8. Forgetful Heart
9. Highway 61 Revisited
10. Nettie Moore
11. Thunder On The Mountain

(encore)
12. Like A Rolling Stone
13. Jolene
14. All Along The Watchtower

You know, this song list is perfect for after General Convention - I couldn't have thought up a better song list myself. Just gotta wonder. Robert!

I've added photos and want to make it clear, these were taken with my cell phone!


Bob Dylan played electric guitar on the the first two and took centered stage with his harmonica on my new favorite, Forgetful Heart. All the rest he was on electric keyboards.

This is one of the first performances that he was actually facing the audience on the keyboards and interacting as he played and sang. When he finished Thunder on the Mountain he actually did a flourish at the crowd, something I haven't seen him do. He was very energized and his voice is the best I've ever heard live - he really sang his heart out. Forgetful Heart was haunting, while his openers were filled with energy as he took center stage with his guitar, something he's only started to do in the States recently. His Oscar was as always taped to the amp near his keyboards.

After one unknown (didn't catch the name) opening act, Willie Nelson took the stage and did his standards (they are all starting to sound the same to me since he seems to play all of them in the same key at the same beat). The storm clouds were all ready forming and it seemed like he raced through the last few before he abandoned the stage and the thunder and lightening took over center stage. I joined a hundred people in a tent where each flash of lightening was met by oooos and ahhhhs that I thought we might be at a 4th of July picnic.

Actually, the entire night was like a 4th of July picnic - from the tailgating in the parking lot to the vast amount of families with small children who came and spread out blankets on the fields and let their children run.

During the storms, however, we were all huddled either in the tent or up by the concession stands until the deluge ended.

At some point during the storm, Bob Dylan's convoy arrived with a police escort (never get to see that since the focus is usually on the stage at that time) and people in the tent waved as his convoy of buses and police cars drove in the rolling thunder. Guess that's not the first time that's happened.

Then, finally, the sun broke through, the thunder rolled away, and the rain stopped and everyone returned to wet seats and tables and made the best. It was the happiest crowd I've ever been stuck in the thunderstorm with - it was almost as though it was part of the bill.

John Mellencamp came out next and he was terrific. He had enormous energy, seemed in fine form, and did a wide variety of music, from old rock and roll to folk blues. His voice was stellar and he did my favorite, Small Town, on an acoustic guitar, just like Side B.

Then it was Dylan & his band's turn. The crowds turned over by the stage - the Willie Nelson group now sopping up beers at the aluminum tables and swapping stories of last summer's trip to Uncle Earl's Tavern. The Mellencamp Crowd - mostly children of the 70s - blended back into the stands to see if they could comprehend Dylan's lyrics this time. And the thousands of fans that had come to hear Dylan moved forward, including me.

I had thought I'd stay at my table - excited that I had a table - I thought I'd be civilized and sit by the table and just enjoy the music. But I realized as the time approached that half - if not perhaps even most - of the fun of seeing Dylan in person is watching him phrase and emote his songs, along with the possibility he might smile. Which he did.

I did attempt to Twitter from the Mosh Pit, which was more like standing in line for the It's A Small World After All ride at Disneyland. The vast majority of the crowd was in their twenties and thirties - a thousand of them and that has to make Dylan's day. They knew the songs too.

Of course, there were these four young guys with short haircuts who started to talk loudly to each other early in Dylan's set, shouting to each other about how they couldn't understand what Dylan was singing, "what is he saying!" they shouted to each other, "what's he singing? I can't understand him!" They kept shouting that over and over. But of course, how could they since they were so busy shouting at each other? It went on, and on, and on and finally I remembered that there are now advantages to being somewhat over 40 at a rock concert and told them to knock it off now. "Listen to him!" I said to them. "Knock it off and listen!" I felt like their mother. The crowd around us cheered.

It all rushed by too fast - again, my favorite of the night of course was Forgetful Heart, but Rolling Stone was especially fun since the crowd was singing along on the chorus. In fact, at one point Dylan stopped singing and the crowd just kept going. What year is this?

He sang Jolene in the encore and I could make a case that it's send up of Dolly Parton after she dissed him for not doing a duet with her on an album. "Honey I'm the King," Dylan croons, "And your the Queen."

But who else has been dissed lately?

Of course, it could be about something entirely different - which is what makes it fun. It's just how he said "Queen." It was 1980s nasal "Queeeeeeen." You can do that without grimacing.

It of course ended too soon. After the encore Dylan and his band are headed for the bus. They took an especially long break this time between Thunder on the Mountain and coming back for the encore. In fact, when Dylan finished Thunder on the Mountain he did this dramatic flourish with his hand to the crowd like "voila!" It brought the house down.

Then it was a three song encore finishing with All Along the Watchtower which was in the Hendrix arrangement - a rather pointed and mystic way to end a show when all is supposed to be well and happy in the Obama era. Oops.

Headed out for the cars and then was the next drama of the night.

Spent the next forty-five minutes and nothing, no, nothing moved in the parking lot. I knew there was only one way in and one way out (as is the case it seems with these minor league ball parks) but this was forty-five minutes of nothing. People just shut off their cars and some even started tailgating again, but for the few who honked their horns when the forty minute mark had passed.

Then I saw it, the convoy - the buses with police escort heading out of the park, heading for 95, heading south to the next gig. We'd all have to wait until the King went by.

I loved it, though, I loved Willie, Mellencamp, and the storm, and Dylan who sang, "If it keeps on raining, the levee's gonna break." -It was worth driving a hundred miles north to make it. Had no idea Maryland was that big. I could have just kept on going and spent the night in Newark. Then reason returned to me - and so did I return south to Virginia, knowing that somewhere out on the road, somewhere in the night was Dylan and his convoy headed south to Norfolk, to four more guys with short haircuts shouting "what is he singing!"

Here are my Twitter Posts - they read from the bottom up with the most recent at #1.
  1. We are stuck in the parking lot waiting for Dylan's buses to leave
  2. watchtower last song!
  3. dylan is doing Forgetful Heart - my GC Theme Song - awesome!
  4. maybe he feels sorry we got caught in the storm - but Dylan is rocking ;-)
  5. don't think twice - on guitar Dylan sounds great
  6. Pillbox Hat opens with Dylan on guitar and his voice is great!
  7. Down near the stage - Dylan should be out any minute
  8. Mellencamp was awesome! Dylan up next!
  9. Update from BabyBlue Live at the Bob Dylan Concert: I'm sitting outside Ripken Stadium in Ab.. http://bit.ly/XEeUp
  10. John Mellancamp takes the stage - concert resumes as sun breaks though
  11. They are mopping up the rain water from the stage - don't want Dylan tumbling!
  12. storm has passed. sun returns. and a soggy crowd emerges for Dylan concert
  13. if you have to be outside in a thunderstorm. this is the crowd to be with - Dylan fans rock!
  14. Dylan's convoy just arrived as storm hurls in with rolling thunder!
  15. major storm headed this way - have moved under cover
  16. Willie Nelson just took the stage at Dylan concert
  17. sitting at a table at Ripken waiting for Dylan
Here is Forgetful Heart - but please remember, this video is also from a cell phone so it's rough, rough, rough - but you can tell what song he's singing. And the point is that he sang it, it meant so very much. Thanks, Bob! You do rock!

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