Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The BBC Interviews Bishop Minns and Bishop Kings

Transcript of Interview with Bishop Minns and excerpt from interview with Bishop Kings, from here:


Q: Bishop Martyn Minns is from the Anglican Church in North America and sits on the Secretariat of the GAFCON Primate’s Council. I asked him what did GAFCON leaders regard as the fatal flaw in the Anglican Covenant.

+Minns: The fundamental thing I think is that trust is gone. Decisions and documents that have been worked on in the past have not been honored. I think there’s simply a lack of trust in the process. I think also the introduction of this whole roll of the standing committee in terms of how the covenant is actually exercised has also caused great consternation. But I think, in fact I have a direct quote from one of the Primates who said, “ look, why do we keep going?. All the decisions have been made. The documents we signed have never been honored. There’s no point.”

Q: Is it your sense that this is not punitive enough?

+Minns: I don’t think it’s an issue of punitive. It’s simply that it’s been watered down. The content and the process has shifted from the Primates themselves to this Standing Committee which it’s still not clear cut what it is. So it’s not a matter of punitive. It’s simply I think that there’s a breakdown in the trust from the earlier conversations.

Q: Why did the Primates of GAFCON decide to release their statement rejecting this covenant just as the General Synod was debating it?

+Minns: The decision was frankly simply providential. There was no attempt to time it. What we’ve tried to work hard is to make sure that the documents of this sort that everyone whose name is listed has had time to reflect, take advice, and to agree to the wording. And every time that’s happened its complicated and long. It just so happened that it was done on the day. There was no planning or coordinating that at all.

Q: There are critics who will say that this was a tactical possibly even manipulative approach by GAFCON, what’s your response to that allegation?

+Minns: Well that’s simply not true. The attempt to get everyone on board at a precise moment is simply not possible. Finally, after everyone had read through it, thought through it, prayed through we were ready to release it. I think most of them had no clue the Synod was even meeting.

Q: Archbishop Williams has clearly worked very hard to get this covenant through the Synod, isn’t this a slap in the face for him?

+Minns: I don’t think there’s anything personal in this at all. I think there’s a lot of affection for Archbishop Rowan. Frankly the process had been going for many many years. And it’s the lack of trust and a lack of willingness to listen to those in the Global South is really what’s behind this.

Q: Well what would it take to persuade you to tarry longer with this process and to engage further with it?

+Minns: I think it would be to honor the decisions and documents that have taken place in the past. I think that trust has to be rebuilt.

Q: The Anglican Communion is now faced with what looks like a two tiered communion, would you accept that?

+Minns: I wouldn’t say its two tier. I think the structure is shifting and I think moving frankly from a fairly colonial structure in to a much more of a global structure. And I think it will be far more of a network than a hierarchical structure.

Q: Some liberals of course have their own reasons for not welcoming this covenant. Liberals, conservatives, traditionalists struggling with the covenant does this now signal the end-game for the Anglican Communion?

+Minns: By no means. I think the Anglican Communion has got a huge contribution to give to the world. I think in many parts of the world it’s thriving and growing and doing some remarkable things. I think it’s simply the way in which we operate together that has to change. I think it’s a testament to its effectiveness. Its grown so much globally that the sheer weight of it and the vision and …(unintelligible)… of the Communion is no longer in England. I believe that the Anglican Communion is incredibly healthy and doing some remarkable things. Structurally, it’s the institutional structure that’s simply not kept up with its life. And I think that that’s what needs to change. And as you know institutional change has always been very hard. Those in power are always reluctant to give it up.

Q: Was it GAFCON’S intention all along to reject this covenant?

+Minns: Not at all. GAFCON folk actually were instrumental in the very beginning and actually the first draft. Archbishop Drexel Gomez and a number of the Global South folk were actually involved in producing the very first draft.

Q: At what point did GAFCON leaders and primates know this covenant was unacceptable?

+Minns: I don’t believe there was a single point. I think it’s been an unfolding realization.

Q: What are those Primates who are part of GAFCON, is it now the case that they will en masse refuse to attend the next Primates meeting of the Anglican Communion?

+Minns: I believe that that’s what the statement says. And I believe that it’s not just those primates but also a number of other primates in the Global South that have communicated that.


Q: Are you at all sympathetic to the GAFCON Primates who plainly believe that other member churches of the communion cannot be trusted to honor any covenant?

+Kings: No I’m not. I’m sympathetic to the leadership of the Global South Anglican movement which is different from GAFCON. GAFCON is a subset of that. And the chair of the Global South Anglican movement is John Chew, the Bishop of Singapore, Archbishop of Southeast Asia. John emailed me and said the Singapore diocese had passed the covenant. He was involved in the commission that brought it together. And similarly Mouneer Anis, Bishop in Egypt and Presiding Bishop in the Middle East is still in favor of the Covenant there’s still some questions. And Ian Earnest who is the chair of CAPA…these three moderate Global South Anglican leaders are still in favor of the covenant and so its just not the case that the whole of the Global South – GAFCON is not the whole of the Global South Anglican movement.

Q: What did you make of Martyn Minns’ comment “this is not the end game” for the communion but a revolution in how the communion organizes itself and its conversations?

+Kings: First of all, Martyn’s not…although he’s part of the Anglican Church in North America that is not The Episcopal Church in America. There is a long standing church there, The Episcopal Church…The Anglican Church in North America is a split off. Martyn and Robert Duncan they’ve formed their own church. They just invented their own church. Now I’m sympathetic to their views. I’m conservative on sexuality myself but not the way they see the church. And I don’t want the church and the communion to be split. They’ve split off in the states and I don’t want that to become a model. I was worried when Martyn spoke about reducing the Communion to a network…Networks are very different from an organic communion.

Read it all here.  The point is that the GAFCON document itself was written in a voice and tone that is not at all helpful to sensitively and compassionately address the very serious issues facing us, nor is it a teaching document for the larger Anglican community (it fails the "Pub Test"), and sadly it did not even appear to attempt to build social network bridges, but burn them down.  The release of this document the day that the CoE General Synod voted to affirm the Anglican Covenant may have been providential, but perhaps in the divine hope that we may be confronted with our own lack of humility (who would have thought that the one person to strike the most appropriate tone and Christian message would be the Queen of England?).  The GAFCON statement in fact contributes to the broken trust and that is a major disappointment.  At the same time, Graham Kings may want to reconsider waking up and smelling the proverbial winter roses - we have left the Industrial Age on which the original Anglican Communion's structures were built.  Bishop Minns is absolutely correct in his support of creating and sustaining networks that transcend old industrial borders - the Information Age, in which the Communion now must learn to adapt to or perish, flourishes in the building of vibrant and dynamic social networks.  

In fact, the greatest Social Network of them all is the Trinity.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Queen Elizabeth II's speech to the CoE Synod

A must-listen:

The Archbishop of Canterbury Addresses Synod

From here:

John Wesley began his great sermon on 'The Catholic Spirit' with a text from II Kings 10.15: 'He greeted him and said, "Is your heart true to mine, as my heart is to yours?" Jehonadab replied, "Yes." "If so," Jehu said, "Give me your hand."' As so often with wonderful texts from Scripture, the context makes you scratch your head a little (look it up). But – as I suspect all serious readers of Scripture would agree – one of the striking things about scriptural texts is that they grow beyond their context in the light of the Spirit's work of interpretation. And Jehu's question is one that we should hear the Holy Spirit putting to us every time we meet as a Synod. Because our hope must be that the loyalty of heart to heart in Christian community will constantly enable us to join hands in the work set before us for the sake of the Gospel.

That work has been explored and reflected upon a good deal in the last couple of years by an Archbishops' Task Group looking at the use of our resources, and through discussion in the House of Bishops, especially in their Standing Committee. Three main themes have emerged with absolute clarity. We are called –

(i) To take forward the spiritual and numerical growth of the Church of England – including the growth of its capacity to serve the whole community of this country;

(ii) To re-shape or reimagine the Church's ministry for the century coming, so as to make sure that there is a growing and sustainable Christian witness in every local community; and

(iii) To focus our resources where there is both greatest need and greatest opportunity.

In a way, everything else I have to say will be quite insignificant compared with those agreed priorities and with the exhortation from Scripture about our hearts being true to each other. But I hope you won't stop listening just yet. John Wesley in the same sermon is painfully realistic about the fact that we 'cannot all think alike, and in consequence...cannot all walk alike.' The greatness of this particular sermon of his is to challenge us to recognise that what he calls the Catholic Spirit is neither a climate of imposed universal agreement nor a free for all held together by mutual tolerance ('Observe this, you who know not what spirit ye are of: who call yourselves men of a catholic spirit, only because you are of a muddy understanding'). Wesley wants us to be settled in the basics of our faith, 'fixed as the sun' in our allegiance to the creed and the doctrine of a free and God-given atonement for sin. But this is consistent with two things that might strike us as unexpected in their context. First, it is consistent with readiness to hear arguments against what we believe without panic; and second it is consistent with acknowledging that opinions vary even where doctrines are shared. And how do we know that something is an opinion not a doctrine? An opinion is something 'compatible with a love to Christ and a work of grace', he writes in a letter; something which visibly grows out of the basic commitment to a divine Saviour, yet which can be denied without undermining that commitment. As he writes to a nephew who had embraced Roman Catholicism, what we need in our discussion is a fierce eagerness to clarify and explore the unfathomable wonders of what it is to be an adopted child of God through the Holy Spirit; and if we then have any energy left or nothing better to do, then, he says, we can argue about purgatory or whatever.

If we are to flesh out the vision that has been defined for us of growth, ministerial effectiveness and the concentration of resources where there is need and opportunity, we shall need something of Wesley's Catholic Spirit. How eager are we to explore what it means to believe in a divine Saviour as a priority for our work in this Synod? How far do we yield to the temptation to postpone this until we have sorted out everything else? What I have often called the real rather than the virtual church seems often to live at this level. And at the moment, our society is calling out to the real Church with a new urgency. We are going to be discussing the language of the Big Society in this group of sessions. And if such language means anything – as I believe it does – it looks to an ideal that Wesley would have recognised easily: men and women determined to enhance each others' lives by building up their freedom to shape their future and their communal life with fairness and generosity; people for whom responsibility is not a grim and repressive word but a joyful acknowledgement of what we owe to each other. This will of course be in many areas a task to share with our friends of other denominations and other faiths; and I am specially glad to be able to welcome the representatives of other communities of faith here today as guests and observers along with our ecumenical friends. But that should not take away from the fact that, if we are going to be both positive and critical partners in this process, we need some of that 'settledness' Wesley speaks of; some degree of freedom from the clash of opinion that will enable us to join hands.

And it may help us too to be reminded that the Church's growth has always been in some ways haphazard and diverse. God gives increase in unexpected places – and, by his grace, such growth is already going on in unexpected places in our Church, both in 'inherited' forms of Church life and in Fresh Expressions. For God's sake, don't let us waste time and energy talking or behaving as if there were competition going on here. The truth is that this diversity offers an opportunity for exactly the shared exploring of our common gift that Wesley writes about. 'In both ways, whether with false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed, and for that I am happy', says St Paul (Phil.1.18). And there is another text that we might well hang on our walls for the coming quinquennium.

You see, what I should really love to see in this Synod is all of us disappointing expectations. What plenty of people expect – people in the media, people in the pews, perhaps even some of us – is that a Synod elected in the middle of several tough political rows in the church is going to be a body consistently pulled away from the hope of joined hands, let alone joined-up thinking, a body in which the Catholic Spirit is invisible. So I am urging you to surprise those who are looking on, to surprise them by your loyalty to each other: 'Is your heart true to mine?' That loyalty grows and flourishes when we spend time together exploring what has brought us together; which is God. It happens when we pledge ourselves to seek out those we disagree with and work till it hurts on finding ways of sharing prayer and fellowship with them in and around the life of the Synod. It may mean something as trivial as not always sitting with your friends and allies, or something as long term as a prayer partnership. If our hearts are true to each other, different things become possible; and I think there is a certain urgency about getting this right at the very beginning of the life of a Synod.

Part of what that means too is (remembering Wesley yet again) the willingness to hear the arguments. I don't think I'm alone in feeling some anxiety about the degree to which strongly-worded exchanges outside this Synod, and the zero-sum atmosphere of campaigning and pamphleteering, can feed a climate in which people are almost expected to arrive in Synod with minds made up on everything, even with a feeling of party lines being defined and voting 'packages' created. I don't think we are doing the job for which God has called us here if we reproduce the worst aspects of secular partisanship. It ought to be possible for us to arrive here ready to discover something, rather than simply determined to win.

And that requires us also to be ready to look at how we 'do' Synod. For all the enthusiasm of many members, there is also a widespread unease about some aspects of our practice, an unease shared by a lot of people in our Church. It has something to do with the way in which a packed legislative programme leaves us less time than we need to think together, to do theology together. And the effect of that is to reinforce the tribal tendencies that always recur in bodies like this. When I hear people saying after a debate, 'That was Synod at its best', it is usually after a session in which people have spoken out of their experience and expertise, when we have not felt driven towards closure on a matter we need to approach reflectively, when there has been a manifest willingness to learn on all sides. Happily there are a good many such moments. But we could do with more, and I hope that in this quinquennium we continue to look at ways of relaxing our rhythms a bit to allow more of this. I should add that, after a good deal of work on the patterns of meetings for the House and College of Bishops, the same questions about the frequency and character of meetings of the Archbishops' Council are under discussion so that we can somehow find the reflective time we need.

All this is relevant to how we approach the most sensitive areas of our decision-making. As we proceed towards a decision about the ordination of women as bishops, it is important that, here and in the dioceses, we should not be afraid of discussions that clarify the theological issues. It will be a great pity if we come to our final decision without having confidently articulated why women bishops would be theologically in tune with our deepest commitments. As I've said more than once before, I believe that the ARCIC Agreed Statement on ordained ministry offers a clear basis for argument and a clear common ground on which we can continue discussion with our ecumenical partners, whatever the tensions. Those like myself who believe women bishops to be a development both good and timely for the Church and wholly consistent with its mainstream understanding of ministry and sacraments should be ready to make the argument in the strong theological terms in which it can be made. And those who do not share these convictions have both the right and the responsibility to articulate the theology of the Church and its authority which makes them hesitate, because listening to these points is a necessary part of the whole body's discernment.

Of course it is a matter of real sorrow that some have already decided that they cannot in conscience continue this discussion within the Church of England. They remain in our prayers and we continue to give thanks for the ministry they have offered all of us. And I must add that, despite continuing sensationalism about the effect of this on the main work of ecumenical relations, the planning of the next round of ARCIC has been developing constructively; and I was told last week in Rome at the highest level that the membership of the Commission is at last practically finalised. The remit of this next Commission is – appropriately – to look at exactly this question of the authority belonging to the local Church and its relation to the universal Church.

The other issue, still bitterly divisive in the Communion, is that of our approach to same-sex unions. It is inevitable that, whether in open debate or in general discussion, this will be around during the lifetime of this Synod. I shall make only a brief comment here, having said a fair amount on the subject this time last year and in other settings. And it is that this has become a cardinal example of how we avoid theological debate. The need for some thoughtful engagement that will help us understand how people who read the same Bible and share the same baptism can come to strongly diverse conclusions is getting more urgent, because I sense that in the last few years the debate on sexuality has not really moved much. It is unthinkingly treated by some as almost the sole test of biblical fidelity or doctrinal orthodoxy; it is unthinkingly regarded by others as one of those matters on which the Church must be brought inexorably into line with what our culture can make sense of. Neither side always has the opportunity of clarifying how they see the focal theological issues – how one or the other position relates to our belief in a divine Saviour. And if we are not to be purely tribal about this, we need the chance for some sort of discussion that is not dominated by the need to make an instant decision or to react to developments and pressures elsewhere.

Let me be clear. I don't in the least mean to say that there is a lack of theological work on either side. Comments I have made on this subject in communications with the Communion, in which I stressed that what had to make up our minds should be theology not social convention, have been interpreted as ignoring or dismissing the quantity and quality of existing work. This is not at all my point. Of course there is a formidable literature in this area, with much theological sophistication; but in the debates we involve ourselves in, in and out of Synod, here and elsewhere in the Communion, the prevailing tone is often rather different. If you think that there is no respectable debate to be had, or if you think that the debate is entirely over, it is unlikely that there will be a useful exchange. But this means that our disagreement will too easily become just that familiar struggle to win leverage rather than to arrive at shared understanding. I'm told fairly often that the lack of advance in nurturing this debate properly is a serious failure in the leadership of the Church and the Communion. I am bound to accept my share of reproach; but I would want to invite you all to help me do better by working with me to create the ambience where better understanding may happen. I hope that Synod will not be averse to thinking about how we can take this forward, without the pressure of feeling we have some single and all-important decision to make. Happily we can point to the methods currently being developed in the 'Continuing Indaba' project, with its success in creating many such spaces for face-to- face discussion across cultures. This project, which is considering a wide range of actually and potentially divisive matters, has been pursued with heroic energy and imagination by many people of profoundly diverse convictions in the Communion and needs prayer and support.

This in turn takes us to one of the more sensitive areas we have to look at – how we handle the Covenant proposals. One or two things need saying here. This is by no means the first time we have discussed the Covenant in Synod or in the Church of England. Our input into the process has been considerable, and it has come from theologians of widely divergent views. The Covenant text itself represents work done by theologians of similarly diverse views, including several from North America. It does not invent a new orthodoxy or a new system of doctrinal policing or a centralised authority, quite explicitly declaring that it does not seek to override any province's canonical autonomy. After such a number of discussions and revisions, it is dispiriting to see the Covenant still being represented as a tool of exclusion and tyranny.

But the truth is that it does mark the seriousness of our current situation. It is an illusion to think that without some changes the Communion will carry on as usual, and a greater illusion to think that the Church of England can somehow derail the entire process. The unpalatable fact is that certain decisions in any province affect all. We may think they shouldn't, but they simply do. If we ignore this, we ignore what is already a real danger, the piece-by-piece dissolution of the Communion and the emergence of new structures in which relation to the Church of England and the See of Canterbury are likely not to figure significantly. All very well, you may say; but among the potential casualties are all those areas of interaction and exchange that are part of the lifeblood of our church and of many often quite vulnerable churches elsewhere. These relations are remarkably robust, given the institutional tensions at the moment, and, as I've often said, many will survive further disruption. But they will be complicated and weakened by major fracture and realignment.

The Covenant offers the possibility of a voluntary promise to consult. And it also recognises that even after consultation there may still be disagreement, that such disagreement may result in rupture of some aspects of communion, and that this needs to be managed in a careful and orderly way. Now the risk and reality of such rupture is already there, make no mistake. The question is whether we are able to make an intelligent decision about how we deal with it. To say yes to the Covenant is not to tie our hands. But it is to recognise that we have the option of tying our hands if we judge, after consultation, that the divisive effects of some step are too costly. The question is how far we feel able to go in making our decisions in such a way as to keep the trust of our fellow-Anglicans in other contexts. If we decide that this is not the kind of relationship we want with other Anglicans, well and good. But it has consequences. Whatever happens, with or without the Covenant, the Communion will not simply stay the same. Historic allegiances cannot be taken for granted. They will survive and develop only if we can build up durable and adult bonds of fellowship. And in this respect, the Church of England is bound to engage in this process as one member of the Communion among others. The fact is that the mutual loyalty of the Communion needs work, and the Covenant proposals are the only sign at the moment of the kind of work that has to be done.

Back to Wesley. He knew quite well that in a world of theological confusion, political manoeuvring and historical memories, Christian divisions are going to happen and to persist, and he himself was quite clear why he thought Baptists and Calvinists seriously wrong and why he could not join them in visible unity until things had been sorted out (he thought Calvinism a grave problem in effective evangelisation). What he is concerned to safeguard is what he calls heart being true to heart. There may be divisions, old and new, and no Christian should be complacent about that or step back from the hard work of visible reconciliation. But there is a kind of mutual loyalty that allows mutual respect to underpin even these separations, the loyalty that comes from recognising in the other Christ's loyalty or faithfulness to them. I want to encourage this Synod as forcefully as I can to maintain this level of loyalty to each other – and to the whole Anglican family. Because, if the three great priorities earlier identified are the right ones, we are called on to be loyal in Christ's name to the whole society in which he has called us to serve. It is a society that finds trust difficult, a society in which there is a widespread sense that other people and institutions and classes cannot be relied on to be faithful to the common good. We have the extraordinary opportunity of showing what a faithful community might be, in which no-one is forgotten – that is our version of 'Big Society' language. But we shall be set free for this if our mutual faithfulness here in this part of Christ's Body that is the General Synod becomes a daily reality. 'Let all these things stand by,' says Wesley; 'we will talk of them.' But the question that cannot wait until we have 'talked of them' remains: and I end by quoting it as Wesley does in the language of the King James Bible, and repeating it as the agenda for this Synod's life and work: 'Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?'

Friday, November 26, 2010

Church of England endorses the Anglican Covenant

From here:

In 1867 the Archbishop of York turned down the invitation to the first Lambeth Conference because it wasn’t a manifestation of Anglicanism that he recognised. In London today the General Synod of the Church of England debated whether or not the proposed Anglican Covenant is recognizably Anglican and an appropriate development for our times.

At the end of a three-hour debate it voted overwhelmingly, by a majority greater than two thirds in all three houses (bishops, clergy and laity), to move to the next stage in the adoption of the Covenant.

Even if the vote was decisive, questions remain regarding the degree of consensus that the Covenant will sit comfortably within the Church of England. In the weeks leading up to this Synod the blogosphere has been the scene of a massive debate.

It began with two influential liberal networks, Inclusive Church and Modern Church (formerly the Modern Churchpeople’s Union), buying advertising space in the Church Times to warn that the Covenant is punitive, against the spirit of Anglicanism and a threat to the autonomy of the Church of England. Later came a declaration from the Anglican Mainstream network that the Covenant was not strong enough to provide the assurances needed by conservative evangelicals. Neither prevailed today.

A day ahead of the debate the Archbishop of Canterbury used his presidential address to make what was undoubtedly the decisive intervention in the Covenant debate. He cited a famous sermon by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, on “The Catholic Spirit,” which “is neither a climate of imposed universal agreement nor a free for all.”

He continued: “Wesley wants us to be settled in the basics of the faith, ‘fixed as the sun’ in our allegiance to the creed and the doctrine of a free and God-given atonement for sin.” This however is “consistent with readiness to hear arguments against what we believe without panic... [and] consistent with the knowledge that opinions vary even when doctrines are shared.”

Coming directly to the proposed Covenant he said: “It is an illusion to think that without some changes the Communion can carry on as usual, and a great illusion to think that the Church of England can somehow derail the entire process. The uncomfortable fact is that certain decisions in any province affect all.”

The Covenant, he said, “offers us the possibility of a voluntary promise to consult. And it also recognizes that even after consultation there may still be disagreement.... To say yes to the Covenant is not to tie our hands. But it is to recognize that we have the option of tying our hands if we judge, after consultation, that the divisive effects of some step are too costly.”

Opening the Covenant debate the Bishop of Bristol, Mike Hill, said it was an invitation for “member churches to commit themselves to greater mutual accountability, consultation and the pursuit of consensus on issues which are new or controversial and may have serious relational consequences for the Communion.”

Speaking in support the Rev. Simon Cawdell of Hereford said the Covenant offers “the best definition of Anglicanism that there is.”

Dr. Paul Fiddes, a Baptist observer, said the Independent tradition in the British Isles had lots of experience with covenant making but as yet has not sought to apply this in the international sphere. “I would like to thank the Anglican Communion for taking the Covenant further than we have done.”

The Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Rt. Rev. Peter Price, insisted that the Covenant process was underway well before the election of Gene Robinson in New Hampshire. He referred to an Anglican Consultative Council document, Belonging Together (1992), which had a direct influence on The Virginia Report, much of which formed the basis of Covenant drafts.

Traditional Catholics, in the persons of the Bishop of Blackburn and the Rev. Simon Killwick (leader of the Catholic Group), signalled support for the Covenant as a means to provide greater coherence and integrity in Anglicanism.

A succession of speakers aired doubts. Would the Covenant undermine the autonomy of the Church of England or its prophetic spirit? Some thought that Covenant language like “relational consequences” spells a legalistic threat. Foremost among the doubters was the soon-to-retire Bishop of Lincoln, John Saxbee, who thought a Covenant is unnecessary since “Anglicanism is a covenant.”

Canon Elizabeth Paver, a member of the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee, introduced a note of realism: in practice the Covenant will advise, never dictate; and it is vital that the Church of England “give some leadership” on the matter.

Now the Covenant will be considered by diocesan synods. Under the Constitution of the Church of England they cannot amend it, only attach following motions. The last word on the subject has therefore not been said. The position of the Church of England should be clear by the time the ACC meets in 2012.

Read it all here. Meanwhile, a group of GAFCON primates has shot the Anglican Covenant down, releasing their statement on the same day that the Covenant was endorsed by the CoE Synod.  To say that BB smashed a few glasses and plates in the cafe kitchen after reading the GAFCON primates press release is an understatement.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday at the Cafe: Not Dark Yet

Here is Bob Dylan from Lowell, Massachusetts a few days ago performing Not Dark Yet, from the album Time Out of Mind.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Anglicans gather for Church Planting Summit

Anglicans from all over the Washington metropolitan area are gathering in Herndon, Virginia for the Summit on Church Growth and Church Planting.  Leaders in Church Planting are here following the call of Archbishop Bob Duncan of the Anglican Church in North America to plant 1000 churches during his ministry.  You can read more about the initiative at Anglican1000.

So much of church planting seems to be journey of "unlearning."  Came across this video that perhaps spells it out better than bunches of words.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Schofield and the Diocese of San Joaquin win appeal

The Fifth District Court of Appeal of Fresno, California, has granted Bishop John Schofield's petition for review, overturning The Episcopal Church's motion for summary adjudication. Read the ruling here and read Anglican Curmudgeon's first thoughts on the ruling here.

At the Cafe: Ballad of a Thin Man

Last Saturday night Bob Dylan ended his initial set (before the traditional encore with the standard favorites) with this particular song originally from his album Highway 61 Revisited. This version is from his landmark 1966 Tour of England.

Friday, November 12, 2010

And so it begins again ...

Just back from court - after a bit of a litigation hiatus, the legal teams have returned to Judge Randy Bellows' court in Fairfax, Virginia. Today saw the debut of Mary Kostel, the special counsel to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for property litigation at the plaintiff's table representing the Episcopal Church (they just want Judge Bellows to issue a summary judgement). Also present in the front row sitting next to Russ Palmore (author of the Virginia Protocol for Departing Congregations) was David Booth Beers, Chancellor for Bishop Schori.

There was far more pleasant "camaraderie" between the counsels for the Virginia churches and the Diocese of Virginia (engagement for which Virginia is rather famous) then there was for the DC-based Episcopal Church lawyers who seemed far more stone-faced and grim. Except for David Booth Beers and Russ Palmore (the two of who seemed somewhat surprisingly positively chummy - but then Russ did serve for a time on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, in fact while the protocol was being written when Frank Griswald was still Presiding Bishop), there was very little high-fiving going on between TEC and the Diocese.  It seems clear they have a business relationship - one can't really imagine that they all headed over to Chucky Cheese for some rowdy fun.

The Diocese however was quite excited about receiving their reimbursement check for attorney fees - perhaps too excited - that was ordered by the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth Virginia from the CANA Churches who lost on appeal there last summer. Happily, the check was presented to them today during the hearing before Judge Bellows so that can be checked off the to-do list. 

But for one parish, the Virginia churches remain unified as this next part of the litigation journey unfolds. The exception is Church of Our Saviour Oatlands (located on the Virginia Plantation Oaklands) which seems to have some issues that they would like to have resolved separately. Whether they will be permitted to do that will be a decision of Judge Bellows. Otherwise, the remaining eight churches are hanging together to respond to the separate lawsuits filed by both The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia against the churches and nearly 200 lay volunteers. The lay volunteers have been removed from the litigation without prejudice (which means - theoretically they could be reinstalled in the litigation and a reminder of this can be found in the courthouse lobby ticker of cases which lists all 200 names throughout the day).  It was good to see George Peterson and Gordon Coffee back at the attorney table and representing the CANA churches before Judge Bellows.

Today's hearing focused on a couple of issues - the first being the scheduling of the trial next year and the second being whether the trial will be before the bench or before a jury. The CANA churches (with the exception of Church of Our Saviour) favors a jury trial while the Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church oppose a jury trial.

The next hearing will be December 17th. In the meantime the opposing counsels are preparing briefs and have been ordered to resolve any issues as may be possible before Thanksgiving. This might be a good time to pray that there might be more resolution than conflict in this period leading up to Thanksgiving when all the final briefs are due on November 24th.

Had the opportunity to meet some regulars from the Cafe - from both sides of the aisle as it were - who hang out here at the cafe from time to time swapping howdies and ordering pies. It was a pleasure to meet everyone, including one member of the continuing Episcopal church congregations. We were reminded that while we may disagree at this point - we will, by God's grace and mercy - be spending a long time praising God in heaven. Would it not be advantageous to begin the praising here, again by God's grace and mercy? It was Bishop Lee's prayer that we might remain in as close a communion as possible - is it not time to pray that prayer again?

When I got back to my car in the parking lot, I could not find my car key.  I looked everywhere for it and even started walking back to the Courthouse when I found it in a little compartment in my purse as I got off the elevator.  As I walked back to my car, feeling tremendously relieved, I was reminded that in many ways that is what it felt like today - like we have the lost the key to resolution, that it seems hidden or lost, but perhaps it may be closer than we can even imagine, if we just - in humility - seek it out.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembering why we are free

Anglican Primates Meeting may be suspended

The Church of England Newspaper is reporting that Rowan Williams has written to the Anglican Primates proposing that the Primates Meeting be suspended.

This ifollowing signals from Anglican primates alarmed that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church will be invited to attend the now-scheduled January meeting in Ireland, even though she presided over the consecration of Mary Glasspool in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

Rowan Williams called the consecration "regrettable" and that it could "further threaten the unity of the Anglican Communion."

During his visit to India last month, Rowan Williams spoke about the deepening divisions in the Anglican Communion:
"I feel that we may yet have to face the possibility of deeper divisions," Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams told The Hindu newspaper in an interview, released Wednesday.

The comment was made after he pointed out the complications posed by the recent ordination of a partnered lesbian in Los Angeles.

Though Anglican leaders were making progress in dialogue over the past couple of years, he said, "The decision of the American Church to go forward, as it has, with the ordination of a lesbian bishop has, I think, set us back."
Today The Church of England Newspaper now reports via email that the Archbishop of Canterbury is seriously considering suspending the Primates Meeting now scheduled for January:
The Archbishop of Canterbury has proposed suspending the Primates’ Meeting – the fourth ‘instrument of unity’ in the Anglican Communion – in favour of holding multiple small group gatherings of like- minded archbishops.

In a letter to the primates dated October 7, Dr Rowan Williams suggested that given the “number of difficult conversations” and the threat of a boycott of its meetings, a regime of separate but equal facilitated small groups sessions might better serve the primates’ “diverse” perspectives and forestall the substantial “dam- age” to the Communion a full- fledged boycott would entail.

Dr Williams also called for a reform of the structure of the meetings, suggesting that an elected standing committee be created and the powers and responsibility of the meeting of the Communion’s 38 archbishops, presiding bishops and moderators be delineated.

Lambeth Palace did not respond to a request for clarification about the October 7 letter, while a spokesman for the Anglican Consultative Council said it could not address the question of a potential boycott as “the content of correspondence between the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury is private.”
Meanwhile, CAPA Chairman Archbiship Ian Ernest, said in his opening remarks at a gathering of the African Primates this week that the decision to attend the January Primates meeting  "rests solely on the individual Archbishop."  However he went on to tell the gathered primates that "The Archbishop of Canterbury has invited me in my capacity of CAPA Chairman to be part of a preparatory committee. He is also anxious that a small group of primates meet with him. I would like to have your opinion and thoughts about it."

The method of forming these "preparatory committees" can be seen as an American-style lobbying tool (as we saw so clearly in the Anglican Covenant Design Committee).  By making public the invitation to join such a "preparatory committee" and solicit advice, Archbishop Ernest places himself in more of a representative role for the African primates than as one particular primate being singled out from the rest of the group. 

The invitation to participate in such a new "preparatory committee" follows the resignation or withdrawal of CAPA Primates from the newly-renamed "Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion" (formerly the Joint Standing Committee) when it became clear that the Episcopal Church would not be held accountable for communion-breaking activities.

As we think on this, a song comes to mind:

UPDATE: George Conger has posted his article here.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

And don't forget to check under the beds too ...

Ah, time to get out the old Tin Foil Hats.  The Episcopal Diocese of New York has resurrected old resolutions, dust them off suddenly, and refashioned them once again for distribution and the question is why?  And why suddenly now?  Why pull out the scary IRD card once again for such late fall silliness? In fact, the Chicago Consultation is also engaged in activities of moving the Episcopal Church into a politically progressive organization.  Anyone care to investigate them?  No?  Last time we checked - despite the Guardian's protestations to the contrary - this is still a free country (thank you Thomas Jefferson).  It's so interesting though that IRD is suddenly being targeted yet again.  What's up with that?  True, things didn't go so financially well at the last meeting of the Executive Council for certain pet progressive projects - is IRD a convenient way for the Chicago Consultation and its allies on the Executive Council to raise funds?  Note that this is coming from the Diocese of New York where 815 is located.  Are funds running rather low?  One does wonder.

In the meantime, it's been a while since we've run this - but it seems the time is at hand:

Monday, November 08, 2010

Swallow your coffee FIRST before reading this ...

From the Guardian:

Religious ideas that are taught during childhood very often stick for life. Cursory reviews of the number of believers who come to faith during childhood or adolescence reveal this to be the case. According to research cited by the evangelical Christian group Youth for Christ for instance, 85% of Christians come to faith before the age of 23, with 15 the average age of conversion. Such figures should make the antennae of secularists twitch, for they suggest that taking on religious faith is often done by minors who are emotionally and intellectually vulnerable to the claims of adult religious authorities. Given the propensity of religious groups to inspire in young people long-term allegiance to their particular faith, questions also arise concerning the potency of the doctrine that religious institutions preach to youngsters.

A scrutiny of the youth evangelism strategies of one of the UK's largest faith groups, evangelical Christians, should give liberals serious cause for concern. Let us take as exemplar the work of Soul Survivor and Audacious, two large British youth evangelical organisations that run holiday camps attracting British youth in their tens of thousands. One striking aspect of these camps is the intensity of the doctrine that is preached and the zeal with which it is delivered. Leaders passionately inform children and teens of their conviction that evangelical doctrines, all of which are of course highly questionable when considered soberly, are absolutely true.

Children at Soul Survivor meetings have, for instance, been told that their generation can help bring Jesus back to Earth within their lifetimes. The "conversions" of children on the basis of such techniques is exploitative and can cause emotional pain when, in later life, it is discovered that such beliefs simply do not bear rational scrutiny. Other lessons preached at these camps are even more potentially damaging to children. At recent Soul Survivor meetings that have been featured on God TV, leaders have told young people they will be judged by God on the content of their thoughts when they die, that witch doctors can stunt the mental and physical capacities of children by cursing them, and that Jesus can heal children of medical ailments.

At an Audacious event, a boy about 13 years old described how he had been healed while at a meeting of the organisation.

Such lessons can potentially cause serious emotional and physical damage to the children receiving them and should anger anyone who cares about child welfare. Nor are such youth organisations on the Christian fringe. Anglican clergy are involved in the management of Soul Survivor for example. Rather, the intensity of evangelisation efforts at mainstream youth ministries suggests that youth evangelism is even more extreme in pockets of UK Christianity.

All of this raises the question of what is to be done. Given the emotional impact such ideas potentially have upon children and youth, it appears to me highly desirable that some form of public action is taken. Two minefields present themselves.

The first is the view that religious institutions, under the aegis of religious liberty, have the right to preach whatever doctrine they wish without state interference. This position is rebuttable. Christian churches would not be able, under hate legislation, to advocate slavery or the killing of witches (as many once did) on the basis of certain Old Testament verses for instance. Twenty-first century child welfare standards mean that other doctrines should join the list.

A second objection, that parents have the right to take their children to the religious services of their choosing, is trickier to negotiate. The state placing limits upon children's attendance of religious services with their parents is clearly unacceptable in a liberal society.

The proposal that I would like to make thus falls far short of this. I believe a public commission should be established that issues non-legally binding guidelines on the forms of doctrines that it is desirable that children are taught. The preaching of hellfire or of divine faith healings to children could form part of such guidelines. Non-compliers could be "named and shamed" by such a commission.

Such a venture would carry the advantage of leaving intact the parental right to educate children in their faith tradition, but would also go some way towards recognising the potentially damaging impact of certain religious doctrines upon developing minds.

Thomas Prosser, writing for the Guardian, is a lecturer in sociology at Trinity College, Dublin.

BB NOTE: Kinda charges one up for youth and children's ministry, doesn't it? 

Renowned Episcopal Parish Splits in Seattle; 3/4 of the parish/rector will leave to form new Anglican church

St. Luke's - one of the original lighthouse churches in the Episcopal Church renewal movement and former parish of Nine O'Clock on the Morning author Dennis Bennett will officially split this month, with 3/4 of the parish and its rector leaving to form a new Anglican church plant in Seattle, Washington.

In 1960, The Rev. Dennis Bennett became the rector of St. Luke's after resigning from his church in Van Nuys, CA in a media firestorm that broke out over his experiences with the Holy Spirit, setting off the Episcopal Church renewal movement. Membership at St. Luke's increased dramatically after the publication of his landmark book, Nine O’clock in the Morning.  He retired from St. Luke's in 1981 and spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching for church renewal.

SF has published the letter from the current rector here

Late Night at the Cafe: Love Rescue Me

Bob Dylan with U2 on a song written by Dylan and Bono.  We're doing a long-distance dedication to the leadership on both sides of the divide in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion.  Love rescue us all.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

A President at Bay ...

Insightful article by on Barack Obama, from here:

A significant chunk of the American liberal intelligentsia completely lost its head over Barack Obama. They mistook hopes and fantasies for reality. Worse, the disease spread to at least some members of the White House team. An administration elected with a mandate to stabilize the country misread the political situation and came to the belief that the country wanted the kinds of serious and deep changes that liberals have wanted for decades. It was 1933, and President Obama was the new FDR.

They did not perceive just how wrong they were; nor did they understand how the error undermined the logical case they wanted to make in favor of a bigger role for government guided by smart, well-credentialed liberal wonks. Give us more power because we understand the world better than you do, was the message. We are so smart, so well-credentialed, so careful to read all the best papers by all the certified experts that the recommendations we make and the regulations we write, however outlandish and burdensome they look to all you non-experts out there, are certain to work. Trust us because we are always right, and only fools and charlatans would be so stupid as to disagree.

They were fundamentally misreading the mood of the country, the political situation, and the ability of the new president even as they claimed that their superior and universal wisdom gave them the right and the duty to plan the future of vast swatches of the American economy. They were swept away by giddy euphoria even as they proclaimed the virtue of cool reason. Voters could see this; increasingly, they tuned the administration out.

Another factor in the President’s political trouble comes from a failure of rhetoric and communication. Musing over the electoral setback, President Obama has spoken of a ‘failure of communication.’ It’s a strange failure for a President so enthusiastically hailed by the mainstream media as the greatest orator of the era. Over time, however, a weakness in President Obama’s speaking ability has gradually become clear. The President, for all his virtues, lacks the essential gift of a great orator: the power to persuade. If you already agree with Barack Obama, you will be inspired and uplifted by his ability to express your common convictions in dignified and patriotic terms. If you don’t agree with him, you are unlikely to be convinced.

Great speakers like Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill had the power to concentrate your awareness on the core of the argument, to force those who disagreed to re-examine their positions, and to sway the great moderate middle to their side by logical arguments eloquently expressed. This President is more like Woodrow Wilson: a great expounder rather than a great persuader. When he shares the national mood he can express it better than just about anyone — but he cannot persuade doubters to follow his lead. In that sense his rhetoric is an ornament not a weapon. It is a feather in the cap, not a sword in the hand.

The President’s problems are not all his fault. The American economy is passing through a painful transition; there is no simple path to rising wages, rising house prices and declining budget deficits from where we now stand. The core strategies that have guided both political parties and the mainstream establishment since the fall of the Soviet Union are not working very well. Globalization seems to be making too many Americans less well off and the international environment is becoming more contentious and unstable, not less. Neither neo-conservatism, liberal internationalism, neo-liberalism nor the Third Way worked as advertised. The ideas and the policies of American intellectuals left and right seem largely inadequate and even irrelevant to both our foreign and domestic problems. President Obama is not the cause of this systemic crisis in the American Project, but the public judges him by how well he copes with it.

Adding to the President’s problems are the frankly irrational underpinnings of American political culture. The President of the United States is not actually an all powerful wizard who can make the economy rise by saying the right spells. The President is no more able to control the tides than King Canute. Politically, American voters haven’t come far from the ancient Greek world Marie Renault described in The King Must Die: when the crops don’t grow it obviously means we have the wrong king; we must kill the incumbent and sprinkle his blood on the cornfields. Once that is done the gods will be appeased and the crops will grow once again. Repeat as needed.

But the President cannot lay all his troubles on irrational voter expectations and an inscrutable fate. He is to some degree the victim of bad strategic choices he himself made. He selected a stimulus program large enough to frighten the country, but not large enough to assure recovery. He left the design of that program almost entirely in the hands of members of congress who were more interested in carving pork than in crafting a bill that would deliver the greatest possible stimulus in the shortest possible time. Arguably, by not proposing a two year holiday on payroll taxes (for Social Security and Medicare) while initiating a serious national conversation about the future of entitlements, he missed the greatest opportunity in a generation to deal with the country’s single greatest long-term problem — while building enduring popularity for himself and turbo-charging the economy.

Without assuaging voters’ concerns about the economy he embarked on a health care reform that has only become more unpopular as people have thought more about it. Overseas, he unwisely believed the self-described ‘realists’ who persistently fail to grasp the most basic dynamics of the US-Israel relationship and pinned his credibility on his ability to extract more concessions from Israel than he could get the Israelis to make. Twice Bibi Netanyahu has made him look like a rube; Charlie Brown runs toward the football, and Lucy snatches it away. The President wrapped himself in transcendent robes of moral urgency and higher righteousness to announce his grand plans to close Guantanamo; the subject has slowly faded away.

Nobody made him do any of these things; these are the choices the President made, and now he, and we, must live with the consequences.

I continue to wish that the immensely talented and driven figure now in the White House had finished his term in the Senate, run for governor of Illinois and served at least one term there before coming to Washington. The painful lessons he has been learning on the national and international stage could have been mastered in a more forgiving environment and his presidency would have had much greater chances for the kind of historic success he so deeply craves.

But wishes are vain; I still wish that John McCain had done better in the South Carolina primary back in 1999.

Still, however we got here, and whomever should be blamed, President Obama’s current term is not yet half over. Senator McConnell can talk about the importance of ensuring that President Obama serves only one term; I am still interested in ensuring that the next two years unfold in the best possible way for the United States. Particularly overseas, I do not want this President to fail. I do not want him humiliated, frustrated, or in any way diminished–and neither should any American. The world is a hard and a dangerous place; there are many people out there who would like to do much worse things to this country than stick it with an unpopular health plan. Somehow, despite what is going to be an inevitably contentious contest between the two parties, this country still needs to stand behind our President when he faces the world.

As for President Obama, I would not count him out.  He may not be the liberal superman his delusional supporters thought they saw in January 2009; neither is he chopped liver.  He has had some painful and public lessons and beyond a doubt he is smarter, tougher, and more experienced now than he was two years ago.  Like other presidents who have faced the loss of part of the Congress, he is likely to turn more attention now to the field where the Constitution gives a president the most power and freedom: foreign policy.

Read it all here.  Surprise!   Walter Russell Mead (born 12 June 1952, Columbia, South Carolina) is the Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations[1] and was the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College, and is recognized as one of the country's leading students of American foreign policy. Mead's father, Loren Mead, is an Episcopal priest in Washington, D.C., who grew up in several places in the South. Walter received his B.A. in English Literature from Yale University. He is an honors graduate of Groton School and Yale, where he received prizes for history and debate. In addition to his position at Bard, Mead currently teaches American foreign policy at Yale University. He is a Democrat, and voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential Election.

Episcopal Church in Cash Crunch: Takes out $60 million "line of credit" to maintain church operations

From here:
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council has authorized its finance office to seek a $60 million line of credit to support the church’s operations.  The loan will be secured by a mortgage on the church’s headquarters at 815 Second Avenue in New York, and by offering as collateral its unrestricted endowment funds.

The Oct 23-25 meeting in Salt Lake City of the church’s governing council between meetings of its General Convention also voted to cut its budget by 5 per cent next year in response to a $2.1 million shortfall in income.

A memorandum from the church’s Finance Office to the 38 council members stated that diocesan contributions to the national church were expected to be $700,000 below budget, while cuts in spending at the national church offices were expected to depress income also.

To balance its budget, the church will close its retail bookstore located at the Church Center in New York, and cease publication of the Episcopal News Monthly and Quarterly publications, while a further $790,000 would be cut from 2011 Mission Program operations.

In her opening remarks to the council, Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori said the “old ways” must change and that “we need some structural change across the Episcopal Church.”  It faced a “life-or-death decision,” she said, according to a report from the Episcopal News Service (ENS).

The presiding bishop defined ‘life” as a “renewed and continually renewing focus on mission” and ‘death’ for the church as “an appeal to old ways and to internal focus.”

“I think we’re in some danger of committing suicide by governance by focusing internally rather than externally,” she said, noting that “dying organisms pay most attention to survival.”

Tensions between the presiding bishop’s staff and the members of council over the church’s financial problems were aired publicly at the meeting.  The $60 million loan is needed to repay a $46.1 million note payable by year’s end, which was used to fund a $10 million purchase of land in Texas for the site of the church’s archives, and $37 million in renovations to the Church Center building in New York.

According to an account given by ENS, the council’s Finances for Ministry committee chairman, Mr. Del Glover, said that only about $500,000 of the $46 million loan’s principal had been paid.  “To the extent that we are not paying debt, we are borrowing money to do the ministry of the church,” he said.

During the Oct 23 business session, Church Treasurer Kurt Barnes objected to Dr. Glover’s creation of a committee to look into the refinancing of the note.   Mr. Barnes said he had been told the committee was to have been merely a council of advice.  But it “never invited my opinion, so I don’t feel it’s a council of advice.”

He charged the committee “acts as if we’ve been asleep.”  The way “it was approached, my staff and I absolutely felt that our intelligence or ability was always being challenged,” Mr. Barnes said. “We give 10 hours a day to this church and then we have other people who say, ‘but you don’t know what you’re doing.’  That’s our problem and if we have misread it, then I am sorry.”

Dr. Glover said Mr. Barnes had misconstrued the council’s actions.  The committee had been appointed in response to council’s concerns over the church’s growing debt, he explained.  However, the presiding bishop told the finance committee not to interfere in the church’s finances.

“The job of Executive Council is to set policy, not to implement it and that’s where the rub has come,” she said, according to ENS.  The committee was guilty of overreaching, she said, adding “I think people have gotten past the anger and the insult … but let’s not have it happen again.”

Read it all here.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Bishop Gene Robinson announces plans to retire

 BB NOTE: The timing is fascinating.  Nothing is done without some planning.  If he retires in January 2013, well guess what happens in 2012?  The Episcopal Church has a General Convention. Last time the New Hampshire election was timed so that the voting to affirm Gene Robinson's election would be done at General Convention 2003.  It will be interesting to see if New Hampshire follows the same strategy again.  The 2012 General Convention is slated to take up the Anglican Covenant as well.

From here:
Bishop V. Gene Robinson, whose consecration as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church set off a historic rift in the global Anglican Communion, announced to his New Hampshire diocese on Saturday that he intended to step down.

He plans to retire in January 2013 after nine years as bishop, to give the diocese enough time to elect a new bishop and get the approval of the national church, a process that can take two years.

The news took some by surprise because Bishop Robinson is an energetic 63-year-old, and mandatory retirement age for Episcopal bishops is 72. He has led a relatively stable and healthy diocese, despite predictions by some that his election would undermine the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire.

The reason to depart, he said in a speech delivered at the close of the annual convention of his diocese, is that being at the center of an international uproar has taken a toll on him and on the diocese.

“Death threats, and the now worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as bishop, have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark” and on Episcopalians in the state, he said.

But those who know Bishop Robinson say he has no intention of retiring from public life. His status as a symbol in the international gay rights movement means that after he steps down, he will have no shortage of platforms from which to preach his message that God blesses gay relationships too. (Through a spokesman, he declined interview requests.)

Bishop Robinson has become a national figure. In 2009, he gave the invocation for the opening event of the inauguration of President Obama. He also sees himself as an evangelist to people alienated from Christianity.

The election of Bishop Robinson in a church in Concord, N. H., in 2003 was the shot heard round the Christian world. It cracked open a longstanding divide between theological liberals and conservatives in both the Episcopal Church and its parent body, the Anglican Communion — those churches affiliated with the Church of England in more than 160 countries.

Since 2003, the Communion’s leaders have labored to save it from outright schism, not just over homosexuality, but also over female bishops and priests.

The current strategy, pushed by the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, is for each regional province to sign a “covenant” of common beliefs.

The covenant has been slowly making its way through laborious writing and approval processes, which could take years.

Late last month, an international coalition of liberal Anglicans started a campaign to reject the covenant, saying, “The covenant seeks to narrow the range of acceptable belief within Anglicanism.”

The group, Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity, said, “Rather than bringing peace to the Communion, we predict that the covenant text itself could become the cause of future bickering and that its centralized dispute-resolution mechanisms could beget interminable quarrels and resentments.”

The church in New Hampshire suffered less fallout under Bishop Robinson than the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion. Only one New Hampshire congregation departed during his tenure, a congregation long unhappy with the direction of the Episcopal Church, according to diocesan leaders.

The number of active members in New Hampshire fell 3 percent, from 15,259 in 2003 to 14,787 in 2009. In that period, the Episcopal Church, like most mainline Protestant denominations, lost about 10 percent of its members. (It had about two million in 2008, the last year for which statistics are available.)

Bishop Robinson won critics over with a leadership style that was decisive but collaborative, said Margaret Porter, moderator of the diocesan council.

“The people who were skeptics, that did not last,” she said. “He was willing to meet them where they were. There were churches that were reluctant to have him visit as bishop for a time, and I think he now visits every congregation and is welcomed.”

But the pressure on Bishop Robinson became apparent in 2006. He took a monthlong leave to be treated for alcoholism. He said Saturday that he was in his fifth year of sobriety.

He and his partner of more than 20 years had a civil union ceremony in New Hampshire in 2008.

Bishop Robinson is no longer the only openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. Bishop Mary D. Glasspool was consecrated in Los Angeles earlier this year.

In his resignation speech in New Hampshire, Bishop Robinson said: “This is the one place on earth where I am not ‘the gay bishop.’ I believe that you elected me because you believed me to be the right person to lead you at this time. The world has sometimes questioned that, but I hope you never did.” 
Read it all here.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Anti-Anglican Covenant Lobbyists get organized

Or at least they have a website - and yes, it's the usual suspects. They write, "we predict that the covenant text itself could become the cause of future bickering and that its centralized dispute-resolution mechanisms could beget interminable quarrels and resentments."  Now isn't that pretty?  Sounds like a good reason to just stop voting all together.

Frankly, what's more interesting at this point is not who is listed - which again is predictable (do they ever recruit new people or just keep rehashing themselves into spanking brand new lobby groups over and over and over again?) - no, rather, what is more interesting at this point is who is NOT listed - at least not yet.  Watch that space very carefully. Check it all out here.  And please pass the Geritol.

Tip of the Tinfoil to SS.  Thanks! 

SATURDAY UPDATE: Gregory Cameron responds to the lobbyists in England who took out an ad in the Church Times:

From the Bishop of St Asaph

Sir, — There was a very curious document in last week’s Church Times (full-page advertisement, page 7). In it, two organisations, Inclusive Church and Modern Church, for which I have formerly had the highest regard, turned themselves into the nearest to an ecclesiastical BNP that I have encountered.

They resort to the old tactics of misinformation and scaremongering about foreigners and outside influences to whip up a campaign against the Anglican Covenant, and replace reasoned argument with a “Man the barricades!” mentality that is little short of breathtaking.

We are to beware, the advertise­ment says, of the machinations of “another Anglican province any­where in the world” and of a move “to subordinate the Church to the judgements of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Com­munion. [The Covenant] would thereby make the Church of England subject to an outside power for the first time since Henry VIII.”

The main target of their opprobrium, worse than a European Commission or a Spanish Inquisi­tion, is “a new international body, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion”. In fact, this body is the same Joint Standing Committee that has muddled through the business of Anglican Communion affairs now since 1969. It is scarcely new — even if it was given its new name by a two-thirds-majority vote of Anglican provinces ratified at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Jamaica in 2009.

And the most extreme power at the Standing Committee’s disposal under the Covenant is — wait for it — “to make recommendations” (4.2.7). It is this potential for shock “recommendations” that has Inclusive Church and MCU quaking in their boots, since they argue that any such “recommendations” will “subordinate [the General Synod] to the new centralised authorities”. In fact, the Covenant text clearly says: “Each Church or each Instrument shall determine whether or not to accept such recommendations” (4.2.7).

The Covenant also states quite clearly that “mutual commitment does not represent submission to any external ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Nothing in this Covenant of itself shall be deemed to alter any provision of the Constitution and Canons of any Church of the Communion, or to limit its autonomy of governance. The Covenant does not grant to any one Church or any agency of the Communion control or direction over any Church of the Anglican Communion” (4.1.3).

Like so much else in this advertise­ment (and I could offer an extensive list), the assertion is simply rubbish.

During the past 150 years, many of the Churches of the world have been formed into Christian world com­munions; the newest was formed this year, the World Communion of Reformed Churches. There is a general recognition that if local or national Churches are to be truly international and live in a global fellowship, they must do more than just assert their autonomy, but seek to live into an interdependence that truly honours the fellowship of the whole body. This truth was recog­nised by the Lambeth Conferences of 1920 and 1930, and the Covenant is a careful attempt to balance autonomy with responsibility.

There is no element of coercion anywhere in the text, but there is an acknowledgement that neither can everything that one Church does be foisted on the whole Communion without the recognition that relations can be damaged. What the Covenant sets out in Section 4 is a proper mechanism that allows the articulation of discomfort, even distance, but which honours autonomy.

But this is too much for our latter-day Little Englanders, who bemoan the passing of the armchair bonhomie of the Athenaeum as the measure of Anglican inclusivity. They would, it seems, rather see the disintegration of the Anglican Communion into a series of acrimonious factions than restate a common faith and witness and find grown-up and responsible mechanisms for the articulation of the life of a whole Communion.

Well, I suppose they’re entitled to their opinion, but I do wish that they wouldn’t resort to scaremongering and the misrepresentation of a text in an attempt to swing the debate.

Secretary to the Anglican
Communion Covenant Design Group 2006-09
Esgobty, Upper Denbigh Road
St Asaph LL17 0TW

Read it all here.

The Day After the Big American Tidal Wave

That one is by the Ventures. Here is the original by the Surfaris: