Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's at the Cafe

It's been quite a year.

The slide show presents images from the BabyBlueOnline collection. Click on the music (we recommend clicking on Eva Cassidy's Bridge Over Troubled Water first) and as the images flash by we remember the times we've spent here 'round the tables at the Cafe. We've got the fire going and the pies are in the oven and the jukebox is spinning out the tunes. Pass the chai and butterbeer. Popcorn's on the table. And all are welcome.

Here's more from the Cafe Jukebox. Enjoy - and Happy New Year!

It's not easy being green ... unless you are the Church of England

From here. And tip of the tinfoil to George Conger who hits Mecca by being linked by Drudge. Happy New Year, George!
The Church of England’s Church Commissioners have gone green, investing £150 million with former US Vice-President Al Gore’s environmentally minded investment firm, Generation Investment Management.

On Nov 18 the First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith reported that in late September the Commissioners had placed the funds with Gore’s boutique management firm which follows an “environmentally sustainable global equities mandate.” Funding for the investment came from “cash and Treasury bills”, he said, and not from the sale of UK equities as initially planned.
Read it all here.

Oh oh.

Beyond the written word ...

Last night there was a discussion online over a sorrowful, tragic thing that happened in the blogosphere on Christmas Eve. A blogger took her own life. There's very little to go on from her blog, to try to make sense, to see some sort of signs, to understand that she was filled with such despair, so much so that she would take a gun and kill herself on Christmas Eve. These are thin times though - and happy thoughts just won't do, no matter how much we wish it so.

Blogging is at once an isolated activity and yet one that is at the same time bursting with a kind of community. Words matter. As we read the reflections of other bloggers over this shock, we see how friendships develop over time - people do care, the written word is powerful. But it's still not the same as actually being there. At some point, there's nothing that can compare to looking into the eyes of a friend who takes your hand and wipes away the tears.

The Incarnation.

Jane Williams: The Point of the Experience of the Holy Spirit

From the Guardian:

It is very tempting to assume that The Acts of the Apostles is talking about the Christian church as it really should be. And it is true that some of the incidents it describes are so deeply embedded in the Christian psyche that, whether consciously or not, they do operate as the standard against which all later church life is judged. What is not so clear is whether Luke intended his account to work that way. It isn't always easy to tell when Luke is simply chronicling what his research suggests actually happened, and when he is making theological recommendations.

For example, Acts 2 describes the dramatic beginning of the Christian missionary movement in a scene so important that, like Christmas, it is celebrated every year as part of the Christian calendar. We are told that the disciples were all together in one place for Pentecost, the Jewish festival 50 days after Passover. Suddenly, something like a violent wind filled the house, followed by "divided tongues, as of fire", which rested on each of them. There is a sense of Luke groping for the words to help us visualise something that defies description – the sound is "like" a great wind, the disciples see and feel something "as of fire", and they are "filled with the Holy Spirit".

The point of this experience is not that the disciples should feel spiritually-renewed but to enable them to carry out Jesus' commission to bear witness to him. In other words, Luke is suggesting that the spread of the gospel is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit. The apostles might act, but the Holy Spirit directs.

Read it all here.

Dr. Jane Williams was born in India and read Theology at Cambridge University. She is the author of Bread, Wine and Women (with Sue Dowell), Perfect Freedom, Lectionary Reflections, Approaching Christmas and Approaching Easter and other publications and columns. Currently, she is Visiting Lecturer at King's College London as well as a Lecturer at the St Paul's Theological Centre. She is married to Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and they have two children.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

After gathering dust for 18 years, Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline Outtakes Sold on eBay

Price? $30,000. The reported sale does not include the rights to actually release the recordings. From here.
An original master recording of outtakes from Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline sessions has apparently sold on eBay for $30,000. The tape was offered by a consortium of Ampersand Records USA, Lake Carmel Music and Navybob LLC. The auction was for the recording itself -- not the intellectual rights that would allow it to be commercially released. The one-inch, eight-track analog tape runs for 27 minutes and includes five outtakes of Dylan's hit, "Lay Lady Lay," and an unreleased jam session of "Going Back to Chicago." The recording was made on Feb. 14, 1969 at the Columbia Studio on Nashville's Music Row and has been stored in a New Jersey warehouse for almost 18 years.

LATER: This recording is from six years earlier (only six years - but it seems like a lifetime) but it just went up on YouTube and it's quite excellent so, here we are for some tunes on this late December night. Dylan's love for the blues starts real early. It's not hard to understand, really, why people collect Dylan bootlegs - they are often superior to his official Columbia recordings. This bootleg recording of Smokestack Lightning is from 1962:

According to Wiki, Smokestack Lightning is a 1956 blues song by Chester Burnett aka Howlin' Wolf. The song based on one riff and no chord changes. It has been called "a distillation of the essence of the blues." Smokestack Lightning was based on Crying at Daybreak, another earlier recorded song by Howlin' Wolf - and it was based on Moon Going Down by Charley Patton. In 1999, the single Smokestack Lightning was given a Grammy Hall of Fame Award honoring its lasting historical significance. The song is ranked #285 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Incidentally, Dylan is deeply indebted to Charley Patton as well and pays him homage in one of his great songs off the 2001 Love and Theft (which was interestingly enough released on September 11, 2o01) and gets a lot of air play here at the Cafe - a lot of air play, High Water:

High water risin', the shacks are slidin' down
Folks lose their possessions - folks are leaving town
Bertha Mason shook it - broke it
Then she hung it on a wall
Says, "You're dancin' with whom they tell you to
Or you don't dance at all."
It's tough out there
High water everywhere

And so let's end as we began, with the Nashville Skyline album (the official recorded one, that is). Here is I Threw It All Away, and yes, it's Bob Dylan too, such a joker - and a thief (those are his words). Guess that's why he doesn't get so worked up over the bootlegs after all these years. The birth of his own album collection is just as dubious, as we learn in Martin Scorsese's documentary No Direction Home. Dylan calls himself a "musical expeditionary." But the guy with the bowling pin called him a thief.

In fact, Dylan offers his own tribute to his bootleggers too. Surprised? Jo Rowling take note. He released this video this past September. The song is off the latest release of his bootleg series, Tell Tale Signs, called Dreamin' of You. It was a discarded song from his 1997 album Time Out of Mind. It's not hard to see the theme of the song runs close to Not Dark Yet (the song that started it all) - but never saw the light of day (officially that is) until two months ago. See why people trade bootlegs?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas with Dylan

By Bland Simpson. From here, excerpt below:

About 20 minutes went by before a thin man in his 30s came striding up the paved road. He would have walked right past me, but I spoke up:

"Excuse me, do you know which one of these driveways goes to Bob Dylan's house?"

"This one." He pointed at the one he was starting down.

"Thanks." I fell in beside him, and we walked 50 yards or so before either of us spoke again.

"Is Bob, uh, expecting you?"


"Hunh. I don't know if it'll be cool for you to just. . .go up to his house."

That was discouraging, but what could I do? Go back to the bakery and telephone for an appointment? "I've come from North Carolina," I announced.

"Oh." He gave up, and we kept walking. A few hundred yards into the woods the road forked, and he pointed toward a long low building of dark logs that looked like a lodge. "That's Bob's house." Then he disappeared down the other fork.

In the driveway at Bob's house were a "66 powder-blue Mustang and a boxy 1940 something-or-other with the hood up. Two men, one of them small and weedy, the other bulky and bearded, were working on the engine. I stomped up in my snakeproof boots, but neither of them looked up. After a minute or two staring over their shoulders at the old engine, I finally said, quite familiarly, "Bob around?" The weedy man didn't respond, but the big fellow gave a head-point at the log lodge and said, "Yeah."

Sara Dylan answered the door, gave me a blank look, and closed the door. About two minutes later Bob Dylan himself appeared and stepped out onto the small porched entry. He wore blue jeans, a white shirt buttoned all the way up and a black leather vest, and he was very friendly and relaxed.

"Bland. What kind of name is that?"

A family name, I said. Then just to make sure he'd heard me right, he asked me to spell it.

"Bland. Well, I sure won't forget that." He talked in person just like he sounded on record in "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest."

"North Carolina, that's a long way."

I agreed, but I wanted to meet him, shake his hand, tell him I admired his work, that I wanted to write songs myself.

"What did you want to do before you got this idea about writing songs?"

"I was going to go to law school."

"Well," he said, more serious than not, "country's gonna need a lot of good lawyers. Maybe you ought to keep thinking "bout that."

This wasn't what I had traveled hundreds of miles to hear. I started asking questions. Did he live in Woodstock all the time? Most of the time, he said, but he was thinking about moving to New Orleans. When would he have a new record out? In the spring -- "I'm real happy with this one."

He was talking about Nashville Skyline, which he had just finished. I asked about a song of his the Byrds had recorded, a song I'd heard out in Wyoming the summer before. "Yeah, I know the one you mean, but I can't call the name of it right now -- it's in there somewhere." The song was the riddle-round "You Ain't Going Nowhere."

We talked along like that for almost 45 minutes, during which time I felt the cold acutely. Dylan was dressed in shirtsleeves, but he didn't seem to notice the cold at all. He must have known my head was full of hero-worship, and he was kind enough to let my time with him be unhurried. The moment of my mission played out as naturally as the tide. I was immensely grateful, am grateful yet.

The pilgrim was ready to go home. I pulled my map out, unfolded it, and while we talked about what the best way to head back south was, the bulky fellow lumbered over from the old car where he and the weedy man had been working all the time. The mechanic ignored me, and I ignored him right back, which was easy enough: I had the entire eastern United States spread out in front of me. My mind was on the road, but I did want one last word with Bob Dylan. He gave Dylan a report on all the things that weren't wrong with the car, then said: "I think we can get it started if we hook it up to the battery charger."

"OK," Dylan said. "It's in the garage."

"I got it already, and tried to hook it up, but even with that long cord it won't reach. We need another extension cord."

"Extension cord," Dylan said, and looked past the big man at the old car. He thought about the request for a few moments, then shook his head.

"Gee, Doug," he said, "I'm afraid we just used the last extension cord on the kids' Christmas tree."

Bland Simpson, teaches creative writing at UNC-Chapel Hill. His most recent work is Ghost Ship of the Diamond Shoals. "Christmas With Dylan" is currently included in the anthology 12 Christmas Stories by North Carolina Writers from Down Home Press. Read it all here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Why forgiveness is radical

I've been watching the Peabody-winning series Brotherhood over the long weekend. It's tough-viewing - I'm only half-way through. I've never seen the Godfather or the Sopranos because they are so intense, so dark and intense. The most intense I seem to be able to tolerate - and that's just barely - is Shakespeare's Richard III.

Which is of course what all these stories really are - a retelling of Richard III - or Macbeth or any one of Shakespeare's tragedies. Brotherhood is no exception - it is very dark, where the church is distant, more of a social occasion and open to certain kinds of corruption. The series draws parallels between two brothers of Irish descent in Providence, Rhode Island. It's familiar to me since I am a graduate of Roger Williams University and I remember Rhode Island very well. In the series, one brother is a politician, a member of the State House. The other is, well, a mobster. As the series unfolds we meet all their friends, family, associates, acquaintances, and victims as their lives intertwine, for better and mostly for worse. Hope is thin.

Just like in Richard III.

I've seen Richard III on stage, as well as on the screen. A fascinating inside look at Richard III is Al Pacino's "documentary" called Looking for Richard - a must-see for any filmmaker or writer, or actor. An excellent look inside the preparation of a play (which is staged for this "documentary") but also looking inside what makes Richard III so evil.

I've also seen an amazing production several years ago at the Kennedy Center with Ian McKellen as Richard III. It was so real that I almost forgot I was watching a play and caught myself nearly shouting out from the audience, "don't listen to him!" It felt like evil was in the room. I chuckled when I realized how caught up in the play I was and it broke the spell. But I supposed that was what Shakespeare intended.

What is the nature of evil? These types of productions - the Godfather, the Sopranos, Brotherhood, Richard the III and a host of other Shakespearean plays and so much more - at once show us the depth the human heart can descend into not only evil-doing, but evil itself. There seems very little hope for redemption, or sometimes at its most cynical, the need for it.

Brotherhood is filled with tragic characters and sometimes evil appears to go unpunished, until another dark corner, an unexpected turn, and even one of the brothers is taken down by a fallen cop tortured in his soul for his own powerlessness against internal corruption and his willingness to compromise what principles he had left.

As we learn more about each character, we are never presented with a good person. Every character so far is presented multi-faceted and broken. The contrast of the mobsters with the politicians shows they play the same game, the same rules - although the mobsters shoot to kill the body, the politicians often aim for the soul. Which is worse, the filmmakers seem to ask us?

And so here we are at Christmas, a time that is everything these films and plays are not. A time of celebrating joy and peace on earth and the promised redemption of the world. How does the Christmas Story break through such stories as the ones sketched out on the screen and on the stage? Happy thoughts and conversations are not enough. There is something far more radical required than just being nice.

Forgiveness is radical. It means taking the pain that comes from blame and guilt onto oneself, when indeed someone else deserves the punishment. It is foolish. It's saying "not guilty" not for some amoral outcome, but because there is guilt and, whether recognized or not, they are spared. It's not smiling, it's weeping. It's saying "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they are doing."

In these films and plays, God is in the shadows, allegedly kept at bay - or so the characters think, as though they could contain the power of God, not just for His justice which is terrible, but for His kindness that can actually change the condition of the human heart.

Unforgiveness is dangerous, it can last for generations, it can destroy nations as it destroys families, as it destroys one human heart. Unforgiveness dares to imagine a world where we are guiltless and the fault is outside ourselves. Unforgiveness feigns no pain, but it is a cancer of the soul. Unforgiveness means Jesus died for nothing.

Jesus said that when we forgive sins, they are forgiven. But first we recognize that sin is real, that it encompasses our lives and the lives of those we love, and those we fear, and those we meet in passing. Films and plays like Brotherhood and Richard III remind us that sin is very real and it is a human problem, our problem - not solved by politics or quests for power.

When we forgive, people are forgiven. It's an amazing power we have - though it costs us much. We forgive because we have been forgiven so much. Whatever pride finds a home in our heart is rent apart when we forgive. We become transparent. We look like the Velveteen Rabbit and in doing so, we become real, we become alive.

When I look at these plays and films, I see shadows of real life, merely shadows. To forgive, even in my own ordinary life, is to breakthrough those shadows to where we pray with conviction, "Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Thy Kingdom Come, where the kingdoms of this world transform as we forgive. "We look through a glass darkly," Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, "but then we shall see face to face."

Who would dare see face to face, unless it is through a cross of forgiveness? When Moses looked at the face of God he saw Glory - not the glory of this world as those he encountered quickly saw when he down from the mountain.

And do we, when we forgive, do we not - perhaps for the first time in our lives - encounter this glory? Is it not a glory that no human power can manufacture or convey, but a glory that comes when heaven breaks through and God's will is done - His Will to forgive. His love is patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, no record of wrongs - all of those things that lifts the stories of this world from their weight upon the human heart. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come.

And we are set free. "It is for freedom Christ set us free," Paul writes to the Galatians. This is the Christmas Story. God breaks through the kingdoms of this world to set us free and He did it through a most radical act of forgiveness.

"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven ... And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us ... For Thine is the Kingdom and the Glory and the Power Forever and ever."

The kingdoms of Brotherhood or Richard III, the glory that they seek, the power they crave is fleeting, it is mere shadow, it is soul-less, it's a trick. And perhaps that is why these plays exist. To remind us that to forgive is freedom, real freedom that politics and power can never buy. And we can engage in this radical act of forgiveness, not because we are good or we are strong - but because we are not.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Jim Rosenthal bids farewell to the Anglican Communion Office

Among lots of changes on the Anglican Communion front following the Lambeth Conference and some interesting developments since then, Jim Rosenthal is reluctantly leaving his long-time post at the Anglican Communion office in London. He writes his farewell at the Anglican Communion website. Here is an excerpt:

In Christ and in Christ’s church, there is always room for you and me. My experience speaks volumes to me as I ponder my future after 20 years of active ministry in the Anglican Communion Office in London. Don’t let fear or anxiety, or even people, make you feel that God doesn’t care or that you are unworthy of God’s activity in your life.

I came to the Abbey feeling anxious and a bit distant from God, the Church and more. Yet I knew that was where I wanted to be, where I belonged. What was God’s response? God led me to where the action is, the Crib, so I could be fully immersed in the joy of the incarnation, an immersion that was tangible and just as earthy as have been my experiences of touch and embrace that I have had in over 60 countries in these past 20 years.

We live in a strange and frightening time. I was so pleased that the Dean of the Abbey use a more up-to-date Bidding Prayer as he especially remembered the people who today live in Bethlehem, yes it is still holy, and its people are precious and an important part of the Christian story in our time. In our Anglican World we have much to pray for and to rejoice in with great thanksgiving.

There was no better seat in Westminster Abbey than the one I had this Christmas Eve. There is room at that Crib, and indeed at the cross (a golden crucifix was affixed over the chapel altar), for all of us who are able to accept the fact that unto to us a child is born is born, unto us a son is given, and his name shall be called wonderful counsellor, mighty God, the everlasting father, the prince of peace.

To those who have help transform my life for the last 20 years I say thank you from the depths of my experience. Those whose stories and photos have appeared in Anglican Episcopal World and ACNS over the years are real people, our brothers and sisters in Christ, people that I won’t forget and people that I do not want you to forget either. I know that Christ is counting on me and you to keep the story alive. In my sense of loss I feel a call to do even more to bring others to know the depth of love of crib and cross and yes, to know the joy of sharing in our great Anglican tradition of faith and practice.
Read it all here. Interesting to see which messages Jim Rosenthal chose to focus on in one of his last posts at the Anglican Communion website.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas in Harrisonburg

DATELINE HARRISONBURG - Woke up this morning in Harrisonburg. Virginia. Down I-81 South. Family gathered for smoked turkey and present-opening for Christmas and I decided to pause and enjoy an extra day off here at the home of My Brother the Mortgage Banker. He's attempting to explain the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) to me as we watch a marathon of James Bond films.

The photo is of Tucker, the Resident Top Dog here this Christmas. He's enjoying his post-Christmas reflections by the Christmas Tree (which incidentally is adorned with "chili-pepper" lights reflecting on My Brother the Mortgage Banker and his wife The Professor's former home in Sante Fe, New Mexico) while waiting for New Year's and, of course, more turkey.

In addition to Tucker, we also have in residence a Foster Dog. The Professor volunteers at the local shelter and we have a very happy collie who has been joining us for the Bond Marathon.

There are also two lively parrots - one is very talkative and when the phone rungs we can hear him in the next room calling out "Hello? Hello?" And then he calls out for my brother by name, sounding just like The Professor. I kid you not. I find it quite amusing, but alas, my brother is not so amused as he fixes us all a hot Southern breakfast in the kitchen. He's had to hear it for fourteen years.

It's amazing to be able to drive two hours and be in a such a different world than what we know in Washington, D.C. It's so still and quiet - we're actually about five miles outside of downtown Harrisonburg. "Harrisonburg, previously known as Rocktown, is named for Thomas Harrison, a son of English settlers," says Wiki.

"In 1737, Harrison settled in the Shenandoah Valley," Wiki continues, "eventually laying claim to over 12,000 acres. In 1779, Harrison deeded two and a half acres of his land to the "public good" for the construction of a courthouse. In 1780, Harrison deeded an additional 50 acres. In 1849, trustees chartered a mayor-council form of government, although Harrisonburg was not officially incorporated as an independent city until 1916."

The city's website says this about their history, "War came to the valley and to Harrisonburg between 1861 and 1864. The city was passed through by both Union and Confederate troops. On June 20th 1862 the fence around the courthouse was used as a stockade to hold Union soldiers taken prisoner in the Battle of Cross Keys. The war was a tense time in the city. Turner Ashby, a noted Calvary officer was killed close to the town’s borders. While Harrisonburg and Virginia were part of the Confederacy the City of Harrisonburg’s representatives in Richmond opposed secession. "

It's hard to be in Virginia for long and not run across evidence of the wars that have been fought here. This is a land where much blood has been shed, which is one of the major reasons why the Division Statute was instituted in the first place. It was a post-Civil War response to find a non-contentious, non-litigious way to settle disputes that would put people off the battlefield of institutional conflict and onto a path of peace. It was embraced by a war-weary people who had known much suffering and division, even here in Harrisonburg. It paved the way for peace.

It is so peaceful here in the Shenandoah Valley that's it's difficult to imagine such a time, except that it's here on other fronts today - as we all know.

On this quiet Friday morning the day after Christmas, with the dogs passing through and the birds calling out and the smell of breakfast and coffee filling the air, do we remember that even with the "cares and occupations of this life" - we can still have hope? I think of the call of Bishop David Bena to Bishop Lee and Bishop Schori and the possibilities of peace. Is such a thing possible? Even now?

And from the next room I hear the parrot call, "Hello? Hello?"

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Anglican District of Virginia Bishop calls for talks with the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia

On behalf of the Anglican District of Virginia, The Rt. Rev'd David Bena calls for a return to the table for new talks, that "all three sides lay down their 'legal weapons of mass destruction' and save millions of dollars in legal costs - money that can be used for Christian mission." May it be so!

Via e-mail:

News that the Judge has ruled that we can retain our properties has brought a sense of peace throughout all ADV churches this Christmas. Our leaders had been following the "Bishop's Protocol for Departing Congregations" when negotiations broke off and we found our clergy and lay leaders being sued. Now, two years and millions of dollars in legal fees later, the Judge has ruled that we did follow Virginia law in departing the Diocese of Virginia with our properties and that the law
(57-9) is constitutional. Now what?

While the Episcopal Church and even the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia may choose to appeal the judge's ruling, my impression is that the judge's ruling is very well put together, reflects the constitutional "free exercise of religion" for us, and will be very difficult to overturn. So I hope we don't have to spend countless more dollars defending ourselves if an appeal is filed. Isn't there a better way? A more Christ-centered, Gospel way?

Two years ago, before the lawsuit was filed, representatives of both the Anglican District of Virginia and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia were able to sit together at a table, and pray and talk in a respectful way. Can't we return to that spirit of reconciliation? Can't all three sides lay down their "legal weapons of mass destruction" and save millions of dollars in legal costs - money that can be used for Christian mission? For instance, are there Diocesan mission projects to which the District might contribute? Are there District mission projects to which the Diocese might contribute? Can't we all just let the judge's ruling be the judge's ruling and now spend some time together talking about reconciliation and mission?

A number of us in the ADV have been praying about how to reach out to the leaders of the Diocese of Virginia, to hold out an olive branch, but we don't know how. Perhaps in this peaceful season of Christmas, we'll find a way. Now that the court case has been settled, maybe we can all reach a peaceful settlement with each other in the Lord. Would you pray with me about that?

Yes. And God bless us all, every one.

NORAD Tracks Santa

DATELINE CHRISTMAS EVE: Check on Santa as he delivers his presents to children everywhere here. He's just off the coast of East Africa as we head off for Christmas Eve activities this afternoon. Keep an eye on him, NORAD certainly is. AFTERNOON UPDATE: Santa even visits the International Space Station. Is he awesome, or what? NOON TIME UPDATE: Santa has just passed the Great Wall of China.

Follow Santa's progress as he delivers his presents to children around the world here.

NORAD is the bi-national U.S.-Canadian military organization responsible for the aerospace and maritime defense of the United States and Canada. NORAD, created by a 1958 agreement between Canada and the United States, provides advanced warning of impending missile and air attack against its member nations, safeguards the air sovereignty of North America, and maintains airborne forces for defense against attack.

NORAD's mission has evolved over the years. The most recent "evolution" in our mission came as a result of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. NORAD now coordinates closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NAV CANADA to monitor the airspace within Canada and the United States. In addition, the command also conducts maritime monitoring.

The men and women of NORAD are constantly watching the skies and waterways of the United States and Canada to keep us safe.

They also keep Santa safe too.

Want to know where Santa is right now? Click here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuesday Night at the Cafe: As much as things change ...

Former Episcopal Bishop Jeffrey Steenson ordained in Roman Catholic Church

Former Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Rio Grande has been ordained to the diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church. He was ordained December 13 in Rome. He is scheduled in February to be ordained into the priesthood in New Mexico. Former Episcopal Bishop John Lipscomb of the Diocese of Southwest Florida, is also a candidate for ordination in the Roman Catholic Church.

Tip of the tinfoil from the Thomas Moore Society.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Quote of the Day: From the Letter of Opinion explaining why The Falls Church actually belongs to The Falls Church

"To dismiss more than 150 years of such documentation as some huge misunderstanding is just not persuasive."
From the Letter of Opinion, Re: In Re: Multi-Circuit Episcopal Church Property Litigation (CL 2007-0248724): Letter Opinion on Remaining 57-9 Issues, page 20.

Read it all here.

Washington Times: Virginia Churches win case in Episcopal split

From here.

Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows on Friday issued a fourth straight ruling in favor of a group of 11 conservative Episcopal churches that left the denomination two years ago this month — dismayed over issues of biblical authority and the prospect of gay clergy.

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia immediately said it would appeal the huge multiproperty lawsuit, the largest in the history of the Episcopal Church. The conservatives took millions of dollars of historic property in Northern Virginia with them when they left.

The judge dismissed a last-ditch effort by the diocese to keep the property when it claimed in September that part of the historic Falls Church in Falls Church city is actually owned by Christ Episcopal Church in Alexandria.

The judge seemed incredulous that the diocese would make such a claim, which, he said, contradicted the testimony of one of the experts — church historian Edward L. Bond — who appeared on the stand on behalf of the organization.

"Alexandria's ownership of this property is an 11th-hour revision in theory made 17 months into this litigation, which was designed to fit into the narrowing window left by this court's multiple letter opinions," the judge wrote.

The diocese and the Episcopal Church's "claims regarding Christ Church, Alexandria's interest in this property are wholly at odds with the historical record, with numerous court orders and petitions over the past century and a half, with the land records of Fairfax and Arlington counties and with the Episcopal Church's and diocese's own repeated assertions and admissions recognizing the Falls Church as the legal owner of this 2-acre parcel," he added.

As far back as 1851, circuit courts in Arlington and Fairfax County had always recognized the land as belonging to the Falls Church, he said, and the diocese had never objected to that finding until four months ago.

"To dismiss more than 150 years of such documentation as some huge misunderstanding is just not persuasive," the judge said.

The diocese received a possible prize in the ruling: an endowment fund of less than $1 million owned by the Falls Church that did not convey along with other property when the church — once attended by George Washington — left the denomination. The judge will rule on that separately.

Still, Friday's ruling was not the outcome expected by the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia when they sued the 11 congregations nearly two years ago. The churches left the denomination over issues of biblical authority and the 2003 consecration of an openly gay Episcopal bishop. They formed their own group, the Anglican Diocese of Virginia (ADV).

Although dozens of other Episcopal congregations across the country have left the denomination, few have managed to hold onto their property. However, the 11 congregations benefited from an unusual clause in the state constitution known as the "division statute." Created in 1867 for denominations split over the Civil War, it allows the majority of the members of a congregation to leave while still retaining church property.

Virginia is the only state in the country with such a statute. The diocese announced that the appeal will go to the Virginia Supreme Court "shortly."

"We continue to believe the division statute is a violation of the United States and Virginia constitutions because it intrudes into the freedom of the Episcopal Church and other hierarchical churches to organize and govern themselves, said Virginia Bishop Peter James Lee. "Within the Episcopal Church, we may have theological disagreements, but those disagreements are ours to resolve according to the rules of our own governance."

The diocese realized over the summer that it was losing the mammoth lawsuit and first announced Sept. 22 that it would appeal the case. The diocese announced Friday that it has retained A.E. Howard, a constitutional scholar with the University of Virginia's law school, to argue the case before the state Supreme Court.

The diocese took out a $2 million line of credit in January to fight the case, but its spokesman, Henry Burt, would not say Friday what it has spent.

Jim Oakes, vice chairman of the ADV, said his side was pleased with the judge's ruling. He said conservatives have spent close to $2.5 million on the trial. All their legal bills, he added, will be paid by the end of 2008.

"There are many godly people left in the diocese," he said, "and I'd hope someone would hold the leadership to account on how much they've spent and why they are continuing to spend it, when we had said all along we wanted to negotiate with them. They would have gotten some money from us — which would not have been a trivial sum — had they gone that route."

As for the ruling, "The judge ruled to uphold the constitutionality of the Virginia division statute against all of the free exercise, establishment, equal protection and takings clause challenges raised by the Episcopal Church and Diocese of Virginia," he said.

"The Episcopal Church and [the] diocese had no legal right to our property," he added. "We have maintained all along that our churches' own trustees hold title for the benefit of these congregations."

Special BabyBluePodcast with Artist Edward Knippers: Approaching Art, Icons, and Cubism

Here is the latest LambethPodcast, live from the Rector's Forum at Truro Church on Sunday, December 21, 2008 in Fairfax, Virginia. Artist Edward Knippers speaks at the Rector’s Forum at Truro Church, Fairfax, Virginia on Sunday, December 21, 2008. He speaks on art in the church, his own approaches to art as well as answering questions from the audience. What is most fascinating is his connection of cubism and the use of icons in Christian worship.

You can read more about his work here and here and here and here and here (more on this coming soon). The image is taken from a painting hanging in Truro Church during Advent. It is The Annunciation by Edward Knippers.

You can click on the player above or go to iTunes and download it to your iPod or computer by clicking here . The iTunes Podcast is called Lambeth Podcast. You can also click here or here or here.

NOTE: To download the latest version of QuickTime, click here. Also, Firefox or Safari work best. MS Internet Explorer belongs in the Smithsonian next to the TRS80.

Please note that we've recorded this podcast as a Lambeth Podcast.

Judge Allows Virginia Anglicans to Leave Episcopal Church and Keep Their Property

From here.

Eleven Anglican congregations in Virginia -- including some of the largest and most historic churches in the country -- have won the legal right to split from the Episcopal Church and keep their church buildings and property.

A Virginia judge Friday finalized previous rulings, holding that all of the congregations that left the Episcopal Church and formed the Anglican District of Virginia in 2007 could retain their property -- including two prominent churches that date back to the founding of the country: Truro Church in Fairfax, Va., and The Falls Church in Falls Church, Va.

“We welcome these final, favorable rulings in this case,” said Jim Oakes, vice-chairman of ADV. “This has been a long process and we are grateful that the court has agreed with us.”

The split from the Episcopal Church came after the Episcopal Church closed the door to congregations questioning the consecration of a practicing homosexual – V. Gene Robinson – as the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire.

Fairfax County Judge Randy Bellows ruled in April that there was a split in the Episcopal Church and that the 11 congregations could invoke a Civil War-era statute in their defense.

Virginia’s Division Statute says that majority rule applies when a division in a denomination or diocese results in the disaffiliation of an organized group of congregations.

In June, Bellows overturned the Episcopal Church’s challenge to the constitutionality of the statute. In Friday’s ruling, the judge affirmed that the statute covered four major church properties whose ownership was still being contested by the Episcopal diocese of Virginia.

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, which filed the lawsuit against the departing congregations, plans to appeal the rulings – especially one that upheld the constitutionality of the Division Statute.

"We continue to believe the Division Statute is a violation of the United States and Virginia constitutions because it intrudes into the freedom of the Episcopal Church and other hierarchical churches to organize and govern themselves," Virginia Episcopal Bishop Peter James Lee said.

Oakes, meanwhile, said it was gratifying that the court recognized that “the true owner of The Historic Falls Church” is the church’s congregation, not the denomination, and that the building is protected by the Division Statute,” Oakes said. “The Falls Church has held and cared for this property for over 200 years.”

After leaving the Episcopal Church, the 11 ADV congregations affiliated with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, or CANA, which is under the direction of Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola and the Church of Nigeria.

CANA Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns Friday called on Lee to reconsider further litigation, calling Bellows’ decision “a great victory for religious freedom.”

“Our position has always been that we have a right to continue to hold dear the same things that our parents and most of the leaders of the Anglican Communion have always believed," Minns trold Friday. "The Bible is the authoritative word of God and is wholly relevant to all Christians today and for generations to come."

"We hope and pray that the Episcopal Church will refrain from causing all of our congregations to spend more money on further appeals. The money could be used instead to provide more help to the least, the last, and the left out in our communities."

The selection of Robinson in 2003 set off a wide-ranging debate within the church, with conservative congregations saying that the Episcopal Church had abandoned historic doctrines and traditional teachings in a number of key theological issues – including sexuality.

“While on paper this has been a battle about property, the division within our church has been caused by TEC’s decision to walk away from the teaching of the Bible and the unique role of Jesus Christ.,” Minns said.

“They are forging a prodigal path – reinventing Christianity as they go – which takes them away from the values and beliefs of the historical church here in the United States and the worldwide Anglican Communion as a whole.

The origins of the split began in 2006, when eight churches -- Truro, The Falls Church, Church of the Apostles in Fairfax, Va.; St. Margaret’s in Woodbridge, Va.; Church of the Word, Gainesville, Va.; St. Stephens, Heathsville, Va.; Christ the Redeemer in Centreville, Va. and Potomac Falls in Sterling, Va. – voted to leave the denomination. Other congregations subsequently joined the exodus.

The 2.1 million member Episcopal Church is the officially recognized U.S. branch of the 77 million member Worldwide Anglican Communion. Earlier this month, however, leaders meeting in Wheaton, Ill., drafted a constitution and founding documents for a new officially recognized Anglican body in the U.S. – the Anglican Church in North America.

Archbishop of Canterbury senior aide reportedly sacked

If this is true, it explains a lot. But of course, everything is just fine (see video below this post).

A senior aide to the Archbishop of Canterbury has been sacked for calling Britain's most senior Asian Anglican an [expletive].

The worker's insult was aimed at The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, and appeared in a confidential document circulated to 43 Church of England bishops and Downing Street earlier this year.

A spokesman for the Church confirmed the unnamed perpetrator had been sacked. He said: 'When this came to light there was an immediate investigation.

Rev John Lee, the clergy appointments adviser who drew up the list, has since sent a written apology to Rev Nazir-Ali, recognising that the document contained a 'very offensive' remark and going on to offer the Church's 'deepest and most sincere apologies'.

The Bishop of Rochester is one of the ten most powerful positions in the Church of England and Rev Nazir-Ali has often attracted controversy with his outspoken views since his appointment in 1994.

Read it all here.

UPDATE: Here is a transcript of a recent interview by the BBC with the Bishop of Rochester.

'Belief' Transcript: BBC Radio
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali Interview with Joan Bakewell

Q My guest on Belief today is a religious figure, who's featured prominently in the news throughout 2008. Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali's comments since the start of the year have startled many with their outspokenness. He spoke of 'no go' areas, where extremists made non-Muslims unwelcome. He also spoke out against some of the current leadership of the Anglican Communion, siding with its traditional wing, and going as far as to boycott the Lambeth Conference, which every ten years brings the Anglican bishops to Canterbury. He speaks out because he sees the liberal leadership of the Church deviating from its age-old Christian faith and values.

As the youngest ever Anglican bishop, Michael Nazir-Ali was only thirty-five years old when he was appointed Bishop of Raiwind in his native Pakistan. In 1987 the then Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie invited him to set up, ironically enough, the Lambeth Conference for the following year. Michael Nazir-Ali became Bishop of Rochester in 1994, the first non-white diocesan bishop in the Church of England. He's a Fellow of both his Oxford and Cambridge colleges, and Visiting Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Greenwich.

From 1997 until 2003, he chaired the Ethics and Law Committee of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. He is also a lover of cricket. Let's start with cricket bishop, because I understand your sons cheer for England and you cheer for Pakistan.

A Well yes, and my wife supports the underdog, so we failed at the Tebbit test comprehensively in all sorts of ways.

Q (Laughs) Right, well that takes me to your Pakistan background, because of course you were born there, your parents fled Delhi at the time of Partition. They were both converts to Christianity – your father from Islam and your mother from Hinduism – so this is a very extraordinary background.

A Well my father came from a Muslim family as you say. My mother was not herself a convert, but she came from a family of converts from both Islam and Hinduism. Her own family background was from the Anglican and the Methodist Churches, actually.

Q So was there a tension within the family? Because after all, living in a Muslim country for your father to have converted from Islam is apostasy in their eyes.

A I have to say that in my early years I detected some tension but, but not very much. There was also a great deal of cordiality er, and friendship and we certainly had close relations with many people in my father's family…

Q Who remained Muslim?

A Who remained Muslim of course, including my grandfather, my uncles. I was particularly close to an aunt of mine. Yes, it was a mixture.

Q So did you…grow up believing that there was a place for all faiths and none need attack the other, or…resent the other?

A Well we certainly lived in a very mixed situation. Most of my friends in my early years were Muslims, some Christians as well of course, Hindu, Jews. I mean I was at school when there was still a Jewish Community in Pakistan and certainly thought that it was possible for people to live together without violence.

Q And what was the observation of religion like in your home - prayerful, attending church?

A Well my father had become a Christian and he was baptised in fact, in what we would call here an Anglo-Catholic church in Delhi. Which has an interesting history because it was a church that had been built for Christians by a Muslim noblewoman who had been healed as a result of seeing a vision of Jesus. And she never became a Christian, but she built the Christians a church called St James's Kashmiri Gate, in Delhi. So he was baptised there, but he never really appreciated - and I admire him for this – the sort of differences between Christian denominations. And he would worship at whatever church he fancied. With my mother of course we went both to Anglican and Methodist churches, which were at that time in Pakistan already beginning to negotiate towards unity. And in fact later on they did unite.

Q So was there ever a time in your growing up when you might have been attracted to Islam?

A Well we had as I say, close relationships with my Muslim relatives, and I do remember occasions – on Eid for instance if we were staying with them – that y'know, I would go along to the mosque with my uncles as I clearly remember such occasions. And with my favourite aunt at the time, because the family were Shia, they would go to the Shia centre, which is called the Imam Bargar, and I remember going to that with her.

Q Do you think at the time you thought of the Muslim God as being the same as the Christian God?
A Well I still think and, and I did then, that there is only one God – the God who's made the world and who's made us – and that human beings relate to that God in different ways.

Q So you feel comfortable, in a sense, within both contexts?

A Y…yes. I mean I obviously now I see things very much as a committed Christian, and I would make sense of other people's religious experience in, in Christian terms, that's obvious. Certainly to respect people's experience, whatever it may be, and even if I disagree with them.

Q At university you began to really firm up your ideas and be drawn towards a Christian vocation. Not simply Christian belief, but to be drawn towards the Church. How did, how did that happen?

A Yes well when I was first at university, there were really three options for us. There was radical Islam, which was already present on the university campus, there was Marxism, which was another kind of radicalism, and there was Christianity. Now Marxism I've always felt difficult, because of its determinism, because it did not allow for the obvious sense of freedom that I felt human beings had, whatever the constraints. In the end I was drawn to the Christian faith because of the figure of Jesus. As a young person I wanted someone to follow, and Jesus as seen by Christians, but also seen by other people, was a very attractive figure to follow, to sort of order one's life in the light of His life, and His teaching, and so forth. So that's what started it really.

Q You came to Britain in the '70s as an Ordinand, and then went back to Pakistan and ordained a priest in Karachi. After Cambridge where you came and studied, Karachi was a bit of a shock, wasn't it? Because you were given a very poor parish.

A I was a student here as you say and er, did research here and taught here a little and em, I served as a curate in a parish in Cambridge, and then went back. And the Bishop by then was wanting me to come back. And he thought that it would be a good antidote, to put me in this very tough, slum parish, as you say. Yes, it was a tremendous shock.

Q What was the biggest challenge?

A The first summer that we were there, cholera broke out in the, in the community. The children, the babies get dehydrated first so they die first. And so I was burying these babies in fruit crates, because the parents couldn't afford coffins.

Q What was the impact on you, on your faith?

A It was a great shock – I can't deny that. And I sought relief with friends and other people in other parts of the city. Em obviously in terms of culture and conversation and those sorts of things, that was necessary.

Q It didn't shake your faith?

A Burying children in fruit crates certainly brought me as near to the edge as it's possible to get. But I think in the end I felt that these families were being upheld at that time by their faith, and that caused me, I think, to be upheld as well.

Q You didn't question the cruelty of destiny in a world created by a loving God?

A Well of course. I mean one…constantly in the face of evil, asks those sorts of questions. But then the very fact that we are able to ask those questions and to do something about what was happening, or what happens, er is itself a kind of an answer.

Q Was there a Muslim community here in this parish?

A Yes, it was a mixed parish…

Q Mmm

A …of Christians and Muslims – and of course cholera is not a respecter of persons.

Q Er I just wondered if, how it was for you, being in a community where there are, was a, a Muslim element, and both of you are proselytising religions. Whether you were kind of rivals for making converts to your faith.

A Not particularly in that setting. I mean, people had their defined areas and, and they worked in them. But of course later on I was to encounter situations where there was, or there could have been rivalry. Er actually as it turned out, there wasn't, but em…

Q This is at Raiwind when you were made Bishop, is that right?

A Yes that's right, because…

Q Because that was an 80 percent Muslim area, wasn't it?

A Yes, and perhaps even more than that. But the one thing that em, it was and is known for is that it is the centre of the International Islamic Missionary Movement. And so we did encounter this kind of question about mission.

Q But you were up against strong competition (laughs) in that case.

A Well absolutely and we had reasonably good relations with one another, on the basis that we recognised that they had an obligation to invite people to Islam, and we wanted them to recognise that we had an obligation to invite people to follow Jesus Christ. And on that basis we were able to co-operate in community matters er for instance. On one occasion I remember arriving to preach at a church, and the front two rows were taken up by trainee Muslim scholars, who had come to hear what a Christian sermon sounded like so, so that was fine.

Q (Laughs). You've been labelled over the years a conservative Evangelical – I don't know whether you approve of that or not. But your belief is in living a 'biblical' life.

A Yes, I call myself a Catholic Evangelical, because Evangelical means someone who's loyal to the Gospel. That is what it means, and I hope I am – at least I try to be. And Catholic means someone who believes in the Church, and I try to.

Q So that we have a, a core of your belief – the core beliefs of the creed. I mean the Virgin Birth, the divinity of Christ, er the resurrection of the body, life after death, life everlasting – an interventionist God, is that right?

A I think the Bible gives us a framework for believing and knowing. That is not this text or that, but it gives us what I call er, a comprehensive anthropology, a way of understanding the human condition and the world in which we find ourselves. Now of course, that understanding and that framework has to be brought into relation to the world in which we live, to knowledge, and indeed to new knowledge. And if you believe in the biblical world view that doesn't excuse you from relating to change in the world.

Q How does the biblical tradition interpret homosexuality then? Because there's certainly a great deal of evidence recently of the nature of sexuality and er homosexual bonds and many theories about it of course. But you are rather rigorously disapproving – am I right?

A Mm, I'm not disapproving of anything. I g…I, again, I would go back to the anthropology of the Bible, which is that human beings have been made in God's image. But being in God's image also has implications for how we behave. And er, we have all sorts of inclinations for all sorts of reasons. Nevertheless, practising giving as it were, in to our inclinations er is not always according to God's purpose or for human flourishing, or indeed for social flourishing.

Q And in that sense in biblical terms, homosexuals are not eligible for revocation to the priesthood?

A It's not to do with who people think they are, or their inclinations, but what their behaviour should be. And that is also true of heterosexual people of course, that the Church demands the highest standards of belief, but of behaviour, from people and yes there are certain requirements for ordination for example.

Q Let's talk about GAFCON, which is the Global Anglican Futures Conference. You took part in it. Is this an insurrection within the Anglican communion?

A No not at all – I mean I, I wasn't there for the whole of it - I could only go for three days. I did discover a tremendous spiritual atmosphere. That was partly because it was in Jerusalem, of course, and that creates its own sort of evocativeness. But I found people who were from an Anglican Catholic background, charismatics em, Evangelicals, from all over the world – Africa, America, Asia, Australia and from this country – all with a sort of singleness of purpose, which I wish sometimes we could say about the whole of the Church.

Q And what was that single purpose?

A To reaffirm traditional, Christian belief as the Anglican Church had received it.

Q This was prompted of course, because the Episcopal Church in America had ordained a gay bishop – that was the kick off to this particular movement, wasn't it?

A I think the, er the gay bishop is just a, a presenting symptom. I think it's much more than that. It's a, a wide discarding, in many western churches, of traditional Christian believing…

Q Such as?

A Well for instance, in traditional language about the Trinity, or in requirements of baptism for instance, for full membership of the church, er on the grounds of inclusiveness. Widespread er breakdown of marital discipline among the clergy for instance…

Q Themselves?

A Yes. And what happened with the ordination of er, this particular bishop was only a symptom of a, a lot else that, that was going on. But that nearly every kind of authority in the Anglican Communion that there is had begged the Episcopal Church not to do this. And they still went ahead and did it, and it was not the first time er, that they had ignored the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Q So wait a minute - how are the churches that belonged to GAFCON, because it is a belonging set up – how are they going to be different? Are they going to be hard-line towards their congregations? How will they treat homosexuals among the congregation?

A Well, homosexuals like anyone else are welcome – that is not the issue. I think what they want is the freedom to practise and to preach traditional Christian belief em…

Q Don't they have that freedom?

A No. They, they don't because...

Q Who's stopping them?

A Their bishop sometimes, em, this is the problem. I mean er these people are being driven out of churches in which they have grown up, they have seen their own denomination as it were, change out of all recognition with all sorts of er, new-fangled beliefs about.

Q In…? What sort of beliefs?

A About marriage for instance, er about a doctrine of God, for instance, about em, membership of the Church, for example, the nature of the sacraments, sexuality er, as well. Syncretism – which is an unprincipled combining of different streams of religious tradition – all sorts of things like that.

Q What it seems to me has happened, just in political terms – political with a small 'p' – is that you have taken a har…er GAFCON have taken a hard line, which has put you at odds with the Anglican bishops of the Church of England, who you have called, I think, 'wishy-washy', and 'too liberal, too vague, too abstract.' Is that right?

A Well em, er 'wishy-washy' – I mean I think there is a danger of Anglicans becoming 'wishy-washy' wherever that may be – in this country or America or, or Australia indeed. What I have said is that we have to be on our guard against being 'wishy-washy', and that's to myself as much as to anyone else.

Q Well you went further – you boycotted the Lambeth Conference – well that's pretty…not wishy-washy, saying 'No' to a Lambeth Conference is a very absolute statement of where you stand. You are not going to stand with your fellow bishops of the Anglican Communion at this ten year event. Was that a difficult decision for you to make?

A Very difficult. It would have been my third Lambeth Conference and as you say, for my first I had the particular responsibility for it. I felt that because of the things that had happened, that we couldn't just have another Lambeth Conference without resolving those issues, that I couldn't stand with some of the bishops involved and teach the common faith, and stand with them around the Lord's table at the Eucharist. And what I would've preferred was smaller gatherings, smaller meetings, where these issues were discussed and resolved so that we could stand together.

Q Isn't there a situation in which some of these things can't be resolved because they are not compatible? That your reading of the 'biblical life' come, derived from the Bible, is simply not compatible with the liberal, more tolerant wishing to embrace gay bishops and so on? There's going, there's no middle ground here, it's going to be one or the other.

A Well that may be so, but I think we have to discover whether it is so and I'm quite happy to, to explore that. But of course it is not just Bible versus the twenty-first century, as it were. It is also the common teaching of the Church down the ages – that is where the, the Catholic and the Catholic Evangelical bit comes in. It is also the teaching of our ecumenical partners. Anglicans have always claimed some kind of special affinity with the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches in terms of their ministry, for instance. I've been a member of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission for seventeen years. When er the ordination of this bishop happened, coincidentally it was also the occasion for a meeting of this commission. And I remember that the Roman Catholic co-Chair simply refused to sit in the same room with the Anglican co-Chair, who was then also the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Q Oh, it doesn't sound very Christian does it?

A No it doesn't does it? But that is what happened, and what we can't have is to jeopardise the very valuable work towards Christian unity that has been done in the last thirty or forty years. But again, that is a distinct possibility.

Q Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury did make a statement that startled er many people, which was to suggest that the Shariah Law, part of it might be included within English Law. And you spoke out very strongly about that. Are you still as adamant that it is not possible?

A I don't believe it is possible. I think that Shariah Law and English public law proceed on entirely different assumptions. Now what I do think is that every religious community should be free to live according to its own law, if that is what they want. And at the same time, I also believe that in legislation for instance, governments should recognise conscience more and more. It is doing so less and less, but I think it should do so more and more. Having said that, I believe there should be a common public law for, for everyone. Introducing something like Shariah Law would introduce contradiction in the system of public law, if that is what is being suggested. For instance, if you take matrimonial and family law, would bigamy remain a crime only for some and not for others - what about divorce and custody of children, laws of inheritance, laws of evidence? All of these are different.

Q But within this country, there are communities which already acknowledge the Shariah Law, and indeed have councils and advisors to deal with their community in such matters. D'you not want to see those operate?

A No, no. What, what religious communities do within themselves, that's up to them. But every citizen must have the right of access to common law, and to public law, and to the courts to right any injustices that they feel they have been subject to.

Q You use the phrase 'no go areas' concerning parts of cities where non Islamic believers, or non believers at all, felt, were made to feel uncomfortable in an Islamic community. D'you regret using the phrase 'no go areas'?

A Well, the first thing that I was talking about was the result of multiculturalism. That multiculturalism perhaps em, without knowing that this would happen, had actually brought about isolated, separated and segregated communities. And that cannot be the basis for a good society. We need social capital by which we can live together. Secondly, extremists have used this isolation and this segregation to foster their own agenda with the young, for instance, but also in putting pressure for example on Christian workers, on people who have changed their beliefs either to another faith or to no faith at all. In a society that is committed to integration, which is different from assimilation - I'm not arguing for assimilation - we can't have this kind of thing, because it will in the end be very socially divisive, and people will suffer because of it.

Q D'you think faith schools also perpetuate a separation of different cultures?

A They can do – it depends on what sort of faith schools they are. I mean Church of England er schools for instance, are not faith schools in that sense at all, because they are open to the wider community, and their make up reflects the make up of the community in which they are set. So we have em Church of England schools in my diocese, which are 60, 70 percent people of other faiths er, where parents choose to send their children er to a church school. And that's fine, and what we say is 'Look, we're a Christian school – that is to say we proceed on Christian assumptions, but of course everyone is welcome, as long as they, they recognise that.'

Q But d'you fear that the legislation that promotes faith schools across the board will be divisive?

A I think such legislation has to be quite carefully drafted to make sure that faith schools are open to the wider community. That schools co-operate with one another, that there is exchange er, er um between them, among them, and that children have wide exposure to issues that they will face as they grow up. There are faith schools, as I say, not only Church of England ones that, that do this very effectively.

Q Bishop Michael, you've always spoken out. You always make the headlines, you're always very clear when you oppose things, and what you support. I wonder whether that suits your temperament as a, as a sort of missionary Christian. Do you feel that in yourself, fulfilled by this role?

A I think the role is the important point, that if I had not been a bishop in the Church, I may have spoken differently, or not spoken at all perhaps. Or done other things, like er reading and writing poetry, or playing cricket. But because I have this responsibility, I feel that I need to guide people in their personal, and their family, and their social lives, to the best of my ability, taking account of the teaching of the Bible and of the Church, and that is what I do.

Q And you feel fulfilled by that?

A I feel tested by it quite often, challenged by it. I feel that I'm doing what I've been asked to do, if that's what you mean.

Q Sometimes I know in the past, and indeed currently, you have had death threats because of what you said, being spo…so outspoken. And that perhaps puts at risk those around you and those you love. Is there an anxiety attached to the stand that you take?

A Yes, I mean one of the reasons why we had to leave Pakistan when we did was because the children who were then very young, were being threatened. I mean I'd been threatened and the car stopped on country roads and that kind of thing but I could take that to some extent. But I couldn't at that time risk the lives of children who'd not done anything to, to deserve it. I find now that it is happening here, and I think that is a matter of concern for us in this country, that it should happen here, and we should make sure that it doesn't.

Q But you are not going to soften your stand and yield to such threats?

A I don't want to speak promiscuously – I don't. I mean, for the one time that I speak, nine times I have said no, and I try and choose the moment to speak. But some things have to be said, and they have to be said clearly so that people can understand what it is that is being said.

Q So you think of it as speaking prophetically within the Church?

A That sounds very sort of grand. I mean I certainly don't think of it in that kind of grand way. I just think that for the sake of er people's faith, for the sake of their safety, for the sake of this nation sometimes, er a nation that has given me a place when I didn't have one, I have to speak the truth.
Q Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, thank you for choosing to speak to me. Thank you.

A Thank you.

(End of interview)