Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Today at the Cafe: For my Dad

Father! - to God himself we cannot give a holier name.  ~William Wordsworth

Anglican District of Virginia Synod Opens this Saturday: Advancing the Anglican Church Together

via email:

FAIRFAX, Va. (September 29, 2010) – The Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) will hold its fourth annual synod on Saturday, October 2. The meeting will bring together clergy and lay delegates from all ADV churches and is centered on the theme of “Advancing Together: Laying hold of the hope God sets before us.”

“We are eager to join again with our Anglican brothers and sisters to address the next wave of goals God has set before us.  The Anglican District of Virginia is blessed to celebrate its annual meeting as orthodox Christianity continues its vibrant growth across the nation. The theme of this year’s meeting will focus on how ADV can grow together by serving communities both at home and abroad and reaching the unchurched through the power of Christ,” said ADV Chairman Jim Oakes.

Among the highlights on the agenda, attendees will hear from keynote speaker Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, former bishop of Rochester in the Church of England and a world renowned leader in the emerging dialogue between Christianity and Islam.

Participants will be able to attend breakout sessions on healing prayer, overseas missions, Islam, and church planting and growth. ADV’s Diocesan Taskforce will also discuss their exploration into becoming a diocese within the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

During the meeting, time has been allotted a report from The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, missionary bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) and for welcoming ADV’s newest congregations.

The eight new congregations that have joined ADV since last year’s meeting include: St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Charlotte, N.C., Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Bowie, Md., Winchester Anglican Church, Winchester, Va., Epiphany Anglican, Williamsburg, Va., Eternity Anglican, Richmond, Va., Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd, Nags Head, N.C., La Communidad de Hispana, Fairfax, Va., and the Anglican Fellowship in Washington, Washington, D.C.

The meeting begins at 7:30 am on Saturday, October 2 with registration and will be held at Church of the Epiphany, 3301 Hidden Meadow Drive, Herndon, Va.

Event highlights:
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali’s Keynote Address - 9:30 am ET (Free and open to all.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rowan Williams tells The London Times: "It's a question about a particular choice of life."

It would not be overstatement to say that, among other things, Rowan Williams was recently grilled by a reporter at the Times of London on many issues - but the strongest is over the position he has taken as Archbishop of Canterbury regarding the ordination and consecration of non-celibate homosexuals as well as the blessing and marriages in the church between people of the same gender.  Here is an excerpt from that interview still behind the paywall at The Times:

One of your most torturous times in the eight years as Archbishop must have been over the Dr Jeffrey John issue? “Yes,” he says in a very quiet voice. In 2003, Dr John – who is a celibate homosexual – was appointed as Bishop of Reading. After the announcement, conservative Anglican leaders in a number of countries stated their intention to split from the Communion if the consecration went ahead. As a consequence, the Archbishop withdrew his support of his friend and asked him to step down. At the same time, the Anglican Church in America voted in the Right Rev Gene Robinson, a practising homosexual, as Bishop of New Hampshire.

In May, this year, the first lesbian bishop, the Rev Canon Mary Glasspool, was ordained in Los Angeles. In July, Dr John’s name re-entered the frame, as the Crown Nominations Commission’s preferred candidate for the Bishop of Southwark. This was leaked, to more controversy, and John’s name was removed from the list of candidates.

It is hard to read or write this without feeling the hurt and dismay that such rejections must cause; both for the individual concerned but also for all gay men and women, and their friends, whether they are Christian or not. It is such an atavistic message for the Church to be sending; so out of step with the increasing acceptance of gays in most parts of the Western world. Much was made of Dr Williams speaking out against Mary Glasspool’s election but remaining silent on Uganda’s proposed anti-homosexual bill that would have led to the imprisonment and even death of many homosexuals.

After her ordination, the Archbishop announced that provinces which had ignored his “pleading” for restraint would be banned from attending official discussions with other Christian denominations and prevented from voting on a key body on doctrine. What has happened to our liberal-thinking “beardy lefty”, as he once called himself?

Much of this discord hinges on the interpretation of whether or not the Bible permits openly homosexual clergy. Dr Williams’s position on this once seemed clear when he wrote, on the subject of homosexuality: “If we are looking for a sexual ethic that can be seriously informed by our Bible, there is a good deal to steer us away from assuming that reproductive sex is a norm.”

When I read this out, he replies: “That’s what I wrote as a theologian, you know, putting forward a suggestion. That’s not the job I have now.”

So your job doesn’t necessarily allow you to be true to yourself? “I think if I were to say my job was not to be true to myself that might suggest that my job required me to be dishonest and if that were the case, then I’d be really worried.

“Put it this way, it means that I’m not elected on a manifesto to further this agenda or that; I have to be someone who holds the reins for the whole debate. Tries to keep people at the table and to do that not just because it’s nicer to have people together than otherwise, but because there’s a real religious, spiritual dimension, saying, ‘Unity matters to all of us; we actually need each other, however much we dislike each other.’ ”

I have never read how this has felt for you on a personal level. “I was very well aware of letting people down,” he says. Letting down your friend, Dr John? “Yes, of course, of course.” Is it true, as I read somewhere, that you knelt down and asked his forgiveness? “Let’s not go there. I regard private conversations as private. But, yes, I was conscious of that as, in a sense, a wound in the whole ministry from the start... making the judgment that the cost to the Church overall was too great to be borne at that point.” Unity was more important? “Well, yes, not an easy choice. I won’t elaborate.”

One can see, as one of his old friends said, that Dr Williams “must be torn about inside”. One can also see that the spectre of the Communion being sundered on his watch must weigh heavily on him. “Yes, I believe that the Church suffers appallingly when it begins to fall apart – and its mission suffers in other ways, too. But on your specifics – the fact is that since the 1998 Lambeth Conference, every single public pronouncement on the question of sexuality has underlined the distinction between civic liberties and human dignity for gay people, which have always been affirmed, and whether or not the church has the right to bless same-sex unions or ordain people in same-sex unions. Now I know that those two are blurred but the point has always been made.”

But why shouldn’t gay couples be blessed if we are all equal? “The Church isn’t answerable to an abstract idea of equality, or rather it can certainly say everyone is equal in the sight of God. But what forms of life does the Church have the freedom to bless? The Church is obedient to Revelation. Now if you believe it’s very clear in Revelation that the only relation that can be blessed is between a man and a woman, then you’ve got a problem.”

OK, Rowan, let me rephrase my earlier question; if it’s not that you are not being true to yourself, surely you are having to fight, even intellectually, against your personal beliefs?

“I have to speak not just for myself, that’s the heart of it. But when I mention the statements that have been made about civil liberties and so forth, I think it’s important. It does mean that any local church that supports illegal discrimination or persecution of homosexuals is actually going against the Anglican Communion, and I have said that publicly.”

After the interview is over, when we are looking at the Russian icons on the mantelpiece, and a painting by a Buddhist Quaker artist who was part of a group of theologians, artists and writers that met under the Archbishop’s auspices in Wales, he told me that he’d recently returned from Uganda, where he had spoken, frankly, about these issues with his fellow Anglicans. He must have had his work cut out for him, with such views as Bishop Joseph Abura, who has said: “Christianity in Africa is under attack by gays and Christians in Europe and the Americas... The vice of homosexuality through the necessary laws in place can be checked.”

Are you still pro women bishops? “I’m pro.” So why do you make more of a plea for them than gay bishops? “The answer is, partly what I said before, that the question about gay people is not about their dignity or the respect they deserve as gay people, it’s a question about a particular choice of life, a partnership, and what the Church has to say about that.

“Those issues don’t arise where women are concerned [unless, of course, they are gay]. That’s simply about who and what they are. To put it very simply, there’s no problem about a gay person who’s a bishop.” Really? “It’s about the fact that there are traditionally, historically, standards that the clergy are expected to observe. So there’s always a question about the personal life of the clergy.”

The reporter is incredulous at Dr. William's position.  But I saw him take this same position - perhaps even more strongly articulated at the closing press conference at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury in 2008.  There he told the press:

Here he states to the reporter from the Guardian that he cannot accept that full inclusion of gays and lesbians in all rites and orders of the church is a human right, as well as clarifying his views on the "prophetic actions" taken by the Episcopal Church as the cause of the crisis in the Anglican Communion.

What is important to consider in this current crisis is that the Episcopal Church has used over and over again (as has opponents as well) the tool of political advocacy to further a particular single-issue agenda and has done so under the auspices that it a matter of human rights.  So one method employed (and it's certainly not the only one) - a "listening process" is not about finding or building consensus but is about wearing down opposition through methods of shaming and guilt until the opposition no longer resists and either accepts this political change or departs.

Here in this interview from The Times he articulates that he is not a political activist, he is the Archbishop of Canterbury.  He is resisting the politicization of his office on this matter, instead taking the position that it is a matter of theology, not purely a matter of rights.  He does not fall for the tactic of aligning women's ordination with the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals since he states quite clearly, "the question about gay people is not about their dignity or the respect they deserve as gay people, it’s a question about a particular choice of life, a partnership, and what the Church has to say about that."  He does not agree that homosexuality is like another gender or race (as in the case of suffrage and civil rights), but that we all have choices about our behavior and as far as the church is concerned at this point, those choices have consequences in the matters of ordination and marriage.

At the same time, it's also clear that Dr. Williams deeply deeply cares and has compassion for individuals who identify themselves as gay.  In the political activist model, there is no room for someone to oppose the ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians or to not support homosexual marriages in the church - and yet still love and care for people as they are, and in particular friends who are gay.  The highly charged political atmosphere has made real conversation nearly impossible - with the promotion of the political "listening process" making the conversation toxic.  It is not about coming to consensus, but about winning a political fight.

Dr. Williams has resisted this perspective as far as the church is concerned.  He is a theologian, not a political activist.  This apparently was a major surprise to his more progressive supporters that supposed that since he was open to thinking through the theological implications of such actions, he was also willing to focus his office as an instrument of social and political change as we have found the case in the Episcopal Presiding Bishop's office.  Even when he has ventured out into the more political arena in other areas of social matters, he has been met with mixed success.

Here he is quite explicit at recognizing that the current crisis is not about identity but practice.  In The Episcopal Church, the position is strongly held however that it is about identity and not practice.  Rowan Williams disagrees.  “Those issues don’t arise where women are concerned [unless, of course, they are gay]. That’s simply about who and what they are. To put it very simply, there’s no problem about a gay person who’s a bishop ... It’s about the fact that there are traditionally, historically, standards that the clergy are expected to observe. So there’s always a question about the personal life of the clergy.”

This position may have been what led Bishop John Spong to issue his scathing denouncement last October and three years ago, issue his public letter of outrage to Rowan Williams.  In his denouncement from last year he wrote:
I will no longer be respectful of the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seems to believe that rude behavior, intolerance and even killing prejudice is somehow acceptable, so long as it comes from third-world religious leaders, who more than anything else reveal in themselves the price that colonial oppression has required of the minds and hearts of so many of our world's population.

That level of that rhetoric shuts down all conversation - but this is the result when the use of the "listening process" as a political tool fails.  It is at this level that we have been in an Anglican/Episcopal crisis in the United States - so much so that the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Virginia recognized that under it's statutes, there has indeed been a formal division in The Episcopal Church over this single issue.

That being said, it is remarkable that Dr. Williams has not capitulated to the political forces weighing very heavy against him - even when met with extreme attacks on his character, and sometimes coming from all sides.  In a advocacy-charged political environment, it is nearly impossible to find common ground or consensus - nevermind  establishing trusting and transparent friendships.  In that kind of environment, litmus tests are constantly employed and evaluated and if one comes up short, one is socially eliminated.  Indeed, it is truly remarkable that Dr. Williams has not thrown up his hands in despair and run for the hills of Wales.

This certainly has been what it's felt like these past few years and one does wonder if this one has found it's way to Rowan William's library.  How does one continue to have hope when so much pain - on all sides - exists?  There must be another way.  Where do we turn?

It is a question about choices in life.  And we do have choices, by the grace of God - even now.

Rowan Williams makes a startling revelation

There is a fascinating interview behind the paywall at The Times with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.  We'll be posting an excerpt from it in a moment - but frankly, there is another discovery that affects us here at the cafe most especially - and good news for the Bishop of South Carolina.  If we can't agree on theology and politics, there is always something else that can bring together people of diverse views, backgrounds, and political and religious persuasions.

From the Times of London, via email:
How about singing? (I’ve heard that he has a beautiful voice – and always leads rousing choruses of Happy Birthday for his staff; certainly his speaking voice is mellifluous.) “I like the chance to sing when I can. Just before the holiday I went down to Salisbury for the weekend to sing the Monteverdi Vespers, which was pure bliss.”

His family do musical things together. “We don’t all sing but my son does. I play the piano very, very badly – I’m not being modest. My daughter plays the piano and my son plays the bassoon, the guitar and the piano, and Jane used to play the flute.”

Have your children turned you on to any contemporary bands? “I learn about them but my tastes are all formed in the Sixties: Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Simon & Garfunkel but also, less fashionably, the Incredible String Band.” Oh, what a delight! I start warbling, “Stepping out of the grey day she came, her red hair falling from the sky” – was that The Hangman’s... “...Beautiful Daughter,” he finishes. (We were both wrong: it was Liquid Acrobat as Regards the Air.)

Yes, Rowan Williams is a Bob Dylan fan.  Life is good.

Anglican Perspective: Christian Unity

Great new weekly video series coming from the good folks at the American Anglican Council.  Check it out!

Advocacy Group calls for investigation of S.C. Bishop

This so-called "advocacy group" is actually supported by 815 where the President of the House of Deputies has been hanging with this particular group lately.  Not exactly an "advocacy group," it an attempt by 815 to use political methods to force the bishop of South Carolina to carry out it's political agenda.  The Bishop of South Carolina's restraint is quite remarkable.  Time to embark on the annual reading of The Crucible.  Witch Hunting Season is now underway!

From here:
An Episcopal "advocacy group" has requested an investigation of the leadership of the Diocese of South Carolina with regard to the withdrawal of parishes from the denomination.

The Episcopal Forum accused leaders in the diocese of "accelerating the process of alienation and disassociation" from The Episcopal Church.

"The Ecclesiastical Authority (the Diocesan Bishop or the Standing Committee) has done nothing to stop other parishes which outwardly appear to be moving in the direction of withdrawal from TEC," the group wrote in a letter sent this week to bishops throughout the national church body.

The group, which supports preserving "unity with diversity" in the denomination, also called The Episcopal Church to look into the lack of disciplinary action against a parish that left the South Carolina diocese earlier this year, and the removal of all "Episcopal" references in the names and websites of dozens of parishes.

"Actions and inactions of the Bishop appear to be tantamount to an abandonment of the polity of The Episcopal Church," the group argued.

The request for a probe comes a year after the diocese voted to begin withdrawing from all bodies of The Episcopal Church that have assented to actions contrary to Scripture and Anglican tradition. The withdrawal, however, was not a complete split from the national church.

Responding to the call for an investigation, South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence refuted the allegations outlined in the letter.

Rejecting the claim that he has done nothing to stop parishes from leaving, he said he and his staff have spoken with the leadership of every parish in the diocese that was considering disassociation. "[W]e have counseled patience and have received assurances that their intention is not to leave," he highlighted.

Lawrence also explained that disciplinary or legal action was not taken against St. Andrew's Parish in Mt. Pleasant, which severed ties in March, because litigation has only resulted in the "sour fruit of animosity."

A previous legal action against a parish had drained the diocese of more than half a million dollars, he noted, not to mention the broken relationships that came out of it.

"These are Christians with whom we have served side by side in the service of our Lord," he stressed. "You cannot make people love you, or bind them to your Church through coercion or fear. But if the Christian graces prevail may we not yet see our unity restored?"

Lawrence also noted that the word "Episcopal" remains in much of their signage. The charge that over 25 parishes have taken out "Episcopal" from their names or websites or no longer have any mention of The Episcopal Church is absurd, Lawrence said.

"[A]s I drive around this diocese on visitations I see the familiar The Episcopal Church Welcomes You sign as a ubiquitous presence," he said.

Since the 2003 consecration of the first openly gay bishop, tensions have remained high in the denomination. Thousands of Episcopalians severed ties with The Episcopal Church and in 2009 formed a separate denomination called the Anglican Church in North America.

Though frustrated over the "unbiblical" direction of The Episcopal Church, Lawrence encouraged the Diocese of South Carolina to remain and fight from within.

He has urged his diocese to stand on Scripture and the traditions of the Christian faith as they engage in a "battle" against what he sees as the "false gospel" in The Episcopal Church.

Next month, the Diocese of South Carolina will reconvene its 219th convention where they will consider resolutions that would protect the diocese from "unconstitutional intrusions" by the presiding bishop and affirm its "sovereignty."

"It is increasingly clear that we are engaged in a worldwide struggle for the soul of Anglicanism in the 21st Century," Lawrence stated. "Not unlike a battalion in a military campaign which is ordered to hold a pass even against overwhelming odds, we are called to resist what appears is a self-destructive trajectory by many within The Episcopal Church. We are called to stand our ground and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ until it is no longer possible."

The Episcopal Forum is part of the small advocacy groups set up in evangelical dioceses to force political agenda on the local dioceses - so much for a listening process, it was never ever about listening and if you don't know that it's also time for the annual re-reading of After the Ball.  Read this article here.   Bishop Lawrence responds:
Dear Members and Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies and the God of all encouragement, who encourages us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.”
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Yesterday a group within the Diocese known as the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina wrote to the House of Bishops and the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church urging them to investigate my actions as Bishop and the actions of our Standing Committee. They have cited seven concerns as the foundation for their request. While these are trying times for Episcopalians and there is much need for listening carefully to one another, I do not want to let these accusations stand or go without response. Perhaps in their anxiety they have done us all a favor—indeed, presenting me with a teachable moment for this diocese and, dare I hope to believe, for others as well who may have read their letter. I will strive to refrain from using ecclesiastical language (Episcopalianese) or unduly difficult theology. Unfortunately, due to the accusations, a certain amount of each is necessary. Nevertheless, I will tune my writing as well as I can for the person in the pew. I will proceed by first putting forth in italics the accusation. In most cases I will just use their language, then, give my response. This could be much longer, but there is little need to try your patience.

a) The Bishop has taken no disciplinary measures or legal action against the leadership of the St. Andrew’s Parish, Mt. Pleasant, since it withdrew from TEC [The Episcopal Church] in March 2010.

I met with the rector of St. Andrew’s and have taken what I believe is godly and appropriate action to maintain the good order of the Church within this diocese, while seeking to keep the bonds of Christian fellowship between brothers and sisters in Christ free from rancor and misunderstanding. These are Christians with whom we have served side by side in the service of our Lord, whether on diocesan committees or in cooperative missions and ministry—Cursillo, missions to the Dominican Republic, St. John’s Chapel on the East side, St. Christopher, Youth Events, just to name a few. The legal action that this diocese took against All Saints, Pawleys Island drained from the mission and ministry of this Diocese of South Carolina over $500, 000 and along with losing the property bore only the sour fruit of animosity, broken relationships within families and long-time friendships, as well as within the larger community. Only now, through the sacrificial efforts of the parishioners and the leadership of what is now Christ the King Parish, Waccamaw and others, is the sour fruit of animosity being replaced with the fruit of the Spirit. Therefore, given the Biblical injunctions and the ruling of the Supreme Court of South Carolina (which even the “national” Church chose not to contest) I see no need to replicate that experience here in the Charleston community—unless it is the one of reconciliation. The Diocesan Convention affirmed me in this approach. You cannot make people love you, or bind them to your Church through coercion or fear. But if the Christian graces prevail may we not yet see our unity restored?

b) The Ecclesiastical Authority (bishop or Standing Committee) has done nothing to stop other parishes which outwardly appear to be moving in the direction of withdrawal from TEC.

Actually my staff and I have met or spoken with the leadership of every parish in this diocese that has taken or which I have heard was preparing to take steps to change their documents based upon their understanding of the State Supreme Court’s ruling in the Pawleys Island case. The two parishes that had already taken this action have subsequently written letters assuring me of their commitment to this Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. For those preparing to take such steps we have counseled patience and have received assurances that their intention is not to leave. I have dealt with their concerns in a pastoral rather than a public way. Had those in the Episcopal Forum wanted to know about these matters they could have asked me rather than first accuse me of inaction. What they and some of our Episcopal Church leaders ought to do is spend a bit more time listening to and seeking to understand what is motivating the leadership of some of our strongest and most dynamic parishes to even consider such actions.

c) The Ecclesiastical Authority [bishop] has declared verbally and in writing that the Diocese of South Carolina is a “Sovereign Diocese” and that the Presiding Bishop has wrongfully intruded into this “sovereignty”.

I learned long ago as a young man studying to be what was then referred to as a Lay Reader a very clear explication of our Church’s polity in this regard: Professor Powell Mills Dawley in his classic work in the Church Teaching Series states, The Presiding Bishop “…exercises no direct pastoral oversight of his own, nor does he possess visitatorial or juridical power within the independent dioceses of The Episcopal Church.” The Constitution of the Church affirms this fact. The history of this Diocese of South Carolina on numerous occasions has affirmed this independent or sovereign character. It ought to be of concern to every Episcopalian that there are those who would ignore this history and our constitutional heritage. An action which goes unchallenged may soon become a practice and a practice unchallenged may soon become policy or rule. I am not willing to surrender the freedom of this diocese or the historic polity of this Episcopal Church. For a further explanation of the intrusion issues behind my statement I would refer those interested to my Bishop’s Address at our Convention on March 26, 2010, (see

d) The Diocesan website has removed substantially all references to The Episcopal Church. Further, of the 44 parishes with working websites… over 25 1) have taken out “Episcopal”, 2) have no link or mention of TEC or 3) have links to “partners” ….

I’m not quite sure how to address the research and anxiety that this charge suggests, but let me begin by saying that as I drive around this diocese on visitations I see the familiar The Episcopal Church Welcomes You sign as a ubiquitous presence. The word “Episcopal” remains in much of our signage. The Episcopal Church flag flies above the beach at St. Christopher. I might illustrate the absurdity of their charge by noting that in their letter they never refer to this diocese as The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina but only as The Diocese of South Carolina. Should one deduce from this fact that they themselves do not wish the word “Episcopal” in the title or is it merely that they fell back on the common usage here for over 200 years? If some parishes down play an institutional affiliation on their websites in an attempt to reach the unchurched or institutionally disinterested seeker is that some great travesty? Upon my visitations and confirmations I often meet with the candidates, I teach about the sacraments, about confirmation, about our being part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ, and our work as Episcopalians and Anglicans. Until the departure of St. Andrew’s Mt Pleasant, this diocese was one of the few Episcopal Dioceses in the United States to grow faster than the demographic growth in the region. If we can keep a fossilized institutionalism from becoming the focus and emphasize through a living faith the transforming freedom that is found in the good news of Jesus Christ, we shall do so again!

e) Missions are being planted within the Diocese; however, the [bishop] will not recognize or approve the establishment of St. Mark’s Chapel, Port Royal, a congregation of loyal Episcopalians that has doubled its membership over the past year.

I have met several times with the leaders of St. Mark’s Chapel, Port Royal—a fellowship of mostly disgruntled members of St. Helena’s Beaufort. St. Helena’s is one of the strongest and fastest growing parishes in the diocese—if not the country. The leaders of St. Mark’s Fellowship are well aware of my concerns. I have allowed them access to retired priests, which as the bishop I licensed to officiate at services. I have even allowed vacationing clergy from other dioceses to preach and celebrate among this fellowship. There are many complex issues to this matter which date back to the time of Bishop Salmon’s episcopacy that I shall not go into here. Frankly, this charge is a disappointing way for this group to repay my kindness to some of their requests.

f) With the support of the Ecclesiastical Authority a special Diocesan Convention held in October 2009 modified the declaration of conformity, signed by ordinands to the Priesthood or Deaconate, as specified in the Book of Common Prayer and the TEC Constitution….

This is just a wrong understanding of what the Diocesan Convention approved. There has been no modification of the Declaration of Conformity. The ordinands sign only the Declaration as it appears in the Constitution & Canons of TEC and the Book of Common Prayer. The statement referenced is read as clarification of the teaching of this Church for the edification of the faithful in the midst of the many controversies today. I would ask those in the Forum which of the expressions of our heritage they find so offensive—what is expressed in the Creeds, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral or the theology of the historic prayer books?

(For an intriguing discussion of this matter I suggest members of the Episcopal Forum or other interested persons read a scholarly article in the Journal of Episcopal Canon Law by Jonathan Michael Gray, an assistant Professor of Church History at the Virginia Seminary )

g) With the support of the Bishop, the Standing Committee of the Diocese proposed six Resolutions for the Reconvened Convention to be held on October 15, 2010…..

In March we recessed the Diocesan Convention with the constitutional question still pending: The ability of a diocese to govern its common life in a manner that is obedient to the teaching of Holy Scripture (to which every ordained person in this Church has given his or her verbal and written assent), the received heritage of The Episcopal Church, and in accordance with the Constitution of TEC. This has remained unresolved or, more accurately stated, entirely unaddressed by the Presiding Bishop; therein leaving in question our ability to pursue our mission, free from unauthorized intrusions. We sent her the Resolution stating the Convention’s desire that she relent from her unconstitutional intrusion by certified mail. This Resolution, supported by 85% of the clergy and lay delegates of the Convention, has received not so much as a phone call or a written note. The refusal of the Presiding Bishop to respond, along with the concerns we have discovered in the revised Title IV disciplinary canons is the reason for the continuation of the Annual Convention, (see Alan Runyan and Mark McCall’s article on our Diocesan website ).

In Conclusion

It is increasingly clear that we are engaged in a worldwide struggle for the soul of Anglicanism in the 21st Century. This Diocese of South Carolina has been affirmed in our stand by numerous Dioceses and Provinces around the world: Archbishops and bishops from Ireland to Australia, Southeast Asia to Tanzania, from England to Egypt have pledged us their prayers and their hearts. What will emerge from this struggle we cannot say—but I am convinced of our vocation to Make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age. It is far more than a slogan for a T-shirt. Not unlike a battalion in a military campaign which is ordered to hold a pass even against overwhelming odds, we are called to resist what appears is a self-destructive trajectory by many within The Episcopal Church. We are called to stand our ground and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ until it is no longer possible; and at the same time to continue to help shape the emerging Anglicanism in the 21st Century, which is increasingly less provincial, less institutional and more relational. If this is our calling then we rejoice that his strength is made perfect in weakness. This is not a time to give-in nor give up; rather let us hold fast to the best of our Episcopal heritage while sharing Christ’s transforming freedom—with hearts set free—to a needy world today.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

The Right Reverend Mark Joseph Lawrence
From the Diocese of South Carolina. A great letter, Bishop Lawrence!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Virginia Supreme Court turns down request from nine Anglican Churches

Saddened, but not surprised.  Via email:

FAIRFAX, Va. (September 24, 2010) – The nine Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) congregations that are parties to the church property case brought by The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia remained in prayer following the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision not to rehear portions of its earlier ruling.

In July, the nine churches asked the Court to reconsider whether the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) and the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) – the local and national bodies of which they are members – are branches that have resulted from the divisions in The Episcopal Church and Episcopal Diocese of Virginia under the governing Division Statute, Virginia Code § 57-9.

“While we are disappointed by today’s decision, we are certainly not discouraged. We knew going in that motions for rehearing are only granted in a low percentage of cases. We did not initiate this lawsuit and are ready to put the litigation behind us so we can completely focus on the work of the Gospel. However, we felt the basis of our motion for rehearing was strong and that the Court overlooked critical evidence showing that our congregations satisfied the requirements of the Division Statute as recently interpreted by the Virginia Supreme Court,” said ADV Chairman Jim Oakes.

“Today’s decision is not the final one in this case. The Virginia Supreme Court had already decided to send the lawsuit back to the Fairfax County Circuit Court for further proceedings. We remain extremely confident in our legal footing, but above all, our hope is in the Lord regardless of the final outcome. Our focus is on sharing the Gospel and serving those in need. The doors of all ADV churches will remain open wide to all who wish to worship with us,” Oakes concluded.   

NOTE: The Anglican District of Virginia, currently in the initial stages of forming a diocese in the Anglican Church in North America, now numbers 32 congregations and seven mission fellowships.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bats in the Belfry - still? Lambeth Palace will host a conference on bats who live in England's churches

From the Church of England Newspaper:

LAMBETH PALACE will play host to a conference on bats and buildings in November that will look at ways of accommodating churchgoers and the winged mammals roosting in Britain’s churches, the Second Church Estates Commissioner told Parliament last week.

On September 14 the member for Mid Norfolk, Mr. George Freeman (Cons.) asked the Church Estates Commissioner Mr. Tony Baldry what costs had been incurred by churches “with conditions attached to planning permissions in respect of bats,” and the numbers and costs of damages caused by bat infestations in Norfolk churches.

Mr. Baldry stated the Church Commissioners possessed no figures on the total costs “to parishes in Norfolk of getting the necessary bat surveys done before work on the fabric of church buildings can be started, nor of the total cost borne by parishes in mitigating the damage caused by bats in Norfolk churches.”

However, the average costs to conduct an ecological survey ranged from £1,000 and £2,000, he said. The cost of cleaning was also high, he said giving the example of St Andrew’s Church in Holme Hale, Nor- folk, “one of the worst affected in the country,” which last year “paid £2,600 in cleaning costs to clear up after its resident bats.”

Mr. Baldry stated the damage caused by bats was “incalculable, mainly because in many cases it is irreversible.”

The Church Buildings Council was working closely with Natural England and DEFRA “to try and find ways of mitigating the burden to churches within the law, and is currently conducting a pilot project in Norfolk to explore ways of encouraging the bats to find alternative accommodation by, for example, the use of bat boxes outside on the eaves.”

The results of this study would be presented at a conservation conference held at Lambeth Palace in November,” he said.

“Norfolk has the highest number of medieval churches in Europe,”  Mr. Baldry said, and “in many instances bats and congregations can co-exist quite happily. The problems and costs escalate where the bats occupy churches in large numbers,” the second church estates commissioner observed.

Arcus Foundation funds Episcopal Church's preparation for official same-gendered marriage rites

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music of The Episcopal Church is preparing to move the Episcopal Church toward installing same sex marriage rites in the church. You can read their documents here. The major funding for this effort is coming from the Arcus Foundation, well-known as a political lobbying organization that is funding major initiatives in religious organizations that focus on our work on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) issues. In the case of the Episcopal Church, they are funding the work to radically alter the understanding of Christian marriage in the currently official branch of the Anglican Communion in the United States.

This work is a follow-up to Resolution C056 Liturgies for Blessings of Same-Gender Relationships (which, following the Arcus Foundation's goals would also include bisexual and transgendered marriages as well). The text for Resolution C056 is as follows:
Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in
consultation with the House of Bishops, collect and develop
theological and liturgical resources, and report to the 77th
General Convention [in 2012]
Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in
consultation with the House of Bishops, devise an open
process for the conduct of its work inviting participation from
provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are
engaged in such theological work, and inviting theological
reflection from throughout the Anglican Communion
SF did some background research on Arcus last year where it found that in 2008, Arcus distributed 19 grants totalling $2,128,331 to further its goals for same-gendered issues. Of that amount, over half a million dollars funded Integrity (TEC), the Chicago Consultation (TEC), and Lutherans Concerned (ELCA).

What is interesting to note is that the funding is coming from an outside secular and political source for social action and has not yet received substantial funding from local dioceses and churches. The primary connection to the Arcus Foundation's funding has been the progressive Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) at the University of California, Berkeley, where Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori went to seminary.

The Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music will develop these materials as an addition to the
Enriching Our Worship series, the official Episcopal Church supplement to the Book of
Common Prayer.  The use of the materials must be authorized by the action of General Convention.  The SCLM plans to propose that the new rites be included in a revised edition of Enriching Our Worship which will be brought before the next General Convention in 2012.

You can read the work of the ECLM here.  You can read more about Arcus here and here.  You can read more about the CDSP here and at their blog here which also has a link to this enthusiastic report at Susan Russell's blog about the ECLM task force presentation at the recent House of Bishops meeting.  One of the things that is interesting to note is that Susan Russell has stepped down from leadership of Integrity, signaling that the need for outside organizations such as Integrity are no longer needed since the goals of Integrity are now officially embraced by the national office of The Episcopal Church.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part One

Yay!  The film opens November 19th.

"Clearly something has happened," says Rowan Williams in Vatican Radio Interview

Here's an excerpt from the Archbishop of Canterbury's interview on Vatican radio:
Q: Can you tell us anything about that private meeting with the Pope, whether you discussed any of those difficult issues that the Pope declined to talk about in public?

A: Those are issues that get discussed routinely in our formal dialogue and I think it's a shame if we spend our private time just talking about difficulties. So we talked a bit about Christians in the Holy Land with an eye on the forthcoming Synod. We talked a bit about some of the great areas of conflict where we are trying to work together. We talked about how the Anglican and Roman Catholic hierarchies have worked together in Sudan, the witness and peacemaking and how urgent it is to strengthen that. And we spoke about the subject which both of us have mentioned today, the Holy Father has talked about it a great deal, that is: how to engage in a rational dialogue with secularism.

Q: Yes, you both talk about the need for ever closer cooperation and witness to our secular world yet the public perception remains of deep divisions and contrasting viewpoints between the two churches – it must be a great worry to you?

A: It is. And conflict always makes a better headline story than harmony. But as many people have said to me just this evening, when you think of how utterly unimaginable this would have been 40 or 50 years ago, even as the 2nd Vatican Council was beginning, clearly something has happened- and part of that something is a return to the roots, something about which the Pope and I again spoke about privately (some of our theological enthusiasms in common there), the heritage of the Fathers, and again praying together at the Shrine of Edward the Confessor, looking back to that age when the boundaries were not what they are now between Christians – all of that I think is part of a very positive picture. And I think it's a pity the world only sees the quarrels. It's as if that tiny 6 inches about the surface is what matters and the immense weight of routine prayer and understanding and love and friendship just goes unnoticed.

BB NOTE: I do agree with the Archbishop here.  I think that major steps have been taken to draw orthodox Anglicans and the Roman Catholics closer together.  I've seen this at the local level and now we see it on the international level, I do think he's absolutely right.  The recent dust-ups about traditionalists in the Church of England - and to a certain extent, the plight of women bishops in the Church of England - have failed to achieve a fracture between orthodox Anglicans and Roman Catholics.  It is an extraordinary time and Rowan Williams is right to marvel that even as Vatican II was put into place, very few could have imagined the formation of such strong ties of friendship.

Read the entire interview transcript here.

Denver Post: 20 felony counts reduced to single misdemeanor

This has got to be one of the oddest cases ever.  From here:

Since 2009 Armstrong had faced 20 counts of felony theft, totaling $392,000, allegedly taken from his own Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish.

The diocese accused him of criminal conduct, but most St. Stephen's parishioners supported Armstrong's denials of wrongdoing. Most also joined him in breaking away from the Episcopal Church in May 2007 to join theologically conservative Anglicans opposed to the ordination of openly gay or lesbian priests and same-sex marriage.

Armstrong, 61, and his attorney, Dennis Hartley, have said in statements and interviews recently that the charges were reduced to one "fictitious" count of misdemeanor theft. They called it close to a dismissal.

"It is still his contention he did nothing wrong," Hartley said Monday.

Armstrong and Grace Church issued a statement Saturday to VirtueOnline, self-described as "The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism," saying the agreement vindicated Armstrong and demonstrated that "the courts are not the place to deal with theological differences."

Armstrong posted a follow-up entry: "Bottom line here is that they started with 20 felony counts and we walked out of the courtroom with a misdemeanor."

However, Thiebaut said it was "a fairly complicated plea agreement" with more to it than a single misdemeanor count.

According to the plea agreement, obtained by The Denver Post, Armstrong pleaded "no contest" to one class-three felony, the theft of $15,000 or more. The other 19 charges were dismissed.

The sentence for this count will be deferred for a period of four years. If he complies with terms set by the judge, no conviction will be entered.

Armstrong also entered an Alford plea, which means pleading guilty with a protestation of innocence, to a single misdemeanor charge. The agreement states there is no factual basis to the misdemeanor charge, but the defendant pleads to it to obtain the benefit of the plea agreement.

Read it all here

Harry Potter Time Out: Magic is Might?

The film, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part One will be released in theatres in November.  We've learned that this evening at 6:00 p.m., Warner Brothers will release the latest trailer for part one of the film on Facebook.  All ready these released some great stills from the film which you can see here.  The film looks great - early previews were very positive.  Stay tuned for the trailer.  Now back to our regular programing.

A time to pray

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England Anglican Communion, and Pope Benedict of the Roman Catholic Church pray together at Westminster Abby in London.

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." -Luke 11:9-10

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tonight at the Cafe: Gotta Serve Somebody

Gospel singer Shirley Caesar sings the Bob Dylan's classic. You can see a video excerpt of this performance from the documentary The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Thirteen Theses of Writing

From Walter Benjamin's "The Writer's Technique in Thirteen Theses", from his 1928 book One-Way Street; published in Selected Writings, Volume 1: 1913-1926 (Harvard UP 1996), 458-59.

I. Anyone intending to embark on a major work should be lenient with himself and, having completed a stint, deny himself nothing that will not prejudice the next.

II. Talk about what you have written, by all means, but do not read from it while the work is in progress. Every gratification procured in this way will slacken your tempo. If this régime is followed, the growing desire to communicate will become in the end a motor for completion.

III. In your working conditions, avoid everyday mediocrity. Semi-relaxation, to a background of insipid sounds, is degrading. On the other hand, accompaniment by an étude or a cacophony of voices can become as significant for work as the perceptible silence of the night. If the latter sharpens the inner ear, the former acts as touchstone for a diction ample enough to bury even the most wayward sounds.

IV. Avoid haphazard writing materials. A pedantic adherence to certain papers, pens, inks is beneficial. No luxury, but an abundance of these utensils is indispensable.

V. Let no thought pass incognito, and keep your notebook as strictly as the authorities keep their register of aliens.

VI. Keep your pen aloof from inspiration, which it will then attract with magnetic power. The more circumspectly you delay writing down an idea, the more maturely developed it will be on surrendering itself. Speech conquers thought, but writing commands it.

VII. Never stop writing because you have run out of ideas. Literary honour requires that one break off only at an appointed moment (a mealtime, a meeting) or at the end of the work.

VIII. Fill the lacunae of inspiration by tidily copying out what is already written. Intuition will awaken in the process.

IX. Nulla dies sine linea [“no day without a line”: Pliny] — but there may well be weeks.

X. Consider no work perfect over which you have not once sat from evening to broad daylight.

XI. Do not write the conclusion of a work in your familiar study. You would not find the necessary courage there.

XII. Stages of composition: idea — style — writing. The value of the fair copy is that in producing it you confine attention to calligraphy. The idea kills inspiration; style fetters the idea; writing pays off style.

XIII. The work is the death mask of its conception. 

Tip of the Tinfoil to Ben at Faith & Theology.

Good News: Dan Martins elected bishop

Dan Martins elected Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Springfield.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rowan and Benedict meet at Lambeth Palace

“…Holiness is at its simplest fellowship with Christ; and when that fellowship with Christ is brought to maturity, so is our fellowship with one another.  As bishops, we are servants of the unity of Christ’s people, Christ’s one Body.  And, meeting as we do as bishops of separated church communities, we must all feel that each of our own ministries is made less by the fact of our dividedness, a very real but imperfect communion.  Perhaps we shall not quickly overcome the remaining obstacles to full, restored communion; but no obstacles stand in the way of our seeking, as a matter of joyful obedience to the Lord, more ways in which to build up one another in holiness by prayer and public celebration together, by closer friendship, and by growing together both in the challenging work of service for all whom Christ loves, and mission to all God has made.”

-Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury - from his address for the visit of the Pope at Lambeth Palace.  

The following is the official Address to a Meeting of Anglican and Roman Catholic Diocesan Bishops of England, Scotland and Wales on the occasion of The Fraternal Visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Great Hall, Lambeth Palace, 17 September 2010:
Your Holiness, brother bishops, brothers and sisters in Christ:

It is a particular pleasure that on this historic occasion we are able to come together as bishops of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches in this country to greet you, Your Holiness, during a visit which we all hope will be of significance both to the Church of Christ and to British society. Your consistent and penetrating analysis of the state of European society in general has been a major contribution to public debate on the relations between Church and culture, and we gratefully acknowledge our debt in this respect.

Our task as bishops is to preach the Gospel and shepherd the flock of Christ; and this includes the responsibility not only to feed but also to protect it from harm. Today, this involves a readiness to respond to the various trends in our cultural environment that seek to present Christian faith as both an obstacle to human freedom and a scandal to human intellect. We need to be clear that the Gospel of the new creation in Jesus Christ is the door through which we enter into true liberty and true understanding: we are made free to be human as God intends us to be human; we are given the illumination that helps us see one another and all created things in the light of divine love and intelligence. As you said in your Inaugural Mass in 2005, recalling your predecessor’s first words as pope, Christ takes away nothing “that pertains to human freedom or dignity or to the building of a just society. … If we let Christ into our lives we lose absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. Only in his friendship is the great potential of human existence revealed.” [Inaugural Homily, Rome, 24 April 2005]

Our presence together as British bishops here today is a sign of the way in which, in this country, we see our task as one and indivisible. The International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission has set before us all the vital importance of our common calling as bishops to be agents of mission. Our fervent prayer is that this visit will give us fresh energy and vision for working together in this context in the name of what a great Roman Catholic thinker of the last century called ‘true humanism’ – a passionate commitment to the dignity of all human beings, from the beginning to the end of life, and to a resistance to every tyranny that threatens to stifle or deny the place of the transcendent in human affairs.

We do not as churches seek political power or control, or the dominance of Christian faith in the public sphere; but the opportunity to testify, to argue, sometimes to protest, sometimes to affirm – to play our part in the public debates of our societies. And we shall, of course, be effective not when we have mustered enough political leverage to get our way but when we have persuaded our neighbours that the life of faith is a life well lived and joyfully lived.

In other words, we shall be effective defenders or proclaimers of our faith when we can show what a holy life looks like, a life in which the joy of God is transparently present. And this means that our ministry together as bishops across the still-surviving boundaries of our confessions is not only a search for how we best act together in the public arena; it is a quest together for holiness and transparency to God, a search for ways in which we may help each other to grow in the life of the Holy Spirit. As you have said, Your Holiness, “a joint fundamental testimony of faith ought to be given before a world which is torn by doubts and shaken by fears.” [‘Luther and the Unity of the Churches’, 1983]

In 1845, when John Henry Newman finally decided that he must follow his conscience and seek his future in serving God in communion with the See of Rome, one of his most intimate Anglican friends and allies, the priest Edward Bouverie Pusey, whose memory the Church of England marked in its liturgical calendar yesterday, wrote a moving meditation on this “parting of friends” in which he said of the separation between Anglicans and Roman Catholics: “it is what is unholy on both sides that keeps us apart”.

That should not surprise us: holiness is at its simplest fellowship with Christ; and when that fellowship with Christ is brought to maturity, so is our fellowship with one another. As bishops, we are servants of the unity of Christ’s people, Christ’s one Body. And, meeting as we do as bishops of separated church communities, we must all feel that each of our own ministries is made less by the fact of our dividedness, a very real but imperfect communion. Perhaps we shall not quickly overcome the remaining obstacles to full, restored communion; but no obstacles stand in the way of our seeking, as a matter of joyful obedience to the Lord, more ways in which to build up one another in holiness by prayer and public celebration together, by closer friendship, and by growing together both in the challenging work of service for all whom Christ loves, and mission to all God has made.

May this historic visit be for all of us a special time of grace and of growth in our shared calling, as you, Your Holiness, bring us the word of the Gospel afresh.

In addition, according to the Anglican Communion News Service, the Archbishop of Canterbury, "gave the Pope a leather-bound diptych (two pictures hinged together) of facsimile full-page illuminations from the Lambeth Bible – a mid-12th-century volume of the Bible in Romanesque style widely thought to have been written and illustrated at Canterbury, which featured in the Palace Library’s 400th anniversary exhibition this summer."  Read more about the gift and other displays here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Title IV Revisions Unmasked

As Kendall says, read it all carefully.  The most alarming thing about this - and there are many - are the new powers given to the Presiding Bishop.  She is not an archbishop - she is a presiding bishop and her job is to preside, pick up the gavel and call the meeting to order.  Every diocesan bishop should think very long and very hard about this.  They are being replaced by ad hoc self-appointed insider committees created by the Presiding Bishop's office - as we saw in spades at the last General Convention.  Diocesan Bishops?  You can dress them up - but can you take them anywhere?  The true liberals in fact should be alarmed.

On the other hand, perhaps Princess Leia was right after all - something to consider, though watching another Alderaan blow is not a pleasant thought.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ratzinger and Rowan - An Uncommon Amalgam

BB NOTE: The Pope comes to Britain next week.  It is well-known that there are differences between them, but the Tablet takes a closer look and finds some surprising things in common.  First up: St. Augustine.  

From here:

Rowan Williams, like Joseph Ratzinger, is a deep-dyed Augustinian, which explains among other things his very developed social conscience, and the prophetic though sometimes unduly anguished tone of his pronouncements on politics and society.

Just before the turn of the millennium, Ratzinger gave an extended interview to Peter Seewald, a German journalist and lapsed Catholic who later returned to the faith under the then cardinal’s influence. When asked by Seewald how many paths to God there are, Ratzinger replied unhesitatingly that there are as many paths as human beings. If he were only allowed to take one book to a desert island besides the Bible and Augustine’s autobiographical Confessions, he said that he would choose Hermann Hesse’s Buddhist-inspired novella Siddhartha – an old hippy favourite.

To speak of the Augustinian influence on Ratzinger and Williams in terms of pessimism about human nature is to short-change Augustine, as well as his two admirers. Archbishop and Pope are in different ways associated with a recovery of nerve in Christian thought over recent decades, and here, too, Augustine has supplied both men with some of the themes on which their writings are variations.

A stripped-down account of the saint’s legacy might draw out the emphasis he gives to heart, as well as mind, in human understanding, and his conviction that faith and reason are complementary elements in our mental make-ups. Frustrated in different ways by perceived shortcomings in their theological education, both men absorbed the Confessions in their youth, later describing the experience as seismic. The influence of Augustine is clear throughout Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity, which contains many a put-down to the unexamined assumptions behind “empiricist” attacks on the coherence of religion. Early on, for example, we read that “knowledge of the functional aspect of the world, as procured for us so splendidly by present-day technical and scientific thinking, brings with it no understanding of the world and of being. Understanding grows only out of belief.” Richard Dawkins take note.

The similarities between Joseph Ratzinger and Rowan Williams extend beyond their theological formations. “I have two things in common with the Holy Father,” quipped the archbishop in a recent speech. “One is a love of cats; the other a hospitable instinct towards Anglican clergy” – the second of these being the mildest of digs at Rome’s recent proposal on so-called ordinariates for Anglican trad­itionalists considering a change of church allegiance. To this might be added a shared depth of spirituality, and a mutual love of good liturgy and ceremonial.

As the comment just quoted indicates, the archbishop also has a sense of humour – as does the Pope. In his days as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger would sometimes tell visitors to his office that “we shall shortly be seeing what the Holy Father has to say” on this or that topic. He was speaking with a twinkle in his eye. The statement concerned would invariably have been written by himself.

Do the intellectual formations of the two men tell us more about their policies as leaders? Yes and no. Williams’ recent trajectory has more to do with his instincts as an Anglo-Catholic, than his devotion to Augustine. But for all he has suffered in recent years, especially through the threats of schism orchestrated by conservatives in the United States and Africa, Rowan Williams still prizes the distinctive witness of Anglicanism, including its far more open forms of government, and has a very direct answer – “Because I don’t believe the Pope is infallible” – to the question of why he didn’t become a Catholic in his youth.

After an acutely difficult early period at Lambeth, he won respect from both the liberal and conservative wings of his Communion and went on to make a success of the 2008 Lambeth Conference. His record compares favourably with that of Benedict, who began his reign five years ago with some bridge-building gestures (particularly through meeting Hans Küng, one of his most dogged liberal critics), but has gone on to display pro-conservative partisanship in other respects, and an unwillingness to face up to what the child-abuse scandal implies about the need for greater transparency in church life.

Observers agree that their relationship is unusually good, extending well beyond the staple courtesies shown by John Paul II towards Robert Runcie and George Carey. Dr Williams read several of the Pope’s books in German before meeting Benedict for the first time in 2005. The following year, the archbishop was extended the unusual honour of being invited to lunch with the Pope. This encounter was scheduled to last for an hour: in the event it went on for three times that long. Dr Williams has never revealed what was discussed, other than that the Pope asked about the effect of women’s ordin­ation on the Church of England. We can safely assume that the table talk was also heavily theological.

Later on the same day, the archbishop gave a meaty lecture entitled “Secularism, Faith and Freedom” at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which defended the legitimacy of public expressions of religion. The address was released on DVD shortly afterwards. I am told by a reliable source that the Pope watched it four times. Then, when the two met in Naples in 2008, the Pope said “now I’m going to see my friend, Rowan” in the hearing of Bishop John Flack, at that time director of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

The warmth betokened by these anecdotes has not yet paid large dividends. Formal ecumenical progress has been glacial over the past two decades, even though the theological quality of debate between the two Churches has risen steadily, and relations between the archbishop and Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, are especially close. As indicated, Rowan Williams has endured the searing effects of what are seen by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches as unilateral reforms introduced by some parts of the Anglican Communion without a critical mass of broader support.

But can the Pope, insistent as he is on his role as custodian of the faith, also give due weight to the notion that doctrine develops? He remains nervous about the subject – but paradoxically so, since development is a characteristically Catholic idea. What is more, the beatification of Cardinal Newman forms one of the chief objects of Benedict’s forthcoming visit to Britain.

Read it all here.

Patriot Day

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Canterbury: Belief in God is not about plugging a gap

Stephen Hawking has popped up again with another book and more headlines, insisting that "the Big Ban was the result of the inevitable laws of physics and did not need God to create the Universe,"  according to the London Telegraph.  Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and scholar responds, telling the Telegraph:
“Belief in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to another within the Universe.

“It is the belief that there is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence.

“Physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing.” 

Read it all here.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Report from Entebbe: Hundreds of Anglican Bishops from Africa gather for All Africa Bishops Conference

From the Church of England Newspaper, by Bishop Martyn Minns:

The tables were turned in Entebbe, Uganda this week as hundreds of Anglican Bishops from all over Africa gathered for their second All Africa Bishops Conference (AABC). The first took place six years ago in Lagos, Nigeria in October, 2004 with the theme – “Africa  Has Come of Age” – this time the theme was “Securing the Future: Unlocking our Potential”.

Both the Prime Minster of Uganda, the Honorable Dr. Apolo Nsibambi, and the President of  Uganda, His Excellency Yoweri K. Museveni personally welcomed the Conference. They also  hosted a five-course formal dinner at the palatial State House, Entebbe, accompanied by a  full orchestra playing revival hymns. Both men turned the tables on the assembled bishops  by using the opportunity to both establish their credentials as sons of the East African  Revival and also deliver challenging biblically based sermons. Their words were  refreshingly direct.

The Prime Minister called on the participants to sit lightly on their status as bishops and stay true to the plain teaching of Scripture. The President reminded them of the dangers of  religious intolerance and challenged them to follow the example of Jesus especially in his  commitment to preach the Word, feed the hungry, heal the sick and love the downtrodden. The messages were delivered with clarity and conviction and well received.

Throughout the conference there were many calls on the various governments of the countries represented to be faithful stewards of their people’s trust and their nations resources. This healthy interchange between church and government leaders was a reminder that Anglicanism has historically embraced the call to serve the common good through deliberate engagement with those in civil government.

At the first AABC conference the Archbishop of Canterbury was conspicuous by his absence, this time he came and preached at the opening Eucharist. In his carefully nuanced sermon on Jesus as the Good Shepherd Dr. Williams warned the gathered bishops to listen to their people and take risks.

In his Conference address Archbishop Ian Ernest, Chairman of CAPA (Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa) responded by making it clear that Dr. Williams was there to listen to the voice of the Anglican Communion in Africa and not take risks on its future. He went on to state that the existing leadership structures of the Communion had failed, were increasingly irrelevant and unrepresentative of the majority of the Communion. This view was echoed Archbishop Henry Orombi, Primate of Uganda and host of the conference, who declared to one reporter “the Anglican Church is very broken. It (church) has been torn at its deepest level, and it is a very dysfunctional family of the provincial churches.”

These challenging words were delivered respectfully but there was no mistaking the determination and resolve. In a meeting with the Primates, Dr Williams was left in no doubt that unless he was willing to follow through on the numerous decisions to exercise discipline towards The Episcopal Church (USA) and its fellow travelers, the Anglican Communion focused on Canterbury will continue to disintegrate. Both Archbishops Ernest and Orombi also made it clear that the days of deference to the West as the sender of missionaries and resources were over. They are now ready to turn the tables and re-evangelize the West understanding that Gospel mission is no longer from the “West to the rest” but from “everywhere to anywhere”.

The conference itself was a combination of enthusiastic worship, energetic expositional Bible Studies and a wide variety of plenary presentations and group discussions that dealt with many of the practical issues that confront Anglican Churches in Africa. The spectrum was wide including issues of climate change, HIV/Aids, corruption, neglect of women and children and the need for economic empowerment.

At times the language for these sessions sounded more like that of a United Nations development conference and several participants cautioned that while the church must engage in practical social concerns it must always do so mindful of its distinctive role as the Body of Christ with spiritual resources that are indispensible if we are to see a lasting transformation of the  communities where they serve.
In keeping with African tradition the tea breaks were generous and it seemed that much of the real work of the conference took place as leaders from across Africa met, drank tea, shared experiences and prayed together.

One of the most moving moments in the Conference took place when bishops from those countries experiencing violent conflict were invited come forward and kneel for extended prayer from the rest of the conference participants. This willingness to be humbled before one another and before the Lord is, of course, a distinctive element of the East African Revival and was embraced by all present.
The overall attitude of the conference was a recognition that while many problems remain the remarkable growth that they have all experienced in the past six years is a sign that they are ready to take on the challenges before them. The Gospel they proclaim is Good News of Great Joy for all people and it showed in Entebbe.

Read it all here.  Bishop Minns is a Missionary Bishop for CANA, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and a member of the Anglican Church in North America College of Bishops.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Wednesday at the Cafe: Fields of Gold

Eva Cassidy (1963-1996) sings Fields of Gold.

Lost 1963 Dylan concert recording discovered in Rolling Stone co-founder's attic; will be released

From here:

 Crisp audio from a lost 1963 BOB DYLAN concert has been unearthed in an attic and will be released as a bonus to fans who snap up the folk rock icon's new BOOTLEG SERIES VOL. 9 online. customers who order the new Dylan set will also get the live recording of Dylan, taped at the Brandeis University Folk Festival.

According to Rolling Stone magazine, the audio sat in the archives of the publication's co-founder Ralph Gleason’s collection for over 40 years until his son Toby found it while clearing the family home after his mother's death.

Toby Gleason says, "It’s a seven inch reel-to-reel that sounds like it was taped from the mixing disc. A collector/dealer associate of the family said, 'This might be worth something to the Dylan office,' and we sold it to them last year."

Gleason has no idea how his late father came into possession of the tape: "My father had nothing to do with that Brandeis show. I suspect he got the tape from Bob himself or from one of the people in Bob’s organisation. My father was one of the nationally credited writers that wrote about Bob the most, and they became close."