Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas every one!

Archbishop Peter Akinola kidnapped - later released unharmed

George Conger has the story:

Archbishop Peter Akinola
The former Primate of All Nigeria, the Most Rev. Peter Akinola, and his driver were kidnapped by gunmen on 24 December 2013, but released unharmed later that day after he convinced his captors he had no money to pay a ransom.

Press reports from Nigeria have offered a confused account of the archbishop’s ordeal, variously stating a daughter of the archbishop was also taken, that the archbishop was freed after a gun battle between police and kidnappers, and that the police rescue team was led by the Ogun state governor.
What can be established so far is that at approximately 3:00 pm on the afternoon of Tuesday, 24 Dec 2013, the retired leader of the Anglican Communion’s largest province left the offices of the Peter Akinola Foundation Centre for Youth Industrial Training in Abeokuta,  the capital of Western Nigeria’s Ogun State.

Shortly after his driver pulled onto the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, a car carrying four gunmen cut off the archbishop’s Toyota Primera and fired pistols into the air. The archbishop and his driver were pulled from the car and then forced to lie  face down on the floor of the back seat as one of the kidnappers held them at gunpoint while another took the wheel of the car.

The car was driven west towards Nigeria’s border with Benin while the bandit who held the archbishop at gunpoint demanded a ransom payment for his safe release. Archbishop Akinola told the bandits he was a retired clergyman and could not pay their demands.

The kidnappers stopped in a deserted area near the Benin border and searched the car and the archbishop for money. Frustrated at not finding a hidden stash of cash, the kidnappers then released the archbishop and his driver.

In a Christmas Day interview with the Premium Times, Archbishop Akinola said after the bandits’ fruitless search for hidden valuables , “the gang then asked us to go into different directions into the bush.”

“I took to the right hand side, while my driver took to the left hand side, and we had to use our hands to clear the bush, while the gang later left with the car. I just kept praying for safety,” he said.

The archbishop made his way through the bush to a road where he “saw a police vehicle coming and there were gunshots, and the police team later came to rescue me from the spot.”

The archbishop had high praise for the police and for Governor Ibikunle Amosun. “I have to praise them, and I appreciate the governor who left his work to the bush looking for us. It’s unprecedented for a governor to personally lead a team into the bush. He risked his life and yet he didn’t mind that. I’ am deeply touched and impressed,” he told the Premium Times.

In September 2013 the Dean of the Church of Nigeria and archbishop of the Niger Delta Province, the Most. Rev. Ignatius Kattey and his wife were kidnapped as they were driving their car to Port Harcourt in Southeastern Nigeria. The two were released unharmed as police closed in on their kidnappers also.

In September 2010, the Bishop of Ngbo, the Rt. Rev. Christian Ebisike was stopped at a roadblock as he was driving to Owerri. The next day the bishop was released by his abductors on the Ontisha – Owerri road.  It is not known if a ransom was paid.

On 24 Jan 2010 the Rt. Rev. Peter Imasuen, Bishop of Benin was also kidnapped at his home in Benin City, the capital of Edo State in Southern Nigeria.

Bishop Imasuen was abducted by armed gunmen who followed home after Sunday services at St Matthew’s Cathedral.  As his car entered the walled compound of his home, bandits forced their way inside, overpowering a watchman.  The bishop was bundled into a car by gunmen and driven away.  A ransom of £200,000 was demanded, and the bishop was released unharmed four days later.

The Church of Nigeria was quick to report the news of the abduction. Shortly after word of Archbishop Akinola’s kidnapping was received in Abuja, the Primate of All Nigeria, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh released a statement urging prayers for the safety of Archbishop. Past kidnappings had been met with silence by the church in the belief that publicity would spur further crimes or harm the captive clerics.

Read it all here.

Monday, December 02, 2013

The Pilling Report is out - what will the CoE Bishops do?

You may read the report in its entirety here.  

Here is the press conference for the release of this official report from the Church of England.  Listen carefully to the section beginning at 18:25.  Pilling says, "We don’t suggest any change to the church’s teaching, but we do want to make room for suitable pastoral and liturgical responses to request from same sex couples who want to mark their relationship in Christian context."  What does he think "pastoral and liturgical responses" are?  Did the Pilling Committee just completely ignore what happened to the Episcopal Church?  Are they watching even now?  We can't have a "liturgical response" without changing the doctrine.  And "pastoral response" means blessing same sex marriages.  That is the pastoral response.  That is what the Episcopal Church is doing right now - that is what the phrase means!  I don't know if the gentleman is willfully ignorant, blissfully naive, or someone whispered imperio in his vicinity, but what a whopper of a statement.  Pray for the bishops of the Church of England.

Excellent commentary by Andrew Symes from here:

Sir Joseph Pilling
The last time I wrote about the Pilling Report I speculated that it was in a locked vault waiting for the Bishops to discuss it before it was released. But suddenly, we were told that its publication was “imminent”, and then there it was, out in the open for us all to discuss. We can speculate about the timing of the release, but its best to look at the document in front of us and ask: what does it say? What does it mean? And what should we do, especially those of us who disagree profoundly with the report’s conclusions?

The Pilling Report, or to give its proper title the Report of the House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality, runs to over 200 pages. It begins with a brief foreword from the Chair of the working group Sir Joseph Pilling (a retired civil servant of distinction) which explains some of the process and gives a hint of the conclusions. Then there is an essay by one of the panel, Jessica Martin. “Living with holiness and desire” is a personal theological reflection written – well lets say with a style and a theological method that most evangelicals would not be used to. There is further explanation of the process in the first few paragraphs of the report’s main body. The group’s discussions and study of evidence is seen as part of the wider process of “listening” to which the Anglican Communion committed itself after Lambeth 1998 in resolution 1:10. We get a brief history of this, although it is a sanitized version of the Indaba process controlled by the central Anglican administration, and there is no mention of Gene Robinson, Jeffrey John or GAFCON. In fact while John and GAFCON do get a brief reference later in the document, it is extraordinary that Gene Robinson and the “tearing of the fabric of Communion” which resulted globally from the Episcopal Church’s unilateral decision to consecrate him, remains unmentioned – one of many “elephants in the room” in this report.

The Church’s teaching and the cultural context
A major part of the committee’s work was to read and listen to submissions from various individuals and bodies with different views on sexuality and Christian faith, as well as interviewing a number of people identifying themselves as lesbian, gay or same sex attracted, some Christian, some not; some in relationships, others celibate. For the majority of these people the Church of England’s current teaching and practice on same sex relationships is “deeply off-putting” especially to young people; it encourages dishonesty among gay clergy, it contributes to low self esteem among gay people. But for a minority, the church’s teaching helps people with same sex attraction (ssa) to resist what they believe is temptation to sin. There the report as a whole seems to assume that the church’s teaching about homosexuality only affects those who consider themselves to be gay or ssa. It is only Keith Sinclair’s dissenting statement which points out that permitting same gender sexual relationships as compatible with Christian discipleship would lead to the unraveling of doctrinal coherence in a number of areas, such as our understanding of Scripture and even God (eg para 468).

The debates leading up to the overwhelming support for same sex marriage in Parliament shows how far and fast the culture has moved in its views on sexuality. This is considered in the section “a rapidly changing context”. The writers of the report are aware that secularism accuses any argument related to religion as inherently opposed to reason, and interested only on imposing dogma on others. But the report as a whole errs towards trying to appease this secular worldview by saying in effect we should ditch any biblical and supernatural certainties: to “occupy the middle ground of uncertainty and seeking after truth” (para 51), rather than humbly but clearly articulating a worldview which is accessible to reason but also posits a spiritual reality, something which Bishop Keith advocates.

Conservative evangelicals will be frustrated at the theme of tentative uncertainty which runs through the document. However there is a recognition in the report that the church cannot simply follow the culture in its view of sex. In a reference to recent abuse scandals, it is noted that sexual liberation can have a “dark and oppressive side” (53, also 66), so a church which is cautious and reflective might be a form of witness to a culture which wants to rush headlong into an unrestrained “anything goes” sexual ethic. In this respect there will be many liberal Christians who will be frustrated with the report for not going far enough. But of course taking the “middle path”, so often held up as classically Anglican, will not lead to a genuine resolution as the commission hopes.

Listening and balance
One of the recommendations of the report is an intentional, facilitated “listening process” through mediated conversations. A number of paragraphs are devoted to explaining the thinking behind this. The process is important according to the report, as we “recognize Christ in one another” even as we engage with those with whom we disagree. Questions around the meaning and authority of Scripture are identified as a major cause of division among the members of the commission and also in the church as a whole. The report seems to be saying that because this disagreement exists about what the Bible says and how to read it, and because Anglicans do not have a “magisterium” declaring dogma which must be obeyed, we cannot do anything except engage in conversation respectfully with one another and the world. More will be said on this later.

The desire for balance means that the report is not simply an endorsement of a liberal or politically correct opinion. We are asked to listen to the genuine feelings of exclusion felt by lesbian and gay people in relation to the church. But as the context has changed in society, newly confident LGBT people now in the mainstream of cultural thinking must also “listen carefully to those who hold firmly to the church’s traditional teaching” (77). It is said more than once that it cannot be considered “homophobic” simply to articulate this traditional view (eg 327-328).

At this point the report pauses to set out some initial recommendations. A two year indaba, yes, but this is preceded by a statement which must be seen as controversial:

We warmly welcome and affirm the presence and ministry within the Church of lesbian and gay people, both lay and ordained (p22).

This is not explained or qualified. As a result it suggests that the church does not distinguish between welcoming someone’s presence within the church, endorsement of their lifestyle, an assumption of Christian fellowship, and affirming their ministry. It would surely have been better at this early stage of the report to express welcome unconditionally to all people, including those who identify themselves as lesbian and gay, but then to say that agreement is needed on what homosexuality is and to what extent its active sexual expression is compatible with authentic Christian discipleship, before the Church can fully affirm sexually active gay people in ministry, and offer blessing to same sex couples. The failure to provide this distinction is one of the major weaknesses of the report.

The Church of England cannot change its teaching unilaterally, according to the document, because of the mutuality which exists between the Provinces of the Anglican Communion (explained in paragraphs 85-100). This section, which draws heavily on Rowan Williams’ talks at Lambeth 2008, does not mention that fellowship within the Communion has already been strained to breaking point because of the Gene Robinson consecration and the persistent reneging on agreements by the Episcopal Church after the Windsor report. That history gives good reason for conservatives to be suspicious of a process in which they are being urged to “listen” and be open minded, while the other side simply goes ahead and acts in ways that it believes are prophetic, creating facts on the ground which are offensive to those with a traditional Anglican understanding of sexual ethics, and which redefine the church’s teaching by default.

The next section (p28 f) surveys the recent history of the Church of England attempting to address the issue of homosexuality, and is worth reading to see the subtle evolution away from clear guidelines based on the Bible to more pragmatic accommodation to rapid changes in society, in particular the introduction of civil partnerships. The 1987 General Synod “Higton Motion” which affirms that sex is for marriage (assumed to be heterosexual), and gay sex is sinful, has never been rescinded, but the report says because it “is now 26 years old, on a subject that continues to be controversial”, it cannot any more “represent the mind of Synod”. This is typical of the report. It does not advocate changing the official teaching of the church, because this would require bruising and embarrassing debates in Synod and the difficulty of getting required 2/3 majorities. Rather it claims to hold to existing teaching while questioning and undermining it. This tactic becomes more prevalent later as the report approaches its conclusion.

Sexuality in general and then homosexuality in particular receive extensive treatment in the report, in a fairly balanced way. There are statistics about numbers of gay people and social attitudes to homosexuality. Not only is there much more acceptance, but there is increasing intolerance of “homophobia” which the report defines quite helpfully (para 175 and following). Gay people testify to experiencing ostracism, even violence, which the church has rightly rejected in a number of statements, but in today’s culture people who call themselves “post gay” may be both excluded by the gay community and also treated with suspicion by Christian conservatives.

The summary of the scientific evidence in the report is on the whole fair and endorses many arguments that conservatives have been using. It cannot be shown with any certainty that homosexual orientation is innate and /or fixed. There are many possible causes of same sex attraction. The higher levels of mental illness and tendency to self destructive behaviour among some gay people may or may not be due to social stigma, or internal stress caused by the lifestyle itself. It may be possible for some people with ssa to change their orientation to some extent through counselling; there is no compelling evidence that this might be inherently harmful. It is encouraging that the report takes seriously the submissions by Core Issues Trust and Goddard/Harrison, and uses their evidence to question the ideologically-based conclusions of the Royal College of Psychiatry (206-217). We are left with the conclusion that science has not come to a conclusion. In the next section we are told that the evidence of Scripture is also inconclusive.

What does the Bible say?
All the committee agreed that Scripture is uniformly negative about homosexual practice. The disagreements came over how to interpret this. Standard liberal positions are articulated in para 221: either that we’ve interpreted it wrong, or that the bible is not authoritative, but an optional resource in our ethical decision making. Examples are given of lesbian and “queer” interpretations as well as the more mainstream liberalism of Richard Burridge. The conservative reading of Scripture articulated by Bishop Keith Sinclair is given space (234, in his statement, and in the Appendix), but the report insists that this is only one understanding out of many which are equally valid in the Anglican tradition. In the Appendix, Bishop Keith’s understanding sits alongside a different interpretation of Scripture from an “including evangelical”, Revd David Runcorn. Again, it is really important for evangelicals wanting to hold on to the traditional understanding of Christian sexual ethics to read and engage with Runcorn’s position. His assertions and others made in the report about a biblical basis for acceptance of homosexual practice do not stand up to the scrutiny of the challenge of the orthodox case outlined by Sinclair.

From Scripture on to theology, and a summary of papers presented by the respected theologians Timothy Radcliffe and Oliver O’Donovan. Radcliffe is as one would expect: liberal Catholic, with fascinating insights but heterodox conclusions. O’Donovan is disappointing: it is he who first advocates “pastoral accommodation” for same sex couples after opining that all theological discussion on theology is provisional: “more of the experiment than the conclusion” – a glorification of doubt and open-endedness. On specifically Anglican theology, the document affirms Canon A5 “grounded in the Holy Scriptures” and Article 6 “all things necessary to salvation”, but interprets this as saying Anglicans are free to disagree about everything as long as Scripture is the “touchstone” (para 286)! After a discussion on the relationship between Scripture, tradition and reason, the conclusion is that Anglicanism’s inherent way of doing things is to include all opinions, treading “a careful line between unwarranted specificity and vague blandness”. Well the document in the end achieves this: rejecting the specificity of a clear bible based position on sexuality, and avoiding the impression that the church is vague on the issue by eventually advocating the blessing of same sex relationships. There is inconsistency here: the report says that Scripture and theology are apparently unclear on the rightness of homosexual practice, but we should go ahead and bless it anyway, as long as the relationships are “permanent, faithful, stable”. What is not explained is how, if Scripture is not clear, why should the church dogmatically insist on faithful monogamy in relationships?

At this point the report returns to the subject of homophobia. It is ironic that the report was released the day after the Supreme Court’s rejection of the Bulls' bed and breakfast case, and yet the Pilling Report states “Christians in England are not… subject to anything comparable to the treatment which many lesbian and gay people experience or fear in everyday social contexts” (para 324). No evidence is provided for this claim. It will be interesting to observe in future, as homosexuality is normalized and celebrated through gay marriage and taught to children in schools, as politics, the media and the church are increasingly dominated by gay and pro-gay people, and as the retreat of Christianity from the public square is accelerated, how long the gay lobby will continue to play this victim card.

As we can’t know anything for sure, the report says we can only move forward with mutual respect by a listening process. This is explained in page 103f. Specifically not a series of debates, but relationship building, with no predetermined outcome. There is an assumption that this process will be entirely fair, where conservatives and liberals can meet and listen to each other in an unthreatening environment. The report does not seem to recognize the very real danger of bias as the dice are loaded – the culture is providing the weight on one side heavily inclining towards acceptance of homosexuality, and the choice of facilitators will be determined centrally and are much more likely to be liberal.

Blessing of same sex relationships
Now, on to the specific proposals about “blessing”. The legalization of gay marriage has brought an urgency to the question of pastoral care for same sex couples “who seek ecclesial recognition for their…relationship” (371). On one hand, to offer blessing, especially in church using formal liturgies, would be seen to be changing the doctrine of the church and to mimic marriage (384) which the Bishops have stated categorically should be reserved for heterosexual couples. But on the other hand, a failure of the church to celebrate faithful same sex couples continues to discriminate, and confirms the view that the church is not good news for gay people. So the report recommends “less formal approaches”, whereby a “pastoral accommodation” to pray informally with a couple need not entail a final moral judgement. Para 399 appears to go further, implying that such informal prayer may be an “act of worship to mark the formation of a same sex relationship”. The decision to do this should be left to individual clergy who must make the decision in consultation with their PCC.

Another “elephant in the room” comes up in the section about candidates for ordination. Guidelines from “Issues” of 1991 and the response to Civil Partnership legislation in 2005 confirmed that gay clergy could be in CP’s as long as they were celibate. The redefinition of marriage means that the sexual act is now no longer mentioned. CP’s will be converted to marriages. So it is theoretically possible that a gay person offering himself for ordination and his same sex partner could be “married” without being sexually active. While the report takes seriously the need for clergy “to order their lives according to the will of the Church”, it seems to assume that this will always be the case with partnered gay candidates who have verbally assented to the Church’s official teaching. Its not just conservatives who have pointed out that this is at the very least a charter for dishonesty, but much worse it is a deceptive witness to society. To expect people to believe that a gay clergy are not having sex with their partners could be more of a stumbling block for the average pagan than that Jesus died for their sins, rose again and is coming back as judge. To be fair, the report does call for this anomaly to be put on the table in the facilitated discussions, so that the requirement for sexual abstinence for gay clergy can be quietly dropped.

The dissenting statement
Bishop Keith Sinclair’s dissenting statement bravely refutes the report and clearly articulates the biblical vision for human flourishing which includes the proper place for sexual expression. The Bishop affirms the need to repent of homophobia in the way the report has defined it, but goes on to say that in the Gospel Jesus challenges everyone to repent, die to self and embrace a new identity in him. While the report affirms those who experience ssa and are celibate, it sees this as a minority choice which is optional, and so offers only confusion to those who want to know how to follow Christ. The report’s claim that it is not advocating a change in the church’s teaching is undermined by the recommendations to affirm gay relationships. Sinclair accuses the report of “cultural captivity” – trying to appease society, undermining historic Christian doctrine and ethics, and not protecting conservative ssa people who want the Church to help them avoid temptation. Rather, he says, Christians should be different from the world, offering an alternative account of what we are to do with our desires.

Bishop Keith says that a valid listening process should be for pastoral application of what we know clearly from Scripture. Instead, what is being proposed is that facilitated conversations will help us to work out whether we should find new ways of communicating the traditional line, or discover that that line is wrong and should be changed (452); in the meantime clergy and PCC’s can pre-empt the process and ignore the Church’s official teaching as part of local pastoral accommodation. Although Bishop Keith is much too polite to say so, this is dishonest and manipulative. He is however forthright enough to say that it will produce “liturgical anarchy” – although of course the official response will be that it’s not a liturgy, and it’s not a blessing, and we haven’t changed doctrine. There will be pressure on clergy with traditional views to perform blessings for same sex couples, and pressure on liberal clergy who believe in “permanent, faithful, stable” to bless couples who have no intention of living that way. Bishop Keith’s dissenting statement closes with a quote from Canadian theologian Edith Humphrey, that for the Church to invoke God’s blessing on an act for which repentance is required, is to replace God with an idol (481).

What can be done?
This is why we are faced with officially sanctioned apostasy in our own church. It has finally happened. What do we do? The first thing to say is that the report has not yet been endorsed by the house of Bishops. We must pray for them and lobby them as politely but intensively as we can before their meeting to discuss the document. Groups like Church Society, Reform, CEEC must play their part, but perhaps more importantly local DEF’s or other orthodox groupings at Diocesan level, and of course individual parishes. We need to make it clear to the Bishops that we stand by Bishop Keith, and urge them to do the same; that on their response to this report God will be judging their effectiveness as shepherds. As Peter Ould has said, this is the time for the godly among them to stand up and be counted. The bishops can vote to kick this report into touch, reaffirm the church’s traditional teaching without equivocation, and start again, building on +Keith’s vision and suggested course of action. Or they can challenge supporters of the report to put a motion to Synod to change the teaching of the church, and have a real public debate. If this does not happen, and the report is endorsed, then it is difficult to see how to avoid many cases of impaired fellowship between bible believing clergy and congregations, and Bishops who voted for the report. AMiE is now up and running and ready to help in those circumstances.

Secondly, those with orthodox views need to pray and plan together in a much wider coalition than currently exists. Among those who believe that Christian discipleship is incompatible with homosexual practice, there will be disagreement about strategy should the report be endorsed by the Bishops. Should we refuse to engage at all with the facilitated conversations, or send a few people to them as an evangelistic exercise or a fact finding mission in interfaith dialogue? Should we cap parish share, break off relations with the Bishop, etc? Can those who come to different conclusions continue to work together? One urgent task must be to develop materials which help clergy and laity fully understand and articulate the “better vision” for human sexuality which is clear from the Bible and orthodox Christian tradition, and of which Bishop Keith speaks.

Thirdly, there has to be a question mark about the response of the charismatic churches, the New Wine network, HTB, Alpha etc. Will some of them recognize the potential spiritual danger, and join a conservative coalition to oppose this major, albeit back door, change in the church’s ethical teaching and practice? Some will, and we look forward to joining with them. Others may feel, I think wrongly, that reports, and decisions by official commissions and Synods are irrelevant to their work of ministry. Sadly though there are some churches which may be accommodating their theological position to be more in line with the culture.

Fourth, orthodox Anglicans need to work out a clear understanding of prayer and blessing. There is already a common practice of praying for God’s blessing on all sorts of people (for example, in the streets) without suggesting that they are converted or endorsing their lifestyle – is this valid? Should an exception be made for gay couples because of the sin of homosexual practice? If not, what are the differences between praying for a stranger on the street who is distressed, praying with an unmarried couple who have no intention of marrying or of following Christ but who want their child baptized, and praying with a gay couple? The Pilling Report’s conclusions should not make a difference to how we answer these questions, but they force us to be able to articulate a response that is pastorally sensitive and biblically faithful.

Finally, another other elephant in the room. Let’s watch carefully to see what Archbishop Justin says and does.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Very interesting conversation going on over at The Other Cafe

Check out the conversation here.  And let's have a cup of coffee - it's on the house.

And with that in mind, just popped some coins in the cafe jukebox.
This one's for you.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Joni Mitchell on Bob Dylan

A snippet of an interview from earlier this year with Joni Mitchell where she comments on Bob Dylan.  I don't think that Dylan would necessarily disagree with Mitchell's appraisal of him (and she colorfully corrects quotes attributed to her by another interview in the L.A. Time).  What do you think?

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Why Rowan Williams loves C.S. Lewis

A terrific interview with the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams by Melissa Steffan with Christianity Today is now online. Rowan says:

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
"We've gotten past the stage where people look down on Lewis. When I was studying theology, we certainly were not encouraged to read him, and there was a bit of embarrassment (about him). Now that's gone. People are aware, first of all, that he's a major literary scholar. His interpretations are still worth engaging with, simply as literary works. Secondly, there is something about his imaginative world which is very prophetic. For example, ecological spirituality is already kind of coming to the fore, and Lewis identified the problem over half a century ago."

Here's more:

What do you think the artistry of Narnia tell us about Lewis?Lewis is a brilliant storyteller; he's not one of the world's great novelists. But even so, what he does, he does wonderfully. He is always very good at depicting something about joy.
If you look at an extraordinary episode in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Lucy finds herself reading a story in a magical book, when she puts the book down she can't remember the details of the story. She just knows that it's the best thing she's ever read, the most enriching and beautiful thing she's ever encountered. As she's talking to Aslan afterward she says, "Will you tell me that story again?" Aslan says, "One day I shall tell it to you forever." It's that kind of moment where you realize that Lewis has got hold of something that very few writers do manage to crystallize, a sense of absolute immersion in the richness of the moment. 
C. S. Lewis
It comes across in The Screwtape Letters, which still read very well, when the one, old devil says to the younger devil that God's great secret is that he's a pleasure lover at heart. At the heart of it is joy. That's Lewis all over. 
A good deal of Lewis's life, of course, was marked by enormous stress and great suffering. It's not as if he had an unchallenged life. Some of the emotional force of his writing does come from his being a motherless child, looking back to that sort of magical world before the suffering broke in—and we all have a little bit of that in us. 
But what he does with it then, instead of making it a cozy, backward-looking thing, he unites it to all of these great moral challenges, the challenge of facing up to yourself, the challenge of going on being faithful in prosaic ways day by day. It's really only by doing the next thing—being faithful in small particulars—that you come to this joy. It's not magic; it's not nostalgia. It's a very fine balance that he deals with remarkably. 
So when he comes to write about his wife's death in A Grief Observed, which is, for many people, the most extraordinary and challenging of all his books, it's as if you know anything he says about joy or hope is hard won. It's really something that's come to him not by glib formulations or easy answers. He really has fought for it. 
How do you think the Chronicles of Narnia differ from Lewis's apologetic and academic work?For me, and a great many others, Lewis's apologetics are not necessarily the best place to start or finish. There is implicit in everything he wrote after about 1940 the strong sense of what it is to be human and the dangers of trying to run away from your humanity. There are people who are trying to stop being human and have no sense of belonging with other human beings or the world at all. There's something about humanity being connected with humility. You accept where you are with humility, not passively or not giving way depression. But you accept that you are a bodily person living in a limited world and you get on with it there. 
Your book spends a fair bit of space addressing critics who say Lewis is sexist or racist in his works. Why did you feel that was necessary?It's very easy to look at writers of another generation to say, "They should be just as enlightened as I am," with no sense that, had I been alive at that time, I might have had all the same attitudes. We have to see him in his context. Many of the clichés are really, really not true. There are many strong and independent women in his fiction. He's not easily written off on that. 
Sometimes, when we look at a writer of the past, what we see are the ways in which they are like other people of their period—they share the same attitudes about politics, about sex, about whatever. But what makes them great writers, what makes us read them still, is the ways in which they were different from other writers of the same era. They have some things in common with their contemporaries, but they have a lot more to them—and it's that "a lot more" that we should be focusing on. 
How have you seen Lewis's legacy change in the UK over the past 50 years?Obviously Lewis is still read by people for the apologetic and intellectual side, but for me—as well as a great many other people—that's not necessarily the best place to start or finish. Here is somebody who knew the world of English literature—and indeed, European literature—as well as anybody in his generation, who himself had a really vigorous, creative imagination. I think more and more people are aware that you acquire faith not by a great exercise of the will, not by a great exercise of the intellect, but by something that happens to your imagination when it's turned upside down. 
What was the theological environment like at the time Lewis was writing? Why was he never really wildly popular among evangelicals and intellectuals in the UK at the time?He was beginning to become more popular among evangelicals by the 1960s. In the late 1960s I can remember evangelical friends of mine who were reading him. But it may well be that we've come full circle, and people are more open to an imaginative approach. What's curious is that in the '30s and '40s and '50s, you do get quite a lot of imaginative approaches to Christianity, so it's not as if there's a shortage of people doing the imaginative work. Lewis's originality was to do it with children's fiction in a way nobody else was doing it.
Read it all here.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Today at the Cafe: Silent flaming arcs of hope

GAFCON 2013 is now over and the participants are preparing to return home.  I am listening to Josh Garrels, who wrote Jacaranda Tree.  I had posted online an amazing photo of a Jacaranda Tree taken by Andrew Gross in Nairobi this week during the GAFCON gathering.  The photo had remained in my mind throughout the week and it just seemed to reflect the best of this historic gathering Kenya - the best of it.  We are all branches of a beautiful tree, seeking to bloom - and sometimes in the most unexpected places.

After I posted the photo, Dwight Huthwaite at St. Andrews, Mt. Pleasant (SC) responded by posting the song Jacaranda Tree.  Here is an excerpt of a lyrics by Josh Garrels:

I pray light will 
Leak from out pockets 
We’ll be drenched, overcome 
At night the fireflies 
Streamers at our sides 
Silent flaming arcs of hope 

That just seems to say it all to me today.  I do pray that the light of Christ will "leak from our pockets" and we may be "drenched, overcome" by His Holy Spirit, with "streamers at our sides, silent flaming arcs of hope."

Here is the full album by Josh Garrels - a soundtrack to follow us as the credits of this extraordinary week roll.

Breaking News: A new "Instrument of Communion" is established - Nairobi Communique endorsed from GAFCON II

The Nairobi Communique is endorsed by GAFCON 2013.

Read it all here:

Nairobi Communique and Commitment

You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:19-20)

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we, the participants in the second Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) – 1358 delegates, including 331 bishops, 482 other clergy and 545 laity from 38 countries representing tens of millions of faithful Anglicans worldwide – send you greetings from East Africa, a place of revival in the last century and of growth in the Anglican Church today.

We met with great joy in Nairobi from 21st to 26th October 2013. We gathered each day for prayer and praise, studied Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and shared in the Holy Communion at the beginning and end of our conference.

It was very poignant that our meeting took place only a month after the violent terrorist attack in Nairobi at the Westgate Shopping Mall in which so many innocent men, women and children lost their lives. Our hearts go out to those families who have lost loved ones and to all of those who still suffer. We continue to remember them in prayer. In meeting here we have been able to express publicly the hope that Jesus Christ brings to a world in which brokenness and suffering find frequent expression.
In our gathering, we reaffirmed our view that we are a global fellowship of confessing Anglicans, engaged in a movement of the Holy Spirit which is both personal and ecclesial. We appreciated that the Archbishop of Canterbury sent personal greetings via video and gave us the assurance of his prayers, and we likewise pray for him. We believe we have acted as an important and effective instrument of Communion during a period in which other instruments of Communion have failed both to uphold gospel priorities in the Church, and to heal the divisions among us.

The Formation of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans
In 2008, the first GAFCON was convened in order to counter a false gospel which was spreading throughout the Communion. This false gospel questioned the uniqueness of Christ and his substitutionary death, despite the Bible’s clear revelation that he is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). It undermined the authority of God’s Word written. It sought to mask sinful behaviour with the language of human rights. It promoted homosexual practice as consistent with holiness, despite the fact that the Bible clearly identifies it as sinful. A crisis point was reached in 2003 when a man in an active same-sex relationship was consecrated bishop in the USA. In the years that followed, there were repeated attempts to resolve the crisis within the Communion, none of which succeeded. To the contrary, the situation worsened with further defiance. As a response to the crisis, we adopted The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration which commits us to biblical faithfulness, and has since provided the framework for renewed Anglican orthodoxy to which we, in all our different traditions – Evangelicals, Anglo-Catholics and Charismatics – are committed. We also formed the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFCA).

Since then, we have become a movement for unity among faithful Anglicans. Where, in taking a stand for biblical faithfulness, Anglicans have been marginalised or excluded from provincial or diocesan structures, the Primates’ Council has recognised and authenticated them as faithful Anglicans. The GFCA has been instrumental in the emergence of the new Province of the Anglican Church in North America, giving formal recognition to its orders and welcoming it as a full partner province, with its Archbishop having a seat on the Primates’ Council. The GFCA has also prevented the original Diocese of Recife from being isolated from the Anglican Communion. At the same time, local fellowships have been set up across many provinces. These have been a vital support to ministers and congregations alike, as the pressures on faithful gospel witness have increased.

The GFCA and the Future of the Anglican Communion
The fellowship we enjoy as Christians is distinguished from all other associations by the fact that it is at its heart a common ‘fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ’ (1 John 1:3). For this reason it has a particular character. It involves repentance and ‘walking in the light, as he is in the light’ (1 John 1:7–9). The character and boundaries of our fellowship are not determined by institutions but by the Word of God. The church is a place where the truth matters, where it is guarded and promoted and where alternatives are exposed for what they are — an exchange of the truth of God for a lie (Romans 1:25).  Our willingness to submit to the written Word of God and our unwillingness to be in Christian fellowship with those who will not, is clearly expressed in The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. This means that the divisions in the Anglican Communion will not be healed without a change of heart from those promoting the false gospel, and to that end we pray.

There is much we can learn from the East African Revival about having a change of heart. Beginning in the last century, the Revival has touched millions of lives across many countries as the Holy Spirit has moved lay men and women, as well as clergy, to share the gospel with others. Two significant features of great relevance to our situation are —
  • Real repentance for sin demonstrated both in confession of guilt and a desire to make amends
  • A confidence that the gospel has the power both to save the lost in all the world and to transform the church, rather than seeing the church conformed to the world.
We urge those who have promoted the false gospel to repent of their unfaithfulness and have a renewed confidence in the gospel. We repent of indifference, prayerlessness and inactivity in the face of false teaching. We remind them – as we remind ourselves – that the sins from which we must repent are not simply those which the world also believes are wrong; they are those that God himself abhors and which are made clear in his Word.

The 1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10 on Human Sexuality states that sexual activity is to be exclusive to marriage and that abstinence is right for those who are single. We still hold to that authoritative statement. Sexual temptation affects us all, and we pray therefore for faithfulness to God’s Word in marriage and singleness. 

We grieve that several national governments, aided by some church leaders, have claimed to redefine marriage and have turned same-sex marriage into a human rights issue. Human rights, we believe, are founded on a true understanding of human nature, which is that we are created in God’s image, male and female such that a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife (Matthew 19:6; Ephesians 5:31). We want to make clear that any civil partnership of a sexual nature does not receive the blessing of God. We continue to pray for and offer pastoral support to Christians struggling with same-sex temptation who remain celibate in obedience to Christ and affirm them in their faithfulness.
The gospel alone has the power to transform lives. As the gospel is heard, the Holy Spirit challenges and convicts of sin, and points to the love of God expressed in his Son, Jesus Christ. The sheer grace of God in setting us free from sin through the cross of Christ leads us into the enjoyment of our forgiveness and the desire to lead a holy life. This enables the relationship with God that Jesus makes possible to flourish. Moreover, just as individual lives can be transformed, so can the life of churches. We therefore commit ourselves and call on our brothers and sisters throughout the Communion to join in rediscovering the power of the gospel and seeking boldness from the Holy Spirit to proclaim it with renewed vigour.

Strengthening the GFCA
We are committed to the future of the GFCA and to that end have decided to take steps to strengthen our fellowship.

First, we have resolved to be more than a network. We are an effective expression of faithful Anglicanism and therefore, recognising our responsibilities, we must organise ourselves in a way that demonstrates the seriousness of our objectives. These are threefold.
  • Proclaiming and contending for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Examples of work we wish to resource are the preparation of convincing theological rebuttals of any false gospel; supporting a network of theological colleges whose students are better oriented to ministry, whose faculties are well-trained, and whose curricula are built on the faithful reading of Scripture.  
  • Building the fellowship. We need to find new ways of supporting each other in mission and discipleship.
  • Authorising and affirming faithful Anglicans who have been excluded by their diocese or province. The main thrust of work here would be devoted to discerning the need for new provinces, dioceses and churches — and then authenticating their ministries and orders as Anglican.
Second, pursuing these objectives will require GFCA to operate on a more systematic basis and to that end we shall organise around a Primates’ Council, a Board of Trustees, an Executive Committee and regional liaison officers, who will be involved in fostering communication among FCAs.

Third, we recognise that moving the GFCA on to a new footing will involve making substantial new resources available. We must, therefore, invite provinces, dioceses, mission agencies, local congregations and individuals formally to become contributing members of the GFCA. In particular, we ask provinces to reconsider their support for those Anglican structures that are used to undermine biblical faithfulness and contribute instead, or additionally, to the financing of the GFCA’s on-going needs. 

Our Priorities
Our Lord’s command is ‘to go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:19–20). We believe therefore that our first priority must be to make disciples. This means that our movement must be committed to -
  • Evangelising areas of our world where clear gospel witness has become obscured or lost and bringing the gospel to unreached peoples. Much of our energy must be devoted to bringing the gospel to children and young people and developing the leaders of the future. We also recognise the need to pray for, love and witness to Muslims with the gospel of Jesus. We call upon churches to train their members in such outreach.
  • Supporting genuine gospel initiatives, recognising that there are times when the maintenance of structures can constrain the proclamation of the gospel. In line with The Jerusalem Statement’s expectation that the Primates’ Council would intervene to provide ‘orthodox oversight to churches under false leadership’, the Primates’ Council will carefully consider working beyond existing structures as an obedient response to Jesus’ commission to take the gospel to all nations.
  • Guarding the gospel. We shall continue publicly to expose any false gospel that is not consistent with apostolic teaching and clearly to articulate the gospel in the church and in the world.
Our second priority must be to deepen discipleship. We must keep stressing that our identity is primarily found in Christ rather than in national, ethnic or tribal attachments. In addition, there are many pressures on Christians today which require a degree of maturity in order to withstand them. These include aggressive secularism, where increasingly Christians are being told that their faith must only find expression in private, and not in public life, and where the contribution of Christianity to the public good is denied; militant Islamism which continues to threaten the existence and ministry of the church in some places; and seductive syncretism which introduces supposedly alternative approaches to God and thereby denies the uniqueness of Christ.

Countering these pressures and promoting the gospel in difficult circumstances requires Christians to accept that their witness involves suffering for Christ (2 Timothy 3:12); to stand with those who are suffering for Christ; to be alert to the ways in which the Scriptures are being falsely undermined by opponents; to engage graciously in the public square; and to refuse to be intimidated when subjected to persecution.

As a third priority, we must witness to the transforming effect of the gospel in working for the transformation of society, so that the values of the eternal Kingdom can be seen here and now. We therefore believe that it is right to engage in the public arena with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15–16), but without allowing our priorities to be shaped by the world’s agenda; that our churches should work for the protection of the environment and the economic empowerment of those who are deprived of resources; and that we should not ignore the cries of the marginalized and oppressed who need immediate aid.

We affirm the ministries of women and their vital contribution to the life of the church: their call to the task of evangelism, discipling, and building strong marriages, families, churches and communities. GAFCON 2013 upholds the Bible's teaching that men and women are equally made in the image of God, called to be his people in the body of Christ, exercising different gifts. We recognize that we have differing views over the roles of men and women in church leadership.

It grieves us that in many communities women and children are marginalized through poverty, lack of education, HIV/AIDS, the mistreatment of widows and orphans, and polygamy. Furthermore, they suffer domestic violence, sexual abuse, trafficking and abortion. We repudiate all such violence against women and children and call on the church to demonstrate respect for women, care for marginalized women and children around the world, and uphold the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.

We are conscious of the growing number of attacks on Christians in Nigeria and Pakistan, Syria and Egypt, Sudan and many other countries. Where our brothers and sisters are experiencing persecution, we must all call on governments and leaders of other religions to respect human rights, protect Christians from violent attack and take effective action to provide for freedom of religious expression for all.

We are conscious of many pressures on faithful gospel witness within the church, but equally conscious of the great need the world has to hear the gospel. The need for the GFCA is greater now than when we first met in Jerusalem in 2008. We believe the Holy Spirit is challenging us and the rest of the Anglican Communion to remain faithful to our biblical heritage; to support those who suffer as a result of obedience to Christ; to deepen the spiritual life of our churches; and to respond to anti-Christian pressures with a renewed determination to spread the gospel. The seriousness with which we take our mission and our fellowship will be reflected in the way individual churches make the GAFCON vision their own, and in how we resource the work the GFCA seeks to initiate. We invite all faithful Anglicans to join the GFCA.

Finally, we make the following commitment to strengthen our fellowship and promote the gospel.

The Nairobi Commitment
We are committed to Jesus Christ as the head of the Church, the authority of his Word and the power of his gospel.  The Son perfectly reveals God to us, he is the sole ground of our salvation, and he is our hope for the future. We seek to honour him, walk in faith and obedience to his teaching, and glorify him through our proclamation of his name.
Therefore, in the power of the Holy Spirit —
  1. We commit ourselves anew to The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration.
  2. We commit ourselves to supporting mission, both locally and globally, including outreach to Muslims. We also commit to encouraging lay training in obedience to the Great Commission to make and mature disciples, with particular attention to recruiting and mobilizing young people for ministry and leadership.
  3. We commit ourselves to give greater priority to theological education and to helping each other find the necessary resources. The purposes of theological education need clarifying so that students are better oriented to ministry, faculty are well-trained, and curricula are built on the faithful reading of Scripture.
  4. We commit ourselves to defend essential truths of the biblical faith even when this defence threatens existing structures of human authority (Acts 5:29).  For this reason, the bishops at GAFCON 2013 resolved ‘to affirm and endorse the position of the Primates’ Council in providing oversight in cases where provinces and dioceses compromise biblical faith, including the affirmation of a duly discerned call to ministry. This may involve ordination and consecration if the situation requires.’
  5. We commit ourselves to the support and defence of those who in standing for apostolic truth are marginalized or excluded from formal communion with other Anglicans in their dioceses. We have therefore recognized the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) as an expression of authentic Anglicanism both for those within and outside the Church of England, and welcomed their intention to appoint a General Secretary of AMiE.
  6. We commit ourselves to teach about God’s good purposes in marriage and in singleness. Marriage is a life-long exclusive union between a man and a woman. We exhort all people to work and pray for the building and strengthening of healthy marriages and families. For this reason, we oppose the secular tide running in favour of cohabitation and same-sex marriage.  
  7. We commit ourselves to work for the transformation of society though the gospel. We repudiate all violence, especially against women and children; we shall work for the economic empowerment of those who are deprived; and we shall be a voice for persecuted Christians.
  8. We commit ourselves to the continuation of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, putting membership, staffing and financing onto a new basis. We shall continue to work within the Anglican Communion for its renewal and reform.
  9. We commit ourselves to meet again at the next GAFCON.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

26 October 2013

Read it all here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

John W. Yates III reflects on working with John Stott

The Rev. Dr. John W. Yates III
SF's David Ould interviews at GAFCON 2013 John W. Yates III, rector of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, in the Anglican Diocese of the Carolinas.  John Yates III reflects on what it was like working with John Stott (called the "architect of 20th century evangelicalism who shaped the faith of a generation") as his study assistant, as well as on his experience this week at GAFCON in Nairobi, Kenya.

You can listen to the interview at SF or below:

John Stott has been described as "an architect of 20th-century evangelicalism who shaped the faith of a generation."   More here:

The Rev. Dr. John Stott
John Stott was ordained in 1945 and went on to become a curate at All Souls Church, Langham Place (1945–1950) then rector (1950–75). This was the church in which he had grown up, and in which he spent almost his whole life, apart from a few years spent in Cambridge. 
While in this position he became increasingly influential on a national and international basis, most notably being a key player in the 1966-67 dispute about the appropriateness of evangelicals remaining in the Church of England.  
He was chairing the National Assembly of Evangelicals in 1966, a convention organised by the Evangelical Alliance, when Martyn Lloyd-Jones made an unexpected call for evangelicals to unite together as evangelicals and no longer within their 'mixed' denominations. This view was motivated by a belief that true Christian fellowship requires evangelical views on central topics such as the atonement and the inspiration of Scripture. Lloyd-Jones was a key figure to many in the Free Churches, and evangelical Anglicans regarded Stott similarly. 
The two leaders publicly disagreed, as Stott, though not scheduled as a speaker that evening, used his role as chairman to refute Lloyd-Jones, saying that his opinion went against history and the Bible. The following year saw the first National Evangelical Anglican Congress, which was held at Keele University. At this conference, largely due to Stott's influence, evangelical Anglicans committed themselves to full participation in the Church of England, rejecting the separationist approach proposed by Lloyd-Jones. 
In 1970, in response to increasing demands on his time from outside the All Souls congregation, he appointed a vicar of All Souls, to enable himself to work on other projects. In 1975 he resigned as Rector, and the then vicar was appointed in his place; he remained at the church, and was appointed "Rector Emeritus." 
In 1974 he founded the Langham Partnership International and in 1982 the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, of which he remained honorary president until his death. Following his chairmanship of the second National Evangelical Anglican Congress in April 1977, the Nottingham statement was published, which claimed, "Seeing ourselves and Roman Catholics as fellow-Christians, we repent of attitudes that have seemed to deny it." 
He wrote over 50 books, some of which appear only in Chinese, Korean or Spanish, as well as many articles and papers. 
One of these is Basic Christianity, a book which seeks to explain the message of Christianity, and convince its readers of its truth and importance. 
He was also the author of The Cross of Christ, of which J. I. Packer stated, "No other treatment of this supreme subject says so much so truly and so well." 

Other books he wrote include Essentials, a dialogue with the liberal cleric and theologian David L. Edwards, over whether what Evangelicals hold as essential should be seen as such. In 2005, he produced Evangelical Truth, which summarizes what he perceives as being the central claims of Christianity, essential for evangelicalism. 
Upon his formal retirement from public engagements, he continued to engage in regular writing until his death. In 2008, he produced The Anglican Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism with J. Alec Motyer

An introduction to his thought can be found in his two final substantial publications, which act as a summation of his thinking. Both were published by the publishing house with which he had a lifelong association, IVP
  • In 2007, his reflections on the life of the church: The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor.
  • In January 2010, at the age of 88, he saw the launch of what would explicitly be his final book: The Radical Disciple. It concludes with a poignant farewell and appeal for his legacy to be continued through the work of the Langham Partnership International.
You can also hear the interview at SF here.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Reflections on a Dylan Long Gone: Hard Rain 1976

This is the first time I have seen a clear version of the Hard Rain Concert from May 23, 1976.  The versions I've seen have been worn copies of copies from old VHS tapes.  The concert was shown on television in 1976 and that was it. It's never made to DVD and the YouTube versions I've seen over the years were very rough.

This is a dark period in Dylan's career.  It's in the rather hallow space between the rousing Rolling Thunder Revue Tour (1975-1976) and the Gospel Tour (1979-1980).  Later in 1976, Martin Scorsese would film The Last Waltz as The Band says farewell to Bob Dylan, ending a major period in Dylan's career.

The period of 1977-1978 is a rather dark time, for the country and for Dylan.  We see the cubistic film Renaldo and Clara released for five minutes, never to be seen again (unless it's more of the grainy rough versions that come and go on YouTube).  His marriage ends. Elvis dies. Dylan tours Japan and releases Street Legal.  The period might be called his Neil Diamond Period - he might have been aiming for the Vegas Elvis, but got as far as Diamond.  He was missing something.

Then in November 1978, someone threw a cross up on the stage during his concert.  Dylan picked it up and put it in his pocket. "I brought it backstage and I brought it with me to the next town, which was out in Arizona," Dylan said in a 1979 interview. "I was feeling even worse than I'd felt when I was in San Diego. I said, 'Well, I need something tonight.' I didn't know what it was. I was used to all kinds of things. I said, 'I need something tonight that I didn't have before.' And I looked in my pocket and I had this cross."

By 1979, he would release Slow Train Coming.

With that all in mind, it is interesting to look back at this concert.  He does not perform like this anymore.  He did not perform like he did during most of the recorded Rolling Thunder Tour.  His earlier personas (masks?) - the hipster, the protester, the vagabond, the voice of a generation - are far behind him.

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

To watch this concert in its entirety for the first time - we see one angry young man.  He howls through the songs.  There is confusion on stage, what is he doing, who he is playing to, why is he up there - and what are the rest of those people there for - even Joan Baez, who seems as though she made a wrong turn on her way back to Macy's in Manhattan.

Whatever playful joy we see in Dylan over the years - well it does not show up here.  What we get here is pain.  It is an honest performance - and sometimes honesty is not what people want.  The critics didn't want it and this show has been buried or decades.  He's not going to work for Maggie's Farm no more, he howls, he's had it.  Done.

When he returns a year later, he fires all his friends, brings in Vegas-style back-up singers, and seeks his inner-Elvis (or what killed him), like it's all style and not soul.

The soul.  We get soul here and it's shattered. Watch if you can his Idiot Wind performance. He seems to be wailing at himself, filled with scorn and shame.  Maybe he is wailing at others - but it seems like the ugly rage is one the inside.  He pulls it back in the in the finale, bring us a a pleading of with Knocking on Heaven's Door. "Mama, take this badge off of me," he pleads, "I can't do it anymore." Tragic is not too strong a word.

Amazing.  In a few years he will sing a brand new song. He'll write those songs.  And he still sings those songs.  This "Dylan" will be gone.  Can't say I've seen him since.

Three years later he writes a brand new lexicon of music.  Here Gospel singers reflect and perform on the music he would only a few years after Hard Rain:

The iron hand it ain’t no match for the iron rod
The strongest wall will crumble and fall to a mighty God
For all those who have eyes and all those who have ears
It is only He who can reduce me to tears
Don’t you cry and don’t you die and don’t you burn
For like a thief in the night, He’ll replace wrong with right
When He returns
Truth is an arrow and the gate is narrow that it passes through
He unleashed His power at an unknown hour that no one knew
How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?
Can I cast it aside, all this loyalty and this pride?
Will I ever learn that there’ll be no peace, that the war won’t cease
Until He returns?
Surrender your crown on this blood-stained ground, take off your mask
He sees your deeds, He knows your needs even before you ask
How long can you falsify and deny what is real?
How long can you hate yourself for the weakness you conceal?
Of every earthly plan that be known to man, He is unconcerned
He’s got plans of His own to set up His throne
When He returns
B. Dylan 1979

Awesome video on baptism released by Lambeth Palace

Simply an awesome video made by the Archbishop of Canterbury prior to tomorrow's baptism of Prince George, son of Prince William and his wife Kate.  Bishop Dan Martins of Springfield writes of the video, "Does he say everything that it is important to say about baptism? No. Is it a warmly accessible introduction to what baptism means? Superbly so. Indeed, an evangelistic moment."

Very moving - inspiring.

Opening Press Conference from #GAFCON2013 now online

Here is the opening press conference at GAFCON 2013.  "Sometimes people think that #GAFCON is a breakaway movement from the Anglican Communion," says Archbishop Peter Jensen. "Nothing can be further from the truth."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Archbishop of Canterbury meets with GAFCON leaders

From here:

Primates Gather for Worship

Archbishop Welby and Archbishop Wabukala this morning.
As the GAFCON Primates gathered together for worship today at All Saint's Cathedral in Nairobi, Kenya they were joined by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Archibishop Welby preached to a full church in a service led by Archbishop Wabukala, Primate of Kenya.

In his sermon, Archbishop Welby acknowledged that the structures of the Anglican Communion need to look very different if they are to serve the mission of the church in the years to come.
Archbishop Wabukala and Archbishop Duncan.

Later in the service, Archbishop Wabukala was assisted at communion by the Most Rev. Robert Duncan, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, the Most Rev. Daniel Deng, Archbishop of South Sudan, and the Most Rev. Tito Zavala, Archbishop of the Southern Cone.

After the service, the Primates gathered at Bishopsborne, the home of Archbishop Wabakula for lunch and fellowship. In addition to Archbishop Welby, the gathering was joined by Dr. Christian Turner, the British High Commissioner to Kenya.

UPDATE: George Conger has posted a story following the Archbishop of Canterbury's visit with the GAFCON primates.  Here are excerpts:

Welby backs GAFCON vision for a renewed Church

Archbishops Deng Bul, Duncan, Welby and Wabkula.  
The Archbishop of Canterbury offered his qualified personal endorsement to Gafcon today, telling the congregation of All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi his vision for the future of the Anglican Communion was of a Bible-based church dedicated to mission and evangelism – goals shared by the Gafcon movement of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA).

While Archbishop Justin Welby stopped short of giving Gafcon his formal imprimatur, he conceded the existing instruments of communion were no longer fit for purpose in ordering the life of the Anglican world.

The archbishop also hinted the Communion may not be able to count upon the Church of England to hold the line on issues close to the heart of the Gafcon movement. Archbishop Welby recounted his strong public opposition to the British government’s same-sex marriage bill, noting it had come at a great “personal cost” to him as the culture and government were hostile to the church. However, he was silent on whether the Church of England would permit the blessing of gay civil unions.

The archbishop’s multi-layered sermon evolved over its two presentations – after being all but silent about Gafcon in his first sermon, in its second reading the archbishop spoke three times about the forthcoming Gafcon conference, set for 21-26 October 2013, at All Saints Cathedral ...

... Dr. Peter Jensen, the former Archbishop of Sydney and the current General Secretary of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans -- the sponsor of the Gafcon conference -- said he was encouraged by the address. The archbishop’s statement “the old ways are no longer appropriate, the old structures no longer work, given on the eve of Gafcon, give us hope,” he said.

A tired and wan Archbishop Welby spent only 18 hours in Kenya, arriving in the early hours of Sunday. Travelling without his minders, the archbishop stayed at the home of Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya, before preaching before the 9:30 and 11:30 congregations at the Cathedral. Following his sermons he went into a closed door meeting with the primates’ council.
The archbishop is scheduled to leave Nairobi on Sunday evening and fly to Iceland to chair a meeting of the primates of the Poorvoo Communion on Monday ...

... To combat the subordination of the church to the culture of the world, the “Bible must be at the heart of our study, our life, our walk with Jesus” he said, but a “church that only reads but does not act, disgraces the Bible.”

The archbishop then moved into the heart of his sermon, saying “our differences will always exist. How we deal with them is clear from Scripture; but the church seldom follows” Scripture when dealing with conflict.

“There is a need for new structures in the Anglican Communion, “the archbishop said, adding the issues that divide us are “simple and complicated.”

To address them “we need a new way of being in communion, not the colonial structures” of the past, he said. But it was unclear as to what the solution was as each province offered its own solution to the problem, yet “we must find a way to live together, so the world will see” Jesus is Lord.

The Anglican world must be a sign to the world of the power of Christ and must engage in a deliberate program of “witness, worship, evangelism, and a passion for the Holy Spirit.”

“The more seriously we take the Bible” the more effectively we will be able to deal with our divisions, he said.

The archbishop then offered personal vignettes of the power of prayer and the freedom found in God’s word, recounting his experience of being held hostage by bandits in Nigeria, and of his conversion experience as a young man in Kenya.

He then turned to the situation in England, recounting the difficult debate in the House of Lords over the government’s bill to permit same-sex marriage. “In England, we in the church disagree with same-sex marriage because we honor marriage, not out of hate, or fear or anger.”

“I spoke at great personal cost” against the bill and received opprobrium and “hatred” from those who supported changing marriage. But as the Letter to the Hebrews said we must keep “the marriage bed undefiled”, the church could not support this change, just as it could not support “adultery or pornography.”

A “church that flourishes” is a church that is “based on the Bible” he said. “We all fail,” he said, because “we all sin,” but a “Biblically-centered, practically loving” church is what God wants Anglicans to be.

While the Lambeth Palace Press Office had released a statement saying Archbishop Welby was visiting Kenya to stand in solidarity with its people in the wake of the Westgate Mall terror attack, he made no mention of terrorism in his sermons and his time in Nairobi was spent exclusively on Gafcon.

Read it all here.