Saturday, 30 December 2006

covenant primer

Giles Fraser writes in this week’s Church Times about Covenant theology for everyone.

…The Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright — basically, Mr Covenant as far the present crisis is concerned — gets it spot on: “All those who believe in Jesus belong at the same table.”

Yet there are those for whom this new testament is not enough. They want a new new testament, creating a sub-division within the category “all those who believe in Jesus”. They want to write a new new testament that will distinguish first- and second-class Christians. And the sign of this unbiblical covenant is to be sound doctrine, as defined by a small coterie of conservative Evangelicals…

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New Year weekend: columns

In The Times Katharine Jefferts Schori writes that A new year is a fine time to search for shalom, Isaiah-style.

See also this video at YouTube of Katharine Jefferts Schori, then Bishop of Nevada and Presiding Bishop nominee, answering the question: “What are the priorities for the new Presiding Bishop?” Recorded May 1, 2006. (hat tip JN)

In the Guardian John Sentamu writes that Ethics must shape our global economy.

Christopher Howse in the Telegraph writes about Our splendid but unseen synagogues.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 30 December 2006 at 8:23am GMT | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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Friday, 29 December 2006

‘Own goal’ rebuke for CEEC

The Church Times reports that Bishop Pete Broadbent has disowned the “covenant” document. Read Pat Ashworth’s report here.

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Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Nigeria and Virginia: two more articles

First, the New York Times published this news article on Christmas Day (in the paper edition it was a front-page story): At Axis of Episcopal Split, an Anti-Gay Nigerian by Lydia Polgreen and Laurie Goodstein. Lydia Polgreen reported from Abuja, and Laurie Goodstein from New York.

It includes some interesting quotes from Archbishop Drexel Gomez:

…He [Akinola] has been chastised more recently for creating a missionary branch of the Nigerian church in the United States, called the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, despite Anglican rules and traditions prohibiting bishops from taking control of churches or priests not in their territory.

“There are primates who are very, very concerned about it,” said Archbishop Drexel Gomez, the primate of the West Indies, because “it introduces more fragmentation.”

Other conservative American churches that have split from the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the Anglican Communion, have aligned themselves with other archbishops, in Rwanda, Uganda and several provinces in Latin America — often because they already had ties to these provinces through mission work.

Archbishop Gomez said he understood Archbishop Akinola’s actions because the American conservatives felt an urgent need to leave the Episcopal Church and were unwilling to wait for a new covenant being written for the Anglican Communion. The new covenant is a lengthy and uncertain process led by Archbishop Gomez that some conservatives hope will eventually end the impasse over homosexuality…

Second, there is an interesting article analysing the history of the Virginia congregations known as The Falls Church and Truro Church by Dr Joan R Gundersen: How “Historic” Are Truro Church and The Falls Church?

In the last few weeks, we have heard a lot about the two “historic” churches in Virginia whose congregations are among those that have recently decided to withdraw from The Episcopal Church. Both Truro Church and The Falls Church have been characterized as being older than The Episcopal Church. The Falls Church web site suggests that George Washington was once a vestry member of the church. The history on the Truro web site makes the same claim for Truro Church. Somehow, these historical assertions are supposed to make us feel that the decision to leave The Episcopal Church is especially poignant and important.

Let me be clear: I believe that any decision to leave The Episcopal Church, by an individual or a group, is a sad occasion. There is a lot of confusion and misinformation being distributed concerning the actual history of these parishes, however. Neither is the direct descendant of a colonial parish. Neither can claim George Washington as a past member of its vestry or its congregation. Both are “new” church plants from the 1830s and 1840s. In most places in the United States, founding dates in the antebellum period would be quite old enough to justify a claim of being “historic,” but these two parishes have sought the additional aura associated with George Washington and our colonial past. How “historic” are they?

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Monday, 25 December 2006

Canterbury Christmas sermon

The Archbishop of Canterbury preached at Canterbury Cathedral. See this Lambeth Palace press release.

The full text of his Christmas sermon can be found here: ‘The poorest deserve the best’.

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Sunday, 24 December 2006

Christmas messages

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued his Christmas message in several languages, you can read it in English here, and translations into Spanish, French, Arabic, Portuguese, Korean, and Dutch are also available.

Dr Williams also wrote an article for The Big Issue on the Archbishop’s Hopes for 2007.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has issued her Christmas message in both English and Spanish. You can read it in either language here.

Dr Jefferts Schori also wrote this reflection, In this season: light in the darkness.

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Saturday, 23 December 2006

Rowan Williams writes to the primates

Updated Wednesday and again Saturday

The reliability of this text (dated 18 December) has been the subject of some questions during the past day, so I have been slow to link to it. However, it is now available in full both here and here.

The part dealing with the Primates’ Meeting in Tanzania in February reads as follows:

…As Christmas approaches, preparations continue to be made for the Primates’ Meeting in February in Tanzania. A provisional outline of the programme is almost ready – but I am particularly glad that we shall have opportunity to celebrate in the cathedral in Zanzibar the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in 1806, another great sign of God’s faithfulness and of what can be achieved by Christ’s disciples when they resist the powers of this world.

This meeting will be, of course, an important and difficult and important encounter, with several moments of discernment and decision to be faced, and a good deal of work to be done on our hopes for the Lambeth Conference, and on the nature and shape of the Covenant that we hope will assist us in strengthening our unity as a Communion.

There are two points I wish to touch on briefly. The first is a reminder of what our current position actually is in relation to the Episcopal Church. This Province has agreed to withdraw its representation from certain bodies in the Communion until Lambeth 08; and the Joint Standing Committee has appointed a sub-group which has been working on a report to develop our thinking as to how we should as a meeting interpret the Episcopal Church’s response so far to the Windsor recommendations. In other words, questions remain to be considered about the Episcopal Church’s relations with other Provinces (though some Provinces have already made their position clear). I do not think it wise or just to take any action that will appear to bring that consideration and the whole process of our shared discernment to a premature end.

This is why I have decided not to withhold an invitation to Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the elected Primate of the Episcopal Church to attend the forthcoming meeting. I believe it is important that she be given a chance both to hear and to speak and to discuss face to face the problems we are confronting together. We are far too prone to talk about these matters from a distance, without ever having to face the human reality of those from whom we differ. However, given the acute dissension in the Episcopal Church at this point, and the very widespread effects of this in the Communion, I am also proposing to invite two or three other contributors from that Province for a session to take place before the rest of our formal business, in which the situation may be reviewed, and I am currently consulting as to how this is best organised.

The Episcopal Church is not in any way a monochrome body and we need to be aware of the full range of conviction within it. I am sure that other Primates, like myself, will welcome the clear declarations by several bishops and diocesan conventions (including those dioceses represented at the Camp Allen meeting earlier this year) of their unequivocal support for the process and recommendations of the Windsor Report. There is much to build upon here. There are many in TEC who are deeply concerned as to how they should secure their relationships with the rest of the Communion; I hope we can listen patiently to these anxieties…

There has already been extensive blogosphere comment on the passage quoted above, and also on the section concerning invitations to the Lambeth Conference in 2008 (see the original for this).

See Sarah Dylan Breuer, Fr Jake, Tobias Haller, and also see reader comments at Stand Firm and titusonenine.

Update
Remarks elsewhere suggest not everybody knows about the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the ACC and its working group of four people (2 primates, 2 ACC members) set up to advise the ABC. See my earlier report here, which said:

This letter includes information about the initial report Joint Standing Committee’s group of four “set up to advise in the wake of the Episcopal Church’s 75th General Convention”:

…You will recall that the Joint Standing Committee appointed a small group of representatives from its number (two Primates and two laypeople, along with staff support) to assist me in preparing an initial response…

The membership of this group is not named in the letter but is: Archbishop Bernard Malango (Central Africa), Archbishop Barry Morgan (Wales), Mrs Philippa Amable (West Africa), and Mrs Elizabeth Paver (England). Their initial thinking is presented as follows:

It is clear that the Communion as a whole remains committed to the teaching on human sexuality expressed in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, and also that the recommendations of the Windsor Report have been widely accepted as a basis for any progress in resolving the tensions that trouble us. As a Communion, we need to move forward on the basis of this twofold recognition.

It is also clear that the Episcopal Church has taken very seriously the recommendations of the Windsor Report; but the resolutions of General Convention still represent what can only be called a mixed response to the Dromantine requests. The advisory group has spent much time in examining these resolutions in great detail, and its sense is that although some aspects of these requests have been fully dealt with, there remain some that have not. This obviously poses some very challenging questions for our February meeting and its discernment of the best way forward.

Update Saturday
The letter has been reported now by Associated Press , see for example, Episcopal conservatives may be invited to global Anglican meeting.

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Christmas weekend: columns

The Times has Pius Ncube of Bulawayo writing the Credo column: Homeless but not hopeless in Africa.

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about Myrrh beyond the gloom. There is a leader entitled The babe in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

In the Guardian the Face to Faith column We must not forget that Bethlehem is under siege is written by Alan McDonald who is the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

The Guardian also has a leader, Beyond belief which is related to the front page report, Religion does more harm than good - poll.
(A related news report by Stephen Bates is Devout Poles show Britain how to keep the faith.)

The Church Times leader is Two cheers for sentimentality.

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Friday, 22 December 2006

Rowan Williams visits Bethlehem

The visit of British church leaders to Bethlehem is widely reported. See for example the Telegraph report ‘Bethlehem wall’ shock for Williams. The BBC has had Church leaders in Bethlehem visit and Israel barrier saddens Archbishop. The Evening Standard has Bethlehem wall is ‘deeply wrong’ says Archbishop. The Guardian had ‘We are facing the hardest Christmas yet’.

ACNS release with excellent photos (click on them to enlarge) Church Leaders Pledge Support for Christians in Bethlehem.
Lambeth Palace release, including full text of RW’s remarks, Archbishop - Bethlehem’s troubles remembered.

Update Saturday morning
The Times has published an article by Rowan Williams published under the title Pray for the little town of Bethlehem together with a news article Christians suffer for Iraq, says archbishop, a leader Symbols and Substance and a related report ‘All my staff at the church have been killed - they disappeared’.
The Lambeth Palace press release is here: Archbishop - Middle East Christians need support.

For more material about the visit, see this special website.

For a partial transcript of this morning’s Radio 4 Today interview go here. For the BBC audio of this interview go here.

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American reports (2)

Now back to our regularly scheduled coverage of the Virginia schism.

The Church Times has a report by Doug LeBlanc Property at issue as nine churches quit ECUSA.

Archbishop Peter Akinola has issued A Letter of Greeting from Archbishop Peter Akinola to the congregations who have recently joined CANA in which he says this:

…Sadly, I have also heard that some are suggesting that you are now affiliated with a Church that seeks to punish homosexual persons. That is a distortion of our true position. We are a Church that teaches the truth of the Holy Scriptures and understands that every person, regardless of their religion or sexual orientation, is made in the image of God, loved by God, and deserving of the utmost respect. That is the conviction that informs our passion for evangelism and drives our determination to establish new dioceses and congregations. We have no desire to place anyone outside the reach of God’s saving love and that is why we have supported well reasoned statements such as Resolution 1.10 from the Lambeth Conference in 1998 and also the section of the Dromantine Communiqué, which condemns the “victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex.”

As I am sure you have heard, there is a bill currently being debated by the Nigerian Legislature that addresses the topic of same-sex marriages and homosexual activism. The Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria, in its desire to see the strengthening of marriage and family life in our society, has commended the legislators for tackling this difficult issue. We have no desire to see our nation follow the path of license and immorality that we have witnessed in other parts of the world. And we also oppose the severe sanctions of Islamic law.

We recognize that there are genuine concerns about individual human rights that must be addressed both in the framing of the law and its implementation. I am glad to inform you that while the Honorable Speaker of the House, a Moslem, wanted the immediate and outright passage of the bill, the Deputy Speaker, an Anglican, persuaded his colleagues to allow full public debate on it.

I am troubled, however, by the silence of outside commentators concerning the rights of the clergy, Christians, and particularly converts to our Church whose lives are threatened and too often destroyed because of mob violence. I see no evidence of compassion for those whose rights are trampled on because of the imposition of unjust religious laws in many parts of the world. There seems to be a strange lack of interest in this issue…

You can read the whole letter here on the CANA website.

There is also a letter there from Bishop Martyn Minns headed A Pastoral Letter for the new CANA Congregations. You can read that one here. He writes in part:

…Media coverage of our actions has been quite extensive. It has been prompted by the national and international implications of our decisions along with the reality that this is an unprecedented movement of congregations out of The Episcopal Church. As expected, not all of the media coverage was positive. I want to address one recurring untrue accusation concerning our attitude towards homosexual persons. Our vote was not an “anti-gay” vote. We affirm that as Christians we believe that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, is made in the image of God, and deserving of the utmost respect. As the Dromantine Communiqué (issued by the Primates when they met in Ireland last year) states, “. . . we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support of homosexual people” and oppose “the victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex.” And we have and must continue to witness to these convictions by our words and actions. I have attached a recent letter from Archbishop Peter Akinola that addresses this same issue from his perspective. Please notice the difference between what he actually says and believes and the dismissive tag lines that are often attributed to him.

Another persistent untrue theme is the way in which we care for those who voted to remain in The Episcopal Church. As I have said repeatedly, and I am sure you have heard from your own clergy and lay leadership, everyone is welcome to participate in our common life regardless of their vote on this or any matter. We are not monochrome congregations but diverse communities whose unity is in Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If someone tells you that they voted against the resolution, then I encourage you assure them that they are loved and included as full members of the family of God in this place. If there is any way in which I can help in this matter please let me know. My calling is to provide for the care and nurture of every member of our growing fellowship.

You may have read a response to our actions from Bishop Peter Lee. While his disappointment was to be expected, I am saddened that his language seems strangely harsh. I am particularly troubled by the rather blatant attempt to create fear and division by the use of the phrase “Nigerian Congregations Occupying Episcopal Churches”. This is not the Bishop Lee that I know and respect. I look forward to the return of his more usual tone of creativity and generosity. We all know that while we may have changed our ecclesiastical allegiance we remain loyal and faithful Anglican Christians in America. The character of our communities remains the same.

The question of property seems to loom large in many people’s minds. I draw your attention to the following press statement that was released yesterday by Truro and The Fall Church, “Anglican Churches Comply with Virginia Statute Requiring Reports of Their Congregations’ Votes.” It clearly states our belief that we have a valid and compelling claim to the various church properties which we have for generations “occupied”. We also believe that this should be handled in a respectful conversation with the leadership of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. We are trying to avoid both costly litigation and a media circus. Initial signs from the meeting of the Standing Committee and Executive Board are encouraging and we are preparing to engage in substantive conversation after the Christmas Holidays…

Some of the press reports which may have prompted these letters can be found below:
Washington Post Episcopalians Against Equality by Howard Meyerson
Nation Holy Homophobia by Richard Kim
Economist Wars of religion - Schism in Virginia
Falls Church News-Press Editorial: No Surprise To Us Locals

The press release about voting reports mentioned by Bishop Minns, Anglican Churches Comply with Virginia Statute Requiring Reports of Their Congregations’ Votes can be found here (PDF).

The Living Church had this interview with Bishop Peter Lee Bishop Lee: Extension to 30-Day Standstill Agreement Possible.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 22 December 2006 at 4:03pm GMT | Comments (51) | TrackBack
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American reports (1)

Updated again 7 January

First, not Virginia, but Pittsburgh.

From the diocesan website: Calvary Church Reopens Lawsuit Against Diocese.

From the Calvary Church website: CALVARY FILES PETITION IN COURT OF COMMON PLEAS. The Court website for documents is here.

The actual petition text will be found there, but as it is a 21 Mb PDF file, you may not want to download it. The paper original is 315 pages long.

UPDATE a somewhat smaller version of the PDF file is now available from here (6.5 Mbytes).

The matter is discussed more briefly by Jim Naughton here.

This further 28 page filing by Calvary is only 1.4 Mbytes (PDF) so much easier to read, and contains a lot of the interesting information.

Update There is also an ENS report on this, PITTSBURGH: Parish asks court to protect diocesan property.

Update The January issue of Agape is now online as a PDF and contains an article by the rector, Harold Lewis, about why further legal action is now being taken by the parish.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 22 December 2006 at 3:47pm GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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something else from the CEN

The View from Fleet Street column for the Christmas issue is written this week by Stephen Bates. You can read it here at Religious Intelligence.

Enjoy.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 22 December 2006 at 2:39pm GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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latest on the CCE "covenant"

Updated Saturday

The Church Times has this news report by Pat Ashworth ‘Covenant’ is a cynical stab in the side, says Wright. (A further report there is only available to subscribers. It deals with mounting anger this week over claims by the authors of the covenant document to be speaking for the whole of their networks.)

The Church of England Newspaper has two detailed analyses which can be read in full at Religious Intelligence.
The first is by Andrew Carey Analysis: The new Anglican ‘covenant’ proposal and the second is by Andrew Goddard of Fulcrum Analysis: Anglican ‘covenant’ needs prudence.
I understand the CEN also has a news article on this matter, by Andrew Carey, but it is not available on the web at present except to CEN subscribers. I also understand a further article, written specifically from the Anglican Mainstream perspective, will appear next week.
The Andrew Goddard article now also appears on the Fulcrum website.

Update
A further explanatory note has been published by CEEC:

Statement for CEEC members
I have consulted with the President, Wallace Benn, and would like to note the following in respect of the on-going debate regarding the recent ‘covenant’.
1 I have written to the Evangelical Bishops with my comments and observations
2 I have also written to the Bishop of Durham and asked him to meet with me to discuss the implications of his comments and also to address and take part in a discussion at CEEC
I have done this privately so as not to continue debate by email.
CEEC will continue to work hard at Evangelical identity and unity. My own book on this matter, Anglican and Evangelical?, will be published by Continuum in April 2007. I hope that the Bishop of Durham and other Bishops will be part of this debate.
CEEC remains committed also to representing the authentic voice of the constituency, parishes, colleges, societies and other networks and groups in ensuring a biblical and Anglican Evangelical voice in current debates. The recent ‘Covenant for the Church of England’ is simply one aspect of that witness from a range of networks and groups. The CEEC consented in October to the signatures of the President and Chairman being appended to this ‘covenant.’

Richard Turnbull
Chairman
December 21, 2006

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Thursday, 21 December 2006

Getting Equal: Northern Ireland goes ahead

An attempt by religious groups to delay the introduction of The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 on 1 January was rebuffed in the High Court. See this BBC report, Gay rights objectors lose action, and this earlier: Go ahead for gay rights challenge.

Last week, an attempt in the Northern Ireland Transitional Assembly to pass a motion calling on the government to withdraw the regulations was defeated by the narrowest of margins. See the earlier BBC report, Assembly clashes over gay rights.

For more background, read William Crawley’s blog, Will and Testament, in particular these articles:
21 Dec New Gay rights law gets the go-ahead
20 Dec Church leaders meet the minister over new gay rights law
18 Dec Christian groups challenge equality legislation
13 Dec The Equality Act

There is also this rather odd press release from the Church of Ireland.

The government’s analysis of the many responses to its consultation can be found in html format here.
Further links to government material here.

My earlier analysis of the religious exemption provided in the regulations is here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 21 December 2006 at 10:48pm GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Virginia: Tuesday reports

Updated Tuesday evening

At the risk of overkill, here are some further links to reports about or comments on the Virginia parish defections from ECUSA (how come Christ Church Plano didn’t get similar coverage?)

Stephen Bates has written on Comment is free about The problem of dissolution.

Rachel Zoll of the Associated Press has a report, Leader: Episcopal Church not splintering.

Dave Walker has another cartoon, How a chain of evangelistic carpet shops could help the Episcopal church.

The Diocese of Virginia has issued two further press releases:
News Update from the Diocese of Virginia
Diocesan Leaders to Reach Out to All Episcopalians

Episcopal News Service had Virginia diocese promises ‘every encouragement’ to Episcopalians remaining in disaffected congregations by Mary Frances Schjonberg

The Anglican Communion Network (or NACDAP) issued this press release:
Network Moderator Commends Virginia Churches

The Living Church has Seven Virginia Parishes Vote to Leave Diocese by George Conger and also Virginia Diocese Will ‘Assert’ Canonical and Legal Rights.

Statistics on the voting, membership, etc. of the departing parishes is being maintained in a spreadsheet here (thanks Karen B).

For American local TV reports, scroll down at this titusonenine entry, and follow the links there.

Religion News Service Episcopal Split Accelerates as Va. Parishes Vote to Leave by Daniel Burke.

The Washington Post has Diocese Declares Time Out on Lawsuits by Michelle Boorstein.
And the Richmond Times-Dispatch has Legal action put on hold in Episcopal split by Alberta Lindsey.
The Washington Times had Julia Duin saying Diocese approves freeze on litigation.

Updates
Another Episcopal News Service report, ‘Large, viable remnant’ wants to continue as Episcopal congregation.

Another Comment is free article, Anglicans in America by Bruce Bawer.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 19 December 2006 at 2:39pm GMT | Comments (25) | TrackBack
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signatures and more about the CCE

Anglican Mainstream has published a Signatories to A Covenant for the Church of England, and a Questions that may be asked document. Both can be read here.

These are preceded by the following comment (which itself raises an unanswered question):

The signatories to “A Covenant for the Church of England” are now being made public together with some background explanation. Although it was our original intention to publish the list of signatories and the “Questions that may be Asked” at the same time as the Covenant, we have withheld them for one week at the request of Lambeth Palace. We are publishing them now in the hope that they will help people to understand the full context in which these conversations have been begun.

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Monday, 18 December 2006

Listening Process at the ACO

The ACO website has a whole subsection, one of six areas under Windsor Process, concerned with the Listening Process and the work of Phil Groves.

There is a great deal of interesting and useful information on these pages, including several contributions from around the world, and they deserve a careful perusal by all Anglicans.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 18 December 2006 at 3:30pm GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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"covenant" cartoon

See Dave Walker’s take on The conservative evangelical ‘covenant’.

Update And I also want to second his commendation of the splendid comment about all this by Paul Roberts which you can find at A lament for Evangelicalism.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 18 December 2006 at 2:25pm GMT | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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Virginia: Monday reports

Updated again Monday evening

BBC radio interviewed Martyn Minns on the Today programme. Listen here (3 min 20sec). There is a reference to what he said at Ekklesia see here.

Update
Jane Little has a further report for the BBC at Schism looming for Anglican Communion.
Later Update The BBC has this updated profile of Archbishop Peter Akinola. He is quoted:

…Archbishop Akinola - a man known for his outspoken views on homosexuality - says he is thankful to God over the decision.

“Once there’s a crack in the wall, you are likely to have all sorts creeping in” he told the BBC website in Abuja.

“When we began to notice these cracks a few years back, we did try as much as humanly possible under God to patch up these cracks,” he added.

But, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (Ecusa) refused to back down.

“Since the leadership of the church in America keeps doing everything we thought they would not do, those who don’t agree with them have chosen to go where they want to go and I thank God,” he said…

The Guardian has a report by Stephen Bates Two Anglican parishes lead anti-gay split from US church but the Telegraph has nothing yet an afternoon report: Virginia churches split from US Anglicans and The Times has only a brief note. Ruth Gledhill has however got a more detailed report on her blog headlined Property battles loom as US churches quit.

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times has Episcopal Parishes in Virginia Vote to Secede. An earlier version of that report is here.

Julia Duin of the Washington Times has 8 Virginia flocks break away.

Alberta Lindsey of the Richmond Times-Dispatch has Seven Va. Episcopal churches break away.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review interviewed Bishop Robert Duncan Episcopal bishop: Church torn apart.

See here (URL will not last more than a day) for the front page picture in the Washington Post . Text of report previously linked is here.

Reuters Virginia churches break from U.S. Episcopal Church
Associated Press later version of Episcopal Parishes in Va. Break Away.

Update
A video of the entire CANA press conference (about 40 minutes) can be viewed here. Unfortunately, it is impossible to hear the questions during the question period, only the answers are audible.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 18 December 2006 at 9:04am GMT | Comments (66) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 17 December 2006

Virginia: Sunday reports

Updated Sunday Evening

The BBC Sunday radio programme had a report on the Northern Virginia parishes by Jane Little in Washington, About 4 minutes, now available here.

BBC report also here: US parishes weigh Anglican split.

Other press coverage:
Associated Press Rachel Zoll Episcopal Parishes Might Break Away

New York Times Laurie Goodstein Episcopalians Are Reaching Point of Revolt

Update
Voting results from BabyBlue

BREAKING NEWS: The Falls Church votes 90% in favor of severing ties with The Episcopal Church
The Falls Church has voted 90% in favor of severing their ties and leaving The Episcopal Church immediately to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). They also voted resoundingly (96%) to retain their property.

and now also:

Truro votes overwhelmingly to sever ties with the Episcopal Church
Truro Church has also voted 92.1% to sever ties with The Episcopal Church and join CANA immediately. They also voted 94.3% to retain their property.

Washington Post Bill Turque and Michelle Boorstein Two Episcopal Congregations Split From Church

A Statement from the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia

BBC US church splits over sexuality

Associated Press Matthew Barakat Virginia parishes split from Episcopal Church over sexuality

Episcopal News Service Mary Frances Schjonberg Virginia bishop vows to care for remaining Episcopalians, assert rights to departing congregations’ property

Statement by Martyn Minns at press conference (from titusonenine)

Press Release from The Falls Church and Truro Church (via BabyBlue)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 17 December 2006 at 8:33pm GMT | Comments (64) | TrackBack
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weekend opinion columns

Geza Vermes wrote in the GuardianFace to Faith column that Mary was probably not a virgin in the modern sense of the word.

Christopher Howse wrote in the Telegraph about a Remarkable piece of cardboard.

Jonathan Sacks wrote in The Times about Chanukah, in Candles in memory of a clash of civilisations.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 17 December 2006 at 6:52pm GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 16 December 2006

second big weekend in Virginia

The first one was here. And the statement of the ACC Secretary General in the matter of CANA’s ecclesiastical status was reported yesterday.

This weekend voting concludes in the two big parishes, The Falls Church and Truro Church, and there is some excitement in the air. See also the comments to that post for some descriptions of last Sunday. At another parish the voting is over and the result declared.

Detailed instructions have been issued to the media in anticipation of extensive coverage tomorrow. That PDF is also available as html, here.

Some very strong stuff indeed appeared Thursday in the Falls Church News-Press:
F.C. Episcopal to Report Results of Vote to Defect Sunday
Nicholas F. Benton: An ‘Old South’ Backlash
Editorial: Descent Into The Abyss

The Living Church has published two further reports:
Secretary General of ACC Clarifies Communion Status of CANA
Virginia Diocese Questions Voting Procedure

If like me you were puzzled as to why the diocese cared about the voting procedure details, this comment on titusonenine explains.

The Clergy and Wardens of the Church of the Apostles, Fairfax, Virginia, wrote a letter to Bishop Peter Lee which you can read in full here.

The perception of Truro Church leadership concerning CANA’s Anglican District of Virginia are contained in this PDF file.

The Washington Times had this detailed report by Julia Duin today: Diocese faces exodus of flock.

And if you are wondering about whether Virginia law is clear about the ownership of parish church property this note by Jim Naughton On church property may confuse you further.

Further update: some useful background statistics on the voting numbers involved can be found here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 16 December 2006 at 1:36pm GMT | Comments (35) | TrackBack
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Tom Wright: A Confused 'Covenant'

Following Fulcrum’s earlier initial response, now comes Bishop Tom Wright’s very detailed (over 6000 words) and very critical analysis of ‘A Covenant for the Church of England’. You can read it all here.

I am surprised that this document (‘A Covenant for the Church of England’, hereafter CCE) has been issued, and sorry that its clear grasp of some issues is not matched by clarity or wisdom on others. I fully understand what the Bishop of Rochester has referred to as the ‘strength of feeling’ which it demonstrates, but could wish that this had been matched by strength of thinking, both in the strategic decision to make this move at this time and in the detail of much of the document…

Fulcrum forum discussion here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 16 December 2006 at 8:27am GMT | Comments (54) | TrackBack
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Friday, 15 December 2006

statistics on civil partnerships

Changing Attitude has published a lengthy and detailed analysis on the number of civil partnerships of Church of England members reported to it. You can read the whole report here: Changing Attitude reveals results of Civil Partnership Survey.

They report a total of 87 Anglican events out of an English total of 14,084. (UK total 15,672). (That’s 0.6 % of the English total.)

The official national statistics can be found here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 15 December 2006 at 3:33pm GMT | Comments (30) | TrackBack
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more on the "Covenant for the CofE"

The Church Times reports on the covenant shenanigans with Conservative Evangelicals lay their cards on the table.

The Church of England Newspaper has an article which is reproduced elsewhere, e.g. at Global South Anglican titled Evangelicals deliver claim for alternative structures.

Stephen Bates managed to squeeze in a reference to it during his Guardian article Action by Tanzanian bishops risks new gay priests row.

Ekklesia had Keep Church of England open, bishops and leaders urged.

Changing Attitude has published this press release: A response to the conservative evangelical Covenant.

And, a couple of blog entries: MadPriest called it A Covenant Of Straw and Dave Walker had presciently blogged this: Reform website.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 15 December 2006 at 1:22pm GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Kearon on CANA

The Anglican Communion Office has issued this statement:

From the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion

‘In response to a number of queries, and following consultation with The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion has issued the following statement:

“The Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) is, to my knowledge, a “mission” of the Church of Nigeria. It is not a branch of the Anglican Communion as such but an organsation which relates to a single province of the Anglican Communion. CANA has not petitioned the Anglican Consultative Council for any official status within the Communion’s structures, nor has the Archbishop of Canterbury indicated any support for its establishment.”’

The Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon

If you are wondering why this statement was thought necessary, you need to go here, and read the statement by Mary Springmann or read this shorter explanation.

Update Anglican Mainstream has published a response to this from CANA (perhaps it will appear on the CANA website later) which can be read here.
Further Update Yes, it is now on the CANA site here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 15 December 2006 at 12:51pm GMT | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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two responses to the real covenant proposal

Affirming Catholicism has responded to the covenant consultation paper initiated some time ago by the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and of the Primates’ Meeting, with a press release, Covenant could cause division and a more lengthy document, available here in Word format.

Affirming Catholicism is also holding a day conference in January to discuss ‘Anglicanism: Unity and Diversity’.

The document “Towards an Anglican Covenant”, to which this is responding can be found at the ACO website. See also this ACNS press release.

InclusiveChurch has also responded to the ACO request, and its response ‘Towards an Anglican Covenant’: A Response from InclusiveChurch By Rev. Canon Vincent Strudwick can be found here and here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 15 December 2006 at 12:16pm GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 14 December 2006

Archbishop of Uganda writes

Updated Saturday

More than one conservative American site has published this Pastoral Letter from the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda. (The Uganda provincial website appears to be out of order.)

Some excerpts:

…I am writing with a heavy heart to share with you sad news about our beloved Anglican Communion. On Saturday, 4th November, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA) enthroned as their Presiding Bishop a leader who has permitted the blessing of same-sex unions and who also denies that Jesus is the only way to the Father. Her name is the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Our problem with ECUSA is not that they have enthroned a woman as their Presiding Bishop. We in the Church of Uganda do support the ordination of women and women in all levels of leadership in our church. In fact, I am very pleased to report that the House of Laity elected Dr. Sarah Ndyanabangi to serve as the next Chairperson of the Provincial House of Laity.

Our problem with the new Presiding Bishop of ECUSA is that she has publicly denied what the Bible teaches about faith and morality. And now she is in the position of Archbishop of one of the most influential and wealthiest Provinces in the Anglican Communion, even though it is one of the smallest in number.

and this:

…Finally, one of the most significant decisions we have made to support Biblically faithful Anglicans in America is to provide a diocesan home for American congregations who could no longer be submitted to a revisionist Bishop and the national church leadership of ECUSA. Ten of our dioceses in the Church of Uganda are now providing spiritual oversight to twenty congregations in America. These are congregations of Americans in America, but they are officially part of the Church of Uganda.

I have been in consultation with the other Primates and Archbishops of Africa and the Global South about this crisis in our beloved Anglican Communion. We have written to the Archbishop of Canterbury and informed him that we cannot sit together with Katharine Jefferts Schori at the upcoming Primates Meeting in February. We have also asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to invite an orthodox Bishop from the Anglican Communion Network in America to attend the Primates Meeting and represent the orthodox believers. We await his decision on these matters.

We are also praying about whether our House of Bishops should attend and participate in the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in 2008. Every ten years, the Archbishop of Canterbury invites all the bishops of the Anglican Communion together for prayer and mutual consultation on matters of mission and our common life together as Anglicans throughout the world. The next conference is planned for 2008. However, the Archbishops of Africa and the Global South have received a report and a recommendation that we not participate in the next Lambeth Conference if ECUSA, and especially their gay bishop, are also invited to the conference. The House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda has not yet made a decision about this, but I wanted you to know that we are praying and asking the Lord to give us the mind of Christ on this matter…

Update Saturday
A Clarification on the November 2006 Pastoral Letter from the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi Archbishop of Church of Uganda has been issued by The Rev. Canon Aaron Mwesigye Provincial Secretary. You can read it here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 14 December 2006 at 11:21pm GMT | Comments (58) | TrackBack
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Fulcrum's initial response to the "covenant"

Fulcrum has published this Initial Response to the ‘Covenant for the Church of England’.

Fulcrum’s own forum discussion on this matter can be found here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 14 December 2006 at 10:43pm GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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how many evangelicals in the CofE?

Anglican Mainstream has published the following statistics, under the heading: Who are the evangelical and charismatic churches?.

They start with this comment (my emphasis added):

We are often asked about the numbers that our networks represent. In one sense the question is impossible and unnecessary because we seek to speak for all who uphold and seek orthodox teaching and leadership. However, a prominent researcher in the field of church membership, Peter Brierley, has given these figures:

The numbers then given, which are copied below, are Peter Brierley’s totals for three categories of evangelicals. This is interesting information, but it is not necessarily an answer to the second question posed above.

The English Church Census of 2005

Total number of Anglican churches 16247

Mainstream evangelicals (largely conservative) 1998 1045 2005 1411
Charismatic evangelicals 1998 1002 2005 1308
Evangelical broad 1998 1542 2005 1554

Total in 2005 4273 percentage 26%

Total worshippers

Whole of Church of England 1998 980,000 2005 870,600
Mainstream evangelicals 1998 72,500 2005 77,400
Charismatic evangelicals 1998 114,700 2005 114,900
Evangelical broad 1998 121,400 2005 105,200

Total in 2005 297,500, percentage 34%

Average size of congregation

Mainstream evangelicals 1998 55
Charismatic evangelicals 1998 88
Evangelical broad 1998 68

Of the 160 largest churches, (1% of the total number of churches) with a membership of over 350, who make up 10% of the membership of the CofE, 83% are evangelical.

The English Church Census 2005 is available in Pulling out of the Nose Dive by Peter Brierley and Religious Trends Number 6, by Peter Brierley, published by Christian Research, September 2006.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 14 December 2006 at 7:10pm GMT | Comments (27) | TrackBack
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InclusiveChurch replies to "covenant"

Press Release

1.0 Conservative Evangelicals are clearly trying to create a defining moment for the Anglican Communion. The declaration by the Anglican Church of Tanzania separating itself from all who ordain, who are, or who support homosexual people, together with Reform’s “Covenant” are the next stages in the rolling out of a strategy which will, if allowed to proceed destroy the Anglican Communion.

2.0 We are seeing the development of a long term plan developed by various people on various continents which is intended to bring the Anglican Communion out of its historically generous and open position, into a narrowly defined, confessional group of churches rooted in the religious right of the United States and extending from there across the world.

2.1 We understand that the Tanzania declaration was produced at the behest of others with the specific aims of undermining the Presiding Bishop of the United States, challenging the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and derailing the moves towards an inclusive Covenant which the Communion is beginning to make. It is a deliberately incendiary move. The intention is to pre-empt any decisions the Primates’ Meeting in February might make so that elements from the Global South and disaffected elements of the Episcopal Church rebels can proceed with their plan to set up an alternative Communion.

3.0 Reform’s “Covenant” brings this strategy into England. The authors of the “Covenant” (all male, all white) and their cohorts are, simply, using the politics of the playground, issuing financial threats and huffing and puffing in an attempt to bring the Church of England into line. The most cursory reading demonstrates a startlingly inadequate ecclesiology and a deep misunderstanding of the role of bishops. They are showing increasing militancy and becoming more and more vocal, because those of us who support the orthodox, historic and open tradition of Anglicanism are, unexpectedly, refusing to lie down and be trampled on.

4.0 Underlying all this is an obsession with homosexuality which flies in the face of human understanding, of natural law and of the Gospel; fundamentally, the labelling of homosexuality as “intrinsically sinful” offers the only chance for unity that these groups can find. It means that Biblical scholarship is distorted to justify the anathematising of homosexuals, and that the Gospel is reduced to a message where the rejection of lesbian and gay people lies millimetres below the surface.

5.0 InclusiveChurch has always, from the beginning, tried to be open to those with whom we disagree. We have sought meetings with conservative groups, and have tried to ensure that the breadth, generosity and openness of Anglicanism is extended to those who would reject that breadth and generosity. But we find that these groups, in the end, do not wish to engage. They wish to set up a separate structure which will keep them safe from taint. In the first place, the taint of homosexuality. Beyond that, the taint of women as bishops (or indeed as priests); and beyond that, the risk of change.

5.1 InclusiveChurch is committed to orthodox Anglicanism, which preaches the gospel of the liberating love of God. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free. Nowhere in the statements of these conservative groups and churches do we hear of the boundless love of God. The theology of the Reform “Covenant” bears as much relation to Anglican theology as that of Calvin and Zwingli did to Hooker and Andrewes.

6.0 We ask the people of Reform: “Why do you not have the courage of your convictions and leave the Church of England altogether? When your actions and your statements display so clearly your wish to distort the church of the Elizabethan Settlement, the Protestant revival, the Oxford Movement and the innovations of the twentieth century, why do you not simply realign yourselves with other churches? Why do you want to remain Anglican if that Anglicanism is a travesty of the gift we have been given?

The logic of your statement is you should secede from the Church of England altogether, not have it restructured to accommodate your narrow views of who may or may not be an Anglican. Inclusivity is written into the title deeds of the Church of England and we ask you to respect it.

But if you leave, you may not take the name “Anglican”; for the church you create will not be an Anglican church.

6.1 Or, if you wish to remain in the Church of England, then remain in the knowledge that we are all required, in love, to engage with each other. We inclusive Christians undoubtedly have a great deal to learn from you; we all, undoubtedly have a great deal in common. Stay in the knowledge that engagement will bring about change. And that God speaks not just to you but to others as well. And that all our understanding of God’s will – yours and ours – is flawed, because we are all flawed.”

7.0 We say to the senior hierarchy of the Church, to Archbishops, Primates and senior staff of the church: “Enough is enough. This squabbling needs to be brought to an end. There is no justification for a Bishop from the province of Nigeria exercising jurisdiction in the United States. There is no justification for Alternative Episcopal Oversight or Extended Primatial Oversight or any other terms used to cloak intolerance. There is no way a province can declare itself to be “out of communion” with another province. We ask you to say to the rebels, whether they are provinces or parishes - ‘leave or engage: if you engage, respect the structures: and listen to the spirit as it speaks to the whole church’. This bullying and hectoring must cease, so that the Gospel can be proclaimed anew. If that means that this generation oversees a split in the Communion, so be it. We trust in God for the future of the Church.”

8.0 To laity and clergy throughout the Communion we say: “You are the future. The Gospel we have been given lies with you to pass on. Are you willing to allow that Gospel to be distorted and broken, to allow the Communion to be torn into something it is not, for the sake of a concept of tradition, biblical truth and God which is exclusive and condemnatory? Are you willing to allow the Communion to go the way of all sects, into marginal oblivion?

We need, all of us, to speak, to pray and to love. We need to seek ways to engage with those with whom we disagree, in worship, in prayer and in our daily lives. We need also to engage with all the structures of the Communion – the Instruments of Unity, Synods, Bishops and officers, making our passion and our commitment known.

But, in the end, we need to be willing to say to those who would undermine the Gospel we proclaim: leave, if you will. Taking your money with you. We are all diminished by division but if division comes, so be it. God’s love will not be constrained.”

Giles Goddard: Chair, InclusiveChurch
St John of the Cross: December 14th 2006
original press release here, and continued here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 14 December 2006 at 1:06pm GMT | Comments (87) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 13 December 2006

update on Nigeria

Matt Thompson links to this Associated Press report which summarises the situation well: New law and old prejudices threaten Nigeria’s gay community.

Matt’s own report, which should be read in full, is here: “There is a lot of ignorance”.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 13 December 2006 at 11:51pm GMT | Comments (25) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Reform proposes a "covenant"

Updated again Thursday morning

The meeting mentioned in a newspaper report last Sunday took place today at Lambeth Palace. The report had forecast that:

Leading evangelicals will meet the Most Rev Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, on Tuesday to deliver papers laying out the plans for a restructuring of the Church.

However, according to the Anglican Mainstream website what happened was:

A small group met with the Archbishop of Canterbury on Tuesday December 12 and presented A Covenant for the Church of England on behalf of a wide group of Evangelical and Charismatic members of the Church of England with the support of a number of Anglo-Catholic leaders.

The Covenant is the fruit of an ongoing process reacting not to a few local or immediate difficulties but responding to widespread concerns in the national and global church.

The group were listened to carefully and as a result of the meeting it was agreed that there would be further discussion of the issues raised in the Covenant to find a way to maintain the unity of the Church of England.

The document that this group presented is published on the Reform website, and can be read in its entirety at A Covenant for the Church of England.

The press release is described as follows:

It is not a Reform press release as such but a press release by a wide group of Evangelical and Charismatic members of the Church of England with the support of a number of Anglo-Catholic leaders.

Update Wednesday evening
It is now revealed that:

The Covenant was drafted by a group under the following leadership:

Rev David Banting, Chair of Reform
Rev John Coles, Director of New Wine Networks
Rev Paul Perkin, Member of General Synod
Rev David Phillips, Director of Church Society
Rev Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbes’ Oxford
Canon Dr Chris Sugden, Executive Secretary, Anglican Mainstream
Rev William Taylor, Rector of St Helen’s Bishopsgate
Rev Dr Richard Turnbull, Chair of the Church of England Evangelical Council
Rev Dr Simon Vibert, Chair of the Fellowship of Word and Spirit

This list can also be found at the website of the Church of England Evangelical Council where it is claimed that:

“CEEC President and Chairman sign new Covenant on behalf of CEEC

Update Thursday morning

Jonathan Petre in the Telegraph has this report: Williams warned of Church anarchy:

The Church of England was plunged into a fresh crisis yesterday after evangelical leaders representing 2,000 churches told the Archbishop of Canterbury to allow them to bypass liberal bishops or face widespread anarchy.

The group, whose supporters include the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, warned Dr Rowan Williams that the crisis over issues such as gay clerics was escalating fast and could descend into schism.

At a confidential meeting at Lambeth Palace on Tuesday, they urged Dr Williams to create a parallel structure to free them from the interference of liberal bishops or risk a revolt against his authority…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 12 December 2006 at 11:20pm GMT | Comments (77) | TrackBack
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Monday, 11 December 2006

Tanzanian bishops issue statement

Episcopal News Service has published a report TANZANIA: Bishops declare ‘impaired communion’ with Episcopal Church.

Update Tuesday: the statement now also appears at Global South Anglican and is now also on the ACNS site.
Update A PDF copy of the statement is now on the Tanzania site.

No similar report has yet appeared on the Anglican Communion News Service, nor on the Tanzanian provincial website.

The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Tanzania (ACT) issued a statement December 7 saying that its “communion with the Episcopal Church (USA) is severely impaired” in light the 75th General Convention’s response to the Windsor Report.

The bishops also declared that ACT “shall not knowingly accept financial and material aid from dioceses, parishes, Bishops, priests, individuals and institutions in the Episcopal Church (USA) that condone homosexual practice or bless same-sex unions.”

Meeting in Dar Es Salaam, where the next Primates’ Meeting will be held in February 2007, the bishops noted that the Episcopal Church did not “adequately respond to the requirement made to them by the Anglican Communion through the Windsor Report by their failure to register honest repentance for their actions.”

During the past three years, leaders of at least 14 out of the 38 Anglican provinces have issued statements saying that they are in a state of “impaired” or “broken” relationship with the Episcopal Church. It is unclear how many provincial synods have ratified the statements.

The full text of the statement is in the ENS report.

Here is the statement from Tanzania in 2003.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 11 December 2006 at 9:21pm GMT | Comments (56) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 10 December 2006

InclusiveChurch responds to Reform threat

InclusiveChurch PRESS RELEASE: Advent 2: 10th Dec 2006

Rebel churches want to destroy the traditional breadth of the Church of England

Today’s Sunday Telegraph reports that a small group of conservative evangelical parishes are intending to set up an alternative jurisdiction within the Church of England using retired bishops to provide their own, separate ministry. What they are objecting to is in fact the agreed position of the House of Bishops.

The Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser, President of InclusiveChurch, said “These rebel churches want to destroy the traditional breadth of the Church of England and turn it into a puritan sect. They must not be allowed to succeed.”

Britain is aware of the dangers of religious extremism. Now, more than ever, the message of a broad and inclusive Christianity needs to be heard. The Civil Partnership legislation has clearly offered new opportunities for people in this country to express a profound and committed love for one another. InclusiveChurch welcomes that.

These parishes are attacking their Bishops for upholding the agreed position on the Civil Partnership legislation. We urge the House of Bishops to resist this attempt further to divide the Church of England. The threats of financial penalties sound very like an attempt to bully the church into a particular position. Rather than engage with the world, these parishes seem to wish to separate themselves from it.

These proposals represent part of a wider pattern which will, if allowed to continue, distort and ultimately destroy the Anglican Communion. Across the Communion, we see attempts to replace the breadth and openness of Anglican theology with a confessional, protestant theology and practice. The recent irregular ordinations in the Diocese of Southwark, the statements of the Primates of the Global South at Kigali in July, the moves by the diocese of San Joaquin and parishes in the Diocese of Virginia to remove themselves from the Episcopal Church, and the appointment by the Church of Nigeria of Martyn Minns as a Bishop in the United States are all part of this strategy.

Alternative Episcopal Oversight, when it was created, set a dangerous precedent for Anglican Christianity. It implied that a “mix and match” church was possible, with people and parishes being able to choose their bishops according to their views on specific issues. The request for Alternative Primatial Oversight in America is partly a result of this precedent. This proposal to bring bishops out of retirement in order to promote a view of the church which appears increasingly single-issue and dominated by homosexuality is another.

We repeat, as we have said before; the Anglican Communion is a gift. In all its complexity and untidiness it has a great deal to offer the world. For that reason we have welcomed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s proposals for working out a Covenant between us.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 10 December 2006 at 3:41pm GMT | Comments (109) | TrackBack
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secularism: bishops attacked and responding

For the second week running, English bishops are criticised by an Observer columnist. This time, Mary Riddell has a piece titled Integrate? Tell that to the Christian church, Mr Blair. Here’s an excerpt:

…Even so, the bishops are on the prowl. The Bishop of Rochester criticises diversity legislation, while lamenting the lack of Christmas celebrations in that hotbed of Saturnalia, the nation’s SureStart schemes. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, announces that ‘illiberal atheists’ and ‘aggressive secularists’ have stolen Christmas. On a point of semantics, secularists do not wish to harm religion or deny its great cultural influence. They simply want it to know its place.

Which, in the view of many bishops, is in every corner of the public realm. In the current Times Higher Education Supplement, the Archbishop of Canterbury defends Christian campus groups which risk banishment because of their attitudes to gay sex. ‘It isn’t as though sexual activity were any different from any other conscious choice,’ writes Dr Rowan Williams, likening any threat to such groups to banning CND. Public organisations should operate within the statute. On 1 January, laws protecting gay people in Northern Ireland will be tightened. Ruth Kelly, who plans weaker, later rules for the rest of the UK, has bowed to religious leaders complaining that the pillars of Christendom will totter unless Christian adoption agencies, bookshops and hotels are allowed free rein for prejudice. Islamist extremism is obviously never to be compared to the behaviour of peaceful citizens. Even so, the harmonious society Mr Blair desires is not best served by Christian leaders passing themselves off as a persecuted minority and the whipping boy of multicultural Britain.

This is purest fallacy. The might of bishops trickles down from the House of Lords, where they sit without a fig leaf of democratic legitimacy. Cathedrals are forecasting record attendances this Christmas. In a fearful, divided country, religion is the beneficiary. Mr Blair, though recognising that shift, was too selective and too timid in his remedies. He condemned radical Muslim schools, quite rightly, but omitted to say that creationism in Christian ones is deplorable, too. He demanded that faith schools must abide by guidelines requiring tolerance and respect for other faiths…

The article by Rowan Williams to which she refers can be found in the Times Higher Education Supplement which is read largely by university academics and administrators. The article is trailed on the front page of the weekly journal this way:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has hit out at the “suppression” of Christian unions on university campuses with an impassioned defence of free speech in an exclusive article for The Times Higher.

and the background to it is summarised in a news article entitled Archbishop hits back.

Rowan Williams’ article is titled It is not a crime to hold traditional values. A couple of excerpts (but read it all, please):

…But beyond this, we sometimes seem to be unclear. Quite often in discussion of Christian attitudes to homosexuality (and this is often the presenting issue where Christian unions are concerned), it is taken for granted that any statement that a form of behaviour might be sinful is on a par with the expression of hate, so that it is impossible for a conservative Christian, Catholic or Protestant or, for that matter, an orthodox Muslim to state the traditional position of their faith without being accused of something akin to holocaust denial or racial bigotry.

Yet the truth surely is that while it is wholly indefensible to deny respect to a person as such, any person’s choices are bound to be open to challenge. Any kind of behaviour or policy freely opted for by a responsible adult is likely to be challenged from somewhere; it isn’t as though sexual activity were different from any other area of conscious choice. And to challenge behaviour may be deeply unwelcome and offensive in a personal sense, but it is not a matter for legislative action…

and this:

…Christian unions, like most student associations, can be a nuisance. As a university chaplain many years ago, I was blessed with good relations with members of the Christian union, thanks to the maturity and warmth of the local leadership; but I know that not every chaplain in higher education has the same good fortune. Questions about tests for orthodoxy recur regularly in the histories of Christian unions, and every few years there is likely to be some degree of conflict and sometimes schism (as in other societies - I can also remember the ferocity of debates in the 1970s within a university Labour Club at the time leading up to the formation of the Social Democrat Party). Furthermore, there is real debate and divergence among Christians about the ethics of same-sex relationships, and some more liberal Christians will find it embarrassing that the traditional position of the Christian union can be seen by the rest of the student world as something like an unquestioned Christian line. Christian unions can appear detached from the rest of student life in some campuses (by no means all); or they can lay themselves open to charges of insensitive recruitment; and so on. But the basic question remains. Is there a straightforward right of association for people with these convictions? …

Other material relating to the current dispute over Christian Unions on British university campuses can be found in this excellent report from Ekklesia (PDF file), which was also written up in the Guardian in Christian unions warned against legal action. See also Simon Barrow here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 10 December 2006 at 2:37pm GMT | Comments (32) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 9 December 2006

big weekend in Virginia

Updated 13 December

See earlier reports here and here.

The Richmond Times Dispatch has Episcopal churches may split and the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star has Will Neck church.

Truro Church’s Mary Springmann has a letter on the church’s website Why CANA? Convocation of Anglicans in North America (PDF file).

Jim Naughton contests the truth of the claims made in that letter in Another dubious claim from Truro. TA’s August report on the 2004 events that Jim mentions is here.

Mark Harris considers that Truro’s Vestry has gone round the bend.

BabyBlue (Mary Ailes) has published a photograph of the letter she got yesterday from Bishop Peter Lee. (You might need to click on it to show it full size.) Mary is unhappy about the letter.

The media have been given this instruction. (PDF file).

The Living Church added a report: National Church May ‘Retain Interest’ in Virginia Church Properties.

A statement from the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia

The following reports are delayed as the site was unreachable for me for several days:
Washington Times Julia Duin
8 Dec Virginia churches stuck in middle
12 Dec Episcopal Church sees first defection

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 9 December 2006 at 8:05pm GMT | Comments (26) | TrackBack
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Rowan Williams' visit to Rome

This week The Tablet has a very interesting interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury, conducted by the editor, Catherine Pepinster. Read it at Ambivalent archbishop.

Previously, the Church Times had this report of the visit: ‘Definite progress’ as Williams visit exceeds expectations by Rupert Shortt.

Earlier reports of the visit are collected here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 9 December 2006 at 9:07am GMT | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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opinion columns

Andrew Linzey has written for The Times about why Animals must not be scapegoats.
Also in that paper, Roderick Strange writes that Advent means no more hiding out in the hills and valleys.

Colin Slee writes in the Guardian about why banning Christmas is ignorant and counter-cultural, see Face to Faith.

Christopher Howse has his regular Sacred Mysteries column in the Telegraph. This week the title is Another kind of comfort.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 9 December 2006 at 8:47am GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Friday, 8 December 2006

news from ECUSA

It’s increasingly difficult to keep up. Several reports today:

The Church Times has a report by Doug LeBlanc about the San Joaquin convention: Californian diocese votes to move from ECUSA.
One assertion in that report is, I believe, inaccurate. I do not think that the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA has uttered the words attributed to her here. I think this is a reference to what a spokesman said, as reported by the New York Times.

The Senior Wardens of Truro Parish and The Falls Church have responded jointly, in fairly strong terms, to the earlier letter they and others received from the Bishop of Virginia. The response is in a PDF file and can be found here.
Update there is now an html copy of this document available here.

Stand Firm has published an interview with Neal Michell from the Diocese of Dallas.

And last but by no means least, a Press Release from the Anglican Alliance of North Florida states that the Bishop of Florida has deposed six of his clergy. The letter itself is available as a PDF file here.

Update Saturday Florida Times-Union report on this: Episcopal bishop revokes 6 priests

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 8 December 2006 at 11:14pm GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Getting Equal: progress report

According to the Independent this morning, in Kelly rejects call to extend Ulster gay rights to the rest of Britain:

A row has broken out in the Cabinet over how far the Government should go in outlawing discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, has pushed through regulations in the province that will be tougher than the Government plans for England, Wales and Scotland. He has defied a call by Ruth Kelly, the Cabinet minister responsible for equality, to hold fire until a common approach has been agreed…

Meanwhile, the Tablet has a news report (only available to subscribers) about what the RC bishops in Northern Ireland said, and a leader column which you can read in full here: When tone matters.

According to Anglican Mainstream government telephones are besieged with phone calls from people concerning these proposals.

The Lawyers Christian Fellowship has published a press release concerning a survey of public opinion which it commissioned, and another press release summarising their view of progress: Opinion Poll Results Show Widespread Opposition To Sors; Annulment Of Sors Sought In Commons And Lords

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 8 December 2006 at 4:08pm GMT | Comments (51) | TrackBack
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Akinola banned in Sheffield?

Updated Wednesday 13 December

According to the Church of England Newspaper, this is the case.

The report is reproduced in full on Global South Anglican and can be read at Archbishop of Nigeria “banned” from preaching in Sheffield - CEN.

And Anglican Mainstream has a further column by Andrew Carey An Apology is in Order.

Update Wednesday 13 December
The Sheffield Star reports: Bishop’s ‘snub’ claims rejected by Lucy Ashton

CLAIMS that the Bishop of Sheffield barred a visiting foreign Archbishop from preaching at a service in the city were today dismissed as “total rubbish”.

The report reads in part:

…The Reverend Rob Marshall said: “There are clear rules that if an Archbishop is visiting the province he must get the Archbishop of York’s permission to preach. Protocol has to be followed and it’s also courtesy.
“The Archbishop asked Bishop Jack’s permission but he couldn’t say yes or no because it wasn’t his decision to make.
“It’s total rubbish about Bishop Jack barring him, he simply told him to contact the Archbishop of York.”
If an Archbishop wants to preach in another province, it usually just takes a phone call.
Mr. Marshall added: “The Bishop was very relaxed and simply said he had to follow protocol and all they had to do was ring the Archbishop of York’s office.
“It’s total nonsense to say he barred him.”
Mr. Marshall said there should have been plenty of time to arrange for the Archbishop to preach.
“We had this conversation on the Thursday before the service was taking place on the Sunday but you never have just three days notice of a visit.
“Normally Archbishops’ visits are planned months, sometimes two years in advance, so all this could have been arranged in advance…”

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views from within ECUSA

Further comments on ECUSA that are worth noting:

Diana Butler Bass was online at the Washington Post website on Wednesday discussing the State of the Episcopal Church.

Fr Jake wrote about the Network and the Global South, and asks Is There a Plan?
Jim Naughton followed this up with Disarray on the right?
Mark Harris asks Where Have All the Flowers Gone? and also later has Venables of the Southern Cone.
Episcopal Majority weighed in with The San Joaquin Matter Heats Up and ++Akinola Unhappy?

And much earlier in November, Harold Lewis wrote this essay for the magazine of Calvary Episcopal Church, Pittsburgh where he is Rector: Ironies, Ideologies, and Inconsistencies.

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Thursday, 7 December 2006

Reactions to Mark Lawrence

Several people have analysed what Mark Lawrence wrote to standing committees and bishops in connection with their forthcoming decisions on whether or not to consent to his election as bishop of South Carolina:

Mark Harris has written twice: first here, and then here. Tobias Haller wrote about this also, here. And also Andrew Gerns is here.

Addition Monday 11 Dec
I apologise for inadvertently omitting this Living Church report of 6 December: Bishop-elect Lawrence Sees Election Resistance in Broader Context which contains his own comments on the approval process.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 7 December 2006 at 11:56pm GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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more from Northern Virginia and Nigeria

Updated again Friday morning

The Associated Press has a lengthy article Historic Episcopal parishes in Va. moving toward break.

The local paper in Falls Church, the Falls Church News-Press has an article, Voting Begins Sunday on Pulling Out Of Denomination at F.C. Episcopal.

In response to the above, Matt Thompson at Political Spaghetti has written Archbishop Akinola DEFINITELY supports legislation in Nigeria that calls for prison sentences for homosexual activity.

Martyn Minns has written this on the website of Truro Parish, in response to an earlier news report in the Washington Post:

A Statement of Clarification

In a recent Washington Post article, Archbishop Peter J. Akinola was characterized as “an advocate of jailing gays.” That is not true.

Archbishop Akinola believes that all people—whatever their manner of life or sexual orientation—are made in the image of God and deserve to be treated with respect. “We are all broken and need the transforming love of God,” Archbishop Akinola said to me during a recent conversation.

Archbishop Akinola also said, “Jesus Christ is our example for this. He refused to condemn the woman caught in adultery instead he said. ‘Go now and sin no more.’ That is an essential part of the message of the Gospel and the teaching of our congregations.”

Your brother in Christ,
Martyn

Update this statement now also appears on the CANA website: A Statement of Clarification

Jim Naughton at daily episcopalian has responded strongly to Bishop Minns with a piece headlined Martyn Minns, clarifier.

Meanwhile, the CANA website has after a long interval had an update and now provides a Frequently Asked Questions page with answers to (currently) 25 questions.

Addition The Truro Parish website has a page headed The Vote.
This is your electronic resource center for Truro’s congregational vote December 10–17. Click on the links below for resources to help you be an informed voter.

Further addition Friday This PDF file contains information about The Anglican District of Virginia of CANA full text reproduced below the fold.

Update

Matt Thompson has more to say at Oh, Martyn.

Fr Jake has commented Does Abp. Akinola Want to Jail All Gays?

Mark Harris has also commented Bishop Martyn Minns defends Archbishop Akinola at an opportune time.

The Anglican District of Virginia of CANA

One of the great blessings that has come out of the division caused by The Episcopal Church has been the coming together of biblically faithful congregations who are collectively determined to stand firm in the orthodox faith. In Virginia, we have worked with an informal but growing association of congregations who have gone through the 40 Days of Discernment, and many of whom are taking congregational votes at the same time as we are.

An outgrowth of the discernment process has been the formation of the “Anglican District of Virginia” (ADV) as an association of congregations under the ecclesiastical authority of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). Virginia congregations voting to disassociate from The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia in order to remain in the Anglican Communion may do so by joining ADV (which is the formal means by which they join a different branch of the Anglican Communion).

The Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) will serve two main functions:

First, ADV will function as a region under the auspices of CANA. What CANA offers us, among many other things, is an authentic connection to the Anglican Communion. Truro’s Communion connection will be through the ADV to CANA. Whereas CANA is a national organization, ADV is a Virginia one with a local focus. Early association with the ADV allows Truro and other congregations to be instrumental in the leadership of the ADV and CANA. Similar districts may be formed in other states.

Second, ADV will function as an umbrella organization for both CANA congregations and other Anglican congregations in Virginia. Provision will be made for various congregations (already under the oversight of another non-United States Province of the Anglican Communion) to join ADV—for example, there may be Virginian congregations under the oversight of Uganda or Bolivia, who have a keen interest in continuing to partner with us in a more formal way. These congregations would be able to retain their unique lines of authority while still sharing the common goals of the ADV.

We have been waiting a long time to come to a place where we can band together with other congregations in a positive way. As ADV and CANA spread the Good News of Jesus Christ and fulfill the Great Commission, they will be building blocks for the Anglican Communion’s emerging ecclesiastical structure of biblically faithful Anglicans in our land.

It is tempting to be overwhelmed by the decision we are making. But recognizing that God has frequently achieved his goals with flawed people, we can trust in his grace and mercy as we embark on this project together. To God be the glory!

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 7 December 2006 at 3:37pm GMT | Comments (26) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 6 December 2006

more on the equality regulations

The Sun newspaper came to the support of the Bishop of Rochester: Gay law is bashed by bishop.

Two columns on Comment is free do not support the bishop’s point of view:
Andrew Brown The view from the inside (the URL is more descriptive than the title) and the strap is:

When religions discriminate against a minority group, they are also fighting for something fundamental about the freedom of religion.

and Theo Hobson Divine judgment on religion

The church is meant to signify unity between Christians, but the gay crisis has completely undermined this concept.

Meanwhile, the Evangelical Alliance has issued a Call for consultation, Andrew Marr interviewed Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor on BBC TV on Sunday, and the Christian Institute issued this briefing on the Northern Ireland regulations (PDF file).

The latest statement from the Lawyers Christian Fellowship is here and also here. This Word document here is slightly older but is the source of some material attacking the regulations seen elsewhere, such as the Christian bookshop and Christian printshop examples of alleged difficulty.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 6 December 2006 at 3:03pm GMT | Comments (30) | TrackBack
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American items

Updated Thursday evening

In no particular order:

The Vestry of Truro Church in Northern Virginia issued a Statement on 28 November: The Sources of Division.

…It is our hope and intention to bring clarity and transparency as to how we have come to the reluctant but ultimately firm conclusion that we should recommend that Truro Church sever its ties with The Episcopal Church…

The Living Church has a report by George Conger Archbishop Venables: Primates Coalition Will Support Second U.S. Jurisdiction. The video referred to in this report can be found at Archbishop Greg Venables speaks to Diocese of San Joaquin.
Update The full text of the remarks by Southern Cone Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables is now on the San Joaquin website here. (Scroll down for earlier items). Another copy of the text is now at Global South Anglican.

Beliefnet reported on the San Joaquin convention a bit differently to the New York Times: Calif. Episcopal Diocese Decides Against Split.

Earlier, the Living Church also carried this opinion piece by Jack Estes: Irreconcilable Differences.

And Christianity Today has published an excerpt from Philip Jenkins’ new book, The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South. The excerpt is headlined “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 6 December 2006 at 2:28pm GMT | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 5 December 2006

women bishops: drafting group named

It was previously announced that the Bishop of Manchester would chair the new group formed to draft legislation for the introduction of women bishops in the Church of England.

Today, the membership of the Women Bishops Legislative Drafting Group was announced:

The Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester (chair)
The Ven Donald Allister, Archdeacon of Chester
The Revd Jonathan Baker
The Rt Worshipful Dr Sheila Cameron, Dean of the Arches
The Very Revd Vivienne Faull, Dean of Leicester
Dr Paula Gooder
Mrs Margaret Swinson
Sister Anne Williams
The Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Basingstoke

Update Thursday
Women and the Church has issued a press release commenting on this. A copy is below the fold.

WATCH STATEMENT
6th December 2006 for immediate release
on the Appointment of the Women Bishops Legislative Drafting Group

WATCH is pleased that the Women Bishops Legislative Drafting Group has been appointed and is particularly pleased to see that it has a good balance between men and women members, something specifically requested in one of the amendments passed in the July General Synod along with the main motion. WATCH regrets, however, that it has taken over four months for the group to be appointed, and hopes that it will now expedite its important work of preparing draft legislation for opening the episcopate of the Church of England to women.

WATCH notes the appointment of those with a variety of differing views on the subject of having women as bishops, including those implacably opposed to women’s ordination, and would remind the members of the Drafting Group that they have been charged with:

(i) preparing the draft measure and amending canon necessary to remove the legal obstacles to the consecration of women to the office of bishop;

(ii) preparing a draft of possible additional legal provision to establish arrangements that would seek the highest possible degree of communion with those conscientiously unable to receive the ministry of women bishops; (and)

(iii) submitting the results of its work to the House of Bishops for consideration and submission
to Synod.

WATCH would like to stress the point that it is not the remit of the drafting group to revisit the decision that the General Synod has already taken to proceed with making it legal for women to be appointed as bishops. The group must understand that there is to be no re-creation of the Rochester Commission, which was asked in 2000 to address the theology and practicalities of having women as bishops in the Church of England. The Rochester Commission produced its report at the end of 2004 and the General Synod debated it in February 2005.

In July 2005 the General Synod passed a motion setting in train “the process for removing the legal obstacles to the ordination of women to the episcopate.” This past July a further motion was passed, agreeing with the majority of the House of Bishops that having women as bishops “is consonant with the faith of the Church”.

WATCH looks forward to seeing the draft legislation that the group proposes and to the steady and swift progress of this process, with the expectation that the General Synod will have voted on the final legislation by July 2010, the end of the current quinquennium.

CONTACTS:
Christina Rees (Chair)
Hilary Cotton (Vice-Chair)

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Monday, 4 December 2006

Mark Lawrence answers

There has been a great deal of discussion concerning the confirmation of Mark Lawrence as Bishop of South Carolina. See, for example, here.

He has written a document, addressed to bishops and standing committees of ECUSA dioceses, containing his answers to various questions that have been put to him.

You can read this document in full here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 4 December 2006 at 11:06pm GMT | Comments (43) | TrackBack
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the Nigerian angle

Jim Naughton has drawn attention here to the Nigerian angle in the report about Northern Virginia that is in this morning’s Washington Post (also linked in the preceding item).

The Nigerian provincial website has this report of the recent meeting of Global South leaders in Northern Virginia. (Also on the Global South Anglican site.)

But Changing Attitude has a report from Nigeria which suggests all is not entirely well: Archbishop Peter Akinola unhappy with his secessionist friends in the USA.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 4 December 2006 at 3:55pm GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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ECUSA news and opinions

Updated again Monday evening
Episcopal News Service has published: Presiding Bishop comments on San Joaquin actions:

…I lament the actions of the Bishop and Convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin to repudiate their membership in the Episcopal Church. While it is clear that this process is not yet complete, the fact that the Bishop and Convention have voted to remove the accession clause required by the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church would seem to imply that there is no intent to terminate this process before it reaches its full conclusion. Our task as the Episcopal Church is God’s mission of reconciling the world, and actions such as this distract and detract from that mission.

I deeply lament the pain, confusion, and suffering visited on loyal members of the Episcopal Church within the Diocese of San Joaquin, and want them to know of my prayers and the prayers of many, many others.

I continue to consult with others involved in responding to this extracanonical action…

Update The ENS report of this also includes additional comment by Bonnie Anderson, and other information, see here.

On the East Coast, the Washington Post has a report Episcopal Churches To Vote on Departure by Michelle Boorstein.
Earlier, the Washington Times had Episcopalians warned against leaving diocese.

On the West Coast, the Fresno Bee has this report Valley diocese votes to separate by Ron Orozco.

Episcopal Majority has published a letter it has received from Rowan Williams, in reply to two letters sent by Bill Coats. Read all the correspondence at The Archbishop Responds.
Update The Living Church later reported on this correspondence here.

Doug LeBlanc wrote a column in Episcopal Life about Why Canterbury matters.

Sarah Dylan Breuer wrote a commentary on current events in San Joaquin and elsewhere, titled increasing chaos among breakaway movements.

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Sunday, 3 December 2006

Nazir-Ali criticised by Observer

Today’s Observer contains a leader and an opinion column both of which respond to the remarks of the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali as quoted last week in the Daily Mail.

First, a reminder of the Daily Mail report by Steve Doughty:

A senior Church of England bishop have warned that Anglican youth clubs, welfare projects and charities may close because of new gay rights laws.

The Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, said that the Church of England’s charities would be “affected” by the rules, which will force them to give equal treatment to homosexuals.

He declared: “It will be the poor and disadvantaged who will be the losers….”

…Pakistani-born Dr Nazir-Ali said: “I welcome warmly what the Roman Catholic Bishop of Birmingham has said about the Sexual Orientation Regulations.

“In the proposed regulations there is no clear exemption for religious belief even though it is widely known that several of the faiths in this country will have serious difficulty.”

He added: “Religion affects every area of life and cannot be reduced to just worship.

“These regulations will certainly affect a great deal of charitable work done by the churches and others. It is the poor and disadvantaged who will be the losers.”

Now, today’s Observer. First, Nick Cohen in Let’s not sleepwalk with the Christian soldiers says:

…Last week, full-page adverts launched a histrionic campaign from the church’s evangelical wing against New Labour’s attempts to secure equality for homosexuals. The low point came when the Bishop of Rochester claimed ‘the poor and disadvantaged will be the losers’ if religious charities are forced to treat gays fairly.

Much can change before 25 December, but after the past fortnight, there is a fair chance that the hedonism and family quarrels of the traditional British Christmas will be overshadowed by religion, of all things.

Only the Tory press sympathised with the wild assault on equality under the law for homosexuals, but hardly anyone defended British Airways. Tellingly, only now can you see widespread anger at the failure to call Christmas by its proper name, although Birmingham City Council has been burbling about ‘Winterval’ since 1998.

The ferocity of the Church of England’s internal conflicts could make a Balkan warlord blanch. However, Ekklesia, a think-tank on the church’s left, and Anglican Mainstream, from its evangelical right, agreed on one point. They both told me that committed Christians with a sincere faith were just another minority - somewhere between 5 and 10 per cent of the population. But beyond them there were millions of people who could be glad that Christians were asserting themselves under special circumstances…

and the leader column The government must not buckle over gay rights said:

…It says much about modern Britain that civil partnerships were introduced without a rumpus. The law was not forcing liberal values on a reactionary society, it was catching up with attitudes that had already changed. Prejudice still exists, but there is no doubt that Britain in 2006 is a much better place in which to be gay than it was 10 years ago…

…In the same spirit a law has been drafted that would ban discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Hotels, for example, would not be able to deny rooms to gay couples. Schools would not be able to deny places to gay pupils. The changes were due to be introduced earlier this year but have been postponed because of lobbying by church groups.

Last week the Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols attacked the government for what he called the imposition of its moral agenda on the church. The Anglican Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, warned that church-based charities would be forced to close their doors if the government insisted they let in gay people. ‘It is the poor and disadvantaged who will be the losers,’ he said.

The churches are thus trying to depict the Sexual Orientation Regulations as an assault on their philanthropic work, including faith schools and adoption agencies. That is a tendentious argument. ‘The poor and disadvantaged’ would only lose out if the churches choose to hate homosexuality more than they like good works. Their objection to the new law is not, as they like to see it, self-defence against a meddling government. It is a threat by powerful institutions to withhold their charity out of prejudice.

Churches are free to preach that homosexuality is a sin and their followers are free to believe it in private. But the elected government of Britain does not share that view and has rightly sought to give gay citizens the same public rights as everyone else. Or at least it has done thus far. On this latest measure the cabinet is divided. Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly, a devout Catholic, is the minister responsible for the new law and is sympathetic to the idea of exempting churches. The Prime Minister is also thought to be amenable to religious petitioning…

To judge for yourself whether or not “there is no clear exemption for religious belief” read the regulations as published for Northern Ireland, from this page (which has links to the full text).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 3 December 2006 at 2:21pm GMT | Comments (25) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 2 December 2006

APO: San Joaquin passes weaker resolution

Updated again Monday

The Diocese of San Joaquin today voted for a different amendment to its constitution than the one previously published.

The resolution actually passed can be seen here.

The previous proposal can be seen here.

The Associated Press reported it this way: Calif. Diocese Snubs Episcopal Church. Reuters has U.S. diocese favors break with Episcopal Church.

The Living Church says California Dioceses Take Opposing Sides on Human Sexuality.

The bishop’s address to the convention is on the diocesan site.

The New York Times has its own report on this: Episcopal Diocese Votes to Secede From Church by Laurie Goodstein in New York and Carolyn Marshall in Fresno, Calif. They write in part:

…The vote by the diocese is one more step in a carefully planned strategy by conservative Episcopalians in the United States and primates of Anglican provinces, many in the developing world, to unite the conservatives, claim the mantle of Anglicanism and isolate the Episcopal Church, the 2.3-million-member American branch in the Anglican communion, which claims 77 million members worldwide…

…The Bishop of San Joaquin, John-David Schofield, told the convention on Thursday, “This amending process is the first step in the removal from our constitution of any reference to the Episcopal Church because, in our opinion, they have decided to walk apart from the Anglican Communion.”

The wording of the resolutions was changed at the last minute, leading to widespread confusion among the delegates. But Bishop Schofield told the convention that the wording was changed after a recent meeting in Virginia between conservative American bishops and other leaders and conservative primates from other provinces in the Anglican Communion. The global primates advised the Americans to “remain flexible and allow them to provide the necessary leadership for us,” by holding off on specifying what structure, or bishop or province, would replace the church’s relationship with the diocese.

One crucial amendment effectively erases the borders of the diocese so that it could eventually absorb parishes in other parts of the state or elsewhere in the country that wish to break with the church, Mr. Petz said.

Another amendment says that if the bishop and his coadjutor bishop are absent, unable to act or removed, the standing committee, a lay group, would become the “ecclesiastical authority.” The thinking behind this provision, Mr. Petz said, is that it could prevent the church from taking over the diocese by removing the bishop and coadjutor…

Update Monday
Episcopal News Service has published its report of this: San Joaquin convention seeks to sever diocese from Episcopal Church

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 2 December 2006 at 9:47pm GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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from newspapers

Stephen Tomkins is giving up Christmas for Advent, read the Guardian’s Face to Faith column.

In The Times Geza Vermes writes about The real Christmas story and Peter Townley writes about Ted Whickham in Sowing the seeds of mission on stony urban soil.

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about church architecture, Ionic, Doric and Catholic.

The Church Times had this leader about the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Pope: Why they must keep talking.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 2 December 2006 at 8:28pm GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Virginia: Bishop Lee warns some parishes

Press release issued by the diocese:

On Friday, Dec. 1, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, Peter James Lee, sent a letter to the rectors, vestries and wardens of congregations known to have engaged in a “40 Days of Discernment” program to consider their place in The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia. Some of those congregations have chosen to conclude that program with votes, to be held this month, to determine their future affiliation with the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia

In his letter, Bishop Lee highlighted that the members of those congregations are cherished members of the Diocese and the Episcopal Church, and that he and the Standing Committee hope they will decide to continue to worship as one, unified family.

“I pray you will remain in communion with your brothers and sisters in Virginia and take your full place in the life of the Diocese of Virginia,” he wrote. “Ours is a faith historically defined by our ability to bring together people with different theological emphases within traditional faith and order,” he added. Bishop Lee also stated his concern that any decision to leave the Episcopal Church will be a source of regret for future generations.

The letter also explained some of the potential legal and canonical consequences of a decision to separate from the Episcopal Church, addressing issues of property and personal liability.

“Along with the damaging effects any split would have on the Diocese as a whole and these churches in particular, we are concerned that these congregations may not fully understand the potential legal consequences of their actions,” said Russell Palmore, chancellor of the Diocese of Virginia. “The decision to leave the Diocese should be a fully informed one.”

Read the letter in full here. It includes this paragraph:

I remind you that absent a negotiated settlement of property, an attempt to place your congregation and its real and personal property under the authority of any ecclesial body other than the Diocese of Virginia and the bodies authorized by its canons to hold church property will have repercussions and possible civil liability for individual vestry members.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 2 December 2006 at 7:58pm GMT | Comments (21) | TrackBack
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What size is NACDAP really?

The American Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes or Anglican Communion Network has published this map, showing at the time of writing a total of 737 parishes that are said to be affiliated with them in some way.

Curiously though, the same website also says:

We are currently ten dioceses and six convocations stretching from coast to coast, border to border. As of January 2005, ACN dioceses and parishes count 200,000 Episcopal Christians in more than 800 congregations, and the number of affiliated parishes grows weekly.

The Network’s leader, Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh, recently gave an interview to the Florida Times-Union in which he stated:

“There are 10 dioceses comprising about 175,000 Episcopalians, and in those 10 dioceses are 650 congregations.”

Then Bishop Duncan says:

“Beyond those dioceses are another 350 congregations.”

By now you are right to be confused. 650 and 350 would total 1000 not 800.

Not all Episcopalians in the ten dioceses support the Network. Not all of those additional congregations are ECUSA churches — or ever were.

The Network defines three membership categories:

  • Affiliate
    A member of the ECUSA
  • Anglican Communion Partner
    A member of a non-ECUSA overseas Anglican Communion diocese
  • Common Cause Partner
    A member of a non-ECUSA Common Cause Partner jurisdiction

Other older data on the same website shows at this writing

  • almost 200 “Affiliates” but that list includes a number of parishes WITHIN Network dioceses
  • 41 “Anglican Communion Partners” and 8 more “Partners Pending,” (parishes that have taken steps to be under the jurisdiction of another Anglican province, such as Uganda)

That’s less than 250 total once the duplications within Network dioceses are removed.

Also, while I am at this, Common Cause Partners are:

American Anglican Council
Anglican Coalition in Canada
Anglican Communion Network
Anglican Essentials Canada
Anglican Mission in America
Anglican Network in Canada
Anglican Province of America
Convocation for Anglicans in North America (Church of Nigeria)
Forward in Faith North America (a duplication of the FiFNA Convocation of the Network?)
Reformed Episcopal Church

Beyond NACDAP, that’s three Canadian organizations, three “not-in-communion” churches (I include AMiA here), and the Church of Nigeria. Few out of all these congregations are “ex-ECUSA”.

So what is the right number of congregations or members for the Network itself? I would welcome better information.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 2 December 2006 at 5:58pm GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: ECUSA

Friday, 1 December 2006

APO: Canterbury welcomes TEC proposals

The ACNS has published this: Archbishop of Canterbury - Cautious welcome for TEC proposals
Update here is the LamPal copy: Archbishop - cautious welcome for TEC proposals

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has given a cautious welcome to proposals outlined by the Episcopal Church in the United States to offer alternative forms of oversight to dissenting parishes and dioceses. Dr Williams said that the proposals would contribute to the process of determining future relationships.

“The meeting in New York to consider the questions raised by requests for ‘alternative primatial oversight’ has produced some imaginative proposals which represent, potentially, a very significant development.

“I am glad to see these positive suggestions and shall be giving them careful consideration. I hope that they will mark a step forward in the long and difficult process of working out future relationships within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion in a manner faithful to the gospel requirements of forebearance and generosity.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 1 December 2006 at 1:57pm GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | ECUSA