Saturday, 25 April 2009

opinion for St Mark

Giles Fraser Church Times No tasks left for the risen Jesus

Christopher Howse Telegraph The earth and the Son of Man

Several items from the Guardian’s Comment is free section.
David Bryant Guardian: Comment is free Face to Faith Tolerance of other faiths is not enough - we must strive for true acceptance
Chris Liley Guardian: Comment is free Why I chased the BNP from my cathedral
Giles Fraser St George the immigrant

Jonathan Sacks Times Credo: Sunday shopping has not made us better or happier

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 25 April 2009 at 4:42pm BST | Comments (50) | TrackBack
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Friday, 24 April 2009

Litmus test or Dar replay?

As noted in the preceding item, the Church Times has reported that the Covenant is to be used as litmus test of Anglicanism.

Now, the Daily Episcopalian asks a related question, The Anglican Covenant: Dar by other means?

Jim Naughton writes:

Is it possible that proposed Anglican Covenant is a means of achieving a modified version of the Dar es Salaam settlement proposed by the Primates of the Anglican Communion in 2007?

The communiqué released after that meeting proposed a “pastoral scheme”, which created a church within a church led by almost exactly the same bishops who signed the factually challenged document on diocesan autonomy released yesterday by the Anglican Communion Institute.

The ACI, with Fulcrum in the United Kingdom, were influential in creating the pastoral scheme and articulating the Camp Allen principles that were also endorsed by the Primates. The Dar settlement was almost unanimously rejected by the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops, (which, as Sally Johnson chancellor to Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies, has demonstrated, did not have the constitutional authority to affirm it.) Despite its rejection, the leaders of the ACI continued to press for its provisions to be imposed on the Episcopal Church, even though the Dar settlement makes no provisions for this eventuality, and the Primates Meeting lacks the authority to force settlements on member Churches…

The Church Times reported:

…The Anglican Partner bishops have declared themselves to be loyal to the Episcopal Church and to the Anglican Communion. Their move can be seen as an alternative path to that taken by the Common Cause Anglicans in the United States, who last year established the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) under the deposed Bishop of Pittsburgh, the Rt Revd Bob Duncan.

None the less, their latest move to use the Covenant as a test of orthodoxy parallels moves by the ACNA last week. The Covenant has been criticised by conservatives in the past, and the first version of a communiqué issued by the GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) Primates in London last week appeared to be sceptical about the latest draft of the Covenant (the “Ridley draft”, News, 17 April): “While we support the concept of an Anglican Covenant . . . if those who have left the standards of the Bible are able to enter the Covenant with a good conscience, it seems to be of little use.”

This was later changed to: “We welcome the Ridley Cambridge Draft Covenant and call for principled response from the provinces.”

Interviewed at Heathrow on Thursday of last week, Bishop Duncan said that the Covenant would be debated at the ACNA provincial assembly in June. “We imagine that, while we as the Anglican Church in North Ameri-can ratify the Covenant, neither the US Church, when it meets three weeks later, nor the Church of Canada, when it has its next general synod, will be in any hurry to ratify it. The question will be for the Communion: ‘Who actually are the partners?’”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 24 April 2009 at 9:21am BST | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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More on the CP/ACI statement

The Church Times has this report by Pat Ashworth US contingency plan asserts diocesan autonomy and there is a second, related report Covenant is to be used as litmus test of Anglicanism.

The first article has moved on the CT website: please follow the above link, and then scroll down, in order to find the first article above!

Matthew Davies has written about it for ENS see Communion Partners statement challenges Episcopal Church polity.

The Chicago Consultation has issued this Response to Anglican Communion Institute statement.

The Living Church has a report, Bishops: Church’s Doctrine, Worship, Polity in ‘Grave Peril’.

Mark Harris who first broke this story, has written a second note, Cleaning out the Stalls.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 24 April 2009 at 1:00am BST | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 22 April 2009

CP/ACI statement published

The predicted statement has now been published.

See Bishops’ Statement on the Polity of the Episcopal Church, at the ACI website.

There is also a separate item there, Statement from the Anglican Communion Institute signed only by The Revd Canon Professor Christopher Seitz. This responds to the original publication of email extracts by The Revd Canon Mark Harris.

The entire email correspondence has now been published as a PDF file over here.

Earlier, an unofficial copy of the formal ACI document was published, also as a PDF here.

The Bishops’ Statement has been signed by 15 bishops. The list is as follows:

  • The Right Reverend James M. Adams, Jr. Bishop of Western Kansas
  • The Right Reverend Peter H. Beckwith Bishop of Springfield
  • The Right Reverend William C. Frey Assisting Bishop of Rio Grande; Retired Bishop of Colorado
  • The Right Reverend Alden M. Hathaway Retired Bishop of Pittsburgh
  • The Right Reverend John W. Howe Bishop of Central Florida
  • The Right Reverend Russell E. Jacobus Bishop of Fond du Lac
  • The Right Reverend Paul E. Lambert Bishop Suffragan of Dallas
  • The Right Reverend Mark J. Lawrence Bishop of South Carolina
  • The Right Reverend Edward S. Little II Bishop of Northern Indiana
  • The Right Reverend William H. Love Bishop of Albany
  • The Right Reverend D. Bruce MacPherson Bishop of Western Louisiana
  • The Right Reverend Edward L. Salmon, Jr. Retired Bishop of South Carolina
  • The Right Reverend Michael G. Smith Bishop of North Dakota
  • The Right Reverend James M. Stanton Bishop of Dallas
  • The Right Reverend Don A. Wimberly Bishop of Texas

Also Endorsed By:
- The Reverend Canon Professor Christopher Seitz
- The Reverend Dr. Philip Turner
- The Reverend Dr. Ephraim Radner
(The Anglican Communion Institute, Inc.)

The name of Mark McCall, the actual author, does not appear in the published document.

According to the emails and the draft version of the document, the following four additional signatures were sought:
list amended Thursday morning

The Right Reverend John C. Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee
The Right Reverend Geralyn Wolf, Bishop of Rhode Island
The Right Reverend Gary R. Lillibridge, Bishop of West Texas
The Right Reverend C. Andrew Doyle, Bishop Coadjutor of Texas

Various blogs have commented on this story, including:
In A Godward Direction BS from ACI
BabyBlue Draft of Communion Partners Statement on the Polity of The Episcopal Chuch is seized and leaked by Episcopal progressive activists
Integrity Integrity Applauds “Outing” of Communion Partners Network
Telling Secrets Anglican Teabagging
Episcopal Café ACI releases statement and Breaking III: Integrity publishes CP/ACI draft document
Articles of Faith Episcopal email conspiracy unwrapped
Washington Blade Episcopal leaders look to enhance anti-gay schism: source

An Inch At A Time: Reflections on the Journey Nancy Drew and The Case of the Errant Anglican Emails added Thursday morning

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 22 April 2009 at 10:30pm BST | Comments (29) | TrackBack
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CofE clergy pensions contribution raised to 45%

Updated Thursday evening

From this press release, Further update on the Clergy Pensions Scheme – Recession forces contribution increase.

“However the Pensions Board judged that on the basis of what is now known it could not responsibly leave the existing funding in place until 2011 when any changes to the contribution rate resulting from the next formal valuation would be implemented. The Board has therefore decided that the contribution rate will need to be increased from its current 39.7% to 45% of the pensionable stipend with effect from 1 January 2010.

Read the whole statement.

Update

Dave Walker knows how the problem can be solved.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 22 April 2009 at 3:29pm BST | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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CP/ACI and Pittsburgh

The arguments being put forward by Communion Partners about the autonomy of TEC dioceses apply also of course to those dioceses which now claim to have left TEC. And the ACI is clearly aware that the forthcoming CP statement could be used in the litigation which is ensuing in relation to those dioceses (San Joaquin, Fort Worth, Quincy, and Pittsburgh). Here are three further quotes from the same thread of emails:

…by ‘support’ do you mean, support for the Bishops signing this document to be posted at ACI and used in the Pittsburgh case? Mark McCall can evaluate that better than I, but in terms of sending a message about where the CP Rectors are, this could I think be helpful. It will not go out as a CP Bishops statement, however, but rather as a statement endorsed by individual Bishops, all of whom are of course also CP Bishops.

…On the second purpose of the Bishops’ Statement—to serve as a resource for the litigation and the expert testimony—the general principle is the more support the better, although on this front, it is the bishops’ signatures that matter the most. The only thing that would hurt is a format that implies more signatures should have been attached, e.g., if your statement were open to all rectors but only a handful actually signed on.

…there were significant developments in the Pittsburgh litigation while we were in Houston. There was a flurry of filings and a ruling yesterday permitting +Buchanan (with Beers as counsel) to intervene. This is merely a procedural ruling. Beers now has to prove what he has alleged (subordination, etc.). As some of you know, I have always regarded this procedural ruling as a foregone conclusion, but +Duncan’s counsel opposed it vigorously. I was somewhat concerned that they were wasting credibility with the judge, but they know this better than I. There will still be substantial procedural wrangling in Pittsburgh over the terms of the settlement agreement reached three years ago between +Duncan and Harold Lewis+, so the substantive issues we are concerned with will come up later in Pittsburgh than in San Joaquin. I believe, however, that the failure of the procedural tactic by +Duncan’s lawyers means that these substantive issues will eventually be decisive in Pittsburgh. (I have a great deal of respect for +Duncan’s current lawyer, John Lewis. He is trying to get out of a deep hole dug by Duncan’s former counsel in the disastrous Harold Lewis litigation. Bishop Duncan has been badly served in the past by my profession.)

So it is not entirely clear to me how far the CP members are distancing themselves from those who have left TEC for ACNA.

Update

John Chilton has drawn attention at Episcopal Café to the signature of The Rt. Reverend D. Bruce MacPherson (Communion Partner Bishops) on the document at ACI entitled ACI Statement on Civil Litigation which deals specifically with the TEC intervention in the legal action in Pittsburgh.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 22 April 2009 at 2:46pm BST | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Communion Partners forge ahead

Communion Partners is an organisation of (non-TEC) Primates, TEC bishops and TEC rectors which is closely linked to the Anglican Communion Institute.

The two organisations jointly sponsored a conference last week in Houston, Texas. You can find more information about the conference here, and in this Living Church news report, Archbishop Carey: TEC Likely to ‘Clean Out’ Conservatives.

Their own About Us page says:

In light of our understanding of the integrity of the Dioceses of The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Visitors concept announced by the Presiding Bishop, we have considered a need to maintain and strengthen

  • our ties with the Anglican Communion
  • our fidelity to the canonical realities, integrities and structures of the Episcopal Church
  • and our exercise of our office as a focus of unity.

We believe such ties will provide the opportunity for mutual support, accountability and fellowship; and present an important sign of our connectedness in and vision for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as we move through this time of stress and renewal.

And the page also discusses Purpose, Scope, Participants, and Transparency. The Primates listed are: Tanzania, West Indies, Jerusalem and Middle East, Burundi, Indian Ocean.

There are lists of TEC bishops and of TEC rectors.

Earlier statements published in the name of the CP group include Common Cause and a New Province.

CP and ACI now intend to publish a formal document shortly, signed by perhaps 18 CP bishops, entitled Bishops’ Statement on the Polity of the Episcopal Church which argues in detail that TEC is not a hierarchical body and that individual dioceses are autonomous entities. In particular they argue that individual dioceses are free to sign up to the proposed Anglican Covenant, and that it is not necessary to leave TEC and join ACNA in order to do that. The presumption here is that TEC itself will not do so, or at least not in 2009.

Mark Harris has reported on the existence of a thread of emails about this plan, see Heads Up: Lawyer McCall and “Communion Partner” bishops play the diocese card.

The CP bishops and ACI also plan to press ahead with a plan for a priest in Colorado, named as The Revd. Theron Walker, Rector of St Philip In the Field, Sedalia, to request a visitation from the Bishop of South Carolina, as a CP Bishop. Below the fold, are extracts from two of the emails which give full details of this.

email 1:

The other main concern is seeing to a visitation in the name of CP, something now long overdue. We are hoping that Theron Walker requests a CP visitation from +Mark Lawrence, asap, and +Mark will request that +Salmon go in his place, as a CP Visitor. I understand from Philip that +Wimberly has also volunteered his services, as has +Hathaway.

I would request of your advisory group that a series of these visits be planned, asap, and with some sense of organisation, perhaps using these three men. It was usefully pointed out that the places needing support are precisely those where the Bishop is very unclear about his support of Covenant, and so the parishes under him that want this are left to themselves, either to buckle under or leave with the help of AAC/ACNA.

In point of fact, this is not really the case in B-ham with Limehouse, as +Mark reminded me. That said, any parish that wants to underscore their commitment to covenant and CP needs a way to show their people that CP is the way to do this.

The negotiating of this takes place between a CP bishop and the respective Diocesan, but the advisory group of CP can start setting the matter in motion. Only in this way will the PV scheme have a proper foundation, and otherwise it may be stalled for a season. We can however show Lambeth that this way forward works, (if it does), and help parishes resist leaving as the only way forward.

———-
email2:

1) The CO priest will request of +SC, as a CP Bishop, a ‘visitation’,

2) the purpose of which is to prevent his parishioners from concluding that the only route for them is joining ACNA (which will be happening in CO soon) because their Diocesan is not foregrounding his covenant commitments and indeed has ordained an openly homosexual priest, etc, but also has said he means to create space for others’ views, etc;

3) +SC will phone +O’Neil and ask that this request be honored and seek to persuade him of its importance,

4) +SC will ask +Salmon to visit, and will indicate to +CO that +Chane is using Salmon in this way in DC.

At issue here is said parish understanding that they have some connective tissue to a covenant their Diocesan may wish to avoid, without challenging the Diocesan as to his authority, and so underscoring a way to remain in TEC and not leave for ACNA but also to affirm Communion life and differentiation.

Importantly, +SC reminded us that he does not want to get into a quid pro quo situation that, having implemented something like this, the PB makes sure he reciprocates when SSBs pass in General Convention and he is forced to let a proponent of the same do a visitation in SC. Hence, using +Salmon.

But also, hence, the importance of the Pastoral Visitors. They need to come into play in time as independent of deal-making and/or mild forms of extortion.

…at issue here is a) the need to show +RDW and others that CP works at a practical level, and that we have tried, b) that we have not done this by asking something of the PB is is not her right to give, but have worked bishop to bishop, c) that the PVs can in time occupy the space—it is hoped—modelled by the CP initiatives in this regard.
IMPORTANTLY, the visitation in CO, should it happen, needs to be labelled by all as a CP initiative and not just a single ad hoc thing (as in DC).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 22 April 2009 at 1:37pm BST | Comments (15) | TrackBack
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Monday, 20 April 2009

some further comment on the (Ridley draft) covenant

Pat Ashworth in the Church Times wrote an article, Autonomy emphasised in new Covenant draft.

Bishop Pierre Whalon wrote an analysis for Anglicans Online Covenanting to covenant.

Both are recommended reading.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 20 April 2009 at 3:14pm BST | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 19 April 2009

GAFCON recognises ACNA

Updated again Monday evening

The Church Times reports exclusively on what was said at a press conference that nobody else attended.

See GAFCON Primates hear of ‘two religions’ in the United States by Paul Handley.

See also the article, already linked yesterday, The Anglican schism widens quietly at Cif belief.

Jim Naughton disagreed with Paul’s conclusions, see GAFCON thunders. The media yawn.

And GAFCON itself had two press releases: GAFCON Communiqué issued - ACNA recognized and earlier GAFCON Primates meet in London with North American Bishops. There were some shenanigans surrounding the wording of one of these, read, Dog bites man.

Episcopal News Service had Conservative Anglican primates recognize proposed North American entity by Matthew Davies.

George Conger reported it for the Living Church under GAFCON Primates Back New North American Province.

Dave Walker has drawn a picture of this event, see the Church Times blog entry here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 19 April 2009 at 11:39pm BST | Comments (25) | TrackBack
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Pittsburgh: legal developments

Updated Monday morning

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh reports that:

A judge has ruled in the Diocese’s favor on several points in its legal dispute with former leaders over the control of diocesan assets.

In a hearing today, April 17, 2009, Judge Joseph James of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, allowed Diocesan Chancellor Andy Roman’s appearance as the attorney for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church. The judge also granted a motion by The Episcopal Church to intervene in the case.

Both matters had been challenged in earlier court filing by attorneys representing former Bishop Robert Duncan and others who left the Episcopal Church last October.

The judge proceeded to order a hearing on the central issue before him, namely, whether a 2005 Court Order and Stipulation agreed to by Duncan and Calvary Episcopal Church requires that diocesan property must remain under the control of a diocese that is part of The Episcopal Church. Attorneys on both sides agreed the question of whether a diocese may leave the Episcopal Church will be reserved for a later hearing and decision, if necessary…

Read the full report at Judge Allows Chancellor’s Role, Episcopal Church Intervention.

Compare this account with the press release found on the website of the “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican)” emphasis added:

On April 17, lawyers for the diocese attended a hearing before Judge James in Pittsburgh, together with lawyers for Calvary Church, lawyers representing The Episcopal Church (TEC) diocese, and lawyers representing the leadership of the national Episcopal Church.

All parties, including the lawyers for the leadership of national Episcopal Church, agreed that there will be hearing based on the assumption that the diocese’s withdrawal from The Episcopal Church was valid. At that hearing, the court will address whether the October 2004 stipulation in the Calvary Church lawsuit was violated by a valid withdrawal of the diocese from The Episcopal Church. No date for the hearing has yet been set…

Lionel Deimel has additional commentary at A Hearing at Last.

The Living Church reported it this way: Flurry of Motions in Pittsburgh Case.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 19 April 2009 at 11:01pm BST | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Low Sunday Opinions

Giles Fraser Church Times Liberation at the heart of Easter

Christopher Howse Telegraph A Christian world under Islam’s rule

Paul Handley Comment is free Belief The Anglican schism widens quietly

Roderick Strange Times Credo: When doubt is not an enemy but an ally of faith

Posted by Peter Owen on Sunday, 19 April 2009 at 12:46pm BST | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 15 April 2009

lawsuit filed in Ft Worth

Updated 24 April

Episcopal Café reports that:

On Tuesday, April 14, 2009, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Episcopal Church filed suit in 141st District Court of Tarrant County, Texas in part to recover property and assets of the Episcopal Church. The defendants are former members of the corporation’s board and the former bishop of the diocese, all of whom have left the Episcopal Church.

For the diocesan press release, and a statement by the Presiding Bishop, go here.

For the Pastoral Letter from the Provisional Bishop, see this, or there is a PDF copy here.

To read the petition filed in court, as a PDF, go over here. (1.1 Mb)

The story has been reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as National Episcopal Church sues Fort Worth group over split.

And in the Dallas Morning News it is described as Episcopal Church sues to regain control of Fort Worth-area buildings held by breakaway group.

24 April update

A news report of this event appeared yesterday at the website of the defendants, see Lawsuit served on the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. The earlier comment made by Bishop Iker is here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 15 April 2009 at 8:02am BST | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Monday, 13 April 2009

The empty cross

Some years ago I was attending a Church of Ireland service in a country town on Good Friday. The service was long and, for me, without any particular focus. Yes, there was a rather mechanistic reading of the Passion, but the rest of it was just Morning Prayer. The congregation was tiny, my own presence accounted for a double figure percentage. And the theme of the sermon (curiously in my view, given the day that was in it) was ‘the empty cross’. The clergyman was of the view that the use of the crucifix was unscriptural, in that ‘the point of Good Friday was the empty cross at Easter’ (I think I have remembered his phrase precisely).

I remembered all that this year when, on the radio, I heard another Irish Anglican clergyman make a similar point about the crucifix, but he also added a more general comment about the cross: he didn’t like it at all. Not terribly original of course: a number of commentators have argued that the Cross as a symbol may be turning off potential new members of the church, that it may be a rather garish and cruel instrument and may, as some have suggested, ‘carry too much baggage’. This kind of approach was lampooned back in the 1980s by the satirical puppet show on Channel 4 television, Spitting Image; they had the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, deciding to drop the Cross as the Christian symbol in favour of the Tambourine.

For me, there is something important about the edginess of the Cross, with the Corpus of Our Lord. Yes, it is dramatic and in-your-face, but maybe that is a welcome antidote to the growing blandness of religion, and in particular of religiosity. Yes, it has ‘baggage’, but then again that’s what Christianity has. The Cross is not supposed to convey an empty message, but a message of hope that has meaning because of what it is set against. It is not a message for a vanilla world.

So even in this Easter season our Cross is not empty. What happened has not been reversed, it has been brought to its full conclusion.

Posted by Ferdinand von Prondzynski on Monday, 13 April 2009 at 12:35pm BST | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 12 April 2009

Easter opinions

Lucy Winkett Telegraph As the bad news gets worse, the Good News keeps getting better

Rowan Williams Mail on Sunday Archbishop on Easter - Article for the Mail on Sunday.

Rowan Williams Lambeth Palace The Archbishop’s Easter Sermon

John Sentamu Sunday Times New life, new spirit

Giles Fraser Guardian The merciful crucifixion

Jane Williams Cif Belief God’s life is inexhaustible

Jonathan Bartley CifBelief Easter and anarchy

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 12 April 2009 at 2:00pm BST | Comments (30) | TrackBack
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Reduced Resurrection

Dawn.
Empty tomb.
Weeping woman.
Angels.
Angels? Supernatural 1.
Garden.
Woman finds gardener.
Hint: THE gardener,
Creator of heaven and earth.
Mary. He calls her name.
Teacher.
She reaches out to him.
He says no, don’t touch.
He is risen from the dead.
Supernatural 2. Mega supernatural.
I am ascending to my Father.
Supernatural 3.

- o - o - o -

Jesus is dead, laid in the tomb. And God does something utterly different. God brings the corpse back to life and transforms him, not just restoring life but making him different. This is a new creation, similar to but different from a human body, similar in some ways to the angels, but different again.

The Resurrection is not natural. The Resurrection is not normal. God breaks in and breaks all the laws. This is supernature. And it makes no sense in our disenchanted world. In our world, we have left no room for the supernatural. When we find it, we deny it and find all sorts of explanations to make it safe.

I have read all the arguments about the resurrection being about the new life of the early Christian community, or the way the evangelists chose to tell the story – so many attempts to conform to the spirit of the age.

But I don’t want to edit out or play down the supernatural – in my life or in my world or in God’s engagement with that, least of all in the Resurrection. To rationalise the Resurrection is to reduce it, diminish it.

Christ is risen! He is Risen indeed! Really He is. Alleluia!

(And yes, I have been reading Charles Taylor, A Secular Age.)

Posted by Meg Gilley on Sunday, 12 April 2009 at 6:45am BST | Comments (50) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 11 April 2009

comment on the Ridley covenant draft

Updated Easter Monday morning

American sources dominate so far.

The Living Church has Latest Covenant Draft Vests Adoption and Discipline with Provinces.

Episcopal News Service has Covenant design team sends ‘best possible draft’ to Anglican Consultative Council.

Episcopal Café has substantial discussion, first at Latest draft covenant available and then at A troubling interpretation and then at Capturing the castle through the back door.

The TitusOneNine thread referenced in the above articles is here.

Covenant-Communion also has extensive comment. See First Impressions of the Ridley Cambridge Draft of an Anglican Covenant and Is ACNA one of the “other Churches” the Anglican Covenant addresses?

Updates

Lionel Deimel has produced a PDF file titled Scripture References for the Ridley Cambridge Draft of the Anglican Communion Covenant.

Adrian Worsfold aka Pluralist has written at Episcopal Café, see The Covenant giveth and the Covenant taketh away. His final para:

This Anglican Covenant now acknowledges the potential for change, if all it wants to do is get international Instruments to direct and defer - without directing and probably not achieving any deferring. What a document! This Covenant is a completely contradictory mess, and the best place for it is the bin.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 11 April 2009 at 9:30am BST | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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opinions on Easter Eve

John Polkinghorne writes in The Times about Motivated belief and the stringent search for truth.

And Tom Wright writes there also, see The Church must stop trivialising Easter.

Nick Jowett writes in the Guardian about the tradition of laughter at Easter.

Alan Wilson wrote on Comment is free: Belief about hearing the Easter story as if for the first time. Read Just tell Olive to get stuffed.

Jonathan Bartley wrote in last week’s Church Times about how the Church is in danger of undermining its own message. Read Actions speak louder than words.

Yesterday’s leading article in The Times is related to the preceding item, see The spiritual challenge.

Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times about The real vampirism in society today and last week’s column was The ultimate rebrand of the cross.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 11 April 2009 at 9:20am BST | Comments (15) | TrackBack
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a day without prayer

Ignatius of Loyola, in his Spiritual Exercises, departs from the normal prayer structure for the Exercises-equivalent of Holy Saturday. Rather than pray four or five times as usual, he recommends praying the Passion once at midnight, again on rising, and then spending the rest of the day pondering Christ’s actual death, as well as imagining the loneliness felt by Mary and the disciples.

At first blush, it’s a sensible suggestion: take time to let Jesus’s death sink in. But at second blush, it is striking that Ignatius recommends, in effect, that we not even try to pray — not formally at least — but that we ponder and reflect instead.

Of course, if you’ve spent a week imaginatively meditating on the Passion, trying to stay alongside Jesus in his suffering, then his death does interrupt everything. With Jesus dead, Christian prayer doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Praying to the Father through the Son in the Spirit doesn’t work — unless you anticipate the resurrection.

Just as most of the Church does not celebrate the Eucharist on this day, so it is no surprise that Ignatius counsels against praying on this day. Instead, Ignatius suggests that we let the bottom fall out of our world too, just as it would have done for Mary, for the other faithful women, and for the apostles. He wants us to experience Jesus’s death without anticipating the resurrection. True, he is setting the stage for the next day’s prayer, when we ask to share in Jesus’s own joy at his resurrection, but the reality of Jesus’s death has to be plumbed first to make space for his own exquisite joy.

Some people might not appreciate such a suspension of the truth (of the resurrection) as a spiritual good. How could good come out of pretending not to believe something that you do actually believe? How do you even do that psychologically? But Ignatius is simply asking us to attend to the story as it unfolds, even if the story is familiar. And attending to Jesus’s all too real death is something many of us need to work at, not least to get over our inability to let Jesus be truly human, let alone truly dead. Unless we let him die, we lose out on Jesus’s own joy, his own gratitude, his own amazement, his desire to share his joy.

So if you’re wondering what to do this Holy Saturday, why not spend the whole day imagining that Jesus is dead. Go through the day, doing whatever it is that one does on a Saturday, but do so as if he has not been resurrected. Forget about the ‘not yet’. Go through the day as if his death had been the end of the story. Imagine everything Jesus said and did, imagine the promise of it all, but then also imagine that he was killed for it. But don’t anticipate. Ignore the speculative metaphysics of souls, and let him be utterly dead.

If you must sneak a prayer in, pray to God for some measure of desolation; pray for a real sense of spiritual numbness and darkness; pray for a sense of infinite grief; pray to experience the loss of any ground to prayer — pray even to be unable to pray. And then wait … for the darkness of the Vigil.

Posted by Joe Cassidy on Saturday, 11 April 2009 at 7:23am BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Friday, 10 April 2009

in it with us

Today is a stark day, dominated by the image of a young man tortured to death. It poses us with terrifying options.

It may be that there is no meaning in the universe. That the savage beauty of this earth has no purpose. Human love is as futile as human hate. The suffering made for and by human kind in Rwanda, in Auschwitz, in Guantanamo, will not be blamed or redeemed or transformed. The love and courage of lone voices raised in protest will not be praised and valued. This young man, dying a stone’s throw from the noisy city, is deluded and his cry that God has forsaken him is no more than a fragment of the terrible truth, for there is no God and he was never the beloved son.

There is another option. There is a God, who sustains the whole world. He is a God so hugely bigger than our hearts can truly grasp that he has created a world where suffering and pain is, in one shape or another, the lot of us all. Yet we are not alone in that suffering, for he is in it with us. This same God is here in agony in this young man, suffering just about the worst that human kind can devise. He undertakes this willingly in order to bring about the paradigm transformation. His anguish will bring back purpose. He will give value to the pain of all sufferers by offering them a sea change from victim to health giver. He will transform not just the terrible hurt of the crucifixion, but every other hurt into which he is allowed. In his own way, he will change everything.

He will judge the oppressors and condemn their acts by his very conversion of them from destruction into new birth. He offers to all the opportunity for meaning in every action, calling them a possibility at once joyful and intimidating in its vast scale.

Today is a pivotal day. We stand before the cross to make decisions.

Hope is more terrifying than despair.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah on Friday, 10 April 2009 at 7:36am BST | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 9 April 2009

Bishops write about Islam

The BBC has an interview with Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester. Watch it via this report: Islam row bishop ‘has no regrets’

A leading Church of England bishop who is to resign after 15 years in the post said he has no regrets about controversial statements he has made.

The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, said his decision to resign was a spiritual one.

The Church’s first non-white diocesan bishop is set to retire in September.

Last year, he received death threats after saying some areas of the UK had become no-go areas for non-Muslims because of Islamic extremism.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Mr [sic] Nazir-Ali said he had no regrets about anything he has said in the past.

The bishop, who turns 60 in August, said he still stood by his claims made earlier in his career that “extreme forces” presented a grave threat to Britain’s way of life and culture.

Dr Nazir-Ali said the reason he decided to resign was because of a message from God which said it was time to do “something else”…

The Lagos Guardian has an article by Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria. Read it at Another Wake Up Call To The People Of God.

THAT the Christian Church is today facing challenges on many fronts is an understatement. As the world is suffering a time of great economic distress, churches are dividing over the authority of the Bible and the place of the ancient creeds of the Christian Church. We are literally torn apart over issues pertaining to human sexuality, sin and salvation. And as we prepare to celebrate Easter, many among us are confused about the physical resurrection of Jesus the Christ from the grave, and some will hear Easter sermons which will tickle their ears with curious doctrines designed to gain favour in a post modern generation.

Added to these complications and challenges is the global growth and agenda of a resurgent Islam. No longer are the painful experiences of Christians who are suffering at the hands of Islam confined to Africa, Asia and the Middle East, they are increasing and alarmingly occurring in the West…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 9 April 2009 at 2:26pm BST | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Bishop says faith schools must tackle homophobic bullying

The Bishop of Manchester, Nigel McCulloch, has sent a message of support to the Exceeding Expectations Initiative, which is a project in Manchester aimed at tackling homophobic bullying in schools. Here is the full text of his statement:

“Bullying, of whatever kind, is always completely unacceptable. At its worst it leads to atrocities such as the Nazis’ persecution and extermination of people on the grounds of their race, religion or sexuality.

That is why faith schools must, as many do, lead the way in combating bullying – and not least the bullying of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, be they young or old.

I am very sad about the homophobic attitudes of some people. The exclusion, intolerance, prejudice, hatred and fear that homophobia feeds must be eradicated from our society – as I have strongly and publicly said on many occasions.

It is vital that the Church does as much as possible to keep dialogue going between all God’s people. That means everyone – whoever, whatever, wherever we are - including of course the gay community.

So much that goes wrong in our sad and divided world is because we do not listen or try to understand each other. Bullies never want to listen or understand – and so, in the end, damage themselves and their own quality of life.

Unfortunately, in the process, all of us who belong to a society in which bullies are allowed to flourish become sufferers. And, as projects such as Exceeding Expectations have shown, in its efforts to get rid of homophobic bullying in our schools, the children who are bullied can be deeply scarred for life.

That is why school staff should know how to challenge homophobic remarks – including the use of the word “gay” as a term of abuse. Teachers may need specific advice about this aspect of their role, because it is their job to affirm all pupils. That includes gay, lesbian and bisexual pupils, who, like everyone else, have a right to be themselves without being bullied.

One of the blessings that I frequently use at the end of worship includes the important command: “honour all people”. That is fundamental to the Christian faith. That is why Church schools – and schools of other faiths too – should always be places that encourage a climate of honour and respect.

Of course, as everyone realises, not everyone agrees about homosexuality. But that can never become an excuse for bullying.

I urge all faith schools to make sure that every pupil is fully included as part of the school community and encouraged in his or her studies. Each of us is made in God’s own image; and every one of us is precious to God. That should be the motivation of all our faith schools: to honour all people, including those who identify themselves as lesbian and gay.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 9 April 2009 at 1:17pm BST | Comments (23) | TrackBack
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Relishing faith's contradictions

When many years ago I stopped being a research mathematician and began to study theology, one of my few regrets was that my new discipline was much poorer than my previous in handling contradictions. For mathematicians to discover a contradiction is a delight; it sends us off in a fresh direction; makes us examine our underlying axioms; leads us to a deeper understanding. By contrast I have found theology sees contradictions as difficulties to be explained away, tests (like the queen in Alice) to prove our ability to place faith above fact, or embarrassments to ignore.

At the heart of the accounts of Holy Week in the Four Gospels lies just such a contradiction. Whilst the common account in Matthew, Mark, and Luke has Jesus sharing the Passover Meal tonight with his disciples, St John has tomorrow’s crucifixion taking place at the time when the Passover lambs are being slaughtered. Even a longstanding vegetarian like me knows that if you are going to eat meat you kill it beforehand, not the day after. I’ve read some bizarre suggestions that maybe for some long lost liturgical reason Israel celebrated a double Passover that year, but mostly, this bare-faced contradiction at the heart of the central narrative of Christianity has been ignored; and by ignoring it theology fails to ask the vital question of what our Gospel writers were doing that led them to offer such irreconcilable narratives.

To Matthew, Mark and Luke this is the Passover meal that inaugurates a new Exodus. The journey will take Jesus and the disciples not through the waters of the Red Sea, but the deep waters of death itself on their way to the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed as their new Promised Land. Written at a time when Church and Synagogue were finally and irrevocably splitting from each other they want to make the point that God’s new covenant is with the Church, the whole Church and nothing but the Church. It all fits with the theology in which Jesus adds to, and completes, what the Old Testament began.

John is scarcely on the same planet.

The whole of his Gospel to this point has been about what he calls “signs”. Signs are things that point towards Jesus, so that looking in the direction to which they point we see the one who, raised up high on the cross, brings salvation to all who look upon him. In John’s theology the big stories of the Old Testament are themselves no more and no less than earlier signs pointing to the same, single central focus. The great Old Testament covenants, with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David, are (some implicitly, some explicitly) subjected to this overreaching theme — all point to Christ on the cross. What neither the sacrifice of Isaac nor the yearly sacrifice of Passover lambs could achieve is now being accomplished through the sacrifice of God’s own son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. John’s church is not the sign of a new covenant but the sign of the only covenant, to which all that appeared before was no more than pointing towards.

All that follows, to the end of time, points equally to the only place where salvation is to be found, Christ lifted on a cross. And all church practice: liturgy; ethics; liberating engagement; pastoral ministry stands or falls by whether it lifts up the eyes of the people to the crucified Christ.

In the mathematical world we have learned to live with contradictions such as the perplexing behaviour of light — which sometimes acts as a particle and sometimes as a wave — recognising that each formulation carries an essential part of the whole truth; a truth that our limited imagery cannot fully capture in one form. The Passover story alerts us to the fact that faith contains its own integral contradictions. Explaining, enjoying and learning from them is the way to a deeper and fully balanced faith; a faith that will then be equipped to manage contradictions in moral teaching and ecclesiology as well as in doctrine. And so guard us against the fundamentalisms that are the all too often consequence of pursuing a single logical and consistent system.

Posted by David Walker on Thursday, 9 April 2009 at 8:11am BST | Comments (14) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Anglican Communion Covenant - latest draft

The Covenant Design Group (CDG) met between 29 March and 2 April 2009, in Ridley Hall, Cambridge. There is a press release, copied below the fold.

The main work of the group was to prepare a revised draft for the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant which could be presented to the fourteenth Meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, and commended to the Provinces for adoption.

The ACC is meeting in Jamaica from 1 to 13 May 2009.

This third “Ridley Cambridge” draft of the Covenant is online here.

The Introduction is here.

The accompanying Commentary is available here.

The Summary of Provincial Responses is here as a PDF file.

Earlier drafts and papers are online here.

The Covenant Design Group (CDG) met under the chairmanship of the Most Revd Drexel Gomez, former Primate of the Church in the Province of the West Indies, between 29th March and 2nd April, 2009, in Ridley Hall, Cambridge, at the invitation of the Principal, the Revd Canon Andrew Norman, former Representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Covenant Design Group. We are grateful for the warm welcome received.

The main work of the group was to prepare a revised draft for the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant which could be presented to the fourteenth Meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, and commended to the Provinces for adoption. The CDG now presents the third “Ridley Cambridge” draft for the Anglican Communion Covenant.

This text has been developed in the light of responses received in the twelve month consultation period requested by the Joint Standing Committee since the production of the Saint Andrew’s Draft in February 2008. The CDG has worked with the twenty or so Provincial responses which have been received to the St Andrew’s Draft, and which are listed in Appendix One of this Report. We also received a large number of responses from individuals, diocesan synods and other institutions, including ecumenical partners, which were also circulated among the group. All these responses are in the process of being published now on the Anglican Communion website.

The Ridley Cambridge Draft (RCD) of the Covenant text follows the pattern established in the St. Andrew’s Draft, of an Introduction, a Preamble, three Sections (to which a fourth is now added), and a Declaration. “We recognise the importance of renewing in a solemn way our commitment to one another, and to the common understanding of faith and order we have received, so that the bonds of affection which hold us together may be re-affirmed and intensified.”

The members present in the meeting in Cambridge were:

Drexel Gomez, Chair
Victor Atta-Baffoe
John Chew
Katherine Grieb
Santosh Marray
John Neill
Rubie Nottage (unable to be at the Cambridge Meeting)
Ephraim Radner
Eileen Scully

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 8 April 2009 at 5:03pm BST | Comments (21) | TrackBack
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February General Synod - answers to questions

The full texts of the questions asked at February’s Church of England General Synod, and their answers are now online. The file includes the supplementary questions and written answers.

The official, verbatim, transcripts of all the sessions are also available.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 8 April 2009 at 1:43pm BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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news from Virginia

Updated Thursday lunchtime

The Diocese of Virginia has issued a press release: Diocese of Virginia Appeals to Virginia Supreme Court in Order to Protect Religious Liberty in the Commonwealth.

Determined to restore constitutional and legal protections for all churches in Virginia, and to return loyal Episcopalians in Virginia to their Episcopal homes, the Diocese of Virginia today filed a petition to appeal The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. Truro Church, et al.

The Diocese is appealing on a number of grounds, including a challenge to the constitutionality of Virginia’s one-of-a-kind division statute (Va. Code § 57 9(A)) and the rulings of the Circuit Court in applying the law…

The full text of the appeal petition can be read as a PDF file here.

The Anglican District of Virginia has responded with ADV Responds to Appeal by The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia.

FAIRFAX, Va. (April 7, 2009) – In response to the appeal in the Virginia church property litigation filed on Tuesday, April 7 by the Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church, the Anglican District of Virginia Vice-Chairman Jim Oakes issued the following statement:

“We are saddened that The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia find it necessary to continue this litigation with an appeal filed during Holy Week. The appeal process will cost additional millions of dollars that could be spent on mission and ministry. Both sides have already spent some $5 million in legal costs, money that could have gone to helping our communities during these tough economic times. The legal victories we’ve had so far in support of our religious freedom have only encouraged us to stand firm in our Anglican faith and work together to deliver the message of Christ.

“Since our final legal victory in December 2008, the Anglican District of Virginia has added two more congregations, bringing out total to 25 congregations and three mission fellowships. This continuing growth here and around the country is tangible evidence of the hunger for orthodox Anglicanism in the U.S. Despite today’s appeal, we will continue to move on with our mission to spread the transforming news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our doors are open to everyone, especially those who thirst for transformation and renewal.”

Thursday update

The Episcopal Church has also filed a petition, see The Episcopal Church’s Petition to the Supreme Court of Virginia to Hear Appeal (PDF).

There is a full article at ENS about all this, VIRGINIA: Diocese, Episcopal Church ask state Supreme Court to review property rulings by Mary Frances Schjonberg.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 8 April 2009 at 8:09am BST | Comments (15) | TrackBack
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a very difficult dinner party

There has been a desire amongst many Christians, at least since the time of the Reformation, when the full Gospel story became available in the vernacular, to re-create the Last Supper as faithfully as possible. The intention was to be more faithful to the Lord’s command to ‘do this in remembrance’.

Alongside this was surely a feeling that it must have been wonderful to be in the presence of the Messiah on that night, listening to his words, and receiving the bread and wine over which he had said the blessing.

But if we look at the occasion it appears in many ways to have been a most uncomfortable evening. It opened, in John’s Gospel, with Peter’s refusal to have his feet washed. He almost prevented Jesus from completing this invaluable sign to his Church. Next came the moment, brought to life by Leonardo’s painting, where Jesus announced to his disciples that one of them would betray him. They all look around, wondering who has been accused. That moment was beautifully portrayed for me this year in a children’s passion play. As Jesus began to walk around the table, saying ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread’, one of the disciples leapt up and fled from the table saying ‘I’m not really hungry. Don’t give it to me!’ An uncomfortable moment indeed for all. In their drama, when Jesus gave the bread to Judas there was a visible loosening of tension in the other disciples as if this idea had been going through all their minds. The departure of Judas only made the occasion worse, as everyone was filled with foreboding. Perhaps the party would be broken up in minutes.

Luke’s gospel has another tension: the dispute which broke out among the disciples about which was the greatest. Perhaps it was this rivalry which led to the sign of the washing of feet.

As we look at the way the evening unfolded, we find the disciples so wrapped up in their own personal agenda that they were hardly able to grasp the significance of what was happening. Few of us can ever have attended a dinner party among friends which actually turned out to be so difficult.

Their dispute, the anxiety not to be found in the wrong, Peter’s protestations and denials all add to make this a most painful but memorable evening. Clearly this memory of the disciples’ selfishness and lack of care stayed with them. Along with it was no doubt a profound regret that in Jesus’ hour of need they had not been able to rise selflessly to the occasion and give him their support.

Certainly, in our remembrance of the Last Supper, we would not wish to recreate the feelings which were around then. Fortunately, from the very first the Christian Church has not sought to replicate that Supper. Our holy day is Sunday, not Thursday. It is the day the witnesses to the resurrection found that the risen Christ came to them, offering from the first Easter Day the opportunity of forgiveness and a vision of their life and communion together.

Posted by Tom Ambrose on Wednesday, 8 April 2009 at 7:08am BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Donkey Riding

They had been waiting for him. He promised so much. And he arrived, waving to those who greeted him so enthusiastically (especially the photographers and the press), and rode the beast through the great city. Some had got ahead of themselves: they were already disenchanted, already crying ‘crucify’ — or at least ‘get the bankers!’ — but for most, the hope was there, the hope of a saviour, come at a time when the old ways, the old certainties, could no longer be sustained. Surely, with his coming there would be the promise of restoration: we would again feel comfortable with ourselves, assured that our lives would again be blessed and fruitful.

Well, so much for last week’s G20, and the arrival of Barack Obama. This week, of course, it’s a different story, a different arrival. The expected Messiah comes on a donkey, and it takes a while for the mood of the crowd to change. But the fearfulness with which we seem to live because of the global economic downturn, and the hopes invested in the meeting of world leaders last week, above all in the new US President, provided a strange parallel to what might have been the mood of an expectant, fearful, hopeful Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Will we be as disappointed as those Jerusalem crowds in the outcome of last week’s deliberations? Will we turn on the politicians, the people in whom we invested those hopes, and demand reparation — not perhaps their lives, but at least their seats and their expenses, as compensation for not setting all right, not returning us to the ever-increasing affluence to which most westerners and some in the developing world have become accustomed?

In some churches, when the passion narrative was read last Sunday, the congregation will have given voice to the bystanders, the crowd. We, the gathered company, are asked to see ourselves as the fickle ones, now enthusiastic, now hopeful for the wrong things, now condemnatory. And if we are the crowd on Palm Sunday, so perhaps we should, as the spectators of the G20, ask what responsibility we have, what part we play in bringing ourselves, our economy, our environment to its current state — and ask ourselves too, just what our Easter hope is, this 2009.

Posted by Jane Freeman on Tuesday, 7 April 2009 at 8:07am BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Monday, 6 April 2009

North American news roundup

ACNA has published its draft constitution and canons, see ACNA Canons Published, Comments Welcome for more detail.

The Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) has paid the Anglican diocese of Niagara $20,000, which it was awarded for legal costs by an Ontario Superior Court ruling. See Diocese of Niagara awarded $20,000 in legal costs at Anglican Journal.

The Falls Church congregation which split from TEC has issued a request to help pay legal bills. See the text of the letter sent as a PDF, and for background on the property development mentioned, see this news article in the Falls Church News-Press. (H/T Episcopal Café)

And in Colorado Springs, there are reports of the successful transfer of occupancy of Grace and St Stephens Church. See ENS report Colorado Springs parishioners celebrate Palm Sunday homecoming, and also in the Colorado Springs Gazette For two churches, a new beginning.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 6 April 2009 at 8:17pm BST | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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The Mirage of Fear

In the time before America became part of me, while I was still alive to its idiosyncrasies, I would marvel at its culture of memorial. The trail of all of our shared history marks places by events or the people that shaped them. In Europe this has mostly been the prerogative of royal houses, and it is part of the founding character of the United States that anyone’s life can be commemorated. I used to like walking over a crossroads named after an infantryman or a schoolteacher, the subtext was that people of all stations in life build our quality of life, not just those of high social rank, and so it had more of a chance of remembering talent or virtue than most of the royal or aristocratic memorabilia back in England.

But the relentlessness of it would chafe. You couldn’t just drive on an interstate in New York, it had to be the Governor Thomas Dewey Freeway, you landed at John Wayne airport on Orange County and even the swings and slides in my local park would forever immortalise Hiram J Hackenbacker (or whoever’s) whose playground it would become. At worst, you could not pray in the National Cathedral in Washington DC without considering the family names of benefactors etched in huge serif upper case stone letters, a perpetual obscenity which violates the first rule of religious philanthropy: that you are only giving back to God what is God’s in the first place.

When you consider the high reliance America’s public sector has on private philanthropy you have to ask why this arrangement is so dependable? Any dime-store psychologist will tell you that it is about the need for significance and about the fear of death and oblivion. It is a way of making sure that you have not been overlooked, it is a way of buying good memory, it is a way of immortalising your name, just in case God doesn’t deliver. It is the final testimony to the supremacy of the individual, there is no common achievement, no civic good.

It is also driven by fear, the fear of being nothing, the fear of being forgotten.

Today we rehearse a story whose power lies in living where this fear has no power. It is not a story without fear or despair. It is the sense of loss, betrayal and abandonment that makes it an heroic story. But the events of Holy Week have at its centre a man who is not driven by the fear of death. As difficult as the journey becomes, there is an underlying persistence to the end. Jesus may be the central figure in the Holy Week story, but it is not about him, he points to something beyond himself, his words and acts are testimony to God’s purpose, not his immortality. He walks towards death as if its horrors were a mirage.

We can’t begin to engage with this imaginatively unless we can conceive what it would be like to live as if our deaths were behind us. Imagine if your death were not somewhere in the future, but in the past. Think of what could be set aside.

Concerns about status, rivalry, family feud, affronts to dignity, seeking justice for a wrong done, needing to be noticed, given our proper regard, even the need to be memorialised. All these things would melt away along with all their imperatives, that intensity, because they are driven by the fear of death. With our deaths behind us, all these melt away and look trivial, even frivolous.

The Last Supper is not Jesus’s attempt at memorial, it is framing his death in a way that invites his followers to emulate, to live as if their deaths are behind us and mortality an illusion. This is the power we see unfolded in Holy Week.

It is fulfilled after Easter Day. The resurrection stories in Christian sacred texts are about a man walking among his friends whose death is behind him. He is walking a new life. He doesn’t go back to Herod or Pilate or the high priest Caiaphas or Judas Iscariot for revenge, or even vindication. He returns to the life-enhancing business of meals with friends, and his presence a testimony to their never having to fear for themselves, an invitation to put the fear of death behind them.

Paradoxically, this life becomes one of the most remembered in history, but the power of its message remains confined, hidden even from many of his followers, and seen only by those with eyes to see.

So we rehearse the final days of a man walking towards his death, surrounded by the wreckage of a world financial system, driven by a few who are compelled to acquire, profit, and rob in the futile cause of being significant, and trying to stay their mortality. This week, the way ahead is in their midst.

Posted by Andrew Spurr on Monday, 6 April 2009 at 10:18am BST | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 5 April 2009

news from Quincy

The Peoria Journal-Star reports Top Episcopal Church bishop visits Peoria.

An unprecedented visit to Peoria on Saturday by the top leader of the Episcopal Church was welcomed by some local churches but was largely ignored by the 19 that have broken away from the national organization.

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, called a special synod at St. Paul’s Cathedral to name new leadership within the Peoria-based Diocese of Quincy and “to get the diocese back on its feet.”

More detail is available in this ENS report Joy, hope and excitement surround formal reorganization of Diocese of Quincy.

Deputies to a special synod meeting of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy acted with dispatch on Saturday, April 4 as they quickly and unanimously elected new leadership, approved a diocesan budget and elected a provisional bishop. The actions were necessary after a majority of deputies at the 2008 annual synod voted to leave the Episcopal Church and realign with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

Deputies elected the Right Rev. John Clark Buchanan, retired bishop of the Diocese of West Missouri, as provisional bishop of the Diocese of Quincy. Buchanan most recently served as interim bishop in the Diocese of Southern Virginia.

The homily preached by the Presiding Bishop is available here.

The Church of England Newspaper has a report Quincy Dioceses files lawsuit against Episcopal Church which says that:

The breakaway Diocese of Quincy has filed suit against the Episcopal Church in an Illinois Court, asking the court to clarify its rights to the name and assets of the diocese.

“We hoped from the beginning to avoid any legal action,” the President of Quincy’s Standing Committee, Fr. John Spencer said on March 31. However, preliminary moves by the national church to seize the diocese’s bank accounts prompted the court filing, he said.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 5 April 2009 at 4:17pm BST | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Code of Practice?

The April issue of New Directions contains two articles on the proposed form of legislation for women as bishops in the Church of England.

  • David Nichol is worried that the Bishops and Synod are placing far too much hope in a Code of Practice and do not understood how opposed many of us are, see Never a code!
  • The Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, member of General Synod, explains her own understanding of the value and difficulties of a Code of Practice, see Single Clause or Code?
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 5 April 2009 at 4:07pm BST | Comments (46) | TrackBack
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Rochester speaks

Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester, has expressed some opinions in the Sunday Telegraph.

See Ignore our Christian values and the nation will drift apart.

I have resigned as Bishop of Rochester after nearly 15 years. During that time, I have watched the nation drift further and further away from its Christian moorings. Instead of the spiritual and moral framework provided by the Judaeo-Christian tradition, we have been led to expect, and even to celebrate, mere diversity. Not surprisingly, this has had the result of loosening the ties of law, customs and values, and led to a gradual loss of identity and of cohesiveness. Every society, for its wellbeing, needs the social capital of common values and the recognition of certain virtues which contribute to personal and social flourishing. Our ideas about the sacredness of the human person at every stage of life, of equality and natural rights and, therefore, of freedom, have demonstrably arisen from the tradition rooted in the Bible…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 5 April 2009 at 1:22pm BST | Comments (14) | TrackBack
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ACNA does not expect recognition

Doug LeBlanc reports in the Living Church: AAC Official: Canterbury’s Recognition Unlikely

The Anglican Church in North America is unlikely to be recognized by the See of Canterbury, a leader of the American Anglican Council said on April 1.

“We do not believe that Canterbury will recognize us, at least while the current archbishop is still in office,” said the Rev. J. Philip Ashey, the AAC’s chief operating officer and chaplain, in a brief speech in the suburbs of Richmond, Va…

And Fr Ashey also said this:

Asked during a discussion period about the AAC’s relationship to Anglican Communion Partners, Fr. Ashey said the AAC had proposed collaboration more than once.

“We have been politely turned down,” he said. “We are two very different organizations.”

Fr. Ashey compared the AAC to the Special Forces of the U.S. military.

“Like Special Forces, we go behind the scenes and we blow up things,” he said, adding quickly that what the AAC blows up is principalities and powers.

American Anglican Council

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 5 April 2009 at 8:37am BST | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 4 April 2009

opinions before Palm Sunday

Geoffrey Rowell writes in The Times about The ride to salvation in lowly pomp on a donkey.

David Monkton writes in the Guardian that The events of Palm Sunday remind us that spin is no modern invention.

Savi Hensman writes at Ekklesia about Resisting the urge to scapegoat.

Paul Vallely writes in the Church Times that The light of spring symbolises hope.

The Church Times leader is about changing the Act of Settlement and the Royal Marriages Act: The insults of the past.

Earlier in the week, before the announcement of the appointment of Vincent Nichols to be Archbishop of Westminster, Andrew Brown wrote Can we build a society without myths? in response to Britain has sold its soul to pursuit of ‘reason’ over religion, Catholic Archbishop warns in the Telegraph.

In connection with that appointment, Andrew Brown wrote A new combative style in the Catholic church. (See also here, and here.)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 4 April 2009 at 9:38am BST | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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The CofE and the BNP

The Church Times carries a report by Pat Ashworth BNP puts Jesus on its poster.

There have been several strong responses recently to the BNP, including:

Jonathan Bartley at Ekklesia has been critical of those who sometimes take a different tack, such as the Archbishop of York. See his piece on Ekklesia Responding to the BNP over ‘What Would Jesus Do?’.

…The advert asks: “What would Jesus do?”. Of course the BNP don’t have a clue about the answer, but the answer from John Sentamu’s office, as recorded by the Daily Telegraph seems to be that perhaps Jesus wouldn’t say anything. “A spokesmen for the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu and for the Church of England refused to comment saying the BNP was mounting a ‘publicity stunt’ designed to give the party the ‘oxygen of publicity’” the paper said…

…Silence certainly hasn’t been the response of other churches. The Methodists. Baptists and United Reformed Church all put out a statement condemning the adverts. Indeed, Christian denominations and church groups have been making strident denouncations of the BNP ahead of the impending elections. On the same day as the BNP launched its advert, the major church denominations in West Yorkshire issued a press release announcing resources to combat the threat from the British National Party at the 4 June European elections. In fact there isn’t a church to my knowledge that has failed to condemn the BNP.

So what is really behind the Archbishop of York’s reticence to be quoted (which many in the Church of England might mischievously suggest is a rarity!)

There is a tactic employed by many, to try and freeze the BNP out in the hope that they will be marginalised. This is what the Archbishop’s office was perhaps attempting to do. But such tactics don’t seem to be working as Hazel Blears amongst others has recently suggested.

And there is another dimension to this issue which makes it increasingly hard for the church to engage in the way that it has done previously - and that is that the BNP has put the Archbishop and many others within the Church of England in a rather awkward position. The BNP is now using exactly the same rhetoric about ‘persecution’ and defending ‘Christian Britain’, that John Sentamu and others within the Church have been using…

The Telegraph report on which his criticism rests is here: BNP uses Jesus in advertising campaign.

A forthright response to Ekklesia appeared in the unlikely venue of the Archbishop Cranmer blog, in the comments to The Church of England and the BNP. Arun Arora who is Archbishop Sentamu’s press officer wrote:

…As the spokesperson for the Archbishop of York may I correct you on your assertion that:
“A spokesman for the Archbishop of York said: ‘Jesus wouldn’t say anything’.”
That particular inaccuracy is being propagated by the Director of the Ekklesia think tank who was rather put out that I refused to comment on a story that only came to the media’s attention through his press release.
The BNP themselves did not press release the billboard and in fact have admitted that they have put up “only one or possibly two” such posters.
Unfortunately in their haste to promote their own comment on the issue, Ekklesia effectively effectively acted as the BNP’s PR agency through their naive promotion of the BNP’s campign, which has given the poster the kind of media attention they could otherwise never have hoped (or paid) for.
Ekklesia unfortunately compounded this basic PR blunder by misquoting my response to their story.
In fact the comment I gave to the Press Association was: “this is clearly designed to seek the oxygen of publicity. We refuse to provide it”.
There is clearly a big difference between refusing to engage with a poster campaign (providing publicity) and taking every other opportunity to reiterate that the BNP is an odious and racist organisation against which the CofE stands firm.
Certainly for any organisation, such as Ekklesia, to question the Archbishop of York’s commitment to racism from the safety and security of their own offices is quite absurd when one considers that when he was vicar in South London John Sentamu’s house was firebombed by the National Front.
Whilst we can all share in a common united opposition of the BNP, the cause is not helped by the basic errors of “think tanks” which seem to be keener on self-promotion than working together against fascism.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 4 April 2009 at 8:36am BST | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Friday, 3 April 2009

ACC to meet in Jamaica

Updated Friday evening

ACNS announces Top Anglican legislative body Anglican Consultative Council to meet in Jamaica.

The Anglican Consultative Council, made up of lay people, clergy and bishops from the 38 Anglican Provinces of the Communion, meets in Kingston Jamaica May 1 - 13, to consider among other things, mission in the 21st century, the future structure of the worldwide Church, and theological education.

The ACC meets approximately every three years under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who will give a presidential address on May 11.

Foremost on the agenda for this, the 14th meeting of the Council, will be consideration of a Covenant for the Provinces of the Anglican Communion and reception of the final report of the Windsor Continuation Process. Both of these documents are key to discerning a way forward for the Anglican Communion in light of recent stresses cause by differences over matters of human sexuality…

ENS reports Design Group works on Anglican covenant revision.

The group charged with “designing” a covenant that could be used as a unifying set of principles among the provinces of the Anglican Communion met March 30-April 3 in Cambridge, England to work on a new revision of the text.

“A completed revision of the proposed covenant has been finished, along with a commentary explaining our work,” the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, one of two Episcopal Church members on the Covenant Design Group, told ENS at the conclusion of the meeting. “We have taken seriously the array of responses received from the provinces and from around the communion and larger church.”

The latest incarnation of the Anglican covenant, along with the design group’s commentary, is expected to be “posted on the Anglican Communion website sometime next week,” said Radner…

And also ENS has Windsor process, covenant to top Anglican Consultative Council agenda.

The Windsor Continuation Group has been charged with addressing questions arising from the 2004 Windsor Report, a document that recommended ways in which the Anglican Communion can maintain unity amid diversity of opinions, especially relating to human sexuality issues and theological interpretations. Its report calls for the development of a “pastoral council” and supported Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ plan to appoint “pastoral visitors” to assist in healing and reconciliation within the communion.

The continuation group also addressed the moratoria on same-gender blessings, cross-border interventions and the ordination of gay and lesbian people to the episcopate. “If a way forward is to be found and mutual trust to be re-established, it is imperative that further aggravation and acts which cause offence, misunderstanding or hostility cease,” the group’s report states. At their February meeting, the primates called for “gracious restraint” with respect to such actions.

The final report of the WCG is available here, as a PDF.

Further background material:

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 3 April 2009 at 6:38pm BST | Comments (16) | TrackBack
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Anglican news catchup

Following the conclusion of the G20 summit, we now resume our regularly scheduled programmes.

Living Church GAFCON Primates Invite Bishop Duncan

The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) primates’ council will meet in London April 13-18. The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh in the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone and Archbishop-designate of the Anglican Church in North America, has been invited to attend as a guest, according to the Rev. Peter Frank, director of communications for the diocese.

Pat Ashworth Church Times Dr Nazir-Ali steps down to work in persecuted Church

THE BISHOP of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, has announced his resignation. He is leaving to under­take a new global ministry in places where the Church is under pressure and Christians are in a minority. The Archbishop of Canter­bury has described his move as “a courageous initiative and a timely one”.

The news, which was announced in a statement on Saturday, appears to have come as a complete surprise to many. Dr Nazir-Ali has been in­creasingly outspoken on the threats posed by the rise of radical Islam — something he believes is filling a moral and spiritual vacuum left by the loss of Christian faith and the fall of Communism…

…The Bishop will effectively stand down at the end of June, when he has completed his diocesan visita­tions. His farewell service will be held at Rochester Cathedral on 12 September.

Anglican Mainstream Be Faithful! July 6, Central Hall Westminster. Book online

UK LAUNCH OF FELLOWSHIP OF CONFESSING ANGLICANS

JULY 6, 2009, WESTMINSTER CENTRAL HALL, LONDON

THE launch in the UK and Ireland of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA), an orthodox Anglican movement for mission at global and local level, is to take place on July 6 in London…

… Speakers at the July 6 gathering, where around 2,300 bishops, clergy and laity are expected, will include contributors from across the Anglican Communion, including Bishops Keith Ackerman (President of Forward in Faith International), Wallace Benn (Bishop of Lewes), John Broadhurst (Chairman of Forward in Faith UK) and Michael Nazir-Ali, Dr Chik Kaw Tan plus Archbishop Peter Jensen (secretary of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans www.fca.net)…

Anglican Mainstream Bishop Nazir-Ali - a Christian Public Intellectual

“We wish to express warm appreciation for the ministry of Bishop Michael Nazir Ali as a senior Bishop in the Church of England, and in and beyond the Anglican Communion. He has exercised a ministry as a ‘Christian public intellectual’ and apologist for the Christian faith in our public life which has made a very significant contribution to our national life. Our prayers and good wishes are with him and his family for God’s blessing on the new ministry to which he is being called to strengthen and encourage Christians and churches in minority situations.”

Dr Philip Giddings Convenor, Anglican Mainstream
Canon Dr Chris Sugden, Executive Secretary

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 3 April 2009 at 3:05pm BST | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 1 April 2009

G20 and the churches

Updated again Friday evening

Dave Walker is providing comprehensive coverage of G20 events, and you can follow his reports at the Church Times blog and on Twitter.

For more details see his post here.

Some transcripts:

Archbishop of Canterbury Interview with Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme ahead of G20 summit

Gordon Brown PM’s speech at St Paul’s Cathedral

Friday updates

Bill Bowder in the Church Times has Agencies question G20 ‘triumph’

THE TRIUMPHAL end of the G20 leaders’ meeting in London, and its pledge of $1.1 trillion of fiscal support, was questioned by aid agencies yesterday (Thursday).

The leaders agreed that, besides fresh plans to stimulate the global economy and action to close tax havens, at total of $750 billion would be made available to the International Monetary Fund to support struggling economies. A key element of the plan was to increase the funding available to developing countries hit by the global downturn.

Who will benefit from the new plan, and how, will not be clear for some time, campaigners were saying yesterday. The Put People First Coalition, a group of 160 organisations, including the TUC, Oxfam, Christian Aid, Tearfund, ActionAid, World Vision, and Friends of the Earth, asked whether the package was enough of a break from the “failed policies that brough about the global crisis”.

Dave Walker wrote earlier: Thoughts on the final communique and has now added G20 Blog: Christian development agencies disappointed by G20 communique.

The full text of the communiqué can be found here (scroll down for links to the two annexes).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 1 April 2009 at 9:21am BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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