Thinking Anglicans

death as a means of maintaining power

The feast of Christ the King, celebrated this year with the gospel story of the mocking of “The King of the Jews” as he hung helpless on the cross, is the proclamation of the kingdom in which death has no dominion.

Human authority has used death as a means of maintaining its power. It has demonstrated that it has the last word by killing opposition.

God’s kingdom has nothing in common with this, and God does not seek to impose his will through death. Instead, through the crucified and risen Lord, “the firstborn of all creation” a kingdom based on love and on life is revealed.

We have been slow to model human society on this. In the early days of the Christian Roman Empire, the ruler was often not baptised until old age, because as emperor, he would have to order the death penalty. There was an understanding that a rule of law based on the death penalty and a kingdom based on love were fundamentally incompatible. Later Christian rulers were less scrupulous, though we have never lost sight of this ideal.

Today in most of Europe the death penalty has been outlawed. We recognise that mistakes can be made. Also, as Christians, we acknowledge that ultimate authority belongs to the God of love, not to a despot who enforces order through the death penalty.

But many countries, including the United States, still appear to celebrate their use of death as the sign of the power of the state. Sometimes it is only too clear that the State does this because it needs to appease what might be greater violence by an uncontrollable mob.

Today in Britain we mark one small move in the right direction. We shall not see a baying pack of hounds pursuing a defenceless fox or deer in future. Glorying in this form of killing has been declared unacceptable.

On the other hand, the decision to invade Iraq, which posed no external threat, and the way in which lives and infrastructure have been destroyed in that independent sovereign nation has appeared to the rest of the world to be a glorying in that very culture of death which Christ came to end.

The rest of the world can see it was only done to put American forces close to the borders of a now weakened Russia, and lay claim to the vast oil reserves of the nation. The number of Iraqi lives lost in the process is so high that we dare not even try to count the losses.

It is time Britain and America, with their long Christian heritage, learned turn away from this culture of death and to follow the ways of Christ, the king of love.

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Pittsburgh: Calvary responds to Duncan

Calvary Episcopal Church has responded to the remarks made by Bishop Duncan with this press release:

…Bishop Duncan has now asserted at the Diocesan Convention that this lawsuit (which seeks to enforce the constitution and canons of the National Church and the Pittsburgh Diocese) could be a basis for expelling Calvary and St. Stephen’s from the Diocese. That assertion has no support in the Diocesan canon providing for dissolution of relationships with parishes, and we are fully confident that such expulsion would never be upheld by either the National Church or the Court. Actually, the Bishop’s very assertion shows the legitimacy of Calvary’s and St. Stephen’s concern that the constitution and canons of the National Church will not be respected in this Diocese…

Canon XV, Sec. 6, Canons of the Diocese of Pittsburgh

“The Convention may, by a two-thirds vote, dissolve its union with any Parish. Provided, however, that . . . notice of said propo sed action shall have be en given in the preceding Annual Convention.”

Below the fold, is a long article by the Rector of Calvary, Harold Lewis published in the current issue of the parish magazine Agape available as a PDF file on the parish site.



Pittsburgh diocesan lawsuit

There has been a interesting development in the lawsuit to which Robert Duncan took such exception recently. The official court website has published the most recently filed papers. Unfortunately they are in the format of a 3 Mb PDF file. If you have broadband, you can read the whole thing for yourself here.

It contains as attachments a number of documents written by NACDAP people. Andrew Grimmke at CESLD has kindly extracted several of these into smaller files, which anyone should be able to read with Adobe Acrobat Reader. For full details of all of these go here.

First, here is an exchange of emails between Bob Duncan the bishop and Hugo Blankenship the lawyer concerning the latter’s discussions in England in December 2003 with John Rees who was the legal adviser to the Lambeth Commission.

Second, Mainstream Meeting 11/20/03 appears to be notes from the meeting in London referenced in this AAC press release dated 17 December, which said:

The Network was initially established at a gathering of mainstream Anglican leaders in London on November 20, 2003. The leaders included several bishops, including four Anglican Primates and Bishops Edward L. Salmon of the Diocese of South Carolina, James B. Stanton of the Diocese of Dallas, Jack L. Iker of the Diocese of Ft. Worth, and Robert W. Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. At the meeting, the U.S. bishops drafted a Memorandum of Agreement that outlines the process for establishing the Network. In keeping with the Preamble to the Constitution of ECUSA, the Memorandum of Agreement pledges to “uphold and propagate the historic faith and order, fulfilling the Church’s apostolic mission”.

Third, here is a Draft Proposal for Overseas AEO dated 3 March 2004 and authored by Alison Barfoot.

There is more in the original file.


more from the Church Times on women bishops

Here are the further Church Times articles published on 5 November that were not available on the web at that time:

Adding another obstacle to unity By Jonathan Baker

No more half measures by Stephen Trott

When God calls us, it is as humans by Jane Shaw

Also some summaries of what the report says:

Women bishops: issues of theory and practice
Rochester Report: critical questions raised by the ordination of women bishops
Rochester report: a theory of change


Bush v Rochester

I think that women should be eligible to be bishops in the Church of England, that this is a natural corollary of women’s priesthood, and that it should happen sooner rather than later. As one of the promoters of the ‘Priests for Women Bishops’ petition, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

So why do I find myself so unmoved by the Rochester report? I should be caught up in a exchanges about the theology, the principles, the options. I did try to give the report serious consideration when it came out last week, but it was a very busy week, with lots of not-quite-prepared teaching to be done, and I found my emotions far more caught up in the outcome of the US presidential election than in the reading of several hundred pages of CofE prose.

That the report has been produced means that the issue is being taken seriously, and I welcome that, of course. The timetable for the debate is being respected, and there is no attempt, so far, to lose ‘women bishops’ in the mire of endless committees. That it is so long speaks of the thoroughness of the working party. It also provides a vivid illustration of the diversity of the English Anglican inheritance: at the extremes we have very different understandings of episcopacy, and we have lived with that difference, as with so many others, for centuries.

Once we move from the extended treatment of episcopacy in scripture and tradition, it becomes a ‘what if…?’ piece of thinking. Scenarios are laid out before us (or rather, are to be laid out before General Synod), actions and consequences suggested. At some level, most people who have any interest in the matter will have already have understood how different decisions might play, and I doubt whether the report will do much to change hearts and minds. It was not intended to.

It is a tool for the synod to use in achieving a decision. Clarion calls for inclusion, for justice, for the wholeness of the church will come from other sources: as will those for the preservation of a particular tradition and pastoral care of tender consciences. And so I return to my emotional focus of last week. I can identify some steps I can take to further inclusion, justice, and wholeness within the Church of England; but that’s a small corner of a world which seems dangerously hostile to such a vision.


Pittsburgh diocesan goings-on

Anglicans Online has reports in its News Centre today of some of these extraordinary events, but here is more detail.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has issued three press releases:
Constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved

The amendment gives the diocese the constitutional foundation needed to differ with the national church when the diocesan convention determines the national body’s decisions “to be contrary to the historic faith and order of the one holy catholic and apostolic church.” In those cases, the amended constitution makes clear that “the local determination shall prevail.”

To be approved, the resolution had to be passed by majorities of both clergy and lay delegates. Among clergy, 79 voted in favor, 14 against, and 8 abstained. Lay delegates also passed the constitutional amendment by a lopsided margin, with 124 in favor, 45 against and 3 abstentions.

Churches involved in lawsuit should reconsider, says Bishop

Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan asked two parishes of the Diocese, Calvary Episcopal Church in East Liberty and St. Stephen’s Church in Wilkensburg, to reconsider their 13-month-old lawsuit against both bishops and 16 other clergy and lay leaders of the Diocese on November 6.

In order to encourage that process and bring the issues involved to resolution, Bishop Duncan gave notice that the union of those congregations to the diocese might properly be considered the next time the Convention of the diocese meets. Diocesan canons provide that the Convention may dissolve its connection to a parish in cases where there are egregious breeches of church faith or church order. The Bishop said that it was the deepest hope of the Standing Committee that invoking this provision might help everyone understand the gravity of what is at issue, and that there must be some better way than Christians suing one another in court. The bishop stated in making the announcement that he hoped this would actually move forward a process of reconciliation and restoration.

Misinformation in Post-Gazette article damaging to diocesan mission

Unfounded speculation, printed in the November 4 Pittsburgh Post – Gazette under the headline “Episcopal diocese ponders future,” is not only untrue, but damaging to the unity and mission of Pittsburgh Episcopalians, said Bishop Robert Duncan.

Dealing with the last one first, here is the newspaper report:
Episcopal diocese ponders future

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh issued two press releases, each dealing with one of the other two items:

Pittsburgh Episcopal Diocese Pursues Divisive Course
Bishop Threatens Parishes with Expulsion

and the local newspaper reported on them in these terms:
Episcopalians here defy U.S. church
Local bishop pressures two Episcopal churches

Here is the report from Episcopal News Service
Pittsburgh convention approves nullification of national actions

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New CofE Website

The Church of England has a new website. You’ll not be surprised to know that things have moved. Here are updated links to some of the items that I have linked recently.

Women Bishops in the Church of England? and Reader’s guide
General Synod Agendas and Papers
Church Statistics
Building faith in our future


Windsor report: Church Times coverage continued

In the issue of 29 October, there was a further news report:
Windsor report: more views.

The following articles appeared:
The Windsor report is not enough to hold Anglicans together
by Peter Jensen Archbishop of Sydney
How to quench the Spirit
by Marilyn Adams
‘But I have a lot of gay friends’
by Giles Fraser

Further letters to the editor appeared.


Windsor report: Church Times analysis

Since our earlier reports of news coverage, a number of comment articles that were published in the Church Times have become available online without subscription.

First, in the issue of 22 October, these appeared an additional news report: Frank talk with Josiah
There is a full transcript of the event reported here on the Pew Forum website.

There was also a Lambeth Commission: main points summary of the report, and the text of the draft anglican covenant.

The Church Times editorial is That the world may believe

There is also a series of analyses:
Has Robin Eames done it again? by Peter Lee, Bishop of Virginia
A chance for relationships by Njongonkulu Ndungane Primate of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa
Counting the cost of unity by Giles Fraser
Two cheers for ECUSA by David Edwards
It’s not enough for healing by Robert Duncan Bishop of Pitsburgh
You don’t need to call in the law by John Rees
We can all celebrate diversity by Tom Wright Bishop of Durham
The paper also reprinted an extract from Rowan Williams’s address to the1998 Lambeth Conference, When Christians disagree.

There are First responses from our readers to the Windsor report and in his Press column Andrew Brown discusses the initial newspaper reports.


'Bush is back'

‘Bush is back’ — Brian Draper at LICC writes about this week’s news from the USA.

Bush is back. And many Christians are rejoicing. The president’s thinking is driven both by a theology of personal morality, and the conviction that he and his country can act globally and unilaterally, on God’s behalf, for good.

Yet any Christian who worries — as many do — about the past and future consequences of this combination is now faced with a choice.

Either they surrender to the sense of disempowerment that swept both coasts of America and much of the world on Wednesday. Or, more positively, they seize the opportunity to ensure that practical theology is not monopolised by the Religious Right for the next four years.

Continue reading at LICC to see Draper’s response to President Bush’s re-election.


church press on Rochester

Church of England Newspaper
Church report gives options to allow women bishops

The Rochester Report: Dean Vivianne Faull
The Rochester Report: the Rev Geoffrey Kirk
The Rochester Report: the Rev Dr Harriet Harris

Church Times
Women bishops not before 2010, C of E warned
It’s a tough one, says Rochester report
‘MPs may oppose Option I’

Plus three comment articles, not yet available online except to paid subscribers, by Stephen Trott, Jane Shaw and Jonathan Baker.

And the editorial column A solution must be found


more on Rochester report

The Guardian’s Stephen Bates reports that Church may have woman bishops in 2009

Addition: The Guardian also carried two more articles:
Men are not closer to God than women by Jane Shaw
Unity of the church is at risk by David Houlding

In the Telegraph Jonathan Petre says that Church may split to clear way for female bishops
and a sidebar notes that Protagonists cite Bible as evidence
The newspaper has a leader column Anglicans’ third way?

In The Times Ruth Gledhill has a different timescale: Women set to be bishops within next seven years
and the newspaper also has a leader entitled A broader church
The longer timescale assumes that Parliamentary approval of what General Synod decides could take an additional full year and that the Crown Nominations Commission (here erroneously referred to by its old title) could then take a year to actually make its first female nomination.


Preliminary comment on the Rochester report

The report does not contain any recommendations. It merely sets out all the possible options and lists the pros and cons of each, so that General Synod can decide what if anything to do.

The report will be discussed initially at the 14-18 February 2005 meeting of General Synod in London. No decisions will be made until the 08-12 July 2005 General Synod in York, at which a decision in principle whether to proceed or not will be made.

There will then be an election, and the new General Synod will first meet on 14-16 November 2005. This would be the earliest date at which legislation could be introduced. William Fittall, Secretary General of the General Synod and the Archbishops’ Council, said today that the minimum time to complete the legislative process would be four years, so that 2009 would be the earliest date at which any woman could be chosen as a bishop in the Church of England. The main reason given for the four year period was the need for the legislation, once approved by General Synod, to then be considered by each of the 44 diocesan synods. This part of the process was thought to require 18 months. A majority of the 44 (i.e. at least 23) diocesan synods must approve the legislation (they cannot amend it) by a simple majority of both Clergy and Laity. In the General Synod itself, the Final Approval stage requires a two-thirds majority in each of its three houses.

The main lobbying groups are at this stage arguing for the extreme options from those listed: those in favour of women bishops are pressing for single clause legislation. Those opposed are pressing for a third province approach. The problem about the single clause legislation is that Parliament might well not approve it without provisions for financial compensation for those conscientiously opposed. Concerning the third province approach, the Rochester report lists a large number of practical issues as well as theological difficulties. A detailed draft proposal by FiF for a third province is contained within the recently published book Consecrated Women?

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Reporting of Rochester

First press reports, following the publication today of the report Women Bishops in the Church of England?

Anglicans consider men-only branch by Paul Majendie for Reuters

Synod must decide on women bishops
and Mixed Response to Women Bishops Report by Tim Moynihan for PA News

‘Men-only branch’ plan for Church on BBC News
together with Head to head: Women bishops and Flying bishop backs ‘third province’

Church of England moves a step closer to accepting women bishops by Nicholas Pyke in the Independent

Church considers men-only option by Jackie Dent in The Times

‘Men-only’ Church proposal in bishop’s report in the Telegraph

Press releases by lobbying groups:

WATCH WATCH welcomes Rochester report and backs option for full equality for women bishops

Forward in Faith Forward in Faith reacts to Rochester Report

Inclusive Church Yes to women bishops. No to a third province

Church Society press release not yet on their website so reproduced below the fold here.



Rochester Report on women bishops published

Women Bishops in the Church of England? (GS 1557, the Rochester report) is released today. You can download all 785 kB and 302 pages of it here. There’s also a four-page (and 230 kB) Reader’s Guide

Addition the official Church of England press release about this report can be found here.


Recent Synod papers

Women Bishops in the Church of England? (GS 1557, the Rochester report) is released today. You can download all 785 kB and 302 pages of it here. There’s also a four-page (and 230 kB) Reader’s Guide.

Synod members have recently been sent copies of

Building faith in our future
Windsor Report 2004

both of which can be downloaded.


women bishops in England

On Tuesday the long-awaited Rochester report will be published.

During October, Forward in Faith published its own proposals concerning the establishment of a “third province”, in a book entitled Consecrated Women? And those supporting women bishops also published a book The Call for Women Bishops.

The Church Times of 15 October covered this in some detail:
Forward in Faith offers third-province Measure
FiF rejects team option
Press on with women vote
CT editorial Contemplating a new province
The CT also published an extract from the first book A case not made.

The following week, the CT published an extract from the second book Forget pork pies.
There were also letters to the editor and a report of the FiF National Assembly, Be ready for ‘holy disobedience’, FiF told.

Today’s newspapers have several articles about the issue:

Observer Gaby Hinsliff and Jamie Doward Hewitt gives backing for female bishops

Sunday Times Christopher Morgan Anglicans told to accept women bishops or leave

TRADITIONALIST Anglicans have been warned by a senior bishop that they should consider leaving the Church of England if it backs the ordination of women bishops.

David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury and a supporter of change, said it would be impossible to make special arrangements to cater for members opposed to women leading dioceses. Traditionalists would have to decide whether to accept women bishops or leave the church if they could not.

…Stancliffe said: “If this (ordaining women bishops) is the mind of the church, people will be faced with a choice whether to stay or leave. The present arrangements (of no-go areas for women priests) will no longer be able to hold.”

He believes that all the legislation to allow women bishops will be in place by 2008, with the first ordinations happening soon afterwards.

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African bishops comment

ACNS carries a statement from the meeting of Anglican bishops in Africa.

The bishops welcome the Windsor Report, but they explicitly do not express any regret for the actions of some of then in ministering to congregations in other dioceses:

However, we reject the moral equivalence drawn between those who have initiated the crisis and those of us in the Global South who have responded to cries for help from beleaguered friends. To call on us to “express regret” and reassert our commitment to the Communion is offensive in light of our earlier statements. If the Episcopal Church USA had not willfully “torn the fabric of our communion at its deepest level” our actions would not have been necessary.

The statement concludes:

We are committed to the future life of the Anglican Communion, one that is rooted in truth and charity, and faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Homo floresiensis

Writing about the news, this week, of the discovery of a previously unknown human species, dubbed Homo floresiensis, Desmond Morris includes this provocative comment:

[T]he existence of Mini-Man should destroy religion, but I can already hear the fanatics claiming that he has been put on earth by the Devil simply to test our faith.

This seems to me to be something of a non sequitur, but presumably Morris is referring to the more fundamentalist versions of religious faith, and whether his inclusion of all religion in the comment is deliberate or accidental, it is surely the case that the existence of other human species is something that most Christians have almost taken for granted over the last hundred or so years.

As Morris notes, the intriguing question is whether the newly-discover species would be able to communicate with us in a spoken language:

When it comes down to it, being able to talk is really what defines humanity

and Christians should have little problem with that either. Speech enables us to communicate; speech enables us to think and to apply our brains to complex problem-solving; speech enables us to tell the truth and to lie, to influence and mislead. In short, it is language which separates us from other creatures — in this world, creatures which can speak are creatures which have, in the parable of the book of Genesis, fallen.

Scientific discoveries such as this should indeed be another nail in the coffin of fundamentalist religion, but sadly I suspect that those who deny the possibility of evolution will deny the logic of this discovery too.

That we should accept and even welcome the obvious conclusions about our ancestry does not seem a big thing to me. The message of kingdom of God, proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth, is neither strengthened nor weakened by such news — it is true regardless.

Update 1 November

Morris’s article referred to above has drawn a lot of comment on the BBC website. The BBC has also published this response by David Wilkinson, lecturer in theology and science at Durham University, and council member of the Evangelical Alliance


meeting of African bishops

This week sees a meeting of African Anglican bishops in Nigeria.

The BBC provides a preview of the meeting.

The Scotsman has a PA report under the headline African Anglicans May Breakaway in Gay Row

From Nigeria, Lagos’s Daily Champion also has a preview, Africa’s Anglican Bishops’ Meeting Starts ‘Morrow

Due principally to the threat from homosexual-ism among their Western brethren, Anglican bishops in Africa seeking to eke out a separate identity for themselves, converge on Lagos tomorrow for a continental conference on burning issues in the church.

Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, is quoted as saying:

“We send our men to theological school abroad but we have discovered that there are a lot of unwholesome things that happen,”

Akinola, who was flanked by the church’s primates in Uganda, South Africa, Kenya and some Southern African countries disclosed that the African bishops will fashion out ways by setting up a theological educational centre to help train her clerics.

“We will come up with the road map for the development of African Theological Centres of Excellence that are accessible and affordable with comprehensive and realistic curricula,” he remarked.

The Daily Champion report also says:

Only recently Rev. Akinola demanded an unreserved apology from the 50 bishops in the church who attended Robinson’s ordination.

However, Robinson’s ordination was a fall-out of the 2002 Lamberth conference in the USA which formally approved of gay ordination.

though perhaps this is the sort of inaccuracy which any journalist might fall into.