Giles Fraser writes in this week’s Church Times about Covenant theology for everyone.
…The Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright — basically, Mr Covenant as far the present crisis is concerned — gets it spot on: “All those who believe in Jesus belong at the same table.”
Yet there are those for whom this new testament is not enough. They want a new new testament, creating a sub-division within the category “all those who believe in Jesus”. They want to write a new new testament that will distinguish first- and second-class Christians. And the sign of this unbiblical covenant is to be sound doctrine, as defined by a small coterie of conservative Evangelicals…
In The Times Katharine Jefferts Schori writes that A new year is a fine time to search for shalom, Isaiah-style.
See also this video at YouTube of Katharine Jefferts Schori, then Bishop of Nevada and Presiding Bishop nominee, answering the question: “What are the priorities for the new Presiding Bishop?” Recorded May 1, 2006. (hat tip JN)
In the Guardian John Sentamu writes that Ethics must shape our global economy.
Christopher Howse in the Telegraph writes about Our splendid but unseen synagogues.18 Comments
The Church Times reports that Bishop Pete Broadbent has disowned the “covenant” document. Read Pat Ashworth’s report here.30 Comments
First, the New York Times published this news article on Christmas Day (in the paper edition it was a front-page story): At Axis of Episcopal Split, an Anti-Gay Nigerian by Lydia Polgreen and Laurie Goodstein. Lydia Polgreen reported from Abuja, and Laurie Goodstein from New York.
It includes some interesting quotes from Archbishop Drexel Gomez:
…He [Akinola] has been chastised more recently for creating a missionary branch of the Nigerian church in the United States, called the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, despite Anglican rules and traditions prohibiting bishops from taking control of churches or priests not in their territory.
“There are primates who are very, very concerned about it,” said Archbishop Drexel Gomez, the primate of the West Indies, because “it introduces more fragmentation.”
Other conservative American churches that have split from the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the Anglican Communion, have aligned themselves with other archbishops, in Rwanda, Uganda and several provinces in Latin America — often because they already had ties to these provinces through mission work.
Archbishop Gomez said he understood Archbishop Akinola’s actions because the American conservatives felt an urgent need to leave the Episcopal Church and were unwilling to wait for a new covenant being written for the Anglican Communion. The new covenant is a lengthy and uncertain process led by Archbishop Gomez that some conservatives hope will eventually end the impasse over homosexuality…
Second, there is an interesting article analysing the history of the Virginia congregations known as The Falls Church and Truro Church by Dr Joan R Gundersen: How “Historic” Are Truro Church and The Falls Church?
In the last few weeks, we have heard a lot about the two “historic” churches in Virginia whose congregations are among those that have recently decided to withdraw from The Episcopal Church. Both Truro Church and The Falls Church have been characterized as being older than The Episcopal Church. The Falls Church web site suggests that George Washington was once a vestry member of the church. The history on the Truro web site makes the same claim for Truro Church. Somehow, these historical assertions are supposed to make us feel that the decision to leave The Episcopal Church is especially poignant and important.
Let me be clear: I believe that any decision to leave The Episcopal Church, by an individual or a group, is a sad occasion. There is a lot of confusion and misinformation being distributed concerning the actual history of these parishes, however. Neither is the direct descendant of a colonial parish. Neither can claim George Washington as a past member of its vestry or its congregation. Both are “new” church plants from the 1830s and 1840s. In most places in the United States, founding dates in the antebellum period would be quite old enough to justify a claim of being “historic,” but these two parishes have sought the additional aura associated with George Washington and our colonial past. How “historic” are they?
The Archbishop of Canterbury preached at Canterbury Cathedral. See this Lambeth Palace press release.
The full text of his Christmas sermon can be found here: ‘The poorest deserve the best’.8 Comments
The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued his Christmas message in several languages, you can read it in English here, and translations into Spanish, French, Arabic, Portuguese, Korean, and Dutch are also available.
Dr Williams also wrote an article for The Big Issue on the Archbishop’s Hopes for 2007.
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has issued her Christmas message in both English and Spanish. You can read it in either language here.
Dr Jefferts Schori also wrote this reflection, In this season: light in the darkness.6 Comments
Updated Wednesday and again Saturday
The reliability of this text (dated 18 December) has been the subject of some questions during the past day, so I have been slow to link to it. However, it is now available in full both here and here.
The part dealing with the Primates’ Meeting in Tanzania in February reads as follows:
…As Christmas approaches, preparations continue to be made for the Primates’ Meeting in February in Tanzania. A provisional outline of the programme is almost ready – but I am particularly glad that we shall have opportunity to celebrate in the cathedral in Zanzibar the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in 1806, another great sign of God’s faithfulness and of what can be achieved by Christ’s disciples when they resist the powers of this world.
This meeting will be, of course, an important and difficult and important encounter, with several moments of discernment and decision to be faced, and a good deal of work to be done on our hopes for the Lambeth Conference, and on the nature and shape of the Covenant that we hope will assist us in strengthening our unity as a Communion.
There are two points I wish to touch on briefly. The first is a reminder of what our current position actually is in relation to the Episcopal Church. This Province has agreed to withdraw its representation from certain bodies in the Communion until Lambeth 08; and the Joint Standing Committee has appointed a sub-group which has been working on a report to develop our thinking as to how we should as a meeting interpret the Episcopal Church’s response so far to the Windsor recommendations. In other words, questions remain to be considered about the Episcopal Church’s relations with other Provinces (though some Provinces have already made their position clear). I do not think it wise or just to take any action that will appear to bring that consideration and the whole process of our shared discernment to a premature end.
This is why I have decided not to withhold an invitation to Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the elected Primate of the Episcopal Church to attend the forthcoming meeting. I believe it is important that she be given a chance both to hear and to speak and to discuss face to face the problems we are confronting together. We are far too prone to talk about these matters from a distance, without ever having to face the human reality of those from whom we differ. However, given the acute dissension in the Episcopal Church at this point, and the very widespread effects of this in the Communion, I am also proposing to invite two or three other contributors from that Province for a session to take place before the rest of our formal business, in which the situation may be reviewed, and I am currently consulting as to how this is best organised.
The Episcopal Church is not in any way a monochrome body and we need to be aware of the full range of conviction within it. I am sure that other Primates, like myself, will welcome the clear declarations by several bishops and diocesan conventions (including those dioceses represented at the Camp Allen meeting earlier this year) of their unequivocal support for the process and recommendations of the Windsor Report. There is much to build upon here. There are many in TEC who are deeply concerned as to how they should secure their relationships with the rest of the Communion; I hope we can listen patiently to these anxieties…
There has already been extensive blogosphere comment on the passage quoted above, and also on the section concerning invitations to the Lambeth Conference in 2008 (see the original for this).
Remarks elsewhere suggest not everybody knows about the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the ACC and its working group of four people (2 primates, 2 ACC members) set up to advise the ABC. See my earlier report here, which said:
This letter includes information about the initial report Joint Standing Committee’s group of four “set up to advise in the wake of the Episcopal Church’s 75th General Convention”:
…You will recall that the Joint Standing Committee appointed a small group of representatives from its number (two Primates and two laypeople, along with staff support) to assist me in preparing an initial response…
The membership of this group is not named in the letter but is: Archbishop Bernard Malango (Central Africa), Archbishop Barry Morgan (Wales), Mrs Philippa Amable (West Africa), and Mrs Elizabeth Paver (England). Their initial thinking is presented as follows:
It is clear that the Communion as a whole remains committed to the teaching on human sexuality expressed in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, and also that the recommendations of the Windsor Report have been widely accepted as a basis for any progress in resolving the tensions that trouble us. As a Communion, we need to move forward on the basis of this twofold recognition.
It is also clear that the Episcopal Church has taken very seriously the recommendations of the Windsor Report; but the resolutions of General Convention still represent what can only be called a mixed response to the Dromantine requests. The advisory group has spent much time in examining these resolutions in great detail, and its sense is that although some aspects of these requests have been fully dealt with, there remain some that have not. This obviously poses some very challenging questions for our February meeting and its discernment of the best way forward.
The letter has been reported now by Associated Press , see for example, Episcopal conservatives may be invited to global Anglican meeting.
The Times has Pius Ncube of Bulawayo writing the Credo column: Homeless but not hopeless in Africa.
In the Guardian the Face to Faith column We must not forget that Bethlehem is under siege is written by Alan McDonald who is the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The Guardian also has a leader, Beyond belief which is related to the front page report, Religion does more harm than good – poll.
(A related news report by Stephen Bates is Devout Poles show Britain how to keep the faith.)
The Church Times leader is Two cheers for sentimentality.8 Comments
The visit of British church leaders to Bethlehem is widely reported. See for example the Telegraph report ‘Bethlehem wall’ shock for Williams. The BBC has had Church leaders in Bethlehem visit and Israel barrier saddens Archbishop. The Evening Standard has Bethlehem wall is ‘deeply wrong’ says Archbishop. The Guardian had ‘We are facing the hardest Christmas yet’.
ACNS release with excellent photos (click on them to enlarge) Church Leaders Pledge Support for Christians in Bethlehem.
Lambeth Palace release, including full text of RW’s remarks, Archbishop – Bethlehem’s troubles remembered.
Update Saturday morning
The Times has published an article by Rowan Williams published under the title Pray for the little town of Bethlehem together with a news article Christians suffer for Iraq, says archbishop, a leader Symbols and Substance and a related report ‘All my staff at the church have been killed – they disappeared’.
The Lambeth Palace press release is here: Archbishop – Middle East Christians need support.
For more material about the visit, see this special website.8 Comments
Now back to our regularly scheduled coverage of the Virginia schism.
The Church Times has a report by Doug LeBlanc Property at issue as nine churches quit ECUSA.
Archbishop Peter Akinola has issued A Letter of Greeting from Archbishop Peter Akinola to the congregations who have recently joined CANA in which he says this:
…Sadly, I have also heard that some are suggesting that you are now affiliated with a Church that seeks to punish homosexual persons. That is a distortion of our true position. We are a Church that teaches the truth of the Holy Scriptures and understands that every person, regardless of their religion or sexual orientation, is made in the image of God, loved by God, and deserving of the utmost respect. That is the conviction that informs our passion for evangelism and drives our determination to establish new dioceses and congregations. We have no desire to place anyone outside the reach of God’s saving love and that is why we have supported well reasoned statements such as Resolution 1.10 from the Lambeth Conference in 1998 and also the section of the Dromantine Communiqué, which condemns the “victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex.”
As I am sure you have heard, there is a bill currently being debated by the Nigerian Legislature that addresses the topic of same-sex marriages and homosexual activism. The Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria, in its desire to see the strengthening of marriage and family life in our society, has commended the legislators for tackling this difficult issue. We have no desire to see our nation follow the path of license and immorality that we have witnessed in other parts of the world. And we also oppose the severe sanctions of Islamic law.
We recognize that there are genuine concerns about individual human rights that must be addressed both in the framing of the law and its implementation. I am glad to inform you that while the Honorable Speaker of the House, a Moslem, wanted the immediate and outright passage of the bill, the Deputy Speaker, an Anglican, persuaded his colleagues to allow full public debate on it.
I am troubled, however, by the silence of outside commentators concerning the rights of the clergy, Christians, and particularly converts to our Church whose lives are threatened and too often destroyed because of mob violence. I see no evidence of compassion for those whose rights are trampled on because of the imposition of unjust religious laws in many parts of the world. There seems to be a strange lack of interest in this issue…
You can read the whole letter here on the CANA website.
There is also a letter there from Bishop Martyn Minns headed A Pastoral Letter for the new CANA Congregations. You can read that one here. He writes in part:
…Media coverage of our actions has been quite extensive. It has been prompted by the national and international implications of our decisions along with the reality that this is an unprecedented movement of congregations out of The Episcopal Church. As expected, not all of the media coverage was positive. I want to address one recurring untrue accusation concerning our attitude towards homosexual persons. Our vote was not an “anti-gay” vote. We affirm that as Christians we believe that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, is made in the image of God, and deserving of the utmost respect. As the Dromantine Communiqué (issued by the Primates when they met in Ireland last year) states, “. . . we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support of homosexual people” and oppose “the victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex.” And we have and must continue to witness to these convictions by our words and actions. I have attached a recent letter from Archbishop Peter Akinola that addresses this same issue from his perspective. Please notice the difference between what he actually says and believes and the dismissive tag lines that are often attributed to him.
Another persistent untrue theme is the way in which we care for those who voted to remain in The Episcopal Church. As I have said repeatedly, and I am sure you have heard from your own clergy and lay leadership, everyone is welcome to participate in our common life regardless of their vote on this or any matter. We are not monochrome congregations but diverse communities whose unity is in Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If someone tells you that they voted against the resolution, then I encourage you assure them that they are loved and included as full members of the family of God in this place. If there is any way in which I can help in this matter please let me know. My calling is to provide for the care and nurture of every member of our growing fellowship.
You may have read a response to our actions from Bishop Peter Lee. While his disappointment was to be expected, I am saddened that his language seems strangely harsh. I am particularly troubled by the rather blatant attempt to create fear and division by the use of the phrase “Nigerian Congregations Occupying Episcopal Churches”. This is not the Bishop Lee that I know and respect. I look forward to the return of his more usual tone of creativity and generosity. We all know that while we may have changed our ecclesiastical allegiance we remain loyal and faithful Anglican Christians in America. The character of our communities remains the same.
The question of property seems to loom large in many people’s minds. I draw your attention to the following press statement that was released yesterday by Truro and The Fall Church, “Anglican Churches Comply with Virginia Statute Requiring Reports of Their Congregations’ Votes.” It clearly states our belief that we have a valid and compelling claim to the various church properties which we have for generations “occupied”. We also believe that this should be handled in a respectful conversation with the leadership of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. We are trying to avoid both costly litigation and a media circus. Initial signs from the meeting of the Standing Committee and Executive Board are encouraging and we are preparing to engage in substantive conversation after the Christmas Holidays…
Some of the press reports which may have prompted these letters can be found below:
Washington Post Episcopalians Against Equality by Howard Meyerson
Nation Holy Homophobia by Richard Kim
Economist Wars of religion – Schism in Virginia
Falls Church News-Press Editorial: No Surprise To Us Locals
The press release about voting reports mentioned by Bishop Minns, Anglican Churches Comply with Virginia Statute Requiring Reports of Their Congregations’ Votes can be found here (PDF).
The Living Church had this interview with Bishop Peter Lee Bishop Lee: Extension to 30-Day Standstill Agreement Possible.51 Comments
Updated again 7 January
First, not Virginia, but Pittsburgh.
From the diocesan website: Calvary Church Reopens Lawsuit Against Diocese.
The actual petition text will be found there, but as it is a 21 Mb PDF file, you may not want to download it. The paper original is 315 pages long.
UPDATE a somewhat smaller version of the PDF file is now available from here (6.5 Mbytes).
The matter is discussed more briefly by Jim Naughton here.
This further 28 page filing by Calvary is only 1.4 Mbytes (PDF) so much easier to read, and contains a lot of the interesting information.
Update There is also an ENS report on this, PITTSBURGH: Parish asks court to protect diocesan property.
Update The January issue of Agape is now online as a PDF and contains an article by the rector, Harold Lewis, about why further legal action is now being taken by the parish.4 Comments
The View from Fleet Street column for the Christmas issue is written this week by Stephen Bates. You can read it here at Religious Intelligence.
The Church Times has this news report by Pat Ashworth ‘Covenant’ is a cynical stab in the side, says Wright. (A further report there is only available to subscribers. It deals with mounting anger this week over claims by the authors of the covenant document to be speaking for the whole of their networks.)
The Church of England Newspaper has two detailed analyses which can be read in full at Religious Intelligence.
The first is by Andrew Carey Analysis: The new Anglican ‘covenant’ proposal and the second is by Andrew Goddard of Fulcrum Analysis: Anglican ‘covenant’ needs prudence.
I understand the CEN also has a news article on this matter, by Andrew Carey, but it is not available on the web at present except to CEN subscribers. I also understand a further article, written specifically from the Anglican Mainstream perspective, will appear next week.
The Andrew Goddard article now also appears on the Fulcrum website.
A further explanatory note has been published by CEEC:
Statement for CEEC members
I have consulted with the President, Wallace Benn, and would like to note the following in respect of the on-going debate regarding the recent ‘covenant’.
1 I have written to the Evangelical Bishops with my comments and observations
2 I have also written to the Bishop of Durham and asked him to meet with me to discuss the implications of his comments and also to address and take part in a discussion at CEEC
I have done this privately so as not to continue debate by email.
CEEC will continue to work hard at Evangelical identity and unity. My own book on this matter, Anglican and Evangelical?, will be published by Continuum in April 2007. I hope that the Bishop of Durham and other Bishops will be part of this debate.
CEEC remains committed also to representing the authentic voice of the constituency, parishes, colleges, societies and other networks and groups in ensuring a biblical and Anglican Evangelical voice in current debates. The recent ‘Covenant for the Church of England’ is simply one aspect of that witness from a range of networks and groups. The CEEC consented in October to the signatures of the President and Chairman being appended to this ‘covenant.’
December 21, 2006
An attempt by religious groups to delay the introduction of The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 on 1 January was rebuffed in the High Court. See this BBC report, Gay rights objectors lose action, and this earlier: Go ahead for gay rights challenge.
Last week, an attempt in the Northern Ireland Transitional Assembly to pass a motion calling on the government to withdraw the regulations was defeated by the narrowest of margins. See the earlier BBC report, Assembly clashes over gay rights.
For more background, read William Crawley’s blog, Will and Testament, in particular these articles:
21 Dec New Gay rights law gets the go-ahead
20 Dec Church leaders meet the minister over new gay rights law
18 Dec Christian groups challenge equality legislation
13 Dec The Equality Act
There is also this rather odd press release from the Church of Ireland.
My earlier analysis of the religious exemption provided in the regulations is here.6 Comments
Updated Tuesday evening
At the risk of overkill, here are some further links to reports about or comments on the Virginia parish defections from ECUSA (how come Christ Church Plano didn’t get similar coverage?)
Stephen Bates has written on Comment is free about The problem of dissolution.
Rachel Zoll of the Associated Press has a report, Leader: Episcopal Church not splintering.
Dave Walker has another cartoon, How a chain of evangelistic carpet shops could help the Episcopal church.
The Diocese of Virginia has issued two further press releases:
News Update from the Diocese of Virginia
Diocesan Leaders to Reach Out to All Episcopalians
Episcopal News Service had Virginia diocese promises ‘every encouragement’ to Episcopalians remaining in disaffected congregations by Mary Frances Schjonberg
The Anglican Communion Network (or NACDAP) issued this press release:
Network Moderator Commends Virginia Churches
The Living Church has Seven Virginia Parishes Vote to Leave Diocese by George Conger and also Virginia Diocese Will ‘Assert’ Canonical and Legal Rights.
Statistics on the voting, membership, etc. of the departing parishes is being maintained in a spreadsheet here (thanks Karen B).
For American local TV reports, scroll down at this titusonenine entry, and follow the links there.
Religion News Service Episcopal Split Accelerates as Va. Parishes Vote to Leave by Daniel Burke.
The Washington Post has Diocese Declares Time Out on Lawsuits by Michelle Boorstein.
And the Richmond Times-Dispatch has Legal action put on hold in Episcopal split by Alberta Lindsey.
The Washington Times had Julia Duin saying Diocese approves freeze on litigation.
Another Episcopal News Service report, ‘Large, viable remnant’ wants to continue as Episcopal congregation.
Another Comment is free article, Anglicans in America by Bruce Bawer.25 Comments
Anglican Mainstream has published a Signatories to A Covenant for the Church of England, and a Questions that may be asked document. Both can be read here.
These are preceded by the following comment (which itself raises an unanswered question):
The signatories to “A Covenant for the Church of England” are now being made public together with some background explanation. Although it was our original intention to publish the list of signatories and the “Questions that may be Asked” at the same time as the Covenant, we have withheld them for one week at the request of Lambeth Palace. We are publishing them now in the hope that they will help people to understand the full context in which these conversations have been begun.
There is a great deal of interesting and useful information on these pages, including several contributions from around the world, and they deserve a careful perusal by all Anglicans.1 Comment
See Dave Walker’s take on The conservative evangelical ‘covenant’.
Update And I also want to second his commendation of the splendid comment about all this by Paul Roberts which you can find at A lament for Evangelicalism.13 Comments
Updated again Monday evening
…Archbishop Akinola – a man known for his outspoken views on homosexuality – says he is thankful to God over the decision.
“Once there’s a crack in the wall, you are likely to have all sorts creeping in” he told the BBC website in Abuja.
“When we began to notice these cracks a few years back, we did try as much as humanly possible under God to patch up these cracks,” he added.
But, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (Ecusa) refused to back down.
“Since the leadership of the church in America keeps doing everything we thought they would not do, those who don’t agree with them have chosen to go where they want to go and I thank God,” he said…
The Guardian has a report by Stephen Bates Two Anglican parishes lead anti-gay split from US church but the Telegraph has
nothing yet an afternoon report: Virginia churches split from US Anglicans and The Times has only a brief note. Ruth Gledhill has however got a more detailed report on her blog headlined Property battles loom as US churches quit.
Julia Duin of the Washington Times has 8 Virginia flocks break away.
Alberta Lindsey of the Richmond Times-Dispatch has Seven Va. Episcopal churches break away.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review interviewed Bishop Robert Duncan Episcopal bishop: Church torn apart.
Reuters Virginia churches break from U.S. Episcopal Church
Associated Press later version of Episcopal Parishes in Va. Break Away.
A video of the entire CANA press conference (about 40 minutes) can be viewed here. Unfortunately, it is impossible to hear the questions during the question period, only the answers are audible.
Updated Sunday Evening
The BBC Sunday radio programme had a report on the Northern Virginia parishes by Jane Little in Washington, About 4 minutes, now available here.
BBC report also here: US parishes weigh Anglican split.
Other press coverage:
Associated Press Rachel Zoll Episcopal Parishes Might Break Away
New York Times Laurie Goodstein Episcopalians Are Reaching Point of Revolt
Voting results from BabyBlue
BREAKING NEWS: The Falls Church votes 90% in favor of severing ties with The Episcopal Church
The Falls Church has voted 90% in favor of severing their ties and leaving The Episcopal Church immediately to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). They also voted resoundingly (96%) to retain their property.
and now also:
Truro votes overwhelmingly to sever ties with the Episcopal Church
Truro Church has also voted 92.1% to sever ties with The Episcopal Church and join CANA immediately. They also voted 94.3% to retain their property.
Washington Post Bill Turque and Michelle Boorstein Two Episcopal Congregations Split From Church
Associated Press Matthew Barakat Virginia parishes split from Episcopal Church over sexuality
Episcopal News Service Mary Frances Schjonberg Virginia bishop vows to care for remaining Episcopalians, assert rights to departing congregations’ property
Statement by Martyn Minns at press conference (from titusonenine)
Press Release from The Falls Church and Truro Church (via BabyBlue)64 Comments