Daily Archives: July 12, 2007

Andrew Carey: Elephant in the Chamber

It was one of those moments on Monday afternoon where I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing at General Synod. It was like there was an elephant sitting in the chamber and everyone was pretending to ignore it, because they weren’t sure that others could see it.

The odd bishop popped up and said smoothly and reassuringly that there wasn’t anything to worry about, and that the non-existent elephant wasn’t in danger of trampling anyone to death. The elephant of course was called ”˜disestablishment’, and the debate was on a report on senior church appointments, many of the recommendations of which had already been derailed by Gordon Brown’s announcement last week that he will relinquish the Prime Minister’s role in the appointment of diocesan bishops and other posts.

The Archbishop of York’s first reaction to Gordon Brown’s statement last week was to welcome its fulfillment of a 1974 General Synod motion which called for the Church to have the decisive role in Church appointments. In 1976, a compromise was reached between the Church and the then Prime Minister, James Callaghan, in the creation of the modern system for Crown Appointments. The Church from thenceforth would submit two names to the Prime Minister in priority order, and the Prime Minister had the freedom to choose one of those names, or ask the Church for more. There was no call by General Synod back then in 1974 for an absolute end to a Prime Ministerial role in Crown Appointments.

With the Archbishop of Canterbury on holiday, Archbishop Sentamu’s unseemly haste to welcome the Green Paper may come to be seen as a defining moment in Church/State relations. Any development in relations between Church and State should be the subject of much greater consultation than a presidential edict by a new Prime Minister who is simply trying to make his mark. And it must be said that although the Prime Minister’s announcement was made in a statement on a Green Paper, the period for consultation concerns the details rather than the principle itself. Synod members were told in no uncertain terms, that given the nature of the announcement and the welcome of the Archbishop of York the matter was a fait
accompli.

However once Gordon Brown made his bid the Church of England should have done more than to simply welcome it. It should have reminded the Prime Minister that in his hands lies one aspect of the Royal Prerogative which has worked as a system of Crown Appointments serving both Church and State well. To give up this ”˜patronage’ over Crown Appointments in such a cavalier way is not to reduce the power of the executive but to increase it, because it suggests that the power to remake the relationship between Church and State lies in the hands
of the Prime Minister alone.

Furthermore, the only reason Callaghan decided to retain a ”˜veto’ in 1976 was because of the specific role of the Lords Spiritual in the Second Chamber. As Lords reform proceeds
it will no longer be possible to point to a link between Church and State as a reason for retaining the Lords Spiritual. The best we can expect now is for a vastly reduced bench
of bishops in the House of Lords. So it was ghastly to see Synod representatives totally wrong-footed by the Green Paper, and disconcerted in the face of government determination to re-write the Church/State relationship on its own. Worst of all was to see Bishops and church leaders co-opted by the government to announce and reassure Synod members that government policy in no way intended disestablishment.

Bishop John Gladwin, from his privileged position as an adviser to Jack Straw on Lords reform, stated that Her Majesty’s government had no wish to see either its Green Paper announcement or House of Lords reform ”˜enmeshed in disestablishment’. “This is evolutionary reform,” he suggested, “We should welcome the transparency that this move by government represents.”

However I remember Bishop Gladwin and others uttering similar reassurances that Civil Partnerships did not make gay marriage. Even then they were wrong-footed by a government which was announcing in press releases that wedding bells were due to ring out for same-sex couples when civil partnerships came into force. It may well be that this move to hand over
Crown Appointments to the Church of England is the right thing, however this was not the widespread view only a few weeks ago. In the Pilling report, ”˜Talent and Calling’ which the Synod debated on Monday, the Prime Minister’s active role was being praised.

“The removal of this patronage [in Crown Appointments] and the downgrading of the Downing Streets Appointments Office which would inevitably follow, would mark a further stage in the disengagement of Church and State in England and it is quite possible that it might in turn prompt further changes and accelerate a process of disestablishment.” It is the ultimate capitulation by the Church to state that point of view one week in an important internal report, and then to meekly roll over the next after a Prime Ministerial announcement. It is inconceivable that so many leaders in the Church of England have so enthusiastically changed their minds, as to now welcome the disengagement of the state from the church.

The coded dismay among Synod members was over the loss of the valuable skills of the Downing Street Appointments Secretary. Yet such civil servants, however gifted, come and go, it is the principle that remains. Any steps to alter the Church and State relationship should be a matter of negotiation between Parliament, the Crown and the Church of England. Gordon Brown and leaders of the Church of England have betrayed this principle.

–This appears in the Church of England Newspaper July, 13, 2007, edition, page 16

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Church-State Issues

A reminder: Bishop Jecko's funeral in Tallahassee SATURDAY (corrected)

Several commenters in Florida have asked us to post this reminder. So here you go, for those who are interested and can make it to Tallahassee on Saturday. (apologies for the incorrect information originally posted. We’ve corrected the info below.)

Funeral Service for Bishop Stephen Jecko

In Memoriam
Bishop Stephen Jecko
January 15, 1940 – June 7, 2007

A liturgy for The Burial of the Dead and Celebration of the Holy Eucharist in Thanksgiving for the life of The Right Reverend Stephen Hays Jecko will be offered on Saturday, July 14th at 2:00 pm. at St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Tallahassee. The Right Reverend Frank Cerveny and The Right Reverend John Howe, bishop of Central Florida will concelebrate and The Reverend Eric Dudley will be the preacher.

It is important to Joan Jecko that Bishop Jecko’s ashes come back to Florida for a special celebration with those who knew him well and loved him as our Bishop.

Because they were not able to have his ashes in Dallas, this will function not as a memorial service but as a funeral. A reception with the family will take place on the grounds of St. Peter’s immediately following the service.

St. Peter’s Anglican Church is located at 901 Thomasville Road , Tallahassee, Florida. For more information call St. Peter’s at 850-701-0664, or go to our website at www.saint-peters.net.

Posted in * General Interest, In Memoriam

Newsweek: How-To Help for Atheist Parents

“Parenting Beyond Belief” is a collection of essays by famous and unknown nonbelievers. The most compelling chapter is “Death and Consolation”: talking to kids about death when heaven isn’t an option. The Unitarian minister Kendyl Gibbons recommends such phrases as “No, honey, Grandpa won’t come for Christmas. He died and is dead for always.” And then she recommends rituals that bring Grandpa back in memory. The editor Dale McGowan has received some heat from hard-line atheists who say he’s too accommodating to organized religion. “I’ve had a few atheists look me in the eye and say, ‘Come on, when you’re dead, you’re gone. What’s the big deal?” But McGowan, father of three, prefers a gentler approach. “I don’t think the way to handle it is to say, ‘Suck it up and go to bed’.” Parents on both sides of the culture war will find this book a compelling read.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Chuck Colson: Tradition Must Stay Close to Truth

The latest question panelists at “On Faith” are weighing in on is the following:

Pope Benedict is encouraging wider use of Latin Mass. What elements of tradition — including language — are essential for worship?

This elf found the reply of Baptist Chuck Colson to be a very clear and concise reflection on the power and importance of liturgy and tradition. See what you think.
———

Tradition Must Stay Close to Truth

First off, as a Baptist I am hardly an expert on liturgy or the history of liturgy. But the real question being posed is the necessity of maintaining continuity between our worship and the way in which our ancestors in the faith worshiped.

Sadly, looking at modern Christian worship in this country — Catholic and Protestant alike — it appears that most congregants are more interested in being entertained at worship and in feeling good about themselves than they are in respecting the connection with the roots of our faith.

I have discovered a tremendous joy in orthodoxy (that is, the right belief entrusted once for all to the saints) when I visited Mars Hill in Athens and stood on the very spot where the Apostle Paul confronted the wise men of the day and challenged them with the Gospel. I am thrilled that, almost 2000 years later, I am able to preach that very same Gospel.

A function of tradition in the Christian faith is to preserve this eternal, unchanging Truth. So worship always must be rooted in and express fidelity to the Scripture, the Creeds, and the Apostolic teaching that all Christians hold in common. This is accomplished in virtually every Christian worship service through Bible readings, sermons, explication of Scripture, the reading of prayers, and the observance of the sacraments or ordinances — most notably the baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

I am always struck when I come to the Lord’s table in communion by the fact that I am joined together not only with all believers today, but with the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us, hundreds of millions, indeed billions who have shared the same belief in the same Christ who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

The full entry is here.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Liturgy, Music, Worship

BBC: "The New 7 Wonders" in pictures

To see pictures of the “New 7 Wonders of the World” as chosen in an online poll which concluded over the weekend, go to this article at the BBC. No single winner is named, just the top 7 vote-getters.

Posted in * General Interest

Conversion: A Dirty Word?

The following is an excerpt from a lengthy article on the 9Marks website, which I can’t recall having visited before, but which has a lot of interesting articles online all focused on helping Christians be better able to defend the Gospel. If you’ve got a few moments, check out what they claim are the 9 Marks of a church that glorifies God. This definitely looks to be a site this elf wants to browse around further. Note, however, that this is an unabashedly evangelical reformed Protestant site. (Predominantly Southern Baptist, it appears.) I for one find the final line of the excerpt below offensive in how it lumps the Vatican and the WCC together. Nonetheless, in this elf’s opinion, this was a worthwhile and thought-provoking read. –elfgirl
————

What’s the point of the story? Conversion is dirty word. It’s scandalous in today’s pluralistic and relativistic world to contend for one religious truth over and against another. It smacks of pride, arrogance, disrespect, perhaps hatred, maybe even violence.

This is the consensus among many of the secular elite. Popular television personality Bill Maher believes Christianity can only be explained as a “neurological disorder.”[1] Only the most unenlightened, uneducated, and uncouth Neanderthal would both believe and contend for a conversion to religious faith, especially Christianity. It’s absolutely what the modern man does not need.

And Maher simply represents what secular humanism as a movement has been saying all along. To quote from their own manifesto, “traditional theism”¦ and salvationism”¦ based on mere affirmation is harmful, diverting people with false hopes of heaven hereafter. Reasonable minds look to other means for survival.”[2] Reasonable minds”¦you can hear the condescension dripping from the pen.

Some go further, of course. They say such attempts at diversion (i.e. conversion) actually breed violence.

[…]

Yet it seems that conversion is even under attack among some professed evangelicals. This ought to strike us as nonsensical. Our English word “evangelical” comes from the Greek word for “good news.” What is this good news? It is that we, who are at enmity with God in our sin, can now be reconciled to him on account of Christ’s death and resurrection, when we repent of our sin and believe upon Christ. Conversion from our former way of life and thinking to Christianity is required. This much should be blatantly obvious.

Nonetheless, Brian MacLaren, perhaps the most prominent leader within the emerging church movement, calls for a reconsideration of conversion, if not an outright rejection of it. He writes in A Generous Orthodoxy,

I must add, though, that I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (though not all) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts. This will be hard, you say, and I agree. But frankly, it’s not at all easy to be a follower of Jesus in many ‘Christian’ religious contexts, either.[5]

We are told to embrace other faiths “willingly, not begrudgingly.” To be fair, McLaren asserts the uniqueness of Christianity apart from other religions.[6] And yet his belief in “a gospel that is universally efficacious for the whole earth,” his unwillingness to “set limits on the saving power of God” in reference to the unevangelized, and his belief that we must continually expect to “rediscover the gospel” as we encounter other religious traditions, “leading to that new place where none of us has ever been before,” raises significant and serious questions.[7] Frankly, I have difficulty seeing how he is recommending anything Christian, let alone orthodox. In the end, his proposals are eerily similar to those being set forth by the Vatican and the WCC.

The full entry is here. It is really quite comprehensive. The various sections are as follows:
— CONVERSION””A DIRTY WORD?
— CONVERSION””A BIBLICAL IDEA?
— CONVERSION””WHAT IT IS AND ISN’T
— BENEFITS FOR BELIEVERS
— CONCLUSION: ONE OF THOSE CHRISTIANS?

(hat tip: TwoOrThree.Net)

Posted in * Resources & Links, Resources: blogs / websites, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission, Theology: Salvation (Soteriology)

Down Under, Answers from the Anglican Archbishop

Brisbane Archbishop, Dr Phillip Aspinall has been the head of the country’s Anglican community for the last two years and he’s had to answer tough questions on a range of subjects – from the Government’s plan for Aboriginal communities to the detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay – but still nothing prepared him for the questions of Year 12 students from Mansfield State High School.

Four students from the school prepared questions for the Anglican Primate of Australia as part of Madonna King’s Student Press Call.

“I was absolutely terrified by what they might ask,” admitted Dr Aspinall. “By the time young people get to Year 12, they really are starting to think very intelligently about very complex matters, so it’s a terrifying prospect that they might quiz me about all sorts of things.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces

North Carolina: Same-sex unions might earn blessing

From the News-Observer (a North Carolina paper serving the Raleigh – Durham – Chapel Hill area)

CHAPEL HILL – At a time when women were often denied positions of authority, the tattered book that chronicles the 1842 incorporation of The Chapel of the Cross bears the signatures of 12 women beside those of 12 men.

The book also lists the names of young slave children whose owner brought them to be baptized in the 1850s. Pauli Murray, the granddaughter of one of those slaves, became the first black woman ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church. She returned to Chapel Hill and received her first Eucharist as an ordained priest in the church.

Now, The Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church is incorporating another minority community into its 1,200-member congregation by entering into a discernment process — or active discussion — about blessing same-sex unions.

“We have a number of gay couples in our parish that have been together 25, 30 years, some of whom would like the church’s blessing on their private covenant,” said Rector Stephen Elkins-Williams. “I think we’ve asked them to wait, those who want to, long enough.”

The larger Episcopal Church does not recognize any rites for same-sex unions, although specific parishes are not penalized for offering such ceremonies or creating their own rites.

The Chapel of the Cross, 304 E. Franklin St., would join several other Triangle churches that have offered similar ceremonies for years.

Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh has offered “holy union ceremonies” since the early ’90s and performs three or four per year, said Pastor Nancy Petty.

“To have a relationship blessed within the church is a huge statement on the fact that God blesses these relationships,” Petty said. “It affirms what we believe, that people can be Christians and be gay, and that gay people can be in Christian relations.”

The rest is here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts

ENS: Presiding Officers appoint covenant-response group

[Episcopal News Service] Nine members of the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council have been appointed to draft the Church’s response to the first version of an Anglican covenant.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson made the appointments as called for in Executive Council Resolution INC021, passed at the council’s June meeting in Parsippany, New Jersey.

The group is charged with writing a proposed response of the Executive Council to the draft Anglican covenant for the council, to be considered at its October 2007 meeting in Dearborn, Michigan.

Part of the material the members of the Covenant Response Drafting Group will consider as they work are the more than 400 comments the council received by way of a covenant study guide it published in mid-April. Although the deadline for comments based on the Council’s covenant study guide has passed, the group’s chair, Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine of the Diocese of the Virgin Islands, said responses are still coming into the General Convention office and will be considered. While the group is not actively soliciting more comment, she said “we would still be open to receiving [any additional comments].”

“I am grateful to the members of the drafting group for their willingness to continue this challenging work,” Jefferts Schori said July 11. “Together we look for a thoughtful and well-reasoned response that reflects the diversity of opinion in the Episcopal Church.”

Anderson said that the drafting group will also “design a process for continuing to gather input from the entire Episcopal Church to aid the Executive Council in its response to subsequent covenant drafts.”

Ballentine said the drafting group members reflect “quite a cross section of our Church as represented on the Executive Council.” Because of the church’s diversity, she said, the group will do all it can to ensure that all voices are heard.

[…]

The members of the Covenant Response Drafting Group are:
Chair: Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine (Virgin Islands),
Kim Byham (Newark),
the Rev. Dr. Lee Alison Crawford (Vermont),
the Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas (Massachusetts),
Canon Victoria L. Garvey (Chicago),
the Rev. Canon Mark Harris (Delaware),
the Rev. Winnie S. Varghese (New York),
Ted M. Yumoto (San Joaquin) and
Belton T. Zeigler (Upper South Carolina).

Full article here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Latest News, Anglican Covenant, Episcopal Church (TEC)

The Independent–Wycliffe Hall, an Oxford theological college, is being rocked to its foundations

[Principal Richard] Turnbull’s supporters ”“ off the record, of course ”“ suggest that it is he, not the saintly Storkey, who is the real victim of a witch-hunt. “This charge that he is a fundamentalist is baloney,” says one well-placed Anglican academic and writer. “He was brought in as a new broom and Wycliffe badly needed one if it was going to survive. Its administration was hopeless and, although it was doing well in teaching theology, its training for ministry was well below the standards needed. The irony in the three former principals attacking Richard is that he wouldn’t need to do what he is doing if they had grasped the nettle of modernisation when they were there.”

In a church famed for its moderation, neither side in the dispute seems willing to turn the other cheek. What seems clear, though, is that most students there are heartily sick of the whole matter and see it largely as a personality clash that is threatening to distract them from the serious business of studying the Bible.

Whether Wycliffe can ever get back on an even keel when, as Turnbull and his supporters hope, the wave of bad publicity has ebbed away, may depend ultimately on a review of the status of the private permanent halls at Oxford currently being carried out by a working group led by Oxford’s former vice-chancellor Sir Colin Lucas, now Warden of Rhodes House. This, it should be stressed, is a regular check-up of their health, but the activities of the Lucas group has taken on a new significance because of the crisis at Wycliffe. Its report is expected in the summer.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

Ephraim Radner–Why a Covenant, and Why Its Conciliar Form: a Response to Critics

St. Paul, in relation to just such a divine grace, ties the “richly indwelling Word” (Col 3:16) to the relational virtues of peace, harmony, forgiveness, and love. But also, because what is involved here is a coming to one mind, a learning, what is required is a discipline within the church, where “admonishment”, of the kind he himself was willing to offer, is a necessary and essential aspect of the Scripture’s power to bring minds together. “Discipline”, after all, is a word cognate with “disciple”, the “student” who learns through following and standing ever near. The “teacher” points to the Scriptures and holds the student ”“ the disciple ”“ close to its formative demands. And “discipline” represents that framework of order through which this teaching or Scriptural indication is permanently applied.

If the councils of the church in the Communion exercise a magisterium, it is in just this way. And it is a way that, arguably, the Communion is currently engaging.

The goal of any Covenant for the Communion, then, would further the one-mindedness of Anglican churches through the discipline of Scriptural listening. Does the conciliar model of the current proposal do this? It would appear, at least, that this is exactly what is happening in the present ”“ we are, through the interplay and adjudication of our councils, being taken close to the Scriptures and made to hear them, often in contested ways to be sure, but ultimately in “symphonic” or agreed upon ways, even if not all are convinced at once. And thus it would seem that the proposal itself is in general congruent with the goal. If anything, the Proposed Covenant could be strengthened through a greater Scriptural focus that linked conciliar discernment with Scriptural conformity and “non-repugnance”, to use the Articles’ own phraseology. This is a point that underlines the fact that Anglican identity need not be sacrificed by stepping to the side of full-fledged confessionalism. Rather, as John Webster has noted, confessions “bind only as [they] present the Gospel’s claim” (Nicene Christianity, p. 131). Agreeing in the truth of God’s holy Word is the act that receives that claim as God’s, and hence makes confession ”“ the “one-speaking” (1 Tim. 6:12f.) that comes from “one-mindedness” — possible. To this act, the Communion is now called to give itself.

This was but one of the papers presented at last week’s Conference in Oxford that I was privilieged to attend–read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Covenant, Anglican Identity, Church History, Ecclesiology, Theology

ELCA Presiding Bishop Responds to Vatican Statement on Nature of the Church

In his written response issued July 11, [ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark] Hanson said that while the Vatican’s statement doesn’t change any existing statement “it does, however, restate known positions in provocative ways” that are under discussion in the current U.S. dialogue.
“It is no surprise that the Roman Catholic Church asserts that in it subsists the Church of Christ; surely every Christian church body makes the same assertion, for it is only because Christ’s Church survives in and lives through the community we call ‘Church’ that we preserve and promote the apostolic faith,” Hanson wrote. “However troubling such exclusive claims may be, we recall the Second Vatican Council’s ‘Decree on Ecumenism’ which affirmed that the separated churches and ecclesial communities are used by the Spirit of Christ ‘as means of salvation.'”
Hanson pointed out that the ELCA upholds the “Augsburg Confession,” a 16th century foundational document which states that the Church is the “assembly of saints in which the Gospel is taught and the sacraments are administered rightly.” He wrote that the Church is “wounded by the division that exists among Christians.” However, Hanson stated that the ELCA is not deficient in its self-understanding as ‘Church.’
The “anguished response of Christians” throughout the world to the Vatican’s statement shows that what may have been meant to clarify has caused pain, Hanson wrote.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations, Lutheran, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

U.S. Intel Warns al-Qaida Has Rebuilt

U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded al-Qaida has rebuilt its operating capability to a level not seen since just before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, The Associated Press has learned.

The conclusion suggests that the network that launched the most devastating terror attack on the United States has been able to regroup along the Afghan-Pakistani border despite nearly six years of bombings, war and other tactics aimed at crippling it.

Still, numerous government officials say they know of no specific, credible threat of a new attack on U.S. soil.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Terrorism

DO NOT MISS THIS (*sticky*)

This elf is getting bossy! The power of guest blogging for Kendall the past 10 days is going to her head. 😉 She has a command for all our readers: “DO NOT PASS GO! DO NOT COLLECT $200!” (for our non-American readers, this is an American slang reference from the game Monopoly)

GO DIRECTLY instead to the Article by Apb. Henry Luke Orombi, Primate of Uganda on “What is Anglicanism? if you have not yet read it. It is must reading! Please don’t miss it.

Posted in * Admin, Featured (Sticky)

Christian Science Monitor–Now playing at the EU: soft porn

Three million and growing: That’s the number of Web clicks on a steamy promotional video on the European Union’s new link to YouTube. Two hundred and crawling: That’s the number of clicks on an EU road-safety video. Sadly, the EU has fallen for the tawdry marketing motto that sex sells.

First, a little background. The EU has a tough time selling itself to skeptical Europeans. In 2005, the French and Dutch rejected a proposed EU constitution, and the continentals are pushing back at the idea of adding more members to this club of 27 countries.

But in the cultural realm, apparently, it’s easier to make the case for togetherness, especially when it’s spiced with a 44-second sprint through 18 torrid sex scenes taken from European films. The clip is one of five that advertise the EU’s support for European cinema.

Moral objections to the vulgar snippet have been especially strong in heavily Roman Catholic Poland. But the official EU response is to decry the criticism as an “outbreak of prudery,” and a comment that “the European Union is not the [American] Bible Belt.”

What a tired defense….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Europe, Pornography