Daily Archives: July 13, 2007

Michael Green: Mission in North America Today

I come now to evangelism within the Episcopal Church. And I have to confess that this part of my presentation is going to be very short. Because it is almost impossible to speak of Evangelism and the Episcopal Church in the same breath in the USA. Practically no evangelism is undertaken by the denomination as a whole, though there are churches which are a glorious exception to this sad state of affairs.

During the Decade of Evangelism the TEC took no part but instead lost scores of thousands of members. Frank Griswold whose erstwhile diocese declined by about 30,000 during his time as PB, bravely spoke of doubling the denomination by 2010, but instead people walk away in their thousands. It is often said that TEC has 2 and a half million members but this is entirely misleading. Not only do a mere 700,000 appear in worship on a given Sunday but when people leave, the churches will not transfer their membership to a non-episcopal church and instead they stay on their lists as inactive members, thus illicitly swelling the numbers reported. The PB is able to maintain that only a small minority of churches have left, though they number in their hundreds. But she does not disclose the fact that not only is there deep unrest in many who remain and feel unable to break away because of emotional links with the past, but when you start assessing the numbers of people who have departed, they are disproportionately large. Flag ship churches are leaving, with their thousands of members. For example, Christ Church Plano, a well known Evangelical Church, has left the denomination and gone to AMiA. It has more members than the whole of the PB’s diocese. And the intentional way that lawsuits are being brought against the two biggest churches in TEC, The Falls Church and Truro in Virginia shows how worrying all this is to the leaders of TEC. Those two churches between them have more than 6000 members, and they and their finances are now lost to TEC.

If we ask why evangelism is at such a discount in TEC, the answer may well be complex. One reason is that evangelism is not and never has been in the DNA of Episcopalians. TEC has been an acknowledged refuge from the enthusiasm of the Baptists! Moreover, the average age of members in the congregations is so high, up into the late 60s across the country, and this of course militates against active evangelism. The future for the denomination in sheer terms of numbers is bleak”¦ the average number in a congregation being about 75. But also there is a theological blockage. On the one hand the belief seems to be that so long as they are baptized people are automatically Christians, irrespective of repentance and faith and the gift of the Holy Spirit ”“whereas in the NT all three elements figure in Christian initiation. The other is that the policies of the TEC are inclusive, which is wonderful, but inclusive without the need for transformation, which is not wonderful. You are welcome just as you are with no need to change. All lifestyles are acceptable.

A State Governor who has had to resign because of his divorce and taking up an active homosexual lifestyle has been accepted for ordination training in TEC. Not only all lilfestyles but all beliefs seem to be acceptable in the Episcopal Church. Only the other day a woman priest who has become a Muslim claimed to belong to both faiths ”“ without any rebuke from her bishop. The influence of Jack Spong is widespread and has never been repudiated by TEC. I find that repentance and faith is rarely mentioned in Episcopal pulpits, and the name of Jesus is scarce. As for the Holy Spirit he is generally associated with the votes of the majority. The church is moving in the direction of an undifferentiated Deism. Belief in the deity of Jesus, an objective atonement and the reality of the resurrection are constantly discounted among influential Episcopalians, while the people in the pew prefer not to enquire too closely. And the PB herself has made it plain that all religions lead to God. No wonder the church leaks!

This is one of the papers presented at the Oxford Consultation. The final section contains some wonderful examples of Anglican evangelistic initiatives in North America.

Read it all here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

Mark Francis: Beyond Language

While the theological problems of the “Tridentine Rite” are at odds with the teachings of the Council, the pastoral difficulties that will accompany the implementation of this motu proprio may prove to be an even greater problem, starting with the priests themselves. Where will competent priests, willing to celebrate the Mass and other sacraments according to the old rite, come from? Are we now to offer Latin and liturgy courses in seminaries to train our new priests to offer the Rite of Mass and the sacraments of the Medieval Rite on demand along with the liturgical rites mandated by Vatican II?

The official proclamation that this medieval rite is “extraordinary” compromises the coherence of the Church’s self-understanding and threatens to reduce the liturgy to a simple matter of individual “taste” rather than what it is meant to be: an accurate reflection of what we believe as Catholic Christians who live in the twenty-first century. Although cited several times in the document, the hallowed patristic axiom lex orandi, lex credendi (how we pray, so we believe) has been seriously ignored in this motu proprio.

In short, “Summorum Pontificum” weakens the unity of the Church by failing to support the foundational insights of the Second Vatican Council.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Forty Strangers in a Virtual Room talk about Religion

The following quote (which appears in a later section of the article after the excerpt below) really jumped out at me:

[blockquote]Americans rank with traditionalist countries around the world, places like Pakistan, in the strength of our religious values. But Americans also are almost off the chart in another powerful value — our desire for individual self-expression. (We rank with Scandinavia on that scale.) So, faith matters deeply to us — but the reality of open source religion is that we, as Americans, expect to be able to crack open the doors of religion and chart our own individual meaningful journeys through the resources and traditions we find there. [/blockquote]
That may say alot about some of what is behind the crisis in ECUSA.

From Wired Magazine:

An Adventure in Opening the Ultimate Source

Open. Source. Religion.

They’re timeless spiritual terms, but somehow, as a three-word phrase, it doesn’t trip off the tongue as easily as those prayers we’ve known since childhood.

But, for six weeks, 40 brave volunteers from across the U.S. met in a special online forum “Open Source Religion,” to talk about their deepest beliefs; along the way, their respectful curiosity wound up defying the old warning about never discussing religion with strangers. This was reported in three phases. For part one, two or three — go here and scroll down to the appropriate section.

What, exactly, is open source religion? It’s the cutting edge of individual spirituality that’s thriving outside the walls of organized religion. It’s a historic shift in power and authority from religious leadership to the consumer-oriented adherents of religious movements.

The volunteers ranged from atheists to evangelicals, Methodists to Muslims, young students to aging scholars. As their emails crisscrossed the continent, the forum members moved from exploring their own spiritual yearnings to talking honestly about their anxieties over religious conflict in the world.

“As the emails started coming from all these different participants, it was so exciting to see all the different viewpoints. I had never been involved in anything like this forum and I really appreciated it,” Gail Katz, a vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit, said as the online forum wrapped up.

Katz now is so convinced of the value of this kind of online discussion that she plans to extend a similar opportunity to women in Michigan. In July, Katz and a number of her Christian, Muslim and Jewish friends from across southeast Michigan are hosting a four-hour informational meeting for women who want to form international email networks of religious women promoting peace.

“My Jewish faith is very important to me, but what gives me the most spiritual energy these days is connecting people across religious and cultural boundaries,” Katz said.

The full article is here.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture

Finding Religion on the Campaign Trail

From the New York Times:

Voters say they want the next president to have strong religious convictions regardless of whether or not they share the same set of beliefs. But just how far candidates should go in talking about those beliefs is unclear. In a CBS News poll taken at the end of June, half of all those polled said it was appropriate for candidates to talk about their religion and half said it was not appropriate.

White voters who describe themselves as evangelical Christians were the group most likely to want to hear candidates talk about their beliefs. Seventy-five percent of them said it was appropriate, 24 percent said it was not. A majority of Catholics, 57 percent, said it was not appropriate for candidates to discuss their religion as did 57 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of Independents.

“The public wants some God talk because they are trying to judge people’s character,” said Clyde Wilcox, a professor of government at Georgetown University. “This is one of the ways for candidates to convey their core values and what motivates them,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

No Petition Candidates in the Episcopal Election in South Carolina

Kendall originally left the text blank. The headline really IS the news. But just in case some want it, or in case Kendall meant to post it, here is the text that’s posted on the Diocese of South Carolina website today

The deadline for the submission of petition candidates for the Bishop’s Election of the Diocese of South Carolina has come and gone. No petitions were submitted.

The special Bishop’s Election, as previously called by the Standing Committee on June 9, will be begin at 10:00 am on August 4, 2007 at St. James Church, James Island. Registration of clergy and lay delegates will begin at 8:00 am. Immediately following the celebration of Holy Communion the convention will convene to elect the XIV Bishop of South Carolina. We request that each mission and parish submit the names of their specially elected lay delegates to the Diocesan office as soon as possible.

The Rev. J. Haden McCormick
President, Standing Committee

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

Philip Turner: An Address on Integrity, Diversity, and Episcopal Authority In the Anglican Communion

Similar issues arise with the claim that the integrity of TEC is assured by the continuing authority of the historic creeds. However, the progressive clergy who now hold the levers of power within TEC insist vehemently that the creeds are not to be used as binding confessions that exclude from fellowship people whose experience of God or whose beliefs about God are different from or even contradictory to those normally associated with the creeds as tokens of Christian identity and sufficient statements of Christian belief. The progressive position in respect to the creeds is that Christians in the U.S. now live in a pluralistic society; and, in response to this fact, its advocates agree with our former Presiding Bishop who is fond of saying we should tolerate the contradictions because they will find a final reconciliation within the pleroma of divine truth. The prevalence of this view recently received vivid illustration when a Priest of TEC announced that she is now both and Muslim and a Christian. The response of her bishop was that he welcomed her decision because it would do wonders for interfaith relations!

A more fundamental problem arises when one looks hard at the meaning and use of the two sacraments on the part of TEC’s clerical leadership. It is no secret that in a significant number of dioceses and parishes Baptism is no longer thought to be a necessary precondition for participation in the Supper of the Lord. To be sure, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord are sacraments found throughout the dioceses and parishes of TEC. However, use is changing the meaning of both in ways most Christians within the Anglican Communion and within the other churches would not recognize as faithful to Christ’s intention. How is one to understand this remarkable novelty? One can come the Supper of the Lord without Baptism because one does not have to die and rise with Christ in order to come to the Father. As a consequence, Baptism is not an effective sign of dying and rising with Christ and the Supper of the Lord is not a participation in that death and resurrection. Both sacraments are simply ways of offering hospitality to a diverse humankind and so manifesting the welcoming love of God to all.

Read it all.

Here is an alternate link to the full paper..

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Covenant, Anglican Identity, Ecclesiology, Theology

Part-Time Looks Fine To Working Mothers

From Today’s Washington Post:

A new majority of working moms in the United States would be happiest in part-time jobs, with fewer seeing full-time work as an ideal, according to a study released today.

In a notable shift during the past decade, working mothers overwhelmingly view fewer work hours as the best option for their busy lives with young children. The proportion of mothers who feel that way jumped 12 percentage points since 1997.

Now, 60 percent of employed mothers find part-time work most appealing. But just 24 percent of them actually have part-time hours, labor statistics show, and mothers working part time have not increased in number in the last decade.

“What we’re seeing is the expression of an ideal: to be able to do both of these things . . . to be employed and to be mothers in a very involved way,” said Anita Garey, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut who has studied women’s work and family lives.

The report, by the nonprofit Pew Research Center, reflects what some experts see as a convergence of trends in family life: workplace policies that have been slow to accommodate parents at a time when raising children has become a more intensive, involved enterprise.

This is also a new generation of working mothers, said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit research group based in New York, which she said reached conclusions similar to the Pew study — and linked the change to the arrival of Generation X.

“We found that the younger people are more family-centric than boomers are,” Galinsky said. “Most young people have seen someone lose their job, and they have lived through 9/11. It’s not that they don’t want to work. They just want to work more flexibly.”

The rest is here.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Marriage & Family

Oxford Anglican Consultation Press Release

From here:

Held at a critical time in the life of Anglicanism this private consultation included over 20 bishops, theological educators, leaders of mission agencies, parochial ministers and evangelists. They came from Anglican provinces including Australia, Canada, Europe, the Middle East including Egypt and Palestine, Kenya, New Zealand, Nigeria, South America, Sudan and the United States. The purpose of the gathering was two-fold: reflection on the challenges and opportunities posed by Mission in the North and examination of the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant.

Delegates were assigned to one of these two ‘tracks’ but came together for two daily plenary sessions where both issues were aired and discussed. Delegates took part in daily worship, prayer and Bible study and worked in small groups. The interplay between these two themes proved very important. Those engaged in mission initiatives were reminded of the need to move forward together in one Church, while those considering the Covenant were reminded that it should be a way to strengthen the Communion’s mission.

The Covenant track, convened by the Bishop of Winchester (Michael Scott-Joynt), took place at what participants acknowledged is a critical time in the life of the Anglican Communion and immediately before the Church of England General Synod is due to debate the proposal for an Anglican Covenant. Speakers included Canon Gregory Cameron (Anglican Communion Office), Archbishop Drexel Gomez (West Indies; Chair of the Covenant Design Group), Joseph Galgalo (Kenya), Ephraim Radner (Member of the Covenant Design Group), Christopher Seitz (Anglican Communion Institute), Martin Davie (Council for Christian Unity), Tim Dakin (Church Mission Society), Philip Turner (ACI) and Professor Norman Doe (Cardiff University).

The mission track (convened by the Bishop of Maidstone, Graham Cray) focused on mission within contemporary western culture in a context of social disintegration and decline church attendance. The consultation heard insights from John Drane (formerly University of Aberdeen) and Sara Savage (University of Cambridge), and people working in UK-based local mission and from people involved in developing new forms of church.

There were first-hand accounts from Continental Europe (Rosie Dymond, the Netherlands), UK inner-urban areas (Cyprian Yobera, from Kenya working in inner Manchester) as well as North America (Michael Green). This was enriched by input from people doing mission in parts of Africa (Bishop Ben Kwashi, Nigeria), Latin America (Bishop Bill Godfery, Peru) and the Muslim world (Bishop Mouneer Anis, Egypt). Bishop Cray, Stephen Croft (Fresh Expressions) and Richard Sudworth (Faith to Faith network) addressed questions of Christian lifestyle (discipleship) and how to equip Christians to engage confidently in a consumerist, post-modern culture.

It is hoped that some of their ideas be of value to the Lambeth Design Group and the Lambeth Conference itself.

Daily scripture readings (given by Chris Wright, Margaret Sentamu and Adrian Chatfield) focused on Ephesians 1-3 and the call for “unity within the bonds of peace.”

Consultation papers will be posted on the websites of the conference hosts within the next 10 days (addresses above). Summaries of the small group discussions will be posted no later than Monday 3rd September.

Throughout the gathering there has been a keen sense of privilege at hearing of God at work throughout the world, of being part of a worldwide family that spans so many cultures, and of the joy of being able to form good friendships and relationships where: “in Christ we are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Eph. 2:22).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Covenant, Anglican Identity, Ecclesiology, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Theology

Diocesan Motions Denied, Central New York Trial Begins Monday

From the Living Church:

The standing committee in the Diocese of Central New York on July 11 unanimously denied two motions made by the diocese, seeking a change of venue and termination of the current Title IV ecclesiastical court members in a presentment case against the Rev. David Bollinger, former rector of St. Paul’s Church, Owego. The trial is scheduled to begin July 16.

The two motions by the diocese arose out of a decision made by the presiding judge on May 29 to suppress the prosecution’s list of witnesses and most of its evidence against Fr. Bollinger after it still had not complied with a court-imposed deadline to submit the documents two weeks after the discovery deadline had elapsed. The diocese has also refused to make available a key piece of evidence, the so-called Shafer report, which had been requested by the defense and ordered to be delivered by Carter Strickland, the presiding judge.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts

The Bishop of Liverpool: Thoughts on Marriage and Children

Clear blue water was emerging yesterday on this programme when Ian Duncan Smith went head to head with Ed Miliband about the State’s attitude to marriage. But both agreed that the interests of children were paramount.

It’s clear that many children in Britain today are being brought up in emotional poverty, deprived of the security that flows from a stable family relationship. Recent evidence shows that those raised in a family structured on marriage achieve significantly higher results at school. It’s also clear that when you have children the family spending increases hugely. It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that a single-income household that feeds four or even five people should, on the grounds of justice alone, be taxed very differently from a double-income household that keeps only two.

But there are problems with these arguments.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Marriage & Family

Frank Limehouse: A Response to "Communion Matters"

Frank Limehouse is the Dean of the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama

A Response to “Communion Matters”
by The Very Rev. Frank F. Limehouse, III

July 12, 2007

From the Preface of “Communion Matters: A Study Document for the Episcopal Church”:

“The Theology Committee of the House of Bishops has been asked to prepare this study document as a resource for the bishops, dioceses, and the people of the Episcopal Church in considering the communiqué of the Primates Meeting of the Anglican Communion.

“As most Episcopalians know, issues of human sexuality recently have threatened to impair our relations with other Anglicans. To seek godly wisdom and prevent further damage to our bonds of fellowship, we have been engaged in global conversation involving back-and-forth position papers and dialogue that are both prayerful theology and ecclesial diplomacy.

“This most recent statement in this ongoing process is the Communiqué of the Primates’ Meeting of the Anglican Communion issued in February 2007 from Tanzania. The Communiqué addresses our 2006 General Convention response to the requests of the Windsor Report on Communion, and makes additional requests of our House of Bishops. It asks for a response by September 30, 2007”¦

“This study document”¦ poses questions for our (Episcopal church) corporate reflection to assist the bishops as they prepare for the fall meeting of the House of Bishops.”

+ + +

The clergy of the Diocese of Alabama have been encouraged to make “Communion Matters: A Study Document for the Episcopal Church” available to the people. It is meant to engage the people of the church and ask, “What do you think?” As Dean of the Cathedral Church of the Advent, and at the encouragement of the vestry, I am taking this opportunity to briefly respond with my own thoughts. On July 24 at 6:30 pm, the people in this part of the diocese will have the opportunity to meet with Bishop Parsley at All Saints’ Church, 110 West Hawthorne Road, in Homewood.

The clergy of the diocese have already met (June 19) for the purpose of this discussion. Let me say first of all that I appreciate our bishop’s kind tolerance and patience in allowing a guy like me to express my honest feelings toward the document. This is especially so considering the fact that he himself chairs the Theology Committee that put it together. Had he been a one-man committee, I suspect we would have a better document!

In the second paragraph of the preface of Communion Matters, it is written, “As most Episcopalians know, the issues of human sexuality recently have threatened to impair our relations with other Anglicans.” While this is true, the fact of the matter is human sexuality is only the presenting issue. The underlying issue is the authority of our Scriptures. Be that as it may, I think this document is written from a revisionist-minded perspective. It indoctrinates, rather than seeks opinion. It feels like a kind of set-up. It seeks to dignify the direction of the Episcopal Church; it begs for self-justification for all of the recent actions of the Episcopal Church.

Read it all here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Primates, Episcopal Church (TEC), Primates Mtg Dar es Salaam, Feb 2007, TEC Conflicts

Ed Bacon: To Stand in a Crucified Place

There is no gulf between God’s creation and God that has to be spanned. We are not in the need of that kind of salvation — salvation from the wrath and punishment of God. We do not need that kind of salvation or savior. What we need is someone to embody revealingly God’s compassion to us whose life says, “This really is NOT too good to be true.” And lest we calcify God as a father — even a compassionate, forgiving, love and grace-based father — Carroll challenges us to understand God as Meaning. It is meaning — to live a life of meaning — that saves us from hell on earth. Heaven after death is already taken care of in the love and forgiveness and compassion of God.

We must put an end to any portrayal of God that says that without Jesus and the crucifixion we are left standing condemned. And that God’s way is to crucify Jesus and us. That is not what it means to claim that the way of the cross is the way of life. The way of the cross is the way of life means that when we offer ourselves in love for the sake of the life of another — like loving parents do and loving friends do and compassionate neighbors like Good Samaritans do. That is the way of life.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Atonement, Christology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, Theology, Theology: Salvation (Soteriology)

Washington Times: Evangelicals, Muslims meet

Muslims and evangelical Christians are talking ”” at least behind closed doors at the Egyptian Embassy ”” according to several guests at a top-secret lunch last week.

The July 2 gathering lasted two hours and featured ambassadors from nine Arab states plus their umbrella group, and several prominent evangelical leaders or their sons.

“They were assessing the next generation,” said Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and one of the participants. “The meeting was reflective of the generational changes that are happening, and everyone knew it.”

The meeting, which was orchestrated by Pentecostal evangelist Benny Hinn, focused on two issues, though the two groups had differing priorities. Whereas the Americans wanted to discuss the lack of religious freedom in Muslim countries, the ambassadors wanted to know whether Christians could become more “balanced” in their support of Israel.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Other Churches, Other Faiths

Dr. Peter Toon: A discussion starter on TEC Property Issues and Hierarchy

Church Hierarchies and church Property: How some laity see the matter.

A discussion Starter from Peter Toon on behalf of some laymen

Not a few laity in and around The Episcopal Church [TEC] have the sense, even the understanding, that congregations which secede from this Church to be part of another Anglican Province (via AMiA, CANA etc), lose their properties (even where they have paid for them in whole) on secession; and the real reason for the loss is because of the principle of hierarchy””that TEC is governed hierarchically, Bishops downwards, and so the property follows this tendency, upwards to diocese and/or national Church.

Let us begin our reflection by recognizing that the clearest examples of what we call hierarchical churches are the Roman Catholic Church and the various Eastern Orthodox Churches. In these Churches, decisions come from the top down, or from higher up to lower down. In total contrast, in a variety of “Bible” and “Baptist” local churches, in which there is complete local autonomy in all matters and property is owned locally, decisions are made at the local level and might be carried forward and upward at a convention of like-minded churches; but such a convention is not empowered to rule and does not tell the local church what to do.

In the world of business and commerce, closely held corporations are hierarchical, but public companies are not. Even though in public companies the Board and CEO run the company on a daily basis, they are ultimately responsible to the stockholders, who can replace them if enough votes can be gathered to do so.

In the Roman Church, major decisions of all kinds always come from above. While the Pope is elected by the College of Cardinals, the Cardinals themselves are not elected. They are appointed by the incumbent Pope, who has his job for life. Bishops in the Roman Church are not elected, they are appointed by the Vatican. Priests are not called by a parish, they are sent by a bishop. Mutatis mutandis, the various Eastern Churches operate in much the same way in terms of the hierarchical principle. In the Roman Church a General Council is called by the Pope and reports to the Pope and from Pope and General Councils ( e.g. Vatican II) come doctrine. Laity and ordinary clergy are not in this loop except as the recipients of what is decided and required. And in terms of property, while there may be local trustees, the general rule is that the property belongs to the diocese and that where there is any dispute the diocese takes control.

Let us now return to TEC. Major decisions within TEC have never been made in the hierarchical way of Rome. Bishops are elected by their dioceses. Priests are called by local congregations, admittedly with the approval–usually in the past, a pro forma approval–by the bishop of the diocese. The basic structure of TEC is not set up as an absolute monarchy as is the Roman Church, but along democratic lines, with certain limited authority given to Diocesan Bishops, Rectors, and Executive Councils.

The rest is here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, - Anglican: Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts