Daily Archives: September 17, 2007

T. Jeremy Gunn: Accommodating the faithful

few months ago, I had dinner with a prominent Evangelical Christian who insists that Christians are “persecuted” in the USA. Although we had a friendly discussion ”” and he generously paid for my dinner ”” I did think he was exaggerating a bit. So I asked him two questions:

First, could he identify any country in the world where there is more religious freedom than in the USA?

He could not. Nor can I.

Second, could he name any time in the history of the United States when Evangelical Christians have had more religious freedom (and political influence) than they do now?

He could not. Nor can I….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture

Growing Together in Unity and Mission: Building on 40 years of Anglican – Roman Catholic Dialogue

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

It's awfully quiet in many dioceses

Regular readers of the Anglican blogosphere, be they fans of blogs such as T19, Stand Firm, Drell, and BabyBlue on one “side” or EpiScope, Episcopal Cafe, Fr. Jake, and Susan Russell on the other “side,” know things are buzzing right now. We’re gearing up for the September TEC HoB meetings in New Orleans later this week (Sept 20-25), the Common Cause Bishops’ Council in Pittsburgh immediately following, and the September 30 Dar es Salaam deadline. In some quarters, reports, responses, articles and pastoral letters are flying so fast and thick that it’s dizzying and pretty much impossible to “read it all,” no matter how often Kendall exhorts us to do just that!

But the buzz and news overload that those of us who follow the blogs are experiencing right now may be surprisingly limited in scope.

Your humble elf had more time for web browsing yesterday than any day in the last 2 months or so. It seemed like a good time to go on one of our periodic diocesan “news trawls.” What is being said in the various dioceses that we don’t hear from so often or read about much on the blogs? What responses have there been to the proposed covenant? What are bishops writing their flocks about the upcoming HoB meeting? etc. I knew from previous forays into diocesan website land that the results would be patchy. Some dioceses excel in timely communication, but many fail on that score. I expected that in a good number of dioceses the whole “Anglican crisis” and Dar deadline is being downplayed. But even I, an experienced denizen of diocesan websites, was surprised by what I found.

In the 4 hours I had free, I was able to visit the diocesan websites of 31 TEC dioceses. I focused on dioceses which I knew, from past experience, tended to have informative and relatively up-to-date websites. I purposely avoided some of the Network dioceses where there’s been recent news and statements (such as Central FL, Fort Worth, San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Quincy, etc.) We already know these dioceses are engaged in the current crisis. I tried to hit some of the biggest and most influential dioceses (Texas, Atlanta, New York…) and also many Camp Allen or reasonably moderate dioceses, as well as to get a good geographic mixture.

Here’s a list of the diocesan sites I visited and what I found. A diocese received a “NO” if I could find nothing new about the TEC/Anglican situation since the March HoB meeting. (Legend: **Network diocese, *Camp Allen bishop)

Alabama – NO
** Albany – NO
Arizona – NO
Arkansas – NO
Atlanta – NO
California – NO
Colorado – NO
Connecticut – NO
** Dallas – YES — a good selection of background links and resources, though most not very recent, nothing specific on the upcoming HoB meeting
East Carolina – NO
East Tennessee – YES — a nice and quite current “Windsor Process” page
Florida – NO
Lexington – NOPE, surprising given +Sauls lead role in many recent reports, etc.
Los Angeles – Nothing since April
Massachusetts – NO
Mississippi — YES. Pastoral letter from +Duncan Gray.
Newark – No
New York – Yes. Bishop’s letter July / August (see p. 3), special 8 page insert in Dio. Newsletter
North Carolina – YES Big feature on “Communion Matters” meetings throughout the diocese on the homepage
* North Dakota – not really. A passing mention in Dio. Newsletter “pray for Sept HoB meeting”
* Northern Indiana – No (Bp. Little is on sabbatical, but will be attending HoB mtg)
Ohio – No
Rio Grande – YES Pastoral letter from +Steenson
SE Florida – Partial: Response by Executive board to Anglican Convenant (unclear if laity and parishes are engaged, however)
* SW Florida – Nothing new since May (surprising. SW FL is usually VERY current on news and info)
** Springfield – No
* Tennessee – No
* Texas – No
Upper SC – No
Virginia – NO
* West Texas – YES. Sept 2007 Audio message to diocese from Bp. Lillibridge

So, totalling up the YES column and the NO column:

Only 7 of 31 (or 8, if one counts SE Florida, which is somewhat borderline…) had anything substantive and current on the ECUSA/Anglican crisis. That’s 25%. So of the nearly 1/3 of the ECUSA domestic dioceses surveyed (and I chose those which I know to have generally informative and regularly updated websites) it would appear that 75% of these dioceses are not getting out current info on the Anglican crisis. This includes Network dioceses (Albany and Springfield), and Windsor Dioceses (Northern Indiana, Texas, Tennessee, and SW Florida), as well as more reappraising dioceses. Big dioceses with lots of resources, and small dioceses. I have absolutely no reason to think that the dioceses I didn’t survey are any better.

The lesson to draw from this: If you care about these issues and the decisions that lie ahead, share the news you read on this blog and others with your fellow parishoners, or friends in other dioceses, etc. Don’t assume that the dioceses or other structures are getting the news out. There are many in TEC parishes who have no idea that there is a House of Bishops’ meeting this week. If you care, share a few links and invite them to pray and get involved!

–elfgirl

Posted in * Admin, * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, Episcopal Church (TEC), Sept07 HoB Meeting, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Data

Rebecca Silverstein reviews Mark Lilla's new book entitled The Stillborn God

The sophisticated story that Mark Lilla, a professor of the humanities at Columbia University, presents in “The Stillborn God” adds nuance and complexity to the intellectual account we tell about the West’s thinking on religion and politics, and how it managed to separate (sort of) the one from the other. Lilla wants to challenge the view that the “Great Separation” ”” the prying apart of political theories from theology ”” was analogous to, say, the Copernican Revolution, that it constituted a discovery at which those thinking well would eventually arrive and that, once discovered, was secured in intellectual history’s linear progress.

In Lilla’s telling there was, first of all, nothing inevitable about the Great Separation. In fact, it is political theology that comes most naturally to us: “When looking to explain the conditions of political life and political judgment, the unconstrained mind seems compelled to travel up and out: up toward those things that transcend human existence, and outward to encompass the whole of that existence. … The urge to connect is not an atavism.”

Indeed, this urge is so irresistible, Lilla argues, that only highly unusual circumstances can compel us to give it up. Those unusual circumstances were provided by Christian theology ”” but not, as some recent religious apologists have argued, because the Judeo-Christian framework itself promotes rationality and tolerance. Rather, it is Christianity’s own fundamental ambiguities ”” torn between a picture of God as both present and absent from the temporal realm, an ambivalence powerfully represented by the paradoxes of the Trinity ”” that made it “uniquely unstable,” subject to a plurality of interpretations that became institutionalized in sectarianism, and hence to several centuries’ worth of devastating upheaval.

In some sense, Lilla is saying that Christianity is just too philosophically interesting. Thinkers like Hobbes, Locke and Hume were responding to “the intellectual structure of Christian political theology, which turned out to be exceptional, and exceptionally problematic,” as he soberly puts it. Or as I would less soberly paraphrase his point: Christian political theology encouraged the development of Enlightenment progressiveness the way that runaway mitosis encourages the discovery of cancer cures.

And what was the Enlightenment’s proffered cure? It was to translate questions about religion into psychological and anthropological questions. The problem was changed from “What does God want from us?” to “Why is man constantly asking what it is that God wants from us?”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture

More on the Oklahoma Consecration this past Saturday

The Rt. Rev. Edward J. Konieczny, a former police officer and Colorado rector, became the fifth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma during a ceremony Saturday at Oklahoma City University.

About 3,000 people attended Konieczny’s consecration ceremony, which was presided over by the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church USA.

Konieczny’s remarks immediately after the consecration were brief but appeared to make an impact on those in attendance. They applauded as Konieczny faced them dressed in his bishop vestment adorned with a colorful stole and wearing a miter ”” a ceremonial headdress.

“I’m not sure what one says at this moment except ”” Whoa!” Konieczny said. “You have honored me. You have humbled me. I pray that I earn it.”

Read it all.

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

St. Clement's in El Paso votes to leave Episcopal Church

Congregants at Pro-Cathedral of St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, one of the city’s oldest places of worship with hundreds of members and more than a dozen ministries, is leaving the Episcopal Church to carry on with doctrines members said no longer fit those of its former denomination.

The church recorded a 460-41 vote from its congregation on Sunday to dissolve its relationship with Episcopal Church USA and remain part of the Anglican Communion Network.

“I’m very excited about the future of St. Clement’s,” Rev. William Cobb said. “I’m not at all surprised about the overwhelming vote because this is a unified church.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Departing Parishes

From Holy Communion, Charleston: On the Road with Fr. Francis:

What these past few weeks have taught us about the Church in North America is interesting, if painful. First, our parishes are filled with friendly, welcoming, loving people””people who really mean well, and want to do the right thing, the loving thing, as they believe God would have them do. Second, we are essentially Congregationalists, and then perhaps “diocesanists”, and finally, maybe, members of our national church. There is no real sense of being one church with other Anglicans throughout the world, no sense that we are truly closer, more truly related, to an Anglican in Botswana or Beijing than to a Baptist down the street. Oh, we may have companion dioceses in Africa or South America, but we don’t really think of them as part of us, nor do we feel responsible to them. There’s no need to ask what they think about decisions we make as a church in the U.S., because it has nothing to do with them””sure, we send them some money every year, but that doesn’t make them “us”.

But they are us. If the Anglican Communion is truly to be a single Communion, then we must recognize that the national, man-made boundaries which separate us mean nothing, for we are truly a single Church, a single Communion, whether we’re in New York or Nairobi, Arlington or Addis Ababa. What we do in one part of the Communion directly effects every other part of the Communion, and we ignore that fact to the Church’s, and our own, peril.

Pray for the Church, that we may be One.

Read it all (scroll down to second item).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Identity, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Parishes, Theology

Timothy Stafford: An Older, Wiser Ex-Gay Movement

New research may change the terms of debate. Psychologists Stanton Jones of Wheaton College and Mark Yarhouse of Regent University released today a book detailing their findings from the first three years of an ongoing study. They are investigating participants in 16 different ex-gay programs associated with Exodus, the largest ex-gay ministry group.

The results show that some participants experienced significant change, though the change was usually partial, not complete. Furthermore, participants showed no additional mental or spiritual distress as a result of their involvement in the ex-gay program. This study is the first to use multiple interviews and questionnaires over a period of years, assessing participants from near the beginning of their involvement in an ex-gay program.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Psychology, Sexuality

Dr. Harding's Blog has moved

The Rev’d Dr. Leander Harding has moved his blog. Here is the new address:
http://www.leanderharding.com/blog/

Please update your bookmarks! We’ve updated the link on the T19 sidebar.

Posted in * Admin, * Resources & Links, Resources: blogs / websites

A New Anglican Bishop in Ottawa

The Right Rev. John Holland Chapman was installed Sunday night as the ninth bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa at a service at Christ Church Cathedral.

Elected last March, and ordained bishop in May, the new bishop ceremonially knocked on the door of the 1873 church, to gain entry.

The doors were opened by the cathedral wardens, as the bishop was welcomed by the Dean of Ottawa, the Very Rev. Shane Parker. “We welcome you to your Cathedral Church of Christ, the symbol and centre of your pastoral, liturgical and teaching ministry in this diocese of Ottawa,” he said

Read it all.

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

Worlds apart over the planet?

Global warming is an issue that scientists are beginning to address in moral terms. We have a moral obligation to future generations to protect the earth, is the gist of many scientists’ appeals to people to listen to their analyse.

We don’t expect priests or ministers to preach global warming on a Sunday – though that, too, is beginning to change.

Michael S Northcott is Professor of Ethics at the University of Edinburgh and a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church. He has just written a book, A Moral Climate: the ethics of global warming, in which he examines the ethical implications for Christians of climate change.

He begins each chapter with a quotation from the prophet Jeremiah and is not afraid to talk of “the immorality of global warming”. He writes that “the spiritual vision of divine grace” is needed to save the earth and its people.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Climate Change, Weather, Ethics / Moral Theology, Scottish Episcopal Church, Theology

Ruth Gledhill reviews Roy Strong's A Little History of the English Country Church

ABOUT 30 YEARS AGO, after he was appointed director of the V&A, Sir Roy Strong put on an exhibition, The Destruction of the English Country House 1875-1975, that was a turning point in saving these buildings.

Now in his 70s, Sir Roy Strong has turned his attention to saving the English parish church, which he believes is facing crisis. But preserving the buildings in a heritage aspic ”“ like that around so many of his beloved country houses today ”“ is not his answer. Preservation is admirable, he writes in his new book, but the word has begun to take on negative connotations. A replacement is needed that shows a desire to move on. To save the parish church, he says, “perhaps we need bodies whose names feature the word ”˜adaptation’ rather than ”˜conservation’ or ”˜preservation’ ”.

Sir Roy is infused with the love he feels for the Church, its inhabitants and its Creator. What he suggests must be taken seriously if the Church, as well as the parish church, is to survive.

The writing is concise, uncluttered, clear. Even when you know the history, you still turn the pages, wanting to find out what small but telling detail he has uncovered next.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of England (CoE)

From the Desk of the Bishop of San Joaquin

One of the greatest problems the Church faces today is the willingness to ascribe motivations and “hidden agendas” to those who disagree with us. This escalates not only our suspicion of others but levels of anger. Actions based more upon rumors and fear rather than facts cause us to separate ourselves from one another. At this writing in early September we are all aware of momentous decisions that lie ahead. The American House of Bishops has been presented with the deadline of Sept. 30 to turn from unbiblical theology and practices. Those who plead for more time and dialogue claiming that even the worst rifts can be overcome with cool headed conversation and understanding now seem to be the very ones who know what the outcome will be and have moved into action. Two parishes within the diocese have already voted to leave the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and a third is prepared to vote in the same manner within days while neither the House of Bishops, the Primates of the Anglican Communion, nor the Archbishop of Canterbury himself have presumed to know what the future holds. Such premature and precipitous action can only have one interpretation. These folks know in their heart of hearts that there will be no turning back, no repentance and that the unilateral action of the American Church will bring about the break-up of the Anglican Communion as we have known it or the division of our own Church in the United States or, worse, the disintegration of both.

The cry of the majority of Episcopalians has been that UNITY trumps TRUTH, that ”” in fact ”” Anglicans have been famous for keeping the unity of the Church while recognizing serious differences of theology among ourselves. We have prided ourselves on the fact that even though we are a creedal church we are not bound by a single confessional statement of belief. Early Church Fathers are quoted on this point with such frequency that it appears history itself is neglected when our attention is directed to one bishop who was prepared to stand alone, suffer exile, and remain faithful to the Scriptures for truth’s sake, ultimately winning over the whole Church that was prepared to reject him. We are reminded of our English heritage when during the time of the Elizabethan Settlement in the 1500s Anglicans remained together as theologies looking to Protestant Geneva as well as to the Catholicism of Rome were both accommodated. Here in North America with hostilities tearing our nation apart, even Civil War could not break the unity found within the House of Bishops. Southern bishops, absent for four years, took their seats among their brothers where no mention of the separation was ever made. As far as the Episcopal Church was concerned, our unity did not have to be restored. . .it was never recognized nor ever broken. Yet, when it comes to the LARGER UNITY, namely that of the worldwide Anglican Communion, these same advocates of unity within the American Church, so far, have turned their backs. The fact that decisions made in the United States by us have had a profound ”” and, in some instances a fatal”” effect upon men and women ministering abroad seems of little consequence. Our “truth” for our society somehow takes precedence over unity beyond our borders. Are we to understand that unity with brother and sister Anglicans around the world can be sacrificed for our different “truth”?

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Bishops, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin

Rowan Williams: Faith Communities in a Civil Society ”“ Christian Perspectives

But the point of this first contribution, as it affects civil society, is this: the presence of the Church, not as a clamorous interest group but as a community confident of its rootedness in something beyond the merely political, expresses a vision of human dignity and mutual human obligation which, because of its indifference to popular success or official legitimation, poses to every other community a special sort of challenge. ”˜Civil society’ is the recognized shorthand description for all those varieties of human association that rest on willing co-operation for the sake of social goods that belong to the whole group, not just to any individual or faction, and which are not created or wholly controlled by state authority. As such, their very existence presupposes persons who are able to take responsibility for themselves and to trust one another in this enterprise. The presence of the Christian community puts to civil society the question of where we look for the foundation of such confidence about responsibility and trustworthiness: does this set of assumptions about humanity rest on a fragile human agreement, on the decision of human beings to behave as if they were responsible, or on something deeper and less contingent, something to which any and every human society is finally answerable? Is the social creativity which civil society takes for granted part of a human ”˜birthright’?

The second major contribution made by the presence of the Church is what we might in shorthand call universalism ”“ not in the technical theological sense, but simply meaning the conviction that every human agent is involved in either creating or frustrating a common good that relates to the whole human race. In plainer terms, we cannot as Christians settle down with the conclusion that what is lastingly and truly good for any one individual or group is completely different from what is lastingly and truly good for any other. Justice is not local in an exclusive sense or limited by circumstances; there are no classes or subgroups of humanity who are entitled to less of God’s love; and so there are no classes entitled to lower levels of human respect or compassion or service. And since an important aspect of civil society is the assumption that human welfare is not achieved by utilitarian generalities imposed from above but requires active and particularized labour, the fact of the Christian community’ presence once again puts the question of how human society holds together the need for action appropriate to specific and local conditions with the lively awareness of what is due to all people everywhere. This is not only about a vision of universal human justice as we normally think of it, but also applies to how we act justly towards those who are not yet born ”“ how we create a just understanding of our relation to the environment.

In short, the significance of the Church for civil society is in keeping alive a concern both to honour and to justify the absolute and non-negotiable character of the human vision of responsibility and justice that is at work in all human association for the common good. It is about connecting the life of civil society with its deepest roots, acknowledged or not. The conviction of being answerable to God for how we serve and respect God’s human and non-human creation at the very least serves to ensure that the human search for shared welfare and responsible liberty will not be reduced to a matter of human consensus alone. And if the Church ”“ or any other community of faith ”“ asks of society the respect that will allow it to be itself, it does so not because it is anxious about its survival (which is in God’s hands), but because it asks the freedom to remind the society or societies in which it lives of their own vulnerability and their need to stay close to some fundamental questions about the nature of the humanity they seek to nourish. Such a request from Church to society will be heard and responded to, of course, only if the Church genuinely looks as though it were speaking for more than a self-protecting set of ”˜religious’ concerns; if it appears as concerned for something more than self-defence. To return to what was said earlier, it needs to establish its credentials as ”˜non-violent’ ”“ that is, as not contending against other kinds of human group for a share in ordinary political power. To put it in severely condensed form, the Church is most credible when least preoccupied with its security and most engaged with the human health of its environment; and to say ”˜credible’ here is not to say ”˜popular’, since engagement with this human health may run sharply against a prevailing consensus. Recent debates on euthanasia offer a case in point; and even here, it is surprisingly often claimed that the churches are concerned here only to sustain their control of human lives ”“ which sadly illustrates what all too many in our society have come to expect of the Church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church-State Issues, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Theology

Rounding up the flock Down Under

LONG ago, the Gideons learned to spread the gospel by putting millions of New Testaments in hotel rooms around the world. If Sydney’s Anglican archbishop, the Most Reverend Peter Jensen, gets his way, Sydney Anglicans will be handing out more than 1.5 million gospels in their neighbourhoods.

The costings are done ($1.8 million), the speech he will give to the diocesan synod today has been finalised: Connect 09 will become a reality if the synod approves the initiative tomorrow.

Annual synods, or parliaments, are a clearing house of diocesan business, usually accompanied by a grab-bag of motions covering concerns of the standing committee (executive), plus a few from individuals. It would be unlikely for Sydney to rebuff the archbishop’s latest Bible idea. But it remains to be decided which part of the New Testament will be chosen, which version, and the exact mix of books versus media such as CDs and MP3s.

“I favour Luke,” says Jensen. “It’s the longest, it contains some stories not in any other gospel, like the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, and to my mind it most powerfully tells the Jesus story.”

It also contains a version of the parable of the talents, the story Jesus told of servants being given money to manage while their master was away.

One hid it. Others, to their master’s great delight, invested and increased it.

Likewise, Jensen is keen on the creation of spiritual wealth. “I’m always thinking how best to communicate the good news of Christ to our generation,” he says.

Jensen is a man very comfortable in his theological skin, a man for whom the “Jesus story” is revealed first, last and always in the Bible. He is also very clear about the job in front of him. From the moment he took to the stage at the State Sports Centre in Sydney’s Homebush Bay in 2001, wearing sunglasses and rapping to Isaiah 53.6 in front of a crowd of 4000, he has fought for relevance.

A good idea here. Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry