Daily Archives: December 7, 2007

Naomi Schaffer Riley: Mitt Romney's speech and American tolerance

Yesterday, at the end of Mitt Romney’s speech, he told a story from the early days of the First Continental Congress, whose members were meeting in Philadelphia in 1774: “With Boston occupied by British troops . . . and fears of an impending war . . . someone suggested they pray.” But because of the variety of religious denominations represented, there were objections. “Then Sam Adams rose and said he would hear a prayer from anyone of piety and good character, as long as they were a patriot.”

Were Adams alive today, he most certainly would hear a prayer from a Mormon. It is hard to imagine a group more patriotic than the modern Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But there is reason to believe that voters in Iowa and elsewhere will not accept Mr. Romney’s invitation–put forward implicitly in his remarks yesterday at the George Bush Library–to ignore religious differences and embrace him simply as a man of character who loves his country.

A recent Pew poll shows that only 53% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Mormons. That’s roughly the same percentage who feel that way toward Muslims. By contrast, more than three-quarters of Americans have a favorable opinion of Jews and Catholics. Whatever the validity of such judgments, one has to wonder: Why does a faith professed by the 9/11 hijackers rank alongside that of a peaceful, productive, highly educated religious group founded within our own borders?

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

Stanley Hauerwas' Sermon for Reformation Sunday

I must begin by telling you that I do not like to preach on Reformation Sunday. Actually I have to put it more strongly than that. I do not like Reformation Sunday, period. I do no understand why it is part of the church year. Reformation Sunday does not name a happy event for the Church Catholic; on the contrary, it names failure. Of course, the church rightly names failure, or at least horror, as part of our church year. We do, after all, go through crucifixion as part of Holy Week. Certainly if the Reformation is to be narrated rightly, it is to be narrated as part of those dark days.

Reformation names the disunity in which we currently stand. We who remain in the Protestant tradition want to say that Reformation was a success. But when we make Reformation a success, it only ends up killing us. After all, the very name ”˜Protestantism’ is meant to denote a reform movement of protest within the Church Catholic. When Protestantism becomes an end in itself, which it certainly has through the mainstream denominations in America, it becomes anathema. If we no longer have broken hearts at the church’s division, then we cannot help but unfaithfully celebrate Reformation Sunday.

For example, note what the Reformation has done for our reading texts like that which we hear from Luke this morning. We Protestants automatically assume that the Pharisees are the Catholics. They are the self-righteous people who have made Christianity a form of legalistic religion, thereby destroying the free grace of the Gospel. We Protestants are the tax collectors, knowing that we are sinners and that our lives depend upon God’s free grace. And therefore we are better than the Catholics because we know they are sinners. What an odd irony that the Reformation made such readings possible. As Protestants we now take pride in the acknowledgement of our sinfulness in order to distinguish ourselves from Catholics who allegedly believe in works-righteousness.

Unfortunately, the Catholics are right….

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Ecclesiology, Theology

Peter Sellick: The failure of Protestantism

One of the weaknesses of the Protestant Churches is that they are devoid of a teaching office whose role is to guide the people in the ways of faith. While we may protest that Rome has a tendency to micromanage the lives of its people, particularly with the use of tenuous arguments from natural theology, it is apparent that any church should have a strong teaching office that instructs the people in what it means to be Christian.

Readers may correct me but it seems that this absence in Protestant churches was produced by a reaction to the unfaithful way the Roman Church used its power in the 16th century and the reformers emphasis on grace over the law. The severely reduced teaching office of Protestant Churches means that clergy cannot be leaders but only cheerleaders. Liberalism, that slippery product of modernity, ensures that no definite stand may be taken about anything. This means that Rome often looks legalistic and often it is, unreasonably so. If the sin of Protestantism is that it cannot say anything, the sin of Rome is that it says too much.

The fragmentation of Protestant denominations has produced a spiritual marketplace in which churches compete for believers and in which believers may choose which suits them best. The balance has thus swung from God addressing us to ourselves choosing which denomination best satisfies our needs. Because self assertion is the essence of Enlightenment thinking we experience no anomaly in this.

Not only does this situation throw the emphasis onto the believer it also distorts the life of the church that now looks to its own survival. The Holy Spirit is replaced by the techniques of the church growth movement and those nauseating signs that we find in the front of Protestant churches. The capitulation to modernism has become the capitulation to market forces and the biblical notion that the church is a charismatic body is obscured.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Ecclesiology, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Theology

Letters to the Church Times in response to recent Episcopal Church Coverage

Here is one:

Sir, ”” I am sure the Revd Dr Giles Fraser expressed the anxieties of many in his description of the diocese of Pittsburgh and in his remarks about its Bishop, the Rt Revd Bob Duncan. It does look like puritans breaking away again, as they have gained a reputation for doing.

Nevertheless, as a Church of England cleric currently teaching at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, I would like to make a number of points.

First, Trinity was founded as a theological college in 1976 because, by that time, the last remaining Evangelical one (Virginia) had become liberal in its commitments. One of the systematic-theology professors left his tenured position there to help start this risky enterprise with the aim of securing a continuing place for Evangelicalism in the Episcopal Church.

Second, conservatives in Pittsburgh are not planning a “hostile takeover”, as Dr Fraser suggests. About 80 per cent of the clergy in the Episcopal Church are liberal-leaning (much more liberal than those in the Church of England, in my experience); so any such ideas would be totally unrealistic, even if they were being considered. All conservatives are looking for is a continuing place at the table which they and their parishioners can hold with integrity.

Third, I very much hope and pray that there will be developments in the coming year that will mean that the diocese of Pittsburgh does not in the end vote to leave the Episcopal Church. If it does come to that, however, the clergy and lay leaders know it will risk lawsuits, and might lead to the loss of some church buildings and clergy pensions. No bishop or priest would undertake such a move lightly, and I would invite people not to assume the worst about their motives.

It would be a great help in the current tense situation if Dr Fraser would use his influence to encourage the clergy and people of Calvary Church to drop their lawsuit against Bishop Duncan. He might also want to visit Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry next time he is in the States, and assess it for himself. While here, he could arrange to meet Bishop Duncan, who is in many ways a traditional Anglo-Catholic, whose high view of the Church and devotion to Jesus Christ are what makes him willing to live with all the criticism.

Associate Professor of Systematic Thology
Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry
Ambridge, PA, 15003,

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

LA Times: San Joaquin Episcopal diocese nears a Decisive Moment

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion, the world’s third-largest Christian denomination. Theological conservatives such as Schofield and his supporters are a minority within the Episcopal Church but a growing majority among Anglicans worldwide.

In recent years, the Episcopal Church has been at odds with much of the Anglican Communion over the American church’s relatively liberal views on homosexuality and scriptural interpretation. Tensions rose in 2003 when the Episcopal Church consecrated a gay priest as bishop of New Hampshire.

A year ago, the San Joaquin diocese, which includes about 50 parishes, became the first in the country to begin the process of leaving the Episcopal Church, and it has since been followed by others in Pittsburgh and Fort Worth. With this week’s vote, it could become the first diocese to confirm that initial action and align itself with an overseas Anglican leader.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin

Washington Times: San Joaquin Episcopal diocese set to vote to join Another province

Saturday’s vote will require two-thirds approval from San Joaquin’s 104 clergy and 154 laity delegates. They voted overwhelmingly last year, in the first of two votes, to amend the diocese’s constitution in a way that would allow it to leave the Episcopal Church.

Their decision will not only violate church law but lead to the defrocking of San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield, according to a Dec. 3 letter from Presiding Episcopal Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori. The denomination is expected to declare the diocese “vacant” and sue to recover all the property of its 50 churches.

“I do not need to remind you of the potential consequences,” Bishop Jefferts Schori wrote Bishop Schofield. “If you continue along this path, I believe it will be necessary to ascertain whether you have in fact abandoned the communion of this church, and violated your vows to uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of this church.

“I do not intend to threaten you, only to urge you to reconsider and draw back from this trajectory.”

Bishop Schofield’s Dec. 5 reply called the Episcopal Church “an apostate institution that has minted a new religion irreconcilable with the Anglican faith.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin

GetReligion Nails the NY Times for Its One-Sided Coverage of a Recent Episcopal Church Story

Read it all. This applies in both directions, too. There should be at least one reappraiser and one reasserter quoted in the story.

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

Fresno Bee: San Joaquin diocese faces big decision

A yes vote also sets into motion a list of other issues and questions.

Realignment of the diocese: The Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of South America recently extended an invitation to the diocese for membership on a temporary and emergency basis, but nothing has been decided. The Church of the Southern Cone, which consists of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, is based in Buenos Aires.

The issue is likely to be added to the convention’s agenda for discussion and vote. The Right Rev. Frank Lyons, bishop of Bolivia, who extended the invitation in behalf of the Southern Cone, will be at the convention.

The parishes that don’t want to leave: Congregations such as Holy Family Episcopal Church in Fresno, St. John the Baptist Parish in Lodi and St. Anne Parish in Stockton, whose delegates voted last year against the split, plan to stay affiliated with the Episcopal Church, Smith said. They say they plan to remain as the Diocese of San Joaquin.

Distribution of church property: Schofield already has informed parishes not wanting to leave the Episcopal Church that they won’t be penalized. Schofield said those parishes can retain property on the condition they don’t leave debt with the Diocese of San Joaquin.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin

The Bishop’s Pastoral Call to the CANA Council 2007

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, CANA, Church of Nigeria, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts

Anglican Division over Same Sex relationships Harming Talks With Vatican

The Anglican Communion’s divisions over sexual ethics have harmed its ecumenical dialogue with Rome, the head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has claimed.

Speaking to the Pope and 123 cardinals in a private meeting at the Vatican on Nov 23, Cardinal Walter Kasper said that while relations with the Orthodox and some Evangelical groups were improving, talks with the Anglicans had stalled. “What we held to be our common heritage has begun to melt here and there like the glaciers in the Alps.”

Cardinal Kasper’s address, published in L’Osservatore Romano, noted that recent years had seen openness to dialogue with Rome from the “ecclesial Communities born from the Reformation.”

“A certain agreement has been reached in the realm of the truths of faith” and “in many places, there is fruitful collaboration in the social and humanitarian sphere” characterized by “mutual trust and friendship,” motivated by a “profound desire for unity.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Andrew Goddard: Revisiting the Anglican Map

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Posted in Uncategorized

NY Times: Romney Seeks to Defuse Concerns Over Mormon Faith

Seeking to defuse suspicions about his Mormon faith, Mitt Romney declared here today in a heavily anticipated address that the nation’s foundation of religious liberty bars a religious test for higher office, but unites the country under a common moral heritage that he would champion if elected president.

Mr. Romney did not dwell on the doctrines of his faith, mentioning the word Mormon only once. But he promised that he would not be beholden to the authorities of his church, and he devoted most of his 20-minute address here at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library to a call for a robust role for religion in public life.

“I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from the God who gave us liberty,” he said, drawing applause from an audience of about 300 invited guests, including supporters and religious leaders. “Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage.”

The theme appeared calculated to resonate with conservative evangelical Christians. While many in that group consider Mormonism to be heretical, they also believe that the country was founded as a “Christian nation” and have expressed mounting alarm over efforts to enforce the separation of church and state by removing expressions of faith from the public square.

Mr. Romney said as recently as a few weeks ago that his political advisers did not want him to give such a speech, fearing that it would draw too much attention to his religious beliefs. But it has since become clear that Mr. Romney is facing a vigorous challenge in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Republican caucuses from Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor whose rise in the polls has been fueled by evangelical Christians.

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

Paul Griffin: St Clement

The point is that one Church must not be suffered to become many churches, each teaching a variant Gospel. It is not that congregations do not deserve to be consulted about their particular needs, just that they cannot expect to be given the final decision.

This is such straight common sense that one wonders how anyone can have argued with it. It certainly seemed so to the Church for many centuries, as they fought off threatening heresies and divisions. The majority would accept it still; but of course no sound policy is proof against human fallibility, the abuse of power, or against political influences. Authority can become authoritarianism; a local church can be subject to intense pressure, as it was under Communism, when some of the wisest and best of people believed compromise to be a condition of survival. The shift of power from Rome to Constantinople, the nature and behaviour of medieval Popes and other Church leaders, the Crusades, Fascism, Communism, famine, war and

even prosperity have all contributed to the pressure upon apostolic authority in which St Clement so firmly believed.

The endless trouble of the ages has often persuaded people at their wits’ end to look for a less vulnerable authority, an unalterable basis of faith which can solve all problems. Islam and biblical fundamentalism offer just such a basis. More subtle forms of this temptation offer themselves to apparently more enlightened congregations. Our bishops are there to guard us against falling for this. No comment.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Ecclesiology, Theology

Court Rejects Blasphemy Case Against Jerry Springer Opera

A Christian activist group has lost its battle in Britain’s High Court to prosecute a BBC executive and a producer under the nation’s blasphemy laws for televising “Jerry Springer–The Opera” nearly three years ago.

The two-judge court on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling that the musical, based on Jerry Springer’s racy U.S. talk show, could not be considered blasphemous since it did not target Christianity, but rather attacked the talk-show program genre itself.

“The play had been performed regularly in major theaters in London for a period of nearly two years without sign of it undermining society or occasioning civil strife or unrest,” the High Court said in its ruling.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture