Daily Archives: June 24, 2008

The Bishop of Durham Responds to some Blog Readers on his Colbert Show appearance

(Note: the original thread to which this responds is here. For purposes of clarity I am going to request that any further comments on this thread and that one be made THERE. Anyone wishing to contact Bishop Wright directly please email me off blog and I will forward it to him–KSH).

I confess I had not heard of Colbert and his remarkable show until Harper managed to get me on to it. Since I have always believed in General Booth’s principle that ‘if I could win one more soul to the Lord by playing the tambourine with my toes, I’d do it’, I figured that if I could tell a million youngish people that because of Jesus’ resurrection God will make a new world and that this begins even now… that would be a really good thing to do… Plus, I’ve always enjoyed a challenge of this sort and it seems to me that it doesn’t hurt for the church to be seen to be engaging with popular culture…

So I was surprised at the wonderful puritanism of Chris Hathaway, to be honest. Colbert isn’t deceiving; he spoke to me before the show and told me (what I’d already been told by others) how his ‘role’ works. Perhaps Chris doesn’t like Colbert’s political stance? Certainly it has been said often enough (by Americans) that America is a land with an irony deficiency, and Colbert is doing his best to put that right. There CAN be honest dialogue, as I think I demonstrated. Albeit briefly. The fact that Chris H hates Candid Camera and finds Sasha Baron Cohen as ‘vile’ speaks for itself. To each their own: I wouldn’t watch those myself, but that’s because I don’t see a whole lot of TV at all.

To The Gordian (it would be so nice to know who you really are!): my poor, crowded diocese sees a great deal of me but they know that Bishops of Durham are supposed to be ‘out there’ taking every opportunity to get the word out. And actually I don’t think I’m thin-skinned; I take a huge amount of heat from a large number of people on several fronts all the time, and only VERY rarely do I respond (as now, more from amusement than anything). Thus, I wasn’t going to bother responding to John Piper’s critique of me in his recent book until I saw that some people were saying ‘there, Wright is wrong, Piper says so, that settles it’. Piper says some interesting things but he hasn’t understood what I’m saying so his critique misses the mark. Ditto with the First Things piece: Neuhaus is very influential and his piece was just flat wrong on several counts, and the only way to get the point across was to nail it fairly thoroughly. Of course, the tactic ‘You shouldn’t be defending yourself — you’re too thin-skinned’ is what every bully that ever lived has said. But The Gordian, I’m sure, isn’t a bully, since he also accuses me of not engaging with my critics sufficiently. Hmmm. I have to engage with them but not defend myself. Tricky. I wonder how much scholarly encounter The Gordian has actually witnessed. Try taking on Ed Sanders, for instance.
And as for a personal or political agenda, ‘wanting to be the standard bearer for evangelical scholarship and the ecclesiastical leader of evangelical Anglicans’: little do you know. My aim is to expound the New Testament and get its message into the bloodstream of the church and out in the mission of the kingdom. And as far as I’m concerned if the church wants me to do a job (like my present one) I’ll give it my best shot, but I’m getting on in years and looking forward to retirement . . .
Actually, I’m not sure how careful a reader The Gordian is (what a pity (s)he doesn’t say who (s)he is!) because (s)he says that in writing against ‘Pierced for Our Transgressions’ (which, by the way, IVP USA refused to publish for more or less the same reasons as I gave in my critique; go figure) I completely ignored the fact that I had commended Steve Chalke’s book — whereas I wrote a whole section on Chalke and all that. It’s interesting, in short, that The Gordian seems to have a catalogue of NTW’s errors which come tumbling out all because I appeared on the Colbert Report . . . Hey, Gordian, why don’t you write me some time, say it all straight out and sign your own name? I’m a human being too, often wrong, sometimes right, always enjoy a good conversation

To Driver8 let me say, If you can find one single place where I have referred to America, even in jest, as ‘the great Satan’, I will pay $250 to a charity of your choice. If you can’t, how about you return the compliment? It isn’t language I use, or have used, so far as I know. Of course, I might have said ‘Some militant Muslims think of America as “the great Satan”,’ but that obviously wouldn’t count. OK?

Warm greetings to one and all. I VERY SELDOM even LOOK at blog sites let alone respond but once in a while it can be fun. I love America! Please pray both for GAFCON and for Lambeth and for all that is swirling around us all just now…

(The Rt. Rev. Dr.) N. T. [“Tom”] Wright is Bishop of Durham

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture

Need Cash Now? Grave's Gotta Go

Linda Ledesma needed a little extra money to help pay the rising costs of living in Florida.

So she decided to sell her burial plot in Sylvan Abbey cemetery in Clearwater. The newspaper classified ad noted its scenic location “in Garden of Ascension, near waterfall, under shade tree.”

At $2,500, the asking price is a relative bargain. The cemetery is selling similar plots for $3,995.

Ledesma has joined a small but growing number of people who are selling unwanted cemetery plots. The trend is particularly pronounced in states such as Florida that drew millions of retirees who have grown more accepting of cremation or are rethinking their earlier plans to be buried in the state. Others say they’d rather have the money now and worry about their final resting place later.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Death / Burial / Funerals, Economy, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Leaders of Gafcon seek to live within the Evolution of a new Global Anglicanism

The emerging figure that is crucial in the softening of the line on schism is the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, who has become the key player on the Anglican conservative wing, shifting the emphasis from the US and African conservatives to Australia. Significantly, the Pittsburgh Bishop Bob Duncan, who heads the US conservative grouping Common Cause, is not in Israel although he is named as one of the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) leadership team in the programme.

In a recent interview in the Sydney Morning Herald, Dr Jensen said that it would be legally impossible to engineer schism. The Episcopal Church of the US has already launched a number of legal actions against breakaway parishes and bishops. Dr Jensen said: “I can’t. I’m part of a constitution, which is virtually unchangeable, of the Australian Church. I wouldn’t want to. I love the Church. It would be bad for Christianity, bad for the Gospel.” He continued: “I think there is going to be an evolution in the Anglican Communion. It has occurred. And what the Future Conference is going to work out is how to live best within that evolution. That’s its business.”

Archbishop Nzimbi backed this interpretation. Speaking at Gafcon he said: “Gafcon is going to help the Anglican Church. We are still Anglicans.”

Archbishop Henry Orombi, of Uganda, also at the press conference last night, said: “What we are meeting for here is not to plan to walk away. We are meeting to renew our commitment, to renew our faith, to get a sense of direction of what we can be as Anglicans. We do not want to start a new Church.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

Living Church: GAFCON Pilgrims Face Questions on Communion’s Future

The meeting has witnessed a shift in the leadership of the conservative movement within the Anglican Communion, with the Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen assuming a new prominence among what had been an African-dominated leadership team. Challenged in a press conference by a gay activist to respond to the persecution of a lesbian in Uganda, who was forced to flee to the United Kingdom for her safety, Archbishop Henry Orombi responded that he did not think that homosexuals were persecuted in his country. It was Archbishop Jensen who then intervened, noting that all Anglicans abhorred homophobia, and that speaking for himself and the African church leaders, they were united in their condemnation of violence. When the issue was presented to the African leaders in those terms, they were quick to join their Australian colleague in condemning homophobic violence.

Condemned by critics as schismatic, the leaders of GAFCON have confounded expectations by focusing on spiritual solutions, with organizers hoping it will spark a renewal movement within the wider church. The long-term implications of GAFCON will likely rest upon its closing communiqué. Pilgrims will be asked to review seven questions over the course of the conference, including what can be done to restore sacramental Communion among the divided Anglican churches and whether it can be reformed from within.

The questions they will be asked to answer include whether cross border Episcopal jurisdictions are an appropriate way forward to resolve differences; is GAFCON merely a Global South initiative or does it have a role to play in the wider church; will the initiatives that arise from GAFCON be neutralized by the strategic use of money by its opponents in the Episcopal Church; can GAFCON provide a path towards the Anglican future; and should GAFCON become an institutional entity in order to achieve the tasks it has set for itself.

Archbishop Orombi said there were no predetermined answers to these questions from the archbishops, as it was important that clergy and lay voices be heard in formulating a way forward for Anglicanism.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates, Israel, Middle East

Brian Smith, Bishop of Edinburgh: Approaching Lambeth

The question we must ever face is not “What errors do we see in our opponents position?”, but “What values do we discern in our opponents position, values that our
own position may not be stressing as fully?” And we need to see these questions not as ones simply to be asked in a formal way, but as expressing an attitude of a path of shared discovery on which we are willing to embark, within the debate in which we are participating.

And so concerning the current ”˜troubles’ in our communion:

· We might ask that the debate be shaped in terms of values rather than policies or strategies

· We thus ask each Province to express the values it sees being expressed in it present position, relating these to values within our scriptural and traditional

· We note that as a metaphysical ”˜fact’ values clash and that this creates a significant space within which a variety of good options can be considered .

· We seek to articulate this ”˜space’ as an area within which diversity can be accepted, as being paths that seek to live in the light of Christian values, noting
that this limited variety is not ”˜anything goes relativism’.

· We do not expect total agreement, but we seek to circumscribe an acceptable pluralism. In doing do we reflect the recommendation of Aristotle, only to expect
that degree of precision (akribeia) of which the subject admits.

· Each Province admits that no one will in their life have achieved a total and full expression of the Divine demand, but each with due humility and repentance
offers its life to God and to the other Provinces.

To approach in this way is to accept, in Kuhn’s terms that we may need a paradigm shift in perspective, or in Goldmann’s terms “a conversion”, for a world in which values clash, is a very different world from one in which these values are potentially in harmony.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Lambeth 2008, Same-sex blessings, Scottish Episcopal Church, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Robert Gagnon: Neglected References for a Forum on Homosexuality and the Church

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Living Church: Judge Allows Lawsuit Against Pennsylvania Bishop to Proceed

A former priest of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, Bishop Moyer was inhibited and then deposed on Sept. 4, 2002. by Bishop Bennison under Title IV Canon 10 “Abandonment of Communion” for refusing Bishop Bennison permission to make a visitation at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, a Philadelphia suburb. This dispute was grounds for use of the canon, Bishop Bennison argued, as the Rosemont rector had “abandoned the Communion of this Church” by an “open renunciation of the”¦discipline”¦of this church.”

Lawyers for Bishop Bennison argued the court should dismiss the lawsuit saying the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Pennsylvania case law discouraged state interference in internal church disputes.

Bishop Moyer’s lawyers countered that equity and justice required a trial as Bishop Bennison had improperly used a canon to remove him from the ministry that did not provide for a church trial or redress. They further argued Bishop Bennison had misled the standing committee, which had affirmed the deposition, by fraudulently withholding documents necessary for their deliberations.

Read it all.

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

NPR: Offshore Drilling May Have Little Effect on Oil Prices

President Bush is pushing offshore drilling as a way to increase production and cut oil prices. Robert Siegel talks to Henry Lee, director of the Environment and Natural Resources Program at Harvard University, who says offshore drilling may not have an immediate impact.

Listen to it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources

Giles Fraser Advocates for Same Sex Unions, Peter Ould Responds

From here.

First, …[marriage] was ordained for the procreation of children
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

How do these three concerns relate to the prospect of gay marriage? The third priority insists that marriage is designed to bring human beings into loving and supportive relationships. Surely no one can deny that homosexual men and women are in as much need of loving and supportive relationships as anybody else. And equally deserving of them too. This one seems pretty clear. The second priority relates to the encouragement of monogamy. The Archbishop of Canterbury himself has rightly recognised that celibacy is a vocation to which many gay people are simply not called. Which is why, it strikes me, the church ought to be offering gay people a basis for monogamous relationships that are permanent, faithful and stable. So that leaves the whole question of procreation. And clearly a gay couple cannot make babies biologically. But then neither can those who marry much later in life. Many couples, for a whole range of reasons, find they cannot conceive children – or, simply, don’t choose to. Is marriage to be denied them? Of course not. For these reasons – and also after contraception became fully accepted in the Church of England – the modern marriage service shifted the emphasis away from procreation. The weight in today’s wedding liturgy is on the creation of loving and stable relationships. For me, this is something in which gay Christians have a perfect right to participate.

But asks Peter Ould: Who wants to point out to him the fact that he missed out the most crucial bit of the theology? Read the whole Fraser piece and the whole Ould response. Also, recall I have made this same point repeatedly in recent years, as for example at General Convention 2003:

Not only the Bible is at stake, but the church’s whole theology of marriage. Traditionally, marriage was understood to have four purposes, communion (joy shared is doubled, sorrow is halved), union (the two shall become one flesh), procreation (be fruitful and multiply), and prevention (marriage was actually understood to prevent sin-when was the last sermon you heard on THAT one?). A same sex union cannot be unitive, because physically the bodies do not fit together in their design, and it is unable to be procreative.

So whatever else is being called for by Resolution C-005, it is not marriage. You see this in the rhetoric of the resolution itself. It is only clear what these couplings are not-marriage-but what they are is never carefully defined.

Yet the church has always understood that the only proper context for the expression of sexual intimacy is between a man and a woman who are married to each other. So what, it must be asked, are those claiming the necessity for change asking for? Among themselves there are actually three positions. Some say marriage needs to be shifted, some say we need a new category which is like marriage in some ways but unlike it in others, and others say we need to encourage friendships which may develop a physical side and see what God’s spirit will do.

In the course of much of the press coverage of the recent California Supreme Court decision, many people have missed the profound importance of the response by the California Catholic Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops thereto in which they said, among other things:

[these same-sex] partnerships are not marriage””and can never be marriage””as it has been understood since the founding of the United States. Today’s decision of California’s high court opens the door for policymakers to deconstruct traditional marriage and create another institution.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

The feast day of the Birth of John the Baptist

Almighty God, by whose providence thy servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Study: Most Americans say many religions can lead to eternal life

The seeming conflict between certainty and ambiguity may show that most people see overriding truths behind many religious dogmas, the Pew researchers said.

The researchers also said their results indicate that it’s wrong to assume that Americans can be pigeonholed on the basis of religion. There is a wide diversity of beliefs and behaviors, even among people who say they belong to the same religious group, said John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum with a long history of studying faith-related polls.

“Even I was stunned by just how diverse it was,” he said. “The diversity goes all the way down.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture

Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina: Understanding the Times

With my departure for GAFCON less than a week away and Lambeth a mere three weeks from now, my ruminations, which are constantly upon the ebb and flow of things here in the Diocese of South Carolina, also swing into the sway of Global Anglicanism””which frankly are also seldom far from my waking thoughts. Let me share just little of my mental scrawl.

These are tenuous times to say the least. I could even say a time of crisis””if the word wasn’t over used and misleading. In the past I’ve quoted the Stanford economist Dr. Roemer’s provocative statement, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” and I’ve suggested that we in The Episcopal Church are steadily wasting it. The reason why I shy away from the word crisis to describe our situation is that it suggests in many minds the idea that there will be a watershed moment in which things will tilt in one direction or another much as the mountains in North Carolina send some streams flowing towards the Savannah River to the Atlantic and others toward the Mississippi drainage and the Gulf of Mexico. I no longer think this is the best way to understand the times we are in. A metaphor I’ve taken up recalls a drive I took across Nevada some years ago on U.S. Highway 50, known in the west as “the loneliest road in America.” It is one mountain range crossing after another. You cross more separate ranges on that drive through the state than through the rest of the U.S. together whether I-40, I-10, I-80, you name it. If there is to be or has been a crossing of the Rubicon in things Anglican I think it will only be the retrospective vision that will reveal it or through some yet unrecognized prophet.
What is far more important to my mind is not in joisting at windmills with The Episcopal Church but working toward an Anglicanism sufficient for a Global Age. Some will be engaged in this work through some non-TEC realignment, and others will be striving under God’s providence to foster this emerging reality while remaining within TEC””I consider this diocese among this shrinking group. Yet I believe we in South Carolina are strategically aligned to work broadly with various constituencies””Communion Partners, Anglican Communion Network, Common Cause, TEC, and a variety of Provincial relationships. But we need to work beyond ad hoc configurations and happenstance missional relationships, (if there actually is such a thing). There will be much to say on this in the future.

These two gatherings of global Anglicanism will be yet another opportunity for my immersion into the larger Anglican world. Coming as it does in the first year of my episcopacy I am inclined to see it as a providential and formative experience that will shape this next decade for us. Thus I covet your prayers. To what end? 1) That God’s vision for the role that this diocese is to take in this emerging world of the Anglican Communion will begin to clarify in my mind and in the minds of others in this diocese who will be following these gatherings here at home. 2) That the provincial relationships which will be fundamental to our diocesan life and mission will not only be made or strengthened, but the role we are to play in helping shape the Anglicanism of this 21st Century will begin to emerge. 3) That I will be a faithful witness to our Lord Jesus Christ and the truth of the Gospel, wisely and forthrightly representing this diocese in the councils of the Church.

Faithfully yours,

(The Rt. Rev.) Mark Lawrence, Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, - Anglican: Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates, Lambeth 2008, TEC Bishops

NPR: Mothers Bound Together by the Cost of War

Paula Davis, Gina Barnhurst and Beth Belle are charter members of a club no mother ever wants to join.

These women and others meet informally at Arlington National Cemetery. There, they sit at the gravesides of their sons who were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. They also talk with each other. And cry. And listen.

They call themselves Section 60 Mothers, after the section at Arlington that holds the fresh graves of men and women killed in America’s current wars. The group meets roughly every week now, with the help of an e-mail list.

But it’s their deep wounds, they say, that have linked them together with deep bonds.

Definitely better to listen to it if you can to get the full impact; if not, read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Children, Iraq War, Marriage & Family, Military / Armed Forces

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s membership decline is its worst in decades

The Louisville-based Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) suffered its worst annual membership decline in decades last year. The denomination lost 57,572 members in 2007 and has 2,209,546 active and confirmed members, a drop of 2.5 percent compared to 2006.

It’s the denomination’s largest membership loss in terms of numbers since 1981 and the steepest percentage loss since 1974, when it fell 2.7 percent.

The decline continues a trend of more than four decades of losses since membership peaked at 4.25 million in the mid-1960s.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Presbyterian

Telegraph: The conservative Church's desperation to stop the liberal tide could be damaging

Which to many makes it all the more baffling to understand why Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester has decided to boycott the Lambeth conference. He has become a champion of traditional Christianity in Britain, yet his action – along with that of the other 250 bishops – will be seen as a direct challenge to the authority of Dr Williams; as fermenting division rather than bringing healing. Rather than promoting a Church that has a message of hope and love, they seem to be reinforcing views that it has now come to stand for intolerance and bitter recrimination.

Yet this would be to misunderstand Bishop Nazir-Ali. Well-respected and valued in the Church, he is a man of deep conviction, but his decision is borne out of desperate frustration that the liberals have been able to advance their agenda – from electing a gay bishop to carrying out homosexual blessings – without any real attempt made to keep them in check. The fact is that the conservatives feel powerless to stop the liberal tide, and their statements betray this desperation.

There is in effect little that they can do, and also little that Dr Williams can do because of the autonomous nature of the various churches in the worldwide Communion. But their boycott of this summer’s conference and their attacks on the pro-gay moves in the Church have pushed them to the fringes of the communion and damaged their image in the eyes of wider society.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates