Daily Archives: July 15, 2008

CSM: Beyond Episcopalians' theological split, a property fight

When a congregation breaks away from a denomination, who keeps the real estate?

That’s become a contentious issue within the Episcopal Church ”“ the US branch of Anglicanism ”“ as almost 100 parishes have voted to leave the church in the wake of its 2003 consecration of a gay bishop. Most aim to stay in their houses of worship while realigning themselves with conservative Anglican bishops in other countries.

On Wednesday, Anglican bishops from around the world gather in Britain to discuss their differences over scriptural interpretation and homosexuality at the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference. But in America, those differences are already ending up in court.

The stakes are high. Not only are some of the properties valuable, the legal battle over them is wrenching apart close-knit religious communities. Presbyterians and other denominations are keeping a close eye on the wrangling because they also have conservative congregations that are trying to pull out in response to actions of their denominations.

So far, the courts have not clarified the issue. Some congregations have had to forfeit their houses of worship. But on June 27, a Virginia county court upheld the constitutionality of a Civil War-era state law that would allow 11 congregations to leave the Episcopal Church and take their property with them. The law, called the “Division Statute,” provides that when evidence exists that a church is in a state of “division,” the local congregation can decide who controls the property.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh, TEC Conflicts: Virginia

David Waters: The Case Against Anglican Schism

Your faithful correspondent writes today from London, amidst a week remarkable in that two very different faiths–each with its own share of tumult–are on public display.

On Wednesday, the world’s Anglican bishops will gather in Canterbury, for the start of their once-every-10-years meeting, the Lambeth Conference. One of the globe’s biggest Christian events, the conference brings together in one place leaders of the Anglican Communion, which incorporates 37 churches that trace their origins to the Church of England (plus the C of E itself, of course). Total membership? Estimates start at 70 million, in 164 nations, all told.

But not all bishops (there are hundreds) will show. There’s deep anger among some, put off about the communion’s inability to prevent a few of its members from ordaining gay men and women as priests. The real turning point came five years ago, when Epsicopalians–Anglicanism’s American branch–in New Hampshire elected a gay man as their bishop. (There are Americans firmly planted on both sides of this issue, and in the middle, too.) As the Lambeth meeting has drawn steadily closers, talk of schism has rumbled ever louder.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Lambeth 2008

An Interview with Bishop Errol Brooks

The issues which are “raising their heads” in the communion were discussed as well. Bishop Brooks remarked with great regret that so much energy is placed on issues of sexuality while the “real matter of advancing God’s Kingdom is being treated as an aside.” He hopes very much that at the Lambeth Conference we may come to “a place where we can have a common mind and move forward.” But this is, as he remarked, very much threatened, if we behave in a disingenuous manner to each other. I think, if I understand Bishop Brooks rightly, he is suggesting that there is a crisis of confidence in the communion caused by the fact that people “are not afraid to say things and not keep their word.” When he was young, he was always taught that “a man’s word is his bond.” It is necessary he said, to “turn on the light in the dark places.”

Read it all and please bookmark this blog for your Lambeth reading going forward.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Lambeth 2008, West Indies

A Message from the Heads of Christian Denominations in Zimbabwe

Concern over the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe: A Message from the Heads of Christian Denominations in Zimbabwe

As the shepherds of the people, we, Church leaders of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’
Conference (ZCBC) and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), express our deep concern over the deteriorating political, security, economic and human rights situation in Zimbabwe following the March 29, 2008 national elections.

Before the elections, we issued statements urging Zimbabweans to conduct themselves peacefully and with tolerance towards those who held different views and political affiliation from one’s own. After the elections, we issued statements commending Zimbabweans for the generally peaceful and politically mature manner in which they conducted themselves before, during and soon after the elections.

Reports that are coming through to us from our Churches and members throughout the country indicate that the peaceful environment has, regrettably, changed:

Given the political uncertainty, anxiety and frustration created by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC’s) failure to release the results of the presidential poll 4 weeks after polling day:

Organized violence perpetrated against individuals, families and communities who are accused of campaigning or voting for the “wrong”
political party in the March 29, 2008 elections has been unleashed throughout the country, particularly in the countryside and in some high density urban areas. People are being abducted, tortured, humiliated by being asked to repeat slogans of the political party they are alleged not to support, ordered to attend mass meetings where they are told they voted for the “wrong” candidate and should never repeat it in the run-off election for President, and, in some cases, people are murdered.

The deterioration in the humanitarian situation is plummeting at a frightful pace. The cost of living has gone beyond the reach of the majority of our people. There is widespread famine in most parts of the countryside on account of poor harvests and delays in the process of importing maize from neighbouring countries. The shops are empty and basic foodstuffs are unavailable. Victims of organized torture who are ferried to hospital find little solace as the hospitals have no drugs or medicines to treat them.

As the shepherds of the people, we appeal:

1. To the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the
African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) to work towards arresting the deteriorating political and security situation in Zimbabwe. We warn the world that if nothing is done to help the people of Zimbabwe from their predicament, we shall soon be witnessing genocide similar to that experienced in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and other hot spots in Africa and elsewhere.

2. For the immediate end to political intimidation and retribution
arising from how people are perceived to have voted in the March 29,
2008 elections and arising from the desire to influence how people will vote in the anticipated run-off in the presidential poll. Youth militia and war veteran/military base camps that have been set up in different parts of the country should be closed as a step towards restoring the peace and freedom of people’s movement that was witnessed before and during the March 29, 2008 elections.

3. To ZEC to release the true results of the presidential poll of
March 29, 2008 without further delay. The unprecedented delay in the publication of these results has caused anxiety, frustration, depression, suspicion and in some cases illness among people of Zimbabwe both at home and abroad. A pall of despondency hangs over the nation which finds itself in a crisis of expectations and governance. The nation is in a crisis, in limbo and no real business is taking place anywhere as the nation waits.

4. To, finally, the people of Zimbabwe themselves. You played your
part when you turned out to vote on 29 March 2008. We, again, commend you for exercising your democratic right peacefully. At this difficult time in our nation, we urge you to maintain and protect your dignity and your vote. We urge you to refuse to be used for a political party or other people’s selfish end especially where it concerns violence against other people, including those who hold different views from your own. It was the Lord Jesus who said, “Whatever you do to one of these little ones, you do it unto me (Matthew 25:45).

We call on all Zimbabweans and on all friends of Zimbabwe to continue to pray for our beautiful nation. As the shepherds of God’s flock, we shall continue to speak on behalf of Zimbabwe’s suffering masses and we pray that God’s will be done.

We remain God’s humble servants:

The Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC)

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Zimbabwe

Countdown to Lambeth 2008: Equipping Bishops for Mission

(ACNS) Some 650 Anglican bishops from all over the world are making their way to Canterbury for the Lambeth Conference 2008 focussing on the theme: Equipping Bishops for Mission.

The Conference will begin with a three-day retreat and, as in previous Conferences, every day will begin with Eucharist and Bible study in small groups.

More than 75% of Anglican bishops worldwide have now registered for the Conference, representing 36 of the 38 provinces of the world-wide Anglican Communion. There will be 10 husbands among the 550 spouses taking part in the parallel conference, God’s People for God’s Mission.

The Lambeth Conference this year has two key points of focus: strengthening the sense of a shared Anglican identity among the bishops from around the world, and helping to equip bishops for the role they increasingly have as leaders in mission, involved in a whole variety of ways in helping the Church grow.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Lambeth 2008

Kenya: Uneasy Calm As Major Split Looms Large in Anglican Church

According to Archbishop [Peter] Akinola, the last major meeting that considered the gay issue was the Primates’ Meeting in Tanzania in February 2007. During the meeting, the Episcopal Church was given “a last chance to clarify unequivocally and adequately their stand by 30th September, 2007”.

“Strangely, before the deadline, and before the primates could get the opportunity of meeting to assess the adequacy of the response of TEC and in a clear demonstration of unwillingness to follow through our collective decisions, which for many of us was an apparent lack of regard for the Primates, Lambeth Palace in July 2007 issued invitations to TEC bishops, including those who consecrated Gene Robinson, to attend the Lambeth 2008 conference.

“At this point, it dawned upon us, regrettably, that the Archbishop of Canterbury was not interested in what matters to us, in what we think or in what we say,” the Gafcon gathering heard.

The upshot is that if African bishops are angry, it is because of Canterbury’s and the West’s insensitivity and apparent contempt of their collective decisions.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of Nigeria, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Stephen Bates: Beset by liberals, hounded by conservatives, Rowan Williams needs a miracle

Alister McGrath, one of the most respected moderate evangelical academics, said: “It is not Rowan’s fault that he is left looking like King Canute. Big cultural forces are causing the church to split and what held it together in the past is no longer there. While there are undoubtedly theological issues, it is also profoundly political.

“Rowan has a very high view of unity and has worked hard, but it is not going to be enough. It is virtually impossible to achieve consensus and it is very difficult to exercise leadership in that context. Leadership is about more than finding consensus – you also have to map out the route that you believe to be right.”

What is constantly overlooked is that the archbishop of Canterbury has purely symbolic influence, not power. He can’t impose his will even on the Church of England, let alone the other provinces of the worldwide communion. What the position has is authority. What it has lost is respect.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth 2008

Newsweek on Barack Obama's Faith Journey

Obama says his spiritual quest was driven by two main impulses. He was looking for a community that he could call home””a sense of rootedness and belonging he missed from his biracial, peripatetic childhood. The visits to the black churches uptown helped fulfill that desire. “There’s a side very particular to the African-American church tradition that was powerful to me,” he says. The exuberant worship, the family atmosphere and the prophetic preaching at a church such as Abyssinian would have appealed to a young man who lived so in his head. And he became obsessed with the civil-rights movement. He’d become convinced, through his reading, of the transforming power of social activism, especially when paired with religion. This is not an uncommon revelation among the spiritually and progressively minded. (“There’s no more dramatic story in American life” than the story of the civil-rights movement, says North Carolina Rep. David Price, who knows Obama professionally and writes about politics and religion. “You could not continue to be kind and gentle in your personal life and also be denying other people’s humanity.”) When Gerald Kellman recruited Obama to go to Chicago as a community organizer, he remembers, the young man was “very much caught up in the world of ideas.” He was devouring Taylor Branch’s “Parting the Waters,” which is part history of the civil-rights movement, part biography of Martin Luther King Jr.

In Chicago, Obama found that organizers and activists there (and elsewhere) were employing a progressive theology to motivate faith groups to action. Using the writings of Paul Tillich and, especially, Reinhold Niebuhr””and also King, African-American and Roman Catholic liberation theologians, and Christian fathers like Saint Augustine””local religious leaders emphasized original sin and human imperfection. Christ’s gift of salvation was to the community of believers, not to individual people in isolation. It was therefore the responsibility of the faithful to help each other””through deeds””to respond to the call of perfection that will be fully realized only at the end of time. Adherents of this particular theology frequently refer to Matthew 25: “Whatever you neglected to do unto the least of these, you neglected to do unto me.” Everyone, in other words, is in this salvation thing together.

Obama’s organizing days helped clarify his sense of faith and social action as intertwined. “It’s hard for me to imagine being true to my faith””and not thinking beyond myself, and not thinking about what’s good for other people, and not acting in a moral and ethical way,” he says.

Read it all.

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

Damian Thompson: The Lambeth Conference wafflathon

Having written glibly about the “controversial” covenant of beliefs that Rowan Williams wants the bishops to take back to their provinces, I’ve now read a draft of the thing, and can summarise it as follows:

1. If an Anglican province signs up to the covenant, it agrees to not do anything contrary to the policies of the Anglican Communion.

2. If it goes ahead and does it anyway, then it will have ignored the covenant.

3. Which means … um, we’ll get back to you on that.

Or maybe I’ve misread the draft. This whole covenant thing is elusive, shall we say.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Covenant, Lambeth 2008

Archbishop Fred Hiltz–What God hath joined together…

For some, [blessing non-celibate same sex unions] is a communion-breaking issue. Those who feel this way say that others have departed from the authority of the word of God, and from the orthodox expression of the faith and tradition of the church’s teaching on sexuality. They are so convinced of these things that they feel compelled to leave the national expression of the church to which they belong.

For others, however, this is not a communion-breaking issue. It is certainly controversial and has created strained relations within the church. But many people remain convinced of the need for continuing conversation. They are committed to principles of intentional listening, mutual respect, constructive dialogue and a capacity for tolerance of a variety of theological perspectives on this matter. For a great number of people, the conversation centres on being faithful to the word of God.

Many say, as a group of Canadian Anglican theologians have said, “the interpretation of Scripture is a central and complex matter and that, at times in the church’s history, ”˜faithful’ readings have led to mutually contradictory understandings, requiring ongoing dialogue and prayer towards discernment of the one voice of the gospel.”

For some, the conversation needs to be expanded to include the benefit of scientific research. For some others the critical question is: What constitutes loving and responsible pastoral care of gay and lesbian couples who desire to live in monogamous, life-long, committed relationships?

Controversial issues have often tested the principle of autonomy on the part of national churches that are bound together in the global Anglican Communion. So the question becomes: Is unity the ultimate value transcending all others, even at the risk of not acting on what we believe to be a gospel imperative in a local context? Or is action on a gospel imperative the ultimate value that transcends all others, even at the risk of not maintaining unity?

I believe this question is critical to our conversations at Lambeth.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Lambeth 2008, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

AFP: Divided Anglicans gather ahead of Lambeth meet

Anglican bishops from around the world were arriving in the Britain on Tuesday ahead of their once-a-decade gathering in Canterbury, which looks set to be dominated by deep splits over the roles of women and homosexuals.

About a quarter of the Anglican Church’s bishops including most from Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda are staying away from the Lambeth Conference, a week after the Church of England gave the green light to women bishops.

Another notable absentee will be the first openly-gay bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire in the United States, who was not invited but will be in Canterbury following from the conference fringes.

It was Robinson’s consecration as bishop in 2003 which effectively carved out the battle lines in the ongoing bitter struggle between Anglican liberals and conservatives over gay and, most recently, women bishops.

The Church of England, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, is the mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which has around 77 million followers.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Lambeth 2008

Jordan Hylden–The Anglicans at Lambeth: What’s at Stake

In the end, the Lambeth bishops must show the world a way forward for the Anglican Communion that rejects the easy compromise of doctrinal and ecclesial muddle while eschewing the route of quick separation from all but a narrow band of the like-minded. They need to demonstrate to the Church and the world that Anglicans are truly committed both to the gospel revealed by God in Jesus Christ and to walking together in charity and peace. Anglicans around the world will be praying for their bishops these next two weeks. The bishops know well how much they need it.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Lambeth 2008

Os Guiness: The Gospel and Secularism

Now, I am going to speak to you about the eight big Challenges we face in the Advanced Model Global Era

This era has Challenges that can be put into 3 words:

Integrity – We need to realize that integrity is a rare commodity today. Personal integrity and the faithfulness of the faith lived out must mark our Christianity.

Credibility-today’s world contains immense intellectual challenges. We must learn to speak to the issues with the credible persuasion that is worthy of our Lord.

Civility – Everyone is now everywhere. How should we live with our differences? We must live out of love for Christ and speak the truth in love, which is our duty as Christians.

I am going to talk about 8 challenges that I see as the most important today.

Challenge 1: We must face up to the grand cultural challenges of our age.
Two important words for today are choice and change. They are the essence of our world. Not all of the choices and engagement are hype. The first thing people look for in most situations today is freedom of choice and the promise of change.

First, you have this huge shift from the industrial age to the information age. Globalization is the expansion of human relationships interconnected at a genuinely global level. An example is the spread of multi-capitalism: being able to buy or sell in a stock market regardless of the time of day. If our market is closed, we can buy and sell in Japan, et cetera. This abundance of choice most affects communication. The impact of globalization is akin to the invention of the wheel or the invention of writing. It has made a profound impact on identity, economic forces, and governments. The world is not just accelerating, but accelerating and living at speed of light. Faith is profoundly affected by this change.

A second factor in this is the arrogance of the West.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Apologetics, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates, Globalization, Theology

Confidence in U.S. banking sector weakens

Even as the Bush administration moved to rescue the nation’s largest two mortgage companies, confidence in the banking sector spiraled downward Monday.

In the Los Angeles area, lines snaked around IndyMac Bancorp branches for blocks, as customers made withdrawals from the bank, which failed last week. In Cleveland, National City Corporation denied a rumor that its customers were also demanding their money.

In Washington, U.S. regulators tried to broadcast the message that plummeting stock prices should not cause consumers to panic about the safety of their savings. And on Wall Street, analysts began circulating lists of regional and local banks that might be next to fall.

Investors continued to beat down bank stocks, fearing that the government’s resolve to help Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant companies at the center of the nation’s mortgage market, would not hold back the rising tide of bad loans unleashed by the weakening housing market and faltering economy. Financial stocks, a Merrill Lynch analyst wrote bluntly, are “value traps.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Damian Thompson: Ex-Anglicans will bring New Life to our Church

The really good news, from the Catholic point of view, is that Rome and the two flying bishops seem to have agreed on the bare outline of a deal between Romeward-bound Anglicans and the Vatican.

If it seems presumptuous for Anglicans to ask for a deal, remember this: in the mid-1990s, after the Church of England ordained women priests, many Anglo-Catholics drew back from union with the Holy See because the Bishops of England and Wales were so unwelcoming, and because they were so depressed by the low standard of liturgy in our parishes.

The situation now is very different. Pope Benedict XVI is an old friend of conservative Anglo-Catholics in England and America; he shares their dismay at the shoddy state of the liturgy in many churches, and he is seeking to renovate the vernacular Mass by exposing Catholics to the treasures of pre-1970 Latin worship.

All this would have been inconceivable in 1994, as would a Ratzinger papacy, and old-fashioned “Sandalista” liberals are still hoping to wake up from their bad dream. The cheering from the Anglo-Catholic sidelines at these developments has been hearty and loud – much louder, I’m sorry to say, than that from the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic