Daily Archives: July 26, 2008

Joseph Bottum–The Death of Protestant America: A Political Theory of the Protestant Mainline

Perhaps some joining of Catholics and evangelicals, in morals and manners, could achieve the social unity in theological difference that characterized the old Mainline. But the vast intellectual resources of Catholicism still sound a little odd in the American ear, just as the enormous reservoir of evangelical faith has been unable, thus far, to provide a widely accepted moral rhetoric.

America was Methodist, once upon a time””or Baptist, or Presbyterian, or Congregationalist, or Episcopalian. Protestant, in other words. What can we call it today? Those churches simply don’t mean much any more. That’s a fact of some theological significance. It’s a fact of genuine sorrow, for that matter, as the aging members of the old denominations watch their congregations dwindle away: funeral after funeral, with far too few weddings and baptisms in between. But future historians, telling the story of our age, will begin with the public effect in the United States.

As he prepared to leave the presidency in 1796, George Washington famously warned, “Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” Generally speaking, however, Americans tended not to worry much about the philosophical question of religion and nation. The whole theologico-political problem, which obsessed European philosophers, was gnawed at in the United States most by those who were least churched.

We all have to worry about it, now. Without the political theory that depended on the existence of the Protestant Mainline, what does it mean to support the nation? What does it mean to criticize it? The American experiment has always needed what Alexis de ­Tocqueville called the undivided current, and now that current has finally run dry.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture

China Surpasses U.S. in Number of Internet Users

China said the number of Internet users in the country reached about 253 million last month, putting it ahead of the United States as the world’s biggest Internet market.

The estimate, based on a national phone survey and released on Thursday by the China Internet Network Information Center in Beijing, showed a powerful surge in Internet adoption in this country over the last few years, particularly among teenagers.

The number of Internet users jumped more than 50 percent, or by about 90 million people, during the last year, said the center, which operates under the government-controlled Chinese Academy of Sciences. The new estimate represents only about 19 percent of China’s population, underscoring the potential for growth.

By contrast, about 220 million Americans are online, or 70 percent of the population, according to the Nielsen Company. Japan and South Korea have similarly high percentages.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Blogging & the Internet, China

Matt Kennedy: The First Four Principles of Common Anglican Canon Law Transcribed

Here are the first four principles from the booklet entitled: “The Principles of Canon Law Common to the Churches of the Anglican Communion”

While the document is based on this earlier draft, a quick comparison with just these four principles will show that significant changes have been made to the final published text.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Lambeth 2008

Bishop Andrew Burnham offers some Lambeth Reflections

The Indaba process is, I think, evolving. It seems to have begun like a Western ecumenical Lent group – buzz in pairs, talk in quartets, report back with coloured pens and stick it all on the wall and have bright ideas about what is strikingly common and what is strikingly missing. The problem has been Western haste – five topics that would each keep a UN department fully deployed for years despatched in half a morning – instead of (as I understand it) a long period of listening and consultation on a single pressing matter – a meeting lasting days. But ‘they’ are listening to us and it should evolve….

In short, the Anglican Communion, via its Indaba groups and its plenaries at Lambeth, needs to head for a new settlement. One possibility is a split into evangelical and liberal Communions (in which there might be room still for traditionalists of all stripes in the former – if Sidney behaves on lay presidency and evangelicals don’t get as upset about Mary as one or two of them seemed to be when Cardinal Diaz gave us his memorable phrase Fiat, Magnificat and Stabat as models of Christian discipleship). The other is to say that the cork is out of the bottle on women’s ordination but we (which wouldn’t include me) could nonetheless ‘all’ regroup round a Covenant-monitored common hermeneutic (which certainly could not include serial monogamy or homosexual marriage) and maintain the Communion, which would be a godly thing and faithful to the Lord’s high priestly prayer.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Lambeth 2008

Bishop Cathy Roskam of New York offers some Lambeth Reflections

As hard as this may be to hear, the Episcopal Church of the Sudan may be showing the Communion a way forward. Recently the Archbishop of the Sudan made some very strong statements about Bishop Gene Robinson and the Episcopal Church. Since the Sudanese along with Liberian bishops and some others had been invited by our Presiding Bishop for a reception tomorrow afternoon, when we first learned of Archbishop Bul’s statement to the press, we thought it signalled a rejection of us and a further splitting in the Anglican Communion. This does not appear to be the case.

We in the Episcopal Church have always said that we do not demand agreement with our positions in order to be in relationship. Now is the time to live into that commitment. The Archbishop of the Sudan was signalling to the rest of Africa, and I imagine particularly to the bishops of GAFCON who have stayed away from this conference, that he and the Sudanese are not being “bought” by the Americans. They do not agree with our actions, just as our other partners in Africa do not necessarily agree with us. And still they are choosing to be in relationship with us.

Hold in mind the words of Bishop Mdimi Mhogolo to me when we first entered into a partnership for Carpenter’s Kids. “We do not agree with your decision [concerning Gene Robinson] but we think the division is the devil’s work to keep the church from ministering to a suffering world.” Of course, Bishop Mdimi said those words to me in private and the Archbishop of the Sudan went very public very unexpectedly. Nevertheless, I believe we should keep this particular door wide open. The Sudan is one of the places where extreme poverty and extreme violence combine to produce some of the greatest suffering on this earth. As long as the bishops choose to be in relationship with us, we can move ahead to minister together to this suffering world.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lambeth 2008, TEC Bishops

Some Lambeth 2008 photos

There are a whole bunch here, click on the one’s which interest you.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Lambeth 2008

An Earlier Draft of Principles of Canon Law common to the Anglican Communion

This is a 60 page download and is a key background document to be aware of as Lambeth 2008 continues to unfold.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Lambeth 2008

Bishop Alvarez: Roman Catholic Church Hinders Ecumenism

The message Friday during an afternoon self-select group session was a gentle one delivered by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster. He said the search for unity was worth the effort, but that “new tensions only slow the progress.”

But Bishop Alvarez said that what had been “a very good process even under Pope John Paul II” has changed under the new pope.

“They are the ones who are the obstacles,” Bishop Alvarez said, contending that Pope Benedict was placing too much emphasis on issues such as the ordination of women and homosexuals, which were not issues decided during the Church’s first seven ecumenical councils. “My concern is that they open themselves to dialogue instead of just saying this is wrong.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations, Lambeth 2008, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

The Bishop of Olympia blogs from Lambeth

Back to Ordinary days, this being the Ordinary Day 5. Same schedule, 7:15 Eucharist, today by The Church of North India and the Church of Bangladesh, then breakfast. Bible Study today covered John 8: 31-59. While we discussed that my Bible Study is becoming closer and closer and wanted to process the day before, the ironies, the incredible sight and feel of marching with our brothers and sisters for a cause that deserves and needs our moral and spiritual voice, hunger and poverty. That day will not soon be lost on any of us. Thanks to Mary Allen, one picture was found with me, kind of in it. I put it in just above. Also, you can see the BBC news video at

Today, we turned our focus to one of the issues that I have the most passion about and the one that I think is the most serious for us to have a voice; Climate Change and Global Warming. In my self select session I again attended the Climate Change workshop entitled today “The consequences of of climate change From South to North” The Chair was John Prichard, Bishop of Oxford, UK, and Tom Wilmot, Bishop of Perth, Australia and Bishop Mark McDonald, National Indigenous Bishop, Toronto, Canada and former bishop of Alaska. This was a fascinating discussion. I am very heartened by how many bishops see this as a major focus and how many want to know more.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lambeth 2008, TEC Bishops

Bishops David Alvarez of Puerto Rico and Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island Share about Lambeth

The topic for today was Serving Together — the Bishop and other churches.

In our Indaba group, we watched the video by Dame Mary Tanner, of the World Council of Churches. One of the members reminded us that Desmond Tutu had said apartheid was too strong for one church. We talked about other things that are too strong for one church, such as poverty, racism, cultural-values and environment. For example, the MDGs and environment are larger than the Anglican Communion — these and others are issues for other religions and groups as well. We talked that in order to end poverty, we must deal with environment.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lambeth 2008, TEC Bishops

Living Church: Communion Faith and Order Commission Gains Momentum

The paper proposing the Faith and Order Commission arose out of the July 23 hearing. In addition to proposing a new instrument of unity, the provisional paper released today also questioned the usefulness of the Anglican Consultative Council as it is currently configured.

“There are questions about whether a body meeting every three years, with a rapidly changing membership, not necessarily located within the central structures of their own provinces, can fulfill adequately the tasks presently given to it,” the paper stated. “Not all believe that a representative body is the best way to express the contribution of the whole people of God at a worldwide level. There are many ways in which the voice of the whole body can be heard: diocesan and provincial synods, networks, dialogues and commissions.”

The concluding work of the Windsor Continuation Group will involve trying to come to some consensus about where the bishops as the Lambeth Conference think the Anglican Communion should be headed. Archbishop Handford cautioned against expecting an immediate solution by the end of this conference.

“This isn’t a quick fix,” he said. “Dialogue is [the] key.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Lambeth 2008

Anglican Journal: Proposal calls for creation of Faith and Order Commission

In a press conference, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams would not go into detail about the proposal, saying only that “there is a very strong feeling that we need another level of structure to have a clearing house for some of these issues.” He added: “I don’t want to say anything about the detail because it’s a flag raised to see who salutes it.” He said the proposal was being discussed by bishops in their indaba groups today. “We’ll see how it flies.”

Already some questions are being raised as to whether such a commission would be equivalent to the powerful Pontifical Biblical Commission of the Roman Catholic Church, composed of cardinals who meet in Rome and whose duties include protecting and defending “the integrity of the Catholic faith” and deciding on “controversies on grave questions which may arise among Catholic scholars to ensure their proper interpretation.”

Asked how the Lambeth Conference might be able to offer such prescription since it has no authority to impose rules or prescriptions, Archbishop Williams said, “I’m looking for consent, not coercion. But unless we do have something to consent to, something which we trust to resolve our differences, we shall be (moving) further apart. It’s not as if we can just co-exist without any impact on one another.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Lambeth 2008

Matt Kennedy liveblogs this morning's Lambeth Press Conference

Q: The bishops would be asked to affirm the code of practice? Is it your mind that the provinces would make a promise to follow these principles?

A: This is, again, a descriptive exercise

Q: Then there are no teeth? It is a pretty picture
A: It is not at all, it is incredibly significant

Q: It is a VERY pretty picture?

A: It is exploring what we can deduce about our life together as we look at the way the material presents law around the word. This is not the covenant

Q: How does this feed into the covenant then?

A: It will be illustrative of some of the material that will be encapsulated in other ways in the covenant but the covenant process and this one are two distinct processes

Q I am trying to glean what this is. Could you say this is a tool to use by the AC in order to make the covenant work? I cannot believe that you do not hope it will have some effect on the communion?

A: Yes I speak about this having “persuasive authority” which is a legal concept. And very often you would do that when something is not written in a particular code or constitution. You must understand that the laws, the COE laws, are thick. The US TEC law is of a significant size. There are provinces where very little is written and you have bear bones. Part of this is to help provinces like that. If you are trying to figure out what the law could be in your province this could help you to find your way through.

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Lambeth 2008, Media

Washington Post: Uninvited, Gay Bishop Attends Conference Anyway

Along with keeping his distance from Robinson, Archbishop Williams has ensured that the conference will hold no formal votes that could highlight divisions.

“Are we heading for schism? Well, let’s see,” Williams said at a news conference. “If it is the end, I do not think anyone has told most of the people here.”

Robinson said some people in the church are fearful of change and fearful that supporting gay people is contrary to Scripture.

Over the years, he said, “Scripture has been used to denigrate women, justify slavery and not welcome divorced people.” Thinking does change, he said, and “it’s not a matter of if, but when people will accept homosexuality” in the highest ranks of the church.

Read it all.

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

Alex Beam: On unity, do Episcopal bishops have a prayer?

Earlier this week, Massachusetts Bishop M. Thomas Shaw sent back an e-missive from Lambeth to his flock. Emulating St. Paul (“speaking the truth in love”), Shaw alluded to “some frustration emerging in the conference around how [the indaba groups] are very process oriented and aren’t allowing for the conversations that people are really interested in to take place.” He further noted that “There’s been some controversy over a statement issued by bishops of Sudan and signed by Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, calling for Gene Robinson’s resignation.”

“It’s going to take us awhile to find our way,” writes Shaw, who spent part of the following day at Buckingham Palace, bantering with Prince Philip. “It seems to me that that’s what we’re doing, finding our way, and for the most part, I think people are being faithful to that.”

My father wasn’t particularly religious and he wasn’t particularly Episcopalian. (Note to my sons: Don’t even think about discussing my religious beliefs in public.) He had a genial demeanor, and I remember him discussing Kit and Frederica Konolige’s classic book, “The Power of Their Glory; America’s Ruling Class: The Episcopalians” with me. The authors, who may have coined the term “Episcocrats,” take a sardonic view of the “Tory Party at prayer,” as Episcopalians are sometimes called.

But my father somehow concluded that, the criticisms notwithstanding, Episcopalians emerged from the book more or less unscathed. “[The authors] seem to think that we are good people, at heart,” he said. Now I wonder if they were right.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lambeth 2008, TEC Bishops