Daily Archives: July 29, 2008

Jonathan Sacks: The Relationship between the People and God

Friends, I stand before you as a Jew, which means not just as an individual, but as a representative of my people. And as I prepared this lecture, within my soul were the tears of my ancestors. We may have forgotten this, but for a thousand years, between the First Crusade and the Holocaust, the word ‘Christian’ struck fear into Jewish hearts. Think only of the words the Jewish encounter with Christianity added to the vocabulary of human pain: blood libel, book burnings, disputations, forced conversions, inquisition, auto da fe, expulsion, ghetto and pogrom.

I could not stand here today in total openness, and not mention that book of Jewish tears.

And I have asked myself, what would our ancestors want of us today?

And the answer to that lies in the scene that brings the book of Genesis to a climax and a closure. You remember: after the death of Jacob, the brothers fear that Joseph will take revenge. After all, they had sold him into slavery in Egypt.

Instead, Joseph forgives — but he does more than forgive. Listen carefully to his words:

You intended to harm me,
but God intended it for good,
to do what is now being done,
to save many lives.

Joseph does more than forgive. He says, out of bad has come good. Because of what you did to me, I have been able to save many lives. Which lives? Not just those of his brothers, but the lives of the Egyptians, the lives of strangers. I have been able to feed the hungry. I have been able to honour the covenant of fate — and by honouring the covenant of fate between him and strangers, Joseph is able to mend the broken covenant of faith between him and his brothers.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Lambeth 2008, Other Faiths, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Archbishop Rowan Williams' Second Presidential Address to the Lambeth Conference 2008

(ACNS) What is Lambeth ’08 going to say?’ is the question looming larger all the time as this final week unfolds. But before trying out any thoughts on that, I want to touch on the prior question, a question that could be expressed as ”˜Where is Lambeth ’08 going to speak from?’. I believe if we can answer that adequately, we shall have laid some firm foundations for whatever content there will be.

And the answer, I hope, is that we speak from the centre. I don’t mean speaking from the middle point between two extremes – that just creates another sort of political alignment. I mean that we should try to speak from the heart of our identity as Anglicans; and ultimately from that deepest centre which is our awareness of living in and as the Body of Christ.

We are here at all, surely, because we believe there is an Anglican identity and that it’s worth investing our time and energy in it. I hope that some of the experience of this Conference will have reinforced that sense. And I hope too that we all acknowledge that the only responsible and Christian way of going on engaging with those who aren’t here is by speaking from that centre in Jesus Christ where we all see our lives held and focused.

And, as I suggested in my opening address, speaking from the centre requires habits and practices and disciplines that make some demands upon everyone – not because something alien is being imposed, but because we know we shall only keep ourselves focused on the centre by attention and respect for each other – checking the natural instinct on all sides to cling to one dimension of the truth revealed. I spoke about council and covenant as the shape of the way forward as I see it. And by this I meant, first, that we needed a bit more of a structure in our international affairs to be able to give clear guidance on what would and would not be a grave and lasting divisive course of action by a local church. While at the moment the focus of this sort of question is sexual ethics, it could just as well be pressure for a new baptismal formula or the abandonment of formal reference to the Nicene Creed in a local church’s formulations; it could be a degree of variance in sacramental practice – about the elements of the Eucharist or lay presidency; it could be the regular incorporation into liturgy of non-Scriptural or even non-Christian material.

Some of these questions have a pretty clear answer, but others are open for a little more discussion; and it seems obvious that a body which commands real confidence and whose authority is recognised could help us greatly. But the key points are confidence and authority. If we do develop such a capacity in our structures, we need as a Communion to agree what sort of weight its decisions will have; hence, again, the desirability of a covenantal agreement.

Some have expressed unhappiness about the ”˜legalism’ implied in a covenant. But we should be clear that good law is about guaranteeing consistence and fairness in a community; and also that in a community like the Anglican family, it can only work when there is free acceptance. Properly understood, a covenant is an expression of mutual generosity – indeed, ”˜generous love’, to borrow the title of the excellent document on Inter-Faith issues which was discussed yesterday. And we might recall that powerful formulation from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks – ”˜Covenant is the redemption of solitude’.

Mutual generosity : part of what this means is finding out what the other person or group really means and really needs. The process of this last ten days has been designed to help us to find out something of this – so that when we do address divisive issues, we have created enough of a community for an intelligent generosity to be born. It is by no means a full agreement, but it will, I hope, have strengthened the sense that we have at least a common language, born out of the conviction that Jesus Christ remains the one unique centre.

And within that conviction, what has been heard? I want now to engage in what might be a rather presumptuous exercise – and certainly feels like a risky one. I want to imagine what people on different sides of our most painful current debate hope others have heard or are beginning to hear in our time together. I want to imagine what the main messages would be, within an atmosphere of patience and charity, from those in our Communion who hold to a clear and traditional doctrinal and moral conviction, and also from those who, starting from the same centre, find fewer problems or none with some recent innovations. Although these voices are inevitably rooted in the experience of the developing world and of North America, the division runs through many other provinces internally as well.

So first : what might the traditional believer hope others have heard? ”˜What we seek to do in our context is faithfully to pass on what you passed on to us – Holy Scripture, apostolic ministry, sacramental discipline. But what are we to think when all these things seem to be questioned and even overturned? We want to be pastorally caring to all, to be “inclusive” as you like to say. We want to welcome everyone. Yet the gospel and the faith you passed on to us tell us that some kinds of behaviour and relationship are not blessed by God. Our love and our welcome are unreal if we don’t truthfully let others know what has shaped and directed our lives – so along with welcome, we must still challenge people to change their ways. We don’t see why welcoming the gay or lesbian person with love must mean blessing what they do in the Church’s name or accepting them for ordination whatever their lifestyle. We seek to love them – and, all right, we don’t always make a good job of it : but we can’t just say that there is nothing to challenge. Isn’t it like the dilemma of the early Church – welcoming soldiers, yet seeking to get them to lay down their arms?

”˜But please remember also that – while you may say that what you do needn’t affect us – your decisions make a vast difference to us. In this world of instant communication, our neighbours know what you do, and they see us as sharing the responsibility. Imagine what that means where those neighbours are passionately traditional Christians – and what it means for our own members, who will be drawn to leave us for a “safer”, more orthodox church. Imagine what it means when those neighbours are non-Christians, delighted to find a stick to beat us with. Imagine what it is to be known as the ”˜gay church’ in a context where that spells real contempt and danger.

”˜Don’t misunderstand us. We’re not looking for safety and comfort. Some of us know quite a lot about carrying the cross. But when that cross is laid on us by fellow-Christians, it’s quite a lot harder to bear. Don’t be too surprised if some of us want to be at a distance from you – or if we want to support minorities in your midst who seem to us to be suffering.

”˜But we are here. We’ve taken a risk in coming, because many who think like us feel we’ve betrayed them just by meeting you. But we value our Communion, we want to understand you and we want you to understand us. Can you find some way of being generous that helps us believe you care about us and about the common language and belief of the Church? Can you – in plain words – step back and let us think and pray about these things without giving us the impression that the debate is over and we’ve lost and that doesn’t matter to you?’

And then : what might the not so traditional believer hope has been heard?

”˜What we seek to do in our context is to bring Jesus alive in the minds and hearts of the people of our culture. Trying to speak the language of the culture and relate honestly to where people really are doesn’t have to be a betrayal of Scripture and tradition. We know we’re pushing the boundaries – but don’t some Christians always have to do that? Doesn’t the Bible itself suggest that?

”˜We are often hurt, angry and bewildered at the way many others in the Communion see us and treat us these days – as if we were spiritual lepers or traitors to every aspect of Christian belief. We know that no-one is the best judge in their own case, but we see in our church life at least some marks of the Spirit’s gifts. And part of that is acknowledging the gifts we’ve seen in gay and lesbian believers. They will certainly be likely to feel that the restraint you ask for is a betrayal. Please try to see why this is such a dilemma for many of us. You may not see it, but they’re still at risk in our society, still vulnerable to murderous violence. And we have to say to some of you that we long for you to speak up for your gay and lesbian neighbours in situations where they are subject to appalling discrimination. There have been Lambeth Resolutions about that too, remember.

”˜A lot of the time, we feel we’re being made scapegoats. Other provinces have acute moral and disciplinary problems, or else they more or less successfully refuse to admit the realities in their midst. But those of us who have faced the complex issues around gay relationships in what we feel to be an open and prayerful way are stigmatised and demonised.

”˜Not all of us, of course, supported or took part in the actions that have caused so much trouble. Some of us remain strongly opposed, many of us want to find ways of strengthening our bonds with you. But even those who don’t stand with the majority on innovations will often feel that the life of a whole church, a life that is varied and complex but often deeply and creatively faithful to Christ and the Scriptures, is being wrongly and unjustly seen by you and some of your friends.

”˜We want to be generous, and we are hurt that some throw back in our faces both the experience and the resources we long to share. Can you try and see us as fellow-believers struggling to proclaim the same Christ, and to be patient with us?’

Two sets of feelings and perceptions, two appeals for generosity. For the first speaker, the cost of generosity may be accusation of compromise : you’ve been bought, you’ve been deceived by airy talk into tolerating unscriptural and unfaithful policies. For the second speaker, the cost of generosity may be accusations of sacrificing the needs of an oppressed group for the sake of a false or delusional unity, giving up a precious Anglican principle for the sake of a dangerous centralisation. But there is the challenge. If both were able to hear and to respond generously, perhaps we could have something more like a conversation of equals – even something more like a Church.

At Dar-es-Salaam, the primates tried to find a way of inviting different groups to take a step forward simultaneously towards each other. It didn’t happen, and each group was content to blame the other. But the last 18 months don’t suggest that this was a good outcome. Can this Conference now put the same kind of challenge? To the innovator, can we say, ”˜Don’t isolate yourself; don’t create facts on the ground that make the invitation to debate ring a bit hollow’? Can we say to the traditionalist, ”˜Don’t invest everything in a church of pure and likeminded souls; try to understand the pastoral and human and theological issues that are urgent for those you are opposing, even if you think them deeply wrong’?

I think we perhaps can, if and only if we are captured by the vision of the true Centre, the heart of God out of which flows the impulse of an eternal generosity which creates and heals and promises. It is this generosity which sustains our mission and service in Our Lord’s name. And it is this we are called to show to each other.

At the moment, we seem often to be threatening death to each other, not offering life. What some see as confused or reckless innovation in some provinces is felt as a body-blow to the integrity of mission and a matter of literal physical risk to Christians. The reaction to this is in turn felt as an annihilating judgement on a whole local church, undermining its legitimacy and pouring scorn on its witness. We need to speak life to each other; and that means change. I’ve made no secret of what I think that change should be – a Covenant that recognizes the need to grow towards each other (and also recognizes that not all may choose that way). I find it hard at present to see another way forward that would avoid further disintegration. But whatever your views on this, at least ask the question : ”˜Having heard the other person, the other group, as fully and fairly as I can, what generous initiative can I take to break through into a new and transformed relation of communion in Christ?’

Posted in Uncategorized

Obama: Odds of winning are very good

Obama was reflecting on how far the campaign had come since its early days when, “Let’s face it, there weren’t too many of y’all who thought we were going to pull this off,” he said to laughter.

“What I knew and I think those who joined us early knew was that this was a moment for change, this was a moment for big ideas and really trying to push the envelope,” said Obama. “And people have responded all across the country. We are now in a position where the odds of us winning are very good. But it’s still going to be difficult.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Warren Tanghe: An Analysis of the Windsor Continuation Group's Preliminary Observations Part 3

It is the absence within the Communion of a clear and adequate authority, a clear and adequate theology and a clear and adequate ecclesiology which are at the root of the present crisis, and will likely lie at the root of crises yet unforeseen. One may point to the Windsor report, and behind it to the Virginia report and the work of the Eames Commission, as beginning to address these issues. But it remains the case that, apart from ad hoc declarations such as Lambeth I.10, there is no clear understanding of the common theology (including moral theology) of the Communion. There is no clear understanding of what it means to be a Communion, of the balance between the “autonomy” claimed (‘though not necessarily to the same degree) by the several Provinces, and the accountability of those Provinces to the whole. And there is as yet no body which is clearly empowered by the Communion as a whole and recognized by the Provinces as possessing the authority to intervene, and intervene even in the affairs of a particular Province, for the good of the whole.

The WCG proposes practical solutions, meant to lessen tensions and buy time as the Anglican Covenant is shaped. But it does not deal with the fundamental issues. It is unlikely but not inconceivable that The Episcopal Church might accept a moratorium on consecrating gay or lesbian bishops: but that does nothing to address the underlying theological dysfunction which led it to do so in the first place.

But it is hard to believe that The Episcopal Church would in fact agree to such a step. And it is likewise hard to believe that a well-established initiative such as the Rwandan-sponsored Anglican Mission in America, which is actively planting new congregations around North America, will risk the loss or reining-in of its inertia by placing itself in trust with the Communion, when the stated goal is to reconcile it with a Province which has succumbed to such dysfunction.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Ecclesiology, Lambeth 2008, Theology, Windsor Report / Process

"Two Important Gatherings" by Arkansas Bishop Larry Benfield

Earlier in the day the Windsor Continuation Group held a second hearing about what steps to take in light recent provincial incursions, blessings of same sex relationships, and suitable candidates for ordination to the episcopate. Hundreds of bishops attended, and speakers were allowed to address the group’s members, each person receiving up to three minutes; this process lasted well over an hour.

As you might imagine, comments varied not simply widely, but extremely. Perhaps the most disturbing one I heard was that there is only “one interpretation of scripture.” If that were indeed the case, preaching would have ceased over 1900 years ago; the reality is that every generation, indeed, every preacher has been called by God to interpret Holy Scripture in light of the concerns of the day. The most hopeful comment was from someone in the Episcopal Church who is committed to staying in the church in spite of disagreeing over the appropriateness of recent actions, and who wondered why the rest of the Communion couldn’t act similarly.

I ended up being the “clean up hitter,” the last person to speak. My comments were brief. I told the assembled people that my fear is that we are raising issues of church government, finding suitable candidates for ordination, and the pastoral response of the church to its members to the level of creedal authority. Doing so will eventually turn us into a confessing church, not a catholic one, and that is bad for the long term health of the Anglican Communion.

Read it all.

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

Bishop Robert L Fitzpatrick of Hawaii Interviewed

Watch it all.

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

Notable and Quotable (I)

I finally realized today that the Lambeth Conference is a marathon and not a sprint.

–Bishop Thomas Ely of Vermont, writing 8 days ago

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

Remarks by Bishop Michael Ingham At the Windsor Continuation Group Hearing

3. It seeks to impose a singular uniformity upon the complex diversity of our Communion. I quite understand that in some parts of the Anglican Communion homosexuality is subject to criminal law and cultural prohibition. However, I live in a country where homosexual people enjoy the same rights and responsibilities under the law as every other citizen. To discriminate against homosexual people, as this document suggests, is no more acceptable in Canada than to discriminate against women, black people or Jews. If this becomes the position of the Communion, it will put the Anglican Church of Canada in the position of having to support and defend irrational prejudice and bigotry in the eyes of our nation.

We already live with a good deal of diverse practice across the Anglican Communion ˆ in the ordination of women, the re-marriage of divorced persons, and the admission of the baptized and unconfirmed to Communion. Why can we not live with a similar diversity in this matter too?

4. It ignores reality. Whatever this document says, illegal incursions will continue. We have heard already how they continue to happen even in places that maintain the traditional position of the Church on homosexuality. And furthermore, gay and lesbian people will not go away, nor will they be healed, because they are not sick. It is the church that is suffering from blindness and prejudice, and it is we who need to repent and be healed.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Lambeth 2008, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Windsor Report / Process

Ugandan distress at Lambeth 2008 Conference session with Deposed Ugandan Bishop

Bishop Ssenyonjo was deposed because of his consecration of a Ugandan priest “under discipline,” a Ugandan spokesman said. “One of the co-consecrators was another deposed Uganda Bishop, the former bishop of North Mbale. He had been deposed because he took a second wife. So, Ssenyonjo was not deposed because of his association with Integrity.”

On July 11 the Church of Uganda released a statement saying it had been assured by Lambeth Palace that Bishop Ssenyonjo “will not be seated with Bishops at the Lambeth Conference and will not participate in the deliberations during the Conference.”

The statement was released after a Kampala newspaper New Vision reported on July 7 that Ssenyonjo, the second bishop of West Buganda, would be the sole Ugandan bishop attending the Lambeth Conference.

The church’s provincial secretary, Canon Aaron Mwesigye, said, “We can only conclude that Christopher Ssenyonjo was invited by one of the gay lobby groups to be part of their demonstrations. He would, after all, need a letter of invitation from someone to get a UK visa.”

However, the “Official Programme & Event Guide” for the Lambeth Conference listed the self-select session on the official conference agenda, and Bishop Ssenyonjo was granted access to the bishops-only area of the conference on the tightly policed campus, prompting queries from the Church of Uganda.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of Uganda, Lambeth 2008

A Bit About How Bishop MacPherson Is Viewing the Lambeth Conference [& WCG recommendations]

Read it all.

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

Bishop Christopher Epting Blogs on Yesterday at Lambeth 2008

The suggested ”Pastoral Forum” is more problematic. It’s to be chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury and serve as an advisory group to the various Provinces when there are internal disputes and difficulties which affect the whole Communion. Such schemes have been tried (or at least floated) in recent years and have always failed. I’m not sure why this one will have any greater chance of success.

I believe we should ask everyone to do the best they can to honor the spirit of the Windsor Report while the Covenant process continues and ”˜cut each other some slack’ until that time. All of us are working hard to maintain Communion while responding faithfully and fairly to our local contexts. That’s what Anglicanism is supposed to do and be, it seems to me.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s decision to have this a “non-legislative” Conference was a very wise one. If we were “voting” on such matters this week, we would leave here as divided and wounded as we were in 1998. As it is, we will discuss all the ”˜hard issues,’ give our input, and leave the matter for cooler heads to digest and deal with through the “Covenant Design Group” and the “Windsor Continuation Group.”

As always, any final decision will have to come through our separate Provincial structures (in our case, General Convention) for a vote by all the people of God, not just bishops and Primates! Thank God for a Communion which is “episcopally-led” but finally “synodically-governed!”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lambeth 2008, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, Windsor Report / Process

Today's Doonesbury Cartoon

Talk about relevant–it helps to laugh (hat tip: JS).

Posted in Uncategorized

Nick Baines, Bishop of Croydon blogs on yesterday at Lambeth

The other thing I have been musing on today is how different people approach a conference like this – especially when they are used to running things and cannot control this one. I attended a conference in Wittenberg, Germany, last year when the German Church (EKD) addressed its ten year reform programme under the title ‘Church of Freedom’ (Kirche der Freiheit). The ‘Impulspapier’ divided the church’s task into twelve elements that then formed the content of the conference. At the first plenary session a longstanding, more traditional bishop stood up and took the document apart. He claimed that the Church is not the ‘Church of Freedom’, but the Church of Jesus Christ. This clever statement then enabled several people to dismiss the report and the whole process. They had found the gap – the error – and therefore were absolved from any responsibility to engage with it.

I am reminded of this not because I think this a German problem, but because I think this is how powerful people behave when they don’t like being powerless. I think there are bishops here who are behaving like this and find endless fault in everything. I would like to go on a conference organised by them and show them what it is like to have people identify (oh so cleverly) all the other ways in which it could have been done.

I think this process has been remarkable….
If others haven’t engaged with it and gained from it, that’s too bad. But it is only by engaging with it that you stand any chance of getting any gain from it. Furthermore, I am fully committed to getting stuck into whatever we come out with at the end of this conference – whether that be something good or something a bit hopeless. The Church has gone through two millennia of ups and downs and threats and challenges and now is no different. After all, the Church is not the kingdom of God – we are called to be a sign of the Kingdom and that impacts (drives?) not only what we believe but how we live together.

This is significant in the light of this afternoon’s second ‘hearing’. Of 27 speakers, 23 were westerners (American, English, Irish, Canadian and Australian[)]. Of those 23, 15 were from TEC and they ran the gamut of TEC complexions. Once again, they spoke with passion and clarity, but what was not said about their province was as significant as what they did say. What I think was most significant about this was that the Americans cannot say that their voice has not been listened to and heard. (The other speakers were from Sudan, South India and Egypt.)

Read it all (timestamp of entry is Monday 28 July 2008 – 06:24pm)

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Lambeth 2008, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Windsor Report / Process

Anglican Journal: Proposal calls for moratorium on same-sex blessings and gay ordinations

Bishop Clive Handford, WCG chair and former primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East, clarified that “retrospective” did not imply that Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire, would have to resign.

“We are not anywhere intending to imply that Bishop Gene Robinson should resign. We are aware that (he) was elected bishop according to the processes of The Episcopal Church, whatever we may think of that,” said Bishop Handford.

Bishop Michael Ingham, whose diocese ”“ New Westminster ”“voted to allow same-sex blessings in 2002, reacted strongly to the WCG’s proposals, describing it as “an old-world institutional response to a new-world reality in which people are being set free from hatred and violence.”

In a statement, Bishop Ingham called the WCG document ”“ copies of which were distributed to bishops for discussion ”“ “punitive in tone, setting out penalties and the like, instead of inviting us into deeper communion with one another through mutual understanding in the body of Christ.” He added that the suggestion of a pastoral forum “institutionalizes external incursions into the life of our churches.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Lambeth 2008, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Windsor Report / Process

The Lambeth Witness on the Pastoral Fourm idea: A Flawed process, a Flawed result

[A] different way of trying to solve the problem maybe, but Preliminary Observations Part Three continues to misdescribe what the Communion’s problem is, and therefore gets us no nearer to a solution.

The basic assumption was the same in the Windsor Report, the Nassau Draft and the St. Andrews Draft. They all describe the threats to the Communion as being the blessings of same-sex unions, the consecration of openly gay bishops and to a lesser extent cross-border interventions. To call for a moratorium on all three, as though they all caused disunity, is to fly in the face of reality. Cross-border interventions undermine institutional unity by creating competing jurisdictions. New Westminster’s same sex blessings and New Hampshire’s consecration of a gay bishop do not.

The ethics of homosexuality is cause for disagreement, not disunity.

Read it all (a pdf).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Lambeth 2008, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Windsor Report / Process