Daily Archives: August 5, 2009

Gavin Dunbar Writes in Response to General Convention 2009

To no one’s surprise, this summer’s Convention in Anaheim, California, decided to wriggle out of the very loose restraints which it had imposed upon itself in the 2006 Resolution B033. In that resolution it had accepted a certain form of the moratoria on the election of partnered gay clergy as bishops and on liturgical recognition of same-sex partnerships, as requested by the Anglican Communion’s Instruments of Unity. This resolution was not technically repealed at Anaheim. Nonetheless, in the view of almost every observer, Resolution D025 has opened the door to the ordination of such persons; Resolution C056 has opened the door to liturgies for quasi-marital blessings of their unions. (The Presiding Bishop insisted that these resolutions are “descriptive” rather than “prescriptive” in force, but it is to be doubted whether such gossamer-fine distinctions will be maintained, even by her. What is acknowledged is permitted, and what is permitted soon becomes mandatory ”“ that is the pattern of most innovations over the past forty years.)
Because these resolutions authorize what the Bible and the Church catholic have not authorized, they cannot be reconciled with the fundamental constitutional commitments of the Episcopal Church to “uphold and propagate the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer”, and to do so as “a constituent member of the Anglican Communion”. Nor can they be reconciled with the teaching of the Communion articulated in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

In an age of social tolerance like ours the controversy these resolutions stir up may seem inexplicable. It is worth attending to the recent reflections of the Archbishop of Canterbury ”“ a theologian who cannot be accused of reactionary views, and indeed is considered by many conservatives to concede too much to the liberal position (the complete statement may be read at http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/2502). He argues convincingly that the action of General Convention destroys the very communion that is intrinsic to the Church’s mission:

“the issue [he writes] is not simply about civil liberties or human dignity or even about pastoral sensitivity to the freedom of individual Christians to form their consciences on this matter. It is about whether the Church is free to recognise same-sex unions by means of public blessings that are seen as being, at the very least, analogous to Christian marriage.

“In the light of the way in which the Church has consistently read the Bible for the last two thousand years, it is clear that a positive answer to this question would have to be based on the most painstaking biblical exegesis and on a wide acceptance of the results within the Communion, with due account taken of the teachings of ecumenical partners also. A major change naturally needs a strong level of consensus and solid theological grounding.
“This is not our situation in the Communion. Thus a blessing for a same-sex union cannot have the authority of the Church Catholic, or even of the Communion as a whole. And if this is the case, a person living in such a union is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond; whatever the human respect and pastoral sensitivity such persons must be given, their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church’s teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires. (…) … a person living in such a union cannot without serious incongruity have a representative function in a Church whose public teaching is at odds with their lifestyle. (…)
“When a local church seeks to respond to a new question, to the challenge of possible change in its practice or discipline in the light of new facts, new pressures, or new contexts, as local churches have repeatedly sought to do, it needs some way of including in its discernment the judgement of the wider Church. Without this, it risks becoming unrecognisable to other local churches, pressing ahead with changes that render

it strange to Christian sisters and brothers across the globe.
“This is not some piece of modern bureaucratic absolutism, but the conviction of the Church from its very early days. The doctrine that ‘what affects the communion of all should be decided by all’ is a venerable principle.”
Where then does the schismatic unilateralism of the General Convention leave the diocese of Georgia? Since our communion with the wider church is through the local bishop and not the General Convention or the Presiding Bishop, we must be grateful that Bishop Louttit in conscience voted against these resolutions. Moreover, the lay delegation of the diocese voted 4-0 against both resolutions. Less happily, the clergy (hereby dubbed the weakest link) voted 3-1 in favour of C056 and was divided 2-2 on D025. Since two of the clergy delegates are candidates for bishop (William Willoughby and Frank Logue), how they voted is a matter of legitimate public interest which the report on the diocesan website coyly withholds. As for Saint John’s, at the next Vestry meeting I trust the State of the Church committee will propose a resolution declaring where we stand as a parish.

–The Rev. Gavin Dunbar is rector, Saint John’s, Savannah, Georgia

Posted in Uncategorized

Attitudes shift on abortion, same-sex marriage

Californians have dramatically shifted their views on the controversial issue of same-sex marriage from overwhelming opposition a generation ago to supporting it by a five-point margin today, a new Field Poll shows.

The latest Field Poll, which examined the changing California electorate over the last three decades, shows that state voters have become far more tolerant than they were three decades ago on some controversial social issues – including abortion rights and assisted suicide, both of which they now overwhelmingly support.

Major shifts on such social issues are tied to demographic changes and in large part to the growing ranks of independent voters, who now make up one-fifth of the state electorate, said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

Notable and Quotable

The main difference I see is the difference between a post-Christian American society and a post-Western Christianity rising in Africa and elsewhere. The one is in decline, at least intellectually, and the other is in spate. The taming of Christianity in North America requires very different tools from those required by the conditions favoring expansion in Africa. Christians are not afraid to go to church for prayer and healing when they are ill, for instance, whereas in North America prayers may be said for people who are ill but only in absentia.

Africans trust God for their spiritual, physical, social, and medical needs; Americans don’t.

Lamin Sanneh, D. Willis James Professor of Missions &World Christianity and Professor of History at Yale Divinity School

Posted in Uncategorized

Nigeria violence sparks new concerns

A week of brutal violence in northern Nigeria has spurred questions over whether an obscure homegrown religious fundamentalist group represents a broader threat to national security in Africa’s most populous nation.

More than 800 people were killed last week during fighting between an Islamic fundamentalist group calling itself Boko Haram, and Nigerian security forces. The clashes spread across several northern states.

A Red Cross worker in the northern city of Maiduguri, where most of the fighting occurred, said that 780 bodies had been collected in the past few days, and that at least 3,600 Maiduguri residents had been displaced. Officials in Bauchi, where the violence began, had earlier confirmed more than 50 deaths.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Nigeria, Violence

Living Church: Budget Concerns Factor into Olympia Suffragan's Retirement

She wrote that budget concerns also played a role in her discernment.

“There have been funds for the Diocese of Olympia to pay me when I was needed in this diocese,” she wrote. “The income budget for 2010 brings a new reality that makes these other longings come into clearer focus.” The diocese announced in late July that its School of Ministry and Theology would not operate during the coming year due to budget cuts and a need to redefine its mission.

Read it all.

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

A graph of plunging Federal Tax receipts

Check it out.

Update: You can find the AP story on this here. It begins as follows:

The recession is starving the government of tax revenue, just as the president and Congress are piling a major expansion of health care and other programs on the nation’s plate and struggling to find money to pay the tab.

The numbers could hardly be more stark: Tax receipts are on pace to drop 18 percent this year, the biggest single-year decline since the Great Depression, while the federal deficit balloons to a record $1.8 trillion.

Other figures in an Associated Press analysis underscore the recession’s impact: Individual income tax receipts are down 22 percent from a year ago. Corporate income taxes are down 57 percent. Social Security tax receipts could drop for only the second time since 1940, and Medicare taxes are on pace to drop for only the third time ever.

The last time the government’s revenues were this bleak, the year was 1932 in the midst of the Depression.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Taxes, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Mark Regnerus: The Case for Early Marriage

If you think it’s difficult to be pro-life in a pro-choice world, or to be a disciple of Jesus in a sea of skeptics, try advocating for young marriage. Almost no one empathizes, even among the faithful. The nearly universal hostile reaction to my April 23, 2009, op-ed on early marriage in The Washington Post suggests that to esteem marriage in the public sphere today is to speak a foreign language: you invoke annoyance, confusion, or both.

But after years of studying the sexual behavior and family decision-making of young Americans, I’ve come to the conclusion that Christians have made much ado about sex but are becoming slow and lax about marriage””that more significant, enduring witness to Christ’s sacrificial love for his bride. Americans are taking flight from marriage. We are marrying later, if at all, and having fewer children.

Demographers call it the second demographic transition. In societies like ours that exhibit lengthy economic prosperity, men and women alike begin to lose motivation to marry and have children, and thus avoid one or both. Pragmatically, however, the institution of marriage remains a foundational good for individuals and communities. It is by far the optimal context for child-rearing. Married people accumulate more wealth than people who are single or cohabiting. Marriage consolidates expenses””like food, child care, electricity, and gas””and over the life course drastically reduces the odds of becoming indigent or dependent on the state.

Read it carefully and read it all, it is the cover story from the latest Christianity Today.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Young Adults

ACNS–Christians in Pakistan: recent attacks and the challenge for the future

These incidents are the latest in the ongoing series of attacks that Christians in Pakistan have had to endure in recent years.

The Revd Patrick Augustine, now a priest of The Episcopal Church in Wisconsin, United States, but himself born in Gojra, where his father and grandfather ministered, writes that in such attacks, ”˜The Muslim attackers have often justified the persecution of Christians in Pakistan on the basis of the draconian Blasphemy Law section 295”“B and 295-C passed in 1982. These two laws make anyone deemed to have insulted the holy prophet of Islam or dishonoured the Holy Qur’an liable for capital punishment and life imprisonment and fines. In its selective application it has provided a pretext for private vendettas, but its victims almost always have been Christians.’

Bishop Mano Rumalshah of Peshawar Diocese in Pakistan commented, ”˜It is horrible to have to say this – but at least these latest incidents have led to somebody ”“ both in Pakistan and outside the country – hearing our cry. Such episodes occur again and again, and their nature is always very similar: false accusations being made against Christians, and Muslim militants being stirred up by the voices of extremist preachers.’

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, - Anglican: Latest News, Asia, Pakistan, Religion & Culture, Violence

The Archbishop of Canterbury condemns the atrocities in Pakistan

The recent atrocities against Christians in Pakistan will sear the imaginations of countless people of all faiths throughout the world. As the minister of law in the Punjab has already said, such actions are not the work of true Muslims: they are an abuse of real faith and an injury to its reputation as well as an outrage against common humanity, and deserve forthright condemnation.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Asia, Pakistan, Religion & Culture, Violence

William Stokes: Make evangelism the church's top priority

“The heartbeat of our Episcopal Church will forever be ‘mission, mission, mission.'”

This statement of “priorities” appeared in the published budget presented to the 76th General Convention in Anaheim, California, by the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance. There can be no doubt that mission is a central priority of the Episcopal Church. Sixty-two percent of our budget is expended on program and mission.

Sadly, the budget for the 2010-2012 triennium shows scant concern for what, in the absence of better language, I would label “branding,” “marketing” and “advertising” the Episcopal Church. Actually, I do have better language — evangelism.

In the upcoming triennium, the Episcopal Church plans on spending more than $3 million to preserve our past through our Archives Offices and another $3 million to communicate with our own members through budgeted communications expenses and such vehicles as Episcopal Life.

Nowhere is there evidence of an equivalent financial commitment to sharing the Episcopal Church’s compelling story of mission and ministry and our unique presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a strategic, systematic and significant way to the millions of people in this country who are unchurched and who, according to reliable research, increasingly identify themselves as “not Christian.” In fact, in passing the budget for the upcoming triennium, the 76th General Convention skewered an exciting and carefully developed plan for strategic evangelism and growth among Hispanics and Latinos, the single largest-growing segment of our nation, allocating only $300,000 for the project instead of the $3 million originally requested by those ready to do the work.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Stewardship

Julia Duin on Alberto Cutie

It’s been about three months now since we heard of Alberto Cutie, the former Roman Catholic priest who was caught kissing his girlfriend on a Miami beach. No sooner was he removed from his post than he left the Catholic Church altogether for the local Episcopal diocese, which welcomed him with much fanfare and sent him to pastor a local church.

As I looked at photos of Cutie, I realized there was something very familiar about the background: I used to attend that church.

That was when I was a reporter for the Hollywood Sun-Tattler, a daily of about 35,000 circulation when I moved there in 1983 as a general assignment reporter. Hollywood is a few suburbs to the north of Biscayne Park, where sits the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, Father Cutie’s digs.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations, Episcopal Church (TEC), Other Churches, Roman Catholic, TEC Parishes

Anglican San Joaquin Diocese plans to appeal ruling for Episcopal Church

Officials with the breakaway Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin say they will appeal a Fresno County Superior Court ruling that affirmed the U.S. Episcopal Church’s authority and its choice for a bishop — a man the decision said controls the local church’s affairs and properties.

The ruling did not directly address ownership of disputed properties claimed by the Episcopal Church but occupied by breakaway congregations. But the ruling likely will make it hard for the rebel diocese to hold on to the properties as the legal battle between the two sides continues.

Read it all.

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

(London) Times: Liberal Anglicans declare war on conservatives in the Church

Liberals in the Church of England declared war on conservatives including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams tonight.

Condemning as “flawed” Dr Williams’s recent declaration that the way forward lay in a “twin-track” Anglican Communion, liberals revealed plans to bring in same-sex blessings and gay ordination in England, as has happened in the Episcopal Church in the US.

Their strategy will be to attempt to win the General Synod, the Church’s governing body currently dominated by evangelicals, over to the liberal cause. The opportunity will come next year when the quinquennial elections for a new synod are due.

Liberals from organisations such as Inclusive Church, set up and led by Giles Fraser, the new canon chancellor of St Paul’s, and the long-established Modern Churchpeople’s Union, will attempt to win key seats throughout the Church’s 44 dioceses in what look likely to be the hardest fought elections since the synod came into being in 1970 and which could turn into a battle for the soul of the established Church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

From The Sanctuary: St. James’ Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas

[The] Rev. Jeffrey H. Walker, a tall man with dark-rimmed round glasses, walked in singing. He led the congregation through prayers that reminded me those similar to Catholic masses like the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. But The Book of Common Prayer was a new addition to my understanding of prayer in church.

Rev. Walker is a good storyteller, but he is also genuinely funny. He began his sermon with the words of an old friend. “I don’t go to church, but if I did, I’d go to yours,” he started. “If I counted all the times someone said that to me, I’d be the rector of the largest congregation in the Episcopal Church.”

This began a story about people who walk away from religion. Some have cited the inclusion of gay clergy more recently; others have declared the appointment of V. Gene Robinson in 2003, the first openly gay bishop, as the “end of civilization.” (They are the same people, no doubt, who dislike the recent nomination of gay priests for promotion.)

Considering all of the challenges and changes facing the church in recent months – both when the General Convention affirmed gay clergy and same-sex unions and the Anglican Communion’s reacted to those affirmations – it was compelling to hear Rev. Walker talk about the reasons people stray from organized religion.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, TEC Parishes