Daily Archives: September 25, 2010

Kendall Harmon (II)–The (London) Times' Interview with Rowan Williams Has very little which is new

When it comes to the controversy about blessing non-celibate same sex unions among Anglicans, the issue needs to be carefully defined–both in terms of what it is and in terms of what it is not.

A long time ago, at General Convention in 2003, I spoke on this matter and began this way:

….[I] am very concerned that our categories are clear at the outset. This isn’t a debate about who is included; Christ invites and includes all people. This isn’t a debate about pastoral care, which is the church’s living out her theology in practice that varies greatly depending on the circumstances. There is a distinction between orientation and practice that has to be kept in mind, people have urges and inclinations and desires but we need to distinguish between having them and acting on them. Finally, this is about the call of God to his church and its leadership to be holy as God is holy.

It is VITAL that the traditional position is correctly defined since it is so often mischaracterized and recently even caricatured in this discussion. Professor Gerard S. Sloyan puts it this way, “The physical attraction of adults of both sexes to..the opposite sex is natural and to those of the same sex is not necessarily perverse. Only when such attraction is acted upon is it ethically wrong: for Christian, Jew and Muslim it is sin.” He also writes: “Marriage both is and is meant to be the normal outlet for sexual activity, while for unmarried Christians of whichever orientation no other is envisioned” (Theology Today, July 2003 edition, pp. 159-160; and 156).

Notice carefully what Professor Sloyan is saying: there are only two states of human existence, singleness, and marriage. Therefore there are NO relationships outside of marriage which the church can officially sanction as places where sexual activity may be celebrated

Not long after the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 2006, Archbishop Rowan Williams wrote the Anglican Communion as a whole in a letter entitled “The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today” in which he made a similar attempt to distinguishing what the issue is and what it is not:

Unless you think that social and legal considerations should be allowed to resolve religious disputes ”“ which is a highly risky assumption if you also believe in real freedom of opinion in a diverse society ”“ there has to be a recognition that religious bodies have to deal with the question in their own terms. Arguments have to be drawn up on the common basis of Bible and historic teaching. And, to make clear something that can get very much obscured in the rhetoric about ”˜inclusion’, this is not and should never be a question about the contribution of gay and lesbian people as such to the Church of God and its ministry, about the dignity and value of gay and lesbian people. Instead it is a question, agonisingly difficult for many, as to what kinds of behaviour a Church that seeks to be loyal to the Bible can bless, and what kinds of behaviour it must warn against ”“ and so it is a question about how we make decisions corporately with other Christians, looking together for the mind of Christ as we share the study of the Scriptures


The church’s standard for human behavior has been clear: faithfulness for those who are married, and abstinence for those who are single. This means that anyone who is single, a sinner like the rest of us, who pledges that they are upholding the church’s teaching in their life and ministry is eligible in theory for a position in church leadership.

If you keep this in mind, and you keep in mind what was already known about Rowan Williams before he became the Archbishop of Canterbury, then you will see that notwithstanding some poor headlines and other comments about it, the Times interview today breaks little new ground.

In a crucial section of the Times interview today, Ginny Dougary does us no favors by using this language: “Much of this discord hinges on the interpretation of whether or not the Bible permits openly homosexual clergy.” This is good on the Bible permits part, but not good on the “open” part because she fails to make the crucial distinction between orientation and practice. When she says “open” what she means is someone in a non-celibate same sex partnership and clear about that in numerous public settings.

She then cites a now famous chapter Rowan Williams wrote in a book entitled “the Body’s Grace”: “If we are looking for a sexual ethic that can be seriously informed by our Bible, there is a good deal to steer us away from assuming that reproductive sex is a norm.” Notice, however, that the quote that she gives is incomplete. The full quote is this (and it is all the same sentence): “In other words, if we are looking for a sexual ethic that can be seriously informed by our Bible, there is a good deal to steer us away from assuming that reproductive sex is a norm, however important and theologically significant it may be“.

The article goes on this way: “‘When I read this out, he replies: “That’s what I wrote as a theologian, you know, putting forward a suggestion. That’s not the job I have now.””

Dr. Williams here reflects a distinction he understands between the role of an academic theologian and the role of an Archbishop, where his being a catholic Christian and seeking to guard the church’s unity takes primacy over other matters. He has made this point in numerous settings over the years.

The article continues a bit later as follows:

One can also see that the spectre of the Communion being sundered on his watch must weigh heavily on him. “Yes, I believe that the Church suffers appallingly when it begins to fall apart ”“ and its mission suffers in other ways, too. But on your specifics ”“ the fact is that since the 1998 Lambeth Conference, every single public pronouncement on the question of sexuality has underlined the distinction between civic liberties and human dignity for gay people, which have always been affirmed, and whether or not the church has the right to bless same-sex unions or ordain people in same-sex unions. Now I know that those two are blurred but the point has always been made.”

Once again we see Rowan Williams the theologian making the necessary distinctions, exactly the distinctions so often missing not only in media accounts but in the church debates themselves.

Ginny Dougary is not satisfied:

But why shouldn’t gay couples be blessed if we are all equal? “The Church isn’t answerable to an abstract idea of equality, or rather it can certainly say everyone is equal in the sight of God. But what forms of life does the Church have the freedom to bless? The Church is obedient to Revelation. Now if you believe it’s very clear in Revelation that the only relation that can be blessed is between a man and a woman, then you’ve got a problem.”

This sounds like the man who wrote the whole Anglican communion in 2006 and said “it is a question, agonisingly difficult for many, as to what kinds of behaviour a Church that seeks to be loyal to the Bible can bless, and what kinds of behaviour it must warn against….”

And later in the interview we get the same distinction:

To put it very simply, there’s no problem about a gay person who’s a bishop.” Really? “It’s about the fact that there are traditionally, historically, standards that the clergy are expected to observe. So there’s always a question about the personal life of the clergy.”

This latter part of this article is the one eliciting the most headlines, but if it is seen in the context of the many statements Rowan Williams has made while Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as in the context of the full Times article, it is not anything genuinely new. It is, however, the most he has said about it publicly in a good while–KSH

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Global South Churches & Primates, Instruments of Unity, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Windsor Report / Process

Kendall Harmon (I)–The (London) Times' Big Splash on its Rowan Williams' Interview

The (London) Times has major space devoted today to the current Archbishop of Canterbury and an interview they got with him recently.

The main article, entitled “Meet the Archbishop of Canterbury” and based on an interview with Ginny Dougary, is here. The best thing to do by far is to read the whole article carefully, but there are two problems with that. First, it is [as are all Times stories now] behind a paywall, and, second, it is very long (12 pages in a Word document including the book excerpt at the end). An article about the interview may be found there. It carries the unfortunate and wildly misleading headline “Gay bishops are all right by me, says Archbishop.” There is also an editorial on the Dr. Williams interview here which bears the title “Mission Statement.”

As if all this isn’t enough, there is also an analysis article by Ruth Gledhill there, bearing the title “The Archbishop of Canterbury is treading an impossible path,” and an entry on Ruth Gledhill’s [“Articles of Faith”] blog about it here with the title “Rowan Williams and the questions of unity and truth.”

Now I do not have a copy of the physical paper but I would guess the story with the misleading headline is on the front page. In any event, given that there are already five parts of the paper giving their attention to this matter, it is clear that the Times wants a big result. Unsurprisingly, they are getting what they want, in that there are numerous articles from other media about the Times interview, and in addition parts of the blogosphere are all atwitter on the matter.

I would strongly urge people not to come to any firm conclusions about this interview based on one or two snippets of the interview or articles or a few blog comments about it. I would say this anyway, but especially insist on it in this instance for a number of reasons. First, to be charitable about it, Rowan Williams’ language is not always “user friendly” (when I describe him to friends who ask in detail I sometimes call him “the gnome” and I have said elsewhere that “you will not understand him unless you understand that he is a scholar, a Trinitarian and catholic Christian, a mystic and an iconoclast.”). Second, in the paper itself in which the interview appears, the aggressive hostility of the U.K. secular establishment to the church’s traditional position on human sexuality continuously influences the articles, which makes them misleading or worse. The terrible headline has already been mentioned above. The editorial, to cite another example, mentions the action of the Anglican Church in Uganda in 2007 when John Guernsey (who is not mentioned) was consecrated an Anglican Bishop, but not the action of the Anglican Church in Nigeria when Martyn Minns was consecrated which occurred in 2006. It also describes the action in a way the Anglican Church in Uganda would not agree with, and couches the whole narrative in a typically Northern-hemisphere centered way, leaving out the actions of the Episcopal Church and our crucial role in the crisis. Third, we then have the articles about the interview which themselves are full of distortions and misleading elements. My wife called on the way to the airport to say that the NPR headlines about the interview were worded so as to give a misleading impression, and I see other headlines that give confusing impressions as well.

So be careful as to how you digest this–KSH.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, England / UK, Global South Churches & Primates, Instruments of Unity, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

AP–Archbishop of Canterbury would support appointment of gay bishops, if they pledge celibacy

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams was quoted Saturday as saying he is not opposed to the appointment of gay people as bishops, if they pledge to remain celibate.

Williams, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, was quoted as telling the Times of London that he could in the future support the appointment of homosexual bishops ”” but not those in active sexual relationships.

“To put it very simply, there’s no problem about a gay person who’s a bishop. It’s about the fact that there are traditionally, historically, standards that the clergy are expected to observe. So there’s always a question about the personal life of the clergy,” Williams was quoted as telling the newspaper.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury

Terry Mattingly–Rights and wrongs of Pastor Terry Jones

In the case of Jones and his church in Gainesville, the Council on American-Islamic Relations decided that the timing of his Koran travesty was simply too hot to ignore. Even though the group regularly ignores the videos that it receives of people burning, shooting or ripping apart Islam’s holy book, CAIR decided to issue a July 19 press release announcing its own protest of “International Burn a Koran Day.” The group handed out free copies of the Koran.

The word was officially out and the media storm kept growing as angry reactions ”” from Arab streets to the White House ”” rolled into the world’s newsrooms.

Lost in the din were the quiet, measured words of many religious leaders who tried to walk a knife’s edge of logic in their public statements.

For starters, they had to note the painful fact that the Dove World Outreach Center was an independent Pentecostal congregation and its members were responsible to no higher religious authority than their own pastor. Thus, there was no one who could stop this event, other than public officials who, in order to do so, would have had to trample the rights of Jones and his flock.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Islam, Media, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Cliff Pennington's Amazing Behind the Back Tag as Part of a Double Play

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

Phil Linder resigns as dean of Trinity Cathedral in Columbia, South Carolina

The Right Rev. Philip C. Linder resigned Thursday as dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, ending a saga that began more than two months ago when the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina suspended him from his post.

The cathedral Friday made public the resignation in a two-sentence announcement, saying: “On Thursday, September 23, the Reverend Philip Linder tendered his resignation as dean of Trinity Cathedral. The Trinity Vestry voted unanimously to accept the resignation, which took effect immediately.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts

Fort Worth Episcopal group takes name dispute to federal court

The battle over the name of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has gone to federal court, with a trademark lawsuit filed against Bishop Jack Iker by the local group that chose to remain affiliated with the national church.

In 2008, delegates of the 19,000-member Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth voted overwhelmingly to leave the national denomination over issues including same-sex unions and the ordination of women. Several churches remained with the national denomination, and both groups now operate as the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

The lawsuit, filed this week, contends that even though the Iker-led group left the national Episcopal Church, it “has been continuously providing, advertising and marketing its religious services under the name and service mark ‘The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.'”

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

David Brooks–The Responsibility Deficit

Somewhere in the country, though, there is a politician who is going to try to lead us out of this logjam. Whoever that person is, I hope he or she is listening carefully to what the public is saying. Because when you listen carefully, you notice the public anger doesn’t quite match the political class anger. The political class is angry about ideological things: bloated government or the predatory rich. The public seems to be angry about values.

The heart of any moral system is the connection between action and consequences. Today’s public anger rises from the belief that this connection has been severed in one realm after another.

Financiers send the world into recession and don’t seem to suffer. Neighbors take on huge mortgages and then just walk away when they go underwater. Washington politicians avoid living within their means. Federal agencies fail and get rewarded with more responsibilities.

What the country is really looking for is a restoration of responsibility. If some smart leader is going to help us get out of ideological gridlock, that leader will reframe politics around this end.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Congregations Reeling From Decline in Donations

Rabbi Gerald L. Zelizer, who has led Congregation Neve Shalom in Metuchen, N.J., since 1970, described a phenomenon of financial extremes. On the one hand, more than 50 families out of a total of 580 in his congregation this year asked for their annual dues to be reduced. On the other hand, several large donors in the congregation, knowing of its budgetary struggle, increased their contributions to the annual fund, which rose to $67,000 from $53,000 over the past year.

Still, with what Rabbi Zelizer calls the “graying” of Conservative Jewish congregations, and a “growing disinterest in organized religion,” a few philanthropic angels cannot provide a long-term solution.

“This is a different dip than we’ve ever had before,” he said. “You have to work harder to overcome this. The mountain is steeper.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Other Churches, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

A Diocese of Virginia Press Release on Today's News from the Virginia Supreme Court

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

Anglican Congregations Prayerful Following Virginia Supreme Court Response to Motion for Rehearing

“While we are disappointed by today’s decision, we are certainly not discouraged. We knew going in that motions for rehearing are only granted in a low percentage of cases. We did not initiate this lawsuit and are ready to put the litigation behind us so we can completely focus on the work of the Gospel. However, we felt the basis of our motion for rehearing was strong and that the Court overlooked critical evidence showing that our congregations satisfied the requirements of the Division Statute as recently interpreted by the Virginia Supreme Court,” said ADV Chairman Jim Oakes.

“Today’s decision is not the final one in this case. The Virginia Supreme Court had already decided to send the lawsuit back to the Fairfax County Circuit Court for further proceedings. We remain extremely confident in our legal footing, but above all, our hope is in the Lord regardless of the final outcome. Our focus is on sharing the Gospel and serving those in need. The doors of all ADV churches will remain open wide to all who wish to worship with us,” Oakes concluded.

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

Uwe E. Reinhardt–The Perennial Quest to Lower Health Care Spending

The first major conference on health policy I ever attended, organized by The National Journal in Washington sometime in the late 1970s, focused on the rising cost of health care, which then absorbed close to 8 percent of gross domestic product and was threatening the unimaginable: to claim 10 percent or more of G.D.P.

Governors, senators, members of Congress, business executives, the heads of trade associations and leaders of unions representing health care workers made presentations, and all of them agreed that the growth of health care spending had to be curbed -”“ by what now is called “bending the cost curve….”

Over the decades, the mission has been a failure, naturally….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance, Taxes, The U.S. Government

Gallup–Recession or Not, U.S. Job Market Woes Persist

Even as Wall Street rallies on the National Bureau of Economic Research announcement that the recession ended in June 2009, Gallup finds — more than a year later — that 88% of Americans believe now is a bad time to find a quality job.

The percentage of Americans holding these views about finding a quality job is as high now as it was a year ago, and higher than it was at this time in 2008, when the recession was fully underway. Three years ago, in September 2007 — just prior to the official beginning of the recession that December — 55% held this view of the job market.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Psychology, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

ACNS–Communion report to the UN highlights Anglicans' work towards hitting poverty targets

Anglicans from across the world have contributed to a report to the United Nations about church-supported projects that are working to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Between the 20 and 22 September global leaders are meeting in New York for the UN’s review of its Millennium Development Goals. The Anglican Observer at the UN Ms Hellen Wangusa has compiled a report on what Anglicans are doing to contribute towards the global effort to halve poverty by the UN’s 2015 deadline.

Ms Francisca Bawayan of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines reported that the construction of post-harvest facilities and provision of a micro hydropower supply are just two of the ways in which the Community Based Development Program (CBDP) of her Province has responded to MDGs 1 (Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger) and 7 (Ensure environmental sustainability).

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, - Anglican: Latest News, Globalization, Poverty