Daily Archives: February 19, 2014

[Andrew Symes] Synod Report: Highlights and Extracts

Pilling and facilitated conversations (again)

On Wednesday morning Archbishop Justin addressed the assembly. What he said was eagerly awaited, especially given recent pronouncements on ”˜homophobia’ in Africa, the enthusiastic endorsement of Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori’s honorary Oxford degree, and the revelations about funding from TEC. His speech, only 15 minutes long, was published on his website immediately. While it has been interpreted in some quarters as giving the go-ahead for gay blessings, this was not what he said. His message was about overcoming fear with love; showing a watching world that Christians can disagree while remaining in fellowship, and that this process of gracious conversation is itself part of preaching the Gospel.

This theme was continued in the final session of Synod, a presentation on the Pilling Report and facilitated conversations, followed by questions and answers, but no debate. Sir Joseph Pilling and Bishop Stephen Croft summarized what we already knew, in the carefully phrased non-controversial language that we shall increasingly hear over the coming months. Questions from the floor were invariably met with assurances that the design and implementation of the listening process would ensure that all views were heard.

Comments and conclusions

We know that Justin Welby has made this new version of Indaba a central feature of his archepiscopacy. There are several problems though, not least theological difficulties. It may be possible to get people who profoundly disagree with each other to be nice and respectful (it happens at Synod, and regularly in Deaneries up and down the land). But the ideological and philosophical differences remain unresolved and will continue to be so as long as the fiction persists that contradictory views on primary issues are equally valid and both welcome in the same church. To put so much energy and money into getting people to repeat the same arguments and tell the same stories in refereed, set piece engagements appears to be making superficial reconciliation within the church a primary means of facilitating mission. However it is not preparing the ground for Gospel preaching, but a flight from it, because of the admitted confusion about the content of the Gospel. It is being portrayed as a model of peaceful and courageous negotiation, but how will it be seen? Yet more navel gazing, or worse ”“ a dishonest form of manipulation?

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

[Matt Kennedy] The Church of England: Permitting Pastoral Malpractice

The Church of England House of Bishops has issued a statement affirming Lambeth 1.10 and restricting clergy from blessing same sex unions and/or ”˜marriages’. This is good. But these good restrictions should not obscure the destructive permissions formally provided in paragraphs 20-21. I believe these will be seen, in the future, as the camel’s nose, the beginning of the end for the church of England:

“The House did not wish, however, to interfere with the clergy’s pastoral discretion about when more informal kind of prayer, at the request of the [same-sex] couple, might be appropriate in the light of the circumstances”¦[21] [with] the assumption that any prayer will be accompanied by pastoral discussion of the church’s teaching and their reasons for departing from it.”

Note the neutrality of the language. The prayers “informally” offered might be prayers of affirmation or exhortive prayers for repentance. Either sort of prayer would fit. A conversation about why one departs from church teaching could easily go like this:

“Why are you not abiding church teaching on this matter?”

“We are in love and we think God has joined us together”

“How wonderful! Let me pray for you”¦”

The core problem is this: the New Testament teaches that unrepentant indulgence in homosexual behavior will lead to damnation (1 cor 6:9). The Church of England now formally allows clergy to pray affirmatively for such relationships. She is, therefore, on record professing that there are a variety of responses to same sex relationships beyond the New Testament call to repent of a sin that will keep people from the Kingdom of God. This formal step is also a formal step away from Christianity. Truly Christian bishops do not leave clergy free to affirm sins that lead to hell. Christian bishops instruct clergy to admonish and exhort couples living in damnable sin to live lives of repentance and celibacy for the sake of their souls.

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

Washington Post: Live video feed shows the ongoing crackdown in Ukraine

“Independent Ukrainian news station Espreso TV is broadcasting live from the clashes in Kiev” here

Live Updates from BBC here

Another TV feed from Hromadske TV from another location here

Posted in Uncategorized

Thurstan Stigand: Some initial reflections on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s presidential address

Having read through Archbishop Justin’s presidential address carefully several times it seems to me that he makes two major points in it. The first is that we need to be a church marked by love rather than fear, and the second is that as this sort of church we need to be a place where people will seek to ensure the flourishing of those with whom they disagree. The Archbishop sees these points as applicable both to the issue of the ordination of women to the episcopate and to the issue of human sexuality.

In what follows I want to raise critical questions about each of these points.

First of all, is it right to see fear as always being a bad thing?

Taking his cue from the statement in 1 John 4:18 that ”˜perfect love casts out fear’ the Archbishop consistently sees fear as something negative which we need to allow God to overcome in us. I have two reservation about this approach.

My first is about his appeal to 1 John 4:18. If you look at the context of the words which he quotes from 1 John 4:18 you will see that the Apostle John is not talking about fear in general, but about a very specific form of fear, the fear of the judgement of God on the last day. What the Apostle is saying is that as Christians filled with God’s love we should not fear the judgement.

The specific nature of what the Apostle John is talking about means that this verse cannot be taken as a blanket rejection of all kinds of fear. This is particularly the case as the Bible elsewhere depicts fear as perfectly legitimate. Three examples will serve to illustrate the point…
What these examples show is that some forms of fear are entirely legitimate. In his address Archbishop Justin notes the fears of those on the conservative side in the Church of England and the wider communion who are concerned about where the Pilling process will lead the Church of England in terms of its belief and practice with regard to sexuality. He rejects that fear, arguing that we cannot find a way forward on this issue on the basis of fear.

This brings me to my second reservation. I do not think that the fear by conservatives about this issue to which he refers can or should be set aside. If there is a possibility that the Pilling process will lead to the acceptance of same sex sexual activity in the Church of England (and there is) and if, as the Bible and the Christian tradition have consistently taught, such behavior is a serious sin which if not repented of will exclude someone from the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) then there is every reason to be afraid of the outcome of the process. As we have seen, St Paul was fearful that the Corinthian church would fail to repent of the ”˜impurity, immorality and licentiousness which they have practiced’ and those on the orthodox side who are concerned about the Pilling process share exactly the same sort of fear.
If we move on to the issue of sexuality the question which arises is whether allowing those with whom we disagree to flourish means accepting that arguments for accepting same-sex sexual relationships form a legitimate part of the spectrum of Anglican theology and that being part of such a relationship, or marking such a relationship liturgically, are legitimate forms of Anglican practice.

The issue which has to be decided is whether the analogy of the position that the Church of England has taken over the ordination of women suggests that this should be the case. This is the direction in which the Archbishop’s address seems to be taking us, but I do not think it is correct. This is because the teaching of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, and behind that the teaching of Christian tradition and of the Bible itself, all point to the fact that the acceptance of same sex sexual relationships is not, and cannot be, a legitimate part of the spectrum of Anglican belief and practice.
As Canons A5 and C15 point out, the Anglican theological tradition is rooted in the teaching of the Bible and the teaching of the Fathers that is in agreement with the Bible. Neither of these sources allows space for the acceptance of same sex sexual relationships. There is thus no space within Anglican theology to permit such acceptance.

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

(CNN) Ukraine president to make announcement after at least 19 die in protests

Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Tuesday and called on him to “pull back government forces” and “exercise maximum restraint” following deadly clashes in Kiev between police and protesters.

Biden “made clear” the United States condemns violence “by any side,” but “that the government bears special responsibility to deescalate the situation,” according to a summary of the telephone conversation released by the White House.

Read it all and join me in praying for the situation in the Ukraine.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Theology, Ukraine, Violence

NPR: For Snake-Handling Preacher, 10th Bite Proves Fatal

Pastor Jamie Coots, a 42-year-old Pentecostal preacher and third-generation snake handler from Middlesboro, Ky., spoke to NPR in October about his unusual way of leading church services.

“We sing, we preach, we testify, take up offerings, pray for the sick, you know, everything like everybody else does,” he said. “Just, every once in a while, snakes are handled.”

On Saturday night, Coots was handling three rattlesnakes at his small church, the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name, when one of them bit him on his right hand….
Read it all and there more comment at Christianity Today

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pentecostal

(RNS) Science group, evangelicals push new collaboration

Scientists and Christian evangelicals can collaborate for the good of society but it will take some serious effort, experts said as they launched a new campaign to change perceptions between the two groups.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science and its Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion program released a major research project on Sunday (Feb. 16), at the AAAS annual meeting in Chicago, and announced an upcoming series of conferences mixing believers, scientists and many who are both….The concern is not whether “science and religion can co-exist. They already do,” said lead researcher Elaine Howard Ecklund, a sociologist and director of Rice University’s Religion and Public Life Program. “The question is how to do it well.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

Law and Religion: House of Bishops’ Statement on Same-sex Marriage

David Pocklington writes:-
…The quasi-legislative nature of the House of Bishops’ Statement is problematic, for whilst the Statement does not have the force of canon law (compared with a Canon or Measure, for example) and may not be regarded as one of the “laws ecclesiastical” in the context of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003, as amended, (CDM), it unambiguously affirms Church doctrine in this area, albeit with persuasive authority. This is evident in its application to two (of the three) particular areas it identifies as requiring “some guidance ”¦ on the implications of the new legislation in relation to our common life and ministry in England”…

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

Ross Douthat–Adam Gopnik’s essay on atheism and belief Misreads what Most Believers Believe

I expected to be pained by Adam Gopnik’s New Yorker essay on atheism and belief, but I didn’t expect to be quite so ”¦ puzzled by his depiction of contemporary belief. Gopnik clearly has sympathy for the religious side of the argument he’s describing ”” or at the very least he’s straining to be sympathetic. But given the premises he’s working from, that sympathy manifests itself in a peculiar and telling misreading of what theists actually believe.

That misreading follows from the fairly stark distinction that Gopnik tries to establish between the God of popular belief ”” the God of miracles and commandments, signs and wonders, heaven and hell ”” and the God of more intellectually-minded modern believers. The former sort of almighty, he writes, is simply impossible for serious minds to believe in any more…

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

Dr Ian Paul: The real challenge after Pilling that no-one is talking about

…there is a deep fracture, a fault line, between our instincts, our desires, what we feel is innate within us, and the pattern of holy living God calls us to in Christ. It is the theology embedded in the Scriptures. This isn’t simply true for those who believe they are gay and not called to celibacy””it is true for all of us, and it is a point of tension and struggle for all who seek to live faithfully in the footsteps of Jesus. The chief dishonesty here has been amongst ”˜liberal’ bishops who have ordained men knowing full well that they are living contrary to the bishops’ clear teaching on this issue..
What is the real challenge facing the church in the UK? In all the discussion about gender and sexuality, about women bishops and the response to gay men and women, there is a massive paradox. The Church which is apparently almost irredeemably misogynistic is numerically dominated by women in its membership. The Church which is, it seems, deeply homophobic has a disproportionate number of gay people in its ranks, and especially in its clergy””in some dioceses, vastly disproportionate. Yet one group is consistently under-represented, and rarely discussed: men, and particularly working class men. And if all the recent media coverage has done anything, it has pushed them further away through painting an unremitting picture of the church feminised.

I look forward to the time when the agendas of Synods, the headlines in the papers, and the tweets and posts in the social media are dominated by the importance of the offer of purpose, direction and wholeness to the men of our nation found in the message of the gospel, which has become the preoccupation of the Church.

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

In Montclair, New Jersey: Laying down arms, putting on an Episcopal Church Collar

It was 50 years ago that the Rev. Wade Renn, the founder of Montclair Emergency Services for the Homeless (MESH) decided that enough was enough.

The former Boeing and Atomic Energy Commission employee had spent the first part of his life helping to make weapons of mass destruction and participating in research that Renn would only describe as “nasty stuff.” His two physics degrees and scientific track record had earned him a spot in a prestigious Johns Hopkins think tank, but none of it brought him satisfaction.

None of it brought him peace.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Science & Technology, Theology

Alastair Roberts: Chris Seitz on the Biblical Crisis in the Homosexuality Debates

The chapter from Seitz’s 2011 book, The Character of Christian Scripture, seeks to explain how the two testament canon of Holy Scripture must be properly respected — particularly the Old Testament as Christian witness — or we inevitably end up with two separable canons, and then a third called the greater wisdom of our own day. This is what has happened and explains why there is such deep confusion over how the Bible declares its sense when it comes to marriage and sexuality. Here is a summary of the chapter circulating at Alastair’s Adversaria
Seitz proceeds to put his finger on what is perhaps the deepest concern explaining the strength of opposition to same-sex behaviour among many Christians, which is the very power of Scripture to speak with any degree of clarity into the present day at all:

If the Bible’s consistently negative word about homosexual conduct is wrong, or outdated, who will then decide in what other ways the Bible is or is not to be trusted or cannot comprehend our days and its struggles, under God? Appeal to Scripture’s plain sense is born of the conviction that the Bible can have something to say without other forces needing to regulate that or introduce a special hermeneutics from outside the text so we can know when and where it can speak.

Seitz suggests that, at the very heart of these debates is the issue of the Bible as two testaments, speaking ”˜of the same God in Christ, though in different dispensations and in different figural directions.’ At stake here are two creedal statements: that the Holy ”˜spake by the prophets’ and that Christ died and rose again ”˜in accordance with the Scriptures.’ What progressivism has done is to change the relationship between the testaments. The work of the Spirit is now regarded as ”˜fully detachable’ from his prior testimony in Scripture and the Old Testament is read, not as a faithful testimony to God in Christ but ”˜only of a developmental phase of religion en route to a NT religion and then a more enlightened Holy Spirit religion.’
It is also critical that we appreciate that sacrificing the Old Testament’s authority with respect to the New has broader ramifications:

For once one begins thinking along these lines, that is, of using the New’s allegedly “new religion” to sort out the “religion of a First Testament,” instead of seeking to hear God’s Word of triune address in both Testaments, appropriate to their character as “prophet and apostle,” it is then an almost effortless transition to believing both Old and New Testaments are themselves only the provisional proving ground for religious virtues said to be en route to a Holy Spirit’s fresh declaration of unprecedented “new truth” in our day.

I believe that Seitz here brings into sharp relief what lies near the heart of the concern that many of us have about contemporary developments in some churches in the area of teaching about Christian sexual ethics. The flirting of many evangelicals with forms of trajectory hermeneutics is just one example of the way in which the creedal understanding of the relationship between the testaments has become compromised. As Seitz observes, it is a fundamental conviction of Christian orthodoxy that is at stake here: that the Old Testament is authoritative Christian Scripture, a faithful and abiding witness to the triune God.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)