Category : * Anglican – Episcopal

News and Commentary about the Anglican Communion

(C of E) Report from the December House of Bishops

On the third day the Bishops participated in exploratory work related to the Living in Love and Faith project.

The House of Bishops prayed for the nation and all our politicians at this challenging time.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Uncategorized

(CC) Two vibrant Anglican congregations in Winnipeg

The two parishes turned out to be more similar than I had expected. Both combine the thoughtful liturgy and preaching that mark Anglicanism at its best. The two rectors, David Widdicombe, 67, at St. Margaret’s, and Jamie Howison, 57, at saint ben’s, both hunger to work with young people at the city’s several universities, and both sense that the ancient and mysterious aspects of Christianity will be more appealing to people than any seeker-sensitive effort of evangelism that strips down the richness of the faith.

The two are longtime friends and admirers of one another. Neither seems to be aiming for anything other than helping to develop the best church they can. Given his achievements at saint ben’s, Howison could have written a book on church growth, or joined the speaking circuit, but he shuddered at that idea. The book that he has written is about jazz musician John Coltrane, God’s Mind in That Music. He calls the book “delightfully irrelevant to my ministry,” and adds: “but Coltrane feeds me.”

Widdicombe is only a bit less shy in sharing his ministry insights. He has a D. Phil. in theology from Oxford, where he focused on the theology of P. T. Forsyth and worked under Rowan Williams. He tells of getting thrown out of two classrooms—once by a liberal professor, another time by a conservative one—each time over questions of biblical interpretation.

Widdicombe’s sermons exude erudition. The day I’m there he preached from the lectionary text on Israel’s demand for a king and God’s sad warning: “he will take, he will take, he will take.” Never mentioning Trump by name, he portrayed all politics as a revolt against the reign of Christ. In some sense, worldly politics have to fail—or else we would fail to long for the kingdom Christ will bring. With its Augustinian realism about the continued reign of Babylon, the sermon owed something to another of his teachers at Oxford, Oliver O’Donovan.

Widdicombe made no reference in the sermon to himself, those listening, or the world. His only interest seemed to be in Christ and the text. Afterward, I talked to Marilyn Simons, a Shakespeare scholar who teaches at the local universities and who came to faith at St. Margaret’s. She said Widdicombe does with texts what the church and the academy have forgotten how to do: he lovingly interprets them.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Parish Ministry

The Long Road to Freedom: The Diocese of South Carolina and Parishes File 38 Motions for Summary Judgement

The Diocese of South Carolina (Diocese) continues on the long road to freedom from The Episcopal Church (TEC), filing motions for summary judgement in the now nearly six-year-old federal suit brought by its former denomination. Motions by the Diocese and its fifty-four parish defendants ask the Court to acknowledge, as a matter of law, they have neither infringed on TEC trademarks, diminished the value of those marks or harmed the denomination by continued use of names which have been in use before the denomination existed.

The current federal litigation was initiated by TEC in 2013, after the Diocese made the decision to disassociate from the national denomination it helped charter in 1789, five years after its own founding. The decision to leave was made in the fall of 2012 after denominational leadership attempted to wrongly remove its duly elected bishop. Over 80% of the congregations and their members affirmed that decision at a special Diocesan Convention in November 2012. TEC has never accepted that decision by 23,000 parishioners of the Diocese, continuing to litigate all such efforts by congregations and dioceses across the country wishing to free themselves from its control.

The original federal court complaint was initially against Bishop Lawrence alone, asserting that he continued to hold himself out falsely as a bishop of TEC, thus creating “confusion”. In April of this year the case was expanded to include the Diocese and all its congregations, even those formed after the disassociation who had no prior affiliation with the denomination. All are now charged with being party to the willful creation of confusion for attendees by virtue of using their historic names and continuing to conduct worship as they always have. These actions are alleged to mislead attendees to believe these are still TEC congregations.

Read it all and make sure to follow all the links.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Church History, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–Wisdom and folly: the bishops’ guidance on transgender welcome

Why the collapse of Christian language of initiation into cultural memes? The problems with the guidance begin with its opening line:

The Church of England welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation of trans people, equally with all people, within the body of Christ

Since when was the gospel of ‘repent and believe, for the kingdom of God is at hand’ (Mark 1.15) reduced to ‘unconditional affirmation’? If the point is that trans people shouldn’t be treated as a different class of humanity, then that would be hard to disagree with—so why not simply say that? All the debates around sexuality become mired in impossible ambiguity because of different construals of what it means to ‘affirm’ people. Jesus welcomed the marginalised, and called them to repent along with everyone else (Luke 5.32) and so should we.

Why the misuse of biblical texts? In reading Scripture, context is everything, and the listing of passages where God’s redemptive action leads to a change of name, in the context of a service which appears to be celebrating the transition of name and identity, has strong echoes of Tina Beardsley’s proposed trans liturgy, misreads these texts badly, and overlays on the scriptural narrative a particular ideology of sex identity.

Why the complete absence of reference to biological reality? One of the heated debates around trans ideology and advocacy relates to biological reality—what is actually going on in the transition process? The medical journal The Lancet just this week made an impassioned appeal for proper engagement with biological reality:

Sex has a biological basis, whereas gender is fundamentally a social expression. Thus, sex is not assigned—chromosomal sex is determined at conception and immutable. A newborn’s phenotypic sex, established in utero, merely becomes apparent after birth, with intersex being a rare exception.

Distress about gender identity must be taken seriously and support should be put in place for these children and young people, but the impacts of powerful, innovative interventions should be rigorously assessed….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(AM) Andrew Symes–Transgender liturgies and the secular, postmodern re-shaping of church and society

I was alerted to a major new development in the Church of England: the publication of liturgies to mark ‘gender transition’. (Press release, and my comment here.) Well that wasn’t such a surprise, as this was accepted by General Synod last year, and then agreed again in February 2018. What is alarming is that the new services, which have been developed by clergy who are transgender activists, have been commended for use by a leading evangelical Bishop. No doubt he will argue that while he believes that God created us male and female, this is a way of offering welcome to those who don’t feel they fit into the traditional gender categories. But in speaking about ‘trans people’ and supporting the liturgies in this way, this Bishop has inevitably accepted the validity of the new ideology of gender, which is incompatible with Christian anthropology, colluding with a fiction which cannot ultimately be pastorally helpful, and based on propaganda and fake science rather than evidence.

Should faithful Christians just accept the decisions of their leaders in these matters, and keep quiet, perhaps focusing on evangelistic courses and foodbanks? Or can we counter this trend? If so, perhaps our challenge is to tell a “better story”. We know that heterosexual marriage and sexually abstinent singleness, living within the physical sex God gave us, are the most effective ways of living a flourishing life as individuals and communities, and for our future. Numerous studies prove that stable marriage and family life, and sexual self-control are beneficial for individuals and society; likewise it is clear that family breakdown is linked to crime and mental health issues, and immorality to sexually transmitted disease. The Judaeo-Christian ethic is commanded and explained in Scripture and has been taught by Christians and Jews for millennia. It makes sense. It is the truth. Surely, if the church demonstrates an attitude of love, and tells a positive and exciting counter-story, society will be convinced of the truth of the gospel and how we are supposed to live our lives?

In this paradigm, ‘truth’ is contained in God’s word, backed up by scientific research based on observation of an ordered world. Truth must be communicated clearly, imaginatively, winsomely with love, but it exists as an entity in itself, like a Platonic ideal, or indeed God himself. God exists and his word is true whether or not we communicate it effectively with love. One plus one equals two, regardless of how effectively and relationally it is taught, or how I feel about it and about myself.

But in the secular postmodern paradigm, things have changed. God, and truth, do not exist outside of the reality which is the interweaved matrix made up of millions of human beings’ individual consciousness and experience. The personal story, and the emotions it evokes, is not just a method of communicating truth. It is truth. If feelings of same sex attraction or gender dysphoria lead someone to embrace a gay or trans identity, this is a discovery of truth, and the church’s job is to affirm it through liturgies. To suggest that someone with these feelings might be able to explore a different direction is seen as hurtful, even abusive, and should be suppressed by law. 

Because of this tendency in us to be drawn to personal constructions of reality and reject Reality, the biblical writers insist that it’s not enough to simply repeat God’s true message, and to find better ways of communicating it, including demonstrating God’s nature through acts of love and mercy. It’s also necessary to enable the faithful community to reject the false messages they are being fed constantly in the world around them.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(RNS) As one historically black Episcopal church closes, others face strong headwinds

On a chilly December morning, 100 years and one week after its sanctuary opened, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, an African-American congregation with a proud history, was formally closed.

Bishop Samuel Rodman presided over the Eucharistic service in an elementary school a block away from the church, where weekly services ended more than three years ago. Several longtime members returned to read Scriptures and sing hymns. Afterward, the group of 100, including history buffs and well-wishers from North Carolina and Virginia, shared a meal of fried chicken and baked beans.

All Saints is hardly alone among mainline Protestant and Catholic congregations. Faced with dwindling members, crumbling infrastructure and costly maintenance, some 6,000 to 10,000 churches shutter each year, according to one estimate. More closures may be in the offing as surveys point to a decline in church attendance across the country.

But All Saints is an example of an even sharper decline.

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Parishes

(Church of England) Guidance for gender transition services published

New guidance for parishes planning services to help transgender people mark their transition has been published by the Church of England.

The pastoral guidance, which will be incorporated into Common Worship*, encourages clergy to be “creative and sensitive” in using liturgy to enable people to mark a major transition in their lives.

It formally commends the incorporation of the existing rite for the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith into services which mark gender transition.

It details how elements including water and oil can be incorporated into the service and, crucially, makes clear that trans people should be addressed publicly by their chosen name.

As part of the service they could also be presented with gifts, such as a Bible inscribed in their chosen name, or a certificate.

It is important, the guidance adds, that the occasion should have a distinct “celebratory character”.

Read it all and make sure to follow the link and read the full text of the guidance itself.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

Gafcon Chairman Archbp Nicholas Okoh’s Advent 2018 Letter

So we salute the courage of all those Anglicans around the world who sacrifice to proclaim Christ faithfully. Some live in contexts where Christians face attempts to very severely restrict their witness and our Gafcon 2019 Conference in Dubai next February is designed to encourage such brothers and sisters. Others continue to face persecution from within the Church itself, most notoriously in North America, and I commend especially to your prayers the Bishop of Albany, the Rt Revd Bill Love, who was present with us in Jerusalem for Gafcon 2018.

With effect from Advent, TEC (the Episcopal Church of the United States) has mandated that all its dioceses must permit same sex marriage rites, but Bishop Love has issued a pastoral letter in which he makes it clear that this will not be permitted in the Diocese of Albany because the Episcopal Church “is attempting to order me as a Bishop in God’s holy Church, to compromise ‘the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3) and to turn my back on the vows I have made to God and His People.”

It remains to be seen how Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will proceed, but TEC is relentlessly pursuing the faithful Dioceses of South Carolina and Fort Worth through the courts, as it has done with many others in the past.

Finally, let us ask Almighty God to continue his blessing upon us in this time of leadership transition.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, GAFCON

Bishop Mark Lawrence’s sermon yesterday at Holy Cross, Sullivan’s Island

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Scripture

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s full speech in last week’s Lords debate on the Brexit deal

What is obvious is that we are choosing a new path. For although a Remainer, like the noble Lord, Lord Hope, I fully accept the decision of the referendum, which must now be implemented, and the shape of which is now in the hands of parliament and particularly of the other place.

With that responsibility there is a moral agency and moral choice, and it is that that should guide our votes.

It must reflect a genuinely hopeful vision for our nation and its place, because there is a hope and global influence, a vision of that, to be grasped in this country with proper leadership.

Second, whichever way we go there is a requirement for national reconciliation, for restating what the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, calls core values of civilised discourse, and for ensuring they are lived out.

The negative impact of the previous referendum is why I see another one as a possible but not immediately preferable choice, and then only if parliament has failed in its responsibilities.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Politics in General

The Archbishop of York’s Prayer Ahead of the Brexit Vote

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Politics in General, Spirituality/Prayer

(Prospect) Justin Welby: we must learn how to forgive—and disagree

We need to learn to forgive. Especially we need to learn to forgive those who have the temerity, even the abusive intransigence, to disagree with us on something where we think we are right. That appears today to be a mortal sin.

Disagreement should be a matter of debate, of rational examination of different views, even of passionate and robust argument. But it should not be a cause of hatred, the incitement of violence, and the denigration of the humanity of the other person.

Yet, that is where we seem to have got to. Forgiveness is the process by which we recognise guilt, and yet release it. A few years ago, I heard a debate on the radio about whether it was even necessary to consider forgiveness as a virtue. It was argued that we should simply let things pass us by. That the stoic approach—which keeps us at a certain emotional distance from the abuses, sufferings and challenges of the world—is the approach that we should take instead. Forgiveness implies emotion, anger, and even the concept of sin. (Please excuse me mentioning sin, but I am the Archbishop of Canterbury.)

Forgiveness accepts that harm has been done and that harm cannot be ignored; for ignoring it opens the door to impunity and injustice. I spend a great deal of my time in places where the absence of forgiveness leads to an ever-more destructive cycle of retribution, hatred and vendetta. Yet I also see, in some of these places, the capacity of those who have suffered more than I can begin to imagine, to forgive.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Christology

The Diocese of Birmingham Response to Channel 4 News story this week

In response to the news report and interview with Jo Kind on Channel 4’s news programme (Weds 5 Dec 7pm) we believe that it is important to clarify a number of elements of the story as reported in that instance.

Most importantly, we need to make clear that the Church of England – Birmingham has never restricted, or sought to restrict Jo from telling her story. This is not the purpose of the NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement). It was and will always be her story to tell. The decision with regards to the NDA was made to protect the many contributors to the report, some of whom wish to remain unidentifiable, along with the many others whom this situation affects. The suggestion of asking Jo to sign the NDA was also made by the independent reviewer once the report had been finalised. We encouraged Jo to seek legal advice, which she did, before signing the NDA, rather than ‘forcing it on her’ as reported.

It is important to understand that Jo was not asked to sign a ‘confidentiality clause’. Such a clause would have prevented her from disclosing information contained within the reports that she was already aware of, or where elements were already in the public domain. Jo was asked to sign an NDA with the intention to prevent from sharing information not belonging to her that she was not previously aware of (for example elements within the report that refer to information provided from or by other individuals, along with factors that could lead to the identity of the contributors and others who have been affected by this from being identified).

Simply put, Jo is and always has been free to tell her story, but we need to protect others who do not want their story to be told….

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(Diocese of SC) Matthew Rivers Ordained to the Priesthood

“It’s all about the call. It’s all about the message. It’s all about the people.” Those were words the Very Rev. John Burwell, Rector of Church of the Redeemer, Orangeburg, stressed in his sermon at the ordination to the priesthood of the Rev. Matthew Rivers, Tuesday, November 27, 2018 at St. John’s Chapel in Charleston.

“It’s not a job. You can’t treat it like one,” said Burwell. “It’s a calling.” He noted that though the ordination itself would be “glorious,” the ministry entails hard, often thankless work and clergy rarely see the result of their efforts.

He encouraged Rivers, using words spoken to him personally by the late Bishop Terry Kelshaw, saying, “Preach the Word – the good news – every Sunday and your church will grow.”

Burwell also encouraged Rivers to focus on the people. Quoting his grandmother, he said, “They don’t care what you know until they know you care.” “Love the people the Lord puts in your path,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

An ENS story on The Funeral for President George HW Bush yesterday at the national cathedral

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Episcopal Church (TEC), Office of the President