Daily Archives: September 21, 2007
Baby Blue has the goods. Must reading. Here’s an excerpt. Wow.
…My friends, you may believe you have discovered a very difficult truth from that of the majority in the Anglican Communion. It not just about sexuality, but about your views of Christ, the Gospel and the authority of the Bible. Please forgive me when I relay that some say you are a different church, others even think that you are a different religion.
I understand that it is difficult for you in your context to accept the standard teaching of the Anglican Communion. This is why you refused to accept Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10. You also ignored all the warnings of the Primates in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Your response to the Windsor Report is seen by the Primates as not clear. You cannot say you value being a member of the Anglican Communion while you ignore the interdependence of the member churches. The interdependence is what differentiates us from the other congregational churches. I would like to remind you and myself with the famous resolution 49 of the Lambeth Conference of 1930 which declares “the Anglican Communion is a fellowship of churches that … are bound together not be a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference.” With respect, I have to say that those who would prefer to speak of laws and procedures, constitutions and canons, committees and process: you are missing the point! It is our mutual loyalty and fellowship, submitting to one another in the common cause of Jesus Christ that makes us of one Church on faith and one Lord.
It is clear that your actions have resulted in one of the most difficult disputes in the Communion in our generation. You may see them as not core doctrinal issues. Many like me see the opposite but the thing that we cannot ignore is that these issues are divisive and have created a lot of undesired consequences and reactions. For the first time in centuries, the fabric of our Communion is torn. Our energies have been drained and our resources are lost; and it is difficult for both of us to continue like this.
My friends, if you really believe that the truth revealed to you is different from that shown to the rest of the Communion, then you need to uphold that claim with boldness even at the risk of losing unity. If you think it is right and necessary to ordain and consecrate practicing homosexuals and that you should bless same sex partnerships or even marriages, you should be true to what you believe is right and accept the consequences.
However, if you appreciate being members of the global Anglican family, then you have to walk along side the members of your family. Those who say that it is important to stay together around the table, to listen to each other and to continue our dialogue over the difficult issues that are facing us are wise. We wholeheartedly agree with this, but staying around the table requires that you should not take actions that are contrary to the standard position (Lambeth 1:10) of the rest of the Communion.
Mary says there is “more coming” and Matt+ is also blogging this for Stand Firm. Awesome.
Here’s the link for Matt’s post at Stand Firm: http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/6132/
Go to this page and then scroll down to bottom left for the video / audio section.
Phillip Aspinall: It’s true. There is no power to expel, other than possibly the Anglican Consultative Council, and that’s a long and somewhat complicated process itself. No, the question here is not someone coming in with a big stick and a quick fix to sort it all out. What we’re dealing with is a family of committed people, struggling together to discern the truth and find the way forward. No-one is expecting a quick fix and once-and-for-all solution for all time from the meeting this week in the United States. Rather we hope that in conversation and prayer and mutual discernment, we might be able to see constructive next steps.
Stephen Crittenden: We’ve been told that the Archbishop of Canterbury intends to ask the Episcopalian Bishops two questions in New Orleans. Presumably those two questions are likely to be Do you have any intention to stop consecrating gay bishops and Do you have any intention to stop blessing same sex unions?
Phillip Aspinall: Yes, I haven’t been advised by the Archbishop of Canterbury about two particular questions that he intends to ask, though clearly the meeting is in response to the requests made by the Primates in Dar-es-Salaam earlier this year, and certainly the Primates did seek clarification on those two matters you raise from the American House of Bishops, and conversations will go on about those two things. The first one, in relation to the moratorium on the consecration of active gays that was in the Windsor report and followed up by the Primates, there’s a fairly clear indication already been given by the General Convention last year. The General Convention resolved to call on bishops to exercise restraint by not consenting to the election of such people. Now what the Primates have asked is for the House of Bishops to indicate that that resolution is one that they take seriously and will stick by, and I think if that kind of assurance is given, then the substance of that request will be met.
Stephen Crittenden: But that could well be tested in the near future with this election in Chicago.
Phillip Aspinall: Yes I think we need to understand that there have been several Episcopal elections in the United States since the Windsor Report was published and since the Primates issued their requests. As I understand it, there have been gay candidates in several of those elections and none of those candidates have been elected. So in fact, a moratorium has been instigated at least to this point.
You can watch it at Anglican TV or Stand Firm.
12:30 Central / 1:30 Eastern / 5:30 p.m. London etc.
For the first time at least since World War II, women and men who married in the late 1970s had a less than even chance of still being married 25 years later.
“We know that somewhere between 40 percent and 50 percent of marriages dissolve,” said Barbara Risman, executive officer of the Council on Contemporary Families, a research group. “Now, when people marry, everyone wonders, is this one of those marriages that will be around for awhile.”
But David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values, a marriage research and advocacy group, said he was struck that the percentage of people who celebrated their 15th anniversary had declined. “This seems to be saying more recent marriages are more fragile,” Mr. Blankenhorn said.
About 80 percent of first marriages that took place in the late 1950s lasted at least 15 years. Among people who married in the late 1980s for the first time, however, only 61 percent of the men and 57 percent of the women were married 15 years later.
Among currently married women, non-Hispanic whites were the only group in which a majority had marked their 15th anniversary.
The survey by the Census Bureau, in 2004, confirmed that most Americans eventually marry, but they are marrying later and are slightly more likely to marry more than once.
From Bishop Epting’s blog:
[CORRECTION: the elf sincerely apologizes for originally mis-attributing this to Bp. Pierre Whalon. The two bishops’ blog feeds are adjacent in my RSS feed and so even though the link was to Bp. Epting’s blog, I saw the name Whalon and wrote that without thinking.]
Quite a roller coaster of a day yesterday. Our first time, as Episcopal bishops, to meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury to talk face-to-face about our ongoing issues in the Anglican Communion.
We began with a festive Eucharist in the hotel with a great sermon by our Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori and the lusty singing of hymns from “Holy, holy, holy” through “There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place” (and, perhaps surprisingly, there is!) to “O Praise Ye the Lord!”
Then, we entered into table discussions and open plenaries sharing our Hopes and Concerns for this meeting. My hope was that we could find a way to assure the Communion that we will do what General Convention has asked us to do by exercising restraint in consenting to the election of bishops whose manner of life will produce additional strains on the Communion. My concern is, that nothing we do will be enough for some ”” in our own House and in the Communion.
The afternoon continued with a brief address by Archbishop Rowan Williams and two questions to wrestle with: how far can we go in accommodating the request of the Primates’ Communique and what kind of “shared episcopal leadership” (within our own House) would we find possible and helpful. Lots of pain and anguish from all sides in the open discussion which followed. But it was good for Rowan and the other Primates and visitors from across the Communion to see the kind of respectful and thoughtful conversation we can have together.
I learned nothing really new. No conversations we have not had before. But it was good for our overseas colleagues to engage with us. It would have been helpful for the Archbishop to have done this three years ago.
The Reverend Susan Russell has been named as the only gay member of the Episcopal Church delegation charged with defending recent church actions (the election of an openly gay bishop and the recognition of same-sex unions by the Episcopal Church)
Integrity was instrumental in winning two controversial votes at the church’s 2003 General Convention: consenting to the election of Gene Robinson as the first openly gay partnered bishop in the Anglican Communion and formalizing the acceptance of liturgies blessing same-sex unions in the Episcopal Church.
Ummm”¦ Have we not been hearing over the last years and over the last two days from the TEC House of Bishops that they needn’t really enact any kind of moratorium on the blessing of same sex unions because General Convention had not really approved same-sex unions? Integrity of course recognizes the reality of what happened at GC03(hat tip: AM).
The AP wanted to know, “who is going to decide whether the Episcopal Church has responded to the Dar Es Salaam Communique”¦?” Bishop Rabb said, “it is the Primates who will have to decide that.”
I agree. The Primates asked for the Windsor Report, they received it and modified it slightly in Dromantine, and then in response to the TEC’s response to Windsor and Dromantine, they issued the Tanzania Communique. Now the American House of Bishops is meeting in response to the Primates Tanzania Communique and before their September 30th deadline. So where is the Primates meeting on the Anglican Communion schedule? That would seem to be quite important–KSH.
A highly controversial move by the Diocese of Sydney to allow lay presidency has been postponed until after next summer’s Lambeth Conference.
The Diocesan Synod, meeting this week, decided to defer further debate on the issue after the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, had been asked a committee of officials
to issue licences to senior lay people and deacons which would allow them to celebrate Holy Communion. If Sydney went ahead, it could cause a split with the rest
of the Anglican Communion who see the move as a lurch towards congregationalism.
Leading the prolay presidency vote is John Woodhouse, the principal of Moore Theological College in Sydney. He suggests that the diocese uses current church laws,
effectively by-passing the need for the diocese to apply for legal authority ””which would probably not be granted by the national church. The decision to delay the debate has
been welcomed by many church leaders. Some American liberals argue that if they are in danger of being excommunicated from the communion then, in the same manner, so
should Sydney if they chose to be irregular over an issue such as Holy Communion. Why should lay presidency be considered more irregular than the acceptance of
[non-celibate] gay priests, they question.
But another issue is that if Sydney vote for lay presidency they could damage vital links with other conservative dioceses who would otherwise serve as allies against the ordination of [non-celibate] gay bishops in the rest of the communion.
–This article appears in this week’s Church of England Newspaper, the September 21, 2007, edition, on page 5
Resolution Offered by Windsor Bishops (+Jenkins Resolution)
[Stand Firm writes] This is a statement crafted during the last meeting of “Windsor Bishops,” and we’re told forms the basis of the resolution Bishop Jenkins is going to propose. However, we’ve also been told that he’s been “consulting” with bishops Bruno and Chane to make it more palatable to them. The document has been circulating among the bishops at the meeting here in New Orleans.
Resolution offered by Bruce MacPherson, Russell Jacobus, Geralyn Wolf, and C. Franklin Brookhart
Read it here.
We’ve been trying to post this but technical problems are preventing the text from appearing here. So head on over to Stand Firm!
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori began the first plenary session with an announcement that eight bishops had accepted her invitation to serve as episcopal visitors. Other than the names, no further details were given and there was no follow-up discussion.
Some of the eight episcopal visitors who spoke with reporters for The Living Church were equally uncertain of the scope of the proposal or how it would be implemented. None of those surveyed by TLC said they knew the identities of the other seven ahead of time. To a person, they said their primary reason for accepting was a willingness to be helpful at what they considered a critical time.
“The Presiding Bishop is open to considering more episcopal visitor invitations,” said the Rev. Charles Robertson, Canon for the Presiding Bishop. Canon Robertson said the Presiding Bishop envisioned the episcopal visitor plan being potentially applied in a wide variety of circumstances for parishes and dioceses. He noted it would be possible to discuss the plan in greater detail, including a consultative contribution by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, after Archbishop Williams’ final session with the bishops Friday morning.
[Bishop Charles] Jenkins, the Louisiana bishop, said before the meeting that he sees middle-grounders “willing to make sacrifices. . . . I see something spiritually happening.” But the letter he released showed the complexities: “We reject as sinfully faulty those actions that would splinter this Communion,” it says, also calling for alternative leadership “satisfactory to those who plead for such oversight.”
It is unclear what an acceptable middle ground would look like. For some, halting the ordination of gay clergy and same-sex blessings would be enough. Others think the theological chasm is too wide .
This month, the Pittsburgh diocese outlined steps to leave the Episcopal Church if the U.S. bishops don’t adhere to the dictates outlined in February. Divisions of some sort are expected in Fort Worth, San Joaquin, Calif., and Quincy, Ill.
Northern Indiana Bishop Ed Little said he thinks the requests made in February are appropriate. He said he does not plan to leave the Episcopal Church but is looking for a compromise. But how to do that, he asked, for example, on the question of authorizing same-sex unions?
“Is there a middle ground, where we retain the clear teaching that we are not authorizing the liturgy, but some folks are cut some slack? I’m not sure how that is done,” he said this week.
The Very Rev. Martha Horne, who recently retired as dean of the Virginia Theological Seminary, the largest Episcopal seminary, said the search for compromise goes beyond the 77 million-member Anglican Communion.
Stand Firm has four documents posted. Three are suggestions by various Bishops as to what should be said in a “Mind of the House” resolution. The fourth is a memo from Peter Lee. We’ve posted some excerpts below, but if you can read them all at Stand Firm, please do so.
A Memorandum to the House of Bishops from Peter James Lee
This one is about Resolution B033 — an explanation of what it supposedly meant to the House of Bishops.
[blockquote]The General Convention speaks for the Episcopal Church and we bishops understand that resolution as providing an assurance to the wider communion that meets the requests of the Primates’ Communique from the Primates’ meeting in Tanzania. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church has never authorized the blessing of intimate unions between same sex partners. While the Episcopal Church has, for some forty years, explored the most faithful way of ministering to and with gay and lesbian people who are part of our common life, as a liturgical church, our official actions are expressed in our liturgies and no rite of blessing has ever been adopted by the General Convention.[/blockquote]
Bishop Henry N. Parsley (Alabama): Mind of the House Resolution
This one is a bit more detailed, it tries to discuss all the issues: Polity, B033, authorization of SSBs, DEPO, etc. Here’s an excerpt:
We have listened prayerfully to your communiquÃ© from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania in February 2007 and offer our response.
We recognize that in the polity of the Episcopal Church we as the House of Bishops acting alone cannot legislate for this church or alter resolutions of the General Convention. In our role as chief pastors of the Episcopal Church we believe that, consistent with the report presented to you by the Communion Sub-Group of the Anglican Communion Joint Standing Committee, our General Convention Resolution B-033 (On the Election of Bishops) is in accord with the requests of the Windsor Report and meets your concerns. The Sub-Group found that this resolution “complies with the force of the Windsor Report” and that by adopting it “the majority of the bishops have committed themselves to the recommendations of the Windsor Report.” We agree.
Secondly, we remind you that our General Convention did not in 2006, nor has before, adopted resolutions authorizing the development of the public rites for the blessing of same sex unions. The Covenant Statement adopted by our House of Bishops in 2005 states that “we pledge not to authorize any public rites for the blessing of same sex unions, and we will not bless any such unions, at least until the General Convention of 2006”. The General Convention of 2006 took no action on this matter and the Covenant Statement continues to have moral force among us as bishops. We continue as well to heed the word of the Primates’ Meeting communiquÃ© from Dromantine assuring “homosexual persons that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship.” We recognize that in our diocese there will be differing pastoral responses to this affirmation.
Thirdly, we affirm once again our unequivocal commitment and care for all the dioceses, parishes, and members of the Episcopal Church, as evidenced in our Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight plan.
A Resolution Submitted by Bishop Dean E. Wolfe, Diocese of Kansas
Ok here’s the key section of this one:
As bishops laboring in a fractured age, we seek to find a place for everyone at Christ’s table. We believe room for respectful disagreement within our church is holy space and we value opportunities for ongoing conversation, prayer, and growth. While we acknowledge that we are not of one mind, we continue to strive to be of one heart. We are resolute in our belief that, “the mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”
We pledge ourselves to work more fervently for deeper unity in the Church and we commit ourselves to addressing the pastoral needs and concerns of everyone in our care. We are pleased to note a growing awareness and understanding of the polity of The Episcopal Church, both within the membership of our own church and with our Anglican partners in other Provinces, even as we gain a deeper awareness and understanding of the polity of other Provinces. We affirm our understanding that The General Convention, that wondrous gathering of lay and ordained person, is authoritative for our Province.
Mind Of The House Resolution Submitted By Bishop Pierre Whalon
Bishop Whalon’s resolution is the most detailed of all. Not merely a short statement but quite a comprehensive outline of what he thinks the bishops need to say. Here is his introduction and another short excerpt:
I propose that the document we release at the end of our meeting address the basic points below, some of which have to be filled out as the meeting unfolds. The first three seem to me to be obviously needed, The other points also seem necessary: some description of the actual state of The Episcopal church, to help people around the world hear what is actually happening among us: addressing the issue of authority in the Communion, particularly relating to the ACC; affirming the essential unity of all the baptized, despite how we might feel about other people at times; and addressing the matters of the Primatial Vicar, B033, and rites of same-sex blessings.
I offer some language for these latter points, in parts quite strong. It isn’t in my usual style, but I think we cannot mince words. Some reiteration of basics of the faith seems necessary, since people around the globe will be reading what we have to say. […]
IV. Before we turn to our comment on the Primates CommuniquÃ©, we must set the record straight about the actual state of The Episcopal Church. E.g.,
Number of parishes is 7,115; numbers of parishes seeking to leave TEC is around 160, or about 2.2%. This is a major tragedy, but not the massive movement that some would claim.
While the Windsor Report commended our plan of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (Â§152), we have seen an organized strategy of congregations refusing any and all provision of alternative oversight and then claiming that they are being persecuted. When parishes have been willing to engage in the process, DEPO has worked effectively. We noted with frustration that DEPO, offered at great cost, did not receive any recognition in the Primates CommuniquÃ©.
It should be noted that parishes and dioceses in The Episcopal Church do not exist apart from it. We respect that some people feel bound by conscience to leave the Church and go elsewhere, though such partings of friends have been extremely painful to live through. Some parishes have challenged their dioceses in the secular courts for retention of properties that do not belong to them. These properties are most often the result of the hard work of generations of faithful Episcopalians, and the lawsuits have resulted in serious wasteful diversion of funds that should be consecrated for the mission of God to pay for secular legal representation. While we are listening to the leaders of a few dioceses who say they must leave, and would dread that eventuality, it is clear that they would leave as people, not dioceses. As Bishops of this Church. We implore those who feel they need to leave to reconsider.
Bishop M. Thomas Shaw of Massachusetts said that he told Williams that gay rights issues should not depend on approval from the majority of the Anglican Communion, but urged Williams to recognize that gay rights supporters, such as Shaw, believe they are acting in a prophetic way.
“There are certain times in history when you simply have to act – the majority isn’t going to do it,” Shaw said in an interview. “Speaking truth isn’t just liberal thinking, but it’s something that has a deep place in biblical literature, in the life of Jesus and the prophets.”
Shaw said he also told Williams that it is difficult to seek consensus in the American church “when these American bishops are going to Africa and making promises and playing on the fears of the African church.”
Shaw was referring to the fact that Anglican leaders in Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda have consecrated American priests, including the Rev. William Murdoch of Massachusetts, as bishops to minister to the alienated conservative minority in the United States who no longer feel comfortable in the Episcopal Church.
The Anglican Communion has been facing the possibility of schism since 2003, when the Episcopal Church approved as the bishop of New Hampshire the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, who is openly gay and lives with his longtime partner. The approval, which conservatives said violated the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality, exacerbated long-developing tensions over the liberal direction of the Episcopal Church.
The bishops in attendance are so divided that they are not all staying in the same hotel. The official meeting hotel is the InterContinental, but Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, the leader of the wing of the church most upset by the Robinson consecration, is staying down the block at the Parc St. Charles with a handful of other conservatives.
Q: Some people feel there’s been too much time spent already. Conservatives, people aligning with churches in Africa say it’s taken too long and they are leaving. Others say the rest of the world is pushing the U.S. Church around and they are tired of that. How many people feel caught in the middle?
A: I don’t know how many people are feeling in the middle. I can tell you that I think we need to look at our codependent reactivity. Just because we’re tired doesn’t mean that we give up doing the right thing, or because somebody else is pressuring us that we stop doing the right thing. Nor do I think that necessarily we are compromised by taking a mature look at the situation that confronts us.
Q: Is it still possible to hold everything together?
A: It is absolutely still possible to hold everything together. I take great comfort in the high priestly prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ in Saint John’s Gospel — that we all may be one as he and the father are one. I think that it’s going to take a bit of creativity, out-of-the-box thinking, and the question is not how little can we do, or simply what can we not do because of our polity of the American church and the canons of the American church, but how much are we willing to do?
Q: What is your reaction to the consecration of some Americans as bishops of churches in Africa?
A: Well, the consecration of those bishops would be more helpful if they were going to work in those countries. It’s exceedingly unhelpful to have them consecrated to work here in the United States.
Q: Why is it unhelpful?
A: Because it generates confusion among the faithful, people who do not understand that the Episcopal Church consecrates its own bishops. We elect our own bishops, we do not appoint them, and they are elected and consecrated for work in a particular diocese by the members of that diocese.
Q: Is reconciliation possible?
A: Reconciliation is always possible. Christians live in that eternal hope of complete reconciliation. Signs of reconciliation within this church are, I think, abundant. When people really do sit down and have honest conversation with each other in a way that does not immediately leap to judgment, we begin to make some progress in understanding each other’s beliefs and circumstances.
Q: How important a moment is this for the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion?
A: Well, from the perspective of the Episcopal Church it’s a very important time in our life to be very clear about who we are, you know, where we’ve been, and where we’re going to be going as a collective church. For the larger Communion, I think it’s a time to really reclaim what I think is the great activity and work of the church globally, and that is to say we have far more important things to do than to fight over these issues of human sexuality that we cannot resolve at this time and be engaged in the mission of the church, given the situation that is very much a part of the definition of the Global South.
Q: The bishops are going to be asked again to respond to the communiquÃ© that was issued in Tanzania. What is your sense about where the bishops are heading on that?
A: We received that communiquÃ© with a great deal of respect, but the House of Bishops has already spoken, and the other thing that primates need to understand, and I think other people even in our own church need to understand, is that the bishops, really, we can create “mind of the house” resolutions. We cannot change the direction or, in fact, speak to that kind of question as a defining moment in the life of our journey as Episcopalians. That’s up to the Executive Council, and so both the House of Bishops and the Executive Council have made it very clear that the scheme offered by the primates in Dar es Salaam was a scheme that we could not incorporate or accept.
Q: Remind people how the Anglican Communion works. The rest of the world cannot tell the U.S. church what to do, can it? The U.S. church is autonomous.
A: I don’t think autonomy is the right word. We’re a collection of very, very different provinces that in a sense are self-governed but in fact are connected to each other by the office and position of the Archbishop of Canterbury. We’re in communion with one another through our communion with the archbishop. And so even the discussions that have ranged for years about people not being in communion with the Episcopal Church — it’s really inaccurate. You are in communion with us unless the Archbishop of Canterbury says you are not. So I think the issue here in terms of where we are right now is that our church is very much a post-colonial church. It’s a bicameral legislative church, and a lot of folks don’t understand that in terms of the balance of powers, the check and balances systems that are retained within it.
Q: When you look at the overall scene, how key is the current moment for the future of the worldwide Anglican Communion?
A: It’s a very crucial time. The decision upcoming of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church will put the Episcopal Church really on record in its response to the Communion and the Windsor Report, though it’s already made its will very clear from the meeting of the House of Bishops last March and the meeting of the Executive Council in June. But nevertheless it will say very clearly to the world where the church stands in not turning back and continuing on the course that the Episcopal Church has in fact been on for many years. But just as importantly and in many ways much more significantly in terms of the positive movement of the church and the realignment is the Common Cause Council bishops’ meeting at the very end of September, an unprecedented bringing together of biblically faithful and orthodox Anglicans of a number of different jurisdictions going back to those who separated from the Episcopal Church with the Reformed Episcopal Church in the 1870s. There’s been a tendency in some groups to break free from the Episcopal Church and then in turn separate and splinter. This is a historic and unprecedented uniting, a reversal of that pattern of smaller and smaller groups, but rather bringing groups of a number of Global South jurisdictions as well as others to form a biblical, united, missionary Anglicanism here in the U.S.
Q: Is that what is happening? I’ve heard people call this the Anglican Union.
A: I think the participation of the Global South and others in the consecrations in Nairobi and in Uganda demonstrate that very clearly. My understanding is that primates representing probably 75 or 80 percent of the worshipping Anglicans in the world were represented by their archbishop at the consecrations in Nairobi. And, clearly, while there weren’t as many representatives present in Uganda, that same level of support was there.
Q: What message is that sending to the U.S. Episcopal Church and also to others watching the Anglican Communion?
A: I think there’s vibrancy in biblical Anglicanism that we see in so much of the Global South that is tremendously attractive. Our experience here in America is that this kind of passionate faith and unapologetic proclamation of Jesus Christ is magnetic for people. There are many who are drawn to it, and I think it’s sending a very positive message far and above any political message within the church. It sends a missionary message that we want to be about the positive proclamation of Jesus Christ.
Q: Others are still saying “we still can find some kind of common ground, we can still find a solution; people need to try to find paths toward unity.” Is that still possible, and is it still something to work toward?
A: I said at my consecration in Uganda that the only real unity is unity around the person of Jesus Christ. If what’s being sought is some kind of artificial, fabricated institutional unity to paper over foundational differences over who Jesus is and what he has done and what his work on the cross means for us, then I don’t think there’s any future in that. If we can come together around the person of Jesus and his unique and saving work on the cross, then all things are possible, but it has to be a true unity based on biblical faith and the uncompromising gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
We have just finished the daytime activities of the first day of the House of Bishops meeting. There is an impressive turnout at this meeting, including in particular, a high number of retired bishops.
At a celebratory dinner last night for bishops and spouses, we had the opportunity to get reacquainted with each other.
Bishops from most of the dioceses and bishops of differing points of view are represented and different opinions have been heard. We are joined by member of the Joint Standing Committee (JSC) of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) and the Primates Meeting. JSC is an elected body of representatives of both the ACC and the Primates Meeting representative of all orders of ministry including women and men, lay people, priests, bishops and archbishops from all regions of the Anglican Communion who meet annually to facilitate the business of the Anglican Communion. They were warmly welcomed as was the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Rowan Williams.
All of us celebrated Eucharist this morning which continued the high spirit of celebration from last night’s dinner and with an added sense of hopefulness when we sung: There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit in This Place.
In her homily, the Presiding Bishop spoke from 1 Timothy 4:12-16 “’Pay close attention to your teaching, and continue in these things if you would save yourselves and your hearers.’”
“Self-awareness is at the root of what we do when we gather, and it is vital to the ministry of oversight. And it is in regard to self-awareness that the gospel seems most apt. Those who are forgiven much, love much”¦
“I have been much aware in this season of the power of language, particularly judgmental language, to wound and remove hope for reconciliation. I have spoken to a variety of groups using the example of Don Imus, who pronounced a judgment on the Rutgers women’s basketball team earlier this year. It was the kind of judgment that said, ”˜you are not my equal, you are not worthy of the dignity I accord those who are like me.’
“Interestingly enough, the basketball players were able to respond with an invitation to conversation ”“ a response that did not involve immediate judgment, but said, ”˜we’d like to get to know you, to find out what prompts the position you hold.’ When you and I can meet our rhetorical opponents, or anyone we are wont to judge as ”˜other,’ with an invitation rather than a judgment, remarkable things can happen. When we are willing to be vulnerable enough to spend time, to turn about with, to hang out with another, which is what conversation actually means, we not only begin to have conversation, but conversion also first becomes possible”¦.”
“May we all pay attention to ourselves, bite our nimble tongues, and suspend judgment. Think how our conversation might be different if we began by recognizing the beloved before us. Like the monastics among us, may we bow when we meet the image of God in our midst. That very bowing might even lead us into a bit of subversion and overturning. May that physical act of setting our egos aside help us to recognize the fount of blessedness enfleshed all around us, and offer peace. May we be peace for all who gather here, and all who await the fruits of our conversation. May we all pay close attention to ourselves, and continue in these things if we would save ourselves and our hearers.
Following the Eucharist, how we then came together around the table says as much about the Episcopal Church as the words spoken in the day long meeting. We engaged in a three hour discussion in the presence of the archbishop where bishops shared their concerns and hopes for the Anglican Communion and our shared faithfulness to God’s mission. We had the opportunity to describe to the JSC and the archbishop where we are as a church and to describe the health and vitality and mission work we do mindful that there are deep theology divisions but committed to moving forward in common mission.
In the afternoon session, the archbishop offered us questions and framed them in a twenty minute talk which challenged us theologically and scripturally about what it is to be a bishop and how we go about doing common discernment in the Anglican Communion. We then had 40 minutes to discuss the questions in small groups and in a plenary session, where we responded to the archbishop’s observations and as in the morning session, comments were both frank and honest.
In addition to my emails, you may also check Episcopal Life online for other reporting on the meeting http://www.ecusa.anglican.org.
Yours in Christ,
–(The Rt. Tev.) Tom Shaw is Bishop of Massachusetts
I rejoice to say we talked for about twenty minutes on the phone in the last week. He was ready to cross over, and I rejoice that the trumpet sounds for him on the other side–KSH.
UPDATE: Mary’s blog entry includes 3 “quick capture” videos of Rowan Williams’ homily. MUST WATCHING!
[and no, he doesn’t address the TEC crisis, but this elf at least still found it *really* helpful to watch and listen to him and his reflections on what we owe one another, and what we owe Christ, and about the City of God. There’s a lot of metaphors there that tie into our life in the Anglican Communion at the moment.]
To avoid overcluttering the blog with lots of repetitive news stories and commentaries about today’s press conference, we’ve been posting quite a few links in the comment thread for the Anglican TV Press Comment post below.
Links cover the full range of opinion from Stand Firm to Integrity to Rachel Zoll of the AP to the IRD, etc.
Fr. Will Brown is one of the bloggers at Covenant, and he has a deep and thought-provoking blog entry posted simply titled “Ramsey and Unity.” The title might cause many to overlook the piece, but Fr. WB has some very interesting reflections on the current crisis, and questions for those of us on both / all sides of the current divide. Here’s the excerpt that most caught this elf’s eye:
[Note: The portion we’ve excerpted here in no way begins to do it justice (we’ve skipped over the meaty theological reflection and jumped to the conclusion, I confess… But the reflections on the meaning of the cross are particularly interesting given that ECUSA’s lectionary this week included 1 Cor 1:18: [b]18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.[/b]]
Anglicanism has become factious in the extreme, and one cannot help but wonder if the spirit of Christ-like gratuity, of self-effacement for the sake of the Body, has been quashed by a climate of hyper-self-consciousness. One wonders whether TEC might not be given pause by the non-recognition with which its “gifts” have been met by the one Body. One winces at the self-awareness of TEC’s rhetoric: “our church law”¦ our canons”¦ our autonomy”¦ our Constitution”¦ our founding principles”¦ our own liberation from colonialism”¦” etc. (cf. the TEC House of Bishops “Mind of the House” resolutions from March 2007). One would do well to ask whether TEC has not “succumbed to the peril of thinking of these gifts as possessions of their own and interpreting them in terms of human wisdom, knowledge, and individual ownership” (51) ”“ terms born of the spirit of Anti-Christ, as we have seen, inimical to the life of the Body.
Neither has TEC given an adequate theological account of how her innovative gifts bear witness to God in Christ. There has been much talk of “justice” and of the making-possible of our gay and lesbian brethren’s appropriation of what is theirs by right. But if the sexuality between persons of the same gender is to have a place within the one Body, it must be accounted for in terms of the given life of the one Body. It is not enough that it should be accounted for in terms of the autonomous life the Body’s members. We know something of the iconography and sacramentality of the gift of human sexuality. But the one Body has rooted human sexuality in the differentiation and complimentarity of the sexes, which our Lord himself placed under the rubric of creation and grace in one of his very few explicit teachings on the subject: “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ”˜For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”¦?” (Mat. 19.4). And as intimated by St. Paul in Ephesians 5, the Body has known the gift (the datum) of sexuality within the one Body as complimentarity within differentiation, as iconographic of the mutual self-gift that takes place between the different but complimentary natures of God and man in the one flesh of Jesus Christ, the theanthropos ”“ the consummation of which is constitutive of the Body’s life.
How might Anglicanism gesture “toward the question mark of Calvary at the center of its teaching” (4), even amid the difficulties and disagreements we face? Here are some far-fetched ideas:
1. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the liberals are right:
If, as TEC seems to be claiming, the gift of sexuality must be revised or elaborated, let this revision or elaboration take place within the context of the common life of the one Body, within the spirit of mutual recognition and self-gift which alone characterizes the love by which our Lord said we would be known (Jn. 13.35). Let TEC offer her gifts in patience and humility, knowing that love is patient, kind, and does not insist on its own way (1 Cor. 13.4-5) ”“ knowing that in autonomy she is nothing (1 Cor. 13.2). And if it is true that TEC’s interlocutors in the Communion at large are blinded and ignorant, as many within TEC have suggested, let TEC bear the burden of their brothers’ and sisters’ blindness and ignorance, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6.2). Let TEC bear it “with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4.2).
2. Assuming, for the sake or argument, that the conservatives are right:
For the conservatives’ part, let them listen in humility for the voice of the Spirit in their interlocutors, knowing that the Spirit’s groanings are too deep for words, even traditionalist words. Let them be willing to suffer at the hands of the litigious. Let them be eager to be defrauded to keep the scandal of factionalism away from the consciousness of the unbelieving world for whom the Lord suffered and died. Let the conservatives prefer to suffer injustice for the sake of the souls of their brethren; let them know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5.20).
Archbishop of Canterbury holds closed door meetings, visits 9th ward
By Bruce Nolan
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams spent seven and a half hours behind closed doors today talking with 150 Episcopal bishops and delegates from overseas Anglican churches about rising tensions over homosexuality that threaten to rupture the Anglican Communion.
He emerged from the Hotel InterContinental to be driven to the Lower Ninth Ward to see Episcopal hurricane relief efforts there, including a new church that will occupy a now-ruined drugstore a few steps from the home of New Orleans musician Fats Domino.
Williams blessed the grafitti-covered building and posed for pictures with curious bystanders. Diana Meyers, a worker with St. Anna’s medical mission, gave Williams a rough, foot-tall wooden cross she said was made of the debris of wrecked shrimp and oyster boats.
ENS has got a new article online, mostly a summary of this afternoon’s press conference:
Bishops meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in New Orleans on September 20 characterized their conversations with the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion as reflective of a “passionate commitment” to the future of that communion.
Bishop Robert O’Neill of Colorado told reporters after a nearly seven-hour session with Williams that the “best way to characterize our conversation is to say that collectively as a House of Bishops who exercise oversight for the common life and ministry of each of our dioceses, we take our responsibilities and our ministries very seriously. We’re passionate about the work that we all do both individually and collectively.
“That passion was reflected in our conversation today; it reflected a passionate commitment to the vitality of life and ministry of both the Episcopal Church and to the global Anglican Communion.”
I am travelling today, and will be able to say more about it later–it has to do with personal matters. In answer to incessant questions I am not in or going to New Orleans, but am following it very closely.
Please do us a favor and if your bishop provides any written communciation about their sense of things to his or her diocese email it on to us as it would be good to provide a variety of perspectives from that source if possible–KSH.
Episcopal Bishop John Howe is under no illusions about the potential tumult that lies ahead for his diocese and his denomination.
“I think a lot is going to happen in the next few months,” he said earlier this week by phone from Orlando.
Howe, bishop of the Diocese of Central Florida, which includes 12 parishes in Polk County, will join the Episcopal House of Bishops for six days of meetings beginning today in New Orleans. The bishops are facing the potential for schism as dissatisfied conservatives threaten to break away from the church over the role of gays.
But Howe, himself a conservative, is exercising caution and attempting to restrain as many as 20 of the 89 parishes in his diocese from bolting the denomination.
The international Anglican Communion has given the bishops until Sept. 30 to declare they will not consecrate any more noncelibate homosexuals as bishops, nor authorize the blessings of same-sex unions. Howe and most observers have said they do not expect the bishops will give the “unequivocal assurances” asked of them.
The American church’s General Convention in 2006 urged “restraint” in the election of bishops “whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church,” but gay priests have been candidates for bishop in at least two dioceses since then. And although the Episcopal Church has never officially authorized same-sex blessings, some bishops have allowed the ceremonies.