Daily Archives: October 2, 2007
Membership in the Episcopal Church dropped by 48,971 to 2,320,506 during 2006, according to preliminary statistics from the denomination’s research office. Overall membership dropped roughly 2.1 percent, from 2,369,477 in 2005.
Average Sunday attendance dropped 26,018 to 804,688 from 830,706 in 2005. If I’m doing the math right, that’s a 3.1 percent decline.
By comparison, membership in 2005 dropped 35,688 from 2004 levels. Attendance fell only 2,966 between 2004 and 2005.
CAUTION: These are preliminary statistics. The final statistics will likely be released later this month.
Inside the close-knit community, Amish and their neighbors said they have had to find a new normal. “They are getting help from each other. They are getting professional help,” said Herman Bontrager, a Mennonite businessman and spokesman. School was closed Monday so families could visit and take strength from one another. They sang hymns and, led by a police chaplain, prayed together. Afterward, they shared a meal of grilled chicken, potatoes and Whoopie pies.
“There’s no other place that we would rather be than with them,” Pennsylvania Police Commissioner Jeffrey Miller said as he left. “I wanted to share with them that they are never far from our thoughts.”
To many watching and reading news reports of the horror from across the world, how the Nickel Mines Amish responded to the tragedy was the greatest puzzlement. Within hours of the shooting, they reached out to Roberts’ family, offering condolences, hugs and support. In the days that followed, they continued to visit, bringing gifts and food. They invited Roberts’ widow to the girls’ funerals and attended his. They donated money to a fund set up for his family; as $4.3 million in donations poured in from across the world in support of the Nickel Mines Amish, they shared again.
Many are of course asking: Does the House of Bishops’ statement honor the primates’ specific requests? That isn’t completely clear. Cyberspace is already ablaze with radically different analyses of what the bishops said. My own assessment is that the House’s answer to the first question is a fairly unambiguous Yes, the answer to the second somewhat less so (particularly with the proviso concerning General Convention, and in the implication that some bishops do in fact authorize liturgies for same-sex unions). As a matter of full disclosure, I should say that I argued on the floor of the House for the removal of the implicit recognition (which, I fear, could be taken for approval) that some bishops authorize liturgies; but the consensus of the House moved in a different direction. Although I was not able to speak directly to the phrase “or until General Convention takes further action,” I would have preferred that those words had been removed as well: the matter of liturgies for the blessing of same-sex unions is one that should involve the whole Communion, and not just our own province.
In the end, however, I voted in favor of the bishops’ statement. It is not perfect; it could have been stronger and clearer, especially regarding the primates’ second request; yet it does, I think, move the church in a Communion-affirming direction, and demonstrate a willingness to discover more profoundly what it means to be interdependent members of a worldwide Christian family, linked together by our communion with the historic See of Canterbury. My colleagues across the theological spectrum showed remarkable charity toward one another as we crafted the statement phrase by phrase. The process was long, exhausting, and at times excruciating. While none of us can say that the statement contains everything that we would have wanted, I believe that it reflects many of my concerns, and I am able to support it with a good conscience and an open heart.
As Bishops from the African Anglican churches meet in Mauritius over the next few days we recognise that they have serious and pressing issues to address such as evangelism, poverty, disease and injustice. We pray that God would prosper their efforts to proclaim Christ in Africa and elsewhere, and to transform society for His glory.
We know that many of them are disturbed by the apparent fixation of some in the western churches with promoting homosexual practice and changing the church’s traditional teaching based on Scripture. Yet we hope and pray that out of concern for their brother and sister Anglicans around the world they will find time to do the following:
For over 50 years C.F.D. Moule, Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University from 1951 to 1976, held a pivotal place in the discipline of New Testament studies, retaining a position of critical orthodoxy in the midst of a maelstrom of contradictory voices.
Known to generations of students and friends as Charlie, he was small in stature and lean of frame and bore more than a faint resemblance to the Wind in the Willows Mole, with his ageless sharp features, small, round tortoiseshell-framed spectacles, the twinkle in his eye and head slightly leaning to one side.
The Lady Margaret’s Chair is the oldest of the Cambridge Divinity Chairs, being founded in 1502, and is traditionally filled by a New Testament scholar (its previous holders include Erasmus, J.B. Lightfoot and F.J.A. Hort). Moule brought to the Chair great distinction both by his scholarship and character, holding together in sharp focus profound learning with a deep sense of Christian vocation. With characteristic diffidence he wrote in his book The Holy Spirit (1978):
Words are feeble things ”“ never adequate for the job; yet priceless things ”“ seldom dispensable. They are dangerous things, for they are so fascinating that they tempt the user to linger with them and treat them as ends instead of means. But the Word became flesh; and a word that is not in some way implemented goes sour and becomes a liability instead of an asset.
In the company of scholars from a wide variety of backgrounds from the last century such as Vincent Taylor, T.W. Manson, C.H. Dodd, W.D. Davies, Matthew Black and Barnabas Lindars, Moule combined scrupulous attention to detail with common sense.
Read it all. He was not only a great scholar but a remarkably generous man. In 1993 I wrote and asked him if he would be willing to read a draft chapter of my doctoral dissertation at Oxford (the chapter was on John A.T. Robinson, one his colleagues at Cambridge about whom he was especially knowledgeable). He agreed. At that time in his late 80’s, within a week came a beautifully hand written three page response. It was incisive and helpful–KSH.
Dear Friends in Christ:
I returned home last night from the week-long House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans . I have much to say about that meeting, including a description of the inspiring Katrina recovery work our church is engaged in there, and further thanks to you for your contributions to it. But space (and time) only permit me to say so much in this particular medium. So, please consider this Part I of my report. (Part II will come next week.)
First of all, I want to say how grateful I am for your prayers. I was pleased, along with all the bishops, to receive a beautiful “Prayer Shawl” made for us as a pledge of prayerful support by National Episcopal Health Ministries. It was a wonderful gift, and it reminded me not just of their prayers, but of yours. I know that many of you were praying for us. I certainly felt it. I am grateful.
If you have not yet read the HOB statement entitled “A Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by our Anglican Communion Partners,” I hope that you will do so. I also ask that copies be made available in all our congregations. The text of the statement can be found on the Episcopal News Service website: http://episcopalchurch.org/79901_90457_ENG_HTM.htm
It must be said: watch out for the media reports on this matter. Even a very able reporter for our own Episcopal News Service attributed words to me which I did not speak. (I addressed the House about the problem of incursions into our dioceses from extra-provincial bishops, and my comments were largely incorporated into the final version of the Response; the subsequent article quoted me speaking on General Convention Resolution B033, about which I said not a word!) It was an honest error, but it serves as a reminder to be very careful in taking in and responding to what we read””being most especially careful (as the Windsor Report reminds us to be) with on-line communications.
The passage of the Response was nearly unanimous””there was only one dissenting voice. As expected, people are interpreting that statement in various ways, largely reflecting their various interests. I spoke with one of the more conservative bishops in the airport on the way home yesterday, and I think his assessment is basically correct: “The center held. The center has grown larger and stronger.” I agree, and. as a self-described radical moderate, I find that trend to be very gratifying.
The Archbishop of Canterbury himself told us (corroborating what we heard last March) that the Primates’ CommuniquÃ© was not an ultimatum, and that September 30 was not a deadline. Several members of the Joint Standing Committee who were with us indicated their support and appreciation. (Nevertheless, “Demands Rejected” read one newspaper headline”¦.) No matter what you may read, the HOB Response is not a defiant rejection, but a candid description of our differences, a good faith commitment to the Windsor process, and a very positive expression of desire to continue working in partnership with all members of the Anglican Communion for the sake of our common mission.
Archbishop Akinola is said to be unhappy with our Response. That is no surprise, since he has already established 4 bishops for counter-TEC work in this country. No one thought for a moment that they would stand down, even if we had given everything he says he wants from us. It is clear, then, that mere appeasement is not an option. Instead, protecting the integrity of The Episcopal Church, we are seeking to work with the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates, and the Archbishop of Canterbury to be fully active and faithful participants in the Anglican Communion. The Joint Standing Committee has already indicated preliminary appreciation of our Response. They will meet and report to the Archbishop of Canterbury, perhaps as early as today or tomorrow; soon thereafter, we should be hearing some additional word from him.
Not all members of the House were happy with all aspects of the final Response, me included. But everyone present was listened to and valued. Everyone agreed to give something for the sake of our unity. Worship was central to our work, the serious work of building true community, and of being attentive to the guidance of the Spirit. We know that we cannot have common discernment if we do not have common prayer.
I remain committed to the Windsor Process as the best way forward for us. I remain committed to the full inclusion of all baptized Christians in the full life of the Church. These things you have heard from me before. I am pleased to report that there was ample room for me at the House of Bishops table. I am also pleased to tell you that the quality of leadership I am seeing in my fellow bishops and our Presiding Bishop is inspiring. I have great confidence in The Episcopal Church, and in the Diocese of Northern California.
Grace and peace to you all.
–(The Rt. Rev.) Barry Beisner is Bishop of Northern California
I will not vote for any candidate running on 9/11. We don’t need another president of 9/11. We need a president for 9/12. I will only vote for the 9/12 candidate.
What does that mean? This: 9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 ”” mine included ”” has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again.
It is not that I thought we had new enemies that day and now I don’t. Yes, in the wake of 9/11, we need new precautions, new barriers. But we also need our old habits and sense of openness. For me, the candidate of 9/12 is the one who will not only understand who our enemies are, but who we are.
Before 9/11, the world thought America’s slogan was: “Where anything is possible for anybody.” But that is not our global brand anymore. Our government has been exporting fear, not hope: “Give me your tired, your poor and your fingerprints.”
Giles Fraser argues that the American Anglican bishops have sacrificed justice to expediency and unity with bigots when they agreed, at the pleading of the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, to approve no further elections of openly gay bishops and not officially to sanction the blessing of gay relationships. But things may well be worse than he thinks. They haven’t really sacrificed anything except the truth about what they believe and intend.
The one thing we know about all these agreements is that they are signed with fingers crossed. The American bishops who signed a paper saying they will take account of the wishes of the rest of the Communion don’t actually believe for a moment they were wrong about homosexuals, or that the wider church is right. They just believe that they have seen an opportunity to outmanoeuvre their opponents.
We believe that the response from the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church to the three central questions asked by the Primates’ Meeting in Dar es Salaam has been ”˜yes, no, and no’:
”¢ Yes to the withholding of consent to the consecration to the episcopate of people living in same-sex unions
”¢ No to the cessation of the practice of some bishops covertly allowing the blessings of same-sex unions, even though a public rite has not been authorised
”¢ No to the proposed Pastoral Scheme and Pastoral Council, even though a scheme of Episcopal Visitors is still being clarified
Furthermore, we believe that there is a series of further ”˜no’s to the other concerns that Primates wanted them to address, in particular a complete silence on the Covenant process.
This follows from our careful analysis of the House of Bishops statement and a detailed comparison of it with the requests made by the Primates’ Meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
We conclude that the Archbishop of Canterbury should:
”¢ underline the sections in his invitation to the Lambeth Conference concerning the importance of the Windsor Report and the Covenant process
”¢ disinvite the bishops of the Episcopal Church who are not willing to work with these tools
”¢ work forwards from here with the ”˜Windsor Bishops’ of the Episcopal Church, who have done their best to hold the high middle ground, to provide acceptable pastoral oversight for conservative parishes and dioceses
”¢ urge again the cessation of litigation on all sides
Read it all. Although this is certainly better than Graham Kings’ initial response, I do not think this correctly interpets the document, I am sorry to say. Of the three major requests the bishops said, yes, sort of, but on our terms, and with the expansive language used against Mark Lawrence by some kept in, not the precise language of windsor, then they said no and on to 2 and three.
They also did and said nothing about the lawsuits
They insist on two things that they said were necessary in precise and clear terms
AND (in my mind worst of all)
They pretended the two nos were yeses, and misrepresented the degree to which their first yes was qualified.
By any fair evaluation, this is ANYTHING BUT responding fully and adequately to what was requested of them. Yes, they tried hard. Yes they worked together more than in the past. But this was a last ditch effort to seek to enable healing in a very deep wound, and, alas, it is nowhere near enough–KSH.
The leader of Episcopalians in Vermont stands by his church’s progressive treament of gay and lesbian couples in Vermont, despite opposition from conservatives in his denomination and an ambiguous national policy on the blessing of same-sex unions.
Thomas C. Ely, the Episcopal bishop of Vermont, played an active role in the recent meeting of the Episcopal House of Bishops that answered a communiquÃ© by the Anglican Communion objecting to policies regarding gays and lesbians in the American church.
“Our church, the Episcopal Church, has continually spoken out and been an advocate for the civil rights of gay and lesbian persons in our culture, and certainly here in Vermont that’s key to our mission and ministry,” Ely said Sunday, during an interview at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Bennington, where he took part in the Cornerstone Centennial Celebration.
The Episcopal Church in the U.S. is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, a fellowship of churches that trace their roots back to the Church of England. Over the past several decades, homosexuality has become a divisive issue, particularly with the election in 2003 of…[Gene] Robinson, a gay man in a relationship, to become bishop of New Hampshire. In addition, some Episcopal dioceses ”” including the Diocese of Vermont ”” permit the blessing of same-sex couples as a pastoral decision by clergy.
Leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth have recommended that it leave the more liberal Episcopal Church, the Anglican body of the United States.
The Episcopal Church faces considerable internal division, including revolt by some dioceses and parishes, over allowing an openly gay bishop and not forbidding the blessing of same-sex unions.
The Fort Worth diocese’s standing committee ”“ a key panel of clergy and lay leaders ”“ proposed Monday that the diocese withdraw from the Episcopal Church and affiliate with another province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
In announcing the recommendation, the Rev. Ryan S. Reed, president of the committee, described Fort Worth as a “traditional, conservative diocese” that has long found itself at odds with the leadership of the Episcopal Church.
The proposal to withdraw would have to be approved at the diocese’s annual convention Nov. 16-17. And because the move involves changing the diocese’s constitution, a second vote would be required at next year’s annual convention.
[i]Posted today on the Diocese of Fort Worth website[/i] [hat tip to Randall Foster at TexAnglican who had it posted before we’d even gotten this by e-mail.]
Today the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth announced its decision to sponsor five proposed amendments to the Diocesan Constitution and Canons for consideration at the diocese’s 25th Annual Convention on November 16 and 17, 2007. [PDF document below]
If adopted, the Diocese would take the first step needed to dissociate itself from the General Convention of The Episcopal Church and to begin the process of affiliating with another Province of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Since constitutional changes do not go into effect until they are approved by two successive diocesan conventions, the second, ratifying vote would come at the annual meeting in 2008. Under the proposals, the Diocese would reaffirm its position as “a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, consisting of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces and regional churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.”
EXPLANATION from the Very Rev. Ryan S. Reed, President, on behalf of the Standing Committee
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has always been a traditional, conservative diocese, adhering to the beliefs and practices of the historic catholic faith. This means it has often found itself in conflict with decisions of the General Convention, which has continued a series of innovations in liturgy, theology, and the sacraments. For 25 years, the diocese has attempted to differentiate itself from the actions of the General Convention and its ongoing effort to revise and redefine the historic teaching of the Church on faith and morals, as revealed in Holy Scripture.
To submit to and comply with the current direction of the General Convention would mean for us to embrace a distortion of the Christian faith that our forebears would not recognize as a continuation of “the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship.” It would mean driving an even deeper wedge between us and the rest of the Anglican Communion, as well as other Christian bodies, who do not condone recent actions of the General Convention, but rather view them as schismatic and sectarian. We cannot act against our conscience and in violation of the faith once delivered to the saints.
A PDF document with the proposed changes to the Constitution & Canons is here.
What gives you hope for the future in this church?
That what was true for the apostles is true for us. The Holy Spirit is guiding us. My episcopal motto is “Nothing is Impossible with God.” That continues to be true. That doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. We have many challenges that we have to face. One of those challenges is how do we best use our resources to grow the church of Pittsburgh? It means we are going to have to look at things differently. We must also be very serious about the very distinct roles in the church for the ordained and the lay people. We have to continue to look for appropriate ways that we can work together and not always look to just the models of the past.
I have so much trust in the movement of the Spirit already in Pittsburgh. I don’t have any intentions of turning back on initiatives that are already here. Initiatives are in place and won’t be stopped. They are the work of the church and we need to move ahead with them.
There was a great deal of superb leadership under Archbishop Wuerl. Bishop Bradley has done a splendid job, too. I’ve said to Bishop Bradley how grateful I am that we have a partnership and that we will be working together.
In many ways we have to think outside the box and look for the ways in which the Holy Spirit is calling us to be church. One of the important roles that I have as shepherd of this church is to listen carefully and make decisions based on prayer and on what I’ve heard. We always must be in union with the universal church. We must always walk together toward the kingdom of God.
Yesterday I returned from the House of Bishops meeting. It was a week that showed us the challenges that lie ahead and the hope that we Christians hold on to tenaciously, especially as our meeting was in New Orleans, a city that still shows very clearly the scars of Hurricane Katrina.
The work that the Episcopal Church continues to do in Louisiana and Mississippi in the aftermath of the hurricane should make you proud. Other churches were present in the days immediately following the storm, but the Episcopal Church continues its hard work two years later. Our people are still building houses, counseling the broken hearted, and establishing vital services for residents whose world has been turned upside down.
On Thursday evening, we gathered for worship and to receive an offering for our ongoing work in the two states devastated by Katrina. The presiding bishop asked each diocese to bring $10,000. We in Arkansas met the challenge from our emergency fund. When gifts from across the church were gathered, the total was almost $1 million.
Saturday the bishops and spouses fanned out across the city for a work day. Some people hung drywall, some painted, and some (including your bishop) planted community gardens to bring tangible signs of life to neighborhoods that so desperately need it. I was greatly moved when I stood both in a house’s front lawn and later in a church, and saw there, higher than my head, the still-remaining marks of flood waters. But the people of New Orleans are resilient. Hope is replacing despair.
I am also reminded that hope can replace despair when I reflect on the work in New Orleans of the House of Bishops as we responded to the spring primates’ communiquÃ© regarding issues surrounding human sexuality. The house listened to the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Anglican Consultative Council, and they in turn listened to our witness to the larger church of the American experience. There is a huge love for the Anglican Communion among Episcopal bishops. Together we can do much to better the world. There is a profound respect for the fact that in the Episcopal Church all orders of ministry-lay and ordained-bear witness to the truth.
Our final statement reflected both our love and our witness in many ways. We stated that we will find ways that dioceses whose people feel disaffected in the Episcopal Church can feel included in our life. The witnesses of such dioceses are important. We stated that our love for the Communion is such that we will continue the policy enacted at the most recent General Convention of urging restraint in the election of bishops whose manner of life gives cause for concern. We stated that the witness of the church must be that the dignity of gay and lesbian persons is an unequivocal commitment. We stated that we will wait to discern the will of General Convention regarding authorized rites for the blessing of same sex unions, and in the meantime we will allow for a breadth of response to situations of individual pastoral care, as the primates themselves encouraged us in 2003.
We expressed our opposition to the crossing of jurisdictional boundaries by uninvited bishops. Such behavior fosters competing prayer, rather than the common prayer that has been historically foundational to the Anglican experience.
In November at clergy conference, I will talk with the members of the clergy about the work of the House of Bishops this past week. But I share with all of you now that our work in Arkansas continues as always: to find exciting ways to tell our ancient story to the next generation of people whose lives can be changed by the gospel. If we keep our focus on that work, there is nothing we cannot do.
–(The Rt. Rev.) Larry R. Benfield is Bishop of Arkansas