Daily Archives: October 7, 2007
The U.S. Episcopal Church has been estranged from parts of the global Anglican church since a church in New Hampshire consecrated a gay bishop. The controversy has abated somewhat, but many in the church now worry about another potential divide. Depending on your point of view, African bishops are either stealing American worshippers ”” or rescuing them.
Just as Western missionaries spread the Christian message to Africa, African and other Anglican leaders are staking claims in the United States.
In the past two years, there’s been a flurry of reverse colonization as archbishops from Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Bolivia and Singapore have taken conservative Episcopal churches under their wings.
Listen to it all. Two factual goofs to note. Jim Naughton works for the (Episcopal) Diocese of Washington, not the archdiocese. And, the second largest denomination in the world is the Orthodox Church; Anglicanism is often ranked third–KSH.
What place do spiritual values have in shaping and defining the policy of the country? It’s a question that would certainly not be asked at a UK party conference. Other than an occasional grace said before meals, our institutions pay little heed to the religious lives of their people.
As a secular country, we rarely regard the pronouncements of the established church as applying to us. The monastic orders are in sharp decline, and their empty old buildings are being put to other uses. So it is odd to read of a place where empty monasteries bear eloquent witness to political crisis.
Burma’s monasteries have been emptied by a military dictatorship that fears their influence. Only 10 days ago, they were right to do so. The sight of tens of thousands of saffron-robed, shaven-headed monks was curiously awesome. They streamed through the streets of Rangoon, for all the world like the terracotta army come alive. People began to speak of the saffron revolution. Their demeanour told us much about modesty, obedience and shared values.
But what exactly did the Buddhist people of Burma expect to happen? They may have hoped to infiltrate some spiritual unease among individuals in the junta. It’s said these men are strongly superstitutious, believing in astrology and the influence of magical numbers. Apparently monks can exercise a sort of excommunication that can damage their karma, ruin their afterlife.
The Reformed Episcopal Diocese of the Southeast is about to consecrate a new bishop.
It recently elected the Very Rev. Alphonza Gadsden of St. Stephen, and his consecration is tentatively set for 2 p.m. Nov. 17 in Redeemer Reformed Episcopal Church in Pineville.
Invitations will go out as soon as a few remaining standing committees officially endorse the election, said the Rev. Canon J. Ronald Moock. The invitation list will include the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, he said.
The Reformed Episcopal Diocese was formed in the 1800s when the Episcopal Church would not ordain black clergy. The local Reformed Episcopal diocese and the local Episcopal diocese officially bridged the old racial divide with a joint Communion service in 2003, the same year the national Episcopal Church consented to the consecration of an openly gay bishop. Both diocese issued statements opposing the Episcopal Church’s action.
The Reformed Episcopal Church is aligned with the Common Cause Partnership, a network of Anglican churches that view the Episcopal Church as out of fellowship with the majority of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is a partner through the Anglican Communion Network.
There is much talk at present in the Anglican communion of a new covenant to bind us together. This is seen as a solution to our problems, to our disagreements about homosexuality. Some argue that we just need to agree to certain new “essentials”. But many of us hesitate to embrace such a covenant because we already have a covenant: our baptismal covenant. That is how we are joined together and it is based on the long-established “essentials”: the historic creeds. From the very earliest days of Christianity, baptism marked that moment when men and women assented to the Christian essentials – one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and came into relationship with those who shared this belief in the creator God, the risen Christ and the Spirit who sustains us daily. Baptism is therefore the foundation of our identity as Christians. With Paul’s words to the Galatians in our memories, we hesitate to assent to a covenant in which there will be a new distinction between lay and ordained by handing over decision-making power to the Anglican primates. Having made our assent to the historic creeds, we hesitate to create new “essentials” about an issue – homosexuality – that may be purely of this moment.
Let me suggest another response to the Anglican crisis. All we really have to do in the midst of this crazy church dispute is be awake to our relationship with a loving God.
Christian teachings have long stressed the importance of forgiveness, but a conflict last year between a former parishioner and a priest at a Catholic church in Crystal Lake has ended in court instead of a confessional.
The dispute seems to have started in September 2006, when Angel Llavano, a former parishioner at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, left a voice mail message for Rev. Luis Alfredo Rios, an associate pastor, criticizing one of his homilies.
“I attended mass on Sunday and I have seen poor homilies, but yesterday broke all records,” Llavona said, according to a defamation lawsuit that Llavona filed Monday in McHenry County Circuit Court.
Rios responded by playing a recording of Llavona’s phone messages during a mass, then criticized him in front of the congregation, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit alleges that Rios told the congregation, “What should we do? Should we send him to hell or to another parish?”
Although priests and parishioners have tussled throughout the history of the Roman Catholic Church, a legal case involving accusations made from the pulpit is highly unusual, said Allen Shoenberger, a law professor at Loyola University in Chicago.
“I’ve never heard of this happening,” Shoenberger said.
First the percussive sounds of sniper fire and the thrill of the kill. Then the gospel of peace.
Across the country, hundreds of ministers and pastors desperate to reach young congregants have drawn concern and criticism through their use of an unusual recruiting tool: the immersive and violent video game Halo.
The latest iteration of the immensely popular space epic, Halo 3, was released nearly two weeks ago by Microsoft and has already passed $300 million in sales.
Those buying it must be 17 years old, given it is rated M for mature audiences. But that has not prevented leaders at churches and youth centers across Protestant denominations, including evangelical churches that have cautioned against violent entertainment, from holding heavily attended Halo nights and stocking their centers with multiple game consoles so dozens of teenagers can flock around big-screen televisions and shoot it out.
The alliance of popular culture and evangelism is challenging churches much as bingo games did in the 1960s. And the question fits into a rich debate about how far churches should go to reach young people.
Far from being defensive, church leaders who support Halo ”” despite its “thou shalt kill” credo ”” celebrate it as a modern and sometimes singularly effective tool. It is crucial, they say, to reach the elusive audience of boys and young men.
Research has shown that Americans are bad at assessing their performance and skills. Apparently, part of our national character ”” optimism ”” keeps us from interpreting feedback accurately. And our overconfidence results in errors that are sometimes critical.
Two 9/26/07 headlines:
“US Anglicans Reject Gay Bishops” [BBC news in London]
“Episcopal Bishops Reject Anglican Orders” [New York Times — orders here does not refer to ordination, but rather to the “order” to reject gay Bishops]
Two headlines from respected news organizations on the same statement but with an absolutely different understanding of what the HoB said. Pause for a moment in reverent, holy awe. After more than four centuries of work, behold the perfect manifestation of Anglican fudge. We shall not see this again in our lifetime.
The other interesting quote comes from Newsweek magazine: “a shift to the middle so slight and nuanced it’s almost imperceptible.”
–The Rev. Nathaniel Pierce lives in Trappe, Maryland
What was it I was hoping for above all in New Orleans? Clarity and not obfuscation. We got the latter and not the former, alas–KSH.
The discussions were honest and painful. I doubt whether any House of Bishops has been so directly challenged before, and some were offended and hurt.
In the end, the Presiding Bishop was able to tell the Joint Standing Committee that it had agreed that: first, it would not consent to consecrate any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life “presents a challenge to the wider Church”. It included non-celibate gay and lesbian persons in this. Second, the Bishops pledged not to authorise for use in their dioceses any public rites of blessing for same-sex unions.
The Joint Standing Committee agreed that the Episcopal Church had given the necessary assurances on these two issues. They saw that the Bishops had shifted ground considerably in passing these resolutions. The Committee consists of people of different views from provinces across the Communion: for it to come to this view speaks volumes of the real shift it believed the Bishops had made.
As for the pastoral care for dissenting minorities, the Presiding Bishop announced at the start of our meeting that she had appointed several bishops to minister to dioceses who found her ministry unacceptable (episcopal visitors). She felt that the theological stance of such bishops should be able to command the respect of the dissenting congregations. This was endorsed by the House of Bishops.
Read it all. It is remarkable that someone as bright as the Archbishop of Wales could be so mistaken. The Bishops shifted ground considerably?Barry Morgan apparently attended a different meeting than the Bishop of Southern Ohio who accurately noted: we have said nothing new. As for the proposed plan for pastoral care, it was devised without even consulting with the leadership of the movement it was designed to care for. This is the equivalent of General Motors managment announcing a new company policy on health care without consulting the workers.
Liberal clerics would work to win hearts and minds until victory was in sight, and then, by brave acts of civil disobedience, push the side over the top. As winners, they would be magnanimous: there would be hugs, healing, and reconciliation. A few benighted homophobes would, inevitably, skulk away, but they would soon die off. So the diplomacy, politicking, and negotiation continued, until the grand act of civil disobedience, the ordination of the Rt Revd Gene Robinson, which was to force the hand of the Church.
In their blind arrogance, imagining themselves intellectuals and moral heroes, liberal clerics overplayed their hand. They did not understand that they had no credibility and little power. By the end of the 20th century, educated upper-middle-class Americans, traditionally the Episcopal Church’s constituency, were as secular as their European counterparts, and the fastest-growing “religious group” in the US was the unchurched.
Few took priests seriously, and their campaign for gay rights made them look silly ”” fighting for the right of same-sex couples to have their relationships blessed, when few heterosexual couples regarded marriage as a matter of importance, and even fewer wanted church weddings.
Whatever happens regarding the status of the Episcopal Church within the Anglican Communion will have no impact on most Episcopalians, who have little interest in church affairs beyond their own parishes, and are not terribly concerned about the Church’s official views about sexuality or anything else.
Conservative Anglicans have condemned a statement by the bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC) last week, which they claim failed to clarify the US Church’s views on homosexuality, writes Timothy Lavin.
Primates of the Anglican Communion at a meeting in February demanded that the leaders of TEC, Anglicanism’s American wing, vow not to consecrate non-celibate gay bishops or approve an official blessing for gay unions. The American bishops, meeting in New Orleans last month to discuss the issue, said that they would continue to “exercise restraint” when naming bishops and would not approve a blessing for same-sex unions. But their statement fell far short of what many in the Anglican leadership had wanted.
“It was our expressed desire to provide one final opportunity for an unequivocal assurance from the Episcopal Church of their commitment to the mind and teaching of the Communion,” said Peter Akinola, the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria and a prominent conservative. “We also made clear that it is a time for clarity and a rejection of what hitherto has been an endless series of ambiguous and misleading statements. Sadly it seems that
our hopes were not well founded.”
The September 29th issue of the National Journal, an inside-the-Beltway magazine, contains a striking news item. Hillary Clinton has quietly signed a deal with the University of Illinois to house her presidential library. The university will put up $15m to help finance the construction and operation of the huge building on its Urbana-Champaign campus, close to where Hillary Rodham was born.
This was, of course, a joke””but it contains a serious point. The political establishment is betting heavily that Hillary Clinton will become America’s next president. And it has reason. Mrs Clinton is way out in front of the Democratic field. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll puts her 33 points ahead of Barack Obama and 40 points ahead of John Edwards. She raised $22m in the last quarter””more than Mr Obama at $19m and much more than Mr Edwards at $7m. The once-mighty Republican Party is a shadow of its former self, divided not only about who should lead it but also about where it should go. Intrade, a pay-to-play prediction market, shows a 36% chance of the Republicans holding the White House alongside a 12% chance of them taking the House and a 7% chance they might take the Senate.
Politicos invariably hedge all this around with qualifications. Howard Dean was well ahead of the Democratic field at this stage of the electoral cycle in 2004. Mr Obama might make a breakthrough in Iowa (where he is nipping Mrs Clinton’s heels) and gain enough momentum to win the nomination. Mrs Clinton might stumble and fall. The American electorate might balk at the idea of handing both the White House and Capitol Hill to a single party and go for a Republican president. All possible, of course; but all less likely by the day. Mrs Clinton is not only the front-runner. She is well on the way to becoming a prohibitive front-runner.
The Church of England has condemned as a “disgrace” the nomination for a Bafta for a violent shoot-to-kill computer game set in one of its cathedrals.
The Dean of Manchester, the Very Rev Rogers Govender, called for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts to withdraw the game, Resistance: Fall of Man, from the nominations.
The controversial game has been nominated for the Bafta sponsor’s PC World Gamers’ Award – the only publicly voted award in this year’s ceremony. Although the winner will not receive a mask but a special gamers’ award, that the game is in the nominations at all has still provoked outrage at Manchester Cathedral.
Gordon Brown has scrapped plans to hold an early general election, provoking Tory jibes that he has been forced into a “humiliating” retreat after a slump in the polls.
After studying private Labour opinion polls and focus group research, the prime minister concluded it was too risky to go to the country this autumn ”“ and indicated last night a general election might be delayed until 2009. The decision comes as a Sunday Times poll this weekend shows the Tories have swept into a three-point lead, having been more than 10 points behind only last weekend. It is the first time David Cameron’s party has been ahead since Brown took over as prime minister.
A separate poll for the News of World shows the Tory lead is even bigger in marginal seats, rising to six points ahead of Labour. Both surveys suggest there would be a hung parliament if the election were held now.
Craig Venter, the controversial DNA researcher involved in the race to decipher the human genetic code, has built a synthetic chromosome out of laboratory chemicals and is poised to announce the creation of the first new artificial life form on Earth.
The announcement, which is expected within weeks and could come as early as Monday at the annual meeting of his scientific institute in San Diego, California, will herald a giant leap forward in the development of designer genomes. It is certain to provoke heated debate about the ethics of creating new species and could unlock the door to new energy sources and techniques to combat global warming.
Mr Venter told the Guardian he thought this landmark would be “a very important philosophical step in the history of our species. We are going from reading our genetic code to the ability to write it. That gives us the hypothetical ability to do things never contemplated before”.
If the story of Joseph has been an inspiration to later generations, it is not because he was given a privileged insight into the future — but because he overcame repeated trials, persevering in faith and hope. His trust in God and his boldness in action are all the more inspiring, in fact, in view of his dreams — which might easily have led him either to despair of God in anger and bitterness, or to forsake his obligations in indolence and complacency.
And even in the fulfillment of his dreams there is no “happily ever after” for Joseph. One of the features of the story that gives it such enduring power is the fact that Joseph’s struggles continue to the end. His story is as much about adversity and family dysfunction as it is about success and family harmony (two of our own society’s idols). It’s about the growth of a brat into a statesman — and it is significant that the dreams were part of his youthful immaturity, not his mature adulthood. (There are no dreams at all in the whole second half of the narrative — not for Joseph, the cupbearer, the butler, nor Pharaoh….)
Where the musical offers a romantic myth, the Bible affirms something altogether more realistic. Life is seldom “happily ever after”, even for dreamers.
Read it all (subscription needed).
Does being more of a father make you less of a man? To a group of committed dads assembled one night in a New Jersey diner, the answer is obvious. Sort of. Paul Haley, 38, a father of two, says women look at him when he walks down the street with his kids. “I think it’s admiration,” he says. Adam Wolff, also 38–with two kids and one on the way–ponders what it means to be a man. “Is my man-ness about being the breadwinner or being a good father to my kids or something else?” Michael Gerber, 36, father of a 7-month-old, asks, “Do you mean, Do we feel whipped?”
“I’m probably a little whipped,” shrugs Lee Roberts, 45. He’s a part-time copy editor, married to a full-time journalist, who has stayed home for nine years to raise their two children. “There are definitely some guys who look at me and think, ‘What’s up with him?’ Do I care? Well, I guess I do a little because I just mentioned it,” he says. Haley speaks up to reassure him: “Kids remember, man. All that matters is that you’re there. Being there is being a man.”
But what does it mean, exactly, to be a man these days? Once upon a Darwinian time, a man was the one spearing the woolly mammoth. And it wasn’t so long ago that a man was that strong and silent fellow over there at the bar with the dry martini or a cold can of beer–a hardworking guy in a gray flannel suit or blue-collar work shirt. He sired children, yes, but he drew the line at diapering them. He didn’t know what to expect when his wife was expecting, he didn’t review bottle warmers on his daddy blog, and he most certainly didn’t participate in little-girl tea parties. Today’s dads plead guilty to all of the above–so what does that make them?
As we fuss and fight over the trials and dilemmas of American mothers, a quiet revolution is occurring in fatherhood.