Daily Archives: October 8, 2007

Pair adopts child as an act of faith

Their years together were forever changing, but their dream never changed.

For 12 years, it was constant, rooted, like many of the couple’s aspirations, in Scripture

with James 1:27: “Pure and undefiled religion before God is this: to care for orphans.”

At Cornerstone Church of Christ, where the Lawrenceville couple are members, it has become part of the mission.

In all, 21 couples at Cornerstone, a small congregation of 270 adults, have adopted 25 children. Some, like the Burkes, already had children of their own. That didn’t matter. Many of them adopted from China, the No. 1 source of foreign-born children adopted by Americans.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

Court weighs coach's role in team-led prayer

Does a high school football coach endorse religion when he takes a knee or bows his head during his team’s student-led prayer? Does it matter if the coach has a prior history of leading prayers himself or asking ministers to do so?
The bitter national debate over school prayer played out Wednesday in federal appeals court in a case brought by a New Jersey school district that fears a coach is crossing the line.

One of the three 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges hearing the case, Theodore A. McKee, voiced concern for non-believers or non-Christians on the East Brunswick High School football and cheerleading squads.

“Knowing the (coach’s) history, I’m not sure I’d want to say, ‘No, I don’t want to pray,’ ” McKee said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sports

From South Africa's Mail and Guardian: A unifying spirit

With the reputation of a quietly spoken priest dedicated to the upliftment of the marginalised, Thabo Makgoba, the newly elected Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, is expected to be as effective, but much less high-profile, than his predecessors.

He will assume the position when Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane retires at the end of this year — a position previously filled by the likes of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize-winner in 1984.

His legacy is set to be no less profound: in meeting the challenges of poverty, HIV/Aids and giving moral leadership within Southern Africa; or in debates in the global Anglican Communion over scripture interpretations relating to human sexuality and over a long-brewing power struggle between its traditional centre in the global North and the South, where the number of believers is much larger.

“He has been a wonderful gift to this diocese. He is a compassionate, thoughtful and very humble man — in the best sense of the word — who has always led by example, like encouraging all of us to go for public HIV tests. His mission is not to create a bunch of Christians but to empower people with their rights and responsibilities,” says Suzanne Peterson, vicar general of the Grahamstown diocese, which Makgoba will be leaving on January 1 to assume his new position.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Anglican Provinces

Vasectomy at 28: One man's decision

Like many men, Toby Byrum decided to have a vasectomy to end his reproductive years. Unlike most of them, Byrum had his at the age of 28 while he is still single and childless.

Two years later, the Web consultant from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has no regrets.

“I view the next 15-20 years of my life as some of the best years I’m going to live. I wanted to make sure those years were . . . going to make me ultimately the happiest person I could be,” he told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sexuality

Nica Lalli: Atheists don't speak with just one voice

The authors of these books have chosen titles that re-set the stage, with new scenery, new production and new lyrics. God is Not Great, The God Delusion, The End of Faith. These titles tell the reader right away that religion is being looked at from a different, far less reverential, view.

But there is more than one kind of atheist. And even in the pool of (mostly male) writers who are called “atheist fundamentalists,” there are many differences. Don’t confuse your Sam Harris with your Daniel Dennett, and although Victor Stenger or Richard Dawkins may mostly agree with Christopher Hitchens, there are many disparities as well.

I take a different approach altogether. Although I do not believe in God, I have no interest in telling anyone else what he should or should not believe. I am more interested in dialogue, and I hope that conversation will get us to respect and understanding. I cannot see dialogue happening with someone who tells you that your core beliefs are wrong, so I refrain from telling anyone what to believe.

It isn’t that I am not angry at some believers. These days, many atheists are angry. And we should be.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Telegraph: Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali May Not Go to Lambeth 2008

A senior Church of England conservative has intensified the storm over homosexuals in the clergy by warning he will boycott next summer’s Lambeth Conference if liberal American bishops are invited.

The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, said he would find it difficult to attend a Church council alongside those who consecrated or approved the appointment of Anglicanism’s first openly gay bishop.

His comments are fresh evidence of the divisions within the Church of England over the issues and will exacerbate the difficulties facing the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, in maintaining unity.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Lambeth 2008

The Bishop of Georgia: Christ Church dispute will go to court

A meeting meant for current members of Christ Church drew mostly former parishioners and other local Episcopalians to discuss the decision by leaders of the historic congregation to break away from the national Episcopal Church.

Bishop Henry I. Louttit led a 45-minute question-and-answer session Sunday after a special Mass at St. Paul the Apostle Episcopal Church at 34th and Abercorn streets.

About 150 lay people and priests attended. Many took turns offering words of support to the bishop and the Diocese of Georgia, as well as posing questions about who controls Christ Church’s downtown property.

The bishop assured the group that Christ Church belongs to the diocese and the national Episcopal Church. But taking control of the building, endowment and other assets will involve lawyers, he said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Georgia

More from Nathaniel Pierce on the House of Bishops Statement in New Orleans

The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in its 9/25/07 statement in response to concerns expressed by representatives of the Anglican Communion, clearly stated the following:

Agreed not to consent to the consecration of any bishop who would upset the harmony of the World Wide Anglican Communion. Agreed not to formally adopt rites for public blessings of same-sex unions. [Note: these statements are copied verbatim from a number of emails posted on the HoBD list for Bishops, Deputies, and Alternates). True or False?

Needless to say there is widespread disagreement on this question. The basic difficulty, I believe, is rooted in our inability to listen. The 1998 recommendation of the Lambeth Conference (that a “listening process” be initiated) presumed that most Anglicans had developed basic listening skills. This was and continues to be a seriously erroneous assumption. For proof one need look no further than the confusion over the meaning of the HoB 9/25/07 statement. So let us consider these two issues.

“We reconfirm that resolution B033 of General Convention 2006 calls upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees ‘to exercise restraint by not consenting …'” (and the 9/25/07 statement continues with the rest of B033).

Well, if it will help anybody who may be confused, I will join with our Bishops and reconfirm that B033 as passed by General Convention 2006 says what B033 passed by General Convention 2006 said it said.

Have I given you any assurance that I will honor this request? Have I told you that I support this decision of GC? Indeed, have I pledged “not to consent?” While I stand ready to be corrected by one whose listening skills are more developed than mine, in my opinion the House of Bishops made no such commitment in its 9/25/07 statement. It simply reconfirmed the text of B033.

Now to the second issue: did the HoB agree “not to formally adopt rites for public blessings of same-sex unions?” Well, here is what the Bishops actually said (see if you can spot the difference); “We pledge as a body not to authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.” Did you get it? One says “rites for public blessings” and the other says “public rites for the blessing …”. There is no end to the word games being played here.

But the key phrase in my view is “we pledge as a body …”. I don’t recall anyone worrying about the possibility that the HoB might act unilaterally on the issue of same-sex blessings. Indeed, our Bishops have maintained for years that only General Convention could authorize such rites and it has not acted. The real point here is that individual Bishops may (and will) continue to do as they please.

Compare the above with what our HoB stated in their “Covenant Statement” issued on March 15, 2005 in response to the Windsor Report:

“Those of us having jurisdiction pledge to withhold consent to the consecration of any person elected to the episcopate after the date hereof until the General Convention of 2006, and we encourage the dioceses of our church to delay episcopal elections accordingly. … [We also] 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.”

Whatever happened to the clear, unambiguous phrase “we pledge”? Two and one half years is a pretty short life span.

In its 10/8/07 issue Newsweek magazine described the most recent HoB statement as “a shift to the middle so slight and nuanced it’s almost imperceptible.” Actually, when compared to the 3/15/05 statement, the 9/25/07 statement strikes me as an unmistakable step away from the middle. But then people of good will can and will disagree over a change “so slight and nuanced [that] it’s almost imperceptible.”

Oh, and by the way, my answer to my opening question is that both statements are indeed false.

–The Rev. Nathaniel W. Pierce lives in Trappe, Maryland

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Sept07 HoB Meeting, TEC Bishops

A Statement from the Archbishop of Sydney on the Future of the Anglican Communion

The Next Twenty Years
for Anglican Christians

”˜Crisis’, ”˜schism’, ”˜division’, ”˜break-up’ ”“ this has been the language of the last five years in the Anglican Communion. Again and again we have reached ”˜defining moments’, ”˜crucial meetings’ and ”˜turning points’, only to discover that they simply lead into another period of uncertainty.

Uncertainty is now over. The decisive moments have passed. Irreversible actions have occurred. The time has come for sustained thought about a different future. The Anglican Communion will never be the same again. The Windsor process has failed, largely because it refused to grapple with the key issue of the truth. A new and more biblical vision is required to help biblically faithful Anglican churches survive and grow in the contemporary world.

Some have still set their hopes on the Lambeth Conference. But that is to misunderstand the significance of our time. It can no longer either unify Anglicanism or speak with authority. The invitations have gone to virtually all, and it is likely that some of those not invited will still attend as guests. There are faithful Anglican bishops who are not invited, and there are others who cannot be present in good conscience. The solemn words of the 1998 Conference were ignored by the American Church in 2003, and any authority which we may have ascribed to the deliberations of the Bishops has been lost permanently. Not surprisingly, Lambeth 2008 is not going to attempt a similar exercise in conciliar pronouncements. Why would it? There is no vision here.

The key defining moment on the liberal side was the consecration of Bishop Robinson of New Hampshire. At first it was hoped that this was a mere aberration, that it could be dealt with by returning to where we were. In fact it was a permanent action with permanent consequences. It truly expressed the heart-felt views of the greater part of the leadership of the American Episcopal Church. The only way in which steps can be retraced is by repudiating the action itself, a development impossible to contemplate. That was the year of decision for the American church, and the decision was made in the clear light of day. They knew what they were doing.
The American House of Bishops has now responded to the Primates. Many have seen in their pronouncements sufficient conformity to the request of the Primates to enable the Communion to continue on its way. I do not read their statement like that. I think that they have failed to meet the hopes of the Primates. But the significance of the document at this level hardly matters. The document taken as a whole makes the real issue abundantly clear. Sexual rights are gospel.

The Americans are firmly committed to the view that the practice of homosexual sex in a long term relationship is morally acceptable. Not only is it acceptable, it is demanded by the gospel itself that we endorse this lifestyle as Christian. They are prepared to wait for a short time while the rest of the Communion catches up. But they do not intend to reverse their decisions about this and they do intend to proclaim this message wherever possible. They want to persuade us that they are right, and that the rest of us should embrace this development. Here is a missionary faith.

The biblical conservatives and their allies in Africa and Asia knew this. They did not need to wait for the House of Bishops. They took irreversible steps to secure the future of some of the biblical Anglicans in North America. I say ”˜some’, because it is often forgotten that faithful Canadian Anglicans are living in a Diocese where the blessing of same sex unions is diocesan policy. What if TEC has been judged to conform to the Primates wishes? The Diocese of New Westminster certainly has not. What is to be done for the orthodox in that Diocese? What will happen if British Anglicans follow this route? This sort of question shows why a new vision and further action will be needed.

The response of the Primates has involved the provision of episcopal oversight. This, too, has changed the nature of the Anglican Communion. From now on there will inevitably be boundary crossing and the days of sacrosanct diocesan boundaries are over. Anglican episcopacy now includes overlapping jurisdictions and personal rather than merely geographical oversight. If the sexual revolution becomes more broadly accepted elsewhere, so other Bishops will be appointed as they have been in the USA. This is the new fact of Anglican polity. How are these developments going to be incorporated into world-Anglicanism? What future should we be thinking of? Where is our vision for them? Hand-wringing is not the answer.

The aim of the Archbishop of Canterbury was to retain the highest level of fellowship in the Communion. He believed that truth will be found in communion, in inclusion rather than exclusion. From his point of view, an extended passage of time is vital. What matters for the Archbishop is not this Lambeth, but the next one and the one after that. Will those who have initiated this novelty relent and give up their commitments? Or will the objectors tire of their fuss and concede the point? Since the likelihood of the American church repenting of its action is remote, the hope must be that those who now protest will eventually weary of their protest and learn to live with the novelty of active gay bishops.

The Archbishop has revealed his hopes through a lecture on biblical interpretation, ”˜The Bible Today: Reading and Hearing’. delivered in Canada in April 2007. In this lecture he addresses the very heart of the controversy, by challenging conservative interpretations of Romans 1 and John 14, and thus raising the issues of interpretation, human sexuality and the uniqueness of Christ as Mediator. He has signalled the importance of hermeneutics for our future. His lecture shows that there is an unavoidable contest about the meaning of the Bible in these crucial areas ahead of us. It is a challenge which must be met at a theological level. We may think that this whole business is about politics and border-crossing and ultimatums and conferences, but in fact it is about theology and especially the authority and interpretation of Scripture.

That leads to this fundamental conclusion. Those who believe that the American development is wrong must also plan for the next decades, not the next few months. There is every reason to think that the Western view of sexuality will eventually permeate other parts of the world. After all, it has done so spectacularly in the West, and the modern communication revolution has opened the way for everyone to be aware of what happens in New York, London, San Francisco and Brighton.

Thus the question before the biblically orthodox in the Communion is this: what new vision of the Anglican Communion should we embrace? Where should it be in the next twenty years? How can we ensure that the word of God rules our lives? How are we going to guard ourselves effectively against the sexual agenda of the West and begin to turn back the tide of Western liberalism? What theological education must we have? How can we now best network with each other? Who is going to care for Episcopalians in other western provinces who are going to be objecting to the official acceptance of non-biblical practices? The need for high level discussion of these issues is urgent.

As an initial step I look to the Global South leadership to call for another ”˜Blast of the Trumpet.’ The ensuing consultation must start with the reality of where we are now, and look steadfastly to a future in which the bonds of Communion have been permanently loosened. It has to strengthen the fellowship by which churches will help each other to guard their theological good health while engaging together with the task of preaching the gospel to an unbelieving world.

In any case, the basic issue is no longer how can the communion be kept together. It is, within the Communion as it has now become, how can biblical Anglicans help each other survive and mission effectively in the contemporary world? The Africans have shown a commendable concern for this very issue and taken steps to assist the western church. They have recognised that the gospel sometimes divides and sometimes requires new and startling initatives. We must now all take the actions and do the thinking required to safeguard biblical truth, not merely in the West but throughout the Anglican world. To fail here, will be to waste the time and effort which has brought us to this fateful hour.

–Dr. Peter Jensen is the Archbishop of Sydney

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Bishops, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces

The Diocese of Northern Michigan responds to the Primates, a/k/a the implications of TEC's Theology

The following is an excerpt of the lead article in the Diocese of Northern Michigan’s September 2007 newspaper, entitled “Dar es Salaam, Already One in God.” The intro to the article states On the 19th of February, 2007, the Primates of the Anglican Communion, meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, released a Communiqué. We, as the Diocese of Northern Michigan, offer our response.” It is not clear who exactly within the diocese drafted this response. Please read it all carefully. It is noteworthy not so much for what it says specifically in response to the Primates’ demands, but its articulation of the theological convictions accepted within the diocese. This is where TEC’s Baptismal Ecclesiology can lead individuals or an entire diocese.

(emphasis added)

We invite all to God’s table. What we expect, in turn, is that those who come to the table likewise recognize the right, by being children of God, of everyone else to be at the table.


We proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ that everyone and everything belongs. We are continually being created in the image of God, in whom we live and move and have our being. Baptism confirms this most basic truth which is at once, the Good News: all is of God, without condition and without restriction.

We seek and serve Christ in all persons because all persons are the living Christ. Each and every human being, as a human being, is knit together in God’s Spirit, and thus an anointed one ”“ Christ. Jesus of Nazareth reveals this as the basic truth of the human condition:

God is more in me
than if the whole sea
could in a little sponge
wholly contained be.

~Angelus Silesius

We strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being, because each person embodies the living God. Life is inherently and thoroughly sacramental, which is why we love one another without condition.

We stand with Meister Eckhart who, when he gazed deep within himself, as well as all about him, saw that “the entire created order is sacred” as it is grounded
in God. We do harmful and evil things to ourselves and one another, not because we are bad, but because we are blind to the beauty of creation and ourselves. In other words, we are ignorant of who we truly are: “there is no Greek or Hebrew; no Jew or Gentile; no barbarian or Scythian; no slave or citizen. There is only Christ, who is all in all.” (Colossians 3:11).

Everyone is the sacred word of God, in whom Christ lives. This baptismal vision of a thoroughly blessed creation leads us to understand the reason for the incarnation in a new way:

People think God has only become a human being there ”“ in his historical incarnation ”“ but that is not so; for God is here ”“ in this very place ”“ just as much incarnate as in a human being long ago. And this is why he has become a human being: that he might give birth to you as his only begotten Son, and as no less. ~Meister Eckhart


Because each and every one of us is an only begotten child of God; because we, as the church, are invited by God to see all of creation as having life only insofar as it is in God; because everything, without exception, is the living presence, or incarnation, of God; as the Diocese of Northern Michigan,

We affirm Christ present in every human being and reject any attempt to restructure The Episcopal Church’s polity in a manner contrary to the principles of the baptismal covenant;

We affirm the full dignity and autonomy and interdependence of every Church in the Anglican Communion and reject any attempt of the Primates to assume an authority they do not have nor have ever possessed;

We affirm the sacramental gift of all persons, their Christ-ness, especially those who are gay and lesbian, and reject any moratorium on the blessing of samesex unions and consents of gay bishops, as it would compromise their basic dignity.

The full article is here (pp. 1-2)

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Organizations, Anglican Primates, Baptism, Christology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Primates Mtg Dar es Salaam, Feb 2007, Sacramental Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan, TEC Polity & Canons, Theology

Jason Byassee–Going Catholic: Six journeys to Rome

But Doug Farrow is not simply a conservative malcontent. He has written that the description conservative evangelical is an oxymoron””for the gospel upsets conventional notions of morality, it does not conserve them. He has chastised conservative Christians for merely playing chaplain to the conservative subculture. He is also a renowned theologian, who did his doctoral work at King’s College in London and taught at Regent…[College] in Vancouver before coming to McGill. His book Ascension and Ecclesia (T&T Clark) has been hailed as an important treatise on Jesus’ ascension. Ellen Charry of Princeton called it “nothing less than a theological breakthrough.”

Farrow’s rationale for his claims about homosexuality are more interesting than mere culture-war rehash. He asks why the government, in permitting gay marriage, felt the need to promise religious groups that they would remain free to “refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.” Just by raising the issue, Farrow suggested, the state was indicating that it could, if it wished, require ministers to perform rites against their will. “What has happened in Canada that suddenly we are forced to contemplate such a thing?”

Theologically, Farrow takes issue with the Anglican proposal to “affirm the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships,” for the wording suggests that persons can be “already pleasing to God, requiring no redemption in Christ.” Such marginalization of Christ’s redemptive work in favor of approval of what people innately “are” would give up “what cannot be conceded without denying the gospel itself.” Finally, Farrow wrote in First Things about the oddity of the Anglican primates criticizing conservatives for poaching on the dioceses of liberal bishops in forming the Anglican Mission in America””a conservative network of parishes that have defected from the EC-USA to submit to mostly African primates. For is not Anglican existence in a place like Montreal (where Farrow teaches) a relic of a previous poaching effort into Roman Catholic land? “If Episcopal disunity and competition is wrong between Anglicans, it is wrong full stop.” Farrow concluded that essay of January 2005 with a hint of his pending departure: “Perhaps the crew of the good ship Anglican needs to put in at the nearest Roman harbor.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Roman Catholic