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Daily Archives: July 15, 2012
The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, Bishop Wayne Smith, said in a statement that under his direction “the rites will be implemented carefully and pastorally, parish by parish, person by person.” The diocese, with about 14,000 members, encompasses the eastern half of the state.
Bishop Daniel Martins leads the 5,000 Episcopalians in the Springfield, Ill. diocese, which encompasses southern and eastern-central Illinois and includes congregations in Alton, Belleville, Carbondale, Edwardsville, Glen Carbon, Granite City and O’Fallon.
Martins voted in the minority against the resolution, and told the Post-Dispatch in an e-mail Wednesday that he had been “clear all along that anything like what we just passed” would not be implemented in his diocese.
Forty-four percent of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in “the church or organized religion” today, just below the low points Gallup has found in recent years, including 45% in 2002 and 46% in 2007. This follows a long-term decline in Americans’ confidence in religion since the 1970s.
In 1973, “the church or organized religion” was the most highly rated institution in Gallup’s confidence in institutions measure, and it continued to rank first in most years through 1985, outranking the military and the U.S. Supreme Court, among others. That began to change in the mid- to late 1980s as confidence in organized religion first fell below 60%….
[Jon] Anderson said this week’s decision — and whatever Young decides — is not likely to have the same far-ranging impact
as in 2003, when Gene Robinson of New Hampshire was consecrated as the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican world.
“My sense is more people are settled because they’ve had to think about it,” he said. “There will probably be some leave [individual churches]. Time will tell.”
The pause in the demolition of Christ Church Cathedral is a positive sign that the building’s fate is not sealed. Its destruction, which had seemed the inevitable outcome of the Anglican Church’s stand, is now less certain as the Government and the diocese consider the Greater Christchurch Building Trust’s report that sets out a plan for the cathedral’s conservation. The result is the sense that, for the first time, the contending parties are in dialogue.
The previous lack of serious dialogue had raised the temperature of the debate, causing unnecessary division in a city in need of unity. Positions had become entrenched, personal accusations were too common and the tone was embittered. The pause to consider eases that tension, at least temporarily. Even if the Anglican hierarchy remains committed to demolition, the advocates of retention will at least have the consolation of knowing that they were listened to.
“We voted on a number of note worthy things[at General Convention 2012],” Jefferts Schori said. “We passed a trial right for blessing same-sex unions. It will be used on a provisional basis in some dioceses, with the Bishop’s permission only, for three years, and then we will consider something like that again.”
For a decade now, the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) has been bitterly divided over the issue of ordaining openly gay clergy. The matter reached a new intensity this past week when the church’s triennial convention ended the ban on gay candidates serving in ordained ministry. After years of protesting ECUSA’s liberal policies and doctrines, seceding conservatives have now organized a rival church — the Anglican Church in North America, or ACNA — which claims 100,000 believers, compared with two million in ECUSA. This week’s dramatic decision is sure to widen the rift even further, causing what church historians might officially label a “schism.”
The presiding bishop of the mainstream Episcopal grouping, Katherine Jefferts Schori, predictably condemns ACNA, protesting that “schism is not a Christian act.” But it is not wholly clear who is seceding from whom. In approving gay bishops, ECUSA is defying the global Anglican Communion, which had begged Americans not to take a move that could provoke believers in other parts of the world. The Anglican Communion, though noticeably “progressive” in its American and British forms, is a world-wide church of 80 million. Indeed, the majority of Anglicans today live in African and Asian countries where progressive views are not so eagerly embraced. For American conservatives, it is Bishop Jefferts Schori’s church that has seceded from global Anglicanism.
Yesterday the House of Deputies concurred with the decision of the House of Bishops to approve resolution A049, “Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships”. There was a roll call vote in the HOB where I voted “no”. In the HOD vote by Orders, the majority in both Orders from Fond du Lac voted against the resolution. However, the resolution passed by about a 75% majority in each of the Houses.
I would suggest you go to the web site and read the text of the resolution yourself, but let me make a few comments here.
The liturgy referenced in A049 is clearly a service of “Blessing”. It may look similar to the marriage service but it is not and cannot be used as a marriage liturgy. In Genesis God created us male and female; at Cana in Galilee Jesus recognized and honored the covenant of the marriage between a man and a woman; and the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin says that marriage is between one man and one woman. The General Convention is clearly stating this is not a marriage, but a blessing of a life-long relationship between two persons of the same sex.
The wording of the resolution was changed to read that this is not for “trial use” but for “provisional use”. “Provisional is defined as “temporary”, “short term” and “conditional”. My understanding is that this means the use of the liturgy is for a period of time, during which it will be studied. It is also conditional in that the use of the liturgy requires the approval of the local Bishop for use in that Diocese. Regarding the approval of the Bishop, the resolution states the liturgy be used “under the direction and subject to the permission of the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority”.
Finally, there is potential for a constitutional crisis of major proportions should anyone in the Church even try to proceed under the new Title IV with respect to anything that the Diocese of South Carolina or any of its clergy may do. The reason for that statement is simple: the Diocese of South Carolina has not adopted, and will not adopt, the new Title IV because it regards those Canons as beyond the powers of General Convention to enact and remain consistent with ECUSA’s Constitution. And as noted many times before on this blog, the Canons of General Convention are without any binding force on any Diocese that refuses, on constitutional grounds, to recognize their validity.
And short of a Constitutional amendment to make General Convention the supreme legislative and judicial authority in the Episcopal Church (USA), there is nothing that anyone in ECUSA can do about that situation. It is the same situation we had in the United States when it was under the Articles of Confederation; Congress had no power to impose any of its laws on an individual State against its will — because there was no Supremacy Clause in the Articles. (It was by reason of their experiences with the stalemates thus generated between Congress and the several States that the Founders included a Supremacy Clause in the new Constitution drafted in 1787, and finally ratified in 1789. And tellingly, some of those same Founders chose not to include a Supremacy Clause for General Convention when they participated in 1789 in drafting ECUSA’s Constitution, also adopted by the several Dioceses in that same year.)
If a collision is coming, it will have to be one that the national leadership has actively sought by its actions to date, and that it will seek by its actions to come. Will that leadership be wise enough to pull back before it commits itself to still more? We shall have to bide our time, and see.
Yesterday Bishops Mark Lawrence and most of the South Carolina deputation left the Convention….
Bishop Mark is a dear friend of our diocese. Our prayers go out to him and his wife Allison and all of our friends in South Carolina. We met and counseled with them often in our Communion Partners caucus, and they were of great help in planning our legislative work. Their deputation spoke eloquently and with great conviction. We miss them today….
You can find it over here. The segment begins about 1 minute and 45 seconds in and lasts around six minutes.
The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina circulated a letter to his Lowcountry congregations today condemning the actions of the national Episcopal church on same-sex blessing and gender issues and said he would open talks this week about the future of the diocese in the U.S. church.
The letter from the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence is the clearest indication yet that he does not believe the conservative diocese can tolerate the latest changes in church doctrine approved at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church that just concluded in Indianapolis….
…[The South Carolina diocese] had earlier sought alternative leadership… contending U.S. leaders did not represent the beliefs of [their] congregants. The Sunday letter seemed to significantly heighten that unease with the U. S. church. [Bishop Lawrence] said he plans to meet Monday with his Council of Advice and on Tuesday with the Diocesan Standing Committee. Beginning July 1, Lawrence said he would open meetings with deans and clergy.
[This post was originally’made ‘sticky’ at the head of the blog list of posts – with new posts below it – for a good while during the summer of 2012 (see also index)]
July 15, 2012
7th Sunday After Pentecost
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Some of you have actively followed the decisions of the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Others have been blissfully unaware that our denomination even had a General Convention. We have. And the actions taken mark a significant and distressing departure from the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them.
In conversations with clergy, and from the emails I have received, I know there is much uneasiness about the future….
Some of us are experiencing the well-known stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. And, of course, I must acknowledge there are those for whom the recent decisions are a cause for celebration. For me there are certainly things about which I was thankful at the convention in Indianapolis. I might even have taken encouragement from the resolutions that were passed regarding needed structural reform, and for the intentional work in the House of Bishops on matters of collegiality and honesty. Unfortunately, these strike me now as akin to a long overdue rearranging of the furniture when the house is on fire. Why do I say this?
There are four resolutions which were adopted that bring distressing changes to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church that every ordained person in this church has vowed “to engage to conform,” and which stand in direct conflict with the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them.
First, let me mention resolution C029. While this was amended during the debates in a more temperate direction, it still moves the Church further down the road toward encouraging the communion of the unbaptized which departs from two thousand years of Christian practice. It also puts the undiscerning person in spiritual jeopardy. (I Corinthians 11:27–32)
Plainly, the resolution that has received the most publicity is A049 which authorizes rites for Same-Sex Blessings. This resolution goes into effect in Advent 2012, but only upon the authority of the bishop of each diocese. It hardly needs to be said, but for the record let me say clearly, I will not authorize the use of such rites in the Diocese of South Carolina. Such rites are not only contrary to the canons of this diocese and to the judgment of your bishop, but more importantly I believe they are contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture; to two thousand years of Christian practice; as well as to our created nature. Many theologians down through the centuries speak of what we are as human beings by Creation; what we are by the Fall; what we are through Redemption (that is in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ); and what we shall be in our Glorification. Our marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer is rooted in this understanding. Because of this, it is biblical, it is Christian, and it is Anglican. I would also add, it is beautiful and it is true. Therefore the Episcopal Church has no authority to put asunder this sacramental understanding of marriage as established by God in creation and blessed through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. It has no authority to do this either by revising the marriage rite to include same sex partners or by devising some parallel quasi-marital sacramental service. I remind you of the elegant words of our Prayer Book which echo the teaching of our Scriptures:
“The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people.”
This speaks of a “given-ness” in this age that is good, and is emblematic of our Christian Hope. It prepares us for the age to come; when God the Father summons his Church to the marriage supper of the Lamb.
There is however an even more incoherent departure from the teaching of Holy Scripture and from our Episcopalian and Anglican Heritage to be found in the General Convention’s passage of resolutions D002 and D019. These changes to our Church’s canons mark an even further step into incoherency. They open the door to innumerable self-understandings of gender identity and gender expression within the Church; normalizing “transgender,” “bi-sexual,” “questioning,” and still yet to be named ”“ self-understandings of individualized eros. I fail to see how a rector or parish leader who embraces such a canonical change has any authority to discipline a youth minister, Sunday school teacher, or chalice bearer who chooses to dress as a man one Sunday and as a woman another. And this is but one among many possibilities. Let me state my concern clearly. To embrace an understanding of our human condition in which gender may be entirely self-defined, self-chosen is to abandon all such norms, condemning ourselves, our children and grandchildren, as well as future generations to sheer sexual anarchy. So long as I am bishop of this diocese I will not abandon its people to such darkness.
Some have said to me, “But bishop the culture is accepting this. To continue to resist these innovations is to put ourselves on the wrong side of history.” I say to such thinking, you cannot be on the wrong side of History if you are on the right side of Reality. Archbishop William Temple was correct when he wrote over 70 years ago: the Church needs to be very clear in its public teaching so it can be very pastoral in its application.
This Monday afternoon I will be meeting with my Council of Advice. On Tuesday I will be meeting with our Diocesan Standing Committee. Then during the remainder of July I will be meeting with the deans and with clergy in various deaneries. Given these changes in the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church the question that is before us is: “What does being faithful to Jesus Christ look like for this diocese at this time? How are we called to live and be and act? In this present context, how do we make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age?”
On the penultimate day of General Convention, in a Private Session in the House of Bishops, I asked for a point of personal privilege and expressed my heartfelt concerns about these changes. I listened to the words of others and then departed with prayer and charity. I left at that time because at least for me to pretend that nothing had changed was no longer an option. Now that I have returned to South Carolina it is still not an option. I ask that you keep me and the councils of our diocese in your prayers as you shall be in mine. We have many God-size challenges and, I trust, many God-given opportunities ahead.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
–(The Rt. Rev.) Mark Lawrence is Bishop of South Carolina
(Please note that if you wish to see a signed copy of this letter, you may find it there)–KSH.
O Lord God, who hast called us to be thy soldiers and to fight heroically under Christ’s banner: Enable us constantly to contend for truth, goodness, and justice without fear or favour; and relentlessly to oppose evil wherever it is found, and whatever form it takes; in the name and strength of Jesus Christ our Savior.
After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister…
Be strong and of good courage; for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
In 1998, John Shelby Spong, then the reliably controversial Episcopal bishop of Newark, published a book entitled “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” Spong was a uniquely radical figure ”” during his career, he dismissed almost every element of traditional Christian faith as so much superstition ”” but most recent leaders of the Episcopal Church have shared his premise. Thus their church has spent the last several decades changing and then changing some more, from a sedate pillar of the WASP establishment into one of the most self-consciously progressive Christian bodies in the United States.
As a result, today the Episcopal Church looks roughly how Roman Catholicism would look if Pope Benedict XVI suddenly adopted every reform ever urged on the Vatican by liberal pundits and theologians. It still has priests and bishops, altars and stained-glass windows. But it is flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes.
Yet instead of attracting a younger, more open-minded demographic with these changes, the Episcopal Church’s dying has proceeded apace. Last week, while the church’s House of Bishops was approving a rite to bless same-sex unions, …[Episcopal] church attendance figures for 2000-10 circulated in the religion blogosphere. They showed something between a decline and a collapse: In the last decade, average Sunday attendance dropped 23 percent, and not a single Episcopal diocese in the country saw churchgoing increase.
The NCAA’s 444-page manual contains no language directly addressing appopriate punishment for concealing information regarding child sexual abuse. But in light of the shameful conduct of Penn State’s leadership, revealed Thursday in the Freeh report, the NCAA must use its authority to do what’s needed now: Shut down the Nittany Lions football program.
If the Freeh report released Thursday is accurate in its assessment of the university’s role in the worst scandal in college sports history, then the engine that enabled longtime child sexual predator Jerry Sandusky must be switched off, at least temporarily.