Rebuilding New Orleans

In this video, Brad Powers, executive director of Jericho Road, speaks about the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana's housing initiative that transforms under-used land, rebuilds neighborhoods and empowers communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina. There is more news about the Church's efforts to rebuild the Gulf Coast here and here.

The passion of Sen. Craig

The Café hasn't kept up with all of the conversations engendered by the arrest of Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), but Unitarian minister the Rev. Deborah Hafner has, and she's presented an interesting perspective in this and other items on her blog.

A sample of her thinking:

I do not believe that I should judge private adult consensual behavior, but when it invades public spaces or when that person is a public figure actively working against the very behaviors that he engages in, then I think we have the right to weigh in. Yes, I expect that many of us are experiencing a sense of schadenfreude (gotta love that word, now someone needs to teach me how to pronounce it), but I also spoke out against Bill Clinton having sex with his twenty something intern.

As I have written here many times, the hallmarks of an ethical, moral sexual relationship are that it is consensual, nonexploitative, honest, mutually pleasurable, and protected -- and that ethic applies to straights and gays, married and single people, teenagers and the elderly. I fail to see how anonymous sex in a public bathroom could ever meet all of those criteria, regardless of the sex of the participants.


Meanwhile, at Salon, Joe Conanson asks:
As one embarrassing episode follows another, with almost predictable regularity, perhaps it is time for Republicans and conservatives to ask themselves an obvious question: What makes the Republican Party -- and the conservative movement more generally -- so attractive to closeted homosexual men?

Round-up

Tobias Haller announces an ambitious project.


[W]hat I would like to begin to do in this and succeeding posts to this blog is to begin to unpack and challenge what I perceive to be the underlying premises or assumptions of the traditional view, in an effort to get behind the “reassertions” to find out if there is an actual basis of agreement from which a different settlement might be reached — or if we really are thinking and working from two radically incompatible bases.

The Anglican Scotist has been on a hot streak lately. This item in which he captures the tortured logic of anti-Episcopal Anglicans --Christians are obligated to break communion with material heretics only if they are from the Episcopal Church and against separation; any mistake about the faith is a sin only for an Episcopalian against separation.--is especially good.

Mark Harris joins Cafe contributor Greg Jones in recommending that Archbishop Drexel Gomez resign as chair of the Anglican Communion's covenant design group as he can no longer be trusted as an honest broker.

And Cafe newshound Nick Knisely points us to an article from Fred Clark (aka Slacktivist) on the influence that Reinhold Niebuhr has had on Sen. Barack Obama.

Bp. Mwamba warns of "proxy wars"

From the Mail & Guardian of September 2

Trevor Mwamba, the Anglican bishop of Botswana, when asked whether more US clerics would be coming to Southern Africa to be consecrated, said, “I hope not”.
...
The 2004 decision by a diocese in the US to authorise the blessing of same-sex relationships gave rise to the Windsor Commission, which recommended that “bishops … stop interfering in provinces and dioceses other than their own”.

Mwamba described the decisions by Nzimba [Archbishop of Kenya] and others to consecrate clergymen from the US [as bishops in the US] as “highly regrettable” as it violated the “ancient principle of provincial autonomy by intervening in dioceses and provinces other than their own”.

Mwamba likened such actions to “pouring fuel on a fire” and called for “space to cool down”. He urged African bishops to “be careful they are not dragged into fighting proxy wars” and said they should focus on “playing a reconciliatory” role in the church.

My emphasis.

Bishop Mwamba also spoke to Ecumenical News International

Very few of us take the homosexual debate as a top priority issue because there are more pressing issues facing the African church," Mwamba told Ecumenical News International in a telephone interview from his office in the Botswana capital Gaborone.

"Most African Anglicans want to get back to basics and concentrate on poverty, disease, injustice and the need for transparency in governments," said the dean of the central African region, made up of churches in Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.


Mwambe makes this prediction
Some bishops from the global South have threatened to boycott a gathering in 2008 of the world's Anglican bishops if their counterparts from the United States attend.

Mwamba said, however, he thought there would be "forward movement, even a breakthrough, on this issue" when leaders of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa meet in Mauritius from 2 to 5 October. "I believe that quite number of African bishops who have threatened not to attend next year's Lambeth Conference in Canterbury may change their minds," he said.

Bishop Mwamba has spoken before of the diversity of views in Anglican Communion in Africa.

Thinking about God and generosity

Here is something you can point to next time you hear Christopher Hitchens or another atheist talk about the horrors created by religious belief: Thinking about God makes us more generous according to Bitish of Columbia psychologists:

Thoughts related to God cultivate cooperative behaviour and generosity, according to University of British Columbia psychology researchers.

In a study to be published in the September issue of Psychological Science journal, researchers investigated how thinking about God and notions of a higher power influenced positive social behaviour, specifically cooperation with others and generosity to strangers.

UBC PhD graduate Azim Shariff and UBC Assoc. Prof. Ara Norenzayan found that priming people with 'god concepts' -- by activating subconscious thoughts through word games -- promoted altruism. In addition, the researchers found that this effect was consistent in behaviour whether people declared themselves believers or not. The researchers also found that secular notions of civic responsibility promote cooperation and generosity.

"This is a twist on an age old question -- does a belief in God influence moral behaviour?" says Shariff. "We asked, does the concept of god influence cooperative behaviour? Previous attempts to answer this question have been driven by speculation and anecdote."

. . .

The researchers undertook two related studies. In both studies, groups were randomly assigned to the religious prime or to the control group. Participants in the religious prime group were given a word game and had to unscramble sentences (using spirit, divine, God, sacred and prophet). Those in the control group were given the same task with non-spiritual words. After this task, all participants played an anonymous dictator game, whereby subjects were given 10 one-dollar coins and asked to make a decision of what to keep and what to share with an anonymous recipient.

The researchers were surprised by the magnitude of the positive results for the religious prime in both studies. Sixty-eight per cent of subjects from the religious prime groups allocated $5 or more to anonymous strangers, compared to 22 per cent from groups where neutral or no concepts were activated.

In the second study the researchers also investigated the strength of the religious prime relative to a secular prime. They used concepts of civic responsibility and social justice to prime subjects (with target words civic, jury, court, police and contract) and obtained almost identical results.

"We did not anticipate such a subtle prime, simply getting participants to unscramble sentences with a few key words, having such a large effect on people's willingness to give money to strangers," said Shariff. "These are compelling findings that have substantial impact on the study of social behaviour because they draw a causal relationship between religion and acting morally -- a topic of some debate. They by no means indicate that religion is necessary for moral behaviour, but it can make a substantial contribution."

Read it all here.

How the public resolves conflict of science and faith

A series of recent polls on the public's view of faith and science displays a paradox: the public has immense respect for science, but rejects the views of socientists on issues like evolution. And when forced to make a choice, the public will reject science that comes into conflict with faith:

A}ccording to a 2006 survey from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 42% of Americans reject the notion that life on earth evolved and believe instead that humans and other living things have always existed in their present form. Among white evangelical Protestants – many of whom regard the Bible as the inerrant word of God – 65% hold this view. Moreover, in the same poll, 21% of those surveyed say that although life has evolved, these changes were guided by a supreme being. Only a minority, about a quarter (26%) of respondents, say that they accept evolution through natural processes or natural selection alone.

Interestingly, many of those who reject natural selection recognize that scientists themselves fully accept Darwin's theory. In the same 2006 Pew poll, nearly two-thirds of adults (62%) say that they believe that scientists agree on the validity of evolution. Moreover, Americans, including religious Americans, hold science and scientists in very high regard. A 2006 survey conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University found that most people (87%) think that scientific developments make society better. Among those who describe themselves as being very religious, the same number – 87% – share that opinion.

So what is at work here? How can Americans say that they respect science and even know what scientists believe and yet still disagree with the scientific community on some fundamental questions? The answer is that much of the general public simply chooses not to believe the scientific theories and discoveries that seem to contradict long-held religious or other important beliefs.

When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding, according to the results of an October 2006 Time magazine poll. Indeed, in a May 2007 Gallup poll, only 14% of those who say they do not believe in evolution cite lack of evidence as the main reason underpinning their views; more people cite their belief in Jesus (19%), God (16%) or religion generally (16%) as their reason for rejecting Darwin's theory.

This reliance on religious faith may help explain why so many people do not see science as a direct threat to religion. Only 28% of respondents in the same Time poll say that scientific advancements threaten their religious beliefs. These poll results also show that more than four-fifths of respondents (81%) say that "recent discoveries and advances" in science have not significantly impacted their religious views. In fact, 14% say that these discoveries have actually made them more religious. Only 4% say that science has made them less religious.

These data once again show that, in the minds of most people in the United States, there is no real clash between science and religion. And when the two realms offer seemingly contradictory explanations (as in the case of evolution), religious people, who make up a majority of Americans, may rely primarily upon their faith for answers.

Read it all here.

Is this true of Episcopalians as well? The large majority of us accept evolution as not in conflict with our faith, but are there areas in which science and even an Anglican faith could come into conflict?

Political pyschology and terror

The New Republic has a fascinating cover story on the pyschology of terror. It describes how several experimental pyschologists have shown that exposure to our own mortality will trigger a series of emotions--including distain for other cultures and races--and this can have political consequences:

There is, however, one group of scholars--members of the relatively new field of political psychology--who are trying to explain voter preferences that can't be easily quantified. The best general introduction to this field is Drew Westen's recent book, The Political Brain, but the research that is perhaps most relevant to the 2004 election has been conducted by psychologists Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg, and Tom Pyszczynski. In the early 1980s, they developed what they clumsily called "terror management theory." Their idea was not about how to clear the subways in the event of an attack, but about how people cope with the terrifying and potentially paralyzing realization that, as human beings, we are destined to die. Their experiments showed that the mere thought of one's mortality can trigger a range of emotions--from disdain for other races, religions, and nations, to a preference for charismatic over pragmatic leaders, to a heightened attraction to traditional mores.

. . .

Their first experiment was published in 1989. To test the hypothesis that recognition of mortality evokes "worldview defense"--their term for the range of emotions, from intolerance to religi- osity to a preference for law and order, that they believe thoughts of death can trigger--they assembled 22 Tucson municipal court judges. They told the judges they wanted to test the relationship between personality traits and bail decisions, but, for one group, they inserted in the middle of the personality questionnaire two exercises meant to evoke awareness of their mortality. One asked the judges to "briefly describe the emotions that the thought of your own death arouses in you"; the other required them to "jot down, as specifically as you can, what you think will happen to you physically as you die and once you are physically dead." They then asked the judges to set bail in the hypothetical case of a prostitute whom the prosecutor claimed was a flight risk. The judges who did the mortality exercises set an average bail of $455. The control group that did not do the exercises set it at an average of $50. The psychologists knew they were onto something.

Over the next decade, the three performed similar experiments to illustrate how awareness of death could provoke worldview defense. They showed that what they now called "mortality salience" affected people's view of other races, religions, and nations. When they had students at a Christian college evaluate essays by what they were told were a Christian and a Jewish author, the group that did the mortality exercises expressed a far more negative view of the essay by the Jew- ish author than the control group did. (German psychologists would find a similar reaction among German subjects toward Turks.) They also conducted numerous experiments to show that mortality exercises evoked patriotic responses. The subjects who did the exercises took a far more negative view of an essay critical of the United States than the control group did and also expressed greater veneration for cultural icons like the flag. The three even devised an experiment to show that, after doing the mortality exercises, conser- vatives took a much harsher view of liberals, and vice versa.

As the New Republic article explains, this theory can explain why there was a rise in "values" voting in the wake of September 11th:

Mortality reminders not only enhanced the appeal of Bush's political style but also deepened and broadened the appeal of the conservative social positions that Republicans had been running on.

For instance, because worldview defense increases hostility toward other races, religions, nations, and political systems, it helps explain the rage toward France and Germany that erupted prior to the Iraq war, as well as the recent spike in hostility toward illegal immigrants. Also central to worldview defense is the protection of tradition against social experimentation, of community values against individual prerogatives--as was evident in the Tucson experiment with the judges--and of religious dictates against secular norms. For many conservatives, this means opposition to abortion and gay marriage. This may well explain why family values became more salient in 2004--a year in which voters were supposed to be unusually focused on foreign policy--than it had been from 1992 through 2000. Indeed, from 2001 to 2004, polls show an increase in opposition to abortion and gay marriage, along with a growing religiosity. According to Gallup, the percentage of voters who believed abortion should be "illegal in all circumstances" rose from 17 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2002 and would still be at 19 percent in 2004. Even church attendance by atheists, according to one poll, increased from 3 to 10 percent from August to November 2001.

Read it all here.

Perhaps this is taking this theory one (or several steps!!) too far, but is it not possible that the current Anglican fascinatation (some would say obsession) with issues of homosexuality is a manifestation of the pyschology of terror? In other words, would we be where we are today had Bishop Robinson been approved by General Convention in 1999 rather than 2003?

Monday blues

It's Labor Day Monday in America, one of those comparatively rare holidays relative to number mandated in European countries. In the UK today, they're not on holiday. Indeed many are returning to work after the traditional summer holiday period in August.

To help with the Monday blues the Church of England has provided prayers for everyday life. Perhaps after the flurry of consecrations in the communion in recent days the Archbishop of Canterbury is saying this one today

Breathe in, breathe out, for the sake of my sanity.
A CoE spokesperson said,
Clearly the Church is concerned about the big global issues but we believe that God is concerned about our everyday lives just as much.
All kidding aside the prayers can be found here at the Church of England website.

The spirituality of The Simpsons Movie

By Kim Lawton

[Episcopal News Service] They're silly, often irreverent and sometimes downright wicked. But The Simpsons may also be one of the most interesting examinations of religion in contemporary pop culture.

The release of The Simpsons Movie is grabbing new attention for the popular animated television series that has an often surprising take on spirituality.

"The Simpsons say grace at meals. They attend church on Sundays. They read and refer to the Bible; and they pray out loud -- although sometimes only under desperate circumstances," said Mark Pinsky, author of The Gospel According to the Simpsons.

"It's about a family in which religion plays a part," Pinsky said. "And in that sense, it's really reflective of what most Americans do and feel about religion."

Read it all.

Going from strength to strength in the life of perfect service

This is the story of Fr. Rick Schark, and how the experience of grieving the most profound of personal losses started him on a spiritual journey, a new spiritual home in the Episcopal Church, and eventually to ministry to a parish divided. Written by Susan Ager of the Detroit Free Press, it describes how Schark is known as the peacemaker priest in his small town Michigan parish.

Everyone else met his story with words, pointless words, like "God needed more flowers in heaven."

Instead, Kristi Guzik said, "Wow, what a blow." Then she listened.

"It broke my heart," she says now, "but I didn't run out the door."

They talked for hours, every day for weeks, at his home, where his lost family's photos graced his mantel. At McDonald's. At the beach. At the diner where she poured his coffee.

Three months later, Rick Schark took Kristi as his wife, and she took him as her husband, a soulmate she never thought she'd find. He was 42. She was 24.

They married in Oscoda, in an Episcopal church he found while shopping for a place to plant his seedling spirituality.

His dead wife's family couldn't understand. They said, "It's only been two years." He answered: "No, it's been 750 days and nights."

Since they married a decade ago, Rick and Kristi have been apart for only two nights. When he felt a call to the ministry, she followed him to a seminary in Ontario.

Finally, two years ago, she followed him to a troubled church in Lexington, a small resort town on Lake Huron.

It is his first posting. He is 51.

Everyone in the congregation knows his story, and considers his experience a rare gift. He has lived one second at a time through a long, dark night of the soul and emerged, led by the mystery of God to this place.

"I remember wishing," he says, "that I could meet somebody who had lost as much I did. I wanted to know they survived.

"I want to be that person now for someone else."

Read the rest.

National Cathedral's Sunday best

Washington National Cathedral is launching a Sunday morning forum this fall with an impressive line-up.

The brochure is here. The press release follows:

Series: The Sunday Forum: Critical Issues in the Light of Faith

Sundays beginning October 7; 10-10:50 am; free, more info, 202-364-6616 or www.nationalcathedral.org

Join Cathedral Dean Sam Lloyd as he hosts a weekly conversation that promises to be honest, intellectually probing and generous-spirited about major issues facing society. Each Sunday, Dean Lloyd and his guest wrestle pressing topics such as environmental stewardship, the role of faith in politics, religious pluralism, personal ethics, global justice and faith in a changing culture. The conversations include questions taken from local and national audiences. People may submit questions online at www.nationalcathedral.org/forum.

The Sunday Forum welcomes a variety of opinions and points of view. Forums take place in the nave (main level of church) and will be web cast.

October guests are:

October 7—Religious America: What Do We Believe? with Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham and Washington Post Reporter Sally Quinn; Jon Meacham is editor of Newsweek Magazine, co-editor of The Washington Post’s online religion forum, On Faith, and author of the bestselling book American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of the Nation. Sally Quinn is a long-time writer for The Washington Post, co-editor of The Post’s online religion forum, On Faith, and the author of several books of fiction and non-fiction.

October 14—Ties That Bind: A Folk-Rocker and a Theologian Make Heavenly Music with Indigo Girl Emily Saliers and theologian Don Saliers; Don Saliers is William R. Cannon Distinguished Professor of Theology and Worship at Emory University and co-author with his daughter Emily of A Song to Sing, A Life to Live: Reflections on Music as a Spiritual Practice. Emily Saliers is a singer-songwriter, musician, and member of the popular folk-rock duo the Indigo Girls.

October 21—Can Faith and Science be Reconciled? A Conversation with Human Genome Scientist Francis Collins; Francis Collins is director of the National Genome Research Institute and author of the bestseller The Language of God: Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.

October 28—Faith and Diversity on the Airwaves, with National Public Radio Personality Michel Martin; Michel Martin is the host of NPR’s Tell Me More. A journalist for over 25 years, Michel has worked in both print and television including ABC News where she worked as a correspondent for Nightline.

A piece of his mind

Bishop Charles Jenkins, 10th Bishop of Louisiana, wrote in his blog what he wished he could have said to President Bush during his visit to New Orleans on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

He writes that he wishes he could share with the president the tremendous outpouring of material help and support by many in the faith community for this wounded region. And he also wonders why it is that our government has failed in so many ways the people of the Gulf Coast.

We already know who faith-based America has proven to be.

These volunteers have not sacrificed for the “safe” above-sea-level neighborhoods or the economically secure residents of this city. They have not given their time, talent, and hard-earned dollars to the recovery of communities that rest securely on higher ground.

The volunteers of this country are still coming in larger numbers than ever to help heal the lives of their fellow Americans – the same vulnerable Americans we saw trapped, suffering and dying on our televisions two years ago this week. And those “looters,” “those people down there” as the President has called us, are proving to be some of the most courageous and resilient citizens of this land. Mr. President, did you know that according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 98% of survivors interviewed in the Houston Astrodome following the federal flood said that their faith in God is what had enabled them to survive? I am proud to be one of “those people.”

Does the President realize what hundreds of thousands of Americans are saying when they come to gut and rebuild this city block by block with their own bare hands? Does he realize what it means that tens of thousands of volunteers sacrifice personally to finance the purchase of building materials for residents who have yet to receive their Road Home money from the government? Does he hear what young people are saying by the thousands when they come to serve the children of this city as teachers in our struggling second-tier public schools?

It means, Mr. President, that a huge number of Americans love their neighbor as themselves. Not in words alone but in actions. This segment of our society, a segment whose values you claim to represent and share, has already cast its vote in the referendum on New Orleans. We clearly do not believe any of New Orleans or its people are dispensable or undesirable. We stand together in our fight to recognize and cherish the dignity and worth of every citizen of this city, and we believe how the citizens of this city are treated says who we really are as a nation.

Read the rest here.

Answering the forgotten question

The most obvious questions in all our troubles seems to have been lost: What is an Anglican? and What makes a church a part of the Anglican Communion?

That these questions seem to have been forgotten may seem strange, since the squabbles in the Anglican Communion have centered largely around questions of structure and authority. In the Episcopal Church, there are some congregations who wish that they could have agreeable bishops from overseas, and there are overseas provinces happy to oblige, providing American bishops of their own choosing who are agreeable to them.

Much has been made by these groups of the need to "discipline" the Episcopal Church, and these consecration and pairings are justified by these folks to punish the Episcopal Church. There have been several structural proposals have been made over the years to effect that punishment; such as a Primatial Council that would exist outside of the Episcopal Church's polity solely to regulate the behavior of the Episcopal Church, or the previous attempts to transform the Lambeth Meeting into a kind of global synod of bishops, and an appeal to the preamble of the Church's constitution to justify interference from outside the Episcopal Church.

These strategies have either failed or have been given up on by the very folks who have forced the rest of the Communion to focus on them.

Still in all this, the basic question of what makes an Anglican Church Anglican, and who decides what church is within the Anglican sphere has been largely ignored.

The Rev. Canon Robert J. Brooks of Connecticut, with the help Mr. Ed Hebb, Chancellor of the Diocese of Connecticut, wrote an executive summary that answers the constitutional questions of who is a member of the Anglican Communion and how one both is initiated into the fellowship and how a member church might be expelled or leave.

They remind us that of the four instruments of unity, only the Anglican Consultative Council has a constitution that has been ratified by all members of the Communion, and a specific process for the inclusion and exclusion of the member churches.

The prior condition for holding a conversation about any topic is that there be a transparent framework previously agreed to by the parties as the context of that conversation. Whether the framework is an agreed understanding of conversational etiquette, in the literal case of a conversation, or whether it is a constitution, in the case of an organization, a basic, agreed, transparent framework is essential for the discussion of anything. Even “group process” occurs within pre-agreed standards of behavior. In contrast, a child playing a game with others in a schoolyard who keeps making up new rules when losing and who makes loud threats to enforce them, is usually called a bully. Since Magna Carta in 1215 A.D., there has been a norm, as originally stated, of “rule of law, not men.” On the Field at Runnymede, barons and king publicly agreed to the written framework of the “Great Charter” that anyone could read and know what was the law. No capricious whim of the king, changing the rules from day to day or hour to hour, would be enforceable as law. The rights of all were transparently protected from caprice and bullying in a written law. That is the tradition and standard that this country, this Church, and most of the world has received and enshrined in its law.

In accord with that tradition, the House of Bishops and the President of the House of Deputies have defended the rule of law in this Church, not allowing anyone to tempt them into shredding our Constitution and Canons which protect all, laity, clergy, and bishops, through the transparent framework that includes them in all governance. Yet, the proper framework for the current disputes in the Anglican Communion is not the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. Since the dispute involves the Anglican Communion, it is to its framework of law that we must look in the first case for the proper context and rules by which any issue can be discussed. The debate on certain issues has been allowed to commence without acknowledging the constitutional framework that all have agreed to, that preexists the debate, that is the required context for the discussion. The test of any constitution is not how it functions when everything is going well but how it functions in a crisis. It is time to invoke and enforce the only universally pre-agreed written constitution of the Anglican Communion as the framework for any discussion going forward. Those who have continuously asserted new rules and new structures in the last few years have consistently ignored the constitutional framework for addressing their proposals. They seek to create new structures solely by loudly asserting them, accompanied by thinly veiled threats, counting on many in the leadership of the Anglican Communion or The Episcopal Church not to hold them accountable to the rule of law. Up until now, their strategy has worked. Building on the action of the House of Bishops and the President of the House of Deputies, it is time to insist that any proposed new structures or any revised status in the Anglican Communion for The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada be discussed within the framework that presently exists in the only written constitution of the Communion. Any actions taken outside that constitutional framework are, and are to be regarded as having no legal standing, and are therefore unenforceable and null and void.

The rebellion within (against?) the Anglican Communion has specifically ignored the one constitutional and synodical body specifically designed to handle disagreements within the Communion--the Anglican Consultative Council. They have done this by asserting new structures ex nihilo and by creating bishoprics in other jurisdictions without consulting anyone but themselves. Reducing the ACC to simply a program arm does not hide the fact that the body was created and agreed on by all the member churches of the Communion to create partnerships and deal with intercommunion differences. The recent consecrations in Kenya and Uganda are but one example of how these various groups are working to impose their will on the rest of the Communion, in particular the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada--and maybe soon the Church of England itself.

Read it all. Thanks to Episcopal Majority for the presentation.

A prayer for Larry Craig

James McGreevy, former governor of New Jersey and currently a student at General Theological Seminary, writes with compassion and a prayer for Larry Craig,his family, and the tide of history.

My gut wrenched when I read of Sen. Larry Craig's bathroom arrest. I remembered my own late-night encounter with the law at a Garden State Parkway rest stop following a political dinner in north Jersey.

I pulled into the rest stop, parked my car, flashed my headlights, which was "the signal," and waited. Glancing in my rearview mirror, I saw a state trooper approaching. I desperately tried to convince the trooper of my innocence, showing him my former prosecutor's badge, a gift from the office when I left. The trooper radioed his office and returned. "I never want to see you here again," he said. I survived for another day

I was in my late 20s. It would be another 25 years before my parallel lives collided and I was coerced out of the "closet."

Why do grown men in their 20s, or their 60s, do such things? I can answer only for me.

McGreevy prays that Larry Craig and his loving family come to peace with his truth, whatever that may be. To those who judge him harshly, I ask that they fill their hearts with compassion and equanimity. He prays that the tide of American history continues to sweep toward the inevitable expansion of freedom that recognizes the worth and dignity of every individual -- and that mine is the last generation that is required to choose between affairs of the heart and elected office.

Read it all here

Outside group trying to influence Chicago election

Ever been concerned about the influence of big-bucks donors from outside your area in the election of your political representatives? Consider the situation faced by Episcopalians, who have big-bucks donors from outside their church meddling in the election of their bishops.

The Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD), a conservative lobbying group funded primarily by non-Episcopalians has inserted itself into the Episcopal election in the Diocese of Chicago. Ralph Webb, Director of Anglican Action at IRD, writes in his blog about the Very Rev. Tracey Lind, an openly gay woman who is one of five priests nominated to succeed Bishop William Persell.

Read his post here.

The IRD says it aims to “restructure” the governance of mainline Protestant churches who do not espouse its conservative political agenda. Webb and several other members of its relatively small staff are members of Archbishop Peter Akinola’s Church of Nigeria. Learn more about the IRD and its financial supporters here.

The New Anti-Semitism

Denis MacShane, member of the British House of Commons and former Europe Minister writes in the Washington Post of a new upsurge of anti-semitism in Europe:

Hatred of Jews has reached new heights in Europe and many points south and east of the old continent. Last year I chaired a blue-ribbon committee of British parliamentarians, including former ministers and a party leader, that examined the problem of anti-Semitism in Britain. None of us are Jewish or active in the unending debates on the Israeli-Palestinian question.

Our report showed a pattern of fear among a small number of British citizens -- there are around 300,000 Jews in Britain, of whom about a third are observant -- that is not acceptable in a modern democracy. Synagogues attacked. Jewish schoolboys jostled on public transportation. Rabbis punched and knifed. British Jews feeling compelled to raise millions to provide private security for their weddings and community events. On campuses, militant anti-Jewish students fueled by Islamist or far-left hate seeking to prevent Jewish students from expressing their opinions

He writes that criticism of Israel is not considered anti-semitic as some of the strongest critics are Jewish. The new anti-semitism is that which threatens democracy and free speech. He concludes:

Today there is still denial about the universal ideology of the new anti-Semitism. It has power and reach, and it enters into the soft underbelly of the Western mind-set that does not like Jews or what Israel does to defend its right to exist.

A counterattack is being organized. My own House of Commons has led the way with its report. The 47-nation Council of Europe, on which I sit as a British representative, has launched a lengthy inquiry into combating anti-Semitism in Europe. The European Union has produced a directive outlawing Internet hate speech originating within its jurisdiction.

We are at the beginning of a long intellectual and ideological struggle. It is not about Jews or Israel. It is about everything democrats have long fought for: the truth without fear, no matter one's religion or political beliefs. The new anti-Semitism threatens all of humanity. The Jew-haters must not pass.

Read it all here

New prayer book for Reform Judaism

Laurie Goodstein reports on Reform Judaism's new prayer book. The article in The New York Times says that the nation’s largest Jewish movement, Reform Judaism, is preparing to adopt a new prayer book that was intended to offer something for everyone — traditionalists, progressives and everyone else — even those who do not believe in God.

"The changes reveal a movement that is growing in different directions simultaneously, absorbing non-Jewish spouses and Jews with little formal religious education while also trying to appeal to Jews seeking a return to tradition."

Traditional touches coexist with a text that sometimes departs from tradition by omitting or modifying some prayers and by using language that is gender-neutral. References to God as “He” have been removed, and whenever Jewish patriarchs are named — like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so are the matriarchs — like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. The prayer book took more than 20 years to develop and was tested in about 300 congregations. Its release has been delayed for a year because the initial printed product was shoddy, said people involved with the project. But the book is expected to be released in about a month — too late, however, for the High Holy Days, which begin Sept. 13.

“It reflects a recognition of diversity within our community,” said Rabbi Elyse D. Frishman, the editor of the prayer book. “We have interfaith families. We have so many visitors at b’nai mitzvah ceremonies that I could have a service on Shabbat morning where a majority of people there aren’t Jewish,” she said, referring to bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies on Saturday mornings.

Read it here

In God we doubt

John Humphreys became an angry agnostic but he does not find an answer in the militant atheism of Richard Dawkins and others either. He writes:

My spiritual journey – if that’s not too high-falutin’ a notion – took me from my childish Big Questions to my ultimate failure to find any corresponding Big Answers. I have ended up – so far, at any rate – as a doubter. It’s clear that I’m far from alone.

In almost half a century of journalism I have never had such a response to anything I have written or broadcast as I did to last year’s Radio 4 series Humphrys in Search of God. The letters arrived by the sackful. It felt a bit like putting my fingers on the religious pulse of the nation; and the pulse is still strong. However empty the pews may be there are plenty of people with a sincere and passionate belief. There are also plenty of people who think it’s all a load of nonsense.

What surprised me is how many think of themselves as neither believers nor atheists but doubters. They, too, are sincere. Devout sceptics, if you like. And many of them feel beleaguered. I’m with them. SINCE starting to write my book, I have fallen into the habit of asking almost everyone I meet if they believe in God. And here’s the interesting thing: it was only the atheists who seemed absolutely certain.

He concludes:

Trite it may be, but most of us can see the beauty as well as the horrors of the world and, sometimes, humanity at its most noble. We sense a spiritual element in that nobility and, in the miracle of unselfish love and sacrifice, something beyond our conscious understanding. You don’t need to be an eastern mystic or a devout religious believer to feel that. We should not – we must not – be browbeaten by arrogant atheists and meekly accept their “deluded” label. They are no more capable of understanding this most profound mystery than a small child making his first awe-inspiring discoveries.

As for the fanatics – religious or secular – history suggests they succeed only to the extent that we allow ourselves to be defeated by our own irrational fear. For every fanatic there are countless ordinary, decent people who believe in their own version of a benevolent God and wish no harm to anyone. Many of them regard it as their duty to try to make the world a better place. It is too easy to blame the evils of the world on belief in God. In the end, if we make a mess of things, we shall have ourselves to blame – not religion and not God. After all, he doesn’t exist. Does he?

Read it all in The Times online.

Hurricane Felix hits Nicaragua and Honduras

Christian relief agencies are hoping that disaster risk reduction work that has been ongoing will protect more lives and property as Hurricane Felix sweeps over the coasts of Central America. Episcopal Relief and Development will utilize funds given for emergency relief to assist in recovery efforts

As Felix swept towards Nicaragua and Honduras, hurricane experts warned that the storm was ‘potentially catastrophic’. The last hurricane to make landfall in Honduras was Hurricane Mitch, which killed more than 9,000 people in 1998.

Christian Aid partners in Honduras’ northern provinces of Cortés and Colon are hopeful that their disaster risk reduction work will help protect lives and property as the hurricane roars past. Partners have been helping vulnerable communities here to develop local risk maps, early warning systems and emergency plans.

Report from Ekklesia here

Report from the LATimes here

To donate to Episcopal Relief and Development click here

UPDATED - Pittsburgh foresees a fork in the road

UPDATE - The Boston Globe reports

Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, who came to Nairobi for the consecrations, said he expects to see a new Anglican province in North America that will replace the Episcopal Church.

"We are realigning," said Duncan, who added he would attempt to pull his entire diocese out of the Episcopal Church, a move that would raise an unprecedented set of legal and financial questions about the ownership of parish buildings and diocesan property.

-------------------------------
Original post

153 clergy and lay leaders associated with the diocese have signed "A Pittsburgh Compact for a Way Forward in this Season." Several phrases indicate the season: "... a season where fundamental differences of faith and practice have torn our Church and our Communion, perhaps beyond mending ... perhaps there is a fork in the road ahead that may divide our fellowship ... it appears to us that our Church is choosing to ‘walk apart’ from the fellowship and life of the Anglican Communion. In response, God appears to be calling many of us to disassociate from the Episcopal Church while at the same time He is calling others to remain as missionaries within an increasingly hostile ecclesiastical culture...."

The compact concludes:

We are concerned that the history of the church is littered with the wreckage of strife and division, and we do not wish to add to the ruins. We are mindful that our own hands are not clean in the development of this history, and we are particularly brokenhearted over the pride that has too often accompanied our witness. Even as we stand in the shadow of emerging divisions, we beg God for the forgiveness we need and the opportunity for a different future than the one we fear is rapidly coming upon us.

We are mindful of God’s weakness displayed in Christ’s Cross, and of the Apostle Paul’s consistent advocacy of the weakness of the Cross as the way of Christian life and ministry. Because of this, we forsake the spirit of condemnation and the opportunity for litigation. We look instead for clarity and charity towards all, and will work towards any prospect for just mediation. We pray to God for the heart to bear any difficulties with joyful grace, peaceful spirits, and confidence in His provision.


Among the signatories are clergy at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. Bishops of the diocese did not sign the compact.

Conservative comment on the Compact is available here.

The Diocesan, Bob Duncan, was present at the cross-boundary Episcopal consecrations in Kenya and Uganda, as well as the cross-boundary consecration of Martyn Minns. The Living Church reported on July 31

“Never, ever has he [the Archbishop of Canterbury] spoken publicly in defense of the orthodox in the United States,” Bishop Duncan said of the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, adding that “the cost is his office."
Williams has not invited Minns to Lambeth 2008.

The compact is posted on the diocese's Parish Toolbox website. The website's about statement begins "Parishes and people of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh face significant choices this year about our continued relationship to The Episcopal Church. http://www.parishtoolbox.org is a diocesan resource developed to help parishes and people make those choices." (July 27, 2007)

Lottery winner attributes outcome to beliefs

CNN:

Bartlett, an accountant from Dundalk, said he made a bargain with the multiple gods associated with his Wiccan beliefs: "You let me win the lottery and I'll teach." Both tickets he purchased had numbers chosen randomly from the computer.
...
He and his wife, Denise, were on their way to the shop where he occasionally teaches Wicca and Reiki healing when they stopped at a liquor store and bought two $5 Mega Millions tickets for Friday night's estimated $330 million jackpot.
...
Bartlett said the money won't change him, although he plans to invest in Mystickal Voyage. "I'm going to live my life like I have been," he said.

What is the significance of the African consecrations?

Michael Paulsen of the Boston Globe has a lengthy article on the Episcopal Church and its future in the Anglican Communion.

On numbers he observes (1) "Episcopal Church officials and their defenders say that most Episcopalians are comfortable with their church's theological direction, and that only a small fraction of Episcopal congregations - 45 of 7,500 - have departed over the controversy" and (2) All told, the provinces of Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda now claim to oversee 11 Anglican bishops in the United States. ... "They say that 250 American congregations - most of which were not former parishes but are made up of onetime Episcopalians - are now supervised by Global South Anglican provinces."

Several primates of the Global South are quoted.

Paulsen collects these observations from Americans

* Jim Naughton - "Only the most ardent homophobes are getting ready to bolt . . . and the separatist agenda is losing ground everywhere, The idea that the average African is looking to cause a split over homosexuality is ridiculous. This is about a small coterie of leaders that over the years have received a great deal of money from American conservatives who are eager to push this agenda."

* Miranda K. Hassett, an anthropologist and the author of the new book Anglican Communion in Crisis: How Episcopal Dissidents and Their African Allies Are Reshaping Anglicanism - "The Northerners have a more-or-less legitimate way to stay 'officially' Anglican while breaking from the Episcopal Church, and they also gain the moral/symbolic power of being able to assert that they're in accord with the majority of Anglicans in the world. For the Southern Anglican leaders involved, they get the world's attention," she said. "Claiming jurisdiction over conservatives in the US, claiming the right to remissionize this country, is a powerful way to assert and dramatize their concern about American culture and its global influence."

* Phililp Jenkins - "My best bet would be that individual Episcopal dioceses will carry on electing gay bishops, and that the Episcopal Church will be kicked out effectively or de facto. In terms of the average life of Episcopalians in the US, the difference will be nil."

"Not fit to live"

The Anglican Bishop of Uyo, Rt. Rev. Isaac Orama, has condemned the activities of homosexuals and lesbians, and described those engaged in them as "insane people''.

"It is scaring that any one should be involved in a thing like that and I want to say that they will not escape the wrath of God,'' he said. Orama told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) today [Sept. 2] in Uyo, that the practice, which has worsened over the years, was "unbiblical and against God's purpose for creating man.

"Homosexuality and lesbianism are inhuman. Those who practice them are insane, satanic and are not fit to live because they are rebels to God's purpose for man,'' the Bishop said. He noted that the Anglican Church in Nigeria had continued to lead the fight against the practice especially in the US where it led the opposition to same sex marriages. "The aim of such fight is to provide a safe place for those who want to remain faithful Anglicans and Biblical Christians,'' he explained.

Read it all for further insight on the Church to which Truro and the Falls Church in Virginia, and Grace and St. Stephen's in Colorado Springs now belong.

Abp. Gomez's sermon posted at Anglican Communion Website

Archbishop Gomez was homilist at the recent consecrations in Kenya. His sermon has been posted in full by the Anglican Communion News Service. An extract

The present impaired state of the Communion is due mainly to actions taken by the Episcopal Church of the United States of America in respect of human sexuality with special reference to the consecration of a bishop living in an opened homosexual relationship. The actions of the Episcopal Church have created a situation in which some Anglicans in the United States and throughout most of the Provinces of the Communion are convinced that the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is clear in its teaching and must take precedent over culture. Holding fast to this belief, they cannot accommodate those who believe the contrary. The issue is not primarily on of sexuality but one which seeks to answer the question "which relationships correspond to God’s ordering of life, and violate it?" It is a division of opinion between those of us who firmly believe that homosexual practice violates the order of life give by God in scripture and those who seek by various mean to justify what scripture does not hounour. We, in the Global South, whole heartedly support the position outlined by Richard Hays in ‘The Moral Vision of the New Testament:’
‘Paul singles out homosexual intercourse for special attention because he regards it as providing a particularly graphic image of the way in which human fallenness distorts God’s created order. God the Creator made man and woman for each other, to cleave together to be fruitful and multiply. When human beings ‘exchange’ these created roles for homosexual intercourse, they embody the spiritual condition of those who have ‘exchanged the truth about God for a lie.’
We believe that faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ prevents us from compromising the truth so clearly revealed in holy scripture.
The sermon is here.

See the Café's previous coverage of Gomez and these cross boundary consecrations here.

Spiritual memoirs are best sellers

Among American readers religion is a best seller. There's the flurry of books by committed atheists. But did you also know that three of the books on the lastest New York Times list of best-selling nonfiction are spiritual memoirs?

Lisa Miller makes the observation in the September 10 issue of Newsweek

One is by the wife of country preacher [#4 - It's All About Him, by Denise Jackson with Ellen Vaughn]. One is by a divorcée who traveled the world in search of transcendence [#1 (paperback) - Eat, Love Pray, by Elizabeth Gilbert]. One is by a preacher who says he was hit by a truck, saw heaven and came back to life [#2 (paper) 90 Minutes in Heaven, by Don Piper].

(There's a fourth one one ranked #21 on the hardback list.)

Is there anything different about these spiritual memoirs and the spiritual memoirs of earlier times?

As a genre, the spiritual memoir has been around since at least 397, when St. Augustine wrote his "Confessions," the first real autobiography in Western history. In an astonishingly modern way, Augustine describes his early life and his conversion in terms that are as passionate and self-aware as anything you would read today. What is new, suggests Donna Freitas, who teaches a class in spiritual memoir at Boston University, is that the memoirists are no longer using writing as a way to reach out to God. The new breed are using their belief in God (or lack thereof) to reach out to everyone else.
Professor Freitas is author of Sex and the Soul: The Sexual and Spiritual Lives of America's College Students (Oxford, 2008).

Some questions.

1. What is your favorite spiritual memoir?

2. Do you agree there has been a shift from "reaching out to God" to "reach out to everyone else" and, if so, is it for the better? Is there a paradox? Which is more effective in reaching out to others?

3. What spiritual memoir would you recommend to the young adult alienated from the church?

Keeping up with the Jones

The Rwandan House of Bishops has elected three new bishops to serve in its Anglican Misssion in America. Read the communiqué here.

George Conger observes, "Almost half of the Church of Rwanda’s bishops will be former priests of the American Episcopal Church by the year’s end...."

Episcopal Church Center reorganizes for service and collaboration

Collaboration and service to dioceses, churches and members are the core values of the reorganization of the Church Center. 815 Second Avenue in New York City will no longer be the only center of church management and support. Los Angeles, Atlanta, a Pacific NW center and a Midwest center are to be added to the existing offices in Washington, DC, Miami, Austin, TX, and Ambler, PA.

Raising levels of service to dioceses, congregations, and individuals -- "equipping people to use their gifts" -- is at the heart of recommendations to reorganize work based at the Episcopal Church Center, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a September 5 presentation to staff.

The goal "is to use the gifts and skills of the staff for the good of the whole Church," she noted, inviting participants in the staff-wide assembly to contemplate in new ways what it means to take on the "role of servant leaders" for the Episcopal Church, formed of 110 dioceses configured in some 16 nations and territories.

"This is about being the body of Christ," Jefferts Schori added, underscoring that healthy bodies are capable of demonstrating flexibility, adaptability, and "building new connections." Every member of Christ's body is valued and essential, she said.

The Presiding Bishop said the reorganization would facilitate "excellence in management," encourage "churchwide thinking in all mission programs," and be "responsive and supportive of those who lead ministries." She emphasized that the reorganization "is not about budget cutting" but about establishing the best possible deployment of personnel; "it is about effectiveness and servant leadership."

A second task force

"the Working Group for an Inspired, Trained and Innovative Workforce" -- a group of co-workers who have identified ways to encourage professional excellence -- [was] presented by Bernice Lucas, a communication deputy at the Church Center who is also general manager of Episcopal Books and Resources.

Lucas, a Church Center employee for some 18 years, said the recommendations underscore areas including encouraging professional and personal growth and development; employee incentives, awards and rewards; and corporate growth and development, all grounded in stated core values.

The core values begin with the Prayer Book's call to "respect the dignity of every human being" and include "commitment to excellence as a team," striving "to be inventive, innovative, inspired and flexible," Lucas said.

Read it all here

Clergy have pastoral needs, too

Churches and their clergy have played an important role in the rebuilding of New Orleans and the healing of the city's people. But these clergy are just as vulnerable to the trauma experienced by victims of catastrophe. New Orleans Bishop Charles Jenkins, talks about his experience in an Associated Press article on the pastoral needs of clergy:

The sight of misery all around them — and the combined burden of helping others put their lives back together while repairing their own homes and places of worship — are taking a spiritual and psychological toll on the city's ministers, priests and rabbis, many of whom are in counseling two years after Hurricane Katrina.

Almost every local Episcopal minister is in counseling, including Bishop Charles Jenkins himself, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jenkins, whose home in suburban Slidell was so badly damaged by Katrina that it was 10 months before he and his wife could move back in, said he has suffered from depression, faulty short-term memory, and difficulty concentrating or sleeping.

Low-flying helicopters sometimes cause flashbacks to the near-despair — the "dark night of the soul" — into which he was once plunged, he said. He said the experience felt "like the absence of God" — a lonely and frightening sensation.

Churches and synagogues have played an important role in New Orleans' recovery, supplying money and thousands of volunteers to rebuild homes and resettle families. But an April survey found 444 places of worship in metropolitan New Orleans — about 30 percent — were still closed 20 months after the storm because they were damaged or their congregations scattered.

The story features comments by other clergy and by mental health professionals, too:

For some members of the clergy, Katrina caused a spiritual crisis.

"I found myself praying, `My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' as Jesus did," said the Rev. Susan Gaumer, whose own home was destroyed and who has also had to help with more problems — and officiate at more funerals — than ever before among her congregants at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. "I felt distanced from God, but God wasn't the problem. I'm the problem. My prayer was, `My God, my God, why have I forsaken you?'

"Then with some time, healing time and some grieving of my own, and some good checking in with a therapist ... my prayer began to be a prayer of thanksgiving, for strength and for what I call the graces of the storm."

Jenkins, the Episcopal bishop, said he felt that the catastrophe exposed his failure before the storm to do enough to fight such evils as racism, poverty and poor education.

But helping rebuild lives proved to be a life-altering experience, he said: "This is the best time for the most authentic ministry as bishop that I've had in my 10 years."

The whole thing is here.

An unfortunate letter

Bishop John Shelby Spong has written an open letter to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury that rehashes old complaints that have been extensively aired elsewhere and seems calculated to give offense. It is perhaps best seen as an act of unconscious self-marginalization (not to mention bad manners.) Spong, like N. T. Wright, has become one of those figures whose public utterances frequently do more to bolster the cause of his adversaries than his allies.

If one were attempting to poison the atmosphere when the archbishop and the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops gather in New Orleans on September 20-21, this is the letter one would write. Its publication places a burden on Episcopal bishops who favor the full inclusion of the baptized in all ministries of the Church, and continued membership in the Anglican Communion. They now must make it clear that Archbishop Rowan will receive a warmer welcome than this letter suggests.

Read more »

Plea for tolerance in Ugandan paper

An op-ed in Uganda's Weekly Observer reflects on the state of the Anglican Communion and Africa's role in ongoing disputes over homosexuality and the church. The unbylined article expresses a sympathy for people who find homosexuality "revolting," but notes that African churches may hurt people more by exerting so much energy over the matter when there are other, graver issues threatening God's flocks in Uganda and beyond:

... some religious leaders seem to have forgotten the virtues of tolerance and forgiveness so well articulated in the Bible in their zeal to condemn and pass judgment on homosexuality.

As a result of this fixation, such religious leaders tend to keep a blind eye on other evils going on under their noses everyday but are quick to jump onto the gay bandwagon.

Every other day some religious leaders are cited in cases of theft, witchcraft or adultery, but they are not treated as outlaws as much as gays are. Yet the Bible clearly says that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.

...

If the Church is to be a true house of God, it should accept all its children, regardless of their flaws or tendencies. We need to tolerate each other’s faults.

If the enthusiasm with which the clergy are fighting homosexuality were applied to evils such as theft, adultery and discrimination, Uganda would perhaps be a better world!

The whole thing is here, with a hat tip to Episcope.

Saying goodbye to Michael Deaver

Early this morning, Politico author Andrew Glass wrote a tribute to Michael Deaver, who passed away Aug. 18. Deaver's funeral had been scheduled for today to allow people interested in attending to return from vacations and whatnot. No one, least of all Deaver, realized just how many people would want to come:

Before Michael Deaver, the longtime aide and image maestro to Ronald Reagan, died on Aug. 18 of pancreatic cancer at age 69, he requested that his memorial service take place at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Established in 1815, it stands across Lafayette Square from the White House and is known as “The Church of the Presidents.”

Deaver’s family made the arrangements in keeping with his wish. They also delayed the service until the first Thursday after Labor Day, when much of official Washington would be back from the traditional vacation period.

They soon found, however, that Deaver, a well-known figure on the Washington scene since 1981, had many more friends and admirers – including Nancy Reagan, the former first lady – who wished to attend than St. John’s could accommodate. St. John’s seats only several hundred people.

So the service was shifted to Washington National Cathedral Thursday at 11 a.m.

No news reports have come out about attendance at the funeral, but Glass's full article provides a run-down of who spoke. You can read it here.

Baseball, as it was, is now and ever shall be

If you love baseball—the church of baseball—then don't miss the Rev. Anne Gardner's piece in today's Boston Globe. In addition to being a correspondent for the paper and chaplain/director of community service at Endicott College, she's a loyal Red Sox fan—and a staff member at Fenway Park.

For the past year, I have been part of the game-day operations staff at Fenway Park. I have loved baseball for as long as I can remember, introduced to the game in 1967 by my favorite aunt, a mercurial Red Sox fan who taught me to love my team even when it made my heart hurt.

Now, 40 years later, I am an ordained Episcopal minister, a vocation that shares some similarities with baseball. Both are journeys of faith, full of inexplicable false steps and glorious moments of transformation. How my aunt would have beamed if she knew I would return four decades later to the sanctuary of my youth, but this time, with those emblematic red socks stitched on my own jersey.

Her essay explores what it's like being behind the scenes at Fenway—colleagues who have served the team since before she was born, the respectful boundary between the staff and athletes that allows her to see the team members authentically, a haunting insight into what happens when you become a "famous pariah" like Barry Bonds. But most compelling is her final insight into the truth of baseball:

At the end of each home game, most game-day workers take home $50 of after-tax earnings. We have often been on our feet for more than six hours, buffeted by the cold winds of April and the merciless heat of August. While most fans are clogging the Kenmore subway stop after the last out, we tend to stay a bit longer, shepherding the last few fans to the exits and closing up shop. Soon the lights dim to a faint glow as a hush falls over the park. This manufactured "dusk" feels almost as magical as the game itself.

As in most corporations, working for the Red Sox reveals plenty of politics, turf wars, and egos straining at the bit. But Red Sox baseball remains as pure and as compelling as in the days of Fisk, Conigliaro, Pesky, and Ruth. It is the game that brings us back over and over again. It is the game that has mysteriously become our elixir, a fountain of youth that reminds us of how it used to be, how we used to be, and how we hope to feel again.

October is coming. My heart can hardly stand it.

Amen.

The whole thing is here.

Another Gay bishop

The Anglican Journal (published in Canada) is re-running an article from 2003 this month. It's written by Terry Brown, the bishop of Malaita in the Church of the Anglican Province of Melanesia. Bishop Brown attended the Lambeth Conference of 1998 as an "out" gay man serving as a bishop. This article is his reflections and objections to the resolutions passed at that Conference.

"What do I do (what do you do?) when I realize (when you realize) that a relationship, a touching, an intimacy - which is experienced by me (or you) as grace-giving and filled with love - is for another Christian, equally devout, an act of great sin and offence? Such is the experience of many gay and lesbian Christians. Even if the friendship is rooted and grounded in mutual respect, in faithfulness, in prayer, in worship, in trust, indeed, experienced as 'in Christ,' still the judgment of the other Christian is the same: it is sin.

But then there are other Christians who, though they have not experienced the grace of my exact experience, can place themselves enough in it from their own experience, say, of Christian marriage, to offer support and encouragement. But they too are condemned for such a leap of empathy and charity. The Christian who condemns me (and them), I finally decide, is not working under Christian grace, charity and freedom but rather under some sort of 'Christian law.' Or they have totally universalized their personal experience and are now prepared to impose it on all humanity. It feels like there is a great gap between us. Indeed, there is.

I am not prepared to renounce a friendship that is experienced as fundamentally grace-filled and loving. But I do not want to offend the conscience of another. And so I stay silent. But that is not so satisfactory. The other still tries to make me feel guilty and my freedom is assaulted. Yet if I respond with truth, the other is not interested in listening but only in condemning."

Read the rest here.

Willams expresses shock, seeks clarification from Akinola

Saturday update: Josh Thomas's take on all of this is here.

Friday updates:

Evening update:. Episcopal Cafe has received word from UPI that they cannot confirm that NAN’s September 2 report of remarks by Bishop Orama will be retracted. Contact NAN for that information.

UPI’s Africa Monitoring service is a pass-through of NAN and other African news agency stories. UPI does not vouch for their accuracy. The UPI tag was added to this story in error. However, given the uncertainty now surrounding the story we have removed it from our site and informed customers receiving the Africa Monitoring material that we have done so.

Afternoon update: The Church of Nigeria is denying that Bishop Orama made the statments attributed to him. The Living Church has a story here. It reports Canon AkinTunde Popoola's claim that a reporter from the state-owned News Agency of Nigeria has apologized for misquoting the bishop, but doesn't identify the reporter or say how the agency plans to respond to a mistake of this magnitude. A statement from the reporter--either independently or via the agency, and a copy of the bishop's speech to his synod would go a long way toward clearing this up. Stay tuned.

From the Anglican Communion Office:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has expressed deep shock at remarks said to have been made by the Bishop of Uyo, Nigeria, the Rt Revd Isaac Orama concerning gay and lesbian people.

The Archbishop will be contacting the Archbishop of Nigeria, Dr Peter Akinola, to seek clarification. Dr Williams said "The safety of people of gay and lesbian sexual orientation is a matter of concern for us all. The Anglican Primates, along with all other official bodies in the Anglican Communion, have consistently called for an end to homophobia, violence and hatred. If these reports are correct I would urge the bishop to apologise. Such comments are unacceptable and profoundly shocking on the lips of any Christian".

Canon James M Rosenthal
Anglican Communion Office
St Andrew's House
Director of Communications
16 Tavistock Crescent
London W11 1AP UK

The real conspiracy

Scott Gunn writes that he believes he's discovered the real reason for the present controversies in the Anglican Communion, and who is ultimately pushing things along. It's the vestment companies:

"I think a certain company from Greenwich, Connecticut has brainwashed certain Anglicans to espouse divisive ideas. The idea was that things would fall apart, and we'd need a whole new set of bishops. Heck, now we're getting set after set of bishops. Their nefarious plan has been wildly successful!

Yes, my friends, I believe it's all about the purple shirts. Is it the retailer? The fabric manufacturer? How deep does the plot go? If I can find an IRD-esque funder, I plan to continue this investigation. And, definitely, I'm going to buy a massive fake volcano.

As crazy as it sounds to imagine that an ecclesiastical haberdasher is behind all this, I just can't fathom a more rational explanation for why Rwanda needs to have half its House of Bishops operating in the US. I can't see why we need to have outposts from Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Southern Cone, and who-knows-where-else?"

Read the rest of the post: here.

Madeleine L’Engle has died

The New York Times has news today that the noted children's author and active episcopal layperson and speaker had died at the age of 88. All of us here at the Café give thanks for her life and ministry

"Ms. L’Engle (pronounced LENG-el) was best known for her children’s classic, “A Wrinkle in Time,” which won the John Newbery Award as the best children’s book of 1963. By 2004, it had sold more than 6 million copies, was in its 67th printing and was still selling 15,000 copies a year.

Her works — poetry, plays, autobiography and books on prayer — were deeply, quixotically personal. But it was in her vivid children’s characters that readers most clearly glimpsed her passionate search for the questions that mattered most. She sometimes spoke of her writing as if she were taking dictation from her subconscious.

“Of course I’m Meg,” Ms. L’Engle said about the beloved protagonist of “A Wrinkle in Time.”

The “St. James Guide to Children’s Writers” called Ms. L’Engle “one of the truly important writers of juvenile fiction in recent decades.” Such accolades did not come from pulling punches: “Wrinkle” is one of the most banned books because of its treatment of the deity.

“It was a dark and stormy night,” it begins, repeating the line of a 19th- century novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, and presaging the immortal sentence that Snoopy, the inspiration-challenged beagle of the Peanuts cartoon, would type again and again. After the opening, “Wrinkle,” quite literally, takes off. Meg Murray, with help from her psychic baby brother, uses time travel and extrasensory perception to rescue her father, a gifted scientist, from a planet controlled by the Dark Thing. She does so through the power of love.

The book used concepts that Ms. L’Engle said she had plucked from Einstein’s theory of relativity and Planck’s quantum theory, almost flaunting her frequent assertion that children’s literature is literature too difficult for adults to understand. She also characterized the book as her refutation of ideas of German theologians."

Read the full two page article here.

The AP story is here.

Mwamba removed

Additional info in the Comments.

The Living Church reports,

The political disputes over The Episcopal Church’s place within the Anglican Communion have spilled over into Central Africa, leading to the replacement of the provincial dean, the Rt. Rev. Trevor Mwamba, Bishop of Botswana.

The Rt. Rev. Albert Chama, Bishop of Northern Zambia, was appointed to replace Bishop Mwamba as dean by the church’s General Synod, which began meeting on Sept. 6 in Mangochi, Malawi.

The government-backed Harare Herald reported Bishop Mwamba was “relieved of his duties” due to his “pro-gay” and pro-American lobbying, and because he misrepresented “the province’s position on the issue of homosexuals.”
...
This week’s synod will be the last for the church’s primate. Archbishop Bernard Malango turns 65 in January and is expected to retire at that time. Bishop Chama will oversee the election of a successor and will serve as acting primate.


The report in The Herald states,
Leading the gay lobby is Bishop of Botswana, the Rt Rev Trevor Musonda Mwamba, whose wings were clipped at the Episcopal Synod on Thursday where he was relieved of his duties as the Provincial Dean due to his pro-gay lobby and statements that he made misrepresenting the province’s position on the issue of homosexuals.

Rev Mwamba was replaced by Bishop Chama.

Central Africa has been in the sights of gay Western liberals over the past 18 year as Henderson, the Vicar of London’s All Saints’ Ealing, a bachelor, has been pouring tens of thousands of pound sterling into Lake Malawi in an attempt to buy himself into bishop.

Henderson was elected to the post in July 2005, and was to have been consecrated in October of that year. His consecration was, however, set aside after five Anglicans, led by Canon Rodney Hunter, from Nkhotakota objected. Canon Hunter later died in a case of suspected poisoning.

A court confirmation in November 2005 presided over by the Archbishop of Central Africa, the Most Reverend Dr Bernard Amos Malango, refused to confirm Henderson saying he was not of "sound faith"....

Several recent articles about Mwamba are collected here. Mwamba is scheduled to speak at the Modern Churchpeople's Union conference, "Saving the Soul of Anglicanism", in July.

UPDATE: AFP reports

Refering to a diocesan act, a cleric at Harare diocese told AFP that three of the four dioceses in Zimbabwe had "unanimously agreed" to sever ties with dioceses in the Central African province which were in favour of homosexuals.

The Anglican province of Central Africa comprises Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Electorate losing interest in candidates religions views?

From Reuters:

DALLAS (Reuters) - Religion is not proving to be a clear-cut factor in the 2008 U.S. White House race, taking a back seat to the Iraq war and domestic issues, but most Americans still feel faith is an important attribute in their president, according to a survey released on Thursday.

The Pew Forum survey also found that U.S. presidential candidates need not be seen as very religious to gain wide voter acceptance, noting that the Democratic and Republican front-runners -- Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani -- are viewed as the least religious among the top contenders.

The survey's findings are sure to be scrutinized by both parties as they vie for the vote of the faithful in the United States, where rates of churchgoing and strong religious conviction are far higher than elsewhere in the developed world.

"Religion does constitute a bar that candidates must successfully clear but the poll suggests it is not very high. ... And all the leading candidates seem to be clearing this bar," said Gregory Smith, a research fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Read it all. The findings regarding Clinton must trouble her, because even critical biographers tend to acknowledge that she is quite serious about her Methodist faith.

What is the source of creativity?

The Telegraph has published an edited extract from from Peter Conrad's new book, Creation: Artists Gods and Origins. Here's a passage,

The very idea that art purports to be a creative activity can offend a man of faith. In 1880, the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins defined creation as "the making out of nothing", which was accomplished by God "in no time with a word".

Hopkins denied that human beings shared this capacity; we can only play with matter that already exists. We know how to use grain to make bread or clay to make bricks, but cannot create the seed or the soil. "Man," Hopkins emphasised, "cannot create a single speck, God creates all that is not himself".

But is it really nonsensical to praise a man of genius for creating a painting, a poem or a tune, just because he did not invent the canvas and the colours, the words or the notes? Art is a magical activity....


Read the entire extract here.

Some reviews are available here.

In the Washington Post this morning there is an article (with images), "Putting His Brush in God's Hand," about the American artist Asher B. Durand with a similar theme:

He adhered to his principles: It is God who made the universe. Nature is a Scripture. The pious landscape painter who learns to read it rightly is thus a kind of priest.

Extremistvicars.com

England has its own "Onion" called The Daily Shame. Here is a recent article:

A group of Anglican extremists have attacked Cackwater shopping centre in Gutborough. There are no casualties, although several people are reported to be “quite confused”.

The attack took place at midday outside the local branch of TK Maxx. A bomb, made from cake mixture and “hundreds and thousands” was left in front of the store and exploded, leaving two men splattered and one man needing counselling. Shoppers ran for cover, fearing that the cake-bomb was the first of many, but were disappointed.

Shortly after the attack, a video appeared on the Anglican fundamentalist website extremistvicars.co.uk claiming that “all those who do not worship the Lord shall lead a rather average life” and that “if you do not follow the path of Jesus Christ, then I shall wag my finger at you”.

Read it all.

Sigmund Freud's Moses book

Mark Edmundson, author of The Death of Sigmund Freud: The Legacy of His Last Days writes,

In “The Future of an Illusion,” he described belief in God as a collective neurosis: he called it “longing for a father.” But in his last completed book, “Moses and Monotheism,” something new emerges. There Freud, without abandoning his atheism, begins to see the Jewish faith that he was born into as a source of cultural progress in the past and of personal inspiration in the present. Close to his own death, Freud starts to recognize the poetry and promise in religion....He argues that Judaism helped free humanity from bondage to the immediate empirical world, opening up fresh possibilities for human thought and action. He also suggests that faith in God facilitated a turn toward the life within, helping to make a rich life of introspection possible.

About the Moses story Freud came to some unique conclusions:
How did Freud know [Moses was not a Jew]? First of all, he claimed that Moses is not a Jewish name but an Egyptian one; second, Freud’s study of dreams and fairy tales convinced him that the Bible had inverted things. In the Exodus story, Moses’ mother, fearing Pharaoh’s order to kill all Jewish boys, leaves the infant Moses in a basket on the river’s edge, where he is discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter. But Freud maintained that the Jews were the ones who had found him by the river. (In fairy tales and dreams, the child always begins with rich parents and is adopted by poor ones, yet his noble nature wins out — or so Freud insisted.) Freud also said that monotheism was not a Jewish but an Egyptian invention, descending from the cult of the Egyptian sun god Aton.

Read it here in today's New York Times Magazine.

Find Edmundson's book here.

Obedience to Rwandan authority, in America

The Christianity Today blog reports:

A suburban Chicago church sought leadership from Rwanda amid theological disputes with the Episcopal Church. This week, it found itself in conflict with its leaders over Rwandan politics.

All Souls Anglican Church had invited Paul Rusesabagina, whose life was featured in the 2004 movie Hotel Rwanda, to speak during Sunday morning services. The Wheaton, Illinois, church, a member of the Rwandan-led Anglican Mission in America, invited him as part of a fundraiser to build a school in Gashirabwoba, Rwanda.

On Thursday, however, Emmanuel Kolini, the Anglican archbishop of Rwanda, asked All Soul's pastor J. Martin Johnson to rescind the invitation.

Rusesabagina has been at odds with the president of Rwanda. The archbishop feared that the event could create a strain in the relationship between the Anglican Church of Rwanda and the government.
...
[A]fter President Kagame found out Rusesabagina was supposed to speak to speak at a church overseen by archbishop of Rwanda, he contacted Kolini, who then told the church to cancel the event, Johnson said.

"The bigger reality for us is having to accept the whole concept of obedience, and that is a harder cultural pill to swallow than I realized," he said. "I'm forced to encounter my own resistance and bias."

Johnson, who was previously a priest in the Episcopal Church, has been under the Rwandan authority since 2004.


Read it here.

Thank you to SFiF for the lead.

Bonnie Anderson visits Fort Worth, Bishop displeased

Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church spoke in the Diocese of Fort Worth this weekend at the invitation of members of the diocese and Brite Divinity School. The bishop of Fort Worth, although invited to attend the events, declined the invitation saying he had an ordination to do that day. His communications representative, Suzanne Gill, was present. Bishop Iker chose to write a letter expressing his displeasure with Anderson's presence.

One of the organizers of the event, Katie Sherrod reports 250 people attended:

At NO time did anyone in that room claim to be the ONLY true "loyal Episcopalians" here in Fort Worth. Fort Worth Via Media has never claimed that.

The truth is, not everyone who was in that room "dissents" from "the stated theological positions of this diocese." Some agree with them, but aren't sure they are ready to leave TEC. Others agree with some of them, but not all, but do not want to leave TEC. Some disagree vehemently with those positions and are SURE they don't want to leave TEC. ... Where in all this have we "violated" the protocals and polity of The Episcopal Church? ...recent actions by our bishop have raised the anxiety level among people in the diocese to higher levels than usual. People wanted information from more than one source.

The purpose of the event was to inform people about national canons, especially regarding property, and to give them information from a viewpoint other than the bishop about recent events in our church and in the Communion, something not readily available in this diocese. It was also designed to empower lay people by informing them of ways to stay informed and to get involved on the parish and diocesan level. We also discussed ways to put people in the various parishes in touch with one another, including setting up a listserve not unlike the HOB/D list so they can share information and ideas.

Bishop Iker WAS informed of Bonnie's visit to Fort Worth AND invited to the event several weeks prior to yesterday. He declined to attend, saying he had an ordination to do that day.

Suzanne Gill, the diocesan communication director, attended the entire day.

This was emphatically NOT a Bash Bishop Iker event, although he WAS inevitably mentioned. I heard no disrespect for him, only disagreement with him. Last I heard, disagreement with one's bishop is still permitted in TEC.

This was an event designed to give information about the national church and the Anglican Communion [pointing out, for instance, that none of the "Instruments of Unity" have any power to force TEC to do anything], about what help might be available to people and parishes who want to remain in The Episcopal Church, about what happens if a bishop attempts to take an entire diocese "out of the church,"
Bonnie Anderson was the keynote speaker.

I then talked about the Anglican Communion and gave information about the Windsor Report, the Primates' Communiqué, invitations to Lambeth, etc. My talk will be posted on the Fort Worth Via Media web site later today.

Two lawyers talked about canon law.

My rector and one of the vestry members at Trinity Episcopal Church talked about ways lay people can get involved.

The event was completely transparent. It was open to anyone who registered, and was all videotaped.

Full report of the event is at Katie Sherrod's blog Desert's Child and will be on the Fort Worth Via Media site soon.

Bloggers Andrew Plus and Fr Jake offer their perspectives on his letter here and here.

Andrew writes a letter which replaces Bonnie Anderson's name with that of Archbishop Akinola.

This visit by Archbishop Akinola was arranged without any prior consultation with the Bishop of Chicago or any of the other elected leaders of that diocese. I consider it a breach of protocol and a violation of the basic polity of The Episcopal Church. It is a clear effort on his part to recognize and empower a small group of people who dissent from the stated theological positions of that diocese and who claim that they alone are the true ‘loyal Anglicans in our sister Diocese of Chicago.

Fr Jake comments on Anderson's visit and the letter from Bp Iker reminding all of the faithful Episcopalians of the Diocese of Fort Worth:

Let us not forget those faithful Episcopalians in Fort Worth. They need our support, especially right now. Their bishop has recently declared that "the realignment moves forward."

To clarify the terminology for those who might not be keeping up with the latest Anglican trends, "realignment" is the new fancy term for a very old and sad idea, commonly known as "schism."

Pray for the Diocese of Fort Worth. Pray for the Church.

Amen.

Update: Monday: Response to letter from Fort Worth Via Media here

And from Episcopal Life, the story on Bonnie Anderson's visit here

Copies of invitation letters to and from Bishop Iker ....

Read more »

A House Divided

There is a report that the The Church of the Province of Central Africa has voted to dissolve. The Province contains the nations of Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. A report in the Harrare Herald, a paper controlled by the government of Zimbabwe, said that at the meeting of the Provincial Synod in Malawi, three of the five dioceses in Zimbabwe voted to disassociate from the other dioceses, with whom they disagreed in the current Anglican controversies over sexuality and the nature of the Anglican Communion. The article went on to criticize Archbishop Malango: "[He] failed to save the situation after he botched condemning the homosexual lobby...."

The report names Harrare and Manicaland plus one other unnamed diocese as the three who have pulled out. According the paper, the constituting document of the province states that if one diocese breaks with the Province, the entire province is dissolved and must reorganize.

Earlier news reports said that there were fears that the Central Africa province would break into three national provinces of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, leaving Botswana, which does not qualify to be a province because it has only one diocese instead of the required four on its own.

As the Synod began on September 6th, the Bishop of Botswana, the Rt. Rev. Trevor Mwamba, Bishop of Botswana, was replaced as Provincial Dean by The Rt. Rev. Albert Chama, Bishop of Northern Zambia, because Mwamba had previously stated that the row of sexuality was distracting the Church in Africa from much more important issues such as poverty, disease, injustice and the need for transparency in governments.

Mwabe previously told the Ecumenical News Service that

Very few of us take the homosexual debate as a top priority issue because there are more pressing issues facing the African church

And

"Most African Anglicans want to get back to basics and concentrate on poverty, disease, injustice and the need for transparency in governments...."

Others in the Province, who have a different view of the primacy of the issue took a different stand in advance of the Provincial Synod and stated in advance that they would sever ties with any diocese they believed to be "pro-gay."

Getting curiouser in Central Africa

Updated: Greg Jones' casts a skeptical eye on Bishop Kuonga.

The province is in disarray after its latest synod, but it is hard to know whether this has more to do with differences over homosexuality, or simple personality conflicts, or a power grab by the Zimbabwean Church, which had enthusiastically backed the government of Robert Mugabe.

Last week, the Rt. Rev. Trevor Mwaba, was removed as dean of the province in part because he publicly opposed Archbishop Bernard Malango who has insisted that the Episcopal Church be disciplined for ordaining a gay bishop, and in part because he challenged Malango (who retired as Primate last week) over the archbishop's protection of Bishop Norbert Kuonga of the diocese of Harare.

Copious background on Kuonga, an ardent supporter of Mugabe, can be found here. He once faced an ecclesiastical trial on charges that Stephen Bates of The Guardian summarized in the Church of England Newspaper as follows:

The list of 38 charges against the good bishop, who is a crony of Robert Mugabe, brought against him by his own black parishioners, include little matters such as incitement to murder, intimidation, ignoring church law, mishandling funds and proselytising for Zanu PF from the pulpit. He has also occupied a farm and evicted 40 families from a local village. A couple of months ago he even licensed the acting vice-president of Zimbabwe Joseph Msika, a man on record as saying that whites are not human beings, to act as a deacon of the church."

Now comes news that Kuonga and several other bishops seem to have decided that ousting Mwaba was not enough, and that they are going to break away from the rest of the province anyway.

As Andrew Gerns noted in an earlier posting on The Lead:

There is a report that the The Church of the Province of Central Africa has voted to dissolve. The Province contains the nations of Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. A report in the Harrare Herald, a paper controlled by the government of Zimbabwe, said that at the meeting of the Provincial Synod in Malawi, three of the five dioceses in Zimbabwe voted to disassociate from the other dioceses, with whom they disagreed in the current Anglican controversies over sexuality and the nature of the Anglican Communion.

The report names Harrare and Manicaland plus one other unnamed diocese as the three who have pulled out. According the paper, the constituting document of the province states that if one diocese breaks with the Province, the entire province is dissolved and must reorganize.

Earlier news reports said that there were fears that the Central Africa province would break into three national provinces of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, leaving Botswana, which does not qualify to be a province because it has only one diocese instead of the required four on its own.

These news reports cannot be taken at face value, and not simply because the Herald is a pro-Mugabe paper. Provinces do not have the authority to define their own terms of membership in the Anglican Communion. So this business of three national provinces is speculative, at least until the Anglican Consultative Council considers the matter, and it has yet to indicate that it will do so.

Standing room only

It was standing room only for the students of Trinity Prepartory School of Winter Park, Florida, who put on their production of La Cage aux Folles at the Universal Orlando Theater. Adam Hetrik of Playbill News wrote:

La Cage aux Folles, which was not a part of Trinity Preparatory school's regular theatre schedule, was offered as a summer intensive open to all local high school students, not only those enrolled at Trinity Preparatory School. The program was designed to provide students with a credit for a fine arts requirement by bringing in local theatre professionals in order to allow students the experience of a professional rehearsal and production process.

When the show was publicized at the start of the school year, controversy erupted.

(The) parents and students were aware of the musical's content. Having previously produced A Chorus Line at Trinity Prep, a musical with many progressive central themes, (Department head Janine) Papin hoped audiences and the school were willing to go on the latest journey with her.

However, when Bishop John Howe, head of the Diocese of Central Florida, read of Trinity Preparatory's intended presentation of La Cage aux Folles in a local paper, a letter was sent "officially requesting" the school's headmaster to cancel the production.

The cancellation might have been the end, but news of the move brought forward both a flood of protest and offers from area theater companies and arts groups to put on the show. Playbill reported that the students received at least 15 offers to stage the production. After negotiations it was decided to hold the production at Universal Orlando, but without the official sponsorship of Trinity Prep. Read more here.

Tanya Caldwell of the Orlando Sentinel reported that over 300 people attended the performance on opening night.

The students took the show to Orlando Repertory Theatre after a week of debate about whether the bishop overstepped his bounds or held his moral ground. At least three other theaters also opened their doors to the group.

At least 300 parents, peers and neighbors arrived for the opening night, laughing at the jokes, smiling during the solos and whistling as grinning drag queens danced across the stage.

The Broadway musical has won several awards and was later tuned into an American movie called The Birdcage, which starred Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. La Cage features a gay couple in which one partner runs a French nightclub and the other performs there as a drag queen. The couple has been together for 20 years but make changes when their son bring home his fiancee and her conservative parents.

According to Playbill, Bishop Howe issued the following statement:

"We regret that the scheduling of this performance has been interpreted as a departure from our 40-year history as an Episcopal school. The students who worked hard to prepare for this play had neither a political nor social agenda."

Papin, who is unable to comment publicly on the production due to school administration restrictions, issued the following statement in an official Trinity Prep press release:

"I am quite proud of the students' tenacity and determination through this very difficult process. And I am thrilled that the students will get to perform the show on which they have worked so very hard. I am so grateful to all who supported our students' work."

When you are in jail, watch what you can't read

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has directed the departments chaplains to purge their libraries of all religious books which are not on list approved developed by the Bureau. According to a New York Times report by Laurie Goodstein, the move is supposed to prevent inmates from getting relgiously-based terrorist ideas.

Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons, said the agency was acting in response to a 2004 report by the Office of the Inspector General in the Justice Department. The report recommended steps that prisons should take, in light of the Sept. 11 attacks, to avoid becoming recruiting grounds for militant Islamic and other religious groups. The bureau, an agency of the Justice Department, defended its effort, which it calls the Standardized Chapel Library Project, as a way of barring access to materials that could, in its words, “discriminate, disparage, advocate violence or radicalize.”

The list, which has reduced religious libraries to a list of 150 approved books and 150 multi-media for each of 20 religions or religious categories, does not ban liturgical texts, prayer books or scriptures.

The lists are broad, but reveal eccentricities and omissions. There are nine titles by C. S. Lewis, for example, and none from the theologians Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth and Cardinal Avery Dulles, and the influential pastor Robert H. Schuller.

Chaplains already watch out for materials that promote violence or disparage groups or classes of people, so, they say, the effort is unnecessary. The department has not provided funds for Chaplains to purchase the approved materials. This means that many prison library have simply been cleared of materials.

This effort has managed to displease nearly everyone: evangelical Christian groups have found their materials banned as well as Jewish and Muslim groups. Already some prisoners have filed suit.

If bureaucrats are concerned about radical ideas that are infectious, they may want to have another look at those Gospels.

Read the rest here including a multi-media description of the banned materials.

Visas denied for Iranian religious delegation

A delegation of religious leaders from Iran was supposed to arrived in the US today to meet with Christian leaders from the United Methodist, Episcopal, Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical, Quaker, and Mennonite traditions, but at the last minute their visas were denied. The visit reciprocates a visit last February by American Christian leaders to Iran for face-to-face dialouge, the first since the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979.

According to a report in the blog Ekklesia, the visit was sponsored by these faith-groups plus the National Council of Churches and Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

The (Bush) administration denied visas to four of fourteen Iranians invited to the United States, including the two leaders of the delegation. The Iranians were invited to meet with their counterparts in the United States this September as the next step in an ongoing dialogue with a diverse group of Christian leaders from United Methodist, Episcopal, Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical, Quaker, and Mennonite traditions. The U.S. group traveled to Iran in February 2007 at the invitation of Iranian religious leaders and the government. Members of the U.S. delegation hoped that by reciprocating the Iranians’ hospitality, they could further work to inspire the governments and people of both countries to commit to a diplomatic solution to the ongoing dispute between the United States and Iran. Words not war could answer the national interests of both peoples.

Read more....

"Great love of Heaven, deep dignity"

Every Tuesday night, The Rev. Canon David Bauman dons a black outfit. Not a formal black clerical suit. Not a cassock with red piping Instead, he puts on a black "gi" with red Chinese characters that read "Great Love of Heaven, Deep Dignity." Bauman teaches martial arts to children, adults, and those with special needs as an extension of his parish's ministry.

Bauman, rector of Blessed Sacrament Episcopal Church of Placentia, California, teaches a form of martial arts known as Tang Soo Do. The Orange Country Register tells his story in an article by Adam Townsend.

"The old traditions in martial arts – it was a religious pursuit," said the Rev. David Baumann, sitting in the church office before his Tuesday night class. "Only in the past couple of decades was it viewed as a sport. We have taken the traditional style of martial arts and turned it into a Christian discipline."

And:

In his class, he trains kids from the age of 4 to adults in their 50s and 60s.

The class – which is limited to 34 with dozens on the waiting list – begins with a prayer recited in unison.

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control," the class says, quoting Galatians.

Maria Pickering of Yorba Linda has been attending the class for about two years, and this night, she has her son Jacob Pickering, 11, and Emily Pickering, 4, with her.

"I've done karate before," she said. "I wanted my kids to do karate that is centered on God."

"I like it better than the other ones I go to because they actually teach you and help you learn it," added Jacob.

The martial arts classmates agree that Baumann has a knack for teaching, whether it's kids like Jacob and his mom, or the dozens of physically and mentally disabled students he's taught over the years. Bauman said he has used the class as a sort of therapy to help some get over years of childhood abuse.

Baumann, a fourth-degree black belt who has been training for more than 20 years, started out as a gymnast. He said he's always been interested in "the spiritual aspects of physical activity."

"Western culture tends to divide the mind, body and spirit," Baumann said. "If you want to work at your body, you go to the gym and lift weights; if you want to work on your mind you take a class; if you want to work on your spirit, you learn how to meditate or get into religion."

Canon Bauman reflects on his ministry and some of what his martial arts have taught him in his blog:

Numbers and popularity apparently mean very little to God. Only rarely, if ever, has he depended on numbers to win a battle. Usually, it’s the contrary. We are called simply to believe in him, trust in him, hold fast, and when called to do so uphold the truth. This is strength, the only strength that matters and is reliable.

Episcopalians at Pentagon and 9/11

Episcopalians at the Pentagon began holding services during Lent 1987. The mid-week services were well received, and continued after Easter, with local clergy and military chaplains stationed in the area joining the rotation. Lucy Chumbley of the Washington Window, published by the Diocese of Washington, DC., writes about this ministry and the aftermath of the events of 9/11.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, John Symons was sitting at his desk in the Pentagon’s outermost ring when he heard a “big thud – and I knew what had happened.”

So he shut down his computer, turned off the coffee machine and the lights, closed up his office and left the building.

The next day, Symons – a contractor systems analyst who is a parishioner at St. John’s, Norwood – was back at his desk in the still-burning building.

The Pentagon, which continued to smolder for five days, was filled with acrid smoke. But just after noon, as was his custom, Symons made his way through the wide corridors to room 5B1059, the small auditorium where the Pentagon Episcopal Community had gathered each Wednesday since 1987 to celebrate the Eucharist.

“I wasn’t sure who would be there,” he said. “But I set up, and [Lt. Col.] Chris Cunningham came in.”

Standing together, with smoke in the air and soot on the altar, the two men read the Great Litany from the Book of Common Prayer.

Have mercy upon us. Spare us, good Lord. Good Lord, deliver us. We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord. Have mercy upon us. Grant us thy peace. O Christ, hear us.

“That’s the beauty of the prayer book,” Symons said, noting that after this experience, Cunningham entered the seminary and is now associate rector at St. Peter’s Church in Purcellville, Va.

Read it all here

Are there left-wing and right-wing brains?

Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work according to an article in the Los Angeles Times

In a simple experiment reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists at New York University and UCLA show that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information.

Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. The latest study found those traits are not confined to political situations but also influence everyday decisions.

The results show "there are two cognitive styles -- a liberal style and a conservative style," said UCLA neurologist Dr. Marco Iacoboni, who was not connected to the latest research.

Lead author David Amodio, an assistant professor of psychology at New York University, cautioned that the study looked at a narrow range of human behavior and that it would be a mistake to conclude that one political orientation was better. The tendency of conservatives to block distracting information could be a good thing depending on the situation, he said.

Read it all here

Perhaps this might explain why people have different preferences for the reading of Scripture.

Satyagraha and 9/11

Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, will consider the events and consequences of two events in history sharing the date of September 11th. He will give a lecture to the Christian Muslim Forum Conference in Cambridge UK. The Anglican Communion News Service reports:

Dr Williams compares "the act of nightmare violence" of September 11th 2001 and the chain of retaliation, fear and misery" it unleashed with the public meeting in Johannesburg on September 11th in 1906 (attended by people of Muslim, Hindu and Christian faiths) at which Gandhi's non-violent protest movement - the Satyagraha movement - was born.

It was a movement which put principles into action but which rejected violence; a sort of "'soul force' whose central principle was that our behaviour must witness to truth whatever the cost - and that this witness to truth can never, of its very nature, involve violence or a response to oppression that simply mirrors what has been done by the
oppressor."

The Archbishops says in his lecture:

The Church is, in this perspective, the trustee of a vision that is radical and universal, the vision of a social order that is without fear, oppression , the violence of exclusion and the search for scapegoats because it is one where each recognizes their dependence on all and each is seen as having an irreplaceable gift for all. The Church cannot begin to claim that it consistently lives by this; its failure is all too visible, century by century. But its credibility does not hang on its unbroken success; only on its continued willingness to be judged by what it announces and points to, the non-competitive, non-violent order of God's realm, centred upon Jesus and accessible through commitment to him. Within the volatile and plural context of a
society that has no single frame of moral or religious reference, it makes two fundamental contributions to the common imagination and moral climate. The first is that it declares that, in virtue of everyone's primordial relation to God (made in God's image), the dignity of every person is non-negotiable: each has a unique gift to give, each is owed respect and patience and the freedom to contribute what is given them.

This remains true whether we are speaking of a gravely disabled person - when we might be tempted to think they would be better off removed from human society, or of a suspected terrorist - when we might be tempted to think that torture could be justified in extracting information, or of numberless poor throughout the world - when we should be more comfortable if we were allowed to regard them as no more than collateral damage in the steady advance of prosperity for our 'developed'
economies.


He concludes:
...my chief point is that the convergence that occurred on this day in Johannesburg in 1906 was not an illusory or opportunistic affair. Both our faiths bring to civil society a conviction that what they embody and affirm is not a marginal affair; both claim that their legitimacy rests not on the license of society but on God's gift. Yet for those very reasons, they carry in them the seeds of a non-violent and non-possessive witness. They cannot be committed to violent struggle to prevail at all costs, because that would suggest a lack of faith in the God who has called them; they cannot be committed to a policy of coercion and oppression because that would again seek to put the power of the human believer or the religious institution in the sovereign
place that only God's reality can occupy. Because both our traditions have a history scarred by terrible betrayals of this, we have to approach our civil society and its institutions with humility and repentance. But I hope that this does not mean we shall surrender what is most important - that we have a gift to offer immeasurably greater than our own words or records, the gift of a divine calling and a renewal of all that is possible form human beings.

Read it all here.

Other news and reflections on 9/11

Spire of Hope dedicated in Belfast here

Remembering 9/11 on epiScope

And Heads Bow in Memory of 9/11 in The New York Times

Dream along with God

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori addressed the recent convocation of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Basing her remarks on Isaiah 61:1-9 she encouraged the incoming class to "dream along with God." According to Mary Frances Schjonberg and Daniel Webster in Episcopal Life Online:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told the incoming class ... that they need to consider, how theological thinking is going to help to shape the rest of your life.

The task of theological education really is to help us learn to do theology -- to relate our own stories, and the stories of those around us, to the great stories of our faith, so that we may be able to give an account of the faith that is within us. Theological education can bless us with the ability to see the need and hurt and injustice of the world, the ways in which God's dream is not yet being realized.

In his introduction of the Presiding Bishop, Union President Joseph C. Hough, Jr. said that her election is "emblematic of the determination of the Episcopal Church to embody a new church for the 21st century and to forge a model for a prophetic church in a radically changing world." ... a "prophetic statement to the church and the world at a time when aggressive misogyny has reared its ugly head in many Christian communions, determined to restore the full grip of male hegemony in the leadership of Christian Churches."

"She and her church in full view of the world have defied this trend and engendered hope for many of us Christians who abhor this sort of male exclusivism," Hough continued.

Hough said that "since misogyny is almost always accompanied by homophobia, it is hardly surprising that she has been the object of virulent attacks for her openness to gay ordination from some of her fellow bishops and clergy in the Anglican Communion."

"What is so wondrous for me to see is her refusal to engage in white hot polemics in response to this ecclesiastical skullduggery," he added.

Read the news story here

Read the address by Katharine Jefferts Schori here

Watch a brief video of the Convocation and read more here

Body Shop founder discovered vitality in religion

Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, who died on September 10, is being honored around the world for her life commitment to ethical, cruelty free business practices. Initially uneasy with religion, she believed that "anybody who has a religious inclination has no sense of rationale or intellectual understanding and therefore should be dismissed." She came to see the value of spiritual development bringing about material change to the way we live and act - and she was surprised and delighted by her experience of the annual Greenbelt Festival, commenting that its practical vitality and intellectual energy was far from the stereotypes of Christianity she had often met, and the stuffiness of the church she had personally encountered.

Tributes have been pouring in from across the world for green and ethical business pioneer Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop chain and supporter of Fair Trade, who died on 10 September 2007 aged 64 after a major brain haemorrhage. Ekklesia reports on Dame Anita, the daughter of Italian immigrants, who set up the first Body Shop in Brighton in 1976 - when its approach was regarded as radical and new. She pioneered cruelty-free beauty products and turned them into a highly profitable enterprise.
Simon Barrow, co-director of the Christian think tank Ekklesia, said that the best way to honour the memory of Anita Roddick was to take forward the case for corporate responsibility as a human obligation, not a luxury option.

"It is easy to be cynical about 'ethical business' now that it has become mainstream and trendy", he commented. "Of course there is a lot of hot air around it. But developing alternative practices for doing business as if people and the planet matters is a tough call. Roddick recognised that massive injustice in trade, corporate greed and unfair debt often confounded efforts to take the world in a different direction. But she wasn't daunted or deceived. Nor should we be."

Ekklesia has also praised Roddick for bringing people together from different belief and non-belief backgrounds to work for a better world in spite of their differences.

"She didn't feel easy with 'religion' and she was highly critical of a lot of established religious institutions", said Barrow. "But Anita Roddick also saw the value of spiritual development bringing about material change to the way we live and act - and she was surprised and delighted by her experience of the annual Greenbelt festival, commenting that its practical vitality and intellectual energy was far from the stereotypes of Christianity she had often met, and the stuffiness of the church she had personally encountered."


Ekklesia relates how Roddick changed her mind about religion in her participation with the Greenbelt Christian Arts Festival:
Speaking to the Church Times newspaper ahead of her appearance at the Greenbelt Christian arts festival back in 2004, Dame Anita Roddick - who died yesterday - declared at the time: “What’s wonderful about being my age is having to face your prejudices."

She continued: "I had no idea how big Greenbelt was. I had no idea how organised it was; how free it was; how joyful it was. And I had no idea that there was such a strong activist, trade justice plank in its platform."

She said: “It’s really hard, when you have had your antennae up for most of these movements, to have completely ignored it. I have fallen for the zeitgeist that says anybody who has a religious inclination has no sense of rationale or intellectual understanding and therefore should be dismissed."

“I am cheering the Greenbelt festival from the top of every bloody mountain…for me, it’s like a heartbeat. And it’s youth. I’m ashamed of my bloody prejudices, but I’m delighted to be a convert. I find it wonderful.”

Read more here and here.

Greenbelt Festival website here

Bishop Jenkins prays for mercy

Bishop Jenkins of Louisiana writes to the members of the Diocese about the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury and House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in Church Work, the official journal of the Diocese of Louisiana.

...The Bishops of the Episcopal Church will be meeting at the Hotel Intercontinental from Sept. 18-25. I ask you to join me in praying for Divine Grace that we may be faithful to Jesus, who, in His High Priestly prayer, asked the Father (that)"we may be one as He and the Father are one."

I need not state anew my traditional and unchanged thoughts on the questions before us. However, I do wish to share several observations, which have expanded my thinking a bit. As our Lord taught in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, it was the Samaritan who proved the good neighbor because it was this racial and religious outcast who demonstrated the quality of mercy. Our Lord's command around mercy was simple, "Go and do likewise." We in Louisiana have seen and experienced mercy from the hands of many for the past two years. People from radically differing perspectives around sexuality have come together in a mission of mercy, and have found their lives changed and the seeming hot button issues put in the proper perspective. Why can we as Anglicans not demonstrate the same mercy toward one another?

A failure to find a way forward together shall not simply hurt each and every one of us, but as sin is always communal in its effects, our failures will hurt the poor and needy whom we serve and to whom mercy is a symbol of hope. The Anglican Communion is engaged in a huge ministry of justice, mercy, and compassion around the world. If we give in to the sin of self-absorption, our souls shall surely be hardened but it is the poor who will suffer most. No matter which side of the issue of human sexuality you believe to be of God, I suggest that if you really want to break the heart of God, you should work to make the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as absorbed with itself and her disagreements as is possible.

The time and the place of the Archbishop's visit is significant. I think we in Louisiana and Mississippi have demonstrated the truth of mission to the Communion. The Morial Convention Center was the place of such suffering and death. Just several weeks after the second anniversary of our being brought so low, we come together to thank God and the church throughout the world for the mercy and support which has enabled us to begin our recovery.

The bishops and their spouses will take off Saturday and Sunday to do work in Louisiana and Mississippi.I need your prayers as I try to get a building for All Souls in the Lower Ninth. The Bishops are bringing offerings to pay for this new Church and I hope they will be able to finish it come September. You will likely have a guest Bishop in your parish Church on the Sunday of the New Orleans meeting. If you want to hear the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, plan to come to Christ Church Cathedral on that Sunday morning at the 10:00 a.m service....

Thanks to Grandmere Mimi at Wounded Bird.

Two dioceses to consider proposals to leave national church

In separate statements issued yesterday two Network dioceses addressed the examination of proposals to cut ties with the Episcopal Church.

The press release from Quincy states the diocese

will consider proposals at its October Synod that would cut its ties with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church if leaders of that Church continue to pull away from mainstream Anglicanism.

The Archbishops of the Anglican Communion have set September 30th as the deadline for the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops to give “unequivocal” assurance that they will stop advocating teaching and practices that are incompatible with Holy Scripture.
...
Fr. John Spencer, President of the Quincy Standing Committee, made it clear that the Diocese is not trying to preempt the upcoming meeting of the House of Bishops.

Emphasis added. Read the press release here.

The other statement was a letter from Bishop Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh:

A last minute reversal by the House of Bishops (prior to a September 30th deadline established by the Communion) seems most unlikely. In light of these events, with heavy hearts, and for the sake of our mission it appears the time has come to begin the process of realignment within the Anglican Communion.

Constitutional changes proposed for consideration at the 142nd Annual Convention would begin the process to exercise our right to end the accession of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church of the United States of America.
...
Because the accession clause is a feature of our local diocesan constitution, adoption of the changes requires the action of two successive annual conventions. The proposed changes would therefore not take effect immediately, but would open a season of planning, discussion and decision-making in preparation for the second vote in 2008.
Duncan's letter is available here. Lionel Deimel attended a diocesan event and received comments from a diocesan spokesperson on the recent Boston Globe article where Duncan said he planned to take the diocese out of the Episcopal Church. Mark Harris and Father Jake very effectively dissect the proposed constitutional changes.

In recent days two mainstream Windsor bishops have issued statements looking towards the meeting of the House of Bishops. Bishop Jenkins (Louisiana) wrote,

People from radically differing perspectives around sexuality have come together in a mission of mercy, and have found their lives changed and the seeming hot button issues put in the proper perspective. Why can we as Anglicans not demonstrate the same mercy toward one another?

A failure to find a way forward together shall not simply hurt each and every one of us, but as sin is always communal in its effects, our failures will hurt the poor and needy whom we serve and to whom mercy is a symbol of hope.

For more of Jenkins' statement see the previous item in The Lead.

Bishop Howe (Central Florida) wrote,

I believe that in virtually every one of our congregations, even those in which the desire to separate is widespread, there are many who do not wish to leave The Episcopal Church or the Diocese of Central Florida. If those who desire to remain can become a viable congregation, that congregation becomes the continuing body of that parish, with a claim upon the property.

So: I foresee an extremely difficult period ahead of us, in which congregations may be pulled apart, and arguments over property become horribly distracting and costly.

I am committed to being as gracious and generous as possible to those who, for conscience sake, believe they must separate. But I am pledged to stand alongside those who, for conscience sake, choose to remain, and I am committed to the rebuilding of congregations and this Diocese in the wake of any such departures.


Howe's letter is here.

Rowan Williams profiled

As his sabbatical came to a close, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke with the National Catholic Reporter, an American publication. He is the NCR's cover story for its September 14th issue:

On Sept. 3 Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams came back from study leave to face the music. The primate of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion does not want to go down in history as the archbishop who presided over the disintegration of that communion.
...
As he looks forward, the archbishop hopes against hope. He pauses for thought before he replies to questions, his eyes reflective under the bushy eyebrows. Then out comes his response, perfectly phrased, highly nuanced, each sentence proceeding coherently to a full stop. “The requests that have been put to the Episcopal church are of slightly different kinds. The answers are not simple black and white.” So even after the American Anglicans of the Episcopal church have declared themselves, “there will still be some discerning and sifting to do by the standing committees of our international bodies.”
...
Ask the archbishop whether, given the present difficulties, he does not sometimes wish in his heart of hearts for a touch of papal power and he will always say no. Then what does he think that Christian leadership consists in?

One has to look at the Gospel, he replies, to tease out the context of a concept like that. In that light, he sees his task as taking appropriate responsibility “for making things happen in the direction of God’s kingdom.” Instant results are not always to be expected. In the Anglican Communion, decisions “depend very heavily on mutual consent.” Otherwise they will not stick. He does what he can, he says, to “make a difference that shifts things slightly.”
...
As to the covenant, he would indeed like to see “a much greater convergence of our canon law” toward “some kind of worldwide screening process” that would make it possible to resolve any “really bad procedural blunder that caused scandal and damage to a church in a province.” But every Anglican province at present “has what is in principle a self-sufficient system of canon law.” To introduce any element into these provincial systems that gave jurisdiction elsewhere “would be a huge innovation.”
...
As a theologian in the 1980s Williams himself was one of those questioning the Christian tradition on homosexuality.

“I still think the points I raised were worth raising. But put them in the context of a wider discussion of the doctrine of the church and how the church makes up its mind, and it looks a little less simple.” In that context it becomes clear that “there are no arguments that are winning the majority of Christendom over to a new position” that would amend or reverse the consistently negative Christian tradition on homosexual practice. He distinguishes sharply between questions a theologian may ask and actions or decisions a church or a bishop may take.

Read it here. (Click past the subscription offer and then click on the September 14 issue cover of Williams.)

Archbishops in US this month

When the House of Bishops meets this month which Anglican Communion primates will be in attendance? There will be our own Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, of course. And the Archbishop of Canterbury was invited and has accepted. Besides the See of Canterbury, the other members of the Standing Committee of the Primates are also included at the invitation of the House of Bishops. Those members of the standing committee were elected by their respective regions at the February meeting of the primates. Jefferts Schori was elected from the Americas. Other members are the liberal Morgan (Wales), Aspinall (Australia), and Orombi (Uganda). Orombi has stated he would not attend: "It is my conviction that our Dar es Salaam communiqué did not envision interference in the American House of Bishops while they are considering our requests."

Orombi will be in the United States later this month. He is keynoter at the Neal Conference of True Spirituality at Covenant College (PCA).

As is widely known Archbishop Akinola (Nigeria) will be in Chicago this month.

Do the visits of Akinola and Orombi constitute interference in the American House of Bishops while they are considering [the primates'] requests?

Misfeasance? Malfeasance?

Another update: Stand Firm in Faith has an email that certainly looks like an apology from a NAN reporter who claims to be the one who wrote the report on Bishop Orama. It is a curious document, including a paragraph at the end in which the reporter says he did not act in bad faith, and that he is committed to evangelism-- which are unusual things for a reporter to say. But if NAN confirms that this is authentic, I think the matter is closed.

Update: The Church of Nigeria has also released the bishop's power point presentation, and published an article on its web site. The excerpt below on CANA is from that presentation. Still no response from the News Agency of Nigeria, and at least to this point, nothing from the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose previous statement is here. Discussion continues at Thinking Anglicans.

In an email to various bloggers and reporters, Archdeacon AkinTunde Popoola of the Church of Nigeria has provided additional information about the remarks attributed to--but denied by--the Rt. Rev. Isaac Orama of the Diocese of Uyo last week.

He writes that this excerpt is from a copy of the bishop's speech:

G. INAUGURATION OF CANA

The formal inauguration of CANA-Convocation of Anglicans in North America and the enthronement of its pioneer Bishop, Rt. Revd. Martyn Minns took place on 4th May, 2007, at a service presided over by the Primate and Metropolitan of Church of Nigeria, The Most Revd. Peter J. Akinola at Hylton Chapel woodbridge, Virginia in the United States of America.

CANA is the offshoot of the Church of Nigeria's response to the unbiblical agenda of the Episcopal Church of United States of America in supporting same sex marriage and consecrating in the year 2003 the publicly acknowledged gay priest V. Gene Robinson as bishop.

The aim of CANA, in the words of the Primate of Church of Nigeria, The Most Revd. Peter J. Akinola is “to provide a safe place for those who wish to remain faithful Anglicans but can no longer do so within the Episcopal Church. The Primate was assisted by the following bishops of Church of Nigeria, Rt. Revd. Emmanuel Chukwuma (Enugu); Rt. Revd. Benjamin Kwashi (Jos); Rt. Revd. Ignatius Kattey, (NDDN); Rt. Revd. Edafe Emamezi (Western Izon). The chairman of board of trustees of CANA, Barr. Abraham Yisa was also in attendance.

He also says that the reporter is asking for forgiveness, and the bishop is insisting on a retraction. I am not familiar enough with the ways of the Nigerian media to easily make sense of this. In the United States, the news agency, not the individual reporter, would be responsible for the decision to retract, and if the matter is cut and dried, would be made fairly quickly. This particular story has been out there since September 2 with no retraction. That would be significant here, but I don't know if it is significant there.

Then there is the nature of the mistake if indeed one was made. If this is all the bishop said, it is impossible to believe that he reporter just got it wrong. He would have had to make it up. Malfeasance rather than misfeasance.

It would be extremely helpful if the News Agency of Nigeria would chime in soon.

Duncan's inversion

Lionel Deimel did not attend the Pittsburgh Diocesan Council meeting this week, but he received a report for someone who did. The council met to consider constitutional changes that envision (1) the option of leaving the national church and (2) admitting into the diocese churches from other geographic regions. The constitution changes do not address how a free-floating diocese could be recognized as a member of the Anglican Communion.

During the council meeting Bishop Duncan was asked about churches within the diocese who are clear they would not leave the Episcopal Church. Deimel writes,

The bishop explained that the settlement agreement resulting from Calvary Church’s lawsuit provides a procedure by which parishes wishing to leave the diocese may negotiate their exit. The bishop says that this procedure can be used by parishes who want to remain in The Episcopal Church! This, of course, stands the settlement agreement on its head, as the point of the agreement, as far as Calvary Church was concerned, anyway, was to protect Episcopal Church property. Clearly, Bishop Duncan expects not only to remove his diocese from The Episcopal Church—apparently the Boston Globe got the story right—but to claim all the property as well. This is exactly what the Calvary lawsuit was initiated to prevent. Judge James may have something to say about the matter.
Read Deimel's entire post on the council meeting here.

In Duncan's world the settlement with Calvary -- designed to protect Episcopal Church property -- could be used against Calvary and churches faithful to the Episcopal Church if the diocese merely passes through the looking glass and says it is no longer part of the Episcopal Church. The Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson would have something to say about that.

California Supreme Court to hear church property cases

We earlier reported that the Diocese of Los Angeles had prevailed on appeal, against St. James, Newport Beach, St. David's, North Hollywood, All Saints, Long Beach and others. These churches were attempting to claim ownership of parish property although the Consitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church affirm that all property is held in trust for The Episcopal Church.

Today the California Supreme Court granted a petition for review and will therefore decide this case. The Court could have declined to hear this case, but decided that the issues in the case were worthy of its atttention. The official court docket can be found here. The Los Angeles Times has a report here.

The role of the primates

Abp. Michael Peers, retired primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has responded to the Rev. Canon Robert Brooks' memo from last week in which he elucidates on whether the primates can make ultimatums about who stays in or leaves the Anglican Communion. Peers goes another step further, by explaining the relationship between the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' Meeting, having a long relationship with both institutions.

But the stated purpose of the Primates Meeting was the provision of occasions of mutual support and building of a community of persons of similar ministries within the Communion. The very name and the style of the meetings express it well. Even though a resolution of the 1978 Lambeth Conference refers to a “Primates Committee,” that name was never used. The ACC consults. The Lambeth bishops confer. The primates meet.

Archbishop Donald Coggan, in presiding over the first meeting, made it clear that the meeting was not going to become a resolution-producing body. The Meetings have traditionally produced statements, and the preparation of those statements certainly produces debate; but no resolution is ever taken, or even proposed, about the statement or any other subject. Even Archbishop George Carey, who arguably contributed to the higher visibility of the Primates Meeting by acceding to the request from some members for annual meetings (an innovation advised against by those primates who chaired the Inter-Anglican Finance Committee!), resisted any attempt to introduce the proposing of motions. Such a change would overstep the mandate agreed upon from the first meeting.

Confusion of roles between the ACC and the Primates Meeting is not new. Soon after the 1988 Lambeth Conference, there arose an issue where the Primates Standing Committee (originally simply an Agenda Committee) wanted to act in order to resolve a difficult question concerning the future of the Anglican Centre in Rome. They were unaware that the ACC Standing Committee was also working on the same issue, and the two bodies were soon at cross-purposes. In order to prevent such problems in the future, it was proposed that the two Standing Committees meet jointly. This has been the practice at the annual meetings ever since. The nine members of the ACC Standing Committee and the five members of the Primates’ Standing Committee vote as a body. But, crucially, the Primates Standing Committee members may not vote on the approval of the audited financial statement because the ACC is a legally constituted body, registered with the Charities Commissioners of the United Kingdom, and only the constitutionally elected members are allowed by law to vote.

The ACC has its place and, because it is the only Communion-wide “Instrument” with representation from orders other than episcopal, it was designed to have the greatest authority. I pray that it may have the freedom and grace to use that authority wisely. The Primates Meeting has its place in a church which is “episcopally led and synodically governed” in the words Archbishop Coggan used. I pray that it may have the grace to use its leadership humbly.

The whole thing is here. Both essays were published at the Episcopal Majority blog.

MDG progress on child mortality

The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has released figures that show progress on the Millennium Development Goal of cutting the infant mortality rate. For the first time since records started being kept in 1960, the world child mortality rate has dropped below 10 percent. And, more funding has been provided toward this goal since the data was gathered, so officials are optimistic this trend will continue.

The estimated drop, to 9.7 million deaths of children under 5, “is a historic moment,” said Ann M. Veneman, Unicef’s executive director, noting that it shows progress toward the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of cutting the rate of infant mortality in 1990 by two-thirds by 2015. “But there is no room for complacency. Most of these deaths are preventable, and the solutions are tried and tested.”

Interestingly, Unicef officials said, the new estimate comes from household surveys done in 2005 or earlier, so they barely reflect the huge influx of money that has poured into third world health in the last few years from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the Gates Foundation; and the Bush administration’s twin programs to fight AIDS and malaria. For that reason, the next five-year survey should show even greater improvement, they said.

“We feel we’re at a tipping point now,” said Dr. Peter Salama, Unicef’s chief medical officer. “In a few years’ time, it will all translate into a very exciting drop.”

Read more at The New York Times.

Canterbury: don't misread communiqué

George Conger reports,

[A] senior advisor to the Archbishop of Canterbury told The Living Church it was a serious misreading of the primates’ communiqué to say that an ultimatum had been given to the House of Bishops to take certain actions by Sept. 30 or face expulsion from the Anglican Communion. The communiqué had asked for certain clarifications from the House of Bishops, he said, but did not envision a breaching of The Episcopal Church’s constitution.

That view aligns with the sentiments of the Archbishop of Canterbury expressed to the National Catholic Reporter. See the relevant extracts of the NCR profile provided yesterday in The Lead.

Conger also reports "Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will offer a revamped primatial vicar plan to the House of Bishops at their meeting next week in New Orleans." However, the plan seems to differ little from previous plans suggested by Schori. That's the attitude of Bishop Iker: the "Bishop of Fort Worth, said a plan that placed the ultimate authority in the hands of the Presiding Bishop was a non-starter. Fort Worth would not accept the “unilateral dictates” of the Presiding Bishop, he said."

Further, "Bishop Iker said bishops affiliated with the Anglican Communion Network would not be present if a primatial vicar plan was brought forward during the House of Bishops’ business session, as they were withdrawing from the meeting following the departure of Archbishop Rowan Williams on Sept. 22."

The state of liberal Anglicanism

The Admiral of Morality has been so kind as to reprint an excerpt of an essay, "The Death of Liberal Anglicanism," written by the Rev. Lynda Patterson, director of Theology House, Christchurch, New Zealand. The essay, originally published in the current issue of The Anglican Taonga, the newsmagazine of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, describes how "liberal Anglicanism, the stream most closely identified with Anglicanism in general, must reexamine and reinvigorate its theology if it is to survive and prosper," says AoM.

Patterson writes:

For those of us who consider ourselves liberals, there is something disorientating about the current state of Anglicanism. The rug seems to have been pulled from under our feet. We find ourselves increasingly squeezed between two competing conservatisms. There is an evangelical one which seems determined to implant a rule book of doctrinal and moral orthodoxy at the centre of Anglicanism.

There is a catholic one committed to preserving the unity of the church by re-inventing the primates as a sort of Anglican curia. A church which seemed to have room for diverse expressions of Christian faith is solidifying around us into something rigid and unfriendly. What happened to the Anglican habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility ?

If we are honest, we liberals have to shoulder some of the blame for the loss. The liberal tradition had settled down into something which looked suspiciously like complacency.

Even the early stirrings of the debate on homosexuality seemed to pose no serious threat. It had long been the logic of Anglicanism that reform movements eventually—if often with painful slowness—won the day. The church's position on the ordination of practising homosexuals looked as if it was temporary. It was assumed that evangelical objections were an attempt to resist change, and in the longer term, they would eventually be worn down.

AoM's excerpt of the Patterson article is here. The original is in the Winter 2007 issue of Taonga magazine, available as a PDF download on the Taonga site, here.

Watch 'Episcopal Life Focus' tonight

Episcopal Life Online is premiering a new monthly half-hour videocast tonight at 8 p.m. You can tune in at Episcopal Life Online to hear about church mission, ministries and news. The first episode features a piece on the New Orleans and the Gulf area, including the upcoming House of Bishops meeting. The show is also available in captioned format.

From an email release:


Episcopal Life Focus will remain available online for on-demand viewing, and for placement on local community access cable stations that make air time available free of charge. Mike Collins, director of video and multicast communication for the Episcopal Church, is the producer of Episcopal Life Focus. The Rev. Jan Nunley, executive editor of Episcopal Life Media, will anchor the show and serve as its executive editor.

Inquiries about programming, and requests regarding community access
cable placement, should be directed to Collins at mcollins@episcopalchurch.org , or 800-334-7626, ext. 6018.

Building interfaith relationships through charity

Ramadan began yesterday at sundown, and the Washington Post reports that "U.S. Muslims are stepping up holiday charity toward non-Muslims to counter anti-Islamic sentiment since the Sept. 11 attacks."

Key edicts of Ramadan, which began yesterday at sunset, are to fast and promote good conduct. The devil is said to be shackled, making it easier than during the rest of the year to perform good deeds and give charity.

Although some Muslims have always had a broad interpretation of these tenets, there has been a shift in recent years to look beyond the Muslim community for where one gives. This is the result both of a more mature Muslim American social service infrastructure and of a drive to counter anti-Muslim rhetoric since 2001, experts say.

"For decades, Muslims were internally focused, and I think September 11th accelerated the natural process of becoming more externally focused," said Ihsan Bagby, author of several studies of Muslim worship trends in the United States. "It's not like the impulse to do good is some new idea in Islam; concern for the poor, the weak is throughout the Koran. It's just that Muslims in this country hadn't implemented it very well. Now a wave is starting to form."

Community service events planned in the region during Ramadan include feeding day laborers, fundraising for city shelters and helping to organize nonviolence and interfaith projects.

Discussion about the shift also reflects the enduring question at the heart of Ramadan: How can one best do good? The impact of good deeds is said to be multiplied during Ramadan, which marks the period when the Koran began to be revealed to the prophet Muhammad.

Read the whole thing here.

Other items of note in the media about Ramadan:

It is a particular quirk of Ramadan that while the Muslim holiday revolves around fasting, it is also a celebration of food — Bosnian cevapi, Indonesian babi guling, Bangladeshi boti kababs, Malaysian kuih, Tunisian chakchouka.

For the next month, Muslims will fast from dawn to sunset each day. Fasting, or sawm, is one of the five pillars of Islam. Each evening during Ramadan Muslims, will break their 13- to 14-hour fast with a frequently festive communal meal called the iftar. The end of Ramadan is celebrated with a feast called Eid ul-Fitr.

That story is in St. Louis Today, here.( John Chilton who sent along this story, and who lives in the United Arab Emirates observes that Ramadan "is like Lent all day and Easter all night.")

And from the "Let Freedom Ring" department, various media outlets are reporting that the U.S. government is releasing between 50 and 80 Iraqi detainees during the holy month. Found here.

About.com has information about the nightly Taraweeh Prayers, including a link to the broadcast of the nightly prayers at Mecca (coverage begins at 5 pm GMT), here.

Finally, check out Hungry for Ramadan - My American Ramadan Blog by Shahed Amanullah, a frequent Beliefnet contributor. It is at once touching and informative. Don't miss it if you are at all curious about the significance of Ramadan, or the lives of American Muslims.

Report from Central Africa

Episcopal News Service has an article on the most recent Synod of the Anglican Province of Central Africa. Apparently the earlier reports that the Dean of the Province had been "fired" by Malango and that the Province had decided to split into three parts were untrue:

The recent synod of the Church of the Province of Central Africa went very well, contrary to some reports from the secular press in Harare, according to the Rev. Emmanuel Sserwadda, the Episcopal Church's Partnership Officer for Africa.

Sserwadda attended the synod at the invitation of Central Africa Archbishop Bernard Amos Malango.

"There was a very good feeling," Sserwadda said of the meeting.

Bishop of Northern Zambia Albert Chama, former provincial secretary, was elected dean of the province, he said. The election to replace Botswana Bishop Trevor Mwamba in the position came during the episcopal synod which customarily meets prior to the synod.

Press reports that Mwamba had been fired by Malango are untrue, Sserwadda said. Mwamba preached at the synod's closing Eucharist. Sserwadda and Bishop Michael Doe, general secretary of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, (USPG), vested and participated in the service.

During the meeting, Harare Bishop Nolbert Konunga asked that "Dissolution of the Province" be put on the synod's agenda, according to Sserwadda. Participants on the synod assumed that this item referred to an ongoing effort to create three new provinces from the dioceses of Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia respectively. However, Konunga used the time to raise the homosexuality issue and make various accusations, including claims that some member bishops had not done enough to enforce the province's opposition to homosexuality.

Other provincial leaders recaptured the agenda, saying that the province had made its position clear in the Anglican Communion, and there was no need for further discussion, Sserwadda said.

"They said, ‘If Harare wants to go, it can go,'" he added. "Others told him, ‘You can't talk on behalf of all of Zimbabwe.'"

Read the full report here..

Today's Church Times report on the synod meeting calls the replacement of Mwamba a removal. "Speaking this week, one of his supporters said there was complete surprise and shock among many people at the synod when the news was announced. 'I think there was a lot of networking and pressure." Many felt that men of God should not behave in this way.'"

CANA consolidating

Yesterday news started to break of a decision by the Province of Nigeria to consecrate an additional four American priests to serve as bishops for their CANA mission in the United States. One of the priests tapped to be consecrated is The Rev. Roger Ames of St. Luke's Anglican Church in Akron Ohio.

The Living Church reports that Fr. Ames has indicated that part of the plan is to consolidate a number of congregations that have already associated themselves with the Bishop of Bolivia into a new relationship with the Province of Nigeria:

In an interview with The Living Church, Fr. Ames said all of the parish leadership and the congregation of St. Luke’s left The Episcopal Church about two years ago for the Diocese of Bolivia in the Province of the Southern Cone, but because the Diocese of Ohio has not to date included the departure in its parochial report filings with the national church, he and the congregation continue officially to be designated members in good standing of The Episcopal Church.

Fr. Ames said there are currently about 50 former Episcopal congregations affiliated with the Diocese of Bolivia. These are in the process of being transferred to CANA by mutual agreement of Bishop Minns and the Rt. Rev. Frank Lyons, Bishop of Bolivia. According to a press release published on CANA’s website, the convocation now has 60 congregations and 80 clergy in 20 states.

Read the rest here: The Living Church Foundation

Spinning over the edge

Pat Ashworth, writing in the Church Times last week, points out how the repeated use of the language of crisis in the Anglican Communion is less than helpful. She uses the letter released under the name of Archbishop Akinola a few weeks ago and examines the way parts were edited and rewritten as a springboard for her argument that our language and rhetoric is not terribly helpful right now.

SPIN-doctoring overreached itself — and fell flat on its face — two weeks ago with the publication of a pastoral letter purporting to be from the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, to his flock in Abuja (News, 24 August). Should it matter that the bulk of it was written in the United States from the computer of Bishop Martyn Minns, and that revision, editing, and formatting took place over four days?

I believe it does. After our news story (24 August) we were accused by the Nigerian director of communications of being ‘insulting and racist’. It has nothing to do with race but everything to do with language and politics, in a climate where the word ‘decision’ is now drip-fed into every missive.

Brainwash us often enough with news that the Anglican Communion is on the brink of destruction, and we will all believe it: that is, until proof comes along that schism really is being orchestrated by a knot of people dedicated to keeping their supporters on message.

‘Forced to choose’, ‘moment of decision’, ‘brink of destruction’, ‘the gravity of this moment’ are phrases designed to turn a drama into a crisis, as US conservatives, with help from English friends, seek to sabotage next year’s Lambeth Conference.

Delete this: ‘The journey to unity has been long and agonising and needs to come to an end soon,’ and substitute: ‘It now appears, however, that the journey is coming to an end and the moment of decision is almost upon us.’ In the end, it doesn’t matter who made the change: the result was to ring the alarm bells louder.

Read the rest: Church Times - Pushing Anglicanism to the precipice

The PB on the HoB Meeting

Episcopal Life Online is carrying a video by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church providing some background and her reflections on the coming House of Bishop's meeting next week in New Orleans.

In the video she talks about the invitation the HoB has made to the Archbishop of Canterbury, why the invitation was made and what sorts of outcomes might and might not be expected.

Watch it here: Episcopal Life Online - VIDEO

(Note from your "editor of the day": As I watched it I was struck by the way she pointed out that this visit and conversation with the Archbishop is part of the developmental process as the relationships between the provinces of the Anglican Communion evolve into something deeper. The idea that our relationships need time to develop is well taken.)

Nets for life

Episcopal Relief and Development has had an important role in the distribution of hundreds of thousands of nets used to protect sleeping children and their mothers from contracting malaria. Episcopal Life Online has the full story.

Episcopal Relief and Development's (ERD) NetsforLifeSM malaria partnership is providing life-saving protection to children and families in 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The program is protecting close to 700,000 people, including mothers and vulnerable children who are most susceptible to contracting the disease.

The NetsforLifeSM partnership encompasses ERD and a number of private individuals and corporations including ExxonMobil Foundation, Standard Chartered Bank and the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation. Christian Aid is playing a key role as well. The Episcopal Church's Millennium Development Goal Inspiration Fund supports NetsforLifeSM.

In its second year, NetsforLifeSM has distributed 328,708 long-lasting insecticide-treated nets in eight countries including Angola, Kenya and Zambia since June 2007. The program has trained more than 3,400 malaria agents, or community volunteers, who have reached more than 500,000 people directly with malaria prevention messages.

Read the full report here.

Nigerian Bishops seek Lambeth postponement

The bishops of the Church of Nigeria, in an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury posted on the Nigerian website, have asked for the Lambeth Conference to be canceled lest it cause scandal because of acrimony. They further call for an urgent meeting of all Primates to judge whether the Episcopal Church's response is adequate and to quickly create an timetable for the formation of an Anglican Covenant which will in turn serve as a gate-keeper to the next Lambeth Conference.

From a part of the letter:

"We are persuaded that a change of direction from our current path is urgently needed and write to assure you of our willingness and commitment to work towards that end. We have noted your desire that the proposed Lambeth Conference be a place for fellowship and prayer and an exploration of our shared mission and ministry – all of these are of course commendable aims.

We all know, however, that the pressures of the present situation would adversely affect the outcome of the conference unless there is a profound change of heart; for how can we as bishops in the Church of God gather for a Lambeth Conference when there is such a high level of distrust, dislike and disdain for one another? How can we meet as leaders of the Communion when our relationships are so sorely strained and our life together so broken that we cannot even share together in the Lord’s Supper? It would be a mockery and bring dishonour to the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus the Christ.

We are also concerned about the abuse directed towards those who hold to traditional views on matters of Human Sexuality. The spate of hostility in the UK is alarming."

Read the rest: An open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury from the House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria meeting Osogbo, Osun State

Updated, Mark Harris, Simon Sarmiento and Father Jake have called attention to this section of the letter:

"We are also concerned about the abuse directed towards those who hold to traditional views on matters of Human Sexuality. The spate of hostility in the UK is alarming.


We are all witnesses to:

The presence of placard carrying and leaflets distributing campaigners at the last Lambeth Conference distracting Bishops who travelled thousands of miles for fellowship. These protesters effectively shifted the focus of the conference to human sexuality - as if that was all that mattered.

The physical assaults against clergymen with opposing view, such as your predecessor attacked in his own Cathedral pulpit, and a Kenyan bishop assaulted by two people dressed as clergymen.

The occasion when your own General Synod was disrupted by protestors angry over the handling of the Canon Jeffery John issue.

Recent attempts to mandate unbiblical views in the UK through force of law and the protests and attacks by activists determined to disrupt and intimidate any group that seeks to uphold biblical teaching.

In truth anyone who does not embrace revisionist views is a potential target. We know it is possible to provide some security to minimize such occurrences but is the additional cost justifiable? Would the resultant atmosphere of fear and uncertainty be conducive to the goals of such a large gathering of bishops?"


Mormons exposed. Literally

A group of young Mormons, out to counter their church's stodgy image have hit upon the idea of a beefcake calendar. As they explain it:

The 2008 Men on a Mission calendar features twelve handsome returned Mormon missionaries from across the United States who, for the first time ever, have dared to pose bare-chested in a steamy national calendar.

Usually seen riding their bicycles and preaching door-to-door, these hunky young men of faith explode with sexuality on each calendar page. Hand-selected for their striking appearances and powerful spiritual commitment, the "devout dozen" are stepping away from the Mormon traditions of modest dress, and "baring their testimony" to demonstrate that they can have strong faith and be proud of who they are, both with a sense of individualism and a sense of humor.

Hat tip Andrew Sullivan.

What is the moral course in Iraq?

George Packer can hardly be described as a supporter of the war in Iraq, but in his latest article for The New Yorker, he both skewers the architects of the war, and poses some difficult questions for those who favor a rapid pullout.

On the one hand, he writes:

[T]he inadequacy of the surge is already clear, if one honestly assesses the daily lives of Iraqis. Though the streets of Baghdad are marginally less lethal than they were during 2006, sixty thousand Iraqis a month continue to leave their homes, according to the International Organization for Migration, joining the two million who have become refugees and the two million others displaced inside Iraq. The militias, which have become less conspicuous as they wait out the surge, are nevertheless growing in strength, as they extend their control over neighborhoods like Ahmed’s. In the backstreets, the local markets, the university classrooms, and other realms beyond the reach of American observers or American troops, there is no rule of law, only the rule of the gun. The lives of most Iraqis are dominated by a complex array of militias and criminal gangs that are ruthlessly competing with one another, and whose motives for killing are more often economic or personal than religious or ideological. A recent report by the International Crisis Group urged the American and British governments to acknowledge that their “so-called Iraqi partners, far from building a new state, are tirelessly working to tear it down.”

On the other hand, he finds all of the "quick exit" strategies being advocated on the left shortsighted and superficial.

Rowan Williams on a "broken" society

Rowan Williams tells the Telegraph that he believes our society is "broken," in an interview that has nothing to do with the Anglican Communion.

"Is our society broken? I think it is," he says. "We are in a phase of our culture where the fragmentation of society is far more obvious. It's not just families, it is different ethnic communities and economic groups. We talk about access and equality the whole time, but in practice we all seem to live very segregated lives."

He goes on: "Outside my front door in Lambeth I see a society so dramatically different from across the river or in Canterbury. There is a level of desolation and loneliness and dysfunctionality which many people have very little concept of. If you sense that the world you live in is absolutely closed, that for all sorts of reasons you are unable to move outside, if nothing gives you aspirations, there is an imprisonment in that, there is a kind of resentment that comes with that and a frustration that can boil over in violence and street crime."

Inequality is, in his view, just a symptom of a wider moral vacuum. "I don't think that the huge wealth of some is the cause (of the problems), it is more that society just wants to reward business success and celebrity. If you're a teenager in Peckham neither of those are easily accessible."

Indeed, he is horrified by the triviality of modern society. "We are too celebrity obsessed, we have got into a dangerous cycle where fame is an objective in itself."

His children are 11 and 19. "I sometimes sit with them and watch The X Factor and it is heartbreaking to see people who plead with judges to get through because they just want to be famous so intensely," he says.

Gen-X bishop ordained in Seattle area

It is likely to be a grand show.

More than 2,000 people, including a procession of 200 local clergy, are expected at Meydenbauer Center to attend the ordination and consecration of the Rev. Gregory Rickel as the eighth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia.

Rickel, 44, who was most recently rector of a church in Austin, Texas, succeeds Bishop Vincent Warner, who is retiring after 18 years as head of the Episcopal Church in Western Washington.

"This whole thing is nothing you train for or plan for — you can't," Rickel said in an interview earlier this month. "This mantle — it's daunting."

Indeed, beyond the grandeur of the ordination ceremony, there are big challenges ahead for Rickel.

Janet I Tu of the Seattle Times has the whole story.

Salty returns

Our old friend the Salty Vicar, who gave up blogging to have a life, has written a perceptive response to Bishop JohnShelby Spong's recent open letter to Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury.

He writes:

The issues of the U.S. Episcopal Church, I suspect, are not the issues of the Anglican Communion. My concerns include things like how am I going to pay for my secretary or the air conditioning or my after school program, and why isn’t anyone coming to my cool ultra-progressive church? It isn’t that people don’t approve of me or my parish; in my area everyone knows where we stand and they love what we’re doing. They’re just in a time and money crunch, as so many of us are today.

Gay rights is just one of many issues that needs work in a hypercapitalist country. And in fact, I believe we’re ahead of the game in that department. Good leaders in the Episcopal Church do not worry about sexuality—we’ve already decided that gay people are a full part of the church. Now how about turning our attention to some other challenges, like the growing blight of mega-churches and the budget shortfalls that make it tougher and tougher to pay for the basic upkeep of church buildings?

Spong is wrong to assume that this fight is Rowan’s. The fight in the Episcopal Church is ours. It’s great that the Archbishop is coming, the Archbishop is coming. To be honest, that’s all he needed to do. But the work that has to be done is here. And we don’t need him to do it for us, or to give us the thumbs up.

God and evolution

Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., the Laurence J. McGinley Chair in Religion and Society at Fordham University, has a long essay in the latest issue of First Things about the various ways Christians have reconciled their faith with neo-Darwinian evolution. He offers three prevalent ways Christians have done so. The first group are theistic evolutionists, which would include Dr. Francis Collins:

As I have indicated, one group, while explaining evolution in terms of random mutations and survival of the fittest, accepts the Darwinist account as accurate on the scientific level but rejects Darwinism as a philosophical system. This first group holds that God, eternally foreseeing all the products of evolution, uses the natural process of evolution to work out his creative plan. Following Fred Hoyle, some members of this group speak of the “anthropic principle,” meaning that the universe was “fine-tuned” from the first moment of creation to allow the emergence of human life.

. . .

Theistic evolutionism, like classical Darwinism, refrains from asserting any divine intervention in the process of evolution. It concedes that the emergence of living bodies, including the human, can be accounted for on the empirical level by random mutations and survival of the fittest.

But theistic evolutionism rejects the atheistic conclusions of Dawkins and his cohorts. The physical sciences, it maintains, are not the sole acceptable source of truth and certitude. Science has a real though limited competence. It can tell us a great deal about the processes that can be observed or controlled by the senses and by instruments, but it has no way of answering deeper questions involving reality as a whole. Far from being able to replace religion, it cannot begin to tell us what brought the world into existence, nor why the world exists, nor what our ultimate destiny is, nor how we should act in order to be the kind of persons we ought to be.

The second group are proponents of Intelligent Design:

An important school of scientists supports a theory known as Intelligent Design. Michael Behe, a professor at Lehigh University, contends that certain organs of living beings are “irreducibly complex.” Their formation could not take place by small random mutations, because something that had only some but not all the features of the new organ would have no reason for existence and no advantage for survival. It would make no sense, for example, for the pupil of the eye to evolve if there were no retina to accompany it, and it would be nonsensical for there to be a retina with no pupil. As a showcase example of a complex organ all of whose parts are interdependent, Behe proposes the bacterial flagellum, a marvelous swimming device used by some bacteria.

At this point we get into a technical dispute among microbiologists that I will not attempt to adjudicate. In favor of Behe and his school, we may say that the possibility of sudden major changes effected by a higher intelligence should not be antecedently ruled out. But we may take it as a sound principle that God does not intervene in the created order without necessity. If the production of organs such as the bacterial flagellum can be explained by the gradual accumulation of minor random variations, the Darwinist explanation should be preferred. As a matter of policy, it is imprudent to build one’s case for faith on what science has not yet explained, because tomorrow it may be able to explain what it cannot explain today. History teaches us that the “God of the gaps” often proves to be an illusion.

The final group accepts evolution, but reject that organisms can be explained solely by materialism:

Darwinism is criticized by yet a third school of critics, one which includes philosophers such as Michael Polanyi, who build on the work of Henri Bergson and Teilhard de Chardin. Philosophers of this orientation, notwithstanding their mutual differences, agree that biological organisms cannot be understood by the laws of mechanics alone. The laws of biology, without in any way contradicting those of physics and chemistry, are more complex. The behavior of living organisms cannot be explained without taking into account their striving for life and growth. Plants, by reaching out for sunlight and nourishment, betray an intrinsic aspiration to live and grow. This internal finality makes them capable of success and failure in ways that stones and minerals are not. Because of the ontological gap that separates the living from the nonliving, the emergence of life cannot be accounted for on the basis of purely mechanical principles.

In tune with this school of thought, the English mathematical physicist John Polkinghorne holds that Darwinism is incapable of explaining why multicellular plants and animals arise when single cellular organisms seem to cope with the environment quite successfully. There must be in the universe a thrust toward higher and more-complex forms. The Georgetown professor John F. Haught, in a recent defense of the same point of view, notes that natural science achieves exact results by restricting itself to measurable phenomena, ignoring deeper questions about meaning and purpose. By its method, it filters out subjectivity, feeling, and striving, all of which are essential to a full theory of cognition. Materialistic Darwinism is incapable of explaining why the universe gives rise to subjectivity, feeling, and striving.

In the end Dulles leans toward the third school, but argues that all three approaches are consistent with a Christian faith:

These three schools of thought are all sustainable in a Christian philosophy of nature. Although I incline toward the third, I recognize that some well-qualified experts profess theistic Darwinism and Intelligent Design. All three of these Christian perspectives on evolution affirm that God plays an essential role in the process, but they conceive of God’s role in different ways. According to theistic Darwinism, God initiates the process by producing from the first instant of creation (the Big Bang) the matter and energies that will gradually develop into vegetable, animal, and eventually human life on this earth and perhaps elsewhere. According to Intelligent Design, the development does not occur without divine intervention at certain stages, producing irreducibly complex organs. According to the teleological view, the forward thrust of evolution and its breakthroughs into higher grades of being depend upon the dynamic presence of God to his creation. Many adherents of this school would say that the transition from physicochemical existence to biological life, and the further transitions to animal and human life, require an additional input of divine creative energy.

Read it all here.

What do you think? Do you fit in any of these three schools of thought?

What have we done?

The New York Times this morning offers its readers an overview of the House of Bishop meeting taking place later this week with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates Standing Committee and the Standing Comittee of the Anglican Consultative Council. Regular readers of The Lead may find little news in the article. Bishop Parsley was interviewed and here is that portion of the article:

[S]ome bishops, including some theological conservatives, take issue with outsiders telling the American church what to do.

“I think they’re pushing us because they want to polarize the issue,” said Bishop Henry Parsley of Alabama, who did not vote for Bishop Robinson’s consecration. “The primates want us to say that we don’t approve public rites of blessing, and we have not done that. They don’t want us to approve gay bishops in committed relationships, and the 2006 general convention resolution makes that unlikely. Basically, what I’m saying is that what they are asking is essentially already the case.”


Read it here.

The Stillborn God?

Today's New York Times Book Review includes a review of a fascinating book by Mark Lilla, a professor of the humanities at Columbia University, that examines the persistence of faith in the Western world after the enlightenment. Here are highlights from the review:

Some of us have been taking the European Enlightenment a little bit for granted. We’ve assumed that, just as natural philosophers like Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler ultimately prevailed in overturning the geocentric model of Ptolemaic cosmology, so, too, moral philosophers like Hobbes, Spinoza and Locke ultimately prevailed in removing ideas of divine revelation and redemption from politics. Progress in both spheres, the scientific and the political, was not only analogous and linked, but also, in some sense, inevitable, at least once rigorous standards of clear thinking were adopted. Let people freely and rationally pursue physics, and eventually they’d draw the conclusion that the Earth moves. Let people freely and rationally think about how best to organize human society — with a view toward diminishing turmoil and augmenting the realization of individual potential — and eventually they’d separate church and state. We’ve assumed the matter has been thankfully settled, at least in the Western intellectual tradition. No wonder, then, that recent years have brought a spate of incredulous “neo-Enlightenment” books — along the lines of Christopher Hitchens’s “God Is Not Great” — all of them barely able to contain their dismay that they even have to be arguing what it is they are arguing.

The sophisticated story that Mark Lilla, a professor of the humanities at Columbia University, presents in “The Stillborn God” adds nuance and complexity to the intellectual account we tell about the West’s thinking on religion and politics, and how it managed to separate (sort of) the one from the other. Lilla wants to challenge the view that the “Great Separation” — the prying apart of political theories from theology — was analogous to, say, the Copernican Revolution, that it constituted a discovery at which those thinking well would eventually arrive and that, once discovered, was secured in intellectual history’s linear progress.

In Lilla’s telling there was, first of all, nothing inevitable about the Great Separation. In fact, it is political theology that comes most naturally to us: “When looking to explain the conditions of political life and political judgment, the unconstrained mind seems compelled to travel up and out: up toward those things that transcend human existence, and outward to encompass the whole of that existence. ... The urge to connect is not an atavism.”

Indeed, this urge is so irresistible, Lilla argues, that only highly unusual circumstances can compel us to give it up. Those unusual circumstances were provided by Christian theology — but not, as some recent religious apologists have argued, because the Judeo-Christian framework itself promotes rationality and tolerance. Rather, it is Christianity’s own fundamental ambiguities — torn between a picture of God as both present and absent from the temporal realm, an ambivalence powerfully represented by the paradoxes of the Trinity — that made it “uniquely unstable,” subject to a plurality of interpretations that became institutionalized in sectarianism, and hence to several centuries’ worth of devastating upheaval.

. . .

And what was the Enlightenment’s proffered cure? It was to translate questions about religion into psychological and anthropological questions. The problem was changed from “What does God want from us?” to “Why is man constantly asking what it is that God wants from us?” The thinker most centrally responsible for this interrogative substitution was the 17th-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, and the answer he gives is: because man is a frightened ignoramus. Knowing enough to be terrified of his own mortality but knowing little else about objective nature and thus understandably alarmed, man creates an omnipotent being who can be supplicated and obeyed, a conception that then ends up tormenting him with new fear. Religion, Hobbes thought, comes from a dark place in the psyche.

Lilla makes it clear that he believes Hobbes’s thinking on the religious impulse to be both historically pivotal and psychologically simplistic. More important, he argues that influential thinkers like Rousseau, Kant and Hegel agree with him. The religious impulse isn’t merely a matter of man’s cringing self-protective fear; it can also be an expansive response toward the universe, morality and freedom, and a strain of post-Enlightenment thinking, featuring thinkers of the caliber of Kant, struggled to do justice to religion’s expansive aspects.

Read it all here (subscription may be required).

In God we trust

October 1 will mark the 50th anniversary of the appearance of “In God We Trust” on the paper currency of the United States. Despite the Establishment Clause, "In God We Trust" (which is also the national motto) has survived repeated legal challenges, and has the strong support of the American public.

The Pew on Religion and Public Life offers a perspective as we near the 50th anniversary:

Many people see the “In God We Trust” motto and other official evocations of a creator as a reflection and acknowledgement of America’s rich religious heritage. Supporters also contend that the motto is simply a recognition of the fact that the people of the United States have always relied on “divine providence.”

But others argue that the government’s evocation of God in any official capacity amounts to the establishment of a state religion, which is prohibited by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Critics also say that “In God We Trust” is divisive because it excludes those who don’t believe in God, as well as Buddhists, Hindus and others who follow non-monotheistic faiths.

An overwhelming majority of Americans support using “In God We Trust” on the country’s currency and as the national motto. For instance, a 2003 Gallup poll found that 90 percent of respondents approved of the use of the motto on coins. A separate Gallup poll in 2004 found that a similar majority expressed support for retaining the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The constitutionally of the motto has been challenged more than once, but so far judges have ruled that its use does not violate the First Amendment’s prohibition on the establishment of religion. In the first case challenging the motto, Aronow v. U.S. (1970), the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that “its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise.” The case was not appealed to the Supreme Court.

Subsequent challenges have also been turned aside, including the Supreme Court’s refusal in 2005 to hear an appeal to a lower court ruling that the placement of “In God We Trust” on a government building was constitutional. In 2006, a federal district court affirmed the constitutionality of the motto in a suit brought by California doctor and attorney Michael Newdow that sought to have it removed from the nation’s currency. Newdow had previously gained notoriety when he had similarly tried – unsuccessfully – to have “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance.

In general, judges have differentiated the “In God We Trust” motto and similar references to the deity (including the phrase “under God” in the pledge) from other publicly sponsored religious practices, such as prayer and Bible reading in public schools. Most courts view the motto and the pledge as “ceremonial deism,” a legal term for religious statements that are deemed to have lost their fundamental religious character due to their longtime, customary use.

Although the term “ceremonial deism” was first coined in the early 1960s, the government’s acceptance and use of customary religious statements dates back to the nation’s beginning. The Declaration of Independence, for instance, makes reference to God on more than one occasion. And the same Congress that in 1789 passed the First Amendment prohibition on the establishment of religion also started each day with a prayer, as does the current Congress.

The official use of “In God We Trust” dates back to the Civil War era. In 1861, the Rev. M. R. Watkinson, a Christian minister from Ridley Township, Pa., sent a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase urging “the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.” Chase agreed and ordered the director of the mint to prepare a motto for use on coins. The director proposed “God, Our Trust”; Chase altered the phrase to “In God We Trust,” which first appeared on a two-cent coin in 1864. The next year, Congress authorized the mint to put the motto on all silver and gold coins that had space for the phrase.

In the decades following the Civil War, “In God We Trust” appeared on most coins. And since 1938, the motto has appeared on all American coinage. In 1956, during the height of the Cold War struggle with the officially atheist Soviet Union, Congress passed a joint resolution, signed by President Dwight Eisenhower, declaring “In God We Trust” to be the national motto. The following year, on Oct. 1, the motto appeared for the first time on paper currency – on the back of the dollar bill.

Read it all here.

Saving Zimbabwe is not colonialism, it's Britain's duty

That's the headline on the op-ed by John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, in the Observor. The archbishop writes,

The time has come for Mr Brown, who has already shown himself to be an African interventionist through his work at the UN in favour of the people of Darfur, finally to slay the ghosts of Britain's colonialist past by thoroughly revising foreign policy towards Zimbabwe and to lead the way in co-ordinating an international response.

The time for 'African solutions' alone is now over. Despite his best efforts, [South Africa's] President Mbeki has failed to help the people of Zimbabwe. At best, he has been ineffectual in his efforts to advise, cajole and persuade Robert Mugabe to reverse his unjust and brutal regime. At worst, Mbeki is complicit in his failing to lead the charge against a neighbour who is systematically raping the country he leads.

Britain needs to escape from its colonial guilt when it comes to Zimbabwe. Mugabe is the worst kind of racist dictator. Having targeted the whites for their apparent riches, Mugabe has enacted an awful Orwellian vision, with the once oppressed taking on the role of the oppressor and glorying in their totalitarian abilities.
...
The appalling poverty suffered by those who queue daily for bread in southern Harare is a world apart from the shops, boutiques and sprinkled lawns of northern Harare, where Mugabe's supporters live in palatial surroundings. Britain must lead the way in calling for targeted sanctions against those purveyors of misery whose luxury is bought at the cost of unbearable poverty.


Read the op-ed whole here.

The Observor reports:

Sentamu's intervention will be seen as highly significant, because Mugabe will struggle to depict him as a white colonialist. The archbishop was born in 1949 in a village near Kampala, the capital of Uganda. In a passage that is likely to resonate in Africa, Sentamu likens Mugabe to the late Ugandan dictator Amin. Sentamu, who was imprisoned for 90 days by Amin after he had showed his independence as a judge
...
The Foreign Office last night said that there would be no change in the government's policy towards Zimbabwe. Britain offers humanitarian help to Zimbabweans but is relying on Harare's neighbours to take political action so as to avoid accusations that it is throwing its weight around as a former colonial power.
...
Mugabe received a rapturous reception when he arrived at a meeting of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Zambia last month.
Mugabe is the man with whom the Anglican bishop of Harare consorts. Bishops in the province of Central Africa have struggled to support the Zambian people without being misrepresented by Zambian government press organs.

The BBC News also spoke to Sentamu. See its news and video here.

A moral duty

The Most Rev. John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, says the situation in "Zimbabwe cannot any more be seen as an African problem needing an African solution - it is a humanitarian disaster" and that Britain needs to overcome "colonial guilt" which he says has paralyzed a response to that nations needs under a regime that Sentamu has likened to that of Idi Amin.

Even as the Archbishop calls decisive action a moral duty, President Robert Mugabe has turned his reputation as a freedom fighter into a symbol of African resistance to the West, even as the political structure and economy of his nation deteriorate.

Sentamu writes in The Observer:

The statistics alone are devastating: the average life expectancy for women in Zimbabwe is 34 years; for men, it is 37. Inflation rages at 8,000 per cent; the shelves are empty of bread and maize; in the hospitals and clinics, children die for lack of vitamins, food and medicine, while the ravages of AIDS are exacerbated by government indifference.

In the cramped townships now home to those supporters of the opposition whose homes Mugabe destroyed in a frenzy of destruction called 'Clean Out the Filth', there is no electricity or fresh running water and sewage spews out of the dilapidated buildings. The first cholera deaths were reported last week.

The Archbishop, who suffered at the hands of Idi Amin's regime in his native Uganda, compares the Zimbabwean regime of Robert Mugabe to Amin's saying,

Britain needs to escape from its colonial guilt when it comes to Zimbabwe. Mugabe is the worst kind of racist dictator. Having targeted the whites for their apparent riches, Mugabe has enacted an awful Orwellian vision, with the once oppressed taking on the role of the oppressor and glorying in their totalitarian abilities.

Like Idi Amin before him in Uganda, Mugabe has rallied a country against its former colonial master only to destroy it through a dictatorial fervour. Enemies are tortured, the press is censored, the people are starving and meanwhile the world waits for South Africa to intervene. That time is now over.

Sentamu calls for targeted sanctions against the regime, saying that sanctions could not hurt the poor than they are now.

Watch this interview on the BBC.

The Archbishop is not alone in calling Mugabe a tyrant, but in a strange way, Mugabe uses this very criticism to solidify his position in Zimbabwe.

Peter Kagwanja, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, says that while Mugabe repels the west, he attracts much applause in Africa:

In less than seven years, Zimbabwe has witnessed the fastest peace-time economic dip in history since Weimer Germany – plunging one of Africa's strongest economic and regional breadbaskets into a crisis with 4 million people reportedly starving and in need of food aid.

Mugabe may have lost the economic war, but he has won every political battle with the West. As the oldest freedom fighter still in office, he has always drawn the biggest applause in African meetings, including the recent SADC summit. The Africa-West standoff has emboldened him and turned him into a symbol of African resistance, a liberation hero.

Even though foreign humanitarian aid has flowed steadily to the poor in Zimbabwe, the West's asset freezes and travel bans on Mugabe and a hundred of his associates and spouses are seen in some quarters as "racial" retribution for his seizing of white farms and handing them over to black Zimbabweans. But invoking a moral mission, the West insists that its "smart" sanctions have targeted elements of the ruling elite "engaged in actions or policies to undermine Zimbabwe's democratic processes or institutions."

Kagwanja says that Mugabe's status as elder statesman and anticolonialist hero has ensured unwavering regional support. His article provides useful background as well as concrete steps that might give form to Sentamu's call for moral courage in responding to this humanitarian crisis.


Where true victory is to be found

The voice of the faithful is the most powerful when it gives up human assumptions of power, victory and control. But the Church has become so politicized, and our language and behavior--both within our groups and towards society--are so focused on winners and losers, that we frequently lose sight of the fact that Jesus' power comes from his willing powerlessness. So says the Archbishop of Canterbury in a speech he gave last week, on September 10th, at King's College, Cambridge called "Faith Communities in a Civil Society--Christian Perspectives."

He says that only "...When religion ceases to appear as yet another human group hungry for security, privilege and the liberty to enforce its convictions" will it have the power to change human institutions and have an impact on human suffering in a significant way. He goes on, "To have faith, Gandhi might say, is to hold something in trust for humanity – a vision of who and what humanity is in relation to a truth that does not depend on worldly victory."

In a paradox that never ceases to challenge and puzzle both believers and unbelievers, it is when we are free from the passion to be taken seriously, to be protected or indeed to be obeyed that we are most likely to be heard. The convincing witness to faith is one for whom safety and success are immaterial, and one for whom therefore the exercise of violent force against another of different conviction is ruled out. And the nature of an authentically religious community is made visible in its admission of dependence on God – which means both that it does not fight for position and power and that it will not see itself as existing just by the license of human society. It proclaims both its right to exist on the basis of the call of God and its refusal to enforce that right by the routine methods of human conflict.

For the Christian, of course, this paradox arises from the ministry of Jesus and the Gospel narratives themselves. When confronted with the both the possibility of state execution and the accusation that he is a king, Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world but it's power and authority comes from God. Christians believe that Jesus is a different kind of king and that the Kingdom of God is a different kind of realm. To participate in the reign of God is to at once claim participation in it; and, at the very same time, to give up all claim to earthly power.

In a paradox that never ceases to challenge and puzzle both believers and unbelievers, it is when we are free from the passion to be taken seriously, to be protected or indeed to be obeyed that we are most likely to be heard. The convincing witness to faith is one for whom safety and success are immaterial, and one for whom therefore the exercise of violent force against another of different conviction is ruled out. And the nature of an authentically religious community is made visible in its admission of dependence on God – which means both that it does not fight for position and power and that it will not see itself as existing just by the license of human society. It proclaims both its right to exist on the basis of the call of God and its refusal to enforce that right by the routine methods of human conflict.

He says that the Church is, "in this perspective, the trustee of a vision that is radical and universal, the vision of a social order that is without fear, oppression , the violence of exclusion and the search for scapegoats because it is one where each recognizes their dependence on all and each is seen as having an irreplaceable gift for all."

There are two essential "non-negotiables" that the Church brings to the table whenever there is a tear at the fabric of civil society: First, that all people are created in the image of God and have an inherent dignity regardless of their situation or station in life.

...each has a unique gift to give, each is owed respect and patience and the freedom to contribute what is given them. This remains true whether we are speaking of a gravely disabled person - when we might be tempted to think they would be better off removed from human society, or of a suspected terrorist - when we might be tempted to think that torture could be justified in extracting information, or of numberless poor throughout the world – when we should be more comfortable if we were allowed to regard them as no more than collateral damage in the steady advance of prosperity for our ‘developed’ economies.

The second thing that the Church brings to the table in civil society is the "non-negotiable" that every person is "involved in either creating or frustrating a common good that relates to the whole human race."

In plainer terms, we cannot as Christians settle down with the conclusion that what is lastingly and truly good for any one individual or group is completely different from what is lastingly and truly good for any other. Justice is not local in an exclusive sense or limited by circumstances; there are no classes or subgroups of humanity who are entitled to less of God’s love; and so there are no classes entitled to lower levels of human respect or compassion or service. And since an important aspect of civil society is the assumption that human welfare is not achieved by utilitarian generalities imposed from above but requires active and particularized labour, the fact of the Christian community’ presence once again puts the question of how human society holds together the need for action appropriate to specific and local conditions with the lively awareness of what is due to all people everywhere.

There is, Williams says, an "absolute difference of the power and action of God as against human power (embodied in the fact of Jesus’ crucifixion as the climax of God’s incarnate work), and the universal promise offered in the Resurrection (embodied in the mission of the Church as mediating Christ’s living presence)."

The Church, he says, cannot claim that it consistently lives by by this notion of God's power operating above and beyond human assumptions of power. "Its failure is all too visible, century by century" Williams says. "But its credibility does not hang on its unbroken success; only on its continued willingness to be judged by what it announces and points to, the non-competitive, non-violent order of God’s realm, centred upon Jesus and accessible through commitment to him."

Read the whole speech here.


This week's news

The House of Bishops meets this week with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council in New Orleans. Information is likely to be scarce and anxiety high. In such situations, the significance of whatever little information is available is frequently blown out of proportion, so reader beware.

Be wary of leaks that purport to be news, but are actually the interpretation of a single (possibly unnamed) participant. Remember that because a certain piece of information is leaked does not in and of itself make that information significant.

Be wary too of people who claim to know what Rowan Williams is thinking, or understand what he must do.

If this event is similar to previous gatherings, conservative Web sites and publications may have news earlier than those on the left as bishops on the right have a better understanding of the importance of using sympathetic media outlets to a) maintain an atmosphere of crisis, and b) set the agenda for the mainstream press.

Toward the end of the week keep an eye on the activities of Archbishops Akinola of Nigeria and Orombi of Uganda, both of whom just happen to be in the country this week.

Finally, don't forget that simply because people would really like something significant to happen in New Orleans doesn't mean that something will. (Or, if something significant does happen, we may not know about it until the archbishop and the joint standing committee make a statement of as yet unknown content at some as yet unknown time.)

That last bit of advice may be hard to hold on to. There are a lot of reporters heading to New Orleans later this week. They all have to justify their travel by producing stories that suggest that the trip was worth it. But the truth is that none of them and none of us know whether it will be. So if after all of this is over and you read for the umpteenth time that the "rift" has "widened" don't believe it unless there are identifiable new developments.

As if things weren't complicated enough

The Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, the Most Rev. Peter Jensen, is said to be moving forward with plans to institute lay presidency of the Holy Eucharist as an integral part of the ministry of the Diocese of Sydney. Significantly, the plan is to do this under the cover of existing canons, designed for others purposes, so that past legislative defeated by the rest of the Anglican Church of Australia can be ignored. This way he can also avoid the scrutiny of the other Bishops in that Church.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a committee of church officials want the Archbishop to shepherd this innovation under the guise of "empowering the laity."

The timing of this move has caused consternation in the rest of the Anglican Communion as well as the Anglican Church of Australia, especially among the various groups trying to unite against the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in other parts of the Communion.

The tactics should seem familiar to those who have watched the organized response of the Global South and their allied groups in North America.

The Appellate Tribunal, the [Anglican Church of Australia's] highest court, has ruled there is no constitutional impediment to lay presidency and the national church was able to authorise lay or diaconal eucharistic presidency but that it required approval by a canon to the national church's general assembly.

In a report to the diocesan's parliament, Dr Woodhouse [principal of Moore Theological College] argues that legal permission may already exist in the form of two canons that permit lay people to assist the priest, or minister can authorise certain forms of service "from time to time".

The Morning Herald points out that

...(this) fresh attempt to have the Sydney Diocese to go it alone on lay presidency risks not only antagonising other high-ranking Anglicans - especially since the General Synod refused in 2004 to condone the practice - but sets the diocese on a collision course with other conservative evangelical dioceses in the Anglican communion with which it is allied in its opposition to same-sex blessings and gay bishops

The Archbishop prohibits the ordination of women and sees this move as a way of helping small congregations become established without having to obtain the services of clergy. In addition, Jensen views preaching from Scripture to be at least equal, if not more important, than the sacraments, and since laity can in certain circumstances baptize and preach, it follows that they should also be able to preside at the Eucharist. Proponents say that nothing in scripture prohibits the practice.

Conservatives in this church call it "poor timing for a bad idea."
.
Hat tip to the blog Covenant Communion for the pointers.

We all need the Anglicans right now

In the NCR Café Joan Chittister writes her column From Where I Stand this week on why the world needs Anglicans at this time in the history of the church. She explores the question of unity. From where does it arise and how is it given authority? She hopes that the Anglicans will discover the path for other churches to follow.

So the question the Anglican communion is facing for us all right now is a clear one: What happens to a group, to a church, that stands poised to choose either confusion or tyranny, either anarchy or authoritarianism, either unity or uniformity? Are there really only two choices possible at such a moment? Is there nowhere in-between?

The struggle going on inside the Anglican Communion about the episcopal ordination of homosexual priests and the recognition of the homosexual lifestyle as a natural state is not peculiar to Anglicanism. The issue is in the air we breathe. The Anglicans simply got there earlier than most. And so they may well become a model to the rest of us of how to handle such questions. If the rate and kinds of social, biological, scientific and global change continue at the present pace, every religious group may well find itself at the breakpoint between "tradition" and "science" sooner rather than later.

Theological questions driven by new scientific findings, new social realities, new technological possibilities abound. How moral is it to take cells from one person for the treatment of another if all human cells are potentially life generating? Is that the destruction of life? If homosexuality is "natural," meaning biologically configured at birth, why is it immoral for homosexuals to live in homosexual unions -- even if they are bishops? After all, isn't that what we said -- in fact, did -- when we argued "scientifically" that blacks were not fit for ordination because blacks weren't quite as human as whites? And so we kept them out of our seminaries and called ourselves "Christian" for doing it. Without even the grace to blush.

and concludes

From where I stand we need those who can develop a model of faith in times of uncertainty in which the tradition is revered and the prophetic is honored. Unless we want to see ourselves go into either tyranny or anarchy, we better pray for the Anglicans so that they can show us how to do that.

Read it all here

No line in the sand in New Orleans

Bishop Duncan Gray of Mississippi has written to the Diocese of Mississippi in advance of the House of Bishops meeting being held later this week in New Orleans. He outlines what he expects will happen at the meeting and how he intends to continue his ministry in the Episcopal Church.

You can expect me to renew my commitment to the requests of the Windsor Report. That should come as no surprise to anyone. I believe there is a place in the Episcopal Church for those like me who hold a more traditional theological position on the current litmus test issues.

You can expect me to continue to work to provide safe places for those who share such convictions within the Episcopal Church.

You can expect me to continue to be guided by the spiritual counsel of our Archbishop of Canterbury. I have come to the conclusion that I cannot be an Anglican without being an Episcopalian, nor can I be an Episcopalian without being an Anglican. To ask me to separate the two would be akin to asking me to separate my maleness from my southern Caucasian heritage. Both have shaped me dramatically, for better or worse, and a separation of the two is fundamentally impossible. You can expect me to share something of this with the Archbishop.

Thus, I trust that in these brief comments you will understand that I have no desire to expend energy in creating a new church. I believe that the Episcopal Church will remain a part of the Anglican Communion through its relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Other parts of the communion may choose to sever its relationship with Canterbury. That is their choice. I have chosen otherwise.

You can expect me to push this church to make real its commitment to diversity. That would mean that we shall be a church of invitation and open to all people. It will also mean that this church must give dignity and safety to those who, through reason of conscience and conviction, cannot accept certain theological and ethical presuppositions of the majority of the church. I believe that is what I am called to do in faithfulness to my vows as your bishop.

Read it all here

Bishop Tutu to lead peace mission

Ekklesia reports that a delegation from a group called The Elders will go to Darfur on a peace mission. The Elders are retired statesmen organized by Nelson Mandela who are attempting to make a difference in making peace, working to alleviate poverty and combatting HIV/AIDS. They include former US President, Jimmy Carter.

A delegation of influential elder statesmen without 'elections to win and constituencies to please' is to be led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the latest initiative to bring peace to Darfur.

At least 200,000 people have died and some 2m forced from their homes during the four year conflict.

The "Elders" will travel to Khartoum at the end of the month to meet representatives from all sides.

They will then go to Darfur to talk to local community leaders and some of the displaced people now living in camps.

Desmond Tutu, Nobel laureate and former Archbishop of Cape Town said: "We want community leaders in Darfur to feel that they have been heard by us."

"And to the extent that we could then communicate their aspirations, their longings, particularly the women's groups, we will do so", he said.

Read it here

Archbishop of Wales cannot support Covenant as proposed

According to a press release from the Church in Wales, Archbishop Barry Morgan warns proposed Anglican Covenant could lead to exclusion. According to Morgan, a member of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, a laudable attempt to unite Anglicans is in danger of becoming a contract designed to cut off those who don’t conform.

Church in Wales today, Dr Morgan said that, while he supported the principle of an Anglican Covenant, he could not endorse the proposed version currently on the table.

He fears the draft - under consideration by all churches in the Anglican worldwide community - will lead to one voice on controversial issues, such as homosexuality, which members would have to sign up to or leave.

While the Church of England has said it is willing to “engage positively” with the recommendations, Dr Morgan believes a similar response from the Church in Wales would be seen as an acceptance not just of the concept of the Covenant, but also the draft version. He asked the Governing Body just to note the process taking place to produce a Covenant and invite the Welsh bishops to finalise a response.

Dr Morgan, who will fly to New Orleans tomorrow with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, for a pivotal meeting for the Anglican Church, said, “There is no doubt that things have got bitter in the Communion.

“The original intention of a Covenant to affirm the bonds of affection, was good. The indications now are that many see it as a contract, a means of ensuring a uniform view on human sexuality enforceable by the threat of exclusion from the Communion if one does not conform. I certainly do not want to sign up to that kind of Covenant.”

Press release is here.

Full text of his speech is here.

More on the meetting of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and Anglican Consultative Council here

Secret meeting or safe space

Archbishop Rowan Williams has been invited to attend a meeting of The Consultation and celebrate communion. The Consultation is a group of gay and lesbian clergy in the Church of England who meet regularly for support and pastoral care. Although Ruth Gledhill of The Times has reported it as a secret meeting called by the Archbishop, The Rev. Colin Coward of Changing Attitude and member of the Consultation reports that Archbishop is attending because he was invited. Lambeth has issued a statement that the Archbishop often meets with various groups in the church for pastoral reasons.

From The Rev. Colin Coward:

The Consultation is not a secret or secretive group, it is a group which has chosen to protect its weakest members by ensuring confidentiality and safety for members in order that people feel safe to attend. The weakness of the group is that of the weakest members, those who feel least safe in emerging from their closets.

++Rowan or his staff asked to meet us confidentially, but that is normal for any invitation from the Consultation in order to protect our safety. There is a Eucharist as an integral part of every Consultation meeting and ++Rowan is simply joining us and participating as our Archbishop in our normal programme.

We are inviting him, not he us, the Communion isn't secret, the meeting is confidential, and many more members of the Consultation will come to this meeting than the normal number. Those who won't be there are the misogynistic male gay clergy, who withdrew years ago when lesbian priests were welcomed.

Please feel free to copy and circulate the above.
......

Colin

Reverend Colin Coward
Director of Changing Attitude
6 Norney Bridge
Mill Road
Marston

The Archbishop's Office has made this statement:

"It should come as no surprise that the Archbishop is meeting pastorally with clergy and others affected by the current debates in the church; such encounters extend across the church and right across the range of opinions found within the church. Few of these encounters ever reach the public domain; that is exactly as it should be."

More on the meeting here.

More from Ekklesia here

Is the Province of Central Africa dead?

Mark Harris in his blog, Preludium has an excellent roundup of the news from the Province of Central Africa. Citing his earlier comments on the seeming break down in relationships between the dioceses Harris reports on what the various news sources are saying. The central issue is homosexuality and how gays and lesbians are to be treated in the Province of Central Africa. Ranging from the calm pastoral presence of Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana to the hate-mongering of the bishops of Harare and Nike it does not seem that the Province can hold together with the current leadership.

In the earlier blog, Mark said:

The Province of Central Africa is a mess. The Dean is cast out, the bishop –elect of Lake Malawi is cast out, the Bishop of Harare is accused of complicity in criminal actions of the President of Zimbabwe, and the whole Province is set to split into three provinces.

The news sources seem to be coming together as to what is happening according to Preludium:

(i) The Diocese of Harare is quitting the Province of Central Africa, thereby raising questions about the disillusion of the Province. The ENS article reported leaders of the Synod saying that if Harare wants to go it can go, but that this does not mean all of Zimbabwe goes. The Bishop of Harare seems to think otherwise. The Archbishop, according to the interview with David Virtue, says both: “First of all, let me say the province is intact. We have not fallen apart or cracked up as one African newspaper reported we had. However, we have decided that come January of 2008 we will become three new provinces and we have set the wheels in motion to do that.” The upshot seems to be - no, we are not now broken up, but we shall be.

(ii) Bishop Mwamba has been relieved of duty as Dean of the Province of Central Africa. Whether or not he was fired, the Archbishop again had the definitive word: “He was simply not re-elected, and there is little likelihood he will now become the new archbishop of the province because of his liberal views.” The Archbishop said, “My disappointment is that one young man, now a former dean (Mwamba) got ideas that are not in line with my own thinking which as you know are very orthodox and conservative. His liberal ideas were quite disappointing coming at the end of my ministry.” Mwamba’s possible reelection was thwarted by the Archbishop and it would appear that he is no longer a player in provincial affairs.

(iii) According to the Harare Herald, the Bishop, Nolbert Kunonga, is ready to form a new province in Zimbabwe. He says, “We are out of the Province of Central Africa right now, we are going to form a new province. It’s true that there are five here in Zimbabwe. Three of them -- that is the Diocese of Manicaland, the Diocese of Harare that I lead and the Diocese of Central Zimbabwe -- are very clear and resolute, very firm that they reject homosexuality.”

Read it all here.

We reported in September 14 in The Lead that the Province is not breaking up - just reorganzing into provinces similar to the Episcopal Church. Time will tell.

crisis and showdown and schism, oh my!

Religion columnists are setting up their stories from the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans. Although the meeting has yet to begin, writers are priming their coverage with dire predictions of what the Archbishop will demand at his first visit to an Episcopal Church meeting. Originally invited by the Bishops to listen to the experience of The Episcopal Church (TEC), most reporters believe that the Archbishop will come to tell TEC what to do or else.

Stephen Bates writing in The Guardian predicts:

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will demand concessions from the bishops of the US Episcopal Church tomorrow at a crisis meeting aimed at staving off the most damaging split in the churchs modern history, over the issue of homosexuality.

They will be asked to give guarantees that they will not allow the election of any more openly gay bishops or authorise public blessing services for same-sex couples and will create a structure for separate episcopal oversight for conservative congregations who disagree with the churchs liberal leadership.

and comments on possible strategies:

But with few signs of compromise, an air of fatalism and uncertainty has descended on senior officials in the Anglican communion. The strategy appears to be an attempt to minimise any split by seeking an alliance of liberal and moderate conservative US bishops behind a form of words that would strengthen previous US assurances that they will not promote more gay clergy or formally celebrate gay partnerships. They are hoping to rally support around Charles Jenkins, the Bishop of Louisiana, a leading conservative who has insisted he wants to remain within the Episcopal Church.

The position of the American presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, will also be critical in keeping the majority of American bishops together. Although the meetings will be in private, broken by one public service at which Dr Williams will preach, the bishops will be surrounded by lobbyists for both sides.

While a compromise might satisfy some in the communion, it will not be enough for African archbishops or their conservative American and English allies who are ambitious to split the church and force a realignment.

Regarding some African archbishops, Bates writes:

In increasingly bizarre moves, African archbishops in Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya have been busily appointing American conservatives mainly men who have previously failed to secure election to American dioceses to African bishoprics in recent weeks ostensibly to minister to disaffected Africans and Americans back in US churches. There are now nearly as many American bishops belonging to the Rwandan church as Rwandans.

Read The Guardian article here

Other columnists and their predictions:

The Telegraph

Associated Press

New York Times

Reuters

Atlanta Journal Constitution

Christian Science Monitor

New Orleans Times-Picayune

Daily Mail

USA Today

This list above will be added to throughout Tuesday and Wednesday. Watch this space.

Jim Naughton, writing at Daily Episcopalian, reflects on the hopes for the meeting here. Just as importantly, read Jim's primer, how to read this week's news.

The Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori offers a video overview of the meeting here.

The Jenkins resolution

From this morning's New Orleans Times-Picayune

[Bishop Charles] Jenkins said he and 10 co-signers will offer a resolution that tracks the overseas primates' wishes: banning same-sex rites, ending ordination of gay bishops, and establishing some kind of alternative Episcopal leadership for conservative congregations.

But he said his highest priority is to hold the communion together even with its divisions.

"The most devastating thing, and the thing I do not want to see happen, is that there becomes two Anglican communions in North America," he said. "It is a sickness unto death. If we claim to be a catholic body, this is a temptation to which we cannot give in.

"On a more pragmatic level, those who will be hurt the most by this are the poor," he said. "We are involved heavily around the world in ministries of relief and development. And I don't think we have the luxury of giving in to our self-absorption on this issue, and taking that energy and those resources away from the poor."

He said he and other bishops have informally discussed new forms of keeping conservatives and liberals inside the church.

He said two models might take off on slight measures of diversity in Roman Catholicism: one in which religious orders with their own governance run certain Catholic parishes, and another in which Eastern-rite Catholics conduct their own forms of worship and governance while remaining in full communion with Rome.

And there's also this:

Bishop Charles Jenkins of the Diocese of Louisiana asked each to bring a gift of $10,000 to be divided between Louisiana and Mississippi.

Many will, he said Tuesday -- and [Bishop-elect] Mark Lawrence of South Carolina has pledged to arrive with a gift of $100,000, Jenkins said.

Province of Central Africa sends a message

The attention given to the Zimbabwe government-owned Harare Herald has drawn a strong letter of correction of the paper's reporting from the provincial secretary of the Province of Central Africa:

Contrary to The Herald’s report that the Anglican Province of Central Africa broke up on the 9th September 2007, the fact is the Church of the Province of Central Africa remains strongly intact.

Contrary to The Herald’s report that the Diocese of Manicaland along with one other Zimbabwean diocese expressed its intention to quit the Province no such intention was expressed at the Synod.

Contrary to The Herald’s report that according to the standing orders of the Province of Central Africa once one diocese withdraws the Province becomes null and void and would have to be reconstituted under a new name and structure, no such standing order exists. However should there be any intention of the Province being dissolved such an act according to the Constitution and Canons of the Church of the Province of Central Africa, would require the due legal process and procedures being followed which among other things would involve a proposed amendment which would have to be provisionally approved by the Provincial Synod having been approved by the Synod of each Diocese in the Province, and confirmed by the Provincial Synod by a two-thirds majority of those present.

Contrary to The Herald’s report of the existence of a homosexual lobby led by the Bishop of Botswana, Trevor Musonda Mwamba, the Rt. Rev. Dr. James Tengatenga of Southern Malawi and two Zimbabwean Bishops, the fact of the matter is that there is no known homosexual lobby in the Church of the Province of Central Africa and any insinuations of there being such a lobby is highly regrettable and libellous.

Contrary to The Herald’s report of the existence of an anti-gay lobby led by Bishop Norbert Kunonga of Harare, the fact of the matter is that there is no known anti-gay lobby in the Church of the Province of Central Africa.

Contrary to The Herald’s report that in their addresses, The Rev. Emmanuel Sserwadda of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America and the Rt. Rev. Michael Doe, General Secretary of United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG), had implored the Synod to drop the issue of homosexuals from the agenda in exchange for funding of Church projects, and that a day earlier the Rev. Chad Gandiya of the USPG Africa Desk had expressed similar sentiments; this is totally false. The fact of the matter is the three invited speakers to the Provincial Synod talked about the ways and means of improving and strengthening existing partnership links.

It is highly regrettable that The Herald could publish such a misleading, false and pernicious article. The article falls gravely short of basic professional journalistic demands of balance, fairness and honesty.

Rev Fr Eston Dickson Pembamoyo
Provincial Secretary
Church of the Province of Central Africa (The Anglican Church in Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe)

Read his full letter here at epiScope.

On the Anglican calendar

Archbishop of Canterbury: "Following on from his visit to the United States ..., Dr Rowan Williams will visit Armenia, Syria and Lebanon, from 22nd - 29th September."

Joint Standing Committee: "Meeting set for 19-25 September 2007 New Orleans, USA. The JSC have been invited to the House of Bishops Meeting of the Episcopal Church for two days of their regular House meeting. The meeting begins Thursday of this week. The JSC will then meet as a group on Monday in the same location (Inter Continental Hotel) in New Orleans.... The Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion will be present throughout the meetings."

JSC is the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) and the Primates of the Anglican Communion. The chair of Primates Standing is the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Archbishop to conduct "Pirate" Eucharist

The Lead can reveal that today - just hours before he jets off for America in what could be a turning point in the future of the Anglican Communion - the Archbishop of Canterbury will meet with a rag-tag group of renegades, scoundrels and peglegs in the bosum of Lambeth Palace. The meeting will conclude with a "Pirate" Eucharist led by the Archbishop. The list of invitees was written in invisible ink.

A spokesman for Dr. Williams said: “It should come as no surprise that t' Archbishop be meetin' pastorally with scurvy swabs. Such encounters extend starboard across t' range o' civil and uncivil society. Few o' these encounters ever reach t' public domain. That be as it should be.”

For the uninitated, it is no coincidence that this news leaked today. In the secular calendar September 19th is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury (668 to 690)

Graham Kings writing in the Church of England Newspaper

Rowan Williams flies to New Orleans on 19 September, the day the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican Communions celebrate the life and wisdom of Theodore of Tarsus, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 668 to 690, who came from St Paul's own town. On 24 September 673, he summoned the Synod of Hertford. Amongst other things, that Synod issued canons dealing with the rights and obligations of clergy and restricted bishops to working in their own dioceses and not intruding on the ministry of neighbouring bishops. The canons were based on those of the Council of Chalcedon, in 451.

Kings also writes,
Both [Andrewes and Hooker] defended the Church of England on two edges: against Roman Catholicism and the Puritans - or Rome and Geneva, as Hooker often put it. As an Anglican, he was 'Reformed' in theology but drew on 'natural law'. Rather than respond with an instant tract to the Puritan opposition to him in his church, The Temple, he retired to a quieter parish and wrote his magisterial, multi-volume Of The Lawes of Ecclesiastical Polity.

What are the two extreme 'edges' that the Anglican Communion needs defending against today? It seems to me that they are the 'autonomous rootless liberalism' that too often has undergirded the actions of The Episcopal Church and the 'independent relentless puritanism' that ignores the pivotal, gathering role of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Both positions, in effect, have tried to trump the 'interdependence' of the Communion with their pre-emptive actions and reactions.


Read it here at the Fulcrum website.

Hymn 489

In a paradox that never ceases to challenge and puzzle both believers and unbelievers, it is when we are free from the passion to be taken seriously, to be protected or indeed to be obeyed that we are most likely to be heard. The convincing witness to faith is one for whom safety and success are immaterial, and one for whom therefore the exercise of violent force against another of different conviction is ruled out.

- Rowan Williams

Greg Jones, reflecting on the recent speech by the Archbishop of Wales writes in his essay "Force is not of God," I was struck by the words of the great hymn 'The Great Creator of the Worlds' (no. 489). The lyrics come from the Epistle to Diognetus, which I find it to be a fantastic and moving proclamation of the Gospel. The fifth verse of the hymn got me to thinking of the situation in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion. The verse goes: "He came as Savior to his own, the way of love he trod; he came to win us by good will, for force is not of God."

The Primate of the Church of Wales, Barry Morgan, has recently stated that he is very much in favor of the Windsor process and an Anglican Covenant -- as am I -- but not in the way they are being steered by a faction of Primates looking to take the Anglican Communion in a confessional or magisterial direction. As with the lyrics of hymn 489, if "force is not of God," then we do not want force to be of the Church. I would hope that we do not adopt a form of Anglican Covenant which would have force as an attribute. We do not need to reaffirm bonds and boundaries of affection by an attribute which is not of God.

Read it here. Greg includes the text to the Epistle to Diognetus which ends

Was He sent, think you, as any man might suppose, to establish a sovereignty, to inspire fear and terror? Not so. But in gentleness [and] meekness has He sent Him, as a king might send his son who is a king. He sent Him, as sending God; He sent Him, as [a man] unto men; He sent Him, as Saviour, as using persuasion, not force: for force is no attribute of God.
Rowan Williams would agree.

Survival of the kindest?

From The Atlantic:

Whatever the evolutionary underpinnings of generosity, Olivia Judson concludes that human beings are in a unique position to make the most of it. Bees swarming in a hive must resign themselves to lifelong roles as drones or workers or dominating queens, but human society is highly flexible. Thanks to the complex pathways of the human brain, enemies can become allies, underdogs can be elevated, and the noblest aspects of human nature can be passed along to future generations.

An excerpt from her interview with Jennie Rothenberg Gritz:

Q. I find it thought-provoking that you describe altruism as a kind of primal urge, not a rational behavior but a basic instinct like lust.

A. I think it is primal. Evolutionary biologists get very excited about things like suicide because if you commit suicide before you ever have offspring, your genes get removed from the population. In terms of cooperation, helping somebody else raise their own children and never having your own is a kind of genetic suicide, so evolutionary biologists get very excited about that. The question is, from a genetic perspective, why do these small acts of niceness happen?

I think it’s part of the evolution of social groupings. But maybe it has a bigger benefit, or maybe it just makes the creature feel good. Certainly our conscious explanation for why we do things isn’t usually that it allows us to have more children. Our conscious explanation is that we get a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling. And maybe baboons get warm, fuzzy feelings.

Read it all.

Picketing Akinola

News from "Akinola Repent" about an event on Sunday:

[Archbishop Peter] Akinola will appear at the chapel of ultra-conservative Wheaton College at 10:30 a.m . The chapel is located at the corner of Washington and Franklin Streets in Wheaton, Illinois, about 30 miles west of downtown Chicago. (Wheaton College is not the target of this protest.)

The demonstration will be peaceful and will not disrupt the church service. It is aimed not only at the archbishop but at his American enablers, former Episcopalians with a particular antipathy for Gay people who are splitting the Church to keep Gay people out.

Gay and Straight Episcopalians will gather at 8 a.m. for Mass at St. James’s Cathedral, 65 E. Huron St., Chicago, then drive to Wheaton for the demonstration, which will last one hour, from 10-11 a.m. Protesters will march in procession on the sidewalk opposite the Wheaton College Chapel and will not interfere with those attending the church service.

The demonstration is co-sponsored by dailyoffice.org, a prayer website serving the Episcopal Church, and the Gay Liberation Network of Chicago.

Dailyoffice.org sponsored an American speaking tour for Davis Mac-Iyalla earlier this summer, with appearances in 20 U.S. cities.

For more information contact Josh Thomas at josh@dailyoffice.org.

Canterbury on Uyo

The Archbishop of Canterbury has diplomatically ducked out of the controversy about homophobic remarks attributed to the Bishop of Uyo. The full release reads:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has spoken of his relief at receiving assurances over news agency reports attributing offensive remarks to the Bishop of Uyo, Nigeria, the Rt Revd Isaac Orama.

"As I said last week, these reports were very concerning and it is a great relief to have had full assurances that the stories were false and should never have appeared. I am grateful that the prospect of the severe offence that would have been caused has now abated".

Those of us who have worked for American news organizations are still wondering why the News Agency of Nigeria has never formally retracted this story, although the individual reporter did. I don't think we are likely to find out, though.

News, news, news

News. News News. Reports from everywhere. Have a look at what the mainstream media is saying about the House of Bishops meeting that began this morning in New Orleans.

Rachel Zoll has written a strum and drang free story for the Associated Press.

Cathy Lee Grossman of USA Today has also overcome the temptation to suggest that the sky is not only falling, but will in fact land before the end of the month.

Rebecca Trounson of The Los Angeles Times features these two quote:

And in a recent telephone interview, Jefferts Schori said that despite the approaching deadline, the Episcopal Church would "continue to be the church on Oct. 1 and in November and beyond." She said she did not expect major changes in the church's relationships within the communion as a result of the meeting.

And:

The Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, said Wednesday that he did not expect those decisions to be overturned at the bishops' meeting. "I don't believe we have the power to go beyond that before the General Convention," he said. "And if the primates think some magic change will occur in the House of Bishops and the national church in which we say we rescind everything, that's not going to happen."

The Chicago Tribune and Raleigh News and Observer have local angles.

The Telegraph is overhyping the situation, although this paragraph is insightful:

But he is aware that even if he does achieve a form of words that placates moderates, conservative hardliners may still reject the deal and to force damaging new splits by boycotting the ten-yearly Conference of Anglican bishops in Canterbury.

And Andrew Brown ends his commentary on the Guardian Web site with this pearl:

The Anglican Communion contains a majority of primates who take a Grand Inquisitor's view of politics; and some who would be happy to hand over heretics or at least homosexuals to the secular arm for punishment; some who encourage the belief that they can perform miracles, more or less, when their people need it; and plenty who use or threaten to use the power of money and modern science to expand their client base.

Rowan Williams, like Christ, renounces these powers; but when an Archbishop renounces powers he does not abolish them, he hands them to his enemies. Like Christ in the parable, Rowan's response to the Grand Inquisitors of the world is to kiss them on their bloodless lips and then slip out into darkness and obscurity through the door they have held open for him. When Christ kisses him, the inquisitor is touched in his heart but his beliefs and his actions do not change. Fresh heretics will burn when morning comes.


From New Orleans: Eight bishops agree to serve as "episcopal visitors"

Eight bishops agree to serve as 'episcopal visitors'
by Bob Williams

[Episcopal News Service, New Orleans] Eight bishops have accepted Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's invitation to serve as "episcopal visitors" to dioceses that have requested this provision.

At her request, the Presiding Bishop's canon, the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, advised Episcopal News Service of this measure the evening of September 19. The announcement preceded the opening plenary session of the House of Bishops' September 20-25 meeting in New Orleans. Robertson said Jefferts Schori expected to announce the names of the eight bishops during that session, which is devoted to the bishops' private conversation with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and is closed to the public and media.

Jefferts Schori has conferred with Williams about the invitations, which she extended after a process of consultation with bishops in the Episcopal Church, Robertson said.

"All eight are true bridge-builders who empathize with the concerns and needs of dioceses that are struggling with the issues of the current time," Robertson said, adding that "while all are sympathetic to to these concerns, each is clear that the Presiding Bishop's ultimate goal is reconciliation."

The eight are active diocesan bishops Frank Brookhart of Montana, Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina (based in Columbia, S.C.), John Howe of Central Florida (based in Orlando), Gary Lillibridge of West Texas (based in San Antonio), Michael Smith of North Dakota, James Stanton of Dallas, and Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, together with retired Connecticut Bishop Clarence Coleridge.

Robertson said all have agreed to serve as official "episcopal visitors" (the lowercase adjective referring generally to bishops and their ministries rather than the church's denomination), or to provide "Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight" (DEPO), an option provided by the House of Bishops' March 2004 statement "Caring for All the Churches" and a concept affirmed by the General Convention in 2006.

Jefferts Schori's invitation to the eight bishops seeks to delegate the first of three primary canonical duties of the Presiding Bishop, that of visiting each of the Episcopal Church's 110 dioceses during each Presiding Bishop's nine-year term. The Presiding Bishop's other two principal canonical roles are to "take order" for ordaining and consecrating bishops, and to oversee certain disciplinary actions as needed.

The Presiding Bishop's invitation to the eight bishops "offers opportunities for dioceses to have an episcopal visitor other than herself," Robertson said.

"This gives dioceses the pastoral guidance and care they need while remaining faithful and loyal members of the Episcopal Church," he said. "It is also the Presiding Bishop's hope that at some point in the future she would be invited to visit these dioceses."

The action is "a significant effort at building a bridge while still honoring our uniquely American polity," Robertson said.

He added that Jefferts Schori is "comfortable letting the details be worked out by the bishops involved."

From among the Episcopal Church's 110 total dioceses, six stand by requests
initiated in 2006 for pastoral oversight other than that of the current Presiding Bishop. Those dioceses are Central Florida, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy (based in Peoria, Illinois), Springfield (Illinois), and San Joaquin (based in Fresno, California). A similar request by the Diocese of Dallas was later modified.

In all of these dioceses there has been expressed opposition to the 2003 election and ordination as diocesan bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson, who is openly gay and lives in a long-standing committed relationship with his male partner.

In three of these dioceses -- Fort Worth, Quincy and San Joaquin -- the bishops have not ordained women despite the General Convention's 1976 authorization to do so.

-- Canon Robert Williams is director of Episcopal Life Media, the new communication group that includes the Episcopal News Service.

On the scene in New Orleans

John Gibson and John Bradley are in New Orleans covering the House of Bishops meeting for Integrity. You can read their dispatches at Walking with Integrity.

Two more Primates for inclusion

MANCHESTER, September 20, 2007 – Two Archbishops are to speak at Manchester Cathedral, calling for the Church of England to be inclusive.

The Archbishop of Mexico and the leader of the Scottish Episcopal Church are taking part in a conference Celebrating Anglican Diversity, which will celebrate the long tradition of a diverse Church that welcomes all people. It is being held on September 29.

Most Rev. Carlos Touche-Porter, Archbishop Mexico, has longstanding experience of inclusion and diversity issues within the Church, including the place of gay and lesbian Christians.

He is part of an emerging network of Anglican Bishops based mainly in Latin America (“the Global Centre”) aiming to celebrate the unity and diversity of the Communion.

“Inclusion is a reality in the Anglican Church, despite reports to the contrary,” Archbishop Carlos said:

“I am very much looking forward to being in the UK as part of our preparations for a positive Lambeth Conference.”

Read it all.

The envelope please...

The Cafe's editor regularly expresses his unstinting affection for the NBC drama Friday Night Lights. Now another voice joins the chorus.

Salon's annual "Buffy" award goes to the most underappreciated show on television. In bestowing this year's award, Heather Havrilesky wrote:

You'd think that if you trotted out the most original depiction of the modern American family since Tony and Carmela bickered over an open refrigerator, you'd reel in countless viewers and a big sack full of Emmys to boot. Not so for "Friday Night Lights." Despite developing into the most dynamic and heart-rending drama on the small screen and garnering glowing praise from swooning critics and passionate fans alike, this prime-time gem still hasn't attracted the ratings or the little golden statues that it so rightfully deserves.

Sure, we've sung its praises, more than once before. Together we prayed for a Hail Mary pass from NBC, which demonstrated its faith in this promising rookie by renewing its contract despite low ratings. Will a solid sophomore season secure "Friday Night Lights'" position in the family drama hall of fame? Only if you get off your sorry ass and watch it! (The second season premieres 9 p.m. EDT Friday, Oct. 5, on NBC.)

But don't take our word for it. Ask anyone who watches regularly, and you'll see in their eyes how madly in love with this show they are. Something in the small-town, pesky but lovable, in-your-business, regular-folks flavor of "Friday Night Lights" feels like home. While so many sitcoms and dramas alike have mutated into the realm of perky, overstyled, bantering professionals, a shiny, idealized picture that either feels too giddily happy or too heavy, "Friday Night Lights" shows us real Americans living regular lives, enduring the indignities of frustrating, dead-end jobs, grappling with narrow-minded co-workers or neighbors, ushering up laughter in spite of family arguments, and doing the best with what they have. While the football team wins or loses, the heart of this story lingers, like life so often does, somewhere in between: Whether it's Tyra, a teenager battling her own low expectations, even as she sees what that did for her bitter single mom, or Jason, a handicapped former quarterback trying to find a life that makes sense now that his biggest dreams have died, the characters of "Friday Night Lights" are challenged to face their weaknesses and dig deep. Sometimes they frustrate or anger us, but we always find ourselves cheering them on in the end.

And of course Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler are absolutely mesmerizing in their embodiment of the eye-rolling annoyances and gentle teasing of the modern marriage. Those two bring so much warmth, humor and realism to every interaction that you can't pry your eyes away from them.

Read it all.

Day 1

Updated: Interestingly, the Thursday night AP story quotes from the item below.

Not a lot to report from our friends who were in the room. At House of Bishops meetings, the bishops all sit at assigned tables with colleagues whom they have sat with at previous meetings. At tables this morning they were asked what were their greatest hopes and greatest fears for the meeting. Each table answered these questions and reported back to the meeting.

I am a little shaky on the time sequence here, but at some point during the course of the day, Archbishop Williams suggested that the Episcopal Church needed to exercise greater concern for its catholicity. Bishop Michael Curry at some later point replied that catholicity, by definition, cannot be built upon the exclusion of one class of people.

The archbishop made it clear that he believed the Episcopal Church had acted preemptively in consecrating Bishop Robinson.

In the afternoon Archbishop Williams asked the bishops how far they were willing to go to assure the rest of the Anglican Communion that the Church will refrain from a) consecrating another openly gay bishop and b) authorizing rites of blessing for same-sex unions. He also asked whether the bishops are willing to share episcopal responsibilities with other bishops when necessary.

The answer to those questions must ultimately be embodied in resolutions. For perusing other blogs, I sense that not much news was committed at the news conference.

From Episcopal Life Online news from the press conference.

Archbishop visits Lower Ninth Ward

The Times Picayune reports that the Archbishop of Canterbury visited the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans following his meeting today with the Episcopal Church House of Bishops.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams spent seven and a half hours behind closed doors today talking with 150 Episcopal bishops and delegates from overseas Anglican churches about rising tensions over homosexuality that threaten to rupture the Anglican Communion.

He emerged from the Hotel InterContinental to be driven to the Lower Ninth Ward to see Episcopal hurricane relief efforts there, including a new church that will occupy a now-ruined drugstore a few steps from the home of New Orleans musician Fats Domino.

Williams blessed the grafitti-covered building and posed for pictures with curious bystanders. Diana Meyers, a worker with St. Anna's medical mission, gave Williams a rough, foot-tall wooden cross she said was made of the debris of wrecked shrimp and oyster boats.

Read it all here.

Tomorrow's news tonight

The most intriguing story on the wires at the moment comes from Australia, but there are also dispatches from the Associated Press, which quotes from the Day 1 item down blog a bit, Reuters and the Press Association.

Updates: The Washington Post's curtain-raiser is here, and it suggest that host Bishop Charles Jenkins of Louisiana might play a key role in the proceedings. The hometown Times-Picayune (one of the best newspaper names going) offers a wrap up of day one.

The news organization previously known as Agence France Press also gets into the act. Their story includes some interesting quotes from the president of the Berkeley Divinity School (which is an Episcopal seminary) at Yale, but it misidentifies him as the president of the Yale Divinity School. (Which is not an Episcopal seminary.) The report also confuses Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney with Archbishop Philip Aspinall, the primate of Australia. Williams enjoys an excellent relationship with the latter.

Archbishop Peter Akinola is also making himself heard. He has spoken with the only Western reporter he knows he can count on. He has been very selective since this disastrous encounter with The New York Times, which began:

The way he tells the story, the first and only time Archbishop Peter J. Akinola knowingly shook a gay person’s hand, he sprang backward the moment he realized what he had done.

But back to the story from Australia. It is based on an interview with Archbishop Aspinall, given just before he left for New Orleans:

The Primate of the Anglican Church in Australia, Archbishop Philip Aspinall of Brisbane, said the mood within the Anglican Communion was one of reconciliation where the vast majority of them were seeking a middle-way to deal with the homosexuality issue that is threatening to break the Communion apart.

In an interview with the Religion Report, broadcast on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Archbishop Aspinall talked about the need to find a ‘constructive step’ to resolve the debate on the subject of gay bishops and the blessing of same-sex partnership, noting this problem could not be fixed instantly with one solution.

“…No-one is expecting a quick fix and once-and-for-all solution for all time from the meeting this week in the United States. Rather we hope that in conversation and prayer and mutual discernment, we might be able to see constructive next steps,” he said

Aspinall was in the thick of the negotiations in Dar es Salaam. He will be in the thick of things in New Orleans as well. Contrast his tone with that of Archbishop Akinola. They don't seem to be summarizing the same situation. So who has the better grip?

Archbishop of Canterbury gets a taste of New Orleans

From Episcopal News Service

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams suggested September 20 during an ecumenical service at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center that New Orleans's recovery could remake the city into God's image of the holy city.

Noting the service's reading from Zechariah 8:3-13, Williams said that the image of the holy city is not based on strength of a city's arts community, business sector, educational offerings, or social-welfare programs.

"What makes a great, godly city is that it is a safe place for older people to sit and children to play in the streets," he said, adding that few people live in that kind of city anywhere in the world today.

Earlier in the day, Williams visited the site of a former Walgreens drugstore in the lower Ninth Ward to bless what will become the new home of the Church of All Souls, founded in New Orleans' lower Ninth after Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing flood devastated the neighborhood. The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana helped to plant the church at the invitation of the neighborhood.

Williams said that, like the rainbow was a promise of God's everlasting presence after the Flood, the All Souls effort is a sign that "God hasn't gone away and God's people haven't gone away."

Read it all.

Many proposals being floated at the House of Bishops meeting

There are at least four versions of proposed resolutions posted online this morning. Some are being put forward by coalitions of bishops, others by single bishops. The Lead is aware that there are many more versions being put together than have yet to be posted. However the blog TitusOneNine has some of them excerpted and posted.

A part of the resolution that is said to have been proposed by Bishop Peter Lee of the Diocese of Virginia:

"The General Convention speaks for the Episcopal Church and we bishops understand that resolution as providing an assurance to the wider communion that meets the requests of the Primates' Communique from the Primates' meeting in Tanzania. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church has never authorized the blessing of intimate unions between same sex partners. While the Episcopal Church has, for some forty years, explored the most faithful way of ministering to and with gay and lesbian people who are part of our common life, as a liturgical church, our official actions are expressed in our liturgies and no rite of blessing has ever been adopted by the General Convention."

Read the rest of them here

Preludium reads the tea leaves

Mark Harris writes on his blog Preludium about the news that emerged from the House of Bishop's meeting yesterday. He focuses particularly on the plan that the Presiding Bishop has proposed for a team of episcopal visitors and the particular make-up of the group. He sees some interesting implications about what might be happening internally in the Anglican Communion Network headed by Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh:

"For some time there have been questions about the level of support by other Network bishops for the most recent positions taken by the Moderator. While both Bishops Stanton and Howe were at the Network annual meeting and both have long records of faithful engagement in Network actions, Bishop Stanton has been remarkably silent in the past year and Bishop Howe has taken his place in the governance of The Episcopal Church and has made his considerable influence felt. Bishop Howe was put forward the resolution that got the Archbishop of Canterbury to this House of Bishops meeting. In accepting the role of 'episcopal visitor' they are making a commitment to life together in The Episcopal Church at precisely the time when the Network leadership is contending that further relation to The Episcopal Church is a waste, since TEC is broken beyond repair.

I have good reason to believe that these two are not alone and that other Network bishops have been committed to working 'from the inside' for change, and continue to work for such change, but are not ready to end their relationship with TEC. Indeed there is a growing sense that as the leadership in ACN grows more distant from TEC, some of the Network bishops are increasingly unhappy. My sense (which will in one way or another be proven out) is that of the ten diocesan bishops in the ACN, only five are willing to step out with the Moderator and take part in the ordination of invader bishops and commit themselves to a pre-Provincial council of bishops which recognizes these invader bishops and bishops from the Anglican Province of America and the Reformed Episcopal Church as part of a new emerging province."

Read the rest.

Excerpts from Bishops' speeches

Mary Ailes, posting on BabyBlueOnline, has the text of a speech delivered in the first morning session of the House of Bishop's meeting in New Orleans. Bishop Anis is the Presiding Bishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. In the speech the Bishop lays out the choice the Episcopal Church has before it as he sees it.

"My friends, if you really believe that the truth revealed to you is different from that shown to the rest of the Communion, then you need to uphold that claim with boldness even at the risk of losing unity. If you think it is right and necessary to ordain and consecrate practicing homosexuals and that you should bless same sex partnerships or even marriages, you should be true to what you believe is right and accept the consequences.

However, if you appreciate being members of the global Anglican family, then you have to walk along side the members of your family. Those who say that it is important to stay together around the table, to listen to each other and to continue our dialogue over the difficult issues that are facing us are wise. We wholeheartedly agree with this, but staying around the table requires that you should not take actions that are contrary to the standard position (Lambeth 1:10) of the rest of the Communion.

Sitting around the table requires humility from all of us. One church cannot say to the rest of the churches 'I know the whole truth, you don't'. Sitting around one table requires that each one should have a clear stance before the discussion starts. It also requires true openness and willingness to accept the mind of the whole. We do not have to be in one communion to sit around one table. We do so when we dialogue with the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox an with other faiths. It would be extremely difficult to sit around one table when you have already decided the outcome of the discussion and when you ignore the many voices, warnings, and appeals from around the Communion."

Read the here

Note: Anis word's recall those of Abp. Venables earlier this spring, "[Venables] admitted it was unlikely TEC would be able to comply with the September 30 deadline. 'They are just continuing with what they did as a result of conviction. It is extremely unlikely that they will back off. It would be a complete denial of everything that has happened."

From the other side of the aisle, Bishop Marc Andrus of the Diocese of California has released the text of the remarks he made in the meeting yesterday afternoon:

With respect to sexual orientation, it must be said that the Episcopal Church is the main refuge for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people who are seeking to lead a Christian life. These people are primarily not natives of the Bay Area, they come from all over the United States and indeed the world. They have come to San Francisco and the Bay Area seeking a life where they are not subjected to discrimination and violence, where they can lead normal lives, and in some cases, Christian lives. It is my responsibility to provide a context for this search for holiness of life.

It is also important to say here that the Episcopal Church in the Bay Area is immeasurably enriched by the presence of LGBT people in our parishes and missions. These are gifted, faithful Christian people, lay and ordained, passionate about their faith and church. It is hard to imagine what the Diocese of California would be like without these great people, but I can get something of a picture by remembering the many places I’ve lived from which they have come to the Bay Area, places where they were barred from employment, pushed out of their homes and families, and yes, found cold welcome in churches, and tragically in some instances, were subjected to physical violence. For every one of these men and women enlivening the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of California there are empty places all over the United States where their graceful presences are missing.

This is also true for me regarding Gene Robinson. He has helped this body of bishops of the Church with intelligence, passion, humility and great courage over the past four years, and I know he has served his diocese in the same manner. I hope, simply, that there will not be a Gene-shaped space at the Lambeth Conference where the living child of God Gene should be.


Notes from the Archbishop's press conference

Listening online to the bishop's press conference this afternoon, I heard Archbishop Williams say of the Dar Es Salaam Communique:

My paraphrase of some of his statements:

The Communique from Dar Es Salaam was not meant by as an ultimatum, it was a request for clarification on certain points. The deadline had to do more with the already scheduled meeting of the House of Bishops

It's intrinsically a compromise statement that was issued. Some of the bishops present might understand it in a more robust way, others in a more open way... It was not meant to meant to be demand more of a request for clarification

Whatever language comes out of this moment in the Communion's history, it must allow room for people to maneuver.

The interventions into the life of the Episcopal Church by other parts of the Communion are troubling. These interventions make it increasingly more difficult to find local solutions the controversies within the Episcopal Church at present.

UPDATE: Integrity USA's report on the press conference is here.

UPDATE: the full text of the Archbishop's opening remarks can be found after the jump.

Read more »

Wales defers on Anglican Covenant

The Church of Wales has voted "no" to the proposed language of the Anglican Covenant. The Archbishop of Wales speaking earlier this week suggested that the present form of the Covenant was in danger of being used as a contract to exclude certain people rather than a way of inviting as many people as possible.

From the website icWales

"Members of the Church in Wales have voted not to approve a draft version of the Anglican Covenant.

Dr Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales said he fears the draft covenant will lead to one voice on controversial issues, such as homosexuality, which members would have to sign up to or leave.

All churches in the Anglican worldwide community are considering the Covenant.

The Church in Wales’ governing body agreed overwhelmingly to note the process of formulating a covenant at a meeting at the University of Wales Lampeter.

And the body invited the Welsh bishops to finalise a response for the Covenant Design Group by the end of the year."

Read the rest: Church defers decision on Covenant

Day 2

Updated, revised, corrected

A very partial account of the second day of the House of Bishops meeting based on conversations with three persons present in the meetings:

Today the House of Bishops heard from members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council.

The speakers included Presiding Bishop Mouneer Anis, Jerusalem and the Middle East, whose presentation was leaked to conservative bloggers and is available here, Chancellor Philippa Amable of West Africa, Bishop James Tengatenga of Central Africa, Archbishop Barry Morgan of Wales and Archbishop Philip Aspinall of Australia.

Anis was the most confrontational. The bishops we spoke with were depressed by his presentation because it contrasted so sharply with the flexibility expressed in private conversation by other members of the delegation.

Ms. Amable, who attended the recent conference of African and Episcopal bishops convened by Trinity Church Wall Street in Spain, spoke, among others things, about the profound differences between American and west African cultures. She told the bishops that heterosexual monogamy was the “norm” and that they had to realize that the majority of the Primates did not “resonate” to the views of the Episcopal Church.

After Bishop Tengatenga’s presentation, Archbishop Aspinall reviewed the contents of the Dar es Salaam communique. Archbishop Morgan spoke about the breadth of beliefs and practices regarding human sexuality in Wales, and said the Episcopal Church was not alone in struggling with this issue.

One bishop we spoke with said a member of the Joint Standing Committee had offered a private apology for Archbishop Anis’ remarks.

All three of the people we spoke with said the mood of the bishops after the morning session was glum because most of the speakers seemed to be pushing them toward an either or choice between conscience and unity.

But Archbishop Rowan Williams, at an early afternoon press conference, suggested there was room for compromise:

“Despite what has been claimed, there is no ‘ultimatum’ involved. The primates asked for a response by September 30 simply because we were aware that this was the meeting of the house likely to be formulating such a response. The ACC and Primates Joint Standing Committee will be reading and digesting what the bishops have to say, and will let me know their thoughts on it early next week. After this I shall be sharing what they say, along with my own assessments, with the primates and others, inviting their advice in the next couple of weeks.

Williams also said that it was only natural that there would be a variety interpretations of the communiqué among the 38 Primates of the Communion, but that he did not read it as a set of demands, and that he did not see September 30 as a “deadline.”

(I suggested that the deadline had "lost some of its luster" in an article published on Monday.)

I am not certain about this, but I believe the deadline for submitting resolutions to be considered on Monday was at 4 or 5 p. m. Central time. There are numerous resolutions to be considered, and the Presiding Bishop and the leaders of the House may find it challenging to do them all justice. As one bishop said: This is a big sandbox and everybody has brought their favorite toys.

Kirk Smith reflects on events in New Orleans so far

Bishop Kirk Smith of the Diocese of Arizona has sent his thoughts about the past two days of the House of Bishop's meeting. His weekly e-pistle includes his concerns about the tenor of the conversation so far, and the frustration he's feeling at being asked to chose between people he loves.

From the Bishop's E-Pistle for Friday September 21 2007
(The Feast of St. Matthew)

I am writing this afternoon from New Orleans where I am attending the House of Bishops’ Fall meeting. What hangs over us a bit like a cloud—and in fact we are expecting to be hit with a severe tropical storm tomorrow—are the decisions we must make after having met with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who departed this afternoon after spending about 8 hours in conversation with us.

I must confess disappointment at most of that dialogue. The Archbishop spent most of his time listening, and only about a half hour speaking to the concerns that were raised. He was asked some rather pointed questions including why he had not invited Bishop Gene Robinson to the 2008 Lambeth conference, and what was he going to do about those Primates who had invaded dioceses in this country. Archbishop Williams chose instead to talk mostly about the nature of the office of bishop, which he understands to be “a servant of common discernment, keeping the most people at the table as long as possible because truth can only be found in conversation with the greatest number of the faithful”. That may be true enough, but what about a bishop’s obligation to protect the forgotten and stand with the oppressed?

In broad terms he asked us to postpone our own church’s agenda in favor of peace in the larger Communion. That desire was more strongly expressed by four members of the Anglican Advisory Council who spoke to us this morning. They again urged us to consider affirming in some way what was asked of us by the Primates at their February meeting in Dar Es Salaam, namely to refrain from consecrating openly gay bishops and approving same sex blessings; offer alternative primatial oversight to dioceses who wish it; and allow our church to be monitored by a council made up of other Provinces. Most of us feel again the frustration of being caught in the conundrum of wanting to walk with our world-wide partners without turning our backs on our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Many of us also believe we have already done all we can to appease those who differ with us in these matters. It seems we are being given a “Sophie’s choice,” being ask to pick who we love more. Whatever choice is made, people will be hurt. Even the option of refusing to choose can be interpreted by both parties as rejection.

Up to now we have had the chance to revisit the same old hurts and frustrations. On Monday we will see what we can do to create some kind of a response.

In the meantime, we are going to (literally) put on our work gloves and spend tomorrow in the 9th Ward of the City. On Sunday we will worship at various parishes. Perhaps having a time-out to work and pray together will allow us, as the Archbishop asked, “to find a way to surprise the world.”

Evening news round-up

Here's what's been crossing the wires this evening from various and sundry corners. All this information is sourced as cited--some reporters are still using various unnamed witnesses. Some of this you've heard from our sources, but in case you'd like to see confirmation of the "it's not an ultimatum" statement, read on.

This take on the meeting from Jonathan Petre in the UK Telegraph:

Dr Rowan Williams is holding two days of crisis talks in New Orleans in an eleventh-hour effort to persuade the bishops of the American branch of Anglicanism to reverse their pro-gay agenda. But insiders said that a number of the liberal bishops were in no mood to capitulate, and any compromise that they might eventually accept was unlikely to placate conservatives who want them ousted.

However, his word-of-mouth reporting (remember what we said about sources?) reveals that:

According to witnesses, [Robinson] said that for Dr Williams to present the situation as a choice between fidelity to gays and fidelity to the Communion "is one of the most dehumanising things I have heard in a long time" and he wanted no part of it.

Another liberal, the Bishop of Massachussetts, the Rt Rev Thomas Shaw, also criticised the Archbishop for failing to honour the American Church's "prophetic discernment" in consecrating Bishop Robinson.

One insider said: "The speeches we heard suggested that the tide was running heavily in the direction of saying to the Archbishop, thank you for your concern but we have made up our minds and we are going forward."

Link here.

Local media outlets are reporting on how the meeting's unfolding is playing out in the dioceses close to home, such as, on the one hand, Quincy in the Quad-Cities Online (Ill.), with an angle that certainly reflects the sources quoted. On the other hand, The Chicago Tribune, quoting Bps. William Persell and John Chane, is decidedly vague in this piece, perhaps because the reporter doesn't understand all the issues at play?

The Washington Post reports that reports of this being the Anglican Communion's final answer may be premature:

The head of the Anglican Communion offered words of encouragement yesterday to U.S. Episcopal bishops under fire for their support of gay men and lesbians, saying they aren't facing an "ultimatum," even as other leaders of the worldwide church insisted the Americans are teetering on being forced out of the communion.

Their write up is here.

The Agence-French Press, syndicated onto Google a la AP, has the direct quote on this:


Williams, while acknowledging the contentious nature of the debate, sought to downplay talk of a split.

"Despite what has been claimed, there is no ultimatum involved," he said at a press conference.

Asked if the church was prepared to let some congregations break away, Williams said, "I think it would be rather an admission of defeat if we said that we were incapable of working together on the issues that divide us.

"Whether we get to that point, I don't know. I have to say God forbid."

Neither Williams nor Jefferts Schori would indicate how the Episcopal church will respond.

"We have had stimulating and provocative conversation over the last day and a half," Jefferts Schori said. "The hope is that we have a full response by the time we close our meeting."

Williams, however, hinted that a delicate balance was needed so as to respect theological convictions while avoiding discrimination.

More from the AFP here.

The Associated Press report perhaps illuminates most concisely how this plays against the Primates' September 30 deadline, supplementing with another quote from the press conference, in this piece:

"It's been presented sadly as a set of demands," Williams said in a news conference before he left. "I don't think that what was in the primates' minds. In fact, I'm sure it isn't."

The rest of that story is here.

More to come in the morning, as my newsfeeds runneth over, but one parting thought, from the blog of Bp. Christopher Epting, the Ecubishop, who is also blogging from the meeting. He notes that emotions run deep on these issues and it shows, but tomorrow is another day:

Another difficult day. We listened to passionate testimonies from members of the Anglican Consultative Council and several Primates of the Anglican Communion. Clearly, they want more from us than General Convention has said. We will certainly not — and cannot — usurp the prerogatives of our synodical form of government including bishops, priests, deacons, and the laity making decisions together.

On the other hand, there are — in our checks and balances system — specific responsibilities given to bishops, as well as to the other orders of ministry. We can give or withhold consent to episcopal ordinations. We can authorize, or refuse to authorize, specific liturgies in our dioceses. We can cooperate, or refuse to cooperate, with “delegated episcopal oversight” in our dioceses. These are among the decisions we will have to make.

After thanking the Archbishop of Canterbury and our other visitors on the floor of the House this morning, I also thanked the House of Bishops Planning Committee for the schedule. Today was not a day to craft a “Mind of the House Resolution” on these matters. Many of us were too angry.

But now we have the weekend to “take a deep breath.” We hang dry wall and paint houses tomorrow. We worship with the people of Louisiana and Mississippi on Sunday.

Bates: Williams escapes

Stephen Bates writes in The Guardian overnight of his impressions of the scene in New Orleans. He describes the surreal aspects of the Archbishop Williams' visit to the city, his admiration of our church's involvement in the rebuilding efforts and contrasts that with the specter of the breaking apart of the same church.

Toward the end of the article he writes of the events and the atmosphere surrounding the end of the Archbishop's time with the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops:

"In the hotel's echoing marble halls, patrolled by security guards yesterday to prevent the media from getting too close, there was an atmosphere of plotting and rumour. Ever since the church elected the openly gay bishop Gene Robinson four years ago divisions between liberals and conservatives have grown poisonous and the abuse vicious, particularly from the conservatives.

There were rumours yesterday that the small conservative faction - who openly want to split the US church and hope to be recognised as Anglicanism's rightful representatives in the US - would walk out as soon as Dr Williams left. Their bishops are not even staying in the same hotel.

Eight more moderate conservative bishops who were put forward to act as episcopal visitors for parishes who no longer want to recognise the church's liberal leadership were immediately, quaintly, denounced on blog sites as traitors, quislings and vichy-ites

No wonder Dr Williams wanted to get away. His spirits seemed lifted only during an evening service at which a jazz band led the congregation in a traditional procession, the sort where musicians lead funeral mourners. As Dr Williams swayed and clapped self-consciously, no one questioned whether the funeral might be that of the world's third largest Christian denomination."

Read all of the article here.

Separately, Bates announced

This week’s meeting between Rowan Williams and the American bishops will be my swan-song as a religious affairs correspondent, after eight years covering the subject for The Guardian. I’d have been less keen to attend had the venue been Detroit, but where better to end it? It is time to move on for me professionally, and probably for Anglicans too and this marks a suitable place to stop. There is also no doubting, personally, that writing this story has been too corrosive of what faith I had left: indeed watching the way the gay row has played out in the Anglican Communion has cost me my belief in the essential benignity of too many Christians.For the good of my soul, I need to do something else.

Read it all here.

Jesus is no punchline

Jesus and comedy are a tricky mix. Comedian Kathy Griffin's Emmy acceptance speech was censored because of a punchline that the Academy of Arts and Sciences recognized as potentially offensive. Griffin, on the other hand, is loving the fact that she was censored, because, as she put it on Larry King, "I just am loving it. "It's in the newspapers around the world, and every article starts with, 'Emmy winner Kathy Griffin,' and then the letters all just blur after that." (Thanks to bringing that to my attention so I could edit this write-up accordingly, Ms. Griffin.)

As reported in the Washington Post:

Comedian Kathy Griffin has built her D-list career on telling A-list Hollywood celebrities -- Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Ryan Seacrest -- to "suck it." So when she told Jesus to "suck it" after winning an Emmy for her reality show, "My Life on the D-List," it was meant as another swipe at someone who gets invited to better parties than she does.

But as she quickly learned, dissing Jesus, even in left-leaning Hollywood, carries more risk than poking fun at the Lindsay Lohans of the world.

Griffin's remarks -- "I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. . . . So all I can say is, suck it, Jesus. This reward is my god now!" -- were censored when the E! Network broadcast the Creative Arts Emmy Awards show last Saturday.

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences said the remarks were struck because they were "offensive." It wasn't clear whether they disliked the vulgar "suck it" part or the blasphemous "this reward is my god now" part.

Whether she was deliberately trying to insult Christians is debatable, the article continues, "The larger question, and the one that probably hits closest to home for many people, is whether Griffin was taking a swipe at religion generally or Jesus in particular. And that, observers say, is not an insignificant distinction." It goes on to give an explanation of who Jesus of Nazareth is, in case you hadn't heard about him, which we hope isn't offered ironically.

The article also makes a reference to NBC's short-lived series about fictional Episcopal priest Daniel Webster, The Book of Daniel.

The whole thing is here.

Let's get the God on in here

Your erstwhile editor was noting with interest this tale of a church-in-a-nightclub, seeing as she isn't so recently retired as a Philadelphia DJ and music critic, that appeared on NPR today as part of its News and Notes feature:

A California pastor has found a way to take his sermons to young people in Los Angeles without waiting for them to come to him.

He's set up a church inside an L.A. nightclub.

The venue may be a little unorthodox, but the message seems to be connecting with a Hollywood crowd that knows a lot more about partying than praying.

On a typical Saturday night at the Mayan nightclub, it's hard to get from one side to the other without being bumped or ground. Downstairs in the basement hot, sweaty bodies gyrate in a way that does not inspire godliness.

But everything changes on Sunday, when groups of 20-somethings swoop in to scrub away the debris from the night before and prep for a different kind of gathering.

The article underscores the semantic ambiguity of the term "nondenominational" as a descriptor to imply that a church lies outside mainline Christianity:


The church is officially non-denominational, but the doctrine is Southern Baptist. Those traditional values may seem a far cry from this trendy club scene, but McManus doesn't see a conflict.

"We focus, in some ways, on how to disengage Jesus and the Bible from everything people know about Christianity as a religion," McManus says. "[We] just strip it down to the human, and raw, kind of conversations."

The church is called Mosaic, to symbolize diversity. And every Sunday, McManus welcomes new guests.

But this is the line that made your editor sit up and go, "Say What?

One of the most famous attendees is apl.de.ap, a founding member of the hip-hop band the Black Eyed Peas.

He helped the band win a Grammy with "Let's Get it Started," a song that is sometimes played during Mosaic's services. He says that when he thinks of his band's name, Black Eyed Peas, he associates it with the spiritual soul food that he gets from coming to church. He heard about the church from a friend, but he already knew of the nightclub.

OK. For the record, that award-winning single's album version is "Let's Get Retarded." The Wikipedia entry sums up the background of how the radio version came into existence:

The phrase "Let's Get Retarded" is an offensive term used throughout the United States that means to go crazy on the dance floor, synonymous with "Go Dumb" (another insulting word for people who are mute) and "Get Stupid" (a term used to insult individuals with low IQ's). The colloquial meaning of "retarded", as used in this song, refers to being very carefree and having a good time at the expense of others - and more often meaning intoxicated or high, similar to the colloquial use of getting "blind", "wasted", or "smashed". The phrase is chanted at clubs and dances and used in everyday slang, but the word "Retarded" is offensive to people who see it as put-down of those who are mentally challenged. It was edited because many people find this usage offensive, making the song unsuitable for play on some radio stations and at sports games.

The article is here, and audio will be available after 4 p.m. ET.

Writing the book of one's life

Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement—began at sundown yesterday. Jews today are fasting and praying as God decides each person's fate in the coming year. One of the metaphors that comes out of this is that of "writing the book of one's life." Those of us that contribute to blogs regularly have come to know many of the virtues and pratfalls of perpetually and compulsively scribbling.

Jim Solllish, writing in the Washington Post, notes how his writing career does indeed help him understand this highest of holy days in the Jewish faith:

On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, each of us is asked to reread our manuscript of the past year and make revisions. We are tasked with asking such questions as "What could I have done differently?" and "What were the effects of my choices on others?" When I realized these were the questions novelists ask of their characters, it became easier to ask them of myself.

Writing is a process of making choices. Thousands of them. The act of writing an opening sentence is the result of more choices than I can count. Every word a character speaks or swallows is a choice. Every action or inaction, more choices. It's so easy to get them wrong. Or at least to see that another choice would have made more sense.

Read the whole thing here:

HoB updates, background continue to emerge

From the background side of things, we noticed this earlier this week but in the swarm of information that's been passing through, we're getting it up a bit belatedly. PBS' Religion and Ethics Weekly takes a look at what's going on this weekend, featuring preview interviews with Abp. Williams as well as Presiding Bishop Schori, Episcopal Bps. Jenkins and Chane, and Anglican Bp. Guernsey. The main feature is this week's lead story, and can be found here. A Cafe Hat Tip to Simon Sarmiento over at ThinkingAnglicans.org for reminding us to get this out there, and click over to his post for links to specific interviews from the American bishops in the PBS story and additional commentary from both sides of the aisle worth reading.

The Living Church has an item on five "mind of the house" resolutions being submitted for discussion. Bear in mind, however, that it isn't a complete account of the resolutions that have been submitted so much as a summary of those that have been leaked so far and an account of the process that's been put in place for their presentation.


Episcope points to more stories from the mainstream press after Day 2 here.

Meanwhile, north of the border...

While the threat of schism looms and journalists fritter over whether the Communion will go this way or that over whom the U.S. church elects and confirms to its Episcopate, well, there's always Canada. From the Anglican Church of Canada website:


It was an accidental picnic that first got the Anglicans and Lutherans of Carman, Man., together.

Lutheran pastor Jim Halmarson explained how 12 years ago the town double-booked the local park, so members of his congregation had to flip their burgers alongside the Anglicans. The afternoon of forced fellowship started a three-year process of closer relations, from joint worship services to eventually an amalgamated church, Grace St. John's Anglican / Lutheran.

These unions develop gradually. In June, Canadian Anglicans and Lutherans deepened their Full Communion relationship when their two national meetings voted to allow ministers to hold offices in each other's denominations.

On the Anglican end, this means that Lutherans can hold offices governed by General Synod, for instance as a member of the triennial General Synod meeting. It may also mean that a Lutheran could hold higher offices within the church.

"It would now be possible for a Lutheran to be elected an Anglican bishop, which would be interesting," said Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director of Faith, Worship, and Ministry for the Anglican General Synod. In order for this to happen, provinces and dioceses would need to amend their canons, a step that some have already taken.

Rev. Halmarson welcomed the news. "I think it gives us a diversity for discovering leadership at different levels," he said. He also thinks there's a "good possibility" that a Lutheran bishop may be elected in an Anglican church (or vice versa) during his lifetime.

The whole thing is here.

Day of Service in New Orleans

Don't let the quietness of the day with regard to the HoB fool you: the bishops have been very busy today. Episcopal Life Online covered bishops working at nine different recovery projects in New Orleans and several additional projects in other areas affected by Hurricane Katrina two years ago.

As fate would have it, there was some concern about a tropical system in the Caribbean However, the storm weakened and hit land well away from the Gulf areas in which the bishops were working.

From the story:

While the work done on September 22 contributed to the efforts of New Orleanians and Mississippians to rebuild their lives and their communities after the devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in August and September 2005, the day had other purposes as well.

Diocese of Newark Bishop Mark Beckwith, pausing from his work with Schori and others, said the past two days of meetings had brought the bishops "a lot of information to digest" and the work day was giving them "some breathing space to sort that through."

At a news conference the day before, Mississippi Bishop Duncan Gray said he hoped that the Day of Service would be helpful in "interpreting the discussions within the context of mission." Louisiana Bishop Charles Jenkins said he hope the work day would show that "people of good will and faith stand for the dignity of humanity … [and] even in the midst of our disagreements we stand strongly for all of God's people."

After helping to measure and cut a piece of sheetrock at a home in the Gentilly neighborhood, Diocese of Olympia Bishop Suffragan Bavi Edna "Nedi" Rivera looked up at the people working together in the gutted house and said "there's nothing that's going to build community more than this."

The story touches on several different projects and includes comments from many of the participants. Read it all here. There is also a gallery of images from the day here.

This week in Church history

While the Bishops meeting in New Orleans may well be making some history of their own, we thought that a little historical perspective about the history of faith in America would be appropriate. This week was actually a fairly important week in American church history according to Christian History & Biography:

September 23, 1595: Led by Fray Juan de Silva, the Spanish begin an intensive missionary campaign in the American southeast. In the following two years, 1,500 Native Americans in the area of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina convert to the Catholic faith.

September 23, 1857: Layman-turned-evangelist Jeremiah C. Lanphier holds a lunchtime prayer meeting for businessmen on Fulton Street in New York City. At first, no one shows up, but by the program's third week, the 40 participants requested daily meetings. Other cities begin similar programs, and a revival—sometimes called "The Third Great Awakening"—catches fire across America

September 24, 1757: Jonathan Edwards, perhaps America's most brilliant theologian and a father of American revivalism, becomes president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton). He served as president until his death in 1758

September 24, 1794: Russian Orthodox priest-monk Father Juvenaly, his brother Stephen, and eight other monks arrive at Kodiak Island, Alaska. After two years of ministry, the team had led 12,000 Alaskans to embrace the gospel. Juvenaly then extended his mission to the mainland, where he was reportedly martyred in 1796.

September 25, 1789: Congress amends The U.S. Constitution to prohibit establishment of a state church or governmental interference with the free exercise of religion.

September 27, 1944: Aimee Semple McPherson, founder of the Church of the Foursquare Gospel and the most famous female evangelist of her day, dies

Read it all here.

Interest high, pickings slim

There is little to be found in this morning's papers on developments in New Orleans.

The Sunday Telegraph (to be distinguished from The Telegraph) was obliged to run coverage, if not least because they have their own reporter covering the meeting of the House of Bishops. Jonathan Wynne-Jones has two reports here and here. The Sunday Telegraph has this bulletpoint of their take on the personalities -- and the Archbishop's eyebrows.

The Virginia Episcopalian has run Special Editions including coverage of yesterday's workday. These are compiled here (pdf).

Today's BBC Radio program "Sunday" has an interview with Stephen Bates here. The interview broadened to cover attendance at Lambeth Conference. In Bates' telling the majority of Nigerian bishops want to go to Lambeth -- contrary to the position of their primate, Peter Akinola.

Bishop Steenson resigns; to become Catholic

In a letter to diocesan clergy the Bishop of Rio Grande, The Right Rev. Jeffrey N. Steenson, has said he will resign at the end of the year and become a Catholic. He spoke with The Living Church:

The bishop has been the diocesan in the Albuquerque-based diocese since 2005.
...
He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Nashotah House and the Board of Directors of the Living Church Foundation.
...
He called the bishops’ meeting last March “a profoundly disturbing experience for me. I was more than a little surprised when such a substantial majority declared the polity of the Episcopal Church to be primarily that of an autonomous and independent local church relating to the wider Anglican Communion by voluntary association. This is not the Anglicanism in which I was formed, inspired by the Oxford Movement and the Catholic Revival in the Church of England … honestly, I did not recognize the church that this House described on that occasion.”

Regarding his move to the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Steenson said, “I believe that the Lord now calls me in this direction. It amazes me, after all of these years, what a radical journey of faith this must necessarily be. To some it seems foolish; to others disloyal; to others an abandonment.”

Bishop Steenson will be the third bishop of The Episcopal Church to become a Roman Catholic this year. Bishop Dan Herzog of Albany moved shortly after his retirement in January. Bishop Clarence C. Pope, retired Bishop of Fort Worth, returned to Roman Catholicism in August.


Read the Living Church report here.

ENS also has a report here:

Just days before his letter, Steenson helped broker a deal that allowed a majority of the members of the diocese's Pro Cathedral Episcopal Church of St. Clement in El Paso, Texas, to sever ties with the diocese and the Episcopal Church and buy the cathedral property for $2 million.
...
Steenson's resignation had been rumored for weeks, with speculation that he would join the Roman Catholic Church.
...
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is due to travel from New Orleans at the close of the House of Bishops meeting to attend Rio Grande's annual clergy conference on the afternoon of September 25.
Bishop Steenson's letter to the clergy is available here at Titus 1:19.

New census data on marriage

Americans now have less than a fifty percent chance for having a marriage that lasts more than 25 years, according to new U.S. Census data. The trends for a marriage surviving even fifteen years are also troubling. Still, it appears that the divorse rate has actually remained steady in recent years. Here is the New York Times report:

For the first time at least since World War II, women and men who married in the late 1970s had a less than even chance of still being married 25 years later.

“We know that somewhere between 40 percent and 50 percent of marriages dissolve,” said Barbara Risman, executive officer of the Council on Contemporary Families, a research group. “Now, when people marry, everyone wonders, is this one of those marriages that will be around for awhile.”

But David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values, a marriage research and advocacy group, said he was struck that the percentage of people who celebrated their 15th anniversary had declined. “This seems to be saying more recent marriages are more fragile,” Mr. Blankenhorn said.

About 80 percent of first marriages that took place in the late 1950s lasted at least 15 years. Among people who married in the late 1980s for the first time, however, only 61 percent of the men and 57 percent of the women were married 15 years later.

Among currently married women, non-Hispanic whites were the only group in which a majority had marked their 15th anniversary.

The survey by the Census Bureau, in 2004, confirmed that most Americans eventually marry, but they are marrying later and are slightly more likely to marry more than once.

Those trends continued, although the latest numbers suggest an uptick in the divorce rate among people married in the most recent 20 years covered in the report, 1975-1994. The proportion of all Americans who have been divorced, about one in five, remained constant, however.

“Basically, it looks like we’re pretty much holding steady,” said Rose Kreieder, a Census Bureau demographer. “There are not radical differences.”

Read it all here.

All Saints Pasadena cleared by IRS

All Saints Episcopal Church of Pasadena, California, will keep its non-profit status after a two year inquiry of a sermon given by a visiting speaker in 2004, but the IRS also found that the sermon was an improper intervention in electoral politics. The Los Angeles Times has the report:

The rector of a liberal Pasadena church today demanded an apology and a clarification from the Internal Revenue Service after being notified that the agency had closed a lengthy investigation of the church over a 2004 antiwar sermon -- but also found that the same sermon constituted illegal intervention in a political campaign.

The Rev. J. Edwin Bacon Jr., rector of All Saints Episcopal Church, told congregants during morning services today that he and other officials were relieved that the church no longer faced the imminent loss of its tax-exempt status, but were bewildered by the IRS' seemingly contradictory conclusions about the case.

All Saints has "no more guidance about the IRS rules now than when we started this process over two long years ago," Bacon said. He said the lack of clarity from the IRS in its recent letter to the church would have a continuing "chilling effect" on the freedom of clerics from all faiths to preach about core moral values and such issues as war and poverty.

. . .

All Saints, one of Southern California's largest and most liberal congregations, came under IRS scrutiny after a sermon two days before the 2004 presidential election by a guest speaker, the Rev. George F. Regas. In the sermon, Regas, the church's former rector, depicted Jesus in a mock political debate with then-presidential candidates George W. Bush and John F. Kerry.

Regas did not instruct parishioners whom to support in the presidential race, but his suggestion that Jesus would have told Bush that his preemptive war strategy in Iraq "has led to disaster" prompted a letter from the IRS in June 2005 stating that the church's tax-exempt status was in question.

Federal law prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns and elections.

In its latest letter to All Saints, dated Sept. 10, the IRS said the church continues to qualify for tax-exempt status but that Regas' sermon on Oct. 31, 2004, amounted to a one-time intervention in the 2004 presidential race. The letter offered no specifics or explanation for either conclusion, but noted that the church did have appropriate policies in place to ensure that it complied with prohibitions on political activity.

. . .

In addition to its requests for clarification and an apology, All Saints has asked a top Treasury Department official -- its inspector general for tax administration -- to investigate what the church described as a series of procedural and substantive errors in the case, including allegedly inappropriate conversations about it between IRS and Justice Department officials.

Those conversations, documented in e-mails obtained by the church through Freedom of Information Act requests, appear to show that Justice Department officials were involved in the All Saints case before the IRS made any formal referral of it for possible prosecution, an attorney for the church said. And they raise concerns that the IRS' investigation may have been politically motivated.

"In view of the fact that recent congressional inquiries have revealed extensive politicization of [the Department of Justice], my client is very concerned that the close coordination undertaken by the IRS allowed partisan political concerns to direct the course of the All Saints examination," attorney Marcus S. Owens wrote in a Sept. 21 letter requesting an investigation.

Read it all here.

For church leaders concerned about this issue, the most recent IRS guidance on political activity by churches and other nonprofits can be found here. A description of the IRS's enforcement actions against churches in 2006 can be found here. The Alliance Defense Fund, a legal organization affiliated with the Christian Right has a useful "Pastor Do's and Don'ts" here.

Senior Anglican officials crafting resolution with bishops Jenkins, Chane, Bruno, Parsley

Stephen Bates reporting for The Guardian

The compromise being worked on over the weekend has seen the US moderate conservative bishops Charles Jenkins of Louisiana and Henry Parsley of Alabama working with liberals Jon Bruno of California and John Chane of Washington DC and Canons Kenneth Kearon [Secretary General of the Anglican Communion ] and Gregory Cameron [Deputy Secretary General], of the Anglican communion council, on a formal statement that would keep the majority of US bishops together.

The resolution would also allow dioceses out of sympathy with the church's leadership to seek their own Episcopal oversight and also for the setting up of a pastoral council with foreign representatives.


About the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury Bates writes,
Dr Williams, who attended the bishops' meeting last Thursday and Friday, was strongly critical of African attempts to recruit dissident parishes in the US and rejected Nigerian bishops' calls to postpone next year's Lambeth conference of the world's Anglican bishops, due to be held in Canterbury next July.
...
He called on US conservatives not to leave their church, saying: "We are inevitably in the business of compromise...if we are able to get this right, to live with it in some structure, in a godly way, we will have done something for the whole Christian community."

More:
American conservative bishops complained that the archbishop refused to see them, or return their calls during his stay. A handful have now left the meeting and are planning to re-gather in Pittsburgh this week to discuss strategy, which is likely to include seeking oversight from an African province. Their leader, Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh, predicted that about five of the US church's 112 dioceses would seek to affiliate outside the US.

Read it here.

Church of Norway re-evaluates

While the Episcopal Church weighs how to deal with the differences in whether to ordain partnered homosexuals or to develop rituals for blessing same sex relationships, and while the House of Bishops debates crucial issues, the National Council of the Church of Norway is reevaluating its pastoral practice after 14 years experience with civil unions in that nation.

The national council of the Church of Norway announced on September 13, 2007 that it has recommended that the church's General Synod, which meets November 12-17, 2007, rescind guidelines prohibiting the ordination and appointment of members living in state-registered same-sex partnerships.

In a decision taken 13 September, the Church of Norway National Council states in a recommendation to the General Synod that there is no longer the relatively high degree of consensus in the Church of Norway on this sensitive issue as there was in 1995 and 1997. Since that time, the reality is that both the church's Doctrinal Commission and the Bishops' Conference are divided near the middle in their assessment of homosexuality. The National Council states, therefore, that it finds it difficult to continue the application of the earlier Synod decisions.

Recognizing that there is not uniform consensus on the issue within the Church, the national council recommends that local bishops and local councils will be responsible to decide on the appoints of all pastors and deacons, and also that each diocese recognize each others decisions whether or not to ordain or appoint.

The recommendation bases itself on what is already Norwegian church law, sc. that the formal authority in matters of ordination and appointment to positions of ordained ministry lies not with the General Synod, but with the relevant bishop and the appropriate appointing church body. For pastors and deacons, the diocesan councils are the appointing bodies. In light of this, the National Council recommends that the General Synod no longer gives general guidelines to the bishops and appointing bodies with regard to ordination and appointment of candidates living in registered same-sex partnership to positions of ordained ministry.

If the Church of Norway General Synod, which will meet 12-17 November 2007, follows the recommendation by the National Council, it will be recognized in the church that the ecclesial bodies responsible for appointments may either appoint, or not appoint, persons living in same-sex partnership. In their procedure they can, if they so wish, take the candidates’ civil status into consideration, without being in breach of Norwegian law or guidelines by the General Synod.

The National Council also requested that the Bishops develop for their dioceses "consistent" processes "whether or not they will ordain homosexual persons living in partnership, and/or provide them with the (normal, but not legally required) episcopal letter of recommendation to the parish(es) they are to serve. The bishops are also requested to consult with each other on how they handle cases where bishops with different practices are involved."

Previous guidelines had been passed in 1995 and 1997 that persons living in registered same-sex partnerships could serve in some church positions but could not be ordained nor function as pastors. Fourteen years of experience with civil partnerships, which took effect August 1, 1993, has created problems with the enforcement of the current rules. The National Council notes that Norwegian society has generally embraced civil unions, while there remains some differences within the Church. Their recommendations are meant to address the current situation in both Norwegian church and society.

The Council recognizes that "there is still a basis in the church in support of not ordaining or appointing or granting an episcopal letter of recommendation to persons living in same-sex partnership" and, while placing the practice of individual dioceses and bishops in local hands, the Council also recommends a process for working out differences between jurisdictions.

The National Council recommends to the General Synod that all bodies involved in church appointments be asked to actively strive toward good and orderly solutions when different views meet in particular cases.

The recommendation passed the National Council by a vote of 11-4.

Read the rest here.

A schism of one's own

Writing in the Church Times, Giles Fraser raises an objection to the appointment of border crossing bishops:

In reality [breakway parishes] declared their independence from the national Church years ago. They are effectively independent city-states that have pulled up the drawbridge and will not be told what to do by anyone. Priests of big churches in the US often act like mini prince-bishops — hence the convenience of a faraway seat of authority.

To come under Nigeria is effectively to do as they please. It allows them to put “Anglican” on the board, though they are basically congregationalists by a posher-sounding name. When they fall out with their new best friends in Nigeria — the history of schism suggests they will — another bishop will be found.

Meanwhile, Simon Sarmiento tries to cut through the hype surrounding the various African initiatives in the Unites States and find out how many congregations truly exist.

Works in progress

(Updated again) The House of Bishops are working on two different documents, both of which are very time consuming: a pastoral letter to the Episcopal Church and a resolution in response to the Primates.

The pastoral letter is directed to Episcopal Church describing what they have been up to, what they have learned and what they would like us to continue to do as a church. This is what was discussed in open session this afternoon. Steve Waring writes about it in the Living Church here. This letter will be finished tomorrow.

The other document they are working on is a resolution that is drafted in response to the questions directed to the Bishops by the Primates in the Communique from Dar es Salaam. This is the so-called Jenkins-Chane resolution. This has been discussed in closed session and has not been released. This is the actual response to the Primates. It must be voted up or down and then, if passed, sent along to Primates Council and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Living Church also writes about it here.

The Joint Standing Committee and Anglican Consultative Council met in closed session this morning as well. It is not known what they discussed, but in the same Living Church article, some of the members appeared in the room during the open session.

Conservative blogs Stand Firm and Baby Blue Online live blogged during the open session and recorded copies of the initial drafts of the mind of the house letter. These may be found here, here and here. Keep in mind that these notes are of a preliminary nature and cannot of necessity give us a complete picture.

As soon as we get a copy of either document, we will make it available. In the meantime, there is a media briefing at 4 pm CDT, where we hope to learn more.

Monday afternoon update

Summarizing the days work as drawing from their experience with the poor and displaced in New Orleans, the Episcopal News Service reports that Mondays work in forming a statement to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion was guided by "solidarity with the disenfranchised."

The Rev. Patricia McCaughan writes the following for the Episcopal News Service:

Bishops suggested strengthening language regarding the incursion of overseas bishops into dioceses other than their own, and dividing the lengthy draft into two separate documents. One text would deal specifically with hurricane relief and the other with the response to the Primates' communiqué issued in February.

Bishop Charles Jenkins of Louisiana and numerous others suggested that a statement be developed to highlight the need for justice work in all dioceses on issues such as racism, classism, as well as the failed response for hurricane victims. Another document would deal with the response to the February Primates' communiqué.

Bishop Mark Hollingsworth, Jr. of Ohio said "Resolution B033 is the most honest expression of where the Episcopal Church stands" while
asking to clarify language about the blessing of same-gender unions. B033 called for the exercise of restraint when consecrating bishops "whose manner of life" presents a challenge to the wider communion.

Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles also said that the resolution needs to be clearer in saying "that we're going to abide by the decisions of General Convention."

Bishop Wayne Wright of Delaware, who chaired the writing committee, cautioned that the discussion was about a "draft only" and that a final statement would not be released until it had been adopted on September 25 by the bishops. The document itself was withheld and its contents embargoed until it can be finalized.

"This is only a draft," Wright emphasized. "Tomorrow we will perfect and adopt it and then it will be released."

The document is expected to serve as a response to the Primates' communiqué. After receiving the initial draft, bishops conferred with one another briefly at their tables. Some bishops then moved to microphones to offer responses frequently interrupted with applause and encouragement.

"This process represents what is best about the Episcopal Church and how our bishops work together; our meetings are open and we work together as colleagues to develop a statement that will express fully our minds and our hearts," committee chair Wright said.

Bishop Barry Beisner of Northern California called for strengthening of language regarding bishops' incursions into geographic dioceses other than their own. "General Convention voted for resolution B033 and we stand by what they did," he told bishops.

Discussion also arose reflecting on the Bishop's experience visiting the hurricane ravaged areas of the Central Gulf Coast.

After spending a day involved in hurricane rebuilding and recovery efforts, bishops said they were "shocked and outraged" at conditions in New Orleans and Mississippi, including delayed and in some cases nonexistent rebuilding and recovery efforts.

Bishop Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina voiced his own sense of "fury at dishonest contractors' exploitation" of hurricane victims, many of whom two years later still face overwhelming devastation. His remarks were heartily applauded.

Dissatisfaction and revision

Steve Waring of the Living Church has done a good job of highlighting some of the dissatisfaction that many members of the House of Bishops felt toward the initial draft of a "mind of the house" resolution. He discusses the dissatisfaction here, and the attempts at revisions, here.

Rachel Zoll's most recent story for the Associated Press is here.

John Clinton Bradley of Integrity is following all developments.

And elsewhere, the Chicago Tribune's nicely-balanced coverage of Archbishop Peter Akinola's visit to the Chicago area gave people opposed to Akinola's notions about human sexuality plenty of room to make their case.

Monday evening summary

There were no documents released today, but the Episcopal News Service describes the arduous process for what was done today at the House of Bishops in New Orleans.

After a day of mostly closed-door and overtime sessions, Episcopal bishops on September 24 said they'd made "enormous progress" toward a productive response to the concerns of Anglican Primates.

"This is a continuing process of discernment and clarification of the relationship of the Episcopal Church with the whole Anglican Communion" as regards church polity, the ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire and other issues arising from that decision, Bishop David Alvarez of Puerto Rico told reporters at an evening news conference.

"Through this process we have proven the quality of life of this church in which we can talk openly with each other and in which we can differ but also pray together," he added.

He was joined by Bishop J. Neil Alexander of Atlanta and Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles, who called earlier reports about a draft document inaccurate. "There is no draft at this point," Alexander said emphatically. "We've made enormous progress today in building a very strong and broad consensus in the House of Bishops but we still have work to do."

And:

Despite repeated efforts to focus the news conference on issues of human sexuality and possible schism, the bishops emphasized that the tone of their conversations are respectful, and their goal is to develop a clear, concise response for the Primates without reversing support for gay and lesbian people.

"Are we going to withdraw our support of gay and lesbian people in the church -- no," Bruno said. "They are fully enfranchised members of our body." But he added: "Are we going to do anything to exacerbate this situation? No, we won't, and we're waiting to see how our response will be received."

Alvarez agreed, adding that is an "issue of justice, love and the Gospel. That's not something you turn back."

Read the rest here. Here is the Living Church article covering the same territory.

God's work on the Gulf Coast

One benefit of holding the House of Bishops meeting, which concludes today, in New Orleans, was to focus attention on the Church's participation in rebuilding the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

To wit:

BILOXI, Miss. - The Rev. Jane Bearden has lived in Massachusetts for 23 years, but when Hurricane Katrina swept through the region of her birth, she felt the tug of her childhood home.So earlier this year, Bearden sold her house in Georgetown, bid farewell to the parish in Methuen she had been overseeing, and moved to Biloxi to attempt an unusual experiment in hurricane relief - the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts is employing her for at least two years to work as a priest at a historic parish whose seaside building was one of six Episcopal churches along the Mississippi coast that were demolished by the devastating storm of August 2005.

Bearden's move is the most visible sign of an intensive effort by the Massachusetts diocese to pour resources into this region; the diocese says it has sent several hundred volunteers to work repairing houses here, it has raised $250,000 for the region, and a Boston-based bishop, Roy F. "Bud" Cederholm Jr., has visited six times. One Massachusetts parish, in Winchester, held a shrimp boil to raise money for the hurting shrimping industry here; others have purchased Home Depot and Wal-Mart gift cards to send to people trying to rebuild their homes; and the Massachusetts diocese has launched an organization, Samaritans Now, made up of healthcare workers to provide medical relief.

Read Michael Paulson's story in The Boston Globe.

The Episcopal Communicators also got into the act.

Joint Standing Committee departs

The members of the Joint Standing Commitee of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative (a group desperately in need of a shorter nickname) have decamped for the airport. It would have been nice if the House of Bishops had managed to get them something to respond to while they were still in town. I have a vague sense from just a couple of conversations that the tension at the moment is not so much between liberals and conservatives as it is between those who think the bishops need to say something definitive about the election of gay bishops and the blessing of same sex relationships and those who don't.

Please submit nicknames for the Joint Standing Committee by commenting on this item. News bloggers for the Episcopal Cafe and their families are not eligible.

Bishop Epting predicts a long day

Bishop Christopher Epting believes it may take all day for the House of Bishops to finish work on a response to the Dar es Salaam communique and a letter to the Church. Read his blog, "That We All May Be One."

Note here, that he only expresses "hope" that the house will finish the job:

We have most of today (Tuesday) to get this done and I have hope that we will indeed complete our work. It’s a very difficult task, given the diversity of this House, but that very diversity is part of the richness of the Episcopal Church and, at least historically, Anglicanism.

During General Convention when conservatives suggested that the Episcopal Church was thumbing its nose at the Anglican Communion, I disagreed, pointing out that thumbing your nose requires enough coordination to get your hand to your face.

I am praying for an improvement in the House of Bishops' gross motor skills.

What's for lunch?

We are not going to report on the lunch menu being offered to the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops, although in terms of news value, it would probably rank third or fourth in the day's developments. The Presiding Bishop has been invited to visit the Diocese of South Carolina, which is a surprise, and Bishop Jeffrey Steenson told the bishops why he was leaving the Episcopal Church to become a Roman Catholic. We are ranking lunch behind those developments, but above the airing of grievances about border crossings by bishops from other provinces, which, in most cases, are more annoying than signficant.

The bishops aren't going back into session until 2:30. (Central time.)

Saying too much?

Update: closing session getting underway.

When the House of Bishops reconvenes, it will vote on a resolution of "seven or eight" bullet points written in resolution style followed by about a page and a half of explanatory langauge. I am told that there is general agreement on the bullet points, but that some bishops feel the explanatory language says more than is necessary, and raises issues that don't need to be addressed. The PB thinks they can wrap this up by the 5 p. m. Eucharist.

Station break

If you are new to the Episcopal Café and have dropped in to read about the House of Bishops meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the conflict within the Anglican Communion, please have a look at some of our subtler charms, particularly the Art blog and Speaking to the Soul.

Piecing it together

The House of Bishops is preparing to receive the resolutions from the drafting committee. Bishop Wayne Wright of Delaware is currently reading the first of two documents. The document he is reading doesn't contain the "response" to the Anglican Communion. I will be adding to this file as I receive more information from friends and colleagues in New Orleans.

Bishop Jefferts Schori is preparing to read the response, but currently Bishop Jenkins is reading a resolution on racism.

Episcope is live blogging.

The resolutions via EpiScope

In accordance with our Lord's prayer and A159 and Great Commission and in gratitude for the Holy Spirit's gift of reconciliation, we offer the following...with the hope of mending the tear in the fabric of our common life.

1 Cor 9:19-23

The House of Bishops expresses thanks to the AbC and JSC for accepting our invitation. Honored and assisted us in our discernment. Reminder of unity. Much of our meeting time in discernment.

Responses

Common discernment of God's call includes all

We reconfirm that B033 of GC 2006 calls upon us to exercise restraint in consents.

We pledge not to authorize public rites for same-sex blessings.

Commend Episcopal Visitors plan.

Deplore incursions by foreign primates and call for them to cease.

Support PB in consultation.

Call for listening process.

Support AbC in desire for Bishop of NH to participate in Lambeth.

Unequivocal support for civil rights for lgbts.

House of Bishops passes compromise resolution

The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church has passed the following statement by a voice vote with only a single voice in opposition. A printer-friendly version is here.

House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church
New Orleans, Louisiana
September 25, 2007

A Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by our Anglican Communion Partners:

In accordance with Our Lord's high priestly prayer that we be one, and in the spirit of Resolution A159 of the 75th General Convention, and in obedience to his Great Commission to go into the world and make disciples, and in gratitude for the gift of the Anglican Communion as a sign of the Holy Spirit's ongoing work of reconciliation throughout the world, we offer the following to The Episcopal Church, the Primates, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), and the larger Communion, with the hope of "mending the tear in the fabric" of our common life in Christ.

"I do it all for the sake of the Gospel so that I might share in its blessings."
1 Corinthians 9:23.

Introduction

The House of Bishops expresses sincere and heartfelt thanks to the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates for accepting our invitation to join us in New Orleans. By their presence they have both honored us and assisted us in our discernment. Their presence was a living reminder of the unity that is Christ's promised gift in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Much of our meeting time was spent in continuing discernment of our relationships within the Anglican Communion. We engaged in careful listening and straightforward dialogue with our guests. We expressed our passionate desire to remain in communion. It is our conviction that The Episcopal Church needs the Anglican Communion, and we heard from our guests that the Anglican Communion needs The Episcopal Church.

The House of Bishops offers the following responses to our Anglican Communion partners. We believe they provide clarity and point toward next steps in an ongoing process of dialogue. Within The Episcopal Church the common discernment of God's call is a lively partnership among laypersons, bishops, priests, and deacons, and therefore necessarily includes the Presiding Bishop, the Executive Council, and the General Convention.

Summary

  • We reconfirm that resolution B033 of General Convention 2006 (The Election Of Bishops) calls upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."
  • We pledge as a body not to authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.
  • We commend our Presiding Bishop's plan for episcopal visitors.
  • We deplore incursions into our jurisdictions by uninvited bishops and call for them to end.
  • We support the Presiding Bishop in seeking communion-wide consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.
  • We call for increasing implementation of the listening process across the Communion and for a report on its progress to Lambeth 2008.
  • We support the Archbishop of Canterbury in his expressed desire to explore ways for the Bishop of New Hampshire to participate in the Lambeth Conference.
  • We call for unequivocal and active commitment to the civil rights, safety, and dignity of gay and lesbian persons.

Discussion

Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention
The House of Bishops concurs with Resolution EC011 of the Executive Council. This Resolution commends the Report of the Communion Sub-Group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion as an accurate evaluation of Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention, calling upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." (1) The House acknowledges that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains.

Blessing of Same-Sex Unions
We, the members of the House of Bishops, pledge not to authorize for use in our dioceses any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action. In the near future we hope to be able to draw upon the benefits of the Communion-wide listening process. In the meantime, it is important to note that no rite of blessing for persons living in same-sex unions has been adopted or approved by our General Convention. In addition to not having authorized liturgies the majority of bishops do not make allowance for the blessing of same-sex unions. We do note that in May 2003 the Primates said we have a pastoral duty "to respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations." They further stated, "…[I]t is necessary to maintain a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care."

Episcopal Visitors
We affirm the Presiding Bishop's plan to appoint episcopal visitors for dioceses that request alternative oversight. Such oversight would be provided by bishops who are a part of and subject to the communal life of this province. We believe this plan is consistent with and analogous to Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) as affirmed by the Windsor Report (paragraph 152). We thank those bishops who have generously offered themselves for this ministry. We hope that dioceses will make use of this plan and that the Presiding Bishop will continue conversation with those dioceses that may feel the need for such ministries. We appreciate and need to hear all voices in The Episcopal Church.

Incursions by Uninvited Bishops
We call for an immediate end to diocesan incursions by uninvited bishops in accordance with the Windsor Report and consistent with the statements of past Lambeth Conferences and the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. Such incursions imperil common prayer and long-established ecclesial principles of our Communion. These principles include respect for local jurisdiction and recognition of the geographical boundaries of dioceses and provinces. As we continue to commit ourselves to honor both the spirit and the content of the Windsor Report, we call upon those provinces and bishops engaging in such incursions likewise to honor the Windsor Report by ending them. We offer assurance that delegated episcopal pastoral care is being provided for those who seek it.

Communion-wide Consultation
In their communiqué of February 2007, the Primates proposed a "pastoral scheme." At our meeting in March 2007, we expressed our deep concern that this scheme would compromise the authority of our own primate and place the autonomy of The Episcopal Church at risk. The Executive Council reiterated our concerns and declined to participate. Nevertheless, we recognize a useful role for communion-wide consultation with respect to the pastoral needs of those seeking alternative oversight, as well as the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian persons in this and other provinces. We encourage our Presiding Bishop to continue to explore such consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.

The Listening Process
The 1998 Lambeth Conference called all the provinces of the Anglican Communion to engage in a "listening process" designed to bring gay and lesbian Anglicans fully into the Church's conversation about human sexuality. We look forward to receiving initial reports about this process at the 2008 Lambeth Conference and to participating with others in this crucial enterprise. We are aware that in some cultural contexts conversation concerning homosexuality is difficult. We see an important role for the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in this listening process, since it represents both the lay and ordained members of our constituent churches, and so is well-placed to engage every part of the body in this conversation. We encourage the ACC to identify the variety of resources needed to accomplish these conversations.

The Lambeth Conference
Invitations to the Lambeth Conference are extended by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Those among us who have received an invitation to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference look forward to that gathering with hope and expectation. Many of us are engaged in mission partnerships with bishops and dioceses around the world and cherish these relationships. Lambeth offers a wonderful opportunity to build on such partnerships.

We are mindful that the Bishop of New Hampshire has not yet received an invitation to the conference. We also note that the Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed a desire to explore a way for him to participate. We share the Archbishop's desire and encourage our Presiding Bishop to offer our assistance as bishops in this endeavor. It is our fervent hope that a way can be found for his full participation.

Justice and Dignity for Gay and Lesbian Persons
It is of fundamental importance that, as we continue to seek consensus in matters of human sexuality, we also be clear and outspoken in our shared commitment to establish and protect the civil rights of gay and lesbian persons, and to name and oppose at every turn any action or policy that does violence to them, encourages violence toward them, or violates their dignity as children of God. We call all our partners in the Anglican Communion to recommit to this effort. As we stated at the conclusion of our meeting in March 2007: "We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion and peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God."
------
(1) The Communion Sub-Group noted that "the resolution uses the language of 'restraint', and the group noted that there has been considerable discussion since General Convention about the exact force of that word. By requiring that the restraint must be expressed in a particular way--'by not consenting...', however, the resolution is calling for a precise response, which complies with the force of the recommendation of the Windsor Report." The group also noted "that while the Windsor Report restricted its recommendation to candidates for the episcopate who were living in a same gender union, the resolution at General Convention widened this stricture to apply to a range of lifestyles which present a wider challenge. The group welcomed this widening of the principle, which was also recommended by the Windsor Report, and commend it to the Communion."

House of Bishops: stories and reactions

Updated at 9:15 p.m.
Updated at 12:00 a.m.

The first set of stories and responses are beginning to appear.

Rachel Zoll of AP in the first of several stories she will file writes:

Episcopal leaders, pressured to roll back their support for gays to keep the world Anglican family from crumbling, affirmed Tuesday that they will "exercise restraint" in approving another gay bishop.

The bishops also pledged not to approve an official prayer for blessing same-gender couples and insisted a majority of bishops do not allow priests to bless the couples in their parishes.


It's all here.

Stephen Bates of the Guardian writes:

A slender lifeline was offered to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his attempt to keep the worldwide Anglican communion intact, when Episcopal bishops pledged at a meeting in New Orleans yesterday to maintain a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops and authorising blessings services for gay couples.

While the statement may satisfy parts of the Anglican communion, and just be enough for the archbishop to sell to other church provinces, it was being dismissed last night by conservative evangelicals as inadequate.

Read him here.

AFP, meanwhile, has gotten the story entirely wrong. The Times-Picayune also gets it wrong, I think, although less egregiously so. It's just that Bruce Nolan writes as though he knows the mind of the Primates regarding our response. And I don't think the Primates know it themselves yet.

Reuters has quotes from Bishops Gene Robinson and Bruce MacPherson who are in surprising agreement.

The New York Times is saying Episcopal Bishops Reject Anglican Church's Orders:

Bishops of the Episcopal Church on Tuesday rejected demands by leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion to roll back the church’s liberal stance on homosexuality, increasing the possibility of fracture within the communion and the Episcopal Church itself.

The article relies on Canon Kendall Harmon of South Carolina and Martyn Minns, a bishop in the Nigerian church, for its slant on the news. It does quote Episcopal Cafe's Jim Naughton for a different point of view.


Click "Read more" to see Integrity's statement, which includes:

The bishops were pressured by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other international guests to comply with the primate's demands. The bishops struggled mightily amongst themselves to achieve a clear consensus on how to respond. Integrity is gratified that the final response from the House of Bishop declined to succumb to the pressure to go backwards, but rather took some significant steps forward.

Read more »

House of Bishops: stories and reactions (II)

Final update: 11:00 AM (updating ceased)

NOTE: This post will be updated throughout the morning. It picks up coverage of "House of Bishops: stories and reactions" where Part I left off.

Chicago Tribune: (Attention headline writer: "Episcopals," we're not.)

The statement issued by bishops Tuesday followed private meetings with Williams last week and days of wrangling and hand-wringing over drafts, while a committee of Williams' advisers waited just down the hall. Behind closed doors, those advisers often counseled the bishops on what it would take to maintain their relationship with the Anglican Communion.
...
"This resolution really is the result of finding common ground to stand on," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said. "Not everyone was 100 percent happy with every word in this document, as you might imagine, but together we believe that we have found a place that all of us can stand together."

That optimism stunned some American conservatives, who said the document was too little too late and predicted a schism in the church, with 77 million members worldwide, by the end of the year.
...
It is unclear how the statement will affect the candidacy of Rev. Tracey Lind, a lesbian in a committed relationship and a finalist to become Chicago's next Episcopal bishop.


The Living Church:
Very few members of the House of Bishops’ canvassed by The Living Church expressed complete satisfaction with the final version of their “Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by our Anglican Communion Partners,” released at the conclusion of their Sept. 20-25 meeting. But in the end there was only one ‘no’ voice vote registered and it didn’t belong to a traditionalist.

Boston Globe:
Bishop John W. Howe of Central Florida, one of the most conservative bishops present at the meeting in New Orleans, said last night that he did not vote for the statement because it did not bar blessings of same-sex unions outright, but that he also thought that, among the Anglican primates, as leaders of provinces are called, "the majority will find it acceptable." Howe, asked if he would try to remove his diocese from the Episcopal Church, said "absolutely not."

"I think we did better than I expected," he said.


The Times-Picayune:
"I would say the House of Bishops has acquiesced to the primates' concerns," said Louisiana Bishop Charles Jenkins, a conservative who has worked to avoid a break-up of the communion.

"I believe the Anglican Communion is saved for those who want to remain in it," he said.

By several accounts Jenkins, and Washington, D.C., Bishop John Chane and Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno, both liberals, played key roles in fashioning the resolution the bishops passed.


Los Angeles Times

Ekklesia:

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) in the UK has expressed "disappointment" at the compromise on the Anglican gay row agreed by the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church in the United States - saying it will not halt division or stop the ministry of LGBT people.

But Changing Attitudes is upbeat in its statement:

The response of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church 'to questions and concerns raised by our Anglican Communion partners' gives encouragement to members of Changing Attitude and our brothers and sisters in Integrity, representing LGBT people in many parts of our Communion.
The Telegraph:
[The resolution will] be seized on by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, as evidence that the American Church has sufficiently reversed its pro-gay agenda to escape punitive action. Dr Williams is now expected to call the bluff of hardline conservatives who have threatened to boycott next year's showcase Lambeth Conference in Canterbury if the liberal American bishops are also there.

ENS has a story on the role of the Joint Standing Committee in the process, and other business it accomplished while in New Orleans.

AP's Rachel Zoll filed another story on the resolution.

At his blog Wayne Floyd writes

It appears to have been Rowan Williams who planted the idea at the House of Bishops meetings that, in his words, “one can say you accept gay and lesbian persons as the Body of Christ and turn right around and raise questions about their eligibility for active roles in the Church.” And so they did. Turn right around.

Church Times: (strikeouts and insertions are mine)
The statement confirms the Church’s moratorium on the appointment [election and consent] of any more partnered homosexuals [as bishops] (the statement uses the phrase “non-celibate”); and it reiterates the Church-wide ban on formal blessings for same-sex couples.

The Times:
Bishops in the Episcopal Church in the US went as far as they could last night to avoid schism in the Anglican Church with a pledge not to consecrate any more openly gay bishops. They also pledged not to authorise same-sex blessings, even though such services take place regularly on an unofficial basis, as they do in England and elsewhere in the West.
...
That the US bishops have gone as far as they have represents a triumph for the strategy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who addressed them in private on Thursday and Friday of last week. It is also a tribute to the leadership of the US Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Anglican Resistance writes:
"Fear not." The angel said it. Jesus said it, again and again.

Ecubishop writes:
In my last post I said something like “Now, over to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates and the ACC.” And it’s a good thing we can take a deep breath and let other prayerful and thoughtful people in our Communion consider what we have done. For those who will do their theology by press release (rather than by prayerful thought) this will be a confusing exercise.

The Fresno Bee gives us a variety of reactions from persons in the Diocese of San Joaquin.

Dan Martins and Chris Wells conclude "It was time for a Hail Mary pass. Instead, they punted." Robert P. Imbelli concludes "I confess that my eyes grow dim when I encounter bureaucratic legalese, but to my Catholic 'sensibilities' it looks like a 'Hail Mary' pass, wafted aloft in the hope that Rowan's outstretched arms can haul it in."

The Canadian Anglican Journal's story is headlined "U.S. bishops echo General Convention in message to Anglican Communion."

New Archbishop of Cape Town Elected

Via email:

26th September 2007
Media Statement by the Dean and Vicar General of the Province
Bishop David Beetge

Election of Bishop Thabo Makgoba

The Right Reverend Thabo Cecil Makgoba (47) presently Bishop of Grahamstown was elected as the next Archbishop of Cape Town at the Elective Assembly of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa held at the Diocesan College (Bishops) on Tuesday 25 September 2007.

Bishop Thabo is the youngest bishop to be elected to the office of Archbishop and Metropolitan in the history of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa.
The Archbishop elect will be collated on 1 January 2008 and enthroned in St. Georges Cathedral Cape Town towards the end of March 2008. He is presently on sabbatical and will be at Harvard University from the end of September 2007.


From the Independent:
Makgoba said the causes that he has a passion for were "theological education, rural development, alleviating unemployment, maternal and infant deaths".

Makgoba is married and has two children. He was ordained in 1990 and has a masters degree in Applied and Educational Psychology from the University of the Witwatersrand.

He is currently completing his doctoral studies at the University of Cape Town.

Joint Standing Committee statement

From Anglican Communion News Service:

The past few days have been a time of enormous learning and growth in mutual understanding. At the same time, the conversation has been honest, direct and even painful at times. The Committee is conscious that some of its members, in reflecting the very real concerns of the wider Communion, have spoken in a way which could be seen as challenging or even offensive to the Bishops of the Episcopal Church. Nevertheless, it has been important that each side has been honest, and free to speak the message which has been laid on their hearts. The words of the members of the Archbishop and of the Joint Standing Committee were met with patience, generosity and an intensity of debate on the Monday and Tuesday which illustrates how seriously the concerns of the wider Communion are taken by the Episcopal House of Bishops.

The Joint Standing Committee is also conscious that the very life of the Communion is standing at a crossroads at present. ...
...
While the Joint Standing Committee met in formal session on the Monday, the House of Bishops began their consideration of the concerns expressed to them by the wider Communion.

Although their response was not available to the Joint Standing Committee as they concluded their meeting on Tuesday evening, they were briefed before departure by the Presiding Bishop. The formal response of the House of Bishops is now available, and it is the intention of the Joint Standing Committee to consult with one another in the preparation of a report to be submitted to the Archbishop of Canterbury by the end of the week offering an early response to the statement that the House of Bishops have developed.


There is no mention in the statement of either foreign incursions or property disputes.

Read it all here.

House of Bishops: stories and reactions (III)

Updated 3:30 PM

Note: Part I here, Part II here.

The Australian newspaper reports:

Opinion is split among the Anglican church's Australian leaders over the US church's decision to maintain its moratorium on ordaining non-celibate gay priests as bishops and ban blessing same-sex unions.

Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, a member of the Primates' Standing Committee, who addressed the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church at its New Orleans meeting, said the US church had "responded positively" to worldwide concerns it had been asked to address. Careful analysis was required, he said. "My initial reaction based both on my preliminary reading of the document and on my first-hand conversations with many of the bishops involved is that the house has responded positively."

Sydney's conservative evangelical Archbishop Peter Jensen disagreed....It is understood Sydney Anglicans are awaiting the response of the anti-gay clergy faction Global South to the US church's latest pronouncement.

He said it a day before the Response of the House of Bishops, but what the Primus of Scotland says stands as a reaction:

It was very obvious at the recent meeting of Anglican Primates that the vast majority wish to stay with an Anglican church that is open and welcoming and prepared to live with difference. This is Anglican mainstream and we have to make it clear that it represents majority opinion among church leaders. Attempts to try to turn the Communion into something that is controlled from the centre, with expulsion the result of disagreement, will fail.

Doug LeBlanc at Covenant-Communion:

I wish both sides would give more than lip service to the disciplines of the Windsor Report. This much seems clear, several years into the Windsor discussion: Neither side is prepared to be fully Windsor-compliant. Neither side is prepared to make that level of sacrifice. I consider that an indictment of us all.This statement is, I think, proof that the House of Bishops is savvy enough to do what it must — and precious little more — to stay firmly planted at the table of the Anglican Communion.

Like some others, the Anglican Scotist comments that the Response is not timelessly poetic and it didn't need to be.

Tobias says get rid of Resolution 1.10.

Mad Priest has a surprisingly modulated response.

At Inclusive Church blog Giles Goddard concludes: "It seems to me and to those I've spoken to in the UK that the Bishops have done a good thing. They have gone the extra mile to meet ++Rowan's desire to hold the Communion together and to keep talking."

Thinking Anglicans draws our attention to a statement by Graham Kings of Fulcrum, an evangelical group in the UK that counts Bishop N. T. Wright as one of its benefactors:

On a first reading, this statement is very significant and seems to go further and be more encouraging than many conservatives thought to be likely. The Presiding Bishop, and others who have worked hard with her from various traditions, deserve thanks for gathering support for an almost unanimous statement.
Thanksgiving in All Things has a reflection which includes this quotation: "I had thought that Episcopalians were leading the way, but now I see the privilege of The Episcopal Church for the first time. We Lutherans may just get there ahead of you."

TIME is not convinced the bishops found the magic formula.

AP has another story out, this time with some global reaction:

The spokesman of the Anglican Church of Uganda, Aron Mwesigye, said the American bishops "deserve to be appreciated for making such a good decision. I also appeal to the gay bishops to repent and come out to live normal lives."

But Rt. Rev. Stephen Njihia Mwangi, the second-most senior official of the Anglican Church of Kenya, questioned the timing of the statement.... "I don't think they are serious about what they mean. I think the timing seems to suggest that this is just a technical thing to ensure that the Lambeth conference goes ahead," Mwangi told The Associated Press, referring to the once-a-decade meeting which brings together all the bishops in the Anglican world.

Bishop David Beetge, vicar general of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, said he welcomed the decision "for the simple reason it gives us more space and time to talk to each other."

"It is a very generous step and a good step, and I think it shows willingness to dialogue with other parties," he said.

The Religion News Service story is here.

Archbishop Akinola is not impressed

And we are not surprised. This time, though, he didn't circulate a Word document.

(In other predictable developments, the Archbishop of Kenya isn't happy either.)

Hat tip to Kendall Harmon.

September 26th, 2007

A STATEMENT ON THE RESPONSE OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH TO THE DAR ES SALAAM COMMUNIQUÉ

In accordance with our desire to walk “in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, … eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians (4:1,2) we have looked forward with hope to the response of The Episcopal Church as requested by the Primates when we met earlier in the year in Dar es Salaam. That request was the culmination of many conversations and years of painful negotiations. 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. We also made clear that it is a time for clarity and a rejection of what hitherto has been endless series of ambiguous and misleading statements. Sadly it seems that our hopes were not well founded and our pleas have once again been ignored.

While we await a meeting of all the Primates to receive and determine the adequacy of The Episcopal Church’s response it seems clear from first reading that what is offered is not a whole hearted embrace of traditional Christian teaching and in particular the teaching that is expressed in Lambeth Resolution 1.10. The unequivocal assurances that we sought have not been given; what we have is a carefully calculated attempt to win support to ensure attendance at the Lambeth Conference and continued involvement in the life of the Communion.

Instead of the change of heart (repentance) that we sought what we have been offered is merely a temporary adjustment in an unrelenting determination to “bring the rest of the Communion along” as stated by a bishop at one of the press conferences. We also note that while we have repeatedly asked for a moratorium on same-sex blessings –across the Episcopal Church the clergy have continued with these blessings with the full knowledge and support of the Diocesan bishops even if not technically authorized.

This attitude towards the Word of God and the requests of the Communion is at odds with the Spirit of the One we serve. The Unity that Christ commands can only be found in obedience to the Truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures and mutual submission to one another. The Gospel message of freedom, justice and dignity for all persons can only be found in heartfelt repentance and joyful obedience to the Truth.

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” John 14:21

THE CHURCH OF NIGERIA (Anglican Communion)

THE MOST REV. PETER J. AKINOLA, D.D, CON
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria.

Sincerely,

The Most Revd. Peter J Akinola, CON, DD


House of Bishops: VOD

For the true Episcopal news junkie, video on demand from the recently completed meeting of the House of Bishops. Watch the final news conference, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's message to the Church and the bishops' day of service.

Bringing the message home

Bishop Chris Epting sums it up quite nicely, here:

It’s a good thing we can take a deep breath and let other prayerful and thoughtful people in our Communion consider what we have done. For those who will do their theology by press release (rather than by prayerful thought) this will be a confusing exercise.

That goes beyond anything within our church, and in this era of Communications 2.0 (I know, that's jargony), misinformation becomes a virus. For instance, take a look at this message being circulated after the poster read a completely erroneous story (since corrected) at the BBC website. It's safe to say that we've had our hands full, as have other episcobloggers from both sides of the aisle, with our own clarifications, when we've had them, and with our frantic attempts to find them when we haven't.

Meanwhile, we've been poking around at diocesan websites looking for letters from individual bishops. Many of them are underlining their contributions of time and resources to the dioceses of Louisiana and Mississippi, which has sadly seen very little air time in the mainstream press. Others are reaching out to help people understand the significance of the compromise, which winds up playing out in the media as we caved to the bullies to some and fell short of primatial demands to others. In the Diocese of Virginia, Bishop Peter James Lee, Bishop Coadjutor Shannon Sherwood Johnston and Bishop Suffragan David Colin Jones sent a response that included the following:

The formal response to the Primates' Communiqué was adopted late Tuesday by the House of Bishops by a virtually unanimous vote. It reflected our very deep appreciation of the Anglican Communion and our strong desire to maintain and nurture our role within it, while asserting our determined commitment to include gay and lesbian persons in our common life.

...This reconfirmation constitutes our continuing agreement with that resolution and acknowledges that such language pertains specifically to non-celibate gay and lesbian persons. We also repeated our pledge not to authorize public rites for the blessing of same sex unions until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action. We noted that we hope to draw upon the benefits of the Communion-wide process of listening to the experiences of gay and lesbian persons.

We commended our Presiding Bishop for her plans to provide episcopal visitors for dioceses at irreconcilable odds with her own ministry as Primate and we support her commitment to consult with the wider communion in pastoral matters, seeking creative solutions that are in accord with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. We supported the Archbishop of Canterbury in his desire to include the bishop of New Hampshire at next year's Lambeth Conference. We called for commitment to the civil rights, safety and dignity of gay and lesbian persons. We deplored the incursion of uninvited bishops into our dioceses.

No one achieved everything he or she wanted in our statement.

The whole thing is here.

Bishop Kirk Smith of the Diocese of Arizona spells it out thus, as posted on Nick Knisely's Entangled States and practically a continuation of above:

What we did this week is a compromise, and like all compromises runs the risk of pleasing no one. Each side had to give up something in getting to this point. But there is some good news in this. I feel that we are in a much better position to move ahead, both in our own American Church and with the larger Communion. There was a greater spirit of cooperation and consensus among liberal and conservative bishops in the House than I have ever seen. We have also strengthened the bonds of common mission between ourselves and most (not all) of our brothers and sisters in Africa. The clearer language about same gender blessings allows me to revisit this topic, which I plan to do with the clergy at our annual retreat in January.

To those for whom this has opened old wounds, I again counsel patience, even though I understand that might ring hollow. I do believe we are moving in the right direction, even though slower than many would like. Still, the goal of full inclusion is closer than it was before and we now have a better chance of being one people united in Christ when we get there.

His whole letter is here (Thanks, Nick+). His entire letter really gets to the heart of why this is difficult for everyone but still, to him at least, is progress.

More as we find them.


Tobias Haller, to no one's surprise

Sometimes in trying to figure out what one thinks, one comes across someone who has already thought it.

Bringing the message home, part 2

Most recent update: 2:10 p. m.

The mixed messages continue. Jim Naughton writes that "A colleague in another diocese who subscribes to a press clippings service said he received 20 stories today. Five said we defied the Communion, five said we turned our back on gays and lesbians and 10 said we compromised positively." It's small wonder that some laity have expressed bewilderment.

And bishops continue to respond to the distortion, which is occurring on both sides. (See last night's post for some left-leaning responses; these are more conservative.) Bp. Edward Salmon of South Carolina writes:

In the interest of clarity, I would like to report to the clergy and people of the Diocese of South Carolina on the meeting of the House of Bishops in New Orleans. I am particularly concerned that you hear directly from me as the distortion in the media and on blogs is profound.

From my perspective this was probably the best meeting I have attended and at the same time the most painful.

He continues with a description of the tension and some particularly painful points for him. But most notably, he stresses that he did not support the HoB response document and gives the following reasons:

1. It did not respond as requested to the three points raised by the Anglican Primates in Dar es Salaam. 2. It did not provide alternative oversight that met the needs of those who asked for it. 3. It placed the condition that our responses must be in keeping with our Constitution and Canons. The chaos we are in requires tremendous grace, not law. 4. There is oppression of those not in agreement, often unaware to those responsible. 5. Statements by our leadership saying that 95% of the Church was doing well or that only a small percentage were affected makes discussion impossible. The Episcopal Church Foundation says we are in a systemic decline which is significant.

The entire letter is the main article on the diocesan home page. You may have to flip through the site archives to find it if you are reading this post at a future date.

Bishop James Stanton of Dallas agrees that the meeting was a success but that the document itself is, to him, disappointing.

From my perspective, the HOB meeting was extraordianry in the way in which it carried out its deliberations. It was frank, open, serious and cooperative. I found the deliberations around the "response" surprising and at times even encouraging. The response itself, however, is another matter.

His entire letter, which addresses his concerns about the response, is here (link goes directly to PDF), available also from the diocesan home page.

Other developments in the press, meanwhile:
"Both sides unhappy," says ABC News in this story from its international newsdesk, and quoting sources from England and Africa. "Supporters of gay clergy accused American Episcopal bishops of caving in to pressure from conservatives, while traditionalists criticized what they said was a cleverly worded declaration of defiance."

The Wall Street Journal positions two letters to the editor as point/counterpoint here. These were occasioned by an earlier article on Episcopal congregations seeking to ally themselves with African provinces.

The BBC's piece features a visit to St. Thomas's, Dupont Circle, an inclusive parish in Washington, D. C., and closes with a threat from the Rev. John Guernsey, who vastly overestimates his importance.

The Christian Science Monitor remains one of the most objective news sources out there. Their write-up is here.

Meanwhile, Father Jake is noting the previously unarticulated standard by which the House of Bishops' response is being judged in parts of the Communion.

Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina has responded: "This is a significant accomplishment, a positive step, and a hopeful sign."

And the Anglican Scotist argues that much of the response to the statement has been sophomoric and self-indulgent:

Why can't compromise and discernment be messy? Why can't an honest compromise leave everyone disappointed? Maybe this is what a virtuous church looks like when its members are in passionate discord and sedition is in the air. The presumption that the Church should have repented, as if a Church even can do such a thing except in an unhelpfully hazy, metaphorical sense--and the presumption that the Church should have gone further than GC2006 and GC2003 or else betray its fidelity to God seem to misread what might well be going on in the HoB and AC. Moderates are genuinely trying to discern without railroading those who wish to remain at the table. There's nothing unfaithful in the sacrifices that come with the process fo compromise.

Still more stuff in this grab bag: the Bishop of Alabama and the Canon to the Ordinary (non-Episcopalians should call their local diocese to have this title explained as life is too short to do it here) of Louisiana, via fatherjones.com

The Rev. Barry Signorelli delivers this spirited rant. (His word, not ours.):

Okay, yes, I know that the HoB's statement is not as bad as it might have been, that it simply maintains the status quo and doesn't "go back" -- but what it doesn't "go back to" is the aftermath of GC2003 and the shame of B-033. What the bishops have produced will please no one, will prevent no break-up, keeps GLBT Episcopalians in the back of the bus, and stifles any voice of prophecy or movement of the Spirit. "The lukewarm I will spit from my mouth."

New Archbishop installed in Hong Kong

There's a fine line between being political and working with government to achieve social aims, but the newly installed archbishop of Hong Kong is determined to not cross it:


Paul Kwong, 56, told parishioners that his church will not get involved in political movements, including the call for universal suffrage, but will continue to work with the government to better the lives of the people.

He said societal atmosphere was much happier now, but many problems such as poverty still needed to be addressed.

Solutions, for which the government and society must join hands, will not come quickly, Kwong said.

This from The Standard (Hong Kong), which notes that several government officials attended the ceremony as well as Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun. The article also contrasts the relationship of Cardinal Zen and the Catholic church to the government with that of the "more moderate" Anglican church. You can read that here.

The Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui elected Kwong in early February, prior to the launch of the Lead. If you missed it, you can read more about him here.

Bonnie Anderson's response

So now that we've seen a number of Bishops' responses and many reactions around the blogosphere, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson encourages all Episcopalians to engage in "careful reading, reflection and discussion," and to study the document carefully, then engage their Bishops in conversation. And to pray for all.

The bishops spoke on a number of other issues and I commend their entire statement to you for study. I also suggest that you study a companion statement offered by the bishops, which speaks about the context of their time on the Gulf Coast and how what they saw influenced and renews their call to the mission of the Episcopal Church. That statement and other resolutions passed by the bishops are being perfected and should be posted on the church's website soon.

After you have studied the bishops' statements and resolutions, it is my request and hope that you will give your own response to your bishop(s) regarding his/her work at the meeting in New Orleans. Thank them for their ministry and leadership. Encourage them to continue to be in partnership and communication with you. Laity, clergy and bishops are strengthened for God's mission as we work closely together to follow the way of the cross. Hold the people of the Gulf Coast, The Episcopal Church, all provinces of the Anglican Communion, bishops, laity and clergy in your daily prayers.

'Tis here.

The monks of Myanmar

The Christian Science Monitor puts an ongoing conflict in Myanmar (Burma) into a global and historical perspective.

Revered for self-sacrifice, Buddhist monks in Burma are standing up to the guns of a selfish regime. But these holy men in saffron robes are serving more than a people's desire for freedom. The protests also serve as a reminder of religion's historic role in shaping the kind of moral concern for others that is the root of democracy.

Democracy, after all, is simply the best way to bestow legitimacy on the few to rule the many for the care of all. In Burma (also known as Myanmar), any legitimacy of the military to govern ended long ago. Decades of repression, rather than caring, have left poverty and fear.

Last month, when the junta was forced by its bungling to double fuel prices, the people's economic suffering was intimately observed by the monks, who daily interact with the faithful in acts of humility and kindness. Their natural legitimacy has propelled them to lead nonviolent demonstrations aimed at withdrawing support from the regime and to demand democracy. Worldwide, religious leaders from the Dalai Lama to South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu have offered moral support.

Events in Burma are a model, repeated throughout history, of religious movements helping overthrow colonial powers and dictators. Protestant clergy helped spark the American Revolution, with one British commander complaining that "sedition flows copiously from the pulpits." The Vatican II changes of the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960s helped followers in many countries stand up to tyranny. Catholic nuns and priests were on the front line of a "people power" revolution in the Philippines that overthrew a dictator in 1986. Pope John Paul II helped his native Poland lead the way to free Eastern Europe of communism. Soviet dissidents were spiritually nurtured by a few Russian Orthodox priests, helping bring about the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. In Indonesia, a 30-million-strong Islamic group called Nahdlatul Ulama gave moral support for the 1998 overthrow of dictator Suharto.

The whole thing is here.

The Times UK notes that this is not the first time the estimated 500,000 monks have stood up for their homeland in this piece.

Read more about the conflict, and in particular Monday's protests, here.

More reactions from the House of Bishops meeting

Updated 6:30 a.m.
Updated again at 8:39 a.m. to include Archbishop Aspinall

As the bishops are returning to their dioceses after meeting in New Orleans, many of them are writing letters about what transpired during the meeting and what the next steps might be.

Let's begin with Archbishop Aspinall of the Province of Australia who is on the Joint Standing Committee. In addition he was media briefer and a key player at Dar Es Salaam. A press release issued from the province media office is positive:

"I believe that the House of Bishops has responded positively to all the requests put to them by the Primates in our Dar es Salaam communique. Certainly they have responded to the substance of those requests.

“I would now like the time to undertake careful analysis of the House of Bishops response but my initial reaction based both on my preliminary reading of the document itself and on my first hand conversations with many of the Bishops involved is that the House has responded positively to the substance of all the requests made by the Primates,” said Dr Aspinall.

The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church has in turn called on the rest of the communion to acknowledge the requests made of it in Lambeth 1.10 and the Windsor report.

The Primate of Australia said these are issues that are important and need to be taken up.
These include issues of listening to gay people in the life of the church and stopping outside intervention in the United States.

Bishop Breidenthal (Southern Ohio), one of the eight bishops who wrote the statement, believes the meeting and the Response were shaped by the conversations of the bishops with their Anglican Communion guests. He concludes,

What our guests were asking of us was clarity about two things: (1) the bishops’ interpretation of B033, the 2006 General Convention resolution regarding the election of partnered gay bishops, and (2) the bishops’ current approach to the blessing of same-sex unions. The statement that we produced is our attempt to answer those two questions succinctly and transparently. We have said nothing new. Those who were dissatisfied with B033 for going too far or not going far enough will be equally dissatisfied with the present statement.

Bishops Lillibridge and Reed of the Diocese of West Texas, considered "Windsor Bishops" explain in their letter why a "minority report" is not expected from this meeting:

"[S]ome have asked why the Windsor Bishops have not issued a ‘minority report.’ After various conversations, we decided to wait for the response to this statement from those who asked the questions. Over the past several years, the Windsor group has met numerous times. We have issued signed statements, minority reports, principles, etc… and the prevailing view is simply to hear the response to our response. Another minority report isn’t going to have much effect at this point. If the House’s response is deemed inadequate, there will be an effort to gather a significant number of bishops to discuss the next steps. This gathering would likely be larger than previous Windsor gatherings."

From here (Hat tip to Covenant-Communion)

Bishop Jelinek of the Diocese of Minnesota writes in part of his concerns about how the statement will be received:

Will there be reactivity to this Response? Is the sun likely to rise again tomorrow? Watch and listen, but first of all measure your own reactions and re-read those passages or phrases to which you most strongly react. Upon second or third reading, do you hear them the same way? If so, that is worth pursuing in conversation in your congregation or with your clergy group. If not, it is worth reflecting on what this touched (or even triggered) in you. We need to be aware that in times of tension like this, our fears and anxieties are likely to be near the surface, more easily unsettled.

The big picture is that we are considering matters that are not about winning or losing, but of discernment and meaning and within relationships. Where is the Holy Spirit leading the Christian Church and leading humanity? How do we identify the marks of the Holy Spirit in what feels like a progression, in comparison with the spirit of the age we live in? Most especially, how do we do this within timewhen we do not yet have the luxury of looking back at the past where we sometimes have more clarity? Some argue that this is precisely why we must go very slowly, yet that seems more than unjust when people are suffering. So, The Episcopal Church is moving forward while trying not to inflict more pain or to provoke more controversy.

At times like this I am most concerned about reaction without reflection, for in haste our reactions are usually determined by fear, particularly one of the following: the fear of losing or failing or losing out or losing one's touchstones and one's bearings. It seems to me that when we struggle with our inclusion we are most afraid of losing out, of not counting. And when something new comes along that seems so unusual, so different from the ways we have always seen the world and how we understand God's creativity, it seems that our experience is one of disorientation, the fear of losing our bearings. That seems to describe the church we live in today. No wonder there are tensions.


(via email)

Bishop Wimberly of the Diocese of Texas talks about the next steps toward the end of his letter:

There is much still to do as we work together, and in communion, to repair the brokenness we experience today. I know that many people think we are going to reach a point when “we will all have to make a decision. ” I don’t see that point now or in the near future. I intend to continue to lead as I have lead. We are going to remain in the Episcopal Church, and we are going to remain in the Anglican Communion as a diocese. I don’t see any reason for this to be impossible.

Further, I refuse to see things in a manner that is either/or. I believe our strength and our unity are in our acceptance of a life lived with the both/and. We are both Episcopalians and Anglicans. We as Episcopalians both need our brothers and sisters across the Anglican Communion; and the Anglican Communion needs the Episcopal Church.

Bishop Gray of Mississippi writes of his sense of a new way of working together that began to emerge in this meeting:

What I saw beginning to emerge for the first time was a vision of how we might be a church, as Bishop Charles Jenkins described, of one heart and two minds. We have much, much work to do to make that a reality, but in New Orleans I caught a glimpse of how it might work.


PEP has concerns

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) asks whether or not the statements made at the House of Bishops' meeting make adequate provision for people such as themselves: progressive believers who are being marginalized in Anglican Communion Network dioceses:

Of particular concern to PEP, however, is the fact that the episcopal visitors plan makes no provision for connecting to the wider Episcopal Church loyal Episcopalians in dioceses (such as Pittsburgh) that have requested “alternative primatial oversight.” “Many of us celebrated the election of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori,” explained PEP board member and blogger Dr. Lionel Deimel. “Should our bishop accept an episcopal visitor, those of us who have been most vocal in support of our church would be isolated from it and subject to even less respect within our diocese than we are now.”

The full statement is found here.

Attempts to expel... will fail

The Episcopal News Service has report of the words of the Archbishop of the Province of Mexico, who is taking part in a meeting at Manchester Cathedral beginning tomorrow. The Archbishop reports in particular of his take on the atmosphere at the most recent Primates meeting earlier this year.

"Archbishop Carlos Touche-Porter of Mexico and Primus Idris Jones of the Scottish Episcopal Church are taking part in a conference, titled 'Celebrating Anglican Diversity,' to uphold the Anglican tradition of open and inclusive theology and consider the future course of the Anglican Communion.

Touche-Porter is a staunch advocate of full inclusion and diversity within the Church, especially in support of gay and lesbian Christians. 'Inclusion is a reality in the Anglican Church, despite reports to the contrary,' he said. 'I am very much looking forward to being in the U.K. as part of our preparations for a positive Lambeth Conference.'

'It was very obvious at the recent meeting of Anglican Primates that the vast majority wish to stay with an Anglican church that is open and welcoming and prepared to live with difference,' said Jones. 'This is Anglican mainstream and we have to make it clear that it represents [the] majority opinion among church leaders. Attempts to try to turn the Communion into something that is controlled from the center, with expulsion the result of disagreement, will fail.'

The conference is sponsored by Inclusive Church, which describes itself as 'an organization of individuals and churches that believe the Church of England should be a broad open church which is inclusive of all, regardless of race, gender or sexuality.'"

Read the rest here.

Common Cause meeting releases statement

The meeting in Pittsburgh of a group of bishops which follows hard on the heels of the House of Bishops' meeting in New Orleans has issued a statement and a report of some of the principles they have adopted. [Addendum: ENS has a thorough overview.]

There are a couple of observations to keep in mind when reading this document. First, note the absence of the Kenyan and Ugandan missionary bishops from the statement. Second that there is some question whether or not the entire body of Network dioceses are in support of this statement, to say nothing at the moment of the Windsor bishops or the Camp Allen bishops (parties along a spectrum on the "conservative" side of the Episcopal Church). Finally there are some groups present here that I'm told have not been traditionally understood as Anglicans.

Via email:

Anglican bishops from ten jurisdictions and organizations pledged to take the first steps toward a "new ecclesiastical structure" in North America. The meeting of the first ever Common Cause Council of Bishops was held in Pittsburgh September 25-28.

The bishops present lead more than 600 Anglican congregations. They formally organized themselves as a college of bishops which will meet every six months. They also laid out a timeline for the path ahead, committed to working together at local and regional levels, agreed to deploy clergy interchangeably and announced their intention to, in consultation "with those Primates and Provinces of the Anglican Communion offering recognition under the timeline adopted," call a "founding constitutional convention for an Anglican union," at the earliest possible date agreeable to all of the partners.

"We met deeply aware that we have arrived at a critical moment in the history of mainstream Anglican witness in North America. God has led us to repentance for past divisions and opened the way for a united path forward. To him be the glory," said Bishop Robert Duncan, convener of the council.

The full text of the bishops' joint statement follows after the jump

Addendum: These documents are now available at the ACN website here.

Read more »

Australian Anglicans approve women bishops

Lest we think that the American branch of the Anglican Church is the only one with significant internal controversy, here's a story about recent news that threatens the internal unity of Anglicanism in Australia:

"The Anglican Church's highest court has cleared the way for women bishops - but the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, will carry on the fight against them.

The Appellate Tribunal, by a 4-3 majority, found there is no constitutional barrier to women becoming bishops in the Australian church. The decision could lead one day to a woman leading the Australian church.

The Church of England, mother church of the world's 77 million Anglicans, voted a year ago to consecrate women bishops.

But the Australian decision to break the stained glass ceiling is likely to exacerbate divisions in church ranks. The national church is considering ways to provide oversight to traditionalists unwilling to accept women bishops.

Dr Jensen, who opposes women exercising headship over men in the church as priests or as bishops, predicted the 'innovation' would 'inevitably create ongoing difficulties around the church for decades to come'.

'Those who are opposed to this development base their objection on conscientious grounds as a matter of biblical principle,' Dr Jensen said.

Australia's primate, the Brisbane Archbishop, Dr Phillip Aspinall, one of four tribunal members to vote in favour of women bishops, said the ruling was a milestone."

Read the rest here.

Blessing the beasts

October 4 is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi and parishes all around the world are conducting the traditional blessing of the animals. The Diocese of Washington is offering resources, including two rites of blessing, and a short video that can be found from the diocesan home page. This is always a good time of year to check in on the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and the Episcopal Network for Animal Welfare.

Karl Barth back in US Prisons

News came this week that the ban on religious books (other than primary texts like the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran, etc...) in US Prisons has been reconsidered:

The US Federal Bureau of Prisons is purging prison libraries of "non-approved" religious books and materials because of terrorism concerns, say a number of US religious groups amid warnings of possible violations of religious freedom.

Books not approved include works by respected 20th century theologians such as Reinhold Niebuhr and Karl Barth, and contemporary fare like Rick Warren's "The Purpose-Driven Life" and Harold Kushner's "When Bad Things Happen to Good People".

"The idea of government bureaucrats drafting a list of approved books on religion seems like something out of Soviet-era Russia, not the United States of America, where freedom of religion, even for those behind prison walls, is something we treasure," said the Christian activist organization Sojourners in an e-mail this week to its supporters.

Traci Billingsley, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons, told The New York Times the policy was prompted by a 2004 justice department report. This warned of the need to prevent US prisons from becoming places where those advocating militant Islamic beliefs or other religious views deemed "extremist" could recruit followers.

Read the rest of the story here.

American Muslims

It is almost 1 p.m., time for noon prayers, and Abdul Malik Mujahid, 55, is in his office on the second floor of Chicago's Downtown Islamic Center, preparing for his sermon. On his desk are a Koran, a pad of paper and a Blackberry. A telephone rings in the next room as people hurry through the corridors.

Soon Mujahid takes the elevator to the fourth floor, carrying the text of his sermon under his arm. The 200 men waiting for him in the prayer room are dressed in jeans and in suits. They have slipped away from their offices for lunch, removed their shoes and staked out their spots on the carpet. Now they want to hear Mujahid's Friday sermon.

He nods to the congregation. Mujahid is a short, elegant man. His gray beard is carefully trimmed and he has a smooth voice. He turns toward Mecca and recites the Fatiha, the opening Sura in the Koran. Then he quickly gets to his point: "My brothers, we can all contribute to reducing our energy consumption," he says. "That must be your very own jihad, your fight against global warming."

When he speaks he sounds like Al Gore, the former vice president of the United States and the man who is now leading America in the battle against climate change. "This wonderful country," says Mujahid, "depends on its immigrants. Show that you are good Americans and good Muslims."

Read it all. Hat tip: Arts and Letters Daily.

Is it okay to eat your dog?

If your dog is killed in an accident, is it okay to eat it? Jonathan Haidt, associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia examines people's reactions to this sort of question to explore the interplay of emotions--such as disgust--and reason in the formulation of moral standards.

On the issue of dog eating he writes:

In my dissertation and my other early studies, I told people short stories in which a person does something disgusting or disrespectful that was perfectly harmless (for example, a family cooks and eats its dog, after the dog was killed by a car). I was trying to pit the emotion of disgust against reasoning about harm and individual rights.

I found that disgust won in nearly all groups I studied (in Brazil, India, and the United States), except for groups of politically liberal college students, particularly Americans, who overrode their disgust and said that people have a right to do whatever they want, as long as they don't hurt anyone else.

These findings suggested that emotion played a bigger role than the cognitive developmentalists had given it. These findings also suggested that there were important cultural differences, and that academic researchers may have inappropriately focused on reasoning about harm and rights because we primarily study people like ourselves—college students, and also children in private schools near our universities, whose morality is not representative of the United States, let alone the world.

He identifies four principles currently emerging in the field of moral psychology:

I

recently summarized this new synthesis in moral psychology with four principles:

1) Intuitive primacy but not dictatorship. This is the idea, going back to Wilhelm Wundt and channeled through Robert Zajonc and John Bargh, that the mind is driven by constant flashes of affect in response to everything we see and hear.

Our brains, like other animal brains, are constantly trying to fine tune and speed up the central decision of all action: approach or avoid. You can't understand the river of fMRI studies on neuroeconomics and decision making without embracing this principle. We have affectively-valenced intuitive reactions to almost everything, particularly to morally relevant stimuli such as gossip or the evening news. Reasoning by its very nature is slow, playing out in seconds. ....

2) Moral thinking is for social doing. This is a play on William James' pragmatist dictum that thinking is for doing, updated by newer work on Machiavellian intelligence. The basic idea is that we did not evolve language and reasoning because they helped us to find truth; we evolved these skills because they were useful to their bearers, and among their greatest benefits were reputation management and manipulation.

Just look at your stream of consciousness when you are thinking about a politician you dislike, or when you have just had a minor disagreement with your spouse. It's like you're preparing for a court appearance. Your reasoning abilities are pressed into service generating arguments to defend your side and attack the other. We are certainly able to reason dispassionately when we have no gut feeling about a case, and no stake in its outcome, but with moral disagreements that's rarely the case. As David Hume said long ago, reason is the servant of the passions.

3) Morality binds and builds. This is the idea stated most forcefully by Emile Durkheim that morality is a set of constraints that binds people together into an emergent collective entity.

Durkheim focused on the benefits that accrue to individuals from being tied in and restrained by a moral order. In his book Suicide he alerted us to the ways that freedom and wealth almost inevitably foster anomie, the dangerous state where norms are unclear and people feel that they can do whatever they want. ....

4) Morality is about more than harm and fairness. In moral psychology and moral philosophy, morality is almost always about how people treat each other. Here's an influential definition from the Berkeley psychologist Elliot Turiel: morality refers to "prescriptive judgments of justice, rights, and welfare pertaining to how people ought to relate to each other."

....but....

Most traditional societies care about a lot more than harm/care and fairness/justice. Why do so many societies care deeply and morally about menstruation, food taboos, sexuality, and respect for elders and the Gods? You can't just dismiss this stuff as social convention. If you want to describe human morality, rather than the morality of educated Western academics, you've got to include the Durkheimian view that morality is in large part about binding people together.


Read it all.

Medieval life in the margins

The most recent issue of Atlantic includes a book review of Cambridge historian Eamon Duffy's Marking the Hours, which describes how the inner life of men and women in medieval times (mostly women) is disclosed in their scratchings in the margins of "the Book of Hours—a devotional assemblage for the laity, first compiled in the 13th century."

Duffy largely eschews such speculation and instead concentrates on the nitty-gritty. The Book of Hours was in many cases its owner’s most expensive and most intimate possession, carried about tucked in a sleeve or belt. Although a deeply personal artifact, the book, soon grubby and well thumbed, was also shared—known as “the primer” in England, it was the primary volume children used in learning to read. Both the way the books were handled and the scribbles that filled them signified the permeability of the secular and religious life, especially among women (a point Mary Erler stresses in her Women, Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England), and also the intermingling of the quotidian and the eternal, the individual and the communal, even the Christian and the pagan. One woman, in her marginalia, laments the destruction of a shrine and details the contents of her linen closet. The books are crammed with pressed flowers, recipes, notes on debts and rents due, charms and incantations, souvenirs of pilgrimages, affectionate messages from family members (the young Catherine Parr, the future queen, playfully jotted to her uncle, “Wen you do on thys loke / Pray you remember wo wrote thys in your boke”; it’s the equivalent of every bad yearbook rhyme), dates of marriages and deaths (“my moder departed to God”), and often very precise information about the times of births, to aid the casting of horoscopes. Moreover, these prayer books, a means to converse with God, testify to the vicissitudes of temporal power. Richard III’s book was taken at Bosworth Field; the victor, Henry VII, gave it to his mother, who scratched off Richard’s name and wrote her own on the flyleaf. A onetime devoted court friend of Catherine of Aragon blotted out the queen’s autograph after Henry VIII repudiated her.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Duffy;s book is his examination of the margin scriblings of Thomas More's Book of the Hours:

Occasionally the books offer far more than a trace of that elusive quarry Duffy calls “the innermost thoughts and most sacred privacies of late medieval people.” While imprisoned in the Tower, awaiting his trial and eventual execution, Thomas More pored over and annotated his Book of Hours. Its remarkable survival (it was in private hands until 1929) allows us, as Duffy writes with forgivable hyperbole, to watch More “in the very act of praying.” Duffy’s scrupulous exegesis of More’s poignant notes about the verses in the psalms that captured his attention and of the prayer More wrote in the margins (“Gyve me thy grace good lord / To sett the world at nought …”) clearly shows a devout and isolated man using his Book of Hours in his struggle “to come to terms with a frightening fate.”

Read the entire review here.

What aspect of your interior life would be revealed if a future historian were to look at you margin notes?

The roar of Rumi

I'm a man who's not afraid of love;
I'm a moth who's not afraid of burning

We continue now with our morning theme, the 13th century. Today is the birthday of the Sufi poet known as Rumi.

BBC

For many years now, the most popular poet in America has been a 13th-century mystical Muslim scholar.

Translations of Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi's - better known as Rumi - verse are hugely popular and have been used by Western pop stars such as Madonna.

They are attracted by his tributes to the power of love and his belief in the spiritual use of music and dancing - although scholars stress that he was talking about spiritual love between people and God, not earthly love.

Rumi, whose 800th birth anniversary falls on Sunday, was born in 1207 in Balkh in Central Asia, now part of Afghanistan.

Read the story from Rumi's birthplace here.

Tehran Times

Turkey is to celebrate Rumi’s birthday with a giant whirling dervish sama performance and the celebration will be aired live in eight different countries using 48 cameras.

“300 dervishes are scheduled to take part in this ritual, making it the largest performance of sama in history,” the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey Ertugrul Gunay told the Turkish Daily News on Friday.
...
The Persian service of ISNA noted that the Iranian professor of Persian language and literature Jalaleddin Kazzazi believes that Rumi’s thoughts are those of a great man who grew up in the culture of Iran, but whose philosophy is not restricted to any land or border.

“Rumi’s thoughts break the bounds of time and place. Even those who do not understand Persian and cannot read his poetry in its original language, feel astonished when they read translated versions,” he remarked.


Jesus sat humbly on the back of an ass, my child!
How could a zephyr ride an ass?
Spirit, find your way, in seeking lowness like a stream.
Reason, tread the path of selflessness into eternity.

Remember God so much that you are forgotten.
Let the caller and the called disappear;
be lost in the Call.

Religion and ecology

There has been a great deal of attention paid to the new advocacy on environmental issues by several Evangelical leaders. As the Economist reports, environmentalists and religious groups are allies on environmental issues across the globe:

In many other parts of the world, secular greens and religious people find themselves on the same side of public debates: sometimes hesitantly, sometimes tactically, and sometimes fired by a sense that they have deep things in common.

One more case from India: ornithologists who want to save three species of vulture (endangered because cattle carcasses are tainted by chemicals) see their best ally as the Parsees, who on religious grounds use vultures to dispose of human corpses.

In China, organised religion is much weaker and conservationists also feel more lonely. But Pan Yue, the best-known advocate of green concerns within the Chinese government, says ancient creeds, like Taoism, offer the best hope of making people treat the earth more kindly.

Other tie-ups between faith and ecology are less obvious. In Sweden, the national Lutheran Church, working with Japanese Shintos, recently held a multi-faith meeting on forestry. They agreed to set a new standard for the care of forests owned or managed by religious bodies—in other words, they said, 5% of the world's woods.

This month, representatives of many faiths, including a local Lutheran bishop and a shivering Buddhist monk (see above) gathered in Greenland to talk to scientists and ecologists. Patriarch Bartholomew, the senior bishop of the Orthodox Church, led his impressively robed guests in a silent supplication for the planet.

The terms of the transaction between faith and ecology vary a lot. In places like Scandinavia, where religion is weakish, a cleric who “goes green” may reach a wider audience; in countries like India, where faith is powerful, spiritual messages touch more hearts than secular ones do. That doesn't stop some environmental scientists from saying they are being hijacked by clerics in search of relevance. But Mary Evelyn Tucker, of America's Yale University, says secular greens badly need their spiritual allies: “Religions provide a cultural integrity, a spiritual depth and moral force which secular approaches lack.”

Martin Palmer, of the British-based Alliance of Religions and Conservation, says faiths often have the clearest view of the social and economic aspects of an environmental problem. In Newfoundland, he notes, conservationists put curbs on cod fishing—and left the churches to care for families whose living was ruined.

Still, one selling point often used by the religious in their dialogue with science—the fact that faith encourages people to think long-term—may be a mixed blessing. The most pessimistic scientists say mankind has a decade at most to curb greenhouse gases and fend off disastrous global warming; that doesn't leave much time to settle the finer points of metaphysics.

Read it all here.

Conservatives working across faith lines

Matthew Weiner, the director of programs at the Interfaith Center of New York, had some interesting observations about the growing interest of conservative religious leaders in ecumenical activities:

There is an assumption by commentators on the right and the left that as far as religion goes, it is liberals who work--and care to work--across faith lines. Interfaith activity is understood as a politically and theologically liberal enterprise. This stems in part from the fact that the most widely recognized examples of interfaith cooperation have occurred on the left. Martin Luther King Jr.'s partnership with Abraham Joshua Heschel (the prominent Jewish theologian and civil-rights leader) is probably the most famous. Other figures who have reached across religious lines include The Very Reverend James Parks Morton (former dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine) and international icons like Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu.

But during my years at the Interfaith Center of New York, a nonprofit organization devoted to fostering interreligious civic relationships, I found that the stereotypes about who is willing to form partnerships were wrong. When the center first opened, we received enthusiastic support from liberals and were ignored by conservatives. Our programs looked diverse, and they were, religiously speaking. But participants were homogeneously liberal.

The more conservative religious folks were not interested in talking about spirituality, peace-building and social justice. So we refocused our programs to include seminars and information sessions on issues such as domestic violence, health-care access and immigration rights. Suddenly, every kind of religious leader came, including conservatives. Their religious perspectives did not change, but our assumptions did.

Sheikh Musa Drammeh, an African lay leader who runs an Islamic school in the Bronx, first came to a retreat we held on immigration issues. Sheikh Drammeh believes that Islam is the one true path, that premarital sex is not moral and neither is homosexual behavior. He runs a school that teaches Muslim children these values. In preparation for opening the school in 2001 he introduced himself to local pastors and rabbis, inviting them to come observe his classrooms. He attended a week-long program on religious diversity to better understand the other religious groups in his community. He also works with a Latino Pentecostal minister on the Bronx District Attorney's clergy task force. For him, interfaith partnership is critical for good citizenship and safe neighborhoods. "The more friends we make," he says, "the less likely we are to shed blood."

Rabbi Emmanuel Weizer is another one of our regular participants now. An ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Rabbi from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, he is the vice president of Congregation Beth Yitzthock. Rabbi Weizer strongly believes Orthodoxy is the right path (for Jews) and strongly disagrees with the theology of nonmonotheistic faiths. He will not participate in interfaith prayer services, nor will he enter another religion's worship space. But he has worked across religious lines for years, for example, on our interfaith mediation team, a program of the New York State court system that includes Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs.

Interestingly, it was the liberal leaders who had problems with our new conservative participants. Some wondered aloud "who let them in." Others wanted us to advocate for positions that would keep some conservatives out, like opposition to the war in Iraq and tolerance for homosexual behavior.

Instead of excluding conservatives, though, we adopted a different understanding of interfaith activity. It is not an understanding based on the idea that with a little conversation we can iron out all our theological differences. Rather, it is one based on the idea that religious beliefs are distinct, deep-set and deserve to be taken seriously. On that point, it turns out that Rabbi Weizer and Sheikh Drammeh understand each other well.

Read it all here.

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