Primate of Ireland approves

The Most Rev. Alan Harper, Archbishop of Armagh and Church of Ireland Primate, has called the House of Bishops' September 25 statement, following its meeting in New Orleans, "helpful and deserving of a generous response."

"I hope that member churches of the Anglican Communion will now calmly and fairly reflect upon the New Orleans Statement and conclude that [the Episcopal Church's] bishops have gone a considerable way to meeting the reasonable demands of their critics," he said.

Harper commended the bishops' almost-unanimous decision to reiterate B033 that said they would "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." The bishops also pledged not to authorize public rites for same-gender blessings "until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action."

Harper also noted the "generous agreement of Presiding Bishop [Katharine Jefferts Schori] to put in place a plan to appoint Episcopal visitors for dioceses that request alternative oversight."

Read the whole Episcopal News Service story here.

Eames encouraged

The chair of the Lambeth Commission on Communion which authored the Windsor Report, retired Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, Lord Robin Eames, said that he was very encouraged that what was said in the Windsor Report was taken very seriously by the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops, and believes that the content of their responses to the Primates was also "very encouraging" in terms of the possibility of agreement in the Anglican Communion.

In an interview on the BBC-Northern Ireland/Radio Ulster program "Sunday Sequence", Eames, who was interviewed along with Guardian reporter Stephen Bates, said that while he was taken to task by some Global South bishops for saying this in the past, he still believes that the is issue of authority is central in the debates within Anglicanism. Issues of Biblical interpretation are important but not at the heart of the situation.

Eames explained that Anglicanism has been successful in reaching out to and bringing together people from all over the globe with a wide variety of cultures into one family, but that in doing this there are bound to be tensions. These tensions, Eames asserts, are a sign of Anglicanism's success.

Bates, in an answer to a question about the relative relevance of sexuality questions when there are so many other issues pressing for attention, said that in his view homosexuality is the chosen instrument that is being used to unite certain constituencies around a common cause so that control may be exercised by these groups seeking a kind of realignment in the Communion. He describes the worldwide Anglican Communion as something of a new discovery especially among conservative and evangelical groups.

Reflecting on his experience with the Windsor Report and the earlier Eames Commission, Lord Eames said that acceptance of the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops work will depend on response of the other churches and that a difficulty is that it is hard to get the leaders of the Global South movement to say precisely "what is their bottom line?" Without that kind of clarity, it is hard to know what the threshold for the unity of the communion will actually be.

Listen to the discussion here.

No turning back

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told a standing room only forum at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco "All people - including gay and lesbian Christians and non-Christians - are deserving of the fullest regard of the church.... "We're not going backward."

Jefferts Schori and California Bishop Marc Andrus spoke in an hour-long forum moderated by Cathedral Dean, the Very Rev. Alan Jones. While, as Jones said in a question that ""A schism of sorts seems inevitable," Jefferts Schori and other Episcopal bishops believe the Anglican Communion is defined by tolerance for a wide set of beliefs. They believe the communion should continue to minister to a variety of views.

According the San Francisco Chronicle, Jefferts Schori referred to the parable of the shepherd who goes searching for one lost sheep when she said "The pastor's job as shepherd is to mind the whole flock...I am continually, prayerfully reminded of those who are wandering off. The job of the church is to reach ever wider to include the whole."

The Episcopal News Service reports that Jefferts Schori described the House of Bishops reiteration of the stances of the General Convention as "not going backward, but willing to pause" in its consideration of full inclusion of lesbian and gay persons in the life and ministries of the Episcopal Church. "We reiterated our understanding that all gay and lesbian persons" are deserving "of the fullest regard of the Church," she said.

"We live in the hope that there will be full inclusion," she told reporters in a news conference before the forum talk, calling anything less "not lamentable, but egregious."

While Grace Church had invited Jefferts Schori and Andrus to come to the cathedral over a year ago, well before the primates meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, last February, the visit--commemorating the feast of St. Michael and All Angel's--fell on the date that the Primates set as the deadline for the House of Bishops to clarify it's position on the consecration of partnered gay and lesbian bishops, same-sex blessings and the care of conservative dioceses. Some conservative bishops and groups within the Church considered the requests and ultimatum and treated the deadline as an absolute, which the Anglican Communion Office denied.

You can read the San Francisco Chronicle report here, this is the Episcopal News Service report and here is a link to a podcast of the actual forum provided by Grace Cathedral.

Big heart, little parish, local controversy

Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church of Cave Creek, Arizona, describes itself as a "little church with a big heart." That big heart has drawn it into the heart of both local and national controversy about migration and day-laborers.

KNXV-TV 13 of Phoenix reports that the parish was asked seven years ago by a parishioner, who was also vice-mayor of the community at the time, to provide a place for migrant day-laborers to connect with potential employers, as well as to receive basic hospitality, food, shelter and to connect with other services. The ministry would also help the city by getting the migrants off the public streets and into a safe space.

Recently, Arizona has enacted legislation meant to crack down on the use of undocumented day-laborers. The town of Cave Creek also passed an anti-loitering ordinance and an ordinance toughening the penalty for illegally stopping a motor-vehicle, all in an effort to banish migrant workers from their streets. The Arizona Republic reports that the local sheriff did not even wait for the new ordinances to take effect and starting arresting migrant workers a week before the laws took effect.

KNXV reports that as vehicles driven by employers and day-laborers left church property, Maricopa County Sheriffs Deputies pulled over the vehicles and arrested day laborer they identified as illegal aliens.

The Rev. Glenn Jenks, Rector of Good Shepherd of the Hills told the Arizona Republic that that . the ordinances and the arrests are shortsighted.

"This may make the sheriff look tough, but it's not in the best interest of the community," Jenks said.

The parish has temporarily stopped the employment aspect of the day worker program while the parish weighs it's options, according to the television station.

According the parish website, the Day Worker Program is self-supporting through a $1 registration fee from the day workers and donations to the program. The program is designed to connect day laborers with employers, and day laborers also maintain the grounds of the church at no charge. Breakfast is provided daily and lunch once a week through volunteers from the parish, neighboring churches and the community. In 2005-06, 110 day workers registered, 70 found permanent work and 35 come to the program daily. Through the program, 7 area physicians, pharmacists and dentists provided 42 people with discounted medical appointments. Good Shepherd of the Hills is a Jubilee Center.

KNXV-TV: Valley church reaches out to immigrants but sherrif could stop it.

Here is the page from the parish website that describes their local outreach programs.

This is where you can learn more about Jubilee Ministries of the Episcopal Church. Here is the mission statement of Jubilee Ministries.

Last week, the New York Times reported how towns that passed tough anti-immigration laws have begun to rethink their position, including Riverside, New Jersey, which saw legal expenses go up and local business quickly decline after their law was passed.

History lesson

Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh recently compared the prospect of some Episcopal dioceses leaving the Episcopal Church for a new jurisdiction with what occurred during the American Civil War and in the response of the dioceses who found themselves in the Confederate States of America. He may want to re-think that analogy.

During a recent interview given to the PBS/WNET program "Religion & Ethics Newsweekely" the following exchange took place:

Q: How complicated will it be for you to separate a diocese from the Episcopal Church, as you've announced -- the diocese of Pittsburgh?

A: The last time that Episcopal dioceses separated from the Episcopal Church was in the American Civil War. Nine dioceses actually separated for a period of years. When the war was over the Episcopal Church came back together. There was an important social issue, I mean the whole issue of slavery divided the nation. The North and the South were divided. When the issue was settled the church came back together. Where we are right now is seeing the church moving in two distinctly different directions on issues of Christian morality quite different than the slavery issue. What our diocese and a number of other dioceses are going to have to do is try to figure out, okay, we joined, we federated. Can we break that federation? Again, the whole purpose of it is not because we've changed, but the Episcopal Church is so radically changed we as a diocese in order not to embrace that change or be forced into that change are saying the best course forward for us is to let them go their way and the way in which we will operate is in alignment with another province in another part of the world that still upholds what the worldwide Christian church, what worldwide Anglicans believe and teach and want to share.

Fr. Tobias Haller, BSG, on his blog "In a Godward Direction" offers this history lesson:

Bishop Duncan’s account is telling both for what he omits and what he includes. First of all, from The Episcopal Church’s perspective, those southern dioceses were not “separated” — their bishops were “absent” but the roll was still called down yonder wherever the General Convention met.

More importantly, the rationale given for the separation by the separationists was the importance of defending the integrity of the national church. Since the Confederacy was a new nation, it was necessary for a new national church to be constituted for this new nation — just exactly as it had been “necessary” for the The Episcopal Church to separate from the Church of England at the creation of the United States, as the preface to our first BCP notes. Civil War veteran chaplain, and historian of The Episcopal Church, Archdeacon Charles C. Tiffany recorded the actions of the first Confederate Conclave:

It was unanimously resolved that the secession of the Southern States from the United States, and the formation of the government of the Confederate States, rendered necessary an independent organization of the dioceses within the seceded States. (496*)

So the reason for the “division” in the church was not disagreement over slavery, but the concept of the integrity of a national church — the very thing Duncan’s movement contradicts.

While in the North, the General Convention and the House of Bishops simply called the roll of all the dioceses including the absent ones, there was no move to punish or disband the dioceses that were in the Confederated States, even though there was some minority feeling towards this, it was never acted upon. On the other hand, the dioceses of the Confederate States understood themselves to be in a new nation and acted accordingly.

Reading the history of the actual separation and reunion of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Confederate States reveal questions that had to be settled at that time in that time of separation and re-unification, which clearly contradict the assumptions of the recent Common Cause gathering.

A quick Google search will direct one to a reprint by Project Canterbury of a History of the Church the Confederate States, written by Bishop Joseph Blount of South Carolina in 1912. While there were at first several views about the status of the several dioceses, the prevailing view was that the church of the new nation should have a new governing body and its own polity.

Bishop Leonidas Polk of Louisiana wrote in 1861

We are still one in Faith, in purpose and in Hope; but political changes, forced upon us by a stern necessity, have occurred, which have placed our Dioceses in a position requiring consultation as to our future ecclesiastical relations. It is better that these relations should be arranged by the common consent of all the Dioceses within the Confederate States than by the independent action of each Diocese. The one will probably lead to harmonious action, the other might produce inconvenient diversity.

He later wrote:

Our separation from our brethren of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States has been effected because we must follow our nationality. Not because there has been any difference of opinion as to Christian Doctrine or Catholic usage. Upon these points we are still one. With us it is a separation, not division, certainly not alienation. And there is no reason why, if we should find the union of our Dioceses under one National Church impracticable, we should cease to feel for each other the respect and regard with which purity of manners, high principle, and manly devotion to truth, never fail to inspire generous minds."

The New York Times published the words of the words of Bishop Thomas David of South Carolina who said to his diocesan convention in 1862 that the administrative union with the PECUSA was broken, that was all:

The whole subject is simply a case of jurisdiction.It involves no article of faith, no spiritual condition or office.The Creeds all preexisted our present condition.

Polk, who became a Confederate General, put forward the idea that each diocese was of right an independent entity but this was an idea that the other Southern Bishops firmly rejected. Ironically, it was Polk himself who was the first to call for common action among the several southern dioceses. Every bishop in the South, each in his own way, argued that "church follows nationality."

More than one Bishop wrote that should the political situation change, they hoped that they could reunite their dioceses with the PECUSA.

About slavery, Haller writes,

To our shame, slavery was not the issue that “divided” the church — the church had, on the contrary, refused to take a national position on slavery in the interests of keeping the peace.... Thus, by allowing for local option on the question of slavery, The Episcopal Church was enabled to remain united, until the matter boiled over in the secular arena.

Finally, it is fascinating to me to see that Bishop Duncan appears to think that our present divisions over sexuality are of quite a different moral significance — and obviously far more important — than the question of slavery. It seems to me that this sad past chapter of our national history offers little to support his present pressure for division.

The short history of the PEC-CSA, with its General Council and the consecration of a Bishop for Alabama, the formation of the Diocese of Arkansas and their oversight of the manner of worship, shows that even in the independently minded South under the dire circumstances of civil war, the Church was more than a mere federation of dioceses.

Interfaith fast for end to Iraq war

Religious leaders representing tens of millions of Americans stood in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol to call religious communities of various traditions to a day of fasting and prayer to end the Iraq war. October 8th is the date chosen for the fast.

Ekklesia reports:

"We must return to the ancient disciplines so that we will turn away from violence toward reverence," said Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Shalom Center, Philadelphia, to reporters gathered in front of the United Methodist Church office building on Maryland Avenue.

Represented at the news conference were leaders of Muslim, Jewish, Roman Catholic, Unitarian, and Baptist traditions. The Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, associate general secretary for interfaith relations at the National Council of Churches USA (NCC), and himself a Baptist, organized the news event.

Ancient practices were used at the news conference in the call to the nation. The ram's horn, or Jewish shofar, was sounded to "wake up" a nation. Ashes were placed on the leaders' foreheads as signs of repentance. A bell was tolled to call America's people of faith to join together on October 8 to fast from dawn to sunset, breaking the fast with their Muslim sisters and brothers.

"When you are fasting for Ramadan, you are enhancing your sense of compassion," said Dr. Sayeed Syeed from the Islamic Society of North America. "We will be asking mosques to open their doors to people of other faiths around the world on October 8 for prayer and dialogue."

Dr. Syeed said the Islamic Center in nearby Sterling, Va., will open its doors to interfaith neighbours Oct. 8 to break the Ramadan fast together. Local religious groups are registering events at Interfaith Fast, a website managed by the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Read it all here

Monks of Burma

Updating our story on the protests by the Buddhist monks in Burma (also known as Myanmar). Several Anglican commentators have contrasted the bold Buddhist monks protesting the repressive regime in their country with the self congratulatory statements of unity in concession to anti-gay forces of the world wide Anglican Communion by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC).

Mad Priest, blogging at Of Course I Could Be Wrong, salutes a letter in The Guardian (UK):

As an ordained Anglican, I am appalled that while Buddhist monks are taken from their beds, beaten and imprisoned for peacefully protesting in the name of democracy, Anglican bishops can only concern themselves with the obsession of denying gay and lesbian Christians an opportunity to share their spiritual gifts and experience through ordained ministry. For me it is clear in which of these two groups spiritual authenticity resides. I offer my heartfelt prayers on behalf of the monks of Burma.
Rev Mike Catling
Alnwick, Northumberland

Lane Denson, who publishes The Covenant Journal, writes in his Out of Nowhere essay:

I wondered when I read about the monks, What makes a bishop mad? From reflecting on their meeting in New Orleans, I couldn’t tell, if anything. So far as I know, they kept their shoes on. They didn’t march. They never mentioned the government so far as I know, let alone its reckless and immoral lack of stewardship and its false promises about Katrina and New Orleans. They fussed a bit about turf, theirs. Statistics reveal that eleven percent of our nation’s population is gay and lesbian. The PB said the House stood at the foot of the cross on the subject of what to do about that population in the church. She just left the question hanging.

Ekklesia notes:
Pope Benedict XVI added his voice yesterday to calls for Burma's military leaders to peacefully end their crackdown on protesters demanding democracy, as demonstrators took to the streets of several capital cities across the globe to show solidarity.

Sheltering the homeless

Churches in the Fort Walton Beach, FL area offer shelter for the homeless when temperatures drop. The NorthWest Florida Daily News writes that this time around, they’re hoping more congregations will lend a hand.

"We definitely need more," said Lenore Wilson, a local homeless advocate who participates in the program. "What we really need is 14 churches!"

The current group of shelter providers are: First Presbyterian of Fort Walton Beach, St. Simon’s on the Sound Episcopal Church, Seventh Day Adventist Church of Fort Walton Beach, Gregg Chapel, Mary Esther United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church of Fort Walton Beach and Hollywood Boulevard Baptist Church.

"The churches are all we have," says Wilson. The area has no permanent homeless shelter.

That became clear to Shaun Ellis, youth minister at First Baptist, when the congregation offered its building as a shelter.

"It’s been a blessing to us," Ellis said. "The meal’s easy to do, and we have people donate blankets."

Ellis said the shelter program has softened his view of the homeless.

"A good number of these people are just looking for some help because they’re in a bad situation," he said, adding that serving the homeless is the duty of churches. "In my understanding of Scripture, that’s a mandate we’ve been given. If churches are not involved in that we’re missing the call."

Read it all here.

Fallibilism

Fallibilism as a philosophy was advanced by Kwame Anthony Appiah in his Commencement address at Swarthmore in May 2006. Perhaps it applies to Anglicans.

Appiah began his address:

Often I find myself seated next to a stranger on an airplane who asks me what I do. Sometimes I say I'm a philosopher. The commonest responses are:

(1) An expression that combines boredom and alarm, and the end of the conversation (which leaves you with the pretzels and the soda, and the really fascinating article from the Review of Metaphysics you've been meaning to get to for a couple of years) and

(2) "So, what's your philosophy?"

To that question, I usually reply: "Everything is much more complicated than you first thought." In philosophy at least, that really is my philosophy. So, I can tell the truth and we can both get back to those wonderfully inviting pretzels.

The truth, I said: I happen to be a great believer in objective truth. But one way in which things get more complicated than you thought is that I am also a great believer in what philosophers call fallibilism. Fallibilism is the idea that our knowledge is imperfect, provisional, subject to revision in the face of new evidence. Fallibilism says: Here's what I know to a moral certainty, know well enough to live by. But I could be wrong.

He continues on the subject of tolerance:

Yet tolerance, too, is more complicated than it looks. We can't suppose that mindless tolerance of cruelty and repression is a virtue. Yet how much evil is done by fanatics who can't countenance the possibility that their beliefs, sanctioned by ideological or religious authority, might conceivably be mistaken! Here, then, is one of the uncompleted tasks of our era: to spread fallibilism - not skepticism about the truth or indifference to it, but just the glimmering recognition that one may not be in full possession of it - from the empyrean of scientific fact to the hardpan of moral conviction: to make it as common as Coca-Cola. People say that common sense is the ability to see what's in front of your eyes. But even madmen and extremists can see what's in front of their eyes; so, again, I think it's more complicated than that. Common sense, I'd prefer to say, involves the ability to see what's in front of the other fellow's eyes. That's what makes it something we might have in common.

Read the address here.

Read more on Appiah here

Fair Trade crops increasing

The New York Times business section highlights the increease in Fair Trade programs around the world. Although there remain questions of certification and participation, the movement to Fair Trade products are an increasing part of the economy.

Fair Trade in Bloom by Andrew Downie:
Rafael de Paiva was skeptical at first. If he wanted a “fair trade” certification for his coffee crop, the Brazilian farmer would have to adhere to a long list of rules on pesticides, farming techniques, recycling and other matters. He even had to show that his children were enrolled in school.

“I thought, ‘This is difficult,’” recalled the humble farmer. But the 20 percent premium he recently received for his first fair trade harvest made the effort worthwhile, Mr. Paiva said, adding, it “helped us create a decent living.”

More farmers are likely to receive such offers, as importers and retailers rush to meet a growing demand from consumers and activists to adhere to stricter environmental and social standards.

Read it all here

The Episcopal Church, through Episcopal Relief and Development, supports Fair Trade and offers a variety of blends of coffee. Pura Vida is the supplier for the coffee and they have teas and cocoa available as well. Does your church use Bishops Blend or other Fair Trade coffee and tea?

African Anglican hierarchy should repent

The Executive Director of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission thinks the bishops of Africa should repent of their statements on the role of gays and lesbians in the Anglican Communion. L. Muthoni Wanyeki writes:

My personal opinion, for what it is worth, is that the African Anglican hierarchy itself has something to repent. It has proceeded as though African gay men and lesbians do not exist, even though some are also members of its flock. It has endorsed the prejudice and stereotypes about African gay men and lesbians - namely that they are both "unAfrican" and "unholy."

The outcomes?

At the worst end of the scale, consider this. On July 7 this year, two black South African lesbians were executed in Soweto. It is believed that they were followed home after a party. They were removed from their car, taken to a field and gang-raped before being executed.

Their deaths were not isolated. Another woman, also known to be a lesbian, was killed in Cape Town around the same time. And, in line with the ignorant idea that lesbians can be "fixed," over 10 women known to be lesbians were raped. An atmosphere of fear has been created.

She concludes:

LET US BE CLEAR ABOUT THIS. WE all reacted with horror to the kind of human-rights violations seen during the genocide in Rwanda. We all asked ourselves: How could family, friends, neighbours turn on each other in such a devastatingly vicious manner. What we all should remember is that all it takes is sanction from authorities of any kind - the state, religious organisations and so on. We are all capable of being genocidal. We just need to believe that we are "right" in being so.

What the African Anglican bishops have essentially said is that African citizens are "right" in their prejudices and stereotypes about African gay communities. It is thus the African Anglican hierarchy that should "repent." If we do not stop and check ourselves, we can rest assured that the damage ultimately caused will not just be to the Anglican family worldwide. The damage will be to our own.

Read it all here

More on the author here

Have you commited sodomy lately?

Carol Towarincky in the Philadelphia Daily News:

Take the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The word "sodomy" comes from the idea that homosexual sex was the sin for which God destroyed the inhabitants of these two ancient cities.

The story is told in Genesis (19). The men of Sodom surrounded Lot's house and demanded that he let them rape two heavenly messengers whom he had invited into his home. Lot refused, instead offering the men sex with his unmarried daughters.

The "traditional" interpretation of the story turns out to be a relatively modern one not shared by the ancient Hebrews. The "iniquity" of Sodom was long understood to represent the failure to offer hospitality to visitors, a matter of life and death in desert societies. In the words of the prophet Ezekiel (16:49), Sodom's sins were "pride, fullness of bread, an abundance of idleness" and a failure to help the poor and needy.

But the context of the Sodom story supports another interpretation: In the verses immediately before it, God has already decided to destroy the city, but Abraham exacts a promise that it will be spared if 10 men are found to be innocent. If the sin of Sodom was homosexuality, and all the men were guilty of it, why would Lot think his daughters would satisfy them? And does saving Lot mean God approved of his willingness to let his daughters be raped?

Jewish legends about Sodom, called "midrash," make the same point, describing the crimes of the Sodomites as over-the-top greed and cruelty to visitors.

If the very source of the word sodomy is based on a misreading of the Bible, how much else have the traditionalists misunderstood?

Plenty.

Read it all here.

Defections, faithful remnants, sales, and property disputes

Reports from the dioceses:

Diocese of Central Florida. Bishop Howe writes,

If you must leave, for conscience sake, I will do all in my power to make your leaving amicable. But when you make the decision to leave you immediately cease being a member of The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Central Florida. You immediately cease having any say in decisions regarding any congregation of the Diocese or its property.

Diocese of Georgia. Bishop Louttit writes,
October 2, 2007-- I have just been informed that the rector and wardens of Christ Church, Savannah have voted to leave the Episcopal Church. It is important to clarify the ecclesiastical structure of our denomination. Parishes in our church are not separate congregations but are integral and constituent parts of a diocese and of the larger church. Should some individuals in a parish decide they can no longer be Episcopalians, that in no way changes the fact that Christ Church is and will remain a parish of the Episcopal Church in this diocese and will continue to occupy its present facilities.
Diocese of Rio Grande. Bishop Steenson writes in "A Godly Judgement",
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has stated her insistence that the new congregation which is formed once the Episcopal congregation is duly dissolved does not affiliate with any other constituent Province or Diocese of the Anglican Communion. I hereby communicate her expectation to the Rector, Wardens, and Vestry and the new congregation that will be formed, and I ask them in good faith to honor this. I recognize, however, that this may be a matter to come before the Instruments of the Anglican Communion and that its ultimate resolution may lie with one or more of these Instruments.

The Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori (extract from The Living Church)
Asked if she were satisfied with the agreement by the Diocese of the Rio Grande to sell St. Clement Pro-Cathedral in El Paso, Texas, to the congregation, Bishop Schori said she had recommended two stipulations.

“I’ve told them that my two concerns are that the congregation not set up as another part of the Anglican Communion and that there is some reasonable assurance that it’s a fair sale,” she said.

Joint Standing Committee report on House of Bishops

The Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion has submitted its Report on The Episcopal Church House of Bishops of Meeting in New Orleans. The Archbishop of Canterbury has sent the Report to all the Primates and to all members of the Anglican Consultative Council and asked them to consult in their Provinces on the Report, and respond to him by the end of October. The Report follows (a printer friendly pdf. is here):

The Report of the Joint Standing Committee to the Archbishop of Canterbury on the Response of The Episcopal Church to the Questions of the Primates articulated at their meeting in Dar es Salaam and related Pastoral Concerns

Introduction

The Joint Standing Committee met in formal session on Monday 24 September in order to reflect on the conversation in which we had participated with Your Grace at the meeting of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, held in New Orleans between Wednesday 19 September and Tuesday 25 September. We are grateful to the House of Bishops for their consideration in ensuring that their schedule was changed to seek to create as much space as possible to consider their response on the Monday, although sadly the House of Bishops were not able to complete the process of developing their response before our meeting concluded.

The Joint Standing Committee were however briefed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and other bishops on the Monday evening, and had the opportunity to agree together the main outlines of how they might wish to respond in the light of the various options facing the House of Bishops. All members of the Joint Standing Committee present in New Orleans 1/ have been consulted electronically in the preparation of this report once the actual text of the statement of the House of Bishops was available.

It has to be acknowledged that the House has laboured long and strenuously to come to a conclusion, and to offer its response to the requests of the Windsor Report, as reiterated in the Communiqué of the Primates meeting in Dar es Salaam in February of this year. This reflects the fact that the House of Bishops were themselves of differing perspectives on the questions before them; it also reflects their readiness to respond to the concerns raised by the Communion by coming to conclusions which command a wide consensus across the members of the House. The effort expended in reaching these conclusions should be acknowledged.

In addition to addressing the specific questions of the Windsor Report, the Episcopal House of Bishops also addressed other matters of related concern raised in the Communiqué of the Primates from their meeting at Dar es Salaam which will be addressed separately.

In preparing this report, we have been careful to distinguish between the response to the two questions concerning the Windsor Report which the Primates addressed to the Episcopal Church and on which they requested an answer by 30th September 2007, and other urgent but distinct matters raised in that Communiqué, for the resolution of which no specific date was set.

Although the tensions within the Anglican Communion will not be resolved until all these matters are addressed, the wider questions, which concern the polity of The Episcopal Church and the provision of pastoral care for those who are alienated by certain recent developments in its life, do not form part of the issues which were requested to be addressed by the date set in the schedule of the Primates’ Communiqué for specific answers on the questions set out below. Those wider matters of pastoral concern remain urgent, and are addressed in the second part of our report.


Part One
The Response of The Episcopal Church to the Windsor Report

The Lambeth Commission on Communion was commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury in October 2003 at the request of the Primates:

1. To examine and report to him by 30th September 2004, in preparation for the ensuing meetings of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council, on the legal and theological implications flowing from the decisions of the Episcopal Church (USA) to appoint a priest in a committed same sex relationship as one of its bishops, … and the ways in which provinces of the Anglican Communion may relate to one another in situations where the ecclesiastical authorities of one province feel unable to maintain the fullness of communion with another part of the Anglican Communion .

The Windsor Report was published in October 2004, and contained specific questions addressed to The Episcopal Church in respect of the matter of the election of bishops and the authorisation of Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions. These requests are set out in the relevant sections below.

At their meeting in Dromantine in February 2005, the Primates asked:

“During [the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference] we request that [the Episcopal Church] respond through [its] relevant constitutional bodies to the questions specifically addressed to them in the Windsor Report as they consider their place within the Anglican Communion.”

These questions were addressed by The Episcopal Church at the 75th General Convention held in June 2006. The responses given there were assessed in detail in the Report of a Sub-Group established by the Joint Standing Committee and presented to the Primates at their meeting in Dar es Salaam in February 2007. On reviewing that report, the primates concluded:

On Clarifying the Response to Windsor

The Primates recognise the seriousness with which The Episcopal Church addressed the requests of the Windsor Report put to it by the Primates at their Dromantine Meeting. They value and accept the apology and the request for forgiveness made . While they appreciate the actions of the 75th General Convention which offer some affirmation of the Windsor Report and its recommendations, they deeply regret a lack of clarity about certain of those responses.

In particular, the Primates request, through the Presiding Bishop, that the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church
1. make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention (cf TWR, §143, 144); and
2. confirm that the passing of Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention means that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent (cf TWR, §134);
unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion (cf TWR, §134).

The Primates request that the answer of the House of Bishops is conveyed to the Primates by the Presiding Bishop by 30th September 2007.
If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship of The Episcopal Church remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion.

At their meeting in New Orleans, the bishops of The Episcopal Church have had the opportunity to reflect on these two questions, and to offer their response.

On public Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions

In May 2003, the Primates had expressed their own understanding of the position in the Communion with regard to the authorisation of public Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions:

“The question of public rites for the blessing of same sex unions is still a cause of potentially divisive controversy. The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological consensus about same sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorisation of such rites.
This is distinct from the duty of pastoral care that is laid upon all Christians to respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations. As recognised in the booklet “True Union”, it is necessary to maintain a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care.”

The Windsor Report concluded that:

“… at present it would be true to say that very many people within the Communion fail to see how the authorisation of such a rite is compatible with the teaching of scripture, tradition and reason. In such circumstances, it should not be surprising that such developments are seen by some as surrendering to the spirit of the age rather than an authentic development of the gospel.

We believe that to proceed unilaterally with the authorisation of public Rites of Blessing for same sex unions at this time goes against the formally expressed opinions of the Instruments of Unity and therefore constitutes action in breach of the legitimate application of the Christian faith as the churches of the Anglican Communion have received it, and of bonds of affection in the life of the Communion, especially the principle of interdependence. For the sake of our common life, we call upon all bishops of the Anglican Communion to honour the Primates’ Pastoral Letter of May 2003, by not proceeding to authorise public Rites of Blessing for same sex unions.

… we call for a moratorium on all such public Rites.”

The Communion Sub-Group of the Joint Standing Committee, in their Report, noted that a wide variety of practice currently appertained across the Episcopal Church , and concluded that:

“It is therefore not at all clear whether, in fact, the Episcopal Church is living with the recommendations of the Windsor Report on this matter. The Primates in their statement of March 2003 did admit that there could be “a breadth of private response to individual pastoral care”, but it is clear that the authorisation by any one bishop, diocese or Province, of any public Rite of Blessing, or permission to develop or use such a rite, would go against the standard of teaching to which the Communion as a whole has indicated that it is bound. We do not see how bishops who continue to act in a way which diverges from the common life of the Communion can be fully incorporated into its ongoing life. This is therefore a question which needs to be addressed urgently by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.”

At their meeting in Dar es Salaam, the Primates, quoting the statement in the Primates’ Pastoral Letter of May 2003, said,

“we believe that there remains a lack of clarity about the stance of The Episcopal Church, especially its position on the authorisation of Rites of Blessing for persons living in same-sex unions. There appears to us to be an inconsistency between the position of General Convention and local pastoral provision. We recognise that the General Convention made no explicit resolution about such Rites and in fact declined to pursue resolutions which, if passed, could have led to the development and authorisation of them. However, we understand that local pastoral provision is made in some places for such blessings. It is the ambiguous stance of The Episcopal Church which causes concern among us.

The standard of teaching stated in Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998 asserted that the Conference “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions” . (Dar es Salaam Communiqué, §21,22)

and made this further request for the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church to:

“make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention” (Schedule to the Dar es Salaam Communiqué, February 2007)

The House of Bishops has now said that they “pledge as a body not to authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions” . In their discussion of that pledge:

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."

These statements (Summary and Discussion), taken together, address the request of the Primates at Dar es Salaam. The bishops have pledged themselves not to authorise public rites in their dioceses. In giving this commitment with the proviso “or until General Convention takes further action”, the House of Bishops is acknowledging that it does not have the power to bind future actions of General Convention, in the same way that most of the general synods of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion cannot be bound by any part or section of their polity.

It is to be noted that the House of Bishops states that “the majority of bishops do not make allowance for the blessing of same-sex unions” and quote the words of the primates in 2003 concerning “a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care.” The principle which has historically been applied by Anglicans to common prayer is “Lex orandi, lex credendi”, that is, that our liturgy expresses what we believe. Given that there is no agreed theological framework on ministry to homosexual persons entering into committed relationships, it is currently widely understood that it would be inappropriate to develop liturgical expressions of blessing for such relationships . Indeed, the teaching most widely upheld across the Communion was embodied in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, which “rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture” , concluded that the Conference “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions.”

The Episcopal Church has acknowledged in the past, however, that “local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions” . In answer to the way in which this resolution was understood in the Windsor Report , it has been said that this statement was to be understood descriptively of a reality current in 2003 and not as permissive, and the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion prior to the 75th General Convention (2006) specifically denied that it was intended to authorise such rites .

It needs to be made clear however that we believe that the celebration of a public liturgy which includes a blessing on a same-sex union is not within the breadth of private pastoral response envisaged by the Primates in their Pastoral Letter of 2003, and that the undertaking made by the bishops in New Orleans is understood to mean that the use of any such rites or liturgies will not in future have the bishop’s authority “until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action ”, a qualification which is in line with the limits that the Constitution of The Episcopal Church places upon the bishops.

On this basis, we understand the statement of the House of Bishops in New Orleans to have met the request of the Windsor Report in that the Bishops have declared “a moratorium on all such public Rites” , and the request of the Primates at Dar es Salaam that the bishops should “make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses” since we have their pledge explicitly in those terms.

On elections to the episcopate

At the epicentre of tensions in the Communion over the last five years has been the fact that the Episcopal Church elected and consecrated as a Bishop a person publicly acknowledged to be living in a committed same-sex relationship. In October 2003, the Primates stated that:

“In most of our provinces the election of Canon Gene Robinson would not have been possible since his chosen lifestyle would give rise to a canonical impediment to his consecration as a bishop. If his consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. In this case, the ministry of this one bishop will not be recognised by most of the Anglican world, and many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of Communion with the Episcopal Church (USA). This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, …”

and requested the formation of the Lambeth Commission which produced the Windsor Report in October 2004. The Windsor Report stated:

“In our view, all those involved in the processes of episcopal appointment, at whichever level, should in future in the light of all that has happened pay proper regard to the acceptability of the candidate to other provinces in our Communion; the issue should be addressed by those locally concerned at the earliest stages, by those provincially involved in the confirmation of any election, and not least by those who, acting on those decisions, consecrate the individual into the order of bishop.” (The Windsor Report, §131)

and requested that:

“the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges.” (The Windsor Report, §134)

At General Convention in June 2006, General Convention passed Resolution B033, which stated:

“Resolved, That the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further
Resolved, That this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction 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.”

The Communion Sub-Group established by the Joint Standing Committee concluded:

8. The group noted that, in this resolution, the language of moratorium from the Windsor Report had not been used. It understood that legal counsel to the Convention advised that the language of a moratorium was difficult to embody in legislation under the provisions of the Episcopal Church’s constitution.

9. Instead 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 resolution, which was passed by large majorities in both houses, therefore calls upon those charged with the giving of consent to the result of any election to the episcopate to refuse consent to candidates whose “manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion”.

10. In voting for this resolution, the majority of bishops with jurisdiction have indicated that they will refuse consent in future to the consecration of a bishop whose manner of life challenges the wider church and leads to further strains on Communion. This represents a significant shift from the position which applied in 2003. It was noted that a small number of bishops indicated that they would not abide by the resolution of General Convention, but in supporting the resolution the majority of bishops have committed themselves to the recommendations of the Windsor Report.

11. The group 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.

12. The group believes therefore that General Convention has complied in this resolution with the request of the Primates.

At their meeting in Dar es Salaam in February 2007, however, not all of the primates were fully convinced of this interpretation,

“… some of us believe that Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention does not in fact give the assurances requested in the Windsor Report.”

and in their Communiqué the Primates therefore asked the Episcopal House of Bishops to:

“… confirm that the passing of Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention means that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent … unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion.”

We now have the following response of the House of Bishops:

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." The House acknowledges that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains.

By confirming the interpretation of the Communion Sub-Group and quoting it explicitly, as well as making the explicit acknowledgement in the last sentence of their text that Resolution B033 does refer to “non-celibate gay and lesbian persons”, the Episcopal House of Bishops is answering the question of the Primates positively. They confirm the understanding of the sub-group that restraint is exercised in a precise way “by not consenting”, and that this specifically includes “non-celibate gay and lesbian persons”. They have therefore clearly affirmed that the Communion Sub-Group were correct in interpreting Resolution B033 as meeting the request of the Windsor Report.

Conclusion

By their answers to these two questions, we believe that the Episcopal Church has clarified all outstanding questions relating to their response to the questions directed explicitly to them in the Windsor Report, and on which clarifications were sought by 30th September 2007, and given the necessary assurances sought of them.


Part Two
Pastoral Issues

On care of dissenting groups

Since the theological and ecclesiological tensions have developed over the election of a bishop living in a same-sex relationship and the authorisation in parts of the Communion of a public Rite of Blessing of same-sex unions, enormous strains have also arisen in the Communion regarding the pastoral care of those parishes and dioceses within the Episcopal Church that have been alienated from the life and structures of the Episcopal Church because of those developments. This was recognised by the Primates in their meeting in October 2003, called after consent had been given to the candidate elected to the See of New Hampshire but before his consecration. The Primates wrote then:

“We have a particular concern for those who in all conscience feel bound to dissent from the teaching and practice of their province in such matters. Whilst we reaffirm the teaching of successive Lambeth Conferences that bishops must respect the autonomy and territorial integrity of dioceses and provinces other than their own, we call on the provinces concerned to make adequate provision for episcopal oversight of dissenting minorities within their own area of pastoral care in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury on behalf of the Primates.” (Primates’ Communiqué, Lambeth, October 2003)

In March 2004, the Bishops of The Episcopal Church adopted a plan for such congregations in the Statement, Caring for All the Churches. The plan was designated “Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight”. In addressing these matters in Section D (Paragraphs 147 –155), the Windsor Report supported the arrangements offered in that scheme.

Since then, however, further parishes have sought pastoral oversight outside the normal structures of jurisdiction, as have some dioceses, whose Standing Committees, feeling unable to accept the primatial ministry of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, have appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury for a form of “alternative primatial oversight”.

In response to these developments, some primates and bishops of other Provinces have been drawn into ad hoc arrangements assuming or claiming differing levels of pastoral and episcopal authority for such a ministry. This has created a complex pattern of parishes which are opting out of the life and structure of The Episcopal Church and of interventions by other Anglican jurisdictions. Even so, the numbers appear to remain relatively small. Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori reports that that there are perhaps 45 parishes of the overall total of 7600 parishes in The Episcopal Church, in which majorities have voted to depart from The Episcopal Church, often leaving behind members who form the core of a continuing Episcopal congregation. It has to be acknowledged, however, that some of those parishes seeking alternative arrangements are amongst the larger congregations within The Episcopal Church.

In addition, it is becoming clear that around half a dozen dioceses are likely to look to withdraw from The Episcopal Church if their leadership continues in their conviction that The Episcopal Church has departed from a proper understanding of the Christian faith as received by Anglicans.

At the heart of the growing pattern of alienation and competing jurisdictions are pastoral concerns. How can provision be made for the pastoral care of parishes and dioceses that feel that those charged within The Episcopal Church with their episcopal or primatial oversight (that is, the existing diocesan bishop or the Presiding Bishop) are not able to exercise that charge effectively because of theological differences? How can their legitimate theological perspectives be safeguarded, and the aspirations of those called to ministry from those theological perspectives be nourished? The leadership of the Episcopal Church is content that sufficient provision and protection can be provided within the DEPO scheme, while the congregations that have sought alternatives, have, by that very action, indicated that they believe such provision is insufficient.

At Dar es Salaam, the Primates offered this articulation of the situation:

31. Three urgent needs exist. First, those of us who have lost trust in The Episcopal Church need to be re-assured that there is a genuine readiness in The Episcopal Church to embrace fully the recommendations of the Windsor Report.

32. Second, those of us who have intervened in other jurisdictions believe that we cannot abandon those who have appealed to us for pastoral care in situations in which they find themselves at odds with the normal jurisdiction. For interventions to cease, what is required is a robust scheme of pastoral oversight to provide individuals and congregations alienated from The Episcopal Church with adequate space to flourish within the life of that church in the period leading up to the conclusion of the Covenant Process.

33. Third, the Presiding Bishop has reminded us that in The Episcopal Church there are those who have lost trust in the Primates and bishops of certain of our Provinces because they fear that they are all too ready to undermine or subvert the polity of The Episcopal Church. There is an urgent need to embrace the recommendations of the Windsor Report and to bring an end to all interventions. (Communiqué, Dar es Salaam, February 2007)

In the first part of this report, we have indicated that the further clarifications offered by the House of Bishops at New Orleans do address the first of these points. For there to be healing in the Communion, the remaining points now need to be addressed.

At Dar es Salaam, the primates sought to address these matters by proposing that The Episcopal Church turn to a particular group of bishops living and ministering within its life, who had publicly declared that they accepted both the standard of teaching expressed in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 and were unreservedly committed to the recommendations of the Windsor Report . In other words, the primates were indicating to those who felt alienated from the leadership of The Episcopal Church that there were identifiable bishops within The Episcopal Church able to meet the needs identified by the groups seeking alternative pastoral provision without the need for “foreign intervention”.

Unfortunately, there were aspects of the recommendations of the Primates at Dar es Salaam that The Episcopal Church felt bound to reject because they were perceived as inappropriate interventions into the polity of The Episcopal Church and contrary to its Canons and Constitution.

As a Joint Standing Committee, we recommend that the Archbishop of Canterbury encourage the duly constituted authorities of The Episcopal Church, as a matter of urgency, to consult further on the issue of the provision of pastoral care and oversight for dissenting congregations and parishes in consultation with those who are requesting it and those bishops of The Episcopal Church who by their theological stance should be able to command the respect of dissenting congregations.

In particular, such consultation could be taken in conjunction with the scheme for “Episcopal Visitors” announced by the Presiding bishop at the House of Bishops Meeting in New Orleans, and supported by the House of Bishops in its Statement . It is to be noted that the Presiding Bishop has commended the work by those bishops of The Episcopal Church who have initiated partnerships to address questions of extended episcopal oversight.

In her opening remarks to the House of Bishops, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori indicated to the assembled bishops that she had appointed eight Episcopal Visitors. These visitors will represent the Presiding Bishop in the exercise of her functions of visitation, and to undertake Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight of congregations or parishes seeking such ministry. The Presiding Bishop also indicated that she was willing to add further names to the list of those appointed to act in this way, and since the New Orleans Meeting four others have been named.

We believe that these initiatives offer a viable basis on which to proceed. Bishop Jefferts Schori indicated that she deliberately left open and flexible the operation of the ministry of the Episcopal Visitors, believing that it was best for the visitor and the diocesan bishop concerned to work out an acceptable scheme. The Presiding Bishop laid down only two conditions: first, that such Episcopal visitors did not encourage dioceses or parishes to leave the Episcopal Church, and second, that the Episcopal Visitors would report occasionally to the Presiding Bishop. By leaving this ministry flexible for negotiation and development, we believe that the Presiding Bishop has opened a way forward. There is within this proposal the potential for the development of a scheme which, with good will on the part of all parties, could meet their needs.

We recommend that the Archbishop of Canterbury find ways to encourage The leadership of The Episcopal Church to draw those who are seeking alternative patterns of oversight into conversation with those who are charged with their oversight under current structures about the way ahead. These conversations could include those bishops within The Episcopal Church whose positions should command the confidence of dissenting groups as well as the leadership of those dioceses who are seeking “alternative primatial oversight”. There is an urgent need to facilitate discussion on how a scheme might be operated and put in place within the structures of The Episcopal Church which adequately meets the concerns expressed.

Unless some measure of reassurance and security is given to those congregations, parishes, bishops and dioceses who are feeling an increasing sense of alienation from The Episcopal Church, there will be no reconciliation either within The Episcopal Church or within the wider Anglican Communion. We are also mindful of the increasing levels of litigation within The Episcopal Church and of the call of the primates at Dar es Salaam to bring an end to such litigation:

“The Primates urge the representatives of The Episcopal Church and of those congregations in property disputes with it to suspend all actions in law arising in this situation. We also urge both parties to give assurances that no steps will be taken to alienate property from The Episcopal Church without its consent or to deny the use of that property to those congregations.” (Schedule to the Dar es Salaam Communiqué)

We are dismayed as a Joint Standing Committee by the continuing use of the law courts in this situation, and request that the Archbishop of Canterbury use his influence to persuade parties to discontinue actions in law on the basis set out in the primates’ Communiqué.


On Consultation with the wider Communion

The Schedule to the Dar es Salaam Communiqué also recommended the establishment of a Pastoral Council “to act on behalf of the Primates in consultation with The Episcopal Church” . In assessing this proposal, the House of Bishops has summarised the responses from various bodies within The Episcopal Church.

“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.” (New Orleans Statement, September 2007)

We believe that the House of Bishops is correct in identifying that the co-operation and participation of the wider Communion, in a way which respects the integrity of the American Province, is an important element in addressing questions of pastoral oversight for those seeking alternative provision. We also believe that a body which could facilitate such consultation and partnership would meet the intent of the Pastoral Council envisaged by the Primates in their Communiqué. We encourage all the Instruments of Communion to participate in a discussion with the Presiding Bishop and the leadership of The Episcopal Church to discern a way in which to meet both the intentions behind the proposals in the Dar es Salaam Communiqué and this statement by the House of Bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury may wish to revisit the work and mandate of “The Panel of Reference” and to explore whether this body, or a reconstituted version of it, may have a part to play in this respect.


On Interventions in the life of The Episcopal Church by Other Jurisdictions

In their Communiqué from Dar es Salaam, the primates acknowledged that a robust scheme of pastoral care for dissenting groups would enable an end to interventions in the life of The Episcopal Church . The House of Bishops has now addressed the wider Communion on the matter of these interventions.

“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.” (New Orleans Statement, September 2007)

As the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion we feel obliged to note that the House of Bishops makes a point here which needs to be addressed urgently in the life of the Communion. In appealing to the statements of Lambeth Conferences and the Ecumenical Councils of the Church, the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church is reminding all Anglicans that we are committed to upholding the principle of local jurisdiction. Not only do the ancient councils of the Church command our respect on this question , but the principle was clearly articulated and defended at the time when the very architecture of the Anglican Communion was forged in the early Lambeth Conferences , as well as being clearly re-iterated and stated in more recent times as tensions have escalated .

At Dar es Salaam, the primates said that among the fundamental principles by which they were working was the intention to “affirm the Windsor Report” and to “respect the proper constitutional autonomy of all of the Churches of the Anglican Communion, while upholding the interdependent life and mutual responsibility of the Churches, and the responsibility of each to the Communion as a whole”. In addressing the question of interventions, the Windsor Report recommended:

154. The Anglican Communion upholds the ancient norm of the Church that all the Christians in one place should be united in their prayer, worship and the celebration of the sacraments. The Commission believes that all Anglicans should strive to live out this ideal. Whilst there are instances in the polity of Anglican churches that more than one jurisdiction exists in one place, this is something to be discouraged rather than propagated. We do not therefore favour the establishment of parallel jurisdictions.
155. We call upon those bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own:
• to express regret for the consequences of their actions
• to affirm their desire to remain in the Communion, and
• to effect a moratorium on any further interventions.
We also call upon these archbishops and bishops to seek an accommodation with the bishops of the dioceses whose parishes they have taken into their own care.

As a Joint Standing Committee, we do not see how certain primates can in good conscience call upon The Episcopal Church to meet the recommendations of the Windsor Report while they find reasons to exempt themselves from paying regard to them. We recommend that the Archbishop remind them of their own words and undertakings:

“… we are committed as Primates … to respect the integrity of each other’s provinces and dioceses …” (Pastoral Letter, Gramado, May 2003)
“… we reaffirm the teaching of successive Lambeth Conferences that bishops must respect the autonomy and territorial integrity of dioceses and provinces other than their own.” (Statement of the Primates, Lambeth, October 2003)
“… for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference … we commit ourselves neither to encourage nor to initiate cross-boundary interventions.” (Communiqué, Dromantine, February 2005)
“There is an urgent need to embrace the recommendations of the Windsor Report and to bring an end to all interventions.” (Communiqué, Dar es Salaam, February 2007)

In early 2000, the Provinces of Rwanda and South East Asia proceeded to the ordination of three bishops for a “mission initiative” known as the “Anglican Mission in America” in the United States. At the time, the 103rd Archbishop of Canterbury wrote to the consecrating bishops and expressed the opinion that he could not regard the bishops then consecrated as “bishops of the Anglican Communion.” At the subsequent meeting of the Primates in Oporto in March 2000, the primates stated that “The Archbishop of Canterbury's letter of 17th February 2000 to the bishops of the Communion expresses a view that is endorsed by this meeting. We are grateful for this clear and decisive response. ” Archbishop George Carey had written: “I cannot recognise their episcopal ministry until such time as a full rapprochement and reconciliation has taken place between them and the appropriate authorities within the Episcopal Church of the United States. ”

The current instances of consecrations which have been taking place in African Provinces with respect to “missionary initiatives” in North America would seem to fall into the same category. We understand that, in addition to contravening the authorities quoted above , the consecrations took place either without consultation with or even against the counsel of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Windsor Report acknowledged that “principled concerns that have led to those actions ”, and the primates at Dar es Salaam acknowledged that “those Primates who have undertaken interventions do not feel that it is right to end those interventions until it becomes clear that sufficient provision has been made for the life of those persons ” who feel such levels of alienation.

However, we believe that the time is right for a determined effort to bring interventions to an end. The Windsor Report has called upon intervening “archbishops and bishops to seek an accommodation with the bishops of the dioceses whose parishes they have taken into their own care .” We recommend that the Archbishop of Canterbury explore ways of facilitating conversation between these primates and the Presiding Bishop, which may have to include other bishops of the intervening Provinces and the bishops of those dioceses where interventions have taken place, so that the dimensions of the problems faced may be fully articulated and understood, and so that ways forward may be discerned.

The way forward would need to address the adequacy of any scheme of extended pastoral care, and the so-called “Windsor/Camp Allen bishops ” may also have a key role in winning the confident participation of congregations who have requested such alternative pastoral oversight. The Archbishop may also wish to consider involving some other representatives of the wider Communion, possibly members of the Joint Standing Committee. We still believe that the primates’ call for “healing and reconciliation within The Episcopal Church, between The Episcopal Church and congregations alienated from it, and between The Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion ” remains a laudable goal.

The Life of Persons of Homosexual Orientation in the Church

The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church has also drawn attention to the place of gay and lesbian persons within the life of the Church. The House wrote:

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.

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.”

We note that the 1998 Lambeth Conference articulated in Resolution 1.10 the widely accepted teaching for the Communion. Lambeth Conference Resolutions do not have “magisterial” force in the Anglican Communion; that is, they are not per se binding on the faithful of the Churches of the Anglican Communion. Nevertheless, Resolution 1.10 expresses the understanding on Christian marriage and sexual relationships actually taught and held by the vast majority of Anglican churches and bishops across the globe – indeed, by the vast majority of Christian denominations and their leadership.

It is the call to pay heed to this teaching that is at the centre of our current disputes. The primates noted at Dar es Salaam, “What has been quite clear throughout this period is that the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 is the standard of teaching which is presupposed in the Windsor Report and from which the primates have worked. ” The Lambeth Resolution 1.10 stated that:

“in view of the teaching of Scripture, [this Conference] upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage ”

In addition, the resolution also goes on to say,

[This Conference] recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;
[This Conference], while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex.
[This Conference] requests the Primates and the ACC to establish a means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources among us .

Likewise, the primates have stated,

“We also wish to make it quite clear that in our discussion and assessment of the moral appropriateness of specific human behaviours, we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people. The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship”

and

“The 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10, committed the Provinces “to listen to the experience of homosexual persons” and called “all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals”. The initiation of this process of listening was requested formally by the Primates at Dromantine and commissioned by ACC-13. … We wish to affirm this work in collating various research studies, statements and other material from the Provinces. We look forward to this material being made more fully available across the Communion for study and reflection, and to the preparation of material to assist the bishops at 2008 Lambeth Conference.

The Windsor Report stated:

“We remind all in the Communion that Lambeth Resolution 1.10 calls for an ongoing process of listening and discernment, and that Christians of good will need to be prepared to engage honestly and frankly with each other on issues relating to human sexuality. It is vital that the Communion establish processes and structures to facilitate ongoing discussion. One of the deepest realities that the Communion faces is continuing difference on the presenting issue of ministry by and to persons who openly engage in sexually active homosexual relationships. Whilst this report criticises those who have propagated change without sufficient regard to the common life of the Communion, it has to be recognised that debate on this issue cannot be closed whilst sincerely but radically different positions continue to be held across the Communion. The later sections of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 cannot be ignored any more than the first section, as the primates have noted. Moreover, any demonising of homosexual persons, or their ill treatment, is totally against Christian charity and basic principles of pastoral care. We urge provinces to be pro-active in support of the call of Lambeth Resolution 64 (1988) for them to “reassess, in the light of … study and because of our concern for human rights, its care for and attitude toward persons of homosexual orientation”.

The life of the Anglican Communion has been much damaged in recent years following the tensions raised by the consecration in The Episcopal Church of a bishop living in a committed same-sex relationship and the authorisation in some dioceses of Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions. With the response of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in September 2007, the Communion should move towards closure on these matters, at least for the time being. The Communion seems to be converging around a position which says that while it is inappropriate to proceed to public Rites of Blessing of same-sex unions and to the consecration of bishops who are living in sexual relationships outside of Christian marriage , we need to take seriously our ministry to gay and lesbian people inside the Church and the ending of discrimination, persecution and violence against them. Here, The Episcopal Church and the Instruments of Communion speak with one voice. The process of mutual listening and conversation needs to be intensified. It is only by living in communion that we can live out our vocation to be Communion.

The present text was developed from the remarks of JSC members in New Orleans and in consultation with them.

In electronic correspondence, the following members of the Joint Standing Committee have signified their assent to this text:
• Phillip Aspinall, Primate of Australia, Primates’ Standing Committee
• Barry Morgan, Primate of Wales, Primates’ Standing Committee
• Katharine Jefferts Schori, Primate of The Episcopal Church, Primates’ Standing Committee
• John Paterson, Chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council and of the ACC Standing Committee
• George Koshy, Vice-Chair, ACC and Standing Committee
• Robert Fordham, ACC Standing Committee
• Kumara Illangasinghe, ACC Standing Committee
• James Tengatenga, ACC Standing Committee
• Nomfundo Walaza, ACC Standing Committee

Responses have not yet been received from:
• Mouneer Anis, Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Primates’ Standing Committee
• Philippa Amable, ACC Standing Committee
• Jolly Babirukamu, ACC Standing Committee
• Elizabeth Paver, ACC Standing Committee


Tuesday, 2nd October, 2007

1/ The Joint Standing Committee present in New Orleans were: The Archbishop of Canterbury (on the Thursday and Friday) President Bishop Mouneer Anis, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Archbishop Barry Morgan (Primates’ Standing Committee); Bishop John Paterson (Chair, ACC), George Koshy (Vice-Chair), Philippa Amable, Jolly Babirukamu, Robert Fordham, Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe, Elizabeth Paver, Bishop James Tengatenga, and Nomfundo Walaza (ACC Standing Committee).

[There are a total of 49 footnotes]

The Joint Standing Committee Report: some flashpoints

Our nominations for the passages of The Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion Report on The Episcopal Church House of Bishops of Meeting in New Orleans include:

On same-sex blessings
(page 6 of the pdf):

The Episcopal Church has acknowledged in the past, however, that “local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions”. In answer to the way in which this resolution was understood in the Windsor Report, it has been said that this statement was to be understood descriptively of a reality current in 2003 and not as permissive, and the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion prior to the 75th General Convention (2006) specifically denied that it was intended to authorise such rites.

It needs to be made clear however that we believe that the celebration of a public liturgy which includes a blessing on a same-sex union is not within the breadth of private pastoral response envisaged by the Primates in their Pastoral Letter of 2003, and that the undertaking made by the bishops in New Orleans is understood to mean that the use of any such rites or liturgies will not in future have the bishop’s authority “until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action, a qualification which is in line with the limits that the Constitution of The Episcopal Church places upon the bishops.

On this basis, we understand the statement of the House of Bishops in New Orleans to have met the request of the Windsor Report in that the Bishops have declared “a moratorium on all such public Rites”19, and the request of the Primates at Dar es Salaam that the bishops should “make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses” since we have their pledge explicitly in those terms.

The interpretation of the phrase: "the use of any such rites or liturgies will not in future have the bishop’s authority" will be hotly disputed. Does that constitute a prohibition? Is it opaque on purpose? Note also the phrase "On this basis" at the beginning of the last paragraph in the quotation.

Conclusion to Part One
(page 9)

By their answers to these two questions, we believe that the Episcopal Church has clarified all outstanding questions relating to their response to the questions directed explicitly to them in the Windsor Report, and on which clarifications were sought by 30th September 2007, and given the necessary assurances sought of them.

Obviously the breakaway right and the Primates aligned with Akinola will dispute this. Will others join them?

Regarding incursions by Primates of other provinces
(Page 11--the second sentence):

At Dar es Salaam, the primates sought to address these matters by proposing that The Episcopal Church turn to a particular group of bishops living and ministering within its life, who had publicly declared that they accepted both the standard of teaching expressed in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 and were unreservedly committed to the recommendations of the Windsor Report. In other words, the primates were indicating to those who felt alienated from the leadership of The Episcopal Church that there were identifiable bishops within The Episcopal Church able to meet the needs identified by the groups seeking alternative pastoral provision without the need for “foreign intervention”.

A pretty straightforward repudiation of the Peter Akinola/Henry Orombi/Benjamin Nzimbi/Emmanuel Kolini incursions that won't sit well on the separatist right.

Support for Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori's "episcopal visitors"
(Pages 11 and 12)

In her opening remarks to the House of Bishops, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori indicated to the assembled bishops that she had appointed eight Episcopal Visitors. ... We believe that these initiatives offer a viable basis on which to proceed. Bishop Jefferts Schori indicated that she deliberately left open and flexible the operation of the ministry of the Episcopal Visitors, believing that it was best for the visitor and the diocesan bishop concerned to work out an acceptable scheme. The Presiding Bishop laid down only two conditions: first, that such Episcopal visitors did not encourage dioceses or parishes to leave the Episcopal Church, and second, that the Episcopal Visitors would report occasionally to the Presiding Bishop. By leaving this ministry flexible for negotiation and development, we believe that the Presiding Bishop has opened a way forward. There is within this proposal the potential for the development of a scheme which, with good will on the part of all parties, could meet their needs.

Another blow to separatists.

Law suits
(page 12):

We are dismayed as a Joint Standing Committee by the continuing use of the law courts in this situation, and request that the Archbishop of Canterbury use his influence to persuade parties to discontinue actions in law on the basis set out in the primates’ Communiqué.

A plea unlikely to be heard by either side, except when there is a tactical advantage in appearing to be the more peaceable party.

The Pastoral Council Scheme from Dar es Salaam is dead, but the Panel of Reference may be resurrected.
(page 13):

We believe that the House of Bishops is correct in identifying that the co-operation and participation of the wider Communion, in a way which respects the integrity of the American Province, is an important element in addressing questions of pastoral oversight for those seeking alternative provision. We also believe that a body which could facilitate such consultation and partnership would meet the intent of the Pastoral Council envisaged by the Primates in their Communiqué. We encourage all the Instruments of Communion to participate in a discussion with the Presiding Bishop and the leadership of The Episcopal Church to discern a way in which to meet both the intentions behind the proposals in the Dar es Salaam Communiqué and this statement by the House of Bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury may wish to revisit the work and mandate of “The Panel of Reference” and to explore whether this body, or a reconstituted version of it, may have a part to play in this respect.

It is difficult to believe that the Committee sees potential in the PofR, which is disliked and mistrusted by left and right. The acknowledgment that the Pastoral Council Scheme, foisted on the world by the Anglican Communion Institute violated the integrity of a member province of the Communion is most welcome, however.

The flashpoint among flashpoints as far as the separatists are concerned
Page 14

As a Joint Standing Committee, we do not see how certain primates can in good conscience call upon The Episcopal Church to meet the recommendations of the Windsor Report while they find reasons to exempt themselves from paying regard to them.

"In good conscience" is very, very strong language. And not to put too fine a point on it, on Page 15, the Committee quotes the previous Archbishop of Canterbury George's Carey who wrote that the bishops consecrated for the Anglican Mission in America during his tenure were no bishops of the Anglican Communion, and in the following paragraph adds:

The current instances of consecrations which have been taking place in African Provinces with respect to “missionary initiatives” in North America would seem to fall into the same category. We understand that, in addition to contravening the authorities quoted above, the consecrations took place either without consultation with or even against the counsel of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

That's enough for now. There is ample language in this document to trouble proponents of the full inclusion of all of the baptized in the sacramental life of the Church as well. More on that tomorrow.

Update: one member of the Joint Standing Committee who disagrees with this report has made his voice heard. Is it maybe just a little curious that Bishop Mouneer Anis could not get his comments to the writers of the Standing Committee report in time for inclusion, but was able to get them into the hands of the Times of London two hours after the report was published?

Where is the fixation on poverty?

Statement 1, 28 August 2007:

Anglican churches will soon return to their mission to alleviate poverty, disease and injustice and abandon a "fixation" with homosexuality, says Anglican Bishop Trevor Mwamba....
...
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 (CAPA) meet in Mauritius from October 2-5.

Statement 2, 2 October 2007:
As Bishops from the African Anglican churches meet in Mauritius over the next few days we [the Church Society] recognise that they have serious and pressing issues to address such as evangelism, poverty, disease and injustice. We pray that God would prosper their efforts to proclaim Christ in Africa and elsewhere, and to transform society for His glory.

We know that many of them are disturbed by the apparent fixation of some in the western churches with promoting homosexual practice and changing the church’s traditional teaching based on Scripture.

My emphasis.

The Church Statement then proceeds to ask CAPA take time to fixate on homosexuality.

A recent BBC News report asked "Why can't Africa handle poverty"?

The UN says that halfway to the deadline, sub-Saharan Africa is unlikely to meet any of the poverty-busting goals - nor the benchmarks on education, health, and women's empowerment.

Anglican panel praises Episcopalians

Anglican panel praises Episcopalians according to the headline of the article by AP's religion writer Rachel Zoll, on the report of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council. She writes:

A world Anglican panel acknowledged Wednesday that Episcopal bishops are making some concessions to ease the turmoil they created in 2003 by consecrating their church's first openly gay bishop.

But the committee said that all sides in the long-running conflict over the Bible and homosexuality need to do much more to keep the beleaguered worldwide Anglican fellowship from splitting.


and adds,
But the committee had equally frank criticism of overseas Anglican conservatives who have been consecrating bishops to lead networks of breakaway parishes in the United States that rival the Episcopal Church. "We believe that the time is right for a determined effort to bring interventions to an end," the panel wrote.

Read it all here.

UPDATE:
The New York Times is reporting Panel Says Episcopalians Have Met Anglican Directive. Neela Banerjee writes:

In a victory for the Episcopal Church in its effort to remain in the Anglican Communion, a high-ranking Anglican advisory committee said Wednesday that Episcopal bishops had complied with a directive by Anglican leaders on same-sex unions and gay bishops.

And there's this from Rebecca Trounson of the Los Angeles Times:
the panel also appeared to rebuke several Anglican primates who had established networks of breakaway Episcopal parishes in the United States, calling for an end to such practices.

Same-sex blessings on the table in Ottawa

From the wires: While the Anglican Communion worldwide contemplates the U.S. House of Bishops response on the matter of, among other things, same-sex blessings, one Anglican synod in Canada—Ottawa—is tackling the issue head-on next week at their annual meeting.

The synod of the Anglican Church of Canada's Ottawa diocese will take up the issue of blessings for same-sex relationships when it meets Oct. 12-13.

Delegates to the regularly scheduled meeting of the synod, the diocese's governing body, are to vote on a motion urging them to request that their bishop grant permission for clergy to bless such unions.

The motion was put forward by Ron Chaplin, a member of the diocese's branch of Integrity, a support group for gay Anglicans, and Canon Garth Bulmer, rector of St. John the Evangelist, according to the Anglican Journal on its website www.anglicanjournal.com.

It reads: "Be it resolved that this synod requests that the bishop grant permission for clergy, whose conscience permits, to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages between same-sex couples, where one party is baptized; and that he authorizes an appropriate rite and guidelines for its use in supportive parishes."

The Ottawa diocese is the first to consider the matter since the triennial General Synod, the church's national governing body, agreed in June that same-sex blessings are "not in conflict" with core church doctrine.

The synod, however, declined by a slim margin to affirm the authority of dioceses to offer such blessings.

John Chapman, the new Ottawa diocesan bishop, said in a statement that if the motion passes, "it will leave the matter with the bishop to render a decision."

Source: Canadian Press

Related story from before The Lead's inception here.

Clarity vs. prolixity, and a missed opportunity

Louie Crew, writing at his site, offers an insight on why it's so important to choose your media channels wisely: the more wordy a given document (in this case, the report from the Joint Standing Committee), the less likely people are to actually read it. He does this by contrasting the document with Acts 15, which is an account of the Council of Jerusalem, the result of another disagreement in which "a relatively small group Christians has shocked the world by welcoming persons whose manner of life offends most Christians":

Acts 15 is far more readable than the report of the Joint Standing Committee :

Acts 15 reports its conclusions in 35 sentences (923 words), an average of 26.5 words long.
The Joint Standing Committee reports its conclusions in 274 sentences (10,359 words), an average of 37.8 words long.

Only 2% of the words in Acts 15 are 10+ characters long.
8% of the words are 10+ characters long in the report of the Joint Standing Committee

Acts 15 facilitates its reading with some mark of punctuation for an average of every 8 words.
The Joint Standing Committee report has punctuation for an average of only every 12 words.

Implications of using punctuation for readability to the strict copyeditor aside, what of the more than 100 journalists that attended the Episcopal House of Bishops meeting? Here at the Café, we've seen countless examples of spin, misunderstanding and just plain bad journalism, and even written about some of them to try and facilitate understanding.

Crew notes that the densely written JSC document was most likely intended for consumption by the Anglican Consultative Council, but wonders about the "missed opportunity" when so much time was obviously put in to these declarations, responses and reports (emphasis ours):

... The Joint Standing Committee and the Episcopal House of Bishops missed a major opportunity. Over 100 journalists were registered at the meeting in New Orleans, and thousands more were following it from afar. There is not enough money in the advertising budgets of all 38 provinces in the Communion to buy the time that the press gave freely to cover this occasion, and yet those two august groups spoke no clear and welcoming word to the world, whose attention they so rarely command.

How refreshing it would have been had the Committee reported: “We conclude that God still is no respecter of persons, that God loves absolutely everybody. All are welcome in the Anglican Communion!”

The whole thing is here.

Ministry and social media

At the recent Anglican Missions Conference in New Zealand, the Rev. Mark Brown presented a workshop on ‘Anglican Ministry in a Technological Age.’ He's adopted it for the web, and posted it over at his blog for the Anglican Church in Second Life.

The presentation is a wonderful overview of Web 2.0 and 3.0 technologies and how you might be able to find ways to create those presences for your youth group, church or diocese. Don't know what Web 2.0 and 3.0 are? Think of it like dimensions:

- Web 1.0 - one dimension. You have a website, people go there to get information. - Web 2.0 - two dimensions. Your website includes tools that allow people to talk to one another or to you, such as message boards, blogs, or links to communities in which people can participate, such as Facebook, MySpace, or LiveJournal communities. You also have multimedia content and have that available on your site as well as social media outlets such as YouTube. - Web 3.0 - Three dimensions. Your web presence includes the above plus communities within virtual worlds, such as Second Life.

Brown picks up some statistics (with references cited in his original post) that show why it's important to pay attention to these media vehicles, and it ties to a question of the very youth we're so fond of wanting to attract:

So what is the rate of internet usage in New Zealand? 2006 figures:

15-24 years of age - 85.5%
25-44 years of age - 79.8%
45-64 years of age - 66%
65-74 years of age - 38.7%
75+ years of age - 17.3%[4]

Research out of the US shows that most in the 12 – 28 age bracket expect interaction with Web 2.0.

Given this age bracket comprises a key demographic for the church the question has to be asked: “what percentage of churches utilize Web 2.0?” According to a survey completed in America by the Centre for Church Communication, the percentage of churches making use of this new communication method is only 10%. One could say it is like ships passing in the night.

But he also makes a very important point about how we use this technology as he discusses blogging (emphasis his, but we'd do the same):

Blogging is about sharing information and encouraging participation and engagement with that information. At any point in the life of a church or ministry there are a range of issues that need to be shared and discussed. An example: a church is working on a new mission statement. Traditionally this might be shared via the pulpit, through extraordinary meetings etc… With the addition of a blog, an article on the mission statement could be posted and congregation members encouraged to comment and debate the merits.

As with any technological offering, it exists to assist, not replace, our present face to face methods.

Read the entire primer here.

Also, it's worth noting that the Café is establishing a presence in some of these spaces as well. We've created Episcopal Café groups in Second Life and Facebook to allow our readers and friends to interact within these platforms. The Facebook group is here, a link you'll need a Facebook account to access. If you're in Second Life, do a "Search" in "Groups" for Episcopal Cafe and you'll find us.

Image problem or crisis?

If you have ever seen "Jesus, save me from your followers" as a bumper sticker, then you've seen a symptom of a real problem. David Kinnaman's new book (co-authored with Gabe Lyons), UnChristian, paints the picture revealing what may be the true cause of declining mainline church attendance in the 21st Century. Time takes a thoughtful look at "Christianity's Image Problem."

Back in 1996, a poll taken by Kinnaman's organization, the Barna Group, found that 83% of Americans identified themselves as Christians, and that fewer than 20% of non-Christians held an unfavorable view of Christianity. But, as Kinnaman puts it, "That was then."

New polls sampling 440 non-Christians (and a similar number of Christians, according to the report) between 16 and 29 found that 38 percent had a "bad impression" of present-day Christianity.

Kinnaman says non-Christians' biggest complaints about the faith are not immediately theological: Jesus and the Bible get relatively good marks. Rather, he sees resentment as focused on perceived Christian attitudes. Nine out of ten outsiders found Christians too "anti-homosexual," and nearly as many perceived it as "hypocritical" and "judgmental." Seventy-five percent found it "too involved in politics."

Not only has the decline in non-Christians' regard for Christianity been severe, but Barna results also show a rapid increase in the number of people describing themselves as non- Christian. One reason may be that the study used a stricter definition of "Christian" that applied to only 73% of Americans. Still, Kinnaman claims that however defined, the number of non- Christians is growing with each succeeding generation: His study found that 23% of Americans over 61 were non-Christians; 27% among people ages 42-60; and 40% among 16-29 year olds. Younger Christians, he concludes, are therefore likely to live in an environment where two out of every five of their peers is not a Christian.

Here's where it gets really interesting. According to this, you might well find that bumper sticker on the car of a young Christian, too:

Christians have always been aware of image problems with non-believers. Says Kinnaman: "The question is whether to care." But given the increasing non-Christian population and the fact that many of the concerns raised by non-believers are shared by young Christians, he says, there really is no option but to address the crisis.

The article is here, and other stories in the feature include an interview with the author, David Kinnaman, titled "Facing Christianity's Crisis" and older commentary by noted gay conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan--who suggests "that we take back the word Christian while giving the religious right a new adjective: Christianist. Christianity, in this view, is simply a faith. Christianism is an ideology, politics, an ism."

Updated: Because I reference the decline in church attendance, it's interesting to note that the Rev. Mike Kinman of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation seems to have reflected on it as well today on his blog and drawn a different but fascinating conclusion that again points to our shrinking world:

Besides people of every theological/political bent succumbing to the "post hoc ergo propter hoc" fallacy, which assumes that just because something preceded an event it caused that event (i.e. -- the church has declined since GenCon 2003 so that's what caused the decline), the debate is generally confined to finding "THE cause" for the decline. The world is much more complex than that (praise God!). And as much as we might not like to think so, individually and corporately we are all heavilly influenced by many societal factors. There is no ONE marker event cause for the decline. There are enormous global forces at work.

Read more here.

Episcopal Church featured on "In the Life"

American Public Televison's news and features program In the Life kicks off its 16th season with a report on the crisis in the Episcopal Church. The 15 minute report focuses on the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and will no doubt make a major media star of Calvary Episcopal Church rector, the Rev. Harold Lewis. Watch it now. Or find out when it is airing in your area.

Cut the Carbon walkers reach Lambeth

Lots to choose from in the current Church Times, but imagine walking from Boston to Chicago--a bit farther than that, actually--to make a point about carbon footprints. Eighteen people walked 1,000 miles, through Northern Ireland and around Britain, in the Cut the Carbon walk, sponsored by Christian Aid, that ended on Tuesday in London. The original marchers walked the final mile accompanied by an estimated 2,000 people and ended their journey at St. Paul's Cathedral.

They had started their journey on July 14 in Belfast, coming from countries all around the world--England, Ireland, Kenya, El Salvador, Brazil, India, Tajikistan, Congo, the Phillippines and more. They blogged the walk here, and 1,375 people also followed along on Facebook.

The Church Times reports:

They were greeted by the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu. As a walker himself, he told them not to worry about their blisters, because what mattered was that they had participated.

...

The oldest of the marchers to complete the walk was Merryn Hellier, a Methodist, who is 68. She said that Jesus had been on the march with them, “because so many people had their minds opened to realise the full misery of the problems that people overseas are suffering already”.

The former Bishop of Umzimvubu, Eastern Cape, South Africa, the Rt Revd Geoff Davies, who is 66 and runs the interfaith South African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute, and his wife Kate, 56, joined the march at Burton-on-Trent to walk the last 500 miles.

Care for the integrity of creation and sustaining and renewing life on earth was the fifth mark of mission and “core Gospel business”, he said. Climate change was an issue of justice because it hit the poor hardest. “We are seeking justice so we can have peace,” he said. “We are looking to Britain to set a lead.” The Church, as well as environmentalists, should call for “a green sabbath to cut carbon use”.

Tim Jones, 26, from London, had taken three months’ unpaid leave from the World Development Movement charity to join the march. “We hoped to inspire people to campaign,” he said.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd John Gladwin, told the marchers that they had “ blessed our country and islands with your feet and given us hope for the future”.

The story includes a wonderful picture of several bishops standing with the walkers outside the cathedral. It's here, and you can learn lots more about the walk and the campaign here.

Fixating on poverty

Reuters has a report from the first day of meeting of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA). Its president, Peter Akinola, emphasized that the council devoted its energies to Africa's most serious problems. An extract of the report:

QUATRE BORNES, Mauritius, Oct 4 (Reuters) - African Anglican archbishops ducked homosexuality, the issue dividing the worldwide Communion, on Thursday and instead drew attention to the poorest continent's problems.

Last month Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, one of the Church's fiercest critics of gay rights, blasted bishops from the U.S. Episcopal Church for "ignoring" pleas to take a clear stand against consecrating gay clergy or blessing gay unions.

Chairing a meeting of African archbishops in Mauritius, Akinola was at pains to avoid the topic.

"I'm trying to avoid dragging us into unnecessary controversy when there are more profitable things to talk about," he told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.

"This is Africa, and we would rather focus on those important things that affect us Africans."

The Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa said in a statement it was distressed by drought and floods, Zimbabwe's political oppression, the Darfur conflict, and HIV/AIDS.

The Café gets results? Perhaps, but more likely Akinola is responding to the desire of the membership to focus on Africa's problems - poverty, disease and injustice. Leadership of CAPA is determined by election by the membership.

Last year's CAPA meeting did focus on homosexuality. Stephen Noll participated in the drafting of "The Road to Lambeth."

Abp. Barry Morgan on New Orleans: the inside story

The Archbishop of Wales, a member of the Joint Standing Committee whose membership recently met with the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops, shares his thoughts about what happened in New Orleans and of the findings of the JSC in their report. His account is published in the Church Times.

At the end of an article, which recounts much of what we've already reported on from the House of Bishops meeting, he writes more specifically of what the JSC has done:

"The Joint Standing Committee agreed that the Episcopal Church had given the necessary assurances on these two issues. They saw that the Bishops had shifted ground considerably in passing these resolutions. The Committee consists of people of different views from provinces across the Communion: for it to come to this view speaks volumes of the real shift it believed the Bishops had made.

AS FOR THE pastoral care for dissenting minorities, the Presiding Bishop announced at the start of our meeting that she had appointed several bishops to minister to dioceses who found her ministry unacceptable (episcopal visitors). She felt that the theological stance of such bishops should be able to command the respect of the dissenting congregations. This was endorsed by the House of Bishops.

The Bishops also agreed that they would welcome discussion with the Instruments of Communion about these pastoral arrangements. Again, therefore, there was a general feeling in the Joint Standing Committee that the spirit of the resolutions about a pastoral council and primatial vicar had been met, while it understood why these precise suggestions made by the Primates could not be implemented.

The Committee felt strongly that, just as Windsor had had trenchant things to say to the Episcopal Church, it had also had equally trenchant things to say about interventions by other jurisdictions, and that these should now come to an end.

It was felt that if certain Primates called on the Episcopal Church to meet the recommendations of the Windsor report, they themselves could not be exempt from paying attention to some of its other recommendations, especially since interventions in other provinces had been condemned by successive Lambeth Conferences.

The House of Bishops rightly reminded us of the second part of Lambeth 1.10, reiterated by the Windsor report, about ‘the need to take seriously our ministry to gay and lesbian people inside the Church and the ending of persecution, discrimination and violence against them’. Selective adherence to only some parts of Lambeth Resolutions, while totally ignoring others, is not acceptable if the Communion as a whole is to retain its credibility.

During our time at New Orleans, some of us joined the Bishops in helping to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In the richest nation on earth, there are still hundreds of houses in a state of dereliction. It was also a timely reminder to all of us that there are other issues of vital importance about which we ought to be concerned."

Read the rest here.

Abp. Orombi criticizes the New Orleans report

The Primate of Uganda, Henry Orombi, has spoken out on the reasons that he chose not to attend the Joint Standing Committee's meeting with the House of Bishop's in New Orleans. He is a member of the JSC, as is the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

In addition Archbishop Orombi critiques the "coaching" of the American House of Bishops as they made their response to the Dar es Salaam Communiqué.

"[He] said he was suspicious that the joint standing committee presence would prevent an honest response from the Episcopal bishops, and therefore he declined to attend.

The joint standing committee report was released this week without endorsement from four of the 13 members who attended. Bishop Mouneer Anis, Primate of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, has subsequently issued a minority report, objecting to the process by which the report was developed and its conclusion that the bishops’ response was acceptable.

‘The report is severely compromised and further tears the existing tear in the fabric of our beloved Anglican Communion,’ Archbishop Orombi wrote. ‘It is gravely lamentable that our Instruments of Communion have missed the opportunity in this moment to begin the healing that is so necessary for our future.’"

There have been allegations of interference in the work of the Instruments of Unity before this particular meeting.

Read the rest of the article at the Living Church

Jonathan Petre forsees an almighty pile-up looming

Jonathan Petre writes of his predictions about what the Anglican Communion might be facing in the next couple of years. He is hearing of plans next month to adopt dissident groups of American Episcopalians into other Provinces and structures of the Anglican Communion than the American one. Petre speculates on the repercussions such an action would have for the rest of the Communion:

"Sometime in November, a conservative archbishop is planning to announce radical plans to adopt a breakaway group of conservative American dioceses,and the resulting collision could prove very messy indeed. Under the plans, between three and five dioceses will - over a period of time - opt out of The Episcopal Church and affiliate with the conservative province thousands of miles away. The proposals, which I have seen, have been drawn up over a number of months and follow extensive consultations between the bishops of the American dioceses and their counterparts in the province concerned. Lawyers have advised the American dioceses that they should enjoy greater protection than parishes when it comes to the inevitable tug-of-war with the litigious leadership of the Episcopal Church over property because they are deemed to be legal entities in their own right. The dioceses will, however, have to respect all the legal niceties before opting out - most have to confirm fundamental constitutional changes at two subsequent meetings of their diocesan synods - so the realignment is expected to be staggered."

He continues in a later paragraph:

While Dr Williams was in New Orleans, he gave every indication that he was prepared to do almost anything to keep the Americans within the fold as long as they produced a “defensible” compromise. But whether he can plausibly defend the statement produced by the Americans remains to be seen, and much will now depend on the reaction of moderate conservatives such as the Primate of the West Indies, Archbishop Drexel Gomez. In a newspaper interview a year ago, he revealed that he had a “nightmare” that the Communion would disintegrate into warring factions, bankrupting themselves in protracted legal battles over property. He painted a bleak picture of rival Anglican churches competing with each other on the same street. His nightmare is fast becoming reality.

Read the rest of Petre's article

Mark Harris has posted his analysis of the situation, and shares his thoughts about who the "conservative primate" mentioned in the piece above might be:

On the assumption that Mr. Petrie has the goods, I think Stephen Bates may be right about the who. The Province of the Southern Cone (PSC) has already done this in taking in the deposed bishop of Recife. I have heard of the "extensive conversations" going on in Argentina regarding these matters but cannot verify them by a second reference. I believe they have indeed gone on and unless wiser heads prevail I suspect Bates was right in naming the PSC. Mr. Petrie is holding matters close to his chest. Why? If he is at all an independent reporter he ought to let the cat out of the bag. Just who is the "conservative Primate" in question?

The rest of Harris' analysis is here.

Canterbury Press to publish Bishop Robinson's book

According to Bookseller.com;

"Canterbury Press has bought the memoir of Bishop Gene Robinson from US Episcopal publisher Morehouse. The book, In the Eye of the Storm, will be published in April 2008.

In 2003, Robinson was elected Bishop of New Hampshire, the first openly gay man to be appointed to such a position. The election sparked a storm of controversy which, according to Canterbury Press, is changing the face of Anglicanism worldwide.

The book will see Robinson reflecting on his faith, his life and the controversy. Christine Smith, publishing director of Canterbury Press, said:'Gene Robinson has an incredible story to tell and a depth of humanity and humility to reveal to all who are willing to listen.'"

Canterbury Press is an imprint of Hymns Ancient & Modern, Ltd, an publishing house that has a long history of service to the Church of England

Read the rest: theBookseller.com

Rowan Williams speaks out on Iraq

The BBC is reporting the Archbishop of Canterbury's critique of humanitarian and security situation in Iraq. His words are in response to his trip to Syria where he had the opportunity to meet with a number of Iraqi refugees and to hear their stories and first-hand reports of life in that country:

"The Iraq conflict has wreaked 'terrible damage' on the region - far more than has been acknowledged, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

Dr Rowan Williams said 'urgent attention' was needed to stabilise the country.

[...]Dr Williams also said he regards any further 'deliberate destabilisation' of the region - such as action against Syria and Iran - as 'criminal, ignorant...and potentially murderous folly'.

Referring to US political advisers, he added that 'we do hear talk from some quarters of action against Syria, or against Iran'.

'I can't understand what planet such persons are living on when you see the conditions that are already there. The region is still a tinderbox,' Dr Williams said.

Earlier, the archbishop said 'events of the last few years have done terrible damage in the whole of this region'.

He said many people 'do not see the cost in human terms of the war which was unleashed'.

Dr Williams concluded: 'Security that will enable these people to return to Iraq depends on a settlement for the whole of that country guaranteeing the liberty and dignity of every minority.'"

Read the rest here.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world...

While we were focused on the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans and its aftermath, sane people everywhere were spending their time in other pursuits, such as listening to Magic, the new Bruce Springsteen album, watching last night's season premier episode of Friday Night Lights, and finding other soul nourishing fare in the sometimes toxic stew of our popular culture.

Here is EW on the album, and the The New Yorker on FNL. Please leave a comment if you believe that God is a Red Sox fan. Those who hold a differing view are invited to contemplate it in the silence of thier prayer closets.

And for an old column of mine on the theological implications of the Subway Series of 2000, pay a visit here.

African Primates wrap up meeting

The biggest news from the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa is the election of a theological moderate, the Most Rev. Ian Ernest, Archbishop of the Province of the Indian Ocean, to succeed the decidedly un-moderate Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria as chair. CAPA released two statements, one on Africa, and another from the CAPA Primates, on the crisis in the Anglican Communion.

The communiqué on the Communion urges the following:

6. In our considered opinion, however, there is a possible way forward. The Anglican Communion Covenant is the one way for us to uphold our common heritage of faith while at the same time holding each one of us accountable to those teachings that have defined our life together and also guide us into the future. We therefore propose the following actions:

a. Call a special session of the Primates Meeting. We believe that meeting together is essential if we are prayerfully to allow the Holy Spirit to work through our interactions and bring us to a common mind. We would need to:

i. Review the actual response made by The Episcopal Church – both their words and their actions.

ii. Finalize the Covenant proposal and set a timetable for ratification by individual provinces.

b. Postpone current plans for the Lambeth Conference. We recognize that such an action will be costly, however, we believe that the alternative – a divided conference with several provinces unable to participate and hundreds of bishops absent would be much more costly to our life and witness. It would bring an end to the Communion, as we know it. Postponement will accomplish the following:

i. Allow the current tensions to subside and leave room for the hard work of reconciliation that must be done.

ii. Ensure that those invited to the Lambeth Conference have already endorsed the Covenant and so can come together as witness to our common faith.

Readers who recall that Archbishop Ernest is actually a member of the Lambeth Conference Design Group will scratch their heads over this. The newly elected Primate of Southern Africa, Thabo Makgoba, is also a member of the design team.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has declined several times to postpone the Lambeth Conference, and seems unlikely to change his mind. It is worth noting that many African bishops have already accepted their invitations to Lambeth, including some whose primates claim to be out of communion with the Episcopal Church. So it is unclear how much support the commmuniqué has among the bishops for whom it purports to speak.

Archbishop Ernest was a Proctor Scholar at the Episcopal Divinity School in the fall term, 2005. During the time he was interviewed by Episcopal News Service:

Having spent a month visiting dioceses and seminaries in the Episcopal Church in an effort to forge closer relationships between the two provinces, Ernest said, "Many of us don't want to leave the Anglican Communion or put it at risk. We need to have all hands together ... with mutual respect."

Ernest, a member of the 2008 Lambeth Conference Design Group Committee, said that he felt privileged to be visiting the Episcopal Church and was happy to bring greetings from his brother bishops from Africa "because most of them think like me -- we want to maintain communion and we want to foster partnerships and a spirit of community..."

.

Find a photograph of the archbishop here.

Raiders of the faux ark

Eric H. Cline writes in The Boston Globe:

Noah's Ark. The Ark of the Covenant. The Garden of Eden. Sodom and Gomorrah. The Exodus. The Lost Tomb of Jesus. All have been "found" in the last 10 years, including one within the past six months. The discoverers: a former SWAT team member; an investigator of ghosts, telepathy, and parapsychology; a filmmaker who calls himself "The Naked Archeologist"; and others, none of whom has any professional training in archeology.

We are living in a time of exciting discoveries in biblical archeology. We are also living in a time of widespread biblical fraud, dubious science, and crackpot theorizing. Some of the highest-profile discoveries of the past several years are shadowed by accusations of forgery, such as the James Ossuary, which may or may not be the burial box of Jesus' brother, as well as other supposed Bible-era findings such as the Jehoash Tablet and a small ivory pomegranate said to be from the time of Solomon. Every year "scientific" expeditions embark to look for Noah's Ark, raising untold amounts of money from gullible believers who eagerly listen to tales spun by sincere amateurs or rapacious con men; it is not always easy to tell the two apart.

Read it all.

A defense of deviation

Tikkun asks:

The evolving and growing complexity of the human brain allowed our ancestors the ability to question, wonder, and consider new possibilities—to be creative. Life altering advances were the result. Is unconditional adherence to dogma (whether religious or secular) at odds with this evolved capability and our full potential as creative beings?

Read it all. The either/or dichotomy being offered here feels a little dogmatic in and of itself, but the article is intriguing, nonetheless. (Hat tip aldaily.com.)

Gangs and God

With books like The Cross and the Switchbade, the story of young pastors ministering to gang members became a cliche many years ago. As the Christian Century reports in its cover story this month, however, there is some very good and important ministry occurring that is focused on gang members--and not just in urban areas:

At a recent gathering of ministers, I asked a colleague what was new at her parish. "I've been doing a lot with gang ministry," said Maria Edmonds, a pastor in a small town in the mountains of North Carolina. "I'm trying to get gang members into the church. They're not accepted anywhere else. So I figure Jesus would have me spend time with them."

There are few images in our culture more frightening than that of the gang member: tattooed, armed, as likely to shoot you as look at you—as part of the member's demand for "respect." Millions of dollars are spent each year at the federal level and in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago to combat gang activity and reduce gang-related violence. And as the North Carolina pastor found out, gangs are also a feature of life in many small towns.

How does the church minister to youths in street gangs and to neighborhoods marked by their presence? An even more daring question: Is there something the church can learn from the gangs? (There was a time when the church was reviled as dangerously antisocial because it provided an alternative identity and community.) From urban to rural settings, I found that churches are meeting the challenge of the gangs in a variety of creative ways. While political leaders and police focus largely on suppressing gangs, church groups are stepping in to offer alternative forms of community.

The article tells the story of how a variety of churches have engaged with gang members--often developing a gang ministry by accident:

Pastor Edmonds wasn't seeking to start a ministry to gang members. She just listened, and found out that it was what kids in Franklin needed. Franklin is located in traditionally poor Appalachian country, though an influx of retirees and vacationers is changing the economic picture. The town's location between Atlanta and Charlotte makes it a highway stop for drugs as well, especially crystal meth.

Early in her tenure as associate pastor at First United Methodist Church, a teenager in the church named Robin died unexpectedly while alone at a friend's house. He was the leader of a skateboarding gang named Toxic. The circumstances of his death raised questions. Church members pondered what went wrong, what they could have done differently and what they should do now.

Skateboarders are considered a public nuisance in Macon County. Skating on public property is against the law—a law that skaters break because they see their activity as no different from, say, playing basketball. But police in Franklin stop a kid simply for carrying a skateboard; he might, after all, be about to break the law.

Edmonds had been trying to befriend the skater kids before Robin's death, bringing Kool-Aid to the places where they skated. After his death, she sensed their need for a special kind of service. She purchased a skateboard that Robin had put on layaway, placed it at the front of the sanctuary and encouraged the kids to write farewell messages to Robin on it. A hundred kids came for the unconventional memorial service. Many were in a church sanctuary for the first time. Edmonds let them tell their stories and "have their time with this space." She spoke briefly to them about heaven as a skate park.

Edmonds suggested that the church offer the kids a space to gather and skate. Ramps were built, a church member with an insurance agency supplied the needed coverage, and The Walk was born. Once a week kids gather to skate, hang out, eat together and take part in a devotional. Since this is Appalachia, many kids need further help: clothes, dental care and adult guidance—and parishioners provide it. Some kids count on The Walk for their most regular meal of the week (one brought his elderly grandfather for the food the night I was there). Some almost always wear sweatshirts and T-shirts from The Walk—they don't have many other clothes. This year, for the first time, kids from The Walk will graduate from high school on time. Others have found permanent jobs with the church's help.

Read it all here.

Searching for God in the brain

Does religious belief have origins in neuroscience? Can we pinpoint the location of a mystical experience? Using the tools of modern neuroscience, several scientists are attempting to explore the biological origins of faith:

The doughnut-shaped machine swallows the nun, who is outfitted in a plain T-shirt and loose hospital pants rather than her usual brown habit and long veil. She wears earplugs and rests her head on foam cushions to dampen the device’s roar, as loud as a jet engine. Supercooled giant magnets generate intense fields around the nun’s head in a high-tech attempt to read her mind as she communes with her deity.

The Carmelite nun and 14 of her Catholic sisters have left their cloistered lives temporarily for this claustrophobic blue tube that bears little resemblance to the wooden prayer stall or sparse room where such mystical experiences usually occur. Each of these nuns answered a call for volunteers “who have had an experience of intense union with God” and agreed to participate in an experiment devised by neuroscientist Mario Beauregard of the University of Montreal. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Beauregard seeks to pinpoint the brain areas that are active while the nuns recall the most powerful religious epiphany of their lives, a time they experienced a profound connection with the divine. The question: Is there a God spot in the brain?

The spiritual quest may be as old as humankind itself, but now there is a new place to look: inside our heads. Using fMRI and other tools of modern neuroscience, researchers are attempting to pin down what happens in the brain when people experience mystical awakenings during prayer and meditation or during spontaneous utterances inspired by religious fervor.

Such efforts to reveal the neural correlates of the divine—a new discipline with the warring titles “neurotheology” and “spiritual neuroscience”—not only might reconcile religion and science but also might help point to ways of eliciting pleasurable otherworldly feelings in people who do not have them or who cannot summon them at will. Because of the positive effect of such experiences on those who have them, some researchers speculate that the ability to induce them artificially could transform people’s lives by making them happier, healthier and better able to concentrate. Ultimately, however, neuroscientists study this question because they want to better understand the neural basis of a phenomenon that plays a central role in the lives of so many. “These experiences have existed since the dawn of humanity. They have been reported across all cultures,” Beauregard says. “It is as important to study the neural basis of [religious] experience as it is to investigate the neural basis of emotion, memory or language.”

Read it all here.

Chimps, humans and notions of fairness

Apparently it is "Science Sunday" here at The Lead. But bear with us, this story too has a connection to faith. It turns out that one of the characteristics that distinguish humans from chimpanzees (our closest relative) is that we have inherent notions of fairness--and chimps do not.

In a recent experiment announced in Science, scientists at the Max Planck Institute found that chimpanzees act as economic maximizers, but humans do not. The Economist describes the experiment:

Economic theory has contrived a species it calls Homo economicus—a “rational maximiser” who grabs what he can for himself. But, curiously, he makes no appearance in the ultimatum game, a classic economics experiment.

In this game, two players, a proposer and a responder, divide a reward. It could be a cake. It could be cash. It could even be a bunch of grapes. The game is so named because the proposition is an ultimatum. The responder can either accept the division or reject it. If he rejects it, both players receive nothing.

Homo economicus would accept any division in which his share was not zero. But that is not what happens. Scores of studies have run the ultimatum game across cultures and ages. Universally, people reject any share lower than 20%—apparently to punish the greed of the proposer. People do not act like Homo economicus. Instead, they are the arbiters of fairness.

To find out if chimpanzees share this sense of fairness, Keith Jensen and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, designed a way for chimps to play the ultimatum game. Their version started with a pair of trays far from the players' cages. Each tray had ten raisins divided in different ways between two pots—say eight and two, or five and five. One chimp was allotted the role of proposer. He could choose one of the trays, pulling it by way of a rope just halfway to the cage. The other, the responder, could then choose to pull on a rod, bringing the tray close enough for both to get the raisins, one pot for each. If the responder chose not to pull the tray closer within a minute, the offer was considered rejected, and the game concluded.

The result, which Dr Jensen reports in Science, is that chimps are simply rational maximisers—Pan economicus, if you like. Though proposers consistently chose the highest possible number of raisins for themselves, responders rarely rejected even the stingiest offers.

This is a telling outcome. A number of researchers in the field of human evolution think that a sense of fairness—and a willingness to punish the unfair even at some cost to oneself—is humanity's “killer app”. It is what allows large social groups to form. Without it, free-riders would ruin such groups, because playing fair would cease to have any value. Dr Jensen's previous experiments have shown that chimpanzees are willing to punish actual thieves. But his new data add weight to the theory that the more sophisticated idea of fair shares, which underpins collaborative behaviour, appeared in the hominid line only after the ancestors of the two species split from one another.

And another set of experiments using this same game ahve found a genetic basis for our sense of fairness:

As they write in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Bjorn Wallace of the Stockholm School of Economics and his colleagues have shown this by playing the ultimatum game with twins. They used the classic trick of neutralising the effect of upbringing and exposing that of genetics by comparing identical twins (who share all their genes) with fraternal twins (who share half).

Each twin of a pair played the ultimatum game, both as proposer and as responder. Dr Wallace found, in the case of identical twins, a striking correlation between the average division that each member of a pair proposed and also between what they were willing to accept. In other words, their senses of what was fair were similar. No such correlations were seen in the behaviour of fraternal twins.

Besides showing that a sense of fairness has a genetic basis, this result also raises a question: why should the sense of what is fair be so variable? It may be that in a population of the fair, the unfair prosper while amongst the unfair, the fair are better off. The result would be an equilibrium in which various attitudes to fairness do just as well as each other. But why, exactly, that should be the case is a subject for another day's research project.

Read it all here. You can learn more about the chimp experiment here, and more about the twin experiment here.

Many Christian apologists--most notably C.S. Lewis (and more recently Francis Collins) have argued that our unique human innate sense of morality is itself evidence of the existence of God. Do these recent experiments suggest a biological explanation for this innate "moral law"?

David Anderson attacks the Archbishop of Canterbury

David Anderson, newly elected as bishop in the Church of Nigeria and President & CEO of the American Anglican Council (AAC), has released a letter that attacks the Archbishop of Canterbury — and in doing so compares the Archbishop to the collaborationist Vichy French during World War II.

You really need to read the letter in its entirely. Here are some "highlights:"

Why has Rowan Williams overlooked the facts given him and welcomed the Episcopal Church to Lambeth anyway? The AAC provided Archbishop Williams with comprehensive documentation of the Episcopal Church’s words and actions relating to compliance with Dar es Salaam, usually in their own words, in direct quotes, with sources footnoted and internet weblinks. Did he bother to read it? Some pundits and commentators expected the Archbishop of Canterbury to actually review the facts, weigh the facts fairly and accurately, and properly discipline the current official branch of American Anglicanism, TEC.

Williams not only came to New Orleans with a closed mind to the provable facts, he came with a plan to swiftly undercut the orthodox Global South and those orthodox Americans whom they have supported. Within days, the optimistic pundits and commentators who thought that Dr. Williams cared about the morality and integrity of the Communion, cared about the Windsor Report, cared about the Dromantine and Dar es Salaam Communiques, were shown to be mistaken. What Dr. Williams cares about is holding onto American financial support, holding onto the revisionist provinces of England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and allowing the pantheistic and homosexual agendas to continue their unfolding and flourishing.

. . .

With ears carefully turned to Lambeth, we find that Rowan Williams is determined that Lambeth 2008 will absolutely take place, and on his terms.

The AAC has been advised from trustworthy sources that Dr. Williams is already obligated for Lambeth Conference costs in Canterbury next summer, which means that if he cancels it, he is still responsible for most of the costs of the conference anyway. In order to secure their booking for the University of Kent, which is the venue for the Lambeth Conference of Bishops, one deposit of £440,000 (about $880,000 USD) was due on October 1, with a second payment for the same amount due on December 1. Did he receive the amount of money needed for the first payment in time to meet the October 1 deadline? Was this why his actions to secure a blessing for TEC were so frantic?

Perhaps he already had the down payment in hand for the October 1 installment, but he knows that the next deadline is December 1 when he will need another £440,000 (or $880,000 USD). Where will he acquire such enormous funds? If TEC is neither invited to Lambeth nor given a passing grade, the Lambeth Conference would be in as much trouble financially as a well known bank in the UK which had to be suddenly rescued. Who will rescue Lambeth and Rowan Williams? Would TEC put the envelope in the mail if they were treated favorably? The New Orleans Statement pressed for an invitation to Lambeth for Bishop Gene Robinson and offered to help the Archbishop of Canterbury achieve that. What might this help be? Stressors and motivations like these, though unseen by the public, are constant factors in the relationship between Canterbury and TEC. Sadly, that relationship is determining the direction and focus of a 77 million member church.

. . .

Let’s watch the news carefully over the next eight weeks. Will Dr. Williams coerce a slight majority of Primates to agree favorably towards TEC? Will Dr. Williams find the £440,000 for the next installment due December 1 and save both face and the Lambeth Conference - at least until the next installment is due? Follow the money and watch for updates as answers to these questions become available. Watch for the official announcement from Dr. Williams that TEC is OK, and then later, that Gene Robinson is coming to Lambeth. Am I wrong on this analysis? I believe I am spot on, but I am willing to issue a challenge to Lambeth Palace: prove me wrong.

The Williams/Jefferts Schori theory for pacification of the Anglican troubles bears some comparison with France during the Occupation. During the Second World War, French leaders who wanted to “save” France from further German destruction used well-meaning and even heroic figures to form the Vichy government. Although it may have saved Paris from destruction, it wound up sending most of France’s Jews to the death camps. According to the Jefferts Schori plan, which is a major downgrading of the Dar es Salaam plan, a few American orthodox bishops would agree to partner with Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and her Vichy-style accommodation, and all the churches which have left TEC would be forced back into TEC under their pastoral care. I do not believe that any parish, vestry member, clergy or diocese that has been personally sued by TEC, had their health insurance jerked out from under them, had their property confiscated, their pensions lost or frozen, and publicly deposed when they had already announced they had left, would ever forget why they left and why they can not go back. The current Episcopal Church cannot and will not repent. The AAC would caution any orthodox TEC bishops who might consider such an arrangement that they would be putting themselves on the wrong side of history. Such a plan will fail because the parishes which have left TEC will not go back to TEC, not even to a collaborationist accommodation. If forced hard enough they will leave Canterbury Anglicanism, but they will not go back. Does Rowan Williams not care?

One can easily imagine a divided Anglicanism with the revisionist provinces centered upon Dr. Williams and Canterbury, complete with those who are pantheistic and support the pro-homosexual agenda, as well as those who just want to linger on the sidelines and benefit from the financial bread that falls from the table. The other side of a divided Anglicanism might be the orthodox Anglicans from all over the world, based in the Global South, free from both Canterbury and York, and looking to the Christian essentials of what Anglicanism is really about.

Read it all here at Anglican Mainstream posted by Chris Sugden.

Thanks to Thinking Anglicans for initially drawing the letter to our attention.

Are clerical collars dangerous?

A security consultant for the Church of England has recommended that clergy in that church change some long cherished ways of doing business, including giving up wearing the clerical collar, in the interest of safety.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Jonathan Wynne-Jones says that the recommendations came after the murder last March of the Rev. Paul Bennett, vicar of St Fagan's Church in Trecynon. This was the fifth murder of a cleric in a decade.

A new report warns clergy that the collars make them an "easy target" and says they should adopt more casual clothing in a bid to give them greater safety....

Other safety measures proposed include disguising the whereabouts of the vicarage by taking down signs and ensuring that the front doors of their homes do not have a letter box that people can look through.


The report says that attacking a member of the clergy is seen by most criminals as "no different to attacking a shopkeeper, robbing an old lady or any other member of society." Between 1997 and 1999, 12 per cent of clergy were assaulted and seven out of ten were abused or threatened.

The recommendation to dispense with the clerical collar has met with resistance.

The Rev David Houlding, a prebendary at St Paul's cathedral, attacked the recommendation as a "silly, fashionable idea".

"I feel much safer wearing my dog collar when I'm walking through the streets at night. There is still an air of respect to it," he said. "Most of the time I wear it every day. It's my uniform. We'd lose our presence in the community and our witness."

He argued that he is well aware of the risks of being a cleric, but that he has already made sensible changes, such as refusing to see people on their own at the vicarage.

The report was submitted to an adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, according the Telegraph, will then send it to dioceses ahead of a meeting next year at which the Church will decide whether to endorse the proposals.

Read: Vicars urged to drop 'risky' dog collars in the Telegraph. The Church Times also has an article on the subject.

Halo as bait

Instead of a video game that shoots up a church, some evangelical churches are using a violent first person shooter video game in attempt to 'hook' teenage males into the Gospel message.

The New York Times reported yesterday how some congregations set up marathon sessions that allow groups of teens to play Halo 3, the mega-best-selling X-Box game that features the main character known only as the Master Chief who is armed to the teeth with all kinds of exotic weapons as he shoots up aliens in a mythical war. The game combines elements of a story-telling video game and a classic first-person shooter.

[In] the basement on a recent Sunday at the Colorado Community Church in the Englewood area of Denver, where Tim Foster, 12, and Chris Graham, 14, sat in front of three TVs, locked in violent virtual combat as they navigated on-screen characters through lethal gun bursts. Tim explained the game’s allure: “It’s just fun blowing people up.”

Once they come for the games, Gregg Barbour, the youth minister of the church said, they will stay for his Christian message. “We want to make it hard for teenagers to go to hell,” Mr. Barbour wrote in a letter to parents at the church.

Evangelical churches have been adept at experimenting with marrying popular secular culture with a gospel message, but this has many evangelical leaders unhappy. For one thing, the game is rated "M," which means that in theory the game should not be bought by those under 17 years of age. Some parents wonder at the wisdom of a church supplying and sanctioning a game that they would not allow in their own homes.

A more basic question is whether the theme and game play of relentless violence can be appropriately connected with the Christian Gospel.


But the question arises: What price to appear relevant? Some parents, religious ethicists and pastors say that Halo may succeed at attracting youths, but that it could have a corroding influence. In providing Halo, churches are permitting access to adult-themed material that young people cannot buy on their own.

“If you want to connect with young teenage boys and drag them into church, free alcohol and pornographic movies would do it,” said James Tonkowich, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a nonprofit group that assesses denominational policies. “My own take is you can do better than that.”

Daniel R. Heimbach, a professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, believes that churches should reject Halo, in part because it associates thrill and arousal with killing.

“To justify whatever killing is involved by saying that it’s just pixels involved is an illusion,” he said.

On the other hand,

Hundreds of churches use Halo games to connect with young people, said Lane Palmer, the youth ministry specialist at the Dare 2 Share Ministry, a nonprofit organization in Arvada, Colo., that helps churches on youth issues.

“It’s very pervasive,” Mr. Palmer said, more widespread on the coasts, less so in the South, where the Southern Baptist denomination takes a more cautious approach. The organization recently sent e-mail messages to 50,000 young people about how to share their faith using Halo 3. Among the tips: use the game’s themes as the basis for a discussion about good and evil.

At Sweetwater Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., Austin Brown, 16, said, “We play Halo, take a break and have something to eat, and have a lesson,” explaining that the pastor tried to draw parallels “between God and the devil.”

Gregg Barbour, youth pastor at the Colorado Community Church wrote in a letter to parents, tthat God calls ministers to be “fishers of men.”

“Teens are our ‘fish,” he wrote. “So we’ve become creative in baiting our hooks.”

Read: Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except in a Popular Video Game at Church

A nation full of Christians, but a Christian nation?

Does a nation full of Christians make for a Christian nation? Newsweek editor Jon Mecheam writes an op-ed in today's New York Times reminds us that while America may be full of Christians, that does not make America a Christian nation.

He shows us that Thomas Jefferson, an Anglican, said that his bill for religious liberty in Virginia was “meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindu, and infidel of every denomination.”

Mecham also relates how fellow Anglican George Washington wrote to a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island said, “happily the government of the United States ... gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance. ... Everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

But when Episcopally- (and Virginia-) -raised Baptist John McCain said to beliefnet.com that “the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation” it was enough to make the former scourge of the religious right earn an 8 out of 10 on beliefnet's God-o-meter.

Mecheam writes in rebuttal to what he calls an article of faith among many evangelical Christians:

According to Scripture, however, believers are to be wary of all mortal powers. Their home is the kingdom of God, which transcends all earthly things, not any particular nation-state. The Psalmist advises believers to “put not your trust in princes.” The author of Job says that the Lord “shows no partiality to princes nor regards the rich above the poor, for they are all the work of his hands.” Before Pilate, Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” And if, as Paul writes in Galatians, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” then it is difficult to see how there could be a distinction in God’s eyes between, say, an American and an Australian. In fact, there is no distinction if you believe Peter’s words in the Acts of the Apostles: “I most certainly believe now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is welcome to him.”

The kingdom Jesus preached was radical. Not only are nations irrelevant, but families are, too: he instructs those who would be his disciples to give up all they have and all those they know to follow him.

He goes on:

The founders were not anti-religion. Many of them were faithful in their personal lives, and in their public language they evoked God. They grounded the founding principle of the nation — that all men are created equal — in the divine. But they wanted faith to be one thread in the country’s tapestry, not the whole tapestry.

Read:A Nation of Christians Is Not a Christian Nation

For more on how candidates make use of religious language to appeal to religious voters (and to get an idea of what politicians think religious people want to hear) see the God-o-meter on www.beliefnet.com, which is done in partnership with TIME.

For the Bible Tells Me So

Daniel Karslake has created a documentary telling the story of devout Christians who learn their child is gay and how that affected their belief that same-sex relationships are prohibited by Scripture.

The film is designed to reach beyond people who accept partnered gays and lesbians to reach what Karslake calls "the moveable middle." He spoke at a private screening Monday at New York's Marble Collegiate Church.

According to Rachel Zoll of the Associate Press,

Karslake, who is gay and a mainline Protestant, believes that ''sincere, honorable, compassionate people'' have been misled about how they should read the Bible.

The documentary features many pro-gay veterans of the theological debates.

Among them is the Rev. Mel White, the former ghost writer for the Rev. Jerry Falwell and founder of the gay and lesbian advocacy group Soulforce.

So is Jimmy Creech, the former United Methodist pastor who lost his clergy credentials in the late 1990s for conducting same-sex union ceremonies. South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Rev. Peter Gomes, the prominent preacher and Harvard Divinity School professor, also make a case for acceptance.

But the movie largely focuses on the personal stories of some well-known -- and not-so-famous -- mothers and fathers of gays and lesbians.

The parents of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, talk about how they knew nothing about homosexuality until Robinson came out to them. They bought some books about ''gay folks'' and decided that what they had been taught was wrong.

Former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, a Missouri Democrat, and his family talk about his daughter Chrissy, who is a lesbian.

A Bible-believing African-American couple from North Carolina, David and Brenda Poteat, told Karslake that while they still disapprove of homosexuality, they have found a way to build a good relationship with their lesbian daughter, Tonia.

And a woman who was raised to interpret the Bible literally tells of her daughter's suicide after her mother repeatedly said she would never accept the girl as a lesbian.

Read: A different approach: Documentary explores religion and homosexuality debate through Christian parents of gays

See also the web-site for the documentary: For the Bible Tells Me So.

Rock on

Graham Nash says "the world is in such peril. Most religions are being taken over by people who want to kill their neighbors. I find it so unreligious to kill people in the name of God. But we have to start by first taking care of things at home." And so, at the invitation of Bishop John Chane of of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Nash and David Crosby are going to round up as many musicians as they can for a concert on Pray for Peace Day on October 16th at the National Cathedral.

The concert is a short break from the tour that brings them to the Borgata in Atlantic City on Saturday. A good deal of the program will undoubtedly focus on music you've heard before - "Marrakesh Express," "Teach Your Children," "Military Madness," "Chicago"/"We Can Change the World," and "Immigration Man" - but Nash hints there will be some tracks from the CD he is working on.

When performing with Neil Young and Stephen Stills, the crew has been a supergroup since 1968 - a band known as much for its political activism as its distinctive harmonies. As charter members of Woodstock Nation, they helped globalize what folk-rockers had been singing about for years.

"We've never shied away from social issues," Nash insists.

Indeed, only a year ago CSN&Y mounted a Freedom of Speech tour that helped support Young's CD "Living With War," a blistering attack on the Bush administration. The tour drew more than its share of protests from people who preferred to hear them play, not preach.

Read: The New York Daily News-- David Crosby and Graham Nash 'Carry On'

Is baptism enough?

"There is much talk at present in the Anglican communion of a new covenant to bind us together. This is seen as a solution to our problems, to our disagreements about homosexuality. Some argue that we just need to agree to certain new "essentials". But many of us hesitate to embrace such a covenant because we already have a covenant: our baptismal covenant." The Rev. Canon Jane Shaw, in The Guardian, reflects on whether we need a new covenant for the Anglican Communion or if we have sufficient bonds in baptism.

For Christians, the rite of baptism brings us into the body of Christ. It is about sharing a radical equality as children of God. Paul made this clear in his letter to the Galatians: "For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith ... There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female." This was startling in the hierarchical Roman society into which the church was born, where you might find yourself in a small room, knee to knee, sharing a meal with a man who was your social superior, or with a slave or a Roman matron, with whom you would never, in the normal conventions of the day, have mixed. It is startling today; not in the same way, not in the formal breaking of hierarchies in our apparently democratic society, but in the linking of different peoples across villages, towns, countries and the globe, through that bond of baptism. We call this a baptismal covenant.

Shaw suggests another response to the Anglican crisis.
All we really have to do in the midst of this crazy church dispute is be awake to our relationship with a loving God. And to do that, warring Anglicans simply have to recall their baptism: that moment when the waters washed over us and the heavens echoed with God's declaration about each of us - you are my beloved son, my beloved daughter, with you I am well pleased. If we remember that, really remember it, disputes might "wither like the grass and fade like the flowers" as Isaiah puts it, as we are bathed in the knowledge of God's love for each and every one of us.

The Rev Canon Dr Jane Shaw is dean of divinity, chaplain and fellow of New College, Oxford

Read it all here

Open letter to the LGBT Community from Bishop Gene Robinson

Bishop Gene Robinson has written to gays and lesbians about the recent House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans. He gives his sense of the meeting and why he voted for the statement issued by the bishops.


October 9, 2007

Now that the Church has had some time to absorb and consider the recent meeting of the House of Bishops in New Orleans and its response to the Anglican Communion, I’d like to share with you what I experienced at the recent House of Bishops meeting, and where I think we are as a result.

There is NO “mind of the House” nor a “mind of the Episcopal Church.” In fact, we are a House and a Church of many different minds. We are in transition from the Church we have been called to be in the past, to the Church we are called to be now and in the future. We are not there yet.

I value highly the thoughts and needs of my brother and sister conservative bishops, who have no intention of leading their flocks out of the Episcopal Church, but come out of dioceses which, for the most part, find the Episcopal Church’s actions of the last four years troublesome and alarming. I listened to them when they voiced the fears of their people that changing our views on homosexuality is a precursor to moving on to denying important tenets of our orthodox faith, from the Trinity to the Resurrection. We worked for a statement which would reflect the diversity we recognize and value as a strength of our Episcopal communion. It was our goal to describe the Church as it currently is: NOT of one mind, but struggling to be of one heart.

My own goal – and that of many bishops – was to do NOTHING at this meeting. That is, our goal, in response to the Primates, was simply to state where we are as an Episcopal Church, not to move us forward or backward. Sometimes, “progress” is to be found in holding the ground we’ve already achieved, when “moving forward” is either untimely or not politically possible. And, doing nothing substantive respects the rightful reminder to us from many in the Senior House that the House of Bishops cannot speak for the whole Church, but rather must wait until all orders of ministry are gathered for its joint deliberations at General Convention.

While many of us worked hard to block B033 and voted against it at General Convention, it IS the most recent declaration of all orders of ministry gathered as a Church. The Bishops merely restated what is, as of the last General Convention.

Yes, we did identify gay and lesbian people as among the group included in those who ‘present a challenge” to the Communion. That comes as a surprise to no one. It is a statement of who we are at the moment. Sad, but true.

Many bishops spoke on behalf of their lgbt members and worked hard to prevent our movement backwards. We fought hard over certain words, certain language. We sidelined some things that truly would have represented a movement backwards.

I want to tell you what I said to the Archbishop of Canterbury. In the course of his comments, it seemed to me that the Archbishop was drawing a line between fidelity to our gay and lesbian members, and fidelity to the “process of common discernment,” which he had offered as a prime function of a bishop. I heard him saying that gay and lesbian members of our Church would simply have to wait until there was a consensus in the Communion. When we were invited to respond, I said something like, “Your Grace, I have always respected you as a person and your office, and I always will. But I want you to know and hear, that to me, a gay man and faithful member of this Church, this is one of the most dehumanizing things I’ve heard in a long time, and I will not be party to it. It reminds me of Jesus question ‘Is the Sabbath made for man, or man for the Sabbath?’ Choosing a process over the lives of human beings and faithful members of this Church is simply unacceptable and unscriptural.” The next morning, the Archbishop tried to assure us that he meant both/and rather than either/or. I tried to speak my truth to him.

On the issue of same sex unions, I argued that our statement be reflective of what is true right now in the Episcopal Church: that while same sex blessings are not officially permitted in most dioceses, they are going on and will continue to go on as an appropriate pastoral response to our gay and lesbian members and their relationships. Earlier versions of our response contained both sides of this truth. I argued to keep both sides of that truth in the final version, providing the clarity asked for by the Primates.

Others made the argument that to state that “a majority of Bishops do not sanction such blessings” implied that a minority do in fact sanction such blessings, and many more take no actions to prevent them. All this without coming right out and saying so. That argument won the day. I think it was a mistake.

Another issue to which I spoke was this notion of “public” versus “private” rites. I pointed out on the floor that our very theology of marriage is based on the communal nature of such a rite. Presumably, the couple has already made commitments to one another privately, or else they would not be seeking Holy Matrimony. What happens in a wedding is that the COMMUNITY is drawn into the relationship – the vows are taken in the presence of that community and the community pledges itself to support the couple in the keeping of their vows. It is, by its very nature, a “public” event – no matter how many or how few people are in attendance. The same goes for our solemn commitments to one another as lgbt couples.

I suspect that these efforts to keep such rites “private” is just another version of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” If avoidance of further conflict is the goal, then I can understand it. But if speaking the truth in love is the standard by which we engage in our relationships with the Communion, then no.

Let me also state strongly that I believe that the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and Primates MISunderstood us when they stated that they understood that the HOB in fact “declared a ‘moratorium on all such public Rites.’” Neither in our discussions nor in our statement did we agree to or declare such a moratorium on permitting such rites to take place. That may be true in many or most dioceses, but that is certainly not the case in my own diocese and many others. The General Convention has stated that such rites are indeed to be considered within the bounds of the pastoral ministry of this Church to its gay and lesbian members, and that remains the policy of The Episcopal Church.

Lastly, let me respond to the very real pain in the knowledge that the change we long for takes time. This movement forward is going to take a long time. That doesn’t make it right. It certainly does not make it easy. Dr. King rightly said that “justice delayed is justice denied,” but that didn’t stop him from accepting and applauding incremental advances along the way.

We have every right to be impatient. We MUST keep pushing the Church to do the right thing. We must never let anyone believe that we will be satisfied with anything less than the full affirmation of us and our relationships as children of God.

BUT, I will continue to try to remain realistic in my approach. I work hard, and pray hard, to find the patience to stay at the table as long as it takes. And I hope we can refrain from attacking our ALLIES for not doing enough, soon enough. The bridges we are burning today may turn out to be the bridges we want to cross in the future. Let’s not destroy them.

We need to be in this for the long haul. For us to get overly discouraged when we don’t get all that we want, as fast as we want, seems counterproductive to me. We should never capitulate to less than all God wants for us, but to lose heart when we don’t move fast enough, and to attack the Church we are trying to help redeem, seems counterproductive.

The two days of listening to the Archbishop of Canterbury and some members of the ACC were the two hardest days I’ve had since my consecration. (It was a constant and holy reminder to me of the pain all of YOU continue to experience every day at the hands of a Church which is not yet what it is called to be. Ours is a difficult and transforming task: to continue serving a church that seems to love us less than we love it!) I was comforted by the support I DID receive from those straight bishops who spoke up for us, and especially by many of the Bishops of color, who implicitly “got” what I was trying to say and defied the majority with their support of me and of us. I was even encouraged by many conservative bishops’ willingness to work together to craft a statement we, liberal and conservative alike, could all live with.

I believe with my whole heart that the Spirit is alive and well and living in our Church – even in the House of Bishops. I believe Jesus when he told his disciples, on the night before he died for us, that they were not ready to hear and understand all that he had to teach them – and that he would send the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth. I believe that now is such a moment, when the Church, in its plodding and all-too-slow a way, is being guided into truth about its gay and lesbian members. It took ME 39 years to acknowledge who I was as a gay man and to affirm that I too am considered precious by God. Of course, the very next day after telling my parents, I expected them immediately to catch up to what had taken me 39 years to come to. Mercifully, it has not taken them the same 39 years to do so. The Church family is no different. It is going to take TIME.

I voted “yes” to the HOB statement. I believe it was the best we could do at this time. I am far less committed to being ideologically and unrelentingly pure, and far more interested in the “art of the possible.” Am I totally pleased with our statement? Of course not. Do I wish we could have done more? Absolutely. Can I live with it? Yes, I can. For right now. Until General Convention, which is the appropriate time for us to take up these issues again as a Church, with all orders of ministry present. I am taking to heart the old 60’s slogan, “Don’t whine, organize!”

I am always caught between the vision I believe God has for God’s Church, and the call to stay at the table, in communion with those who disagree with me about that vision – or, as is the case for most bishops, who disagree about the appropriate “timing” for reaching that vision of full inclusion. In this painful meantime, please pray for me as I seek to serve the people of my diocese and you, the community of which I am so honored to be a part.


Your brother in Christ,

+Gene


Read it here

Churches and children's health care

The Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church are urging US legislators to reconsider the vetoed legislation for funding the State's Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

The Episcopal Church October 14 bulletin insert reports:

There are 8.7 million uninsured children in the United States -- and a serious gap in serving children who do not qualify for Medicaid, but whose parents cannot afford private health insurance. For many families with children who fall into this category, the State's Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is their safety net. The importance of this program, together with wider issues of children's healthcare, is the focus of Episcopal Life's parish bulletin inserts for October 14 available here

Ekklesia reports that the United Methodist Church's chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the Rev R. Randy Day, began faxing letters to all US senators and representatives regarding the veto. He also e-mailed a last-minute appeal to the White House.

"We firmly believe that all children in the US deserve the opportunity for a healthy life and the people of The United Methodist Church strongly agree and have voiced their support for the SCHIP legislation," the letter to each member of Congress stated. "The substantial bipartisan support for SCHIP proves that this reauthorization is needed and worthy of your undivided support."

Harriett Olson, chief executive of the UMC board's Women's Division, added her support to Day's letter, calling SCHIP a "critical step" in protecting the nation's children.

She said: "One of the measures by which a society is judged is the quality of the care and support it offers to its most vulnerable," she said. "Children in this country are among the most vulnerable and it is our moral and ethical responsibility to support basic health care for them."

Read it all here

TAKE ACTION here

Resources are here

Ekklesia also reports that churches in the US are propping up the health care system with minstries to fill in the gaps in care.

The Congregational Health Ministry Survey, conducted by the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shows that a majority of churches are ministering to their communities by providing 'health care ministries'. As the number of uninsured Americans reaches 47 million people, congregations are supplying health education and direct health care services. Many are also advocating on behalf of public policy issues related to health care.

According to the survey, about 70 percent of responding churches provide direct health services, with 65 percent offering health education programs within their community. The survey defines direct services as provision of medical care to individuals by trained health care professionals.

Bill Richardson - rest in peace and rise in glory

Deacon Ormonde Plater remembers The Rev. Bill Richardson at his blog. He writes:

A Saint has died: The Rev. William P. Richardson, 98, rector of St George's, New Orleans, from 1953-1976, died peacefully last night at 10:48 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. George’s on Monday, Oct. 8, at noon.

Among the gay community in the United States, Bill Richardson is honored as a hero.

On June 24, 1973, fire broke out in a gay bar, the Upstairs Lounge, at Iberville and Chartres in the Vieux Carré. The patrons were trapped behind barred doors and windows of the second-story lounge. Thirty-two died, and many others were injured.


He cites a letter that Fr. Bill wrote about the event and aftermath to the editor of the Integrity newsletter.
To the Editor:

Thank you for the Spring 1991 issue. It is excellent.

I have a some additional information for you concerning your article "Closeted Gay Bishop Dies of AIDS." In 1971 I attended a summer seminar at General Theological Seminary on "Homosexuality, Women's Liberation and Communal Living." I returned home to St. George's Church here in New Orleans where I was rector, determined to do all in my power to support lesbians and gay men.

The local Metropolitan Community Church met in our chapel for some months. Then they found their own small church. From time to time I attended their afternoon service, and I came to know their minister, Rev. Bill Larsen, quite well. He often came to see me regarding their scrambled liturgy and what to do about it.

The night of June 24, 1971 (sic) some 30 or more members of the MCC group and friends were at an upstairs bar. A man who was drunk fire-bombed the stairs. The windows had iron bars over them. As a result nearly all those there were burned to death. My phone rang at 3 a.m. telling me of this. I was grieved greatly, for included among those burned to death was Bill Larsen, my friend.

Next morning a member of the MCC called to ask if they could have a memorial service that evening at St. George's. I agreed, providing they would not make a big splash over it. The Rev. Troy Perry [Founder and Moderator of MCC] flew in that evening and assisted with the service. Some 80-90 persons attended. I warned the TV people not to take pictures, and asked the reporters to play it low-key. They did.

Bishop Iveson B. Noland, who was later killed in a plane crash in New York, phoned me early the next morning. He said, "Bill, this is the Bishop. Have you read the morning paper?" I said, "Yes, Bishop, I have." "Is it true that the service was at St. George's Episcopal Church?" "Yes, Bishop, it was." "Why didn't they have it in their own church?" he asked. I replied, "For the simple reason their own small church holds about 18 persons. Without any publicity we had over 80 present." "What am I to say when people call my office?" I replied, "You can say anything you wish, Bishop, but do you think Jesus would have kept these people out of His church?"

I heard later the Bishop had a hundred calls, and I got hate calls and letters. Only one member of our vestry supported me. Later, I was stopped on the street by many persons thanking me for doing such a Christian thing.

Later that week, I was asked if we could have another memorial service the next Sunday afternoon at St. George's. I had to decline for I was just leaving for a month's trip to India to visit friends, and I knew I would have to be present for such a service. It was then that the late Bishop Finis Crutchfield offered the Rampart St. Methodist Church for that extra service.

I shall be grateful if you will insert this in your next issue. I am still very active in lesbian/gay affairs, though our Integrity group eventually folded. I have spoken several times before the City Council and before our Diocesan Convention regarding lesbian/gay issues, but to little avail. But I'm not giving up!

Cordially,

(The Rev.) William P. Richardson, Jr.
New Orleans, LA

Read it all here.

Communique from Rwanda and Burundi

The international Anglican Peace and Justice Network (APJN), has issued a communiqué from its recently concluded triennial meeting in Kigali, Rwanda and Bujumbura, Burundi according to the Anglican Communion News Service. Brian Grieves attended for The Episcopal Church.

Participants included representatives from 17 provinces (list below) of the Anglican Communion. The meeting focused on conflict transformation and exploring the role of violence in societies throughout the world.

Bishop Pie Ntukamazina of the Diocese of Bujumbura, a leader of its
steering committee, hosted the APJN on behalf of the Anglican Provinces
of Rwanda and Burundi.

The meeting began with a welcome address in Kigali by Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini, primate of the Anglican Church in Rwanda.

APJN's convener, Dr. Jenny Te Paa of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, guided participants through the agenda.

The communiqué says that the Network "sees the critical work for justice and peace in all areas of conflict and violence mentioned in this communiqué and elsewhere as central to the mission of the Church to reconcile all things to Christ."

A primary recommendation noted "our firm conviction that the Anglican Communion increase its presence in the regions and countries in conflict, and to be in solidarity with the affected local Anglican provinces and jurisdictions."

The complete text of the communiqué follows:

Read more »

Reconstituted Virginia congregations gather

All my hope on God is founded; he doth still my trust renew, me through change and chance he guideth, only good and only true. God unknown, he alone calls my heart to be his own.

- 1982 Hymnal (Robert Bridges based on the German by Joachim Neander)

110 members of four continuing congregations met recently in a retreat to share stories, ideas, and faith, to seek healing and to look ahead. Emily Cherry reports in a special edition of the Virginia Episcopalian

For the 110 Episcopalians who shared their stories at "The Abundance of God's Love" retreat at Shrine Mont in Orkney Springs, Va. October 7-8, their tales were not entirely unique. Unhappy with the actions of The Episcopal Church at General Convention in 2003 and 2006, their leadership decided to reconsider their membership in The Episcopal Church and The Diocese of Virginia. Parishioners noticed a shift in the climate of their congregations: Episcopal flags were removed, or rectors focused their preaching primarily on "the issues." They entered into "40 Days of Discernment"--in hindsight, with a sense of naiveté, said some participants. And they all entered into a journey categorized by confusion, frustration and, for some, hopelessness. "It's like the stages of grief," said Church of the Epiphany Episcopal, Herndon parishioner Suzanne Fichter. "Denial, anger, acceptance."

In the Diocese of Virginia, a total of 15 congregations would vote by majorities to quit The Episcopal Church and The Diocese of Virginia. But in several places loyal members of The Episcopal Church remained, and in four of them - St. Stephen's, Heathsville; St. Margaret's, Woodbridge; The Falls Church, Falls Church; and Church of the Epiphany, Herndon - those loyalists reorganized....
...
These were the stories shared by the individual churches. But the two-day retreat was not just dedicated to telling stories. It was about sharing ideas. Over a plate of Shrine Mont fried chicken, members of Epiphany and The Falls Church discussed logistics: Where do you worship? How do you provide music for your Eucharist services? A group of parishioners from St. Stephen's Episcopal brainstormed the best way to build and support their internal church family.

And time was set aside for healing, too. Mr. Anderson, president and warden of the Cathedral College of the National Cathedral, asked attendees to look inwards, to examine their hearts. "How many of you feel like your heart's been broken?" asked Mr. Anderson. Hands were raised. But for the attendees present, it wasn't just a question of broken or not; it was an examination of whether or not their hearts were open. "I'm convinced my heart is open," said Winifred Gilmore, a parishioner at St. Margaret's Episcopal, Woodbridge.
...
While discussing the past, participants looked toward the future of their parishes, too.

To read it all click Read more>>

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TV interview with our presiding bishop

A truly delightful video interview with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on KOCO TV in Oklahoma: watch it here.

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Taking the Religious Right for granted

Has the Religious Right (aka Values Voters) become marginalized? Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times takes a look.

Many religious conservatives were proud to claim the mantle that Karl Rove bestowed on them as “the base of the Republican Party.” Now they fear they may have lapsed unwittingly into the same role that African-Americans play in the Democratic Party: a dependable minority constituency that is courted by candidates but never really gets to call the shots.

The candidates are certainly sending signals to that effect. While they’re eager to get as many conservative religious votes as they can, they’re no doubt aware of a shift since 2004 — that perhaps these voters aren’t the bloc they were once taken to be, that they don’t all answer to the same leaders, and that they might even be more pragmatic than in the past, more willing to sacrifice purity for viability in a candidate.

Scholars who study the role of religion in politics now say it is possible that the Bush years were an anomaly and that evangelicals, of whom religious conservatives are only a subset, could find themselves back where they were before — divided among themselves and just one of many interest groups vying for attention.
...
Religious conservatives were alarmed last month when none of the Republican front-runners showed up for the Values Voter Debate Straw Poll in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. More than 40 groups, some of them major organizations known for their capacity to mobilize voters, had put together the event. Questions were directed even at the no-show candidates, and many of those questions were angry.

“Beyond their cowardice, there’s an arrogance on the part of these candidates,” said Janet L. Folger, the president of Faith2Action, who helped organize the debate. “The arrogance is this: ‘We are just taking your votes for granted. You have nowhere else to go.’ ”

Goodstein goes on to point out divisions amongst evangelicals - vying leaders, the varieties of evangelical voters (not all are conservative), and evangelicals calling for a broadening of their agenda to include poverty, AIDS and the environment.

Read it all here.

For more on what the future might hold in store for Evangelicals see Sara Robinson's analysis here. Her bottomline:

Overall, the new Barna study seems to offer some hopeful prospects for a more generally liberal and diverse America in the decades ahead. Evangelical Christianity won't go away -- but there's a shift in its essential character afoot, which may even reverse the trend toward minority status over time. And it seem likely that big changes are coming that will not only make it more progressive in its view of its own mission; but will also make it a much better friend to democracy than it's been in recent years.

Counterpoint from Savannah

A Savannah writer, Kevin Clark, has some opinions about the recent move by Christ Church to secede from the Episcopal Church:

Is this the same Christ Church that is the 274-year-old "Mother Church of Georgia" and occupies one of Savannah's most prime, valuable pieces of real estate, directly facing Johnson Square? (The same square that ironically was the site on Sept. 15 of the 8th annual Savannah Gay Pride Festival.)

Is this the same church proudly named after Jesus Christ, supposedly to honor and glorify the founder of Christianity by exemplifying, illustrating and following his teachings?

Are these "Christians" angry and upset enough to break away because their church is "too liberal" and has been expanding love, inclusion and acceptance to unworthy people?

Hmm...

Somehow, something seems very wrong, very twisted and distorted with this scenario. Indeed, it seems utterly preposterous.

It seems only to painfully prove, once again, that some, if not most, organized religions are confused, fearful and dysfunctional. Their ideas and preachings about God and Jesus are erroneous.

They remain blind to this fact, and see only what they want to see. They do not see the cruelty, fighting and killing going on everywhere in God's name. They are not seeing the separation, the divisions, oppression, fear and dysfunction around us.

Worse, some of them are seeing it and playing into it, using it as a means of controlling people.


Read Clark's entire op-ed here in the Savannah Morning News. It's good to see the paper giving space to opposing points of view to those expressed in its own editorials

Archbishop of York marks anniversary of abolition of slave trade

The York Press

"Roads were packed, tents were pitched, and crowds wearing their Sunday best were out in droves, as thousands of people gathered in Jamaica to hear the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, speak to mark the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
...
God rejoices in the fact that he created each one of you. That is the greatest message of the sermon this morning, be yourself and don't try and be somebody else," he said. Quoting a sermon from the Archbishop of Zanzibar, he asked the people to reach out and work at the grassroots: "Go out to the highways and byways look for the people who have lost hope and those who are struggling to make good. "Have Jesus on your lips and the world in your heart, you have been called to freedom to work with justice and to embrace responsibility."

In unrelated news, the Archbishop is branching out into modern music:
Dr John Sentamu took a break from the day job to provide the lyrics for a track on Christian band Psalm Drummers' latest album. He recites a passage from chapter 3 of Ephesians, against a jazz-style backing, with cymbal and piano.

Thank you to Kendall Harmon for pointing to The Press article here.

Using Wiki power to translate the Bible

1. Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat waz invisible, & he maded the skiez & da earths, but he did not eated it. 2. The earths wus witout shapez & wus dark & scary & stufs, & he rode invisible bike over teh waterz. 3. & Ceiling Cat sayz, i can has light? & light wuz.

A project has been launched to reach the mission field in the LOLCat language community. LOLCat missionaries are translating the Bible. To read about it, and contribute, check it out here.

Thanks to Gallycat for the pointer.

Appeal to fund the Listening Process

Louie Crew, one of the founders of Integrity, and Brian Cox, one of the founders of the American Anglican Council, have issued a joint letter asking for donations to fund the listening process that was called for by the Lambeth Conference in 1998.

_______________________________________________

We write this appeal to you as leaders in the Episcopal Church who have profoundly different convictions about matters concerning human sexuality. Yet, both of us are committed to reconciliation as a different paradigm or culture from win/lose advocacy in terms of how we as a faith community deal with the deepest of differences among us.

We write this appeal in light of the House of Bishops' recent decision in New Orleans to respond affirmatively to the primates' request for clarification regarding approval of suitable candidates for bishop and authorizing liturgies for same-sex unions. This offer to refrain from moving forward has created space to launch an Anglican Communion Wide Listening Process. In a sense, the time has come for a global conversation in the Anglican Communion about human sexuality. The purpose of the Listening Process is to hear the concerns of all members of the Anglican Family; not only gays and lesbians but also Global South leaders. The purpose of the Listening Process is not to create a predetermined outcome or to "wear opponents down." It is to hear respectfully one another's stories, hopes and fears about this matter.

The facilitator of the Listening Process explains: "The ACC 13 resolution talked of mutual listening. We are attempting to listen to all voices including Global South voices, indigenous groups, those who describe themselves as having same sex attraction and who support Lambeth 1.10, and an array of other voices. We are not setting up a polarised debate, but an attempt to enable listening. It [our report to the Lambeth Conference] will not make any claim to be a definitive document, but to promote ongoing dialogue."

We appeal to you to consider a financial gift to support this initiative of the Anglican Consultation Council. Approximately $80,000 is needed to fully fund this initiative.

Please direct your gift to the ACC account in New York made payable to the "Anglican Consultative Council" with a memo "For the LGBT Listening Process."

Account Name: Anglican Consultative Council Account No 42 914 652

Bank: Deutsche Bank Trust Co Americas
280 Park Avenue NYC03-0201
New York NY 10017 USA

The ACC has pledged to use gifts thus designated solely for that purpose. Phil Groves Phil.Groves@anglicancommunion.org, the facilitator of the Listening Process, can make available to any donor full accounts of funds thus restricted.

Please be generous.

Dr. Louie Crew, lcrew@andromeda.rutgers.edu

The Reverend Canon Brian Cox, briancox@cox.net

ERD receives malaria grant

From Voice of America, Episcopal Relief and Development is one of five organizations that have received the first Malaria Communities Program grants, part of a $30 million initiative created under the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) to support the efforts of communities and indigenous organizations to combat malaria in Africa.

A senior U.S official has said the Malaria Communities Program draws on the power of the faith-based and community partners serving on the frontlines to prevent and combat the disease. Jay Hein, Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives told VOA that engaging these groups that have local connections and have built trust greatly heightens the prospects for long-term success.

Hein was speaking after the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) on Friday in Washington, announced the first Malaria Communities Program grants.

The organizations that received grants are Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Lutheran World Relief, Episcopal Relief and Development, Minnesota International Health Volunteers, and Christian Social Sciences Commission.

The whole thing is here.

A call for peace between Muslims and Christians

Reuters is reporting on an "unprecedented" letter, signed by 138 Muslim scholars, sent to Pope Benedict, leaders of Orthodox Christian churches, Anglican leader Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the heads of the world alliances of the Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist and Reformed churches. The letter's authors represent the Sunni, Shi'ite and Sufi schools of Islam, and state their belief that they represent the vast majority of Muslims.

... [The] scholars said finding common ground between the world's biggest faiths was not simply a matter for polite dialogue between religious leaders.

"If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world's inhabitants," the scholars wrote.

"Our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake," they wrote, adding that Islam and Christianity already agreed that love of God and neighbor were the two most important commandments of their faiths.

Relations between Muslims and Christians have been strained as al Qaeda has struck around the world and as the United States and other Western countries intervened in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The article runs with a London dateline, and as such includes comments from Archbishop Williams:

Williams said he welcomed it as "indicative of the kind of relationship for which we yearn in all parts of the world."

"The call to respect, peace and goodwill should now be taken up by Christians and Muslims at all levels and in all countries," he said.

A Vatican official in Rome said the Roman Catholic Church would not comment until it had time to read the letter.

You can read the story here.

The open letter is available here at Islamica Magazine.

The full response of the Archbishop of Canterbury is here.

More on welcoming liturgy

Our earlier item on "Welcoming Liturgy" has occasioned a passionate response both on the Café and elsewhere. Some of you have argued that a church should be extremely careful in altering its Sunday morning Eucharist to make it more seeker/stranger-friendly. Sunday morning, the argument goes, is not prime time for evangelism. Maybe not. But eventually newcomers need to feel comfortable participating in common worship, or else they won't join our gradually dwindling numbers. So how do we make worship appealing without watering it down?

Thoughts?

(Hat tip for the Last Protestant Dinosaur and Derek at Haligweorc.)

New Episcopal Life Focus launches tonight

From Episcopal Life Online:

The October edition of "Episcopal Life Focus" -- a half-hour video "multicast" featuring church mission, ministries and news -- is now available here.

The program will remain available for on-demand viewing at Episcopal Life Online.

Produced by Episcopal Life Media, the program will feature coverage of the House of Bishops September meeting in New Orleans, the Archbishop of Canterbury's visit there, and the hands-on post-hurricane rebuilding and pastoral work offered by the bishops and spouses along the Gulf Coast.

Also featured is a profile of New Orleans Episcopalian Diana Meyers, who leads the Mobile Healthcare Ministry for St. Anna's Church, a historic parish in the city's Treme section.

The program covers the opening of the new Desmond Tutu Center for Reconciliation at New York's General Theological Seminary. The Focus program will conclude with a pastoral reflection.

The program is produced by Michael Collins and anchored by the Rev. Jan Nunley, executive editor of Episcopal Life Media.

This edition of Episcopal Life Focus is again sponsored by Episcopal Books and Resources, with online captioning for the hearing impaired provided by the Episcopal Church Women, Diocese of Los Angeles.

The program is also available for placement on community-access cable channels offering free air time.


Four additional Episcopal visitors

Per Episcopal Life Online, "four additional bishops have accepted Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's invitation to serve as "episcopal visitors" in dioceses requesting this provision." They are: Bishops Philip Duncan of Central Gulf Coast, Duncan Gray of Mississippi, Rayford High (suffragan) of Texas, and Rodney Michel (assisting) of Maryland. They join eight other bishops who accepted the role during the House of Bishops meeting.

The report is here.

Evangelical? Progressive? Both!

Revolution in Jesusland is a plea for secular and mainline progressives to understand a growing evangelical movement. The author, Zack, writes in his blog profile:


... (and we know how difficult this is to believe) there is an incredibly large and beautiful social movement exploding among evangelicals right now that stands for nearly all of the same causes and goals that secular progressives do. Those goals include: eliminating poverty, saving the environment, promoting justice and equality along racial, gender and class lines and for immigrants—and even separation of church and state.

Zack is currently attending the Christian Community Development Association Conference in Missouri. His coverage is worth a look:

From "Prayer, Service, Development":

Right now I’m at one of the first CCDA classes. This one is on “Empowerment,” led by Bob Lupton, who’s done incredible neighborhood economic development work over decades in his city of Atlanta—and has taught others all over the country. (Thanks to UrbanMinistry.org, you can listen to many different classes and lectures by Bob here. I highly recommend listening to one of those talks. He’s a great speaker and he’s speaking from decades of humble and brilliant trial and error.)

He just told a story about a talk he was invited to give recently at a “very, very biblical” college.

He asked the students, “What is the number one mandate in the Bible?”

One student answered, “Evangelize!”

He pressed them, and finally another answered, “You mean ‘love God and Love your neighbor’?”

Bob answered, “Yes. And so, who teaches the courses on neighbor loving here?”

Blank stares.

“You have a whole department here on evangelism,” Bob said to them, “But you’re telling me that you don’t have a single course on neighbor loving? No ‘Love Your Neighbor 101′ here?” And then he joked with them: “You know the problem with this place? You’re not biblical enough.”

He told us (I’m paraphrasing): “You get what they were doing? They were skipping over the great command on their way to the great commission. You can’t do that. The commission flows through the command—it’s a by product of the great command.”

And from "I'm doing this for God, not for you," notes on how to help the poor without becoming paternalistic:


I haven’t seen any counterproductive white guilt here yet. I think there is something about these folks’ spirituality that cancels it out. It’s already part of their theology to accept and confess that they are utterly flawed sinners—broken people living in a broken world. That’s a pretty humble platform from which the Haves can go make relationships with the Have Nots. It seems to work pretty well for them (despite the mishaps they’re confessing, there’s a foundation of unmistakable, astounding success at helping huge numbers of people and developing communities).

The leadership of the Christian Community Development Association is multi-racial. The founder is black. The new executive director is Latino. At least a few of the top leaders in the movement are white. They all live in poor urban communities.

I’ve had friends who were the children of the Catholic Worker movement—whose parents moved into poor urban areas in the 60’s. I remember thinking that must have been some dying gasp of the Christian progressive (then, socialist) movement.

But, as it turns out, (conservative!) evangelical Christians picked up where that movement left off. A lot of these leaders moved in to their neighborhoods starting in the 80’s and 90’s. And now the movement to move into “broken” neighborhoods seems to be reaching a fever pitch. I don’t have any stats to back that up, and I doubt anyone does. But it’s the new must-do thing for Christians who are “on fire for Jesus.”

...

A year ago, I would have thought that sounded crazy. But I’ve seen that having God as the primary intellectual motivating factor in service has advantages. For example, it solves the biggest problem with The Haves trying to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem—it can help overcome the paternalism problem.

Hear me out. When that kid moves into some poor neighborhood, he’ll have a better defense against paternalism than most, because—as he helps set up after school tutoring programs, job training programs, etc…—his stance will NOT be, “I’m the great white hope come to save you,” (normally, the default) but instead: “I’m not here to help you. I’m here to serve God. My God wants to alleviate poverty, and I’m doing his will.”

Lots more here.

Marriage and Health

The Church Times reports on an analysis of demographic statistics in the United Kingdom. The surprising news is that even as cohabitation is on the rise in Britain, couples that are married stay together longer and enjoy better health than those that are living together without being married.

"Marriage is on the decline, but married people are more likely to stay together than cohabiting couples, says an in-depth analysis, Focus on Families, from the office of National Statistics. Married people live longer, and enjoy the best health; they provide unpaid care for their sick, disabled, and elderly relatives, and their children get better results at school than those of single or cohabiting parents.

The number of married couples fell by four per cent to 12.1 million in the past decade. Now only 65 per cent of children live with married parents, as compared with 72 per cent in 1996. There are 2.3 million cohabiting-couple families and 2.6 million lone-parent families — a rise of eight per cent over the previous decade.

[...]In general, married people have the best health, followed by single people, with the formerly-married having the worst. ‘Many studies of historical marriage and mortality data have shown the association between marriage and health is enduring and pervasive,’ the authors say.

They suggest: ‘Former benefits of partnership, such as a generally better standard of living, seem less important as the single breadwinner model disappears. For a number of reasons, differences between marital status groups might be expected to decline, but the clearest evidence (given by mortality trends) suggests that these differentials are, in fact, increasing, so that the link between health and family remains strong.’"

Read the rest here.

"Kids are not expendable" says Rowan Williams

The Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) has published the text of an address by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Kids Company Conference taking place in Britain:

"[Rowan Williams] called on the government to invest in the vulnerable children in our society:

'It's been said sometimes that you can gauge the termperature, the kind of moral climate of a society by looking at the way it treats its most vulnerable people…. What do we do on behalf of those who don't have voices, who don't have leverage, how do we bring their voices into public discussion? Are we a society where people are prepared to advocate for those who don't have voices of their own? Above all, are we prepared to put the necessary resource, skill and commitment, into the nurturing of human beings?''

Read the rest of the Archbishop's remarks to the 'No bullsh*t – What matters to every child' conference here.

Connecting believers and proclaiming the Gospel

Helen Thompson (one of our Daily Episcopalian essayists and a member of The Lead's news-team) was interviewed this week by Mark Brown, the CEO of the Bible Society of New Zealand. In the interview Helen discusses her work as a social media strategist and how Christian witness is adapting and using new tools online.

After a conversation about her background, there's a mention of the relatively new Anglican Cathedral in the online world of Second Life, Helen's tips for bloggers, and this observation:

"I’m starting to see social groups form as people realize how much they have in common, no matter where they are geographically. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate connecting with other people in my peer group through this medium, because there are so few of my peers at my actual church. All of these areas are places we can focus on as we figure out our own identity as Anglicans in Second Life, and I’m particularly gratified that we’re not worried so much about the politics of the Anglican Communion and more about the message of Christ’s Love."

Read the rest here.

Church Times reports on recent CAPA meeting

The Church Times, an independent british weekly news magazine, has excellent coverage and commentary on the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) meeting held last week. The commentary in particular discusses the way that the assembly worked its way through the construction of the communique, trying to adapt what, according the article, was drafted by "a western pen", primarily that of Bishop Martyn Minns.

The commentary is written by Canon Edgar Ruddock

He writes:

How sad, though, that the fractures of the Communion’s struggles over sexuality kept appearing, in an attempt to persuade the meeting to adopt an entrenched line in response to the US Bishops’ statement from New Orleans (News, 28 September). How sad that whenever we looked at a document, we found it had been drafted by a Western pen. How sad that paragraphs appeared in the draft communiqué that spoke of matters that had not even been debated. And how encouraging it was that the meeting roundly threw them out, and left the issue of sexuality to the Primates.

And:
While there was a concerted attempt to get both the Council and the CAPA Primates to take a firm stand with the “Global South” and against Lambeth, this was clearly not the mood of the meeting. Their concern was an African agenda. Yes, the majority take a conservative view on the sexuality debate, but there was much talk over coffee and tea about the pressure being exerted by the US conservatives (who were very visibly present at the meeting) to “keep CAPA on board”. Many resented this, even those who would sympathise with the position.

And:
There were moments of excitement, too, as Archbishop Akinola preached simply at the dedication of a new outreach centre about the gift of Christian joy. Yet the mood of the meeting was expressed most strongly when the final communiqué, which, it appeared, had been drafted largely by the Rt Revd Martyn Minns, was discussed. Its many references to the sexuality debate, which had simply not been discussed, were voted off.

The final act of the meeting was to elect new officers, as the four-year term of the Most Revd Peter Akinola, the Primate of Nigeria, came to an end. After a closed debate, white smoke finally emerged, and the new chairman was announced: the Most Revd Ian Ernest, Archbishop of the Indian Ocean, with the Most Revd Emmanuel Kolini, Archbishop of Rwanda, as his vice-chairman.

The other newly-elected members of the standing committee indicate a subtle shift away from the fusion of Global South and CAPA agendas, to a group more concerned to focus on the needs of the continent and islands, and to offer a lead perhaps based more on reconciliation and dialogue than confrontation.

The Church Times news coverage of the meeting is found here.

Election in Nevada

Dan Edwards has been elected the Bishop of Nevada on the second ballot today.

The vote tally and candidate information is found on the Diocese of Nevada's bishop search blog.

The candidate profiles are found here.

The big push?

The Anglican Scotist analyzes the Campaign to Frighten Rowan (CaFRow) currently being conducted by the Anglican right. Bishop Michael Nazir Ali is the latest campaigner to issue a most likely empty threat to "boycott" the Lambeth Conference. The campaign is foundering, however. Primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces in African rebuffed Archbishop Peter Akinola's attempt to organize a continent-wide boycott at their recent meeting, and some bishops from Akinola's own province, the Church of Nigeria, have already accepted their invitations.

The Scotist's prediction:

[W]hether they leave soon for a new communion of their own devising, or waffle and wrangle some more--and it seems to me this type of pressure will continue as long as it can be ginned up by the usual suspects--this is the high-water mark. The big bombs yet to fall--Fort Worth and others trying to leave--will not yield the hoped for results, separation and replacement, because there isn't sufficient support in the [Church of England], as that would require being willing to split the CoE: the quitters becoming disestablished. The big bombs will fall in all likelihood, and there will be a big crash, but that will not qualitatively shift the situation.

Antichrist comes to dinner

Dana Milbank writes:

In the wildly popular "Left Behind" series of evangelical Christian novels, the Antichrist takes the form of the secretary general of the United Nations, sets up an abortion-promoting world government and becomes the Global Community Supreme Potentate.

Last night, the National Association of Evangelicals met for dinner at the Sheraton in Crystal City. The keynote speaker? Why, the Antichrist himself.

Read it all. New opportunites are emerging for progressive Christians to work with segments of the Evangelical community on issues of common concern.

Dallas paper profiles Robinson

The Dallas Morning News offers a profile of Bishop Gene Robinson and a sidebar on his parents. The bishop says: I take the long view of history. The debate will end with the full inclusion of GLBT people. We're really only arguing about timing."

Susan Russell has the cover photograph here. The bishop was in Washington, D. C. last night to speak at a screening of For the Bible Tells Me So in northern Virginia.

The FundamentaList

The American Prospect, a liberal opinion magazine, now devotes a regular feature to chronicling the political machinations of the Religious Right. It's called The FundamentaList, and it asks savvy questions like this one:

Would James Dobson or Tony Perkins have had as many Google News hits this week had the press not fallen for the story that the dynamic duo was ready to dump the GOP in favor of certain failure and irrelevancy? Out of the circus that ensued after the Salt Lake City meeting last week, they got a massive, free get-out-the-vote drive.

Have a look.

A crisis for Crisis

Commonweal reports that Crisis, an archconservative Catholic magazine has ceased publication and now exists exclusively online.

Have a look at this description. Remind you of any outlets for commentary in the Episcopal/Anglican world?

It has long been the practice of writers and editors at magazines like Crisis to proclaim smugly the imminent demise of “liberal Catholicism.” As Deal Hudson put it, “Dissenting and left-leaning Catholic publishing...will continue to wither away.... The leadership of in-name-only Catholics is crumbling, and a new generation has set a new agenda.”

Liberal Catholicism, and liberal Catholic magazines, are not without their problems, and Commonweal tries not to hide or minimize them. The task of handing on the faith in an often hostile culture is daunting. Assimilating what is of undeniable value in secular modernity’s embrace of religious pluralism, freedom of conscience, individual autonomy, and the equal dignity of men and women requires genuine discernment. Still, claims about the death of liberal Catholicism are premature. The ad hominem attacks one often found in Crisis—the glib assumption that every “liberal” Catholic secretly longs for the destruction of the hierarchical church-deserve a decent burial. “Why call for dialogue about teachings that the church says cannot be changed?” Hudson wrote in a good summary of his magazine’s core conviction. “A call for dialogue on settled issues is itself a symptom of dissent.”

Ottawa synod recommends same-sex blessings

The synod of the diocese of Ottawa, by an overwhelming vote of 177 to 97, today approved a motion requesting its bishop to allow clergy “whose conscience permits, to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized” and to authorize rites for such blessings.

But despite what he called a “strong majority” (65 per cent in favor) and “a clear directive,” the diocesan bishop, John Chapman, cautioned that the approved motion was only “a recommendation and is not binding on the diocese or bishop.”

It's all here in the Anglican Journal, although the coding is a little strange.

End time for Metropolitan Community Church?

The Metropolitan Community Church was founded in 1968 as a church home for the GLBT faithful who otherwise had no welcoming church home. With a change in attitude in many mainline congregations, however, the future of the Church may be in doubt, according to an article in the Daytona Beach News-Journal Online:

Metropolitan Community Church began in 1968 as an alternative for gays who felt alienated by most churches' condemnation of homosexuality.

After a contentious summer in which the denomination suspended local worship for a month and revoked the credentials of the local pastor, the Rev. Beau McDaniels, Hope Metropolitan Community Church members are doing what many congregations do after a fight with church headquarters.

They are thinking about joining another denomination. The United Church of Christ, a liberal Protestant church that has ordained openly gay clergy and affirmed same-sex marriage, is mentioned as a possible successor to the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.

Vikki Del Fiacco, a former Metropolitan member in Daytona Beach, has already switched over. She is training for the ministry with Port Orange United Church of Christ.

Del Fiacco likes the United group because "it's open and affirming of everyone." She noted Metropolitan founder Troy Perry "never thought MCC would last long term."'

Its original mission was "to be accepting," Del Fiacco said. "But other denominations are accepting now."

Episcopalians, of course, have gotten much attention for ordaining an openly gay bishop.

Some liberal Lutheran, Presbyterian and Methodist congregations have also embraced openly gay members, said Lesley Northup, an associate professor of religion at Florida International University.

Because of the growing acceptance, gays may no longer feel the need to segregate themselves in a niche church, Northup said.

The Metropolitan Community Church, however, was always intended as a temporary home for GLBT worshippers, and there is sadly still a need for a welcoming church for many:

Melissa Wilcox, a professor of religion at Whitman College in California, has written a book on Metropolitan Community Churches called "Coming Out in Christianity."

She acknowledged Metropolitan Community Churches founders intended the church as a temporary, "stop-gap" solution until other denominations became more accepting of gays.

Wilcox, however, noted many gays are still uncomfortable going to even the most liberal churches, Wilcox said.

They feel awkward and conspicuous when identified as the church's official "gay members." They also encounter "there goes the neighborhood" resistance from members who did not want them to join in the first place, she said.

So Metropolitan Community Churches still fills a need as a place of acceptance. "I think there's a future," Wilcox said.

The whole thing is here.

Is it just "culture"?

In the New York Times earlier this week, Slavoj Zizek, the international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, defended the Chinese Government's recent efforts to regulate religion--including Order No. 5, a law covering “the management measures for the reincarnation of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism.” One of Zizek's more provocative arguments is that even in the West religion is largely becoming a mere matter of culture, rather than faith:

It is all too easy to laugh at the idea of an atheist power regulating something that, in its eyes, doesn’t exist. However, do we believe in it? When in 2001 the Taliban in Afghanistan destroyed the ancient Buddhist statues at Bamiyan, many Westerners were outraged — but how many of them actually believed in the divinity of the Buddha? Rather, we were angered because the Taliban did not show appropriate respect for the “cultural heritage” of their country. Unlike us sophisticates, they really believed in their own religion, and thus had no great respect for the cultural value of the monuments of other religions.

The significant issue for the West here is not Buddhas and lamas, but what we mean when we refer to “culture.” All human sciences are turning into a branch of cultural studies. While there are of course many religious believers in the West, especially in the United States, vast numbers of our societal elite follow (some of the) religious rituals and mores of our tradition only out of respect for the “lifestyle” of the community to which we belong: Christmas trees in shopping centers every December; neighborhood Easter egg hunts; Passover dinners celebrated by nonbelieving Jews.

“Culture” has commonly become the name for all those things we practice without really taking seriously. And this is why we dismiss fundamentalist believers as “barbarians” with a “medieval mindset”: they dare to take their beliefs seriously. Today, we seem to see the ultimate threat to culture as coming from those who live immediately in their culture, who lack the proper distance.

Perhaps we find China’s reincarnation laws so outrageous not because they are alien to our sensibility, but because they spill the secret of what we have done for so long: respectfully tolerating what we don’t take quite seriously, and trying to contain its political consequences through the law.

Read it all here.

The science of temptation

Religious leaders have always known that human beings, despite our best intentions, can and will be led astray by temptation. A recent journal article offers some reasons why:

As human beings, we have limited resources to control ourselves, and all acts of control draw from this same source. Therefore, when using this resource in one domain, for example, keeping to a diet, we are more likely to run out of this resource in a different domain, like studying hard. Once these resources are exhausted, our ability to control ourselves is diminished. In this depleted state, the dieter is more likely to eat chocolate, the student to watch TV, and the politician to accept a bribe.

In a recent study, Michael Inzlicht of the University of Toronto Scarborough and colleague Jennifer N. Gutsell offer an account of what is happening in the brain when our vices get the better of us.

Inzlicht and Gutsell asked participants to suppress their emotions while watching an upsetting movie. The idea was to deplete their resources for self-control. The participants reported their ability to suppress their feelings on a scale from one to nine. Then, they completed a Stroop task, which involves naming the color of printed words (i.e. saying red when reading the word “green” in red font), yet another task that requires a significant amount of self-control.

The researchers found that those who suppressed their emotions performed worse on the Stroop task, indicating that they had used up their resources for self-control while holding back their tears during the film.

An EEG, performed during the Stroop task, confirmed these results. Normally, when a person deviates from their goals (in this case, wanting to read the word, not the color of the font), increased brain activity occurs in a part of the frontal lobe called the anterior cingulate cortex, which alerts the person that they are off-track. The researchers found weaker activity occurring in this brain region during the Stroop task in those who had suppressed their feelings. In other words, after engaging in one act of self-control this brain system seems to fail during the next act.

These results, which appear in the November issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, have significant implications for future interventions aiming to help people change their behavior. Most notably, it suggests that if people, even temporarily, do not realize that they have lost control, they will be unable to stop or change their behavior on their own.

Read it all here.

A reason to unite

Most people don't even have shoes in Bishop Anthony Poggo's Anglican diocese in southern Sudan. His people in the Diocese of Kajo Keji struggle with hunger, malaria and the aftermath of a half-century of war. But in a living example of Jesus' teaching that the way to gain one's life is to lose it, Episcopal Bishop Paul V. Marshall of Bethlehem, and with the 16,000-member diocese in Pennsylvania are finding their lives saved by the people of Kajo Keji.

Michael Duck of the Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania, writes in a Sunday front page story:

While other parts of the Episcopal Church have fractured over questions about ministering to homosexuals, Marshall's mission to help Poggo's diocese has unified the Diocese of Bethlehem, which includes 14 counties in eastern and northeast Pennsylvania.

Instead of focusing on controversies or on pricey construction projects, Marshall's diocese has come together to raise more than $2 million in pledges in just a few months to help its sister diocese of Kajo Keji.

Marshall also has led by example, saying experiences in Sudan inspired him to delay his retirement, downgrade his car, and live more simply so his family could pledge $53,000 to the campaign.

"What you are doing is giving us hope,'' Poggo told the hundreds of delegates Friday at Bethlehem's 136th Diocesan convention. ''Thank you very much for your sacrifices to your brothers and sisters, [bringing] hope to a people who have known nothing but war, poverty and disease.''

"I don't know where our diocese would be without Kajo Keji," Marshall said. "We have been changed and mobilized by that connection.''

The Morning Call contrasts this relationship to the usual stuff that makes headlines about the Episcopal Church and African Anglicans.

Poggo and Marshall's dioceses are both part of the Anglican Communion, a confederation of churches that grew out of the Church of England.

Other African bishops in the worldwide group have denounced the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion's American branch, for consecrating an openly gay bishop in 2003. Some African bishops have allied themselves with breakaway conservative American parishes that agree the Bible forbids homosexual relationships.

On Sept. 25, Episcopal bishops responded to an ultimatum from Anglican leaders by saying the church wouldn't consecrate more gay bishops or bless any same-sex unions. Marshall, who supports a larger role for gays in the church, didn't vote for the statement.

But those tensions don't affect the friendship between Poggo and Marshall, who acknowledge the conflict in the world church but see other issues as more pressing.

''When a person is dying because of lack of food,'' Poggo said, the American branch's stance on homosexuality ''is not really a concern.''

Marshall and his wife, Diana, first visited Kajo Keji in 2005, when a peace agreement halted the decades of civil wars that followed the country's independence in 1956. The fighting pitted Arab Muslims from the north of Sudan against blacks from the south, including many Christians.

''We had the privilege of being with refugees [from Kajo Keji] on the day the peace treaty was signed,'' Marshall said, ''and that is a celebration I shall not ever forget.''

''To us, when we pray, 'Give us this day our daily bread,' we mean it!'' Poggo said during his sermon at the Bethlehem convention's worship service Saturday. ''You cannot preach to a person who is dying and does not have food.''

Read: The Morning Call: A Reason to Unite

See a photo of Bishop Anthony and Bishop Paul at the altar together in Bethlehem, PA, here.

This is what Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote to the Diocese of Bethlehem.

I believe that New Hope is representative of the bountiful harvest that comes from global relationships. It is the end result of a longstanding partnership between the Diocese of Bethlehem and the Diocese of Kajo Keji in the Sudan. Such dynamic relationships have the power to transform our priorities and renew our sense of mission. Indeed, they have the power to reawaken that spirit of generosity and compassion that characterizes new life in Christ.

I give thanks for the caring individuals and communities who have already contributed to New Hope's capital campaign ...

Find out more about A New Hope Campaign here.

Here are pictures from

Nigerian bishop to evangelicals: stay and fight it out

The outgoing Anglican archbishop of Nigeria's Kaduna state, Josiah Idowu-Fearon, explains why many Nigerian Christians have such profoundly negative views about homosexuality, but at the same time questions the relationship between conservative American Anglican and fundamentalist groups, and says the fast growth of the Church in Nigeria has come at the expense of a deep knowledge of the Christian faith for many new adherents.

Speaking to the Dallas Morning News, Archbishop Josiah, speaks of his experience in a Nigerian province where Christianity is a relatively new religion and is now encroaching on the historically Muslim area and describes the challenges the brings.

...He oversees a Christian flock in a traditionally Muslim region where thousands have died in interreligious strife there. An academically trained Koranic scholar, Archbishop Josiah works with Muslim leaders to avoid communal violence and paper over differences.

And he is critical of the liberalizing trends in other parts of the Anglican Communion and places the differences both in terms of culture and in terms of differing understandings of Biblical authority:

I think it is wrong to say it is between Americans and Africans, or the West and the Southern hemisphere. It is between two groups of people who understand the authority of Scripture differently. You see, for me as a Christian from Nigeria, my parents are Christians. My grandparents had practiced traditional religion before they became Christian. Now, in African traditional religion, if I had an attraction to a male person, that is considered as an abnormal thing, a spiritual problem. ...

Now, when my grandparents met the English, who introduced us to the Christian faith, they read the Bible to my grandparents, and said, look, this thing you're talking about, the Bible agrees that it's sinful. So for us, the Bible supports our pre-Christian theology. We accepted it. We became Christian. And that is why in Africa, generally, if you have an abnormal sexual orientation, you don't brag about it. ...

That's why we feel we are deceived, we have been cheated by the people the Lord Jesus Christ used to introduce us to the Scriptures, to bring us to a new faith in the Lord Jesus. They are telling us that it's not wrong after all, that it's a natural way. But we say: You are wrong; the Bible is right. So it's not just a question of human sexuality. It's about the authority of Scripture. For us, Scripture judges every culture. What I hear in the Western world is that culture judges Scripture. That's the basic difference. It's not a question of sex or no sex.

When asked about the fast growth of Christianity in Nigeria, the Archbishop sounds a note of caution. Citing the experience in the Protestant West described by Max Weber, he said that Protestantism gave a structure of discipline that allowed capitalism to develop. He contrasts that with the Pentecostal movements in his country which describes as 'flamboyant' and having 'no self-denial.' He says,

You go to a church and you see hundreds of people who call themselves Christians, and they cannot even articulate for you the basics of the Christian gospel. But they can tell you that I came to Christ at two o'clock on the 7th of October of whatever year. I say, so what? They will cheat, they will lie, there is a lot of promiscuity. The Christianity that is so-called growing like wildfire in Africa is frightening to me. It's superficial, and that's the truth. It's growing, but what kind of Christianity are we talking about? You have church leaders bribing to be voted for. You have church leaders taking money from bankers who have embezzled it and given to the church, and you say, "Praise the Lord"? You can't reconcile that with the ethics of the Kingdom.

He cautions against Americans turning to African churches for leadership and about breaking away from their home church, advising them instead to remain true to their convictions and to be a voice for Biblical truth even in a Church that, in his view, is turning away from it.

The solution is right here. I believe Evangelicals, those who believe in the authority of Scripture, need to stay and fight it out. But I know that the way we are structured, decisions are often taken by bishops. To me, it is wrong. You might have a bishop who doesn't believe in the finality of the sacrifice of Jesus, in the uniqueness of Jesus, in the authority of Scripture. What do you do with that? I tell people: How often do you see a bishop? The important thing is, do you have a rector or priest who believes in the Bible? Me, I would stay in my parish and fight to be an oasis of hope for people who believe in Scripture.

Archbishop Idowu-Fearon speaks a voice that is true to his evangelical convictions. He desires people to have an informed, deep faith that rests in a working knowledge of the Bible. He also advises against schism as the way to heal the Church.

Read: Josiah Idowu-Fearon: At the heart of two flashpoints

Vie only in righteousness and justice

The Archbishop of Canterbury has responded quickly and positively to an open letter from moderate Muslim leaders saying that it is a call to righteousness and mutual respect under the One God.

An open letter from 138 Muslim leaders to Christian churches warns that "the future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians." The moderate imams, ayatollahs, grand muftis, sheikhs, and scholars calls for Muslims and Christians to find common ground in the teachings and principles of the two faiths, and seeks to be a alternative voice for the radical Islam that dominates the western media.

The two faiths account for more than half the world's population, the letter notes, and with "the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict.... Our common future is at stake."

The 29 page document, "A Common Word Between Us and You," was immediately received by the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and other Christian leaders in Great Britain.

Williams said,

“The theological basis of the letter and and its call to “vie with each other only in righteousness and good works; to respect each other, be fair, just and kind to another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual goodwill”, are indicative of the kind of relationship for which we yearn in all parts of the world, and especially where Christians and Muslims live together. It is particularly important in underlining the need for respect towards minorities in contexts where either Islam or Christianity is the majority presence."

The Archbishop said that the letter’s emphasis on the fundamental importance of belief in the unity of God and love of neighbour is welcome. He said ”the letter rightly makes it clear that these are scriptural foundations equally for Jews, Christians, and for Muslims, and are the basis for justice and peace in the world.

Dr Williams continued:

“There is much here to study and to build on. The letter’s understanding of the unity of God provides an opportunity for Christians and Muslims to explore together their distinctive understandings and the ways in which these mould and shape our lives. The call to respect, peace and goodwill should now be taken up by Christians and Muslims at all levels and in all countries and I shall endeavour in this country and internationally, to do my part in working for the righteousness which this letter proclaims as our common goal."

The Rev Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and president of the Lutheran World Federation, Geneva, has responded positively to letter sent to him and several global Christian leaders by 138 Muslim world leaders, according to Ekklesia.

Hanson wrote:

"The letter attests to both the love of God and our shared heritage of true hospitality to one's neighbor. These commandments convey prophetic witness for mutual and vital co-existence that Christians and Muslims must embrace in one another. The letter further references how the commands to love God and neighbor are linked "between the Qur'an, the Torah and the New Testament." I encourage everyone everywhere to read the beauty of these passages found in the sacred texts of the Abrahamic faiths, which signify God's vision for how and whom we love in a broken world. This common vision for Jews, Muslims, and Christians signifies fidelity and fellowship in a world where conflict offends our common heritage as children of God.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that while the document is a message to Christians everywhere, it's also a message to Muslims. The letter states that "justice and freedom of religion are a crucial part of love of the neighbor." To those who "relish conflict and destruction," it warns that "our very eternal souls are at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace...."

Read: The Christian Science Monitor: Moderate Muslims Speak--To Christians

Also read: Ekklesia: Archbishop of Canterbury responds to "A Common Word."

And: Ekklesia: Lutheran world chielf welcomes Muslim peace letter.

Paroled Episcopal priest suspended

The San Francisco Chronicle has news that the Rev. James Tramel, a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of California, has been suspended while an allegation of sexual misconduct made against him is being investigated.

Tramel is well known as the priest who was recently ordained while in prison serving time having been convicted of second-degree murder. Tramel's story of repentance and subsequent acceptance into the church's ordained ministry is told here.

According to the Chronicle's article:

"An adult member of Trinity Episcopal Church in San Francisco, Tramel's parish, filed the complaint with the diocese Tuesday, and Tramel, 39, was suspended that day from all pastoral, administrative and sacramental duties, according to diocesan spokesman Sean McConnell.

Parishioners at the church were told of the suspension during Sunday morning services, McConnell said.

Reached on Sunday, Tramel said Bishop Marc Andrus had instructed him not to speak on the matter. Andrus said the alleged sexual misconduct occurred over time and did not involve criminal activity."

Read the rest here.

Ndungane: Episcopal Church is committed to reconciliation

The Archbishop of the Province of South Africa has released a statement in response the release of the Joint Standing Committee's report on the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans. Archbishop Ndungane says that the report shows that the Episcopal Church is committed to the path of reconciliation and has taken sufficient steps to begin that process in earnest. The Archbishop in particular commends the Presiding Bishop for her generosity in trying to find a way to respond to the pastoral needs of the disaffected within the Episcopal Church, and calls for the other recommendations of the Windsor report to be honored as well.

(By email)

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane
Statement on The Episcopal Church
15 October 2007

'Now is the time of God's favour' writes St Paul, reminding us that in every present moment we must grasp the opportunities offered by God's reconciling grace (2 Cor 5:16-6:2).

The Episcopal Church has grasped that opportunity, and committed itself to the path of reconciliation. Now the rest of the Anglican Communion must make sure the moment is not lost.

As the careful and comprehensive report of the Joint Standing Committee makes clear, the House of Bishops have now provided the necessary clarifications and assurances on the responses General Convention had given to issues raised in the Windsor Report. We now have a basis for going forward together, working alongside one another to restore the broken relationships both within the Episcopal Church and within the wider Communion.

The Episcopal Church has borne unprecedented scrutiny into its affairs, often with scant regard either for its legitimate internal polity or for the principle, observed since the ancient councils of the Church, of local jurisdiction and non-interference, and in the face of all this has had the courage to take hard decisions. The Presiding Bishop, in particular, is to be commended for her self-denial in the generosity of the provisions proposed for the ministry of Episcopal Visitors. Others should now respond by also abiding by the recommendations of the Windsor Report, as the Joint Standing Committee Report underlines.

This has not been an easy road to travel. Much remains to be done and we must continue to strive earnestly together to find the path ahead. The experiences of my own Province, both through the terrible divisions of the apartheid years, and in the differences of our earliest history (which contributed to the holding of the first Lambeth Conference), have repeatedly demonstrated that holding fast to one another yields lasting fruit, while separation solves very little. Our God is the God of reconciliation, not of division, and we can take courage that he will continue to guide our way forward. I am sure that as we continue to abide in Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord, in whom lies the gift of unity, that we will find ourselves, our churches, our world-wide Communion, refined and strengthened, for the life of worship, witness and service to which we are called.

Update: Letter has been made available at ACNS.

Lessons the Church needs to learn

An editorial in the Anglican Journal begins by recounting the history of a case of alleged abuse against students at a school connected to the Anglican Church of Canada. Leanne Larmondin, the author, then lists some specific recommendations for all churches in terms of how they work with institutions inside and alongside them.

First a bit of the history and background of the allegations being made against Grenville Christian College and the way the Anglican Church of Canada responded:

"Initially, when the story broke in the secular media, the church tried to distance itself from the school, saying there was ‘no direct relationship at all between the Anglican Church of Canada and Grenville Christian College.’ Yes, church officials said, three of the former headmasters were Anglican priests, including the most recent holder of that office, but they were there in a private capacity. Yes, the school used Anglican prayer books and hymnbooks, but it used other forms of worship too. Yes, bishops and other Anglican church dignitaries presided at ceremonial functions, but church officials are invited to many events."

Later on, Larmondin makes some specific recommendations:

What lessons should the church have learned from the residential schools affair?

For one, the church ought to be scrupulous about the groups with whom it associates. Regardless of whether the Anglican church was a founding body of Grenville, there appeared to be a close relationship between church and school that was cemented with the regular worship “in the Anglican tradition” in the school’s chapel, with the regular visits from church dignitaries and the Anglican flag that flew on the campus. Any rumours of misconduct at the institution should have been investigated. It was not a matter of whether the school was an Anglican school, it was thought of as such and the church must protect its integrity and care for society’s most vulnerable members.

Additionally, an Anglican priest on leave is still a priest. Although the allegations have not been proven in court, the strange stories about cultish practices at the school did reach the diocese; failure by the diocese to investigate those claims when the school headmaster was a member of the clergy seems pure folly.

A week or so after the story broke in the media, the church did make an effort to redeem itself. By mid-September, it appeared to be making more of a pastoral effort, with the bishop meeting with former students to hear their complaints and the diocese launching an investigation of the incidents.


Read the rest of the editorial here.

Webcast conversation with the Presiding Bishop

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, spoke to a live audience at the studios of Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York and responded to questions from Web viewers and the studio audience. The Webcast concluded just before 4 p. m. EDT, but will be available on demand soon at this address.

Her opening statement is here.

In her remarks, Bishop Jefferts Schori mentions the 'five marks of mission" articulated by the Anglican Communion. The document she mentions is here.

"Legal Help Requested"

Katie Sherrod writes of the difficulties Episcopalians are having finding help from the national church office as they struggle to remain in the Episcopal Church while living in dioceses planning on leaving.

After describing the situation in the Diocese of Fort Worth, she write of her frustration as she and others in the diocese seek guidance in how to respond:

"I confess to being baffled at how much difficulty we are having getting legal advice on all this from the national church. What’s more, they don't say, 'Well, we can't help until you get your own lawyer,' or 'Here are the steps you need to take before we can help you,' or 'Jump through these hoops to prove you are worthy of our help.'

We would gladly do whatever we need to do -- if we had the slightest idea what that is.

We are not canon lawyers. The lawyers we are talking with are not canon lawyers and will have to do research on this. Texas courts are very reluctant to intervene in a church fight and, we are told by lawyers here, they always defer to the canons of hierarchal churches. Well, that sounds good. But nothing I've been able to find talks about what to do when a bishop is trying to take everything in a diocese with him.

That changes the dynamic in ways 815 doesn't seem to grasp.
Everyone tells us it will have to be fought out in court. OK. But when? And by whom? And with what money? And what should we be doing in the meantime?

Most of the clergy here are in the bishop’s pocket. Those who are not are few, and pretty beat up.

So it is us lay people [basically Fort Worth Via Media] who are struggling to find ways to stay in TEC. We do not have diocesan resources to help us, and few of the parishes are willing to use their resources to help us. Trinity, my parish, is clear it wants to stay in TEC but it’s not getting any more help than FWVM is getting."

Read the rest here: Desert's Child: Legal Help Requested

At the Cathedral: Pop Music, Politics And Prayers for Peace

Linton Weeks writes in The Washington Post:

It was the coolest of church coffeehouses.

"Thanks for coming to give peace a chance," David Crosby told the crowd of more than 2,500 at Washington National Cathedral, before he and Graham Nash launched into "Lay Me Down."

To kick off last night's Pray for Peace concert, John Bryson Chane, Episcopal bishop of Washington and the evening's emcee, quoted Nash: "No person has the right to take another person's life in the name of God." Churches and religions should be instruments of peace, not war, he said.

When people gather to pray for peace, "what you are praying for is an end to war," Chane said. He said it was not an antiwar event, but a moment to call on nations to lay down all arms. "War," he said, "is the ultimate declaration of human failure. What we are saying is: Enough is enough."

Read it all. CBS has a story, too.

The statute of limitations on "imminent"

Paul Majendie of Reuters has the latest "sky is falling/schism is imminent" article, this one pegged to the Diocese of Ottawa's decision to ask its bishop to authorize a rite for blessing same-sex unions.

Faced with a bid from Canadian clerics to bless gay weddings, the worldwide Anglican Communion now faces a real risk of breaking apart over differences between its liberal and conservative wings.

"The train and the buffers are getting closer," said religious journalist and commentator Clifford Longley.

The bishop has not yet decided how to respond, and if he authorizes a rite, it is unclear what the Church of Canada, or the Anglican Commuinion will do in response. It is also far from clear whether one can have a "schism" involving a single diocese. But no journalist covering this story has been held accountable for erroneous predictions of imminent schism.

We've explored the sky is falling/gap is widening problem that journalists succumb to on a regualr basis twice previously. For the key excerpts, click on the words in blue.

Read more »

James Alison on the Atonement

The Café's video blog features a brief interview with Catholic priest James Alison this week. The conversation it has engendered is worth a look, particularly Donald Shell's comments on Alison's book about the Atonement, Raising Abel.

David Salmon: First Athabascan Episcopal priest

The Rev. David Salmon, first traditional chief of the Athabascan people, Episcopal priest, and a widely respected spiritual leader, was buried Monday near his home in Chalkyitsik, Alaska.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports:

Hundreds of mourners flew to the small Interior community from villages and towns around the state to pay their respects to Salmon. A dozen white-gowned Episcopal ministers gave final blessings after Salmon's handmade wooden coffin was lowered into the ground.

Salmon was an ordained Episcopal minister and had been the Interior's first traditional chief since 2003. The position is an honorary, nonpolitical office and is held in high esteem.

"He was a very humble, humble individual. He was a very giving man," said Steve Ginnis, former Tanana Chiefs president. "He wanted no fanfare, recognition or praise but to have us praise the Lord."

Doyon President Orie Williams said Salmon was one of the most spiritual men he ever met and was never critical.

"He never brought negativity with him. He was always positive. You could never go to school enough years to know what this man knew," Williams said. "He was truly an Indian chief long before people called him one."

The Rev. Scott Fisher, Rector of St. Matthew's, Fairbanks attended the ceremony and tells some of the history of The Rev. David Salmon and Bishop Gordon and the connection to the passage of what was Title III, Canon 9.

Back last night from Chalkyitsik, a little village 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle, about 200 miles northeast of Fairbanks. I was up there for the funeral/burial of the Rev. David Salmon, who died there at home last Thursday. David was 95 years old and the Traditional First Chief of the entire Interior region of Alaska. And an amazing guy. He was a link to very very Old Stories & tradition. He could remember stories from his Grandfather of when the first missionaries (Anglican missionaries traveling with the Hudson Bay Company in 1849) arrived in the country (people here were startled by the whiteness of the pages in the prayer book).

In his own way, he changed the entire structure of the Episcopal Church. In the 1950s the then priest in Fort Yukon (Walter Hannum) told then Bishop Gordon "I've got a man up here that needs to be ordained". The Bishop told him "There's no way to do it under current canons unless he goes to a Seminary". Walter said, "Okay, I'll start a seminary" and began a training program that led to David being ordained in 1962, the first Athabascan ordained to the priesthood (there had been previous deacons earlier in the century). Simultaneously the Bishop started working to change the national canons - leading eventually to Canon 9 ordinations etc. That's my rough understanding of the story. Anyone ordained these days who didn't go to Seminary owe their path in some sense to David.

Here's a David story. early in the 60s one of the Baptist missionaries was giving David a hard time about infant baptism versus baptism by immersion. In reply David reminded him about the woman who touches only the hem of Our Lord's garment and is healed."Every drop of water is Jesus", he concluded.

Living in tension

The Rev. Matthew Dutton-Gillett has written a new essay for The Episcopal Majority. He says:

If Anglicanism falls apart, with “conservatives” going their way and “liberals” going their way, the world will not be surprised. Because that is exactly what human beings do and have done over and over again throughout history. They choose sides, they throw rocks at their enemies and they ultimately split up – or else destroy one party to the conflict. Most of the world will not see the break up of the Anglican Communion as a great heroic defense of Truth. They will see it as a failure even among Christian people to live any better with each other than the rest of humanity. The falling apart of the Anglican Communion will not be an evangelistic triumph for the True Faith. It will be a conspicuous example of the inability of the followers of Jesus to actually follow him.

Read it all.

Dalai Lama receives Congressional Medal

The New York Times reports that the Dalai Lama ... said that he felt “a sense of regret” over the sharp tensions with China unleashed by his visit and the honors conferred upon him.

In gentle language and conciliatory tones, he congratulated China on its dynamic economic growth, recognized its rising role on the world stage, but he also gently urged it to embrace “transparency, the rule of law and freedom of information.”

As Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama received the Congressional Gold Medal today, Voice of America (VOA) broadcast the award ceremony and the Dalai Lama's acceptance speech live to Tibet via radio, television, and the Internet. The same broadcast included videotaped testimonials of the heads of all six sects of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Congressional Medal ceremony will be rebroadcast in several formats to Tibet and elsewhere in China and will be available for viewing here.

In an interview with VOA yesterday, the Dalai Lama expressed support for the Burmese democracy movement, saying that he admired the recent efforts of Buddhist monks and adding that their cause was just. He urged Buddhist members of Burma's military government to remember the Buddhist teachings of "compassion" and "love" as they confront these situations.

Read more here and here and listen to the Dalai Lama's speech.

In other news of peace, South Korea will host the worldwide Anglican peace conference November 14-20. More than 150 Anglican leaders, ecumenical guests and others will participate according to Episcopal Life Online.

Bless the Lord, O my soul

Garrison Keillor writes in Salon:

In Baltimore with friends Sunday morning, a splendid fall day under blue skies, we marched off to the nearest church and found ourselves in an old brownstone temple of 1852, wooden box pews, stained glass on all sides, old tiled floor, for a high Anglican-Catholic Mass, a troop of choristers in white, altar boys, bearded priests in medieval vestments, holy water and puffs of smoke and bells and chanting of scripture, precision bowing and genuflecting, all rather exotic for an old fundamentalist like me but deeply moving, and it made me think about my father, whose birthday was Oct. 12, and brought me to tears.

It was formal high Mass, none of that "hi and how are we all doing this morning" chumminess, and the homily only summarized the scripture texts about healing, it didn't turn into an essay on healthcare. Ten voices strong and true in the choir and positioned as they were under the great arch of the chancel, their tender polyphonic Kyrie and Gloria infused the whole building with pure kindness.

He continues:

Now I'm an old, tired Democrat, sick of this infernal war that may go on for the rest of my life and in which more of our brethren will die miserably, both American and Iraqi. I'm sick of politics today, the cleverness and soullessness of it. But here in an old brownstone church at an ancient ceremony, there is a moment of separation from all the griefs of this world. Ten men and women are singing a cappella, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name," and their voices drench us fugitive worshippers kneeling, naked, trembling, needy, in the knowledge of grace, and when we arise and go out into Baltimore, the blessing follows us.

Read it all here.

Harare chancellor warns diocese

UPDATE: See this article in the October 19th issue of Church Times.

Bob Stumbles, chancellor of the Diocese of Harare, brings blessed clarity to the confusing saga of Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, the pro-Mugabe leader of that diocese, and makes it clear that the bishop is using the issue of homosexuality to divert attention from his personal misdeeds. Stumbles also makes it clear that the reports of the province's dissolution are in error. (For further background this 2005 article from Church Times and this letter by Stumbles from 2006.)

The saga of Bishop Nolbert Kunonga's efforts to take the Diocese of Harare out of the Anglican Province of Central Africa has been a twisted one from the beginning. Most recently, Kunonga, a supporter of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe's bizarre policies, has attempted to use the issue of homosexuality as a smoke screen, claiming that he is breaking with the province over theological differences. Critics, however, argue that Kunonga is making this move because with the retirement of his protector Archbishop Bernard Malango, darling of American conservatives, Kunonga can no longer expect to escape facing charges in an ecclesiastical court.

Bob Stumbles, chancellor of Kunonga's own diocese, recently released a statement on Kunonga's conduct and its potential implications. The summary follows:


SUMMARY:

1. The issue confronting the Diocese of Harare is NOT one of homosexualtiy in the Anglican Church of Central Africa even though this issue challenges Christians throughout the world.

2. The purported "break away" by the Bishop of Harare from the Province of Central Africa cannot be recognised in the laws of theAnglican Church and any such move would result in a "schism",severing all ties with the world wide Anglican Communion.

3. Any person - clergy or laity - associating with this move would themselves also sever all ties with the Anglican Communion.

4. Resolutions of the Harare Diocesan Synod of 4 August 2007 in this regard are, for several reasons, severely flawed and any actionsflowing from these are invalid.

5. It cannot be claimed that the Diocesan Synod has given any mandate to any person to "withdraw the Diocese of Harare from the Province of Central Africa" - either while attending the Provincial Synod of 8 September 2007, or at any other time.

6. A "Special Synod", called for Saturday 20 October 2007 cannot legitimately be held because the required notice has not been given.

7. The question members of the Anglican Church (and any other concerned persons) must answer with God's help is, "Is this a genuine concern to protect the flock from error, or is it about power and money?"

Bishop Kunonga has not received an invitation to Lambeth 2008 and has close ties to the oppressive government of Zimbabwe.

(Some of our previous coverage on Kunonga can be found here and here.)

The complete letter follows - used with permission.

Read more »

What do Christians believe about Judaism?

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter has stirred up the debate on what Christians believe regarding the place of Judaism. In an October 8 appearance on CNBC’s “The Big Idea” Coulter said that what Christians ultimately want is for Jews to be “perfected” into Christians.

Gabriel Sanders in The Jewish Daily Forward writes:

The notion that God’s covenant with Christians came to replace his covenant with Jews — a concept known as supersessionism, or replacement theology — informed centuries of Christian thought. It was a central idea for both the early church fathers and the leaders of the Reformation. It was also embraced, and expanded upon, by the German Idealist philosophers of the late-18th and early-19th centuries.

In the decades after the Holocaust, however, as Christian denominations were forced to rethink the nature of Christian-Jewish ties, many reconsidered, and ultimately repudiated, the concept. In 1988, the Episcopal Church endorsed a new set of guidelines governing Christian-Jewish relations. Supersessionism’s repercussions, the guidelines read, had been “fateful.” Rather than being a “fossilized religion of legalism,” as the Judaism of Jesus’ time was long thought to be, the church’s revised position held that “Judaism in the time of Jesus was in but an early stage of its long life.”

But not all Christian denominations have followed the Episcopal Church’s lead.

Read it all here.

Thanks to epiScope.

Parish featured on ABC's Nightline

Good Shepherd of the Hills of Cave Creek, Arizona and its involvement in issues of migration and day laborers will be seen on ABC's Nightline. The program is scheduled to be aired tonight, October 18, at 10:30 p.m. in Arizona. Check local listings for the time in your area.

The Lead covered this church's ministry October 1:

Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church of Cave Creek, Arizona, describes itself as a "little church with a big heart." That big heart has drawn it into the heart of both local and national controversy about migration and day-laborers.

Read it all here

Falling in love with the Episcopal Church

Emily Garcia, writing in the Daily Princetonian, reflects on her journey in faith as she discovers the Episcopal Church as a place where she finds love and redemption.

I joined the confirmation class, not because I wanted to be confirmed but because I had so many questions. As I kept learning, however, I started to fall in love. I cannot even express what it was like to learn that perhaps all my questions were not signs of sinfulness or fault; I can't begin to explain the overwhelming and startling joy at encountering a God who did not look at me only to see where I had failed, but who accepted me and called me to higher places. On Easter morning I was baptized. Four weeks later, on Good Shepherd Sunday, I was confirmed, and officially, happily, enthusiastically joined the Anglican Communion.

I have found in the Anglican Church a long sweep of tradition and a wide spectrum of beliefs and doctrines, all centered around a message of love and redemption. I have found an intellectual engagement with Scripture and theology that is balanced precariously but perpetually with a sincere spiritual yearning for holiness. To be fair, not all of my interest and passion for "religion" (i.e. God) arose solely from having joined the Anglican Church; rather, it is in this particular expression of Christianity that I have found my home. It is the place where I have found safety and acceptance enough to explore myself and the world, and to continue the journey toward knowing God.

Read the essay here

Cleveland pitcher writes spiritual autobiography

Paul Byrd, Cleveland Indians pitcher is the author of "The Free Byrd Project," a book about his spiritual journey through the major leagues and the pitfalls that athletes who try to live a faithful life must negotiate living a ballplayer's lifestyle.

On the eve of his ALCS Game 4 outing, Byrd took some time to talk about some of the topics he'll cover in his book, including his struggles with pornography, cheating, and sharing his faith with the media and clubhouse mates, and to discuss how religion can unify and, at times, divide a clubhouse.

Read the interview on ESPN here

J.K. Rowling 'fesses up

J.K. Rowling, the author of the best selling series of books about Harry Potter, "the boy who lived" has revealed in an interview with MTV that she intentionally included a great deal of Christian thought and imagery in her books.

She says specifically of the scripture quotes found in the final volume of the series that "They almost epitomize the whole series."

The interview begins:

'It deals extensively with souls — about keeping them whole and the evil required to split them in two. After one hero falls beyond the veil of life, his whispers are still heard. It starts with the premise that love can save you from death and ends with a proclamation that a sacrifice in the name of love can bring you back from it.

Harry Potter is followed by house-elves and goblins — not disciples — but for the sharp-eyed reader, the biblical parallels are striking. Author J.K. Rowling's 'Harry Potter' books have always, in fact, dealt explicitly with religious themes and questions, but until 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,' they had never quoted any specific religion.

That was the plan from the start, Rowling told reporters during a press conference at the beginning of her Open Book Tour on Monday. It wasn't because she was afraid of inserting religion into a children's story. Rather, she was afraid that introducing religion (specifically Christianity) would give too much away to fans who might then see the parallels.

"To me [the religious parallels have] always been obvious," she said. "But I never wanted to talk too openly about it because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going.

Later in the interview she talks more specifically about the Christian parallels, but that section contains spoilers and so it may never be said that the Episcopal Café ever ruined the reading a good book, we'll let you read that for yourself.

You can read the rest here.

Illinois mandates moment of silence

From Associated Press religion briefs yesterday, an Illinois Democrat in that state's legislative body successfully changed a law so that schools now are required (rather than have the option) to have a moment of silence at the beginning of each school day, despite the Illinois governor's veto of the measure. Critics are decrying the slippery slope towards "compulsory school prayer," even though the one-word change in the law isn't about prayer at all, says its author, Rep. Will Davis:

An Illinois law called the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act already allowed schools to observe a moment of silence if they wanted. The new provision changes just one word: "may" observe becomes "shall" observe.

The sponsor of the change, Rep. Will Davis, a Democrat from Homewood, said his goal is not to open the door for teachers to lead their classes in morning prayer but help students calm down and think about their plans.

It's the first story in the briefs round-up, here. Other items of note include a new president of the National Association of Evangelicals, if you're curious about that sort of thing, and another small-town brouhaha over a Nativity scene landing the issue on that locale's Nov. 6 election ballot. (We can see the signs now--Vote for the Baby Jesus!)

A little levity for your morning Café fare. Now, back to your moment of silence...

Bishop candidates in Chicago

The Chicago Tribune has bio capsules and information about regional appearances of the eight final candidates for bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago:

The slate of nominees reflects the changing face of the nation's Episcopal church, with three women and two Africans among those running. Before this election, no woman had been nominated for Episcopal bishop of Chicago.

The slate also includes someone in a same-sex partnership. The article, which speculates on the odds for each candidate, notes that the candidate, the Rev. Tracey Lind, "has credentials, pedigree and a Midwestern advantage that matters. But because of her same-sex partner, her election would not be approved by the wider church."

The finalists are:

  • The Rev. Alvin C. Johnson, Jr.
  • The Rev. Tracey Lind
  • The Rev. Timothy B. Safford
  • The Rev. Canon Robert K. Koomson
  • The Rev. Petero A.N. Sabune
  • The Rev. Margeret R. Rose
  • The Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee
  • The Rev. Jane S. Gould

For each candidate, in addition to odds, the article provides information on his or her family and current position, as well as quotes that reflect his or her call to ministry and perspectives on critical issues facing the church.

You can read the whole thing here.

Montreal synod to examine same-sex blessing issue

The 148th Synod of the Diocese of Montreal convenes today, and it opens hot on the heels of Ottawa's recent approval of a same-sex blessing option, as reported here. The issue is on the table for Montreal as well, as the Montreal Anglican notes:

Part of the agenda will be devoted to a presentation on the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada in Winnipeg last June, which was to a great extent dominated by the issue. Delegates in Winnipeg voted that a church blessing over a same-sex relationship does not conflict with essential church teachings but refused to affirm the authority of a diocese to allow such blessings, a razor-thin 21-19 majority among bishops being decisive in both cases.

In addition to reflecting on the Winnipeg synod, delegates at the diocesan one will be asked to request their bishop, Barry Clarke, to permit parish clergy to bless the same-sex marriages of couples already married in civil ceremonies.

The bishop would be asked to set up some guidelines for such blessings.

The proposal is to be put before the Montreal gathering by Canon Paul Jennings, on the staff of the Montreal Diocesan Theological College, and Douglass Doulton, a parishioner at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Montreal. Both were delegates to the Winnipeg synod. As described by Canon Jennings, the diocesan chancellor, David Eramian, who mentioned briefly at last month’s meeting of the Diocesan Council that he had been advised the matter was coming up, and others, the proposal would not compel any clergyperson unwilling to do so to bless such a union.

The minister’s parish would also have to support his or her involvement. Just how this would work could be a contentious issue.

This is from the PDF version of the Montreal Anglican, available here.

Other sources are reporting that the vote will take place tonight, and a Canada.com wire-reported story offers some viewpoints:

Talk of a schism between orthodox and more liberal factions of the Church, which has spread since Robinson's consecration, is "a reality," Patricia Kirkpatrick, a religious studies professor at McGill University conceded.

But she says the motion by Montreal and Ottawa to put the issue of blessing same-sex unions to a vote, which does not mean parishes can marry members of the same sex, is part of the democratic tradition in Anglicanism.

"It's important to remember that this is a process of discernment and that the listening process, because of democratic function, is important," she added.

However she was hesitant to predict where Montreal's 11,000 Anglicans might stand on the issue of blessing same-sex civil unions.

"(Montreal) diocese has discussed issues of sexuality and the church for the past 30 years," said Kirkpatrick, adding delegates at the synod would be leading an informed discussion.

"There's the same breadth of opinion in both the rural and urban communities," said Rev. Paul Jennings, who is co-presenting the motion at the Montreal synod.

"I'm certainly aware this is a painful motion where people will be wounded and alienated on both sides," he continued.

But stressed that the decision to bless same-sex unions is at its core "about relationships."

"We're talking recognizing the fact God has blessed a relationship. You can't live (in a couple) for so long, without a little help," Jennings said.

The source site seems to be having some CSS problems, but scroll down this page to read the whole thing.

Some Central Fla. parishes exploring disaffiliation scenarioes

A news release from the Diocese of Central Florida reports that yesterday, the rectors and senior wardens of seven parishes of the Diocese of Central Florida and two church planters met with Bishop John W. Howe and representatives of the Diocese to discuss the possible scenarios by which all or part of the congregations may disaffiliate from The Episcopal Church.

Click the more link to read the whole thing.

Read more »

Kunonga must go, say provincial leaders

(Continued from yesterday's coverage, here.)

The Living Church Foundation reports that leaders of the Anglican Province of Central Africa have told Rt. Rev. Norbert Kunonga, the bishop of Harare, to relinquish control of diocesan assets or be sued. Kunonga previously announced that Harare had left the province over the issue of homosexuality, citing a statute that, according to the report, may not exist:

Bishop Kunonga said that Harare had quit the province over the issue of homosexuality, citing the Aug. 4 passage by the diocese of Pastoral Motion 8c which he said authorized secession.

However Harare diocesan chancellor Robert Stumbles told The Living Church no such resolution was adopted. Bishop Kunonga’s purported secession resolution “appeared after synod” and had “not been on the agenda.” At no time did the Harare synod give Bishop Kunonga “absolute authority to drag the diocese out of the province,” he said.

Bishop Kunonga’s actions were “tantamount to a schism,” Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana told TLC on Sept. 22.

“The next logical step is for the Bishop of Harare to resign," he said. "The See of the Diocese of Harare will then be declared vacant and a new bishop elected to replace Bishop Kunonga. The schismatic group should not be under any illusion in thinking that they have title to the properties and various trusts legally vested in the Diocese of Harare.”

The article is here.

AllAfrica.com is alleging that it's more than just a request for his resignation, heading its report with "Anglican Church Fires Kunonga - Declares Vacancy." While the headline itself is somewhat misleading, the article clarifies that provincial dean Albert Chama sees Kunonga as having abdicated his responsibilities, saying he would soon appoint a vicar-general to head the diocese:

Chama told Kunonga ... that his purported withdrawal of the diocese from the province was "unconstitutional and un-canonical" as it was tantamount to "altering the structure and the essence" of the church.

"Consequently the heading of your letter stating 'formal withdrawal of the Diocese of Harare from the Province of Central Africa' is unacceptable and misleading," Chama wrote. "We, however, as the Dean of the Province of Central Africa accept and acknowledge that you and some of your supporters have by notice of your letter severed relationship with the Province of Central Africa."

On September 21, Kunonga wrote to the former Archbishop of Central Africa, Bernard Malango, saying he was withdrawing the Diocese of Harare from the province.

"I declare that the See of Harare is with immediate effect vacant and in accordance with Canon 14 (1) I shall be appointing a vicar-general to hold office whilst the necessary steps are taken for the holding of an elective assembly to elect the next bishop of the Diocese of Harare," Chama told Kunonga.

That report is here.

UCC church barred from Angel Tree project

A United Church of Christ congregation in Texas has been told it cannot participate in an evangelical Christian program that assists children of prisoners because of the church's outspoken gay-friendly stance, according to the UCC web site.

The Rev. Dan De Leon, pastor of Friends Congregational UCC in College Station, Texas, said he learned this summer that his church was disqualified from Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree program, which encourages churches to buy Christmas presents for the children of inmates.

Prison Fellowship officials said the church's stance on homosexuality, declared on its Web site, represented a disagreement about basic scriptural doctrine.

"For a church to qualify for Angel Tree, its beliefs must be consistent with our Statement of Faith, including being Trinitarian and accepting the unique authority of the Bible in all matters of faith and life," reads a July 24 letter the church received from Prison Fellowship.

Read it all here

Montreal synod affirms same-sex blessing option

Updated

With a hat tip to Fr. Jake, we have news of last night's vote in Montreal, as we mentioned yesterday. As reported at the synod website:

At its annual synod or general meeting, held 19 October 2007, the Anglican clergy and laity of the Diocese of Montreal voted in favour of a motion requesting "that the Bishop grant permission for clergy, whose conscience permits, to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages, including marriages between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized; and that the Bishop authorize an appropriate rite and make regulations for its use in supportive parishes." The vote taken on Friday night was passed in the order of clergy (44 - 25) and in the order of laity (59 – 32).

Also provided was a statement from Bishop Barry B. Clarke:

The Synod – our diocesan legislative body – has now requested that I grant permission for clergy, whose conscience permits, to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages, including marriages between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized; and that I authorize an appropriate rite and make regulations for its use in supportive parishes.

I will need some time to reflect on today's discussions, to consult further with the other Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada when we meet later this month, and to consider the concerns of our partners in the wider Anglican Communion.

All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. As in any family, we have disagreements – sometimes serious. And as a family, it is important for us to be together; to continue to meet together to discern the mind of Christ. I was elected as Bishop of all Anglicans in this diocese, and as such, I call upon all to remain at the table, working to sustain the highest level of Communion possible.

Until a decision is made, there is no change in our current policy and practice; I expect our clergy to refrain from blessing same-sex couples.

It's also noted that the Anglican Church of Canada's House of Bishops meets October 25-30 in London, Ontario. There, they are expected to "discuss not only the implications of both the Ottawa and Montreal dioceses' vote but also conflicting interpretations of the ramifications of General Synod's decision around same-sex blessings."

In his charge on Friday to the synod Bishop Clarke wrote, "I am also accountable to my fellow bishops and will consult with them next week at our meeting of the House of Bishops, taking into consideration our accountability towards the wider church."

Archbishop Fred Hiltz met in a private meeting Tuesday with the Archbishop of Canterbury. He had said that in that meeting he would raise the issue of blessings as pastoral care. See here and here.

Here is coverage by the Montreal Gazette. 'When asked whether he was concerned that this would create controversy within the Anglican Church of Canada, the bishop was unphased. "Hey, why not?" he said.'

Update

Anglican Journal

The Montreal synod had separate tallies for clergy and lay delegates at the request of several delegates critical of the resolution. This meant the bishop had to say whether he concurred. He did.
...
[The sponsors of the motion] urged delegates to vote in accordance with their own consciences rather than being preoccupied with the possible political consequences of the vote at various levels of the Anglican Church. In fact, while some opponents of the resolution did refer to potential political dangers, there was no lack of scriptural argument.

Make your own Sunday

From the satirical site Lark News:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Don Lawrence preaches three times a week to an appreciative congregation at Life Baptist church. His sermon tapes often sell out, and this year he is leading the people through a study of Matthew’s gospel.

But Lawrence is not a real person. He is a virtual, on-screen pastor whose sermon topics, personality, even mannerisms are chosen collectively by his congregation.

"We’ve never been happier," says head elder Louie Francesca. "We finally got the pastor we all want."

Read it all. It's funny. But it's not only funny.

Pushing Daisies

It's a romantic comedy. About death. And the romantic leads can't actually touch one another, or else she dies. This cute--maybe too cute, whimsical--maybe too whimsical ABC offering has become appointment television in one Café-related household. Not least because it features the voice of Jim Dale, who did such a brilliant job reading the Harry Potter series. Any thoughts about the show, and do you think the fact that the lovers can't ever become physically intimate will lead to any insights about the nature of intimacy?

Here is the EW oeuvre on Pushing Daisies. 1, 2, 3, 4. The articles by Leah Greenblatt are worth reading even if you never intend to watch the show.

Meanwhile, TV watchers, do we think Friday Night Lights has jumped the shark with the sub-plot about the stalker killing/cover-up? (Phrased like that, I can't help but answer yes, although I wasn't bothered much when I watched it.)

The Year of Living Biblically

Writer A. J. Jacobs spent a year taking the Bible very, very seriously, and chronicling his experience in a new book, The Year of Living Biblically. He's discussing the book in a series of very funny exchanges with Matt Labash of The Weekly Standard on Slate.

Evangelicals in power

From Beliefnet:

When people say "America is being run by evangelical Christians," they usually mean that it only feels that way. But with George W. Bush in the White House, James Dobson on the airwaves, and evangelical books filling the best-seller lists, evangelicals have rarely been as prominent as they are today. And as a major new study by sociologist Michael Lindsay reveals, evangelical Christians now hold seats of influence in American government, business, culture, and higher education. This month, Beliefnet invited Lindsay, journalists Hanna Rosin and Jeff Sharlet, evangelical author Jerry Jenkins, and former Bush aide David Kuo to discuss American evangelicals and their rise to power.

Follow it here.

Same Sex Blessing rites commended by Diocese of California convention

Updated

Integrity News is reporting the California Diocesan Convention has approved same sex blessing rites by an overwhelming margin.

Although the Convention passed the resolution, only the bishop has the power to authorize these rites.

The resolution reads:

RESOLVED, that this 158th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of California commend to the Bishop of California the lectionary, rubric entitled “Concerning the Service,” and three rites endorsed by the Commission on Marriage and Blessing, and urge the Bishop to approve the trial use of these forms as resources in the Diocese of California for formalizing the blessing of same-gender unions.

More news of the Diocese of California Convention is here

Integrity is a witness of God's inclusive love to the Episcopal Church and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

Update

From an Oasis press release:

Clergy and lay delegates also approved by a broad majority a resolution countering recent opinions voiced by the Episcopal House of Bishops in New Orleans. [T]he resolution both affirmed "the unanimous decision of the (Diocesan) Standing Committee to refuse to discriminate against partnered gay and lesbian bishops-elect" and deplored "the lack of access to adequate pastoral and ritual care for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in large parts of the Episcopal Church and the refusal of the majority of our bishops to make provision for it."
That Response to the House of Bishops’ Statement resolution is available here.

Race, environment and genetics

James Watson, who won a Nobel Prize in medicine for his work in determining the structure of DNA, caused quite a furor when he said he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really.". He said he hoped that everyone was equal, but countered that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”.

Watson has since backtracked from these comments, but the furor continues. (And, as the father of an African-American child, this is an issue that I take quite personally). Steven Levitt, one of the authors of Freakonomics offers some interesting data that suggests that Watson is simply wrong in his conclusions:

Roland Fryer and I have done some research on this topic which we think is potentially quite interesting and important — although we seem to be the only ones with this opinion at present. (The paper was rejected yesterday by the American Economic Review on the second round of review, and a search of Google Scholar reveals only two citations to the working paper version released in early 2006.)

In my work with Fryer, we analyzed a newly available nationally representative survey of children ages two and under, done by the Department of Education. Included in this study are tests of mental ability around a child’s first birthday. While you might think it would be impossible to capture anything meaningful at such a young age, it turns out that these measures of one-year-olds’ intelligence are somewhat highly correlated with IQ scores at later ages, as well as with parental IQ scores.

The striking result we find is that there are no racial differences in mental functioning at age one, although a racial gap begins to emerge over the next few years of life.

So what does this mean for the genetics vs. environment debate? Quoting from our abstract, “the observed patterns are broadly consistent with large racial differences in environmental factors that grow in importance as children age. Our findings are not consistent with the simplest models of large genetic differences across races in intelligence, although we cannot rule out the possibility that intelligence has multiple dimensions and racial differences are present only in those dimensions that emerge later in life.”

Like all research, our study has its flaws and limitations. I have to say, however, that I imagined a lot of reactions to this paper, none of which were utter indifference on the part of academics and the popular press. But that was the reaction we got.

Read it all here. Read the entire paper here.

The new death

Baby boomers are changing everything--including death and funerals, apparently. The Wall Street Journal reports on an emerging trend of designer funerals:

In funeral rites, venerability once provided solace (the community's traditions live on even as individuals die) as well as caution (your day will come too, buster). For many Americans now, by contrast, ancient rituals are intolerably old-fashioned and rigid, at once crusty and procrustean. "In an era where options surround us everywhere from the toothpaste selection at the grocery store to a hundred versions of white paint at the hardware store," Amy Meyerson writes in Obit, the Web site of a soon-to-be-launched death-centric magazine, "it's natural that our choices regarding the dead be equally complete and equally reflective of the individual consumer."

A stroll through the exhibit floor of the National Funeral Directors Association convention, in Las Vegas earlier this month, suggests that death options are indeed as plentiful as toothpaste brands. You can get a casket that's biodegradable wicker, or big-and-tall, or cowboy-style ("rustic pine" with "hand-forged iron hinges"--and it "can be personalized with a brand"). Coming soon: a casket modeled on "the popular 'Photon Torpedo' design seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." Even hair reliquaries have a distinctive 21st-century look. Trifac Inc. markets shapely models called the Lotus, the Lumen, and, um, the Hymen.

. . .

The funeral association's neo-necro products represent only part of the new mortality. "Deathcare," as it's called, is abuzz with change. Some folks get buried with their BlackBerrys--survivors can text their sorrows away. A developer in Las Vegas has proposed a "stylized version of the Coliseum in Rome," featuring a mausoleum, a gift shop, a "virtual casino"--whatever that is--and, balm for bereavement's sting, a tavern. In The Threepenny Review earlier this year, Bert Keizer described one frolicsome funeral: A woman biked to the grave, pulling a cart that bore the colorful casket. The dead man's young son sat atop the casket and pretended to drive. To Mr. Keizer, it seemed like "a desperate attempt at saying 'Howdy!' to Death."

According to anthropologist Nigel Barley, a family in Lancashire, England, a few years ago, wanted "Dad" chiseled on the churchyard tombstone, but the vicar insisted on "Father." If "Dad" were permitted, he said, "it will not be long before we have Cuddles, Squidgy and Ginger, which would make the last resting place sound like a pets' cemetery." Such a dispute is unimaginable in the U.S., chummy yet individualistic, and, it should be said, increasingly fond of burying its pets, a lucrative sideline at the funeral directors' convention. Hidebound tradition is the grimmest reaper of all.

Is there something wrong about this? Some think there is much lost by the loss of tradition:

What's wrong with all this? At the individual level, funerary frivolity trivializes both the death and the life that preceded it. At the social level, tradition and ritual, passed from generation to generation, create a common framework for discussing life's ultimate questions. When we choose customized, individualized, let-it-be-me funerals, we start slipping from lingua franca to tabula rasa. Soon, we're talking only to ourselves.

Read it all here.

Religion and politics in America

CATO Unbound has an issue devoted to politics and religion. As the Editors explain:

Americans are among the most religious people in the wealthy, democratic West. Yet we are not only comfortable, but proud, of the independence of church and state. Are we bound to fumble in our foreign policy if we cannot understand why the politics of equality, liberty, toleration, and democracy fit so uneasily with the explicitly religious politics of the Middle East? Closer to home, evangelical Christians remain one of the most powerful forces in American politics, and perhaps a dominant force in the Republican Party. Will they bring down the "big tent" if the GOP nominates a cosmopolitan pro-choice New Yorker or a Mormon? Is there, perhaps, a place for religious ideas on the American left?

This month's Cato Unbound explores these questions and with a stellar lineup of deep thinkers about God and politics.

The issue includes a lead essay by Mark Lilla, author of The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West, and responses by Penn State professor of history and religion Philip Jenkins; Damon Linker, author of The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege; and The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan, author of recent The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It; How To Get It Back.

Think before you leap

The Archbishop of Canterbury has written an e-mail to an American bishop that tries in inject calm into a diocese where several parishes wish to withdraw from the Episcopal Church by reiterating the concept that the diocese is the basic unit of ministry in an Anglican church. Updated again. (And again, with Tobias Haller's cogent comments.)

In a letter written on October 14th to Bishop Howe of Central Florida, Dr. Rowan Williams writes:

The organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial structure as such. Those who are rushing into separatist solutions are, I think, weakening that basic conviction of Catholic theology and in a sense treating the provincial structure of The Episcopal Church as if it were the most important thing - which is why I continue to hope and pray for the strengthening of the bonds of mutual support among those Episcopal Church Bishops who want to be clearly loyal to Windsor. Action that fragments their Dioceses will not help the consolidation of that all-important critical mass of ordinary faithful Anglicans in The Episcopal Church for whose nurture I am so much concerned. Breaking this up in favour of taking refuge in foreign jurisdictions complicates and embitters the future for this vision.

The e-mail creates other questions and may have muddied the waters for many faithful Episcopalians. For example, Williams seems to minimize the role of the Provinces, which would seem to have implications that go far beyond the Episcopal Church (see for example The Province of Central Africa). It is hard to tell if Williams is saying that Provinces per se are less important, or that picking and choosing an agreeable province when ones own doesn't suit is not the answer. We await clarity on this point.

Another consequence of the email message is that it raises again that elusive concept of Windsor Compliance. While the implication is that parishes that associate with overseas provinces are not necessarily Windsor compliant, he seems to imply that a narrower understanding than the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council understood after the last House of Bishops meeting.

The context of the email's release is a pastoral letter describing the process Central Florida is developing to deal with the parishes and missions that wish to disassociate from the Episcopal Church. It is clear that the heart of the note is to provide support and calm for a conservative bishop trying to hold his diocese together, and disencouragement to separatists.

Read the whole email here , here, or here.

Comments appear on Fr. Jake and on Covenant.

Here is a short piece from the Living Church headlined "Archbishop of Canterbury Discourages Separatist Solution."

New Updates: More comments appear in these places.

Thinking Anglicans has a new round-up here.

Entangled States here and New Virginia Churchman here.

Over on Stand Firm, Stephen Noll comments in detail here.

Here is what the Anglican Scotist says .

Pluralist Speaks speaks about the letters implications.

Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside offer's his reflections here.

Quincy stays...for now

The Diocese of Quincy decided at last weekends convention not to depart from the Episcopal Church...for now. According to an Associated Press report in the Chicago Tribune, the Rev. John Spencer, spoke for the Diocese when he said "We didn't make any formal changes in our relationship with the [U.S.] Episcopal Church this weekend."

Spencer said the delegates "focused primarily on our worship together, our time together as a diocese and family, and our focus on ministry work around the globe. We took a number of actions that will open up possibilities for the diocese over the course of the coming year to examine and consider relationships with other parts of the Anglican community."

The Journal Star of Peoria reports that while several resolutions seeking separation and realignment were discussed, none were acted on. Instead,

Diocesan leaders are waiting to see what actions other dioceses take at their annual gatherings, he said.

Also being awaited are reactions by archbishops from around the world to actions taken in late September by The Episcopal Church's House of Bishops. The Anglican leaders had asked the U.S. bishops earlier this year to clarify their stand on blessings of same-sex unions and consecrating noncelibate homosexual bishops.

Spencer said diocesan leaders also are waiting to see who will attend next year's scheduled Lambeth Conference in England, a meeting of Anglican Communion archbishops and bishops from around the world held once every 10 years.

So for now, at least, it appears that this diocese has decided to pause for a season to discern their role in the Episcopal Church.

Bishop Mom

Dad is cooking, the beer is poured, Mom is catching her breath between phone calls and Ruth and Tanya Moxley wrote from Halifax about their experience of having their Mom elected diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

How does it feel to be the only two people in Canada who have a "Bishop Mom?" Pretty proud, we must say. It's an awesome thing, to be elected to a leadership position by your peers.

We are Ruth & Tanya Moxley, the only two people in Canada whose mom is a bishop in office. Our mom is Sue Moxley, as of today diocesan Bishop-elect of Nova Scotia & Prince Edward Island. She was elected this morning in one ballot. She has been serving our diocese as Suffragan Bishop since March, 2004.We were thrilled and proud then, and now we are again!

Despite lots of people telling us not to worry, that it would all be fine, we were pretty tense this morning, us sisters and our dad. I don't think dad has been sleeping much for the past few days. There's no sure thing when the Holy Spirit is "in the house.". There were a lot of people in the Cathedral today.

Read it all here.

Uganda not CANA invited to Pittsburgh

The keynote speaker at the upcoming Convention in the Diocese of Pittsburgh will be former Episcopal Priest and now Ugandan Bishop John Guernsey. He will speak to a Convention that will consider two resolutions representing opposite approaches to the future relationship of the Diocese to the Episcopal Church.

Guernsey was consecrated Bishop last September in Kampala, Uganda and is charged with leading the 33 former-Episcopal Churches that have become apart of the Province of Uganda. Last September, Guernsey led his parish out of the Diocese of Virginia and into the Ugandan church.

The two proposed resolutions offer opposite directions for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Resolution Two would restore the Constitution of the Diocese of Pittsburgh to the language that existed in 2004: that the Diocese is a constituent member of the Episcopal Church and "accedes to, recognizes, and adopts the Constitution and Canons of that Church, and acknowledges its authority accordingly."

The other resolution, numbered One, would emphasize the Dioceses separation from the Episcopal Church and further would allow the Diocese to welcome into membership congregations that are not within the geographical boundaries of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The movers of the Resolution Two note that they are following the lead of Bishop John Howe of Central Florida.

The Executive Council passed its statement on the unconstitutionality of the 2004 Pittsburgh amendment after a full discussion and with the full support of its Chancellor, Sally Johnson, Esqr. The measure was brought forward from the Committee on National Concerns after full discussion there. At least six members of Executive Council are trained in the law and all supported this Executive Council resolution. Recently Bishop John Howe of Central Florida, (a founding member of the Anglican Communion Network) ruled out of order a proposal to add a qualification to the accession clause of that diocese because it was beyond the power of the diocese to change the clause. He had sought advice from 15 individuals, both liberal and conservative, including the two chancellors of the diocese of Central Florida and those of the dioceses of Utah, Colorado, and Upper South Carolina, the Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop, the Chancellor to the Executive Council, the past parliamentarian of the House of Bishops, four bishops with legal background (including Bishop William Wantland), and several other bishops and a leading expert on parliamentary procedure. This group overwhelmingly supported Bishop Howe's ruling that it is beyond the power of a diocese to alter the accession statement once the diocesan constitution has been accepted by General Convention. Thus the weight of legal opinion in the church has confirmed that our diocesan convention exceeded its powers in 2004. Leaving a statement which is null and void in the text of the Constitution and Canons is to confuse unnecessarily those who turn to the document for guidance.

No explanation is offered for the purpose or intent of Resolution One, but it is clear that instead of seeking a relationship with a Primate outside of the Episcopal Church, the movers wish the Diocese of Pittsburgh to become an independent body that exists parallel to the Episcopal Church, with the power to welcome into its jurisdiction any church outside of the Pennsylvania counties that comprise that diocese as long as they "meet all other requirements set forth in the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for canonical admission."

The motion also creates provision for an extra-diocesan synod or convention.

It is interesting to note that in choosing the speaker they have and in putting forward a resolution which would radically redraw the relationship of Diocese to Province, that they have decided not to align with an existing African Province such as CANA, that the Diocese is not seeking to be under the authority of any other African-ordained American bishop, and would also be in a position to create a new denominational structure separate from the Episcopal Church but building on the congregations, dioceses and past mission of the Episcopal Church.

Passing Resolution One would most assuredly create a legal and pastoral conflict for both the Diocese and the Episcopal Church. If it passes, it may indicate that, despite the warnings and preferences of the Archbishop of Canterbury, they are ready to provoke the long-anticipated showdown.

Read the Announcement of Convention here.
Resolution One is here.
Resolution Two is here.

Two bishops removed in Central Africa

More news is emerging from the Province of Central Africa. The Lead has covered the apparent removal of Bishop Kunonga of the Diocese of Harare. The Living Church now reports that a second bishop has been removed.

In a statement released on Oct. 19, the Dean of the province, Bishop Albert Chama of Northern Zambia, stated that Bishop Kunonga and Bishop Elson Jakazi of Manicaland were no longer bishops of the church and the Sees of Harare and Manicaland had been declared vacant “with immediate effect.” Vicar generals would be appointed to supervise the election of new bishops, Bishop Chama wrote.

Further developments according to The Living Church:

Despite the removal of the two bishops, recovery of diocesan property is not assured. On Oct. 21, a Zimbabwe court declined to issue an emergency injunction on behalf of the province that would have forced Bishop Kunonga, an ally of Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe, to turn over the diocesan assets. Bishop Kunonga told the state-owned Harare Herald newspaper he would fight the province for control of church property. He was quoted saying the diocese was seeking to align with the Anglican Church of Kenya, a statement that could not be confirmed with the Kenyan Church in Nairobi.

Bishop Kunonga has also gone on the offensive, writing to discontented clergy in other dioceses seeking to split them off from their bishops. In an Oct. 11 letter sent to a Botswana parish and reviewed by The Living Church, Bishop Kunonga urged the congregation to write to Bishop Chama saying it was joining Harare in leaving the province.

Read The Living Church article here.

The Rt Revd Albert Chama, Dean of the Province of Central Africa and bishop of Northern Zambia statement is here.

A tale of three churches

Anglicans Online muses on the subject of welcoming newcomers on Sunday morning. Comparing three different experiences they raise the issue of what makes us feel welcome in worship.

In the first church there was no welcome, no greeting, no invitation. In the second church the welcome was like an assault of the inquisitors. The third church was "just right." As they explain the experience:

It's been a week since we were at St Cantilupe, 8 time zones from home, and we now understand what they did so well: they were behaviourally inclusive. We visitors were treated neither as interlopers nor as freaks, but as ordinary people, indistinguishable from those standing next to us who might have been there for decades. Simply by being there, by standing in the nave and singing the hymns and eating the bread and drinking the wine, we became (at least for that one day) one of them. Neither the clergy nor the congregation projected any sense of ownership, any sense of possessiveness, any need to guard their faith or their church or their sacraments against interlopers.

We've seen this phenomenon in sports pubs for years: if you drop in to the Argyll Arms to watch football, and sit down next to someone who roots for your team, you become a full member of the group, and not a visitor. Until last week we didn't realize it could also happen in Anglican churches.

Read the October 21st essay here.

What about your church - is it too little, too much, or just right?

Gap between rich and poor new form of slavery

A group of leaders of the largest coalition of Reformed churches says that the growing gap between rich and poor is a new form of slavery. They are calling upon members to question and challenge globalization that increase the gap. The Geneva-headquartered World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) groups 75 million Reformed Christians from 214 churches in 107 countries. The Rev. Setri Nyomi, Presbyterian theologian from Ghana, explained that the Accra Confession meant that churches and Christians needed to question whether their lifestyle and actions contributed to or hindered overcoming poverty.

From the United Church of Christ website:

Leaders of the world's biggest grouping of Reformed churches, which includes the UCC, have compared the effects of economic globalization to the transatlantic slave trade, and said that Christians need to combat this modern form of "enslavement."

"As a matter of the integrity of our faith, we must say, 'No' to slavery in all of its forms," said the president of the UCC-supported World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick. He was speaking at an October 18-28 meeting in Trinidad of Reformed leaders from around the world.

"While we acknowledge this year the 200th anniversary of the passing of the transatlantic slave trade act by the British Parliament, we are painfully aware that slavery is still with us," said Kirkpatrick in his October 20 presidential report to WARC's main governing body, its executive committee.

Read the article here

Farm Bill Reform is being debated in the US Senate this week. For more information on how this bill can impact world and domestic poverty go to Episcopal Public Policy Network

Clarifying Archbishop Williams' letter to Bishop Howe

A response received via email from the Lambeth press office to the discussions around the Bishop Howe emails:

"It should be understood that the Archbishop's response to Bishop Howe was neither a new policy statement nor a roadmap for the future but a plain response to a very urgent and particular question about clergy in traditionalist dioceses in TEC who want to leave TEC for other jurisdictions, a response reiterating a basic presupposition of what the Archbishop believes to be the theology of the Church.

The primary point was that - theologically and sacramentally speaking - a priest is related in the first place to his/her bishop directly, not through the structure of the national church; that structure serves the dioceses. The diocese is more than a 'local branch' of a national organisation. Dr Williams is clear that, whatever the frustration with the national church, priests should think very carefully about leaving the fellowship of a diocese. The provincial structure is significant, not least for the administration of a uniform canon law and a range of practical functions; Dr Williams is not encouraging anyone to ignore this, simply to understand the theological priorities which have been articulated in a number of ecumenical agreements, and in the light of this not to increase the level of confusion and fragmentation in the church."

Previous discussion of the letter is here

Episcopal Life is reporting here.

The Living Church reports here.

Splitsville: justifying schism in Pittsburgh

The Diocese of Pittsburgh will be considering a resolution to completely sever ties with the Episcopal Church. The link to their "Resolution A" did not include an explanation, but was given out at pre-convention hearings and posted on the Diocesan web-site.

On page 2 of the explanation, the supporters answer the question "Does the Diocese have the authority to enact Resolution One?" in this way:

The Diocese is acting within its own canonical and constitutional structures. The governing documents of the diocese lay out a clear path for changing the Constitution of the diocese. The proposed Resolution One follows that course exactly and allows the diocese to make decisions about its future in good order.

The Episcopal Church has no authority over its dioceses.
It is by Diocese that consent is given to bishops, and by Diocese that they are elected. The Executive Council is given no constitutional or canonical authority to overrule the constitutional decisions of a Diocese.

There is no national executive department. The role of the Presiding Bishop is principally ceremonial or gathering.

The canons of the Episcopal Church do not assign any authority to the General Convention or to the Presiding Bishop over the Dioceses. In the last General Convention legislation that “directed” a Diocese to do something, was regularly and intentionally changed to “urge” or “request.”

There is no National Court that has jurisdiction over a Diocese, only a Court for the Trial of a Bishop and Provincial Courts of Review (Clergy Discipline). Attempts at several General Conventions to establish such a Court have been rejected.

Contribution to the budget of the Episcopal Church is free-will.

The Constitution and Canons are silent on the matter of a Diocese disaffiliating.

In the case of nine southern dioceses disaffiliating in 1861, no action was ever taken against them, nor was any legislation ever adopted to block it from happening again. While we do not sympathize with the cause of those dioceses, the precedent is clear.

The Dennis Canon alone attempts to establish national authority over property held by parishes. It does not appear to give The Episcopal Church any claim over diocesan property. It is a general principle of law that such a trust cannot be established without the consent of those affected.

Three parishes of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and before its founding of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, existed prior to the creation of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

The changes would:

1. Allow the Diocese of Pittsburgh itself to define itself as a member of the Anglican Communion.

2. Reserve to the Diocese the choice of a Province and Primate not as a constitutional matter but as a matter of canon. In other words, they can choose to change Provinces on very short notice with only a majority vote at one convention required.

Article I, Section 2, secures the right of the Diocese of Pittsburgh to establish its Provincial alignment by canon. It does not alter the alignment. Dis-affiliation from The Episcopal Church and re-alignment with another Province would be achieved by a canon passed at the time of adoption at the second reading.

3. Any Primate or Province that would take on Pittsburgh would have to accept the fact that Pittsburgh has constitutionally defined for them the manner and form of their representation at their convention or synod. Pittsburgh will send four lay and four clergy deputies whether that Province is structured that way or not.

The vision of those who support Resolution One is that the Diocese of Pittsburgh is, in effect, its own denomination with a reach far beyond its own historic borders, that affiliates with a Primate and Province of their own choosing, according to a vote of the Diocesan Convention.

The Resolution does not recognize that the Diocese was formed by the authority of the General Convention itself. It has until fairly recently abided by the actions of General Convention and in so doing has heretofore recognized the authority of the Convention over their life and work. While the explanation states that the Episcopal Church does not have any authority over it, it also defines the Book of Common Prayer as a foundational document that new parishes must adhere to. Neither the resolution nor the explanation defines who selects and authorizes the Book of Common Prayer. That is because the Episcopal Church clearly states the process for adopting the BCP and Pittsburgh has adhered to it. This is only one weakness in their logic.

The goal of the supporters of this Resolution are clear that its purpose is to maintain "the culture of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh into the future" because that to them "eminently preferable to having our culture supplanted by the present culture of the Episcopal Church."

The handout, in PDF format, may be found here.

You may also find the FAQs for Resolution One here..

Fort Worth set to disassociate from Episcopal Church

The Bishop of Fort Worth, in his address to the Forward in Faith International meeting on October 20, 2007, states that there is no future in the Episcopal Church (TEC) for the dioceses of Fort Worth, San Joaquin and Quincy. Forward in Faith is an organization that does not believe women can be priests or bishops. However, Quincy is reported as backing off from his assertion that all three will be taking steps to separate from TEC.

According to Bishop Iker,

Our plan is not only to disassociate, then, from The Episcopal Church, but to officially, constitutionally re-affiliate with an existing orthodox Province of the communion that does not ordain women to the priesthood. These conversations are very far along but cannot be announced until the Province that is considering our appeal has made their final decision public.

Regarding Common Cause, Iker states that they will only be in full communion with those who do not ordain women and who do not receive women into the priesthood. Common Cause has committed to a theological study on the ordination of women. Forward in Faith will encourage those who do ordain women to reconsider their decision.

Although he claims 51 bishops for Common Cause, most belong to churches not members of the Anglican Communion. A list of 40 attending the Common Cause meeting is here.

The podcast of Bishop Iker's speech is here.

The text of his speech follows:

Read more »

Topic: The status of the diocese

A number of events have occured over the last several days that share a common thread: the status of the diocese in the Anglican Communion.

Last week the diocesan synods of Ottawa and Montreal and the diocesan convention of California urged their bishops to adopt rites for same-sex blessings, contrary to parameters set in the Windsor report.

Over the weekend Bishop of Iker, of the Diocese of Fort Worth, spoke at the Forward in Faith convention. He made it clear he sees no future for Fort Worth in The Episcopal Church, and said the diocese is close to sealing an oversight deal with a foreign province. He even suggested the Diocese of Quincy would be taking steps in the direction of severing ties with The Episcopal Church. But Quincy, in convention over the weekend, decided not to pursue leaving at this time.

Interspersed in these events were two statements on the status of dioceses from Lambeth Palace - an email from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Bishop of Central Florida, and a subsequent clarification from the palace press office on behalf of the archbishop. Each was made public.

The archbishop urged that there be no fragmentation of dioceses - parishes and their rector should stay within their dioceses. The incentive to stay, he repeated, is that Windsor Compliant dioceses will remain in communion with Canterbury regardless of whether The Episcopal Church loses its status in the Communion. Many pixels have been used in the blogscape examining the statement, its intent and its implications. (Follow the links in the preceding paragraph.)

To many pundits the greatest concern revolves around the seemingly diminished status given to the province. Is that what the archbishop intends, and what would it mean for dioceses seeking to leave The Episcopal Church? (Is the formula to leave, but not seek foreign oversight (which is not Windsor compliant)?) Indeed, to point to other news regarding dioceses from this past week, what would it mean in the context of the discipline of the Bishop of Harare?

Or, to come back to a question raised by the events in the first paragraph, if one diocese is not Windsor compliant does that make the province noncompliant? How much authority does a province over a diocese in the archbishop's scheme?

Finally, as The Lead covered yesterday, the convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh is coming up this weekend and will consider resolutions on whether to set a course out of The Episcopal Church. The speaker at convention is from Uganda. While the archbishop's letter to Central Florida may not have been intended to apply beyond that case, it may still influence the course of events beyond Central Florida.

Calling all pastorpreneurs

News out of Willow Creek is that programs are not the key to real success. Does this spell hope for the small and medium-sized church?

To some extent there's no arguing with sheer success in numbers. Megachurches have found a formula for attracting people to church.

To its credit, one of the most well known of those megachurches, Willow Creek, has studied it success beyond mere numbers. Moreover, it has shared those findings even though they are not entirely self affirming. Out of Ur reports:

Directly or indirectly, [their] philosophy of ministry—church should be a big box with programs for people at every level of spiritual maturity to consume and engage—has impacted every evangelical church in the country.

So what happens when leaders of Willow Creek stand up and say, “We made a mistake”?

Not long ago Willow released its findings from a multiple year qualitative study of its ministry.
...
In the Hawkins’ video he says, “Participation is a big deal. We believe the more people participating in these sets of activities, with higher levels of frequency, it will produce disciples of Christ.” This has been Willow’s philosophy of ministry in a nutshell. The church creates programs/activities. People participate in these activities. The outcome is spiritual maturity. In a moment of stinging honesty Hawkins says, “I know it might sound crazy but that’s how we do it in churches. We measure levels of participation.”

Having put all of their eggs into the program-driven church basket you can understand their shock when the research revealed that “Increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities does NOT predict whether someone’s becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does NOT predict whether they love God more or they love people more.”

Read it all here.

Over at Opinion Journal there's a discussion of James B. Twitchell's Shopping for God:

As Mr. Twitchell acknowledges, most don't have "high barriers to entry"--that is, they don't demand a lot of their congregants. They're often referred to as "seeker" churches because they appeal to nonbelievers--and not always successfully. It's easy to get in; but it's also easy to get out.

So "pastorpreneurs," as Mr. Twitchell calls them, face a challenge: How do you get more people to join than quit? One way is by having current members proselytize. The fastest-growing denominations, Mr. Twitchell says, are "selling, selling, selling." They are "foregrounding growth as a sign of value." As he explains: "Missionary zeal is at the heart of their attraction not only because showing the Way to others is a source of jubilation but because it means that you yourself must have found your way. The value of the next sale (the convert) proves the value of the previous sale (yours)." It all comes down to a kind of narcissism, apparently, like taking pride in your Prius.

Another key to product success, Mr. Twitchell argues, is "innovations in supply." Thus megachurches offer playgrounds, coffee shops and a mall's worth of services. But megachurches have also, crucially, found ways of attracting men. Just as department stores put men's products near the entrance because they know that men are the hardest customers to draw into a retail space, so megachurches, Mr. Twitchell says, have catered to men's interests.

Citing Bill Hybels, the pastor of Willow Creek Church in Chicago, Mr. Twitchell explains: "Men are the crucial adopters in religion. If they go over the tipping point, women follow, children in tow." So now megachurches sponsor sports ministries and groups whose members ride motorcycles together. The language of prayers and sermons has moved away from a condescending lecture tone and taken up sports metaphors instead, asking congregants, for instance, to step up to the plate and help the team. In such a way are men induced to buy the megachurch product.

The article concludes, 'But consultants can only do so much, and the point of church outreach surely has less to do with improving "brands" than with saving souls.' Or advancing the Kingdom.

Read the Opinion Journal article here.

Other analysts are more positive about megachurches. See also the recent work by Scott Thumma and Dave Travis, Megachurch Myths described here. The myths:

MYTH #1: All megachurches are alike.
REALITY: They differ in growth rates, size and emphasis.

MYTH #2: Megachurches exist for spectator worship and are not serious about Christianity.
REALITY: Megachurches generally have high spiritual expectations and serious orthodox beliefs.

MYTH #3: Megachurches are not deeply involved in social ministry.
REALITY: 79 percent of churches surveyed have joined together with other churches on local community service projects, and 72 percent on international missions.

California fires bring out caring hearts

A roundup of items on the response of religious groups to the California fires:

ERD to help those displaced by Southern California wildfires

Christian charities mobilise as California fires rage

Muslims pray for rain to put out California fires

Faith-based responses

San Diego diocese shelters evacuees from raging wildfires

From the San Diego Diocesan homepage (to follow the links for giving follow the homepage link just given)

Letter from the Bishop

Dear Friends in Christ,

We anticipate over 500,000 people being evacuated and hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed. The fire fighters and aid workers are doing extraordinary work. Please pray for the safety of those battling the fires both in the air and on the ground.

What is becoming clear is that we will be involved in a twofold endeavor: a short-term ministry of housing and hospitality helping those who have been displaced through evacuation; and long-term assistance in recovery and rebuilding. We are currently matching requests for housing with those who have offered that blessing. Please see buttons at right.

To prepare for the long-term recovery work, we have established a 2007 Fire Relief Fund. Individuals can make a gift to our fund. Please add: “Fire Relief” to the memo line. Please send gifts designated for that fund to:

The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego
2728 6th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103

Donate Online »
In addition, we are collecting gift cards to Target, K-Mart, Walmart, and JC Penney to be distributed to people who have lost property. These gift cards can be sent to the above address to the attention of Canon Howard F. Smith. Any communication of these requests would be a blessing.

Faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes
Bishop of San Diego


CHURCHES HOSTING EVACUEES:
All Saints' 651 Eucalyptus Ave., Vista 760-726-4280
Christ Church 1114 Ninth St., Coronado 619-435-4561
Good Samaritan 4321 Eastgate Mall, San Diego 858-458-1501
St. Andrew's 890 Balour St., Encinitas 92024 760-753-3017
St. Andrew's 4816 Glen St, La Mesa 91941 619-460-7272
St. Dunstan's 6556 Park Ridge Rd., San Diego 92120 619-460-6442
St. James 743 Prospect St., La Jolla 92037 858-459-3421
St. Michael's, 2775 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad 92018 760-729-8901

The Church of Baseball

The Washington Post this morning has an article about the Colorado Rockies and Christianity.

What do readers think? Read the article. Is it fair to the Rockies? Are the Rockies teaching good lessons? Or are they bordering on some false theology in some respects?

It's claimed that Einstein once said "God does not play dice." Yes, but does God follow the Rockies? Or do the Rockies perhaps prosper because of their beliefs?

Before you come to any quick conclusions also read this story about Rockies manager Clint Hurdle and his family.

Digesting news from the dioceses

The Living Church rounds up developments at recent diocesan conventions.

California: Of trial rites for same sex blessings in Bishop Andrus said, "the resolution writers have honored the spirit of the Windsor Report and subsequent requests from the primates of the Communion to not develop ‘public rites’."

Connecticut: "The Bishop of Connecticut may exercise a newly canonically approved veto over parishes seeking to hire an assistant rector that do not pay their full 12½ percent diocesan assessment quota following approval of a canonical amendment by delegates during the annual convention."

Nevada: "The Very Rev. Dan Thomas Edwards, rector of St. Francis’ Church, Macon Ga., was elected Bishop.... In the Diocese of Atlanta, Fr. Edwards served on the committee on same-sex blessings and as diocesan ecumenical officer."

Southwest Florida: "For the first time since 2003, delegates to convention in the Diocese of Southwest Florida rejected a resolution which would have allowed congregations to redirect apportionment payments away from the program budget of the General Convention."

Follow any of the links for links for Living Church articles on Spokane, Quincy, and Alaska. Remember also the Diocesan Digest at Episcopal Life.

Cain on trial

This past Saturday, D.C. Superior Court Judge Zoe Bush opened her courtroom to a mock grand jury. Their charge? Whether to indict Cain for the murder of Abel.

The courtroom was filled with families who got to see the familiar story played out in a modern context. But the event was more than a contemporary retelling of the Genesis story, according to Bush:

The judge said in an interview during a recess that the hearing underscored the importance of parents' communicating stronger values.

"I hope that this exercise will be productive so that people can think not just reactively to murder and emotionally to murder, but what gives rise to it," Bush said. "And what you can do ahead of time to put services and interventions in place so that people have alternatives to just acting out without thinking."

Bush, who has been on the bench for 13 years, presides in juvenile court. She said that for every child who commits a crime, there are several factors that contributed to the problem.

"Children are not just acting out because they are bad, they are acting out because they are not getting the proper direction," Bush said. "A lot of our children are traumatized for being in violent settings, and they react to being under that constant stress."

Following the proceeding, the grand jury voted, 11 to 1, to indict Cain. In two months there will be a trial, Moten said. They plan to invite crime victims, perpetrators, clergy and scholars together to examine the issue in more depth.

As found in the Washington Post.

Bishop and Cardinal in row over climate change

In Australia this week, the Anglican general synod in Canberra has passed a canon "recognising that climate change was a serious threat to present and future generations and seeking to reduce the environmental footprint of the church and its agencies," according to The Age. But what's more curious about the matter of climate change is the public argument going on between the Anglican bishop of Canberra, George Browning, and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell.

Bishop Browning, the world's top Anglican environmental spokesman, and Cardinal Pell had a sharp exchange on Wednesday after Bishop Browning said the cardinal was out of step with his church and made no sense on global warming.

Cardinal Pell replied that radical environmentalists needed no help from church leaders to impose their agenda by fear, and that church leaders should be allergic to nonsense.

Yesterday Bishop Browning said the challenge was serious because the issue was so important. "The moral consequences of climate change are of such an order that the church cannot remain outside the debate, and cannot do other than want to be part of the solution."

Bishop Browning said on Wednesday that Cardinal Pell's contribution as Catholic leader was muted because of his environmental stance. "I frankly don't know where he's coming from or why he says what he does."

Cardinal Pell said he was sceptical about extravagant claims of impending man-made climatic catastrophes and that uncertainties on climate change abounded.

With the passing of the canon, Browning challenged Pell to participate in a public debate on the issues at St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney.

More here

Archbishop Williams on misunderstanding religion

Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are in the news as much as, if not more than, Focus on the Family and Pat Robertson lately. The Archbishop of Canterbury examined this surge of antireligiosity in a recent lecture, held Oct. 13 at Swansea University in a response to Dawkin's position, which he summarizes neatly.

He quotes Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, noting Prince Mishkin's statement that the atheist always seems to be talking about something else. (I should add, having had some run-ins with a past president of American Atheists at my few speaking engagements, that the Princess Bride quote "You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means," can also often apply when Atheists paint with too broad a brush.)

Williams said:

think that Prince Mishkin’s response is one that a great many of religious believers are likely to feel when they pick up the works of Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens or any of those prominent critics of religious faith in our own day. We may feel as we turn the pages that ‘this is not it’ whatever the religion is being attacked here it’s not actually what I believe in. And along with that instinctive response of not recognizing, there may also be a touch of, let’s say, resentment at somebody trying to tell us what we really mean. (Because as we all know there are few things more annoying than somebody else saying ‘I know what you mean’!) More seriously, that is one of those features of a certain kind of exercise of power which is itself open to moral challenge.

Simon Barrow, an Ekklesia editor writing at his other blog, Faith in Society, attempts to highlight one element of the speech (noting that such an attempt is folly because of how the Archbishop structures his sermons), and in so doing, gets to the heart of the criticisms that atheists often level at faith--and, implicitly, at people of faith. We are often dismissed as, at best, eccentric, and at worst, irrational and incapable of self-determination. This, says Williams, is a fundamental flaw that undermines the entire debate:


We have no obvious knock-down arguments. But we say to the critic ‘look at how the focal practices of religion – not seen as survival strategy or explanation - as they actually exist. Look at how they work to create self-questioning and trust. That self-questioning and trust may be going forward on a truthful basis or not. No external force is going to settle that for us. But before writing off the religious enterprise watch, watch what happens as persons of faith grow in these habits of self-questioning and trust; in the understanding of what the Christian would undoubtedly call justification by faith.

Self-questioning and trust are not peculiar to religious people. Just as impressive moral integrity is not – God knows – the preserve of religious people. But for the secularist, for the systematic critic of religion, moral integrity, self-inspection, fundamental trust must either be reduced to a personal option (I do this because I choose to do this) or it must be reduced to another form of survival strategy. And some of the problems with that, I’ve already touched upon. The religious believer says in contrast, that moral integrity, self-inspection, honesty, openness and trust are styles of living which communicate the character of an eternal and free agency, the agency that most religions call God. Agree or disagree, is what I would want to say to our contemporary critics, but at least grasp that that is what is being claimed and talked about. Don’t distract us from the real arguments by assuming that religion is an eccentric survival strategy or an irrational form of explanation.

Archbishop Williams entire speech is here, alas without decent paragraph breaks, but worth reading nonetheless. And a hat tip to Simon at Faith in Society for bringing it up in the first place and his commentary, which you can find here.

There's something about Mary

U.S. Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders met last week to discuss the role of the Virgin Mary and the progress in ecumenical relations between the two churches, according to a release from the Anglican-Roman Catholic Theological Consultation (ARCUSA).

At the meeting, held at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Va., participants completed a response to the 2004 "Seattle Document" of ARC-USA titled "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ," which offers commentary and meditation on Mary's significance for members of both churches. They also completed a draft Spanish-language pastoral tool to help show the differences and similarities between the two churches, as well as summarizing recent progress in ecumenical relations.

From the response to "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ":

As the document acknowledges, Anglicans turn to Scripture to determine what must be believed as a matter of faith: only that which can be read in Scripture or proved on the basis of Scripture can be required to be believed (MGHC 60; cf. Article VI of the Articles of Religion). While Roman Catholics acknowledge that there are no biblical texts that express the doctrines of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception or from which they can be strictly proved, they nonetheless hold that these Marian doctrines are contained in divine revelation and that their church has arrived at such certitude that they are revealed truths as to justify their definition as dogmas of faith.

Both Anglicans and Roman Catholics accept that Christian revelation cannot be reduced to a series of propositions but is centered in the whole Christ-event, of which the apostles were the privileged witnesses. This witness of the apostles has been handed on through the Christian way of life, teaching, prayer, and worship. We recognize a legitimate development of doctrine in the course of the Church's life, a growth in the understanding of what has been handed on by the apostles. Thus, for instance, an element of the Christ-event witnessed by the apostles was the relationship between Jesus and his mother, and her role in his work of our redemption. As devout Christians continued to contemplate the mystery of Christ and his mother, they came to see that since Mary's Son is truly divine, it is correct to speak of her as Theotókos ("Mother of God"). This was confirmed in 431 by the Council of Ephesus, whose teachings are accepted by both Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

For Roman Catholics, the universal consensus of the Roman Catholic faithful (laity, theologians, and pastors) in believing a doctrine as revealed by God provides sufficient certitude that this truth is contained in revelation and can be defined as a dogma of faith. With regard to the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, Roman Catholics believe that this growth in the understanding of the faith handed down from the apostles developed in such a way that after the sixteenth century the Roman Catholic Church arrived at a universal agreement on these doctrines. In the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, with which Pope Pius XII defined the doctrine of the Assumption as a dogma of faith, he spelled out the reasons that led him to this decision:

The bishops from all over the world ask almost unanimously that the truth of the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven be defined as a dogma of divine and catholic faith; this truth is based on Sacred Scripture and deeply embedded in the minds of the faithful; it has received the approval of liturgical worship from the earliest times; it is perfectly in keeping with the rest of revealed truth, and has been lucidly developed and explained by the studies, the knowledge and wisdom of theologians. Considering all these reasons we deem that the moment pre-ordained in the plan of divine providence has now arrived for us to proclaim solemnly this extraordinary privilege of the Virgin Mary.

While Roman Catholics are thus required to accept these dogmas as a matter of faith, among Anglicans there is a range of beliefs about the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, including acceptance of them.

The whole thing is here.

Friends, family remember slain soldier

Episcope points us to an article about Corporal Ciara Durkin, a National Guard soldier serving in Afghanistan who was found dead from a gunshot wound last month. Durkin, a lesbian and an Episcopalian, "was killed on a secure U.S. military base, and according to her family she had told them prior to her death that she had concerns for her safety and that they were to push for an investigation if anything happened to her," according to the article, which appeared in Bay Windows, a New England weekly for the LGBT audience.

About 40 people gathered Oct. 21 at St. Luke’s and St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Allston to celebrate the memory of Corporal Ciara Durkin, the lesbian National Guard soldier serving in Afghanistan who was found dead from a gunshot wound last month. Durkin’s family joined with members of the congregation of which Durkin had been a part before leaving to join the National Guard to talk about the ways that Durkin touched their lives. Durkin was memorialized in two funeral services, one in Quincy and one in her native Ireland, earlier this month.

During his sermon, the Rev. Cameron Partridge, who became a priest at the church after Durkin had already left, said that since her death he had been told by church members about the powerful impact Durkin had had both on the church and on the surrounding community. He said after attending St. Luke’s and St. Margaret’s for several years she was received into the Episcopal Church in 2003 by Bishop Tom Shaw, and she served on the vestry, the congregation’s governing board.

Partridge said members of the congregation described Durkin as a “remarkable person, full of life and passion, unafraid to be herself and say what she thought.”

The whole article is here.


Anglicans back to Rome

Scattered across the news feeds are reports of Anglican parishes "defecting to Rome." The request seems to have come out of Ireland, joined by others from 12 countries. From Catholic News Service:

If approved by the Vatican, the move would allow 400,000 traditional Anglicans worldwide to be admitted into the Catholic Church.

The decision to petition for the move "seeking full, corporate, sacramental union" was made during an early October plenary meeting of the Traditional Anglican Communion, the umbrella organization for traditional Anglicans, in Portsmouth, England. The move, requested in a letter to the Vatican, would see the entire parish communities received into the Catholic Church.

It is extremely rare for entire Anglican communities to seek corporate communion with the Catholic Church whereby every member of the parish becomes Catholic and the parish effectively becomes part of the Catholic Church.

At the Vatican, officials would not comment on the letter, although they confirmed the doctrinal congregation had received it.

It's interesting to note that the breaking point for this group is over the ordination of women, not gays, as is being reported in some less reliable places.

The whole story is here.

More coverage at the Independent.

Canadian primate meets with Archbishop of Canterbury

From the Anglican Journal:

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, paid a traditional call on Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on Oct. 16. It is a tradition for new Anglican leaders of provinces to visit the archbishop, the titular head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, at his home in Lambeth Palace.

During their two-hour meeting, Archbishop Hiltz described the current state of the Anglican Church of Canada, particularly after the national meeting, General Synod, this past June. He spoke about the issue of human sexuality, and explained the diocese of Ottawa's decision to approve blessings of same-sex unions. (The diocese of Montreal, which later passed a similar motion, had not yet met).

Archbishop Williams appeared receptive to the Canadian church's actions. "He described our approach to handling the whole matter as 'coherent,'" said Archbishop Hiltz.

The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada is in session October 25 - 30. As reported in the Montreal Diocese news release on same-sex blessings, the House of Bishops "is expected to discuss not only the implications of both the Ottawa and Montreal dioceses’ vote but also conflicting interpretations of the ramifications of General Synod’s decision around same-sex blessings."

New Orleans ready to reach out to California

The New Orleans based Times-Picayune newspaper has a story this morning about how the people of the region are ready to do whatever is needed to help the folks of Southern California get back on their feet after the wildfires.

"'I'm getting phone calls: 'Can we go? Can we go?,' ' said Archdeacon Dennis McManis, operations director of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana's office of disaster response. 'I'm telling them, 'Let's sit back and see what they need.'

Images of families distraught about their losses have particular resonance in the New Orleans area, where tens of thousands of families received large and small gifts of aid, housing and other gestures of generosity in the weeks immediately after Hurricane Katrina.

"But we also remember how we got inundated in those first days with people wanting to give us stuff -- often stuff we didn't need. Or people coming here and just telling us what they could do for us," McManis said."

The article goes on to describe how various other religious agencies are preparing to help out once the needs are known. The groups include mainline protestant denominations, the Roman Catholic archdiocese and evangelical church groups.

Read the rest here.

A broken process or one that worked?

Following the release of the Joint Standing Committee's report to the Archbishop of Canterbury on the subject of the American church's response to the Dar Es Salaam communiqué, there are have been charges that the report should ignored because the process by which it was written was flawed. Andrew Goddard, in a piece on the Anglican Fulcrum site looks closely at this question and describes in detail the process by which the report came to be:

"[The Joint Standing Committee's] report makes clear that the process in New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) was not as smooth as it could be – ‘sadly the House of Bishops were not able to complete the process of developing their response before our meeting concluded’ – and the JSC’s response to this has itself occasioned further controversy. As the JSC reports:
The Joint Standing Committee were however briefed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and other bishops on the Monday evening, and had the opportunity to agree together the main outlines of how they might wish to respond in the light of the various options facing the House of Bishops. All members of the Joint Standing Committee present in New Orleans have been consulted electronically in the preparation of this report once the actual text of the statement of the House of Bishops was available.

This account appears to have fuelled rumours and suspicions of a ‘fixing’ of the outcome. These have focussed on two areas. First, that in their briefing from TEC bishops, the JSC agreed to respond positively if TEC’s HoB took certain courses of action or used certain words. Second, that there was a clear conflict of interest as the Presiding Bishop of TEC is a member of JSC and signed the final report and appears to have been involved in assessing the actions of her own province’s HoB. Although the reality was messy, neither of these allegations has been substantiated with any evidence and both have been strenuously denied. Individual members of the JSC undoubtedly spoke with members of the HoB about the process of developing a response and the JSC apparently made clear that certain possible responses (such as those arising from the official Writing Committee of the HoB) would not meet what was asked by Windsor. There was, however, no negotiation of a settlement or suggestion from JSC that if certain words were used then the JSC would give support. Rather, after attending discussions with the HoB early in their meeting, the JSC withdrew but was kept informed of the developing situation within the HoB by the PB (Bishop Stanton has charted some of the different versions discussed at various stages) who then absented herself from JSC’s deliberations to return to the HoB.

It is clear that the last full set of wording from the HoB of which the JSC was made aware (on the evening of Monday 24th) before its meeting ended was not the final version. It would appear they drew up the main lines of their response in what became Part One of their report based on one of the versions arising from the work of Bishops Jenkins, Bruno and Chane. This possible outcome clearly represented a significant movement from the earlier totally inadequate work of the Writing Committee although it was already clear that the treatment of same-sex blessings was the most problematic and contentious area.

After supper on the 24th the PB reported further to JSC on what became the final summary document with its eight short statements. This meant that the JSC meeting ended hopeful but without sight of the final text and so unable to reach a final definitive assessment during its meeting.

The process agreed by JSC, given these unintended and difficult circumstances, was that the ACO Secretariat would write a first draft based on the JSC’s discussions. It was originally hoped this draft would be circulated by Thursday evening with responses given by Saturday morning so that any revisions could be made and the report given to the Archbishop of Canterbury (after his return from the Middle East that morning) by Saturday evening. In line with this, once the HoB’s full resolutions were public, the ACO drafted the report in the light of the JSC discussions. Part One was circulated to all JSC members on Thursday 27th for comment and/or approval by 9AM BST Saturday and Part Two (and a revision of Part One in light of initial comments) circulated on Friday. At this stage it was clear that the process of consultation could not be properly completed by the weekend and so the deadline for comments was extended to Monday 1st October at 9AM.

When that deadline was reached a third draft of the whole report was circulated and JSC members were asked to give their assent or dissent by Tuesday 9AM. Late on Monday, Mouneer Anis (the Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East) made his first response and requested two extra days. Following discussions with Lambeth Palace, it was agreed that the JSC report would be submitted to the Archbishop if the point was reached where 2/3 of the JSC had signified assent. Those who had yet to respond were therefore asked by email if they could signify assent or make any other comments. By Tuesday morning it was clear that 2/3 of the JSC had given approval to the report and so the report was sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury and circulated to all members of the JSC and all Primates. This timing also enabled the content of the report to be known by the relevant Primates when the Archbishop of York attended the CAPA meeting in Mauritius.

On Wednesday 3rd, the text was finalised as one having the assent of 2/3 of the JSC and with a clear statement as to which members had not yet given consent. This was then sent to the ACC (as recommended by the JSC at their meeting in New Orleans) around 12 noon and made public on the ACO website at 3pm. It appears that it was only shortly after this general publication that comments were first received from Bishop Mouneer and these were duly circulated to the JSC and Primates and then added as an appendix to the main report. Later still on the Wednesday afternoon, Elizabeth Paver (one of the ACC JSC) gave her affirmative response (confirmed subsequently by phone) and on Thursday morning the listings on the internet-published report were accordingly altered and Bishop Mouneer’s comments added."

Read the rest of the background here.

Diocese of Maine elects new bishop

Episcopal Diocese of Maine elected The Rev. Canon Stephen Lane as Bishop on the first ballot this morning. Bishop-elect Lane is presently the Canon for Deployment and Ministry Development in the Diocese of Rochester.

The ballot totals are here.

There's more information about the bishop-elect here.

Taking a stand ... in the middle of the road

A group of clergy from the Diocese of Georgia have published a statement in Savannah Morning News that speaks to the decision by the leadership of Christ Church, Savannah to attempt to affiliate as a congregation of the Anglican Province of Uganda.

"Traffic is coming at you both ways if you stand in the middle of the road, or as Episcopalians call it, taking the middle path, the via media.

Standing in the middle, whether it be in traffic or two conflicting views can be a risky business, but it is how Episcopalians and most of their Anglican brothers and sisters have chosen to live. In fact much of what is being said about the Episcopal Church, from whatever direction the traffic is flowing can be very misleading. Read the Bible, read our prayer book and speak with a member of our clergy to discover the real facts about who we are and what we believe.

The apostle Paul said to do all things in moderation. That doesn't mean being 'luke-warm.

'We accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and we believe that fundamentalism, polarization and the secularizing of religion are dangerous for one's spiritual health. We continue to stand for listening to one another, being inclusive, taking our history seriously, taking Scripture seriously, and engaging mystery and paradox.

We adhere to the ancient Creeds of the Church and we believe Holy Scripture is the inspired Word of God containing all things necessary for salvation. We further believe that the Sacraments provide a sure and certain means of God's grace. We accept the checks and balances of a church structure and practice that include the ancient tradition of bishops, priests, deacons and laity. All of this keeps local vestries (boards) and clergy from going off the deep end.

All this being said, as in any denomination, there are many individuals, both leaders and parishioners, who hold a variety of beliefs, but in the Episcopal Church no one individual, no one vestry, no one leader, may dictate or pretend to represent the exclusive Faith of the Church. We recognize along with the apostle Paul that we all see through a glass darkly. But if we can make an effort to take one another seriously and listen to each other as fellow members of The Body of Christ, we might all see a bit more clearly and charitably.

We in the Episcopal Church are willing to risk, that at the end of the day, we might be convicted, of being too compassionate, rather than too judgmental; too inclusive rather than too exclusive; too moderate rather than too extremist. We are willing to take the risk of standing in the via media.

Are you willing to take that risk? Come and see who we really are.

Visit an Episcopal Church on Sunday. Come to a Bible study or forum at a local Episcopal church. Everyone is welcome, regardless of denomination, religion, political party, lifestyle or race. Step out of the fast lane (or slow) and step into the via media."

Read the rest, and see the full list of signatories here.

Hat-tip to Episcope for the pointer to the article!

The Anglican Global South: a portrait

The Rev. Dr. Frederick Quinn discusses some of the misperceptions people have about Anglicanism in the Global South and the vital faith it represents in an article on Episcopal Life Online. He also points out that changes are coming to the leadership of the Global South that will have implications for relations between the Episcopal Church and other parts of the Communion.

"'Global South' implies a monolithic body when in reality the group's membership appears to be porous, driven by a small number of special interest advocates primarily in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and their American franchise holders. Membership and financial data about the group is as difficult to come by as that of a Cayman Islands registered corporation. The organization projects a billboard slogan North-South divide. Northern churches are cold, dwindling in numbers, and ignore the Bible. In contrast, the growing South is energetic, biblically correct, and the home of ready judges waiting to declare what is acceptable practice throughout the Anglican Communion.

This slick North-South divide is no more accurate than numerous other discredited religious clash-of-civilization comparisons that have appeared and disappeared during recent centuries. Amartya Sen, the Pakistani-born Nobel-Prize-winning author, has warned about the dangers of such distorted religious reductionism: 'The hope of harmony in the contemporary world lies to a great extent in a clearer understanding of the pluralities of human identity, and in the appreciation that they cut across each other and work against a sharp separation along one single hardened line of impenetrable division.' (Amartya Sen, Identity and Violence, The Illusion of Destiny (New York: Norton, 2006), xiv.)

Population growth numbers widely favor the South, but within most 'southern' countries there is an amazing diversity of religious expressions. In the Anglican case, the range of religious issues present in any province is far more complex than represented by a few well-worn slogans about sex and structure.

The Anglican Global South faction and their American supporters so far have missed an opportunity to draw on the rich contributions of the African American religious ethos, Pentecostal, liberation and other post-colonial theologies. Asian, Latin American and African Christians have been in the forefront of developing such forms of religious expression linking eternal truths with local settings and cultures."

Read the rest of the essay here.

Provoked

Provoke Radio is a new venture inspired by Catholic teaching on social justice. It's just getting off the ground, or, rather, on the air, but it is worth a look, or, rather, a listen..

Loyalists in Network dioceses seek assistance

The Living Church reports, "Loyalist Episcopalians in dioceses affiliated with the Anglican Communion Network feel isolated and lack access to important information to help them plan for their future, said Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, during brief introductory remarks to Executive Council, Oct. 26 in Dearborn, Michigan. .... Many of the questions relate to how these persons will remain connected if their dioceses realize plans to disaffiliate from The Episcopal Church. ... No decisions were made following Mrs. Anderson's address and it was uncertain how much time the council would spend on these issues."

Read it all here.

Tobias Haller on True Union

Tobias Haller is in the midst of a writing an intellectually rigorous, yet, stylistically accesible defense of same-sex relationships. It's must reading for anyone who argues on behalf of the full sacramental inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the Church. Parts one through six are available here:

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

For the Bible Tells Me So

For the Bible Tells Me So, a documentary by Daniel Karlsake about conservative Christian families coming to terms with their children's homosexuality, had its Washington premier last night. The movie features interviews with Bishop Gene Robinson and his parents.

Have a look at the film's Web site, read a review, find out more about the director, and find a screening near you.

While you are at it, have a look at this item from Common Sense, which suggests that th "professional intolerance movement" is on the wane.

Christology, the emerging church and engagement

Maggi Dawn has an interesting post that starts off addressing questions about Christology and the emerging church, and how the latter has received some criticism for not having enough of the former. She goes on from there, however, to address how we as Christians engage the non-Christian world we often find ourselves living in. She notes Friedrich Schleiermacher's efforts in the early 19th century to reconcile faith and reason:

As Schleiermacher tells it, when people encounter God they do not first of all become aware of God as a doctrinally complete concept, nor of a three-personed Trinity. It takes time and patience to understand the God one initially encounters, and doctrines like Trinity and Christology are ways of learning to understand and articulate that encounter.

Rather than accusing the emerging church of having an immature theology, however, Dawn is pointing out the similarities between the emerging church--indeed, many of the movements that downplay creeds and doctrine--and Schleiermacher's attempts to, as Dawn writes, "get these people to understand that true Christianity was not the passionless affair they thought it was, but precisely what would meet their deep longing for spiritual truth."

That points to the greater challenge for postmodern evangelists, a word I use with reservation because of its connotations, in secular society, with extremely conservative approaches to Christianity. It is one thing for those within the faith to debate the this-and-thats of Christian theology, including the nature of the Trinity. However, these debates about doctrines and correctness, as well as the "language of religion" itself, may be the barrier that keeps people who shun religion from becoming, or becoming aware that they are, disciples:

...for those who live as Christians in a culture that despises religion, there may be good reason to have a thorough-going orthodox Christology but not wear it on your sleeve in everyday conversation. Why would that be? Because if you frequently find yourself as the only Christian in a group of people you work or socialise with, you cannot help but be alive to the fact that the language of religion fails to connect people to any lively interest in Jesus or Christianity. For those of us who live in that kind fo culture (and I'm speaking here of 21st century England), however important an orthodox Christology is to me, it's not the first thing that arises when debating religious issues with those who are strangers to the faith. In my experience, people are more interested initially in whether and why observing religion at all is a viable possibility in 21st century Britain. In such conversations, I find myself describing what religion is not, and making connections between other people's spiritual experience, not to say they are all the same, but to say that in my experience true Christianity is not the outmoded museum piece people imagine, but precisely the kind of spiritual reality that we long for.

The essay, and some lively responses in the comments to it, are here.

Let's see who salutes

The Sunday Telegraph reports on an idea as if it is fact. The idea is that foreign bishops would be allowed to intervene in dioceses where they disagree with the local bishops theology or pastoral practice is going to a part of a future Anglican covenant.

The paper says:

The Church of England is set to allow foreign archbishops to intervene in its affairs, secret papers reveal.

Under controversial plans being drawn up by the Church's bishops, leaders from Africa and South America would be able to take over the care of parishes in this country.

They threaten to end the historic power of bishops to have ultimate control over their dioceses because parishes could ask for overseas prelates to carry out important duties, such as leading ordination services.

The Sunday Telegraph cites a "secret document" without citing who wrote it, for whom it was written, and when it was written.

Such moves are not currently permitted in the Church of England, but the confidential document - seen by The Sunday Telegraph - says that "the issue of intervention in the affairs of other Anglican churches" needs to be addressed.

The paper cites the group Reform as supportive saying that the group believes this proposal would address issues such as when an ordinand to the priesthood refuses to receive communion from the bishop who would ordain him. (This is the the situation in the Diocese of Chelmsford where the bishop, the Rt Rev John Gladwin, has refrained to ordain Richard Wood because Wood said he would not receive communion from his bishop.)

The article says that the idea is a way of regulating bishops intervening in another's jurisdiction, as if these interventions are inevitable and appropriate.

[The proposal] is designed to stop provinces taking unilateral action and argues that Churches that defy traditional teaching should be asked to repent of their actions or face being expelled from the worldwide Communion.

What is not answered is how this kind of provision would prevent the Church of England from dividing, separating conservatives from the rest of the Church, and how this provision could not be applied to liberal parishes in conservative dioceses.

[T]he Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, Bishop of Hulme, claimed that such a provision for traditionalists would lead to a split in the Church.

"We’ve already played into the hands of those who want oversight with the legislation for flying bishops for opponents of women priests, but the effect would be to create a para-church within the Church of England," he said.

"It would separate them [the traditionalists] off from the rest of the Church."

EpiScope says the report is like the game of Telephone. The Sunday Telegraph is, to use another image, frequently the paper of choice for groups like Reform who want their ideas to be run up the flagpole.

Ministers' Manifesto

Fifty years ago this coming week, eighty white members of the Atlanta clergy issued a manifesto on race relations. Read fifty years later, the manifesto seems mild. At the time, however, it was viewed as a revolutionary document that resulted in more than one death threat.

NPR has good coverage of this anniversary:

Fifty years ago, 80 white pastors in the Atlanta area took on segregationists in the Deep South. They took their beliefs to the front page of Atlanta's main newspaper in 1957, issuing what has been called The Ministers' Manifesto.

It was an appeal for peace during the debate over integration, when the state of Georgia weighed closing its schools rather than allow black and white children to attend them together. The ministers issued their statement on Nov. 3, 1957, after mobs had partially shut down Central High School in Little Rock, Ark.

Lynn Neary speaks with retired United Methodist Bishop Bevel Jones, who helped write the manifesto, and the Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder and president emeritus of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, about the historic document's impact.

Jones says his parishioners weren't surprised by the manifesto because he had been "preaching on the issue," though they were "curious" about the tactic. "But I got some awfully, awfully hot letters from the public and some phone calls," he adds.

Lowery was in Mobile, Ala., at the time. "We were very much aware of what had happened in Atlanta because all of us were traumatized by what had happened in Little Rock. So when these ministers in Atlanta spoke out, it was a breath of fresh air.

"Considering the environment and the times in which they issued a statement, it was a bold statement," Lowery says.

Read today, the manifesto sounds "mild and extremely cautious," Lowery says. "But at that time, it was a strong statement and we welcomed it for we needed leadership from the church."

The statement never explicitly condemned segregation, but nevertheless it had a "sobering and calming effect on people across the South," Lowery says.

Read it all here. Read the manifesto here.

Sadly, another group of local pastors — mostly Baptists and Pentecostals — issued a statement defending segregation a year and a half later. The Atlanta Journal ran it on the front page on March 25, 1959. It can be found here.

The out-sourced brain

David Brooks has a provocative column this week on the effect of technology on human memory. Are we outsourcing our own thinking? Brooks seems to think so:

I have melded my mind with the heavens, communed with the universal consciousness, and experienced the inner calm that externalization brings, and it all started because I bought a car with a G.P.S.

Like many men, I quickly established a romantic attachment to my G.P.S. I found comfort in her tranquil and slightly Anglophilic voice. I felt warm and safe following her thin blue line. More than once I experienced her mercy, for each of my transgressions would be greeted by nothing worse than a gentle, “Make a U-turn if possible.”

. . .

My G.P.S. goddess liberated me from this drudgery. She enabled me to externalize geographic information from my own brain to a satellite brain, and you know how it felt? It felt like nirvana.

Through that experience I discovered the Sacred Order of the External Mind. I realized I could outsource those mental tasks I didn’t want to perform. Life is a math problem, and I had a calculator.

Until that moment, I had thought that the magic of the information age was that it allowed us to know more, but then I realized the magic of the information age is that it allows us to know less. It provides us with external cognitive servants — silicon memory systems, collaborative online filters, consumer preference algorithms and networked knowledge. We can burden these servants and liberate ourselves.

Musical taste? I have externalized it. Now I just log on to iTunes and it tells me what I like.

. . .

Memory? I’ve externalized it. I am one of those baby boomers who are making this the “It’s on the Tip of My Tongue Decade.” But now I no longer need to have a memory, for I have Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia. Now if I need to know some fact about the world, I tap a few keys and reap the blessings of the external mind.

Personal information? I’ve externalized it. I’m no longer clear on where I end and my BlackBerry begins. When I want to look up my passwords or contact my friends I just hit a name on my directory. I read in a piece by Clive Thompson in Wired that a third of the people under 30 can’t remember their own phone number. Their smartphones are smart, so they don’t need to be. Today’s young people are forgoing memory before they even have a chance to lose it.

Now, you may wonder if in the process of outsourcing my thinking I am losing my individuality. Not so. My preferences are more narrow and individualistic than ever. It’s merely my autonomy that I’m losing.

I have relinquished control over my decisions to the universal mind. I have fused with the knowledge of the cybersphere, and entered the bliss of a higher metaphysic. As John Steinbeck nearly wrote, a fella ain’t got a mind of his own, just a little piece of the big mind — one mind that belongs to everybody. Then it don’t matter, Ma. I’ll be everywhere, around in the dark. Wherever there is a network, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a TiVo machine making a sitcom recommendation based on past preferences, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a Times reader selecting articles based on the most e-mailed list, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way Amazon links purchasing Dostoyevsky to purchasing garden furniture. And when memes are spreading, and humiliation videos are shared on Facebook — I’ll be there, too.

I am one with the external mind. Om.

Read it all here.

Religion and wealth

pewworldgrapj.gif

Pew Research never fails to provide interesting survey information. This graph, showing the relationship between religiousity and per capita GDP is no exception. Religiosity is measured using a three-item index ranging from 0-3, with "3" representing the most religious position. Respondents were given a "1" if they believe faith in God is necessary for morality; a "1" if they say religion is very important in their lives; and a "1" if they pray at least once a day.

Pew offers this analysis:

Global publics are sharply divided over the relationship between religion and morality. In much of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, there is a strong consensus that belief in God is necessary for morality and good values. Throughout much of Europe, however, majorities think morality is achievable without faith. Meanwhile, opinions are more mixed in the Americas, including in the United States, where 57% say that one must believe in God to have good values and be moral, while 41% disagree.

The survey finds a strong relationship between a country's religiosity and its economic status. In poorer nations, religion remains central to the lives of individuals, while secular perspectives are more common in richer nations. This relationship generally is consistent across regions and countries, although there are some exceptions, including most notably the United States, which is a much more religious country than its level of prosperity would indicate. Other nations deviate from the pattern as well, including the oil-rich, predominantly Muslim -- and very religious -- kingdom of Kuwait.

The survey also measured global opinion about contemporary social issues, finding a mix of traditional and progressive views. Throughout Western Europe and much of the Americas, there is widespread tolerance towards homosexuality. However, the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Israel stand apart from other wealthy nations on this issue; in each of these countries, fewer than half of those surveyed say homosexuality should be accepted by society. Meanwhile, in most of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, there is less tolerance toward homosexuality.

Regarding gender issues, there is a broad consensus that both boys and girls should receive an education. In all 47 countries surveyed, at least seven-in-ten respondents believe that education is equally important for boys and girls. Most publics also believe that men and women are equally qualified for political leadership, although there is less agreement on this issue. Notably, in several predominantly Muslim publics -- including Mali, the Palestinian territories, Kuwait, Pakistan and Bangladesh -- majorities say that men make better political leaders. The survey also asked about another often contentious gender issue: Muslim women wearing the veil. In 15 of 16 Muslim publics surveyed, majorities say women should have the right to decide whether they wear a veil. Women generally are more likely than men to express this opinion.

Read it all here. the full research report can be found here.

Executive Council meeting wraps up

The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church's General Convention ended its four day meeting in Michigan on Sunday. The Executive Council took a number of actions during its meeting, including a slight rebuke to the House of Bishops taking an action beyond its authority, agreeing to commit the Episcopal Church to remaining in the Anglican Covenant process and agreeing to fund the re-organization process for the Church Center that a task force had proposed.

"As it concluded its three-day fall meeting at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Dearborn, Michigan, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church thanked the House of Bishops for its efforts that resulted in a statement to the Anglican Communion issued in September. However, Council Resolution NAC026 said that where the bishops' statement called 'particular attention to the application of [General Convention] Resolution B033 to lesbian and gay persons, it may inappropriately suggest that an additional qualification for the episcopacy has been imposed beyond those contained in the constitution and canons of the church.'

Resolution B033, passed by General Convention in June 2006, calls upon diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction '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.'"

Read the rest here.

Mark Lawrence to be consecrated bishop of South Carolina

News broke last night that Bishop-elect Lawrence had received the number of consents from bishop and Standing Committees of the Episcopal Church needed to be consecrated as bishop. Episcopal News has the formal announcement this morning from the Presiding Bishop.

"Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori announced October 29 that the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence had received the consents needed for him to become the next bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. The consecration will be held January 26, 2008 at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul in Charleston, South Carolina.

Jefferts Schori has been invited to visit the diocese February 25-26, 2008. 'This will give us an opportunity to state with clarity and charity the theological position of this diocese in a manner similar to when we met with [the] Most. Rev. Frank T. Griswold shortly after his installation as presiding bishop,' the diocese says in a statement on its website.

Lawrence was re-elected as South Carolina's bishop on August 4 at a special electing convention held at St. James' Church on St. James Island, South Carolina. Lawrence was the only candidate in the election."

Read the rest of the story here.

Budget changes coming for national church office

The Living Church, reporting on some of the housekeeping details taken care of at the Executive Council, pulls out the news that income is down and adjustments need to be made to the national church's budget adopted at General Convention in Columbus. Nearly a quarter of the deficit arises from the reorganization plan that was approved by Executive Council at their meeting this weekend.

"Some $1.8 million will need to be trimmed from the 2008 budget when the national Executive Council meets in Quito, Ecuador, next February.

The deficit, which includes up to $550,000 in additional expenses for staff reorganization, was discussed during meetings of Executive Council’s Administration and Finance Committee. Council met Oct. 26-28 in Dearborn, Mich.

The majority of the deficit is due to an updated forecast of revenue about 2 percent less than the $50.4 million approved in the budget by the 75th General Convention in 2006. The remainder is due to additional estimated expenses of $444,000 attributed to the Church Center staff reorganization."

Read the rest here.

Diocese of Oxford seeks web pastor

The Diocese of Oxford is advertising for applicants to fill a newly created position of "web pastor" to serve the congregation being created at the website "i-church".

"The Web Pastor leads i-church, working with the trustees and the i-church council to develop the global mission and ministry of i-church as it spreads Christ’s Good News to the world. This is an exciting opportunity to grow and develop an organisation which has tremendous potential. The successful candidate will have experience of pastoral ministry in a collaborative context, supporting and encouraging volunteers and promoting a united and supportive community.

This is a half-time post, open to Anglican priests, with some flexibility to consider applicants able to offer at least 40% of a full-time equivalent or up to 60%. The stipend will be calculated pro rata to a full-time priest in the Diocese of Oxford."

It's unclear from the article whether or not the applicants must be priests of the Church of England or if clergy from other Anglican Provinces might apply.

Read the rest here.

New statistics about the Episcopal Church released

News from the Church Center (815):

"Latino and Asian populations are among the fastest-growing in North America, and should become greater priorities for Episcopal Church evangelism, members of Executive Council said October 27 while reviewing church membership and attendance statistics for the year 2006.

Overall U.S. Latino/Hispanic population is projected to grow by 34%, and Asian by 33%, in the decade 2000-2010, compared with 13% Black, 7% White, and 3% White, non-Hispanic, according to statistics presented by Kirk Hadaway, the Episcopal Church's director of research.

Multicultural mission is essential in these contexts, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told the Council, gathered in Dearborn, Michigan, for its regular fall meeting.

The seven Latin American and Caribbean dioceses of the Episcopal Church's Province 9 posted a 1,741-person gain in membership in 2006 for a 72,084 total, according to the aggregated Parochial Report data reported by Hadaway. 

Four overseas dioceses -- Colombia, Dominican Republic, Micronesia, and Puerto Rico -- posted growth in membership and average Sunday attendance in 2006, Hadaway said. Domestic dioceses posting similar gains for 2006 numbered 11: Alaska, Central Pennsylvania, Eastern Oregon, Eau Claire, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Upper South Carolina. The Navajoland Area Mission also reported growth.

Other upturns for Episcopalians included a 2.5% increase in plate and pledge offerings churchwide to more than $1.3 billion in 2006 in domestic dioceses, with the average parishioner's pledge increasing to $2,088 from $1,979. The value of total investments of all domestic congregations also climbed to nearly $4.2 billion in 2006, up from more than $3.9 billion in 2005."

Read the rest here: Episcopal Life Online

Arsonist arrested on steps of Grace Cathedral

A convicted arsonist was arrested on Sunday outside of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco by police following a tip that he was intending to burn the Cathedral. The man had previously been arrested for setting the "Burning Man" aflame in an act he claimed was an act of love earlier this summer.

"[The suspect, Paul Addis] was wearing an old ammunition belt that carried small explosives, Mannina said. He was booked on suspicion of attempted arson, possession of an incendiary substance, possession of explosives and possession of explosives with intent to terrorize a church.

A bomb dog was brought in to search the area and found no other explosives at the California Street cathedral.

Deputy Chief Morris Tabak said Addis had only a small amount of explosives.

'Did he have the capability to do substantial damage? Absolutely not,' Tabak said.

Tabak said police didn't know what Addis' alleged motive was. 'He said something about it was his religious right,' Tabak said."

Read the rest here.

Ontario priest disciplined for marrying same-sex couple

From the Anglican Journal today:

"A priest in the diocese of Ontario has been disciplined and had his licence to marry cancelled after officiating at the wedding of a same-sex couple last August in a church in rural Ontario, where he is the incumbent.

Rev. Michael Bury, rector of St. John the Evangelist church, in Stirling, Ont., a small village located about 190 km east of Toronto, confirmed in an interview that his licence to perform marriages has been cancelled.

In an interview at the house of bishops meeting in London, Ont., diocesan bishop George Bruce said the cancellation is effective until further notice. ‘I had issued a directive in 2003 that we would not bless same-sex relationships nor conduct marriages. There was no canonical permission to do it. There are consequences (to such an action),’ he said."

Read the rest here.

Wiki-religion

Henry G. Brinton in USA Today discusses the growth of Do It Yourself Christianity and the shrinking of brand name denominations. A story related to The Lead article on loss of members in the Episcopal Church.

A generation ago, people turned to trusted authorities such as newspapers and mainline churches to get information. But trust in such institutions has fallen over the past 30 years, eroding the relationship between Americans and a number of traditional sources of trust. A poll called the General Social Survey has asked people whether they have "a great deal of confidence" in social institutions, and their answers reveal a clear decline.

According to this survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, confidence has dropped since the 1970s in:

* Banks and financial institutions (From 35% to 28%).

* Major companies (26% to 17%).

* The press (24% to 9%).

* Education (36% to 27%).

* Organized religion (35% to 24%).

Whether you attribute this fall to Watergate or Enron or clergy sexual misconduct, the damage has clearly been done.

This is a serious concern to pastors like me, who serve churches associated with what used to be the "trusted brands" of Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, and Presbyterian Christianity. These mainline denominations grew through the 1940s and '50s but began to lose members about 1965. Today, some are one-third smaller than they were 40 years ago.

He also notes:

Of course, denominational pastors like myself have some lessons to learn from successful independent churches. I need to accept that today's spiritual seekers want quality, clarity, convenience and community in their practice of faith, and they will choose the church that offers the programs that best meet their personal needs. Few people will join my church simply because it is Presbyterian, just as a shrinking number of people will buy a car because of loyalty to General Motors. Consumers today want a product with the best features, whether it is a church with a dynamic youth program or an automobile with an excellent crash-test rating.

Individual choice and control are affecting all of our institutions, from financial organizations (Internet banking) to journalism (blogging) to education (distance learning). The church is not immune from this, and we'll see increasing diversity in the "emerging churches" that are attracting a new generation of people in their 20s and 30s who are suspicious of organized religion. Overseas, independent churches are experiencing explosive growth, especially in Brazil and South Africa, and it won't be long before churches in the USA feel the effects of this movement.

Henry G. Brinton is pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church in Virginia and author of Balancing Acts: Obligation, Liberation, and Contemporary Christian Conflicts.

Read it all here

Thanks to epiScope

Worshippers in hiding

NewsOK reports on the effect of the Oklahoma immigration reform law on church attendance.

When the Rev. Leonel Blanco looks out into the pews of his south Oklahoma City church on Sundays, he sees only half the number of his predominantly Hispanic congregation Attendance at Blanco's Santa Maria Virgen, called the fastest-growing church in the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, has dwindled sharply — a 50 percent decrease that Blanco blames on the Oklahoma immigration reform law that goes into effect Thursday. "Four months ago, this church was very full, but now the people are nervous. They don't like going out,” Blanco, a native of Guatemala, said in Spanish through an interpreter.

Read about the situation and what the churches in Oklahoma are doing here

Church prays for Britney Spears

AP reports that the congregation of Southland Christian Church is being asked to send letters of love and support to troubled pop star Britney Spears.

"Take a few minutes and write a note to Britney Spears," pastor John Weece said in a sermon and in a blog on the church Web site. "No preaching. No criticizing. Just love. As a church, let's love Britney the way Jesus loves her."

"If she were your next-door neighbor in the same situation without the money and success, wouldn't you care about her problems? Wouldn't you pray for her and offer her support and encouragement?" he asked members of the church.

Read the article here.

Bridging the gap between Democrats and religious voters

The Democratic National Committee has hired its first religious outreach director and its “Faith in Action” team now counts seven staff members, including those directing Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim outreach according to The New York Times. Leah Daughtery heads up this effort to assist candidates to reach out to religious voters and she has prompted the party to convene a 60-person faith advisory board and to train its members to combat the religious right on television.

Ever since he cited the Book of Job as his favorite part of the New Testament (it is actually in the Old Testament) and explained during his 2004 presidential campaign that he had left his church over a bike-path dispute, Howard Dean has been seen by many religious Americans as the nation’s secularist in chief.

That is why Mr. Dean, the Democratic National Committee chairman, still gets surprised looks when he points out that his chief of staff is a Pentecostal minister.

Indeed, the raucous three-and-a-half-hour service that the chief of staff, Leah Daughtry, 44, presided over last Sunday from the pulpit of the House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn seemed a world away not just from Mr. Dean, but also from the ways of official Washington.

Donning the yellow and white garments of that church’s clergy, Ms. Daughtry led a 25-member choir through the foot-stomping gospel number “I Can Go to God in Prayer.” She laid hands on parishioners and implored them to clear the way for Jesus.

“When I’m there in the pulpit, it really isn’t me,” the typically mild-mannered Ms. Daughtry said in an interview. “Sometimes I pray, ‘Decrease me and increase you, Lord.’”

Her duties at the Democratic National Committee are even more behind-the-scenes, with Ms. Daughtry preferring to stay out of the news. But for much of the last three years, she has worked to bridge the gap between the Brooklyn church in which she was raised — its pastor is her father, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry — and her Washington day job, becoming the quiet architect behind the committee’s religious outreach program.

Read it all here

Flirting with monasticism

Catherine Clair, Prison Fellowship's Breakpoint, decided to investigate the current attraction of the ancient ways of monastic life for modern evangelicals and pentecostals.

It seems the frenzied and the frenetic are finding stillness and order; the alienated are discovering the richness of belonging; and the non-committal are jumping headlong into the freedom of vows.

About eight years ago, I found myself in a convent in Bogotá, Colombia. I had not planned to get me to a nunnery. But it just so happened that I had signed up for a women’s retreat with the Baptist church where I was serving with youth that summer, and since the local convent had a bit of extra space, they hosted us for the weekend. My room—quiet, clean, white—lacked only one thing: distractions. It was perfect. It felt like I had entered rehab for the chronically over-stimulated. That weekend, I got a taste of something that hordes of evangelical Christians are flirting with today: monasticism.

A couple of months ago, I bumped into filmmaker Lauralee Farrar at the Washington Arts Council. She had shared earlier that day about her new film, Praying the Hours, a story about eight people connected by community, at a time in their lives when one of them has their life tragically cut short. The film’s themes grew out of Farrar’s own exploration of the way in which the Benedictine monks view time. After a shattering moment in her life that changed everything, she says she “stumbled upon the Benedictine hours of prayer and began to make them the structure for living through a day”—sort of a Benedictine AA: “one hour at a time.”

At the time, Farrar had no idea that she was a part of a growing trend of people keeping the hours. For the uninitiated, the practice of praying the hours grew out of the eight times each day during which the Benedictine monks stopped to pray the Psalter: Lauds (Morning Prayer) offered at sunrise; Prime (1st hour of the day); Terce (3rd hour, or Mid-morning); Sext (6th hour or Midday); None (9th hour or Mid-Afternoon); Vespers (Evening Prayer) offered at sunset; Compline (Night Prayer) before going to bed; and during the Night (Matins).

Read is all here

Palestinian rights conference controversy

The Boston Globe reports on the Sabeel Conference on Palestinian rights held at Old South Church in Boston. Both Israeli and Palestinian supporters pledge to work together locally but protestors denounced the comparison of apartheid with the treatment of Palestinians.

Hundreds of advocates for Palestinian rights gathered inside a Back Bay church yesterday as pro-Israel demonstrators denounced them from across Boylston Street in Copley Square, in an illustration of how the Mideast conflict has roiled relations between leaders of the Jewish and mainline Protestant communities in Boston.

Inside Old South Church, about 700 advocates of Palestinian rights launched a two-day conference, provocatively titled, "The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel." The meeting will feature a keynote speech today by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

The pro-Israel demonstrators, who numbered about 200, furiously denounced the use of the word apartheid to describe Israel, as well as what the Jewish community said were anti-Israel views espoused by Sabeel, the Palestinian Christian organization that put together the conference.

But both sides also said they are determined to work together locally.

The president of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ and the senior minister of Old South Church both issued statements expressing support for Israel and opposition to terrorism, even as they defended the decision to rent the Old South building to Sabeel. And the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council defended the free speech rights of Sabeel and concern for Palestinian rights, even as she denounced the conference as "an effort to demonize the state of Israel."

The three officials gathered on a sidewalk in front of the church to talk between the protest and the conference and said they have planned a meeting of Jewish and United Church of Christ leaders next week..

Old South has, over its three-plus centuries in existence, repeatedly hosted gatherings by groups championing controversial points of view, including abolition and women's suffrage and gay rights. Its senior minister, the Rev. Nancy S. Taylor, said the decision to rent the sanctuary to Sabeel represents an idea that is "at the heart of a free and vital democratic nation."

Read is all here

Proposed property protocol

Bishop John Howe has issued a proposed protocol applying to "a time of separations coming upon the Diocese of Central Florida." Six parishes (it had been seven) and two church plants have expressed a desire to disaffiliate from the Episcopal Church.

Introducing the proposal, Howe writes:

I remain committed to provide pastoral care both to those who wish to leave and to those who wish to remain. Individuals who wish to leave the Diocese of Central Florida and form another congregation are to be honored as brothers and sisters in Christ. The Diocese will do everything in its power to make their departure from the Diocese of Central Florida and The Episcopal Church a peaceful one without rancor or recrimination.

At the same time the Diocese is bound to work within the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church which state that a Parish holds in trust all real and personal property for the benefit of the Diocese and The Episcopal Church. We have a solemn responsibility to protect the interests of the Diocese and the larger church. We cannot and will not abandon those who wish to remain as members of The Episcopal Church and we will work diligently to determine whether in fact there is a sufficient number of Episcopalians in a given congregation to constitute a viable continuing congregation able to meet and worship in its own current facilities.
...
If an overwhelming majority of the members of a given congregation were to decide to leave, we might face a situation in which disposal of the property would eventually have to be considered.

I have shared the following proposed protocol with the clergy at our annual Clergy Conference at Canterbury, and it will be presented to the Diocesan Board and Standing Committee later this month. It has not yet been adopted, but I believe that it – or something very like it – must ensure that the spiritual needs of all the members of the Diocese will be protected. (This is more detail than most of you will want, but for everyone concerned we need to be as clear as possible.)

Emphasis in the original.

Howe's proposal is here.

Some Titus 1:9 readers are studying the angles here. Thoughts of Thinking Anglicans readers are here. Any thoughts from readers of The Lead?

Where is the Christian in Halloween?

Trinity Wall Street offers us the real story behind Halloween.

Here are the ways in which Trinity Wall Street will be celebrating Halloween.

The Portage Daily Register suggests not all Christians understand the true meaning of Halloween.

Drop us a comment about how other congregations in The Episcopal Church celebrate All-hallow-even.

Executive Council responds to the draft covenant

The Executive Council took several actions at its recent meeting one of which was to make public its response to the Draft Anglican Covenant. Some excerpts from that response:

The tensions of the present moment notwithstanding, we believe that there is a strong common identity that unites Anglicans worldwide. Anglicanism flourishes in geographical and cultural contexts of remarkable diversity. Yet we share a distinctive character that is familiar wherever it is found. Anglicans embrace a provisionality that argues for freedom in non-essential matters and humility in those matters where faithful Christians may err. We share a profound desire that the church be comprehensive of all sorts and conditions of people, and that it bring both justice and the saving grace of Jesus Christ to all. At our best, we are characterized by a genuine pastoral sensitivity to those with whom we have differences and by a profound respect for all people. In our lives together, we delight in a particular love of liturgical worship and the sacramental life of the church in all its various expressions....
...
In this age of globalization and post-colonialism, our Anglican identity fosters a powerful and creative dynamic between the particular and the universal, the local and the global, the contextual and the catholic. The question then, before Anglicans today, is: how can we live more deeply into what God, in Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is calling us to be in the variety of our local circumstances while, at the same time, remaining in unity with sisters and brothers in Christ who live in different circumstances? How can Anglicanism move beyond the confines of a mono-cultural privileged, English-speaking church of the West to a multicultural and global plurality of post-colonial churches without losing a sense of our common purpose and identity? What role can an Anglican covenant play in negotiating the life of the Anglican Communion lived between the local and the global?
...
Our study process has led us to the conclusion that The Episcopal Church, as with the Executive Council, is not of one mind as to the efficacy of this particular Draft Covenant in either form or content. Furthermore, some parts of the Covenant have received broad endorsement within The Episcopal Church, whereas other parts have engendered vigorous debate and opposition. Recognizing this diversity of opinion, we will now discuss each section of the Draft Anglican Covenant, seeking to be responsible to the variety of opinions within our church.
...
While some of our members consider the draft adequate as it stands, the majority believe that we must work in the hope that the final form of this document will provide a better means of engaging one another respectfully and with mutual regard, as we seek to agree on essential matters of faith and order while celebrating our differences.
Read it all here.

Mark Harris has some reflections here. (See, too, his pre-council post here.) Context: Harris writes,

I was part of the working group that produced this paper and it was received and by resolution became the response of Executive Council. Because Executive Council was mandated by General Convention to do this work it becomes an (not the) official response of The Episcopal Church. Hopefully it will be read by the Covenant Design Group and will become a contribution to its work.

How "I am the bread of life" was saved: the rest of the story

Many love it and others don't, but we almost lost it all together. Just in time for All Souls Day, The National Catholic Reporter has Sister Suzanne Toolan's story behind her hymn, "I am the bread of life."

Her memoir is here.

The song is copyrighted. The scriptural reference:

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All whom the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day."

John 6:35-40

The Episcopal Church enters the home building business

65,000 homes were lost due Hurricane Katrina and many of the deplaced are still living in FEMA trailers. The Hattiesburg American reports on a non-profit joint venture with participation by The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Missisippi:

"By the end of the first year of operations, Unity Homes expects to have produced 250 houses and employ 70 people," Vallette said. "Within three years, we plan to be building at least 500 houses per year, with a production and field staff of over 125 people."

The company is a nonprofit business that partners with Episcopal Relief and Development, the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi and Enterprise Corporation of the Delta, Vallette said.

Some of the homes built will go to people who meet income requirements, and by 2009 100 of them will go to a program to help single mothers with home ownership.


Read it here. Check out this earlier Episcopal Life story about the venture and the Hallelujah Housing program.

The contributions of Episcopalians have been recognized elsewhere. Check out this post-Katrina progress report from the New York Times titled "Building on Faith." Excerpts:

About 105,000 dwellings, 71 percent of the housing stock, were damaged or destroyed in Orleans Parish by Hurricane Katrina, said Gregory C. Rigamer, a New Orleans demographics expert. About 56 percent of the city’s population has returned, Mr. Rigamer said, but resettlement has been erratic. In the Lower Ninth Ward, for instance, just 7 percent of residents have come back.
...
It is unclear exactly how much housing religiously affiliated groups and churches have built since last year, when most began their efforts. But interviews with five of the groups — Providence Community Housing, Habitat for Humanity, Volunteers of America, the Episcopal Diocese of New Orleans Jericho Road Project and First Evangelist Baptist Church — showed that since 2006, about 350 housing units have come onto the market, a pace officers at the groups said should accelerate as they acquire more property and line up financing.

There's more about the Jericho Road project here.

Bishop Bennison inhibited from exercise of ministry

From Episcopal News Service this evening:

"Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on October 31 inhibited Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison from all ordained ministry pending a judgment of the Court for the Trial of a Bishop.

The Title IV Review Committee issued a presentment for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy against Bennison on October 28.

The two counts of the presentment center on accusations that Bennison, when he was rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Upland, California, did not respond properly after learning sometime in 1973 that his brother, John, who worked as a lay youth minister in the parish, was having an affair with a 14-year-old member of the youth group. John Bennison was also married at the time, according to the presentment."

Read the rest here.

UPDATE 11/1/07 Statement from the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pennsylvania follows:

Read more »

Topeka Baptist Church must pay 11 million to slain soldier's family

Westboro Baptist Church, known for its website "GodHatesFags", has been fined for demonstrating at the funeral of a US soldier killed in Iraq.

"The brokenhearted father of a Marine killed in Iraq won a long-shot legal fight today after a federal jury in Baltimore awarded him nearly $11 million in a verdict against members of a Kansas church who hoisted anti-gay placards at his son's Westminster funeral.

The jury's announcement 24 hours after deliberations first began was met with tears and hugs from the family and supporters of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, whose March 2006 funeral was protested by members of the Westboro Baptist Church with signs including 'Thank God for dead soldiers.'

Snyder's father, Albert, won on every count of his complaint, as well as $2.9 million for compensatory damages and $8 million for punitive damages."

People from the congregation of the Baptist church have long been notorious for their demonstrations against congregations, including many of the Episcopal Church, and at the funeral of Matthew Shepherd, a gay man killed in a hate crime motivated slaying.

Read the rest here: here.

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