Father Thomas Reese on same sex marriage

Jesuit priest Thomas J. Reese, Senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center and former editor of the Catholic weekly magazine America, has thoughts on the California Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage and the efforts to put the issue on the ballot:

The California Supreme Court, like the Massachusetts Supreme Court, has ruled that the state constitution requires that the state recognize same-sex marriages. The court specifically said that churches would not be required to perform such weddings.

Many, even some who support gay marriage, believe that this was an unwise decision on the part of the court. California already allowed domestic partnerships with most of the rights of married couples. By rejecting what had been a political compromise, the court has made it inevitable that a state constitutional amendment will be put on the ballot in California. The amendment will not only overturn the decision but may also eliminate domestic partnerships.

I agree with those who believe that the California Supreme Court’s decision was unwise, but I would oppose a constitutional amendment that would forbid gay marriages. I believe that this issue should be dealt with by state legislatures, not by the courts or referendums.

Homosexual relationships exist in American society in not insignificant numbers. Even if you consider such relationships immoral, it can be argued that the state has an interest in encouraging these relationships to be stable and long term rather than multiple and short term. State legislatures are used to coming up with compromises that are acceptable to most of the people. They can also return to legislation to adjust it based on experience and future circumstances.

Some argue that gay marriage is a threat to marriage as a heterosexual institution. I have never understood this argument. In an apartment building filled with unmarried couples, both gay and hetero, if all the gay couples got married, it would seem to me that their example would inspire the heterosexuals to think about marriage. I would prefer to reserve the word “marriage” to heterosexuals, but I don’t think it is worth fighting over.

I think it is foolish for churches to expend their political capital opposing the legalization of gay marriage. There are many other issues of greater importance: abortion, hunger, global warming, peace, health care, etc. Pro-life churches and organizations should especially be suspicious when gay marriage is given more prominence as an issue than abortion. Money and resources that would have gone to pro-life work are being siphoned off to oppose gay marriage.

Read it all here. As you might expect, these comments have not been well received by more conservative Catholics such as Richard Neuhaus.

Compatability of science and religion

The American Association for the Advancement of Science recently released this very interesting video, which features Dr. Francis Collins and AAAS CEO Alan Leshner discussing the compatibility of science and religion, including a focus on evolution.

Michael Gerson on the libertarian Jesus

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson (with whom we often disagree on the issues now dividing the Anglican Communion) had a column this week that makes a challenge to the religious right. It responded to those who assert that the Gospel opposes government programs for the poor:

"Common sense and the Scriptures," argues Sen. Tom Coburn, "show that true giving and compassion require sacrifice by the giver. This is why Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell his possessions, not his neighbor's possessions. Spending other people's money is not compassionate."

It is not my purpose to pick on the senator from Oklahoma (once again); he is a man of principle. And he is merely restating a fairly common view: that compassion is a private virtue, not a public one, and that religious conscience concerns the former and not the latter.

But this is a theological assertion, not a political one. And as theology, it is flawed.

It is true that Jesus was not a political activist; he joined no party and issued no Contract With the Roman Empire. But it is a stretch to interpret his personal challenge to the rich young ruler as a biblical foundation for libertarianism.

The Jewish tradition in which Jesus lived and taught demanded that just rulers make a minimal provision for the poor, including no-interest loans and the distribution of agricultural commodities. (Look it up: Exodus 22:25-27 and Deuteronomy 24:19-21.) The apostle Paul held a high view of government's role in promoting justice and urged the willing payment of taxes -- a biblical demand more severe, for some of us, than all those sexual prohibitions. And Jesus's followers, fanning out along Roman roads, eventually expressed strong views on slavery, infanticide and the debasement of women -- political views that followed naturally from their belief in a radical equality before God.

The great evangelical reformers of the 18th and 19th centuries -- from John Wesley to William Wilberforce to Lord Shaftesbury -- certainly believed that the teachings of Jesus had implications for enslaved Africans and children toiling in mills. Shaftesbury, a lifelong Tory, focused in Parliament on the plight of the mentally ill, on young chimney sweeps who often died of testicular cancer, on the 30,000 homeless children of Dickensian London. One biographer wrote of Shaftesbury: "No man has in fact ever done more to lessen the extent of human misery or to add to the sum total of human happiness."

This, one assumes, is a historical judgment a conservative politician would covet.

. . .

Private compassion cannot replace Medicaid or provide AIDS drugs to millions of people in Africa for the rest of their lives. In these cases, a role for government is necessary and compassionate -- the expression of conservative commitments to the general welfare and the value of every human life.

For millennia, artists, thinkers and politicians have shaped their image of Jesus, often into a mirror image of themselves. But the goal of Christianity is to allow Him to shape us, not the other way around. And just as Jesus the leftist revolutionary is a distortion, so is Jesus the libertarian.

Read it all here.

Tithing on the decrease

The Religion News Service reports new evidence that tithing is on the decrease, which is affecting churches of all types:

A recent poll by pollster George Barna shows that only 5 percent of Americans say they tithe, or give at least 10 percent of their income to religious congregations and charitable groups. According to other studies on church giving, congregants give an average of 2.58 percent of their income to their churches. That's down from 3.11 percent of their income in 1968, according to studies published by Empty Tomb, a ministry that studies church finances.

"Tithing is in decline," said the Rev. William Hull, a research professor at Samford University and a Baptist minister. "The older generation was taught to tithe. It's not being taught very much any more."

In addition to evidence of a drop in charitable giving, churches also appear to be losing "market share" to other charities:

Decades ago, the church was a focal point of philanthropy. Now parachurch ministries, schools and charitable agencies compete for those dollars, he said.

"The church has been losing market share," said Sylvia Ronsvalle, executive vice president of Empty Tomb. "That concerns us. There could be a crisis in the very heart of the church."

Many major mainline denominations are suffering budget shortfalls. "The churches don't get enough money to send on to headquarters," Hull said.

Read it all here.

Lambeth invite for provisional bishop of San Joaquin

From Bishop Jerry Lamb:

I received great news three days ago from the office of the manager of the Lambeth Conference [Sue Parks]. The e-mail says "we are expecting you at the Lambeth Conference". I was wondering when the invitation would arrive or even, some days, if it would ever come to Jane and me. Well, it is here and we are making plans to attend....

I am pleased to be going, but I am more pleased because this a clear sign from the Anglican Communion that the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin is the only Anglican Diocese in all of inland Central California. I received this invitation because I am your Bishop and, therefore, entitled to attend the Lambeth Conference as the Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Read the rest. Has former Bishop Schofield's invitation been sent? Retracted?

Welcome to Covenant Week

Today the Café begins a week-long examination of the St. Andrew's draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant. On each of the next five days, a member of the Episcopal Church's House of Deputies will discuss a section of the proposed covenant on Daily Episcopalian.

A study guide from The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church is also available.

In today's installment, Tobias S. Haller considers Section One of the covenant.

Related stories:

  • Deputies to study draft covenant
  • Bonnie Anderson on Rowan Williams and "the distinctive charism of bishops".
  • One pastor's forty year struggle

    Christian Century describes the work of the Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church and a former Pentecostal minister, who worked over four decades to establish legal and religious rights for gays and lesbians before the California Supreme Court decided to give the "right to marry" to same-sex couples.

    The idea of legal marriage for gays was too politically volatile in the mid-1990s for the MCC to make it a priority issue. But by early 2001, Perry and his church were fully committed to the fight. Perry and his longtime partner, Phillip Ray De Blieck, were legally married July 16, 2003, at an MCC congregation in Toronto.

    "Today the California Supreme Court legally recognized our marriage," Perry, 67 and now retired, exulted on May 15, saying that "our marriage is equal in the eyes of the law to all other marriages."

    A sociologist of religion who has studied the MCC movement credited Perry's leadership for the changes. "He has had the audacity and the tenacity to claim for gay and lesbian people the religious and civil rights that most Americans have the privilege to take for granted," said Steven Warner, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois-Chicago and immediate past president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.

    Warner said the movement led by Perry was "reformist" in seeking change and "conservative" in affirming the value of "two conservative institutions—the church and marriage." Many people in the gay community say "nuts to marriage" and reject all churches as homophobic, he said. But Perry and other plaintiffs "don't want to overthrow marriage; they want to be part of it."

    While the recent California Supreme Court ruling opens the way for marriage for gay and lesbians, the issue is not resolved as opposing groups seek to change California's constitution.

    Churches are not required in the ruling to perform same-sex unions, but each denomination will have to figure out how to apply their teachings in light of it. Some denominations came out four-square against the ruling, such as the Roman Catholic Bishops in the state. Others are finding ways to implement it.

    The United Church of Christ, which joined a brief in the California case, approved overwhelmingly in its 2005 convention a resolution supporting legalization of same-sex marriages. Bill McKinney, president of the UCC-related Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, said the seminary "celebrates this historic decision."

    Episcopal priest Susan Russell, the national president of the gay-advocacy group Integrity, indicated that supporters for gay union rites should raise these issues at the 2009 triennial Episcopal General Convention in Anaheim, California. She told Episcopal News Service that it is time for the church to "be as prophetic as the state of California has been."

    Bishop Jon Bruno, who heads the Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese, said the court decision resonates with the church's baptismal vows to strive for justice and respect for all. "To paraphrase St. Paul," Bruno said in a May 15 statement, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, gay nor straight in Jesus Christ our Lord."

    Read the rest here.

    How to pick a primate?

    While Archbishop Gregory Venables was predicting the end of the Anglican Communion as we know it, a former Bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada now licensed by Venables describes how he went about picking his new primate.

    Bishop Donald Harvey, formerly of the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, said that

    “We did talk to a couple of primates of different colours,” but, according the Anglican Journal, Archbishop Venables was willing to take on the job because of his connections with other primate and because he "brings few cultural barriers and no language limitations."

    In the same article, Venables says that his vision of a post-Anglican Communion world is a federation of parishes, dioceses and provinces who gather across geographical lines linked by common interests.

    “We’re no longer living in a world where everything is done locally,” Archbishop Venables said. “The church is a little late in coming to that.” Instead of insisting on geographical church provinces, “hopefully, this will be resolved so we can realign or restructure so everyone can follow their concerns.”

    Imagine a church where what where we only worship and pray with the people just like us.
    Imagine a Church comprised of voluntary networks linked by doctrine. Or culture. Or race.

    Read: Anglican Journal: Venables predicts end of Anglican Communion

    Evaluating clergy competence

    The ministry division of the Church of England has released a report indicating that as many as half of the current parish clergy are unable to cope with the demands of ministry.

    The Sunday Telegraph reports:

    A survey of diocesan bishops found that one-third believe that more than half of current clergy - as many as 6,000 - are unable to cope with the demands of the job.

    In addition, 90 per cent of the bishops believe that a third of the new intake of clergy do not have the necessary gifts and abilities.

    One bishop, who is unnamed, offers a damning verdict on the ability of priests entering the Church.

    “Most candidates have little or no skills in working co-operatively, or knowing how to share, as distinct or delegate, ministry,” he says.

    “Truthfully, it is deeply depressing. Egotism rules. Contemporary worship is feeble, 'sweet’, and leads no one to the Majesty of God.”

    Dave Walker summarizes blog responses to the report, which generally question either the methodology of the report or the quality of some bishops.

    More discussion may be found at Thinking Anglicans.

    What do you think? How does one evaluate the preparation and the quality of the work of clergy (including bishops) in a way that is both descriptive and useful?

    Dixon and Vatican rep talk on CNN

    Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon was on CNN-Europe discussing the recent Vatican decree that any Roman Catholic participating in the ordination of a woman would be automatically excommunicated.

    While not discussing the particulars of Roman Catholic teaching or discipline, she describes the experience of women in the Episcopal Church and some of the theology behind our understanding of ordination that leads our Church to accepting the ministry of ordained women.

    See it here.

    Amazing Grace Project

    The Anglican Church in Canada wants to have a video present wrapped and ready in time for Christmas. Anglican congregations all across Canada are being asked to sing "Amazing Grace" on Sunday, November 23rd and to record it on video. Gathered videos will be put together and posted on the web.

    The idea behind the Amazing Grace Project is simple: all Canadian Anglican congregations are invited to sing the hymn “Amazing Grace” on Sunday November 23rd 2008. You can sing at a time that works for you, either within the regular service or at a separate event that day. This is a time to get creative! Why not host an Amazing Grace community party, or invite a harpist, a banjo player, or liturgical dancers to join in?

    The best part about the Amazing Grace Project is that we’re doing it together. All parishes are encouraged to videotape their rendition of “Amazing Grace” and to send that video to the national office of the Anglican Church of Canada by December 1, 2008. The tapes will be edited together into one big, amazing “Amazing Grace” video and put up on the web for all to enjoy by Christmas.

    Some groups have already been recorded, according to the Anglican Journal.

    “While filming at native gatherings, I often feel the Holy Spirit right there,” said Anglican Video senior producer Lisa Barry. “It felt like that this time – that the Holy Spirit was lifting this project up.” After the meeting, a group of staff and committee members inspired by the idea started making plans.

    Already, national indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald and the Council of the North bishops have taped their renditions of the well-known hymn. These can be seen on the Amazing Grace Web site, which can be accessed via the Anglican Church of Canada Web site as of mid-May.

    See The Amazing Grace Project.

    Read more at the Anglican Journal: 'How sweet the sound' of Anglicans on YouTube'

    $4 million transferred by former Bishop of San Joaquin

    The lawsuit against John-David Schofield, deposed bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, seeking recovery of diocesan real estate and financial assets, has been amended to add Merrill Lynch and the "Anglican Diocese Holding Corporation" as defendants.

    "The main reason for the amendment is that we have obtained information that John-David Schofield has actually been transferring both real property and investment accounts (the latter held by Merrill Lynch) to non-Episcopal entities, including specifically a new corporation known as the Anglican Diocese Holding Company," said Heather Anderson, an attorney with the Goodwin Procter law firm based in Washington, D.C.

    The San Joaquin diocese, along with TEC, sued Schofield and several Episcopal legal entities that he asserts the right to control on April 24 "to establish who is the true incumbent of Corporation Sole, which owns most of the real estate of the diocese and accounts such as the investment fund and trust fund" containing more than $4 million in cash, diocesan chancellor Michael Glass told a gathering in San Joaquin on May 31.

    He said Merrill Lynch was named as a defendant because it "is the institution which holds the accounts for the diocese. We are working with Merrill Lynch, even though they are a defendant," he said.

    Read it all here.

    On the subject of attendance at the Lambeth Conference, The Living Church reports John-David Schofield has been invited to the conference.

    “Bishop Schofield received and accepted his invitation to Lambeth shortly after the invitations were first issued,” Canon Gandenberger said. “Shortly thereafter he received the study material common to all the bishops.”

    Canon Gandenberger said he had no knowledge of any further correspondence from either Archbishop Williams’ office or the Lambeth planning committee.

    The Lead previously reported on the invitation sent to Bishop Jerry Lamb, the current provisional bishop of San Joaquin.

    Province One: dialogues and prayer vigils for Lambeth

    Episcopal News Service reports Province I President Marge Burke has announced two initiatives for prayer and dialogue during this summer's Lambeth Conference of bishops, meeting July 16-August 3 in Canterbury, England. Province I is made up of Episcopal dioceses in the Northeast of the United States.

    One initiative is for Province I bishops to hold two gatherings during the Lambeth Conference to introduce New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson to other bishops from around the Anglican Communion and to create a forum for dialogue. These receptions are for bishops only and will not be open to the public.

    The other activity will be:

    a prayer vigil ... to support the 12 bishops in the province's seven dioceses (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Western Massachusetts and Vermont) while they are at the once-a-decade gathering.

    "I feel it is very important that our bishops know their sisters and brothers back home are offering themselves to God through prayer, on their behalf," Burke said.

    The Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris, retired bishop suffragan of Massachusetts, wrote the prayers, which are available on the Province I website. The prayers are appropriate for use by congregations as well as individuals. Burke said she hopes the prayer will be used in all congregations in the province on the Sundays during Lambeth, and at weekday services, Bible study and prayer groups. Two specific times are suggested to pray each day: 7 a.m. Eastern (12 noon in England) and noon Eastern (5 p.m. in England).

    Read it all here.

    A reminder to check out the essays on the Covenant on Daily Episcopalian this week here.

    Bishops of Central Africa message on Zimbabwe

    The bishops of the Church of the Province of Central Africa have issued a pastoral letter on the crisis in Zimbabwe. In the letter released by the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) the bishops write:

    We the Bishops of the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa,
    comprising Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, "called to share in Jesus' work of sanctifying and shepherding his people and of speaking in God's name". As shepherds of our people we are deeply concerned and dismayed at the escalation of violence in Zimbabwe since the post election of 29th March 2008.

    We are alarmed that a government can perpetrate irresponsible acts against its citizens by destroying people's homes, torturing and killing for the simple reason that they did not vote "correctly". We fear that the Presidential Run-Off elections on 27th June 2008 could witness a repeat of retribution of those who would have not voted "correctly".

    As bishops our mission has been and will be to preach the gospel of peace and justice for all. Therefore we are distressed at what the people of Zimbabwe are experiencing in an environment devoid of any resemblance of justice and peace.

    We call upon the perpetrators of these immoral and criminal activities to respect the rule of law which safeguards and preserves human life and dignity. The reports that people are being maimed, killed, and denied decent burials, paints a contrary picture to our African understanding of Ubuntu.

    All these point out to the leadership of these perpetrators that they have lost a sense of nationhood.

    The Independent UK reports outrage at the arrival of President Mugabe of Zimbabwe at the United Nations meeting on the international food crisis.

    President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is back in Rome, staying in five-star accommodation for the duration of a United Nations food summit while his people starve as a result of his disastrous farm policies.

    Complete letter follows below:

    Read more »

    Threatening calls received by immigrant advocacy group

    Police are investigating three threatening telephone calls received by an immigrant advocacy group in Montgomery County, Maryland, including a voice-mail message that warned one official that he could be shot for "being stupid and helping illegals." According to the Washington Post:

    One was left in a voice mail to [the Rev. Simon] Bautista on a Washington number he uses for his work as the Latino missioner of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington (DC). "Don't be surprised when there's a [expletive] bullet in the back of your [expletive] brain," the caller said, according to a recording made available by CASA staffers.

    CASA of Maryland runs five Maryland day-labor centers where workers can gather while waiting to be picked up for jobs. The centers in Montgomery have generally avoided the level of controversy that has affected some facilities, particularly in Herndon.
    Read it all here.

    Jewish leaders endorse Saudi king's call for interfaith dialogue

    Leaders of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) have endorsed a call by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia for more dialogue between Jews, Christians and Muslims worldwide to reinforce common values among the Abrahamic faiths. Ecumenical News International reports:

    "It is the duty of all religions to restore respect for humanity," the WJC said in a statement on 27 May. "Such an initiative demonstrates optimism that dialogue involving representatives of different faiths can help the peoples of the world during difficult times. Discussion can help in finding ways to approach the crisis of ethical values facing our societies."

    In March, while speaking at a conference in Riyadh on culture and religion, King Abdullah said, "The idea is to ask representatives of all monotheistic religions to sit together with their brothers in faith and sincerity to all religions as we all believe in the same God."

    The king was referring to three Abrahamic or monotheistic faiths - Christianity, Islam and Judaism - which are said to account for more than half of the world's population.

    Read it all here.

    In other interfaith news Ekklesia reports:

    An interfaith television game show, believed to be the first in Britain, in which Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh contestants compete against one another for cash prizes is to be broadcast weekly from the London studios of the Islam Channel from mid-June 2008 - writes Martin Revis.

    The producer of the show says that two teams of four will answer rapid and multiple choice questions testing both general and religious knowledge, posed by the Muslim comedian Jeff Mirza. There will also be a home-or-away round in which contestants can answer questions on their own faith or the opposing team's for further points.

    Abrir Hussain, who is producing the show called "Faith Off", told Ecumenical News International, "I wanted to do something to promote good relations and bring a new approach to the interfaith debate other than that of the usual consultative round table format."

    Read the rest here.

    Web site for President of House of Deputies

    A new web site for Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies is available at the Episcopal Church's online presence. In her welcome statement Anderson says:

    General Convention meets once every three years, but the work and ministries of the deputies continue throughout the triennium. On these pages, you can keep up with my ministries on behalf of the House of Deputies and hear from other deputies about their ministries. Whether a deputy or not, I hope you will find useful information on these pages. This website is a place that will continue to inform you about how the House of Deputies carries out its unique role in empowering all of us to continue to live into our Baptismal Covenant.

    Click here to explore the offerings for all the members of The Episcopal Church.

    Story from Episcopal News Service is here

    American friends of Sudan

    The fourth annual conference of the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan took place in Chicago last weekend. The gathering brought together the many partnerships between American and Sudanese dioceses and congregations. These missionary partnerships proclaim Christ in both the Sudan and in the United States and is a signal about how shared mission in Christ's name can overcome the differences between the two cultures. These relationships both save lives and transform them.

    Recently enthroned Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul spoke about how after two decades of civil war, Sudan is enjoying "relative peace" following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005 between the Government of Sudan, based in the north, and the people of southern Sudan. Although the political situation in the country is very fragile, he reported that hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced by the war are starting to return home.

    The conference participants came from around the Episcopal Church, representing dioceses and congregations with companion relationships with the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) and those seeking to explore new relationships. One quarter of those attending were Sudanese refugees now living in the United States.


    A significant part of the conference was devoted to the "nuts and bolts" of companion relationships in Sudan. A series of plenary and small-group sessions provided an opportunity for those already involved in Sudan to share experiences and resources that can lead to effective partnerships. This included the sharing of some remarkable success stories.

    Following trips to the Diocese of Kajo Keji in southeastern Sudan by Bishop Paul Marshall, Connie Fegley and others beginning in 2002, the Pennsylvania-based Diocese of Bethlehem launched the "New Hope Campaign." Most of the funds raised will go to building schools and the Canon Benaiah Poggo College. The campaign has now exceeded its $3.6 million goal and is now striving for a $4.1 million dollar "stretch goal."

    Fegley, speaking on behalf of Marshall, said the project and the diocese's relationship with the church in Sudan has been exhilarating and energizing. She also noted that Bethlehem has "the same diversity in issues" that other diocese have, but that the mission work in the Sudan "has helped to knit us together."

    "Many people believe this is the most vital aspect of our diocese," she said.


    Throughout the conference, given the fragile state of peace and the intense humanitarian need in Sudan, there was a constant theme: take action now. Many presenters said that the Episcopal Church in the Sudan is turning to the Episcopal Church in the United States, with its vast resources, for help at a crucial time.

    Jackie Kraus reminded participants that Deng has said that help is needed more now even than in time of war.

    "The American church needs to listen to the cries of our brothers and sisters in Sudan," said Kraus. "We need to give of our resources and become the foundation so they can become self-sufficient."

    Episcopal Life Online: American Friends of Sudan hear challenge to act for peace, basic human needs

    The last great theological debate in Pittsburgh...

    Lionel Deimel covers a forum on realignment held in the Diocese of Pittsburgh:

    What was striking was the contrast, particularly in the question-and-answer period, to the dialogue that took place at a similar meeting in the same space. One of the aforementioned district meeting (that for District VII) was held at St. Andrew’s. It, too, was well attended and was similar in format, though the presentations were even more weighted in favor of realignment. The audience was almost uniformly opposed to this point of view—only one of the questions could be considered at all sympathetic or neutral—and the session became progressively more acrimonious as it wore on, with questioners angrily hurling charges and posing questions designed to embarrass the presenters.

    The mood on June 1, however, was one of resignation to some sort of division of the diocese. The first question, in fact, was about whether there is a way to part gracefully. The consensus was that there likely is not, an answer disputed by no one. Some perfunctory words were said about being gracious to one another and possibly sharing projects and resources, but the words seemed to lack conviction.

    Perhaps most surprising was the absence, both in the initial presentations and in the subsequent questions, of discussion related to the canonical or legal propriety of realignment. There was little concern expressed for the effect realignment might have on the Anglican Communion, and no talk at all of the likely effect on The Episcopal Church. These concerns had seemingly become irrelevant, as if everyone was part of a Greek tragedy, and no one had control over his or her fate.

    Read it all here.

    Presiding Bishop calls for day of prayer for Lambeth Conference

    Via epiScope:

    In a letter to the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has called for a day of prayer for the Lambeth Conference.

    June 4, 2008
    To the people of The Episcopal Church:

    As we move toward a great gathering of bishops from across the Anglican Communion, I call this whole Church to a Day of Prayer on 22 June. The Lambeth Conference represents one important way of building connections and relationships between churches in vastly different contexts, and reminding us of the varied nature of the Body of Christ. I would bid your prayers for openness of spirit, vulnerability of heart, and eagerness of mind, that we might all learn to see the Spirit at work in the other. I bid your prayers for a peaceful spirit, a lessening of tension, and a real willingness to work together for the good of God’s whole creation.

    As many of you know, the Anglican Communion is one of the largest networks of human connection in the world. Churches are to be found beyond the ends of paved or dirt roads, ministering to and with people in isolated and difficult situations. That far-flung network is the result, in part, of seeds planted by a colonial missionary history. The fruit that has resulted is diverse and local, and indeed, unpalatable to some in other parts of the world. Our task at the Lambeth Conference is to engage that diverse harvest, discover its blessings and challenges, and commit ourselves to the future of this network. We must begin to examine the fruit of our colonial history, in a transparent way and with great humility, if we are ever going to heal the wounds of the past, which continue into the present. With God’s help, that is possible. I ask your prayers. I can think of no better starting place than the prayer for the Church (BCP p 515):

    O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

    I remain
    Your servant in Christ,
    +Katharine Jefferts Schori

    Mugabe cracks down on aid groups, opposition


    Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Zimbabweans — orphans and old people, the sick and the down and out — have lost access to food and other basic humanitarian assistance as their government has clamped down on international aid groups it says are backing the political opposition, relief agencies say.
    Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, speaking on Tuesday at a United Nations food conference in Rome, accused nongovernmental organizations of interfering in politics and contended that the West had conspired “to cripple Zimbabwe’s economy” and bring about “illegal regime change.”

    “Funds are being channeled through nongovernmental organizations to opposition political parties, which are a creation of the West,” he said. “These Western-funded NGOs also use food as a political weapon with which to campaign against government, especially in the rural areas.”

    On Friday and Monday, representatives of aid groups were summoned by administrators in four districts and instructed to cease all work in the field until a bitterly contested presidential runoff was held on June 27 between Mr. Mugabe, in power for 28 years, and the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

    Today, Mr. Tsvagirai was detained TIME reports:
    Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was detained Wednesday at a military roadblock, a day after President Robert Mugabe suspended the work of foreign aid groups on which hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans depend for food. In what appeared to be an acceleration of repression ahead of a presidential run-off election on June 27, Mugabe's challenger was "unlawfully detained" at a checkpoint north of Bulawayo, a spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) told TIME.
    Foreign ministers from Britain and Australia branded as "obscene" the fact that Mugabe was attending a food summit while so many Zimbabweans were on the bread-line as a result of his policies.

    Tiseke Kasambala, a Zimbabwe expert at Human Rights Watch, added that the government's suspension of independent aid operations was merely a tactic to influence the upcoming vote by leaving it up to the government to allocate food. The suspension of aid could have immediate effect on the millions of Zimbabweans who rely either entirely or partly on it for their daily bread. Unemployment stands at 80%, the inflation rate is more than 100,000%, and average life-expectancy is in the mid 30s. "The decision to let people go hungry is yet another attempt to use food as a political tool to intimidate voters ahead of an election," said Kasambala. "President Mugabe's government has a long history of using food to control the election outcome."

    Are we looking at a man's last desperate grasp to hold onto power, or the failure of the international community to bring justice to bear?

    Merrill Lynch freezes disputed San Joaquin diocesan accounts


    Merrill Lynch has frozen the financial accounts it manages for the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin until the courts decide the rightful owner of those accounts, an attorney for the financial institution said June 3.

    "Merrill Lynch has placed an immediate freeze on those accounts held in the name of the Diocese and related entities," according to Eric J. Glassman of Mennemeier, Glassman & Stroud, in a letter to diocesan chancellor Mike Glass, and to Russell VanRozeboom, who represents former bishop John-David Schofield.

    The San Joaquin diocese, along with The Episcopal Church (TEC), on June 2 amended an earlier lawsuit against Schofield, "on the basis of new information gathered about recent transfers of real and personal property and assets to entities formed by Mr. Schofield and his attorney sometime in early April of 2008," Glass said.

    According to the amended complaint, Schofield had been transferring real property and investment accounts into a non-Episcopal entity called the Anglican Diocese Holding Company. The holding company was also added as a co-defendant in the June 2 amended complaint.

    The original lawsuit, filed April 24 in Fresno County, seeks to recover from Schofield control of the diocese's "Corporation Sole," which holds title to most of the real estate of the diocese along with liquid assets valued at between $4-5 million in cash, as well as other diocesan entities such as the Diocesan Investment Trust.

    According to a diocesan press release,
    Merrill Lynch has frozen the accounts indefinitely until the Court issues a ruling on these issues. This freeze will not affect any of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin's assets, accounts or operations.

    The Diocesan Office in Stockton, California announced that it is seeking an arrangement with Merrill Lynch that would allow staff purportedly working for Mr. Schofield to continue to be paid in hardship cases.

    RFK assassination: 40 years today

    Robert F. Kennedy was killed 40 years ago today, on the day he had won the California primary.

    On April 4, 1968 -- the day of the assassination of Martin Luther King -- he made an extemporaneous speech in a poor, black district of Indianapolis. In it he said,

    For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

    But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond these rather difficult times.

    My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."

    What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

    Max Kennedy was three years old when his father died. Here he is interviewed on Fresh Air by Terry Gross about his book Make Gentle The Life of this World: The Vision of Robert F. Kennedy.

    Archbishop convenes ecumenical group to discuss Christian-Muslim dialogue

    Archbishop of Canterbury, News:

    During the discussions church representatives from around the globe, including Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, Malaysia – alongside those from Western countries where Christianity is the majority religion - shared their experience of engagement.
    A great emphasis was placed on the need to ensure that the results of these encounters were more widely disseminated and influenced the education and formation of young people. The Archbishop agreed to take forward further work, particularly in response to A Common Word.

    The Consultation began with a meeting of the consultant scholars on 1 June and continued, with church representatives and under the chairmanship of the Archbishop, for a full day on 2 June. The Consultation took place at Church House, Westminster and concluded with the participants being welcomed at Evensong in Westminster Abbey followed by a reception and dinner at Lambeth Palace.

    The Consultation was resourced by a group of more than 20 scholars from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, UK and USA. The church representatives represented the full denominational spread of Christianity with the majority of the leaders addressed in A Common Word sending representatives and including a large number representing churches in countries where Christians are in a minority.

    In the midst of the Consultation, The Telegraph reports a controversy simmered in the Church of England:
    Paul Eddy, a lay member of the General Synod, said his Private Members' Motion [on the missionary role of clergy] should have been on the agenda at next month's meeting in York as more than 100 other members had supported it including three bishops.

    He believes it has been shelved because it would have shown up wide divisions in the Church over its attitude to converting believers in other faiths, at the same time as it faces schisms over the appointment of women bishops and homosexuality.

    The debate would have taken place just 12 days before the once-a-decade summit of Anglican bishops, the Lambeth Conference. It would have piled more pressure on the embattled Archbishop of Canterbury, who earlier this year sparked a storm by claiming some parts of Islamic law would be adopted in Britain.
    A spokesman for the Church of England insisted the debate on the missionary role of clergy had only been dropped because the other Private Member's Motion had more signatures.

    He said: "Owing to time constraints, the Business Committee has been able to schedule only one such motion for July, on the subject of Church Tourism, which heads the list in terms of the number of signatures from members."

    A majority of respondents at every level of education and income say same-sex marriage is "strictly private."

    USA Today:

    Six in 10 Americans say the government should not regulate whether gays and lesbians can marry the people they choose, a survey finds. As same-sex couples line up to get marriage licenses in California on June 17, the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll found that 63% of adults say same-sex marriage is "strictly a private decision" between two people.
    After Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2004, 11 states voted on similar questions.

    But these poll findings "suggest caution" to conservative activists who think this will mobilize voters, he says. "People were warned, with lots of overheated rhetoric, about the consequences of gay marriage in Massachusetts. They didn't see it affect their own lives. Now, most people have let loose a collective yawn about the issue."
    A majority of respondents at every level of education and income say same-sex marriage is "strictly private." This was true:

    • In every region: East (71%), West (64%), Midwest (63%) and South (56%).

    • Among all ages except "65 and older": 18 to 29 (79%), 30 to 49 (65%), 50 to 64% (62%) and 65 and older (44%).

    • Among people who also say they have a favorable view of any of the three leading presidential candidates. For those holding favorable views for John McCain, 55% say marriage is a private decision; for Barack Obama, 75% say so; and for Hillary Clinton, 69% do. All three oppose same-sex marriage. Both Democrats both favor civil unions.

    It would appear that it is just a matter of time before no major candidate for president senses the need to take a position that is in all likelihood contrary to their personal views.

    The Eldorado Hills Telegraph has a story on how the California ruling affects churches, or not:

    Area churches are divided on whether they face an ethical issue around discrimination after a court decision struck down California’s anti-gay-marriage law.

    Folsom residents interviewed tended to support churches’ legal exemption from the May 15 ruling, which is binding on civil marriage only. State Supreme Court justices ruled the California Constitution’s equal protection clause prohibits discrimination against same-gender couples.
    Exemption for churches from the ruling May 15 ruling is based on the doctrine of separation of church and state, and a church's status as a non-public institution.

    The doctrine of separation of church and state, and a church’s status as a non-public institution, combine to base an exemption for churches from the ruling.

    Residents’ support of the exemption was guarded and in some cases tinged with irony.

    “A church is the one place you can get by with discrimination,” said Rich VanDusen.

    Rescue Baptist Church Pastor Gene Harmon said his church’s no-gay-marriage policy finds sufficient ethical grounding in Biblical scripture. He noted his church doors are open to all people for worship.

    “I’d say it is moral not to allow same-sex marriage,” Harmon said. “The word of God has the final word.”
    Brian Baker, dean of the cathedral at Trinity Episcopal Church in Sacramento, noted that no area Episcopal church can decide for itself on the marriage issue.

    “We’re part of the Diocese of Northern California, and the bishop doesn’t allow same-sex marriage,” Baker said. “In Roman Catholic churches, the decision would come from a higher ministerial -- the pope.”

    Baker said denominations vary in considering “paramount” either of two of Jesus Christ’s outstanding human or quasi-divine virtues -- purity and compassion.

    “I disagree there’s no moral issue around discrimination,” Baker said.

    Rescue Baptist Church’s Harmon said, “My calling from God says compassion cannot enter.”

    Getting the Gospel of Judas backwards

    Thomas Bartlett of The Chronicle of Higher Education writes:

    One of the seven million people who watched the National Geographic documentary was April D. DeConick. Admittedly, DeConick, a professor of biblical studies at Rice University, was not your average viewer. As a Coptologist, she had long been aware of the existence of the Gospel of Judas and was friends with several of those who had worked on the so-called dream team. It's fair to say she watched the documentary with special interest.

    As soon as the show ended, she went to her computer and downloaded the English translation from the National Geographic Web site. Almost immediately she began to have concerns. From her reading, even in translation, it seemed obvious that Judas was not turning in Jesus as a friendly gesture, but rather sacrificing him to a demon god named Saklas. This alone would suggest, strongly, that Judas was not acting with Jesus' best interests in mind — which would undercut the thesis of the National Geographic team. She turned to her husband, Wade, and said: "Oh no. Something is really wrong."

    Read it all. Hat tip: Arts and Letters Daily.

    Nicely done, Bishop Smith

    The Anglican Communion has been keen to insure that conservative Episcopalians have "alternate" episcopal options that allow them to minimize contact with liberal bishops. But to date, Rowan Williams, Tom Wright and company have shown no such pastoral sensitivity to liberal church members in conservative dioceses--or, for that matter, to gay Christians in provinces that actively persecute them. Bishop Michael Smith of North Dakota, however, understands that accommodation is a two way street. He writes to his diocese:

    June 4, 2008

    Dear Friends:

    *I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace *(Ephesians 4:1-3).* *

    I am pleased to announce that Bishop Carol Gallagher has accepted my invitation to assist in providing episcopal pastoral care in the Diocese of North Dakota. She has agreed to reach out especially to congregations and clergy who feel alienated and hurt by me due to different understandings of human sexuality. I am most grateful for Bishop Gallagher's assistance. .... View her blog at mamabishop.blogspot.com.

    We find ourselves in the midst of a discernment process, seeking the mind of Christ, about whether the Holy Spirit is leading us to new understandings of human sexuality or not. As this discernment continues through the canonical processes of The Episcopal Church and the conciliar processes of the Anglican Communion, I urge patience, kindness and respect in our dealings with one another. I also pray our energies will be focused on
    engaging the mission of the church as we are sent into the world to serve the poor and to share our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I am,

    Yours in Christ,

    +Michael Smith

    Update, Thursday afternoon: The ELO reports.

    Decline in teen sex levels off

    From The Washington Post

    The nation's campaign to get more teenagers to delay sex and to use condoms is faltering, threatening to undermine the highly successful effort to reduce teen pregnancy and protect young people from sexually transmitted diseases, federal officials reported yesterday.
    The new figures renewed the heated debate about sex-education classes that focus on abstinence until marriage, which began receiving federal funding during the period covered by the latest survey and have come under increasing criticism that they are ineffective.

    "Since we've started pushing abstinence, we have seen no change in the numbers on sexual activity," said John Santelli, chairman of the department of population and family health at Columbia University. "The other piece of it is: Abstinence education spends a good amount of time bashing condoms. So it's not surprising, if that's the message young people are getting, that we're seeing condom use start to decrease."

    Proponents of abstinence programs dismissed the criticism, blaming "comprehensive" sex education that emphasizes contraceptive use.

    "Contraceptive sex education does not provide practical skills for maintaining or regaining abstinence but typically gives teens a green light to activity that puts them at great risk for acquiring STDs or which serve as gateway-to-intercourse activities," said Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association.

    Others blamed the onslaught of movies, books, advertising and cultural messages that they say glamorize sex.

    "The No. 1 movie that all teenage girls want to see right now is 'Sex and the City,' " said Charmaine Yoest, a spokesman for the Family Research Council. "Our culture continues to tell them the way to be cool is to dress provocatively and to consider nonmarital sexual activity to be normative."

    This would seem to be an issue where a position on one issue, say the efficacy of abstinence education, would not determine, or even influence one's position on another issue: whether out cultural gatekeepers should use greater restraint in depictions of sexual behavior. No?

    Episcopal, Lutheran PBs urge prayers, donations for Sudan

    Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church and Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have released a joint statement on Sudan.

    In the coming days, we urge all Americans to pray for peace in the Sudan and to call for strong action from the international community to restore stability in a land whose people have been entangled far too long in violence.

    Read more »

    Not in our name

    From Episcopal News Service:

    More than 275 congregations of a wide variety of faiths in all 50 United States and the District of Columbia will display an anti-torture banner on the exterior of their buildings during June, which religious and human-rights organizations have designated as Torture Awareness Month.

    In an effort organized by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), most of the banners say "Torture is a Moral Issue" or "Torture is Wrong." ....

    The Episcopal Church is an endorsing member of the organization. Other NRCAT members include representatives from the Roman Catholic, evangelical Christian, mainline Protestant, Unitarian, Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Quaker, and Sikh communities.

    The Episcopal Church has taken a stand against U.S.-sponsored torture. The 75th General Convention, meeting on June 21, 2006, agreed to Resolution D020 which, in part, called on the Episcopal Church to "to acknowledge and confess that our government's participation in the war in Iraq has resulted in…illegal confinement without representation or formal charges and torture."

    The Church of England today is also questioning bending and breaking civil rights in the name of fighting terror. It announced it will oppose legislation that would extend detention of persons without charge from 28 days to 42 days. See its news release here.

    Imagining the apocalypse

    End-time thinking - the belief in a world purified by catastrophe - could once be dismissed as a harmless remnant of a more superstitious age. But with the rise of religious fundamentalism, prophets of apocalypse have become a new and very real danger, argues Ian McEwan in The Guardian:

    Throughout recorded history people have mesmerised themselves with stories which predict the date and manner of our wholescale destruction, often rendered meaningful by ideas of divine punishment and ultimate redemption; the end of life on earth, the end or last days, end time, the apocalypse.

    Many of these stories are highly specific accounts of the future and are devoutly believed. Contemporary apocalyptic movements, Christian or Islamic, some violent, some not, all appear to share fantasies of a violent end, and they affect our politics profoundly. The apocalyptic mind can be demonising - that is to say, there are other groups, other faiths, that it despises for worshipping false gods, and these believers of course will not be saved from the fires of hell. And the apocalyptic mind tends to be totalitarian - which is to say that these are intact, all-encompassing ideas founded in longing and supernatural belief, immune to evidence or its lack, and well-protected against the implications of fresh data.

    It's all here.

    The situation in Pittsburgh

    Last week Mark Harris posted some thoughts on what this fall might bring to the Diocese of Pittsburgh. There are rumblings being heard from various quarters of the Episcopal Church (including the House of Bishops) that are calling for Bishop Robert Duncan (the bishop of Pittsburgh) to be formally inhibited and then deposed because of his actions in that diocese and in the Episcopal Church.

    Mark's post was motivated by a statement that the Standing Committee of the Diocese (who would be the official authority in the diocese should the bishop be removed) was willing and able to step in and run the diocese in his absence. The problem is that the Standing Committee fully supports the bishop's actions and there is no expectation that their leadership would be any different than his has been.

    Various voices from around the Communion left comments on Mark's article. But there was a particularly disturbing post by Joan Gunderson, a parishioner of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and active voice in PEP (Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh) who have opposed the recent trajectory of the diocese.

    Joan writes and explains just how little change can be expected if the Standing Committee takes charge. She also points out that Bishop Duncan and his assistant bishop have been granted land and retirement homes and money that is expected to be safe from any punishment that should be meted upon them by a Church court.

    Joan says:

    "The situation in Pittsburgh is such that even if Bishop Duncan were to be deposed at a House of Bishops meeting in September, the Standing Committee would go forward with the vote at convention to eliminate the accession clause from the diocesan canons. In fact, the diocesan leadership decided at its spring leadership retreat to move the convention forward to the first weekend in October (usually first weekend in November) so that there would be less time between such a deposition and the convention.

    Please note that Bishop Duncan has assured himself of a comfortable transition. He has built a retirement house on land owned by the diocese and he and his wife have been deeded (as of November 2007) a life interest estate (to the longest lived survivor) in that house. The diocese also loaned Bishop Duncan the money to build that house (terms not in the public record.) In addition we understand that he AND Bishop Scriven have signed consultant contracts with the diocese for two years at full pay which will go into effect SHOULD BISHOP DUNCAN BE DEPOSED.

    The Standing Committee has an overwhelming majority that supports 'realignment,' but there is one member who signed a public letter saying he was not realigning. This person is working hard to encourage parishes to stay in TEC. Trying to bring members of the standing committee up on charges before 'realignment' would be useless because the group ('The Array') that would conduct any Title IV proceedings is itself packed with supporters of realignment. Furthermore, there is no provision for trying the 4 lay members of Standing Committee.

    However, rest assured that there are people planning for the future of the EPISCOPAL diocese of Pittsburgh. The group doing the planning represents the full cross section of those who will still be Episcopalians AFTER convention. This includes clergy and parishes who until this year have voted for all the measures put forward by those now pushing 'realignment.' We are a larger group than you might think."

    Later on David Wilson, a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, President of that Standing Committee and a supporter of Bishop Duncan's writes with this small correction to Joan's words:

    Just to set the record straight, the consultancy contracts are for one year not two and also include Canon Mary Hays as well as the two bishops

    Mark's original post and the comments quoted above can be found here.

    Bishop Duncan's deposition would likely follow a vote by the Diocese of Pittsburgh to join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. The resolutions that would empower this action can be already found in the Diocesan web site.

    Bishop Shaw visit to Zimbabwe

    Episcopal News Service has the following report:

    "Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, of the Diocese of Massachusetts, visited Harare, Zimbabwe, between May 26 and June 3, on behalf of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the invitation of Bishop Sebastian Bakare of Harare to witness the ongoing religious and political violence among the people of Zimbabwe. Shaw bore the Presiding Bishop's message of solidarity with Anglicans there who are suffering from oppression and human rights violations, including lockouts from their churches and physical violence. For security reasons, no advance notice about the trip was published.

    As a result of his visit, Bishop Shaw has written a formal statement that will be shared with the United States Congress as well as the larger Anglican Communion.

    From his statement:

    What I have seen and experienced on this trip only magnifies my agreement with the call by church and political leaders around the world for far stronger international action to contain Zimbabwe's rapidly escalating political crisis.

    [...]I was asked to travel to the Diocese of Harare to express the church's solidarity with our Anglican brothers and sisters who suffer under this profound oppression and to gather information for the Presiding Bishop about the political situation there. I interviewed some 50 priests, lay people and human rights lawyers in Harare over the course of my one-week stay. I also met with U.S. Embassy staff.

    I can report that the situation in Zimbabwe is indeed grave. What we read and hear is true. There are widespread violations of human rights, daily reports of murder and torture and an economic and humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions. The inflation rate is one million percent and unemployment ranges between 80-90%. I have seen the long lines for gas and at banks and experienced the limited electricity and clean water and virtually empty shelves in supermarkets. The judiciary has been compromised as members of the high courts and Supreme Court have directly benefited from President Mugabe's so-called "land reforms," fueling corruption and violations of civil liberties.

    According to the Zimbabwe constitution, citizens are entitled to freedom of religious expression and conscience but these rights are being violated daily. Thousands of Anglican worshipers have been locked out of their churches, their church properties have been occupied by government-backed allies and their personal automobiles have been confiscated. One local priest must move from house to house every night to avoid possible arrest. A nine-year-old boy and a widowed mother of five children were beaten by police for failing to leave their church site.

    Read the full article here. Read the Boston Globe report here (includes link to video).

    Covenant Week at the Café

    Over this past week, we've been running articles written by different deputies to this coming General Convention about the proposed Anglican Covenant that is to be part of the discussion at the coming Lambeth Conference and, most likely, the next General Convention.

    There's one additional essay to run next Monday, but central essays are now completed and posted.

    You can read the official text of the Covenant here.

    The "official" Episcopal Church study guide to the Covenant is here.

    With those in hand you're ready for


    You might also want to check out the resources from the conference held earlier this year at the Desmond Tutu Center.

    Obama, rhetoric and civil religion

    Andrea Useem thinks she may have identified the wellspring of Barack Obama's broadly acknowledged rhetorical brilliance. It isn't so much that he is superb speaker but rather that he seems to have an instinctive ability to speak the patois of American Civil religion.

    From an article on her blog at "Religion Writer":

    "[L]istening to Hillary Clinton speak last night at Baruch College, where she did not concede defeat, and then listening moments later to Obama offer his nomination victory speech in a St. Paul stadium, I wondered if Obama’s ability to speak the language of ‘American civil religion’ is what makes him such a powerful speech giver. (And what are candidates besides speech-givers?)

    American Civil Religion is at once a concept that’s been ripped to shreds in academia and a concept so embedded in everyday culture that many people find it quite obvious. The idea, first presented by sociologist Robert Bellah in 1967, said that America has a special civil religion, one that is rooted in Christianity but national and democratic in its expression.

    [...]To put it in [non] academic terms, Bellah quoted Eisenhower: ‘Our government makes no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.’ Freedom of religion and conscience — combined with America’s long-standing religious diverisity — means that private expressions of belief, such as saying ‘Jesus is Lord’ during a presidential speech, are not appropriate for political leaders, but that political leaders must still be able to speak this language of civic faith. Bellah points to John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech, which was laced with references to God and the greater purpose of humanity, without any reference to his specific Catholic faith. And same for Lincoln’s magnificent Second Inaugural address, and the Gettysburg address. And ‘In God We Trust’ on our coins, etc. etc."

    You'll need to read the article below to see the examples that Useem gives of Obama's use of the genre. She goes on to compare it that of other candidates and suggests that Obama's comfort with the genre may explain the effectiveness of his speeches when heard by American ears.

    Read the full article here.

    Muslim-Christian dialogue

    Over the last couple of days there's been a series of statements issued by groups in London, Rome and Mecca from representatives of Christian churches and denominations and representatives of the Muslim World League.

    The primary emphasis of the statements is to lay the groundwork for a future formal interfaith dialogue between Christianity and Islam.

    The Anglican contribution to this process, according to "FaithWorld":

    "In London, Lambeth Palace issued a statement on Tuesday about an ecumenical meeting that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams convened on June 1-2 to discuss ways to deepen Christian-Muslim dialogue. More than 40 participants discussed the ‘Common Word’ initiative and ‘what degree of consensus might be possible as we look forward,’ he said. The list of participants shows most of the Christian churches addressed by the ‘Common Word’ letter were present. The statement said: ‘Delegates at the Consultation were heartened by the great variety of initiatives, some by Muslims and some by Christians, that were taking place at many different levels - many with a well-established track record. A great emphasis was placed on the need to ensure that the results of these encounters were more widely disseminated and influenced the education and formation of young people. The Archbishop agreed to take forward further work, particularly in response to A Common Word.’"

    Read the full article at FaithWorld here.

    Diocese of El Camino Real guidelines for same sex marriage

    The Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves, bishop of the Diocese of El Camino Real in California has issues for clergy of the diocese and same sex marriage following the California Supreme Court ruling.

    I write to let you know of my reflections as well as of new liturgical guidelines in light of the new opportunity for gay and lesbian persons to marry in the state of California. First of all, let me express my personal joy in the Supreme Court decision. While this victory is not yet complete, the Supreme Court's decision is a deep breath of freedom that has been long awaited and fought for. Take in its refreshing spirit and all that this means for gays and lesbians not only here in California but for those around the world who do not experience a fraction of the freedom we enjoy in our country.

    After reflecting with our Standing Committee, other California bishops, the chair of the Massachusetts task force on same-gender marriage and Bishop Tom Shaw, also of Massachusetts, here are the guidelines - for now. You may have a same-gender civil marriage and blessing in your church provided an Episcopal priest does not officiate at the marriage itself or sign the marriage license and the Book of Common Prayer is not used.

    Article here.

    Read the complete letter below:

    Read more »

    No special dioceses for opponents of female bishops

    Archbishops Rowan Williams and John Sentamu have released the text of a proposed resolution on the consecration of female bishops in the Church of England. Read the resolution and their accompanying letter.

    Read more »

    How far we have come

    Colbert I. King, an op-ed columnist for the Washington Post, writes today about what he considers a remarkable week, imagining how mid-19th century Episcopal priest Alexander Crummell might view Obama's nomination. But that's perhaps the most visible development that would please Crummell, who, as an African American, founded two Episcopal parishes in the District of Columbia in the 19th century that continue to this day, nearly 150 years later.

    Crummell would have contrasted those achievements with his own life experiences.

    His enrollment at Noyes Academy in New Hampshire ended abruptly when a white mob, angered by his presence, dragged the school building into a swamp.

    Crummell would have recalled his own tortuous journey to the priesthood. The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church denied his application because he was black. Even after completing private studies with sympathetic clergy and being ordained as a priest by the Episcopal bishop of Delaware in 1844, Crummell wasn't accepted by many of his white clerical counterparts.

    Frustrated, Crummell took his family to London to raise money for a small church mission in New York and to spread the word about the abolitionist movement in America. While in England, he was given the financial means to attend Queen's College, where he acquired a theology degree. From London, Crummell sailed to Liberia and served as a missionary in West Africa for 20 years.

    More about this fascinating history--and outburst of optimism--is here.

    Earworms of faith

    "Earworms" sounds like a fairly nasty parasitic infection, but in actuality the term refers to music that gets stuck in a person's head. Alda Balthrop-Lewis, a production intern at Speaking of Faith, made a contribution to the SOF Observed blog last week in which she discussed how she actually gets Bible stories stuck in her head:

    What is it about Bible stories? For me they can be like catchy music; I’ll get one stuck in my head and then, while I wait for the bus or cut up vegetables or fold laundry, the story will run on repeat, offering its melodies, harmonies, dissonances. These ancient stories — so full of existential drama — can become obsessions.

    She's had the book of Ruth in her head for months, and goes on to explain that she loves retellings of Bible stories, as well, with a few interesting links. You can read her post here.

    But that led me, as someone who wakes up every Easter morning with Christ the Lord is Risen Today (Lyra Davidica) stuck in her head, to wonder more about faithy earworms. Professor James J. Kellaris (also known as "Dr. Earworm") of the University of Cincinnati, notes that:

    Some people believe that earworms are a manifestation of one’s subconscious attempting to send a message, or perhaps even the voice of God “trying to tell us something.” Anecdotes about an atheist getting hymn tunes stuck in her head seem to lend credence to this explanation. However, the theory doesn’t explain why most of us get silly nonsense like “Doo-wah, doo-wah, doo-wah-ditty” stuck in our heads.

    From here.

    Radiolab, a show from WNYC Public Radio in New York, examined the phenomenon a couple of months ago, interviewing 94-year-old Leo Rangell, who woke up after surgery some years back to the sound of a Rabbi singing outside the window. Or, so he thought. The piece goes on to examine "auditory hallucinations," when entire performances are dominating your brain but the orchestra is all in your head. Turns out that your brain and your ears are having a conversation. And that is here.

    Closer to faith, but staying away from clergy

    This has been an interesting year for the faith-and-politics conversation, as Democrats are getting more comfortable talking about faith and Republicans no longer seem to be beholden to a particular faith agenda. But what's interesting about that, notes the Washington Post, is that while faith is still important to the candidates, clergy have become liabilities:

    A curious thing has happened in this year's contest for the White House. Candidates are having to distance themselves from preachers, almost as quickly as they had sought their embrace. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) denounced his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who was videotaped asserting that the federal government had brought the AIDS virus into black communities and that God should "damn" America.

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has found it necessary to disassociate himself from the Rev. John Hagee and the Rev. Rod Parsley, two conservative preachers who have expressed, respectively, anti-Catholic and anti-Muslim views. Just last week, Obama and his wife resigned from their church after a guest minister, the Rev. Michael L. Pfleger, mocked Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

    Clergy have become ticking time bombs in this year's presidential campaign, so much so that the Obamas say they won't join another place of worship until after the election -- if then.

    Worth reading the whole thing, here.

    Witnessing in the postmodern world

    As part of its Forum series, the Washington National Cathedral last weekend hosted Thomas Long, author of Testimony: Talking Ourselves into Being Christian, for a conversation about, well, conversation, and the role it plays in faith. More evangelistic models are better at "witnessing," but mainline folks should see testimony just as central to their faith as worship is.

    Long recommends worship as one way for more Christians to find their voices and identify common ground. He also encourages conversation. “Honest testimony does not sound like, ‘Hey, brother, are you saved?’” Long says. “It’s woven into the fabric of everyday conversation. It takes place at the breakfast table, it takes place on the subway, it takes place at work, it takes place in the classroom.”

    Long does not favor stark demands that people believe. “There is no irrefutable proof of the Christian faith,” he contends. “There’s simply the trustworthiness of testimony. It began with those who came back from the tomb on Easter, it continued through the apostles, it carries on through preaching and worship, and it lives on in the community of faith.”

    Christianity continues because someone had the courage to talk to others. “If Christians stop talking, then the Gospel stops spreading,” Long says.

    The complete event is available as a video or as an mp3 here.

    Obama, McCain and religion

    The Economist's "Lexington" column this week is devoted to the challenges that both Obama and McCain are having with faith on the campaign trial:

    Few Democrats have seemed more comfortable talking about God than Barack Obama has. And yet few, if any, have had more problems with God at the ballot box—from rumours that he is a Muslim to doubts among Catholic and Jewish voters to repeated “pastor eruptions”.

    This is a serious worry for the Democrats as they gird their loins for the general election. Four years ago the party finally grasped what should have been obvious for years: that running as a secular party in a highly religious country is a recipe for defeat. George Bush not only beat John Kerry by huge margins among “values voters”. He also profited from a visceral sense that there was something unAmerican about the Democrats' secularism. Seven out of ten Americans routinely tell pollsters that they want their president to have a strong personal faith.

    . . .

    The leading Democratic candidates all talked about God with a gusto that had once been reserved for the Republicans. Hillary Clinton said that she was a “praying person” who had once contemplated becoming a Methodist minister. She also outraged some of her hard-core supporters by describing abortion as a “tragedy”. John Edwards said that his crusade against poverty was rooted in his Christian faith. The New Testament, after all, has a lot more to say about poverty than about gay marriage.

    But none of them talked about God as well as Mr Obama. Mr Obama had a great conversion story to tell—he was the child of agnostic parents who had “felt God's spirit beckoning me” as a young man and had been baptised at the age of 26. And he talked about religion in a way that appealed to both his party's religious and its secular wings. The Republicans may have co-opted religion for reactionary political ends. But the religion that Mr Obama embraced—the religion of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King—was a force for social reform. In his career-making speech at the Democratic convention in 2004 he noted that Americans worship the same “awesome God” in the red states and the blue states. Surely the Democrats had discovered the perfect solution to their God problem?

    Two high-octane preachers in Mr Obama's hometown of Chicago put paid to that hope. Jeremiah Wright's cries of “God damn America” almost shook the wheels off his campaign in March. Then last week America witnessed another “pastor eruption”—Father Michael Pfleger, a white Catholic, mocking Hillary Clinton as an “entitled” white crybaby. Hardly the stuff of religious reconciliation and responsible social reform.

    Mr Obama's problems with God are not limited to Trinity United Church, which he formally abandoned this week. He may have done enough to quell worries among Jewish voters with a robust speech on June 4th. But the persistent rumours that he is a Muslim—contemptible though they are—will remain a problem during the general election. A poll for Newsweek in May found that 11% of Americans believe that Mr Obama is a Muslim, and a further 22% could not identify his religion.

    . . .

    The good news for Mr Obama in all of this is that he is up against a Republican candidate in John McCain who has plenty of God problems of his own. Mr McCain has a tin ear for religion. He is in many ways a throwback to the pre-Reagan Republican Party of Nixon and Ford—a party that regarded religion as something that you did in private. He is much happier talking about courage than compassion. At one point recently he sounded confused as to whether he was a Baptist or an Episcopalian.

    Mr McCain has also been making a hash of dealing with his religion problem. He initially embraced the support of the religious right's own versions of Jeremiah Wright in the form of John Hagee (who believes that the anti-Christ will return to earth in the form of a “fierce” gay Jew) and Ron Parsley (one of the leaders of the anti-gay marriage movement), though he recently rejected both men. He seems blind to the fact that the leadership of the evangelical community is shifting to a new generation of much more appealing leaders such as Rick Warren.

    All this makes for a much more even fight for the religious vote than for a long time. But it will also make for a more intense fight—with the Democrats aggressively courting Catholics and evangelicals and the Republicans relentlessly trying to tie Mr Obama to Mr Wright. Those people, in both secular Europe and on the secular wing of the Democratic Party, who had hoped that America's God-soaked politics would disappear with Mr Bush are in for a disappointment.

    Read it all here.

    South Carolina to offer cross license plates


    In an action guaranteed to cause a legal challenge, South Carolina will soon be offering license plates that feature a cross and the phrase “I Believe”:

    South Carolina drivers will be the first in the nation to be offered license plates that carry the phrase “I Believe” and a Christian cross over a stained-glass window under a law that took effect on Thursday.

    Critics have threatened to fight the law in court, saying the license plate represents an illegal state endorsement of religion.

    The bill authorizing the plate passed the State House and Senate unanimously on May 22. It became law without the signature of Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican, under the South Carolina Constitution.

    “While I do, in fact, ‘believe,’ it is my personal view that the largest proclamation of one’s faith ought to be in how one lives one’s life,” Mr. Sanford wrote on Thursday in a letter to Glenn F. McConnell, president pro tem of the Senate and a fellow Republican.

    . . .

    Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Jewish Congress said they were considering suing the state over the plate. Neither organization was aware of any previous state that has approved a similar plate. A proposal for an “I believe” plate in Florida failed in April.

    “The whole issue here is that people are trying to get the state to endorse their religion, and that’s wrong,” said Dr. T. Jeremey Gunn, director of the A.C.L.U. Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “It’s almost as if there’s insufficient support, and they have to go to the state to get it.”

    Senator Lawrence K. Grooms, the co-sponsor of the bill, rejected that argument.

    “I didn’t see a constitutional problem with it,” said Mr. Grooms, a Republican who is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. “We have other plates with religious symbols on them and phrases like ‘In God We Trust.’ Just because it’s a cross, some very closed-minded people don’t believe it should be on a plate.”

    Read it all here.

    So, is this an accomodation of religious belief or a violation of the Establishment Clause?

    Leaving church is hard to do

    It was a difficult decision for Barack Obama to leave his church. As the St. Petersburg Times reports, leaving a church or changing faiths can be difficult for anyone:

    The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee spoke of the anguish of leaving his church family, where the Rev. Jeremiah Wright had given incendiary and racially charged sermons.

    Peg and Bob Green of St. Petersburg are empathetic, even though they're Republicans.

    "We're not Obama supporters, but in this instance, I feel for him and his family,'' said Peg Green, who left First Presbyterian Church in St. Petersburg three years ago for St. Thomas Episcopal Church.

    "I know it's a decision that's not as easy as some may think.''

    Others agree. Leaving a congregation or changing religious affiliation can be anguishing, say some who have done so.

    Even so, a recent study suggests more Americans are swapping churches and religious affiliations. The current religious marketplace is characterized by constant movement, with every major religious group simultaneously gaining and losing adherents, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

    Rabbi Stephen Moch of Tarpon Springs' Congregation B'nai Emmunah has seen a number of departures during his three decades as a leader of Reform Jewish congregations. Unhappy members struggle with conflicting forces, he said.

    One is loyalty to a congregation. The other is the disenchantment that eventually causes them to leave, be it unhappiness with the spiritual or lay leadership, Moch said.

    Obama belonged to Trinity for about 20 years. Wright married him and his wife, Michelle, and baptized his daughters.

    Green says it's particularly heart-wrenching to leave one's church if, like the Obamas, children are involved.

    Read it all here.

    The singularity: rapture of the geeks

    Spectrum, a publication of the IEEE (formerly known as Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.) devotes its most recent issue to the "singularity", a theory that postulates that artifical intelligence is on the verge of matching human intelligence. Among the implications is immortal life, which at least one of the IEEE articles thinks is part of the problem:

    Across cultures, classes, and aeons, people have yearned to transcend death.

    Bear that history in mind as you consider the creed of the singularitarians. Many of them fervently believe that in the next several decades we’ll have computers into which you’ll be able to upload your consciousness—the mysterious thing that makes you you. Then, with your consciousness able to go from mechanical body to mechanical body, or virtual paradise to virtual paradise, you’ll never need to face death, illness, bad food, or poor cellphone reception.

    Now you know why the singularity has also been called the rapture of the geeks.

    The singularity is supposed to begin shortly after engineers build the first computer with greater-than-human intelligence. That achievement will trigger a series of cycles in which superintelligent machines beget even smarter machine progeny, going from generation to generation in weeks or days rather than decades or years. The availability of all that cheap, mass-­produced brilliance will spark explosive economic growth, an unending, hypersonic, tech­no­industrial rampage that by comparison will make the Industrial Revolution look like a bingo game.

    At that point, we will have been sucked well beyond the event horizon of the singularity. It might be nice there, on the other side—by definition, you can’t know for sure. Sci-fi writers, though, have served up lots of scenarios in which humankind becomes the prey, rather than the privileged beneficiaries, of synthetic savants.

    . . .

    Why should a mere journalist question Kurzweil’s conclusion that some of us alive today will live indefinitely? Because we all know it’s wrong. We can sense it in the gaping, take-my-word-for-it extrapolations and the specious reasoning of those who subscribe to this form of the singularity argument. Then, too, there’s the flawed grasp of neuroscience, human physiology, and philosophy. Most of all, we note the willingness of these people to predict fabulous technological advances in a period so conveniently short it offers themselves hope of life everlasting.

    This has all gone on too long. The emperor isn’t wearing anything, for heaven’s sake.

    The singularity debate is too rarely a real argument. There’s too much fixation on death avoidance. That’s a shame, because in the coming years, as ­computers become stupendously powerful—really and truly ridiculously powerful—and as electronics and other technologies begin to enhance and fuse with biology, life really is going to get more interesting.

    Read it all here.

    It is a fascinating issue, and well worth a read. The entire issue can be found here.

    At least 16 Episcopalians receive FTE scholarships

    The Fund for Theological Education, an ecumenical foundation based in Atlanta, has awarded theological education grants to 162 top students under 35, at least 16 are Episcopalian.

    As a generation of Baby Boomer pastors prepares to retire, interest in congregational ministry is declining among students in North American theological schools. The result is an ecumenical leadership gap that requires investment and intervention to maintain quality and ward off mediocrity in the ministerial profession, according to program officers at The Fund for Theological Education (FTE), an Atlanta-based nonprofit. FTE seeks to reverse a 20-year decline in the number of clergy under age 35 by attracting and supporting gifted college, seminary and doctoral students whose talents qualify them for any profession but whose passions draw them toward the mantle of ministry or theological scholarship. The Fund also aims to improve diversity on the faculties of North American theological schools. "Some call Generation Y the most narcissistic generation in recent history, but that's not what we see," said Dr. Trace Haythorn, FTE president. "We see bellwether Millennials motivated by a passion for service, deep faith and a heightened interest in social issues. A new generation is stepping up to explore paths of ministry and theological scholarship-but they're redefining what that means for them and what they seek in the church and its role in society." This month FTE awards more than $1.5 million in fellowships and support to 162 top students from 40 U.S. states and Canada-representing more than 30 denominations-to explore or prepare for vocations as pastoral ministers or as professors in the theological academy.

    Read the rest here.

    Bishop Robinson & Mark Andrew celebrate civil union

    The Concord Monitor reports that Bishop Gene Robinson and his longtime partner Mark Andrew were united in a private civil union ceremony on Saturday, June 7 at St. Paul's Church, Concord before attorney Ronna Wise, a justice of the peace.

    Robinson and Andrew, a state employee, live in Weare and have been together 20 years. Barwell said the pair decided to have a civil union now for a couple of reasons.

    Civil unions became available in New Hampshire just this year. More critically, Robinson has been getting death threats as he prepares to leave next month for England. Should anything happen to Robinson, he wanted Andrew and his two daughters from a previous marriage to have legal protections available under the law, Barwell said.

    Those protections include rights to benefits and to be involved in medical decisions.

    Robinson and Andrew celebrated their civil union first and a religious service of thanksgiving after, Barwell said. The Rev. Canon Timothy Rich, who works with Robinson at the diocese, presided at the Eucharist. The Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity, a nonprofit that advocates for gay inclusion in the Episcopal Church, preached.

    Both Robinson's and Andrew's family members attended.

    Robinson told the Christian Century:

    "I'm certainly not going to put myself at physical risk without providing my partner with the protections that civil law provides," he said. "That's no more and no less than any husband or wife would want to do for his or her spouse."

    Concord Monitor article here.

    Christian Century profile here.

    The Rev. Irene Monroe writing in The Advocate reports here with lots of photos.

    Afterward, during the reception and dinner that took place at Canterbury Shaker Village, Susan Russell gave a 5-minute video interview, which can be found here. Watch it below.

    Read more »

    Trial begins today

    The Ecclesiastical Trial of the Right Reverend Charles E. Bennison, Jr., Bishop of Pennsylvania began today.

    The charges outlined in the Presentment dated October 29, 2007 by the then Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, accuse the Bishop of concealing the sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl by his brother, also a priest, who worked for him in a California parish in the 1970s.

    The Associated Press reports:

    The church indictment, called a presentment, charges that Bennison reacted "passively and self-protectively" and "failed to take obvious, essential steps to investigate his brother's actions, protect the girl from further abuse, and find out whether other children were in danger."

    The church indictment also charges that Bennison continued to "fail in his duties" by knowing about the abuse but not stopping his brother's 1974 ordination. John Bennison, who never faced criminal charges, left the priesthood two years ago.

    The Standing Committee of the Diocese describes the composition of the panel and the process of an ecclesiastical trial here:

    The trial will be held at the Philadelphia Marriott, 12th and Market Streets and is expected to take four days. The Court for the Trial of a Bishop consists of five Bishops, two Priests and two adult lay communicants chosen by the General Convention:

    The Rt. Rev. Andrew Donnan Smith, Bishop of Connecticut (Chair)
    The Rt. Rev. Bruce Edward Caldwell, Bishop of Wyoming
    The Rt. Rev. Gordon Paul Scruton, Bishop of Western Massachusetts
    The Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith, Bishop of Missouri
    The Rt. Rev. Catherine Elizabeth Waynick, Bishop of Indianapolis
    The Rev. Marjorie Ann Menaul, Diocese of Central Pennsylvania
    The Rev. Karen Anita Brown Montagno, Diocese of Massachusetts
    Ms. Maria Campbell, Birmingham, Alabama
    Ms. June Freeman, Akron, Ohio

    Within 30 days of the conclusion of the trial, the Court votes as to whether the Bishop committed a canonical offense. For a judgment to be entered against the Bishop, a vote of 2/3 of the members of the Court is required. If fewer than 2/3rds of the members concur in the finding, the Presentment is dismissed.

    If there is a vote of a canonical offense, the Bishop, Church Attorney, each Complainant and each Victim will have 30 days to provide the Court with comments regarding the sentence to be imposed.

    The Court then votes upon the sentence, which also requires a 2/3rd vote. The Judgment and Sentence are then communicated to each party listed above plus the Standing Committee.

    After entry of the Final Judgment, the Bishop may appeal within 30 days to the Court of Review of the Trial of a Bishop. This is a different group of individuals and consists of 9 Bishops elected by the House of Bishops. The Presiding Judge of the Court, upon receiving the Notice of Appeal, shall appoint within 60 days the time for the Hearing on the Appeal.

    Read the AP Story here and the Diocesan Web-page here.

    Earlier The Lead coverage here.

    No same-sex blessings in Albany

    The Diocese of Albany met in convention last Saturday and, among other business, elevated two existing policies to the level of diocesan canon: one prohibiting same-sex blessings and another reserving licensed ministry to clergy who are "married, celibate or abstinent."

    The Times-Union of Albany reports:

    The hundreds of clergy and lay delegates who converged for their annual convention in this lakeside Adirondack community resoundingly approved a resolution that lays down this rule: Only heterosexual marriages can be celebrated in the diocese.

    Speakers who lined up at two microphones in a rustic auditorium at Camp-of-the-Woods debated the issue in often personal terms. The Rev. Brad Jones, who supported the resolution, spoke of his personal journey from a young man consumed with homosexual desire to a married father of seven with a passion for God.

    "If the Episcopal Church had proclaimed to me then that God would bless my lustful passions and desires, I would likely not be standing here alive today," said Jones, rector of Christ Church in Schenectady. "I would certainly be dead in my sins."

    The resolution sets down in local church canons a diocesan policy that already existed in practice. Supporters called it consistent with scripture and necessary because diocesan leadership could change in the future, as could state law.

    But critics blasted it as unnecessary, discriminatory and divisive. One spoke of a gay relative's love for her partner. A rector from Saranac Lake described the "cry of anguish" of a gay parishioner who learned of the proposal.

    The new canon on marriage reads:

    Celebration or Blessing of Marriages by Clergy

    1.1 Members of the Clergy Resident in or Licensed to Serve in this Diocese shall neither officiate at, nor facilitate, nor participate in, any service, whether public or private, for the Celebration or Blessing of a Marriage or any other union except between one man and one woman. Unions other than those of one man and one woman in Holy Matrimony, even if they be recognized in other jurisdictions, shall be neither recognized nor blessed in this Diocese.

    Marriages on Church Property

    1.2 Properties owned, controlled, managed, or operated by this Diocese, or any Parish of the Diocese, or any legal entity established by the Diocese or a parish of the Diocese, shall not be the site for any service, public or private, for the Celebration or Blessing of a Marriage or any other union except those between one man and one woman.

    The canon on ordained minsitry within the diocese reads as follows:

    Standards for Election, Licensing, Ordination and Consecration

    This canon requires that those persons who are ordained, or consecrated, and clergy who are elected, licensed or appointed, be married or celibate.

    Canon 11.8

    Standards for Ordination and Consecration

    11.8.a To be eligible to be ordained to the Diaconate or Priesthood, or consecrated a Bishop, a person must live within the covenant of Marriage between one man and one woman, or be celibate and abstinent.

    Standards for Election, Appointing, and Licensing

    11.8.b To be eligible to be elected, appointed or licensed to any position of ordained ministry in the Diocese, a member of the clergy must live within the covenant of Marriage between one man and one woman, or be celibate and abstinent.

    The Times-Union interviewed Bishop William Love after the convention:

    In a brief interview after convention business wrapped up, Albany Bishop William Love said the resolutions were "not intended to be divisive."

    "The main reasons the resolutions were presented were to provide clarity during a time of great confusion both within the church and society at large," Love said.

    "The important thing that everyone needs to know is that God loves all people, regardless of where they might be in their life. That doesn't necessarily mean he approves of all of our behaviors."

    Read the Times-Union: Diocese rules on gay unions

    See the resolutions on the Diocese of Albany convention web-site here.

    Martyn Minns, talking head

    In advance of GAFCON, CANA Bishop Martyn Minns is making the media rounds. He appears in Time.com in a side-by-side profile with Gene Robinson and on the BBC program Hardtalk. The web-only Time profile reports that Minns has moved from Northern Virginia, to Morristown, New Jersey, which is inside the Episcopal Diocese of Newark.

    Time's article is written in the context of a side-by-side profile with Bishop Gene Robinson. While Robinson and his partner were joined in a civil union last weekend, Time.com says...

    Minns... is spending his weekend in Morristown, N.J, where he moved last month. His five children, ages 42 to 25, are all out of the house, although he quipped to TIME that with 12 grandchildren "I'm following the Abrahamic covenant" that promised multiple offspring to God's people.

    Minns says that the move to New Jersey is so that he can be near good airports that can connect him to the 65 CANA congregations and to Africa.

    On Monday, Minns will jump on a plane for Jerusalem to help prepare a meeting of conservative Anglican bishops in two weeks called the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCon) that he claims will attract Anglican bishops from 27 countries.

    Minns "acknowledges occasionally polishing Akinola's prose" (see below) and says that GAFCON will not result in schism. Instead, the goal is a shift of the center of Anglicanism towards what Minns called a "new revised version of 'this is who we are.'" He mentions the number of countries from which attendees will be taking place, but not how many bishops nor how many of the attendees are from denominations that have previously broken with the Anglican Communion.

    On BBCs Hardtalk, Stephen Sackur asks Minns about several issues relating to CANA, GAFCON, the Lambeth Conference, the effect of the Akinola's and others language of hate on LGBT persons, and the funding of CANA.

    On GAFCON-- Minns says that it will not result in schism but in a new center for Anglicanism. The goal of GAFCON is to "work and pray together on how to work together without reacting to the latest crisis coming from North America."

    On Lambeth-- To go there in the current mode is a violation of the consciences so that they will meet in another place. The Archbishop of Canterbury has a problem when he invites every bishop of the Communion and 300 say "no thank you" which is unprecedented. Minns would not, when pressed, say that Williams was ineffective or helpless.

    Sexuality-- The dispute, Minns says, is not about sexuality but about scripture. Even though he left the church after Gene Robinson's consecration, he says that this was a step too far but the problem goes back to 1998.

    On Akinola's words on homosexuality-- Does Minns echo Akinola's beliefs and words? He says that he would not use Akinola's language, but Minns says he is in essence in agreement with the Archbishop's basic view. He sees this as against God's intent, but he would not advocate violence.

    On being Akinola's ghost writer-- When he punches up Akinola's texts, he is only functioning as a secretary and a staff assistant. He would not admit to Sackur that he is even collaborating with Akinola on the texts of the Archbishop's speeches. When asked about the Church Times investigation, he said he sat with him while the address was written ("the brink of destruction" speech), but did not collaborate.

    On following the money-- Sackur asks Minns about funding, specially referring to "Following the Money." Minns denies that Howard Ahmanson is major funder to organizations that Minns is connected to. He says that the Daily Episcopalian report written by Jim Naughton is "creative writing." MInns says "I have not seen the money Naughton refers to." When asked by Sackur "if you do feel one moment that money ... was in one way or another being channeled into your congregation of Anglicans in North America would you return that money immediately?" Minns replied that this is hypothetical and he would not answer it. Minns says that most of the funds for CANA comes from CANA congregations. Later on he says that the Church of Nigeria pays for CANA Bishops to go about their business, but does not say where those funds come from.

    On creating an atmosphere of hate-- The bishop says elsewhere, "I have no antagonism towards homosexual folks," Minns says. He reports that there are many in his congregations who must deal with this issue in their lives. Minns says that he is is sorry that Gene Robinson feels that fear. He says that when people say terrible things to him, he just moves on.

    Sackur asked Is homosexuality inherently evil? Minns says "no."

    On what is going to happen in the next few months? Minns says no schism will occur, but that the missionary churches have grown up and won't be told what to do by the parent churches. "It's inevitable and the Church of England should take great joy in it."

    Minns is not invited to Lambeth because CANA is not a recognized part of the Anglican Communion. He told Time.com that he will not take part in any events connected with Lambeth, saying "I'm not invited, so why go? I have a life." But in a remarkable coincidence, Time.com says he will vacation in England precisely when the Lambeth conference is taking place. "It just so happens that I do have family in England," he says. "In Nottingham, Penzance, and the Isle of Wight. I'll be there for little bit."

    "Just in case he's needed," Time.com quips.

    Read the rest of the Time.com profile.

    Read about and watch the video of Minns interview on Hardtalk here.

    Bishop Andrus of California: same sex marriage guidelines

    The following letter has been sent to all Diocese of California clergy by the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus. It encourages all couples, whether gay or straight, to be married in a civil ceremony with blessing to be performed by the clergy. Andrus also encourages all members of the diocese to become volunteer Deputy Marriage Commissioners. He intends to volunteer in this capacity.

    Pastoral Letter Regarding Same-sex Marriage
    June 9, 2008

    Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

    I welcome the ruling of the California Supreme Court affirming the fundamental right of all people to marry. I am writing to you now to recommend a path to use this decision to strengthen our support of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered sisters and brothers, and our continued witness to God’s inclusive love.

    Clergy and lay leaders in the diocese have been working for the rights of LGBT people and for their full inclusion in our Church for more than forty years. Today, we continue to walk a journey that includes:

    Bringing the witness of our LGBT sisters and brothers to this summer’s Lambeth Conference,
    Combating a ballot initiative this November that will attempt to take away the rights recently recognized by the California Supreme Court,
    Providing leadership at next summer's General Convention to bring our marriage practices and theology in line with our fundamental baptismal theology.

    For far too long the onus has fallen on marginalized people to bear the burden of inequalities that exist within the Church, and the decision by our state’s Supreme Court has given us the opportunity to level the playing field.

    To that end, the Diocese of California seeks to provide, by advocacy and example, a way forward for The Episcopal Church so that the marriage of same-sex couples will be a part of our official marriage rites, without distinction. Although The Episcopal Church does not have canonical rites for same-sex marriage, it is our goal that all couples be treated equally by the Church, as they are equally loved by God.

    I therefore provide you with the following pastoral guidelines:

    I urge you to encourage all couples, regardless of orientation, to follow the pattern of first being married in a secular service and then being blessed in the Episcopal Church. I will publicly urge all couples to follow this pattern. For now, the three rites approved for trial use under the pastoral direction of the bishop, adopted by resolution at the 2007 Diocesan Convention (see appendix below), should be commended to all couples (again, regardless of orientation) to bless secular marriages.

    All marriages should be performed by someone in one of the secular categories set forth in California Family Code, section 400 (see appendix), noting that any person in the state of California can be deputized to perform civil marriages. The proper sphere for Episcopal clergy is the blessing portion of the marriage.

    The understanding of The Episcopal Church currently is that blessings are an extension of the pastoral office of the bishop. I ask that you continue to inform me of all same-sex blessings.

    Couples who have been married under the auspices of the California Supreme Court ruling must have the same pre-marriage counseling as that required of any couple seeking marriage or blessing of marriage in The Episcopal Church. This should be understood as an offering of the Church’s support for marriage.

    I urge Episcopalians, clergy and lay, to volunteer as Deputy Marriage Commissioners. There are over 4,000 civil same-sex marriages planned in a short period of time in the city of San Francisco alone and the city is asking for help in meeting demand. I intend to volunteer for this at my earliest opportunity. This would be one sign of affirmation for the Supreme Court ruling from our diocese. By city requirement, clergy will not be allowed to wear collars when presiding at secular marriages. (For more information about how to be deputized, see the attached appendix.)

    All people receiving blessings of civil marriages in the Diocese of California are free to use the same degree of publicity (e.g., newspaper notices).

    These are interim measures as the Diocese of California and The Episcopal Church continue our journey in the context of this prophetic opportunity provided by the California Supreme Court’s ruling. I have already initiated a process to arrive at a more studied, permanent answer for Episcopal clergy presiding at same-sex marriages in this diocese. That process includes the formation of a panel of diocesan clergy to make recommendations about how to move toward equality of marriage rites for all people. These recommendations will be discussed across the diocese resulting in an official diocesan policy.

    In the coming days, I will publicly state my opposition to the initiative to overturn the Supreme Court ruling. The Diocese of California will publish advertising around June 17 celebrating the Supreme Court ruling and inviting same-sex couples to our churches for pre-marital counseling and nourishment in communities of faith.

    As always, I welcome your wisdom, your insights and your input on these matters, and I continue in my commitment to work for a Church that sees all of God’s children through the same eyes that God does.

    The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus
    Diocese of California

    Appendix to Pastoral Letter Regarding Same-sex Marriage

    Deputy Commissioners of Marriage in the County of San Francisco

    If you would like to assist with marriages in the County of San Francisco, you will need to be deputized as a Deputy Marriage Commissioner. Help is needed from June 17 - 28, and you will be asked to work one of the following complete shifts: 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; 12:30 to 5 p.m.; 5 to 7:30 p.m. If you would like to volunteer, send an email to olga.ryerson@sfgov.org: include "Deputy Marriage Commissioner" in the subject line.

    In other counties, you can contact the County Clerk's office for information about how to become a Deputy Marriage Commissioner. As of June 9, 2008, there is no expressed need from other counties within the Diocese of California for volunteer Deputy Marriage Commissioners.

    Blessing Rites
    The three rites approved by Diocesan Convention 2007 can be downloaded here. Click on the link "CMB 2007 Report" to download a PDF. The Rites are found on pages 11 - 43 of the report.

    The State of California code follows:

    Read more »

    Schism cannot be normative

    The Anglican Journal reports that Bishop Michael Ingham, of the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster, has written to five members of the clergy who resigned from the Anglican Church of Canada that they may not exercise ministry at their churches, are considered to be trespassing if they are on the property and may not remove anything, including books.

    Bishop Michael Ingham told Diocesan Synod, which met on May 30-31, that as bishop he has a responsibility to ensure that schism does not become normal or accepted in the Anglican Church of Canada.

    In a report on May 30 to about 300 synod members, about a third clergy and the rest lay, the bishop insisted that the decision of four congregations to join the South American Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, was not simply “divorce” but “schism…the setting up of a unlawful authority” to challenge the rightful authority, which is Diocesan Synod.

    “I am fully aware that nobody wishes to see the church diverted from its mission by the prospect of civil litigation over property,” he said.

    “But schism cannot stand, for if it were allowed to stand it would undermine the mission of the church across this country.”

    Chancellor George Cadman, the synod’s chief legal officer, reported that the clergy remaining in four parishes—St. John’s Shaughnessy, St. Matthew Abbotsford, and Good Shepherd and St. Matthias/St. Luke of Vancouver—have relinquished and abandoned ordained ministry within the Anglican Church of Canada, and by remaining in parish buildings they are now trespassing.

    The Anglican Journal says:

    Courts have ruled in the civil provinces of British Columbia and Ontario that dioceses must have access to the church properties, but no court has yet ruled on the question of ownership.

    Bishop Ingham said that plans are “now in place” for “the restoration of the parishes after the litigation is successful,” however, no litigation has yet begun. He said the diocese would ensure that “parish buildings and other assets are preserved for present and future generations of Christians who wish to worship in the Anglican Church of Canada.”

    According to coverage of the synod on the diocesan Web site, Geoffrey Burgess of St. Stephen, West Vancouver, said that members of the dissident parishes “must still be regarded as Anglicans” and should not be “turfed out of their parishes.”

    Bishop Ingham responded that no members of congregations were affected and that the diocese’s complaint was with clergy who have rejected their bishop and synod’s authority.

    Anglican Journal report here.

    Diocese of New Westminster report here.

    Read Bishop Ingham's address to synod here.

    Covenant would change how to select ABC

    The Bishop of Cork in the Church of Ireland says new proposals designed to prevent the Anglican Communion falling apart will necessitate changes in the way that the Archbishop of Canterbury is appointed, according to Christian Today.

    Speaking at his Diocesan Synod for Cork, Cloyne and Ross on Saturday, Bishop Paul Colton referred to discussions taking place throughout the Communion on the proposed Anglican Covenant, due to be discussed at next month’s Lambeth Conference, the 10-yearly gathering of bishops within the Communion.

    The Anglican Covenant has been put together in an effort to prevent a split in the Anglican Communion of churches, primarily over the issue of homosexual ordinations and blessings. The Covenant seeks to balance the autonomy of the 38 provinces with the unity of the Communion and asks provinces for their voluntary commitment to a process of joined-up deliberation whenever disputes occur over contentious issues.

    Bishop Colton warned, however, that the proposed Anglican Covenant gives the Archbishop of Canterbury significant new powers outside the Church of England and within other Churches.

    Although the Covenant goes some way to assure that Churches would be able to maintain some independence, Bishop Colton said he felt that agreeing to it “would result in compromising the autonomy of the Church of Ireland and other parts of the Anglican Communion”.

    Bishop Colton acknowledged that the Covenant’s proposals may be necessary to preserve the unity of Anglicanism, but expressed concern that the proposal to enhance the powers of the Archbishop of Canterbury represented a partial move “...towards universal primacy at the expense of local conciliarity”.

    He argued that if this were to happen, the Communion would need to consider a new approach to the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

    “If the Covenant proposals and the framework for resolution of conflict are to be adopted internationally, a new approach to the appointment of future Archbishops of Canterbury will be needed as well as international involvement in those appointments,” he said.

    Read the rest.

    Trial of a bishop continues

    The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on the opening statements in the Ecclesiastical Trial of the Rt. Rev. Charles Bennison, bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania:

    A lawyer for the Episcopal Church told a panel of judges this morning that Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr., leader of the five-county 55,000-member Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, failed to protect an underage girl from the predatory sexual behavior of his brother in the 1970s.

    The lawyer, Larry White, told the nine-judge Court for the Trial of a Bishop panel, that Bennison, 64, compounded his wrongful inaction by shirking his responsibility in the matter, as he rose through the church's ranks in later years.

    White said that Bennison's brother, John, then a 24-year-old married staffer in their church in Upland, Calif., had groomed a 14-year-old church parishioner as a "sexual target."

    Bennison's attorney, James Pabarue, argued that his client had not been trained by the church to handle such matters and followed his own instinct to try to avoid scandal for the victim and the church.

    Last October, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori suspended Bennison after the Title IV Review Committee concluded he had "engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy."
    The committee's 12-page "presentment," or indictment, asserts that in the mid-1970s, Bennison, then rector of St. Mark's Parish in Upland, Calif., concealed his brother John's sexual abuse of a teenage girl. The abuse allegedly began in 1973 when the girl was 14 and John was the parish youth minister, and lasted nearly five years.

    Read more here.

    Abuse victim testifies here:

    Episcopal Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr.'s church trial on the ground that he long ago concealed his brother's sexual abuse of a teenage girl ended its first day with the victim recounting how she had hoped Bennison would report the abuse to her parents and put an end to it.
    "I wanted out," the woman, now 50, told the special Court for the Trial of a Bishop yesterday in Center City. "I wanted someone to help me."

    But Bennison, who was then rector of her parish in Upland, Calif., remained silent, she said, adding that there was "no doubt in my mind he knew" that his brother, John Bennison, the church's youth minister, was having sex with her.

    She described how twice, when she was 15, Charles Bennison had walked in on them and found them disheveled and breathless, with John Bennison visibly aroused on one occasion.

    Both times, she said, Charles Bennison appeared flustered and embarrassed, but "turned around and walked out," and never questioned her about it or told her parents.

    Previous articles on Bishop Bennison and sexual abuse can be found on The Lead here, here, here, and here.

    Terry Pratchett and God

    Terry Pratchett, the fantasy writer suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, has suggested he may have found God after years of atheism according to the Times Online, UK.

    The 60-year-old creator of the Discworld series has spoken of an unexplained experience shortly after his diagnosis with the condition.

    “I’m certainly not a man of faith, but as I was rushing down the stairs one day . . . it was very strange. And I say this reluctantly, because I am trying to deal with this situation in as hardheaded a way as I can. I suddenly knew that everything was okay, that what I was doing was right, and I didn’t know why,” Pratchett said.

    “It was a thought that all the right things are happening in the circumstances; and I thought, ‘Well, that’s all right then.’

    Read more here.

    Those of us who are fans think Pratchett explores theology in all his books. Read Feet of Clay or Small Gods to find your way into Discworld and Pratchett's humor and insight.

    Church supper meatballs source of deadly E. coli bacteria

    Nebraska Beef has been accused of making people at a church social very sick; one elderly woman died. Meatballs served at a smorgasbord of the Salem Lutheran Church in Longville, Minn., were tainted with deadly E. coli bacteria, and Nebraska Beef was named as the culprit in lawsuits filed by the dead woman’s husband and by Ellie Wheeler, one of 17 other people who became ill according to The New York Times.

    All of this is straightforward enough, and you might expect that it would lead to an out-of-court settlement, with the meat company vowing to clean up its act.

    But Nebraska Beef, based in Omaha, is pursuing a very different tactic.

    For starters, the company has denied that it is responsible for providing bad meat, and it has provided a culprit of its own. It blames the Salem Lutheran Church — contending in its own lawsuit that the volunteer church ladies who prepared the food were negligent.

    The Minnesota Department of Health reports:

    The meatballs were made in a mixer in a center island in the church kitchen; the cooks wore gloves while making the meatballs. The volunteers also cooked turkeys, sliced ham, prepared a mashed-potato dish and a carrot salad, and chopped eggs and potatoes for a potato salad.

    But according to a report by the Minnesota Department of Health, the ladies of Salem Lutheran Church didn’t do everything right, from a food-safety perspective. There are three sinks in the kitchen, one for hand-washing and two for food preparation, but all three were used for hand-washing, the report said.

    And when the meatballs came out of the oven, it added, the cooks didn’t pull out a meat thermometer to make sure they were cooked to the correct temperature. Instead, they cut a few open and determined that they were done, the report found.

    Read more here.

    Yet another reason to become a vegetarian.

    Daring to dream of reconciliation

    In a new six-minute webcast, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, addresses the “beloved church” from the windy tundra of Iqaluit, Nunavut. He visited Iqaluit from May 31 to June 2 for the Diocese of the Arctic synod.

    The Primate describes three June events related to Aboriginal justice: the June 1 launch of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools, the Canadian government’s apology to residential school survivors June 11, and National Aboriginal Day June 21.

    Archbishop Hiltz urges Canadian Anglicans to participate in these events as much as possible, and to uphold them in prayer. He then offers up his own prayer, which begins, “Great Creator God, who desires that all creation live in harmony and peace. We dare to dream of a path to reconciliation.”

    Remembering the Children prayer here.

    Read more here. Watch the video below:

    Read more »

    Frequent flyer in pursuit of schism

    David Marr writing in the Sydney Morning Herald about Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney:

    The consecration of a gay man was seen from the first as an opportunity to be seized, a chance for "Bible-believing" Anglicans to build a new, purer church. That's the mission GAFCON - the Global Anglican Future Conference - will be pursuing in Jerusalem. "I'm not saying to the Americans: 'Pull your head in,' " says Jensen. "We said that five years ago, and that didn't work. They will do their thing. But if they do do that thing, then their freedom frees us as well."
    Peter Jensen is a decisive leader of a breakaway faith that claims to represent half the keen Anglicans on earth. In this cause, he has spent his energy, intelligence, prestige and an
    unknown amount of Sydney's money. The city's archbishops have been travellers in the past, but Jensen is a frequent flyer in the pursuit of schism, turning up wherever needed - Blackpool, Nairobi, the Red Sea and, later this month, Jerusalem.

    But he does not represent Australia. Sydney is the oldest and richest diocese in the country. It's growing more strongly than any other in the land. But in many eyes it's hardly Anglican at all. Visitors from Melbourne worshipping in a Sydney parish might think they've wandered into a
    protestant chapel: where are the crosses and vestments? What's this demand that all believers be Born Again in Jesus Christ?

    GAFCON is only step one. Most of the 200 or so bishops, after issuing a communique on the shape of the new "alternative communion", will return to their dioceses and boycott Lambeth, the Archbishop of Canterbury's meeting of all the Anglican bishops of the world, in July. Sydney's six bishops have decided not to sit down with the Americans.
    More bluntly, GAFCON is planning to collapse the church into a sort of Balkan confusion in which national branches turn their backs on each other, bishops dabble in one another's territory, and dingo fences cut across the landscape to keep "orthodox" Bible-believing, homosexual-denouncing Anglicans safe on one side of the wire, and "liberals" on the other. If the split comes, it will shatter national churches as well as the international communion. It will be particularly messy for Australia.
    Jensen speaks of the old Anglican Communion in the past tense. As far as he's concerned, it's finished. Lambeth can go on quarrelling about homosexuality, but the Archbishop of Sydney expects the subject will hardly be mentioned at GAFCON. That's in the past. It is, after all, a bond between them. "To my mind we are just living in a new age. We're in a different sort
    of organisation. Now it's exploring the possibilities of this different organisation that is now before us."

    There's much more, including this interesting bit:
    The Sydney bishops had still not made up their minds to boycott Lambeth after four weeks of "agonising and struggle" - the words of Jensen's media officer Russell Powell - when Akinola announced their decision for them in far-off Lagos, telling a press conference he was not going to Lambeth - and nor were the bishops of Uganda, Rwanda and Sydney.

    Jensen scrambled. He rang the Archbishop of Canterbury's office to say the Sydney bishops were not coming. At some point the letter was signed and sent. Then Jensen made the decision public. But senior sources in the church say two bishops remain deeply troubled: "They were told to like it or lump it."

    Read the whole thing.

    Bennison trial - Day 2

    UPDATED - (Day 3, 1pm, again 6pm)

    Jerry Hames, editor emeritus of Episcopal Life, is attending the trial in Philadelphia for ELO. He reports on the events in court on Tuesday:

    Key witnesses for the prosecution testified during the second day of the ecclesiastical trial of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison that he failed to act responsibly 35 years ago when he was told that his 24-year-old brother, John Bennison, whom he had hired for his parish's youth ministry, was abusing a teenage girl in the youth group.
    Schoener, who said he has worked with Episcopal groups since the 1980s and has received referrals from the director of the church's Office of Pastoral Development since the ‘90s, said the norm in the 1970s, when the abuse of a teen occurred, was to initiate an investigation.

    "That normally involves talking to young people, talking to parents and other adults who might have been around the youth group. You look for red flag behaviors, such as [someone] spending a lot of time alone with the person outside of normal group activities, doing favors for them or giving them gifts," he said. Court was told John Bennison, married and a deacon, picked up the teen in his Porsche most days after school and drove her to the church where sexual relations occurred three or four times a week.

    Under cross-examination, Schoener admitted that in the 50s, 60s and early 70s the church's focus and training had not been on the abuse of children, but on adultery. The defense has argued in its cross-examinations that Charles Bennison, then a 31-year-old rector, lacked the training, guidelines and protocol for the situation he faced, but handled it the way he thought was appropriate, avoiding scandal, respecting the girl's privacy and not informing her parents.

    However, Schoener said that a person was usually suspended "if there was a high level of suspicion."

    The teen, Martha Alexis, now 50, testified June 10 that John Bennison stayed at the church for two months in the summer of 1975 after Charles Bennison, in his sworn deposition, said that he told John to leave. During that time John continued to lead activities of the youth group, without monitors or chaperones present, Martha said.

    She said he also continued to have sexual relations with her afternoons and weekends during that time. "Nothing had changed," she said.

    "Was it as degrading," asked the prosecutor, referring to her testimony a day earlier. "It was more so," she replied.

    Read Hames' article here.

    Philadelphia Daily News

    "We look at our Lord Jesus as the model for good pastoring . . . he keeps away the wolves," said Bishop David E. Richards, who was in the office of pastoral development at the time of the abuse.

    Philadelphia Inquirer

    Ann Allen, a former rector's warden at the parish, told the court that she learned of the abuse when Alexis was about 15. ... Allen recalled how one of her teenage sons had told his parents that Alexis was "John's woman."

    But when she apprised Charles Bennison that there might be "something going on" between the girl and his brother, Bennison "just kind of shrugged and said, 'That's the way it is,' or, '[That's] the kinds of things that are happening.' "

    She said Bennison later told her in a phone conversation: "I appreciate your not telling other people about this because it could negatively affect my career."

    The trial continues today. This post will be updated today as news reports warrant.

    Update - Wednesday, 1pm. Philadelphia Inquirer:

    Testifying for the defense, Bishop Harold Hopkins, former head of the Episcopal Church's Office of Pastoral Development, acknowledged receiving several letters from the victim's mother in 1992 and 1993. Hopkins said he discussed the charges with the then-presiding Bishop of the church, Edmund Browning. He said that in 1993 he also participated in a special intervention that included Bennison's younger brother, John...
    His acknowledgment of the letters and meetings are important to Bennison's defense strategy. His lawyers are not attempting to defend Bennison's admittedly poor handling of his brother's abuse and his failure to protect the girl. They are seeking instead to establish that there is no valid reason to charge Bennison now when the facts of the case have been known for so long.

    Their strategy ran into difficulty, however, when the church's lead attorney, Larry White, acting as prosecutor, asked Hopkins if church leaders had had all the facts of the case years ago.

    "No," Hopkins replied.

    White then asked if Hopkins would have voted for Bennison to become a bishop if he had known all the facts.

    Hopkins replied, "I did not realize the extent to which it appears Bishop Bennison had a number of opportunities to reach out to the young woman... I think his handling and non-handling" of the situation "throws not a good light on his judgment."

    Update - Wednesday, 6pm. Philadelphia Inquirer:
    Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. ... took the stand in his church trial Wednesday.
    He says people wouldn't have seen it at the time as abuse, but would have seen it as what he called "immoral behavior" on the victim's part.

    Comic books and religion

    Washington Post: An author looks to the Koran for 99 Superheroes

    To go back to writing after all that education, it would have to be something big, something with the potential of Pokémon, the Japanese cartoon that was briefly banned by Saudi religious authorities. God would have been disappointed by that, he thought; God has 99 attributes, or names, including tolerance.

    "And then the idea formed in my mind," Mutawa said. "Heroes with the 99 attributes."

    He mixed his deep religious faith, business acumen and firsthand experience with other cultures -- his childhood summers were spent at a predominantly Jewish camp in New Hampshire -- to create The 99, a comic-book series about superheroes imbued with the 99 attributes of God. Those traits represent one of Islam's most recognizable concepts.

    Mutawa's superheroes are modern, secular and spiritual, moving seamlessly between East and West. They come from 99 countries and are split between males and females.

    On a less edifying note, you can check out the religion of comic heroes at comicbookreligion.com. Anglican/Episcopalian heroes are listed here. Did you know that Elastigirl (aka Mrs. Incredible) is am Episcopalian? Hmmm. Besides her strength and stretching superpowers she is "an accomplished pilot and displays deduction skills and cunning."

    Gay unions give insight into healthy marrriage

    NYT: Gay Unions Shed Light on Gender in Marriage

    A growing body of evidence shows that same-sex couples have a great deal to teach everyone else about marriage and relationships. Most studies show surprisingly few differences between committed gay couples and committed straight couples, but the differences that do emerge have shed light on the kinds of conflicts that can endanger heterosexual relationships. After Vermont legalized same-sex civil unions in 2000, researchers surveyed nearly 1,000 couples, including same-sex couples and their heterosexual married siblings. The focus was on how the relationships were affected by common causes of marital strife like housework, sex and money.

    Notably, same-sex relationships, whether between men or women, were far more egalitarian than heterosexual ones. In heterosexual couples, women did far more of the housework; men were more likely to have the financial responsibility; and men were more likely to initiate sex, while women were more likely to refuse it or to start a conversation about problems in the relationship. With same-sex couples, of course, none of these dichotomies were possible, and the partners tended to share the burdens far more equally.

    While the gay and lesbian couples had about the same rate of conflict as the heterosexual ones, they appeared to have more relationship satisfaction, suggesting that the inequality of opposite-sex relationships can take a toll.

    "Heterosexual married women live with a lot of anger about having to do the tasks not only in the house but in the relationship," said Esther D. Rothblum, a professor of women's studies at San Diego State University. "That's very different than what same-sex couples and heterosexual men live with."

    Other studies show that what couples argue about is far less important than how they argue. The egalitarian nature of same-sex relationships appears to spill over into how those couples resolve conflict.

    Read it here.

    For the record, housework is usually defined to exclude tasks like " tasks like gardening, home repairs, or washing the car." See the double-entendre titled, Exactly how much housework does a husband create?

    Baptists reject child sex-abuser database

    USA Today

    Under pressure to fight child sex abuse, the Southern Baptist Convention's executive committee said Tuesday that the denomination should not create its own database to help churches identity predators or establish an office to field abuse claims.
    The report decried sexual abuse as reprehensible and a sin. But the Southern Baptist principle of local church autonomy means it's up to individual churches — and not the convention — to screen employees and take action against offenders, the committee said.
    The past two years have seen a few high-profile allegations against Baptist clergy, and a key victims' advocate in the Catholic crisis, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, began lobbying the Baptists.
    Local church autonomy rules out creating a centralized investigative body to determine who has been credibly accused of sexual abuse or anything else, it said, and the convention has no authority to bar known perpetrators from ministry or start an office to field abuse claims.
    Christa Brown, SNAP's Baptist outreach director, rejected the argument about local church authority and questioned the convention's commitment to taking the problem seriously.
    Frank Page, the outgoing SBC president, called the report on abuse a "home run." Anyone questioning the convention's commitment to fighting child sexual abuse need only look to its website, which has a prominent link to information about preventing the problem, he said.
    So, readers, should the Baptist polity be the trump card? May be polity does matter. Although the Roman Catholic example must serve as a strong reminder that centralization can also fail miserably.

    No room at the inn

    Somehow this news escaped our notice last week:

    Lambeth Conference Blog

    Six weeks to go!
    Posted On : June 5, 2008 9:51 AM | Posted By : Anna
    Related Categories: General

    Sadly, other demands have taken over and I'm unable to keep the blog updated. This will be the final entry!

    With just a few weeks to go and registrations still coming in, we are constantly at work allocating bedrooms, putting bible study groups together, finalising the content of the conference programme and thinking about last minute communciations and logistics.

    It is all very busy. We are delighted people are still registering but the conference is nearly full now. Bedrooms have almost run out! If you still want to come along but haven't yet told us please register within the next few days.

    Looking forward to meeting you all in Canterbury very soon!

    What is poverty?

    Archbishop Njongo Ndungane of South Africa writes on the tenth anniversary of the Speak Out On Poverty public hearings.

    The question "What is poverty?" would get varied responses according to the gender, race, age, and geographic location of respondents. Woven into the responses a central feature would be that poverty is not only about the lack of financial resources, but more centrally about an absence of opportunities and choices which allow people to build decent lives for themselves and their families. This emerged clearly ten years ago when I was one of the commissioners at the Speak out on Poverty public hearings.

    These hearings were convened by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) and the South African NGO Coalition (SANGOCO) between 31 March and 19 June 1998 and held in each of our nine provinces. Over 10 000 people participated and nearly 600 people presented oral evidence over the 35 days of the hearings.

    What emerged was the fact that poverty is about an ongoing struggle with starvation, lack of access to shelter, services, income and jobs. In that context, poverty can be described as the violation of the rights to basic resources.

    The testimonies also provided sufficient evidence of the innovation and vision of people who survive against all odds. It was clear, however, that resourcefulness is not enough. The main message that emerged from the poor is that they need to be empowered and capacitated in a way that enables them to fend for themselves and reduce reliance on handouts. To achieve this we must analyze how the poor are ‘included’ in the economy and whether the market is in fact sufficiently open for the poor.

    Ten years on and evidence suggests that the amount of people living in poverty has increased. This has prompted the various concerned partner organizations to initiate a follow up to the 1998 poverty hearings called the 10th Anniversary Poverty Hearings.

    This initiative is intended to serve as much needed feedback on the 1998 hearings. We feel that it is important for us to assess from the poor themselves the actions that have been taken to address their plight, actions that they have taken to improve their lives and their awareness of economic and social rights as enshrined in the Constitution. The hearings will therefore provide a rich opportunity to hear people speak for themselves and present solutions to the challenges they face. The idea is to use people’s own voices to carry the issues to the corridors of power. At the end of the day we wish to see a prioritization of poor people’s issues and a move from talk to action as far as policy formulation and implementation are concerned.

    This initiative will also serve as a pilot for similar interventions around the continent. We hope that other organizations and entities will take on the issue of poverty hearings as a tool for advocacy and will use them in various countries to advocate for prioritization of issues that affect the poor.

    For more information on the 10th Anniversary Poverty Hearings initiatives, please contact Bridget Katundu of African Monitor, bridget@africanmonitor.org. For input by Archbishop Ndungane, please contact Buhle Makamanzi, buhle@africanmonitor.org

    Archbishop Njongo Ndungane is the President and Founder of African Monitor. African Monitor is one of the organizations that are in the process of initiating the 10th Anniversary Poverty Hearings.

    J K Rowling on Failure and Imagination

    J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels, was the Harvard University commencement speaker this year. Her themes were the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination. Some excerpts:

    On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called ‘real life’, I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination.
    Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

    So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
    You might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.
    Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s minds, imagine themselves into other people’s places.

    Watch and listen here.

    According to her biographical information, J.K. Rowling is an Anglican/Episcopalian.

    Bennison trial - Day 3: Press surprised at open trial

    UPDATED: below

    The trial of Charles Bennison, suspended bishop of Pennsylvania continued with his testimony and that of his brother's ex-wife. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

    Episcopal Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr., on trial within his church for concealing his brother's sexual abuse of a minor, testified yesterday that he learned about the abuse only when the girl was 17 and at the time believed he had "acted appropriately."

    "I never thought my conduct was problematic," Bennison, 64, said during direct examination by his attorney.

    Bennison was the young rector of St. Mark's Parish in Upland, Calif., in 1973 when his brother John, a parish youth minister, began having sex with a 15-year-old girl, Martha Alexis.

    In response to questions from his attorney, James A. Pabarue, Bennison defended his failure in not informing his diocesan superiors about his brother's abuse, telling the girl's parents, or offering her any counseling.

    "I was confused," he said, adding that he "didn't want to embarrass or shame" the girl, who was then 17, by telling her parents.

    "People would see it as immoral activity, not sex abuse," he said. "I wasn't thinking about her age."

    He said he did not ask about his brother's relationship with her or offer her counseling because he thought she would probably deny it - as John Bennison had - and because he did not feel she particularly liked him.

    Read more here.

    John Bennison's former wife testified:

    ...that her ex had had affairs with five women - three while he worked at St. Mark's and two after he left in 1975 to work in a Santa Barbara, Calif., church.

    Regarding John Bennison's reinstatement to the priesthood:
    In 1977, John Bennison renounced the priesthood, but he asked to be reinstated two years later - without the knowledge of his brother and the Alexis family, Bishop Bennison said yesterday.

    "I had no idea that you could come back in," said Bennison, whose father was also a bishop.

    Wearing the same outfit he had worn all week - a dark jacket over a purple vest and clerical collar - Bennison testified that no one had contacted him about his brother's reinstatement.

    Bennison said he had assumed that the bishop of Los Angeles, Robert Rusack, had known about the sexual abuse before Rusack restored his brother.

    "I thought we all had sort of moved forward," he said.

    Read here.

    The press finds it extraordinary that anyone can attend the trial and that it is all being held in public in contrast to other churches and sex abuse. Ronnie Polaneczky of the Philadelphia Daily News writes:

    Something extraordinary is going on at the Philadelphia Marriott Hotel: A bishop is being called on the carpet for not alerting church authorities, parents or police that a church youth-group leader at his church was having sex with a teenage member.

    More extraordinary still is that the proceedings are public. Anyone can enter the Marriott ballroom and see the robed, nine-member jury of Episcopal leaders presiding over the church trial of Bishop Charles Bennison.

    They can wince as the victim, now 50, haltingly describes her childhood abuse as "degrading."

    They can hear her abuser's ex-wife describe the horror she felt when she realized her former spouse was actually a sexual abuser, not a philanderer.

    They can watch as a distraught Bennison explains why he didn't help the young victim.

    No matter what the trial's outcome, its transparency alone makes it historic.

    How ironic that it's unfolding in a city where Catholic bishops responsible for covering up past sex abuse in the Philly Archdiocese have yet to be held publicly accountable by name, by their church, for the pain their complicity perpetuated.

    Read more here.

    Jerry Hames is reporting the story for Episcopal Life. Read his coverage here. He reports Bennison saying:

    ... he did not seek help elsewhere, either from his bishop or health care professionals. "If it was true, it was yet another affair. I didn't call the bishop [Robert Rusack] about all the affairs. I was fairly intimidated by Bishop Rusack. The attitude was it was your job as a priest to help the bishop, not to take him problems."

    Bennison admitted he was also concerned about his own future. "Any disturbance in the parish would reflect poorly on my leadership in the parish at that time."

    A letter he wrote in 1979 to Margaret "Maggie" Thompson, John's ex-wife, was introduced in which he asked her not to return to Upland, or St. Mark's Church. He said he sought to "soothe animosities which could cost me my job" and asked her not to call Martha. "Every time you phone Martha all the old wounds are opened. We need to move on," it said.

    Bennison said there was a secret in the parish and that he was trying to manage the secret. "Maggie was an irritant," he said.

    UPDATE: from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
    On the last day of a very unusual trial, Episcopal Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. continued to defend himself against charges that he concealed his brother's sexual abuse of a minor decades ago, saying today that he acted within the standards of the times.

    "As poorly as I handled it," he said, "if I had applied today's protocols then, things might have turned out worse."

    Bennison, now 64, was rector of St. Mark's Parish in Upland, Calif., when his brother John, a parish youth minister, started a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old member of the parish.
    When a judge asked Bennison whether he had been aware then of statutory rape laws, he said he was "not familiar" with the term in the 1970s and "never heard the word minor" used in connection with sexual misconduct in those days.

    Colorado churches help tornado victims

    Although FEMA and insurance companies have been slow to respond to the victims of the tornado that struck Windsor, Colorado, the churches have been quick to see needs and meet them. The Greeley Tribune reports:

    Sarah Delaney with the Episcopal Response Effort from throughout Colorado is spending a week in Windsor. About noon Wednesday, she gets out of a van to give several volunteers sandwiches.

    The group was supposed to go to Juárez, Mexico, like it does every year, but it's dangerous in Juárez this year, plus there are a lot of people in their own backyard who need the help.

    "Even though this is the second phase, there's still so, so, so much to do," Delaney said. The group -- with volunteers from Boulder, Longmont, Loveland and Fort Collins -- is helping the uninsured. "We're cleaning. We're doing whatever we can."

    Delaney is off. There is more to do. Her van is running and her friend is in the car peeking back through the rear as if to say, "Let's go."

    A gray Wednesday in Windsor -- cloudy and windy -- changed suddenly around the noon hour, nearly three weeks after many people's lives changed forever.

    "The sun is coming out," she says.

    Read more here.

    To assist the Windsor, Colorado tornado victims click here for the Diocese of Colorado help site.

    Censorship in the name of religion

    Ekklesia reports that the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum have condemned what they say are the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council's repeated efforts to undermine freedom of expression in the name of protecting religious sensibilities.

    "WAN reminds the UN that the council's proper role is to defend freedom of expression and not to support the censorship of opinion at the request of autocracies," the WAN Board said in a resolution issued during the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum. The 1 to 4 June meetings of the world's newspapers and editors were held in Gothenburg.

    In its resolution condemning actions by the UN Human Rights Council, WAN cited the council's approval of an amendment proposed by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, requiring the council's investigator to "report on instances where the abuse of the right to freedom of expression constitutes an act of racial or religious discrimination".

    WAN said the amendment "goes against the spirit" of the work of the UN Special Rapporteur. It said that amendment will require the rapporteur to investigate abusive expression "rather than focusing on the endemic problem of abusive limits on expression imposed by governments, including many of those on the council".

    Read more at Ekklesia and Ecumenical News International (ENI).

    Finding the Way Home

    The Daily Times, reporting on the Delaware, Maryland and Virginia area relates the work of The Way Home - a program started by St. Martha's Episcopal Church of Bethany Beach, that supports those released from prison.

    Arthur White and Jim Sivley could pass for typical blue-collar workers, their shoulders broad and their hands weathered from years of hard labor.

    In fact, most who passed them on the street probably wouldn't give them a second thought. And that's what they want: To be just like everyone else.

    But in many ways, they're not. Both White and Sivley are convicted felons. Both men spent time in multiple state correctional institutions, both were released on parole, and now both are living under the same roof while they try to adapt to their newfound freedom.

    With the aid of a Georgetown-based group called The Way Home, White and Sivley are working to turn their lives around. The two men are occupants of a transitional home in Millsboro where, through support from their group and each other, they strive to put their past behind them and create a new life for themselves.

    To help former inmates ease back into society, The Way Home reaches out to prisoners.

    The program, which began as a prison bible study program out of St. Martha's Episcopal Church in Bethany Beach, has grown into a private non-profit organization assisting prisoners upon their release.

    According to The Way Home, more than 20,000 inmates are released from Delaware prisons each year. Within three years, half of those released find themselves back in prison. In a 2007 study, the New England Journal of Medicine determined inmates, in their first two weeks after release, are 12 times more likely to die than people of similar age, gender and race. Causes of death are typically related to drug overdoses, cardiovascular diseases, homicide and suicide.

    Read more here.

    Scottish Church reluctant to embrace covenant

    The Scottish Episcopal Church is meeting in its General Synod now. The reports from the first day's business have appeared on its web site, and are summarized on Thinking Anglicans. In their meeting, the Synod expressed a willingness to participate in the design of a possible covenant, but pointedly stopped at saying anything more committal.

    From the report on Thinking Anglicans:

    "The main motion (number 3) before synod was
    That this Synod affirm an ‘in principle’ commitment to the Covenant process at this time (without committing itself to the details of any text).

    This was amended to

    That this Synod affirm an ‘in principle’ commitment to continue to participate actively in discussions regarding the future shape of the Anglican Communion at this time (without necessarily committing itself to the concept of a convenant).

    The amended motion was carried (65 votes for; 56 against)."

    Read the full report and find additional material here.

    Pittsburgh prepares for presentment

    The Diocese of Pittsburgh has moved its yearly Diocesan Convention forward by a month so as to be better positioned to respond to the expected action by the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops following the Lambeth Conference.

    From the Diocesan website:

    "After extensive consultation, and with the consent of the Standing Committee, I am moving the time and place of the 143rd Annual Convention of the Diocese to Saturday, October 4th, 2008, at St. Martin’s Church, Monroeville.

    Registration of clerical and lay deputies will be from 7:30 - 8:30 a.m. The Convention Eucharist will begin at 8:30 a.m. The business session of Convention will begin immediately following the Eucharist. Lunch will be served at midday. It is anticipated that all matters required to come before the Annual Convention will be complete during the afternoon, with adjournment at the completion of said business.

    The date and place of the Annual Convention having been previously set, I am announcing this change under the provisions of Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution of the Diocese. The expressed threat of deposition of the Diocesan Bishop at a September meeting of the House of Bishops is the ‘sufficient cause.’"

    Bishop Duncan asks his people to "keep every aspect of this momentous Convention" in their prayers.

    Mark Harris has a pretty thorough analysis of this action.

    Read Thinking Anglicans' article and subsequent discussion on this news here.

    GAFCON future essay

    The Lead has been passed along an essay entitled "Our Journey Into the Future" that is reportedly to be presented to the Global Anglican Futures Convention (GAFCON) which occurs later this month in Jordan. This is a new document and not the paper published by SPREAD that appeared a few weeks ago.

    The essay attempts to explain why it is that GAFCON has been called, why it is at cross-purposes with other Anglican meetings such as Lambeth, and what the hoped for outcomes might be.

    From the paper:

    Firstly, action must be taken by leaders. The Bishops of the Church are called to uphold her faith. In their relationship to the Spirit and the Holy Scriptures, they are a sign of the unity that God gives to the Church. So GAFCON is a meeting of bishops of the Church, with clergy and laity too, who seek God's way forward in our day, on the firm basis of the truth he has revealed.

    Secondly, action has to be taken in public. The heroes of the faith, mentioned in the letter to the Hebrews, are celebrated for their public actions, not their feelings. Even when filled with fear, they overcame their intellectual and spiritual doubt, they discerned God's presence and will, and they acted on their faith. So GAFCON is, of necessity, a public gathering, because the issue at stake is the possibility of knowing the truth, and of obeying the truth in the public domain.

    ...GAFCON identifies an area of public life today which is challenged to its heart by the gospel of the Lord Jesus. GAFCON is a statement that the truth of God can be known; that it is the gateway to fulfilling and fruitful life for men and women, in marriage or celibacy, and that obedience and witness to that truth cannot be confined to the space or the form that is offered by the powerful.

    GAFCON is seeking to give public and institutional expression to the truth of the gospel in the public ordering of the Church. Far from accepting unlimited diversity and disobedience to the truth, this will mean respecting the order that God has given for authority in his Church and wholesomeness in society.

    UPDATE: The Modern Church blog has a detailed analysis of this essay. Preludium has an analysis here.

    You can read a summary of the paper below.

    Read more »

    Bennison awaits verdict

    Yesterday was the final day of the presentations to the trial court convened to rule on charges of misconduct against Bishop Charles Bennison. The trial concluded with closing arguments and a not unexpected move by the defense to dismiss all charges.

    According to news reports:

    "Two counts against Bp. Bennison concern whether he committed 'conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.' Church prosecutors allege that he failed to protect underage parishioner Martha Alexis from sexual predation by John Bennison, his younger brother, and kept the matter a secret from the girl's parents.

    [...]If the panel of nine priests and bishops finds that Bp. Bennison failed in his priestly duties, he could lose his standing as bishop and face further sentencing. They will issue their ruling within 30 days."

    Read the full article here.

    We have previous coverage of this trial here, here and here.

    Jerry Hames' coverage for Episcopal Life is here.

    Remembering Tim Russert

    Tim Russert, host of Meet the Press and managing editor of NBC News Washington Bureau, passed away yesterday afternoon in an apparent heart attack.

    The tributes are pouring in for this man who was clearly remarkable in his field, but the Boston Globe summarizes his legacy in a way that will resonate with many who have struggled with the divisive nature of politics:

    Russert's death reverberated through the worlds of journalism and politics, two arenas where his passion matched his expertise. His preparation and tenacity on "Meet the Press'' made that show must-viewing inside the Beltway and beyond, and "the Russert Primary'' was considered a test that presidential candidates had to pass to be considered serious contenders.

    Yet however rugged the exchanges, Russert invariably ended with the same gentlemanly refrain: "Thank you for sharing your views.'' Paradoxical though it seemed, Russert was both feared and liked in Washington, where he was NBC's bureau chief. That was reflected in the bipartisan tributes that poured forth today after Russert's death.

    From here.

    The New York Times notes that Russert had become more famous than many of his interviewees:

    Mr. Russert put a definitive stamp on “Meet the Press,” overshadowing hosts who came before him, Martha Rountree, Ned Brooks and Lawrence Spivak, even though they had interviewed figures like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Eleanor Roosevelt.

    If there was any doubt Mr. Russert’s place in the fabric of Washington was without parallel, the way his news was received inside and outside the Capitol should have put it to rest. White House staff members interrupted President Bush while he dined with President Nikolas Sarkozy of France at the Élysée Palace to tell him the news. Mr. Bush quickly issued a statement, along with scores of others, among them Senators Barack Obama and John McCain. In a tribute, NBC planned to devote an hour to Mr. Russert on Friday night, and it gave over its entire “Nightly News” to him. Mr. Russert had become more famous than many of his interviewees. The Web site of The New York Times received more than 2,000 comments about the death.

    From here, and the blog post with all the comments and a lot of commentary added through yesterday afternoon is here.

    He made an appearance every Friday at Washington's WTOP Radio to offer insight on the week in politics and to note the guest scheduled for each week. Always affable, he offered warm Father's Day wishes to listeners this morning, his last on-air spot for the station. He collapsed in his northwest DC office later in the day, and was rushed to the hospital. WTOP has many of the quotes about him in this story, and you can hear this final segment here (direct link to mp3).

    WTOP also interviewed Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington about Russert, for he was a devout Catholic. The audio is not yet available online (and we'll update if it becomes so), but in the interview, Wuerl remembered Russert as a man who lived and acted as he was called to do so by faith, something that Tom Brokaw alluded to when he announced Russert's death as breaking news yesterday afternoon.

    In this interview with Russert by Sally Quinn, from last December, Russert talks about his life in faith:

    Same sex wedding held in London church

    In what is apparently the first public same-sex wedding in the Church of England, two gay priests were married at one of London's oldest church, using a ritual taken substantially from the Book of Common Prayer . The ceremony included marriage vows, exchanging rings, and the Eucharist. The language was slightly edited for use by two men.

    The ceremony for the Rev. Peter Cowell, Priest Vicar at Westminster Abbey, and the Rev. Dr. David Lord was held at The Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great in London.

    See bulletin from the Liturgy here.

    The Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great was a location used in the filming of Four Weddings and a Funeral.

    Designer's fashions are divinely inspired

    Move over, Project Runway. Patrick Boylan has been a fashion designer "his entire adult life," says the Las Vegas Review Journal, but for the past decade or so he's been creating designer vestments from Italian silk damasks and brocades that factor in a priest's tastes, liturgical colors, and the church space they will be worn in.

    The paper covered Boylan's visit to Christ Church Episcopal in Las Vegas to get insight on why a church might want specially designed vestments:

    The Rev. Kent "Buck" Belmore, rector of Christ Church, says people sometimes ask why a church would need custom-designed vestments. It's because, he replies, "these are things of beauty that will last 50 years or more, and they'll be in service to the glory of God for that period of time."

    Boylan started his company, Grace Liturgical Vestments, in the late 90s after burning out on the demands of the fashion industry. Once he started working with vestments, he says:

    "Instantly I knew that this was something that spoke to me creatively," Boylan says. "It tapped into all of my background and abilities and my sense of working with fabric and my work with color."

    Also, Boylan says, "at the end of the day, it's just very profound work, to know that the work of my hands is being used in the way that these vestments are used."

    You can read the story and see some of his work here.

    Male priests marry in Anglican church's first gay 'wedding'


    The Sunday Mail and the Sunday Telegraph have reports on the news broken earlier today on The Lead of the marriage of two male priests.

    The Sunday Telegraph runs this story at the top of its homepage:

    Two male priests exchanged vows and rings in a ceremony that was conducted using one of the church's most traditional wedding rites – a decision seen as blasphemous by conservatives.

    The ceremony broke Church of England guidelines and was carried out last month in defiance of the Bishop of London, in whose diocese it took place. News of the "wedding" emerged days before a crucial summit of the Anglican Church's conservative bishops and archbishops, who are threatening to split the worldwide Church over the issue of homosexual clergy.
    The Most Rev Henry Orombi, the Archbishop of Uganda, said that the ceremony was "blasphemous." He called on Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to take decisive action if the Anglican Church were not to "disintegrate". Archbishop Orombi added: "What really shocks me is that this is happening in the Church of England that first brought the Gospel to us.

    "The leadership tried to deny that this would happen, but now the truth is out. Our respect for the Church of England will erode unless we see a return to traditional teaching."

    The Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester – a powerful conservative figure – said that the service represented a wedding "in all but name". He said: "Strictly speaking it is not a marriage, but the language is clearly modelled on the marriage service and the occasion is modelled on the marriage service. This clearly flouts Church guidelines and will exacerbate divisions within the Anglican Communion."
    The service was held at St Bartholomew the Great in London – one of England's oldest churches, which featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral – and was conducted by the parish rector, the Rev Martin Dudley.

    The couple, the Rev Peter Cowell, who is a cleric at one of the Queen's churches, and the Rev Dr David Lord, had registered their civil partnership before the ceremony.

    In a second article the Telegraph reports,

    Among those celebrating with the couple were some of the Church's most senior clergy, including Canon Robert Wright from Westminster Abbey and chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons.
    A champagne reception was held in the Great Hall of St Bartholomew's Hospital, where Dr Lord, an ordained priest, works as a doctor. It is there they met five years ago.

    And in a third article there is this story in the same paper about the reactions and potential reactions to the event. It includes this: "The Rev Martin Dudley, who presided at the service, is understood to have received a plea from the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, not to offer such a ceremony."

    The Mail says "The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, was not told of the service."

    More from the Mail:

    The pair exchanged vows and rings before 300 guests during a ceremony that was virtually indistinguishable from a traditional church marriage ceremony.

    The service was held in one of London’s best known churches and included Latin verse, trumpet fanfares and rose petal confetti.
    The couple, the Rev Peter Cowell, 50, chaplain at nearby St Bartholomew’s Hospital and a priest-vicar at Westminster Abbey, and the Rev Dr David Lord, an Anglican priest from New Zealand, wore dark suits.

    Each had their own ‘best man’.
    Mr Dudley said he was unrepentant. He said he had written to Bishop Chartres 18 months ago for guidance on blessings for same-sex couples in civil partnerships, but was told the Church’s House of Bishops had not approved them.
    He said he regarded the service as a blessing rather than a marriage and added that he was not worried about discipline because he had acted with integrity.

    See The Lead's earlier coverage of the marriage here, where a copy of the order of service is also to be found.

    Update - Thinking Anglicans brings attention to this from Dudley,

    From the comments on the Telegraph site:
    19. Posted by The Revd Dr Martin Dudley on June 15, 2008 08:54 AM As the Rector of St Bartholomew the Great, who officiated at this service, I would like to add a little clarity to the story.

    First, it was not a wedding or a marriage but the blessing of a civil partnership. Mr Wynne-Jones was well aware of this from his conversation with me today. If others construe it as a wedding, than they do so deliberately in order to ferment division.

    Second, it was not and was [not] intended to be a provocative act. It was not undertaken in defiance of the Bishop of London and there was no plea from him that I should not officiate at the service.

    Third, we should remember that this service celebrated the love that the two persons involved have for each other. I officiated at it because Fr Peter Cowell has been my friend and colleague for many years. 300 people joined in the service; nearly 200 received communion, and there were dozens of other clergy present. It was not a rally or a demonstration. If other people want to turn into a loveless battlefield for the future of the Church of England, then it is they who will carry responsibility for the consequences.

    Should bio-ethics focus on dignity

    The always provocative Steven Pinker takes on the use of "human dignity" as the basis of making bio-ethic decisions:

    This spring, the President's Council on Bioethics released a 555-page report, titled Human Dignity and Bioethics. The Council, created in 2001 by George W. Bush, is a panel of scholars charged with advising the president and exploring policy issues related to the ethics of biomedical innovation, including drugs that would enhance cognition, genetic manipulation of animals or humans, therapies that could extend the lifespan, and embryonic stem cells and so-called "therapeutic cloning" that could furnish replacements for diseased tissue and organs. Advances like these, if translated into freely undertaken treatments, could make millions of people better off and no one worse off. So what's not to like? The advances do not raise the traditional concerns of bioethics, which focuses on potential harm and coercion of patients or research subjects. What, then, are the ethical concerns that call for a presidential council?

    Many people are vaguely disquieted by developments (real or imagined) that could alter minds and bodies in novel ways. Romantics and Greens tend to idealize the natural and demonize technology. Traditionalists and conservatives by temperament distrust radical change. Egalitarians worry about an arms race in enhancement techniques. And anyone is likely to have a "yuck" response when contemplating unprecedented manipulations of our biology. The President's Council has become a forum for the airing of this disquiet, and the concept of "dignity" a rubric for expounding on it. This collection of essays is the culmination of a long effort by the Council to place dignity at the center of bioethics. The general feeling is that, even if a new technology would improve life and health and decrease suffering and waste, it might have to be rejected, or even outlawed, if it affronted human dignity.

    Whatever that is. The problem is that "dignity" is a squishy, subjective notion, hardly up to the heavyweight moral demands assigned to it. The bioethicist Ruth Macklin, who had been fed up with loose talk about dignity intended to squelch research and therapy, threw down the gauntlet in a 2003 editorial, "Dignity Is a Useless Concept." Macklin argued that bioethics has done just fine with the principle of personal autonomy--the idea that, because all humans have the same minimum capacity to suffer, prosper, reason, and choose, no human has the right to impinge on the life, body, or freedom of another. This is why informed consent serves as the bedrock of ethical research and practice, and it clearly rules out the kinds of abuses that led to the birth of bioethics in the first place, such as Mengele's sadistic pseudoexperiments in Nazi Germany and the withholding of treatment to indigent black patients in the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study. Once you recognize the principle of autonomy, Macklin argued, "dignity" adds nothing.

    Pinker goes further than Macklin. "Dognity" does not merely add nothing to the debate; it actually has problems of its own as a concept for ethical decisionmaking:

    First, dignity is relative. One doesn't have to be a scientific or moral relativist to notice that ascriptions of dignity vary radically with the time, place, and beholder. In olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking. We chuckle at the photographs of Victorians in starched collars and wool suits hiking in the woods on a sweltering day, or at the Brahmins and patriarchs of countless societies who consider it beneath their dignity to pick up a dish or play with a child. Thorstein Veblen wrote of a French king who considered it beneath his dignity to move his throne back from the fireplace, and one night roasted to death when his attendant failed to show up. Kass finds other people licking an ice-cream cone to be shamefully undignified; I have no problem with it.

    Second, dignity is fungible. The Council and Vatican treat dignity as a sacred value, never to be compromised. In fact, every one of us voluntarily and repeatedly relinquishes dignity for other goods in life. Getting out of a small car is undignified. Having sex is undignified. Doffing your belt and spread- eagling to allow a security guard to slide a wand up your crotch is undignified. Most pointedly, modern medicine is a gantlet of indignities. Most readers of this article have undergone a pelvic or rectal examination, and many have had the pleasure of a colonoscopy as well. We repeatedly vote with our feet (and other body parts) that dignity is a trivial value, well worth trading off for life, health, and safety.

    Third, dignity can be harmful. In her comments on the Dignity volume, Jean Bethke Elshtain rhetorically asked, "Has anything good ever come from denying or constricting human dignity?" The answer is an emphatic "yes." Every sashed and be-medaled despot reviewing his troops from a lofty platform seeks to command respect through ostentatious displays of dignity. Political and religious repressions are often rationalized as a defense of the dignity of a state, leader, or creed: Just think of the Salman Rushdie fatwa, the Danish cartoon riots, or the British schoolteacher in Sudan who faced flogging and a lynch mob because her class named a teddy bear Mohammed. Indeed, totalitarianism is often the imposition of a leader's conception of dignity on a population, such as the identical uniforms in Maoist China or the burqas of the Taliban.

    Read it all here. So is autonomy the critical concept for our decisions about bioethics? Is it sufficient? Do concepts of "human dignity" have a role? What else should be considered?

    Officiant speaks to media


    The Rev. Peter Cowell and the Rev. Dr. David Lord had formed a civil partnership and that union was blessed says the officiant, the Rev. Martin Dudley about the service at St Bartholomew the Great Church in the City of London last month.

    Yet the formal rites used were based substantially on the Form of Solemnization of Matrimony in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The ceremony included marriage vows, exchanging rings, and the Eucharist. The language was slightly edited for use by two men. See the service here at The Lead.

    The Rev. Martin Dudley was interviewed on the BBC's Sunday. See the BBC's written report here, and audio of the program here (23 minutes in; link to the individual item will added when available; ed.). Dudley is also quoted by the Press Association.

    The BBC's written report says,

    Under Church of England guidance, gay priests can enter civil partnerships as long as they remain celibate.

    Guidance also says that gay couples who ask a priest to bless their partnership must be treated "pastorally and sensitively".


    From a joint statement found here from the Bishop of Bishop of Waikato and the Waikato priest concerned, the Rev. Dr. David Lord: "The New Zealand priest involved has felt it appropriate to lay down his clergy license, in the light of Anglican Communion processes and discussions in the area of same gender Blessings and ordination."

    And from AP: "Church of England spokesman Lou Henderson said the archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Communion’s spiritual leader, was unlikely to make any public comment about the controversy."

    Thanks to Thinking Anglicans for rounding up many of these links.

    The Lead's earlier coverage is here, and here.

    Inconspicuous consumption

    Virginia Postrel has a fascinating column in this month's Atlantic Monthly. she describes research that confirms what many may have noticed already: conspicuous consumption is associated with lower class, not higher class status:

    Writing in the much poorer world of 1899, Veblen argued that people spent lavishly on visible goods to prove that they were prosperous. “The motive is emulation—the stimulus of an invidious comparison which prompts us to outdo those with whom we are in the habit of classing ourselves,” he wrote. Along these lines, the economists hypothesized that visible consumption lets individuals show strangers they aren’t poor. Since strangers tend to lump people together by race, the lower your racial group’s income, the more valuable it is to demonstrate your personal buying power.

    To test this idea, the economists compared the spending patterns of people of the same race in different states—say, blacks in Alabama versus blacks in Massachusetts, or whites in South Carolina versus whites in California. Sure enough, all else being equal (including one’s own income), an individual spent more of his income on visible goods as his racial group’s income went down. African Americans don’t necessarily have different tastes from whites. They’re just poorer, on average. In places where blacks in general have more money, individual black people feel less pressure to prove their wealth.

    The same is true for whites. Controlling for differences in housing costs, an increase of $10,000 in the mean income for white households—about like going from South Carolina to California—leads to a 13 percent decrease in spending on visible goods. “Take a $100,000-a-year person in Alabama and a $100,000 person in Boston,” says Hurst. “The $100,000 person in Alabama does more visible consumption than the $100,000 person in Massachusetts.” That’s why a diamond-crusted Rolex screams “nouveau riche.” It signals that the owner came from a poor group and has something to prove.

    But this doesn't mean that the very rich don't consume. They obviously do, but their consumption is more hidden from public view, and status is determined by something more complex than cash:

    Russ Alan Prince and Lewis Schiff describe a similar pattern in their book, The Middle-Class Millionaire, which analyzes the spending habits of the 8.4million American households whose wealth is self-made and whose net worth, including their home equity, is between $1 million and $10 million. Aside from a penchant for fancy cars, these millionaires devote their luxury dollars mostly to goods and services outsiders can’t see: concierge health care, home renovations, all sorts of personal coaches, and expensive family vacations. They focus less on impressing strangers and more on family- and self-improvement. Even when they invest in traditional luxuries like second homes, jets, or yachts, they prefer fractional ownership. “They’re looking for ownership to be converted into a relationship rather than an asset they have to take care of,” says Schiff. Their primary luxuries are time and attention.

    The shift away from conspicuous consumption—from goods to services and experiences—can also make luxury more exclusive. Anyone with $6,000 can buy a limited-edition Bottega Veneta bag, an elaborately beaded Roberto Cavalli minidress, or a Cartier watch. Or, for the same sum, you can register for the TED conference. That $6,000 ticket entitles you to spend four days in California hearing short talks by brainy innovators, famous (Frank Gehry, Amy Tan, Brian Greene) and not-so-known. You get to mingle with smart, curious people, all of whom have $6,000 to spare. But to go to TED, you need more than cash. The conference directors have to deem you interesting enough to merit one of the 1,450 spots. It’s the intellectual equivalent of a velvet rope.

    Read it all here.

    Consequences for officiant in same-sex marriage?


    The Daily Mail is reporting that the Bishop of London has ordered an inquiry into the circumstances of the same sex marriage ceremony that we reported on here, here, and here:

    A rector faces the sack after becoming the first clergyman to conduct a gay 'marriage' in an Anglican church.

    Reverend Martin Dudley flouted Church of England rules by blessing two homosexual priests in a service that used a traditional wedding liturgy in which the couple exchanged vows and rings.

    Details of the ceremony provoked fury among many senior ministers and fuelled the row over gay clergy which already threatens to tear apart the worldwide Anglican church.

    Last night Bishop of London, the Rt. Rev Richard Chartres, ordered an urgent inquiry into the ceremony, which was held in one of the capital's oldest churches last month.

    He said: 'Services of public blessings for civil partnerships are not authorised in the Church of England or the Diocese of London.

    'I will be asking the Archdeacon of London to investigate what took place.'

    If Rev Dudley is found to have broken church rules he faces potential disciplinary action ranging from a rebuke to dismissal.

    Last night he insisted he had no regrets about the service, saying: 'It seems to me that Jesus would have been sitting in the congregation.'

    Read it all here.


    Here is a round-up of other British press reports on the fall-out from the reports of a same sex marriage ceremony.

    The Daily Telegraph offers this update, which discusses both the reaction of the Bishop of London and the reaction from those atrending Gafcon:

    The Bishop of London has launched an investigation into the gay 'wedding'.

    In a statement, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres said: "Services of public blessings for civil partnerships are not authorised in the Church of England or the Diocese of London.

    "I will be asking the Archdeacon of London to investigate what took place at the church of St Bartholomew the Great."

    . . .

    But Dr Dudley, who describes himself as "robustly heterosexual," told the Daily Telegraph he was unworried by the investigation: "I am not bothered about the 'rules' because they are only guidelines.

    "This was a personal response to someone who is a friend. Peter and I have known each other for many years and given that this was two priests entering into a civil partnership there was a question of what kind of ceremony to hold.

    "They wanted to go much further than I wanted but we worked on a text between us that was appropriate and expressed their sense of commitment. This was new territory because no one else has produced a text of this kind but I am quite clear this was not a marriage ceremony."

    . . .

    The news of the first church ceremony for a homosexual couple means they are now more likely than ever to claim the Communion has been irreversibly split. Some traditionalists may even say they must formally sever links with the Archbishop of Canterbury and form a new "orthodox" church.

    Canon Chris Sugden, one of the organizers of "Gafcon", said: "The timing is presumably deliberate. The hopes that some have that this movement might be stopped in its tracks as a solution to the crisis will clearly not come about."

    The Reverend David Banting, chairman of the group Reform, said: "There are bound to be consequences. It is very difficult to exercise discipline in the Church of England because things have gone such a long way down this sort of track. But yes, I would expect there to be consequences," he said.

    Read it all here. Ruth Gledhill cover the story here, and also offers this comment on her blog:

    What is there not to like in the service of blessing billed as the Church of England's first gay 'marriage' between two clergy? All the links are on Thinking Anglicans. A commentator says there that he has been to many similar services over the past 30 years, and I also have understood it to be happening regularly. But Episcopal Cafe has the order of service. And it is the Prayer Book language used here that is particularly appealing and also, perhaps, provocative. If the liberal movement had from the start couched its reforms in the language of tradition rather than modernity, the ecclesiological landscape facing us now might indeed be very different. Everything, as they should have known from the start, is in the Word.

    The Daily Echo has this reaction from the Rt. Reverend Michael Scott-Joynt , Bishop of Winchester:

    Rt Reverend Michael Scott-Joynt was speaking after it was revealed that Reverend Peter Cowell and the Rev Dr David Lord exchanged vows at St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London.

    He said: "Strictly speaking it is not a marriage, but he marriage is clearly modelled on the marriage service and the occasion is modelled on the marriage service. This clearly flouts Church guidelines and will exacerbate divisions within the Anglican Communion."

    The Bishop then called on the Bichop of London to take action.

    Rt Rev Scott-Joynt, one of the leading Anglican bishops, added: Can we stand for the clear teachng of the Church of England or are we powerless in the face of of these actions, which I regret enormously have taken place."

    Read it all here.

    Christian theology and alien life

    Wired has an interesting exploration of the implications of alien life on Christian theology. In particular, what would the discovery of intelligent alien life mean for such concepts as the Incarnation and the Great Commission:

    Little green men might shock the secular public. But the Catholic Church would welcome them as brothers.

    That's what Vatican chief astronomer and papal science adviser Gabriel Funes explained in a recent article in L'Osservatore Romano, the newsletter of the Vatican Observatory (translated here). His conclusion might surprise nonbelievers. After all, isn't this the same church that imprisoned Galileo for saying that the Earth revolves around the sun? Doesn't the Bible say that God created man -- not little green men -- in his image?

    Indeed, many observers assert that aliens would be bad for believers. Jill Tarter, director of the Center for SETI Research, once wrote that finding intelligent other-worldly life "will be inconsistent with the existence of God or at least organized religions." But such predictions tend to come from outside Christianity. From within, theologians have debated the implications of alien contact for centuries. And if one already believes in angels, no great leap of faith is required to accept the possibility of other extraterrestrial intelligences.

    Since God created the universe, theologians say, he would have created aliens, too. And far from being weakened by contact, Christianity would adapt. Its doctrines would be interpreted anew, the aliens greeted with open -- and not necessarily Bible-bearing -- arms.

    "The main question is, 'Would religion survive this contact?'" said NASA chief historian Steven J. Dick, author of The Biological Universe. "Religion hasn't gone away after Copernican theory, after Darwin. They've found ways to adapt, and they'll find a way if this happens, too," Dick says.

    The central conundrum posed to Christianity by alien contact would involve the Incarnation -- the arrival of Jesus Christ as God's representative on Earth, his crucifixion and the absolution of humanity's sins through his forgiveness.

    "It would still be true -- but if there are other races and intelligences, then what is the meaning of this visit to our race at that time?" asked Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno, who in 2005 penned the booklet Intelligent Life in the Universe?

    Some propose that the Earthly incarnation of Jesus some 2,000 years ago redeemed all intelligent creatures, in all places and -- since a space-faring race is likely older than us -- in all times. Others have suggested that Jesus could take multiple forms.

    "Just as Jesus is human like you and I, you would find an alien-specific Jesus," said Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary professor Ted Peters.

    But Peters and others also say that aliens may not have fallen into sin, instead existing in a state of grace, neither having nor needing Jesus. In that case, missionaries would have no call to convert them.

    . . .

    "If there are aliens, the Bible specifically does not say that they were created in his image," said Mark Conn, pastor of the Noble Hill Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri. "God created many other intelligent beings on this planet, and they were not created in His image."

    Conn's church recently met to discuss the issues posed by extraterrestrial contact, ultimately deciding that "if they're there, they're there. It doesn't change a whole lot."

    Unlike Peters, Conn suggested that missionary work may be required, something the aliens may not welcome -- especially if, as many postulate, they are technologically superior to humanity and do not have religions of their own.

    "Maybe they'll say that they used to need religion but have outgrown it. Some people say that would be a great blow to religion, because if an advanced civilization doesn't need it, why do we?" said Douglas Vakoch, director of interstellar message composition at SETI.

    "I don't buy it, though. I think religion meets very human needs, and unless extraterrestrials can provide a replacement for it, I don't think religion is going to go away," he continued. "And if there are incredibly advanced civilizations with a belief in God, I don't think Richard Dawkins will start believing."

    Read it all here.

    "Taking the soup."

    Jimmy Doyle gives testimony in a Newsweek "My Turn" column about his coming to the Episcopal Church so that he may follow Jesus as the gay man he is.

    He writes:

    In October 2005 I took the soup. To an Irish Catholic, "taking the soup" means going to the other side, turning Protestant. During the famine years, one could get a bowl of soup if one sat through a Protestant service, which meant automatic excommunication in those pre-ecumenical days. So the slang was born, implying desertion of the One True Church in order to make life easier.

    I suppose what I took wasn't soup, but it was comfort. I took a life steeped in the mystery and rhythm of the church along with what I hoped was a life with the integrity of being an open, practicing gay man. When I turned to the Episcopal Church, I saw a Christianity that was alive and evolving, one that delighted in difference and saw God's creation in many things, including women and openly gay men serving as priests and bishops. I saw a chance to get past the separation and sanctimony of the more vocal Christian presence in American society, and a challenge to get to the more nuanced and tricky teachings of Christ—loving your neighbor and all that. I hoped to live and worship as I was created, not as I was condemned. And so I took catechism at St. Thomas the Apostle, where the smells and bells made me feel at home, although the challenges of parish life made me want to sleep some Sundays. After six months of classes in the teachings of the Anglican faith, I was "received" into the communion in a high mass attended by friends and my partner, with not a dry eye in the house. The healing I felt as I stood before the assistant bishop and reaffirmed my faith was, without a doubt, of the Spirit.

    Faith is, in and of itself, full of strangeness and coincidence. In my more self-pitying moods, I wish I weren't so hungry for God, so greedy for meaning. I wish I could be "spiritual but not religious," thereby bypassing early Sunday rising and the challenges of community. I could stay home, not have to be a part of anyone's club, not have to deal with any idiosyncratic behavior, anyone's out-of-tune singing, anyone's kiss of peace laden with flu germs, anyone's behavior that keeps me from my high-flown aspirations and the saintly life and eventual Oprah tribute I just know is in me.

    Read: Newsweek: Let me worship as I am.

    Misson Priorities

    Episcopal Life Online reports that Executive Council, meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, proposed mission priorities for the 2010-2012 triennium.

    Executive Council Resolution 017 proposes five priorities to guide the work of PB&F [General Convention's Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance]:

    * Doing Justice and Alleviating Poverty;
    * Claiming Our Identity;
    * Growing Congregations;
    * Strengthening Governance and Foundations for Mission; and
    * Promoting Anglican Partnerships.

    Proposing the mission priorities is part of an on-going process that culminates in the General Convention passing a budget for the upcoming triennium. Council proposes a triennial budget PB&F, which presents a triennial budget for General Convention's approval. The process for developing a budget to propose to the 76th General Convention, which meets in July 2009 in Anaheim, California, is significantly different that that used for previous budgets.

    The budget priorities Council approved June 15 arose from a process begun at the Council's March 2007 meeting in Portland, Oregon, when Resolution AF020 called for a task force to evaluate Council's role and participation in the process of preparing a proposed triennial budget and recommend ways for Council's four standing committees to have "meaningful input into the process."

    Based on that task force's suggestions, Council passed Resolution AF031 in June 2007 calling for a budget committee to oversee Council's preparation of a proposed budget. The resolution also called for each Council standing committee to "assess the needs and opportunities facing the ministry areas under that Committee's oversight" and "to identify the key goals and mission priorities for such ministry areas for the 2010-2012 Triennium." That work is what resulted in Resolution EC017.

    Budget Committee chair Josephine Hicks told Council that the next step is for the Church Center's management team to gather budget proposals based on these priorities from Church Center staff and the church's committees, commissions, agencies and boards (CCABs).

    PB&F chair Pan Adams, who sits in on Council's Administration and Finance Committee meetings, told ENS that the entire process is aimed at developing a proposed 2010-2012 budget that "expresses the mission of the church."

    "What we're trying to do is show the church how the dollars spent directly effect the people in the pews," she said.

    Adams also said that the process will allow Episcopalians to comment on the budget at key points leading up and including the budget hearings in Anaheim.

    Read the rest here.

    New York on the St. Andrew's Draft

    The General Convention deputation from the Diocese of New York looks closely at the St. Andrew's Draft of a proposed Anglican Covenant and find that while there are some improvements but that in the end the Draft focuses on the possibility of division by providing for mechanisms for departure should there be any disagreement between member churches of the Communion.

    Section Three begins well, charting out, in an essentially non-controversial manner, the collaborative and consultative structures that have evolved, and are currently in place, in the Anglican Communion. It is only with paragraph 3.2.5 that we begin to hear about threats to the unity so well established throughout the rest of the document. If unity derives from Christ, how is Christ divided? If unity is found in our mission, how is unity challenged if the mission continues to be carried out?

    Section Three defines our present difficulties rather than actually solving them: What are we to do when a minority of provinces in the communion disagrees with the majority? The ultimate answer offered by this draft, soft-pedal it as much as one likes, is excision — the very thing one would have thought impossible if the communion truly were based in Christ, who is not, and cannot be, divided. This draft continues in the mode of a pre-nuptial agreement rather than a covenant of irrevocable commitment.

    Thus the primary difficulty with this covenant lies in providing for the dissolution of the very communion it seeks to preserve. It is therefore our recommendation that the appendix and section 3.2.5 (and its subsections) be deleted. What remains would then be worthy of the name “Covenant” — a promise to remain together, united in Spirit and in Mission come what may.

    Read the rest on Fr. Tobias Haller's blog.

    Dudley is the freeholder of St Bartholomew's


    We've raised the question of what consequences there might be for the Rev. Martin Dudley, the officiant at he calls the blessing of "a ceremony ... [with] knobs on" that followed the civil partnership of two men last month.

    The Guardian's religion reporter Riazat Butt writes:

    Dudley is the freeholder of St Bartholomew's, making it virtually impossible for him to be ousted. But he could face procedures which would involve someone proving there had been an irrevocable pastoral breakdown or that Dudley had acted in a manner unbecoming of a clergyman of the Church of England.

    Read it all here.


    Evening Standard -

    Rev Martin Dudley was unequivocal. "You can't sack me because you don't employ me. As the rector of St Bartholomew the Great, I own the church, I own the freehold, not in the sense that I can sell it, but in the sense that it gives me tenure."

    Speaking to the Evening Standard last night as he stood by the Thames waiting to meet his friend, the Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, Dr Dudley, 54, was not just content to hide behind the arcane, ancient medieval law - known as Parson's freehold - that prevents him being fired except in "extreme cases of wrongdoing".

    Read it all. He is, as the saying goes, no stranger to controversy.

    Integrity launches a one-stop gateway for Lambeth news

    IntegrityUSA announces a "one-stop" online gateway for news and other information related to the witness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Anglicans in Canterbury, England, this summer.

    On the portal you will find

    Official Conference Information
    Anglican & Other Christian LGBT Organizations Present At Lambeth
    LGBT & Allied Blogs Covering Lambeth
    LGBT Events Before & During Lambeth
    Documentaries Being Shown During Lambeth
    Books Being Discussed During Lambeth
    LGBT Stalls At Lambeth Marketplace
    News Feeds
    Lambeth Projects

    More content will be posted before and during the conference.

    Read more here.

    Will the real Diocese of Pittsburgh please stand up?

    The Bishop of Pittsburgh, Robert Duncan, has registered a new nonprofit Pennsylvania corporation named “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh," apparently so that he can claim that he is the rightful leader of the diocese in the event that he is deposed by the House of Bishops.

    The Rev. Harold Lewis, writing in the newsletter of Calvary Church, Pittsburgh, suspects that new corporation is a part of a plan to claim Episcopal Church property as part of “realignment.”

    Lionel Deimel writes in his blog:

    In any case, the move by the bishop was, until very recently, not known to any members of the Board of Trustees or Diocesan Council, as far as I can tell. The bishop is said to have been advised by his chancellor to file the incorporation to protect diocesan property. (The stated purpose of the new corporation is “[u]pholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.”)

    For historical reasons that I do not pretend to understand, the Diocese of Pittsburgh has existed for all of his history as an unincorporated entity and has, from all I can tell, been none the worse for wear as a result. (The Board of Trustees of the diocese, on the other hand, is explicitly incorporated.) So why is “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh” now being incorporated? Presumably, it is to give the bishop, who is likely to be deposed by The Episcopal Church before he can “realign” the diocese, a better claim to be the legitimate leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

    It has long been clear that Duncan subscribes to the legal theory that The Episcopal Church is a voluntary federation of dioceses. According to this theory, a diocese can, at any time, choose to leave the federation. Here is not the place to explain why this notion is demented, but I invite the reader to think of the relationship of South Carolina to the United States before the Civil War. In any case, it is clear that the good bishop thinks that he can remove the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh from its parent church and have it still be the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. (See “Frequently Asked Questions About Realignment.”) Presumably, he will claim that the preëxisting diocese is the one being incorporated, and that he is in control of it. Although I am not a lawyer, I suspect that this is a stretch.

    More importantly, the incorporation may largely be irrelevant. In Calvary’s lawsuit, an agreement was reached concerning ownership of diocesan property and the procedures by which property might be alienated from the diocese. In that agreement, “Diocese” is defined as “the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America.” It is unclear how “Diocese” in that agreement could possibly refer to any entity, by whatever name, that is not in The Episcopal Church. “Realignment,” however, by definition, requires the removal of the diocese from The Episcopal Church. (For more information about the stipulation in the Calvary lawsuit, see question 4 in Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh’s “Realignment Reconsidered.”)

    Read: Agape: "What's in a name?"

    See also: Lionel Deimel "Which Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh?"

    And Pittsburgh Update here.

    President and Mrs. Bush attend Episcopal Cathedral in Paris

    The AP writes that President Bush, on what is likely his last trip to Europe as president, is learning how to see the sights in a way that only the most powerful person on the planet can see it.

    His Vatican visit on Friday featured a few rarities - a walk through the lush grounds where Pope Benedict XVI likes to pray privately and a personal guided tour of St. John's Tower from the pope. "Fantastic," Bush gushed.

    On Saturday while in Paris, Bush went to a high hill overlooking the city to spend time at two lovely, sun-splashed parks commemorating American and French war dead. His route took him up the Champs-Elysees, around the imposing Arc de Triomphe and through the enormous Bois de Boulogne park.

    Sunday offered one sight after another.

    Waking up in Paris, Bush ventured through the city's almost-empty early-morning streets to the Parc de St. Cloud, a former French estate on a green, wooded hillside, where he rode his beloved bike for about an hour. He went to church at the American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, an Episcopal-Anglican church in the gothic style near the Eiffel Tower, calling the experience a joy afterward.

    See: AP & The Dallas News: Bush soaks in Europe like only a President can.

    Student Christian Movement offices raided

    Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, continues to arrest Christian leaders from many traditions and disrupt Christian organizations as his country prepares for the June 27 presidential runoff.

    According to Ecumenical News International, the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe has drawn the president's ire.

    Zimbabwe police and security forces have raided the Harare offices of several Christian groups, arresting the general secretary of the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe and other officers and staff.

    The student Christian group accused the government of President Robert Mugabe of "declaring war against its own people", in a statement following the 9 June 2008 raid in which its general secretary Prosper Munatsi was taken in by police.

    In the 10 June statement, it said heavily armed members of the police, central intelligence and military units had swooped on the Ecumenical Centre in Harare, which houses the offices of several Christian organizations, including the SCMZ and the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance.

    "In the process police ransacked the SCMZ offices and confiscated computers, laptops, digital cameras, and a minibus," it stated. Those arrested from the SCMZ, besides Munatsi, were Sandra Dzvete, an office intern; Langelihle Manyani, the group's vice-chairperson; Matsiliso Moyo, the gender secretary, and her seven month old baby; and Precious Chinanda, the finance and administration officer. Four staff of the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance were also reported to have been taken in by police, as was a member of the Ecumenical Support Services.

    "The movement sees this as a move to incapacitate the movement since it has been fully geared towards sensitising Christian students and youth on their rights and responsibilities in the face of a break or make presidential runoff pencilled in for 27 June 2008," stated the SCMZ, which is a national section of the Geneva-based World Student Christian Federation.

    Read the rest.

    Williams and Sentamu release statement on wedding

    Joint statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York regarding St Bartholomew-the-Great

    Tuesday 17 June 2008

    “We have heard the reports of the recent service in St Bartholomew the Great with very great concern. We cannot comment on the specific circumstances because they are the subject of an investigation launched by the Bishop of London.

    On the general issue, however, the various reference points for the Church of England’s approach to human sexuality (1987 Synod motion, 1991 Bishops’ Statement- Issues in Human Sexuality- , Lambeth motion 1:10, House of Bishops’ 2005 statement on civil partnerships) are well known and remain current.

    Those clergy who disagree with the Church’s teaching are at liberty to seek to persuade others within the Church of the reasons why they believe, in the light of Scripture, tradition and reason that it should be changed. But they are not at liberty simply to disregard it.”

    The question would seem to be: Or else what?

    Mainstream media reports:

    The Telegraph




    UPDATE: The rector of St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London, in the eye of storm over gay 'marriage', explains why he decided he must bless a gay relationship here.

    ...on a day late in 2007 when my friend and colleague Peter Cowell asked me to bless the civil partnership that he was to contract with David Lord in May this year I was ready to answer “yes”. I did so not to provoke the so-called traditionalists and to deliberately disregard the guidelines published by the English House of Bishops, not to defy the Bishop of London, whose sagacity I respect, or Archbishop Rowan, who I have known and admired for 25 years, but because to respond in any other way would have been a negation of everything I believe, of everything that makes me who I am, as a man and as a priest.

    We were in unchartered territory, seeking to find the words that would express the love of Peter and David and their commitment to each other. New words could not carry the burden and we turned to the old, to words shaped by centuries of use, redolent with meaning.

    Read it all here

    Ruth Gledhill of The Times, UK, comments here

    Executive Council receives proposed revisions to disciplinary canons

    Steve Hutchinson, chancellor of the Diocese of Utah and chair of the Title IV Task Force II, which is charged with revising the Episcopal Church's rules on ecclesiastical discipline, gave the Executive Council an overview of the changes proposed for action at General Convention 2009.

    Episcopal Life Online reports that the task force has already proposed a draft for comment. It plans to use those comments to fine-tune the proposed revision and offer a final draft to the 76th General Convention in June 2009.

    More information about the revision process, including the proposed changes to Title IV and other related canons, is here. The changes refer primarily to clergy discipline, but the task force has also proposed an addition to Title I, which would apply to lay leaders.

    Hutchinson told the Council that the aim of the Title IV revision is "to try to find a model that will well serve the church and is easily understood." He said the task force's challenge is "to seek a fair balance" from the comments received during the first attempt to revise Title IV during the 75th General Convention in June 2006 and those made on the current proposed draft. He said the new proposal is rooted in the Baptismal Covenant and the need for accountability and responsibility, as well as healing and reconciliation.

    He led the Council through a PowerPoint presentation of how a disciplinary case would work its way through the proposed system.

    During a question-and-answer period, Sally Johnson, a consultant to the task force, said that a "fundamental shift" in the proposed revision is that the person accused of misconduct would have to tell their side of the story, something that is not required in the current Title IV. Refusing to do so can used to infer guilt, she said. Hutchinson noted that other professional-conduct models also required the accused to respond to accusations.

    The emphasis on "truth-telling" may well lead to earlier and better settlements of complaints and possibly reduced costs, Johnson said.

    Read more on Executive Council's meeting here.

    2000 year old seed from Masada sprouts

    USAToday reports a seed recovered from Masada continues to grow and thrive.

    The little tree was sprouted in 2005 from a seed recovered from Masada, where rebelling Jews committed suicide rather than surrender to Roman attackers.

    Radiocarbon dating of seed fragments clinging to its root, as well as other seeds found with it that didn't sprout, indicate they were about 2,000 years old -- the oldest seed known to have been sprouted and grown.

    Just over three years old and about four-feet tall, Methuselah is growing well. "It's lovely," Dr. Sarah Sallon said of the date palm, whose parents may have provided food for the besieged Jews at Masada some 2,000 years ago.

    HT to Grandmere Mimi at Wounded Bird.

    The environment and the Lambeth Conference

    Phyllis Strupp, Chair, Nature and Spirituality Program, Episcopal Diocese of Arizona, and Leader, Episcopal Ecological Network writes about the impact of the Lambeth Conference on the environment and what environmental outcomes could emerge from the meeting.

    The Nature of Lambeth

    Q. What do the Neanderthals, Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Normans, English, and the Anglican Communion have in common?

    A. A predilection for Canterbury, England!

    Site of the upcoming Lambeth Conference, Canterbury is located in the county of Kent in southeastern England. It is a place of chalk and sand, clay and coal, yew and heath, orchid and bluebell, turtle dove and mallard, dormouse and hedgehog. A land flowing with milk and honey. It is a place of harm, homelessness, starvation and genus-cide for non-human species. A land like any other in the "civilized" world.

    Strupp writes: "Thousands will descend there in July for the Lambeth Conference, a time of chats and parties, sharing and discussion, and a tea party with the Queen." She asks: "What Communion is there without the rest of Creation?"

    Lambeth comes at a great cost in terms of time, money, spiritual energy, and greenhouse gas emissions. The cost is an easier one to bear for Anglican attendees than it is for the rest of Creation. Yet it is a justifiable cost if something good comes out of Lambeth for the Earth and all the creatures God has breathed into this biosphere.

    What could happen at Lambeth to help the Earth?
    Reconnect with the beauty and generativity of Creation at Canterbury:
    here and here.

    Some ideas for consideration at the Lambeth Conference:

    Model the change the world needs to see on consumption.

    Consume less meat, water, gas, electricity, and human spirit.

    Bring a Creation-honoring perspective to the discussions.

    Does gender preference matter in the midst of flood and famine?

    Begin a Creation Reconciliation Commission to acknowledge the harm done to Creation.

    Confess the things done and the things left undone.

    Take steps to ensure that the next Lambeth Conference will be greener than this one.

    Are we doing all we can to lend a helping hand to the Creation?

    What happens at Canterbury does not stay at Canterbury.

    May the outcome be something worth celebrating in Heaven and Earth!

    The creation waits with eager longing for the children of God to be revealed.
    Romans 8:19

    Episcopal Relief and Development helps Iowa

    Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) is providing emergency assistance to communities devastated by ongoing flooding in Iowa. So far the flood waters are responsible for the deaths of five people, the displacement of 38,000 others and have inflicted up to $1 billion in damage to Iowa's agricultural sector.

    The damage to infrastructure is severe. Across eastern Iowa, the flooding rivers have washed out railroad lines, halted barge traffic on the Mississippi River and closed major roadways. Twenty-four counties have been declared disaster areas to date.

    More rain is expected in the region and officials fear that flood waters will breech 27 levees along the Mississippi River in Iowa and Missouri later this week.

    Working with its partner the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, ERD is providing emergency assistance to people who have been displaced from their homes. Families will be given temporary shelter and provided with food, clothing, first aid and other basic necessities.

    If you want to help Iowa go to ERD and click Disaster Response - Midwest Floods.

    Bishop of London writes Dudley


    Via Thinking Anglicans:

    18th June 2008

    The Reverend Dr Martin Dudley,
    St Bartholomew the Great Parish Office,
    6 Kinghorn Street,
    EC1A 7HW.

    Dear Martin,

    You have sought to justify your actions to the BBC and in various newspapers but have failed more than two weeks after the service to communicate with me.

    I read in the press that you had been planning this event since November. I find it astonishing that you did not take the opportunity to consult your Bishop.

    You describe the result as “familiar words reordered and reconfigured carrying new meanings.” I note that the order of service, which I have now received, includes the phrase “With this ring I thee bind, with my body I thee worship”.

    At first sight this seems to break the House of Bishops Guidelines which as I explained in my letter of December 6th 2005 apply the traditional teaching of the Church of England to the new circumstances created by the enactment of Civil Partnerships.

    The point at issue is not Civil Partnerships themselves or the relation of biblical teaching to homosexual practice. There is of course a range of opinion on these matters in the Church and, as you know, homophobia is not tolerated in the Diocese of London. The real issue is whether you wilfully defied the discipline of the Church and broke your oath of canonical obedience to your Bishop.

    The Archbishops have already issued a statement in which they say that “those clergy who disagree with the Church’s teaching are at liberty to seek to persuade others within the Church of the reasons why they believe, in the light of Scripture, tradition and reason that it should be changed. But they are not at liberty simply to disregard it.”

    St Bartholomew’s is not a personal fiefdom. You serve there as an ordained minister of the Church of England, under the authority of the Canons and as someone who enjoys my licence. I have already asked the Archdeacon of London to commence the investigation and I shall be referring the matter to the Chancellor of the Diocese. Before I do this, I am giving you an opportunity to make representations to me direct.

    Yours faithfully.

    The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Richard Chartres DD FSA

    Thinking Anglican provides the PDF original and more.

    Ruth Gledhill says,

    Yes, it is the case that the Bishop of London has asked the Archdeacon of London to investigate. But I don't think Bart's Rector, Fr Martin Dudley, will be too worried. The Archdeacon was an honoured guest at his recent birthday party, and the two are great friends.
    As the Guardian reported on Monday,
    Nigel Seed, a church lawyer, said there was no prohibition on having a service after a civil partnership, provided it was not contrary to church doctrine.

    "If you do not purport it to be a service of blessing there is nothing to stop couples from having prayers, hymns or a service of prayer and dedication," he said.

    Seed is Chancellor and Vicar General of the Diocese of London.

    In the same Guardian article Dudley is quoted: "Nor is it the first time there have been prayers, hymns or readings following a civil partnership. It may be that this ceremony had rather more knobs on. It may also be the only one we know about."

    As pointed out in an earlier post at The Lead, as the freeholder at St. Bart's, Dudley has tenure in his position. It may also be relevant to note that there are certain civil protections in UK from dismissal that apply even to the church. See this recent example.

    Wednesday evening update - Thinking Anglicans has a roundup of mainstream media coverage of the Chartes letter.

    Gay marriage isn't about culture wars or church politics

    Giles Fraser on BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day:

    Back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as the Book of Common Prayer was being put together, marriage was said to be for three purposes:

    First, It was ordained for the procreation of children
    Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication
    Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

    How do these three concerns relate to the prospect of gay marriage? The third priority insists that marriage is designed to bring human beings into loving and supportive relationships. Surely no one can deny that homosexual men and women are in as much need of loving and supportive relationships as anybody else. And equally deserving of them too. This one seems pretty clear. The second priority relates to the encouragement of monogamy. The Archbishop of Canterbury himself has rightly recognised that celibacy is a vocation to which many gay people are simply not called. Which is why, it strikes me, the church ought to be offering gay people a basis for monogamous relationships that are permanent, faithful and stable.

    Read it all here.Or listen here.

    Thought for the Day is a regular part of the religion programming at BBC Radio 4. Check it out here.

    Pastoral letter from Zimbabwe

    Anglican-Information issues a pastoral letter from the Rt. Rev. Sebastian Bakare, who replaced the "renegade, pro-Robert Mugabe, Nolbert Kunonga as the official Anglican Province of Central Africa Bishop of Harare." The letter details the suffering, offers encouragement to Anglicans in Zimbabwe, and thanks those who have come to visit and those who have offered support and prayers around the Anglican Communion.

    We are daily receiving reports from Zimbabwe, so many that we can hardly keep up, but they all speak of violence, intimidation, coercion and fraud on the part of the Mugabe regime directed against any who would disagree with them, not least the Anglican Church and its clergy and people.

    We have the highest regard for all those bishops, priests and people of the Central African Province in Zimbabwe who at this terrible time are working hard to be true to the Gospel of Truth and to oppose the tyrannies of the current regime.

    Bishop Bakare writes:

    In Zimbabwe today falsehood has almost become a national disease. Some newspapers and electronic media thrive on spreading falsehoods. They twist the truth for falsehood. All forms of persecution – torture, killings, arrests are done by those for whom falsehood has become a doctrine that keeps them to sustain their status quo...

    Persecution meted against the powerless has existed as long as human beings have been around. It causes untold material loss and human suffering. No one chooses or wishes to suffer....

    The sight of helmeted riot police in front of our churches preventing the faithful from praying will go down as a shameful chapter in the history of our country which considers itself to be Christian. After all it is carried out by people who themselves are members of various denominations....

    We could not celebrate our annual Bernard Mizeki festival (N.B. Mizeki was a 19th century Anglican Catechist and Martyr in what is now Mozambique and Zimbabwe – feast day 18th June) this year because some former members of our church under the leadership of Kunonga made sure we could not get near the shrine for the whole of June. This was not because they have devotion or love for Bernard Mizeki, to the contrary. We are, however, grateful to the Bishop of Lebombo in Mozambique who provided an alternative venue at Bernard Mizeki's Church, Chimoio where some of our pilgrims were able to go and join our sisters and brothers there in commemorating Bernard Mizeki Day. ...

    The good news is that we continue to be supported and prayed for by many parts of the Anglican Communion. Apart from a message of solidarity and prayers from the Archbishop of Canterbury, we had three visitors in the past month, namely:

    The Bishop of Massachusetts, Tom Shaw, sent by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America
    The Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba
    The Bishop of Tonbridge from the Diocese of Rochester.

    All came to stand by us and have first hand experience of what we are going through in this Diocese. The presence of these brother bishops in our midst made us feel connected with the wider Anglican Communion and indeed the body of Christ. We would like to thank many of our brothers and sisters beyond our national boundaries who are holding us in their prayers and enable us to carry on with our mission to witness to the gospel of Christ. ...

    The whole letter can be read below:

    Read more »

    GAFCON embarrassment: Akinola denied entry to Jordan

    Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria has been denied entry to Jordan. This is an embarrassing beginning to the GAFCON conference of conservative Anglicans who now plan to leave Jordan for Jerusalem three days early.

    The GAFCON planners have issued a press release saying that the archbishop flew into Tel Aviv, but was not allowed to cross into Jordan because "previously granted permission was deemed insufficient." The Jordanians apparently told Akinola that he needed clearances beyond those afforded by his diplomatic passport.

    Readers of the Café will remember that Akinola, a fierce critic of Islam, has refused to answer questions about his knowledge of, or involvement in, the retributive massacre of some 700 Muslim in the town of Yelwa in northern Nigeria in 2004.

    The massacre was carried out by a para-militia wearing clothing associating it with the Christian Association of Nigeria of which Akinola was then president. When asked about the massacre by Eliza Griswold, who wrote The Atlantic's story, Akinola refused to comment. He has since ignored requests for clarification.

    Ruth Gledhill broke the story that Akinola was turned away from Jordan. Her story is here and here. Someone close to the power that be behind GAFCON also confirms the story. The GAFCON version of this turn of events is here. A portion:

    Hotel and meeting rooms previously unavailable in Jerusalem became available at the same time GAFCON leaders learned that previously granted permission for the Jordan consultation was deemed insufficient.

    The time in Jordan was very valuable for prayer, fellowship, and networking. The group made pilgrimages to Mt. Nebo and the Baptism Site of Jesus. GAFCON Chairman Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, and Archbishop Greg Venables of Southern Cone, were for different reasons unable to be in Jordan. Both are, however, expected to play significant roles at GAFCON in Jerusalem.

    GAFCON book, The Way, The Truth and the Life, will be released on Thursday, 19th June, in Jerusalem.

    The Café also has learned that the "book" prepared for the GAFCON conference is actually the same document that was passed to us last week. We posted a summary on June 13. Here is a pdf copy of the "book."

    Bishop Smith, blogger

    The Rt. Rev. Kirk Smith, bishop of the Diocese of Arizona will be reporting from the Lambeth Conference via his new blog Lambeth Daily.

    According to his welcome message:

    Bishop Smith and Laura will be traveling to the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury England from July 10 to August 4, 2008. This blog has been created to communicate with the folks back home in the Diocese of Arizona about what is happening day to day at the Conference.

    Check each evening starting in July for a daily update as well as pictures and videos!

    The blog will become more active once Bishop Smith goes to England. In the meantime he is posting some background information.

    Read it here.

    Other bishops' blogs may also have comments and insights into their lives at Lambeth.

    Christopher Epting, Episcopal Church Ecumenical Officer.
    Charles Jenkins, Louisiana.
    George Councell, New Jersey.
    Mike Hill, Bishop of Bristol.
    Robert Duncan, Pittsburgh
    Dorsey Henderson, Upper South Carolina.
    Marc Andrus, California.
    David Chillingworth, Bishop of St. Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunbane.
    George Packard, Suffragan for Chaplaincies.
    Peter J. Lee, Virginia.
    James Stanton, Dallas.
    Province of Brazil
    Larry Benfield, Arkansas
    Andrew Doyle, Texas.
    Carol Gallagher, assisting in North Dakota.
    Pierre Whalon, Episcopal Churches in Europe.

    If your bishop has a blog - add it in the comments.

    You were worse than we are

    A young person defends the moral fitness of young people in an intriguing post that is more explict than our usual fare.

    I am sick of hearing Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers complain about a perceived cultural decline among the younger generations. For a variety of measures, things started to go bad already by the 1950s, became obscene during the 1960s and '70s, and plateaued some time during the 1980s. Since roughly 1990, however, things have gotten steadily better. This series will catalog such a trend for measures typically given in support of the declinist hypothesis: we begin with sexual behavior, and will eventually cover violent crime, divorce, narcissism, the arts, and whatever other examples I come across or that readers suggest in the comments. The hope is that the series will prevent the real-world picture from disappearing down the Memory Hole, as every generation thinks that patterns among its usurpers spell doom, regardless of what the data show.

    Read it all.

    GAFCON gaffes continue

    Having failed to gain entry to Jordan, Peter Akinola unveils GAFCON's new book, bearing an essay under his name, that the Church Times demonstrated last August was actually written by Martyn Minns. The Telegraph, meanwhile, has decided, presumptuously, that schism has been declared. But they seem to be the only ones declaring it.

    Whether there will actually be schism is an open question, but at least one factor mitigates against it: as soon as schism is declared, the media will loose interest in the Anglican Churches of Nigeria and Uganda, and their small, but influential group of followers in the United States. (How much had you read about these Churches before the consecration of Gene Robinson?) At that point, these churches will no longer be useful to the donors who have made GAFCON possible, and the money will be reallocated to other fronts in the culture wars. It is in the interest of Akinola, Orombi, Minns, Sugden, etc. to sustain the Communion is a state of near-schism for as long as possible, and then, at some point, find a way short of schism to declare victory.

    Had they been able to pull off a genuine Communion-splitting schism, they might have done so, but that hope died at the last meeting of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa when the overwhelming majority of African bishops spurned Akinola's call for a continent-wide boycott of Lambeth and defeated hardline Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini's bid to become president of the organization. The influential province of Southeast Asia has also distanced itself from Akinola and his faction. GAFCON's narrowing sphere of influence is evident in the composition of the theology committee that produced their recent book. It is overwhelmingly Nigerian, as, reporters in Israel tell me, is the turnout at the conference.

    The New York Times story is here.

    Coincidence or act of God?

    For the GAFCON planning team, the gaffes just keep on coming. The intrepid Simon Sarmiento alerts us that the anti-gay Anglicans holding their conference in Jerusalem will be sharing the city with next Thursday's gay pride parade.

    As the T'graph says, "The meeting in Jerusalem risks descending into farce, however, as it clashes with the city's annual gay pride march."

    From GQ: Let God love Gene Robinson

    The July issue of GQ includes a lengthy profile of Bishop Gene Robinson by Andrew Corsello, which beings as follows:

    Even before he could speak, he knew it and felt it: knew he would never be separated from it; felt it in the form of light and heat. actually, light and heat belittled what he felt. They were just words, and words were small, man’s way of knowing; words could point and suggest, but never apprehend. When he was old enough to search for better ways to convey what he felt when the love of God came upon him, he would tell his mother and father and minister and anyone else in Nicholasville, Kentucky, that it was like butter, liquid-warm, luminous, drizzled atop his head and descending over and through him in a seamless golden coat to his feet.

    and continues here.

    Shhh! Anglicans meeting

    Julia Duin of The Washington Times considers the secrecy surrounding the current GAFCON gathering in Jerusalem, the news-free dreams that leaders of the Anglican Communion harbor for the upcoming Lambeth Conference and wonders why everything is so...quiet.

    Of GAFCON she writes:

    The purpose of this conference is a tad foggy. One of their leaders relayed in an e-mail that they aim to "prepare for an Anglican future in which the Gospel is uncompromised and Christ-centered mission is a top priority."

    GAFCON, then, is the first salvo in a campaign to create a newer, purer Anglican Communion by getting like-minded Anglicans all in one place. There is not enough support among conservatives at this time for a full break from the archbishop of Canterbury, whose position carries much weight around the world.

    That support might exist in 10 years, especially if the Church of England, Anglicanism's British branch, becomes completely compromised concerning Islam and sexual morality issues.

    So GAFCON and the aborted pre-GAFCON meeting in Jordan are setting the stage for an eventual split.

    Maybe, or maybe the GAFCON folks have lost ground within the Communion in the brief time since Archbishop Rowan Williams called Peter Akinola's bluff, and the movement is fighting for survival, not planning its glorious future.

    Telegraph: GAFCON is a semi-fiasco

    The T'graph's editorialists have their say:

    [B]efore Dr Rowan Williams runs up the white flag, he should take a closer look at the reality of Gafcon, as opposed to its self-important pronouncements. The truth is that the conference has so far been a shambles. Its leader, the belligerent Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, has been denied entry to Jordan. Other conservative church leaders are missing because they have chosen not to attend. Significant absentees at Gafcon include the Rt Rev John Chew, Primate of South-East Asia, and Dr Mouneer Anis, Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East and treasurer of the “Global South” group of conservative provinces. And even those leaders who are attending the conference make up a volatile compound. Gafcon, in other words, is far from the united force it claims to be, and it does not fully represent Anglicanism in the developing world.

    It is true that the forthcoming Lambeth Conference will also be a divided body, boycotted by an unprecedented numbers of bishops. But the semi-fiasco of Gafcon means that Dr Williams still has a chance of keeping the conservative Christians of, say, Uganda, in dialogue with the liberal provinces of the United States and Canada.

    Bishop Shaw blesses Pride marchers

    Ethan Jacobs of Bay Windows writes:

    After the high-energy spectacle of the Pride parade about 30 revelers headed to St. Paul’s Cathedral for a more subdued but no less heartfelt celebration of Pride. Massachusetts Episcopal Bishop Thomas Shaw, fresh from marching in the parade, led worshippers in song and prayers. During the service worshippers lined up in the center aisle of the cathedral, coming up as individuals and as couples, and Shaw laid his hands on them and blessed them.

    The Archbishops' "erroneous" letter

    The Church Times says the Archbishop of Canterbury and York made a mess of their response to the gay wedding at a London church:

    The House of Bishops’ 2005 guidelines on civil partnerships suggested that clergy had a certain amount of leeway: “Where clergy are approached by people asking for prayer in relation to entering into a civil partnership they should respond pastorally and sensitively in the light of the circumstances of each case.” It is unlikely that a service involving the scattering of rose petals ever crossed their minds. It is known that services of this sort are conducted from time to time, but they are, more often than not, discreet affairs, involving far fewer than the 300 guests who attended in Smithfield, and there are reports that similar liturgies have been used. But the Smithfield service was a public affair, and has been made much more so since it happened. It thus reinforces the message to the gay community that all is well as long as all is hidden. The Rt Revd Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, is fond of saying that he is not the only gay Anglican bishop, but he is the only honest one. Be that as it may, the present arrangement is pernicious when it encourages dishonesty.

    More here.

    Gomez and GAFCON

    Laurie Goodstein reports today that Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies, head of the team drafting the proposed Anglican covenant, was denied a visa to attend the pre-GAFCON strategy session in Jordan. Two questions, why was he denied a visa? and why was a man in his diplomatically sensitive position attending a meeting of schismatic wannabes?

    Gomez has refused, to this point, to take part in the upcoming meeting of Anglican provinces of the Americas scheduled for February in Costa Rica, perhaps because he doesn't like the company. Yet this is the second major Akinolist event in which he has been an enthusiastic participant. How much longer will Archbishop Rowan Williams let a man so obviously devoted to the schismatic faction lead the effort that purports to hold the Communion together?

    Bennison cleared of financial impropriety

    News this morning from the church-based trial of Bishop Charles Bennison who has been accused of misappropriation of church funds as well as inappropriate response to clergy sexual misconduct before he became a bishop.

    According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

    "A special committee of the Episcopal Church USA has found no basis to try Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. for allegedly misappropriating assets of the Diocese of Pennsylvania.

    [...T]he attorney for the review committee concluded that 'Bishop Bennison committed no offense in these matters,' and the committee voted at its May 21 meeting not to issue any indictment. That decision was announced yesterday."

    There is as yet no ruling on the other set of charges.

    Read the full article here.

    Bishop Chane on interfaith diplomacy

    There's a long interview in the Asian Times today with Bishop John Chane where he discusses his work in trying to create religious dialogue with Islamic leaders.

    When asked what he's learned as a result of his efforts, Bishop Chane responds:

    "I have learned about a significant level of fellowship and respect among scholars and clerics of different faiths, sharing broad-based values that intersect between Christianity and Islam, especially Shi'ism. In many ways, Shi'ism is more liturgical than Sunnism. But I have also learned that while we share a lot in common, there are also a lot of differences, and we need to study both more seriously rather than to give in to stereotypes. And we can achieve this through on-going dialogue. Then we can demonstrate by this behavior what diplomats ought to be doing from their perspectives. "

    On the issue of religion as a place to find mutual understanding he suggests that we need to step away from using religion as a tool of demonization of the other and recover a mission of using it to bring peace:

    A look at the Abrahamic religions, for instance at Islam where salam means peace, and then we realize that religion plays a huge role in peace-making and yet, unfortunately, has been used and abused by just anyone to support their particular point of view. We can eliminate that by becoming far more aware, more literate, about scriptural texts, since illiteracy in texts is a weapon of ignorance, and bigotry, that is utilized to demean and even demonize other communities of faith.

    The interview goes on to discuss politics in America and how we are viewed in the world and what the coming American election might bring.

    Read the full article here.

    Bishops "make a mess"

    "Hard-line bishops make a mess of it in the Holy Land" is how the Telegraph headlines today's report on the startup of the GAFCON meeting in Jerusalem today. The article details a number of the initial organizational hurdles the meeting has had to overcome so far.

    Some quotes from the article:

    "If it was being held in a brewery, it’s a fair bet that the organisers of the supposedly greatest threat to authority in the Church since the Reformation would not be feeling particularly tipsy.

    [...]As it turns out, the team’s cheerleader, the belligerent Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, was denied entry to Jordan and the conference is having to transfer precipitately to Jerusalem, with its spokespeople stammering about hotel bookings becoming unexpectedly available there. The Anglican Church in Jerusalem, headed by Bishop Suheil Dawani, is a reluctant host to these schismatics, which is why their preliminary meeting was in Jordan in the first place.

    It appears that the whole exercise was undertaken remotely and with arrogance, taking little or no regard for local middle-eastern sensibilities over how the presence of a bunch of Evangelical Christian hard-liners would play with painstakingly constructed relationships with local Muslim authorities. The GAFCON caravan will, nevertheless, issue demands and statements."

    Read the full article here.

    One of the Lead editors has helpfully provided this link to help understand the idiomatic use of "brewery" in the first line of the article quoted above.

    Bishop Duncan addresses GAFCON

    Bishop Bob Duncan's address to the gathered at GAFCON has been posted to the Anglican Communion Network webpage. In his address Bishop Duncan claims that the Elizabethan settlement, out of which has grown modern Anglicanism, has now failed and a new model must be found.

    From his address:

    "‘We who are gathered here recognize that the Reformation (Elizabethan) Settlement of Anglicanism has disintegrated. We know that we are at a turning point in Anglican history, a place where two roads diverge. One road is faithful to Jesus’ story. The other road is about some other story…The choice before us is a choice before all Anglicans. It is just as certainly a choice before the upcoming Lambeth Conference. Which road will the Anglican Communion take?

    [...]‘The present structures of the Anglican Communion all reflect a British colonial past. Some new instrument(s) of unity reflecting a global and post-colonial communion must emerge.’"

    He elaborates on what he means regarding the failure of the Elizabethan Settlement further on in his address:

    "The great 20th Century apologist and Anglican C.S. Lewis wrote about “Mere Christianity.” In the last several years, Fitz Alison, author, scholar, and sometime Bishop of South Carolina, has, with a group of colleagues, organized annual conferences on “Mere Anglicanism.” The idea being exalted here is that Anglicans at their best have no distinctives beyond what is representative of all Christians, merely Christian. We are evangelical in the way evangelicals are Christian. We are catholic in the way catholics are Christians. We are pentecostal (charismatic) in the way pentecostals are Christian. Anglicans are all three of these streams. Anglicanism in the 21st century will recover our place as a bridge between the Churches. The historic accidents that combined to place Anglicanism as a “middle way,” a via media, between Rome and Geneva, between Christian West and Christian East, and between the Holy Spirit outbreaks at Azusa Street and Duquesne University are a gift of God to us. The gift is re-embraced whenever we Anglicans humble ourselves in our vocation as “mere Christians,” simply evangelical and catholic and pentecostal claiming nothing peculiar of our own.

    The distortion of Anglicanism in the West – the deceit the Enemy has sown – is that Anglicanism should be the bridge between the Church and the world. Anywhere on the old bridge – the bridge among Christians – one was always a Christian. Not very far over the new bridge Christianity is soon so badly distorted and quickly compromised that those who begin to cross are soon not recognizably Christian anymore. GAFCON knows on which bridge it is to travel. Lambeth 2008 flirts with the bridge to that new destination toward which U.S. and Canadian Anglicanism is well advanced. 21st century Global Anglicans will be “merely Christian” in the very fullest sense.

    Read the full address here (links to PDF format).

    GAFCON news round-up

    Updated with the NPR story.

    There have a been a number of stories about the Global Anglican Future Conference appearing in the press today. Here's a list of a few we haven't already mentioned.

    The Telegraph in the UK has an editorial, the final paragraphs of which read:

    Whether the Anglican Communion can survive the inevitable discord of Lambeth is still unclear. But it is encouraging that some of the most vociferous critics of liberal Anglicanism have decided to join in debate and worship with their fellow bishops at their traditional gathering in England rather than declare allegiance to a rival body meeting in the Middle East.

    Gafcon is dominated by the single issue of homosexuality; its relative failure should remind us that ordinary Anglicans – and especially members of the Church of England – are not obsessed with sexual mores or gay marriage. The challenge of Lambeth is to revive Christianity in a secular age. Dr Williams is well aware of that fact, and we wish him well..

    US News & World Report says:

    Divisive as it all may sound, conference organizers are quick to reject the charge that they are trying to upstage the upcoming Lambeth Conference, the official meeting of Communion bishops held in England every 10 years under the auspices of the archbishop of Canterbury, now the Most Rev. and Right Hon. Rowan Williams.

    But many attending the Jerusalem meeting, including the Most Rev. Peter Akinola of Nigeria, have said that they will not attend the Lambeth gathering in mid-July. And GAFCON attendees admit they have lost patience with Anglican and Episcopal church leaders, who conservatives say have refused to take clear or decisive stands on such issues as gay marriage and openly gay clergy.

    The Providence Journal wins our award for inaccurate headline writing in an article entitled "Episcopal Church fighting to survive", which says very little about the Episcopal Church's threat of extinction but does contain quotes from the Bishop of Rhode Island about her desire to help do what she can to support the Anglican Communion.

    Time Magazine's take is found here. They cover pretty much the same material as the other reports, though they do have a quote from JIM (don't call me James) Naughton, our editor-in-chief here at the Cafe.

    Planting gardens in the city

    MSNBC has some lovely video of The Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows working with members of the congregation she serves in Syracuse to creates garden plots in the city. It's hoped that the plots will provide healthy food this summer for Grace Church's food pantry patrons.

    Newsvine reports on the project here and writes, in part:

    The Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows would not seem like an obvious candidate for the eating local movement. Growing up, she didn’t eat many vegetables and those that were on the table were “always cooked within an inch of their lives.”

    “I grew up in an African-American household,” she says. “Celery root was not part of our tradition.”

    Her husband also did not come to the idea naturally: a native of the Bahamas, he considered vegetables to be more of a plate decoration than an actual part of the meal.

    But Baskerville-Burrows, 41, had always liked to cook, and she started shopping at farmers markets beginning around 1999. A few years later, she started reading books including “Fast Food Nation,” which includes segments about the farm practices that go into mass-produced food. It prompted a closer look at how she could find healthier and tastier food.

    “I started really looking at my diet,’” says Baskerville-Burrows, who is an Episcopal priest.

    These days, Baskerville-Burrows says she buys about 85 percent of her food from producers in the Syracuse, N.Y., area, where she lives. She also grows tomatoes, herbs and other vegetables at home, and this year she worked with church members to plant a garden on church grounds that they hope will eventually supply a local food pantry with fresh produce.

    Jefferts Schori at S.D. reservation this weekend

    Thought we'd kick off the summer here at the Cafe with this piece, even though the season technically turned over at 7:59 pm EDT last night: Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is visiting Eagle Butte, S.D., for the Niobrara Convocation this weekend. From a story in the Rapid City Journal:

    About 3,000 Native American Episcopalians and others are expected to greet Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, on her first trip to a South Dakota reservation. They will come from St. Julia’s Church at Porcupine; from St. James at Enemy Swim Lake; from the Church of the Epiphany at Wolf Creek and from Holy Innocents Church in Parmelee.

    “My primary purpose is to be with the people, to listen to their experience and to learn about this diocese,” Jefferts Schori said after arriving at the Pierre airport Thursday. She’ll be on the Cheyenne Eagle Butte Reservation through Sunday, where she’ll preach at the closing Eucharist. “I’m still working on it,” the bishop said of her Sunday sermon. “I’m going to do a lot of listening in the next few days so that what I say is relevant.”

    The Niobrara Convocation is an annual summer gathering of Lakota and Dakota Episcopalians that dates back to 1870, when the Episcopal denomination played a leading role in christianizing the territory’s tribal reservations.

    A notable quote from the Presiding Bishop (which I copyedited slightly since it wasn't a sic):

    “It’s a time of ferment, which can be enormously positive,” Jefferts Schori said. “You look at a vat of beer and sometimes it doesn’t smell very good – but there’s a lot of good work going on there, and the product smells better than the process. Something like that’s going on in the Anglican Communion.”

    Read the whole thing here.

    Not of one mind

    Jonathan Marlowe of Theolog writes:

    The recently concluded United Methodist General Conference retained its claim that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” The vote was relatively close, and of course there were faithful, intelligent people on both sides.

    At one point, a legislative committee proposed replacing the “incompatibility clause” with nonjudgmental language declaring that the United Methodist Church (UMC) is not of one mind on this issue. Part of me agrees with the idea: I would like very much simply to acknowledge our “separate minds” and move on. But then I wonder . . .

    How consistently would we apply this principle? For example, the UMC has a clear statement in our social principles opposing capital punishment. I am glad that we take this prophetic stand. Should we apply our principle of nonjudgmentalism to this area and say simply: “United Methodists are not of one mind with respect to capital punishment,” and leave it at that? I would be deeply disappointed.

    Read it all.

    Williams says Church is strong

    Earlier this week, Archbishop Rowan Williams addressed the Diocese of Hereford and got a standing ovation when he said the issues presently facing the church were serious ones, but would not split the Church of England.

    According to the Hereford Times:

    Speaking at the Diocese’s conference in Swanwick, Derbyshire, [Archbishop Rowan Williams] claimed differences over sexuality could be resolved and denied a rift in the church.

    He said next month’s Lambeth Conference – a global meeting of Anglican bishops held every 10 years – could prove a turning point.

    “My hope is that the conference will be a real trust building event,” said the Archbishop.

    “The challenge is whether we manage those issues in such a way that they don’t just split us apart and isolate us from one another.

    “I think that we face some very serious choices within the church but I don’t think the Church of England is on the edge of schism.”

    Read it here:

    Finding a second career in the church

    We all know plenty of people who followed a vocational path to a second "career." The Wall Street Journal today profiles Linda Watt, Chief Operating Officer of the Episcopal Church and a former foreign service officer, in its Second Acts Column. Noting that the two paths are not as disparate as they might seem, the article examines Watt's background in-depth.

    By the time Ms. Watt went to college, she already had her sights set on working for the U.S. Foreign Service in Latin America. Her interest was born out of her summer visits to her father, who worked as a Latin American specialist with the Army at embassies in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

    While she knew the life of a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) was a tough one -- little choice of where she would be posted and frequent moves every one to four years -- Ms. Watt's passion for diverse cultures and languages led her to join the service immediately after she received her masters in Latin American Studies at the University of New Mexico. "My father encouraged me to think more broadly about the workplace and directed me to the State Department in particular," says Ms. Watt. But she also knew that, similar to the military, as an FSO you were either promoted up or out.

    Ms. Watt went up. The next 29 years took her to some of the most diplomatically delicate places in the world: Nicaragua during its civil war; Russia at the time of an attempted Coup against then-leader Boris Yelstin and the Dominican Republic during Hurricane Georges. Among her many assignments at these locales and, Ms. Watt served as an Embassy management officer (a chief operating officer) supervising several hundred American and host country employees and managed multi-million dollar Embassy operating budgets.

    Watt was named ambassador to Panama in 2002, and held that post until her retirement at age 53. But scant months later, she saw the posting for the COO position--and felt called. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori added her own comments about how Watt's diplomatic background prepared her for her work in the church.

    The presiding Bishop of the church says Ms. Watt's years as a diplomat – and the skills she gained in that capacity – have been an asset to the church. "(They) have been not only valuable, but essential, to her work with the Episcopal Church Center," says Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori.

    "The diplomacy intrinsic to an ambassador; the ability to relate constructively to a broad cross-section of the public; well-honed administrative and management gifts; and the ability to lead with vision as well as insist on accountability and performance" are all carried over from her first act career.

    Read the whole thing, and Watt's tips for vocationally oriented career-changers, here.

    GAFCON: What's that again?

    If the Anglican Communion should have a schism, which no one at GAFCON's podiums or pulpits are apparently saying it is, Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney says the responsibility lies with the American and Canadian churches. He also says:

    What GAFCON is doing is saying that given that new state of affairs, how can we now live together and how can we sustain the highest level of communion and work well together. My way of putting it is to say that the British Empire has now ceased to be and the British commonwealth of nations has come into existence or the nuclear family has turned into an extended family. This is the new reality. I don't hear GAFCON saying or GAFCON being a further cause for schism.

    Now, last we checked, extended families were usually the result of divorce and remarriage, which really does imply a split is happening. So even though this address was intended to say it wasn't about schism, we thought it was saying something else.

    Apparently, so did the Age (here), which not only frames the comments as a formal declaration of schism, but goes so far as to paint the end of the metaphorical Empire as a sign of things to come:

    Dr Jensen said that the Global Anglican Future Conference was acknowledging that a new state of affairs existed within the worldwide Anglican communion, in which the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury was no longer considered dominant.

    Anglican TV says offers live video from the conference. According to them there are 3 purposes for GAFCON:

    1. To provide an opportunity for fellowship as well as to continue to experience and proclaim the transforming love of Jesus Christ

    2. To develop a renewed understanding of our identity as Anglican Christians.

    3. To prepare for an Anglican future in which the Gospel is uncompromised and Christ-centred mission is a top priority.

    Gay marriage is good for U.S.

    Jonathan Rauch in the Wall Street Journal writes of why gay marriage a good thing for our culture.

    By order of its state Supreme Court, California began legally marrying same-sex couples this week. The first to be wed in San Francisco were Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, pioneering gay-rights activists who have been a couple for more than 50 years.

    More ceremonies will follow, at least until November, when gay marriage will go before California's voters. They should choose to keep it. To understand why, imagine your life without marriage. Meaning, not merely your life if you didn't happen to get married. What I am asking you to imagine is life without even the possibility of marriage.

    Re-enter your childhood, but imagine your first crush, first kiss, first date and first sexual encounter, all bereft of any hope of marriage as a destination for your feelings. Re-enter your first serious relationship, but think about it knowing that marrying the person is out of the question.

    Imagine that in the law's eyes you and your soul mate will never be more than acquaintances. And now add even more strangeness. Imagine coming of age into a whole community, a whole culture, without marriage and the bonds of mutuality and kinship that go with it.

    Read the essay here.

    More on "The Big Sort"

    We previously wrote about Bill Bishop's new book, The Big Sort. The Economist now explores the issues in the book:

    In 1976 Jimmy Carter won the presidency with 50.1% of the popular vote. Though the race was close, some 26.8% of Americans were in “landslide counties” that year, where Mr Carter either won or lost by 20 percentage points or more.

    The proportion of Americans who live in such landslide counties has nearly doubled since then. In the dead-heat election of 2000, it was 45.3%. When George Bush narrowly won re-election in 2004, it was a whopping 48.3%. As the playwright Arthur Miller put it that year: “How can the polls be neck and neck when I don't know one Bush supporter?” Clustering is how.

    County-level data understate the degree of ideological segregation, reckons Bill Bishop, the author of a gripping new book called “The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart”. Counties can be big. Cook County, Illinois, (which includes Chicago), has over 5m inhabitants. Beaverhead County, Montana, covers 5,600 square miles (14,400 square kilometres). The neighbourhoods people care about are much smaller.

    Americans move house often, usually for practical reasons. Before choosing a new neighbourhood, they drive around it. They notice whether it has gun shops, evangelical churches and “W” bumper stickers, or yoga classes and organic fruit shops. Perhaps unconsciously, they are drawn to places where they expect to fit in.

    Where you live is partly determined by where you can afford to live, of course. But the “Big Sort” does not seem to be driven by economic factors. Income is a poor predictor of party preference in America; cultural factors matter more. For Americans who move to a new city, the choice is often not between a posh neighbourhood and a run-down one, but between several different neighbourhoods that are economically similar but culturally distinct.

    For example, someone who works in Washington, DC, but wants to live in a suburb can commute either from Maryland or northern Virginia. Both states have equally leafy streets and good schools. But Virginia has plenty of conservative neighbourhoods with megachurches and Bushites you've heard of living on your block. In the posh suburbs of Maryland, by contrast, Republicans are as rare as unkempt lawns and yard signs proclaim that war is not the answer but Barack Obama might be.

    . . .
    Because Americans are so mobile, even a mild preference for living with like-minded neighbours leads over time to severe segregation. An accountant in Texas, for example, can live anywhere she wants, so the liberal ones move to the funky bits of Austin while the more conservative ones prefer the exurbs of Dallas. Conservative Californians can find refuge in Orange County or the Central Valley.

    Over time, this means Americans are ever less exposed to contrary views. In a book called “Hearing the Other Side”, Diana Mutz of the University of Pennsylvania crunched survey data from 12 countries and found that Americans were the least likely of all to talk about politics with those who disagreed with them.

    Intriguingly, the more educated Americans become, the more insular they are. (Hence Mr Miller's confusion.) Better-educated people tend to be richer, so they have more choice about where they live. And they are more mobile. One study that covered most of the 1980s and 1990s found that 45% of young Americans with a college degree moved state within five years of graduating, whereas only 19% of those with only a high-school education did.

    Read it all here.

    do you think this is type of sorting is happening in our churches as well? Anything we can do about it?

    Peggy Noonan's final word on Tim Russert

    Peggy Noonan offered these final thoughts about the death of Tim Russert in the Wall Street Journal this week:

    II understand why some think that the media coverage surrounding Tim Russert's death was excessive—truly, it was unprecedented—but it doesn't seem to me a persuasive indictment, if only because what was said was so valuable.

    The beautiful thing about the coverage was that it offered extremely important information to those age 15 or 25 or 30 who may not have been told how to operate in the world beyond "Go succeed." I'm not sure we tell the young as much as we ought, as clearly as we ought, what it is the world admires, and what it is they want to emulate.

    In a way, the world is a great liar. It shows you it worships and admires money, but at the end of the day it doesn't. It says it adores fame and celebrity, but it doesn't, not really. The world admires, and wants to hold on to, and not lose, goodness. It admires virtue. At the end it gives its greatest tributes to generosity, honesty, courage, mercy, talents well used, talents that, brought into the world, make it better. That's what it really admires. That's what we talk about in eulogies, because that's what's important. We don't say, "The thing about Joe was he was rich." We say, if we can, "The thing about Joe was he took care of people."

    The young are told, "Be true to yourself." But so many of them have no idea, really, what that means. If they don't know who they are, what are they being true to? They're told, "The key is to hold firm to your ideals." But what if no one bothered, really, to teach them ideals?

    After Tim's death, the entire television media for four days told you the keys to a life well lived, the things you actually need to live life well, and without which it won't be good. Among them: taking care of those you love and letting them know they're loved, which involves self-sacrifice; holding firm to God, to your religious faith, no matter how high you rise or low you fall. This involves guts, and self-discipline, and active attention to developing and refining a conscience to whose promptings you can respond. Honoring your calling or profession by trying to do within it honorable work, which takes hard effort, and a willingness to master the ethics of your field. And enjoying life. This can be hard in America, where sometimes people are rather grim in their determination to get and to have. "Enjoy life, it's ungrateful not to," said Ronald Reagan.

    Tim had these virtues. They were great to see. By defining them and celebrating them the past few days, the media encouraged them. This was a public service, and also what you might call Tim's parting gift.

    Read it all here.

    Bishop Nazir-Ali may not attend Lambeth

    Relying on statements from his "friends", the Sunday Telegraph reports that Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester will decline an invitation to attend Lambeth next month, and that others will join him:

    In a move that marks a significant split in the established Church, at least three bishops, including the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, will decline an invitation from Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to attend the Lambeth Conference.

    Up to six more bishops are understood to be considering similar action because of Dr Williams's decision to allow controversial figures to be at the gathering of worldwide Anglican bishops, which meets only once in 10 years.

    The boycott will intensify the row over gay clergy, which was reignited when The Sunday Telegraph disclosed last week that two gay priests had exchanged vows in a version of the marriage service.

    . . .

    Friends of Bishop Nazir-Ali, who is one of the most prominent and influential figures in the Church, said that he has made the decision on a matter of principle. He considers the Americans' action to have been "unscriptural" and "disobedient", and feels unable to meet those he holds responsible for causing the schism in the worldwide Church.

    . . .

    The Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, the Bishop of Willesden, and the Rt Rev Wallace Benn, the Bishop of Lewes, will also be absent.

    Bishop Benn said: "I'm not going because those who've torn the fabric of the Communion have been invited, and bishops from the missionary groups in America haven't. A group of English bishops has been unhappy at the invitation list and that the Archbishop of Canterbury has not called a Primates Meeting to consult about invitations and respond to the American Church statement on gay clergy."

    Read it all here.

    Peter Singer on giving boldly

    Peter Singer, Princeton professor of bioethics, thinks Jesus got it wrong about giving to charity in secret. We should give to charity boldly and in public:

    Jesus said that we should give alms in private rather than when others are watching. That fits with the commonsense idea that if people only do good in public, they may be motivated by a desire to gain a reputation for generosity. Perhaps when no one is looking, they are not generous at all.

    . . .

    From an ethical perspective, however, should we care so much about the purity of the motive with which the gift was made? Surely, what matters is that something was given to a good cause. We may well look askance at a lavish new concert hall, but not because the donor's name is chiseled into the marble faade. Rather, we should question whether, in a world in which 25,000 impoverished children die unnecessarily every day, another concert hall is what the world needs.

    A substantial body of current psychological research points against Jesus' advice. One of the most significant factors determining whether people give to charity is their beliefs about what others are doing. Those who make it known that they give to charity increase the likelihood that others will do the same. Perhaps we will eventually reach a tipping point at which giving a significant amount to help the world's poorest becomes sufficiently widespread to eliminate the majority of those 25,000 needless daily deaths.

    That is what Chris and Anne Ellinger hope their Web site, www.boldergiving.org, will achieve. The site tells the story of more than 50 members of the 50 percent League - people who have given away either 50 percent of their assets or 50 percent of their income in each of the last three years. Members of the league want to change expectations about what is a "normal" or "reasonable" amount to give.

    . . .

    We need to get over our reluctance to speak openly about the good we do. Silent giving will not change a culture that deems it sensible to spend all your money on yourself and your family, rather than to help those in greater need - even though helping others is likely to bring more fulfillment in the long run.

    Read it all here. Hat tip to Economist's View.

    So, is Professor Singer correct? Does the fact that our giving in public will cause others to give a reason to ignore Jesus' admonishion? Or is this yet another example where utiliarian fails to provide the full answer?

    GAFCON/Lambeth Update

    Normally, Sunday is a sleepy news day in the Anglican communion. Not today, as several Anglican leaders put down markers about the future of the Communion.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury writes to his home Diocese about his hopes for the upcoming Lambeth Conference:

    But what I most hope and pray is that we emerge from the quite intensive programme with the two main goals taken forward – having gained more confidence about our Communion and having helped to give bishops more resources for their primary work of serving the Church in mission.

    But what we can say a bit about is the way in which the business is going to be done. The programme, devised by a very gifted and dedicated international team, responds to the widely felt concerns that we ought to get away from too 'parliamentary' and formal a style. It's going to be important that no-one goes home feeling they haven't ever been listened to. So it's important to devise structures that guarantee everyone has a chance to be heard. It's also crucial to build the sort of trust that allows deep and passionate differences to be stated and explored together, with time allowed for getting past the slogans and the surface emotions.

    Read it all here.

    Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, there were two notable addresses to the GAFCON conference. First, the Right Rev’d Suheil S. Dawani, Bishop of Jerusalem, urged the participants to act with humility toward unity in Anglican Communion:

    I look forward to the Lambeth Conference which is so important to our ongoing life together and for the mission of the Church. Since its inception in 1867, the Lambeth Conference has been the setting for invaluable dialogue about many aspects of our Church’s life, particularly in relation to the changes in the world around us. Together, we have dialogued at Lambeth about war and peace, about industrialization and ecumenism, about poverty and disease, about the faith and order of the Church, and about how together we can overcome the injustices of our world. Throughout its history, the Lambeth Conference has dealt with many difficult issues. At times these issues looked as if they might divide us, but they did not because we persevered in prayer and fellowship, together, with respect and patience.

    It is in that same spirit that I welcome you here to this Cathedral Church.

    The very stones of this holy city of Jerusalem teach us patience and humility. This city has seen tragic events throughout the centuries, at times leveled to the ground, at times raised again to new life. We are on holy ground.

    So all Christians must come here first and foremost as pilgrims—and I note that you say your coming here to Jerusalem is a “pilgrimage.” Pilgrims here do not bring decisions with them. They come here to seek prayerfully the decisions God wants them to make. And God will always surprise us. God has not finished with us or with our Church yet. God the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth, and we who come here as pilgrims must be open to the Spirit’s leading, open to God’s surprising revelation to us.

    I pray that as you meet in this holy place, you will all be open, in real humility, to the Spirit’s guidance and that you will continue here in a spirit of peace, reconciliation and goodwill.

    Read the full text here.

    Finally, the Right Rev'd Peter Akinola, Archbishop of Nigeria, gave opening remarks at GAFCON that took on the Archbishop of Caterbury, as well as the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada:

    The last major meeting that considered this issue was the Primates' Meeting in Tanzania in February 2007. After long and painful hours of deliberations the primates gave TEC a last chance to clarify unequivocally and adequately their stand by 30th September, 2007.

    Strangely, before the deadline, and before the Primates could get the opportunity of meeting to assess the adequacy of the response of TEC and in a clear demonstration of unwillingness to follow through our collective decisions which for many of us was an apparent lack of regard for the Primates, Lambeth Palace in July 2007 issued invitations to TEC bishops including those who consecrated Gene Robinson to attend the Lambeth 2008 conference.

    At this point, it dawned upon us, regrettably, that the Archbishop of Canterbury was not interested in what matters to us, in what we think or in what we say.

    . . .

    As the Lambeth Conference 2008 approached and invitations were being sent out as though it was business as usual, some of our Provinces counselled the Archbishop of Canterbury to consider shifting the date[7] until the time for a meaningful fellowship and healing of relationships could be discerned. In addition, it would give the provinces of the Communion space to conclude and ratify the draft Anglican Covenant. Rejecting all entreaties, Lambeth Palace chose not to be bothered about that which troubles us; decided to stick to its own plans and to erect the walls of 2008 Lambeth Conference on the shaky and unsafe foundations of our brokenness.

    We cannot succumb to this turmoil in our Communion and simply watch helplessly. We have found ourselves in a world in which Anglican leaders hold on to a form of religion but consistently deny its power. We have a situation in which some members of the Anglican family think they are so superior to all others that they are above the law, they can do whatever they please with impunity. As a Communion we have been unable to exercise discipline. In the face of global suspicion of the links of Islam with terrorism, Lambeth Palace is making misleading statements about the Islamic Law, Shari a, to the point that even secular leaders are now calling us to order! We can no longer trust where some of our Communion leaders are taking us.

    Repeatedly, those of us in the leadership team of GAFCON have been advised by all levels of our ecclesial structures to avoid a vacuum. All our bishops and wives who would normally look to the Lambeth Conference for fellowship but now could not along with senior lay leaders and selected clergy to whom Lambeth authorities are not willing to listen should meet in another forum for prayerful deliberation on matters critical to our common life and mission. Thus GAFCON is a rescue mission.

    Our beloved Anglican Communion must be rescued from the manipulation of those who have denied the gospel and its power to transform and to save; those who have departed from the scripture and the faith 'once and for all delivered to the saints' from those who are proclaiming a new gospel, which really is no gospel at all, {Gal 1.} In the wisdom and strength God supplies we must rescue what is left of the Church from error of the apostates.

    Read it all here.

    So what does this all mean? Ruth Gledhill thinks that GAFCON participants are seeking change from within the Anglican Communion, and not a schism:

    Anglican bishops meeting in Jerusalem are planning to form a “church within a church” to counter Western liberalism and to reform the Church from within.

    Senior sources told The Times that the most likely outcome of the divisions over homosexuality and biblical authority was an international “Anglican Fellowship” that would provide a home for orthodox Anglicans.

    . . .

    The new fellowship could have a leadership of six or seven senior conservative bishops and archbishops, such as the Bishop of Pittsburgh, the Right Rev Bob Duncan — who chairs the US Common Cause partnership that acts as an umbrella for American conservatives — Archbishop Henry Orombi, Primate of Uganda, and the Church of England's Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali.

    The aim is not to split the worldwide Anglican Communion, which has 80 million members in 38 provinces, but to reform it from within. Formal ties would be maintained with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, but fellowship members will consider themselves out of communion with the US and Canada.

    Read it all here.

    News reports of GAFCON include the Telegraph, and Reuters. Thinking Anglicans has a good summary of the news from GAFCON here.

    A Church suffering with her people

    Robert Mugabe's opponent Morgan Tsvangirai in Friday's presidential runoff has withdrawn because he fears that those who vote for him will be killed by the army. Mugabe's army and supporters systematically assassinate grassroots political opponents. And Mugabe has targeted the Anglican Church for extinction, using virulent homophobia as the excuse to stamp out a Church that stands with the people of Zimbabwe.

    The Sydney Morning Herald summarizes:

    THEY call it the Cathedral by the River Jordan: Zimbabwean Anglicans, beaten, arrested and thrown out of their cathedral in central Harare, are meeting at the municipal swimming pool.

    Robert Mugabe is a man of great obsessions: the British, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, holding power at all costs and homosexuality are high on his list. To him, the Anglican church of Harare is a church of gays and lesbians that should not be allowed to exist.

    As the persecuted faithful gathered under an awning beside the empty pool last weekend, the Right Reverend Brian Castle, the Bishop of Tonbridge, visiting from England, delivered a message of support from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. In times of persecution, the church leans on voices of support from around the world, says Harare's besieged Anglican bishop, Sebastian Bakare. "The Archbishop of Canterbury calls and he writes. The Episcopal church of America has been very supportive. [But] we have heard nothing from the church in Australia."

    Last month, the bishop appealed to the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, for action to protect Christians in Zimbabwe. Since the March 29 election, Mr Mugabe has locked Anglicans out of their churches, sent in riot police to break up church gatherings and beaten and detained parishioners. Nolbert Kunonga, Harare's former bishop and an ardent Mugabe supporter, withdrew from the province last month, saying he could not exist with all the gays and lesbians.

    The new bishop, Mr Bakare, says Mr Kunonga was dismissed on the grounds of schism, and turned to Mr Mugabe with his claims of a gay church. Mr Bakare believes the greater reason for Mr Mugabe's wrath comes from Mr Kunonga's second allegation, that the church supports the MDC.

    "Kunonga had convinced ZANU-PF he could deliver the whole diocese for ZANU. ZANU will accept anyone who will deliver that kind of support. Come the election, Harare went MDC, not because of the Anglicans but because many people voted against ZANU. The Anglican church became a scapegoat to be locked out of our own churches," Mr Bakare told the Herald in an interview at his temporary home. He is not allowed to use the bishop's official residence.

    "Our people were beaten up, put in police cells for the night, police were saying you are not supposed to be entering these buildings," he said.

    The Government has also frozen the assets of the church.

    The bishop said Mr Mugabe's obsession with Britain has hurt the church. "The Anglican Church has always been accused of being a colonial church, the Church of England, which is stupid," he said. "Kunonga says this is a colonial church which wants to bring back the British to run it. It has been under black leadership since the 1980s."

    Read the Sydney Morning Herald: Anglicans feel the brunt of Mugabe's many hatreds.

    The GAFCON Eight

    Updated with transcript of Archbishops Akinola, Orombi and Jensen speaking about (but not unanimously against) violence against homosexuals at their press conference. And this, from Ekklesia.

    The GAFCON leadership has a list of eight people who are not welcome to observe the proceedings under any circumstances. The list includes Colorado Bishop Robert O’Neill, Nigerian gay activist Davis MacIyalla, Louie Crew, Rev Colin Coward, Susan Russell, Scott Gunn and Deborah and Robert Edmunds.

    Ruth Gledhill of the Times of London reports:

    The eight men and women pictured here are on the official list of those to be denied entry to Gafcon should they try to show up. They are Colorado Bishop Robert O'Neill, Nigerian gay activist Davis MacIyalla being embraced by the Church of England's Rev Colin Coward, Louie Crew, Susan Russell, Scott Gunn and Deborah and Robert Edmunds. Bishop O'Neill has been asked to serve as the 'eyes and ears' of the US church's Presiding Bishop and is staying with Jerusalem primate, Bishop Suheil Dawani, who never wanted the conference here in the first place. Should these or any other activists attempt to breach the security around the conference at the Renaissance Hotel in west Jerusalem the 1,000-plus delegates have been instructed to start singing the hymn: 'All hail the power of Jesus' name.'

    HT to Thinking Anglicans, where the first commenter asks "How do I get on the banned list?"

    Banning inconvenient people is not surprising considering the Riazat Butt report on the "unheavenly silence" on violence against homosexuals in the conference.

    A question from Iain Baxter, a media representative from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, aroused expressions of disbelief and outright denial from the primates. The name of his organisation raised a discomfiting titter. Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya and is punishable by a fine, imprisonment or death.

    Archbishops from these countries were on the panel. They said they could not influence government policy on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) legislation, nor could they condone homosexual behaviour because their churches would be shut down. They added one could not break the taboos of African society without suffering the consequences.

    Presumably, these cultural constraints justify the punishment meted out to Prossy Kakooza, Baxter's example of someone tortured because of her sexual orientation. She was arrested, marched naked for two miles to a police station, raped and beaten.

    Akinola did not condemn these acts. Neither did the other African archbishops. Orombi said he had never heard of people being tortured because of their homosexuality, that when he learned about incidents – from the western media – he was at a loss to understand why he had not heard of them. He refused to accept that persecuting and torturing gay people was done openly in Uganda.

    It was clear they failed to grasp how homophobic rhetoric from the pulpit led to violence and intimidation, as described by Colin Coward from Changing Attitudes. Still no condemnation was forthcoming. As a follow-up I asked whether the lack of condemnation meant they condoned torture of homosexuals. It took the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, to articulate opposition to all acts of violence towards all people. The Africans didn't even nod in agreement.

    Read: Thinking Anglicans GAFCON: The banned.

    Ruth Gledhill: GAFCON: 'The Banned'

    Riazat Butt: An unheavenly silence on homophobia

    Updated Monday morning, 6/23/08

    Scott Gunn wonders how one should act when one is banned.

    Wow. I just read Ruth Gledhill’s blog, only to learn that I have been banned from GAFCON. Apparently, I am such a threat to “orthodox” Anglicans that immediately upon my appearance, people should break into singing “All hail the power of Jesus’ name” — should I manage to breach security. I guess one could do worse in a theme song.

    Here is a profile of the The Rev. Robert D. Edmunds and his wife Deborah. He is leaving parish ministry at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Edgartown, Massachusetts to minister in the Diocese of Jerusalem. Beginning later in June, Robert will be the chaplain to the Anglican bishop in Jerusalem, the Right Rev. Suheil Dawani, a Palestinian who oversees the Episcopal Christian faithful in five countries and Deborah will become the Bishop’s executive personal assistant.

    Oh no, not "change from within"

    If Ruth Gledhill has it right today (in the final eight paragraphs of this story), the leaders of GAFCON now seem to have embraced a strategy aimed at creating "change from within." This is a significant, encouraging, and, for them, no doubt galling development because Peter Akinola, Martyn Minns and Co., had previously scorned such a strategy, arguing that the sins of those who support the blessing of same-sex relationships were so great that true Christians could not keep company with them. (That, indeed, is the entire rationale for laying claim to parishes in other provinces and ordaining border crossing bishops.) They continue to speak in these terms—the rhetoric from Jerusalem is as vitriolic as ever—but their actions suggest a reluctant accommodation with reality.

    GAFCON’s high profile leaders don’t have the strength to force the schism they yearn for. Too few provinces are on board, and not all of those provinces are united in their desire to leave the Communion. Indeed, the people I have spoken to at the conference suggest a wide range of opinion on the issue of schism, even among those devoted enough to fly to Jerusalem to talk about it.

    So the leaders of GAFCON are attempting to dress up strategic failure as the dawning of a new phase of their march toward victory, hoping that the media will bite. After five years of schismatic maneuvering, they have said, in effect, that they will associate closely with some Anglicans while trying to make life miserable for others--a state of affairs in no way different today than it was last month, last year or last decade.

    Akinola and company are making a great deal of noise to distract us from the fact that little is happening.

    Updated: the Anglican Scotist has similar thoughts. As does Tobias Haller.

    Pew Survey on Religion & Public Life, Part II

    The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life releases the second report of a landmark survey today. The survey examines the tremendous diversity of Americans' religious beliefs and practices as well as their social and political views. This new analysis follows the first report of the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, which was published in February 2008 and detailed the size and demographic characteristics of religious groups in the U.S.

    The Dallas News has one of the first mainstream media articles on the latest Pew report.

    On the way to salvation:

    About seven in 10 of those surveyed said they believed that many religions can lead to eternal life and that there is more than one true interpretation of the teachings of their own religion.

    A majority of the members of almost every religious tradition agreed with those positions: More than 60 percent of those who said they were Southern Baptists said they believed that many religions can be right about how to get to the hereafter. And about eight in 10 Catholics said they believed there was more than one true interpretation of their faith.

    In both of those cases, the majority seems to be at odds with official teachings.

    About the size of the Religious Right:
    Depending on the question, from a third to half of those who said they belong to Evangelical churches took religious and political positions generally associated with the religious right. If those results are accurate, 10 percent to 15 percent of voting-age Americans would be in that group.

    Based on interviews conducted in English and Spanish with a representative sample of more than 35,000 adults, part two of the Landscape Survey includes a wealth of information on the religious beliefs and practices of the American public. It also explores the social and political attitudes of religious groups, including groups that are as small as three-tenths of 1 percent of the adult population.

    Topics explored in the report include the importance of religion in people's lives; belief in God and the afterlife; attitudes toward the authority of sacred writings; frequency of worship attendance, prayer and meditation; and views of religion and morality, among others. The report also examines ideological and partisan orientation; attitudes on abortion, homosexuality, evolution and other social issues; views on helping the needy, the environment, and the size and proper role of government; and opinions on foreign affairs.

    Some of the initial findings say that 70 percent of Americans don’t think it is important that you assent to certain dogma in order to be saved. Among Evangelicals, the figure was 50 percent.

    While 92 percent believe in God, about 30 percent of those don’t believe in a “personal God” but in more of a force or being of some undefined sort. The percentage is somewhat higher among Catholics than the rest of the population.

    More media reports:

    Highlights from Pew U.S. religion survey

    Are U.S. atheists from Venus and Mormons from Mars? (Reuters)

    Some U.S. atheists seem to be confused (Reuters)

    Survey Shows U.S. Religious Tolerance (NYT)

    Christians: No One Path to Salvation (TIME)

    My faith isn't the only way (AP)

    Believers OK with many paths (USA Today)

    More Than 90 Percent Believe in God (Washington Post)

    On the intersection of politics, religion and race (Newsweek)

    Henry Chadwick dies at 87

    AP reports that The Rev. Henry Chadwick died last week at 87 years old.

    The Rev. Henry Chadwick, a Church of England priest and renowned scholar of the early centuries of Christianity, has died at age 87.

    Chadwick died Tuesday at a hospital in Oxford, his family said. The cause of death was not announced.

    Much of Professor Chadwick's work involved controversies in the early church, which he sought to explain with sympathy for the individuals involved; the same attitude was evident in his work in Anglican ecumenical dialogues with Roman Catholics and the Orthodox church.

    Born June 23, 1920 in Bromley, England, Chadwick won a music scholarship to Magdalene College, Cambridge, but his interest turned to church history. He was ordained priest in 1943.

    His teaching career began as fellow and chaplain at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he served as dean for five years; he was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University in 1959, and in 1969 was appointed dean of the college of Christ Church, Oxford.

    He moved to Cambridge in 1979 as Regius Professor of Divinity, and served as master of Peterhouse college, Cambridge from 1987 to 1993. He edited the Journal of Theological Studies from 1954 to 1985.

    "The story of the Christian Church is a fascinating narrative, and I have tried to write a true account especially (but not only) of the career of this society with its faith (and sometimes its follies) in the centuries of antiquity, during which Christianity enforced the transition from ancient to medieval, and on to modern," Chadwick told Contemporary Authors, a biographical resource.

    "I have tried to write about the people involved in this story with human sympathy and understanding for their problems."

    The first of his many books was a translation of "Contra Celsum" by Origen of Alexandria, the third century church father, published in 1953.

    His later works included studies of St. Ambrose, Priscillian of Avila, Boethius, and St. Augustine, capped in 2002 with the publication of "The Church in Ancient Society."

    He was knighted in 1989.

    Chadwick is survived by his wife of 63 years, Margaret; their three daughters and his elder brother, the Rev. Professor Owen Chadwick, also a distinguished church historian.

    The funeral is planned at Christ Church, Oxford on Wednesday.

    Archbishop Rowan Williams wrote a remembrance in the Guardian.

    'The Anglican church," it was said, "may not have a Pope, but it does have Henry Chadwick." Nothing could better illustrate the unique position held for many years by this aristocrat among Anglican scholars, who has died aged 87. His erudition was legendary, in practically all areas of the study of late antiquity, but it was also deployed to memorable effect in the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission.

    Many sensed that the more recent history of Anglican-Roman Catholic relations was a source of some sadness to him. He had little love either for radical fashions in theology or for the fierce neoconservatism characteristic of some parts of the Roman Catholic church in recent decades. He represented that earlier and more hopeful phase, begun and aborted in the 1920s at the Malines conversations (named after the French spelling of the Belgian city of Mechelen where they were held), where Anglicans and Roman Catholics discovered unexpected common ground in the study of the fathers of the church and in a deep but unobtrusive liturgical piety....

    He once proclaimed ecumenism "a good cause to die for", and was certainly deeply committed to finding consensus - not by coining a conveniently vague formula, but by a real excavation of common first principles.

    Read the AP Story here.

    Here is Rowan Williams tribute.

    Cracks appearing at GAFCON

    The Rt Rev. Peter Jensen, Bishop of Sydney, Australia, seems to be emerging as the leader of the Global Futures meeting in Jerusalem as cracks are appearing between the various participants. Riaza Butt of The Guardian writes that "Jensen is seen at the conference as the bridge between the hardline conservatives who want nothing to do with liberal churches in the US and Canada and those who wish to stay in the communion despite profound ideological differences over the ordination of gay clergy. It is agreed among the clutch of westerners at the conference that the real power will lie with the Australian delegates, not those from Africa."

    The people gathered on the Mount of Olives were united in voice as they sang their officially approved hymns, but on the second day of a conference which has laid bare the divisions in the Anglican communion over homosexuality, notes of discord could already be heard.

    ...The Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, proclaimed that the conference would rescue the church from apostasy, a claim that delighted some delegates but worried others who fear the impact such language may have on relations with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

    It was one of several low-level incidents that have started to expose tensions between African Anglicans and their western counterparts.

    When none of the African archbishops leading a press conference on Monday night condemned the torture of homosexuals in their home countries, it was left to the Bishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, to publicly abhor such acts on their behalf.

    Speaking to the Guardian yesterday, Jensen said: "Akinola is a preacher. They need to be rhetorical. In part, it's cultural. I have lived in the west; he lives in a different context."

    More here.

    A Guardian editorial Clerical Errors states that 280 bishops are attending GAFCON, however, many of the bishops are from breakaway churches and those that are not recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury as part of the Anglican Communion.

    Observations about GAFCON

    The Guardian has an editorial that says that if Anglican unity is to be maintained, it must for a cause worth staying together for. Stephen Bates says that those taking part in the conference in Jerusalem are united only by the one thing they all hate.

    The Guardian editorial says:

    Traditionally, the Anglican communion has been a big tent of mutual tolerance and respect. Its bishops have always enjoyed independent authority within their own dioceses. Its conferences, which take place only once every 10 years, are places for discussion and prayer not sessions of a parliament. They are embodiments of a culture of clerical agreement not one in which a quasi-papal authority is enforced.

    Yet the pressures for decision rather than reflection are now gathering on all sides. In Jerusalem on Sunday, addressing a conference in which Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester is also participating, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria called on the church to "banish the errors plaguing our communion", not to "acquiesce to destructive modern cultural and political dictates" and to rescue the communion from "apostates". If significant sections of the communion cannot now even bring themselves to sit in the same room with the rest because of disagreements - a Lambeth boycott movement is gathering pace - then one has to ask if the ties that once bound are now meaningful. In that case, what is the point of keeping the communion together any longer?

    The issue on which all of this currently hinges is the status of openly gay people. Over the past half century, civil society in many parts of the world, including ours, has broken free from the long tradition of hostility and discrimination against gay people - and both society and individual lives are immeasurably the better for it. Now, inevitably and rightly, the same process is taking place in the churches, with pressure for the election of openly gay clergy and bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions. In the past, the church has managed such issues by covering them up. But on this issue in these times, that is no longer possible.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has battled to hold both his church and the wider communion together in the face of these pressures. That is one of his jobs - and it has not been a dishonourable effort. Yet it seems clear that it has only delayed an inevitable - and ultimately necessary - confrontation over this issue. Dr Williams has not, contrary to the views of Archbishop Akinola, led the church into this. But, now that it is coming, he has a profound responsibility to lead the church out of it, happily and without fear. The question facing Anglicans - and facing other religious groups too - is whether theirs is a faith that is loving enough to treat gay people as equals. If the communion cannot hold together in the face of this question, then so be it. Unity matters as long as the cause is a good one. If the cause is not good, then maybe nor is the unity.

    Stephen Bates writes that homosexuality is a useful unifer among those who can agree on little else:

    Theirs is an insurgency united in what they don't like - homosexuality - and elevating it to a litmus test of orthodoxy in a way that other divisive theological issues - divorce, say, or women's ordination - have not been. The thing is that many conservatives know women - some have even married them - and not a few of the righteous have been divorced as well. They don't know gay people, and what they think they know of them is viscerally distasteful.

    Had things stopped there, it might be no more than a muttered grievance; but what is happening is a power struggle in which the conservatives of the US church - and, to a lesser extent, English evangelicals - have summoned up the developing world to seize the church from the forces of liberalism and relativism. If the battle over gays is lost, they say, everything is lost. The visit of many African bishops to the conference has been facilitated by US money.

    African moral outrage is necessary, not only because they have the burgeoning congregations, and no necessity of consulting their flocks through bloody-minded synods, but also because the conservatives fear their message is lost on western congregations. They are puzzled that their fervour is met with indifference, even though, in the words of the principal of Wycliffe Hall, the Oxford theological college, 95% of the population is in danger of damnation.

    Homosexuality is a useful unifier for conservative flocks. The little-noticed irony is that those meeting in Jerusalem agree on very little else: some American conservatives are more high church than the Pope, whereas the conservative archbishop of Sydney says he could never see himself attending mass.

    Despite the huffing, they maintain they don't want to leave Anglicanism: in the old evangelical phrase, it's a convenient boat to fish from. But many other Anglicans would like to see them go.

    Read the Guardian editorial: Clerical Errors.

    See Stephen Bates: Vicious hot air currents.

    Rescuing the faith once delivered to all the saints

    Katie Sherrod blogs the text of a talk given at her parish that describes how "the faith once delivered" was in fact developed over time and became, in Nicea, an integration of several strands of Christian tradition.

    When the leadership team bent on “realigning” the Diocese of Fort Worth reiterates its goals, one usually hears the hope that if only the Presiding Bishop and the General Convention would leave them alone, they could . . . Well, let them say it for themselves.
    Becoming a member Diocese of the Province of the Southern Cone would allow the Diocese of Fort Worth the opportunity and freedom to continue to practice the “Faith once delivered to all the saints” without being constantly distracted by the controversies and divisions caused by innovations hostile to traditional Christian norms.

    Jan 9, 2008, letter from Bishop and Standing Committee
    diocesan website

    That formula—the faith once delivered to all the saints—reappears frequently in their communications, written and oral, as the summation of all they hope for, the engine behind their drive to abandon the Episcopal Church for some other ecclesial structure where they can do what they say they can no longer do as Episcopalians. Those of us who are happy to be and remain Episcopalians might be forgiven for wondering what they’re talking about—though such an admission would draw hoots of derision from the realigners: “Of course, you don’t know what that is!” But as is often the case with such stock phrases, the meaning is neither simple nor very like what its users intend.

    Laying aside the rhetorical Molotov cocktails—controversies, divisions, hostile innovations—in the letter quoted above, the statement posits a historical phenomenon—a finite and identifiable configuration of Christian faith and practice—something solid, definable, and presumably superior to other options. Does such a thing in fact exist? Has it ever?


    For the sake of concision, here follows an abbreviated account of the principal types of pre-Nicene Christianity. There were dozens, but we will deal with only the most important variations we know about :

    • Primitive Jerusalem Christianity: no records; fresh, mysterious, simple; its message, the kerygma—God has acted again in history, the final age has begun in the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus; history will close upon his imminent return; visions, ecstasy; Jesus seen more as messiah than divine being; amorphous organization around the apostles.

    • Primitive gentile Christianity: the concept of messiah means nothing; the gentile church had no eschatological background for Jesus; Jesus is son of God (raises questions about Jesus’ relation to God the Father); Jesus is Lord (therefore present now, not postponed to a second coming); Jesus the son of God came to earth, died, was resurrected and restored, is now Lord and present to his worshippers; rejection of Torah.

    • Pauline Christianity: what we learn in Paul’s writings and those attributed to him; Paul knew primitive Jerusalem Christians but went to the gentiles; the gospel is universal; the gospel is about God’s grace (salvation granted to the unworthy); accepted messianic eschatology, the end coming soon—but not a paramount concern; rejected exclusivity for inclusivity; sin is real, the Mosaic law makes us aware of it, we invariably violate it, no human way out, leads to death; Christ supersedes the law, is condemned by the law but vindicated by God in the resurrection, power of sin broken; life in Christ produces what the law cannot but with few hard and fast ethical rules; love, not law: little interest in Jesus’ life, emphasis on him as Second Adam, something new, “in the form of God” became man and died, God raised him and made him Lord; justification, reconciliation, redemption, grace; church is those who wait for Jesus and live in Christ; initiation in baptism, sustenance in the eucharist.

    • Johannine Christianity: what we learn from his gospel and letters; Jesus’ life secondary to his relation to the Father and the divine nature of Christ; truth about God exists independently of history, so Jesus is more revealer of God than actor in history; introduces Greek concept of logos, that which makes God’s being intelligible to humanity; the preexistent divine logos is incarnated in Jesus, and both are now present in history (via the Holy Spirit, the paraclete) and eternity; history is a medium of revelation; judgment is now; life in Christ resembles Paul’s but more mystical, sacramental understanding (Cana/water/wine; Nicodemus/born again; feeding/bread of life); all guaranteed by the paraclete, “only spirit gives life, flesh is no avail”; skirts gnosticism (see below) but seeks to communicate Jesus’ significance to the wider Greek culture.

    • Jewish Christianity: various records; outgrowth of primitive form, led by James and successors (Jesus’ family), hounded in and out of Jerusalem, none there by A.D.135; a continuation of Judaism, Jesus is messiah in succession to the prophets, not divine, not virgin born, will be Messiah/Son of Man at return; rejected temple ritual but retained much of Torah and OT; an ethnic religion; they loathed Paul.

    • Gnostic Christianity: gnosticism antedates Christianity, has roots all over the place and a vast literature; gnosis = special knowledge, the peephole in the curtain between us and Ultimate Reality, revealed through cult initiation; proceeds from a kind of free-floating, non-specific sense of unhappiness with life as it is; strongly anti-Semitic; apocalyptic; emphasized dualism, the struggle between good and evil, creation mostly evil; posits a vast structure of spiritual beings connecting God to us; body and soul are prisons for spirit; deliverance through a divine messenger; Jesus is docetic, an envelope for pure spirit; rejects the world, embraces asceticism; short on concrete terms, relies heavily on myths; the world is not redeemed but rather escaped; tremendously appealing in its humanity, it garnered many adherents.

    Except for purely Jewish Christianity, all the above varieties and more were up and running concurrently—and adherents of all called themselves Christians—about the time the woman who became St. Helena went to Palestine and brought back what she promised were relics of the cross Jesus died on. Her son Constantine was running the eastern half of the Roman Empire. Raised a pagan, he converted famously to Christianity and was busy raising it to the status of state religion. But which kind? He gave the various church parties an ultimatum: clean up your act and give me a church that knows what it believes, an instrument of unity and centralization instead of the morass of claim and counter-claim and diversity and uncertainty I see now. So the church did what it always does: it held conventions—or councils or synods as they called them—meetings where people met and argued and voted.

    Constantine forced an issue that had troubled the church for a long time, namely that Jesus had not returned to gather in the faithful, and that meant Christians had either to abandon that part of their faith or expand their understanding of Jesus’ gospel to encompass the possibility of a long and undefined future. The first choice was not a choice, so the church had to think: if the Second Coming, the parousia, is delayed or not what we think it is, then how are we to live in history? The councils Constantine set in motion undertook that monumental task. Working with the scriptures—some of which did not get into the Bible, by the way—and the work of people like Clement, Ignatius, Irenaeus, and the other Church Fathers, they started knocking the edges off loose definitions. They excluded the gnostics as too gauzy, the Jews as too picayune and tied to the past. The purely secular need to achieve a degree of unity sufficient to guarantee the church’s survival drove them: there were plenty of applicants for the job Constantine had in mind for the Christians. And it paid off. The Nicene/Chalcedonian formula presented a Christianity erected on four bases: the creeds, the sacraments, the apostolic succession, and the scriptures, all defined by those councils—for the moment.

    And a splendid formulation it was and is, still accepted by the majority of Christians today, though by no means all. At least part of its long success is due to the way it excludes and assimilates, rejects the outworn or the bizarre and accepts much that was then new and risky, closes the door on small certainties and opens it to the nudging of the Holy Spirit. Classic catholic Christianity

    • accepts Judaism’s insistence on the importance of history but rejects its obsession with ethnic identity; • accepts the gnostic yearning for salvation but rejects its grotesque mythical claptrap; • accepts the eschatological hope of eternal life in the Kingdom of God but rejects historical eschatology, a cataclysmic close of history at a predetermined moment; • accepts ethical freedom in the context of Pauline love but rejects the demands of the Torah and other hyper-detailed moral codes; • accepts John’s Christology and sacramentalism, the belief that God’s incarnation in Jesus expands in history, and rejects the docetist view that history doesn’t really count.

    The formula has worked well because it preserves what is essential, lays aside what is not, and remains open to the possibility of adjustment to accommodate undeniable historical circumstance—and to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Constantine’s insistence got good results.

    Read it all here.

    A bad idea whose time has come

    The blog of St. Thomas' Church in Dupont Circle in Washington, DC says the Anglican Covenant is a bad idea whose time has come.

    The writer has read the series on the Covenant on the Daily Episcopalian, read and listened to the discussion at the Tutu Center last month and summarizes why the Covenant is a bad idea.

    It’s a bad idea for some fairly simple reasons:

    * It is disingenuous (lacking in candor, giving a false appearance of simple frankness, calculating). Under the guise of a laudable quest for the unity of the Body of Christ, the Covenant not only is divisive, but actually would enable the disenfranchisement of gays and lesbians in the Anglican Communion, and all national churches — read: The Episcopal Church — who fully recognize gays and lesbians as full participants at all levels of the life of the Church.

    * While the current draft explicitly states that “to covenant together is not intended to change the character of this Anglican expression of Christian faith,” in fact for Episcopalians it does propose a radical revisionism, making the so-called “bonds of affection” among the members of the worldwide Anglican Communion more important than the bonds of the radical hospitality of the love of Christ, particularly for the outcast, the downtrodden, the disenfranchised. The Covenant seems to forget: the measure of the kingdom is that “the last shall be first, and the first last.”

    * The genius of the “primacy of Scripture” for Anglicans as the first and irreplaceable source of authority for our understanding of God and all creation is being replaced by a creeping authoritarianism of “the Word of God” - interpreted as if the past 400 years of Biblical scholarship had not even taken place.

    * The broad and open doors of the Anglican tradition are being replaced by a rigid and boundary-guarding traditionalism, whose purpose is not really passing on the “tradition,” anyway, if “traditio” means passing on the scandalous story of God’s extravagant forgiveness, unconditional love, and boundless hospitality, which we enjoy not because of our merits, but because of God’s gracious gift to us — not because of our deserving, but because of God’s unswerving faithfulness. God doesn’t let us in the door because we believe the right doctrine; we believe in God because we trust what God has done, which includes letting the likes of me in the door, and inviting me to the table without asking me first to try to be anyone other than the person God has created me to be.

    * The ecclesiology, or theology of the church, that defines Anglicanism as a communion based in our common baptism into the laos tou theou — the people of God, the laity — is being replaced by a new quasi-catholic clericalism. And while claiming that “Churches of the Anglican Communion are not bound together by a central legislative, executive or judicial authority,” the Covenant would authorize the bishops of the church to act as ultimate arbiters of biblical interpretation and theological belief.

    * It is a cynical document, based largely on self-interest, guaranteeing the numerical majority of ultra-conservative primates the ability to demand doctrinal and behavioral conformity, and in the absence of that, to be authorized to pronounce non-conformists to be anathema, denounced and banned from full participation in the communion of the Body of Christ.

    This Anglican Covenant is just a bad idea. But if its time has come, then it is time for the Episcopal Church to stand up and say “No!”

    Read it all here.

    Schism tide recedes

    Ruth Gledhill in The Times, UK writes that the GAFCON leaders are backing away from the calls for schism and intend to work from within the Anglican Communion. As reported in The Lead yesterday, The Rt. Rev. Peter Jensen of Sydney, Australia is becoming the primary spokesperson for the conservative movement backed by Archbishops Nzimbi and Orombi. Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh is not in attendance at the conference.

    The prospect of schism in the worldwide Anglican Church receded as African leaders meeting in Jerusalem stepped back from the brink and declared they are not seeking to start a new church.

    Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, Primate of Kenya and leader of that country's four million Anglicans, and the Ugandan Primate Archbishop Henry Orombi confirmed last night that there will be no split.

    Archbishop Nzimbi's comments are especially significant because he is heading the committee that will draw up the final communique to be issued on Sunday night.

    The emerging figure that is crucial in the softening of the line on schism is the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, who has become the key player on the Anglican conservative wing, shifting the emphasis from the US and African conservatives to Australia. Significantly, the Pittsburgh Bishop Bob Duncan, who heads the US conservative grouping Common Cause, is not in Israel although he is named as one of the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) leadership team in the programme.

    Bishop Duncan is not in Israel but as reported here, he addressed the group earlier.

    UPDATE: Bishop Duncan made his address to the pre-meeting in Jordan but is not attending GAFCON because of prior family commitments.

    More extensive commentary of the behind the scenes maneuvering from Ruth Gledhill, on the scene in Israel, here.

    In other news, The Birmingham Post (UK) has confirmed that Bishop Nazir-Ali was to boycott the Lambeth Conference following the controversy over the ordination of Anglicanism’s first openly gay bishop.

    The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester, said he would change his mind about staying away from the 10-yearly meeting of Anglican leaders in Canterbury, Kent, if those who ordained the Bishop of New Hampshire, the Rt Rev Gene Robinson, repented."

    In a statement made as he was leaving for GAFCON:
    “As I said in October, my difficulty in attending the Lambeth Conference has to do with being in eucharistic fellowship with and teaching the common faith alongside those who have ordained a person to be bishop whose style of life is contrary to the unanimous teaching of the Bible and of the Church down the ages,” he said in a statement. “I agree with the Windsor Report’s recommendation those who have gone against Church teaching should not attend representative Anglican gatherings.

    Now that GAFCON seems to be moving towards working from within the Anglican Communion, perhaps Bishop Nazir-Ali will be reconsidering where his voice might be more effective.

    Other links thanks to Thinking Anglicans:
    Gay at GAFCON

    Anglican Culture Wars

    Church Times Blog, Dave Walker with even more links.

    Priest studying Islam remains under suspension

    Scott Gunn updates the status of The Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, the Episcopal priest who seeks to follow both Chrisitanity and Islam. At Gunn's blog Seven Whole Days, he publishes a recent letter to the House of Bishops from The Rt. Rev. Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island where Redding is canonically resident.

    June 20, 2008

    To: Members of the House of Bishops
    From: The Rt. Rev’d Geralyn Wolf
    Re: The Rev’d Dr. Ann Holmes Redding

    In June of 2007, I issued a Pastoral Direction to The Rev’d Dr. Ann Holmes Redding, a priest canonically resident in the Diocese of Rhode Island but living in Seattle. She claimed to be both a Muslim and a Christian. Among other things, she was suspended from all priestly duties for one year, at which time I would review the situation. If it became necessary to take further action the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Rhode Island would be engaged in early July, 2008.

    I met with The Rev’d Dr. Ann Holmes Redding on May 22, 2008, and believe that she remains committed to her profession of both Christianity and Islam. As I am leaving for pre-Lambeth engagements on June 28, prior to the end of her suspension, I have extended the Pastoral Direction until September 15, 2008. I do not think that it is fair to make a decision of this nature from afar; without ready access to either Dr. Redding or the Standing Committee.

    The decision for extension was not requested by Dr. Redding, nor does it indicate a change in my understanding of the theological conflicts inherent in professing both traditions.

    Dr. Redding is a woman of utmost integrity and our conversations remain open and mutually gratifying. I have great respect for her and the process of exploration to which she is committed. I also remain devoted to our Christian faith and the ordination vows taken by those who have entered the sacred priesthood.

    The media is requesting an update from me. Recalling the attention this attracted a year ago, I share this communiqué with you.

    Looking forward to seeing you at Lambeth.


    Study along with the Lambeth bishops and spouses

    A special series of Bible studies that mirror the studies that the Bishops will be doing at Lambeth are now on the web. The Anglican Communion News service announces:

    The faithful around the Communion have a unique opportunity for Bible Study with their Bishops during the Lambeth Conference as the series ‘Signs on the Way’ makes its debut on the Lambeth Conference website.

    This special series - focusing on St John’s Gospel - complements the Bible studies in which the bishops and their spouses will take part during the Lambeth Conference 2008.

    We hope that people throughout the Anglican Communion will use this series as a way of being present in spirit at the Lambeth Conference, supporting their bishops before, during and after this important gathering.

    The studies are structured so that they can be used either by groups or by individuals. They can form the basis of personal devotions, a church study group or perhaps a diocesan meeting.

    From the Introduction:

    The Bible studies we offer to you are produced by the same international team of people who were also responsible for the Bible studies at the Lambeth Conference. In the Bible studies written for the bishops and their spouses the focus is on the ‘I am’ sayings in the Gospel of John. These present studies, however, focus on the ‘signs’ carried out by Jesus in the Gospel of John. The signs take us to the heart of Jesus’ ministry and mission – indeed John 20:30–31
    suggests that it is through such signs that we come to discover that ‘Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing …have life in his name.’

    The files, in two formats can be found here.

    Nazir-Ali shifts focus at GAFCON

    In a much more conciliatory tone, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali spoke to the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON) of conservatives about the dangers of militant secularism. Stressing the importance of "translatability" of Christianity, he praised the enculturation of the Gospel while warning of the dangers of becoming one with culture. The conference seems to be shifting from one gathered around a single issue to a broader focus as it becomes apparent that the original focus is losing support.

    Ruth Gledhill reporting from Jerusalem writes:

    The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, has just delivered a strong address to Gafcon where he managed to shift the focus of the conference from defensiveness one of a positive and combative engagement with 'militant secularism'. He was surprisingly moderate in talking about how doctrine should develop in terms of the local culture.

    From Bishop Nazir-Ali's speech:
    'When we consider the Anglican situation, the translation of the Bible by William Tyndale into English is a landmark not only in the story of the English church but of the English nation and of the English language. It is impossible to think of a Shakespeare or a Donne without a Tyndale. And the translation the rendering into the vernacular of the liturgy of the BCP of worship in a language understood by the people is all part of this process of translation. This is wealth that we cannot easily give up. Translatability belongs to the very nature of Anglicanism. In the preface of the BCP and the Articles of Religion, every church has a responsibility to render the good news in terms of its culture.

    Read more here

    Matthew Davies of Episcopal Life reports "Conservative Anglicans meeting in Jerusalem struggle to find a united voice."

    Acknowledging that the conservatives at GAFCON are struggling to find their voice, Orombi recognized that "some are staying; some are tired; some are walking. It's important for people here to define their needs."

    Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria states that GAFCON is not going to break away from the Anglican Communion. "We have no other place to go, nor is it our intention to start another church," he said.

    Bishop Bruce MacPherson of the Diocese of Western Louisiana, who said he is attending GAFCON "to see how all of this will influence the work of the Lambeth Conference," emphasized that he is committed to the Episcopal Church remaining a constituent member of the Anglican Communion.

    An Episcopal priest, who asked not to be named, said he never had and never would consider leaving the Episcopal Church. "I am here for the duration," he said, "even if I disagree with recent events that have strained relationships."

    Read more here.

    UPDATE from Church Times blog on the possible outcome of GAFCON as foreseen by the Rt. Rev. Bill Atwood in the Tuesday press conference"

    “It doesn’t mean that all old associations need to be terminated. It doesn’t mean that there have to be battles and break-ups and separations at every turn.

    “Those voluntary associations will rise out of principles, leading to a shared purpose and vision, and ultimately they will lead to shared structural mechanisms.

    “So it’s not as if there was no structural impact of what’s happening [at GAFCON] but . . . the idea is that things are emerging, and that things are being discerned, and relationships are growing and building, and as those principles are discerned, they give more and more clarity. . .

    “We’ll try and provide, if you will, some points of light, that will be like stars in a constellation, that can be used to navigate the way into the future.”

    So, according to Bishop Atwood, who is on the GAFCON leadership team, we might expect some principles, which will lead to what he describes as “a higher level of commitment”, and ultimately something structural. As he said on Tuesday, “It’s not that there is a constitution in the wings waiting to be posted that people can sign on or line up or not, it’s more that it has to grow out of relationships.”

    It is all much vaguer than people had come to expect, and participants will want to see something that is a significant advance on what exists at the moment, especially with the Lambeth Conference coming up.

    Traces of the Trade airs tonight

    PBS will air the national broadcast premiere of Traces of the Trade on P.O.V. The film was also shown at the Sundance Festival.

    Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North is a unique and disturbing journey of discovery into the history and "living consequences" of one of the United States' most shameful episodes — slavery. In this bicentennial year of the U.S. abolition of the slave trade, one might think the tragedy of African slavery in the Americas has been exhaustively told. Katrina Browne thought the same, until she discovered that her slave-trading ancestors from Rhode Island were not an aberration. Rather, they were just the most prominent actors in the North's vast complicity in slavery, buried in myths of Northern innocence.

    Many Episcopalians who attended General Convention in 2006 saw the first cut of this film. It is a moving story that ranges from Rhode Island to Africa as her family tries to come to terms with its complicity in slavery.

    As the film recounts, the DeWolf name has been honored through generations, both in the family's hometown of Bristol, R.I., and on the national stage. Family members have been prominent citizens: professors, writers, legislators, philanthropists, Episcopal priests and bishops. If the DeWolfs' slave trading was mentioned at all, it was in an offhand way, with reference to scoundrels and rapscallions.

    The film is scheduled for 10 p.m. June 24. Check your local schedule for times in your area.

    Read more here.

    Interview with filmaker, Katrina Browne here.

    More on another member of the family in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer here.

    ...Hale, a Superfund project manager with the Environmental Protection Agency in downtown Seattle. She was curious and felt compelled to explore the moral questions Browne raised. But it was not a trip she undertook lightly.

    "I felt the heaviness of it," Hale said. "It felt complicated. I was kind of ashamed to tell people where I was going and what I was doing. It's not something you wear with pride."

    Viewers will share that sense of disquiet as Browne's quiet, somber storytelling lays bare the tangible horrors of the slave trade and the extent of Northern involvement. It's impossible not to be moved, for example, by the sight of Cape Castle, Ghana, where a grim, windowless dungeon held 1,000 captives at a time for delivery to slave ships.

    Equally powerful is the effect on the DeWolf descendants, who grow frayed and emotional as the trip wears on. At one point in the film, Hale dissolves into tears, fearing the group is just a bunch of "pathetic" white people trying to absolve their guilt.

    More news from Zimbabwe

    Anglican Information updates the news from Zimbabwe:

    First, the good news: God willing, one congregation, St Peter's, Meyrick Park, Mabelreign, will return to their church building next Sunday for an 11 o'clock service after the Kunonga 'priest's service is over. This was announced last Sunday by a lawyer in the congregation, who is also the Diocesan Registrar. The congregation have been meeting as usual in the Roman catholic Church Hall at Mabelreign. The lawyer said they had gone back to the courts because of police harrassment and the closure of 53 Anglican churches in the diocese.
    Now the bad news: The political situation has deteriorated out of all recognition. With inflation exceeding two million percent and food desperately short, members of the opposition are no longer just at risk of beating, but at risk of their lives.
    The family had their home destroyed at the Murambatsvina in 2005, but have managed to get going again living in a glorified tent supplied by the Roman catholic Church. Now they are subjected to endless rallies, which they have to attend. In addition they were collected from there home by the Zanu-PF youth for beating. The mother was subjected to two hours of intimidation and watched others being beaten, but they actually relented when she handed her two months old baby to them when it was her turn. But they assured her that they would come and burn down her house. The police were informed but did nothing. We asked her if her children (11, 9 and 7) understood what was going on.

    'Oh, yes,' she said cheerfully, 'They have watched people being beaten'. Since this happened she, her husband who has a job, and her five children have slept rough, despite the wintery conditions. They are now in a 'safe house'. The teenage son has been left behind with a neighbour to feed the chickens. She feels herself to be lucky as when they came for another MDC leader, who was in hiding, they took his wife and hacked her to death with machetes. The body was found in a field, but burial has been impossible as they assure the family that anyone who arranges it will be arrested and........

    More on Anglican-Information is here

    The press release in full is below.

    ANGLICAN-INFORMATION is a network acting as a free conduit for news and information related to the Anglican Diocese of Lake Malawi, and the Province of Central Africa. It is organised by an international team of those who know and love Africa and Malawi well.

    Read more »

    Tuesday roundup from GAFCON

    The Rt. Rev. Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali was asked how he could boycott the Lambeth Conference after his statements about working within the Anglican Communion. He replied that he could not share fellowship with those who support gays and lesbians in the church. Dr Jensen, bishop of Sydney Australia believes by not attending they will force the issues. From the Church Times blog:

    Dr Nazir-Ali was asked how this vision of working within the Anglican Communion squared with his decision to stay away from the Lambeth Conference, announced this week. He replied that he staying away was “a matter of conscience. I would find it difficult to be in a eucharistic gathering around the Lord’s table with people who have, again and again, said no to the Church’s request not to do something that is contrary to the Bible and the unanimous teaching of the Church down the ages.”
    Dr Jensen said at an earlier press conference that the withdrawal of bishops such as those from the Sydney diocese was positive. “Our absence is helpful, because it forces the issue. Our absence is a vote, if you like, to say that this is an enormously important issue.”

    Reporting on Nazir-Ali's address to all the GAFCON participants,

    Dr Nazir-Ali spoke earlier about different models of the Church: the church of the household, “for people who are in some way like one another”; the church of the city, “where people who are unlike one another come together”; the church of an area; and the worldwide Church of God.
    “We are faced, in a changing situation, where people want to be church with those who are like them. We find it in Africa, where people want to be church in the context of their own tribe; we find it in Asia, and now we find it with the affinity churches, the network churches, and the virtual churches in the North.”
    He had once been hostile to this tendency, but his study of the household churches, he said, had led him to modify his views a little, and he now thought it permissible.
    “But there is one condition, and that is that this is not the only way to be church. If you want to be church with those who are like you, you also have to be church with those who are unlike you.”

    Read it here.

    Jerome Taylor writing in The Independent UK asks Will the Communion split? and answers:


    * The divide between liberals and conservatives is simply too wide for both sides to reach a compromise

    * With Gafcon, a split has already technically begun, whether the Anglican Church accepts it or not

    * It will be another 10 years before Church leaders can attend another Lambeth, by which point it may be too late


    * The Anglican Church by its very nature is made up of conflicting views and theological differences and has weathered many storms

    * The vast majority of clergy and lay people don't want to see their Church split in two and will do everything they can to save it

    * The fact that conservatives have yet to call for a split shows that ultimately they don't want to break away anyway

    Read his article here.

    The Guardian UK posts comments from around the world on GAFCON.
    Ian Gordon of Kent writes that is all about power not sexuality:

    This is not a conflict over sexuality - it's a power struggle. On one side there are those who would have all Anglicans believe the same thing and submit to a "monocular" reading of the Bible. On the other are those who glory in the infinite variety of humankind - the creation of a God whose very essence is love in all its forms - and who are able to read and understand the many different books of the Bible as the cumulative revelation of many hundreds of years' experience of that same God.

    Carolyn Miley of Australia says this is a long standing set of issues:
    The Australian group attending the Global Anglican Future Conference signalled its intention to go its own way long ago, first by opposing the new prayer book, then the ordination of women, then women bishops.

    Read more here.

    The Living Church reports on the Communique´ to be issued by the Conference:

    The long-term implications of GAFCON will likely rest upon its closing communiqué. Pilgrims will be asked to review seven questions over the course of the conference, including
    what can be done to restore sacramental Communion among the divided Anglican churches

    and whether it can be reformed from within.

    The questions they will be asked to answer [also] include

    whether cross border Episcopal jurisdictions are an appropriate way forward to resolve differences;

    is GAFCON merely a Global South initiative or does it have a role to play in the wider church;

    will the initiatives that arise from GAFCON be neutralized by the strategic use of money by its opponents in the Episcopal Church;

    can GAFCON provide a path towards the Anglican future;

    and should GAFCON become an institutional entity in order to achieve the tasks it has set for itself.

    Archbishop Orombi said there were no predetermined answers to these questions from the archbishops, as it was important that clergy and lay voices be heard in formulating a way forward for Anglicanism.
    The same Living Church article echoes several UK reporters: "The meeting has witnessed a shift in the leadership of the conservative movement within the Anglican Communion, with the Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen assuming a new prominence among what had been an African-dominated leadership team."

    Why a warring church must change

    Inspire Magazine on the "Fear or Freedom? Why a warring church must change," a book of essays on the Anglican Communion and other historic churches to be issued next week by Ekklesia:

    Christians need to be beacons of hope, not signs of decay, it argues, suggesting that the “conservative versus liberal” stereotype disguises a deeper tension between establishment religion and the Christian message of radical transformation.
    Many Christians and other onlookers are completely baffled by the nasty arguments within Anglicanism right now", explains Simon Barrow [editor of the volume and co-director of Ekklesia]. "These rows are missing four key ingredients - an understanding
    that 'top-down' models of the Church are dying,

    that the world needs examples of reconciliation and peacemaking rather than animosity,

    that many want to affirm gay Christians on deeply traditional grounds, and

    that disagreement without courtesy and love is destroying the credibility of the Church's message."

    Read it all here.

    From Ekklesia:

    The ugly public rows over sexuality, authority and the interpretation of the Bible in the Anglican Communion leave many people not caught up in internecine church conflict baffled and frustrated.

    What has this bitterness got to do with the Gospel and Jesus’ message of radical emancipation?

    Why is there so much fuss over a denomination that often appears a colonial hangover?

    What about the far more pressing issues of war, peace, development, environment, science and spirituality?

    How does such infighting impact the credibility of the Christian message in the twenty-first century?

    Ahmanson at GAFCON

    Ruth Gledhill with some scoops:

    This is a rare photograph of the millionaire Howard Ahmanson, pictured here at Gafcon in Jerusalem. He has made a name as a funder of the conservative Anglican cause in the US, as revealed by Jim Naughton in Following the Money. He has a delegate's badge around his neck, but has to my knowledge played no public role in the conference. I can't help but feel that his presence here is significant however. He is a friend and
    prayer partner of the chief executive of the American Anglican Council, David Anderson, and has a history of funding Christian right missions with an anti-gay objective.
    The final commique has yet to come out but, with the exception of a few increasingly-desperate Americans, there is less and less talk of schism. It is clear that, with Common Causes's Bob Duncan not even here, but celebrating his 60th birthday in Italy instead, and with threats and actual litigation hanging heavy over the US conservatives, the mantle of leadership is moving to Australia.

    Gafcon's chairman is Nigeria's Peter Akinola but after his opening address his profile is surprisingly low. Kenya's Archbishop Nzimbi and Uganda's Archbishop Orombi are as impressive and deep as always. They seem happy to work with Sydney's Dr Peter Jensen. There is a new mood of hope among the Africans, who have been distressed to learn how many of the US conservative bishops are in the end going to Lambeth when their own Martyn Minns has not been invited. Most of them really do not want to walk away.

    Where this leaves the US conservatives is uncertain. And quite what I am going to write for the newspaper, now the schism story is receding, is also not yet clear. I make a note to try and find Greg Venables, who is rumoured to have just flown in and to have been spotted in the dining room, from which the press is barred. But it seems there was true, if perhaps unintended, symbolism in our pilgrimage to the Mount of Olives, where Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and to the Garden of Gethsemane, the place of Jesus' betrayal by his friends.

    I sit here, typing this article, pondering all this taking place in an extraordinarily beautiful city, subsisting in an unearthly realm where the sky meets Land and nothing in between. Another email pops into my box: 'Hear the sound of the saw cutting off the limb on which all these faithful folk are sitting.'

    Read it all.

    In 2004 Peter Larsen did a series of interviews with the Ahmansons. This may tell you all you need to know:

    The late Rev. R. J. Rushdoony - will likely remain the albatross around the Ahmansons' reputation...

    A prolific writer, Rushdoony advocated ideas seen as extreme by many. "The Institutes of Biblical Law" is the one most often singled out for criticism and censure. In it, Rushdoony talks of the need to return to biblical law, using such examples as the death penalty by stoning for homosexuals and adulterers.

    Howard Ahmanson first read Rushdoony in the 1970s, eventually served on the board of [Rushdoony's] foundation's board and donated more than $700,000, he says.

    In a 1985 interview with the Register, Ahmanson described his goal as "total integration of biblical law into our lives," a statement that has clung to him ever since.
    The Ahmansons say their views are misunderstood.
    Yet at times, the way they explain their views - the fine lines they draw, the hypotheticals they consider - can leave questions about just where they stand.
    "I think what upsets people is that Rushdoony seemed to think - and I'm not sure about this - that a godly society would stone people for the same thing that people in ancient Israel were stoned," [Ahmanson] said. "I no longer consider that essential.

    "It would still be a little hard to say that if one stumbled on a country that was doing that, that it is inherently immoral, to stone people for these things," Ahmanson said. "But I don't think it's at all a necessity."

    Emphasis added. The Ahmansons decided to sit for lengthy interviews because his reputation was so toxic political candidates were returning his donations. So this was his attempt to improve his image by taking a more moderate stance on this issue.

    Much more here.

    So here's a question for Archbishop Akinola. It's said that you "raised $1.2 million in three weeks for the conference [and your] church even subsidized the attendance of a number of Americans." Where did you get that money?

    A message from Bishop Sisk

    Via email, a letter to the clergy of the Diocese of New York:

    June 23, 2008

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    Some of you may have seen an article in The Daily News of June 15, 2008, entitled "How Crips, Bloods & Latin Kings 'baptize' kids Baby gangstas." The claim of the article is that babies are being blessed into gangs in one of our churches by a priest of this diocese. If the facts are as reported, this is extremely distressing and completely contrary to the longheld stance of this church. I am taking immediate steps to review and address the matter.

    I believe deeply in the importance of mission and creative outreach to the community and strongly encourage such initiatives. However, if accurate, the actions as reported in the Daily News are damaging to our common life.



    Read the Daily News article here.

    GAFCON security

    Paul Handley in Jerusalem, reporting at the Church Times blog:

    security guards have been assigned to some of the GAFCON participants. They were first noticeable on the Mount of Olives, where the Primate of Nigeria was flanked by two guards, complete with Raybans and curly wires leading to ear-pieces.

    This was trumped by the Bishop of Rochester, whose press conference was staffed by three attentive guards. Journalists were left wondering whether this said more about about the Bishop or about them.

    Dr Nazir-Ali, in reply to a question, said that he had stayed away from home for a day after police advised him to avoid an anti-homophobia rally in Rochester (which turned out to consist of five people, dropping to three when the weather turned). The coincidence of GAFCON with a Gay Pride march on Thursday cannot have helped put organisers at their ease.

    If you believe everything you read, the Gafconites are on edge about the Gay Pride march:
    "Tactically it positions them to make a statement in the midst of a global orthodox event that is focusing on the redemption of people including homosexuals," said one North American Anglican bishop.

    Gay activists moved the event up from June 21 to June 26 for no apparent reason, but observers believe this was done to embarrass the organizers and pilgrims of GAFCON. "Clearly it is an in your face act because if the appearance of British and American homosexual activists," said a GAFCON spokesperson.
    Both Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola and Church of England Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali (Rochester) have personal security agents standing feet away from them at all times. Both men can only be approached by invitation only (sic).

    Last year the Gay Pride Parade drew 10,000 police who guarded the parade because Orthodox Jews stoned them.

    Not that there is any connection between that stoning and the stoning story we had this morning. Or that disastrous GAFCON news conference.

    The Gay pride parade draws GLBT Jews from around the world.

    Who is this man named Jensen?

    As numerous reporters have it, the mantle of the dissident movement in the Anglican Communion is shifting from Peter Akinola of Nigeria to the smooth talking Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen. Ironically, Jensen seems to have cemented his hold by stepping in at a GAFCON news conference gone bad and speaking on behalf of African bishops who are perfectly capable of speaking on their on behalf. (Example: "The smooth and savvy Peter Jensen, Anglican archbishop of Sydney, is being lined up as the frontman for any such association because he can interpret the Africans for a western audience. Ouch.") Jensen, more than others at the conference, has argued the point that GAFCON is not about schism, and he lead Sydney apart from the Anglican Church of Australia and remain an Anglican. Perhaps he has eye on a larger prize, primate of Australia, a seat currently held by Phillip Aspinall.

    Peter Jensen and his brother Phillip Jensen -- named Dean of the Sydney cathedral by his brother -- are known from the "agressive low church conservativism" of the Diocese of Sydney. For more on their brand of Anglicanism see the two essays by George Clifford in the Daily Episcopalian here and here.

    Phillip Jensen has not established a reputation as a smooth talker. According to the Church Times (October 2004),

    In a Bible study, Dean Jensen had called for the resignation of Dr [Rowan] Williams [the Archbishop of Canterbury] on the grounds of “theological and intellectual prostitution”. He said Dr Williams took his salary “under false pretences” by upholding his office while having a personal opinion of his own on matters of sexuality. A Guardian story headed “Evangelicals call Williams a prostitute” reached Sydney, Australia, and elicited a furious phone call to the Dean from his brother, Dr Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney.

    But the jetlagged Dean, suffering a migraine as well as the wrath of his brother, seemed unable to resist further antagonism in his final Bible study for the conference on Wednesday. He berated Reform as a “bunch of old women” for their timidity, and described Evangelicals who accepted women’s ordination as “mealy-mouthed . . . able to be domesticated and put in their place”.

    Worse, especially in the light of gracious and reconciliatory offerings the previous day from Anglican Mainstream and New Wine, the Dean warned Reform not to trust or make friends with “co-belligerents”. These, he said, would “bite you, and you will be seduced by their paradigm”.

    His final broadside was to declare that he had known “our side had lost” when Dr Williams got all the Primates at their meeting last October to share communion.

    About the same events Stephen Bates of the Guardian wrote,
    Dean Jensen was applauded as his sweeping denunciation of the Church of England took in the Prince of Wales - a "public adulterer"; King's College Chapel in Cambridge, attacked as a "temple to paganism" for selling the records and compact discs of its famous choir in the ante-chapel; and women priests because, "as soon as you accept women's ordination everything else in the denomination declines".

    But the dean reserved his strictest condemnation for Dr Williams, because he holds liberal private views about homosexual relationships, even though he has struggled to uphold the church's unity by maintaining its traditional opposition to ordained gays.

    "That's no good. That's total prostitution of the Christian ministry," the dean declared, to applause and cries of "Amen".

    "He should resign. That's theological and intellectual prostitution. He is taking his salary under false pretences."

    Yet Phillip Jensen remains the Very Reverend. (He takes up his own defense here.) A case of good cop, bad cop? Does Phillip Jensen say what Peter Jensen can only afford to believe, but not speak?

    Or is this a case of a powerful brother giving his brother special treatment?

    What I am going to write for the newspaper now?

    Reporters went to GAFCON smelling schism in the third largest religious fellowship. Did the editors get the big story they were promised? For some reporters the story is the lack of story.

    TIME's David Van Biema sums it up this way:

    [T]he secession it threatened to bring to the 78 million-member Anglican Communion looks like a confused bust.

    This all comes as a bit of surprise to the press, which — with ample encouragement from the Church's right — had been framing GAFcon as a decisive step toward schism....

    GAFcon seems to be falling apart on several fronts. First came the venue problems: the conference ping-ponged embarrassingly at the last minute from Jerusalem to Jordan and back to Jerusalem.

    Then there was attendance. The clerics at GAFcon were really supposed to sit out the Communion's once-a-decade Lambeth Conference in July. But it turns out several key conservatives did not even show up at GAFcon (or simply made brief appearances) and will go on to the church-wide meeting in Canterbury in July. Meanwhile, conservative Southeast Asian bishops have fallen out with some GAFcon leaders. ...

    GAFcon's message was scrambled from the get-go.

    Of course you've heard it all here first from our very own Jim Naughton. Not surprisingly that caught Van Biema's attention. But he also interviewed Kendall Harmon: "Harmon agrees that GAFcon will not have the impact some had hoped for, and that barring a surprise conservative rebellion at the Lambeth conference, the big blow-up around homosexuality many had expected this summer will be deferred. Anglicans, says Harmon ruefully, are incrementalists, and "that has continued through this season.""

    Read it all here.

    The Guardian's Riazat Butt writes:

    Bishop Bill Attwood, an American missionary bishop from the Anglican church of Kenya, gave a little more, but not much more, information about the much vaunted Flying Communion, a term that sounds more exciting than other descriptions: church-within-a-church or structure-within-a-structure.

    The term he used was "voluntary associations" to discern who they should collaborate with and on what basis; they would be a spiritual haven for traditionalists and he used a rather strangled metaphor of stars and constellations to explain how these associations would guide defecting Anglicans through unchartered territory.

    In all of these there is no timeline, no budget or sense of who might oversee this activity, although the smooth and savvy Peter Jensen, Anglican archbishop of Sydney, is being lined up as the frontman for any such association because he can interpret the Africans for a western audience. Ouch.

    One would think that 10-years worth of accumulated grievance would lead to a plan, with slightly more flesh on the bones than the carcass we're presented with. Many of the GAFCON leadership team have been fulminating over the 'decline' of the Anglican Communion for more than a decade and it's a little odd that the £2.5m budget could not have been spent more wisely.

    (Emphasis added.) In other words, old wine in old skins -- the same conclusion Van Biema comes to.

    Tuesday Butt wrote: "Talk of betrayal, disappointment and disagreement threatens to sour the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon)...."

    Ruth Gledhill today wrote "Africans ... have been distressed to learn how many of the US conservative bishops are in the end going to Lambeth when their own Martyn Minns has not been invited. [But] most of them really do not want to walk away. Where this leaves the US conservatives is uncertain. And quite what I am going to write for the newspaper, now the schism story is receding, is also not yet clear."

    While there may be distress over the number of US conservative bishops who are in the end going to Lambeth, Kendall Harmon's principle of incrementalism continues. Today the BBC reports "The latest to join the boycott [of Lambeth] is the Bishop of Lewes, Wallace Benn."

    Church center communication director to step down


    Canon Robert Williams, who in July will mark four years as senior director in the Episcopal Church Center's Communication Office, has chosen to step down from this position effective August 15, Chief Operating Officer Linda E. Watt announced June 25.
    Plans call for naming an interim director and the subsequent selection of a successor through a search process that consults widely with communication stakeholders across the church, Watt said.
    Williams, 47, served as one of the Episcopal Church's principal spokespersons, notably during the 2004 Windsor Report release, the Anglican Consultative Council's 2005 meeting in Nottingham, the 2006 General Convention at which Jefferts Schori was elected Presiding Bishop, and the Anglican Primates' 2007 meeting in Dar es Salaam.
    As editor of the Lambeth Conference's daily newspaper in 1998, Williams gained experience that will assist in interpreting events of this summer's similar gathering in Canterbury.
    Read it here.

    Same sex marriage and Christian theology

    From Bishop John Bryson Chane's op-ed column in today's issue of The Guardian:

    Archbishop Rowan Williams has tried to take the issue of gay marriage off the table at the Lambeth Conference, which begins in three weeks. But the celebration of a gay relationship at one of London’s oldest churches last month, and the well-publicised gathering of anti-gay Anglicans in Jerusalem this week, suggest the controversy must eventually be faced squarely.

    Conservative Christians say opening marriage to gay couples would undermine an immutable institution founded on divine revelation. Archbishop Henry Orombi, the excitable primate of the Church of Uganda, calls it blasphemy. But, theologically, support for same-sex marriage is not a dramatic break with tradition, but a recognition that the church’s understanding of marriage has changed dramatically over 2,000 years.

    Read more »

    Chicago Consultation unveils new Web site

    The Chicago Consultation's Web site went live yesterday. It includes the first of several videos about the group, and resources to help visitors "make the case" for the full inclusion of all baptized Anglicans in the life and leadership of the Communion.

    Update: Some users are having trouble accessing the site. The problem should be fixed soon.

    Quiet day at GAFCON

    Here is an update from the GAFCON leadership on progress toward a statement. This item will be point of contention with the rest of the Communion:

    There is also agreement that more permanent structures need to be established for those faithful Anglicans who live and serve in provinces that have abandoned the traditional teaching of the Bible.

    Yesterday seems to have passed uneventfully, at least as far as the mainstream media are concerned. Thinking Anglicans has a round up. To which we'd add this tiny item from the Dallas Morning News religion blog: If Time is right, the war of words over the role of gays in the Anglican Communion will continue ad nauseum -- with nothing, really, being decided as a result.

    And don't miss this statement from the head of the Church Army, a leading Anglican mission agency with a significant evangelical constituency, expressing his distress at the failure of Archbishops Peter Akinola and Henry Orombi to clearly condemn violence against gay people.

    Limbering up for Lambeth

    The third issue of Anglican World News and Notes consists of a briefing on the upcoming Lambeth Conference.

    After the fiasco of GAFCON, will these words from Archbishop Rowan Williams receive a second hearing? “To those bishops who don’t wish to attend, I recognise their absolute right to choose in good faith and in conscience whether or not they can be there. The invitation’s on the table; naturally I shall be delighted to see more rather than fewer bishops there, that’s their choice - but the door is open.”

    A gay writer at GAFCON

    Iain Baxter, who is writing about GAFCON for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, joined the gay pride parade today in Jerusalem. He writes:

    We are the lucky ones, we are free to march and live our lives. In many, many, countries around the world, including many in which Anglican church leaders are powerful politically, as well as religious leaders, such as Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya, people are still harassed, arrested, tortured and killed for their failure to love the right person; their failure to be a "real man" or "real woman". We are all real people, made in the image of God. That is why it is such a privilege for me to march in Jerusalem.

    Meanwhile, Reuters has this succinct summary of the week's events:

    Conservative Anglican leaders meeting at a rebel summit expressed frustration with the church's leadership on Thursday but indicated that an outright schism might be avoided.

    The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), a week-long convention of hundreds of conservative bishops and clergy, opened on Sunday amid talk that it was a first step towards a split between conservative and liberal wings in the 77-million-strong Anglican Communion.

    The Communion is divided over issues such as homosexuality and biblical authority.

    But mid-way through the conference, conservative leaders spoke only of making GAFCON a "movement", without indicating how such a process would be handled and if there was enough support among the bishops to initiate a split.

    UPDATE - BBC: Anglican rebels clash with gay march
    to the evident consternation of the organisers of the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) they had travelled all this way to the Christian Holy City only to find the streets taken over by Jerusalem Gay Pride.

    It was a noisy - you might even say brazen - celebration of homosexuality by the descendants of the very people who gave Christianity the Old Testament of the Bible.

    As 3,000 gay and lesbian marchers gathered in a park in the centre of Jerusalem, guarded against attack by 2,000 police, back at the conference hotel contingency plans were being laid to contend with any gay raiding party sent out to beard the traditionalists in their redoubt.

    Bennison guilty


    An Episcopal bishop was found guilty by a church panel of covering up his brother's assaults of a teenage girl in the 1970s.

    Charles E. Bennison Jr., 64, was convicted of two counts of engaging in conduct unbecoming of a member of the clergy, according to his attorneys and the church verdict, dated Tuesday and released Thursday. He could be reprimanded, suspended or ousted from the church.

    "We are proud of the Episcopal Church for holding Bishop Bennison accountable, and for using an open and transparent process that allowed the truth to come to light," church attorney Lawrence White said in a statement Thursday.

    It was not immediately clear when the sentence would be handed down for Bennison, bishop of the nation's fifth-largest Episcopal diocese. The special Court for the Trial of a Bishop must wait at least 30 days before handing down a sentence, and Bennison's attorneys said they will request a hearing before sentencing.

    From the Diocesan Standing Committee:
    The canonical process is long and far from over.
    After a vote of a canonical offense, the Bishop, Church Attorney, each Complainant and each Victim will have 30 days to provide the Court with comments regarding the sentence to be imposed.

    The Court then votes upon the sentence, which also requires a 2/3rd vote. The Judgment and Sentence are then communicated to each party listed above plus the Standing Committee.

    After entry of the Final Judgment, the Bishop may appeal within 30 days to the Court of Review of the Trial of a Bishop. This is a different group of individuals and consists of 9 Bishops elected by the House of Bishops. The Presiding Judge of the Court, upon receiving the Notice of Appeal, shall appoint within 60 days the time for the Hearing on the Appeal.

    On June 25, the nine-member Episcopal Church's Court for the Trial of a Bishop unanimously convicted Bennison on the first count and six of the members voted to convict him on the second count. Canon IV.5.25 of the church's Constitution and Canons requires an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of the court.

    Next steps in the canonical process

    Bennison, the victim, her mother and brother, Lawrence White (the church attorney who acted as prosecutor for the Episcopal Church) and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori now have until July 30 "to offer matters in excuse or mitigation or to otherwise comment" on the sentence that the court will impose. That sentence can range from an admonition to deposition. Canon IV.5.28 says the Court for a Trial of a Bishop may hold a hearing on any comments that are made before agreeing on a sentence by a two-thirds majority vote and imposing it on Bennison.

    The Living Church has more.

    New structure, maybe. New power, no.

    The Church Times is among those reporting that GAFCON may create some new structure. What kind of structure remains to be seen, as does how it will function given the intense rivalries among various GAFCON leaders, and the weariness of many Africans with the prominence of white Americans and Englishmen in their organization. What it already evident is that any new structure would have authority only over its own members.

    With friends like these

    You can't hold the leaders of GAFCON responsible for Robert Mugabe's criticisms of Archbishop Rowan Williams:

    In a campaign comment ahead of today's uncontested election in Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe has condemned Archbishop Rowan Williams as lacking a "moral compass" and said that gays in the church are a sign of "moral degeneracy".

    The embarrassing endorsement of their cause, shown on Channel 4 television news in Britain and elsewhere last night, came as hard-line Anglicans have been meeting in Jerusalem.

    In the past, anti-gay and homophobic rhetoric has formed a strong part of Mr Mugabe's attack against the West and against the human rights standards advocated by the international community.

    You can hold them responsible for supporting Mugabe's favorite bishop, Nolbert Kunonga throughout his violent tenture. Kunonga was kept in office by GAFCON favorite Bernard Malango, the retired primate of Central Africa, who dismissed a church tribunal assembled to try Kunonga.

    Hiding Akinola

    Riazat Butt of the Guardian asks why white Westerners are calling the shots at GAFCON:

    Akinola, previously described as a luminary of the conservative movement, has now been hidden away until Sunday afternoon, when a statement outlining a skeleton structure for a "flying communion" has been issued and, handily, when most of the press will have left Jerusalem altogether.

    Gafcon has not been the first time that western clergy have stepped in on behalf of the African primates. Where does interpretation stop and manipulation start? There are concerns over the way the African archbishops project themselves and such a guiding hand is, at best, good public relations and, at worse, patronising. If these men are held in such high regard then they should speak in their own words, without any help.

    CANA wins another round

    A Virginia circuit court judge has ruled that the statute governing possession of church property in case of a division is consititutional. An appeal to the state's Supreme Court is likely.

    Judge Randy Bellows' opinion concludes:

    Today, this Court finds that 57-9(A), as applied, is constitutional. Specifically, this Court finds that the statute, as applied in the instant case, does not violate the Free Exercise or Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment, nor does it violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, nor does it violate the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

    For 141 years, the Commonwealth of Virginia has had a statute available to congregations experiencing divisions for the purpose of resolving church property disputes. 57-9(A) did not parachute into this dispute from a clear blue sky. Its existence cannot have been a surprise to any party to this litigation, each of whom is charged with knowledge of its contents and, more significantly, its import. That the Commonwealth of Virginia, in enacting and reenacting a "division" statute, may be unique among our fellow states is of no considerable moment, for in a federalist system each State is free to determine its own path for the resolution of church property disputes within constitutional boundaries. Whether 57-9(A) would be constitutional absent the ability of a church to hold property in forms that would place such property beyond the reach of 57-9(A) is a hypothetical question which this Court need not address; the Code of Virginia most certainly does provide for such alternative forms of church property ownership. That the Diocese availed itself of this alternative ownership in some cases but chose not to do so in others (and not in the instant cases) does not turn a constitutional statute into an unconstitutional one. Nor is the statute rendered unconstitutional because it requires this Court to make factual findings in a matter involving religious organizations. It is not mere semantics to observe that there is a difference-a constitutionally significant difference-between a finding involving a religious organization and a religious finding. While it is true of course that 57-9(A) requires the Court to make factual findings involving religious entities, each of those findings are secular in nature. Hence, for this and all the other reasons cited in this Opinion, 57-9(A) is constitutiona1.69

    The diocese statement reads:

    Today’s ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Division Statute in Virginia is regrettable and reaches beyond the Episcopal Church to all hierarchical churches in the Commonwealth. We continue to believe that this Division Statute is clearly at odds with and uniquely hostile to religious freedom, the First Amendment and prior U.S. and Virginia Supreme Court rulings. We are unwavering in these beliefs and will explore fully every option available to restore constitutional and legal protections for all churches in Virginia.

    The Diocese remains steadfast in its commitment to current and future generations of loyal Episcopalians and will continue to pursue every legal option available to ensure that they will be able to worship in the churches their Episcopal ancestors built.

    The CANA press release states:
    “We are pleased with Judge Bellows’ ruling today. After meticulous examination, the judge ruled to uphold the constitutionality of the Virginia Division Statute against all of the Free Exercise, Establishment, Equal Protection, and Takings Clause challenges raised by The Episcopal Church (TEC) and Diocese of Virginia. The Division Statute states that the majority of the church is entitled to its property when a group of congregations divide from the denomination. Therefore, TEC and Diocese had no legal right to our property. We have maintained all along that our churches’ own trustees hold title for the benefit of these congregations. It’s also gratifying to see the judge recognize that the statute means what it says—it’s ‘conclusive’ of ownership. We’re thrilled to see this litigation nearing an end,” said Jim Oakes, vice-chairman of ADV.

    The Opinion can be read here:
    Court Issues Opinion on Division Statute Constitutionality and Other Statutory Issues (June 27).

    Updated with Reuters.

    Updated with Washington Post.

    Maryland to consecrate its first African-American bishop

    From the Baltimore Sun:

    When the Rev. Canon Eugene T. Sutton was elected the 14th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, the first person he called was his 94-year-old grandmother, a devout Baptist who lives in a Washington nursing home. "Her prayers for me have made all the difference in the world," Sutton said.

    But more than that, he knew she could appreciate the twists of history that led to his election. Sutton, who will be consecrated tomorrow as the state's first African-American bishop, is the great-great-grandson of slaves. Maryland's first bishop, the Right Rev. Thomas John Claggett, was a slaveowner.

    "I'm immensely proud and humbled," Sutton said as he prepared for tomorrow's ceremony at Washington's National Cathedral, which will be attended by his grandmother, parents, wife, four children and stepchildren and thousands of others. "I'm proud because of the work of my ancestors of African heritage, who by the work of the hands and the sweat of their brows made it possible for me to be here today."

    Whither Pittsburgh?

    Lionel Deimel, an Episcopal layperson in the Diocese of Pittsburgh writes of some of the preparatory steps being taken in that diocese by laity and clergy from across the spectrum who wish to remain Episcopalian should there be a vote by other members of the Diocese to leave the Episcopal Church.

    Deimel reports the formation of a new broadly representative group:

    "In January of this year, 12 right-leaning clergy wrote ‘to the people and clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh’ that they intended to work within The Episcopal Church, rather than leaving it. This communication had been a long time in coming, and it provided the opportunity for the group that had been meeting with church officials in Western Maryland to invite the 12 priests and representative laypeople of similar persuasion to join the discussions about the future of the diocese.

    The group that had been meeting with church representatives in Maryland, joined by conservative clergy and an increasing number of conservative laypeople, began conversation tentatively and with some mutual suspicion. Initially, the group deliberately remained nameless—thereby avoiding a potentially divisive discussion—though it has come informally to be called the ‘Across the Aisle’ group. Although there is some reluctance to use the terms, the part of the group that developed from the original PEP*-initiated discussions is know as the ‘Gospel side,’ and the group of more-recently-added conservatives is known as the ‘Epistle side.’ Happily, these terms are being used less and less, as the ‘sides’ are increasingly concerning themselves with the mechanics of reorganizing the diocese so as to discourage the divisiveness that have characterized Pittsburgh in the recent past.

    PEP has perhaps become known for its rhetoric because its marginalization within the diocese provided little opportunity for it to accomplish very much, at least through diocesan institutions that have been firmly in the hands of the bishop and his supporters. The Across the Aisle group, on the other hand, sees a realistic opportunity to gain power only a few months from now, and it has neither the time nor the established mechanisms to articulate for the wider diocese and church what it intends to do with that power. The increasing harmony and dedication of the group to the task at hand, however, is quite encouraging."

    Read the full article here.

    *[PEP stands for Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh -ed]

    Presbyterians move toward full inclusion

    The Lead just received a press release from the Presbyterian centered More Light organization reporting on actions taken today at the biannual General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. The actions taken today will, if ratified, eventually make it possible for gay and lesbian pastors in committed same gender relationships to serve openly in ordained ministry.

    From the press release:

    "The action by the General Assembly removes G.60106b from its Book of Order, the Constitution which governs the Church and replaces it with new language. Formerly, it required fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness to be eligible for ordination as deacons, elders or ministers.

    "The intent of this standard, passed over a decade ago, was to bar LGBT persons from full membership and service in our Church since marriage equality is not yet available to most in our country," Adee said.

    New language passed by the General Assembly reaffirms historic standards of the Church that focus on faith and character which has withstood the test of time, and did not exclude anyone based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.

    This news was not received well though in other parts of the Presbyterian Church. The IRD weblog characterizes these decisions thusly:

    "Late this morning the General Assembly here in San Jose took three actions that will do grave damage to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). (1) It voted immediately to remove the 1978-79 "authoritative interpretation" of the PCUSA constitution that declares homosexual practice to be contrary to God's will. (2) It voted to send out for presbytery ratification an amendment that would delete the "fidelity and chastity" standard for church officers. In the absence of that standard, there really would be no standard of sexual behavior. (3) It voted to adopt another authoritative interpretation to ensure that the church is unable to enforce any really binding standards of behavior in any area of life.

    The effect on conservative or evangelical Presbyterians was like three hammer blows to the head, one after the other. (And there could be a fourth later today, if same-sex marriage is approved.) We know this fight isn't over--the presbyteries will have to weigh in, and we have a lot more votes there--but it still feels as if we've gone down for the count and the other side is already strutting around the ring like that famous photo of Muhammad Ali glaring down at the fallen Sonny Liston."

    Update: AP report.

    Helping the Hopeline

    Earlier this month, a fellow social media producer from another corner of the blogosphere shared with this editor a draft of a video he was working on to bring attention to the 10th anniversary of 1-800-SUICIDE, also known as the Hopeline. The final version came out earlier this week, and in it, Kristin Brooks Hope Center founder Reese Butler talks about why he created the Hopeline, and some of the challenges the organization now faces as a privately funded charity operation entering its second decade of connecting callers with, as he puts it, help and hope.

    But despite several years of government support in the form of a grant that ended in 2004, the Hopeline is running into funding issues that are partly a result of the government's subsequent decision to create its own hotline rather than support a private one. Among Butler's concerns about the "new" hotline: There's no transparency or explicit policy about what the national hotline does with the data it gets from its calls, and instead of connecting callers to trained, empathetic mental health professionals, the national hotline is more apt to call the police. Frank Warren of PostSecret, a Hopeline volunteer, also contributes to the video asking for viewers' support, with several postcard/art submissions that have come in to his site bearing witness to support they have received from 1-800-SUICIDE.

    Learn more about the Kristin Brooks Hope Center and the Hopeline here.

    Gay Kenyans sending message to Lambeth Conference

    Kenyan Anglican clergy, gays and allies are sending a strong message of affirmation and inclusiveness to the bishops at the forthcoming Lambeth conference in July-August, 2008 according to a Press Release from Other Sheep. A video is being produced of personal stories of gay and lesbian Kenyan Christians.

    The Rev. Cynthia Black and Katie Sherrod from Integrity USA carried out the personal interview of the participants using video recording. The objective of this program was to take the voices and faces of gays, lesbians and allies to the Lambeth conference for the Anglican bishops to see and hear from the horse's own mouth.

    Rev. Michael Kimindu, an Anglican priest and Other Sheep East Africa Coordinator said that it is hard for young people to discover that they are gay in Kenya. They come to fear God and hate themselves. And society and religious condemnation causes young gay people to live in isolation, depression and subsequently commit suicide in schools, colleges and homes.

    "Religious teachings are against homosexuality, and for us allies we are looked at as people promoting a gay movement in Africa," said Kimindu. You cannot discourage or promote what you cannot change. It is not a choice, it is inborn.

    His message to the bishops was that they should be bishops and not judges. They should appreciate the diversity of God's gifts in relation to the clergy and laity in the church without being dictators. The bishops should commission well educated people to conduct a research on homosexuality. The findings can help remove grey hairs in their approach.

    Kimindu said that the church in Kenya has lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons who have questions and are seeking answers. They are living in the closet due to fear of stigma and condemnation propagated by religious homophobia.

    He said the bishops should stop thinking that homosexuality is unAfrican. The truth of the matter is homosexuality is part of human history and since civilization started in Africa, therefore homosexuality started from Africa. We should not blame the West for introducing homosexuality.

    Other Sheep is an ecumenical Christian ministry that works for the full inclusion of LGBT people of faith within their respective faiths worldwide.

    Katie Sherrod says, "Please pray for me as I madly edit all the HOURS and HOURS of
    interviews into a manageable size to show to the bishops at Lambeth. And pray that we can raise enough money to send a copy to every Anglican bishop. Most of all, pray that I can do justice to the stories of these sweet, gentle, brave people.

    Voices of Witness: Africa, featuring GLBT persons throughout Africa, on the 23rd of July at 8pm as part of the official fringe events. In the Fall it will be distributed to all the Bishops in the Communion according to Cynthia Black.

    To donate to Voices of Witness: Africa click here.

    Black reports on another offering for Lambeth from Kalamazoo, MI. Seven Passages, a play developed and performed by students at Western Michigan University. It features seven actors portraying stories of 100 gay or lesbian persons living in Michigan. The "Seven" in the title refer to the seven verses of the Bible used to exclude and marginalize gays and lesbians.

    Watch the TV report here.

    More of the Other Sheep Press Release below:

    Read more »

    Instant—and very reluctant—pop stars

    A tip of the Café hat to reader Ren Aguila for sharing a follow-up on the Cistercian monks of Heiligenkreuz, Austria, who made headlines when they were signed to produce an album of Gregorian Chants and again when the album was released in Europe last month and entered the charts in the top 10 in several countries (and at No. 1 in Austria). They are now coping with a flood of publicity that's interfering with their traditionally contemplative life, and have had to put one monk in charge of public relations.

    But as the New York Times reports, there is an interesting sidebar to the story that actually is a story into itself. Despite their seclusion, the monastery is very connected to the outside world via the internet, which had a hand in their rise to success.

    This clip on YouTube was the one that captured Universal Music's attention during their search for authentic Gregorian chants, which were demonstrating increased popularity for no discernible reason, although some news sources are mentioning the Halo video game series soundtrack as a possible influence.

    Eager to get in on the trend, Universal’s classical music label took out an advertisement in Catholic publications, inviting chant groups to submit their work. Finding another ensemble like the Benedictines was going to be a long shot, the label’s executives figured.

    “Not all monks want to enter into a commercial relationship because that’s not what they spend their days doing,” said Tom Lewis, the artist development manager in London for Universal Classics & Jazz.

    But the advertisement was spotted by the grandson of a monk from here. He tipped off Father Wallner, who, in addition to his public-relations duties, runs the monastery’s theological academy and its Web site.

    “An Austrian monk would never know what Universal Music is,” Father Wallner said. “We were chosen by divine providence to show that it is possible to have a healthy religious life today.”

    Divine providence may have less to do with it than one monk’s resourcefulness. Father Wallner sent Mr. Lewis a short e-mail message with a link to a video of chants that the monks had uploaded to YouTube after Pope Benedict XVI visited the monastery last September.

    While monks in many monasteries chant, Heiligenkreuz is particularly proud of its singing, which has been honed over years by one of the monks, who used to direct choirs in Germany.

    Mr. Lewis was entranced, recalling that the video eclipsed the more than 100 other submissions. “There was a smoothness and softness to the voices that you associate with younger people,” he said.

    Universal negotiated a contract with the monks, who proved to be anything but naïve in the ways of business. It helped that the abbot, Gregor Henckel Donnersmark, has an M.B.A. and ran the Spanish outpost of a German shipping company before he entered the monastery in 1977.

    Among the clauses he sought: Universal cannot use the chanting in video games or pop music. The monks will never tour or perform on stage. And Heiligenkreuz will earn a royalty based on the sales of the album, which the abbot said worked out to roughly 1 euro per CD sold.

    Read the whole thing here.

    Differing convocations

    Bishop Pierre Whalon corrects some points brought up at GAFCON about non-geographical jurisdictions, given his experience overseeing the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, and points out the flaw in trying to use the convocation as a model/precedent/justification for CANA:

    The Episcopal Church never established churches in “the diocese of Europe.” There is no “diocese of Europe.” There is The Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe, which claims no geographical jurisdiction other than Gibraltar. There is also the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, a non-geographical jurisdiction as well. Both jurisdictions live alongside each other and function legally because there is no existing Anglican jurisdiction of Europe. (There are also two geographical, national churches, La Iglesia Española Reformada Episcopal, and la Igreja Lusitana Catolica Apostolica, in Spain and Portugal, respectively.) The four jurisdictions will present to the 2008 Lambeth Conference a report on our work toward forming a 39th province of the Anglican Communion.

    The Convocation of Anglicans in North America is a completely different animal, a reincarnation of the Novationist notion that if you don’t like your own bishop, consecrate another, “purer” one. This was condemned at the First Council of Nicea for all kinds of good reasons, and Anglicans have until now respected that decision (all of us also recite the Nicene Creed, most of which was written by the Nicea fathers, and completed at the next ecumenical council).

    The implanting of the Nigerian Convocation is supposed to be an offer of temporary oversight for certain Episcopalians upset by the 2003 consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire, until the Anglican Communion can do something for them. The filing of a massive lawsuit by the leaders of this convocation against the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia tells another story altogether.

    That's here.

    GAFCON Statement

    The GAFCON final communique has been released:

    Read more »

    GAFCON meets the press

    The mainstream media's initial responses to the GAFCON statement reveal a variety of interpretation. The British papers think the challenge to the Archbishop of Canterbury's authority is extremely significant. They also seem to believe that GAFCON participants have said something new about their relationship with the Episcopal Church. That isn't the case. Primates who have attempted to poach Episcopal Churches will continue to do so, but the list hasn't grown. Dioceses that were itchy to leave may do so, but it is unlikely that others will join the queue.

    Unfortunately, Americans looking for a church that uses the Scriptures to justify their prejudices already have a wide variety of choices. It's not as though these guys are filling a market niche.

    The Telegraph, BBC, Reuters, the Guardian and the Sydney Morning Herald are all in the mix.

    Headline of the day goes to the BBC: "Conservative Anglicans form group." Dull as dishwater, but accurate.

    One looks in vain in these articles for a liberal voice to balance the evangelical cheerleading. One wonders why "orthodox" and anti-gay function as synonyms in the press. There is nothing orthodox about Peter Akinola's frequently expressed bigotry against homosexuals.

    A point for consideration by leaders in the Episcopal Church: The decision to exclude gays and lesbians from the episcopate has not brought peace to the Communion.

    Paul Handley of the Church Times focuses our attention on the "Jerusalem Declaration." He's also got a useful interview with Archbishop Peter Jensen.

    Speaking of whom, thank goodness for this speech by Michael Kirby, a judge of the High Court of Australia. After a week's worth of listening to Jensen, it makes one feel much better about Australians.

    More MSM: Christian Science Monitor, Jerusalem Post, New York Times, Guardian (dated Monday), Aljazeera, New Vision (Uganda) (which is telling its readers the group has "broken ties with the authority of Canterbury")

    Campaign to End Torture Declaration

    Earlier this week, the Campaign to End Torture released a declaration signed by a wide variety of former military leaders, religious leaders and former government officials, that called on President Bush to issue an Executive Order that would clearly ban torture.

    Sarah Posner describes the declaration and notes the large number of Evangelical leaders that have signed the declaration:

    Today the Campaign to End Torture unveiled a declaration, signed by a wide-ranging coalition of religious leaders, former military officers, former Defense and State Department officials, national security and counterterrorism experts, and others, calling on President Bush to sign executive order unequivocally banning the use of torture in interrogations. Military signatories include Alberto Mora, the former Navy lawyer whose efforts to end torture from inside the Pentagon were thwarted, and Paul Kern, who led the military's internal investigation of Abu Ghraib.

    David Gushee, president of Evangelicals for Human Rights, described many of the evangelicals signing on to the Declaration as "theologically conservative, not very politically inclined, a mix of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents," who didn't expect to get involved in such a campaign but "we cannot endorse or accept the cruel treatment of another human being."

    The Campaign now is soliciting more signatories to the Declaration, and is launching grassroots efforts in Ohio, Virginia, and Florida, three states rich in evangelicals (but, I'm told, not targeted for any reason related to the presidential campaign). The organizers intend to present the Declaration to Bush because getting an executive order, said Mora, "is the fastest . . . most dramatic, powerful, and immediate way, the most powerful signal we could give to the world." Even if the next president has to sign it.

    Read it all here.

    I don't see many (any?) Episcopal leaders on the list. Do you think we should do something about that?

    Genetics and homosexuality

    Willaim Saleton has a fascinating discussion of a new theory about the possible genetic basis of male homosexuality:

    Gay couples can't have biological kids together. So if homosexuality is genetic, why hasn't it died out?

    A study published last week in PLoS One tackles the question. It starts with four curious patterns. First, male homosexuality occurs at a low but stable frequency in a wide range of societies. Second, the female relatives of gay men produce children at a higher rate than other women do. Third, among these female relatives, those related to the gay man's mother produce children at a higher rate than do those related to his father. Fourth, among the man's male relatives, homosexuality is more common in those related to his mother than in those related to his father.

    Can genes account for these patterns? To find out, the authors posit several possible mechanisms and compute their effects over time. They conclude that only one theory fits the data. The theory is called "sexually antagonistic selection." It holds that a gene can be reproductively harmful to one sex as long as it's helpful to the other. The gene for male homosexuality persists because it promotes—and is passed down through—high rates of procreation among gay men's mothers, sisters, and aunts.

    This theory doesn't account for female homosexuality, which another new study (reviewed in Human Nature last week) attributes to nongenetic factors. It also doesn't account for environmental or prenatal chemical factors in male homosexuality, such as the correlation between a man's probability of homosexuality and the number of boys previously gestated in his mother's womb. But it does explain the high similarity of sexual orientation between identical twins, as well as patterns of homosexuality in families. It's also plausible because sexually antagonistic selection has been found in other species. And many scientists who think environmental and prenatal factors influence homosexuality also believe that genes play a role.

    The authors note that according to their computations, the theory implies some testable predictions. One such prediction can be checked against existing data. The prediction is that on average, if you're a straight man, the reproductive pattern among your aunts will reverse the pattern seen among aunts of gay men. That is, your paternal aunts will produce children at a higher rate than your maternal aunts will. The authors check this prediction against the available data. Sure enough, it holds up.

    Saleton notes that this theory, if true, has implications for how society views homosexuality, including the following:

    Third, if the authors are correct, we're not really talking about genes for homosexuality. We're talking about genes for "androphilia," i.e., attraction to men. The importance of the genes lies in what they do not to men but to women, by increasing reproductive output so powerfully that these women compensate for the reduced output among their male relatives. You can't isolate gay men as a puzzle or problem anymore. You have to see them as part of a bigger, stronger, enduring phenomenon.

    Fourth, this larger phenomenon can't be dismissed as a disorder. The study's press release concludes that "homosexuality should not be viewed as a detrimental trait (due to the reduced male fecundity it entails), but, rather, should be considered within the wider evolutionary framework of a characteristic with gender-specific benefits."

    Fifth, the benefits aren't really confined to women. They protect society as a whole. The authors' computations indicate that as a society's birthrate falls, female carriers of androphilic genes account for a larger share of the output. In short, the genes provide a "buffer effect" against extinction.

    Read it all here.

    Gallup releases annual evolution survey


    The Gallup Poll released their annual survey on American views about evolution, and once again found strong support for creationism:

    Read more »

    God Gap gone

    Stephen Waldman of BeliefNet writes: "Buried in the spectacularly deep U.S. Religious Landscape Survey are some statistics of great interest to politicos, especially on the three big religion-and-politics questions of 2008."

    The three are: do Democrats still suffer from a God Gap?, which way will Catholics break in the election?, and can Obama do well among evangelicals?

    Read it all here.

    The response back home

    The anti-gay crusade being led by Archbishops Peter Jensen and Henry Orombi, among others, is not receiving uniformly good reviews back home.

    Read more »

    Archbishop Williams responds to GAFCON

    Updated with press reports: Time, AP, Reuters, American Prospect.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has responded to the final declaration of the Global Anglican Future Conference with the following statement:

    The Final Statement from the GAFCON meeting in Jordan and Jerusalem contains much that is positive and encouraging about the priorities of those who met for prayer and pilgrimage in the last week. The ‘tenets of orthodoxy’ spelled out in the document will be acceptable to and shared by the vast majority of Anglicans in every province, even if there may be differences of emphasis and perspective on some issues. I agree that the Communion needs to be united in its commitments on these matters, and I have no doubt that the Lambeth Conference will wish to affirm all these positive aspects of GAFCON’s deliberations. Despite the claims of some, the conviction of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and God and the absolute imperative of evangelism are not in dispute in the common life of the Communion

    However, GAFCON’s proposals for the way ahead are problematic in all sorts of ways, and I urge those who have outlined these to think very carefully about the risks entailed.

    Read more »

    The Presiding Bishop responds to GAFCON

    Updated with Reuters report.

    Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori responds to the GAFCON statement:

    Much of the Anglican world must be lamenting the latest emission from GAFCON. Anglicanism has always been broader than some find comfortable. This statement does not represent the end of Anglicanism, merely another chapter in a centuries-old struggle for dominance by those who consider themselves the only true believers. Anglicans will continue to worship God in their churches, serve the hungry and needy in their communities, and build missional relationships with others across the globe, despite the desire of a few leaders to narrow the influence of the gospel. We look forward to the opportunities of the Lambeth Conference for constructive conversation, inspired prayer, and relational encounters.

    Highlights from GAFCON news conference

    The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, CANA, led a news teleconference this morning to tell reporters about the significant happenings at the recent GAFCON conference in Jerusalem.

    The major topics of discussion in the teleconference was the formation of a Primates Council and the green light GAFCON has given for the formation of a new province in the United States and Canada based on the Common Cause coalition. Here are highlights:

    Read more »

    Pro-life statement not included in GAFCON declaration

    Timothy Morgan, blogging at Christianity Today's liveblog, says that pro-life attendees are disappointed that no explicitly pro-life platform exists in the Jerusalem Declaration.

    Many GAFCON pilgrims are headed home and I met two of them at Ben Gurion airport disappointed that their efforts to include an explicit affirmation of the prolife cause was left off the statement and declaration. In reality, relatively few changes were made to the GAFCON declaration as the rank and file members fed comments to the drafting committee. Efforts to get prolife language were unsuccessful. But Anglican prolife leaders will try again.

    From the experience of these pilgrims it appears the final document was relatively unchanged from the original that existed at the beginning of the conference.

    Support for women bishops in Church of England

    The Daily Mail reports that more than 4,000 Anglicans have given their support to calls for the introduction of women bishops without special legislation to protect opponents of the move. Supporters gathered today at Westminster Abbey for a press conference in advance of the General Synod this coming weekend in York.

    Campaigners for the consecration of women bishops said 1,276 women clergy, 1,012 male clergy and 1,916 lay Church of England members have backed a move for women bishops to be introduced but without measures such as new provinces for those who object.

    Ruth Gledhill said that "senior clergy from the Abbey, St Paul's and Southwark... as well as MPs and Baroness Howe of the Lords" were there.

    Read more »

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