There's something about Mary

U.S. Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders met last week to discuss the role of the Virgin Mary and the progress in ecumenical relations between the two churches, according to a release from the Anglican-Roman Catholic Theological Consultation (ARCUSA).

At the meeting, held at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Va., participants completed a response to the 2004 "Seattle Document" of ARC-USA titled "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ," which offers commentary and meditation on Mary's significance for members of both churches. They also completed a draft Spanish-language pastoral tool to help show the differences and similarities between the two churches, as well as summarizing recent progress in ecumenical relations.

From the response to "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ":

As the document acknowledges, Anglicans turn to Scripture to determine what must be believed as a matter of faith: only that which can be read in Scripture or proved on the basis of Scripture can be required to be believed (MGHC 60; cf. Article VI of the Articles of Religion). While Roman Catholics acknowledge that there are no biblical texts that express the doctrines of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception or from which they can be strictly proved, they nonetheless hold that these Marian doctrines are contained in divine revelation and that their church has arrived at such certitude that they are revealed truths as to justify their definition as dogmas of faith.

Both Anglicans and Roman Catholics accept that Christian revelation cannot be reduced to a series of propositions but is centered in the whole Christ-event, of which the apostles were the privileged witnesses. This witness of the apostles has been handed on through the Christian way of life, teaching, prayer, and worship. We recognize a legitimate development of doctrine in the course of the Church's life, a growth in the understanding of what has been handed on by the apostles. Thus, for instance, an element of the Christ-event witnessed by the apostles was the relationship between Jesus and his mother, and her role in his work of our redemption. As devout Christians continued to contemplate the mystery of Christ and his mother, they came to see that since Mary's Son is truly divine, it is correct to speak of her as Theotókos ("Mother of God"). This was confirmed in 431 by the Council of Ephesus, whose teachings are accepted by both Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

For Roman Catholics, the universal consensus of the Roman Catholic faithful (laity, theologians, and pastors) in believing a doctrine as revealed by God provides sufficient certitude that this truth is contained in revelation and can be defined as a dogma of faith. With regard to the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, Roman Catholics believe that this growth in the understanding of the faith handed down from the apostles developed in such a way that after the sixteenth century the Roman Catholic Church arrived at a universal agreement on these doctrines. In the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, with which Pope Pius XII defined the doctrine of the Assumption as a dogma of faith, he spelled out the reasons that led him to this decision:

The bishops from all over the world ask almost unanimously that the truth of the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven be defined as a dogma of divine and catholic faith; this truth is based on Sacred Scripture and deeply embedded in the minds of the faithful; it has received the approval of liturgical worship from the earliest times; it is perfectly in keeping with the rest of revealed truth, and has been lucidly developed and explained by the studies, the knowledge and wisdom of theologians. Considering all these reasons we deem that the moment pre-ordained in the plan of divine providence has now arrived for us to proclaim solemnly this extraordinary privilege of the Virgin Mary.

While Roman Catholics are thus required to accept these dogmas as a matter of faith, among Anglicans there is a range of beliefs about the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, including acceptance of them.

The whole thing is here.

New NCC leadership elected

With all the happenings in the Anglican Communion, we overlooked the fact that the National Council of Churches elected new leadership. Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, who represents the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) in Washington, and the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) clergyman, were installed as NCC president and general secretary. The National Council of Churches represents 45 million worshippers in over 100,000 congregations, and includes the Episcopal Church.

The Christian Post gives more detail:

As the National Council of Churches (NCC) in the USA reshapes amid budget shortfalls, top officials were installed Thursday to lead the ecumenical group.

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, who represents the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) in Washington, and the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) clergyman, were installed as NCC president and general secretary, respectively.

Aykazian is the third Orthodox president and the first from the Oriental Orthodox tradition, according to NCC News Service. He will succeed outgoing president Michael Livingston, who served in the office since January 2006, as the 24th NCC president in the group's more than 50-year history.

Kinnamon was unanimously elected to succeed the Rev. Bob Edgar, who resigned on Aug. 31 to head the Washington-based advocacy group Common Cause, becoming the ninth general secretary of the ecumenical organization.

Both officials will take office Jan. 1.

As general secretary of an organization representing Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historic African American and Living Peace churches, Kinnamon acknowledged differences among the various faith groups but stressed the church of Jesus Christ is "already one."

"Unity is not synonymous with agreement," he said, according to NCC News Service. "We understand that we have deep disagreements and try to address them. This is a consequence of being in Christ.

"We can fight like cats and dogs and still sit at the same table," he added.

Read it all here.

End of schism in sight?

Almost a thousand years ago, one of the longest lasting schisms in Christianity happened between the Eastern and Western branches of the Church. According to a report in the Times, representatives of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have signed a document that provides a roadmap to ending the split. The Pope would be acknowledged as the Universal Pontiff of the Church, but would give up his claim of Infallibility.

From the article:

The 46-paragraph “Ravenna Document”, written by a special commission of Catholic and Orthodox officials, envisages a reunified church in which the Pope could be the most senior patriarch among the various Orthodox churches.

Just as Pope John Paul II was driven by the desire to bring down Communism, so Pope Benedict XVI hopes passionately to see the restoration of a unified Church. Although he is understood to favour closer relations with traditional Anglicans, the Anglican Communion is unlikely to be party to the discussions because of its ordination of women and other liberal practices.

Unification with the Orthodox churches could ultimately limit the authority of the Pope, lessening the absolute power that he currently enjoys within Catholicism. In contrast, a deal would greatly strengthen the Patriarch of Constantinople in his dealings with the Muslim world and the other Orthodox churches.

Pope Benedict has called a meeting of cardinals from all over the world in Rome on November 23, when the document will be the main topic of discussion. The Ravenna “road map” concedes that “elements of the true Church are present outside the Catholic communion”.

...If the proposals move forward, the Pope would be acknowledged as the universal Primate, as he was before the schism. Although it is not stated outright, he would be expected by the Orthodox churches to relinquish the doctrine of infallibility. The proposals could also allow married priests in the Catholic Church, as already happens in the Orthodox.

Read the rest here.

Ecumenism in a time of controversy

Bishop Christopher Epting is the chief ecumenical officer of the Episcopal Church. In a recent post on his blog, he talks about how the recent actions of the Episcopal Church's General Convention have effected the conversations the denomination has with other denominations:

"While it is no secret that I support the full inclusion of faithful gay and lesbian Christians in the life of the Church, let there be no mistake about the costly nature of such decisions in the life of The Episcopal Church and beyond.

I write this post from Cairo, Egypt where I am attending the annual meeting of the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. This is a body which reports to the Anglican Consultative Council and monitors the activity and progress of the various Provinces of the Anglican Communion in matters ecumenical.

Since our General Convention decisions of 2003, these have been difficult meetings for The Episcopal Church’s representatives as well as our colleagues from the Anglican Church in Canada. Despite warm personal relations with our Church of England, Asian, African, South and West Indian colleagues, we are roundly criticised as Episcopalians for putting major stumbling blocks in the way of Anglican ecumenical relations.

Often cited are the writings of Bishop Spong, the confirmation of the Bishop of New Hamshire by General Convention 2003, and some bishops’ permission for the blessing of same sex unions in their dioceses despite the lack of an official liturgical rite in our church for such an event.

We were received by Pope Shenouda of the Coptic Orthodox Church here in Egypt one morning and subjected to nearly an hour of lecturing by His Holiness on the sins of the Anglican Communion and especially The Episcopal Church. This venerable monk and leader of his ancient church noted all the concerns I have mentioned above. He has actually read at least one of Bishop Spong’s books. And, is not impressed!

It would, of course, have been possible to take exception to much of Pope Shenouda’s hermeneutics, but ‘state occasions’ like this are hardly the place for that. Particularly in a country where Christians are in the huge minority and undergo scrutiny and often severe criticism from their Muslim neighbors. We heard him out, acknowledged the difficulties we face, and asked for his prayers.

What would have been possible, however, had not the official dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches been suspended over our actions, would have been to engage these issues together in a serious dialogue where our perspectives could be given a fair hearing rather than caricatured by the press or by voices from within our own church who wish the world to think that we are teaching some kind of ‘new faith.’

This is why I believe the Lambeth Conference must happen. No matter who is, or is not, invited and who chooses to come or not to come. Those of us who will be there must sit together, face to face, in the context of prayer, and both share and listen to one another deeply.

Only in this way can the wounds in our particular expression of the Body of Christ begin to be healed and a contribution perhaps made, by Anglicans, for healing the very Body of Christ of which we are a part."

From here.

Make peace for everyone

Thirteen senior Christian leaders in the region - representing the Eastern, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant traditions - have written a letter that calls on Christians and other faithful people to redirect their energies away from territory and towards compassion and respect.

The compassionate actions of human beings, not their claims against each other, reflect the will of God and the transforming power of Jesus the Prince of Peace, the leaders say. Their letter highlight the division brought about by violence, injustice and communal separation - including the Wall dividing Palestinians from Jews and from each other.

"If peace is to come to this Land it needs even greater effort from all concerned - ordinary citizens as well as political leaders", they write. "Christmas reminds us that God gave us the Prince of Peace to be born in Bethlehem so we must all seek that peace for everyone in this Holy Land, be they Palestinian or Israeli, Christian, Muslim, Jew or Druze."

Many Christians in the area say that talk of a Holy Land must give way to the quest for a Land of the Holy One, where the focus is on behaviour among the religions that truly reflects the life-giving of God, rather than the mystification of territory and its exclusive association with one kind of people.

They say it is vital to recognise biblical promises about land as a call for responsibility towards growing liberation not selfish expropriation.

The full letter says:

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

"He came to his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the [offspring] of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of human will, but of God." (St John 1.11-13)

Greetings.

1. Another Christmas is upon us and still we seek Peace for this Holy Land amidst continuing hardships. At the sane time it is important for us to reflect carefully on what the Evangelist is trying to put before us about God's gift to us of Jesus, born in Bethlehem's manger, together with the clear response God asks of each one of us.

Amidst our difficulties, we need to meditate upon what links us in the same time to God and this land. In this Land, we ask for our freedom, for the end of the Occupation. We mention the difficulties coming from "the Wall of Separation" that has transformed our cities into big prisons. With God, we are linked because our dignity comes from His dignity, and we are His children and the work of His hands. And we must keep in mind that it is not fleshly descent or human effort which makes us the children of God, and it is not human strength alone that makes us strong. Rather it is faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God. Christmas reminds us that our faith is not only a human belonging to a group, or to a community different from the others by its religion, We are called to make a personal commitment to Jesus. Such a commitment tells the world and particularly those around us that we are prepared to witness and live by our reliance on Jesus the Word of God, born in Bethlehem, and who brought to us durable and firm peace in our hearts.

2. So often human beings believe they are capable of making peace through their own efforts; demanding conditions of their own choosing. However, when God gave us His Son to be born of a human mother and to experience all aspects of human life He did so in order that we might discern the way to resolve our difficulties from His example and teaching. Therefore we pray for ourselves in order to understand the strength God gave us when He gave us His Eternal Word born in Bethlehem. So we pray for our political leaders that God may inspire them and make them examine their conduct and demands in the light of God's commandments always remembering their own accountability to Him, in this very life and in the process of the conflict itself..

So dear Sisters and Brothers whilst we are truly conscious of the many problems of unemployment, poverty and frustration which many of you continue to face each day, we would still urge you to remember the words of the Apostle:

May "the peace of God rule in your hearts ..." and "the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom." (Colossians 3. 15,16)

We as Christians must continue to offer our prayers to God for all those around us who are struggling to care for their families, not least the young children and the elderly. We rejoice with those families now enjoying the company of those recently released from prison whilst persisting in our efforts to encourage the release of thousands more who have the same right to have back their freedom and return to the joy of their families and children.

Amidst our sufferings, we share the sufferings of the others. We have a particular thought for the countless thousands across the world who have endured great disasters as a result of the devastating cyclones and subsequent floods of recent months. We pray for them. And for all of us we repeat the verse of the Gospel:

"God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (St John 3.16)

3. To our Sisters and Brothers across the world: we are greatly encouraged by your continuing pilgrimages to this Land: we thank you for your presence with us. During your pilgrimage as well you learn at first hand of the difficulties of your fellow Christians here as well as following in the footsteps of our Blessed Lord. Thank you for your prayers and the many expressions of your love and care for everyone here.

If Peace is to come to this Land it needs even greater effort from all concerned - ordinary citizens as well as Political leaders. Christmas reminds us that God gave us the Prince of Peace to be born in Bethlehem so we must all seek that peace for everyone in this Holy Land, be they Palestinian or Israeli, Christian, Muslim, Jew or Druze. He tells us that we are able to make peace and overcome all obstacles with the power which the Prince of peace, born in Bethlehem, brought us.

We wish everyone a truly Happy Christmas and God's richest blessings on their homes and families.

Jerusalem, December 2007, Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem

signatories

Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem
Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Roman Catholic Latin
Patriarch Torkom I Manooghian, Armenian Orthodox
Fr Pierbattista Pizziballa, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land
Archbishop Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox
Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian-Orthodox
Archbishop Abouna Matthias, Ethiopian Orthodox
Archbishop Paul Sayyah, Maronite
Bishop Suhail Dawani, Anglican
Bishop Mounib Younan, Lutheran
Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian-Catholic
Bishop George Baker, Greek Catholic
Fr Rafael Minassian , Armenian Catholic

Read: Ekklesia: Make peace not division, say Jerusalem church heads

Young people called upon to unite churches

The Taize community gathered tens of thousands of young Christians from all around Europe in Geneva to celebrate the New Year and to organize "vigils of reconciliation" for unity between churches that are divided from each other.

Ekklesia reports that Brother Alois, prior of the ecumenical community spoke to the young people saying "How can we be credible in speaking of a God of love if we remain separate?"

Brother Alois, who became the community's leader after the death in 2005 of its Swiss-born founder, Brother Roger, said,

In Christ we belong to one another. When Christians are separated, the message of the Gospel becomes inaudible.

How can we respond to the new challenges of our societies, notably that of secularization and of mutual understanding between cultures, unless we bring together the gifts of the Holy Spirit placed in all the Christian families? How can we communicate Christ’s peace to all if we remain separated?

Let us no longer waste so much energy in the oppositions among Christians, sometimes even within our denominations! Let us come together more often in the presence of God, in listening to the Word, in silence and praise:

Once a month or every three months we can invite those who live in our towns, villages or regions to a “vigil for reconciliation”.

To prepare such a vigil, young people can set out and go towards others, to another parish or congregation, to another movement or group, and even invite young people searching for faith.

Then the desire will grow to do together all that can be done. What unites us is more important than what separates us: we need to let this reality shine out by our lives!

This is how Ekklesia described the event:

The "European Meeting of Young Adults" from 28 December to 1 January 2008 included moments of prayer, silence, song and testimonies. Taizeis a community of brothers that includes Protestants and Roman Catholics. It has developed its own style of music for meditation, using simple phrases, usually lines from the Psalms or other pieces of Scripture.

Brother Alois announced that the next European meeting would take place in Brussels, from 29 December 2008 to 2 January 2009, and that there would be a meeting for young adults from Africa in Nairobi in November 2008.

As well as evening prayer at the Palexpo centre each evening, there were smaller meetings at churches throughout the city as well as at the Geneva headquarters of the World Council of Churches. Many of Geneva's streets thronged with young people during the period.

"It's an encouragement to see young people in Europe getting closer when some people say Europe is going through post-Christianity," WCC general secretary the Rev. Samuel Kobia told Taizeparticipants meeting at the church grouping's headquarters.

In his 28 December opening meditation, Brother Alois recalled that Brother Roger had left Geneva in 1940 to look for a place in France where he could found a Christian community.

The Geneva gathering was the 30th Taizemeeting of young adults from Europe. The first was held in Paris over the 1978-1979 New Year, and the last before Geneva was held in the Croatian capital, Zagreb. The community said 40 000 people took part in the five-day Geneva gathering, 30 000 coming from outside Switzerland. The biggest national grouping was from Poland, with more than 9000 participants.

Read: Ekklesia: Taize leader urges young people to help unite churches

Also, check out the Taize community's own description of the event here and here.

Christian unity is not what it used to be

What started out as a time of prayer by an Episcopal priest and nun a century ago is now observed by Christians around the world and planned by the Vatican and the World Council of Churches. But the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has both suffered from its success and highlighted that profound differences still exist within and between the several Christian traditions.

Peter Steinfels writing in the New York Times says:

...for most Christians, the week, centennial or not, carries no more resonance than, say, National Secretaries Week (now officially Administrative Professionals Week).

Has the ecumenical movement lost steam? Or has it, perhaps, fallen victim to its own success? One way or the other, does it make any difference?

In 1908, it certainly did to the Rev. Paul Wattson and Mother Lurana White, an Episcopal priest and nun, founders, in Garrison, N.Y., of a small Anglican religious community in the Franciscan tradition. They initiated eight days of prayer between what were then feast days associated with Saints Peter and Paul.

These two leaders and their Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement soon became Roman Catholics, so the week of prayer naturally had little appeal to Protestants. Still, all sorts of other streams fed into the cause of joining in prayer for Christian unity: the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, often described as the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement, and efforts by the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A.

Christian unity was, of course, a chief goal of the Second Vatican Council, when the world’s Catholic bishops invited Protestant and Orthodox leaders, now known as “separated brethren” rather than “heretics” and “schismatics,” to observe and consult during the council’s four sessions from 1962 to 1965.

That work has been carried on by Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox ecumenical officers and theologians engaged in interchurch dialogue. These highly committed people track the progress of unity the way brokers watch the stock ticker.

But people in the pews appear to have other things on their mind. They take for granted the lowering of what were once painful barriers dividing spouses and family members and even citizens.

Steinfels says that the success of the movement has removed the sense of urgency. Also, the vision of what Christian unity might look like has changed. Instead of a single church devoid of institutional and denominational barriers, the vision has become one of diversity of communities and traditions. "Thanks to the understanding and fellowship generated by dialogue, what was once the scandal of division now looks more like the virtue of diversity."

Relationship between religions, such as between Islam and Christianity, has supplanted the need for dialogue within Christianity. "To the extent that religion currently abets violence, it is hardly in conflicts over papal authority or whether worshipers sharing in the Lord’s Supper should partake of both bread and wine."

Finally, what were once well-defined differences between Christian traditions has become a kind of homogenization especially among Protestant traditions, where Presbyterians rarely speak of predestination and Methodists no longer think about arminianism. The most apparent conflict in Christianity today -- over homosexuality -- is largely fought out within, not between, traditions.

Read the rest here.

Learn more about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity here.

Here is the official website for the 2008 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Archbishop of York meets the Pope

The Guardian reports on the first meeting of the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu with Pope Benedict XVI.

When meeting the Pope it is customary to offer him a gift, and Benedict XVI has amassed many tokens of esteem. Tony Blair gave him a painting of the Catholic convert Cardinal Newman and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah presented him with a jewelled scimitar.

When the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, met the pontiff he gave him the Holy Grail, a beer brewed in Masham, North Yorkshire.

It was the highlight of the archbishop's first trip to Rome to celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and to cement cordial relations between the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.


The Rev Canon Robert Paterson, Sentamu's chaplain, said of the meeting and discussions of the Anglican Communion:
"We said, 'Nothing is broken. Lambeth is going ahead, Rowan [the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams] is fine and it's steady as she goes'." Vatican insiders said Williams and the Pope bonded immediately when they met in 2006. Both academics, they had read each other's books before their private audience and the Pope was delighted that Williams addressed him in German. "They had a three-hour lunch," said one source. "The Pope never has a three-hour lunch with anyone."

Read it all here.

Catholic radio station to kick Protestants off the air

The Hartford Courant reports that WJMJ-FM, a station owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford, will end the ecumenical format of its programming and use the station to reach out mainly to Roman Catholics.

The station has included many home-grown programs that reflect the religious diversity of the area. The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut has broadcast Sundays at 6 hosted by Fr. Christopher Rose for 24 years.

There appears to be a difference between how the Archdiocese wants to communicate the change and how the station management understands the upcoming changes.

The Archdiocesan communications officer, Fr. John Gatzak, said in a phone interview with the newspaper that "the identity of the station will be Catholic, yes, but that does not mean we will not reach out to other Christian denominations to invite them to participate."

On the other hand, the station's general manager, John Ellinger, told the Courant that he believed that the archdiocese's plan was to take every Protestant show off the air by May.


"They will all be gone," Ellinger said. "If we're told that we're to remove the programs, we simply have to do that. It's a really, really tough decision because we like these guys, and we love what they do."

Several Protestant ministers said that was their understanding as well.

"We were certainly told this was the last week of our program," said the Rev. Ned Edwards, pastor of the First Church of Christ in Farmington.

The same message was conveyed by station personnel to Rose, of the Episcopal Diocese; the Rev. John Corgan, at Emanuel Lutheran Church in Hartford; and the Rev. Gary Miller, who leads the Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford.

Two of the ministers said they were also ordered not to broadcast "trailers" on WJMJ that invited people to their worship services.

Fr. Rose told the Courant:

"The purpose of the station was not to criticize other Christians, but to lift up what was good about what other churches were doing. I think that's important because we have too much cynicism and criticism already. If this does go through, it will add to the cynicism, instead of promoting common ground. That is the most dangerous fallout from this. I think that would be sad."

The paper says that the station was founded 30 years ago by the late Archbishop John Whalon in the afterglow of Vatican II with a specifically ecumenical format. According to the station's website "WJMJ was founded in 1976 by the late Archbishop John Francis Whealon as the first archdiocesan radio station in the United States, and was the result of a vision brought forth by the Second Vatican Council. It was his dream and goal to create a radio station, to offer the good news of Christ to a wider listening audience through a format of pleasant music and inspiring messages."

Although the station also plays classical and other music, typically in the Frank Sinatra genre, it was created 30 years ago following the Vatican II council as a way of embracing its teachings against bigotry, narrowness and isolationism in the church.

Still, Gatzak hopes some solution will be found.

"Maybe we can create a program that explores outreach to the community," Gatzak said. "We know we have a responsibility to feed the hunger and help the poor. Can WJMJ be used as a catalyst for doing that kind of ministry together? I think there's a lot we can do."

Read it all here.

See also EpiScope.

Pope and ABC to meet

Reuters reports that Pope Benedict XIV and Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, are set to meet today.

Pope Benedict is expected to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on Monday in only the second official meeting between the two religious leaders, a Vatican source said on Sunday.

The meeting comes less than two months after the Vatican's top officials for relations with Islam criticised Williams as mistaken and naive for suggesting that some aspects of Sharia law in Britain were unavoidable.

The spiritual leader for the world's 77 million Anglicans, Williams -- who sparked a political storm with the Sharia comments -- last held talks with the Pope in November 2006.

Ties between the two churches have been strained over the past decade over the issue of women priests and homosexual bishops in the Anglican Church, which both leaders have acknowledged as obstacles to unity.

Read it here.

Rowan and Benedict touch base

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope met for about twenty minutes on Monday to discuss Christian-Muslim relations, Christian churches in China and for Williams to update Benedict on plans for the upcoming Lambeth Conference.

Vatican Radio interviewed Williams before he met with Benedict XVI, asking him what the goals of the meeting would be. The Archbishop said:

"Well it’ll be a fairly informal and low key meeting: I hope to bring him up to date on our plans about the Lambeth conference, perhaps to discuss with him a little what’s going to be happening at the conference this week at Palazzola and just touch base with him about China, the initiatives we’re involved in with regard to the churches in China.

You can hear the interview here.

Reuters reports:

Pope Benedict and the Archbishop of Canterbury discussed Christian-Muslim relations on Monday in their first meeting since the Anglican leader caused a storm with comments on the role of Sharia law in Britain.

The Vatican said the Pope had received Rowan Williams in a private audience but gave no details.

An Anglican spokesman said the two spoke privately for about 20 minutes and discussed Christian-Muslim relations, inter-faith dialogue and the Pope's impression of his visit to the United States last month.

He described the visit, the second official meeting between the Pope and the spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, as "warm and friendly".

Zenit offers this on the current relationship between Rome and Canterbury:

Vatican Radio noted that some people consider the current relationship between the Holy See and the Anglican Communion to be in its most difficult moment since the Second Vatican Council.

"It depends where you're looking from," Williams responded. "I think that in terms of the conflicts within the Anglican Communion then yes, it's an unprecedentedly difficult time, no two ways about that."

The Anglican Communion is facing a fracture because parts of the group, notably the Episcopal Church in the United States, have approved the ordination of women and homosexuals as bishops.

However, Williams noted that partially through the work of the Anglican Center in Rome, "tremendously deep foundations have been laid" in the Anglican-Catholic relationship.

The Anglican Center was founded in 1966 on the wave of ecumenical enthusiasm engendered by Vatican II and the birth of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission.

The center aims to encourage a special relationship between Anglicans and Roman Catholics through enabling full and frank discussion and debate on issues which unify them, and on those which divide them. The director is also the archbishop of Canterbury's representative to the Holy See.

During his time in Rome, Williams will preside at a service for the inauguration of the new director of the Anglican Center in Rome, the Reverend David Richardson.

Williams said the work of the center is "the other side of the story" regarding the Anglican Communion's relationship with Catholicism.

"Partly because of the work of the previous couple of directors, especially Bishop John Flack, tremendously deep foundations have been laid of personal trust and confidence and in terms of ease of access and honesty of discussion," he said. "I think we're in a very good phase and I'm absolutely confident the new director will be building on that."

The Guardian says, "despite his conservative views on women priests and homosexuality, Pope Benedict appears determined to bolster Williams's leadership in the name of Anglican unity."

Reuters: Pope discusses Islam relations with Anglican head.

Vatican Radio: Pope Meeting with Head of Anglican Communion.

Zenit: Archbishop of Canterbury visits Benedict XVI

More news of Canterbury and Rome: time to choose?

The Telegraph is reporting:

The Vatican said last night that the time has come for the Anglican Church to choose between Protestantism and the ancient sacramental Churches of Rome and Orthodoxy.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, told the Catholic Herald that the Anglican Communion must “clarify its identity” and stop hovering between the Catholic and Protestant traditions.

He said: “Ultimately, it is a question of the identity of the Anglican Church. Where does it belong? Does it belong more to the Churches of the first millennium – Catholic and Orthodox – or does it belong more to the Protestant churches of the 16th century?

More on the story is found at The Catholic Herald.

Speaking of choosing - it seems that Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh will attend the Lambeth Conference after all. The diocesan e-newsletter reports:

Bishops Robert Duncan and Henry Scriven confirmed today that they will be attending both the Global Anglican Future Conference in Jordan and Jerusalem in June and the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in Kent, England, this July and August.

"After consulting with the people of Pittsburgh and our friends around the globe, we have come to the conclusion that it is necessary for us to be present at both gatherings,” said Bishop Robert Duncan.

Reports of breakaway bishops boycotting Lambeth seem to have been premature.

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.

Presbyterians take on the Episcopalians in Wichita

After a dispute arose among the followers of Christ in the city of Wichita as to which of them were first in the city, a combat by trivia was declared. Hilarity ensues?

The Wichita Eagle is reporting on the "First Annual First Church in Wichita Bible Bowl" that is to help tonight between the clergy and people of First Presbyterian Church and St. John's Episcopal Church.

"The background to the battle goes back to last year, when the Rev. Catherine A. Caimano, rector at St. John's, shared in an article in The Eagle her goals for the upcoming year.

Among them: 'I want us to look again at our rich history as the first church in Wichita, our reputation for outreach and community care, and to give new energy and vision to both as we start this new year.'

Her good friend, the Rev. Cathy Northrup, pastor of First Presbyterian, joked with her about that statement.

'I believe Cathie misspoke,' Northrup said.

First Presbyterian, Northrup said, is actually the first, with a charter date of March 13, 1870. St. John's charter date is Oct. 4, 1870, according to its archivist, Katie Pott.

But although First Presbyterian had the earlier charter, Pott said St. John's had the first church building -- a sod-roof structure made of cottonwood slabs at Main and Central.

As Northrup and Caimano were having coffee one morning -- as they frequently do -- they thought of the idea of a Bible trivia contest.

They checked it out with their members, and settled on the format. They asked Hawn to come up with the questions.

Hawn, who used to referee hockey, said he might even wear his referee shirt."

Read the full article here.

Harmony is their tune

It sounds like the start of a joke: one day some pastors got together to sing; a Methodist, an Episcopalian, a couple of Congregationalists and.... Although these men love to laugh, what they do is sing in harmony and they call themselves the Glory Land Parsons Band.

The Glory Land Parsons Band is made up of a group of local ministers who love to joke around, but when it comes to singing, they are nobody's fool. Each performance hearkens back to an older time when harmonizing was the central focus and musical selections were drawn from hymn books.

With humor clearly evident in the clergy's camaraderie with each other, it is surprising to hear that conception of the group came out of tragedy. It was during 9/11 when the Rev. Don Bliss of East Freetown Christian Congregational Christian Church happened to see the Rev. Bill Comeau of the United Church of Assonet putting up flyers, looking for participants in a candlelight vigil honoring the victims. The men quickly discovered they had more in common than just their faith.

"Our regard for each other rose out of Christian fellowship, then it turns out we had common passions, one of which was music," the Rev. Bliss said.

The group's first performance took place at the Biltmore Ballroom in Providence.

"We started at the top," said the Rev. Bliss, laughing.

The group has now performed in venues ranging from churches to coffeehouses, with one of their latest performances taking place two months ago during the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches convention.

The past few years have seen a rotation of members. Along with the Rev. Comeau and the Rev. Bliss, the Rev. David Milan of the Church of Our Saviour Episcopal Church in Middleboro and the Rev. Dave Hammett of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in New Bedford round out the group's current members.

Occasionally, others accompany them, but this group maintains their connection with a weekly breakfast. They said that their diverse religious backgrounds make their group stronger.

"But the Methodist guy sits at the next table," quipped one of the ministers.

The members say that the driving force of the group is devotion.

"(The group) was God's idea," said the Rev. Bliss. "Here's the odd thing. We've all been called to our churches all within the last eight years, and we all happen to have a background in music and performance in addition to our passion for the Lord. This is what I mean when I say it's God's idea. Nobody put an ad in the paper for tryouts. It's a devotion thing."

Beside humor and music, the group witnesses to God's ability to overcome difference and for God's love and power to shine through a diverse group of Christians.

"The truth is we have theological differences in our group, but we love each other," said the Rev. Hammett.

"We recognize in each other that we're all here because of God, to do His work and care for His people," said the Rev. Bliss.

"And to have a good time while we're doing it," added the Rev. Hammett.

Read it all here.

Friday Rap

Not too long ago the Episcopal Church entered into a full communion relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We're working out the implications of this growing partnership, but in spite of many successes the central common themes of the Reformation are still unknown to many of us. But now, thanks to Bulldog Productions we can start to learn about our Lutheran sisters and brothers through rap...

If you're interested in the lyrics, you can find them printed out here.

Fifty years ago a council was called

National Catholic Reporter writer Jason Petosa reflects on the fifty years since Pope John XXIII called for an ecumenical council to take place starting in 1962. He says that the Church is mired in the tension between the call to engage the modern world and the need to conserve tradition. Petosa suggests that the way for the Church to move forward is forgiveness.

He reminds us that John XXIII surprised the world when he called for a council. Many hoped that he would leave well enough alone.

Fifty years ago today, Jan. 25, 1959, Pope John XXIII surprised the world by calling for an Ecumenical Council. Vatican II would convene in 1962....and it was a fresh and far reaching initiative for the church, although there were many people who believed that the church was doing very well as it was, and had no need for change.

To the contrary, these conservatives believed the church should resist any efforts that would disturb its good order of practice and doctrine—as governed by the Roman Curia. Their attitude was “not in my china shop!"

The bishops in attendance overruled the agenda set by curia bureaucrats and went directly for liturgical reform.

Slowly the tide shifted and a huge wave of optimism, energy and enthusiasm emerged as the assembled hierarchy proceeded through the final two sessions of the council. When the council ended, the wave crested with an outpouring of pent-up hope and excitement.

Millions and millions of Catholics along with many more millions of believers from other faith traditions rolled up their collective shirtsleeves and began to put into practice the reforms wrought by the council.

For the most part, bishops, clergy, religious and a fired-up laity worked together. Maybe it was goodwill run amuck. (Was that so bad?) Maybe, as many proclaimed, it was the Holy Spirit at work, silencing or at least muting those naysayers whom Pope John XXIII called “prophets of gloom and doom.”

Looking back at the immediate post-Vatican II church, we can say that this parade of joyous engagement was like Palm Sunday: a prelude to the agony and crucifixion to come.

It is easy to be disappointed that the "promise" of Vatican II seems to have never been fulfilled. Moderates and liberals feel that whatever progress the Council brought is being systemattically rolled back, and conservatives feel as if the Council brought about much that was regrettable and even ruinous to the Church. Much of what was fought over then appears to us today as trivial but the heart of the motivation for change fifty years ago seem to be untouched.

Petosa suggests a way forward that may instructive to Christians of every tradition: forgiveness.

Weary and even heart-broken, let us consider forgiveness. Our ultimate model of forgiveness is Jesus Christ, and for a concrete, recent Christian example we have the Amish of Nickel Mines, Pa. In the fall of 2006, Charles Carl Roberts IV, a truck driver, entered the Amish community’s one-room schoolhouse and held 10 girls hostage for several hours. He then shot and killed five of the girls and seriously wounded the other five.

How the Amish community responded with forgiveness in so many ways is told in the book Amish Grace, How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy, by Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt and David L. Weaver-Zercher (Jossey-Bass). “Amish people are likely to say that they are simply trying to be obedient to Jesus Christ who commanded his followers to do many peculiar things, such as love, bless and forgive their enemies,” they write. These Amish people’s ongoing forgiveness, pardon and reconciliation are a model for us as we try to liberate the Catholic church from its current predicament.

Forgiveness is the way to make us whole again. It is the medium through which we tap into the transcendent power of the Holy Spirit. Forgiveness is the balm to ease our pain and restore our optimism. Forgiveness helps us avoid sinking into the ugly cancer of contempt. It frees us from the temptation to get even, to one-up or put down our adversaries. Forgiveness enables us to purify our intentions so that every step of our ecclesial crusade is marked with magnanimity.

Forgiveness matters because internal church reform is important. Because the church — the entire people of God, including the hierarchy — is important to the world and to each of us individually. A disfigured body of Christ, a distorted proclaiming of the good news, destroys the church’s credibility, which weakens and diminishes the power of that proclamation, much as Kryptonite saps the power of Superman.

Read the rest here.

The marriage of Eva Brunne

The Diocese of Stockholm in the Church of Sweden has just elected Eva Brunne, a lesbian in a registered domestic partnership, as its bishop. The Church of England, like the Anglican Communion Churches of Ireland, Scotland and Wales is in full communion with the Church of Sweden through the Porvoo Agreement. The question now is how Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will respond, having gone to such great lengths to keep partnered gays and lesbians from becoming bishops in the Anglican Communion.

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A common date for Easter discussed

Ekklesia reports on an international ecumenical seminar discussing how to bring Eastern and Western churches together around the date of Easter which the two traditions calculate according to different calendars and they think that now is the time to act because in 2010 and 2011 both the calendars of both traditions will coincide.

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Moravian full-communion agreement considered

One of the many pieces of legislation to be considered by General Convention this summer is the full-communion agreement between the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church and the Episcopal Church. If adopted, the agreement would represent a historic achievement of the first trilateral agreement between denominations.

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Communion offices publishes report on ecumenism

A comprehensive account of the Anglican Communion's ecumenical work has been published by the Anglican Communion Office.

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CNS: Anglican leader's concern for unity reflects Vatican concerns

That's the headline at Catholic News Service to this article. How ironic that the dateline is July 29, 2009 -- 35 years from the date of the first ordination of women in The Episcopal Church.

An extract:

Vatican concerns about how some recent decisions of the U.S. Episcopal Church will impact the search for full Anglican-Roman Catholic unity are echoed in a reflection by Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Communion.

Writing July 27 about the Episcopal Church's recent general convention, Archbishop Williams repeatedly referred to the need to keep in mind the ecumenical implications of local church decisions in addition to their impact on the unity of the Anglican Communion as a whole.
...
In a statement July 29, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity "supports the archbishop in his desire to strengthen these bonds of communion, and to articulate more fully the relationship between the local and the universal within the church," the statement said.

"It is our prayer that the Anglican Communion, even in this difficult situation, may find a way to maintain its unity and its witness to Christ as a worldwide communion," it added.

It is worth recalling the address Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, gave at the Anglican Communion's Lambeth Conference in July of 2008. An extract:
As you well know, the ordination of women to the priesthood in several Anglican provinces, beginning in 1974 to be exact, 35 years ago to the day, July 29 1974], and to the episcopate, beginning in 1989, have greatly complicated relations between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church....

As I stated when addressing the Church of England’s House of Bishops in 2006, for us this decision to ordain women implies a turning away from the common position of all churches of the first millennium, that is, not only the Catholic Church but also the Oriental Orthodox and the Orthodox churches. We would see the Anglican Communion as moving a considerable distance closer to the side of the Protestant churches of the 16th century, and to a position they adopted only during the second half of the 20th century.

Since it is currently the situation that 28 Anglican provinces ordain women to the priesthood, and while only 4 provinces have ordained women to the episcopate, an additional 13 provinces have passed legislation authorising women bishops, the Catholic Church must now take account of the reality that the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate is not only a matter of isolated provinces, but that this is increasingly the stance of the Communion. It will continue to have bishops, as set forth in the Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888); but as with bishops within some Protestant churches, the older churches of East and West will recognise therein much less of what they understand to be the character and ministry of the bishop in the sense understood by the early church and continuing through the ages.

So there you have it. For its stance on woman's ordination the Anglican Communion has become more unrecognizable to Rome. Until Rome changes that will continue to be so. Ecumenism is a false argument to raise in the debate over unity of the Anglican Communion.

WCC elects Norwegian as new General Secretary

The World Council of Churches announces the election of Olav Fyske Tveit as their new General Secretary.

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Bishop Epting to retire in December

The Presiding Bishop's Office of Public affairs announced today that Bishop Christopher Epting, the Chief Ecumenical Officer of the Episcopal Church will retire at the end of 2009. Dr. Thomas Ferguson, his associate officer will serve as interim until a new person is appointed by the Presiding Bishop.

Full message follows:

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Leaders lament lack of women in WCC staff leadership

Episcopal Life Online links a report from Ecumenical News International (ENI) on the lack of women in senior staff positions in the World Council of Churches:

Three women who serve as presidents of the World Council of Churches have expressed "considerable concern and great disappointment" about the lack of women in senior staff leadership positions in the world's biggest church grouping.

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Episcopalians and Roman Catholics share in celebration of Mary

Over the weekend Roman Catholics and Episcopalians, led by former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold joined in a shared Solemn Evensong dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God.

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Atlanta dean salutes Vatican plan for Anglicans

From the Very Rev. Sam Candler, dean of St. Philip's Cathedral in Atlanta writing at Good Faith and the Common Good

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Letter from Alberto Cutié on Vatican announcement

Alberto Cutié who has recently joined the Episcopal Church after a career as a Roman Catholic priest writes his response to the actions of the Vatican idea for Anglicans:

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Vatican-Anglican relations: what just happened

The Rev. Dr. R. William Franklin, Academic Fellow of the Anglican Centre in Rome, Visiting Professor of Theology at the Pontifical Angelicum University in Rome and Associate Director of the American Academy in Rome explains it all :

We here in Rome have received many questions about the Vatican announcement on October 20 about the setting up of “Personal Ordinariates” for former Anglicans wishing to enter into full communion now with the Roman Catholic Church. Here are some answers to those questions posed by many.

Click Read more to see the Q and A. Hat tip, Bishop Pierre Whalon.

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RSVP - Regrets Only

Friday's guest-post to the Integrity USA blog was from Paul Bresnahan, a Salem, Mass., priest who blogs at Heaven and Earth.

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A shotgun marriage with unintended consequences

On this Reformation Day, with an odd overture to Anglicans by the Vatican still hanging in the air from the week past, we note a column from scholar Diarmaid MacCullough in today's Observer:

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Question of the day: The Archbishop and the Pope

We understand from mainstream reports that Rowan Williams is to meet with Benedict XVI on Nov. 21st at the Vatican. As has been widely stated, this will be the first such meeting since things got a bit icy a few weeks ago.

What will be the substance of that meeting?

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Bishop Scarfe on the new Vatican plan

UPDATED: See below - Bishop Gregory Cameron criticizes the pope's bad manners.

Bishop Alan Scarfe points out something not many others have seen in the latest initiative to include Anglican communities into a full communion relationship with the Holy See:

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Andrew Sullivan is fed up

In his "Daily Dish" blog at The Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan writes that he is fed up with the Roman Catholic Church's anti-gay actions.

A Gay Catholic Now?
by Andrew Sullivan in The Atlantic


It is time to acknowledge that the Catholic church hierarchy can no longer pretend that it isn't the active enemy of gay people and our families. That this church hierarchy - especially in its more conservative wing - is disproportionately gay itself and waging war against their fellow gays through the cowardly veil of the closet, is not new. But it is, as we flinch with the sting of defeat, harder to take than ever.

Orthodox Patriarch is green

Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew meets with President Obama and other officials to advocate for greater protections for the environment in order to combat climate change.

Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew meets Obama on U.S. visit
From Reuters' FaithWorld blog

Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the “green patriarch” who leads 300 million Orthodox Christians, spoke with President Barack Obama on Tuesday about the fight against climate change.

“We view with alarm the dangerous consequences of disregard for the survival of God’s creation,” His All Holiness told a gathering at Georgetown University after his White House meeting.

Apostolic Constitution published

The full text of the Apostolic Constitution which establishes an Anglican Rite Ordinariate in the Roman Catholic Church was published today. People are pouring over the details and trying to work through the implications.

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Presiding Bishop meets Moravians

Updated The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori met with Moravian leaders and seminarians during a concurrent visit to the Diocese of Bethlehem. During a discussion and worship at Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, she noted the possibilities for mission as the two churches move closer to full communion. The presiding bishop also preached during a liturgy that followed in the seminary chapel.

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Russian Church ends talks with Germans

The Russian Orthodox Church has decided to end 50 years of dialogue with the Lutheran Church in Germany as a result of the Lutherans electing Margot Käßmann as their leader for the next six years.

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Bishop Epting on the Apostolic Constitution

Bishop Chris Epting, the Presiding Bishop's Deputy for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations issued a statement in reaction to the Vatican's creation of a Personal Ordinariate structure for disaffected Anglicans. In short, he sees it as flying in the face of the "slow but steady" work of traditional ecumenism.

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More on Rowan William's visit to Rome

After the release of the details behind the Vatican's plan to receive disaffected Anglicans, the scheduled visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Rome attracted much more attention than it had to date. The details of the visit went just as everyone expected. But the nuance and implications of how the events were handled are being examined for clues about the present state of relations between Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

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Whalon on The Pope, Rowan Williams, and Henry VIII

Pierre Whalon, Bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, responds to the recent Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope Benedict XVI aimed at disaffected Anglicans and praised the Archbishop of Canterbury's response to it.

He writes:

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Rome and Russia draw closer

Those of a certain age may remember watching Anthony Quinn and Laurence Olivier face off as the fictional Pope Kiril I and Soviet Premier in the film version of The Shoes of the Fisherman. Armed with such images, we may be surprised to learn that the Russian Federation may soon enter into full diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

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WCC secretary general writes President of Uganda

World Council of Churches general secretary, The Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from the Methodist Church in Kenya has written a Letter to the Uganda President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. The letter, reprinted in full after the fold raises concerns regarding the Anti Homosexuality Bill.

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Benedict XVI: Ecumenism=Conversion to Catholicism

The pope has defended his widely ignored initiative to bring disaffected Anglicans into the Catholic Church in a way that provides insight into his definition of ecumenism.

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Believe out loud makes it debut

Peter Laarman writes at Religion Dispatches:

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Methodist leaders feel backlash over CoE unity remarks

Ten days ago we let you know about a velvet brick being tossed into a soporific gathering of the Church of England's General Synod. David Gamble, president of the UK's Methodist Conference, told Synod members that

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Inter-Religious Council steps out gingerly against anti-gay bill

Carried as news in only one major Ugandan publication, it came forth quietly over the past few days and has taken a while to gain the ears of the world.

We're talking about a statement by the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda which (though perhaps shot through with a late-in-the-game sanctimony that reverses previous positions) has that key group finally denouncing the kill-the-gays bill now before the Ugandan parliament.

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The incredible shrinking Archbishop of Canterbury

In excluding members of the Episcopal Church from Anglican bodies engaged in ecumenical dialog Rowan Williams was no doubt trying to send a message to... well, someone or other.

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Farewell to the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral

David Simmons at Aiya Iluvatar notes some of the unnoticed implications of Archbishop Rowan Williams recent exercise in authoritarianism:

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Ecumenical dialogs at the point of collapse? Really?

In the ENS report earlier today on the meeting between the Executive Council and Canon Kearon of the Anglican Communion Office, it was reported that Canon Kearon explained part of the reason for the removal of Episcopalians from Anglican Communion ecumenical dialog participation because:

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Moravian's vote moves toward full communion

The Northern Province of the Moravian Church, which represents the northern half of the full body of Moravians in the United States voted last night to approve the full communion agreement that the Episcopal Church approved last summer in Anaheim.

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Reformed Church hangs on with ELCA

At its mid-June General Synod, the Reformed Church in America expressed "concern" over recent actions by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America to start the process of saying yes to persons in "life-long, monogamous, same gender relationships" as to their fitness for ordained ministry.

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Taizé community marks 70th year

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Taizé community, an ecumenical monastic order and spiritual-pilgrimage destination center in Saône-et-Loire, France, by Brother Roger Schutz.

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Both US Moravian provinces vote for full communion with TEC

Yesterday afternoon the Southern Province of the Moravian Church in the United States joined its sister Northern Province in voting to affirm the full communion agreement with the Episcopal Church. The Synod defeated resolutions criticizing the Episcopal Church and an effort to table the agreement indefinitely.

If the agreement is approved by the full Unitas Fratrum of the Moravian world-wide communion, this agreement, when added to what the Lutherans have already achieved will be the first trilateral agreement that any of these churches have entered into.

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Rome moves Newman's feast to commemorate conversion

Which is more important? Entering heaven or entering the Roman Catholic Church? Reports are that when John Henry Newman is beatified, the date of his feast in their calendar will be the date of his conversion to Roman Catholicism, not the day of his death.

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Protestants misunderstand ecumenism according to new RC ecumenism leader

Much of modern ecumenical engagement among protestant denominations has focused mutual recognition and cooperation between denominations without an expectation of full merger. That's certainly the basic view of the Episcopal Church's agreement with the Lutheran and Moravian churches. But according to the newly appointed head of Ecumenism for the Roman Catholic Church, that's a mistake. We should not look for cooperation. We should insist on unity only and not settle for cooperation.

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Can good come from the ordinariate?

The Café has not followed the "how many Anglicans will become Catholics now that the pope will let them keep their own liturgy" story as closely as some religion blogs because we think the answer is "not very many" and that the story is overhyped.

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Lutheran leader seeks Communion accord with RCC

Anglican Journal reports that Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan wants to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation with a common statement on eucharistic hospitality with the Roman Catholic Church.

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Week of Christian Unity as observed in Geneva

Christians the world over are in the midst of the annual week of prayer and intention for the whole of the Church. This year's focus is on the Church in the Middle East, with particular attention on Jerusalem.

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Moravians and Episcopalians celebrate full communion

Last night the inaugural service celebrating full communion between the Episcopal Church and the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church in North America was held at at Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori joined the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Miller and the Rev. David Guthrie, the presidents of the two Moravian Provincial Elders' Conferences celebrated.

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WCC to scrap "Central Committee"

The World Council of Churches has decided to scrap the title of their main legislative body. They have come to the conclusion that "The Central Committee" sounded too Soviet especially to churches that have survived persecution in former Communist countries, and is a title used in hard-left, anti-religious political parties around the world.

Reuters reports:

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Planning a celebration

The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have chosen Buffalo and Fort Erie, Ont., to celebrate a decade of “full communion” between the two Protestant denominations, reports the Buffalo Evening News:

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Towards a common date for Easter

This year Easter will be celebrated on the same day in both the Western and Eastern churches. The next time that happens will be 2017. Work continues to find a common date for Easter.

Ekklesia reports:

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10th Anniversary of Full Communion - Episcopalians & Lutherans

The leaders of the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada , and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have issued a Pastoral Letter for the May 1 celebration marking the 10th Anniversary of full communion:

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Presiding Bishop on the future of "catholic beyond boundaries" churches

The Presiding Bishop is in Utrecht this week, preaching, delivering the annual Quasimodo lecture and representing the Episcopal Church. The Old Catholic Church, which was formed by elements of the Roman Catholic Church that could not accept the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, has its historic center in the Netherlands at Utrecht. They are one of the Episcopal Church's oldest full communion partners.

From the ENS report:

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ARCIC III ends first meeting

The Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission has completed the first meeting of its new phase, known as ARCIC III. The group includes an Episcopal priest who teaches at Durham University and is a canon residentiary in the Church of England.

ACNS:

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UCC minister turns Episcopal camp around

Camp Mokuleia just completed a million dollar renovation that is going guarantee its ministry as part of the Diocese of Hawaii for long time to come. To do this, the Diocese used its ecumenical connections to find the right person for the job.

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Catholic diocese donates to National Cathedral recovery

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has donated $25,000 to the Washington National Cathedral towards recovery and restoration of the earthquake damaged building.

Episcopal News Service:

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Online digital theological library launched

The World Council of Churches (WCC) announced last week the launch of the first online digital library covering theology and ecumenism. The goal is to help close the information gap between North and South.

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Ecumenism Roman Catholic style

In this Washington Post story, the Very Rev. Thomas Ferguson, Dean of Bexley Hall Seminary does a nice job of gently expressing concern and dampening some of the hype surrounding the "ordinariate" that the Roman Catholic Church has created to welcome disaffected Anglicans.

First the hype:

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Bishop Sutton strikes conciliatory note in essay on ordinariate

Bishop Eugene Sutton of Maryland has written an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun about the recent comings and goings between the Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

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NCC groans in transition

The National Council of Churches is getting reorganized and refocused amidst painful realities.

A release concerning a recent meeting paints the picture.

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Bikes blessed; riders relieved; hospital helps

The L.A. Times reports on Bike Week L.A.:

... dozens of cyclists rode to Good Samaritan Hospital for the ninth annual Blessing of the Bicycles. A rabbi talked about living green. A nun spoke of guardian angels. And the Rev. Jerry Anderson, an Episcopal priest and hospital chaplain, sprinkled holy water on bikers and their bikes.

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Bigger Things to Worry About Than Death of Denominations

Derek Penwell explores community and ministry in a post-denominational world at the blog D-mergent:

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Sistine Chapel and Westminster Abbey choirs sing together

For the first time in 500 years, the Sistine Chapel Choir will sing alongside the Westminster Abbey Choir.

The Huffington Post:

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First Moravian rector of an Episcopal parish

ENS:

On Sept. 16, the Rev. Carl Southerland was installed as rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Franklin, North Carolina, becoming the first Moravian pastor of an Episcopal parish since the two denominations inaugurated a full-communion relationship in 2011.

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A joint statement from North American Lutheran and Anglican leaders

The leaders of The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada have issued a joint statement following 12 years of full communion.

Here is the full text:

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Rules on Eucharistic sharing could be relaxed

Episcopal News Service notes news from the Church of Ireland Gazette:

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The church of cucumber sandwiches and hats? or not

Cathy Grossman at Religion News Service reports on the subject of naming:

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World Council of Churches meets

The World Council of Churches meeting will take place from 30 October to 8 November in Busan, Republic of Korea. Ekklesia reports:

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Bishop McDonald elected World Council of Churches president

The 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches elected eight new presidents today during a closed session at its proceedings in Busan, Republic of Korea. The Rt. Rev. Mark McDonald, National Indigenous Bishop for the Anglican Church of Canada, and formerly Bishop of Alaska in the Episcopal Church, was elected president for North America.

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Porvoo Communion expands

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby preached at the most recent gathering of the Churches of the Porvoo Communion, Lutheran and Anglican Churches, based mostly in Northern Europe, that have signed an agreement to “share a common life in mission and service”

The groups welcomed two new member churches into full communion: the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad and the Lutheran Church in Great Britain.

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An historic election for World Council of Churches

Dr Agnes Abuom, from the Anglican Church of Kenya, has been elected as the first woman and the first African to serve as the moderator of the highest World Council of Churches governing body.

World Council of Churches web-site:

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A call to peace and prayer in Ukraine

A call to peace and prayer for Ukraine

From the heads of The Anglican Church of Canada, The Episcopal Church, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada


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Ordinariate in England not growing

The arrangement designed to welcome disaffected Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church is apparently not catching on in England. After taking in their first members when the scheme was set up in 2011, membership has remained flat. Apparently the demand for an Anglican-acting Roman Catholic sect who are opposed to ordained women and gays was loud but not very deep.

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Archdiocese makes teachers sign morals clause

Frank Bruni's column today examines the case of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, where over 2,000 parochial teachers are being asked to sign a greatly expanded morals clause in their contract.

The previous contract briefly stated that the employee would not contradict Catholic doctrine, and left it at that. The new, expanded contract goes into great detail about what that might mean, but only in a particular direction:

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Religious tensions in Ukraine add fuel to fire

Remember those pictures of the kindly Orthodox priests, protesting in the Ukraine? They're back in the news again.

The Huffington Post reports that the political situation in Ukraine is causing the local churches to take sides, and escalating an already tense environment.

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Pope Francis and Nicea III

As speculation grows around the call for a third Nicean council, the Daily Beast reports on what Western and Eastern Christian reconciliation might mean in 2025:

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