Monday, October 31, 2005

Heyward; "Take On the Mantel of Prophet"

In Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Report, Carter Heyward, the Howard Chandler Robbins Professor of Theology at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, offers an essay entitled "Make Us Prophets and Pastors: An Open Letter to Gay and Lesbian Priests." Heyward suggests that events have forced gay and lesbian priests to take on new roles:

We Anglican priests who happen to be lesbian or gay must step forward now to fill the breach created by the Primates' rejection of gay men, lesbians, and our allies. These bishops are barricading the doors against our participation, with them, in any genuine mutual engagement and study of human sexuality. Despite their claims of "care and friendship" toward "homosexual people," the Primates' "bonds of affection" do not, in fact, extend to gay people and our friends, and so we priests must take the place of the bishops in extending pastoral, sacramental, and liturgical care to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered sisters and brothers. Although few of us would have chosen this vocation, it has been cast upon us by the bishops' abandonment of the whole people of God.
Heyward suggests that the Primates are not sincerely addressing the issues, but are instead responding from their fears:

The Primates, on the whole, seem frightened of women who openly love women and they are probably terrified of men who openly love men. They do not want to get close enough to us to be touched by us, metaphorically or literally. Thus it is up to us, dear brother and sister priests, to work closely enough together and to keep closely enough in touch with one another to help the whole people of God work and pray their way through the fears and hostilities being set in place by the Primates of the Anglican Communion.
The "fear factor," coupled with the "ick factor," seems to me to be the only probable explanation for the extreme visceral response we are witnessing in some parts of the Anglican Communion. For further understanding of the "fear factor," consider Fear of the Feminine, in which Nancy Myer Hopkins suggests that this fear rises from the belief that "same-sex relationships violate the rules laid down by all patriarchal cultures about how men and women should behave in relationship to one another." Thus the argument that such relationships are destroying the fabric of our society.

Heyward states clearly why the condescending words of the Primates are unacceptable:

The message to "homosexual people" from the Primates of the Anglican Communion is that queer people are alien, shameful and wrong: Our lives are wrong - the ways we love, the relational bonds we form, the blessings we seek. Moreover, neither we, nor those who stand in solidarity with us, are welcome in the councils of the Anglican Communion. Still they ask us to "be clear" that we are "deserving of the best (they) can give us pastoral care and friendship." Perhaps this is the best they can give, these Primates of ours. Whatever, it is a far cry from what "homosexual people" either need pastorally or, if we have any self-respect, what we can accept from our bishops or anyone else.
Heyward reminds us that calls for compromise for the sake of the "unity of the church" have historically been a cry against such justice movements as those which advocated for the abolition of slavery, women's rights and civil rights. Authentic unity would be based on mutual respect, formed from an awareness of cultural differences.

Heyward clarifies that there are two possible responses to our current situation:

Oppressed people can either identify with, and mimic, the oppressor or we can commit ourselves, again and again to the struggles for liberation, for others and ourselves. Our choice, as lesbian and gay priests today, is either to make a truce with oppression or to take on the mantel of the prophet.
This is what some parts of the Communion seem to not understand. Peace at any cost never results in real peace. Compromising is not an option. To do so would place the unity of the Church as a higher priority than our duty to be faithful to God and the whole people of God.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

What Shall We Do with the Windsor Report?

In an ongoing conversation being held elsewhere, a possible response to the WR by General Convention was offered, which included honoring the the two moratoria suggested; blessings and consecrations. In reply to this suggestion, Michael Russell, Rector of All Souls', Point Loma, CA, identified eight "negotiation points" that would have to be considered before agreeing to such a response. With his permission, I am offering these eight points for further discussion here;

1) We have to look at the WR in light of all the receptive comments made around the communion so far and then draw our own conclusions about its merit in whole or in part. I think there are parts that are important for further discussion: the authority of scripture and who properly interprets it (which I would not leave to the Bishops alone), subsidiarity as it might work in all directions, and a more formal process of reception.

2) I would not under any circumstances accede to the 4 Instruments of Unity. They have already proven themselves an empty shell because of the absence of checks and balances and separation of powers. They are a bad idea and have proven so. The only evidence we need is that of the primates themselves who have refused to abide by the WR, Dromantine or Lambeth I.10. Recent discussion here has focused on who decides if what TEC has done is enough, and I would add the question of how we discipline the Instruments of Unity?

3) I might accept a moratorium, might if all the forces of disunion stop cross-Diocesan invasions and poaching. That is a clear part of WR and Dromantine ignored completely since their promulgation. As long as foreign provinces are diddling in US Dioceses I would give them nothing more than what the PB, HOB and Exec. Council have done.

4) The Lambeth conversation must return to the spirit of 1978 and 1988, whose authority, btw has not been superseded by any resolution in 1998. There are no rules that state that more recent resolutions outweigh earlier ones.

5) My own personal position is that unless the WWAC calls for decriminalization of homosexuality in all provinces and the primates actively work for it in their own provinces, any claim to restart a "listening" process is a sham. I see no point to accepting a sham as a good faith offering.

6) We should call for primates to cease interfering with the delivery of aid monies to people in their regions whose lives can be saved or improved. They do not have to agree with us to accept it, but it must be deployed for development or relief purposes. If they refuse, we should make it clear we will work around them.

7) I believe we should make it clear that we are prepared to support clergy and congregations in any Diocese anywhere who do not wish to be associated with the particular form of curial-biblical supremacism that manifests itself as evangelical orthodox today.

8) I would insist on creating a process for the formation of an international Constitution and Canon to bring the rule of law to our intra-communion work.
I could live with a plan that incorporated these eight points, although I am very uncomfortable with #8. That one will take quite a bit more conversation.

The more I look at the WR, the more I think that it simply won't work. Instead of trying to rework it, maybe what we need to do is to present our own plan?

What would such a plan look like? A good starting point might be An Immodest Proposal offered by Tobias S. Haller BSG, Vicar of Saint James Church, Fordham, The Bronx.

So what shall we do with the Windsor Report? Try to refine it, or start from scratch?


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Wales; "Primates Overstepped Their Authority"

Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, recently offered a lecture entitled Scripture and Sexuality – our commitment to listening and learning. The entire lecture is worth noting, but I wanted to highlight one particular segment that states quite clearly the understanding of many of us regarding the authority of Lambeth and the Primates;

Provinces have to realise that Lambeth resolutions have no constitutional or canonical authority and primates have to realise that they have no constitutional power to bind the whole Communion by their statements. The first Lambeth Conference of 1867 made it clear that it was not a general synod of churches in communion with the Church of England, and it did not enact canons. As Stephen Sykes and John Booty put it in ‘The Study of Anglicanism, “the Lambeth Conference has remained a deliberating body convened solely at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Whatever the respect accorded to its deliberations, it has no canonical or constitutional status”. Primates have only met regularly since 1979 and that meeting defined its role as “not being a higher synod but a clearing house for ideas and experience through free expression, the fruits of which the Primates might convey to their churches”. Some primates have not fully grasped either of these points and as the chairman of the ACC pointed out at its last meeting the Primates overstepped their authority in asking the representatives of ECUSA and Canada to withdraw from membership of that body. As he put it “a body which exists by means of a constitution agreed to by all the member churches of the Anglican Communion, and that is required by that constitution to be consultative cannot consult fully or properly if all its members are not sitting at the same table. It is surely not for one instrument of unity to disempower another”.
As I have said previously, I think the issue of authority is emerging as the primary concern in discussions within the Anglican Communion. Regardless of what the presenting issues were that brought us to this place, we now must grapple with how we are to move into the future as a Communion. Do we really want an archbishop, or a council of archbishops, or even a council of bishops, to have the final word on what is fit and what is not?


Monday, October 24, 2005

Anglican News Update

There's been a few news items worth noting over the last few weeks. I've not commented on them as they have been well covered elsewhere, and I have been trying to stay focused on reviewing the content of Gays and the Future of Anglicanism. I intend to continue this review, as I am convinced this book will prove to be an important resource in future deliberations regarding the Windsor Report. However, I'm anticipating possible important developments happening within the Anglican Communion within the next week, so it seems appropriate to mention a few of the most recent news items so that future events might be seen in perspective.

The extreme conservatives within the Episcopal Church are quite upset over notes from a meeting of Via Media. Since the notes refer to strategies to implement in case the ten Network diocese decide to bolt after General Convention 2006, the extreme conservatives are shouting "Coup!" and "Leftist Conspiracy!" among other colorful accusations. Personally, I think this is much ado about nothing. I find it unfortunate that Via Media is buying into the hype from the extremists, although I can understand their concern, as the group is made up of faithful Episcopalians who reside within dioceses that have been threatening to break with the Episcopal Church for a few years now. The reality of even a worse case scenario is that the possibility of the Network taking over the Episcopal Church is slim to none. They claim to have 10 diocese out of 111 aligned with them. Outside those 10 diocese, they have about 140 congregations signed up, out of 7,500. Assuming that every congregation in the 10 diocese will also break (which is a generous assumption; the existence of the Via Media groups is evidence that not all the congregations in Network dioceses go along with their plans for schism), the Network might be able to claim allegiance of about 1,100 congregations, or roughly 15%. The idea that the remaining 85% will go along with the Network's claim that, due to the term "constituent" in the Preamble, to remain Anglican one must leave the Episcopal Church and join them, is wishful thinking. The cure will be seen as worse than the disease.

Even though I believe that a scenario in which such a small minority will launch a successful coup to be delusionary, at the same time, plans to protect faithful Episcopalians within the 10 Network dioceses need to be made. One would think that presentments against the 10 diocesans would be a bare minimum response. In this regard, the brainstorming session of Via Media is worth carefully consideration.

What makes this particular flap rather ironic is that the same folks who are now screaming foul have been planning how to destroy the Episcopal Church and take it over with their own coup for a few years now. Pot, meet kettle. Mark Harris offers more commentary on this incident.

Related to this is the settlement of the lawsuit against the Diocese of Pittsburgh filed by Calvary Episcopal Church. You might recall that the documents revealed through this lawsuit gave us an inside look of the Network's plans to overthrow the Episcopal Church. The settlement makes the unusual resolution passed at a previous diocesan convention allowing individual congregations to claim ownership of their property and assets null and void. This strange resolution was an attempted end run around future court cases involving property settlements if these congregations tried to leave the Episcopal Church. At least in the state of Pennsylvania, that ploy isn't going to work. This is good news for the people of Calvary and the other faithful Episcopalians in the diocese of Pittsburgh, but will probably have little effect in future court cases outside of Pennsylvania.

Before leaving domestic issues, it might be timely to mention that there is a distinct difference between what I refer to as "extreme conservatives" and the more traditional "conservatives." A few of the latter can be found in most Episcopal congregations. The former are a rather rare breed, making up, at the most, 20% of the membership. Their leaders are the same folks who were angry about women's ordination and the new prayer book, are now angry about a bishop who refuses to stay in the closet, and, if they stay true to form, will most likely find new issues to be angry about in the future. An example of the difference between the extremists and the more traditional conservatives can be found in the recent address to the diocese of Rio Grande given by their new bishop, Jeffrey Steenson. Bishop Steenson is a well known conservative, who was previously rector of Good Shepherd, Rosemont and St. Andrew's, Fort Worth. Until recently, he was known to oppose women's ordination. Here is a brief excerpt from his address worth noting;

Breaking communion, cutting relationships with other Christians is dreadful business and goes to the very heart of the Anglican understanding of the Church. The Anglican reformers identified three key principles for the unity of the Church, which they got directly from St. Augustine of Hippo in his writings against the Donatist schism in North Africa:

1. The true identity of the Church as Christ's Body is in no way diminished by the imperfections and defects of its human members.

2. As long as we live in this present age, we must accept that it is God's will that saints and sinners are mixed together in the Church.

3. Breaking communion and separating from the Church is ultimate more damaging than the heretical ideas and practices that may have occasioned them...
If you take a moment to read his entire address, I think you will see the truth in the point I'm trying to make; it is an unfair generalization to paint all conservatives with the same brush.

Moving on to some international news, it appears that the majority claimed by the extreme conservatives within the Anglican Communion is showing signs of small cracks of disunity, which may eventually shatter the facade they have attempted to present to the world.

First is the brave statement from Changing Attitude - Nigeria which challenges Archbishop Akinola. Thinking Anglicans has more discussion on this story.

Then there is the recent Panama Declaration, in which a number of Latin-American and Caribbean bishops made the following statement;

...With deep sentiment, we regret the forced exclusion of the Province of Brazil from the Global South Conference celebrated in Egypt; exclusion promoted by the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, and we also regret the reception and recognition of the deposed bishop and clergy, from the diocese of Recife by the Primate of the Province in the Southern Cone of America. Nevertheless, we express our hope to be in total reconciliation with our brothers and sisters of the Southern Cone and to continue in our journey of total communion with one another.

These acts of exclusion from events and the intromission and disregard of the authority in jurisdictions among Provinces, represent the breaking away from agreements and commitments established between primates and they are a product of the intolerant tendencies that we face and we hope that these tendencies will quickly disappear as a result of the inspiration and action of the Holy Spirit and our decisive actions geared towards change and renewal...
For some background on what made such a statement necessary, read the Primate of the Southern Cone's letter and the Primate of Brazil's response. We're seeing this happen more and more; one bishop deposes a priest or a bishop, and some other bishop picks them up, ignoring the previous deposition. The decision to dismiss such depositions seems to be based on the beliefs of the bishop doing the deposition and the one being deposed. This is the road to chaos. Not only does this lead to a priest or a bishop's orders only being valid in a specific geographical area becoming the norm, but it will also call into question any ordinations or confirmations done by a bishop who was previously deposed. The validity of a sacramental rite will become based on the belief system held by the bishop or priest offering the sacrament. Is this really where we want to go?

Meanwhile, tomorrow the Global South summit will begin. The Archbishop of Canterbury will be present. Stayed tuned, folks. This could get very interesting.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A History of Horrors

If you only read one chapter of Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Report, my recommendation would be that you choose the essay by Philip Kennedy entitled God's Good News for Gays. Although there are a number of excellent points in this chapter, such as identifying the six defining features of modern theology, there is one particular segment of Kennedy's piece that I think needs to be highlighted all by itself. Hopefully, this will take the discussion out of the realm of academic rhetoric and ethical hair splitting and force us to face what is at stake if the Church does not take a stand against homophobia.

The section that I want to focus on is subtitled A Kaleidoscope of Horrors. Here is an excerpt:

From the Christian emperor Justinian in the sixth century until the eighteenth century, Christian communities around Europe regularly put homosexuals to death by burning, beheading, flaying, drowning or hanging them. The ancient Christian thinkers Tertullian, Eusebius and John Chrysostom all argued that same sex relations deserve the penalty of death...In medieval Europe, secular laws often invoked the authority of the bible to execute homosexuals. Bologna adopted the death penalty for sodomy in 1259. Padua followed suit in 1329; Venice in 1342; Rome in 1363; Cremona in 1387; Milan in 1476; and Genoa in 1556. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain actively sought out sodomites to be burned. In the hundred and twenty five years after Calvin taught in Geneva, there were thirty burnings, beheadings, drownings, and hangings of homosexuals in that city. Scores of men and boys were hanged for homosexual activity in Georgian England. Before the advent of modernity, women in Europe were also vulnerable to execution if convicted of lesbianism. The history of churches' treatment of gay people has for over a thousand years been a history of hatred, persecution and death. To this day, standard Christian textbooks devoted to moral theology and commenting on homosexuality are usually trite treatises because of their complete silence on the long-standing brutality meted out to homosexuals by churches, whether Roman Catholic, Anglican or Protestant. For homosexuals, the history of the Christian church has been a kaleidoscope of harrowing horrors. Their fortunes have now changed. Physical violence has mutated into rhetorical violence, although there are still nine countries today where homosexual behavior is punishable by death.
The nine countries are identified as Mauritania, Sudan, Afhanistan, Pakistan, the Chechen Republic, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. These are not just laws that are "on the books" but never enforced. As recently as last July, we heard news reports of two Iranian teenage boys who were executed.

Regarding physical violence mutating into rhetorical violence, we have all seen ample evidence of this. One does not even have to venture out into the Dobsen/Robertson/Falwell realms to discover it, either. A stroll through the comments on many of the conservative Anglican sites reveals that rhetorical violence is alive and growing stronger daily within the Episcopal Church. Yet we might be inclined to see the move away from physical violence to be at least a move in the right direction. If only things were that simple.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs has released their annual report on anti-LGBT hate violence. In the U.S. during 2004, there were 2,131 LGBT victims of hate crimes. There was an increase in the use of weapons in these crimes, which include vehicles, bats, clubs and other blunt objects. There were 20 hate crime murders of LGBT in 2004.

Let some of this sink in. There is a history of people being beaten and killed because they were different. The justification for these deaths is the sacred texts of various religious traditions, including the bible. There are no other sources for defining this difference as a crime, let alone a capital crime. The church has sanctioned, and even encouraged, these executions in earlier times. And the violence continues today. And large segments of the Church continue to actively participate in these hate crimes by engaging in an ongoing rhetoric of violence.

This has to stop. It has to stop now.

Many of us did not choose this time and place for this confrontation. It was thrust upon us by events over which we had little or no control. But it is here. And we have looked at the facts closely. We can't return to the comfortable head in the sand stance of "don't ask, don't tell". We cannot pretend we have not seen the dark side of the Church. Now we share responsibility for the legacy we have been handed, and for doing all within our power to stop these violent attacks against an innocent segment of God's people. As Christians, we can no longer sit on the fence, because these attacks are being sanctioned and carried out in the name of God. The world is watching. How will we act as witnesses to the healing power of God's love made manifest in Jesus Christ?

To return us to the issue of the Windsor Report, I'll close with a quote from Bishop Spong which Kennedy includes within his essay:

(The Lambeth Commission) decided mistakenly that they were dealing with an issue of disunity, when they were in fact dealing with the evil of prejudice. That was clear when their solution was to invite those churches that have banished their homophobic prejudices to consider apologizing to those parts of the church that were offended by their inclusiveness. That would be like asking those nations that have thrown off the evil of segregation to apologize for hurting the consciences of the segregationists. It was an inconceivable request. Whenever growth occurs there is always conflict and dislocation. The world would still be practicing slavery, child labor, and second class status for women, had not a new consciousness confronted our prejudices in a movement that always destroys the unity of the old consensus.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Archbishop Akinola Becomes Indignant, Again

I will be continuing a review of various chapters from Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Report within the next few days, now that I have received confirmation that I will not be infringing on "fair use" rights by doing so. But first I wanted to pause for a moment to comment on a couple of statements that have recently been made by two of our Archbishops.

The first set of statements come from Archbishop Robin Eames, Primate of Ireland and chair of the Lambeth Commission on Communion, which authored the Windsor Report. Here are a few excerpts from Jim Naughton's report of Archbishop Eames' recent lecture series at Virginia Theological Seminary:

...In its synod last month in Onitsha, (Archbishop Akinola's) church removed all references to communion with the See of Canterbury from its constitution, replacing them with a provision that placed the church in communion with all Anglican churches, dioceses and provinces that "hold and maintain the Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacrament and Discipline of the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church."

"I was personally very, very anxious when I heard about this development," Eames said. "What happens when an individual province redefines orthodoxy? It is cutting across the due process that I and others have lived by.

"My plea to my brother Peter, the Primate of Nigeria would be, 'Pause, Peter, pause, because we are all in this together, because a preemptive strike like this would have the consequences of making the tensions greater and therefore, I ask that you would pause and take on the reservations that the rest of us have"...

...At its meeting in September, the Nigerian synod also formalized the creation of the Convocation of Anglican Nigerians in Americas (CANA) which, according to a news release, was formed "to give a worshiping refuge to thousands in the USA who no longer feel welcomed to worship in the Liberal churches especially with the recent theological innovations encouraging practices which the Nigerians recognize as sin."

Eames said this action raised concerns about Akinola's commitment to the Windsor Report and the communique from the Primates meeting at the Dromantine resort in Newry , Northern Ireland in February, 2005. The Windsor Report chastised bishops who cross jurisdictional boundaries to minister without invitation in other dioceses and provinces. In the Dromantine communique, the primates said they would commit themselves "neither to encourage nor to initiate cross-boundary interventions"...

...During an interview at the college, Eames expressed concern over the role that wealthy conservative donors in the United States were playing in the current controversy. He said he was "quite certain" that many church leaders in the developing world had been offered financial inducements to distance themselves from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

"I think it is happening, I just don't think it is moral," Eames said. "Is it the might of finance that will influence a theological outlook, and then that outlook come to dominate the Communion?

"It raises a serious question for me: what is the real nature of their faith and their Anglicanism? It is certainly different from mine."
As one might have expected, Archbishop Akinola was offended by these words. He does not mince words in his response: this era of "post colonial Anglicanism" our primary commitment is not to an institution or structure, no matter how beloved or historic, but rather to the living Word of our living God. The actions that we have taken and the changes that we have made are for the best interest of our Church and not for any personal agenda.
Preparing to break with the Church of England is a result of being in "post-colonial Anglicanism"? Does that mean that the Episcopal Church, which has no desire to break with Canterbury, is still responding as a colony?

...It is reported that you, without citing specifics, are "quite certain" that some of us have been bought. I have always had great respect for you and considered you a friend and a great leader of our Communion but such irresponsible accusations are outrageous, uncharitable and untrue. If you have any evidence of such financial inducements I challenge you, in the name of God, to reveal them or make a public apology to your brother Primates in the Global South for this damaging and irresponsible smear. I have always made it clear that there is no price-tag on my head - I am not a slave to anyone - I have been set free by the blood of the One who died for us all.
Does the Big Man think that we have all forgotten about the International Fellowship of Evangelical Mission Theologians, which was used to funnel funds from the American Anglican Council and the Network to their supporters in Africa, Asia and the Southern Cone? Would the Archbishop care to tell the world where he found the funds for his recent United States tour, purportedly to visit his "missions"? If he claims to have used Nigerian funds for this extensive, (and presumably expensive) trip, one must wonder how he can justify such a lavish expenditure when his own people are so desperately in need. Yes, we are "quite certain" that if one was able to follow the money, it would lead back to a handful of wealthy extremist Americans. No need to mention names; we all know them quite well by now.

...I must also respond to your misleading comments about our constitutional provision to establish Convocations and Chaplaincies outside of Nigeria. As you well know such a provision has long been the tradition in Europe. I wonder why it is acceptable for one part of the Communion and not for the other - perhaps the yoke of imperialism still survives?
The tradition in Europe is a mistake. To allow it to occur in North America would be even a bigger mistake, in light of the current tensions. There cannot be more than one diocesan bishop within a specific geographical area. As Bishop Mark Dyer, another member of the Commission which authored the WR, recently said at a clergy conference I attended, "The bishop is the bishop is the bishop!" What Archbishop Akinola is doing is obvious; he is ignoring the specific recommendation of the WR regarding respecting diocesan boundaries. His charge of imperialism is a weak attempt to turn the focus onto an area in which he erroneously believes we are vulnerable. He is attempting to pillage the Episcopal Church. By so doing, he has lost any creditablility as a spokesperson for the WR.

...Finally, I was astonished by your declaration that ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada have satisfied the requirements of the Windsor Report. I note that you acknowledge that this is merely your personal view but where is your evidence?
I heard Bishop Dyer echo the words of Archbishop Eames just this morning. He said, "At this time, the Episcopal Church is in compliance with the Windsor Report." Both Bishops Eames and Dyer wrote the document. One can assume they know a bit more of the original intention of the WR than Bishop Akinola. Bishop Dyer described it as "an attempt to make a space for reconciliation to happen." Nigeria seems to think the document was intended to punish North America.

...In our Dromantine Communique we said that "there remains a very real question about whether the North American churches are willing to accept the same teaching on matters of sexual morality as is generally accepted elsewhere in the Communion"...
What Archbishop Akinola continues to not understand is that statements from the Primates' Meeting are not under consideration. It is the recommendations of the Windsor Report that will be addressed by General Convention in 2006. In light of the recent aggressive actions by the Primates, it is doubtful if their authority will ever be accepted by the Episcopal Church. Their claim to power does not make it a reality. As I've said before, Yanks do not care for a hierarchy which excludes three of the four orders.

...I was present in Nottingham for the recent ACC meeting and heard both Presiding Bishop Griswold and Archbishop Hutchinson, and their teams, try to justify their innovations. They failed. They made clear that there is no turning back and they did so with little or no reference to the plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures or the devastation that their actions have brought on us all.
Such statements cause one to wonder if the good Archbishop has bothered to give To Set our Hope in Christ even a cursory read.

Soon, we will know what Archbishop Akinola's true intentions are. I continue to suspect that we will hear of a new entity being born out of the meeting in Egypt.

It seems to me there is a new "line in the sand" emerging. It is rooted in the question of authority, and is made manifest in the new forms of polity being proposed from various sources within the Anglican Comunion. I cannot imagine the Episcopal Church ever willingly being placed under the authority of the Primates. To do so would be to deny our heritage, and to act contrary to our understanding of our identity, and our unique witness to the world.

For a more thorough discussion regarding Archbishop Akinola, I commend to you Mark Harris' latest essay, Some Thoughts on the Archbishop of Nigeria.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Countryman: "Arrogant Evangelicals Must Repent"

The first chapter of Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Report is an essay written by L. William Countryman, the Sherman E. Johnson Professor in Biblical Studies at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California. He focuses on two areas of the Report; polity and the use of scripture.

His critique of the revision of the polity of the Anglican Communion as proposed by Windsor is based on the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, the model used by Anglicans for all ecumenical dialogues. He specifically highlights one of the four criteria listed in the Quadrilateral; "The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of god into the Unity of His Church."

Countryman correctly points out that the phrase "locally adapted" is included to acknowledge that not even Anglicans are in agreement regarding the form of organization of the church, or the amount of authority to give our bishops. It was this phrase which allowed us to finally come to agreement with the ELCA regarding full communion, by the way. We had little difficulty agreeing on the other three criteria of the Quadrilateral; the scriptures, the creeds and the sacraments. The struggle was over holy orders. Countryman is suggesting that this is also the struggle we are presented with in the Windsor Report; specifically the proposal that we all agree on the authority we will grant to our bishops.

American Anglicans are not organized the same way as other parts of the Communion. Due to our particular history, we are not comfortable granting great authority to our bishops. We prefer to balance that authority with other clergy and lay people. We prefer to vote on things, rather than have pronouncements handed down by a prince of the church. We Yankees have a deeply embedded distrust of the aristocracy. We don't feel any need to apologize for our "locally adapted" historic episcopate. We think it works just fine, and are not interested in any attempts to change it. Or, as Countryman puts it;

The American Church is thus markedly different from some of the Anglican provinces that might be called "Commonwealth churches" by virtue of their devolution from the British Empire. We did not originate in a top-down fashion. Nor are we presently organized in such fashion. Such an arrangement is at home neither in our history, nor in our culture. An effort to turn the American church into a top-down, episcopally controlled structure is not only unlikely to succeed, but it would violate the fundamental Chicago-Lambeth criterion of an episcopate adapted to local needs.
Countryman continues by noting that the concept of "Primate" is also a foreign notion to most Americans. The title "Presiding Bishop" (never Archbishop or Metropolitan) designates an honorary role, originally simply signifying our senior bishop who would preside over the House of Bishops. Our Presiding Bishop does not have the authority to speak for the Episcopal Church. The only entity given that authority is General Convention.

Consequently, the development of the role of the Primates in the Windsor Report, and the way this group of men have grasped those recommendations since the release of Windsor and attempted to put themselves in the role of the ultimate voice of authority in the Anglican Communion is quite troubling to Americans. Here is Countryman's articulation of this discomfort;

Nothing is more astonishing in our present conflicts than the sudden prominence of a group that did not even exist a few decades ago and has no real grounding in our ecclesiology: the Primates' meeting. We have never distinguished an order of Metropolitans or Primates as if they were anything other than bishops, albeit bishops with somewhat broadened responsibilities. Windsor, however, elevates them to one "Instrument of Unity" among four. And the Primates themselves have now gone on to turn themselves into the principal such instrument by presuming to give directions to another of the instruments, the Anglican Consultative Council.
With the Primates insisting they be appointed to the ACC, they have effectively made themselves the most powerful source of authority within the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury appears hesitant to stand up against them. The Lambeth Conference meets every ten years, which is not often enough to allow Lambeth to be an effective counterbalance. What this group of elderly men seem to not comprehend is that the more they throw their weight around, and the more threats they make, the more they give the Americans reason to be suspicious of them. Yanks don't respond well to threats. At least this Yank doesn't.

Countryman then shifts his focus on the use of scripture in Windsor. He begins by pointing to the ways in which the Report gets it right;

The Report rightly adds that the authority of scripture always points beyond itself to the authority of God. It can never substitute for the latter. To treat scripture as if it were the very voice of God in the present moment is to commit the favorite sin of the religious: idolatry. Idolatry takes some good gift of God and treats it as if God were so fully involved in it that one can no longer tell the two apart. This is what we are doing when we assume that the bible, by itself, can provide us with complete and unproblematic access to the authority of God here and now - the idea that a single text or a short catena of texts can resolve complex problems like the ones Anglicans are now debating.
Countryman expresses his concern with the statement within the Report that one of the essential components of a bishop's authority is found in their designation as "teachers of scripture." Countryman points out that bishops are elected or appointed for many reasons. Being a biblical scholar is not necessarily an essential qualification. The same is true for Archbishops as well. As Countryman says, "Not every archbishop is a William Temple." Some of the Primates have eagerly embraced this new definition of their role, and have found within the Report "a license for them to clothe themselves in scriptural authority as the chief teachers of the bible and therefore, to all intents and purposes, the voice of God."

Countryman finds this an especially troublesome development coming out of the Report, as it fails to recognize one of the most difficult issues arising out of our current crisis; the elevation of a particular way of reading the bible as the criterion by which it will be decided if a person is a "real Christian" or not. The label Countryman gives those with this peculiar perspective is the "evangelical right." It's not a label I tend to use, as it inclines all evangelicals, right, left or center, to take offense. I prefer "the extreme conservatives," although both labels most likely have their limitations.

Countryman connects the modern evangelical right to the Puritans with whom Richard Hooker argued. I think there are clear similarities. There is no desire for dialogue, no possibility that their interpretation of scripture might contain error, and to disagree with them is not challenging their understanding, but a challenge of the bible itself. Unless you agree with their interpretation, you are not considered a Christian, and they will have nothing to do with you. This was quite apparent during the mandated dialogues on human sexuality held across the Episcopal Church during the early 90s. This was the opportunity to talk about these topics. The response from the evangelical right/extreme conservatives was to simply not participate, while continuing to shout that the Church was going to hell in a handbasket. How can one work towards unity with those who hold such an arrogant attitude? I'm not sure we can. Countryman refers to it as "abusive," and I tend to agree. If so, I'm not sure it is necessary to even respond to those who wield the bible as a weapon.

I will end with some of Countryman's thoughts regarding our modern day Puritans;

The long period of dialogue in ECUSA leading up to the ratification of Gene Robinson's election was marked by a "godlike" refusal of the evangelical right to participate. It was a refusal that took various forms. To a great extent, they simply did not attend parish and diocesan events intended to encourage dialogue. When they did attend, they simply repeated their existing position without any effort to show how it might connect with other perspectives. Most damaging of all, they refused to listen to the other people present and merely dismissed everyone and everything with which they disagreed. After the "dialogue," they went right on identifying their position with that of the bible as if nothing else were possible, as if no one else had ever read scripture or argued for a different reading of the text.

The behavior can only be described as abusive toward the community as a whole, and its effects are still unrolling before us in the threats of schisms by which they propose to replicate in organizational ways a long-standing refusal to treat their fellow Anglicans as faithful Christians...A more critical factor in producing this result in the insistence of one party that only their voice deserves to be heard. The report hopes that "our shared reading of scriptures across boundaries of culture, region and tradition" can guide "us together into appropriately rich and diverse unity by leading us forward from entrenched positions into fresh appreciation of the riches of the gospel as articulated in the scriptures." If that is to happen, the next step will have to be repentance on the part of a great many evangelicals for their arrogance in commandeering scripture as their peculiar property - and on the part of other Anglicans for having tolerated it for too long.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Linzey: "The Church is Homophobic"

Before continuing a review of some of the essays found within Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Report, there are a couple of items I need to mention.

First, please keep all of those who are suffering from the earthquake in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan in your prayers. I've written more about the global response to this disaster on the Christian Alliance site. Links to aid agencies are included, for those who desire to make a donation.

On a more personal note, my lovely wife's father passed away quite unexpectedly on Saturday. He had not been ill until that morning. My wife was quite close to him, and is deeply mourning this loss. I ask for your prayers that his soul, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Pray also for those who mourn, that they may have strength to meet the days to come, and live in joyful expectation of eternal life with those they love.

I received an email recently that alerted me to some excellent points made by Andrew Linzey, one of the editors of Responses to the WR, in the introduction to this volume. Linzey is a member of the Faculty of Theology in the University of Oxford, and Senior Research Fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford.

Linzey makes the argument that the Anglican Communion is homophobic. Before delving into the six symptoms he identifies that have led him to this conclusion, he carefully defines the term;

But by "phobia", I mean simply "fear", "dread", or, better still, "an aversion" - and in that limited sense, it seems to me that many Christians can, and do, experience that kind of phobia about homosexuals largely unconsciously. That doesn't mean that they wish to harm gays, or persecute them, and they would certainly not want anything to do with the kind of outrageous cruelty exhibited by Nazis during the Third Reich. They just have a residual sense that homosexuality is not natural, and that individual gays, while often pleasant and acceptable as individuals, are in some sense "not quite right"...

Some people say they are not "homophobic", using the word in its etymological sense. Perhaps they are right - they don't fear gay people. Gay people do, however, turn their stomachs. That's the point. It isn't just being frightened. It's loathing, disgust, an aversion. Persons so inclined want to get away from gay people, not (or not simply) because gay people might harm them (maybe that's "fear"), but because gay people might pollute them.
What Linzey is describing here is what I have previously referred to as "the ick factor." As an example of how it works, I am reminded of my response to cooked cauliflower. When I was young, my grandmother used to make me eat cauliflower; she'd pinch my nose and shovel it in. To this day, I cannot stand even the smell of that particular cooked vegetable. It turns my stomach. I know it is a sin to cook it. I think it should be against the law to do so.

When I was facilitating human sexuality dialogues, I saw this response to the issue of homosexuality over and over again. If we were able to get past the personal feeling of revulsion, the "ick factor", real dialogue became possible. Unfortunately, this was not always the case. By moving beyond the realm of simply icky feelings, Linzey suggests why this particular bias is so deeply embedded in some people;

But homophobia in the relevant sense isn't just a feeling - though certainly feeling comes into it. Homophobia is an "existential" state of mind and heart, constituted, and reinforced by two thousand years of Christian propaganda.
Let me list Linzey's "tangible signs of homophobia" within the Anglican Communion. I'll be providing his opening statements. If you want to read his explanation of each statement, I'm afraid you're going to have to buy the book;

1. The intemperance, even vehemence, of anti-gay language.

2. The absence of dialogue with those who differ.

3. The denial of human rights to homosexuals.

4. The disproportionate attention that the subject receives.

5. The inconsistency in the way church statements are selected and advanced.

6. The disparity between what the church says and what the church does.

This leads us to a particular paragraph of Linzey's essay that succinctly summarizes why some Anglicans find our current situation not just uncomfortable, but absolutely bizarre;

But if further evidence is needed, there is the very fact that the Anglican Communion had to set up a blue-ribbon panel and issue a weighty Report, all because the third largest church in the world is - or thinks it is - about to break up, not over an article of faith, but over the issue of same-sex relationships. The strangeness of this situation should not go unremarked. As reported, Jesus said nothing about gay sex. There are no Anglican creedal statements on sex, let alone same-sex. The great ecumenical statements of Nicea and Chalcedon make no references to sexual behavior. Even the comprehensive Thirty Nine Articles do not touch on homosexuality. Likewise, the Book of Common Prayer. The elevation of one view of sexual behavior to the status of incontrovertible teaching, so incontrovertible that it is allowed to become the criterion of being in communion is without parallel, historical precedent, theological and moral justification - in fact, so preposterous that unless it had actually happened it would be scarcely credible.
In his conclusion, Linzey quotes Isaiah to remind us that Jesus gave priority to those who are "least of all". Theology that accepts unnecessary suffering, and desensitizes us to such suffering, cannot be Christian theology.

Using Linzey's definition of the term, do you think the Church is homophobic? If so, are there "tangible signs" that you would add to his list?


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Marilyn McCord Adams: "Faithfulness in Crisis"

In Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Report Marilyn McCord Adams, Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford and Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, offers an essay which is aptly described by Bill Carroll as a "barn burner."

Adams begins by describing the "new polity" presented in the Windsor Report as "one that translates the poetry of mutual affection and nostalgia for Canterbury into institutional structures that move in the direction of canon law." If this was simply a recommendation, one might be willing to give such innovations serious consideration. The problem lies in the actual wording of the Report, which subtly shifts from the language of recommendation to that of a fait accompli, as Adams points out;

The polity outlined in the Report was already circulated and discussed in a variety of proposals. But even the original document has a tendency to speak as if the polity were already accepted and in force. It talks as if ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada had failed to meet their obligations - which would exist if there were an Anglican covenant to abide by the instruments of union to which ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada had subscribed, sealing the deal with provisions in their own canon law. As with "Issues in Human Sexuality" in the Church of England, the slide from the status of discussion to official norm, seems all too easy.
This is an important point to keep in mind. The Windsor Report is a report; nothing less, but most assuredly nothing more.

Among a number of examples of ineptitude within the report that Adams points out is this rather striking one;

Likewise wrong-headed is Windsor's remodeling of the distinction between essential and indifferent. First, the Report's move to promote ethics to creedal status is idolatrous. No serious Christian would deny that response to God's love is life transforming. But to give majority-report sexual mores - "the same teaching on matters of sexual morality as generally accepted elsewhere in the Communion" (communique para 12) - the same status as the Trinity is to promote human social arrangements to the status of the sacred. This is understandable because it is a fallen-natural tendency. But sober theology would insist that all human social arrangements - whether entrenched by long tradition (as are racism, sexism, slavery, polygamy) or innovative - fall short of the Reign of God because they reflect limited human social competence. Human beings have never been smart enough or good enough to organize utopia. That's one big reason why we need the Reign of God.
Adams affirms that there is a great need for the member churches to treat one another respectfully, but clarifies that this respect does not necessarily require submission to the majority view;

But to listen carefully and to treat with dignity are not the same as to agree, to do only what the other can recommend you to do, or to say only what the other can approve you to say. Spiritual discernment is not certified in the short run by majority rule. Northern member churches - not only ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada, but also the Church of England - are not entitled under God to delegate their own discernment within their own cultural contexts to the now-majority African and Asian churches. To do so is not to behave as fellow adults, as mature bodies in relation to one another, but to regress to the child's role.
In Adams' conclusion she calls for us to "seize the initiative";

Notoriously, American Episcopalians aligned with the Network agree with Archbishop Akinola about homosexuality. But those of us, who have thought gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons to be treasures of the church, should not mollify our message. We should seize the initiative and take the opportunity to clarify just how opposed our discernment is to theirs. I agree that northern Anglicans owe apologies to African and Asian member churches for being insufficiently respectful. And, in my judgment, the Anglican Communion, the Church of England, my own ECUSA need equally to beg pardon of gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons for ecclesiastical complicity in centuries of abuse.
The most scathing part of Adams' essay follows, in which she calls the Church to repentance for the spiritual violence we have done to gay and lesbian, bisexual and trangendered persons. It is a powerful litany, which I will not reproduce, as I want to leave you with some motivation to purchase a copy of this important work.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Keith Ward on Anglicanism

My copy of Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Report arrived the other day. I've just started dipping into it. I began with the essay by Keith Ward entitled Ecclesial Authority and Morality. I began with Ward because I was impressed with his work The Case for Religion. He is considered to be one of Britain's "foremost philosopher-theologians."

Although he does not reveal anything new, he does cover some familiar ground in a refreshing way. He begins by making a point that has been made numerous times, without any meaningful response that I have ever seen that sufficiently challenges it;

In Anglicanism there is a long tradition of patristic scholarship, and some theologians have held that at least the first six or seven councils of the undivided church are authoritative. It seems irrational, however, to hold that God guided the Church for the first few hundred years, but then gave up. So while Anglicans give the early councils of the church great significance, they are not bound by the decisions of councils, if those decisions do not seem in accordance with scripture and reason.
He goes on to make the point that even though the Thirty Nine Articles grant great authority to the scriptures, this is problematic when we consider that most patristic scholars agree that the doctrines of the incarnation and the trinity as developed by the early councils cannot be found in that form within scripture. Consequently, although we cannot give final authority to the early councils, we also cannot deny the authority of the church to interpret the scriptures, during the time of the great councils and today.

The example he uses to make this point further is the way the church has lived into the fourth commandment; keeping the Sabbath rules;

What most Anglicans seem to do is to ignore most Sabbath regulations in the Old Testament, change the holy day to Sunday, and keep a small section of the rules (like not working), though even then not very rigorously. What justifies selecting not working, while rejecting rules about not traveling and not lighting fires? Nothing in the New Testament does so. The only appeal can be to church tradition - that is, the decisions of a group of bishops of the early church. But since that is agreed not to be binding, we Anglicans are in fact choosing to follow some ancient traditions, presumably because we find them helpful, but dropping others, presumably because we find them too inconvenient or irrelevant. We are picking and choosing, and our ultimate reason is not what is in the bible, but what we find relevant and helpful, in our situation.
Ward concludes with a few words about moral diversity in the Church;

Anglican teaching authority, in other words, is an authority of guidance and advice, not a magisterial capacity to define what is definitively true. The church holds together because it accepts the Bible as its scriptural text, without defining how it should be interpreted. It accepts baptism and the eucharist as normative rites, without insisting on one set of detailed doctrines to explain them. And it accepts Jesus as the true image and liberating act of God, without presuming that there is just one correct way of understanding how this is so...

For the Anglican Communion is not a group of people who all agree. It is, and always has been, a fellowship of diversity, in which people of very different views are inspired by one Lord, Jesus Christ, and seek to worship God who is disclosed in Jesus, as they see him in many different ways. Such an acceptance of diversity requires an acceptance that one's own beliefs are not obviously and certainly correct. It requires tolerance and a willingness to learn from others.
I was relieved to read these words. Ward speaks of the Anglicanism that I was drawn to twenty-five years ago, and the Anglicanism I was taught at Nashotah House. It is the description of the Church I fell in love with, and remain bound to. Yes, I know she is sometimes a harlot, but for some of us, she's all we've got.

Sometimes when encountering Anglicans whose beliefs require everyone to agree on various points of doctrine and dogma, I feel like I've lost the church I so dearly love. It is reassuring to discover these words from Keith Ward, which describe her as I have known her; mysteriously veiled, beckoning me to try new steps to the dance, while calming my fears that I might stumble and fall. Maybe I will, and maybe my steps are all wrong, but I can trust that she will gracefully uphold me and guide me, until I learn the steps well. When the stranger appears in our midst, eyes wide with wonder and longing, I will offer the same graceful guidance, until we all are able to join in the dance.


Monday, October 03, 2005

5 Idiosyncrasies

J-Tron tagged me for the "5 Idiosyncrasies" meme. First, let's define our terms;

1. A structural or behavioral characteristic peculiar to an individual or group.
2. A physiological or temperamental peculiarity.
3. An unusual individual reaction to food or a drug.

In other words, reveal your weirdness. Weird is a more interesting term;

1. Of, relating to, or suggestive of the preternatural or supernatural.
2. Of a strikingly odd or unusual character; strange.
3. Archaic. Of or relating to fate or the Fates.

So, here are the first 5 weird idiosyncracies that come to mind;

1. I like to go fast in a straight line. The thrill of quick acceleration has always been a constant source of joy for me. The first time I got behind the wheel of a car, I hit 110 before losing control going around a corner. I don't care for corners so much. I've only lost my license in one state so far, although I'm 3 points away from it in this state. I'm really trying to reform.

2. I cannot tolerate standing in long lines. I feel like a cow waiting to be milked. If the lines are too long at the store, I'll leave my cart and walk out.

3. My favorite time of day is between midnight and 5 a.m. There is something soothing about being in the quiet darkness. No interruptions. No tasks to be completed. I can read and think, and maybe take a stroll down the silent streets.

4. I drink coffee all day long. I started this habit when I was in the Navy, where coffee was usually the only beverage available while on duty. Once off duty, we switched to beer. When I gave up beer, I replaced it with more coffee. you think this might have anything to do with 1-3 above? Nah...couldn't be.

5. I do not like locked doors. It doesn't matter if I'm inside or outside the door. Knowing a door is locked makes me anxious. For years I didn't know where this came from. Then I volunteered for prision ministry. Every time I heard the guard's keys, and heard the doors clang shut, I would flinch. I think it comes from the time I served in a state reformatory as a juvenile. I don't ever want to be a caged animal again. I'm getting better about this, but I doubt if I'll ever serve in the corrections field.

Now I'm supposed to tag 5 folks. I think I'll pick on the Pirates;


And then, just because I'm curious if I can guess her 5 accurately, I'm adding my lovely wife;