Monday, November 28, 2005

Seeking God in the Darkness

I commend to you Dr. Rowan William's recent lecture delivered a the Islamic University, Islamabad. It is an excellent and concise summary of the Christian faith. I want to draw out one brief excerpt from the Archbishop's lecture:

...Some too have written about how the journey into this silence may be a road of great suffering, a following of the suffering of Jesus. Christian mysticism often speaks of the "darkness" in which God lives - not because he does not want to communicate but because our minds and hearts are too small for him to enter fully, so that we experience God as challenging and overwhelming. But it also speaks of light flooding the mind, like the light that flowed from the face of Jesus, according to the gospels, when he was praying in the presence of his friends...
We begin the season of Advent in the darkness. We light one candle each week, allowing their light to slowly overcome the darkness.

But before we move into rejoicing over the increase of light, do we have the courage to sit in the darkness for a moment? Can we consider, at least briefly, the darkness as a blessing?

We are bombarded by so much stimuli each second of the day. To manage this overwhelming flow of sensory data, we develop filters that automatically edit out much of this information. Over time, we forget about this process, and begin to believe that the information we are processing is all there is. We begin to believe that our perception is absolute truth. We begin to believe that we know.

And then some piece of data, derived from experience, a thought or a memory, slips pass the filters and enters into our conscious world. This new information does not fit within our neatly ordered categories of truth. Suddenly the danger of chaos looms, and we are forced to choose a response. We can either build our defensive filters stronger, or we can seek an objective perspective from which we can adjust our filters.

The difficulty in the latter option, which I would suggest is always the better of the two, is finding a way for a creature who is necessarily and primarily subjective to discover a vantage point from which some degree of objectivity can be attained.

One way to achieve this perspective is to intentionally enter the darkness; to strip away the constant bombardment of stimuli and incessant interior chatter. To enter the silence. To be willing to sit quietly in a place where it may appear, according to our sensory data, that God is not.

From this place we have no choice but to look within and to confront those filters, those fears, which we have put in place to keep out unpleasant, and even frightening, elements of our lives. It is from this place that we can reflect on the more uncomfortable aspects of the truth. It is from this place that we can honestly ask the question that drives our quest; where is God?

We know that entering the darkness can be helpful in our search for God because of the testimonies of those who have been forced into the darkness against their will, and have come away with insights that are of value to us all. As but one example, here is a well-known story by Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Prize winning author who survived Auschwitz, in which he describes the hanging of a young boy:

The SS seemed more preoccupied, more disturbed than usual. To hang a young boy in front of thousands of spectators was no light matter. The head of the camp read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was lividly pale, almost calm, biting his lips. The gallows threw its shadow over him. This time the camp executioner refused to act as executioner. Three SS replaced him.
The victims mounted together onto the chairs. The three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses. "Long live Liberty!" cried the two adults. But the child was silent.

"Where is God? Where is He?" someone behind me asked.

At a sign from the head of the camp, the three chairs tipped over.

Total silence throughout the camp. On the horizon, the sun was setting. "Bare your heads!" yelled the head of the camp. His voice was raucous. We were weeping. "Cover your heads!"

Then the march past began. The two adults were no longer alive. But the third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive...

For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. Behind me I heard the same man asking: "Where is God now?"

And I hear a voice within me answer him: "Where is he? Here He is - He is hanging here on this gallows. . . "
Not a pleasant story. One I would rather filter out. But in the darkness, there it is. And it leads me to the cross; to a God who is not distanced from suffering and pain, but a God who is found in the midst of it. My longing for God draws me to those who are hurting.

There is no place where God is not. If we perceive that this is not so, maybe our filters need to be adjusted.

Holy art Thou, Lord of the Universe.
Holy art Thou, whom Nature hath not Formed.
Holy art Thou, the Vast and the Mighty One.
Lord of the Light and of the Darkness.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

News From Changing Attitude Nigeria

From the Changing Attitude website;

The first General Meeting of the Changing Attitude Network in Nigeria is being held November 25 to 27. Over 1,000 delegates are expected to gather at the National Art Council in Abuja including 100 lesbian and 900 gay members of Anglican churches from every part of Nigeria. This will be the largest gathering of lesbian and gay people ever held in Nigeria and the first gathering of Anglican LGBT members...

The General Meeting will also begin to plan how the group can make an input to the process of listening to lesbian and gay people to which the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, committed himself with the other Primates in February 2005 and in the Windsor Report. In the longer term, the Meeting will think about the Lambeth Conference 2008 and the need to advise the bishops of the Anglican Church in Nigeria about lesbian and gay Christian experience.

The theme of the meeting is ‘Coming out of our closet’. Davis MacIyalla, convenor of the CA network in Nigeria, said “We want to use the meeting to encourage our members to go back and begin to tell their families about their sexuality. If we let our families know about our sexuality our parents will begin to influence their local churches. We also want our message about the place of lesbian and gay people in the Anglican Church to be carried to our bishops and other church leaders. One of our goals is to encourage some of the delegates to start new groups in their own location after the meeting"...
These are brave Anglicans. Being gay or lesbian is a criminal offense in Nigeria. In parts of the country, the sentence is death.

I suspect their hope for a "listening process" will be fraught with frustration. Archbishop Akinola may have committed himself to listening to gays and lesbians on paper, but his personal views make it clear that he has no interest in dialogue:

...Peter Akinola, leader of the 17.5 million-strong church in Nigeria, hit out at the recent election in America of the first openly gay bishop.

"This is an attack on the Church of God - a Satanic attack on God's church," he told the Lagos-based Guardian newspaper.

"I cannot think of how a man in his senses would be having a sexual relationship with another man. Even in the world of animals, dogs, cows, lions, we don't hear of such things."

"When we sit down globally as a communion, I am going to sit in a meeting with a man who is marrying a fellow man," he added. "I mean it's just not possible. I cannot see myself doing it."
Archbishop, these are not decadent North Americans wanting to sit down and talk with you. These are Nigerian Anglican Christians. These are the people God has placed under your pastoral care. Listen to them. Hear their stories. Open your heart to the possibility that they may just be bringing you a word from God. Such a thing may not seem possible to you, but with God, all things are possible.

I ask that you keep the courageous members of Changing Attitude Nigeria in your prayers. Pray also for the Nigerian Church and Archbishop Peter Akinola.


Monday, November 21, 2005

The Rochester Resolution

This resolution was recently passed in the Diocese of Rochester. It appears to be a good model for future diocesan conventions:

RESOLUTION E: A Resolution Responding to the Windsor Report for the 2006 General Convention

Resolved, That the Secretary of the 2005 Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester submit the following resolution to the 2006 General Convention of the Episcopal Church meeting in Columbus, Ohio:

Resolved, the House of ____________ concurring, That this 75th General Convention adopt the following statement as its response to the Windsor Report:

The 75th General Convention expresses its deep desire to remain a member church of the Anglican Communion, which we understand to be a fellowship of churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, committed to mission together for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a spirit of mutual respect and forbearance.

We understand and regret that decisions made at the 74th General Convention have caused a strain in this spirit and, indeed, been received by many in the Communion as an unacceptable deviation from Scripture and the tradition of the Church. We acknowledge that this is true even within our own church. We wish to state clearly that we have no desire to impose a uniformity of position either in our own church or the Communion itself on these matters. We cannot, however, as a church, receive the statement of resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, “rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture,” as definitive Anglican teaching on this matter.

We do not believe that the current controversy regarding different understandings of the place of our members who happen to be homosexual in their orientation is a matter on which our essential unity depends. We believe that our unity as a Church is best expressed by our commitment to serve together in mission to the world, and that the theological essentials that unite us are best expressed in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.

We acknowledge the House of Bishop’s Delegated Episcopal Oversight Plan (DEPO) as an important tool for maintaining our essential unity in a time of strain. We also accept the Executive Council’s decision to voluntarily withdraw our members from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) until the Lambeth Conference 2008. However, we look forward to our full participation in that Conference and our return to full participation in the ACC following it.

We also acknowledge the listening process begun by the ACC in 2005 and urge that in all member churches of the Communion it include the voices of faithful gay and lesbian Anglicans. We commend the document To Set our Hope on Christ as a positive contribution of the Episcopal Church to this process.

Finally, we affirm the place of our members who are gay and lesbian, both laity and clergy. In this affirmation we believe the words of To Set Our Hope on Christ, to be an accurate description of the experience of a majority of us that “For forty years, members of the Episcopal Church have discerned holiness in same-sex relationships and have come to support the blessing of such unions and the ordination or consecration of persons in those unions” (section 2.0).

Proposed by the General Convention Deputies


The 2006 General Convention will consider many responses to the Windsor Report and the subsequent meetings and actions of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). Chief among these will be the Episcopal Church’s presentation to the ACC, To Set our Hope on Christ. Several dioceses have already proposed resolutions to the General Convention, and these will be addressed by a special legislative committee. We think that it would be helpful to add the voice of the Diocese of Rochester to the mix at the General Convention. We therefore propose this resolution believing that it reflects the experiences and the perspectives of our diocese.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Roman Catholic Church Challenges Fundamentalism

I've never been too interested in the Intelligent Design versus Evolution debate, as I've never quite understood why it is such an issue for some folks. However, after Pat Robertson's recent damning of the town of Dover Pennsylvania, who voted out their school board for advocating ID, I offered a commentary on the topic for the Christian Alliance for Progress. Here's an excerpt from that commentary;

...I believe in a Creator, and recognize elements of the teleological argument for the existence of God within Intelligent Design. What I have difficulty with is insisting that a philosophical theory be taught as science. Virtually no scientist agrees with Intelligent Design. There has not been one article accepted for publication by any peer reviewed scientific journal on the topic of Intelligent Design. It’s not science.

It seems to be Creationism in new packaging. If it is an attempt to force folks to believe God created everything in six days, then it is an absurd proposition. As an attempt to expand on Aristotle’s Prime Mover or Aquinas’ fifth proof of God’s existence, it may be a valid exploration. But, in light of the strong support ID has from the fundamentalists, I suspect that it is nothing more than a stealth attempt to sneak the bible back into the public schools.

As a non-scientist and a lightweight theologian, what is my opinion? I think that the creative act of God never ended. God continues to make all things new. One way this happens is through evolution. Consequently, since I believe in a Creator and evolution, I’ve really never understood what all the fuss was about...
I was surprise to stumble across this article later in the week; Intelligent Design not Science. From the article:

The Vatican's chief astronomer said yesterday that "intelligent design" isn't science and doesn't belong in science classrooms...

"Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be," the ANSA news agency quoted Father Coyne as saying on the sidelines of a conference in Florence, Italy.

Mixing the two, he said, is akin to mixing apples with oranges...

In a June article in the British Catholic magazine the Tablet, Father Coyne reaffirmed God's role in creation, but said science explains the history of the universe.

"If they respect the results of modern science, and indeed the best of modern biblical research, religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God or a designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly."

Rather, he argued, God should be seen more as an encouraging parent.

"God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a world that reflects that freedom at all levels of the evolutionary process to greater and greater complexity," he wrote. "He is not continually intervening, but rather allows, participates, loves."
It does not appear that Pope Benedict XVI would agree with Father Coyne, but the fact that divergent views are being allowed to be made public within the Roman Catholic Church, which includes more than half of all Christians, is encouraging.

We heard a report last month about a new study being released by the Roman Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland entitled The Gift of Scripture. According to the report, here are a few examples of the contents of this new study;

...“We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture...

They say the Bible must be approached in the knowledge that it is “God’s word expressed in human language” and that proper acknowledgement should be given both to the word of God and its human dimensions.

They say the Church must offer the gospel in ways “appropriate to changing times, intelligible and attractive to our contemporaries”.

The Bible is true in passages relating to human salvation, they say, but continue: “We should not expect total accuracy from the Bible in other, secular matters.”

They go on to condemn fundamentalism for its “intransigent intolerance” and to warn of “significant dangers” involved in a fundamentalist approach.

“Such an approach is dangerous, for example, when people of one nation or group see in the Bible a mandate for their own superiority, and even consider themselves permitted by the Bible to use violence against others"...

As examples of passages not to be taken literally, the bishops cite the early chapters of Genesis, comparing them with early creation legends from other cultures, especially from the ancient East. The bishops say it is clear that the primary purpose of these chapters was to provide religious teaching and that they could not be described as historical writing.

Similarly, they refute the apocalyptic prophecies of Revelation, the last book of the Christian Bible, in which the writer describes the work of the risen Jesus, the death of the Beast and the wedding feast of Christ the Lamb.

The bishops say: “Such symbolic language must be respected for what it is, and is not to be interpreted literally. We should not expect to discover in this book details about the end of the world, about how many will be saved and about when the end will come.”
Some will most likely see this as a denial of the authority of scripture. Might we expect to soon hear claims that the Roman Catholic Church is also a "non-Christian, foreign, alien and pagan religion"?


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Les Fairfield: "Episcopal Church is a Non-Christian, Foreign, Alien and Pagan Religion"

I know I said a week ago I needed to back off. That was my intention. I may still decide to take some time away from this place. But, today, I'm rather outraged.

What has me ready to spit bullets? By now you have probably heard of the gathering sponsored by the Network held in Pittsburgh. I read a recent news report about this event entitled Anglicans Urge Disgruntled Episcopalians to Join Them. Here's the paragraph that got my blood boiling:

In a DVD titled "Choose This Day" that was shown at the conference Thursday night, Les Fairfield, a professor of church history at Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry in Ambridge, said changes within the Episcopal Church had made it "a non-Christian religion" and its leadership had "embraced a foreign, alien and pagan religion."
Before leaping to conclusions, I decided to take a look at the video myself. If anything, the reporter played down this slick production that portrays the Episcopal Church as the devil incarnate.

I can blow off comments on the internet that accuse those who disagree with the extremists as being apostate, heretical, spawn of satan, etc. But to make the claim in a professionally produced video that the Episcopal Church is a non-Christian religion is more than I can stand. This video is packed with half truths and lies. Those involved in its production need to ask forgiveness for bearing false witness.

News flash to Professor Fairfield; it is because I proclaim Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior that I will not allow you and your kind to force my faithful gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ back into the closet.

I think we are done. Akinola has called for the North Americans to make their decision now, and not wait for GC06. He has also launched his CANA mission which will establish an alternative Anglican presence in North America (so much for the Windsor Report, eh Peter?). The extremists now have a place to go. Then go with God, please, now, today. Take your buildings and your vestments and your hateful videos and just go.

For those of us that remain faithful to the Church in which God has planted us, let go of the illusion that the Windsor Report offers a way forward for reconciliation to happen. These people do not want reconciliation. Even if we affirm the WR, they will still try to destroy us, and we'll be left with a flawed plan that gives the primary authority in the AC to a bunch of male bishops, many of whom seem to be more interested in their personal power and fame than the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

When your diocese meets for convention, and a resolution is proposed to affirm the Windsor Report, get up and grab a microphone. In regards to what you might say, let me suggest an excellent summary statement from Nigel J. Taber-Hamilton, Rector of St. Augustine's-in-the-woods Episcopal Church on beautiful Whidbey Island, Washington, which I reproduce here with his permission:

The WR is a deeply flawed document. It contains questionable assumptions, such as that we will all recognize and agree upon what constitutes an "essential matter." It is consistently suspicious of secular philosophy (especially post-modernism) and it continues to propose the myth of homosexual identity as a mistaken, sinful lifestyle choice. In addition, it glosses over and misrepresents several important issues, such as the supposedly orderly Communion-wide acceptance of women's ordination and the unjust ways the Church has treated its minorities. Its authors propose an unworkable process of seeking consent for episcopal elections from the entire communion, and a Romanesque requirement (an "Anglican Imprimatur" if you will) that biblical scholars seek approval from the Church before publishing any material. It proposes a very un-Anglican Confessional Document and, overall, calls for a more centralized, clericalized form of non-elected authority that has already had patriots reaching for their muskets and the Reformation's heirs crying out against the formation of an Anglican Papacy.
So much for a time of reflection. But enough is enough! Let's end this thing once and for all. We have better things to do.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Some Answers From Canterbury

In a previous post, I referred to Archbishop Rowan Williams' excellent address at the Global South Encounter. It appears that there was a question and answer session following this address. The Archbishop's answers give us a rare opportunity to see exactly where Dr. Williams stands on some of the current struggles within the Anglican Communion.

Context is important. Keep in mind that he is answering questions asked by the Global South. This is the largest group of Anglicans within the Communion. It is also a group that has given signals that it is considering breaking away from Canterbury. Dr. Williams is attempting to meet them where they are.

Even when considered in context, some of Dr. Williams' responses are unexpected. As the Archbishop of Canterbury, his statements carry much weight. Even though his authority is primarily symbolic, as the only Instrument of Unity that is recognized by most Anglicans, his words can have a great influence on future decisions.

Let's consider some of his words in this question and answer session. The first question is if same-sex sex can be holy and blessed. Here's part of Dr. Williams' response:

...the Anglican communion has not been persuaded that same-sex sex can be holy and blessed. Were it to decide that by some process - unimaginable to most of you - it would be by an overwhelming consensus and only at that point would it be possible to say in the name of the church, this is holy and blessed. So I take my stand with the church of England, with the Communion, with the majority of Christians through the ages...
One can understand why Dr. Williams may have made this statement in that particular setting. And, maybe he is appropriately living into the role he has been given within the Church. I still find the statement troubling. The Church, as with most institutions, is always inclined to be conservative. Tradition is guarded like a golden calf. The early Church was not persuaded that Gentiles should be allowed as converts. Yet Paul and Peter persisted, and the tradition was changed. The Church was not persuaded that Galileo's science was correct, but the scientists persisted, and the biblical assumption of a flat earth was eventually exposed as erroneous. The Church was not persuaded that slavery was an evil institution, or that civil rights was a biblical principle, or that women were not second class citizens in God's kingdom. Eventually, because of the witness of a courageous and persistant minority, the Church has changed its teaching on these issues. I find it unfortunate that Dr. Williams is insisting on a consensus. By bowing to the "majority rules" mindset, he has effectively removed the role of prophet from the list of charisms essential for one to be the Archbishop of Canterbury.

He continues with this caveat:

...theologians will go on discussing this and it would not, I think, be possible to stop them...I distinguish as clearly as I can between a question a theologian may ask and an action or determination the church may take, or only the bishop may take. I think that is a necessary distinction for the life and health of the church. It would be a tragedy if the church sought to suppress questions. But it is equally a tragedy when the church creates facts on the ground that foreclose discussions and reflections on such questions.
The curious thing about this excerpt is that is was offered out of context in the press release. Consequently, when I first read the release, I initially assumed that the "facts on the ground" that were "foreclosing discussion" included Archbishop Akinola's homophobic rantings, the border crossings, and the irregular ordinations. Instead, it appears that he is specifically referring to the consecration of Bishop Robinson and the blessing of relationships.

Regardless of what he was specifically referring to, I think we cannot leave things to the theologians. We have more than enough "armchair theologians" whose worth is often found in being an alternative to a sleeping pill. Until a theologian has lived among the people struggling with these current tensions, I doubt their authority to even comment on such topics. The refusal of many within the Anglican Communion to even listen to the stories of faithful gay and lesbian Christians calls into question the pronouncements of their theologians.

Am I advocating liberation theology? Absolutely. A hermeneutical circle of prayer, study and action, followed by more prayer, further study and a new action, is the only way that theological study can address the real concerns of the people of God. The reign of the armchair theologian has ended. Unless you are among the people, sharing their joys and their sorrows, breaking bread with them, listening to their stories and helping them integrate God's story with their own, the fine words of theologians are, as Thomas finally came to see, nothing but straw.

There are a couple of statements within question 4 that we need to hear very clearly:

...I cannot endorse or approve the election that took place in the ECUSA.

...I’m quite clear that actions taken have been outside the fellowship and proper discipline of the communion.

...the prospect of an Anglican Covenant or the prospect of a convergent system of canon law is the best hope we have.
Let those statements sink in for a moment. Don't try to put spin on them. This is the Archbishop of Canterbury speaking. This is the position that is most likely going to become the official position of the Anglican Communion one day soon. There is not going to be any middle way found. Accept it. Learn to live with it. And then, move on.

Question 5 is about Archbishop Eames' statement that the Episcopal Church has met the requirements of the Windsor Report. Dr. Williams' response offers us another important piece of information:

I don’t think that we can say they have satisfied in a simple direct way what Windsor asks because that process is still continuing and will continue until the general convention next year.
The proving ground is General Convention 2006. We may not like that. We may argue that it should be Lambeth 2008. Face the reality that the trigger for the realignment of the Anglican Communion will be GC06. I think it is also critical that we face the fact that regardless of what we do, the realignment will commence at the end of GC06. Why? For the simple reason that Gene Robinson will still be a bishop at the end of General Convention. The Gobal South will never accept that. Accept this reality. Learn to live with it. And then, move on.

Question 6 regarding invitations to Lambeth also reveals some rather disheartening information:

...And as for categories of participants, again I can’t mortgage myself to answer it at this moment. But this and many other questions are under review by the groups that are now beginning to assemble...
The fact that "categories" of bishops is even being considered places a new twist to our understanding of holy orders. It appears to me that there is a chance that there will be some bishops invited, but they will be in a "special category," with such categorization including various limitations, no doubt. In other words, all bishops will be equal, but some will be more equal than others. Would you accept an invitation to tea with the Archbishop if such acceptance required you to submit to being categorized as a second class bishop?

Question 7, regarding the recognition of the Network, has gotten a lot of play lately. Unforunately, the Network has been quoting only the first half of Dr. Williams' answer, and leaving out the clarification offered in the second half. Here is the first part of his answer, which has the Network folks standing on chairs and cheering:

There is no doubt in my mind at all that these networks are full members of the Anglican communion. That is to say, they are bishops, they are clergy, they are people that are involved in the life of the communion which I share with them, which I will share with them...
Here is the second part, which is conveniently left out by the Network:

Formal ecclesial recognition of a network as if it were a province is not simply in my hands or in the hands of any individual. I do want to say it quite simply, of course, these are part of our Anglican fellowship and I welcome that.
Yes, Bishop Duncan is an Anglican bishop, as he is a bishop within the Episcopal Church, not because he is the head honcho of the Network. There was no "formal recognition" of the Network. It remains in the same category as the ECW or the Brotherhood of St. Andrew.

Mark Harris has more on the peculiar spin the Network, and specifically Bishop Duncan, has put on this answer from Dr. Williams.

The Anglican Scotist, in a post entitled Archbishop Williams Erring, offers a more theological critique of Dr. Williams' answers.

When you read the transcript of this question and answer period, don't skip question 11. It is a moving testimony that reveals some of Dr. Williams' personal journey into Christ.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Reflection Required

It's been awhile since I spoke on a personal level here at Jake's place. Initially this was intended to be a personal log. Somehow it managed to morph into something else. If that is a good or bad thing remains to be seen.

What is becoming apparent to me is that it is time to reflect a bit on the direction Jake's place will take in the future. I'm launching a major project for the Church that requires my full attention right now. There's been some developments in my personal life that are also calling for me to re-evaluate my priorities. Beyond that, I'm feeling uncomfortable lately with the tone that has become prominent on this site.

I take responsibility for the tone. Being a bit snarky (or as one commenter recently put it, "cheeky") is one of the qualities that I believe makes this site somewhat unique. The difficulty is that there is a fine line between being "cheeky" and being just plain rude. I'm not sure I always recognize that line.

The season of Advent is quickly approaching. This seems like a good time to engage in some serious reflection, and to be more attentive to some spiritual disciplines that I have been neglecting lately. It is time to get a healthier perspective on life, and seek what it is God would have me do. I need to do this for my own sake, and also for the sake of my family and for the sake of those who have entrusted me with the responsibilities that come with being a spiritual leader.

What changes will there be? Nothing drastic. I'm not anticipating shutting down Jake's place yet. I'll still try to offer at least a couple of posts a week. The most prominent change that I hope for is that the tone will become more positive and less bitter.

I want to thank those who have sent me personal notes of support and encouragement, and those who point me to articles of interest elsewhere on the net (and the grammar know who you are!). I enjoy such personal contact. I continue to believe that it is through one on one communications that bonds of community are built.

I invite each of you to consider this season of Advent as an opportunity for spiritual renewal. As we wait with joyful anticipation and quiet wonder for the birth of Christ in a manger in Bethlehem, may we also prepare for Christ to be born anew within each of our hearts at the conclusion of our Advent journey.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Extreme Conservatives: "Windsor is Law, Except the Bits We Choose to Ignore"

Here's part of a report from Friday's Telegraph:

...In a revolt that threatens to embroil the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, three men were ordained as deacons in south London by a bishop "parachuted in" from South Africa.

The ordinations were backed by Reform, the evangelical network, whose 600 clergy members are increasingly rejecting the spiritual authority of their bishops in protest at their "unbiblical" stance on gays...
From the Windsor Report:

155. We call upon those bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own:

  • to express regret for the consequences of their actions
  • to affirm their desire to remain in the Communion, and
  • to effect a moratorium on any further interventions.
  • From the Archbishop of Brazil to the Archbishop of the Southern Cone:

    I am deeply disappointed by your letter in which you recognised and take under your supervision the deposed bishop and a group of deposed clergy that once belonged to the Diocese of Recife...

    We do follow the Anglican Tradition that intentionally seems not to be of the interest of many nowadays, which is to recognise the right of each province to act according to their canon laws to maintain their discipline, since they avoid that their canons laws would affect the life of and decisions of other provinces. Your action, yes, has been of interference in the Brazilian jurisdiction without any previous contact with its Primate Bishop, as you had once personally given your word to me. We are saddened as well as rebut this action from your side.
    From the Windsor Report:

    155. We call upon those bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own:

  • to express regret for the consequences of their actions
  • to affirm their desire to remain in the Communion, and
  • to effect a moratorium on any further interventions.
  • As a reminder of the identity of the deposed bishop referred to in the above letter, here is the incident that occurred the day after the Windsor Report was released:

    Saying that the Episcopal Church lacked accountability, the rectors of two parishes in the Diocese of Olympia told the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner on Oct. 19 that their congregations had voted overwhelmingly to seek independence from the Episcopal Church and to affiliate with the Rt. Rev. Robinson Cavalcanti, Bishop of Recife in the Anglican Province of Brazil.

    Contacted in London by telephone on Oct. 20, Bishop Cavalcanti said his decision to accept pastoral care for the two parishes was “a temporary pastoral response to an emergency and the continued defiance [of Windsor Report recommendations] by North American bishops.” Bishop Cavalcanti added that he is prepared to offer oversight to at least two other Episcopal churches and that there would be many more unless the American and Canadian bishops honor the moratorium on further same-sex blessings and the ordination of non-celibate homosexual persons called for by the Lambeth Commission on Communion in the Windsor Report.

    “We did not create this problem,” Bishop Cavalcanti said. “There are moments in history when we must be willing to make a stand"...
    The former bishop was also the only foreign bishop to partcipate in the irregular confirmations in Ohio last year. Apparently, Mr. Cavalcanti did not read the Windsor Report, which might be one explanation as to why he is no longer a bishop. If he had read it, he may have noted the following:

    155. We call upon those bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own:

  • to express regret for the consequences of their actions
  • to affirm their desire to remain in the Communion, and
  • to effect a moratorium on any further interventions.
  • There are numerous other examples of this flagrant disregard for the Windsor Report by the extreme consevatives. Allow me to point out just one more, as it is rather unique regarding the form of attempted subterfuge that it utilizes. From Archbishop Akinola's address at Nigeria's recent Synod:

    ...A significant outcome of the current crisis has been the need to cater for the spiritual needs of thousands of Nigerian Anglicans in the USA who must not be abandoned to the vagaries of a confused ECUSA. At least three (3) teams of Bishops (including: The Most Rev. M.S.C. Anikwenwa, Rt. Rev. M. Owadayo, Rt. Rev. Peter Adebiyi, Rt. Rev. E. Chukwuma, Rt. Rev. H. Ndukuba, and Rt. Rev. Ikechi Nwosu) went to the US on our behalf to study the potentials for fruitful ministry and their reports have been a guiding light in further moves.

    Also a considerable number of American Bishops and clergy have indicated a desire to collaborate with the mission of the Church of Nigeria's Mission to America known and called Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Missions in USA (CANA)...
    Archbishop Akinola, have you read the Windsor Report? One last time, let me point out the relevant clause:

    155. We call upon those bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own:

  • to express regret for the consequences of their actions
  • to affirm their desire to remain in the Communion, and
  • to effect a moratorium on any further interventions.
  • In words penned by Dylan, but made immortal by Jimi, "So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late." Some, possibly the majority, of the leadership of the extreme conservatives have no intention of abiding by the recommendations of the Windsor Report, if those recommendations were to ever become actual requirements for all Anglicans. They will pick and choose the parts they like, and disregard the rest.

    Some moderates and even progressives in the Episcopal Church are beginning to show support for the WR, not because they don't see its flaws, but because they believe it is the only way to make peace with the extreme conservatives. This is a false hope, if past behavior is any indication. The extremists appear to have no intention of following Windsor.

    So let's drop this phoney olive branch and start speaking the truth. There have been a number of diocesan conventions over the last few weeks, with many more planned for the months ahead. Quite a few will have a resolution regarding "affirming the WR." If you are a delegate to your diocesan convention, it's time to do your homework. If nothing else, study the book I have been reviewing, Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Report, and be prepared to make your way to a microphone and articulate the many flaws found in this document. At best, it is the beginning of an ongoing conversation. We cannot allow it to become the final word.


    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    From the Global South

    By now most of you have probably read the statement from the Global South conference. I was pleasantly surprised to find the statement to be much milder than I had anticipated. No calls for specific punitive actions. No official break with the Anglican Communion. No enthronement of Archbishop Akinola as Pope.

    I'm still inclined to believe that the original intention was to make a break at this meeting. This belief is not based on some conspiracy theory, by the way. This intention was first announced in an interview released in June of Archbishop Malango of Central Africa by the Rush Limbaugh of Anglicanism, David Virtue:

    ...MALANGO: We shall meet as CAPA Primates in October and one of the questions will be where a new Anglican Communion will be set up. We shall approach that question very carefully. The choice right now is Alexandria. We did not want it to be in Israel....too political, nor any other Middle East nation, nor Africa, for obvious reasons, nor Europe or Southeast Asia. We think Alexandria, Egypt is best as we can trace our historical roots from there. We can then start from an historical basis. The third trumpet is going to produce the right thing for us.
    For reasons unknown, a "new Anglican Communion" was not set up. We can only speculate as to why.

    I would suggest that a good possibility is the work done by Archbishop Rowan Williams. In this instance, he has proven to be able to build an amazing bridge across our cultural differences. His address to the Global South is quite powerful, and worthy of being slowly read and reflected upon. He calls us to always remember to keep our focus on Jesus Christ, as that is where we find our unity. Here is a small excerpt:

    ...Just in passing, I mentioned in passing ‘the instruments of Unity of the Anglican Communion’. I would be much happier, I have to say, if we spoke of the servants of Unity in the Anglican Communion’, because whatever the instruments of unity are, I don’t think that they are in any sense conditions to be met for Christian faithfulness. They are human institutions which seek to serve the unity of Christ’s body and I would put all those instruments of unity, not least the Archbishop of Canterbury, under the rubric of St Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 3; ‘it is not ourselves that we preach, but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake’. Whether it is the Archbishop of Canterbury, the ACC, the Primates or the Lambeth Conference, that must be what they hold in front of them. I think someone recently said that ‘the path to heaven doesn’t necessarily lie through Lambeth’. I agree entirely. The path to heaven lies solely through Jesus Christ our Saviour and the unity he gives, and the only use and integrity of the instruments of unity is when they serve that...

    ...The more we are focussed and drawn in to the mystery of Jesus, the more these things become not matters that we passionately struggle to work to master for ourselves, but things that flow form our relationship with Jesus. Now I don’t suggest that we can forget the practical questions before us; the many appallingly burdensomely difficult question that are laid upon us at the moment in our Anglican fellowship. But I do say that we shall never begin to answer them adequately unless our eyes our minds and our hearts are with Jesus, where Jesus is. Out of that who know what will come, and as we are prepared to be silent and patient with the lord, like John at the Last Supper, who knows what God will do. John listened at the supper; his head resting next to the heart of Jesus, just as Jesus rests next to the heart of God...
    What is beautiful about the Archbishop's words are that they are able to powerfully move me, a product of Western culture, and apparently had the same powerful effect on those of the Global South who received them. Dr. Williams offers us his gift; building bridges over the chasms that separate us by drawing our focus back to where it belongs; on our Savior Jesus Christ. I would like to think that these wise words tempered the statement prepared at the end of this gathering.

    The Global South statement does not leave the West unscathed, of course. There is a call for an "Anglican Covenant". Support is offered for the Network and Archbishop Akinola's "missions". They thank Dr. Williams for "recognizing" the Network (what Rowan "recognized" was that the members of the Network were Anglican. He clarified that he was not recognizing them as an alternative province). They expressed their appreciation for the Southern Cone "stabalizing the volitile situation" in Brazil.

    The most frustrating section of the statement is subtitled "The Current Crisis provoked by North American Intransigence". This section opens with these words:

    The unscriptural innovations of North American and some western provinces on issues of human sexuality undermine the basic message of redemption and the power of the Cross to transform lives. These departures are a symptom of a deeper problem, which is the diminution of the authority of Holy Scripture. The leaders of these provinces disregard the plain teaching of Scripture and reject the traditional interpretation of tenets in the historical Creeds.
    Nothing we haven't already heard. The section continues with more of the same. There is one minor point worth noting at the end of the section:

    Unscriptural and unilateral decisions, especially on moral issues, tear the fabric of our Communion and require appropriate discipline at every level to maintain our unity. While the Global South calls for the errant provinces to be disciplined, we will continue to pray for all who embrace these erroneous teachings that they will be led to repentance and restoration.
    Living a "disciplined" life is indeed an essential part of the Christian walk. But I am quite uncomfortable with the way the term isused here. They call for the errant provinces to be "disciplined". In other words, we must be punished. We are the unruly children, who must be paddled "for our own good." I find such a demand to be unacceptable. This blatant threat of "punishment" is extremely offensive.

    After first getting in their jabs at the West, the statement continues to make some good declarations regarding poverty, HIV/AIDS and corruption. These sections are much shorter, which causes my cynical side to wonder if they were, to some degree, an afterthought.

    Once back on his home turf, Archbishop Akinola reverts to his more familiar style of rhetoric, as evidenced in the statement that appears on the Church of Nigeria's site:

    ...To the revisionists bent on enthroning immorality in the church, the communiqué regretted that they are yet to show any evidence of repentance and may thus end up walking apart...
    Enthroning immorality...catchy phrase.

    Meanwhile, while Akinola and friends were having a grand old time in Egypt, Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, an organization which has recently challenged Akinola, and eight other members of Changing Attitude Nigeria, were beaten, arrested and jailed.

    I know that Dr. Williams is right, and appreciate the bridge that he offers. I will attempt seek the face of Christ in Archbishop Akinola. But I must also see Christ in the man lying in the streets of Abuja, beaten and bleeding. I find it difficult to do both simultaneously. But to not respond is no longer an option. Consequently, I find it is my Christian duty to stand with those who are in the greatest need; those who are bullied and bruised by the powers and prinicipalities of this world. If I am wrong, I pray for God's mercy. But I cannot passively submit to such behavior. As Carter Heyward said, "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."

    And so the struggle continues.