Friday, August 31, 2007

Two Anti-Gay Americans Consecrated in Kenya

From Ruth Gledhill:

The worldwide Anglican Church took a further step towards schism over homosexuality today with the ordination of two American Bishops to pastor to conservative US Anglicans under the jurisdiction of Kenya.

The Right Rev William Murdoch and the Right Rev Bill Atwood were consecrated at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobu by Kenya's Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi.

The ordinations are valid but are expected to be counted as "irregular" by Lambeth Palace in London, placing the two outside the officially-recognised Anglican hierarchy...
Counting AMiA bishops, this makes ten "irregular" bishops now serving in the US, without any permission granted to do so by the Episcopal Church.

So, why were these consecrations done now? From the Associated Press:

...The spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has asked African archbishops not to consecrate U.S. priests to help avoid a schism. Kenyan Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi said there had been no direct communication with Williams over the Thursday's ceremony...
Dr. Williams returns from sabbatical on September 1. Thus the late August consecrations, before he could issue a "Godly admonition" to Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi. What better way to establish "the facts on the ground" than to not ask permission and then, if necessary, apologize later?

Speaking of Abp. Nzimbi, he is to be commended for giving us clarity as to what these consecrations are really all about:

...Archbishop Nzimbi said the consecration was not intended to widen the gulf in the church, but was a Christian response to a plea for help and pastoral care from Anglicans in the United States.

Gay people, he said, did not have a place as leaders in the Anglican communion.

"We need to love them, we need to preach to them, but not to make them lay readers, pastors, bishops," he said...
Can't get much clearer than that.

Ruth Gledhill observes that not all conservatives are pleased with these consecrations.

From Andrew Carey:

...Of equal scandal to the theological drift of the Episcopal Church into a kind of uncommitted unitarianism, has been the failure of those who are theologically orthodox to stand firm together in opposing that movement. Individualism and schism has marked the response of American conservatives to their denominational tussles. And I still don’t see how separate Rwandan, Ugandan, Kenyan and Nigerian adventurism on American soil really helps create any kind of solidity around central theological convictions.

In fact, to the outsider these intiatives must smack of desperation – the shock tactics of a Militant Tendency, or an ‘Outrage’ rather than the calm authority of the party in power...
And from Graham Kings

...These consecrations in Nairobi and Kampala, as well as the earlier consecration of Martyn Minns in the Church of Nigeria, seem to me to be examples of 'trans-communion interventions' that are warned against in The Windsor Report and in the Primates' Communique from Dar es Salaam.

Paragraph 26 of that Communique states:

The interventions by some of our number and by bishops of some Provinces, against the explicit recommendations of the Windsor Report, however well-intentioned, have exacerbated this situation. Furthermore, those Primates who have undertaken interventions do not feel that it is right to end those interventions until it becomes clear that sufficient provision has been made for the life of those persons.

Just when the central weight of the Anglican Communion is backing The Windsor Report and the Covenant process as the way forward, and the Archbishop of Canterbury has clearly underlined these as part of his letter of invitation to the Lambeth Conference, why are these consecrations considered to be helpful and wise?
Speaking of the Covenant process, guess who the preacher was at this consecration? None other than Archbishop Drexel Gomez, chair of the Covenant Design Group, which prompted the following comment from Mark Harris:

...It is necessary to point out the presence of Archbishop Drexel Gomez, who was preacher at the ordination. As the chair of the Covenant Design Group he has played a major part in the work of the Communion. By his participation in this ordination he has made his stand, a stand that is incompatible with the very document that produced the recommendations concerning a covenant. He has made his choice. It is time for him to step down as Chair of the CDG...
Mark also makes a point that is important for us to note. Two bishops who are supposedly still part of the Episcopal Church, Robert Duncan and Jack Iker, were present for these consecrations:

...But here is the thing: These two Episcopal Church bishops are sworn to uphold the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church. The clear intent of the Constitution and Canons is that no bishop is to exercise ministry in another diocese than their own, except by permission. Complicity in circumventing this understanding by ordaining a US citizen to do precisely that, as a bishop in another province commissioned to ministry here, is in violation of the Constitution and Canons of this Church. At least that is how I read it...

...The presence and participation by Bishops Iker and Duncan in the ordinations of Bishops Atwood and Murdoch signals not a miracle at CANA, but a disaster in Kenya. They are now in non compliance with Windsor and with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. The problem is, who will bring the matter up? At a time when the Moderator is given to talking about the cross to come and bishops are being invited to "play the Man" who wants to point out the obvious?
The best one sentence summary of what this all means comes from Susan Russell:

The consecrations today are one more sad indication of just how far those committed to splitting the Episcopal Church are willing to go to achieve their goal of a church created in their own image...
This event should help make it clear to our House of Bishops that there is no point in attempting to appease some segments of the Communion. They are going to do what they want to do, regardless of what anyone else has to say. So please, bishops, when you meet later this month, ignore the schismatics and just do the right thing.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Retired Bishops Demand the Numbers, Again

You may recall that in July four retired bishops demanded to know where the Episcopal Church was getting the money for the lawsuits being launched to recover property taken by groups of individuals leaving TEC.

Well, these same bishops, with one additional retired bishop, have issued their demands a second time.

I'm just a parish priest, with no insider information, and little knowledge about Executive Council. But, since these bishops seem to be a bit impatient, and cannot wait for a reply from the Executive Council in October, I'm more than happy to give some answers to their questions, using little more than a computer and google, which I would assume the Right Reverend Sirs also have available.

Let's take a look at their demands more closely:

Last month, four of us wrote you to express our concern with your threats of litigation against four dioceses that affirmed their membership in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and to ask you to make a public report of the following...
Talk about reframing the question! The four dioceses in question affirmed that their intention is to leave TEC, through public statements, or through canonical changes. It is the responsibility of TEC to protect property that is under threat of being taken illegally. To not do so would be fiscally irresponsible.

Now, regarding their four questions, these were mostly answered in July by Jan Nunley, but, if it will help these bishops relax, I'm happy to answer some of them again.

1 ) How much money has the Episcopal Church spent on litigation against congregations and individuals who have chosen to depart TEC since 2003? What are the sources of those funds?
In most cases, it is the individual dioceses that are using legal means to protect their properties. In some of these cases, TEC has co-filed with the diocese. Consequently, I would suspect that the amount spent by TEC is rather small. No doubt these bishops will be given a figure by the Executive Council in October. One does wonder why they want this number, however. To understand that, we need to continue with their list of demands.

Oh yes, part two of question one; what are the sources of the funds? The same source as all TEC's expenditures; the approved budget for 2007, which includes line items for Title IV expenses, property protection and legal fees, for a total of $1,162,611.

2) In what budget(s) are those expenditures accounted for?
See above.

3) Has any income from trust funds been used to support these litigations? If so, how much and from which funds?
Not according to the DFMS Budget, Monthly Statement of Operations and the Audited Financial Statements, all made available by the Finance Office.

4) How much compensation has the law firm of the Episcopal Church's chancellor, David Beers, received for servicing this litigation?
I have no idea. I'm not sure how this question is relevant. It would be safe to say that the amount would not be more than $362,611, the line item in the budget for legal fees.

The rest of the letter includes the ultimate scare tactic; suggesting that Bp. Sauls claimed money was taken from the Pension Fund. Why is this the ultimate scare tactic? As any clergy person will tell you, the Pension Fund is the real glue that has held TEC together for so long. It is a very good Fund. If these bishops can float the notion that it is being raided, they just might get the attention of the 80% of the clergy that couldn't care less about our current unpleasantness.

I've not seen the quote from Bp. Sauls. I'm not sure what he was talking about. I saw no indications from the Finance Office of any such raiding going on. This week I received the Annual Report of the Pension Fund. It detailed all activities over the last year. I saw no transfers, gifts, etc. for property protection.

I have little doubt that these five bishops will receive a more authorative answer from the Executive Council in October. While they wait, maybe they might consider answering a few questions themselves?

The following list of questions for these five retired bishops has been provided by Nigel J. Taber-Hamilton, Rector of St. Augustine's-in-the-Woods Episcopal Church on Whidbey Island, WA. They are reprinted here with his permission:

Many Episcopalians are wondering who funds the Network, who administers those funds, what their qualifications are, and who provides oversight of them. On behalf of us all, therefore:

1 ) How much money has the Network, the American Anglican Council, and the other affiliated groups spent since 2003 on preparing to abscond with real property rightfully belonging to all Episcopalians?

2) In what budget(s) are those expenditures accounted for? Where have you published the information?

3) Has any income intended for mission been diverted for use in this theft? If so, how much and from what sources?

4) How much compensation has any law firm whose principles are part of your various affiliated organizations received for servicing this theft and the consequent litigation?

I raise these concerns since there is a substantial lack of transparency regarding funding for the organizations mentioned above. As Watergate proved to us, following the money is very revealing. It is obviously not possible to assess the integrity of those who handle such funds when such funding, nor its controllers, is not made public.

Or, of course, you could simply drop your absurd, time-wasting questions to Executive Council (or simply get out more and read, since all the information is readily available if you just looked).
In case the bishops require some assistance in answering these questions, I would recommend that they begin "following the money" here.


Nominees for Bishop of Chicago

The nominees are announced here.

One way to get a snapshot of who these nominees are is to read the brief introduction that each of them wrote. Here's a sampling of how they each chose to present themselves:

The Rev. Jane S. Gould:
...At MIT in the 1990s, I challenged both the Institute and the church to consider often ignored issues of ethics, mission and vocation. I also worked with ESMHE at General Convention 2003 to elect a young adult to Executive Council. In Massachusetts, I have organized on such issues as parochial assessments, urban strategy, immigrant ministry, and the Episcopal election of Barbara Harris.

In more than twenty years of ordained ministry, I’ve served urban, suburban, diocesan, and campus ministries always asking how God works among those present and who might be missing. In my current parish, these questions have led me to attend meetings with police and gang members, to build relationships with students and faculty at an evangelical Christian college, and to invite African Anglicans to launch a Kiswahili service and outreach ministry...

The Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee:
...I am a member of the faculty of the CREDO Institute, Inc. On Seattle’s Eastside, I initiated an inter-religious dialogue that led to the creation of Together We Build, an interfaith home-building project in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity. I have served on the board of the North American Association for the Diaconate, the Council of Associated Parishes and the board of Affirming Catholicism. I teach in the Diocesan School of Theology and work as a congregational development consultant and retreat leader. I have twice been a deputy at General Convention. I am the author of Opening the Prayer Book in the New Church’s Teaching Series, and have written for the Episcopal Church web site. I contributed to CREDO’s Clergy Wellness Report, released to the 2006 General Convention...

The Very Rev. Tracey Lind:
...My call to proclaim God’s justice, love, and mercy for all creation has led me to spend 20 years strengthening and sustaining urban and suburban congregations. In doing so, I have integrated my background in community planning, organizational development and nonprofit leadership.

I believe in the abundant grace that springs from practicing radical hospitality; in the power of quality liturgy, stewardship and education to sustain us in Christian life; and in the urgent and absorbing errand of community engagement to which we are called as witnesses of God’s love made known to us in Jesus. Through my spiritual journey, I have developed an abiding hope that the things that separate us from one another may be overcome in the oneness of God...

The Rev. Margaret R. Rose:
...Ordained in Massachusetts in 1981, I served parishes and community organizations in that Diocese. In 1992, I was called to St. Dunstan’s, Atlanta, serving on the Commission on Ministry, Deputy to General Convention and organizing with the Industrial Areas Foundation project. The return to the South was an opportunity to deepen the work of anti-racism and my conviction that our faith compels us to be engaged in the public arena.

Since April 2003, I have served as Director of Women’s Ministries for the Episcopal Church. The most exciting work recently has been in gathering women from around the Anglican Communion to participate at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. The local and global connections formed in this work have been a vital part of our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals...

The Rev. Timothy B. Safford:
...I have served parishes in Bridgeport, Conn., Pasadena, Calif., and since 1999, Christ Church in Philadelphia. Gathering in this ecclesiastical and national historic landmark, we have labored hard these past years to be a congregation that looks toward our future as boldly as we stand on our past. Much of our growth has come from urban pilgrims under the age of 40.

I have a deep passion for preaching and teaching. My most significant spiritual discipline is tithing.

In the Diocese, I serve on the Commission on Ministry, working to strengthen the ordination process. I advocate for re-conceiving the nature and method of theological education to better serve the needs of parishes and missions in the rapidly changing and chaotic mission field. In the larger community, I have served through organizations that aid the homeless, advocate for children, reduce teenage pregnancies, fight the spread of AIDS, organize immigrants and refugees, and develop affordable housing. I have been pleased to represent our church, traveling to Central America, Southern Africa, Israel, and Palestine...
This looks like a fine set of nominees.

Jane Gould was a nominee for California, and Jeffrey Lee was a nominee for Olympia.

What do you know about any of these priests?


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Is Don Armstrong Preparing Leaders for a New Theocracy?

EpiScope points us to this item from the Colorado Springs Independent:

...All of the attention over Grace has been lavished on the Rev. Don Armstrong, found guilty this month by an ecclesiastical court of financial misconduct and tax fraud totaling nearly $1 million, and receiving more than $122,000 in illegal loans. Armstrong is now a "person of interest" in a Colorado Springs police investigation.

Meanwhile, the John Jay Institute, its organizing machine hard at work in the bowels of Grace's building, has somehow escaped scrutiny.

What is this John Jay Institute, you wonder? Let's start with its president, Alan R. Crippen II. You might recognize Crippen — he's the guy who's been pitching Armstrong's talking points in the press. Turns out he's much, much more than a mouthpiece. But more on that in a minute...

...So just what is Crippen's institute? For starters, it's named after founding father John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States and co-author of the Federalist Papers. According to its literature, the official mission is to "prepare Christians for principled leadership in public life."

Let's cut to the nuts-and-bolts translation: Essentially, the institute appears to be a sort of high-class, all-expenses-paid Christian boot camp for recent promising college grads (preferably white, if the academy's online testimonials are a clue).

Every semester, a dozen or so idealistic students will trek to Colorado Springs to learn how to be secularity-busting soldiers for Jesus. They will then, as hopes go, attain leadership roles in the highest levels of government, where they will presumably work to obliterate the separation of church and state.

For those who are keeping track, chalk up another point for Team Theocracy.

Included among the Institute's advisory council is Kenneth Starr — yes, he of Bill Clinton impeachment-over-a-stained-blue-dress fame. The former solicitor general is joined by 11 other men, most scattered in places like Oxford, Malibu, Chattanooga and Washington, D.C. The group includes one well-known Coloradan: former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong, now president of Colorado Christian University and widely regarded as the godfather of conservative GOP politicos in Colorado.

The board of governors similarly includes a collection of well-groomed, middle-aged white men, only two are from Colorado. One — you guessed it — is Don Armstrong. The other is Crippen himself. A former vice-president at the Family Research Council, which is Focus on the Family's Washington lobbying arm,—Crippen also founded and operated the Witherspoon Fellowship,—which appears to be the same sort of setup as the John Jay Institute...
Crippen was previously working for James Dobson. Now he's the "spokesperson" for Don Armstrong, and President of the John Jay Institute. This certainly suggests that Crippen and Armstrong qualify as members of "the Religious Right." But is this part of a movement towards theocracy; the establishment of biblical law as the law of the land? The "need" the Institute is addressing is described in this manner:

...The need is for epoch-making leaders in public life - men and women of principle who are grounded in the Holy Scriptures and formed by the Christian moral and intellectual tradition. Our time calls for leaders in both the commonwealth and the church who possess the full wealth of conviction of the truth of their faith and its implications for the complete flourishing of human civilization, society, politics, and law...
Is this a nice way of describing the grooming of leaders for a future theocracy?

To answer that, we need a definition of theocracy. Here is one defintion of a specific form of theocracy advocated by a segment of the religious right known as Christian Reconstructionists, offered by Frederick Clarkson:

...But another largely overlooked reason for the persistent success of the Christian Right is a theological shift since the 1960s. The catalyst for the shift is Christian Reconstructionism--arguably the driving ideology of the Christian Right in the 1990s.

The significance of the Reconstructionist movement is not its numbers, but the power of its ideas and their surprisingly rapid acceptance. Many on the Christian Right are unaware that they hold Reconstructionist ideas. Because as a theology it is controversial, even among evangelicals, many who are consciously influenced by it avoid the label. This furtiveness is not, however, as significant as the potency of the ideology itself. Generally, Reconstructionism seeks to replace democracy with a theocratic elite that would govern by imposing their interpretation of "Biblical Law." Reconstructionism would eliminate not only democracy but many of its manifestations, such as labor unions, civil rights laws, and public schools. Women would be generally relegated to hearth and home. Insufficiently Christian men would be denied citizenship, perhaps executed. So severe is this theocracy that it would extend capital punishment beyond such crimes as kidnapping, rape, and murder to include, among other things, blasphemy, heresy, adultery, and homosexuality.
One of the lectures sponsored by the Institute, Christian Realism and the Rise of Islamic Fascism, includes troubling statements like the following:

...The earlier darkness was national and race-based. The darkness we face today is supra-national and faith-based. If we fail to reckon with the nature of this threat, if we try to appease it, it will devour us—and everything else that is decent, and noble, and honorable that stands in its way...

...We cannot wait for perfection or for the absolute purity of our motives before we rise to take our stand. We must take it. We will stumble, we may lose our way. But we must take it. Against this evil, we must stand for freedom...
The article in the Independent suggested that the Institute was moving out of Grace Church. According to Grace's most recent newsletter, that is not the case. The Hearthstone Inn will be the residence for the students, but classes will be held at Grace. It will be interesting to see what happens to this new venture when the CANA trespassers are evicted.

It is worth noting how Don Armstrong describes the John Jay Institute in the newsletter:

...The following Sunday, September 9th, we will welcome the first students of the John Jay Institute. As these robed academics process into the church on that day, it will mark the coming to fruition of a dream that has been several years in the making—an Institute dedicated to preparing young men and women to assume positions of leadership fully formed in a Christian worldview and the founding principles of our nation, and ready to accept the call to service and duty that continued freedom and security requires...
So, what is your opinion? Is Grace Church, and so by extension CANA, embracing Christian Reconstructionism?

One last question that is on my mind. These students are being granted full fellowships. Hearthstone Inn sounds like a grand local landmark. There's a lot of money involved in this venture. In light of Don Armstrong's recent "financial irregularities", I'm inclined to wonder where the funding is coming from for this new Institute.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

From RLP: "I'm tired of fighting over the bible."

Real Live Preacher brings us some thoughts on fighting over the New Testament:

...But what truly amazes me is what happens when two Christians find themselves in a dispute over some doctrinal issue or passage of scripture. Suddenly they forget how messy the New Testament is, how contradictory and convoluted parts of it can be. They forget that their own theology is a product of very selective reading.

Forgetting these things, they run back to their studies in search of verses of scripture that support their position. They pull out books and commentaries; they scan denominational pamphlets or find help online in locating these verses.

Suddenly, single verses are seen to support whole theologies. Some verse from First John now has the power to shore up an entire worldview. Some obscure phrase from Jude is thought to have the final answer on how men and women should relate to each other. And some phrase that Jesus used in a parable now means that people who disagree with you and your ideas about God will roast slowly over an open fire in the pits of hell throughout all of eternity.

These furious exchanges of quotations are like people lobbing mortar shots at each other from trenches. Those involved only get angrier and more entrenched. I guess eventually they get tired and stop. One or perhaps both camps claim victory. No one generally learns anything constructive from these battles...

...So now I’m gently sliding into middle age. I’m tired of fighting over the Bible. Honestly, I couldn’t care less about most fine points of theology. I know a little too much about how the New Testament was formed, and I know a little too much about what’s in there and how hard it is to keep it straight.

I have much simpler questions for people now.

“You reading the New Testament? Trying your best to understand it?”


“Are you trying to follow Jesus as a disciple, trying to understand what he said and live the way he did, where possible?”

“Yeah, I’m trying.”

Do go read the whole thing. It is quite good.


The Letter (with apologies to the Box Tops)

Here's the latest hit from Padre Mickey's Dance Party:

Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane,
Ain't got time to take a fast train.
Goin' to Nigeria, or maybe it's Virginia,
'Cause some bishop just a-wrote me a letter.

I don't care how much money I gotta spend,
Gots to get away from them gays again
Goin' to Nigeria, or maybe it's Virginia,
'Cause some bishop just a-wrote me a letter.

Well, he wrote me a letter
Said I couldn't live with dem heretics no mo'.
Listen mister can't you see I got to get back
To dem Donatists once a-mo'--anyway...

Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane,
Ain't got time to take a fast train.
Goin' to Nigeria, or maybe it's Virginia,
'Cause some bishop just a-wrote me a letter.

Well, he wrote me a letter
Said I couldn't depend on the Creeds no mo'.
Instead it's got ta be an unequivocal acceptance
and commitment to letters "a" through "h", ohhh--anyway

a. The Authority and Supremacy of Scripture.
b. The Doctrine of the Trinity
c. The person, work and resurrection of Jesus the Christ
d. The acknowledgement of Jesus as Divine and the One and only means of salvation
e. The Biblical teaching on sin, forgiveness, reconciliation, and transformation by the Holy Spirit through Christ.
f. The sanctity of marriage.
g. Teaching about morality that is rooted and grounded in the Biblical Revelation.
h. Apostolic Ministry
From Now On!!!! YEAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane,
Ain't got time to take a fast train.
Goin' to Nigeria, or maybe it's Virginia,
'Cause some bishop just a-wrote me a letter.
Yeah, some bishop just a-wrote me a letter
Yeah, some bishop just a-wrote me a letter.
I tried to entice the musicians to come over to Jake's place, but it seems they prefer their own digs. Something to do with the acoustics. So make your way over to the Dance Party and pay your respects.

Oh, btw, regarding the Windsor bishops sacrificing chickens to Vishnu at Camp Allen; I've discovered that to be an unfounded rumour, which I apologize for perpetuating.

But, I am led to believe that they did indeed dance about skyclad, although their chant was erroneously reported as "Ye'll tak' the high road an' I'll tak' yer wallet!" The correct version is believed to have been "Crivens! I kicked meself in ma ain heid!"


Friday, August 24, 2007

Why the Fuss Over a Ghost Writer?

I really didn't think it would be necessary to explain to some folks why it is worth noting that a statement to the Church of Nigeria was authored by a bishop sitting in Virginia. Apparently, the implications are not as obvious as I assumed they would be.

What this reveals is what many have suspected for some time; that it is Western conservatives who are behind the extreme positions that are being presented as the position of the Global South.

Let me allow Colin Coward to spell it out for you:

Changing Attitude is not surprised by today’s revelation that Archbishop Peter Akinola’s letter to the Nigerian Synods was in fact mostly re-written by Bishop Martyn Minns.

Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England, said: “This confirms our suspicion that the agenda of the Global South is to defeat any attempt to overcome prejudice against LGBT people and accept our full inclusion in the church. This agenda is driven by conservative Americans. The American authorship of Nigerian documents which we had long suspected to be the case is now shown to be true. The tragedy is that conservative campaign against LGBT inclusion drives their determination to split the Anglican Communion. Their strategy is to destroy, not to build up the Communion, to evict LGBT people from the Kingdom of God, not to welcome us in...
Regarding yesterday's Church Times story:

...It confirms the suspicion Changing Attitude has long held, that many of the documents and press releases issued by the Church of Nigeria and Archbishop Peter Akinola have their origin in or are heavily edited by Bishop Martyn Minns, Canon Chris Sugden, Canon David Anderson and other conservative secessionists...
Which leads to further implications:

...Today’s report confirms the deep suspicions we developed as we observed the visits by Archbishop Peter Akinola to the first floor room where Martyn Minns, Chris Sugden, David Anderson and others met every day, all day. We speculated on what they were they doing which could possibly occupy so much time. One possibility was that they were waiting patiently for Archbishop Akinola to come and report to them (quite improperly) what had been taking place in the Primates Meeting next door. We suspect that this is indeed what the Archbishop did.

Today’s report reveals that they were clearly doing more than this. They were drafting material for Archbishop Akinola to take back to the Primates’ Meeting. They prepared an alternative text for the final Communique which Archbishop Akinola was given to present to the Primates. The final press conference on the Monday evening was delayed until nearly midnight, almost certainly because Akinola was arguing at length with the other Primates, desperately trying to force the Minns/Sugden/Anderson agenda on the other, mostly unwilling, Primates...
Which brings us back to the conclusion that this is about much more than just a ghost writer:

...Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England, said today, 24 August:

“The analysis of Archbishop Akinola’s letter reveals and confirms much more than the information about the complex authorship of the letter.

“The majority of the letter was written or redrafted by Bishop Martyn Minns. This demonstrates that the most extreme demands being made of the Anglican Communion by the secessionists originate not with Archbishop Akinola in Nigeria but from Bishop Minns and other extreme conservatives associated with CANA...
Mark Harris offers a good summary paragraph as well:

...The Archbishop is down on the North and West (meaning England, the US, Canada) and speaks as an African and a member of the Global South community (whatever that is.) If his letter is written in large part by people not African, not Global South (except by adoption and grace) where is the "authentic" voice of the Global South in all this? It is common scuttlebutt that Bishop Minns in his former capacity as general managerial lackey for the Archbishop was in constant contact with him throughout the Dar Es Salaam meeting. Some thought Minns put the words in the Archbishop's mouth. Well, perhaps he was not lackey but more like the party whip. Now perhaps he is more than whip. Now he appears as the voice behind the throne...
How's that for clarity?


Are the Windsor Bishops Attempting to Dictate Terms to Canterbury?

Seventeen so-called "Windsor" bishops met at Camp Allen earlier this month. They consisted of about seven Network bishops and ten other bishops who are conservative, but not necessarily schismatics. No statement was made at the conclusion of this meeting. The only information we were given was a brief report from The Living Church. Here's how that report begins:

Bishops who have made a public commitment to support the Windsor Report have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to be clear and articulate in explaining what the consequences will be if the House of Bishops fails to give the assurances sought by the primates...
How this message was communicated to Dr. Williams, and its specific content, was not made public.

However, Mark Harris was sent a draft of a letter to Dr. Williams that was found on a public computer at Camp Allen. There is no way of knowing to what degree this draft letter represents the final copy, or if a letter was even sent to Dr. Williams by the Windsor Bishops. The draft is of interest just the same, as it offers us some insight into what at least someone at Camp Allen had in mind:

Dear Archbishop Rowan:

We, the "Windsor Bishops," meeting at Camp Allen, Navasota, Texas, 8-10 August, 2007, express our gratitude for your agreement to meet with out (our?) House of Bishops next month in New Orleans, and for sending Canon Gregory Cameron to be with us during these days.

As you prepare for your time with us, we ask you to consider addressing the following points:

  • Clarity is of the essence;
  • The Communion is in acute crisis because the American Church is at the center;
  • A deadline is a deadline. A response from you within two weeks of 30 September would be important. No response is a response. If the deadline is ignored it could be catastrophic.
  • (My advisors inform me that) Bishop(s?) in The Episcopal Church have full authority over liturgical practices in their diocese and the power to grant or withhold consent in Episcopal elections, without the approval of General Convention. (This seems to be advising the ABC to say his advisors inform him that….)
  • The sending of Lambeth invitations was a good faith expression of my desire, and that of the Communion, for The Episcopal Church to remain part of the Anglican World. I will be saddened to withdraw invitations.
  • For me to defend the unity of the Communion it is vital that clear answers be given to the three key matters expressed in the Dar es Salaam Communiqué. (Again, these are words being suggested to the ABC for his use.)

    The See of Canterbury is one of the four instruments of unity and the opportunities for exercising moral authority is profound. We encourage and support you as you use this God given authority in maintaining the unity of the Communion.
  • Did you notice what is going on here? Some bishop or a group of bishops are telling the Archbishop of Canterbury what they want him to say, word for word. The audacity of such a move is absolutely astounding.

    If such a letter was sent to Canterbury, I would imagine that it will not be well received. I doubt very much that Dr. Williams will appreciate a group of Americans assuming they have the authority to compose his public statements for him. Rowan Williams is not Peter Akinola, after all.


    Thursday, August 23, 2007

    Bp. Martyn Minns Revealed as Abp. Akinola's Ghost Writer

    You may recall our recent discussion of the latest letter released by Peter Akinola, Archbishop of Nigeria. At the time of that discussion, I noted that the style of writing was not consistent with previous publications by the Archbishop. There was some specualtion regarding who his ghost writer might be.

    Church Times is reporting that Bp. Martyn Minns rewrote most of the letter:

    A Bishop in the United States has been revealed as the principal author of a seminal letter to the Church of Nigeria from its Archbishop, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, which was published on Sunday...

    ...The document, “A Most Agonising Journey towards Lambeth 2008”, appears to express to Nigerian synods the personal anguish of Archbishop Akinola over his attendance at the Lambeth Conference.

    But computer tracking software suggests that the letter was extensively edited and revised over a four-day period by the Rt Revd Martyn Minns, who was consecrated last year by Archbishop Akinola to lead the secessionist Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA)...

    ...Close examination of the document, tracing the authorship, editing history, and timing of changes, reveals about 600 insertions made by Bishop Minns, including whole new sections amounting to two-thirds of the final text. There is also a sprinkling of minor amendments made by Canon Chris Sugden of the conservative group Anglican Mainstream...
    What is the significance of this? A document that is purported to be an expression of the "personal anguish" of an African Primate was actually penned by this Primate's North Atlantic allies. Any claim that it is an expression of the mind of the Global South can no longer be considered valid.

    If I were a Global South clergy person, I would be quite concerned, if not deeply offended, by North Americans and Europeans having the audacity to think they can speak for the Global South. Apparently, there is evidence of just such concern:

    ...The Bishop of Botswana, the Rt Revd Trevor Musonda Mwamba, has expressed reservations about the tone and style of pronouncements in the past, which have purportedly come from African bishops.

    Speaking at the Ecclesiastical Law Society conference in Liverpool (News, 2 February), he said: “Up till now the loud voices in Africa have threatened the Anglican Communion with schism, insisting that some provinces be expelled from our worldwide fellowship. Yet such voices, because of the very diversity and strength of the Anglican Church in Africa, could be playing a reconciling role.”

    The voice of the majority of Africa’s 37 million Anglicans had been “eclipsed by the intensity of sounds on opposing sides of the debate”.
    May we remember this incident the next time Abp. Akinola's loud voice claims to be speaking for the majority of Anglicans in Africa. Most likely, the voice we will be hearing is not coming from another continent across the ocean, but from an office in Virginia.


    Abp. Tutu: "We are Most Like God When We are Welcoming"

    From Episcopal Life:

    Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu has appealed to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to invite all bishops to the 2008 Lambeth Conference, "even those irregularly consecrated or actively gay."

    The Nobel Peace Prize laureate's plea came in a letter to the present Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, in which he also called on all Anglican bishops to be "more welcoming and inclusive of one another."

    "Our Communion has always been characterized by its comprehensiveness, its inclusiveness, its catholicity," he said. "...we are really family, held together not so much by law as by bonds of affection. There is no family that is unanimous on every single subject"...

    ..."In a world where difference has led to alienation and even bloody conflict, the Church is God's agent to demonstrate that unity in diversity is in fact the law of life," Tutu said in his letter to Ndungane. "...We are most like God when we are welcoming and when we are as inclusive as possible, when we have broken down all middle walls of partition"...

    ..."Our Lord is weeping to see our Communion tearing itself apart on the issue of human sexuality when the world for which he died is ravaged by poverty, disease, war and corruption," Tutu said. "I beg you all in our Lord's name agree to disagree, argue, debate, disagree, but do all this as members of one family."

    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    Christians in a Pluralistic World

    As we become more aware of the diversity of beliefs within our communities, our nation and in the world, we find ourselves sharing our lives with those who practice a wide variety of faith traditions. One of the results of this increased awareness of diversity is the inclination for religious beliefs to become a private matter, for the sake of the harmony of the larger community. Consequently, our beliefs are becoming more and more subjective, and the values and universal principles that such beliefs offer become "true" only for the individual. In other words, all "truth," to the degree that we can discern it, becomes relative.

    Diversity can certainly be a positive development for any community, but when our beliefs become isolated, with little or no interaction, I think it can be unhealthy.

    So, how can we interact with other faith traditions?

    Before making some suggestions, I need to offer a brief disclaimer. This is an aspect of my Christian faith that I personally struggle with. There has never been a time in my life when I did not believe in God. I have set aside that belief as an academic exercise in college, but even that was quite difficult. And, for most of my life, I have been a Christian. For me, that also is simply not optional. The Incarnation is essential for my life to have purpose and meaning. Heaven and earth being bridged, making possible both the transcendent and immanent experience of God, while also redeeming the created realm, are at the core of how I understand myself and the world. Beyond that, experiences of God, some subtle, and some more transformational, have affirmed for me that Jesus Christ is the way to God.

    Consequently, it is extremely difficult for me to imagine anyone claiming that there might be another way to God. I just can't quite wrap my head, let alone my heart, around such a notion. And, when I encounter such persons, my first inclination is to consider it my Christian duty to correct them of the errors of their ways by introducing them to Jesus Christ.

    I am a Christian. This path has filled me with much joy and hope. I want to offer it to everyone.

    I have encountered people who are following other traditions that do indeed seem to have a strong relationship with God. This is always rather confusing to me. I imagine it is probably similar to the experience of Peter in the home of the Gentile Cornelius when the Holy Spirit fell upon his entire family. How can this be?

    I have come to the point that I have to recognize that God's ways are not my ways. I know that Christianity is the way to God. I cannot say that about other faith traditions. But, my experience is that to interact with other traditions so that we might work together towards common goals requires me to not always immediately give voice to my inclination to discount their experience of God.

    But, isolationism, individualism and subjectivity in regards to religious beliefs simply will not do. There has to be a way in this pluralistic society for the various faith traditions to interact without boiling things down to the lowest common denominator, or immediately launching into arguments about their differences. And, there has to be a way to do this while still offering a witness that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world.

    On what basis might such interactions happen?

    Terry Holmes and John Westerhoff, in their book Christian Believing, offer the following observations:

    We need not enter into a dialogue with a Buddhist or a member of Islam to win or lose. Our intention ought to be that we will both win. It is highly doubtful, given the cultural context in which Buddhism exists, that such a dialogue will result in the baptism of many who were previously Buddhists. It is improbable that it will result in theological agreement between the representatives of two very disparate systems of belief. It is altogether possible, however, that in our point of contact we will find enrichment which will flow over into the beliefs of each religion...
    Holmes and Westerhoff continue by listing these "points of contact" between the major world religions, as identified by Friedrich Heiler, a German historian of relgion. The following are common beliefs held by Judaism, Islam, Zorastrianism Mazdianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Christianity:

    1. A belief in the reality of the transcendent; the "holy other."
    2. That the transcendent is immanent in human hearts.
    3. This transcendent and immanent reality is the highest good.
    4. The reality of the divine is ultimate love.
    5. The way to God is through sacrifice.
    6. In loving one's neighbor, one is loving God.
    7. It is the love of God that leads to union with God.

    Recognizing these "points of contact" will help our interactions with other traditions be less confrontational. But exactly how can such interactions occur without requiring us to compromise our own beliefs?

    One example is offered in an essay by Craig David Uffman, a senior M.Div. student at Duke Divinity School. Although I found this essay to be overall quite well written, some parts were somewhat irritating; specifically the sections that seem to infer that the Episcopal Church is responsible for the current unpleasantness in the Communion. But that is not the part I want to highlight.

    In speaking of evangelism among Muslim populations, Uffman refers to the Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Archbishop of Kaduna. You may recall that Abp. Idowu-Fearon was recently installed as a Six Preacher in Canterbury Cathedral. Here are a few segments that describe the Archbishop's approach:

    ...Sympathetic understanding," or, to borrow John Milbank's more descriptive phrase, "relational receptivity," is the approach Fearon has learned to take in leading the encounter of Christians with Islam in the volatile frontier of such encounters from his cathedral at Karduna. However, it is a lesson he learned the hard way. After a long period of frustrating sterility in his efforts to bring Muslims to Christ, he looked in the mirror one day and stared at a T-Shirt he wore emblazoned with a slogan often found in orthodox Christian closets in the West: "Repent or Perish!" The Spirit was with him that day, however, and led him to ask of that slogan the question that guided his ministry ever since: "where is the gospel in this? Where is the good news?" He realized that day that his missional harvest was barren because his theology was barren.

    Today, the Archbishop's methodology of evangelism is patterned on the Lukan account of the walk to Emmaus. Fearon explains that the goal in engaging Muslims should be to help them find "the missing Christ." Because Islam recognizes Jesus of Nazareth as a great prophet, the problem Muslims have is not with "Jesus the Man." Just like most of us, the problem Muslims have in encountering the Gospel is with "Jesus the Christ." The risen Christ is a stumbling block for them, just as it was for those disciples who encountered him on the road to Emmaus. The Nigerian methodology is patterned on how Jesus engaged those disciples. Though they did not recognize him, he did not confront them and did not try to force them to see the truth in their midst. Instead, he walked with them. He walked with them a long way. Indeed, he "overaccepted" them, continuing with them in dialogue until they reached their true destination. It was only in the sharing of bread with him that they were given eyes to see it was Christ who fed them...

    ...Fearon's approach to evangelism to Muslims begins with the observation that Christians and Muslims share an understanding that God transformed chaos into order in creating the universe. Thus, the first thing upon which Christians and Muslims can agree is that our natural state is one of peace. Authentic personhood incarnates peace with sisters and brothers. Furthermore, Fearon claims his role is not to confront and convert, but rather to incarnate this peace-giving Word in his relationship with Muslims. That Word is one of love, which for Fearon begins with accepting and understanding Muslims in their context. He speaks Arabic and has made himself an authority on Islam, and, through extraordinary sensitivity grounded in this knowledge, is able to actively affirm them without compromising the Gospel. By living in solidarity with them, by acting out the Gospel first, he evokes the questions that are his permission to proclaim it verbally. Thus, true mission looks like the walk to Emmaus. It remains alongside in the dialogue of receptive relationship, trusting that Christ is revealed in the sharing of bread and wine together...
    " acting out the Gospel first..." As St. Francis would say, "Preach the Gospel! If you must, use words!"

    I recognize that the Episcopal Church is a big tent, and there will be a diverse reaction to some of what has been presented here. I'm comfortable with that. But, let me just say that in response to the anticipated reply that the desire to offer a Christian witness has to be removed for any meaningful engagement with other traditions to sincerely happen, as Holmes and Westerhoff seem to imply; I disagree with that approach. I can respect other traditions. I can learn from other traditions. But my desire is for them to have a relationship with the living God. The only way for such a relationship to grow is through Jesus Christ. That is what I know. That is what I have to offer. To not offer such a treasure would be to withhold God's love for my neighbor.

    Enough preaching from me. Your thoughts?


    Sunday, August 19, 2007

    A Most Agonizing Case of False Witness and Selective Memory

    Peter Akinola, Archbishop of Nigeria, has issued yet another treatise in which he tries to paint himself as the victimized champion of the true faith, whose generosity and merciful forebearance has been strained to the breaking point. Anyone who has followed this man's angry outbursts for the last four years knows that this depiction is so far removed from the truth that it enters into the realm of absurdity. Also, based on the record we have from his past tirades, it is pretty obvious that this latest contribution was penned by a ghost writer.

    Let's take a closer look at just a few of the more bizarre statements found in the Archbishop's statement:

    We have been on this journey for ten long years. It has been costly and debilitating for all concerned as most recently demonstrated by the tepid response to the invitations to the proposed Lambeth Conference 2008...
    He then goes on about what a shame it is that there is such a lack of enthusiasm for Lambeth. Note that Akinola announced some time ago now that he and his bishops would not attend because Bp. Minns did not receive an invitation. He has encouraged others to follow his lead. In light of that, I do not believe his pretense of sadness. I think he is voicing his wishful thinking. He is hoping that others will also boycott Lambeth. The reality is that quite a few of the provinces in the Global South have indicated that they will be present for Lambeth. The responses to the invitations have been slow in making their way to Canterbury. Akinola is quick to interpret this as a groundswell of support for his foolhardy call for a boycott. No doubt he will be greatly disappointed when Lambeth does convene, and there will be no one present to represent his perspective.

    ...There are continual cries for patience, listening and understanding. And yet the record shows that those who hold to the “faith once and for all delivered to the saints” have shown remarkable forbearance while their pleas have been ignored, their leaders have been demonized, and their advocates marginalized...
    "The faith once and for all delivered..." We've been over this quite thoroughly recently, but such a phrase does cause one to wonder what exactly he is talking about. Circumcision? Gentile converts? Kosher laws? Re-baptism? Penitence? Just war? Slavery? Birth control? All matters in which the Church has struggled, and come to different conclusions than the "once and for all" original teaching. So exactly who are "those" who hold on to this faith? Certainly no Church that currently exists.

    But we know who he thinks deserves this title. The three or four Global South Primates and their North American allies who want to outlaw certain relationships within the Church. The claim is made that they "have shown remarkable forebearance"...really? So, the Archbishop's regular declarations that those who disagree with him are hooligans, lower than animals and a cancerous growth signify his forbearance? His establishment of CANA, a North American mission within another Province without any consultation with the leaders of that Province, is forbearance? Spare me your spin, Archbishop. It has a very false ring to it.

    ...We made a deliberate, prayerful decision in 1998 with regard to matters of Human Sexuality. It was supported by an overwhelming majority of the bishops of the Communion. It reflected traditional teaching interpreted with pastoral sensitivity. And yet it has been ignored and those who uphold it derided for their stubbornness. However, we have continued to meet and pray and struggle to find ways to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace...
    First of all, most folks are now aware that Lambeth 1998 was manipulated by a handful of bishops and Abp. Carey to get the end result they wanted. Second of all, Akinola has certainly ignored the clauses of Lambeth 1.10 that called for a listening process. Instead, Akinola publicly advocated for legislation to jail all gays and lesbians and their supporters. Why "meet and pray and struggle" when you've found the solution; incarcerate.

    ...The journey started in February 1997 in Kuala Lumpur...
    Maybe the Archbishop thinks that's where "the journey" started. I would suggest that there are a number of other starting points that could be suggested.

    For instance, I think an argument could be made that the "strain on the bonds of affection" began at Lambeth 1988 with the approval of the request from some of the Global South bishops that polygamist converts be allowed to be baptized and confirmed, along with their wives and children. Bringing this up is not throwing in a red herring. It is extremely relevant, as it established what was thought to be a precedent.

    Even though polygamy was thought to be contrary to the teaching of scripture and the tradition of the Church, it was decided that the local bishops were the best qualified to respond appropriately to this pastoral need. It was then assumed that in 1998, when the pastoral needs of some of the North Americans were under consideration that the same model would be followed. That was not to be the case. We were told that we were not fit to respond to the pastoral needs of our people. Many North Americans, myself included, saw this arbitrary line in the sand drawn by some of the Global South to be a severe strain on the bonds of affection between our Provinces.

    ...The leadership of The Episcopal Church USA (TECUSA) and the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) seem to have concluded that the Bible is no longer authoritative in many areas of human experience especially in salvation and sexuality...
    Regarding areas of human experience in which the bible's authority has been questioned, I refer the Archbishop to my previous list. Does he really expect us to believe that he follows every word of scripture? And then, of course, he has to throw in the issue of "salvation," which is supposed to remind us of all the false accusations of heresy tossed out against TEC as a smoke screen to hide their only real problem; the "ick factor" in regards to gay sex.

    There appear to be pieces left out of the selective history provided by the Archbishop. The section regarding the Windsor Report abruptly ends in mid-sentence. As one might expect, in what does appear, there is no mention of the clear rejection in that report, and later ones, of the border crossings which resulted in CANA.

    ...A much-awaited ECUSA General Convention in 2006 proved to be a disappointment as resolutions expressing regret for the harm done to the communion were rejected as well as one that tried to emphasize the necessity of Christ for salvation...
    Might I remind the Archbishop of Resolution A160, which was passed by both Houses:

    Resolved, That the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, mindful of “the repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ” (Windsor Report, paragraph 134), express its regret for straining the bonds of affection in the events surrounding the General Convention of 2003 and the consequences which followed; offer its sincerest apology to those within our Anglican Communion who are offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of our actions on our church and other parts of the Communion; and ask forgiveness as we seek to live into deeper levels of communion one with another.
    Regarding the resolution that emphasized the necessity of Christ for salvation, one must assume that the Archbishop is referring to D058. The reality is that the resolution was presented near the end of Convention and was recommended to be discharged by the Evangelism Committee because it had already been addressed at previous General Conventions. The House of Deputies voted to discharge the resolution. The resolution itself was never debated or rejected. You can read more about the history of that particular resolution here. Abp. Akinola managed to fit two false accusations into just one sentence. Imagine that.

    ...We want unity but not at the cost of relegating Christ to the position of another ‘wise teacher’ who can be obeyed or disobeyed...
    Who exactly is the Archbishop accusing of "relegating Christ to the position of another ‘wise teacher’"? For your information, Archbishop, Jesus Christ is my Lord and my Savior, the Incarnation of God, the bridge between heaven and earth. As a Christian, I find your accusation quite offensive. And please point out to me the chapter and verse of Christ's teachings that I am disobeying by advocating for more faithful relationships in Christ's Church?

    The Archbishop concludes with a quote from John Bunyan:

    ...John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, describes the Christian life as a journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. On his journey, Pilgrim is confronted by numerous decisions and many crossroads. The easy road was never the right road. This is our moment of truth...
    On this point, we agree. The easy road would be to exclude a minority group for the sake of unity. But if we did that, we would reveal ourselves as unworthy of the claim to be the sacrament, the outward and visible sign, of Jesus Christ, who has set the prisoners free. Will we be Christians, or will be just another exclusive club? This is indeed our moment of truth.


    UPDATE: The formatting problems have been corrected and the missing text has been added in Abp. Akinola's original letter. The additions are now included in Thinking Anglican's copy, to which I linked at the beginning of this post.

    Friday, August 17, 2007

    From Armagh: "Roll Away the Boulders"

    A sermon preached by the Most Reverend Alan Harper, Archbishop of Armagh, adresses a number of topics. Drawing from the text appointed for the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, he uses the image of rolling away the stone.

    The first boulder he identifies as needing to be rolled away is biblioatry:

    ...There is, for example, the impediment or boulder of Bibliolatry: the business of mistaking the Word of God for a mere text.

    The sublime evangelist St John makes clear from the very beginning of his testimony that the Word of God is incarnate and personified. “The Word” is “He”, not “It”.

    The words of the scriptures describe and explore the experience of human witnesses in their attempts to set down what each has known and seen of the action of God in the world. Those written words include, pre-eminently, accounts of the experience and understanding of those who walked the roads of Palestine with Jesus himself. The Gospels are pre-eminent in informing our encounter with the living truth of Jesus Christ. Thus it is “He”, the incarnate Word of God, He alone who is worthy of worship, not the text, which tells of the experience of those who knew, loved and came to worship Him.

    The Word of God is not only living, He is dynamic, that is endued with power, and his work continues. John, the Gospeller, concluded his gospel with these words:

    There are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were to be written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

    In other words, the activity and therefore the unfolding revelation of God go on beyond the written text. Such activity includes the actions of those who, in Paul’s words and theology constitute “the Body of Christ”, the Spirit filled entity, changing and deepening its experience of the love of God over 20 centuries.

    They also include direct actions of grace, the prevenient action of the living God, forging ahead, calling into new experiences of the Way, the Truth and the Life those who are the contemporary agents of incarnation, that is to say, the People of God, the Church.

    Bibliolatry is a boulder threatening to obscure the dynamic and contemporary truth of the resurrection. It is also the mother of dogmatic fundamentalism. Love for the scriptures is tainted when scripture and not God becomes the object of worship...
    The second boulder is "division and disunity within the Body":

    ...Often, when the Church finds itself immersed in controversy, the proposition is advanced that one may never sacrifice truth for unity. So simplistic a mantra misses the point.

    Where unity is compromised so is a fuller experience of truth in all its wholeness. This is not to say that unity guarantees truth, but rather that disunity guarantees that aspects of the whole truth are concealed or discounted. This is so because one has deliberately chosen to cut oneself off from such aspects of truth as may have been vouchsafed, through the Holy Spirit, to those from whom one chooses to withhold the hand of acceptance.

    Furthermore, let us suppose that, in the particular position you hold, you are entirely right about some aspect of the faith and I am wholly wrong. If you break with me, not only will you seriously hamper your own ability to help me to understand, encounter and accept the truth, you are likely to strengthen in me my adherence to my error, and so you will have refused to be an agent of my salvation.

    Equally, although in some respect I may be wrong, it may be that there are some insights and experiences that I have which might contribute to the wholeness of your understanding of the love of God and the life of resurrection. In breaking with me you will have cut yourself off from any gift of God that I might otherwise have had the chance to share with you.

    It is not then the case that unity is maintained at the expense of truth, but rather that disunity guarantees that access to a fuller knowledge of the truth is consciously inhibited.

    I am coming to believe, with William Temple, that division is a greater sin even than heresy!
    This is the explanation for the saying,"Schism is a greater sin even than heresy." Bp. Lee of Virginia once used that quote, for which he was heartily rebuked by those in Virginia looking for excuses to leave. As explained above, I find myself agreeing with Abp. Temple.

    Abp. Harper continues by addressing the false charges of heresy that are currently being tossed around to justify the sin of schism:

    ...I have yet to meet any “leader” who does not treat with the utmost respect and indeed reverence the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. I have heard no one in this crisis deny the fundamental tenets of the faith as Anglicans have received them. Yet I have heard believing Christians attack other Christians for not believing precisely as they themselves believe. Equally, I have heard believing Christians attack other Christians for not attaching the weight they themselves attach to this biblical text compared with that.

    This is not the way of Christ; it is the way of fallen humanity. It is a boulder of our own creation and I do not know who will help us to roll it away...
    The Abp. reflects on the proposed Anglican Covenant:

    ...Some fear, and I am among them, that an Anglican Covenant, unless it is open and generous and broad, may simply become a further means of obstruction: a boulder, rather than a lever to remove what obscures and impedes our access to the truth that sets us free...
    He closes with words that I think we all need to take to heart:

    ...Throughout history the way of the Church has been strewn with boulders of her own making. Those boulders conceal from us what God has already done and is continuing to do. They are boulders compounded of pride, hypocrisy and conceit, envy, hatred and malice and all uncharitableness.

    From such things, good Lord, deliver us! And deliver especially this tortured Anglican Communion of Churches.

    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    Bishop Rucahana of Rwanda: "The Satanic Behaviour of the Whites"

    EpiScope points us to an article from AllAfrica:

    ...Bishop John Rucahana - Anglican head of the Shyira Diocese said the current disagreements in the Anglican Church were caused by the ordination of the homosexual bishops by the American Episcopal Church...

    ..."It is them that abandoned the faith, the law and doctrine of the church. They also do not believe in the teachings of the bible", Bishop Rucahana said Tuesday in a lengthy interview on state radio.

    "Their behaviours do not conform to the religious conduct of the Anglican church because it is them that ordained homosexuals as bishops not Africans".

    Bishop Rucahana said the Anglican Church in Rwanda will not be pushed into adopting the satanic behaviour of the "whites because they are whites". He called on the other sects to conform to the faith teachings as the problem crosscuts to them as well...
    The Anglican Mission in America, a group of former Episcopalians who broke away in 2000, claim to be under the authority of the province of Rwanda, as is Bp. Rucahana. The Council of Bishops of the AMiA consists of five white men.

    There is still some disagreement in regards to if they are part of the Communion or not. Consequently, the Caucasian AMiA bishops were not invited to Lambeth, which seems to be the issue that has Bp. Rucahana so worked up.

    However, the Rwanda-based AMiA is a Common Cause Partner of the Anglican Communion Network, a group that has threatened to break away from TEC for four years, but has not yet done so.

    I have one question for Bishop Rucahana:

    Right Reverend Sir,

    Is my behavior satanic because I am white, or is it satanic because I believe the Church should encourage more faithful relationships?

    Since the bishop may be a bit busy giving follow-up interviews for the next few days, maybe a member of the AMiA or the Network can check with their leaders and get back to me.


    The Gift of Hope

    A compilation of postcards sent to PostSecret:


    Tuesday, August 14, 2007

    To Those Claiming Episcopalians Are Not Christians

    I commend to you an essay entitled I Object! by the Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix Ariz. Here's part of it:

    ...I was reminded of this common experience the other day when I read an increasingly common meme on some of the Anglican blogs that the Episcopal Church is no longer recognizably Christian. The argument most typically states that since the Presiding Bishop has made a statement that the hearer disagrees with or that doesn’t demonstrate a suitable doctrinal basis of the Christian faith, the Presiding Bishop is accused and summarily judged to be a “heretic” or more commonly a person who has repudiated Jesus and thus an apostate. I’m not willing to agree to any of the characterizations by the way, but I skip over their refutation because it’s the next step in the argument that I find most troubling. That step is to claim that since the Presiding Bishop has made a statement that the writer objects to, the millions of people who belong to the Episcopal Church are also therefore heretics and/or apostates who have materially repudiated Jesus.

    It’s the argument that “as goes the Presiding Bishop, so goes the Episcopal Church” with which I find fault. The Presiding Bishop is not a form of a Pope who is recognized to speak authoritatively or infallibly for the Episcopal Church. She or he is simply the bishop who is elected by the other bishops to chair the meetings of the House of Bishops, and in recent times to oversee the administrative functioning of the Episcopal Church. So an argument that claims that any views of the Presiding Bishop are necessarily normative for the other bishops much less the whole of the Episcopal Church is just wrong. It’s the equivalent to saying that because the President of the United States makes a claim, all Americans now believe what he has said...

    ...Now, should the primatial authority of the Episcopal Church authorize a new Prayer Book that clearly and intentionally repudiates the sovereignty of Jesus, or denies the Doctrine of the Trinity or rejects the Creeds and other historic formulations of the universal Church, then I would agree that the Episcopal Church is no longer a church and that it has come time to leave for a place that is authentically Christian. But I do not see that such a thing has happened. At most you can argue that Episcopal Church has been overly tolerant of local option and/or questionable teaching by its members, but it has never authoritatively denied Christ...
    Thank you, Dean Knisely, for stating this so clearly.

    Keep this essay in mind the next time you hear someone making yet another broadside attack on TEC. It is a weak argument, unsubstantiated by facts, and reveals that there must be ulterior motives for launching it.


    Monday, August 13, 2007

    Faith and Belief

    What is faith? What is belief? Are they the same?

    Last Sunday's epistle from the letter to the Hebrews was cause for me to ask those questions once again. It was also cause for me to dig out my copy of Christian Believing by Urban T. Holmes and John H. Westehoff. This was a volume of the previous Church's Teaching Series. I often find it to be an excellent resource. If you want to learn more about it, The Anglican Scotist offers a good review. What follows includes a paraphrase of chapter 2 of Holmes and Westerhoff's book, entitled What Can We Believe?

    Many philosophers and theologians have suggested that faith is the basis of all knowledge. One example of this is St. Augustine of Hippo, who presented the idea of "faith seeking understanding." What Augustine is suggesting is that faith must be present in order to know anything. In other words, one must assume, or have faith, in the trustworthiness of the person, thing or idea in order to have a foundation from which to seek further knowledge.

    We see this most clearly in the way children learn. For their early years, they place their faith in their parents. They are not intellectually advanced enough to understand how things work, and their limited moral development requires guidance as to what they should do. So, they put their faith, their trust, in their parents. From that foundation of faith, they can then begin to understand the world around them.

    Faith seeking understanding.

    Now, when we bring the idea of faith into contemporary Christianity, we run into a problem. Unfortunately, the word “faith” has become understood by many Christians as a synonym for “belief.” Consequently, the test of being a "real" Christian has become that you hold the right set of beliefs.

    I think we need to sort out this confusion.

    Holmes and Westerhoff suggest that seekers of God begin with two basic questions. The first is “Is there a God?” That question requires a yes or no answer. To ‘have faith” is to answer yes to this question.

    The second question is “What is God?” That is a question of belief, and the answer is going to be complex, and always inadequate. Beliefs are intellectual expressions of our faith. They cannot contain God. They may dance very close, but as with any statement about the nature of God, we have to add, "But God is much more than this."

    Another way Holmes and Westerhoff suggest we might define religious belief is to say that belief is what we predicate of God. Most of you probably remember learning about predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives. They are the noun or the adjective that follow the verb in a sentence. For instance, if we say “Jesus is the Son of God”, Son of God is the predicate nominative, or the belief we are stating. If we say “God is good,” then “good” is the predicate adjective, or the belief we have about the character of God. These are both belief statements.

    A faith statement would be “God is.” Nothing more. God exists. That is all we have to say yes to if we desire to begin seeking understanding, of growing our relationship, with God.

    Faith has an absolute quality that belief does not. Either you have faith, or you don’t. Either you answer yes or no. There’s no such thing as partial faith.

    Beliefs, on the other hand, tend to shift depending on the time in history we are in and the cultural setting of the belief system. They also vary according to the abilities of the person. A child’s beliefs will not be the same as an adult.

    Beliefs are important, don’t get me wrong. It is our beliefs, our understanding built upon our faith, that guides our actions. But we can allow a diversity of beliefs, of understandings, within our community. It is our faith in God that unites us.

    Christianity is not built on intellectual ideas. It is about having a relationship with the living God. Much like children have faith in their parents, we begin by placing our faith in God. And the first step in establishing such a relationship is to say yes to God. Over time, if we nurture this relationship built on faith, our understanding will grow as well.


    Saturday, August 11, 2007

    Lutherans Adopt Local Option, Postpone Final Decision

    Following up on our previous discussion of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, it appears something significant may be happening in regards to their stance on human sexuality matters, but exactly what that something is remains unclear. News reports are sketchy, at best.

    On Thursday, the Assembly voted to refer all memorials (resolutions) on same-sex blessings to the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality, which will develop an official statement to be presented to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

    Standards for rostered leaders was also a topic discussed. This was in regards to gay and lesbian clergy currently serving in the Lutheran Church. 83 of these clergy introduced themselves to the Assembly on Wednesday. A resolution called for also referring this matter to the Task Force. A substitute resolution called for an immediate change of policy. The discussion was to be continued on Friday.

    The news regarding Friday and today is limited to two brief press reports, which seem to contradict each other.

    Kendall points us to the first news story; Ban upheld on ELCA clergy's gay relationships:

    Voting members at an assembly of the nation's largest Lutheran denomination on Friday rejected an effort by the Greater Milwaukee Synod and 20 other synods to end a ban on homosexual clergy who are in committed relationships.

    However, Bishop Craig Johnson of Minneapolis kept the possibility of change alive by introducing a resolution that would allow congregations, bishops, regional synodical councils and the national presiding bishop to jointly allow exceptions to the ban case by case...
    It appears that some variation of Bp. Johnson's resolution was approved, according to a brief MSNBC article under a headline that conflicts with the previous one; Lutherans to allow pastors in gay relationships:

    Clergy members who are in homosexual relationships will be able to serve as pastors, the largest U.S. Lutheran body said Saturday.

    The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America passed a resolution at its annual assembly urging bishops to refrain from disciplining pastors who are in “faithful committed same-gender relationships.”

    The resolution passed by a vote of 538-431.
    More on this when the dust settles and we can find a few more details.


    UPDATE: Progressive Involvement offers us the wording of the motion by Bishop Paul Landahl of Chicago which was passed by the Assembly:

    Resolved, that in an effort to continue as a church in moral deliberation without further strife and pain to its members the churchwide assembly prays, urges, and encourages synods, synodical bishops, and the presiding bishop to refrain from and demonstrate restraint in disciplining those congregations and persons who call into the rostered ministry otherwise-qualified candidates who are in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship, and be it further

    Resolved, that the churchwide assembly prays, urges, and encourages synods, synodical bishops, and the presiding bishop to refrain from and demonstrate restraint in disciplining those rostered leaders in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship who have been called and rostered in this church.
    Thanks, Susan Kay.

    Check the comments for links to more news reports.

    An Interview with the Archbishop of York

    From The Religion Report:

    ...Stephen Crittenden: Or if you're going to have an alternative Lambeth Conference, you can't pretend at the same time that you're not pushing the whole communion towards schism, can you?

    John Sentamu: You can't. You just can't. That to me is the logic, and the Windsor process was very clear of the need first of all for the Episcopal Church as well as the church in Canada, to actually express regret. But you know it went on also and said that those Primates in other provinces should also desist from going into the other people's provinces, and that hasn't actually been observed yet, and it was re-emphasised again at the Primates' meeting in Tanzania. So my view is to say to both sides, 'Come on, hold your fire. Let's get together the communion and gather at Canterbury and go through our conversation properly with Bible study, prayer, and reflection. And don't cut yourself off at this particular point, when what is needed is listening, is discernment, is holding on to the very basic beliefs which we've all got.' And I want to say the only way that I may not turn up to a meeting is if suddenly everybody was saying that the Lambeth Conference is going to redefine the doctrine of salvation or the doctrine of the nature of Christ, or the doctrine of creation. Those are not on the agenda. Everybody believes those truths...


    Thursday, August 09, 2007

    Police Investigation of Don Armstrong Launched

    From KRCC News in Colorado Springs:

    The Colorado Springs Police are investigating Reverend Don Armstrong for embezzlement, and District Attorney John Newsome (pictured) says a special prosecutor may be appointed.
    Listen to the report here.

    A tip of the saturno to Dubious Distinction.


    Mark Lawrence Re-elected in South Carolina

    Old news, but some folks seem interested in talking about it, so here's a thread for that conversation.

    Here's the Episcopal Life story. Note this part:

    ...On March 8, Lawrence again wrote to the Standing Committees of the Episcopal Church to clarify his position about the diocese's continuing membership in the Episcopal Church.

    "I have been told that some diocesan Standing Committees have graciously offered to reconsider their denial of consent to my election as the XIV Bishop of South Carolina, if they only have assurance of my intention to remain in The Episcopal Church," he wrote. "Although I previously provided assurance of my intention, this has not been sufficient for some Standing Committees, which are earnestly seeking to make a godly discernment."

    "As I stated at the walkabout in Charleston on September 9, 2006, and again in a statement written on 6 November 2006, I will make the vows of conformity as written in the Book of Common Prayer and the Constitution & Canons, (III.11.8). I will heartily make the vows conforming ' the doctrine, discipline, and worship' of the Episcopal Church, as well as the trustworthiness of the Holy Scriptures. So to put it as clearly as I can, my intention is to remain in The Episcopal Church."
    South Carolina has been very careful this time around to do everything by the book. Note that they did not send a representative to the last Network meeting. That is significant. They really want this man as their bishop.

    The current interest in the supposedly non-canonical Virginia consents for Bp. Johnson is a red herring, it seems to me, and really doesn't do South Carolina's cause much good. It reinforces the "militant rebel" image, which gives good reason to refuse consents. The Lawrence consents lacked signatures. Quite different from lacking proper wording. Apples and oranges. Note that that argument did not come out of SC, but San Joaquin. I cannot recall anyone from SC pushing it.

    If you are interested in learning more about the consent controversy, including the wording of the various consents, Lionel Deimel offers us a thorough examination of this matter here.

    During his attempt to get consents last time, Lawrence danced around the question of his loyalty to TEC. That cost him the consents. However, note the quote above. He made a very clear statement. He declared his loyalty to TEC, and stated that he wouldn't take SC out of TEC.

    Now that he has said that, the only way to refuse consents is to believe that he is a liar. Personally, I'm not ready to make such a claim.

    Having read some of his writing, and followed some of the stories about him, I do not see any comparison between Mark Lawrence and Don Armstrong as being valid. Lawrence seems to be a good priest. Very conservative, yes. Network even. And there is a good possibility that eventually SC will leave TEC, and Lawrence will go with them. But that is not an absolute. I see no reason to give that diocese an extra push, do you?

    But, leaving or not leaving is speculation. Looking at the facts as presented, I cannot see any solid reasons why Mark Lawrence won't get the consents this time. I'll be very surprised if he does not.


    Wednesday, August 08, 2007

    Armstrong Found Guilty of Theft

    From the Colorado Springs Gazette:

    An ecclesiastical court of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado unanimously found the Rev. Donald Armstrong guilty today of stealing nearly $400,000 from his Colorado Springs parish and of using discretionary funds improperly...

    ...The court, made up of both clergy and lay church members, deliberated for eight days before issuing its ruling. Both sides have 30 days to respond before the court issues a sentencing recommendation that could be as severe as defrocking Armstrong.

    During the trial, a forensic auditor hired by the diocese presented evidence that Armstrong diverted church funds to pay for his children’s college education and to cover personal expenses such as cell phone bills and car payments. A board member for a trust fund that Armstrong used for his kids said those funds were forbidden for such purposes.

    The court pronounced Armstrong guilty of six counts that also included failing to report $548,097 in income to the Internal Revenue Service, receiving illegal loans of $122,479 and failing to maintain proper accounting books...
    Background for this judgment can be found here, here and here. The Motion for Summary Judgment, which includes the evidence against Armstrong presented at the Ecclesiastical Trial, can be found here.

    Note that Armstrong left TEC and joined Nigeria the very same day that the evidence against him was released by the Diocese of Colorado.

    I hope that the Primates are paying attention. The result of some of them encouraging such "church jumping" is that a thief (and that is not hyperbole anymore folks; he's been convicted) can switch churches, and avoid being held accountable for his actions.


    UPDATE: A press release from the Diocese of Colorado can be found here. Episcopal Life offers this report, which includes the following paragraph:

    ...Armstrong and some 340 members of the 2,500-member congregation voted to join the Nigeria-based Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) as Grace CANA Church in May and continue to occupy the parish's property. Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church continues to meet at nearby First Christian Church until a civil lawsuit filed with the El Paso County District Court is decided...

    Prickles and Goo

    I don't know about you, but I need a change of pace.

    So, courtesy of fs and freshminds, we bring you;

    The Alan Watts Theater.

    Yes, Alan Watts was once an Episcopal priest. Go ahead and list him along with Jack Spong, Jim Pike and Matt Fox as yet more evidence that ALL Episcopalians are nothing more than apostate pagans practising an alien religion. I'll give you Watts for free, just because I'm such a nice heretic.

    So, are you a prickle or a goo, or do you simply need to adjust your focus?


    Tuesday, August 07, 2007

    ELCA Churchwide Assembly Begins in Chicago

    The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a 4.8 million member body with whom the Episcopal Church is in full communion, will be meeting this week in Chicago. The daily schedule and news reports can be found here.

    From the ELCA Presiding Bishop:

    According to the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), biblical literacy, education and human sexuality will be among some of the significant decision items to face the 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. At a news conference here Aug. 6, Hanson said worship will be the centerpiece of the assembly.

    The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of the ELCA, is meeting here Aug. 6-11 at Navy Pier's Festival Hall. About 2,000 people are participating, including 1,071 ELCA voting members. The theme for the biennial assembly is "Living in God's Amazing Grace: Thanks be to God!"...

    The Assembly will consider 125 Memorials (resolutions). About half of them will be on the topic of human sexuality. It is expected that most of these will be referred to the task force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality, as the ELCA's official statement on human sexuality is not scheduled to be presented until the 2009 Assembly in Minneapolis.

    However, there is a surge of interest in responding in some way at this Assembly to the removal of an openly gay pastor from the clergy roster of the ELCA.

    Bradley Schmeling has been the pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church, Atlanta, Georgia since 2000. When he announced that he was in a committed relationship, his bishop asked him to resign. When he refused, disciplinary proceedings were initiated. A disciplinary committee upheld the bishop's decision, as did the Committee on Appeals.

    The response from the people of St. John's is represented in this statement:

    ...John Ballew, president of St John's congregation, said, "St John's is going to stay St John's. Church service this and every Sunday is at 10:30 am. We are going to go to Churchwide Assembly in August, to witness to our ELCA the costs of this decision, based on an absurd policy. This is not just about us and our wonderful pastor; this is about all those called to minister to God's people, who lead exemplary lives, who provide a model for faithful, loving companionship with each other and with Christ"...
    Bradley Schmeling and St. John's Lutheran will hold a press conference today at 3:00 in Chicago. Also, the rumor is that 80 Lutheran pastors will come out today. Looking at the schedule of events, Schmeling's press conference seems to be the most likely venue for such a dramatic event.

    Stay tuned.


    UPDATE: Goodsoil is offering two booklets to those gathered for Assembly:

    A Place Within My Walls offers devotions for each day of the Assembly. The stories of eleven gay and lesbian clergy and two seminarians are included. The booklet concludes with the names of 83 gay and lesbian pastors who are introducing themselves to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

    Ministry Rooted in Gospel tells the stories of some of the congregations and ministries in which these pastors serve.

    The Chicago Sun-Times report on this can be found here.