27/09/2008

Synod, suffering and glory


Bishop Michael Jackson

The Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Jackson's Presidential Address to Clogher Diocesan Synod 2008





(Bishop Jackson's talk at last year's MCU conference 'Anglicanism, blessing or curse - the Irish experience' is here.)





Extracts:


Synodical life generally is fundamental to the life of the Church of
Ireland in a way which is consultative, progressive, proactive and courageous.
When, as indeed we experience for ourselves, the synodical principle is used to
good effect, it is a tremendous force for cohesion, friendship, solidarity and
good sense focused on the future. ... But I also have to say this: when,
however, the synodical principle is distorted by any wilful pushing of sectional
agendas, by the opportunistic defiance of the spirit of openness, and the
downright human discourtesy of content, we are, ladies and gentlemen Members of
Synod, in a different world. And we want to stay away from that different
world.
...
The Statement and Vision [of the Bishops of the Church of Ireland] break down into three parts: - Worship and Spiritual Growth- Unity and Dialogue- Living God’s Kingdom and Serving the World ... The wider stated purpose is one of developing growing – that is, actively changing, not static or resisting – communities of faith where the Kingdom of God is discerned, experienced, shared and made known. Maybe I have missed something, but did Jesus Christ not come, was Jesus Christ not designedly sent by the Father to bring in the Kingdom of God, to give to the human body and soul a healing and an enlivening touch of divine reality?
...

of John14:6: 'I am the way, the truth and the life'. ... The fundamental
point made by Jesus is that it is not possible to bypass either (a) this way of
suffering or (b) the person of Jesus Christ who is the earthly embodiment in
human form of God.
...
There are, of course, from earliest days many reasons for disunity and it
is from these early days of the first five centuries that we derive the language
of division and malfunction among Christians. I mean words such as: heretical,
schismatic, heterodoxy over against orthodoxy, and many other technical terms
which had largely passed into the mists of history. Words like these are again
doing the rounds. They are used rather loosely, rather too readily, in my
opinion, and with a degree of superficiality and destructiveness probably not
even recognized by those who give them voice but they corrode the morale, the
trust and the loyalty of church members.
...
Any of us committed to or involved in this field of church life realize
that unity in Christ is not an ‘add-on’ but is an urgent imperative embedded in
being a Christian. At the same time, we sense that dialogue is essential.
...
This linking of suffering and glory is not ... something confined to the
pages of Holy Scripture. It is written deep in the hearts of everyone here and
of everyone in the parishes which we represent. Whether it be a fireside chair
once occupied but now no longer; whether it be a place at the kitchen table once
buzzing with eager conversation, but now no longer; whether it be someone with
whom we worked all our lives, no longer now sharing with us a few words in the
evening before we both head for home – in our own individual lives, one by one,
we know both the suffering and the glory. And this is precisely why the human
experience of Jesus Christ, the child of God and the child of Bethlehem, is so
precious and so powerful for us. It connects heaven and earth. It holds together
life and death. It gives voice to both glory and suffering. And it does so
because, under God, it unites cross and resurrection. And this is why we, in our
day, must respond to that call to follow, and in following, to be sent where we
never expected to have to go – in service and in mission to individuals like
ourselves to whom we belong in community.

25/09/2008

Corruption in Upper Shire Diocese


Richard Bushili, Nyasa Times

From Anglican Information

Corruption in Anglican Upper Shire Diocese, Malawi.


Bishops fail to address the needs of vacant sees.



Reported independently to us by e-mail but see also the Nyasa Times online website, 24th September.



Richard Msosa, the administrator of the Anglican diocese of Upper Shire, previously the diocese of discredited former Archbishop Bernard Malango, has reported that the Diocesan Standing Committee has terminated the employment of Richard Bushili, Education Secretary for theft of donor monies put at Malawi Kwatcha 1000,000 (£3,700 $6,800 Euro 4,600).

Msosa reports that, in addition to the cash, Bushili had been selling off equipment donated for school use such as text-books and pens. Much of the money and the donated equipment has come from the English Diocese of Birmingham which has been a partner diocese of Malawi for many years.

This incident is typical of the reason why donor monies are now drying up in Malawi with various bodies withholding their grants. This will no doubt continue whilst there is so much uncertainty both in Upper Shire and Lake Malawi dioceses. The blame for the impasse must ultimately lie with the Provincial House of Bishops for neglect of the two vacant dioceses, for intimidation of clergy and people, for fiddling elections and for seeking to force their own unpopular candidates on the people and clergy. The bishops should not be surprised if they are nowadays portrayed as self-serving bullies who have little concern for their charges.

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION says this must surely be an overstatement, or at least may not apply to all the bishops, but consistently we receive communications to this effect. There is an urgent need for the bishops and in particular acting Dean of the Province Albert Chama to address the situation properly. He must use the correct synodical procedures, communicate directly with the people and ensure that democratic decisions are upheld. The situation in the two dioceses is reaching crisis point. The Nyasa Times article concludes ‘Malango (the last Archbishop) is often accused of engineering the problems’. Albert Chama is usually portrayed as his protégé and as being uncomfortably close to him. If Chama does not resolve the growing crisis soon he must, like his mentor, be replaced.

From Anglican Information

24/09/2008

The last chapter?




Where do books go when they die?


For a change of topic,


I've been reading an article in the New York magazine about the end of the publishing business as we know it. The article has a lot about the travails of individuals I've never heard of. But, leaving them aside, the problems seem to be:


  • Large advances paid to authors and large losses when they don't deliver

  • Plummeting numbers of independent booksellers and

  • The demise of Borders leaving Barnes and Noble with a dominant position in High Street sales (or should that be Main Street?)

  • The pulping of around 40% of published books

  • Print to order

  • Amazon

  • e-readers

The article is in large part a puff for a HarperCollins spin-off HarperStudio. It offers writers no advance and 50:50 split on profits. They are also embracing e-publishing (seeing print to order as transitional technology).


I had a look at the Sony e-reader in the shop. At £200 I wasn't going to buy it. But I was taken with it - it takes MS Word and pdf files as well as ebook formats. You can't take notes on it though which I think a significant drawback. The screen is much easier on the eyes than the normal computer screen.


Amazon's Kindle (not available in the UK and the Amazon site says interestingly ' Currently unavailable. We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock.') is consistently described as 'clunky'. It has a qwerty keyboard, net access and wireless download, but it also has a propriatory operating system which doesn't deal with pdf files very well and its terms of use forbid transferring eBooks to someone else or using them on a different device.


There's also the older, and more expensive iLead reader. You can make notes on this one, but it doesn't seem to support MS Word.


I guess these are transitory products and the next generation will have better connectivity and functionality and I for one will be very tempted (not least because of the ever increasing number of .pdf copies of out-of-copyright publications available through google).

On the other hand, I also read another article bemoaning the impact of internet use on the reading habits of the young.


Nielsen has gauged user habits and screen experiences for years, charting
people's online navigations and aims, using eye-tracking tools to map how vision
moves and rests. In this study, he found that people took in hundreds of pages
"in a pattern that's very different from what you learned in school." It looks
like a capital letter F. At the top, users read all the way across, but as they
proceed their descent quickens and horizontal sight contracts, with a slowdown
around the middle of the page. Near the bottom, eyes move almost vertically, the
lower-right corner of the page largely ignored. It happens quickly, too. "F for
fast," Nielsen wrote in a column. "That's how users read your precious
content."


The F-pattern isn't the only odd feature of online reading that
Nielsen has uncovered in studies conducted through the consulting business
Nielsen Norman Group (Donald A. Norman is a cognitive scientist who came from
Apple; Nielsen was at Sun Microsystems). A decade ago, he issued an "alert"
entitled "How Users Read on the Web." It opened bluntly: "They don't."


The author, Mark Bauerlein, argues for 'slow' reading of novels, poems, text books, and for students to be taught how to read extended passages slowly. Fast screen reading becomes part of the way people think in general, and the way they approach other, non-literate, areas of life.


This is all part of the social revolution which follows the technological changes of digitization. Something new will come out of it and the only sure prediction is that it won't be whatever we think it might be.


Which makes speculation cheap, easy and hours of harmless, profitless fun.


I wonder what it will do for spirituality as the disciplines of prayer and slow study are washed away (I suppose the equivalent was the end of the monastries). I'm not arguing that prayer and slow study are normal, only that the spirituality of those (like myself) who struggle with such discipline is to some degree sustained by those who succeed.


How can worship evoke a sense of God if our eyes are continually flitting from one headline to key word to illustration? Again, most worship in my experience is poor at evoking a sense of God (not infrequently actively militating against it) nonetheless the occasional experience of peace or of the closeness of God has been sufficient to carry me, and I suspect others, through the long parched periods.


Perhaps I need not worry. I guess spiritual experience has always been a minority interest and probably always will be. Perhaps Pentecostal enthusiasm is already the answer to my questions - worship for the digital age of quick readers.


I feel old tonight.











23/09/2008

Is there hope in Zimbabwe?

A new beginning in Zimbabwe, or has Zanu-PF simply bought a little time?


Sokwanale reports a rise of attacks on MDC members in some parts of the country (here) and also an increase in farm invasions (here).

The last gasp of a party which can see power slipping away from it? Opportunist use of the time between signing the agreement and agreeing the details? Or simply cynical stringing the MDC along?

Recovery will take a genaration.

Botswana: Anglicans Seek Judge's Intervention

Canon Dr Howard Moffat, Canon Professor James Amanze, The Very Rev Dr Mongezi David Guma, Bishop Musonda T S Mwamba, Archdeacon South Fr Andrew Mudereri, and Archdeacon North Fr Archford Musodza


From Mmegi The Reporter, Gabarone
By Bame Piet

Divine intervention has failed and Anglicans have now resorted to the High Court to resolve their differences.

Justice Key Dingake spent the whole of Friday morning listening to a case in which seven priests are challenging the Anglican Church Diocese of Botswana and Bishop Trevor Mwamba for revoking their licences last year.


The seven are claiming unfair dismissal. The Diocese is arguing that the canons give the bishop power to revoke a priest's licence. Both sides have agreed to accept the determination of the court despite the wish of the Judge that they might settle their differences amicably.

==========

This seems to be another occasion where the divisions and conflict in Zimbabwe have slopped over into neighbouring Dioceses but the details are unclear to me.

Time to Credentialise






From Pioneer Press

The small church was proud of being open to all people — including homosexuals.

But, unfortunately, that wasn't enough. When it tried to hire a
lesbian to be pastor of the church last summer, it discovered it needed to prove
its openness.

The church is pursuing official certification that it is welcoming to gays, lesbians and bisexual and transgendered people.

"We have some people who are not happy" about seeking a third party's approval, said Edie Seefeldt, chair of a task force at Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul Park.

If it receives the designation, the 200-member congregation will be
hopping onto a pink-triangle bandwagon.

Interest in the GLBT certification is soaring — with the number of America's certified churches tripling in two years to about 3,100.


About 20 denominations are said to have such a scheme (though, of course, this is America where there are thousands of denominations).

The Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries have something called 'Candidacy and Credentialing' (it's not in the OED so it doesn't really exist).
All persons who can demonstrate that they are “in jeopardy” because of policies
of discrimination against LGBT people or practices of intimidation or untruth in
Lutheran church bodies around the world are invited to make application for
admission to candidacy with the ELM.

And the news is that

Clergy who participated in the ordination of Lionel Ketola, the first married
queer man to be ordained in Canada, received a censure from their bishop. The
bishop also announced that he will investigate bringing further charges against
Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Newmarket, Ontario for calling Pastor Ketola.
Lionel is Associate Pastor, deployed as an Ambassador of Reconciliation (2 Cor.
5:16-21) in the ELCIC, to further the work of full inclusion in the ELCIC.


Funny, we've surely been here before, uncertificated.

Support for Bob Duncan

The Most Rev Benjamin Nzimbi






The Most Rev Benjamin Nzimbi (Kenya) has added his name to those supporting the departing Bob. The Most Rev Peter Akinola (Nigeria) is said to have also signed his support though his name does not yet appear on the Global South website.

Most Rev’d Dr John Chew has issued a statement:

The Province of Southeast Asia will continue to support, remain in full
communion and prayerfully explore steps to strengthen our shared life with
Anglican leaders like Bishop Bob Duncan and the Diocese of Pittsburgh as well as
other TEC bishops who respect the mind of the Communion and remain faithful to
the teaching of Scripture as expressed in the tradition and life of the Church.
We urge those who have not chosen to ‘walk apart’ to work actively and sincerely
with the Windsor-Covenant Process and other measures agreed at the Communion
level. This is probably the only remaining opportunity to bind the Communion
together out of this crisis which will strengthen our future common life,
witness in the world and our place as an Anglican ecclesial family within the
One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Note the place of the covenant. Chew shares Gomez's language about urgency. It increasingly looks as though the covenant (and I still argue that there will be a covenant) will not bind the communion together. Rather it will be adopted by conservative Provinces to the exclusion of the rest. It will be constitute a claim to be the true Anglicans. Those who will not sign will thereby have walked apart from the true faith.

Thus the covenant will work as a means to expel the North Americans. But the line will be drawn elsewhere and it is not clear to me which side of the line each Province will fall.

Now let's count the Provinces: those aligned with the Global South will sign. Those who share North American liberalism will not. The battle will be over the remainder. What will the CofE do?

Destitution in Zimbabwe: God our Refuge

Queuing for food in Zimbabwe

From Anglican Information

We have been asked to circulate the following Pastoral Letter from The Rt Rev’d Sebastian Bakare, Bishop of Harare, Zimbabwe.

Readers will recall that Bishop Bakare has the challenging task of leading the Anglican Diocese of Harare whilst the former bishop Nolbert Kunonga continues to harass church members, occupy the cathedral and prevent access to churches. It is hoped that Kunonga’s reign of terror will soon come to an end in the new political climate in Zimbabwe. Kunonga continues to be a strong supporter and political mouthpiece of President Robert Mugabe. Kunonga has enjoyed a very close working relationship with Bernard Malango the previous Archbishop of the Central African Province.

Apart from Zimbabwe, Kunonga is still causing problems in Botswana where he has stirred seven dissident priests to challenge in court the authority of their bishop the Rt Rev’d Trevor Mwamba. We carried the full background story on 12th & 15th November 2007 and it is available for reference on our website.

============================================

Website: http://www.dioceseofhararecpca.wordpress.com/

E-mail contact: avondaleparish.cpca@gmail.com

Church of the Province of Central Africa

The Diocese of Harare

From the Bishop of Harare

P.O. Box HR7331

Harare Pastoral Letter September 2008

Theme: God Our Refuge

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

I am still under shock as I write this Pastoral letter. A young mother and her son about 10 years old appeared at the doorstep of our flat recently asking for food. After more than 40 years as a priest I know the difference between a professional street beggar and a hungry person genuinely asking for food. She was no street beggar at all. Going by her appearance she had not seen water to bathe for a long time.

This young mother represents many others in our community today in Zimbabwe. As you all know, most people have been without running water in their homes for months, let alone, electricity, and there are no affordable food items in the shops. Cholera, a waterborne disease, has claimed several lives in Chitungwiza. Children are being sent home from schools because teachers like all workers are underpaid. One does not have to speak about unemployment any more, because the majority of our work force is at home as they cannot afford bus fare to work. Housebreaking and other criminal activities have increased. In short we have been messed up by a few men and women who have ravaged our economy through corruption and patronage.

As voters we have done our best but our participation in the elections has been fruitless. Good governance, justice and peace remain a pipe dream for is all in Zimbabwe. Selfish leadership has no room for the neighbour. Such kind of leadership should be reminded of the words of Job:"Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I will depart".

In a situation like this the following prayer may be of help to you:

Jesus Christ, when scorn and shame besiege us and hope is veiled in
grief, hold us in your wounded hands and make your face shine on us again, for
you are our Lord and God. Amen.

We refer you to Ps.31 for further personal reflection.

Diocese of Rochester

As many of you know my wife and I were in the United Kingdom to attend Lambeth Conference. Whilst in the UK, we took the opportunity to re-establish our diocesan link with the Diocese of Rochester. It was a happy occasion to formalise our relationship.

Apart from visiting some parishes in that diocese and staying with host families, I had the opportunity to preach in the Rochester Cathedral under the leadership of the very able Dean and a very welcoming congregation. My wife and I were very much uplifted in fellowship with so many sisters and brothers in that cathedral. At the Eucharist the intercessor prayed for "Michael, the Bishop of Rochester, Brian, the Assistant Bishop, and Sebastian, the Bishop of Harare." This was one important way of demonstrating our new relationship. Likewise we are asking our intercessors to pray for "Sebastian our Bishop, Michael Bishop of Rochester and Brian, his assistant". For your information the full names of the two bishops are: Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester and Brian Castle, Bishop of Tonbridge (Tonbridge is part of Rochester Diocese).

The Diocese of Rochester has an established Link Committee, and we are in the process of forming one. The Link committees will work together in order to strengthen our relationship. We are going to ask you to submit profiles of your parishes so as to be linked with those in Rochester. We are glad to hear that the link between Tafara and Rainham in Rochester Diocese has continued despite the temporary suspension of the link. If there are some parishes which had links with Rochester before the suspension and would like to resume them, please let us know.

While we were in Rochester Diocese, Rainham church organised a special evening prayer for Zimbabwe with colour slides taken by Bishop Brian during his recent visit to Harare showing locked churches and open air services as well as empty supermarket shelves. It was a very touching service, especially to know the concerns expressed by our brothers and sisters in Rochester Diocese.

Lambeth Conference 2008

The Lambeth Conference is a gathering of bishops from the entire Anglican Communion which met for the first time in 1888. It meets every ten years to discuss issues of common concern in the mission of the church today. In the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury: "The chief aims of our time together are, first, that we become more confident in our Anglican identity, by deepening our awareness of how we are responsible to and for each other; and second, that we grow in energy and in enthusiasm for our task of leading the work of mission in our church."

The conference gives bishops a chance not only to get to know each other personally, but also to share stories from different parts of the world and the cultural contexts they come from. This year's conference was attended by 670 bishops out of approximately 800 bishops in the Anglican Communion. Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda did not attend.

One of the issues that came up among others was homosexuality, especially the blessing of same sex marriages and ordination of openly gays and lesbians. Lambeth's position was that homosexuality is a sensitive pastoral and divisive issue that has to be handled with care. Lambeth discussed this issue in a very responsible manner by emphasising the importance of the family bond in the Communion whereby members of one family do not have to agree on all issues but still remain a family. Contrary to the forecast by the media that the Anglican Communion was about to break up, the 670- bishops present expressed their allegiance to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Communion. It was also made clear and agreed upon, after long discussion in small groups where all the bishops were able to make an input, that the ordination of gays and lesbians and blessings of same sex marriages was to stop forthwith and the discussion about these matters was to continue.

You may have heard that several bishops met in Jerusalem prior to Lambeth expressing their unwillingness to participate at the Lambeth Conference over the issue of homosexuality. However a good number of those who met in Jerusalem also attended Lambeth to show their allegiance to Canterbury and the Anglican Communion. Even those who stayed away have not severed relationship with Canterbury.

There were many other areas of serious concern such as the political crises in Zimbabwe, Darfur and Pakistan. My wife and I were surprised and indeed moved to come across so many bishops and their spouses who were very much aware about the persecution in our diocese and assured us of their prayers. Archbishop Rowan Williams and his wife Jane personally pray for Zimbabwe daily in their chapel. They are indeed a gift to the Anglican Communion. We came home feeling very much encouraged by the solidarity we experienced at Lambeth.

We were also reminded of our responsibility in Zimbabwe to pray for other areas of conflict in the worldwide Communion. We rarely hear of such places mentioned in our intercessions. Once more we appeal to clergy to remind those who lead the prayers that the Anglican Church goes beyond our national boundaries and that we have a duty to pray for one another and especially for those in troubled areas of the world.

62nd Session of Synod

Synod was held on 29 and 30 August 2008. We want to thank you, especially those who had the opportunity to discuss the agenda before Synod in their congregations. This helped a great deal to make our deliberations at Synod more meaningful and also faster. A good number of resolutions were passed, and it is our sincere hope that they will be implemented. We do believe that your delegates have since reported back to you about the resolutions taken a Synod. We will be approaching some members to serve on various commissions to form the newly established Diocesan Council.

Chapter Appointments

We are pleased to announce the names of the new Chapter of the Cathedral of St Mary and All Saints:

Canon H. Chifunyise,

Canon T. Madeyi,

Canon D. Manyau,

Canon J. Mudowaya,

Canon F. Mutamiri (Dean),

Canon C. Tapera,

Canon W. Zhuwakino to be installed in the Cathedral in the near future.

Canons D. Nhema, M. Madziwanyika, M. Makoni, who are in active retirement
will serve as honorary canons of the Cathedral.


Ordination

God willing there will be ordination of the following candidates at Banket Church on 27 September 2008 at 9am:

Rev. Taurai Constantine Kachembere

Mr Alexander Mahlava

Mr. Naboth Manzungo

Mr. Boyman Mancama

M. Mahomed Selemani

Please pray for them and their families.

Political Agreement

The news of the deal between MDC and ZANUPF is most a most welcome development. We hope, however that the deal was motivated by and has the interests of the people at heart and that there is serious commitment to its implementation on all sides.

Your Bishop

Signed +Sebastian Harare

From Anglican Information

20/09/2008

Bye Bob


ex-bishop Duncan, Pittsburgh

The deposition of Bishop Bob Duncan, previously of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, has been much anticipated and fully covered elsewhere (Thinking Anglicans, for example).

I would just point you to responses on the Global South site.



There Mr Duncan is welcomed with open arms. He is described as a modern Athanasius (by Bishop Mouneer Anis) and welcomed as a fellow expellee by ex-bishop Robinson Cavalcanti of Brazil.



It is clear that the GAFCON crown will continue to be in communion with him as a bishop - adding one more stone to the de facto schism in Anglicanism.

But I am surprised that Archbishop Drexel Gomez should add his name so publicly to the protest against deposition. Not because of his views nor his past practice, both of which have supported American conservatives, but because of the timing. He is chairing the Covenant Design Group in Singapore.

The man put in charge of holding the communion together by means of a covenant, and who regards the covenant as so urgent that it must be pushed through at almost any cost, is openly taking sides in an internal matter of one of the Communion's provinces. There is no way that this public partisan action is compatible with his role as saviour of the communion.



Drexel should be removed from his chairmanship of the Covenant Design Group with immediate efffect.

17/09/2008

Welcome Africans as brothers and sisters


African immigrants arriving at El Medano, Tenerife

From Catholic Information Service for Africa

VIENNA, September 16, 2008 (CISA) -The Catholic Church in Europe has pledged to treat African immigrants as brothers and sisters - regardless of their legal status - in accordance with the demands of the Gospel.

Senior Church officials attending a conference in the Austrian capital also said
African and European governments should work harder to end the widespread
poverty in Africa which is forcing increasing numbers of people to attempt
dangerous journeys to Europe in search a better life.
...
The participants noted that the presence of African migrants in Europe is a
diverse and complex phenomenon, which must be confronted in a variety of spheres
- political, cultural, social and pastoral - and with the cooperation of the
various jurisdictions.

It was unanimously agreed that the situation in many African nations, with poverty, underdevelopment and the desperation of many people, is dramatic, often forcing people to undertake risky journeys to Europe.

But leaving aside how African migrants may have arrived in Europe,
they must always be treated as human beings, as brothers and sisters, just as
Jesus has commanded us, the conference agreed.


=======

Good. About time too. Now, what about getting governments to follow suit?



We have barely-regulated global finance (look at the current mess), global trade in goods, and narrow protectionism in the movement of people.


In fact anyone can go where they like if they've money. Rich Africans are very welcome. What we have is high barriers against the poor. Time that the logic of globalisation was applied to people: everyone is valued equally no matter where they live or die.

16/09/2008

Urgent? Why urgent?


Archbishop Drexel Gomez
doubling as Mephistopheles

Archbishop Drexel Gomez has set out the ugency of the task facing the Anglican Communion:

The process of finalizing an Anglican covenant needs to move forward more quickly if the Anglican Communion is to be preserved.

That was the message delivered Saturday (September 13) by West Indies Archbishop Drexel Gomez, the chairman of the group charged with formulating the pact intended to help ensure unity in basic beliefs, settle disputes, and administer discipline among historically autonomous Anglican provinces.


But why so urgent? And what is sacrificed by urgent action? After all the divisions in the church have been a long time brewing.

In 2001, in To Mend the Net, Gomez said the matter was urgent. In the Report of the Covenant Design Group (February 2007) which accompanied the Nassau draft of the covenant the matter was said to be urgent. But in neither case was any evidence of urgency given.

And now in 2008, just before the next meeting of the Covenant Design Group, the matter is said to be urgent again. It's very tiring all this urgency.
"... we are at a dangerous point in our history,” Gomez told more than 100
people attending the Festival of Faith at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in
Bladensburg, Maryland.

The danger is of division in the Anglican Church. And the only answer:
“There is nothing on the immediate horizon that offers any kind of hope to
holding the Communion together other than the covenant,” Gomez contended.
“Nothing else is on the table. If that fails, we will see only further
fragmentation and disintegration. That is not theory but reality,” he said.

...
Gomez noted that the covenant got a big boost at the 2008 Lambeth Conference
July 16-August 3 in Canterbury, where bishops meeting in “indaba” groups
overwhelmingly indicated their support for the concord, even as a small number
of liberals loudly opposed it.

That's the thing with “indaba” groups - you hear what you want to hear, and people say what they think you want to hear, and there is no clear way of measuring.
Would the Church of England support the covenant? “A majority of the bishops in
the Church of England, certainly at Lambeth, gave the indication they would
support the covenant,” said Gomez. “They would want to see some changes in the
text, but definitely were in favor of a covenant.”

Gomez gave a timetable for the next steps in creating the covenant.

He also observed that if the three moratoria did not hold then there may be no alternative to schism. But the creation of a North American Province did not seem to be included in the moratoria - he envisaged that new Province petitioning the ACC for admission into the company of covenanters and being accpeted, but only with new membership of the ACC. The ACC has already seen off an attempt to diminish its role in the Nassau draft and would still seem to be a significant target of the conservatives.

He addressed the thinking currently underway:

Significantly, the draft now under development is likely to reflect more of the
concept of mutual accountability than did the St. Andrew’s Draft, with a clearer
idea of how provinces might find themselves outside the Communion, according to
Gomez. “Without that, the covenant is meaningless,” he added.

He noted there had been complaints that the covenant was punitive and designed to discipline wayward provinces.

“From what I’ve heard, there are some bishops in [TEC] who are not at all in favor of the covenant concept. One said to me the whole objective of the covenant is to kick out [TEC] from the Communion,” Gomez said.

”That’s not the brief we were given.”

“Discipline is not meant to be something punitive, but it is to say that if you give your word, it is expected you will keep your word, and if you don’t keep your word, it means you are not willing to be held accountable for what you say and what you do.”
When asked how a province would be taken out of the Communion, Gomez replied, “The language we have used is that you place yourself outside by that action (of violating the agreements within the covenant).”


This is a key idea - Norman Doe sees it this way in his book, An Anglican Covenant, and Gomex says he was largely responsible for the controversial Appendix to the St Andrew's Draft - that if a Province is judged to have put itself outside the covenant then it is not being punished. The covenant is not punitive if exclusion results from the Province's own actions.

Makes no sense to me: if exclusion is done to a Province whilst that Province continues to defend itself and proclaim its covenantal innocence, then that looks and feels like punishment to me. I guess it all hinges on exactly how you define 'punishment'. (OED says 'The action of punishing or the fact of being punished; the infliction of a penalty in retribution for an offence; also, that which is inflicted as a penalty; a penalty imposed to ensure the application and enforcement of a law.')

Or, perhaps more harshly, it is immoral double-speak to pretend that responsibility for the punishment lies solely with the punished. Their actions may have occasioned the punishment but punishment is the action and responsibility of those who wield the necessary power.

Gomez is also clear that signing the covenant would pre-empt law suits in secular courts as means of dealing with division - a particularly sensitive issue in the US (and, increasingly, Canada) where conservatives are trying to leave the TEC and take the property with them.

If TEC signs the covenant, would it require its liberal leaders to suspend or
resolve all their lawsuits immediately?

“What we are saying with the covenant is that we are not dealing with the past. If a new situation emerges when the covenant is signed, it will certainly be contrary to the spirit of the covenant and to the actual terms of the covenant for persons to go outside of the fellowship for a resolution of disputes,” Gomez said.

“It’s contrary not only to the spirit, but also the letter, of the law because the covenant fixes the boundaries for the settling of disputes. And if you go outside of that, you are renouncing the covenant.”


Can (and would) any church renounce its right to seek redress in the law of the land where it feels it is being ripped off? It's a recipe for disaster as big as the covenant itself. So long as the seceeding group claimed a theological ground for leaving (or, at least, a conservative theological ground) it would enable any parish or diocese at odds with its bishop or Province to up and walk off with the physical property of a church. Should said bishop or Province seek to regain their property through legal means they would be acting outwith the covenant and therefore liable to exclusion from the Anglican Communion. At which point the departing group declares itself the truly Anglican body and therefore in legal possession of the property. Legal absurdity - property, trust and charity law of that land govern what is possible, not signing a covenant.

That's the thing about urgency - it becomes cover for partisan advantage. The cost of urgency is failure to work things through properly. The cost will be a framework for the Anglican Communion signed by the few on behalf of the many which will not be 'owned' by the church at large - let alone welcomed. It will reshape Anglicanism in only dimly perceived ways, and all the ways I perceive are to the detriment of Anglicanism.

But don't write it off yet. Not till the majority of Provinces have rejected it.

All change in Zimbabwe?


President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, second from left, and Morgan Tsvangirai, third from left, his new prime minister, celebrating Monday in Harare with several other African leaders. New York Times


From Anglican Information



All change in Zimbabwe? Any chance of change in the Anglican Central African Province?

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION reports with regret the death of Bishop Wilson Sitshebo, Bishop of Matabeland, Zimbabwe, on 12th September.

Wilson Sitshebo was born in 1952 and educated at St Bede’s College, Umtata. Ordained priest in 1980, after holding various positions in Zimbabwe he later became a tutor at the United College of the Ascension, Selly Oak, Birmingham, England before being elected bishop in 2001.

His death means that the Province of Central Africa loses one of its loyal sons who was never part of the Kunonga breakaway faction in Zimbabwe and was considered one of the more moderate voices on the episcopal bench. It is essential for the Province that his replacement arises out of a properly conducted election and produces a credible candidate who is not simply a protégé of one of the factions within the House of Bishops.





Harare, Zimbabawe: Today’s historic signing of a power-sharing concordat between President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai leader of the Movement for Democratic change is remarkable.

All people of good will wish and pray that the spirit of the agreement as well as the letter is followed without machination and misuse of power. It is to be hoped that this will not prove to be a vain hope.

Many with long memories recall the late Joshua Nkomo leader of the then ZAPU party whose tenure as Minister of Home Affairs in Mugabe’s cabinet ended in exile. Nkomo was outmanoeuvred by Mugabe, a historical fact of which Bishop Wilson Sitshebo was well aware.





Provincial House of Bishops: Bishop Sitshebo’s death now means that there are no less than three unfilled Provincial sees including Lake Malawi, Upper Shire, Matabeleland and a further two if the temporary custodianship of Manicaland and Harare are also taken into account.

Bishop Albert Chama of Northern Zambia and currently acting Dean of the Province must ensure that all dioceses are filled before his ambition to be elected Archbishop can come about.

Unfortunately the latest noises from him are distinctly Mugabe-like and he is now insisting that being white is a disqualification for an elected bishop, even if it is by overwhelming majority.
This is proving problematic for him in the Diocese of Lake Malawi where most clergy and laity still consider that their choice as bishop of the (white) Rev’d Nicholas Henderson of London, England is the valid one. Excuses that he was formerly a member of the Modern Churchpeople’s Union, the Anglican Communion’s oldest Theological Society, seem contrived when Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana has recently returned from a major (pre-Lambeth) speaking engagement at the MCU Annual Conference and Bishop James Tengatenga of the Diocese of Southern Malawi remains an international editorial consultant of Modern Believing the MCU quarterly Journal.



Whilst at Selly Oak College, the late Bishop Sitshebo was reported to be an avid reader of the Journal.




ANGLICAN-INFORMATION chooses to take the Zimbabwe deal between Mugabe and Tsvangerai at face value and, despite the difficulties of what looks like two parallel jurisdictions with potential concomitant conflict, applauds the apparent breakthrough.

In the same spirit it is time for the remaining Bishops of the Anglican Central African Province to stop their authoritarian and counterproductive harassment of clergy and people, particularly in Malawi. They must begin sensible discussions with all the parties concerned to acknowledge elections, fill vacant sees and practice Anglican conciliarity – Bishop Wilson Siteshebo would approve, may he rest in peace and rise in glory.



Anglican Information

15/09/2008

Death of Bishop Wilson Sitshebo

Via ACNS
From USPG: It is with sadness that I inform you of the death of Bishop
Wilson Sitshebo of Matabeleland, Zimbabwe.
He died on at Mater Dei Hospital Intensive Care Unit in Bulawayo on 12th September 2008. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Zimbabwe - the agreement

The agreement between Zanu-PF and the two MDC factions is here (.pdf)

No to creationism


Press Release:


The Royal Society is opposed to creationism being taught as science. Some media reports have misrepresented the views of Professor Michael Reiss, Director of Education at the Society expressed in a speech yesterday.

Professor Reiss has issued the following clarification. "Some of my
comments about the teaching of creationism have been misinterpreted as
suggesting that creationism should be taught in science classes. Creationism has
no scientific basis. However, when young people ask questions about creationism
in science classes, teachers need to be able to explain to them why evolution
and the Big Bang are scientific theories but they should also take the time to
explain how science works and why creationism has no scientific basis. I
have referred to science teachers discussing creationism as a worldview'; this
is not the same as lending it any scientific credibility."

The society remains committed to the teaching of evolution as the best
explanation for the history of life on earth. This position was
highlighted in the Interacademy Panel statement [.pdf file] on the teaching of evolution issued in June 2006.


Now we know.

14/09/2008

Unmake creationism

And God made Palin, Peter Brookes

Rod Liddle in The Times takes Rev Martin Reiss to task for suggesting a less exclusionary approach to creationism in the classroom.
(See Thinking Anglicans for all conceivable links)

I guess it's a question of tactics - Reiss doesn't approve of creationism - and perhaps driving creationists into defensive bunkers is not a good idea.


But Liddle is right: what is taught in science classes is less the substance and detail of scientific discovery (though both are important) than it is scientific method and thought. Creationism is barmy, the opposite of scientific thinking and anyway, in my opinion, not what the authors / compilers of Genesis had in mind in the first place.


But creationists offer a challenge to other Christians as powerful as scientism. What place does revelation have? What weight do we attribute to words on a page (whether a school text book or scripture)? In matters of faith, as in everything else, how do we know what we know?


In the end, I think, it's all about faith: I rely on the work and words of others to use this computer, drive to the shops, cook pears. I rely on experience (mine and other people's) in worship and belief. I look for logic and coherence in thought, though I seem to have a much higher tolerance of unresolved paradox and contradiction that most. Where science wins out overwhelmingly is in its technological expression. Universality, replicability and predictability have enabled amazing technological developments from the plough to the ipod. The anti-rationalism in creationism is to be shunned completely.

But churches have long had lightening conductors. For most christians, most of the time, religion and science get along perfectly amicably.

I wasn't going to blog this, but the cartoon was so good.

13/09/2008

St George's Cathedral, Georgetown, Guyana












I was browsing, as you do, the Anglican world and I came across the website of St George's Cathedral, Georgetown, Guyana. It looks as though it hasn't been updated for a while.



However what struck me was the aesthetic.

The cathedral is described as the 'world's tallest wooden church'. Its history page dates Anglicanism in Guyana back to 1781 when the first Anglican priest in arrived Guyana, the Rev. William Baggn, Chaplain to Admiral Sir George Rodney. The colonial context is clear: 'Britain, France and Holland were vying for control of The Guianas'. In the early 1800s the church grew steadily and by 1840 the first church was considered too small and a second was built.



On August 24 1842, St. Bartholomew's Day, William Piercy Austin was Consecrated as first Bishop of Guyana. He was in the words of the youthful Queen Victoria "the youngest and handsomest of my Bishops." Consequently, the Diocese of Guiana came into being on the same day and the new St. George's which had been opened in June 1842, became the Cathedral where the Bishop's Cathedra or Chair was situated - and Georgetown became a city.

However - and here's a metaphor if ever there was one -

From early days however, serious weakness in the foundations of the building were evident and large sums were expended on repairs. Finally by 1877 the building was considered unsafe and had to be dismantled.

The present building dates from 1889, when the history stops.



The aesthetic is so deeply Anglican it could be another 'Instrument of Unity'. There is a 360º panarama (with Quicktime) as well as photographs. There are eighteenth century (and early nineteenth) style memorials on the walls, hymn number boards, a brass eagle and an organ with painted pipes. Pews dominate the space and nineteenth century stained glass windows flank the altar. A notice board with photos sits at the back. A potted plant stands in front of the altar area, off centre, with a flower display right in front of the altar between it and the central celebrant's chair.



all here.

12/09/2008

Zimbabwe deal: more details





David Coltart, MDC Senator for Bulawayo South

Zimbabwe deal: more details from Senator David Coltart

The bare bones of the deal are as follows. Constitutional amendment 19 will shortly be moved in Parliament. It will enable to the setting up of an inclusive Government which in turn will initiate an all inclusive process of Constitutional reform (which will include civil society). That process will last 18 months by which time a new democratic Constitution must be implemented, which will also include a time frame for new elections at some point to be conducted in terms of the new Constitution.

The inclusive Government will have Robert Mugabe as President with greatly reduced powers to those he enjoys today. There will be two, largely ceremonial, Vice Presidents from Zanu PF.

Morgan Tsvangirai will be Prime Minister. Although he does not have absolute power he does have substantial power. For example he will advise Mugabe on all future appointments including Judges, Ambassadors and the like. There will be two Deputy Prime Ministers, one from MDC T and one from MDC M.

There will be a slightly cumbersome arrangement for conducting Government business which is the essence of the compromise agreed to following the impasse of the last 4 weeks. Cabinet will be chaired by Mugabe; Tsvangirai will be the vice Chair. Then there will be a Council of Ministers chaired by Tsvangirai which will supervise the work of Cabinet.

The Cabinet will largely reflect the votes cast for the different parties in the March election in which Zanu PF got the most votes (if not the most seats), followed by the MDC T and MDC M. In a 31 person Cabinet Zanu PF will have 15 seats, MDC T 13 and MDC M 3. There will be 8, 6 and 1 Deputy Ministers respectively. Accordingly if the two MDC factions work together, which they must in the national interest, they will enjoy a majority in Cabinet.

This is undoubtedly historic but we still have a long and treacherous road to travel. Even had we in the combined MDC obtained total control the challenges are immense. The grave humanitarian and economic crises are enough to test any Government. The new Cabinet that will have to address these challenges is composed of protagonists – virtually all of the Cabinet Ministers to be appointed by the MDC T and M have at some stage in the last 9 years been brutalized on the instructions of those they will now have to work with. Zimbabwe remains highly polarised and it will take statesmanship on all sides to make this work.


The banner headline reads 'Farming God's Way Project'

Rogues Gallery

The Most Rev. Stephen Than Myint Oo (Myanmar)






Episcopal Life has assembled snapshots of all the Primates, including a blank for central Africa. You can see them all here.



My favourite is Stephen Than Myint Oo. I love the (nearly) matching beret and jacket. And that he's forgotton his collar.

The award for the most colourful goes to Maurício José Araújo de Andrade (Brazil), for the most depressed Martin de Jesus Barahona (Central America), Carlos Touche-Porter (Mexico) is the least comfortable and Peter Jasper Akinola (Nigeria) has the best smile, as well he might.

Other unique features include one crook, Katharine Jefferts Schori (USA), one library Rowan Douglas Williams (England), one pen Joel Vidyasagar Mal (North India) while Henry Luke Orombi (Uganda) has the best camouflage, which is odd for an official picture.

Funny world, Anglicanism.

Disaggregation

Dave Walker's explanation of the Southern Cone



Thinking Anglicans has a round up of stories about the Southern Cone and Greg Venables' avoidance of Archbishop Fred Hiltz.

Viewed from where I stand (which is a long way away geographically and theologically) it is hard to see sufficient detail to be able to grasp the overall picture. I wonder what the relationship is between Archbishop Venables, a Brit, and the African Archbishops who, under the umbrella of GAFCON, are consolidating their raids into North America in the form of a North American province.

So, are there enough conservative congregations to go round with leading to conflict between GAFCON and the Africans? Are they in co-operative communion with one another in the same way in which both the Episcopal Church and the Church of England work in Europe? Or in competition with one another for the same fish in the episcopal sea? Is Venables trawling in Canada because the Africans have been too busy south of the border or because the Canadians were uncomfortable with the idea of African Archbishops? Are the two groups collecting different species of conservative?

In the meantime the Diocese of Pittsburgh continues to prepared for divorce by agreeing to 'a court-appointed neutral party inventory all of its property and assets as it prepares for a final vote on seceding from the Episcopal Church.' here.

Cautious welcome to Zimbabwe 'deal'

Morgan Tsvangirai to be Prime Minister of Zimbabwe

Press Association

British politicians welcomed the news that Zimbabwe looked to be on the brink of a historic power-sharing deal that could finally end Robert Mugabe's 28-year monopoly on power in the country.

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki announced the news and said a government of national unity would be announced on Monday.

The announcement was given a cautious welcome in Britain by former Cabinet minister and Minister for Africa Peter Hain.
He said the reported deal between President Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was "very good news" for the "long-suffering people" of the country.

But he said granting Mr Mugabe immunity from prosecution as part of the deal may have to be a "necessary" step to end the "nightmare" in the country.

Before the news of the announcement, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said at his monthly press conference he wanted to see an outcome "that reflects the democratic will of the Zimbabwean people".

He added: "We don't yet know all the details of the agreement, but we want a transition so that it is possible for the MDC and those people who have been legitimately elected to be able to have their legitimate place in the Government of Zimbabwe and we will judge our response by the extent to which that is happening."

The government in Zimbabwe and the opposition MDC had already agreed that Mr Tsvangirai would be a Prime Minister with Mr Mugabe staying on as president.

But negotiations had stalled over the precise allocation of power between the two men who have been bitter rivals for a decade.

Mr Mugabe, who has been in power since independence from Britain since 1980, won a presidential run-off election in June unopposed after Mr Tsvangirai withdrew. He withdrew after claiming the MDC was the target of state violence ordered by Mr Mugabe.



==============



Other reports give a little more detail of the complexities of the deal:


In the Star Tribune


Officials in both the governing and opposition party described an arrangement that seemed to leave neither man in charge. That may reduce the chances that the accord will bring new stability and attract the foreign aid needed to rebuild the country's economy.

Under the agreement, officials said, Tsvangirai would become prime minister and oversee a council of ministers that would formulate and carry out policies. Mugabe would retain his title of president and would head a Cabinet apparently made up of the same group of ministers. How the government would resolve conflicts was not clear.

Asked who would head the government under this arrangement, Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for the opposition, did not name one man or the other but instead replied, "This is an inclusive government." He said executive power would be shared by the president, the prime minister and the Cabinet.


The Boston Globe says,
The complicated agreement makes Mugabe's rival, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change, prime minister and creates a government whose ministers meet twice in parallel structures - once with the prime minister in charge and once under the president.

BBC and Reuters accounts are reproduced here.

More detail will no doubt emerge soon. And time, and the collapse of the economy, will tell.

Time for God's Creation


Professor Andrew Linzey

Press Release from Professor Andrew Linzey

RSPCA urges clergy to celebrate animals as Church places fresh emphasis on protecting creation

The RSPCA is calling upon clergy to celebrate animal services with renewed focus this October following a new Church of England initiative to make 'Time for God's Creation'.

Launched in June, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leaders of other denominations called upon Christians throughout England to put the environment at the heart of their worship this autumn.

Oxford theologian the Revd Professor Andrew Linzey said the initiative presented a perfect opportunity for congregations to re-examine their duties towards living creatures.

He said: “It is vital that Christians remember their specific responsibilities towards animals during this welcome renewal of environmental concern. What we call ‘the environment’ or ‘creation’ comprises individual creatures, many of them sentient, who need our care.

“Animal Welfare Sunday falls on 5th October and provides a real opportunity for clergy to organise services that both celebrate God’s creatures and underline the importance of behaving responsibly towards them.”

RSPCA director general Mark Watts said: “Many people tend to think that animal abuse happens at the hands of just a few, but in truth as a society we need to think far more deeply about how our lifestyle impacts on animals and how we may be, directly or indirectly, permitting suffering.

“Faith groups can play an important role. We hope they will seize the moment and take a lead in promoting responsible attitudes towards animals.”

The RSPCA has published a Service for Animal Welfare booklet, written by Professor Linzey, complete with prayers, readings and liturgies, which is available to download from the Society’s website (www.rspca.org.uk).

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is Vice-Patron of the RSPCA, which was founded by an Anglican priest, the Revd Arthur Broome in 1824.

- ends -


Notes: The 'Time For God's Creation' initiative follows a resolution made at the Third European Ecumenical Assembly, attended by representatives of Europe's Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant churches, that a period "be dedicated to prayer for the protection of Creation and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles that reverse our contribution to climate change."

For more information contact the RSPCA press office on 0300 123 0244/0288. The Revd Professor Andrew Linzey is Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics - for further details visit www.oxfordanimalethics.com, call 01865 201565, or email Andrewlinzey@aol.com.


10/09/2008

Ugandan Archbishop excommunicates Canterbury

The Cathedral of the diocese of Bukedi, eastern Uganda, St Peter's at Tororo.




From Uganda's New Vision


The Archbishop of Bukedi Diocese the Rt. Reverend Nicodemus Okile says that he no longer recognises the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, as head of the church because of his stance on homosexuality.

Okile said this while laying a foundation stone at All Saints church Busitema.

He blamed the western culture for promoting homosexuality.

07/09/2008

SRI LANKA: A Call To Protect Civilians

A Statement from the Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo via the Asian Human Rights Commission (here)

SRI LANKA: A Call To Protect Civilians

People of conscience are perturbed that the current war in the LTTE occupied Vanni places the majority of civilians at tremendous risk.


Unarmed and trapped in this war zone, large numbers of civilians including children are caught in the intense cross-fire of a deadly armed confrontation. Thousands are already displaced and can flee only to places of temporary safety.


The situation faced by these civilians is even more desperate since they cannot act independently. They are under conflicting pressure from both sides to support their respective strategies of movement and fear reprisals if they do not. Their dilemma adds to their suffering.

Since both the GOSL and the LTTE claim, they are in this war for the liberation of these very civilians it is imperative that they jointly invite and assist the ICRC and UNHCR to set up peace corridors and peace zones for the safety of civilians.


My Roman Catholic colleague, the Bishop of Jaffna, the Rt. Rev Thomas Savundaranayagam has already made this suggestion and it needs to be reiterated. If for some reason these agencies are unable to intervene, then an inter-religious group of leaders must be invited to do so. The Government's assurance that food, infant milk powder, medicine and other essential commodities are being supplied to the people of this region is to be commended.


This process must be monitored by a senior Cabinet Minister in collaboration with the civil administration in the Vanni. It will also require facilitation by the military if it is to function smoothly in the circumstances of the war.


The Rt Revd Duleep de ChickeraBishop of Colombo


Posted on 2008-08-29


==============================

For this proposal the Bishop was attacked anonymously in LankaWeb News.


The plight of civilians in Vanni arose as a result of the breakdown of civilian
institutes. Against this background, Rev. Duleep de Chickera wants to boost
the sagging morale of the LTTE. By doing so, he contradicts the teaching of
the very book that he is supposed to follow to the letter [i.e. Romans 13:1]. No other rational argument can explain his desire to open up so-called 'peace zones' in
trouble spots at the eleventh hour; we have been there before, Reverend!

Rev. Duleep de Chickera's desire to elevate a terrorist outfit to the level of a legitimate government is, in the context of Biblical teachings, not divine. Since in the eyes of God, everything is black or white with no room for grey, Rev. Duleep de Chickera's attempt, by default, becomes classified as outright evil.


In a divided country, in the midst of violence, it is not easy to stand up politically and it is certain that no side will thank you for seeking an alternative.

A Communion of equals


Religious Intelligence (here) is reporting that the Prayer Book Society are getting twitchy about the Covenant and the direction its heading (though I can't see anything on the PBS site).

In particular they are worried about the diminution of the 'needs to have a less Church of England basis, particularly in regard to the formularies'.

Early on in the St Andrew’s Covenant draft it currently declares that each Church of the Communion affirms the faith “which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear significant witness.” This prominent clause now looks set to be changed.
Well, perhaps it is time that the Anglican Communion grew up and became a family of equal adults rather than a family of mother and her children. (No-one outside the Church of England would see it otherwise.)

Adopting the Covenant would have a number of effects. Membership of the Anglican Communion will then depend of being a signatory to the Covenant not on being in communion with the See of Canterbury. It may be a significant benefit to the CofE to become no more than one communion amongst three dozen, but I guess it'll be a long time before it sinks in.

However the standing of the Archbishop of Canterbury will have to change. In a family of equal adults, all of whom elect their bishops except England, it will be impossibly anomalous for their leader to be chosen by the British Prime Minister at the time.

The options are:
  1. that the Prime Minister agrees to appoint as ABC a person commended to them by the Primates of the Anglican Communion.

  2. that leadership of the Communion (chairmanship of the Primates' Meetings, convenor of a decennial conference etc.) be a person, being a Primate of a Province in good standing with members of the Covenant, and elected by the Primates or some other constituency.

  3. that the title 'Archbishop of Canterbury' be entirely separate from the Church of England and be granted to whoever leads the Communion.

Other changes might also be possible. How about:
  • electing a leader for a single period of, say, eight or ten years?

  • election by bishops across the globe, or by each Provincial synod, or by the ACC (and therefore leaving to each province whether they mandate their representatives or leave them to decide for themselves), or by an electoral college?

  • demanding that leaders account for their actions to their people and that accounts and budgets are transparent.
The choosing of a leader is important. But it is less important than the powers that the new leader will have under the Covenant. To date additional powers are in the Appendix of the St Andrew's Draft and in the terms of reference of the ad hoc Commissions, Panels, Committees etc. Power is being taken to the centre in bureaucratic and unaccountable ways.

The standing of the formularies, though obviously of concern to the Prayer Book Society is, like them, peripheral. If the PBS wish to reassert The Book of Common Prayer, its Ordinal and the 39 Articles at the heart of Anglicanism they first need to watch very carefully what powers are being grabbed in the name of Covenant.


06/09/2008

Liberal Theology

Pluralist, Adrian Worsfold, looking his best

Pluralist has posted an interesting essay on the Episcopal Cafe - Liberal Christianity's intellectual roots - which I commend to you.

Of course the comments make alternative suggestions - that's part of the way with liberals.

You may also be interested in his In Depth Theology Sessions.

And, if you're interested in the future of liberal theology you might like the 2009 MCU Conference - Perfect freedom: Liberal Theology Today and Tomorrow.

All about homosexuality


Pink and proud in Jerusalem



Of course, it's not all about homosexuality. Homosexuality is merely the shibbolth issue, the means to separate out people who would otherwise be indistinguishable. It's hard work knowing your friends from your enemies when they all look alike.




So, was Jeffery John a contender for the See of Bangor? No sooner had that suggestion swept the media and blogosphere (and my comment) than it was followed by cold water.


James at Three Legged Stool had an explanation:

You’ll never guess who “broke” the story. The Rev’d. David Anderson. Yes, THE
David Anderson who is one of the American conservatives who led the fight
against the consents for Gene Robinson. The very same Anderson who ran around
like a chicken with its head cut off, spreading assiduous lies about Robinson
and never offered an apology.

...


Andersons “intervention” is a not so subtle attempt to invigorate
fundamentalists once again to oppose John's nomination/appointment and to give
legitimacy to the fundamentalists' un-Christian actions.

Very likely. Beyond the core of committed activistis t is hard work keeping supporters together and on side in the battle. You need to keep crying 'Wolf!' at intervals.

But I'd still like to see John made Bishop - perhaps for the same reasons.



==============


For those who like their homosexuality in greater depth and length the American Theological Review has devoted its Summer 2008 edition to the issue. The Introduction is on the net.


==============

From Integrity USA:



The LGBT Religious Archives Network has posted an oral history interview with the Rev. Malcolm Johnson, one of the first openly gay clergy in the Church of England. Johnson played a critical role in the initiation of organizations that
have been formative in the lives of LGBT Anglicans and clergy: The St. Katharine's Group (social group formed in 1968), the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (1976) and the Clergy Consultation (1976). In this interview Johnson
relates his life journey beginning with childhood in World War II, his subsequent education and ministry training, and forty years of formal ministry through which was interwoven an extensive array of ministries with LGBT persons.


==============

Homosexuality was on the agenda at a joint meeting of the Diocese of Springfield and Diocese of Quincy presided over by Bishops Ackerman and Beckwith - and mandatory for clergy and lay leaders (August 30th).


There is an account here (Episcopal Cafe) and here comments at the Three Legged Stool. Gems include (all from Episcopal Cafe):

Both bishops took turns praising GAFCON, and expressed their ambivalence
with Lambeth.

Bishop Beckwith then stated that these issues can only be seen through the
following prism: "Is homosexual behavior a wholesome example to the Christian
community?" *TEC says 'yes'. *GAFCON says 'no'. Anglicans need consensus.

The Rev. James Fackler, retired Lutheran supply clergy in the Diocese of
Springfield, asked why he had not once heard the word 'love' in the previous 3
hours' of talk. 'Where is love for the homosexual?' he asked to deafening
silence. He further emphasized the enormous on-going damage that schism had
caused in his own church, referring to it as having a 'killing effect' on both
sides.

A layman from another moderate parish in the northern part of the Diocese
of Springfield asked Bishop Beckwith about the ongoing 'lack of communication'
in the Diocese of Springfield. The subtext of the question clearly being that
DoS parishes that dare to not subscribe to their Bishop's anti-inclusion agenda
are routinely marginalized and actively ignored.


But, as so often, Mark Harris is blunt and clear:

So, let's get it straight...the Episcopal Church is here to stay.

It has taken a while to get the message out. But it is out. No matter that the Bishops of San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth and Quincy determine to leave the Episcopal
Church, through whose ecclesial community they hold orders. No matter that there
are clergy and laity who will go with them. There will indeed be EPISCOPAL
CHURCH dioceses of San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth and Quincy beyond the
time of their leaving.


================

It's not all about homosexuality. It's also about power, pensions and control of property. It's also about who gets to control the brand name 'Anglicanism'.

03/09/2008

No going back


Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminister and Bishop John Chapman of Montreal. acns/sweeny


The Canadian Anglican Journal has collected episcopal views on the proposed moratorium on same-sex blessings from around the country.

In summary: it is impossible to go back.

There is some discussion of the confusion caused by the suggestion that the moratoria should be 'retrospective' - that is, in those places where permission for same-sex blessing had been given that permission should now be withdrawn. It won't happen.

In places where same-sex blessings are allowed by the state they will be conducted by some clergy who share the liberal attitudes of the population. In Canada, US, UK and elsewhere the church will, willingly or by default, go with the majority.

Inevitably this will continue to tear the church apart. Elsewhere in the Journal there is an account of 11 clergy in Vancouver who have transferred to the jurisdiction of the Southern Cone but propose to continue their parochial ministry.

Conservatives and liberal congregations in Niagra must continue to have "joint possession and administration of the three church properties.”
In addition, she [Judge Jane Milanetti of the Ontario Superior Court] said, any dispute will be referred to an arbitrator; the diocese will have access to each church on Sundays between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and on other feast days; it will also have access for weddings and funerals. The two parties will apportion expenses “based on the use of each parish property by each party,”

At least as a temporary measure until a final decision. She also said:
“it is my preliminary view that a group who chooses to leave the association
they voluntarily joined and then take the property with them (without even the
possibility of sharing the property) is unreasonable.”

And the property belonged to the Diocese.

Overall, and to no-one's surprise, this means that the Lambeth Conference has made no difference.

02/09/2008

Scriptural football

I like this picture - it accompanies Elizabeth Kaeton's reflections on the Lambeth Conference.

In her view much of Lambeth was about 'business as usual'. But it can't last. She cites the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs, In his book,
The Dignity of Difference, he writes, “If we are to live in close proximity to difference, as in a global age we do, we will need more than a code of rights, more even than mere tolerance. We will need to understand that just as the natural environment depends on biodiversity, so the human environment depends on cultural diversity, because no one creed has a monopoly on spiritual truth; no one civilization encompasses all the spiritual, ethical and artistic expressions of mankind.”

Not only do bishops need to hear this from and about their own cultural and spiritual contexts, so do we who elect and/or influence the appointment of these spiritual leaders of our Christian communities need to be mindful of the need and respect for diversity in our own church, our Communion, our world.

One thing has become very clear to me, post Lambeth: something that is struggling to stay alive must die in order that something new can emerge and have life.

Jeffrey John: some historical notes

Bishop? Jeffrey John

You will remember Jeffrey John was to be suffragan Bishop in the Diocese of Oxford in 2003 until a public campaign pressured Rowan Williams into pressuring John to stand down. (MCU's contributions to the issue are here.) Now it seems there is the possibility that he may be elected bishop in the Church in Wales: The Times, The Guardian, Pluralist, and I can't raise Thinking Anglicans but they'll have all the links.

Over the previous two centuries there have been campaigns against a number of episcopal appointments. What made this one different was that it was the first to succeed.

There was, for example, strong opposition to the appointment of Frederick Temple as Bishop of Exeter in 1869. Convocation had condemned Essays and Reviews in 1864, and Temple had been one of the essayists. In the face of demands that he renounce its supposed heresy - from other bishops as well as campaigners - he stuck to the grounds of law.
But all consideration only brings me back to this, that the one safe rule for me
to follow is the law of the Church of England. While I am neither refusing to
say nor do what the law does not require, I am on safe ground; and the
responsibility lies with the law and not with me. The moment I step beyond these
limits, I take the responsibility on myself, and I cannot shift it; and whatever
ill consequences follow, the blame is mine. (In Sandford's Memoirs of Archbishop Temple, vol I, p. 293)

In other words: he met all the conditions required and no-one else had authority to demand more of him.

In 1917 Hensley Henson was nominated to Hereford and his well known modernist views (he was never really a liberal) similarly provoked an outcry and a campaign to prevent his appointment. Again several bishops, led by Charles Gore, were also in the opposition. Amongst other reflections Henson saw that, if he withdrew following his nomination, it would hand his enemies the power to demand statements of belief - tests of faith - well beyond what was legally required. In his case the English Church Union would become arbiters not only of who was a fit person to serve as bishop but also of the doctrine of the Church of England.

Both Temple and Henson had the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

But in Jeffrey John's case the Archbishop of Canterbury vacillated. In twisting John's arm to withdraw he handed Anglican Mainstream (what happened to them?), and behind them the organized ranks of conservative opinion, the power to determine both who shall be bishop in the C of E and to stand in judgment on a man's life.

But, perhaps, not the power to decide for the Church in Wales. Whether John is appointed or not let it be because the proper constitutional processes have been followed, and not because sectional and sectarian groups in the church flex their muscles.