For the Church and People of Zimbabwe

For the Church and People of Zimbabwe
by Josh Thomas

Holy God, look with mercy on your suffering people of Zimbabwe, and protect the Anglican Church from persecution as it seeks to minister to them. Bless the duly elected clergy, the members of the Mothers' Union and all your people who gather for solace, strength and teaching.

Feed and shelter the people who have nothing; comfort those afflicted by violence, disease, terror and want. Drive out all those who brutally enrich themselves and rob the people of their daily bread. Raise up leaders of honesty, wisdom and strength to lead the nation. Let the beautiful land you made once more burst forth with crops of every kind. Bless Zimbabwe, O Lord, in the name of your merciful Son who looked with compassion on us as he himself was made to suffer violence, but now reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.


Lock up the winners

How to defeat the victors: lock them up
The MDC has unearthed a plot by the Attorney General’s office and members
of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) to secure convictions against MDC
MPs in a bid to reverse the MDC majority in Parliament.

Deputy Attorney General, Johannes Tomana is leading the plot in which
the Zanu PF regime is planning to secure convictions and lay more trumped-up
charges against MDC MPs to reverse our majority in Parliament.

This week five MDC MPs were arrested in Harare during the opening of the
7th Parliament of Zimbabwe.

Four of them, Pearson Mungofa, the MP for Highfield East, Eliah Jembere,
Epworth; Bednock Nyaude, Bindura South and Trevor Saruwaka, Mutasa Central are still in police custody. They were denied bail.

Hon Nyaude was granted bail by a Bindura magistrate but the State has

MDC Press Release

Scotland and the St Andrew's Draft

The minutes of the 2008 general synod of the Episcopal Church of Scotland have been published (here).

They include an account of the debate about the proposed covenant. Members were generally leery of the covenant, and even more so of the process. They were pleased that aspects of their submission to the process had been taken on board.

There was a feeling that the original motion before them asked too much because it seemed to commit them not only to the process but to the idea of a covenant altogether:

“That this Synod affirm an ‘in principle’ commitment to the Covenant process at
this time (without committing itself to the details of any text).”

Ian Paton dug them out of the hole:

The Rev Canon Ian Paton (Edinburgh) said that he spoke with some trepidation and
hesitation. The current debate in the Communion required clarity and he
asked what one should do if “one liked fish but not chips”. The wording of
the motion implied an acceptance of the principle of Covenant. He did not
wish to vote against anything but the motion left him with no choice but to do
so. The document on page 75 of the General Synod papers suggested that a
negative response would signify the Church’s rejection of the very idea of an
Anglican Covenant and might mean that the Church would exclude itself from
future discussions regarding a Covenant. He considered that everyone had a
commitment to remain together as Anglicans and that could still allow scope for
disagreement regarding the nature of God or the authority of the bible. He
was interested in a Covenant of the sacraments and queried why the Covenant of
Baptism was not sufficient. Because he wished a choice of things other
than just “chips” with his fish, he proposed that the motion be amended to read
as follows:-

“That this Synod affirm an “in principle” commitment to continue to participate
actively in discussions regarding the future shape of the Anglican Communion at
this time (without necessarily committing itself to the concept of a Covenant).”

Which was duly passed.

Furthermore the synod remitted the St Andrew's Draft to dioceses for comment by December 31st.

The Americans consulted fully on the covenant at and earlier stage. The New Zealanders discussed the covenant in their diocese. So why can't the English?


The GAFCON Primates have met and made their statement (if, apparently, a little delayed in publication). With it they have posted a letter from certain North American Bishops.

Early comment from the liberal wing includes: Pluralist, Mark Harris and The Three Legged Stool. Thinking Anglicans will, as always, provide the most systematic collection of links especially to media comment. (An earlier post by Mark Harris gives some of the immediate background to the letter from the North American Bishops.)

There might seem little more to add - but if bloggers worked on that principle then the whole caboodle would grind to a halt.

The overview is clear: GAFCON is an alternative structure to the Anglican Communion. Its leaders claim the right to determine who is, and who is not, an authentic, confessing Anglican.

The twofold task of the Council is ‘to authenticate and recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions, clergy and congregations and to encourage all Anglicans to promote the gospel and defend the faith.’
There is no greater claim to power in ecclesiology than the power of the keys: to admit into and exclude from the company of the righteous, the community of the saved.

The Council will have an Advisory Board and a Secretariat and is intended to be permanent and world-wide. One of their priorities will be to claim North America:

It is expected that priority will be given to the possible formation of a province in North America for the Common Cause Partnership.
The letter appended to the communiqué is from bishops already under the jurisdiction of the signatories. It would be impolitic to include publicly Bob Duncan and others who have not yet formally annd finally departed from TEC. Yet it is probable that this fish too can be landed and the North American prize will be so much bigger.

At the same time GAFCON hopes to create a much bigger penumbra of members and supporters through the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (what Mark Harris calls a 'holding tank'):

We invite individuals, churches, dioceses, provinces and parachurch organisations who assent to the Jerusalem Declaration to signify their desire to become members of the Fellowship via the GAFCON web-site or written communication with the Secretariat. The Fellowship will develop networks, commissions and publications intended to defend and promote the biblical gospel in ways which support one another.
(Uncomfortably close to my Covenant for Pilgrims which, crucially, eschews any confessional test.)

This is unlikely to be merely an email list. I expect that it would be invaluable as a means of determining when a country or province has sufficient critical mass (and finance) to plan for and effect more GAFCON provinces in the west. It would enable the co-ordination of national groups to, for example, pay the lawyers necessary to untie the legal knots in each place - and, following the example of the US, to fight for as much property, pensions and anything else to which they can lay claim. Groups below the critical mass would remain as a fifth column in the Anglican church (the real one), their political power enhanced by their international links and the threat of sesession. Though all this will depend on just how good their management and organizational skills are.

Planning schism in the sunlight

(A thought: I wonder in which country GAFCON and FOCA will be legally registered - and therefore what they will be required to publish of their accounts.)

In the slow ripping of the Anglican net this is a significant step forwards. It will reshape the Anglican Communion in unanticipatable ways best left to historians of the twenty-second century to describe (should anyone be bothered by then).

In the short term:

  • Will the Archbishop of Canterbury recognise the schism and formalise it by refusing to invite the dissident Primates to future Primates' Meetings?
  • How will the rest of the Global South react when they find they are even fewer in the corridors of Anglican power?
  • How will FOCA members act in churches where they are a relatively small minority?
  • How will the split amongst conservatives who remain Anglican (into those who FOCA and those who don't) be played out in the western/northern provinces?
  • It is clear that each side regards the other as responsible for the split, as not playing by the rules, as ignoring calls for moratoria. How will this be translated into future legal / structural change in the Communion and in the individual Provinces in which schism occurs?
Though I am happy to hear the view of the GAFCON Primates that

The Anglican Covenant will take a long time to be widely accepted and may have no particular force when it does.
Which reflects the comment in Rowan William's Pastoral Letter that

As the proposals for an Anglican Covenant now go forward, it is still possible that some will not be able to agree; there was a clear sense that some sort of covenant will help our identity and cohesion, although the bishops wish to avoid a legalistic or juridical tone.
So why bother, I say.


Civil Society still under attack in Zimbabwe

Angela Campbell (70), abducted and tortured while Mugabe was being inaugurated. More pictures.

Press Release from the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition:

Heavily armed police officers stormed a meeting of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, in Harare hotel around 12:30 [yesterday] afternoon disrupting proceedings of an Annual General Meeting (AGM) of its membership, gathered for the administrative business of electing new office bearers.

This happened as South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki, mediator in Zimbabwe’s power-sharing talks, arrived in Zimbabwe for what is expected to be a next leg in his efforts to enforce an unpopular government of national unity.

“They are being very rough, and unreasonable. They are threatening us with arrest and saying that our gathering is illegal”, said Elinor Sisulu, a spokesperson of the group. “This whole attack of civil society flies in the face of the provision the memorandum of understanding of which says that there should be an environment in which social welfare organizations, of which Crisis has a sizeable members who are gathered here today, should be enabled to carry outs their activities without intimidation”.

Mugabe's programme of destroying any possible independent meeting, never mind any group that opposes him, continues despite MDC advances in parliament, supposed talks, South Africa's flawed mediation.

While I would like to grap every small hint of possible improvements widespread and targeted violence is the overwhelming reality.


Depredation of the Diocese of Upper Shire

A view of the Upper Shire River

From Anglican Information

Disturbing news from the Diocese of Upper Shire, Malawi, Anglican Province of Central Africa

From: Jean Msosa-Maganga in Malawi -

‘I’m just back from the Diocese of Upper Shire where I heard the disturbing news that a priest at St Andrew’s Church, Mangochi District Centre, has taken a lorry-load of building materials meant for development projects to his home in Likoma. I (like others) have been much disturbed by the news so I have felt it my duty to ask Anglican Information to let the world know what is happening in the Anglican Church, Diocese of Upper Shire.

In the same Mangotchi area money meant for renovation a church cottage at Mpondas has since disappeared and a retired priest who was trying to pursue the issue has been told not to do so. This man is a man of integrity and has worked in the Malawi civil service as a permanent secretary – so you can imagine that he is very disciplined and capable.

The issue at hand is that most of the dioceses of Upper Shire and Lake Malawi are just operating on remote control, meaning that they have no bishops.’

Anglican-Information comments that this is thanks to some of the provincial bishops and their continuing machinations to force their own candidates on the two dioceses against the democratic wishes of the people and clergy. Whilst they are claiming the moral high ground in Zimbabwe they are up to just the same kind of mischief ignoring the wishes of the majority, minus the violence, as the Mugabe regime.

Jean Msosa continues: ‘At the same time those in positions of authority (the provincial bishops) are just there to make money and some of them just don’t care at all and have no vision for the church – other than promoting their own interests.

My plea is; do the bishops realise that they have lost direction to the extent of condoning drunken priests who are bringing shame on the Church?’ – a reference to growing anarchy particularly in Upper Shire.

There follows a plea to the acting Dean of the province, Albert Chama, ‘You mean that you are so heartless to the extent of not allowing the mediation of bishops with integrity to sort out these issues. If it could happen in Kenyan politics you mean that it could not happen here in the Church of God.’

Anglican-Information observes that sadly Bishop Albert Chama has always played the authoritarian card and has never shown any sign of listening to anybody.

Jean Msosa concludes: ‘I pray for the day when these leaders will come to their senses but it had better be soon before the Church is destroyed completely because it has become a free for all with everyone taking their share.’

Anglican-Information reports: We have been receiving heartfelt reports from clergy in Upper Shire diocese of neglected churches, buildings in a poor state of repair and deep resentment against the bishops. Likewise in Lake Malawi diocese we hear that there is a growing shortage of priests as younger ones have moved away (who would want to stay there) and older ones are retiring. Things have got so bad that even Bernard Malango the discredited previous Archbishop is conducting services regularly (albeit with much disgruntlement amongst the people and few attending) in the diocesan headquarters church of St Thomas.

Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana takes on the press

Meanwhile there is some good news: Bishop Trevor Mwamba is reported online on various websites as courageously taking on the media “The rest of the world needs to know that apart from coverage in the West the gay issue is not a pre-occupation of the poor – and we don’t want it imposed on us as a priority agenda. Our agenda is about basic survival food for the hungry and we cannot focus on other agendas. In the words of the Swahili proverb, ‘an empty stomach has no ears to hear with’.”

“I can only pray”, Mwamba goes on, “that the media will be as passionate in reporting those issues as they are on the homosexual debate.”

Anglican-Information reminds readers that once again this year harvests in that region of Central Africa covered by the Anglican Province are decidedly mixed, mostly poor and threatening famine.

Some glimmers of hope from Zimbabwe

Readers worldwide will have been encouraged that parliamentary opposition leaders at last are beginning to find a voice with the election of MDC Lovemore Moyo as Speaker. Also at the State opening of the Zimbabwean parliament the heckling of previously inviolable ‘President’ Mugabe indicates that despite all the intimidation things are changing. Any eventual removal of the Mugabe regime will affect profoundly the Anglican Church and province whose bishops Sebastian Bakare and Peter Hatendi have bravely led their people against the thug ‘archbishop’ Nobert Kunonga.

Kunonga position weakens: An extraordinary recent statement by one of the two vice – presidents of Zimbabwe at his son’s funeral on 6th August chastised the two Kunonga faction clergy officiating at the service for backing Kunonga. “They should sit down as priests and resolve their differences.” This seems to indicate a lessening of support for Kunonga, which can only be good news. (See here.)

Caught in the cross-fire

From Asianews.it

Anglican bishop calls attention to civilians caught in crossfire between army and Tamil Tigers
by Melani Manel Perera

The population is caught in a crossfire between the two belligerents, the army and Tamil Tiger rebels. The prelate calls for the establishment of “humanitarian corridors” to deliver aid; he also wants to see an “inter-religious group” set up to confront the emergency situation.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – In a statement Anglican Bishop Duleep de Chickera said that people in Vanni, an area in the Tamil Tiger-controlled north, are concerned about the situation of constant tension and are afraid that dangers might increase should there be an escalation in violence between the army and rebels fighting for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In the same statement he expressed his “solidarity and closeness” to a civilian population under severe distress by a “war that seems to have no end.”

“Unarmed and trapped in this war zone, large numbers of civilians, including children, are caught in an intense cross-fire,” he said. “Thousands are already displaced and can flee only to places of temporary safety,” he added.

The “situation faced by these civilians is even more desperate since they cannot act independently. They are under conflicting pressure from both sides for support [. . .] and fear reprisals if they do not. Their dilemma adds to their suffering. Their voice is silenced with the sound of guns, manipulation and propaganda.”

For him it is necessary that a “collective conscience intervene on behalf of these vulnerable, helpless and harassed Sri Lankans.”

Since both the Sri Lanka government and the LTTE claim they are involved in this war for the liberation of these same civilians it is imperative they jointly invite and assist international organisations to bring aid to the population.

“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,” Bishop de Chickera said.

Lastly the prelate thanked the government for guaranteeing the delivery of food, infant powered milk, medicines and other essential items to the area.

Since 1983 the conflict between the army and LTTE rebels has caused the death of 65,000 people.

A covenant for pilgrims

Cranfield Church And Holy Well

Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland

I would like an covenant in which

  • the grace of God is acknowledged and valued in friend and alien alike

  • with a presumption of hospitality as Christ offers himself to all,

  • which recognises that all are blessed with gifts of the Spirit to be given away,

  • and all are wounded and in need of healing,

  • by which unquestioning care is offered to any who are in need,

  • there is justice for those who suffer

  • and hope for those who are strong.

In (slightly more) substance:

  • a meeting point, a place for conversation, a network

  • where 'membership' is free and open to any who wish to participate: individuals, congregations, dioceses, provinces

  • where every member contributes of their strengths and gifts and offers their difference and uniqueness

  • where every member may receive as they need: money, prayer, people, skills, knowledge, challenge, hope

  • where no-one has power over any other.

This is covenant as a well fed by the springs of scripture, tradition, God's compassion and what is of God in humanity. Those who wish to drink from this well are welcome. It is made freely available to those who are in pilgrimage whatever the direction of their journey. It is for those travelling with God in search of God, by the light of Christ and with the prompting of the Spirit. When others stumble across it who would not recognise this description of themselves they too are welcome.

This covenant will be as successful as the nourishment it offers. When no-one comes to drink it will fall into ruin. But it will make no demands on people, neither will it bind them by rules, or subordinate some people to others, or stop people arguing.

So it seemed to me serendipitous to find the picture above. It comes with this explanation:
On the shores of Lough Neagh at Churchtown Point lie the ruins of a 13th century Irish Church and St Olcan's Holy Shrine. Within a few yards east of the church is a holy well, the source of spring water and amber coloured crystals. Pilgrimages were made to Cranfield annually on any three consecutive days between May Eve and 29 June.

Pilgrims who visited collected seven ordinary stones to count 'the rounds'. They recited prayers and walked barefoot seven times round the church, dropping one stone at the door each time. This was repeated seven times around the well. When all the rounds were completed the pilgrim bathed in water from the well.

Here (see also here, and here.) Perhaps it is no accident that the websites I find first are tourism based, not church sites.


Judging and not judging, again

Ankole, long horn, cattle in Uganda

On the other hand I will leave you to judge this report yourselves (see below).

From New Vision (Kampala) (here)

by Cyprian Musoke

THE head of the National Fellowship of Born-Again Churches in Uganda has said randy pastors who indulge in sex with their flock have been one of his major challenges.

Pastor Alex Mitala said he has had a lot of trouble sorting out the cases of "pastors in town who go around sleeping with girls everywhere."

He told journalists that there were several such cases with him and before he solves them, he gets other complaints.

He, however, exonerated pastor Jackson Ssenyonga over allegations of molesting a girl on a plane in the USA, saying he was not randy like others.

"I have known Jackson since he was a boy and his wife Eve since she was a girl. I have never heard of any immoral character in them," Mitala said on Monday.

Ssenyonga, the head of Christian Life Church Bwaise, was arrested on Saturday for allegedly molesting a 13-year-old girl on a flight as he moved to preach.

Well, that's alright then if Pastor Alex Mitala says he's OK.

Judging and not judging Kenyan churches

The beauty in Kenya

I was wrong, well careless really, in a remark in my previous post on Kenya.

I said: 'It is too easy to condemn from a distance - and wholly inappropriate.' The first phrase I stand by, the second I wish to modify. (Not to mention the spelling.)

Of course it is reprehensible to engage in sectarian violence, to encourage others to do so, and to purport to give the churches (God's) blessings to violence. It doesn't matter how far away you are it remains wrong. It may be possible to argue necessity in some instances of violence - but at least that still has the good grace to acknowledge that the violence is wrong, even if it is thought to be a lesser wrong than some other. To the best of my knowledge, however, such considerations were quite irrelevant to the post-election violence in Kenya.

What I had intended to convey was that none of us can judge with clean hands. My guess would be that all churches are liable to be swept up in a public frenzy that can consume any society. Churches are not immune or exempt from such movements, especially if they are driven by locally powerful politicians. British churches may be complacent but they have no grounds on which to be holier-than-thou. Clergy are as suseptible as any other member of the community to share communal violence.

There is no vantage point in this world uncontaminated by complicity in violence.

And the press reporting I picked up began from the confession of sin by the leaders of the Kenyan Churches, by their repentence and their search for ways to amend their communal and public life. May God be with them and bless them.

I have, on occasions, worked and spent time with people I know have killed and, so far as I could see, there was no essential difference between me and them. Judgements must always be made - of ourselves as of others, from the perspective of fellow humanity not from superiority, and from within the faith community of which much is demanded and in which forgiveness is made real.


Kenya: soul searching

Sirata Orobi Anglican Church in Kenya

The 59th General Assembly of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), the umbrella organisation for Protestant and evangelical churches met last week at Kabarak University in Nakuru.

Some present confessed their roles in the violence following the 2007 election. Sectarian allegiances had divided church hierarchies.

This included blessing warriors to engage in violence and inviting politicians to their churches where they used the pulpit to disseminate hate messages that incited people against members of various communities.

They issued a statement:

"We own up to taking partisan positions on national issues, elevating our ethnic identities above our Christian identity, direct involvement in party politics and participating in post-election violence which were made more ominous by the deteriorating national values, sinful political strategies and failure to faithfully stand for biblical values and principles."

"We ask God to forgive us and to renew and empower our witness to His grace."

Now they were beginning to rebuild the image of the church and restore confidence amongst the faithful as the country embarks on the road to national reconciliation. By bringing together pastors from all regions and different ethnic communities the conference was seeking to rebuild ties between different groups.

Former Presidet Moi, addressing the conference, said religion was still the best mechanism to addressing hatred and violence adding that these efforts should be intensified among the communities that worst affected by the violence.

All here


It is too easy to condemn from a distance - and wholly innapropriate. I don't think that faith or Christian adherence gives any protection against participation in politically inspired and driven communal violence. The same would be true in the UK if conditions were right.

Christians, on the whole, have the same range of views and allegiances as the rest of the population and are as easily swayed as anyone else.

I am also sure that, during the violence, there were examples of heroism and self-sacrifice by Christians (and by others) and this is also an important part of the story.

But it is not enough to see these stories as Christian and the violence as alien to the Christian character. That is self-deception.

This is why I sometimes focus on areas of conflict and violence: because both are part of our faith journeys, because faith is tested most severely in the middle of violence, and because I wish to look honestly into the fire to try to understand how faith is embodied in practice - on the maxim: faith is as faith does.

A mob torched a Kenyan church, burning about 30 villagers cowering inside alive, as the death toll from ethnic riots triggered by President Mwai Kibaki's disputed re-election looked set to pass 200.

Change of policy in Zimbabwe?

From Religious Intelligence

The Vice President of Zimbabwe has called upon clergy loyal to the former bishop of Harare, Dr Nolbert Kunonga (pictured) to reconcile with the Anglican Communion.

Speaking at a memorial service for his late son on Aug 6, Joseph Msika chastised two Anglican clergy officiating at the service, members of the faction backing ousted bishop Dr Nolbert Kunonga, for the divisions within the diocese.

“I am a true Anglican and at one time the church came and said we want you to be a deacon but God called me to be a politician,” he said.v "So when they quarrel, I get worried,” Msika said, according to an account printed in the government-backed Harare Sunday Mail.

“They should sit down as priests and solve their differences. I speak on behalf of the people," the vice-president said.

In 2005 Dr Kunonga licenced Msika to officiate as a lay reader in the diocese. Other members of the government and the country’ s secret police, the CIO, have been ordained as clergy by Dr Kunonga for his breakaway Anglican Church of Zimbabwe.

The vice-president’s call for dialogue, analysts note, may signal a lessening of support for Dr Kunonga and presage an opening by moderates within the government towards civil society leaders.


It's just a straw in the wind, but it's one worth watching. Without government backing Konunga is no more than straw.



Rev Martha Deng Nhial

Cogratulations to Rev Martha Deng Nhial on becoming dean of the Cathedral of St. Matthew, Diocese of Renk, Episcopal Church of Sudan (Wikipedia). She is the first African women to serve as the dean of an African cathedral in the history of Christianity.

She said,

"When God calls you, you cannot stop. You are not called by yourself; God called me to his work.

"I like being a priest because it is the work of God. I am
offering myself to God."

The hardest part of being a woman priest in Sudan, Martha says, is being rejected by people simply because she is a woman. At first, she says, many people were saying that a woman could not be ordained.

They asked how a woman could stand before a man to give him Holy Eucharist. "Women in Sudan," she says, "are simple. The work of women is to give birth and to cook and clean in the house."

But that attitude is falling away here, she says. Now, "this is not a problem. People are starting to know" about women priests, and starting to agree with women's ordination. The agreement is becoming so widespread that Martha, who began her work as an assistant at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Renk, is now priest-in-charge and Acting Dean of the Cathedral.

More here and here . Thanks to Episcopal Cafe.


To be all things to all

Trinity Cathedral, Pittsburgh

In one of the most divided dioceses of The Episcopal Church one church is considering how it might become a neutral oasis.

This September, Trinity Cathedral members will be discussing a resolution of Cathedral Chapter that would make it possible for Trinity to continue to be the cathedral church for all who are currently part of the diocese, regardless of their future Anglican affiliation. Their work has the full support of Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan.

All here

Can it work? It is an ingenious idea to set at least one place aside from the fray and available to all Anglicans no matter what jurisdictions they find themselves under.

It didn't work in Pietermaritzburg when Dean Green and Bishop Colenso took services turn and turn about. But then these two men were directly opposed on sacramental theology (amongst other things), each wanted sole possession, and I doubt that the body of Cathedral members had been given the chance to create a peaceful and mutually acceptable compromise. (In 1883 the heretic, Colenso, was buried beneath its altar.)

At Trinity the 4-page resolution includes:
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the people and Chapter of Trinity Cathedral affirm their desire to remain a unified Cathedral for what today comprises the whole Diocese of Pittsburgh, even if this means being the Cathedral seat of two Bishops, one from a Diocese within The Episcopal Church and one from a realigned Diocese of Pittsburgh, serving their respective parishes.

In effect the cathedral Chapter would become a non-aligned autonomous entity forever dependent on the goodwill of two diverging bodies. The two bishops (if so it turns out) would be co-chairs with equal weight and thus forced to choose between working together or walking out.

The Chapter would retain its rights in the nomination, appointment and discipline future staff but each step would require the 'concurrence' of the bishops - in effect the Chapter gives the bishops a veto. When either bishop can block the other but neither can initiate a development the greatest danger is pernanent stalemate. It will take great skill by the cathedral staff to prevent death from inanition.

The resolution looks forward to the day of a reunited dioces but, if all else fails, Trinity will give up being a Cathedral and revert to being a parish church. Though, pound to a penny, they'll not give up the pretensions to cathedral status.

But, can it work? Lionel Demiol (part of the Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh) sees the scheme not as an act of Christian generosity and trust but as a fall-back position for Bob Duncan who is prepared to share this major property only because he knows he cannot take it with him when he leaves TEC. If this is the case then the scheme is doomed from the start - it will only make the cathedral a battleground just as Pietermaritzburg was.

On the other hand, if goodwill can transcend distrust, my guess is that it might just work. If passed, the people and clergy of the cathedral will deliberately make themselves vulnerable to the whims of two people who will be at best wary and more likely hostile to one another. The cathedral will have to work hard to avoid contentious areas, at least to start. If it works then Trinity might become the place where ways for convergent conversations can take place. None of us know what the future holds.

It doesn't seem to me that this resolution will prove a model for others. It would only be possible for an organization with the legal capacity to determine or, at least, predispose its own fate. Any church subject to the control of national, diocesan or other authorities (which must be the vast majority) will be subject to their decision making.

Sri lankan Christians under attack

Sunset off the western coast of Sri Lanka

6-7% of the Sri Lankan population are Christian. There has been antipathy towards Christians from some Buddhists, often led by Buddhist monks, for a long time. A number of violent attacks were launched in 2002 and recently things seem to be getting worse. (here - March 08)

There have been mob attacks on churches

Calvary Church in Thalahena, Malabe, northeast of the capital Colombo, was
destroyed after a rumor spread that Christians had attacked a local Buddhist
temple. A mob of some 500 villagers had descended on Calvary church and
surrounded it as Sunday service was about to take place on July 6, persecution
watchdog group Release International recently reported. (here)

On the morning of August 3, as pastor Stanley Royston of the Assembly of God Church in Kalutara held his Sunday morning service Buddhist monks tried to storm the church with a mob. (here)

Attacks include: May 2008: Nugegoda; June 2008: Ampara, Middeniya; July 2008: Talahena, Malabe, Ingiriya - Sabaragamuwa Province, Matugama - Western Province, Weeraketiya - Southern Province; August 2008: Kalutara

Individual priests and pastors have been attacked.
Reverend Fernando from the Methodist Church in Ampara, was accosted by the three men at 4.40pm on 23 June. (here)

There have been disappearances and abductions:

Pastor Victor E.M.S. Yogarajan, 51, of the Gospel Missionary Church in the northern city of Vavuniya, his two sons – Daniel, 22, and David, 20 - and Joseph Suganthakumar, 20, have been missing since Mar. 2 [2007], reported the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka on Friday. (here)

Mob violence has been co-ordinated by Buddhist fundamentalists in various districts

Four anti-Christian meetings were held in the area [Middeniya in Hambanthota District] from Friday 13 June to Tuesday 17 June, making Christians fearful of potential violent action against them. Following the protests, a Christian girl was assaulted by her fellow students. (here)

There is growing bureaucratic harassment and misuse of legal processes.

The latest modus operandi for oppression say sources, is multi pronged. First there are allegations of churches harbouring LTTE terrorists. The second is trotting out little known or non existent rules and regulations at Municipality level in order to curtail religious freedom.

For instance say sources, churches seeking to expand their building are told by the UDA that no expansion whatsoever can be carried out unless 66% of the local population approves of it. With only 7% Christians in the country, such an approval rating, given the enmity and insecurity that has been fuelled by a nationalistic government, would be nigh impossible. ...

Whenever an attack on a church occurs, the police and local government officials ask for the 'registration' of a church with the provincial council even though such registration is neither required by law nor indicated in any legally acceptable document. ...

Christians have allegedly been denied their right to a fair investigation. Law enforcement authorities allegedly resort to misusing the existing clauses of the Sri Lankan constitution to prosecute Christian workers. For instance, Section 81 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which provides for binding over those liable to cause a "breach of peace," is used unfairly to deal with situations where Christian workers have been the victims, permitting the perpetrators to go free.

Section 98 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which deals the abatement of a nuisance in relation to noise and environmental pollution, has been invoked to legally restrict church worship. Churches have been forced to close down or ordered to stop their meeting by police in many areas on the basis of a challenge to the legal validity of such places of worship.

Although over 200 cases of arson, attacks, assault, death threats and damage to property and lives against Christians have been recorded during the last two years alone, hardly any indictments have been initiated even though in many cases the attackers have been identified. Church workers, their families and believers have been harassed and threatened, especially in rural areas. Law enforcement authorities issue injunction orders under section 106 (1) of the Penal Code to stop churches conducting services. ...

Christian children attending state schools are openly denied their right to study Christianity; in certain instances, they are forced not only to study Buddhism but to also practice/follow traditions such as worshipping statues. The children of new converts have been denied the right to follow Christianity in their school on the pretext that the child's birth certificate indicates he is a Buddhist.

Christian children are refused access to some government schools on the pretext that there are no teachers to teach Christianity. The Catholic Principal of St. Joseph's Convent, Nugegoda, a Colombo suburb, was dismissed by authorities for adhering to the officially recognised 8% allocation for Christian children. (She has since been reinstated.) Government owned schools openly refuse to admit Christian children. (here)

And lower-level harassment
the congregations, mostly poor folk, are allegedly harassed in their day to day
lives, some unable to even buy groceries, rent houses, send their children to
the local school, get a Christian burial or carry a Bible in their hands. ...

Many Christians, particularly converts, living in predominantly Buddhist areas have been refused the right to a Christian burial. One such incident was featured on BBC. There are many instances on record where Christians have been refused burial by the local Buddhist priests who have proceeded to 'hijack' the body to perform Buddhist funeral rites forcibly. ...

Buddhist landlords are directly pressurised by the local Buddhist monks to evict Christian tenants/not to rent houses to Christians/to sell land to Christians.

In rural areas and some urban areas as well there is an effort to prevent Christians from leasing or purchasing property, violating the rights of Christians to live anywhere in the country. (here)

Christians are also caught up in the civil war between the Government and the Tamil Tigers. Carita Internationalis reported (via Reuters) that

Vatican City, 28 September 2007 - Fr Nicholas Pillai Pakiaranjith, a 40-year-old priest, has been killed in a claymore attack in Kilinochi, north east Sri Lanka, while delivering essential aid to people made homeless by the conflict. (here)

None of this can happen without official connivance or active involvement. The Sri Lankan Newspaper The Sunday Lead suggests:

A group led by Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapakse and supported by many of the UNP dissidents favour a moderate approach. Another more formidable group led by the likes of extremist thinkers like JHU's Champika Ranawaka having the support of the JVP defector group NFF led by Wimal Weerawansa and such groups as the Patriotic National Movement (PNM) are intent on working to a systematic plan
of destruction and oppression [of minorities]. ...

All police officers irrespective of their religious beliefs have been forced to contribute every month towards the Police Buddhist Fund under specific instructions from the current IGP. The JHU is reportedly planning to exert pressure on the government not to pay government pensions to Christian government officials on their retirement on the basis that Christians receive remuneration from NGOs. (here)


It all sounds very familiar from parts of 1930s Europe.

Who steers the ship?

I have put a copy of my booklet Who Steers the Ship? The Proverty of the Draft Anglian Covenant on the MCU website, acessible here. It is published by MCU.

I argue first that the context for the covenant is a highly fluid and complex process of global change in which the church, like everything else, is being undone and re-made.

I set out what I see to be a fairly stable pattern of ecclesiastical conflict:

In practice, while each conflict in the church has been historically distinctive, they share common structural characteristics.

First, conflict tends to be complex and extensive reflecting incommensurable differences at the level of basic pre-suppositions. These differences have deep historic roots and are reflected in almost every aspect of the expression and embodiment of faith.

Second, because of this complexity, the occasion of conflict is often a relatively small matter, perhaps the actions or teaching of a particular individual. Conflicts take the form of synecdoche in which small matters encapsulate and represent much greater underlying differences.

Third, whatever the occasion and focus of a conflict, the issue is always greater. A struggle about a matter of Christian belief or practice quickly becomes a struggle for the soul of the church and then, equally quickly, becomes a struggle to gain the right to determine how the church decides. Nothing is minor or adiaphora when the identity of the Church is at stake.

Fourth, most church members do not engage in conflict. Consequently the leaders of the contending groups have to work hard to keep supporters on side and engaged in battle. They do so by increasingly strident rhetoric. They declare the conflict vital to the authenticity of the Church as a whole while denying the possibility of middle ground or conciliation. The occasion of conflict becomes a shibboleth by which to divide friends from enemies amongst people who would otherwise be indistinguishable. Ever-present incommensurable aspects of Christianity are highlighted while shared discipleship and good working relationships are minimised. Thus disputes quickly become critical conflicts of self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating seriousness. On the other hand, those seeking a resolution to conflict have the majority with them although, for the most part, the majority remain silent, dis-persed and disengaged.

Fifth, those seeking to resolve the crisis perceive that they cannot find a way forwards by dealing with the occasion of conflict head-on. Because the issues are too great and inherently intractable they seek to move sideways and often propose organizational change. This has the immediate effect of transposing the conflict into new terms, away from its ostensible focus and onto the ultimate goal: the right and capacity to determine how the church makes decisions. Organizational change embodies shifts in ecclesial power and ‘To the victor belong the spoils of the enemy.’ (WL Marcy, 1860)

I argue that centralisation and greater conformity are built into the covenants and especially into the St Andrew's draft. The proposals for juridical conflict resolution won't work. The lessons of history are that courts are inneffective as instruments of policy and the idea that those whith differences can be properly cast into the roles of accuser and defendant is a conceptual error.

I suggest that the covenant is an attempt to re-invent Anglican unity (not merely to build on past experience and add a bit) from which the laity would be excluded.

To conclude:

None of this will equip the Church for mission. On the contrary, the St Andrew’s draft Covenant offers a structure with brakes and no engine. Its proposed conflict resolution mechanisms would provide the means to amplify local disputes into global conflicts. The unity it offers is based on the threat of division. The presumption of uniformity will create new strains between and within member Provinces. New structures will lead to a generation of institutional introspection. Archiepiscopal control will be strengthened while the laity will be further marginalised. To hand power to those whose instinct is to resist change would militate against developing flexibility and the imaginative steps necessary to enable the Church to respond to the centrifugal and centripetal forces which are re-making human society across the globe.

I suggest that the church needs to be envisaged as a living entity for which there are never definitive solutions - only living out the tensions together.


Court action in the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Rev Janet Edwards

The Presbyterian Church of the USA is, on the whole a liberal-minded body. According USA Today 'The PCUSA allows ministers to perform same-sex unions as long as they are not equated with traditional marriage.'

But some people don't like this and the court has said ministers 'should not' perform same-sex weddings.

Rev. Janet Edwards of Pittsburgh is facing trial for officiating at a lesbian wedding.

Two years ago similar charges against her were dismissed because the papers had not been filed on time. Now the same person who brought charges last time is doing so again, this time with more support. Rev. James Yearsley said in a press release that he decided to re-file the accusation with Pittsburgh Presbytery in conjunction with others this time "because the church and Ms. Edwards never had their day in court." (And not because he's being vindictive.)

In a recent case the court ruled that there was no objection in the Church's law to same-sex weddings.
Jane Adams Spahr, a Presbyterian lesbian activist from San Rafael, Calif., was found not guilty of misconduct in April after a trial on charges that she violated the PC(USA)’s constitution by performing weddings for two lesbian couples.

The Permanent Judicial Commission of the General Assembly (GAPJC), the PC(USA)’s highest court, found that Spahr did not violate denominational law when she officiated at the weddings in 2004 and 2005. The GAPJC found that the ceremonies Spahr performed were not marriages, so she did not violate the church’s constitution, the high court ruled. The ruling overturned an earlier decision by the Synod of the Pacific’s PJC that found Spahr guilty of misconduct and gave her a rebuke — the lightest possible punishment. (here)
Edwards' case is complicated by the fact that one of the couple being married is a Buddhist. The charges against Edwards' appear to be that she acted
in "willful and deliberate violation of her ordination vows" as stated in the Book of Order by performing the same-sex wedding ceremony of Cole and McConn.
that she
performed a marriage ceremony that was "heretical and apostate" in that it was "contrary to the Word of God and the Book of Confessions by expressing Buddhist doctrine anathema to the Christian faith."
and that she
"assaulted the peace, unity and purity of the church" by repeatedly proclaiming in the secular media "defiance, apostasy and intent to continue such behavior."
all here.

Janet Edwards' own reflections on same-sex love and marriage are here (March 2007, after the first case failed). This includes,
I have engaged in serious, prayerful exploration of Scripture and the Confessions in order to reach my position on same-gender marriage. While my conclusion may not agree with others in the PC(USA), it deserves the mutual forbearance to be accorded when persons of character and principle differ. My position of conscience contributes to the process of discernment necessary to discover God's will over time on this non-essential matter with respect to which there is no agreement.
The most basic purpose of the Church, its members and its ministers is "to show the love and justice of Jesus Christ." Facing trial and death, Jesus said, "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men [humankind] to myself" (John 12:32). We cannot embrace all and still develop rules to set apart those whom we might not want to be part of all. To engage in the ministry of Jesus we must be witnesses to the unqualified love of Jesus for all and bring the blessings of the church to those who seek them.
Thank God, then, that the Constitution of the PC(USA) nowhere prohibits marriage of two men or two women. Simply put, what is not prohibited is allowed, so that the Spirit may blow where it will to do a new thing in God's chosen time and place. God, give us the eyes to see and the ears to hear Your Truth. Amen.


Using courts to enforce church policy is an utterly stupid idea and quite popular with those who think force is appropriate within the body of Christ.

Taking people to court hurts everyone concerned and the church as a whole. It doesn't change anyone's mind and offends public opinion.

And trying to keep the tide of social change out of the church by court rulings is simply risible.


Non-violent church?

Jim Naughton

I know that, in blogland, 10 days ago is ancient history - which is by way of apology for not picking up on this earlier - nonetheless I commend this article in the Guardian to you:

The archbishop's hands are tied, not ours

Naughton's comments follow the revelation of the Archbishop's personal views on homosexuality (correspondence here).
Were I the archbishop, though, I would have to acknowledge that the nature of my dispute with liberal Anglicans — particularly those in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada — must now be understood in a new light. We do not differ over essential matters such as the nature of Jesus or the mechanics of salvation. We do not differ over sexual ethics, or the interpretation of Scripture. Rather, we differ over the proper response to a belief we hold in common.

What is most objectionable about Williams' recent machinations are his efforts to construct a Communion in which only one response is permissible. He has sacrificed his opportunity to act on his convictions because he believes that his office demands it. One may disagree with that choice, but one can respect it. What one cannot respect, and must not accept, are his efforts to impose a similar sacrifice on those who believe that their offices — as pastors, as friends, as Christians — demand a different conclusion.
Under Williams's leadership, an elitist view of history is acquiring the force of doctrine. ...
In an earlier post I described Williams' stance as 'honourable'. I stand by that as a designation of Williams' personal decision about himself in his role. Jim Naughton points to the organizational consequences of his decision.

Williams' stance would seem to build dissonance, perhaps dishonesty, into the nature of the episcopacy. Williams models a manner of being bishop in which the formal, agreed and documented doctrine must drown out personal disagreement any, logically, any refinement, elaboration or inflection of the doctrine which appears to move outside the terms of the original formulation. The Office of Bishop must contain and limit the mind of the person. Williams then acts on his own presuppositions (not, incidentally, a formal, agreed and documented doctrine of episcopacy) and seeks to export his manner of being bishop, and its implications, to the church as a whole.

It is an attempt to force people into self-inflicted violence.

I do not wish to argue a bishop may teach anything they like on the grounds that it is their right as an individual to ignore the structures of the organization of which they are part. I wish to argue for the right, perhaps the duty, of bishops to to be able to express publicly their views and reflections as faithfully exploring contested issues.

The price of this is that, from time to time, some bishop will seem completely off beam not just in the sense that I deeply disagree with them but that almost no-one agrees with them. But I would much rather welcome and accommodate eccentric and embarrassing bishops than I would wish to accept the alternative: the customary barrage of criticism, personal attack and attempts to silence bishops who go even a little off message. (The media delight in such things, and may choose to stir it up, but they have no need to create it - Christians are all too commonly primed and ready to rush to condemn.)

The price of requiring episcopal conformity is a dishonest and fearful church which fosters heresy-hunters. It builds that internal and external violence into the pattern of relationships in the church. The belligerent will stand at arms, ready to fight to impose their interpretation of doctrine on the rest at the slightest occasion.

Away from the battle front, clergy will follow the episcopal lead not just out of the desire for preferment but mostly because bishops set the tone for clerical behaviour, the unspoken code of what can and cannot be said. The laity will continue to keep quiet or continue to leave.

Can we not create and sustain a church in which diversity is a positive value, divergent spiritual journeys are recognised and encouraged, in which all members may be honest and open and know that they will be met by love and not violence. Can we not have a church led by people who are willing to take risks, who encourage people to think for themselves and to contribute such thinking to the enrichment of the whole?

Yes, in case you were wondering, we can. But it's not easy and, if it were me, I wouldn't start from here.

(This article was a response to news that a priest 'banned a 13-year-old boy with autism from services, saying his behavior was disruptive to others.' It shows what's possible.)

Forecast: cloudy, getting worse

The ever helpful BBC has a series of graphs and pictures to show you just how bad the financial downturn is already - with the expectation that it's just going to get worse.

This is the most dramatic graph of US house prices:

But it's not bad news for everyone. Give thanks for the wealthiest (UK) who are able to thrive in good times and in bad. The very poorest of course get what they deserve:

Thanks to Themethatisme.

Zimbabwe talks

Zimbabwe Talks in cartoons.

The violence continues despite talks. This is a list of people murdered since the election. Many more are still missing.


What about Hong Kong?

Archbishop Paul Kwong following his election in 2007
Photo Credit: Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui

I have just read Norman Doe's book An Anglican Covenant: Theological and Legal Considerations for a Global Debate. The cover proclaims The Definitive Explanation and Guide. This may be an overstatement. (Buy it via the MCU site here.)

There is much in it that is useful. For example, Doe's point that a covenant is promissory (amongst other things) leads me to wonder about the nature of promises, and their limitation, in relationships between organizations.

Professor Doe is a canon lawyer who has worked for a single legal framework for the Anglican Communion over 20 years or more. He was a central contributor to the draft covenant in the Windsor Report and has been part of the process ever since. "He made five presentations on canon law and covenant at the Lambeth Conference 2008."

The book works within a predefined theological-juridical framework, with the emphasis on the juridical. Using a framework he developed previously he analyses 'covenant' in three groups of three concepts: (a) foundational ideas: the nature, employment and purpose of a covenant, (b) structure and substance: its form, subject matter and content, and (c) implementation: its process, adoption and effects.

The result is a conceptual analysis with discussion of the questions and opinions within each category. He homogenises the multiple sources he draws on (including some of MCU's papers), picking out comments which support, criticise or add to the point he wishes to address - but missing the overall thrust of any of the sources. Each chapter is given equal weight.

And he wholly misses the political dimension. This is a lawyer's answer to theological, cultural and ecclesiastical dispute: more law.

Hence my question: what about the Province of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui? In their submission in response to the Nassau draft they strongly oppose the covenant. They do so, first, on the grounds that it would be a diminution of Anglican polity and of the diversity they value. They question its practicality and enforceability. Third, from their particular perspective as the only Anglican body in China,
During the years between 1984 and 1990, Archbishop Emeritus Peter Kwong, then Bishop of Hong Kong and Macao, worked tirelessly as a member of the Basic Law Drafting Committee. He succeeded not only in greatly contributing to the preservation of Hong Kong’s religious freedoms but also in forging close and enduring relationships with the senior officials of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (directly under the State Council of the PRC) and the leaders of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (the only registered post-denominational Protestant Church in China), including its Chairman for many years, Bishop Ding Guangxun – the last Anglican bishop in China.
There is no doubt that the autonomous governance of our Church, together with the affectionate but non-interfering ties with the See of Canterbury and other churches of the Communion, sit easily with the familiar crystal-clear policies of the PRC government with respect to religious affairs.

HKSKH Anglicans are bound to approach any movement within the Anglican Communion towards the centralisation of power and governance with considerable reluctance and great caution.
That is to say: the Chinese government remains highly suspicious of all religious organizations and the chance of a sufficiently good working relationship between the HKSKH and the government will be jeopardised, probably destroyed, if the PRC government believe (whatever church lawyers say) that HKSKH is subordinate to foreign control. That perception will also be enough to disrupt, probably destroy, the currently good ecumenical relations.

There is no mention of this dilemma in Doe's work. Is the covenant so important that it is worth sacrificing the HKSKH (or any province)?

Doe says, twice, that only 13 submissions out of a possible 44 were received. He also acknowledged that the United Churches (i.e. in full communion but not Anglican provinces) were ignored in the early stages of the process (the Lusitanian Church also, incidentally, strongly opposed the covenant). Yet the Covenant Design Group felt confident to ignore all submissions except those which helped refine the text. They neither went to each non-respondent province to ensure that they had a reply nor did they put any weight on the fact that 31 provinces abstained from the consultation. Normally, on such a critical question, such non-response would be fatal to the project or at least to its timetable. Yet they spoke as if they had the authority of the Communion to do so and were not going to have their self-imposed timetable disrupted.

The politics would seem to be clear: a small group with the backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury, are determined to drive this covenant through whatever the cost. Small and weak provinces can get out of the way.

Does conclusion is that to adopt the covenant would be 'a major historical development' (p. 213) that opposition is getting less (p. 217) and, last paragraph, that the covenant is no more than a well-trodden Christian path entirely consonant with scripture, tradition and reason and therefore Anglicans may be wholly reassured (pp. 220-221).

Sorry, Pluralist: you may be right about growing opposition but that's not currently killing the covenant. Doe's judgement will be more widely read and regarded as more weighty. The politics are less about numbers than about keeping the plough straight and not looking back at whatever chaos may be left in its wake.


The courruption of Eden

Mugabe: crocodile with no tears

From Vanity Fair

The tragic irony of Zimbabwe is that what is today a hellish country should by all evidence be a paradise. Its high, malaria-free interior is a magical place: sweeping vistas of long tawny grasses slope up to the mountain ranges of the eastern highlands; in the north the land falls sharply down to the Zambezi River, which tumbles magnificently over the Victoria Falls. Zimbabwe is blessed with rich, loamy soil. Beneath it lie generous seams of gold, chromium, coal, iron, and diamonds. At independence in 1980, Mugabe inherited a sophisticated, well-maintained infrastructure. The black middle class grew fast, and Zimbabwe enjoyed the highest standard of living in black-ruled Africa.

But that was yesterday. The most recent World Values Survey shows that Zimbabweans are today the world’s unhappiest people. Their economy has almost halved in size in the past 10 years. The unemployment rate is more than 80 percent. About half of all Zimbabweans are reliant on food aid. Some 20 percent of the population is afflicted with H.I.V./aids. Zimbabwe today has the world’s shortest life span—the average Zimbabwean is dead by age 36 (down from age 62 in 1990). As a result the country now has the highest percentage of orphans on the planet.


This is a society dominated by terror. After Mugabe’s politburo decision, in April, his security forces launched yet another operation. They called this one Operation MaVhoterapapi—Operation “Whom Did You Vote For?” Harare’s hospitals rapidly filled up with its handiwork. People in Zimbabwe have a name for what has been happening. They call it simply “The Fear.”


The world’s major powers are unlikely to take significant steps against Mugabe. Zimbabwe lacks both of the two exports—oil and international terrorism—that attract direct intervention. The German government did finally press the banknote company Giesecke & Devrient to stop sending banknote paper to Mugabe, and G&D acceded to this request in July. Even as the West adds diminutive darts to its tiny quiver of sanctions, the greatest pressure is likely to come from within Zimbabwe, as its society continues to fall apart.

All here.

madpriest's thought for the day

madpriest's thought for the day
The future of the Anglican Communion does not hang in the balance.The Anglican Communion was crucified dead and buried the first time a primate refused to take communion with another primate.What does hang in the balance is the future of the trading company.


Covenant - Plan B?

Why is there no Plan B?

First and foremost there is no Plan B because the Covenant is a political process not a technical one.

In the broadest sense the Anglican Communion is already covenanted together. The intention is to get a sufficient proportion of members to assent to a reallocation of power in the Communion. There is no official Plan B (and no possibility of conceiving one) because to do so would fatally undermine the political process of driving this goal forwards.

And all the energy put into critiquing the Covenant proposals simply reinforces the idea that it alone is the future.

Second, there is no Plan B because there is no other place a Plan B could emerge. There are lots of places a multitude of plans could emerge from - but no place with the status to be able to say: here is an alternative. This was, after all, a key intention of the Eames Commission - to populate the high ground of Anglicanism with as many of the belligerents as was politically feasible thus pre-empting alternative schemes. No other group can say 'we have responsibility for the future of the whole communion' without meaning 'we want the Communion to follow our sectional priorities'.

Third, there is a Plan B - it's called GAFCON and FOCA (for whom, incidentally, I don't see a separate website). In effect this is the creation of an alternative high ground. Only it's not a Plan B for the Communion but instead of it.

What would a Plan B look like?

1) An analysis of the problem.
An analysis is essential - but not because it gives any clue as to a solution. An analysis of the problem is, in effect, a statement of political perspective on the issues. It will need to be sufficiently detailed to be credible to a neutral reader and, much more important, it will need to include all (or as many as possible) of the differing groups' own analyses of the problems they face - even their key words and phrases - to keep them reading to the next section.

But there is no need to go into too much detail because it's not important. After all, we're in this mess because the problem is intractable. It's tendrils reach into every part of the body. Therefore all that a more precise analysis does is to tell people more precisely how hopeless the whole thing is.

Nor will a fresh perspective on the problem help - it will have almost no-one's assent no matter how perceptive and brilliant it might be. (Except, perhaps, under one set of conditions: when there is complete political stalemate or exhaustion and the great majority are looking for a sideways move to get them out of the mess the initial conflict got them into.)

The point of a Plan is not to solve the problem. It is to shift the problem into a different frame so that we can get on with living with the problems in a different way, at least until the next intractable problem comes along.

2) Biblical, historical and theological underpinning
This is the language of legitimacy. Any innovation must have legitimacy grounded in scripture (both plain-sense and critically interpreted to gain the widest acceptance), in historical development to show that what is proposed is only a small step forward on a continuous path and therefore not really an innovation and, third, in theological discourse to conform the proposal to the language of the experience of God customary in everyday ecclesiastical discussion (and definitely not to technical academic theology).

The degree of precision is important. The task is to put forward sufficient legitimation of the proposal but not much more. Whatever you say it will be picked apart in every aspect, probably every word in an important document, by people fully qualified to do so. This doesn't matter. Unless there are real howlers (and even if there are sometimes) all the analysis and critique will simply serve to show that these are the right grounds for action and the task is refinement not replacement. And, anyway, you can change your mind later should some other ground for legitimation look more politically attractive.

To put forward more grounds for legitimation than you need - or too little - risks the whole package being dismissed, and the only thing that would sink a proposal is for it to be ignored.

Because this section is about legitimacy it will necessarily be developed alongside the Plan itself but articulated subsequently. It is post hoc legitimation of the plan which is chosen primarily because it is politically expedient. Therefore it must be suffient to persuade the people who must first be persuaded on other grounds.

3) The Plan
The plan can be whatever you think will work.

But 'work' here means 'obtain sufficient assent from the people who will have to implement it.'

The plan needs to be described in outline. Again, too much precision and it will drown in its own detail, too little and the proposal will be dismissed as irrelevant.

The detail and the practicalities can follow after. If a plan looks like it might be a runner the first thing that will happen is that everyone and their uncle will tell you all its flaws and why it won't work. A few of these comments will be helpful in refining the plan but much more important will be the evidence that people have engaged with making it work.

4) What happens next
Long before your plan is published you should know who is to take forward the proposal, who will fund it, and have some kind of timetable for future action to move from paper to implementation.

Therefore all the key people (that is, anyone with the power to scupper the plan) should be well briefed before the final text is agreed so as to ensure that they will back the proposal publicly no matter what reservations they may still have. This is, after all, an 'outline' plan - and those who have reservations know both that the details are critical and that they will be able to interfere with the detailed planning behind closed doors and in good time.

It is for this reason that planning should not be conducted in public.


So, to Plan B:

An alternative is, of course, to do things in public. How else can an inclusive church be constructed?

The legitimation of this plan is thus built into my definition of the problem: we are an inherently exclusive church.

And it could be a non-plan: a flexible framework within which enables the church to thrive in its own localities and does not seek to order the church prescriptively.

This would entail a much more extensive reallocation of power (but no disavowal of power per se). It would make those with power accountable to those living out the church in their communities.

And it's just a personal fantasy of the possibilities of church - so it's no threat to anyone.

More to follow.


St Albans, Retford, RIP

St Albans Church, Retford, has been burnt out.

This won't mean much to you but the church was important to me for a while and to hear of its demise and to watch it on Youtube (and here) is saddening. (BBC account.)

The building had been closed for many years. It had been subjected to vandalism, graffitti, calculated theft of wooden carvings and furniture, and now (probably) arson.
It was built at the start of the twentieth century. There was never enough money so it was completed in sections - in 1901, 1912, and 1936 (from memory). It saw its century before it closed. From the 1930s to the 1950s it was thriving though, like so many others, membership shrank steadily through the following decades. For a while in the 1990s it took on new life as a local community arts centre.
But finances were always against it (and there were several other Anglican churches nearby) and the decison was made to close.
No-one was hurt in the fire. A fireman was shaken when the cherrypicker he was on toppled onto the church as the road gave way beneath it. Residents of The Hollies, a residential home for the elderly I once used to visit, were evacuated.
It's too soon to say what will happen to it now. I guess the choice is between being demolished (if its unsafe) or using the shell to build a new structure. Again, it'll be down to finance.


Covenant and canon law

The origins of Anglican canon law

A view of what's happening very different to that of the Editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette is presented by Kevin Donlon.

Kevin Francis Donlon is a corresponding member of the Global South Anglican Theological Formation and Education Task Force and his paper The Challenges of Covenant and Canons for the Future of a Ius Commune Anglicanae can befound on the Global South site.

Note: his paper, which does not seem to be dated, does not address any of the Covenant proposals later than Towards an Anglican Covenant, though the principles he discusses remain key.

He presumes that the Communion is in the process of reformation of a very Anglican kind (i.e. decently and in order) . It is turning into a comunnio ecclessiae sui iuris - one single church with one law.

The central problem, from this perspective, is the old order: a global communion where law-making is in the hands of 44 separate bodies. A body which covenants together and yet makes laws independently has insufficient coherence when amity is not enough.

The guiding principle has been “In essentials unity, In doubtful things liberty, But in all things love”. Unity under this principle has been expressed in common worship and in local customs which may be universalisable but may not. Clashes occur in church order where local action may conflict with global affiliations.

The possibility of a universal approach to canons has not been received well in Anglicanism and has been placed in deference to the idea of covenants. It seem the reasons are many, but the most visceral is because of past fears that an uncompromising devotion to canonical structure will damage the Spirit’s guidance to new models of anglicanae ecclessiae. Conversely, there is a posture holding that the present crisis of “anglicanae communio” lies in the fact that Anglicanism has consistently failed to embrace a clear set of universal norms and as such this has paralyzed its ability to witness to the truth of the gospel. The resolution of the tension between canons and covenants amidst such conflicts is “essentially contested and undecidable, particularly if the consensus fidelium is important in the determination”. (Stephen Pickard. , Innovation and Undecidability: Some Implications for the Koinonia of the Anglican Church. Journal of Anglican Studies, Volume 2.2, December 2004. pg.93)

He argues for a strengthening of the Covenant by grounding it in Divine Law and the long history of canon law making (both of which, in practice have been sustained by the Roman catholic church, not Anglicanism).

He would also draw on Orthodox law making which tends to be responsive rather than prescriptive, recognising and valuing local jurisdictions. In particular he suggests three levels of law: of the church universal, of the Anglican Church as a whole, and particular local laws.

This programme of codification of Anglican law, and its application across the Communion, would call for a new ecclesiology.

Ecclesiastically in terms of governance this has implications for the Principles of Subsidiarity and the orthodox Concept of Economy. As expressed in the Virginia Report, the call is for authority not to be concentrated in a single center but rather across a plurality of persons exercising various degrees of authority which would be governed according to the distinctions of gifts and roles.

This complements a participatory hierarchy whereby such role differentiations would exist in the church, with varying tasks and authorities afforded to those roles. Influence would flow freely among roles fully, but in a way appropriate to their function or office, for the good of the common life.

This contributes to a ius commune but at the same time allows for the concept of
Economy/ οικονόμια to be applied to the community which recognizes
that such an application is always an exception to the general rule.

On the basis of this argument he holds that the Covenant proposals are inadequate:
A draft of a Covenant without a canonical and conciliar structure illustrates once again that Anglican leaders seem unable to grasp the conciliar nature of the Church. A new model for a new day is required where conversations about Canons and Covenants are not simply the speculation of non-binding conferences that insure autonomy over and above authority.


One key to Donlon's argument is the concept of subsidiarity. This is built into English canon law (see Canon B5), is discussed in the Windsor Report, but seems to have been wholly forgotten in the subsequent Covenant process. Donlon sets out three layers of law but does not specify the criteria by which matters should be allocated to one or another layer.

In principle I am not averse to this approach on two conditions: first, the more universal the law the more general it should be. Second, any law that can possibly by made at a local level should never be made at a higher level. I am averse to it in practice because the opposite is inevitably the case. Every local dispute leads to higher level decision making and once a decision is made at a higher level it is almost impossible to give the subject back to more local decision makers: it is a one-way ratchet.

Donlon is also keen to retain the diversity of locations of decision making which, in the proposed Covenants, are being reduced to the Instruments of Unity.

The concept of Divine Law, though venerable and theoretically the base of Catholic canon law, is problematic. There is no consensus about what constitutes such a law, which laws should be given such status and which should not - and, anyway, if divine law can only be identified by consensus then it is the law of the consenting, not of God.

The fact is that the move to a single canon law (unitary or layered, subtle or sledge hammer) is an attempt to cut across not only the 44 different localities of law making but also the fissures in the Communion which run through the middle of provinces as well as between them.

I think one clue to what is happening is in the quote from Stephen Pickard: 'The resolution of the tension between canons and covenants amidst such conflicts is “essentially contested and undecidable, particularly if the consensus fidelium is important in the determination”.' (see above).

The proposal for a single Communion law is an attempt to cut across the consensus fidelium because it does not exist either in the sense of the 'common mind' of the church or in the sense of the reception of change by the church. It is an attempt to declare to the Communion what their consensus fidelium must be: conform and be part of the Communion, or dissent and leave. It is an alternative to seeking a consensus fidelium.

It seems to me (see future posts) that the idea of law as integrative of the communion systematically ignores questions of power. Lawyers tend to see law as a good in itself (especially canon lawyers with a yearning for divine law) and tend to objectify laws as somehow morally (or, in this case, ecclesiologically) neutral.

I see canon law, and constitutional law in particular, as the outworking of conflicts between the contending groups in the church. They are temporary truces in the continual struggle to constitute and re-constitute the church in the group's own image.

Therefore the idea that law is an answer to the travails of the Anglican Communion seems to me a category error: law is the formal expression of an answer. The answer on the table at the moment is that the elite of the Anglican Communion are to take power to themselves to impose upon the rest of the body one particular solution, dressed in legal clothes. As no such power presently exists in any law, the reality of power will have to be covered up by retrospective law.

The Covenant remains an ecclesiastical coup d’état (coup d'eglise?)