General Convention 2006

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. Then I will go to the altar of God, and I will praise you . . . Psalm 43:3-4

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church
met in Columbus, Ohio from June 11-21, 2006.
This blog offers a view of the convention and beyond from the perspective of Lydia Evans, a two-time lay deputy from the Diocese of South Carolina.
Visit the links found below for additional resources
as well as pre- and post-convention coverage.
Thank you for remembering the convention deputies and their families in your prayers. For further resources, visit my webpages.
For all posts from the month of June, click here.
For all posts from the month of July, click here.


A Prophet Honored in her own Country?

From the Nevada Appeal:

"Come November, the nation's first female presiding bishop of the Episcopal church will put Nevada in the spotlight and herself in a familiar territory - on the fringe of a turbulent world.

"Katharine Jefferts Schori, the current bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, knows the challenges of sitting in a male-dominated post that represents 110 dioceses across the nation and works with 300 bishops...

"After about two decades of service, she was elected to the highest post of the church in June, the Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States. The position will also serve as a U.S. diplomat to the international Christian community..."

Lydia's note: This is another example of the inflation of ++KJS's experience. Unless each year of the episcopate pays medallion, bonus years, then I don't consider twelve years as "about two decades." Even with three years of seminary, we're only talking about 15 years. Maybe they're figuring that she was ordained in the 1990s and now we're in 'the 2000s' -- that's two decades...

Read the rest here.

One more bit from this article. ++KJS, speaking on ECUSA's approach to birth control, sexuality, and divorce, notes that "We're more flexible than the Catholic church." The author of this article then makes a stunning observation: "The irony is, Catholicism was part of the Episcopal Church before a split in the 1500s."

Talk about getting the cart before the horse. The Roman Catholic Church as a part of the Episcopal Church before the Reformation/Schism? More on this from Doug LeBlanc.


We Did Remember to Check Her References, Didn't We?

PB-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori is being challenged on her resume:

"The newly elected presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church lists as her major qualifications for office positions at two institutions shrouded in mystery and without any formal accreditation – if they exist at all.

"That's the finding of an investigation of the rise of Katharine Jefferts Schori, 52, a pilot and oceanographer and strong advocate for same-sex marriage and homosexual ordination by Virtue Online, which describes itself as "the voice for global orthodox Anglicanism."

"Schori and the nominating committee for the election that took place in June list as Schori's major qualifications the following positions she reportedly held:

pastoral associate and dean of the Good Samaritan School of Theology, Corvallis, Ore., from 1994-2000;

priest in charge of El Buen Samaritano, Corvallis, Ore.

"Terry Ward, a writer for Virtue Online, says he could find no record of the existence of the Good Samaritan School of Theology in his examination of the web pages and church newsletters of the Good Samaritan Church of Corvallis, Ore., the web pages of the Episcopal Church USA and the Oregon and Nevada Dioceses, the web pages of the Association of Theological School, which lists all accredited and affiliated institutions in the U.S. and Canada.

"None of these sources showed any evidence that the 'Good Samaritan School of Theology' existed as an independent organization with staff or facilities," Ward wrote. "There was no mention of the school or of the titles or positions (dean, pastoral associate) associated with the school."

"But there is now.

"Just do a search for the school and you will find dozens of references to it, in USA Today, Washington Post and other major papers – all involving the election of Schori and her reliance on that major qualification."

Read the rest here.

Set in her Ways? Expect More of the Same from Politically Active PB-elect

"The Episcopal Church's Election of its first female presiding bishop has made a split with the Anglican Communion even more likely. Katharine Jefferts Schori delighted Episcopalians who support gay bishops, same-sex unions, and other liberal social policies. But her victory also confirmed what church conservatives have long feared: The liberal majority is going to keep pushing until the leftward drift of the past few decades is complete.

"Jefferts Schori embodies the Episcopal evolution. While bishop of Nevada, she voted for a gay bishop's consecration and allowed same-sex blessings. She was also noted for her political activism. In letters to Nevada politicians, she quoted Scripture and used the power of her office to lobby for liberal policies.

"On April 21, 2004, she wrote to Nevada senators Harry Reid and John Ensign on the subject of immigration: "The Bible repeatedly enjoins people of faith to remember the stranger, to care for those without family or roots in a place, and to ensure that they are fed, housed, and shown hospitality." She then chastised the United States for "[forgetting] that mandate, especially since September 11th," because "the fear-mongering of late has eclipsed the demand to treat our neighbors fairly and humanely."

"In an October 31, 2005 letter to Nevada's entire congressional delegation, Jefferts Schori opposed the FY 2006 federal budget reconciliation, which provided funding for Hurricane Katrina relief. "The budget process provides the opportunity for Congress and the President to work together to address the poverty that exists in this nation," she explained. "Congress must not exacerbate poverty . . . by passing a budget that further impoverishes one group of already poor people in our nation in order to help those newly or more deeply impoverished by the recent hurricanes . . . . We must not ask the poorest among us to bear a burden which should be borne by this entire nation."

Read the rest from Jamie Deal in the Weekly Standard.


An Open Letter to Episcopal Clergy

"But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" (Romans 10:14-15)

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

In this passage from Romans, Paul is referring to the 52nd chapter of Isaiah. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes… salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”’ (Isaiah 52:7)

This is not just a reference to a messenger or a herald coming over the mountain with an announcement. This Good News is the salvation found in Jesus Christ.

How are they to call on him? How are they to believe in him? How are they to hear? The answer is that a preacher must be sent – one who will bring this Good News to the one who has not heard.

And the Good News is this – Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the Messiah. He is my Saviour. He is the only Way to the Father. I have heard this message. I believe it, and it is the story that I tell anyone who will listen.

At the General Convention this year, a resolution was put forward reaffirming this understanding of the uniqueness of Jesus as Messiah. D058: Salvation through Christ Alone. It was relatively straightforward, with language straight out of John 14. Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life. Perhaps it was too clear because the Evangelism Committee voted to discharge it, an action which would prevent D058 from being discussed on the floor of the House of Deputies.

But, following a request for reconsideration, it did come up. From the discussion which followed, it was apparent that a diversity of opinion existed among the clergy and laity regarding Jesus as the only Way. In the end, the discharge was upheld by a vote of 675 to 242. More than seventy percent of the deputies present were unable to commit to salvation through Christ alone.

Think about this for a minute – more than 2/3 of the House, which includes over 400 ordained priests, were declaring that they are either unable or unwilling to proclaim without a doubt that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Which leads me to wonder – what are they preaching each Sunday from the pulpit?

Now just the other day, I read a piece in the News & Observer written by Lauren Stanley, in which she says that ‘many of us caught in the middle believe that neither side speaks for the rest of us…we don’t look at the world as black and white. We can see the justice on both sides of the sexuality debate. And most of us have no idea which side is correct.’

I can understand Miss Stanley’s dilemma --- up to a point. She is passionate about the mandate in Matthew 25 to heal the sick, house the homeless, clothe the naked, and feed the hungry. And as Christians, we are absolutely called to care for the ‘least of these.’ But often the poor we encounter are poor in spirit, hungry for the Truth, thirsty for the Living Water found in Christ alone. Are we not also to offer these folks a drink?

And the ‘middle’ to which she refers – that confused ‘Anglican middle’ who see the world as shades of gray – they are what I have come to call ‘the Anglican muddle.’

But here ’s the rub. Lauren Stanley is ordained...

Read the rest here.

Archbishop Bernard Malango: Henderson May Not Return

"The office of the Anglican Archbishop of Central Africa in Zomba has indicated that the decision to order Bishop James Mwenda to return to Zambia does not mean giving a chance for rejected British clergyman Paul Nicholas Henderson to head the Diocese of Lake Malawi.

"Provincial Secretary Eston Pembamoyo said Monday Mwenda had to leave the country to allow for neutral discussions between Anglican bishops in Malawi and the laity of the Lake Malawi on the way forward.

"Pembamoyo ruled out the possibility of reconsidering the diocese’s first choice, Henderson, who was rejected following allegations that he supported gay activities in the United Kingdom.

“Henderson’s case is a closed chapter. There is no way we can start discussing him again,” said Pembamoyo.

“After all, Mwenda’s contract has not been cancelled and if in the long analysis it transpires that he should not come back he will still be paid for the period he was going to serve as diocesan bishop,” said Pembamoyo.

"He said the other two Anglican bishops, James Tengatenga and Christopher Boyle, will meet the complainants to find out their concerns before inviting Archbishop Bernard Malango to agree on the future leadership of the diocese.

Read the rest here.

And this from a December article:

“Quite a number of people were doubting if Reverend Henderson is a man of sound faith and we have found that he is not, according to research by the Anglican Church,” said Malango.

More here.

Ruth Gledhill: Setback for Traditionalists

"THE Church of England will force traditionalists for the first time to accept that the ordination of women as priests and bishops is valid.

"In the first step towards women bishops, the General Synod voted yesterday to enforce a church law that upholds the ordination of all bishops, priests and deacons without exception.

"Until now, an Act of Synod has protected Anglican Catholics who refuse to accept the ordination of women as valid and allowed them to declare their parishes “no-go zones” for women priests.

"Traditionalists do not want women to have the power of ordination — something they would have as bishops — and have asked for a “third province”, in effect a church within a church, to ensure that apostolic succession in the Church remains “untainted” by women’s hands.

"Earlier this year bishops tried to draw up a plan that would have created havens for traditionalists, but their attempts collapsed in disarray. Yesterday the General Synod agreed in York to set up a new group to tackle the framing of the legislation for women bishops. The legislation will be voted on in about five years and will need a two-thirds majority to pass."

Read the rest in The Times (London).

Read also Ruth Gledhill's account of Days
One, Two, and Three.


Charlotte Allen Tells It Like It Is

This piece from Charlotte Allen is provoking lots of comments on the HOB/D listserv, and according to +Patrick Augustine, it's being widely distributed in the Islamic world.

"...You want to have gay sex? Be a female bishop? Change God's name to Sophia? Go ahead. The just-elected Episcopal presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is a one-woman combination of all these things, having voted for Robinson, blessed same-sex couples in her Nevada diocese, prayed to a female Jesus at the Columbus convention and invited former Newark, N.J., bishop John Shelby Spong, famous for denying Christ's divinity, to address her priests.

"When a church doesn't take itself seriously, neither do its members. It is hard to believe that as recently as 1960, members of mainline churches — Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and the like — accounted for 40% of all American Protestants. Today, it's more like 12%...

"According to the Hartford Institute for Religious Research, in 1965, there were 3.4 million Episcopalians; now, there are 2.3 million. The number of Presbyterians fell from 4.3 million in 1965 to 2.5 million today. Compare that with 16 million members reported by the Southern Baptists.

"When your religion says "whatever" on doctrinal matters, regards Jesus as just another wise teacher, refuses on principle to evangelize and lets you do pretty much what you want, it's a short step to deciding that one of the things you don't want to do is get up on Sunday morning and go to church...

"Sociologist Rodney Stark ("The Rise of Christianity") and historian Philip Jenkins ("The Next Christendom") contend that the more demands, ethical and doctrinal, that a faith places upon its adherents, the deeper the adherents' commitment to that faith. Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, which preach biblical morality, have no trouble saying that Jesus is Lord, and they generally eschew women's ordination. The churches are growing robustly, both in the United States and around the world.

"Despite the fact that median Sunday attendance at Episcopal churches is 80 worshipers, the Episcopal Church, as a whole, is financially equipped to carry on for some time, thanks to its inventory of vintage real estate and huge endowments left over from the days (no more!) when it was the Republican Party at prayer. Furthermore, it has offset some of its demographic losses by attracting disaffected liberal Catholics and gays and lesbians. The less endowed Presbyterian Church USA is in deeper trouble. Just before its general assembly in Birmingham, it announced that it would eliminate 75 jobs to meet a $9.15-million budget cut at its headquarters, the third such round of job cuts in four years.

"The Episcopalians have smells, bells, needlework cushions and colorfully garbed, Catholic-looking bishops as draws, but who, under the present circumstances, wants to become a Presbyterian?

"Still, it must be galling to Episcopal liberals that many of the parishes and dioceses (including that of San Joaquin, Calif.) that want to pull out of the Episcopal Church USA are growing instead of shrinking, have live people in the pews who pay for the upkeep of their churches and don't have to rely on dead rich people. The 21-year-old Christ Church Episcopal in Plano, Texas, for example, is one of the largest Episcopal churches in the country. Its 2,200 worshipers on any given Sunday are about equal to the number of active Episcopalians in Jefferts Schori's entire Nevada diocese."

Read the rest here. More here at TitusOneNine.

One Convention, Two Views

Here's a letter to the editor in today's paper from a South Carolina priest who attended GC2006 as (I think) a visitor. I didn't have the pleasure of seeing this priest and his wife in Columbus.

Where was I? Oh, right, I was on the floor of the House of Deputies (for hours and hours each day) watching paint dry.

This letter is so interesting. It sounds like the author attended a different convention. For those of you who were in Columbus, does his experience match yours?

"My wife and I were privileged to attend the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church recently in Columbus, Ohio.

"We were impressed by the city and its convention facilities. We were elated to meet and greet fellow Episcopalians from throughout the country, and we were impressed with their serious attempts to be true to scripture in today's world. We were there for the presiding bishop's forum on reconciliation and heard several wonderful speakers, including John Danforth, an Episcopal priest and former U. S. senator and ambassador to the United Nations.

"We observed the clergy and lay delegates from each diocese deliberating and voting on the many resolutions and issues to come before the convention. We participated in a wide variety of liturgical worship services attended by thousands, which incorporated many styles of music, and were flavored with the diverse cultures and people who are in our communion.

"We heard many fine preachers, and we enjoyed the "table conversation" on the Bible lessons for each day with the people sitting with us. We watched and listened as the House of Bishops prayed, deliberated and voted on key issues...

Read the rest in today's Post and Courier.


Center Stage for a Pastor Where It's Rock that usually Rules

"At the Logan Square Auditorium here one recent night, Rob Bell arrived in a rock band tour bus and strode past posters for Cheap Sex, a punk band performing at the hall later this summer. Following a T-shirted bouncer through the sold-out crowd of about 450, Mr. Bell hopped onto the stage.

"Of his new secular venues, Mr. Bell said, "I just thought, What are the places my brother and I like to go to?" The answer: where bands play.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and earth," he began, without introduction. "Now, it's a very old book."

"This, Mr. Bell believes, is what church can look like. For the hall's bartenders, it was the start of a slow night.

"Mr. Bell, 35, is the pastor and founder of Mars Hill Bible Church, an independent evangelical congregation in Grandville, Mich., outside Grand Rapids. The church has a weekly attendance of 10,000 and meets in a former mall."

Read the rest in today's New York Times.

Church Marketing from the CofE

Another chuckle from Dave Walker at Cartoon Church.

For more tips on congregational development from the Church of England, visit this

Lauren Stanley: Caught in the Middle

To better understand the theology behind her point of view, see this piece from TitusOneNine (along with the comments it generated).

And today's article in The News and Observer:

"Many liberals in the Episcopal Church and throughout the Anglican Communion cheered the actions that took place in 2003 and, claiming that issues of human sexuality are issues of God's justice, want more support for gays and lesbians. We are radical prophets, they claim. If you don't like what we liberals are doing, be gone yourselves.

"Both conservatives and liberals have huge pulpits and use them loudly. Outsiders watching this debate cannot be blamed for thinking that all the Episcopal Church talks about, thinks about and acts on, is sex.

"But many of us caught in the middle believe that neither side speaks for the rest of us. Most Anglicans, both in the United States and throughout the world, do not believe that the core issue of our faith is sexuality. Most of us want to focus on preaching the Gospel, curing the sick, caring for the homeless, feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty.

"Of course, few listen to us in that vast middle, because we don't have big pulpits. And we don't speak in sound bites.

"We don't look at the world as black and white. We can see the justice on both sides of the sexuality debate. And most of us have no idea which side is correct."

This is exactly Rev. Stanley's problem.

Read the rest here.

CofE Gives the Nod to Women Bishops

"Proposals to bring the introduction of women bishops closer to reality have been backed by more than two-thirds of the Church of England's ruling body. The General Synod approved the concept of women bishops as "theologically justified" by 288 votes to 119.

"Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams will address the Synod on Monday to support setting up a legislative group to tackle the issue.

More from BBC News.

And from The Scotsman

LONDON (Reuters) - The Church of England voted on Saturday to ordain women as bishops, a major liberalising step in a faith that has also faced schism over homosexuality, although it could be years before the first woman bishop is named.

The church has ordained women as priests for a decade and one in six parish priests is now a woman. But the church maintained what critics called a "stained-glass ceiling" that prevented women from rising to the rank of bishop.

At their synod in York, the three "houses" of laity, priests and bishops each voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion that declared ordaining women bishops to be compatible with Church teaching.

"This means it is consonant with the faith," a spokesman for the synod said. But while the vote resolves the theological question, the Church must still amend its rules, a process that requires a two-thirds majority vote and could take years.

Opponents of woman bishops are holding out for compromise measures, like a proposal that would allow conservative parishes to secede from woman-run diocese.

The issue has been one of several that pit traditionalists against liberalisers within the world's 77-million-strong Anglican communion.

More here.


And Now for Something Completely Different...

Miss Prudence Dailey (Oxford) to ask the Chairman of the House of Bishops:

Q46 Is the House aware of the pub in Paddington Railway Station named
The Mad Bishop and Bear, and can it shed any light on the identity of the mad bishop?

This is one of 65 questions which were asked this afternoon as part of the General Synod of the Church of England, meeting this weekend at the University of York. I am told that this system of questions is based on the Westminster parliamentary model and is aimed at stating or confirming policy rather than producing a resolution (known as a measure).

The questions are each numbered -- Q1, Q2, and so forth -- and they are preceded by the names of two persons, that of the inquirer along with the one who will give a reply. Here's an example:

The Archbishop of York to reply

Mrs Margaret Condick (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) to ask the Presidents of the Archbishops’ Council:

Q42 In February 2004 this Synod requested that all future legislation of the Synod referring to offices should be drafted (where legal and drafting considerations permit) so that gender neutral language is employed. What is now being done to encourage the use of gender neutral language within our dioceses, deaneries and parochial church councils and their related committees?

Okay, so this question does sound a bit like those at the General Convention. But this is the General Synod of the Church of England, and so you'll note the absence of multiple resolves relating to this inquiry. It's a question, not a resolution.

For more information on General Synod, the national assembly of the Church of England which meets twice each year, visit this page.

Now, are you ready for a demonstration of how this works? Here's the first question which was asked earlier today and which related to the Cathedrals and Church Buildings Division.

The Bishop of Sodor & Man to reply as a member of the Divisional Group.

Mr Roy Thompson (York) to ask the Chairman of the Cathedrals and Church Buildings Division:

Q1 What feedback has the Division had on the use of ‘trench arch drainage’ which is highly suitable for rural churches with low solids production but which can be rejected by a Building Control Officer in ignorance of the environmental benefits?

Now listen to this question being asked by Mr. Thompson (er, Crapper) and addressed to the Bishop of Sodor & Man. Listen to his entire answer.

Theo Hobson's Choice: Catholic or Liberal?

From The Guardian

Find out why Father Giles is irate.

"Deconstruction is a form of analysis in which the internal illusions and rhetorical habits of a cultural tradition are nakedly exposed, its age-old evasions and contradictions finally forced to the surface. As an intellectual sympathetic to postmodernism, it must give Rowan Williams a certain thrill to know that he is presiding over the deconstruction of Anglicanism.

"The essential development of the past few years is the discovery of the impossibility of liberal Anglicanism... What the current crisis has established beyond any doubt is that this liberal middle ground is dead and gone.

"Williams has learned this the hard way: that Catholics cannot afford to be liberals too. A Catholic has very publicly sacrificed his or her belief in the moral rightness of ordaining homosexuals, for the sake of the church's unity...

"Kierkegaard called this the teleological suspension of the ethical: committing a moral crime for the sake of a cause that transcends human morality. Williams is performing the ecclesiastical suspension of the ethical: renouncing the moral good for the sake of the unity of the Church. This is what a Catholic must do.

"The average liberal Anglican priest (let's call him Father Giles) is understandably irate. His former mentor is telling him that he must not push for the ordination of homosexuals while it endangers the church's unity. He must accept the fact that the institution he serves is, for now, structurally homophobic...

"This is what Catholicism demands, Williams is telling Father Giles - and Catholicism trumps liberalism... But Father Giles had always thought that Anglicans were free from this dilemma, that they had a looser concept of authority..."

Here's another piece from Hobson -- a liberal challenging others to 'come out' in You can't have it both ways

The Archbishop Repeats Himself

" the very least we must recognise that Anglicanism as we have experienced it has never been just a loose grouping of people who care to describe themselves as Anglicans but enjoy unconfined local liberties... That is why a concern for unity – for unity (I must repeat this yet again) as a means to living in the truth – is not about placing the survival of an institution above the demands of conscience. God forbid."

++Rowan Cantuar
, July 7, 2006

Church of England General Synod Opens Today

We interrupt this lazy Friday afternoon in America to bring you breaking news from the University of York where the General Synod is in full swing. Thank you, T19 and the Elves

More of today's agenda is available here.

Listen to the Archbishop of Canterbury's Address to General Synod on the Anglican Communion. Below are a few highlights.

"I am glad to have the opportunity of offering in these few minutes a very brief update on the current situation in the Anglican Communion, particularly in the light of the recent session of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention – which was, of course, attended by my brother Archbishop, who made an outstanding contribution to its discussions. The first thing to say is that the complex processes of Convention produced – perhaps predictably – a less than completely clear result.

"The final resolution relating to the consecration of practising gay persons as bishops owed a great deal to some last-minute work by the Presiding Bishop, who invoked his personal authority in a way that was obviously costly for him in order to make sure that there was some degree of recognisable response to the recommendations of the Windsor Report...

"However, as has become plain, the resolutions of Convention overall leave a number of unanswered questions, and there needs to be some careful disentangling of what they say and what they don’t say. This work is to be carried forward by a small group already appointed before Convention by the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the ACC. And I have also written directly to every Primate to ask for a preliminary reaction from their province. The next Primates’ Meeting in February next year will digest what emerges from all this.

"You will be aware of a number of developments in the public arena in the last couple of weeks, notably the request from several US dioceses for some sort of direct primatial oversight from outside the US, preferably from Canterbury. This raises very large questions indeed; various consultations are going forward to clarify what is being asked and to reflect on possible implications.

"There has also been an announcement from Nigeria of the election by the Nigerian House of Bishops of an American cleric as a bishop to serve the Convocation of Nigerian Anglican congregations in the US. I have publicly stated my concern about this and some other cross-provincial activities...

"...this leads me to say a word about my own published reflections in the wake of General Convention. In spite of some interesting reporting and some slightly intemperate reaction, this contained no directives (I do not have authority to dictate policy to the provinces of the Communion) and no foreclosing of the character and content of such a covenant. Were any such arrangement to be proposed, it would of course have to be owned by the constitutional bodies governing Provinces.

Read the entire address here.


Hearing Voices in Central Florida

"A group of mainstream Episcopalians will meet in July to address the Central Florida diocesan Standing Committee's late June decision to seek alternative oversight from the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Standing Committee took action citing disagreement with 2003 and 2006 actions of the Episcopal Church's General Convention."

Read the Standing Committee's 'open letter' here.

"Episcopal Voices of Central Florida, a group of lay people and clergy from all regions of the diocese, which extends to both state coasts, will meet at 10 a.m. on July 29 at St. Richard's Episcopal Church in Winter Park to discuss the standing committee's action and to plan a course for the future.

Episcopal Voices is an organization in Central Florida dedicated to remaining in full support and union with the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, according to their spokesperson, Donna Bott.

"We are extremely unhappy about the diocese's hasty decision which indicates an impending break with the Episcopal Church," said Bott. "A handful of people and the bishop have made a knee-jerk decision without thoughtfully consulting the membership of this diocese and seeking a wide consensus. Many people oppose breaking with the Episcopal Church, but our voices have not been considered in this action."

Is she serious? The Standing Committee in Central Florida took unilateral action? Aren't they an elected body representative of the diocese? She must have missed the reports from Columbus...

+Philip C. Linder Seeks Anglican Middle

The Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Columbia, South Carolina shares his perspective on the impasse he witnessed at the General Convention. He writes: "I was stunned to see these two extreme sides actually voting in unison for opposite purposes." Why is it so hard to imagine that South Carolina and Newark could find one thing on which to agree at convention? In the end, both dioceses remained steadfast, seeking absolute clarity, rather than an Anglican muddle.

"The Episcopal Church is certainly at a crossroads in its history, perhaps like none other since our beginnings at the founding of our nation and independence from Great Britain.

"Unlike so many of the predictions of our denomination’s demise, I believe that the Episcopal Church emerged from the 75th General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, with a stronger will, hope and vision for the future. I say this as one who was there as a deputy, fighting for her soul, representing the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. And I believe it is the very soul of our great Anglican heritage that is at stake.

"Three years ago, the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, by consenting to the election of Gene Robinson — a partnered gay man — as bishop of New Hampshire, acted unilaterally and without regard for the challenge that this action would pose to the majority of Anglicans throughout the world. The ramifications were as immediate and severe as many had predicted.

"Above all, what was at stake was the mutual understanding that no member church of the Anglican Communion could on its own accord make such a decision and not expect it to have serious consequences for how that member church would be regarded in the fellowship.

"For the past year and a half, the bishop of Upper South Carolina, Dorsey Henderson, co-chaired the special commission that would offer at the convention a formal response to the Anglican Communion’s Windsor Report on the election of Mr. Robinson. This commission, which represented the broad spectrum of the Episcopal Church, offered a serious response to Windsor. However, during this same time many others worked to break up the Episcopal Church.

"On the floor of the House of Deputies in Columbus, I witnessed the extreme factions of our church — represented in the dioceses of Newark and South Carolina — working from the posture of extreme liberalism and extreme conservatism for the same purpose. I believe that their goal coming into convention was to fracture the Episcopal Church’s place in the Anglican Communion to suit their own objectives, and that breaks my heart. I was stunned to see these two extreme sides actually voting in unison for opposite purposes.
Neither Newark nor South Carolina was interested in coming to what Episcopal priest and former Sen. John Danforth claimed as the “higher calling of reconciliation” and consensus for the greater good of the church.

"Since the convention, this has been further proven in the proclamation of the Diocese of South Carolina that it could not be under the authority of new Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. Newark, too, stayed true to form by naming an openly gay candidate as one of the four nominees for bishop within its diocese, thus defying the resolution of General Convention that asks dioceses to refrain from such nominations and elections.

"What is at stake here is the very soul of the Episcopal Church and Anglicanism..."

Read the rest in The State.

Two More Nominees in Newark

Episcopalians name 2 more nominees for bishop

"The Episcopal Diocese of Newark, which gained national attention last week by including a gay man among its four candidates for bishop, announced yesterday that two more candidates -- both heterosexual -- will be added to the ballot through a petition process.

"The new candidates are Newark's Assistant Bishop Carol Gallagher and the Rev. William Potter, rector of St. Luke's Church in Hope, Warren County, whose great-grandfather was bishop of New York.

"Gallagher and Potter made it to the ballot via petition of five clergy and five lay people, after not making the cut in recent deliberations of the diocese's nominating committee. Yesterday was the deadline for petitions.

"Last week, that same committee nominated the Rev. Michael Barlowe, 51, of San Francisco, who lives with his male partner of 24 years..."

Read the rest in the Newark Star-Ledger.

Considering having your marriage or life covenant blessed at St. Luke's Church in Newark? Fr. Potter gives you several choices, including a traditional BCP service, Covenant Blessing I, or Covenant Blessing II. Pay particular attention to the prayers in CBII.


Try the Parish Directory Test

Read this bit from Catholic legal scholar Robert P. George as he is asked to consider how followers of Christ can be 'a counterculture for the common good?'

Now replace the Trenton phone book with an average parish directory and swap the Princeton faculty for the House of Deputies, and you have a great way to explain the disparity between the folks in the pews each Sunday and those making critical decisions for the Episcopal Church.

CT: "Before we can talk about becoming a counterculture, we have to understand the culture. What's your reading of our culture right now?

RG: "I've argued in my book The Clash of Orthodoxies that the contemporary moment is marked by profound cultural division. We have a clash of two worldviews. On the one side are those who maintain traditional Judeo-Christian principles, such as the principle of the sanctity of human life, the principle that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, the principle that sex is integral to marriage but that sex ought not to be engaged in outside of marriage, and so forth.

"On the other side of the cultural divide are people who have abandoned those principles in favor of some alternative ideology. Often it celebrates personal autonomy and freedom from traditional moral constraints, mixed with certain utilitarian elements. Sometimes it manifests itself in radical forms of feminism or quasi-pantheistic forms of environmentalism.

"This division runs between elite and popular opinion. If I may borrow a concept from William F. Buckley Jr., consider what the results would be if we were to ask 800 members of the Princeton faculty about their views on abortion or homosexuality or other issues of that sort, and then make the same inquiry of the first 800 people in the Trenton, New Jersey, phone book.

"Interestingly, the Princeton faculty and people of Trenton are probably going to vote largely alike—for Democratic candidates—albeit for different reasons. But when it comes to morally charged political issues, you're going to get answers from the 800 people consulted in the Trenton phone book that would be similar to those answers that would be given by 800 people from north-central West Virginia (where I grew up) or from Kansas or New Mexico. Their answers would be very different from those that would be given by the Princeton faculty or the editorial boards of The New York Times or The Washington Post.

"That's what I call a clash of orthodoxies.

CT: Why do you call it that?"

Read the rest in Christianity Today.

Report from Nairobi

"The Anglican Church in Nigeria on Tuesday rejected a proposal to accommodate divisions over homosexuality, calling instead for liberal churches in North America to be removed from the religious world body.

"Last week in a message to Anglican Church leaders, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the global Anglican Church, Rowan Williams, called for a dual structure of "Constituent Churches" and "Churches in Association" as a means of preserving church unity threatened by divergent opinions between conservatives who oppose homosexuals in the church and liberals who support them.

"One would have expected that those who had embarked on this religious misadventure would be encouraged to judge their actions against our well-established historic tradition," the Church of Nigeria said in a statement on its website.

"A cancerous lump in the body should be excised if it has defied every known cure," the statement added.

"To attempt to condition the whole body to accommodate it will lead to the avoidable death of the patient."

Read the rest here.

More here from the Church of Nigeria.


Faith, Hope and Parity?

Yesterday, I referenced Alan Cooperman's recent article in the Washington Post regarding the election of ++KJS as the next Presiding Bishop. Toward the end of the article, the author notes that according to the Rt. Rev. Catherine Roskam, "women hold 3 percent of the leadership positions in the Anglican Communion."

Now this is one of my pet peeves -- the reader is given an unsubstantiated statistic.

I wonder if the suffragan bishop of New York can tell us how she arrived at the figure of 3 percent? Is she counting primarily female bishops in the 38 provinces of the Communion? Does this include female members of the Anglican Consultative Council? The membership of the Lambeth Commission?

What about the Daughters of the King, the Episcopal Church Women, and the Mothers' Union? Are these considered positions of leadership? Because they certainly are places of influence for women in the Anglican Communion.

But we aren't given a source, and so having established that a mere 3 percent of the leadership of the Communion are women, Roskam goes on to say that, "many women feel that were we represented even close to the percentage we have in the pews, we would not be having these divisions over human sexuality...Of course, women differ over sexuality. We just wouldn't be dividing over it."

This reminds me of the Jefferts Schori's response to a question posed by Christopher Sugden of Anglican Mainstream. Read about it in Doug LeBlanc's article in Christianity Today. Sugden said "the average Anglican believer today is an impoverished African woman, younger than 30, and an evangelical. How did Jefferts Schori think such a believer would respond to the Episcopal Church's advocacy on behalf of its gay and lesbian members?"

++KJS responded that she "likely would be focused on hunger, safe housing, unclean water, and providing for her children. Concerns about sexuality would appear only later in the hierarchy of need."

I absolutely agree that for the average African Anglican woman, meeting the basic needs of her children and her family would be paramount. A mother's first instinct is always to shelter and feed her children, sacrificing her own needs and desires to provide for them.

But we must never forget that the average African Anglican, male or female, lives in a world increasingly dominated by Islam. In Nigeria alone, according to the U.S. State Department, Christians account for about 40 percent of the population, contrasted with Sunni Muslims at more than 50 percent. This makes it more difficult to be an Anglican, and particularly dangerous to be an American missionary.

So let's go back to Bp. Roskam's supposition that, were there more women in Anglican leadership, we would not be dividing over issues of human sexuality. Well, let's see, according to Dr. Louie Crew, statistician extraordinaire of the Episcopal Church, women made up 42% of the House of Deputies in 2006. This is a record number, overtaking GC2003 (38.8%) and GC2000 (36%). And each convention has been trending toward more ordained women than the last. The voices of more women on the floor of the House of Deputies (and more female clergy).

And here we are, deeply divided on issues of human sexuality.

I do think that if we were to involve the Daughters of the King, the Episcopal Church Women, and the Mothers' Union worldwide in these legislative matters, we would indeed be in a very different place. Because these women, I believe, would carefully weigh a number of factors before making a decision which would rock the Communion. They would prayerfully consider Lambeth 1.10, the statements of the Primates, the Windsor Report, and the impact on our missionary witness throughout the world.

So perhaps we should listen to the voices of more Anglican women. I've heard from Bp. Roskam, from Dr. Jenny Te Paa, and from +Ruth Meyers. But I'd like to hear from real women -- mothers, missionaries, members of the choir and the altar guild. Because I've heard what the women in the 'institutional Church' have to say, and frankly, it's the same old song.

NYT: August 7, 2003

In an article in the New York Times at the close of the 2003 General Convention, it was noted that "prelates of the church tonight rejected a proposal to begin writing an official liturgy for the blessing of same-sex unions."

Those of us who were deputies in Minneapolis know that this is a carefully worded statement. Technically, no, the Episcopal Church would not officially sanction the blessing of same-sex unions. But ECUSA, and especially many of her bishops, would turn a blind eye to the rites taking place in their dioceses. And the number of blessings would greatly increase. Two openly gay men quoted in this article -- +Michael Hopkins and ++Otis Charles -- would have their unions blessed in the years to follow.

In retrospect, therefore, I read this comment from ++Gethin Hughes in a totally different way than I might have in 2003. Sounds like he is referring to a local-option policy, doesn't it?

'"This is best because those of you who have reached a further point of clarity can continue to do what you think is right in your area," said Bishop Gethin Hughes of the Diocese of San Diego. "For many of us who are still struggling," he said, there will be more time for sorting through the issues and coming to some answer together.'

A Look Back: Spong Addresses 2003 Clergy Conference in Nevada

"John Shelby Spong will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Christ Church Episcopal, 2000 S. Maryland Parkway. The lecture, which is open to the public, is titled 'God Beyond Theism.' Spong also will speak Sept. 6 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Reno. His Reno lecture is titled 'Jesus Beyond Incarnation.'

"Spong also will address the clergy of the Diocese of Nevada at a retreat in Lake Tahoe.

"'Bishop Spong continues to be one of the important voices for an intellectually involved Christian theology,' said the Right Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, bishop of the Diocese of Nevada. 'You may not agree with everything he says, but you will not come away from a meeting with him without having examined what you do believe and why.'"

Read the rest from the Las Vegas Review-Journal here. Subscription required.


A Rough Landing?

"To visit Episcopal parishes across her huge but sparsely populated Nevada diocese, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori pilots a small airplane. She often bumps down on tiny airstrips, but wherever her single-engine Cessna 172 lands, she is welcome.

"That's about to change."

Read the rest here.

Here's an interesting bit that mentions the genesis of her call to the priesthood.

"In her study of marine invertebrates, she said, she saw 'the great wonder and variety of creation.' And when federal research funds began to dry up in the 1980s, three members of her congregation in Corvallis, Ore., suggested she become a priest."

Hmmm. Hope that's not how she put it to the Commission on Ministry.

Cephalopods of the Northeastern Pacific Ocean?

If this whets your appetite for more, contact the librarian at Oregon State University for a copy of the 1983 dissertation of Katharine Jefferts (Schori) -- 305 pages on the Zoogeography and Systematics of Cephalopods of the Northeastern Pacific Ocean.

"Collections of cephalopods from the northeastern Pacific north of 20(DEGREES)N and east of 170(DEGREES)E were examined in order to elucidate zoogeographic patterns for the region. Sixty-four species were identified, including two new species of Gonatus. The distributions of Subarctic and Transitional (including California Current) species are now fairly well understood. Less clearly defined are the distributions of central and equatorial species. This is in great part due to the lower sampling density in those areas."

"In several instances, species have been identified for the first time from North Pacific waters, primarily within the central gyre. Ten pelagic distributional types are defined for cephalopods in this area; most coincide with water masses or portions or combinations thereof. In many cases, good correlation is seen with the work of others on other taxonomic groups. The relative abundance of cephalopods in main water mass types is considered, using diversity and evenness statistics. The central water mass is dominated by Enoploteuthidae, and the Subarctic by Gonatidae. The dominant taxa of the Transition Zone and California Current show a mixture of these two families..."

Source: Dissertation Abstracts Online

What does the PB-elect have in common with Mary Baker Eddy and Ellen White?

"When Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori this month became the head of the U.S. Episcopal Church, she wasn't just the first presiding bishop of that faith—she became the first woman in American history elected to lead a major Christian denomination.

"Although there have been influential religious women in the past, like the 1920s evangelist Amy Semple McPherson and modern-day megapreacher Joyce Meyer, only two other American women have reached the pinnacle of a religion's organizational chart: Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science in 1879, and Ellen White, who helped to found the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1863.

"So what, if anything, does Jefferts Schori's election mean for women seeking a similar path?"

Continued in the July 3rd issue of Newsweek


Food for Thought

"We will by God's grace worship not Father, Son and the Episcopal Church, or Father, Son and the Anglican Communion, but Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and it is only that Spirit that can deal with our self-righteousness and the spirit of revenge and self-pity which needs to be purged within ourselves."

The Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison, retired Bishop of South Carolina, on worship, as quoted in The Living Church, June 5, 2005

This was today's Food for Thought from the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham. To receive a gem like this in your mailbox each morning, visit the Advent to subscribe.


The Post-modern Pulpit

Here's another great cartoon from Dave Walker over at Cartoon Church. I love his cartoons. You can also find this one in the latest Church Times.


Guess Who?

I've been doing a little digging around this past week, and in my digging, I bumped into an interesting little coincidence (or is it?).

A095 -- Gay and Lesbian Affirmation is a resolution which originated from the Standing Commission on National Concerns, one of the CCABs during the last triennium.

Guess who chaired the Standing Commission on National Concerns for 2003-2006?

The Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, nominee in the Newark Episcopal election, served as chair of the SCNC, which put forth six resolutions for presentation to the 75th General Convention. All in all, these resolutions went unnoticed in Columbus, except for one – A095 Gay and Lesbian Affirmation.

A095 is a resolution which begins by asking for a reaffirmation of the Episcopal Church’s support of gay and lesbian persons and their entitlement to full civil rights as well as the Church’s continued advocacy on their behalf for domestic partnership benefits. Ultimately A095 asks for quite a bit more, however. The last resolve requests that the 75th GC “oppose any state or federal constitutional amendment that prohibits same-sex civil marriage or civil unions.”

* FINAL VERSION - Concurred

Resolution A095
Title: Gay and Lesbian Affirmation
Topic: Civil Rights
Committee: 10. Social and Urban Affairs
House of Initial Action: Bishops
Proposer: National Concerns


Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 75th General Convention reaffirm the Episcopal Church’s historical support of gay and lesbian persons as children of God and entitled to full civil rights; and be it further

, That the 75th General Convention reaffirm the 71st General Convention’s action calling upon “municipal council, state legislatures and the United States Congress to approve measures giving gay and lesbian couples protection[s] such as: bereavement and family leave policies; health benefits; pension benefits; real-estate transfer tax benefits; and commitments to mutual support enjoyed by non-gay married couples”; and be it further

, That the 75th General Convention oppose any state or federal constitutional amendment that prohibits same-sex civil marriage or civil unions.

For at least thirty years, and even as debate about the role of gay and lesbian people within the Church has continued, successive General Conventions have recognized the equal claim of gay and lesbian persons to the civil rights enjoyed by all other persons. In 1994, General Convention (1994-D006) called on all levels of government to support legislation giving same-sex couples the same legal protections as non-same-sex married couples. In light of recent legislative actions in several states, and a proposed federal constitutional amendment, an affirmation of the Episcopal Church's support for equal rights is warranted.

One more thing -- Fr. Barlowe was appointed to the Social and Urban Affairs Committee at GC2006, and his subcommittee assignment was Human Sexuality. He was in just the right spot to watch the progress of A095, and when needed, to give it a little nudge through committee. And then, when we were up to our eyeballs in unfinished business on the floor of the House of Deputies, somehow A095 got through at the eleventh hour.

Isn't that lucky?


A Rector Writes His Parish in Belgium

The rector of All Saints Church, Waterloo was ordained in South Carolina by Bps. Allison and Haynsworth.

Dear Saints,

Recently, I received an e-mail from a first cousin of mine, who lives in South Carolina, and with whom I had been out of touch for a number of years. As one might guess, she first inquired about recent family news, our health, our life overseas, etc. And, not surprisingly, knowing what I do for a living, she politely but directly asked me for my “take” on the news and recent developments in the Episcopal Church.

A lifelong and loyal Episcopalian herself, she cannot help but be aware and likely distressed by the sometimes sensational press reports predicting and/or speculating on the Episcopal Church’s impending “demise”, “doom”, “split”, “fissure” or “meltdown” (depending upon which news service one happens to read).

I must confess her e-mail sits in my “in box” unanswered as of yet; it’s taken me a while to condense “my take” into a single e-mail. I’ll bet I am not alone in my struggle to “get my head around” all of this.

Wondering about his "take" on the crisis in the Communion? The author was a deputy to the General Convention in Columbus. Can you guess who? Read the rest here.

The Envelope, Please!

And the nominees in the election for Bishop of Newark are...

  • the Rev. Canon Michael Lee Barlowe, 50, who serves as the first congregational development officer in the Diocese of California

  • the Rev. Mark M. Beckwith, 54, currently rector of All Saints Church, Worcester, Massachusetts

  • the Very Rev. Petero Sabune, 53, pastor and chaplain at Sing Sing Correctional Facility and associate at Trinity Church, Ossining, New York

  • the Rev. William "Chip" Stokes, 49, currently rector of St. Paul's Church in Delray Beach, Florida.

  • By far, the most interesting nominee right now is +Michael Barlowe. Why? First of all, Fr. Barlowe is fresh from the short list in the Diocese of California election which took place on May 6th. Second, Barlowe is very upfront about his 24 year relationship with partner, Paul Burrows, rector of the Church of the Advent in San Francisco and a Benedictine oblate.

    Read Fr. Barlowe's biographical information here and here.

    His story begins, in his own words, "When I graduated from Harvard and moved to Manhattan to work on Wall Street, I thought I knew exactly where my life was heading: two years of "real world experience," followed by a return to Boston for an MBA, and on to a shining future of unlimited success and happiness. But a funny thing happened on my way to the B-School..."

    Read the rest in his personal statement.

    The nominees for Bishop of California were asked questions like, What pastoral situations make you most uncomfortable and why? How do you handle conflict? How would you have handled differently a difficult situation in your ministry?

    Here are Fr. Barlowe's answers.

Will the Sun never set on the Anglican Communion?

Ruth Gledhill is calling yesterday's statement an 'ultimatum' from the +ABC "threatening to exclude the liberal wing" of Anglicanism. She notes that there is "speculation that those in Scotland, New Zealand and other liberal provinces could also" become involved.

The possibility that the worldwide Anglican Communion could, in fact, become a two-tier Church with 'constituent' and 'associate' member churches has +Mark Harris, a GC2006 clerical deputy from the Diocese of Delaware, crying foul.

Quoted in The Times, he says, "General Convention 2006 will go down in history, among other reasons, for the clarity with which the Church of England has attempted to exercise direct and indirect ecclesiastical colonial control.”

Why must this always boil down to the oppression of human rights for these folks? This is not about sex. This is not about entitlement. It's really a question of whether or not we are willing to submit to Holy Scripture. And yesterday's statement could not have been more clear. ++Rowan Williams views Biblical authority as an essential part of theological decision-making.

Indeed, it's the place to start.

The Worldwide Episcopal Communion?

Here's a prediction this morning from the The Times Online regarding the acceptance of a covenant within the Anglican Communion.

"The repercussions within the American Church will be profound. It is already deeply split between liberals who supported the ordination of Gene Robinson and conservatives who saw the nomination of an openly gay bishop as anathema. The liberals are eager to show that they are not isolated, however, and have changed their name to the Episcopal Church to cement links with some 16 other Anglican communities worldwide. They will, if they leave the orbit of Canterbury, be seen as a rival Anglican communion — and at bitter odds with conservatives in America, who will side with Canterbury."

Note my earlier prediction here that ECUSA, excuse me... TEC was preparing for this possibility.


What They're Saying about The Statement from Lambeth

This post has been updated throughout the evening.

We've been watching the reaction so far today to the statement from ++Rowan Cantuar. Here’s a quick summary.

The (London) Times Online led with a relatively blunt headline – ‘Worldwide Anglican church to split over gay bishop’, with Ruth Gledhill noting that "the Archbishop of Canterbury has outlined plans to expel the Episcopal Church of the US from the worldwide Anglican Church…proposing a two-track Anglican Communion, with orthodox churches being accorded full, "constituent" membership and the rebel, pro-gay liberals being consigned to "associate" membership." Ruth Gledhill also weighed in on her daily blog.

The BBC opted for a softer approach, sort of an Archbishop-cum-Mister Rogers. The headline, ‘Archbishop raises idea of split’ makes it seem like a friendly suggestion – just an idea. BBC says that the +ABC “favours exploring a system of ‘associated’ Churches” and ‘constituent’ Churches, while acknowledging that those unwilling to enter into a covenant agreement would retain an historical relationship to Anglicanism, much like that of the Methodists.

'Williams Lays Out Two-Tier Membership for Anglicans' is the headline in Daniel Burke's piece for the Religion News Service. According to RNS, the Archbishop sees "the best way forward for the deeply divided Anglican churches" in the adoption of "a Communion-wide covenant and a two-track membership system."

Burke references a number of participants in the Episco-drama, including ACN Moderator ++Robert Duncan, and +Tobias Haller, a NY priest. He also notes the recent statements of Christ Church, Plano, and the Diocese of Fort Worth. Finally, he calls on the fount-of-all-knowledge, the Rev. Dr. Kendall S. Harmon of South Carolina, who says that, "Rowan has a way of standing above it all and trying to connect everything."

The headline from the Associated Press is ‘Archbishop of Canterbury recommends ‘covenant’ for Anglicans,’ and they noted that “feuding Anglicans [were] urged to work toward a structure for co-existing despite differences.” This article from the New York Blade Online, interprets the statement more strongly than I would have imagined, considering their readership is probably primarily LGBT. Their subtitle is “ Episcopals to be pushed out for ordaining openly gay bishop” characterizing today’s statement as a “plan to exclude the U.S. Episcopal Church.”

No matter how they spin this story, so far, everyone’s favorite quote seems to be the acknowledgment that “there is no way in which the Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment.”

‘Anglican leader proposes way forward over gay clergy row’ is the report from Agence France Presse, a news agency based in Paris. You can count on the French to lead with sex, can’t you? They note that the +ABC “raised the prospect of division…with those opposed to homosexual clergy and unions forming ‘associated’ or ‘constituent’ churches.” They noted that such an arrangement would remove direct decision-making, and compared it to the relationship which “exists between the Church of England and the Methodist Church.” This wire service, I think, really glossed over the substance of this morning’s letter, preferring to point to the “outrage within the Church” notably “among more conservative elements in Africa.”

Be sure to watch The Guardian for their take on this story. It’s bound to be interesting.

Here it is. The headline reads 'Williams admits church faces split over gay bishops.' The writer, Stephen Bates, acknowledges a probable restructuring of the Anglican Communion into a "looser federation of... central 'constituent' national churches willing to sign up to a full doctrinal covenant of shared beliefs," along with other "churches 'in association' but outside the constitutional structure, accepting some... Anglican beliefs and disciplines."

The outside perspective in the Guardian article comes from the Most Rev Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Canadian Anglican church, who was interviewed on Monday evening. Aware that the Canadian Church "might find itself in the outer circle as it moves towards the blessing of same-sex partnerships," Hutchison said: "If the covenant helps collaboration, absolutely. But if it is exclusionary and disciplinary, that would be utterly inappropriate and un-Anglican and something I would not favour at all."

The Guardian piece termed today's statement "an about-turn", noting that Williams "had previously indicated his opposition to the creation of a federal structure to replace the communion and stressed the need for both sides to work towards reconciliation."

The New York Times, with their headline 'Proposal by Anglican Leader Could Split Church', calls this a "defining moment in the Anglican Communion's civil war over homosexuality" which could "ultimately force the Episcopal Church USA to decide whether having gay bishops and same-sex union ceremonies is worth losing full membership in the Communion."

'Anglican View on Gays Close to an Ultimatum' is how the International Herald Tribune (Europe) put it, printing essentially the same article that ran in the NYT (with a byline by Laurie Goodstein). But what struck me in this article is the perspective from Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, gleaned during a telephone interview.

Kearon downplays the statement, saying that, "for the proposal to be enacted would take at least half a dozen major church meetings spread out over the next three to four years," and adding that "he did not regard the archbishop's proposal as a step toward schism, but rather as an attempt to clarify 'identity and common decision- making procedures.'

The Telegraph (UK) decided on ‘Archbishop of Canterbury plans Anglican split’ and told much the same story as we’ve seen elsewhere, noting that “the proposal comes after the US Episcopal Church, known for its liberal stance, failed to toe the conservative line on homosexuality last week as the majority of the Anglican Communion demanded.”

It’s interesting to see which photos of the +ABC that each site chooses to run. There’s quite a variety, ranging from the Kind, Fatherly Archbishop in the Purple Cassock to the Bushy Eyebrows-and-Beard (somewhat reminiscent of Jack Nicholson in The Shining) photo. Look for your favorite.

The Bishop of Rhode Island Gets It

"I believe that the issue is not sexuality, but ecclesiology."

"Namely, what does it mean to be a world-wide Communion in a time of great global changes, cultural differences, and various mindsets? Is it desirable? If so, then it is possible?"

"The belief that we will arrive at a consensus of opinion on the issues at hand is unrealistic. Will we both find a way to claim that which binds us together and define the limits that we must not trespass?"

"Will we find it necessary to walk apart?"

More here.

The Rev. Barbara Cheney: Shock and Tears

Here’s a distraction from the current situation in the Anglican Communion. The Rev. Barbara Cheney, a clerical deputy from the Diocese of Connecticut had an important chalice stolen last Sunday.

From the Hartford Courant:

Officials of the Episcopal Church of St. Paul and St. James are hoping for the return of a nearly 100-year-old chalice that was stolen sometime on Sunday.

The gold and silver chalice, which is adorned with a dozen semiprecious stones, was consecrated by parishioners in 1909. Church leaders don't believe it was ever appraised, but they consider it priceless.

"The initial response was shock and tears," said the Rev. Barbara Cheney. "I don't know that it ... tests the faith in God. It tests sometimes the faith in other people."

No Turning Back? Integrity, Be Careful What You Ask For

"There is no way in which the Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment"

Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury

See what the BBC is saying about this morning's statement.

Times Online: Rowan Williams Proposes Anglican Split

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Dr Rowan Williams, is proposing to split the Anglican church (Chris Harris/The Times)

Worldwide Anglican church to split over gay bishop
By Ruth Gledhill

"The Archbishop of Canterbury has outlined plans to expel the Episcopal Church of the US from the worldwide Anglican Church.

"The US branch of Anglicanism is to be punished for consecrating the openly gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, an act which has propelled the worldwide church to the brink of schism.

"Dr Williams is proposing a two-track Anglican Communion, with orthodox churches being accorded full, "constituent" membership and the rebel, pro-gay liberals being consigned to "associate" membership."

Read the rest of Ruth Gledhill's interpretation of the statement from the ABC here and here.

Why we passed A095 and A167

At the recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church, we spent hours and hours playing with voting machines and practicing our parliamentary procedure. We got very little done for the first week, and then we nit-picked resolutions in order to free them from the constraints of Windsor language. We didn't have time to consider many worthwhile pieces of legislation. But when all was said and done, the General Convention made sure that a few resolutions were passed -- A095 and A167, sacred cows for a number of members of the Human Sexuality subcommittee of Social and Urban Affairs.

Here's why.

'Buried on Page 195 of Jonathan Rauch's new book, Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America, is this insight into why the government's stamp of approval isn't actually the one that matters most in the battle over gay marriage: "The full social benefits of gay marriage will come when religions as well as governments customarily bless it: when women marry women in big church ceremonies as parents weep and ministers, solemnly smiling, intone the vows," observes Rauch, a writer in residence at the Brookings Institution.'

'In other words, forget courthouses and city halls; the fight for legitimacy for gay couples will be won under a roof topped by a cross and a steeple. About three-quarters of Americans choose to be married by a member of the clergy. When it comes to weddings, if not regular worship, we remain a country of steadfast churchgoers.'

'It's a point grasped by both proponents and opponents of same-sex unions: Marriage is a threshold, a life-changing event because of its distinct combination of legal, social, and religious significance. For many of us, the importance of the institution is rooted more deeply in joint blessings than in joint tax returns.'

From an April 2004 article in Slate magazine.

Here is the final text of A095 and A167.

Anglican Church in Nigeria gathers for Synod, Conference this week

Abuja, June 26, 2006

Hundreds of Anglican delegates will this Wednesday gather in Abuja, to launch the 1st National Conference of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and discuss how to build the welfare of the nation.

The three day conference, with the theme ‘Welfare of the Nigerian Nation: Role of the Anglican Communion in Nation Building’ will be declared open on Thursday by the Primate, The Most Rev Peter Akinola.

Delegates will listen to and discuss papers presented on the role of the Church in education, political development and economic development. The conference will also address the role of the church in health, unity of the country, legal development and youth participation.

Meanwhile, the meeting of the House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), otherwise known as the Episcopal Synod begins Monday in Abuja. Over 90 bishops are expected at the two-day meet.

The Bishops are expected to join other delegates for the National conference.

More here.

A Letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has today written to the Primates of the Anglican Communion following the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. In addition, he has sent a reflection (see the following post) for "the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion," entitled ‘The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today."

According to Canterbury, "the Primates of the Anglican Communion will meet early next year to consider the matter. In the meantime, a group appointed by the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and the Primates will be assisting Dr Williams in considering the resolutions of the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church (USA) in response to the questions posed by the Windsor Report."

Here is the text of the letter:

"Following last week's General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA), I have been preparing some personal reflections on the challenges that lie ahead for us within the Anglican Communion. I have addressed these reflections to a wide readership in the Anglican Communion and they are being made public today on my website. I wanted to bring them to your attention accordingly, for you to draw to the attention of members of your Province in whatever way you see fit.

"These reflections are in no way intended to pre-empt the necessary process of careful assessment of the Episcopal Church's response to the Windsor Report. Rather they are intended to focus the question of what kind of Anglican Communion we wish to be and to explore how this vision might become more of a reality.

"I am also sending you a copy of the press statement I issued at the close of General Convention, which you will see mentions the Joint Standing Committee working party that will be assisting in evaluating the outcome of the 75th General Convention.

"I shall be writing to you again later this week, to invite your own response to me to various questions as the Communion’s discernment process moves ahead.


The text of the press statement mentioned in this letter may be found here.

The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today: A Reflection for the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion

The Anglican Communion: a Church in Crisis?

What is the current tension in the Anglican Communion actually about? Plenty of people are confident that they know the answer. It’s about gay bishops, or possibly women bishops. The American Church is in favour and others are against – and the Church of England is not sure (as usual).

It’s true that the election of a practising gay person as a bishop in the US in 2003 was the trigger for much of the present conflict. It is doubtless also true that a lot of extra heat is generated in the conflict by ingrained and ignorant prejudice in some quarters; and that for many others, in and out of the Church, the issue seems to be a clear one about human rights and dignity. But the debate in the Anglican Communion is not essentially a debate about the human rights of homosexual people.

"It is possible – indeed, it is imperative – to give the strongest support to the defence of homosexual people against violence, bigotry and legal disadvantage, to appreciate the role played in the life of the church by people of homosexual orientation, and still to believe that this doesn’t settle the question of whether the Christian Church has the freedom, on the basis of the Bible, and its historic teachings, to bless homosexual partnerships as a clear expression of God’s will."

That is disputed among Christians, and, as a bare matter of fact, only a small minority would answer yes to the question.

Unless you think that social and legal considerations should be allowed to resolve religious disputes – which is a highly risky assumption if you also believe in real freedom of opinion in a diverse society – there has to be a recognition that religious bodies have to deal with the question in their own terms. Arguments have to be drawn up on the common basis of Bible and historic teaching. And, to make clear something that can get very much obscured in the rhetoric about ‘inclusion’, this is not and should never be a question about the contribution of gay and lesbian people as such to the Church of God and its ministry, about the dignity and value of gay and lesbian people. Instead it is a question, agonisingly difficult for many, as to what kinds of behaviour a Church that seeks to be loyal to the Bible can bless, and what kinds of behaviour it must warn against – and so it is a question about how we make decisions corporately with other Christians, looking together for the mind of Christ as we share the study of the Scriptures.

Anglican Decision-Making

And this is where the real issue for Anglicans arises. How do we as Anglicans deal with this issue ‘in our own terms’? And what most Anglicans worldwide have said is that it doesn’t help to behave as if the matter had been resolved when in fact it hasn’t... the decision of the Episcopal Church to elect a practising gay man as a bishop was taken without even the American church itself (which has had quite a bit of discussion of the matter) having formally decided as a local Church what it thinks about blessing same-sex partnerships.

There are other fault lines of division, of course, including the legitimacy of ordaining women as priests and bishops. But... the Lambeth Conference did resolve that for the time being those churches that did ordain women as priests and bishops and those that did not had an equal place within the Anglican spectrum. Women bishops attended the last Lambeth Conference. There is a fairly general (though not universal) recognition that differences about this can still be understood within the spectrum of manageable diversity about what the Bible and the tradition make possible. On the issue of practising gay bishops, there has been no such agreement, and it is not unreasonable to seek for a very much wider and deeper consensus before any change is in view, let alone foreclosing the debate by ordaining someone, whatever his personal merits, who was in a practising gay partnership. The recent resolutions of the General Convention have not produced a complete response to the challenges of the Windsor Report, but on this specific question there is at the very least an acknowledgement of the gravity of the situation in the extremely hard work that went into shaping the wording of the final formula.

Very many in the Anglican Communion would want the debate on the substantive ethical question to go on as part of a general process of theological discernment; but they believe that the pre-emptive action taken in 2003 in the US has made such a debate harder not easier... However, institutionally speaking, the Communion is an association of local churches, not a single organisation with a controlling bureaucracy and a universal system of law. So everything depends on what have generally been unspoken conventions of mutual respect. Where these are felt to have been ignored, it is not surprising that deep division results, with the politicisation of a theological dispute taking the place of reasoned reflection.

Thus if other churches have said, in the wake of the events of 2003 that they cannot remain fully in communion with the American Church, this should not be automatically seen as some kind of blind bigotry against gay people. Where such bigotry does show itself it needs to be made clear that it is unacceptable... It is saying that, whatever the presenting issue, no member Church can make significant decisions unilaterally and still expect this to make no difference to how it is regarded in the fellowship; this would be uncomfortably like saying that every member could redefine the terms of belonging as and when it suited them. Some actions – and sacramental actions in particular - just do have the effect of putting a Church outside or even across the central stream of the life they have shared with other Churches. It isn’t a question of throwing people into outer darkness, but of recognising that actions have consequences – and that actions believed in good faith to be ‘prophetic’ in their radicalism are likely to have costly consequences.

Truth and Unity

It is true that witness to what is passionately believed to be the truth sometimes appears a higher value than unity, and there are moving and inspiring examples in the twentieth century. If someone genuinely thinks that a move like the ordination of a practising gay bishop is that sort of thing, it is understandable that they are prepared to risk the breakage of a unity they can only see as false or corrupt. But the risk is a real one; and it is never easy to recognise when the moment of inevitable separation has arrived - to recognise that this is the issue on which you stand or fall and that this is the great issue of faithfulness to the gospel. The nature of prophetic action is that you do not have a cast-iron guarantee that you’re right.

But let’s suppose that there isn’t that level of clarity about the significance of some divisive issue. If we do still believe that unity is generally a way of coming closer to revealed truth (‘only the whole Church knows the whole Truth’ as someone put it), we now face some choices about what kind of Church we as Anglicans are or want to be. Some speak as if it would be perfectly simple – and indeed desirable – to dissolve the international relationships, so that every local Church could do what it thought right. This may be tempting, but it ignores two things at least.

First, it fails to see that the same problems and the same principles apply within local Churches as between Churches...It may be tempting to say, ‘let each local church go its own way’; but once you’ve lost the idea that you need to try to remain together in order to find the fullest possible truth, what do you appeal to in the local situation when serious division threatens?

Second, it ignores the degree to which we are already bound in with each other’s life through a vast network of informal contacts and exchanges... They mean that no local Church and no group within a local Church can just settle down complacently with what it or its surrounding society finds comfortable. The Church worldwide is not simply the sum total of local communities... An isolated local Church is less than a complete Church.

Both of these points are really grounded in the belief that our unity is something given to us prior to our choices - let alone our votes. ‘You have not chosen me but I have chosen you’, says Jesus to his disciples; and when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, we are saying that we are all there as invited guests, not because of what we have done. The basic challenge ... ‘Are we joining together in one act of Holy Communion, one Eucharist, throughout the world, or are we just celebrating our local identities and our personal preferences?’

The Anglican Identity

The reason Anglicanism is worth bothering with is because it has tried to find a way of being a Church that is neither tightly centralised nor just a loose federation of essentially independent bodies – a Church that is seeking to be a coherent family of communities meeting to hear the Bible read, to break bread and share wine as guests of Jesus Christ, and to celebrate a unity in worldwide mission and ministry. That is what the word ‘Communion’ means for Anglicans, and it is a vision that has taken clearer shape in many of our ecumenical dialogues.

Of course it is possible to produce a self-deceiving, self-important account of our worldwide identity, to pretend that we were a completely international and universal institution like the Roman Catholic Church. We’re not. But we have tried to be a family of Churches willing to learn from each other across cultural divides, not assuming that European (or American or African) wisdom is what settles everything, opening up the lives of Christians here to the realities of Christian experience elsewhere. And we have seen these links not primarily in a bureaucratic way but in relation to the common patterns of ministry and worship – the community gathered around Scripture and sacraments; a ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, a biblically-centred form of common prayer, a focus on the Holy Communion. These are the signs that we are not just a human organisation but a community trying to respond to the action and the invitation of God that is made real for us in ministry and Bible and sacraments... There is an identity here, however fragile and however provisional.

But what our Communion lacks is a set of adequately developed structures which is able to cope with the diversity of views that will inevitably arise in a world of rapid global communication and huge cultural variety. The tacit conventions between us need spelling out – not for the sake of some central mechanism of control but so that we have ways of being sure we’re still talking the same language, aware of belonging to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ. It is becoming urgent to work at what adequate structures for decision-making might look like. We need ways of translating this underlying sacramental communion into a more effective institutional reality, so that we don’t compromise or embarrass each other in ways that get in the way of our local and our universal mission, but learn how to share responsibility.

Future Directions

The idea of a ‘covenant’ between local Churches (developing alongside the existing work being done on harmonising the church law of different local Churches) is one method that has been suggested, and it seems to me the best way forward. It is necessarily an ‘opt-in’ matter. Those Churches that were prepared to take this on as an expression of their responsibility to each other would limit their local freedoms for the sake of a wider witness; and some might not be willing to do this. We could arrive at a situation where there were ‘constituent’ Churches in covenant in the Anglican Communion and other ‘churches in association’, which were still bound by historic and perhaps personal links, fed from many of the same sources, but not bound in a single and unrestricted sacramental communion, and not sharing the same constitutional structures. The relation would not be unlike that between the Church of England and the Methodist Church, for example. The ‘associated’ Churches would have no direct part in the decision making of the ‘constituent’ Churches, though they might well be observers whose views were sought or whose expertise was shared from time to time, and with whom significant areas of co-operation might be possible.

This leaves many unanswered questions, I know, given that lines of division run within local Churches as well as between them - and not only on one issue (we might note the continuing debates on the legitimacy of lay presidency at the Eucharist). It could mean the need for local Churches to work at ordered and mutually respectful separation between ‘constituent’ and ‘associated’ elements; but it could also mean a positive challenge for Churches to work out what they believed to be involved in belonging in a global sacramental fellowship, a chance to rediscover a positive common obedience to the mystery of God’s gift that was not a matter of coercion from above but of that ‘waiting for each other’ that St Paul commends to the Corinthians.

There is no way in which the Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment. Neither the liberal nor the conservative can simply appeal to a historic identity that doesn’t correspond with where we now are. We do have a distinctive historic tradition – a reformed commitment to the absolute priority of the Bible for deciding doctrine, a catholic loyalty to the sacraments and the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, and a habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility that does not seek to close down unexpected questions too quickly. But for this to survive with all its aspects intact, we need closer and more visible formal commitments to each other. And it is not going to look exactly like anything we have known so far. Some may find this unfamiliar future conscientiously unacceptable, and that view deserves respect. But if we are to continue to be any sort of ‘Catholic’ church... we have some very hard work to do to embody this more clearly. The next Lambeth Conference ought to address this matter directly and fully as part of its agenda.

The different components in our heritage can, up to a point, flourish in isolation from each other. But any one of them pursued on its own would lead in a direction ultimately outside historic Anglicanism... Pursued far enough in isolation, each of these would lead to a different place – to strict evangelical Protestantism, to Roman Catholicism, to religious liberalism. To accept that each of these has a place in the church’s life and that they need each other means that the enthusiasts for each aspect have to be prepared to live with certain tensions or even sacrifices...


...Being an Anglican in the way I have sketched involves certain concessions and unclarities but provides at least for ways of sharing responsibility and making decisions that will hold and that will be mutually intelligible. No-one can impose the canonical and structural changes that will be necessary. All that I have said above should make it clear that the idea of an Archbishop of Canterbury resolving any of this by decree is misplaced, however tempting for many. The Archbishop of Canterbury presides and convenes in the Communion, and may do what this document attempts to do, which is to outline the theological framework in which a problem should be addressed; but he must always act collegially, with the bishops of his own local Church and with the primates and the other instruments of communion.

That is why the process currently going forward of assessing our situation in the wake of the General Convention is a shared one... My hope is that the period ahead - of detailed response to the work of General Convention, exploration of new structures, and further refinement of the covenant model - will renew our positive appreciation of the possibilities of our heritage so that we can pursue our mission with deeper confidence and harmony.

Read the complete statement here.