Tag Archives: Anglican

Crunch Point

In all the recent goings on in the Anglican Communion, the obvious crunch point has always been the Lambeth Conference in 2008. Every ten years all the Bishops of the Anglican Communion from all over the world get together, ironically not in Lambeth but at the University of Kent in Canterbury. However who attends is entirely down to who the Archbishop of Canterbury, so there has been much speculation and discussion as to who will be invited, particularly with reference to the Episcopal Church.

Yesterday, the months of speculation were ended by the announcement that the invitations had been issued. Reading the letter of invitation, those worried that the whole of the Episcopal Church will have been sidelined had their minds put at rest. Rowan Williams said the following:

An invitation to participate in the Conference has not in the past been a certificate of doctrinal orthodoxy. Coming to the Lambeth Conference does not commit you to accepting the position of others as necessarily a legitimate expression of Anglican doctrine and discipline, or to any action that would compromise your conscience or the integrity of your local church.

and also this:

I have said, and repeat here, that coming to the Conference does not commit you to accepting every position held by other bishops as equally legitimate or true. But I hope it does commit us all to striving together for a more effective and coherent worldwide body, working for God’s glory and Christ’s Kingdom. The Instruments of Communion have offered for this purpose a set of resources and processes, focused on the Windsor Report and the Covenant proposals. My hope is that as we gather we can trust that your acceptance of the invitation carries a willingness to work with these tools to shape our future. I urge you all most strongly to strive during the intervening period to strengthen confidence and understanding between our provinces and not to undermine it.

However, then comes the following:

At this point, and with the recommendations of the Windsor Report particularly in mind, I have to reserve the right to withhold or withdraw invitations from bishops whose appointment, actions or manner of life have caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the Communion. Indeed there are currently one or two cases on which I am seeking further advice. I do not say this lightly, but I believe that we need to know as we meet that each participant recognises and honours the task set before us and that there is an adequate level of mutual trust between us about this. Such trust is a great deal harder to sustain if there are some involved who are generally seen as fundamentally compromising the efforts towards a credible and cohesive resolution.

Although they are not mentioned by name, neither the Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, nor Martyn Minns, recently consecrated by Peter Akinola against the wishes of Rowan Williams have been invited.

The reasons for the exclusions though are rather different. Minns isn’t invited, fundamentally because Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), although being regarded as part of the Anglican Church in Nigeria is not recognised as part of the wider Anglican Communion.

The exclusion of Gene Robinson is for no other reason than the fact his is gay and is being honest about it. All of the sixty or so Bishops who supported him and were involved in his consecration are invited, it is only Robinson who is being denied an invite. However, the communiqué issued by the February 2005 Primates meeting said the following:

The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us.

Not surprisingly this has provoked a good deal of outrage from across the communion, there is a good roundup on Episcopal Cafe. Interestingly both sides of the debate are not happy with the decision, for differing reasons, as detailed by Andrew Plus:

So far the blogs seem to go like this. The blogs on the right are disappointed because invitation to Lambeth was seen as test of orthodoxy. They assumed that only orthodox Anglicans would be invited, and Archbishop Akinola has said that if +Gene or the Episocpal Church was included he and the Global South would gather in Alexandria or someplace else and have their Lambeth conference.

The bloggers on the left are disappointed because of the active and deliberate exclusion of Bishop Robinson, once again placing the burden of division on the back of one man–the open, affirming and partnered gay man. This once again smacks of condescension and avoidance–talking about people instead of to people–and so this solution seems to be a capitulation to conservative pressure. The words in his letter about the limits of inclusivity seem to reinforce this.

Andrew’s position is much the same as mine – everybody should have been invited, and then it should have been left to the individual Bishops as to whether they would attend. Mark Harris on PRELUDIUM says much the same. By excluding Minns and Robinson from the invite list it seems to please no-one, indeed Peter Akinola is already threatening to have the entire Anglican Church in Nigeria boycott the meeting over Minns not being invited. Minns himself doesn’t seem quite so bothered. Gene Robinson’s statement describes him being excluded as an affront to the whole Episcopal Church. Certainly it will be interesting to see how many of the Episcopal Church choose not to attend in protest.

However, there is a possibility that Robinson will still attend the conference. A number of reports including USA Today and Ruth Gledhill suggest that Robinson may well be invited as a guest – perhaps the irony of that is that as a guest he may well have more visibility than if he was within the conference.

Anyway, if all of this is totally depressing, thanks to Dave Walker for his spin on why the two Bishops weren’t invited…

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Responsibility

So as of the APCM yesterday, I am Churchwarden designate of St James.

It came about as a result of the Churchwardens Measure 2001 which set a limit on the time in office of a Churchwarden to six years, in 2008 both of our current Churchwarden’s – one of whom has been in post for eight years, and the other for eighteen years would be forced to stand down. The PCC discussed whether to propose that we do not adopt the measure, meaning that Churchwarden’s remain in position indefinitely, but in general thought it was a bad idea. St James is one of those parishes where people rarely stand against an incumbent Churchwarden (there has been only one election in the past twenty years) and you usually get the assumption that the existing Churchwarden’s will just stay on, leading to them feeling that they can’t stand down because nobody else seems willing to do it.

Implementing the six year rule got a slightly bumpy ride at the APCM, although since both current Churchwarden’s had said that they would stand down anyway, and it was highlighted that at some point in the future we could choose to opt out, we went with the measure.

In the PCC discussion I had expressed concern about both Churchwarden’s going together next year, so in a classic example of why you should keep your mouth shut, I ended up being asked if I would stand as a Churchwarden to replace the first of the current Churchwarden’s who is resigning this year. Hopefully we’ll implement a system of assistant Churchwarden’s too so there is a wider body of people with the knowledge of what needs doing. (It is worth noting that Deputy Churchwarden’s, whatever the ABC of the PCC may say are explicitly mentioned as having a legal basis in the official guidance.)

Perhaps the biggest difficulty is going to be educating the rest of the congregation as to what the Churchwarden’s role actually is. Both the existing Churchwarden’s do a whole load of other jobs alongside their Churchwarden responsibilities which people automatically assume are part of the Churchwarden job – so for example I’ve already had someone assume I’m going to stop singing in the choir because I won’t be able to do the Churchwarden jobs from the choir stalls.

So what does the job involve? The basic elements of the job are that a Churchwarden is a lay representative of the Bishop in the parish, and legally responsible for the property within the Church. In general they are the senior members of the laity in the parish, and are expected to co-operate with the incumbent to ensure everything runs smoothly. Of course the role becomes a lot more in situations where there is a problem with an incumbent, in which case the fact that you represent the Bishop comes into play, and of course in situations where the parish is vacant, where the Churchwarden’s again take on more responsibilities. Fingers-crossed we shouldn’t run into anything like that for a couple of years, and it’s just a question of keeping things ticking along!

A New Primate for Canada

You may have heard that the Anglican Primate of Canada is due to retire following the meeting of the Canadian General Synod in June. Unlike the Church of England, the new primate will be democratically elected by the clergy and laity in the General Synod from a short list of candidates drawn up by the bishops. It’s also a pretty rapid turnaround too – the election will take place on June 22nd, with the new primate being installed on June 25th.

So why is the choice of a new primate important to the rest of us? Precisely because it’s the Anglican Church of Canada who although they’ve been somewhat in the shadow of the Episcopal Church in the US recently, have also been pushing ahead with a more liberal position on sexuality, particularly with regards to same-sex blessings.

Alongside this, according to a review of the candidates over on Father Jake’s Blog, the favourite is Bishop Victoria Matthews, current Bishop of Edmonton. She was the first female Bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada, and also chaired the commission that examined the issue of same-sex marraige that determined that whilst it was important, it was not core doctrine and should not be seen as a church, or indeed communion dividing issue. Having said that, she is has consistently toed the line with regards to the issue in her diocese, coming out against the Diocese of New Westminster when they moved ahead with same-sex blessings. So she is certainly not the most liberal Bishop in the church, nor indeed in the field of candidates.

Of course she may not win the election, but it will be interesting to see what the reaction of the more conservative provinces will be if the liberal Anglican Church of Canada also has a female primate. Certainly the other candidates may be more personally acceptable to the anti-women provinces – but theologically her actions with regards to the sexuality issues appear to mark her out as much more the kind of person they would want.

Is Anyone Happy with B033?

So everything has panned out pretty much as expected. The Americans pulled together a last minute motion, B033, that reads as follows:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further

Resolved, that this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on the communion.

However, nobody really seems happy about it. The Diocese of Washington has published a ‘Statement of Conscience‘, essentially distancing themselves from the resolution because firstly it was only briefly discussed, and secondly because it discriminates. Father Jake, as would be expected, has a much more direct and forthright response.

Looking on the other side of the rift, the Anglican Communion Network published this statment describing the measure as inadequate. Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria was quick with a response too.

There is even comment from a participant in the General Convention who believes that the motion was the centre ground speaking. However if you read further, even he isn’t happy with the result.

So could it have been any different? Could there have been a solution that would make everybody happy? I think not. Nothing short of the removal of the Bishop of New Hampshire, and a legal block on any similar appointments (something I don’t think was even possible under the canon law of the church in a single convention) and the most pitiful, grovelling statement – the verbal equivalent of crawling through the streets in sackcloth and ashes would have satisfied the conservative side. Equally, any move that can be seen as in any way discriminatory would be unacceptable to the liberal wing. Essentially, the only solution would be one that made one group or another happy, not both. What they finished up with was one which pleased nobody, too wishy-washy for the conservatives, and a perceived slap in the face to the liberals.

So what should have happened? Reading the discussion, I was reminded of John Shelby Spong’s call for a new reformation. In a similar way to Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg in 1517, Spong published 12 theses online, and in his book “New Christianity for a New Worldâ€?, the twelfth of which is:

All human beings bear God’s image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one’s being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.

Maybe, rather that being, well Anglican about it all, the Episcopal General Convention, realising that no compromise that they would produce would satisfy the conservatives, gone with what they believed, and have backed at previous conventions, and effectively kicked off the new reformation proposed by Spong. Instead, the resolution has alienated and offended parts of the church, without doing anything more than postponing the inevitable break-up of the Anglican Communion. To be frank, the beliefs expressed by both groups are so deep seated that neither is ever going to be happy unless the other moves their position, and since the conservative group isn’t happy for the liberal to be in the same Church (although in general the liberal group seem to be happy to include the conservatives), it seems better that they separate. (This of course will get on to another whole load of terribly earnest but totally tedious and irrelevant arguments over who is the ‘true’ Anglican church. To be honest, who cares?) At least then the two groups can actually get back to doing what the church is called to do, rather than arguing amongst themselves.

Don’t You Just Love Christians…

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I’ve already posted briefly on the appointment of Katherine Jefferts Schori as primate of the US Episcopal Church, however, Dave Walker’s cartoon in response to a quite stunning post from Andrew Carey, son of the former Archbishop George Carey, has prompted me to post again. Most of Andrew Carey’s post actually reads as quite positive, certainly he doesn’t seem to think that her sex is much of a problem, and that her desire to be a reconciler may well be a breath of fresh air for the Episcopal Church. However the real jaw dropping point that inspired Dave is saved for number 4, and is as Dave says, at least honest…

We found out in the Church of England that when some evangelicals attacked the appointment of Dr Rowan Williams because of previously held views that this backfired spectacularly on them. The first response of network and AAC leaders, in my view, should be that of welcome, prayer and a desire to meet with her. The rough stuff can come later.

The BBC has opened a comment page for responses to the election, which is largely predictable, and is following the same pattern as almost every other discussion relating to Anglicanism recently, although the low-light of the discussion has to be the comment from someone who said that after having elected a gay, and now a woman, they’d probably appoint a child molester next. Don’t you just love Christians…

Robert Pigott, the BBC religious affairs correspondent writes about the now inevitable split, highlighting how at this conference the two groups wouldn’t even share the same service – something highlighted by Father Jake on Saturday.

In terms of official reaction, Rowan Williams has issued a pretty positive statement. On the other side the Bishop of Pittsburgh has issued a statement, and the Bishop of Fort Worth is asking for alternative oversight for those dioceses like Fort Worth that do not ordain women.

In amongst all of the drama from across the pond, you might have missed that over the weekend, Ekklesia issued a discussion paper on marriage proposing that the Church wedding, and legal marriage should be split from the religious commitment, effectively having marriage being a commitment in Church, and then a legal civil partnership. The idea behind the paper is that this then focuses a Church wedding as a purely religious statement, and doesn’t force a Christian idea of marriage onto a secular public, who are wanting equivalent legal rights for cohabiting couples and same sex couples. You can read the full paper on the Ekklesia site. The other important point they make is that the separation would remove the state influencing the religious definition of a marriage, and equally the Church influencing the state definition:

The church cannot expect to define what marriage is for everyone (believer or not). Nor should the state or the government get to determine the religious meanings and impact of marriage and commitment within faith communities. It works both ways.

The article certainly makes some interesting points, and although I can’t help but think that to some extent the article is largely playing with words, It is essentially highlighting that civil marriage and a Church marriage, though whilst they share the same legal basis, are not the same thing. As a number of clergy have pointed out in Church weddings I have attended, in a Church wedding you are making a positive commitment to include God in the relationship. So in effect the paper it is proposing to change the name of the civil version to something else. However, as the frequency with which civil partnerships are called marriages, despite them legally not being so, I doubt changing the name of the legal arrangement would make much of a difference anyway!