So here we are in 2008 – and the PM programme has kicked off the year with an interview about the same old Anglican story – but of course that is because this year comes another crunch point with the Lambeth Conference. The item today is a seven minute segment interviewing Katherine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. It covers the current major issues, and to some extent there aren’t any surprises in what she says, still worth a listen though.
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!