Sunday, November 25, 2007


In an article on the National Post about the recent meeting of the Anglican Network of Canada in Burlington, Ontario, Charles Lewis quoted J. I. Packer, a well known, senior evangelical scholar:

"Schism means unwarranted and unjustified separation from the rest of the Church, causing an indefensible breach of unity. Those who are unfaithful to the heritage are the schismatics. It is not we who are the schismatics."

Professor Packer has surely been around long enough to realize that every schismatic in the history of Christianity has claimed that "we" are not the schismatics, "they" are the schismatics. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Apparently the Anglican Network of Canada, led by retired episcopal defectors Donald Harvey and Malcomb Harding, is planning to break from the Anglican Church of Canada and to join the Sons and Daughters of I Will Arise (also known as the Province of the Southern Cone of America), which has been trolling for disaffected dioceses, bishops, parishes, and money in North America.

Packer claims that the Anglican Church of Canada has been "poisoned" by "liberalism." This seems to mean primarily the willingness to consider blessing the unions of same-sex couples. However, "The homosexual issue is just the tip of the iceberg," said Cheryl Chang, a board member of the Anglican Network. "It is what's under the water that is more critical to us. The liberals see the Bible as a book that can be changed and interpreted, and conservatives see it as unchangeable through generations. And those are simply irreconcilable views."

Yeah, they probably are. I find it incredible that these folks think that the idea that the Bible must be "interpreted" is a "liberal" notion, and that seeing the Bible as "unchangeable through generations" is "conservative" (rather than 1. false and two 2. stupid).

One difference between "liberals" and "conservatives" is that "liberals" hope very much that the "conservatives" will stay and argue their point of view vigorously. The "conservatives," on the other hand, or at least many of them, would rather stomp off in a self-righteous hypcritical huff and then accuse the "liberals" of being "schismatic."

It's getting a little tiresome.

Thanks to epiScope for pointing to this article.

The National Post article is at

Stolen from MadPriest

Friday, November 16, 2007

Southern Cone or Bust!

I have a question.

Apparently +Bob Duncan plans to take the Diocese of Pittsburgh (or at least a group of folks claiming to be the Diocese of Pittsburgh) off to join a Province that is TA/NGC (True Anglican, with No Gay Cooties). An invitation is apparently out there from the TA/NGC Province of the Southern Cone of America.

Meanwhile +Jack Iker plans to take the Diocese of Fort Worth (or a clever plastic replica thereof) off to join a Province that is TA/NGC2 (True Anglican, with No Gay Cooties and No Girl Cooties). The invitation from the Southern Cone is apparently also out in their driveway with the engine running.

Here's the thing. It is my understanding that the Southern Cone does not ordain women to the priesthood. (The diaconate, yes, but not the priesthood. Deacons, after all, are in servant ministry, so it's okay for women to have that status. Kind of like Jesus.)

So if +Bob Duncan goes to the Southern Cone, can he take his women priests with him? Or will he have to throw them under the bus?

On the other hand, if +Greg Venables lets +Bob bring his women priests with him to the Southern Cone, +Jack Iker may have to find a different refuge, since he has already said Girl Cooties was not an option for him. Where to go? Nigeria doesn't ordain women, but I think they have actually said that's a possibility for the future. The East African provinces I think already have Girl Cooties (Straight Girl Cooties, but Girl Cooties nonetheless). What's left? Sydney? But Sydney is only a diocese, not a Province. And the Anglican Church of Australia, even though there are some remaining concerns about Gay Cooties, have pretty much made up their mind about being okay with Girl Cooties. And besides, Sydney may very well be NGC2, but they are hardly TA. (+Jack Iker and +Peter Jensen. Now, there's a pair!) (Well, of course +Jack could join up with the Southern Baptists. Pretty much like Sydney, and a lot closer. But pretty strange bedfellows, if you'll pardon the expression.)

So what are +Bob and +Jack (and +John-David and +Keith, and +Greg Venables) to do?

As the King of Siam said, "Is a puzzlement."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Not Even In A Big Brown Truck

Fr. Jake’s blog is running a post about the request of Bishop Dabney Smith of Southwest Florida to Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire asking that he decline an invitation to speak at a parish in Southwest Florida. The comments are extensive and for the most part measured, thoughtful, and reasonable. The link to this particular post is

But that’s not what I want to talk about here. About halfway through the discussion one of the commenters called attention to recent articles concerning two excellent, well known journalists in the secular press who are withdrawing after many years from the “religion beat.” They are Stephen Bates of The Guardian (UK) and William Lobdell of the Los Angeles Times. See these articles; they are very good:,0,3530015,full.story?coll=la-home-center
Mr. Lobdell’s article in particular I found very disheartening, though I certainly cannot blame him. Mr. Bates has also shown great perception particularly in covering the Church of England, and is the author of A Church At War, which has received good reviews (I haven’t read it yet but it’s on my list).

This brought to my mind my own experience of some fifteen years as a non-stipendiary priest working at a secular position in a public university (after twenty-some years in parish ministry). Most of my colleagues knew that I was a priest, although we didn’t “talk religion” very much, nor should we have in that context. I was amazed, and not a little troubled, by the number of people — good, kind, honest, loving, concerned people — who have “fallen away” from the churches of their youth. I’m not just talking about their discovery that church leaders are sinners just like everyone else. I am, we all are, everyone knows that; most of us try to be honest about it and to repent. That’s not the problem. Most honest people understand about that. The problem is the authoritarianism, the religiosity, the intellectual dishonesty, the moral and financial corruption, the cruelty, the thirst for power and control (I could go on and on) that they had encountered and experienced. Terry on Jake’s blog commented, “Christianity is losing ground not because 'secular' thought is attacking it and winning. It is losing ground because it has lost its moral authority/leadership.” I think that’s right.

If we care about proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ we need to be a lot less afraid to point to things being said and being done out there — including in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion — that are false to the Gospel. I suggest we identify a “Not Even In A Big Brown Truck Society”* and not hesitate to name names. I am NOT suggesting that we stoop to the level of those who attack everyone who disagrees with them with insult and slander. In all things we must be charitable, though also remembering that love is sometimes tough. But in response to the Robertsons, the Dobsons, yes, the Ratzingers, and yes, the Akinolas and the Duncans and the Ikers, we must say, “No, in God’s name, no!”

It’s very popular, even among “progressive” Episcopalians, to dump on Bishop Spong. To be candid, I think a lot of what I have read of Jack Spong is not very thoughtful and sometimes heretical. But I also think we need to recognize that Bishop Spong’s analysis of various “fundamentalist” and authoritarian expressions of religion claiming to be Christianity has given many people hope that there may after all be a place for them in the Body of Christ. He asks a lot of the right questions even when not all his answers are on target. We need to quit picking on him and instead to look for ways he can share more fully in our genuinely evangelical task of proclaiming the Gospel of God’s love.

“Evangelical” has also become something of a dirty word, and we certainly need to reclaim it from the Big Brown Truck Society folks. (Some of whom, alas, are within our own Communion.) The Gospel of Christ simply cannot afford what passes for “evangelical Christianity” these days. But we also need to recognize with gratitude the truly genuine and authentic evangelicalism among relatively conservative protestants — I am thinking, for example, of Jim Wallis and Randal Balmer.

We as the Church are our own worst enemies — and perhaps even God’s worst enemies. We need to stop it.

*The “Not Even In A Big Brown Truck Society”: Those who would not recognize the Gospel of Christ even if Jesus himself were to drive up to their house in a big brown truck and personally deliver it to their front door.

Friday, November 9, 2007

A Shelter for Homeless Bishops

According to Thinking Anglicans (, and shared on All The Usual Blogs, four English bishops (yes, the ones you’d suspect) have written in support of Bishop Duncan’s proposal to violate his ordination vows. Further, Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables of the Province of the Southern Cone of America (and Bishop of Argentina) has offered to “take in” any dioceses of the Episcopal Church who just can’t stand being Episcopalians any longer. (The Likely Suspects at the moment are Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, and San Joaquin.) This also is well covered in All The Usual Blogs. And yet further, Ruth Gledhill, a well-known journalist in the UK who covers Anglican Stuff with varying degrees of accuracy, writes: “According to well-informed insiders, Dr Rowan Williams, while opposed to separatist solutions to the Anglican crisis, has described the plan of Bishop Venables as a ‘sensible way forward…’”

Well. The Church of England has +Chester, +Chichester, +Exeter, and +Rochester. We have +Pittsburgh, +Fort Worth, and +San Joaquin. I guess that’s only fair. (I’m old enough to remember when Exeter had a real bishop, R. C. Mortimer. Oh well.) But I find it hard to believe that if (or when) +Nazir-Ali decides to take the Diocese of Rochester off to join +Venables, or +Akinola, or +Anis, or +Jensen, +Rowan would think that was a “sensible way forward.” Would he not say, “Um, excuse me? I don’t think so!”?

Tobias Haller, over at In A Godward Direction (, shares an interesting note from the Rev. Dr. R. J. Voyle of the Clergy Leadership Institute, which makes the point that if you want to successfully maintain meaningful unity, you have to focus on your core values. +Rowan, please copy: you will not save the unity of the Anglican Communion by betraying the basic values of Anglicanism. One thing I think +Rowan needs to do, as soon as possible (and I think he hinted at this in his e-mail to Bishop John Howe and its subsequent sort-of-clarification, but it needs to be more explicit), is to state that he will not recognize as still part of the Anglican Communion any American diocese that abandons the Episcopal Church for another province, and he will withdraw that bishop’s invitation to Lambeth. In other words, if you are American and want to be an Anglican, you have to do it through the Episcopal Church. Just as if you are English and want to be an Anglican, you have to do it through the Church of England.

If +Rowan doesn’t understand this, and lets this charade continue, the Anglican Communion is dead. As the Gospel puts it in John 11:39, kyrie, édé ozei, tetartaios gar estin.