Thursday, August 21, 2008

Archbishop Williams (yes, this one this time)

Poor +Rowan. Lately everybody has been picking on him -- both the "progressives" and the "traditionalists." (That's the problem with standing in the middle of the road -- you are likely to be hit by trucks coming from both directions.)

Anyway, somebody recently made reference to +Rowan's 2002 small (in size) book, Writing in the Dust, written in the wake of September 11. So I pulled it off the shelf and read it again last night. It really is a remarkable book -- wise and deeply thoughtful. I am particularly struck by Chapter 5, "Against Symbols."

He writes: "'Using other people to think with'; that is, using them as symbols for points on your map, values in your scheme of things. When you get used to imposing meanings in this way, you silence the stranger's account of who they are; and that can mean both metaphorical and literal death." (p. 64) He speaks of Christians and Muslims, of Christians and Jews, of the West and the East, of men (males) and women.

He doesn't say anything about gay people, nor in the context of the book is there any particular reason why he should. But it seems to me that the sin of "using other people to think with" applies just as much to what we think and say about gays as about Muslims, Jews, women, and all "others."


(Hmm. Do you suppose it's possible? -- Grand Tufti, who are you really? And what have you done with our Rowan??)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Archbishop Williams (no, not that one)

I have absolutely no idea how this is related to the current history of the Anglican Communion, but there must be some connection somewhere.

(Be careful about getting your Archbishops from Wales? No, that can't be it....)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Pinch of Gay Incense

One of the issues raised by some bishops of dioceses in Africa regarding the Church's attitude toward gays and lesbians, committed same-sex relationships, etc., is that approving, or even "not condemning," these people and their relationships would put their Christian mission at great disadvantage and even danger vis-a-vis the Muslims, who are depicted as being vehemently, even violently, anti-gay. (Actually, I think there is some real diversity of opinion among the world's Muslims about homosexuality, but it's probably fair to say that most African Muslims are at least as anti-gay as most African Christians.)

For instance, Archbishop Deng of Sudan said last week: "We reject homosexual practice as contrary to biblical teaching and can accept no place for it within ECS. We strongly oppose developments within the Anglican Church in the USA and Canada in consecrating a practicing homosexual as bishop and in approving a rite for the blessing of same-sex relationships. This has not only caused deep divisions within the Anglican Communion but it has seriously harmed the Church’s witness in Africa and elsewhere, opening the church to ridicule and damaging its credibility in a multi-religious environment." [Emphasis mine.]

Other bishops in parts of Africa have made statements that are even harsher. Their appeal is to what they think the Bible says (an interpretation which many Christians do not share), but it is also fairly clear that there are also cultural issues at stake -- as well as political issues. And maybe more than a little fear. It has been suggested that at least in some areas, toleration of homosexuality by Christians might lead to persecution by Muslims. I don't know whether that is true or not, but I can imagine that it might well be.

It's interesting that some African voices are accusing the West (particularly the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, but with many in the Church of England and other Anglican Provinces in the British Isles and elsewhere in the world) of surrendering to the spirit of the age on this issue. I would suggest they read more American newspapers. While it is certainly true that more and more Americans (especially younger people) are accepting of same-sex committed partnerships, or least tolerant of them, there is still plenty of virulent homophobia, even violence. Matthew Shepherd. The young schoolboy recently killed by a classmate in school. Parishioners in a Unitarian church in Knoxville. Dozens more. Thousands of young people whose discovery of their sexual orientation and the reaction of their families and acquaintences has led them into depression, despair, and even suicide. If the Episcopal Church is cozying up to the spirit of the age, we have obviously made a serious misjudgment. The Zeitgeist of the West on this issue is not all that much different from that of Nigeria.

In the first three centuries of the Church's life, thousands of Christians (we estimate) were imprisoned, tortured, or killed because they refused to offer a pinch of incense on an altar before an image of the Emperor, or refused to turn over copies of the Scriptures for burning, or refused to enter marriages arranged by their pagan families. Many other Christians did yield, out of fear or for convenience's sake or for the sake of peace and accommodation. It is not for me to tell African Christians how they must respond to threats and persecution from what is often a more powerful and sometimes threatening Muslim community. But I will not be complicit in throwing our GLBT sisters and brothers under the bus for the sake of the safety of the majority. The martyrs of the faith deserve better remembrance than that.

Christ is the Way

Among the subjects that some folks these days seem to be getting their knickers in a twist about is how to understand John 14:6: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." The "hardline" interpretation of this is that unless one has consciously and explicitly professed one's faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, one cannot be saved. (There is, of course, a wide spectrum of less "hardline" interpretations. Even the Roman Catholic Church, which is not exactly "soft" on Jesus, grants the legitimacy of acknowledging the possibility of salvation for those whom Karl Rahner called "anonymous Christians.")

Here's what I say, and I'm pretty hardline about this:

Muslims cannot be saved by Islam.
Hindus cannot be saved by Hinduism.
Buddhists cannot be saved by Buddhism.
Jews cannot be saved by Judaism.

And finally (all you who recall Amos 1-2 will see this coming):

Christians cannot be saved by Christianity.

We are not saved by our religion(s). We are saved by the grace of God.

God does not consult with us about who is qualified to receive grace.

When Jesus talks about being "the way, and the truth, and the life," I see no indication that he is talking about ecclesiastical membership or theological orthodoxy or religious observance. I think he is talking about coming with him into the Kingdom of God. How well we can articulate the fullness of the identity of our Divine Companion is pretty much beside the point, which is good news for us, because none of us really understand the fullness of his identity.

Or, as the folks who had been rescued/healed/saved in the old western movies used to say, "Who was that masked man?"

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dave Walker and the SPCK

I'm not going to get into this in any detail here, other than to note that "I Am Also Dave Walker." If you know what I'm talking about, well, then, you know what I'm talking about! If not, and you care (I really think we should care about this) you can find out all about it over at the MadPriest's place. (And if you don't care, well, pthpthpthp!)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

St. Mary Magdalene

A friend and colleague was the celebrant at the Eucharist this morning, and in his homily he noted that all of a sudden there are dozens and dozens of books on the market about Mary Magdalene. (You can check them out on the online booksellers.) His favorite title was (yes, really!) "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Mary Magdalene."

I am speechless....

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bible-Believing Christians (2)

When the Holy Spirit moved the Church to require-or-at-least-encourage the praying of the Daily Office, s/he knew what s/he was doing.

This morning I was reading Joshua 7:1-13, as the lectionary directs. I noticed that tomorrow the reading picks up at Joshua 8:1 (well, actually, some of us will probably join that to the Wednesday reading, since tomorrow is St. Mary Magdalene). Well, thought I, what about Joshua 7:14-26? So I went back to read that (or re-read it, since I must have looked at it two years ago, or four, or six....). This is where the story goes on to relate how God and Joshua dealt with Achan son of Carmi (etc.) who took some of the devoted things from the sacking of Jericho, resulting in the humiliating defeat of the Israelites at Ai.

"Then Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan [great-grand]son of Zerah, with the silver, the mantle, and the bar of gold, with his sons and daughters, with his oxen, donkeys, and sheep, and his tent and all that he had, and they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. Joshua said, 'Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord is bringing trouble on you today.' And all Israel stoned him to death; they burned them with fire, cast stones on them, and raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore that place to this day is called the Valley of Achor [That is Trouble]."

This episode is part of our story as the People of God, and we should most certainly read it and know it. But I am getting just a little tired of listing to "evangelical" whiners appeal to "Biblical morality." If you are a "Bible-Believing Christian," exactly what is it you believe about this story? (I certainly think that God may well speak to us through this story, but exactly what God is saying is another subject for another post.)

"Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation" (Article VI); it does not say "All things contained in Holy Scripture are necessary to salvation."

For those who are following Track One of the Revised Common Lectionary, the First Reading this coming Sunday is the story of Jacob's marriages to Leah and Rachel. Doubtless some more "Biblical sexual morality," a/k/a "What the Bible teaches about marriage." I'd be interested to know what the "Bible-Believing Christians" in our own Anglican-and-other-RCL-following family do with this. Actually, I'm planning to preach on this passage myself. Check in early next week to my "Have Stole Will Travel" blog.


Go see this at the MadPriest's place:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"The Bible says....!"

Although we did not observe this "lesser feast" today because it is Sunday, I noted that July 20 is the commemoration of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Jenks Bloomer, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Ross Tubman. (The date for this celebration of major women witnesses for God's justice is that of the Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848.) I notice that the opposition -- often very substantial opposition -- within the Church to the witness of these women for justice and equality for people of both sexes and all races was based upon certain quotations from the Bible, and there were widespread attacks from church pulpits. Ms. Bloomer, for instance, was accused of defying the clear Scriptural prohibition of women "dressing like men." (Yes, that's why they were called "bloomers"!)

Come on, folks, I can remember when it was still a matter of controversy for a woman to wear a pants suit to church on Sunday, and without a hat.

In our generation we are excluding and condemning GLBTs because "the Bible says...." People, we just have to get over this stuff!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Anglo-Catholics and Women Bishops (5)

Another objection to the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate is that it presents a major, even fatal, obstacle to hopes of reunion with Rome. Uhh, no. Well, I’m sure that the ordination of women presents an obstacle in the eyes of the papacy. But that’s not our problem. Let’s talk about obstacles to the reunion of Christendom:

1. The doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope. Granted, nobody is quite sure exactly what this means (although Cardinal Ratzinger seemed sure enough a few years ago), and some liberal Roman Catholic theologians have tried to find ways to weasel around it or explain it away, but that simply won’t do. The doctrine is arrogant and false, and if the Roman Catholic Church really wants to implement Christ’s prayerful wish “ut unum sint,” then they have to renounce it. Not just reinterpret it, renounce it.

2. Even more of an obstacle in my mind than the Pope’s infallibility (which is, after all, a silly claim anyway) is the Pope’s universal ordinary jurisdiction. In other words, the Bishop of Rome can (and sometimes does) intervene directly in the affairs of local dioceses. The bottom line is that Roman bishops, even cardinal archbishops, are only suffragans of the Bishop of Rome. Sorry. It isn’t going to happen. If Rome is serious about the reunion of Christendom, this is number one on the repudiation list.

3. Another obstacle is the issue of inventing new doctrines, or at least raising somewhat old but hardly primitive doctrines to dogmatic status. Specifically, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the doctrine of her Corporal Assumption into Heaven. Frankly, I don’t have a huge objection if someone wants to believe that those pious opinions are true. I don’t believe they are, but if others find them coherent or meaningful, that’s okay, and I’m willing to listen to their explanations. Personally, I find the Immaculate Conception (of Mary) meaningless; I think it involves a category mistake about the nature of original sin. The Assumption bothers me a little more, since it is a specifically historical claim that is without any evidence whatsoever, and I think we need to be very careful about the historical claims we make. The most obvious problematic claim is the Resurrection of Jesus; whether it should be regarded as historical depends on how one defines “historical,” but there is certainly solid historical evidence that the first generation of Christians were absolutely convinced that Jesus had really been raised from the dead and had appeared to many of his followers. There is absolutely no similar evidence concerning the circumstances of the death, or purported non-death, of St. Mary the Mother of Jesus. Nor is it clear what the meaning of this alleged event might be. It would be a very strange way to honor our Lord’s Mother by making a false historical claim about her. More to the point, to claim that Mary’s Assumption was in some sense a reflection of her Son’s Resurrection seems to me to miss the point of the Resurrection of Jesus (which is not that “we too will go to heaven when we die”). Bishop N. T. Wright has some excellent reflections on the significance of the Resurrection; as far as I am aware he does not discuss the alleged Assumption, nor, I suppose, would he. But in any case, if someone wants to “believe in” the Immaculate Conception of Mary and in her Assumption, go ahead. But for Rome to claim that these pious opinions are de fide dogmata is utterly beyond the pale, and raises grave suspicions about whether they fully understand what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is really about.

I suppose an ecumenical negotiator might say, well, Rome will give up the universal authority of the Pope and the Marian dogmas, if the Anglicans will give up the ordination of women. Nice try. I for one am absolutely unwilling to throw my sisters under the bus in exchange for renunciations of falsehoods that Rome needs to give up in any case.

Reunion with Rome is something which simply is not going to happen in our time, sadly, certainly not on their terms. Mind you, I am very much in favor of the closest possible relationships and cooperation in mission and service between Roman Catholics and Anglicans at the local level, the diocesan level, and even at the national level. I rejoice that +Rowan and +Benedict seem to have a good personal relationship. But they both need to understand that we are not going to give up anything to Rome. Au contraire….

Anglo-Catholics and Women Bishops (4)

Reflections on objections to the ordination of women to the priesthood and a fortiori to the episcopate (for some of you this may be old hat and you’re tired of hearing about it. Feel free to skip to the next post):

Obj. 1. Christ did not appoint any female apostles.
Reply Obj. 1. Christ also did not appoint any Italian or Polish or German apostles. (Where did all these Popes come from? Jesus didn’t even appoint any English apostles!) Further; Jesus did not authorize the installation of flush toilets in parish churches. (Does anyone really expect us to take this line of argument seriously?)

Obj. 2. The New Testament forbids the ordination of women, e.g. 1 Cor 14:33b-36, 1 Tim 2:11-15.
Reply Obj. 2. Well, I suppose there is a sense in which it does. (I would argue that St. Paul is not the author of either of these passages — the former completely breaks the train of thought, reads like an interpolation, and contradicts Paul’s general attitude toward female colleagues in the ministry, and the latter is from the Pastorals which I believe are pseudo-Pauline, at least mostly. But these passages are still canonical Scripture, whoever wrote them, so they have to be dealt with.) However, these verses don’t simply forbid the ordination of women, they forbid any exercise of general authority in the Church by women. This means (and until fifty years ago was widely understood to mean) that women not only cannot be ordained, but also may not serve as lay readers, members of the vestry, delegates to diocesan convention, deputies to General Convention, etc. There are still some very conservative evangelical churches (some Baptists, for instance, though certainly not all) who closely follow this direction and do not permit female leadership of anything but women’s organizations, nor may they teach Sunday School to classes including boys above the age of seven. At least this position is Scripturally consistent. I personally remember when it was said in the Episcopal Church, “If you elect a woman to be Senior Warden, next they’ll want to be ordained priest!” Yep! Ex ore dooforum.

Obj. 3. A woman can no more be a priest than a man can be a mother.
Reply Obj. 3. Actually even C.S. Lewis made this argument somewhere (I forget exactly where; I could look it up, but it’s not really worth it), and one still hears it occasionally. Well, Lewis was brilliant 99% of the time, which is a lot better than most of us. The assumption is that priesthood is essentially fatherly, and therefore a woman cannot exercise it. Where does one begin with this? Paul uses paternal imagery for his relationship with his churches (1 Cor. 4:15, 1 Thess. 2:11), but he also uses maternal imagery (Gal. 4:19, 1 Thess. 2:7.) I’m not sure where the idea came from that Christian priesthood (including episcopacy) is essentially paternal, other than that for most of Christian history bishops and priests were all men. But in a large percentage of cases, we might note, they were not fathers, except metaphorically. The superior of a religious community of women is often called “Mother,” and her responsibilities are quite equivalent to those of the superior of a men’s community. The only difference between an abbot and an abbess is their gender. Actually the use of parental titles and imagery for priestly ministry is open to question, I think, and I suspect we are moving away from it. As one who was ordained and called “Father” at the age of twenty-four, I am sensitive to the ultimate silliness of this custom, although I still observe it, sort of, some of the time.

Obj. 4. Thomas Aquinas writes: “Since it is not possible in the female sex to signify eminence of degree, for a woman is in the state of subjection, it follows that she cannot receive the sacrament of Order.” (Summa Theologiae, III.Suppl. Q.39 a.1. The Supplement to Pars Tertia was edited and published posthumously by Rainaldo da Pipeno, of course, but the text is taken directly from Thomas’ earlier Commentary on Book 4 of the Sentences of Peter Lombard.)
Reply Obj. 4. It is this that was really the definitive argument through most of the Church’s history. But it is obvious to most of us today that it is an argument with serious problems. First, the premise that ordination is related to “eminence of degree” (see also Q.34 aa.1&2.) is a pretty shaky one, and that’s to give it more than it deserves. Second, the premise that a woman is in “the state of subjection” is also a non-starter. Aquinas was a good enough logician to realize that when the premises are false, the conclusion is also likely to be false (or at least not proved by the premises). Unfortunately it seems not to have occurred to him to give his premises a really thorough examination.

Obj. 5. A priest (or a fortiori a bishop) is a sign of Christ, and Christ was and is a man. As Pope Paul VI said (Inter Insigniores, Chapter 5, 1976), “‘Sacramental signs,’ says St. Thomas, ‘represent what they signify by natural resemblance.’ The same natural resemblance is required for persons as for things: when Christ’s role in the Eucharist is to be expressed sacramentally, there would not be this ‘natural resemblance’ which must exist between Christ and his minister if the role of Christ were not taken by a man: in such a case it would be difficult to see in the minister the image of Christ. For Christ himself was and remains a man.” (This papal teaching has been subsequently reaffirmed by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.)
Reply Obj. 5. Pope Paul’s 1976 declaration interestingly enough discarded (subtly, but still discarded) the Thomistic argument in Obj. 4., and substituted this one. It’s a long and fairly well thought out argument, but in the end it just doesn’t work. In fact, pushed to its logical conclusion, it represents a heretical Christology. All baptized persons manifest the image of Christ. Women are not “lesser” images of Christ. “Christ the priest” is not a better or higher image than “Christ the servant” (if anything, quite the contrary, by Jesus’ own words) and the Church, God knows, has never had any hesitation assigning to women the role of servant. It has been commented about this declaration that by this thinking a woman not only cannot be validly ordained, she cannot even be validly baptized. This argument is a classic instance of the clergy “thinking more highly of themselves than they ought to think” (Romans 12:3). I think it may well have been this argument that was the final straw for many Anglicans (and others), including me: If this is the best argument for not ordaining women, then there clearly is no good argument for not ordaining women. But Rome held on nevertheless. In 1994 Pope John Paul II issued an Apostolic Letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, in which he named as reasons for not ordaining women: (1) “The example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men,” ignoring the fact that Christ chose only Jewish men; but in any case, so what? See Reply Obj. 1. (2) “The constant practice of the Church,” that is, “We’ve always done it this way before,” and (3) “her [the Church’s] living teaching authority,” that is, “Because I say so.” John Paul II concluded: “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.” Tell me if I’m mistaken: is this the only instance in history in which the Pope declared that the Roman Church had “no authority whatsoever”? I can’t think of another one offhand. But of course I could be wrong….

Obj. 6. The Church of England or other Churches of the Anglican Communion do not have authority to make this change in the Church’s ordained ministry without the consensus of the Universal Church.
Reply Obj. 6. In other words, we can’t ever change anything anytime anyhow. First of all, the consensus of the Universal Church (presumably expressed through an Ecumenical Council) isn’t going to happen in the foreseeable future, or, alas, even in the unforeseeable future. Actually, in real life this means “we can’t make this change until/unless Rome says we can.” Umm, do we remember that we are Anglicans?” (These aren’t the same folks who are also making the big whoop about the 39 Articles, are they? Article 21: “General Councils…may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God.” Article 37: “The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.”) Those in the Church of England who will not accept the ordination of women until/unless the Pope or a General Council says they can would be in violation of the Statute of Praemunire, except that Praemunire was repealed in 1967. Darn. (Incidentally, are any of these folks aware that the permission of the clergy to marry, stated in Article 32 — not just the ordination of married candidates but the marriage of priests already ordained — is a violation of quite ancient tradition and canon law? The Church of England said that this was an issue within its competence to decide, and I am not aware that there has been any argument about this within Anglicanism. The ordination of women is also within the competence of the Anglican Churches to decide.)

Anglo-Catholics and Women Bishops (3)

The primary group of opponents of the consecration of women to the episcopate in England are typically being identified simply as “the Anglo-Catholics.” Excuse me! I consider myself an Anglo-Catholic, and I’ve been one longer than a lot of these folks. (I was confirmed when I was a boy at All Saints’ Church, Indianapolis — the parish that at the time was “the Anglo-Catholic parish” of the diocese. Twenty-five years later, in that parish — still an Anglo-Catholic parish, but by then it was no longer such a big deal — the Rev. Jacqueline Mears was ordained to the priesthood, the first woman to be legally ordained after the approval of the ordination of women by the General Convention.) In the United States and in most of the rest of the Communion, Anglo-Catholics (with a few exceptions) not only do not oppose the ordination of women, but enthusiastically welcome it, and a substantial number of ordained women consider themselves to be Anglo-Catholics.

However, we should also recognize that the spectrum of “churchmanship” in England has always been much wider than it has been in North America or much of the rest of the Communion. English Evangelicals are more “evangelical” than any other Anglicans on earth, except in Sydney. English Anglo-Catholics have routinely adopted practices that American Anglo-Catholics never for a moment considered doing, like saying Mass in Latin from the Missale Romanum. (In those days we all used the American Missal, but all things considered it was relatively faithful to the Book of Common Prayer. Once the Episcopal Church began the Trial Use of liturgical forms that eventuated in the 1979 BCP, most of us put the missals away. On the whole the 1979 Book represented what we really wanted anyway.) The “Anglo-Catholic” opposition in England to the ordination and consecration of women to the priesthood and the episcopate are actually Ultramontanists (although they won’t always admit that even to themselves). As Dr. Eric Mascall (no mean Anglo-Catholic himself) put it many years ago, before the current kerfuffle:
And, though I’ve not submitted yet,
as all my friends expected,
I should have gone last Tuesday week,
had not my wife objected.
(From “The Ultra-Catholic,” Pi in the High.)

Anglo-Catholics and Women Bishops (2)

One of the annoying sidelights of this are the comments from Rome and Moscow about the Church of England’s action. Vatican Radio posted a story headlined “Vatican Regret at Anglican Vote to Ordain Female Bishops.” Please give me a break. For one thing, John Paul II reinforced the century-old ruling by Rome that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void,” so why should they care about what the Church of England does? Other provinces of the Anglican Communion have been consecrating women bishops for many years — the US, Canada, New Zealand, and recently Australia and Cuba — and other provinces are clearly on the verge. Something like twenty of the bishops at Lambeth will be women. What are we, chopped liver? Rome reminds me of nothing so much as Captain Renault’s exclamation to Rick: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling in going on in here!” The only surprise about the Church of England is that it took them so long.

Anglo-Catholics and Women Bishops (1)

My plan was to continue a series of whining about GAFCON, and I still plan to do that, but in the meantime the General Synod of the Church of England has approved the appointment and consecration of women to the episcopate. (We are urged to continue breathing normally, however.) This has largely displaced GAFCON in the British press and on many of The Usual Blogs, at least for a little while. So I will detour through a series of curmudgeonly reflections on the decision of the General Synod and the reactions to it, divided into a number of sections since once I got started I could hardly restrain myself....

Much of the big whoop in England has to do with the fact that the measure passed by Synod does not provide for safe all-male havens for those who claim that in conscience they cannot acknowledge the episcopal or priestly ministry of women—primarily conservative Anglo-Catholics, although some conservative Evangelicals are allied with them on this issue. (I don’t in the least doubt that they are in sincere conscience; whether it is good conscience is another question, which I may get to later.) Those who wanted special protection from girl cooties by means of some system of “super bishops,” or even a boys-only province of their own, did not get it. The measure provides for a “national code of practice” (yet to be formulated) to give some respite to those who will not accept a female bishop. On the other hand, it is speculated that this code of practice will also repeal and replace the current system of “flying bishops” who minister to those who have refused to accept women priests in England.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

GAFCON (1): Being Anglican

The word “Anglican” is derived from the Latin Anglicanus (-a, -um), which means “English.” Ecclesia Anglicana is the English Church, normally phrased as “The Church of England.” The highest-ranking cleric in the Church of England is the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is Metropolitan of the Province of Canterbury and Primate of All England. A number of other national churches derived from (some might say, “were emitted by”) the Church of England. The first of these was the Scottish Episcopal Church. Whether in the eighteenth century they would have been considered as, or considered themselves as, “Anglican,” I don’t know. I’m not sure what their relationship with Canterbury was. They were, after all, non-jurors; they were not C of E. I don’t know that the issue of their “Anglicanism” really ever arose, although the C of E did extend some support and sympathy to the small and sometimes persecuted Scottish Episcopalian minority, with whom they felt a relationship.

Then at the end of the eighteenth century the United States secured its independence, and the previously Anglican congregations (hitherto under the jurisdiction, such as it was, of the Bishop of London) constituted themselves as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. As we know, the parishes in Connecticut were unable to secure the consecration of a bishop from Canterbury (for legal reasons that were at least technically valid), but successfully did so from the Scottish church, who were not so constrained. Subsequently the Church of England obtained legal provisions for consecrating Bishops beyond the C of E (whether out of the goodness of their missionary hearts, or because they knew that if they didn’t the Scots would), and several additional bishops were consecrated for the Episcopal Church in the U.S. At that point the American episcopate became self-sufficient. But although the Preface to the American Book of Common Prayer (1789) acknowledges the debt of the Episcopal Church to the Church of England and states the intention of TEC not to depart from the C of E in any essential point (“or further than local circumstances require”), it is not clear that the notion of an “Anglican identity” or membership in an “Anglican Communion” had yet emerged. Presumably the Episcopal Church was “in communion with” the Church of England, as well as with the Scottish Episcopal Church — after all, they had consecrated our first bishops — but it isn’t clear what if anything that might actually mean. (Bear in mind that the United States and Great Britain were at war again from 1812 to 1815, and that Great Britain supported the Confederacy during the American Civil War.)

But by the middle of the nineteenth century, particularly as the Church of England’s missionary activity followed the development and expansion of the British Empire, the C of E was becoming a church of international scope. The “Anglican Communion” as such can arguably trace its inception to the first Lambeth Conference in 1867. Since then the Anglican Communion, and its influence and that of the Archbishop of Canterbury, have continued to grow. In the late nineteenth century the Church of Ireland was disestablished and in the early twentieth the Church in Wales. Other formerly colonial or dominion churches have become independent and autonomous, so that now the majority of the Anglican Communion are not members of the Church of England. Nevertheless, membership in the Anglican Communion is defined as being in communion with the Church of England/the Archbishop of Canterbury (with the relatively recent Anglican Consultative Council serving as “membership secretary”).

It is certainly true that there is an “Anglican tradition” (or “Anglican traditions”), Anglicanism as a “style” of being Christian, and there are some things that can be identified as “mainstream Anglican” and others that are “marginally Anglican” or even “not really Anglican at all.” Obviously there is no general consensus as to what any of things specifically are! Which simply reinforces my contention that Anglicanism is not “confessional” or even very specifically doctrinal (the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral is arguably about as close as many of us are willing to get). That doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as theological truth or theological error, but it does mean that we deal with disagreement by discussion (yes, and passionate argumentation!), but not by decree or power.

It means that to be an Anglican means to be a member of the Church of England, or of a church that is in communion with the Church of England through the Archbishop of Canterbury. That’s what “Anglican” means. So if you are not in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, you are not an Anglican. Period.

There are a number of churches that have an Anglican heritage and share a great many things with Anglicans in terms of doctrine, liturgy, etc. An early example would be the Methodists. John and Charles Wesley, of course, lived and died as priests of the Church of England. But the English Church was remarkably obtuse about the spiritual renewal that the Methodists were advocating, and the Methodists were eventually driven to separation. Methodists are not Anglicans. Many of them do not even remember that they once were Anglicans. If the new American Episcopal Church had exercised greater ecumenical imagination early in our history, it might have made immense difference in the history of American Christianity. Alas, by the time of William Reed Huntingdon it was already too late in regard to the Methodists. A somewhat later example is the Reformed Episcopal Church in the United States, who split with the Episcopal Church over “high” liturgical practices and baptismal regeneration. They thought they were upholding traditional Episcopal/Anglican principles: But:

"Not being Anglican in spirit, [Bishop George] Cummins [Assistant Bishop of Kentucky and leader of the schism] and his followers could not endure the tensiion which characterizes a comprehensive Church. Essentially sectarian in their conception of the Church, they could be satisfied with nothing short of uniformity. They departed ... because they thought the Church was not energetic enough in suppressing convictions which they opposed....They could breathe freely only in a body where there were none to disagree." (James Thayer Addison, The Episcopal Church in the United States 1789-1931, 1951; quoted in Powel Mills Dawley, Our Christian Heritage, rev. 1978.)

(GAFCON and FOCA, please copy.)

The last generation or so has seen a number of other small schisms (yes, they are small, but also yes, they are schisms) which often use the word “Anglican” in their institutional title. They are not in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and therefore, despite a substantial Anglican heritage, they are not Anglicans no matter what they claim on their letterheads. Perhaps most notable currently is the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, originating from a schism in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. They have placed themselves under the (all too eager) jurisdiction of the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, but they are not recognized by Canterbury and are therefore by definition not Anglican. (Stay tuned. Film at 11:00.) Several other separatist groups have latched on to Primates in East Africa and in the Southern Cone of the Americas, claiming thereby to demonstrate their authentic Anglicanness. So far the Archbishop of Canterbury (Rowan Williams) isn’t buying it.

Comes now the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), with their spin-off organization (assuming it does get organized), the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FOCA). [“But I thought you said a moment ago that Anglicanism is not confessional!” Well, yes. Boys and girls, can you say “oxymoron”?] Following its meeting in Jerusalem, GAFCON issued (or, as some might say, emitted) a Final Statement on 29 June 2008 (to which was attached “The Jerusalem Declaration,” which was somewhat odd since the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem had explicitly asked them not to meet in Israel) The Statement can be found at

In the main body of the Statement they said:

"While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury."


Over on the other side of the River Tiber, I wonder how far one would get with the statement, “While acknowledging the nature of Rome as an historic see, we do not accept that Roman Catholic identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Pope.”

As I write this essay, the Church of England is holding its regular General Synod in York. We shall see what emerges (or is emitted, if you like) from that meeting. In the meantime I plan to make further comments about the GAFCON Final Statement. Watch this space.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Orthodoxy at GAFCON

A quick quiz: Which one of the following statements is most essentially de fide (of the essence of the Christian faith)?

1. There is one God, in three persons (in human language most frequently designated Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

2. God the Son (or the Word, Greek Logos) became incarnate (became flesh) in Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah or Christ.

3. Human beings are saved (restored to fullness of life eternally) by God's grace through the Holy Spirit, and not by any action of our own.

4. God hates fags.

The correct answer for the "orthodox" folks at GAFCON is, of course, No. 4.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bible-Believing Christians

I was reading Matins this morning, and the first lesson was the latter part of Numbers 14. Afterwards, I noticed that the first lesson tomorrow morning will be from Numbers 16. "Hmm," I thought to myself, "what's in chapter 15 that we're leaving out?" Perhaps this. (I understand why certain verses don't get read, but I'm not always sure that's the best idea.)

Numbers 15:32-36: When the Israelites were in the wildnerness, they
found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day. Those who found him
gathering sticks brought him to Moses, Aaron, and to the whole
congregation. They put him in custody, because it was not clear what
should be done to him. Then the Lord said to Moses, "The man shall be put
to death; all the congregation shall stone him outside the camp." The
whole congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as
the Lord had commanded Moses.

All you "Bible-Believing Christians," please help me understand what to make of that. Especially all you Bible-believing Anglicans over there at the GAFCON conference.

Is there anyone who can help me understand why "Bible-Believing Christian" isn't an oxymoron? Please let me assure you: I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation. But it seems to me that first we must believe in (have faith in) Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God in the first instance, and only then are we able to understand how the Scriptures are the Word of God.

And if you GAFCON folks and your associates are of the opinion that Numbers 15:32-36 is not binding upon us now, then was it ever binding upon anyone? Why, or why not?

Enquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pentecost, and our Lady

Yesterday my wife and I were out on a daytrip and we visited the local art museum of a nearby city.

[Excursus: If you don't already do it, I encourage you to visit your local art museum. It's amazing how many really wonderful paintings there are by artists you've never heard of. End of excursus.]

One of the paintings I saw was a "Descent of the Holy Ghost" by Juan de Juanes, a Spanish painter of the mid-16th century. (No, I'd never heard of him before either.) (All you art history majors: you don't count!) I liked it a lot; it was, I think, typical of that era. The painting depicted the twelve apostles (St. Matthias being #12), together with the Blessed Virgin Mary, gathered together in the upper room. At the top of the painting was depicted the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, and from the Spirit were emanating tongues of fire, lighting upon the heads of each of those present. The twelve apostles; and also St. Mary.


+Jack, and +Keith, yes and you too, +Benedict, and even you, +Rowan: Get over it!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Orthodoxy and Heresy

A colleague passed on to me today a copy of an article from the April 22 Christian Century, by Garret Keizer, entitled "Reasons to Join: In defense of organized religion."(*) (; but this particular article is available online only to subscribers.) Many excellent things in this article, but I was particularly struck by a quote from Kenneth Leech (Keizer did not give the exact citation):

The rejection of paradox and ambiguity is the characteristic of heretics in all
ages. Heresy is one-dimensional, narrow, over-simplified, and boring. It is
straight-line thinking, preferring a pseudo-clarity to the many-sidedness of
truth, tidiness to the mess and complexity of reality. Orthodoxy by contrast is
rooted in the unknowable.

Keizer goes on to comment, "I realize that such a passage may be offensive to some heretics, but imaging how offensive it must be to religious believers who fancy that their heretical simplifications are orthodox!"

(*) With due respect to Mark Twain: "I don't belong to an organized religion. I'm an Episcopalian."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Biblical Morality

A couple of weeks ago, or so, I was reading in Exodus (these verses aren't part of the daily office lectionary; I must have been doing some lectio divina) and ran across this passage. (I must have read this many times before, but for some reason it never "stuck.")

21:2-4: When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. [So far, so good.] [Well, sort of.] If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's and he shall go out alone.

That's swell.

It goes on to say, by the way, that if the husband loves his wife and children and does not want to abandon them, he can stay with them, but at the price of committing himself to servitude for the rest of his life.

Ain't that nice? Very moral.

I sometimes wonder whether the folks who talk so much about "Biblical Morality" (especially "Biblical Sexual Morality") have actually read the Bible.

An awful lot of the sexual goings-on in the Bible, apparently with divine approbation or at least divine indifference, are by our standards pretty appalling.

Of course there are many passages, in both the Old Testament and the New, that can be appealed to for the foundation of genuinely godly and Christian sexual morality. So by what principles do we distinguish between that "biblical sexual morality" which is genuinely godly and Christian, and that (also) "biblical sexual morality" which is cruel, abusive, exploitative, etc.? (Is there anyone out there who really wants to try to defend Exodus 21:2-4?)

Maybe a genuinely godly and Christian sexual morality requires more than just quoting Bible verses.

Just saying.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Liturgical Curmudgeon Strikes Again

In the March 23 issue of The Living Church, editor David Kalvalage posted a column in which he asked "More and More Questions." I couldn't resist answering them for him, and have sent them off to him. Because David is a good and godly person, he might even print some of them. But because he is a good editor, he might throw them away.

But here they are, anyway:

Is a Christian shirking responsibility by not voting in a political election?
It depends. In the case of a local election in which no big issues seem to be at stake: probably not, though voting would be better. In the case of the upcoming presidential election: absolutely!

Why can’t we negotiate these property disputes instead of creating such ill will?
“What’s mine is mine; what’s yours is negotiable.” When people try to walk away with the church’s property, whose fault is the ill will?

Why do some people feel the necessity to hold hands during prayer, especially the Lord’s Prayer?
How do you know they “feel the necessity”? Maybe they just like to do it. If you don’t care for it, that’s quite okay, but why are you bothered by someone else’s innocent customs?

Whatever became of the Anglican Communion Network?
They’re still around, although they seem to be all caught up in the Common Cause Partnership. They are apparently trying to figure out a way to commit schism without having to pay a price for it.

Did your congregation take notice of “Environment Weekend?”
Yes, although it did not displace the regular liturgical calendar.

Why has it become standard practice to end a sermon with the preacher saying “Amen”?
Has this become a standard practice? I don’t do it, myself (I use the invocation of the Trinity at the beginning and the end, but I don’t argue for that as the only legitimate practice.) Saying “Amen” seems like a very clear way for the preacher to say, “I’m finished now.” The congregation often responds, “Amen,” which may mean “Thank you for a very good sermon,” or it may mean “Thank God you are finished now.”

Isn’t approval of same-gender blessings a “slam dunk” for next year’s General Convention?
Probably not. (Why are so many people’s religion dependent on how other people commit their lives to each other?)

Do you understand what’s happening in San Joaquin? Do you care?
Yes. Yes.

Are things any different in your congregation than they were five years ago? Ten years ago?
Yes, I think there has been a significant development in lay ministry, both within the parish and in the community.

Did the Executive Council really need to meet in Ecuador?
Yes. The Executive Council meets in all nine provinces in rotation. Unless you think that Province 9 doesn’t count. Reports from the last EC meeting seem to be that they had a very productive visit in Ecuador.

Can you imagine any more bishops remaining in office until age 72?
Any more than what? If a bishop is elected at an age when he or she still has a lot of energy and imagination, age 65 may well be an appropriate time to retire. If a bishop wants to hang in until age 72, God bless him or her. The example of our Roman cousins does not suggest that having a large gang of ancient bishops is particularly healthy for the church.

Whatever became of Wednesday night services during Lent?
What became of them in your parish? In our parish we have a Wednesday evening Eucharist every week, and during Lent it was followed by a light potluck supper and a variety of study groups. The turnout was very good.

Why is the word “Pit” capitalized twice in Psalm 88?
“The Pit” is not just any old hole in the ground, but is a place of destruction; Hebrew bor. Same general sense as “Sheol.”

Why aren’t advocates for prayer book revision clamoring for a revised book?
Aren’t they? Actually, there are some who would like some increased flexibility, but I’m not aware of anyone who really wants to change the present book at this time.

Does anyone like “blended” worship?
What do you mean by “blended” worship? Please tell me what it is, and I will tell you whether or not I like it.

Are same-sex blessings supposed to be listed in parochial reports? Under what category?
There was some discussion recently on the House of Bishops/Deputies e-mail list. The consensus at the moment from the folks at 815 seems to be that such blessings can be counted as “other services” but not as “marriages.” This raises (again) the issue of what the relationship should be between the Church’s Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage and the recording of a marriage by the state.

Will there be any more evangelicals left in The Episcopal Church by 2010?
What do you mean by “evangelicals”? If you mean people who are seriously committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then the Church is and will be full of them. If you mean neocalvinists who are more religious than God, I hope not.

Doesn’t anyone care about these bishops leaving for the Roman Catholic Church?
Yes, a lot of us care. We’re sorry about them, but we wish them Godspeed, and we appreciate the fact that they chose to follow their consciences without beating anyone else over the head with them.

Wouldn’t it have made sense to stay off the internet as a Lenten discipline?
Probably! And in fact some people did. (Alas, not me.) The internet is like many valuable things — easily abused, but abusus non tollit usus, as Thomas Aquinas (excuse me, St. Thomas Aquinas) said in De Interretio.

Whatever became of the Windsor bishops?
Yes, I was wondering that myself. Possibly they realized that the Windsor Report contains less than meets the eye. Except perhaps to +Rowan.

Aren’t more churches offering Stations of the Cross?
Compared to when? Compared to when I was young? Yes. And that’s good.

Why do so many people omit the word “St.” before the names of saints?
Who knows? It may depend on context. About which contexts are you asking?

Don’t you wonder what’s going on in our seminaries?
Yes, at times. I wonder about different things at different seminaries.

Did any of our clergy preach on the epistle for Lent 4?
I did. Well, actually it was as much about the gospel as about the epistle, but still…. It seems generally desirable to relate all the readings to the extent that it’s possible.

Did any parish observe “Rose Sunday”?
The parish where I was supplying did. My home parish did, I understand, but borrowed vestments from a neighboring parish that wasn’t using them this year. It’s my impression that there are more rose vestments around the Episcopal Church nowadays than there were forty or fifty years ago. The Dean’s Oratory at Nashotah House has (or had) a very lovely set of rose vestments. Most other rose vestments are pink.

Whatever became of those people who were pushing for lay presidency?
And what makes you think anything has “become of” them? This is a Sydney hobbyhorse. At the moment Archbishop Jensen is all caught up in being anti-Lambeth and trying to put together GAFCON, and I doubt that very many of his cronies have any interest in lay presidency (they are much too clericalist for that!). I don’t doubt that after Lambeth this issue will emerge from Sydney again.

Isn’t the church’s outreach ministry stronger than it’s ever been?

Wouldn’t some new sites for General Convention have been welcome instead of returning to Anaheim and Indianapolis?
Well, yes, but bear in mind that there aren’t very many venues in the United States that can handle a convention of the size and time of our General Convention. Is there a venue in Milwaukee that can handle the GC? Some might say, well, then, let’s cut drastically back on the number of deputies! But how many lay deputies are saying that? Sounds like a way of constricting lay participation in the governance of the Church, if you ask me.

Do you care whether an Anglican Covenant is put in place?
Depends on the Covenant. The St. Andrews draft is better but still has a long way to go. I remain unconvinced that a covenant — especially of the sort that some are advocating — would do more good than harm.

Which of the seminaries will be the next to make a major announcement?
I don’t know. I find it troubling. But it does suggest that we need to take a very thorough and probably radical look at theological education in general and the education of candidates for holy orders in particular.

Are you aware that the index to the latest edition (2006) of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church (p. 260) lists one of the “Duties of the Rector” as “To distribute arms and offerings”?
I hadn’t noticed that, actually! But then, let the one who has never committed a typo cast the first stone.

Aren’t churches without websites missing a great opportunity to attract visitors and newcomers?

Do you sometimes have trouble understanding what the Archbishop of Canterbury is writing or saying?
Frequently. His theology, spirituality, and poetry are difficult but rewarding. The archbishoppy stuff, not so much.

Wasn’t it hard to get started in Lent with it falling so early in the year?
Not really. It was a welcome change from shoveling snow.

Shouldn’t the Southern Cone be called something else?
This is their decision, not ours. What do you want to call them? La Provincia Anglicana del Cono Sur is perfectly sensible in Spanish; if it sounds funny in English, that’s our problem. “El Cono Sur” is a standard geographical designation (not just Anglican or ecclesiastical) for the nations at the southern end of South America.

Why does the national Executive Council need to have all those closed sessions?
How many sessions are “all those closed”? I assume it’s because (1) some issues, like personnel, really are confidential; (2) they get tired of the press whining. As Jesus said, “Let anyone with shoes that fit wear them.”

Why do some clergy insist upon addressing a communicant by name when administering communion?
Why not, if they can? (I have a hard enough time remembering my own name, so I don’t try.)

What’s the harm in including those portions of the psalms bracketed by the prayer book lectionary?
No harm, generally, and I suspect most of us routinely include them in the Daily Office. Those who are bitter and vindictive, and assume that God is also bitter and vindictive, should certainly make a point of including them. On the other hand, if I were celebrating Morning Prayer with the parish Sunday School teachers before a meeting on the Saturday of week seven, I might choose to leave out 137:7-9.

Whatever became of the Great Litany?
The last I saw of it, it was still on page 148. A lot of parishes use it on Advent 1 and Lent 1. Easter 6 is also good. Granted, this isn’t quite what Cranmer directed (after Matins on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), but we finally admitted in 1928 that we weren’t going to do that.

Who are Oreb and Zeeb? How about Zebah and Zalmunna?
My favorite Biblical characters. The two generals and the two kings of Midian, whom Gideon killed in battle. Judges 7-8. A charming story, that gives literalist biblical interpretation its pizzazz.

Aren’t these attachments by congregations to foreign Anglican provinces temporary arrangements?
We wish. And in the long run that’s probably how it will end up, but it won’t be neat and tidy.

Why do so many church mailings refer to “Easter Sunday” rather than “Easter Day”?
How many is “so many”? Ours didn’t.

Have a blessed Eastertide!

Sunday, February 24, 2008


What the heck is all this deal with “Primates” in the Anglican Communion? Where did these people come from, and who do they think they are?

Well, of course in a sense they have been around for a long time. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the “Primate of All England,” and the Archbishop of York is the “Primate of England.” (That’s quaint. How English!) In imitation whereof, presumably, the Archbishop of Armagh is the “Primate of All Ireland” and the Archbishop of Dublin is the “Primate of Ireland.” The Scottish Episcopal Church has a “Primus” rather than a Primate. But since “Primus” is simply a Latin variant for “Primate,” more or less, it’s not clear what real difference it makes. Except that the chief Scottish bishop is somewhat less likely to be confused with one of the Pongidae, which is probably advantageous. But back in the Olden Days, we didn’t have a Primate in the Episcopal Church. We had a Presiding Bishop. If I remember correctly, our first Presiding Bishop to be designated as our “Primate” and to be styled “The Most Reverend” was John Allin in the early 1980’s. (I think we were feeling left out.)

Maybe this was related to the fact that along about this time, the Anglican Communion first started having Primates’ Meetings. We had never done that before. Lambeth Conferences had seemed organizationally entirely adequate for the previous century, supplemented with such splendid parties as the Anglican Congresses of 1908, 1954, and 1963, and several Anglo-Catholic Congresses in the 1920’s and 30’s.

And in fact it seems entirely reasonable to me, since it is probably not practical for the Lambeth Conference to meet more frequently than once a decade, that the Primates of the constituent Churches of the Anglican Communion should get together more frequently to pray and talk and share about how things were going. (Actually, many of these bishops apparently did not become “Primates” until they started having “Primates’ Meetings.” They had simply been Archbishops Metropolitan, or Presiding Bishops. England, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand were the only Churches with “Primates” before then.)

Well, that’s okay. I’m perfectly fine with the idea that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is our Chief Pastor and Primate. (Actually, I kind of like the title “Primus,” and since we initially received the episcopate from the Scottish church it would seem appropriate to use that. Except that +Katharine would be the “Prima,” and then some dumbwit would make jokes about “prima donnas.” I have had the honor to meet Bishop Katharine, and she is no prima donna. For that matter, most of the leading operatic sopranos in the world are not “prima donnas” either: they are very talented, charming, and thoughtful women. But I digress.)

But now all of a sudden the Primates’ Meeting, originally designed to be interim consultations between Lambeth Conferences, has erupted as a Curial Authority! They are now one of the Anglican Instruments of Communion. Who says??!! How did that slip by without anybody taking much appropriate notice? This looks a lot like a fait accompli, and I say it is not too late to say, “Wait just a minute here!” As I said at the beginning, who do they think they are?

I think it will be entirely sufficient for the Anglican Communion to have three Instruments of Communion:

1. The Archbishop of Canterbury;
2. The Lambeth Conference (of bishops);
3. The Anglican Consultative Council (comprised of laity, clergy and bishops).

Again, it’s perfectly appropriate that the Primates (Moderators, Presiding Bishops, Archbishops Metropolitan, whatever) meet regularly to share joys and concerns. But they do not have and should not have executive or legislative authority. I suggest that they study and meditate on Mark 10:41-45 and Romans 12:3.

Comments on the St Andrew’s Draft for an Anglican Covenant will be forthcoming.

The Curmudgeon.

Hospitality and Inclusiveness

One of the virtues enjoined in the New Testament on Christians is “hospitality.” Romans, 1 Timothy, Titus, 1 Peter, Hebrews (“for thus some have entertained angels unaware” — possibly a reference to Abraham in Genesis 18 and Lot in Genesis 19). But there comes a time…

A man held a great party. He invited everyone he knew, and everyone who happened by he invited in, even though he did not know them. And a wonderful time was had by all. But one of the guests was very rude. He insulted the other guests and criticized the host’s choice of friends. He derided the host’s taste in the artwork that decorated his house. He was disrespectful to the host’s wife and spoke abusively to the host’s daughter. He gobbled down great quantities of the hors d’oeuvres before anyone else had a chance to partake. He spilled his beverage on the carpet, and left the wet glass on the table without using a coaster. When he went to the bathroom he peed on the toilet rim and did not put the seat down when he was finished. The host finally said, “It is time for you to leave now.”

+Katharine, who is a nicer person, would probably have put it differently. She would probably have said, “It is time for you to leave now, please.”

Friday, February 22, 2008

Depositions and Resignations

A group of our area clergy were meeting with the Bishop the other day — a sort of news-and-sharing session that we have a couple of times a year — and the subject of various aspects of Adventures in Anglicanland came up. A number of us expressed some unease at the “rush toward deposition” that seems to be underway (and for a lot of observers in the Church it is not a moment too soon). As nearly as I could tell, no one had any sympathy with any of the Usual Suspects; the issue was whether deposition, especially on the charge of abandoning the communion of this church, is the best way to deal with them.

One of our members was formerly (and still is, part-time) a professor of a biomedical science in the University, and as such she not only taught but also directed a research laboratory (with NIH funding). Thus she has experience managing a staff, and understands the ins and outs of human resources. (To the extent anyone does!) She briefly recounted an instance in which a staff member was seriously “not with the program” and was erratic in issues like attendance, taking unapproved time off, etc. After several efforts to address this unacceptable pattern, the lab management staff finally wrote to this employee, stating specifically, “If you are not at work on such-and-such a day at such-and-such a time, or submit in advance a clearly acceptable excuse, we will interpret that as your resignation from your position.” In this case the employee did not comply with the given direction, was declared to have resigned, and (despite a brief protest by the employee) the Human Resources offices of the College and the University sustained the department’s action.

This was very similar to some issues my wife has had to deal with. She is the director of a child care center, operated by an international child care chain under contract from the University Hospital. Most of her staff are hardworking, caring preschool teachers. But occasionally one of her people will “not be with the program,” and not respond appropriately to repeated (and documented) correction. At this point my wife will instruct the staff member that further failure to conform to expectations will be interpreted as resignation. (All of this is done not only with the knowledge and approval of the national human resources office, but with their advice and counsel.) “Oh, no, I didn’t really want to resign!” is generally regarded as “too late, too bad.”

Well, now the Episcopal Church has a bishop (with two or three or four more standing in line) who has purported to leave the Episcopal Church and to take his diocese with him, submitting to the jurisdiction of a different Anglican province. This bishop has been charged with abandoning the communion of this church and has been inhibited, with the consent of the three senior diocesan bishops in the Church. (Note: the canons mean “the communion of this church,” namely, the Episcopal Church, not just “the communion of any church.” A different Anglican province does not count, except by explicit authorization by the General Convention. The Sons and Daughters of I Will Arise don’t count, either.) Presumably this bishop’s deposition will be voted by the House of Bishops next month. Meanwhile another bishop has also been charged with abandoning the communion, though the gun is not smoking as much and this bishop has not been inhibited, although he is still subject to deposition by the House of Bishops. And, as I indicated, there are other bishops waiting in the wings.

Although the pending instances probably should just proceed to their conclusion, I wonder if it might not be wiser in the future to avoid the “abandonment” road (which in any case was not really designed for this kind of situation) and instead for the PB simply to state, after due formal notice (as she has given in these situations), that certain behaviors, such as attempting or purporting to abscond with one’s diocese to the Sons and Daughters, or whoever, will constitute resignation from one’s see, effective immediately. No claim is made at this point about deposition from holy orders. The bishop in this case simply becomes a “resigned bishop,” or, probably in this case, a “resigned but fussing and whining bishop.” (The House of Bishops has to accept the resignation, but I believe that farther than three months out from a HOB meeting, it can be done by correspondence.) Since the resignation is not for reason of age, disability, national office, or mission strategy as determined by the General Convention or the House of Bishops, the bishop would no longer have seat and vote in the House, particularly if the bishop were to become a member of the House of Bishops of another province. It would still be possible down the line, if it seems appropriate, to charge the bishop with violations of the canons and of ordination vows, but in the meanwhile the bishop is out of office without the untidiness of formal charges. Anyone who wants to go with the bishop to wherever the bishop is going may do so, but they have to leave the diocese and its parishes behind. The diocese can then get on with electing a new bishop to lead them in their mission. In short, the bishop is not deposed, but the bishop ceases to be Our Problem.

I am reminded of the gangster Al Capone, who by all accounts was guilty of multiple murders in Chicago in the late 20’s and early 30’s. But the state could not prove those charges, so the federal government successfully prosecuted him for evasion of income tax. Not very satisfying, but under the circumstances it did the job.

On the other hand, a small voice in the back of my mind keeps whispering, “Why don’t you just take these bozos out behind the barn and thrash them soundly?” A better voice immediately intervenes, “No! No! We can’t do that! WWJD?” And then a third voice comes from somewhere up there, “”Well, at least not yet, anyway.”

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Good line from a movie

Yesterday I was watching the DVD of the film The Bridge to Terabithia, which I had missed when it was released to the theaters. Some will be aware that it is the story -- charming and poignant, from a book about 30 years back written by Katherine Paterson -- of Jess, a boy who lives in a rural setting, and Leslie, a new neighbor girl who has just moved from the city with her parents. (Excellent movie, and it's my intent to read the book.)

Jess invites Leslie to come to church with him one Sunday. (Leslie's family are not churchgoers.) On the way home they are talking about the day's Bible lesson, and Jess and his little sister comment that you have to believe the Bible or God will damn you to hell. (Gee, where have we heard that before?...) Leslie responds, "You have to believe it, and you hate it. I don't have to believe it, and I think it's beautiful."

Ex ore infantium....

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Dave Walker's SPCK Posts

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

the great spck scandalbloggers stick it to the man
This is a Dave Walker Solidarity Post:It is a load of saved posts that Dave has been bullied into taking down off his blog.PLEASE COPY AND POST ON YOUR BLOGSWe will not be silenced by bad people;- there are too many of us.SPCK / SSG Bookshop PostsJuly 8th, 2008My silenceI’ve been aware that this has been a sad week for many readers of the Cartoon Blog. Many of those visiting have been mourning the death of Steve Jeynes, the Worcester bookseller, who, judging from the comments posted on this site was loved by many. In the circumstances the usual nonsense that I write on this site has not seemed appropriate, hence my silence.The memorial service for Steve Jeynes took place yesterday. The Worcester News has a report: Tributes paid to exceptional man. Doug Chaplain was there and has written about it. See also on the SPCK/SSG blog: Steve Jeynes: A Life Remembered.This will be one of the last former-SPCK-related posts that I expect to do until September as I am away doing one thing and another. I have one more bookshop-related thing that I need to post about which has arisen as a result of a comment (not yet visible) on this site on Sunday morning. I will hopefully do that post today (Tuesday) or tomorrow (Wednesday).The place to go for former-SPCK-related posts for the next month or two is SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info. [Aside to Phil: hopefully you will post Plans Coming Together for New Christian Bookshop in Cardiff on the SSG/SPCK site when the time is right - a post well worth sharing.]I hope to post a bit more on this blog this week, including an announcement about my new book and plans for Lambeth.Posted by Dave at 1:06 am on July 8, 2008 and filed under Blogging, Save the SPCK.5 CommentsJuly 3rd, 2008Memorial service for Steve JeynesThe memorial service for Steve Jeynes is now to be held at Worcester Cathedral at 3.30pm on Monday 7th July, followed by refreshments at Worcestershire County Cricket Club.There is a news item in the Worcester News today, and another in the Worcester Standard. Update: Also Worcester News: Hundreds expected to bookseller’s memorialMany tributes have been left in the comments of my previous post and on other sites linked from there.Image: the former SPCK shop in WorcesterPosted by Dave at 7:57 am on July 3, 2008 and filed under Save the SPCK.No CommentsJune 27th, 2008SPCK / SSG: Tragic news from WorcesterThere is some tragic news from the Worcester Diocese. This note was sent out today to clergy within the Diocese by the Communications department:I am very sorry to tell you that Steve Jeynes, has been found dead, apparently having taken his own life. Many of you will know him from his work at the SSGT (ex-SPCK) shop in Worcester, from where he was made redundant two weeks ago.Please hold (the) family in your prayers, together with the many friends whose lives have been enriched through Steve’s loving generosity in serving the Lord.Details of the funeral arrangements will be made available in due course.Doug Chaplain has posted here: In Worcester the SSG / SPCK saga turns to tragedyPlease remember Steve’s family, friends and all affected in your prayers.Update: A service of Thanksgiving for Steve’s life will take place on Monday 7 July 2008 at 3:30 pm at All Saints’ Church, Deansway, Worcester. The Thanksgiving Service has been moved from All Saints’ Church to the Cathedral at 3.30pm on Monday 7th July followed by refreshments at Worcestershire County Cricket Club.Further tributes have been posted here and here.Posted by Dave at 5:53 pm on June 27, 2008 and filed under Save the SPCK, Religion.65 CommentsSPCK / SSG bookshop newsA couple of things:New websitePhil Groom has set up a new group blog on the subject of the former SPCK shops. It is here: SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info. If you’re interested in SPCK/ SSG updates please bookmark this site and/or subscribe to the feed. I do intend to continue writing on the subject on this blog, but during July and August in particular I will have very little (if any) time to devote to writing on the topic owing to my preparation for and participation in the Lambeth conference and being away from home for various other reasons.If there is anyone who would like to contribute to the new site please contact Phil directly.Staff payAn update to my last post - some staff have now been paid. I have made an update to my last post to reflect this and will update again if it emerges that all staff have now been paid.News reportsBookseller: SSG tribunal claims mountChester Chronicle: Union action to support sacked Chester bookshop workersLincolnshire Echo: ‘Sacked’ shop staff in court actionPosted by Dave at 9:09 am on June 27, 2008 and filed under Save the SPCK, Religion.3 CommentsJune 25th, 2008SSG: Bankruptcy papers received, employees not paidBankruptcy papers receivedSome people in the UK have been receiving papers relating to the SSG ‘bankruptcy’ from the US Bankruptcy Court of the District of Southern District of Texas. There will apparently be a ‘meeting of creditors’ on 22 July in Houston.Having done a quick search I notice that there was, on 18 June a ’status conference’ for St Stephen the Great LLC in the bankruptcy court (this can be found on a cached Google page saved here). Information on the chapter 11 bankruptcy process can be found via this page: Chapter 11 - Bankruptcy BasicsAll of this must be seen in the light of Usdaw’s statement yesterday, now available on the Usdaw website:Usdaw firmly believes that the bankruptcy proceedings in the US have no effect in the UK, because this is a UK company with entirely UK-based assets and activities.Also, from John Hannett, the General Secretary of Usdaw:These loyal staff are being given misleading information about these US bankruptcy proceedings and the effects this may have on their rights to take legal action in the UK. Our fear is that the Brewers’ actions may be an attempt to move assets away from the business and out of the reach of our members with legitimate claims.“We will carry on as before with the claims against the Brewers who are accumulating wealth whilst riding roughshod over hard working employees. We will continue to assist all our members affected by this messy situation and work to rectify it as soon as possible.”Employees not paidOn a related note some (all?) of the people who work or worked in the shops have not been paid today (the 25th) as they would usually be. See for instance these blog comments. [Update: some employees have now been paid]Telegraph blog postChristopher Howse (who wrote Saturday’s comment piece) has written on his Telegraph blog about the Orthodox church in Poole: Orthodox Exodus. As others have pointed out this isn’t new information, but I thought I’d post the link anyway.Posted by Dave at 3:05 pm on June 25, 2008 and filed under Save the SPCK, Religion.13 CommentsJune 24th, 2008Usdaw press release about the former SPCK shopsUsdaw fights for mistreated bookshop workersShopworkers’ union, Usdaw, has submitted 15 employment tribunal claims against the Brewers, US-based brothers who have taken over a chain of UK bookshops and were seeking to impose a new contract on staff, drastically reducing their contractual rights. The Union has over 50 members at the bookshops and is expecting that the number of employment tribunal claims will rise.The Brewer brothers were gifted the St. Stephen the Great Christian bookshops in 2006 by SPCK. The chain includes 23 bookshops, many of which are historic buildings in prime retail positions.Following the change of ownership, a new contract was drawn up increasing the working week from 37.5 to 40 hours with no additional pay, turning all part-time staff into casual staff with no guaranteed hours every week and taking away all rights to company sick pay.Now, virtually all Usdaw members have been dismissed with no notice, some by email, and have received little or no information about what this means for their rights and their pay.The Brewer brothers have now filed St. Stephen the Great for bankruptcy in the US. Usdaw firmly believes that the bankruptcy proceedings in the US have no effect in the UK, because this is a UK company with entirely UK-based assets and activities. Staff have been told that they can apply for jobs with ENC Management Company, which is also owned by the Brewers, but that they no longer have jobs with St. Stephen the Great.Usdaw is also aware that the Charity Commission has been alerted to these actions because of its role in regulating the activities of the linked charity, St. Stephen the Great Charitable Trust.John Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary, stated:“It is clear that staff, many of whom have been long standing loyal workers, have been mistreated and many are understandably very upset and concerned. We are very concerned at a new company (ENC Management Company) being set up in these circumstances, while our members are losing their jobs. These loyal staff are being given misleading information about these US bankruptcy proceedings and the effects this may have on their rights to take legal action in the UK. Our fear is that the Brewers’ actions may be an attempt to move assets away from the business and out of the reach of our members with legitimate claims.“We will carry on as before with the claims against the Brewers who are accumulating wealth whilst riding roughshod over hard working employees. We will continue to assist all our members affected by this messy situation and work to rectify it as soon as possible.”EndsSt. Stephen the Great shops at which Usdaw members are affected:§ Cambridge§ Carlisle§ Chester§ Exeter§ Lincoln§ Newcastle§ Norwich§ Sheffield§ Worcester§ YorkUsdaw is the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied WorkersUpdate: This press release is now available via the Usdaw website: Usdaw fights for mistreated bookshop workersPosted by Dave at 8:13 am on June 24, 2008 and filed under Save the SPCK, Religion.34 CommentsJune 21st, 2008Former SPCK bookshops in the TelegraphChristopher Howse: The bare and desolate SPCK bookshopsPosted by Dave at 9:57 am on June 21, 2008 and filed under Save the SPCK, Religion.5 CommentsJune 20th, 2008Today’s former SPCK bookshop newsFrom the Chester Chronicle: Christian bookshop sacks staff by e-mailFrom the Eastern Daily Press: Christian bookshop stripped of stockFrom the comments below:The article in the Eastern Daily Press concerning the Norwich shop mentions three potential future tenants.One of the bids is from the Norwich Christian Resource Centre, a new Community Interest Company with six directors from various denominations, all with a wealth of business experience.They are giving their time and talents free of charge and are all passionate to re-establish the centre that had become such an integral part of the community of Norfolk and beyond, as quoted in the article.The company would run as a non-profit making business and strive to return the centre to it’s original ethos, offering the widest breadth of stock, knowledgable staff, a high level of customer service and the ‘best capuccino in town’.Prayers for this venture very welcome.Also, from the comments yesterday, this by ‘concerned dad’:My daughter applied for holiday work via an agency in Newcastle and took up a job in the Newcastle shop - we were completely unaware of the situation. She is expected to work completely on her own for 6 hours a day several days a week, somebody else does the other days - both are temps, no permanent staff, no training or guidance. She has creditors and people chasing book orders ringing up but no information to be able to respond to them. She is employed and paid by the agency (that is the theory anyway, will be interesting to find out what happens on payday!) If we had known about the situation we would not have got into this, but the agency were not very forthcoming with details about the shop until it was virtually too late…. So Newcastle is open - after a fashion, but far from satisfactory situation.Update (lunchtime) Phil Groom has posted: SPCK/SSG News Archives. (I’ll try to say something about the blog idea later or over the weekend.)Posted by Dave at 8:18 am on June 20, 2008 and filed under Save the SPCK, Religion.6 CommentsJune 19th, 2008Website updatesThe SPCKonline website is now the same as the Third Space books website. Details of most shops have been updated. Some, like Salisbury (above - thanks to ezlxq), are on very limited hours and appear to be relying on voluntary labour. I’m aware that I need to keep updating the shop roundup page - updates appreciated.The entry for the Norwich shop says ‘You are not authorised to view this resource’. That is probably because there is no resource to view - I am informed that a removal firm packed up all the books, fixtures and fittings and was taking them to the Chichester shop today.Meanwhile the St Stephen the Great LLC website has been updated today “Last Updated ( Thursday, 19 June 2008 )“, but there is still no mention of the ‘bankruptcy’.I have updated the Church Times blog with a list of news reports and letters about the former SPCK shops.Melanie, the former manager of the SPCKonline site has written an interesting comment on Phil’s bookshop blog.Posted by Dave at 5:43 pm on June 19, 2008 and filed under Save the SPCK, Religion.5 CommentsJune 18th, 2008Norwich / YorkNorwichNetwork Norwich has the following: Norwich Christian bookshop closes its doorsMeanwhile, from the comments section of this blog:In 2003 I was taken to a city centre deconsecrated church by Stephen Platten, then Dean of Norwich. We both thought how splendid it would be to relocate the SPCK Bookshop, it’s decrepid premises huddling in a side street, to this magnificent medieval building.In January of the next year Bishop Graham James officially blessed the vision along with representatives from virtually every denomination.After many trials and tribulations and delays of several months, the centre opened on 13 July 2004. I had been privileged to help plan the layout and the concept.Over 180 people attended the rededictation of the church to it’s new use in on a Friday morning in October 2004!Within 3 years the loyal team had doubled the turnover of the previous shop and provided access to thousands of visitors from the Christian faith or none, to be offered an exceptionally broad range of product, a place to meet and be refreshed in the cafe.We held events on a monthly basis. Highlights included: a lecture by Bishop Tom Wright attended by 350 plus, an Advent evening with Ronald Blythe during which three Salvation Army bandsmen managed to ascend the spiral staircase complete with trombone and play from the balcony, debates between bishops and humanists; Professor Brian Thorne and Ian Gibson MP and a Fawlty Towers evening!This morning I visited the centre with my two sons, on the last day of trading. It was in fact open after 11-00.To describe it as semi-vandalised would not be overstating the sight of half-empty boxes relocated from the London shop several weeks ago still blocking the porch and what is left of the stock lurching across the shelves.Visiting the church on a regular basis over the past months I have been moved from frustration, to anger, to sadness, to disbelief as to how such a thiving resource could be laid to seed.Today is a very sad day for the ex-staff, all but one of whom have yet to find new employment and the Christian community, who are voicing that ‘their’ centre has been lost - a high compliment indeed.I count myself blessed to have been offered an alternative position within the Christian retail environment and have thus stayed in touch with so many of my customers who had become friends.However, it’s never over until the Canary sings as we say in Narwich, so please keep praying for an unlikely resurrection in the not too distant future.‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it’York‘Richard and Gill’ on Flickr have a recent picture of the former SPCK shop in York.Meanwhile, I found this blog post written in Chinese on June 16. It sounds as if it is by someone working in the York shop. Google translated it as follows:I should be very fortunate, at least in this area to work, to York the second week, it began a career Part-time job. However, this is not so much a subjective initiative, I found, than to use a blind cat encountered more aptly described as dead mice. At that time, purely in the City Centre Luancuan, Okay, I admit that, in fact, I had lost. The results of the accidents that have been in SPCK work.This is one in the entire United Kingdom has 28 Chain stores of the Christian Bookshop, a harmonious working atmosphere, have fixed the breakfast 11am and 3pm the afternoon tea time and all the break are paid. However, however, however, but, boom is not long, SPCK be acquired. A U.S. company called SSG took over the bookstore this. British indeed are born of hatred of Americans, the shop all the old staff have left, but Fortunately, the Manager of new people is pretty good. I want to go to the SSG, also by the nature of the work before the development of a simple cashier to accountant, gradually began to contact the bank’s work. Sense of accomplishment that is not an ordinary Youranersheng ah.Boom is not really long, SSG recently went bankrupt, another bookstore was an American company take over. David and Olga have left, I left the bookstore on the people. Optimistic, I am now boss hey. Pessimistic, I really do not know Bookstore will close on this, I have on unemployment.SPCK in the UK with my life is inseparable from, I Baijia all have come from the capital where wages. However, it also sacrificed a lot with my family Dear Amanda travel out of time. Switzerland, Rome, Prague, Barcelona, Fuluolunsa I have no time to. My dear SPCK, you can see in my youth to take all the copies to you, will not be so quick to close OK. You, and so I kept enough money to the United States, Greece, the Netherlands, Sweden, the Arctic Circle, and so I kept enough money to buy Chanel, Dior, Fendi, Prada to the temporary close it, but I travel back and so on, then opened the door for ahThis might or might not mean that the York shop is open.Posted by Dave at 11:28 am on June 18, 2008 and filed under Save the SPCK.3 CommentsJune 13th, 2008Charity Commission to investigate SSGNews reportsFrom today’s Church Times: Ex-SPCK shops ‘bankruptcy’The Bookseller says that the Charity Commission is to investigate SSG: St Stephen the Great files for bankruptcyI think the Church of England Newspaper will have a report (Just opened my online copy - nothing there as far as I can see. I thought there might be as I was telephoned.)Closures and openingsWe think that the shops that have closed since the bankruptcy announcement are:Birmingham, Canterbury, Chester, Exeter, Newcastle, Norwich (closing on June 14) Worcester, York. These may be temporary or permanent.Salisbury is now open again.I’m still attempting to maintain a complete list here.New mapOn the Third Space books site (Is Third Space books bankrupt or not? Not sure.) a new map of the SSG shops appeared on June 7. Bristol, Carlisle, Lincoln and London have been taken off. Cardiff remains. ‘Leichester’ (not on the old map) has been added.Posted by Dave at 8:20 am on June 13, 2008 and filed under Save the SPCK, Religion.11 CommentsJune 11th, 2008Former SPCK bookshop closuresI have been attempting to update my SPCK bookshop roundup page. Please take a look and tell me whether I am being accurate.In the last few days I have been told that the following shops have been closed, but some of these closures might be temporary:Chester (Local news report: Christian bookshop closes in Chester city centre)Exeter (Notice on door says it is due to reopen - photo above)NewcastleSalisbury Now open againWorcesterYorkPosted by Dave at 6:11 pm on June 11, 2008 and filed under Save the SPCK, Religion.19 Comments
Posted by MadPriest at 12:19 PM