Archive for November, 2010

Audiences, Numbers, Culture and the Churches – a report from Cape Town 2010

Sunday, November 21st, 2010


Evangelicals Now December 2010 Chris Sugden

When 400 people attended a meeting on the Crisis in the Anglican Communion at the Lausanne Congress, at least half on a show of hands were not Anglican.

Why the interest? The archbishops of Uganda, South East Asia, the Middle East and North America argued that a similar crisis of faith and teaching would be affecting all the churches globally under pressure from western secular culture. Therefore all the churches of Africa, Asia and Latin America needed to offer support and encouragement to those in the west in the same way that Global South Anglican churches had supported orthodox Anglicans in “the north”.

This was truly in the “Spirit of Lausanne” a movement which at its best provides space for various evangelical interdenominational networks to meet, engage and move forward. Its fruits are borne on other trees.

Archbishop Henry Orombi explained that the current crisis was about more than the violation of biblical morality: it was about the wholesale revision of the historic Christian faith in which the divinity of Jesus Christ, his bodily resurrection and uniqueness were denied by Anglican leaders in North America. This had given rise to a crisis of order since nothing had changed despite all the actions taken by the leaders of the Anglican Communion.

“Key leaders of TEC still take part in every level of Communion affairs, and are given access to all levels of decision making to wear down the church in the hope that others will accept their false gospel,” said Archbishop Orombi. “We are seeing a realignment in the Anglican Communion. It is painful for everyone involved. But we are moving forward,” he concluded.

My Congress experience impressed on me that, for all our difficulties, the struggle for orthodox Anglicanism is important because Anglicanism takes seriously the incarnation of Jesus and the incarnate expression of his church in the community.

The congress wavered between two different audiences. One was the audience in the room, the 4000 carefully chosen evangelical leaders from 198 countries. The other was the global audience, through the Globallink internet sites, who received 15 minute packages from the plenary presentations to light the fire of their conversations. As far as the plenaries were concerned, the 100,000 on the internet were the prime audience. So the plenaries were in magazine format, and no speaker was allotted more than 10 minutes. The interest and attention span of those in the room were hungry for more than ten minutes of Tim Keller or Os Guinness. But their presentations were tailored for the interest level and attention span of the unselected thousands on the internet.

So global evangelicalism at the Congress was overtaken by the marketing need for numbers, partly to meet the 16 million dollar budget. And that is where Anglicanism comes in. It insists, as do many others, that God’s agent for change is the local church community witnessing to the Lordship of Christ over all of life.

Churches exist because in them people find hope in the purpose, love and power of God, a new identity as people beloved by God, and inspired by the reality that Jesus has overcome the injustice of all death in his resurrection.

The experience of those churches since Lausanne 1974 was available in the Congress Hall – the growth, and plateauing of the church in Korea, the rapid expansion of the churches in Africa still struggling in their relationship with Traditional Religion and Culture, and the comparative inability of evangelicals to find structures and mechanisms in wider society to exercise the social, political and cultural influence that their highly committed numbers should exert. The networks for which Lausanne provides gathering space were there, but were not able to share or build on what they had achieved and still dream of, because there was a strong move for branding the Lausanne Movement as an institution in itself.

Following Lausanne, addressing the second annual conference of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, Canon Vinay Samuel asked whether it is enough to focus on the great ideas that will shape a culture and win hearts and minds. Andre Crouch of Christianity Today argues that culture is made up of cultural goods, not just of ideas. TV shows, cartoons, and songs have far more power in shaping people’s lives.

“Culture is a framework of norms”, Samuel said “These are embedded in narratives, myths and ideals. Culture expresses itself through intellect, will, appetites, memory, and passion. Evangelical faith is often presented solely as a set of propositions.”

At the FCA conference, leaders of the Church of England in South Africa and orthodox leaders in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa resolved to charge parish representatives to share with those around them The Jerusalem Declaration – as the central shared truths of Anglicanism we can use as the minimum expression of the truth and to express appreciation to the CAPA conference in Entebbe for the clear and definite leadership in the midst of the global Anglican crisis. (www.anglican-mainstream.org.za).


Chris Sugden
Anglican Mainstream

Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman, LifeSite News

A Pakistani Christian woman is facing death following a conviction under the nation’s Blasphemy Law, after she defended her  faith against a group of Muslims who insulted her for her Christian beliefs.

Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old farmworker and mother of three, was working in the fields of her small town of Itan Wali in the Punjab region of Pakistan in 2009 when her hand touched the water that the workers were to drink.  The Muslim women working with her then refused to drink the water, saying that it had been contaminated by the touch of a Christian.  Some reports indicate that the group had been pressuring Asia to abandon Christianity for some time.
In the argument that followed, Asia reportedly defended her faith, although there are two versions of the exact nature of her statements. The Muslim women claim that she insulted Mohammed, claiming that he had died “with worms in his mouth.”  However, Asia’s defenders say that she never made any insults, but rather defended her faith in Christ, affirming that he had died for the sins of mankind and risen from the dead, while Mohammed had not.
After the women complained to a local imam, Quari Salim, the cleric filed charges against Asia for “blasphemy,” and she was sent to prison to face trial.  Fifteen months later, on November 7, she was sentenced to hang for her “crime,” and to pay a fine equivalent to two-and-a half years’ salary for an unskilled worker.
A group of townspeople in Itan Wali told CNN that they all support the death sentence against Asia, and Quari told the news agency that her death sentence was “one of the happiest moments of his life,” according to the interviewer.
“Tears of joy poured from my eyes,” said the imam during the videotaped interview.
However, not all Pakistani Muslims agree with that assessment. Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer told Asia News in an interview that he regards Asia Bibi’s death sentence as “a disgraceful episode. It is an embarrassment for Pakistan,” and he assured the agency that the appeals process would reverse the sentence.

Truth or Conviction: questions over the Anglican Communion Covenant

Sunday, November 21st, 2010


Source: Church of England Newspaper

November 19, 2010
By Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden

Many primates have indicated that they cannot support the Covenant in its present form. The African Primates said in Entebbe in August : “We realise the need for further improvement of the Covenant in order to be an effective tool for unity and mutual accountability.”

In April the Global South meeting said: “We are currently reviewing the proposed Covenant to find ways to strengthen it in order for it to fulfill its purpose. For example, we believe that all those who adopt the Covenant must be in compliance with Lambeth 1.10. Meanwhile we recognize that the Primates Meeting, being responsible for Faith and Order, should be the body to oversee the Covenant in its implementation, not the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.”

Why the reticence?

What is the basis for their reticence and what are the implications of the Covenant for the Church of England?

The Anglican Communion Covenant was devised by Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies at the request of the Global South meeting as part of the response to the consecration of Gene Robinson by ECUSA/TEC. It was embraced and supported by the Primates Meeting in Dromantine.

There was every hope that the version of the Covenant that was brought to the 2009 ACC meeting in Jamaica would unite the Communion.

Archbishop Gomez was explicit there in personal conversation that the Covenant would be such that TEC could not sign up to it. Therefore, rather than anyone “expelling” TEC, TEC (and similarly ACOC) would exclude themselves until wiser counsels among them might prevail.

With each succeeding draft the Covenant has “weakened” – to such an extent that now it is said that TEC can sign up to it. A critical point in this weakening was reached at the ACC meeting in Jamaica. An important intervention by the Archbishop of Canterbury interpreted the mind of the meeting in such a way that eventually a motion was passed which led to the revision of section 4 so that all mention of discipline was removed.

Why was this done? For some, the issues were about theology and truth. For others the issue was to provide a mechanism to achieve consensus and stay together.

How different would the Communion be if the Covenant in its current form were to apply? Contradictory positions could still be lived with because what appears to be mutually incompatible is only apparent, but not finally so because they are all personal convictions even though espoused by groups. More intense listening might reveal areas of overlap, convergence and possible co-existence between initially opposing positions.

The Covenant sets some of the credal statements of the Christian faith in a specific framework. The premise of this framework is that the doctrinal and theological disagreements which have surfaced within the Communion are not about fundamentals but have arisen through problems in communication and understanding, as people have differing convictions.

Are the doctrinal and theological matters in current dispute matters of right and wrong, truth and error, or matters of personal conviction over which better communication will produce unity and harmony? The Covenant process is only capable of dealing with disagreements of the latter kind. Better communication in such a framework requires an attitude of openness, a process of listening and adequate time. So the Covenant puts in place such a decision-making process in the Communion.

Some people in leadership continue to assert that truth resides in different groups and is not the exclusive preserve of any one group. However the Bible never affirms that the church has proprietary rights to all truth. It does call the church to witness faithfully to truths that are fundamental and non-negotiable. Both the identity and the mission of the church depend on this. The leaders of the church are called to unambiguous and full commitment to such truths – exemplified in the oaths they are required to take.

There are of course other matters on which there are ‘disagreements’, but these are matters of indifference on which Scripture allows disagreement.  They are not a cause for breaking fellowship/communion. The absence of discipline risks moving some of the fundamentals into the indifference category.

The Covenant puts a number of fully acceptable credal statements in the framework of communication and listening which renders them as convictions open to change. It does this by the position it gives to the Standing Committee of the Communion. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, the director for Unity, Faith and Order in the Anglican Communion Office writes in the CEN for November 12:

“The point of the processes outlined in the Covenant is precisely to encourage one part of the Communion, when seeking to respond responsibly in its own context in mission, to consider how that will affect other parts of the Communion – not so that they can exercise a veto, but so that in communion discernment can take place collaboratively [on] how…Churches in communion distinguish between that which may further the Gospel and that which may impede it.”

We should remember how phraseology referring to those whose manner of life may be disruptive of communion in an earlier debate was interpreted. Though initially drafted to refer to those who transgressed Communion teaching on sexuality, it was also interpreted to refer to those whose insistence on a position of “truth” was disruptive of communion harmony and thus directed towards orthodox Anglicans in North America.

Similarly, the Covenant process is also seen as means by which sanctions could be taken against those of the Communion who insist that truth and error are not matters of poor communication, lack of openness and failure to listen but are matters of the law of non-contradiction.

The current Covenant process interminably delays judgement and leaves little hope of discipline and thus of consistency. We are left in a permanent state of dialogue and conversation. This has practical implications at parish level when churches have to decide how to relate to same-sex couples requesting blessing and bringing surrogate children for baptism. If the covenant process in the Communion becomes the state of affairs in the Church of England, its practices could be so contradictory that chaos would result. Endless appeal could be made to conviction, openness, listening and time while practices and actions continue which go against the teaching of the church whether in a parish or whole diocese.

The above argument could therefore suggest abstention in the vote in General Synod next week for the following reasons:

The Communion needs recognition of orthodox teaching and for proper and appropriate boundaries. The Covenant does not achieve that purpose but substitutes conviction for truth. Some wish to travel further in the direction in which the Covenant is supposed to point, but do not wish to support the very weak approach of the current Covenant. Where the current Anglican Communion process is going today could be used to allow for English Dioceses to move in TEC’s direction tomorrow on the grounds that this is accepted Anglican practice.

Women Bishops – the next stage

The next stage for the legislation on women bishops is for the legislation to be considered by dioceses. In our diocese (Oxford) the bishop has asked that deaneries consider it prior to the diocesan synod.

The Church of England Evangelical Council has prepared a “following motion”. While dioceses are only being asked to vote yes or no to the proposed legislation, and not to amend it in any way, it is possible for the diocesan synod to attach a following motion by way of a comment.

The following motion below is being proposed:

“This synod
1. Desires that all faithful Anglicans remain and thrive together in the Church of England and therefore
2. Calls upon the House of Bishops to bring forward amendments to the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure to ensure that those unable on theological grounds to accept the ministry of women bishops are able to receive Episcopal oversight from a bishop with authority (i.e. ordinary jurisdiction) conferred by the Measure rather than by delegation from a Diocesan Bishop.”

The CEEC notes the following:

1. The purpose of the motion is so that those who cannot in good conscience accept the consecration of women to the episcopate might be kept within the Church of England.

2. The very narrow margin of defeat of the amendment by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to provide for adequate legal provision indicated a high level of support for adequate provision which will not be forthcoming without the draft legislation being amended.

3. The implications of the current proposed legislation are that many of those who hold one of the two integrities (on the matter of women’s ordination and consecration) in the Church of England will have difficulties in selection for ministry, ordination and deployment. For maintaining a position recognised for its integrity, many will come to be excluded.

The proposed legislation promotes monepiscopacy (which has no scriptural foundation) at the expense of the existing unity between those of differing integrities (which does) and will cause the former to destroy the latter. In other words, focusing on a non-biblical tradition (monepiscopacy) will exclude from the church a position which has clear scriptural warrant (the reservation of certain roles in church order to men).

The proposed legislation would have implications for the Oath of Canonical Obedience which is made to a Diocesan Bishop and his successors. As no provision is proposed for those who, following the introduction of the legislation, could not make such an oath, those who hold to a traditional integrity will immediately become compromised. They would no longer be able to hold to the oath they had sworn.

Whilst a code of practice is proposed, no one is clear as to what its content will be. Further it will be at the discretion of the Diocesan Bishop, could be changed and the experience of many in other contexts is that it is likely to be inadequate.

The proposed legislation makes no provision for lay people who have reservations about women bishops (for confirmation etc.)

4. The proposed following motion (above) indicates that provision for those who hold to a traditional integrity should be conferred by legislation rather than by the Diocesan Bishop in order to maintain theological and relational objectivity and consistency across the Church of England.

5. Ordinary jurisdiction (which equates with the authority of a Diocesan Bishop) need not be geographical. Church history indicates that episcopacy has not always been viewed in this way.

6. The motion, if accepted will not be discriminatory. For those who oppose the consecration of women to the episcopate, it calls for provision to be made in all dioceses, whether the present Diocesan is male or not.

ENDS

A Message from Bishop David Anderson

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

The Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson
Bishop Anderson

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

When we think of the word “martyr,” we might well think of Emperor Nero throwing Christians to the lions in the Coliseum in Rome, or other horrible fates that befell the faithful in the early centuries of the Christian church. Others might recall the Huguenot persecutions in France, or the torture and executions of Anglicans in England under Queen Mary. The original meaning of the word “martyr” in Greek meant “witness,” and the extreme form of witnessing to one’s faith in Jesus Christ often meant suffering death on behalf of one’s faith in him.

In today’s world which is often hostile to the message of Jesus Christ, Christians are being persecuted and killed for their faith in very large numbers. In total numbers, today’s martyrs may exceed on a yearly basis the martyrdoms of earlier times. From Islamic countries where Christians may be hunted down by mobs and just killed, to trumped-up charges which allow for Sharia execution, or Christian children stolen to be raised as Muslims, to situations in Hindu areas where Christians are persecuted or killed, the number of those faithful to

Jesus unto death continues to climb. No one should deliberately seek martyrdom and death for their faith, but blessed are those who persevere in their Christian faith, even if death is the price, knowing that the Church is built on the blood of the martyrs.

In the dictionaries in general use, the term “martyr” has a first meaning of giving one’s life for a cause, and a second usage, to suffer or be persecuted for one’s cause or belief, but short of death. In this lesser meaning of the word, the Anglican realignment in North America has a book full of names of churches, dioceses, bishops, priests, deacons and laity who gave up church property, cemeteries with graves of loved ones, or were sued by a hostile TEC and experienced the hardships that such litigation puts on one financially and in employment, family life, and personal health.

Just recently, orthodox Anglican churches in the Canadian diocese of New Westminster lost an appeal over property ownership. Whether they will be able to appeal to a higher court and prevail, or whether they will lose their buildings and cemeteries isn’t known yet, but they were willing to put it all on the line over the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the authority of Holy Scripture and the disciplines that these bring to our ecclesial and personal life in Christ. Canon Phil Ashey’s Anglican Perspective video this week comments on this recent ruling in Canada.

In Virginia, the Anglican District of Virginia is facing more litigation over their buildings and cemeteries, some of which are pre-Diocese of Virginia, pre-State of Virginia, pre-USA, and are of a colonial time frame. The graves in the cemetery may be two hundred years old or two years old, yet they represent our deposit of faith when laying our loved ones to rest in the hope and belief that in Christ Jesus the dead will rise again.

Whether the newer grave is of husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter, the faithful Anglican who puts even the hallowed ground of these earthly remains at risk of seizure so that the true faith in Jesus Christ is not compromised, is a martyr in the secondary sense. It is finally better to lose the earthly bodies of our beloved dead than to lose our souls and the souls of our living loved ones, both for the present and the future. Live and witness to your faith such that the glory is for God and the light is for the world.

For those of us in the United States, we will be giving thanks to God for his many blessings on this coming Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, but we invite the rest of our readers and the world to join us on Thursday in pausing and remembering God’s many acts of mercy and kindness, his provision and blessing, and thanking him for all that he has done for us. Next week, therefore, I will be not write my usual weekly column, but will return the following week.

May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ bless, preserve and keep you.

The Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson, Sr.
President and CEO, American Anglican Council

Feudal Morality? Or Blind Perversity?

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010


I wish that there was nothing more to say on this topic, and indeed, I had resolved to leave it alone for a while, but then there comes a piece which is so contrary to everything that I have held and written that I cannot refrain from making a response. From Episcopal Cafe‘s Jim Naughton comes this example of specious reasoning:

A touching, revealing moment at the press conference just now. The bishops have been talking for several days now about sacrifice. “What are you willing to sacrifice” to keep the communion together?” The clear implication is that Western churches must sacrifice their desire to include gay Christians more fully in the Church.

Katie Sherrod of the Lambeth Witness asked the question I wanted to ask. In sum: who exactly do the bishops think is authorize to negotiate on behalf of gay and lesbian Christians throughout the Communion? The primarily male, exclusively heterosexual delegations from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada?

The people who are being asked to make a sacrifice are not represented at this conference.
Katherine Ragsdale, also from the Witness, put a finer point on it with her question. It is the essence of Christianity to sacrifice one’s self for others. It is in the inverse of Christianity to ask others to sacrifice themselves for you. The future of the Anglican Communion may rest on the willingness of gay and lesbian Christians to “sacrifice” for it.

And the Communion doesn’t have the good grace to ask them to make that sacrifice directly, preferring to pretend that the Western churches have the moral authority to act as their surrogates.

This is the feudal morality—lords making decisions for their vassals.

At least Bishop Charles Jenkins of Louisiana had the good grace to say that he recognized that gay people had been disenfranchised, and to say that this presented a moral dilemma for him.

All right—that was the piece in all its perquisquilian splendor. Now let’s break it down:

A touching, revealing moment at the press conference just now.

Touching? revealing?—Yes, Mr. Naughton: that it was “touching” is more revealing than you could ever imagine.

The bishops have been talking for several days now about sacrifice.

Actually, Mr. Naughton, that statement represents a distortion of what the bishops have been talking about. Here is what the Archbishop of Canterbury actually asked the bishops to do in his second address to the Conference:

But whatever your views on this, at least ask the question : ‘Having heard the other person, the other group, as fully and fairly as I can, what generous initiative can I take to break through into a new and transformed relation of communion in Christ’

Lack of Conviction and Passionate Intensity: a Fatal Blend

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010


Previously I wrote about the current Archbishop of Canterbury’s style of governance in this post. I drew on an analysis first made by the Rev. Canon Dr. Giles Fraser:

[Dr Williams embodies] what one might call the theology of the peace negotiator or mediator. Simply put, the mediator pursues a theology that refuses to accept that a disagreement can ever reach a point where there is no benefit to be gained from further conversation. . . .

. . . Put a different way, it is a refusal to accept that two seemingly irreconcilable positions are indeed irreconcilable. The mediator is the supreme pragmatist, employing all the philosophical strategies up his or her sleeve to keep opponents round the table, to keep them talking.

The philosophical substructure of this theology of mediatory conversation is Hegelian; indeed, I would want to call it dialectical—though the three thinkers that matter most in this book, Shanks, Rose and Rowan Williams (all Hegelians of sorts), refuse to equate the drivers of Hegel’s thought with the crab-like progress of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. Instead, Williams perfectly describes the Hegelianism of the mediating peace negotiator when he writes: ‘Reflection requires that the plain opposition of positive and negative be left behind. Thinking is not content with the abstraction of mutual exclusivities, but struggles to conceive of a structured wholeness nuanced enough to contain what appeared to be contradictories.’

As it turns out, this ‘struggle to conceive of a structural wholeness nuanced enough to contain what appeared to be contradictories’ is a pretty accurate summary of the Archbishop’s strategy in dealing with the warring parties of contemporary Anglicanism. Indeed, rarely has there been a more convinced exponent of the theology of the peace negotiator than Rowan Williams. . . .

Another way of describing Dr Williams’ approach to dealing with Anglican controversies is set out in the recent book by the Rev. Charles Raven, Shadow Gospel: Rowan Williams and the Anglican Communion Crisis:

Although signs of hope are undoubtedly emerging, a secure future for the Anglican Communion rests on an accurate diagnosis of its present ills. In this account of Rowan Williams’ leadership as Archbishop of Canterbury a kind of tragedy unfolds, in which the weight of an historic institution and the resourcefulness of a deeply learned mind are brought to bear in an attempt to sustain the unsustainable – an illusory middle ground between two fundamentally opposed visions of Anglican identity.

The one is confessional and is being articulated with increasing confidence by the leadership of the Global South; the other represents the seduction of the Church by the spirit of the age, as seen in its most developed form in the increasingly apostate behaviour of The Episcopal Church in the United States. This analysis demonstrates that Dr Williams’ theology is not only alien to the former, but also powerless to resist the latter and, in practice, the result is a doctrinally incoherent Communion barely held together by a mixture of sentiment and improvisation.

The understanding offered here is that at the heart of these difficulties is a shadow gospel; a theological project which can speak the language of orthodox faith, yet subverts the supremacy of Scripture and the essential nature of Christian truth itself.

This shadow gospel privileges form over substance and under Rowan Williams’ leadership the pragmatic ethos of Anglican Communion institutions has sat comfortably with this emphasis upon ecclesiastical process rather than doctrinal content, as exemplified by the Windsor Covenant and the associated listening programme of so called ‘indaba’. But these strategies are manifestly failing and it is now time to take seriously the calls emerging from the Global South for what we might call a ‘new wineskin’ of governance structures which will free Anglicanism to express its true confessional identity and make a fresh start in the re-evangelisation of the West.

What both Dr. Fraser and the Rev. Raven conclude is that the Archbishop’s inability to withstand the willful acts in derogation of the Communion taken by ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada — even following the Windsor Report — leaves the other members of the Communion with no choice but to act on their own, whether singly or in concert. The inevitable result of this loose style of leadership will be a fragmentation of the Communion, which is becoming more and more evident as the upcoming Primates’ Meeting, announced for the end of January 2011 at the Emmaus Conference Center in Dublin, Ireland, draws near. Various reports suggest that there will be more than one “Meeting,” in which the groups opposed will not meet together, but separately — if the GAFCON Primates even agree to meet with the Archbishop at all.

And now, look for a moment at an entirely different style of governance, which could be said to represent the opposite end of the spectrum. I refer to the governance of ECUSA by its Primate, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori. By all accounts, hers is an autocratic style of control: she brooks no insubordination to her decisions, unilaterally decides when it is appropriate to intervene in the internal affairs of dioceses, when to file suits against those who have left the Church, and to whom a diocese may not sell church properties, bends the Canons to suit her objectives and overrules any objections to her interpretations of them, and is soon to assume the mantle of a metropolitan — General Convention having obligingly conferred upon her those powers while being wholly ignorant and uninformed of what they were doing. (Though I have made inquiries of those who drafted the changes to Title IV, to date not one of them has come forward to defend the intentionality of their expansion of the Presiding Bishop’s powers in the face of the Constitution.)

The Presiding Bishop’s response to the remarks by informed observers that the powers conferred upon her are unconstitutional is all too typical: she simply ignores them. She does not claim to agree or to disagree; she simply will not engage in a dialogue, except to refer all queries to her Chancellor. No one else in authority in the Church will dare to speak until she has spoken. The result is a stalemate, and starting next July, no bishop or diocese can be comfortable about their status.

Let the Presiding Bishop begin to exercise metropolitical powers next July, however, and I predict a fracture of the Episcopal Church (USA) — in much the same way that the fracture in the Communion is occurring. The fracture is being caused by unilateral assertions of authority for which there is no consensus that the assertions are justified. ECUSA is thus far on its own in conferring episcopal orders upon individuals living openly in relationships which are outside of the Church’s traditional sacrament of marriage, and both ECUSA and the ACoC are alone in their move to provide liturgical blessings for such relationships.

In just the same manner, the Presiding Bishop will be acting on her own in assuming the mantle of a metropolitan, with absolute authority over her fellow bishops. The Canons purporting to confer such powers are a nullity, because they contravene the powers given to the Presiding Bishop by the Constitution. They thus cannot be the source of any such claimed powers; the Presiding Bishop, if she so acts, will simply have assumed them by force of her will.

But the end result of her style of governance will be for ECUSA what the result of Canterbury’s style of governance will be for the Anglican Communion — and perhaps even for the Church of England as well, where somewhat different fractures are at work. Too little direction is the equivalent of too forceful direction: a Church cannot be led or directed in either fashion.

The Pope is absolute in the powers conferred upon him on paper, by the Canons of Catholic Church, but he is constrained in reality by the magisterium — by all that has preceded him, and by the need to remain true to the course that has thus been set. The Orthodox Church is used to two millennia of metropolitical rule, but with no primus at its head. But the Episcopal Church has absolutely no tradition of metropolitan authority, and nor does the Anglican Communion.

Instead, what has held those two bodies together over the past years is a commonly derived sense of mission and purpose. They operate through careful deliberation and laboriously attained consensus; when some of their members declare an end to deliberations and assume to act unilaterally against the previous consensus, the shock waves ripple through an organization unable to withstand them, and the fractures begin.

The only proper response to such unilaterally generated shock waves is to hold to the consensus theretofore achieved. The leadership demanded is one of being steady at the helm, not of abandoning the tiller altogether, nor yet of commanding dissenters to walk the plank. That leadership, unfortunately, is as absent from the halls of ECUSA as it is from the See of Canterbury.

Indeed, the two styles of leadership on show tend to bring out the worst in each other. Canterbury’s refusal to apply meaningful sanctions to ECUSA’s conduct is taken by Bishop Jefferts Schori as a vindication of that conduct, and only strengthens her resolve to brook no dissent at home. She insists on her prerogatives of continuing to take part in the Communion as a whole, even as she denies to all other Churches in the Communion those same prerogatives in her own Church. She belittles the lawful statutes of the Church of England which forbid her from wearing her miter while presiding as its guest at a Holy Eucharist, but she insists that the statutes of ECUSA require that she depose Bishop Henry Scriven of Oxford before he may return to England, and pronounce sentence that he be “deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority conferred in ordination.” Faced with such obstinate contumely, Dr. Williams cannot even issue any statement defending his own prelate in response. Thus the one style of governance exacerbates the other, and the whole Communion is poorer as a consequence.

It is difficult to foretell just how the Communion and the Episcopal Church will fracture, and when, but that they will each fracture under their current respective leaders is a certainty, because neither of those leaders is acting so as to maintain the consensus previously achieved. The picture is looking more and more like that painted by William Butler Yeats, in his 1919 poem, The Second Coming:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

‘Poly is the new gay’: Canada, polygamy and polyamory

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010


November 16th,

Examiner.com

Boston …Meanwhile, members of the CPAA have been compiling evidence in the form of affidavits, which tell the stories of five polyamorous families across Canada from Vancouver to Montreal (scroll down for links to affidavits). Each document unfolds the story of a different polyamorous person and his or her partners, children, and family life, and attempts to present a picture of health, normalcy and loving homes to the court. In this way, Ince hopes to bring the lives of poly people in Canada to public light, and perhaps achieve some normalization. Some are saying that poly is “the new gay,” in the sense that 40 years ago, the laws that made homosexuality a crime in Canada were overturned, and homosexuality has become far more accepted in the larger culture. The hope is that if Section 293 is thrown out, then polyamory will be on the path to greater normalization as well. Read here

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