Archive for March, 2011

Church of Nigeria and the proposed Anglican Covenant

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Bishop John Akao, Church of Nigeria, Church Times March 18 2011

What is a Christian Covenant?

The cautious attitude of most African Anglican provinces towards the recent ‘Anglican Covenant’ is informed by their historic commitment to biblical orthodoxy and influenced by their spiritual heritage, culture and moral values. Africa benefitted from missionary endeavours that upheld   faith in God, the lordship of Christ, authority of the Scriptures and cherished traditions. Despite the colonial superstructure upon which Anglicanism was introduced, the church has grown mostly due to indigenous missionary initiatives by the people themselves.

African Christian understanding of a covenant agrees with Christian theological interpretation of covenant as a strong commitment to relationship between two or more parties on agreed terms.

Covenant presupposes that the parties mutually accept the terms, are in communion, and commit to respect and be bound by the terms as well as subject to the consequences of obeying or violating it. In traditional African society, covenant is sacrosanct and cannot be trivialized without dire repercussions more so when oaths have been sworn to in the name of God. The fear of God underscores respect for divine laws and religious worship. In virtually every African society, there exist sets of moral laws called taboos (abominations) which are strictly adhered to. These values already existed before the coming of Christianity; they were only reinforced by it. Indeed, the African morality is similar to biblical portrait of Jewish and early Church moral values. This attitude was transposed to Christian faith and ethics by African converts to Christianity. They therefore manifest in their faith, worship and morals, biblical tenets and precepts according to the Word of God. Whenever African culture conflicts with Christian tenets, culture bows to the superiority and authority of Scripture. The African spirituality does not dwell on philosophical abstractions to the detriment of spiritual realities such as belief in God, judgment, heaven and hell. It accepts sin as evil. Therefore, Africans interpret deviant behaviors such as homosexuality as abominable actions which corrupt the Church, dilute the Christian faith and jettison the very biblical foundations of the ‘faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints’. Read the rest of this entry »

Historic rites consultation held (for blessing of gay and lesbian couples)

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

From Episcopal Cafe

ABC News reports that over half of all Americans now support marriage equality. General Convention 2009 C056 (see below for full text) called on the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to “collect and develop theological and liturgical resources” for liturgies of blessing for gay and lesbian couples and to devise an open process for its work with participation by provinces, dioceses, congregations and individuals.
Thanks to a grant from the Arcus Foundation Deputies from The Episcopal Church were able to attend a consultation held this Friday and Saturday in Atlanta. Plenary sessions can be viewed here.

The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall reports on Day 1 of the Consultation:

…here are the highlights of the theological principles as they were presented today by Jay Johnson: Reflecting theologically on same-gender unions should be grounded in baptism and how we live out our baptismal covenant which suggests three key theological touchstones;

1) The loving faithfulness of faithful relationships exhibits the character of a sacrament

2) Christian life generally, but in particular committed relationships, shares in God’s Trinitarian life characterized by inclusive, dynamic and mutual giving
3) Committed relationships can renew our hope – the gospel promise of union with God

From the Press Conference:

Q Will this be a liturgy that can be used by all couples.
A No – the SCLM is interpreting the Resolution in the most narrow sense and only developing rites for same sex couples.Q. How will you interact with the rest of the Communion?
A. 1. Will be attending the Inter Anglican Liturgy Conference in Canterbury this summer. Have a half day on the Agenda and will engage with others for feedback and theological reflection. 2. House of Bishops charged with interacting and reflection with diocesan partners and with their Indaba group members. Materials will be provided for this. 3. HoB meets next week and will hear the report from the Deputies meeting and discuss next steps. 4. Committee members met with Phil Groves of the Anglican Communion Office who is charged with the continuing Indaba process.

Gender bending: let me count the ways

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Few countries can be taking gender inclusiveness more seriously than Australia.

Babette Francis writes in Mercator Net:

In the beginning there was male and female. Soon there was homosexuality. Later there were lesbians, and much later gays, bisexuals, transgenders and queers. But anyone who thinks LGBTQ is the full count of contemporary sexualities is sadly out of date. For example, the transgendered have for some time been divided into those who are awaiting treatment, those have had hormone treatment, those who have had hormones and surgery, and those who have had hormones and surgery but are not happy and want it all reversed.

Enter the Australian Human Rights Commission with some exciting new developments. In an extraordinary document entitled Protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity, the AHRC has come up with a further list of “genders” which they require us to recognize, and on whose behalf they want our federal government to pass anti-discrimination legislation. To date (by the time you read this, the AHRC’s family of sexualities may have increased and multiplied) these are: transgender, trans, transsexual, intersex, androgynous, agender, cross dresser, drag king, drag queen, genderfluid, genderqueer, intergender, neutrois, pansexual, pan-gendered, third gender, third sex, sistergirl and brotherboy. (No, I don’t know what “neutrois” means).

So if we add these genders to the LGBTQ list we get 23 in all, not to mention the divisions within the transgendered group. For PR purposes, however, the “gendered” community now identifies itself as LGBTQI (the “I” stands for “intersex”.) Rather than abbreviating I think they should add all the other letters of the alphabet, then we would all feel protected and not discriminated against. Being Indian by birth and having married an Australian of Anglo-Celtic origin, I am all for diversity, but I am not going to commit to “neutrois” until someone tells me what it means.

Read it all..

Episcopal Presiding Bishop “Revises” Her Online Biography at Wikipedia

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

By David W. Virtue

A portion of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church’s official biography has been deleted from Wikipedia. It was removed in February.

An 815 staff person with the e-mail handle “Matisse412” who made the changes stated, “I work in the Communication Office at the Episcopal Church Center and the edits were made per Bishop Jefferts Schori’s suggestion.”

When VOL inquired as to why the changes were made, a spokesperson in the communications office told VOL, “Yes it was changed. The information was incorrect and it was changed. We were not about to have inaccurate info there.”

When asked who Matisse-412 is, the source responded, “I prefer not to name who that is…It is correcting items that are wrong.”

The offending section of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church’s reads thus:

“It was later discovered that the information provided by the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop described in its summary of her career the position of Dean of the “Good Samaritan School of Theology” in Corvallis, Oregon, from 1994–2000,Episcopal Church Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop, [ “Profiles of Nominees for the Office of Presiding Bishop”] though there is no school of theology with this name, nor any corresponding school of theology in Corvallis. The Presiding Bishop later described the choice of these words for her profile as having been motivated by her having been in charge of the “then-rector’s term for all adult education programs” of the church where she had been a pastoral associate.[ “New top Episcopal bishop challenged on her resume”], World Net Daily”

In July 2006, VOL first broke the story raising troubling questions about PB Elect Katharine Jefferts Schori’s ministry.

An investigation into the background and credentials of incoming Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori listed her major qualifications as: Pastoral Associate and Dean, Good Samaritan School of Theology Corvallis, OR, (six years) and Priest-in Charge, Good Samaritan, Corvallis, OR.

Read Here

Anglican Entropy

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

The second law of thermodynamics tells us that as energy is expended over time, order in the universe inexorably gives way to disorder. The fundamental physical truth behind the cycles of birth and death is that things fall apart, leading ultimately to a static and random state known as entropy.

In the spiritual realm, there is no such necessity. St Paul affirms that ‘Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.’ (2 Corinthians 4:16), yet entropy irresistibly comes to mind as a metaphor following Dr William’s Lent Letter to the Primates and Moderators of the Anglican Communion.

Here we have carefully crafted verbal camouflage for what is actually one more step in Lambeth Anglicanism’s descent into spiritual and institutional entropy. Despite the claim that the meeting brought an ‘intensified our sense of commitment’ it has removed the main incentive to the ‘very demanding and searching conversation’ the Archbishop commends. It is now clear that just as the Lambeth Conference was degraded in 2008 by avoiding decision making in favour of that spurious listening process now known as ‘Anglican indaba’, so also the Primates Meeting has been downgraded to a discussion group.

Dr Williams explains that ‘The unanimous judgement of those who were present was that the Meeting should not see itself as a ‘supreme court’, with canonical powers, but that it should nevertheless be profoundly and regularly concerned with looking for ways of securing unity and building relationships of trust’. Although no-one previously seems to have used the highly exaggerated analogy of a supreme court, the Lambeth Conference of 1998 did make it clear that this particular ‘instrument of unity’ was to have enhanced responsibility.

According to Resolution III.6

‘This Conference, noting the need to strengthen mutual accountability and interdependence among the Provinces of the Anglican Communion;
a) reaffirms Resolution 18.2(a) of Lambeth 1988 which “urges that encouragement be given to a developing a collegial role for the Primates’ Meeting under the presidency of the ABC, so that the Primates’ Meeting is able to excercise an enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters’

This enhanced responsibility was to include ‘guidelines on the limits of Anglican diversity in submission to the sovereign authority of Holy Scripture and in loyalty to our Anglican tradition and formularies’ (clause b) on the understanding that ‘the Primates’ Meeting should carry moral authority calling for ready acceptance throughout the Communion’ (clause c).

If the recent Primates’ Meeting in Dublin had been operating within this framework it would surely not have passed over in silence the fact that just weeks earlier two senior female clergy of the Episcopal Church were ‘married’ in a ceremony at Boston Cathedral.’

So just as the listening process has been used to degrade Lambeth Resolution 1.10 of 1998 on sexuality and then the 2008 Lambeth Conference itself, now all the Primates’ Meeting is left with is an open-ended commitment to being ‘passionately committed to journeying together in honest conversation’ as their final communiqué put it. Instead of the enhanced responsibility envisaged by the 1998 Lambeth Conference, this is surely a case of diminished responsibility. This form of Anglicanism has the marks of entropy – it is static because its purpose has now turned in on itself, wrapped up in internal dialogue, and it is becoming random because the objective criteria for what would count as ‘success’ in that exercise have been reduced to very soft focus by the abandonment of doctrinal discipline.

Dr Williams’ vision for the Primates’ Meeting is a gloss to cover deepening disorder as becomes quickly evident when certain facts are brought to bear. For instance, he claims that the Communion is united when ‘confronted by attacks on the gospel and its witnesses’. Faced with the suffering of Christians in parts of Asia and the Middle East inflicted by hostile governments and militant Islam we would expect nothing less. But perhaps the most spiritually devastating attacks on the gospel are those which come from within the institutional church, as TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada have demonstrated in their characteristically ruthless pursuit of the orthodox through the courts.

So when the Archbishop observes that ‘it is also important to recognise that the Primates made no change to their existing commitments to both the Covenant process and the moratoria requests’ he says more than he means to say. TEC, for instance, has indeed made no change to its policy – it continues to ignore the Windsor moratoria requests regarding consecration of clergy in same sex unions as bishops and the blessing of such unions, and it persecutes the faithful. Yet we are expected to believe that this Church should meanwhile continue to be fully part of the conversational ‘journey’.

So having abandoned any serious attempt at unity in the faith, Lambeth Anglicanism is now trying to refocus itself around meeting humanitarian need and in his letter Dr Williams’ claims enthusiastic support ‘through the entire Communion’ for the recently launched Anglican Alliance for Development, Relief and Advocacy. However, the enthusiasm of orthodox Anglicans for this initiative should be tempered not only by the way it is acting as a substitute for the gospel, but also by the major source of its funding.

A recent item in Episcopal News about a speech in New York by Sally Keeble, the Director of the Anglican Alliance for Development, Relief and Advocacy is very instructive: ‘…it’s going to be bureaucracy light,” she said, with a very small staff in London and regional facilitators in the southern regions of the communion who will have “a very direct relationship” with existing agencies such as Episcopal Relief & Development.’ Bearing in mind that a number of orthodox African provinces have taken a costly and principled decision not to take finds from Episcopal Relief & Development as a ministry of TEC, the attempt to set up ‘very direct’ relationships with the Global South is a thinly disguised attempt to hold the Lambeth based Communion together through grants rather than gospel.

One way to express the power of the resurrection is to say that it gloriously breaches the second law of thermodynamics. Our hope of a new heaven and a new earth is grounded in Christ’s physical resurrection as a reversal of entropy – and that power of the resurrection is at work in the Church now, not through resourceful words or the control of money, but through faithfulness to God’s Word and the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.

Charles Raven

17 March 2011

Just what is so important about the NARTH Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume II?

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011


Take a brief look inside:
Volume 2 of the Journal of Human Sexuality
The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) is a professional and scientific organization committed to promote and ensure a fair reading and a responsible reporting of the scientific research relevant to understanding the factors which contribute to and/or co-occur with homosexuality and which allow psychological care to be effective for those for whom homosexuality is unwanted.

In 2009 NARTH launched the Journal of Human Sexuality (JHS) in service of its mission, and particularly as a way of presenting, encouraging, and producing quality clinical and scientific scholarship on these topics. Volume 1 of JHS reviewed over a century of clinical and scientific reports. Contrary to prior claims by the American Psychological Association (APA), the available evidence leads to one conclusion: Homosexuality is not immutable or without significant risk to medical, psychological and relational health.

This second volume of JHS includes the public release of NARTH’s Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Unwanted Same-Sex Attractions and Behaviors. The rest of Volume 2 adopts a more traditional journal format, with papers from a variety of authors, on a variety of topics as well as several book reviews. Some of the papers and book reviews were submitted in response to a call for papers, others were invited, and still others were the basis of past convention presentations.

Marriage and Christian Ministry in England and South Africa

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Chris Sugden   Evangelicals Now April 2011

It is becoming clear that for some of the senior leadership of the Anglican Church in the Western world and South Africa, the issue of marriage between a man and a woman as God’s purpose for human flourishing and demonstrably the best setting for the care and nurture of children who are God’s gift and the fruit and expression of their union is now a lifestyle issue of personal taste and choice.

It was announced in February that the Church of England is dropping the requirement for clergy to disclose their marital status when applying for new posts. Just as it is not relevant to discover the marital status of applicants for a supermarket manager so details of clergy applicants will not include their marital or family status. Church officials say the changes have been introduced to mirror new secular employment and equality laws aimed at eliminating discrimination.

But, an appointment process also needs careful enquiry into ‘manner of life’ issues related to what the minister will teach by word and example about marriage and family. So sensitive enquiries must be made, and if clergy are not prepared for that they should not go into the ministry because it is a biblical requirement of ministers. The relationship of a clergy wife with parishioners is not just that of ‘another member of the congregation’. This is quite different from most jobs in the secular world, where employees’ spouses do not turn up at the office and do not get involved with employees’ work.

The omission of these questions will gradually result in a climate in which it is considered improper to ask any questions about marriage, civil partnerships or single status. Once we have adapted scripture to the circumstances of the age in one contested area, how is it possible to maintain the authority of scripture elsewhere?

In South Africa the House of Bishops issued a statement in February that: “Archbishop Thabo has taken a lead in bringing concerns to us from the dioceses in the Western Cape with regard to the pastoral care of those who have entered into civil unions with a person of the same gender or who are considering doing so…..we will continue towards creating guidelines in several areas of difficulty which are raised by the issue of civil unions…a draft for discussion is in development.”

Further, a priest of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa has been defrocked because he questioned the sexual standards of his church and brought to light multiple cases of homosexual abuses by priests of young men going back to the 70s. The priest says he is appealing to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

A statement from a South African Dicoesan Bishop says that “The Diocese confirms that he has a right to his personal beliefs and views.”   The Bishop also repeats the resolution of the Provincial Standing Committee in 2003 that says that “whether sexual intimacy between people of the same sex is right or wrong” is “being debated”, that some are “arguing passionately” for affirmation of faithful, monogamous and committed same-sex relationships” and “we need to listen to people of all orientations as we seek the heart and mind of Jesus Christ in this and all things.” He continues: “Homosexual practice is unbiblical. The [Anglican] communion is committed to a careful, sensitive and respectful discussion of these issues.”

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in Southern Africa has responded to the Bishops on this matter as follows:

“As you will know, sexuality is the touchstone in this Anglican fragmentation.  The issue is not sexuality per se, it is that it reflects an attitude towards God and his word which we have described above.  It reflects a rebellion against our creator and his ways which he gives to us because of his love for us, for our protection from our sinful selves.   We too agree with the Bishops that sexuality is not a dividing issue in itself, but a leadership in the church which chooses to ‘play at being god’ is a much more serious issue.

Care of people which encourages in them in behaviour which is unacceptable to God (which the Bible describes as sin) is not a pastoral role that God can endorse.   The biblical position for godly expression of sexuality is only within the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman for life.   It concerns us deeply that our Bishops find it hard to call sin, sin.  We are answerable to God not to a human-centred ideology.  This Synod statement describes itself as the leaders speaking.   In this area, godly pastoral leadership for the church is lacking.   It matters not what the legal position may be in the seven states in which our Province is represented.   God’s standards call all laws into question where they do not line up with his.”

We see how some are regarding biblical views on marriage as personal views, irrelevant even to a vicar’s job, and the subject for careful, sensitive and respectful discussion rather than the word of God about marriage to which the Church is called to witness.  Parts of the Anglican Church are about conversation rather than confession.