Archive for April, 2011

Norwegian primate appointed

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

April 16th, 2011 Posted in Anglican Communion |

By George Conger, CEN

The Bishop of Borg, the Rt. Rev. Helga Haugland Byfuglien, has been appointed by the Minister for Church Affairs to be the Church of Norway’s presiding bishop. Bishop Byfuglien becomes the first permanent primate of the Church of Norway and also its first female leader.

Since the Reformation, the presiding bishop of the Church of Norway has been a one year post that passed among the church’s 11 bishops. However, the office of primate and presiding bishop without territorial jurisdiction was created last year “to strengthen the president function” of the office.

[…]  Considered a progressive among Norwegian church circles, the new presiding bishop has sought to open the church’s doors to non-traditional forms of spirituality and healing.  “The Church needs to be open for the multitude of people who have some kind of New Age background,” Bishop Byfuglien said, according to a March 28 report in the Norwegian Christian Daily, Dagen Magazinet.

Read here

CAPE TOWN, SA: Deposed Whistle-Blower Anglo-Catholic Priest Loses Appeal to Archbishop

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

By David W. Virtue

An Anglo-Catholic priest who blew the whistle on decades of homosexual abuse in a number of Anglican dioceses in Southern Africa and was defrocked by a tribunal for his revelations, has lost in an appeal to Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.

The Rev. Clifford Felix, 55, married with two children, said decades of sexual abuse in Anglican dioceses in Southern Africa had been covered up by succession of bishops and archbishops. He himself was abused by a man in 1975 that he later learned was a priest, he told VOL.

In an ecclesiastical church trial brought by his bishop Merwyn Castle of False Bay earlier this year he was found guilty for bringing the church into scandal and disrepute by questioning the sexual standards of his church and for bringing to light multiple cases of homosexual abuse by priests with young men going back to the 70s.

In this ecclesiastical tribunal Felix was not permitted to testify as to the substance of the allegations he had made about sexual abuse and homosexuality in the diocese.

The entire tribunal was restricted to the charges brought against him, ignoring any previous charges brought against the diocese and bishop which have never received any serious attention. Under these circumstances the traditionalist priest was found guilty and deposed. The tribunal was chaired by Peter Lee bishop of the Diocese of Christ the King, near Johannesburg in Gauteng province. Felix appealed the verdict directly to the Archbishop of Southern Africa, the Rt. Rev. Thabo Makgoba.

The archbishop wrote back saying, “I have reviewed the Diocesan Tribunal, and took counsel concerning your Appeal. After careful consideration and prayer I have decided to uphold the recommendations of the Diocesan Tribunal and the subsequent decision of the Rt Revd Merwyn Castle and his Diocesan Chapter. “I continue to pray for you and your family and am aware of your strong convictions on this matter. However, my ruling is NO to your request for an Appeal and I thus uphold the outcomes and recommendations of the Tribunal.”

Defrocked, Felix told VOL, “I am not guilty of the charges which formed the basis of my current humiliating defrocking/inhibition of August 12, 2010. I am left without a parish and my family and now I must leave the church vicarage.”

Michael Cassidy pioneering new Christian discipleship project

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Pic: Cassidy and PE Barnabas group

Gateway reports:

At the age of 75 African Enterprise (AE) founder Michael Cassidy is finding fresh purpose in pioneering a project aimed at leading people to Christ through a strategy of spiritual multiplication.

Inspired by successful Christian discipling strategies in India and motivated by a clear call from God to change his priorities, Cassidy has started nine “Barnabas Groups” in various South African cities. His goal is to train and equip young Christian leaders to become effective at sharing their faith with others and at equipping new believers to continue the process by starting their own groups.

He said that during a visit to India two years ago he was both inspired and challenged by the rate at which Christianity was growing there and by the way it was being spread. He said that the Christian population in India had risen from 12 million to 75 million over the past 12 years, and that a major factor in the rapid growth was new Christians bringing others to Christ. Significantly many new Indian Christians were being equipped through a disciplined, intentional master training programme in which 10 people were taught to each teach 10 others. A notable feature of the programme was that it did not begin with complicated theology but rather with simple foundational training in personal devotions such as praying, Bible study and regular, systematic quiet times.

Cassidy said that for a while he had been sensing that God was wanting him to change his priorities. On December 18, 2009 his car spun off the road at 120km an hour when he fell asleep at the wheel while driving to Johannnesburg. Miraculously no one was hurt and no damage was done in that incident. But that night he dreamed about the incident and he saw the letters G.O.D imprinted over the scene and he knew that God had needed to do something drastic to get his attention.

He decided to start focusing on the idea of developing a South African version of the Indian master training programme. In April 2010, he made an uncharacteristic last-minute decision to attend the final Mighty Men Conference on Angus Buchan’s Greytown farm. He said he was greatly blessed by Buchan’s ministry but the highlight of the weekend was meeting and spending time with a group of young men from George, who asked him to be a spiritual father to them. “This confirmed for me that I was doing the right thing.” Cassidy, who by this time had already handed over leadership of the South African and international operations of the AE ministry that he started in 1962, set about cutting back on most of his remaining AE responsibilities in order to concentrate on the new project.

The Barnabas Groups project stated this year with the establishment of groups in Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, George, Port Elizabeth and East London. Cassidy said the project was in a test-run phase with the focus on adapting the Indian programme to South African conditions. He conducted training sessions with each group at six to eight week intervals and provided group members with resources and assignments for use in between meetings. He was encouraged that after just one session, one of the groups was already multiplying by passing on the experience to a group of business leaders.

UCLA Study: Only 3.5 Percent Americans Are Gay

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

By Gary J. Gates, Williams Distinguished Scholar
April 2011

Drawing on information from four recent national and two state-level population-based surveys, the analyses suggest that there are more than 8 million adults in the US who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual, comprising 3.5% of the adult population. There are also nearly 700,000 transgender individuals in the US. In total, the study suggests that approximately 9 million Americans – roughly the population of New Jersey – identify as LGBT. Key findings from the study include among adults who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, bisexuals comprise a slight majority (1.8% compared to 1.7% who identify as lesbian or gay); women are substantially more likely than men to identify as bisexual; estimates of those who report any lifetime same-sex sexual behavior and any same-sex sexual attraction are substantially higher than estimates of those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. An estimated 19 million Americans (8.2%) report that they have engaged in same-sex sexual behavior and nearly 25.6 million Americans (11%) acknowledge at least some same-sex sexual attraction.

Read full study here

Anglican Catholic Church Chief Says No to Rome’s Offer

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Anglicanorum Coetibus attracts Anglicans desperate to get out of Anglican Communion

By David W. Virtue

The Metropolitan of the Anglican Catholic Church, (ACC) the Most Rev. Mark Haverland, says his Continuing Anglican body is not the slightest bit interested in taking the Pope up on his offer of an Ordinariate as a safe harbor from the tribulations facing world Anglicanism.

Writing in The Trinitarian the official gazette of the ACC, Haverland said the pope’s terms, which include a total rejection by Rome of the validity of Anglican Episcopal acts and, therefore, also require re-confirmations and re-ordinations of all Anglicans, was of “no significant interest”. While there may be some sympathy within the ACC for Anglicanorum Coetibus which has gone unvoiced, his experience has shown that there is little interest by his priests and people in the Pope’s offer.

“From the Roman Catholic perspective the papal offer is generous. The offer permits the continued existence, at least for a time, of elements of traditional Anglican worship within the Roman Church. It also permits married Anglican “ministers” to be ordained as Roman priests while still married. These things are not new, as they already existed within the Pastoral Provision in North America. But the new Constitution extends these concessions to England and elsewhere and in addition offers leadership in organized quasi-dioceses (Ordinariates) by former Anglicans.”

Haverland described these concessions as “trivial”. He said there is no attempt to reconsider the rejection of Anglican Orders by Rome in the light of recent Roman Catholic (much less Anglican) scholarship.

“There is no deepening of reflection concerning the papal office to help accommodate the concerns of traditional Eastern Orthodox or Anglican Christians, though John Paul II opened the door to such a truly exciting possibility. There is nothing, in fact, of any theological significance about the offer. The offer, therefore, cannot be of interest to ACC members on the level of theological principle it can only attract Anglicans who are desperate to get out of Anglicanism.”

Haverland opined that the numbers of those seeking union with Rome are overblown. “In late 2009 the champions of the papal proposal spoke confidently of tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of converts to Rome. Now they are speaking more of “tiny remnants” and of seeds from which something substantial may eventually grow.”

Haverland further commented that he saw those converting to Rome as falling into two camps. “First, there are those, particularly in England, who have either never worshipped using classical Anglican forms or who long ago abandoned such forms. Many English Anglo-Catholics use the Roman Catholic Church’s liturgies. If one is already dieting on the mess of pottage which is the Novis Ordo, conversion is liturgically easy. But such people will not reconstitute Prayer Book or Anglican Anglican missal (even if “corrected”) worship in the Roman Church. They will just improve the quality of the music a bit and perhaps for the sake of of an occasional nostalgic kick might sing Evensong and Benediction in an Anglican fashion. In a generation this group will probably assimilate fully into existing Roman diocesan and parochial structures. The converts in question do not really value their liturgical patrimony, because they willingly abandoned that patrimony years ago. For such people conversion is a matter of finding a safe berth after their comfortable jobs and guaranteed incomes in the Church of England become too costly for conscience to permit them to continue to enjoy.”

Haverland believes that in North America and elsewhere very few people will take up the [Pope’s] offer. “Those who do, however, will tend to be more traditional liturgically than the English converts. They also will tend to be unhappy with their current Church homes. They will tend to belong to ‘Continuing’ Churches that are unstable or poorly led or they will come from the Episcopal Church or other bodies of the old Canterbury Communion.

“Whether in England or elsewhere, those who take up the papal offer will be fleeing something very inadequate. They will not be leaving sold traditional Anglicanism or the faith summarized so well in the Affirmation of St. Louis. Few people now seem to feel it necessary to flee the ACC.”

Haverland thinks that the profound lack of interest in the papal offer by ACC members is a sign of stability, maturity, and contentment. “We are not refugees looking for a perch on which to settle. We are adherents to one of the great traditions of Christendom, whose treasures we value and will preserve. Some day Rome may care to talk to us as happy traditional Anglicans, not as wannabe Roman Catholics.”

Episcopal Church is ‘out of touch’

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

From CEN

THE LEADERSHIP of the Episcopal Church is out of touch and unrepresentative of its membership, a report published by the national Church’s statistics office reveals.

A paper released last month by the Church’s department for Congregational and Diocesan Ministries finds the membership of the national Church is evenly divided along theological grounds, and also offers a snapshot of the denomination’s health.

Based upon responses received from 837 Episcopal parishes the findings paint a picture of an ageing and divided church.

Over half, 52.4 per cent, of the congregations are small, with an average worship attendance of less than 70 people with the median parish having 66 persons at Sunday worship in 2009, a decline of 15 per cent since the fight over the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.

The median Episcopal congregation had 160 members in 2009, down from 182 in 2003. Sixty per cent of these members are female, 86.7 per
cent are of European (white) descent, and 69 per cent of all congregations report more than half of their members are over 50 years of age.

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CORNELL UNIVERSITY: Gay bishop: Bible silent on gays

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Mere tolerance not sufficient, Episcopal leader says

By Rachel Stern
April 7, 2011

Bishop Gene Robinson has a favorite bumper sticker: Guns don’t kill people, religions do.

“That would be funny if it weren’t true,” he said. “I would argue that 95 percent of all the pain and prejudice we as LGBT people have experienced can be laid at the feet of religious people.”

About 300 people gathered inside Sage Chapel on the Cornell University campus Wednesday to hear Robinson speak. He delivered the 2011 Frederick C. Wood Lecture sponsored by Cornell United Religious Work.

Robinson, of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, is the first openly gay, non-celibate Episcopal priest to be ordained a bishop. He has worked at the local, state, national and international levels to advocate for equal protection under the law and full civil marriage rights for all.

“For well over 30 years, a great human debate has raged with regard to the role of LGBT persons in the church,” said Ken Clarke, director of Cornell United Religious Work, in his introduction. “Bishop Robinson is one of the most important voices and symbols of that multifaceted debate.”

In his lecture, “How Religion is Killing Our Most Vulnerable Youth,” Robinson drew laughs, applause and cheers. He discussed how society has arrived at this debate, said it is unknown what God thinks about homosexuality, and said it is not enough to simply be tolerant of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Just 20 or 30 years ago, most Americans did not know anyone who was openly gay, Robinson said. Now, almost everyone knows someone, he said. And as a result, there are people all over the place going home and telling their parents they are gay.

“Families are thrown into chaos,” he said. “The world has changed because so many people have come out and all of us have to deal with it, including the church.”

But what seems to be so clear in the Bible, he said, is really not clear at all. It is vital to look at the context of the Bible. Same-sex behavior existed in ancient times, but homosexuality did not, Robinson said.

The word “homosexual” is used in the Bible because of translations that were made, but homosexual orientation is a notion that is just 140 years old, and scripture is silent about homosexuality, he said.

“The Bible isn’t talking about homosexuals,” he said. “It seems to be real clear what God thinks about homosexuality, when in fact it is completely unknown.”

Scripture has been used to defend slavery and the mistreatment of women, he said. Now scripture is wrongly being used to speak out against homosexuality, he said, but society has a chance to correct this misconception.

Instead of simply being tolerant of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, Robinson said, the majority must actively support this group of people and fight for their rights.

“When we get white people beginning to understand they are paying a price for racism, or men realizing they are paying a price for sexism, or straight people realizing they are paying a price for the exclusion of LGBT people, then we will get somewhere,” he said.

Cornell freshman Ben Chartock said he was inspired by Robinson’s words. The positive message Robinson left the audience was powerful, he said.

“I was struck by the continued push toward betterment for all humans and that was really the direction the bishop said humans are going in,” he said. “For me, that is a really great sign.”