Archive for May, 2011

Civil Rights

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

May  2011

by David Lindsay

The usual suspects are up in arms that the Vatican has once again issued instructions relating to child abuse cases which do not simply require that such matters be blithely handed over to the civil authority.

What if the civil authority is the EU, with its year planner for children which includes the festivals of every major religion except one, and I think we can all guess which one? What if there is practically no functioning civil authority, as in some countries where the Catholic Church is active? What if it would be better that there were not than that there were what there is, as in very many such countries?

What if the civil authority is our own dear Police, who long ago stopped enforcing the age of consent from 13 upwards, or our own dear Social Services Departments, with their long history of publishing academic studies claiming that sex between men and teenage boys was beneficial to both parties, not to say of putting that view into practice in their residential facilities?

Read here

Mugabe Ally Escalates Push to Control Anglican Church

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
Published: Monday, May 30, 2011 at 5:09 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 30, 2011 at 5:09 a.m.

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Religion, like politics, is often a dangerous business in this country.


Click to enlarge

Zimbabwe’s courts and its police support the push by Nolbert Kunonga, shown in his Harare offices, for Anglican authority.
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Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi for The New York Times

As President Robert Mugabe, 87, pushes for an election this year, the harassment of independent churches seen as hostile to his government has intensified.

Truncheon-wielding riot police officers stormed a Nazarene church here in the capital last month to break up a gathering called to pray for peace. Days later, the authorities in Lupane arrested a Roman Catholic priest leading a memorial service for civilians massacred in the early years of Mr. Mugabe’s decades in power.

Mr. Mugabe, a Roman Catholic, recently denounced black bishops in established churches as pawns of whites and the West, singling out for special opprobrium Catholic bishops who have “a nauseating habit of unnecessarily attacking his person,” the state-controlled Herald newspaper reported.

But it is leaders of the Anglican Church, one of the country’s major denominations, who have lately faced the most sustained pressure. Nolbert Kunonga, an excommunicated Anglican bishop and staunch Mugabe ally, has escalated a drive to control thousands of Anglican churches, schools and properties across Zimbabwe and southern Africa.

“The throne is here,” declared Mr. Kunonga, who has held onto his bishopric here in the sprawling diocese of Harare through courts widely seen as partisan to Mr. Mugabe. He has also been backed by a police force answerable to the president, whom Mr. Kunonga describes as “an angel.”

Communique from the Meeting of ARCIC III at Bose

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Anglican Communion News Service

The Anglican – Roman Catholic International Commission has completed the first meeting of its new phase (ARCIC III) at the Monastery of Bose in northern Italy (May 17-27, 2011). The Commission, chaired by the Most Reverend David Moxon (Anglican Archbishop of the New Zealand Dioceses) and the Most Reverend Bernard Longley (Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham) comprises eighteen theologians from a wide range of backgrounds across the world[1]. In response to the Programme set forth by Pope Benedict and Archbishop Rowan Williams in their 2006 Common Declaration, discussions have focussed on the interrelated issues: the Church as Communion, local and universal, and how in communion the local and universal Church come to discern right ethical teaching. The Programme also required the Commission to re-examine how the “commitment to the common goal of the restoration of complete communion in faith and sacramental life”[2] is to be understood and pursued today, and to present the work of ARCIC II in its entirety with appropriate commentaries to assist its reception.

In addressing these issues, the Commission has devoted time to introducing its new members to the history and achievements of ARCIC, and has benefited from the shared experience of those who were members of previous phases. Members have worked both in plenary sessions and in small groups, developing plans to address the tasks that derive from its mandate.

Over the coming years, the Commission will examine how the abiding goal of the dialogues is currently perceived and understood, and how that goal will inform the entire dialogue process.

Click for Hi-Res Image

members of ARCIC III in session
Photo Credit: ACNS

In considering the method that ARCIC III will use, the Commission was particularly helped by the approach of ‘receptive ecumenism’[3], which seeks to make ecumenical progress by learning from our partner, rather than simply asking our partner to learn from us. Receptive ecumenism is more about self-examination and inner conversion than convincing the other; Anglicans and Roman Catholics can help each other grow in faith, life and witness to Christ if they are open to being transformed by God’s grace mediated through each other.  ARCIC is committed to modelling the receptive ecumenism it advocates.  It intends to find ways to consult with the members of its churches at many levels as its work matures.

ARCIC III will present all the documents of ARCIC II, together with elucidations based upon responses already received, for reception by the relevant authorities of both communions, and for study at all levels of the churches’ life.

ARCIC III has decided that it will address the two principal topics together in a single document. It has drawn up a plan for its work that views the Church above all in the light of its rootedness in Christ through the Paschal Mystery. This focus on Jesus Christ, human and divine, gives the Commission a creative way to view the relationship between the local and universal in communion.  The Commission will seek to develop a theological understanding of the human person, human society, and the new life of grace in Christ.  This will provide a basis from which to explore how right ethical teaching is determined at universal and local levels. ARCIC will base this study firmly in scripture, tradition and reason, and draw on the previous work of the Commission. It will analyze some particular questions to elucidate how our two Communions approach moral decision making, and how areas of tension for Anglicans and Roman Catholics might be resolved by learning from the other.   ARCIC III does this conscious of the fact that what unites us is greater than what divides us.

The work of the Commission members has been enriched by sharing in the liturgical and spiritual life of the sisters and brothers of the Monastery of Bose, whose ecumenical mission and constant prayer have provided a supportive context for ARCIC. They were encouraged by visits from the bishop of the local diocese and by the bishop responsible for ecumenism for the northern Italian dioceses. The Commission will now organize papers and continue its work along the lines it has proposed, in preparation for its next meeting in 2012.

Appendix

Members of ARCIC III

Co-Chairs
The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, England
The Most Reverend David Moxon, Bishop of Waikato and Archbishop of the Dioceses of New Zealand

Roman Catholics
The Reverend Robert Christian OP, Angelicum University, Rome
The Most Reverend Arthur Kennedy, auxiliary bishop, Archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Professor Paul D. Murray, Durham University, England
Professor Janet E. Smith, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, Michigan, USA
The Reverend Vimal Tirimanna CSsR, Alphonsianum University, Rome
The Very Reverend Dom Henry Wansbrough OSB, Ampleforth Abbey, England
Sister Teresa Okure SHCJ, Catholic Institute of West Africa, Port Harcourt, Nigeria
The Reverend Adelbert Denaux , Dean; Tilburg School of Theology, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Anglicans
Dr Paula Gooder, Birmingham, England
The Right Reverend Christopher Hill, Bishop of Guildford, England
The Reverend Mark McIntosh, University of Durham, England.
The Right Reverend Nkosinathi Ndwandwe, Bishop Suffragan of Natal, Southern Area, South Africa
The Right Reverend Linda Nicholls, Area Bishop for Trent-Durham, Diocese of Toronto, Canada
The Reverend Michael Poon, Trinity Theological College, Singapore (unable to attend)
The Reverend Canon Nicholas Sagovsky, London, England
The Reverend Peter Sedgwick, St Michael’s College, Llandaff, Wales
The Reverend Charles Sherlock (consultant), Bendigo, Australia.

The work of the Commission is supported by the Co-Secretaries, Monsignor Mark Langham (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) and Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan (Anglican Communion Office) and by Canon Jonathan Goodall, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Ecumenical Affairs. The Commission is grateful for the administrative support and photographs provided by Mr Neil Vigers of the Anglican Communion Office.

1. For a list of members, see appendix.

2. 1996 Common Declaration of Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey.

3. cf Receptive Ecumenism and the Call to Catholic learning: Exploring a way for Contemporary Ecumenism., ed. Paul D. Murray., OUP 2008

Equality, prejudice, power and the Church of England

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Savi Hensman

By Savi Hensman
26 May 2011
This is from the Ekklesia website and sounds very much like so much of the talk and thinking in this province ACSA.  It seems to me the Ethics, Justice feature in these conversations with little reference to the Scriptures.  Considering the place that Scripture should have in Anglican Thinking and Doing, once become nervous for the future, not of the Faith but for the Anglican Church.

Recent news items have raised serious doubts about the Church of England’s commitment to equality and justice.

In 2003, Church of England priest Jeffrey John was chosen as Bishop of Reading, then forced to back down because he was gay. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, though a friend of his, was afraid that appointing him would harm church unity. Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGB&T) people felt hurt and betrayed.

In 2010 John – an outstanding pastor and preacher – was one of the candidates for the vacancy of Southwark. John is in a longstanding but celibate relationship with his civil partner. But there was a huge row over an alleged breach of confidentiality when the press found out, and he was not selected.

A Guardian article by Andrew Brown in May 2011 contains disturbing revelations about what happened, and ongoing attempts by top church leaders to prevent even celibate gays from becoming bishops.

According to the newspaper report, based on a memorandum by the late Dean of Southwark Colin Slee, who was involved in the selection process, Williams was fiercely opposed to appointing John. Both he and Archbishop of York John Sentamu apparently put intense pressure on other panel members. Slee believed that the source of the leak was Williams’ approach to lawyers when he sought legal advice on how to block any chance that John would be selected. The archbishop’s staff dispute some aspects of the account by Slee, who later died of cancer.

Secrecy around LGB&T clergy is heavily entrenched in the Church of England, which is hardly the most healthy environment for spiritual flourishing. According to Slee’s memo, there several gay bishops “who have been less than candid about their domestic arrangements and who, in a conspiracy of silence, have been appointed to senior positions”.

Bishops are reportedly now divided over whether gays in civil partnerships but pledged to celibacy should even be considered for episcopacy, in case this upsets those Anglicans in England and abroad who are most hostile to homosexuality. Church lawyers have reportedly said that, while candidates cannot be turned away simply because of their orientation, those in sexually active same-sex relationships should be refused and acceptance of even those who are celibate but partnered might be in question, since bishops must “act as a focus for unity”.

Equality, prejudice and power

This raises an important issue: is it lawful, let alone ethical, to discriminate against minorities on the grounds that others might be prejudiced against them? No doubt there are parts of England where anti-immigration sentiment is running high and some congregations would find it hard to accept a black person born abroad as their new bishop. Should this then be a bar, or should the church instead challenge such views and work with those congregations to help them to live with diversity?

But there is another factor besides prejudice at play here: power.

In recent decades, increasing numbers of theologians, and others in church and society, have come to believe that, in the words of a Church of England working party report in 1979, “there are circumstances in which individuals may justifiably choose to enter into a homosexual relationship with the hope of enjoying a companionship and physical expression of sexual love similar to that which is to be found in marriage”.

This proved too radical to be accepted at the time, but eminent Anglicans including Williams – then a professor of theology – and John continued to make the case for acceptance, as attitudes shifted.

In 1991 the House of Bishops produced Issues in human sexuality. This set out the official line that sex should only take place within heterosexual marriage, but accepted that there were people who were homosexual in orientation, who should be treated with respect, and that laypersons might, in good conscience, enter into faithful and committed sexual relationships with the same sex. Clergy however were expected to abstain. It was accepted that ongoing discussion was necessary.

There was however no ban on loving lifelong same-sex friendships, involving emotional intimacy and mutual support. Some, like John and his partner, deferred to church discipline and accepted this, a huge (some might think excessive) sacrifice, while continuing to hope for change.

Many Anglicans – including a number of conservative evangelicals – were prepared to continue discussing the issues involved. But some insisted that their interpretation of the Bible on this matter was sacrosanct, and threatened to leave if there were moves towards greater inclusion.

Increasingly in Anglican circles in England and particularly overseas, this faction gained ground. Some, especially in churches other than the Church of England, were openly homophobic, showing hostility or contempt towards those of lesbian or gay orientation (since they believed that those with sufficient faith would not even be attracted to the same sex) and/or regarding sex between two men or two women as worse than heterosexual ‘sin’.

When Jeffrey John was chosen as Bishop of Reading in 2003, nine Church of England bishops (one of whom later apologised) wrote a public letter of protest, stating that:

Dr John has many admirable qualities for the work of a bishop. But the issue is ‘what is acceptable sexual behaviour in God’s sight? By his own admission he has been in a same-sex relationship for twenty years. We value, of course, the gift of same-sex friendship and if this relationship is one of companionship and sexual abstinence, then, we rejoice. We warmly commend such relationships to the Church as a whole.

We are glad at the reassurances from the Bishop of Oxford that Jeffrey John’s life is now celibate. But it is the history of the relationship, as well as Dr John’s severe criticism of orthodox teaching, which gives concern…

We must… express our concern because of the Church’s constant teaching, in the light of Scripture and because of the basic ordering of men and women in creation.

We must also express our concern because of our responsibility for the Church’s unity, both in this country and throughout the world.

Yet theological diversity has long been accepted within the Church of England. For instance, though for decades there has been official acceptance that women can validly be ordained, people are still free to argue against this. Indeed, the Church of Englsnd has tied itself in knots to try to accommodate the small minority opposed to women’s ordination. Again, the notion that Christ’s death was the work of a wrathful Father goes against official church doctrine, but those who argue for this view have not been barred from becoming bishops.

Some of their overseas allies were less tactful about gays and lesbians. Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria wrote that “if homosexuals see themselves as deviants who have gone astray, the Christian spirit would plead for patience and prayers to make room for their repentance. When scripture says something is wrong and some people say that it is right, such people make God a liar. We argue that it is a blatant lie against Almighty God that homosexuality is their God-given urge and inclination. For us, it is better seen as an acquired aberration… Homosexuality or lesbianism or bestiality is to us a form of slavery, and redemption from it is readily available through repentance and faith in the saving grace of our Lord, Jesus the Christ.”

It is noteworthy however that, in England at least, there was acceptance in principle of celibate but loving same-sex relationships even by those strongly opposed to full inclusion.

Unity in diversity

When Dr Williams gave way to this faction, he encouraged them to become bolder in their demands. This in itself became a strain on church unity, as they came to see any refusal to accept their own views as rebellion against God.

When civil partnerships became law in the UK, a 2005 House of Bishops pastoral statement was issued. This stated that “The House of Bishops does not regard entering into a civil partnership as intrinsically incompatible with holy orders, provided the person concerned is willing to give assurances to his or her bishop that the relationship is consistent with the standards for the clergy set out in Issues in Human Sexuality. The wording of the Act means that civil partnerships will be likely to include some whose relationships are faithful to the declared position of the Church on sexual relationships”.

Since then, the case for full acceptance has been increasingly strongly made by Anglican and other Christian theologians, and many in the Church of England now fully accept LGB&T people in loving and committed relationships. However, others have continued to push for an even narrower stance, and the archbishops have shown great reluctance to offend them, while being quite willing to alienate those who feel that exclusion goes against God’s will for the church.

If Church of Engalnd leaders continue to discriminate against even those lesbians and gays who have made considerable sacrifices out of respect for church discipline, there will be considerable damage to its credibility as a force for love and justice in the world. It will also be harder to have a reasoned debate on sexuality and related issues if senior clergy are afraid to express their views, and indeed share their experience, with their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Reference:

Andrew Brown, ‘Church of England tied in knots over allowing gay men to become bishops’ (Guardian, Wednesday 25 May 2011) – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/25/church-england-gay-clergymen…

A New Direction beckons for the Mothers Union in Africa

Friday, May 27th, 2011

May 27th, 2011

Church of England Newspaper May 27

By Chris Sugden

A NEW focus on the family, spirituality and deliverance ministry was heralded as the Mothers’ Union in the Province of West Africa. Maria Akrofi, the wife of Archbishop Akrofi of West Africa, explained that the conference was called to revive the mission of the Mothers’ Union in West Africa “in supporting young people preparing for marriage, those whose marriages have suffered adversity and more importantly, the scores of people with Aids” which she sees as a familyrelated disease affecting babies in utero, being passed on in breast feeding, and producing scores of orphans.

Delegates at the conference, held near Accra, Ghana, from 5-13 May, urged that teaching on Christian marriage should be included in Sunday sermons, that there be a “Couples’ Sunday” to teach on marriage and family life. They agreed that clergy wives had a critical role both in bridging the gap between clergy and laity and also in sharing in leadership in the church community to enable women to voice their concerns.

Delegates were also told of regular meetings of homosexual men married to women but who meet together regularly. They are asked for details of their same-sex partners to assist in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS. They refuse for fear of both stigma from the traditionalists, and of the gay activists who advocate “right to privacy”.

A day was spent on deliverance ministry and intercession. Grace Presbyterian Church in Akropong-Akuapem, in hills 40km from Accra, is home to a remarkable ministry of discernment and intercession. Maria Akrofi explained that “all my meetings have a head bit and a heart bit. Those who worship the Lord must worship him in spirit and in truth.“ Many in all churches are first generation Christians. Traditional fetish and other practices in their families and early lives may still have a detrimental effect on their growth and effectiveness as Christians. Maria Akrofi explained: “It is important to expose those who have family backgrounds in worshipping other gods to teaching about deliverance so that these can be moved out of the way and the Holy Spirit can work fully with them.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Church of England tied in knots over allowing gay men to become bishops

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

• Leaked memo describes leaders’ shouting matches
• ‘Bad tempered’ Williams blocked dean’s promotion

  • guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 25 May 2011 19.08 BST
  • Article history
  • Archbishops John Sentamu and Rowan Williams

    Archbishops John Sentamu and Rowan Williams ‘behaved very badly’ at a meeting to select a new bishop of Southwark, Colin Slee’s memo claimed. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA

    A meeting of Church of England bishops in York this week has broken up without agreement on whether gay clergy should ever be allowed to be chosen for promotion to bishoprics.

    The leadership of the established church remains tied in knots over how far it can comply with the Equality Act in its treatment of gay people. Church lawyers have told the bishops that while they cannot take into account that someone is homosexual in considering them for preferment, they also cannot put forward clergy in active same-sex relationships and, even if they are celibate, must consider whether they can “act as a focus for unity” to their flocks if appointed to a diocese.

    Conservative evangelicals remain bitterly opposed to the ordination of gay people, even though many clergy are more or less openly gay, and some are in same-sex partnerships.

    The fraught divisions have been laid bare in the leak of an anguished and devastating memorandum written by the Very Rev Colin Slee, the former dean of Southwark Cathedral, shortly before his death from pancreatic cancer last November. Dr Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, and John Sentamu, the archbishop of York, vetoed candidates from becoming bishops of the south London diocese.

    The document reveals shouting matches and arm-twisting by the archbishops to keep out the diocese’s preferred choices as bishop: Jeffrey John, the gay dean of St Albans, and Nicholas Holtam, rector of St Martin-in-the-Fields in central London, whose wife was divorced many years ago. Eventually Christopher Chessun, then an assistant bishop, was chosen.

    John, an able theologian and gifted preacher and pastor, highly regarded in the diocese and a friend of Williams, is celibate but in a longstanding civil partnership with another clergyman. He was forced by the archbishop to stand down after being appointed suffragan bishop of Reading eight years ago, following an orchestrated protest campaign by evangelicals. Holtam’s promotion had been blocked because of his wife’s divorce but he has since become bishop of Salisbury.

    Slee described Williams shouting and losing his temper in last year’s Southwark meeting, which left several members of the crown nomination committee, responsible for the selection of bishops, in tears.

    Slee also in effect charges the church with hypocrisy, stating that there are several gay bishops “who have been less than candid about their domestic arrangements and who, in a conspiracy of silence, have been appointed to senior positions”. The memo warns: “This situation cannot endure. Exposure of the reality would be nuclear.”

    Slee said of the meeting: “We had two very horrible days in which I would say both archbishops behaved very badly. The meeting was not a fair consideration at all; they were intent on wrecking both Jeffrey John and Nick Holtam equally, despite the fact that their CVs were startlingly in an entirely different and better league than the other two candidates …

    “The archbishop of Canterbury was bad tempered throughout. When it came to voting, certainly two – possibly three – members were in tears and [Williams] made no acknowledgement but carried on regardless. At a critical point Archbishop Sentamu and three other members simultaneously went to the lavatory, after which the voting patterns changed.”

    In a covering letter seen by the Guardian, Slee’s eldest daughter, Ruth, says: “Both my mother and I feel [his] hurt and anger were contributory to the cancer from which he died … this association is borne out by the medical timescale of his illness, but will never be known.”

    The memorandum was written last September, shortly before his diagnosis and two months before his death, in response to an internal inquiry into how John’s and Holtam’s names had been leaked to the press. Friends know that Slee was extremely distressed about what had happened in the selection process and wanted to write a book about the church’s selection of its bishops.

    Slee’s evidence to the leak enquiry claimed that it was the archbishop of Canterbury himself who was responsible for the leak by asking church lawyers outside the committee for legal advice on whether John could be stopped. Lambeth Palace denies that it was the source of the leak and says there are errors in Slee’s account. The archbishop of York’s office refused to comment, saying the whole process was entirely confidential.

    The House of Bishops sought legal advice to discover whether it would be illegal to deny John a job. A briefing in December from the Church House legal department appears to state that though it would be illegal to discriminate against him because he is a celibate gay person, it was perfectly in order to discriminate against him because there are Christians who cannot accept gay people.

    The briefing states: “It is not open to a crown nominations committee or a bishop making a suffragan appointment to propose someone who is in a sexually active same-sex relationship; it is not open to them to take into account the mere fact that someone is gay by sexual orientation.”

    Asked whether the doctrine that a bishop must be a focus of unity in his diocese meant that in practice Jeffrey John would never become one, Williams has suggested that evangelical attitudes might change.

World Environment Day

Thursday, May 26th, 2011


Hat tip ContactOnline

The Anglican Church in Southern Africa (ACSA) has published material partially produced in this blog for World Environment Day on June 5. Some of this material has been seriously questioned by Fr John Freeman, a priest and scientist in South Africa. I have not been able to reproduce the sections of relevant liturgy, but the challenges need to be taken seriously by all. Needless to say, Fr John has had no response. The cover picture is also shown here.


CLIMATE CHANGE

“Climate change is real, and it is happening now.

In large parts of sub-Saharan Africa, this is a reality. The poor, the vulnerable and the hungry are exposed to the harsh edge of climate change every day of their lives. The melting of the snows on the peak of Kilimanjaro is a warning of the changes taking place in Africa. Across this beautiful but vulnerable continent, people are already feeling the change in the weather. But rain or drought, the result is the same: more hunger and more misery for millions of people living on the margins of global society. In the past 10 years, 2.6 billion people have suffered from natural disasters. That is more than a third of the global population – most of them in the developing world. The human impact is obvious, but what is not so apparent is the extent to which climatic events can undo the developmental gains put in place over so many years.

It is time to stop this cycle of destruction.”

(Archbishop Emeritus Tutu)

A PRAYER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE

God of light and life,

we see you in the rising sun,

the wind blowing through the fields of maize,

and the feel of a life-giving shower of rain.

Help us to see your light reflected throughout creation.


God of compassion,

you are there with those people

who are facing the effects of a changing climate,

and are affected by floods, droughts and famine.

Show us how to be there with them too.


God of truth and justice,

you hear those people around the world,

who struggle to make their voices heard.

Open our ears and the ears of those in power

to hear the cries of those living in poverty.


God of hope,

we see you in people who refuse to give up,

who will not lose faith and keep on fighting,

for your earth and for your people.

Lift us, so that we may never lose hope.

Amen

Adapted from Michaela McGuigan/CAFOD

COP 17

What is it?

From Monday 28th November to Friday 9th December 2011 the eyes of the world will be on South Africa – and in particular on Durban. Negotiators and political leaders from around the world will gather at the 17th Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Why is it important?

Time is short and firm commitments need to be made by governments to decrease rapidly their carbon emissions, as the Kyoto Protocol comes to an end in 2012. Although ‘developed’ nations are reluctant to make carbon emission cuts, climate change is increasingly evident around the world.

What is the role of the Anglican Church?

The Anglican Church is playing a key role in mobilising other faith communities to join in the work of influencing governments to make these firm commitments in Durban. At a local level, through the networks of Anglican environment groups and activists such as the parish, regional and diocesan environment groups in the Diocese of Natal, under Bishop Rubin Phillip who is based in the host city of Durban, Anglicans are being encouraged and educated to work at both a local level – through initiatives such as greening their parish and fostering small organic vegetable gardens – and at a wider level – through taking part in ecumenical and interfaith actions.

The Anglican Church is also a founder member of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), working with people of many Christian denominations as well as other major faith groupings in the work for an ecologically sustainable world. SAFCEI is well placed to head up the faith communities’ insistence that governments of the world carefully consider the moral and ethical implications of the COP17 negotiations, and not only their own narrow financial and diplomatic interests. The call is for a radically different approach to world politics, if planet earth as we know it is to be saved for humanity.

Pray for:

Durban activities planned by SAFCEI: a large rally of people of faith on Sunday 27th November and a prayer service on Sunday 4th December. The programme has the full support of many faith leaders including Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu who will be participating in the rally to call the world’s politicians to follow moral and ethical principles in meeting the threat of climate change. The one way to meet this challenge is to follow biblical principles of justice and equity for all of God’s creation.

Anglicans are invited to come to Durban in numbers to be part of this great initiative of faith communities and civil society across the world. We will be part of civil society’s watching brief to show our governments that the world is eagerly waiting for an outcome from the COP17 deliberations that will bring justice to the world and enable sustainable, ecologically-sound development for all people, especially those most in need and the poorest of the poor. This is our opportunity to witness to our faith, and publicly to put our faith into action, calling for an ethical and moral outcome to the COP17 talks.

“It is now abundantly clear that we have at our fingertips all of the tools that we need to solve the climate crisis – the only missing ingredient is collective will. The climate crisis is an unparalleled opportunity to address at long last, many persistent causes of suffering and misery that have long been neglected and to transform the prospects for future generations to live healthier more prosperous lives.” (Gore, A. Our Choice – a plan to solve the climate crisis.)

The liturgical material here has been adapted from the Season of Creation (authorized by Archbishop Thabo for use in ACSA)

RESPONSE FROM FR JOHN FREEMAN

Dear Andrew and Peter,
I have just received my copy of the Diocesan Prayers and Liturgy for 5 June. Hear my cry, which is not personally aimed at either of you. I am relying on you to make my voice heard; the Diocesan Office has not responded to my emails on this subject.
I was angry and saddened by it, but that is irrelevant. Now I must speak my mind or stand before God as a coward. This document, for me, shows the Church as both deceived and deceiving. I cannot support it.
Let me explain what I find objectionable. First, the cover picture. I know it’s been around for a while; I know it has been approved by the Provincial Liturgical Committee, but none of that sanctifies it. I do not think it appropriate for the Virgin Mary (yes, that IS a halo) to be conflated with the goddess Gaia, or the planet earth with the infant Jesus. Even without the ‘Russian icon’ artistic conventions, this would be hard to miss! Were I a pagan, I should be very pleased; but I am not one. Have we forgotten who we are? Isn’t this syncretism? It certainly struck me like that. It could so easily be construed as worship of the Creation instead of the Creator.
The picture also contains embarrassingly misleading visual suggestions. the worst is those cooling towers. I see them in the press almost daily, suggesting the very wellspring of carbon dioxide “pollution.” This is totally misleading. The vapour is water vapour; ask any adolescent learner. Next is the suggestion that the plants are threatened by the supposed plumes of the cooling towers. In fact CO2 is essential and beneficial to plant growth. Finally there is the off white swirl at the lower right. Is that a hurricane or a tsunami? To suggest that either is connected in any way to atmospheric CO2 levels is demonstrable falsehood. The New Testament has a lot to say about those who lead others astray. We should be scrupulously avoiding this.
The preamble bothers me, too. No South African could have greater respect than I for our former Archbishop Desmond Tutu; but on this subject he speaks not as the theologian he is, nor as the passionate and Christ-like opponent of apartheid he became, nor even as our literal saviour after Chris Hani’s murder. He speaks here (if indeed it is he) as a private individual and a scientific layman.
The quotation attributed to him contains much that is questionable. The Sahel has been drying out for all of my 71 years, and the process is documented fully. To attribute this admitted climate change, as though it were a fact, to anthropogenic carbon dioxide concentrations (rising significantly only the last decade of the 20th century) is at the most charitable interpretation, incautious (because so easily refuted), inadequately researched and misleading. Misleading – that word again!
The reference to Kilimanjaro is less easy to excuse. Because it is Africa’s best known mountain, there is a corresponding weight of evidence about the Furtwangler glacier at its summit, which has been receding since 1880 (Robinson, Robinson and Soon, 2007). Also, the summit temperature has been continuously monitored by satellite since 1973. At no time has it ever risen above –1,6°C; and the mean is –7°C (Molg et al. 2003). It simply can’t have melted! It is receding due to ablation because the climate has been becoming dryer and colder (Cullen, 2006); the glacier is not being renewed by snowfall as once it was. This claim is pseudo-scientific gossip; yet made in the name of Jesus?
Surely the climate is changing. It was never static! But even the most ardent apostles of anthropogenic climate change have been unable to connect extreme weather events or volcanic activity with man’s activities. They themselves have said so. The preamble definitely does do that. Indeed, by its very generality it includes even seismic events like the recent Japanese tsunami – and then suggests that we are guilty of it all, and can alter it! I am most unhappy to be associated with such unproven and misleading assumptions. There it is again – can this really be accidental?
May I offer some facts to balance this ringing call to action?
The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere as at 2010 was 390 ppm (NOAA, Mauna Loa, see http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/index.html#global). That’s 0,039%. It has risen approximately linearly from 320 ppm in 1965. The proportion of that which is produced by all human activity worldwide is estimated at 3%. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that figure to be wildly in error and treble it to 9% (it’s impossible to measure accurately). That’s 35,1 ppm or 0,00351%. South Africa’s contribution to that 9% is about 2% . Again, let’s assume that is in error by the same amount and call it 6%. That makes it 2,11 ppm or 0,000211%. We would, however, be more honest to round this up to 2,2 ppm or 0,00022%. So if we stopped all human activity in South Africa we would reduce the world atmospheric CO2 content from 390 ppm to 387,8 ppm.
Does this negligible and unachievable goal warrant the histrionics afforded it? By the admission of the most convinced of the climate change lobby, our best worldwide efforts are unlikely to reduce the amount of man made CO2 by more than 20% in the next ten years. That means we could reduce the total to 382,98 ppm., and South Africa’s contribution to that reduction would be 0,42 ppm. That is what all this is about. And there is still no certainty that atmospheric CO2 levels drive, or even affect climate!
In the earnestness of our conviction, has no one noticed that we sound very like Chicken Little?
The Liturgy contained in the submission is, for the most part, excellent; and it is all the more a pity that it is not harnessed to some ‘winnable’ struggles. I dare not comment on the last page other than to say that I cannot support or advocate its demands.
I realise that what is done, is done. This is not intended as entirely negative criticism. I am very much aware of human rapine of our planet, and the present and pressing issue of SA’s water crisis (both pollution and scarcity), the threatened ‘fracking’ in the ecologically fragile Karoo and the devastation of farmland caused by the mismanagement of the Land Claims Commission – all these need our urgent attention. Could they get it? It would be a better response than a call to grow organic vegetables!
The document under discussion has been carefully thought out by our best Anglican minds. It is that which causes my sadness in laying against it the double charge of syncretism and false witness.
Shalom and blessings
John
(J.T.R. Freeman, B.Sc(Eng) cum laude, AFTS cum laude)
PS It is estimated that the CO2 released by last year’s Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland negated all human efforts at CO2 reduction for the last five years. Are we not guilty of hubris? JF