Archive for August, 2016

In memoirs, ex Pope Benedict says Vatican ‘gay lobby’ tried to wield power: report

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

By Philip Pullella | VATICAN CITY

Former Pope Benedict says in his memoirs that no-one pressured him to resign but alleges that a “gay lobby” in the Vatican had tried to influence decisions, a leading Italian newspaper reported on Friday.

The book, called “The Last Conversations”, is the first time in history that a former pope judges his own pontificate after it is over. It is due to be published on Sept. 9.

Citing health reasons, Benedict  became the first pope in six centuries to resign. He promised to remain “hidden to the world” and has been living in a former convent in the Vatican gardens.

Italy’s Corriere della Sera daily, which has acquired the Italian newspaper rights for excerpts and has access to the book, ran a long article on Friday summarizing its key points.

In the book, Benedict says that he came to know of the presence of a “gay lobby” made up of four or five people who were seeking to influence Vatican decisions. The article says Benedict says he managed to “break up this power group”.

Benedict resigned following a turbulent papacy that included the so-call “Vatileaks” case, in which his butler leaked some of his personal letters and other documents that alleged corruption and a power struggle in the Vatican.

Italian media at the time reported that a faction of prelates who wanted to discredit Benedict and pressure him to resign was behind the leaks.


The Church has maintained its centuries-long opposition to homosexual acts.

But rights campaigners have long said many gay people work for the Vatican and Church sources have said they suspect that some have banded together to support each other’s careers and influence decisions in the bureaucracy.

Benedict, who now has the title “emeritus pope,” has always maintained that he made his choice to leave freely and Corriere says that in the book Benedict “again denies blackmail or pressure”.

He says he told only a few people close to him of his intention to resign, fearing it would be leaked before he made the surprise announcement on Feb. 11, 2013.

The former pope, in the book-long interview with German writer Peter Seewald, says he had to overcome his own doubts on the effect his choice could have on the future of the papacy.

He says that he was “incredulous” when cardinals meeting in a secret conclave chose him to succeed the late Pope John Paul II in 2005 and that he was “surprised” when the cardinals chose Francis as his successor in 2013.

Anger over the dysfunctional state of the Vatican bureaucracy in 2013 was one factor in the cardinal electors’ decision to choose a non-European pope for the first time in nearly 1,300 years.

Benedict “admits his lack of resoluteness in governing,” Corriere says.

In the book, whose lead publisher is Germany’s Droemer Knaur, Benedict says he kept a diary throughout his papacy but will destroy it, even though he realizes that for historians it would be a “golden opportunity”.

(Corrects date of resignation in paragraph 3.)

(Editing by Andrew Heavens)

LGBTI proposal for Anglicans ‘rattling the hinges’ – Mpho Tutu

Friday, August 19th, 2016

Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu and Professor Marceline van Furth. (Supplied)
Cape Town – A proposal that would see a far warmer welcome for the LGBTI community and those in same-sex unions will go before decision-makers in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa next month.

The motion, tabled by the Diocese of Saldanha Bay, proposed the provision of pastoral care for those who identified themselves as part of this community.

“More controversially, the motion also proposes that clergy who identify as LGBTI and are in legal same-sex civil unions should be licensed to minister in our parishes,” said Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town.

“It also suggests that ‘prayers of blessing’ should be able to be offered for those in same-sex civil unions. However, it specifically rules out the possibility of marriage under church law.”

 It accepted that clerics unwilling to provide such pastoral care were not obliged to do so.

Reverend and theologian Mpho Tutu van Furth elicited condemnation from some Christians when she married her long-term partner Marceline van Furth late last year.

As a result, the daughter of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu can no longer preach in South Africa’s Anglican Churches and does not conduct table ministry.

She was asked on Thursday what she thought of the proposal going before the provincial synod next month.

“When I married my wife prejudice slammed a door of opportunity in my face. With this proposal we are ‘rattling the hinges’,” she replied succinctly in an email.

In July, she told News24 that she thought the Anglican Church had come “too far” to turn back on the issue of homosexuality.

“There’s a point at which we can’t turn around. That closet door has slammed so we can’t go back into that closet.”

Christianity 911

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

By Ladson F. Mills III
Walker Percy in his novel The Second Coming describes present-day Christians as nominal, lukewarm and hypocritical or if fervent, generally offensive or fanatical; but not crazy. He sees the present day-unbeliever as being all of these things and crazy as well. Percy may have identified the root cause of our cultural insanity. A society left to its own devices without a sane moral compass is destined to implode. The world today is in desperate need of the Christian Gospel.

The two candidates for President of the United States are just the latest reflection of the mounting insanity. One is reckless with national security and has told so many lies that she can no longer keep them straight. The alternative’s reckless, bombastic, rhetoric scares even his supporters and has produced more unforced errors than the 1962 New York Mets Baseball Team. (Sorry Mets fans) As the cartoon Shoe recently pointed out the choice is not between the lesser of the two evils but the evil of the two lessers.

Perhaps the most despicable example was the manner in which both political conventions paraded families who have lost children defending the country in order to attack the other candidate. Then both cried foul at the push back.

As a father who has watched his son go to war three times I cannot fathom the pain if he had not come home. But I know exploitation when I see it. I also learned a long time ago that whenever a public stance is taken there will be others who think differently and will quickly make their displeasure known. In the vernacular don’t give what you are unwilling to take.

Some years ago in my role as a Navy Chaplain I stood over the grave of Marine Corporal Rusty Washam who had been killed in Iraq three days after his 21st birthday. He left behind a wife, two children and devastated parents.

Scott County, Tennessee, home of Brushy Mountain State Prison, which gained fame for housing the convicted killer of Martin Luther King, Jr., is rough country. But not on the day I was there. The entire county had turned out to honor Rusty Washam. There were firetrucks with giant American Flags and flashing signs that said We love you, Rusty. I suspect county officials felt no need seek permission to close schools or public offices. They closed and came.

His two bother’s, one a soldier wounded the previous year and another an Air Force Sergeant were there. Every local official was present to pay respects including the Marine Corps Staff Sergeant who had recruited Rusty. It may have been the largest funeral I ever attended.

But I can tell you who was not present that day. There were no Senators, Congressman, or candidates for national political office. But this is an election year and grieving families make powerful photo opportunities.

We live in an age of the continual election cycle. Depending upon which politician is speaking we are only one election away from total destruction or utopia. And of course our personal check will make the difference. If an army travels on its stomach the American politician travels on our wallets.

University of Delaware sociologist H. T. Reynolds observed the important issues that face Congress never come to any point of decision but are more likely to be stalemated rather resolved… the American public has been reduced to the role of passive spectators cheering the heroes and booing the villains, but taking little or no direct part in the action…increasingly alienated and estranged from politics…

Inside the beltway commentators admit that unlike the past there is no motivation for investigation into scandals. National political leaders are held in such low repute the public is no longer outraged by their behavior.

It has become very popular to label anyone challenging political correctness as a Nazi. Conveniently overlooked is Stalinism which was known for its rewriting of history and the altering of inconvenient facts.

Joseph Stalin perfected the practice of removing evidence of those who dared to hold alternative opinions. Official photos removed the offender’s image. Books were altered to reflect Stalin’s official version of history. As one historian noted there came a time when his was the only version of history remaining

Today we remove statues and flags because they remind us of our failings. Instead of celebrating and building on progress we punish people for reaching the right conclusions.

Christianity is the only alternative to where the world is heading, because it is the only place where there can be no reconciliation without repenting. It is the only place that can frame divisions in a way that is redemptive. It will be difficult because we are failing the culture that we have been called to transform.

Former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman is a devout Orthodox Jew. During his Vice-Presidential campaign in 2000 he was asked if his religion was a detriment in the Christian Evangelical South. He responded that the emerging divisions were no longer over denominations or religion but between people of faith and those with none.

Keith Ward, retired Regius Professor of Divinity and Canon of Christ Church, Oxford addressed this issue in his book, God, Faith & The New Millennium. He proposes seven areas of framework which include: cooperate for good with all who are committed to the pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness, however different the paths we follow… Christians should be clear, however, that universal salvation of all-if they do not finally reject God- through their coming to share in Christ and the Spirit, does not depend on the Church becoming universally dominant, as though one could only be saved within the Church…All that is required is that is required is that the distinctive witness of the Church turn out to be true.

During the 1994 conference on The Church in a Violent Society sponsored by the Washington Cathedral, panelist George Stephanopoulos, then senior advisor the President Clinton for policy and strategy, stated government cannot be the sole answer, but it can be a partner.

Twenty years later that same government no longer ask for partnership. It has proven itself incapable of doing anything.

It is time for Christianity 911.

Ladson F. Mills III is a priest with over thirty year’s pastoral experience. He is retired and lives with his wife in South Carolina. He currently serves as Scholar in Residence at the Church of Our Saviour, Johns Island. He is a regular contributor to VIRTUEONLINE.

Footprints: The bishop from Karachi

Saturday, August 13th, 2016


SITTING in his office overlooking the famous Wimpole Street in Westminster, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, who in 1994 became the first non-white diocesan bishop at the Church of England and was among the final two candidates to become the Archbishop of Canterbury, remembers with fondness the Karachi of his youth.

The city was home to large communities of Goans, Anglo-Indians, south Indians, and Sindhis. His experience of growing up among Muslims, Hindus, Parsis and Christians equipped him to facilitate interfaith dialogue. “I remember attending Shia commemorations,” he says. “Rather than hostility, there was a desire to learn about various beliefs and practices.”

Bishop Michael was ordained as an Anglican priest at the age of 20 while he was still in Karachi. “At the time, there was a great interest in finding remedies for poverty in Pakistan and Marxism was extremely popular on campuses. Personally, I found Marxism to be characterised by a degree of historical determinism and instead saw joining the church as a means of serving the poor,” he recalls.

During the 1980s, Bishop Michael witnessed Gen Ziaul Haq’s ‘Islamisation’ of Pakistan. He found himself disagreeing with certain measures that were being taken by the government. As a Christian, he says, he could not support laws prescribing punishments that mutilate the human body. The Christian view on punishment takes account of the need for retribution but also makes room for reform and rehabilitation, he explains.

His activism against the Zia government eventually forced him out of the country. Bishop Michael used to be active with the Women’s Action Forum (WAF). In February 1983, WAF and the Women Lawyers’ Association demonstrated outside the Lahore High Court, a few metres from the Lahore Cathedral where Bishop Michael served as priest. When the police started a baton-charge, the cathedral opened its gates for the protesters. “We then shut the gates to protect the demonstrators. That did not sit well with the authorities,” he recalls with a wry smile.

Bishop Michael was also involved in helping brick-kiln workers get educational opportunities. And that did not sit well with the brick-kiln owners. “I am not entirely sure who was responsible but I started getting harassed,” he says.

He decided to move to the UK, where he studied at the University of Cambridge. In 1994, he was appointed the Bishop of Rochester. He has published 12 books on various topics, including comparative literature, comparative philosophy of religion and theology. Since his retirement in 2009, he has been heading the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue. He has also led his church’s dialogue with Al-Azhar University in Egypt and, more recently, with Shia clerics in Iraq.

Interfaith dialogue, he insists, must tackle difficult questions and go beyond socio-political issues to include theological and spiritual questions. In his own work, he has highlighted the relationship between Islamic and Christian mysticism. He explains that Sufis in Egypt and Syria were well acquainted with Christian monasticism and early Sufi literature mentions meetings taking place between Sufis and monks. Sufis refer to the image of monks praying through the night and the light in a monk’s cell is symbolic of illumination in Sufi literature. Jesus Christ is similarly seen by Sufis, especially Maulana Rumi, as the ultimate example of sacrifice, suffering and renunciation.

Asked about the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, Bishop Michael says that the law not only exacerbates the sense of insecurity for many communities, but also contributes to an atmosphere of mistrust and hatred. “Initially, when Christians expressed concerns about the blasphemy law, they were told that the law was made to target a certain other community. I warned a presidential adviser that no matter who the law is intended for, it would affect justice and freedom and no one would be exempt. And this is what happened,” he says.

Bishop Michael contends that he does not think of himself as a minority but as a Pakistani citizen. For him, “our goal should not be minority rights but the creation of a polity where all citizens are equal before the law”.

But social exclusion, he admits, is more difficult to address than legal and official discrimination. He worries about the growing ghetto-isation of communities in Pakistan and says that when people no longer live among neighbours who hold different religious beliefs, it is detrimental to national cohesion.

He laments that the nationalisation of Christian institutions over the last 40 years has left Pakistani Christians socially and economically disadvantaged. “Nationalisation, as was done with Kinnaird College and the Forman Christian College in Lahore, must be reversed,” he says. “Institutions such as Gordon College in Rawalpindi and Murray College in Sialkot remain under government control and this prevents social mobility for young Christian Pakistanis.”

Despite all, Bishop Michael remains optimistic. He says that Christians supported the creation of Pakistan and believed that the new state would guarantee their rights as its founders shared the experiences of being a minority community. “I was born two years after independence and at the time Christians and Muslims worked together to contribute to national life,” he muses. “There were disagreements over religious beliefs but it did not prevent anyone from going to the same schools, hospitals and neighbourhoods. I do not see why this can’t happen again.”

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2016

CANADA: How they voted on the Marriage Canon at the Anglican Church of Canada Synod

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

By David W. Virtue DD
Recently the House of the Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada voted to change their marriage canons to allow homosexual marriage.

Questions about the integrity of the voting process in which Anglicans narrowly rejected a resolution to allow homosexual marriage emerged and then led to a stunning reversal of the result.

To pass, the resolution required two-thirds of each of three orders — lay, clergy and bishops. The clergy failed to reach that threshold by one vote that was apparently not counted because it was counted in the lay order.

The error was discovered after delegates requested a detailed hard copy of the electronic voting records.

Hiltz then declared the resolution in favor of same-sex marriage had passed.

“That is our reality,” Hiltz told stunned delegates. “That the motion is in fact carried in all three orders.”

The Episcopal Church has also gone down the same road on same-sex marriage and met with pushback from the Primates of the Anglican Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury who said there would be consequences. To date there have been none.

It is still not known how this act by the Anglican Church of Canada will play out, but GAFCON Primates have said they will not sit down with TEC bishops at future gatherings of Primates called by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

How they voted can be accessed at this link.

Gunmen attack bishop’s house in Juba

Saturday, August 13th, 2016


Kenyi Frazer

[ACNS] A group of men fired bullets into the house of the assistant bishop of Juba in South Sudan in the early hours of Sunday as they tried to force their way into the building. They fled when Bishop Fraser Yugu’s pet dog began barking and raised the alarm.

Nobody was injured in the incident. But, as they left, the gunmen shot the dog and destroyed the rear windscreen of the bishop’s car that was parked at his compound in Juba’s Hai Kuwait residential area.

The motive of the attackers remains unknown. Christians in the Diocese of Juba have questioned why gunmen would want to storm the house of a clergyman who has maintained a neutral position in the recent political unrest. They have appealed to security forces to “take all necessary measures to protect civilians.”

Bishop Yugu moved to the residence on his appointment as Assistant Bishop of Juba. Previously, he lived in the cathedral compound when he was Dean of All Saints Cathedral.

Juba is the capital of South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011. There has been an upsurge of violence in the region in recent weeks coinciding with the fifth anniversary of independence.


Can We Learn From History

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

By Canon Phil Ashey

Once upon the time there was a bishop–an Anglican bishop–who decided that you couldn’t trust the Bible. He claimed that the Bible was not clear about human sexuality and he rejected the Christian doctrine of marriage between one man and one woman. He wrote that the Bible was not historically trustworthy, and that we ought to prefer our own powers of reason and conscience to know God:

“…the living God, our Father and Friend, is nearer and closer to us than any book can be; that His voice within the heart may be heard continually by the obedient child that listens for it, and that shall be our teacher and guide in the path of duty, which is the path of life, when all other helpers — even the words of the best of books — may fail us.”

In other words, the Bible was among the best of books–one among many. But all those stories about miracles and “divine interventions” and the power of God to change us from the inside out–forget it. Instead, the Bishop began to commend the spiritual mansions one could find in other religions and their teachers.

Since the Bible was not trustworthy on the issue of marriage, the bishop began to openly question other things like the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of all, the reality of God’s judgment for unrepented sin, and more. As his views and teaching became known it caused great controversy within the Churches of the Anglican Communion.

Does this sound familiar? It should. But the Anglican Bishop I’m referring to is not from this century. It’s not John Spong of the Diocese of Newark. Nor is it Michael Ingham of New Westminster, Canada.

The Bishop in question is John Colenso of Natal, South Africa, who wrote and published these things from 1862-1879–more than a hundred years ago! 140 years before Bishops Spong and Ingham, Colenso was challenged by Anglican leaders who believed in the clarity and authority of the Bible.

But wait! There’s more to this story… As it turns out, some Anglican leaders decided to take action against Bishop Colenso’s denial of Biblical clarity and authority. In 1863 Archbishop Gray of Cape Town deposed the unrepentant Bishop Colenso. But Colenso denied the Bishop of Cape Town’s jurisdiction. He appealed to the “Judicial Committee of the Privy Council” in England which delivered a judgment in favor of Colenso. On a technicality, the court ruled that the “letters patent” appointing Colenso preceded those appointing Archbishop Gray over Cape Town. So as a matter of civil law, rather than the principle of archiepiscopal authority, Colenso went on his way.

Archbishop Gray went ahead and solemnly excommunicated Colenso in 1866 and consecrated a bishop in his place who would uphold the clarity and authority of the Bible. Now there were overlapping jurisdictions between the faithful bishop and Colenso. But this still didn’t stop Colenso. Having won in the courts, he decided to press his luck with further litigation. So he again appealed to the courts and won possession of the cathedral and other endowments of the diocese.

In other words, over 100 years before Anglicanism fractured in North America, we had the same elements in play in the Colenso affair: the rejection of Biblical clarity and authority by a diocesan bishop, rejection of Church discipline, overlapping jurisdiction and litigation over church property.Does this sound familiar?

But the story takes yet another familiar turn. Anglican Bishops around the world took offense at Bishop Colenso and the decisions of the civil courts. These actions necessitated a rethinking of authority in Anglicanism. So they appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Longley, to convene a council of bishops that would deal with specific concerns for doctrine and discipline raised by Bishop Colenso’s attack on biblical authority. Here then was an opportunity to implement an ancient, “conciliar” solution to problems of false teaching within a Church in the Anglican Communion. It was a proposal that would have created a “Synod” of the Anglican Communion to deal with matters of faith and order affecting the communion of Anglican Churches.

While Archbishop Longley certainly accepted that bishops were the proper invitees, he steered the meeting clear of being considered a council or Synod by declaring it a “conference” only, with no authority over the autonomous churches, especially the Church of England. Archbishop Longley’s decision was driven by the internal politics of the Church of England at that time. First, his authority as Archbishop of Canterbury to convene such a gathering was not as clear then as it is today. There was a question of which Province in the Church of England took precedence–Canterbury or York? Longley did not want to offend York. On the other hand, the Bishop of London had original jurisdiction over the colonies, and had a keen interest in the affairs of the “colony” of South Africa. So Longley did not wish to offend him either. Archbishop Longley went out of his way to resist any semblance of a council or Synod of bishops with authority over faith and order in the Church. He insisted that his authority was “limited” and therefore the first Lambeth Conference of Bishops (1867) became only an invitation to confer.

In other words, the theological integrity of the Communion of Anglican Churches took a back seat to the internal politics within the Church of England. Biblical clarity and authority within the Communion was sacrificed for the sake of keeping unity within the Church of England.

Over 100 years later the same dynamics are in play. Let us assume that the current Archbishop of Canterbury has a genuine, passionate commitment to “re-evangelize” England. He also wants to keep all of the benefits of an “established” Church, which has a unique public platform (as the established church) for such evangelism of the nation. But he faces a hostile secular culture in which the majority of a younger generation believes in same-sex marriage and finds the traditional Biblical view of marriage immoral. How can the established Church, the voice of morality within the nation, win back this population? The ABC also faces a divided Church, many of whose bishops and clergy no longer believe in the clarity and authority of the Bible. What will he do?

He will do exactly what his predecessors have done over the last 100 years. He will do whatever he needs to do to preserve the “unity” of the Church of England and its establishment, even if it means jettisoning Biblical clarity and authority on the issue of marriage and human sexuality. Like Archbishop Longley, he will checkmate any attempts by bishops to exercise their special responsibility to guard the faith and order of the Church–in Council, in Primates gatherings and in any other way that would upset the fragile “good disagreement” he is seeking to achieve in the Church of England.

And if, as expected, the Church of England does end up approving the recommendations of the Pilling Report, providing at the very least pastoral blessings for same-sex civil partnerships, thereby repudiating teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman, for life… Well, as Canon David Porter, Archbishop Justin Welby’s right-hand man, has reportedly said, it’s better to write off 20% of the Church of England, preserve the 80% of the Church of England who can live with “shared conversations” and “good disagreement,” and live another day for the evangelization of England when the dust settles. [Note: of course, this begs the question of what “gospel” will be left to share, as I will discuss next week.]

And what if Anglicans in the rest of the Communion object? They will have a choice to go down the same road travelled in 1867–to ignore the need for a genuinely conciliar solution to departures from the Christian faith, and to stay in Communion with the Church of England on its terms.

Or, the leaders of the Anglican Communion who believe in genuinely walking together under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and the clarity and authority of God’s word can reject the internal politics of the Church of England.They can rescue the Communion with genuinely conciliar Instruments of Communion. As Paul Valliere notes in The History of Conciliarism, “the gatherings at Lambeth look like episcopal councils, yet they are not. In fact, they were purposely designed not to be councils.” How much longer will faithful Anglican allow the Communion to remain hostage to the internal politics of the Church of England? Why should we repeat history all over again?

The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is President & CEO of the American Anglican Council.