Archive for December, 2009

Rising from the Ashes: The New Anglican Church

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

December 28th, 2009 Posted in Anglican Church in North America, TEC |

By Warren Cole Smith, Crosswalk

According to numbers released in December by the Episcopal Church, that denomination’s membership dropped by 3 percent in 2008. That doesn’t sound like much, but I am a bit of a demographics junkie, plus I researched and examined a lot of church membership and growth data in writing my book A Lover’s Quarrel With The Evangelical Church. I can tell you that I have never heard of a major denomination that has ever lost 3 percent of its membership in a single year.
What’s even more interesting about these numbers is that the Episcopal Church now says it has only about 2 million members in its 7,000-some parishes in the United States. That’s particularly astounding when you consider that the Episcopal Church had 3.5 million on its rolls in 1965—that’s a 43 percent drop from a year when the United States had about half as many people as it does today.
To make these numbers even more troubling (at least, if you’re a leader in the Episcopal Church), is the fact that while there may be 2 million on the rolls, it’s likely that only about 800,000 people actually attend Episcopal Churches on any given Sunday.
Theologically speaking, the Episcopal Church is winding down, too. In 2003, the church consecrated an openly homosexual priest, Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire. Earlier this month, Episcopalians in Los Angeles elected a lesbian priest to the office of bishop—despite warnings from Anglicans around the world that such a move would widen the rift created by the Robinson consecration.
And then there’s the general theological drift of the denomination, which has been going on for 40 years or more. Today it is common for leaders in the Episcopal Church to deny such core Christian doctrines as the Resurrection, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the authority of Scripture, and the Virgin Birth. Conservative Bishop Fitz Allison famously summed up the situation when he said that retired liberal Bishop John Shelby Spong “perjures himself every time he recites the Apostle’s Creed.” One might reasonably wonder by what standard the Episcopal Church might still be called a Christian denomination.

Schism ‘now inevitable’ for Anglican Communion

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

The election of Mary Glasspool will likely put the final nail in the coffin of the Anglican Communion, evangelical leaders warn, and end Archbishop Rowan Williams’ hopes that an Anglican Covenant can hold the communion together.

Elected suffragan bishop of Los Angeles on Dec 5, Canon Glasspool is the first openly gay priest elected to the episcopate in the US following that church’s vote in July to end the ban on gay bishops and blessings.

While evangelical leaders have voiced disapproval with her election, but the level of discord over her election is far below that of Gene Robinson in 2003. South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence observed that it was bound to happen. “I can’t say it surprises me,” he told the Los Angeles Times, adding that the election would further divide an already crippled church.

“Is there anything that can be done to bridge it? No one has come up with it yet,” Bishop Lawrence said.

The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Peter Jensen told The Church of England Newspaper the election was “sad but not surprising.”

Its confirmation “will make clear beyond any doubt whatsoever that the TEC [the Episcopal Church] leadership has chosen to walk in a way which is contrary to scripture and will continue to do so,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the GAFCON primates Dr. Jensen Saturday’s vote “confirms the rightness of GAFCON in producing the Jerusalem Declaration and establishing the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA).”

“The aim of the FCA is to recognise and give fellowship to those who wish to remain faithful to God’s revealed word and also to defend and promote biblical teaching throughout the Communion,” he said, adding that “it is all the more urgent that those who share the aims of the FCA should associate themselves with the movement and express their disapproval of actions which are contrary to scripture and contrary to historic Anglicanism.”

It also gives Dr. Williams “every reason to act decisively and dissociate from the Episcopal Church and to recognise the Anglican Church of North America,” Dr. Jensen said.

The Rev. Rod Thomas of Reform stated that at this point, a “schism is absolutely inevitable” with the communion.

Sydney Bishop Robert Forsyth told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Dec 7 the Anglican Communion “as a united body is now history.”

The election of Canon Glasspool alone did not kill the communion, “it just continues to cement the trajectory towards a restructuring of the Anglican Communion in the world,” he said.

Anglican Mainstream said it was “saddened but not surprised” by the election. “Unless their diocesan bishops and their standing committees decline to endorse the election, it will confirm that TEC had no intention of respecting the mind of the Communion and halting their current trajectory.”

“For any who doubted” the formation of the breakaway Anglican Church in North America was “justified,” this “latest announcement, made in full knowledge of its negative effect on the Communion’s Covenant process, will confirm that TEC, rather than wanting to remain within the Communion’s bonds of affection, is determined to walk away and follow its own path,” Dr Philip Giddings and Canon Chris Sugden said.

Dr. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina observed “this decision represents an intransigent embrace of a pattern of life Christians throughout history and the world have rejected as against biblical teaching.”

“It will add further to the Episcopal Church’s incoherent witness and chaotic common life, and it will continue to do damage to the Anglican Communion and her relationship with our ecumenical partners” he said after the vote on Dec 5.

The greatest damage however, will likely accrue to Dr. Rowan Williams African church leaders tell CEN. The election was not unexpected; “can a leopard change his spots,” one leader said. But those Global South leaders questioned by CEN all spoke of a “profound disappointment” with Dr. Williams’ handling of the crisis, that dates back to the aftermath of the 2007 Dar es Salaam primates meeting.

“I don’t think he completely understands how much trust and good will he lost after his changing of their decisions and the processes they laid out” in Dar es Salaam, a source said. The actions taken by the Global South over the past two years—speaking out, boycotting Lambeth, and breaking fellowship with the Episcopal Church have not had any effect.

The Episcopal Church will not stop, and Dr. Williams will not act, he said.

“The best the provinces can do that care about this is to find like-minded provinces, link up together, and carry on, and leave the others behind,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak on behalf of his primate said. “I think that’s called schism.”

Archbishop of Canterbury welcomes ‘controversial’ Anglican Covenant

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Watch a statement on YouTube here

Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has hailed the publication of a set of guidelines for the Anglican Communion that could see it acquire new members.

Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has hailed the publication of a set of guidelines for the Anglican Communion that could see it acquire new members.

Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury Photo: GETTY

Dr Williams also admitted that parts of the long-awaited Anglican Covenant which deal with sanctions against churches that break traditions or established boundaries are “controversial”.

But he insisted it would not be used to punish either conservatives or liberals in the bitter dispute over sexuality within the 80 million-strong worldwide church.

If the provinces sign up to the document, whose final draft has been published online, they agree not to carry out any contentious actions such as putting their clergy in another country without its agreement, electing openly homosexual priests or blessing same-sex unions in church.

The Covenant allows a body called the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion to resolve disputes and to suspend the membership of provinces that break the rules from gatherings of worldwide leaders such as the Lambeth Conference.

Outside groups are also allowed to sign up to the Covenant, and although their membership of the Communion is not automatic the move could lead to official recognition of new orthodox groups that have been formed in opposition to the liberal Episcopal Church of the USA, such as the Anglican Church of North America.

Dr Williams, the spiritual head of the world’s third-largest Christian denomination, said in a video message: “After several years of work, the proposed covenant for the Anglican Communion has now reached its final form and is being distributed to the provinces for discussion, and I hope it will be adopted by as many provinces as possible.

“It’s quite important in this process to remember what the Covenant is and what it isn’t, what it’s meant to achieve, and what it’s not going to achieve. It’s not going to solve all our problems, it’s not going to be a constitution, and it’s certainly not going to be a penal code for punishing people who don’t comply.

“But what it does represent is this: in recent years in the Anglican family, we’ve discovered that our relations with each other as local churches have often been strained, that we haven’t learned to trust one another as perhaps we should, that we really need to build relationships, and we need to have a sense that we are responsible to one another and responsible for each other. In other words, what we need is something that will help us know where we stand together, and help us also intensify our fellowship and our trust.

“The last bit of the Covenant text is the one that’s perhaps been the most controversial, because that’s where we spell out what happens if relationships fail or break down. It doesn’t set out, as I’ve already said, a procedure for punishments and sanctions. It does try and sort out how we will discern the nature of our disagreement, how important is it? How divisive does it have to be? Is it a Communion breaking issue that’s in question – or is it something we can learn to live with? And so in these sections of the covenant what we’re trying to do is simply to give a practical, sensible and Christian way of dealing with our conflicts, recognising that they’re always going to be there.”

Each member church now has until a meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in 2012 to decide whether to sign up.

Dr Williams said it was “hard to say” what might happen beyond that but added: “The Covenant text itself does make it clear that at some point it’ll be open to other bodies, other Ecclesial bodies as they’re called, other Churches and communities to adopt this Covenant, and be considered for incorporation into the Anglican Communion.”

Many liberals in America’s national church, which elected the first openly homosexual Anglican bishop in 2003 and looks set to ordain its first lesbian prelate, object to the strictness of the Covenant and it is not clear whether it will sign up or what will happen if it does not.

Jim Naughton, an influential voice in the Episcopal Church who works for the diocese of Washington, wrote on his blog: “Who needs it? The bureaucratisation of the bonds of affection is an oxymoronic exercise.

“On the other hand, if getting disinvited from meetings is the stiffest penalty a church would face for following its conscience, I can live with that.”

When will somone stop this rot in the anglican Church?

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

Dear friends let each of us make a personal resolve read and believe the bible in its plain and grammatical sense – THIS billboard does not illustrate THE ANGLICAN WAY!!!!!  This justification on the website of  hIghlights for  all to see how far we have strayed from the biblical story in our thinking and if this was intentded to highlight the “warm fuzzy” feelings of the traditional christmas – all is does is show is the NEW warm fuzzy allinclusive uncrtical god.   webmaster.

St Matthew in the city, Auckland

To make the news at Christmas it seems a priest just needs to question the literalness of a virgin giving birth. Many in society mistakenly think that to challenge literalism is to challenge the norms of Christianity. What progressive interpretations try to do however is remove the supernatural obfuscation and delve into the deeper spiritual truth of this festival.

Christian fundamentalism believes a supernatural male God who lived above sent his sperm into the womb of the virgin Mary. Although there were a series of miraculous events surrounding Jesus’ birth – like wandering stars and angelic choirs – the real miracle was his death and literal resurrection 33 years later. The importance of this literal resurrection is the belief that it was a cosmic transaction whereby the male God embraced humanity only after being satiated by Jesus’ innocent blood.
The Christmas billboard on a local fundamentalist church sums up this thesis. It reads: “Jesus born 2 die 4 u!” His birth was just an h’orderve before the main Calvary course.
No doubt on Christmas Eve when papers print the messages of Church leaders a few of them will serve up this fundamentalist thesis wrapped in a nice story.
Progressive Christianity believes the Christmas stories are fictitious accounts designed to introduce the radical nature of the adult Jesus. They contrast the Lord and Saviour Caesar with the anomaly of a new ‘lord’ and ‘saviour’ born illegitimate in a squalid barn. At Bethlehem low-life shepherds and heathen travelers are welcome while the powerful and the priests aren’t. The stories introduce the topsy-turvy way of God, where the outsiders are invited in and the insiders ushered out.
Progressive Christianity doesn’t overlook Jesus’ life and rush to his death. Rather it sees the radical hospitality he offered to the poor, the despised, women, children, and the sick, and says: ‘this is the essence of God’. His death was a consequence of the offensive nature of that hospitality and his resurrection a symbolic vindication.
The Christmas billboard outside St Matthew-in-the-City lampoons literalism and invites people to think again about what a miracle is. Is the miracle a male God sending forth his divine sperm, or is the miracle that God is and always has been among the poor? The billboard has a sombre Joseph and a consoling Mary, with the caption “Poor Joseph. God is a hard act to follow.”
On Christmas Eve when papers print the messages of Church leaders one or two of them will offer up this progressive thesis, encouraging laughter, generosity, and maybe even controversy.
Fundamentalism believes that Christianity is essentially about individual salvation and admission to an after-life off the planet. What one believes rather than how one behaves is paramount. This planet is merely a testing ground.
Progressive Christianity however emphasizes behaviour above belief. How one treats ones neighbours, enemies, and planet is the essence of faith. The celebration of the birth of Jesus is a celebration of God in every birth and every person.
For fundamentalist Christians the incarnation is about the miraculous arrival of a baby soon to die and by his blood save us. For progressive Christians the incarnation is about the miracle of this planet earth and all life that exists here.
Although fundamentalist and progressive Christianity stand in marked contrast to one another there are many other distinct and interesting theologies on Christmas. Yet the culture of the Church is such that differences are downplayed and commonality extolled. Variety is synthesized into a supposed unity creating a mushy middle way. Most church leaders follow this middle mush approach, trying to say something pertinent without offending anybody.
Progressive Christianity is distinctive in that not only does it articulate a clear view it is also interested in engaging with those who differ. Its vision is one of robust engagement. If every Christian thought the same not only would life be deadly boring but also the fullness of God would be diminished. This is the consequence of its incarnational theology: God is among us; even among those we disagree with or dislike.
One billboard that expresses middle mush reads, “I miss hearing you say ‘Merry Christmas’, and its signed ‘Jesus’. No one can take offense because no one is being asked to do or think anything particularly different, except say ‘Merry Christmas’.
No doubt on Christmas Eve when papers print the messages of Church leaders most of them will serve up this middle mush. Jesus will be born in a palatial sanitized barn and every king and crook, religious and irreligious, will be surrounding him saying ‘Merry Christmas my friends!’ No reader will be asked to do or think anything risky, no reader will be offended, and no reader will write a critical response. They’ll just yawn and turn the page.

Maggie Gallagher: Is Gay Marriage Inevitable?

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

December 16th, 2009 Posted in Gay Marriage |

Maggie GallagherHat Tip: Greg Griffith, Stand Firm

Responding to the piece at Politico by Ben Smith saying that gay marriage is inevitable, noted traditional marriage proponent Maggie Gallagher responds over at National Review with eight reasons why gay marriage it’s not. Among them:

2. Young people are not as unanimous as most people think.

In California, the young-adults vote split 55 percent to 45 percent. Is it so hard to imagine 5 percent of those young people changing their minds as they move through the life cycle?

3. The argument from despair is bait and switch.

They are trying push the idea that gay marriage is inevitable, because they are losing the argument that gay marriage is a good idea.

4. Progressives are often wrong about the future.

Here’s my personal litany: Progressives told me abortion would be a dead issue by today, because young people in 1975 were so pro-choice. They told me there would be no more homemakers at all by the year 2000, because of the attitudes and values of young women in 1975. Some even told me the Soviet Union was the wave of the future. I mean, really, fool me once shame on you. Fool me over and over again . . . I must be a Republican!

Read here

This is not the only tragedy of what we say to the world!!!

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

While some of what is said here is indeed true, sadly too many leaders of Bishop David’s stature do not mention, that Not only did Jesus accept those the rulers of the day did not, but He also said, “go and sin no more”.  There is so little of the transforming power of the Good News of Jesus mentioned today – we have become little more than a politically correct blessing service for the social services of the day!

The Tragedy of what Christians do in the Name of Christ –

A Christmas Reflection By Bishop David Russell

The birth of Jesus is a time when we focus on the meaning and message of his life. Christians believe that God came to us in Jesus to bring a message of new life and hope in situations of darkness (inhumanity) – “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome the light” (what is good, humane and just). We proclaim a God who is merciful and loving, who did not reject but rather embraced lepers and those ‘outside the Law’. Jesus is their friend.

It therefore comes as a terrible irony when Christians not only fall short in witnessing to this example of Jesus, but over and above this, actually feed cruel and rejecting attitudes in the very name of Jesus – often quoting from sacred texts. We are all familiar with the long years of the demeaning and destructive apartheid policies, and the way its ideology and practice were supported in the name of the Christian faith. We are also familiar with the horrendous history of anti-semitism so often underpinned and justified in the name of Christ.

Similarly, we are familiar with the way in which persons of gay and lesbian orientation have been dehumanised and cruelly rejected down the ages in the name of Jesus and his Gospel. Right now the Ugandan Parliament is about to pass a draconian “Anti-Homosexuality Law”. As in many countries around the world same-sex behaviour is already illegal, but zealous MPs in Uganda want to make the law even more severe. Those persons who continue to live in a faithful same-sex partnership, for example, will become liable for the death sentence. (We are not simply talking here about promiscuous behaviour, gay or straight). The legislation goes further to a bizarre degree: those family members and friends who fail to report such behaviour, also become liable for stiff prison sentences. The harsh and rejecting attitudes are by no means confined to the present extremes in the Ugandan Parliament. Historically, have not the churches fed such attitudes in significant ways through their traditions of biblical interpretation?

One of the great theologians of the last century, Karl Ranher, writing in the 80s, reflected prophetically: “Three hundred years ago people in our part of the world burned witches…Today this mass frenzy no longer exists in the Church – yet do we know for certain that there aren’t other forms of mass frenzy in which the Church is naively colluding? Among those who took part in the frenzy back then, there were holy, learned and devout folk of good will who failed to see how much their actions contradicted the gospel of Jesus……My God, have mercy upon us poor, narrow-minded, sinful fools, on us who form the body of Your Church.” (p149 ‘Karl Rahner Spiritual Writings’).

Rahner’s word is deeply relevant to what we are reflecting on here.

Is this treatment of gay and lesbian persons really what Jesus is calling for? What an unbelievable thought. Yet there are churches and Christian groupings around the world committed to supporting such harsh laws. The secular world rightly looks on aghast at what is done in the name of the Good News – the teaching of Jesus. Has not something gone seriously wrong with the way certain churches are applying Scripture to these issues? Do not certain approaches and ways of interpreting Scripture need to be revisited? We certainly need to reflect again, and more deeply.

We can find some clue in turning to the Apostle Peter in his dilemma – when he was taken totally out of his depth, by events – by what the Spirit was doing with Cornelius, and within himself. “You yourselves know very well that a Jew is not allowed by his religion to visit or associate with Gentiles. But God has shown me…” (Book of Acts 10 &11), and we follow this amazing unfolding of a radical shift in the Tradition and in their understanding of the teachings and requirements of Scripture.

It is time we recognised that the Spirit has been, and is, touching the lives of gay and lesbian Christians. They (many in stable partnerships, and active members of their congregations) are saying: “We are here”. Can we as fellow Christians in the Body, really say: “We don’t accept the way you are”? Is this really what the Lord is saying? Must they be rejected and disciplined for believing that they experience the peace of God and his blessing of their partnerships of faithful commitment?

In his dialogue with the pharisees, as presented in the Gospels, Jesus questioned their assumptions about “by what authority” (by what ‘right’) he acted. The ecclesiastical authorities of his day were frustrated and angered by his emphasis on human dignity, pastoral sensitivity and need, as criteria for assessing whether some action was ‘of God’ or not. It would seem that their understanding of ‘what the Law required’ was being challenged by Jesus in terms of some very basic human values. We would say: values that reflect the character and heart of God.

At this time as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, let us reflect on the tragedy of the wrongs we have done in his Name. May it be a time in which we rededicate ourselves to follow Jesus in befriending those who have been marginalized and rejected, leaving no one outside the embrace of his love.

Britain on course for first woman bishop

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Dr Alison PedenBy Ruth Gledhill, Timesonline

Oxford graduate Dr Alison Peden has been chosen as one of three candidates for the vacant episcopal see of Glasgow and Galloway in Scotland. If she is elected on 16 January, she will become the UK’s first woman bishop. It would in many ways be fitting for Scotland to be the first UK province to have a woman bishop. The US had the first one in the world, Barbara Harris, who incidentally was nominated back in the 1970s by Mary Glasspool, now lesbian bishop-elect in Los Angeles. Scotland and the US church go back generations. After the American Revolution, the Bishop of London, who had previously ruled over the American church as if it was a far-away London parish of little importance, refused to give newly-independent US Episcopalians a bishop of their own. So they went to Scotland, which duly obliged. The surprising thing about Scotland is that it has taken this long to put a woman on a shortlist after their General Synod voted in favour back in 2003.

You can read some of her sermons here.

In Lent 2007, somewhat prophetically, she preached: ‘The doomsday of the moment is global warming. I can remember at my secondary school hearing the first discussions about ‘ecology’ (as it was called then). It’s taken a while – a fair amount of ‘putting it off’ – to put pollution and conservation at the top of the agenda. But most people accept that action cannot be delayed, and climate change shows that time is running out. We seem to be prepared to act, to save our own skins, our houses, our landscape. The threat is severe enough.

Read here