An interesting opinion piece from the London Times about the way mission has changed in the Anglican communion. (Dr. Livingston I presume? Stanley is wearing the very "cool" hat)
"Christianity is not only becoming increasingly non-white; it is also becoming increasingly female. The average Anglican in our world today is black, female and in her late teens or early twenties. So, I must tell my friend that today missiology is no longer a “white man’s theology”." http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article4359782.ece
"James Tramel went from convicted murderer to priest while in prison, a transformation that the Episcopal Church used to successfully lobby for his parole and celebrate him before politicians and the press. But the church is now grappling with the sexual abuse of a parishioner under his care. Tramel has been suspended for sexual misconduct, temporarily stripped of his priestly authority and left searching for a new job."
"In his most strongly-worded statement yet on the crisis that has engulfed the church globally, Pope Benedict XVI strayed from a prepared homily to castigate abusive clergy and other Catholic personnel for their crimes.
"Dr Rowan Williams is to be lobbied by liberals who are dominating the ten-yearly Lambeth Conference, because more than 200 traditionalist bishops have boycotted the gathering as a result of divisions on gay clergy and women bishops.
He will be told that the process of conservative American clergy opting out of their national body and becoming bishops in African and South American churches goes against tradition and must be stopped."
"Rowan Williams likes to tell the story of Pope John XXIII, who woke up worrying about a problem. He said to himself: “I'll consult the Pope about that.” Then he thought: “Wait a minute, I am the Pope.”
The Archbishop may reflect in days to come, as he tries to avert schism in an unravelling Anglican Communion, on the vicissitudes of his job."
I am writing this pastoral letter to every member of the parish. I want to describe what is going on in the diocese and my response to it, as well as what I believe is best for St. Michael's. Ultimately we will need to make this decision together.
The Anglican Communion is divided into 38 autonomous geographical provinces of which the Episcopal Church is the manifestation in the United States. In the spring of 2007, Bishop Duncan began to lay the groundwork for the diocese to realign with an overseas province because he believes that there is no future in the Episcopal Church. His view is that the Episcopal Church has moved so far from orthodoxy that it is no longer recognizable as Christian. The mechanism for this realignment is a series of resolutions through the diocesan convention. Diocesan convention is an elected body comprised of every resident member of the clergy as well as laity elected by the parish vestry to represent the parish. Each parish has a certain number of deputies depending on its size. (St. Michael's will have three deputies this year: Nancy Rost, Ray Speicher, and Ellen Wathen.) The Convention will need to pass a constitutional change which takes the diocese out from under the Episcopal Church. Our constitution requires that this pass at two successive conventions. In November of 2007 the first “reading” passed; the second is scheduled for October 4, 2008. If that change passes, then a canon will be proposed aligning the diocese with the Province of the Southern Cone. The proposed resolutions can be found at:
The Bishop's plan is an unprecedented action and the Episcopal Church is claiming that the diocese does not have the right to leave for the Southern Cone. The Bishop is claiming that, if the realignment passes, every congregation of the diocese is automatically realigned. Parishes wishing to remain in the Episcopal Church would have to declare such and those who wish to realign would need to change their parish by-laws to remove all references to the Episcopal Church. The polity of the Episcopal Church is that of a representative government. The parish has elected vestry members to make decisions regarding the life of the parish. Consequently, it will be the vestry who will make the decision about what we do as a parish. If we wish to remain in the Episcopal Church we would do so by a vestry vote. However, if the vestry should vote to realign, a subsequent parish meeting would be required to change the by-laws of the parish to reflect the realignment. In essence then, a vote to stay in the Episcopal Church can be made by the vestry but a vote to realign would have to be ratified by a majority of the congregation.
Where I Stand
Some in the congregation have asked me why I have changed my mind about my stance regarding the Episcopal Church. I have not changed my stance; the diocesan leadership has. For the twenty-three years of my ordained ministry I have worked diligently to bring a conservative witness to the Episcopal Church. I have been integral to the founding of several organizations that sought to do so and, as a deputy to six General Conventions, I have worked to retain orthodox values in the denomination. It is the diocesan leadership which has changed course and now seeks to leave the Church that nourished them in the faith. I am aware that there is much that is wrong in the Episcopal Church, much that needs to be corrected. I believe that I, as an ordained member of the church, and we, as a congregation of the same church, have a responsibility to stand for the faith once received. My vision for my ministry and that of St. Michael's is to continue to be that witness. At the same time I believe that there is much strength and health in the Episcopal Church. It is tempting to take the more extreme anecdotes about the church and universalize them, but that would not accurately describe the wider reality. It is my observation that the vast majority of people in the pews, and those who lead them, are creedal Christians who believe what the church has always believed. Will such a witness lead to reform? I can't guarantee it. But I do know that if we leave the Episcopal Church without such a witness, it will be the poorer for it.
The days ahead will be challenging but I firmly believe that the best way forward is for us to remain in the Episcopal Church and to remain together. Dioceses operate as autonomous entities and the Presiding Bishop and the General Convention have very little power to dictate what we believe or practice. Only canonical changes on a national level or changes to the Book of Common Prayer would have an effect on the parish or diocese and as of now no changes have occurred (or been proposed) that would place my conscience or the conscience of the parish in a bind. We are free to preach and practice the gospel as we always have and will be able to continue to do so in the future. Dioceses obviously operate under the authority of a bishop and there is some concern that the diocese which remains in the Episcopal Church would experience severe innovations under new leadership. I do not think that will happen. Many of us are meeting on a regular basis to plan for the future if the diocese should realign. It is clear that while the diocese will certainly look different, there will still be a conservative majority and I am confident that the next bishop will be reflective of that. Those who are seeking to remain in the Episcopal Church have met with representatives of the Presiding Bishop's office and I have been encouraged by the tone of those meetings. It is clear that they are seeking to aid us in the days ahead, not dictate some particular course of action. I know that there are those among us who feel differently. Some think that realignment would be a good idea and want to follow the Bishop. There are others who do not want to follow the Bishop or the Episcopal Church but would rather take a third option and walk away from the property and start over again. As I stated above, I think the best course of action is for us to stay together at least for the short term. If the realignment passes, we will then see how a continuing diocese is reorganized and whether we can in good conscience remain in the Episcopal Church. I believe we can. I know that there will be some for whom this is untenable, who feel that the Episcopal Church is no longer a place they want to be. I want you to know that I understand this and that my desire for everyone is that they be in a place where they can be nourished spiritually. If some are feeling called to another course of action it is my hope that they will do so in a way that honors the deep and abiding relationships that we have formed here over the decades. This Sunday the Gospel lesson is Matthew 13:24-43. In that parable a man sows good seed in a field. When the wheat begins to mature, it is discovered that weeds are growing among it. The servants ask the master if they should remove the weeds. The master says no because doing so would uproot some of the wheat which then will be lost as well. He tells them to let the wheat and the weeds grow together. Jesus then goes on to say that the wheat represents the faithful and the weeds are the children of the evil one. The point of the parable is that it is God's responsibility, not ours, to separate wheat and weeds. We are to be faithful in our growth towards God and in maturing into the men and women he created us to be. God will deal with the unfaithful. Are there weeds in the Episcopal Church? Most certainly, but there is also much wheat. Is it difficult to live in a weedy environment? Yes, but for decades St. Michael's has been, a place of healthy spiritual growth, a place where the wheat thrives, and a parish which bears witness to the rest of the Kingdom to what the Gospel can do. I want that to continue, as I know you do. I ask you to continue to be in prayer about the days ahead. Pray for the vestry and for our bishop. Pray for wisdom about our course, courage to follow God's will, and grace to deal with each other during these days.
From The Philadelphia Inquirer some interesting quotes about the openinf retreat and the conference itself. Including this one from Geralyn Wolf (pictured (George Conger Photo)).
"Details of those talks were not released. But Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island said the archbishop of Canterbury spoke about how bishops must "call everyone together."
"Many people want us as bishops to align ourselves to one group or another," she said, summarizing his remarks. "But as bishops we must say there is more than just being on one man's side. You have to make decisions for the good of the whole. There's not just one way.""
"He described the church as a "wounded body" and went on: "It's a great grief that many of our brothers and sisters in the Communion have not felt able to be with us for these weeks, a grief because we need their voice and they need ours in learning Christ together.
"I respect and accept the decisions that have been made, but together we need in prayer to acknowledge the wound that that makes in our fellowship and to acknowledge that we still have to mend relations that have been hurt.""
"THE Lambeth Conference opened this week in Canterbury on a rising tide of support for the Archbishop of Canterbury. The final number of bishops stands at just over 650 out of a possible 880 (though an unknown number of these sees are vacant). Absentees are from the provinces of Nigeria, Uganda, and Rwanda. A number of bishops from Kenya, requested to stay away by their Archbishop, the Most Revd Benjamin Nzimbi, have made their way towards Canterbury. The Bishop of Owerri, a sole bishop from Nigeria, where all the 100 bishops have been ordered to stay away by their Archbishop, said he intended to come anyway, for unity’s sake."
Over on the left coast the Methodists are having their own problems.
"Scores of United Methodist Church ministers in California are putting their careers on the line in an open revolt against religious edicts that forbid them to conduct weddings for gay and lesbian couples. "
Today is the feast day of William White (pictured) the first Bishop if Pennsylvania which at that time included Pittsburgh. (The Diocese of Pittsburgh was not created until 1866). In the nearly fifty years he was bishop, White made only one visit to Pittsburgh in 1825 (some say against his will). He visited a number of churches and did confirmations. His coming west had an enormously important effect on the people of the region. In his convention address of 1887 the Bishop of Pittsburgh, Cortlandt Whitehead, spoke about Bishop White's visit over 60 years before. What follows is an excerpt from that address.
"Indeed the impulse given by that single visit of Bishop White in 1825 has never been permitted to lose its force. At that time there were but ten clergymen within the region now composing the Diocese of Pittsburgh. They were as follows:
The Rev. John P. Bailsman, Jr., Fayette County. The Rev. John H. Hopkins, Trinity Church, Pittsburgh. The Rev. Rob't Ayres, Brownsville. The Rev. Francis Reno, Beaver County. The Rev. John Taylor, Pittsburgh. The Rev. Moses P. Bennett, Kittanning and Butler. The Rev. Charles Smith, Meadville. The Rev. H. H. Peiffer, Brownsville. The Rev. D. C. Page, Greensburg. The Rev. Wm. R. Bowman, Brownsville.
There were five parishes organized, (Trinity, Pittsburgh; Christ Church, Meadville; Christ Church, Brownsville; St. John's, Franklin, and Christ Church, Greensburg;) but it is difficult if not impossible to ascertain exactly the number of congregations which these ten clergymen served. Bishop White seems to have visited Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Connellsville, and Brownsville, besides Wheeling, in Virginia, and several places in Central Pennsylvania. He confirmed over two hundred candidates, almost all of them the first fruits of the ministry of the Rev. John H. Hopkins, afterwards Bishop of Vermont. From that visit the Church in Western Pennsylvania renewed its hope for the future."
This is a wonderful and encouraging piece from Christianity Today about Tim Russert. Tim's faith was the hallmark of his personality and he carried that faith with grace and integrity. Consequently, people were drawn to him, not in spite of, but because of his religious convictions. Worth the read. Thanks to David Wilson for sending this along.
"Most amazing to me was the repeated description of Tim Russert as a man of faith. To hear his peers talk, Russert’s Christian faith was as authentic and natural as his love for the Buffalo Bills. It was an integral part of who he was. What’s more, Russert’s co-workers were not uncomfortable about his openness regarding his faith."
Here's the Associated Press article on the opening of Lambeth (from the Miami Herald).
"The 650 or so church leaders who are participating are a mix of traditionalists and liberals with divergent ideas on what Anglicans should believe. Overseeing the get-together is Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the Anglican spiritual leader. As the "first among equals," he has no authority to force a compromise. Still, he bears the heavy burden of trying to keep the centuries-old communion together."
"Church officials said that 230 of the 880 Bishops in the Anglican worldwide communion were staying away from the Lambeth conference being staged in the English cathedral city of Canterbury, spiritual home of the deeply divided church. Bishops from Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda, who boast some of the fastest-expanding congregations in the Anglican church, were among those who pledge to snub the conference."
(My friend Henry Orombi Archbishop of Uganda is Pictured)
Pope Benedict has written to Rowan Williams and the gathered Bishops at Lambeth encouraging them to find a way forward and to avoid schism. (Where can I get me one of them hats?)
"In a message to Dr Rowan Williams, sent from Australia where Benedict XVI is attending World Youth Day, the Pope said: "The words and the message of Christ are what offer the real contribution to Lambeth and only in being faithful to the message ... and God's words can we find a mature way ... to find a road together.”"
An audio piece from the BBC on the Bishop's opening retreat for Lambeth. They're dealing with the question, "How do you build relationships or community". Paintball is suggested but I wouldn't hold my breath.
Earlier in the week I mentioned a letter that Ephraim Radner had sent to the Lambeth Bishops. Ephraim is a thoughtful theologian and one of the drafters of the proposed Anglican Covenant. The letter can be found here-
The London Daily telegraph has picked up on the letter and the article about it and Lambeth's possible response reads in part
"The Anglican Church is facing the "most perilous crisis" in its history due to disagreements over gay clergy as it meets for the Lambeth Conference this week, traditionalists have warned." Its all here-
The Episcopal Church web site has a short list of Bishops who will be blogging during the Lambeth Conference. (Unfortunately Bishop Peter Cook - shown left - is not one of them). The list can be found here - http://episcopalchurch.typepad.com/lambethjournal/
First Things is a conservative Journal on Christianity. Here is a frank analysis of what Lambeth needs to do and the theological differences inherent in the conference. It reads in part -
"As Rowan Williams recently put it, the crisis is such that Anglicans are no longer sure that they can recognize each others’ ministries, or even that they are speaking the same language of faith. If the bishops at Lambeth in 2008 are unable to state that such incoherence cannot be the basis of Anglicanism, then the Communion’s devolution will continue–and the expansion of this sort of doctrinal free-for-all is precisely what many liberal bishops (particularly those from North America) hope to see." http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=1118
"For 140 years, the bishops of the Anglican Communion have come together every ten years or so and for most of that time the gathering has been the only visible evidence of the unity of the Communion. This summer it will provide evidence as well of disunity; as many as a quarter of the bishops have declined their invitations from the archbishop of Canterbury, refusing to sit down with other bishops whose theology they have condemned."
(Archbishop Longley who presided over the first Lambeth is pictured.)
In 2003 ten dioceses met in Ft. Worth to form the Anglican Communion Network. I was privileged to have been a part of this gathering and a signer of the Network Charter. At the time of its creation the Network was to provide a safe place for conservatives of varying stripes to be and to remain in the Episcopal Church. However, as Bishop John Howe comments in the following article, The Network has increasingly moved away from its original vision and towards one of separation from The Episcopal Church. The Diocese of Central Florida was one of the founding dioceses of the Network. In the July edition of the Diocesan Newspaper, Bishop Howe has announced that the diocese will no longer send money to the Network. This is a significant break from an organization that has been claiming a high degree of unity among its members.
The pdf of the paper can be found at the link below. Scroll down to the second page. The letter appears under the title "According to John
"The head of the Anglican Church in the US has said that her church has embarrassed other parts of the Anglican Communion with its approach to sexuality.
"We've had to talk about issues of human sexuality publicly. That's culturally seen as inappropriate in many other parts of the Communion," she said. "We have embarrassed other parts of the Communion because we need to talk about these issues publicly. That's the biggest challenge - to figure out how to live together as a family of churches.""
It would seem that the GAFCon folks need to get their story straight since many GAFCon participants are at Lambeth. Peter Akinola (pictured with Rowan Williams) Archbishop of Nigeria is quoted below-
"He told a press conference in Lagos last week, and referred to the rival Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in the Holy Land in June. “Those of us who will abide with the Word of God, come rain, come fire, are those who are in GAFCON. Those who say it does not matter are the ones who are attending Lambeth.""
"THE Archbishop of Canterbury was in defiant mood this week, as he spoke of his hopes for the Lambeth Conference. He was positive about its strong mission agenda, which he believes should put into perspective the debate about sexuality."
The Lambeth Conference starts on Wednesday and runs through August 3rd. The conference meets once every ten years and gathers diocesan Bishops from around the world. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the Primate of Canada (pictured) gives an introduction to Lambeth. This is a nine-minute You Tube video. It’s a little slow (I thought is could have used a car chase) but if you want a basic description of the conference, what a typical day looks like, and an explanation of the mysterious indaba process its worth the time. Find it here -
Josh Hamilton hit a record 28 Home runs in the first round of last night's Home Run Derby. For those of you out there who are soccer fans, a typical round is 6 - 8 home runs. When he came in after his hitting, the first thing he did was thank God. Josh's story is one of redemption. He went from top prospect to drug addict to broke (going through over 3 million dollars in the process). It was his experience with God that turned him around. As one of the announcers said last night "It’s a lousy night to be an atheist". An older story about Josh's conversion can be found here (he's now with the Texas Rangers)
Yesterday I posted two short articles about two local teens killed in a one car accident Saturday night. Below is a longer piece which ran in the paper this morning. Brandon is #22 at left. My two girls went to high school with Brandon and Ross. For those of you who don't know Ligonier, the High School graduates a little over 100 seniors a year. This kind of tragedy touches pretty much everyone. Keep the families in your prayers.
There is a common perception that the Episcopal Church does not discipline clergy who are guilty of infractions. Ever since the days of Bishop James Pike and his "heresy" trial there has been the illusion that we have an aversion to public trials or discipline. However, that is not always the case and there are several recent encouraging developments. Last year, Ann Holmes Reading, an Episcopal Priest serving in Washington State announced that she was also a Muslim. Her Bishop, Geralyn Wolf, of Rhode Island asked her to turn in her collar. Now the Bishop of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), Charles Bennison (pictured), has been found guilty for behavior from decades ago. Read about it here -
A Church Times piece by Bishop Tom Wright. (Gotta love the cartoon)
"THE DANGER of GAFCON is that the rhetoric — “the Communion’s finished” — could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Some of the organisers actually seem to want a Lambeth Conference robbed of lively, orthodox bishops from around the world, so that they can point to the results and say: “There you are: told you so.”"
From the Telegraph a list of (in their opinion) the 50 most influential Anglicans. A pretty diverse list including those who are committed to staying and those who have already left. Archbishop Rowan is #1 The Presiding Bishop is #2, followed by Peter Akinola and Gene Robinson. You can follow the links to see all 50.
The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner (another friend committed to the Anglican Church) is extremely thoughtful and incisive. Ephraim was part of the committee that drafted the covenant document which will be considered at Lambeth. He has written to the bishops attending Lambeth outlining what he thinks would be helpful. He pushes and challenges, I think, appropriately. Ephraim is #50 on the Telegraph's list above. Thanks to Bruce Robison for sending this my way
Neither of these young men were members of the parish but this kind of trauma ripples through a small town. Please pray for the Boyds and the Gibsons and for the many families at St. Michael's who are affected by this tragedy.
Give rest, O Christ, to your servants with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.
An interesting piece in the Sunday Times about an innovative approach to religion and talk radio.
“If someone who listens to Howard Stern happens to turn to the Catholic Channel one day and doesn’t realize for a couple of minutes that what he’s listening to is the Catholic Channel, well, I’m not going to be upset about that.”