"Despite all our differences we are passionately committed to walking together." So said a pastoral statement approved June 10 by the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada on the issue of same-gender blessings. And it may mark the beginning of a new spirit and approach to a question that has divided the church in recent years.
Unlike past General Synods, triennial meetings of the church's governing body, where both those in favor of and opposed to same-sex blessings proposed resolutions and tried to win in parliamentary style debates, the members of General Synod 2010 were encouraged to try a new approach of small-group discussion with the aim of producing a pastoral statement.
The result is a document that acknowledges continuing differences within the church on the issue, and says "at this time, we are not prepared to make a legislative decision." The statement instead committed the church to more dialogue. This compromise left both sides wanting more, but there was a new and surprising level of support from both sides, and the statement was approved by a large majority within the 350-member synod made up of lay people, clergy and bishops.
The statement was crafted through a series of discussions in small groups of about 15 to 24 people. Feedback was recorded, summarized and reported back to the synod as a whole before another round of discussions. Comments from that round of discussions was then woven into a draft statement by members of the faith, worship and ministry committee and presented to General Synod members. The committee aimed to reflect accurately the various views, and the statement acknowledged that the compromise may be difficult for both sides to accept.
THE Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States have both spoken of their “concerns” and “distress” at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s plans to impose sanctions on provinces that have breached the moratoria on gay bishops, same-sex unions, and cross-border interventions (News, 28 May).
Dr Williams announced the sanctions — which amount to excluding provinces from ecumenical dialogues and stripping them of some decision-making powers — in his Pentecost letter to the Anglican Communion. He took the action in response to the consecration of an openly lesbian bishop, the Rt Revd Mary Glasspool, in the Episcopal Church in the US last month (News, 21 May).
As part of the follow-up to the Pentecost letter, the secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Canon Kenneth Kearon, announced on Monday that he has written to members of the Episcopal Church serving in the inter-Anglican ecumenical dialogues, “informing them that their membership of these dialogues has been discontinued”.
Canon Kearon has also written to the Canadian Primate to “ask whether its General Synod or House of Bishops has formally adopted policies that breach the second moratorium in the Windsor report, authorizing public rites of same-sex blessing”.
The Anglican Church of Canada is holding its General Synod this week, where a great deal of time has been spent in “discernment” sessions on human sexuality. A number of Canadian dioceses have already moved towards blessings of same-sex unions.
Most of the lay leaders of the largest and most influential Episcopal church in South Texas said Friday they will resign next week as they contemplate whether to leave the denomination — a move that could lead to a split in the church as well. Ten of the 16 people on Christ Episcopal Church’s vestry informed the congregation they no longer in good conscience can be leaders in a denomination they believe has strayed from Scripture. One example is the national church’s approval of gay and lesbian clergy.
The vestry members’ decision comes about a month after the church’s rector, the Rev. Chuck Collins, announced his retirement for the same reason.
The Episcopal Church is the U.S. body of the worldwide Anglican Communion, but the two have grown apart over doctrinal differences.
Like Christ Church, conservative parishes across the country are debating how to respond to the national body’s view of the Bible.
“For me, once I was no longer able to feel like we could reform the national church and became defensive in nature, that’s when I realized that my time was up, and I had to do what the Lord had asked me to do,” said Greg King, who will resign Monday.
The clergy of Southwark diocese distance themselves from Bishop Schori’s teaching and presiding in the cathedral.
Sir, We wish to express our concern over the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA), Katherine Jefferts Schori, preaching and presiding at Holy Communion in our cathedral at Southwark tomorrow.
Bishop Schori is well known for her doctrinal statements and practice that are contrary to the teaching of the Bible. She is also well known for initiating many litigations against orthodox congregations within the Episcopal Church and defrocking doctrinally orthodox bishops and clergy, so exacerbating disunity in the Anglican communion. Only recently she defied the instruments of the Anglican communion by reneging on the agreement made by the Episcopal Church to abide by the moratorium regarding the consecration of actively gay and lesbian bishops.
We, the undersigned clergy of Southwark diocese, distance ourselves from Bishop Schori’s teaching and presiding in our cathedral. We seriously question the judgment of those who have not withdrawn their invitation to her after her recent consecration of Mary Glasspool.
The California Supreme Court agreed this week to hear St. James Anglican Church's appeal in a six-year property dispute with the Episcopal Church that began with the appointment of a gay cleric.
Newport Beach's St. James Church holds that it has a constitutional right to defend itself with evidence in court following a March decision by the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Third Division, which decided in favor of the Episcopal Church.
The church on 32nd Street broke away from the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles in 2004 after the Episcopal Church consecrated a gay bishop.
[St. James] feels very strongly that the property belongs to them and that it's very important that other churches to be able to make a religious decision to change their affiliation," Eric Sohlgren, the attorney for St. James, said Thursday. "Churches should not lose their property because of a religious choice."
St. James has held the deed to the property and paid for all maintenance and building projects since the mid-1950s, Sohlgren said, yet the Episcopal Church maintains that all churches nationwide are in fact held in trust to the church.
Reacting to the ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court issued this morning, the Rev. John Yates, leader of the breakaway congregation at The Falls Church, sent a letter to his followers calling the ruling "a very disappointing result, to be sure." He added that by having the case remanded to the Fairfax Circuit Court where "the Episcopal Church and the Diocese must still carry the burden of showing, apart from the division statute (which the Supreme Court ruled did not apply in this case -- ed.) that they are the rightful owners of this property."
The "property" referenced is the historic Falls Church in the center of the City of Falls Church, which Yates and his breakaway group has held onto since voting to defect from the Episcopal denomination in December 2006.
Meanwhile today, in an exclusive interview with the News-Press, the Rev. Michael Pipkin, leader of the "continuing Episcopalians," members of The Falls Church who did not chose to defect and who've been locked out of The Falls Church by the defectors, said he hoped that while the case has been remanded back to the lower court, that a reconciliation between the two congregations could occur, and that arrangements could be made for his "continuing Episcopalians" to also worship on the campus of The Falls Church, specifically at 10 a.m. on Sundays in the historic chapel of the church, which is now not being used for any other purpose.
A swiftly-assembled gathering of more than two dozen among those who've remained faithful as "continuing Episcopalians" for more than three years while breakaway congregants from The Falls Church occupied the historic church in the downtown section of the City of Falls Church celebrated tonight the Virginia Supreme Court decision overturning a lower court ruling supporting the breakaway group's claim to the property.
Hymns were sung, prayers were recited and members of the tight-knit group were invited by the Rev. Michael Pipkin to "tell their stories" of their part in the over three years of maintaining their cohesion in face of an "exile" from their home church. As usual, the group met in the fellowship hall of the Falls Church Presbyterian Church, located across E. Broad Street from The Falls Church.
While the court case remains far from over, the cornerstone of the legal argument made by the breakaway group was declared inapplicable by the Supreme Court. "Continuing Episcopalian" congregants last night expressed hope and optimism that they'll regain access to the property, which has been denied them by the occupying breakaway group, which left the Episcopal denomination in December 2006 and subsequently affiliated with a group called the Council of Anglicans in North America (CANA) led by Nigerian Bishop Akinola.
Tonight's service was attended by loyal F.C. "continuing Episcopalian" members Falls Church Mayor Robin Gardner and former Superintendent of Falls Church Schools Dr. Warren Pace and their respective spouses. Founding member of the Falls Church School System Jesse Thackrey is also a member of the group, but was not there tonight.
Virginia's Supreme Court struck a blow to Anglican conservatives Thursday, ruling against nine congregations who split from the Episcopal Church after a series of doctrinal disputes that culminated with the 2003 installation of an openly gay bishop.
At issue are tens of millions of dollars in church property and symbolic momentum for dueling movements in the Anglican Communion.
The unanimous decision by the five-judge panel dismissing a lower court ruling that favored conservatives is not likely to end the dispute for the nine church properties. The panel simply found that a Civil War-era law governing how property is divided when churches split was wrongly applied to the current dispute. The panel sent the parties back to Fairfax County Circuit Court for a second, parallel case that focuses on who owns the properties. The case is expected to be more complex and messy.
It's not pretty to see people fight about property.
The three-year-old legal dispute over nine Virginia churches is no exception, with the credentials of Anglican conservative priests being yanked by the Episcopal Church and conservatives threatening Episcopal leaders with trespass if found on the disputed properties. All this happened after the congregations, mostly in Northern Virginia, voted in 2006-2007 to break away from the Episcopal Church, which conservative congregants believe has strayed dangerously from Christianity.
Since the votes (which launched the legal cases), the small groups of people in some of the churches who wanted to remain Episcopalians have met in other churches and in coffee shops, waiting for the case to be resolved. Today the Virginia Supreme Court ruled against the conservatives, but the case will likely go on for months or years more.
The emotional ante got upped by the small Episcopal groups today, when the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia asked the Anglicans, who control the disputed properties: Can we share?
An attempt for both groups to use the disputed buildings didn't go well just after the votes, when the conservatives were trying to establish clear ownership (in court and in the court of public opinion) and said no. John Yates, rector of the large, prestigious Falls Church and a global leader of traditional Anglicans, said the refusal was only because it was hard to coordinate worship times. Then the conservatives sent diocesan officials a letter threatening them with trespass arrest if they came on the property.
There's big news from the Virginia Supreme Court today, which Post religion writer Michelle Boorstein reports has sided with the Episcopal Church in its long-running dispute over church property with conservative breakaway congregations.
It's a fascinating case that had the court parsing a 19th century law to determine whether the congregations had a fundamental division. The court's opinion potentially impacts millions of dollars in church property and could play a role in the national schism within the Episcopal Church over the consecration of gay bishops and the performing of same-sex marriages. (The justices remanded the case back to Fairfax Circuit Court.)
The case and its surrounding issues is also one that has some long tentacles into the Virginia political world. As Attorney General, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) in 2008 joined the case on the side of the breakaway congregations, defending the Virginia statute on church splits when the Church argued it was unconstitutional.Church lawyers had contended that the statute meant the state was meddling in religious disputes to determine when a church has experienced a fundamental divide, a violation of church and state.
McDonnell opposed that point of view, defending the statute before the Fairfax Circuit Court, intervening while the case was still at the local level, in a move legal experts had characterized as unusual.
The Fairfax judge agreed with McDonnell that the law was constitutional and then sided with the breakaway church -- the latter half of the ruling was overturned by today's Supreme Court ruling.But McDonnell's not the only former attorney general who's been entangled in this issue.
Virginia's Supreme Court struck a blow to Anglican conservatives Thursday, ruling against nine congregations who split from the Episcopal Church after it installed an openly gay bishop.
At issue are tens of millions of dollars of church property and symbolic momentum for dueling movements in the Anglican Communion.
The unanimous decision by the five-judge panel dismissing a lower court ruling that favored conservatives is not likely to end the dispute for the nine church properties. The panel simply found that a Civil War-era law governing how property is divided when churches split was wrongly applied to the current dispute. The panel sent the parties back to Fairfax County Circuit Court for a second, parallel case that focuses on who owns the properties, which is expected to be more complex and messy.
Although the legal issues were particular to Virginia, the case has been closely watched by Anglicans worldwide and other faith groups battling over how to interpret Scripture. The Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism, has been at odds for decades over everything from the ordination of women to the concept of salvation to more recent disputes about the rights of gays and lesbians to become clergy and marry. Conservatives' push to separate revved up after church leaders voted in 2003 to ordain Gene Robinson, an openly gay New Hampshire priest, as bishop.
Several key leaders of the conservative Anglican movement are based in Northern Virginia, where the land dispute has been emotionally intense. Since the nine congregations -- and a handful of others -- voted in late 2006 and early 2007 to leave the Episcopal Church, families and friends have been divided, there have been threats of trespass arrest, and special worship sessions related to the many court dates, including fasting leading up to Thursday's decision. Some Episcopal clergy keep their offices in Starbucks as they await the end of this three-year-old, multimillion-dollar case.
When the Anglican Church in North America launched last year, founders were clear on what they didn't want to be: the Episcopal Church.
But as the ACNA marks its first anniversary with a meeting here this week, members are finding that carving out a new identity requires a good dose of patience, and more money than they have on hand.
The ACNA knows what it wants to be: a church-planting, soul-saving province officially recognized by other churches and leaders in the 77-million-member Anglican Communion. Leaders reported some progress on those goals this week, but fiscal hurdles remain. Archbishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, who leads the ACNA, said Tuesday (June 8) that membership grew from 703 congregations to 811 during the last year, a step toward fulfilling his mission to plant 1,000 new churches within the first five years.
Meeting those goals, however, will mean surmounting financial challenges. The church's $1.36 million budget, approved by the ACNA's Provincial Council Tuesday, counts on a new initiative to raise $500,000 within the next six months. If the fundraising comes up short, projects central to establishing the young church's identity may stall.
"The vision for `Anglican 1000' is contingent on us being able to raise $500,000," said treasurer Bill Roemer, referring to the church-planting plans.
Delegates to the ACNA's meeting here said these early years are critical for establishing it as a dynamic alternative to the Episcopal Church, which has been wracked by internal disputes and losing members for decades.
The Supreme Court of Virginia has ruled in favor of the Episcopal Church in the state's much-watched dispute over church property. But it's just the latest ruling in what will continue to be a long fight.
Reversing a lower court's ruling, the Virginia Supreme Court said that the Anglican churches cannot use the Virginia "Division Statute" (the state law governing property when "a division has heretofore occurred or shall hereafter occur in a church or religious society") to file their claims.
But the actual answer to who owns the property is still a long way off.
Legal details after the jump...
At issue is Virginia code § 57-9[A]. I’ve bolded the two words at issue:
If a division has heretofore occurred or shall hereafter occur in a church or religious society, to which any such congregation whose property is held by trustees is attached, the members of such congregation over 18 years of age may, by a vote of a majority of the whole number, determine to which branch of the church or society such congregation shall thereafter belong. Such determination shall be reported to the circuit court of the county or city, wherein the property held in trust for such congregation or the greater part thereof is; and if the determination be approved by the court, it shall be so entered in the court's civil order book, and shall be conclusive as to the title to and control of any property held in trust for such congregation, and be respected and enforced accordingly in all of the courts of the Commonwealth.
The Virginia Supreme Court essentially gave the Episcopal Church two significant wins and a minor (and somewhat irrelevant) loss.
First, Justice Lawrence L. Koontz ruled that the circuit court erred in ruling that there was a division in the Anglican Communion—at least in terms of applying the Virginia code to the property dispute. The Anglican Communion as such isn’t claiming an interest in the Virginia properties, Koontz noted. And while there is an obvious theological dispute between the Episcopalians and the then-Nigerian-affiliated Virginia Anglicans, “all of these entities continue to admit a strong allegiance to the Anglican Communion.”
In a stunning development this morning, the Virginia Supreme Court issued a decision reversing a lower court ruling that favored the ability of breakaway congregations to occupy Episcopal Church properties. The ruling will have profound consequences for occupancy of the historic Falls Church in the downtown of the City of Falls Church.
Since the vote by a majority of congregants of the Falls Church in 2006 to join the Rev. John Yates and to defect from the Episcopal Church denomination, the Falls Church has been occupied by Yates and his followers, who subsequently aligned with a group of like-minded defectors known as CANA (Council of Anglicans in North America). Those members of the Falls Church who did not align with the defectors were denied access to the church property, and held their allegiance to the wider Episcopal communion while being forced to worship off-site as guests of the nearby Falls Church Presbyterian Church.
Rulngs by the Fairfax Circuit Court upheld that arrangement, granting the defectors the right to occupy the Falls Church, and other churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia where similar events had occurred. The lower court decision was based on an interpretation of a Civil War era so-called 57-9 statute in the state code. The move to defect by the breakaway congregants was due in part to their opposition to the national Episcopal Church's decision to elevate an openly gay clergyman to standing as a bishop of the denomination in 2003.
Now, however, the Virginia Supreme Court has overturned that lower court ruling and remanded the matter back to the lower court for further consideration.
In a statement from the Diocese of Virginia headquarters in Richmond this morning, issued by Henry D. W. Burt, chief of staff, the Diocese said it "is gratified by the Supreme Court of Virginia's ruling that the 57-9 'Division Statute' was incorrectly applied by the Fairfax County Circuit Court. The statute has forced faithful Episcopalians to worship elsewhere for over three years. The Supreme Court has sent the matter back to the lower court for further proceedings. The Diocese will demonstrate that the property is held in truth for all 80,000 Episcopalians who worship in Virginia."
The Supreme Court of Virginia has reversed the ruling of a Fairfax judge who decided in favor of conservative Anglicans who are fighting The Episcopal Church for tens of millions of dollars of church land.
In announcing its decision this morning, the court panel didn't yet say why, which means it's unclear for a few hours what the next steps are. Depending on why the panel ruled the way it did, the case may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court or it may go back to the Fairfax County Circuit Court judge and stretch on for several years.
More will be release in the next few hours. The land dispute is part of a global tug-of-war in the Anglican Communion over how to interpret Scripture.
It wasn’t just the usual food service at Mary’s Kitchen on Wednesday night for Agnes Matecki. She won a gift certificate for being the 150,000th person served since the kitchen opened its doors at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church 16 years ago.
Matecki, who came with her husband Mike Matecki, is a Stuart resident who has been coming for the past two years.
“It’s wonderful, the service people give you. The people are so generous and we’re grateful,” said Agnes Matecki, who won a $150 Publix gift certificate.
Mary’s Kitchen, which serves about 120 people each Wednesday, is a free meal service for low-income people that began in October 1994 after Barbara Hoke Hendry, a church member at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, thought of the idea.
“There was nobody serving Wednesday night back then. It was a rainy night — no advertising, just word of mouth. We served 48 people,” said Dale Hudson, the chairman of Mary’s Kitchen, remembering the first food service.
The program has since grown to a well-oiled operation with about 100 volunteers. Team leaders oversee different aspects of the service, such as volunteers for food preparation, which includes bread slicing and salad preparation, as well as the servers, greeters, dishwashers and even piano players.
It's been nearly three years since the Episcopal Church was officially divided in the wake of the consecration of the Rev. Gene Robinson, an openly gay Episcopal clergyman, to bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, giving birth to the more conservative Anglican Church of North America.
At the leading edge of that shift was the Rev. William Murdoch, who had led All Saints' Church in West Newbury since 1993. Like many Episcopalians, Murdoch saw Robinson's election as the final step in a growing perception of the church's increasingly liberal philosophy.
In response, Murdoch effectively resigned as an Episcopalian in 2007 to start one of the first Anglican churches in North America, which found a new home in Amesbury.
This week, Amesbury is again serving as a hub for the North American Anglican movement, hosting an estimated 100 bishops and laypeople from Canada and across the country at All Saints Anglican Church to celebrate their coming together as a new religious denomination.
In April, John Chesworth, (editor of Christian-Muslim News Digest, produced by the Network for Interfaith Concerns of the Anglican Communion (NIFCON)), spent three weeks in Jos. Whilst there he met with the Anglican Archbishop of Jos, the Most Reverend Ben Kwashi, to assure him of the support and prayers of NIFCON and to learn from him about the situation in Jos. Archbishop Ben Kwashi said that the crisis was not religious in origin, but rather the result of the Indigene/Settler issue, exacerbated by land issues, and that effective security was the way to control the situation.
He saw that the root-cause of the cycle of violence was the break-down of law and order with perpetrators of violence acting with impunity. A culture of retaliation has built up with people not expecting to be detained or punished by the judiciary for their actions.
Archbishop Ben Kwashi was critical of the BBC’s coverage of the crisis, seeing it as telling the story from one side only. One area that raised particular concern for him was the misreporting of the numbers of Muslims and Christians killed during the crisis, due to an assumption that all bodies laid out in mosques were Muslims.
He commented that Anglicans were working across the boundaries and divides with development and HIV/AIDS projects, whereas most of the other denominations, which are often ethnically-based, were more ‘inward looking’ and were not attempting to cross boundaries and to break down divisions.
In a bold move for a Christian church, Australia's Anglican Church has linked overpopulation to the eighth commandment given to Moses on Mount Sinai: 'Thou shall not steal', according to The Age.
The General Synod (the governing body of Australia's Anglican Church) has released a discussion paper that states "out of care for the whole of creation, particularly the poorest of humanity and the life forms who cannot speak for themselves […] it is not responsible to stand by and remain silent [on the issue of overpopulation]."
The paper adds that "unless we take account of the needs of future life on Earth, there is a case that we break the eighth commandment—'thou shall not steal'."
The General Synod recommends that the federal government should no longer encourage population growth with financial incentives, such as the controversial 'baby bonus' whereby the Australian government pays a mother 4,000 Australian dollars every time she has a new baby. The bonus, which was put into effect beginning in 2004, has been linked to Australia's ongoing baby boom, the largest since the 1970s.
Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Reverend Nicholas Oko on Thursday in Awka, Anambra State capital, endorsed the ordination of women as deacons in specific areas in Anglican Communion.
Interacting with Bishops, clergy and laity of the Province on the Niger at Emmaus House Awka during his Episcopal tour of Provinces in Nigeria, Archbishop Oko said women ordination for now would stop at deacons for specific purposes like hospital work and school services.
He lamented the numerous demands for dioceses in the communion saying a new procedure for creation of a diocese will be out by September this year to checkmate the unhealthy demands for autonomous dioceses by those even without the requirements for an Archdeaconry.
He emphasised that he is revisiting the priorities of the Anglican faith to recover the bible reading Anglicans are known for even as he decried the stereotypes in sermons often caused by lack of being educated in the scriptures. He warned tat henceforth no clergy without requisite educational qualifications will be ordained and appealed to the clergy to further their studies.
The Anglican Communion has suspended U.S. Episcopalians from serving on ecumenical bodies because of the election of a lesbian as a bishop in California.
The U.S. church opened a rift in the global communion, and within its own ranks, seven years ago by electing a gay man, V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire. Conservative African Anglicans have taken a lead in opposing moves in the United States and Canada to promote gays and to bless homosexual relationships.
Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, had called for a moratorium on appointing homosexuals to leadership positions. He asked for action against the Episcopal Church after the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool was made an assistant bishop of Los Angeles.
The Anglican Communion is an association of 44 regional and national member churches, most founded by Church of England missionaries, with more than 80 million members in more than 160 countries.
The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, announced Monday that Episcopalians had been downgraded from members to consultants in formal ecumenical dialogues, annual meetings between Anglicans and clergy in other churches intended to build friendship and better understand one another's traditions and issues of mutual concern such as points of theology and ways of worshipping.
Kearon said he had also written to the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada to ask whether it has formally adopted a policy backing same-sex blessings.
The Canadian church's governing General Synod is meeting this week, and is discussing whether to debate a motion on the issue.
What should be the ecclesial consequences for Anglican churches that have consciously rejected the “mind of the Communion” during this past decade? Many have waited a long time for Archbishop Rowan Williams to spell out his own views. Since 2007 he has openly talked of the costs involved in going one’s own way, however conscientiously, in opposition to the formally stated teachings of the Communion on the matter of sexual behavior and other key matters of doctrine and discipline. But what costs? The archbishop’s Pentecost letter has now begun the formal process of both laying out and setting in motion these consequences. This alone makes the letter significant.
Until this point, the archbishop has steadfastly followed two tracks in responding to the divisions of the Communion. First, he has formally initiated and supported Communion-based processes of consultation and evaluation leading out of the 2004 Windsor Report. By and large, and based on commonly accepted standards of doctrine and discipline around the Communion, these have consistently pressed for Anglican churches around the world to adopt and enforce moratoria on the consecration of partnered homosexual bishops, on the affirmation and permission of same-sex blessings or marriages, and on the cross-jurisdictional interference of bishops in the dioceses or provinces of another church. Through the Instruments of Communion — the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Lambeth Conference — as well as through representative commissions like the Windsor Continuation Group, the acceptability of this track has been reiterated over and over. Yet, for all that, there has never really been stable resolution emerging from these repeated requests for moratoria.
So far the proposed disciplines within the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pentecost letter have affected only the Episcopal Church, but the letter also has raised questions for the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone.
The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion has informed two representatives of the Episcopal Church that they will no longer serve as members of the Anglican–Orthodox Theological Dialogue. Those representatives are the Rev. Thomas Ferguson, the Episcopal Church’s interim deputy for ecumenical and interreligious relations, and the Rt. Rev. William O. Gregg, assistant bishop of North Carolina.
Episcopal News Service reported that the decision affects the Episcopal Church’s involvement in all ecumenical dialogues involving the Anglican Communion.
The archbishop’s proposal also has affected the Rt. Rev. C. Franklin Brookhart, Bishop of Montana, who was a member of the Anglican–Methodist International Commission for Unity in Mission, and the Very Rev. William H. Petersen, professor of ecclesiastical and ecumenical history at Bexley Hall, who was a member of the Anglican–Lutheran International Commission.
“Last Thursday I sent letters to members of the Inter Anglican ecumenical dialogues who are from the Episcopal Church informing them that their membership of these dialogues has been discontinued,” the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon wrote in a statement dated June 7. “In doing so I want to emphasize again as I did in those letters the exceptional service of each and every person to that important work and to acknowledge without exception the enormous contribution each person has made.”
What can one say about the Pentecostal slap-fest that is currently going on between Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and his counterpart here in the United States (his counterpart in every form of Anglican power that is meaningful, these days) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori?
Let me make a few comments that strike me as rather obvious.
* First of all, the “Pentecost continues!” letter (full text here) from the presiding bishop is a huge story and the contents of this document have received next to nothing in terms of the news coverage that they deserve.
That is what makes the Religion News Service story by Daniel Burke so important. Other than a short piece by Reuters, the RNS piece is the only thing that is happening in the mainstream press. Here is the top of that Burke story:
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has forcefully defended her church’s embrace of gays and lesbians, and firmly rejected efforts to centralize power or police uniformity in the Anglican Communion.
Anglicans should be led by local communities rather than powerful clerics, Jefferts Schori argued in a Wednesday (June 2) letter to her church’s 2 million members. And, after 50 years of debate, the Episcopal Church is convinced that gays and lesbians are “God’s good creation” and “good and healthy exemplars of gifted leadership within the church, as baptized leaders and ordained ones.”
Anglicans in Canada have been continuing a period of discernment and conversations over human sexuality issues. And so far, they have agreed to respect a commitment they made years ago against the ordination of partnered homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said the church body remains mindful of its relationship with the worldwide Anglican Communion and committed to the 2008 decision to practice restraint in regards to homosexual matters while at the same time exercising "the greatest level of pastoral generosity."
"We have not as a house revisited or altered that decision in any way," he said, as he addressed members of the General Synod – the chief legislative body – over the weekend.
Though the body, representing some 800,000 Anglicans, currently remains committed to the moratoria that Anglican leaders worldwide have agreed to a number of times since 2004, dioceses within the Anglican Church of Canada have already permitted the blessing of same-sex unions.
Among them are the Diocese of New Westminster and the Diocese of Huron.
Their actions have left conservative Anglicans, particularly those in the Global South, grieving and frustrated that the morotoria have not been honored. In April, some 130 Anglicans from 20 provinces were urged to reconsider their relationships with the Anglican Church of Canada as well as with The Epsicopal Church in the United States, which ordained its second partnered homosexual last month.
That's how its starting to sound -- only a lot more polite -- as the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the U.S. Branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, squares off against Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
Williams has declared that the Episcopal Church, which has now welcomed two gay bishops, should no longer participate in worldwide governing committees for the Communion, which is now dominated by Southern Hemisphere conservatives vehemently opposed to gay bishops.
Of course, there's a certain irony in Williams, struggling to keep the Church of England glued together in disputes over allowing women bishops, facing off with the U.S. presiding bishop -- Katharine Jefferts Schori.
Reuter's wrote last week of Williams' move to "discipline" the Episcopal Church within the worldwide denomination for violating "Anglican traditions."
Schori then came back with a letter to the church calling this "a troubling push toward centralized authority" in a body born in opposition to Vatican control.
And, Schori said Williams' move, including
... sanctions for churches that disagree -- both those approving gay clergy and same-sex unions as well as conservatives vehemently opposed to them -- smacked of discredited colonial practices.
The Spirit may be speaking to all of us in ways that do not at present seem to cohere or agree," she said. "In all humility, we recognize that we may be wrong, yet we have proceeded in the belief that the Spirit permeates our decisions."
Episcopal Church House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson helped the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil (IEAB) bring its historic 31st General Synod to a close June 6 by preaching during the gathering's final Eucharist.
"I am reminded of the long and strong relationship between the Episcopal Church in Brazil and the Episcopal Church," Anderson said from the pulpit of St. Paul's, the Anglican cathedral in Sao Paulo. "I give great thanks for that relationship. Your prophetic witness to justice, your creative and inspired worship, music and song is an inspiration to us."
The 31st synod, held June 3-6 at Recanto Betania retreat center just outside Sao Paulo, honored 200 years of an Anglican presence in Brazil; 120 years of the IEAB, which has deep roots in the U.S.-based Episcopal Church and the 25th anniversary of the ordination of women in the province.
During its final session, the synod voted by acclamation to tell the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada that the IEAB supports those provinces' full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people in the life of the church.
"The love of God has no boundaries," Andrade said to loud applause.
St. John’s Episcopal Church in Pascagoula hosted the Bay Area Food Bank Mobile Pantry Distribution program on Saturday, providing food for about 110 families in need.
St. John’s has purchased grocery items regularly from the Bay Area Food Bank for its own food pantry, which has been distributing food to those in need for 30 years. The church has a food pantry open on each Monday that feeds between 20 and 30 families, but this is the first time that they have tried food distribution of this magnitude, said Connie Belk, outreach commissioner of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
“We are just happy to have the opportunity through Bay Area Food Bank to be able to get this much food distributed in a short period of time,” said Belk.
Families that are eligible to participate in the food pantry are selected in a preregistration process by the local food distribution agency.
In larger scale distributions such as this, the Bay Area Food Bank gives the agency nearly 5,000 pounds of food that they have received through donations from manufacturers, grocery stores and individuals.
The Bay Area Food Bank serves South Mississippi, south Alabama and the Panhandle of Florida, totaling 24 counties.
The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, has issued a statement outlining the next steps following Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' Pentecost letter. Williams proposes in his May 28 letter that representatives currently serving on some of the Anglican Communion's ecumenical dialogues should resign their membership if they are from a province that has not complied with moratoria on same-gender blessings, cross-border interventions and the ordination of gay and lesbian people to the episcopate. He specifically refers to the May 15 consecration of Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Mary Douglas Glasspool and the unauthorized incursions by Anglican leaders into other provinces. Glasspool is the Episcopal Church's second openly gay, partnered bishop.
Kearon notes that on June 3 he "sent letters to members of the Inter Anglican ecumenical dialogues who are from the Episcopal Church informing them that their membership of these dialogues has been discontinued" and that he has "written to the person from the Episcopal Church who is a member of the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order (IASCUFO), withdrawing that person's membership and inviting her to serve as a consultant to that body."
After they elected their next bishop Saturday morning, Episcopalians in the Diocese of Kentucky had a short delay in contacting him with the good news.
That was because the Rev. Terry Allen White was busy at the cathedral that he pastors in Kansas City, Mo., serving as master of ceremonies for a ceremony of ordinations of new clergy.
"He's having a very rich day," Bishop Ted Gulick, who is retiring later this year, said after delegates elected White on the second ballot from among four nominees.
White, 50, who has been the dean of Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kansas City since 2004, received 35 of 56 ballots among clergy and 40 of 76 ballots among lay delegates, giving him the required majority among both groups.
The convention then took a new vote to affirm his election by acclamation.
Gulick reached the bishop-elect after a few minutes -- White had arranged to be notified during his service regarding the voting results -- and told delegates on speaker phone he was "thrilled" to accept.