29 April 2007

The Venerable Sheila

From the Washington Times and Agence France-Presse:
Canterbury Cathedral, the seat of the Church of England, installed its first female archdeacon in its 1,400-year history yesterday.
Before a congregation of 500, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams led the service of installation for the Venerable Sheila Watson, 53, the first woman to join Archbishop Williams' senior staff.
The former archdeacon of Buckingham in the Diocese of Oxford, who succeeds the retired Patrick Evans, can now enthrone new diocesan bishops in 27 of England's 43 dioceses under Archbishop Williams' guidance.
Another step toward an inclusive church. (See also the BBC coverage, from whence this photo cometh.)

Pay Sarah a visit. You'll be glad you did.

Sarah Dylan Breuer is doing a great thing at her blog. She had proposed a list of things that progressives and conservatives can agree on, and she invites conversation. To whet your appetite, here's the beginning of her list. Check out what others have added.
  • Jesus is Lord.
  • Jesus and the God who created the universe are one.
  • The Old and New Testaments were inspired by God, and are useful for teaching and Christian formation (a la 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historical person who was born of Mary, gathered disciples and taught, healed, and confronted evil powers in ministry the first-century Roman province of Palestine, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate's authority.
  • Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Christ of God.
  • The God of Israel raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. I know some Christians struggle with this, but I believe this was a bodily resurrection, and the tomb was empty (and John Dominic Crossan never persuaded me that there was no tomb).
I think we do well to spend more time on activities like these, rather than tearing apart those who differ from us on this or that issue. This reminds me of something Bishop Chilton Knudsen said last fall at Provincial Convocation. She said that when she's asked by a parish or a group to come and talk about the controversies of the day, she agrees only when she can give equal time to those things on which Anglicans agree (e.g. the Nicene Creed). Bravo Sarah, and bravo Bishop Chilton.

Tip of the biretta to t19.

Primates seen as dictatorial

From the Church Times write-up of a talk by the Rev'd Dr. Marilyn McCord Adams, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford.
In an address to the annual conference of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement in London on Saturday, [Adams] questioned the legitimacy of the Windsor report on a future structure for the Anglican Communion, and accused the Primates of seeking to exercise "dictatorial powers". She also called for a General Synod debate on the proposal for an Anglican Covenant.

Reviewing recent Anglican history, she noted: "None of [the] instruments of union or their pronouncements had any legally binding legislative or juridical force." The Windsor report was nevertheless "written in a tone of presumptive legitimacy", and set forth “a new authoritarian polity for the Anglican Communion.
Hat tip to Thinking Anglicans, whose proprietor, Simon Sarmiento, provided this excellent coverage of Adams' talk. You can (and are encouraged to) read the full text of her talk over at Episcopal Cafe.

Finally, an editorial disclaimer: Mother Adams was an instructor of mine at Yale, prior to her translation to Oxford, so I had first hand opportunity to see her as an loving, brilliant, and honorable person -- and writing of her on this blog will reflect my view. (Photo from the Yale Alumni Magazine.)

17 April 2007

Lambeth Conference 2008 confirmed

From the Anglican Journal:
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams considered cancelling the 2008 Lambeth Conference of the world's Anglican bishops due to the sexuality debates roiling the church, but decided against it.

"Yes, we've already been considering that and the answer is no. We've been looking at whether the timing is right, but if we wait for the ideal time, we will wait more than just 18 months," he told the Anglican Journal in an exclusive interview.
That's a great move. Preventing conversation is almost never the right answer. Getting bishops together from around the world will surely help us all understand one another as a church. Perhaps bishops on various sides of the sexuality issues will be able to see others as women and men of good faith. That alone would be a step toward reconciliation and mission.

Needless to say, this blogger -- as one voice of InclusiveChurch -- hopes that invitations will not be keyed to "Windsor compliance." +Gene Robinson and +Peter Akinola would both be excluded if Windsor compliance were applied as a criterion, and that would be a pity. The gathered bishops need to hear their perspectives, and Gene and Peter will surely benefit from hearing voices they may not hear in New Hampshire or Abuja.

Anyway, I'm glad Lambeth 2008 is going ahead. Now we'll start watching for the invite list and the agenda.

(Photo by Anglican Journal / Michael Hudson.)

Gospel Compliance Office issues first report

As many of you know, the American Anglican Council created a Communique Compliance Office (CCO) after the Primates' Meeting in Dar es Salaam. Figuring that two can play at this Orwellian game, I announced on this blog -- tongue in cheek -- that I would create a "Gospel Compliance Office (GCO)."

Well, seeing that the CCO has released its first report, I figured I'd better get busy. So, despite having no office space and no staff, I have today -- while sitting in a coffee shop -- created the first report of the GCO.

Here's my report:
  • At the global level, primates have continued to focus on non-Gospel issues such as human sexuality, while placing Gospel imperatives (evangelism, serving Christ in all persons, and loving our neighbors) on the back burner.
  • After careful reading of the Gospels and of the Communique, the GCO has found that the Gospels are not the same as the Communique. This office encourages Christians to follow the Gospel, and not the Communique, where the two differ.
  • At the national level, ECUSA has fallen into this trap as well. From press reports, it appears that Executive Council and the House of Bishops gave only a small amount of time to Gospel issues, while spending lots of time on Communique issues.
  • At the local level, the GCO believes that many congregations in ECUSA and around the world are indeed practicing the Gospel, but this story is not reported in the mass media, nor does it get the attention of archbishops and the like.
  • The GCO encourages all Christians to study the Great Commandment and other sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Should there be any questions about the CCO or the Communique, the GCO encourages reference to the Gospels as the source of our authority and life in Christ.
  • The GCO, of course, also believes that as Anglicans we do well to consult our tradition and to make use of our God-given human reason, guided by the Holy Spirit.
  • The GCO will continue to evaluate the church for compliance to the Gospel, and will issue reports accordingly.
As long as there is a Communique Compliance Office, the Gospel Compliance Office will produce reports. The GCO looks forward to its own obsolescence, hoping to become irrelevant as the church returns to a focus on its mission.

+Rowan to visit ECUSA

As others have reported, +Rowan Williams will visit the regular autumn meeting of the ECUSA House of Bishops. It's a bit mind-boggling that with all the talk about ECUSA, this hadn't happened until now, but better late than never.

Rowan was quoted saying this in a Toronto press conference: "I'm still waiting to see what the Episcopal Church will come up with as an alternative [to the recommendations of the primates' communique]. The reaction was a very strongly worded protest against what they see as interference, but if not that, then what?"

Was Rowan surprised by this reaction from American bishops? Surely there were other possibilities beyond primatial babysitting, and there still are. Let me suggest a few:
  • Convene the Communion-wide hermeneutics study that was discussed in Dar es Salaam, and let's see how our reading of scripture might inform future conversation.
  • Begin the listening process called for in the Windsor Report. With a few exceptions, including ECUSA, this process has not really begun. Surely we can learn from GLBT Anglicans in all this?
  • Gather all the bishops, not just primates, for a conversation at Lambeth 2008.
  • Talk about the proposed Covenant and our understanding of the essence of the Anglican Communion? Is our essence shared doctrine? Shared belief? Shared practice? Shared loyalty? Something else?
Now in all this, I also think ECUSA has some homework. We need to justify our positions on biblical and theological grounds, not just those of human rights or justice. We need to realize that the American church is a vastly different animal from other Anglican provinces, even from England. We need to be crystal clear about the reasons why the Anglican Communion is or is not important to our life as a church. We need to stop citing polity as an excuse/justification for our actions. (That last one is especially galling to me. We wouldn't put up with that Pharisaical approach from other quarters, and we shouldn't use it ourselves. We could do what we wanted, if we had the mind to do it. If we're thumbing our noses at the primates, let's do it for good cause, not just because General Convention doesn't meet for a couple of years.)

Anyway, I'm glad Rowan is coming. I hope he can see what we're a vibrant church, alive in the Spirit. I hope we can see that he is trying his level best to keep the Communion together. Above all, I hope we'll all see one another as members of the Body of Christ, acting as people of good faith -- sometimes stumbling in our earthly pilgrimage, but always seeking to be God's people.

Back online, after Holy Week and Easter Week hiatus

I guess I should have alerted you, dear reader, that this blog was going to be on holiday for a bit. More correctly, I placed my parish work front and center during Holy Week, and then I was recovering/celebrating during Easter Week.

On the very day I planned my return to the blogosphere, there is big news in Anglican-land, with news of +Rowan's planned visit to ECUSA. Details are scarce, but I think conversation can only be a very good thing at this point.

I note that the Anglican blogosphere was generally quiet during Holy Week. I much enjoyed reading the postings of Dan Martins+, as he wrote eloquently about the Triduum Sacrum -- and especially his responses to Jeffrey John's thoughts on salvation, especially of the substitutionary penal atonement variety.

Perhaps other bloggers were silent on the controversies of the day for the same reason as me -- church took over much of my time. (I loved every minute of it, by the way.) But maybe there were other factors at work. Could it be that when we focus on the most important things -- the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ -- our ecclesiastical squabbles are revealed for what they are: minor differences within the Body of Christ?