21 June 2007

Unreasonable love: a sermon from Westminster Abbey

The Archbishop of Cape Town preached last Sunday in Westminster Abbey. His sermon has much relevance in our current church climate.
The life of faith is first and foremost about our relationship with our God.

It is not about how good our behaviour is.

Nor does it hinge on how correct our theology is.

Nor does it hinge on our stance on human sexuality.

What God really cares about is whether we love him.

The first commandment is that we should love him, with all our heart and mind and soul and strength - that in the depths of our being we should yearn for him, and yearn to grow in love and knowledge of him, above all else.

God loves us with an outrageous exuberance. He loves us far, far more
than is reasonable or rational or sensible. He loves us to death literally, to his own death, in Jesus on the cross. And the desire of this God, who is love, is that we should share in this overflowing, excessive and abundant love - with him, and with others.
Too often we lose sight of what is important. We imagine that the church is about the Law or about justice, but it is of course about much more than that. This sermon is a good reminder. It's about love. Love.

11 June 2007

InclusiveChurch responds to the Draft Covenant

An Anglican Covenant?

InclusiveChurch believes that the Anglican Communion offers a creative and dynamic vision of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our structures, while loose and complex, mean that both tradition and development have a vital place in our attempts to live out the Gospel. Following the first Draft issued by the Covenant Drafting Committee and the way in which it influenced the Primates’ discussions in Dar Es Salaam, we have serious doubts about the proposed Draft Covenant. Tim Bartel and Savi Hensman have written responses which can be seen below:

Thanks to Thinking Anglicans for posting this InclusiveChurch notice, and for creating HTML versions of the Microsoft Word links, above.

10 June 2007

Has it come to this?

The Church Times acknowledges its "shame" in noting the newsworthiness of the recent statement from the Global Center. As the Church Times indicates, the breadth and comprehension of the Global Center statement was once intrinsic to Anglicanism. In our present climate (sadly, in both church and society), extremism and dogmatism are the norms. I for one welcome what seems to be a growing effort to reclaim authentic Anglicanism.

So while it is shocking and disappointing to think that comprehension is newsworthy, there is good news in seeing so many voices (including two primates who are supporting InclusiveChurch) rejecting narrow definitions of Anglican Christianity.

Here's the Church Times:
At last, bishops who value diversity
IT IS with a degree of shame that we acknowledge the statement from the bishops in Central and South America who met in Costa Rica at the end of last month. After all, a declaration by a group of Anglican bishops which talks of "the plurality and diversity that are universal characteristics of Anglicanism" was once an obvious candidate for the news editor's spike. Times have changed, however. Now it is a relief to report determined, if somewhat fluffy, pronouncements about the Anglican Communion and its "participative nature, diverse, ample, and inclusive". The Bishops support the view, often rehearsed in this paper, that plurality and diversity are a "rich source of growth" rather than a cause of dissension.

The present debate in the Communion has been undermined by unsubstantiated claims about who represents whom. Individual dioceses and provinces have their own structures of decision-making and accountability. The Church of England’s understanding of episcopacy -- that bishops operate in synods or councils together with representatives of the clergy and laity -- is replicated in one form or another across the provinces. The rise of the Primates' Meeting has disturbed this balance, and its coincidence with -- some would say, contribution to -- the disunity in the Communion leaves many ordinary Anglicans unconvinced that the innovation is to be welcomed.

The expectation behind episcopacy is that the Church is governed by individuals with theological understanding and a particular charism to keep the flock together. In the same way as MPs are supposed to represent all their constituents, regardless whether they share any political views, bishops are called to mediate for and between Christians of all flavours. The Costa Rica statement is a pleasant reminder that this has not been entirely forgotten.
(By the way, if you want a good source of Anglican news that moves beyond the kneejerk writings of the blogosphere, I think the Church Times is well worth a subscription.)

08 June 2007

"Global Centre" comes to the UK

InclusiveChurch is delighted to announce that the Most Revd Dr Idris Jones, Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway, has agreed to join the Archbishop of Mexico as a Patron of InclusiveChurch. Bishop Idris is Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church and a Primate of the Anglican Communion. He said
It is a privilege to be associated with Inclusive Church. The Anglican Communion is seeking how it may develop and deepen its life today - what better way could there be than working to keep our church as welcoming and encouraging to everyone who wants to follow Jesus so that everyone of us can be challenged by God's love.
We also announce that the Archbishop of Mexico, Bishop Carlos Touché-Porter, will be in England in September 2007. Bishop Carlos was a co-signatory of the Declaration by the Global Centre released in May 2007 which reaffirmed the call of Latin American bishops to preserve the "participative, diverse, ample and inclusive" nature of the Communion.

During his visit the Archbishop will take part in two major conferences.
  • Renewing our Vision – Anglicans and the Global Centre on Saturday 22nd September, at St Matthew’s, Westminster. 11.00 – 4.00 Cost £10.

  • Bishop Idris and Bishop Carlos will both speak at Celebrating Anglican Diversity on Sat 29th September, at Manchester Cathedral. 11.30 – 3.30 Cost £5.
Further information will follow. For advance registration please "Contact us" by going to www.inclusivechurch.net

These conferences will inform discussions at DRENCHED IN GRACE, InclusiveChurch’s first residential conference to be held in Derbyshire [England] on 21st – 23rd November. "Drenched in Grace" will be a celebration and restatement of broad and inclusive Anglicanism. A discount of £20 applies for bookings received before the end of June. For further information visit http://inclusive.sqnsolutions.com/index.php?id=4288

07 June 2007

The view from London

Here in England we welcome the thoughts and reflections Scott has been blogging under the InclusiveChurch name since Tanzania. InclusiveChurch has been around in the UK for a little over three years now, and during that time we've learnt a great deal about the international situation and about the similarities and differences between Provinces around the Communion.

I'm Rector of a parish in inner city South London, which falls loosely under the category "liberal catholic". We have a thriving centre for learning, arts and community in our crypt - called InSpire - which is used by the widest imaginable range of people. The congregation of the church (which has quite healthy numbers in Church of England terms) is around 70% West African (mainly Nigerian) and around 15% gay/lesbian - and a small percentage fall into both categories. We have a great diversity of incomes from fairly high to very low; ages, ditto. Scott will vouch (I hope!) for the life and vibrancy of the church. I'm gay, with a partner. It feels as though here we're living out very graphically some of the charisms and some of the tensions which are affecting the Communion. It's working; it's taken trust and slowly growing understanding, and some conflict and tension in the past. But the most exciting thing is the way in which people of very, very different traditions and attitudes are able, now, to accept and acknowledge one another to the extent that issues of sexuality are non-issues. Sure, we've lost people; but we've gained people too. Many people.

Feels as though TEC and the Church of England are, truly, divided by a common language. Perhaps we assume more similarity than really exists. It may be something to do with the fact that the C of E is required by law to be there for all people. Or something to do with our history which has embraced great difference (and struggled over it) whereas TEC's history has, as I understand it, certainly recently been very much tied up with the struggle for justice and human rights.

I'm also Chair of InclusiveChurch UK. We strongly support closer links and greater understanding between UK and US Anglicans. As well as better understanding between ALL the Provinces in the Communion. That's why we hope that, in the end, all the duly elected Bishops will be invited to Lambeth, but even if they're not we hope that the urgent dialogue needed between left and right can begin to take place. It's beginning to happen in England, but we're a lot smaller.... We're pleased that the Archbishop of Mexico and the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church have been willing to put their names to our aims. The strength of Anglicanism is, I think, absolutely rooted in its diversity, but the problems that brings are the problems we're presented with at the moment. The saddest thing, though, would be to walk away.

I'm planning to blog about the view from London regularly - and would like to know more about the view OF London! Hopelessly compromised or encouragingly undefined?

05 June 2007

Taking stock

A flurry, or perhaps a deluge, of statements and responses have been pouring through blogospheria Anglicana lately. I've been avoiding my own contribution to each new thought, but perhaps it's in order to make some general observations. After the Lambeth Conference invitations to all but a few bishops were announced two weeks ago, the right and left extremes immediately weighed in. Both sides immediately said that their bishops should not attend the Conference unless their particular bishops were invited.

InclusiveChurch has taken the position that all duly elected and consecrated bishops (including, certainly, +Gene Robinson and +Martyn Minns) should be invited, based on the notion that reconciliation depends on all positions, in all our diversity, being at the meeting table and at the Holy Table.

Meanwhile, the recently quiet +Bob Duncan spoke up in the last week. He has revealed plans for a "Common Cause" gathering of an alphabet soup of groups immediately after the ECUSA House of Bishops gathering this September. As Mark Harris has carefully observed, CANA is in this for the long haul, so this Common Cause gathering almost certainly signals the beginning of either a permanent alternative province in the US, or perhaps even the early stages of a new Communion. Will these groups be able to overcome differences on women's ordination, liturgical practice, and evangelical zeal? They may discover that the problems of the Anglican Communion were mild by comparison. If unity cannot be achieved in one church, it's hard to see that things will be different in another.

While many of us had our eyes on the right, trying to understand all the goings-on emanating from Pittsburgh and Abuja, the left has been busy too. People have been busy defining at which point we can stop "tolerating" those with whom we don't agree. I find that problematic. We Christians simply cannot say to another, "I have no need of you." Of course, we don't have to listen to hateful speech (from conservatives or progressives), and we don't have to do everything that people ask of us. But we do have to acknowledge that, like it or not, all of us Christians are in one mystical communion.

I've been disappointed by some reactions coming from the far left. When, Greg Jones+ suggested that there might be some good in the Lambeth invite list, his very Christian identity was questioned. This is respecting the dignity of every person? Raspberry Rabbit was dismayed by that interaction, and Dan Martins+ is tired of the whole thing. Martins writes:
I need a break. I read the headlines, but I don't have the energy at this time to follow the details, or pretend to offer erudite speculation. And maybe it's just the vibes I pick up in the air, but I have a sense I'm not the only one. I think many of us, on both sides of the Great Divide, have reached the conclusion that nobody can win this game, and any number can lose. We can all lose. It looks like we will all lose.
I think that's right. Both the far left and far right offer voices that the church needs to hear -- for different reasons. But it is God's love and a sincere desire for reconciliation that will be our path to reconciliation. Based on the angry mail (some of it hate mail) in my own email inbox, we have plenty of reconciling to do.

Meanwhile, the blogosphere has been so consumed with the invitation list, that only a few observers have noted what is perhaps (to my thinking) the most significant aspect of +Rowan's invitation letter:
The Conference is a place where our experience of living out God’s mission can be shared. It is a place where we may be renewed for effective ministry. And it is a place where we can try and get more clarity about the limits of our diversity and the means of deepening our Communion, so we can speak together with conviction and clarity to the world. It is an occasion when the Archbishop of Canterbury exercises his privilege of calling his colleagues together, not to legislate but to discover and define something more about our common identity through prayer, listening to God’s Word and shared reflection . It is an occasion to rediscover the reality of the Church itself as a worldwide community united by the call and grace of Christ.

But the Lambeth Conference has no ‘constitution’ or formal powers; it is not a formal Synod or Council of the bishops of the Communion, which would require us to be absolutely clear about the standing of all the participants. An invitation to participate in the Conference has not in the past been a certificate of doctrinal orthodoxy. Coming to the Lambeth Conference does not commit you to accepting the position of others as necessarily a legitimate expression of Anglican doctrine and discipline, or to any action that would compromise your conscience or the integrity of your local church. (emphasis added)
Note the bold-face bits. That is very important. At first, I was disappointed that the Archbishop of Canterbury would have to offer a polity lesson in his letter. Clearly, though, many people have forgotten what the Lambeth Conference is. I am grateful for this reminder now, because in setting out the limits of authority for Lambeth 2008, Rowan is also reminding us that Lambeth 1998 was not an ecumenical council, and that its authority (and hence the authority of Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10) is limited.

Where do we stand? Near a cliff, I'm afraid. Uganda and Nigeria have said they won't come to Lambeth, and may be on their way out of the Communion. Tobias Haller+ says this might be part of the plan. The American-led left, speaking in (often understandable) anger, has not shown much sorrow as we near the point where the Communion might be diminished, suffering the loss of conservative evangelicals from several provinces.

Make no mistake. If large numbers of people leave our Communion, "we" will not "win." We will, as Haller says, all lose. How can we win? I'm biased, of course, but I think the InclusiveChurch message of unceasing graciousness and gospel invitation for all is one way of expressing hope and a path to reconciliation. The new Global Center offers another path. Either way, as soon as we write each other off, we've lost. As long as we remember that we are the Body of Christ, in need of all our parts, there is hope.

Summer homework

As ENS reports, the ECUSA House of Bishops has released a study document to encourage a wide-ranging, thoughtful response to the Primates' Communiqué from the February meeting in Dar es Salaam. As the House of Bishops prepares its response to the September 30 deadline set by the primates, it appears that the bishops are looking for some input.

As others have observed, the bishops have (not surprisingly) designed a bishop-centric process. While a few may choose to view that negatively, I actually think it's a good thing to encourage conversation within dioceses between bishops and their people. This will cause bishops to hear directly from their own flock, and I suspect in most dioceses, we'll see a variety of responses. This is exactly the kind of listening that we need these days. I hope that some of these diocesan conversations will be preceded or followed by celebrations of the Eucharist.

If you're part of ECUSA, contact your bishop. Ask her or him (nicely!) when your diocese will be having the conversation(s) as requested by the House of Bishops. Invite your friends, and invite some people from that "other" congregation, the one that doesn't quite fit in theologically within your diocese.

If you're reading this from outside ECUSA, contact your ECUSA friends and let them know what you think. While this is preparation for an ECUSA response, we Americans especially need to get a global perspective.

04 June 2007

Learning from the Global Center

Lots of bloggers have commented on the recent statement by a number of Anglican bishops from Central and South America. I think we can learn much from these bishops. They are not agreed on some significant issues, but yet they have committed themselves to staying in fellowship, Eucharistic fellowship in particular.
[O]ur concern has grown because of the polarization regarding the biblical and theological positions manifested in the Anglican Communion, during the last years; positions known as Global North and Global South, non reconcilable in their character and putting the unity in the Communion at risk.

In the midst of this painful controversy, we do not identify with either side, because they don't fully represent the spirit of our thoughts.

It has been proven in our relations that we greatly represent the plurality and diversity that are universal characteristics of Anglicanism and that we hold different positions on the themes that are presently discussed in the Communion. However, we have also experienced that the plurality and diversity we represent has become a rich source for growth, rather than a cause for controversy and division.

We unanimously express our determination to remain united as members of the same family and will continue to come to the Lord's Table, together.

I'm with Greg Jones+ on this one: "this statement from the Anglican bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean is perhaps the finest statement of 'Anglican Centrism' I have seen in some time." It's not just Anglican Centrism, I would argue, but authentic, plain Anglicanism.

This is how the church should work: while we are in (sometimes painful!) disagreement with one another, we draw together at the Holy Table to be reminded of who we are, of what the church is, and of our relationship to God.

Also, at the risk of coming off as pedantic, I note that sundry commentators have complained that these bishops do not include among themselves the Southern Cone or the West Indies. I guess the conservatives are upset because of a definite article: "We the Anglican Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean..." It would have been more accurate, granted, if they had said, "We, some Anglican bishops..." For the record, the so-called Global South does not include every province in the Southern Hemisphere, but it does reach into the Northern a bit. But I think the real cause of conservative angst could be that so many bishops, including a few primates, would sign a letter calling the Global South to account. And many of these bishops have the temerity to be...from the actual global south.

Now, back to non-pedantic mode: this statement reflects a kind of intentional focus that our Communion needs right now. I'll repeat it again, as I often write and preach, we will not solve this "crisis" by shunning one another. We will move through this, by the grace of God, as we gather in prayer, study, fellowship, and -- most important -- at the Holy Table in the presence of Jesus Christ.

01 June 2007

Hear Davis Mac-Iyalla in a town near you

Normally, you'd have to travel to Africa to hear Davis Mac-Iyalla speak about his experience as a gay Nigerian. Davis is in the midst of a tour throughout the US now, so American blog-readers are lucky. Davis could be in a town near you, and I hope you'll travel to hear him.

What would the Anglican Communion be like if Peter Akinola had his way? Davis can share his experience of the Anglican church in Nigeria. What's it like to have your very identity crimalized? Davis can share his experience as a gay person from West Africa.

I got to spend lots of time with Davis in Dar es Salaam, and I know he'll be a compelling speaker and a vibrant witness. If you can't make it to hear him, please pray for him. And if you can spare a few dollars, why not support Changing Attitude Nigeria, which recently hosted a gathering of GLBT people from throughout West Africa? InclusiveChurch will also be working with Changing Attitude to ensure that there are plenty of GLBT Christians from around the Communion in Lambeth, should any of the bishops there wish to enjoy the Listening Process.

In any case, travel to see Davis. Before his tour, I was told to keep his itinerary quiet, for security reasons. Now I see ENS has published full details in their article, so you can easily check to see how you'll be able to hear Davis speak.