Monday, December 24, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
To: Primates of the Anglican Communion & Moderators of the United Churches
Greetings in the name of the One 'who is and was and is to come, the Almighty', as we prepare in this Advent season to celebrate once more his first coming and pray for the grace to greet him when he comes in glory.
You will by now, I hope, have received my earlier letter summarising the responses from Primates to the Joint Standing Committee's analysis of the New Orleans statement from the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church. In that letter, I promised to write with some further reflections and proposals, and this is the purpose of the present communication. Although I am writing in the first instance to my fellow-primates, I hope you will share this letter widely with your bishops and people.
As I said in that earlier letter, the responses received from primates differed in their assessment of the situation. Slightly more than half of the replies received signalled a willingness to accept the Joint Standing Committee's analysis of the New Orleans statement, but the rest regarded both the statement and the Standing Committee's comments as an inadequate response to what had been requested by the primates in Dar-es-Salaam.
So we have no consensus about the New Orleans statement. It is also the case that some of the more negative assessments from primates were clearly influenced by the reported remarks of individual bishops in The Episcopal Church who either declared their unwillingness to abide by the terms of the statement or argued that it did not imply any change in current policies. It should be noted too that some of the positive responses reflected a deep desire to put the question decisively behind us as a Communion; some of these also expressed dissatisfaction with our present channels of discussion and communication.
Where does this leave us as a Communion? Because we have no single central executive authority, the answer to this is not a simple one. However, it is important to try and state what common ground there is before we attempt to move forward; and it is historically an aspect of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury to 'articulate the mind of the Communion' in moments of tension and controversy, as the Windsor Report puts it (para. 109). I do so out of the profound conviction that the existence of our Communion is truly a gift of God to the wholeness of Christ's Church and that all of us will be seriously wounded and diminished if our Communion fractures any further; but also out of the no less profound conviction that our identity as Anglicans is not something without boundaries. What I am writing here is an attempt to set out where some of those boundaries lie and why they matter for our witness to the world as well as for our own integrity and mutual respect.
The Communion is a voluntary association of provinces and dioceses; and so its unity depends not on a canon law that can be enforced but on the ability of each part of the family to recognise that other local churches have received the same faith from the apostles and are faithfully holding to it in loyalty to the One Lord incarnate who speaks in Scripture and bestows his grace in the sacraments. To put it in slightly different terms, local churches acknowledge the same 'constitutive elements' in one another. This means in turn that each local church receives from others and recognises in others the same good news and the same structure of ministry, and seeks to engage in mutual service for the sake of our common mission.
So a full relationship of communion will mean:
The common acknowledgment that we stand under the authority of Scripture as 'the rule and ultimate standard of faith', in the words of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral; as the gift shaped by the Holy Spirit which decisively interprets God to the community of believers and the community of believers to itself and opens our hearts to the living and eternal Word that is Christ. Our obedience to the call of Christ the Word Incarnate is drawn out first and foremost by our listening to the Bible and conforming our lives to what God both offers and requires of us through the words and narratives of the Bible. We recognise each other in one fellowship when we see one another 'standing under' the word of Scripture. Because of this recognition, we are able to consult and reflect together on the interpretation of Scripture and to learn in that process. Understanding the Bible is not a private process or something to be undertaken in isolation by one part of the family. Radical change in the way we read cannot be determined by one group or tradition alone.
The common acknowledgement of an authentic ministry of Word and Sacrament. We remain in communion because we trust that the Lord who has called us by his Word also calls men and women in other contexts and raises up for them as for us a ministry which can be recognised as performing the same tasks – of teaching and pastoral care and admonition, of assembling God's people for worship, above all at the Holy Communion. The principle that one local church should not intervene in the life of another is simply a way of expressing this trust that the form of ministry is something we share and that God provides what is needed for each local community.
The common acknowledgement that the first and great priority of each local Christian community is to communicate the Good News. When we are able to recognise biblical faithfulness and authentic ministry in one another, the relation of communion pledges us to support each other's efforts to win people for Christ and to serve the world in his Name. Communion thus means the sharing of resources and skills in order to enable one another to proclaim and serve in this way.
It is in this context that we must think about the present crisis, which is in significant part a crisis about whether we can fully, honestly and gratefully recognise these gifts in each other.
The debates about sexuality, significant as they may be, are symptoms of our confusion about these basic principles of recognition. It is too easy to make the debate a standoff between those who are 'for' and those who are 'against' the welcoming of homosexual people in the Church. The Instruments of Communion have consistently and very strongly repeated that it is part of our Christian and Anglican discipleship to condemn homophobic prejudice and violence, to defend the human rights and civil liberties of homosexual people and to offer them the same pastoral care and loving service that we owe to all in Christ's name. But the deeper question is about what we believe we are free to do, if we seek to be recognisably faithful to Scripture and the moral tradition of the wider Church, with respect to blessing and sanctioning in the name of the Church certain personal decisions about what constitutes an acceptable Christian lifestyle. Insofar as there is currently any consensus in the Communion about this, it is not in favour of change in our discipline or our interpretation of the Bible.
This is why the episcopal ordination of a person in a same-sex union or a claim to the freedom to make liturgical declarations about the character of same-sex unions inevitably raises the question of whether a local church is still fully recognisable within the one family of practice and reflection. Where one part of the family makes a decisive move that plainly implies a new understanding of Scripture that has not been received and agreed by the wider Church, it is not surprising that others find a problem in knowing how far they are still speaking the same language. And because what one local church says is naturally taken as representative of what others might say, we have the painful situation of some communities being associated with views and actions which they deplore or which they simply have not considered.
Where such a situation arises, it becomes important to clarify that the Communion as a whole is not committed to receiving the new interpretation and that there must be ways in which others can appropriately distance themselves from decisions and policies which they have not agreed. This is important in our relations with our own local contexts and equally in our ecumenical (and interfaith) encounters, to avoid confusion and deep misunderstanding.
The desire to establish this distance has led some to conclude that, since the first condition of recognisability (a common reading and understanding of Scripture) is not met, the whole structure of mission and ministry has failed in a local church that commits itself to a new reading of the Bible. Hence the willingness of some to provide supplementary ministerial care through the adoption of parishes in distant provinces or the ordination of ministers for distant provinces.
Successive Lambeth Conferences and Primates' Meetings have, however, cautioned very strongly against such provision. It creates a seriously anomalous position. It does not appeal to a clear or universal principle by which it may be decided that a local church's ministry is completely defective. On the ground, it creates rivalry and confusion. It opens the door to complex and unedifying legal wrangles in civil courts. It creates a situation in which pastoral care and oversight have to be exercised at a great distance. The view that has been expressed by all the Instruments of Communion in recent years is that interventions are not to be sanctioned. It would seem reasonable to say that this principle should only be overridden when the Communion together had in some way concluded, not only that a province was behaving anomalously, but that this was so serious as to compromise the entire ministry and mission the province was undertaking. Without such a condition, the risk is magnified of smaller and smaller groups taking to themselves the authority to decide on the adequacy of a neighbour's ministerial life or spiritual authenticity. The gospels and the epistles of Paul alike warn us against a hasty final judgement on the spiritual state of our neighbours.
While argument continues about exactly how much force is possessed by a Resolution of the Lambeth Conference such as the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution on sexuality, it is true, as I have repeatedly said, that the 1998 Resolution is the only point of reference clearly agreed by the overwhelming majority of the Communion. This is the point where our common reading of Scripture stands, along with the common reading of the majority within the Christian churches worldwide and through the centuries.
Thus it is not surprising if some have concluded that the official organs of The Episcopal Church, in confirming the election of Gene Robinson and in giving what many regard as implicit sanction to same-sex blessings of a public nature have put in question the degree to which it can be recognised as belonging to the same family by deciding to act against the strong, reiterated and consistent advice of the Instruments of Communion. The repeated requests for clarification to The Episcopal Church, difficult and frustrating as they have proved for that province, have been an attempt by the Communion at large to deal with the many anxieties expressed in this regard. The matter is further complicated by the fact that several within The Episcopal Church, including a significant number of bishops and some diocesan conventions, have clearly distanced themselves from the prevailing view in their province as expressed in its public policies and declarations. This includes the bishops who have committed themselves to the proposals of the Windsor Report in their Camp Allen conference, as well as others who have looked for more radical solutions. Without elaborating on the practical implications of this or the complicated and diverse politics of the situation, it is obvious that such dioceses and bishops cannot be regarded as deficient in recognisable faithfulness to the common deposit and the common language and practice of the Communion. If their faith and practice are recognised by other churches in the Communion as representing the common mind of the Anglican Church, they are clearly in fellowship with the Communion. The practical challenge then becomes to find ways of working out a fruitful, sustainable and honest relation for them both with their own province and with the wider Communion.
That challenge is not best addressed by a series of ad hoc arrangements with individual provinces elsewhere, as the Dar-es-Salaam communiqué made plain. The New Orleans statement, along with many individual statements by bishops in TEC, expresses the anger felt by many in the US – as also in Canada – about uncontrolled intervention, and it is evident that this is not doing anything to advance or assist local solutions that will have some theological and canonical solidity.
I believe that we as a Communion must recognise two things in respect of the current position in TEC. First: most if not all of the bishops present in New Orleans were seeking in all honesty to find a way of meeting the requests of the primates and to express a sense of responsibility towards the Communion and their concern for and loyalty to it. It is of enormous importance that the Communion overall does not forget its responsibility to and for that large body of prayerful opinion in The Episcopal Church which sincerely desires to work in full harmony with others, particularly those bishops who have clearly expressed their desire to work within the framework both of the Windsor Report and the Lambeth Resolutions, and that it does not give way to the temptation to view The Episcopal Church as a monochrome body. Second: it is practically impossible to imagine any further elucidation or elaboration coming from TEC after the successive statements and resolutions from last year's General Convention onwards. A good deal of time and effort has gone into the responses they have already produced, and it is extremely unlikely that further meetings will produce any more substantial consensus than that which is now before us.
The exact interpretation of the New Orleans statements, as the responses from around the Communion indicate, is disputable. I do not see how the commitment not to confirm any election to the episcopate of a partnered gay or lesbian person can mean anything other than what it says. But the declaration on same-sex blessings is in effect a reiteration of the position taken in previous statements from TEC, and has clearly not satisfied many in the Communion any more than these earlier statements. There is obviously a significant and serious gap between what TEC understands and what others assume as to what constitutes a liturgical provision in the name of the Church at large.
A scheme has been outlined for the pastoral care of those who do not accept the majority view in TEC, but the detail of any consultation or involvement with other provinces as to how this might best work remains to be filled out and what has been proposed does not so far seem to have commanded the full confidence of those most affected. Furthermore, serious concerns remain about the risks of spiralling disputes before the secular courts, although the Dar-es-Salaam communiqué expressed profound disquiet on this matter, addressed to all parties.
A somewhat complicating factor in the New Orleans statement has been the provision that any kind of moratorium is in place until General Convention provides otherwise. Since the matters at issue are those in which the bishops have a decisive voice as a House of Bishops in General Convention, puzzlement has been expressed as to why the House should apparently bind itself to future direction from the Convention. If that is indeed what this means, it is in itself a decision of some significance. It raises a major ecclesiological issue, not about some sort of autocratic episcopal privilege but about the understanding in The Episcopal Church of the distinctive charism of bishops as an order and their responsibility for sustaining doctrinal standards. Once again, there seems to be a gap between what some in The Episcopal Church understand about the ministry of bishops and what is held elsewhere in the Communion, and this needs to be addressed.
The exchange between TEC and the wider Communion has now been continuing for some four years, and it would be unrealistic and ungrateful to expect more from TEC in terms of clarification. Whatever our individual perspectives, I think we need to honour the intentions and the hard work done by the bishops of TEC. For many of them, this has been a very costly and demanding experience, testing both heart and conscience. But now we need to determine a way forward.
The whole of this discussion is naturally affected by what people are thinking about the character and scope of the Lambeth Conference, and I need to say a word about this here. Thus far, invitations have been issued with two considerations in mind.
First: I have not felt able to invite those whose episcopal ordination was carried through against the counsel of the Instruments of Communion, and I have not seen any reason to revisit this (the reference in the New Orleans statement to the Archbishop of Canterbury's 'expressed desire' to invite the Bishop of New Hampshire misunderstands what was said earlier this year, when the question was left open as to whether the Bishop, as a non-participant, could conceivably be present as a guest at some point or at some optional event). And while (as I have said above) I understand and respect the good faith of those who have felt called to provide additional episcopal oversight in the USA, there can be no doubt that these ordinations have not been encouraged or legitimised by the Communion overall.
I acknowledge that this limitation on invitations will pose problems for some in its outworking. But I would strongly urge those whose strong commitments create such problems to ask what they are prepared to offer for the sake of a Conference that will have some general credibility in and for the Communion overall.
Second: I have underlined in my letter of invitation that acceptance of the invitation must be taken as implying willingness to work with those aspects of the Conference's agenda that relate to implementing the recommendations of Windsor, including the development of a Covenant. The Conference needs of course to be a place where diversity of opinion can be expressed, and there is no intention to foreclose the discussion – for example – of what sort of Covenant document is needed. But I believe we need to be able to take for granted a certain level of willingness to follow through the question of how we avoid the present degree of damaging and draining tension arising again. I intend to be in direct contact with those who have expressed unease about this, so as to try and clarify how deep their difficulties go with accepting or adopting the Conference's agenda.
How then should the Lambeth Conference be viewed? It is not a canonical tribunal, but neither is it merely a general consultation. It is a meeting of the chief pastors and teachers of the Communion, seeking an authoritative common voice. It is also a meeting designed to strengthen and deepen the sense of what the episcopal vocation is.
Some reactions to my original invitation have implied that meeting for prayer, mutual spiritual enrichment and development of ministry is somehow a way of avoiding difficult issues. On the contrary: I would insist that only in such a context can we usefully address divisive issues. If, as the opening section of this letter claimed, our difficulties have their root in whether or how far we can recognise the same gospel and ministry in diverse places and policies, we need to engage more not less directly with each other. This is why I have repeatedly said that an invitation to Lambeth does not constitute a certificate of orthodoxy but simply a challenge to pray seriously together and to seek a resolution that will be as widely owned as may be.
And this is also why I have said that the refusal to meet can be a refusal of the cross – and so of the resurrection. We are being asked to see our handling of conflict and potential division as part of our maturing both as pastors and as disciples. I do not think this is either an incidental matter or an evasion of more basic questions.
This means some hard reflective work in preparation for the Conference - including pursuing conversations with each other across the current divisions. There will also be a number of documents circulating which will feed into the Conference's discussions, in particular the work of the Covenant Design Group, the resources available from the dialogues with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the Report of the Doctrinal commission and the papers coming from IASCER. Also significant will be the papers on the core elements of Anglican ministerial education and formation prepared by the group advising the Primates on Theological Education in the Anglican Communion, and the paper on the theology of inter faith relations prepared by the Network for Inter Faith Concerns (NIFCON), Generous Love.
But direct contact and open exchange of convictions will be crucial. Whatever happens, we are bound to seek for fruitful ways of carrying forward liaison with provinces whose policies cause scandal or difficulty to others. Whatever happens, certain aspects of our 'relational' communion will continue independently of the debates and decisions at the level of canons and hierarchies.
Given the differences in response to The Episcopal Church revealed in the responses of the primates, we simply cannot pretend that there is now a ready-made consensus on the future of relationships between TEC and other provinces. Much work remains to be done. But – once again, I refer back to my introductory thoughts – that work is about some basic questions of fidelity to Scripture and identity in ministry and mission, not only about the one issue of sexuality. It is about what it means for the Anglican Communion to behave with a consistency that allows us to face, both honestly and charitably, the deeply painful question of who we can and cannot recognise as sharing the same calling and task.
Finally, what specific recommendations emerge from these thoughts?
I propose two different but related courses of action during the months ahead. I wish to pursue some professionally facilitated conversations between the leadership of The Episcopal Church and those with whom they are most in dispute, internally and externally, to see if we can generate any better level of mutual understanding. Such meetings will not seek any predetermined outcome but will attempt to ease tensions and clarify options. They may also clarify ideas about the future pattern of liaison between TEC and other parts of the Communion. I have already identified resources and people who will assist in this.
I also intend to convene a small group of primates and others, whose task will be, in close collaboration with the primates, the Joint Standing Committee, the Covenant Design Group and the Lambeth Conference Design Group, to work on the unanswered questions arising from the inconclusive evaluation of the primates to New Orleans and to take certain issues forward to Lambeth. This will feed in to the discussions at Lambeth about Anglican identity and the Covenant process; I suggest that it will also have to consider whether in the present circumstances it is possible for provinces or individual bishops at odds with the expressed mind of the Communion to participate fully in representative Communion agencies, including ecumenical bodies. Its responsibility will be to weigh current developments in the light of the clear recommendations of Windsor and of the subsequent statements from the ACC and the Primates' Meeting; it will thus also be bound to consider the exact status of bishops ordained by one province for ministry in another. At the moment, the question of 'who speaks for the Communion?' is surrounded by much unclarity and urgently needs resolution; the people of the Communion need to be sure that they are not placed in unsustainable and damaging positions by any vagueness as to what the Communion as a whole believes and endorses, and so the issue of who represents the Communion cannot be evaded. The principles set out at the beginning of this letter will, I hope, assist in clarifying what needs to be said about this. Not everyone carrying the name of Anglican can claim to speak authentically for the identity we share as a global fellowship. I continue to hope that the discussion of the Covenant before, during and beyond Lambeth will give us a positive rallying-point.
A great deal of the language that is around in the Communion at present seems to presuppose that any change from our current deadlock is impossible, that division is unavoidable and that any such division represents so radical a difference in fundamental faith that no recognition and future co-operation can be imagined. I cannot accept these assumptions, and I do not believe that as Christians we should see them as beyond challenge, least of all as we think and pray our way through Advent.
The coming of Christ in the flesh and the declaration of the good news of his saving purpose was not a matter of human planning and ingenuity, nor was it frustrated by human resistance and sin. It was a gift whose reception was made possible by the prayerful obedience of Mary and whose effect was to create a new community of God's sons and daughters. As we look forward, what is there for us to do but pray, obey and be ready for God's re-creating work through the eternal and unchanging Saviour, Jesus Christ?
'The Spirit and the bride say, "Come"... Amen. Come Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen' (Rev.22.17, 20-21).
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
"As the autumn season fades and winter begins, the world becomes still. Everything around us turns pale and drab. It chills us...Here is the moment to conquer the melancholy of time; here is the moment to say softly and sincerely what we know by faith. This is the season for the word of faith to be spoken in faith...: 'Listen, my heart, God has already begun to celebrate in the world and in you his Advent. He has taken the world and its time to his heart, softly and gently, so softly that we can miss it. He has even planted his own incomprehensible life in this time (we call it his eternity and we mean thereby that which is nameless, which is wholly other from the time that makes us so hopelessly sad). And this is precisely what happens in you yourself, my heart. It is called the grace of faith, the grace of the gradual falling away of the fear of time, of the fear that fades away because he who is more powerful than time (which he made to be redeemed into eternity) has done great things to it. A now of eternity is in you, a now that no longer has any denial before it or behind it. And this now has already begun to gather together your earthly moments into itself."'
The Eternal Year, Karl Rahner, BX2170/C55/R33, Chapter One.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
"The final end and consummation of Christ's strange work is the restoration of all things in Himself and for the heavenly Father's glory...It is to the accomplishment of this divine plan that Advent so eagerly looks, and for which it so fervently prays. Nothing less than the absolutely complete and publicly proclaimed victory of the Lord suffices for the Church which so loves Him and it is in this sense that one must understand the holy impatience of the ever-recurring Advent cry, 'Come.'
Thursday, November 1, 2007
This has a bit of age to it, but is a worthy meditation today.
Monday, October 29, 2007
The Consecration Date is set for January 26th. Here is a link to a story from the Epsicopal News Service http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_91401_ENG_HTM.htm
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
One of the most interesting phenomena of the world wide web is You Tube. Andy Warhol said it best, "In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes." You Tube is a fulfillment of that prophecy. Anyone with a video camera can upload footage of themselves or of anything else that crosses his or her mind. As you can imagine, there is some wretched stuff there so one has to exercise a measure of caution. On the other hand, some absolutely inspiring pieces are posted. Here is one I have particularly enjoyed.
Some great Mom advice from Anita Renfroe set to the William Tell Overture.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
11On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
Thursday, October 4, 2007
(Art by Jean Fitzgerald of Mulberry, FL)
On this day we remember one of the most beloved saints of Christendom - St. Francis of Assisi. Born in Umbria, Italy in 1182, he died on October 4, 1226 in a little hut attended by a few of his closest followers. His last act was the singing of Psalm 142 (see below). In two years' time after his death, he was recognized formally as a saint, and it has often been said of him that he is "the one saint whom all suceeding generations have agreed in canonizing." His humility, generosity, love of nature, simple and unaffected devotion to God have combined to make him one of the most cherished of all saints."
It is his love of nature that continues to resonate with many early 21st century folk - especially his love for animals. Many churches remember St. Francis with a Blessing of the Animals service (as we do). It is easy to imagine how St. Francis could be captured by the beauty of the creation growing up as he did in Umbria. Here is a contemporary picture ...double click for a larger version.
I am especially reminded today of another Francis - Francis Kline, abbot of Mepkin Abbey, who died this past year. Abbott Francis understood environmental advocacy as part of his call to stewardship of the creation, and, especially so when the government threatened to put an interstate highway right through the fragile and lovely ecosystem of the Cooper River area where Mepkin is located.
It would be quite possible for contemporary environmental advocates to claim St. Francis of Assisi as their patron. One of our members, David Stoney, has become very involved in the issue of global warming. This past week he visited Washington, DC as part of a lobbying effort sponsored by the National Wildflife Federation. Here is the link for the UTube piece about it (David appears several times!) http://youtube.com/watch?v=fgYFE9lYKkY
As St. Francis neared the end of his life, he suffered blindness and serious illness. Yet, even this was redemptive as his greatest desire was to find perfect joy through experiencing the suffering of his Lord.
Psalm 142 - Voce mea ad Dominum
I cry to the LORD with my voice; * to the LORD I make loud supplication.
I pour out my complaint before him * and tell him all my trouble.
When my spirit languishes within me, you know my path; * in the way wherein I walk they have hidden a trap for me.
I look to my right hand and find no one who knows me; * I have no place to flee to, and no one cares for me.
I cry out to you, O LORD; * I say, "You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living."
Listen to my cry for help, for I have been brought very low; * save me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.
Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your Name; * when you have dealt bountifully with me, the righteous will gather around me.
On Oct 4th of 1226, St. Francis was brought out of prison and entered the company of the glorious saints in light. May we follow his example and give thanks for his life.
Friday, September 21, 2007
The crisis was precipitated by the General Convention confirmation of a partnered gay man as a Bishop in the Episcopal Church and by the apparent permission given by the same convention to dioceses to exercise a local option for the blessing of same-sex unions. BUT, and this is really important to understand, this is not a fight about sexuality. As Mouneer Adis says, “It is not just about sexuality, but about your views of Christ, the Gospel, and the authority of the Bible. Please forgive me when I relay that some say you are a different church, others even think that you are a different religion.” (Please read the rest of his address below).
So, our bishops have some big decisions to make. Will we be a part of the Anglican Communion or not? Is the Episcopal Church willing to live in genuine interdependence with the rest of our church or are we so convinced of the rightness of our cause that we are willing to fracture the third largest denomination in the world?
There will be a number of resolutions before the bishops. May Jesus Christ, who is our peace, be in their midst as they chart our course.
Address of Archbishop Mouneer Anis to the House of Bishops at New Orleans. September 21, 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Thank you so much for inviting me here to come and listen to you and for giving me the opportunity to share my heart with you. I am very aware of my own shortcomings and weaknesses, but every word I want to say is out of love and concern for the unity of the Church of Christ.I do not come with great authority, nor am I the primate of a province with a great number of Anglicans; I do however, come from a region where Christ walked and where the Church was born. I come representing the Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East.
The Church in this region has faced many challenges since the first century. Our brothers and sisters in the early centuries were ready to sacrifice their very lives to stay true to the Faith they received from the Lord and his Apostles. Their blood was not in vain; rather it became the seed of the Church across our entire region. Many disputes and heresies took place in our region. In face of all the challenges, persecutions, and heresies our ancestors—people like St. Athanasius, St. Clement, Origen, and Cyril from Alexandria, along with Tertullian, Cyprian, and St. Augustine from North Africa—kept the faith of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
We are constantly learning from our ancient martyrs and forbearers how to serve the Kingdom of God faithfully.
Today our Anglican Church in the Middle East still lives within a very exciting and challenging context. We live among the Oriental Orthodox, the Greek Orthodox, the Catholics, the Jews and the Muslims. We greatly value our ecumenical relations and continue to work for unity. We also deeply respect and appreciate our Muslim friends and value our interfaith relations while in no way compromise our faith. I have to tell you that many of these relations were severely strained after your decision to consecrate Gene Robinson as bishop in 2003. We are seen as the new heretics and this has hindered our ecumenical and interfaith relations as well as our mission in the region.
My friends, like you, we want to be relevant to the culture in which we live. More importantly, we want to be salt and light to our societies. That is not an easy calling but it means we must remain distinct and humble at the same time. Without being distinct we cannot be salt and light; without humility we will not represent the one who said, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” We are also continuously challenged whether we should allow the culture to transform the Apostolic Faith we once received, or if we should allow the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform our culture as it has in the past.
As we struggle to answer this question we must never divorce ourselves from the faith that countless men, women and children died to protect. I believer that if we faithfully serve the Church of Christ, He will continue to fulfill his promise that the gates of Hades will not prevail against her.
Rupertus Meldenius said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity”. Our hope is to be united on the essentials of faith which are defined only by the whole church.
We are not in any way trying to impose rigid views on you. Like you we celebrate diversity, but we believe that such diversity should not be unlimited and should not contradict the essentials of our faith. We are not schismatic, but we are diligent to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. We want unity but not unity at any expense.
Anglicans are aware with humility that we are not “the” church but we are one member of the body of Christ, the one Holy Catholic Church. We proclaim this every week in our churches. This places upon us the responsibility to listen to and respect our ecumenical partners.
My friends, you may believe you have discovered a very different truth from that of the majority in the Anglican Communion. It is not just about sexuality, but about your views of Christ, the Gospel, and the authority of the Bible. Please forgive me when I relay that some say you are a different church, others even think that you are a different religion.
I understand that it is difficult for you in your context to accept the standard teaching of the Anglican Communion. That is why you refused to accept Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10. You also ignored all the warnings of the Primates in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Your response to the Windsor Report is seen by the Primates as not clear. You cannot say you value being a member of the Anglican Communion while you ignore the interdependence if the member churches. The interdependence is what differentiates us from other congregational churches.
I would like to remind you and myself with the famous resolution number 49 of the Lambeth Conference of 1930 which declares “the Anglican Communion is a fellowship of churches that…are bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference.” With respect, I have to say that those who would prefer to speak of laws and procedures, constitutions and canons, committees and process: you are missing the point! It is our mutual loyalty and fellowship, submitting to one another in the common cause of Jesus Christ that makes us of one Church one faith and one Lord.
It is clear that your actions have resulted in one the most difficult disputes in the Communion in our generation. You may see them as not core doctrinal issues. Many like me see the opposite but the thing that we all cannot ignore is that these issues are divisive and have created a lot of undesired consequences and reactions. For the first time in centuries, the fabric of our Communion is torn. Our energies have been drained and our resources are lost and it is difficult for both of us to continue like this.
My friends, if you really believe that the truth revealed to you is different from that shown to the rest of the Communion, then you need to uphold that claim with boldness even at the risk of losing unity. If you think it is right and necessary to ordain and consecrate practicing homosexuals and that you should bless same sex partnerships or even marriages, you should be true to what you believe is right and accept the consequences. However, if you appreciate being members of the global Anglican family, then you have to walk along side the members of your family.
Those who say it is important to stay together around the table, to listen to each other and to continue our dialogue over the difficult issues that are facing us are wise. We wholeheartedly agree with this, but staying around the table requires that you should not take actions that are contrary to the standard position (Lambeth 1.10) of the rest of the Communion. Sitting around one table requires humility from all of us. One church cannot say to the rest of churches “I know the whole truth, you don’t”.
Archbishop Rowan reminded us in his paper “Challenge and Hope” that “the whole truth is revealed to the whole church”. Sitting around one table requires that each one should have a clear stance before the discussion starts. It also requires that true openness and willingness to accept the mind of the whole. We do not have to be in the communion to sit around the one table. We do so when we dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox and with other faiths. It would be extremely difficult to sit around one table when you have already decided the outcome if the discussion and when you ignore the many voices, warnings and appeals from around the communion.
Today I appeal to you to respond with great clarity to the requests that were made in Dar Es Salaam. If you accepted the Primates’ recommendations, would you be able to give assurances to the Executive Committee of the General Convention of TEC would ratify your response? It is the responsibility of the bishop to guard the faith as we promise during our consecration.
In many of not most parts of the Communion and the historic churches, present and ancient, matters of faith and order, is the responsibility and therefore the authority of the Bishops to safeguard and teach.If you don’t commit yourself to the Dar Es Salaam recommendations would you be willing to walk apart at least for a period during which we continue our discussions and dialogue until we reach a common understanding, especially about the essentials of our faith?
Forgive me when I say that for many of us in the Communion, we feel that you have already walked apart at least theologically from the standard teaching of the Communion. I know that you value personal freedom and independence. The whole world learns this from you. You need to demonstrate this by securing freedom for the American orthodox Anglicans who do not share your theological direction. Show your spirit of inclusiveness when you deal with them. I am afraid to say that without this more and more interventions from other provinces is going to happen. No one wants this.
I pray for wisdom and grace, for myself as well as for you, and I pray that God will lead us both in the right direction. Remember the illustrious history of God’s church and remember future generations who will sit in judgment on us. Remember also that the whole world is waiting and watching what you do.Please forgive me if I have said anything that offends you. May the Lord bless you. +Mouneer Egypt
Is eighteen years too far removed to mark an anniversary like this? I don’t think so. We were living in Summerville at the time – 25 miles inland – and ended up with two ninety foot long leaf pines trees down in our house - with us in it! This was definitely one of the most frightening experiences of my life. Further to the north, McClellanville and its environs experienced a nineteen foot plus storm surge – the water tumbling boats, houses, and trees like dice. The church took somewhere between seven and nine feet of water – one of the water line marks is still visible if you look closely. Other marks, the ones people carry internally, are still there too if you look closely.
The folks in New Orleans will be recovering from Katrina for quite a while as will be so many others around the world who are struggling at this very moment with natural disasters of their own. So many came to help us. May God give us the wisdom and will to do the same.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies and the God of all consolation, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in affliction – and, with the same comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted by God.” (II Cor 1:3-4)
Friday, September 7, 2007
We've been reading through the Epistle of James in the daily lectionary and the following phrase grabbed me this morning "....What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." (Jas. 14:4b-c).
James goes on to chide his readers for being mists with big plans. As I prayed about this, I realized that I love to make BIG plans and hope to accomplish BIG things...and why? If I am utterly honest, I would have to admit that it is glory seeking for myself -- to get the accolades of my fellow human beings. I prayed, "Lord, I want to accomplish big things for you." What I heard brought me to tears, "Be faithful in the little things and this will be sufficient." JTCO
Thank you, Father. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Holy Spirit for the freedom we have in you. Amen
The photo is "Wanstead Heights" by Flash Wilson
From last Sunday's sermon....
There was once a king who loved nothing better than to go out alone in the clothes of a commoner. He wanted to meet the ordinary people of his kingdom--to learn their way of life, and especially their way of thinking about the world. One night, this king found himself walking in the poorest, narrowest street of the city. This was the street of the Jews. He heard a song in the distance. The king thought, "A song sung in this place of poverty must be a lament!" But as he got closer, he could hear the true character of the song: it was a song of pride! "Bai-yum-dum, bai-yum-bai, yum-bai, bai...."
The king was drawn to the source of the song: the smallest, humblest shack on that street. He knocked on the door. "Is a stranger welcome here?"
The voice from within said, "A stranger is G-d's gift. Come in!"
In the dim light inside, the king saw a man sitting on the only piece of furniture, a wooden box. When the king came in, the man stood up and sat on the floor, offering the king the crate for a seat.
"Well, my friend," the king asked, "what do you do to earn a living?"
"Oh, I am a cobbler."
"You have a shop where you make shoes?"
"Oh, no, I could not afford a shop. I take my box of tools--you are sitting on it--to the side of the road. There I repair shoes for people as they need them."
"You cobble shoes by the side of the road? Can you make enough money that way?"
The cobbler spoke with both humility and pride. "Every day, I make just enough money to buy food for that day."
"Just enough for one day? Aren't you afraid that one day you won't make enough, and then you'll go hungry?"
"Blessed be G-d, day by day."
The next day, the king determined to put this man's philosophy to the test. He issued a proclamation that anyone wishing to cobble shoes by the side of the road must purchase a license for fifty pieces of gold.
That night, the king returned to the street of the Jews. Again he heard a song in the distance, and thought, "This time, the cobbler will be singing a different tune." But when the king neared the house he heard the cobbler sing the same song. Worse, it was even longer, with a new phrase that soared joyfully: "Ah, ha-ah-ah, ah-hah, ah-hah, ah-yai."
The king knocked on the door. "Oh, my friend, I heard about that wicked king and his proclamation. I was so worried about you. Were you able to eat today?"
"Oh, I was angry when I heard I could not make my living in the way I always have. But I knew: I am entitled to make a living and I will find a way. As I stood there saying those very words to myself, a group of people passed me by. When I asked them where they were going, they told me: into the forest to gather fire wood. Every day, they bring back wood to sell as kindling. When I asked if I could join them, they said, 'There is a whole forest out there. Come along!'
"And so I gathered fire wood. At the end of the day, I was able to sell it for just enough money to buy food for today."
The king sputtered. "Just enough for one day? What about tomorrow? What about next week?"
"Blessed be G-d, day by day."
The next day, the king again returned to his throne, and issued a new proclamation: anyone caught gathering firewood in the royal forest would be inducted into the royal guard. For good measure, he issued another: no new members of the royal guard would be paid for forty days.
That night, the king returned to the street of the Jews. Amazed, he heard the same song! But now, it had a third part that was militant and determined: "
The king knocked on the door. "Cobbler, what happened to you today?"
"They made me stand at attention all day in the royal guard! They issued me a sword and a scabbard. But then they told me I wouldn't be paid for forty days!"
"Oh, my friend, I bet you wish now that you had saved some money."
"Well, let me tell you what I did. At the end of the day, I looked at that metal sword blade. I thought to myself, that must be valuable! So I removed the blade from the handle, and fashioned another blade of wood. When the sword is in the scabbard, no one can tell the difference. I took the metal blade to a pawnbroker, and I pawned it for just enough money to buy food for one day."
The king was stunned. "What if there's a sword inspection tomorrow?"
"Blessed be G-d, day by day."
The next day, the cobbler was pulled out of line in the king's guard. He was presented with a prisoner in chains.
"Cobbler, this man has committed a horrible crime. You are to take him to the square. Using your sword, you are to behead him."
"Behead him? I'm an observant Jew. I couldn't take another human life."
"If you do not, we'll kill both of you."
The cobbler led this poor, trembling man into the square, where a crowd had gathered to watch the execution. The cobbler put the prisoner's head on the chopping block. He stood tall, his hand on the handle of his sword. Facing the crowd, he spoke.
"Let G-d be my witness: I am no murderer! If this man is guilty as charged, let my sword be as always. But if he is innocent, let my sword turn to wood!"
He pulled his sword. The people gasped when they saw the wooden blade. They bowed down at the great miracle that had happened there.
The king, who had been watching all of this, came over to the cobbler. He took him by both his hands, and looked him deep in the eyes. "I am the king. And I am your friend who has visited you these last nights. I want you to come live with me in the palace and be my advisor. Please teach me how to live like that--one day at a time."
Then, in front of everyone, the two of them danced and sang: "Bai-yum-dum, bai-yum-bai, yum-bai, bai...."
This is a retelling of a well known Jewish folk tale by Doug Lipman. It appears in Dov Noy's Folktales of
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Saturday, August 4, 2007
Today a special electing convention of our Diocese convened at St. James, James Island and re-elected The Very Rev. Mark J. Lawrence to be our Fourteenth Bishop.
Unofficial votes were: In the clergy order - 78 yes, 2-no, and 2-abstain; In the lay order: parish churches: 43 yes, 3-no, and 1-abstain; Of the mission churches: 7-yes, 0-no, and 1/2-abstain. Notes about votes: mission churches are accorded 1/2 vote each, and, in both the parish and mission church delegations, a divided vote counts as a no.
May the requests for consents be returned in the affirmative with reverent alacrity!
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
...and below are some additional dates in which to be in prayer for our Church
* August 9-10, 2007 "Windsor Bishops" meet
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Back and so glad to be. Tomorrow is July 4th - Independence Day. In honor of the day, here is a nice quote from Ben Franklin
“ God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel” –Constitutional Convention of 1787 | original manuscript of this speech
Have a safe one!
Sunday, June 3, 2007
Vacation Bible School will be held July 13-17 and St. James will be hosting.
Very soon we will be posting sign up sheets for help in the following areas: Crafts, Games, Room set-ups, Snacks, Cookout, Decorations. Jobs small and large!
Our theme this year is CAMP E.D.G.E. St. James Santee will be transformed into an extreme adventure camp where children Experience and Discover God Everywhere! CAMP E.D.G.E. VBS is not your typical stroll through the woods. It's an action-packed, adrenaline-filled expedition that teaches kids their strength and power come from God .
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
On Tuesday the 29th, I will head out of town for an extended period of continuing education. I will return to church on June 24th. We have some wonderful guest celebrant/preachers lined up and I hope you will all welcome them with your customary warmth. I will attempt to blog from Princeton. May God watch between me and thee while we are parted one from another.
Yrs, in Christ, Jennie
Friday, May 18, 2007
Luke 24: 49-53
49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’ 50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
These days, the purpose of Rogation Sunday (and the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of the coming week) is to give thanks to God for the blessings of land, produce, livestock, and, in our case, the bounty of the seas.
George Herbert, poet and priest, gave the following good reasons to beat the bounds: 1) a blessing of God for the fruits of the field; 2) Justice in the preservation of the bounds; 3) Charitie, in living, walking and neighbourliy accompanying one another, with reconciling of differences at that time, if they be any; 4) Mercie, in relieving the poor by a liberal distribution of largess which at that time is or oght be made.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
The Lady Julian (or Juliana) was born about 1342, and when she was thirty years old, she became gravely ill and was expected to die. Then, on the seventh day, the medical crisis passed, and she had a series of fifteen visions, or "showings," in which she was led to contemplate the Passion of Christ. These brought her great peace and joy. She became an anchoress, living in a small hut near to the church in
Although the room where Julian lived and received visitors was destroyed during WW II,
it has been faithfully recreated.
The Second Commemoration of the Week (May 9) is Saint Gregory of Nazianzus
who, with Saints Athanasius, Basil, and John Chrysostom, is a Father of the Church and one of the four Eastern Doctors of the Church. He is known especially for his contributions to the theological definition of the Trinity and the nature of Christ. He, Basil, and Gregory of Nyssa are called the Cappadocian Fathers. Brought up in the Cappadocian town of Nazianzus (present-day Bekar, Turkey), where his father was bishop, Gregory as a young man was reluctant to take a position of responsibility in the church, retiring instead to a monastic community started by Basil in Pontus. He explained this action in his Defense of the Flight to Pontus, which became the basis for works on the priesthood by Saint John Chrysostom and Pope Gregory I. Gregory was consecrated a bishop in 371 but did not become actively involved in ecclesiastical affairs until he assumed leadership (379) of the orthodox community in Constantinople, at a time when the city was divided by controversy between rival Christian groups. He played a leading role at the first Council of Constantinople (381), which continued the definition of Christian teaching begun at the councils of
from ORATION 31
"To us there is One God, for the Godhead is One, and all that proceedeth from Him is referred to One, though we believe in Three Persons. For one is not more and another less God; nor is One before and another after; nor are They divided in will or parted in power; nor can you find here any of the qualities of divisible things; but the Godhead is, to speak concisely, undivided in separate Persons; and there is one mingling of Light, as it were of three suns joined to each other. When then we look at the Godhead, or the First Cause, or the Monarchia, that which we conceive is One; but when we look at the Persons in Whom the Godhead dwells, and at Those Who timelessly and with equal glory have their Being from the First Cause--there are Three Whom we worship."
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
I am thinking of preaching on the Revelation text since the Gospel passage was the focus of Maundy Thursday's sermon this year. Here is the Revelation text
Revelation 19:1, 4-9
19After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power to our God, 4And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who is seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, and all who fear him, small and great.” 6Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; 8to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 9And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”
The marriage supper of the Lamb sounds wonderful, doesn't it? And, the good news is that you are invited, as is all of creation. One's imagination could run pretty wild given the rich variety of wedding celebrations possible. I don't think the picture below is from a wedding feast, but, hey, it might look like this! Here is a giant Ukrainian pysanka (Easter egg) built in 1975 in Vegreville, Canada.
Don't look. He's not in our liturgical calendar, but maybe should be. Leonardo da Vinci died on this date in 1519. Edward Hays tells us, he was... "A true genius in many and varied fields. When commissioned to paint a portrait of the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, he found it very difficult to make her smile. Da Vinci even resorted to hiring people to play, sing, and jest while he painted her. Today, Mona Lisa's smile is renowned. A good day to let the grace of the Easter season make your smile unforgettable."
Monday, April 23, 2007
This is our Gospel reading for Sunday. Where would you start?
22At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.”The above illustration is from the Jesus Mafa series. It is part of a project to set the Gospel in African context. Originally developed for the Mafa people of North Cameroun, the project continues. Click here to read about this remarkable undertaking.
And let light perpetual shine upon them.
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Fra Angelico, San Marco Museum, Florence
A Sermon for Easter Day 2007
Look out! God’s resurrection power is at work!
They came at early dawn and found an empty tomb. They were perplexed – confused – disoriented. Things were not as they ought to have been. Read more....
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
No. 30 Scenes from the Life of Christ: 14. Washing of Feet
Fresco, 200 x 185 cm Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
To pray for genuine humility is a tricky thing. May this litany by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930) be of some assistance to us all.
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart,
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected,
Deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
–Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930)
From the Churchyear.net site