Monthly Archives: July 2008

The Associated Press: Tenn. church shooting victims improving

A horrible example of what a powderekeg of isolation, harsh polemics and unchecked zealotry can lead to when ignited by financial pressures.  We should always remember how Hitler gained power and brought down the Weimar Republic–“it’s the economy stupid”–has long been a mantra of ideologues looking for leverage.

Russell Kirk defined conservatism as the absense of ideology–we would do well to remember that fact, and why it is so important.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Three people wounded in a fatal shotgun rampage at a Unitarian church were in serious condition Tuesday, a day after a candlelight vigil tried to comfort congregation members and others attempting to “make sense of the senseless.”

Jim D. Adkisson, 58, an out-of-work trucker, is accused of killing two people and wounding six others during a children’s musical at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church Sunday morning. Children on Monday ended the service by singing, “The sun will come out tomorrow,” a line from the signature song from that musical, “Annie.”

A four-page letter found in Adkisson’s SUV indicated he picked the church for the attack because, the Knoxville police chief said, “he hated the liberal movement” of the congregation.

Three people who were shot were in serious condition and a fourth was stable at Tennessee Medical Center, nursing supervisor Susan Wilson said Tuesday. Killed were Greg McKendry, 60, and Linda Kraeger, 61.

An overflow crowd of more than 1,000 people attended the memorial service at the Second Presbyterian Church next door.

“We’re here tonight to make sense of the senseless,” the Rev. William Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, told the gathering.

About 200 people were watching 25 children perform when authorities said Adkisson entered and fired three blasts from a semiautomatic shotgun. Still in the hospital were Jack Barnhart, 69, Linda Chavez, 41, and Tammy Sommers, all in serious condition, and Joe Barnhart, 76, who was stable, Wilson said. Two others who were shot were treated and released, and a seventh person was hurt diving under a pew, authorities have said.

Adkisson’s ex-wife once belonged to the church but hadn’t attended in years, said Ted Jones, the congregation’s president. Police spokesman Darrell DeBusk declined to comment on whether investigators think the ex-wife’s link was a factor in the attack.

Adkisson, who had been on the verge of losing his food stamps, remained jailed Tuesday on $1 million bond after being charged with one count of murder. More charges are expected.

The attack Sunday morning lasted only minutes. But the anger behind it may have been building for months, if not years.

“It appears that what brought him to this horrible event was his lack of being able to obtain a job, his frustration over that, and his stated hatred for the liberal movement,” Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen said of Adkisson.

A police affidavit used to get a search warrant for Adkisson’s home said the suspect admitted to the shooting.

Adkisson “stated that he had targeted the church because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country,” investigator Steve Still wrote.

Adkisson was a loner who hates “blacks, gays and anyone different from him,” longtime acquaintance Carol Smallwood of Alice, Texas, told the Knoxville News Sentinel.

The Associated Press: Tenn. church shooting victims improving.

The Archbishop of Canterbury: Second Presidential Address to the Lambeth Conference 2008

29 July 2008

Archbishop Rowan Williams
Archbishop Rowan Williams

‘What is Lambeth ’08 going to say?’ is the question looming larger all the time as this final week unfolds.  But before trying out any thoughts on that, I want to touch on the prior question, a question that could be expressed as ‘Where is Lambeth ’08 going to speak from?’.  I believe if we can answer that adequately, we shall have laid some firm foundations for whatever content there will be.

And the answer, I hope, is that we speak from the centre.  I don’t mean speaking from the middle point between two extremes — that just creates another sort of political alignment.  I mean that we should try to speak from the heart of our identity as Anglicans; and ultimately from that deepest centre which is our awareness of living in and as the Body of Christ.

We are here at all, surely, because we believe there is an Anglican identity and that it’s worth investing our time and energy in it.  I hope that some of the experience of this Conference will have reinforced that sense.  And I hope too that we all acknowledge that the only responsible and Christian way of going on engaging with those who aren’t here is by speaking from that centre in Jesus Christ where we all see our lives held and focused.

And, as I suggested in my opening address, speaking from the centre requires habits and practices and disciplines that make some demands upon everyone — not because something alien is being imposed, but because we know we shall only keep ourselves focused on the centre by attention and respect for each other — checking the natural instinct on all sides to cling to one dimension of the truth revealed.  I spoke about council and covenant as the shape of the way forward as I see it.  And by this I meant, first, that we needed a bit more of a structure in our international affairs to be able to give clear guidance on what would and would not be a grave and lasting divisive course of action by a local church.  While at the moment the focus of this sort of question is sexual ethics, it could just as well be pressure for a new baptismal formula or the abandonment of formal reference to the Nicene Creed in a local church’s formulations; it could be a degree of variance in sacramental practice — about the elements of the Eucharist or lay presidency; it could be the regular incorporation into liturgy of non-Scriptural or even non-Christian material.

Some of these questions have a pretty clear answer, but others are open for a little more discussion; and it seems obvious that a body which commands real confidence and whose authority is recognised could help us greatly.  But the key points are confidence and authority.  If we do develop such a capacity in our structures, we need as a Communion to agree what sort of weight its decisions will have; hence, again, the desirability of a covenantal agreement.

Some have expressed unhappiness about the ‘legalism’ implied in a covenant.  But we should be clear that good law is about guaranteeing consistence and fairness in a community; and also that in a community like the Anglican family, it can only work when there is free acceptance.  Properly understood, a covenant is an expression of mutual generosity — indeed, ‘generous love’, to borrow the title of the excellent document on Inter-Faith issues which was discussed yesterday.  And we might recall that powerful formulation from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks — ‘Covenant is the redemption of solitude’.

Mutual generosity :  part of what this means is finding out what the other person or group really means and really needs.  The process of this last ten days has been designed to help us to find out something of this — so that when we do address divisive issues, we have created enough of a community for an intelligent generosity to be born.  It is by no means a full agreement, but it will, I hope, have strengthened the sense that we have at least a common language, born out of the conviction that Jesus Christ remains the one unique centre.

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Two new books and the innate liberalism of Protestantism

A few days ago I purchased two books I’ve been waiting to read for a while.  They are quite different works of history and/or cultural critique, yet they are both contributing to some thoughts I’ve been trying to flesh out for a while.

Christianity's Dangerous Idea

The first of these is Alister McGrath’s Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, which is primarily a history of protestant support for individual interpretation of the Bible and, by way of illustrating the former, a history of the emergence and evolution of Protestantism.  I’ve only skimmed sections of it so far, and read the introduction, but I believe this text would be important for those attempting to come to terms with the divergence of protestantism–especially those who’s denominations are in periods of conflict.  In particular, McGrath makes the following observation in the introduction in regards to the current struggles within the Anglican Communion:

The idea that lay at the heart of the sixteenth-century Reformation, which brought Anglicanism and the other Protestant churches into being, was that the Bible is capable of being understood by all Christian believers–and that they all have the right to interpret it and to insist upon their perspectives being taken seriously,  Yet this powerful affirmation of spiritual democracy ended up unleashing forces that threatened to destabilize the church, eventually leading to fissure and the formation of breakaway groups.  Anglicanism may yet follow the pattern of other Protestant groups and become a “family” of denominations, each with its own way of reading and applying the Bible.

The dangerous new idea, firmly embodied at the heart of the Protestant revolution, was that all Christians have the right to interpret the Bible for themselves.  However, it ultimately proved uncontrollable, spawning developments that few at the time could have envisaged or predicted.  The great convulsions of the early sixteenth century that historians now call “the Reformation” introduced into the history of Christianity a dangerous new idea that gave rise to an unparalleled degree of creativity and growth, on the one hand, while on the other causing new tensions and debates that, by their very nature, probably lie beyond resolution.  The development of Protestantism as a major religious force in the world has been shaped decisively by the creative tensions emerging from this principle.

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The New Shape of Anglicanism? | Liveblog | Christianity Today

Timothy Morgan offers the following post about Anglican Happenings at Christianity Today’s live blog.  My comments follow.

The New Shape of Anglicanism?

Leaders of 1,300 Anglican/Episcopal churches seek status as new North American Province.

Timothy C. Morgan

Less than 1 week after the official opening of the Lambeth conference in the UK, the conservative Common Cause Partnership has issued a press release, declaring their joint intention to request that leading Anglican primates recognize their 1,300 congregations as the new North American Province.

Granted, this was a widely anticipated move. But this effort puts the fat in the fire on a day when Lambeth attendees are having tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace following their very public march through official London for adoption of the Millennium Development Goals to fight global poverty and improve the standard of living for the world’s 3 billion poor people.

{Read it all}

There are, of course, some practical issues to deal with in the request of the Common Cause Partnership.  For instance, how can GAFCON, which claims to be a fellowship and not a Church unto itself, recognize Common Cause as a “province.”  A province of what exactly, if not the Church of GAFCON?  That, coupled with the issue of the GAFCON leaders being self-appointed smacks of the same sickness that has brought down the American Episcopal Church, i.e. a willful desire to go one’s own way.  The only difference are their opinions.

The second practical issue to clear up is the fact that not all of the various ecclesial bodies within the Common Cause partnership enjoy the same degree of fellowship with one another.  Some members include Dioceses that are still within the structure of The Episcopal Church, various bodies that have left at different times over issues as varied as the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, Women’s Ordination and now the sexuality controversy.  Because of their differences on these matters (save sexuality issues) there is no inter-changeability of ministries within the members of the Common Cause Partnership, which is, of course, one of the first issues to be dealt with on the road to unity.  How can anything calling itself a province of a Church include within it groups that don’t recognize one another’s ordination?  This issue is heightened in the case of the Reformed Episcopal Church, which joined Common Cause while the Anglican Province of America, with whom they are merging, declined to do so for these very reasons (why would you join in fellowship those whom you believe to be wrong in regards to women and the Prayerbook just because you agree on issues of human sexuality, when it was those other issues that drove you to separate from TEC to begin with?)

I’m afraid all this talk of “realignment” within Anglicanism sans Canterbury is little more than the self-deception of conservatives who are doing as much to turn a Church that has been growing and evolving into an international Communion, into little more than a partisan fellowship of the like-minded, as the liberals are on the other end.  What they fail to realize is that unless their is a solution that emerges from an evolution of the Communion, such as many are working toward through the Covenant, the hopeful future establishment of an Anglican Faith and Order Commission etc… then they are doing nothing but establishing sects that may or may not achieve and maintain any recognizable form of unity–and it certainly won’t be recognizable as a global communion.  And if indeed that does happen, and fragmentation continues, it begs the question of what it has all been for.  After all, aren’t there any number of ways to be protestant and use the prayer book liturgy without all the fuss and bother of the current politics in the Anglican Communion?  It boggles my mind.  If one isn’t willing to work for a solution that leaves a stronger international communion, then why wouldn’t you simply form an independent Bible Church that happens to use the BCP (whichever version you prefer)

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New Essay up in WordPress » Particularity & Justice

I’ve transferred another of my essays, this one on Restorative Justice, from a basic HTMl file into a WordPress Page.  Here’s an excerpt:

That there is a sense of proportion and aesthetics to justice should come as no surprise to Christians, who experience redemption played out upon the background of an aesthetic of beauty, truth, perfection and completion over against the ugliness of lies, death and decay. Consider Athanasius’ description of the incarnation, wherein Jesus’ enfleshment is seen as a fitting means to renew the divine image in a corrupt creation. His death—being the incarnate Logos—is proportioned to the death brought about by our first parents’ sin and is able to absorb the full brunt of the assault and emerge in the resurrection on the other side, first born of the dead.2

The Cross was proportional to our sins in that it had to occur in order for us to be free from sin—a fitting sacrifice for the sins of the whole world—but it was weighted toward mercy, not just balance, and because all Christian judgment flows from the cross—for through the cross we are freed to judge—it must in its deliberations of justice and judgment inevitably privilege mercy. “Christian punishment,” Stanley Hauerwas states “is properly understood to be excommunication or binding and loosing. To be confronted by our brothers and sisters because of our sin is a call to reconciliation. Not to hear the call is to condemn ourselves.”3 It is in this that we see a Christian model for justice: mercy extended and if rejected the condemnation is of our own doing and no one else’s.

{Read it all}

The Anglican Communion Institute, Inc. – TEC's Theological Agenda and TEC's Strategy for the Lambeth Conference of Bishops

Shortly before the opening of the Lambeth Conference (now in progress) the Rt. Rev. Clayton Matthews of the office of TEC’s Presiding Bishops circulated a memo to all TEC bishops planning to attend. The memo is entitled “Lambeth Talking Points” and is intended to guide and shape the comments of TEC’s bishops in their discussions with other bishops from other parts of the Anglican Communion. The memo is revealing for several reasons. (1) It is an obvious attempt to give uniform shape and content to the contribution TEC’s bishops have to make; (2) it reveals what TEC’s leadership intends the outcome of the conference to be; and (3) displays what the theology is that lies behind the uniform position TEC’s leadership hopes to establish as that of the Communion as a whole.

It is revealing that the introduction to the memo states that a method of communication is being proposed that “will provide the media with no more “than they want or can use.” It is manifestly also a method designed to keep a large group of people “on message” so that TEC’s bishops will remain on the same page. It is manifest also that the memo signals a hardened position on the part of TEC’s Episcopal leadership that runs counter to the spirit the Archbishop of Canterbury has asked to guide the bishops in their deliberations—a spirit of mutual subjection in Christ that is open to correction.

The Anglican Communion Institute, Inc. – TEC’s Theological Agenda and TEC’s Strategy for the Lambeth Conference of Bishops
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Anglican Communion News Service: Primate of Japan prays for peace and friendship with Korea

[On July 21st] the Primate of the Anglican Church in Japan chose the Eucharist, during which Christians remember that they are part of the one body of Christ, to offer a prayer for reconciliation between Japan and Korea.

The Primate of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai & Bishop of Hokkaido, Most Revd Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu, took part in the intercessory prayers during the Eucharist which was led by the Korean Church.

“Japan and Korea have shared a very sad and tragic history,” he said, acknowledging that the occupation and colonisation of Korea until the end of the second World War had seen many in Korea suffer atrocities at the hands of the occupiers.

“In those years since, there has been a dividing wall of hostility and mistrust between two peoples in these two countries.”

The Presiding Bishop of Seuol, The Most Revd Francis Kyung Jo Park, who invited Archbishop Uematsu to pray in today’s service, said that the process of reconciliation between the two churches had taken place over the last twenty years.

“We have met together, and studied our history together,” he said. “We have sat down to discuss and rebuild our broken relationship. The bishops and priests have visited our churches, and confessed, and we have accepted it.”

Anglican Communion News Service: Primate of Japan prays for peace and friendship with Korea

Anglican Communion News Service: Statement of the Sudanese Bishops to the Lambeth Conference on the Situation in Sudan

Presented by the Most Revd Dr Daniel Deng Bul, Archbishop and Primate of the Sudan

Your Grace, the Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

Your Graces, the Archbishops of our beloved Anglican Communion,

Your Lordships, the Bishops of the Anglican Communion and the clergy,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We greet you all in the precious name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

We, the Sudanese Bishops gathering at the Lambeth Conference, would like on behalf of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) and the whole Sudanese people, to acknowledge and appreciate your prayers and support during the 21 years of war in Southern Sudan and in reaching the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement / Army (SPLM/A) on 9th January 2005. The CPA provides the basis for a just and sustainable peace in the Sudan. We give thanks to God for the agreement and express our support for all efforts to ensure its full and timely implementation.

After 21 years of war, in which more than 2 million people lost their lives and more than 4 million people have become refugees or internally displaced, we are greatly encouraged at thenew future offered by the CPA. However, we remain deeply concerned that the conflict in Darfur, in Western Sudan, continues unabated, and at the localized conflict in several places which threatens stability and the sustainability of peace. We therefore wish to share with you thefollowing concerns:

1. Situation in Darfur

Despite the Government of Sudan’s official estimate of not more than 10,000 people killed in the fighting in Darfur, the UN has estimated there to have been some 300,000 war-related deaths since the conflict escalated in 2003. Whatever the exact figures, this continuing loss of life is an affront to all people who value human life and to religious faith in the God of mercy.

Anglican Communion News Service: Statement of the Sudenese Bishops to the Lambeth Conference on the Situation in Sudan

The Living Church Foundation | Sudanese Bishop Explains Release of Letters

The Church of Sudan has shaken things up a bit at Lambeth over the past few days with their call for Gene Robinson to resign his post as Bishop of New Hampshire.  These statements have been reported as coming as a surprise to The delegation from The Episcopal Church because Sudan, unlike other African provinces, has maintained relationships even with more revisionist Dioceses in the US.  I’m especially interested in this development because of the relationship the Church of Sudan has with the Diocese of Tennessee through the wonderful ministry of the Sudanese congregation at St. Bartholomew’s Church.  In fact, I believe Archbishop Bul was in our Diocese not long ago.

As more news comes out about this, the more it seems to me to be a strong Christian stance.  The fact that the Sudanese has continued to meet with the Americans, yet are strong in their statement, and even the wording of their admonition bespeaks Christian charity and concern.

Members of the House of Bishops of The Church of the Sudan knew that The Episcopal Church would attempt to make the exclusion of Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire an issue at the Lambeth Conference, and so they prepared the two letters released yesterday before they departed for the England.

“This was our unanimous position that we agreed to,” said the Rt. Rev. Benjamin Mangar Mamur, Bishop of Yirol. As to the timing of their release, he said the Sudanese bishops left that decision to their primate, Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams acknowledged receiving the letters before they were released, but they came as a surprise to a number of other African bishops. Bishop Mangar said the letters, especially the one on human sexuality, were not meant to be hurtful. Instead they were intended as a plea to come back to the fold from one group of Christians to another.

{Read It all}

Archbishop Akinola: Lambeth attendance immaterial

I just read this little tid-bit from Religious Intelligence.  It seems that TEC isn’t the only province of the Anglican Communion enamored with provincial autonomy and perhaps, at some point total independence.  I may be proven wrong (I certainly hope so), but this looks like more evidence that some sections of the GAFCON folks would prescribe a medicine tainted with the same disease that has led to TEC’s downfall and lack of concern for the rest of the Communion.  Opinions differ, and it would be wrong to criticize an individual decision to boycott Lambeth, whether one disagrees with that path or not, but neither can one deny the similar tendency to go it alone.  The opinions may differ but the means of enforcing them look more and more similar.

However, Archbishop Peter Akinola told ReligiousIntelligence.com the whole issue of who was or was not at Lambeth was immaterial. “At this point it is a non-issue for us. After Lambeth, any Nigerian who may have chosen to flout our provincial and collective decision will have to answer to the general synod. It as simple as that.”

{read it all}

HT: George Conger