Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Tag: Anglicanism (Page 2 of 10)

Proxy Wars and A Missionary’s Perspective on Lambeth

I just ran across the following blog post from an Episcopal Missionary in Tanzania regarding the recently concluded Lambeth Conference.  In this section we see just one of the many possible ways the debates in the West regarding human sexuality are already affecting life throughout the Communion.  Is there any doubt that, should division continue, such situations with increase and worsen?

As many of you know I am serving as a missionary in the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, which is a very large diocese in the Anglican Church of Tanzania. Now as a missionary I am here at the invitation and under the authority of the diocesan bishop here. This bishop is moderate and believes in dialogue and communicating with the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) and so he is willing to invite missionaries from there. The former Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Tanzania was strongly opposed to the actions of the Episcopal Church USA and he refused to accept money or aide from that Church.

This clear difference between the views of the former Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Tanzania (ACT) and the bishop of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika (DCT) has played out in a very ugly way. A few years ago, very conservative Anglican Americans (formerly Episcopalian) decided to establish an Anglican university in Dodoma. They put together a great deal of money and sent it over here to create and fund a university who would be headed by the former archbishop of ACT who condemned ECUSA as ignoring scripture and being sodomites. One of the main functions of this university was to train leaders for the Anglican Church, but ignores one major fact. In the 1960s DCT established Msalato Bible College (now Msalato Theological College) to train leaders for the Church. Msalato has been raising up and educating leaders for decades in the same place that American Anglicans established this new university, which is called St. John’s. The people who established St. John’s hoped to supplant Msalato forbade cooperation between the two institutions. The backers of St. John’s established huge scholarship funds and were able to successfully lure away all but one of Msalato’s first class of degree students with promises of free education. At the same time many churches and some diocese in the Episcopal Church have increased their support for Msalato and DCT.

Historians would call this a proxy war. One in which two larger powers use local leaders to wage a war against each other without risking any of their own people. Proxy wars were very common during the Cold War and were fought throughout the developing war. This is a sad and tragic development. A perversion of the Church and a bastardization of mission theology. The Church should not look to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the conflict between the Contras and Sandinistas, or the Bay of Pigs invasion to find tactics or ethical support.

Day’s Daze in Dodoma » Blog Archive » A Missionary’s Perspective on Lambeth.

Rowan Williams on Christians and the Human Body.

Lost Icons

The following is a selection of highlights from a lecture Archbishop Rowan Williams gave in June at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Anyone who has read Williams’ theology knows that it is both very cruciform and concerned with avoiding any sort of gnosticism. His essay–thought experiment really–that he presented several years ago to the Lesbian and Gay Christian movement in England entitled “The Body’s Grace” was both very good and troubling in the questions it presented about how we’re to treat same-sex attraction. It was very good in that it avoided many of the cliches we see in current rhetoric, and troubling because of some of the questions raised about the permissibility of homosexual behavior from a Christian perspective. The lasting impression it made upon me, however, was its refocusing of the debate away from strict heterosexual= intrinsically good and homosexual= intrinsically bad thinking, and more toward a consideration of motivation and what it actually means to have a disordered sexuality, i.e. any sort of sexuality that seeks to deprive the other of individuality, objectify or in any other way use another person toward our own ends. That traditional Christian theology sees homosexuality as inherently disordered does not take away from the positive fact that Williams challenges us to examine all of our relations to ensure that we are not forcing our own meanings onto another, or denying the image of God in which they are created. He pushes this understanding forward very well, I think, in his book Lost Icons: Reflections of Cultural Bereavement, where he talks clearly, for example, about the many ways in which our culture deprives children of their childhood and instead forces them to become sexual subjects at younger and younger ages, putting them in a situation where they are made to become both overly sexual at earlier ages as well as parentified children to childish adults who’ve never learned to tell the difference between a child’s wants and needs and those of a grown up.

Since he has being appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, it seems that Archbishop Williams’ personal beliefs have taken a more conservative turn in the area of human sexuality, and he has indicated as much in various interviews, though never going into much detail. I doubt his views are “conservative enough” for some still, but he has also maintained consistently that there is a difference between an academic theologian asking certain questions in order to engage in a conversation on a given topic and a Bishop or Archbishop who must always teach what the Church teaches on a given issue, especially one that is controversial. Hence his support for Lambeth resolution 1:10 and his insistence that the various transgressions of the American and Canadian Churches cannot be justified by rights talk.

The video below, I believe, demonstrates very well why Williams takes seriously the question of what it is Christians are supposed to do with our bodies. He reminds us of something very important in our Christian tradition: the fact that bodies matter. It really makes a difference what we do with them. In contrast to various paganisms and mystery cults that inhabited the Greco-Roman world, and the sort of neo-gnosticism that has taken root in our own day, for Christians the body is of utmost importance. As someone put it, it is never appropriate for a Christian to talk about someone “having a body” for Christians we are bodies. Enjoy this selection (it’s a little over 3 minutes) and if you have time, watch the whole thing here.

Note that these highlights begin in an odd place, in the midst of one of Williams’ thoughts. He’s just finished talking about how odd it is that so many modern people are enamored with philosophical systems that Christianity “saw off” in its first few centuries, systems referred to as gnostic, “we can see” he says, “how an affirmative view of the material world began to take root within early Christianity,” and then he says “but surely, people may say, surely early Christianity was neurotic” which is where the clip begins. Williams himself is not saying that early Christianity was neurotic (at least not totally), he’s actually showing why that is not the case. Interesting editing.
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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)


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}

On the Church of England's General Synod Vote and the Process of Reception

UPDATE: The dialogue is now up on Covenant.

Note: The following is my contribution to an ongoing dialogue among the Covenant Communion authors regarding Women’s Ordination–specifically the vote of the Church of England’s General Synod to allow women Bishops.  Some might well ask why the vote in England has attracted so much attention, after all there are plenty of Churches within the Communion who ordain female priests (and once women were admitted to the Presbyterate it was only a matter of time before they were admitted to the Episcopate–it became a fait accompli at that point)  Not only that, but a majority of provinces now allow for women’s ordination to the Diaconate.  So all the fuss might seem a little strange, lot least to Episcopalians who have moved in a universe where women have been ordained as Priests since the 1970’s and to the Episcopate not long thereafter.  Yet, this *is* a big deal, at least ecumenically because–for example–it has a dramatic impact ecumenically that the decisions to ordain women priests and consecrate women bishops in say, the US or New Zealand did not have.  This impact is related to the fact that the Church of England, as the mother church of the Anglican Communion as a whole, has been seen as the “bell weather” church for the whole communion, especially by Rome.  Some have suggested that this particular concern for the Church of England on the part of the Roman Catholic Church has had a lot to do with the perception in Rome of the Church of England as a wayward province of the Western Catholic Church, and therefore one that could concievably be brought back–whole and entire–into union with the Holy See.  Hence the fact that the Roman Catholic Church in England was very careful not to reproduce sees (the head of the RCC in England is the Archbishop of Westminster, not the “Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury”, for example).  Whatever the underlying reasons are, the Roman Catholic Church (and to a lesser extent the Orthodox) have always taken more heed of what the Church of England has done, noting that until something is done in England the question cannot be said to be settled, and if it is done in England it is a foregone conclusion elsewhere.  So all of this led to a discussion among us of the General Synod vote, women’s ordination as well as the notion of a “process of reception” for changes in practice within the Communion.  I am addressing some particular objections to the idea of a process of reception in the comment below.  The whole dialogue will be posted on Covenant shortly and I hope you all will take time to read it when it is up.

I have a few thoughts I would like to add to the discussion regarding reception and the questions raised by Sam above.  Any discussion of women’s ordination, particularly the ordination of women to the episcopate would seem to be incomplete without some reflection on how the issue of reception can be seen in the evolution of the episcopacy in general.  (Of course part of the issue that has to be raised is whether or not one believes there was a time when the ministry of Bishops, strictly speaking, did not recognizably conform to our contemporary expectations, i.e. one has to allow that there were a diversity of practices locally that eventually developed and coalesced into the three orders of ministry with the mono-episcopate that we recognize today.  Once one has answered that question allowing for development, the next question is whether such development was guided by the Holy Spirit or not.

I agree with those who assert that the biblical record is clear that there was no single definitive way of organizing the early Christian communities that arose from the missionary activities of the Apostles and other disciples but that it emerged and became uniform over the first two centuries especially.  Indeed, the only Church that is spoken of in the New Testament as being under the authority of a single residential leader is the Church of Jerusalem of which James was the single episcopos, perhaps serving as a model upon which later individual episcopacies would be founded (this observation connects, I believe, with +Rowan Williams’ recent observation in his paper–read in his absence–to the Society of St. Alban and St. Sergius, that, with the exception of Jerusalem, all churches are daughter Churches).  In the case of other local churches, it seems that the situation was rather more diverse.  In some instances it appears as though there was indeed a single overseer for the entire community, while in others it appears  as though councils–alternatively referred to collectively either as councils of presbeuteroi or episcopoi–exercised as a collective the authority that would later be ascribed to one of their number as Bishop.  Largely this distinction seems to have been geographic in nature, with the eastern churches developing the episcopate as we now understand it at an earlier date (understandable given their closer proximity to the Mother Church in Jerusalem).

In his book, From Apostles to Bishops: The Development of the Episcopacy in the Early Church, Francis A. Sullivan, S.J. argues persuasively that there were differences in the authority structures of local churches.  Specifically he maintains the the mono-episcopate seems to have developed earlier in the churches of the east (think Syria-Palestine and Ignatius).  On the other hand, in comparing the letters of Ignatius and Clement, he shows that the episcopal authority at Corinth in Clement’s day (and, he argues, in Rome as well) seems to have been held collegially by a council of elders, in contrast to, at the risk of using a biased term, the more developed episcopacy evidenced in Ignatius’ writing.

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The Rev. Dr. George Sumner: Convention Address, Diocese of Tennessee, January 26, 2008, St Bartholomew’s Church Nashville

I found Dr. Sumner’s address to convention to be very interesting and inspiring during these times. I’m glad they posted it on the Diocesan website.

In the spirit of the past as prologue to the future, and of reclaiming the rich treasure of our Anglican past, let us begin this morning by asking what clergy life and ministry were like at the parish grassroots two centuries ago in merry old England. If we listen to the commentators of the time, the answer is often very, very odd. One priest, we read, would give a normal homily in the morning, but at evensong insisted on preaching only about the Empress Josephine. An historian named Brendon tells us that another parson in the West Country did not enter his church for 53 years, and kenneled the local foxhounds in the vicarage. A neighboring priest refused to do any services, but would greet the parishioners in the Churchyard wearing a flowered dressing gown and smoking a hookah. Yet another drove his flock away, replaced them with wooden and cardboard images in the pews, and “surrounded his vicarage with barbed wire behind which savage Alsatians patrolled.” Another spent his whole ministry searching for the number of the beast while the rector of Luffincott devoted all his time to calculating the date of the millennium. Yet another installed his own sanitary arrangements in his choir stall, while a nearby priest declared himself a neo-platonist and sacrificed an ox to Jupiter on the church grounds.

But my personal favorite is one Joshua Brooks of Manchester. During a burial service he abruptly left the church, went nearby to the confectioner’s shop, bought some gumdrops, and came back to finish up the service. One Easter Monday, the traditional day for marriages in the parish, he had a number of couples to marry at once, got the names confused, married several to the wrong spouses, and so at the end of the service declared imperiously “just sort yourselves out when you leave…” All this inspired the archdeacon to tell the new bishop ‘your clergy, my lord, may be divided into three categories: those who have gone out of their minds, those about to go out of their minds, and those who have no minds to go out of.” And then there was Montague who hung the coat of his late dog Tango in the sacristy closet …maybe that is enough! So good news, Bishop John, our little history lesson makes even your most vexing priest and parish of the diocese of Tennessee look pretty good! My point, brothers and sisters, is simply this: if you have your days when Episcopal church life seems to you confused and deformed, right you are, and if you think this is unprecedented, think again!

And it was into just this sort of a church, a church so moribund that many commentators did not suppose it could survive another generation, that Charles Simeon had, by the grace of God, a most fruitful and groundbreaking ministry. My topic this morning is mission, but I want to get at that topic through the historical lens of this one parish priest in the town of Cambridge, diocese of Ely, Church of England. You might call this a bit of missiological hagiography, since Simeon finds a place in the list of saints in Lesser Feasts and Fasts of our Church on November 12. As a young man Simeon came to Cambridge in 1799. He was not a particularly religious sort, and in that time evangelicals were looked down upon. Six had recently been expelled from Oxford for Methodist practices, and many bishops frowned on what they called “the serious clergy,” far too earnest, and their sermons far too long. At matriculation Simeon was told that as a student at Cambridge, he had to prepare for, and make his communion, three times a year. He was a dutiful young man and so set about reading what he could find about a holy life, concluding his own lack of that quality, which in turn disturbed him. During lent he heard in university church the story of the scapegoat in the Old Testament, and became fascinated with the idea that one could bear away the wrong of another- all this on his own, not bad for a freshman! On Easter morning, the Holy Spirit touched his heart, as he writes: “Jesus Christ is risen today, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, peace flowed in rich abundance into my soul, and at the Lord’s Table (of king’s chapel), I had a sweetest access to God through my blessed savior.” He held to this, the insight of a moment, the core of the Gospel, throughout his whole life. He was ordained soon thereafter, and was offered a struggling old parish in the heart of the town called Holy Trinity.

{Read it all}

Being Salt: A Theology of an Ordered Church


Score another for Bishop Wright: Euthanasia–a murky moral world

The more I’ve read about Bishop Wright recently, and the strong moral stands he has taken, the more I believe we should be thanking God for leaders like him and praying that he would life up even more in the Church and society at large. Having done my CPE training in an area of a veterans hospital that was transitioning to a focus on palliative care I can testify to it’s benefits for the patient and family.

Legalised killing is unacceptable. We must consider the radical alternative – palliative care

David Aaronovitch, using the pulpit of his column, challenged me to justify an “outrageous claim” that I made in my Easter sermon. I said that there was a “militantly atheist and secularist lobby” that believes that “we have the right to kill… surplus old people”. He replied that it was simply not true.

But there is clearly a strong body of opinion – part of a larger, albeit unorganised, secularising or atheist agenda – pressing in this direction. Such an agenda doesn’t need protest marches. It has powerful politicians and journalists presenting the case.

Lord Joffe’s “assisted dying” Bill, rejected by the Lords last year, was, at one level, about “voluntary euthanasia”. The normal word for that is, of course, suicide. But his Bill was about those too ill to achieve that unaided – it was proposing not just “voluntary dying” but “lawful killing” by people enlisted by the patient. You can’t reduce this, as Mr Aaronovitch implied, to “people having a right to end their own lives”. The question is, do other people have the right to help them do so? Those who support this Bill reckoned they do.

He might want to come back at me on two other counts. First, I said “old” people. But clearly young people, too, suffer debilitating and incurable diseases. Reports from the Netherlands suggest that moves are being made to extend the euthanasia protocol to cover new-born children.

{read it all}

Two book recommendations…

I’ve been reading two books recently (well, I’ve been reading more than that, but these two stand out) and I wanted to recommend them.

Several days ago a friend called me to see if I could recommend any resources on Richard Hooker and his view of scripture, tradition and reason. When I heard his concerns about the way someone was using Hooker’s thought as a rational for disregarding scripture’s authority, I was as bothered as he was. Several days later, there was a discussion on an email list that I read where a reasserter* and a reappriaser* were going at each other over what the defining characteristics of Anglicanism are. The reasserter was pushing for recognition of the Articles of Religion and the 1662 Prayer Book, ordinal etc… while the reappraiser was pointing toward Richard Hooker with his well-worn scripture-tradition-reason three-legged-stool metaphor. Of course, the problem was that each of them were rejecting things they didn’t really understand, and painting far too broad a brush in order to enlist the dead in their argument. For example, the reappraiser dismissed the Articles as “calvinist” (and therefore bad) while the reasserter dismissed Hooker as little more than an early example of a post-hippie priest looking for the next social movement. The fact is that the Articles of Religion are much more important to the history of Anglicanism than the reappraiser was willing to admit, while Richard Hooker was and is solidly orthodox. All that is to say, Nigel Atkinson’s Richard Hooker and the authority of scripture, tradition and reason is a very informative and accessible solution to at least one side of that misunderstanding. As I explained to my friend regarding Hooker’s views:

The “three-legged stool” idea (better explained as a tricycle with scripture being the large front wheel) comes from a lengthy explanation from Hooker about the uses of scripture, tradition and reason, but this is the most succinct:

“what Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after these the voice of the Church succeedeth.” —V.8.1 (Book 5, section 8.1)

As far as Hooker’s understanding of reason, I’ve attached a PDF from one of my books that gives probably the best summary I’ve seen, placing Hooker in context with Luther and Calvin etc… the most applicable bit to what we discussed on the phone is at the end, where the author summarizes the scholarly consensus on Hooker’s view of reason:

“Hillerdal writes that for Hooker reason is supposed to clarify revelation and yet, in order to do so, it first needs God’s grace to enable it to understand revelation. What Hillerdal has failed to grasp is ‘the exact distinguishing’ of which Hooker speaks. Because reason is unable to teach the things we must do to attain life everlasting, mankind needs the grace of God to open their eyes to see the truths of revelation. Reason is free to operate in the other spheres in which mankind is ‘civilly’ and not ‘spiritually associated’. But in the area of spiritual life mankind need God’s grace and revelation and so it is in this area that their faith needs to be quickened. This is a far cry from fideism, a position that insists on positive scriptural warrant for every belief.” (Atkinson, page 32)

Basically Hooker taught a form og Luther’s two Kingdom’s theology in which human reason can only get one so far (a sort of naturalism/basic theism) but revelation is needed for more. Even Adam had to have revelation, he could not tell from natural revelation that he shouldn’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of Good and evil, but needed God to reveal that to him. The situation is even worse after the fall, when our reason is clouded by sin and needs God’s grace to understand anything spiritual. How this might apply to the Peanut Butter lady’s letter is this: we may not be founded on “sola scriptura” as some other protestant churches are, but we are certainly founded on “Sola fide” and “sola gratia” and Anglicanism has always taught that scripture is the paramount guide to things spiritual, i.e. contains all things necessary to salvation. That was Hooker’s whole point: the Bible may not tell you how to pave the road, but it tells you how to approach God and how to live your life in his service.

The other book I’ve been enjoying over the past day or two is entitled Being Salt by the Rev. Dr. George Sumner and was a thank you gift to my wife and I. Like Atkinson’s book on Hooker, it is fairly brief (Richard Hooker is 134 pages or so while Being Salt comes in right at 100.) but it packs a big punch. I very much appreciated Dr. Sumner’s approach in this book–looking at the indelible character of ordination from an evangelical perspective. This is one of the most distinctive characteristics of Anglican theology in comparison to other reformation churches, and has been brought into stark relief by “Called to Common Mission,” our ecumenical agreement with the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Being Salt is well written and easy to understand, and I particularly appreciate Dr. Sumner’s ability to relate the role of the Priest to the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Here’s a sample from his discussion of Cranmer’s eucharistic prayer in a section entitled “The Cranmerian Non-sacrifice:”

The priest who stands at the table and reads the communion prayer, in the service of this surprising Priest and King [i.e. Jesus], in spite of all appearing, reinforces that he or she is neither, all in the service of pointing to Him. And by so doing he or she is proven a fitting symbol of priestly offering (of one’s self, one’s life, etc.) He or she is, then, a kind of counter-symbol that preserves the form of the signified (i,e, priesthood), even as it works to undercut his or her own claim. And all this is done to the service of the One who is the real and only Priest, who redefines, fulfills, and ends all priesthood in himself. The minister at the table is a counter-sign that works by its own displacement, by becoming a great finger stretched away from oneself and toward the dying Jesus at the center of the Church’s life (as the great triptych by Gruenewald depicts). (Sumner, page 25)

The Christian Century: Anglican Maneuvers

Sam Wells (Anglican priest and chaplain at Duke University) gives a good review of Anglican Communion in Crisis: How Episcopalian Dissidents and their African Allies are reshaping Anglicanism in The Christian Century.

It is the emergence of the third option that Miranda Hassett describes in her evenhanded, informative and wholly admirable book. She plausibly identifies a series of significant moments in an unfolding drama. In 1996 a committee of bishops threw out charges of heresy against Bishop Walter Righter after he was accused of knowingly ordaining a noncelibate gay man. The precedent convinced conservatives that the Episcopal Church could not be reformed from within. Revolution by acronym began, with the American Anglican Council and the Ekklesia Society among the protagonists.

Having lost the battle for orthodoxy within the Episcopal Church, as they saw it, American conservatives changed tactics and looked instead toward the global South. In a series of significant gatherings at Kuala Lumpur, Dallas and Kampala, they developed an ethos, a strategy and momentum for transferring the American conflict onto a world stage.

Homosexuality, already an emblematic issue in the North American culture wars, became a signal issue in many African bishops’ effort to redraw the postcolonial map of Anglican power and decision making. While American conservatives rapidly learned the vocabulary of debt relief and other apparently key African issues, African bishops quickly acquired the techniques of conference management—the caucuses, the lobbying, the friendly amendments—and became adept at using the Internet.

Late in the three-week 1998 Lambeth Conference, the sexuality debate finally came, and a remarkably conservative, though subtly moderated, statement was overwhelmingly passed, with the support not only of Southern postcolonial revisionists but also of scores of Northern moderates who feared that otherwise there would be something much less digestible. (The majority was huge: if the African bishops had all voted against the resolution, it would still have passed.)

{read it all}

Uganda may pull out of the Communion

[Update: the Church of Uganda has now denied that it has threatened to pull out of the Anglican Communion.  That’ll teach us to trust the press ;-)]

The Associated Press is reporting that the Church of Uganda is threatening to pull out of the Anglican Communion if no action is taken over the Episcopal Church’s flirtation with legitimizing and blessing homosexuality.

Uganda’s Anglican church threatened on Monday to secede from the 77-million member Anglican Communion unless U.S. clergy condemn homosexuality.

The announcement was the latest salvo in a fierce dispute about homosexuality that has overtaken the global fellowship of Anglican churches since its U.S. wing — the U.S. Episcopal Church — consecrated its first openly gay bishop in 2003.

“Anglicanism is just an identity and if they abuse it, we shall secede. We shall remain Christians, but not in the same Anglican Communion,” Church of Uganda spokesman Aron Mwesigye said.

There are about 9.8 million Anglicans in Uganda, according to the country’s last census in 2002.

Last week, Uganda’s Anglican bishops said they would boycott a once-a-decade gathering of worldwide church leaders this summer in England because of the Episcopal Church’s stance on homosexuality.

Mwesigye said the Ugandan church is now considering a complete severing of ties “because we have complained against homosexuality several times but no action is taken.”

“If they don’t change, and continue to support homosexual practices and same-sex marriages, our relationship with them will be completely broken,” Mwesigye added.

{read it all}

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