Tag Archives: Episcopal Church

Jordan Hylden: Brave New Church

Covenant Communion

Jordan Hylden hits one out of the park with this:

The seventy-sixth General Convention of the Episcopal Church made headlines last week for moving forward on same-sex blessings and officially opening its doors for partnered homosexuals to serve as priests and bishops. Stacy Sauls, the Episcopal bishop of Lexington and a close associate of the presiding bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, argued that it was long past time to do it: Over thirty years ago, he said, the church had placed pastoral compassion over Scripture, tradition, and the teachings of Jesus to permit remarriage after divorce, and it would be nothing less than hypocritical for the church not to do likewise for gay and lesbian people.

There is a certain logic to this, of course. If we’re going to set aside the teaching of Jesus for ourselves, shouldn’t we do the same for others? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” as someone once said. According to Bishop Sauls, this was the most important point he made at the convention. Arguably, it was the most important point anyone in attendance made. The Episcopal Church has now, quite definitively, decided to step out on its own, away from Scripture, tradition, and the rest of the Anglican communion. It was a bold and brave step, for with it the church has decided that it is now a church that takes its own counsel, answerable only to God. No doubt it was a matter of prayerful discernment and conscience for many, and no doubt many will shy away from drawing out the full implications of their decision. But the implications are there nonetheless. It is a brave new thing for the Episcopal Church, a brave new church on its own in the world.

The two key resolutions, D025 and C056, were passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses of the convention, the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. The first resolution, D025, effectively gave dioceses the green light to elect bishops in partnered homosexual relationships, thus overturning the commitment of the 2006 convention to “exercise restraint” in doing so. The second resolution, C056, committed the church to develop rites of blessing for same-sex unions with the goal of bringing draft versions for approval at the next convention in 2012. In the meantime, the resolution encouraged dioceses to develop and use rites of their own, with the expectation that such on-the-ground experience will be of value in creating a set of official, churchwide liturgies in the near future.

As such, the two resolutions represent a clear and purposeful departure from the requests made of the Episcopal Church by the rest of the Anglican communion, as expressed repeatedly by all of the official bodies of global Anglicanism over the past several years. Contradicting requests for a moratorium on bishops in same-sex relationships, Resolution D025 asserts that “God has called and may call” persons in such relationships to all of the ordained ministries of the church. And, in the face of requests not to authorize public rites of blessing for same-sex unions, Resolution C056 explicitly calls for their development and authorizes bishops to perform them on a trial basis in their dioceses. It is, in short, a clear victory for those such as Bishop Sauls who have argued for the national autonomy of the Episcopal Church and the need to move forward regardless of Anglican communion requests.

That is, at least, the straightforward interpretation of the resolutions, as understood by media outlets such as the New York Times (“Episcopal Vote Reopens a Door to Gay Bishops,” “Episcopal Bishops Give Ground on Gay Marriage”), the BBC (“US Church Drops Gay Bishops Ban”), Reuters (“Episcopal Vote Widens Anglican Split”), and the Washington Post (“Episcopal Bishops Can Bless Gay Unions”). It is, additionally, how they were understood by Anglican bishop N.T. Wright (“The Americans Know This Will Lead to Schism,”), conservative groups such as Fulcrum and the Anglican Communion Institute, and the ECUSA gay rights lobby, Integrity. Susan Russell, the president of Integrity, celebrated achieving a “clean sweep” on their legislative goals, and justifiably so.

But be that as it may, the official organs of the Episcopal Church have insisted that no matter what it might look like to everyone else, actually nothing much has changed. The two ranking officers of the church, presiding bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies president Bonnie Anderson, wrote in an open letter to Rowan Williams that “nothing in [Resolution D025] goes beyond what has already been provided under our constitution and canons for many years.” By that, they mean to say that since church canons already stipulate that the ordination process is open to all persons regardless of sexual orientation, and since Resolution D025 asserts that future bishops will be considered by following canonical guidelines, they have done nothing new. The 2006 resolution, they note, asked for restraint in granting “consent” to the election of partnered homosexual bishops, and since the new resolution does not mention consent, this has not actually been overturned.

If that sounds like a distinction without a difference, that may be because it is.

via Covenant

Interview with +Mark Lawrence of South Carolina

I very much appreciate Bishop Lawrence’s perspective, especially on these points:

  • Christians need to face our demons around marrital breakdown and sexuality (pornography, sexual abuse etc…)
  • Our struggle is a cultural one and there is no place that one can go to get away from it, since we are all part of the culture.  The Episcopal Church has just been on the front lines of a struggle coming to a church (or at least, neighborhood) near you
  • Finally, the fact that “the anger of man cannot work the righteousness of God.”(James 1:20) We need to let go of anger and vitriol if we hope to work for the good of the Kingdom.

Click below to watch (or, if you’re receiving this via RSS or email, you’ll need to visit the site).

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Thoughts from General Convention

One of my friends, Dr. Christopher Wells, was recently interviewed reguarding his views of the latest resolutions passed by General Convention. I believe he rightly states the predicament that those of us in Communion Partner dioceses find ourselves in. We are in a much better situation than many of our brothers and sisters who are Communion Partner rectors in non-communion partner dioceses, but we are still in the uncomfortable position of being a distinct minority within the scope of the Episcopal Church. My belief is that our position will only become more uncomfortable as time wears on, and that we may be called upon to make some significant choices in the not too distant future.

The video interview is below the fold:
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The Anglican Communion Institute, Inc. » Is The Renunciation of Orders Routine?

As if things weren’t already bizarre enough, the choice of the Presiding Bishop to claim that Bishop Scriven (formerly assitant Bishop of Pittsburgh) has voluntarily renounced his orders has taken things to a new level.  Bishop Scriven has accepted an appointment to head the South American Mission Society which is now merging with the Church Mission Society.  On top of this, he was accepted into the Diocese of Oxford.  The last time I checked, the Episcopal Church was in Communion with the Church of England, and one of the basic elements of Communion is the interchangability of orders–something that was foundational as the Anglican Communion emerged as an international body, and which is one of the first steps in any process of unity with other Christian bodies (consider “Called to Common Mission”, the agreement between the ELCA and TEC which allows the interchangability of orders.)  While, given the nature of our conflict, it is easy to assign nefarious intent to actions such as these, I can’t see any rhyme or reason to doing something that makes you look so foolish.  So is it intentional vindictiveness or simply ineptitude?  I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Defenders of the Presiding Bishop are scrambling to re-interpret her extraordinary action of depriving a bishop of the Church of England of the gifts and authority conferred in his ordination and removing him from the ordained ministry of The Episcopal Church.  For example, the group supporting the Presiding Bishop in Pittsburgh stated that “[t]his is a routine way of permitting Bishop Scriven to continue his ministry.”  In the strange world of TEC, renunciation of orders has become a routine way of continuing one’s ministry.

But it is not routine.  Indeed, it has not been used for those transferring from TEC to another province in the Anglican Communion until the Presiding Bishop began what resembles a scorched-earth approach to her opponents within TEC.  Not surprisingly, in the past such matters have been handled by letter.  One can see the evolution of the Presiding Bishop’s “routine” policy in the treatment of Bishop David Bena, who was transferred by letter by his diocesan bishop to the Church of Nigeria in February 2007.  A month later, the Presiding Bishop wrote Bishop Bena and informed him that “by this action you are no longer a member of the House of Bishops” and that she had informed the Secretary of the House to remove him from the list of members.  That was all that needed to be done.  A year later, however, as her current strategy emerged, she suddenly declared in January 2008 that she had accepted Bishop Bena’s renunciation of orders using the canon she now uses against Bishop Scriven.  In other words, if this is now sadly routine, it has only become routine in the past year.

Not only is this not routine, it was not necessary.  As we pointed out in our original statement, Bishop Scriven ceased to be an Assistant Bishop in TEC and thereby ceased to be a member of TEC’s House of Bishops the moment Bishop Duncan was deposed.  This was a constitutional disqualification imposed on Bishop Scriven by Article I.2 of TEC’s constitution.  Canonically speaking, he ceased to be a bishop in TEC at that point. His original status as a bishop of the Church of England was not thereby affected, of course, and upon requesting and receiving an honorary role in the Diocese of Oxford that became his formal diocesan home.  All that was necessary in January 2009 was for TEC to conform its records to this fact.

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FIRST THINGS: On the Square>>Anglican, or Episcopalian?

By Jordan Hylden

“Are you Anglican, or Episcopalian?” As an Episcopalian interloper studying at a Methodist seminary, I get the question a lot from my puzzled friends. Each time I’m asked, part of me wants to launch into a mini-primer on Anglican ecclesiology–to wit, that Episcopalians are Anglicans, since the Episcopal church is just the American province of the global Anglican communion. Which means that, technically, the question shouldn’t even make sense–it’s sort of like asking, “Are you American, or Texan?” But, of course, I know just what the question means; it does make sense, because it reflects the sad divisions that have roiled the church over the past five years. Quite simply and sensibly, my Methodist friends want to know whether I’m a member of the liberal Episcopal church, or one of the conservative Anglican groups that broke off. And as saddening as it is to admit, I’ve come to think that their common-sense perception is more accurate than my attempts at ecclesiological theory. Their question can only be asked, and answered, because of the reality on the ground in the United States: Episcopalians are one thing, and Anglicans are another.

Popular understanding is usually much wiser than theoretical wishful-thinking, and nowhere more so than here. The divisions in the church have led the American public to attach the meanings to the words Episcopalian and Anglican that they actually bear in their usage–namely, that to be an Episcopalian means to be a member of an pro-gay, autonomous American denomination, more liturgical than most churches but firmly within the theological orbit of liberal Protestantism. To be an Anglican, by contrast, means to be part of a conservative evangelical church with bishops, connected somehow with Africa and opposed to homosexuality. The definitions have by now become quite distinct and firmly fixed in the national lexicon–ask almost any church-going American what the words mean, and you will get an answer something like the above.

Some Episcopalians and Anglicans (myself included) strongly dislike these characterizations…

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Philip Turner: The Subversion of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church: A Response to my Critics | Covenant

I am pleased that my article “The Subversion of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church” has generated the discussion it has.  A number of the responses simply display the toxic atmosphere that sadly prevents the blogs from realizing their potential for furthering genuine debate.  There have, however, been a number that are serious in their intent and deserve a measured response.

I would particularly like to thank those who, like Bishop Pierre Whalon, recognize that the very survival of both The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Communion is at issue in the crisis brought on by the Gene Robinson affair.  Meaningful debate on the issues both TEC and the Communion now face is of vital importance if either or both are to emerge from the present conflicts as coherent expressions of Catholic Christianity.

Unfortunately, meaningful debate receives little support from the current atmosphere in the church—an atmosphere that does little to encourage either a careful and informed reading of TEC’s history or of its Constitution and Canons.  It is also an atmosphere that produces unrealistic assessments of our present circumstances, often accompanied by wishful thinking and uninformed speculation about possible future states.

As much as I appreciate the tone of Bishop Whalon’s response to my paper, I am forced to say that it evidences both wishful thinking and uninformed speculation.  Having said that, however, I wish to add that, in an odd way, his comments both tend to support my basic conclusions, and (even more oddly) indicate that there is more common ground between us than one might initially think.

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The Rt. Rev. John C. Bauerschmidt: A Statement Regarding the Formation of a new Anglican Church

Many of you will have read in the newspapers of the formation of a new “Anglican Church in North America” earlier this month. The new body is the result of agreements reached between a number of churches and organizations, gathered under the “Common Cause Partnership”, all of which have their origins in either the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada.

Some have wondered about the status of this church, and about its intention to seek recognition as a province of the Anglican Communion. A basic principal of catholic Christianity is that it is not self-authenticating; its credentials cannot be established by the mere assertion of them. Christian faith looks to authorities, as well: the Scriptures, principally, but also Creeds and Councils that articulate them reasonably and traditionally, and all of which communicate the Gospel and act as a standard by which faith is recognized and acknowledged. Anglicanism itself represents a distinctive witness within the Christian faith, with its own markers and measures. A particular church (any particular church) always looks beyond itself in some way in the key points of its existence, and others will evaluate it accordingly.

However we view this new church in terms of these things, we must recognize that membership in the Anglican Communion is not something claimed unilaterally or seized by force. Sharp elbows may be useful in any number of contexts, but are hardly edifying or effective in this one. A request to be admitted as a province must be approved by the Primates’ Meeting and then acted upon by the Anglican Consultative Council, two of the Instruments of Communion that have developed within Anglicanism to help bring coherence to its life. The constituent bodies of the Anglican Church in North America are not known for a willingness to pay much heed to any of the Instruments of Communion. It is even doubtful that they are much interested in any authentication that looks to the existing structures of the world-wide Communion. Their witness is predicated on a self-proclaimed unwillingness to wait for these structures to work.

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UK caused cholera, says Zimbabwe

It’s nice to see a Bishop being so outspoken on this.  The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe has been in turmoil, as has so much else in that country, with divisions forming between supporters of the president (evidently a minority, at least in the heirarchy) and those who desire his defeat and/or removal.  The conflict about who the rightful Bishop of Harare is, is an example of the way these political realities are affecting the Church.  It is also interesting that President Mugabe has tried to paint those who oppose him with the “liberal” and “white” brush of supporting homosexuality because they haven’t left the Anglican Communion (of which the Episcopal Church is still a part.)

At any rate, I am glad to read about a Bishop from the neighboring country of South Africa taking a strong stand against Mugabe, and I hope this is a sign of further movement to come.  I agree with those who say Mugabe must be removed by his fellow Africans–after all, what would it look like for one of the last remaining leaders of a colonial independence movement to be removed by western powers?  But while it must be done by his own people and his neighbors, it nonetheless must be done.

The cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe which has left hundreds dead was caused by the UK, an ally of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has said.

Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu described the outbreak as a “genocidal onslaught on the people of Zimbabwe by the British”.

On Thursday, Mr Mugabe said the spread of cholera had been halted.

But aid workers warned that the situation was worsening and the outbreak could last for months.

In his comments to media in Harare, Mr Ndlovu likened the appearance of cholera in Zimbabwe to a “serious biological chemical weapon” used by the British.

He described it as “a calculated, racist, terrorist attack on Zimbabwe”.

Mr Mugabe has already accused Western powers of plotting to use cholera as an excuse to invade and overthrow him.

Earlier on Friday a senior South African Anglican bishop said that Mr Mugabe should be seen as a “21st Century Hitler”.

Bishop of Pretoria Joe Seoka called on churches to pray for his removal, the South African Press Association reports.

His comments came as the US ambassador to Zimbabwe warned that the country was turning into a “failed state”.

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The Christian Century: Public pews

This book review in the Christian Century hits on something that I believe has hamstrung not only the oldline protestant churches, but also the evangelical movment.  The polarization of the institutional oldline churches against many of their own members is epitomized my the fact that churches such as The Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church are affiliated with the Religious Coalitition for Reproductive Choice despite the oppositon of many of their members and the fact that–at least in the case of the Episcopal Church–aspects of the RCRC’s agenda blatantly clash with General Convention Resolutions on abortion.  The fact that mainline churche maintain lobbying offices is a situation that I’ve found profoundly disturbing since I became aware of it.  The fact that these lobbying offices often support legislation that many church members oppose is simply another way that our institutions are furthering alienation vs. reconcilliation.  If the oldline is ever going to be able to reform itself–or to birth a separate renewal movment that will offer hope to those in the evangelical wilderness without becoming part of that wilderness itself–then it is going to have to address these sorts of unnecessary means of fragmentation and alienation.

Tipton’s study proves my point. It tells the story of the “institutional ecology” of the public sphere in which the denominations operate: In the 1960s and 1970s the mainline churches’ leadership moved from a centrist or mildly conservative position to a frankly progressive one, while their congregations were far more mixed. The institutional consolidation of a progressive agenda was secure by 1980; one sign of this was the emergence then of parachurch groups—such as the Institute on Religion and Democracy—that protested the consolidation. These groups complained about the “leftist” and “Marxist” captivity of the mainline leadership and initially seemed interested in offering the laity a big-tent alternative to the official line of the churches, purportedly to preserve the traditional faith against the elite’s woolly liberationism. But by the 1990s these parachurch groups had begun to focus their efforts on simply attacking the other side. While members of the official church hierarchies didn’t fixate so totally on their enemies, they became ever more resistant to ceding them any intellectual or theoretical ground. This polarization left the vast middle underserved. And that is our condition today.

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Covenant: A New "Province" in North America: Neither the Only Nor the Right Answer for the Communion, by Ephraim Radner

A new “province” for North American Anglicans is now promised to be “up and running” in the next month or so. It will comprise the 3-4 dioceses that have voted to leave TEC; the associations of various congregations that have left TEC (e.g. CANA) and those started outside of TEC from departing groups; it will also include congregations and denominations within the Anglican tradition that have formed over the past decades in North America. All of these groups now form part of an association called Common Cause.

The formation of this new “province” appears to be a fait accompli. It will presumably provide formal stability for the congregations and their plants who have left TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, as well as some kind of more easily grasped relationship with some other parts of the Anglican Communion. It is important to note, however, that such a new grouping will also not solve the problems of traditional Anglicans in North America, and that it will pose new problems to the Communion as a whole. As a member of the Covenant Design Group, committed to a particular work of providing a new framework for faithful communion life in Christ among Anglicans, I want to be clear about how the pressing forward of this new grouping within its stated terms poses some serious problems:

 1. The new grouping will not, contrary to the stated claims of some of its proponents, embrace all or even most traditional Anglicans in North America. For instance, the Communion Partners group within TEC, comprises 13 dioceses as a whole, and a host of parishes and their rectors, whose total Sunday membership is upwards of 300,000. It is unlikely that these will wish to be a part of the new grouping, for some of the reasons stated below.

 2. The new grouping, through some of its founding members, will continue in litigation within the secular courts for many years. This continues to constitute a sad spectacle, and is, in any case, practically and morally unfeasible for most traditional Anglicans.

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