Admiral of Morality: August 2007

Friday, August 31, 2007

Jim Wallis' Book Order at Harvard Divinity

Many students will groan when I point out these inevitable signs of the times, and an equally inevitable conclusion. August is upon us. Summer is quickly winding down. And this can only mean one thing: school is just around the corner!

I was reminded of this fact yesterday as I sent off my book order for the course I’m teaching at Harvard Divinity School this fall. If you’re looking for some late-summer reading, consider the following titles:

H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture

John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus

E.J. Dionne Jr., One Electorate Under God?

Susannah Heschel (ed), Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays

Richard Land, The Divided States of America? What Liberals AND Conservatives are missing in the God-and-country shouting match!

Reza Aslan, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches Are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way

Donald Dayton, Discovering an Evangelical Heritage

Randall Balmer, Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America

David Kuo, Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction

Michael Gerson, Heroic Conservatism: Why Republicans Need to Embrace America's Ideals (And Why They Deserve to Fail If They Don't)

Ronald Thiemann, Religion in Public Life: A Dilemma For Democracy

Michael Kazin, A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan

(Via Beliefnet: God's Politics)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

From the Diocese of Melbourne: "A Church without Martyrs"

Who will save us from endless runs of Big Brother, foot ball fever, celebrity worship, the lotto life, and the race to extend our life spans? Who will save us from the mentality of commercial television quiz shows?

We do not need more church growth gurus or mission statements or strategic plans. What we do need is to remember who we are.

We are the body of Christ through whom all things were made.

We are the salt of the earth without which life is tasteless.

We are the leaven in the lump without which the loaf is inedible.

We are the heralds of the new reality called the kingdom of God in which the lion will lay down with the lamb and the child will play over the hole of the asp.

There is just as much at stake for us as there is for men and women who are murdered for the faith they hold.

It is just that our demise will not be marked by bloodshed but by the almost imperceptible erosion of all that is good and true. The only thing that will be valued is what the market values. There will be no solid place we can place our foot.

Our only hope is the church, staggering, struggling, confused and fearful but bearing the only source of hope, Jesus Christ before whom kings will shut their mouths.

Read it all at The Diocese of Melbourne.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ahead of Lambeth 2008, evangelism

Episcopal Life carries the story about churches in the Diocese of Lichfield, in the Midlands of England, teaming up with parishes from around the world in advance of the Lambeth Conference next year.

"Mission teams from Canada, Germany, South Africa and South East Asia will descend on the West Midlands in June 2008 for a series of local evangelistic missions ahead of the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

Taking advantage of the global conference of Anglican Bishops, which is held once every 10 years, some 30 Church of England congregations from across the Diocese of Lichfield area have formed direct links with churches in the Anglican dioceses of Qu'Appelle in Canada; Matlosane in South Africa; and Sabah, Kuching and West Malaysia in South East Asia; as well as churches from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mecklenburg in north-east Germany. The linked churches are using the internet to exchange news about themselves and their local community.

"CrossTalk allows people to pray with real understanding for each other, compare the challenges they face and reflect on their relative strengths, weaknesses and 'growing points,'" the Rev. Dr. Michael Sheard, world mission officer for the Diocese of Lichfield, said. "Email makes this an exciting possibility today as never before. We can swap pictures and even video clips as well as words."

The overseas guests and their bishops will join representatives from their host parish and the bishops of the Diocese of Lichfield at an international mission conference immediately prior to the Lambeth Conference.

"As part of our learning together, just before the Lambeth conference, the Lichfield church/parish will welcome a small team of two or three people from their overseas partner church to visit them for two weeks of mission, which can take whatever form emerges as the two partners think and pray together," said Sheard. "Some will have a parish mission, others a time of study, and other might run a special program for children or young people."

Founded in AD664 (formerly Mercia in AD 656), the Diocese of Lichfield is the Church of England in Staffordshire, (except for a few parishes in the south-east and south-west), the northern half of Shropshire, Wolverhampton, Walsall, and the northern half of Sandwell. It is one of the largest dioceses in the Church of England, serving a population of 1,922,000 in 1,744 square miles."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Discussion with Bishop Catherine Roskam

The Rt. Rev. Catherine S. Roskam has been Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of New York since 1996. Bishop Roskam served on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church as Chair of the International Concerns Committee and is a representative from the Episcopal Church to the Anglican Consultative Council.

She was instrumental in founding the Global Women's Fund of the Diocese of New York, which is devoted to empowering women in the developing world, as well as The Carpenter's Kids, a program developed in relationship with the Diocese of Central Tanganyika in support of AIDS orphans in Tanzania, through parish to parish linkage.

She spoke with The Episcopal New Yorker diocesan magazine as part of the diocesan study and report on The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The complete interview follows.
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ENY: What do you see as the origins of the current controversies in The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Communion?

Bishop Roskam: The tensions have a long history, but the immediate controversy around homosexuality has been driven by the dissidents in this country. The deeper causes have to do with the wealth and power of The United States and the disregard in the past for the voices from the developing world. These causes have been exacerbated by our country's recent aggression in the Middle East. In many places in the world, The Episcopal Church is synonymous with the power of The United States [it provides a huge proportion of the funding for the Anglican Communion]. This is ironic as The Episcopal Church has opposed many of the policies that have alienated us from the rest of the world.

ENY: I'd like to follow up on what you said about the dissidents driving the agenda. What's that about?

Bishop Roskam: Opposition to the ordination of gay and lesbian people and the blessing of same sex partnerships is only the most recent chapter in the dissatisfaction of the dissidents. It began more than 30 years ago with the ordination of women. That is when the primates began meeting regularly.

What differentiates these two issues is that women are not in a minority in the Anglican Communion. We may be 50 percent of the human race but we are probably 60 or 70 percent of the Anglican Communion, yet we are represented by only 3 percent in the councils of the Church. The Anglican Consultative Council passed a resolution to move toward 50 percent representation in the councils. I don't think this is likely.

ENY: How much is cultural?

Bishop Roskam: Alot. The preoccupation with male homosexuality has to do with issues of maleness. So many parts of the Communion have no experience of Christian gays and lesbians in committed relationships. It's too dangerous for gay and lesbian people to come out. In some countries they can be jailed or even executed. The undergirding issue is patriarchy, and also clericalism.

The question is: who decides? Here, we have a highly developed theology of the role of the baptized. We elect our bishops, and many provinces don't do this; bishops are appointed or elected only by other bishops. Some in the Communion would like to see us more hierarchical rather than less. It used to be said that the controversy was about Scripture but I don't hear that as often: people who read Scripture come to different conclusions.

ENY: How do you see the controversy playing out at the congregational level here and abroad?

Bishop Roskam: I don't see it so much on the local level. People don't agree on the issue but are more concerned with filling their churches, about the future of their children, the war, making ends meet. I think people are concerned about mission, the Millennium Development Goals, and I think the people in our diocese do extraordinary work here and abroad—sheltering, feeding, running programs for children.

We're a communion, not a church; disaffection by a few does not constitute schism.

Nigerian primate accused of being a puppet of Western conservatives

From Ekklesia, the theological think tank in the UK:

The war of words over sexuality and authority within world Anglicanism stepped up a notch today, with controversial Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola - who many believe wishes to take over from the Archbishop of Canterbury as the focal figure in the 77-million strong church - standing accused of having a major document written for him by Western conservatives.

The charge will hit hard, because Archbishop Akinola and his allies frequently accuse those who believe in a church inclusive of lesbian and gay people of "compromising the Gospel to corrupt Western culture".

Their opponents say that the voices of African, Asian and other two-thirds world Christians are being suppressed by organised conservatives and fundamentalists funded from the West, and that attempts to use ant-colonial rhetoric to support equality within the Christian churches is "bogus".

On Sunday 19 August 2007 the Church of Nigeria published a letter from Archbishop Akinola to the Nigerian Synods entitled “A Most Agonizing Journey towards Lambeth 2008“ - referring to next year's gathering of worldwide Anglican bishops.

Colin Coward, Director of the inclusive church pressure group Changing Attitude England, commented at the time: “Analysis of the text and comparison with Archbishop Akinola’s interview in The Guardian, Lagos, published 30 July 2007 suggests that, like most of the publications from Abuja, this was written for the Archbishop by his conservative American secessionist friends. It is dishonest. It misrepresents church history and the recent history of the Anglican Communion.”

This analysis has now been confirmed, says CA, by an article in today’s Church Times, 24 August 2007.

It confirms the suspicion, Changing Attitude suggests, that many of the documents and press releases issued by the Church of Nigeria and Archbishop Peter Akinola have their origin in or are heavily edited by Bishop Martyn Minns, Canon Chris Sugden, Canon David Anderson and other Western conservatives.

The Ekklesia coverage builds on coverage offered by The Daily Episcopalian, Fr. Jake Stops the World, and Thinking Anglicans.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Rev. Canon James Rosenthal: "Becoming a Global Family"

The Rev. Canon James M. Rosenthal II is the director of communications for the Anglican Communion Office, and the editor of the Anglican Episcopal World magazine and the Anglican Communion News Service. He is the founder of The St. Nicholas Society.

He wrote the following for the Diocese of New York's study and report on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

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Well, visiting 60 countries in 12 years isn't bad, or is it? Not at all. For a simple Episcopal Church missionary from the Diocese of Chicago, the past 18 years have opened new windows and doors that never had been tried before and sadly may be closed in the years ahead.

When Archbishop George Carey retired, I, with the help of the Rev. Dr. Dan Matthews, then-rector of Trinity Church, Wall Street, created a tribute book entitled "Becoming a Global Family." Having lived seven years side-by-side with Lord and Lady Carey at Old Palace in Canterbury, I knew the then-Archbishop was clear that we, as a family, were not quite there yet. By the time Archbishop Rowan Williams came to Canterbury, the reality of "not quite there yet" had taken on added dimensions.

In the last several years, things have surfaced on the journey of "becoming" that are not foreign to any family in any part of the world: the family feud. So what was yet to be uncovered became a new focus. For some, the new horizons caused jubilation, for others insurmountable obstacles for family/communion life to remain, much less flourish.

The World Council of Churches Yearbook tells us that there are 85 million Anglicans worldwide in Communion with the See of Canterbury—the singular necessary criteria to use the term Anglican in an honest manner, though the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) does have a role in the process. Our small but eager office in London is more circumspect and claims a mere 77 million.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu calls the Communion "God's rainbow people," and so we are, like it or not. But what is not to like? Sin? One thing that knows no boundaries is sin. But it is at the heart of attempts to destroy the "becoming" as family—the mutual responsibility and interdependence in the body of Christ. The reality of being as family today is best lived out through mutual sharing of the companion diocese links. As others argue (usually bishops), medical supplies come in by air; evangelists from the south spread their experiences and faith to those in the north; there are student and faculty exchanges; and skills are shared and learned. Many of these links stem from relationships formed at Lambeth conferences, when bishops gather in Canterbury at 10-year intervals.

The Communion must survive its wave of discontent for the sake of Christ's gospel and the sake of the people so neglected in the slums of Brazil or New Orleans, in Zimbabwe or Pakistan. Some people see in the Archbishop of Canterbury and other instruments of the Communion (the Primates Meeting, Lambeth Conference, ACC) a stronghold for advocacy and representation in the power structures of our world. Look at the possibilities of the role Helen Wangusa as Anglican Observer in the United Nations, an office needing more support and finances to be an effective tool for those whose stories need telling.

The Communion, as a family with its myriad blemishes, exists to aid those who see their Anglican Christian identity not only as the way to heaven and life after death, but also as a means of living life fully before death. We can't be less than a church that honors its historic formularies and lives it life based on Scripture, tradition and reason. Like our Orthodox friends, we respect the autonomy of our various churches. There is no Anglican Church, but Anglican churches in 38 provinces in over 160 countries.

I was recently ordained a deacon in St. Paul's Cathedral in London and was duly humbled when some 13 bishops from provinces such as Rwanda, Canada, United States, Middle East and Spain came together along with lay friends from Syria, Nigeria, Philippines and elsewhere. Bishop Richard Chartres ordained 45 deacons. Not bad for a supposedly dying church.

What we need to re-learn is the language of Paul and the body of Christ and the words of Teresa of Avila and others who demand that we use our very being to build up, not destroy, the fragile body we are at present. Some seem to choose some sins—or perceived sins—as more defining than others. We did not learn that in deacons' training.

We can talk, even clamor and banter, because we are able to do so as Anglicans. Some other Christians do not enjoy that freedom. Our witness to our interfaith and ecumenical friends must be one of confidence in what we are and the faith and practice we share.

I suppose the challenge is actually how broad can Anglicanism be. If you think it is wildly broad in the United States, then come to England!

Does Anglicanism have a vocation in the array of so-called Christian options? I say a hearty "yes" because I have seen it, smelled it, lived it, and I know that who we are can be a reconciling force in many ways.

A strange concluding thought might be, if we ceased to be faithful to our Anglican heritage, where would we go, I wonder? I just wonder.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Scottish Episcopal Church: steady as she goes

The Scottish Episcopal Church, which has claimed special affection within the Episcopal Church in America ever since they consecrated the first American bishop, met in Synod earlier this summer to review progress and deliberate on several issues, including the Millennium Development Goals, relations with other churches, and the proposed Anglican Covenant.

The focus of the Synod was "the intention of the Scottish Episcopal Church to become a more inclusive church, and highlight opportunities for deeper involvement in the Church's life through shared decision making and a clearer understanding of what membership of the Church might mean."

The Synod's tone and progress towards its goals overall was prayerful and harmonious. Opening remarks were delivered by the Most Rev Dr Idris Jones, Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, at St. Mary's Cathedral, whose spires are one of Edinburgh's most recognizable features.

The Primus, who shortly after the Synod accepted an invitation to become a patron of Inclusive Church, challenged the Church to be more welcoming and inclusive.

He urged the Church to bear a stronger and more social witness at home and abroad, through partnerships with other denominations and with its cousins within the Anglican Communion, keeping in mind that the goal of the Church and its Communion, is to maintain and attract relationships with others in Christ, not repel.
"A priority that is laid upon us is to capitalise the undoubted possibility for the Communion as a whole to work for the health of the world. Instead of being pre-occupied with internal squabbles to turn our energy to the inclusion of all in what we consider to be basic human rights. To eradicate extreme hunger; to achieve universal primary education; to empower women; to combat the epidemic diseases that wipe out a high proportion of the world's population before they reach adulthood. The Church must speak with a united voice to urge the world leaders to cooperate in partnership for development of the whole world so that every man, woman and child would be included in what it means to be fully human.

"Then there is the need for inclusion not just in our relationship with other denominations but with all those who hold faith in God. To work, in other words to change those situations where people oppose each other on the grounds of religious belief to one in which all those who profess a belief in God put their energy into righting the wrongs of the world. The Jubilee Campaign has already shown what can be achieved but there is more to be done.

"Inclusion then is to see how we can make accessible to all people the knowledge of salvation and the love of God. To do this, we have to be aware of how our normal church practices can change to include those who are excluded by them. Most of our buildings are now accessible; but is our normal diet of worship?

"As Giles Fraser said in Church Times last week, 'mission is not about sticking up a sign that says, in essence, "Welcome to our way of doing things." No, mission requires a revolution in church structures'.

"As we reflect on the possible Covenant for Anglicanism we must again raise the question of how inclusive a process it is to be, and how we can ensure that the end product, if there should be an end product, is something that invites into relationship rather than repels from it."

Debate and comments on the Anglican Covenant itself, reflected an interested but rather cautious approach, according to the Church's Synod reports. Comments on the Covenant from members in attendance, included the following:

The draft Covenant was vague, and where it was specific, it was readily challenged

Communion that was lasting...was rarely generated by top down definitions of truth

If Provinces wished to remain in Communion with one another in a meaningful way, they needed to take the concept of Covenant seriously

Amounts to the bland leading the bland

It is not the only show in town

The Synod passed a motion to "finalise a response" on the Covenant and forward it to the Anglican Communion Office, by the end of this year.

 Other Church committees taking up the Primus' challenges, have urged congregations, through their overseas companion links, to support the Millennium Development Goals highlighted at the recent 'Towards Effective Anglican Mission' conference organized by the Anglican Communion.

They have also encouraged governments that have already pledged to meet the MDGs, to accelerate progress towards them. The Church recently applauded British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's call for greater commitment and cooperation on the MDGs.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Bishop of New York: "The Presenting Question"

The Rt. Rev. Mark Sisk, XV Bishop of New York, has written his diocese about the state of, and prospects for, the Anglican Communion. "My personal guess is that the Communion will emerge from these struggles, changed but recognizable," Bishop Sisk says. "I say this because the long history of the Church suggests a strong tendency to adapt to challenging circumstances rather than break apart over them."

His comments come as part of a diocesan examination of the current controversies within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The full "package" of materials is presented as "Turmoil in the Anglican Communion"; it is not yet online.

The materials include many fine analyses, profiles, and comments, including contributions from the Rev. Tobias Haller and the Rev. Canon James Rosenthal, the director of communications for the Anglican Communion Office, and the editor of the Anglican Episcopal World magazine and the Anglican Communion News Service. Links to these resources can be gotten from the Anglican Communion portal.

The complete bishop's message follows.

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The presenting question is: Will the Communion survive in its present form or won't it? To state the obvious: no one can answer that question with certainty. My personal guess is that the Communion will emerge from these struggles, changed but recognizable. I say this not because I think that the issues before us will simply drift away like smoke after a fire. I say this because the long history of the Church suggests a strong tendency to adapt to challenging circumstances rather than break apart over them. Following the American Revolution we in The Episcopal Church were left with no bishops and an unwillingness on the part of the Church of England to help us resolve that crisis. Yet, ultimately, a way was found to restore our claim to apostolic orders, and, in due course, we realized that by that act the Anglican Communion had been born.

The deeper question is this: Just what exactly is the problem anyway? Surprising to many people, serious-minded folks give very different answers. For some, perhaps for most, the answer as conceived by them is a simple matter of sexual morality: right or wrong. Others couch this dispute in terms of the authority of Scripture. Still others argue that not only does Scripture not speak with one voice to the actual question that is before us, but also the insights of science and experience of our faithful gay and lesbian brothers and sisters—integral members of our community—cannot simply be ignored. Yet others see this dispute through the lens of authority: Who has the right to decide? This, in turn, pushes others to state the problems in terms of polity—that is, the way we organize ourselves to make decisions and, at least by inference, obligate others by those decisions. And all this debate takes place within the context of a world of different contexts, a world which seems busily occupied in dividing and re-dividing itself along the countless fissures that are found in the bedrock of the human community.

In my view, it is a mistake to despair at all about this conflict. I am convinced that God works through our struggles to bring us, if we are faithful and charitable in those struggles, ever closer to the Divine Life that unifies all creation. We have no reason to despair. We have nothing to fear. We live in the arms of God's abiding love. God is working in us the Divine will. Through it all, I am convinced that our Episcopal Church has been strengthened, and I have confidence that the larger Anglican Communion, in whatever form it takes, will be strengthened as well.

In the end, if we are faithful, charitable and just, God's will for us and for all creation will be made more evident, more available, more present. What more could we hope or ask for?

God bless and sustain us as we carry out the work and ministry that has been entrusted to us in our generation.