Wednesday, December 20, 2006

There are evangelicals who love the US Episcopal Church

Rick Lord, an American priest of the US Episcopal Church writes movingly of his reflections on the 25th anniversary of his ordination. On the current crisis in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion he writes: "I have served almost half of those years in the Diocese of Virginia under Bishop Peter Lee who has been an extraordinary mentor and friend. Yes, there are evangelical priests who love the Episcopal Church and who remain faithful to its doctrine, discipline, and worship. I'm one of them. Yes, there are matters in our family over which I am deeply vexed. But for me, relational unity precedes doctrinal unity, a conviction grounded in the writings of St. Paul (see 1 Corinthians, chapter 12)."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cartoon view of Evangelicals' Covenant

Dave Walker's Cartoon Blog brings his refreshing take on church matters to bear on the Church of England group of conservative evangelicals and others similar who recently issued a "covenant". There are some great links to other blogs with excellent comments also on this.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Brain of evangelicals tears so-called Covenant apart

Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, probably the most intelligent and learned person in the genuinely evangelical wing of the Church of England, tears to shreds the recently issued statement from disaffected conservatives - the so-called Covenant for the Church of England. Read it through the link in the title above.

Conservative Anglicans issue their document

Anglicans from the conservative wing of the church issued this statement last week. They are claiming the identity of orthodoxy for themselves, indeed the identity of true Anglican Christianity. But they seem to me to be the inheritors of the Puritan beliefs which whilst have always been held in tension with the Anglican settlement which emerged from the seventeenth century, could never have been said to be the true face of the Church of England.

At this time in the life of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, faced with a faulty view of revelation, false teaching and indiscipline, we believe that it is necessary to set out where we as orthodox Anglicans stand, and to invite others to join us.
We are members of the Church of England, part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, who share with others throughout the world a commitment to the biblical truths on which the Anglican Communion is based. This is what guarantees our fellowship with Anglicans historically and globally. We pledge ourselves to strengthen this fellowship.
The love and grace of God in the gospel saves and converts individuals to a relationship with God, introduces people to life in the Spirit, and draws members into the Body of Christ. It produces holiness of life, unity in the Spirit and life-giving and life-transforming mission. Therefore in dependence on God, we are committed to spreading the unchanging gospel of Jesus Christ, to making disciples who make disciples of Christ, and to reviving existing and planting new churches. We wait for heaven to belong to a pure and perfect church – indeed, we confess our own guilty part in the church’s present failings. Nonetheless the gospel challenges the church to faithful obedience.
We are committed to faithful biblical orthodoxy as defined by the classic formularies of our tradition. Canon A5 states: “The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal”. The Preface to the Declaration of Assent declares that the Church of England professes “the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds.” This is what the Church of England confesses and true unity belongs in this common confession. It is departure from this common faith that is responsible for causing schism.
Commitment to the gospel has the following implications for action at this time.
Mission Jesus’ Great Commission to “Go into all the world and make disciples” has renewed force for us in our post-Christian society. As is being increasingly recognised, the historic focus on the traditional patterns of parishes, clergy and ecclesiastical buildings is now inadequate by itself to meet this great challenge and must be transformed by one that is dynamically evangelistic, committed to using every available means to reach the unchurched. “Existing ecclesiastical legal boundaries should be seen as permeable”. This means there cannot be any no-go areas for gospel growth and church planting. Best practice will always involve appropriate consultation, including with non-Anglicans. We will support mission-shaped expressions of church through prayer, finance and personnel, even when official permission is unreasonably withheld.
Appointments The local congregation is the initial and key seed-bed for recognising, authorising, raising up and releasing new leaders. We affirm the need for the wider recognition and authorisation for leaders. We recognise the vital importance of biblically orthodox training both regionally and nationally. But many parishes have lost confidence in the institutional centre to discern and train suitable ministers, and fund and deploy them in sufficient numbers and appropriate contexts. Local churches must in future also play a major role in the selection, training, funding and appointment of ministers. This means that we can no longer be constrained by an over-centralised and increasingly ineffective control that is stifling the natural development of ministry. If the local Bishop unreasonably withholds authorisation, we will pay for, train and commission the ministers that are needed, and seek official Anglican recognition for them.
Fellowship Fellowship is based on the faith “once delivered to the saints”. Global Anglicans observe that the Church of England is increasingly polarizing into two churches: the one submitting to God’s revelation, Gospel-focused, Christ-centred, cross-shaped and Spirit-empowered; the other holding a progressive view of revelation, giving priority to human reason over Scripture, shaped primarily by western secular culture, and focused on church structures. We reaffirm the Church of England as a confessing church, built supremely not on administrative or human structures but on biblical authority, belief and behaviour. This means that we can no longer associate with teaching that is contrary to the clear teaching of the Scriptures either doctrinally (for example, on the supremacy and uniqueness of Christ) or morally (for example, on issues of gender, sex and marriage), or church leadership which advocates such teaching. We will therefore encourage new informal networks of fellowship, augmenting where necessary the institutional geographical groupings, and will respect and support those who cannot in good conscience maintain Christian fellowship with neighbouring Anglicans who do not uphold the authority of Scripture.
Money Money is an aspect of gospel partnership in the New Testament. It is entrusted to church leaders by church members who generously and sacrificially give to Christian ministry. Under charity law there is a responsibility that those who handle the church’s money steward those resources with integrity. Funds are expected to be directed towards the churches and causes in line with the beliefs and expectations of those who give. To direct the church’s giving elsewhere is a dereliction of duty for which leaders will be held accountable by God. This means that we can no longer support ministries or structures increasingly marked by the doctrinal and ethical heterodoxy outlined above. Our congregations will seek actively to become self-sustaining when and where we can, to donate a reasonable yet modest amount to support the administrative centre, to be part of mutually accountable financial partnerships, and to give generously to gospel ministries, at home and abroad, that share the same values.
Oversight Christian leaders are servant leaders, servants of the gospel. As Anglicans, we affirm Episcopal oversight for the sake of God’s mission. But it must be ordered for the church’s well-being. This means having biblically orthodox oversight that will teach the apostolic faith, refute error and discipline the wayward. We can, therefore, no longer accept churches being denied such oversight. Ensuring that such biblically orthodox oversight is available for the health and well-being of the church is more important than arguments about jurisdiction. The immediate crisis is over the fundamentals of revealed truth. We are aware of those who justifiably consider that their communion with their bishops is impaired, and will support and help them to find alternative oversight.
We are committed, as authentic Anglicans, to praying, believing and working for a restored, reformed and renewed Church of England, holding its traditional convictions: confidence in the truth of God in his Word, in the sacrificial death of his Son for his world, and in the power of God’s Spirit to fulfil his mission.
President and Chairman sign covenant on behalf of CEEC Read hereCouncil of Crosslinks signs covenant Read here

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Anglican Church of Tanzania breaks communion with Episcopal Church

The Anglican Church of Tanzania has declared that its communion with the Episcopal Church in the USA is severely impaired. It will not accept any financial and material aid from dioceses or parishes in the US which condone homosexual practice or bless same-sex partnerships. It will however maintain communion (and accept material and financial aid is implied) from those those who are faithful to Biblical Christianity and authority of Scripture who either remain in the Episcopal Church or who leave it.
Clearly the Anglican Church of Tanzania is not going to be too badly affected materially by this decision because I guess there will be enough conservative Episcopal dioceses and congregations in the US who will be happy to support it with aid, not to mention other conservative church groupings who will want to support it too.
In one sense such a situation is not very different in practice from what happens anyway in which conservative churches tend to send resources, people and money to other conservative churches. What is dismaying here is that it formalises a split which will can only serve , without further change of heart, to cause the development of two separate "Anglican" Communions in the world - a conservative one and an open one; each believing they represent the tru spirit of Anglican Christianity.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New Bishop of Oxford

At last we know who the next Bishop of Oxford is to be - John Pritchard, currently Suffragan Bishop of Jarrow. It has been a long wait for the announcement and the diocese I think was getting rather restive. I have not met John before. His giftings and passions seem to be, from what I gather by "Googling " him and the list of his publications, in the area of pastoral and practical theology. A colleague here at All Saints has encountered him in action and speaks favourably of his inclusiveness. The signs are hopeful.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Episcopal bishop arrested for anti-war protest n San Francisco

Ekklesia the Christian news services reports:
Bishop Marc Handley Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California in the USA has been arrested for blocking the front door of the San Francisco federal building to protest against the deaths caused by the Iraq war - writes Mary Frances Schjonberg for the Episcopal News Service (ENS).His participation in the 7 December 2006 protest and his arrest are "just one piece of a sustained effort" to work for peace, Andrus told ENS. Other parts of the effort include further liturgical events, diocesan participation in the upcoming release of a documentary about four soldiers who sought conscientious objector status, and the possibility of having Episcopalians participate in a Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) trip to Iran.Bishop Andrus said that his protest sprang not just from his own convictions about the war but "from a base of considered opinion by the House of Bishops and the Episcopal Church about this war.""It's not a capricious act, but it is my conviction that while there's widespread opposition to this war, that the elected leaders need to know that we continue to want concerted and active moves towards peace," he said.Andrus, carrying his crosier and singing "Down by the Riverside," was among 250 protesters, including members of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and people of other faiths, who had marched from Grace Cathedral, on Nob Hill, to join the monthly "die-in" on Golden Gate Avenue near City Hall. The protest was meant to "memorialize all who have died as a result of US-led hostilities in Iraq," according to a 29 November invitation to the protest posted on the diocese's website.The bishop celebrated a requiem Holy Eucharist at the plaza in front of the building. After they received communion about two dozen participants went one by one to lie down in front of the federal building's two main doors. Andrus was the first protestor to do so. Federal Protective Service officers began arresting protesters for lying down and blocking the building's two main doors.Officers placed Andrus in handcuffs–as one said, "How are you?" and shook the bishop's hand, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.Protesters applauded, cheered and sang as Andrus was photographed by another officer and led inside the building. He and 11 other protesters were detained in a room inside the federal building for about two hours, according to diocesan spokesman Sean McConnell. They were cited for unlawful assembly and told they could either pay the charge's 5 fine or appear in court at a later date. All 12 decided to appear in court, McConnell said.Andrus said the decision was made as a way for the group to continue its protest by pleading not guilty "because of our sense that international law and the unjust nature of this war required civil disobedience."In the invitation to the event, Andrus wrote that "at the Eucharistic table we become aware of this divine reality, that while humans may forget the dead — and may indeed willfully forget them — God remembers them. In the Iraq war the numbers of those who have died mounts, and is staggering. While even the numbers of the dead are unknown to many of us, our faith teaches us that God does not forget them."A small group of protesters led by Quakers have gathered once a week outside the federal building to hold a silent vigil. Once a month the vigil is followed by the "die-in." Andrus has attended a number of the weekly vigils, but this was the first "die-in" he has been able to attend, according to McConnell.McConnell said "a handful of people were upset that the bishop was going to do this," after the invitation was issued for people to join the protest.Andrus said one man, a veteran of the Vietnam War, told him that the protest summoned up for him all the feelings he had about fighting in Vietnam while hearing of angry war protests at home. The bishop said he told the man that he believes that protests of the Iraq war can be and have been "completely respectful of all the soldiers." "The Bishop of California has been called to lead all the people in our diocese and beyond on the path of peace, and this was the first and visible step on that journey," McConnell said. "As we continue on this journey, we will invite all people of all faiths to join us."Andrus became the eighth Bishop of California in July. The Diocese of California comprises about 30,580 Episcopalians worshipping in 80 congregations in the greater San Francisco area.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Reflecting on the future of the parish system

Reflecting on the future of the parish system
7 December 2006

The parish system of the Church of England is examined in a new book published today featuring 12 leading thinkers. Including contributions from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of Peterborough and Maidstone, The Future of the Parish System discusses the challenges facing the parish system, and suggests principles for future development and growth.
Presented in three sections – Understanding our Context, Theological Resources, and Ways Forward – the collection of essays forms the latest in the Explorations series, a growing library of books that aim to stimulate debate within the church.
In the first section, Martyn Percy takes an historical perspective on the changing identity of the English parish church, while Sara Savage analyses the parish system from a psychological perspective, and sociologist Grace Davie charts the changing patterns of religious affiliation and activity in Northern Europe.
Theological reflections are led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who highlights some resources for re-examining church; the Rt Revd Graham Cray, Bishop of Maidstone, who reflects on how to focus church life on a theology of mission; and Steven Croft, who looks at changing patterns of mission in a “mixed-economy Church”.
Much of the book identifies principles for future development and growth. Robin Gamble outlines how to “do traditional church really well”, while the Rt Revd Ian Cundy, Bishop of Peterborough, gives an overview of the experience of dioceses which have reconfigured themselves for mission. Ann Morisy, Michael Moynagh and George Lings each explore how the Church can capture the experience of emerging forms of church, support the growth of these churches into maturity, and integrate them with more traditional churches. Finally, John Rees explores the potential of the proposed Dioceses, Mission and Ministry Measure in a chapter on the legal aspects of developing new forms of church.
The Future of the Parish System – Shaping the Church of England for the 21st Century is published by Church House Publishing, priced £12.99, and is available from Christian bookshops including Church House Bookshop, 31 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BN, tel. 020 7799 4064, email, or on the web (mail order available).

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Online Advent calendar

The Church of England has an official online calendar here with stories about Advent from a different person each day - beginning with Archbishop of York, John Sentamu.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Archbishop of York attacks Government policy over Iraq

From Ekklesia news briefings: In an event sponsored by the thinktank Ekklesia, the Archbishop of York last night launched an outspoken assault on US and UK policy in Iraq, warning of the dangers of "militarism out of control", reports the Guardian newspaper.Dr John Sentamu called for the UN to be given a central role in mediating global conflicts.He said in the speech to CHIPS (Christian International Peace Service), which was sponsored by the thinktank Ekklesia: "A scant regard for international law carries a high price, not only in terms of political uncertainty but more importantly in the body count which daily increases in those places where unilateral military action has proved so costly."In the short term such actions lead to quick victories, which make for great headlines. But the hard work of reconciliation, the hard labour of peacemaking ... never made it to the drawing board of those planning the invasion."We only have to look at the mounting daily death toll in Iraq to see the effects of military action without a concerted UN backing, where the consequences of militarist solutions play out against escalating sectarian and anti-western unrest ..."In August, the archbishop fasted for international peace for a week, camping in a tent at York Minster, in response to the televised pictures of the war in Lebanon. The event marked the 40th Anniversary of the Christian International Peace Service (CHIPS).CHIPS works for peace and reconciliation in areas of conflict and tension around the world. Its emphasis is on grassroots approaches recognising that while political solutions are important, without the engagement of individuals and communities, real and lasting peace may be impossible to realise.A 'relational organisation' it tailors its approach to particular situations to inspire and motivate local people to build peace in their communities. CHIPS supports teams of Christians to undertake practical projects which foster positive interaction, increase trust and reduce enmity between opposing groups or individuals.CHIPS is a member of the Coventry Cathedral Community of the Cross of Nails.