Anglican-Episcopal Split on the Horizon
July 27th, 2009
The Archbishop of Canterbury has responded to the action taken by the Episcopal Church to allow ordination of gay bishops and celebration of same-sex unions. (The Guardian)
The archbishop of Canterbury today reiterated his opposition to ordaining gay clergy and authorising same-sex blessings, warning liberal churches that such practices would lead to isolation and relegation in the Anglican communion.
Rowan Williams was responding in a statement today to developments in the US Episcopal church which earlier this month voted to open the ordination process to gay people and to consider developing blessings for same-sex couples.
Williams is envisioning a resulting two-tier church: those who are “good” Anglicans and obey the demands of exclusion and repression of gay Christians coming from the African and Asian churches, and those who are secondary churches who offer inclusion to gays and thus are not allowed to participate fully in communion matters and in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue.
This is likely to be as acceptable to the Episcopal Church as it would be to anyone else. So it looks like this is the beginning of the end of a world-wide Anglican Communion.
Episcopal Church to Collect and Develop Liturgical Recognitions of Same-Sex Unions
July 15th, 2009
The Episcopal Church has taken a step forward in recognizing same-sex marriages. By a vote of 104 to 30, the House of Bishops has just voted begin the “consideration of theological resources and liturgies for the blessing of same gender relationships” and to “collect and develop theological resources and design liturgies, and report to the 77th General Convention for further action.”
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that the 76th General Convention acknowledge the changing circumstances in the United States and in other nations, as legislation authorizing or forbidding marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian persons is passed in various civil jurisdictions that call for a renewed pastoral response from this Church and for an open procession for the consideration of theologicalresources and liturgies liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships; and be it further
Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, collect and develop theological and liturgical resources and design liturgies, and report to the 77th General Conventionfor further action consideration; and be it further
Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, devise an open process for the conduct of its work inviting participation from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are engaged in such theological work, and inviting theological reflection from throughout the Anglican Communion; and be it further
Resolved that bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same gender marriage civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church, and be it further
Resolved that this convention continue to honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality; and be it further
Resolved that the members of this church be encouraged to engage in this effort
The House of Delagates will likely confirm the resolution. And the Episcopal Church will begin the process of determining precisely what liturgy will be used to bless same-sex unions. Further, it appears to me that the Church may have given permission to Bishops in marraige or domestic partner states to generously accomodate recognition and provide some blessing of such unions.
Follow this story at Episcopal Cafe
Episcopal Church Chooses Gay Christians Over Foreign Appeasement
July 14th, 2009
At their national convention in 2003, delegates of the Episcopal Church took a vote that was not much watched by those outside of the body of Anglicans. Yet this decision has perhaps had more global fallout than any specific religious action in centuries.
When the Episcopal Church ordained Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, it infuriated conservative American Episcopalians as well as those around the world affiliated with the Anglican Communion, the globe’s third largest Christian fellowship.
In America, several priests and laypeople left the church in protest along with a handful of churches and even four dioceses. Other religious leaders were quick to throw in their opinion with some, like evangelical mega-church pastor Rick Warren, leaping to praise the dissidents.
A number of Archbishops in Africa and Asia condemned the American church and declared that they would not break bread with anyone who would accept gay Christians on an equal standing. The global body stood on the brink of schism.
In 2006 the Episcopal Church took a breather. They chose to stand back and hold off on ordaining any further bishops or in taking any steps to recognize or celebrate same-sex unions in hope that this cooling off time could allow them to find common ground with anti-gay elements of the Communion and achieve peace.
But peace was not an option. Conservative Anglicans are not interested in unity in Christ or the guidance of each body’s conscience or in allowing all to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They want strict adherence to their demands or harsh punishment as a consequence. Either reject gay Christians, or to Hell with you.
This week the Episcopal Church is meeting again, as it does every three years. And it appears to have made its decision. By a vote of 99-45, resolution D025 broke the moratorium on partnered gay ordinations. (NY Times)
The resolution passed on Monday was written in a way that would allow dioceses to consider gay candidates to the episcopacy, but does not mandate that all dioceses do so.
This is of particular note because while the resolution had passed the House of Deputies handily (77-31 in the lay order and 74-35 in the clerical order), it had not been anticipated that the House of Bishops would be so resolute.
This is a step that should not be underestimated. It is quite likely that this action will lead to a separation of the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion. Indeed, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the church, hinted at such last week when he addressed the American delegation.
Dr. Williams addressed the General Convention in Anaheim as it opened last week, saying, “Along with many in the communion, I hope and pray that there won’t be decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart. If we — if I — had felt that we could do perfectly well without you, there wouldn’t be a problem.”
Should a separation (or expulsion) occur, it may soon be followed by other national bodies deemed too “liberal” by those who measure their faith by who it excludes. Eventually the parent church, the Church of England, may find itself in the position of fighting for its own inclusion in the body to which it lends its name.
Also in play is a resolution to “collect and develop theological resources and liturgies of blessing for same-gender holy unions” for consideration in 2012. This resolution, C056, has moved out of the Prayer Book Committee by a huge margin (6-0 among bishops, 26-1 in deputies) and is now before the House of Bishops.
The significant majority of Bishop support for ordination – considering its expected consequence – may give promise of a positive outcome for C056. Having embraced full inclusion of gay Christians, the church may feel less need to hesitate over blessing of their vows and commitments.
Today the Episcopal Church made a momentous decision. They took a step towards inclusion that will likely result in their exclusion. They decided that you are more important than the good favor of those who reject you. They decided that you are more valued than centuries of tradition, communion, and organization.
Given a choice between welcoming you into their fold or appeasing those who find you abhorrent, they chose you.
For excellent blogging of the convention and its decisions, see Episcopal Cafe
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A special congratulations to my friend Dan who leaves this week to become an Assistant Rector at an Episcopal Church in Illinois. May God keep you, guide you, bless you and shower you with His blessings.
Episcopalians Win Tentative Ruling about Fresno
May 7th, 2009
In December 2007, John-David Schofield, the Espiscopal Bishop officiating out of Fresno, declared that his precint was seceding from the Episcopal Church and putting itself under the authority of a South American Anglican Archbishop. The Episcopal Church replaced Schofield with Bishop Jerry Lamb in March of 2008 and the two parties have been in conflict ever since over who owns the extensive properties of the San Juaquin Diocese.
The court has now tentatively sided with the Episcopal Church.
Bishop Jerry Lamb said he is very pleased with a nine page tentative ruling. Lamb said a judge recognized him as the legal authority which means if the ruling becomes final Lamb controls all Central Valley Episcopal Churches including Saint James Cathedral. Lamb said, “A lot of people have been hurt on all sides of this question. It’s not a time of celebration. It’s a time of being pleased that we can go forward.”
This follows a similar ruling in January that returned St James Parish in Newport Beach back to the national body.
Rick Warren to the Rescue of Anti-Gay Anglicans
January 11th, 2009
We have previously discussed how President-Elect Obama’s selection for his inaugural invocation, Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, has sought to meddle in the current internal affairs of the Anglican fellowship in Africa. He has, on the international stage, sided with those who are anti-gay.
Well now it seems that Warren wants to meddle on a local scale.
Last week, the California Supreme Court found that the current leadership and congregation at St. James Parish in Newport Beach could not just walk away from the Episcopal Church and take the buildings and property with them. This left those discontented with the Episcopal denomination without a physical home.
The Episcopal Church is hoping that the physical ownership of the site will remove leverage from the local anti-gay activists and will allow for this congregation to be again a part of the fold.
But it seems that this does not fit with Warren’s agenda. He is encouraging the congregation to stay in discord and is offering the assets of Saddleback to keep the pot bubbling. Christianity Today has extractions from letters written by Warren:
… [The Episcopal Church has] already considered me an adversary after partnering on projects with Kolini, Orumbi, and Nzimbi, and writing the TIME bio on Akinola.
But since last summer… I’ve been on Gene Robinson and other’s attack list for my position on gay marriage. ….[Our] brothers and sisters here at St. James in Newport Beach lost their California State Supreme Court case to keep their property.
We stand in solidarity with them, and with all orthodox, evangelical Anglicans. I offer the campus of Saddleback Church to any Anglican congregation who need a place to meet, or if you want to plant a new congregation in south Orange County.
Rick Warren has, in so many words, declared war on the Episcopal Church.
It is one thing to take an anti-gay position based on one’s theology. It is quite another to encourage schism in another denomination. It is now time for the Episcopal Church to make a formal protest to the President Elect. Rick Warren cannot invoke blessing on a nation if he is seeking to divide a denomination of which he is not even a part.
Further, the ECUSA should be joined by every church body sharing the belief that those who seek discord should not be given a place of prestige. I do not doubt for a moment that Rick Warren will endeavor to bring about splits in the Presbyterian (USA) and United Methodist denominations if he is left unchecked.
Colorado Episcopal Church Ordains Lesbian
January 10th, 2009
From the AP:
The Episcopal Diocese of Colorado is ending its so-called “period of restraint” on ordaining gay priests.
Bishop Robert O’Neill ordained Mary Catherine Volland to the priesthood during a ceremony at St. John’s Cathedral on Saturday.
Loss for Anti-Gay Ex-Episcopalians
January 5th, 2009
When the Episcopal Church ordained Gene Robinson as a Bishop, it threw several conservative congregations into a tizzy. Some were so upset about the idea of their church including an openly gay man in so high a position, that they announced that they would take their marbles and go elsewhere.
St. James parish in Newport Beach was one such church. Now they have found that it just isn’t that easy. The Supreme Court of California has informed St. James parish that they can go elsewhere, but they have to leave their marbles behind.
The California Supreme Court ruled that the 2.4-million-member national church, and not a local parish in that state, owns a church building and the land on which it sits, property which members of the congregation said belonged to them when they left the church.
This decision upheld the 2007 reversal of a 2005 judicial decision granting the property to the local congregation. 2007 was a sad year for the church; also in that year Rev. Praveen Bunyan, the priest who led the disaffiliation, resigned his duties over inappropriate attention paid to a female parishioner.
This unanimous Supreme Court decision is, no doubt, discouraging to the parish that lost its marbles. But it is definitely encouraging to the Episcopal Church, especially as it may direct that the multi-million dollar assets of the San Juaquin Diocese in Fresno remain under the control of the denomination, and are not at the discretion of the break-away Bishop.
Although the deeds showed that the local church owned the property, the parish had agreed to be part of the greater Episcopal Church of the United States and to be bound by that church’s rules, the court said. Those rules said local churches hold property in trust for the greater denomination.
“The local church agreed and intended to be part of a larger entity and to be bound by the rules and governing documents of that greater entity,” Chin wrote.
So it now seems, at least in California, that it may actually cost chuches something to stand by their convictions.