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A communique from GAFCON-Tanzania

Sat, 17/08/2019 - 02:44

WE, the undermentioned ten bishops of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, meeting at Holiday Inn, Dar es Salaam, on the 14th August 2019, after prayerful discussion, hereby issue this Communique.

PREAMBLE

Recognizing the need for us to contribute to the global movement seeking to renew the Anglican Communion through Gafcon;

Recollecting our experiences and commitments through our participation in the GAFCON Conferences (2008, 2013, 2018);

Recognizing the serious reality of the liberal agenda being pursued by some sections of the Anglican Communion; and

Seeing the need to reach out and equip Anglicans in Tanzania to remain faithful to the Gospel;

WE, THEREFORE, HEREBY STATE AS FOLLOWS:

1. That today, we have inaugurated a Gafcon Branch and those who attended the meeting are hereby constituted as an Interim Branch Council.

2. That, we re-affirm the position of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, that marriage is between one man and one woman in a life-long commitment, in accordance with Scripture and as affirmed by the Lambeth Conference 1998 Resolution I.10.

3. That, we re-affirm our subscription to the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. We further commit to uphold the orthodox view of Scripture as the inspired Word of God, fully and finally authoritative for all matters of faith and conduct, and to faithfully maintain biblical doctrine, particularly as found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

4. That, we re-affirm the position of the Anglican Church of Tanzania as contained in the 2006 Statement of the House of Bishops and subsequently ratified by the Provincial Standing Committee in 2007 and the Provincial Synod in 2008, which declared that the Anglican Church of Tanzania is not in communion with:

(a) Bishops who consecrate practicing homosexuals to the episcopate and those Bishops who ordain such persons to the priesthood and the deaconate or license them to minister in their dioceses; 

(b) Bishops who permit the blessing of same sex unions in their dioceses; 

(c) Priests and deacons in same-sex unions; 

(d) Priests who bless same sex-unions. 

5. That, we will develop and implement a strategy and programs to educate and equip Anglicans in Tanzania, both clergy and laity, to remain faithful to orthodox Biblical Anglicanism, participating in the global fellowship of Gafcon, including its networks. 

6. That, we will not attend Lambeth 2020 – because it is organized and planned in such a way that bishops who have departed from the authority of Scripture as understood in historic Anglicanism are invited and bishops who are standing faithful to Scripture are excluded, in particular those from the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Church in Brazil. 

7. That, we are thankful to God for the election of the Rt Rev Dr Mwita Akiri as Branch Chairman and the Rt Rev Dr Elias Chakupewa as Branch Treasurer.

BISHOPS 

1. Rt Rev Dr Elias Chakupewa – Bishop of Tabora

2. Rt Rev Dr George Okoth – Bishop of Mara

3. Rt Rev Dr Jacob Chimeledya – Bishop of Mpwapwa and Retired Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Tanzania

4. Rt Rev Dr Mwita Akiri – Bishop of Tarime

5. Rt Rev Dr Sospeter Ndenza – Bishop of Kibondo

6. Rt Rev Dr Stanley Hotay – Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro

7. Rt Rev Dr John Adiema – Bishop of Rorya

8. Rt Rev Johnson Chinyong’ole – Bishop of Shinyanga

9. Rt Rev Mathayo Kasagara – Bishop of Lake Rukwa

10. Rt Rev Sadock Makaya – Bishop of Western Tanganyika 

APOLOGY 

11. Rt Rev Oscar Mnung’a – Bishop of Newala – He was unfortunately not able to join the meeting due to reasons beyond his control, but we know that he is in agreement to be part of the Gafcon Branch. 

RESOURCE PERSONS 

1. Rev Canon Charles Raven – Gafcon Membership Development Secretary and Acting Operations Manager

2. Mr Peter Waruingi – Gafcon Communications Officer for East and Southern Africa (Kenya). 

IN ATTENDANCE 

Rt Rev Donald Mtetemela – Retired Bishop of Ruaha and former Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Tanzania. 

END

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Archbishop urges MPs to ‘Care for the most vulnerable’ in setting abortion laws

Thu, 15/08/2019 - 02:46

Archbishop Glenn Davies has told a State Parliamentary inquiry that the catchcry of new legislation has been ‘decriminalisation’ but skates over the details that it radically extends abortion in New South Wales.

Abortion is not unlawful in New South Wales under certain circumstances because of a precedent set by the ruling of a District Court Judge in 1971.

The new legislation, which allows for abortions up to birth without effective safeguards, has had minor amendments in the state’s Legislative Assembly and now goes to the Upper House for scrutiny and then a vote.

After two weeks of media appearances and joint appeals with other religious leaders, Dr Davies was able to speak directly to the Upper House MPs who form the Social Issues Committee of the Legislative Council.

Faith leaders not consulted

Dr Davies said the bill had been rushed and that many people did not know what it contained.

“I think that you have (enough) time to consider carefully, consultatively, in a way in which to get the very best Bill. I’m not opposed to changing the Crimes Act with regard to abortion, not removing it because (even) this bill doesn’t remove it completely. But I prefer to see legal statements rather than opinions of judges.” Dr Davies told the committee. “You are the representatives of our state and that’s why I’m here. Because I think the best needs of our state is to send this back to the drafting board, do proper consultation and come back with a Bill which is actually going to care for women who are pregnant with all the concerns and the emotions involved with that and care for the unborn as well. And care in a way which establishes that we, as a society, care for the most vulnerable. That is how society is judged, not by the way it treats the rich and the powerful.”

When it was put to the Archbishop that women weren’t trusted to make decisions about their own bodies, Dr Davies replied “When a pregnant mother holds a genetically distinct unborn child – it is not merely her own body.”

The Archbishop also lodged a submission by the Social Issues Committee of the Diocese, which argued against the legislation on several grounds, including its impact on women.

“Women who contemplate abortions do not do so lightly. Women who have had abortions often struggle with the implications of having done so. We do not seek to condemn women who have had to make this tragic choice, but there should be every opportunity for women not to have to make this choice. The problem with this Bill is that it will have the effect of normalising the termination of human life in the first 22 weeks of pregnancy. ” says the submission, signed by Committee Chair Emma Penzo. 

“This Bill is premised on the idea that once a pregnancy is determined to be problematic, the only viable solution is to terminate the pregnancy. For all its flaws, the current system in NSW recognises that ending a child’s life in utero is a terrible thing. If as a society we are going to permit abortion, then we also need to do everything that we can to ensure that no woman is led to make that tragic choice because she had no other alternatives. This Bill is not pro-woman because it fails to acknowledge the emotionally confronting choice she will need to make. It leaves no room for other options as would be the case with any other healthcare plan.”

Abortion extended

The Diocesan committee’s submission also details the way in which the Bill extends the current abortion practices.

“First, the Bill allows for the abortion of a baby well into the second trimester, namely 5 ½ months, for any reason or no reason at all. Currently, abortions are permitted on economic, social or medical ground where there is a basis for believing that the pregnancy poses a danger to the mother.” it says.

The Bill also allows for the abortion of a baby after 22 weeks (5 ½ months), where the medical practitioner, in consultation with another, considers that, in all the circumstances, the termination should be performed.

“Most Australians do not support abortion at this late point because they know instinctively what biology tells us: that a baby of this age is able to survive outside the womb. The baby is fully formed, she can hear, taste, move and suck her thumb.” Ms Penzo’s submission says.

Dr Davies has also urged support for a petition on the legislation which calls on the Upper House of Parliament to reject the ‘Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019’.

The petition reads “This Bill, if enacted, will put both mothers and their unborn babies at risk by increasing access to abortion up to 22 weeks, with no effective restrictions on late term abortion. Furthermore, it would impose on medical practitioners with a conscientious objection to abortion, an unwarranted new legal obligation to facilitate abortion through referral.”

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NAF launches pre-paid gas card program to help patients obtain abortion care

Thu, 15/08/2019 - 02:16

Today, amid increasing restrictions on abortion care, the National Abortion Federation (NAF) and its 40-year-old Hotline have announced a new pilot program to help some member clinics provide pre-paid gas cards to patients seeking abortion care.

The cost of the actual abortion procedure is only one expense women must manage when they need an abortion. Since there are a limited number of providers and states continue to impose additional restrictions, many women have to travel long distances to reach the closest provider who can help them. And this situation will only worsen as the political environment continues to become more hostile toward abortion rights. According to a recent report by the Guttmacher Institute and Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California, San Francisco, if Roe v. Wade were overturned or weakened, increases in travel distances would likely prevent 93,500 to 143,500 individuals from obtaining abortion care.

To help address this issue and ensure that patients can obtain care quickly and with dignity, NAF is piloting a program to give pre-paid gas cards through its Hotline’s Dr. Tiller Patient Assistance Fund. The Dr. Tiller Patient Assistance Fund primarily helps cover travel-related expenses for women seeking abortion care. This fund honors the legacy of long-time NAF member, Dr. George Tiller who was murdered by an anti-abortion extremist in 2009. The pilot program will start with a small group of NAF-member independent abortion clinics in states where the majority of their patients drive to the clinic and where there are a number of factors like onerous state-mandated waiting periods and laws that require women to make two visits to the clinic, which make access harder for patients. After a three-month pilot, NAF hopes to expand this project to other NAF-member clinics across the U.S.

Statement from The Very Reverend Katherine Ragsdale, Interim President and CEO of NAF:

“Our Hotline has been helping people obtain the abortion care they need for the past 40 years. We receive thousands of calls each week from women, their partners, families, and friends who have questions about abortion or need help getting care. In addition to helping patients cover the cost of their procedure, we also provide case management support and help covering travel-related expenses. We are always looking for ways to provide more support for patients so they can make, and act on, the best decisions for themselves and their families.

We have already seen an increase in distances patients have had to travel to obtain the abortion care they need and expect this trend only to get worse. Whether it’s having to drive longer distances or struggling just to get across town for multiple state-mandated appointments, paying for both their procedure and the gas it takes to get to their appointments can be an insurmountable barrier for too many women seeking abortion care. This program will help remove the barriers too many women are facing.

Travel-related assistance is a service that shouldn’t have to be provided. People should have easy access to the health care they need—including abortion care—without the help of hotlines and donated funds. Unfortunately, due to the anti-abortion bans and medically-unnecessary anti-abortion restrictions, politicians have made it impossible for many to obtain the care they need. We’re here to do something about it.”

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Congregational dynamics and murder

Tue, 13/08/2019 - 19:35

A murder story, widely reported last week in the Press, would not normally have attracted any comment from this blog.  But the recent conviction of Benjamin Field for the murder of Peter Farquhar does have considerable relevance to our concerns.  The victim was said to have been befriended and drawn into a homosexual liaison within the setting of a small church congregation at Stowe.  The dynamic, which the murderer used to draw Farquhar into a sexual relationship with him, was described as a kind of grooming.  Field allegedly used similar grooming techniques not only with the other individuals he wanted to exploit (of whom there were several), but with the entire congregation.  This village congregation was said to be completely in thrall to Field’s influence.  The trust and the power that he exerted allowed him to take a leading role in the congregation as a parish secretary and there were even moves afoot to put him forward for ordination.

The careful reporting of the story by the Times newspaper mentions that, following the murder conviction, the Diocese of Oxford is to hold an inquiry into the way that the grooming of the congregation by Field took place.  The notion of grooming is widely used as a shorthand for indicating the way that certain individuals prepare their victims for acts of abuse.  The word contains notions of influence and control not dissimilar to the old idea of brain-washing.  Here grooming refers to the influence exerted by Field that caught up not just victims but many others. This idea that a single individual can manipulate groups is far from being a novel idea to students of the so-called cults.  It has been recognised for over a century that when people gather together in groups or in a crowd, they become aware of themselves in a different way from when they are alone.  We speak about the different atmospheres created by the presence or absence of other people.  At the end of the 19th century a number of writers interested in the behaviour of crowds came up with the notion of ‘contagion’.  This is the notion that an idea held initially by a few members of a group can spread very quickly to become the dominant way of thinking by the whole.  It only needs the conviction of a leader with a powerful gift of rhetoric to infect an entire crowd into thinking in a particular way.  Theories of crowd behaviour may not seem particularly relevant to the situation in Stowe.  What is relevant is the idea that any group can quickly normalise a single thought among its members. We have all felt the pressure of a group to think a particular way.  It might be in a football crowd or in a charismatic gathering.  In this situation it is very hard not to sing along or cheer in the same way as everyone else.  Field somehow understood these dynamics and manipulated them to his benefit.  That is perhaps also the secret of Trump rallies as well as dictatorships everywhere.

The capacity of groups to become one in their thinking and feeling is one part of the way that congregational dynamics worked initially in Field’s favour.   The group consensus was that he was to be trusted and also was thoroughly reliable.  The other part of the dynamic of the congregation were the actual methods available to Field to sustain this common belief.  There were various motivations that were in operation in Field’s plan but they are perhaps the least interesting part of the story.  What is important is the way that the congregation were so mesmerised by him that no one was able to see that something was not quite right in his close association with Farquhar.  Field was not, of course, an official leader of the group but in many respects he seems to have been able to act in this capacity.  From his upbringing as the offspring of a Baptist minister he had considerable knowledge of the Bible and this was superior to anyone else in the congregation.   A facility to quote scripture easily gave him power and influence in a congregation where reverence for scripture was highly esteemed.  The theological conservatism of this particular congregation meant that there was little appetite to question any decisive use of bible quotes to further an authoritarian agenda.  My article in Letters to a Broken Church, explores the variety of bible passages that can be and are used to boost the leadership credentials of an official (or in this case unofficial) leader.   In short, the fundamentalism of Field’s church facilitated the kind of exploiting of human weakness that ended, in this case, in an episode of desperate tragedy.  Youth, charm and the skilful use of bible texts seemed to been able to perform the task of group manipulation over a considerable period of time.

The grooming of the congregation to which Peter Farquhar belonged was, as far as we can see, deliberate and planned by Benjamin Field.  That he was able to go as far as he did in abusing the trust of good and intelligent people ought to alarm the leaders of all our churches.  The story at one level is extraordinary and exceptional.  At another level it reflects a reality on the ground in many churches where people are inveigled into trusting leaders who may not be worthy of such trust.  The dynamics of power in this particular congregation were probably not so different from the way that many congregations operate up and down the country.  Narcissistic leaders, whose motives for being in charge involve their own emotional, financial and sexual gratification, are still found in our congregations.  Whether the system is able to spot such people before they are let loose on vulnerable trusting congregations remains to be seen.  The Church historically has been extremely reluctant to let go priests (and bishops) whose behaviour has shown that they are a danger to potential parishioners.  Is it the acute shortage of clergy within the church part of the reason that dangerous individuals are still found within the system because those in charge are unwilling to spot the dangers? 

The story of Benjamin Field has many aspects.  There was among those involved with him a mentoring priest who had spotted the fact that he was showing severe psychopathic tendencies, including a total lack of empathy or feeling for others.  This encounter was voluntary on Field’s part and we are left to wonder whether, apart from this, the selection process would have penetrated through the personal charm that he had used to endear himself to his home congregation and his abuse victims.  Are all ordinands required to examine the part of themselves that relates to personal power and its management?  Recently we have seen, at the highest levels of the church hierarchy, some extraordinary examples of empathy failure.  If the church is indeed becoming more focused on efficiency and structure, will it also be more likely to miss out on such pastoral issues and the preservation of integrity among the clergy?  Field, having learnt the ropes of how to do ‘church-speak’ got dangerously close to beginning the path to ordination.  One is forced to ask the uncomfortable question.  How many other malignant narcissists have got through the system and are even now preparing, if not to murder people, at least to harm them in the cause of satisfying narcissistic hunger and their drug-like craving for importance and esteem?Facebook 

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Church of England to launch independent review into the John Smyth case

Tue, 13/08/2019 - 18:32

Details of the independent review into the Church of England’s handling of allegations against the late John Smyth QC have been published today.

Keith Makin, a former director of social services with more than 30 years experience in the social care field,  will lead the independent lessons learnt review which will consider the response of the Church of England and its officers to the allegations against John Smyth. Keith has led on a number of serious case reviews and has chaired several local safeguarding partnerships.

The Terms of Reference show that the review will also consider the response of the other organisations involved; Winchester College, the Titus Trust, and the Scripture Union, to the extent that those organisations are willing to co-operate.

This review will allow those individuals who are survivors of John Smyth and who have given an account to the Church of England to describe their experiences. It will also consider the actions of Church of England participants and will identity both good practice and failings in the Church’s handling of the allegations, so lessons can be learnt to improve response to allegations of abuse and, thereby, ensure the Church provides a safer environment for all.

Commenting on the review, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop, Peter Hancock said: “I know for survivors of John Smyth this review into the Church’s response – and the response of others –  is vital to them.  It was their bravery in coming forward that finally brought the abuse perpetrated by Smyth to the attention of the police and wider Church. We commend their actions and I pray that with cooperation from the other organisations the review will be comprehensive and that lessons will be learnt both by the Church and all those involved. We recognise that the process of a review can be a very difficult one, and our thoughts remain with the victims and survivors of John Smyth.  We remain aware that there are others who were victims of Smyth that have not come forward to the Church and we urge them to make contact if they would like support. Please email safeguardingeo@churchofengland.org

Further information

Keith Makin is an executive in the social care and health sector, with over 30 years experience as a manager. He has held the posts of Director of Social Services, Chief Executive of an independent child care agency, Executive Director of a Government Improvement Agency and now runs a consultancy in social care and health. Keith is also active in the voluntary sector, having been a Board member and Director of several organisations, including two social enterprises.

Keith is a qualified social worker. He has a degree in Economics, with post graduate qualifications in Social Administration and Management.

Keith has chaired several local safeguarding partnerships and has led on a number of high profile reviews and inquiries into safeguarding concerns.

2017 Church of England statements on Smyth abuse

Statement on John Smyth allegations

Statement on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Comment by the Archbishop of Canterbury in response to the statement by the Bishop of Guildford
 

2018 statement on death of John Smyth

Response to reports of the death of John Smyth

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Diocese of Oxford responds to the Ben Field murder conviction

Tue, 13/08/2019 - 00:11

Statement by the Archdeacon of Buckingham:

Following a painstaking investigation by Thames Valley Police and a lengthy trial at Oxford Crown Court, Ben Field was on Friday found guilty of the murder of Peter Farquhar. You will be aware from the press coverage of the depth of Field’s cruelty to those who became his victims.

At the end of what has been a hugely difficult ordeal for all those affected, please keep in your prayers Peter’s family and friends, his former colleagues and pupils. Remember too, those who worship at Stowe Parish Church, where Peter worshipped, and the community in Maids Moreton where he lived. Field was also convicted of fraud against Ann Moore-Martin and of other crimes in the community – please keep all those affected in your prayers. Pray too for the people of Olney where Ben’s family live – pray for them, and for him.

At times like this, the caring ministry of our parish clergy and the healing depth of our Christian communities come into their own. There has been work going on in the background for over two years to address various safeguarding and pastoral aspects of the case.

We hope that all those affected are receiving the support they need. If, however, anyone reading this is particularly affected by the case and needs to speak to someone, please contact our Authorised Listeners via the Safeguarding Team on 01865 208290.

This has been an extraordinary and unusual case. No one who came into contact with Ben Field was not manipulated by him. He made a pretence of being a committed Christian and gained the confidence of the people of Stowe Parish Church and then, to quote his own words, “I’m gonna become a vicar … just because I can outmanoeuvre the Church.” His arrest put an end to this pretence.

Any incidence of harm to a church member causes us to reflect and we will need to learn what this case has to teach us about safeguarding. Sentencing will be followed by “lessons learned” reviews by various organisations including the Diocese. If you have any particular concerns to raise in connection with this or any other safeguarding situation, please contact our Safeguarding Team on the number above.

“Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord.”

The Ven. Guy Elsmore
12th August 2019

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Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui House of Bishops Pastoral Letter

Mon, 12/08/2019 - 17:47

In the past two months, the “Extradition Bill” (2019) sparked a series of marches and spread conflicts. As clashes between the police and civilians grew more acute, tension permeated the city, causing anxiety and pain.

We think that when Christians respond to political or public issues, we should remember that we are all members of God’s family, even if we hold different opinions. We might stand on opposite sides, and feel animosity or even hatred towards those with different views. When this happens, we have to be extremely careful, because our hearts might have fallen into the control of the “evil one”. We need to remember that benevolent thoughts come from God while wicked intentions originate in the “evil one,” Satan. In these times, we all need to pray to God for mercy and forgive one another.

When conflicts arise between us, people from both sides need to respect the other party, listen, communicate, and build mutual trust. In the current social atmosphere, we tend to adopt a confrontational approach in response to political issues. If the Church, too, takes this approach, how are we different from the rest of the world? We are one family, can we try to stand in each other’s shoes and understand one another’s position?

The manner of expression is also an important issue. Sometimes, an expression of kindness can open up a new horizon while responses born of animosity only lead to both parties ignoring the others’ demands and opinions.

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5: 43)

Archbishop Paul Kwong  Bishop Andrew Chan  Bishop Timothy Kwok

4 August 2019

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Belfast bishop voices concern over closure of shipyard

Mon, 12/08/2019 - 17:40

A statement from the Rt Rev Harold Miller, Bishop of Down and Dromore:

The insolvency of Harland and Wolff is a troubling development for the people of East Belfast and Northern Ireland as a whole.  Harland and Wolff has played a central and iconic role in the province’s economy to date, and has shown innovation and resilience by adapting its business to the growth in renewable energy.  The company has had an important role in passing on skills learned and built up over decades to a younger generation, which should not be lost.  I encourage all in leadership to do everything in their power to secure the future of the company and for government to seek out new opportunities on behalf of its employees and their families.

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Bishop to preach atop Norwich “helter-skelter”

Mon, 12/08/2019 - 17:32

The Bishop of Lynn has announced that he will preach next Sunday from atop the “helter-skelter” installed in Norwich Cathedral. The Eastern Daily Press reports that at a dedication of a clerestory window at St Agnes Church in Clawson this past Sunday, the Rt. Rev. Jonathan Meyrick said he had asked the dean, the Very Rev Jane Hedges, if he might preach his scheduled August 18 sermon from atop the 50 amusement park ride that has been set up inside the cathedral.

At the conclusion of his sermon the bishop is expected to descend the slide to the ground to rejoin the congregation, but is not expected to have to pay the £2 fee.

Bishop Meyrick, the Daily Press reported, was not embarrassed by the controversy surrounding the decision to set up a fairground amusement ride inside a cathedral, stating: “In fact, I insisted on her agreeing that I could preach from the helter skelter.”

The bishop told the congregation the installation of a circus ride would enable visitors to have a closer view of the carved roof bosses in the cathedral and struck by such magnificence would be converted to the faith. The project entitled Seeing it Differently will take place at Norwich Cathedral from 8 to 18 August 2019.

The decision by the cathedral chapter to install the helter-skelter as an evangelism outreach tool has not generated the sort of publicity expected, with the secular press ridiculing the move as a stunt. Anglican Unscripted’s Dr Gavin Ashenden raised objections on aesthetic and theological grounds.

Speaking on Anglican Unscripted last week Dr. Ashenden said the “naff” carnival ride displayed “some very impoverished theological conclusions” from the cathedral clergy.

“Their understanding of God, their understanding of who Jesus is, their understanding of the Kingdom, is so far away, I think, from radical, traditional Christianity, which takes evil seriously, believes in Heaven and Hell, knows that people have to be reborn and must be saved. This is completely off their map. What they are doing is spirituality — they’re doing moral, therapeutic deism … They’re not doing Christianity.”

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California pastor elected bishop of the North American Lutheran Church

Sat, 10/08/2019 - 23:31

Indianapolis, IN: Following a year of discernment after Bishop John Bradosky’s retirement announcement at the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) annual Convocation last August, the Rev. Dr. Dan Selbo, 63, was elected this week by a majority of delegates at the 2019 NALC Convocation to serve as its next bishop. Selbo is currently serving as the pastor of St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church in San Jose, CA and was the former dean of the Central Pacific Mission District.

Before the annual Convocation, congregations proposed eligible pastors to a nominating committee, who then published answers from each nominee pertaining to various questions related to their ministry and hopes for the future. This week, 299 pastors, 308 lay-delegates, and 187 visitors from mission districts across North America met in Indianapolis, IN for prayer and discernment before voting to elect Selbo.

A slate of twelve nominees who were willing to stand for election to be the next bishop of the NALC were announced on May 10, 2019. An additional two nominees were nominated on the floor during Convocation. “The Executive Council and the Nominating Committee are grateful for the prayerful manner and approach our church took to bring us to the election of our next bishop,” said the Rev. Mark Chavez, NALC General Secretary. “So many people were praying. We wished for prayer, not politics. Thank you to everyone who helped in that effort.”

The nominees included the Rev. Dr. Catherine Braasch STS, (intentional interim pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jackson Center, OH); the Rev. B. A. “Tim” Christ STS, pastor of Joy Lutheran Church (Richmond, TX); the Rev. Phillip Gagnon STS, pastor of St. Albert Evangelical Lutheran Church (St. Albert, AB); the Rev. Dr. Jeffray S. Greene, pastor of Word of God Lutheran Church (Peachtree City, GA); the Rev. Marshall E. Hahn, pastor of Marion Lutheran Church and Norway Lutheran Church (St. Olaf, IA); the Rev. Ronald Hoyum, pastor of Port Madison Lutheran Church (Bainbridge Island, WA); the Rev. Melinda H. Jones, pastor of Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church (North Charleston, SC); the Rev. Kenneth C. Kimball STS, pastor of Old East Paint Creek Lutheran Church (Waterville, IA) and Old West Paint Creek Lutheran Church (Waukon, IA); the Rev. James T. Lehmann STS, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church (Thomasboro, IL); the Rev. Dr. Eric M. Riesen, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church (Ashland, OH); the Rev. Dan Selbo, pastor of St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church (San Jose, CA); and the Rev. Dr. David M. Wendel, assistant to the NALC bishop for ministry and ecumenism (Jacksonville, FL). The Rev. Dr. Amy C. Schifrin STS president of the North American Lutheran Seminary (Ambridge, PA), and the Rev. Dr. Amy C. Little, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church (Monroeville, OH), were nominated from the floor of the Convocation as the thirteenth and fourteenth candidates for bishop.

These fourteen nominees were asked to prepare and submit written materials for clergy- and lay delegates’ consideration. The materials included their basic biographical information and responses to a comprehensive questionnaire.

Following several earlier events in the week, including the prestigious Braaten-Benne Lectures in Theology and the NALC Mission Festival, the Convocation began with morning devotions by the voting machines were distributed individually to certified delegates and clergy at registration.

Following introductions, reports and greetings, the first ballot began following lunch, narrowing the election to the final four candidates: pastors Riesen, Schifrin, Selbo and Wendel. Following opening statements from these remaining nominees, all clergy- and lay-delegates were strongly encouraged to attend a time of informal conversation with each of the nominees. Following morning devotions on Friday, voting continued. In the fourth ballot, an election was reached as Selbo was named the bishop-elect. An installation service followed the election.

“Dan Selbo is the leader our pastors and lay-delegates have chosen to be the third bishop of the North American Lutheran Church. God willing, he will begin his service in the tenth year of our corporate life,” said Bishop John Bradosky. “I will do all I can as his predecessor to support him in the catalytic ministry to which he has been called, one of spiritual oversight, as defender of the faith, pastor and teacher to the pastors and congregations of the NALC, the chief evangelist, and one dedicated to the disciple-making mission of the Church.”

In his address to the Convocation, Selbo expressed his deep appreciation to the North American Lutheran Church. “Thank you for who you are, for being the Body of Christ,” said Selbo. “I am honored to be part of the North American Lutheran Church. It is a powerful voice that is so needed in this world today and we are on track, we are being led by the Spirit, we are following Jesus Christ, and we have a message this world is dying to hear and we need to share it. Thank you for your vote of confidence. I ask for your continued prayers in the four years ahead.”

Several leaders participated in the laying on of hands during the installation, including Bradosky, as well as the Rev. Yonas Yigezu, president of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus; the Rt. Rev. Dr. Alex Mkumbo, bishop of the Central Diocese (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania); and the Rev. Paull Spring, bishop emeritus of the North American Lutheran Church and bishop emeritus of the Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).

Also present during the Convocation were a number of ecumenical representatives, including the Most Rev. Dr. Ray R. Sutton, presiding bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church and bishop of the Diocese of Mid-America (Anglican Church in North America); the Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, executive director of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod); Carmen LaBerge, executive director of the Common Ground Christian Network; the Rev. Martin Fromm, representing both the Confessional and Missional Global Lutheran Forum and the Church Coalition for the Bible and Confession in Bavaria; the Rev. Andreas Späth, vice president of the Internationale Konferenz Bekennender Gemeinschaften/International Christian Network; and the Rev. James Erich Rutten, chair of the Commission on Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops).

Bishop Bradosky will stay on until October 1, at which point Selbo will assume his new responsibilities. “The entire church would like to honor Bishop Bradosky, and we look forward to celebrating his ministry among us,” said Chavez. “God provided the leadership that we needed in the person of John Bradosky, and we have already witnessed an unprecedented outpouring of gratitude and thanksgiving in the past several months. We look forward to celebrating his ministry among us for many years.”

The NALC is a growing Christian church in the Lutheran tradition, uniting more than 142,500 Lutherans from 433 congregations across the United States and Canada. The NALC embodies the theological center of Lutheranism in North America and stands firmly within the global Lutheran mainstream. The NALC is a church family committed to the authority of the Bible as the inspired Word of God, and, in keeping with the Lutheran Confessions, believes all doctrines should and must be judged by the teaching of Scripture.

The NALC has embraced four Core Values which shape its common life: Christ Centered, Mission Driven, Traditionally Grounded, and Congregationally Focused. As a church centered on the unique Gospel of Jesus Christ, the NALC is animated by missions and evangelism, grounded in the 2,000-year tradition of Christian faith, and organized chiefly to serve our congregations. A renewed Lutheran community moving forward in faith, the NALC is focused on living out Christ’s Great Commission to go and make disciples in North America and around the globe.

More details found at thenalc.org/bishop2019

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Melbourne Anglicans urge Bishop of Wangaratta “not to break the unity of the church”

Sat, 10/08/2019 - 23:13

A prominent group of Melbourne Anglicans comprising both senior clergy and lay people today issued an open letter to the Bishop of Wangaratta (the Rt Rev John Parkes and the synod (diocesan parliament) of the Diocese of Wangaratta urging them not to pull away from the rest of the Anglican Church of Australia by acting on their own in their upcoming synod meeting 30 & 31 August. Bishop Parkes has said he plans to ask the synod to approve the blessing of couples that have had same-sex marriages.

President of the New Cranmer Society, Kimberly Smith, (a layman and member of the church’s General Synod) said,

“We have urged the bishop and his synod not to proceed with this divisive course of action.

We recognise that the topic of marriage is a difficult one for our national church but there has been agreement amongst us to come to a decision together. This move by Bishop Parkes flies in the face of not only the view of the national church expressed at our General Synod, but also an agreement by the Australian bishops themselves not to act in this way. Bishop Parkes’ actions threaten the hard-won unity of the Anglican Church of Australia and so we urge him and his synod to reconsider his intentions and not to break the unity of the church”.

The full text of the open letter reads as follows:

Dear Bishop John, brothers and sisters,

It has been reported in the August edition of The Melbourne Anglican that you will be considering giving approval to a liturgy to enable the blessing of same-sex marriages at your upcoming meeting on August 30-31. We write to urge you not to approve such a liturgy.

We would like you to consider that approval of such a liturgy would:

Be contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures (and of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 19 in particular) and the doctrine of marriage contained in the Book of Common Prayer and A Prayer Book for Australia.

Be divisive to our national church, disregarding the clear decisions of the most recent General Synod and the bishops’ statement of 2018 that “the doctrine of this Church is that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and woman.”

Pre-empt the process set in place for the national church to deal with this issue.

In view of this, out of concern for the truth of Christ, and in order to preserve the unity of the church, we plead with you in the name of Jesus Christ not to take this course, which would strain the fellowship between us to breaking point.

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Norwich Cathedral: An invitation to some Serious Fun

Sat, 10/08/2019 - 23:01

How did a helter skelter end up being booked for ten days at Norwich Cathedral?

Roll back two years and I am standing in the Sistine Chapel. I am being jostled by the crowds, packed tight, the guards are shouting at the people “Stop talking!” and “No photos!” The ceiling is amazing but I just want to get out of there. As I try and work my way to the exit, I find myself longing for the sanity of Norwich Cathedral and a thought strikes me: the ceiling of the Nave at Norwich Cathedral, with its amazing roof bosses, is every bit as beautiful as the Sistine Chapel. It is just so high up it is difficult to appreciate.

I should have stopped there but my mind kept racing. How could you get closer to the wonderful images captured in the roof bosses? Tours along the Clerestory? Out of bounds! A tall scaffold tower? Ugly and too many steps? A ferris wheel? Lovely idea but you would never get it through the doors. A helter skelter…surely not? But in that moment Seeing it Differently was born.

Could the playful presence of a helter skelter help to open up conversations about the building, help open up conversations about God? This unexpected presence in the Cathedral would act as a draw. Climbing to its top, the visitor will literally see the Cathedral differently. They will also come closer to the roof bosses and to the story they tell, the story of Salvation.

Although the star attraction, the helter skelter will be only one of the ways our visitors will be encouraged to think about seeing it differently. Visitors will be encouraged to literally lie down and look up. We know from previous occasions how much visitors love being able to simple lie down and enjoy a different perspective on the building. And as they lie there they will be gazing up at the story of salvation.

In the North Transept there will be the opportunity to walk a labyrinth. This ancient practice of intentional walking has long be recognised as a way of helping the walker see things differently, gain a new perspective in their life. For the more passive in the South Transept will be a Bible Box, offering the opportunity to literally sit inside the Word of God. Surrounded by all the words of Scripture, and the story of Salvation, how would you see life differently?

For the more ambitious the Cloisters will offer a blind trust trail. When we cannot see how then will we see life differently? We we are disorientated in our lives, whom then will we trust?

Each of these installations is designed to provoke questions about both how we see the building and how we see life –  and, linked to that, to open up questions about God. Our specially trained volunteers will be on hand to help and guide at each of these points in the Cathedral and, where appropriate, to follow up the questions and conversations that may flow from these experiences.

And in the East end of the Cathedral will be displayed stories from individuals explaining how Jesus has helped them see life differently. Alongside this there will be a range of free resources available for the faith curious. Twice each day we will also be offering “The Walk of Salvation,” a chance to discover more about our amazing roof bosses and to hear the story captured in these beautiful carvings.

For all the fun of the fair captured in the image of a helter skelter in the Nave of the Cathedral, Seeing it Differently is essentially reflective in nature. The image of this traditional fair ground ride in an unusual setting in itself invites the visitor to see things differently and once we start trying to see things differently, where might that end? To learn a new perspective is essential to resolving difficulties, to discerning a way forward; it is the beginning of wisdom.

The fun comes in the shape of a helter skelter. The serious comes in creating opportunities for reflective, God-shaped conversations. It is playful in its intent but also profoundly missional. It is the Cathedral doing what it has always done – encouraging conversations about God. By its sheer size and grandeur it speaks of the things of God; it points beyond itself. Its sheer presence helps to keep the rumour of God alive and plays its part in passing on the story of Salvation.

People of all faith and no faith are welcome in Norwich Cathedral. Wherever you are, or are not, on your faith journey, the space invites you just to be, to explore and encounter the space in your own way, to let it speak to both heart and soul. In the same way Seeing it Differently is an invitation to enjoy particular activities in the way that works best for the visitor. In the true spirit of hospitality the Cathedral invites but never seeks to impose. At Seeing it Differently the visitor may chose to experience each of the activities and just go on their way. But for the faith curious the opportunities will be there. Churches should never hector but only ever invite with a warm welcome offered without condition.

So roll-up, roll-up and enjoy riding the helter skelter at Norwich Cathedral but if you are so minded, it just might help you see things differently.

Seeing it Differently will take place at Norwich Cathedral from 8 to 18 August 2019.
Opening times will be 10am-5pm Monday to Saturday and 12noon-3pm on Sundays.  Admission to the Cathedral is free (donations always welcome!) and it will cost £2 to take a ride on the Helter Skelter.

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Anglican Unscripted 523 – Helter Skelter

Sat, 10/08/2019 - 13:01

Last week it was Golf in the Cathedral to raise attendance. Not to be outdone, another Diocese in the Church of England has erected a Helter-skelter inside their Cathedral.

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Convert or be converted – the challenge for Anglican cathedrals today.

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 23:01

Three Anglican cathedrals have set out to increase both their appeal to the  public and to get more people into the building.

One has chosen a gin festival, another has built a mini golf course over the flagstones where pilgrims have knelt in prayer since the 7th century, and one has built a helter skelter at the heart of the building.

Pretty predictably, there have been two sets of responses. One group has hailed these as imaginative imitative which will catch the imagination of the public, and make the buildings seem a little more relevant to people who otherwise would not give the faith of the cathedral a second thought; and the other group has protested that the cathedral authorities have misunderstood the purpose of the buildings and their relationship with the public

In every generation the Church faces a live or die challenge. Convert or be converted. Act as an agency for people to encounter the Living God and be forgiven, turned and transformed; or fit into the unforgiving contours of a society that is driven by other forces, other appetites, and smear over their agenda a patina of spirituality that confers a thin covering of political and cultural legitimacy.

There have been moments in history when the church’s failure has been tragically treacherous. The blessing of guns destined to kill Christian German cousins a hundred years ago in the name of the Christ who challenged his followers to meet evil with good and turn the other cheek still burns in the recent memory.

The unquestioning presiding over the hanging, drawing and quartering of elderly Catholic priests guilty of nothing more than baptising the faithful into the Church that carried the Gospels to these islands and celebrating discreet house masses presented as acts of national, political treason still casts a pall of shame across our collective historical memory.

When Jesus went to the cross to bear the sins of humanity he faced not only murder, but mockery. The soldiers had fun at his expense, before they killed him.

Both guns and scaffolds have been the  instrumentation of murder, but mockery is no more acceptable just because it is not murder. The trouble with the  helter skelter and the pitch and putt is that to anyone with a sense of what Rudolf Otto called ‘the Holy” they constitute an offence of some gravity.

Why should this be?

The Bible offers a narrative of a wide variety of encounters with God. They have the effect of telling us what God is like; and what happens when we encounter him in the raw.

These encounters can be nuclear. For Moses at the bush that would not burn, the first requirement was to remove his shoes. Bare foot and bare souled, we cannot hide from the searchlight of the God who knows all our thoughts and motivations.

Moses was to discover later that on the mountain he could not look on the face of God and live.  Isaiah was to encounter God in a vision in the temple, and survived his commission by either literally or figuratively having a live coal held to his mouth to purify it.

In the presence of Jesus, when he began to grasp who Jesus, Peter fell to his knees and explained “depart from me for I am a sinful man”.

St Paul left an encounter with the risen Christ blinded in sight and reconfigured in the heart.

As the letter to the Hebrews puts it “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10).

The Church has the difficult business of conveying the awe, majesty and sheer danger of God while at the same time offering the safety, the healing, the forgiveness and the mercy of Christ.

This creative tension between transcendence and immanence is a challenge to hold in creative tension, but it reflects the complexity of human experience and the judgement of mercy of God.

One of the characteristics of our astonishing Norman cathedrals is the way in which the architecture does just that. It lifts our minds and our hearts to the intimation of majesty grandeur, awe, immensity and by the difference in scale, our own insignificance by contrast. And at the same time offers us the presence of Christ as Lord and Saviour, who asks to be invited into the depths of our heart to forgive, heal and recreate in an act of the most profound metaphysical intimacy.

A pre-requisite for an encounter with God is a willingness to encounter Him. Not all moments in our lives are equally propitious, as not all places are either.

But to enter a cathedral is to walk into a building that physically represents an immense image of Christ on the cross, arms outstretched in the north and south transepts, with head slightly tilted in exhaustion and suffering towards the high altar.

The building itself has the capacity to speak at so many levels to the mind and the soul for anyone who walks in willing to make themselves vulnerable to an encounter with the living God.

There is one thing and one thing in particular that can break this alchemy, distraction.

We live in a culture addicted to distraction and pleasure seeking. The dynamics of this are potent antidotes to experiencing the presence of God. They are everywhere. We experience a saturation of stimulation and distraction in everyday life. It is almost if the pace and pleasure of life set out to make reflection and prayer impossible.

The one place one might be free of this could be, ought to be a cathedral.

But for such a place, steeped in mystery and marvel to buy in sensory pleasure and distraction is to poison the very  medicine it offers the human soul. It cracks the exquisite mirror it holds up before the presence of God; it drowns out the still, small voice, that Elijah encountered and adored.

Faced with the challenge to convert or be converted, the Church of England appears to be willing to surrender to the preoccupations and preferences of the lost people it was sent to save. But since it may no longer believe in heaven and hell, salvation and judgement, it may have downgraded itself to be a distracting, source of spirituality, offering distraction and entertainment  rather than healing to sick souls.

It may well be religion, but not as Jesus knew it, taught it, commissioned it or recognises it.

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The Political Litany of ¡Caminemos Juntos!

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 22:53

I post this with sadness.  My church supports ministry to Hispanics, and our beloved bilingual Rector is remarkably active in that.  As part of his ministry, working with ¡Caminemos Juntos!  (CJuntos) has been a possibility and may still be; it’s up to him (although because of the following I have advised him to work with other groups instead).  I had thought that perhaps CJuntos had backed away from its previous political activism for the sake of ministry and unity.  So I find their Litany Of Lament And Repentance For Our Treatment Of Immigrants And Refugees disappointing to say the least.

First, there is this introduction on the CJuntos site:

The last weeks have seen a dramatic increase in tension even in what has already been an incredibly tense climate for immigrants in the United States. Threats of raids and deportation, rapidly changing and confusing immigration law making it harder to legally enter the country to request asylum, rumors of the ending of all refugee resettlement and the increase of negative rhetoric in the news media has terrorized the immigrant community including those within out Caminemos Juntos family. We are in many ways a persecuted people. . . .

Oh please.  First, immigrants who have entered legally have nothing to worry about as long as they continue to obey the law. That’s the way it is for citizens, too, by the way.  Second, even illegal immigrants who have not skipped their court dates, have otherwise not committed crimes, and don’t have deportation orders on them have not much to worry about either.  There are 11 million or more illegals in this country.  Only a small fraction of those have deportation orders or are being deported.  The authorities are prioritizing who to deport because they have no choice with that many illegals here.

Besides that, being removed from a country you entered illegally is hardly terror.  If I entered the UK illegally or stayed longer than permitted and were then removed, I would look rather silly if I cried out, “Help! Help! I’m being terrorized!” If you really want to be “terrorized,” live in an area where the MS-13 gang of mostly illegals operates.

I will concede that we should watch our rhetoric especially in the current climate.  I hope CJuntos is also concerned about some of the rhetoric against those who oppose open borders. 

Note the conflation of both legal and illegal immigrants as simply “immigrants.”  There are a lot of legal immigrants who find that offensive. And this conflation is throughout this litany.

Finally, to equate enforcing immigration law and restricting who may enter and stay in this country with persecution is slanderous.  Skipping a bit into the litany itself:

Officiant: You said: “Don’t oppress an immigrant.You know what it’s like to be an immigrant, because you were immigrants in Egypt.”

I don’t know Hebrew, but “immigrant” seems a sloppy translation for political purposes to me.  

But we have forgotten the hardships faced by our ancestors who came to this country…

Speak for yourself!  My Granddad was a legal immigrant.  He worked himself to early grave, a few years before I was born, to provide well for his family.  My family still benefits, and I am here because of him.  I sure have not forgotten him or his hardships.

Officiant: You said “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself. But we done wrong to the sojourners to this land: separating children from parents and husbands from wives, limiting opportunities for work and education opportunities and not loving these new neighbors as ourselves. 

So much to dissect there.  First, when one breaks the law, the lawbreaker is often separated from his family.  That goes for citizens, too.  

Second, as I have noted, there is rampant child trafficking along the border.  There have been several surges of migrants.  Dealing with the numbers and figuring out who are real families and who are fake families (of which there are many) and dealing with them accordingly is not an easy task at all.  There is not much question that the surges and caravans with accompanying child smuggling were designed to overwhelm the border.  So then to whinge when we struggle imperfectly to deal with that situation humanely is . . . well, I will allow readers to choose the adjectives of their choice.

Now, of course, the simplest way to keep illegals and their families together is quickly to deport them together or, better, to not allow them in at all.  But I doubt ¡Caminemos Juntos! would like that.  Instead, they likely want to let most to all of these families right on in together.  And then, after an eventual amnesty of some sort (which I would guess – just guess – CJuntos also likely wants), by chain migration, here come the extended families!  So really their whinging about “families” is advocating for open borders and mass immigration, or close to it.

Further, making too much of a priority to keep families together is encouraging and enabling the child trafficking at the border.  By the way, notice how the serious problem of child trafficking is not mentioned in this litany?

“Limiting opportunities for work…” So we should displace citizen labor with illegal immigrant labor?  Ask construction workers who have seen their wages depressed by cheap illegal labor what they think of that!  Where is the concern for those whose opportunities and wages are suppressed by cheap immigrant labor?  This lack of concern for citizens sounds more like the Democrat Party than the church.

That is another problem with this litany. It is not only out of balance; it pretends valid competing claims have no legitimacy worth mentioning.  “Limiting . . . education opportunities…” How?  Thanks to an old Supreme Court ruling, public schools have to educate the children of illegals (which is overwhelming some school districts and harming the education of citizens).  Most universities welcome illegals and many even provide financial aid.  Many illegals get a far better education here than they would hope to get in their home countries.    Skipping a bit…

But rather than recognizing your sovereign disciple-making purposes in the dispersion of peoples across borders, we have seen immigrants as a threat. We have failed to practice Godly hospitality and instead embraced protectionist nationalism, not submit our ways of thinking to the authority of your word.

Well, MS-13 and other criminals streaming across the border are a threat to say the least.

“We have . . . embraced protectionist nationalism.”

That is a straw man.  To want controls on immigration and a secure border is hardly “protectionist nationalism.”  And what is that anyway?  If I love my country and want to protect it and its culture, does that make me a “protectionist nationalist”?  Instead of engaging with different views of what is appropriate immigration policy, CJuntos engages in buzzwords in a prayer no less. Maybe they should submit that “to the authority of your word.”

By the way, whatever “protectionist nationalists” are, I don’t think there are many of them at ¡Caminemos Juntos! meetings.  I thought confessing other people’s sins was an Episcopalian thing.

We have opposed change resisting any giving up of our ways of worship and life.   

That’s backward, isn’t it?  It’s immigrants (and now I include legal immigrants) who should change and become American if they are going to move to America. (Yes, different cultures enrich America.) If I were to move to England, even I would not insist it become Texan.  (Well, I have introduced Tabasco Sauce on eggs to Pusey House, but anyway….)  I would instead become at least English enough to participate well in that culture.  And if someone is going to become Anglican, Anglican churches shouldn’t change their “ways of worship” for him/her.  We should not starting dunking people and stop baptizing babies if a Baptist joins us.  We shouldn’t cavort during our processions if a Pentecostal joins us.  “Our ways of worship” are an integral part of being Anglican.

But maybe I am misunderstanding here. How should we change, even give up “our ways of worship” for immigrants other than providing language assistance? This seems to me more of what we hear from the social justice crowd, that the church should change to be more to their liking.  But that is a whole ‘nother post, and maybe I am hearing this wrong anyway. Am I?  It is a perplexing clause at best.At least the litany ends well:

Lord, have mercy upon us.Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us. Let us pray. Oremos.

A Collect for Refugees and Immigrants          

Heavenly Father, from whom every family on earth derives its name, have mercy on all those who sojourn in this world. As you sheltered your Son Jesus who fled from the tyranny of Herod, so now provide new homes for all those who flee the violence of this age that they may know the peace of Christ. Grace your people with hearts of welcome and lives of courage through Jesus Christ who lives and   reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

That collect was written by Archbishop Foley Beach and serves as a godly example of making public prayer something in which all faithful Anglicans can participate.  Unlike most of the litany, I can pray that collect along with ¡Caminemos Juntos!.  Public prayer certainly should not smear and divide the faithful church along political lines.

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Close more churches!

Wed, 07/08/2019 - 19:19


The Washington Post reports here that the Twinbrook Baptist Church in Rockville, Maryland is closing its doors, selling their property and giving $1m to worthy causes.

The liberal congregation belongs to the Alliance of Baptists–a confederation of progressive Baptist churches.

The folks at Twinbrook Baptist noted their congregation was graying not growing. In fact it was shrinking fast, so they faced the reality of their situation and decided to sell up. Interestingly, they have sold the property to a Hispanic Pentecostal congregation which, one assumes, is booming.

The journalist at the Washington Post chortles on in predictable fashion about the sadness of these good church people packing it in, but how nice it is that the folks at Twinbrook are donating so much to worthy causes like LGBT equality and other fashionable peace and justice campaigns.

I don’t think it’s so sad. In fact, I think more liberal churches should realize the sun is setting on the social gospel. I am sure some folks who read this will get hot under the collar and steam will shoot out their ears and they will accuse me of not caring for the poor, being down on immigrants, being homophobic, calloused, hard hearted and nasty to small children, puppies and kittens.

Not at all. I’m all in favor of what we Catholics call the corporal works of mercy. Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, house the homeless, visit the prisoners, visit the sick, bury the dead, give alms to the poor. I’m all for that.

What is dumb, however, is when Christianity is reduced to merely doing the corporal works of mercy.

When the Christian faith is reduced to no more than campaigning for equality, feeding the poor, helping the immigrants and so forth then it’s not really a religion anymore. It’s good works, and Christians of all traditions are not supposed to believe in salvation by works.At its core the Christian faith is the old, old story of a sinful humanity in need of a savior. It is the story of the old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame. It is the story of a repentant soul clinging to Christ for his soul’s salvation.

From that comes an infilling of the Holy Spirit, a transformed life and a passion to reach out to the needy to share Christ’s mercy with them.

It’s simple. A religion that is only good works is putting the cart before the horse, and when that happens the horse soon wanders off.

So I think it’s quite a good idea that the folks of Twinbrook Baptist are closing shop and handing over their property to some on fire Hispanic Pentecostals. It’s an honest and courageous thing to do. They’ve realized their form of social gospel Christianity is out of date and are facing the truth that such a reduction of Christianity doesn’t have much oomph.

Why is that exactly? Well, people aren’t stupid. If Christianity is no more than an “All Are Welcome!” sign, a campaign for social justice, saving the environment, helping the immigrants and being nice to gay people, then you can do all that marvelous stuff without getting up early on a Sunday morning and trooping off to church to sing lame hymns and listen to some sincere middle aged woman drone on about toxic masculinity or plastic straws choking turtles and so forth. You can sleep in, enjoy a decent brunch somewhere and maybe in the afternoon do some re-cycling or join, join a protest march or volunteer at the animal rescue league. If you want fellowship you’ve got it with your fellow team workers who are doing the litter community clean up or the folks who are working at the re-hab center. If you want some spirituality thrown in, there’s no need for church with all the infrastructure and overheads. Just begin your good works with a few moments of prayer time or meditation.

Folks are biting their nails over the decline of formal religion and the closure of churches.

I’m all for it. Liberal Christianity is fake religion anyway. It’s not Christianity and it’s not even a religion.

The sooner they turn out the lights and close the doors the better.

That will free them up to get on with their excellent good works, and it will make room for the Christians who want to be religious…

…like those Hispanic Hot Gospel Pentecostals.

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Mary Luwun, wife of martyred Archbishop Janani Luwun dead at 93

Wed, 07/08/2019 - 19:08

With deep regret, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali has announced the death of Mama Mary Luwum, the wife of Church of Uganda’s martyred Archbishop Janani Luwum.

Mama Mary Luwum died at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 6th August at International Hospital Kampala (IHK), following a courageous battle with cancer of the gallbladder. She was 93 years old and is survived by six children and many grandchildren.

Archbishop Ntagali said, “Mama Mary has been a faithful witness to her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ for many years. Like her husband, her testimony has inspired many and will live on. We commend her to her Lord and pray for their family and all who grieve her passing.”

Mama Mary Luwum will be remembered as not being ashamed of the Gospel. She supported her husband’s decision to not flee Uganda when threatened by then President Idi Amin. That decision ultimately led to his martyrdom on 16th February 1977. In the 42 years following her husband’s assassination, she continued to dedicate her life to preaching the Gospel and supporting the social-economic growth of the Church of Uganda.

The Church of Uganda’s recently dedicated Janani Luwum Church House commercial building on Kampala Road in Kampala is named after her husband. They shared a common vision for a self-sustaining and spiritually vibrant church.

In 2015 His Excellency, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, declared 16th February to be a public holiday in memory of Archbishop Janani Luwum’s martyrdom and his faithful and sacrificial service to the church and the country.

Burial arrangements are underway and will be communicated in due course.

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Australian bishop urges his synod to endorse gay marriage rites

Sun, 04/08/2019 - 23:35

The Anglican Church of Australia has arrived at the crisis moment that so many of us have feared and warned about. The Melbourne Anglican reports that Bishop John Parkes of Wangaratta will ask his diocese’s upcoming synod (meeting on the weekend of August 30-31) to endorse a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex marriages and will, himself, be prepared to preside over such a service.

So why this move and why now? Parkes gives his own reasons in the interview but one key factor isn’t noted. Orthodox bishops have made it quite clear that if such a move were taken then they would immediately instigate disciplinary procedures against any bishop who approved such a liturgy, let alone presided over one. Parkes, however, is about to retire so he has far less to lose. Moreover, in his retirement announcement he tells the diocese that,

What does this mean in terms of timing? I will continue in office until the 31 August and will therefore preside at my final Synod on 30 and 31/8. I will then take my accumulated leave and return on 21 December to lay up my pastoral staff. This will mark the end of my time as your Bishop.

So he can preside over the synod when they take the vote. Then effectively disappear and leave someone else to deal with the massive shockwaves that it will cause.

And what of our national church’s leadership in all of this? The Primate, Archbishop Philip Freier of Melbourne, issued the following statement:

I have become aware that the forthcoming Synod of the Diocese of Wangaratta will be considering a proposal to approve a service of blessing of same-sex marriages. This follows the change in the Commonwealth Marriage Act in 2017 which made same-sex marriages legal in Australia.

This is a significant matter for the national Church and, on my present advice, would likely give rise to a question under the Constitution on which minds will differ.  Should such a proposal be approved by the Synod of the Diocese of Wangaratta and give rise to such a question,  I intend, after obtaining appropriate advice, to refer that question to the Appellate Tribunal under s63(1) of the Constitution.  This would assist the Anglican Church of Australia in the clarification of this issue and put in place an orderly process by which the issue can be addressed.

I ask for your prayers in the conversations and deliberations around this sensitive pastoral and theological matter.”

+Philip

Primate

There will be many Anglicans in Australia who would have hoped that the Primate could offer a firmer response to this deep crisis. While the Primate’s role is that of a chair, not a chief executive, there is still considerable weight given to any opinion he might offer.

As chair of the General Synod he could easily have reminded the national church of the position that the General Synod has repeatedly taken on this topic, most recently crystallised in a motion which declared that the blessing of same-sex marriages is,

…contrary to the doctrine of our Church and the teaching of Christ…

He could have affirmed that doctrine and teaching and even reminded us of Jesus’ clear words on the topic. But instead he punted the ball away.

He might have pointed out that Bishop Parkes has openly breached the 2018 Bishops’ Agreement on this topic which opens like this:

Responding to Recent Changes in the Marriage Act

We, the bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia, affirm the following.

Guiding principles

1. The doctrine of this Church is that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman. If we as a Church are to change this doctrine to permit same-sex marriage, the appropriate mechanism is through the framework of the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church of Australia. Bishops should give leadership in demonstrating trust in this framework as the way to move forward together, recognising that this will require care, persistence and generosity. The bishops commit to working together to manifest and maintain unity, as we together discern the truth. 

Bishops Parkes has now openly stated that he wants to circumvent the framework of the Constitution and Canons and pursue a unilateral course. The Primate says nothing against it.

On other topics the Primate has been happy to speak out about alleged breaches of the Constitution. When a number of Australian bishops took part in the consecration of Andy Lines in 2017, Archbishop Freier wrote and published the following in an open letter:

…I advised both bishops against this course of action. I take the view that communion – koinonia, is a gift of our Lord to his Church and that in our context it is the Anglican Church of Australia, through its constitution and the framework it establishes, that determines how this is expressed in practical terms.

As s5 of our National Constitution provides:

Subject to the Fundamental Declarations and the provisions of this chapter [Chapter 2] this Church has plenary authority and power to make canons, ordinances and rules for the order and good government of the Church, and to administer the affairs thereof. Such authority and power may be exercised by the several synods and tribunals in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.

For reasons explained below, I do not think that it is for us individually, acting independently, to determine with whom we are in communion or to act unilaterally to that end.

So note carefully. 2 years ago the Primate publicly admonished (albeit politely) 2 bishops for taking part in a consecration. He did so by arguing that the move was contrary to the Constitution and over-rode “the plenary authority of General Synod”. He wrote about the obligations of bishops and expressed his “deep concerns” about their actions, not least their break of koinonia fellowship.

Now, two years later, faced with a much larger crisis we hear far, far less despite the fact that this is a topic on which the General Synod that he chairs has spoken repeatedly. Two years ago he openly criticised those who acted. Now that we have a topic on which there is much more clarity in the national church’s position and a clear breach of fellowship and trust by a bishop in direct contradiction of an agreement that he had entered into and a matter on which the Primate himself is known to be conservative. And yet, in the face of a direct challenge to the church’s long-held position on this most vexed of issues it appears he has simply blinked. Just as he did last year when clergy licensed in his diocese actively participated in a liturgy for a same-sex marriage.

It is not surprising that where there is a vacuum of leadership it will cause those who want to overthrow long-established doctrine and teaching to have every encouragement in acting. Here at davidould.net we think the writing is on the wall that there will be no effective response from the national leadership to oppose them. Some would say that much has been clear for quite a while.

And there should be no surprise, either, that there will be others who see this failure to lead, let alone to discipline, and consider that alternate arrangements may need to be made. Especially if Wangaratta’s challenge to the entire national church (and the wider Communion) comes to fruition.

But for now the spotlight is on Bishop Parkes. Will he follow through with his stated intention and push the Anglican Church of Australia into a crisis?

The post Australian bishop urges his synod to endorse gay marriage rites appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

“Shabby and shambolic” – the CoE still conspires against truth and justice in historic sexual abuse

Sun, 04/08/2019 - 17:23

Anyone wishing the Church of England well might have hoped that the end of the IICSA hearing last month represented the nadir of its unhappy handling of victims complaints. Despite both Archbishops at last adopting the honest appraisal by the Lead Bishop for Safeguarding, that the handling of the Rev’d Mattew Ineson case was “shabby and shambolic”, Archbishop Sentamu declined to offer any apology to the victim, who was sitting in the room with him, even when gently reminded by Counsel to the Inquiry that he could now do so for the original abuse, given that liability had been admitted and financial compensation concluded almost a year ago.

Archbishop Justin did no better, seeking refuge in the formula that somehow Mr Ineson had “not heard” his apology at a Lambeth Palace meeting with both the victim and his lawyer were present. Next day, on checking the Lambeth minutes of the conversation, Mr Ineson’s legal team drew attention to the fact that those minutes contained no record of such an apology, but rather recorded that the apology could not be officially issued until the legal case was concluded. Mr Ineson has added at interview that this was seven months before the Rev’d Trevor Devamanikkam, his abuser, was charged, asking whether it was credible that the Archbishop was so convinced of Devamanikkam’s guilt that he apologised months before any charges were brought.

For neither Archbishop to have seized the opportunity to embrace humble repentance and offer a plain-language apology there and then can only leave people flabbergasted. Did none of their advisers counsel, “Don’t forget the apology”? Christians are supposed to be good at this kind of thing: ‘A soft word turns away wrath.’ We are to ‘do good to those who revile you‘, and I am absolutely sure that in every other circumstance doing the right thing would have been done. But here yet again, when exercising a formal role, good men seem to fall short; such is the gravitational pull of the official, the legal, and the institutional. One of the lawyers for the survivors William Chapman put it succinctly: “..the Archbishops just don’t get it.”

Even allowing for the undoubted pressure of giving evidence under oath in an unfamiliar, perhaps even hostile environment, the missed opportunity was remarkable. Some of us had tried to avert such an outcome. We had unsuccessfully petitioned the Archbishops to permit a debate on the Blackburn Letter and are bound to wonder whether, had they taken the oath following a full debate of the General Synod embracing the principles of humility, repentance, and putting victim interests first, the oversight each fell into might have been avoided.

If we thought it couldn’t get much worse, it appears that somebody in Church House with responsibility for handling the review of Matt Ineson’s case was willing and able to take up the challenge.

The church having promised a review of what went wrong in his case, most ordinary people would have taken such an announcement in good faith and at face value, but Matt Ineson was to learn that not every offer of a review from the Church of England is of equal status, and far from representing a fresh start in relationship between the abusing institution and its victim, the terms of the review in the Ineson/Devamanikkam case represents a tightening of the screw.

Mr Ineson was sent the proposed terms of reference and invited to “make representations” upon them by Wednesday last. He found them so unsatisfactory that rather than enter prolonged correspondence, he decided that with a tight time frame he should give notice of a visit Church House so that the issues could be resolved face to face. He prides himself on being a straight-talking Yorkshireman and wanted no room for misunderstanding or artful draftsmanship. Having given notice of that intention, and driving four hours each way, when he arrived not one of the decision makers in his case was willing to meet or talk to him, despite their being confirmed as present in the building.

Given his presence, his status as a high-profile victim and the deadline set by the church, many would regard that refusal as yet another example of the Church of England failing to appreciate that desperate circumstances might justify stepping away from the usual niceties and protocols. Given what he has had to put up with at our hands, could not someone in authority have taken the opportunity to have seen him, even briefly?

He has now issued a detailed press statement in which he declares that he will not co-operate with what he regards as a sham review, with its terms of reference deliberately skewed to sanitise the outcome. I would urge you to read it in full. The essence of his objections to the currently proposed review, as I understand them, are as follows:

1) The Reviewer is the exclusive choice of the Church of England and is an insider, not a completely independent person.

2) Matt Ineson has not been permitted the opportunity to meet that Reviewer in advance of agreeing their appointment, despite other victims being afforded such a courtesy in similar cases.

3) The church has not explained its declared position that some reviews are independent and some are not. Why not this one after all we heard at IICSA, he asks. It is worth noting that in this case an accused man committed suicide having not been pastorally contacted by the church. This is not a trivial case.

4) The material to be placed before the Reviewer is to be determined exclusively by the church, not by agreement,

5) The written material shared with him has been heavily redacted, which prevents him understanding the case he must meet. These might be matters that are embarrassing to various parties but as he is allegedly the only victim and the abuser is dead, it is hard to see a privacy justification for lack of transparency.

6) The Core Group set up to manage the review is comprised exclusively of Diocesan Safeguarding Officers and Communications Officers who are under the authority of precisely those Bishops whose conduct is under review. IICSA has already commented on the invidiousness of asking such underlings to act as gatekeepers to the allegations and controllers of the evidence regarding those to whom they directly report.

7) No outsiders have been invited into that Core Group, specifically nobody representing Mr Ineson or the estate of late Rev’d Trevor Devamanikkam. Nobody from the mental health team for Devamanikkam was invited to offer assistance as to the state of mind of the abuser who committed suicide and to whom, says Matt Ineson, the Church of England owed a continuing duty of pastoral care.

8) The terms of reference specifically deny the Reviewer to make any finding of fact. This is particularly problematic when so much of the criticism of the church turns on matters of fact.

9) The Reviewer is limited in the time frame he is asked to consider. This ends at the point of the suicide of Trevor Devamanikkam and thereby effectively precludes much of the role of the current Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev’d Steven Croft, in his media statements about these events, which Mr Ineson says were at best seriously misleading. It prevents examination of the Archbishop of York’s minimal involvement in the matter (which is allegedly neglectful). It excludes consideration of the conduct of the Bishop of Doncaster, the Rt Rev’d Peter Burrows, who was caught gossiping in a Rotherham café about the abuse (and was found guilty of a breach of the Data Protection Act by the Information Commissioner); and the allegation that the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev’d Martyn Snow, was less than candid in a BBC interview about the case. Finally, it prevents examination of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s decisions to take “no further action” against those Bishops against whom Mr Ineson complains.

These complaints may or may not be true, however they are not trivial matters. They need to be carefully considered independently of the church in order to be resolved. Terms of reference that duck the principal contentious issues will do the Church of England nothing but harm in the long run.

In some aspects, the church may well have legitimate reasons for the decisions that have been taken. Personally, I have not fought for the presumption of innocence for Bishop George Bell to abandon it in the cases of each and every Bishop and Archbishop against whom Matt Ineson levies an accusation. If their explanations stand up to scrutiny, they need to be defended. If it transpires that any allegations against them are found wanting, perhaps Matt Ineson would then apologise. If there have been genuine misunderstandings, they need to be untangled. But if Matt Ineson is found to have been hurt by the shabbiness and shoddiness of official process then the apologies should be clear and unequivocal and based on a proper basis of fact.

In a church that has nominally (if belatedly) embraced “Transparency and Accountability”, rejected clergy deference and pledged to “put the interests of the victim first”, it is surely not asking too much for a full and frank response to be issued to these important and prima facie legitimate concerns about the way the review is being handled. One of the problem areas also identified by the survivors lawyers at IICSA is the Church of England’s “Byzantine procedures”.

In this case, it is by no means clear who is driving the decision to limit the terms of the review. Is it the Archbishops, the House of Bishops, the Archbishops’ Council, the National Safeguarding Team, the National Safeguarding Supervisory Group, the acting National Safeguarding Director, the incoming National Safeguarding Director, the Lead Safeguarding Bishop, or the Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council and Secretary General of the General Synod? Is the decision administrative or executive, individual or collective? One only has to list the potential decision-makers to illustrate the lawyer’s point. Grappling with this organisation and its confusing structures is extraordinarily difficult for an aggrieved individual. It should not be like this.

It is therefore legitimate to pose three simple and direct questions:

1) Who in the Church of England has the power to change these decisions?

2) Who will accept responsibility for not changing them if we want to challenge these matters in detail at the next meeting of the General Synod?

3) How do we change the decision-maker if access to justice is denied?

I do, of course, refer to justice to accused and accuser alike, which can only emerge from fair and independent process. In short, if the shabby and shambolic behaviour continues, who carries the can?

The post “Shabby and shambolic” – the CoE still conspires against truth and justice in historic sexual abuse appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

No election for Table Bay bishop

Sat, 03/08/2019 - 23:15

The Diocese of Cape Town at its Elective Assembly on 25 July 2019 failed to Elect a Bishop of Table Bay (Suffragan of Cape Town) and delegated the responsibility to the Synod of Bishops.

The Ven Horace Arenz

Provincial Executive Officer

N.b. An earlier announcement

An Elective Assembly of the Diocese of Cape Town will choose a successor to the retiring Bishop of Table Bay, the Right Revd Garth Counsell, from the 25th to the 27th of July.

Please pray for the Elective Assembly and for the candidates nominated for election:

The Ven Terrence Lester – Christ Church, Constantia
The Rev Canon Mark Long – St Andrew’s, Newlands
The Ven Joshua Louw – St Paul’s, Bree Street
The Rev Ashley Petersen – St James the Great, Sea Point
The Rev Allan Smith – St Martin’s, Bergvliet
The Very Rev Michael Weeder – St George’s Cathedral

Mrs Matlotlisang Mototjane
Provincial Executive Administrator

The post No election for Table Bay bishop appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

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