Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sept. 19th -- afternoon posts

No Decision Yet on Invitations to Lambeth, Primates’ Meeting

September 19th, 2006 posted by kendall at 4:44 pm

Invitations to the primates meeting next February and the 2008 Lambeth Conference of bishops are made solely at the discretion of the Archbishop of Canterbury and no decision has been made on who will, or will not, be invited, according to spokesmen for the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) and the Archbishop of Canterbury who responded to an inquiry from The Living Church.

Questions as to the guest list for Lambeth 2008 arose in the wake of the Sept. 11-13 meeting in New York City of bishops that was facilitated by the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the ACC. Some of the participants understood Canon Kearon to have said that all of the Church’s bishops would be invited to attend the 2008 gathering, and that all of the primates would be attending the February meeting in Tanzania.

Global South church leaders have threatened to boycott Lambeth if New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson attends. Some African leaders have even explored the possibility of holding a rival Lambeth Conference should no action be taken against The Episcopal Church by the Communion, for the actions of the 74th General Convention.

Read it all.

Anglican head defends Pope over Islam comments

September 19th, 2006 posted by kendall at 4:39 pm

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: There’s been talk this year that Pope Benedict could make a visit to England. Pope John Paul II was the first Pontiff to do so since Henry VIII broke away from Rome.

Now the pope has had backing over last week’s speech from the head of the Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

ROWAN WILLIAMS: The Pope has already issued an apology, and I think that his views on this need to be judged against his entire record where he has spoken very positively about dialogue.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Always keen to try and cool a debate, Dr Williams urged both Muslim and Christian leaders to acknowledge that both faiths have had followers who may have corrupted their own religious message.

ROWAN WILLIAMS: It was a temptation, I think, for Christians to say to Muslims, I will tell you what your history is all about, as Muslims sometimes say to Christians, and sometimes they get it deeply wrong.

And the big question that comes out of this for me is how much, first of all, are we prepared to listen to the other person telling their story and making their sense of it, and how much, secondly, are both sides prepared to be self-critical and acknowledge there are aspects in their history that are not pretty and not edifying.

Read it all.

It’s Muslim Boy Meets Girl, but Don’t Call It Dating

September 19th, 2006 posted by kendall at 4:37 pm

So here’s the thing about speed dating for Muslims.

Many American Muslims — or at least those bent on maintaining certain conservative traditions — equate anything labeled “dating” with hellfire, no matter how short a time is involved. Hence the wildly popular speed dating sessions at the largest annual Muslim conference in North America were given an entirely more respectable label. They were called the “matrimonial banquet.”

“If we called it speed dating, it will end up with real dating,” said Shamshad Hussain, one of the organizers, grimacing.

Both the banquet earlier this month and various related seminars underscored the difficulty that some American Muslim families face in grappling with an issue on which many prefer not to assimilate. One seminar, called “Dating,” promised attendees helpful hints for “Muslim families struggling to save their children from it.”

The couple of hundred people attending the dating seminar burst out laughing when Imam Muhamed Magid of the Adams Center, a collective of seven mosques in Virginia, summed up the basic instructions that Muslim American parents give their adolescent children, particularly males: “Don’t talk to the Muslim girls, ever, but you are going to marry them. As for the non-Muslim girls, talk to them, but don’t ever bring one home.”

“These kids grew up in America, where the social norm is that it is O.K. to date, that it is O.K. to have sex before marriage,” Imam Magid said in an interview. “So the kids are caught between the ideal of their parents and the openness of the culture on this issue.”

Read it all.

Arkansas Diocese Sees First Same Sex Union Ceremony

September 19th, 2006 posted by kendall at 4:23 pm

(With permission–KSH).

By Auburn Faber Traycik
The Christian Challenge
September 19, 2006

The first blessing of a same-sex union in the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas took place September 16 at St. Michael’s, Little Rock.

The move came after soon-to-retire Arkansas Bishop Larry Maze gave permission for congregations to explore the possibility of providing blessings for homosexual couples in a letter to clergy in July. Maze issued the permission a month after the Episcopal General Convention failed to subscribe to the moratorium on public rites of same-sex blessing requested by the Anglican Communion’s 2004 Windsor Report.

Bishop Maze’s July letter gave the impression that parishes desiring to do so would offer quiet “pastoral” responses to gay couples that seek church sanction for their relationships that do not involve “formal rites of blessing.”

However, the two men blessed at St. Michael’s, Ted Holder and Joe van den Heuvel, sent out invitations to the event, Fr. Wills confirmed - some 200 persons attended - which would seem to make it public and “formal.”

Indeed, the service, at which Fr. Wills presided, was called “The Covenanting and Blessing of the Union” of the couple, and a clerical witness reportedly maintained that it was more than a blessing, rather approaching a wedding service; it included hymns, Scripture readings, a homily and Holy Communion. The couple, who have lived together for 15 years, also exchanged rings during the ceremony. Those in attendance were said to include Bishop Maze’s wife, the dean of the cathedral, and two or three other clergy.

Holder, 53, and van den Heuvel, 50, helped found the Arkansas chapter of the Episcopal gay group, Integrity, and Holder has served as its leader several times, according to the Little Rock Democrat-Gazette.

The rector of another Arkansas Episcopal parish, Fr. Lowell Grisham of St. Paul’s, Fayetteville, earlier indicated that his church would similarly make this “pastoral office” available to same-sex couples.

An attempt to reach Bishop Maze for further comment before the September 16 ceremony was unsuccessful. He told the Democrat-Gazette, though, that the blessing “is simply an undergirdng declaration of support by the larger community.”

In his July 19 letter to clergy, Maze acknowledged continuing disagreement in the church on the gay issue. But as he sees it, the Episcopal Church (TEC) remains “in the forefront of the effort to assure that gay and lesbian persons are made welcome in our churches” and under the governance of two relevant resolutions; one, adopted by the 1976 General Convention, states that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.” The second, adopted by General Convention 2003, states that local faith communities “are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.” It is on this basis that TEC leaders have claimed that the denomination has not authorized homosexual blessing rites, meaning in a churchwide sense, though clearly the convention has authorized such rites as are composed locally for the same purpose.

Maze’s explanation of what he is authorizing was reflective of the confused national policy. “Neither the General Convention nor the Diocese of Arkansas has produced or approved official rites for the blessing of same-sex unions….No congregation, vestry, or priest is expected to interpret the pastoral concern and care of the Church for gay and lesbian persons in a way that includes the possibility of formal rites of blessing,” the bishop stated. “However, those that do, have permission to proceed to work as a congregation to come to clarity around the issues involved when the Church blesses anything or anyone. If a couple seeks blessing in that congregation, they will join in that exploration much to the benefit of the congregation and the couple. This is a pastoral response and it is expected that each case will reflect the uniqueness of the congregation and the couple involved. It is expected that the bishop will be informed of each process, receive a report of work done, and see any liturgy that is produced before proceeding with a blessing rite.”

The Living Church magazine thought that the timing of Maze’s decision was strange, and sent a message that TEC has “little interest” in abiding by the Windsor Report recommendations. Maze denied this, citing in part the “years of exploration that have already taken place in this diocese. We have taken seriously the call from Lambeth to continue to listen to the experience of gay and lesbian persons and to provide welcome and care for all people.” He contended that he would leave a bigger problem for his successor if he did not act in this matter now.

To date, it appears that the only Arkansas Episcopal cleric to speak out publicly against the bishop’s decision has been the Rev. Dr. Walter Van Zandt Windsor, rector of Trinity, Pine Bluff. He wrote parishioners in part that Maze’s move was aberrant to Scripture and Tradition. And Reason, he said, “must be guided and informed by Holy Writ and the Fathers and Mothers of the Church who have gone before us. Yet, even if one disagrees with this point, such action on the part of the bishop and some of the clergy is premature at best.”

He added that there are no “selectively offered blessings…not affecting the rest of the Church.” A blessing offered by a priest or bishop is “on the part of the Church and in the name of God,” and must be supported by a consensus of the Church, Dr. Windsor wrote.

He contended that the argument that “we bless animals and items, why not same-sex couples?” is degrading to human beings, likening them to “a dog or a boat,” and shows “a disregard for the image of God in each person God has created.” As well, he said, to bless same-sex unions is to make a mockery of the sacrament of marriage, which reflects the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church.

While citing his respect and continued communion with Bishop Maze, Frs. Wills and Grisham, Windsor said he “must publicly disassociate from this action…Pray that the Church may be One.”

Reaction also came from the Continuing Church in Arkansas, which was wrongly caught in the crossfire over Maze’s action. Bishop Leo Michael of the United Episcopal Church of North America (UECNA) said that, after Maze’s July decision to allow gay blessings became known, the UECNA parish in Springdale, Arkansas, St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church, had “a barrage of distress phone calls from Christians across Northwest Arkansas who are erroneously associating our church with the Episcopal Church USA.

“Almost 30 years ago, UECNA saw this revision coming and hence let goods and kindred go in embracing cradle Episcopalians who wanted to defend the faith once given to the saints. We do not share the liberal revisionism of [TEC],” he said.

The Democrat Gazette reported that eight Episcopal dioceses have written policies allowing same-sex blessings, though other dioceses allow them as well. The Diocese of Atlanta may be moving in a direction similar to Arkansas’. Atlanta Bishop J. Neil Alexander - who was among candidates for Episcopal presiding bishop - said in August that his “understanding of our church’s procedures is that a bishop can authorize a specific rite to meet a specific pastoral need, but cannot authorize any rites for general use. That requires an action of the General Convention.” He also assured that diocesan “listening” events regarding same-sex unions would not lead to general diocesan approval of blessing rites. However, neither of these statements seem to rule out a policy similar to Bishop Maze’s, by which Alexander might sanction same-sex blessings on a case-by-case basis.

*Sources included The Democrat-Gazette, The Living Church

Richard John Neuhaus on Benedict XVI’s Regensburg Lecture

September 19th, 2006 posted by kendall at 1:53 pm

Herewith a potpourri of reflections on the Regensburg lecture by Pope Benedict and reactions to it, intermixed with a bit of my own commentary. As many commentators, Muslim and other, do not know because they manifestly have not read the lecture, it was not chiefly about Islam. It was a considered reflection on the inseparable linkage of faith and reason in the Christian understanding, an incisive critique of Christian thinkers who press for separating faith and reason in the name of “de-Hellenizing” Christianity, and a stirring call for Christians to celebrate the achievements of modernity and secure those achievements by grounding them in theological and philosophical truth.

I have had the opportunity of many extended conversations with Ratzinger-Benedict over the years, and he is a man of great gentleness and deliberation and extremely careful to say what he means. What he said at Regensburg he has said many times before. Contrary to many reports, he has not apologized or retracted his argument. He has indicated sincere regret that many Muslims have reacted to his statement as they have. The response of those who are properly called jihadists is, “If you don’t stop saying we’re violent, we’re going to bomb more churches, kill more nuns and priests, and get the pope too.” In short, the reaction has powerfully confirmed the problem to which Benedict called our attention.

Some think that Benedict was not as judicious as he might have been in quoting a medieval emperor of the East who, faced by Islamic conquest that succeeded in turning Christian Constantinople into Islamic Istanbul, declared that Islam has produced only inhumanity and evil. That is arguable. Benedict did say at Regensburg that the emperor’s words were excessively “brusque.” But the citation was also a way of reminding everybody that this conflict with Islam bent upon conversion by the sword is very long-standing.

It can be argued that the Regensburg lecture will turn out to be the most important statement by a world leader in the post–September 11 period. Of course, not all Muslims are jihadists, whether in the Middle East or the rest of the world. But jihadism is the ominous threat we face, and I again wish that more people would read Mary Habeck’s sobering book now out from Yale University Press, Knowing the Enemy. Habeck, who teaches international relations at Johns Hopkins, is unlike so many students of Islam, in that she takes very seriously what these people actually say they believe, and how they intend to act upon what they believe. Jihadism is the religiously inspired ideology that is committed to employ whatever means necessary to destroy the West (which its proponents view as the Christian West) and force the world’s submission to Islam.

Read it all and as a sample of the very broad press coverage of this story see here, here, here, there, there and there.

Update: here is a Wall Street Journal editorial, Benedict the Brave.

Reactions to Mark Lawrence’s Election in South Carolina

September 19th, 2006 posted by kendall at 1:26 pm

Dan Martins is delighted; FatherJake is not.

Sam Harris: Head-in-the-Sand Liberals

September 19th, 2006 posted by kendall at 1:05 pm

TWO YEARS AGO I published a book highly critical of religion, “The End of Faith.” In it, I argued that the world’s major religions are genuinely incompatible, inevitably cause conflict and now prevent the emergence of a viable, global civilization. In response, I have received many thousands of letters and e-mails from priests, journalists, scientists, politicians, soldiers, rabbis, actors, aid workers, students — from people young and old who occupy every point on the spectrum of belief and nonbelief.

This has offered me a special opportunity to see how people of all creeds and political persuasions react when religion is criticized. I am here to report that liberals and conservatives respond very differently to the notion that religion can be a direct cause of human conflict.

This difference does not bode well for the future of liberalism.

Perhaps I should establish my liberal bone fides at the outset. I’d like to see taxes raised on the wealthy, drugs decriminalized and homosexuals free to marry. I also think that the Bush administration deserves most of the criticism it has received in the last six years — especially with respect to its waging of the war in Iraq, its scuttling of science and its fiscal irresponsibility.

But my correspondence with liberals has convinced me that liberalism has grown dangerously out of touch with the realities of our world — specifically with what devout Muslims actually believe about the West, about paradise and about the ultimate ascendance of their faith.

On questions of national security, I am now as wary of my fellow liberals as I am of the religious demagogues on the Christian right.

This may seem like frank acquiescence to the charge that “liberals are soft on terrorism.” It is, and they are.

A cult of death is forming in the Muslim world — for reasons that are perfectly explicable in terms of the Islamic doctrines of martyrdom and jihad. The truth is that we are not fighting a “war on terror.” We are fighting a pestilential theology and a longing for paradise.

This is not to say that we are at war with all Muslims. But we are absolutely at war with those who believe that death in defense of the faith is the highest possible good, that cartoonists should be killed for caricaturing the prophet and that any Muslim who loses his faith should be butchered for apostasy.

Read it all.

Understanding the Sermon

September 19th, 2006 posted by kendall at 11:44 am



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