Friday, January 19, 2007

Jan 19, Afternoon backup (17:00 EST)

Nathaniel Pierce responds to Bonnie Anderson’s letter to the Panel of Reference

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 4:53 pm

With permission–KSH

I think the key paragraph of Bonnie Anderson’s letter is as follows:

“Thirty years ago, through our representative legislative process, we voted affirmatively to
allow the ordination of women. Generally at that time The Episcopal Church did not think the
1976 Canons were permissive or ambiguous. Nonetheless, to address any possible
misunderstanding, in 1997 General Convention, with the concurrence of both the House of
Bishops and the House of Deputies adopted additional Canons intended to put to rest the
question of whether a woman’s gender could be used to disqualify her from ordination. The
Episcopal Church is abundantly clear about its position regarding the ordination of women and
The Episcopal Church has been abundantly charitable towards those who do not fully embrace
that position.”

There is an apparent contradiction between her use of the word “allow” and “not … permissive
or ambiguous.” In any case, I do not believe that there can be any doubt that the statement,
“Generally at that time The Episcopal Church did not think the 1976 Canons were permissive
or ambiguous,” simply cannot be substantiated by the historical record. First, the issue was
specifically raised as part of the legislative process. In response, the Rev. George Regas,
speaking on behalf of the Coalition for the Ordination of Women, issued a public declaration
that the proposed canoncical change was permissive, not mandatory. The conscientious
convictions of those opposed would be respected, Regas stated.

Lest there be any confusion on the point, the 1977 meeting of the House of Bishops (speaking
only on behalf of itself), reaffirmed the same point: permissive, not mandatory.

In 1997 the previous public pledge was renounced and legislation was adopted to make it clear that
the 1976 canonical changes were now mandatory, contrary to what the 1988 Lambeth Conference
proclaimed as the norm. (I may have the wrong Lambeth Conference here; could have been 1978.)
Again, the GC legislative record is irrefutably clear on this point.

The question now raised by the Panel of Reference is rather simple and straightforward: permissive
or mandatory? Bonnie Anderson does not address this issue other than to note that our Ecclesiastical
Courts render final judgement on matters of interpretation. However, since there have been no
presentments, there has been no definitive ruling.

In an interesting way the Panel’s question is yet another attempt to understand the meaning of the
Windsor Report’s phrase “the proper constraints of the bonds of affection.” This has been an incredibly
difficult concept for the leadership of the American Church to understand. The response to date echoes
our response to the WR itself: this is how our polity works and that’s that. This does little to promote
any meaningful dialogue on this central issue.

–Mr. Nathaniel Pierce lives in Trappe, Maryland

Episcopal Church Flap keeps Mark Lawrence from assuming South Carolina bishop’s post

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 4:51 pm

Because [Mark] Lawrence was voted by a landslide of the clergy and laity of the South Carolina diocese, the holdup is a bitter pill to swallow.

“The South Carolina diocese has made a decision,” Harmon said, “and our decision is not being respected but re-evaluated. People here are getting their feelings hurt.”

The Rev. Haden McCormick, president of the Standing Committee at the South Carolina diocese, said the deadline for the process has been pushed back to March 9. By mid-March the diocese will know whether Lawrence is the next bishop of South Carolina.

“Mark will be in Bakersfield waiting for his consent process (to be completed),” McCormick said. “We wish everything was faster, but there’s nothing we can do about that.”

Claiming roots in the Church of England, the Episcopal Church is the U.S. arm of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which has 77 million members. The Episcopal Church, whose members have dwindled to about 800,000, oversees more than 7,600 congregations and 111 dioceses.

Read it all. In terms of membership, the number 800,000 refers to average Sunday attendance, and the new figures are now below that number. In terms of the doctrine of Scripture, I do not like the word inerrancy and while I would not in any way speak for the bishop elect, I have doubts whether the article correctly describes his view. I prefer the term the entire trustworthiness of Scripture–KSH.

Presiding Bishop’s Statement Supporting Court Action and Not Negotiation in Virginia

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 4:40 pm


Following the Diocese of Virginia’s January 18 action authorizing Bishop Peter James Lee to “recover or secure” property of 11 congregations in which a majority of members and leaders have left the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has underscored the Church’s ongoing commitments to its mission of reconciliation, and a “fiduciary and moral duty” to preserve property for current and future ministries.

A full report on the January 18 actions of the Diocese of Virginia is online here. Among those decisions, the diocese’s Executive Board declared “abandoned” the property of the 11 Episcopal congregations where, as stated in a diocesan news report, “a majority of members –including the vestry and clergy — have left the Episcopal Church but have not relinquished Church property and have continued to occupy the churches and use the property owned by the Diocese.”

The complete text of the Presiding Bishop’s January 19 statement follows.

Presiding Bishop’s statement following property decisions in Virginia

The Episcopal Church, in consultation with the Diocese of Virginia, regrets the recent votes by members of some congregations in Virginia to leave this Church. We wish to be clear, however, that while individuals have the right and privilege to depart or return at any time, congregations do not. Congregations exist because they are in communion with the bishop of a diocese, through recognition by diocesan governing bodies (diocesan synods, councils, or conventions). Congregations cannot unilaterally disestablish themselves or remove themselves from a diocese. In addition, by canon law, property of all sorts held by parishes is held and must be used for the mission of the Episcopal Church through diocesan bishops and governing bodies. As a Church, we cannot abrogate our interest in such property, as it is a fiduciary and moral duty to preserve such property for generations to come and the ministries to be served both now and in the future.

The recent decisions by some members of congregations in Virginia to leave the Episcopal Church and ally with the Anglican Church of Nigeria have no cognizance in our polity. Ancient precedent (from as early as the fourth century) in the Church requires bishops to respect diocesan boundaries, and to refrain from crossing into or acting officially in dioceses other than their own. As a Church we cannot and will not work to subvert that ancient precedent by facilitating the establishment of congregations which are purportedly responsible to bishops in other parts of the Anglican Communion within the diocesan boundaries of the Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church continues to seek reconciliation with those who have decided to leave this Church, and reminds all parties that our doors are open to any who wish to return. Together with the Diocese of Virginia we seek to be clear about who we are as Episcopalians, and to continue to reach out in healing to this broken world. The overwhelming majority of the more than 7,600 congregations of the Episcopal Church are engaged in doing exactly that.

American Anglican Council Comments on Recent Developments in the Diocese of Virginia

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 4:27 pm

(Press Release)

The American Anglican Council (AAC) joins congregations in the newly formed Anglican District of Virginia in lamenting the lack of willingness on the part of the Diocese of Virginia to negotiate 11 churches’ properties, which the diocese declared “abandoned” in a news release yesterday. The decision on the properties, approved unanimously by the Executive Board of the Diocese of Virginia, also “authorizes the Bishop to take such steps as may be necessary to recover or secure such real and personal property.”

“I am deeply disappointed, though not surprised, at the Diocese of Virginia’s sudden resort to litigation after pledging to avoid court battles in a protocol agreed upon last fall,” said the Rev. Canon David C. Anderson, AAC President and CEO. “The churches involved have indicated a clear willingness to negotiate a fair, amicable agreement regarding their properties, but the diocese has prematurely ended these discussions under the guise of concern for the diocese and national church, despite the fact that all options for an agreement have not been exhausted.”

The churches recently voted overwhelmingly to leave the Diocese of Virginia because of the national church’s continued departure from historic Anglicanism and biblical Christianity. Despite growing hostility and increased threats from diocesan and national leadership, the churches have maintained a spirit of Christian charity during the departure process.

“The AAC stands in strong support of these faithful churches in Virginia and urges Bishop Lee and the other diocesan leaders to halt the current course of destruction,” Canon Anderson said. He went on to note that peaceful terms regarding property have been reached between dioceses and departing parishes in other areas of the country, including recent agreements between Christ Church, Plano, and the Diocese of Dallas, and between two Puget Sound churches and the Diocese of Olympia.

“It is ironic that a diocese and national church which so pride themselves on ‘reconciliation’ should ignore the chance for peaceful negotiation and instead choose to spend precious resources on expensive legal battles,” Canon Anderson continued. “Negotiation is possible, but only with the willing cooperation from both sides. We pray that a reasonable, amicable agreement will emerge in Virginia despite recent indications otherwise.”

The Bishop of Georgia writes his Diocese

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 4:17 pm

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As many of you know, there have been on-going consultations between the Diocese and the clergy and lay leadership of Christ Church, Savannah. The first indication that many of you had about this was the letter sent out by our Diocesan Chancellor, Mr. James L. Elliott, to the Rector, Wardens and Vestry of Christ Church. Although there was an expressed mutual desire on the part of both Christ Church and me to resolve our issues in confidence with one another and without the specter of public debate, parts of the letter became the basis of a parish meeting at Christ Church. Our action in sending this letter out to parishioners and to diocesan clergy was in the interest of assuring that the full text be made available for all concerned. In the absence of a larger context and some background, this letter probably seemed to reflect a radical action taken with a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach, however this was not the intent. Suffice it to say that our Chancellor’s letter represents only part of a process that has being going on for the last few years.

In meetings over the last few years, and more recently, in meetings involving the President of the Standing Committee, the Chancellor, and the Canon to the Ordinary, I have met with the clergy and lay leadership of Christ Church to discuss these issues and their concerns. Our on-going conversation has covered a number of issues, with Christ Church’s financial support of the diocese (a canonical requirement of a parish) as only one of them. The issues have revolved around the question of whether the Rector, Wardens and Vestry of Christ Church desire to remain a part of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America, and therefore, whether they are willing to acknowledge me as their bishop, and whether they can live into their responsibilities under the canons and constitution of the church. The actions and words of the clergy and lay leadership have indicated to me a desire to leave this part of Christ’s Church, but at our most recent meeting, which was subsequent to the publication of the chancellor’s letter, they have assured me that, at this time, they intend to be members of this diocese. We will continue to be in dialogue, seeking, with God’s help, a way forward for all of us.

I trust that many of you know how willing I am to understand the other side of issues that arise. Many of you also know that it grieves me deeply to take any actions that might bring great sadness or division. Yet, as your bishop, I believe I am doing the right thing. The Standing Committee has been kept fully apprised of the on-going dialogue, has participated in this journey with their prayers and counsel, and is unanimous in their support.

It has been my fervent prayer that we in the Diocese of Georgia be spared the difficulties some other dioceses are going through. I have worked, and will continue to work, to celebrate our diversity. I ask for your continued prayers for me, the clergy and the people Christ Church, Savannah, and the clergy and people of the Diocese of Georgia.

–(The Rt. Rev.) Henry I. Louttit is Bishop of Georgia

Anglican District of Virginia leaders urge Episcopal Bishop and Diocese to return to negotiating table

January 19th, 2007 posted by admin at 2:44 pm

[via e-mail and at Baby Blue]


Contact: Jim Pierobon

Anglican District of Virginia leaders urge Episcopal Bishop and Diocese to return to negotiating table

FAIRFAX and FALLS CHURCH, Va, Jan. 19 - Two leaders of the Anglican District of Virginia today urged the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and its bishop, the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, to cease both his divisive rhetoric and his march toward the courthouse and instead return to the negotiating table.

“It is still not too late for Bishop Lee and the leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to stand down from making any more threats against faithful Christians who followed the Diocese of Virginia’s protocol for departing congregations, and instead to return to the negotiating table,” said Tom Wilson, Senior Warden of The Falls Church and Chairman of the Anglican District. “I still have hope, even now, that we can sit down and reason together.”

The Anglican District of Virginia is a growing association of Anglican Churches in Virginia, consisting of 16 worshipping congregations and two emerging church plants. On a typical Sunday, almost 6000 people attend these churches, making Anglican District larger than almost half of the Episcopal dioceses in the United States.

“I am sorry that Bishop Lee seems to have forgotten the conclusions reached by his own Diocesan Reconciliation Commission as well as his own personally-appointed Special Committee led by the diocesan chancellor,” said Jim Oakes, Senior Warden of Truro Church and a member of the governing board of the Anglican District. Oakes noted that the Truro vestry had just met last week at the request of the Diocese to appoint its representatives to negotiate with the Diocese and gather information requested by the Diocese. Before the representatives could begin negotiations, the Diocese abruptly reversed its course and terminated negotiations

The Anglican District of Virginia parishes welcome all Episcopalians and others to worship. Following the Anglican tradition, this includes welcoming all baptized Christians to the Lord’s Table or Eucharist.

“Bishop Lee’s memory seems oddly selective and while that grieves me deeply, I still have hope that he will come to his senses and take seriously the recommendations of both the Reconciliation Commission and the Special Committee. There is still time,” Oakes added.

Both the reports from the Diocesan Reconciliation Commission as well as the Bishop’s Special Committee are still available for download from the website of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and have not yet been taken down. “I see that as a sign that as long as the reports are still available to the public there is hope for an amicable settlement,” said Oakes. “The facts and our history speak for themselves.”

Nathaniel Popper: When cantors were celebrities

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 1:12 pm

In early December, a bearded Hasidic Jewish man stood before a sold out crowd at Lincoln Center and delivered a concert of melodies that are normally heard only within the confines of a synagogue. The star of the show, Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, is an Israeli who was recently given a lucrative contract by Manhattan’s Park East Synagogue to serve as the chief cantor–a role that condenses the power of the church organ and the delicacy of the church choir into one male voice.

Mr. Helfgot’s appearance at Lincoln Center recalled an earlier, mostly forgotten era of cantorial music, during the 1930s and ’40s, when cantors were the celebrities of Jewish life. A new documentary film, “A Cantor’s Tale,” warmly portrays a time when Broadway producers would try to lure big-name cantors out of the pulpit and into the footlights.

Mr. Helfgot’s concert and “A Cantor’s Tale” are two signs of a resurgent interest in the star turn taken by hazzanus, as cantorial music is known. But they are also a sort of reminder to Jews of a grand tradition that has largely been left behind, replaced by a new, more democratic, but decidedly less glamorous approach to Jewish music.

At the center of that lost world were men like Yossele Rosenblatt, Moshe Koussevitzky and Mordecai Hershman, tenors who were household names in Jewish Brooklyn. Hershman, like the other great cantors, began his life in Eastern Europe as an orphan in a Russian shtetl. From the Great Synagogue in Vilna, he was lured to America by Temple Beth El, in Brooklyn, which built a new synagogue to fit the crowds that came to hear him.

Read it all.

Hugh Mackay–Run with herd, live alone: our incredible shrinking households in Australia

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 12:30 pm

By 2026, more than 3 million Australians will be living alone and more than 6 million will be living with just one other person. The size of the average Australian household will by then have fallen from the current record low of 2.6 persons to a jaw-dropping 2.3 or even 2.2 persons per household.

At present, about 50 per cent of Australians live in what were once regarded as conventional family households - mum, dad and the kids. Twenty years ago, that’s how 60 per cent of us lived, but “couple with children” households are in statistical freefall: 20 years from now, a mere 40 per cent of us will be living in the traditional version of the family household. (All these figures come from the Australian Bureau of Statistics - one of our very few genuine national treasures, by the way.)

In the past 100 years, the Australian population has increased fivefold while the number of households has increased tenfold. We’ve reached the point where 50 per cent of all households contain just one or two people, and the single-person household is our fastest-growing household type, projected to account for 34 per cent of all households by 2026.

Changes in the size and structure of our households are one of the most revealing indicators of our social evolution. In tracking household shrinkage, we are also, inescapably, tracking fundamental changes in our patterns of marriage and divorce, the birthrate, the impact of longevity, the growing independence of women and, more recently, our openness to more diverse living arrangements. As a society, we are becoming more mobile, more flexible, more dynamic - and less judgemental of aloneness.

Read it all.

US bishop lashes Williams for coldness and contempt

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 11:03 am

THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury has come under fierce criticism from the Bishop of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, the Rt Revd Paul Marshall, for a perceived distancing of himself from the Episcopal Church in the United States.

While believing Dr Williams’s intentions to be good, and endorsing his reputation, the Bishop upbraids him, in a letter to fellow bishops, for spending more time talking to the moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, Bishop Robert Duncan, than talking to “our entire House of Bishops, or even our Church gathered in Convention”.

The Episcopal Church, he protests, was following Dr Williams’s “own carefully thought-out teachings on sexuality, teaching that he only last year suddenly dismissed as a sin of his academic youth”. Before they get ready for life alone, says the Bishop, “We deserve to hear from him, in the room with us, an explanation of his distance and intentions.”

He writes of the intense pain of the “withdrawal of a human who was friend, teacher, and colleague to many in this Church, with no notice that either his opinions or commitment were in flux.”

He describes the relationship between the Episcopal Church and Dr Williams as “distant, confused, and multiply triangulated”. Reports that Dr Williams has been badly advised are not sufficient mitigation: “Leaders are leaders because they show up when it is not pleasant to do so.” The nadir in the Archbishop’s relationship with the US, Canadian, and perhaps the South African Churches has been “the appointment of a virtual lynch-mob to draft a Covenant which will by all reports attempt to turn a fellowship into a curial bureaucracy”.

The Bishop also expresses himself disheartened by the “procession of ‘second gentlemen’ from the Church of England” who addressed the House of Bishops in the Archbishop’s stead, “while over-insisting that they were not so doing”. The Communion leadership has overtly and adroitly “played us for chumps”, says the Bishop. “There is a kind of contempt for our intellect there whose sting almost matches the pain of the overall strategy of isolation.”

Read it all, although please note that the article is quite inaccurate in saying that Bethlehem is one of two Standing Committees who have rejected Mark Lawrence, there are more than two–KSH.

Update: Tony Clavier has more comments on Bishop Marshall’s piece here.

Another update: Andrew Gerns also has some reflections.

Kendall Harmon: God Inspired Dreamers Of Great Dreams

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 10:57 am

Ever have someone capture your imagination? Really grab a hold of you so you could not let what they said go?

I had a sports coach like that in high school once. “Make no little plans for there is no magic in them to stir people’s souls,” he insisted. Before long, he was challenging me to consider trying out for the varsity team at my high school. In this sport my school’s team had won the national championship a couple of years before. I thought he had lost his mind at first — but he hooked me. My life was really changed because he taught me to dream big dreams.

Jesus was the ultimate captivator of human beings and their imaginations. He talked of the Kingdom of God — nothing less than God’s reign in our midst. Living water, he said. The bread of life. By the time he was finished with one woman he met she had evangelized an entire village. Come and see a man who told me all that I ever did (and graciously loved me anyway). Wow!

All this was brought to mind recently when I was following my daily ritual, after completing morning devotions, of reading the New York Times (a paper in one hand and a Bible in the other, Karl Barth once said. I hope you discover the joy of doing both daily).

On this particular day a front-page story in the Times appeared about a plan to give a 150-dollar computer to all the children in the two-thirds world. This was the brainchild of Nicholas Negroponte, founding director of the M.I.T. media laboratory. The article went on to spell out how, in spite of opposition from Microsoft and Intel, as well as a number of educators, it just might happen. The machine can run just on sunlight. It doesn’t even have a hard drive. Holy cow!

Where are the disciples of Jesus with big ideas — ideas like this? If I look around I see Tim Keller seeking to engross New York, I watch Rick Warren trying to persuade America, and I read of Benedict XVI trying to captivate Europe. It is no accident that these figures are from evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism because at present the future of Christianity in the West lies there and only there.

Yet it is not too late for the mainline churches to participate in such a challenging and wonderful future. It can only happen when we are recaptured by our Lord and his gospel that seeks to bring the whole truth of God to every whole person throughout the whole world.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if some Anglicans produced a few shockingly big ideas instead of the stale, dry-as-dust humdrum that passes for being acceptable in so many of our parishes? By the grace of God may it be so.

The Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall S. Harmon is Canon Theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina and the convenor of this blog


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