Monday, July 28, 2008

Adrian Pabst in Telos

This is good stuff...

A New Direction for the Anglican Communion by Adrian Pabst


The Anglican Communion, the world's third largest grouping of Christians after the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches, is on the brink of disintegration. The battle that pits liberal modernizers against Evangelical conservatives is fast dissolving the fabric underpinning Anglicanism, threatening a permanent breakup. Anglican Christianity needs a new direction if another schism is to be averted.

Many commentators, such as the Reverend Giles Fraser or the British freelance theologian Theo Hobson, claim that this is a purely internal issue that only concerns Anglicans, predominantly so the Church of England itself where the conflict between militant liberals and conservative traditionalists is particular venomous. In a recent article in the Spectator, Hobson rightly distinguishes traditionalists (who oppose women bishops) from Evangelicals (who oppose homosexuals) but wrongly equates Anglicanism with social, cultural, and political liberalism. But, as I hope will become clear, Anglican theology cannot be reduced to liberalism of any kind.

Others, like the US columnist James Carroll, contend that the division within Anglicanism reflects a wider social and cultural tension between traditional values and societal change. In an op-ed in the Boston Globe, he asserts that the majority of Anglican bishops follow the "liberalizing American lead," which represents "broader trends toward equality, tolerance, and democratization that challenge every traditional society."

But even supposing that modernization is desirable, why would the world in general and the Anglican churches in particular embrace the American variant of modernization? Why would different countries and different religious cultures not choose a path that is in line with their own traditions?

More fundamentally, both Hobson and Carroll fail to grasp the wider implications of the current crisis. The Anglican Communion is a worldwide church. Far from merely representing the remnant of British colonialism, Anglicanism is an integral part of the Christian tradition and a global community that has always mediated between Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and some Reformed strands. As such, the fate of the Anglican church will impact on the future of Christianity—the world's largest religion and perhaps the only truly global faith.


The birth of Anglicanism is commonly associated with King Henry VIII when the Church of England rejected papal authority over Henry's multiple marriages. But the Anglican Church can be traced to the 6th-century Christianization of Britain, the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 597 AD, and the formation of an English Church (ecclesia anglicana) in the Middle Ages. With England's global influence, national congregations were established overseas and Anglicanism was formed. Partly as a result of the Protestant Reformation, no single Anglican church could wield supreme authority, since each national congregation is fully self-governing.

American Independence consolidated the autonomy of national Anglican churches, a model that was subsequently exported by the British Empire and Christian missionaries to Australasia and Africa: with almost 20 million members, Nigeria has the largest Anglican church (the Church of England counts officially 26 million members, but only a few million are regular church goers).

Historically, what binds the Communion together are ties with the Church of England and the primacy of the Archbishop of Canterbury who is "first among equals" within the body of Anglican bishops. Theologically, Anglicanism represents an authentically reformed Catholicism, true to Christian roots in the Church Fathers and the Middle Ages, which also resonates with important aspects of Eastern Orthodoxy.


But the bitter conflict between liberals and conservatives undermines this uniqueness and the Communion's ability to act as a bridge between Christian churches.

The decision by the Church of England two weeks ago to approve the consecration of women bishops has further strained relations with Rome, with the Vatican expressing deep regret and concern for the future of ecumenical dialogue.

Moreover, this decision has exacerbated tensions between the liberal and the conservative wing. These tensions mirror a wider rift within the worldwide Communion between an increasingly militant liberal faction and a rising conservative Evangelical wing, especially since the 2003 election of V. Gene Robinson, an openly practicing homosexual priest, as Anglican Bishop of New Hampshire.

Last month's meeting of Evangelicals in Jerusalem took place under the banner of the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON), a conference that gave rise to a new movement—the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (with the rather unfortunate acronym FOCA). This movement approved plans to establish a separate global council of conservative bishops.

Their intention is not to set up a separate church but to take over the Communion by excluding those whom they view as liberal heretics, including Rowan Williams, the reigning Archbishop of Canterbury. The rebels are boycotting the Lambeth Conference, which opened in Canterbury on Sunday—a once-a-decade assembly of Anglican bishops, which has no formal decision-making powers but is seen as the collective mind of Anglicanism and a unifying instrument of the Communion.

This sectarian attitude contrasts sharply with that of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, which is sending Cardinal Walter Kaspar to Canterbury in order to reaffirm the Vatican's commitment toward a full reunification of all episcopally-based churches.


It is true that the clash between liberals and conservatives focuses on gay and female bishops. But the trouble is that by reducing these questions to scriptural interpretation and historical precedent, both sides ignore the Communion's formative tradition and sources of authority. It is this ignorance that continues to prevent a proper theological debate between the warring sides.

Conservatives condemn liberals for embracing secular moral norms incompatible with Anglican teachings on ethics and marriage. Liberals accuse traditionalists of intolerance and scriptural literalism at odds with Anglican inclusiveness. Both are right about each other, but wrong about their church.

In reality, liberals and conservatives share much more in common than they are prepared to admit. Both claim a monopoly on biblical interpretation that neither has. Both purport to speak for a majority of Anglicans that neither represents. And both view Anglicanism in partisan ideological terms rather than from a robust theological perspective.

As a result, the deepening divide between liberals and conservatives hides a more orthodox and more radical vision. Such a vision transcends the current divide and situates the Communion alongside the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches firmly within the Episcopal tradition.

Episcopacy—the body of bishops—differentiates Anglicanism from schismatic Protestants like the Baptists by preserving the apostolic succession, the unbroken link of bishops with Jesus' twelve apostles. The practice of apostolic succession both safeguards the legitimacy of the Anglican mission and preserves the continuity of local Anglican churches with the authoritative universal (or catholic) Church. As a result, the historical primacy of the See of Canterbury within the Anglican Communion is indissociable from the primacy of the See of Rome for all episcopally based churches.

What is specific about the Anglican Episcopal tradition is that it fuses traditional liturgical and sacramental practices with progressive political and socio-economic ideas—a legacy that goes back to the founding fathers of Anglican theology in the 16th century, such as William Tyndale and Richard Hooker.

Indeed, a desire to renew and extend the Christian Episcopal tradition was at the origins of Anglican theology. Against monarchical and clerical absolutism, Hooker argued in his book Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1594–97) in favor of a Christian commonwealth based on natural law and the sacraments whereby both tradition and reason correct literalist scriptural interpretation and limit political power.

Likewise, contrary to the Calvinist conflation of the divinely elect with the materially wealthy, Tyndale linked the Christian promise of universal salvation to the practice of charity. According to Tyndale, "wealth is there for the purpose of making friends, and those friends are, without any qualification, the poor on your doorstep." The implication is that Christians are bound in "debt" to others: for example, financial surplus is owed to the poor and destitute, Christians and non-Christians alike.

As such, Anglicanism has always sought to represent a reformed Catholic alternative to both Protestant liberalism and conservative Evangelical fundamentalism.


All this matters today because the integrity of the Communion is under threat from the impoverished extremes of liberals and conservatives. If liberals want to broaden the priesthood to include women and gay bishops or if conservatives want to oppose any such development, then they must produce theological arguments from within the Episcopal tradition. Both must also respect the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury as "first among equals." Otherwise, liberal and conservative bishops would depart from Anglican orthodoxy and loose their own legitimacy.

It is hard to see how the conflicting visions can be reconciled. But in order to reunify the 80-million-strong worldwide Communion, Anglicans could do worse than recover Anglican theology. Rowan Williams has taken a first step by questioning the non-theological motivations that prompted liberals to press ahead with appointing a gay bishop and conservatives to establish a rival council of bishops.

His critics rightly contend that his leadership since 2003 has not succeeded in breaking the deadlock. Though he inherited many problems from his predecessor, thus far he has failed to change the terms of the debate—not least because his own stance has at times oscillated between social liberalism and theological conservatism.

However, Williams is uniquely positioned to articulate a new direction for the Communion because the current divisions hide a more visionary option which he has always sought to convey: a canceling of the opposition between liberals and conservatives by a revivified theology that preserves and extends the Anglican Episcopal tradition.

According to Williams, the Anglican conception of Episcopacy corrects Catholic absolutism with the broadening and widening of its priesthood beyond the Pope and his appointees, while also refusing the liberal creed of mainstream Protestantism as the sole grounds for social justice and human freedom. And in order to restore a sense of sacredness and beauty to both modern Catholicism and Protestantism, Williams wants to draw on the Eastern Orthodox tradition of participation in divine mystery and wisdom.

Unless he wants to preside over a de facto schism, Williams needs to set out a renewed vision of Episcopal Anglicanism and rally Anglicans around it. Those who reject his authority and this vision on non-theological grounds will exclude themselves from the Communion.

This vision, which rejects the current divide as spurious, can be found within the Anglican tradition. Thus, a properly figured and reinvigorated Anglican theology is indispensable to the preservation of the global Communion and a rapprochement of Christians across the world.

Interesting Post from Bishop Nedi Rivera

While we were on retreat, the [Archbishop of Canterbury] raised the hot issue of an Anglican Covenant. He raised it, however in an intriguing way that has caught my imagination for a couple of days now. I hope this is fair to his proposition, but what I heard was the suggestion that perhaps the Anglican Covenant could be a shared Rule of Life for us as bishops. I’m not thinking (and I don’t Archbishop Rowan is either,) of some lock step way of following The Way, rather the possibility that we would each commit to a Rule of Life of a similar shape.

For example, as an Associate of the Society of Saint Francis, I am asked to consider particular areas of spiritual practice in line with traditional Franciscan spirituality as I begin to design a Rule that deepens my relationship to God, as well as to the Society and is in line with traditional Franciscan spirituality. To be specific, what will my life of personal prayer be like? My commitment to corporate worship? To the Sacrament of Reconciliation? To study and spiritual direction? To giving and to corporate acts of mercy?

Tonight in plenary [author, pastor and 'emergent' leader] Brian McLaren spoke to us on “Changing contexts: Breaking Open our Models for Evangelism” What is evangelism? What isn’t it? Why is it important and how it can be hope for the world – and for the church? What gifts does the Anglican Communion bring to the world’s need to learn about the saving Grace of Jesus Christ? I wonder -- how is evangelism spiritual practice?

Both the Archbishop (in his retreat addresses) and Dr McLaren (tonight) spoke of the need for bishops to model what it means to be Christian – to be signs of God’s creative love, Jesus’ self-giving love and evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit working God’s will on earth as in heaven. Dr McLaren said this is the primary way we bring others into Christian discipleship, and that we are too often, in our churches so busy caring for the two sheep in the flock that we forget to seek out the ninety-eight that have strayed.

So, I wondered what it would be like if we bishops spent the rest of the this conference working out shared Rules of Life with elements from (for example) Matthew 5, 25 and 28 and to committing ourselves to partnerships in mutual responsibility and interdependence? How would we make Jesus known to the world if our lives looked more like the One we follow?

I think, in a sense this is what our ‘programme’ is leading us to do. We are asking questions about bishops and Anglican Identity, bishops and Evangelism, Social Justice, Environment, etc.. What if we held one another accountable to a Rule of Life that included some of these concerns as well as prayer, study, pastoral care and all the other institutional concerns we have? How would Christ be made known in all the world?

Brian McLaren’s central question was this (and it is not only a question for bishops!) What if we were willing to risk everything to do this one thing right?

Bishop Rivera is suffragan bishop of Olympia.

Church Times Article Worth a Look

Pat Ashworth of the Church Times posted this piece which has several quotations from the Bishop of Botswana:

THE FURORE over the Archbishop of Sudan’s comments last week is dying down: a bit of excitement that grabbed all the headlines, including our own. The story is moving on. But many have since observed that the official statement on sexuality that came from the Sudanese House of Bishops (and with which 17 provinces concurred) did not contain a call for Gene Robinson’s resignation. That came in the afternoon press conference, a day after the statement was put into circulation.

Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia was one of those expressing puzzlement. “We had a meeting of six to eight American bishops with Sudanese bishops, all having diocesan links. It was a very helpful meeting because we respect and appreciate the Sudanese position and at the same time welcome their commitment to remain in relationship with us: we accept that we have much to learn from them and they seem to welcome our participation in their lives,” he said on Saturday.

“Archbishop Deng Bul made it clear at the press conference. He was asked what he would do if he were Gene Robinson. It was a speculative question and he said if he was Gene Robinson, he would resign. It was not a formal call from the Sudanese bishops. He did not repeat that to us as a demand at all.”

The Bishop of Botswana, Trevor Mwamba, was even more forthright on the discrepancy between the statement and the views expressed later by Archbishop Deng. “My personal view is that it wasn’t helpful at all. I can understand where they are coming from in being in a Muslim context. But having said that, I am also aware that somebody organised that position. In the context of the conference it’s regrettable that it was done but here are other factors at play and we need to name those factors.

“We are using each other at times for ends which are not constructive. That’s just one example of people being used. Another is that people are continuously talking up the absence of our brothers from four African provinces from this meeting. But the point is that a lot of those brothers of ours – 200 is a nice round figure – would have wanted to come here. That’s important to say.”

Bishop Mwamba described the situation as it had been in Uganda, “where a special Synod is organised and provision passed which would penalise any bishop coming to the Lambeth Conference. That denied freedom of expression in terms of any individual bishop. The invitation to Lambeth is in the gift of the archbishop and it is up to a particular bishop, not a particular province, to say I will come or I won’t come.

“What are we saying about our leadership styles? It was the same in Nigeria- many would have been glad to come. So when they say 200 of our brothers have boycotted the conference – definitely no. Maybe given the freedom, one or two would have stayed behind. It must be clearly understood: the reason why they didn’t come is that they were forced not to come.” He finds it therefore a paradox that while they stay at home, some of the American allies who have been working with them – for example, Bishop Robert Duncan and others - are here.

The conference has suffered from their absence, “because we believe in reconciliation. That’s the African gift. Lambeth has adopted that style. We must all be at the table and must come. It is disrespectful to our culture for someone not to turn up. There’s nothing commendable about having absented themselves: they are going contrary to the spirit.”

Bishop Mwamba was upbeat about the closer relationships genuinely being forged among the bishops through bible study, the indaba groups, personal conversation and worship. The African style of meeting, had been “a learning curve for everybody”, given the bias of past structures towards those used to a more parliamentary system, he said.

There had been impatience in some of the groups, but they were now comfortable enough to re-frame them and abandon the set topics to discuss certain issues now rather than at the end. “We are now discussing the issues of sexuality and the Communion and have prioritised the MDGs,” he said. “For me, the main thing is the spirit of the meeting: a growing consensus about the need to remain together and to resolve these issues in the context of unity.”

Bishop Mwamba reflected of the lack of real understanding of events in the Episcopal and Canadian churches: “It’s always been the problem that when we are in a situation of conflict, you are not really listening to ‘the other’ or reading the material that has come from ‘the other’. You are just picking up points confirming your pre-judged perceptions about separation.

“But when you move all that clutter in terms of your prejudices and look at the light it is as it is, you see that they are not doing what they thought they were doing. It’s like the Americans going into Iraq and the weapons of mass destruction: you look for things that suit your agenda. People are beginning to see and understand how the American church and the African church operate.

“The Communion will hold together – I’ve always maintained that position and being here affirms my belief more. Sense of consensus about maintaining the unity – we’ll work it out and that’s what we’ve always done. We need to give time to the process, not force things.

He quotes a Swahili idiom: ‘An empty stomach has no ears to hear with’. “We know we must debate the issue of sexuality and give a position, but our people are starving. We are not trivialising it at all for the Americans in their context of issues of justice and civil rights. But our problem is a matter of life and death: that is the difference. We will not fall for that agenda being dictated to us.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cardinal Describes Anglican Communion in Unkind Terms

The vatican representative addressing the Lambeth Conference this week, Cardinal Dias, suggested that Anglicans were suffering from 'spiritual Alzheimer's' and 'ecclesiological Parkinson's.' He was referring primarily to the tensions between progressive and traditional theologians regarding the inclusion of partnered gay persons and women into clerical orders. This latest commentary may be seen as but the latest in a series of insulting comments made by or on behalf of the Bishop of Rome to Anglicans - especially those in America, Canada, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia where partnered gay persons and/or women are more able to be included into clerical orders.

In comparing those Anglican provinces which are contending with how to (or if we should) modify or change traditional practices and teachings to aged persons suffering from terrible diseases - Rome has not only made an insulting comment - but one that is not apt.

The faithful Christians who are struggling with Scripture and tradition - by light of reason and the desire to hear the Spirit of Christ - over such questions are not acting out of dementia or degeneration. Rather, we are demonstrating what vital persons in full health do when posed with new circumstances or new contexts or new understandings that require a reassessment of what has been done heretofore. While this creates a season of tension and resistance between the many voices involved - it is the sort of tension and resistance which all healthy bodies engaged in activity and exercise experience.

Frankly, the Church of Rome while proud in so many ways of so much, should not claim a clarity of memory and honest self-assessment among its strengths.

Need I list the many ways and moments and shadowy aspects of the Church of Rome's long history which it so frequently denies and covers up?

Hopefully not.

N.T. Wright on the Colbert Report

This was a pleasant and amusing surprise. Bishop Wright discusses his new work on heaven, resurrection and the Kingdom with Stephen Colbert - who is irreverent and hilarious.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Toby's Tale

What follows is a letter I received from an old friend with whom I have discussed the current crisis in the Anglican Communion. My friend’s views are, to put it mildly, unorthodox. I certainly do not endorse them. Still, they may be of interest to the readers of Anglican Centrist.

The Godfather

Dear Mr. Von Salzen:

You said when we last talked that the Anglican Communion is “going to the dogs”. I can assure you of my own certain knowledge that such is not the case. I know whereof I speak because, as you well know, I am myself a dog. By breed I am a terrier and by heritage I am English, as English as beans on toast, Big Ben, and spotted dick. I can trace my ancestry back to the Conquest (my surname is Norman), and over the centuries my forebears have rid many an English farmstead of rats, weasels, stoats, and other vermin. Since the time of the first Elizabeth, my people have always been C. of E. Not a Puritan, Methodist, or Quaker in the lot.

But I am proud to say that I am American born and bred, and on this side of the pond (as we say) my people have always been Episcopalians. I am a regular attendee of Episcopal services, although I must confess (in this context you might regard the use of this word as an attempt at humor, but I assure you that there is nothing humorous in this letter) that I am not a frequent attendee of such services. You see, at our Parish the “Blessing of the Animals” service is held once a year, and it is that service only that I attend.

Now, to get to the point, let me tell you a story.

There was once a town in which the dogs were allowed to roam free. (Today, as you undoubtedly know, every dog is required to drag a human being around behind him on a leash, and the human must carry a plastic bag and pick up what the dog leaves behind. This uncivilized and unsanitary practice was not observed in the town that I am describing.) There were a couple score of dogs in this town that roamed around together. They were not, strictly speaking, a “pack” of dogs; that term implies a group with a common purpose (such as chasing sheep), and these dogs had no common purpose; they simply roamed around in company with each other by unspoken mutual agreement. Some of the dogs in this company were large, and others medium-sized, and others small. Some were breeds acknowledged by the Kennel Club, and others were breeds that even their mothers would be unlikely to acknowledge. There were Deerhounds and Dachshunds, Pekinese and Poodles, Malteses and Mutts.

Among these dogs was a certain little fellow, a Corgi, whose practice it always was to run out in front of all the other dogs, wherever the company was going, and prance along with his head held high, as though he was leading all the others. If it happened that the company came to a crossroads, and the Corgi went off to the left, but the rest of them went off to the right, then the Corgi would turn about and run as fast as his little legs could carry him, until he was once more at the head of the company, and then he would prance along again with his head held high, as though he was the leader of all the dogs.

This went on for quite awhile, and most of the dogs were perfectly content to allow the Corgi to pretend to be their leader, because, truth be told, they were all going where they wanted to anyway. However, as time went on one faction within the company began to grow annoyed with the little Corgi. This faction included some of the bigger and stronger dogs, as well as some smaller fellows who liked to claim the big dogs as their friends. The leader of this faction was a Pit Bull, and his lieutenants were a Doberman and a couple of Rotweilers. The Pit Bull’s group often pushed itself up toward the front of the company of dogs as they all roamed through the town, right behind the little Corgi, and then began to grumble about how they were always having to look at the rear end of the little Corgi (one member of this faction, a Husky, quoted the old proverb that “If you aren’t the lead dog the view never changes”). The Pit Bull’s faction began to make it a practice to turn right whenever the Corgi went left, and left whenever the Corgi went right, and then trot very fast, and all the dogs behind them just naturally did the same, and the Corgi had to race as fast as he could to get in front of them again and was quite out of breath when he got there.

The Pit Bull’s faction tried to persuade the rest of the company to eject the little Corgi, or at least make him stay to the rear of the company, but the other dogs were unwilling to change the way things had always been. Most dogs, as you probably know, are quite traditionalist.

In this company, as I said, there were many different breeds of dog. The Pit Bull and his allies began to complain that some of these dogs were funny-looking and had squeaky barks, such as Toy Poodles, Bichons Frises, Dandie Dinmonts, and the like, and argued that they shouldn’t be allowed to be part of the company. Even some of the dogs that weren’t part of the Pit Bull’s faction didn’t like having these “silly” little dogs around, but they didn’t think it was right to kick them out of the company just because they had been born funny-looking. Personally, I think it’s ludicrous to hear a Bloodhound complain that a Poodle is funny looking! But de gustibus as the Romans used to say.

Eventually the day came that the Pit Bull and his faction decided that they could not stand any longer being part of a company that seemed to be led by the little Corgi and that included among its members Toy Poodles, Bichons Frises, and Dandie Dinmonts, and – worse – that included dogs who would tolerate the Corgi and the Toy Poodles, Bichons Frises, and Dandie Dinmonts. So the Pit Bull announced that he was going to form a new company that would include only the right kinds of dogs, and he would be its leader, and they would go off to another part of town and would be the true dog company. Some of the big, loud dogs barked their support, and so did some of the small and medium-sized dogs (but none of the Toy Poodles, Bichons Frises, and Dandie Dinmonts).

The little Corgi was distressed and very confused. Now there were two companies of dogs, and he didn’t know which one to get in front of. But when the Pit Bull’s group started off toward the other side of the town, while the other group just stood around watching, the Corgi felt he should go where the action was and scurried off toward the front of the Pit Bull’s group. He didn’t get there. The Pit Bull barked at the little Corgi, and the Doberman and the Rotweilers did too. They weren’t going to tolerate that little dog pretending to lead them. They had a real leader, and the Pit Bull was going to take them where he thought they should go. The Corgi beat a hasty retreat.

That’s about the end of the story. The dogs that didn’t follow the Pit Bull off to the other side of town went back to their old routine. They roamed about, going more or less where they felt like going, and wherever they went the Corgi went on in front of them. There were fewer of them than there had been, but that didn’t seem to bother them very much. And after awhile, the old company’s numbers were increased when several of the dogs that had gone off with the Pit Bull came back. They said that in the Pit Bull’s company you couldn’t roam around and go more or less where you felt like going. You had to go where the Pit Bull told you to go. If you didn’t, or if you asked questions, the Pit Bull would bark at you very loudly, and might even bite you, so they decided that being in the same company with Toy Poodles, Bichons Frises, and Dandie Dinmonts wasn’t that bad after all. Even one of the Rotweilers came back.

So you see my point. That’s the way dogs handle such a disagreement. Human beings aren’t nearly that intelligent.

Very truly yours,

Toby de Terrier

325 A.D. - An Essential - by Derek Olsen

from Episcopal Cafe:

This is the third in the series, 7 Dates and Why They Matter for the Anglican Faith. Read parts 1 and 2.

By Derek Olsen

The Roman establishment of the Early Empire regarded Christianity with a mix of perplexity and suspicion. On one hand, the Christians seemed largely virtuous and mostly harmless. On the other, they threatened the foundations of the social order in two main ways. First, they were atheists—that is, they denied the reality and power of the Roman state pantheon and refused to acknowledge that the emperor was imbued with divine guidance. Second, Christianity attacked the shape of the Roman family, reconceptualizing it and allowing—even encouraging—women to remain in an unmarried state outside of male control. While Jewish believers were also suspect as atheists, their religion was rooted in their identity as a people; Christians, on the other hand, proselytized and spread quickly unrestrained by bounds of national identity. At times and places the perplexity and suspicion was expressed in a predictable human manner: violence and persecution. Despite our popular conception of Christians keeping Roman lions well-fed from the time of Nero on, persecution tended to be sporadic and local rather than widespread and systematic.

As the third century drew to a close and the fourth century opened, the spread of Christianity became an issue that demanded a formal response. The emperor Decius instituted a systematic empire-wide persecution in 250 escalated by Valerian in 258 to forbid all Christian worship and targeting all bishops and senior clergy for execution. Ended by Valerian’s successor Gallienus in 260, violence flared again in 303 when Diocletian ordered all churches destroyed, all Scriptures burnt, and all clergy imprisoned. The following year, all citizens were required to make sacrifices to the emperor on pain of death—but the western provinces of the empire conveniently ignored the later command. Despite these attempts, their purpose failed and rather proved again the truth of Tertullian’s maxim: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

The other plausible option was taken by a Roman general whose troops in Britain proclaimed him emperor and marched on Rome. This general and later emperor—Constantine—did not persecute Christianity but rather embraced it and gave it official support. (He did not, however, proclaim it the state religion—that wouldn’t happen until Theodosius at the end of the fourth century.)

The reign of Constantine and his blessing on the flourishing faith raised a host of issues—some neither easily nor quickly solved. One—the tension between the Roman social structure and the counter-cultural character of Christianity—has remained a live issue to the present day (and will be addressed in a later article). Of the rest, two urgent problems pressed to the fore. The first was political and administrative: how would structures that emerged locally fit themselves into a coherent empire-wide system and where would authority reside? The second was theological and doctrinal: what was the proper way to understand the relationship between Jesus and God? The vacuum of authority created by the first problem exacerbated the second. Constantine saw trouble brewing. The faith that he hoped would help cement the embattled empire was threatening to cause further rifts. Taking matters into his own hands, he called a meeting of bishops to the city of Nicaea in the year 325.

At this point it’s worth clearing up a little bit of confusion about Constantine, his motives, and his personal beliefs. Constantine was probably introduced to Christianity at a young age; his mother was a Christian (her search for the relics of the Holy Cross read like a fourth-century Indiana Jones tale but several versions have deplorable anti-Semitic bits) and some sources relate he had a sister named Anastasia which means “Resurrection”. Despite this, he was not baptized until he was on his deathbed. This was not unusual in the fourth century, though, especially for those who held political office. Theologically the Church of the day had a strong sense of Baptism and the remission of sins connected with that act; they were a little fuzzy on forgiveness of major sins committed after baptism. The realities of political office (presiding over torture and executions and participating in public religious ceremonies to the state gods or the official supreme god, the Unconquered Sun) made committing sins inevitable. Thus, Constantine and others put off their baptism until they had retired from public life and no longer had to participate in these activities. As far as Constantine’s personal beliefs go he served as a proper emperor, honoring the state gods and the Unconquered Sun in his public capacity, but no less authority than the late great Henry Chadwick states that “his letters from 313 onwards leave no doubt that he regarded himself as a Christian whose imperial duty it was to keep a united Church” (The Early Church, p. 127).

Constantine’s council at Nicaea was not novel in its procedure—Christian bishops had been gathering in councils for quite a long time. Where it was different was in its scope. The controversy was (at that point) an Egyptian one and afflicted the Greek-speaking areas of the empire. Thus, Constantine sought to gather as many bishops of the Greek-speaking Church as possible and others beyond it to resolve the problem. Senior bishops and archbishops or their representatives came from all over the known world to participate. The chronicler Eusebius highlights its breadth by comparing the guest list to the account in Acts of the international gathering at the first Pentecost.

The Da Vinci Code crowd and conspiracy theorists of various stripes suggest that at this council Constantine perverted everything by declaring Jesus divine—either implying or stating explicitly that the Church had not held this opinion before him. It’s an interesting theory, it’s just completely contradicted by the evidence. The writings of the first three Christian centuries make it abundantly clear that Christians considered Jesus divine; the question tackled by the council was not if but how Jesus was divine. The problem was that a teacher from Alexandria—Arius—was teaching that Jesus, like some of the heroes and demi-gods who had made it into the Roman pantheon, had been granted divinity and was not eternally divine. The council focused primarily on two assertions of Arius: first, that Jesus was a created being; second that “there was [a time] when he was not”. Now, I could walk you through the arguments and the technical philosophical vocabulary used, but in going through the details we’d miss the real point. So let’s zoom out for a second and talk about how and why this matters.

Trinitarian theology tends to be very complicated because it did not begin as an intellectual exercise: if people had sat down and thought it up, it would make a lot more sense! Instead, this theology proceeds from the realm of Christian experience. Christians knew from their Scriptures and from their Jewish roots that God was unmistakably and unquestionably One. In their religious experience, though, they perceived the working of God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. The problem of Trinitarian theology was how to wrap limited and limiting human language and concepts around the power of God that they had experienced in their lives.

The reason why this became necessary and pressing was because the theological formulations had very practical, pastoral consequences. Understanding the divinity of God the Son was not simply an arcane puzzle for specialists but rather was intimately connected to who God was and how God interacted with creation. In a sense, Arius thought that he had discovered a formulation that would preserve the dignity of God the Father. After all, the great scandal of Christianity to the philosophical minds of the time is why a god who existed as spirit would have anything to do with flesh and matter which was inherently imperfect and corruptible. According to Arius’s formula, God the Father kept himself pure and unsullied but elevated Jesus as the first and greatest of his creatures to divine status. The orthodox party insisted that, no, God’s love was that great and that scandalous that God was willing to become flesh, to live, to love, to suffer and die. Affirming that, they could then affirm that the transformative power of the resurrection and the ascension can happen and has happened to actual human flesh in the person of Jesus! That is, the orthodox could affirm that any pain we feel, any joy we feel, any fear, or longing, or hope of ours, God understands it—because God has felt it in his own flesh. Arius couldn’t say the same of his God. By the end of the council, the gathered bishops agreed that this was the Good News spoken of in the Scriptures and handed down by the apostles, not an untouchable spirit God who had elevated a piece of creation but of a God who loved us enough to become one of us.

Now, this certainly wasn’t the first controversy about the Trinity or about the person of Jesus. Since the days of Irenaeus (in the mid-second century) Christians had defined the church and its teaching around three things: a set canon of Scripture, apostolic succession—a confirmation that the teaching a bishop received was what was handed on by the apostles, and the core teachings—the regula fidei (rule or measure of faith). These core teachings, the regula fidei, were transmitted in the form of baptismal creeds. That is, at baptisms new Christians assented that they knew and understood the heart of the Christian teachings that were to serve as a guide in reading the Scriptures. Our Apostles’ Creed, for instance, is an early (mid-second century or so) Roman baptismal creed that has remained the dominant statement in the West. What the Council of Nicaea did was to take the ancient baptismal creed of Caesarea (which fundamentally agreed with others like the Apostles’ Creed) and to tweak a few phrases—dropping some that could be misinterpreted, adding some that clarified its meaning. In a letter to the clergy of his region (which included Arians), Eusebius of Caesarea described how the gathered bishops took the creed and added a few words and what they intended by it. This creed became known as the Nicene Creed and defined the faith of the gathered bishops who agreed that it encapsulated the teachings that they had received from the apostles the best they knew how. This creed would be tweaked again at the Council of Constantinople (381) to exclude an error that arose later in the fourth century, was confirmed again by the Council of Chalcedon (451) and there achieved the form that we receive in our prayer book.

Thus, AD 325 is a date that every Anglican should know. The Council of Nicaea was the Church’s formal debut party thrown for it by the Roman Empire. Constantine convened it, but the bishops assembled solved the theological dilemma with an appeal to the apostles’ teaching, formalizing in a creedal statement the fact that God loves us enough to literally, physically, become one of us. This was not some new faith invented by Constantine, but a verbal clarification of what had been handed on by Irenaeus, affirmed by countless Christians at their baptisms, recorded by Luke the Evangelist, of the astounding, staggering love that the apostles witnessed in the words and works of Christ himself.

Derek Olsen is in the final stretch of completing a Ph.D. in New Testament (with a healthy side of Homiletics) at Emory University. His reflections on life, liturgical spirituality, and being a Gen-X dad appear at Haligweorc.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Word or World

Many folks tend to hear Sunday's reading in Genesis as being about Jacob, and how sneaky he really is - a trickster who connives his way into a birth right not really his.

But, it’s not about that is it?

Isn't the story really about Esau, and how totally concerned he is with his own passions, desires, needs and hungers? Isn't it about his care for his own bodily world is so great that he sells his birthright for some ‘stuff,’ for some lentil soup. And let’s be clear, the birthright that he is trading for a single meal is his place in the miraculous kingdom that God is trying to make through his family.

Now you’ve had lentil soup before. Would you give up the Kingdom of God for that?

Esau disregards the value of his own miraculous birth to a barren couple participating in God’s dream of making the world better, giving that up for a bowl of stuff, because he is famished after a long day of pursuing his own private goals, ‘hunting.’

Would you do the same? Genesis, Paul and Jesus say you probably would.

Yes today’s readings are about the two ways of life – the way of anxiety and worry over worldly things – or the way of setting your heart on the Lord.

To be clear, anxiety is not a new-fangled word created by self-help gurus. It’s actually in the Gospel today, in Greek, in Matthew, where Jesus speaks of those who have too many “cares.” The word translated as “cares” is actually the Greek word for anxiety.

Yes, anxiety.

Jesus says the better way is the way of ‘understanding the Word’ – or in literally in Greek -- the way of ‘setting together with’ the Word of God.

What Jesus and Paul are saying is that the tendency to focus on our urges, desires and hungers – like Esau - on food, shelter, ego, pride, control, etc., - this focus leads directly to anxiety. And anxiety silences our hearing of the Holy Spirit and the promise of the Kingdom. And no work of God can be done in us or through us or with us.

Whereas, Focus on the Word, the voice of God breathing within – leads directly to spiritual and creative growth in us, through us, and with us.

Focusing on the Word – according to Jesus is more than just reading it – of course. It’s more than just hearing it. It’s more than just understanding intellectually what the Church says in Word, Sacrament and prayer.

Focusing on the Word – that living and active communication of the Holy Spirit to all people – is the way God changes lives and the world through those lives.

But its so hard, when our bodies and bodily nature are conspiring to demand from us our utmost attention. Yes, it’s hard to get beyond the demands of self and family.

I know that all my life I have made more choices from anxiety over body and bodily cares than any other motivating factor.

Yet, conversely, those few choices which I have made from intentional response to God’s call – those few have redefined my whole life. Yes, just a few leaps of faith have gotten me farther than countless shuffle steps of anxiety.

This is the message of the parable of the sower, of Paul, yes, even of Jacob and Esau: Choosing to join with the mind of God results in strides larger than we are privately capable of making.

Joining together with the Spirit is the basis of discipleship and mission. And it is the only way to get through life in a world of anxious thorns, toward a Kingdom that has already started, but is not yet complete.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Theo Hobson - Coup d'eglise

This is a very interesting piece by an author with a markedly anti-Establishment agenda...

by Theo Hobson, Spectator (UK)

Some years ago a vicar gave a sermon in which he tried to explain the latest developments in the Anglican Communion to his congregation. Afterwards an old lady came up to him, a bit bemused. ‘How does all this stuff about Anglicans affect us?’, she asked. ‘Well,’ he replied, smiling warmly at the old biddy, ‘we’re all part of the global Anglican Communion, aren’t we?’ She looked still more bemused: ‘I thought we were Church of England.’

She had a point. Over the last few decades, the Church of England has increasingly presented itself as one part of the global Anglican Communion. This seemed a way of reinventing itself, of edging away from the embarrassment of being a state church. But the move has turned out to be disastrous. It has been the undoing of the C of E and has led what was once a pacific, tolerant church to its present state of exhausted collapse. On the eve of the Lambeth Conference (it begins on 16 July) we are witnessing the End Times of the C of E. The bickering factions in the worldwide Anglican Communion have simply pulled our church apart.

Every day, in the run-up to Lambeth, there’s a new crisis for poor Rowan Williams. On Monday, 1,333 ‘traditionalist’ clergy threatened to defect to Rome in protest against women bishops. The same day, 2,300 clergy in favour of women bishops signed a statement protesting against the protesters. On Friday this week the General Synod will discuss the two separate, but equally intractable breakaway groups — the English traditionalists (whose beef is with women) and the worldwide evangelicals (who complain most of all about homosexuality).

Our well-meaning, tolerant Archbishop should have put the C of E first, and taken ‘the Anglican Communion’ with a pinch of salt. Instead, excited by the thought of a worldwide church, he has allowed his hands to be tied and — whatever happens next — the heart and soul of our national church to be damaged beyond repair.

When historians look back at the rise and fall of Anglicanism — from the Reformation to the 2008 Lambeth conference perhaps — they will note that the meltdown of the Anglican Communion in general, and the Church of England in particular, began with what is best described as an attempted coup.

Last week a new Anglican movement emerged, at a conference called Gafcon (Global Anglican Futures Conference) in Jerusalem. The new movement calls itself the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (‘Foca’ — no sniggering, please). It accuses the official leadership of failing to keep liberalism at bay. It has 300 bishops and archbishops, and claims to represent roughly half of global Anglicanism: that’s 40 million people worldwide. Most of these bishops, including a few English ones, are boycotting this month’s Lambeth Conference, on the grounds that the Archbishop of Canterbury is too tolerant of the gay-friendly American and Canadian churches.

One of the rebel English bishops is the controversy-loving Michael Nazir-Ali, the bishop of Rochester. He told last week’s conference: ‘You are the beginnings — the miraculous beginnings, you could even say — of an ecclesial movement for the sake of the gospel and the renewal of Christ’s Church.’ It seems unlikely that he cleared this with his boss. Foca’s launch statement directly challenges Williams’s authority: ‘We do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury.’ Its location — Jerusalem — was another obvious slap in the face for England.

A couple of days after this declaration, Williams responded with weary bluntness, like a professor receiving a slightly mad script: ‘The Gafcon proposals for the way ahead are problematic in all sorts of ways and I urge those who have outlined these to think very carefully about the risks involved.’ He went on to say that a separate organisation for conservative Anglicans ‘will not pass the test of legitimacy’.

His words fall on deaf ears. The breakaway group knows it has the power to re-make the Communion. For it has already done so. Over the past five years the people behind Foca have changed the nature of Anglicanism, routing the liberals. They now want to go further, and launch a take-over. Talk of an imminent split, or schism, is for them a journalistic category error. Why would they want to form a new, breakaway church when the entire Communion seems within their grasp? They no more want to split from the main Church than New Labour wanted to split from the Labour party in the mid-1990s. They want to run it.

The seeds of this coup were sown ten years ago, at the last Lambeth Conference. A resolution was passed condemning homosexuality, and specifically forbidding the ordination of homosexuals. This was disastrous for the Church of England, for it was crucially important for it to stay on the fence on this issue. A significant proportion of its clergy was gay, and its expanding evangelical wing was strongly anti-gay. Most of its leaders hoped for a gradual diffusion of liberalism, taking the sting out of the issue. Despite the Lambeth resolution they trusted that the reactionaries would come round, that God and progress would defeat homophobia. Many bishops (including Rowan Williams) simply ignored the ruling, and kept on ordaining gay clergy. They believed that in time, love and tolerance would conquer all.

For the evangelicals, the Lambeth resolution was a Godsend. It gradually transformed their identity, from a puritanical awkward squad to the true defenders of Anglican orthodoxy. They started expressing this new self-image in 2003, when they forced the freshly enthroned Williams to retract Jeffrey John’s appointment to be Bishop of Reading, due to his enthusiasm for the ordination of gays. The authority and structure of Anglicanism was shaken, for the Archbishop of Canterbury was very obviously bowing to a massive pressure-group. This was the beginning of the end.

Then, later in 2003, the Anglicans of New Hampshire chose the openly gay Gene Robinson as their bishop. Last week one of Foca’s leaders, Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, called this the turning-point of recent Anglican history. In ‘an extraordinary strategic blunder’, he said, the liberals roused ‘the sleeping giant that is evangelical Anglicanism and orthodox Anglicanism’. In fact, this giant was not so much woken up as newly concocted from an alliance of American conservatives with the ‘global South’, led by the rather scary Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola.

Williams was still hoping that the Anglican Communion would simply agree to differ on homosexuality, with some provinces more liberal than others — as is the case with women priests. But now things were different. The roused giant was stomping around, insisting that no province should be allowed to innovate in this way. So Williams felt obliged to condemn the liberalism of New Hampshire, and to create new rules forbidding gay-friendly reforms, and even new structures for the enforcing of these rules — a new, global Act of Uniformity.

Williams’s job was made particularly tricky because in recent decades the old alliance between Church and culture has crumbled. In the past, there was a huge constituency of cultural Anglicans who went to church for love of C of E traditions whatever the actual state of their beliefs. Catering for them kept the Church on a pragmatically liberal course. But about 50 years ago these old-school Anglicans started staying in bed, the lazy sods, and soon the Church’s cultural centrality was more of a memory than a reality. Without the support of decent, tolerant agnostics, Anglicanism became a liberal tradition that half-hates its own liberalism. And to complicate things, it has two ways of half-hating its own liberalism: an evangelical way and a Catholic way. Holding this all together is about as easy as being Amy Winehouse’s shrink.

This is why evangelicals have been able to enjoy the most astonishing success over the last five years, which is a very short time in church politics. They have vim and direction and they have changed the nature of the Communion, from a loose federation of autonomous provinces, united by its respect for Canterbury, to a global ideology, united by its rejection of homosexuality.

So does this movement represent the future of Anglicanism? Can it renew the tradition, as Nazir-Ali thinks? Can it even revive the Church of England? The short answer is no ......

Read it all...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Episcopal Church Website Affirms Orthodox Christology

by Bryan Owen

I posted this over at Creedal Christian, but thought I'd share it here, too.

I see that The Episcopal Church has a new website. It certainly looks better than the older version, and it’s easier to navigate.

One of the things I find interesting about this new website (and perhaps this was already there before the makeover – I don’t know) are some of the things you can read in the Visitor’s Center section about Jesus. That part of the website is entitled "A Basic Introduction to Christianity." What we find there about Jesus is all the more striking in light of charges that the Episcopal Church is heretical and/or apostate. I’m thinking in particular of the charge that the Episcopal Church rejects the uniqueness and the divinity of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Here is what our Church’s official website says about Jesus in a section entitled "The Story of Jesus, In Brief" (I’ve highlighted the parts that stand out for me):

… three days after he had died and been buried, he came back to his disciples, resurrected—fully and physically alive. For another forty days, Scripture says, he spent time with his disciples and commissioned them to continue in his teaching and miracles, and spreading the good news of his life, work, and resurrection to others. Finally, according to the Bible, he returned to Heaven—body and all—to be with God, where, Christians believe, he lives on and continues to be present with us forever.

That's a strong affirmation of the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Then there’s this from a section entitled "What Makes Us Christian":

Christians believe that Jesus Christ was, at the same time, completely human and completely God, all in one person. This idea was articulated and adopted to address variants to Christian theology (known as “heresies”), which arise from time to time throughout history. One heresy has claimed that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross because he wasn’t really human. An opposing heresy claims that he was really just an important guy with some great ideas, and that he wasn’t really God.

Here we have an affirmation of the 4th Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon's definition of the union of the divine and human natures in the Person of Christ (one of the classical affirmations of Jesus' uniqueness as Lord and Savior), as well as rejection of heresies such as Arianism, Docetism, and Gnosticism.

And there's more:

Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth died completely on the cross, that he was buried in a tomb, and that on the third day, he was raised physically again to life to return to his disciples.

Again, here's an affirmation that Jesus really and truly died on the cross (it wasn't just some sort of Gnostic make-believe), and that he really and truly was physically (i.e., bodily) raised from the dead.

The official website of The Episcopal Church affirms the uniqueness and divinity of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It also affirms the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It characterizes these beliefs as "hallmarks that distinguish Christianity from all other, similar or not-so-similar, religious sects." And it even uses the word “heresy” to talk about beliefs that are not acceptable in light of these hallmarks of the Church’s faith.

Sounds like orthodox, creedal Christianity to me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bishops, Women, Laity and Church

In the post below by Eric Von Salzen, mention is made of the fact that currently, and previously, the titular head of the Church of England has been a woman. Certainly, Anglicanism achieved its 'classic' form during the reign of Elizabeth I, under whom the defining characteristics of a comprehensive Anglicanism were set by royal force.

An interesting thing here is not just the authority of women in the Church of England - which Elizabeth I demonstrated long before the recent decision to allow the consecration women to the episcopate - but also the authority of the laity. The imperial authority of a lay sovereign to rule over Christendom - since Constantine, and reasserted by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I - included the authority to preside over the Church therein. To this day, the Archbishop of Canterbury is named by the Prime Minister under formally delegated authority of the Queen.

What is even more interesting is how far the Church of England (and the Episcopal Church) has been willing to envision this lay authority - in practice and speculation. Indeed, Thomas Cranmer himself said once that (theoretically) "it is not forbidden by God's law" for a lay-person in the form of a "Christian prince" to ordain bishops and priests - under extreme circumstances. William White picked up on Cranmer's point in his seminal pamphlet The Case for the Episcopal Church in the United States Considered to suggest that it might be necessary for post-colonial Episcopalians to produce a line of bishops without episcopal consecration of them.

Of course neither Cranmer or White went this way - but that they suggested even the possibility is remarkable.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Welcome To The 20th Century

I'm pleased that our brothers and sisters from the Church of England have decided that women can be bishops. The AP story I read said that the first woman bishop won't be consecrated until 2014 (it didn't say why), but still it's a step in the right direction.

Some "traditionalists" are said to be upset by this, but, as my wife pointed out to me, they shouldn't really make such a big deal about women bishops. After all, for the last 50 years the head of the Church of England has been a woman -- Queen Elizabeth II. And she reminded me that, going back a bit in history, if it hadn't been for another woman -- Queen Elizabeth I -- there wouldn't be a Church of England, or Anglicanism, as we know them.

So, I trust that our "traditionalist" brothers will recover from their vapors and discover, to their pleasant surprise, that the world will not end in 2014 with the Church of England's first female bishop.

Eric Von Salzen

Vatican Objects to Anglican Women Bishops

The Church of England is paving the way for women priests to be eligible to become consecrated as bishops. The Vatican is not pleased. They write:
The Vatican Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity issued a Statement Tuesday regarding recent events within the Anglican Communion. The Council is headed by Cardinal Walter Kasper. The statement reads: “We have regretfully learned of the Church of England vote to pave the way for the introduction of legislation which will lead to the ordaining of women to the Episcopacy. The Catholic position on the issue was clearly expressed by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. Such a decision signifies a breaking away from the apostolic tradition maintained by all of the Churches since the first millennium, and therefore is a further obstacle for the reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of England. This decision will have consequences on the future of dialogue, which had up until now born fruit, as Cardinal Kasper had clearly explained when he spoke on June 5 2006 to all of the bishops of the Church of England at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Cardinal has been invited once again to express the Catholic position at the next Lambeth Conference at the end of July”.
It is somewhat difficult to hear that this is "a further obstacle" to unity, and that this will have negative consequences for a dialogue between our communions "which had up until now born fruit." The most productive fruit of Anglican - Roman Catholic dialogue - of the Vatican II era - was the 1971 Windsor Statement, which declared that our two communions had achieved substantial agreement in our theology of the Eucharist.

But, indeed, over the past decade, one figure within the Vatican, who is now the Pope himself, has contributed a number of obstacles to fruitful dialogue. Consider the following:

  • in 1998, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) reaffirmed the 1896 papal bull of Leo XIII (Apostolicae Curae), which declared ALL Anglican clerical orders (deacon, priest, bishop) to be "absolutely null and utterly void."
  • in 2000, the declaration Dominus Iesus (authored by now Pope Benedict XVI) said that Anglicans belonged to defective non-Churches, being rather merely 'ecclesial communities.'
  • in 2003, now Pope Benedict XVI wrote the following words of encouragement to the leaders of what would become the most effective schismatic movement in Anglicanism in our history: "I hasten to assure you of my heartfelt prayers for all those taking part in this convocation. The significance of your meeting is sensed far beyond Plano, and even in this city from which Saint Augustine of Canterbury was sent to confirm and strengthen the preaching of Christ's Gospel in England."
  • And just this past week, the Sunday Telegraph reports that the Vatican has been holding secret meetings with a number of Church of England bishops to "build closer ties with the Roman Catholic Church." The Telegraph reported that the Archbishop of Canterbury was not informed by the Vatican or his own participating bishops of the meeting.
While I, like many Anglicans and Episcopalians, have a great respect for so much of the Roman Catholic Church - in so many areas, ranging from history, to liturgy, to theology, to social and prophetic witness, to the 'religious' communities of Francis, Benedict, etc. -- it is this very kind of statement from the Vatican which itself is an obstacle to unity - both for the presumption it represents, and for the veiled threat which it contains. Moreover, the past ten years' indicate something far other than Vatican desire for dialogue between Rome and Canterbury. It appears that what we are seeing is rather a Vatican desire for monologue from Rome to Canterbury, and through both front door and back door channels - with the desired end being not conciliation but co-option.

Monday, July 7, 2008

I Love the Episcopal Church

This was shared with me by a clergy colleague. In the midst of conflict, disagreement, and division, it's a gentle reminder of the many ways in which we Episcopalians have received a precious gift. I pray that we will be wise and prudent stewards of that gift, that a new generation may also fall in love with it.

Dear Friends in Christ:

An old friend recently sent me the article reprinted below, which was written years ago and continues to reflect the passionate love for our Lord and the Episcopal Church that burns in the heart of many of us. I offer it to you, slightly edited, as a witness to the enduring spirit of this Church, to the sure truth that as some things change much remains the same, and in hopes that it will bring a smile to your face.

I love the Episcopal Church, and in spite of the desirability of modern ecumenism, perhaps I secretly hope that I may die in her arms. I love her not conditionally or with calculation, not with careful reservations, but freely, joyfully, wholeheartedly.

I love the stone-and-brick stateliness of her old city parishes, even when they get down at the heels because “the neighborhood has changed.” And her tatty little small-town churches, smelling faintly musty and damp, kept going somehow in the face of great challenges by devoted, self-giving souls. And her gleaming, spanking-fresh suburban churches too, whose modern architecture speaks of the unending creativity of the Spirit.

I love her high-church places with their clouds of smoke from the incense pot and their chants. And no less do I love her low-church parishes, all furniture polish and gleaming brass and memorial tablets, some still with the restrained but curiously exuberant dignity of choral Morning Prayer.

I love her Book of Common Prayer, her firm doctrine and emphasis on sound learning, her devotion to scripture and tradition, and the glorious cadences of her language. But I love too the freedom that she grants her children, her openness to the new, her breadth of humanity, her expansive love, learned at the feet of Christ.

I love the bright young families proudly ranged in their pews on Sunday morning, and the elegant elderly who have seen it all, and the sparse little congregations on weekdays whose hushed devotion to their Lord is an almost palpable radiance. And her old priests whose eyes show the compassion taught them in a lifetime, and her young priests who are so sure that the world can be won in five years at the outside.

I love the names of her heroes—Cranmer, Hooker, Julian, Pusey, Gore, Underhill, Lewis, Seabury, Breck, DeKoven. And a hundred others, including some private ones of my own.

I love the letters to The Living Church that begin, “Dear Sir: It is high time . . ..” And the solemn verbiage with which the Executive Council launches a new project, the billowing sleeves of the bishops’ rochets, and the whole mad range of possible headgear that clerics can wear. I even love the battered Prayer Books in the pew racks that are sometimes confused with Hymnals.

I love the eccentric ladies in city parishes who dress in liturgical colors. And the uproarious stories about departed dignitaries that are told whenever the clergy gather and have time for small talk.

I love the Holy Communion, and the beauty of holiness, and the hands of young and old reverently raised to receive the sacrament.

I really can’t help it. I don’t know if everybody ought to be an Episcopalian; it may be that other people feel as strongly about their Churches as I do about mine. I do know that I love the Episcopal Church and that I am sworn to her, forsaking all others.

I’m glad of it. And it isn’t denominational loyalty or sectarian spirit or party fervor or naiveté about her imperfections. It’s love.

Written originally by the Rev. James Pearson, edited by the Rev. Don Henning, and further edited by yours truly.

With every blessing for your many ministries and a refreshing summer,

Faithfully in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley Jr.

The Balsa Gliders

The band is very excited about a new album we've just recorded, and are about to start mixing. No preview is available, but we do have a show with the Connells on July 26th in downtown Raleigh at the Downtown Live event on Moore Square - we go on around 5pm. We'll be playing songs from the new album then.

If you'd like to hear previously released material - please go here.

Sermon by Rowan Williams at York

Full text as follows:

Any congregation might be forgiven for wondering what are we going to hear about this morning. Members of Synod in particular (but perhaps members of the Church of England in general) may have the slight sense that there's rather too much to be hearing about, that we're suffering somewhat from issue fatigue. So perhaps we ought to begin where we always ought to begin, in listening to what the Word of God has to say. And scripture says, 'Rejoice greatly, o daughter of Zion. I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit". And today's scriptures say, 'Who will rescue me from this body of death. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord'. And scripture says, 'Come to me all you who travail and are heavy laden. My yoke is easy and my burden is light'. In a way, the pivot for understanding all this is provided in the epistle today. Paul in the letter to the Romans gives us the key.

We live under law, different kinds of law. The law of God, which is for our health, and the law we make for ourselves. We long to be masters of our future, and so we become the prisoners of our past. We long to take control of the world we're in. And because we are who we are, and our histories have been what they have been, we dig ourselves deeper and deeper into unfreedom. The will that we want to use to conquer the world, is a will weakened and bruised by the legacy of self-love, going back to the very roots of the human race. The effects of that legacy work themselves out as relentlessly as any oriental karma. We want to take hold of our future and we are gripped, paralysed, by our past.

We find ourselves in that 'waterless pit' of which Zechariah speaks. Waterless pits - perhaps that should trigger a memory of one particular Old Testament story. Do you remember that when Joseph went in search of his brothers and they decided to kill him – they threw him into a pit where there was no water. Remember Joseph? Joseph who was so unpopular with his brothers because he believed his future was in his hands. He knew he could foresee the day that his brothers and his father would bow down to him. But he finds himself in a waterless pit, sold into slavery. God's future for him only begins to happen when he is stripped of his claim to be master of his own future. In a waterless pit the dreams fade away. There is only God over against the body of death.

So, reflecting on Joseph, we can perhaps turn back to our own moments of waterless perplexity, those times in our discipleship, individual and corporate, our discipleship as persons, our discipleship as a Church, to which we may turn back to those moments, as moments when – if we will – we can hear the Word, when – if we will – our dreams are overtaken by God's future. And how very hard it is to let go of our claims upon our own future. How very hard to accept the waterlessness of the pit, how very hard to understand that we are there in the presence of God and of death.

And so we struggle. And no doubt at all that Joseph in the first few hours struggled mentally and physically in his waterless pit and began to devise plans. And as we load ourselves down with that struggle against God and against death, we are doing exactly what Jesus in the Gospel tells us not to do. We are burdening ourselves. One of the desert fathers remarked, 'And how very easily we laid aside the yoke of Christ and burdened ourselves with the heavy yoke of self-justification' - There's a phrase to ponder – a heavy yoke of self-justification. That's the law, that's the curse. That's the waterless pit indeed - where we struggle ceaselessly, unrelentingly, to make ourselves more right, and to lay hold upon our future. We lay upon ourselves a heavy yoke, from which only the grace of Jesus Christ can deliver us. In a nutshell, we lay upon ourselves the yoke of desperate seriousness about ourselves.

And Christ's promise is so difficult because it's so simple. 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being', as the novelist says, that is what Christ offers to us: receiving it is hard. Naaman of Assyria when he came to Elisha to be healed of his leprosy, could not believe that the answer was easy. There must be something complicated for him to do. There must be some magic to be done. The word alone, 'release' is not enough. We long for, we are in love with the heavy yoke of self justification. Naaman wanted to go away from Elisha, able to say, 'Well I had some part in that – I did the difficult things the prophet asked me'. And Elisha, in the name of God, tells him to do something simple, to immerse himself in the mercy of God. And when Jesus says, "Our yoke is easy and my burden is light", that is what he says, to all of us as individuals, to us as a Synod, to us as a Church, to us as a society, to us as a human world: lay aside the obsession to possess the future, receive the word of promise, here. And that's why, as Jesus himself says in the gospel, that's why only some people really do hear the word easily - only the tax collectors and the sinners.

It's never a bad idea, during meetings of synod or indeed any other church activity, to turn your eyes occasionally – literally or metaphorically – through the windows. You might see Jesus passing by. And where is he likely to be and who is he likely to be with? The Gospel suggests very, very strongly that he's going to be first and foremost with those who do find it easy to hear the word of simple promise. Because, in their own waterless pits, they've had to let go of confidence about the future, confidence in their power. 'What would Jesus do?' is a good question to ask, but, 'Where would Jesus be?' is just as good, and, 'Who would Jesus be with?' is a question the Gospels force on our attention again and again.

In the middle of all our discussions at synod, where would Jesus be? Jesus is going to be with those who feel the waterlessness of their position: with those traditionalists feeling the Church is slipping away from them, the landmarks have shifted, and they don't know how what they've taught and heard and what they've been taught can be life-giving for tomorrow. He'll be with those in a very different part of the landscape who feel that things are closing in, that their position is under threat, that their liberties are being taken away by those anxious and eager to enforce new ideologies in the name of Christ. He would be with those who feel that their liberty of questioning is under threat, he would be with the gay clergy, who wonder what their future is in a Church so anxious and tormented about this issue.

Where will he be? He will be with those members of the Synod staff and the staff of the University of York; the people in the Press Gallery, who are trying to keep their minds on their business while dealing with any number of complex personal issues, who may be inflicted by private anxieties, griefs and losses, who will never be noticed by those who take them for granted as they go about their businesses. He will be all over the place. He will be with people we don't much want to sit with, because that's a place he always occupies. He pipes for them, and they will dance, because in their unprotected-ness they are able to meet him at a level any of us can't. Where will Jesus be? In whose company? The company of those who feel lost; have lost; and who are just beginning to see that lost-ness is the beginning of wisdom. It's in that lostness they're beginning to let go of the law that is in their members, the compulsion to take hold of and script and control their future.

Into this darkness comes Jesus to release us in our prison and make us, as the Prophet says, 'Prisoners of hope'. 'He comes to be with us so that we may be where he is' as he tells us in the fourth Gospel. 'So that we may be where he is? And where he is (he says in this morning's gospel) is in the presence of the Father; seeing and knowing that unconditional depth of love out of which he comes, to which he looks in adoration and obedience, into which by his Holy Spirit he draws us. He alone knows the Father, sees the Father, and there is no salvation but to be where He is, seeing, knowing, as He sees and knows by the gift of his Spirit. He alone rests in that eternal, unifiable life. That is why he says, 'Come to me and I will give you rest; I will give you sight; I will bring you hope.'

'My yoke is easy; my burden is light' which is why we need to be where he is, nowhere else, where he is with the Father; where he is alongside those occupying their waterless pits, oh and where he is in the waterless pits into which we, gradually, bit-by-bit are being introduced the agonies, complexities, of our life as a Christian community.

'Who shall deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord', we are delivered from the body of death by our incorporation into the body of his life; the body that is the Catholic fellowship of Christ's Church. The body that is all of us in our various waterless pits, in our corporate waterless pit of bewilderment and confusion and division today. Nonetheless, his body, his body of life, which this morning as week-by-week we take once again into our hands in the sacrament, the body of life. The body of life which makes us prisoners of hope, which takes us where he is. 'Come to me, I will give you rest. The yoke is easy and my burden is light'.

Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

© Rowan Williams

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Bryan Owen on N.T. Wright

By Bryan Owen
(April, 2008)

I've written about the work of N. T. Wright, the Anglican Bishop of Durham in England, a number of times on my blog. Quite often, he's characterized as a conservative evangelical, perhaps, in part, due to his high view of the authority of Holy Scripture, his forceful arguments in favor of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and his opposition to gay marriage. For many, that places Wright squarely in the camp of the Anglican Right. On the other hand, Wright also employs historical critical methodology in his biblical scholarship. And he's on record as opposed to the war in Iraq, champions the cause of Third World debt relief, and affirms the need to address global warming. That may sound like it places Wright squarely in the camp of the Anglican Left.

The truth is that Wright cannot be so neatly labelled.

On the contrary, Wright's work explodes the binary logic and polemically exclusionary rhetoric governing the ideology of the Left-versus-Right divide. It opens up other possibilities that are faithful to both the historic faith of the Church and to the Church's prophetic engagement with issues of peace and justice. And so the more I get to know Wright through his writings, the more I find him to defy the easy categorizations of "Left" versus "Right," and the more I come to admire and respect him (even when I don't always agree with him). And the more I come to think of him as an Anglican Centrist bishop.

There's an interesting article that touches on all of this over at the website for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. It's entitled: "Wright challenges conservatives, liberals: Bishop of Durham refuses to marry religious beliefs with political trends." Here's an excerpt:

Bishop N.T. Wright spends a good deal of time explaining to admirers that they misunderstand him.

To those impressed by his rigorous, evangelically-inclined biblical scholarship, he must explain that "conservative" convictions regarding the interpretation of Scripture do not, in his case, translate into support for the foreign policy of President George W. Bush.

"I often meet people in this country who tell me, 'I love your books on Jesus. I really enjoy your work on Paul. But how can you criticize our president because God has raised him up to bring justice to the world?'" says Wright, the prolific author who is also the Bishop of Durham.

To liberal Christians who cheer his opposition to the war in Iraq and his advocacy of greenhouse gas restrictions, he must break the news that he parts company with them on issues such as gay marriage, and wonders whether their politics shapes their faith, rather than their faith shaping their politics.

"I think, for example, that some people oppose the idea of a bodily resurrection because it is part of a 'center-right' package in this country," Wright said. "And if you believe in a bodily resurrection you are in with people who believe other things that you don't believe. Part of my job is to constantly uncouple these assumptions. I think we just have to start with first principles on each issue."

Be sure to read it all.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


By N.J.A. Humphrey

The Feast of St. Benedict falls every year on the 11th of July, exactly a week after the 4th of July, our Independence Day. In some ways, one could make the case that these two commemorations stand for opposite values: Independence Day is about shaking off tyrannical authority, for self-determination, for freedom—or, as Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” St. Benedict, on the other hand, is the founder of western monasticism; his Rule stresses the absolute authority of an abbot over his monks, the dependence of the monk on his community, and the rootedness to be found in one place until death. In his Rule, we find the three Benedictine vows of obedience, stability, and conversion of life. Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence is all about freedom; Benedict’s Rule is all about service.

But do obedience, stability, and conversion of life necessarily stand in the way of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? In pondering this question, a phrase from Morning Prayer wafted into my mind: “whose service is perfect freedom.” I looked it up and found this collect:

O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom: Defend us, thy humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in thy defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reading these words, I could imagine soldiers on both sides of the conflict in the Revolutionary War praying this collect before marching into battle. There is a militaristic ring to these words—“assaults,” “enemies,” “defense,” “adversaries,” “might.” And yet, this prayer is titled in our Prayerbook A Collect for Peace. I was reminded that the first battles of the War for American Independence were fought at Lexington and, ironically, a town called Concord.

I find this collect very challenging because the prayer is so realistic: even when we want peace, we will have enemies. Yet, even when our adversaries have power over us, if we trust in God, we do not have to fear that power. We can choose, instead, to serve God, in “whose service is perfect freedom,” and this is true whether we are at peace or at war, whether we are on the “right” side or the “wrong” side, a “winner” or a “loser” in the various battles we wage, or those that are waged against us. We do not need to participate in the violent counter-assaults and power-plays of life, if we find our freedom in serving the God who is the author of peace and lover of concord.

Ah, but where does any of this leave us with Independence Day and St. Benedict, with the American values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness versus the monastic values of obedience, stability, and conversion of life? We are left, I think, always in that creative tension between independence and interdependence. Responsible Christian discipleship and healthy Christian community depend upon these two things. The tension between independence and interdependence never fully resolves, but resolution isn’t the point. The point is for us to pursue true happiness, which is found in the service of God—and God is best served when we serve others, and allow others to serve us.

I had the privilege of living with some Benedictine Monks over a couple of summers in college and seminary, and I remember celebrating both the 4th of July and the 11th of July with thanksgiving and prayer. The monks who offered me hospitality knew what it meant to take responsibility for their own lives of faith and to rely on each other to sustain a community of faith that was both contemplative and active. It was at that monastery that I first began to discern the shape of my Christian vocation to priesthood, and I recall those days with gratitude and fondness.

This July, I am looking forward to celebrating both Independence Day and “Interdependence Day,” as I have come to think of the feast of St. Benedict, for each of us needs to be both independent and interdependent in order to grow into the full stature of Christ as we serve God and each other, and in that service, to pursue the kind of happiness that alone leads to perfect freedom.

The Rev. Nathan J. A. Humphrey is curate of St. Paul’s, K Street in Washington, D. C.. He writes on issues of ecclesiology at

Friday, July 4, 2008

An Independence Day Message from Abraham Lincoln

By Eric Von Salzen

One hundred and fifty years ago, almost to the day (July 10, 1858), Abraham Lincoln gave a speech at Chicago. He was campaigning for the United States Senate against Stephen Douglas (always referred to it seems as “Judge” Douglas, although he was in fact the incumbent senator). In the course of the speech, Lincoln referred to the celebration of Independence Day:

Now, it happens that we meet together once every year, sometime about the 4th of July, for some reason or other. These 4th of July gatherings I suppose have their uses. If you will indulge me, I will state what I suppose to be some of them.

He commented briefly on the growth and increased prosperity of the United States over the 82 years since its founding (not yet “four score and seven years ago”), and observed that we attribute this advantageous change to the work of our founders:

We find a race of men living in that day whom we claim as our fathers and grandfathers; they were iron men, they fought for the principle that they were contending for; and we understood that by what they then did it has followed that the degree of prosperity that we now enjoy has come to us. We hold this annual celebration to remind ourselves of all the good done in this process of time of how it was done and who did it, and how we are historically connected with it; and we go from these meetings in better humor with ourselves---we feel more attached the one to the other, and more firmly bound to the country we inhabit. In every way we are better men in the age, and race, and country in which we live for these celebrations.

But what, then, Lincoln asked, about those Americans, perhaps half the population, who were not descended from the “iron men” who founded the country? How do the German, Irish, French, and Scandinavian immigrants, and those descended from them, connect with the founders? That question resounds for me. My German ancestors came here about the time that Lincoln gave this speech, and my Irish grandfather didn’t arrive until even later. Here’s Lincoln's answer:

If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,'' and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, [loud and long continued applause] and so they are. That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world. [Applause.]

That brought Lincoln to the issue of slavery. The Declaration of Independence declared that all men were created equal. How could you square that with slavery? The Supreme Court had recently resolved that dilemma in the Dred Scott decision, by declaring that “negroes” were not fully human, were not “men”. Judge Douglas supported that decision (as we would say today, “It’s the law of the land”), and argued further that all the Declaration meant was that the Americans of 1776 were the “equal” of the Englishmen from whom they were descended.

According to his construction, you Germans are not connected with it. Now I ask you in all soberness, if all these things, if indulged in, if ratified, if confirmed and endorsed, if taught to our children, and repeated to them, do not tend to rub out the sentiment of liberty in the country, and to transform this Government into a government of some other form.

That was good politics, of course. There were a lot of Germans in Illinois and the West in those days. But there was more to it than that. Lincoln was arguing to White men that their own freedom depended on freedom for Black men.

Those arguments that are made, that the inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying; that as much is to be done for them as their condition will allow. What are these arguments? They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of king-craft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people, not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden. That is their argument, and this argument of the Judge is the same old serpent that says you work and I eat, you toil and I will enjoy the fruits of it.

Turn in whatever way you will---whether it come from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving the people of his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old serpent, and I hold if that course of argumentation that is made for the purpose of convincing the public mind that we should not care about this, should be granted, it does not stop with the negro. I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle, and making exceptions to it, where will it stop? If one man says it does not mean a negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man? If that declaration is not the truth, let us get the Statute book, in which we find it and tear it out! Who is so bold as to do it! [Voices---"me'' "no one,” &c.] If it is not true let us tear it out! [cries of "no, no,''] let us stick to it then, [cheers] let us stand firmly by it then. [Applause.]

This message resounds as much for us today as it did for those who heard it in Chicago 150 years ago. More so. We have seen, over a century and a half, that denying the humanity of one class or race or group of people never stops with that one group. On a plaque at the Holocaust Museum you can read “. . . then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew. . . .”

In our Episcopal Church today we say “The Episcopal Church welcomes you”, and by and large we do. We didn’t use to. For a long time we weren’t any more welcoming to African-Americans than the rest of American society was, and we welcomed women only so long as they knew that their place was in the parish kitchen baking cookies and not in the pulpit, and most certainly not in the Bishop’s chair. I was reminded of how far and how fast we’ve come by a post yesterday on this blog that mentioned that the Church of England is now meeting in General Synod to debate the question of women bishops.

At the moment, the big question is whether our church will continue to treat Gays and Lesbians the way we used to treat African-Americans and women. We elected one openly Gay bishop, but in the last five years we have been observing a moratorium on electing any more. We have some openly Gay and Lesbian priests, but new ordinations are often on hold or are governed by a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy. I don’t want to exaggerate the challenge before us. No one in the Episcopal Church today is “coming for” the Gays and Lesbians, the way the Nazis came for the Jews or the KKK came for Blacks and civil rights “agitators”. On the other hand, the government of Nigeria does appear to be “coming for” them, and the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria seems comfortable with that.

The Episcopal Church, as I understand the situation, has paused in welcoming Gays and Lesbians not because we as a church are having second thoughts about whether such people are indeed our brothers and sisters in Christ. Those Episcopalians who agree with the Archbishop of Nigeria are a distinct minority among us. We have paused in response to the request of the larger Anglican Communion that we do so, because we think it important to maintain if we can a communion with other churches around the world with which we share historical ties.

Lincoln would have understood that. In the same speech he acknowledged that, although the Declaration said all men were created equal, for pragmatic reasons our founders adopted a Constitution that allowed slavery to continue.

It may be argued that there are certain conditions that make necessities and impose them upon us, and to the extent that a necessity is imposed upon a man he must submit to it. I think that was the condition in which we found ourselves when we established this government. We had slavery among us, we could not get our constitution unless we permitted them to remain in slavery, we could not secure the good we did secure if we grasped for more, and having by necessity submitted to that much, it does not destroy the principle that is the charter of our liberties. Let that charter stand as our standard.

And then Lincoln turned, as so often he did, to the words of scripture:

My friend has said to me that I am a poor hand to quote Scripture. I will try it again, however. It is said in one of the admonitions of the Lord, "As your Father in Heaven is perfect, be ye also perfect.'' The Savior, I suppose, did not expect that any human creature could be perfect as the Father in Heaven; but He said, "As your Father in Heaven is perfect, be ye also perfect.'' He set that up as a standard, and he who did most towards reaching that standard, attained the highest degree of moral perfection. So I say in relation to the principle that all men are created equal, let it be as nearly reached as we can.

Lincoln closed with these words:

I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal.

The speech, we are told was greeted with “a perfect torrent of applause and cheers.”

I would hate to see the Anglican Communion broken up over the question whether Gays and Lesbians are to be treated as our brothers and sisters in Christ. I believe that it is honorable for our church to pause for a time, as it has been pausing, and to engage fellow Christians in dialogue, if they are willing to listen as well as to talk. But I do not believe that my own Episcopal Church can continue much longer to deny all our brothers and sisters full participation in all aspects of the church. If the unity of the Communion can only be purchased at the price of injustice, then the price of unity is too high.