Divided but no schism

5 February 2009

There is no ‘schism’ in the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams declared today at the close of the Meeting of Primates of the Anglican Communion in Alexandria, Egypt. The archbishop did acknowledge there was ‘deep division within the Communion, but ‘what that will mean, we don’t know’

Speaking as ‘presider of the Primates’ Meeting,’ Archbishop Williams said the way forward for the Communion was to adhere to the Windsor process and work toward an Anglican Covenant. ‘Unless the Covenant is robust and accepted,’ he said, ‘the federal model is on the horizon for the Anglican Communion.

Ecclesiology discussed

While the Sudan, Zimbabwe, global warming, Gaza, and international finance were addressed by the Primates during their four-day meeting in closed sessions, the principal topic of conversation was ‘ecclesiology,’ Archbishop Williams said.

Speaking to the media at the close of the meeting, Archbishop Williams released two documents: Deeper Communion: Gracious Restraint, the communique from the meeting, and the Windsor Continuation Group (WCG) Report to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Primates’ Letter had received the

unanimous endorsement of the Primates, he said. However, the WCG was a report prepared by a committee appointed by Archbishop Williams and presented by him to the Primates as a resource document, and was not therefore submitted to a vote.

In his press conference, Archbishop Williams outlined three points he thought salient to the week’s discussions. The WCG report urged a change in the ecclesiological structures of the Communion that he said called for a ‘shift of focus’ from a church perceiving itself to be ‘autonomous with accountability added on to one where a church saw itself as ‘autonomous and accountable’ to the wider mind of the Communion.

The WCG also urged a rethink of the relationship among the four instruments of Communion: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council.

Some mediation success

Archbishop Williams said at the ‘very end’ of the WCG report there was a discussion of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The report, ‘recognizes the desire of people’ leaving The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada for the ACNA ‘to be Anglican.’ The WCG recommended a ‘professional mediation process’ that included a ‘pastoral forum’ and ‘pastoral visitor’ for the divided churches in North America and Brazil.

Archbishop Williams said a mediation process had begun with some small success between the Diocese of Recife and the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, and he hoped this would lead to an eventual reconciliation. Archbishop Williams also declined to call out of the communion those who had quit The Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada for the ACNA, but said the new group ‘is not a province.’

The ACNA’s ‘institutional relationship’ was ‘unclear’ at this point, he said. He added that he hoped further dialogue would address this issue. However, he declined to answer a question about his ‘personal thoughts on the defrocking’ of Canadian theologian J.I. Packer and Pittsburgh Bishop and ACNA leader Robert Duncan.

No means of discipline

Pressed on what he would do about infractions of past agreed statements, Archbishop Williams said his authority was limited by canon law to the Church of England. ‘It remains true’ the Anglican Communion has no organ ‘for discipline,’ and this could only be remedied by a ‘Communion executive’ or a ‘common canon law’ Until such structural mechanisms were in place, Archbishop Williams said there was little he could do.

The Primates’ communique reiterated the call for a moratorium on cross-border violations of provincial sovereignty, rites for the blessing of same-gender unions, and the consecration to the episcopate of

non-celibate gay clergy, and reaffirmed the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 as the standard statement on human sexuality for the Anglican Communion.

Archbishop Williams conceded that the ‘moratoria are holding rather badly on both sides’ but added that they were not ‘completely ignored.’ Cross-border violations and rites for gay blessings continued, but he said that the third moratorium had held as there were no new gay bishops. ‘We are trying to see the glass as half full and not half empty,’ he explained.

The Revd George Conger


Buddhist bishop

5 February 2009

An Episcopal priest who has received a Buddhist lay ordination has been nominated for the position of bishop in the Diocese of Northern Michigan. The Revd Kevin Thew Forrester, who has served in the diocese since 2001, will be the only nominee for the vacant position.

Forrester currently serves as rector of St Paul’s, Marquette, and is the diocese’s ministry development coordinator. The bishop’s election is scheduled for a special convention to be held February 21 in Escanaba, ML If elected, Forrester would still have to obtain consents from a majority of dioceses in The Episcopal Church, in what is usually viewed as a rubber-stamp procedure.

Forrester is not the first Episcopal clergyman to hold dual faiths. In 2004, Penn-

sylvania priest Bill Melnyk was revealed to be a druid; while in 2007 Seattle priest Ann Holmes Redding declared that she was simultaneously an Episcopalian and a Muslim. Both Melnyk and Redding were eventually inhibited from priestly duties. Forrester’s background was recently brought to light by the Anglican web site Stand Firm in Faith.

Dual faith ministers

I.R.D. President James Tonkowich commented, ‘So called ‘dual-faith’ clergy are hardly new to The Episcopal Church, which has in the recent past had to deal with clergy that claimed Muslim and dru-idic faiths, in addition to Anglicanism.

‘To my knowledge, this is the first time that such a dual-faith practitioner has been nominated to be a bishop.

‘Forrester has been identified by his former bishop as ‘walking the path of Christianity and Zen Buddhism together.’ While church leaders may respect other faiths, their vow of Christian ordination has always meant an exclusive commitment to Jesus Christ and the Christian faith.’

Another episcopal first

The Institute on Religion and Democracy, founded in 1981, is an ecumenical alliance of U.S. Christians working to reform their churches’ social witness, in accord with biblical and historic Christian teachings, thereby contributing to the renewal of democratic society at home and abroad.

[See page 14 for confirmation of the election]


Open Letter from Archbishop Akinola to Archbishop Williams

10 February 2009

Dear Rowan,

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I am writing in regard to the recently concluded Primates Meeting in Alexandria, Egypt. Thank you for all of your contributions. I admire how you bear graciously the divergent views and enormous pain they impose.

As I indicated at the time, I was grateful that we were able to discuss core theological convictions and achieve considerable clarity about our differences. That we were able to do so in an atmosphere of respect,

and without rancour, is not only an answered prayer but it is also a testimony and credit to your role in this outcome, and something for which I am most appreciative.

In preparation for the meeting I asked The American Anglican Council to prepare the attached report on the continuing situation of The Episcopal Church to enable people in the wider Communion to have a fuller perspective of the circumstances in North America.

I shared it with my colleagues in the Global South, but did not release it more widely, in the hope that we would receive assurances from the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada that they were willing to exercise genuine restraint towards those Anglicans in North America unwilling to embrace their several innovations.

Sadly, that did not prove to be the case. Instead we were treated to presentations that sought to trivialize the situation, and the consequences for those whose only offence is their determination to hold on doggedly and truthfully to the faith once delivered to the saints.

In addition I have learned that even as we met together in Alexandria actions were taken that were in direct contradiction to the season of deeper communion and gracious restraint to which we all expressed agreement. For example, in the days leading up to our meeting, the Diocese of Virginia declared the ‘inherent integrity and blessedness’ of same-sex unions and initiated a process to provide for their ‘blessing!

While we were meeting, The Diocese of Toronto also announced that it will start same-sex blessings within a year, and The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia filed further costly legal action appealing the court’s decision in twenty cases favouring nine Virginia congregations. These and many further actions are documented within the report.

In our meeting we recommended that you initiate a ‘professionally mediated conversation which engages all parties at the earliest opportunity’ It now seems increasingly clear that without a radical change of behaviour on the part of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada the only possible outcome of such a process is acknowledgement of a bitter truth that the differences in the words of Archbishop Idris Jones are ‘irreconcilable’.

I know that you are grieved by the continuing brokenness of our Communion, but I believe that healing will only come when we face into the true reality of our situation. That is what I am endeavouring to do by releasing this report and a similar document describing the situation in Canada.

I assure you of my prayers and determination that we do nothing that will compromise the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ that is our only hope.

In Christ,

+ Peter Abuja


Free bishops from politicians

Nine of Sweden’s thirteen bishops want to abolish the church’s legal right to conduct weddings. A reason they have given [Dagens Nyheter 6 February] is that the imminent gender neutral’ marriage law was developed without the church’s participation. Perhaps they also wish to avoid a new, lengthy, painful internal conflict, such as occurred over the issue of female pastors.

Not a normal church

In a normal case, one might think this should settle the matter. A large majority of the church’s leaders see this as the best solution. But in ecclesiastical matters Sweden is not a ‘normal’ country. In

ecclesiastical matters Sweden is unique, because it is not the church’s people and leadership that determine the church’s faith and practice. Instead, politicians from the political parties control the church – politicians who in many cases seldom or never set foot inside the church.

This system has not come about by accident. It is a purposeful effort from the beginning of the 1900s, driven mainly by the Social Demokrat party. Very few Swedes know about this history. I write a little about it in my book Omvdnd [Convert, published by Libris, 2008] and I am gathering material for a complete book on the topic.

To put it briefly, at first the Social Demokrats wanted to abolish the state church. They changed their approach in the 1920s, deciding to retain the state church and make it a part of the Social Demokrat state. The state church was to be used to ‘free Sweden from Christianity’

In the 1930s the Social Demokrat Minister for Church Affairs Arthur Engberg expressed it this way: ‘Let’s begin by getting rid of the bishops and introducing a supreme board with a General Director for the Royal Department of Salvation.’

‘Abolish the church’

Here was sown what we reap today, a church in which political groups in the General Synod – the church’s parliament – control pastors and bishops. Bishops may attend their sessions, but have no vote. Now nine of these bishops have spoken out.

They differ among themselves on the underlying issue, the view of homosexual

marriage. But they are united in considering that this issue is so difficult that the church ought to give up its right to perform legal marriages.

And what happens next? Kyrkans Tidn-ing [the Church of Sweden’s periodical] interviews politicians in the church’s parliament, the General Synod. A majority of them oppose the bishops on this matter.

Forty percent of them think, putting it a bit more politely, that the bishops should shut up. They ‘disapprove of the bishops’ action…finding it both unnecessary and inappropriate’ [Kyrkans Tidn-ing, No. 7/2009].

State control

Olle Burell, Social Demokrat leader in the General Synod says [Dagen, 11 February]: ‘I am astonished that without advance warning nine bishops…are presenting a viewpoint in conflict with what a majority of the Riksdag [Sweden’s Parliament] supports.’

The bush league policy-makers in particular place themselves over the bishops of the church in a great ecclesiastical affair – deriding them, bullying them, denigrating them.

The worst thing is that this is a system that has gone on and developed for decades. And the bishops have let it continue, resigned themselves to it, conformed to it.

Therefore it seems a bit liberating that these nine bishops finally express a viewpoint of their own. I don’t want by any means to overstress this feeling of liberation. It is more like galley slaves lifting their oars and asking for ten seconds of rest from rowing.

My conclusion: free the bishops!

Goran Skytte, a freelance journalist and writer © Svenska Dagbladet


Speeding bishop

11 February 2009

A former bishop who was caught speeding has persuaded a court to delay banning him from the road because he needs to move his car from an airport car park. Neville Chamberlain, 69, was clocked travelling at 40 mph in a 30 mph zone in Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh in October.

Chamberlain, from Somerset, admitted the offence and appeared at Edinburgh’s justice of the peace court today to be sentenced. He was fined £90 and given three penalty points on his licence on top of nine he already has, leading to an automatic six-month driving ban.

Airport run

Chamberlain, formerly the Right Reverend Bishop of Brechin, said he had flown to Edinburgh from his home in Somerset on Tuesday and had left his car parked in the car park at Bristol Airport.

If the driving ban was imposed immediately, he would be unable to take his car on the hour-long journey to his home at the Masters House, Hugh Sexeys Hospital in Bruton, Somerset. Justice of the Peace Myer Cowen deferred sentence on Chamberlain until Friday when he will begin the driving ban.

Now retired, Bishop Chamberlain came to Scotland in 1982 to be Rector of St John’s Episcopal Church in Princes Street, Edinburgh. His career included civil rights work in America, and he was a leading campaigner for peace and justice in the Middle East. He has also spent time with Archbishop Desmond

The Scotsman

Who is this bishop?

Readers might remember from 30Days of May 1999:

The agony at Dundee’s ailing cathedral goes on. When all but one of the Vestry called for the resignation of twice married former nun, Miriam Byrne, from the Provostship, the Bishop of Brechin, ‘Nev the Rev’ Chamberlain, called in a brother bishop to arbitrate.

Ms Byrne, known as ‘Attila the Nun’, was accused of dictatorial behaviour, wrecking liturgy and spending money the cathedral hadn’t approved on her dwelling. The arbitrator, Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, has reported.

The report is a secret!

But it is believed to involve a cooling off period under the pastoral care of… Neville Chamberlain. Now that Bishop Chamberlain has this vital piece of paper he will, no doubt, be able to declare ‘peace in our time.’

30Days of March 2000

What do you do when two Liberals fall out? Think big, that’s what.

So the Bishop of Brechin and his Provost, Miriam Byrne, aided by Primus Holloway, got on a plane to visit the great panjandrum himself, Desmond Tutu. Who else but a man who had resolved the bloody divisions of a nation was up to such a task of reconciliation?

All is now dandy in Dundee. The bishop has reinstated the Provost (Tutu is a great enthusiast for women priests – ‘it’s a justice issue’) and everyone is happy. Well, everyone except those who thought the simple answer might be for them both to resign.