Uproar over crucifix ruling
The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that crucifixes should be removed from Italian classrooms, prompting Vatican anger and sparking uproar in Italy, where such icons are embedded in the national psyche.
“The ruling of the European court was received in theVatican with shock and sadness,’ saidVatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi, adding that it was wrong and myopic’ to try to exclude a symbol of charity from education.
The ruling by the court inStrasbourg , which Italysaid it will appeal, said crucifixes on school walls – a common sight that is part of every Italian’s life – could disturb children who were not Christians.
History and culture
Italyhasbeeninthethroesofnational debate on how to deal with a growing population of immigrants, mostly Muslims, and the court sentence is likely to become another battle cry for the centre-right government’s policy to restrict newcomers.
‘This is an abhorrent ruling,’ said Rocco Buttiglione, a former culture minister who helped write papal
encyclicals. It must be rejected with firmness. Italyhas its culture, its traditions and its history. Those who come among us must understand and accept this culture and this history he said.
TheVatican spokesman said it was sad that the crucifix could be considered a symbol of division and said religion offered a vital contribution to the moral formation of people. Members of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government bristled, weighing in with words such as shameful,’ ‘offensive,’ absurd,’ ‘unacceptable,’ and pagan.’
Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the court had dealt a ‘mortal blow to aEurope of values and rights,’ adding that it was a bad precedent for other countries.
Condemnation crossed party lines. Paola Binetti, a Catholic in the opposition Democratic Party, the successor of what was once the West’s largest communist party, said: ‘In Italy, the crucifix is a Specific sign of our tradition.’
The case was brought by an Italian national, who complained that her children had to attend a public school in northern Italywhich had crucifixes in every room. Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini said crucifixes on the walls of tens of thousands of classrooms ‘do not mean adherence to Catholicism’ but are a symbol of Italy’s heritage. ‘The history of Italyis marked by symbols and if we erase symbols we erase part of ourselves,’ Gelmini said.
Soile Lautsi, the woman who filed the suit, said crucifixes on walls ran counter to her right to give her children a secular education and the Strasbourg-based court ruled in her favour. ‘The presence of the crucifix… could be encouraging for religious pupils, but also disturbing for pupils who practiced other religions or were atheists, particularly if they belonged to religious minorities,’ the court said in a written ruling.
‘The State [must] refrain from imposing beliefs in premises where individuals were dependent on it,’ it added, saying the aim of public education was ‘to foster critical thinking.’
At least one Muslim girl disagreed with the court. ‘If the crucifix is there and I am a Muslim I will continue to respect my religion. Jesus in the classroom doesn’t bother me,’ Zenat, a 14-year-old girl of Egyptian origin, told Reuters Television.
Only a handful of politicians defended the court, including some members of the Democratic Party, as well as members of the communist party and atheist groups.
Former TEC dioceses welcome congregations
As two former Episcopal dioceses hold conventions this weekend, they are beginning to incorporate congregations from across the nation. The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh will vote on welcoming Harvest Anglican Church, Homer City, Pennsylvania; Church of the Transfiguration,Cleveland ,Ohio ;HolyTrinityChurch ,Raleigh ,North Carolina ; and St James Church, San Jose ,California.
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (Southern Cone) plans to receive St Gabriel’s Anglican Church, Springdale ,Arkansas, as a new mission station. It also will welcome two existing parishes: St Matthias’ Anglican Church, Dallas; and Church of the Holy Spirit, Tulsa ,Oklahoma.
On Oct. 30, the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee went to court against St Andrew’s Church,Nashville , which left the Episcopal Church in 2006 and has since announced its affiliation with the Diocese of Quincy (Illinois). The Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin (Southern Cone) has welcomed three neighbouring Californian parishes -St Andrew’s in the Desert, Lancaster; St David’s, San Rafael; and Santa Maria de Juquila, Seaside, as well as and Jesus the Good Shepherd, Henderson, Nevada.
In the context of the Anglican Church inNorth America ‘s constitution, such an elastic definition of diocesan borders is a feature and not a problem. ‘Congregations and clergy are related together in a diocese, cluster, or network (whether regional or affinity-based), united by a bishop,’ the ACNAs constitution says. ‘Dioceses, clusters or networks (whether regional or affinity-based) may band together for common mission, or as distinct jurisdictions at the sub-Provincial level.’
The Convocation of Anglicans in North America [ CANA ] is establishing one type of network within ACNA: regional districts. The Rt Revd David Bena, a suffragan bishop ofCANA and a former suffragan in the Episcopal Diocese of Albany, is guiding the growth of the recently-established Anglican District in the Northeast. ‘In the Northeast we had ten parishes that were interested in doing mission and ministry together,’ he told The LivingChurch. ‘They were not connected except by bishop visitations.’
The new district will unite seven congregations inConnecticut ,New Jersey and New York. Two other CANA districts unite congregations inVirginia and in theGreat Lakes . ‘We are going to coordinate on overseas
missions and concentrate on the possibility of planting new churches,’ Bishop Bena said of his district. ‘We’re also talking about trying to plant some churches up here in the rocky soil of the Northeast.’
Swedish press reports that the Church of England and Church of Ireland will boycott the consecration of a partnered lesbian priest as Bishop of Stockholm are not true, spokesmen for the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of Armagh told The Living Church. Nevertheless, no episcopal representatives from the Churches of England orIreland , the Church inWales or the Scottish Episcopal Church will be present for the 8 November consecration of the Revd Eva Brunne by Swedish Archbishop Anders Wejryd of Uppsala .
‘Not a boycott’
The Swedish Christian newspaper Dagen reported that the Church of England andChurch ofIreland will boycott the ceremony as a sign of their displeasure with the ordination of Pastor Brunne, who lives with her partner, a fellow Church ofSwedenpastor, the Revd Gunilla Linden.
Paul Harron, a spokesman for Archbishop Alan Harper, Primate of the Church of Ireland, said that while the substance of the comments attributed to Dr Harper were correct, the archbishop ‘did not give such a statement to a Dagen journalist.’ Dr Harper would ‘not think of this in terms of a ‘boycott’ Mr Harron said. The archbishop received an invitation, he said, but declined to attend.
The Archbishop of Armagh ‘has conveyed to the Church of Sweden that the Church of Ireland will not be officially represented at the episcopal consecration in Uppsala,’ Mr. Harron said, as the ‘Church of Ireland is observing the moratorium’ on the consecration of clergy with same-sex partners.
David Brownlie-Marshall, a
spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury said the Church of England will be represented by the Area Dean of the Baltic and Nordic States of the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe, the Revd Nicholas Howe, chaplain of St Peter and St Sigfrid’s Church in Stockholm. A ‘diary conflict’ will prevent Fr Howe from attending the consecration, Mr. Brownlie-Marshall said, but he will attend a subsequent reception.
The Church of England’s Diocese of Portsmouth, which is twinned with the Diocese of Stockholm, will also send a representative to the reception. Speaking to the Church ofSweden’s newspaper, the Kyrkans Tidning, Archbishop Wejryd said he did not expect the Archbishop of Canterbury to attend. ‘We send invitations to those with the highest rank. That’s why the Archbishop of Canterbury received an invitation, but no one expected him to say yes.’
The Rt. Revd Y. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, said he had ‘no plans to attend the consecration,’ but noted that ‘it’s wonderful to see a church which chooses its bishops based on their experience, skills, and faithfulness, rather than on gender, sexual orientation and the like – a commitment I believe the Episcopal Church has now made.’
The consecration of Pastor Brunne follows the 22 October vote by the Kyrkomotet, the church’s governing assembly, to permit clergy to conduct same-sex church weddings. Writing to the Archbishop of Uppsala on 26 June, the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England said the adoption of gay marriage by the Swedish church is problematic. The ‘teaching and discipline’ of the Anglican Communion is that ‘it is not right either to bless same-sex sexual relationships or to ordain those who are involved in them,’ the Archbishops’ Council said.
The way theChurch ofSweden has gone about introducing gay-marriage liturgies is problematic, said the Suffragan Bishop inEurope , the Rt Revd David Hamid. The Porvoo Common Statement, which joined the Church of England and Church ofSwedenin full eucharistic fellowship in 1992, committed the partners to consultation with one another on issues of faith and order. ‘Such a consultation has not happened on the matter of gender-neutral marriage,’ Bishop Hamid said.
The Revd George C. Conger
Convention of Joy
What a joy and delight it was to participate in our diocesan convention this past weekend! I can tell you that after 35 years of ordained ministry, having attended annual conventions year after year, both here and in two other dioceses, seldom can they be described as joyful or delightful! Too often they are contentious, boring, and frustrating! But let the record show that this one was indeed very different! It was a great experience, and I think that everyone who attended will agree.
All six resolutions were adopted unanimously and without dissension! Gone were the contentious debates of the past between opposing sides! We spoke with one mind and one voice. Likewise, everyone was in agreement about the need for the proposed amendments to the diocesan Constitution and Canons. We even agreed on the adoption of a budget of over $1,981,000 and parish assessments to support it, without one dissenting vote!
In the 27-year history of diocesan conventions here in Fort Worth, this was the first time we ever seated five new congregations. We didn’t just talk about church growth – we saw it! Eleven new clergy were introduced and welcomed.
Also unprecedented was the presence of ecumenical guests from both the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church who brought us greetings and assured us of their prayers and partnership in the Gospel. Archbishop Dmitri spoke to us on behalf of the Orthodox Church in America, and Fr James Hart read a letter to us from Bishop Kevin Vann of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth. Resolutions calling for dialogue on church unity with both bodies received the unanimous support of the clergy and lay delegates.
The recurring themes in the various reports made to the Convention echoed the points in the sermon of Nashotah House Dean Robert Munday at the opening Eucharist: world mission, evangelism and youth ministry. How blessed we are to be in a diocese that is so clearly mission-minded, focused on sharing the Good News with others, and committed to ministry with our young people!
While maintaining our membership as a diocese in theAnglicanProvince of the Southern Cone, we acceded to the Constitution and Canons of the newly organized Anglican Church inNorth America . We give thanks to God for the continuing primatial oversight of Archbishop Greg Venables and for the godly leadership of Archbishop Bob Duncan. United with them let us move forward together in mission in the coming year, standing firm in the faith once delivered to the saints!
May the work of this diocese continue to be a joy and delight in all the days ahead!
The Rt Revd Jack Leo Iker
What to do next?
What does a gay governor do after he resigns from political office in disgrace? He becomes an Episcopalian and enters the priesthood.
Jim McGreevey, the formerNew Jersey love gov, has gone from Turnpike truck stops to All Saints Church in Hoboken, where he is known as ‘Father Jim.’ Last Sunday, the ex-governor administered the sacrament of baptism to a bevy of babies, blessed the Eucharist, and carried the cross during the processional.
In 2004, Mr McGreevey resigned as Governor of New Jersey after revealing that he is gay and has had an adulterous relationship with another man. At the time of his resignation, with his wife by his side, Democratic Governor McGreevey said, At a point in every persons life, one has to look deeply into the mirror of ones soul and decide ones unique truth in the world, not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as it is. And so, my truth is that I am a gay American.’
The gay American enrolled in a master of divinity program at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in Chelseain 2007. As part of his education, he started an 18-month training programme at All Saints Church in April and is expected to stay until his graduation next spring. Seminarians like McGreevey are offered such courses as ‘The Poetry of Ancient Israel’ and ‘Loving Thy Neighbor: The Church and Human Rights’
McGreevey once described his quest for a third master’s degree as a spiritual journey,’ and said that at different points in my life, I had grappled with the idea of going into the priesthood.’ Episcopal priests can be married, whether they are male or female, straight or gay, unlike in the Roman Catholic Church, which used to count McGreevey as a member. McGreevey declined to comment on his new calling.
Paul L. Williams