Saturday, August 30, 2008

Gafcon ‘Anglicanism’

August 30, 2008

In preparing for a Rector’s Forum tomorrow, I came across the not altogether surprising news that the Gafcon boys are moving full steam ahead with their attempted, and fundamentally dishonest takeover of the ‘Anglican brand’. You can read their latest ‘communiqué’ here:

One major gift which I take from traveling to Rio is that the Christian world in many places offers a choice of fundamentalist neo-Pentecostalism or Roman Catholicism. I formed the impression that the Lutherans are trying in and around Rio, but managing to look and sound rather like Rome and the Presbyterians appear to have imitated the Pentecostalists in order to attract and retain their people. This must be an oversimplification at some level, but leaves a crying need for the humane, inclusive, generous, honest and non-manipulative expression of the faith that Anglicanism represents within the church universal. Surely what the world does not need is another separatist group offering unity through intellectual assent to doctrine as a consequence of some kind of religious conversion experience. Aren’t there rather good options out there in the Roman or Orthodox communions?

The Anglican Theological Review (Summer 2008, Vol, 90. No.3) is available in our parish library and consists of a long essay by the late Richard Norris Jr. called Some Notes on the Current Debate Regarding Homosexuality and the Place of Homosexuals in the Church. That essay is followed by fourteen responses by theologians who represent a variety of perspectives. I have not finished reading this volume as yet, but believe it would be a good place for anyone who really wants to grapple with the underlying arguments and challenges of the various ‘positions’ that Episcopalians take with regard to homosexuality. Norris begins by challenging the moral question as to whether or not homosexuality is inherently sinful and morally wrong. That is where our vestry began in 2002 as a fundamental question, studying scripture, listening to the testimony of gay members of the vestry, (There were no lesbian members at that time,) reading various views from the social and medical sciences and coming to the conclusion that there is such a thing as a ‘homosexual orientation’ (whether culturally conditioned in some way or not) and that this was a fundamentally new anthropology which demands a revised reading of scripture. This is rather the case that the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested in his correspondence with a Welsh psychiatrist and conservative Christian that was released after the Lambeth Conference concluded this summer.) You can read support for that point of view as well as some of the challenges posed by those who resist such an approach to scripture.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rio, Day 6

August 25, 2008

And so it is time to come home at last. After church yesterday Richard and I had a good meeting with Bishop Filadelfo who gave his blessing for us to pursue relationship with the cathedral and its ministry around St. Theresa. The Bishop also told us that Redentor was expecting to be in relationship with us. I don’t have a particular vision for what that might be based on what I know, but wonder if friendship through hospitality could be possible in addition to our support of the work of the cathedral.

Rio is clearly not Africa, but nor is it Atlanta. Rio is a modern city, but the problems of the working communities (apparently the preferred term over ‘favela’) are as intractable and widespread and on a scale as any third world poverty. The empowerment of women seems to be a potential key to real change in these places. I suspect the gifts that we will receive will include pushing us to claim and proclaim our identity (as Anglicans?): both protestant and catholic, our expression of faith in the past but looking forward we cannot be negative (–neither rigid interpretations of scripture in fundamentalism, nor in some curia for the doctrine of the faith’.) I prefer something along the lines of our expressing the new humanity promised and begun in Christ where right relationship shapes doctrine so that the fruits of the Spirit are made manifest for all people.

In the evening we had dinner with Inamar Correa de Souza of the Cathedral and her husband Eduardo Coelho Grillo of S. Lucas. They are an impressive couple in htier forties, both quite experienced in Church matters. (Inamar represented Brazil on the executive committee of the World Council of Churches in Geneva for a term), both woefully underpaid and waiting for six months of back pay as I write, and both engaged in ministries that manifest the life of the Spirit.

We talked of how we might proceed including whether Inamar or both of them could visit us in Atlanta to learn about us and to tell the story of their work.

Last thought before the airport: it might make sense to rename ‘global missions’ as ‘global relationships’.

Rio, Day 5

August 24, 2008

I’m reading the Soul of the Congregation by Thomas Edward Frank of Candler in preparation for teaching a section of Contextual Education (Parish Ministry) this semester. At one point he writes of the distinction many make between matters spiritual –the real stuff—on one hand and ‘administration’ on the other. Yesterday I met a priest who had left being rector of a large team in order to “try ministry at a different coal face.” He was worried that he was becoming too much of a manager and hoped to develop his own sense of priesthood apart from managerial tasks or identity. In no way am I critical of his choice which appeared to have great integrity. It occurs to me, however, that I am blessed by an understanding of priesthood that is not so centered on the person of the priest as on the role. If we are ordered in and for community then our ‘tasks’ are shaped for the tending, building, and directing of that community of faith. I ‘feel’ no less a priest in a staff meeting than in a hospital room, in the pulpit or at the altar. While I may prefer this or that task on this or that day, they are all of a piece and together the work of a priest and pastor. The separation of some tasks (‘administration’ or ‘management’) from others (‘Eucharist’ or ‘Pastoral Care’) can be a trap that keeps us focused on ourselves and not on the community we serve.

This morning I preached at Redentor aware that I would be among the people who befriended the teenagers on our first pilgrimage even as Alexander was one of the presenters about this year’s pilgrimage back at All Saints’. The parish is serves by a rector, Julio Pedro Seelig and his wife who is also a psychologist Livia Todt Seelig (whose father had been rector of the parish in the past). They could not have been more generous in their hospitality. There were about seventy five people present (and most stayed for an excellent lunch afterwards) for a liturgy marked by lively singing, a long sermon (twenty minutes plus translation at the rector’s request!) and minimal intercessory prayer, so little sense of the concerns of the community in the worship itself. I had been told it was an ‘aging parish’ abnd perhaps it is merely that people are stating to look younger to me but I believe I saw a smattering of couples under forty and a large corps of teenage acolytes. The bishop was present and was asked to absolve and bless us and bring greetings. The rector was very personable and brought out his copy of the All Saints’ history to show around. He clearly values our connection interestingly he was the first and only person so far to bring up Gene Robinson in conversation. He feels that Brazil is not ready for such a thing although I suspect that the notable silence from all other quarters suggests that it is less of an issue than he may believe. It also could be that everyone was being polite. (I also heard nothing about the war in Iraq although could pick up from newspapers and elsewhere a clear disgust verging on Anti-Bush feeling about it, so maybe the silence was simply begin polite to a visitor.)

I preached about the relational foundation for stewardship and evangelism. In conversation afterwards it became apparent that there is no good translation of stewardship in Portuguese with the choices pointing towards something like ‘administrator’ or ‘butler’. Given the chance to do it again I would talk about ‘the practice of generosity’, in fact that may be a better term and phrase for us as well.

Rio, Day 4

August 23, 2008

We went to the City of God (the book and film of 2003 were about this community ) a planned community founded in the sixties to provide housing for poor people in Rio. The rector is a man called Eduardo Costa who showed us around along with a newly arrived USPG priest from London called Nicholas Weaver. Eduardo has two other jobs and is also training as a dentist to supplement his income. Nicholas is intending to be a full time priest for this struggling mission which will be helpful. The City of God is not strictly speaking a favela although we were told to expect that we would see people carrying guns as we walked around. The church is called Cristo Rey (Christ the King). We met two parishioners, one of whom was a convert both from the drug trade and Pentecostalism. Both knew why they are Anglican but did not offer much clarity as to why anyone else should be. That is the question that must be answered if the Anglican Church in Brazil (or at least Rio) is to have a future.

I understand from Richard that St. Paul’s, Atlanta might be looking at relationship with this work and think that would be a good match. I’m not sure what God has in store to make the rest of our trip feel other than a boondoggle. Tonight we will have dinner with the retiring Bishop Celso who has been to All Saints’ and will continue to have a vital ministry among the poor along with his psychotherapy practice.

Tomorrow morning I preach at Redentor (Redeemer) who were so hospitable to our pilgrims three years ago. They are the largest congregation in the diocese, a viable parish who sound as though they are a strong community whose primary work is to gather for worship and fellowship.

In the afternoon I hope to get some time with Bishop Filadelfo and seek his blessing for pursuing a relationship with the work of the Cathedral and then in the evening see Inamar and Eduardo and see if they have interest in and ideas for a relationship with all Saints’ that transcends money.

Rio, Day 3

August 22, 2008

This day began with very sad news from home. Our old golden retriever, Gus, who has been with Sage for nearly twelve years died in the night. I found myself wishing I was home and wondering what Richard and I were really doing here at the beginning of Filadelfo’s episcopate. It is not clear yet that this can be a relationship of mutual worth, at least as far as All Saints’ is concerned. I am sad and I want to be with my family.

Lunch was at the home of the chaplain to the British Community and Christ Church, a building also used by a diocesan parish called S. Lucas. David Wheller and his wife Sue are both ordained from the Church of England and operate independently of the diocese. They were most hospitable but I was left with the sense that whatever their vision for their ministry it did not include providing leadership in the diocese. The rector of St. Luke’s, Eduardo Coelho Grillo was also with us. He reported a number of weddings and younger families joining his congregation, a hopeful sign. St. Luke’s is not the Cathedral of the diocese but I think is what we would recognize as ‘the Cathedral congregation’.

After lunch things started to happen. Eduardo is married to Inamar Correa de Souza who serves as the Dean of the Cathedral of St. Paul in an area called St. Theresa. The community is ‘transitional’, borders at least two favelas, now called ‘working communities’. Before taking us to the church she showed us a community garden for which the cathedral had raised funds, recruited professionals to teach gardening, sponsored celebrations as at planting and harvest, and recruited people from the congregation (of eight people when she started, now more like thirty), the community and form at least one of the favelas. Sometimes she might see as many as 150 in worship if she is baptizing children of people she has come to know by throwing open the cathedral, inviting community groups on, teaching basic life skills to poor women and so on. The area is dangerous in some respects. Imagination, at least two projects that could be recipients of MDG funds, a growing sense of community, generous Christianity (apparently criticized by some in the diocese who are of a more conservative bent), a place and people with whom many at All Saints could find exciting. There is much thinking and work yet to be done, but for the first time I have begun to think that we may have a place and purpose in this relationship.

Please give thanks not only for a hopeful day, but also for the life of a wonderful dog that I will sorely miss.

Rio, Day 2

August 21, 2008

A lot of early morning and expensive taxi-ing took us to a bus station and a bus to Petropolis and the district of Araras (one of three in the municipality). We saw none of the beautiful palaces, art, architecture and summer homes that are in the area. We did visit Boystown, a residential program for troubled boys who have been referred by the municipal courts. The ministry has been in existence for over 50 years and is about to be closed by the diocese. With 14 boys (there have been as many as 40) the cost per boy can be as much as $1500 with only about $100 per boy per month coming form the municipality. They have been staging ‘telethons’ but that is not longer providing enough to keep the doors open. Next door is an attractive Anglican preschool and down the hill an impressive Anglican school that is viable largely because the municipality pays for the teacher s and an allowance for each of the 1200 or so students. The ‘plan’ (more of a wish or hope, I suspect) is to turn the property of Boystown into a crèche or infant daycare center. We could perhaps fund (or even carry out) some construction, painting and the like and find ways to relate to the people of this ministry. However the school chapel has been converted to office space, the congregation is really a ‘house church’ of three couples and the pastor who is about to begin will live in Rio and have additional responsibilities there. It is not a recipe for successful congregation building and so it is unclear with whom we might relate. I confess that I did not sense the ‘aha’ by which the Holy Spirit prompts us to say ‘this is it and we must respond’. Another way to put that is that I couldn’t imagine us getting excited or challenged by this work enough to make sense of doing it in Brazil.

Over dinner Richard and I mused on whether the relationship might no tbe one of regular intercession and occasional church travel, --not mission or pilgrimage exactly—more a ‘meet some friends while you are on holiday in Rio’ type of relationship. We also imagined formalizing a four or six week ‘course’ at All Saints’ for clergy or laity who want to see how we do stewardship and evangelism, financial reporting and mission planning, community building, and the like. That has the potential to be a real service and we might well wind up following or ‘relating’ to the ministries of those who spend time with us rather as we did with Emmanuel Bwatta in 2002. We could ofer respite and traiing, perhaps even offering this for two or three people from different companion relationships at the same time.

I and we are certainly not without hope. But we keep asking why the Diocese of Atlanta and All Saints’’ are in this relationship. What can it mean? Where is God calling us to act?

Rio Day 1

August 20, 2008

Richard hall and I arrive in Rio bright and early to be met by Ian Benedict an English speaker born in Argentina and naturalized Brazilian. He was accompanied by Bishop Filadelfo Oliveira Neto, soon to be installed as Bishop of Rio and formerly Suffragan of Reciffe. They dropped us at our hotel but we met up again for lunch with them, Ann Benedict and Filadlefo’s wife Duci at Ian and Ann’s flat in the Gavea section of town.

Our first conversation was wide ranging. My conclusions: The diocese is virtually bankrupt. Clergy have not been paid for a while. Reporting and accounting has been ‘flexible’. Ian is a retired accountant and together with the bishop I am confident they will get that sorted out and audits will become a regular part of life. No one is paying much attention to growing the church or any other strategic thinking about the future. Most of the clergy have taken second jobs to keep food on the table and so are rapidly becoming ‘Sunday only’ priests in some quarters. (Remember these are impressions and my not be accurate.)

I emphasized that it was All Saints’ hope to find a way to be in relationship that could excite our interest and allow friendships to develop. I said (as I usually do) that we believe that gifts flow from relationship and that it is hard for us to enter real relationship when it is structured around hopes and expectations about our providing financial support. I told the bishop that we have plenty of work to do at home that has claims on our money and that every penny is important. At the same time, when mission has ‘a face and name’ and friendship begins to be real then anything is possible. Richard and I are in Rio to see if there is any project of the church that might qualify for MDG funding that could become a focus for our being in relationship with some part of the diocese of Rio. He said that bishop Alexander and he had talked of wanting to develop ‘parish to parish’ relationships.

It is pretty clear from this conversation that we are unlikely to find what we are seeking. Most of the schools are being closed as is their home fro troubled boys called Boystown that has been in existence for over fifty years and which so touched our teenage pilgrims three years ago

It is not clear how many people would call themselves Anglican in this geographically large diocese, or how many people would know that they are served by Anglicans. They do have a plan to ask the Diocese of Atlanta for one year of support for the bishop which they believe would allow them to get on top of a lot of this kind of information and formulate a plan. I doubt that one year is enough to scratch the surface of them becoming self sustaining, but think they could have a viable plan for growth within a year if they choose.

Our global relationship s at All Saints’ do not have to be identical to each other. Our premise is that by relating to Christians in different cultures and circumstance than our own that we will find our faith challenged and deepened. We will have much to receive and possibly find that we have something to offer. Having (or being perceived to have) resources is both a challenge and a blessing: a challenge to make the relationships real rather than utilitarian, and a blessing in that relationship is possible in the first place.

If we are to be or stay in a relationship with this diocese or some part of it, we will be really challenged to consider what is of real importance and what is real good news for our own faith. Thus far I have not heard a story that suggests why anyone should want to be part of a struggling, tiny, hardly noticeable and ‘foreign’ church. Can we inspire the telling of stories by sharing ours? I’m not yet sure.

War Stories

August 19, 2006

My visit to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford near Cambridge this summer, combined with a book club choice called Peace by Richard Bausch (Knopf, 2008) inspired me to read or re-read some war memoirs. Both were written as diaries during WWII and both authors were killed before the war ended. Guy Gibson was a bomber pilot who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the famous raid known as ‘the dam busters’ using the bouncing bomb against targets in the Ruhr Valley. (Enemy Coast Ahead, Pan 1955). The other was a fighter pilot called David Crook (Spitfire Pilot, Grub Street, 2008). What struck me in contrast to the extraordinary novel by Bausch was how far from introspective these young airmen seemed to be. They report the deaths of their friends in the same breath as assuring us that this had little or no effect on the morale of the chaps. They talked of air battles as ‘glorious encounters’. They both married during the war and saw their wives infrequently but with much anticipation expressed as affection. They know without any doubt that ‘the Hun’ were evil and needed to be defeated. There was no moral ambiguity about any of it.

This is all quite a contrast to the novel in which there is great introspection and moral ambiguity among fictional American infantrymen in Italy towards the end of the war. I wonder what we will read from those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq in due course.

Monday, August 18, 2008


August 18, 2008

I will be traveling to Rio de Janiero on Tuesday night, returning the following Tuesday morning. I will be preaching at the Church of the Redemptor next Sunday and meeting a number of leaders including the new bishop as we further our companion relationship with that diocese. (Our parish relationship actually slightly predates and parallels the relationship between our diocese and that one.) I will be looking at various projects that might provide a particular focus for that relationship as we continue life together in some sense and which might be a point of engagement for us and also a recipient of funds offered in support pf the millennium development goals. I will report on my return.

Al Farook Masjid of Atlanta

August 18, 2008

Yesterday I enjoyed the privilege of attending the opening ceremonies for Al-Farook Masjid of Atlanta, formerly the Atlanta Mosque on 14th Street. Our own Louisa Merchant who oversees our refugee ministries formerly ran the day school associated with the mosque. A number of Charlie Ogburn’s partners have been instrumental in seeing the new mosque built and bit by bit we are establishing a network of relationships there that will help our goal of not only ‘learning about Islam’ but making Muslim friends.

The speakers stayed well on point each addressing their goals of being an Atlantan and loyally American institution. On speaker articulated a dream of seeing America move from being a Judao-Christian society to becoming a Judao-Christian-Islamic society. There was much talk of the respect paid in the Koran to the other faiths of the book, without much of the triumphalism that is often associated with that by Muslims. They see their role as helping Americans that American citizens like many of them follow their faith as patriotic Americans.

There is much that is attractive about Islam as they present it. They make the case that women are not oppressed as much as appears to be the case in American society. Many majority Islamic countries have had women as Presidents and Premiers and they point out that women successfully enter all societal professions. One prayer from an honored member asked that “every single man may find a wife and every single woman may find a husband in order that they may be complete.” Another speaker making a presentation on Islam stressed the Prophet’s emphasis on modesty and talked of how in his marriage his wife was a full partner and he did all his own laundry. The role and place of women in modern American Islam is something I’m hoping Louisa can help me understand more as it is clearly a) different than what I have assumed and b) subtle and complex.

Yesterday in church we asked God’s blessing on “our friends of the Al-Farook Masjid as they celebrate the opening of their new building.” Everything about the celebration and their hospitality suggests that the prayer (which raised a couple of eyebrows) was not misplaced.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bits and Pieces

August 10, 2008

The ordination of Penny Nash as a priest was a happy and joyful occasion. Our assisting bishop offered a homily that reflected a very ‘high’ view of orders. He emphasized his belief that the conferring of priesthood was a ‘new creation’ conferring the privilege of a mediating role between God and God’s people. Priesthood, he said, is not ‘just a job’. While I agree that priesthood cannot be limited to a set of functions, I don’t find this high catholic articulation of what is going on the most helpful way of understanding what it is I do. I think there is the interweaving of role and function over a lifetime of service that makes the doctrine coherent rather than some ‘extra grace’ that somehow makes us either ’more than’ or ‘other than’ those we serve. Either way, Penny will have a job to do and in the doing of it, grace will abound.

The day before I finished reading Andrew Krivak’s spiritual memoir A Long Retreat in which he leaves the Jesuit order after seven years of formation and discernment in order to marry. This departure and new beginning took place before he was ordained a priest. He writes briefly and in an affecting way about his realization that he would never be a priest but that he was still called and had “a place in our collective earthly pilgrimage”. That call contained both work and prayer. (p.320) Nicely put.

Another book I have enjoyed is From Stone to Living Word by Debbie Blue. This is the kind of reflection on scripture that those of you who enjoy Martha Sterne’s writing (Alive and Loose in the Ordinary) or Tracey Lind (Interrupted by God) will enjoy this book. Blue is pastor of what is sometimes called ‘an emergent church’. They meet in St. Paul, MN on Sunday afternoons and are not unlike some of the ideas/visions that have been floating around our conversations for some time and which are explicitly part of the conversation of h=our ‘strategic thinking group’. You can learn about them here:

The aftermath of the Lambeth Conference keeps on with the publication of some correspondence between Rowan Williams and an evangelical psychiatrist called Dr. Pitt from eight years ago. Much is made in some quarters about the timing of Ruth Gledhill’s publication of this correspondence in The Times. She says that it was in unopened mail awaiting her return to the office after being in Canterbury for three weeks. In any event there is nothing new here. The ABC thinks ‘as a theologian’ that scripture may not be being read correctly by the church and that there may be moral equivalency between certain homosexual relationships and marriage. He sees scriptural interpretation and a living discipline that allows for change and he distinguishes his personal (private?) positions ‘as a theologian’ from his public role as a bishop of the church. I wonder if a high doctrine of orders might not allow him to discover a greater merging of the role of bishop with his ‘personal views’ rather than this ‘I don’t really think that but it is the mind of the church and therefore my job to proclaim’ position he seems to be in. Could he not say ‘The mind of the church is this or that and I find myself holding a minority position here’? And is it possible that such a position would be helpful to him and so to the rest of us?

Bottom line on Lambeth: At official institutional levels there is not much (if any) change. Archbishop Venables of the Southern Cone says division is inevitable. He is quoted in The times saying: “This is more evidence of the unravelling of Anglicanism. Without a clearly agreed biblical foundation, all the goodwill in the world cannot stop the inevitable break-up. Unity without truth is disunity.” As he is among those fomenting division, he can speak with some authority on the matter! At the same time there has been significant movement on a relational basis between bishops from widely different cultures moving to a place of greater willingness to each see what the other might have to offer. I don’t know what institutional form will emerge from all this, but have faith that we are all being led to right relationship rather than to new rules.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Colonialism and the Church

August 8, 2008

In the course of our internecine struggles within Anglicanism we have heard a fair bit of (largely, but not exclusively) African triumphalism over against ‘the West that brought us Christianity’, ‘American (but, interestingly, not Canadian) arrogance and occasionally ‘colonialism’. Recently Archbishop Orombi of Uganda accused Archbishop Williams of ‘betrayal’ by inviting American bishops who approved the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire to the Lambeth Conference. In the same article he said that having the Archbishop of Canterbury as the de facto primus inter pares was something he had come to see as a vestige of colonialism. (Read it here:

A teacher of post colonial studies at Cambridge University called Priyamvada Gopal wrote a fascinating opinion piece in the Guardian in which she points out that Archbishop Orombi himself is a product of and representative of a colonial institution. She talks, at least as I read it, of how the rhetoric of anti-colonialism is a remnant of the very colonial arrogance that is purportedly being denounced and which is serving to generate extreme intolerance among the faithful in the Archbishop’s charge. You can read it here:

I had not previously thought of mixing in the colonial heritage of some African Churches along with the consequences of high doctrines of authority promulgated by missionaries of many a theological stripe and married to the assumptions about power and privilege that go with traditional African tribal leadership transposed into the episcopate. I do not believe that any of these things are or were necessarily or self-evidently ‘bad’, but they have left us a potent and (to me) deeply unattractive intolerant form of arrogant and probably totalitarian fundamentalism.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Lambeth (5)

August 4, 2008

So Lambeth comes to an end and we will have to see what it all means as the Anglican Communion limps forward toward the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). The ACC is, significantly, the only ‘instrument of communion that includes lay people in its councils.

As best I can tell at this point the Bishops have enjoyed working together but that to the degree there is consensus about how to move forward it looks very like the solution of the Windsor Report. ‘Generous actions’ are required by those who believe in the inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the form of declining to consecrate any more bishops who are honest about their homosexuality and declining to bless (or actually carry our any liturgical expression of ‘pastoral support’ for)gay and lesbian unions. At the same a moratorium on ‘border crossings’ is invited by those who cannot abide being in the same communion with those who would include and affirm gay and lesbian people and their relationships as such.

From the Archbishop of Canterbury’s final sermon:

The Church in its wider life can’t be committed definitively by the judgment of some; but when a new thing is enshrined, in whatever way, in public order and ministry, it will look like a definitive commitment. The theological ground for a plea for moratoria is the need to avoid this confusion so that discernment continues together. The Resolution of Lambeth ’98 was an attempt to say both ‘We need understanding and shared discernment on a hugely complex topic,’ and ‘We as the bishops in council together are not persuaded that the new thoughts offered to us can be reconciled with our shared loyalty to Scripture.’

It looks like an attempt to put toothpaste back in the tube and I won’t hold my breath on it happening. No one wants to be considered schismatic. No one apparently wants to ‘leave’ the Anglican Communion. Those behind GAFCON and FOCA (the new Fellowship Of Confessing Anglicans) are following the American conservative playbook and trying what will be some kind of ‘takeover’. Archbishop Orombi of Uganda was given space in The Times to rant about how Rowan Williams has betrayed the church by expecting Canterbury to have some degree of primacy among equals when he was appointed by a secular government. It looks to me as though he and his American friends have already made their decision to separate themselves. And it looks as though the bishops of the communion gathered in conference (which occasionally gets elevated to ‘council’ as in the sermon quoted above) have still not learned the lesson of Virginia and elsewhere that there is no placating an Anglican conservative and nothing that will trump their sense of being convicted by the scriptures to a position that is most clearly that of God Almighty. (I am equally convicted by the scriptures as to what Jesus would do confronted with the reality of gay and lesbian people. I’m less inclined to believe I know how this conviction will be treated at the final judgment.)

As far as what we will do at All Saints’ in the near term is consider whether to continue to invest in relationship with Christians in very different circumstances than those in which we find ourselves. This means, in effect, ensuring that our partners are willing either to suspend judgment on our actions and commitments which they find difficult for a variety of reasons, and being willing to do so ourselves. In effect we would be in partnership with those who are willing to live as though our interpretation of scripture might be a legitimate and godly reading in our time and place even if they can’t see how at the moment, and so be willing to live as though our decisions regarding the proper place of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church is not something that is of the essence of the faith once delivered to the saints (adiaphora). For our part, we would be acknowledging that in the great scheme of things we could yet be shown to be wrong. Until such time however we need to continue to affirm all of God’s people. As Jim Naughton of Episcopal Café ( has written of one bishop:

Anis, who is a medical doctor, believes gay people can change their sexual orientation under reparative therapy. The American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association, American School Health Association, National Association of School Psychologists and the National Association of Social Workers, disagree.

This of course raises the question as to whether the church is following ‘the culture’ at this point or whether the church has played and is still playing a role in leading and shaping the culture toward a greater manifestation of divine justice (the second alternative being my position.)