Covenant or a la carte?

I was listening to the Today programme this morning and heard a discussion on the European Union. I missed the beginning but I think the gist of it was that some countries might vote on something that not everyone can agree with. What was proposed was an A la Carte European Union.

Immediately that made me think of the Anglican Communion. We don’t need a Covenant – we need an Anglican Communion a la carte. We need to read from the same menu but have our own choices. We do that already with issues such as the ordination of women so why not with everything?

And on the subject of women… go over to Fr Simon’s blog for an excellent and heartfelt article on the upcoming vote for women bishops in the Church of England.

Synod and stuff

It was blowing a gale with horizontal rain as we gathered in surely the coldest Cathedral in Christendom on Saturday morning to kick off our Diocesan Synod. I was going to bring last year’s service sheet because we usually have the same hymns but this year it was all different – 2 new hymns and no choir. But it was shorter and in that temperature that had to be a good thing.

The Bishop gave a storming speech on trust, confidence and hope. He also encouraged us to talk things up, not cynically. Point taken Bishop.

We then spent some time in groups looking at the upcoming Lambeth Conference and what we thought ought to be on the Agenda. I suspect we are one of the most fortunate Dioceses in having Bishop Brian addressing this issue. Not only have we had two day conferences recently to discuss the matter but we were able to get our teeth into it again in a safe environment.

Sadly at this point I started to feel really ill. Honestly it was nothing to do with the topic – I just felt like I was going to faint. So after hearing a wonderful  motion put forward by two priests from differing view points. (I’ve pinched this from Raspberry Rabbit’s blog)

“The members of this Synod affirm that our experience is that we can hold together as brothers and sisters in the faith and that we do not wish to be forced apart. We acknowledge that there are sincerely held views which differ but we are determined not to be divided. We pray that God will call deeper truths out of our present experience. We commend the spirit of Waiting on God to the wider Anglican Communion.”

After accepting this unanimously we broke for lunch and I scuttled home and went to bed.

Bishop apologizes

Heartwarming story… Sorry goes a long way.

Bishop apologizes for vote limiting gay ordinations
Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky apologized to gay and lesbian church members after he voted last year not to consent to more ordinations of homosexual bishops.

In his annual report to the diocese’s convention Saturday, Bishop Ted Gulick said he’s trying to keep the Episcoplan Church together and to maintain ties with other churches overseas amid controversies over homosexuality, The Courier-Journal reported.

“I hereby publicly and deliberately apologize to our devoted gay and lesbian men and woman in our diocese for whom this (latest) vote causes pain and alienation,” Gulick said.

Gulick generally supports greater church roles for homosexuals. In 2004, he apologized to conservatives upset over his vote the previous year for the appointment of an openly gay bishop of New Hampshire, V. Gene Robinson.

But last year he voted with other bishops at the Episcopal Church’s General Convention not to support further ordinations of homosexual bishops.

“I know you to be my sisters and brothers in Christ,” Gulick said, urging them to continue serving in the church in other ways. “I thank you for your patience and forbearance with the church in this season.”

Last week, leaders of the Anglican Communion – the Episcopal Church’s global partners – issued a stern warning to the American church at a summit in Tanzania. Among other things, Anglican leaders sought greater clarity on the Episcopal Church’s stances on homosexual bishops and same-sex unions. A meeting of American bishops is set for next month. Gulick plans to attend.

Primus comments

A personal reflection from The Primus on the meeting of Anglican Primates in Dar es Salaam, 15-19 February 2007

Many people will have read with interest the Communiqué from the Primates’ meeting and drawn their own conclusions from it. A document like this is generated within a specific context and usually makes more sense to those who shared in the meeting than it does at first sight to those who read it afterwards .

The meeting was hard work and full of much good news about the development of life in the Communion as a whole, and with details of programmes such as that produced on Theological Education; the proposed major resource on Hermeneutics and on the Christian response to Human Sexuality and not least the way in which the Church will work in partnership to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals which are so vital for economic justice across the world. For example, we learned that Africa does not need new markets to be opened up in order to bring economic growth so much as support for the markets which already exist . I also learned from the new Anglican Observer to the U.N., Mrs Helen Wangusa, that the representatives from the European Union are a very effective lobby group at the U.N., who greatly impress with their sound knowledge of issue at stake in debates.

There is also the proposed development of an Anglican University by the Province of Tanzania, and a whole host of initiatives being made by the Anglican Churches in the world to respond to the needs of the poor and the hungry on every continent . It is of course no more than we ought to be about – but to hear of what is actually happening is humbling and encouraging at the same time.

And what about The Episcopal Church (the one in America that is)? First, a change of name from ECUSA to TEC because Provinces that are part of The Episcopal Church but not actually located within the United States asked for a name that would recognise them as part of the Episcopal family. So this has been done – though there are a number of us who share the title of the Episcopal Church within our own nations.

The position of the College of Bishops, which was shared with our brothers at the Celtic Bishops meeting last October, is unchanged. We believe that given the constraints and unique nature of its composition (two houses for example, not three as we are used to) what the General Convention achieved at its recent meeting was adequate in its response to the requests made of it by the Windsor Report . We have to remember that the meeting in Dar es Salaam is in the wake of the Windsor Report and a discussion about the extent to which its recommendations can be used in the life of our Communion. That discussion is on-going – so that what is set out in the communiqué as a possible way forward to deal with the specific situation in the Anglican Church in the United States is only one further step along a winding and up-hill path. It is in the nature of a temporary solution to allow space for a longer term resolution of the disagreements currently alive in the Communion and not just in the USA.

An image that I have used is that of ‘ecclesiastical inoculation’. That process, as I understand it, introduces something new into a system only in order that in the end the system will itself create the means of healing for itself and within its own circulation. ‘Giving nature a helping hand’ is how it is sometimes described. ‘Giving the Spirit a helping hand’ is what the Primates have sought to do in their suggestions to ease the tension felt in the Communion. Put into two simple statements the tension is that The Episcopal Church has given offence to the Communion in general by its confirmation of the election of the Bishop of New Hampshire; and that other Provinces have caused offence by being willing to give succour to those who within America expressed discomfort at this but who asked to set up their own church . So there are two offended parties – and although one could go on qualifying these positions with nuance and excuse this is basically what it is about. The Primates have together and unanimously offered a plan which seems the one most likely to help in the long run to ease the pain that exists on all sides in America. We do not imagine it to be a pain-free remedy, nor do we regard it as a ‘miracle cure’. It is however an honest attempt to offer a way forward. The journey is not over yet ; but while seeking to respond to this area of concern work goes on across the Communion in the other areas in which there is disagreement so that the gifts that the Anglican Communion have brought, and continue to bring, to the life of the church world-wide may be released.

Coming together in the Cathedral in Zanzibar and celebrating the Eucharist on the very spot where slaves had been beaten and sold was a powerful image of release. The call of the Gospel is to bring release from sin for all and to re-assure each of us of the fact that the experience of God’s love brings the healing and pardon which we all need. It was the gospel imperatives being understood in a new way that led the Church to campaign for the abolition of slavery. As the Archbishop of Canterbury reminded us in his sermon in the Cathedral, new insight leads to innovative action.

Let us pray that the Anglican Communion can be open to new insights and not be afraid to risk new ways of being disciples to Jesus in the world. By the end of 2007 we shall know two new things a) whether the Bishops of The Episcopal Church felt able to move with the Primates, and b) whether those leaders of Provinces in the Communion who have taken over-sight beyond their Provinces felt able to hand the care of those they support to the Communion. In the light of what we shall know then, further provision for the well-being of our Communion will be made.

We remain a Communion – a gift to us from God that often feels we have actually done little to deserve .

+Idris

Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway and Primus

Primates communique

You can check out The Communique of the Primates’ meeting in Dar es Salaam here :
http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/

You have to read to almost the last page before you will find out what we really wanted to know and it is not good news for our homosexual sisters and brothers.

It reads :
‘…the House of Bishops … make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention’
and
‘…a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent’
unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion.’

There is also to be provision for some sort of alternative primatial ministry in ECUSA.

There is also a lot of concern expressed for “those groups alienated,” which is clearly intended to be a reference to the extreme conservatives, yet not one note of concern for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

So it would seem that the conservatives must be rejoicing this morning. Those who shouted loudest have had their voices heard and obeyed.

We who thought that attitudes could be changed by listening and caring and praying without being militant and aggressive have been cast aside. Gay people will once more be forced underground into a community of lies and half-truths. Is that right?

Gay couples can have a Civil Partnership (or Marriage in Canada) but the Church cannot officially offer a blessing for them. That is really going to encourage people to come to Church! So it seems like an inclusive church is a long way off. However, I believe that blessings will happen in secret and at great risk to sympathetic clergy trying to be pastoral.

God help us.

Clergy Conference 2006

So, what did the Diocese of Edinburgh Clergy discuss while they were away in Pitlochry earlier this week?

Power in the Church.

We were ably assisted in our discussions by Bishop David Chillingworth and Bishop Stephen Sykes.

Here are some of the topics covered:

power of the bishop (having to say ‘no’);
power of the clergy – whether we want it or not;
power of the Vestry, power of the flower ladies, power of the matriarchs and patriarchs, power of the manipulative;
misuse and abuse of power;
how to be a servant and still use power wisely;
is the use of power accepted when there is love and trust?

Then we moved on to discuss the current dilemma in the Anglican Communion. Who holds the power in the debate? Those who sing loudest?

Was ECUSA wrong in consecrating a homosexual man in a relationship or were they merely using the power that every province has/had in making its own decisions?

Who holds the power in Anglican Theological Colleges around the world? Those who provide the material which is read and studied. And in some developing world countries these books come as a gift from the conservative parts of the USA. And they are certainly not the material that we might use in the UK and elsewhere.

If ECUSA are not invited to Lambeth, does this make for a healthy debate or listening process as promised in the Windsor Report?

Have we sufficiently listened and debated this in our own diocese? (The feeling was No.)

Is the root of all this trouble because the CofE allowed alternative episcopal oversight after the ordination of women? Other provinces now think that they can do it too because their ‘Mother Church’ has done it.

Are we not all ‘evangelical’? And some of us don’t like the label ‘liberal’ because it seems to imply wishy-washy and sitting on the fence. Some would prefer ‘radical’. (I always fancied myself as a Catholic Socialist!)

So there you have it. That is what we discussed while looking out the window at the most beautiful scenery – trees of golden hue. The log fires crackled as we sat on large squashy sofas in between lectures. The food was good, the bishop was generous with wine, and the cooked breakfasts went down a treat.

A good conference – thought provoking, uncomfortable at times, and enlightening. As ever, the craic was excellent and sometimes that’s the main thing. Roll on next year.