Category Archives: AnglicanCommunion

Anglicanism, Episcopalians, and gay rights

Food for thought, from an 8-year-old book entitled Anglican Communion in Crisis: How Episcopal Dissidents and Their African Allies Are Reshaping Anglicanism:

In their conflicting positions on homosexuality, both sides view their positions on this issue as part of their religious identities and faith commitments. Although conservatives sometimes describe the liberal position as an adoption of secular humanist values from the surrounding culture, proponents of both the conservative and the liberal positions ground their arguments in understandings of God, scripture, and the church….

Liberal Christians generally do not take a literalist view of Scripture and offer less condemning readings of the biblical passages that conservatives take as denouncing homosexuality. One example comes from the book What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality, by Roman Catholic priest David Helminiak. Helminiak writes: “Somehow God must be behind the fact that some people are homosexual. Then why should God’s word in the Bible condemn homosexuality? . . . There must be another answer. The mistake must be in how the Bible is being read.”

Helminiak’s statement hints at a second liberal argument, based on humanistic ideas about the naturalness and goodness of human nature. This argument holds that since some people experience themselves as homosexual, and since presumably God made them that way, then expressing their sexual orientation cannot be inherently wrong. Such views also rest on an incarnational theology that sees Jesus Christ’s taking on human form as validating humanity in a fundamental way. Human nature is seen not as negative and inimical to faith and purity, but as God’s gift, sanctified by Christ’s sharing in it. An element of liberation theology is present here as well, in the conviction voiced by many liberal Episcopalians that the gospel’s central message concerns freedom from oppression. [emphasis added]

— Miranda K. Hassett, in Anglican Communion in Crisis : How Episcopal Dissidents and Their African Allies Are Reshaping Anglicanism, Princeton University Press, 2007

In both of the above-boldfaced cases, notice how sovereignty, that key term for Reformation theology, is implied in the liberal Christian perspective.

Episcopal Bishop to join the Roman Catholic Church?

In a commentary in yesterday’s Washington Post, Rachel Zoll wrote, “On Monday, conservative Bishop Jeffrey N. Steenson of the Diocese of the Rio Grande in Albuquerque, N.M., plans to announce that he’s resigning and joining the Catholic Church.”

My good friend, The Very Reverend Mark Goodman, recently became Dean of the Cathedral Church of Saint John in downtown Albuquerque. The cathedral is the bishop’s seat. I have not spoken with Mark about the news of the bishop’s decision, but after reading the Zoll commentary, my heart sank.

Assuming Zoll is correct, what will Bishop Steenson’s decision signal to his diocesan flock, the Episcopal Church U.S.A., and to the Anglican Communion? Nothing encouraging in these trying times, to be sure.

This will most likely be a difficult time for Mark and the people in the Diocese of the Rio Grande. Pray for them.

-Colin Burch

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Archbishop of Canterbury lowers expectations, ECUSA wants to stay in full communion

Remarks from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams following his time with the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church U.S.A.:

Address of Archbishop Mouneer Anis to the House of Bishops

Regarding the address of Bishop Mouneer Anis, Bishop of the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal/Anglican province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, to the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church U.S.A in New Orleans:

Could it have been a genuinely compassionate and humble conservatism? Read the whole address here:

Or read the two following excerpts:

My friends, you may believe you have discovered a very different truth from that of the majority in the Anglican Communion. It is not just about sexuality, but about your views of Christ, the Gospel, and the authority of the Bible. Please forgive me when I relay that some say you are a different church, others even think that you are a different religion….

My friends, if you really believe that the truth revealed to you is different from that shown to the rest of the Communion, then you need to uphold that claim with boldness even at the risk of losing unity. If you think it is right and necessary to ordain and consecrate practicing homosexuals and that you should bless same sex partnerships or even marriages, you should be true to what you believe is right and accept the consequences.

However, if you appreciate being members of the global Anglican family, then you have to walk along side the members of your family. Those who say it is important to stay together around the table, to listen to each other and to continue our dialogue over the difficult issues that are facing us are wise.


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What’s happening with the Archbishop of Canterbury in New Orleans?

The links we’re watching can all be found on this page: 

Meanwhile, here are some excerpts from Boston Globe and Associated Press articles.

From The Boston Globe 

NEW ORLEANS – Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in a last-ditch effort to avoid a schism in the global Anglican Communion, spent seven hours yesterday holed up in a posh New Orleans hotel with most of the nation’s Episcopal bishops, many of whom tried to persuade him that it is a mistake to define the American church solely by its decision four years ago to approve an openly gay priest as bishop of New Hampshire.

The unusual conversation took place just days before a Sept. 30 deadline, set by leaders of Anglican provinces around the world, for the American church to back away from its support for gay rights or face some unspecified form of punishment. US bishops spent yesterday morning telling the archbishop how they see the church in the United States, and the archbishop spent the afternoon asking them questions.

The meetings, which resume today, were closed to reporters, but participants described them as cordial but pointed…..

Despite deep disagreements among the bishops over theology and increasing dissatisfaction among some Episcopalians with the Anglican Communion, none of the 159 bishops in attendance spoke in favor of walking away from the communion, which is a 77-million member global coalition of regional churches that trace their roots to the Reformation and the Church of England. …

 In remarks at the opening worship service, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori decried the increasingly hostile tone of the debate.

“We have lived in this church and in this communion for a number of years with abundant disdain, violent words, and destructive action toward those who hold positions at variance with our own,” she said. “None of us is wholly free of blame in this game, for we have all sought to judge those who oppose us.”

Schori began the meeting by offering an olive branch of sorts to conservatives, naming eight US bishops who could visit dioceses that do not approve of Schori herself, either because she is a woman or because she supported the election of Robinson. Of the 110 Episcopal dioceses in the United States, six have asked for someone other than Schori to oversee them. The bishops of all of six dioceses opposed Robinson’s consecration, and in three the bishops do not ordain women.

Conservatives rejected the Schori overture….

The only woman named by Schori as a possible alternative visitor, Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, said in an interview that she does not expect anyone to ask her to visit because of her gender. Wolf, who supported Robinson’s consecration, said that in the interest of keeping the communion together, she believes that the bishops should issue a clear statement agreeing to the primates’ request that they approve no more noncelibate gay bishops and that they not authorize a national rite for blessing same-sex couples.

From The Associated Press:

Archbishop Rowan Williams, the Anglican spiritual leader, suggested Thursday that Episcopalians show greater concern about the impact of their decisions on the wider Anglican Communion, according to Canon Jim Naughton, spokesman for the Diocese of Washington.

He asked Episcopal bishops “how far they were willing to go,” Naughton said, to preserve the communion, a 77-million-member group of churches with roots in the Church of England. ….

“He made it clear that he believed the Episcopal Church had acted preemptively in consecrating Bishop Robinson,” Naughton said.

Williams doesn’t have the direct authority to force concessions from the 2.2 million-member Episcopal Church, so he has been struggling to keep the communion from breaking apart. Episcopal bishops implored him to attend their meeting here so they could explain their views in person.