10 July 2010

It's Humble pie for Rowan - corrected

Poor Rowan Williams. First it was those cheeky Amurikans who refused to do what he told them to do. Then it was the African bishops who started mucking about in his self-proclaimed Anglican Fiefdom. And now, well, it's his own surfs who have shafted him.

Almost half of his bishops told him to go soak his head and voted against his amendment which would have given the schismatics in the Church of England right to refuse to recognize any female bishop's authority or the authority of any male bishop who had even participated or consented to the ordination of a woman to any of the three orders of the church.

Fifteen of the forty bishops voted against Rowan. If my math is correct, that is roughly 37 percent of his bishops did not support him. This was not just a vote against the amendment. This was, and don't forget it, a vote against Rowan himself.

My friend who sent me a text message from the General Synod had the numbers backwards in his message, so, to clear up all confusion, the correct votes are:

Bishops: 25 yes; 15 no;
Clergy: 85 yes; 90 no; 5 abstention
Laity: 106 yes; 96 no; 4 abstention

It was the clergy who were responsible for the failure of the amendment.

Some have said the spin is all wrong and this is only a minor defeat. But, they are wrong. It is a significant vote of no confidence in the leadership of Canterbury and York. And the rejection may have been influenced by recent "papal" actions from Lambeth Palace.

Canterbury and York probably saw this defeat coming as they pushed for a simple vote on the so-called "Anglican Covenant." We shall see what transpired in that vote.

I've telephoned the pub nearest the York site and asked them to send round a very large gin and tonic for Rowan with my compliments.

My apologies for having mucked the numbers up three times. And my thanks to those who pointed out those errors. 

It's humble pie for Rowan

Please see the corrected version of this post.

09 July 2010

Gledhill predicts a possible Episcopal Revolt

Ruth Gledhill writes in the 9 July edition of the Times that there may be an inglorious revolution this weekend as the final meeting of the General Synod takes place.
Liberal members of the House of bishops could launch a protest on the floor of the general Synod in York.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is facing and unprecedented rebellion from bishops in the Church of England who are demanding that he and the Archbishop of York withdraw controversial plans to undermine the authority of women bishops.

Liberal members of the House of Bishops at the General Synod in York have privately warned Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu that they will try to sabotage the Archbishops' proposal on the floor of the synod if the Archbishops do not withdraw it.

A planned rebellion on something of this order is almost unknown, but Dr Williams detests being put under pressure to act against his conscience. Traditionalists are protected by his amendment because it gives them the chance to opt for a separate episcopal jurisdiction "untainted" by the hands of a woman bishop, thus taking away some of the usual jurisdiction from the woman.
Keep in mind that that "untainted" means the "traditionalists" would not have to accept a bishop who has even participated in the consecration of a female bishop. Williams seems to be much more concerned about those "traditionalists" than about the hundreds of thousands of females who actually keep the church doors open.
Critics of Dr Williams and Dr Sentamu say that the number of women and their supporters who will be offended if the amendment succeds is far greater than those who will be offended if it fails. While women are unlikely to leave the Church, believing still in the possibility of transformative change, the issue threatens to make the Church of England appear so absurdly misogynistic that, combined with the fall-out over the failure to appoint Dr Jeffrey John as Bishop of Southward, any new Christians will be deterred from joining the Anglican Church.

If Dr Williams and Dr Sentamu refuse to withdraw their amendment, which will be debated towards the end of the 19 hours of debate this weekend on legislation to ordain women bishops by 2015, the bishops are threatening to vote against it.
For me, this is the most interesting bit:
If they are successful in defeating the amendment, Dr Williams will be under strong pressure to resin. Even if he clings on, his authority and credibility may never recover from the double debacle of defeat over women bishops and humiliation over Dr John, the Dean of St Albans.
And there you have it. I believe that the book of Proverbs states "Cast your bread upon the water and in many days it shall return to you." It just might be that Dr Williams gets soggy bread. Would he resign? I have tuppence that says not in a million years. 

As for losing credibility? He lost that a long time ago.

General Synod delegates are elected to a five-year term that includes yearly General Synods. That means if the measure is defeated the Church of England may not revisit women bishops for decades.

The rest of Gledhill's article deals with the fallout over Jeffreygate which Williams blames on the liberals and the liberals blame on the "traditionalists". I wonder, could it be possible that Dr Williams is the source, giving himself the "out" in a sticky wicket? Just a thought.

Prayers requested for the Church of England

I bid your prayers for our sister church, The Church of England, meeting in General Synod this weekend. They face a difficult weekend as they seek the way forward. Pray that each delegate is open to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord be with you.
And with thy Spirit.
Let us Pray:
    Gracious Father, we pray for they holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior. Amen.
    Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with those who take counsel in the General Synod of the Church of England for the renewal and mission of your Church. Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

07 July 2010

A chilling bit of news from the John nomination

Changing Attitudes reports that it was the un-honourable Mr. Rowan Willimas who, for a second time, stabbed Jeffrey Johns in the back.
Archbishop Rowan was apparently so furious about the first leak that he unilaterally vetoed Jeffrey’s name, betraying his friend for a second time and handing an apparent victory to the conservatives who seem to be successfully controlling him. Archbishop Rowan would have directed his anger in a more healthy direction if he had targetted the people inside and outside the Commission who have deliberately sabotaged its work.
Why do I say "chilling?" For two reasons. First, it shows that Williams has absolutely no integrity (pun not intended) and second that he, as "spiritual head" of the Church of England (COE) appears to be both morally bankrupt and an excellent hand puppet for the Calvinists infecting the COE and the Anglican Communion with their anti Christian hate. This incident, if correctly reported, also shows that he is a despot in the worse sense of the word. This is the man who wishes to rule the spirituality of the world's Anglicans.

"Jesus wept."

Jeffrey John to receive no mitre

According to Ruth Gledhill,
In the end he wasn't chosen and it was apparently not direct cause and effect but it still makes Rowan look terrible. Not once but now twice have Jeffrey's hopes been raised, only to be dashed. What a terrible atmosphere there will be as we gather amid the duck poo at General Synod at York university campus this weekend.
The Telegraph.co.uk reports that
Dr Jeffrey John, the openly gay but celibate Dean of St Albans, has been blocked from becoming a bishop once again. He has not been chosen as the next Bishop of Southwark. Liberals will be dismayed that the Church has lost its nerve – but there is no reason for evangelicals to celebrate, either. This is bad news whichever way you look at it:
  1. The Church has missed an opportunity to show that it is inclusive of homosexuals.
  2. Jeffrey John has gained a reputation as a gifted preacher and effective pastor at St Albans cathedral and would have been a popular bishop.
  3. It indicates that the Crown Nominations Commission is afraid of appointing any bishops who might bring a bit of colour.
  4. A dignified and talented cleric has been embarrassed again.
  5. The row over homosexual clergy could have been brought to a head, but will now fester until a gay priest is finally made a bishop.
It is also bad news for Rowan Williams. Although he is only one of 14 members of the Commission, liberals will be perplexed as to why he allowed John’s name to be included on the shortlist if it was only to be rejected at the last minute. To be fair, he didn’t know that this fact would be leaked to me, and he is said to have been livid with the Commission that it was. But, given what happened in 2003 and his apparent distress at forcing his old friend to stand down from becoming Bishop of Reading, it will surprise many that he didn’t use his influence to try and sway the few undecided members who could have secured his selection.

The Archbishop has appeared increasingly resolute and self-assured over recent months, but liberals will be left wondering why he loses his backbone when it comes to fighting their corner. Even conservative evangelicals made clear that there was no reason to object to the dean’s appointment this time round, pointing to the fact that he has stressed that his homosexual relationship is celibate.

The opportunity has gone however, and with it probably John’s hopes of ever being made a bishop. If he can’t get Southwark, the most liberal of all the Church’s dioceses, there is little chance he’ll be promoted elsewhere. It also may represent the Archbishop’s last chance to oversee the appointment of an openly gay bishop and to advance the liberal cause that he championed before moving to Canterbury.

Instead of being remembered as the radical pro-gay archbishop the evangelicals feared, Dr Williams appears far more conservative than anyone could ever have imagined.

06 July 2010

A poor substitute for Freedom in Christ

I'm running several days behind in reading the multitude of online newspapers and blogs that form part of my early morning routine. I've just read the guardian.co.uk for 30 June and finished an excellent article by Savitri Hensman on the troubles in the Anglican Communion. She must have been following the issue for a very long time or she's been poking about Fr.Jake's place.

For those of us in the North Americas, the issue is an old one. But for England, this is fresh blood on the white flag of St. George. They are about to experience what their former American Colonies got face-full of while the ABC sat in his comfy overstuffed chair by the fire drinking sherry silent as the tomb. Now, however, it's about to make mince out of his own church and there is naught that he can do to stop it, now. Had he acted years ago, he would not be about to jump from the frying pan into the flames.

I must admit to having more than a modicum of schadenfreude. (I'll say ten Ave's, Pater's and Gloria's and whacking good Act of Contrition, but I'll be smiling though them all.)

Any road, Savitra Hensman writes in her article The proposed Covenant is the culmination of a conservative and homophobic drive for power in the Anglican Communion that 
The Archbishop of Canterbury has been a champion of greater centralism among Anglicans worldwide, supposedly to strengthen unity. But recent events have exposed the tawdry reality behind talk of "interdependence" and "bonds of affection".
 This, Hensman points out, is contrary to the "founding documents" of the Communion:
The 1878 Lambeth Conference resolved that "the duly certified action of every national or particular Church, and of each ecclesiastical province (or diocese not included in a province), in the exercise of its own discipline, should be respected by all the other Churches" and "no bishop or other clergyman of any other Church should exercise his functions within that diocese without the consent of the bishop thereof" .
This was, however, "selectively applied." In 1997 a Rwandan bishop declared that he was in charge of a parish in Arkansas (I didnt' remember this). When the diocesan protested, Lambeth responded by explaining that Lambeth's resolutions only had "moral authority" and the attempt to undermine The Episcopal Church (TEC) went unpunished, and largely unnoticed. Keep in mind that this was a year before the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

Ms. Hensman writes that:
Yet the tune changed when in 2003 the Episcopal Church, after decades of theological debate, consecrated a partnered gay man as bishop of New Hampshire. This move was fiercely condemned by leaders such as Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria for damaging Anglican unity. Likewise approval of same-sex unions by a diocese in Canada. was widely condemned. Border-crossing intensified.
And what happened, TEC became the great Satan and the homophobes became the saviours of the world - in their own minds.

It is a telling thing that in any church power and politics trumps Jesus and his love for all creation. As Hensman rightly states, "This is a poor substitute for freedom in Christ."

05 July 2010

Correction to John post

The Rev'd Messrs Sugden and Fraser are not canons to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Frasier is from St. Paul's Cathedral and Sudgen is with Anglican Mainstream. 

I tried to correct the error in the previous post but for some reason every time I "touch" a published post, the whole html goes haywire.

I apologize for the error.

More on Jeffrey John's nomination

There was a very curious wee statement today in the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

As the facilitator, John Humphreys, introduced the programme, he said that the Rowan Williams would like the new bishop of Southward "to be Jeffrey John who is openly gay."

That is quite a remarkable statement but, what is even more remarkable is that The Very Rev'd Chris Sudgen and the Very Rev'd Giles Fraser, cannons to the Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC), did not utter a single protest to that statement.

One may conclude by their silence that Rowan is now advocating for the same man he stabbed in the back just a few years ago.

What I find most interesting about all of this is that the ABC seems to have backed himself it a corner. The two leading candidates are an openly gay man living in a civil partnership and a man married to a divorced woman.

There is a wonderful statement in Be very careful before you object to Dr. John by the Rev'd John Richardson* over at The Ugley Vicar that really sums up the whole  schismatic war
We would not be in half the mess we are in today if the Church, during the years in which homosexuality was almost universally regarded as perverse, had acted as a haven for real sinners, rather than a rather choosy hostel for the outwardly saintly.
Well said, in my opinion.

Although I gather The Ugley Vicar is on the "conservative" side of the debate (I believe he is involved in the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans), his post is really worth a read. He is actually defending John's nomination because the only valid objection is homophobia. If Mr. John were straight or married to a nice wee woman to hide his sexuality, he'd have been a bishop long ago - just as many other gay male bishops in the Church of England and throughout the Anglican world.

04 July 2010


Today is the "birthday" for two blogs - The Friends of Jake (FOJ)and The Three Legged Stool (TTLS, T3LS). Both were born when Fr. Jake felt it necessary to take a break from blogging when he accepted employment by the National Church.

In the past two years TTLS has had almost 461,000 unique visitors. The total number of hits was just over 1,800,000 with 291,728 hits during General Convention 2009.

TTLS has been quoted in a number of places and cited by the likes of The Church Times and Episcopal Cafe. Not bad for an amateur with only a cursory knowledge of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican world.

The Friends of Jake and TTLS owe a big thank you to Fr. Jake for inspiring us and to you, our readers for returning to read our thoughts

Pentecost VI

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 9

The Lectionary

Collect of the Day: God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Today’s reading from the Second Book of Kings presents us with a strange and complex story. The main characters are the Aramean warrior Naaman, who has what our ancestors called “leprosy”; and the prophet Elisha of Israel, chosen successor to Elijah, who eventually heals Naaman.

The King of Aram and the King of Israel both appear as characters, but they do not drive the plot; the plot is driven by nameless servants, who matter a good deal more in the story than do the pair of kings.

First we are told that Naaman’s wife has a servant girl from the land of Israel. There would be no story if this nameless servant had not suggested that her master really ought to go see the prophet in Samaria who could cure him of his disease.

When Naaman arrives in Samaria, the chief city in the northern kingdom of Israel, he has brought with him all his horses and chariots, a quantity of gold and silver, and “ten changes of clothing.” Clearly he expects that healing his skin disease will be an expensive and elaborate production.

Again we have a nameless servant: a messenger from Elisha meets Naaman and instructs the warrior to bathe seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman is quite offended by this message; he thinks there are rivers back home in Aram that are better than the Jordan. Then we have more nameless servants. Indeed, if it were not for the courage and persuasive abilities of Naaman’s servants, the story would have ended right there, with Naaman “stalking off in a rage.”

The proud warrior listens to his servants, however, and immerses himself seven times in the Jordan, and just as the servant girl had indicated, Naaman is cured. The manner of the healing turns Naaman’s expectations inside out and upside down; the prophet Elisha is not even present, and there are no prayers, incantations, no laying on of hands, nothing one would have associated with healing at that time. But there is a powerful subtext to this story: the God of Israel has very strong powers indeed and can act directly and immediately without power brokers or mediators. Equally clear in this story, as in several instances with Elijah before this, is that God brings healing to foreigners as well as to the people of Israel. As St. Paul says several hundred years later, “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!”

The scope and reach of God’s authority and healing action is a theme echoed in today’s gospel reading from Luke. Having previously sent “the twelve” out on an exploratory journey, here Jesus sends out seventy of his disciples “to every town and place where he himself intended to go.” The seventy go out as the bearers of God’s power in much the same way that Jesus did. Just as Elisha did not need to be present with Naaman, Jesus does not have to be physically present with his followers when they go out in mission. In both stories, the mighty power of God to heal and save undergirds all the human activities involved.

This immediate presence of God’s power is what Jesus was referring to when he said, “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
Through the disciples’ activities, God proclaimed his presence and power. And this direct, immediate, self-proclaiming presence of God amazed and excited Jesus’ disciples. They came back from their missionary journeys “full of joy,” and chattering “Lord! In your name even the demons submit to us!” This reaction betrays the fact that they were taking the success of their healings and exorcisms personally rather than as bearers of God’s presence. Jesus’ response to this inflation of their egos gently brings them down to earth: “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

In the end, these readings are all about the amazing, even shocking capacity of our generous God to hand over holy stuff to human characters while remaining in the background. In the stories of Elijah and Elisha, we begin to understand that prophets do not act according to an instruction manual for blessings, healings, warnings, conversions, or curses. God grants them considerable freedom and initiative. We tend to think of prophets as “great communicators,” but Elijah and Elisha correct our insistent emphasis on the spoken word of God by the way they function as “great connectors.” Prophetic activity breaks through human boundaries, connecting the power of God’s presence to people beyond the land, and outside the covenant, of Israel.
This role of connecting the power of God to the people of the world is supremely and fully embodied in Jesus, but by derivation and gift, the role of connecting is ours as well. We do not all have the gift of being “great communicators,” but we can all be great connectors even if we don’t think of ourselves as prophets. 

Like the nameless servants who drive the story of Naaman, our job is to be the connectors of God’s extraordinary, abundant, and life-giving power to those who need it. For love, peace, and justice, and for the repair of the world’s fabric, may the Lord make it so.

-- The Rev. Angela V. Askew is priest-in-charge of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn, New York.