• Anglicanism •
June 19, 2006
The anguish of orthodox Anglicans and evangelical Episcopalians intensified Sunday as the ECUSA elected the Right Reverend Katharine Schori, Bishop of Nevada, as the denomination’s first woman to serve as Presiding Bishop. The move is being hailed as a victory for the liberal wing of the church, and it comes even as the church is embroiled in yet another controversy over its election of an openly-homosexual bishop in 2003.
April 16, 2006
“I have friends who I am quite sure are Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection,” says the Right Reverend N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham. This is a truly dangerous and unbiblical assertion, made all the more shocking when it is offered by someone of N. T. Wright’s caliber.
August 18, 2005
I had to hear this one for myself. Presiding Bishop Mark Hansen of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has called for an ecumenical council to convene in order to resolve the question of biblical interpretation in the church. Calling for the global council, Bishop Hansen called upon Pope Benedict XVI, leaders of the Eastern Orthodox churches, and mainline Protestant leaders to convene the council in order to stem the tide of what he called “fundamentalist” readings of Scripture.
“Christianity is in the midst of a global identity crisis because we have not addressed ecumenically the questions of authority and interpretation of scripture,” Hanson told the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly last week. Religion News Service reported that the bishop also “called for Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches to come together to combat a ‘fundamentalist-millennialist-apocalypticist reading of Scripture.’”
Christianity certainly is “in the midst of a global identity crisis,” but that crisis is the result of theological accommodation and confusion — not biblical literalism. In this context, biblical literalism is code language for any assertion of biblical authority or biblical inerrancy.
The RNS report also included this: “Although Hanson did not elaborate, mainline churches traditionally are uneasy with literal readings of Scripture, particularly in fundamentalist churches, regarding the end of the world and political unrest in the Middle East. In addition, mainline churches have been divided over what the Bible says about hot-button issues such as homosexuality and women’s ordination.”
The claim that the ELCA, along with most other liberal Protestant denominations, is deeply divided over issues like homosexuality is truly an understatement. The liberal denominations long ago liberated themselves from anything close to a literal interpretation of Scripture. Over the past half-century, various heresies, aberrant beliefs systems, and theological movements have found a safe home under the umbrella of the “mainline” denominations. Now, Bishop Hansen want to convene a global council to combat literalist interpretations of the Bible.
There once was a time when the great councils of the church defended theological orthodoxy. Whatever happened to Nicaea, Chalcedon, and Ephesus? We can only imagine where this bizarre council might meet. The Council of Greenwich Village? Harvard Yard? Riverside Drive? I suggest the Council of Laodicea. The possibilities are endless.
SEEING IS BELIEVING: Hanson’s address is available in video format, courtesy of the ELCA.
July 26, 2005
The Church of England is trying its best to avoid achieving a clear position on the issue of homosexuality, even for clergy. Yesterday, the church’s House of Bishops found itself publicly embarrassed by its own statements, even as it attempted to clarify whether ordained ministers of the Church of England could enter into homosexual “civil partnerships.”
July 12, 2005
When the Church of England began ordaining women as priests back in 1994, ecclesiastical laws were put into place that prevented the election of a woman as bishop. As one Anglican friend told me at the time, the prohibition against women bishops was a concession made necessary at the time. Just wait, he told me, and you will see that as soon as there is a large number of women priests, the rule against women bishops will fall. Now, fully half of those studying to be priests are women. The total feminization of the Church of England is well underway.
BBC News now reports that the church’s governing body has just taken steps to remove the barriers to women bishops. As the report indicates, “The vote beginning ‘the process for removing the legal obstacles to the ordination of women’ came after a debate at the General Synod in York.” In reality, once the biblical pattern of ministry is compromised, further compromise is all but inevitable. As my friend understood, it’s only a matter of time.
June 27, 2005
The Anglican Consultative Council voted last week to exclude the Episcopal Church, USA and the Anglican Church of Canada from its deliberations for three years. The ground of the expulsion was the fact that the two North American churches had taken actions in violation of Anglican doctrine and church law on the issue of homosexuality. The Episcopal Church USA elected and consecrated an openly-gay man as Bishop of New Hampshire while dioceses in both the U.S. and Canada had moved to bless same-sex unions. In both churches, the ordination of openly-homosexual ministers has gone without punitive action.
The 30-28 vote was hardly overwhelming, and no one seems sure where this will lead. The American and Canadian churches seem to be anything but repentant for their actions, and the Anglican Communion moves ever closer to a formal schism.
In response to the ACC actions, the Rev. Susan Russell of Integrity, a group pushing for the full acceptance of homsoexuality, said this to BBC News: “The more important question, I think, for the Church, is, ‘Does God care more about our sexual orientation or our theological orientation?’ And if one’s theological orientation is determined to be correct, faithful and holy, then we see no bar to ordination.”
Can we separate a “theological orientation” from a “sexual orientation?” I think not. What we believe about God and what we believe [and practice] about sex are fundamentally and inextricably related. One cannot accommodate homosexual behavior or homosexual relationships without denying the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible as the Word of God. The authority of the Scripture is directly assaulted by arguments for the normalization of homosexuality. Likewise, the sufficiency of Scripture is denied by those who claim that the Bible must be corrected or supplemented by contemporary ideologies of sexual orientation.
The Rev. Russell’s argument is worthy of note. We can count on seeing this line of argument again.
LINKS NOT EXCLUDED BY ANGLICANS: US Church Excluded for Gay Stance, BBC News, June 23, 2005; Anglicans Show US, Canada the Door, The Australian, June 24, 2005.
May 17, 2005
A major report on Mary was released May 16 in Seattle by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. The document, known popularly as “The Seattle Statement,” is more formally titled Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ [see this introduction and explanation of contents] The document was long anticipated, and it deals with one of the crucial issues that has divided the heirs of the Reformation from the Roman Catholic Church. The veneration of Mary, along with the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, have long divided evangelicals from Catholics. In the case of this document, those divisions are not so much resolved as redefined. In the text’s most signifcant statement, the differences are declared to be no reason for continuing eccclesiastical division. “Affirming together unambiguously Christ’s unique mediation, which bears fruit in the life of the Church, we do not consider the practice of asking Mary and the saints to pray for us as communion dividing…. we believe that there is no continuing theological reason for ecclesial division on these matters.”
March 8, 2005
“Any lasting solution will require people somewhere along the line to say, ‘Yes, we were wrong’.” Those words were spoken by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams just after the Primates of the Anglican Communion (leaders of the national churches connected to the Anglican tradition) had asked the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada to withdraw from the Anglican Consultative Council for at least three years.
February 2, 2005
“Bishop Spong is the leading voice within modern progressive Christianity, attempting to make Christianity relevant to today’s world,” said Dixon Sutherland, director of Stetson University’s Institute for Christian Ethics. He went on to declare, “The exposure of students to probably the most formative leader of progressive thinking within Christianity today is an important part of our educational mission.”
November 5, 2004
“In the beginning there was the Church,” explains Carol Midgley. “And people liked to dress up in their best clothes and go there on Sundays and they praised the Lord and it was good. But it came to pass that people grew tired of the Church and they stopped going, and began to be uplifted by new things such as yoga and t’ai chi instead. And, lo, a spiritual revolution was born.”
October 19, 2004
The much-awaited “Windsor Report” was released in London on Monday, but the Anglican debate and division over the issue of homosexuality will not be resolved by this report and its recommendations. If anything, the Windsor Report, submitted by a group of leading Anglican figures known as “The Lambeth Commission on Communion” represents a massive failure of nerve. In the end, it may be the final nail in the Anglican coffin.
October 11, 2004
The Episcopal Church is in big trouble, and the larger Anglican Communion appears poised to offer the American church an ultimatum–return to a biblical standard of sexuality, or get out. While analysts and church historians debate the significance of this denomination’s present trouble, along comes a little book that tells us everything we need to know about how the Episcopal Church USA was brought to this disaster.