News for Week Ending 6/30/2008
GAFCON challenges Anglican waysThe Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON: see Pittsburgh Update story here) ended June 29 and issued a “Statement on the Global Anglican Future” likely to deepen the Anglican crisis. The Statement declares conference participants to be a “fellowship of confessing Anglicans,” but one “not breaking away from the Anglican Communion.” It justifies continued incursions into provinces, such as the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church, that teach a “false gospel,” announces the development of a “Primates’ Council” that would “authenticate and recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions, clergy and congregations,” and calls for the Common Cause Partnership, headquartered in Pittsburgh, to be recognized as “a province in North America.”
The Primates’ Council would likely comprise the primates of Nigeria, West Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Southern Cone, possibly joined by Tanzania, depending on a vote by its bishops.
As part of the Statement, “The Jerusalem Declaration” enumerates “tenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity.” The tenets include the “plain” reading of scripture (“the Word of God written”), subscription to the Articles of Religion, and the 1662 prayer book “as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer” to be translated and locally adapted.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, to whose prerogatives the GAFCON statement is a clear challenge, quickly issued a response calling the GAFCON proposals “problematic.” The Primates’ Council will “not pass the test of legitimacy” for some, he said, and the claim to be able to operate across provincial boundaries “is fraught with difficulties.”
Durham Bishop N.T. Wright, in a brief essay, “After GAFCON,” applauds the enthusiasm of the participants, but, like Archbishop Williams, he is unenthusiastic about the details of the Statement.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori also responded to GAFCON. “This statement does not represent the end of Anglicanism, merely another chapter in a centuries-old struggle for dominance by those who consider themselves the only true believers,” she said.
As reported here last week, Pittsburgh’s Bishop Robert Duncan delivered the opening plenary address in Jordan, but he did not follow participants to Jerusalem.
As we write this, press reports on GAFCON are just beginning to catch up with events. Recent stories can be found in the Telegraph, Christian Broadcasting Network, and Time. More stories will surely follow.
Prominent Church of England bishop to boycott LambethBishop Michael Nazir-Ali, a prominent conservative voice in the Church of England and spiritual leader of the Diocese of Rochester, says he will boycott the Lambeth Conference as a matter of conscience. “I would find it difficult to be in Eucharistic fellowship with, and teaching the common faith alongside, those who have ordained a person to be bishop whose style of life is contrary to the unanimous teaching of the Bible and the Church down the ages,” he said, referring to Bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson. The openly gay Robinson is the only Episcopal bishop not formally invited to the upcoming Lambeth Conference. The story is reported by Episcopal News Service here.
Church court convicts Pennsylvania bishop on charges of conduct unbecoming; attorneys vow appealOn June 25, The Episcopal Church’s nine-member Court for the Trial of a Bishop announced a guilty verdict on two counts in the trial of Bishop Charles E. Bennison of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The court finding was unanimous on the count of failing to respond properly 35 years ago, as rector of a church in Upland, California, after learning that his brother, whom he had hired as youth minister, was “engaged in a sexually abusive and sexually exploitive relationship” with a 14-year-old parishioner. The verdict was 6-3 on the charge of suppressing the information about his brother until 2006 and “fail[ing] to minister to people who he understood to have been injured by his brother’s conduct.” Attorneys for Bennison told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he was “obviously disappointed” and said they plan an appeal to an appeals court composed of nine bishops.
The bishop told the court he was unaware of his brother’s sexual abuse of the victim until several years after it began. He also said the church at the time lacked any process for dealing with such situations and that he received no special seminary training in dealing with problems of that nature. The victim and her mother both testified for the prosecution.
All parties involved have until July 30 to submit additional evidence concerning sentencing, which could range from an admonition to deposition. After the trial court verdict was announced, the Diocese of Pennsylvania Standing Committee issued a statement saying it “shares in the grief of the victims and all whose lives have been impacted by these events. Our prayers and thoughts are with those affected by the trial and the verdict. We pray for healing for all. The canonical process is long and far from over.”
The Episcopal News Service story on the verdict can be read here.
Diocese of Maryland consecrates first African-American bishopThe Rev. Canon Eugene T. Sutton became the first African-American bishop in the Diocese of Maryland when he was consecrated June 28 in a service held at the Washington National Cathedral. For the past eight years, Sutton has served as the canon pastor and director of the Cathedral Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage at the the cathedral. In an interview published June 27 in The Baltimore Sun, the newly chosen bishop said he especially wants to emphasize environmental concerns and education. He has testified before Congress on climate change, and he said in the interview that he would like to explore the possibility of establishing an Episcopal school in Baltimore for low-income children. The Sun’s interview noted that that Sutton is the great-great grandson of slaves and that the diocese’s first bishop was himself a slaveholder.
Virginia state court upholds constitutionality of “division” statuteA state court handling litigation between the Diocese of Virginia and congregations that have left it to become part of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) has ruled that the Virginia statute on “divisions” in religious bodies is constitutional. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) In an earlier ruling, the court held that the “division” statute was properly invoked by the CANA congregations. The Episcopal Church is party to the lawsuits, and a number of other churches sided with the diocese and church in friend of the court briefs.
Commenting on the court decision of June 27, the diocese issued a statement that said, in part:
“We are unwavering in these beliefs and will explore fully every option available to restore constitutional and legal protections for all churches in Virginia.”The Episcopal News Service story on the decision can be read here. A story from The Washington Post can be read here.