News for Week Ending 9/14/2009
Southern African church declares gay leaders OKThe Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa issued a statement September 9, 2009, expressing the view that sexual orientation is not a bar to church leadership. The bishops went on to declare, however, that “we hold that clergy unable to commit to another in Christian marriage partnership are called to a life of celibacy.” According to Anglican Journal, this is the first time an Anglican church in Africa has publicly recognized homosexual clergy.
According to the bishops, reports that the Anglican Communion is on the brink of schism are “grossly exaggerated.” The Communion has been struggling with the issue of human sexuality, according to the statement, but has not reached “any significant consensus.”
The bishops also reported that they have formed a committee to deal with a request from the Diocese of Cape Town “to provide pastoral guidelines for gay and lesbian members of the church living in ‘covenanted partnerships,’ taking into account the mind of the worldwide Anglican Communion.” The Republic of South Africa, in which Cape Town is located, allows civil unions of persons of the same sex. The Republic of South Africa makes up only part of the territory covered by the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, however.
Debate over covenant continuesAs reported in an update to a Pittsburgh Update story last week, the seven Episcopal Church bishops who met with the Archbishop of Canterbury on September 1, 2009, issued a statement September 7. (Episcopal News Service first reported that the meeting took place on September 2, the date reported by Pittsburgh Update. The statement from the participants gives the date of the meeting as September 1, however.) In their statement, the bishop express doubts that the 2012 General Convention will ratify the proposed Anglican covenant, and they encourage Episcopal Church dioceses and congregations to study and endorse the covenant. Episcopal News Service and The Living Church carried stories on the statement, which was released by Bishop of Western Louisiana D. Bruce MacPherson.
Church Times reported a different take on the covenant by high-profile conservatives. The Rt. Rev. N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, has again teamed up with the Anglican Communion Institute to write a 27-page paper titled “The Anglican Covenant: Shared Discernment Recognized by All.” The thesis of the paper is that The Episcopal Church cannot conscientiously sign on to the Anglican covenant because its actions, including those taken at the most recent General Convention, represent a virtual rejection of the covenant and of the shared discernment process of the Anglican Communion. Only by changing its current positions, the paper argues, could The Episcopal Church credibly sign on to the covenant.
Yale professor Frank M. Turner, in “The imagined community of the Anglican Communion,“ an essay published by Daily Episcopalian on September 8, 2009, offered a dramatically different theory. His essay draws on retired Cornell professor Benedict Anderson’s concept of “imagined community.” Turner refers to the “so-called Anglican Communion,” arguing that the Anglican Communion is a fiction that some are trying to reify through adoption of an Anglican covenant. The Archbishop of Canterbury, says Turner, seeks a “unity of an imagined Anglican Communion that has virtually no existence in reality” at the cost of persecuting women and gays.
FCA makes N. American debutVirtue Online reported September 14, 2009, the announcement of the advent of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans-North America (FCA-NA) at Nashotah House, the Anglo-Catholic Episcopal seminary in Wisconsin. The announcement was made by the Rev. Phillip Ashey, traveling chaplain of the American Anglican Council (AAC). Nashotah House dean Robert Munday seems to have been actively involved in the planning that led to the September 14 announcement.
The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans was a product of the June 2008 GAFCON event. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The announcement follows the formation of a similar group in the UK in July. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Ashey described FCA-NA as a “ministry partner” of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the new church headed by former Pittsburgh bishop Robert Duncan. Ashey declared that The Episcopal Church “has become theologically revisionist through a false gospel, heretical, and heterodox ways in the post-modern, post-Christian culture.” He did not, however, clarify the relationships among the AAC, FCA-NA, ACNA, and The Episcopal Church.