News for Week Ending 11/23/2009
Archbishop of Canterbury visits RomeArchbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams visited Rome last week. On Thursday, November 19, 2009, Williams addressed a symposium celebrating the centenary of the birth of Cardinal Willebrands, the first president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In his talk, the archbishop asserted that ecumenical talks with the Roman Catholic Church have established broad areas of agreement about the character and mission of the church. He asked if questions of authority, primacy, and decision-making are not secondary theological issues that should not be allowed to impede closer unity. Williams defended the ordination of women and put forward, however improbably, the Anglican Communion as a model for unity despite disagreements. Thinking Anglicans has collected links to commentary on Williams’ address here.
On Saturday, the Archbishop of Canterbury had a 25-minute meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. The New York Times reported that the church leaders held “cordial discussions,” but no especially remarkable news came out of the encounter. Again, Thinking Anglicans contains a collection of links, which you can find here.
Pressure building for Church of Uganda opposition to homosexuality billAnglicans are beginning to call for The Church of the Province of Uganda, led by Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, to speak out against the anti-homosexuality bill that has been introduced in the Uganda parliament. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) According to Thinking Anglicans, the Anglican Church of Canada’s Council of General Synod has passed a resolution calling for the Ugandan church to oppose the legislation and for the Canadian government to protest the legislation and work for its withdrawal.
Ekklesia has started an Internet petition to urge Christian leaders to oppose the Uganda legislation, and Chicago Consultation has called for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop, and other Anglican leaders to do so as well. Episcopal News Service reported November 23, 2009, that the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council will meet via telephone conference on December 7 to discuss a possible statement on the Uganda legislation.
In a related development, the Massachusetts-based progressive think tank Political Research Associates issued a report detailing the ways American conservatives have used African religious leaders to advance their own agenda. According to PRA, “sexual minorities in Africa have become collateral damage to our domestic conflicts and culture wars.” The report, “Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, & Homophobia,” can be found on the PRA Web site. Church Times covered the new report.
Bethlehem moves forward with same-sex blessingsEpiscopal News Service reported November 17, 2009, that Bishop of Bethlehem Paul Marshall wrote to his clergy November 16 to inform them he has put into place provisions for blessing same-sex unions in the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem. Because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not allow for same-sex marriage, Marshall cautioned against using the word “marriage” when discussing the newly authorized services. For couples legally joined in another state, The Blessing of a Civil Marriage from the prayer book is to be used, suitably adjusted. For those not otherwise joined, a liturgy from the Diocese of Washington is to be used. “The Washington rite,” explained Marshall, “lays emphasis is on the making of a covenant, as does the BCP.”
The 2009 General Convention’s Resolution C056 has encouraged bishops to authorized the blessing of same-sex unions by willing clergy.
Church buys full-page ad in USA TodayOn Friday, November 20, 2009, a full-page advertisement from The Episcopal Church appeared in USA Today. The ad listed beliefs and practices of The Episcopal Church and is described in an Episcopal News Service story here. The Rev. Nicholas Knisley, writing for The Lead, suggested that this and other publicity efforts (e.g., the op-ed piece by Dr. Chuck Robertson, the Presiding Bishop’s Canon in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram) represent the church’s pushing back against the charges of its detractors.
In response to the USA Today ad, the Rev. Frank Logue has offered some very attractive alternative Episcopal Church ads on his blog.