increasing chaos among breakaway movements

Officials of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin made much in October of proposed changes to their constitution. The changes they were advocating as of October 1 -- the ones that diocesan public relations officer Fr. Van McCalister announced here had been with the diocese's secretary of convention since September 1 -- can be found here. These changes would remove all reference to the Diocese of San Joaquin being part of The Episcopal Church or subject to The Episcopal Church's constitution and canons, instead saying that the diocese "accedes to the Faith, Order and Practice of a province of that branch of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church known as the Anglican Communion" in an attempt "to transfer all relationships and communion from ECUSA to an Anglican Province to be determined at a Special Convention called by the Bishop of San Joaquin."

The last 48 hours have seen a fair amount of confusion and speculation, though, as the Fresno Bee and the AP each reported that the diocese had backed down from their earlier proposal to break with The Episcopal Church. As always, Jim Naughton of the Diocese of Washington was on top of developments, but it was difficult to ascertain what precisely was going on without a published text of any revised proposals for San Joaquin's convention.

As of the afternoon of November 30, the Fresno Bee was reporting the change in direction this way:

Clergy and lay delegates had been poised to consider a groundbreaking resolution to split from the Episcopal Church - the U.S. wing of the 77 million-member Anglican family - as divisions over the Bible and sexuality tear at the faith's national leadership.

Instead, they'll consider a watered-down proposal that makes no significant changes to the conservative diocese's status. Amendments can be made during the meeting, which starts Friday.

"Instead of declaring that we're on our way to this or that province, it says we recognize and declare that we're Anglican," said the Rev. Van McCalister, a spokesman for the diocese, which covers a wide swath of Central California.

The AP said this:

Episcopal leaders offered conservatives more independence from the national church Thursday, as a California diocese quietly backed down from its threat of a swift break with the denomination. ...

A spokesman for the Diocese of San Joaquin, the Rev. Van McCalister, would not elaborate Thursday on why his diocese changed course on breaking away.

Today, the Connecticut Six blog published what they presented as "a copy of a new amendment to be proposed at the convention in San Joaquin after the committee votes to remove the initial new amendment." If this is accurate, I'd say that the Fresno Bee and AP leads were misleading. The text of the newly proposed constitutional amendments removes all references to the Diocese of San Joaquin being a part of The Episcopal Church and subject to its constitution and canons; as Fr. McCalister told the Fresno Bee, the only thing the new proposed revisions don't suggest that the old ones did is that the diocese would be joining another province immediately. But the new revisions do say far more than "we recognize and declare that we're Anglican" -- something that wouldn't need declaring as long as the diocese was a part of The Episcopal Church, a province that is fully a member of the Anglican Communion according to the Archbishop of Canterbury. I find two things very interesting about the newly proposed amendments:

First, and unmentioned in news coverage to date, is that the newly proposed revisions to San Joaquin's constitution include an entirely new one:

4. To Amend Article I of the Constitution which requires a ¾ vote of approval by orders.
Following the word “embrace” add the words “but not be limited to”, so as to read:
Article I

Title and Territory
This Diocese shall be known as the Diocese of San Joaquin. Its territory shall embrace but not be limited to [emphasis mine -- SDB] all that portion of the State of California included in the counties of San Joaquin, Alpine, Stanislaus, Calaveras, Mono, Merced, Mariposa, Tuolomne, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Kern, and Inyo.

In other words, the report of Fr. Jake Stops the World that San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield's presentations to congregations included the claim that he would be free in the new structure he envisions to plant new congregations "even in deepest, darkest Los Angeles, and the deepest, darkest San Francisco ... wherever" now have solid (well, as solid as the Connecticut Six blog's report) textual evidence to back it up. So much for "Windsor compliance"; the Bishop of San Joaquin plans to plant congregations in the dioceses of other Anglican Communion bishops. If Fr. Jake's report is correct, he's also claiming to have the backing of "the Primates" -- or at least, the six who recently visited the U.S. for the board meeting of Anglican Relief and Development -- per a message from Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh.

Second, the last-minute scrambling in San Joaquin is strongly reminiscent of the scrambling that took place earlier among bishops petitioning the Archbishop of Canterbury for:

  • alternative primatial oversight (oops, that was rejected as a term in September)
  • a direct relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury (that got dropped pretty quickly)
  • a Commissary (defined by Bishop Stanton of Dallas, who proposed the term, as "a sort of vicar from colonial days")
  • a Vicar (offered by the Presiding Bishop and colleagues coming out of the November meeting that +Duncan, +Iker, and others boycotted, and so the idea of "a sort of vicar" -- which a Primatial Vicar would most definitely be -- got dropped in a hurry)
  • alternative primatial oversight -- which is once again the Anglican Communion Network's term of choice, now that a Primatial Vicar was offered and the offer rejected on the same day, on the grounds that it was not sufficiently "primatial" (the very ground on which Bishop Stanton asked specifically for "a sort of vicar" instead) as well as not sufficiently "alternative" and not "oversight." I can't help but wonder what Bishop Stanton thinks of all this.

Not only have the breakaway organizations failed to come up with a consistent and coherent vision of what kind of "oversight" or "care" they want and who could or should provide it, but they also don't agree on what kind of new or reconstituted structure or structures would be best, with various parties proposing:

  • In the case of San Joaquin's newly proposed constitutional revisions, simply breaking off from The Episcopal Church without joining anything else, resulting in "The Anglican Church of San Joaquin," a province consisting of a single diocese "in full communion with the See of Canterbury";
  • In most proposals from the Anglican Communion Network, forming with others a non-geographic or mix of geographic (e.g., the Diocese of Pittsburgh, except that individual parishes would supposedly be free to declare themselves part of another diocese, making for diocesan borders looking a little like patterns in a kitchen strainer) and non-geographic (e.g., the "Forward in Faith Convocation") judicatories to form a "Province X" of The Episcopal Church -- but seemingly not under its Presiding Bishop, constitution, or canons;
  • joining another Anglican province (e.g., the Church of Uganda, Rwanda, or Nigeria);
  • forming a "'college' of bishops and dioceses within The Episcopal Church ... without this requiring either an alternative province or the intervention of bishops from outside the US."

This last "'college' of bishops and dioceses" option is the proposal of the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI), released today on its own website after versions appeared yesterday on the Stand Firm blog and TitusOneNine. Although the ACI shares with the Stand Firm and TitusOneNine blogs the "few good men" model of volunteer writers, it has -- until yesterday -- sought to distance itself from these other blogs, which function most often as a rapid-response machines to energize a highly partisan base, and instead sought to present itself as a kind of six-man (the ACI's regular contributors are all male, all priests, and I believe all white) online academic institution, albeit without scholarly peer review beyond their six "collegial theologians."

The ACI's previous offerings have, for the most part, been characterized by a measured tone, careful argumentation, and copious sourcing -- with the notable exception of yesterday's "Proposal for an Interium [sic] Arrangement While Awaiting a Conciliar Communion Covenant." This proposal -- a proposed alternative to the one released on ENS and the Anglican Communion News Service yesterday, and welcomed (albeit "cautiously") by the Archbishop of Canterbury -- was released to conservative blogs before being published on the ACI's own website, a move which I thought last night might indicate a rush to publish prompted by the Presiding Bishop's proposal.

The text released on those blogs (and now on the ACI's website as well) included a kind of apology for the timing of the release in an introduction that, especially in comparison to the ACI's usual tone and care, strikes me as hastily scribbled. It notes (in what seems to function rhetorically as a kind of apology, in the sense of defense) that their proposal, despite the timing of its release, was a much earlier creation "that has previously been circulated among some of the leadership of the Anglican Communion." The spelling errors that riddle the proposal (most embarrassingly, the spelling of Dromantine as "Dromentine," given that the Primates' Dromantine communiqué is the only primary source to which they refer, even obliquely, in their proposal) are only the first and most obvious indication that, in a student paper, would suggest to me a project rushed to very rapid completion, with no time for proofreading, let alone careful crafting.

Please don't get me wrong: SarahLaughed.net has all kinds of typographical, spelling, and grammatical errors. I am, after all, just one gal with a website that I maintain in my spare time, such as it is. The ACI website, unlike SarahLaughed.net, goes to some lengths to establish itself as being something other than "six guys with a website and some spare time," from the academic-sounding domain name to the academic terminology of "collegial" (without a college) and "fellows." All but one of the six guys of the ACI have a Ph.D., and every honorific title gets listed not only on the front page, but in every byline.

All of those are small measures that add up to more by their consistency. The academic ring of ACI postings means even more. Contrary to popular stereotypes about academics, most of us don't talk with friends or write notes to family in sixteen-page treatises with copious footnotes and measured tones; when we do strike those notes and pack that much information into an argument, it's because significant time, effort, and care has been taken. When the ACI risks undermining the reputation built up with such time, effort, and care over the course of years by publishing something that looks more like a memo dashed off in an hour than a proposal crafted over the course of weeks and vetted by a broad spectrum of thinkers -- especially on a topic as important as this -- there's got to be a reason.

The most convincing explanation to me remains the most obvious one: the ACI proposal has such a rushed tone because it was very, very rushed. It was released to partisan bloggers first because they could get it published most quickly, and time was of the essence. And time was of the essence because of the sudden rush of competing and conflicting proposals and responses being fired off by the rapidly responding (but not particularly disciplined or coordinated, it seems) machines of organizations that share with the ACI a feeling that, as their proposal states, "any solution that ... leaves her [i.e., the Presiding Bishop] fully at the table" is unacceptable, but seem to agree on little else.

I found myself somewhat astonished that the ACI, normally a group that takes great pains to provide extensive theological justification for their proposals, would state it so baldly and without any reference to scripture or the Church's tradition: I cannot help but suspect that the "conciliar" covenant the ACI awaits, like proposals for the interim, will be evaluated above all on the basis of whether it could ever allow for Katharine Jefferts Schori to be "at the table."

In any case, the ACI's uncharacteristic haste to release a document so clearly "not ready for prime time," and to do so first via conservative bloggers, points to a something of far greater consequence. The proposal from New York for a Primatial Vicar did not require such a rapid answer from the ACI; implementing it would take time and consultation, allowing the ACI time for to exercise their customary care before posting. But other conservative leaders were in rapid response mode, and were making very public statements with language and envisioning structures completely incompatible with the ACI's proposals.

In other words, I believe it's possible that the primary audience for the ACI's hasty release -- the people the ACI was hoping most to influence by it -- were not Primates abroad, but conservatives in the U.S., whom the ACI hopes will unite around their creative, if rather confusing, proposal of a "'college' of bishops" (even they have to put "college" in quotes for the phrase) both within and apart from the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church, and exercising episkope over some, but not all, of the congregations in their dioceses, as well as over some congregations in other bishops' dioceses.

The details of how on earth that could work (aside from providing full employment for Carter Center observers called upon to monitor innumerable fraught congregational votes on who their bishop should be this week or this month) are of as little importance as their complete neglect in the ACI proposal suggests; the main point of the ACI proposal, in my reading, is that breakaway organizations will not be able to gain traction for their proposals so long as they depend upon something the Windsor Report -- in the tradition of church councils going back at least to Nicea -- clearly condemns: namely, the intervention of foreign bishops in others' provinces.

The six guys of the ACI are seeking to combat the significant confusion and dissension among breakaway movements regarding what they want to happen, which in turn represent significant confusion within and conflict among underlying assumptions of ecclesiology: they cannot agree on what it means to be church, and "one holy, catholic, and apostolic" at that; what it means to be in communion; and what it means to be "in Christ" -- all of which, I would say, are in essence one question.

In that endeavor in particular, I am praying for the ACI's success. Something they and I share wholeheartedly, I hope, is the conviction that the Church is called to koinonia -- not "impaired communion" or "associate membership in communion," but Communion, full stop. Anything less among those who celebrate the Eucharist, the Lord's Meal, slanders against the Holy Spirit into whom we were Baptized and the one Lord at whose table we claim to gather.

I may not share the particularities of their vision as to how we might best live into God's call to Christ's Body to be one as Christ is one, but I have to say this: if the subtle and not-so-subtle sniping and competition among those most vociferously proclaiming themselves the guardians of the orthodoxy and koinonia at the heart of the Windsor Report's most helpful exhortations is any indication of what the family of Anglican churches would be like if they had authority to implement their proposals without deep, lengthy, and broad consultation, I think that our current and very messy polity is the better course. If the breakaway movements of American Episcopalians do come to define what the next stages of our life together in the Anglican Communion look like, I hope the ACI's six guys succeed in basing it on principles of conciliarity rather than the competing and fractious rhetoric of some of their conservative competitors within (for the moment) The Episcopal Church. But I remain confident that God calls us to more than that -- to a Communion that includes all the Baptized -- and I look forward to partnering with any and all working toward that goal.

December 3, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

special commission appointed; in related news, Dylan asks for prayer

I posted this on Grace Notes, my personal blog, as well.

A Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion has been appointed with the charge of "preparing the way for General Convention to receive and respond to the Windsor Report, the February 2005 communiqué of the primates from Dromantine, and the actions of the June 2005 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council." I will be serving as one of the commission's members, and I covet your prayers.

The Episcopal News Service release (which, curiously enough, doesn't seem to be up yet on their website [Correction 9/21/05 3:22 p.m. -- it's now been posted here.]) follows:

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Special Commission on Episcopal Church, Anglican Communion to meet
Presiding Bishop, House of Deputies President appoint members

By Mary Frances Schjonberg

ENS 092005-2

[Episcopal News Service] The first meeting of the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion will take place Monday, November 7, at the Episcopal Church Center in New York.

The 14-member commission was appointed by Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold and the Very Rev. George L. W. Werner, president of the House of Deputies. They charged the commission with preparing the way for General Convention to receive and respond to the Windsor Report, the February 2005 communiqué of the primates from Dromantine, and the actions of the June 2005 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council.

The Windsor Report was released in October, 2004 by the Lambeth Commission on Communion, established by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2003 in response to reactions in the world-wide Anglican Communion to the election and consecration in 2003 of V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson is an openly gay man who lives in a committed relationship with his long-term partner.

The report also addressed the decision of the Canadian diocese of New Westminster to permit the blessing of committed same-gender relationships.

The primates of the Anglican Communion issued a communiqué at the end of their meeting in Dromantine in Northern Ireland. The primates asked, among other points, that the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada “respond through their relevant constitutional bodies to the questions specifically addressed to them in the Windsor Report as they consider their place within the Anglican Communion.”

In June, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), the principal deliberative body of the Anglican Communion and one of its four “instruments of unity,” agreed with the primates’ request that ACC members from the United States and Canada voluntarily withdraw from active membership on the council for the time leading up to the next Lambeth Conference in 2008. Those members did withdraw and attended the June meeting as observers. They and others made requested presentations to the ACC about both church’s experience with same-gender relationships.

Griswold and Werner asked the commission, on which they both will serve as well, to consider those reports and actions “as they pertain to the life of the Episcopal Church and our relationship to the other provinces of the Anglican Communion.”

“In doing so, the Special Commission will need to consider how we within the Episcopal Church can be faithful to God's mission in the world as we continue to live with divergent points of view held by faithful men and women,” the two wrote in a letter to the members.

“We were seeking a group of people of diverse opinion of the highest quality who can handle such complex issues as these,” Werner told Episcopal News Service. “I am deeply grateful to those who have accepted this appointment.”

The Special Commission will prepare a report with proposed resolutions, if any, for the Blue Book of the 75th General Convention next June. The Blue Book is each convention’s official compilation of reports and proposed legislation from the committees, commissions, agencies, and boards of the General Convention.

The commission’s members are: Sarah Dylan Breuer of Frederick, Maryland (Province III); the Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas of Episcopal Divinity School (Province I); the Rev. Mark Harris of Lewes, Delaware (Province III); the Rev. Dr. Katherine Grieb of Virginia Theological Seminary (Province III); the Rt. Rev. Dorsey F. Henderson Jr., bishop of Upper South Carolina (Province IV); the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, bishop of Nevada (Province VIII); the Rt. Rev. Henry Louttit Jr., bishop of Georgia (Province IV); the Rev. Charles E. Osberger of Wye Mills, Maryland (Province III); the Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk, bishop of New York (Province II); the Rev. Canon Rosemari Sullivan of Virginia Theological Seminary (Province III); Katherine Tyler Scott of Indianapolis, Indiana (Province V); the Rev. Francis H. Wade of Washington, D.C. (Province III); Christopher Wells of South Bend, Indiana (Province V); and the Rev. Sandra A. Wilson of South Orange, New Jersey (Province II).

-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

September 20, 2005 in Windsor Report | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Adam, Eve and T. Rex

latimes.com
COLUMN ONE
Giant roadside dinosaur attractions are used by a new breed of creationists as pulpits to spread their version of Earth's origins.
By Ashley Powers
Times Staff Writer

August 27, 2005

CABAZON, Calif. — Dinny the roadside dinosaur has found religion.

Dinny01The 45-foot-high concrete apatosaurus has towered over Interstate 10 near Palm Springs for nearly three decades as a kitschy prehistoric pit stop for tourists.

Now he is the star of a renovated attraction that disputes the fact that dinosaurs died off millions of years before humans first walked the planet.

Dinny's new owners, pointing to the Book of Genesis, contend that most dinosaurs arrived on Earth the same day as Adam and Eve, some 6,000 years ago, and later marched two by two onto Noah's Ark. The gift shop at the attraction, called the Cabazon Dinosaurs, sells toy dinosaurs whose labels warn, "Don't swallow it! The fossil record does not support evolution."

The Cabazon Dinosaurs join at least half a dozen other roadside attractions nationwide that use the giant reptiles' popularity in seeking to win converts to creationism. And more are on the way.

Continue reading "Adam, Eve and T. Rex"

August 27, 2005 in Creationism/Intelligent Design/Evolution | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

The Plight of African Christians

allAfrica.com         

Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)
OPINION
August 26, 2005
Posted to the web August 26, 2005

By Bugalo Chilume

In African culture, homosexuality is taboo. President Robert Mugabe has been widely reported to have said that homosexuals are worse than pigs, which didn't go down well with the West. Sam Nujoma is also known to have publicly unpalatable terms to describe homosexuality. In fact, he is reported to have ordered the arrest and deportation of homosexuals from Namibia.

Across the continent, homosexuality is a criminal offence, except in South Africa, where the minority white race was in power prior to majority rule - they ensured that the country's new constitution guaranteed freedom of sexual orientation before relinquishing power to the Africans.

Traditional Christian teachings frown upon homosexuality, as does African culture. It is against this background that the majority of African Christians, Anglicans in particular, are agonising over the consecration of Gene Robinson, an openly gay American divorcee of two, as bishop of an Episcopal Church, the American version of the Anglican Church. Most are horrified, and the consecration was met with harsh condemnation across Africa. The Kenyan Anglican archbishop is reported to have lamented that, "the devil has clearly entered the church. God cannot be mocked".

The majority of Anglican churches in Africa were against the consecration, with the notable exception of the South African church. Obviously, mindful of the provision of his country's constitution, Njongokulu Ndungane, the Archbishop of Cape Town, is reported to have welcomed Robinson into the church's fold: "Robinson has been consecrated by his province and that makes him a bishop of the church".

In white societies, homosexuality is an accepted lifestyle - even same sex marriages are recognised under law and enjoy the same legal rights as heterosexual marriages. Robinson's appearance at his nomination victory celebration with his gay partner by his side didn't cause much of a ripple in the white Christian movement. His consecration had been a foregone conclusion despite spirited opposition from church leaders of non-white races, who make up about 70 percent of the worldwide Anglican membership.

To the dismay of many African Anglicans, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the Anglican Church (a.k.a. Church of England) didn't rebuke the diocese in the US state of New Hampshire that firstly nominated and then consecrated Robinson. If anything, the archbishop was very accommodating in his remarks.

The current trials and tribulations of African Christians emanates from the fact that you cannot divorce indigenous culture from indigenous religion. When this happens, a society becomes dysfunctional, thus impeding its advancement economically, politically and spiritually.

Religion is the foundation upon which cultural values of a society are based; a framework within which these values function. By forsaking his own religion to embrace the religion of another race (white) that has totally different societal values from his, has left the African in a cultural limbo. As a result, African Christians, at least the Anglicans, are now in despair and utter confusion over the recent developments within the Anglican Church. Indeed, even without the consecration of the gay bishop, African Christians on the whole have always found it difficult to harmonise the spiritual demands of Christianity with their traditional African way of life.

Despite their opposition to the consecration of Robinson, there is nothing much the African and other non-white Anglicans can do to reverse this milestone in the Christian history, although they outnumber their white counterparts by far - clearly a master-servant relationship.

The consecration has taken place and the church has accepted it.

African Anglicans just have to bear it, toe the line and conform to the dynamics of the cultural values of their white masters, even if these are at loggerheads with their own African values.

Christianity is a religion of the white race, and therefore impervious to the cultural and social needs of its African and other non-white followers.

The near-hysterical opposition to contraceptives by the Vatican is incomprehensible, to say the least. Widespread poverty in Africa, where economic growth is largely stagnant, at best, makes it absolutely imperative that modern family planning methods be employed to contain runaway population growth; yet, the Roman Catholic Church instructs its many followers in Africa (and other developing parts of the world) not to use contraceptives. What is this?

Christianity is a white man's religion that he rightly wants to be in tandem with the dynamics of his own culture, and, needless to say, culture evolves over time to accommodate changing needs of society.

Given the comparatively pitiful low levels of economic development in the continent, African culture hasn't evolved to the same degree as European culture - hence the current deep cultural split between the races over the consecration of an openly gay bishop.

African Anglican ministers are reported to have accused their white counterparts of allowing their societies' increasingly secular morals to corrupt the traditionalist beliefs of Anglicanism.

What do they know? African Christians accepted the white man's religion when they were not party to its formation, now, what gives them the right to dictate to the owners of the religion?

Whites own the religion and should do whatever they damn well please with it!

In fact, over the years whites have made changes to their religion to suit the requirements of the times. Ineffectual gestures such as severing ties with the diocese of which Robinson is bishop is the most that African Anglican leaders can do to show their consternation at the consecration.

If, indeed, they believe that the consecration of an openly homosexual man as a bishop goes against the basic teachings of the Bible, and that it is an abomination, why don't they break away from the Anglican Church altogether? The church has broken up many times in the past to spawn new Christian denominations over less contentious issues.

The sad truth is that there is nowhere for them to go, no other spiritual home, for they were party to the destruction of their own true spiritual home.

Meekly, they will toe the line because they have been conditioned to always obediently follow the white man wherever he leads them, even if it is to their own deaths. Poor Africans.

Copyright © 2005 Mmegi/The Reporter. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

Link to original article

August 26, 2005 in Africa | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Trial of Harare bishop collapses in farce

telegraph.co.uk
By Peta Thornycroft in Harare
(Filed: 26/08/2005)

The ecclesiastical trial of an Anglican bishop who is an ardent supporter of President Robert Mugabe ended in farce yesterday when the presiding judge withdrew from the case before a plea had been heard.

Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, 55, the head of the Diocese of Harare, had been accused by priests and parishioners of 11 charges ranging from incitement to commit murder to bringing the Anglican church into disrepute. He rejects the charges .

But the trial, ordered by Archbishop Bernard Malanga, the head of the Church of the Province of Central Africa in Malawi which has authority over Zimbabwe, was quickly bogged down in technicalities and adjournments raised by the defence.

Judge James Kalaile, from the Malawian Supreme Court, told the court, mostly filled with black Anglicans gathered to give evidence against their bishop: "I have not in my years as a judge in Malawi or elsewhere heard anything like this dispute. I will contact the archbishop and ask him to appoint another judge."

Minutes after proceedings began, the defence attorney James Matizha demanded 17 pages of "further particulars" of the Church's case against his client.

Jeremy Lewis, the prosecuting barrister who is a prominent Anglican, said the objections were "vexatious" and out of step with ecclesiastical justice and intent. "The bishop has not even been asked to plead. Let him admit or deny the charges, that is why we are all here," he said.

Pauline Makoni, another leading Zimbabwean Anglican who travelled from London to give evidence against the bishop, said: "Our canons remain broken, our case against the bishop will not go away, we will continue." Wearing a cerise cassock and surrounded by family members, Bishop Kunonga emerged from the courtroom, convened at Harare Royal Golf Club, smiling broadly and claiming victory.

Bishop Kunonga would only speak to Zimbabwe's state media after the hearing. He is an open supporter of Mr Mugabe, who has given him at least two farms seized from their white owners.

An Anglican priest, Rev James Mukunga, who fled Zimbabwe last year, claimed in an affidavit signed in London last week that Bishop Kunonga had solicited assistance from state security agents and militant war veterans loyal to Mr Mugabe to have 10 "unruly" parishioners and priests killed because they opposed his tenure at Harare cathedral.

The chancellor of the Harare diocese, Bob Stumbles, who Bishop Kunonga has tried to sack, said: "I understand this case may now be investigated to see if charges can be brought against the bishop in the civil court."

The allegations against the bishop, had they culminated in a full trial, would have been the first time charges of such a serious nature would have been decided by the Anglican Church in Africa.

24 August 2005: Church court puts Mugabe bishop on trial
18 February 2003: Harare judge who cleared opposition mayor is held
12 January 2002: Prelate attacks Zimbabwe Anglicans

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.
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August 26, 2005 in Church of Zimbabwe | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

catch the new Episcopal Church TV ad!

If you'd like to catch the new Episcopal Church ad on television, here's the schedule for its broadcast this weekend (click on the image for a larger version):

Episcopalchurchadtimes_2


August 25, 2005 in Advertising/Public Relations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bishop 'besmirching church'

23/08/2005 20:39 - (SA)

Michael Hartnack

Harare - An Anglican bishop who is a strong supporter of President Robert Mugabe was brought before an ecclesiastical court investigating charges ranging from inciting murder to besmirching the church.

On Tuesday, Jeremy Lewis, acting as prosecutor, postponed pursuing the most serious incitement to murder charge against Bishop Nolbert Kunonga.

The 55-year-old clergyman arrived wearing a jewelled cross over his dark suit and crimson shirt at Tuesday's hearing held in a golf clubhouse across the road from one of Mugabe's official residences.

Kunonga had not yet been asked to admit or deny the charges, for which he could be expelled from the church, defrocked or merely reprimanded.  If convicted, he could appeal within the hierarchy of the 200-million member global Anglican family of churches.

Local church refuses to provide funding

The case was the culmination of a long series of disputes between Kunonga and parishioners and other members of the clergy, who bought the charges. The local Anglican Church had refused to provide funding for the prosecution, which was being financed by international donations. Other charges alleged Kunonga intimidated and improperly fired priests, ignored church law, commandeered bank accounts and foreign exchange, and "brought the diocese into contempt". He also was accused of ordering the removal of Cathedral memorials to Zimbabweans killed in the first and second world wars as well as pioneers of former white-ruled Rhodesia and to victims of the 1972-1980 independence war.

Archbishop Bernard Malanga, head of the Church of the Province of Central Africa, which had authority over Zimbabwe, appointed Malawian supreme court judge James Kalaile to hear the case with Zambian bishops Leonard Mwenda and Albert Chama assisting. Kalaile was a prominent lay member of the Anglican Church in Malawi.

Priest can't give evidence from UK

James Matizha, defending council, won an adjournment until Thursday, claiming charges had been changed at the last minute. Prosecutor Lewis said Kunonga was apprised of the charges two years ago. Plans for the key witness to the incitement to murder charge, former Zimbabwean priest James Mukunga, to give evidence via a closed circuit video link from a secret location in London, were disallowed under local rules of evidence. Lewis said Mukunga feared for his life if he returned to Zimbabwe, but might be prepared to testify in neighbouring Malawi. The incitement to murder charge might be heard later in Malawi.

Kunonga was accused of inciting members of Mugabe's feared Central Intelligence Organisation and "war veterans" militia to murder 10 of his critics in the local Anglican hierarchy. Mukunga allegedly received letters from Kunonga in 2003 with instructions to pass them on to the intelligence organisation and war veterans, urging them to "meet" the bishop's critics.

August 23, 2005 in Church of Zimbabwe | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Judge Rules Dissident Parish Owns Property

The Episcopal diocese had claimed that it was the rightful owner of St. James Church after the congregation defected in a dispute over gay rights.

By Larry B. Stammer
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 16, 2005

A conservative Newport Beach parish that severed ties with the Episcopal Church in a dispute over scriptural teaching and homosexuality is the rightful owner of its buildings and other property, an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled Monday.

Judge David C. Velasquez's ruling in favor of St. James Church finalized a tentative opinion he announced last week that rejected the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles' claim that the local congregation held the multimillion-dollar property in trust for the diocese — and that it forfeited any right to the buildings and other property, including hymnals, when it broke with the diocese and national church.

The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the six-county diocese, said he would appeal. His attorney, diocesan chancellor John R. Shiner, called the judge's ruling "a grave error."

Church conservatives said Monday's ruling was a setback not only for the Los Angeles diocese but also for efforts by the 2.3-million member national Episcopal Church to stem defections by parishes and dioceses over deep differences about the national church's decision in 2003 to ordain an openly gay priest in a committed relationship as bishop of New Hampshire.

"I think the verdict … is a momentous verdict across the U.S.," said the Rev. Canon David Anderson, president of the Atlanta-based American Anglican Council, which has assisted dissident congregations to leave the Episcopal Church. "It gives great encouragement to Episcopalians and people of other Christian denominations that hold to the fact that the local congregation that buys the property and buildings does, in fact, own their property," Anderson said in a telephone interview.

In handing down his ruling, Velasquez said that the diocese had failed to show that it ever had legal title to the St. James property or that the property had been held in trust by St. James for the diocese. The diocese had argued that under canon law, the property was held in trust for the diocese and national church.

"California courts are not bound by canon law," the judge wrote. State courts, he said, followed "neutral principles of law" in resolving church disputes, relying on deeds, articles of incorporation, state statutes and the rules of the "general" church or denomination.

"No evidence has been presented that a trust over parish property has ever been created under statutory law," Velasquez said.

The diocese also lost on 1st Amendment grounds. The judge said that St. James was exercising its free speech rights when it broke with the diocese, issued a press release declaring its estrangement and amended its articles of incorporation to write out any references to the diocese.

"Such acts arise out of and are in furtherance of the [St. James'] exercise of the right to speak on a matter of public interest," the judge wrote. "The views expressed by the defendants concern matters of public interest. How churches in America are reacting to the different viewpoints of homosexuality is currently a topic of much public significance."

The Rev. Praveen Bunyan, rector of St. James, said, "Freedom of speech and freedom of religion in this country is still upheld and we just rejoice in that." He added, "I would not speak for other churches, but I'm sure other orthodox churches would be very blessed by this goodness. I'm sure they rejoice with us."

Told the diocese would appeal, Bunyan said, "I don't know if I should be surprised, seeing the way they have continued to cause us pain…. I would wish that the Episcopal Church would say all right…. We want to be about God's mission and be about God's work."

St. James attorney Eric C. Sohlgren was more direct. He charged that the diocese tried to "intimidate the church and take away its property so the members would have no place to worship."

Shiner, the diocesan attorney, said the issue was not free speech but who owned the property. "When [St. James] became part of the diocese, they committed themselves both orally and in writing to abide by the canons of the church, both national and local," he said in an interview after the ruling. In a prepared statement, Bruno added: "We have never disputed that members of the departing congregations are free to worship how they wish and with whom."

The Santa Ana ruling marked the second time in a year that a court had ruled in favor of a congregation that broke from its national body. A year ago, the state Court of Appeal in Fresno ruled that a United Methodist congregation that left the Methodist denomination had a right to keep its church buildings.

The issue in that case was whether St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Fresno could revoke a trust with the denomination, which promised that the church buildings would be held in trust not only for the local congregation but also for the national United Methodist Church. The court ruled that because the trust had not been expressly declared irrevocable, the local congregation could end it.

Besides St. James, two other parishes — All Saints Church in Long Beach and St. David's Church in North Hollywood — left the Los Angeles diocese and were sued. Velasquez is scheduled to rule on their cases but has not said when he would act.

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August 16, 2005 in American Anglican Countil (AAC), Church of Uganda, Diocese of Los Angeles, St. James, Newport Beach, CA | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Dissent is a centuries-long Episcopal tradition

Church that formed in ferment of Reformation may be facing new crossroads.
By Greg Mellen
Staff writer, Long Beach Press Telegram

Monday, August 15, 2005 - LONG BEACH — Fissures in the Episcopal Church are certainly nothing new. In fact, many say it is the diversity of the congregants and their beliefs that makes the church vibrant and relevant.

Diversity is what allows Episcopalians to have very structured and ritualized High Churches and more relaxed and socially active Low Churches. It is what allowed radical thinkers such as bishops James Pike and John Shelby Spong to rise to positions of power, while simultaneously questioning the literalism of the Virgin Birth and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And sometimes, it is what drives parishes from the flock.

When All Saints Church of Belmont Heights and St. James and St. David's parishes left the national church after the ordination of an openly gay bishop, the blessing of same-sex unions and other doctrinal changes, it was a sign that for some congregations, diversity has its limits. The three breakaway parishes have since aligned themselves with an Anglican diocese in Uganda, a decision that has met with a variety of responses.

Some may see the breakaway congregations as reactionary parishes that are on the outer fringe of the faith and out of touch with modern society. Others may see them as the leading edge of a much larger and ominous trend that could ultimately rend the Episcopal Church and shake the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Already, Anglican leaders from around the globe have repudiated the Episcopal Church and declared varying levels of diminished relations. As the Episcopal Church continues with its current policies, those relations could become more strained.

"I think it's safe to say the Anglican Communion won't look like it has in the past. I think Anglicanism is from now on permanently changed," said the Rev. Gregory Wilcox of St. Mary of the Angels, a parish that split from the Episcopal Church in 1977. "The Episcopal Church committed itself with the consecration of (V. Gene) Robinson and the continued dissolution of doctrine. It has committed itself to this path."

One of the larger active groups in the U.S. that is trying to restore conservatism to the Episcopal Church from within is the Anglican American Council. Formed in 1996 with nine bishops and representatives from more than 20 parishes, the AAC now has 29 chapters and affiliations with 41 schools and organizations.

There have been suggestions that the Anglican American Council could eventually evolve into a second more conservative Anglican Church in the United States.

Others see the latest dustup as just another minor skirmish.
 

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August 15, 2005 in American Anglican Countil (AAC), Churches Not In Communion, Diocese of Los Angeles, St. James, Newport Beach, CA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Breaking Away

By Greg Mellen
Staff writer, Long Beach Press Telegram

Monday, August 15, 2005 - LONG BEACH — When All Saints Church in Belmont Heights split from the Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese in October, it became part of a rich, fractious tradition that dates back to when King Henry VIII created the Church of England and cut ties with the Roman Catholic Church.

Biblical, doctrinal and social schisms have been a part of Anglicanism and the Episcopal Church ever since. So have defections.

In the late 1970s, the issue of ordination of women into the clergy rocked the Episcopal Church of the United States of America. Approval of the ordination of women, along with proposed changes to the Book of Common Prayer, spurred four Southern California parishes to take the extreme step of severing ties with the national church.

Nationally, the effect was not unlike the current debate over the ordination of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire and the blessing of same-sex unions that led All Saints in Long Beach, St. James in Newport Beach, St. David's in North Hollywood and others to sever ties with the Los Angeles diocese and the national church. The three Southland parishes chose to remain in the worldwide Anglican Communion by aligning themselves with a diocese in Uganda.

The L.A. diocese sued the breakaway churches for their property and financial holdings, arguing that the parishes held them in trust for the diocese and forfeited them when they left the church. The same argument was used in 1977.

The four Southern California churches that left the fold in the 1970s found that their experiences tested the faiths and pocketbooks of both churchgoers and leadership.

The current breakaway churches may or may not have similar experiences. On Friday, Orange County Superior Court Judge David Velasquez tentatively ruled that one of the churches, St. James of Newport Beach, is the rightful owner of the church and its property. Velasquez's final ruling is expected today at a 2:30 p.m. hearing.

The ruling will not apply to the two other breakaway parishes. Hearings haven't been scheduled on those churches but the issues are much the same, according to attorney Eric Sohlgren, who represents St. James but acts as a spokesman for all three.

 

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August 15, 2005 in Church of Uganda, Churches Not In Communion, Diocese of Los Angeles, St. James, Newport Beach, CA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)