Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Empty seats in Dublin as Primates opt out
NOTE: Virtueonline first broke this story several weeks ago in South Africa when Uganda Archbishop Henry Orombi told VOL that orthodox archbishops would not attend the Primates meeting in Dublin
by Ed Beavan
November 26, 20010
AT LEAST ten Primates from the Global South are now expected to boycott the Primates' Meeting in Dublin in January.
In a statement released on Wednesday, five African Primates, members of the GAFCON Primates' Council, confirmed that they would not attend the two-yearly meeting. In addition, it is understood that the Primate of South-East Asia, Dr John Chew; the Primate in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Dr Mouneer Anis; and the Primate of the Indian Ocean, the Most Revd Ian Ernest, will not go to Dublin.
Furthermore it is expected that two new Primates, Presiding Bishop Tito Zavala, Primate of the Southern Cone, and the Most Revd Onesphore Rwage, Primate of Rwanda, will also boycott the meeting.
In the statement, which came out of a meeting of the GAFCON Primates' Council in Oxford in October, but was released only on Wednesday, five Primates - Dr Justice Akrofi of West Africa, Dr Valentino Mokiwa of Tanzania, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria, the Most Revd Henry Orombi of Uganda, and Dr Eliud Wabukala of Kenya - say they "join with other Primates from the Global South in declaring that we will not be present".
They acknowledge the Anglican Covenant is "well-intentioned" but say they "have come to the conclusion the current text is fatally flawed".
In response, Canon Kenneth Kearon, sec retary general of the Anglican Communion, said: "The decision whether to come remains a matter for the Primates."
The Oxford statement also reveals that GAFCON plans to build partnerships with other denom inations that "share their con victions".
Oxford Statement November 24, 2010
The leaders of the GAFCON movement are keenly aware of the crises of conscience that are pressing some people to shift their membership and ministry from the Anglican Church.
While we are greatly sympathetic that there are many areas of crisis that assault conscience, once again, we would offer that the theological clarity of the Jerusalem Declaration offers a solid foundation on which to engage with other Anglicans in the pursuit of Gospel mission.
Being able to link with those who not only form the majority of Anglicans in the world, but also those who affirm Biblical theological foundations of what Anglicans have always believed and practiced can provide concrete relationships and meaningful partnerships that are of more substance than the structures that have shown themselves to be flawed or compromised.
GAFCON provides a way to share Biblical Anglicanism that is in concert with what Anglicans have always believed, taught, and practiced.
We believe that Anglicanism has a great deal to offer in the pursuit of reaching the world for Christ. While we wish those who are departing the Anglican Church well, we do not believe that it is necessary to depart from what Anglicans have always believed to remain faithful. At the same time, we understand that some structures have become so compromised that some have been pressed by conscience to separate from their national structures - such as in North America.
We are glad that GAFCON exists and provides links to remain Anglican when people have been unable, for conscience, to remain in their Province.
In England (as well as other areas), we invite people to re-affirm what we have always believed in Anglicanism by adopting the Jerusalem Declaration as a statement of their own faith and join with us in partnership in working to win the world to Christ. It is with that perspective that the leaders of GAFCON met recently in Oxford and they share their thoughts from that gathering in the attached document.
The Most Rev. Gregory J. Venables,
1. The GAFCON/FCA Primates' Council met in Oxford from October 4th through October 7th, 2010. We gathered as Bishops in Council and as the elected leaders of provinces and national churches of the Anglican Communion representing more than forty million Anglicans. We know that many of our people confront a fallen world where sin abounds; the economy is troubled and resources are scarce; disasters loom and governments often seem impotent and helpless and yet even in the midst of all these things "our hope is in the Name of the Lord" and we are filled with hope and vision.
2. We are thankful for God's hand in establishing GAFCON and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. We rejoice in God's guidance from the Scriptures, the gift of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and the provision of a godly fellowship to sustain us. In this context we have met in Oxford, a city that has seen many critical events in Anglican history, and are grateful for the men and women who have given their lives to protect the faith that has given us eternal life.
3. We believe that we are now entering a new era for the Anglican Communion. New ways of living out our common life are emerging as old structures are proven to be ineffective in confronting the challenges of living in a pluralistic global community. We rejoice in the call of the Jerusalem Declaration for a renewed commitment to the authority of scripture and the centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sadly the rejection of these historic anchors to our faith has brought us to a crisis in the life of the Communion.
4. As we have made clear in numerous communiqués and meetings those who have abandoned the historic teaching of the Church have torn the fabric of our life together at its deepest level. We have made repeated attempts to bring repentance and restoration and yet these efforts have been rejected. We grieve for those who have walked apart and earnestly pray for them and the people under their care.
5. For the sake of Christ and of His Gospel we can no longer maintain the illusion of normalcy and so we join with other Primates from the Global South in declaring that we will not be present at the next Primates' meeting to be held in Ireland. And while we acknowledge that the efforts to heal our brokenness through the introduction of an Anglican Covenant were well intentioned we have come to the conclusion the current text is fatally flawed and so support for this initiative is no longer appropriate.
6. We also acknowledge with appreciation the address to the Nicean Society meeting in Lambeth Palace on September 9th of His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations. We welcome his call to all churches of the Anglican Communion to step back from the abyss of heresy and reclaim the revealed truth that is at the heart of our historic understanding of Christian faith and moral order. We share with him the conviction that failure to do so will endanger our common witness and many important ecumenical dialogues but we would also point out that there are many within the Anglican Communion who have not 'bowed the knee' to secular liberalism and who are determined to stay true to the 'faith once delivered to the saints' whatever the cost.
7. The Primates Council, as bishops of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, wish to affirm the reality of human sin and divine judgment, the only way of salvation from sin through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, the sufficiency and clarity of Holy Scripture as the revelation of God's will, and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit as he brings new birth and holiness of life.
8. As many people in the nations where we serve experience new economic challenges, we affirm that the Church has been entrusted with the task of holding before all people the truth of the gospel of the kingdom of God revealed in Jesus Christ, the key to human well-being and the hope of creation. While we know well the scourge of poverty and the despair it produces, we call on our churches to remember this unique calling and not be seduced by those who would argue that economic development is our only goal. The destiny of humanity is not limited to this present world but to live the resurrection life in the new heavens and new earth.
9. We are, however, determined to lead our churches away from unhealthy economic dependency and to teach our people the importance of becoming effective stewards of their own resources. We must reclaim a vision of financial self-sufficiency. We are grateful for reports of several initiatives that are building capacity for economic growth in our various provinces and commit ourselves to making this an essential dimension of our continuing work. We also believe that a vital part of our witness is the integrity of our marriages and families and our care for the most vulnerable among us, our children. We welcome recent initiatives to encourage the ministry of women in leadership by CAPA - the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa.
10. We are also grateful for the recent conference sponsored by CAPA in Entebbe, Uganda, where we witnessed the growing strength of the Anglican Churches in Africa and their commitment to wholistic mission. We believe that GAFCON/FCA must expand its ministry through the inclusion of other Anglican provinces that share our faith conviction and love for the Communion. We also applaud the efforts of the Global South Provinces to find common ground and opportunities for common mission. We are committed to doing all that we can to strengthen our common witness.
11. We remain convinced that the unique character of GAFCON/FCA with its diversity of cultures and its embrace of the Jerusalem Declaration as a common theological confession is a vital contribution to the future of the global Anglican Communion. We are persuaded that we must offer new initiatives to more effectively respond to the crises that confront us all. We must strengthen our communication capabilities and we are also looking to build partnerships with other denominational churches that share our faith convictions.
12. Specifically, we are planning a leadership conference in the latter part of 2011 that will focus on the need to "Contend for the Faith in the Public Square." We are also beginning preparations for an international gathering of Primates, Bishops, Clergy and Lay leaders in 2012, provisionally designated "GAFCON 2". To support all of this we have approved the expansion of the Secretariat.
13. Finally, we acknowledge that it is only by God's grace that we can accomplish any of this and so we call on all those that acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord to join us in prayer for our world and for the raising up of many initiatives that will bring the redeeming and transforming love of God to all those in need.
14. To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy - to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore. Amen.
The Primates Council:
The Most Rev'd Gregory Venables, GAFCON/FCA Chair
The Most Rev'd Justice Akrofi, Archbishop, Anglican Province of West Africa
The Most Rev'd Robert Duncan, Archbishop, Anglican Church in North America
The Most Rev 'd Emmanuel Kolini, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Rwanda
The Most Rev'd Valentino Mokiwa, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Tanzania
The Most Rev'd Nicholas Okoh, Archbishop, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)
The Most Rev'd Henry Orombi Archbishop, Church of Uganda
The Most Rev'd Eliud Wabukala, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Kenya
The Most Rev'd Peter Jensen, Archbishop,
Diocese of Sydney, Secretary
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
IRD President Answers His Episcopal Critics. Reflects on Mainline Decline
Virtueonline Interviews Mark Tooley
By David W. Virtue
November 26, 2010
Mark Tooley is the president of the Washington DC based Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD). IRD describes its mission as Christians working to reaffirm the church's biblical and historical teachings, strengthen and reform its role in public life, protect religious freedom, and renew democracy at home and abroad and to lead the fight rallying Christians to champion biblical, historic Christianity and its role in democratic society, and to defeat revisionist challenges.
His primary area of concern is to direct the United Methodist committee (UMAction) ministry for traditional United Methodists working to reclaim America's third largest religious body for historic Christian beliefs. Mark is the editor of UMAction Briefing and the author of "Taking Back The United Methodist Church." His articles about the political witness of America's churches have appeared in "The Wall Street Journal", "The American Spectator", "The Weekly Standard", "Human Events", "The Washington Times", "Touchstone", "The Chicago Tribune", "The New York Post", and elsewhere. He is also a frequent commentator on radio and television. He currently attends Washington Street United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Virginia.
He recently became the target of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, an ultra-liberal Episcopal Church diocese that has accused IRD of punishing the Episcopal Church by supporting the seizure of church property and other assets.
VOL spoke with Mr. Tooley about this and other issues facing mainline Protestant denominations that are in general decline.
VOL: The Episcopal Diocese of New York recently passed a resolution at its diocesan convention saying IRD posed a threat to religious freedom. They want TEC's General Convention to authorize creation of a joint task force to mitigate such threats, which, they say, also affects Presbyterian, and United Methodist denominations. What is your response to that?
TOOLEY: It seems very over the top and paranoid and fulfills a lot stereotypes about the liberal fringes of the Episcopal Church being somewhat divorced from reality and looking for hobgoblins to blame for their denomination's deep rooted schisms.
VOL: The Episcopal diocese also wants to ascertain the cost to the three denominations to date of litigation to prevent the alienation of church property and other assets. What is your response to that?
TOOLEY: It might interest a lot of people to learn how much the Episcopal Church has spent on litigation against local churches and dioceses.
VOL: The diocese maintains that for nearly 30 years, IRD has publicly stated its goal of "reforming" the Episcopal, Presbyterian, and United Methodist churches along "orthodox" lines, even though it is not accountable to any of those churches? How would you respond to those charges?
TOOLEY: All of these denominations have a host of caucus groups, conservative and liberal, contending for various causes. IRD is just one of many. We are no more or less accountable to the official denominations than any of the other caucus groups. In what sense should an independent group be "accountable" to a denomination whose officials it critiques? The underlying assumption of this supposed concern is that official denominational structures should be immune from criticism.
VOL: Each denomination has produced films, documentaries, and exposés about IRD's damaging activities, but each continues to treat the problem as internal discontent rather than as a coordinated assault on religious freedom. Would you agree?
TOOLEY: The idea that there is a coordinated assault on religious freedom in the mainline denominations is ridiculous, of course. Nobody questions the civil right of Katherine Jefferts Schori or other bishops to say and do ridiculous things. The question that IRD and other renewal groups have raised is whether church officials are morally accountable to historic Christian doctrines and to the membership of their churches. IRD was founded in 1981 primarily to critique the public witness of Mainline churches, especially their disregard for international human rights and religious liberty in favor of friendly accommodation with, initially, communist regimes, and now increasingly with Islamist movements. IRD is somewhat unique because we continue to care about the social witness of Mainline churches, when almost everybody else across the political spectrum is now indifferent, since Mainline church officials have only a fraction of the influence they had several decades ago. If and when mainline denominations halt their 45-year membership decline, we hope and pray that a more thoughtful social witness will accompany their revival.
VOL: You responded saying the Diocese of New York is one of the most liberal and fastest declining areas of the liberal controlled and fast declining Episcopal Church. Blaming the 29-year old IRD for Mainline Protestantism's 45-year membership spiral is convenient but nonsensical. Do you still stand by that statement?
VOL: United Methodist Annual Conferences (regional bodies roughly approximate to dioceses) in New York and the Desert Southwest passed similar anti-IRD resolutions in 2007/2008. They never made it out of committee at the United Methodist General Conference. How do you respond to this?
TOOLEY: Some liberal church elites are unable to explain their almost continuous five-decade membership decline of mainline denominations except by faulting abstract demographic forces or blaming the critics of mainline church policies who merely point out the obvious. Like the New York Episcopal Diocese, the New York and Desert Southwest (Arizona) annual conferences of United Methodism are very liberal and fast declining. Their appeals for the 2008 General Conference to condemn IRD were rejected.
VOL: You are very involved with the gradual renewal of the United Methodist Church, are you seeing any light at the end of the tunnel in the UMC?
TOOLEY: Almost unique among the Mainline denominations, United Methodism has the opportunity for genuine renewal and return to orthodoxy. This is mostly thanks to the church's robust and growing international membership. Over 3 million United Methodists live outside the U.S., mostly in Africa. The African churches are growing and probably African United Methodists will become a numeric majority in the denomination in 15 years or so, maybe sooner. At the last 2008 General Conference, international delegates were 30 percent. At the next one in 2012, they will likely be 40 percent. This makes it almost impossible to legislatively liberalize the church's teachings on sexual ethics, because the African delegates are almost entirely theologically conservative. A gambit by the U.S. bishops to constitutionally separate the U.S. church from the Africans with a separate U.S. only conference was overwhelmingly rejected last year in votes by local annual conferences around the world. Africans voted almost unanimously against it.
The church bureaucracy is a lagging indicator of this membership shift and is still dominated by U.S. liberals. But this will change in with time. Meanwhile, U.S. church renewal groups have remained strong and work collaboratively with each other. And the evangelical sub-culture in the U.S. church has persevered despite decades of liberalism. Southeastern United Methodist is basically holding its own in terms of membership, while the much more liberal West, Northeast and upper Mid-West continue to spiral. The church's whole Western Jurisdiction, including all the West Coast and Rocky Mountain states, has lost about half its membership and now comprises about 3 percent of the denominational total. This is also the region that is ironically the loudest about being "inclusive."
VOL: I believe the United Methodist Church does support the inclusion of homosexuals in the congregation, and homosexuals can take part in sacraments and programs. However, the UMC does state that "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching," so the church does not allow homosexuals to become ordained ministers. Is that correct?
TOOLEY: There's no official policy about homosexual practice and church membership. In recent years there's been a controversy resulting from a Virginia's pastor's refusal to grant immediate church membership to an actively unrepentant homosexual man in his congregation. The church's top court, the Judicial Council, ruled that local pastors may determine who's ready for membership. An effort to overturn the court with a constitutional amendment mandating automatic church membership failed. The church affirms sex only between husband and wife. Clergy (and hopefully laity.) are expected to be monogamous in marriage and celibate if single. Self-avowed, practicing homosexuals may not be ordained. Clergy and churches are prohibited from celebrating same-sex unions.
VOL: The UMC will not conduct homosexual marriages and will not allow them to be held in their churches. To date the UMC seems to be holding back on openly non-celibate homosexuals being or becoming pastors? Is that true and can IRD take some satisfaction that its efforts have been successful in being where the UMC now is?
TOOLEY: IRD has played a role with other renewal groups in United Methodism in affirming orthodox Christian teaching in our denomination.
VOL: Do you think the UMC can hold the line on the full homosexual agenda being implemented in their denomination? The Episcopal Church, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Church of Christ have all rolled over to the zeitgeist? Are you hopeful the UMC can hold out and fight back or is the full pansexual agenda rolling over the UMC inevitable?
TOOLEY: No, uniquely because of United Methodism's large international membership, it is almost legislatively impossible to liberalize the church's teachings on sexual ethics, because 40 percent of the delegates to the next General Conference will likely come from outside the U.S. This would require 90 percent of U.S. delegates to support liberalizing the church teaching, which is very unlikely.
VOL: You said a United Methodist Church special commission has recently faulted the denomination's own failed leadership for nearly 3 million lost members and is urging, in the words of one religion writer, 'Better pastors. Healthier churches. Less bureaucracy.' Would you elaborate?
TOOLEY: A special "Call to Action" committee appointed by the bishops has constructively identified much of our church as dysfunctional and is calling for reforms centered on more accountability by official church structures. Proposals along these lines will be considered by the 2012 General Conference. It's unclear whether these proposed institutional reforms, such as eliminating guaranteed appointments to all clergy no matter their competence, will ultimately be significant. But at least even the church elites are now faulting the church's U.S. decline on the church itself, and not abstract forces outside the church.
VOL: Randall Balmer, an Episcopal Priest who teaches at Columbia University insists that IRD supports and promotes alleged U.S. government torture practices, even though you have publically condemned torture. Why is he promoting a conspiracy theory that has no basis in fact?
TOOLEY: I've challenged Randall Balmer to provide the supposed emails from IRD to him expressing support for for "torture." He could not produce these emails, ostensibly due to a computer issue. IRD does not support torture and supports universal human rights. IRD has criticized some liberal church elites who have been quick to define all of the enhanced interrogation of terrorists during the Bush Administration as "torture."
VOL: You wrote a pretty scathing review of the Paul Moore biography written by his daughter Honor Moore that appeared in the Weekly Standard.
(It can be viewed here: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/016/439xrwit.asp
You said Moore was a closeted bi-sexual who married twice, had numerous women lovers and a male lover. He damaged his family while shedding crocodile tears over various prevailing social justice issues. Do you find this sort of hypocrisy common, that is, the separation of public and private morality among religious leaders you talk too?
TOOLEY: My review of the biography, by Moore's daughter, was actually fairly favorable. She seemed to be pretty candid in discussing her father's various issues and the anguished it caused her family and the church. For 100 years, Social Gospel liberalism has emphasized political justice while minimizing theology and personal ethics. The results have been sad and obvious.
VOL: You recently appeared alongside Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at a recent panel discussion on immigration reform. How did that go?
TOOLEY: We did not appear in the same panel but were both quoted in a Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) newsletter about immigration. I attended a CFR panel on immigration that included her, and it was quite astounding that she and other panelists could not identify any morally justified reason for border controls except to keep out only the most egregious criminals. Like most Mainline church elites, she and other bishops seem to support almost complete open borders.
VOL: Do you think the creation of a joint task force of the Episcopal, Presbyterian, and United Methodist churches to study the question arguing that all three denominations have been "targeted for reform" by IRD for more than 20 years will go anywhere?
TOOLEY: It would be fun. But no, it won't go anywhere. Even most liberals will see it as a little crazy.
VOL: All these denominations have spent millions in legal efforts to prevent conservative dissidents from taking church property with them when they declare a formal break with the denomination. Do you see this relenting at all? Some Presbyterian churches seem to have the ability cut deals with their church leaders, but not Episcopal parishes. Which way is the wind blowing on litigation in the US?
TOOLEY: Almost all the litigation and spending seems confined to the Episcopal Church. It's all very sad and seems avoidable. There are no winners except lawyers.
VOL: Do you think IRD is making an impact and are you in this battle for the long haul?
TOOLEY: IRD was founded in 1981 primarily to critique the uncritical attitude towards Communism and the old Soviet Union by then still influential mainline church officials. Thanks to the fall of Soviet communism, that battle was won. Now we focus on many churches' similar inability to criticize theocratic Islam and its persecution of Christians and others, though there are recent glimmers that even liberal Mainline elites are starting to speak out for martyred Christians in Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere. We hope this awakening will continue.
VOL: Thank you Mr. Tooley.