Roman Catholic Hospitality – quashed!

RICHMOND, VA: Episcopal Female Bishop Consecration Quashed

RICHMOND, VA: Episcopal Female Bishop Consecration Quashed
Richmond Catholic Bishop Barry Knestout voices ‘great sadness’ over cancellation
Everyone here is an absolute warrior for the Catholic faith, and when challenged, we did not back down

By David Nussman
https://www.churchmilitant.com/
January 17, 2020

The consecration of a female Episcopal bishop is being moved out of a Catholic parish after backlash from the faithful, but Richmond Bp. Barry Knestout is lamenting the cancellation.

Episcopalians were planning to hold the consecration of Susan Bunton Haynes on Feb. 1 at St. Bede Catholic Church in Williamsburg, Virginia. Local Catholics, including some parishioners at St. Bede, were outraged when word of the event spread earlier this month. Many Catholics who learned about it online also voiced their opposition, with a Change.org petition garnering more than 3,000 signatures.

Now, the Protestant bishop-elect is moving her consecration ceremony elsewhere. Noting the backlash the Catholic diocese of Richmond received, she announced Friday that the venue has been changed to the Williamsburg Community Chapel. She wrote a letter to Bp. Barry Knestout of the Catholic diocese of Richmond announcing she was withdrawing from using St. Bede’s as the venue, stating:

 

“I am writing to withdraw from our contract to use the lovely, holy space of St. Bede for my upcoming consecration as the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia. We have so appreciated and admired your grace and courage in extending this hospitality and abiding by your invitation even under fire from those within your own flocks.”

In a public statement Friday, Bishop Knestout bemoaned the controversy surrounding having a Protestant ceremony inside a Catholic church:

“It is with great sadness that I have received a letter from Bishop-elect Susan Haynes stating that, due to the controversy of the proposed use of St. Bede Catholic Church for her consecration as the bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia, she has decided to find another location for the ceremony to take place.”

“In granting permission for this ordination to be held at St. Bede, we were welcoming, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council encouraged, those who have in common with us “the written Word of God, the life of grace, faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Decree on Ecumenism, 3). We were following the example of St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis, who enthusiastically engaged in ecumenical outreach and hospitality. We look forward to continuing our ecumenical dialogue with the Episcopal community and to working with Bishop-elect Haynes in fortifying the long-standing, cordial relationship between our communities and our joint service to the poor.

“As I assure Bishop-elect Haynes of my prayers for her and the community she leads, I ask our Catholic faithful to pray for them, too, and to pray that the fruits of the Holy Spirit, along with humility, kindness, gentleness and joy be expressed and strengthened in all our faith communities.”

In Bishop Knestout’s previous statement on the controversy released Thursday, he defended letting the Protestant denomination have a ceremony inside a Catholic church, characterizing it as “hospitality to a Christian neighbor in need.”

On social media, faithful Catholics are celebrating the cancelation. Dean Barker, who was a leader in opposing the event at St. Bede’s, posted in a Facebook group: “Everyone here is an absolute warrior for the Catholic faith, and when challenged, we did not back down; we continued on with a Rosary in one hand and crusader swords in the other. Now, we must focus on rebuilding trust and holiness in our parish community and with our clergy. This isn’t the time to tear them down; it’s time for iron to sharpen iron. It’s time to make this parish a place where sainthood is inescapable.”

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A wee bit surprised to get this article via my un-favourite website ‘Virtueonline’. The Statement in the last paragraph reflects the opinion of conservative local R. Catholics whose opinion is probably shared by ‘Virtueonline’ host, David Virtue. 

However, when one considers host, David Virtue’s primary agenda – to undermine anything to do with the American Episcopal Church’s (TEC’s) flourishing in North America, one can quickly understand his point here. TEC is thoroughly at ease with the consecration of Women Bishops – a factor that is not so well-received in Virtue’s own solidarity with the schismatic Anglican habitues of ACNA (the local equivalent of the GAFCON quasi-Anglican conglomerate which is poised to leave the Anglican Communion on issues of gender and sexuality).

What is devastating to people like Virtue is that a Roman Catholic Bishop would welcome the Ordination of a TEC Woman Bishop taking place in a Roman Catholic Church – St.Bede’s, in his own Diocese of  Richmond, Virginia. Virtue’s intention in posting this article from the reactionary R.C. “Church Militant” is to align himself and his ACNA friends with protestation against anything that might suggest a thriving ecumenical relationship between Catholics and traditional Anglicans (TEC) in North America.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

(No more posts from kiwianglo while on holiday ‘somewhere in the South Pacific’)

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Latest comment on ‘Pope Emeritus’

The myth of the self-regulating institution of ‘pope emeritus’

Pope Benedict XVI reads his resignation in Latin during a meeting of cardinals at the Vatican on Feb. 11, 2013. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Benedict XVI reads his resignation in Latin during a meeting of cardinals at the Vatican on Feb. 11, 2013. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

It is not an accident that one of the most important social theorists, Max Weber, decided to study the dynamics of political and bureaucratic power after spending some time in post-Vatican I Rome. The papacy is about the history of the growth of a papal apparatus more than a speculative theology of the papal ministry. There is no possible understanding of the evolution of the Petrine ministry, of the office of the bishop of Rome as pope of the Roman Catholic Church, without understanding the constellation of offices, ministries, prelatures, and ecclesiastical or secular appendixes revolving around the successor of Peter.

Now, one of the most important recent additions in the constellation of offices that orbit the papal office is the so-called “pope emeritus,” a title that Benedict XVI created for himself after his decision to resign. He made the decision some time in 2012 and announced it to the world — in a speech delivered in Latin — on Feb. 11, 2013.

The “emeritus” as an institution was created on the fly in those hectic weeks right before the conclave that elected Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis. It was created without the usually and frustratingly slow, partly visible and partly invisible process of making structural changes in the Vatican. The new institution was largely improvised, with no recent tradition to count on, and entirely left to the “pope emeritus” to regulate himself.

The issue is the freedom of the bishop of Rome in his ministry, a ministry of unity of the church, free from undue interference external or internal.

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The conclave that elected Francis was extraordinary also because usually the election of the new “father” follows a few days after the burial of the predecessor: something like the demise of the father that creates the necessary space for a new one. This could not happen in 2013.

All that said, the institution of the “emeritus” — which from an ecclesiological point of view should be called the “bishop of Rome emeritus” and not “pope emeritus” — has largely worked since March 2013. Benedict and Francis have a relationship that is perceived as good by the public: In this sense, the movie “The Two Popes” captures something real of the exchange that happened in the complicated and unprecedented transition of power, a transition symbolically not yet consummated.

Over the course of this protracted transition, in the last few months there have been two major incidents. The first was the publication in April 2019 of a long essay, signed by Benedict XVI, that “explained” the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church by dismissing all that scientific findings and investigations tell us about the genesis of the scandal, and focusing on a social-political narrative that blames the upheaval on the 1960s.

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Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, is seen at the Vatican Jan. 14. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, is seen at the Vatican Jan. 14. (CNS/Paul Haring)

The second, this week, was the announcement of the publication of a book together with Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, a post to which he was appointed by Francis on Nov. 23, 2014. Benedict since has denied any intention to be a co-author, according to news reports, and has further asked that the publishers remove his name from the tome.

In response, Sarah released a letter from Benedict that told the cardinal to make whatever use he wished with a paper Benedict wrote years ago, in an entirely different context. It is becoming increasingly clear that the cardinal and those who assist Benedict may have taken advantage of trust extended to them by an old man.

The book is a defense of clerical celibacy in the Catholic Church and evidently a response to the debate that took place in the preparation and celebration of the synod for the Amazon region of October 2019.

Beyond the book

This is an incident not because of what the book says on clerical celibacy. On that issue, clear inconsistencies exist: between what this book seems to say and what theologian Joseph Ratzinger used to say; with what Benedict XVI as a pope decided by welcoming conservative married Anglican priests into the Catholic Church; with the tradition of the church that has always had married priests in the 23 Oriental Catholic Churches in full communion with the bishop of Rome; with the documents of Vatican II itself.

The issue is not even whether this is an intentional attack against Pope Francis. The issue, objectively, is the freedom of the bishop of Rome in his ministry, a ministry of unity of the church, free from undue interference external or internal.

There is a deep irony here. For all the talk about maintaining clerical celibacy, the Catholic Church at Vatican II had already changed one fundamental rule in the ministry of bishops that has to do in some ways with the marriage-like and monogamous (according to the Fathers of the Church in the early centuries) relationship between local churches and their top cleric, the bishop. The Second Vatican Council opened the way for the mandatory resignation of all ordinaries at a certain age.

During the post-Vatican II period, Pope Paul VI set the age at 75 and enforced more rules determining the resignation of prelates for reasons of age in the Roman Curia and the exclusion of cardinals older than 80 from the conclave to elect a new pope.

Now, some elements of a functional technocratic mindset took over at Vatican II in the bureaucratization of the bishops’ ministry. But at least the rules governing the resignation of bishops were discussed, updated periodically and they have become part of the life of the church today. Many Catholics — and all the clergy — know the “expiration date” for their bishop.

On the other hand, the rules for the resignation of a bishop of Rome, the pope, were never discussed, not at Vatican II, not ever. The council facilitated the option that a pope would resign (an option always available in theory according to canon law), but that option remained a taboo until 2013, also because of the example set by Pope John Paul II in his theologically and mystically argued refusal to resign.

Now, at more than 50 years from Vatican II, this situation of uncertainty is one of the unintended consequences of the council. It is one issue on which Ratzinger did not — as he usually did — follow the path of a narrowing of the import of the council’s decisions, but on the contrary accelerated well beyond what most Catholics could imagine, at least in 2013.

The fate of the institution of the “emeritus” was left to the emeritus himself: Just as no one is in charge of accepting the pope’s resignation, no one was in charge of telling Benedict XVI what he could or could not wear, where he could live, what kind of entourage he could have. The assumption was the new institution could regulate itself.

No matter what the real intentions of Ratzinger are, he has become part of a narrative in which traditionalists want to ‘defend’ celibacy by weakening the unity of the church.

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Here, the church pays the price of a certain myth about the history of the successful liberation of the papacy from external constraint — the kings and emperors, the Roman nobility, the Italian shadows. The fact is that there is no more exacting emperor for the church today than the public in its “passive democratic” access to the church through media and social media. There is no way to underestimate the importance of the relationship between the papacy and modern media.

This book on celibacy was not an off-the-cuff remark, but a well-planned operation with translations in multiple languages. It seems that the only kind of regulation comes from the mediatic-political market in which the “emeritus” operates with the help of his handlers. The papacy is a lonely business, but the pope is almost never alone. This is even more true for the “pope emeritus,” whose age and health demands near constant attention. He is surrounded by an entourage who took great care — in the months before the announcement of the resignation — in protecting their status and position in the Vatican.

The problem with ’emeritus’

The problem with the “emeritus” is that the power associated with the leadership in contemporary religion, included in the Catholic Church and especially for the office of bishop of Rome, is no longer exclusively a religious power legally codified. This is why this kind of intervention constitutes an illegitimate form of pressure on the one pope. No matter what the real intentions of Ratzinger are, he has become part of a narrative in which traditionalists (I am not saying conservatives because conservatives would have more respect for the papal office) want to “defend” celibacy by weakening the unity of the church.

 

(CNS/Ignatius Press)

(CNS/Ignatius Press)

It must be noted that in the United States, the perception of this latest pronunciamento is, once again, quite different from the way it is perceived in Europe, where there exists far less resistance to Francis than is evident in America. Given the acceptance among some U.S. bishops and conservative Catholics of such anti-Francis propaganda as former nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s letter of August 2018, the church here continues to come dangerously close to a situation that looks like a call to schism.

It is hard to deny that in the eyes of those who do not like Francis’ teachings, there is a parallel teaching being written. This is, in the long run, a puzzle for historians and theologians who will have to figure out when Benedict’s pontificate really — not canonically — ended.

In the short term, this book seems like a preemptive move — and different from the April 2019 article on the abuse crisis. Francis never published a book or an encyclical or an exhortation on priestly ministry and celibacy. In the synodal process, the pope has a role as presider of the bishops’ synod that the “emeritus” does not have. Francis’ post-synodal exhortations have not strayed from what was discussed and decided by the synods themselves.

This incident goes beyond the walls of the Vatican and the invisible boundaries of the virtualization of Catholicism in the media and social media. The symbolism of the “emeritus” retiring in a monastery in the Vatican meant very little for those Catholics for whom Benedict XVI never really retired. The “emeritus” promised prayer and silence. They are disobeying Benedict, or Benedict is disobeying himself, or, as now seems likely, some prelates opposed to Francis have sought to hide their plots in the mantle of the emeritus.

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One wonders what kind of example the “bishop emeritus” of Rome is giving to the hundreds of diocesan bishops emeriti around the world. The 2004 directory for emeriti, Apostolorum Successores, published by the Curia Congregation for Bishops, made clear that “the Bishop Emeritus will be careful not to interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, in the governance of the diocese. He will want to avoid every attitude and relationship that could even hint at some kind of parallel authority to that of the diocesan Bishop, with damaging consequences for the pastoral life and unity of the diocesan community.” Benedict XVI taught, in his own way, his successor Francis how to be and not to be pope. Catholics hope this is true also for the next emeritus.

We all remember how some bishops’ appointments were made and announced during the very last days of John Paul II — decisions of which the dying Karol Wojtyla was most certainly unaware. Today, we still assume that the “emeritus” is still able to make decisions about the way his name is used. But it is hard to know for sure. Not only is there still no canon law concerning the situation created by an incapacitated pope, the Catholic Church evidently also needs a law concerning the situation created by an incapacitated “emeritus” and his entourage. This is clearly something that will be possible to address at a moment when the Vatican will be able to legislate without giving the impression of limiting a living “emeritus.”

We will never know officially if anyone in the Vatican was informed about all this before the tactical leak to the press. The role of the official Vatican media these days is to avoid any impression of a chasm between the pope and his predecessor. There are some who are acting responsibly in all this, and others who aren’t. Shielding themselves behind the “emeritus,” there are responsibilities that unfortunately escape the scrutiny to which the papal ministry and any other pastoral ministry in the church are and should be subject.

[Massimo Faggioli is a professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University.]

This is a most interesting development in the unfolding of the attempt by Cardinal Sarah and other conservatives in the Vatican, who have attempted to implicate the authority (non-existent) of former Pope Benedict XV1 in a recent book on Priestly Celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church. My last post on kiwianglo set out the extraordinary situation where the trajectory of the Recent Synod of The Amazon – presided over by Pope Francis – has opened up the possibility of Married Clergy in places where celibate clergy are no longer available to carry out the pastoral ministry of the Church.
The book in question, written by Cardinal Sarah but quoting outdated material written by Benedict – that is now in strong contention (see my previous post on kiwianglo) advocates the need to retain strict celibacy for all clergy – excepting those in the R.C. Ordinariate (promoted by former Pope Benedict himself) and those of the R.C. Oriental Rite Churches, which have their own special dispensation from celibacy.
Now the major Roman Catholic Press agency in North America (NCR) here contests the ‘authority’ of any ‘Pope Emeritus’ to publish materials that contradict the canonical authority of the reigning Pope (in this case: Pope Francis).  Because of the Roman doctrine of ‘Papal Supremacy’, this latest brouhaha need to be dealt with – and swiftly.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand
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Papa-Papa? No-No!

In surprise, Benedict openly defends clerical celibacy as Francis considers married priests

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Pope Benedict XVI walks down steps in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 10, 2013, two days before he announced his resignation. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — Retired Pope Benedict XVI has co-authored a new book defending the Catholic Church’s practice of a celibate priesthood, in a shocking move that comes as Pope Francis is considering the possibility of allowing older, married men to be ordained as priests in the Amazon region.

According to excerpts from the volume released Jan. 12 by the conservative French outlet Le Figaro, the ex-pontiff says he could not remain silent on the issue as Francis is contemplating the move, which was requested by the bishops from the nine-nation Amazon region at October’s Vatican synod gathering.

The book is co-written with Cardinal Robert Sarah, the head of the Vatican’s liturgy office. It is to be released in France Jan. 15 and carries the title Des profondeurs de nos cœurs (“From the Depths of Our Hearts).

Although the volume is yet to be seen in full, it appears to signify something as yet unexperienced in the two millennia history of the Catholic Church: a retired pope openly weighing in on something currently under consideration by his successor, the reigning pontiff.

One noted theologian reached shortly after the release of the excerpts called Benedict’s decision to write on the issue a “serious breach.”

“It interferes with a synodal process that is still unfolding after the Amazon synod … and threatens to limit the freedom of the one pope,” said Massimo Faggioli, a historian and theologian at Villanova University.

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In a summary accompanying excerpts from the new book, Le Figaro indicates that Benedict and Sarah wrote separate portions of the volume, but co-signed both the introduction and the conclusion.

Benedict, according to the excerpts, claims that priesthood and celibacy are integrally linked together. The former pope, aged 92, also claims that while priests were commonly married in the first millennium of western Christianity, those with spouses were expected to observe abstinence after ordination.

Sarah speaks more directly to Francis, openly asking the pope not to allow for married priests.

“I humbly beg Pope Francis to … veto any weakening of the law of priestly celibacy, even limited to one or the other region,” writes the cardinal.

The 185 members of October’s monthlong synod gathering considered the issue of married priests from the perspective of the pastoral needs of the Amazon region, where some Catholics can go for months or even years without access to the sacraments because of the difficult terrain and a shortage in the number of active ministers.

In their final document, the synod members suggested by a vote of 128-41 that Francis allow for bishops in the region to ordain current married deacons as priests, should circumstances so merit.

The text also prioritized the place of the Eucharist in a Catholic’s life. “There is a right of the community to the celebration, which derives from the essence of the Eucharist and its place in the economy of salvation,” it said.

Francis is known to be working on an apostolic exhortation responding to the synod document, in which he is expected to respond to the bishops’ request to allow for the ordination of married priests.

Celibacy, which has been the norm for priests in the western church for about 800 years, is a practice and not a revealed dogma. The Catholic Church currently allows for the ordination of married priests in a number of different circumstances, such as when a minister from some other Christian denominations decides to become Catholic.

The Vatican press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Benedict and Sarah’s book.

[Joshua J. McElwee (jmcelwee@ncronline.org) is NCR Vatican correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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The last time there were two Popes in the Roman Catholic Church, one was at Avignon and the other in Rome. Now we have two living in Rome, seemingly both claiming the moral ascendancy. The Vatican should perhaps have realized that Benedict’s ‘resignation’ didn’t quite mean what it represented. What he really wanted was ‘time out’ from the fray.

And here he is, publicly opposing the apparent desire of his successor, Pope Francis, who has registered his encouragement to those in the Church who believe that celibacy may not be the ‘sine qua none’ of the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church. There are some, for instance, who accept the example of some Apostles who, like Saint Peter, were obviously married (according to Holy Writ).

In colluding with Cardinal Sarah, one of the Vatican’s most conservative prelates, whose spirited defence of the status quo of priestly celibacy has marked him out as one of the principal objectors to the reforming zeal of Pope Francis; the former Pope, Benedict, gives a very public indication that he is still hankering after the authority that more properly belongs to the reigning Pontiff. The book that Benedict has co-authored with Cardinal Sarah openly defends the extant Roman rubric that demands celibacy of the ordained clergy of the Roman Catholic Church. (The more recent acceptance of former Anglican married clergy now employed as ordained clergy by the R.C. Church would seem to be just one of the exceptions to this rule – another being that of the ‘Oriental Rite’ clergy in the wider Catholic Church).

“Benedict, according to the excerpts, claims that priesthood and celibacy are integrally linked together. The former pope, aged 92, also claims that while priests were commonly married in the first millennium of western Christianity, those with spouses were expected to observe abstinence after ordination.”

It would seem that this issue alone – of the celibacy of the clergy – could be one good reason for Pope Francis to demand a vow of ‘silence’ from his feisty predecessor. Also, that could be the only way for the Vatican to observe one of its own rules about the supreme authority of the Pope! (One at a time, please!)

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

STOP PRESS Wed. 15 Jan.2020 (N.Z. time)

Benedict removes name from book on celibacy after dispute over his involvement

by Joshua J. McElwee

Retired Pope Benedict XVI’s name is being removed as a coauthor of a controversial new book defending the Catholic Church’s practice of clerical celibacy after dueling accounts emerged of the ex-pontiff’s involvement in the preparation of the volume.

 

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Communication/Communion

Changing the way the Anglican Communion communicates

Changing the way the Anglican Communion communicates

Gavin Drake

07 January 2020 2:02PM

The Anglican Communion’s Director for Communications, Gavin Drake, outlines a new strategy and direction for the Communications department of the Anglican Communion Office.


What is happening in the Anglican Communion?

If you believe some reports, the Communion is about to implode and tear itself apart in a major schism. That is the message of a handful of bloggers and commentators (most of whom aren’t part of the Anglican Communion). Rather than report the truth, they campaign against the Anglican Communion.

In my role, I get to see, hear and experience the Anglican Communion first hand through visits to different parts of the Communion, and by speaking to the many primates and hundreds of bishops, clergy and laity, who pass through the Anglican Communion Office (ACO) in London each year. They – the members of the Anglican Communion – tell a different story.

Yes, there are differences; but there is also a deep desire to work and pray together; to support each other in evangelism, witness and discipleship; to campaign as one on issues such as climate change and the environment, on trafficking and modern slavery, and on education and healthcare. I am determined to reclaim the narrative of the Anglican Communion and to ensure that this truer picture of the life of our member churches emerges.

To do that, we are introducing some changes. Firstly, the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) – this website – will actually report less stories each week. Rather than trying to write three-or-four stories per day, we will concentrate on three or four per week. This means that we can put more effort into researching articles, especially from parts of the Communion with less developed communications strategies.

This also means that ALL of our coverage will now be translated in full into FrenchSpanish and Portuguese. Previously, speakers of these languages were restricted to a short weekly bulletin of news in their language. ACNS has also launched new Twitter accounts in FrenchSpanish and Portuguese. And our blogs will change too. Like this one, the majority of blogs in future will come from my colleagues at the ACO who will be able to report first hand on the work they are doing in partnership with Anglican Churches around the world.

Other blogs will be written by the primates of the Anglican Communion: the Anglican Cycle of Prayer lists dioceses of the Communion six days a week. On Sundays, we pray mainly for Provinces. We have asked all primates to write a brief introduction to their province and provide prayer pointers, to help us to pray together for each other with knowledge. Each blog – together with our news articles – will be published on Tuesdays in future. This is designed to help weekly Christian publications pick up on stories we publish and use them in their own publications, which are typically published on Fridays.

That is part of a new effort to work more closely with religious and secular publications and broadcasters. Through ACNS we can tell our stories, but through independent news media we can reach far more people. We have installed a radio facility in our London office – through it we can connect to radio broadcasters around the world for “down-the-line” broadcast quality contributions. But we aren’t relying solely on external media: we will publish more videos – including live interviews – to tell the story of the Anglican Communion.

This year, the 15th Lambeth Conference will take place in Canterbury, England. The Anglican Communion’s detractors will use it to step up their attacks. I pray that our improved communications activities will help reclaim the narrative so that the truth can be more clearly heard and seen

_______________________________________________

The Anglican Communion was born out of a desire to access and nurture the commonality of Anglican Churches throughout the world. The comparative success of that effort to communicate with one another bore fruit in the first Lambeth Conference which sought to live with differences and to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the context of a wide variety of social, economic, ethnic and spiritual understandings of what the Gospel required of each of the partners in mission. Our commonality was the person and teaching of Jesus.

There have always been detractors of that desire for ‘unity in diversity’ that had brought many of us out of our isolationism of cultural and social division so that the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury has been generally accepted as the ‘primus-inter-pares’ model on which the Communion has striven to harmonize and strengthen our ties of mutual love and friendship. Not always, though, has the Mother Church of England been the first to embrace some of the more just and good initiatives that have helped the Anglican Communion Churches to mature into the ethos of the 20/21st centuries. Women’s ordination, for instance, had to be pioneered by other Provincial Anglican Churches before the C. of E. decided that it would be good for all of the churches to open up the path of ministry for women – who are at least half of the world’s population. 

On matters of gender and sexuality, again, it took the American Province (TEC) and then the Canadian Province (The Anglican Church of Canada) to pioneer the modern understanding of the presence of a wider concept of human sexuality than the traditional binary model of female and male. Logic then demanded that, if such variations of gender and sexual identity were within the parameters of human development, then why was the Church restricting its ministry to and through the recipients of a binary sexual or gender identity only?

It is this radical (and necessary) re-appraisal of the gender and sexuality of human beings at large – as well as those of us active in the Church – that has raised up (mostly in Third-World countries but also among other conservative, Sola-Scriptura Christians) and given rise to a more fundamentalistic moral worldview that considers any variation of the binary norm to be against the Word of Scripture and, therefore, heretical. This, in turn, has led to the amalgamation of fundamentalist believers in the ‘inerrancy of Scripture’ considered as the sole basis of understanding of God’s relationship with God’s human creation – forgetting that the 16th century Reformation in the English Church was based on the 3-legged stool of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason – each of which was to be part of governing the new Church’s theological teaching and praxis.

However, over the last two decades, there has been a tendency towards cultural and theological argumentation over matters of gender and sexuality arising, largely, out of different understandings of what the scriptures have to say about such matters. Exegesis of the scriptures seems now to have descended into argumentation and disagreement on matters of sex and gender – rather than on the formerly accepted understanding of each human being as created in the ‘Image and Likeness’ of God – without respect to gender or sexual identity.

This has brought us to the situation where ‘Unity’ seems (for the more conservative Christians) to have been relegated to the necessity for a mutually identical belief about human sexuality and gender, based only around the biblical model of the male and the female of the species open to the possibility of procreation of the species. Others of us, who are more open to the reality of the presence of a minority of LGBTQ+ people in the Church and the world; believe that our unity exists in all being created as children of God – sinners all and yet redeemed by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. 

Thus, we have two distinct types of belief in the validity of our common human gender and sexual identities. The conservative GAFCON Churches (mostly in the Third World but also transplanted into Western countries by its proponents) has made the decision to form their own ecclesial community, with their own ‘Primates’ Meetings’ most of its prelates refusing to attend the next Lambeth Conference this year.

The rest of us (the majority of Provinces in the Western World with some notable exceptions in the Third World – e.g. South Africa) have made the decision to stay with our connection with the archbishop of Canterbury, and are now meeting in Jordan to plan Lambeth 2020, believing that justice and peace should be at the forefront of our common relationship – based, not merely on the words of Scripture, but also (and primarily) on the Word Made Flesh in the New Testament.

The question now is, will the two fundamentally different theological understandings of Scripture force the two parties to a parting of the ways? Or will some means be found to reconcile the two parties – GAFCON and the Anglican Communion based on LAMBETH – find some way of agreement to join forces in the propagation of the Gospel?

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

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Televangelist bases salvation on Trump

Televangelist Jim Bakker tells followers they aren’t saved unless they worship Donald Trump

Televangelist Jim Bakker tells followers they aren’t saved unless they worship Donald Trump

Photo: Shutterstock

Disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker went to jail for defrauding his followers out of millions of dollars, but he’s continued his career as a charlatan by hawking “End Times” buckets of dehydrated food to gullible Christians. In between shilling for instant mashed potatoes and soup mixes, Bakker also likes to dabble in political punditry.

But this time, even Bakker may have gone too far. His live studio audience laughed instead of applauding.

Related: Right-wing preachers have turned their shows into infomercials

Bakker told viewers that the President should not be impeached and the only way to salvation is through Donald Trump.

The scamvangelist told followers that they should “forgive” Trump because it’s the Christian thing to do. Trump, though, infamously said he never asks God for forgiveness.

“You know what? Trump is a test whether you’re even saved,” Bakker said to hammer home his theory that Trump is a test of faith for Christians. “Only saved people can love Trump.”

“No, you gotta be really saved,” he said after the audience laughed. “You gotta forgive. You gotta be able to forgive. You forgive when you’re saved.”

Bakker was convicted on 24 counts of fraud and conspiracy when his television network went under after he fleeced the faithful of millions of dollars that he spent lavishly on himself. He had resigned shortly before that after a sex scandal.

As any real preacher can tell you, the entire point of Christianity is that you can only be “saved” by believing in Jesus Christ as the messiah. The Bible does not mention Donald Trump, who cannot even name one Bible verse or pronounce the name of Biblical books correctly.

Evangelical Christians are the President’s biggest supporters. White evangelicals are the least Christ-like according to a new poll of religious people.

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This sort of rhetoric – now reported in the USA, as a general conservative Evangelical theme presenting President Donald Trump as ‘God’s Anointed Leader – is actually doing a grave disservice to the cause of the Christian Gospel.  Most Christians would not consider Trump to be any sort of advertisement for the practice of Christian ethics, embracing, as he and his cohorts do, a way of life that can be seen as contrary to the message of Jesus Christ.

However, the sad reality is that many conservative Christians see Trump as their defence against social diversity and the promotion of an economically-balanced society – both local in the U.S. and on the broader world front. His appeal to a strident self-interested American nationalism – though not too different from that of Britain’s support for Brexit – is seen as particularly harmful to the practice of world trade and world peace. Trump’s epic, wilful determination, for instance, to cut off its southern border with Mexico is just one instance of Trump’s intention to isolate the United States of America from outside influences that he sees as weakening America’s status as the dominant world power.

When such an agenda is adopted and actively embraced by a particular Christian sect or grouping this inevitably calls into question aspects of the Gospel message of Jesus that emphasize the need for peace and cooperation amongst all peoples of the world – in order to deal with matters of poverty, social well-being, and the health of our planet. These elements need to be embraced as of mutual concern to all nations, requiring a modicum of diplomacy and Christian cooperation and mutual concern for ALL people that alone can ensure the existence of future populations of our world.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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An intellectual appraisal of Christianity

Did Jesus Rise From the Dead?

We all wonder what will happen to us after we die. When a loved one dies, we long to see him or her again after our turn comes. Will we have a glorious reunion with those we love or is death the end of all consciousness?

Jesus taught that life does not end after our bodies die. He made this startling claim: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again.” According to the eyewitnesses closest to him, Jesus then demonstrated his power over death by rising from the dead after being crucified and buried for three days. It is this belief that has given hope to Christians for nearly 2000 years.

But some people have no hope of life after death. The atheistic philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote, “I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my own ego will survive.”[1] Russell obviously didn’t believe Jesus’ words.

Jesus’ followers wrote that he appeared alive to them after his crucifixion and burial. They claim not only to have seen him but also to have eaten with him, touched him, and spent 40 days with him.

So could this have been simply a story that grew over time, or is it based upon solid evidence? The answer to this question is foundational to Christianity. For if Jesus did rise from the dead, it would validate everything he said about himself, about the meaning of life, and about our destiny after death.

If Jesus did rise from the dead then he alone would have the answers to what life is about and what is facing us after we die. On the other hand, if the resurrection account of Jesus is not true, then Christianity would be founded upon a lie. Theologian R. C. Sproul puts it this way:

The claim of resurrection is vital to Christianity. If Christ has been raised from the dead by God, then He has the credentials and certification that no other religious leader possesses.[2]

All other religious leaders are dead, but, according to Christianity, Christ is alive.

Many skeptics have attempted to disprove the resurrection. Josh McDowell was one such skeptic who spent more than seven hundred hours researching the evidence for the resurrection. McDowell stated this regarding the importance of the resurrection:

I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted upon the minds of men, OR it is the most fantastic fact of history.[3] McDowell later wrote his classic work, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, documenting what he discovered.

So, is Jesus’ resurrection a fantastic fact or a vicious myth? To find out, we need to look at the evidence of history and draw our own conclusions. Let’s see what skeptics who investigated the resurrection discovered for themselves.

Click here to read page 2 of 10 about “Did Jesus Rise From the Dead?”

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In a world of strife and uncertainty, the question of Faith almost inevitably raises its head – as a means of coping with the reality of everyday life in the context of the place of the individual  human being struggling for answers.

In the light of our common existence – and yet the great variety of human beings’ experience of life and death – it is worth questioning, for instance, the claims of the Christian religion to bring both logical reasoning and feelings into the conundrum of the worth and value of our humanity and its relationship to the mystery of ‘being’.

In this extensive revue of the opinion of scholars like C.S.Lewis, for instance, and other more well-known public figures of today; we are offered a significant overview of opinion – both classical and secular – that links our common humanity with the divinity of the God/man Jesus Christ. 

It is worth anyone’s consideration as a possible explanation of the human search for the meaning and purpose of our life here on this planet earth – from both a scientific and ontologically-based reasoning and the possibility of a mystical, spiritual teleology.

The question of whether there is anything reasonable about belief in a God who longs for our companionship is one which has occupied philosophers and theologians for eons, and which ought to be asked by all who search for meaning in life, today.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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GAFCON Split in North America?

Anglican Church of Nigeria Plans Big Push into the US in 2020 – UPDATED

Anglican Church of Nigeria Plans Big Push into the US in 2020

By David W. Virtue, DD
www.virtueonline.org
January 1, 2020

The Anglican Church of Nigeria is making plans to develop a fully-fledged diocese of the African province in North America in 2020 in opposition to the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the official Anglican Province of GAFCON of which Nigeria is a member. The Archbishop of the ACNA and chairman of GAFCON is the Most Rev. Foley Beach.

The Diocesan Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the Trinity (ADOTT) is the Rt. Rev. Amos Fagbamiye, who presently heads four suffragan sees that include the Missionary Diocese of CANA West under Bishop Felix Orji. Bishop Orji is also the Diocesan Bishop of the West and the Missionary Bishop of CANA. Fagbamiye said in his 2020 New Year message that he plans to build half a dozen dioceses, and possibly more as part of his expansion efforts. He said they now have two churches in Japan. Bishop Orji told VOL that he has no intention of creating more dioceses in North America.

This could mean, that in a few years the USA and Canada could be home to as many as half a dozen dioceses of the Anglican Church of Nigeria and possibly more if the Anglican Diocese of the West also expands into multiple dioceses.

“2019 was declared the ‘Divine Year of Moving Forward and Joyful Celebrations.’ God was with us all through last year, and indeed Christ continues to reign as King in ADOTT. In moving forward with joyful celebrations, our faithful and merciful God inspired the House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) to elect four Suffragan Bishops in January 2019 during the annual Bishops’ retreat at the Ibru Center, Agbara-Oto in Delta State and their consecration was held in July in a grand and colorful service at the Archbishop Vining Memorial Cathedral Church, Ikeja, Lagos,” wrote Fagbamiye.

The scenario of a North American ecclesiastical province (complete with its own Archbishop and Provincial Synod) of the Anglican Church of Nigeria could become a reality in the not too distant future.

The Nigerian opposition to the ordination of women may also prove attractive to jurisdictions in the Continuing Anglican movement in the USA and Canada. These jurisdictions could gravitate towards a North American based ecclesiastical province of the Church of Nigeria because the ACNA remains conflicted over the issue with a number of dioceses openly ordaining women to the priesthood.

The CANA Diocese of the Trinity withdrew from the ACNA in May of this year.

Some might view these moves of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) to which both the Diocese of the Trinity and the Diocese of the West belong, as an attempt to establish a North American proto-province.

“Let us remind ourselves, particularly in ADOTT, that from our inception as a Diocese in 2012, we are evangelists and missionaries of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), and that we would continue to aspire to prayerfully pursue our missionary goals and objectives with a sense of commitment and purpose, and by the grace of God, to realize our vision for this Diocese,” said Fagbamiye.

The Anglican Church of Nigeria presently has 14 ecclesiastical provinces and 161 dioceses with over 20 million members in Nigeria.

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VIRTUEONLINE has received the following communication from Nigerian Archbishop Nicholas Okoh regarding this story. It is posted in its entirety here. Readers can make of it what they will.

Nigerian Archbishop Writes to Archbishop Foley Beach Concerning My Story about Bishop Amos Fagbamiye

TO: Most Rev’d Foley Beach,
The Primate, Anglican Church in North America.

Your Grace,

DISCLAIMER

Greetings of joy and peace in the new year my father in God.

The attention of the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, His Grace, the Most Rev’d Dr Nicholas D. Okoh has been drawn to an online article by Virtue Online titled “Anglican Church of Nigeria Plans Big Push into the US in 2020” which is already generating different comments and reactions.

The Primate of the Church of Nigeria has directed that I write to you thus:

1. The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has not approved the creation of any Diocese or Province in North America.

2. Kindly disregard any such rumours and communications that might have been adjudged as the decision of the Church of Nigeria on the matter of creating dioceses or a province in North America.

3. The Church of Nigeria appreciates the fellowship and common focus in the mission of the Gospel shared together with ACNA and would do all in its capacity to continue to build this godly relationship to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

Please accept the warm regards and compliments of the Primate of the Church of Nigeria in the New Year 2020 and beyond. The LORD be with you.

The Venerable Gershinen Paul Dajur, PhD
General Secretary,
Church of Nigeria CC: All Archbishops & Bishops, Church of Nigeria
The Rt Rev’d Dr. Felix Orji, CANA Missionary Bishop & Bishop, CANA West
The Rt Rev’d Amos Fagbamiye, Bishop, Anglican Diocese of the Trinity (ADOTT)

GENERAL SECRETARY: THE VENERABLE GERSHINEN

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David Virtue is a New Zealand-born journalist now living in North America. His blog called ‘Virtue-on-Line’ (to me, a more apt title might be ‘Vitriol on Line’ – devoted as it is to the public denigration of TEC and the world-wide Anglican Communion Churches that embrace the rights of LGBT+ people to be part of the Church) was apparently brought into being to support schismatics from the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (TEC), from which, in common with many North American conservative Evangelical Christians, Virtue has parted company.

However, in this instance, Virtue may have ‘jumped the gun’, in his disclosure that the Anglican Province of Nigeria, (The leading African Province of GAFCON) is about to set up its own dioceses in North America, in direct competition with GAFCON’s ‘missionary’  representatives in ACNA & CANA both of which schismatic Churches were founded by Primates of the Anglican Communion who now belong to a rival community in GAFCON.

It was once said that ‘Schism is a horrid thing’, and the schismatics and would-be-schismatics from the worldwide Anglican Communion may right now be ‘hoist by their own petard’ – victims of their own ambitious rivalry within the camp of GAFCON.

Only a short time ago, we here in Aotearoa/New Zealand witnessed the presence of the Archbishop of ACNA, Foley Beach, who acted as Prime Consecrator of a former minister of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia (ACANZP),  Jay Behan, as the bishop of a new GAFCON-sponsored breakaway ‘Anglican’ Church, set up in direct opposition to the official  ACANZP Anglican Church in New Zealand.

And now, Mr. Virtue faces the censure of none other than the Archbishop of Nigeria Nicolas Okoh, who disputes the veracity of Virtue-on-Line’s claim that  Okoh’s Provincial Church is about to establish its own dioceses in North America in opposition to ACNA – its own ‘Partner-in-Mission’ in that country!  (How did that rumour come to be established?)

However, if Virtue’s article is true, this may be the last occasion of ACNA’s solidarity with the GAFCON conglomerate – which was the driving force behind the current schism in the Anglican Communion. If the Diocese of Nigeria – under Archbishop Nicolas Okoh – does indeed set up its own Nigerian Diocesan Churches within North America, this will be in opposition – not only to TEC (the official Anglican Church there) – but also to ACNA, which was actually founded by the GAFCON Primates including the then Archbishop of Nigeria!

This might leave the recently-ordained ‘Bishop’ of the schismatic ‘Anglican’ church in Aotearoa/New Zealand to wonder what is his status now? Has he been left high and dry by the very entity (GAFCON) that engineered his ‘translation’ from his priesthood in ACANZP to the episcopate of his own brand-new ecclesial community?  Also, what is the actual relationship now between the ACNA Archbishop and the GAFCON Archbishop of Nigeria? And to which of these two entities does the new schismatic church in New Zealand belong?

Schism is, indeed ‘a horrid thing’ – to be avoided if possible.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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