Pope Francis: Pastoral Theologian

Bishop McElroy says ‘lived reality’ at heart of Francis’ pastoral theology, profound moment of renewal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The “lived reality of men and women and children and families” and their “sufferings and challenges and joys” are at the center of “a moment of explicit theological renewal that will contribute enormously to the spread of the Gospel in this new millennium,” said San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy in a June 26 keynote address.

Get NCR delivered to your inbox. Sign up for free newsletters.

That understanding of the “emerging pastoral theology” delineated and promoted by Pope Francis “both links us to the pastoral action and ethos of the Lord himself” and is “highly attuned to the challenges and culture of the 21st century,” McElroy told participants at the annual assembly of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) held June 25-28* in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

McElroy declared the “see-judge-act methodology” that undergirds this understanding of pastoral theology “is rooted in the world as it is, rather than in the world as it is imagined to be.”

“The pastoral theology of Pope Francis,” he said, “rejects a notion of law which can be blind to the uniqueness of concrete human situations, human suffering and human limitation.”

Titled “Pastoral Theology for a Post-Modern World,” the address drew a sustained standing ovation. McElroy exhorted Catholics to:

  • Banish “judgmentalism from the life of the church, and replace it with the constantly affirming love of Jesus Christ”;
  • Embrace the principle that “lived experience of human sinfulness and human conversion are vital to understanding the central attribute of God in relation to us, which is mercy”;
  • Realize that “the pastoral theology of Pope Francis requires that the liturgical and sacramental life of the church be formed in compassionate embrace with the often overwhelming life-challenges which prevent men and women at periods of their lives from conforming adequately with important Gospel challenges.”

The bishop drew an audible reaction from the more than 200 AUSCP participants when he said that while opponents of “elements of the pastoral mission of Pope Francis” often argue that “doctrine cannot be superseded by the pastoral,” it is “equally important to recognize that the pastoral cannot by eclipsed by doctrine.”

“And pastoral authority is as important as philosophical authenticity or authenticity in law contouring the life of the church to the charter which our Lord himself has given us,” he said.

In “enormously important ways, the vision of pastoral theology embraced by Pope Francis is a rejection of the tradition which sees pastoral theology as primarily derivative,” McElroy said.

An active participant in floor discussions at U.S. bishops’ national gatherings, McElroy was introduced to applause as “a truly Vatican II priest and Francis bishop.”

During the mid-June U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meeting in Fort Lauderdale, he was among bishops who pushed for wholesale changes or replacement of the conference’s quadrennial guide to Catholics on how to approach election issues, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”

He and others argued that the document as it exists does not adequately incorporate the social justice teachings of Francis nor address current events “that traumatize us as a country,” in his words.

Read the entire text of San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy’s speech here.

Still, after introductory remarks in Albuquerque, McElroy began his formal presentation saying, “We are living in a wonderful moment in the life of the church.”

“The authentic renewal of the Second Vatican Council remains the foundation and the challenge for those who seek to deepen the theology of the church and bring it into the life of the world,” he explained.

“The call of Pope John Paul II for the church to constantly witness to Christ and the challenge of Pope Benedict to confirm the truth in an age of relativism guide the Catholic community in its discernment and its action. The call to missionary discipleship frames the vocation for every Christian woman and man.”

According to McElroy, the “emergence of this pastoral theology in the present pontificate bears a striking resemblance to the renewal of theology in the years preceding the Second Vatican Council.”

“The church must always be enmeshed in the real lives and sufferings and challenges and joys of the people of God and the whole of humanity.”

—San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy

Tweet this

As examples, he cited post-World War II “movements of intense theological richness,” including advances in Scripture studies, recovery of “the historic liturgical life of the church” and “the sustained reflection on the nature of the church as a font for the deepening of contemporary sacramental celebrations.”

These were part of “a broad theological inquiry that allowed the bishops of the council to reflect upon the challenges of the church in the modern world armed with robust insights central to the proclamation of the Gospel in the 20th century.”

Growth today “of a comprehensive pastoral theology” parallels “the flourishing of ecumenical and moral theology in the post-conciliar period,” he argued, “and the continuing expansion of the church’s social doctrine formed with a truly global church.”

However, the bishop said, “in a very real way the pastoral moment that we are witnessing today … is different from any of these prior theological renewals, for each of them took place within a recognized field of specifically theological reflection.”

“The challenge of pastoral theology is not only to delineate the substance of its insights … but also the challenge to demonstrate that it is a significant branch of theology at all.”

McElroy judges that it is. Pastoral theology “calls for pastoral action to take its rightful place in framing the life and belief of the universal church in concert with the traditional theological enterprises of dogma, scriptural studies, moral theology, ecclesiology, liturgical and spiritual theology.”

Historically, he pointed out, pastoral theology “emerged as a major element of the reform of the priesthood and ecclesial life” following the Reformation, was viewed as “a derivative branch of theology” and “was envisioned as primarily the work of priests.”

Bishop Robert McElroy talks about this uniquely pastoral moment.

Francis has radically altered that understanding, McElroy underscored.

The pope’s outlook on pastoral theology “demands that all of the other branches of theology attend to the concrete reality of human life and human suffering in a much more substantial way in forming doctrine,” he said.

This “demands that moral theology proceed from the actual pastoral action of Jesus Christ,” he continued, “which does not demand a change of life but begins with an embrace of divine love, proceeds to the action of healing, and only then requires a conversion of action in responsible conscience.”

For Francis, he explained, “the datum of pastoral theology is the lived experience of the faithful in the concrete call of their discipleship.”

That reality is found throughout what McElroy called the “three fundamental foundations” for this understanding of pastoral theology.

Those underpinnings, he said, are:

  • The “assertion that not only the activity, but the very nature of the church, involves at its heart pastoral action to heal the hearts of men and women who are suffering”;
  • Recognition “that the church should mirror the pastoral action of the Lord himself”;
  • The principle “that the church’s pastoral identity and action must be rooted in the life situations that men and women actually experience in the world today.”

“It is impossible to build up a pastoral church without explicitly investigating the signs of the times and then integrating the results … into the very core of the church’s mission today,” McElroy stated.

The bishop stressed Francis’ “description of the church itself as a field hospital.”

“We are gifted with the image of the church as a field hospital, focused precisely on the specific wounds that weigh down the men and women of our age as well as ourselves,” he told his audience of nearly all senior priests.

McElroy quoted the pope who said, “I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal the wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful. It needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle.

“It is useless to ask a seriously wounded person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars. You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.”

“The image of the church as a field hospital points to the reality that the church is never remote from human experience, never self-referential if it is to be faithful to its mission,” McElroy said. “Rather the church must always be enmeshed in the real lives and sufferings and challenges and joys of the people of God and the whole of humanity.”

The bishop described the field hospital descriptive as “earthy, rough-hewn, much like the stable in Bethlehem where our Lord revealed himself to the world.”

In preliminary remarks, McElroy also used the image of the Holy Family, saying that U.S. border enforcement actions could well have led to the infant Jesus “being ripped from the arms of our Holy Mother.”

The San Diego Diocese borders Mexico. McElroy has been outspoken in his criticism of U.S. immigration policy and has taken part in border protests and demonstrations.

According to AUSCP spokesman Paul Leingang, McElroy’s address as well as those by assembly presenters Franciscan Sr. Katarina Schuth and Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr, will be available on the organization’s website. (NCR has posted McElroy’s speech in full here, too.)

Founded in 2011 and based in Tiffin, Ohio, the AUSCP has about 1,200 priest members in addition to about 120 enrolled supporters.

The assembly dates in this story have been corrected.

[Dan Morris-Young is NCR’s West Coast correspondent.

________________________________________________

NCR – the Roman Catholic News organisation in the U.S., presents here the latest news of a Bishop addressing a meeting of AUCSP – the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests – in which he suggests that the theology of the current Head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, is securely rooted in the charism of pastoral care. Here is a seminal paragraph from the above-mentioned article:

“That understanding of the “emerging pastoral theology” delineated and promoted by Pope Francis “both links us to the pastoral action and ethos of the Lord himself” and is “highly attuned to the challenges and culture of the 21st century,” McElroy told participants at the annual assembly of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) held June 25-28* in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

This understanding of the role and mission of Pope Francis – aligned as it is with the pastoral ministry of Jesus himself – speaks of the need to place the hierarchy of Love over Law in the interface of the Church and the world it has been designed to serve. 

One can only hope that this understanding of the thrust of Pope Francis’ mould-breaking renewal of the entire ministry of the Roman Catholic Church will gain momentum – so as to influence those of us in other parts of the Body of Christ towards a theology of God as the Creator, Enabler, Redeemer and Giver of ALL Life – through the love and obedience of Christ, the Incarnate Son of God.

Alleluia!, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed. Alleluia, Alleluia!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand.

(nb Diana and I will be in sunny Queensland for the month of August, but will log in from time to time to keep up with the latest news.)

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Seeing the world through the eyes of love

Love

Seeing the world through the eyes of love is the God view of the world and not our way of seeing. Generally, we have a polarised view of the world, divisions created by our values system.

Our list for nature goes something like this: monarch butterflies good, white butterflies bad, kauri trees good, pine trees bad.

We tend to apply this to people, towns, countries, every aspect of life. Good/bad. Comfort/discomfort. Love/fear. We all operate according to this system. It’s what we call being human.

But we also have that divine presence in us that keeps insisting that the world is not black and white, it is a rainbow of diversity, the many colours of incarnation that pour forth from God and return to God.

So how do we see creation through the eyes of love?

On my own, I can’t do this.

But I can sit on my own road to Jericho and wait for Jesus. He will always stop and say, “What do you want?” and I will cry, “Lord, that I might see.”

It is his touch that makes the difference. The first thing I notice is that there is no difference between a flower and a weed, except my judgment. My good and bad definitions disappear with his healing, and everything has its own beauty.

When we see beauty in everything, we see with the eyes of love.

The word ‘love” can be a cliché even in a religious context. It has been so trivialised that in some contexts it has lost its meaning. But believe me, love is the stuff of spiritual journey.

Love is the impetus for journey. Fear is the inhibitor. Love – fear.

How do those operate in my life? I’m made a list of the effects that I recognize.

Love always calls us to a larger place. Fear always tries to draw us back to a narrow place.

Love has a quiet soft voice. Fear had a loud strident voice.

Love is compassionate. Fear is judgmental. Love is unitive. Fear is divisive.

Love is a slow feeling, a movement of the heart. Fear comes quickly as strident thought.

Love sees beauty. Fear tends to see ugliness.

Love opens me up like a flower. Fear closes me down.

Love is my spiritual identity. Fear belongs to my animal instinct for survival.

Whenever a strong thought or feeling arises, I can stand it against this list and see where it belongs. I’m surprised at the times fear has looked highly respectable and love has been as simple as a bowl of soup on a cold day.

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.

______________________________________________________________

This article, from Roman Catholic author Joy Cowley, speaks to me of a God-centred spirituality – with a heart and mind truly centred upon the God of All Creation – as shown to us through the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and glorification of Jesus. All that God has created is intrinsically good – this we learn from the Genesis story of the beginning of of the Creation.

Our fallen humanity is often inclined to look on the dark side – without reflecting on the selfless love with which The Blessed Trinity was at work at the dawn of Creation.

In our darker moments, we tend to seek the negative, rather than the positivity that is instinct in ALL creation – including our humanity, which God chose to dignify by taking upon God’s Self to invest it with a new splendour at the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

The current abject fear of the variety in human gender and sexuality arises in us because of our fear of anything outside of our own experience. What we need to do is contemplate Jesus’ loving pastoral care for the ‘others’ in society who seemingly did not measure up to common human standards of propriety.

Sometimes, by demonising the ‘other’, we can imagine that our own status in God’s sight is somehow exalted (e.g. the parable of the Pharisee and the Sinner). However, as Joy Cowley implies in her lovely article here, God does not look upon us with the prejudice of fallen humanity, but with the eye of the Divine Creator,  imbued with infinite love, mercy and compassion. Knowing this, who would choose to exercise fear rather than love?

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Vicky Beeching and her ‘Coming Out’.

‘God was still my highest priority and my greatest love’

22 JUNE 2018 – CHURCH TIMES

Vicky Beeching talks to Madeleine Davies about ‘unlearning a lifetime of shame’

VICKY BEECHAM’s memoir, Undivided: Coming out, becoming whole, and living free from shame, is dedicated to Lizzie Lowe, a 14-year-old girl from Manchester who took her own life in 2014 (News, 9 January 2015).

“My mind just kept going back to Lizzie the whole time I was writing,” Beeching says. The parallels with her own story are striking: both were bright, churchgoing teenagers with a gift for music. Both struggled with suicidal thoughts as they tried to negotiate what Beeching describes as “the vast tension between being gay and being Christian”.

Beeching resisted these thoughts — though they drove her to the brink of jumping from a train platform in her twenties — and, having survived, is determined to ensure that others do not go it alone. “I really wanted to write the book that I would have needed at that age,” she explains.

Growing up in Pentecostal and Charismatic Evangelical C of E churches in the 1980s, Beeching wanted to follow in the footsteps of her maternal grandparents, who were Pentecostal missionaries in Africa. Those looking for an account of a miserable indoctrination into the Christian faith will be disappointed. It felt “as natural to me as breathing”, she writes. “It was not a rigid, cold, distant religion, but a genuine heartfelt relationship with God.”

While as a child she had “no reason to believe I’d ever be ‘out of the club’”, she remembers being “baffled” by Old Testament stories that depicted an angry, vengeful God, including that of Sodom and Gomorrah, destroyed because of the “sin of homosexuality”, according to a children’s church worker (“We can’t talk about that until you’re older — just know it’s something very bad”).

Beeching was not much older — 12 or 13 — when she realised that she was gay. It was the beginning of “a lifetime of secret sadness”. Unable to confide in anyone — with hindsight, she points to Section 28 as a silencing dynamic — she retreated into an intense interiority, which combined “mind games” — telling herself that “who you’re attracted to isn’t a big part of life anyway” — and prayers of confession uttered ten times a day.

She also stopped eating at school, punishing a body that “seemed to be betraying me with its sinful desires”. While the worship songs that she composed at home were already receiving a warm reception at her church, the record on repeat in her own mind reminded her that she was “broken and sinful”.

THE first person she confided in was a Roman Catholic priest, during a youth weekend away. She asked for forgiveness and to be “set free”, and remembers him being kind, praising her bravery, before reading a prayer of absolution.

Her second attempt to secure healing took place at a youth camp in Warwickshire (she has always refused to name it, unwilling to cause the organisers “unnecessary problems”, and unconvinced that what took place is limited to their event). She was struck by the testimony of a teenage girl who took to the stage to announce that she had been “set free from the sin of homosexuality”.

When she summoned the courage to go forward for prayer, she found herself surrounded by four or five adults praying loudly over her for deliverance from “the demons of homosexuality”. Until this point, she had never imagined that being gay was caused by demonic forces. Her tears were interpreted as a sign of a successful intervention, and she left clutching tissues, with advice ringing in her ears that fasting might be necessary to complete the deliverance.

Had the organisers not stopped running the conference in recent years, she would have got in touch with them, she says now (she has confirmed that it was not Soul Survivor). She suspects that “probably any Christian youth conference is ill-equipped, I think, at the moment to deal with any young person that comes forward for prayer saying that they are LGB or T”.

She has received emails from teenagers who have attended “all the big-name Christian youth festivals that you can think of, saying that similar things have happened to them there — not quite as dramatic, with so much shouting, but people have been praying for them to be healed of or set free from being gay or being trans, and I just think that needs to stop.”

She was in her early thirties before she confided in another person. Much of the memoir is an account of living undercover: rushing from dinner at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford (where she was a theology undergraduate), to an empty library, so that she could look up books on sexuality without being detected; worrying that band members would work out the reason why she didn’t have a boyfriend. A repeated refrain was her desire not to “let anyone down”.

______________________________________________________________

Perhaps it is in the more conservative Evangelical Churches that LGBTI people have to hide their innate sexual identities even more discreetly than in any other Christian community. This,  as a general rule, is because of a more strict understanding of the ‘Sola Scriptura’ mentality that, for instance, rates anything other than normal binary hetero-sexual orientated relationships to be ‘against God’s Word’  and, therefore, out of bounds to local church community leaders and their followers.

Sadly, this is one of the more devastating causes of emotional and moral instability for the mostly young LGBT+ people in the Church who grow into an understanding of what seems to their local Church leaders as a theological and moral crisis. Often, in the early stages of their human development, in such an environment, young people are taught that it is morally wrong to entertain any thoughts of same-sex attraction, this being the basis for all sorts of moral degradation that could lead to social and spiritual ostracism and moral decay.  Some are led to believe that only heterosexual marriage, with child procreation as its goal or celibacy, are legitimate avenues for instinctual sexual activity.

The stories of ‘Lizzie’ (whose suicide because of her problem of living with her same-sex attraction vis-s-vis her religious faith) which led  Vicky Beeching to tell her own story in her book – ‘Undivided: Coming out, becoming whole, and living free from shame’ – and Vicky herself, are both a testimony to the difficulties faced by those young people in the Church whose lives are fraught with the tension between their membership of their Church and the reality of their own inner sexual longings, natural to them.

Fortunately, many Church leaders – including even Pope Francis, leader of the Roman Catholic Church, are becoming aware of the dangers of repression of innate sexuality which happens to be different from the ‘norm’. Pope Francis, when asked of his opinion of homosexuality, famously was heard to say: “Who am I to judge – if such a person loves God?” More enlightened Christians around the world are now fully accepting of the need for a more open attitude towards a group of human beings whose sexual orientation is different from the binary and who want to live a life of companionship and love with a same-gender person.

The tragedy, though, is that some Church Leaders – most in Africa and the Global South –  As witness the delegates to GAFCON111 in Jerusalem recently – but also of the more strict Evangelical Churches and Sects -are determined to oppose any relaxation of the old-fashioned idea of any sexual expression outside of heterosexual marriage as being ‘of the Devil’ and not in accord with Christ in the Christian Scriptures. What seems to have been overlooked is that The Christ in the Gospel was more tolerant of sexual sinners than he was of the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees, the Keepers of the Jewish Law, whose own lives did not necessarily accord with the hospitality of the New Commandment – to Love God and One’s Neighbour, in the way that the ‘God so loved the world’ – with Jesus as the only means of salvation and redemption of all who believe.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

C.of I. Concern at Bishops attending GAFCON

NEWS SPECIAL – C of I clergy concern at Irish presence at Jerusalem Gafcon conference

Concern has been expressed by a number of Church of Ireland clergy at the possible attendance of two of the church’s bishops, with some clergy and lay members, at a conference currently being held in Jerusalem organised by Gafcon – a conservative body which has been accused of splitting member churches and parts of the Anglican Communion.

One rector commenting on social media stated, “This is an absolute disgrace – two bishops of the Church of Ireland and a number of senior clergy are part of this subversive movement which in this article (on the Gafcom Ireland website – see below) makes it quite clear that they no longer consider the Church of Ireland to be faithful to the Gospel.

“These Bishops and clergy need to have the courage of their convictions and cease to claim their stipends from a church that they are now openly disloyal to.

“Anglicanism is a broad church and is about inclusion, not exclusion. It’s time to wake up and realize that GAFCON is not a renewal movement but a cancer in our church and one which will spread if we do not fight back for the soul of a church that always had room for diversity and a certain amount of ambiguity which reflects the complexity of life.

“There is no room for Grace in a church which is all about building walls and boundaries but Grace abounds in the messy and marginal places where Christ himself ministered and called us to follow him. In the black and white world of GAFCON there are no marginal places but only a ruthless certainty which is hard and unforgiving and leaves no room for the doubt and questioning which leads to a richer fuller faith.”

Other comments

One contributor commented –  “At the April launch the Most Reverend Greg Venables Archbishop of South America stated. “It is no more possible to be 99% faithful to God than it is to be 99% faithful to your wife”.

” Has this bishop read the Sermon on the Mount? Does he realize that by Christ’s standard, even looking with desire onto another woman means being unfaithful, and therefore no man (unless blind, perhaps) is really 100% faithful? Does he realize he is setting a standard impossible to meet, not to mention un-Anglican?

“With this level of knowledge of the Bible, I’m not very confident in their theological education vehicle. And this is, it seems to me, a new low. Until now, I saw the Irish Anglican conservatives as practically incompetent and picking all the wrong battles at all the wrong times, but intellectually sound, perhaps because the kooks were pulled into Paisley’s church. And now THIS – basic, completely basic theological failure. Do we even HAVE an intellectually minded contributor to these debates anymore, on any side?”

Gafcon Ireland web site

The Gafcon Ireland website carried the following: “The theme of GAFCON III meeting in Jerusalem this week is, “Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations” and the question faced by GAFCON Ireland faced was much the same, “What does faithfulness look like for Anglicans in Ireland?”.

“The island of Ireland looks back upon a very long Christian history but now GAFCON Ireland needed to look forward to the long-term future.

“It was evident that faithfulness to the gospel in Ireland had been diluted by almost a century of deteriorating theological education and so it was decided that it was in that sphere that the first steps into the future should be made.

“In 2017, with the support of theological educators from around the GAFCON world, work began on establishing “Theology Ireland” http://www.theologyireland.com/. The programme aims to make high-quality theological education available to all – lay and ordained alike. The expectation is that many will become properly Biblically trained pastor-teachers, not least to lead a new era of church-plants.

“Looking ahead to not just one but two generations of this work one of the organising committee, the Revd Trevor Johnston said, “…preparing the younger generation is really crucial for us if we are to fulfil the tasks of gospel partnership, proclamation and planting”.

“Theology Ireland has benefited from assistance from Australia, Canada and the USA. Educators of the eminence of Dr Peter Orr and Dr James White have contributed to teaching a programme that amongst other things has covered areas of Biblical Theology and Engaging with Islam. We have benefited from the advice and support of the likes of; Revd Canon Dr Ashley Null, Dr Mark Thomson, Canon David Short and Col Marshall.

Revd Tim Anderson, chairman of GAFCON Ireland said, “We in Ireland have been so grateful for the global connections. It is great to know, learn from and support others who are faithful in Bible teaching and Evangelism”.

At the April launch of Gafcom Ireland, the Most Reverend Greg Venables Archbishop of South America stated. “It is no more possible to be 99% faithful to God than it is to be 99% faithful to your wife”. It is in humble awareness of the truth of what he said that the GAFCON Ireland branch takes its place in seeking to “Proclaim Christ faithfully to the nations”.

Leadership of Gafcon Ireland

The C of I bishops who are thought to be attending Gafcom in Jerusalem are Harold Miller of Down & Dromore and Ferran Glenfield of Kilmore.

We are the true Anglicans – claim at Gafcom

A recurring theme of the first two days of GAFCON has been “We are not leaving Anglicanism. Others have left by departing from the Anglican formularies, particularly its commitment to the authority of scripture.” The Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone, Archbishop Greg Venables of Argentina said that “we are the true Anglican church which is made up of born-again Christians who like Anglicanism. Others have left.”

Archbishop Stanley Ntagali reported the May 30 decision of the Uganda House of Bishops on any participation in the Lambeth Anglican Communion.
1. We are not attending Lambeth 2020
2. Unless godly order is restored we will not attend other meetings invited by Canterbury
3. Unless ACNA and the new Brazil Province are invited we will not attend any meetings invited by Canterbury

This was greeted by a standing ovation followed by spontaneous singing of the East African Revival Hymn Tukutendereza Yesu (We praise you, Jesus).

The British contingent packed a hotel room to hear the experiences of Anglicans in New Zealand, Scotland, trainers from Kenya, three bishops from Myanmar and from a stirring Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem, which some participants visited on their tour, Dr Salim Munayer.

Bishop John Ellison (formerly of Paraguay) has pointed out that those with experience of relating the gospel to people in overseas countries have skills for enabling the gospel to transform English culture.

Churches from the more socially conservative global south object to the stances of the Episcopal Church in the US and the Scottish Episcopal Church, which permit gay marriages.

GAFCON has backed splinter groups such as the Anglican Church in North America, Anglican Mission in England and the new Anglican Church in Brazil, which have set themselves up as rival bodies to the official Anglican church in each country.

Archbishop of Kenya questions future

The Archbishop of Kenya, a Gafcon-aligned province makes three important statements which may not please the purists in Gafcon:

1. He values Kenya’s relationship with Canterbury and wants it to continue (contrary to much of what Gafcon has been saying recently);

2. He will be attending Lambeth 2020;

3. When asked about the US Episcopal Church, he says it is important to stay in relationship with those with whom you disagree”.

This may suggest a distinct coolness about the agenda key voices in Gafcon have been advancing.

Letter of concern by Secretary to the Anglican Communion

Rev Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), wrote a letter to the Primates suggesting that his office alone should have a monopoly on all ministry networks in the Anglican Communion.

In a letter dated 13 June 2018, the Secretary-General criticised Gafcon for developing grassroots ministry networks, describing them as un-Anglican and suggesting that they harbour “potential for schism.”

Archbishop Peter Jensen on behalf of Gafcon made a strongly worded response:
“The attempt by Anglican Communion Office to challenge the Gafcon Primates for supporting new ministries is further evidence of how much the institutional form of Anglicanism is out of touch with spiritual reality. The launch of our networks is a sign of spiritual vitality which ought to be welcomed and applauded. Voluntary movements getting involved in much-needed ministry has a long tradition within the Anglican Communion.  This anxious missive suggests a fear that people are not under the control of some central organisation. Had the institutions of the Communion been clearer in their theological stance, movements of reform and renewal like Gafcon may not have arisen. Now, however, the wisdom of God is displayed in that the work and the workers are adding to the ministry of the gospel.   Thanksgiving rather than criticism is surely the appropriate response.”­

Archbishop in Jerusalem stresses the need for unity and reconciliation

The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, has stressed the need for reconciliation amongst Anglicans. Speaking to delegates at the Gafcon event being held in the city, Archbishop Suheil spoke of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem’s work of reconciliation in the Holy Land and emphasised the importance of the Church being one. This message featured in a homily delivered at an evensong in St George’s Cathedral on Sunday attended by some 200 of the Gafcon participants, including more than 70 bishops; and repeated in a welcome message to the Gafcon event being held in Jerusalem’s International Convention Centre.

Archbishop Suheil invited the Gafcon delegates to consider the three steps that are needed for unity and reconciliation. In a summary published by the Diocese in Jerusalem, he said: “First, in order to face the enormous challenges of our time, and to work towards unity and reconciliation, we need to be able to meet in dialogue and mutual respect. Second, the community needs to be able to celebrate the differences that it has, and accept each other through seeing Christ in each other, and not by imposing our own image of Christ on each other. The final step towards unity and reconciliation . . . is hospitality, since it is through hospitality that we can transform the exclusion of others to an embrace.”

The theme of the pre-Gafcon evensong was “Friendship and Reconciliation” which was, Archbishop Suheil said, “at the heart of our Christian faith.” He said that gatherings and meetings of Christians – like Gafcon – were “part and parcel to our ministry. Not only are we to have good relationships; but we strive to have excellent companionship and fellowship with Christians from around the world. We look for opportunities for collaborative ministries.

“In this land, our existence as Christians depends on these relationships. These are relationships that spiritually nourish us. I am told by pilgrims who pass through here that when they meet a Christian in the Holy land, and ask their denomination, the first response is ‘I am a Christian’. Our primary identity is in Christ.

“And it is this identity that enables us to reconcile with one another, even with those who we perceive to be different to us. As Christians, we are reminded this evening of what it is Jesus calls us to be. Our Scripture readings remind us that Christ is our sign of unity. Christ has called us to the ministry of unity in friendship and reconciliation. Jesus said: ‘I ask . . . also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one’ (John 17: 20-21).”

In a message of welcome to the Gafcon delegates on Monday morning, Archbishop Suheil said: “We have a duty to recognise that Christ is revealed afresh and anew in every encounter, every day. That we have a duty not to try and impose our impressions of Christ or God on another, rather; to see this afresh – to contemplate what God is revealing to us.

“Only through being open to the other, that we can begin to understand how the Kingdom is revealed – and, for the Christians, this must be ‘the longing is for a home from which no one is excluded’.

“Whatever we hear in the coming year, we must realise how precious our unity is and seek to keep our fellowship alive between each other, and remember that we are called to exclude no one from the love of God.”

He concluded his homily on Sunday evening by saying that friendship and reconciliation “begins with the understanding that the person who has caused hurt is equally loved by God just as we are.”

______________________________________________________________

The tenor of the current GAFCON Conference in Jerusalem can be gauged by this statement made by the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone, Archbishop G. Venables of Argentina, who said that “We (in Gafcon) are the true Anglican church which is made up of born-again Christians who like Anglicanism. Others have left!”

Venables was part of the very first Gafcon meeting which – organised largely by the efforts of the then-Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen – was gathered from those Provinces of the Anglican Communion, mostly in Africa and the Global South, which protested against TEC’s (The Episcopal Church in the United States’) ordination of a same-sex-partnered gay bishop. This was the original starting point of a movement which has since majored on a severely conservative (Sola Scriptura) interpretation of certain texts in the Sacred Scriptures which appear to outlaw same-sex relationships. Venables was also a principal speaker brought in especially to address the inaugural meeting of Gafcon Ireland, which is here featured as a burgeoning conservative influence in the official Church of Ireland (Anglican).

I have included most of the Church of Ireland’s original article posted on its home website – those pieces which emphasize the extent to which  the GAFCON Primates have intentionally infiltrated the Church of Ireland – as they have  already set up their own rival Churches in other parts of the Anglican Communion, for instance, in North America and Canada (ACNA); in Brazil; and even in the Church of England (AMIA).

It will be noted that not all of the GAFCON Primates  are in favour of an official break away from the rest of the Anglican Communion – notably,  the Primates of Kenya and of the Province of  Jerusalem and the Middle East; whose Leaders – at the Conference – have cautioned the delegates against invoking the culture of schismatic severance from the worldwide Anglican Communion.

That this note of caution was not appreciated by the likes of Archbishop Greg Venables (Southern Cone); Archbishop  Stanley Ntagali of Uganda; and former Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, is obvious from the details given of their input into the conference, which postulates the idea that those Provinces not belonging to the Gafcon group have already signalled their departure from the Anglican Tradition, and no longer belong to the ‘majority’ claiming to carry on the orthodoxy of Anglicanism as it was established.

This nonsensical  (and schismatically-inclined) view denies the fact that the Anglican Tradition has long been supportive of an ethos of ‘Unity in Diversity’ in matters of the theological breadth of cultural and ethnic understandings of the call of obedience to Christ in the gospel. This contrary view is clearly expressed in the Opening Sermon and Welcome to the Gafcon Conference delegates given by the Primate of the Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East,  The Most Revd.  Archbp.  Suheil Duwani who cautioned the delegates to have regard to the Gospel call for unity in the Church.

Another advocate for unity was the  Rev Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), who wrote a letter to the GAFCON Primates suggesting that his office alone should have a monopoly on all ministry networks in the Anglican Communion. However, on this issue, the Gafcon Primates have already formed their own ‘GAFCON Primates’ Conference’, and formulated their own conservative theological basis in their ‘Jerusalem Statement of Faith’ produced as their fundamental raison de’etre.

One cannot but wonder, in the circumstances, whether those gathered at GAFCON are really aware of the dangers of inciting schismatic severance from their Anglican roots –  based on a fundamentalist and dogmatic interpretation of six verses in the Bible, which they interpret as pronouncing a complete ban on loving, committed, lifelong same-sex relationships that have now been officially recognised and legally established in many Western countries of the world.

Time alone will tell of the success or failure of their bid to more deeply entrench their ‘holier than thou’ dogmatic influence in the Anglican world in a way that will establish a narrow and fundamentally different brand of ‘being Anglican’ – based, not on the old traditional understanding of the “Great Love of God as revealed in The Son”; but, rathe;, that of a stern and patriarchal, vengeful God.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

WHO Recognises Transgender Human Rights

The WHO removes Trans identities from the ICD 11 Mental Health Disorders section

July 18, 2018: In what is a historic announcement for activists, the World Health Organization (WHO) has acknowledged the rights of trans people[1] to have their gender identities without prejudice, persecution or stigma.

A new online version of the International Classification of Diseases version 11 (ICD11) has removed gender identity related diagnoses from the chapter on mental health disorders. Instead, the WHO has created a new set of trans-related diagnostic categories for adults, young people and children. These have been placed alongside physical illnesses, disorders and syndromes in the chapter “Conditions related to sexual health”.[2]

Patients will now receive the diagnosis of ‘Gender Incongruence’, which has three subsections:

  • HA60 Gender incongruence of adolescence or adulthood
  • HA61 Gender incongruence of childhood
  • HA6Z Gender incongruence, unspecified

Effectively ICD11 acknowledges the reality of the experiences of people with trans- gender identities and gender incongruence, and that these are normal human variations. With ICD11, the WHO is signposting a requirement for trans health care to be provided without the added stigma of a mental health diagnosis.

Activists from the global trans community have been demanding these changes for well over twenty years. The medical psychopathologizing of gender incongruence, often based on nothing more than moral and religious indignation, allowed the systematic, institutional and personal abuse of trans people. Research has demonstrated a global, universal experience by trans people of transphobic prejudice, discrimination, harassment, violence, and criminalisation of trans people’s core identities.

The announcement and publication of ICD11 should signal the end for any vestiges of historical, abusive transgender ‘mental health’ practices such as aversion therapy, compulsory sterilisation and enforced hospitalisation.

Julia Ehrt, Executive Director of Transgender Europe, on hearing the announcement said

 “This is the result of tremendous effort by trans and gender diverse activists from around the world to insist on our humanity, and I am elated that the WHO agrees that gender identity is not a mental illness.”[3]

Trans people in North America[4] will continue to experience the stigma associated with a mental health diagnosis. In the rest of the world, though, these new diagnostic codes should mean significant, positive changes for all trans people pursuing any health care, including gender-affirming and reassignment treatments.

______________________________________________________________

This is a tremendous move forward for people in our human environment who want to be recognised for their innate gender self-recognition – which may be different from that assigned at their birth. This is a distinct category of sexual dysphoria – long recognised by those affected but largely unrecognised by both the Church and the World at large. 

These people have cause to thank God that their basic human right – to be as they uniquely recognise themselves, in terms of their gender true identity – for this world-wide  United Nations recognition of the daily reality they are learning to live with.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jerusalem Archbishop Call for Anglican Unity

Archbishop in Jerusalem urges Anglicans to work for reconciliation

Posted on: June 20, 2018 10:13 AM

The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, attended the opening session of the Gafcon conference to welcome the delegates to the city.
Photo Credit: Diocese of Jerusalem
Related Categories: Abp DawaniMiddle EastReconciliation

The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, has stressed the need for reconciliation amongst Anglicans. Speaking to delegates at the Gafcon event being held in the city, Archbishop Suheil spoke of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem’s work of reconciliation in the Holy Land, and emphasised the importance of the Church being one. This message featured in a homily delivered at an evensong in St George’s Cathedral on Sunday attended by some 200 of the Gafcon participants, including more than 70 bishops; and repeated in a welcome message to the Gafcon event being held in Jerusalem’s International Convention Centre.

Archbishop Suheil invited the Gafcon delegates to consider the three steps that are needed for unity and reconciliation. In a summary published by the Diocese in Jerusalem, he said: “First, in order to face the enormous challenges of our time, and to work towards unity and reconciliation we need to be able to meet in dialogue and mutual respect. Second, the community needs to be able to celebrate the differences that it has, and accept each other through seeing Christ in each other, and not by imposing our own image of Christ on each other. The final step towards unity and reconciliation . . . is hospitality, since it is through hospitality that we can transform the exclusion of others to an embrace.”

The theme of the pre-Gafcon evensong was “Friendship and Reconciliation” which was, Archbishop Suheil said, “at the heart of our Christian faith.” He said that gatherings and meetings of Christians – like Gafcon – were “part and parcel to our ministry. Not only are we to have good relationships; but we strive to have excellent companionship and fellowship with Christians from around the world. We look for opportunities for collaborative ministries.

“In this land, our existence as Christians depends on these relationships. These are relationships that spiritually nourish us. I am told by pilgrims who pass through here that when they meet a Christian in the Holy land, and ask their denomination, the first response is ‘I am a Christian’. Our primary identity is in Christ.

“And it is this identity that enables us to reconcile with one another, even with those who we perceive to be different to us. As Christians we are reminded this evening of what it is Jesus calls us to be. Our Scripture readings remind us that Christ is our sign of unity. Christ has called us to the ministry of unity in friendship and reconciliation. Jesus said: ‘I ask . . . also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one’ (John 17: 20-21).”

In a message of welcome to the Gafcon delegates on Monday morning, Archbishop Suheil said: “We have a duty to recognise that Christ is revealed afresh and anew in every encounter, everyday. That we have a duty not to try and impose our impressions of Christ or God on another, rather to see this afresh – to contemplate what God is revealing to us.

“Only through being open to the other, that we can begin to understand how the Kingdom is revealed – and for Christians, this must be ‘the longing is for a home from which no one is excluded’.

“Whatever we hear in the coming year, we must realise how precious our unity is and seek to keep our fellowship alive between each other, and remember that we are called to exclude no one from the love of God.”

He concluded his homily on Sunday evening by saying that friendship and reconciliation “begins with the understanding that the person who has caused hurt is equally loved by God just as we are.”

______________________________________________________________

I was intrigued to read that the first religious service of the current GAFCON meeting in Jerusalem was planned to take place in the local Russian Orthodox Church in that City. However, it appears that the actual location hosting the first Evensong of the Conference was held in the Anglican Cathedral of Saint George the Martyr. The Preacher at Evensong was The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, whose sermon majored on the theme of ‘friendship and reconciliation – a them that seems at odds with the fact that many of the delegates were drawn from Churches which have already separated out from the worldwide Anglican Communion – headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lambeth.

One of the defining moments before the Conference was when the representatives of ACNS, the Anglican Communion News Service, based in the U.K., were refused permission to be present at the Conference as representatives of the Communion at large. This surely, above anything else, shows the disaffection by the Conference organisers for the Founding Province of Canterbury and its Primus-inter-pares, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The odd thing about this is that one of the proponents of GAFCON, the Revd. David Ould and his friend the Archbishop of Sydney publicly stated their surprise that the Conference was being ignored by the Church of England and by the very press agency ACNS that had been denied permission to attend the Conference in order to report on it! 

However, despite the intentional snub being rendered to the Canterbury news outlet, this item has obviously escaped the embargo imposed by the organisers of the conference, to reveal the fact that the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem, ++Sulheil Dawani (pictured in the article above) is intent on trying to keep the Communion together – despite expressed intention by some of the GAFCON Primates to separate out from Canterbury in order to form a new alliance around its own sodality.

Her is a relative extract from the above article which expresses ++Dawani’s hopes”

In a message of welcome to the Gafcon delegates on Monday morning, Archbishop Suheil said: “We have a duty to recognise that Christ is revealed afresh and anew in every encounter, every day. That we have a duty not to try and impose our impressions of Christ or God on another, rather to see this afresh – to contemplate what God is revealing to us. Only through being open to the other, that we can begin to understand how the Kingdom is revealed – and for Christians this must be ‘the longing is for a home from which no one is excluded’. Whatever we hear in the coming year we must realise how precious our unity is and seek to keep our fellowship alive between each other, and remember that we are called to exclude no one from the love of God.”

The very last line of the Archbishop’s eirenic call, says all that needs to be said.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

GAFFE Conference – ACNS Report

Third Gafcon conference underway in Jerusalem

Posted on: June 18, 2018 3:38 PM

The third Gafcon conference is taking place in Jerusalem
Photo Credit: Yoav Dothan / Wikimedia
Related Categories: conferenceJerusalem

The third international conference organised by the Gafcon movement has begun in Jerusalem. Organisers say that 2,000 people are taking part – media reports suggest that 230 are from Uganda. The ecumenical gathering attracts a large number of Anglicans. Many in Jerusalem are now members of independent churches set up in opposition to official Anglican Churches and Provinces.

This week’s conference began last night with an Evensong and reception. It was originally billed as taking place in the Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral but was moved to St George’s Anglican Cathedral.

The event includes Bible studies, group work and plenary sessions. The list of speakers includes a number of Anglican Primates: Archbishop Laurent Mbanda from Rwanda, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali from Uganda and Archbishop Nicholas Okoh from Nigeria as well as Bishop Héctor Zavala from the Anglican Church of South America’s Diocese of Chile.

For many of the delegates, Gafcon is a renewal conference for Anglicans who seek to uphold conservative biblical conviction within the Anglican Communion. For others, it is a movement that seeks to supplant official Anglican structures. In an interview last week with the “Anglicans Unscripted” vlog, a member of the group writing the Gafcon conference statement, Stephen Noll, said that Gafcon was “the true continuation of the Lambeth Conferences” – even though the Lambeth Conferences are an invitation-only event for the bishops in the Anglican Communion. The next one will take place in Canterbury in July 2020.

The Anglican Communion News Service applied for media accreditation to cover the Gafcon conference, but organisers declined.

______________________________________________________________

The very fact that the GAFCON organisers refused accreditation to the ACNS  (the UK-based Anglican Communion News Service) sets the scene for what is reputed by GAFCON to be the largest Anglican gathering ever. However, someone I know in the U.K. has said that this is not the truth; there have been much larger gatherings at the ‘New Wine’ Festivals in England.

Here is the tenor of the agenda of the Gafcon gathering:

“For many of the delegates, Gafcon is a renewal conference for Anglicans who seek to uphold conservative biblical conviction within the Anglican Communion. For others, it is a movement that seeks to supplant official Anglican structures.”

That both of these assertions by ACNS are a true statement of the underlying motive for this conference cannot be gainsaid. Despite the underlying theme of the conference as an opportunity for ‘Mission’ – with the implication that it is for the sole purpose of the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God – its main ‘mission’ is really to gather together like-minded ultra-conservative Sola-Scriptura ‘Anglicans’ whose main objective is to turn back the clock on any advances made by the Anglican Communion Churches in the West to bring justice to the LGBTI+ people, whose right to be heard and accepted as fellow Christians has become a pro-active part of the Church’s reaching out to an underclass of society.

The mentality of assumed moral perfectionism that is being fostered by the GAFCON Provinces of the Anglican Communion – initiated by people like Peter Jensen, Secretary of GAFCON and a former Archbishop of Sydney, whose backing of, and association with, the mostly African Evangelical Churches initially involved has spawned this movement of fundamentalists from every part of the Communion – has effectively divided the Communion on issues of gender and sexuality, subjects which were once the taboos of polite society and largely kept in the background by the Church.

The real tragedy in all of this is that the very African countries which are presently heavily involved in the persecution and imprisonment of homosexuals were once missionised by the sort of fervent Protestant Anglicans for whom patriarchalism and homophobia were the very attributes that formed the basis of their mission to ‘improve’ the lot of the native peoples who were considered savages needing to be rescued from perceived sexual immorality connected with their heathen way of life.

Since then, of course, much has been learned about the reality of the human condition – including the need to consider women as equal in the sight of God and worthy of trust as leaders in society. The very patriarchalism that was practised and encouraged by the early Church missionaries was also responsible for a tightening up of moral standards. One of the aspects of this teaching was that women should cover their naked breasts with the ‘Mother Hubbard’ garments that disguised this aspect of their femininity, thus rendering them less of a temptation to the predations of their male counterparts.

Also, any expression of homosexual relationships was quickly and effectively suppressed in the native communities – as being contrary to the will of God encountered in the few verses of Scripture that might have been harnessed in order to support this thesis. The Sola Scriptura exegesis of the Scriptures at the time – as espoused by the Protestant missionaries – was based on a severe fundamentalistic view of gender and sexuality, whereas already in the more catholic-minded missionary societies – such as UMCA (Universities Mission to Central Africa) and SPG (the Society for the Propagation of The Gospel) – concentrated more on the positive and salvific universality of the Gospel.

One explanation of this marked difference between the world-views of the Protestant and  Anglo-Catholic missionary societies is that many of the A.C. missionaries were themselves single men and women – some of whom, undoubtedly, would have been what would now become known as ‘closet homosexuals’ – living out their faith as celibate clergy or laity, but with valuable insights into the etiology of homosexuality and its limited  application as a normal variant in the human condition.

South Africa is a case in point – largely missionised by Anglo-Catholic clergy, whose own personal experience of the homosexual condition would have prevented them from doing what today’s GAFCON Primates seem hellbent on doing, which is to marginalise those in society whose sexual orientation is ‘different from the norm’ – as sinful and worthy of hell-fire and damnation. Notably, in support of this thesis, South Africa is one of the Churches on the African Continent that has declined to join the ranks of GAFCON.

Of course, there are supporters of sexism and homophobic reaction in every part of the civilised world – some even living in relatively civilised Aotearoa/New Zealand. In fact, some of them are now present at the Gafcon conference in Jerusalem – the site of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ himself, who was put to death for his love for sinners and his obvious disregard for the harshness of the religious leaders of his day. The rich irony of this situation has obviously been quite lost on the assembled Gafconites.

There has already been talk of the possibility of one of these dissident Kiwis returning – freshly-bishopped by the assembled prelates at the Gafcon – to lead a Church-in-exile in this country, fostered by a newly-opened branch of Gafcon’s offspring FOCANZ. Though this may sound a little outlandish, it is completely in accord with what has happened in other Western Provinces of the Anglican Communion: to TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada – (with the rise of ACNA) and even in the Mother Church of England – with the recent ordination of a bishop by Gafcon for AMIE, the ‘Anglican Mission in England’ – set to rival the mission and work of the Founding Province of the Anglican Communion!

Whatever else GAFCON may stand for – sadly, it is not the Unity of The Church. Its mission of schismatic severance – on the grounds of ritual purity – can never overcome the grace and mercy of Almighty God as revealed to the world in the liberating Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer.

Jesu, Mercy; Mary, Pray!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment