Donald Trump – a Religious Quest on the CampaignTrail


Politico reports today that Donald Trump is courting prosperity televangelists in an effort to “keep his momentum from ebbing.” The subtext of the Trump televangelist outreach is that despite the polls, the only kind of evangelicals who really like Trump are those who love mixing not just religion and politics, but religion and money:

Roughly three-dozen leaders attended the two-and-a-half hour meeting at Trump Tower, including televangelists Gloria and Kenneth Copeland and Trinity Broadcasting Network co-founder Jan Crouch, who is also the president of a Christian theme park in Orlando.

As it came to an end, televangelist Paula White said Trump wanted them to pray for him. Trump nodded, and the faith leaders laid hands on him and prayed.

Many evangelical leaders look askance at the crowd the businessman is courting. “The people that Trump has so far identified as his evangelical outreach are mostly prosperity gospel types, which are considered by mainstream evangelicals to be heretics,” said outspoken Trump critic Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant denomination at 16 million members.

Now let’s be honest here. Cast your eyes to the right of this text and you’ll see a link to my 2008 book,God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters. That book is about how the GOP, despite the fact that many mainstream evangelicals consider the prosperity gospel to be heretical, has long courted televangelists in the quest to consolidate the conservative Christian vote. Although the televangelists are primarily focused on the health-and-wealth gospel (sow your seed into my ministry and God will bless you with a hundred-fold return!) they have long been coveted politically for their influence over their audiences and their history as loyal foot soldiers in the culture wars.

Don’t read too much into Politico’s assertion that the televangelists would be “less turned off by his brash style and history of socially liberal positions,” or by the suggestion that Trump, by this meeting, has somehow stepped outside the typical Republican boundaries for courting the evangelical, Pentecostal, and charismatic Christian vote. Trump is following a GOP playbook established in the 1980s, and followed by his current rivals, and in particular, by one current rival’s family. Indeed Trumphimselffollowed the playbook during his unsuccessful 2012 presidential bid when he met with televangelists.

The casino mogul isn’t the first Republican (or probably the last) to get cozy with Copeland in particular. In 2008 Mike Huckabee reached out to Copeland as his campaign floundered. At the time, Copeland boasted of being a “rich Jew backed by a richer Jew” and a “billionaire in the kingdom of God.”

But Copeland’s influence dates back even further than that. As I reported in my book, Copeland has been sought out by Republican candidates, including both George H.W. and George W. Bush, because of his vast wealth and followers. In 1998, Karl Rove was advised by then-Bush family religion advisor Doug Wead that Copeland “is arguably one of the most important religious leaders in the nation.”

Never mind that he’s been the subject of many an investigative report on his appropriation of tax-exempt donations for his own enrichment with luxury homes and private jets. Senate Republicans briefly toyed with the idea of investigating Copeland and that other Trump admirer, Paula White, for their self-enrichment at the expense of their gullible donors, but ultimately puntedbecause hey, it’s more important that the government keep its nose out a church’s balance sheets, even if the church more resembles a closely-held corporation where money is worshipped above everything else.

Televangelism thrives at the precise intersection of religion, money, and keep-the-government-off-our-backs, making its relationship with the GOP a marriage made in heaven (or perhaps somewhere else). Although the Trump phenomenon has laid bare an intra-evangelical rift that has long been obscured in presidential politics, he certainly didn’t invent kissing the ring of televangelism’s rich and famous.

Still, though, the conservative evangelicals dismayed by Trumpism see it as a chance to explore thatrift as something bigger than Trump himself. As the evangelical writer Matthew Anderson put it in an unpublished piece he kindly shared with me, “The dalliance between (some!) evangelicals and Trump is simply another move in the shell game of attention-seeking that the info-tainment complex at the heart of political evangelicalism has mastered.” What Anderson calls political evangelicalism, or that unholy alliance between evangelicals and the GOP, is itself more about entertainment than it is about religion, and it’s certainly more about red meat (a form of entertainment) than about policy.

Even if Trump doesn’t end up the nominee—and even if that can be attributed, at least in part, to his waving a Bible around but demonstrating no fluency with it—the Republican Party will remain addicted to the “info-tainment complex at the heart of political evangelicalism.” In other words, Trump’s candidacy may have some unique features. Seeking the blessing of televangelists isn’t one of them.

UPDATE: Via Jacob Lupfer, here is video from the televangelists praying with/for Trump:

Has Donald Trump grown a moustache? This was what I asked my self when I looked in on this video showing the U.S. Entertainment Mogul being prayed for by his new friends, the Tele-Evangelists of North America. After some minutes, though, I realised that it was the new face of Trump, immersed in deep prayer and pious reflection on what they were asking God to do for him – to prepare him to become the next Republican President of the United States of America 
This excerpt from ‘Religious Dispatch’, tells the unsurprising story (given Trump’s ambition to become the next Republican President of the United States of America) of the millionaire Donald Trump’s courtship of the religious right, as most starkly represented by the conservative, fundamentalist televangelists in the U.S.
The last paragraph of this communique speaks of the minefield he might be entering into with this interface:
 – Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand
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The Gift of Communion – ACNS

What’s in a name? On (compass) roses, koinonia, and the gift of communion

What's in a name? On (compass) roses, koinonia, and the gift of communion

Posted By The Revd Canon Dr John Gibaut

01 October 2015 11:53AM


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”?Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare

Would the Anglican Communion—and our Compass Rose—smell as sweet if we were a “Federation” or “Association”? What is in the name “Communion” that shapes who we are, and informs our mission as a global church?

First, it lies deep within the biblical vision of the Church as koinonia, the Greek for communion. Since koinonia is translated by several words, its significance is easy to miss.

When Paul speaks of “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13.13), the Greek says koinonia. The sign of reconciliation, the “right hand of fellowship” (Gal 2.7-10) is also koinonia. Paul’s “collection” for the poor in Jerusalem is a koinonia (1 Cor 16.1). The Lord’s Supper as a “sharing” in the body and the blood of Christ (1 Cor 10.16-17) is againkoinonia.

Anglicans around the world are studying the World Council of Churches’ report, The Church: Towards a Common Vision, a fresh expression of the Church as koinonia. It begins, “Communion, whose source is the very life of the Holy Trinity, is both the gift by which the Church lives and, at the same time, the gift that God calls the Church to offer to a wounded and divided humanity in hope of reconciliation and healing.”

Overflowing from the communion of love within the Trinity, this communion is irreversibly restored in the paschal mystery of Christ. The sign and the servant of communion is the Church, as we engage together in mission, reconciliation, justice and peace, and mutual accountability, and as we pray for one another, support one another in times of need, and receive Holy Communion together.

Photo Credit: ACO

Most of us are drawn to communities of similar language, culture, politics, or education. In the Church those similarities can be theological conviction, the last word liturgical practice, piety, or moral discernment.

The Church, however, is to be more than a community of similarity; in the New Testament it is a koinonia, a communion in unity, diversity and even disagreement.

Whenever Christians are unable to agree with one another, yet choose communion, refusing to say “I have no need of you” (1 Cor 12.21), we proclaim that what binds us together is unshakeable.

Costly communion witnesses to the One through whom God was pleased to reconcile all things by making peace through the blood of his cross (Col 1.20).

Canon John Gibaut is Director for Unity, Faith and Order of the Anglican Communion. The Church: Towards a Common Vision is available at


This reflection first appeared in the August Issue of Anglican World, the Anglican Communion’s quarterly magazine. Subscribe to Anglican World for more reflections and stories from the global Anglican Communion.

Costly communion witnesses to the One through whom God was pleased to reconcile all things by making peace through the blood of his cross (Col 1.20).


“Whenever Christians are unable to agree with one another, yet choose communion, refusing to say “I have no need of you” (1 Cor 12.21), we proclaim that what binds us together is unshakeable.” – Canon Giles Gibaut

This statement, appearing today per courtesy of ACNA (Anglican Communion News Service) is the reality at the heart of what it means to be part of the world-wide Anglican Communion. Canon Gibaut, Director of the A.A.O Commission, is surely correect in his estimation that one of the most significant barriers to ‘koinonia’ in the Anglican Communion at this present time is the refusal to share with one another at the Eucharist. 

This refusal to share in the bonds of love at the heart of the Eucharistic Liturgy is a sure sign of the unwillingness to share our common life together as Anglican Christians. No matter what else divides us, the presence of Christ in the Eucharist – across all cultures – may be the only common factor that brings together the great diversity that is a significant part of our heritage as Anglicans.

I am hopeful that, at the upcoming Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury will find a way through our present disunity, asking God’s grace to initiate in each one of us that desire to be one, as Christ and the Father are one – not in our instant esoteric nature, but in our common membership of the Body of Christ.

I shall be praying the Prayer for the Holy Spirit’s guidance at the Primates’ Meeting at the daily Eucharist. I hope many more will undertake this simple way of proclaiming our unity in the diversity of God’s infinitely variable creation.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


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Pray for Primates Meeting in January, 2015

Special prayer for invitation to Primates’ Meeting in January 2016

Posted on: September 30, 2015 10:42 AM

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, the Most Revd Josiah Fearon-Idowu, is asking for prayer to accompany the Archbishop of Canterbury’s invitation to a Primates’ Meeting in January 2016.

A special prayer for the Invitation to the Primates’ Meeting in January 2016

Gracious and loving Father,

We thank You for the hope and faith of the Archbishop of Canterbury in inviting his colleagues to the meeting of this instrument.

We confess our individual and corporate roles in bringing the Communion to where she is today and ask for your forgiveness.

As the individual Primate prays and thinks over this invitation, we pray for them that Your Spirit will speak to each of them and that each Primate will respond as guided by the Holy Spirit. May they receive wise counsel from the bishops in their Provinces, and may the bishops themselves receive wise counsels from the lay and ordained members of their respective dioceses.

We pray that Primates will hear the voice of the Holy Spirit clearly and submit to Him as they respond to this letter. We pray that there will be a response with a high expectancy level from each Primate and that there will be an outcome that will bring glory and honour to our Lord, a restoration of Godly unity to the Communion and a new energy for the restoration of a renewed commitment to faithful witness in a continuingly secular world that is in contest with Kingdom values. We pray all this through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Most Revd Josiah Idowu
Secretary General of the Anglican Communion


As the new Secretary-General to the Anglican Communion, it behoves the Rt. Revd. Josiah Idowu to petition on-line for the prayers of all of us who want the Communion to retain its cherished tradition of ‘Unity in Diversity’, for the Anglican Primates as they gather to meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury in January of next year, to try to seek a way through the present difficulties that have brought a situation of a tendency to schism.

Whatever our personal hopes for the outcome of the meeting – whether the resumption of a full relationship for the Provincial Churches or, if necessary, the agreement to separate development into the various cultural strands that have already been made evident – our prayers that the Holy Spirit might guide and influence the outcome are a timely reminder of our call, in Christ, to Unity.

I shall be praying this prayer at the 10am Mass (of Healing and Reconciliation) at SMAA this morning, hoping that many of my readers will response positively to this call for our prayers.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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No refusals so far to Welby’s invitation to Canterbury

Madeleine Davies

by Madeleine Davies – “CHURCH TIMES – Posted: 25 Sep 2015 @ 12:

Click to enlarge

Line-up: the last Primates’ meeting was held in Dublin in 2011. The names of the 13 absent Primates were placed on empty chairs, and candles were lit for them

AS RSVPs go, the Primates’ first responses to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s invitation to meet next January vary from the enthusiastic to the heavily caveated. The reaction in the Northern hemisphere has so far been positive.

Despite the Archbishop’s unexpected decision to invite a representative of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the Episcopal Church confirmed that the Rt Revd Michael Curry, who is due to succeed Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop, would attend.

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Most Revd Archbishop Fred Hiltz, welcomed the meeting as “a good thing”. Speaking on Tuesday, he described the decision to invite ACNA — it is understood that the representative will be present for one day, before the formal meeting gets under way — as “an opportunity for some conversation, in the ultimate hope that we might be able to find a way forward towards reconciliation”.

US bishops also welcomed the Archbishop’s initiative, despite reservations. “I hope that all will be in attendance, and participate fully,” the Bishop of Vermont, the Rt Revd Thomas C. Ely, said. “It is not clear to me the reasoning behind inviting other guests who are not Primates of the Anglican Communion to this meeting, especially since this is the first meeting of the Primates in quite some time.

“Clearly the Archbishop, with his wider perspective on things, thinks this is a good idea, and so I trust his judgement.”

The Archbishop of ACNA, Dr Foley Beach, confirmed that he would accept the invitation if the GAFCON Primates did, “and I am expecting that they will.”

A statement from GAFCON said that it would “prayerfully consider” the invitation. “The crisis in the Communion is not primarily a problem of relationships and cultural context, but of false teaching, which continues without repentance or discipline.”

The GAFCON Primates have stayed away from recent Primates’ Meetings. It was “some encouragement” that ACNA had been invited, a statement said.

A pastoral letter issued by the Most Revd Eliud Wabukala, the Kenyan Primate and GAFCON chairman, this week, was less than sanguine about the state of the Communion, which had become, he suggested, “a source of weakness, as Churches which have rejected the truth as Anglicans have received it spread false teaching, yet continue to enjoy full communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury”.

Anxiety about the direction of the Church in the West was also expressed by the Archbishop of Papua New Guinea, the Most Revd Clyde Igara, who said on Tuesday that he had “some reservations” about the meeting.

“Our big and elderly sisters continue to dominate,” he said. “They want to dominate their influence on the Communion by their Western theology.” The Communion should accommodate “both the big and elder brothers, and the younger growing ones”.

He hoped to attend the meeting, but on the understanding that the Communion was “not compromising between the truth and a lie”.

But there was a warm welcome from elsewhere in the global south. “We wholeheartedly support the Archbishop of Canterbury for this important meeting,” the Primate of West Africa, the Most Revd Daniel Sarfo, said. “It is the right way for all the Primates to support him chart the way forward.”

The Archbishop of Brazil, the Most Revd Francisco de Assis da Silva, suggested that the meeting could “strengthen our sense of body and allow us to move forward as one”.

He called for “a very proactive agenda . . . We have focused much on the issues of sexuality, but I think it may be time to go beyond that. I think it is time to focus on other needs of our world.”

The diversity within the Communion had been “framed at times in a negative light”, suggested one of the Primates of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia, the Most Revd William Brown Turei. “One reaction to this has been a strong demand for uniformity, imposed and enforced.” The way forward was “to embrace our diversity and focus on unity, and not uniformity, and to love unconditionally in the way that God first loved us”.

The Archbishop of Hong Kong, Dr Paul Kwong, agreed. “We have spent too much time and energy in the last decade to deal with our differences; it is about time for us to focus our attention to our commonality,” he said. “Mission is one of our commonalities. . . There are far too many pressing issues that the provinces in the Communion can work together to help resolve than the issue of sexuality. Issues like poverty, refugees, and military conflicts and many more.”

“The Archbishop of Canterbury is one of the integral and inseparable instruments of the Anglican Communion,” said the Archbishop of South East Asia, the Most Revd Bolly Anak Lapok. “One of the Archbishop’s functions is to preside over the annual meeting of the Primates regardless whether a primate or some primates are ready or not. This is not just the way forward; without it the Communion is dysfunctional.”

Reports that Archbishop Welby is envisaging a looser structure for the Communion (News, 18 September) did not meet with universal approval.

Archbishop Wabukala said that it was “very sad that the Archbishop of Canterbury is calling a meeting of Primates to see if the Communion can be saved by making relationships between its Churches more distant rather than closer”.

It was “very sad that we look like we are moving toward a provisional separation”, said the Archbishop of Korea, the Most Revd Paul K. Kim. “I don’t really want to agree with the opinion that it is time for our communion to make an exit strategy. . .  I don’t want to concede that our communion has failed to keep a creative tension among those conflicting opinions. I have thought that an inclusive Catholicism or comprehensiveness is the most important aspect of Anglicanism.”

He went on: “I am really worried about that, although the separation is temporal, it could narrow the space for those who are in between both extreme ends. . . The separation could be interpreted as extremists’ victory against all the sincere efforts. . .

“If we move toward a separation and have to choose one position between both extremes, is it really possible to keep a sincere missionary dialogue with our respected society and culture?”

Archbishop Hiltz confessed to being “not encouraged” by the “looser structure” scenario.

“I am uneasy with the notion that the Communion could be reshaped into a group of churches that all have some kind of relationship with Canterbury but not one another,” he said. “It flies in the face of our historic understanding of the Communion.”

Despite gloomy pronouncements from elsewhere, he said that he was full of hope for the Communion, suggesting that, of its four instruments, only the Primates Meeting was not functioning.

“I don’t think the instruments of Communion are as broken as some people think or say they are, and I am also a person that sees so much evidence of hopefulness with respect to our unity,” he said.

The programme twinning dioceses “links people in beautiful ways”, he said, and initiatives such as cycles of prayer were “wonderfully energetic hope-filled signs to me of a unity that actually far surpasses the tensions and the divisions”.


Of the various responses from some of the Anglican Primates invited to meet together with the Archbishop of Canterbury in January, 2106, one of the most encouraging is that of our own Maori Tikanga Primate in ACANZP, Archbishop Brown Turei:

‘The diversity within the Communion had been “framed at times in a negative light”, suggested one of the Primates of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia, the Most Revd William Brown Turei. “One reaction to this has been a strong demand for uniformity, imposed and enforced.” The way forward was “to embrace our diversity and focus on unity, and not uniformity, and to love unconditionally in the way that God first loved us”.

This statement reflects the fact that our Church (ACANZP) soundly rejected the idea of an imposed ‘Anglican Covenant’ form of relationship; believing that our diversity within the Provinces and within the Anglican Communion itself is proof of God’s diversity in Creation, and a fact to be encouraged, rather than attempting to impose uniformity of structures.

Interesting is the fact that, though the GAFCON Provincial Archbishops are chary of meeting up with their Western Provincial colleagues, they cannot but be impressed by the ABC’s invitation to invite their adopted child ACNA to the Conference – if only on the basis of discussions prior to the actual business meetings. Whether this eirenic movement on the part of Archbishop Justin will prove sufficient to induce the GAFCON Primates to attend the gathering, will not be known until it actually takes place.

However, while several of those Primates are still talking about their difficulties in relating collegially with  other, more liberal, Provinces Archbishop Eliud Wabukala (Chair of gafcon), describes thus: “Churches which have rejected the truth as Anglicans have received it spread false teaching, yet continue to enjoy full communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury”. With such rhetoric, one might well prophesy that he may not be attending, fearing that he would be “supping with the devil”. And who knows which of the other GAFCON Primates would dare to disagree?

However, all is not lost on the Continent of Africa. At least the Primate of West Africa sees hope in the gathering:

‘But there was a warm welcome from elsewhere in the global south. “We wholeheartedly support the Archbishop of Canterbury for this important meeting,” the Primate of West Africa, the Most Revd Daniel Sarfo, said. “It is the right way for all the Primates to support him chart the way forward.”

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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TEC Primate endorses Pope Francis’ call for Ecology Initiative

TEC Presiding Bishop endorses Pope’s climate change imperative

Posted on: September 29, 2015 9:11 AM

Drought in Utah, USA.
Photo Credit: Anthony Quintano/Flickr

By Pat McCaughan for Episcopal News Service

In the wake of Pope Francis’ historic visit to Washington, D.C., The Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and other faith leaders on Sept. 24 committed to five initiatives to address global climate change.

“Coming Together in Faith,” a two-day live-streamed interreligious summit, brought together faith leaders to issue a call to environmental action.

“Faith can and does move mountains,” Jefferts Schori said in an address to cathedral and online audiences, after inviting them just “to breathe” a breath of life, and to hope and to feel the creative potential inward while breathing out “your willingness to change the world in word and action.”

She told the gathering that, “working together, faith can end mountaintop destruction and develop green jobs in place of squeezing the Earth’s limited resources for fuel.”

Pope Francis, during a White House South Lawn address to about 15,000 people, characterized urgent action on global warming as a moral imperative for all people “of goodwill in this great nation.

“Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies,” Pope Francis said, according to published reports. “To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.”

The 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, meeting June 23-July 3 in Salt Lake City, Utah, in Resolution A171 approved endorsing the papal encyclical letter Laudato Si’ of Pope Francis, focusing on the reality of climate change and the interrelated nature of the world. The 78th General Convention also approved several other resolutions regarding the environment, including:

  • A107 to develop and continue food system advocacy;
  • C013 to facilitate a dialogue on climate change and divestment strategy;
  • C047 to promote policies that combat adverse climate change;

Additionally, on Sept. 22, the presiding bishop endorsed an ecumenical agreement with Anglican and Lutheran leaders in the U.S. and Canada to take action to safeguard God’s creation.

At the Sept. 24 summit, well-known author and activist Brian McLaren, along with the Rev. Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois, introduced the five initiatives and urged all people of faith to commit to: engage; energize; divest and invest; vote and educate.

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral, welcomed faith leaders and activists representing the Islamic, Christian and Jewish traditions to network during the two-day summit, which continues today.

Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America, told the gathering that halting global climate warming “requires a change of behavior.”

Citing the Quran: “God does not change the condition of people unless they change the condition of themselves” he said Muslim communities around the United States have started a movement to work for “green” mosques.

McLaren said the summit hoped to “send a message to America and the world that, not only do we agree with Pope Francis and his historic message for care of creation, we’re going to the action that’s ours to take.”

He and Moss called upon the audience present and people of faith everywhere to commit to fight global warming and to:

  • Engage – by going to leaders and members of faith communities and tell them how much you care personally about this issue and how much you hope your whole congregation will begin to care too. Speak from your heart;
  • Energize – link with other people to form groups, get excited, bring people together around the issue of climate change, around the papal call to recognize the sacredness of ecology;
  • Divest and Invest – asking denominations, congregations and religious institutions and individuals to move their investments from dirty energy to clean energy. “If it’s wrong for corporations to make a profit from destroying the earth, it’s also wrong for investors to share in the profits. Tonight we would like to be the beginning of a wave of change to clean investment,” he said.
  • Vote – to challenge every politician and hold them accountable to take action on climate change, making it one of your top three issues in every election in which you vote; and
  • Educate – using personal and social networks to overcome denial and ignorance about climate change.
  • The event was a joint initiative of Washington National Cathedral, Auburn Seminary, Blessed Tomorrow, Faith in Public Life and Convergence.

Continuing her “breath” metaphor, the presiding bishop also told the gathering that “the world needs hope now.

“Offer your breath of hope in the face of what seems dead or dying. Use your breath constructively. Speak truth to your own communities to bring hope and possibility and new life … speak truth to leaders and governments. Use your breath to motivate changed hearts and changed behavior. Our creative breath can move this planet’s air toward more abundant possibilities. Faith does change the atmosphere. Faith does move mountains. Faith does change hearts. Keep breathing.


In one of her last public initiatives as Presiding Bishop of TEC (The Episcopal Church in the USA), Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori, whose term as TEC Primate is shortly to end, joined other Faith Leaders in the U.S. to address the urgent issue of Climate Change.

This was a felicitous time for the meeting, especially in the wake of Pope Francis’ historic visit to North America, in which he, too, stressed the need for richer nations – like the U.S. – to curb their insatiable consumption and environmental exploitation of fossil fuels,  amongst other natural resources, in order to preserve the sustainability of the earth for all of its inhabitants – including the poorest and most deprived of its citizens.

As a trained scientist (in marine biology), Bishop Katharine has some idea of what she is talking about on environmental issues, and it is good to see someone of her calibre helping people of the U.S. and other Western nations to better understand where unbridled use of the earth’s precious resources is liable to take us. Her paradigm of ‘breath’ as a medium of giving and sharing life is a most useful one for all of us to contemplate.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Canadian Primate on Same-Sex Marriage

Hiltz on same-sex marriage: ‘I do not want the church to divide over this’


Archbishop Fred Hiltz with (left) Archdeacon Michael Thompson, general secretary, and Archdeacon Harry Huskins, General Synod prolocutor, during the special session of CoGS. Photo: André Forget

The Anglican Journal sat down for an interview with Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, after the Council of General Synod (CoGS) concluded its special session on September 22-23 to receive the report of the Commission on the Marriage Canon. Excerpts:What are your initial thoughts about the report?

This commission really did honour the mandate that was given to it by CoGS. The context for that mandate was clearly the resolution, the direction given by General Synod 2013 for this CoGS [to draft a motion changing Canon 21, the church’s law on marriage, “to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite-sex couples.”]

One thing I so appreciated about the report was [that the commissioners] really gave full attention to the pieces of the resolution of General Synod 2013, that were by way of amendment to the resolution as it was initially presented. The amendment was around whether this [changing the marriage canon to allow same-sex marriage] is congruent with the Solemn Declaration and [to have] a biblical and theological rationale and broad consultation.

The biggest piece of the report was around the  Biblical, theological rationale [for allowing same-sex marriage.] I think they’ve given us both a challenge and an invitation to go more deeply into our conversations about same-gendered relationships. I think that’s actually a gift to the church, no matter how we feel about the issue. They’ve taken us to a depth that is both needed and I think, welcomed in a number of quarters in the life of the church.

Are you referring to the three models for understanding same-sex marriage?

The three models arise out of [the commissioners’] reflection of a possible Biblical, theological rationale. I think it’s helpful that they say that to go the “undifferentiated view” [of same-sex marriage] is simply to look at it from the point of view of the law, drop “man and woman” and put whatever you want [in the rites and vows].  If we did that, we would just be in accord with the law of the land…But they’ve introduced the whole idea around marriage not just as a legal agreement… but rather as a covenant with God in the midst of it. And from that perspective they move into the model…assuming something new, which doesn’t detract from what already has been a solid understanding of marriage. Does this expand the possibilities of how we view marriage? That will be a challenge for some people, there’s no question about that. Even gays, lesbians and transgendered people who will be made to feel like the Gentiles. Although they speak to that in the footnote of the report.

You said the report takes people to a deeper level of conversation around same-sex relationships. What, in particular, are you referring to?

I think what they did with the creation passages, which are often quoted when we talk about marriage. There are stories of creation and coming out of that —ways of viewing marriage and the purposes of marriage. I think that was helpful.

I’ve always believed this — that marriage is a covenant —but the way in which they talked about marriage as covenant with God in the midst…reminds us of the sacredness of the vows that are made.

They raise the question that was also raised in the St. Michael’s Report [of the Primate’s Theological Commission] and that is, “Can we see, in same-gendered relationships, a similar working of God’s grace in the love between two people of the same gender, as we see in two people who are heterosexual?” That does push the church to really stop and think about that.

And, if one of the purposes of marriage is procreation – I think the report was incredibly honest in saying the reality is that in some marriages, for a variety of reasons, that never happens – either by choice, by reason of health or age – and people go into the marriage knowing that. The reality is that in those marriages it’s the companionship, the mutual support that one ought to have for the other… faithfulness until death —  that’s what’s fulfilled…

What should Anglicans focus on when reading this exhaustive report? 

The report is barely 24 hours out in the world and as I said to the Council, we’ve just seen it and we, ourselves, who have the greatest responsibility for this report have got to take some time to read it, digest it and allow it to inform our own thinking.

One of the challenges coming out of CoGS must be an invitation to the whole church for every delegate to General Synod to have been required to read the report and participate in conversations. If we have people coming to General Synod who have not read the report or have their opinion pre-formed, not having read the report, then be engaged by it, that’s not going to be helpful.

Does this report reflect the broad consultation that the General Synod 2013 resolution asked for? 

There is still a broad range of opinion out there of same-gendered marriage. What’s different now is that we actually have, in front of us, a biblical theological rationale, which in a sense people can say, “we actually didn’t have that.” We had a conversation from the point of view of human rights, justice, pastoral care. But we didn’t have deep biblical theological rationale and that’s what General Synod, among other things, asked for. I think the commission delivered.

Not everyone will agree, I know that. But I do think the models present an opportunity for some good and well-informed conversation. I hope people wouldn’t just dismiss it, but that they be engaged by it. Even within that commission there’s a  variety of views on same-gendered marriages. They’re not of one mind, but they took on the task that was given to them. I have no doubt that there were times during their meeting that they struggled through it. But they honoured the  mandate that was given to them and that, to my mind, is the sign of a real servants of the church.

Do you have some anxiety about how this motion will be dealt with at General Synod 2016? 

From the point of view of Council, as [its] chair, I’m not anxious. I think the officers wisely advised that there be a working group.

This CoGS recognizes the challenge that they have ahead of them and are quite prepared to be guided by the working group. They seem quite determined that we have as good an experience as we can at General Synod in 2016. This means we have to be really attentive to the process in a variety of ways. People have talked about this before – that we will have sufficient conversation about the resolution itself… that we’ll be engaged in the debate in a less heated kind of way, a more patient kind of way. I’m comfortable and confident that CoGS will put a good process in place for that.

What happens out there in church land and what happens in the Communion in response to this report, I have no control over that. In some ways I would be anxious about it…. I will go to the primates’ meeting in January and there will be some primates [who] will be all over me about this. I know that. But I try to, as I did today, remind people that in the polity of our church and in the decision-making of our church, here are the parameters within which we work.

In reality, as I will have to say publicly, if General Synod approves this draft resolution or a resolution to change the marriage canon, it cannot take effect until January 2020 and who knows what will happen in the meantime?

This motion, if approved, has the potential to divide the church. Is this something that keeps you up at night? 

Of course, that’s always on my mind, because part of my ministry as primate is to be a focus of unity for our church. I carry that all the time. I carry that in this Council,  I carry that in the House of Bishops and I carry it at General Synod.

Does it keep me awake at night? Yes, it sure does. I do not want to see the church divide over this. The St. Michael Report used the helpful language of “core doctrine” and other kinds of doctrine. Core doctrine meaning the kind that’s reflected in the creeds of the church. They [Primate’s Theological Commission members] said, in the St.Michael Report, that they didn’t believe the blessing of same-sex unions was a communion-dividing issue. I kind of think about that language still, at the back of my mind. I would hope that the church would not come apart over this.

I think there’s enough will and resolve within our church to have a good, focused, patient conversation about this. I really do feel that. I know it’s not universal, but, generally speaking, [there’s a] kind of a movement in that direction.

I worry, too, of course, about our place in the Communion and our place in ecumenical relationships. We’ve been advised by the Communion not to pursue it but to continue with local option. In other words, don’t take it a step nationally,  but live as much as you can within the parameters of what you have around local option. I’m mindful of that.

We’ve been told clearly by the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue that this will be, if we take this step, it will be detrimental to our continuing dialogue and I’m sorry to hear that, actually.
Indigenous communities in our own church have clearly said, ‘You know, we may not be happy with the decisions you make but we consider ourselves in a continuing relationship with the Anglican Church of Canada.”
I kind of carry the weight of it, not just from the point of view of the family — the Anglican Church of Canada — and the stress and strain that can be part of this family over controversial issues, but also the wider extended family— the Communion and our brothers and sisters in other ecumenical circles.


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Ever since the St. Michael’s Report [of the Primate’s Theological Commission] –  to the Anglican Church of Canada : See: – the Church  has been engaged in theological studies to look at the modern understanding of gender and sexuality; with reference to Scripture, Tradition and Reason, in a bid to deliver just outcomes for the lives of LGBT members of the Church.
This latest article, presented by ‘ANGLICAN JOURNAL’ Staff members,  resulting from interviews with the Canadian  Primate, Fred Hiltz,  on the eve of consideration of Same-Sex Marriage in the Canadian Anglican Church; offers answers to some of the most pertinent questions being asked by Anglicans in Canada and in Churches around the Anglican Communion.
In saying that Same-Sex Marriage is ‘theologically possible’, Members of the Commission are arguing that one of the most important reasons for marriage in the scriptures is to facilitate and authenticate faithful one-to-one monogamous relationships – whether or not they are productive of progeny or not. The Commission recognises the fact that not all marriages are capable of producing children. Therefore, one of the main objections to Same-Sex Marriage being that of the inability to procreate, may be invalid. All truly loving relationships are of God.
Despite worries about the Anglican Church of Canada’s prospect of  impaired relationships with other members of the Anglican Communion – as well as other Christian bodies, such as the Church of Rome – Primate Fred Hiltz believes that the Church’s duty is, above all, to be lovingly pastoral to all its members – including those of a different sexual orientation from the majority.
Considering Pope Francis’ Charge to Roman Catholic Bishops in the United States during his recent visit; that dogmatic statements should never get in the way of pastoral care of the most vulnerable; it would seem that the Canadian Anglican Church might be leading the way – not only for Anglicans around the world but, together the the American Episcopal Church – for Christians who look to the example of Jesus in his concern for the respect of every human being as an image and likeness of God, beloved for their own sake and therefore needing to be loved without prior conditions being put upon them by the Church. (“They’ll know you’re my disciples by your love” – Jesus)
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand
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I made a lot of jokes about what to wear to the Pope’s Interfaith Service at Ground Zero yesterday. I was so thrilled to be invited that I needed a slant way to lose my pride and let it imitate the Pope’s humility.  Thus the question of what to wear was my sneaky way of alerting people I had been invited by the Cardinal. Yup, the Cardinal. I know, I am bragging again. As I left the house, my husband said, “I look forward to touching your hem when you get back.”

I wore my clerical collar, of course, ordered from Clergy Couture, a European outfit that dresses ordained women with flair and fit. But should it be paired with a black skirt, the kind you wear to a foundation visit, or blue jeans, just to join the Pope’s appreciation for those who work “in their quiet ways and sustain our life…”? Or what about something with feminist flair, like my pink tights? Too hot. The skirt won.

Plus, I talked with my women’s group online while listening to the Pope livestream his speech to Congress yesterday. I was surprised that we were all listening, avidly. The pink tights were out: “too provocative.” The blue jeans were out: “too disrespectful of how excited you are to see him.” The skirt won again.

Even wondering what to wear is a window on how important the Pope is. I am almost embarrassed to have mentioned it.  Francis puts the humble in the humble, the gravity in the gravitas. He is going to put the word “pontification” out of business. He refreshes religion. He gives Christianity a good name. I never thought I would hear a congressional standing ovation for the golden rule and now I have.

One of the members of my women’s group, called the Sirens, kept her 11-year-old son home from school so he could hear the Pope. This pre-teen said “he sounds real.”

He has a soothing voice. He says hard things with quietness appropriate to their difficulty.

Somehow it can’t be accidental that the Harvest Moon rises this weekend, or that Eid-al-Adha, the Muslim holiday, started yesterday or Yom Kippur was Tuesday and Wednesday. We are saturated with religion in New York City, with a great rising. And yes, alternate side of the street parking was suspended all week. Like my skirt, parking is a kind of sacramental preoccupation for those of us hungry for larger epiphanies.


The long meanings of the Pope’s visit remains to be seen. The interfaith service started and ended on time; the Pope’s message was almost lost to the children’s choir. The main thing that happened was the sound of cameras snapping (and the sight of cell phones held aloft). It won’t even come by the dark of the October moon. Yes, we need a leader but we dare not have one that we don’t follow with our own self-governing actions. No, we don’t need doctrinal changes so much as the implementation of their true Christian meanings. Yes, we need the religious experience the Pope is providing moment by moment, in quiet comments, in an exhilarating schedule, at age 78. “The family is under assault, internally and externally.” Instead of being a scold, he shows appreciation for those who try to stay in families assaulted by months too long for the money.

Of course it would be great if he lifted a papal finger and allowed the ordination of women and gays. I’d be pleased if he engaged the matter of abortion with the same sophistication he uses on the environment and the economy and their links. I remain pro-choice and intend no change. Still I so appreciate his framing of the “life” question in a more meaningful context, as he does with regard to the death penalty. He doesn’t seem to know how to nag or scold.

For me? I found something to wear with my collar. And have renewed gratitude for the yoke the collar implies. Forty years ordained, I never thought I’d be renewed by a pope or the Pope. And guess what? I am.


This report by The Revd. Donna Schaper to the NEW YORK TIMES gives a refreshing view of a non-Roman Catholic female clergy-person’s reaction to the visit of Pope Francis to North America.

Her concern for the correct etiquette of how to dress for an ecumenical Prayer Meeting with the reigning Pontiff was resolved – not by a desire to represent the place of women in priestly ministry in the face of possible papal disapproval, but by simple respect for the dignity and persona of a ‘Pope of The People’, loved by more than just his Roman Catholic constituency.

Like many people in the U.S., who might have been put off by a doctrinaire dogmatism, that might have been expected from the Bishop of Rome; Donna had been imbibing what this gracious Man of God had already been saying to his own bishops – on the subject of the need to preach Love over Law, as his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi himself, might have advised his own followers.

The Love of God, rather than God’s Judgement, has been at the forefront of Pope Francis’  inspirational homilies – to both Church and Nation in the U.S., so that pastoral Christianity can be seen to be more about solidarity with the people on the margins, than about trying to sustain an empire that is founded on power and glory and other people’s disadvantage.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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