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Benedict’s abdication “demystifies” the papacy: The Church of England Newspaper, February 24, 2013 p 6. March 23, 2013

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The abdication of Pope Benedict XVI will modernize the papacy, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams believes, and will invigorate the call to service to the church and the world for the occupant of the chair of St Peter.

In an interview broadcast on 12 Feb 2013 Lord Williams, the Master of Magdalene College Cambridge, stated Benedict’s resignation may “demystify the papacy,” challenging the view the “pope is not like a sort of God King who goes on to the very end.”

The “ministry of service that the Bishop of Rome exercises is just that, a ministry of service and it’s therefore reasonable to ask if there is a moment when somebody else should take that baton in hand,” he said.  Benedict’s decision serves to remind the Christian world of the “primitive position of the bishop of Rome as the servant of the unity of the Church, of the bishop who convenes, mediates between, manages the fellowship of the bishops, that slightly more functional, slightly less theologically top heavy picture, that may be one of the things that emerges from this.”

While the process to appoint a new Archbishop of Canterbury took almost six months, the Catholic Church’s Apostolic Constitution calls for a Conclave of Cardinals to begin within 20 days but not before 15 days, following the declaration the chair of St Peter was “sede vacante”. However, Vatican press spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said last week the Conclave could start within ten days of the date of the pope’s formal resignation – 28 Feb in light of the unusual circumstances of the pope’s abdication.

As of 28 Jan, 118 cardinals were eligible to vote for the next pope – 62 Europeans, 19 South Americans, 14 North Americans, 11 Africans, 11 Asians and 1 from the Pacific. The largest national group of cardinals is Italy with 28, followed by the US with 11, Germany with 6 and Spain and Brazil with 5.

Lord Williams said the announcement “wasn’t a total surprise, I think because in our last conversation I was very conscious that he was recognising his own frailty and it did cross my mind to wonder whether this was a step he might think about.”

In retirement he hoped Benedict would return to writing. “We look for some more profound and reflective theology from him, of the kind that’s made his encyclicals so wonderfully fruitful as a resource for the whole Christian family.”

He added that he had shared with Benedict his plans to retire before the news was shared with the Anglican Communion. “I’d spoken to him before I’d announced my resignation earlier in the year, so we shared some reflections on the pressures of office and, yes, we spoke about the promise of being able to do a bit more thinking, and praying…because by the grace of God we’ve enjoyed a warm relationship, so it was possible for me to share that with him earlier in the year.”

Lord Williams agreed Benedict’s resignation might well further the call made by John Paul II in Ut Unum Sint to rethink the papacy in the service of unity for all Christians. “It will be very interesting to see,” he told Vatican Radio, adding “I think we have yet to work through all the implications of Ut Unum Sint and if this is a stimulus to do some more work on that, I’d say well and good.”

Canterbury gun control plea: The Church of England Newspaper, January 13, 2013 p 5. January 21, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Connecticut, Crime, The Episcopal Church.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has joined a chorus of American church leaders calling for stricter gun control laws in the United States following last month’s Connecticut school shooting.

In his final “Thought for the Day” broadcast as Archbishop of Canterbury on BBC Radio 4, Dr. Williams acknowledged that by itself gun control will not end violence, but their strict regulation would curtail it.

“A week after the horrific killings of the schoolchildren of Sandy Hook in Connecticut, most of us are still struggling to get our minds around such a nightmare,” Dr. Williams said, adding that “nearly 6,000 children and teenagers were killed by firearms in the USA in just two years.”

The problem of “gang culture” was not unique to America, he noted, but “in the US, the question is, of course, about gun laws, one of the most polarising issues in American politics.”

“And there is one thing often said by defenders of the American gun laws that ought to make us think about wider questions.  ‘It’s not guns that kill, it’s people.’  Well, yes, in a sense.  But it makes a difference to people what weapons are at hand for them to use – and, even more, what happens to people in a climate where fear is rampant and the default response to frightening or unsettling situations or personal tensions is violence or the threat of violence.  If all you have is a hammer, it’s sometimes said, everything looks like a nail.  If all you have is a gun, everything looks like a target,” the archbishop said.

Last week the Bishop of Olympia, the Rt. Rev. Gregory Rickel joined the Bishop of Washington and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in calls for the government to review gun laws.

The Seattle-based bishop wrote that in the United States, “gun violence is a slow growing cancer which we have had the luxury, by and large, to ignore or at the very least show little attention to. Sadly, it has taken the loss of 20 of the youngest among us, the ones with the least power, to get our attention.”

“Up until that tragedy in Connecticut, we were starting to get used to school shootings. Will we get used to this too?” he asked.

Bishop Rickel joined Dr. Williams in rejecting the arguments put forward by the hunting and shooting community.  He stated the National Rifle Associations “solution is not surprising: arm more people. That solution grows out of a belief in the inevitability of a heavily armed society, which they have helped create. We are now the most armed nation in the world.”

The bishop said he was “not against the end of all guns. That, at this point, is probably unrealistic. But, I am very much for rational regulation of them.

Dr. Williams observed that “if it’s true that if all you have is a gun, everything looks like a target.”

The “control of the weapons trade is a start,” he said, towards ending the violence.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper-

Peerage for Dr. Williams: The Church of England Newspaper, January 13, 2013 p 1 January 17, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Prime Minister’s Office has the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has been given a life peerage by the Queen. Upon his retirement from office, Dr. Williams will become Baron Williams of Oystermouth.

The 26 December 2012 announcement from No. 10 Downing Street stated Dr. Williams “will be created a Baron for Life by the style and title of Baron Williams of Oystermouth in the City and County of Swansea.”

Under the Life Peerage Act of 1958 the Sovereign may appoint life peers who have the right to sit in the House of Lords. Life baronies under the Act are created by the Sovereign but, in practice, none are granted except upon the proposition of the prime minister, who may create up to 10 life baronies during each parliament in recognition for service to the country.

139th Patriarch of Antioch elected: The Church of England Newspaper, December 28, 2012 January 3, 2013

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His Beatitude Youhanna X

The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Antioch has elected a new Patriarch, His Beatitude Youhanna X.

At a 17 Dec 2012 meeting at the Balamand Monastery in Lebanon, 18 hierarchs – metropolitans, archbishops and other church leaders – elected Metropolitan Youhanna Yaziji of Western and Central Europe to be the 139th Primate of the Orthodox Church of Antioch, Patriarch of the Great City of God Antioch, Cilicia, Iberia, Mesopotamia and All the East.

In a letter of congratulations to the new patriarch, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams offered his felicitations and stated it “has been a pleasure and honour to know you in our pastoral ministry in Western Europe, and your work here has increased the already great esteem and affection we feel towards the Patriarchate and its clergy and faithful.”

Dr. Williams wrote: “As you take up this dignity and burden, at a time of such trial for the faithful in Syria and the Middle East, we pray very earnestly that you will be strengthened and upheld by the prayers of all your holy predecessors.”

Born in 1966 in Latakia, Syria, Youhanna graduated from the St. John of Damascus Orthodox Theological Institute at the Balamand Monastery in 1978 and entered the Monastery of St Paul on Mount Athos.  Ordained deacon in 1979 and priest in 1983, Youhanna taught at Balamand before his election in 2008 as bishop of the Patriarchate of Antioch’s Diocese of Western and Central Europe, which includes Great Britain and Ireland.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Dr. Williams appointed chairman of Christian Aid: The Church of England Newspaper, December 20, 2012 December 28, 2012

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The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams is to become the next chairman of the board of trustees of the international relief agency Christian Aid.

On 12 Dec 2012, Christian Aid director Loretta Minghella announced Dr. Williams would take up the post next May in succession to Dame Anne Owers whose term of office ended last month.

In a statement released by the Lambeth Palace press office, Dr. Williams said he was “very honoured” by the invitation to chair Christian Aid. “I had hoped very much to be able to continue some regular involvement in support and advocacy in the area of international justice and development” following his retirement as archbishop in December, “this will allow such an involvement to flourish,” he said.

“Many years of co-operation with and support for Christian Aid have made me familiar with the excellent quality of all that they do, and I am personally very happy indeed to be working with them in this new role at a time when international development issues will need the most dedicated and sustained attention,” Dr. Williams said.

Ms. Minghella said the agency greeted the news of Dr. Williams’ appointment with joy.“Archbishop Rowan brings a passionate interest in tackling the symptoms and causes of poverty, a profound theological understanding, and deep experience of addressing issues of environmental, economic and social justice with church and political leaders across the world.”

“This is wonderful news for Christian Aid,” she said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Peerage for Rowan Williams: Anglican Ink, December 26, 2012 December 27, 2012

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The Prime Minister’s Office has announced today the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has been given a life peerage by the Queen. Upon his retirement from office, Dr. Williams will become Baron Williams of Oystermouth.

The 26 December 2012 announcement from No. 10 Downing Street stated Dr,. Williams “will be created a Baron for Life by the style and title of Baron Williams of Oystermouth in the City and County of Swansea.”

Under the Life Peerage Act of 1958 the Sovereign may appoint life peers who have the right to sit in the House of Lords. Life baronies under the Act are created by the Sovereign but, in practice, none are granted except upon the proposition of the prime minister, who may create up to 10 life baronies during each parliament in recognition for service to the country.

Court etiquette dictates Dr. Williams be addressed as the Rt. Hon. Baron Williams of Oystermouth, and in less formal circumstances as Baron or Lord Williams of Oystermouth. When the first name of a life peer is mentioned, it does not follow the honorific. Lord Rowan Williams connotes the archbishop is the son of a member of the higher peerage — an earl or duke. If the first name is used, he would be called Rowan, Lord Williams.

First printed in Anglican Ink.

Archbishop of Canterbury calls upon America to enact strict gun control: Anglican Ink, December 22, 2012 December 22, 2012

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The Archbishop of Canterbury has rejected the argument that “guns do not kill people, people kill people” stating the Connecticut school shooting was facilitated by the easy access to firearms permitted by U.S. laws.

In his final “Thought for the Day” broadcast as Archbishop of Canterbury on BBC Radio 4, Dr. Williams acknowledged that by itself gun control will not end violence, but their strict regulation would curtail it.

“A week after the horrific killings of the schoolchildren of Sandy Hook in Connecticut, most of us are still struggling to get our minds around such a nightmare,” Dr. Williams said, adding that “nearly 6,000 children and teenagers were killed by firearms in the USA in just two years.”

The problem of “gang culture” was not unique to America, he noted, but “in the US, the question is, of course, about gun laws, one of the most polarising issues in American politics.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Anglican Communion ignores Mark Lawrence’s deposition: Anglican Ink, December 20, 2012 December 21, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina

The leaders of the Global South coalition of Anglican provinces have written to Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina stating they do not recognize the validity of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jeffert Schori’s purported deposition of him from episcopal office and the ordained ministry.

In a letter dated 14 December 2012, Archbishop Ian Ernest of the Indian Ocean, Bishop Mouneer Anis of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya, Presiding Bishop Tito Zavala of the Southern Cone, Archbishop Stephen Than Myint Oo of Burma, and Archbishop Bolly Lapok of Southeast Asia said:

“We want to assure you that we recognize your Episcopal orders and your legitimate Episcopal oversight of the Diocese of South Carolina within the Anglican Communion.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Rowan Williams: Freedom of Speech not absolute: Anglican Ink, December 19, 2012 December 20, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Church of England, Free Speech.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has backed freedom of speech, up to a point. In a sermon delivered last week marking the 80th anniversary of the BBC World Service at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in Trafalgar Square, London, Dr. Rowan Williams said free speech was one of the pillars of a free and democratic society, but this freedom could be curtailed when it was offensive and abusive.

Dr. Williams began his remarks in his 12 Dec 2012 address by noting a recent government backed press inquiry into press abuses of privacy – the Leveson Inquiry – had placed the issue of free speech before the British public. “We in the UK are in the middle of a lively argument about free speech and the regulation of the media.  It’s easy to get bogged down in the pros and cons of press regulation and the exact degree of legal backing it needs.  But we risk forgetting the all-important issue of why free speech really matters,” he said.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

A somber farewell to the primates from Rowan Williams: The Church of England Newspaper, December 9, 2012 p 5. December 12, 2012

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The Anglican Communion can no longer be considered a communion of churches but a “community of communities,” the Archbishop of Canterbury has told the Primates of the Anglican Communion.

In a pessimistic farewell letter to the leaders of the Anglican Communion, Dr. Rowan Williams’ final letter to the primates as Archbishop of Canterbury conceded that nothing now bound the communion together.

“Despite many questions about how our decisions about doctrine and mutual responsibility are made in the Communion, and some challenges to the various ‘Instruments of Communion’, the truth is that our Communion has never been the sort of Church that looks for one central authority.”

He added “this doesn’t mean that we are not concerned with truth or holiness or consistency,” rather the leaders of the church have not been able to find this truth. “All forms of human power and discipline can become corrupted, and that in the Church we have to have several points of reference for the organising of our common life so that none of them can go without challenge or critique from the others.”

It was not the destination, but the journey that was important, Dr. Williams wrote, saying in this dialogue amongst Anglicans some light of the truth may be glimpsed. “Our hope is that in this exchange we discover a more credible and lasting convergence than we should have if someone or some group alone imposed decisions – and that the fellowship that emerges is more clearly marked by Christlikeness, by that reverence for one another that the Spirit creates in believers.

“Another way of saying this,” he said, citing the words of theologian was that “we are a ‘community of communities’. And perhaps in our own time we could translate this afresh and say we are a ‘network of networks’.”

Dr. Williams recommended for the primates consideration the “the official networks of the Communion”.

“In the work done around evangelism, healthcare, the environment, the rights and dignities of women and children and of indigenous peoples and many more areas, what drew people together was this halfway formal model of a global community of prayer and concern maintained by deep friendship and common work. This is where you are probably most likely to see the beauty of the face of Christ in the meetings of the Communion; this is where the joyful hope of Christian believers is most strongly kindled,” he argued.

The archbishop’s words will likely have little resonance amongst the leaders of the growing churches of the Global South, however.  The networks that have bound African and Asian Anglicans to Anglicans in the developed world have not focused on works or issues, but upon doctrine. The focus of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, the Anglican Communion’s largest network, upon Anglican beliefs lies outside the outgoing archbishop’s model of action networks.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Anglican Unscripted Episode 59: December 7, 2012 December 7, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand & Polynesia, Anglican.TV, ARCIC, Church of England, The Episcopal Church.
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This first week of Advent George and Kevin discuss the latest news from the Diocese of South Carolina and the unlawful actions of the Presiding Bishop. Your two favorite commentators also tackle the final Advent letter from Archbishop Rowan Williams and they share some sage advice for Bishop Justin Welby. Sadly, our third story was removed during editing in reaction to the tragedy today in London with the suicide of the Kate Middleton’s Nurse. Comments to AnglicanUnscripted@gmail.com #AU59

Also: Please keep AU Contributor Allan Haley in your prayers this week as he and his family are grieving the death of Allan’s sister.

Canterbury concedes Anglican Communion has become “corrupted”: Anglican Ink, December 5, 2012 December 5, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Communion, Anglican Covenant, Anglican Ink, Archbishop of Canterbury.
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Archbishop Rowan Williams

The Archbishop of Canterbury has conceded defeat in the battle over the Anglican Covenant. In a 2 Dec 2012 Advent letter to the primates, Dr. Rowan Williams said the Anglican Communion had become “corrupted” and could no longer be considered a communion of churches but a “community of communities.”

Dr. Williams’ somber appreciation of the state of the communion today, contrasts with his past letters to the leaders of the Communions 38 provinces.  Nothing now bound the church together apart from good will.

In 2009 Dr. Williams rejected calls from the Episcopal Church to reorder the Anglican Communion as a federation of churches.As Anglicans, our membership of the communion is an important part of our identity. However, some see this as best expressed in a more federalist and pluralist way. They would see this as the only appropriate language for a modern or indeed postmodern global fellowship of believers in which levels of diversity are bound to be high and the risks of centralisation and authoritarianism are the most worrying.”

“There is nothing foolish or incoherent about this approach,” Dr. Williams wrote in a letter published on 27 July 2009, “but it is not the approach that has generally shaped the self-understanding of our communion.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Anglican Unscripted Episode 58, December 2, 2012 December 2, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican.TV, Church of the Province of Central Africa, Property Litigation, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church, Zimbabwe.
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This week Kevin and George talk about the Artificial Ecclesiastical Diocese of South Carolina (AEDOS) and some of the miscommunication between it’s leadership. They also talk about International stories from Canada and Egypt. And what episode won’t be complete without a story about Legal Violence in Zimbabwe? #AU58 Comments to AnglicanUnscripted@gmail.com

My advice to Justin Welby: Anglican Ink, November 28, 2012 November 29, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Church of England, Opinion.
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Beware of hats.

Not cats or bats but hats. Beware. … That is my unsolicited advice to the next Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Were the great man to give me two minutes of his time and seek my counsel, I would urge him to remember that inappropriate headgear can be deadly.

Just ask Michael Dukakis. The Democrat Party presidential candidate in 1988 ran a skillful primary battle against his party opponents, but let Vice President George H.W. Bush define him in the general campaign. The man behind the “Massachusetts miracle” was painted as being soft on crime and weak on defense. Remember the Willie Horton ads? Don’t blame Bush for that one, however. Al Gore first came up with that attack in the primaries.

However, Gov. Dukakis did try to push back on the soft on defense issue and made a campaign stop at a tank manufacturing plant. The erstwhile president climbed into an M1 Abrams tank and seated in the commander’s chair drove round the proving grounds. This should have provided an opportunity for photos demonstrating the Democratic contenders pro-military bona fides. Some great shots would have been the governor shaking the hands of the (union) workers building the tanks – pushing the honest labor or Rosie the Riveter motif. Or he could have dressed in casual but manly work clothes peering into the depths of an engine or gun system with a soldier demonstrating his craft.

What hit the wires was the Governor wearing a large helmet peering out of the top of a tank with a goofy grin splashed across his face. The helmet made Michael Dukakis look like a child and achieved the opposite effect, appearing ridiculous and soft on defense issues at the same time.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Anglican Unscripted: November 24, 2012 November 25, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican.TV, Church of England, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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This week Kevin and George talk about the Diocese of South Carolina and the response to their vote to leave the Episcopal Church. Peter talks about the recent vote for Women Bishop in the Church of England and Allan Haley discusses the legal ramifications facing the Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church. And as always there is much much more in Episode 57. #AU57 comments to anglicanunscripted@gmail.com — Thanks to all who sent money for George’s new camera — sadly Kevin told George the wrong settings for HD…

Archbishop of Canterbury defends ACC-15 from charges it is irrelevant November 19, 2012

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The Archbishop of Canterbury has rejected suggestions this month’s meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council was irrelevant, saying there was much to be “grateful for” from the ten day gathering in Auckland, New Zealand.

Speaking to the General Synod of the Church of England on 19 Nov 2012, Dr. Rowan Williams said he wished to respond to criticisms the “structure and pattern of ACC meetings is designed to push to the margin some of the more difficult and controversial matters in the Communion … to focus on mind on the process and take our minds away from the arguments we are not prepared to have.”

“I don’t believe this is true,” Dr. Williams said.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Anglican Communion is not dead yet, Dr. Williams tells New Guinea: The Church of England Newspaper, November 4, 2012 p 7. November 7, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury rejected assertions the Anglican Communion had become immobilised by its divisions over homosexuality, telling a Port Moresby press conference last week the church maintained a united voice on a cross section of social issues.

Speaking the media at the close of his week-long visit to Papua New Guinea on 24 Oct 2012, Dr. Williams said: “We are not, whatever some people say, we are not as an Anglican Communion mainly paralysed by controversy. We are not torn apart by argument over issues.”

“We are still seeking to work together more effectively.”

The archbishop offered his view on Papua New Guinea’s domestic difficulties noting the absence of healthcare in many parts of the central Highlands was “critical.”

“The willingness and expressed eagerness of the new government to address this head-on is going to be crucial over the next 10 years,” the archbishop said.

Dr. Williams crisscrossed the island during his visit, attending a state dinner at Parliament House and meeting with government leaders in Port Moresby, traveling to Popondetta on the north coast to meet with young people, opening a new teacher’s college in Oro Bay and celebrating communion in Milne Bay.  The archbishop’s trip precedes the three-day visit of Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall to PNG this week.

After leaving Port Moresby, Dr. Williams flies to Auckland, New Zealand to participate in the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Contemplation the key to renewal, Dr. Williams tells the Vatican: The Church of England Newspaper, October 21, 2012 p 7. October 27, 2012

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Dr Williams addressing the synod of bishops at the Vatican on 10 Oct 2012

The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged the Roman Catholic Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation meeting at the Vatican to be silent and know the Lord.

In his 10 Oct 2012 address to the synod of bishops, which has been tasked with considering how to evangelize the contemporary world with special emphasis upon those who may have been brought up in the Christian faith but who have drifted away, Dr. Williams spoke of the importance of contemplation in reaching the hearts and minds of people in the modern world.

“To be contemplative as Christ is contemplative is to be open to all the fullness that the Father wishes to pour into our hearts,”Dr Williams said in the first address by an Archbishop of Canterbury to the Synod of Bishops in Rome, The archbishop spoke of the profound connection between contemplation and the task of evangelisation, saying it “must be rooted in a profound confidence that we have a distinctive human destiny to show and share with the world”.

“With our minds made still and ready to receive, with our self-generated fantasies about God and ourselves reduced to silence, we are at last at the point where we may begin to grow” as individuals and as a church.

The practice of contemplation teaches Christians “how to look at one another and at the whole of God’s creation,” he said, noting that “contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit.”

Drawing upon Henri de Lubac and Thomas Merton, Archbishop Williams described contemplation as “the key” to prayer, art, liturgy and music and “the essence of a renewed humanity” freed from “self-oriented, acquisitive habits.”

He also told the bishops the Second Vatican Council was a sign of the church’s strength and “a sign of great promise” in its engagement with the modern world.  However, “serious work” remained to be done in reaching the “post-Christian public.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Dr. Williams speaks of his “regrets”: The Church of England Newspaper, October 21, 2012 p 7 October 26, 2012

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The decision to ban Gene Robinson and the breakaway bishops of what is now the Anglican Church in North America from the 2008 Lambeth Conference and the Jeffrey John affair were among the toughest decisions he had to make as Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams told Vatican Radio.

In an interview broadcast on 11 Oct 2012 while on a visit to Rome to address the Synod on the New Evangelisation, Dr. Williams spoke of the tensions facing the General Synod over the consecration of women bishops and the wider disputes in the Anglican world.

Asked about the impact of women bishops on ecumenical relations with Rome and within the Church of England, the archbishop conceded there will not be a “solution acceptable to everybody in the Church of England. That would be a real miracle of the last days, I think. But what the bishops have been working at, with a good deal of blood, sweat and tears in the last few months, is trying to find that point of balance which is just generous enough to the minority, and just clear enough about the principle, not to alienate more than we’re bound to.”

He noted that at their last meeting the bishops were “almost unanimous” in their recommendation to the synod. A “great deal of work and prayer’s gone into this; I’m certainly hopeful still that all that work won’t be wasted, all that prayer won’t be wasted; that we’ll find something which allows us to go forward honouring everybody within our fellowship.”

“We’ll see,” he said.

In response to a question about the challenges he faced as archbishop, Dr. Williams said that “with almost every significant decision in the Church of England and in the Communion, you are going to alienate certain people; you are going to lose friends, literally lose friends.”

“There are things that have to be done which may be right or inevitable, but don’t feel particularly good at the time. It’s watching the cost to others of decisions that have to be made.”

He added that “we were discussing just this week the Lambeth Conference of 2008, and the decisions made not to issue invitations to certain bishops whose consecration had been against the direct counsel of the wider communion.  That felt like both an inevitable thing, to honour commitments we had declared together, and also a very, very hard and un-kingdom-like thing to be doing. It’s those things that are the tough memories.”

The future for the Communion was unclear, he said, and he doubted that “what lies ahead will be conflict free or straightforward,” but he had no regrets about stepping down as “I do look forward to the chance of doing a little bit more joined-up thinking and writing, and seeing what service to the Church I can give in this new environment.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Dr Williams to tour Papua New Guinea: The Church of England Newspaper, October 22, 2012 October 25, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, Church of England Newspaper.
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Lambeth Palace has announced the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, will visit Papua New Guinea from 19-24 Oct 2012 at the invitation of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea.

On his five day tour Dr. Williams will meet with church and state leaders in Port Moresby and then travel to Popondetta then on to Dogura to visit a youth conference, dedicate a hospital, tour the church’s theological college and meet with members of Anglican religious communities including the Melanesian Brotherhood, Society of Saint Francis, and the Congregation of the Sisters of the Visitation of our Lady.

“I am delighted to be visiting Papua New Guinea and to be able to experience at first-hand the remarkable life of the church in this nation and its contribution to the wider community,” Dr. Williams said in advance of his visit.

“We much look forward to celebrating the faithful Christian witness and dedicated service of the church among different communities and to seeing for ourselves the church’s central role in health, education and community development.  We also look forward to experiencing how the enduring assets of the country’s rich culture and strong social fabric allow a confident response to the challenges of the day.  There is so much in the life of the church and nation which is a gift for the wider church and for the world,” the archbishop said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

No changes in the works for Canterbury, ACC claims: The Church of England Newspaper, September 16, 2012 p 6. September 17, 2012

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Canon Kenneth Kearon

The secretary general of the Anglican Consultative Council states he is unaware of any talks underway to restructure the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, altering its relationship to the wider Anglican Communion.

The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon said claims put forward by the Daily Telegraph in an interview with Dr. Rowan Williams published on 8 September 2012 were “mischievous” and the assertion that plans to great a “presidential” figurehead for the Communion were untrue.

In what was described as the final “major” interview of his archiepiscopate, the Telegraph quoted Dr. Williams as having conceded the job of archbishop could have been handled better by two men.

He also noted the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A.’s arrogance and refusal to take counsel from the wider Communion had been an on-going headache for the past ten years.

“Thinking back over things I don’t think I’ve got right over the last 10 years, I think it might have helped a lot if I’d gone sooner to the United States when things began to get difficult about the ordination of gay bishops, and engaged more directly with the American House of Bishops,” he told the Telegraph, adding, “I think the problem though, is that the demands of the communion, the administrative demands of the communion have grown, and are growing.”

“I suspect it will be necessary, in the next 10 to 15 years, to think about how that load is spread; to think whether in addition to the Archbishop of Canterbury there needs to be some more presidential figure who can travel more readily.”

Dr. Williams believed his successors should still retain a “primacy of honour” and remain as “head” of the Anglican Communion but said there should be “less a sense that the Archbishop is expected to sort everything”.

Discussions were currently underway about reforming the structures of the worldwide Anglican Communion, he said, telling the Telegraph to “watch this space”.

Canon Kearon responded that he was unaware of the plans for change mentioned by Dr. Williams.

“There are no such plans,” Canon Kearon said.  “The Archbishop of Canterbury simply said in the interview that he could see that in the future there might be some reflection on how the administrative load associated with the Anglican Communion might be better shared.”

“The Anglican Communion has several decision-making bodies, one of which is meeting in a few months’ time. Nothing like what this newspaper has suggested is on the agenda,” for ACC-15 in New Zealand next month.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Anglican Unscripted Episode 49, September 13, 2012 September 14, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Anglican.TV, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, South Carolina.
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Kevin and George are back from news blackout break with Anglican News from around the globe. They discuss Rowan’s exit interview, South Carolina, Archbishop Duncan’s interview and Much, Much More. #AU49 Comments to AnglicanUnscripted@gmail.com There might even be some bloopers.

No plans to neuter Canterbury: Anglican Ink, September 8, 2012 September 8, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Consultative Council, Anglican Ink, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England.
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There are no plans to divest the Archbishop of Canterbury of his pan-Anglican responsibilities and transfer them to a “presidential” leader of the Anglican Communion, the secretary general of the Anglican Consultative Council, has claimed.

In a statement released on 8 September 2012, the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon said the claim put forward in an interview with Dr. Rowan Williams published earlier that day in the Daily Telegraph was untrue and “mischievous”.

In what was described as the final “major” interview of his archiepiscopate, the Telegraph quoted Dr. Williams as having conceded the job of archbishop could have been handled better by two men.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

An Observer Exclusive (How not to report on Rowan Williams): Get Religion, June 26, 2012 June 26, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Get Religion, Press criticism, Religion Reporting.
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An exclusive is a wonderful thing. Being first out of the block with an exciting and timely news story is a professional triumph for a reporter — and it also makes you feel great! I imaging that is how the two reporters at the Observer — the Sunday edition of the Guardian— felt on Saturday night as they saw their story on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s latest attacks on the government of Prime Minister David Cameron make it to page 1 — and above the fold too!

There is just one little problem about the story. It is not an exclusive nor is it new news. Now the story is not false — merely old. Thinking it had an exclusive on a new book, the Observer’s reporters wrote as if what they had was breaking news. Unfortunately the new book is a compilation of old speeches.

How could a reputable newspaper have made such a mistake? Let me show you how, but suspend your judgment for a moment and adopt a Rowan Williams-free mind — I know it is difficult but you must try.

The article begins:

The archbishop of Canterbury has denounced David Cameron’s “big society”, saying that it comes across as aspirational waffle that was “designed to conceal a deeply damaging withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities to the most vulnerable”.

The outspoken attack on the prime minister’s flagship policy by Rowan Williams – his strongest to date – is contained in a new book, Faith in the Public Square, that is being prepared for publication ahead of his retirement.

Passages from the book, obtained by the Observer, reflect the archbishop’s deep frustration not just with the policies of Cameron’s government and those of its Labour predecessors, but also with what he sees as the west’s rampant materialism and unquestioning pursuit of economic growth. Williams also laments spiralling military expenditure, writing that “the adventure in Iraq and its cost in any number of ways seems to beggar the imagination”.

Now this is a powerful lede. The Observer tells us it has seen an advanced copy of the archbishop’s latest book and it contains an attack upon a host of government policies. In the back of my mind I seem to remember hearing “the adventure in Iraq” phrase — but let’s put that to one side for now.  The next paragraph ratchets up the intensity.

But it is his suggestion that the big society – Cameron’s personal vision of a more active civic society – is seen by people as a deliberate cover for plans to shrink the state that will be most controversial.

Strong stuff. The Observer has a great exclusive and can report that in his new book Dr. Williams is taking a hammer to the prime minister’s “Big Society” programme for the social regeneration of Britain.

The article then quotes from the book:

Commenting on the “big society”, Williams, who steps down in December after 10 years in his post, writes: “Introduced in the runup to the last election as a major political idea for the coming generation, [it] has suffered from a lack of definition about the means by which such ideals can be realised. Big society rhetoric is all too often heard by many therefore as aspirational waffle designed to conceal a deeply damaging withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities to the most vulnerable.”

The Observer then tells us how important this exclusive will be.

But his valedictory work, to be released three months before he leaves office, is more strident in its criticism than anything that has come before. It is certain to cause fury in the government, which is being criticised, including from some Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, for lacking a compelling message other than the necessity of public spending cuts and austerity.

It is a funny thing, but after having read all of Dr. Williams’ speeches and articles since he became Archbishop of Canterbury in 2003, his pronouncements all seem to sound alike. Perhaps it is deja vu? Maybe my close study of the archbishop’s style, reading the tealeaves in the bottom of his cup these many years has left me psychic and I know in advance what Dr. Williams will say.

Or perhaps … God forbid! Dr. Williams is repeating himself! And with the magic of Google, we can find out. A quick check through the archbishop’s speeches locates the phrase “the adventure in Iraq and its cost in any number of ways seems to beggar the imagination” in a 2009 lecture in Cardiff entitled “Ethics, Economics and Global Justice.” The passage attacking the “Big Society” programme can be found in the archbishops 11 March 2011 Commemoration Oration at King’s College London entitled “Big Society – Small World”.

Monday morning, when the archbishop’s press office opened for business, it released a statement announcing the new book.

Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will release “Faith in the Public Square” in September. The book, published by Continuum, is a compilation of several of Archbishop Rowan’s interventions into the public discourse – often at key points in wider debate — during the ten years of his ministry as Primate.

The key word here is “compilation”. The archbishop’s political speeches are being reprinted in one volume — that information appears not to have been shared with the Observer’s reporters who appear to have come to Dr. Williams’ writings unencumbered with any knowledge of what he has said. What was that about a valedictory work?

I need not belabor the point — but this is sloppy reporting.

First printed in GetReligion.

England allowed to discuss Anglican Covenant: The Church of England Newspaper, June 17, 2012 p 2. June 21, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Consultative Council, Anglican Covenant, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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Canon Elizabeth Paver with Canon Kenneth Kearon of the ACC

The standing committee of the Anglican Consultative Council has held that the rejection of the Anglican Covenant by the Church of England will not affect the Archbishop of Canterbury’s role as president or Canon Elizabeth Paver’s role as vice-chairman of the ACC.

In a statement released on 1 June 2012 summarizing the ACC Standing Committee’s 30 May to 1 June meeting in London, the Anglican Communion News Service reported that “The Standing Committee received an update on the progress of the Anglican Communion Covenant. It was noted that eight Provinces had endorsed the Covenant to date, in some cases with a degree of qualification. They were the only responses received so far by the Secretary General. The committee also noted that the President, Chair, and Vice-Chair all hold their offices other than as representatives of their Provinces.”

The ACNS also reported “there was general agreement that no timeframe should yet be introduced for the process of adoption of the Covenant by Provinces. The Standing Committee will return to this question following ACC-15.”

Under the terms of the Anglican Covenant, provinces that do not ratify the agreement would not be able to participate in decision-making about the covenant.  While the Church of England cannot reconsider the covenant until 2015, the Standing Committee carved out an exception to this rule to allow the Archbishop of Canterbury and Mrs. Paver, the Church of England’s lay representative to the ACC to remain part of the process – though not as a representatives of the Church of England.

The desire to continue talking about the covenant past ACC-15 in New Zealand is unlikely to change the political calculus within the Anglican Communion.  Scotland’s rejection of the Covenant last week makes passage of the agreement unlikely.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Foreign Office reports no govt persecution of Christians in the Sudan: The Church of England Newspaper, June 17, 2012 p 5. June 19, 2012

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan, House of Lords.
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Bishop Ezekiel Kondo of Khartoum and Archbishop Rowan Williams

The Foreign Office reports there is no evidence of an anti-Christian pogrom being waged by the National Islamic Front government in Khartoum.

In a written statement given in response to a question from the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Foreign Office Minister Lord Howell on 23 May 2012 said “We have no evidence that there is a state orchestrated campaign against Christians. However, recent rhetoric by government leaders on the north-south conflict has led to tension between communities and fear of attacks against South Sudanese in Sudan, many of whom are Christians.”

The government’s view of the conditions in Sudan is at odds with reports from Sudanese Christians and NGOs. Southern Christians living in the North were stripped of their Sudanese citizenship and are being expelled to the South, forcing hundreds of thousands into refugee settlement. In a 12 Oct 2011 speech to university students in Khartoum, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan stated: “Ninety-eight percent of the people are Muslims and the new constitution will reflect this. The official religion will be Islam and Islamic law the main source [of the constitution]. We call it a Muslim state.”

Last year Bishop Ezekiel Kondo of Khartoum reported that in his home province, South Kordifan, now on the Khartoum government’s side of the border between North and South, the Islamist government was engaged in the religious cleansing of the province, driving Christian Nuba across the border and burning the region’s principle town of Abyei.

The violence prompted a statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. “Numerous villages have been bombed. More than 53,000 people have been driven from their homes. The new Anglican cathedral in Kadugli has been burned down,” Dr. Williams reported, adding that “many brutal killings are being reported.”

However in his statement to Parliament last month, the minister said the British government was “very concerned by a recent attack on a church in Khartoum, although there was no evidence of state involvement. We welcome the announcement from the Ministry of Religious Guidance and Endowments of an investigation into the incident and urge them to ensure this enquiry is thorough, independent and timely. We continue to remind the Government of Sudan of their obligation to protect all of their civilians, including those in religious groups.”

In response to a second question from Bishop Peter Prince concerning the disputed border provinces, Lord Howell said the British government had pressed both sides to come to the negotiating table.

“We are also encouraging the Government in Sudan to put in place a political process of constitutional reform that will address the needs and views of all its people, including those in the conflict affected states of Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei,” Lord Howell said.

In May 2011, the Sudanese army occupied Abyei following a three-day clash with South Sudanese troops. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that a dispute over who could vote in the independence referendum in the state led to the clashes. Sudan had argued that the Miseriya, a nomadic northern tribe that roam into Abyei in order to feed and water their livestock, should be included in the referendum, while South Sudan maintained that only the Ngok Dinka people who reside in Abyei should participate.

After the Sudanese Army entered the province, approximately 130,000 Ngok Dinka residents were displaced to the south and forced to seek assistance from aid agencies. Last week Sudan agreed to honour UN Security Council Resolution 2046 and pulled its troops out of Abyei.

CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said his organization welcomed the troop withdrawal. But the resumption of peace talks “must not be allowed to obscure the Sudanese government’s responsibility for the creation of humanitarian crises not only in Abyei, but also in Darfur and most recently, in the Nuba Mountains, where access is being denied to a civilian population that is deliberately targeted by the military and faces imminent starvation.”

Lord Howell told Parliament the UK has worked hard to “ensure United Nations Security Council Resolution 2046, which supports the roadmap, dealt with Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile State under a Chapter VII mandate.”

“We continue to remind the Government of Sudan of their obligation to protect civilians and allow humanitarian access to both states. I welcomed the news that South Sudan have withdrawn their remaining security forces from Abyei on 11 May, and we now urge the Sudanese security forces to do the same,” the minister said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Who reads the Daily Mail?: Get Religion June 6, 2012 June 6, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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Hacker: Don’t tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads the papers: the Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by people who actually do run the country; the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; the Financial Times is read by people who own the country; The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.

Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?

Bernard: Sun readers don’t care who runs the country, as long as she’s got big tits.

“A Conflict of Interest” from Yes, Prime Minister (31 Dec 1987).

The British television sitcom, Yes, Minister and its sequel Yes, Prime Minister, are amongst my favorite television shows. The humor and political insight of the series written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynch remains as fresh and sharp today as it did twenty five years ago.

The exchange above between Prime Minister Jim Hacker, Cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby, and his private secretary Bernard Woolley is a treat. The setting for this scene is the Cabinet Room at No. 10 Downing Street.  Hacker is vexed by his poor press and is worried that the situation will become worse as there are rumors of a scandal in the City (London’s financial hub). Sir Humphrey advises him not to act unless the rumors turn out to be true, while Bernard counsels the P.M. not to worry about what the newspapers say. This advice was foolish, Hacker responds, launching the set piece about the prejudices and readership of the British press.

Twenty five years later these stereotypes largely hold true. Perhaps a modern version would drop the Communist Party newspaper The Morning Star — the joke being they want another country, the Soviet Union, to run Britain — not being relevant today. A modern retelling, however, could insert The Independent in its place, with the joke being the Independent is very keen on the European Union.  Not as good a joke as the original, I concede.

The place of the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph might also be swapped — with the Mail being the more conservative — or cranky — of the two.

To understand the joke a viewer would have to understand that the British press is cheerfully biased. Each paper holds strong editorial positions and its news coverage is often driven by its editorial line.  Taken as a whole, this is not such a bad thing.  When one is able to read the coverage in the Guardian alongside that of the Times, Telegraph and others a thoughtful reader gets a well-rounded view of events.

Here lies one of the differences between the U.S. and U.K. media market.  The New York Times is as driven by a left-liberal political agenda like the Guardian — yet there is no Telegraph or Times to balance its coverage.  Speaking in very broad terms, the closest U.S. analogy might be the Washington Post v. Washington Times rivalry — yet the Washington papers have such unequal resources, circulation and influence they do not quite fit the bill.

However, when the British press are good, they are very very good — I would say the best in the world when the advocacy format seeks truth and moral virtue — and delivers a great story. But when they are bad, the British press is dreadful — with advocacy gone wild.

An example of a truly awful advocacy article can be found in the Daily Mail’s coverage of the service at St. Paul’s Cathedral for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Now I enjoy beating the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, about the head and shoulders with a stick as much as the next man — an Amelkite to be smote hip and thigh. But there is a difference between disagreement and vilification — and the Daily Mail story is cruel.

The headline of the story sets the tone. “Archbishop of Canterbury uses Diamond Jubilee Thanksgiving sermon to preach about his pet issues of City greed and the environment”.

The subtitles drive home this point for the reader who still may have doubts.

Outgoing Archbishop has a reputation for being controversial and holding liberal views
He previously questioned the legitimacy of the Coalition in a left-wing political magazine

HORRORS — Dr. Williams hates sin, loves the environment and is a liberal who has written in a left wing magazine. They might as well have added that he is a sandal-wearing, pacifist, socialist, hairy weird beard who lacks a sense of rhythm. (The sight of Dr. Williams bopping in time to Stevie Wonder singing “Superstition” at the Queen’s Jubilee concert made me cringe.)

The lede is not shy in telling us what is wrong with Dr. Williams.

The Archbishop of Canterbury made a pointed remark about the traps of ‘ludicrous financial greed’ and ‘environmental recklessness’ as he praised the Queen’s selfless service to others and urged the nation to follow her example.

Dr Rowan Williams could not resist politicising his thanksgiving sermon yesterday at St Paul’s Cathedral celebrating the Diamond Jubilee.

He made reference to several cherished Left-wing causes as he stated that the ‘challenge’ this jubilee sets us is to make sacrifices in pursuit of ‘a shared joy far greater than narrow individual fulfilment’.

The Mail then justifies its claims of liberal lunacy by quoting from the sermon.

He said: ‘Moralists, archbishops included, can thunder away as much as they like; but they’ll make no difference unless and until people see that there is something transforming and exhilarating about the prospect of a whole community rejoicing together – being glad of each other’s happiness and safety.

‘This alone is what will save us from the traps of ludicrous financial greed, of environmental recklessness, of collective fear of strangers and collective contempt for the unsuccessful and marginal – and many more things that we see far too much of, around us and within us.’

Dr Williams’ views on bankers and the environment are well known.

What sermon did the Mail hear? True,  it did not call Dr. Williams a vacuous toffee-nosed malodorous pervert. But this article is so over the top in its abuse and exaggerated sense of horror that it is just silly — Pythonesque.

I wonder who the Mail is trying to cultivate with this article, which is little more than abuse — a sustained attack on Dr. Williams’ character, person and office. It does not appear to be conservatives for at the end of the article it takes Dr. Williams to task for not pushing gay clergy and women bishops. Perhaps there is a constituency that dislikes liberals, the Welsh and social conservatives?

Dr Williams, who was selected as Archbishop of Canterbury in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee year in 2002, has a reputation for being liberal and controversial.

Many voiced doubt before he took the role as he backed the separation of church and state in England. He has been critical of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq in political statements he has made over the years.

He was also in the reformer’s camp on both the issue of women bishops and openly gay clergy, but in the face of huge opposition from the conservative element of the church he has been forced to sit on the fence, pleasing no-one.

In 2009 he was forced to defend his controversial comments about the introduction of Islamic law to Britain.

Perhaps I am too close to the story, having written about Dr. Williams in hundreds of stories over the years, but to my eyes appears to be more about animus than reporting. As journalism it is junk. Tabloid trash without the girls on page 3.

What say you GetReligion readers? Trash or treasure from the Daily Mail?

First published in GetReligion.

Overseas reactions to Dr. Williams’ resignation: The Church of England Newspaper, March 22, 2012 p 7. March 28, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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News of the resignation of the Archbishop of Canterbury has prompted reactions ranging from sadness to glee across wider the Anglican Communion.

The 16 March 2012 announcement that Dr. Rowan Williams will leave office by year’s end prompted the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Bishop David Chillingworth to write: “Archbishop Rowan’s time as Archbishop of Canterbury has been marked by great difficulty.  To be the person who is called to foster and to embody unity will always be a costly ministry.  He has fulfilled that ministry with a wonderful grace and personal warmth.”

The Primate of All Ireland, Dr. Alan Harper concurred.  Dr Williams was “held in high affection across the Anglican Communion and, on behalf of the Church of Ireland, I offer him prayerful good wishes as he decides to step down from the hugely demanding role as Archbishop of Canterbury to take up his new responsibilities – and enter a new phase of his life.”

The Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba wrote the church had been “inordinately privileged to have such an able theologian and deeply spiritual thinker, as Archbishop of Canterbury over the last decade,” adding that “I …  will miss him very much.”

However, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria said he was not sorry to see the archbishop go.

When Dr. Williams assumed office, the Anglican Communion was a “happy family. Unfortunately, he is leaving behind a Communion in tatters: highly polarized, bitterly factionalized, with issues of revisionist interpretation of the Holy Scriptures and human sexuality as stumbling blocks to oneness, evangelism and mission all around the Anglican world.

Since Dr. Rowan Williams “did not resign in 2008, over the split Lambeth Conference, one would have expected him to stay on in office, and work assiduously to ‘mend the net’ or repair the breach, before bowing out of office. The only attempt, the covenant proposal, was doomed to fail from the start,” Archbishop Okoh said.

For Nigeria, the “announcement does not present any opportunity for excitement. It is not good news here, until whoever comes as the next leader pulls back the Communion from the edge of total destruction.”

American Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote that she was “grateful for Rowan Williams’ service as Archbishop of Canterbury during an exceedingly challenging season. We can all give thanks for his erudition and persistence in seeking reconciliation across a rapidly changing Anglican Communion.”

The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Peter Jensen observed that Dr. Williams was “universally admired for his intellectual stature and his personal warmth.  In his time as Archbishop, the Anglican Communion has been subjected to unprecedented stresses which have hastened an inevitable tendency to regional independence and decentralisation. With the majority of Anglicans now from theologically conservative churches of the Global South, the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the future will demand a deepening appreciation of their place in the Communion.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

News analysis — The Rowan Williams years: The Church of England Newspaper, March 23, 2012 p E4. March 28, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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The political obituaries of the Archbishop of Canterbury have portrayed Dr. Rowan Williams as a brilliant, decent, spiritual man who was let down by the Church of England, or who was tasked with an impossible job, or who was a unfairly savaged by a rapacious media culture.

The less than glowing statements from overseas church leaders, with a few exceptions such as that of the Archbishop of Cape Town, are treated as outliers, or dismissed with the sentiment that “well, they would say that wouldn’t they.”

There is thus an attitude in the U.K. that there must be something wrong, or at least odd, about those who were not enamored by Dr. Williams.  In covering Dr. Williams’ overseas work for the Church of England Newspaper since he entered office I have encountered overseas examples of this conventional wisdom.  However, what I have found more prevalent is that expressed in Archbishop Nicholas Okoh’s encomium for the archbishop which essentially said, “Good bye, good luck, and good riddance.”

Why this attitude?  From the perspective of the Global South primates it would be hubris. Being the smartest man in the room is wonderful, but when you couple this with an ignorance of the international scene, patronizing attitudes, avoidance of argument or debate, and a weak staff you should be prepared for trouble.

At its base level Dr. Williams did not have a staff equal to its master.  The archbishop appeared not to take advice, or surrounded himself with aides who were unable to give it – or who had not done the spade work that would have allowed their chief’s ideas and programme to take root.

The Welsh druid controversy and Sharia law are but two examples.  In August 2002 Dr Williams was initiated into the highest of the three orders of the Gorsedd of Bards – a 1,300-strong society of Wales’ cultural leaders – at the National Eisteddfod celebration.  Photos of the archbishop in his druidical wimple flashed around the globe – and Dr. Williams was compelled to tell reporters that “some people have reached the wrong conclusion about the ceremony” as it was a “very Christian service.”

Dr. Williams was correct, of course, and it was nonsense to suggest that this was some sort of pagan cult into which he was being initiated.  Yet no one at Lambeth Palace prepared the ground ahead of the ceremony for the wider church.  The result was ridicule and suspicion.

The Church of Nigeria, for example, was in the midst of a campaign to stamp out membership in secret societies among its communicants.  Combating at home the lure of cabalistic cults and secret fraternities the image of Dr. Williams that came across the wires appeared to repudiate what they had been preaching.  This was unfair and incorrect. Dr. Williams had a public record of criticism of Freemasonry in the U.K. – but the archbishop was put in a place where none of that mattered.

By itself the druid episode could be considered an example of the wicked fun of newspapers.  But it showed a pattern of a staff not doing its job in anticipating the consequences of the archbishop’s private desires.  The Sharia law fiasco came not from the content of a speech but from comments Dr. Williams gave to the World at One programme before his speech.  Britain had to “face up to the fact” that some did not relate to its legal system, and a sanctioned form of Sharia law might improve community relations, he told the BBC.  The furore these statements caused appeared to surprise Dr. Williams.

In and of itself, a ham-fisted media strategy at home does not make one a failure abroad.  It may irritate and exasperate, but why is there such a high degree of animus from some portions of the Communion?

After numerous meetings, reports, conferences and pronouncements, the Global South (GS) group representing a majority of the world’s Anglicans came not to trust Dr. Williams’ word.

Undertakings were made by the archbishop, but action did not appear to result.  A Panel of Reference was created to adjudicate, or advise (it never was quiet clear) on disputes between liberals and conservatives – and after time and treasure were spent on these works, nothing happened.

The authority of the Lambeth Conference and the primates were steadily sapped under Dr. Williams rule the GS movement believed.  A majority of African bishops boycotted the 2008 Lambeth Conference in response to what they saw as Dr. Williams’ machinations and biases.

Decisive statements were made by the Primates Meetings in London, Ireland and Tanzania – which Dr. Williams was claimed to have unilaterally repudiated.  The staff of the Anglican Consultative Council was never slapped down for its usurpation of authority.  Rules were created on the fly – or ignored when inconvenient (but always in the favor of the U.S.)

At the 1999 ACC meeting I asked the then Secretary General why a particular American delegate was permitted voice and vote when he had retired as a bishop (the rules required he be an active bishop).  The answer was that the ACC let the provinces interpret the rules – it would not over rule their decisions.

In 2009 this way of doing business changed.  Uganda could not choose who was a Ugandan delegate.  When asked to explain the difference between 1999 and 2008, the new ACC Secretary General responded that was then, this is now.

I’ve been told that key leaders of the ACC are “liars” and “dishonest”.  These words came not from excited internet bloggers but from primates of the Anglican Communion.  These sentiments are not based on single events. They came as the cumulative effect of a belief in the systematic betrayal of their concerns coupled with a feeling that Dr. Williams was patronizing them.

A leader of a church whose membership was hemorrhaging was going to tell them how to build up the church, how to be a bishop, how to read the Bible.  At the 2003 primates meeting held at Lambeth Palace following the confirmation of the election of Gene Robinson, Dr. Williams was able to persuade Archbishop Peter Akinola not to absent himself from the corporate Eucharist service.  (The Nigerian archbishop took seriously the call that he be in ‘love and charity’ with his American brother before they took communion together.)

By dint of his personality and the prestige of his office, Dr. Williams was able to persuade Peter Akinola to receive the sacraments with Frank Griswold.  By the 2011 meeting a third of the primates had boycotted the gathering – a third represented the liberal wing and a third were new comers to the ranks of the primates.

So what was it about Dr. Williams? “He had a mind so fine that no idea could violate it”: T.S. Eliot wrote of Henry James in the Little Review of August 1918. Writing in the London Review of Books in the April 1980 issue Mary McCarthy explained this epigram as expressing Eliot’s view of “the novel as a fine art and of the novelist as an intelligence superior to mere intellect.”

McCarthy wrote that in the Modernists’ view, “the intellect’s crude apparatus was capable only of formulating concepts, which then underwent the process of diffusion, so that by dint of repetition they fell within anybody’s reach. The final, cruel fate of an idea was to turn into an idée reçue. The power of the novelist, insofar as he was a supreme intelligence, was to free himself from the work-load of commentary and simply, awesomely, to show: his creation was beyond paraphrase or reduction. As pure work of art, it stood beautifully apart, impervious to the dry rot affecting the brain’s constructions and to the welter of factuality.”

Transfer this observation to a church setting and you have the essence of the critique of Dr. Williams.  His mind was so fine, his theology so recherché, his intellect so powerful – that it need not be put to the test of practical experience or subjected to the welter of factuality.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Anglican encomiums for Pope Shenouda III: The Church of England Newspaper, March 23, 2012 p 7 March 28, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Coptic Orthodox.
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Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria

The Archbishop of Canterbury has offered his condolences to the Coptic Orthodox Church following the death of Pope Shenouda III on 17 March 2012.

“His Holiness has been an exemplary and outstanding Christian leader both within Egypt and far beyond its boundaries,” Dr. Rowan Williams stated on 19 March.  “His long ministry in the See of St Mark has seen the most extraordinary revival in the Coptic Orthodox Church, not least in its monastic life; and his own personal witness as a man of prayer, a peacemaker, a teacher of the faith and a disciple willing to suffer for the sake of his Lord has been an inspiration.”

Born Nazeer Gayed on 3 August 1923 in Egypt, the future pope was educated at Cairo University and Coptic Orthodox Theological Seminary. On 18 July 1954 he was tonsured and become a monk, known as Fr. Antonious El-Syriani.

He lived in a cave as hermit on the edge of the Egyptian dessert for six years, but on 30 Sept 1962 he was named president of the church’s seminary and consecrated as bishop, taking the name, Shenouda.

On 4 November 1971 following the deliberations of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church and the General Lay Council of the Church, the names of three nominees were written on three slips of paper.  A blindfolded child then chose one of the three slips of paper at random and by this action, symbolizing the power of the Holy Spirit, Shenounda was named  the 117th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark.

The Presiding Bishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt told The Church of England Newspaper Pope Shenouda was “well known for defending the rights of Christians, and because of this he was put under house arrest by President Anwar Sadat.  He was released after the death of Sadat.  In spite of this he continued to love Egypt and often said, ‘Egypt is not the country in which we live but the country lives in our hearts’.”

Dr. Anis noted that in the midst of the country’s political turmoil it “is not easy for Egyptian Christians to lose Pope Shenouda, the father of the church in Egypt, at this time of uncertainty about the future.  I was not surprised to see hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of Cairo yesterday, immediately after the announcement of the passing away of the beloved Pope, who was such an important symbol for the nation.”

Dr. Williams and Dr. Anis noted the Coptic pope had been a staunch friend of the Anglican Church.  “Our relationship to the Coptic Orthodox Church is the strongest among the different denominations in Egypt,” Dr. Anis said, adding that “several times he mentioned to me how much he appreciated the fact that he started his career as a teacher of English in our Anglican School in Cairo.”

Dr. Williams said he had first met Pope Shenouda in the late seventies and had “always found in him a depth of Christian love, welcome and wisdom. He has shepherded his flock through very difficult times, always accessible to his people and keenly aware of the pressures they have faced and still face today. He has been a good friend to the Anglican community in Egypt and to the Communion at large.”

In his forty years as leader of the Egyptian church, Shenouda has seen its ecclesiastical expansion to the U.S., Brazil, Australia, and the United Kingdom as well as a revival of the monastic tradition in Egypt. As of 2009 over 20 communities each with over 100 monks are active in Egypt. Since 1971 he has ordained more than eighty Metropolitans and Bishops and over 600 priests.

Dr. Anis stated that “every Wednesday for the last 41 years, he met with his people (between 5000 and 6000 each week) to answer their questions and teach from the Bible.”

“In our churches we have prayed for the Coptic Orthodox Church and we have thanked God for Pope Shenouda, his life and his ministry in the assurance that he now celebrates eternal life with his Lord Christ,” Dr. Anis said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Not everyone loves Rowan: Anglican Ink, March 22, 2012 March 22, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams

The archbishop’s hubris led to the breakdown of trust.

The political obituaries of the Archbishop of Canterbury have portrayed Dr. Rowan Williams as a brilliant, decent, spiritual man who was let down by the Church of England, or who was tasked with an impossible job, or who was a unfairly savaged by a rapacious media culture.

The less than glowing statements from overseas church leaders, with a few exceptions such as that of the Archbishop of Cape Town, are treated as outliers, or dismissed with the sentiment that “well, they would say that wouldn’t they.”

There is thus an attitude in the U.K. that there must be something wrong, or at least odd, about those who were not enamored by Dr. Williams.

Read it all in Anglican Ink and the Church of England Newspaper.

Anglican Unscripted Episode 33: March 20, 2012 March 20, 2012

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This weeks episode is devoted to the man who served as the Archbishop of Canterbury for the last 10 years. Indeed Episode 33 is everything you wanted to know about Rowan Williams, but were afraid to ask. So fear no more brave viewer.

Rowan Williams exits Canterbury, Round 2: Get Religion, March 16, 2012 March 17, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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There have been no surprises so far in the first day coverage of the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams’ decision to retire at year’s end. A little before noon London time the archbishop’s press office released his resignation statement. Within the hour a Press Association interview and a background item for editors were released.

Throughout the afternoon comments and appreciations from political and religious leaders came across the wires (really the internet) — and from these sources the first day stories were formed.

What makes the difference in the quality of stories is the quality of the reporters and the experience/biases/insight they bring to their jobs. The Times, Telegraph, Independent and Guardian news reports are of high standard and reflect the professionalism of their reporters. The Daily Mail takes a different approach.

Rowan Williams has today announced he is stepping down as Archbishop of Canterbury but not before having a swipe at the ‘dim-witted prejudice’ against Christianity in Britain.

After a turbulent decade in office the leader of the 77 million-strong Anglican Church will leave at the end of the year.

He is tipped to be replaced by Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, who would be the first black holder of the prestigious office.

But in a stark warning Dr Williams said ‘ignorance’ was damaging the church because too many people seem to oppose Christianity but ‘don’t know how religion works’.

Granted the Daily Mail has a different demographic than the broadsheets, but the article continues in this herky-jerky manner, jumping from assertion to assertion. It has no focus, no sense of itself — and no sense of the story.

The Sun article could have been written as a parody. It begins:

Dr Williams yesterday revealed that he would be standing down after ten years to take up a new post as Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Bookies have given Dr Sentamu odds of 6/4, just ahead of the Bishop of London Richard Chartres at 7/4 and the Bishop of Bradford Nick Baines at 5/1.

William Hill [a bookmaker] spokesman Graham Sharpe said: “Since Rowan Williams became Archbishop of Canterbury, John Sentamu has very much come to the fore and has been the best-backed contender to succeed him for some while, although Richard Chartres, the beaten favourite when Williams was appointed, is also a strong contender.”

I must admit that I would not have had a bookie’s tout as my first quote. But the Sun is the Sun.

The stinker of the day, however, was the one surprise. The Italian newspaper La Stampa‘s usually excellent Vatican Insider offered opinion as news — and ill-informed opinion at that. Speaking of the controversy over women bishops in the Church of England, it wrote:

Since the Anglican Synod of York approved the ordination of women bishops in July 2010, the decision has gradually spread throughout the Anglican Communion, against the wishes of traditionalist communities. The Anglican Communion consists of 38 independent provinces and one of these is England. A number of provinces already have a bishop. The hemorrhage of faithful in the Anglican Church could be greater than expected as a result of the approval of the consecration of women bishops.

The Catholic Church opposes the process that will lead to the introduction of a law, next July that will authorise the ordination of women bishops. … Opening up the Episcopate to women will have negative consequences in terms of the Anglican Church’s dialogue with the Vatican. It seems pretty clear that the approval of women’s ordination will lead onto the ordination of openly gay bishops. This is the path the Anglican world has chosen to go down, inattentive to the ever growing communities that are choosing to return to Rome precisely as a result of this “liberal” change. …

Pretty nasty, and wrong. The assertion that “women’s ordination will lead onto the ordination of openly gay bishops” is questionable. The first woman bishop was the Rt. Rev. Penelope Jamieson who served as Bishop of Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island from 1990 to 2004. There are, or have been, women bishops in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Cuba and the United States — all predating the July 2010 vote by the Church of England’s General Synod.

The op-ed pieces are all over the place. For an American reader what might be amazing is the number of stories. There are so many out there that I have space only to focus on one newspaper for this article.

In addition to its news reports, the Guardian offers five analyses pieces as well as a cartoon. The best is by Stephen Bates, the newspaper’s former religion reporter. If you have time to read just one piece from all those I cite, read this one. While I do not share his politics, I have been a long time admirer of his work. His story is fair, thorough (irritating in places) but also heartfelt. He has sympathy for the subject of his article, but remains committed to telling the truth. In short, great writing.

The archbishop’s biographer, Rupert Shortt, has a weaker story. A fan of Dr. Williams, his article presents only one side of this complex man — and also makes mistakes of fact when it moves away from the man to the issues.

Soon after his move to Lambeth Palace, the [Dr. Williams] urged [the pope] to kick-start stalled talks on reunion between Rome and Canterbury. Benedict’s condition for allowing this was that the Anglican communion should streamline its structures and start talking with a more united voice. Williams agreed; the covenant has formed a major element in his strategy.

No, that is not how it happened. The Anglican Covenant arose from an internal Anglican document called the Windsor Report — not from without.

Opponents describe [the Anglican Covenant] as an authoritarian measure at odds with traditional church polity. So far it has been supported in more conservative parts of the communion, especially Africa and Asia, but rejected elsewhere. If the Church of England itself refuses to endorse the covenant, the plan will probably be doomed.

Yes, if the CoE fails to endorse it, it will be doomed — the rest is questionable. The opponents who see the covenant as being too strict and “at odds” with the church’s traditional polity are the liberals. It is also not supported in the more conservative parts of the communion — the archbishops of the traditionalist coalition of Asian and African provinces last year said they could not support the covenant because it was too lenient.

All of the pieces stress the archbishop’s intellectual attainments — his brilliance. Amelia Hill also saw it as part of the problem.

But his intelligence – or, rather, his sublime confidence in his intelligence – has led directly to some of the crises that have marked his tumultuous decade as leader of a global Anglican communion sharply divided on issues of sexuality and gender.

From my experience in covering Dr. Williams for The Church of England Newspaper — which is what it sounds like, though it is not the official newspaper of the church, there is no such animal — Ms. Hill is correct. A number of Dr. Williams’ blunders arose from his refusal to take advice. The Sharia law fiasco being the most notable among many self-inflicted media messes.

Commentator Giles Fraser and the Guardian’s editorial also damned him with faint praise. Fraser writes from the perspective of a liberal activist who has been let down by one of his own.

One does not choose morality as one chooses cornflakes. So whilst his instincts may have been gay friendly, his increasing appreciation that the African church was dead against any accommodation with homosexuality made him side with the conservatives. He wanted a global Anglican community built around core values. And so, in effect, he became a split personality – with Williams the man at odds with Williams the archbishop. After the bitter Lambeth Conference of 1998, Williams, and several other bishops, made gay Christians a promise: “We pledge we will continue to reflect, pray and work for your full inclusion in the life of the church.” Unfortunately, it was a promise he would fail to keep.

The editorial board argued the job had become too big for the man.

Rowan Williams failed as archbishop of Canterbury, because the job description makes success impossible. But the announcement of his resignation makes clear that he failed at one particular impossible task he set himself: to hold together the Anglican communion. That gathering – now more of a dispersal – of 38 churches worldwide continued the schism between liberals and conservatives which has been under way since the 1990s. Both here and abroad, Dr Williams made enough sacrifices for unity to alienate his liberal supporters without satisfying his conservative enemies. But this is what he felt was his duty as archbishop, and in the patient and humble way he followed this thankless path, jeered at from left and right, he offered an example that not only Christians found attractive.

This is a defensible argument, but one I would not advance. It is reminiscent of editorials about Jimmy Carter circa 1979, and it also makes assumptions about liberals and conservatives that is not entirely straight forward. However this is not the place to wax eloquent about the byzantine world of church politics.

I expect the second wave will focus on who is likely to succeed Dr. Williams, and in a few weeks we will begin to see the pendulum move from favorable to unfavorable stories. But I must say, so far so good. An all round good job (exceptions noted.) And, this will keep me gainfully employed for months to come.

My concern, however, is how those outside of Anglican or British circles will be able to follow what is going on. From simple issues (What exactly is the Archbishop of Canterbury?) to the complex, (Why is the archbishop disliked by the left when he is an admitted “hairy lefty”?), these stories assume a degree of knowledge that is most likely not there. Even the British tabloid speculation as to who might be the next archbishop is based on an ill-founded assumption of how the process works.

What do you think GetReligion readers? Will this story catch on outside of English and Anglican circles? What hook might there be to catch a wider audience?

First published in GetReligion.

Archbishop returns from private tour of Israel: The Church of England Newspaper, February 10, 2012 p 6. February 17, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Israel.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Canterbury met with Anglican, Muslim, Druse and Jewish leaders last week during a private tour of Israel and the West Bank, returning on Feb 2 in time for the start of General Synod.

The Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani reports that Dr. Williams met with the Chief Rabbis of Israel, Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar in Jerusalem, Muslim and Druse leaders at St Margaret’s Guest House in Nazareth, and the heads of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem.  Dr. Williams and his party also toured Jericho, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

Dr. Williams’ tour demonstrated the “importance of constructive dialogue and co-existence between all religions,” the diocese said, as well as the need to “consolidate the peace process between the people of this region.”

The archbishop and his party pilgrims also visited St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in the village of Zababida in the northern West Bank and met with the mayor and the governor of Jenin.

African call to excommunicate those who enter into a gay marriage: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 16, 2011 p 6. September 20, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Zimbabwe.
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Bishop James Tengatenga of Southern Malawi

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Anglicans who contract same-sex marriages or gay civil unions will be excommunicated, the Bishop of Harare said this week.  His remarks come as church leaders in Central Africa denied charges leveled by the breakaway bishop of Harare that the Church of the Province of Central Africa had endorsed the “pro-gay” agenda of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada.

In a statement released on Sept 9, Bishop Chad Gandiya of Harare said his diocese conformed its teaching to the Bible.  “Whatever the Church believes in and does is therefore within the confines of the Bible, and not informed by human standards and speculation,” Dr. Gandiya said.

Bishop James Tengatenga of Southern Malawi told reporters the Malawian church had no truck with the new teachings on human sexuality.  .

In an interview with the Malawi Sunday Times published on Sept 11, Bishop Tengatenga, the Dean of the Anglican Church of Malawi and chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council, also denied the Archbishop of Canterbury had changed the Anglican Communion’s teachings on homosexuality.

Bishop Tengatenga defended Dr. Williams, who visits Malawi in October to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the church in Central Africa, explaining the archbishop’s private views were distinct from his public pronouncements.  “The Anglican Church hasn’t changed, yes we are against homosexuality and Williams does not approve of the consecration of gay bishops,” he said. “The church’s position and an individual’s are two different things.”

The Anglican dioceses in Malawi remained “totally against homosexuality,” he told the Sunday Times.

The Harare press statement said it followed the province’s teaching that “Marriage is between a man and woman” and “should be monogamous, one man, one wife and one woman, one husband.”

“Any marriage institution outside this arrangement is not recognised, solemnised or blessed by the Diocese and any individuals indulging in such unions may be subject to various forms of Church censure, including ex-communication, once discovered.”

Dr. Gandiya said the breakaway bishop of Harare, Dr. Nolbert Kunonga’s claims “to know of the existence of homosexuality within [the] ranks” of the church was specious.  “Kunonga and his coterie of followers only started mentioning this after realising that they will never have easy access to Church funds and other significant resources, and so devised a scenario that prepared him for his departure from the Anglican Communion, using homosexuality as a smokescreen.”

Dr. Kunonga’s fixation with homosexuality caused Dr. Gandiya to wonder “whether it is not a problem haunting his own conscience, and by extension his newly formed religious institution. If this is the situation, Kunonga cannot continue to ignore it and it is time he addresses his own problem without dragging other people into it.”

“The CPCA is saddened that Kunonga has constantly fed wrong, malicious and misleading information to the structures of the Government of Zimbabwe, and the media, about the correct situation in the Anglican Church regarding homosexuality. What he has sought to do is to gain political mileage out of a non-issue among genuine Anglicans,” Dr. Gandiya said.

“Our position” he said “is clear that we do not tolerate homosexuality at all costs and we do not intend to compromise on this,” the bishop said noting that the arguments that “homosexuality has been accepted elsewhere within the Anglican Communion are irrelevantand have no place in our Zimbabwe context.”

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