anthills–Episcopalians & the Anglican Communion

March 30, 2006


Filed under: Anglican, Anglican Communion, ECUSA — anthill @ 12:25 pm

All Episcopalians have been drawn into the actions of General Convention 2003. No one can say they are not involved in the issues facing GC 2006.

Episcopal advocates of same-sex blessings and ordinations have declared victory. They claim GC 2003 gave “permission” for same-sex blessings (see second paragraph of Integrity's plan for GC 2006, called “No Turning Back the Clock”).

We think their perception of "permission" is virtually correct. The wording adopted by General Convention declared: “We recognize that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.”

Note well the difference from a more objective alternative: “We recognize that local faith communities are […] explor[ing] and experienc[ing] liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.”

This has been declared to be “recognized” within “our common life.” “Common” in this case must mean “shared.” All Episcopalians are drawn into these actions now.

And GC 2003 approved a gay man in a committed relationship being consecrated bishop of New Hampshire. Since bishops are consecrated for the whole church, V. Gene Robinson belongs to all of us.

The Primates—the presiding bishops—of the Provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury have declared that these innovations have not been justified. ECUSA is in a state of suspension from the only representative body in the Anglican Communion.

All Episcopalians should take a deep interest in the debates of the General Convention. 


March 29, 2006


Titusonenine has alerted us to an interview in which N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, England, describes the ECUSA, if not the whole Anglican Communion as at a brink over the homosexuality debate.

I comment on it here just to show that the debate anthill is focused on is indeed a mountain of a problem. Conservatives are not making a mountain out of an (may I say) anthill.

Wright said: “If [ECUSA General Convention] vote to go with The Windsor Report, then that will pull the whole thing back from the brink.”

One can easily read that “the whole thing” means the crisis involving the whole Communion. This is confirmed by follow-up questions and answers.

The interviewer asked Wright if a schism in “the worldwide [Anglican] movement” is “inevitable.” The Bishop, who has many connections all over replied: “I think it is quite possible.”

He has not gotten good encouragement from contacts in the U.S. On the possibility of conforming to The Windsor Report, Wright said: “My friends in America tell me on many different sides of this issue that that's actually very unlikely….”

Also, this plea: “Please pray for Rowan Williams, because he needs prayers right now. He's got some very difficult decisions to make.”

Read the whole interview from Australia here.

We will continue to do our little bit at the anthill to try and help any Deputies who might tune in here.

March 28, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA, the anthills — anthill @ 7:55 pm

The organization called “Claiming the Blessing” (CTB) has published its “Platform” for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) in June.

I testify that the hateful early comments on that blog do not represent anything I have ever heard from the most conservative Christians I know.

The platform has a section of affirmations as a foundation for the list of aims that follow. The lead affirmation is highly important for what it says and for what it doesn’t say: “We commit our lives to … the celebration of the goodness of all creatures and creation as given to us by God.”

Take this as a general theological claim and it is fine. The things, animals, and people that God is directly responsible for are good as created. We can exclude lethal parasites and such as not part of God’s direct work.

The affirmation can even form a foundation for reaching those who have wrecked the goodness of the original creation. We celebrate the goodness that is under it all; we call it forth in the name of the Creator.

A glaring omission in the affirmations is any mention of the wrecking, twisting, killing effects of sin (name it what you will). And in the listing of aims in the platform, rebellion against the Creator could have shown up as a condemnation of all promiscuity and misuse of sex (hetero and homosexual). Isn’t it relevant that the realm of sex is where some of the most heinous crimes take place?

But I wonder if there is a more subtle problem with the first affirmation. It is a part of gay dogma that being gay in many (most?) cases is not a choice. It is unhelpful for productive relationships to deny such a claim, personally made. Let us accept that a complex bundle of factors bring a person to a point of affirming, “I did not choose this.”

It is frequently asserted that a lack of choice means this is God’s intention and work. But, the experience of not having chosen a state of being does not support a logical leap to saying that God made one that way. Without drawing an equivalence of any kind other than logical, an alcoholic’s claim of genetic predisposition does not require the conclusion that God created that person an alcoholic.

I don’t know the name of this logical fallacy, but it in lay language, this is leaping to a conclusion (from a false major premise—God made me just the way I am).

There are many genetic or inter-uterine hormonal conditions that do not call out for a claim that God positively created that condition. They may rather clearly be attributed to the disorder and disease that afflicts our world.

And that brings us back to the missing word in the platform of Claiming the Blessing – fallenness. If the Bible can be compared to a jigsaw puzzle, then the themes of sin, rebellion against God, the twisting of the goodness of creation, fallenness make up many of the pieces. For these pieces to be missing from the “proclamation” of this organization calls into question its foundations.

Fallenness is a metaphor for a concrete reality. There is moral disorder in the world. It seems silly to have to assert it. This concept belongs in this platform; it fits.

Because fallenness is missing, there is no mention of redemption by Jesus’ death and resurrection, which can restore goodness to sex and to all of life. The assertion that our view on sexuality is usually bound in a coherent package with all our deepest beliefs seems to ring true here.

March 27, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA, Uncategorized — anthill @ 4:27 am

A comment-question on her blog gave Susan Russell the opportunity to test a short speech for General Convention. Russell is not a Deputy herself, but will be busy guiding strategy and tactics as President of Integrity. Someone will make this speech.

It is a perfect summary of the argument made by Russell and others in Nottingham, defending the ECUSA actions of GC 2003.

For a revealing look back at that event, see this item from titusonenine (I searched for the original on Integrity’s website, but couldn’t find it). Check the first comment for an important analysis of Integrity’s claims.

It may look like I’m pick, pick, picking at Susan Russell. But, she keeps saying things that need to be taken account of. After all, she is President of Integrity.

In a comment on Russell’s March 08, 2006 blog tribute to Prof. Urban T. Holmes, “hiram” asked: “Why are you so sure that same-sex relationships are acceptable to the Lord?”

Russell’s answer / GC speech follows:

“Why am I so ‘sure’?

“1] Because of my lived experience of the spiritual fruits of love, peace, joy, patience and compassion I have seen lived out in the relationships of couples of the same gender.

“2] Because I believe the Holy Scriptures I inherit as a Christian and believe to be the Living Word of God calls the church to be as open to changing its mind on what is clean and unclean as God called Peter to be open when Cornelius came knocking on his door.


3] At the end of the day, my faith isn't based on being ‘sure’ or even being ‘right.’ Here's what Verna Dozier—one of the great 20th century Anglican saints—had to say about that:

"Doubt is not the opposite of faith: fear is. Fear will not risk that even if I am wrong, I will trust that if I move today by the light that is given me, knowing it is only finite and partial, I will know more and different things tomorrow than I know today, and I can be open to the new possibility I cannot even imagine today."

If you are a GC deputy, this is the argument. Mark my words.

Commenters might imagine being the next person at a mike. Don’t rant; answer this.

[Timestamp changed from 3/16/06 to keep this post in view]

March 26, 2006


Filed under: the anthills — anthill @ 9:59 pm

Kendall Harmon found this:“A Christianity which will bear witness to God’s Word in Jesus will be a speaking, thinking, arguing, debating Christianity, which will not be afraid to engage in intellectual and philosophical contest with the prevailing dogmas of its day.”

– Oliver O’Donovan, Begotten or Made? (1984)

O’Donovan doesn’t mean these are the only modes of conversation. And, while it seems he mainly had in mind going up against the dogmas of “the world,” there is such a thing as good arguing between Christians trying to find truth. Tell me you haven’t had that pleasure.

The word “argue” comes directly out of Latin. There it can mean “prove” or “reason with.” It sometimes translates the Greek word transliterated “dialogue.” Acts 17:17 give an interesting use of this word (translated “argue” in some versions): “Paul reasoned with them in the synagogue … and in the marketplace.” This led to the famous speech in Athens citing pagan poets and philosophers, including the seminal line: “In God we live and move and have our being.”

March 22, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA, Uncategorized — anthill @ 6:26 am

Richard Kew has done it again with a superb essay on the claim by same-sex advocates that God is doing “a new thing.” I made a link to a previous Kew essay. That one has a very important quote by a noted historian — Diarmaid MacCulloch.

One excerpt from the current essay:

I have raised the issue [of same-sex blessings, etc.] with one or two 'progressive' friends, and it would appear that the only approach they can come up with that gives them permission to move forward is that God is doing a new thing. That is, to assert that God is doing something that is above and beyond anything that has ever happened before in the history of monotheism, outside the canon of Scripture, and having little to do with the on going tradition and life of the church.

What this allows for is an end run on the last 4,000 years or so, and seems to obviate any need for a response to careful historical analysis, and the mindset of the church catholic through the ages. It also obviates any need to respond to careful and disciplined theological analysis that makes it very clear that a revisionist understanding of sexuality has no place in the Christian story.

If you are open to people in the debate, read this essay.

March 17, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA, Uncategorized — anthill @ 12:28 am

A comment by Richard (not Kew–see next post) at "Preview of a speech for General Convention" gives a blockbuster analysis of two key points that will be made at GC by advocates of same-sex blessings.

Susan Russell–President of Integrity–cites Scripture as a “living word” (a biblical allusion) and experience as a crucial authenticating factor for change. Richard analyzes this as follows:

She seems to appeal to a concept of doctrinal development grounded in the scripture as a “living word.” What is not adequately dealt with is how we discern between true and false development. Arguably, the fundamentalism of the Southern Baptist Church is a development of biblical Christianity. But I am relatively certain that she would not accept this as an authentic development of the Christian tradition.

I might assume that the authenticity of such development is to be tested by her first point, “[her] lived experience” of homosexuality and that of others. But is individual experience an adequate arbiter of true development? If a Mormon Fundamentalist in a polygamous relationship experiences the same “spiritual fruits” as does Ms. Russell+ in her sexual life experience does that affirm that polygamy is an authentic development of the tradition?

Ultimately, an epistemological appeal to experience will deconstruct. What we call “truth” in this matter is merely the aggregate of discrete individual experiences. Thus there can be no overarching appeal to truth outside of the exercise of power.

While I’d like to debate with Richard on the conclusion that followed these words, I think he makes a piercing critique in the thoughts above.

March 16, 2006


Filed under: Uncategorized — anthill @ 11:42 pm

Richard Kew, a priest in the Diocese of Tennessee (ECUSA), has written an excellent (I was tempted to write “brilliant” in honor of his English birth) essay on his blog about the link between theology and the sexuality debate.

Please read the whole piece. Richard always writes well and to the point. I’ll be picking bits out of it to emphasize in coming days.

Here is a key paragraph:

“I am forced to conclude that while there could be a scad of theories that have been rustled up to legitimate this departure from Christian norms, there is no fundamental set of theological principles that can be configured to justify actions. Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of Church History at Oxford, and an actively gay man, has admitted as much in an aside in his monumental work on the European Reformation. “Despite much well-intentioned theological fancy footwork to the contrary, it is difficult to see the Bible as expressing anything else but disapproval of homosexual activity, let alone having any conception of a homosexual identity” (Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided, 1490-1700, page 705). This means the only way forward is to discount Scripture and historic theology, finding other justifications for actions taken.”

March 14, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA — anthill @ 1:12 am

In her blog on March 11, Susan Russell, Senior Associate at All Saints Church, Pasadena, and President of Integrity, blasted conservative critics while promoting Holy Communion as the solution to the debates in the church. You can understand what torqued her. Some commenters on titusonenine were taking apart the liturgy of her same-sex “wedding” (her word).

Russell’s pointer from Queen Elizabeth I getting opponents to the same Communion rail is a main thrust of those seeking to get through the current crisis with no bad results. After all, in Elizabeth’s day they were arguing over transubstantiation and whether they were Roman Catholic or Protestant—really big questions. People had been burned at the stake for the controversies (Ridley, Latimer, Cranmer).

I’ve put this point in the anthill at the argument.

Russell says that if we can keep worshiping together and serving in the world together, things will be all right. This sounds lovely until you read on in Russell’s article.

First, She asserts that common worship (especially Communion) precludes having to wait for an agreement on disputed matters. Of course this is true in many situations.

The problem here is precisely that Russell’s same-sex “wedding” was an occasion of worship with Holy Communion using a very “incarnational” (my most irenic description, again, using her word) rite, arguably loaded toward its same-sex setting. It was not “common” prayer that could have been shared on an average Sunday morning by traditional Episcopalians with convictions against same-sex blessings.

Second, it seems that people with strong reservations about same-sex blessings are not joyfully welcomed at the Table after all. Russell calls some of these “revisionist neo-Puritan ideologues.” Interesting twist of the label “revisionist” also!

These people of “the conservative fringe” are busy protecting their “precious orthodoxy.” I think I’m being named because I could not have made it through her ceremony. These labels make me feel less than welcome at the reconciling Table at which Russell might preside.

There is something disturbingly inconsistent about her words in that heated name-calling.

Think through Russell’s method of holding together ECUSA. She is suggesting that those who have very strong convictions about the church not being free to bless same-sex unions, should adopt the solution of coming to the Communion rail without great concern for resolution. Meanwhile, “weddings” like Russell’s multiply, possibly with a Communion rite like her’s that includes: “From the beginning we did not trust you when you called us ‘good.’ In our arrogance, we placed ourselves outside your garden of love. Separate from you, vulnerable and unprotected, we feared one another and our diversity.”

This is very convenient for her position.

Leaders in our church who are unable to approve same-sex blessing ceremonies, may be “neo-Puritan ideologues” and “the conservative fringe,” but they aren’t stupid.

March 11, 2006


Filed under: Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury, ECUSA — anthill @ 9:18 pm

A Google news search today (March 11) on Archbishop Rowan Williams’ letter of March 8 to the Primates of the Anglican Communion yielded 98 news items, largely based on two Associated Press articles and one British news agency.

Talk about being under surveillance! Every word counts and every statement may be picked up in minutes and spread around the world.

The official release of William’s letter is here.

Titusonenine did a Google news search the day of the press release and invited comparisons of the news coverage. Here goes one.

Comments on titusonenine here and here and here take the Williams’ letter apart pretty fairly. Please bring in morsels that catch your attention to the anthill.

It is surely significant that William’s felt compelled to include a major orientation on the sexuality crisis in his Lenten exhortation to his brother Archbishops. Leaders in ECUSA who say this is all a minor distraction from mission have missed something or are covering it up from the great center of our church.

In all of this, don’t overlook that the Primates of the Anglican Communion got the letter as original recipients. They are the readers that will directly respond to it.

From the most original source I could find, to the comments by interest groups, here is how Williams’ letter was put out to the world.

Headlines: Bypassing the most objective (“Archbishop Williams Writes to the Primates”, etc.), the most careful analysis-in-headline might be from The Christian Post—“Anglican Teachings on Homosexuality Unchanged, Canterbury Says.”

The Christian Post cites a key line from Williams’ letter: “In my judgment, we cannot properly or usefully reopen the discussion as if Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 did not continue to represent the general mind of the Communion.”

The article explains: “Resolution 1.10 upholds marriage as a union between a man and a woman and rejects the homosexual lifestyle as ‘incompatible with Scripture.’ It also calls against the ‘legitimizing or blessing of same-sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.’” The full Resolution is here.

The earliest coverage of Williams’ letter in Great Britain had a distinctly British headline picked up by several outlets: “Archbishop keen to avoid gay row.” This is likely an accurate reading of Williams’ mind.

AP’s first take on the letter, picked up very early that first day was “Archbishop of Canterbury rules out attempt to rewrite stern resolution on homosexuality.” (Boston Globe). USA Today toned this down a bit (but added a scary photo of Williams).

AP is not fully-informed about how Lambeth might unfold. From recent meetings of the Primates, it is clear that the Archbishop (in spite of his sometimes ferocious visage) cannot absolutely “rule out” anything. He can make his wishes known very clearly. He does so in his letter.

The summary of the Lambeth resolution in the first AP release is interesting: “The resolution condemning gay sex also opposed the ordination of those involved in homosexual relationships and the blessing of gay unions.” Not a lot of nuance there!

AP did catch that Lambeth will include an opportunity to hear from the Provinces on the subject of homosexuality. “It will be important to allow time for this to be presented and reflected upon in 2008,” he wrote.

In the next morph of the headline, AP changed it’s approach slightly: “Anglican leader rules out gay debate” (Washington Post, Houston, Seattle, San Jose, The Guardian (UK), and also Forbes!) The lead sentence in the article was: “The leader of the world’s Anglicans has ruled out a new debate on the church’s teaching that gay sex is “incompatible with Scripture.”

No new debate is correct, but debate at Lambeth there will be.

The Concord, NH!, Monitor had the second AP article but upped the headline ante a little—Anglican leader: No debate on gay sex.

Three gay websites turned up late on the Google search. The first simply picks up the later AP story with a slightly edgier headline. The second (from the UK and with a much friendlier photo) has a byline by a staffer who also misses the point: Archbishop dismisses gay debate. “Dismisses” sounds, well, dismissive.

It seems, rather, that the Archbishop is taking this very seriously. The writer’s read is better: “The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned Anglican leaders that he does not want to use the Church’s upcoming conference as a debating ground for homosexuality.”

The debate, however will be around homosexuality

The third gay treatment borders on demagoguery: Anglican head rejects attempt to rewrite antigay resolution. It is at least arguable whether the stance of the Anglican Communion is “antigay.”

Other news organs put this news under Religion news in brief (Miami,
With the summary: “The leader of the international Anglican Communion has ruled out new debate on the teaching that gay sex is ‘incompatible with Scripture.’.”

Coming late to the dance was The Living Church (online version) with the mild headline: Archbishop Williams Writes to the Primates. Bless their hearts, The Living Church seems to be trying to keep people from reading their article with the most boring title possible.

And the official Episcopal News Service may have needed extra time to decide whether to even publicize the letter of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Primates of the whole durn Anglican Communion. They skipped his statement last month in Brazil about ECUSA needing to maintain its moratorium on consecrating bishops in same-sex unions. Odd that, seeing it was addressed directly to ECUSA!

Anyway ENS finally copied the official release of the letter with the original title (no references to sex to alert readers): “Archbishop of Canterbury sets out thinking on Lambeth” .

Silence often says something. I found nothing in Google about William’s letter in NY Times, LA Times, the Chicago papers, Atlanta, St. Louis, or some other major cities. Either our things are irrelevant there or they don’t want to get into it, or….

And finally, not because this represents my final word, but just because it is Saturday, here is the March 9 lead headline from Classic Anglican News Network (CaNN): “And now, the end is near.” Go ahead, sing on with Ol’ Blue Eyes. The lyrics are prophetic of now. Too much!

March 10, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA — anthill @ 1:14 am

I'm trying to get up to speed with items for the anthill. Here is something from the end of 2005 that will be relevant through General Convention.

The action plan for Integrity, the leading organization in ECUSA for affirming same-sex unions, is here. "No turning back the clock" is their theme. Note especially their claim that permission has been given nationally for same-sex blessings:

Truly remarkable progress has been made in the Church over the past three decades toward realizing its commitment (made in 1976) to fully include ALL the baptized in its life and ministry. Over the past two conventions particularly, we have seen this progress accelerate dramatically, as exhibited in 2003 by the confirmation of Gene Robinson’s election to the episcopate and the permission for dioceses and congregations to bless same-sex relationships.

Discussions on anthill will certainly have Integrity's goals on the radar screen.

Check out their whole site.

March 9, 2006


Filed under: Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury, ECUSA — anthill @ 12:57 am

Recent news from The Living Church gives us as good a launching point for anthill as anything I’ve seen. Read the whole articles by way of the two links.

Living Church reports that The Most Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury was crystal clear about the position of the Anglican Communion on same-sex blessings and related ordinations.

The online article of 02/27/2006 has the following quotes and summaries from an address to the Anglican delegates to the World Council of Churches assembly in Brazil, Feb. 17.

-“Archbishop Williams admitted he did not know what the Anglican Communion would look like 18 months from now.”

-“He bemoaned the parochialism and cultural suspicions that had rendered each side deaf to the reasoning of the other.”

-“Obedience to God and determined dialogue with one another are the ways forward through the Anglican Communion’s crisis over human sexuality.”

-He shared his belief that all Anglicans were “trying to be obedient to Christ as revealed in the scriptures.”

-The danger, Archbishop Williams said, is of “one side drifting towards a fundamentalism which is incapable of meeting the deepest spiritual needs of human beings” while the other becomes “a religious version of well-meaning Western society.”

-It will not do to present the problem “as a matter in which one side would win and the other lose” as “we need each other desperately. And that is my deepest conviction about the Anglican Communion,” Archbishop Williams said.

But the Archbishop’s wish for a middle way does not mask a clear position on same-sex blessings and ordinations of those in them.

In another article from the same occasion, The Living Church reports that Archbishop Williams “cautioned the Episcopal Church not to end the House of Bishops' moratorium on consecrating non-celibate homosexual priests to the episcopate, until the Communion is of common mind.”

-Archbishop Williams said, “On a matter where traditionally there has been a very clear teaching,” there must be “the highest degree of consensus for such a radical change.”

-At the Primates' meeting in Northern Ireland in February 2005, Archbishop Williams said: The Anglican Communion “does not see itself free to sanction same-sex blessing and the ordination of persons in same sex-relationships.

Create a free website or blog at