July 2008

Lots of Episcopal bishops are blogging from the Lambeth Conference, and one of them, Stephen Lane of Maine, wrote a post today that includes the following paragraph, wherein one of the most important reasons for the decline of the mainline denominations as a whole is neatly encapsulated. He wrote:

This morning there was a small explosion in my Indaba group. What exploded was widespread frustration that all the talk about our disagreements distracts from mission and undermines the Communion’s credibility. The real issues, the real priorities of the Anglican Communion, need to be poverty, hunger, HIV/AIDS, the oppression of women and children, the oppression of the Dalits in India, war, refugees, care for creation, etc. (Indeed, if there is a consensus at this Lambeth it is that global warming is the most important matter facing humankind and that care for creation must be a first priority for the Church.) Most of the members of my group shared in some part of this frustration.

On the basis of this statement, I feel secure in saying that Bishop Lane and many of his colleagues, like so many mainline leaders, don’t actually want to be Christian leaders. They want to be congresscritters or senators, or United Nations bureaucrats.

They have no interest in the central mission of the Church–“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”–a mission for which they are entirely unequipped, and for which they find no basis in their ideology. Nor are they really all that interested in actually doing anything about the issues about which they wring their hands so piously, so instead we get stuff like the Garden Party Hunger March, which accomplished absolutely nothing, but got them all kinds of flattery from the British Prime Minister. Reading stuff like this, I don’t think that there can be any doubt that organizations like the Episcopal Church are sliding into utter pointlessness, incapable of carrying out Christ’s commission at the same time they are completely ignored by the world.

(Via T19.)

Correction: Commenter Daniel Muller alerted me to the fact that I had conflated the names of Maine’s two bishops. The actual writer was Bishop Stephen Lane, and I’ve obviously fixed it in the post. Thanks, Daniel.

“The common mission is more important than what separates us. The common mission is the MDG’s.”

–The Rt. Rev. Ian Ernest, Anglican Archbishop of the Indian Ocean, at a press conference Thursday at Lambeth, demonstrating that liberals aren’t the only ones who say silly things. For those not clued into Anglican-speak, the “MDGs” are the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations.

(Via Stand Firm.)

I know it’s hard to believe, but some of the funniest people on Earth are Anglicans. Sure, they have a reputation as being kind of dour and stuffy, but really, you just can’t top some of the stuff coming out of the Lambeth Conference for side-splitting, laugh-out-loud humor. (WARNING: Put down anything you’re drinking, and swallow anything you’ve already drunk. OK. Now, to proceed…)

This comes from an exchange between Stand Firm blogger-Anglican priest Matt Kennedy and a South African seminary professor and “biblical scholar” by the name of Gerald West, the latter of whom we are told took part in writing the study guide for the bishops’ Bible study at the Lambeth Conference. At a press conference on “The Bible and Mission,” West said this:

From a literary perspective, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. If you look at what happens there in that story you note that it takes place after Abraham has entertained 3 angels.. If that is the true, then the problem in Sodom and Gomorrah was not homosexuality but inhospitality as demonstrated in male rape

Now what that means is that in terms of the literary narrative it is a narrative of hospitality.

That’s a pretty standard liberal line regarding S & G, but the Rev. Kennedy wasn’t going to just let it pass. Instead, he asked the questions that provoked the witty side of Dr. West:

Q: I have a question for Dr. West. Would you say that the author of the NT book of Jude was incorrect when he wrote this about Sodom and Gomorrah, “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire…” that was from verse 7. Would you say that the writer of Jude got the context wrong?

A: No not at all, I think he was referring to the sin of inhospitality.

Me: When he uses the phrase “sexual immorality”?

A: Yes, that was the way they were being inhospitable.

Now, you’ve got to admit: that is hilarious.

“We have 700 men here. Do you think any of them beat their wives? Chances are they do. The most devout Christians beat their wives….Many of our bishops come from places where it is culturally acceptable to beat your wife. In that regard, it makes the conversation quite difficult.”

–Episcopal Bishop Catherine Roskam, writing about, but providing no evidence regarding, unnnamed colleagues at the Lambeth Conference. Her comments appeared in The Lambeth Witness, a daily newsletter produced by the Inclusive Church Network, a liberal lobby group working for the full inclusion of gays in Church life.

(Via Stand Firm.)

UPDATE: The full text of the article from which this quote is taken may be found at the Integrity web site here.

The PCUSA branch of the Democratic Party, the Witherspoon Society, has published an article by an Iranian-American Presbyterian by the name of Noushin Darya Framke, in which she, and by extension the Society, distorts current events, whitewashes history, and air-brushes Iranian foreign policy. Among other things, she writes:

Last week, I heard a quote that Condoleezza Rice had said Iran should stop its saber rattling. This took my breath away. The country of my birth, where most of my family still lives, has been morphed into the aggressor. Most Americans don’t realize that the constant call to “bomb bomb Iran” has been just what the conservatives pray for in Iran. All the various factions there, who are normally at each other’s throats, are united against a common enemy now. This anti-Iran fervor in the U.S. is what has kept the Islamic Revolution alive there.

That’s an amazing paragraph. She claims that the Bush Adminsitration has “morphed [Iran] into the aggressor.” Presumably that means that she finds nothing aggressive in 1) Iran’s funding of Hezbollah and other Islamic terrorist groups; 2) Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, which has been ongoing since at least the Clinton Administration); 3) Iran’s continuing stonewalling of the IAEA; 4) Iran’s repeated threats to vaporize Israel once it has gotten nuclear weapons; and 5) Iran’s sending of members of its various security and military agencies into Iraq for the purpose of killing Americans and fomenting chaos in its next-door neighbor. In the course of her piece, none of these ongoing Iranian policies are so much as mentioned. Perhaps she isn’t aware of them.

Oh, and she also seems to think that if it weren’t for American hostility, the mullahs would have morphed into a Persian version of the Witherspoon Society by now. It hasn’t been political repression, relentless propaganda, or the Guardian Council’s refusal to let anyone run for office who doesn’t have the Good Housekeeping Seal of Fanatical Approval. It’s American hostility that keeps the mullahs in charge. Got it.

In slow motion, I watched the Soviet Union shed its label of “evil empire” and eventually, sitting in my den watching the State of the Union Address – now as an American – heard my president put Iran in the “Axis of Evil.” It’s been downhill from there. Slowly but surely, Iran has become America’s biggest enemy and today is the only member left of “the axis.”

Last time I checked, the Soviet Union is no longer called the “evil empire” because it, you know, no longer exists. And why might Iran have been included in the “Axis of Evil”? It couldn’t have anything to do with any of those five items listed above, could it? As for the claim that Iran is the “last member” of the Axis, two things come to mind: one, Iraq has become a democratic nation where Saddam Hussein no longer breaths; and two, North Korea has significantly changed its behavior, in part because of the pressure put on it by the international community, including its biggest supporter in Beijing. Iran, on the other hand, has simply increased the behavior that got it so labeled. Is this really so hard to understand?

Knowing the Persian Spirit as I do, all this saber rattling by the hawks in Washington gives the Iranians more pride. They take it as an honor to be standing against a massive superpower’s hegemony over Middle East oil. A naval blockade, if approved by our Democratic Congress, will only be seen as a declaration of war.

I don’t know the Persian Spirit, but I do know that no one is talking about a “naval blockade.” This is the latest fantasy in leftist circles, a way to mislabel an inspection regime that is perfectly legitimate under international law, in no way a “declaration of war,” and no where close to being adopted.

Oh, and by the way, I can’t resist the urge to ask: if the United States has “hegemony over Middle East oil,” why is it that we’re paying $4 a gallon for gasoline? If this be hegemony, we’re sure screwing it up.

UPDATE: Lest anyone think this is only a Witherspoon delusion, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship has published the same article.

““The kingdom of heaven is like 650 bishops marching through the streets of this city a couple of days ago, insisting that together we can end global poverty, if we have the will to do it”.”

–Episcopal Bishop Katharine Jefforts-Schori, preaching the Deist gospel at St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields in London, earlier today

(Via T19.)

“We spoke in our bible study this morning of Creation as the body of God. Creation reflects God and the tradition has a mixed history of affirming that understanding.”

–Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts-Schori at a press conference on the theme of “The Bishops and the Environment” at the Lambeth Conference

“They are the ones who are the obstacles,” Bishop Alvarez said, contending that Pope Benedict was placing too much emphasis on issues such as the ordination of women and homosexuals, which were not issues decided during the Church’s first seven ecumenical councils. “My concern is that they open themselves to dialogue instead of just saying this is wrong.”

–Episcopal Bishop David Alvarez of Puerto Rico remarking on deteriorating ecumenical relations between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church

[I don't normally comment on quotes of the day, but for the sake of those who may not be up on their patristic history I need to mention that there were many issues with which the first seven ecumenical councils never formally dealt. These include justification by faith, the relationship of Scripture and tradition, the nature of papal primacy, the Immaculate Conception, and many other items that the RC Church would hardly consider unimportant as a result. What Bishop Alvarez is doing here is basically saying, "Why can't the Catholic Church be just like us?" That is the usual liberal mainline Protestant response when confronted with any form of disagreement with its agenda, no matter how much rhetoric of "tolerance" or "inclusiveness" get slathered over that response.]

(Via MCJ.)

According to the London Telegraph, the Dark Night of Terror is about to descend on the Anglican Communion. Or something like that:

Dr Rowan Williams said there was a “very strong feeling” within the 80 million-strong Communion that guidance is needed on questions of Biblical teaching, which have led it to the brink of schism over sexuality.

He said he was “enthusiastic” about the idea of a Faith and Order Commission that has been proposed by a group set up to resolve the crisis triggered by liberal Americans, who in 2003 elected an openly gay bishop, the Rt Rev Gene Robinson.

But liberals claim the Commission – which would be based on a code of Canon Law and which is being proposed in addition to a new set of rules to bind the provinces of Anglicanism – has echoes of the medieval Inquisition, which was used to enforce Roman Catholic doctrine and punish those condemned as heretics.

Asked about the Commission at the Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering of 670 Anglican bishops in Canterbury, Dr Williams said: “There’s a very strong feeling that we need another kind of structure in the Communion that would be a clearing house for some of these issues.

“There’s quite a head of steam behind that, just to sort out the kind of issues that have arisen and what kind of level of seriousness they are at and how they may be addressed. I’m actually quite enthusiastic about that.”

That’s Williams-speak for, “Anybody here want to play ‘Kick the Can’?”

I suspect that the liberals who are already squawking about this (a spokeman for Washington Bishop John Chane called it “troubling”) are doing their usual overwrought thing to make sure that even if it is set up, nothing will come of it. Why they think anything might I don’t know, since that certainly isn’t The Anglican Way.

There’s really only one way to deal with a possibility like this, and that’s to remind the world how badly such commissions can get out of hand:

There’s nothing like a protest march for the abolition of world hunger that works up an appetite. Anglican blogger Baby Blue notes that the Anglican bishops meeting at Lambeth this week did some fine eatin’ following their march through London yesterday:

As someone who has seen her share of protest marches over the years (we have so many in Washington that springtime in DC is affectionately called Protest Season), I am not sure I have ever heard of a street protest against world hunger that that concluded with a march into a lavish banquet at a palace. Why, they even threw in the chandeliers. Who’s idea was that?

An Episcopal bishop [Smith of Arizona] reports:

“We arrived at Lambeth Palace and walked the grounds for a while before hearing a stirring speech from the Prime Minister about world poverty. Then, in an ironic contrast, we were served a very elegant lunch in a huge tent set up on the grounds.”

Here’s how Ruth Gledhill of the London Times describes the luncheon menu that followed the March against poverty:

“The menu was cold lemon and thyme scented breast of chicken with fresh asparagus and porcini mushroom relish, summer bean and coriander, tomato, basil and mozzarella served with hot minted new potatoes. Pudding was dark chocolate and raspberry tart with raspberry ripple ice cream, topped off with coffee and white chocolate raspberries. To wash it down they drank Pino Grigio or Chiraz or cranberry and elderflower fruit punch. The cream marquee was decorated with a dozen chandeliers down the middle.”

Bishop Smith evidently had a hard time washing all this down, but he took one for the team, especially since the primitives bishops from the Global South were really, really hungry:

I would have been happy with a sandwich and a donation to the MDG funds, but apparently there are many from third world countries who look forward to this lavish event.

I’m sure there was much back-slapping and high-fiving by the assembled prelates, what with them having struck such a powerful blow against world hunger and all. At least that’s what Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who evidently knows how much Anglican bishops love bizarre and excessive flattery, told them:

Later at Lambeth Palace, Prime Minister Gordon Brown hailed the march “the greatest public demonstration of faith” ever to take place in Britain.

“There are millions of people whom you may never meet who owe you a debt of gratitude for the work that you do in upholding the cause of the poor,” he went on to tell the bishops.

“You have sent a simple and a very clear message with rising force–that poverty can be eradicated, that poverty must be eradicated and if we can all work together for change poverty will be eradicated.”

Yesterday’s march, of course, fed not one hungry person, nor did it have any effect whatsoever on Britain’s flagging commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), nor was it even noticed on the streets of London, by whose residents Bishop Smith says it was ignored. But it made all the participants feel very, very good about themselves.

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