Archive for May, 2010

Shall We Accept Rowan’s “Pentecost Request?”

May 29, 2010

 Perhaps The Episcopal Church should quietly and humbly accept the Archbishop of Canterbury’s request below in a spirit of “non violent witness.” After all, Dr. King was willing to go to jail as the consequence of his prophetic actions. What are we willing to sacrifice for ours?


Renewal in the Spirit

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pentecost letter to the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion


 ‘They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak’ (Acts 2.4). At Pentecost, we celebrate the gift God gives us of being able to communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ in the various languages of the whole human world. The Gospel is not the property of any one group, any one culture or history, but is what God intends for the salvation of all who will listen and respond.

 St Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is also what God gives us so that we can call God ‘Abba, Father’ (Rom. 8.15, Gal. 4.6). The Spirit is given not only so that we can speak to the world about God but so that we can speak to God in the words of his own beloved Son. The Good News we share is not just a story about Jesus but the possibility of living in and through the life of Jesus and praying his prayer to the Father.

 And so the Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of ‘communion’ or fellowship (II Cor. 13.13). The Spirit allows us to recognise each other as part of the Body of Christ because we can hear in each other the voice of Jesus praying to the Father. We know, in the Spirit, that we who are baptised into Jesus Christ share one life; so that all the diversity of gifting and service in the Church can be seen as the work of one Spirit (I Cor. 12.4). In the Holy Eucharist, this unity in and through the self-offering of Jesus is reaffirmed and renewed as we pray for the Spirit to transform both the bread and wine and ‘ourselves, our souls and bodies’.

 When the Church is living by the Spirit, what the world will see is a community of people who joyfully and gratefully hear the prayer of Jesus being offered in each other’s words and lives, and are able to recognise the one Christ working through human diversity. And if the world sees this, the Church is a true sign of hope in a world of bitter conflict and rivalry.


 From the very first, as the New Testament makes plain, the Church has experienced division and internal hostilities. From the very first, the Church has had to repent of its failure to live fully in the light and truth of the Spirit. Jesus tells us in St John’s gospel that the Spirit of truth will ‘prove the world wrong’ in respect of sin and righteousness and judgement (Jn 16.8). But if the Spirit is leading us all further into the truth, the Spirit will convict the Church too of its wrongness and lead it into repentance. And if the Church is a community where we serve each other in the name of Christ, it is a community where we can and should call each other to repentance in the name of Christ and his Spirit – not to make the other feel inferior (because we all need to be called to repentance) but to remind them of the glory of Christ’s gift and the promise that we lose sight of when we fail in our common life as a Church.

 Our Anglican fellowship continues to experience painful division, and the events of recent months have not brought us nearer to full reconciliation. There are still things being done that the representative bodies of the Communion have repeatedly pleaded should not be done; and this leads to recrimination, confusion and bitterness all round. It is clear that the official bodies of The Episcopal Church have felt in conscience that they cannot go along with what has been asked of them by others, and the consecration of Canon Mary Glasspool on May 15 has been a clear sign of this. And despite attempts to clarify the situation, activity across provincial boundaries still continues – equally dictated by what people have felt they must in conscience do. Some provinces have within them dioceses that are committed to policies that neither the province as a whole nor the Communion has sanctioned. In several places, not only in North America, Anglicans have not hesitated to involve the law courts in settling disputes, often at great expense and at the cost of the Church’s good name.

 All are agreed that the disputes arising around these matters threaten to distract us from our main calling as Christ’s Church. The recent Global South encounter in Singapore articulated a strong and welcome plea for the priority of mission in the Communion; and in my own message to that meeting I prayed for a ‘new Pentecost’ for all of us. This is a good season of the year to pray earnestly for renewal in the Spirit, so that we may indeed do what God asks of us and let all people know that new and forgiven life in Christ is possible and that created men and women may by the Spirit’s power be given the amazing liberty to call God ‘Abba, Father!’

 It is my own passionate hope that our discussion of the Anglican Covenant in its entirety will help us focus on that priority; the Covenant is nothing if not a tool for mission. I want to stress yet again that the Covenant is not envisaged as an instrument of control. And this is perhaps a good place to clarify that the place given in the final text to the Standing Committee of the Communion introduces no novelty: the Committee is identical to the former Joint Standing Committee, fully answerable in all matters to the ACC and the Primates; nor is there any intention to prevent the Primates in the group from meeting separately. The reference to the Standing Committee reflected widespread unease about leaving certain processes only to the ACC or only to the Primates.

 But we are constantly reminded that the priorities of mission are experienced differently in different places, and that trying to communicate the Gospel in the diverse tongues of human beings can itself lead to misunderstandings and failures of communication between Christians. The sobering truth is that often our attempts to share the Gospel effectively in our own setting can create problems for those in other settings.


 We are at a point in our common life where broken communications and fragile relationships have created a very mistrustful climate. This is not news. But many have a sense that the current risks are greater than ever. Although attitudes to human sexuality have been the presenting cause, I want to underline the fact that what has precipitated the current problem is not simply this issue but the widespread bewilderment and often hurt in different quarters that we have no way of making decisions together so that we are not compromised or undermined by what others are doing. We have not, in other words, found a way of shaping our consciences and convictions as a worldwide body. We have not fully received the Pentecostal gift of mutual understanding for common mission.

 It may be said – quite understandably, in one way – that our societies and their assumptions are so diverse that we shall never be able to do this. Yet we are called to seek for mutual harmony and common purpose, and not to lose heart. If the truth of Christ is indeed ultimately one as we all believe, there should be a path of mutual respect and thankfulness that will hold us in union and help us grow in that truth.

 Yet at the moment we face a dilemma. To maintain outward unity at a formal level while we are convinced that the divisions are not only deep but damaging to our local mission is not a good thing. Neither is it a good thing to break away from each other so dramatically that we no longer see Christ in each other and risk trying to create a church of the ‘perfect’ – people like us. It is significant that there are still very many in The Episcopal Church, bishops, clergy and faithful, who want to be aligned with the Communion’s general commitments and directions, such as those who identify as ‘Communion Partners’, who disagree strongly with recent decisions, yet want to remain in visible fellowship within TEC so far as they can. And, as has often been pointed out, there are things that Anglicans across the world need and want to do together for the care of God’s poor and vulnerable that can and do go on even when division over doctrine or discipline is sharp.


 More and more, Anglicans are aware of living through a time of substantial transition, a time when the structures that have served us need reviewing and refreshing, perhaps radical changing, when the voice and witness in the Communion of Christians from the developing world is more articulate and creative than ever, and when the rapidity of social change in ‘developed’ nations leaves even some of the most faithful and traditional Christian communities uncertain where to draw the boundaries in controversial matters –
not only sexuality but issues of bioethics, for example, or the complexities of morality in the financial world.

 A time of transition, by definition, does not allow quick solutions to such questions, and it is a time when, ideally, we need more than ever to stay in conversation. As I have said many times before, whatever happens to our structures, we still need to preserve both working relationships and places for exchange and discussion. New vehicles for conversations across these boundaries are being developed with much energy.

 But some decisions cannot be avoided. We began by thinking about Pentecost and the diverse peoples of the earth finding a common voice, recognising that each was speaking a truth recognised by all. However, when some part of that fellowship speaks in ways that others find hard to recognise, and that point in a significantly different direction from what others are saying, we cannot pretend there is no problem.

 And when a province through its formal decision-making bodies or its House of Bishops as a body declines to accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion, it is very hard (as noted in my letter to the Communion last year after the General Convention of TEC) to see how members of that province can be placed in positions where they are required to represent the Communion as a whole. This affects both our ecumenical dialogues, where our partners (as they often say to us) need to know who it is they are talking to, and our internal faith-and-order related groups.

 I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces – provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged.  I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members. This is simply to confirm what the Communion as a whole has come to regard as the acceptable limits of diversity in its practice. It does not alter what has been said earlier by the Primates’ Meeting about the nature of the moratoria: the request for restraint does not necessarily imply that the issues involved are of equal weight but recognises that they are ‘central factors placing strains on our common life’, in the words of the Primates in 2007. Particular provinces will be contacted about the outworking of this in the near future.

 I am aware that other bodies have responsibilities in questions concerned with faith and order, notably the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee. The latter two are governed by constitutional provisions which cannot be overturned by any one person’s decision alone, and there will have to be further consultation as to how they are affected. I shall be inviting the views of all members of the Primates’ Meeting on the handling of these matters with a view to the agenda of the next scheduled meeting in January 2011.


 In our dealings with other Christian communions, we do not seek to deny our diversity; but there is an obvious problem in putting forward representatives of the Communion who are consciously at odds with what the Communion has formally requested or stipulated. This does not seem fair to them or to our partners. In our dealings with each other, we need to be clear that conscientious decisions may be taken in good faith, even for what are held to be good theological or missional reasons, and yet have a cost when they move away from what is recognisable and acceptable within the Communion. Thus – to take a very different kind of example – there have been and there are Anglicans who have a strong conscientious objection to infant baptism. Their views deserve attention, respect and careful study, they should be engaged in serious dialogue – but it would be eccentric to place such people in a position where their view was implicitly acknowledged as one of a range of equally acceptable convictions, all of which could be taken as representatively Anglican.

 Yet no-one should be celebrating such public recognition of divisions and everyone should be reflecting on how to rebuild relations and to move towards a more coherent Anglican identity (which does not mean an Anglican identity with no diversity, a point once again well made by the statement from the Singapore meeting). Some complain that we are condemned to endless meetings that achieve nothing. I believe that in fact we have too few meetings that allow proper mutual exploration. It may well be that such encounters need to take place in a completely different atmosphere from the official meetings of the Communion’s representative bodies, and this needs some imaginative thought and planning. Much work is already going into making this more possible.

 But if we do conclude that some public marks of ‘distance’, as the Windsor Continuation Group put it, are unavoidable if our Communion bodies are not to be stripped of credibility and effectiveness, the least Christian thing we can do is to think that this absolves us from prayer and care for each other, or continuing efforts to make sense of each other.

 We are praying for a new Pentecost for our Communion. That means above all a vast deepening of our capacity to receive the gift of being adopted sons and daughters of the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It means a deepened capacity to speak of Jesus Christ in the language of our context so that we are heard and the Gospel is made compelling and credible. And it also means a deepened capacity to love and nourish each other within Christ’s Body – especially to love and nourish, as well as to challenge, those whom Christ has given us as neighbours with whom we are in deep and painful dispute.

 One remarkable symbol of promise for our Communion is the generous gift received by the Diocese of Jerusalem from His Majesty the King of Jordan, who has provided a site on the banks of the Jordan River, at the traditional site of Our Lord’s Baptism, for the construction of an Anglican church. Earlier this year, I had the privilege of blessing the foundation stone of this church and viewing the plans for its design. It will be a worthy witness at this historic site to the Anglican tradition, a sign of real hope for the long-suffering Christians of the region, and something around which the Communion should gather as a focus of common commitment in Christ and his Spirit. I hope that many in the Communion will give generous support to the project.

 ‘We have the mind of Christ’ says St Paul (I Cor. 2.16); and, as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has recently written, this means that we must have a ‘kenotic’, a self-emptying approach to each other in the Church. May the Spirit create this in us daily and lead us into that wholeness of truth which is only to be found in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus.

 I wish you all God’s richest blessing at this season.

 +Rowan Cantuar: Lambeth Palace
Pentecost 2010




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From Disciples To Apostles

May 17, 2010

I’ve often wondered how the disciples must have felt on the Sunday we are commemorating today! They must have been pretty confused.  First, Jesus had called them to leave everything and follow him on his very difficult three-year journey and ministry. Their hopes had been so high in those days!

But then, it had all come crashing down! He’d been arrested, beaten up, convicted of crimes he never committed, and executed like a common criminal!  They were devastated, So, they huddled together for safety and for support, and then some women of their company brought the wonderful news that he was not dead after all…or rather, he was not dead anymore!

At first, of course, the disciples didn’t believe it, but then they too began to experience his risen Presence in a variety of ways and circumstances and they were overjoyed that it wasn’t over after all! Yet, after only forty days, Jesus’ presence was withdrawn from them again. Something about having to return to the Father…described by our Collect today as “being exalted with great triumph to God’s kingdom in heaven.”

But Jesus’ Ascension must not have seemed like “triumph” to them at first. It must have seemed like another defeat…another desertion!  Where was Jesus now? They remembered him saying something about “going where they could not go.” They remembered something about being told that it was to their “advantage” for him to go way; for if he did not, the “Counselor…(their Advocate) would not come to them. (John 17:7)

Well, they had no clue what that meant!  All they knew was that Jesus was gone again. So, they did what they had done before – they made their way back to Jerusalem, worshipped with their fellow Jews in the Temple, and met together once again for safety and for support…and to try and figure out what to do next!

Undoubtedly, they would have pored back over his teaching to try and figure out if there were hints about what to expect. Perhaps they would have focused particularly on things Jesus said to them on that last night…at the Supper. They would have especially remembered what he prayed for…what he prayed for them!

“I ask not only on behalf of these,” Jesus had prayed, “but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they all may be one.”  So clearly he wanted them to remain together – to be one Body, one community, not to fragment and splinter apart.

“As you, Father are in me and I am in you, “he continued, “may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” So Jesus obviously wanted them to remain connected to him and to his God so that people would believe that Jesus came from God and that he was speaking for God.

And finally, they remembered him praying for something they thought very odd, “Righteous Father, “ he said, “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:26)

Somehow Jesus was saying that he wanted them to be filled not only with God’s love, but that they would actually be filled with him!  With his very life!  Well, on the one hand, we don’t want to get too far ahead of the story here! Next week is when we will celebrate just how that “indwelling” happened – by the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit on those same disciples on the Day of Pentecost.

On the other hand, we already know “the rest of the story,” don’t we? We live on this side of Pentecost, and we know that it was the pouring out of God’s mighty Spirit on Pentecost that changed those frightened “disciples” (learners) into confident “apostles” (those who were sent)!

Today (at the 10:30 service) we have the opportunity to continue that process. Two members of our parish, Andrew Petersen and Carly Savareid, will be changed from “disciples” (learners) into “apostles” (ones who are sent). Like the other 20 members of our Wednesday night Catechism class, they have spent the last six months learning something about the Christian faith (and about The Episcopal Church). Today, they are prepared to begin putting that faith into action in new ways.

I don’t know exactly what form that action will take, and maybe they don’t either yet. But Andrew will be baptized and confirmed in one action, making his adult decision to follow Christ. And Carly will renew the promises which were made on her behalf by her parents and godparents when she was just a little one – and she will take those vows on herself today, becoming an “adult Christian” in the eyes of this Church.

I hope both of them, and all of you, will continue to be “disciples” because learning is a lifelong experience, and we will never exhaust all there is to know about God and about God’s will for our lives. But I do hope that they, and all of you, will also take their responsibility as “apostles” seriously from this day forward. To know that they (and we) are “sent out” from this place, Sunday by Sunday, to be God’s people in the world!

In the family, in school, at the workplace, in our neighborhoods: we are to do exactly what Jesus prayed for those first apostles to do – to remain united to him through worship and prayer and study…to remain united to us here by faithful attendance at worship and by engaging in some ministry either here or in the community…and to know that (because of the prayers we will say for them today…and by the laying on of hands) Jesus no longer has to be “out there” somewhere, some distant Presence or Power to be obeyed and followed.

But that they (and we) can always rely on Jesus’ promise in today’s Gospel: that the love of God we see so clearly in Jesus may actually be “in here”, in our hearts. And, more than that, Jesus himself will be in us…by his spirit!  What a gift!

What a God we have!

Jesus’ “Scariest” Commandment

May 5, 2010

I think in many ways Jesus gives us one of his scariest commandments in today’s Gospel!  He says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).

Well, you say, why should that be so scary? Sounds like a simple command to me – love one another.  Of course we should do that!  Yet, it may not be as simple as it sounds when first we hear it.  For one thing, Jesus does not simply say: “Love one another,” does he? He says, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

And just how did Jesus love his disciples? Well, he left his home and family in order to prepare himself to give his entire energy and attention to teaching and forming those disciples into the kind of community which could carry on God’s mission when Jesus’ earthly work was done.

He spent three tough years traveling about Galilee and Judea, living on the generosity of strangers, putting himself in jeopardy time and time again by hanging around with people who were unacceptable to “polite society,” teaching a dangerous message about the kingdom of God and, in the process, alienating both the religious establishment and the political “powers that be” because they were so threatened by that message.

Jesus concluded that public ministry by marching into the teeth of the opposition in the holy city of Jerusalem, fully aware that there was a plot against his life and that such public preaching would likely lead to his arrest, “trial”, and execution. And that those twelve disciples he had so carefully and lovingly nurtured would probably cave in and desert him when the going got rough, leaving him a spectacle of failure in the eyes of most people.

That’s how much Jesus loved his disciples! Enough to give himself totally to them, make their education and formation his highest priority, model the kind of life he expected them to live no matter how dangerous that was, and ultimately forgive them for betraying him and running away after all he had done for them!  And that is the kind of love Jesus commands us to have for one another! That’s the kind of love we are to have for one another right here at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

But it gets worse than that! For Jesus goes on to say, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another!” In other words, it was not because of their brilliant teaching or miraculous healings that people would know that they were Jesus’ disciples. It was not because of their piety or even their holiness that people would know that they were Jesus’ disciples. It was to be because of how they loved each other that people would know.

I think that must have been in Peter’s mind in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles as he wrestles with whether God could possibly accept these filthy, unclean Gentles also as disciples of Jesus Christ!  All Peter’s life he had been taught that these people were sinners, that they were an abomination in the eyes of God, and that they were so unclean that he would be putting himself in jeopardy just by eating with them…or even by eating the same kind of food that they ate! Now, he has become convinced that God is saying ‘not to make a distinction between them and us…and that “what God has made clean” he was not to call profane! (Acts 11: 12, 9)

In other words, he was being asked to love people he never thought he could love because it was only by doing so that they, and people around them, would know that he was a disciple of Jesus! He was beginning to learn that, while John the Baptist, had baptized with water, he and these Gentiles were to be baptized with the Holy Spirit – with God’s Spirit…with the Spirit of love!

Well, (at the next service…in a few minutes…) we are going to baptize Nolan Muenstermann with that same Holy Spirit…with God’s Spirit…with the Spirit of love.

And members of his family and members of this parish are going to promise that we will be responsible for seeing that Nolan is brought up in the Christian faith and life… we’re going to promise to pray and to be the kind of witnesses which will help him grow into the full stature of Christ…and that we are going to support him in his life in Christ.

Do you know that that’s going to require of us?  It’s going to require that we make the kind of sacrifices for him and for Trinity Cathedral that Jesus made for his disciples! We’re going to have to be willing to work and pray and give so that Trinity Episcopal Cathedral will be around to nurture Nolan in his Christian faith and life.

We’re going to have to build up this community by loving one another – through thick and thin, whether we agree with one another or not (frankly, whether we even like one another or not!) – with the kind of love Jesus had for his disciples. Because it is only when people see that kind of love that they will know that we are Jesus’ disciples, and will be drawn to join us here!

Because ultimately, it will not be because of our meticulous liturgy (as much as we love it) that people will know we are Jesus’ disciples. It will not be because of our fine music program (as superb as it is!) that people will know we are Jesus’ disciples. It will not be because of occasionally eloquent words from this pulpit (or any other) that people will know we are Jesus’ disciples.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, “ Jesus said, “if…you have love for one another!”

What kind of love? Sacrificial, risking, patient, forgiving love – for one another. “Just as I have loved you, “ Jesus said, “you also should love one another.”

Remember that, beloved, if you want this church to grow…and to be around…and to make a difference! Love one another. As he loves you!