FaithWorld

Global South Anglican bishops politely decline pope’s offer

bibleConservative bishops who say they represent almost half the world’s Anglicans urged fellow believers on Sunday to reform the Anglican Communion rather than take up Pope Benedict’s invitation to join the Roman Catholic Church. (Photo: A Bible, 20 Aug 2008/Simon Newman)

The “Global South” group, which last year seemed close to quitting the Communion, said those opposed to gay clergy and other liberal reforms should “stand firm with us in cherishing the Anglican heritage (and) pursuing a common vocation.”

Indirectly declining the pope’s offer to receive alienated Anglicans, the group called on the Communion’s member churches to adopt a “covenant” to coordinate policy in the loosely structured 77-million-strong worldwide Anglican community.

“The proposed Anglican Covenant … gives Anglican churches worldwide a clear and principled way forward in pursuing God’s divine purposes together,” said the statement posted on their website. Conservatives see this plan as a way to block liberal reforms in the United States, Canada and Britain.

A call to convert to Catholicism by bishops in developing countries, where the faith is expanding, could have dealt a body blow to the Anglican church, founded when King Henry VIII broke with Rome in 1534 to divorce one wife and marry another.

Vatican-Anglican: where in the details will the devil be hiding?

tiber-and-st-peters1If “the devil is in the details” when two groups seek a merger, where will he be hiding when the Vatican talks with disaffected Anglicans who want to join the Roman church? Neither the agenda nor the schedule for these talks are clear, but some issues are starting to emerge as possible hurdles to a smooth switchover for Anglicans who want to “swim the Tiber.” (Photo: St. Peter’s Basilica and the Tiber River, 23 Dec 1999/Mario Laporta)

There is little clarity yet on either side. The Vatican has not spelled out the conditions of the “Apostolic Constitution” to accept Anglicans who want to join Catholicism while maintaining some of their own traditions. Additionally, there are varied faces of Anglicanism, which in its dogmas and practices stands somewhere between Roman Catholicism and Protestant traditions such as the Lutheran or Reformed churches. This will clearly take a while to work out.

The spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, played down any problems when the offer was announced. But several reactions from Anglicans to Tuesday’s announcement, including from some inclined to make the switch, have begun to trace the outlines of the looming doctrinal debates among Anglicans worldwide and between the Vatican and Anglicans knocking at its door.

How many Anglicans will switch to the Roman Catholic Church?

levadaDisaffected Anglican Dioceses in Papua New Guinea, the United States and Australia might consider switching to Roman Catholicism under a new constitution offered by Pope Benedict, according to Forward in Faith (FiF), a worldwide association of Anglicans opposed to the ordination of women priests or bishops. About a dozen bishops from the Church of England, the Anglican mother church, are also likely to convert, it says. (Photo: Vatican Cardinal William Levada announces offer to Anglicans, 20 Oct 2009/Tony Gentile)

The Church of England could not comment on numbers likely to convert, with one source adding: “It’s all guesswork.” But Stephen Parkinson, director of FiF, said a figure of 1,000 Church of England priests, reported in the media, was “credible.” Read our news story on this here.

Estimates of laity are “much harder,” Parkinson said.  “Inevitably if you say 1,000 priests you are then talking about several thousand laity.”

Anglicans, in row, may cut women bishops’ powers

schoriThe Church of England could restrict the powers of some women bishops under a plan designed to end a rift between traditionalists who want to keep the all-male senior clergy and liberals demanding equality.  The proposal has reignited the long-running debate over a supposed ecclesiastical “stained-glass ceiling” that stops women from attaining the most senior roles in the church.

The Church of England body reviewing the law on women bishops, the Revision Committee, has voted to change the rules to remove certain powers from female bishops in dioceses where they face opposition from traditionalists. Specially-appointed male bishops would assume those powers and the new system would be written into British law, the committee said in a statement. (Photo: Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the U.S. Episcopal Church, 4 Nov 2006/Jonathan Ernst)

While Anglicans in the United States, Canada and Australia already have women bishops, conservatives in many other parts of the Communion strongly oppose them. They say there is nothing in the Bible or church history to support women bishops. Liberals, who argue that women should be treated equally, said the latest proposals to allow women bishops, albeit with reduced powers in some areas, risked creating a two-tier church.

World religious leaders hold their own G8 summit

laquila-church (Photo: L’Aquila’s Santa Maria of Collemaggio Basilica, 13 April 2009/Daniele La Monaca)

They came, they prayed, they appealed.

Religious leaders from around the world held their own not-so-mini “G8 summit” in Italy on June 16-17. The “Fourth Summit of Religious Leaders on the occasion of the G8,” as the meeting was officially called,   started with a visit to L’Aquila, the central Italian city severely damaged by an earthquake on April 6. That will be the venue in July of the actual summit of the G8 club of industrial nations.

Nearly 130 religious leaders and diplomats then moved to Rome where they held two days of talks under the auspices of the Italian foreign ministry. This was the religious leaders’ fourth annual meeting, following those held in conjunction with earlier G8 summits in Moscow, Cologne and Sapporo.

Vatican tangled in the Web

jpii-and-laptopOne passage in Pope Benedict’s letter today about the Williamson affair particularly stood out — the part where he confessed to almost complete ignorance of the Internet. There can’t be many other world leaders who could write  the following lines without blushing: “I have been told that consulting the information available on the internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on. I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news.” This made it look as if the world’s largest church was ignorant of the world’s liveliest communications network.

That’s not the case, of course. The Vatican runs a very full website of its own, www.vatican.va, as do Vatican Radio (in 38 languages), Catholic bishops conferences, dioceses and parishes as well as Catholic publications all around the world.

icann-logoIn fact, somebody in the Vatican seems to be following the Internet far more closely that the mainstream media (including ourselves), which missed an interesting little nugget now popping up on tech blogs and some Catholic sites mostly in Europe. The Holy See’s representative to the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently warned against the tensions that could be caused if ICANN created new top-level domain names (so-called gTLDs) for religions.

What would John Calvin say?

With the financial crisis erupting around the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Protestant theologian John Calvin, many people in the Netherlands — where his thinking played an important role in forming the local culture — are looking back at his influence and what he might say of the current crisis and the people involved. (Photo: Dutch Old Masters used skulls and stubby candles to portray the Calvinist idea of the vanity of greed/Robin van Lonkhuijsen/United Photos)

Several of the issues are described in my feature “Moral rebound finds Dutch exploring Calvin.” One of the most interesting elements was an online survey by the Protestant newspaper Trouw called “C-Factor.”

“Test how Calvinist you are, in your convictions, at work and in your love life,” it said in its challenge to readers. It asks 25 questions (sorry, only in Dutch) such as:

Traditional Anglicans at the Vatican gates? Not so fast

Amid all the controversy over the Vatican’s handling of the return of four excommunicated ultra-traditionalist bishops, some newspapers are reporting that Pope Benedict is now preparing to welcome a far larger group into the Church — the 400,000-strong Traditional Anglican Communion. We noted speculation about this last June. The Italian daily La Stampa wrote today that this group would be accepted into the Roman Catholic Church by Easter. Its headline was “Goodbye Canterbury, Benedict Takes Back Even the Anglicans.”

But it doesn’t look like it’s going to be that way. The Vatican can wait, something it normally is very good at. The arguments I’m hearing here against such a move anytime soon are:

    Large group conversions can be unwieldy and full of surprises. After the controversy over the botched PR for the lifting of bans on the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) bishops, you can bet a lot more homework will be done on this one first.

A religion board game – satire or scandal?

How much fun — really — can you make of religion?  A U.S. marketer of board games may find out with ”Playing Gods” which it calls “the world’s first satirical board game of religious warfare.” It had its European premier this week at the London Toy Fair and will make a U.S. debut at the New York Toy Fair in February.

Ben Radford, head of the company that put the game together, said in a news release it is designed for two to five players who act as “gods” and …

“Try try to take over the world and make everyone on Earth worship him or her. As a god, you can try to convert other gods’ followers, promising them things like Afterlife, Prosperity, and Miracles. Or you can kill them off with plagues, locusts, earthquakes, floods, and other Acts of Gods.

Australian Surfers Church spreads the word on the waves



(Photo: A surfer reads a ‘Surfers Bible’ at Cronulla beach in south Sydney, 31 Oct 2008/Daniel Munoz)


From Australia, home of the water-proof Surfer’s Bible, comes news of the Maroubra Surfers Church, an Anglican mission launched on a Sydney beach by Rev. Steve Bligh a little over a year ago.

“It’s really unstructured, we don’t have a physical building. We meet on Sunday mornings and teach the men, women and children of our congregation how to surf, then afterwards we have brunch,” Bligh told Reuters. “But I want us to talk God talk as part of our conversations when we are out there on the waves.”

Read Pauline Askin’s feature here.

Steve Bligh talks about Surfers Church: