Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From Vatican, a tainted olive branch

James Carroll offers his opinion about the Vatican’s offer to Anglicans. Hold still Rome, this might sting a bit...

Text from The Boston Globe

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Vision From Convention

The convention of the Diocese has come and gone. Resolutions and budgets were passed. This excerpt from the report of St. Columba’s delegation strikes me as being at the heart of our task.

Excerpt from report:

In her formal address the Bishop made the point that in her opinion; the familiar church is passing away. By that she did not mean The Church-the Body of Christ- is dying, but “that our human structure of the earthly church is troubled and that we are being called to discover a re-formed character.” She feels that,” we are living in the throes of a corporate Holy Saturday…when nothing seems to be happening”.

The Bishop went on to point out that the there are 10 characteristics of congregations that are experiencing significant transformations:
•        Changed attitudes to own responsibilities. Instead of acting like victims, they re-set their vision.
•        They are people of abundance who speak of God’s blessings and experience the joy of giving instead of complaining that they
         don’t have enough.

•        Place a high priority on Christian formation for all ages. Informed believers make faithful disciples.
•        See newcomers not as sources of money, but as people who are seeking a Christ-centered community.
•        Create an environment of mutual responsibility.
•        Develop achievable goals, and rely upon shared ministry to accomplish them.
•        Move from triangulation and gossip to effective ways of communication.
•        Give voice to the core of the Christian faith: sacrifice, sin, evil, repentance, forgiveness and love, all redeemed through the
        Word made Flesh.

•        Use new technologies in the service of evangelism.
•        Worship every Sunday.
The Bishop close her address by saying, “ the Christian message is a message of life and eternal hope…we need generous spirits, thankful hearts, and works of mercy, so the Holy Saturday will lead to the Feast of Resurrection”.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Our Man In Rome

Hat tip to BishopBlogging.

We here in Rome have received many questions about the Vatican announcement on October 20 about the setting up of “Personal Ordinariates” for former Anglicans wishing to enter into full communion now with the Roman Catholic Church. Here are some answers to those questions posed by many:

1.What exactly happened?

On October 20 there were two simultaneous press conferences in Rome and in London announcing that Pope Benedict XVI has approved an Apostolic Constitution that will set up a new canonical structure within the Roman Catholic Church that will allow for Personal Ordinariates which will make it possible for groups of Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, preserving within the Ordinariates distinctive aspects of the Anglican liturgical and spiritual tradition.

In Rome, Cardinal William Levada, President of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (which prepared the Constitution, which Pope Benedict has approved) and Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, of the Congregation for Divine Worship, announced that the Constitution would be forthcoming.

In London, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, announced the Constitution with their view that it brings to an end “a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church.”

1.What is new about the “Personal Ordinariates?

The Apostolic Constitution clearly authorizes something “new” in the Roman Catholic Church and it provides “a new way” to enter into the full communion of the Roman Catholic Church. For many centuries individual Anglicans have converted to the Roman Catholic Church. There have been, however, a few previous cases in the past in which groups of Anglicans have entered the Roman Catholic Church and have been allowed to preserve some corporate structures of Anglicanism. Examples of this have been the Anglican diocese of Amritsar in India, and some individual parishes from the Episcopal Church in the United States which maintained an Anglican identity when entering the Roman Catholic Church under a “pastoral provision” adopted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by Pope John Paul II in 1982.

When this development took place in 1982, the Ecumenical Officer of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Rev. William Norgren, wrote:
“In pluralistic America we are accustomed to Christians moving from church to church. It is quite a different matter for one church to organize parishes and institute liturgy taken from another church—all to satisfy the individual wishes of a very few people who have moved. Comments in my hearing from individual Episcopalians, including some bishops, about parishes and proposed Anglican rites have been uniformly negative. This is simply a fact.”

What is new in 2009 is that this provision will be universal in its application. It provides for groups of parishes that will be formed into “Personal Ordinariates” which may be presided over by former Anglican priests, or unmarried bishops, and it provides for distinctive forms of priestly formation for former Anglicans which incorporates aspects of the Anglican tradition.

1.What is the origin of the Constitution?

According to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Constitution emerged as a single model for the world-wide church in response to requests coming to the Holy See from various Anglican groups over the last years seeking to enter into full communion with the Roman See. Cardinal Levada has said:”We have been trying to meet the requests for full communion that have come to us from Anglicans in different parts of the world in recent years in a uniform and equitable way. With this proposal the Church wants to respond to the legitimate aspirations of these Anglican groups for full and visible unity with the Bishop of Rome, successor of St. Peter.”

1.Were we at the Anglican Centre in Rome surprised by this announcement?

For more than a year, we at the Anglican Centre in Rome have heard rumors of groups of former Anglicans meeting in Rome with representatives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But we were neither informed nor consulted about these conversations, nor was the staff of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the ecumenical office of the Holy See, who are our closest dialogue partners in Rome. The Pontifical Council did not draft the Constitution, nor did it participate in the press conference announcing the Constitution. The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that he was informed of the announcement “at a very late stage,” and the Archbishop’s Representative to the Holy See, the Very Rev. David Richardson, has said that he was “taken aback by the Vatican’s decision.”

1.What are the ecumenical implications of the “Personal Ordinariates”?

We at the Anglican Centre in Rome expect and hope that the ecumenical conversations with the Roman Catholic Church will continue. We look forward to a response from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on the proposed Apostolic Constitution. This will help us to understand how the ecumenical dialogue can continue in a context which has obviously been made different now. As Dean Richardson has said,”It doesn’t seem to me to help the ecumenical dialogue, but perhaps it will galvanize the dialogue.”

1.What are some unanswered questions?

There are four unanswered questions that need to be addressed before we can evaluate the ecumenical future:

a. What does the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity have to say about the Apostolic Constitution?
b. What does the text of the Apostolic Constitution actually say ( the document has been announced but we have not seen it), and particularly on the following points, what are the details? What specifics of the Anglican patrimony will be allowed? Will it be more than “spiritual” and “liturgical”? Will it be “ecclesiological” and “theological”? What will seminary formation for former Anglicans entail? How will the “Personal Ordinariates” relate to the authority of the local Roman Catholic bishop?
c. What are the names of the groups of former Anglicans who seek reunion with the Roman See? Names of various groups have been put forward and denied in Rome, so it remains unclear to us what former Anglicans we are talking about. Knowing the identity of those who seek to move will help in our evaluation of the significance of this development.
d. And finally, what will be the response to this development in the many provinces of the Anglican Communion where there is a national Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue?

1.What will our continuing relationships be like?

With this announcement the shape of things to come for Anglican—Roman Catholic relations is at this time unclear. But in a letter of October 20, 2009, Archbishop Rowan Williams has said:”It remains to be seen what use will be made of this provision, since it is now up to those who have made requests to the Holy See to respond to the Apostolic Constitution; but, in the light of recent discussions with senior officials in the Vatican, I can say that this new possibility is in no sense at all intended to undermine existing relations between our two communions or to be an act of proselytism or aggression.”

The Rev. Dr. R. William Franklin

Academic Fellow of the Anglican Centre in Rome
(and priest of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe!)
October 22, 2009

Some Sensible Talk About Israel

From Foreign Policy Magazine:

It is possible to be both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine, not out of some blanket support for either government, but out of a sincere belief that peace is in both people's best interests. I hold that belief as a result of years of work within the Arab and Jewish American communities, working in partnerships not just with J Street but also with such groups as Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, and Israel Policy Forum. I have traveled to the region and remain humbled and inspired by the courage and tenacity of those Israelis and Palestinians who refuse to submit to the cynicism or pessimism this conflict so often demands.

Read Article

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The convention of the Diocese of Rhode Island takes place this coming weekend in Providence. It will begin with a Eucharist, Friday night at the Cathedral of St. John. The business meeting will be most of Saturday. Please keep the delegates and the gathering in your prayers.

Conventions are necessary to pass budgets, set mission priorities and conduct the business of the Church. Some of the work is just that, necessary business. It is important to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. For me, however, the real value of the convention resides elsewhere.

I enjoy coming together as the people of God. It is important to take stock of our visible unity as a catholic Church. Great value comes from strengthening the ties that bind us, for we are bound together into one body. We should celebrate our common life.

In a sense, we are all present at the convention because we are all part of the whole. We are followers of Jesus. We represent parishes. We make up a diocese. We are a church that comprises the Church. It is with a sense of responsibility to the Church catholic in mind, I will go to do the work of the Church.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Unload Your Camel

Father Ned Mulligan, Chaplain at St. George’s School, preached an excellent sermon at St. Columba’s. The text was from the Gospel of Mark about the rich man, who questioned Jesus about salvation. The story is punctuated by Jesus making the familiar pronouncement about it being easier to thread a needle with a camel, than for a rich man to enter heaven.

Father Mulligan told us how the eye of the needle was the night gate in ancient cities. It was impossible to make it through the gate with a “loaded” camel. Camels had to be unpacked, coaxed to kneel and crawl through the narrow passage. It is really a great image.

The rich man, who approached Jesus for salvation was unwilling to unpack his baggage. The rich man chose to remain outside and cling to his cargo. The rich man left Jesus because he had all he could carry.

When I ponder my financial commitment to the Church, I think in these terms. I consider who I am and what I have. I consider the distance between who I am, and who God calls me to be. When I recognize the gifts I have and give them as gifts, I see my best self. For me, taking up the Cross of Christ is about recognizing the gifts I have received, and working to give them to God.

Every season is stewardship season. We are always called to be mindful and thankful for what we have. Some of what we have is uniquely ours, and is treasured. Some of it gets in the way, and needs to be shed. Some of it is good, and needs to be shared as a gift.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What do I Expect from the Church?

The simple word, church, evokes an infinite variety of images. Some think of a building of a particular architectural style from little, white Congregational meeting houses to the transcendent, dark interiors of gothic cathedrals. Then, of course, there are those that will tell you the Church is the people. Church makes us think of worship, Sunday school and choirs.

The images that come to mind probably have to do with experience and expectations. If you grew up going to church, the experience shaped how you think about church. You have either accepted your experience as good and proper, or have made the decision to launch in a new direction. Our formative exposure to church is powerful and it often operates beneath the intellectual realms on a more emotional level. We often describe Church as home because it generates certain a feelings of safety, comfort and intimacy.

It is good, from time to time, to consider our deeply-held expectations. As humans, we are gifted with self-consciousness and it is appropriate to make use of our gift. All too often, we react in careless, self-centered ways because we are stuck on the feeling level. When we find our expectations challenged, we often respond on an emotional level, and we are not doing our best thinking.

I think we expect too little from the Church. We have relegated the Church to the sidelines, making her a warehouse of sentimentality and not enough substance. We have become victims of the quest for a superficial sense of well-being. We have accepted a fleeting time of inspiration and introspection as the substance of the Gospel.

The Church is suffering in many ways as a result of low expectations. We see declining attendance patterns across denominations. We see decline in giving patterns across denominations. I believe it is all tied to our low expectations. I can go anywhere on Sunday morning to have a little moment. Why would I support a place that exists only to give me a moment, once a week?

The Church, God’s vehicle of grace, redemption, mission and life in the world, exists for a much higher purpose. We are called to proclaim the Good News of Christ in all the world. We are called to go out into the world baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are called to make the Kingdom of God present through our communion and fellowship. We are called to be recognized by how we love each other. We are called to work in the world to meet real need. This is what God expects the Church to be.

If we are God’s vehicle, if we respond in faith and love, if we remember who we are called to be, the obstacles will give way. Our buildings will be jammed with people seeking God. Our stewardship campaigns would be successful beyond measure, because we would be invested in the abundant vision of the Gospel.

Through God’s grace and mercy, may the Church give way to meet God’s expectations, not ours.