Justin Welby introduces himself with self-deprecation and a hint of steel

From The Guardian:

Constitutional convention also mostly stops archbishops from talking about Jesus in public. No one seems to have told this one. He entered the room to a remarkable lack of astonishment, a lean and rather severe figure, dressed in plain black but for a clerical collar and an unadorned silver pectoral cross. He started with a silent prayer, and went on to a short spoken one.

Then it was time to watch his famous technique of management by self-deprecation in action. He praised his predecessor as “one of the greatest archbishops of Canterbury, a man of integrity and holiness, and great moral and physical courage”. The only comparison he would make with himself was that “I’ve got a better barber and I spend more on razors”.

He said he did not want Christians to agree with one another, “but to love one another and to demonstrate to the world around us a better way of disagreeing”. Judging by the last 2,000 years or so, this is a rather more ambitious plan than merely reconverting England – but he seemed entirely serious about it. This could be interesting.

Read the article here.

John Stott: “An evangelical is a plain, ordinary Christian”

I was saddened to learn today of the death of the Rev. Dr. John R.W. Stott, an Anglican priest, Biblical scholar, and a living example of generous-spirited evangelical Christianity whose ministry will have a lasting impact upon my life, and that of my family for years to come.

In the nascent years of an adult awakening to the reality of Christian discipleship, Stott’s book, “Basic Christianity” provided me with a solid framework for the development of a clear understanding of the power of the Gospel to transform human life radically for the better.

Over the years I have respected Stott’s emphatic concern for evangelicalism to reclaim its heritage of engagement with the social issues of the day. Post modern evangelicals like Jim Wallis, Shane Claiborne, and Brian McLaren, stand on the shoulders of this wise and tested pastor and theologian.

I have fond memories of my father, The Rev. Canon David Lord, reading Stott’s The Cross of Christ, what many consider to be Stott’s magnum opus, a summing up of the Anglican evangelical tradition seasoned by the mature characteristics of a “generous orthodoxy.”

John Stott leaves a remarkable legacy for those who seek to follow God in the way of Christ today.  May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

The John R.W. Stott Memorial web site can be found here.

Easter Hope in a Good Friday World from Rowan Williams

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, has written an inspiring ecumenical Easter letter to the heads of other Churches and Christian world communions.  In the letter he outlines some of the present-day tragedies occurring around the world, but urges that “The victory is won: however terrible the conflict in the present moment, the truth of God is not in danger of defeat.”

God has, from all eternity, loved us: and, when we realize that fact, nothing else can finally shape our minds and hearts. We are anchored in that love: it does not protect us from harm, or from hard decisions, or from emotional turmoil and profound grief, or anger at the pain of the world. It simply assures us that there is finally no contest between God’s love and the forces of disintegration in the world and in the human spirit. When this unqualified love is denied and abused, even when it is pushed away with the utmost arbitrary violence, it proves itself indestructible. The Crucified is raised to life.

The letter offers a wonderful summation of Easter hope in a Good Friday world.  The full text of the Letter “The Victory is Won” can be found here.

First and Foremost – Rowan Williams

“God is first and foremost that depth around all things and beyond all things into which, when I pray, I try to sink. But God is also the activity that comes to me out of that depth, tells me I’m loved, that opens up a future for me, that offers transformations I cant imagine. Very much a mystery but also very much a presence. very much a person.” — Rowan Williams

Largeness of Soul

St. John Chrysostom of the fourth century wrote:

“Christians are to have a wide and big soul–a largeness of soul that can endure annoyances and difficulties over an extended period of time.”

I think of this quote whenever the current debate on matters of  human sexuality and Christian faith come up in our common life in the Episcopal Church and at Holy Comforter.  Those on the more conservative side need to enlarge their souls by a renewed willingness to honor the image of God in all people and be willing to hear the stories that shape the experience of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Liberals must honor the image of God in conservatives and concede that advocating traditional marriage should not be interpreted as ignorance or homophobia.  The vast majority of Christians do not take extreme positions and share a commitment to orthodox (creedal) faith.  We believe that our perspectives belong within one Anglican Communion.  Large souls are committed to staying at the table while disagreeing about important moral issues.

This Sunday at the adult forum, I will address the topic: “Same Sex Blessings, Ordinations, and Schisms: Where  might ‘Orthodox and Open’ Anglicans stand?”  I’m not interested in rehashing the arguments on both sides of the debate as much as I’m interested in finding a way forward that helps us focus on the essential task of engaging God’s mission in the world today.  We will have a quick review of recent events in the Episcopal Church and reactions from around the Anglican Communion, but the major portion of our time will be given to identifying how we can “enlarge the soul” and build common ground for the future by practicing the gifts of the Anglican tradition I spoke about in my forum last week.

The skill of living in disagreement grounded in the love of Christ is one of those “treasures” woven deeply into the fabric of the Anglican Way.  It is not an easily aquired skill, nor one that we, sadly, consistently apply.  But it is, in my humble opinion, a practice that can “enlarge the soul,” and at the same time, move us forward from our unhappy divisions toward a greater demonstration of God’s loving reign in the midst of our world today (Matthew 7:1-5).

The Rich Soil of Anglicanism

After the Eucharist - St. Luke's West Holloway

I’m in London for the Annual General Meeting of the Compass Rose Society which begins on Monday.  Part of what I love about the Anglican Communion is its theological breadth and liturgical diversity.

For me, the Anglican tradition is less about institutional preservation  – though I believe the tested wisdom and organizational strength of that tradition is a charism worth preserving  – and more about being rooted in rich spiritual, liturgical and theological soil.  It’s the same soil that gave us Julian of Norwich, Thomas Cranmer, C.S. Lewis, Rowan Williams, and Katherine Jefferts Schori for goodness sake!  We are living in a time where we need leaders, deeply rooted in the wisdom of Jesus, to till this soil in a rapidly changing world and post-Christian context.

It was Archbishop Rowan Williams who aptly coined the phrase “a mixed economy” to describe the kind of church which might emerge if this post-Christian context is taken to heart. Traditional or “inherited” understandings of what it means to be the Church, and emerging “fresh expressions,” should ideally be seen as complementary aspects of a single coherent ecclesiology.  I’ve seen it with my own eyes in London today.

Fr. Dave Tomlinson

This morning I attended the 11:00 Liturgy at St. Luke’s West Holloway, a parish church currently led by Fr. Dave Tomlinson, whose preaching and writing  I have admired for some time (see his Re-Enchanting Christianity here). On the parish website, Fr. Tomlinson states:

“I think I’ve the best job in the world! I’ve been the vicar of St Luke’s since 2000, and I’m more enthusiastic about the job now than the day I first took it on. St Luke’s is a glorious mishmash of people – young and old, men and women, black and white, gay and straight – who have found in this place somewhere to belong, somewhere to make friends, somewhere to grow personally and spiritually, somewhere to laugh and weep together, somewhere to explore the mystery we call God. We are a church that tries to combine the rich and broad tradition of Christianity with insights and understandings from the present, and this is reflected in our theology and worship. ”

These words are congruent with what I encountered at St. Luke’s this morning.  I was warmly welcomed both before and after the service and felt quickly at home in the open and creative set-up of the worship space.  The liturgy included a judicious use of video, poetry, and music, featuring both an adult and children’s choir accompanied by piano and organ.  The theme, based on the lectionary readings, was the “God of Creation,” and Dave concluded his fine sermon with a video setting of the poem ‘Wild Geese‘ by Mary Oliver.  It takes both spiritual sensitivity and artistic skill to blend traditional and modern elements together in a liturgy like this, and as one who believes liturgy demands our very best, I was pleased to see both elements in good evidence.

Evensong at St. James, Paddington

This evening, I made my way to St. James Paddington for a traditional liturgy of Choral Evensong.  Here I experienced a liturgy more catholic in style, in a gothic space enriched by a brilliantly designed lighting system, professional choir, dignified ceremonial, and the scent of fragrant incense beckoning the faithful to raise their hearts in glad adoration of the living God.

At St. James, Paddington,  the music of Orlando Gibbons, the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittus, the chanted psalm, the Biblical readings, the choral anthems, the opening and closing organ voluntaries, were faithfully offered–leading us into the Divine Mystery at the heart all things.  Two very different approaches to worship yet one Spirit inspiring and blessing us all.

Very rich soil indeed.


The Quest for “Ubuntu”

It is an odd word, ubuntu, even difficult to pronounce.  It’s oddness, however, reveals more about our own perceptions and our need to continue to learn and grow, to overcome a propensity to lock down our souls.

What is the meaning and significance of ubuntu? It points to a quest of the human heart, to heal, to unify, to rediscover a larger whole that respects the dignity of every human being.  It’s a rich, non-Western word that my friend and writer, Brian McLaren defines as, “one-another-ness,” “interconnectedness,” “joined-in-the-common-good-ness,” and “profound commitment to the well being of all,” (see “A New Kind of Christianity,” p. 233).

The quest for ubuntu, I want to say, resonates deeply with the quest and vision of Jesus that I read in the Gospels.  And it is a timely quest as we consider the state of Christianity in the world today.  One can look out on the horizon and surmise by observing the actions and words of some who claim to follow the way of Jesus that there are other “quests,” at work – quests for survival, security, and ego-centered power.

It’s been a very fragile couple of weeks within the Anglican Communion, indications that a quest for ubuntu may be on very thin ice indeed.

What has dominated the Anglican blogosphere lately is the story of the pressure placed on our Presiding Bishop by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office to provide documentation of her ordination status and to refrain from wearing the symbols of her office (mitre) while visiting Southwark Cathedral in the Church of England. This was unexpectedly described as standard “policy” for our Primate following her numerous similar visits (and those of her predecessors) with no such requirements. Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was calm and even courteous about the whole silly episode now dubbed “Mitergate” (see Ruth Gledhill’s article at the Times Online here).  It’s difficult for me to believe that such a shift in policy represents the deeper hearts of those who have applied it in this case.

We all know that theological debates and provocative actions over the issues of human sexuality as well as issues of authority and provincial autonomy, have torn deeply into the fabric of our beloved Anglican Communion. I do not for one minute want to minimize the complexity of the issues, nor the importance of seeking common agreements by which we maintain mutual regard, consistency of practice, and common faith and order within our Communion. But I do wonder at times, if in our exhausting attempts to preserve our institutional structures, we are missing a critical opportunity to discover a new and more inclusive way of being the Church in the 21st Century.

We live in the movement from modernism to postmodernity (a term we will live with until we can look back and name what has really happened); it is a time of great uncertainty but also a time of great possibility. Anglican Christians today, and all Christians who have eyes to see, find themselves living in a border land, somewhere between what has been and what is yet to be. We face the delicate balancing act of holding on to the best parts of our traditions while seeking distance from those things that prevent us from being a positive and transformative voice in our culture today. The truth is that we need both to have integrity, and maybe that is what the quest for ubuntu is finally all about.

I pray we can find the courage to pursue that quest with less fear and more charity.

Brian McLaren on Catholicity and the Middle Way

The blogosphere is once again alive with the latest developments among provinces within the Anglican Communion.  It breaks my heart to see some of my faith heroes backed into defensive corners over institutional matters that I believe are not consonant with their deepest hearts (my humble opinion).  This morning I read an essay by Brian McLaren that holds up the historic Anglican instinct of avoiding extremes when any number of controversies might cause us to turn on each other, rather than turn with each other toward a world in great need.  Brian offers these helpful words:

In its aspiration to be one global community the Church will not find it easy to resist being divided by denominational and nationalist ties.  In cherishing the beauty of holiness, the Church will need to work hard to resist having its soul reduced to a list of correct doctrines.  To resist these constrictions and reductions, the Church must hold to another ancient value: catholicty.

There are two models of catholicity.  One is a colonial or imperial model: unity and universality are maintained by submission to one dominating will.  The other is the humble or charitable model: unity and universality are maintained by a generous spirit of inclusion.  The spirit of inclusion is, at its core, a refusal to practice elitism (from Ancient Faith, Future Mission, p. 15).

I continue to believe, somewhat naively I’m sure, that Anglican Christians (read all Christians) around the world can find a center that will hold.  That center, I believe, is not a doctrinal or ecclesiastical consensus, but a person, Jesus the Christ, and his call to love God with all our being and to love our neighbor as well as we love ourselves.

Gathered in One Spirit and Mission

Last Sunday was an extraordinary celebration of faith and common mission at Holy Comforter. It doesn’t get much better on Pentecost than having a former Bishop of Jerusalem as your celebrant and preacher.  Bishop Samir Kafity graced us with inspiring and confident words as we renewed our baptismal promises to engage God’s mission in the world today.  It was also an added pleasure to welcome Canon John Peterson, former Secretary General of the Anglican Communion and dear friend of Bishop Kafity. I can say that Mthr. Libby, Fr. Jody, and I felt honored to be in the company of such distinguished and globally aware servants of God.  Their joy and sense of humor was infectious!

In Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, the long Arab-Israeli conflict continues to take a dramatic toll on Palestinians. Political turmoil and socio-economic pressures have led to an increasingly sharp decline of the indigenous Palestinian Christian population. By way of comparison, Palestinian Christians represented approximately 23% of the total (non-Jewish) population of pre-1948 Palestine. Now they make up less than 2% of the population and face possible extinction as a result of these sharply declining rates in the course of the next few decades, most notably in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Bishop Kafity reminded us of the importance of preserving a living indigenous Christian presence in the Holy Land and the Middle East. We know all too sadly, that the Christian presence is threatened by those who are consumed with extremism. It is clear that the Christian community in the Holy Land has a crucial role to play as a moderating element in the social and cultural fabric of the Middle East and they deserve our continuing prayers and support.

In gratitude for Bishop Kafity’s ministry, our Diocesan Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, asked that the loose offering from Sunday’s liturgy be designated to the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.  AFEDJ raises funds for and promotes the humanitarian work of the Diocese of Jerusalem and its institutions so that it may better serve in building bridges of dialogue, peace and understanding between East and West, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

It was a Pentecost I shall not long forget.

Journey From Palm Sunday to Easter with Rowan Williams

This week the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, will give a series of Holy Week Lectures entitled ‘The beginning of the Gospel’ over three consecutive evenings at  Canterbury Cathedral.   The lectures will be available at the official site of the Archbishop here.

History & Memory
Monday 29 March

Unveiling Secrets
Tuesday 30 March

A Lifelong Passion
Wednesday 31 March

Tip of the biretta to Norris Battin or this info.