The 39 Articles of Religion

The 39 Articles of Religion form the basis of Anglican doctrine. They were drawn up by the Church of England in 1563, and all priests of the Church of England were required to subscribe to the 39 Articles by an Act of Parliament in 1571. The 39 Articles distinguish the Church of England not only from the Catholic Church, but also from the Protestant churches in Europe at the time. They’re required reading for anyone interested in Anglicanism:

Article I: Of Faith in the Holy Trinity

There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Article II: Of the Word or Son of God, which was made very Man

The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile His Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.

Article III: Of the going down of Christ into Hell

As Christ died for us, and was buried, so also is it to be believed, that he went down into Hell.

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HoB “deposes” two bishops; ACN Responds

The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church today voted to “depose” two bishops related to the Anglican Communion Network. The bishops are the Rt. Rev. John David Schofield of the Diocese of San Joaquin and the Rt. Rev. William Jackson Cox, retired Bishop Suffragan of Maryland. Before the action was taken, both bishops had come under the care of another province of the Anglican Communion, rendering the action of the House of Bishops a symbolic, but essentially meaningless, gesture.

“This is a bit like saying ‘you can’t quit, you’re fired!'” said the Rev. Canon Daryl Fenton, Chief Operating Officer for the Network. “It will have no practical effect on the ministry of these two godly leaders, but instead makes crystal clear the scorched earth policy that the current leadership of The Episcopal Church intends to prosecute against those who can not in good conscience follow them out of the Christian mainstream.”

“There is no question that both Bishop Cox and Bishop Schofield remain bishops in the Anglican Communion and will continue in ministry. We at the Network are thankful for their willingness to witness for the truth of the Gospel and fully intend to support them in their ongoing ministry,” he added.

More on the US Anglican “deal”

On Saturday, George Conger reported that Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the United States (thereafter referred to a KJS… or “Satan”) is “backing” the proposed deal where a “conservative enclave” would be established in the United States for conservative Anglicans. However, Brad Drell is reporting that all is not what it seems with the so-called “deal”. First of all, KJS isn’t exactly “backing” the deal. She met late last week with several conservative American bishops, who essentially told her what they were doing, asserted that it violated no canon or law of the Episcopal Church, and essentially dared her to challenge them. And not only that, while this deal might be a good stopgap measure for people in conservative dioceses like Fort Worth or Pittsburgh, it does absolutely nothing for conservative Anglicans trapped in liberal dioceses (like, I don’t know… the diocese of North Carolina?). This would be a temporary solution (at best) until a new province could be formed.

Sigh. It’s lonely being an Anglican in North Carolina.

A Conservative Enclave?

I’ll believe this when I see it, but The Telegraph is reporting the following:

The Archbishop of Canterbury is backing secret plans to create a “parallel” Church for American conservatives to avert fresh splits over homosexuality. Dr Rowan Williams has held confidential talks with senior American bishops and theologians who oppose the pro-gay policies of their liberal leaders. A handful of hardline American dioceses are already defecting from the Episcopal Church, the American branch of Anglicanism, and transferring their loyalties to a conservative archbishop in South America. Dr Williams is desperate to minimise further damage in the run up to the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference this summer which could be boycotted by more than a fifth of the world’s bishops. His recent comments backing aspects of sharia law have heightened tensions by further alienating Africans who are struggling with militant Islam in their dioceses.

According to insiders, Dr Williams has given his blessing to the plans to create an enclave for up to 20 conservative American bishops that would insulate them from their liberal colleagues. The scheme would allow them to remain technically within the Episcopal Church but under the care of like-minded archbishops from abroad. The Primate of the West Indies, Archbishop Drexel Gomez, a moderate conservative, has agreed to participate, and other primates could be recruited. However, the initiative is likely to infuriate liberal leaders of the Episcopal Church, who will see it as an attempt to undermine their authority and interfere in their affairs. Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, the head of the Episcopal Church, has been cracking down on any diocese or parish that seeks to leave, and numerous legal actions are under way. She and her colleagues have already rejected similar proposals suggested at a meeting in Tanzania last year of all the primates, the leaders of the 38 independent Churches that constitute the Anglican Communion.

However, she met a group of conservative bishops and theologians in New York last week after hearing that Dr Williams was sympathetic to the new proposals. Dr Williams, whose leadership has been under growing attack from conservatives, has been privately encouraging such a development for a number of years. So far, however, he has failed to broker a deal with Bishop Jefferts Schori, a feminist who backed the 2003 consecration of Gene Robinson as Anglicanism’s first openly gay bishop. With several hundred of the world’s 880 bishops expected to boycott the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, a schism is looking inevitable unless Dr Williams can paper over the cracks.

Lambeth Palace declined to comment.

It would be great if it happens, but somehow I doubt it will.

Sandy Grant rocks!

The Lambeth Conference is a series of meetings, held every ten years since 1867, where the bishops of the world’s Anglican churches meet to discuss canon law, theology, and matters of church doctrine. Although the conference has no “official powers” to order any changes in any of the communion churches, the Lambeth Conference is nevertheless so important that the gathering is considered to be one of the four “Instruments of Communion” of the Anglican Church.

As you probably know from my blog (or elsewhere), the Anglican Church is rapidly heading towards schism. With the 2008 Lambeth Conference rapidly approaching, several conservative bishops, outraged that the Archbishop of Canterbury would invite to the conference controversial bishops from North America at such a delicate time, have decided to “break off” and hold their own conference, the Global Anglican Future Conference, or GAFCON for short.

As you might guess, this has has really angered the liberal bishops of the church. Bishop Brian Farran, of the Diocese of Newcastle (Australia) penned this “open letter” (which is actually targeted towards Peter Jensen, the Archbishop of Sydney) in response to Jensen’s decision to attend GAFCON. Farran’s letter is absolutely frightening for the sheer amount of Newspeak which it contains. I’ll let the you read Farran’s letter yourself, because Sandy Grant, rector of St Michael’s Anglican Cathedral, Wollongong (Sydney) has written an incredible “open letter” to Farran in return. I’ve excerpted the best parts below:

Firstly, there is a surprising reliance on pejorative language in a letter where you commend “grace” and “respectful exploration” and “conversation” regarding the issues being debated. So that others can assess for themselves, I will simply list the descriptors used to characterise the position of the Global South conservatives with whom you disagree:

  • “one-dimensional conference” (of GAFCON),
  • “forensic theology… bordering on legalism”,
  • “narrow template of biblicism… applied relentlessly”,
  • “self-declared orthodoxy”,
  • “wedge theology”,
  • “strategy of division and exclusion”,
  • “corrosive strategy”,
  • “rigidity” (of interpretive methodology),
  • “impositional mind-set”,
  • “police-state approach”.

An argument could easily be made that every single one of those phrases is either begs the question or is inaccurate or at the least misleading and overblown. It is certainly highly pejorative. That is your choice. And one can understand slipping into some such language in the height of a live debate. But in a settled public statement from a bishop in God’s church, is this really the language that will aid the gracious and respectful conversation you desire?

Secondly, I was amazed by your choice to describe the Global South’s position as the “pursuit of the homosexual agenda”. For a start, it would be more accurate to describe the conservative position as the “heterosexual marriage agenda”. (Your ‘spin’ seems akin to describing the Liberal Party as having a ‘union agenda’.)

More important than the label though, is the fact that conservatives have not especially sought to raise the matter of homosexual marriage or ordination in the Anglican Communion. Rather it has been persistently pushed by those on the more liberal wing of the Communion. Conservatives have reluctantly responded because of their deep convictions in regards to the threat to faithfulness to what we see as the plain and consistent reading of God’s Holy Word, the Bible.

I also note that by and large – to my knowledge – it has been liberals who have locked conservative parishes out of their church buildings and deposed conservative clergy via legal action. Would that be at all analogous to a “strategy of exclusion” or a “police-state approach”?

What an awesome response! Read the rest of Rev. Grant’s letter here.

The Archbishop is Crazy!

Rowan Williams is the Archbishop of Canterbury. As such, he is the head of the Church of England and the “spiritual head” of the Anglican Communion, the third largest Christan denomination in the world after Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox Church. He should know better than to make silly comments in public, but on February 7th, Dr Williams told an interviewer on BBC Radio 4’s “World at One” show that “that the UK has to ‘face up to the fact’ that some of its citizens do not relate to the British legal system” and that “adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law would help maintain social cohesion”. Allow me to repeat that: the Archbishop of Canterbury said that Britain should adapt some parts of Sharia law to “help maintain social cohesion”.

I simply can’t believe that anyone would think this, much less the head of the Church of England. In my mind I had written an lengthy rejoinder to the Archbishop’s ramblings, but I simply couldn’t come up with anything eloquent enough. I do have some specific issues that I’d like to bring up, however.

The first has to do with the “slippery slope” theory. If the Archbishop feels so strongly about adopting parts of Sharia law… why stop there? Why not bring back ecclesiastical courts for Christians? Why not set up Beth din courts for Jews? There are a lot of Indians living in Britain, so why appease only those of the Islamic faith? Set up some Hindu courts for the others. And hey, while we’re at it, why not set up courts for Sikhs and Buddhists too? Hell, in a recent government census, 390,127 Britons listed “Jedi” as their religion (which would make the “Jedi Religion” more popular than Sikhism, Judaism, and Buddhism in the UK); I’m sure that the British government could work out some kind of licensing deal with Lucasfilm to allow the creation of “Jedi Courts” in the UK. I’m getting a bit silly here, but the point remains: where does one draw the line? Muslim extremists in the UK would want everything to be done in Sharia courts, which leads me to my second point…

Equal Protection Under The Law. In the United States of America, part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution provides that “no state shall… deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws“. As Wikipedia notes, this amendment was “an attempt to secure the promise of the United States’ professed commitment to the [Declaration of Independence’s] proposition that ‘all men are created equal’ by empowering the judiciary to enforce that principle against the states”. What this means (in theory) is that no state can have any law that selectively targets one group over another. An American state cannot, for example, have a law which states that “people of European decent are immune to the death penalty for murder; all other people are subject to the death penalty for such a crime”. In practice, this is somewhat more complex. For example, at the height of the “crack cocaine” epidemic in the mid 1980s, many states passed laws severely punishing the possession and\or sale of crack cocaine. Since lower-class blacks were far more likely to use crack than middle-class whites, many civil rights leaders said that those laws were unconstitutional.

At any rate, although equal protection cases are usually quite complex, the end result of the 14th Amendment is that everyone is to be treated equally under the law. Although Britain has no 14th Amendment, common law dictates that it should be so in the absence of a written law. And what the adoption of Sharia law would do is absolutely destroy any semblance of equal protection in the United Kingdom. Rights that took a thousand years to obtain are simply to be thrown out the window of Lambeth Palace. A Christian man that strikes his wife might be sentenced to six months in jail; a Muslim man, facing the same charges in a misogynistic Sharia court, might have his case dropped completely. One law for Muslims, another for everyone else. And that will just not do.

Another reason I didn’t write a much longer article than this is because of this Slate article. It summarizes far better than I ever could the “end result” of the Archbishop’s willingness to accept Sharia law in Britain:

Picture the life of a young Urdu-speaking woman brought to Yorkshire from Pakistan to marry a man – quite possibly a close cousin – whom she has never met. He takes her dowry, beats her, and abuses the children he forces her to bear. She is not allowed to leave the house unless in the company of a male relative and unless she is submissively covered from head to toe. Suppose that she is able to contact one of the few support groups that now exist for the many women in Britain who share her plight. What she ought to be able to say is, “I need the police, and I need the law to be enforced.” But what she will often be told is, “Your problem is better handled within the community.” And those words, almost a death sentence, have now been endorsed and underwritten—and even advocated—by the country’s official spiritual authority.

(If you think that “Honor Crimes” aren’t that big a deal in the UK, I suggest that you read this (PDF) report, which suggests that the “murder and beating of women, genital mutilation, forced marriage, and vigilante methods employed against those who complain” are running rampant in the British Muslim community.)

So – what does the Archbishop think about the issue of “equal protection”? He told the interviewer that

[A]n approach to law which simply said ‘there’s one law for everybody and that’s all there is to be said, and anything else that commands your loyalty or allegiance is completely irrelevant in the processes of the courts’ – I think that’s a bit of a danger.

Once again, let me reiterate that. The Archbishop of Canterbury is suggesting that one secular court system isn’t good enough for modern Britain. It’s hard enough to fathom how a religious leader can feel that way. But take away his chasuble and miter and underneath Williams is an Englishman (well, Welsh actually). And that’s what bothers me the most about all this.

Britain is the country that gave us the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights and common law. The country that gave us trial by jury of our peers, the concept of private property, the right to petition the government and the freedom of the press. The country that gave us Shakespeare, the Authorized Bible and The Book of Common Prayer. The country that gave us Roger Bacon, John Wycliffe, Thomas Moore, Margaret Cavendish, John Locke, Samuel Clarke, David Hume, Thomas Reid, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mill and Herbert Spencer, among others. This is the country that threw off the shackles of Catholicism and fought off the Spanish Armada. Millions of Britons, led by men from Francis Drake to Lord Nelson to the Duke of Wellington to Bernard Montgomery, died in armies and navies freeing people they didn’t know from the tyranny of dictators like Philip II, Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler. This is the country that, despite the stain of colonialism, brought modern education, railroads, telegraphs and medicine to millions of people in India and Africa. This is the country that outlawed slavery in Britain in 1772, outlawed the transport of any slaves on British ships in 1807, and outlawed slavery itself in most of the rest of the British Empire in 1833. In fact, Britain did its damndest to outlaw slavery everywhere on planet Earth at that time. Imagine: one nation using its considerable military and economic might to stop something just because it felt that the practice, however profitable, was morally wrong. Yet somehow the glorious system that created all this just isn’t good enough for Rowan Fucking Williams.

(As an aside, guess which nations were the last to outlaw slavery? Better yet, guess which religion those people were? I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism or Buddhism or Taoism or Paganism or even Atheism).

To give you one last look at the moral distortion field that Williams operates in, noted British\American author and journalist Christopher Hitchens – himself an outspoken atheist and antitheist – discusses in Vanity Fair how ran in to Williams at Café Milano, a fashionable restaurant in Georgetown. I’ll quote Hitchens himself:

The archbishop’s church is about to undergo a schism. More than 10 conservative congregations in Virginia have seceded, along with some African bishops, to protest the ordination of a gay bishop in New England. I ask him how it’s going. “Well”—he lowers his voice—”I’m rather trying to keep my head down.” Well, why, in that case, I want to reply, did you seek a job that supposedly involves moral leadership?

The fact that one of the most famous atheists in the world can see the Archbishop’s failings should give anyone pause, much less anyone who is at all interested in saving the Anglican Communion.


OK, I’ll probably need to translate that headline for ya…

11 Episcopal churches in Virginia voted to leave the Episcopal Church in 2006 and 2007. The Diocese of Virginia initially sought to work with the churches over matters of property, salaries, pension, health insurance, etc. In fact, a commission appointed by the Diocese of Virginia even agreed to a “standstill agreement” with the leaders of the 11 churches, where all parties would cease any legal action against each other while these matters are being worked out.

Virginia has a law (dating back to the Civil War era, I believe) that allows churches that wish to separate from a national body to retain their property (e.g. the church building). If the church wants to follow this path, then they are required by the law to file some papers with their local court. The Diocese of Virginia recognized this, and put exceptions into the standstill agreement that allowed the 11 churches to continue with filings pursuant to this law.

When the “national office” of the Episcopal Church found out about all this, it went ballistic. They’ve filed lawsuits against seemingly everyone involved in this matter: priests, bishops, lawyers… even lay members! The matter was consolidated into a “class action suit” of sorts, and the case is now pending a judgment from Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows.

The news that broke today is that Virginia’s attorney general Bob McDonnell has filed 2 motions in favor of the “breakaway churches”, which have aligned with the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV).

BabyBlue has the complete scoop here.

BREAKING NEWS: San Joaquin leaves ECUSA

It’s finally happened: an entire diocese of the Episcopal Church has voted to secede from the national church! The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno, California voted overwhelmingly to leave the national church on Saturday. Saturday’s vote was 173-22 in favor of secession, far more than the two-thirds majority required for the measure to pass.

Tensions in the Anglican church began back in the 1970s, when the U.S. church approved the ordination of women. This caused something of an exodus from the church, and led to the formation of a patchwork of “affiliated Anglican” churches. However, the national church’s liberal stance in recent years has accelerated the schism – especially after the 2003 consecration of openly-gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire… the first openly-gay bishop in the 500 year history of the Anglican church in particular and 2000 years of the “Church Catholic” in general.

The worldwide Anglican communion – the third largest Christian denomination after Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy – has almost 80 million members. It may come as a surprise to many, but most of these members are in former British colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. And these folks tend to hold deeply conservative religious views. Which puts them at odds with the more liberal churches in the US, Canada and the UK. And unlike the Roman church, which is headed by an all-powerful pope and the College of Cardinals, the Anglican communion works by consensus. With the numbers favoring the conservatives in the “Global South”, the US church is stuck between a rock and a hard place. If the ECUSA pushes too far to the left, they risk being voted out of the communion. However, the ECUSA has painted itself into a “liberal corner” with the ordination of Robinson, so it has no way to back down. In recent years, 32 of the ECUSA’s 7,600 congregations had left the communion, and 23 others have voted to leave, but have not yet done so (typically, most congregations vote twice on the issue: once, and then again a year later). San Joaquin’s actions today not only removes 47 churches in 14 counties from the ECUSA, it also removes an entire diocese from ECUSA control.

Expect a lot of court battles in the near future over San Joaquin’s property. The individual churches will claim that they were built using local money, while the ECUSA will claim that it owns the 47 church buildings. Interestingly, two of the oldest Anglican churches in Virginia voted to secede from the ECUSA last year: Truro Church in Fairfax City and The Falls Church in Falls Church. Both churches date from the 1700s and both predate the founding of the ECUSA. While arcane discussions of colonial-era law don’t apply to San Joaquin, it will be interesting to see how these issues are played out, especially next year, when the dioceses of Pittsburgh and Fort Worth vote on similar secession resolutions.

Read more here.

Of the Ecclesia Anglicana

Part 1 in a continuing series about the Anglican faith.

The “Anglican Church” is a collection of churches worldwide that are “in communion” with the See of Canterbury (The Church of England). How the Church of England came to be is an exciting story in itself.

It’s a common mistake that is repeated in textbooks and classrooms everywhere: most of us were taught that England’s King Henry VIII wanted to get a divorce from his wife Katherine of Aragon. The truth is, Henry sought an annulment from her. In case you don’t know the difference, a divorce is a legal instrument that ends a marriage but an annulment is a legal declaration that a valid marriage never took place. Back in Henry’s day, it was quite common for the Roman Catholic Church to grant such annulments – especially for Europe’s royal families.

Continue reading “Of the Ecclesia Anglicana”