There is No Religious Test for President

Timothy Dolan, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Ne...
Timothy Dolan, Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The day after evangelical pastor Rick Warren said that his followers would have trouble voting for Mitt Romney because Mormons do not believe in the Trinity, Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Sunday on Face the Nation that Republican front-runner Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith should not be an issue in the presidential campaign.

There may be reasons not to vote for Mitt Romney as president of the United States. That he’s a Mormon cannot be one of them.“I don’t think Catholics would have any problem voting for a Mormon at all.”                      —Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York

Dolan has reminded his followers that it was not too many years ago that Catholics felt the sting of such discrimination in the election of 1960 that saw John F. Kennedy win the presidency.  During the Republican primary season dominated by conservatives, Romney’s religion has been a recurring subplot in the strategy of his opponents.

For Cardinal Dolan to called out the discrimination for what it is was admirable, but it was also subtle, delicious political payback for President Obama’s action to force the church to support health care practices in opposition to its teaching.  The Cardinal is reminding the White House that the church is not without its influence in these matters .

Dolan brought up religion us prejudice in a speech to the Jewish Anti-Defamation League when he was asked how the Jewish and Catholic communities could cooperate better. He got a standing ovation after he told them

we Catholics and we Jews have felt the sting of the other side. And now, one of the ways we can cooperate is to see that religious prejudice, religious bigotry doesn’t enter the campaign.”

Archbishop of Canturbury Rowan Williams Calls it Quits

Dr Rowan Williams PC, DPhil, DD, FBA the 104th...
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The Archbishop of Canterbury announced March 17, 2012 that he would step down at the end of 2012 and go back to academia as Master of Magdalene College in Cambridge, England.  The ABC has had a tough ride since he was appointed by former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2002.

We rebellious Americans insisted upon being inclusive infuriating the traditional Africans who are anything but.  Williams tried to make peace in the Anglican Communion but succeeded only in exacerbating the problem by fuzzing up the boundaries of what an independent church may do and still be part of the Communion.  The Anglican Covenant solved none of the problems but has undermined the fundamental principles of the Communion itself with its meddling and two class membership.  No wonder it has met with unenthusiastic response and perhaps with Williams retirement the Covenant will also go back to academia.

At the ends of the process the appointment of an Archbishop of Canterbury is a political matter.  This is a hot potato Prime Minister Cameron probably also wishes would go away.  So expect a deliberate selection process designed to find the least worst outcome.

We wish Rowan Williams well in retirement.  He certainly is entitled to a little peace.

Anglican Covenant Rejected at DioCal Convention

Seal of the Diocese of California
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The 162nd Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of California rejected the Anglican Covenant by a wide margin October 23rd.  This was not a surprise since sentiment against the Covenant has run strong and deep since it was first unveiled.  But there was a holy and healthy peace about the decision and a sense of sadness that the debate had produced such acrimony across the Communion.

The Anglican Communion was formed as a freewill association of independent churches sharing the common faith foundation from the mother Anglican Church of England.  But America fought a revolution for its independence from England and has thrived for the past two centuries quite well on its own.  America democratized the church with the invention of the Standing Committee.

While the Episcopal Church of the US clearly wants to remain in communion with the other Anglican Communion members, we are not prepared to sacrifice our independence or subordinate ourselves to a Standing Committee other than our own.  Such a price is too high to pay—-and worse such a price is too high to even have the audacity to ask for.  So the logical answer is no thank you.

In a world full of intolerance, the message from the Diocese of California is clear and unmistakable: 

EVERYONE who loves God and seeks Christ is welcome at our table where we come together to find renewal, hope and unconditional love.


In Iran, Yousef Nadarkhani became a Christian as a teenager.  Later he became a pastor of a Christian Church.

Wonderful, you say?  Not in Islamic Iran.

Yousef was arrested in 2009 and now is under a death sentence charged with apostasy unless he recants his faith.  So says the Supreme Court of Iran.

The story in Freedom’s Lighthouse says he is unlikely to do so.

Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran says, “Most churches in Iran operate with some degree of secrecy. They operate in homes. People take their batteries out of their cell phones and leave them at the door. They show up at random times so as to avoid the appearance of a crowd filing in. The current government sees them as a threat.”

At this writing we do not know the fate of this fellow Christian, but we do know this.  As one of the great monotheistic religions we share with Islam a belief in God whether he is called Allah or another name according to the faith tradition.  It seems unbelievable that this oneness with God could result in such an un-holy profession of faith.

It is this intolerance that sets Islam apart from the rest of the world’s believers, and it is right that such intolerance should be condemned for what it is.

New Zealand Maori Diocese Rejects Covenant

Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and P...
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Reprinted from Thinking Anglicans:

New Zealand Maori diocese rejects Covenant

The central North Island hui amorangi (Maori diocese) of Te Manawa o Te Wheke has become the first New Zealand episcopal unit to formally give the thumbs-down to the proposed Anglican covenant.

Read more about this at Manawa o Te Wheke rejects Anglican covenant.

The text of the motion passed unanimously:

That Te Hui Amorangi o Te Manawa o Te Wheke, for the purpose of providing feedback to Te Hinota Whanui/ General Synod, states its opposition to The Anglican Covenant for the following reasons:

  • After much consideration this Amorangi feels that The Anglican Covenant will threaten the Rangatiratanga of the Tangata Whenua.
  • We believe The Anglican Covenant does not reflect our understanding of being Anglican in these islands.
  • We would like this Church to focus on the restoration of justice to Te Tiriti o Waitangi which Tangata Whenua signed and currently do not have what they signed for.

There are five [Maori] hui amorangi. Any motion must gain a majority in all three Tikanga (Maori, Pakeha, and Polynesia) and three hui amorangi constitute a majority in Tikanga Maori. So two further similar votes would cause the Covenant to be “dead in the water” in New Zealand.

Peter Carrell has written Dead Duck Covenant?

Bosco Peters has written Maori vote against Covenant

…Since 1992, the Constitution of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia provides for three Tikanga (cultural streams) partners to order their affairs within their own cultural context: Tikanga Maori (the indigenous people of Aotearoa-New Zealand); Tikanga Pakeha (those here by virtue of te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi); Tikanga Pasefika (encompassing the episcopal units of Polynesia in New Zealand, Vanua Levu and Taveuni, and Viti Levu West, and the Archdeaconries of Suva and Ovalau, Samoa and American Samoa, and Tonga).

When significant decisions are made at te Hinota Whanui/General Synod, as with other Anglican Provinces, there must be agreement across all houses – here those are the house of bishops, clergy, and laity. There must also be agreement across all Tikanga. In other words, even if Tikanga Pakeha and Tikanga Pasefica are in majority agreement in favour of the Covenant, if Tikanga Maori votes against the Covenant, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia would be saying no to the Covenant…”

Anglican Covenant: Hobson ’s Choice or Sophie’s Choice?

Cranmer's Prayer book of 1552.
Cranmer's 1552 BCP
At the Contra Costa Deanery meeting this week we had a useful presentation on the Anglican covenant and lively discussion around the tables about whether the Episcopal Church of the US should agree to the covenant.

I have written about the Anglican Covenant several times and you can find those posts in the category called “Church Politics” for that is exactly what this is pure and simple.

The decision we face is a Hobson’s Choice:

Do we want to be in “communion” with the other Anglican churches of the world so much that we are willing to give up the sovereignty of our national Episcopal Church of the US, subject our faith values and practices to the will of an international Anglican Communion Standing Committee and other bodies mostly made up of member provinces that have already told us we are sinners for our beliefs and our actions border on apostasy.

This is a little like turning over the authority of the US Congress to the UN General Assembly and hoping for the best.

We empathize with the problems of the African bishops and provinces facing the growth of Islam putting pressure on them to move their philosophy and rules of behavior closer to those of the Muslim majorities in their countries.

We recognize that some bishops and provinces such as Mexico find themselves in the minority and signing onto the Anglican covenant brings them closer to the views expressed by the majority Roman Catholic Church.

The question is whether the Anglican Covenant is a Sophie’s Choice?

Sophie’s Choice in the movie was to choose which child to sacrifice and which to save.  By choosing one the other would die.  The question we face is whether the Anglican Covenant so corrupts the principles of the communion that it has the practical effect of undermining the very faith foundation of the Episcopal Church in the US and others.

In the US we already face a 40 year trend in declining participation among the mainline Protestant religions.  Will adding more controversy and division in the life of the church improve our attractiveness to the unchurched and underserved?

The Genius of the Book of Common Prayer

The answer to our problems lies in the history of the Anglican Church.  Just as at the time of the split with Rome, the church faced divisions and uncertainty.  The differences were healed by allowing the people of the church to pray over them and instead come together around Archbishop Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer which celebrated our oneness in the love of Christ, in the ritual of the Eucharist and in the Easter of our shared future.

Just as it was not necessary to resolve every difference in the time of Cranmer so it is not necessary to resolve our differences in such a win-lose way today.

For me the answer is simple.

We cannot be the Body of Christ in the Episcopal Church of the US if we abandon our independence, subject our values to a veto by a foreign church and leaders with different values, or abandon our faith tradition in the genius of the Book of Common Prayer.

We cannot be the Body of Christ for the people of God in our midst if we exclude and vilify those of difference instead of loving and welcoming them to the table where all who love God and seek Christ are welcome.

We cannot be the Body of Christ in America if we abandon the principles of independence, freedom of speech, religion, the press and association that are the foundation of our nation and the reason we broke away in our own revolution—an independent church able to call our own bishops, raise up our own priests and preach the Good News to any who walks through our doors to receive it.

If we abandon these things for the sake of being in communion with those who do not respect our rights, our faith values and our liberty then we will end up with buildings but no soul.

Just say no!

Science, Religion and Politics: How to Heat-Up Coffee Hour Happy Talk

500 million year record shows current and prev...
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I recently stumbled upon this fascinating blog post by Richard Stuebi writing in the cleantech blog which I recommend to you as food for thought in the relationship between religion and the debate over climate change.

by Richard T. Stuebi

A fascinating article in Slate noted that 55% of scientists in the U.S. are Democrats, as opposed to 6% Republicans (with the remainder being independents or “don’t know”).  Since most Democrats favor action on climate change, so do most scientists.

The implication, as the Slate article says:  ”the results of climate science, delivered by scientists who are overwhelmingly Democratic, are used over a period of decades to advance a political agenda that happens to align precisely with the ideological preferences of Democrats.  Coincidence — or causation?”

The flip-side of this equation is religion.  Gallup has found that Republicans tend to be more religious than Democrats.  And, Republicans are generally more skeptical about the climate change phenomenon — (1) whether it’s happening at all, (2) even if so, whether human activity is causing it, and (3) even if so, whether it’s worth spending anything more than zero to do anything about it.

It also follows, then, that there is a negative correlation between religious belief and concern about climate change.  Put more simply, the more a person has religious faith, the less a person tends to worry about climate change.

If religious fervor can be quantitatively assessed, then it’s safe to say that evangelicals would get a high score, and it seems to be the case that evangelicals are especially adverse to the climate change issue.

As reported in the New York Times article “An Evangelical Backlash Against Environmentalism”, a non-profit evangelical organization called the Cornwall Alliance calls the environmental movement a “false religion”, and has issued an educational program titled “Resisting the Green Dragon” to warn Christians that the forces of radical environmentalism are seeking tyrannical control over all other beloved institutions such as God and country.

To make matters more confusing, a court in England ruled in 2009 that a belief in climate change can be considered a religion in itself.

With respect to climate change, the “Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming” is well worth reading in its entirety to get a flavor of the position of the Cornwall Alliance.  It’s a far cry from the “creation-care” movement that other less-strident Christians have embraced, using theology as a foundation for planetary stewardship.

It would appear that the ages-old schism between religion and science has therefore appropriated climate change as the newest issue over which to tangle.  Since the two U.S. political parties tend to cleave pretty neatly also alongside the science/religion divide, it makes the climate change debate particularly thorny and hard to untangle in either our churches or our legislatures, since strongly-held beliefs are always more emotionally powerful than facts.