Anglican Samizdat

April 26, 2010

Selected heresies from the Diocese of Niagara

Filed under: Diocese of Niagara — David Jenkins @ 2:27 pm
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Plucked fresh from the May Niagara Anglican:

Jesus is not God:

St. George’s, Guelph, is a free thinking church, where dissent from the faith is permitted, if not encouraged. Everything is open to debate, including the divinity of Christ and the Trinity.

Man is not sinful:

Reservations of St. Augustine’s theology, especially that part which described “humankind as a mass of corruption and sin, or looked upon the world as irredeemably evil.”

The Good News is temporal and unrelated to Jesus atoning for our sins, salvation or eternal life:

“To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom”…. The Marks of Mission invite the church to begin our ministry where Jesus began his, with proclamation that another way—the kingdom of heaven, the reign of God, a New Creation—has become an available choice within history, and not just a hope for the eternal future.

Jesus is not unique; all religions lead to the same place:

Who’s in charge? No one person or religion, and that’s fine. Let’s work with other religions as a global force doing God’s work and let’s allow our traditional rivalries to die away……

Recently a cartoon was printed of a wall dividing a dry desert from a luscious garden with every fruit tree imaginable in it. In the wall were two gateways; one with “Right Religion” over it, the other with “Wrong Religion.” Everyone, of all races and tribes were clamoring to enter the one marked “Right Religion,” but no one the one labeled “Wrong Religion.” Above were God and some angels. The caption read, “It’s too bad that they just don’t get it.”

Jesus was a heretic and but a caricature of God:

But we do see Jesus, the greatest heretic of all time, but the truest manifestation, or caricature, of God we’ve got, or will ever get.

Faith is shaped not by objective truth, but by experience:

There’s no part of the faith that’s so sacrosanct that it cannot, or should not, be questioned, pulled apart, and put back together again. Faith is not like the multiplication tables. We may question whether six times seven is the same as seven times six, which equals forty two; but it won’t change, no matter how we look at it.


The Diocese of Niagara has something to be proud of

Filed under: Diocese of Niagara,Nothing in Particular — David Jenkins @ 1:13 pm

The Anglican Church of Canada is shrinking faster than a haemorrhoid in an argon laser. Consequently, the dioceses of B. C., Toronto, Rupert’s Land, Ottawa, Ontario and Huron (and Montreal) are “restructuring” in order to survive with fewer people. This, of course, is a euphemism for closing parishes.

I just received an email from a friend in the Diocese of Rupert’s Land who was very excited by the fact that a committee of the Synod will be looking at the vitality and viability of all the parishes in the diocese. This follows on the news of the completed Diocese of B. C. study that called for the closure of some parishes and restructuring of others. The Diocese of Toronto has a strategic plan in the making, Ottawa, Ontario and Huron as well as others I may not know about.

The Diocese of Niagara, however, during the diabolarchy of its last three bishops, has been clever enough to anticipate fleeing parishioners and has been closing churches in advance. Bravo the Diocese of Niagara!

This is simply to illustrate that in light of declining membership and resources in many dioceses the leadership is taking a hard look at the future, most have decided to create a “grand plan”. We in Niagara have taken a slightly different approach and under the leadership of the Bishops Asbil, Spence and Bird and the support of Synod Councils over the years, we have been closing and amalgamating parishes at a pace that makes us the Canadian leaders in restructuring for mission in a changing context.

This technique has been so successful, it is to be exported:

Our Synod has been so successful in our approaches to these issues that the writer and other members of the Mission Strategy Committee have been asked to present our methods to other Diocesan leaders across Canada and the United States.

The whole thing is based on relationship and trust:

This respect leads to relationship which leads to trust and finally a mutual understanding of what the next steps in ministry may need to be.

And doing things the Niagara Way:

What is more it all seems to be very much our “Niagara Way”.

April 6, 2010

The Anglican Peace and Justice Network calls for setting aside “internal divisions”

Filed under: Diocese of Niagara — David Jenkins @ 3:33 pm
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From the Anglican Journal:

Anglican churches should set aside their internal divisions and be sensitive to the needs and struggles of people in societies worldwide, an international body representing various provinces of the Anglican Communion has urged.

The call was made by delegates to the triennial meeting of the Anglican Peace and Justice Network (APJN), which met March 14 to 20 in Geneva.
The APJN also urged member provinces of the Communion to “incorporate issues of justice into missional work and into theological education at every level.”

A network of the Communion, the APJN is the vehicle by which Anglicans around the world collectively advocate for global peace and justice issues. Now in its 25th year, the APJN is composed of representatives from about 24 active provinces of the Communion.

Since the Diocese of Niagara is hosting the fun-filled Justice Camp in May, this must mean that Bi$hop Michael Bird is going to set aside his differences with the three Niagara ANiC parishes and stop suing them; right Mike?

April 1, 2010

Diocese of Niagara gives buildings to ANiC

Filed under: April 1 — David Jenkins @ 12:14 am

After a time of discernment, Bishop Michael Bird has realised that the Diocese of Niagara has absolutely no use for the buildings that are presently part of a legal dispute between the diocese and ANiC. In keeping with Living the Vision, prophetic social justice making and pursuing excellence, Bishop Bird has come to understand that the Christian thing to do is to immediately stop all legal proceedings against St. George’s Lowville, St. Hilda’s Oakville and Church of the Good Shepherd St. Catharines.

The diocese will also fulfil the promise made to St. Hilda’s in 1965 and pave its parking lot.

March 24, 2010

Why the Diocese of Niagara doesn’t evangelise

Filed under: Diocese of Niagara — David Jenkins @ 1:31 pm

The Diocese of Niagara may not have a mission, but it does have a Mission Strategy Committee. According to one of its members, (page 1 here) bold steps are needed to pull the Niagara diocese out of what even the most optimistic are seeing as a slump.

In case anyone is labouring under the misapprehension that Niagara’s malaise is rooted in a liberal drift away from Christianity towards an amalgam of neo-paganism, Gaia worship and Unitarianism and that to speak to a non-believer about this is simply too embarrassing, Andy Kalbfleisch sets us straight. The people of Diocese of Niagara keep quiet about their beliefs because to do otherwise might expose them as aggressive right-wingers – this ever present danger is a constant worry for the diocese:

The growth of, dare I say, aggressive right wing evangelical denominations, have made us fearful of being coloured with the same brush when we speak about mission and discipleship. We want to be seen and heard as promoting a God of love instead of a God of fear. So it’s much easier to forget or push to the margins of our church experience, actions and strategies about mission and discipleship. Instead we may engage aggressively in important, but peripheral activities that serve God but that may not spread His word in the manner of first century Christians.

Bishop Michael Bird’s Easter message: Christ is risen

Filed under: Diocese of Niagara — David Jenkins @ 9:25 am

Now, over to Lambeth and, to the the accompaniment of Pachelbel’s Canon, let’s talk about sodomy – not forgetting Deepening Relationships, Context for Ministry and Theological Interpretations. All the borborygmus that one has come to expect from the decaying corpse that was once a church.

March 13, 2010

Diocese of Niagara: Michael Bird’s charge to synod

Filed under: Diocese of Niagara — David Jenkins @ 12:22 pm
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Bishop Michael Bird thinks the old way of doing things in the church – those boring old beliefs that have been the cornerstone of Christianity for 2 millennia – don’t work any more. The bright new future for the Diocese of Niagara lies in its pursuit of social justice. What a surprise.

Harvey Cox’s new book: “The Future of Faith” divides the Church’s history into three distinct periods: the age of faith, the age of belief and the age of the spirit. He states that “Christianity, which began as a movement of Spirit guided by faith, soon clotted into a catalog of beliefs administered by a clerical class. But now due to a number of different factors, the process is being reversed. Faith is resurgent, while dogma is dying. The spiritual, communal, and justice-seeking dimensions of Christianity are now its leading edge as the twenty-first century hurtles forward, and this change is taking place along with similar reformations in other world religions.”

[I]f it is true that faith is resurgent and that the spiritual, communal, and justice-seeking dimensions of Christianity are now its leading edge …. then we have a choice to make as we continue to be the people of God in this moment in our life as a diocese and as a church: to live in denial and just spend more money and work harder and harder doing what we have been doing … or we can begin to ride the wave that is emerging and moving across our diocese; an exciting and inspiring movement of the spirit that is calling for us to tap into this resurgence of faith and to find new and innovative ways to be the bearers of God’s transforming love in the world and to participate fully in the missionary initiative that comes from God alone.

Bird is ready to ride the wave as he hurtles forward in anticipation of the Great Emergence of a new reformation:

I want to say to you, having travelled around the Diocese and talking very personally to the people of Niagara for the last several months, that the signs of this “Great Emergence” and this next reformation are beginning to appear!

And to demonstrate he means business, Bird has even learned to use an iPod – there aren’t many people who can do that – and listened to a 1993 song by Sting from whom he has drawn inspiration:

You could say I lost my faith in science and progress
You could say I lost my belief in the holy church
You could say I lost my sense of direction
You could say all of this and worse

Bird is one hip bishop.

March 12, 2010

Canadian Anglicans Widening the Circle

Filed under: Anglican Church of Canada — David Jenkins @ 12:04 pm
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The Diocese of Niagara is advertising the Widening Circle Conference 2010, apparently, because orthodox Anglicanism is inclusive and diverse.

In case anyone has any doubt about what that really means:

We are joining together:
1. to take a stand against making the doctrine and discipline of our national church subservient to the Primates of the Anglican Communion through a proposed Anglican Covenant; and
2. to resist a narrow and exclusive version of Anglicanism, expressed in our own country as resistance to the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church.

I bet that was a surprise.

As is this:

We welcome the resolutions of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada affirming the full equality of gays and lesbians, and the “integrity and sanctity” of their intimate relationships. We believe that this affirmation must be translated into concrete acts of contrition for past wrongs, and full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church.  In the absence of such acts, the church is existing in a state of unholy hypocrisy.

And this:

We call on the House of Bishops to lift the moratorium on the blessing of same-sex unions.

Just how wide is this Circle. Not that wide, it seems:

Other provinces, mind your own business:

We uphold the autonomy of the provinces of the Anglican Communion to adjudicate, elaborate, and specify questions of doctrine as they emerge in their unique cultural contexts from time-to-time.  We expect these doctrinal decisions to be reached by synods or other established councils of the church, in the form of canon law and authorised liturgies.

Rowan Williams, mind your own business:

We appreciate the historic place of the Archbishop of Canterbury as a symbol of unity, while affirming that his juridical authority is restricted to that primatial See.

Primates, mind your own business:

We recognise the role of the Lambeth Conference and the international Primates’ meetings as occasions for our episcopal and primatial leaders to engage in mutual reflection; but we reject any notion that such voluntary gatherings should exercise juridical authority.

We don’t care what any of you think, we make up are own rules, so there:

We affirm that every Christian has the right, through baptism, to judge questions of faith, and to contribute to ongoing dialogue within communities of faith and in the councils of the church. The free exercise of this responsibility is necessary in order to maintain the integrity, constancy, and truth of the faith.

February 26, 2010

Diocese of Niagara: chipping away at the divinity of Jesus

Filed under: Diocese of Niagara — David Jenkins @ 5:52 pm

The diocesan newspaper is a beacon of enlightenment – on how Niagara got to where it is today:

A friend recently asked me, out of the blue, “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?” I could have simply said, “Yes,” but hesitated instead.

Of course you did: why build faith when you can sow doubt. This is, after all, what Western Anglicans mean by Evangelism.

Why? I felt that it was a simple question to which I should, as a Christian, have an immediate and satisfactory answer. Racing through my head, however, were various interpretations of these words, some more valid than others. Furthermore, what answer would be most useful to my friend at her stage of questioning? Other progressive Christians joke about being labeled heretic.

Being labelled a heretic in the Diocese of Niagara is no joke: it is a condition of employment.

Back to the question of the identity of Jesus. He called himself “the Son of Man,” a more modest label than “Son of God.” Like “Messiah,” with its overtly warlike associations, “Son of God” was an aggressive, politically loaded term from the Old Testament that some of Jesus’ followers must have pressured him to claim. They also called him “Teacher,” “Rabbi,” and “Lord.” The Christian Church has used all these titles as well as “Christ” and “Emmanuel.”

First we employ Anglican bafflegab and confuse the issue of Jesus’ divinity by focussing on the irrelevant: warlike associations and aggressive, politically loaded term[s].

By the time I had realized that this information was merely the tiniest corner of the scholarship on the topic, days had passed. I began to consider that the key word in my friend’s question was “believe.” That posed a second challenge. Have I any business expressing my ideas let alone my beliefs if I do not believe in Jesus in an orthodox way?

Then clinch the muddle by casting doubt on the meaning of common words: in this instance believe.

This is a variation on the Nicene Creed debate. Many church leaders have stopped reciting it during church services because they can no longer believe it to be literally true. No wonder many loyal Anglicans feel torn! Another friend said recently, “I like to recite the Creeds because they remind me of what I believe. If I throw out these beliefs, which I realize are limited in terms of common sense, it’s like jumping from the familiar into the unknown and I don’t know where I’ll land.”

And the coup de gras: almost no-one in the Anglican Church of Canada believes the Creed any more; if you do happen to find yourself in a parish that defies common sense and still says, “Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father”, you can always cross your fingers.

As Søren Kierkegaard, the early 19th century Danish theologian, put it, to be a Christian requires a leap to faith because of the logical absurdity inherent in orthodoxy. How else, for example, can we assert that Jesus is both God and man when our rational minds say that this, let alone the doctrine of the Trinity, doesn’t make sense? To take a leap to faith requires a leap of faith. The pervasive 20th century response to the claims of religion was the existential despair of nihilism.

It’s just as well Kierkegaard is no longer with us since he spent much of his life inveighing against clergy who lived lives contrary to their professed beliefs. His solution to this hypocrisy was for the clergy to live up to their beliefs; the contemporary Anglican solution is for the clergy to abandon them.

I called my friend and gave her my rather long answer to her question about my belief in Jesus as the Son of God. She said, “Oh, really, I didn’t know it was so complicated! I’m sorry to put you to all this bother. What matters to me is not right or wrong theology but that we are friends!” As Paul put it, “if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

Jesus’ divinity is mysterious; it only becomes complicated to those who don’t believe in it.

“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus seems to have been pleased by Peter’s prompt response: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Two millennia later, the question, “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?” should not be asked as a test of orthodoxy. It deserves an answer only if asked in the spirit of friendship.

Who needs a test of orthodoxy? Not the Diocese of Niagara.

February 14, 2010

Poverty reduction in the Diocese of Niagara

Filed under: Diocese of Niagara — David Jenkins @ 5:04 pm

Here is a letter from Bishop Michael Bird to the Hon. Deb Matthews, June 2008:

Bishop Michael Bird, Anglican Diocese of Niagara

“In the short term, we realize that charity and compassion are essential when people are suffering and we will continue to respond to the needs of our neighbours. But for too long, faith and community groups , individuals, volunteers and social service agencies and ministries have carried a disproportionate load in meeting the needs of individuals at the local community level . . .
We recognize that we all have a role to play to reduce poverty, however, only government can accomplish the structural change to law, programs and policies that are essential for a successful poverty reduction strategy. Only government can re- allocate the resources of society more equitably through its regulatory and taxing powers and increase its funding of social programs.

Please hear our communities call for social justice.”

There you have it: the Diocese of Niagara’s plan to reduce poverty is government enforced wealth redistribution. Hasn’t that been tried before?  Oh yes:

Add an Image

February 1, 2010

Justice Camp

Filed under: Diocese of Niagara — David Jenkins @ 10:55 pm

Perhaps it is just me, but the words “Justice Camp” evoke thoughts of an Orwellian oligarchical collectivist nightmare-utopia, replete with mind control, the Ministry of Truth, Big Brother and the dreaded room 101.

Either that or something that the Diocese of Niagara enjoys holding. As Archdeacon Michael Patterson points out, Justice Camp is part of the Vision and combating poverty is vitally important to the Diocese of Niagara:

Our cathedral, for instance, is located in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the entire country. Poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, unemployment are epidemic. If we were to be preoccupied with internal matters of survival, we would, in effect, risk closing our doors to these pronounced needs in our communities and at our doorsteps.

It may not have occurred to Michael Patterson, but if the diocese would simply close the cathedral, those driven to mental instability by its mere presence would soon heal and there would be much less poverty, drug abuse and homelessness; and the proceeds of the sale could go to assisting in their speedy recovery. Too obvious, I suppose.

The Diocese of Niagara: Rev. Susan Wells and the art of victimhood

Filed under: Diocese of Niagara — David Jenkins @ 4:09 pm

A recent agreement between the Diocese of Niagara and three of the Niagara parishes that chose to leave the diocese and align with the Southern Cone, gives two of the ANiC parishes exclusive use of their buildings for up to two years and the diocese exclusive use of St. George’s for up to two years – or until the property dispute is legally settled.

After one gruesome Sunday when the diocese brought in faux-congregations to each parish, an interim court ruling in February 2008 gave the ANiC parishioners full use of their buildings. Since the parishioners had such a strong disagreement with the diocese, the judge ruled that it was unreasonable to expect the parishes to share the building.

A court ruling in May 2008 overturned the temporary ruling and gave the diocese use of the buildings between 7:00 am and 10:00 am on Sundays and ANiC the use of the buildings for the rest of the day. Taking into consideration the first disastrous attempt at sharing the buildings and the fact that service times overlapped with the diocese, the parishioners who voted to realign – a large majority for each parish – decided to find other accommodations for their Sunday morning worship. In effect, most of the parishioners were ejected from their buildings on Sunday morning.

The diocese quickly discovered that two of the parishes had non-viable congregations; the third, St. George’s had a small congregation. Whether it will be viable in the long run seems doubtful, since the Diocese of BC has concluded that it is not financially feasible to keep parishes with less than 150 people open. There is little reason to suppose Niagara will be different, but the diocese is determined to put on a show, and Rev. Susan Wells is part of that show. Here is her version of events:

Since February 2008, the parishioners of St. George’s, Lowville have felt like they have been in a state of chaos, much like the people of Israel did when they were wandering in the desert. In fact, after a service on February 24, 2008, presided over by our Bishop Michael, the parish was exiled.

We lost all access to our church. For the next several months, we held services first in an old school house with no running water and then, thanks to the generosity of the good people of Lowville United Church, were able to hold our services in their church.

Then, in May of 2008, a court ruling allowed us back into our church but only for 10 hours a week.

Although, it was great to be back, you can probably imagine how difficult it was to do the work of a parish and maintain the building in only ten hours a week. (The other people, who had chosen to leave the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC), had control of the building the rest of the time but, for whatever reason, chose not to use the building.) It was discouraging and disheartening to watch this building, built to the glory of God and for the extension of God’s Kingdom here on earth, sit empty. We often felt like we were betraying our 152 year ancestry of serving Christ in our community. That being said, members of the parish continue to be actively involved in ministry in the prison, nursing homes, the hospital and helping with other projects, including the “Walk to Bethlehem”, sponsored by the Milton Area Christian Churches Working Together (MACCWT).

At several levels, our journey felt like we were wandering in the desert, trying to come to terms with what all this meant. Why did friends choose to leave the church (and us), rather than to continue to seek a place within it? Why were we exiled from the building our ancestors built? These past 2 years have given us a chance to deal with our sense of betrayal, desertion and confusion and have given us a chance to heal, to seek Christ in our new situation and to begin to discern what God’s mission is for us. We are “Striving to Service Christ.”

Finally at an arbitration meeting held on December 7, between the Wardens of those who chose to leave the ACC and the Diocese, an agreement was reached changing the way the time in the parishes was allocated and setting down criteria by which expenses would be shared. For St. George’s, this meant that we were granted, full use of our Church building for two years or until the ownership of the building is ultimately determined, whichever comes first and given the recent ruling in BC, there is a possibility that this will be a permanent situation.

It is worth noting the chronology of early events in the parishes that voted to join ANiC:

The vote occurred on Sunday February 17th, 2008

Monday was a holiday.

Tuesday, the diocesan representatives appeared on the doorstep of the parishes to collect the building keys. The parish’s bank accounts were frozen. Papers were delivered to the parishes demanding that the corporations appear in court the following Friday – clearly these had been prepared well in advance.

Wednesday. In order buy time to prepare for the legal onslaught, the ANiC parishes agreed to share the buildings on the following Sunday.

Friday February 29th was the first court appearance when the sharing arrangement was thrown out by the judge (to be re-instated in May).

The Diocese of Niagara acted in a planned, draconian and malicious way; I believe its true intent has always been to destroy the ANiC parishes.

The diocesan administrators have taken Christians to court to gain ownership of buildings for which they have absolutely no use; they have lied in their affidavits, not paid court mandated costs, attempted to seize the personal assets of wardens, tried to seize a rector’s home and lied to their own parishioners by telling them that ANiC instigated the court proceedings.

So Rev. Susan Wells, neither you nor the diocese that employs you is a victim: the panjandrums whose dirty work you carry out are unrepentantly aggressive, rancorous, vindictive and devious.

January 31, 2010

Living the Vision in the Diocese of Niagara

Filed under: Diocese of Niagara — David Jenkins @ 3:07 pm

Like other Anglican Church of Canada dioceses, the Diocese of Niagara is in financial difficulty. Not only are numbers dwindling in its parishes, but whole parishes are departing for ANiC (5 so far), the diocese has to pay close to $400,000 in legal fees for suing departed parishes and now, finally, has to come up with back payments (around $54,000) for its invasion of ANiC parish buildings during the last 2 years.

It isn’t surprising, then, that Bishop Michael Bird is scrounging for cash: he has asked parishes that have not managed to pay their diocesan assessment to take out a line of credit loan – so that the diocese doesn’t have to – to pay their assessment. Since, contrary to common sense, ethical fairness and Christian compassion, Bird has always claimed ownership of the ANiC parishes buildings, he cannot be expecting parishes to use their buildings as security for the lines of credit. In the lawsuits against ANiC, Bird has attempted to lay claim to wardens’ personal assets, so he probably expects corporations to use their personal assets to secure the loans.

Anglican wardens in the Diocese of Niagara are scrambling to transfer all personal property to close relatives and there has been a run on replacement front-door locks.

January 27, 2010

More priests abandon the Diocese of Niagara for ANiC

Filed under: Diocese of Niagara — David Jenkins @ 9:22 pm

Rev. Vicky Hedelius and Rev. St. Clair Cleveland of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Hamilton announced to their congregation last Sunday that they will be leaving the Diocese of Niagara to join ANiC; they will be starting services in St. John’s United (an evangelical church) this coming Sunday. Two thirds of the congregation has gone with them. They turned in their licenses on Monday morning and were immediately received by Bishop Don Harvey.

Thank you both for having the integrity and guts to stand up for the Gospel.

Living the vision in Niagara.

January 23, 2010

Diocese of Niagara: Repugnant ritualistic practices

Filed under: Diocese of Niagara — David Jenkins @ 11:29 am

One comes across interesting snippets when browsing old newspapers. The following is taken from the Qu’Appelle Didette, Thursday February 7th, 1889:

The Ritualistic movement in the neighbouring Anglican diocese of Niagara has led to the formation of an association for adherence to evangelicalism. Hartley, Carmichael and several clergymen waited upon the Bishop of Niagara and declared the introduction of ritualistic practices to be repugnant to the majority of the members of the diocese.

It was a valiant effort by Hartley and Carmichael but it didn’t last: today in the Diocese of Niagara there is little left but “ritualistic practices”. “Adherence to evangelicalism” has all but been stamped out by the concerted efforts of Bothwell, Spence and Bird and the only thing that is repugnant to the diocese is the Gospel.

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