More from Ohio – about the Anglican Communion #pisky #Anglican

In the Diocesan Convention, we had a session on the Anglican Communion in which I shared with Bishop Mark Hollingsworth and Revd Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies of the General Convention of The Episcopal  Church.  When I got to New York, I had a meeting with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Archbishop Fred Hiltz of the Church of Canada

This is a version of what I said in the Convention session:

The Anglican Communion is not broken.  

Far from it – it is a vibrant attempt to shape the life of a global communion without having a single central authority. I’ve been in Rome twice during this year and I have had the opportunity of learning about a very different church. To them, we are a remarkable experiment in building a global Communion of churches across boundaries of race, culture, economics and just about everything else. They can see the value of our patterns of synodical government. But e do our disagreements very publicly. We are in some sense a ‘work in progress’ loosely held together by the Four Instruments of Communion – the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates Meeting.
How can I say it is not broken?
Look at the network of Companionship Relationships – the relationship of your Diocese of Ohio with Belize and Tanzania and the relationship of our Diocese of St Andrews with the Diocese of Calcutta in the Church of North India. Those relationships don’t arise as part of some great Anglican Communion programme. They are formed and they grow because dioceses on different continents and in different contexts feel the need to connect, to support and pray for one another and to be part of a larger whole .
Then there are the Anglican Networks – Family, Peace and Justice, Environment, Women and many more. Once again, there is very flimsy organisation but plenty of energy. The Anglican Alliance co-ordinates the response of the Communion to situations of great need. And there is Continuing Indaba – honest conversation across difference in the cause of mission

But of course to the casual observer and to the media, the Anglican Communion often looks as if it is breaking – heading towards that final sundering. And yet it doesn’t happen and somehow we muddle through.

As you know, I grew up in Ireland and spent much of my adult life there. In ministry, I was a priest and pastor with a particular commitment to reconciliation and peace-making. In Ireland, the sources of conflict were often starkly clear – they were political and religious. The fault lines ran in parallel and they reinforced each other. In Scotland and in Ireland, we call that sectarianism.  
In the Anglican Communion, we face many challenges. Human sexuality in general and same sex marriage in particular are difficult for us to deal with – living as we do in such radically different contexts. Here too our fault lines run in parallel and our differences can reinforce each other. There are issues about how we read scripture and understand its authority. There is the hidden legacy of colonialism which affects the way in which we ‘read’ and respond to one another. There are acute differences about the way in which we exercise authority and leadership. Some exercise authority in a very collegial context. Others exercise authority in a context in which authority is more personally held. Bishops and Primates are not the same everywhere and this causes constant misunderstanding and disappointment.
At the heart of the life of the Anglican Communion is a single crucial challenge – it is the tension between the desire of provinces to exercise autonomy and our need to practise interdependence – to be communion-minded and to express a deeper catholicity.
Over the years, we have made many attempts to square this circle. The Virginia Report of 1997 and more recently the proposed Anglican Covenant have addressed this issue.
The Primates Meeting of 2016 took a strong move towards emphasising the interdependence of provinces rather than their autonomy and imposing ‘consequences’ on the Episcopal Church. We in Scotland may experience the same if our General Synod approves our proposals for canonical change in the area of marriage when it meets next June. But the issue is not resolved. It is challenging to resolve because ultimately it is a spiritual issue. It is the tension between ‘what we want to do and feel we must’ and ‘how God calls us to live faithfully together’. One suggestion about how this could be possible is that, as in a marriage, the partners must learn to practise some degree of mutual submission.

I do not that that our problems will ever all be resolved. That’s not because I am pessimistic. It’s because I can see that the issues here are about how we are disciples with one another in very different places and very different cultures of church life. And that is the challenge which we must address

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Sermon at Convention – Diocese of Ohio #pisky

It’s the beginning of their bicentenary year – and a nod to Samuel Seabury.   So this is the sermon which I preached at the Convention Eucharist this evening


It is an honour and a delight for Alison and for me to be with you for your Diocesan Convention. I thank Bishop Mark for his kind invitation and generous hospitality.
You are at the start of your bicentennial year of celebration and new commitment. Bishop Mark is doing as all bishops must do. The bishop has many roles and the bishop is blamed for many things. But he or she is first the leader of mission – the person who calls the church to mission – who says to the church, ‘lift your eyes from your worries about budget, building and decline – our future with God is over there – it is out there among God’s people where the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few.
I am here also to bring you greetings from the Scottish Episcopal Church. Our two churches share history – a moment of time expressed in the consecration of Samuel Seabury as your first bishop in 1784. That shared Seabury moment – in the mixture of history and myth which comes to us over nearly 250 years – still shapes us today. And not only us but also the still-developing and sometimes troubled story of the Anglican Communion.

Here today at this Convention, those two themes are woven together – our shared past and our mission in the fields ready for plentiful harvest

Up in Highland Perthshire, we have a little church on the edge of the village of Blair Atholl – near Blair Atholl where the Dukes of Atholl maintain the only private army in Britain. Queen Victoria was a regular visitor to the area, particularly after the railway opened in 1863. The church – first mentioned in 1275 – is dedicated to St Adamnan, Abbot of Iona in the 7th century and biographer of St Columba. We call it Kilmaveonaig. In the porch as in many of our churches are two pictures which are iconic for us – and one of them is the consecration of Samuel Seabury by the Scottish Bishops led by my predecessor as Primus, Robert Kilgour, on 14 November 1784. Why did this happen? This too was a turbulent time. After the War of Independence Seabury couldn’t swear allegiance to the British Crown. The Scots were as nearly always in difficulty because they would not pray for the Hanoverian monarchy. We were always slightly on the edge
It’s misty-eyed stuff. I sometimes say it was our ‘Cinderella went to the ball’ moment. But from that past come threads which profoundly shaped both our churches and what become the Anglican Communion . It was a post colonial moment because of American Independence. The Communion still struggles with colonialism. It began the shaping of a Communion in which we are all in communion with the See of Canterbury. But we are also all independent provinces. Our two societies are not dissimilar – a distaste for establishment and a markedly secular character which in Scotland derives from the Scottish Enlightenment. One of the hidden effects of the secular is that it liberalises societies – so we both find ourselves shall we say on the progressive edge of the Communion
But let’s leave aside global ecclesiastical issues and speak of mission. Let us ask what we offer to our societies out of our tradition. In Scotland we would say this – and you may find it familiar. In a secular society we offer spirituality – space, contemplation and prayer. We offer liturgy of drama and colour in which God can be glimpsed. In a society which thinks that there is nothing more than what we see, we offer a sacramental mindset – relationship with God whose graciousness we can touch, taste and see. In a society which is deeply suspicious of institution and authority, we place the focus of authority rather more towards the democratic than the authority of office. Beyond that I know that in your church under the leadership of my friend your Presiding Bishop run passions for racial justice, for local mission and for inclusion.
And so we are back looking out on these fields and the plentiful harvest. What is interesting here is how the mission field is described – disease and sickness; harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. So familiar at this point in the story of your nation after the Presidential Election and of the UK after the Brexit Referendum. It is the story of our times – anger everywhere; struggles between vision and nostalgia; challenges to the authority of the state and to the integrity of leadership. We are not at ease with ourselves. And so our mission calls us to healing and peace. It involves connecting people to the deeper realities – declining to be consumed by the struggle and strife of daily life and politics – seeking to be touched by the deep peace of the eternal life of God.

It is a real joy for me to be with you these few days. I pray for ever deeper friendship between our two churches. More than that, I pray for the success of your mission in a world in need of God and his peace.

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Coming to terms with Trump?  #pisky #anglican

Flying into Newark yesterday on our way to Cleveland, Ohio, you get a great view of the Manhattan skyline.  The new Freedom Tower, the Empire State Building and all the others are still there.  But when you get your feet on the ground, the sense of shock and the feeling that everything has been changed by the outcome of the Presidential Election are palpable.

 For the couple of hours of what they call here a ‘layover’, the rolling news channels were all covering Trump’s visit to the White House.  They were looking at the graciousness of his meeting with President Obama and daring to wonder if this might herald a new and post-election Trump.  The rationale would be that ‘hard things are said during election campaigns but that was then and this is a new time’

But it feels more like a revolution.  There is a real affinity with the aftermath of the Brexit result in the sense of bereavement and shock among those who would have found a vote for Trump impossible to contemplate.  The election of people like Reagan and even the ‘hanging chads’ election of George W Bush didn’t produce this sense of loss.

The first explanations for the outcome have been about Trump’s cultivation of the white, ‘blue collar’ constituency – the sort of ‘left behind’ group which you can find in states like Ohio.  Next people have suggested that Trump successfully presented himself as a political outsider and that Hillary Clinton unwisely responded by describing herself as the consummate insider – ‘nobody is more qualified to be President, etc.’  In this election, that may have been exactly the wrong thing to say.

But it’s more than that.  If it was just that Trump had cultivated an ‘overlooked’ white working class vote – a constituency neglected by others and somehow left behind – the shock would not be as great because it would arise from an obvious political failure.  And if it was – as I believe Brexit was in part – an incoherent rage at the failures of an entire political class, one might understand but regret the way it was expressed.  The lady in the queue behind Alison said declared that ‘the last eight years have been unbearable – if, as some have suggested, it was an inevitable white backlash against Obama’s election, one could weep.

But what people are quietly pondering here is the reality that the people who voted for Trump were a much wider and more diverse constituency than the white, working class, ‘left behind’ vote.  ‘How could so many women have voted for him?’ they ask.  But that is what happened.  In that sense it isn’t logical – because it is a sort of revolution where the normal rules of cause and effect which might satisfy the liberal mind simply don’t apply.  So it’s a new time and the pathway ahead is anything but clear.

And there is one other affinity with Brexit.  You may have seen those alternative voting maps which show the voting of younger people.  And in this election too there may be a generational disconnect.

So when we go to the Diocesan Convention later today – much later because the jet lag woke us in the early dawn – I’ll be listening very carefully for the voices of those who voted for Donald Trump.  And I’ll be doing that throughout my time here.  I’m looking forward to hearing from them about the complex of issues and feelings which has brought this about.

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Off to the US on pisky business.  #pisky

We are off this morning to Cleveland, Ohio, where I am going to preach their Diocesan Convention and do one or two other things.  Interesting time to be there, of course – particularly in Ohio.  It’s rust belt and a bit post-industrial – exactly the sort of place where Donald Trump drew his support.  It will be an interesting time.  The Guardian moodily says that the Democrats got so focused on minorities that they neglected their heartlands.  A warning for churches maybe?

On then to New York for meetings with leadership in TEC and Canada about the evolving story of the Anglican Communion

And finally to Washington to visit Virginia Theological Seminary.  My purpose there is to seal a link which we are establishing between VTS and our own Scottish Episcopal Institute.  We hope that this will make it possible for some exchange of students between us and for VTS staff to contribute to some of our programmes.  As you know, I am a firm believer in partnerships of all kinds – particularly for small-ish churches.  It keeps us outward facing.  But it also enables us to ‘get to the next level’ when we might struggle to find the resources to do it on our own.  It’s also really encouraging that others want to partner with us.  So the list includes – Church Army, St Mellitus and now VTS

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Faith for turbulent times #pisky

Another Thought for the Day for BBC Scotland this morning

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In the migrant queue. #pisky

It’s a while since I have been in Glasgow.  And I realise I should go more often – it’s like Belfast with bits of Donegal attached.

The traffic was terrible – which allowed time for a proper conversation with the taxi driver on the all-too-short journey from Queen Street Station to the BBC at Pacific Quay.  That led to a slightly bizarre recording for the Sunday programme in which Sally Magnusson and I had a discussion on faith and politics with an extremely voluble Spanish nun – a strong advocate of Catalan independence.  Sister Theresa believes that clergy should marry, that the Catholic church should address same sex relationships …..   I think I have probably met the Pope more recently than she has.   BBC Scotland on Sunday morning 

And then I ended up in the queue for the Ryanair flight to City of Derry airport – a neat Ryanair way of getting round the Derry/Londonderry/Stroke City dilemmas.  Naturally everybody was joining in everybody else’s conversations.  And they all came from Gweedore and Bunbeg in West Donegal.

The flight was fine.  At about 2000 feet on the approach, the person sitting next to me took a phone call – which caused the plane to fly sideways for a bit.  Then we did the classic Ryanair hard landing.  This is normally about banging it down onto the the runway so that you can turn off at the first exit and save a little time.  This was slightly different because the runway at City of Derry is very short.  So it was more like one of my great heroes – Biggles.   Biggles would bring the Camel in to land at the end of the dawn patrol – a blip of the throttle and a kick of the left rudder bar, over the hedge and onto the grass of the runway.  Welcome to City of Derry where the time is ….

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Learning about Dementia    #pisky

I’ve been watching a presentation about dementia from Skimstone Arts – part of the year’s Malcolm Goldsmith Lecture from Faith in Older People (FIOP)

Like most clergy, I have spent a lot of time with elderly people – and particularly with people with dementia.  Faith is very deep in people.  So hymns, prayers, bible stories can trigger response from people who may be otherwise somewhat disconnected.  And there is some satisfaction in that.  The Lord’s Prayer tended to be a particular marker of what it was possible to bring to the surface

But as I watched Jack and Jill, I remembered the feelings which I experienced with elderly people in my parish.  Strong and capable people who became anxious and sometimes fearful because they no longer ‘knew where everything was’.  And I can get to the edges of that myself in those moments when I can no longer easily remember – the slight stab of anxiety when the name doesn’t come to mind immediately.

And I shall ever remember the way in which people with dementia were ‘lit up’ by the presence of babies and small children – or of pets like cats and dogs

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Aberfan 50 years on

It’s the anniversary of the Aberfan disaster – 50 years ago next Friday .

There was a Service of remarkable quality on Radio 4 this morning which I listened to as we were heading for Pitlochry and Kilmaveonaig – up through the wonderful autumn scenery to the north of Perth. And as we drove, I made some slight adjustments to the sermon and arrived at this

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The Lampedusa Cross #pisky

The Lampedusa Crosses are made by Francesco Tuccio, an Italian carpenter, from the wreckage of boats washed up on the Italian island of Lampedusa.  All of the migrants who were on these boats perished.  The Cross is a reminder of the terrible suffering of these people.  Pope Francis visited Lampedusa to highlight the migrant crisis and he carried one of these crosses in the Good Friday procession in Rome – a symbol both of suffering and of the death-defying compassion of Christ.

Last week in Rome was full of symbolism – much of it expressive of the long journey of reconciliation between Catholic and Anglican Churches.  Each of us who was there received one of these crosses – a sign that in the end justice and compassion are more important than the faltering movement of churches towards one another.

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More from Rome #pisky #Anglican

Another fairly packed day in Rome – home tomorrow

We started with Eucharist in St Peter’s Basilica.  I found myself wondering about this – if we now have a significant level of agreement on the Eucharist, how might we express it in the here and now?   We needed was a bit of liturgical imagination to signal unity real but incomplete.  We then went down to the Crypt for Morning Prayer with the Community of St Anselm – the community of young people giving ‘a year in God’s time’ at Lambeth.  They are a source of energy for all of us.  We ended there with a visit to the tomb of St Peter and I found it surprisingly moving.  Maybe that’s because he is generally regarded as the most human of the disciples.  Or maybe because of how he met his end.

To be in the presence of and be greeted by Pope Francis is always very special.  I was part of the group of Primates and others who were received by him- you’ll have to wait a bit for the photo.  On to the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity – followed by lunch at the British Embassy with the choir of Canterbury Cathedral.  Evening Prayer with Archbishop Justin and on for dinner at the Villa Aurora with Prince Nicolo and Principessa Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi – one of the oldest families in Italy.

So what does all this achieve.  Well first I think that the marking of the 50th Anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey has recalibrated the baseline in Anglican-Catholic relationships.  The fact that I knew Michael Ramsey just makes me feel old!  And because most of the people who work in this area were there – along with 14 Primates and many of others – meant that lots of valuable work was going on below the line.

I managed a spare half hour – in which I went round the corner to visit the Pantheon and had an ice cream!

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