Posts Tagged ‘Anglican Communion’

Leadership in the Church of England

Monday, May 20th, 2019

I’m just back from a week in London and, as usual, I had many conversations with church people there.

And also, as usual, I heard many comments on the present Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London. Both leaders are relatively new in their positions. Both had secular careers before being ordained later in life. Both have Evangelical backgrounds.

And it must also be said that neither the Archbishop nor the Bishop come off in person as particularly attractive or exciting. Bureaucratic might be more accurate.

They don’t seem to have come up with stimulating new programs that would be likely to inspire the church. Nor have they impressed the high-powered businesspeople in the ancient City of London, where Incarnation’s sister parish is located.

While this is regrettable, the church will have both leaders in place for some years to come. All the more reason to pray that other, Spirit-filled persons will also be raised up to share the governance of our mother Church. —J. Douglas Ousley


Christians in the Arena

Monday, April 29th, 2019

Christians worldwide reacted in horror to the news of the bombing of Sri Lankan churches on Easter Sunday. More than 250 persons were killed and hundreds more were maimed or injured.

A prominent Wall Street Journal columnist, Gerald Baker, chided the Anglican Archbishop of York for not being more forthright in his expression of solidarity with the Sri Lankan Christians. Baker was concerned that Archbishop John Sentamu emphasized that he was against all forms of anti-religious violence. For Baker, this seemed to undermine the support the Archbishop should have expressed for the recently martyred.

This is a very tricky issue. Christians are “people of the Book ” but so are Jews and Muslims Especially given the secularization of Western culture, we Christians shouldn’t find ourselves blaming all Muslims for the crimes of a few. Faithful people have to stick together.

Nevertheless, the tragedy of Easter Sunday was all Christian. May the Sri Lankans be uplifted by the prayers and witness of all their fellow Christians–and by observant Muslims as well. —J. Douglas Ousley


Second Largest Church in the World

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

I had lunch yesterday with the Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, which is located on Amsterdam Avenue near Columbia University. Known as “St. John the Unfinished” because parts of it have never been completed according to the original divine, it is reputed to be second in size only to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Maintaining such a huge edifice (and many accompanying buildings, including a school) is a task I can’t even imagine.

Yet cathedrals have in general fared better than the local parish church. In the Church of England, attendance at cathedrals has been growing while regular congregations are declining. People seem to enjoy the relative anonymity of the large buildings and the stately, even mystical worship–often accompanied by excellent music. St. John the Divine on large festivals greets crowds of 3,000 people.

I like to think that Incarnation shares some of the attractions of cathedrals. It is larger than many, seating 800 persons. We have a fine choir and formal liturgy. People can be pretty anonymous unless they want to be part of the parish family. All the better to welcome strangers in Christ’s name. —J. Douglas Ousley


The Richness of Faith

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

The Anglican Communion has inherited what we call the “Catholic” tradition of liturgy and sacraments. I was particularly struck by the depths of this tradition last week, when I was involved in a funeral, an ordination to the priesthood, several celebrations of the holy eucharist, and a wedding.

Our Episcopal Church offers all these forms of worship and more. And the Prayer Book also includes many forms of individual prayer, as well as personal sacraments such as private confession and anointing of the sick.

We also permit a wide variety of understandings of these liturgies. At the wedding, perhaps 100 out of the 150 persons present elected to receive communion. We invite all baptized persons to communicate because we have a broad definition of the meaning of holy communion, and we hope that as many people as possible will feel included.

The Catholic tradition. The richness of faith. The gifts of God for the people of God. —J. Douglas Ousley


Talking the Talk

Monday, May 21st, 2018

American Episcopalians could be pleased with the reception given to the sermon by the Most Rev. Michael Curry at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last Saturday.

I have been surprised at how few of the Episcopalian laypeople I have talked to knew of Bishop Curry or were aware that he is the Presiding Bishop of the whole Episcopal Church. Even fewer knew that he preached in the pulpit of the Church of the Incarnation last December 6, at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Church Pension Fund.

To those familiar with the free-wheeling preaching style of African-American clergy, the sermon wasn’t surprising. But in the formal atmosphere of the royal chapel of St. George’s Windsor, Bishop Curry’s energetic oratory came as a bit of a shock. It could not have been more different than the cerebral reflections I heard the previous Saturday from the new Bishop of London, during her installation in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Episcopalians could also be proud of the precise Anglican liturgy, immaculately executed with lovely music. All in all, it was more than an elaborate ceremony; the wedding, even to the skeptic, was clearly a compelling act of worship. —J. Douglas Ousley


Middling Way

Monday, October 16th, 2017

For centuries, the Anglican Church has been proud to see itself as the via media–the “middle way” between the Roman Catholic Church on the one hand and the Protestant churches on the other hand.

We have hoped that are unique traditional structure and our freedom of thought might even combine the best of both worlds. In any case, we want to be a meeting ground where other Christians could gather.

And it is true that we are probably the most diverse church body in Christendom. For example, we have within our communion conservative and liberal Evangelicals, conservative and liberal Anglo-Catholics, and extremely liberal and traditionalist Broad Church Christians.

Unfortunately, these factions seem far apart–though maybe less so than five years ago (the current Archbishop of Canterbury seems to have lowered the temperature of the conflicts.) Nevertheless, at this moment we are all still together. At this moment, we still represent a middle way. —J. Douglas Ousley


Most Reverend

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

At a clergy luncheon recently, I found myself sitting at a table next to a former Archbishop of Canterbury. He was erroneously introduced as “the Most Reverend Rowan Williams;” in fact, archbishops go back to being mere bishops when they leave office. The bishop has an interesting additional title, though, which he was given upon his retirement: “the Rt. Rev. and Rt. Hon. Lord Williams of Oystermouth.”

Bishop Williams has been writing furiously since he stepped down a few years ago. One hopes he will offer a memoir of his extremely controversial time in office, when the homosexuality debate rocked the Anglican Communion and caused a number of bishops to limit their contacts with the rest of our church. For this cautious, brilliant intellectual, the harsh politics of the worldwide church must have been painful.

On the surface, at least, things seem better today. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby had a good deal of diplomatic experience as an international businessman. The next Lambeth Conference of Bishops in 2020 looks to be better attended than the last one.

A nice thought as we prepare for Easter. —J. Douglas Ousley


A Week in the C of E

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

I just returned from a week in London, attending various services and meetings in connection to the Link Program between the Diocese of New York and the Diocese of London, which I chair.

The highlight of my stay was the farewell Eucharist for the Bishop of London, the Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres KCVO. The service was prefaced by Christian rock music and social media in the square in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The 20 or so bishops and 400+ priests then processed into St. Paul’s for a majestic Candlemas celebration attended by several thousand laypeople.

I was touched that I was mentioned in the service leaflet, and the Bishop made a special effort to greet me during the service and send his best wishes to the Bishop of New York.

Other highlights included taking the Sunday Eucharist at our link parish of St. Vedast-alias-Foster and then participating in the patronal feast of the parish on February 6. I met the soon-to-be priest-in-charge, the Rev. Paul Kennedy and enjoyed a festive reception in the nave of St. Vedast.

All in all, I am happy to report that the our Mother Church remains alive and well. —J. Douglas Ousley


From Canterbury to Rome

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

I’m just back from an extraordinary visit to Rome.

My wife and I were in Italy to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Anglican Centre in Rome–an ecumenical outpost representing the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion in relations with the Roman Catholic Church. There was to be a grand dinner at the art gallery in a private Roman palazzo, with the Archbishop of Canterbury in attendance.

As it turned out, we were also witnesses to what may prove to be an historic encounter between the leaders of the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. At a stately private service of vespers, each gave a forward-looking, hopeful homily to inspire their respective churches to work together for evangelism and service to the poor. They exchanged personal gifts: the Archbishop received a replica of the staff or crozier given to the first Archbishop of Canterbury, while he he gave the pope his own, very simple pectoral cross.

The service concluded with the commissioning of 19 pairs of Anglican/Roman Catholic bishops or archbishops from all over the world. Their duty now is to carry out ecumenical work in their respective countries.

All in all, it was an impressive demonstration that the Holy Spirit is breathing new life into the ecumenical movement. —J. Douglas Ousley


What’s A Moderate to Do?

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

The Church of England and its Anglican offshoots traditionally have been held to present a via media. That is, a “middle way” between the extremes of Roman Catholicism on the one hand and Protestantism on the other.

One hears this phrase less often today, when some branches of our Anglican Communion are now decidedly liberal-Protestant and others are conservative-Anglo-Catholic, with very little room for compromise. As in American politics, there seem to be few old-fashioned “moderates” left in the field.

What then is the role for those of us who consider ourselves less extreme to play? Well, we can try to moderate between the factions, when we can get them to speak to each other. Or in our own thoughts and speech, we can try to lower the temperature of the debate.

I know–easier said than done. But what’s a moderate to do? —J. Douglas Ousley