Posts Tagged ‘Church of England’

Hands Across the Ocean

Friday, October 9th, 2015

I am just back from a week in London. I preached at the farewell service for our Link Parish Rector, Dr. Alan McCormack. His church of St. Vedast-Alias-Fosters was packed; among the civic dignitaries was the newly elected Lord Mayor of the City of London. On the trip, I also met with clergy regarding other links between London and New York. The senior warden at St. Vedast is hoping that Incarnation can have another parishioner group exchange in 2016.

As always, I am encouraged by the natural community we share with members of our Mother Church of England. They are struggling with attendance issues as we are, and they are finding change difficult.

But the clergy and lay leaders remain committed and enthusiastic. We may be thankful for our historic bonds with the C of E and for all the occasions we can find to support each other. —J. Douglas Ousley


Monday, July 13th, 2015

Clergy looking to upgrade their positions will ask a church seeking a rector what their “ASA” is. “ASA” stands for “average Sunday attendance.” The figure is calculated for every Episcopal parish’s Parochial Report that must be submitted each year to the national church offices.

Of course, each church is free to count attendees as they like. Some will count anyone who enters the church during the time of a service; others will count only those who are present for the whole service. An early mentor of mine said such figures aren’t really much good; what is valuable is having the same person making the count year-in and year-out. Trends over time will probably signify growth or decline.

But students of the most recent downward trends in the Church of England have argued that attendance isn’t always the best criterion for whether a church is effective. After all, attendance in virtually every volunteer activity–from bowling leagues to Little League to Junior League–has been declining for many years. In fact, compared to these secular organizations, the church is not doing so badly.

I’m not sure I agree with this analysis. It still sounds like an excuse. For what it’s worth, Incarnation’s ASA increased 5% in 2014 over 2013. But from my point of view, we could still do far more to invite people into the fellowship of Christ. —J. Douglas Ousley

John Andrew, RIP

Friday, October 17th, 2014

One of the great figures of the Episcopal Church in this city. The Rev. Canon John Andrew, OBE, died this morning following a stroke. By means of his truly charismatic personality and remarkable preaching, he turned St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue from a sleepy backwater into a national center of classical Anglican worship. Rarely does one person have such an institutional effect.

John Andrew was a mentor to me. He preached at my installation as Rector in Rome in 1981 and at my installation at Incarnation in 1985. He also gave the homily at the funeral of my first wife in 2008. He loved my sons, John and Andrew.

At a time when clergy are so often bland and meek, John Andrew never suffered fools gladly. He was a giant in the clerical world. May he rest in peace. –J. Douglas Ousley

Less Democracy–More Women Leaders?

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

The General Synod of the Church of England , after years of debate and failed motions, yesterday passed the final resolution that will allow for the appointment of women bishops. There was cheering and considerable relief, as conservative Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals voted for legislation that they felt would preserve their freedom to remain separate from the female episcopacy.

Note that I said, “appointment.” In the Church of England, bishops, cathedral deans and canons, and archdeacons are chosen by other bishops or the Prime Minister. There is nothing like the diocesan election system in place in the U.S.

Interestingly, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church was recently in England, and she was asked about the coming Synod vote. She ventured the opinion that women leadership might advance more rapidly than it has in this country because women could be chosen by a few hierarchs, rather than by various large conventions.

Does this mean that ordinary laypeople and priests are anti-feminist and reactionary? I would hope not. In any case, the next few years in England will certainly be years of change. —J. Douglas Ousley

Indaba Encore

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Some of you may have seen this comment on a previous post. It comes from Incarnation’s former Junior Warden, Mark Lulka:

>>”Indaba” is not a great word. When I first heard it, I immediately thought of “intifada”, and had to check the spelling and definition. The Episcopal Church should steer clear of trends and the use of language that can be misconstrued.<<

In my recent trip to the UK (of which more soon), I noticed that while the Diocese of New York delegation often used the term, the concept of “indaba” seemed pretty foreign to Church of England clergy. Maybe the word has already outlived whatever usefulness it once had. —J. Douglas Ousley

There Will Always Be A Church of England

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

First, it shouldn’t amaze me but it does that the Wall Street Journal sends out urgent emails to update me on the progress of the birth of the new heir to the throne. Can we look forward to a live broadcast of the royal son’s baptism? However moribund the Church of England sometimes seems, our spiritual motherland still makes news.

Second, declining though it may be, the C of E doesn’t lack imaginative clergy posts. A recent Church Times carried a letter from a member of the Ascot Racecourse Chaplaincy Service; the priest was pictured in clericals and top hat.

A more substantive letter asked for the General Synod to address the gender imbalance in many churches, which often runs 3 to 1 in favor of women. As the author points out, if the balance went the other way, “we would rightly want to address such an imbalance.” This pries holds the interesting title of Diocesan Missioner for Unreached Men in the Diocese of Oxford. —J. Douglas Ousley

Clothes Make the Man

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

The Romans had a saying, Vestis virum facit: “Clothes make the man.”

Clergy have long been known for their distinctive dress, but rarely has so much attention has been devoted to our sartorial choices as in the case of Pope Francis. His disinclination to wear the papal “pallium” and satin shoes is not surprising, given that Francis was disinclined to wear the purple shirt of a bishop. This accords with the Pope’s simplicity that was noted in the previous post.

This practice also contrasts with the specially designed garments worn by the Archbishop of Canterbury at his enthronement, featuring three blue pastel fish biting each other’s tails. I suppose there is a reference to the Holy Trinity here, but one might find another message of clerical self-importance. —J. Douglas Ousley

Ecclesiastical Cliff

Monday, December 31st, 2012

A parishioner recently pointed out the irony that our Men’s Group is scheduled to discuss the Church of England’s inability to ordain women bishops–which puts a bunch of men talking about the fate of a bunch of women.

Actually, most of our members are strongly in favor of the ordination of women. But the same faintly inappropriate aura emerged a few weeks ago from the ending of a fifteen-year attempt to allow English women to become bishops. The word now is that church leaders will attempt to fast-track new legislation, rather than waiting until the old proposal can be voted on by a new General Synod in 2015. Apparently, the embarrassment of this defeat was too much even for the C of E.

The parallel with the U.S. Government, which also seems unable to pass legislation that most of its constituents very much desire, is strange. —J. Douglas Ousley

Do English Traditionalists Have a Point?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Some of the few ultra-conservative Evangelicals who voted against the General Synod legislation that would have permitted female bishops have pointed to the example of the Episcopal Church in the United States.

They have noted that Episcopalians who opposed the ordination of women in the 1970’s and later were repeatedly assured that their minority view would be honored. After all, male ordination had been the view of the entire church for almost 2,000 years.

In subsequent years, however, those same traditionalists have seemed to be less and less free to express their beliefs. In some cases, they have felt hounded out of the church; they have certainly disappeared in the councils of our church. Even the large committees and commissions no longer have any dissenting members.

English conservatives may well have felt they couldn’t trust a progressive majority that was allowed to get its way. —J. Douglas Ousley

An Archbishop, Finally

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

After an unexpectedly lengthy process, the appointment of a new Archbishop of Canterbury has been announced: the Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham.

Welby is relatively young, at 56; more importantly, he has only been a bishop for a year. Moreover, unlike virtually all previous Archbishops of Canterbury, he is a second-career clergyman, having worked in the oil industry for eleven years before seeking ordination.

In this respect, he is like our own Presiding Bishop, who was an academic and oceanographer before becoming ordained. Whether this experience in the secular world gives Bishop Welby an edge in his new post remains to be seen.

I will be commenting further on Bishop Welby’s links to the Evangelical party in the Church of England. In the meantime, he deserves our prayers. —J. Douglas Ousley