South Africa’s Thabo Makgoba: ‘The Price of Corruption is the Inequality of Equality’

706x410q70Poplak-on-Corruption-SUBBEDThousands of South Africans have taken to the streets in the last week to reclaim the dream of a free South Africa from the clutches of corruption. In the United States we don’t call it corruption, we call it “money in politics” or the influence of “Citizens United.” But the gangrenous effect on the body politic is the same.

South African churches are once again rising to meet this injustice and providing the organizing and leadership underneath this movement.

A shout out to Siki Dlanga for her work on this effort. Below is an excerpt from the whole statement given by Cape Town’s Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba:

…Today we shouldn’t be here rallying against corruption. Today we should be asking… Aren’t we ready to fulfill our country’s destiny, by showing the same level of courage that won our liberation from apartheid? Nothing less will work. Are we really so afraid of what our morally corrupt political and business leaders will do to us that we will be intimidated into silence? How many times have you read Madiba’s words, words that defined the Old Struggle, and felt your heart soar when he said: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

My friends, we need to face up to the reality of what corruption does to our society. We need what I call a cold shower of reality to shock our leaders to their senses. It is this: The price of corruption is the inequality of equality. Let me repeat these words, for they need to frame our new struggle: the price of corruption is the inequality of equality.

What do I mean by that? It is simple: while we and our leaders live under the delusion that we are promoting equality in our society, the corruption that is spreading its tentacles across our society actually entrenches inequality, step up step.

A little over a year ago, almost in this same location, I asked South Africans to turn themselves inside out and expose their sense of moral consciousness to the sun. Why? Because, the sun is God’s disinfectant. Our country, because of the ethical state of the nation, needs to be morally disinfected…Morally disinfected so that we can recapture THE dream of the South Africa we want.

What’s missing? It’s not the ideas. It’s not the realization that enough is enough. It’s the determination that we need to begin a new era of courageous action. We will clean up and disinfect South Africa only when the courage and the will of all our people puts local action behind our words. Over the last six months you have no idea how many South Africans have said to me, “Archbishop, I’m so tired of seeing the moral pollution. “I am so tired of seeing the pervasive unethical contamination.”

As painful as it is to see the corruption, it’s 100 times more painful to see the price of corruption… the inequality that is becoming embedded into the structures of our society. I want to address President Zuma and our national leaders, our provincial leaders, our local leaders and the business people who corrupt them… You are responsible for creating an historic era of sadness in South Africa … Worse, we have allowed you to do it. … —Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town‚ South Africa

Read Archbishop Makgoba’s whole statement.

Vancouver, B.C.: Celebrate ‘Salal and Cedar’

Laurel Dykstra at ordination
Laurel Dykstra at ordination

My friend Laurel Dykstra in Vancouver, B.C., has joined with others for a new church plant in the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster on Coast Salish territory where the Fraser River meets the Salish Sea.

By “new” I mean revolutionary and visionary and ancient and deeply now. This is an example of how the church can still offer new wine skins for prophetic new wine — and how our salvation comes from God through the margins and marginalized.

Thank you, Laurel. May we all offer a prayer for Salal and Cedar! See Laurel’s epistle below:

Hello Friends and Fellow Travellers,

I am incredibly excited to introduce Salal and Cedar, a new environmental justice ministry in the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster on Coast Salish territory where the Fraser River meets the Salish Sea.

After months of planning scheming and preparing with collaborators near and far we are starting a church plant/watershed discipleship community for Christians in and around Vancouver who:

• have a heart for creation
• feel most connected to God in ocean, forest, river and field
• are deeply concerned about global climate change
• want to bring their faith to work for ecological justice
• are environmental activists but keep they faith quiet
• believe racial justice, economic justice and environmental justice are connected

Rooted in the Anglican incarnational theology, we are part of a growing commitment to the Fifth Mark of Mission “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.”

Ecumenically we identify with the Watershed Discipleship Movement: communities that are asking, “what does it mean to be a follower of the Jesus Way here, among the land, water, creatures and people of a particular place?”

Continue reading “Vancouver, B.C.: Celebrate ‘Salal and Cedar’”

Matthew Fox: Pope Francis’ Breath of Fresh Air


foxcover
Former Dominican priest Matthew Fox has a new book out called Letters to Pope Francis. He also just published a “condensed version” essay in Tikkun magazine. Here’s an excerpt, but read the whole thing.

“… Teachings of Pope Francis that stand out include some of the following.

1. A walking of his talk of simpler lifestyle. Pope Francis was well known in Argentina for taking public transportation to work and refusing any limousine-like service, which so many prelates take for granted. He has done the same in his new position as pope, where he chooses not to live in the papal apartments but in a far more modest guest house or hotel in the Vatican (might he give over the apartments to Rome’s homeless?). He drives a Ford Focus in Vatican city. He has also drawn some press recently for sneaking out at night from the Vatican in the simple priestly garb of black suit and color and hanging out with homeless in the streets of Rome. One senses he is trying to walk the talk and follow his own preaching about simplification. And he is putting pressure on other prelates to do the same.

Continue reading “Matthew Fox: Pope Francis’ Breath of Fresh Air”

Africa Elects First Female Anglican Bishop

Bishop Ellinah N. Wamukoya of Swaziland

“Africa has elected its first female Anglican bishop. On 18 July 2012 an Elective Assembly meeting in Mbabane elected the Rev. Ellinah Wamukoya as fifth Bishop of the Diocese of Swaziland.

Bishop-elect Wamukoya (61) will be the first female Anglican bishop in Africa and the continent’s third female bishop of a mainline church – in 2001 Bishop Purity Malinga was elected the Methodist bishop of South Africa, and in 2008 the Rt. Rev. Joaquina Nhanala was elected the Methodist bishop of Mozambique.

Educated at the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, the new bishop has exercised a bi-vocational ministry. She serves as Anglican chaplain at the University of Swaziland and at St Michael’s High School in Manzini. Bishop-elect Wamukoya is also the Town Clerk and CEO of the City Council of the town of Manzini and is a skilled and seasoned financial administrator.

The new bishop enters the stage at a difficult moment in the political and ecclesial life of Swaziland. Her predecessor, the Rt. Rev. Meshack Mabuza has been a sharp critic of King Mswati III, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa. King Mswati has ruled the landlocked mountain kingdom since 1986 and has been denounced by church and civil society leaders for mismanagement of the economy. The king also has earned a public image as a profligate ruler unconcerned with his subjects’ poverty. …”

Read more at Anglican Ink.

Rowan Williams: ‘Let God Dissolve Our Fantasies’

Retiring Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams gave a thoughtful lecture on “monastic virtues and ecumencial hopes” this week at the Monasticism and Ecumenism conference at San Gregorio Magno al Celio in Rome.

The gathering was to celebrate the millennium of the monastic community of Camaldoli. Williams was followed by Robert Hale, prior of the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California. The Camaldolese (Benedictine) monastic community invited Archbishop Williams to join their millennial celebrations in Rome in recognition of the close connection of San Gregorio Magno with the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. The ancient Roman monastery on the Caelian Hill which bears the name of Pope St Gregory the Great was the place from which Gregory (himself a monk) sent St. Augustine of Canterbury and a party of fellow Benedictine monks to Britain in the late 590s. The Camaldolese have occupied the monastery buildings at San Gregorio since 1573.

Here’s an excerpt for Lenten reflection:

“This search to hold together what seem like opposites is of course grounded in a deeply traditional Christian anthropology. Christian solitude is the way in which we allow God to challenge and overcome our individualism; in solitude, we are led to recognize the strength and resilience of our selfishness, and the need to let God dissolve the fantasies with which we protect ourselves. In the desert there is no-one to impress or persuade; there it is necessary to confront your own emptiness or be consumed by it. But such solitude is framed by the common life in which we have begun to learn the basic habits of selflessness through mutual service, and in which we are enabled to serve more radically and completely, to be more profoundly in the heart of common life in Christ’s Body, because we have had our private myths and defensive strategies stripped away by God in silence.”–Rowan Williams, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury

‘Can Marriage Ever Change? Homosexuality and the Church’

The UK government has recently initiated a “consultation” on same-sex marriage. The Anglican dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral has urged the Church of England to welcome any couple that wishes to take on the virtues of Christian marriage. The senior Catholic cleric in the UK, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has strenuously argued the Vatican’s position and opposes and possible change in British law.

This week’s edition of excellent UK Catholic newspaper The Tablet features three prominent Catholic thinkers–Timothy Radcliffe, Martin Pendergast, and Tina Beattie–reflecting on the issue of marriage in the Church.

See below:

‘Marriage is founded on sexual difference and potential for fertility’ by Fr. TIMOTHY RADCLIFFE, former Master General of the Dominican order and a widely respected spiritual guide, author, and lecturer.

The Catholic Church does not oppose gay marriage. It considers it to be impossible. If it were possible, then we would have to support it since the Church tells us that we must oppose all discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The issue is not gay rights but a wonderful truth of our humanity, which is that we are animals: rational animals according to the medievals, spiritual animals open to sharing the life of God.

In the sacraments, the fundamental dramas of our bodily life are blessed and become open to God’s grace: birth and death, eating and drinking, sex and illness. St Thomas Aquinas says that grace perfects nature and does not destroy it.

Marriage is founded on the glorious fact of sexual difference and its potential fertility. Without this, there would be no life on this planet, no evolution, no human beings, no future. Marriage takes all sorts of forms, from the alliance of clans through bride exchange to modern romantic love. We have come to see that it implies the equal love and dignity of man and woman. But everywhere and always, it remains founded on the union in difference of male and female. Through ­ceremonies and sacrament this is given a deeper meaning, which for Christians includes the union of God and humanity in Christ.

This is not to denigrate committed love of people of the same sex. This too should be cherished and supported, which is why church leaders are slowly coming to support same-sex civil unions. The God of love can be present in every true love. But “gay marriage” is impossible because it attempts to cut loose marriage from its grounding in our biological life. If we do that, we deny our humanity. It would be like trying to make a cheese soufflé without the cheese, or wine without grapes.

From the beginning, Christianity has stood up for the beauty and dignity of our bodily life, blessed by our God who became flesh and blood like us. This has always seemed a little scandalous to “spiritual” people, who think that we should escape the messy realities of bodies. And so the Church had to oppose Gnosticism in the second century, Manichaeism in the fourth, Catharism in the thirteenth. These all either had contempt for the body or regarded it as unimportant.

We, too, influenced as we are by Cartesianism, tend to think of ourselves as minds trapped in bodies, ghosts in machines. A friend said to me the other day: “I am a soul, but I have a body.” But the Catholic trad­ition has always insisted on the fundamental unity of the human person. Aquinas famously said: “I am not my soul.”

Lynne Featherstone, the Equalities Minister, is right to say the Churches do not have an exclusive right to determine who can marry – but nor does the State, because we cannot simply decide by some mental or legal act what it means to be a human being. Our civilisation will flourish only if it recognises the gift of our bodily existence, which includes the amazing creativity of sexual difference, lifted up into love. Giving formal recognition to this through the institution of marriage in no way disparages the blessings brought to us by gay people.

Timothy Radcliffe OP is a former master of the Dominicans. His latest book is Taking the Plunge: living baptism and confirmation, to be published by Continuum on 28 April.

‘Rather than buying into a marital bond, the sacramentality of such unions is what many of us strive to live out’ by MARTIN PENDERGAST

Timothy Radcliffe is trying to be typically generous to lesbian and gay people in his comments. Nevertheless when he states, in much less strident tones than some religious leaders, that “marriage” cannot be redefined by either State or Church, he has got himself into a double bind. Church and State have frequently redefined marriage and its structures over centuries due to a variety of factors: cultural patterns and religious influences, as well as social and human development. The model of marriage that we have today is rooted more strongly in eighteenth- and nineteenth-­century social patterns than it is in earlier religious traditions.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, David could write of the love shared between himself and Jonathan as surpassing even that of a man and woman. The relationship between the Roman centurion and his beloved “servant” who was healed (made whole) by Jesus in the gospel story is now widely accepted by scholars to indicate an affirmation of the love between the two men. Then there is the love between Ruth and Naomi, between Felicity and Perpetua, if the traditions are to be respected.

I believe Timothy Radcliffe risks idealising marriage too strongly, seeing it through his own dedicated prism of vowed celibacy. He states that “marriage is founded on the glorious fact of sexual difference and its potential fertility”. But the social and anthropological structures of marriage are rooted not in biology but in relationality. As the Hebrew Scriptures say: “It is not good for a person to be alone.” Also, what of those who clearly have no potential for fertility – are they to be prevented from marrying, limited to a version of civil unions?

Faith communities have redefined marriage throughout their history, countenancing and rejecting polygamous marriage, allowing divorce and remarriage, and the Second Vatican Council stated that the ends of marriage are twofold, not solely based upon procreation. In medieval times the focus was so strongly on betrothal rites that marriage, in some places, was a rarity, since so few people could fulfil the social and economic requirements for a marriage to take place before the altar. And what of all those “sworn brotherhood” rites, adapted also to include same-sex female partners, identified by researchers such as Alan Bray and John Boswell? In spite of all this, I am not a supporter of same-sex marriage for myself. I hold, conscientiously, that the institution of marriage, in spite of all its cultural and social variability, is essentially patriarchal and not a status I wish to adopt.

The essence of civil unions is that they are based on an equality of persons legally expressed in a mutual signing of a contractual covenant, rather than expressed in vows of subjection, one to another. It is this value of equality that same-sex couples in civil unions bring to the common good. Rather than buying into a marital bond, the sacramentality of such unions is what many of us strive to live out. It is to be hoped this will increasingly be recognised by faith communities and their leadership. Happily, many congregation members, parents and families have got this message.

Martin Pendergast is gay, Catholic and a founder member of the Cutting Edge Consortium, which promotes equality and human rights across religions and beliefs.


‘Marriage is not just about sex but about a lifelong commitment to bodily unity in difference with another human beingby TINA BEATTIE

If we allow the marriage between Christ and the Church to become the mystery within which all human loving participates and towards which all human love is drawn, and if we accept that sexual love is good even when it is non-procreative, can we not go beyond this “impossibility” of gay marriage?

Marriage is not just about sex but about a lifelong commitment to bodily unity in difference with another human being in all the interwoven materiality of our lives. Yes, of course, we are our bodies, and in some species (not all) the reproduction of the species depends upon heterosexual intercourse. Yet couldn’t marriage become an inclusive rather than an exclusive sacrament?

A good heterosexual marriage models a fertile way of human loving that entails a lifelong commitment to the other and an openness to the vulnerable outsider (a newborn child is definitely such a person, but so is any person in need of the love and stability that a loving relationship can offer). A sexual relationship – homosexual or heterosexual, fertile or infertile – which is turned in on itself and closed to others, which lacks permanent commitment for better or worse, or which is violent and abusive, is not what Christians mean by marriage.

If we want to understand the sacrament, we need to look to Christ and the Church, not to the abundant diversity of participation within that sacramental love that constitutes our bodily human relationships. I’ve been married for 37 years and I have four children, but the loving relationships of my gay friends have helped me to understand more deeply what marriage means as a partnership of equals. I hope that they in turn have been enriched by their married heterosexual friends, and have better understood what their love means within the sacramental love of Christ and the Church.

In these times of radical change in our understanding of sexuality and human dignity (especially the full and equal dignity of women in this life and not just in the life to come), maybe we heterosexuals need the marriages of our homosexual friends to help us to understand what marriage looks like when it’s not corrupted by traditions of domination and subordination.

Professor Tina Beattie is director of the Digby Stuart Research Centre for Catholic Studies at the University of Roehampton.

Read more from The Tablet.

Rowan Williams: Bonhoeffer, Lent, and Freedom

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Anglican Archbishop of Cantebury, Rowan Williams, preached at King’s School Canterbury on the first Sunday of Lent this year. He took his text from Confessing Church theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s reflections on the nature of true freedom and what it means that “the truth shall set you free.” Quiet contemplation and learning to release the “fictions” of our lives are part of the Lenten practice.

You can read Williams’ entire sermon or listen to it here. Below is the opening section:

In 1939, the young German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was in New York, exploring whether he should stay there as pastor to the German emigrants in the city and considering a string of invitations to lecture in the United States.  He had made himself deeply unpopular with the German regime, making broadcasts critical of Hitler and running a secret training institution for pastors in Germany who could not accept the way that the Nazi state was trying to control the Church.

But, after a draining inner struggle, he decided to sail back to Germany.  In July 1939, after just over a month in New York, he left – knowing that he was returning to a situation of extreme danger.  Six years later, he was dead, executed for treason in a concentration camp, leaving behind him one of the greatest treasure of modern Christianity in the shape of the letters he wrote to family and close friends from prison.  He had left behind the chance of freedom as most of us would understand it and plunged into a complex and risky world, getting involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler, living as a double agent, daily facing the prospect of arrest, torture and death.

But freedom was one of the things he most often wrote about.  In a famous poem he wrote in July 1944, he sketched out what he thought was involved in real freedom – discipline, action, suffering and death.  Not quite what we associate with the word – but with these reflections, he takes us into the heart of what it is for someone to be lastingly free.

The freedom he is interested in is the freedom to do what you know you have to do.  The society you live in will give you all sorts of messages about what you should be doing, and, far more difficult, your own longings and preferences will push you in various directions.  You have to watch your own passions and feelings and test them carefully, and then you have to have the courage to act.  When you act, you take risks.  You seemingly become less free.  But what is really happening is that you are handing over your freedom to God and saying, ‘I’ve done what I had to; now it’s over to you.’  Freedom, he says, is ‘perfected in glory’ when it’s handed over to God.  And this finds its climax in the moment of death, when we step forward to discover what has been hidden all along – the eternal freedom of God, underlying everything we have thought and done. … —Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Cantebury

Read Rowan Williams’ complete sermon.

Anglican Bishop Mark Ryland: ‘Workaholism is Not a Christian Virtue’

The Anglican Bishop of Shrewsbury, UK, has warned against growing workaholism, and has commended relaxation and hospitality instead. In his regular diocesan update, Bishop Mark Ryland lays out the necessity for sabbath, rest, and renewal.

By way of information: The U.S. does not have “national holidays” like they do in the European Union – in the sense of days on which all employees in receive a day free from work and all business is halted. The U.S. federal holidays are technically apply only to federal employees. States and local jurisdictions decide how they will follow them. And private businesses don’t have to follow them at all. Ryland writes:

I wonder if we British don’t really value rest and relaxation? We seem to make a virtue out of unceasing work; we boast about how busy we are, as if the hectic pace of our lives is proof that we are important and significant. We feel guilty when we’re not working and we’re suspicious of anyone who lifts their nose from the grindstone for too long. In France, the whole country basically shuts down for the month of August and everyone heads for the beach or the mountains. While the number of public holidays in Britain is eight; on the continent it’s ten or eleven. Despite working more hours, it is debatable whether our country is any more productive. Indeed, Britain has one of the highest records for workdays lost due to sickness in Europe.

In our fast paced world, tales of emotional exhaustion and spiritual bankruptcy are not uncommon and stress is a recognised illness. People feel stretched and overloaded – indeed it is expected of them! I noticed a recent advert on TV that promised to keep you looking fresh, even after sixteen hours. It seemed to be applauding those ‘tough people’ who worked sixteen hour days. Crazy!

We were not, however, designed to be forever on the go. Fast paced lifestyles and little sleep rob us not only of energy but also of relationships. This seems to be a particular danger in the Church where it is all too easy for work and ministry to become the other woman or man in a marriage. We rob ourselves, however, when we desire autonomy or when we imagine we are indispensable, declaring that we can manage alone, that we don’t need anyone or anything else to help us. As Charles de Gaulle once said: ‘the graveyards are full of indispensable men’.

Jesus may have worked long hours teaching and healing but he knew that he needed to draw aside, to step out of the rush and away from the demands laid upon him. He knew of his need to find peace and to reconnect with his Father, gaining spiritual energy and sustenance in solitude. Exhaustion is a fact of life. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that even young people grow tired and become weary. He tells us that the remedy for weariness is rest, waiting on God, waiting to be filled with his strength. So if the prophets recognised the need for spiritual refuelling and Jesus prioritised time alone with his father, how much more do we need it?

We need to relearn this… I need to relearn this! More than that the world needs us God’s people – his Church – to model a healthy rhythm of work and rest for we live in a world that is a long way out of balance. In our society, young and old seek oblivion in alcohol; anti-depressants are amongst the most prescribed medications. People are yearning for real rest as the lie of consumerisms’ ability to satisfy in any meaningful way is being exposed. This deep recession gives us an opportunity and a choice. It could mean that we go on blindly working harder and harder to obtain the things we have grown used to possessing; or it could mean a time to take stock and count our blessings for what we enjoy – what Archbishop David Hope called an opportunity to model a lifestyle of ‘enoughness’.

If you’re like me, it will be an evening fishing on the river; if you’re like the Archdeacon of Salop, it will be playing with your model railway in the attic: a walk in the park; reading a good book; playing games with your children and grand-children, listening to the radio, visiting neighbours and friends – there are so many simple and inexpensive ways to discover re-creation.

As a creator of community, the church is called to model the true worth of human beings as men and women made in the image of God. Making room for the marginalised and the newcomer, providing opportunities for people to meet, relax, play together and strengthen friendships, is a wonderful way to help people belong and feel cherished. In these simple acts we proclaim good news to our neighbours: ‘you have great worth, regardless of how much or how little you accomplish. You have value because God is your Father and, in Christ, you are loved as his very own.’ –Bishop Mark Ryland

Second Openly Gay Bishop Elected in Worldwide Anglican Communion

Mary Glasspool reacts during her election with Bishop Jon Bruno behind her.
Mary Glasspool reacts during her election with Bishop Jon Bruno behind her.

I was very pleased to note that the Anglican Church/Episcopal Church USA has elected two women–Mary Douglas Glasspool and Diane Jardine Bruce–to serve as assistant bishops in the Los Angeles diocese. Of note is the fact that Canon Glasspool is openly lesbian and has been in a committed relationship since 1988. With her election she becomes the second openly gay bishop in the worldwide Anglican Church. Bishop Gene Robinson was the first. Also last fall, the Church of Sweden (which is Lutheran, but in communion with the Anglican Church of England) consecrated Eva Brunne, also a partnered lesbian, as Bishop of Stockholm.

As a Roman Catholic, I’m interested in how other denominations are working through the complex issues of sexuality and the call to serve the church in ordained ministry. Over at Ekklesia, Savi Hensman wrote a nice piece (Liberating the Anglican Understanding of Sexuality) that tracks some of the journey of the Episcopal Church on the issue of sexuality:

Indeed the Episcopal Church’s openness to lesbian bishops is the result of a long process of reflection and study in keeping with the advice of numerous Anglican gatherings and the principles of international canon law. The “duty of thinking and learning” is a theme that has come up repeatedly at international gatherings. The church should learn from the work of scientists, calling upon “Christian people both to learn reverently from every new disclosure of truth, and at the same time to bear witness to the biblical message of a God and Saviour apart from whom no gift can be rightly used”, and should welcome “the increasing extent of human knowledge” and the “searching enquiries of the theologians”. In 1978 the Lambeth Conference called for “deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality, which would take seriously both the teaching of Scripture and the results of scientific and medical research”, “pastoral concern for those who are homosexual” and “dialogue with them”. As understanding of human sexuality grew, and more theologians made the case for full inclusion, many in the Episcopal Church came to believe that being a woman or gay should not result in being treated as a “second-class citizen”, let alone an outsider.

Concern for justice and commitment to human rights was another theme, including, from the 1980s, those of “homosexual orientation”. In the USA and other countries covered by the Episcopal Church, LGBT people at times face persecution and violence. While opposition to such mistreatment does not automatically lead to acceptance of same-sex partnerships as a proper lifestyle for Christian leaders, it does make it harder to depersonalise a particular minority and ignore the realities of their lives. This concern for justice has also led to greater self-examination. For instance, the Anglican Consultative Council in 1990 called on “every Diocese in our Communion to consider how through its structures it may encourage its members to see that a true Christian spirituality involves a concern for God’s justice in the world, particularly in its own community.”

Various denominations have excellent new theological papers reflecting their developing understanding of human sexuality within Christian thought. Here are links to a few of them:

Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)

Some Issues in Human Sexuality: A Working Paper of the House of Bishops (Church of England)

Marriage: A United Church of Canada Understanding

Vatican versus ‘Law of Unintended Consequences’

George F WillNot long ago I wrote a post titled Make It Work For You: Why Accepting Conservative Anglicans Might Be Good For Progressive Catholics. In it I opined:

This latest show of welcoming conservative Anglicans may prove to be a boon however for progressive Catholics. Since, most of the Anglican priests joining the Catholic church are married with families, this move may push the Catholic church another step forward in accepting married priests. If the Vatican can find room for married Anglican priests, then surely it can find room for the 110,000 Catholic priests around the world who left active ministry in order to marry!

Now I see that Catholic commentator George Will is exploring the same “law of unintended consequences” much more eloquently than I did. Will has a column in today’s Washington Post titled Rome’s Call: ‘Come On Over’ in which he posits the same question to Jesuit priest Tom Reese.

Reese is the former editor-in-chief for America magazine who got unceremoniously bumped by Cardinal Ratzinger and now is at Georgetown University’s Woodstock Theological Institute. Now Reese writes his own blog for the Newsweek / Washington Post “On Faith” web site, and is also a regular contributor to the “Georgetown/On Faith” blog featuring Georgetown University scholars.

Will writes:

Reese disputes the assumption that the Vatican is accelerating a sorting out that will produce a more conservative Catholic Church. Some Catholics, he notes, will experience the fact, and many more will contemplate the idea, of married priests administering the sacraments. This, Reese thinks, may remind Catholics that for its first thousand or so years, the church had married priests and bishops. A celibate priesthood, he says, is a product of church law, which can be changed.

Reese thinks that would strengthen the church in the competition for souls. In parts of Latin America, he says, Catholic priests are so scarce that many villages see one only a few times a year. Evangelical Protestants, however, come to a village, identify a respected man, married or not, train him, build a church and the village becomes Protestant.

Reese, slight and bespectacled, laughs easily and infectiously but once caused a future pope to mutter, as Henry II did about Thomas a Beckett, “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?” Reese was editor of the Jesuit magazine America until 2005, when he was reprimanded by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, whose defense of orthodoxy earned him the sobriquet “God’s Rottweiler.” Then he became Benedict XVI. Reese’s offense, conservative Catholics said, was latitudinarianism — lack of stringency regarding disputes about faith and morals.

But with the Latin Mass restored and Anglicans being courted with liturgical concessions, will the Catholic Church have three liturgies? Who are the latitudinarians now?

“Latitudinarianism” indeed! It’s only a problem if you still think the world is flat and we are going to fall off an edge. But God — in God’s infinite wisdom — has arranged things spherically, apparently to save us from ourselves!