News Briefs

Episcopal News Service. November 13, 2003 [031311-1]

Melbourne Anglicans ready to ordain women as bishops

(ENS) Anglicans in Melbourne, Australia, have broken ranks with the rest of the church in approving the immediate ordination of women to the episcopate. The synod meeting took the surprising action even though it was predicted that it would wait for the synod of the national church next October. Instead they voted to consider women for vacant positions regardless of whether the national church approves.

The motion, passed by an overwhelming majority, will most likely pit the conservative Diocese of Sydney against Anglicans in Melbourne. "We really do believe that God doesn't want barriers of gender in the priesthood," said the Rev. Charles Sherlock. "We hope that we have come up with a proposal that is phrased in a way that Sydney might let through. They might not support it but they might let it through."

If passed by the national synod the motion would allow each diocese to decide whether it would choose women bishops. Those opposed could then refuse to acknowledge the female bishops but also priests they ordain, further dividing the church.

In Australia about 12 percent of the clergy are women with 262 priests and 154 deacons. Although a motion to allow female bishops was presented to the national synod in 2001 it was withdrawn, despite significant support, because compromise made it unacceptable to both sides.

Howe of Central Florida calls for resignation of bishops supporting Robinson's consecration

(ENS) In a letter written the day after the controversial consecration of a gay bishop in New Hampshire, Bishop John Howe of Central Florida wrote a letter to Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold calling on "those bishops who participated in yesterday's consecration, and those who supported it, should immediately resign their positions in the Episcopal Church USA." He added, "Sadly, I believe that resignation call should include you."

Howe said that his "heart is breaking" because the consecration means the Episcopal Church was ignoring the counsel of the archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates' Meeting, the opinion of the world's Anglican bishops as expressed in the 1998 Lambeth Conference, as well as the theology committee of the House of Bishops.

"We have betrayed tens of thousands loyal Episcopalians, bewildered the Christian world, and grieved the Holy Spirit," Howe wrote. He also said that he had "honored and trusted" the presiding bishop "but I believe you have betrayed that trust. You are my friend but as I said on the floor of our House at the General Convention, I cannot and will not follow you in this schismatic action."

Howe said that was resigning as a member of the theology committee of the House of Bishops and as a member of the pastoral letter committee, and said that he was also questioning "the value of attending any more meetings" because "they have become manipulative and duplicitous."

"It's a highly principled statement with a lot of courage to it," said Hal Williams of New Smyrna Beach in the Orlando Sentinel. "It's saying that we don't want to support the actions of the Episcopal Church but we're not leaving it. By their action, they left us. We have to find a way to reform the Episcopal Church from within."

But Diana Butler Bass said that "it would take some grievous misconduct for a presiding bishop to step down," arguing that "there is worldwide respect for Frank Griswold as a Christian and a leader, even if people disagree with him."

Griswold sees 'possibility' in pain over continuing controversy

(Seattle Times) Following a sermon at St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle, Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold told the congregation during a question-and-answer session was asked to compare the current controversy over the consecration of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire with the decision in the mid-1970s when the church began ordaining women to the priesthood.

"I think in both those cases you could say that some people have experienced a profound sense of loss of a church that they knew or understood in a particular way." He said that the feeling of loss has unleashed "pain and anger" that requires the church "to minister with sensitivity and care to the people who do feel somewhat alienated or that the church has changed in a way that's difficult for them."

Getting through the crisis will depend on "our capacity to come together and share the bread and the cup and find our commonality-not necessarily in our agreed opinion, but in our common reception of the life of Christ."

At the forum, Griswold observed that the amount of attention the Episcopal Church is receiving provides "an evangelical possibility that has not existed before" because "a lot of curiosity has been provoked." He said that "the fact that we are willing to live the difficult questions in an open and honest way is very encouraging."

Borsch inaugurates first chair in Anglican studies at Lutheran seminary

(ENS) Bishop Frederick Borsch, professor of New Testament and first to occupy the new chair of Anglican Studies at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, began his inaugural address by pointing out that "the stories of the Bible are meant to shape the character of the Christian community." The Scriptures serve as a kind of "architecture for the faith" where people learn at once of God's "demanding righteousness and holiness-and immense mercy," where they come to understand the kind of boundless, compassionate love that gives them new hope and perspective on life.

Yet there are problems and challenges, he added, because not everyone approaches Scripture in the same way, dealing not with the whole bible but rather the parts that are most relevant to them. Because of different interpretations and our "distance" from biblical cultures and worldviews, it becomes difficult for any one group to "appropriate the Bible" just for themselves. "It belongs to all," Borsch said.

While biblical stories shape us all despite our differences, they do not "tell us everything or answer all our questions," he said, but do provide all things necessary for salvation through the testimonies to "God's love and redeeming work."

To live the abundant life that God intends for us demands recognition that "no persons are disposable, that it is important for us to care for each other and respect the dignity of all people," said Borsch. "There are no insiders or outsiders except when those who are inside try to push others out."

Borsch said that he finds it challenging to try to understand how the Bible can speak to those outside the context of the Christian community and how vital the witness of Christians becomes. "How is the Bible heart out of that practicing context?" he asked.

The chair at the seminary is a gift from the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania through the generosity of the late Anna Werner, a retired school teacher who lived a simple life and left the diocese $1.2 million. Bishop Charles Bennison thanked the seminary and its faculty for continuing to serve as an educational resource for future Episcopal clergy.

Episcopal Divinity School offers ministry for reconciliation

(EDS) Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is offering a new ministry for reconciliation within the church, "Good News: A Congregational Resource for Reconciliation."

In the aftermath of controversy and confusion following the decision of the General Convention to endorse the election of the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion, and recognition of same-sex blessings, the seminary designed a program to bring together people on both sides of the issues in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

Guided by a covenant that honors a variety of opinions, "Good News" seeks to fulfill three goals-promoting a fair and respectful dialogue, providing a context of reflection on the shared values of the Gospel, and encouraging a process of reconciliation within the life of the community.

Participants receive a booklet written by Bishop Steven Charleston, dean and president of EDS, that guides them through a prayer-centered experience in how Christians can and should stay together even when the differences seem insurmountable. (The booklets can be purchased from the seminary and then reproduced by the parish to make the ministry affordable by any congregation.)

The ministry won't resolve all the debates on human sexuality but "at the end of that path people may still disagree but they will have found the peace of Christ which is at the heart of community," writes Charleston in the introduction. He points out that no one is asked to give up an opinion but "they are only asked to enter into a sacred journey with others to search for reconciliation... They are asked to take the path to peace, even if it means only taking a few steps at a time."

To order the resource, contact EDS at 99 Brattle Street in Cambridge, MA 02138. For more information contact Nancy Davidge at 617-868-3450, x302 or

Solheim announces retirement plans

(ENS) James Solheim, who has been director of news and information at the Episcopal Church Center in New York since June of 1989 has announced his intention to retire at the end of 2003.

"It's a few months early but it is a good time for a transition-especially after General Convention and the challenges it stirred for our office in the months afterwards," he said.

While his plans are still evolving, he said that he has a lifetime of photography to organize and hopes to scan the collection and burn some CDs. "There are also a few places in the world I still want to see and I have the frequent flier miles to make that possible," he said.

In his career Solheim has followed an ecumenical path, working first for the Lutherans, then the Presbyterians and the United Church of Christ. "When the Lutherans went off to Chicago to form a new church in 1988, I accepted the position as director of communications in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts," he said. "Of course I had no idea that, a few weeks after I moved to Boston, the diocese would elect Barbara Harris as the Anglican Communion's first female bishop. The next year was a blur but it provided a dramatic introduction to the Episcopal Church."

(The communications office has launched a search for a successor and the job description is available on the church's web site at