Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Anglican Communion tainted by association? Check this out!

Ruth Gledhill draws attention to an article of investigative journalism published by the American Anglican Council, written by Ralinda Gregor, and available in full on Anglican Mainstream.

Some commenters on Ruth Gledhill's blog make the usual jibe, 'Why are these conservative Anglicans obsessed with sex?'

Here is a response: conservative Anglicans are obsessed with knowing what's really going on, anxious about secret agendas, non-transparent communication, and potential conspiracies. And the obsession is easily cured by open, transparent communication!

Ralinda Gregor's article is an excellent example of investigative journalism because it follows up a very simple question, 'When the Anglican Communion Office recently announced a gift of $1.5 million dollars to fund the Listening Process, where did the money come from?'

That Gregor writes out of the context of the American Anglican Council (openly, obviously conservative) may affect the level of concern she has about the money trail, but it does not affect the facts (assuming accurate reportage) which are these: the funds were solicited from a retired Episcopalian priest, Rev Marta Weeks, by the Satcher Institute’s Center of Excellence for Sexual Health, and then given to the ACO. Part of Gregor's article reports on the trail, and the curious answers given to the matter of whether these funds are attached to strings or not:

"After questions arose about the source of the funding, the ACO admitted the gift came from Weeks and issued a disclaimer from her that the funds were given without any strings attached. But subsequent contradictory and confusing statements by the ACO, Weeks and the Satcher Institute raise serious questions about the influence associated with this gift and the institution administering it.

Who is in charge?

According to the ACO, the Continuing Indaba Project will be led by the Rev. Canon Philip Groves of the ACO and the Rev. Canon Flora Winfield of Lambeth Palace. Groves is the facilitator of the "Listening Process," begun in 1998 to seek a "common mind upon the issues which threaten to divide us," according to an ACC-14 publication.

But Weeks told the American Anglican Council that she was approached and asked to fund the project by the Satcher Institute, not by the ACO or its staff. Weeks said her association with staff members of the Satcher Institute’s Center of Excellence for Sexual Health (CESH) goes back to their leadership of another organization she supported, the Center for Sexuality and Religion (CSR), which merged with Satcher’s CESH in 2008.

We contacted Christian Thrasher, Satcher’s Director of the CESH and certified sexuality educator, to find out what role CESH will play in facilitating the Anglican Communion’s Continuing Indaba Project. He insisted that CESH will not be consultants or facilitators for the project. He went on to assert that the funding had no strings attached.

However, Canon Groves told this reporter that the Satcher CESH will exercise some control of the process by monitoring project spending to ensure the funds are being used "as intended." Groves added that CESH will also conduct an ecumenical study of the project to evaluate its effectiveness and suitablity for use by other faiths and denominations.

The public attempts by leaders of the Satcher Institute to minimize their delegated role in the Anglican Communion’s Listening/Continuing Indaba process are disturbing and suggest an agenda that is neither objective nor benign."

One must be careful not to see 'reds under the bed' in these situations. It is quite proper for a donating institution to check whether a receiving institution is using the funds as intended and not on alternative purposes, that is checking, not control. And one can understand a benign purpose behind CESH's desire to study the Listening Process's next stage to see whether or not it offers a workable model for other churches' listening processes.

Nevertheless the question hanging in the air is, 'Why the secrecy about the funding source? Why the apparent obfuscation by proffering Weeks as the donor and not the institute?'

But even if those questions receive 'cock up' rather than 'conspiracy' answers, the question remains, should the ACO, the ideally even-handed office for all us Anglicans, be associated with this particular institute?

Ralinda Gregor goes on to detail the striking agenda the institute has for change in accepted sexual moralities, within church as well as society. Alarmingly she cites writings of an assistant director of the institute who has advocated views supportive of pederasty and polyamory.

But, hey, do not be concerned about this dear readers, lest the worst accusation of post-modern times be made against you ... that you are obsessed with sex.

gregor's concluding questions are worth noting:

"The alliance between the Anglican Communion Office, the Rev. Marta Weeks, and the Satcher Institute leaves many questions unanswered:

Who decided this alliance was worth pursuing? The Anglican Communion Office? The Episcopal Church? The Archbishop of Canterbury?

Who investigated the previous work of the Center of Excellence for Sexual Health and its directors? Did they assume Anglicans would not look closely at this next phase of indaba and miss the potential entry of a Trojan horse into the listening process? How will the ACO ensure that CESH does not influence Continuing Indaba in any way when CESH effectively holds the purse strings and this is exactly the type of process they are actively seeking to be involved in?

Why is the ACO continuing to misuse the indaba process to bridge opposing theologies and moralities when the process is based on developing consensus within a village or tribe with shared values and morality?

The Anglican Communion Office has the answers. The rest of the Communion is waiting and listening."

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