Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Need to Shout About Schismatic South Carolina

Mark Lawrence and his crew really bug me.  They bug me so much I just had to say something here finally.

I call him Mark Lawrence because in my mind, the man is no longer a Bishop.  I know, I know..."once a Bishop always a Bishop, etc.  I'm not buying it.  The guy has lost all integrity.  He no longer deserves that title.

Why does Lawrence bug me so much?  Because we all saw this coming.  He was the rector of a large parish in San Joaquin.   He voted for that diocesan schism.  He ran off the faithful Episcopalians in his parish.  Then he gets elected as Bishop of South Carolina.  As a known schismatic, who thought it was just too cute to dance around questions of his loyalty to TEC, he did not get the required consents.  The extremists in South Carolina had a fit, of course, and elected him again.  This time Lawrence makes a clear statement that he will not abandon the Episcopal Church.  He got the consents.  He was consecrated.  Then, a short time later, what did he do?  He abandoned TEC.  Surprise, surprise.

In the first attempt to get consents, when Lawrence was asked how he would work to keep the Diocese in TEC, here is his too cute response:
I shall commit myself to work at least as hard at keeping the Diocese of South Carolina in The Episcopal Church, as my sister and brother bishops work at keeping The Episcopal Church in covenanted relationship with the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Needless to say, for this and other forms of doubletalk, he did not get the needed consents. So, when elected a second time, and realizing he needed to stop being too cute, here is his new and improved statement:
I will make the vows of conformity as written in the Book of Common Prayer and the Constitution & Canons, (III.11.8). I will heartily make the vows conforming ‘…to the doctrine, discipline, and worship’ of the Episcopal Church, as well as the trustworthiness of the Holy Scriptures. So to put it as clearly as I can, my intention is to remain in The Episcopal Church.
Did you get that? MY INTENTION IS TO REMAIN IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH. That's what the man said. And it worked. He got the consents. Even I got hoodwinked by that one. So, Lawrence states he's going to stay in TEC in March, 2007. Then, he makes this statement in his parish newsletter in August 2007 (after he's gotten the necessary consents, of course):
I also hold strong convictions on remaining in covenanted fellowship with the worldwide Anglican Communion, rather than following, as some have suggested, the pathway of an overly autonomous provincial or national church
He's an Anglican, you see...he doesn't need no stinkin' "national church." So much for his good intentions a few months before.

I won't bore you with all the details of what happened next. Most of you know the story. It took a few Diocesan Conventions, and a dramatic walking out of the House of Bishops, but it became clear that South Carolina was headed out the door. Of course Lawrence claimed "I did nothing." Exactly...when resolutions were presented at Diocesan Convention which further distanced South Carolina from TEC, he did nothing, when it was within his authority to declare those resolutions out of order.

When TEC took measures to stop the apparent plan to run off with the Diocese, Lawrence started complaining of the oppression of those evil liberals from the North. Then he and his Standing Committee secretly met and passed a couple of failsafe resolutions, which called for immediate removal from TEC if any attempts were made to discipline the Diocese. But Lawrence didn't do it...of course not. The Standing Committee did it. What was the poor Bishop to do?

My point is, I now believe that this was the plan all along, from the time Lawrence was first nominated. It looks to me that South Carolina has been following a carefully written script...with the first draft probably written back in 2004. And we all bought it as reality, instead of the staged drama it was.

And for now, it seems to have worked. Lawrence snatched up most of the parishes, properties and assets of South Carolina, without having to bow to the authority of any other provincial or national entity. In other words, no assessment, no tithe. The Diocese can assess the parishes, and keep it all. And Lawrence is answerable to no one except God. Sweet deal. Unfortunately, it is not an Anglican deal.

So, Lawrence now gets listed with Schofield, Duncan and Iker...scoundrels everyone. This is the fifth time we've seen these scripted dramas play out. Are we ever going to learn?

This still bugs me. And it even further bugs me that for the most part everyone is being so nice about it. Come on. We're talking about out and out theft here, from my view. This type of unchristian behavior needs to be confronted.

 J.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Clergy Letter Project

Someone pointed me to this last night (thanks evo!), and thought others might want to sign this open letter as well:  

The Clergy Letter - from American Christian Clergy 
An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science 

Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts. 

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

You can see this letter here.   You can add your name by sending an email to 
mz@theclergyletterproject.orgInclude your name, church affiliation, city and state.

J.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tueday; the Last Shopping Day of Convention

Some great things have happened at General Convention, which I'm sure you have already read about elsewhere. Both transgender resolutions passed. The rites for blessings passed the HoB and will most likely pass the HoD later today. Gay Jennings was elected President of the HoD with a large majority. Also on the agenda is a resolution on the Covenent. Mark Harris, whom we all know is no fan of the Covenant, spoke on behalf of his committee who drafted this resolution. To sum it up, it sounds like it is neither a "yes" or a "no," but instead a "maybe." As you can imagine, some folks are not pleased. Personally, I trust Mark's judgment. He had the conversations with a diverse group crafting this piece of legislation. Even though I disagree personally, a "maybe" might not be such a bad thing. No word on the restructuring resolution yet, although I've heard some good things about the work of that committee.

They're doing the joint session budget thing now, which is something I just can't make myself endure again, so I'm taking some time to talk with the dozen of you who haven't given up on Jake's place.

The exhibit section of Convention closed down promptly at 2:00 today, so I quickly made some last minute art purchases. I'm moving into a new home, and need art for the walls.

First, there is this Celtic Cross, hand painted by artist Carol McRay:
You can't see the design very well in this photo, but one arm of the cross depicts scenes from the Hebrew scriptures, and the other scenes from the New Testament. The four achangels are also depicted. I also chose from the same artist individual depictions of the archangels. Here are Gabriel and Ariel:
...and here are Raphael and Michael:
My final choice was an icon, Pantocrater:
Ok, maybe more later...they should be done with the money talk by now. Time to get back to Convention.

J.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sunday's Thoughts

I must tell you, being on vacation is the way to do General Conention!  You can skip what you aren't interested in, and sleep in if you want every day!

I have listened to a few legislative sessions.  A couple of interesting thing have happened, which were probably minor events and not mentioned much elsewhere, so I'll just say a few words about them here.

First of all, the part of the canons which mandates that the Presiding Bishop cannot continue as a Diocesan Bishop were deleted.   Somewhat tangentially related, in my mind, was that the Registrar, who lately has been the Canon to the PB, will once again be the Secretary of Convention, as it had been some years ago.   Both these changes seem to me to be the beginnings of redefining the role of the Presiding Bishop.  That may be a good thing, but to make such changes piecemeal, before any real conversations related to restructuring the Church have been held, seems, to me, to be a bit short sighted.  After all, Bishop Katharine will be in place until GC 2015, so there was no need to start redefining that office now.

The other somewhat unexpected event was a move to reconsider the inclusion of the English Standard Version as an acceptable translation within the Episcopal Church.  The move to reconsider was based on the claim that the ESV was a scholarly translation, and not a paraphrase.   After this resolution was passed, the call to reconsider was based on such ESV texts as I Corinthians 6:9, in which there is a reference to "practicing homosexuals," suggesting that this translation is in places a paraphrase. They will be reconsidering the ESV this afternoon.

This morning's celebration of the Holy Eucharist was a wonderful experience. The organist and choir were superb. The presentation of the UTO offering, with each Diocese named as their representative came forward, was quite moving, as usual. Bishop Katharine preached an excellent sermon, calling us to stand up and be prepared to be sent out to an "rebelious, impudent and stubborn people" (quoting the text from Ezekial). She also reminded us of the philosopher Pogo's admonition:  "We have met the impudent and stubborn ones, and they are us!"
The Diocese of Indianapolis hosted a grand affair this afternoon entitled Step Up Indianapolis. On the schedule is a "Gi-Normous Musical Chairs Contest", a"record-breaking flash mob Samba event" and the "Verger Olympics."
I'd been looking forward to this event, as since it was outside, my pup Korrie could finally attend a GC gathering. He's not been too pleased about being cooped up in the motel room, as you can see:
So, we arrive at Victory Field, little Korrie bounding with excitement, and after 12 steps inside, a security guard informs me dogs are not allowed. So much for inclusivity, eh?

Well, I was not going to disappoint Korrie. We were going to make this afternoon an EVENT one way or another. So, I found a way to get him down by the White River which runs through Indianapolis. Korrie seemed to appreciate soaking his feet after walking all those blocks on the hot pavement. He seemed to get over the rejection much faster than I did:

As we were leaving, I noticed a homeless camp set up in the riverbed not far from where we were:


This camp was less than a mile from the huge Convention Center:


Keep in mind it was 102 yesterday here, and 93 today, with thunderstorms rolling in.

I just find it ironic that right in the shadow of one of the largest Convention Centers I've ever seen, meticulously clean with easy access to first class hotels, are folks living in the riverbed. Did I approach the camp and offer assistance? I was alone, and I'm not a fool, so no, I did not. Just noting the reality check I experienced after coming from an environment that was so proper and posh. 

Tonight I'll be attending the Episcopal Peace Foundation's presention of its 2012 John Nevin Sayre Awards to Dr. Louie Crew and Mary Miller. Should be fun.  And then tomorrow morning, I got talked into offering testimony at some hearing at...wait for it...7:30 am!  So much for vacation.

More tomorrow.

J.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Another General Convention

After a 14 hour drive, with my pup as my only companion, I have arrived in Indianapolis for my third General Convention of the Episcopal Church.
This time, I'm here just as a visitor; not as a blogger, not as a staff member of the ECC...just a parish priest who happens to care greatly about this Church. Nothing too dramatic to report so far. I found some good artwork for my new home in the exhibit area. I've seen a few old friends. The only newsworthy event was a presentation I heard today by Bishop Robinson.
The good Bishop reported, quoting Bp. Ely of Vermont, that it appears the House of Bishops is trying to restructure the Church by resolution, before any real conversation about restructuring has occurred.

This makes me nervous, as it should every Episcopalian. First of all, I don't want the House of Bishops standing alone in making such a call. Second of all, it is high time we had a serious conversation about restructuiring, without one House trying to sabotage the possibility of such a conversation ever happening.

Will our disussions of restructuring be unpleasant? Perhaps. But, avoiding such conversations because we prefer to avoid conflict, for whatever reason, is the best way to make sure nothing really changes.

If you want a good read to start your reflection on the restructuring idea, and why one should be concerned about the House of Bishops attempting to short circuit such a conversation, I commend to you Shared Governance: A Collection of Essays Prepared by the House of Deputies Special Study Committee on Church Governance and Polity 2012.

And now my pup needs a walk. More later.

J.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Has the GOP Been Taken Over by Extremists?

IT points us to an interesting article by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein. Mann is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, so these gentlemen are not exactly raging liberals. One would hope a good cross section of people will pay attention to what they have to say. Here's a taste:
...The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

It is clear that the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right. Its once-legendary moderate and center-right legislators in the House and the Senate — think Bob Michel, Mickey Edwards, John Danforth, Chuck Hagel — are virtually extinct...


Do go read the whole thing, then come back and let me know if you agree with IT; have the Republicans gone insane?

J.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Friday, December 09, 2011

Vote for the Rabbi



In case you want to write his name in, Jason Miller is the name.

J.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Love: More Than a Feeling

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
That is known as Jesus' summary of the law. We have spoken of it a few times already. Today we get to talk about it a little more thoroughly.

Love God with all your heart, soul and mind. To begin, I want to help us identify the two different ways most of us respond to concept like the love of God or the love of neighbor. How many of you are familiar with Myers-Briggs? This is a complicated personality sorter. I use a shorter version called the Keirsey test with couple who are preparing to be married.

What this test does is sort out our personalities according to four subsets: I/E, S/N, T/F and J/P. Now, none of these personality types are better than another, and over our life, our designation may shift. Also, what this test sorts is what the dominant characteristic happens to be at the moment we take the test. Many people end up an equal amount of both, making them an X. But most folks are, for instance, both extroverted and introverted, depending on the situation, the time of day, and other factors.

Anyway, this morning I want to focus on just two of these characteristics, S/T and N/F. First, the Sensing and Thinking personality. These are folks who give a high priority to sensory data, or empirical evidence. These are the “Just the facts, ma’am” kind of folks. They are pragmatic, like concrete answers, carefully drawn plans and detailed schedules. They prefer an orderly life. Their knowledge is primarily derived from the intellect. They live in the mind. They make excellent scientists.

And then we have the NFs, the Intuitive and Feeling types. For these folks, imagination, intuition, playing the hunch and trusting your feelings can override other considerations. This kind of knowledge, known as tacit knowledge, is not necessarily dependent on empirical data. They are comfortable with mystery and creativity, and prefer open ended answers, loosely drawn plans, and flexible schedules. They live in their hearts. They make great artists.

Love God. For the STs, the scientific types, the term love is a bit vague. The sensory data, the empirical evidence, would suggest love is an emotion caused by a chemical reaction in the brain, and certain brain cells firing, resulting a subjective emotion we call love. To suggest an actual thing called love exists outside of ourselves would be a subjective belief, based on little evidence.

Love God. For the NF, the artistic types, concepts like beauty, truth, goodness and love are part of their daily lives, and as real to them as anything in the sensory world. It matters little if there is testable evidence to support such concepts. For them, love is a feeling, an emotion, but one from which they derive much knowledge of the external world.

The problem with both of these views of love is that they are rooted in limiting love to a feeling, and emotion. And, to some degree, I think they both miss the mark. If we are to draw these two personality types together, so that we can indeed love God with both our hearts and our minds, perhaps we need a different definition of love.

Actually, I think that the “love as a feeling” definition doesn’t work all that well. Some of the current popular Christian music sounds very much like romantic love songs to God, which make me a bit uncomfortable. I can stand that sweet, syrupy stuff for just so long. No doubt those songs were written by an N/F. There is a place for the theology of romantic love, however, as seen in Dante’s Divine Comedy. In the end, as Dante chases Beatrice, he finally encounters her with the griffin, a Christ figure, part eagle and part lion, and he realizes that the love he saw in Beatrice’s eyes was being radiated from the griffin.

But, for the most part, I think limiting love to a feeling is problematic. Is that the only way to think about it?

As a child, it took me a long time to learn to love my step-mother, due to being a victim of her mental illness. Eventually, I came to realize that she was just sick, and chose to respond to her with loving actions, even though there were little or no feelings of love.

In a house with four kids, I was often frustrated by the chaos caused by my children, but I chose to respond to them in loving ways, most of the time, even when I was felt like telling them to go outside and play in the street!

When my wife reorganizes the kitchen, and I can’t find a thing, I feel like starting to toss pots and pans and yell a few choice terms I learned in the Navy, but instead, I usually choose to respond with love, and calmly ask where she put my favorite frying pan.

When my neighbor decides to mow his lawn at 8:00 on a Saturday morning, I resist the temptation to go give him a piece of my mind, and choose instead to show love for my neighbor by being thankful that at least he’s finally mowing his lawn!

Occasionally I’m the only one in the building when a family comes to receive some food from our food pantry, so I serve them. Sometimes, not often, they can be rather dysfunctional, and can get under my skin. But I stop and remind myself that these folks are also children of God, and so choose to respond to them with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

My point is, I think often love is not an emotion, for either the S/T or the N/F. Love is a choice, resulting in concrete actions.

Now, defining love that way, as a choice resulting in actions, helps both personality types to accept the concept of love in a healthy way. For the NFs, the artists, it confirms love as a valid form of knowledge to which they can respond by making choices. For the STs, the scientists, when love results in concrete actions, then the actions become the evidence, the sensory data if you will, that this thing we call love has an external impact that can be observed. And these two types need each other. The NFs recognize the choice, but often they need the pragmatic STs to initiate a particular action.

Love God, with all your heart, and all your mind. That is not a command to have warm fuzzy feelings about God. Such love is a choice, resulting in concrete actions. What are those actions? Offering God our praise and thanksgivings in worship as we are doing this morning is certainly one of them. But Jesus suggests another specific action. Love your neighbor as yourself. When we choose to reach out to our neighbors who are in physical, emotional or spiritual need, we have expressed our love of God through the concrete actions of caring for God's children.

So, regardless if you are an ST or an NF, may your neighbors know you are Christians by your love.

J.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Feast of Francis of Assisi

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is
hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where
there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where
there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where
there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to
be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is
in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we
are born to eternal life. Amen.
 
J.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Stop the Bad Vestments!

Vestments belong to the Church. They are a symbol of office, the liturgical year, and the liturgy. They are not personal fashion statements. They are not liturgical accessories. If you understand the liturgical party to be representative of the people gathered, and that the role of those representatives is to be as transparent as possible (meaning, not being a distraction), why would one freely chose to wear vestments that call attention to the individual? The only explanation I have is poor taste, or poor training, or both.

I bring this up because, in my opinion, among the liturgical traditions, Episcopalians are the worse offenders when it comes to poor taste in vestments. By far the absolute worst. And it seems to be a fad that is not passing quietly into the oblivion in which it belongs.

Am I being extreme? Perhaps. But consider this site, Bad Vestments, which is run by a young man, whom I understand was a former Episcopalian.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

Now, can anyone tell me what part of the liturgical year YELLOW represents?  I must tell you, this kind of thing is not "cool."  It is not "emergent."  It is just plain embarrassing.

BTW, to those who should know better, blue is an alternative color for Advent.  Purple is appropriate for Lent.  Using those colors during other seasonal times is simply reason to question the quality of  a person's liturgical training.

I will now stop gritting my teeth. 

J.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Doctor or the Pirate?

I've been avoiding wading too deeply into the Anglican soap opera for awhile, but a recent minor dust up is just too rich to resist.

What's the issue? It's about the battling news stories regarding the presentation by members of the Standing Commis­sion on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) of the Episcopal Church to the Anglican Liturgical Consultation (IALC), which met earlier this month in Canterbury.

One version appeared in the Church Times, and was authored by Simon Sarmiento. Here's part of it:

...The Professor of Liturgics at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, the Revd Dr Ruth Meyers, said on Saturday that the 2009 General Convention had directed the SCLM both to inform, and to invite reflections from, the rest of the Communion. The IALC meeting was an ideal opportunity to discuss the matter.

The Episcopal Church’s request for such a session was made accord­ing to existing IALC norms, she said, and had been unanimously approved in advance by the IALC steering committee. It was a co­incidence that marriage was the main topic this year; the request would have been made in any event.

Dr Meyers also noted that the Episcopal Church’s request con­formed to the Windsor report’s recommendation that “provinces engaged in discernment regarding the blessing of same-sex unions [should] engage the Communion in continuing study.”
The other version of this same meeting was in the Church of England Newspaper and was written by George Conger. This version includes bits like this:

...While some members of the IALC, including its new chairman, Canadian-member the Rev. Dr. Eileen Scully, were generally supportive of the US view, the majority were not. One participant told CEN the objections fell in two general groups: those who believed the concept of same-sex blessings was un-Biblical, and those who were perturbed by the “aggressive” push by the US team to seize control of a study process on rites for traditional marriage to include their own agenda...
Seize control of a study process? The SCLM requested a separate session for their presentation, which would not be part of the "study process" of marriage rites. We were told that it was a coincidence that marriage was the main topic of the IALC this year. The request for the special session by the SCLM would have been made anyway, regardless of the main topic, in order to accomplish the work they were charged to do before GC 2012.

One wonders who this anonymous participant was that told Conger that some were "perturbed" by the Americans' "aggressive push" to "seize control of the study process." If that participant was paying attention, they may have noted that there was a "special session" on the agenda, approved by the IALC steering committee.

It all seems a bit strange, until Conger quotes someone who is not anonymous, as a matter of fact, one who loves the lime light; none other than Frank Lyons, the Bishop of Bolivia.

Yeah, THAT Frank Lyons...the Pirate Bishop of Bolivia! The same Frank Lyons who has plundered a quite a few Episcopal parishes over the years.

In case you still don't recall Lyons, here's just a bit from the 2006 news story that is linked above:

...Lyons, a Wheaton College graduate, is emerging as a rallying figure for conservatives in the Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church. Saying the leadership has turned its back on these people, he is offering a haven to grateful parishes but angering church leaders who accuse him of using the denomination's divisions to promote himself.

His parishes, not wishing to separate from worldwide Anglicanism, turned to Lyons, an American who supervises four churches in Bolivia. Eventually, they plan to establish their own leadership.

Lyons has embraced what some congregations call "the Diocese of Bolivia's Northern Deanery" with zeal. In defiance of U.S. bishops, he ordains priests, lays hands on the sick and shrugs off complaints that his actions contravene church law and common courtesy. He ignores letters from other bishops asking him to stay out...

So, we have one story which quotes Dr. Ruth Meyers, Professor of Liturgics at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and another which quotes Frank Lyons, the pirate Bishop of Bolivia.

Based on that point alone, the source of the quotes, which story would you take more seriously?

J.