Sunday, October 31, 2004

Katie Sherrod on the Windsor Report

The Pharisee and the Windsor Report (Luke 18:9-14...“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”);

God love the tax collector. His prayer should have been posted on the wall of the rooms in which the Lambeth Commission held its deliberations.

This scriptural theme always should be kept in mind by Christians and the church-as-institution. Certainly those of us in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, which obstinately refuses to ordain women, are acutely aware of it. Perhaps that is why I find the Windsor Report released this week another sad example of how we all are “those people who trust in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt.”

Otherwise, why would we be taking seriously a document the goal of which appears to be the desire to handcuff the Holy Spirit, put a gag in the mouth of God, and dam the waters of Justice – all the name of “preserving unity”?

Why would we want to focus on a goal suggested by a document that never once even considers the possibility that what the Episcopal Church did and is doing is a prophetic act that might lead to a new day in the whole of the Communion?

Why would we believe this is a way forward when the report almost totally ignores the largest group of the Baptized -- the laity – and demonstrates an almost willful refusal to understand the workings of the Episcopal Church, the body about which it purports to be so concerned?

Why would we want to use this report as a plan to work on reconciliation and healing when the document itself inflicts wounds without apparent notice?

Why would we take the advice of people who appear to believe that telling us all to quit killing and torturing “homosexual persons” is a step forward?

Why should we listen to yet another group who is willing to tell us what to do with the spiritual lives of “homosexual persons” without talking with these brothers and sisters in Christ?

And why, in the name of God, would we trust the advice of a group willing to produce such a document without ever speaking face to face with the one human being they themselves name as being the presenting cause of the uproar they claim to address?

The tax collector offered to God his most honest appraisal of his spiritual state. He acknowledges his need for God's mercy, for God's help.

It is his cry for help that God answered.

I appreciate the progressive voices in the church who, in the first couple of days since the Report's release, have expressed cautious hopefulness and a willingness to work with the Report's language. But we cannot abdicate our responsibility to preach Christ's gospel of inclusive love and prophetic justice, simply for the sake of unity and ecclesiology.

The Windsor Report purports to be an honest appraisal of the state of the church, but it, like the prayers of the Pharisee, is so steeped in institutional self-righteousness that there's no room left for God.

There is no cry for help here. There is only a deep desire to maintain the status quo.

I see little room in this report for God's grace and the often untidy work of the Holy Spirit.

The Pharisee would have been comfortable on the Lambeth Commission. He is apparently the ideal they want to hold up to us all – the person who follows all the rules and who has no flexibility in his or her approach to life or to the lives of others. These people keep themselves apart the messiness of life so as not to sully their ritual cleanliness.

Is this what we want to become?

It is my prayer that however the Episcopal Church responds, she will emulate the tax collector and trust in a God who can make us all new and lead us into new ways where all the Baptized may seek God's tender mercy.
Pharisee..."the person who follows all the rules and who has no flexibility in his or her approach to life or to the lives of others. These people keep themselves apart the messiness of life so as not to sully their ritual cleanliness." Good description. Although..."those people who trust in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt”...might be an even better one. I seem to recall that Jesus didn't care too much for the way these Pharisees understood and lived out their spiritual lives.

If the shoe fits...

On a lighter note, in honor of Halloween, make sure you go read today's Boondocks (link courtesy of Blondesense).

Not too many visitors tonight. Maybe because I scared the first batch right off the porch with my primate mask. No, not the old men who think they run the church; the black hairy ape kind. I was going to dress up like a druid, but decided I shouldn't push my luck with so many Pharisees about nowadays. Besides, it seemed a bit disrespectful to the tradition. Demi dressed as a "wise woman," pointy hat and all. The witch and the primate strolling down the street together arm in arm; we shared a few laughs over that image.


Saturday, October 30, 2004

Concerning the "Christian" Witch Hunts

Since we set our clocks back tonight, I've got an extra hour, so I need to say something about the dogpile going on in some so-called "Christian" circles regarding two Episcopal priests who it appears attempted to synthesize some Pagan traditions within their Christian tradition.

Is this new? It seems ironic to be talking about this the day before Halloween. Name me a major holiday that does not contain numerous pagan elements. The synthesis has been going on since the beginning; Christianity just baptized a lot of Pagan traditions and claimed them for their own.

The major competitor with early Christianity (once it became legal, and started scrambling to buy real estate and find its place of status in society) was the Pagan traditions. Do you think it's accidental that the devil in early Christian art is depicted as Pan? The dualism that most Christians buy into today is completely foreign to the Old Testament, and most of the New Testament. The dualism is the result of an early attempt to eliminate the competitor. Every opportunity the Christians got they pounded the message; Christianity is good, Paganism is bad.

It didn't stop there. Periodically the Christians would go on frenzied witch hunts. Who were these witches? Usually the wise woman of the village; the one who knew about herbs, child bearing, the cycles of the moon and why the wolves howl at night. These women were a threat to the patriarchal society, and so periodically "Christian" men would pronounce them witches, and they would be murdered. Among Pagans, these are referred to as "the burning times." Maybe someday they will forgive us, but they will never forget. Would you? The current "outrage" is proving that time may have passed, but Christians are still the same; ready to claim anything that is a perceived threat, or they don't understand, as "satanic," and begin gathering wood for a fire.

Answer me honestly; if the rites these two priests developed were originally a Jewish rite, or even a Muslim or Buddhist rite, would everyone be so upset? I don't think so. Christians have a built in bias against anything Pagan. And that is what this latest flap is really all about.

And even us "liberals" are too cowardly to point this out, including myself. My goodness, even Bishop Bennison alludes to the fact that there is something "wrong" with being Pagan!

If we cannot show respect and tolerance for other traditions, we become self-righteous, close minded fanatics, who are part of the problem, and not part of the solution. Most violence in this world is based on religious differences. Shall we contribute to this by claiming our way is the only way, and the rest of you are going to hell? That is what those on the outside hear us saying right now.

If Jesus Christ is the truth, then wherever we find truth, be it a Buddhist or Pagan source, that truth is of Christ. Those who are so quick to condemn other traditions are no different than the Taliban; they are thought police, who teach "right belief" is the only way to be assured of salvation. Tell that to the baby I baptized last week. Tell that to the mentally ill members of my congregation.

Such self-proclaimed gate keepers, as Ted Olsen, the author of that hate dripping diatribe from CT, are perfect examples of why Christianity continues to be less and less of an option for most of the world; who would want to be part of such a self-righteous group of hypocrites? As Gandhi said, "I cannot be a Christian because of the examples of Christianity I have witnessed." Of course, to the gate-keepers, this means nothing, as I'm sure they "believe" Gandhi is in hell.

Personally, liturgically I am a purist; if it isn't from the BCP, I don't want anything to do with it. I am also a Trinitarian; that is my path to God, and I won't compromise it. But we're not talking about my path to God. We're talking about the path chosen by others. And when it comes to talking with the local Rabbi,or the Jehovah's Witness who shows up on my porch, or the Wiccan who lives next door, my response is to meet them where they are in their spiritual life, and not drag them to where I think they should be. I listen to their story, they listen to my story, and we both listen to the places where God's story intersects our stories.

As far as I can see, that is the way Christians offer their witness to the world today. Like it or not, we are no longer the main show; we are just another booth at the fair. A bit more respect, civility, and dare I say humility (not an attribute I'm very good at, I'm afraid) will allow our message to be heard. Forcing it down people's throats, or beating them over the head with the bible, may have been effective in other generations. Today it is not. So bible thumpers; get over yourselves.

Regarding "those awful rites" offered on the Druid site, here's an example;

Let us call for aid and protection to the Guardians of the Four Quarters.

[G] Steps forward to the East, and says

Honored be Raphael of the Air, our Inspiring Guest;
Guardian of the East, draw near, and may our Rite be blessed!

[B] Steps forward to the West, and says,

Honored be Gabriel of the Water, our Empowering Guest;
Guardian of the West, draw near, and may our Rite be blessed!

[G] Moves to the South, and says

Honored be Uriel of the Fire, our Empowering Guest;
Guardian of the South, draw near, and may our Rite be blessed!

[B] Moves to the North, and says

Honored be Michael of the Earth, our Sustaining Guest;
Guardian of the North, draw near, and may our Rite be blessed!

[Both] Stand before the Altar and say

Holy Spirit of Godde, our Life-Giving Guest;
Welcome to our Circle, and may our Rite be blessed!

Centering Meditation

[G] In silence let us honor the Elements of Creation in the Center of our Being.

All sit. Keep silence for a time, meditating on the Five Elements.
After a time, ring once on the Bell.
All stand.
This is a pretty darn Christian rite, if you ask me. The four "corners", directions, are identified. This is the sanctification of space, something I think Christians might do a bit more of; we are rather hung up on the sanctification of time, and tend to ignore this aspect. The corners are called in the name of the four Archangels. We have no problem with the rather theologically questionable idea of "guardian angels," so why would this be objectionable? Someone objects to the primal elements of earth, air, fire and water being named? If so, I'd say that's a personal hang up; that's pretty much a summation of reality, if you ask me. BTW, Matt Fox has been doing this for years. Nothing new here. Next thing I know, someone is going to tell me that using any kind of archetype is "unChristian," and Carl Jung is "of the devil."

The fifth element is the Holy Spirit; someone got a problem with that?

I'm not big on synthesizing traditions personally, but I can recognize that there might be some value in doing it once in awhile. At one of my first burials, at a VA hospital during CPE, I was told as a line of cars pulled up that my congregation would be Jewish! Did I synthesize quickly? You bet I did. The burial was still Christian, but when possible, I used more psalms, etc. To me, the above rite looks like an honest attempt to bridge the gap between two traditions that have had much bad blood between them for 2,000 years. Maybe you disagree with such an attempt. That is certainly your right. But the derogatory and hateful things being said ever since "Brother Ted" opened the floodgates is revealing to the world that we have nothing of value to offer. Will we continue to offer such a poor witness to the healing power of God, and the grace granted to us through our Savior Jesus Christ?

Demi has some good thoughts about this as well.


Friday, October 29, 2004

Some Weekend Reading

Tomorrow morning Demi and I are heading up to NYC for the day. We'll be visiting friends and catching a matinee of Guantanamo: 'Honor Bound to Defend Freedom' at The Culture Project. Sunday will be devoted to the parish, so I probably won't be back until Sunday night or Monday. Just so you don't think I'm neglecting you, I thought I'd leave some suggested reading material for over the weekend:

From The Christian Century;
Media Malfunctions ("not voting" is not an option)
Heavenly Minded (...and of no earthly use?)

From The Door;
Advice from Dr. James Dobson (daring to discipline the strong-willed president)

From The Witness;
Institution Over Inspiration? (Bp. Paul Marshall offers a critical response to the Windsor Report)
Vote Christian? (finding common threads among conservatives and liberals)
Divided Church Dividing the Nation (the nation's reconciliation must begin among Christians)
This Time We're Watching ( don't even think of trying to steal this election)

From various news sources;
100,000 Iraqi civilians dead, says study (The Guardian)
It's Not Just Al Qaqaa (The NYT)

And finally, the latest onslaught by the religious right against the Episcopal Church:

Episcopal Church Officially Promotes Idol Worship
Beyond the Episcopal Church's Pagan Eucharist
Office of Women's Ministries Official Response
Episcopal Women's Ministries Responds to CT as Africans Respond to Windsor Report

So, there you have it. You want the short version, you say? The Women's Ministries portion of the Episcopal Church's website put out a call for new and innovative liturgies. A priest from Pennsylvania responded with a rite, which was then posted in the Women's Ministries site. Someone noticed that the rite was word for word the same as a rite on a Celtic/Druidic site, which resulted in the first CT article. Women's Ministries pulled the rite. The extreme conservatives went ballistic, as you might imagine, and went on a witch hunt. It turns out that it wasn't plagiarism; it seems the priest wrote the Celtic rite. Further hunting revealed that this priest and her husband, who is also a priest, have been involved with a Celtic/Druidic group for some time.

Note how the final word from CT yokes this incident, of the outing of two priests who like to dance skyclad in the moonlight, with the Windsor Report. CT has despised the Episcopal Church for a long time. They leaped on this opportunity to prove, for the umpteenth time, that we are going to hell in a handbasket. Not even a courtesy call to find out if it was a mistake. Thanks for your generous Christian spirit, CT.

Did Women's Ministries screw up? Sure they did. And when their error was pointed out, they pulled the rite. Are these two priests typical Episcopal clergy? Nope. But I'm not going to judge them. Let their bishop deal with it. Lots of eccentric folks end up wearing clerical collars, myself included.

Who else but an eccentric would be a priest? I am firmly convinced that God calls some to be priests because God doesn't trust them as a laypersons. I know that I am pulled from the pit of destruction by the collar of my priestly vows every day. The vocation is some people's road to salvation. If you don't understand what I'm trying to say, I suggest you reread the sermon I posted a few days ago;

...If you're ever disillusioned by other Christians it's your own fault because you shouldn't have had illusions in the first place - either about them or yourself. We are all on the margins where God is concerned, but he holds his nose and he uses what he's got. If he wants to use a bad-tempered old bag to feed the poor of Calcutta, who are we to say otherwise? If he wants to use a rampant adulterer to bring freedom to a billion black people, who are we to complain? It was probably their sins that brought them to God in the first place. The question for us is, what comparable good have we achieved to balance out ours?
The feeding frenzy over on the conservative sites makes me sick. News flash people; the burning times are over; stop the witch hunts, for God's sake!

I wonder if the pagans have these kind of problems?

This brings to mind my favorite quote from Wordsworth (well, second favorite, after Tintern Abbey);

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
Happy reading. See you Monday.


Thursday, October 28, 2004

Will He Admit to a Deadly Mistake?

By now you've probably heard about the candidates sparring over almost 400 tons of missing explosives in Iraq; the same explosives that are now being used against us. Kerry points to this as evidence of the incompetence of the Bush administration and the failure of the president as commander in chief.

The interesting thing to watch has been the president's response. At first he was silent. Next, he went on the attack;

Now the senator is making wild charges about missing explosives when his top foreign policy adviser admits, quote, 'We do not know the facts. Think about that. The senator's denigrating the action of our troops and commanders in the field without knowing the facts.
He even tried to spin this story as evidence that there were WMD in Iraq after all. What kind of twisted logic is that?

Next, the VP is sent after Kerry;

Kerry is "just dead wrong. ... We know ... upwards to 125 tons had been removed" in January 2003 before the invasion, Cheney told supporters at a restaurant coffee session in the battleground state of Wisconsin.

"He's just plain wrong on the facts," Cheney said.
Various explanations were used by the White House in an attempt to dismiss the story. At first, admitting that weapons inspectors did inform them of this stockpile, they claimed they had troops check it out and found nothing there. Even after eyewitnesses were brought forward, including an embedded reporter, who saw the explosives there after the invasion, the Bush administration stuck to their story, and even embellished it further by suggesting the Russians helped cart off the barrels of white powder. You can just imagine how the Russians reacted to being used as scapegoats.

Rumsfeld is now recruited to be the front man, insisting the explosives were already gone by early April when US troops arrived in the area, and, of course, not missing an opportunity to take a swipe at Kerry;

Well, I guess the first thing to say about it is that first reports are almost always wrong. People who use hair-trigger judgment to come to conclusions about things that are fast-moving frequently make mistakes that are awkward and embarrassing.
The Pentagon releases a satellite photo of truck movement around the explosive site just prior to the invasion. Some of the media, such as Fox News, consider the story closed.

But it's not. It turns out that an ABC affiliate, KSTP from Minneapolis/St. Paul, had embedded reporters at the site. And they took pictures. ABC started running this story tonight;

...The barrels were found inside sealed bunkers, which American soldiers are seen on the videotape cutting through. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency sealed the bunkers where the explosives were kept just before the war began.

"The seal's critical," Albright said. "The fact that there's a photo of what looks like an IAEA seal means that what's behind those doors is HMX. They only sealed bunkers that had HMX in them."

After the bunkers were opened, the 101st was not ordered to secure the facility. A senior officer told ABC News the division would not have had nearly enough soldiers to do so.

It remains unclear how much HMX was at the facility, but what does seem clear is that the U.S. military opened the bunkers at Al-Qaqaa and left them unguarded. Since then, the material has disappeared.
Coupled with the NYT's eyewitness reports, I think it's safe to say that the Bush administration is busted, big time.

The Bush administration knew that these explosives were there. They did nothing to secure them, even though troops passed through the site a number of times in early April. Now these explosives are being used to kill our troops and who knows who else.

It is going to be very interesting to watch how the White House responds to this. I tend to think Bush knew all along, and they've all been lying through their teeth from the beginning. They knew that John Kerry's accusations were right on the money, thus the initial silence while they tried to figure out how to spin this one. Now that the evidence is out there, will they continue to lie? As a side note, which members of the media will continue to report false information on this story?

The president has made it clear that he does not make mistakes. Will he stand up this time and take responsibility? I doubt it. If his latest moves are any indication, now he'll blame it on someone else.

The Russians were a bit upset by the attempt to pass the blame off on them. Since pursuing that line seemed less than prudent, the next plan in the blame game was to push it onto the troops. Rudy Giuliani, acting as the unofficial spokesman for the White House, said today that even if the explosives were there after the invasion, it is the troop's fault, not the president's. Sorry Rudy, but the buck stops at the oval office.

What conclusion do I come to in response to all of this? Let me allow John Edwards to say it for me;

Today, George Bush sent his chief surrogate, Rudy Giuliani, out to defend the president's incompetence. And Giuliani blamed the troops. He said they didn't do their jobs. The Republicans couldn't be more wrong.

Our men and women in uniform did their jobs. It's our commander-in-chief, George Bush, who didn't do his.

If George Bush is going to have his friends out there blaming the troops, then he needs to back up his claims with evidence. Mr. President, show America the order that you issued for our troops to secure these dangerous explosives. Show us the order that your friends accuse our troops of ignoring.

George Bush refuses to step up and take responsibility - and now it's time for him to step aside.
A tip of the biretta to the fine folks at DailyKos for keeping this story alive and updated.


Confessing Christ

After the rather discouraging post of yesterday, it seemed appropriate to scout around to see if there were other people outraged about the hijacking of the term "Christian" by the religious right. Indeed there are. And they weren't very hard to find.

From Jim Wallis, editor-in-chief of Sojourners;

High Stakes for Church and State

...The most important thing for the church in this time, or any time, is the confession of Christ. We see the confession of Christ itself under attack from three very dangerous developments. First, we see an emerging "theology of war," emanating from the highest circles of the U.S. government. Second, we hear, with growing frequency, the language "righteous empire" being employed by those same political leaders. Third, we observe a presidential talk of "mission" and even "divine appointment" of the United States and its leaders to lead "the war on terrorism" and "rid the world of evil," in ways that confuse the roles of God, church, and nation.

The issue here is not partisan politics, and there are no easy political solutions. The governing party has increasingly struck a religious tone in an aggressive foreign policy that is much more nationalist than Christian, while the opposition party has offered more confusion than clarity.

The issue here is the danger of political idolatry. The other issue is the use of the politics of fear, which is a dangerous basis for foreign policy. Such political idolatry at the highest levels of American political power, combined with effective campaigns of fear that too easily co-opt anxious people - believers and unbelievers alike - could together lead our nation and our world to decades of pre-emptive, unilateral, and virtually endless war, despite the clear warnings of Christian ethics. A biblical theology is being replaced by a nationalist religion. Presidential speeches are even misusing both scripture and hymnology by changing their meaning for the purposes of American power. Biblical references such as "the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it," are changed from referring to the "light of Christ," from the gospel of John, to the "ideal of America" in the war on terrorism.

We need a new confession of Christ. For such a confession, there should be at least these affirmations:

1. Christ knows no national boundaries nor national preferences. The body of Christ in an international one, and the allegiance of Christians to the church must always supercede their national identities. Christianity has always been uneasy with empire, and American empire is no exception.

2. Christ pronounces, at least, a presumption against war. The words of Jesus stand as a virtual roadblock to any nation's pretension to easily rationalize and religiously sanctify the preference for war. Jesus' instruction to be "peacemakers" leads either to nonviolent alternatives to war or, at least, a rigorous application of the church principles of "just war." The threat of terrorism does not overturn Christian ethics.

3. Christ commands us to not only see the splinter in our adversary's eye but also the beams in our own. To name the face of evil in the brutality of terrorist attacks is good theology, but to say "they are evil and we are good" is bad theology which can lead to dangerous foreign policy. Self-reflection should provide no excuses for terrorist violence, but it is crucial to defeating the terrorists' agenda.

4. Christ instructs us to love our enemies, which does not mean a submission to their hostile agendas or domination, but does mean treating them as human beings also created in the image of God and respecting their human rights as adversaries and even as prisoners.

5. Christ calls us to confession and humility, which does not allow us to say that if persons and nations are not in support of all of our policies, they must be "with the evil-doers."

The words of Jesus are either authoritative for us, or they are not. They are not set aside by the very real threats of terrorism. They do not easily lend themselves to the missions of nation states that would usurp the prerogatives of God.

In an election year, Christians must assert their faith in ways that confess Christ as Lord, and confront any and every political idolatry. I believe the theology of war, the mission of righteous empire, and the divine appointment of the American nation in a "war on terrorism" are modern political idolatries that the churches must resist, in the name of both faithful discipleship and responsible citizenship.

In any election we choose between very imperfect choices. Yet it is always important to prayerfully and theologically examine what is at stake. And then, as best we can, we seek to confess Christ - even in our political lives. In this election, there is a great deal at stake and Christians, divided by political loyalties, are all responsible for asking the question, "What does it mean to confess Christ in the election of 2004?"
These 5 points; no national preference, a presumption against war, seeing the beam in our eye, loving our enemies, our need confession and humility, have been developed into a statement, Confessing Christ in a World of Violence. The statement has been signed by numerous Christian leaders and theologians.

American Bodhisattva notes the similarities between this statement and the Barmen Declaration. I don't think the similarities are accidental. I see plenty of parallels between what was happening within the Church in Nazi Germany and what we are witnessing arise within the U.S. today.

Maybe it's not too late. Maybe we can still stand up against the idolatry of nationalism that seems so prevalent within the current American expression of Christianity.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Remind Me Again?

It appears that there was quite the discussion between Jerry Falwell and Jesse Jackson on CNN Sunday night. The transcript is not out yet, but those who saw it are reporting that part of it went something like this;

Falwell said that when it comes to terrorists, President Bush should "blow them all away in the name of the Lord."

Jesse Jackson responded, "That does not sound Biblical to me. That sounds ridiculous."

Is Falwell in General Boykin's army now?

Satan wants to destroy this nation, he wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army. They will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus.
And from whom does this "Warrior for Jesus" takes his orders?

George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the US. He was appointed by God.
I have to agree with Jesse. This stuff is ridiculous. And tragic. Over 15,000 innocent Iraqi civilians have died, for a war based on falsehoods. It is an outrage as well. These murders are being committed in the name of God.

Here is where this blood lust in the name of God has led Karen Horst Cobb;

No Longer a Christian

I was told in Sunday school the word "Christian" means to be Christ-like, but the message I hear daily on the airwaves from the “christian ” media are words of war, violence, and aggression. Throughout this article I will spell christian with a small c rather than a capital, since the term (as I usually hear it thrown about) does not refer to the teachings of the one I know as the Christ. I hear church goers call in to radio programs and explain that it was a mistake not to kill every living thing in Fallujah. They quote chapter and verse from the old testament about smiting the enemies of Israel. The fear of fighting the terrorists on our soil rather than across the globe causes the voices to be raised as they justify the latest prison scandal or other accounts of the horrors of war . The words they speak are words of destruction, aggression, dominance, revenge, fear and arrogance. The host and the callers echo the belief in the righteousness of our nation's killing. There are reminders to pray for our “christian” president who is doing the work of the Lord: Right to Life, Second Amendmendment, sanctity of marriage, welfare reform, war, kill, evil liberals. . . so much to fight, so much to destroy...

...Who will show the face of Christ to the world? Who will speak His radical message? I hear from these so called imitators of Christ that the pacifists are a collection of kids, hippies, socialists and communists who haven’t got a clue. Some of us, however, have come to our beliefs as a result of careful and prayerful study of the scriptures and admonishment from our elders. Many are Mennonite, Amish, Quaker and other Anabaptists, whose ancestors did not resist their torturers and were drowned, burnt at the stake and flogged for their pacifist stand. They truly followed the example of Christ, and their resistance against the catastrophic effects of the merging of church and state cost them a great price. Churches today have signed onto the government plan and have agreed to look the other way in exchange for tax free privileges. The true message of Christ still exists to some degree in the quiet of the land to peacemakers, but sadly these good people have been deceived by the angry words from a righteous sounding religious media majority broadcasting in cars and trucks and tractors all over our land ironically preaching the “good news of war for peace“ and convincing 24-7 “liberal“ bashing. I suspect there are many who share my sorrow at the loss of what it means to be Christ-like, but our voice is seldom heard. The blaring rhetoric drowns out the still small voice of the mighty God. Peace used be the opposite of war, Conservative used to mean the tendency to conserve resources. Liberal used to mean kind and generous, and Christian used to mean like Christ.

So I am no longer a christian but just a person who continues trying to follow the example of Christ. I’ll let him call me what he wants when I see him face to face. Until then, I will pray that someday people like me will be able to reclaim the meaning of Christ’s identity, and the world will see the effects of the radical message of Christ‘s love--the perfect love that casts out fear.
I would imagine that there are many who would agree with Karen. Our God has been stolen. Jesus has been replaced by Rambo as the god of these times. It is enough to decide that I also can no longer claim to be a Christian.

I won't go that far quite yet. I'm still convinced that there is a silent majority of Christians who are just as outraged by this indiscriminate waste of human lives. I think it is time we break the silence. I think it is time to speak up, if not yet with our voices, then with our vote.

Morrigan's Web asks a question that I think needs to be asked over and over again, until we get an honest answer;

Remind me again; why did we invade Iraq?


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Philly for Kerry

I drove over to Philadelphia yesterday for a John Kerry rally. These are the only shots I managed to grab, due to the fact that I didn't have a blue ticket (why do they offer online tickets if they're worthless?), and due to my inexperience with this new camera. Maybe someday I'll figure out how it works.

From the article, in case you don't want to register;

...In Philadelphia, the Kerry crowd was drawn in part by former President Bill Clinton, who made his first appearance on the campaign trail since quadruple bypass surgery seven weeks ago.

A Bruce Springsteen recording, "No Surrender," played and confetti shot into the air as Clinton and Kerry walked down a runway side-by-side, shaking hands with supporters. On stage, the two men joined hands and lifted their arms high into the air.

"I am very proud of John Kerry and the campaign he has run," Clinton told the crowd. "He never gives up"...

...Kerry used the rally to criticize the Bush administration's handling of Iraq on a day when the International Atomic Energy Agency disclosed that more than 350 tons of powerful conventional explosives are missing from the former Al-Qaqaa military installation, about 30 miles south of Baghdad.

"George W. Bush talks tough and brags about making America safer, but once again he has failed," Kerry said. "His incompetence, step after step, has put our troops at greater risk."

The crowd answered Kerry's criticisms with a chant of "Bush must go! Bush must go!"...

...Joining Kerry and Clinton on stage in Philadelphia were the top Democrats in the city and state, including Gov. Rendell and Mayor Street.

Singer Patti LaBelle, a Philadelphia native, sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" before Clinton and Kerry arrived and a long line of local politicians and candidates spoke to the crowd.

"Nobody was better to the city of Philadelphia than Bill Clinton," Rendell told the crowd, which the Fire Department estimated at 80,000 to 100,000. "As the 44th president of the United States, John Kerry has the ability to top him."

Kerry, who has criticized Bush's economic policies, praised Clinton for leading America "to the strongest economy we ever had."

Energetic but looking thin and pale, Clinton said over the cheering crowd, "If this isn't good for my heart, I don't know what is."

A flag hoisted by a crane flew high in the air behind the two men. The statue of William Penn atop City Hall loomed in the distance against a steel-gray sky...
Carol Moseley Braun and Governor Rendell are to the right of President Clinton in that shot. The Big Dog looked no worse for wear and tear. Good to see him back in the action.


Monday, October 25, 2004

The Mark of a Chosen Person

This arrived in my inbox recently, thanks to Mata Hari (aka LoveisTruth...when are you getting a blog??). It is one of the most powerful stories I've read in some time. Make sure you read the whole thing;

The Mark of a Chosen Person, Jeffrey John...

... If you're ever disillusioned by other Christians it's your own fault because you shouldn't have had illusions in the first place - either about them or yourself. We are all on the margins where God is concerned, but he holds his nose and he uses what he's got. If he wants to use a bad-tempered old bag to feed the poor of Calcutta, who are we to say otherwise? If he wants to use a rampant adulterer to bring freedom to a billion black people, who are we to complain? It was probably their sins that brought them to God in the first place. The question for us is, what comparable good have we achieved to balance out ours?

The Church that Jesus first assembled was a gang of sinners and rejects. Any Church that is His Church ought to know that it is the same. It has to show the same kind of love, the kind that includes and embraces first, then let’s the love do the healing from the inside. That’s what Catholic means. Michael Marshall once wrote: ‘the test of genuinely Catholic Christianity is not that it makes good people better, but that it makes bad people holy’.

Or as Oscar Wilde, another good Catholic put it: We are all in the gutter; but some of us are looking at the stars.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The "Christian" Vote

Today I spent quite a bit of time reading new blogs (new to me). One particular post from Rob troubled me;

Fast forward to 2004, the year of the presidential election. Coming home from somewhere in the car, I turned on a local religious talk show. Yeah, I should know better. The DJ was asking the audience if a vote for Kerry constituted proof that someone's Christianity was a fraud. The general consensus was "yes." Those who disagreed were summarily dealt with by the DJ - a perfect example of why arguing with someone who can hang up on you and get the last word is a bad idea. The conclusion was that Christianity meant believing in George W. Bush and everything he did. Funny, I thought following Jesus, the Savior who died for us and rose from the dead so that we won't suffer eternal death, was what Christianity was about.

Silly me. I must be pretty bad at theology to make that mistake.

So I'm an isolated Christian. I have to hide and hope that no one notices that I'm different.
Those words just about broke my heart. It's been a long time since I was part of a fundamentalist church; about 35 years actually. I find myself guilty of being a bit naive, I suppose, assuming that everyone understood that claims that either Bush or Kerry are "more Christian" is just a bunch of political hype.

For Rob, and others who might think that Bush is the only option for Christians, let me point out a couple of interesting articles. The President's faith has come under close scrutiny lately:

The Washington Post ran this story on October 16; Openly Religious, to a Point; Bush Leaves the Specifics of His Faith to Speculation. We don't know much about this President's personal spiritual life, except for the claims he makes in political speeches. This article seems to have been an opening others were waiting for, as the rush to define Bush's religious beliefs was on.

Ron Suskind, in The New York Times Magazine, followed with this piece on October 17; Without A Doubt, which suggests that Bush's form of Christian faith carries a dangerous form of self-righteousness within it;

Bush grew into one of history's most forceful leaders, his admirers will attest, by replacing hesitation and reasonable doubt with faith and clarity. Many more will surely tap this high-voltage connection of fervent faith and bold action. In politics, the saying goes, anything that works must be repeated until it is replaced by something better. The horizon seems clear of competitors.

Can the unfinished American experiment in self-governance -- sputtering on the watery fuel of illusion and assertion -- deal with something as nuanced as the subtleties of one man's faith? What, after all, is the nature of the particular conversation the president feels he has with God -- a colloquy upon which the world now precariously turns?

That very issue is what Jim Wallis wishes he could sit and talk about with George W. Bush. That's impossible now, he says. He is no longer invited to the White House.

''Faith can cut in so many ways,'' he said. ''If you're penitent and not triumphal, it can move us to repentance and accountability and help us reach for something higher than ourselves. That can be a powerful thing, a thing that moves us beyond politics as usual, like Martin Luther King did. But when it's designed to certify our righteousness -- that can be a dangerous thing. Then it pushes self-criticism aside. There's no reflection.

''Where people often get lost is on this very point,'' he said after a moment of thought. ''Real faith, you see, leads us to deeper reflection and not -- not ever -- to the thing we as humans so very much want.''

And what is that?

''Easy certainty.''
On October 19, Ayelish McGarvey, in The American Prospect, wrote an article entitled As God Is His Witness; Bush is no devout evangelical. In fact, he may not be a Christian at all. There's some interesting stuff in this piece, but then I came across this line;

Judging him on his record, George W. Bush's spiritual transformation seems to have consisted of little more than staying on the wagon, with Jesus as a sort of talismanic Alcoholics Anonymous counselor.
Ouch. Having been accused of not being a "real Christian" myself more times than I care to remember, I don't like it when it's said about others, even if it is someone I personally dislike. Cheap shots like this, and others found in the article, seem uncalled for as far as I'm concerned.

Next, On October 20, Amy Sullivan picks up the thread as guest columnist for Kevin Drum in an article entitled More Than Words. Although Sullivan also feels that McGarvey went too far, she comes to a very similar conclusion;

Every young Sunday School student knows it's not what you say, it's what you do. And on that score, George W. Bush has failed to act according to Christian principles and values. That shouldn't necessarily matter--that shouldn't be a requirement for our country's leader. But it's simply a fact that many voters cast their lot with the guy they believe is led by a moral power greater than himself. I've heard countless voters say they disagree with Bush on the war, the economy, his environmental record, his education agenda, you name it--but they're voting for him "because he's a good Christian man." The press has accepted uncritically that this is so. Maybe that was a mistake.
As you can see, there is not a clear consensus regarding George Bush as THE Christian candidate. I think we can expect more of this kind of press in the next few days.

There is one other direction that the conversation on faith and the presidency is taking that troubles me. Last month, a piece by Mark Noll of The Christian Century appeared; None of the above: Why I won't be voting for President;

As has been the case for the past few presidential elections, on Election Day I will almost certainly cast my vote once again for none of the above. Here is why:

Seven issues seem to me to be paramount at the national level: race, the value of life, taxes, trade, medicine, religious freedom and the international rule of law. In my mind, each of these issues has a strong moral dimension. My position on each is related to how I understand the traditional Christian faith that grounds my existence. Yet neither of the major parties is making a serious effort to consider this particular combination of concerns or even anything remotely resembling it...

...I have arrived at these seven political convictions as a result of my Christian faith. Yet each can be advanced in terms of the public good without reliance on a particular faith. Of course, I may be mistaken either in what traditional Christianity should mean politically for an American citizen in the early 21st century or in how best to argue for these positions with reasoning not demanding a commitment to traditional Christianity. But as long as I hold these positions, I am a citizen without a political home.
Although I agree with his seven convictions, I also strongly believe that not voting is simply wrong thinking. I'm sorry, Mr. Noll, but I cannot respect such a decision. It is this kind of attitude that leads to the apathy we've seen in past elections. One of the greatest gifts this nation has offered to humanity is the democratic process. To refuse the gift because a "perfect" candidate has not risen on the horizon is to be too much of an idealist. There is no such animal as the "perfect" candidate.

The Ivy Bush offers an excellent reflection on Noll's position, including a discussion of some of Stanley Hauerwas' ideas and a link to another discussion on The Morning Retort. The theme is picked up by Except for These Chains, who explores his problem with the "no lesser of two evils" approach to voting.

I haven't presented the discussion of Kerry being a Christian or not, but let me assure you that it's out there too. The only thing I will point out is that John Kerry has not been excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church. Let's kill that smear campaign right now.

In my opinion, there is no question that George Bush and John Kerry are both Christians, if that is the label they choose to claim. I cannot look into their hearts and know the nature of their relationship with God, and I question the integrity of anyone who claims that they can.

So, Rob, and others, vote for who you think will be the best leader for this nation. And maybe do some church shopping. I assure you that there are faith communities out there that do not employ thought police.


P.S. Just for the record, I will be voting for Kerry, but not necessarily because I think it's my "Christian duty." I'll be voting for Kerry because of the kind of crazy (dare I say fascist? I guess I just did) ideology coming out of the Bush administration, such as this classic example from Suskind's piece;

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
May God have mercy on us all if these egomaniacs are allowed four more years in the White House.

100 Reasons to Fire Bush

The election is a week from Tuesday. Do you know anyone who is still undecided? Here is a great resource offered by The Nation;

100 Facts and 1 Opinion; The Non-Arguable Case Against the Bush Administration

There's a link to download the pdf version, which is all set up to print as a handout.

Don't bother offering this to supporters of Bush. Apparently most of them follow his lead and don't read.


Thursday, October 21, 2004

Counting the Cost

Prior Aelred, a new commenter who has been providing a number of links to excellent articles over the last few days, has just pointed to one by Giles Fraser, vicar of Putney, lecturer in philosophy at Wadham college Oxford and chair of I found it to be an important addition to the myriad of voices we are listening to at the moment, as I think he articulates the position that many hold, but are hesitant to voice. If we are to engage in sincere conversation about the future of the Communion, I think we have to get honest, and not simply bite our tongues for the sake of unity;

...Reconciliation is what Christians live for. Dr Eames is right: this is the essence of the gospel. I admit my own failure to live as a Christian alongside those who read the Bible in a different way from me.

But — and it’s a big but — what I cannot do is to embrace a form of reconciliation whose price is paid by the most vulnerable and the most sidelined. We cannot purchase our solidarity at the price of another’s silence. The idea that those who have fought like cats and dogs over the past months should kiss and make up, in the name of church unity, thereby allowing a situation to exist whereby gay Christians and their loving relationships continue to be derided as sinful, is intolerable.

This is why I thank God for the leadership being shown by the Most Revd Frank Griswold, the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA. His initial reactions to the report offered the right balance of regret for the pain caused by division, while affirming “the presence and positive contribution of gay and lesbian persons to every aspect of the life of our Church and in all orders of ministry”. He continued: “I regret that there are places within our Communion where it is unsafe for them to speak out the truth of who they are.”

To misapply the title of Jonathan Freedland’s book that celebrates the triumph of American political democracy: bring home the revolution.
Go read the whole thing.

For the sake of unity, what price are we willing to pay? Even more to the point, what price are we willing to ask others to pay?

The way forward has to be paved with honesty and humility. But for such a path to endure, it must also contain justice. As Corazon Aquino reminds us;

Reconciliation should be accompanied by justice, otherwise it will not last. While we all hope for peace it shouldn't be peace at any cost but peace based on principle, on justice.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Very Next Day...

From The Living Church;

Saying that the Episcopal Church lacked accountability, the rectors of two parishes in the Diocese of Olympia told the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner on Oct. 19 that their congregations had voted overwhelmingly to seek independence from the Episcopal Church and to affiliate with the Rt. Rev. Robinson Cavalcanti, Bishop of Recife in the Anglican Province of Brazil.

Contacted in London by telephone on Oct. 20, Bishop Cavalcanti said his decision to accept pastoral care for the two parishes was “a temporary pastoral response to an emergency and the continued defiance [of Windsor Report recommendations] by North American bishops.” Bishop Cavalcanti added that he is prepared to offer oversight to at least two other Episcopal churches and that there would be many more unless the American and Canadian bishops honor the moratorium on further same-sex blessings and the ordination of non-celibate homosexual persons called for by the Lambeth Commission on Communion in the Windsor Report.

“We did not create this problem,” Bishop Cavalcanti said. “There are moments in history when we must be willing to make a stand.”
What was it I believe I just read in the Windsor Report, released one day before this incident?

We call upon those bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own:
* to express regret for the consequences of their actions
* to affirm their desire to remain in the Communion, and
* to effect a moratorium on any further interventions.
We also call upon these archbishops and bishops to seek an accommodation with the bishops of the dioceses whose parishes they have taken into their own care.
We further call upon those diocesan bishops of the Episcopal Church (USA) who have refused to countenance the proposals set out by their House of Bishops to reconsider their own stance on this matter. If they refuse to do so, in our view, they will be making a profoundly dismissive statement about their adherence to the polity of their own church.
Is this just one isolated incident? I don't think so. Peter Akinola, Archbishop of Nigeria, just completed a 16 day tour of various cities in the U.S., where he intends to establish alternative parishes. Following the release of the Windsor Report, The Living Church quotes him as stating;
In the absence of any signs of repentance and reform from those who have torn the fabric of our Communion, and while there is continuing oppression of those who uphold the faith, we cannot forsake our duty to provide care and protection for those who cry out for our help.
After all, we had a full 24 hours to show signs of repentence and reform. You snooze, you lose, I guess.

Now that the Report has been ignored, and once again the ECUSA orchard is declared open for free plum picking by foreign bishops, where do we go from here? Do we take the high road and declare a unilateral moratorium? In the name of unity, do we allow these blustering buzzards to continue to feed off of our open wounds?

Quite discouraging.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Summary of the Summaries

There's been much written about the Windsor Report in the last 36 hours. Here's just a few items that I found of interest;

Here is a summation by Simon Kershaw of Thinking Anglicans.

Here is the most innovative analysis of the Windsor Report I've come across so far. Those naughty bishops.

Beliefnet also offers a well written brief.

Bishop John Shelby Spong's response may be a bit "strident," but is still an important perspective to put into the mix;
The literal-minded are triumphing;
...The Anglican Communion had a relatively minor crisis as new consciousness about homosexuality struggled to be born in the face of ancient prejudice. This commission has taken this minor crisis and turned it into a major revolution that will move Anglicanism toward the literal-mindedness that now threatens not just Christianity, but religious systems all over the world. That is not a future that anyone should welcome. If this report is adopted, it will create a church ill-equipped to live in the 21st century. Death comes in many forms — the inability to embrace new reality is one of them...
Aelred pointed to an article from The Witness that I found to be particularly insightful. This is one of those that you really must read the whole thing, but I'll go ahead and give you an excerpt as a teaser;
The Windsor Report: Reimposing Paternalism?

...The Communion is actually more like the Commonwealth - a federation - than a family. And to invite it to become more of a family by bolstering the role of the father figure is actually to invite more teenage acting-out than has hitherto been the case. For when you bolster the father's authority - by giving him an advisory council so that he can bring the errant to heel - what you actually invite is the errant, if so they be, to err a bit more, to test further the boundaries...

...the undersong of the communion is not family but friendship. And friendships flourish and mature - as the journey on the Emmaus road makes clear - precisely as those traveling disagree with one another. For the person who accompanies them, reveals the scriptures, and interprets their disagreements for them, helping them to achieve a sense of context and balance, is of course Christ, the ultimate guarantor of friendship and reconciliation.
Christianity Today reports that the Windsor Report Leaves Conservative Episcopalians Hopping Mad. I wonder if it would make them feel any better to know that this eccentric heretic is not too pleased with it either? Probably not.

Archbishop Akinola is pretty upset as well;

Why, throughout the document, is there such a marked contrast between the language used against those who are subverting the faith and that used against those of us, from the global south, who are trying to bring the church back to the Bible?...Where is the language of rebuke for those who are promoting sexual sins as holy and acceptable behavior? The imbalance is bewildering...

...the primary recommendation of the report is 'greater sensitivity' instead of heartfelt repentance...We have been asked to express regret for our actions and 'affirm our desire to remain in the communion.' How patronizing! We will not be intimidated...If they do not repent and return to the fold, they will find that they are all alone. They will have broken the Anglican Communion.
Spong and Akinola are both perturbed by this document. Does that tell us anything? Here's the conclusion that Hugo came to;
I'll be the first to admit it: in the world of Anglican blogging, I often only know whether something is "good news" or not based upon the responses of the cyber-savvy traditionalists. If they are unhappy, then there must be reason to rejoice. I don't mean that nastily, mind you! I simply have found that in most cases, the American Anglican Council is a lot like Focus on the Family: knowing what they oppose allows me to be clear on what I support. In this age of information overload, it's really rather helpful.

Seriously, though, I like any report that calls folks back from the brink of schism. More than anything else, what I read here is a rebuke to self-righteous certainty, whether that hubris appears from the right or from the left. I like that.
When the extremes are upset, there's a chance that we're dancing near the truth.

This evening I found myself struggling to identify the various emotions trying to rise to the surface in response to all of this. Then I found a reflection on the significance of this report being released on the feast of St. Luke the Physician by maggi dawn;

Last night, for reasons that had nothing to do with the report released earlier in the day, I travelled a short distance from home to celebrate the Eucharist for St Luke with a community known for its sympathetic and liberal attitude towards gay and lesbian clergy. The Eucharist was sweetly old-fashioned, somewhat of a minority style among church-goers. The atmosphere was warm, and I received the kind of welcome one doesn't always get in Church. This is a community that has held many people safely while they come to terms with their sexuality; it is a community that is deeply marked by the love and presence of Christ.

I don't know what we, the Anglican Communion, will do in terms of walking forward together. But I felt a curious mixture of sadness, confusion and hope as I took Communion last night; sadness knowing that for some years to come people such as these will struggle as they are marginalised and outcast; confusion, because on a day commemorating the healing of the gospel we have opened a great gaping wound in the Church and do not know how to mend it; but hope from Luke the beloved physician and his reminder that the gospel is for everyone, not just those who are regarded as 'acceptable' according to the criteria of religious and cultural tradition.
Sadness, confusion and hope; yes, that's it. Thanks for these words, maggi, and for reminding me that the truth is often discovered within community, among the living testaments to the hope that springs from trusting in the healing power of God's love.


Monday, October 18, 2004

The Windsor Report

The Windsor Report, the long awaited report from The Lambeth Commission on Communion (also known as the Eames Commission) has been released this morning. The traffic might be heavy on that site, so you may want to view it here. It lays out the way forward for an Anglican Communion on the verge of fracturing. The whole report needs to be studied, but here's some excerpts that will most likely be batted around for the next few months, if not years;

More authority for the Archbishop of Canterbury;
The Commission believes therefore that the historic position of the Archbishopric of Canterbury must not be regarded as a figurehead, but as the central focus of both unity and mission within the Communion. This office has a very significant teaching role. As the significant focus of unity, mission and teaching, the Communion looks to the office of the Archbishop to articulate the mind of the Communion especially in areas of controversy. The Communion should be able to look to the holder of this office to speak directly to any provincial situation on behalf of the Communion where this is deemed advisable. Such action should not be viewed as outside interference in the exercise of autonomy by any province. It is, in the view of the Commission, important to accept that the Archbishop of Canterbury is acting within the historic significance of his position when he speaks as a brother to the members of all member churches of the Anglican Communion, and as one who participates fully in their life and witness.
The appointment of A Council of Advice (referred to elsewhere in the media as "The Star Chamber");
In order to perform the role which we have set out for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop should be supported by appropriate mechanisms to ensure that he does not feel exposed and left to act entirely alone, but in a way which is informed by suitable persons, who would possess a knowledge of the life of the Communion, and of the theological, ecclesiological and canonical considerations which might apply to any given situation. We therefore recommend the establishment of a Council of Advice to the Archbishop to assist him in discerning when and how it might be appropriate for him to exercise a ministry of unity on behalf of the whole Communion. Such a body might be formed from any existing council of the Communion, possibly the Joint Standing Committees of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' Meeting, or a smaller advisory council drawn from the membership of these bodies. However, it will need to be constituted with specific reference to the sorts of expertise upon which the Archbishop of Canterbury may wish to draw in the development of this particular ministry. This may mean that it is preferable to consider a small group of advisers brought together to fulfil this specific role, drawing on the primates of the Communion, and also on the specific expertise understood to be required.
The Anglican Covenant, which one would assume everyone must sign, promising that we will stop misbehaving;
This Commission recommends, therefore, and urges the primates to consider, the adoption by the churches of the Communion of a common Anglican Covenant which would make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection which govern the relationships between the churches of the Communion. The Covenant could deal with: the acknowledgement of common identity; the relationships of communion; the commitments of communion; the exercise of autonomy in communion; and the management of communion affairs (including disputes).
The Right Reverend Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, officially becomes an untouchable;
We accept and respect the position taken up by the Archbishop of Canterbury in relation to the current incumbent of the See of New Hampshire In view of the widespread unacceptability of his ministry in other provinces of the Communion, we urge the proposed Council of Advice to keep the matter of his acceptability under close review. We also urge the Archbishop, unless and until the Council of Advice (or, if the Council should not come into being, the Primates' Meeting) indicate to the contrary, to exercise very considerable caution in inviting or admitting him to the councils of the Communion.
The Episcopal Church apologize for past naughtiness, promise not to do it again, and those bishops who have been naughty voluntarily remove themselves from the councils of the Church;
We recommend that:
* the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire, and for the consequences which followed, and that such an expression of regret would represent the desire of the Episcopal Church (USA) to remain within the Communion
* pending such expression of regret, those who took part as consecrators of Gene Robinson should be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion. We urge this in order to create the space necessary to enable the healing of the Communion. We advise that in the formation of their consciences, those involved consider the common good of the Anglican Communion, and seek advice through their primate and the Archbishop of Canterbury. We urge all members of the Communion to accord appropriate
respect to such conscientious decisions.
* the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges.
Conservative bishops stop misbehaving; specifically respect diocesan boundaries;
We call upon those bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own:
* to express regret for the consequences of their actions
* to affirm their desire to remain in the Communion, and
* to effect a moratorium on any further interventions.
We also call upon these archbishops and bishops to seek an accommodation with the bishops of the dioceses whose parishes they have taken into their own care.
We further call upon those diocesan bishops of the Episcopal Church (USA) who have refused to countenance the proposals set out by their House of Bishops to reconsider their own stance on this matter. If they refuse to do so, in our view, they will be making a profoundly dismissive statement about their adherence to the polity of their own church.
In extreme situations, delegated pastoral oversight by a bishop other than the diocesan may be warranted, as long as the end result is to work towards reconciliation;
In only those situations where there has been an extreme breach of trust, and as a last resort, we commend a conditional and temporary provision of delegated pastoral oversight for those who are dissenting. This oversight must be sufficient to provide a credible degree of security on the part of the alienated community, so that they do not feel at the mercy of a potentially hostile leadership. While the temporary provision of pastoral oversight is in place there must also be a mutually agreed commitment to effecting reconciliation.
The conclusion of the report offers both a note of caution and hopeful sentiments, but, in my opinion, is not rooted in reality;
There remains a very real danger that we will not choose to walk together. Should the call to halt and find ways of continuing in our present communion not be heeded, then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart. We would much rather not speculate on actions that might need to be taken if, after acceptance by the primates, our recommendations are not implemented. However, we note that there are, in any human dispute, courses that may be followed: processes of mediation and arbitration; non-invitation to relevant representative bodies and meetings; invitation, but to observer status only; and, as an absolute last resort, withdrawal from membership. We earnestly hope that none of these will prove necessary. Our aim throughout has been to work not for division but for healing and restoration. The real challenge of the gospel is whether we live deeply enough in the love of Christ, and care sufficiently for our joint work to bring that love to the world, that we will “make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4.3). As the primates stated in 2000, “to turn from one another would be to turn away from the Cross”, and indeed from serving the world which God loves and for which Jesus Christ died.
We bring the love of Christ to the world by affirming a litmus test as to who is "worthy" enough to be a full member in our elite little club? This may be all well and good for some if we are talking from within the Church, perhaps. But the world is watching to see if Christendom will remain an irrelevant, bigoted club, or if maybe there really is something to our claim to be the embodiment of Christ in the world today. If we are about maintaining the status quo, I'm not interested. Let the club disban. It is the one lost and hurting outside our walls that is our primary concern; not the 99 preoccupied with how we "do church."

There's some good background material on the nature of communion in this document, and some theology worth chewing on as well. I recommend reading the whole thing.

What happens next? The Primates meet in February. Then the Anglican Consultative Council meets in June. Then ECUSA meets for their General Convention in 2006. Then the Lambeth Conference meets in 2008. Unfortunately, the media will have a field day with this for the next four years. In the meantime, in most parishes in ECUSA, it will have little if any impact.

This tempest in a teapot is not about the authority of scripture. It may be seondarily about the way we interpret scripture, but that is not the primary issue. Neither is it about homosexuality. It is about our willingness to take the risk of proclaiming the Good News of God's radical inclusivity. It appears that at the moment the Anglican Communion is not willing to take such a risk. Instead, they have opted for more authority, including the appointment of an Anglican pope. Personally, if I wanted such a hierarchy, I'd be a Roman. I understand Rowan Williams wants nothing to do with this kind of structure either.

The conservatives tested the wind of the times, and decided now is the opportune moment to attempt a takeover of the leadership of the Anglican Communion. The global pendulum has swung in their direction, not only in the Church, but in global politics as well, for now. But I doubt that humanity will be content for very long with a mindset that responds out of a fear of the future, and tries to drag us all back to a past that is painted golden with the brush of nostalgia.

The pendulum will swing back, in God's time. In the meantime, it is essential that we not give in to the self-appointed gate keepers. Their God is just too small to be an expression of Good News to a hurting world hungry for healing.


Sunday, October 17, 2004

Created Unique; Called to Faithfulness

Archbishop Tutu's first meditation on Monday emphasized that each one of us is a unique creation, and that the act of creating each one of us is an ongoing project. It might be wonderful if each of us was created complete in an instant, but this is simply not the case. The Archbishop quoted that well-known line; "God writes straight with crooked lines." In this instance, we were to understand this to mean that when things don't quite work out, God changes the plan. God waits until conditions are just right for the emergence of you.

This approach, that our creation is ongoing, is quite similar to Irenaeus' view of human progress. Our destiny is not carved in stone; we are given room to evolve into the unique creation we were always intended to be. Sometimes this emergence is accomplished through a series of stumbles and even falls, especially for those of us who prefer the school of hard knocks.

The Archbishop commented that his favorite prophet was Jeremiah. Why? Because he is such a crybaby. "Oh no, I'm not doing that...try next door!" Not only crybabies, but even folks we might think of as monsters are still children of God, as they still have the capacity for change, and their creation is still in process. "God expands to include what we call rubbish," the Archbishop told us.

He suggested to us that we have attempted to domesticate the Gospel; to make it respectable and beautiful. The truth of the matter, as he sees it, is that God has very low standards. A man spends his entire life as a thief, and that is all changed in a moment; "...remember me?" "Today you will be with me..." The Archbishop assured us that we will all be surprised by those we meet in heaven, and those we don't!

God wants everyone. He quoted Origen; "Even the devil cannot resist the love of the divine!" Why does God embrace such a radical inclusiveness? He used the example of an orchestra, which ebbs and flows through a complex piece, only to pause for the player of the triangle to contribute; "Ding!"

Our response to God is the new thing; without it, like the sound of the triangle, something would be lost. He concluded this first segment by calling us to remember that each one of us is a beautiful and unique creation. He did suggest that we might take liberties in how we use these adjectives; "I'm beautiful, but you're unique!"

We had a few hours of "free time" before Evensong, dinner and the next meditation. Some chose to pray, read, hike or nap. I chose to get in my car and go to town in search for the nearest camera store to pick up some accessories. I met a fascinating salesperson, who immigrated from Greece just a few years ago, but I digress.

During the evening meditation, the Archbishop reminded all of us to be faithful to our ordination vow to be a person of prayer. As an example, he recalled the story of Moses and the burning bush. Then he asked us, "What if Moses would have decided to sleep in a bit longer that day? He would have missed that transformative event." As the Archbishop put it, "God expects us to be there, and wants to bless us as he did Moses."

He recommended to us the discipline used throughout the Anglican Communion of praying the Daily Office, Morning and Evening Prayer, as a part of our spiritual discipline. The Archbishop told us, "I don't know how to pray, so I throw myself into the stream of those who do." When we don't know how to pray, we can also throw ourselves into the stream of worship offered by the Church.

He quoted from the South African ordinal, which calls the priest to "bear the people on your hearts, as Aaron..." This is a reference to the breastplate Aaron wore when entering the Holy of Holies. It is the duty of a priest to stand before God and God's people, as a bridge between these two worlds.

This is very similar to what Michael Ramsey said in his little book The Christian Priest Today; "Be a person of prayer, with the people of God on your heart."

The final quote, which may be the one thing Archbishop Tutu said that hit me right between the eyes, was the following;

God doesn't look to us to be successful. God wants us to be faithful.
I'll be repeating that one to myself for quite some time.

Next; Down from the Mountain


St. Joseph's in the Hills, The Malvern Retreat House

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Come to the Quiet

During our retreat with Abp. Tutu, the meditations were offered in the chapel, in which the focal point was the altar pictured above. Interesting reredos, don't you think? I found myself somewhat distracted by it at times.

The first meditation was brief, and included much humor. Abp. Tutu loves to laugh, and at times literally danced around the lectern, giggling to himself. He began by telling the story of one of his early retreats after becoming Archbishop. The retreatants were a large group of women who had gathered for a conference. In an attempt to express his understanding of the inclusivity of God, he began with the statement, "Ladies, under this cassock we are all the same."

The Archbishop spoke highly of our new bishop, George E. Councell, whom he described as one who has "offered his giftedness to help heal a diocese who has been wounded." This is not only a reference to our bishop's commitment to pastoral care for all members of the diocese during this current difficult time; it also speaks of the healing that is beginning within a diocese torn asunder during the time of Bishop Doss. The Archbishop did admit to being a bit confused when one member of the diocese stated that Bishop Councell was "our first bishop who is also a Christian!" He followed this with a belly laugh, and everyone, conservative, liberal and moderate, gathered in that holy place, joined him. It's an amazing thing when humor, used to point out the absurdity of some of our struggles, can somehow move us past our carefully structured positions, and allow us to once again be open to something new.

In calling us into silence, the Archbishop used as his text Matthew 6:31;

Jesus said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
To be quite honest, most of us were not prepared to begin a silent retreat; this caught us all by surprise, including diocesan staff, who had planned various social functions during our time together.

I've been on previous silent retreats, and said mass for the sisters at a convent on Tuesdays for a few years. At times I find this discipline to be unnecessarily harsh. This was one of those times. The clergy get together only a few times a year, and this particular gathering was larger than most, due to the presence of the Archbishop. Many of us had looked forward to renewing old friendships, making new ones, and sharing what was going on in our lives with our brothers and sisters. But, what is one to do? This was the Archbishop of Cape Town. We entered into the quiet.

My notes of this first session end at this point, with a final scribble being something to the effect that if my vocation was to the monastic life, I'd be in a monastery...grumble, grumble, etc.

Due to the lack of content in my notes, let me offer a few words from Archbishop Tutu drawn from his book, God Has a Dream;

Far too frequently we see ourselves as doers. As we've seen, we feel we must endlessly work and achieve. We have not always learned just to be receptive, to be in the presence of God, quiet, available, and letting God be God, who wants us to be God. We are shocked, actually, when we hear that what God wants is for us to be godlike, for us to become more and more like God. Not by doing anything, but by letting God be God in and through us...

...There comes a time when we evolve, we grow, and we realize that all that actually matters in prayer is being with our Beloved, being with God. Just being together, just like when we're together with the one we love, holding hands and savoring being together with them. Words give way; they are almost superfluous and totally inadequate. Just as if we were to describe a sunrise or the birth of a child, the most eloquent thing is silence. We don't need to always be talking with the one we love. Sitting there in silence or listening to music is always indescribably satisfying and sweet. That is what it's like to be with God in these times of satisfaction and joy.
Was he right? Of course. Two days of being instead of doing did indeed refresh my spirit.

Next; the radical inclusivity of God, and the tragedy of being absent.


Thursday, October 14, 2004

Full Days

Wednesday night was Vestry, meaning a late night. I ran out afterwards to catch the last part of the debate during my ride home (Kerry was great, of course, but maybe I'm bias?). In my rush, I left my briefcase, with my Tutu notes, in the office. Since I don't go into the office on Thursdays (and it's a 3 hour drive), my summary of his meditations will most likely have to wait until the weekend.

Today we are having a pet crisis. FYI, there is a first class veterinary hospital in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania. We're headed back there in the next hour. Demi is pretty upset about it, so if you get a chance, pop over and offer her some support.

And finally, Joe (JTFS), who often leaves comments here, finally got his own site! It looks like it's going to be a good one. Go give him a read over on Canterbury Trail.


Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Desmond Tutu; An Amazing Man

This is a shot I took with my new camera; one of the few that turned out as I played with my new toy during "retreat". I also brought back a few pages of notes, which I'll get to in the near future.

The Archbishop called us to enter into a silent retreat on Sunday night. We tried, but the idea of 185 Episcopal clergy from New Jersey being silent for half an hour, let alone two days, is incomprehensible. So, during gatherings between meals and chapel, you could hear a low hum of whispering instead of the normal deafening swell of voices. At the end the Archbishop concluded that we were attempting to develop a hybrid; a "retreat" that was actually a "conference," and he was afraid that the "conference" was winning. Then he smiled, and with a little laugh added, "But you're getting're getting there."

Before offering some of the content of his meditations, I thought I'd highlight what the Archbishop was up to before joining us at St. Joseph in the Hills. It appears he was making his Broadway debut, playing the role of a judge in a production of Guantanamo: 'Honor Bound to Defend Freedom'.

A few days later, the Archbishop was interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. The topic of the interview was the similarities between Guantanamo Bay and apartheid in South Africa and the war in Iraq. The entire interview is worth reading, but I want to highlight just a couple of pieces.

First, a segment that is almost verbatim what the Archbishop shared with us during his last meditation this morning;

AMY GOODMAN: During your years in South Africa before the end of apartheid, you were a deep advocate of non-violence, yet you saw so many detained, so many killed. What do you feel, and what did you feel then? How did you make it through those days? What did you advocate? How did you stick to your principles of non-violence?

DESMOND TUTU: One of the wonderful things actually is -- I've got to speak as a Christian -- is belonging to the church and knowing that you belong to this extraordinary body. When things were really rough, it's wonderful to recall for me now, that I sometimes got, when they, the South African government, had taken away my passport, I got passports of love from Sunday school kids here in New York, and I plastered them on the walls of my office. But although I couldn't travel, hey, here were all of these wonderful people all over the world. I had a -- I met a nun in New York, at a particular time, and I asked her, "Can you just tell me a little bit about your life? How do you "-- and she said, "Well, I am a solitary. I live in the woods in California. I pray for you. My day starts at two in the morning." And I said, "Hey, man! I've been prayed for at two in the morning in the woods in California. What chance does the apartheid government stand?" So, one was being upheld. You know, when frequently you say to people, the victory that we won against apartheid -- a spectacular victory -- that would not have happened without the support of the international community, without the support of people like yourselves, without the support of those who were students at the time who might have been crazies, but they were fantastic in their commitment. And in this country, actually, they showed that you could in fact change the moral climate. Because at the time the Reagan administration was totally opposed to sanctions, and students, but not just students, the many, many people who were prepared to be arrested on our behalf, who demonstrated on our behalf, who boycotted on our behalf, well, they changed the moral climate to such an extent that Congress passed the anti-apartheid legislation, and they even managed a veto override, which was fantastic. And so, I just happened. I always say I was a leader by default because our real leaders were either in jail or in exile, and sometimes when people say, "And he got the Nobel Peace Prize," I say, "Well, actually, you know, it was that they thought maybe it was time it was given to a black." And, ah, he has an easy surname: Tutu. Tutu. Imagine. Imagine if I had a surname like Waokaokao.
The other section that I want to point out tonight is his words on an issue that is one of the most tragic, and least mentioned, results of the war in Iraq; the innocent civilian casualties (estimated to be between 13,000 and 15,000 as of today);

They tell you that a hundred people have been killed, and the United States and its allies are doing that; and they say, "No, no. We targeted that house because our intelligence said so." Intelligence. The same intelligence that said there were weapons of mass destruction? Please. That's been done in your name. That mothers and children have been killed. And when you say, "What about the civilian casualties?" They say, "Sorry, our intention was to target insurgents." And most of us, I think, just shrug our shoulders. But you see, you experienced a little bit on September 11, the kind of thing that is meted out on a regular basis. And they're not -- they're not casualties. Collateral damage. Collateral damage, I tell you. How do you feel if someone says, the people who died in the World Trade Center and in Washington, D.C., collateral damage? Say that to someone who lost a wife. Say it to someone who lost a child, someone who lost a friend. Collateral damage. It's an obscenity. It's an obscenity. It's in order to say, "No, no. They don't have faces. They don't have names." No, this is someone's mother, someone's wife, someone's child. Not statistics. And you know what? God is weeping. God is weeping. God is weeping because -- One of the incredible things, I mean, is that Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden, George Bush are all God's children. And as God says, "What ever got into me to create that lot?" And then God sees some of you, all of you, all of you who care, and God then begins to smile through the tears. Please, God wants peace. God wants prosperity for everyone. And do you know what? I have yet to meet people more generous than Americans. And I'm not being smarmy. I have experienced it. My family has experienced it on a personal level. Why don't you want to export your generosity, your compassion, and not bombs?
I'll say more about this gentle, holy man soon.


UPDATE - An important read, from A Tiny Revolution; quotes from Seymour Hersh while at Berkeley last Friday. He repeated the story on NPR. Why isn't the rest of the media reporting this stuff?

In the words of the Archbishop, "It's an obscenity. It's an obscenity...And you know what? God is weeping..."