Friday, April 29, 2005

Episcopal News Worth Noting

In a follow-up to their March 8 statement, leaders of the Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church , United Church of Christ, and United Methodist Church speak out against President Bush's 2006 Federal Budget;

...As we view the FY '06 Federal Budget through our lens of faith this budget, on balance, continues to ask our nation's working poor to pay the cost of a prosperity in which they may never share. We believe this budget remains unjust. It does not adequately address the more than 36 million Americans living below the poverty line, 45 million without health insurance, or the 13 million hungry children. Worldwide, it neither provides sufficient development assistance nor adequately addresses the global AIDS pandemic. Therefore, we ask Congress to reject this budget and begin anew...
21 conservative bishops sent a letter to Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, asking to explore ways to move towards reconciliation. At the same time, these bishops sent a letter to Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, asking for an emergency meeting. The Living Church broke the story of these letters, in spite of the fact that everyone involved had agreed to keep these communications confidential. The Presiding Bishop, who had not been informed of the letter sent to Canterbury, was not pleased to pick up this tidbit of information from an article in a magazine;

...I had read your letter as a sincere and honest attempt to build on the spirit established at Camp Allen and our Covenant. I had already been in conversation with the President of the House of Deputies about establishing a group to address many of the concerns implicit and explicit in your letter. I plan to respond further to what you have written," Griswold wrote. "… It seems to me extremely discourteous to me, and to the Office I hold on your behalf, not to inform me or send me a copy of what you submitted to the Archbishop. I must also ask myself why an appeal was made to Canterbury before receiving a response from me...
Peter Akinola, Archbishop of Nigeria, continues to insist that his interpretation of scripture be the only one allowed in the Anglican Communion;

...Akinola asserted there were U.S. dioceses where "the clergy are still continuing the practice of blessing same-sex partnerships" with the bishops' permission.

"I find this duplicitous and I would point out that the underlying issue is not a temporary cessation of these practices but a decision to renounce them and demonstrate a willing embrace of the same teaching on matters of sexual morality as is generally accepted throughout the Communion," asserted the Nigerian archbishop.

In March, Nigeria's Anglican bishops had resolved not to ordain women as priests...
Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh and Moderator of the Network, affirms that the goal of the conservative organization is indeed nothing less than a coup d' etat. Note that the "body" referred to in the excerpt is the Network;

TLC: So, as a body within the Episcopal Church, what's your "lifespan"?

Bishop Duncan: Well, of course we claim to be, constitutionally, the Episcopal Church. And there's every evidence, both from what the Windsor Report says and what the primates said in accepting it, in their communiqué in Northern Ireland, that we are the Anglicans. If the Episcopal Church's constitution says that we'll be constituent members of the Anglican Communion, and the Anglican Communion now says, Episcopal Church, you're in time out. In fact, you're not only in time out, but it appears you're making a decision to walk apart. If in General Convention 2006 the Episcopal Church determines to walk apart, then the question we ask is, who is the Episcopal Church? And our legal basis will be to say, we are, of course, because they have broken the constitution.

TLC: Do you think General Convention will be the turning point?

Bishop Duncan: Oh, yeah. The Presiding Bishop has made it clear, and he made it clear in Northern Ireland, that this church has thought about this, prayed about this, and is committed to this course, and there'll be no turning back. And I think he reads the situation right. We also believe there'll be no turning back. We intend, one of the issues for us going into General Convention, and we will be in General Convention, is to attempt to force this Church to make a very clear decision, unmistakably clear as to whether they're going to walk with the Communion and repent from these actions, return to standard Anglican practice, or really going to move forward. They call it moving forward; we call it walking apart.

If they determine to move out, well, then they've determined to move out. We're the Anglicans here. We'll also stand in a way that says, we're the Episcopal Church where we are. You know, there'll be infinite court battles, but it'll be very interesting, since the Communion will have said the Episcopal Church walked apart, and the Episcopal Church's Constitution says that you've got to be constituent members, and we're the only ones they recognize as constituent members, so who's the Episcopal Church, legally...
There's been lots of talk among the conservatives about the six priests in Connecticut who may face disciplinary measures, and even be deposed, for refusing to recognize the authority of the diocesan bishop. I've seen such challenges of authority happening in both conservative and progressive dioceses. Americans don't handle authority issues very well, as a rule. I don't see this as a case of persecution of conservatives. Rather, it seems to me, it's a matter of neither side being willing to do the hard work of reconciliation. When a priest refuses to allow his/her bishop to make a visitation, you can be guaranteed there's going to be trouble. When a bishop doesn't look hard enough for alternative ways to follow the spirit of the canons, rather than the letter, there's going to be a confrontation. This is a sad example of the tensions in the Episcopal Church being labeled either conservative or progressive issues, when the reality is our discomfort, as Americans, with authority in general, and especially with an authority figure who reminds us of the aristocracy of the Old World. This episode is made even more sad by the fact that it appears it could have been easily avoided.

And finally, on a personal note, I have accepted the appointment as vicar of a small mission. I'll begin ministering with these people beginning June 1. It will be an exciting challenge, which I'll be taking on with my eyes wide open.

As to why I finally made this decision, there were many factors, including the conversation we had here at Jake's place, for which I am truly thankful. In the end, it came down to asking if there is a vocational call to this ministry. There is. What I personally wanted became secondary in light of that.
Having made the decision, I'm at peace about it, which feels like an affirmation that it is a decision that will be blessed by God. Of course, that is yet to be seen.

Enjoy your weekend. I'll be fertilizing the lawn, and then hoping for rain. And preparing a sermon, of course. Hmmm...can I tie in fertilizing the lawn with the Gospel reading of the vine branches bearing fruit? Something along the line of, "We are called to be the fertilizer in the fields of the Lord." Maybe not.


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