Friday, April 28, 2006

The Diocese of Washington Follows the Money

Jim Naughton, former reporter for The New York Times and The Washington Post, currently the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Washington, has published a two-part report entitled Following the Money. It is an excellent followup of our previous conversation, as it offers an indepth look at the inner workings of the IRD and the AAC using various sources, including IRS documents.

From Part 1:

When the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets next month in Columbus, Ohio, a small network of theologically conservative organizations will be on hand to warn deputies that they must repent of their liberal attitudes on homosexuality or face serious consequences. The groups represent a small minority of church members, but relationships with wealthy American donors and powerful African bishops have made them key players in the fight for the future of the Anglican Communion...

...Contributions from Ahmanson and the Bradley, Coors, Olin, Scaife and Smith-Richardson family foundations have frequently accounted for more than half of the operating budgets of the American Anglican Council and the Institute on Religion and Democracy, according to an examination of forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service and an analysis of statements made by both donors and recipients.

The AAC and the IRD have worked together in opposing the Episcopal Church's consecration of a gay bishop with a male partner, its practice of ordaining non-celibate homosexuals to the priesthood, and its willingness to permit the blessing of same-sex relationships. Their campaign has entailed extensive international travel, heavily subsidized conferences and the employment of a professional staff and consultants to coordinate and publicize their efforts...

...When the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets in Columbus next month it will do so in a politically charged atmosphere, created in some measure by conservative organizations supported by a small number of wealthy donors.

Filings made by several of these organizations give a partial accounting of the donations received and expenditures made by the AAC, INFEMIT and the IRD. But the groups do not observe the standards of transparency and accountability practiced by the Episcopal Church and its dioceses...

...As a result, the bishops and deputies to General Convention will be left to guess at the intentions and resources of the American conservatives and bishops from the developing world who are pressing the Church to change its course or pay a price.
From Part 2:

...At the Dromantine conference, the Americans and their international allies collaborated with an unprecedented openness, in an attempt to force Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to take a harder line against the Episcopal Church.

Among the primates who backed this effort were Peter Akinola of Nigeria , Henry Orombi of Uganda and Gregory Venables of Argentina . Working with them were the leaders of the American Anglican Council, the Anglican Communion Network, the Ekklesia Society and the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

Those groups, backed by five politically conservative U.S. foundations, and Howard F. Ahmanson, a benefactor of numerous conservative ballot initiatives, candidates and think tanks, had been cultivating relationships with evangelical leaders in the developing world since the mid-1990s. But at Dromantine, the Americans' role as the principal strategists for the movement against their church came into focus.

During the conference, American and British church activists took rooms in Newry and kept in contact with the primates, who were ostensibly meeting in private sessions. Among the activists were the Rev. Canon David Anderson, president of the AAC; the Rev. Canon Bill Atwood, general secretary of Ekklesia; Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh , moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, and Diane Knippers, president of the IRD...

...Conservative leaders agreed on their strategy at a meeting in London on November 20, 2003 . In attendance were Duncan, several American conservatives and several primates sympathetic to their cause. According to Duncan's notes, those present secretly agreed that the primates who supported the Network would announce their support to Williams, urge him to recognize the Network as the true expression of Anglicanism in the United States, and "Tell Rowan that if he will not recognize the Network they will separate from him."

Network leaders asked the primates to inform Williams that "in the present crisis the issue of boundaries is suspended," meaning that bishops could claim the right to minister uninvited in one another's provinces and dioceses.

The Network also requested that the primates refuse to recognize any bishop who had participated in Robinson's consecration. This, in effect, would have rendered 13 American sees, including the Diocese of Washington, as vacant.

Network leaders also asked that Duncan be regarded as Griswold's equal at all international gatherings.

In addition, Duncan 's notes say: "We commit to the guerilla warfare of the next year...

...Since conservative Episcopalians' highly visible role at Dromantine, leaders of the Communion have begun to ask whether they and their financial backers such as Howard F Ahmanson, Jr., are the real power behind a movement that claims to draw its strength from Africa and Asia .

In an interview last October, Eames said that he was "quite certain" that African bishops were being offered money to cut their ties with the Episcopal Church.

"Is it the might of finance that will influence a theological outlook, and then that outlook come to dominate the Communion?" he said. "It raises a serious question for me: what is the real nature of their faith and their Anglicanism? It is certainly different from mine"...
Jim has done us a great service by compiling all this information into one place. The footnotes also provide us with a number of excellent references. Thanks Jim, and thank you to Bishop Chane and the Diocese of Washington for having the courage to proclaim boldly what many of us have been saying for a few years; the current struggle is not about the bible or morality; it's about power. What we are witnessing is an Attempted Coup.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Required Reading; Hard Ball on Holy Ground

Daniel J. Webster, writing in The Witness, offers us a review of Hard Ball on Holy Ground by Stephen Swecker;

...Many believe a schism in the Episcopal Church USA and the worldwide Anglican Communion is inevitable after this summer. If it does occur it will not be about homosexuality or Gene Robinson or the blessing of same-sex unions. It will have been planned, plotted and engineered by the IRD and its very rich, ultraconservative henchmen (some women, but mostly men) who have targeted the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), the United Methodist Church (UMC) and the Episcopal Church for nearly 25 years. Sexuality was just a hot-button issue the IRD could exploit along with "radical feminist theology" and what the IRD judges to be an abandonment of "biblical Anglican theology"...
If the Institute on Religion and Democracy is new to you, some background information can be found here, here and here.

Webster provides a good summary of the IRD's strategy;

...The first IRD initiative is to court disaffected church members. It financially supports these small groups to wage conflict internally in their denominations. Episcopalians know of the American Anglican Council (AAC). It was created by the IRD, with whom the AAC shared offices for a number of years. Swecker's book also documents how the IRD shared board members and financial backing with ultraconservative dissident church groups, including the AAC, in the three targeted denominations. Another article digs further to illustrate how IRD board members have influenced, had access to, or ties with government agencies and the current presidential administration.

"It [IRD] brings to the task financial resources that are very large in comparison with the sums usually available to dissident factions in church disputes," writes Cobb.

The second IRD strategy is to carefully place board members in secular and church media in an effort to whip up controversy in the so-called, "culture wars." The influence these ideologues have on mainstream media and religious publications is really quite stunning...
If you want to fully understand the current struggle in the Episcopal Church, and how it is connected with our nation's current tensions, this book is required reading.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Eavesdropping at Lambeth Palace

A reader has pointed me to a thought-provoking blog entry by the Rev. Geoffrey Hoare, rector of All Saints, Atlanta. The entry, dated October 5, 2005, is quite long, but worth a read. I encourage you to read the whole thing before considering the excerpts that follow.

First, we need to keep in mind the events that led to this reflection;

...On Monday evening I attended the annual meeting of the Compass Rose Society on behalf of All Saints’. ( It is a treat to visit Lambeth Palace, and to have time and dinner with the Archbishop of Canterbury in his official home. The gathering included Martyn Minns, an old friend, rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia, and one of the leaders in America of the movement to realign the communion (more on that further down the page), and Michael Ingham, the Bishop of New Westminster in Canada, the diocese that is singled out along with ECUSA for particular attention owing to their official approval of the blessing of same-sex unions in a council of the church...
What is recorded here are not sermons, or speeches, or internet flame wars. These are calm conversations over dinner at Lambeth. As such, I think they are worthy of our own calm attention.

For instance, consider this brief exchange:

...This is somewhat related to the answer that Rowan Williams gave to a question I asked him. I asked whether ‘repentance’ for a province of the church could mean anything other than an official proclamation saying ‘we were wrong, we are sorry and we won’t do it again.’ He answered that repentance is what we offer each other as Christians and that one branch of the church can offer another. Repentance or metanoia means the turning of life toward life in Christ and so means a willingness to say ‘I need to think again’ and that I will repent as I am drawn more fully into Christ. (Obviously this is not a direct quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury, but it is how I remember his answer)...
I find Dr. William's response more than a bit ambiguous, yet it still gave me pause to reconsider if I have correctly understood the use of the term "repentance" in the recently proposed resolutions from the Special Commission.

Geoffrey then asked his "old friend" Martyn Minns a question. Keep in mind Martyn's response is a sincere attempt to state his position. Imagine it without the heat we usually add to such statements. Read it to understand, not to agree or disagree. Personally, I had to read it twice to get the proper emotional distance to actually hear what was being said.

...I asked Martyn why the consecration of Gene Robinson was enough for him to want to split the church and realign the communion. Why is this issue of such fundamental importance to him? His response was to ask me how I could be so sure that I was right about homosexuality to go against the majority of world Christendom and cause a split in the church and in the communion. So as I mentioned in an earlier blog there is a certain amount of chicken and egg in this. Who started the war? Etc. He also said that my side (i.e. those who take a progressive position with regard to homosexual people) had all the power and the money. He spoke a lot of the anger and sense of betrayal of his friends in the global south in general and Peter Akinola in particular. He believes (as I do) that there really is no turning back, that there is a civil rights issue for the American church and that he, and people who believe as he does can no more be tolerated than racists or people who continue to think that women should not be ordained. He cannot see a way for us to stay together on that basis and he believes deeply that I am wrong about homosexuality, and that I am basing my belief on a new and thoroughly wobbly category when I say that I believe there is such a thing as a homosexual person. He argues that the complementary nature of men and women is found in the creation story and echoed throughout scripture, notably in the writing on marriage in Ephesians – a view with which I have great sympathy. His pastoral experience leads him to say that there are many people desperate to change their lives and that they find being told that they do not need to change does them a disservice and withholds from them the saving power of the gospel. He has many in his church he tells me who have successfully left behind their homosexual desires. He is truly sorry (and I believe him) about those who believe they have been damaged by some of the tactics of those who preach and profess that they can change homosexual desires into ‘natural’ ones. He is truly offended that he is now supposed to say that a same sex relationship can be holy and blessed in the same way that a marriage is holy and blessed. What do I need to hear in all this and to what do I need to respond?
There, in a nutshell, is the position of the AAC/Network. There is little chance that this position will change, at least in our lifetime. How do we respond? Here's Geoffrey's response:

...First, I am not prepared to break up the church over a wobbly category, an ‘idea’ of homosexuality. I do not know exactly how homosexual people are formed as such, whether it is somehow predetermined in the womb or whether (as I suspect) it results from a complex series of decisions and experiences that form and shape our sexual responses to one another. I am however prepared to break up the church over people who God loves. I see before me a parade of faces of people whose lives are infinitely better and more free when they are affirmed in the community of faith and allowed to make those life giving and self giving commitments of love that are open to the rest of us in marriage. Psychiatry long ago gave up on the idea that it was pathological to be gay or lesbian. St. Paul counsels that we test all things and hold fast to that which is good, and that the good is seen in an increase of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I see those things in the lives of many we know and love at All Saints’. I assume this to be true in the life and ministry of Gene Robinson – certainly that is the testimony of his friends. I am prepared to stake everything on their being welcome at the Lord’s Table as they are, just as everyone else, with much to be transformed, but also with many an offering made acceptable in the grace of God. So I repent of being willing to break up the church over an anthropological category (‘homosexual person’), while holding fast to those people who God has raised up for service in the community of faith and who I believe does not hold as second-class citizens of the Kingdom.
I think most of us would add a hearty AMEN to this response.

But Geoffrey's reflection doesn't dodge the hard questions. He asks one that we have skirted around for some time. Maybe the time has arrived to address it:

...As a matter of good order I believe we are in a terrible position having a bishop of the church (the whole church or at least the whole Anglican Communion) who is not in a ‘sanctioned’ relationship. At the very least we must as ECUSA quickly find a way to acknowledge some such option for homosexual people. Only then can we ask our brothers and sisters around the world for some forbearance and grace in the face of this novelty.

When relationships are broken it is generally best when the person with the most power in the situation repents first. I hope the American Church can find a way to repent of approving Gene Robinson’s consecration before first agreeing on how to sanction the option of committed relationship for all gay and lesbian people. We do not need to repent of Bishop Robinson’s election, nor call into question his ministry. But we have given offense through our lack of attention to good order and we should clearly think again about how we deal with that in the councils of the Church. In other words, I repent of that and hope that we will do so as a whole body...
As I've mentioned before, Bishop Robinson has offered us a chronology of events regarding his personal life to refute the slanderous suggestion that he left his wife to be with Mark. But there is another interesting piece of information in this chronology; the last item, "Celebration of a Home". Why do you think that was included? Considering the secular and religious laws that do not officially allow the blessing of unions in most places, I have always assumed that this was a quiet way of including the date that Gene and Mark's relationship was blessed by the Church; they are not simply "living together."

Having said that, I also agree with Geoffrey in that I think things would have been much clearer if TEC would have voted to allow the blessing of unions and developed a specific liturgy for this rite before giving the consent to the election of an openly gay bishop. But, that's water under the bridge now.

What are your thoughts as you consider these words from the rector of All Saints?

One final personal note; I write this from sunny California, where I am visiting my father, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. He received a wonderful report from the doctor this week, who said the cancer was in remission. We are hopeful. Please keep Paul in your prayers.


Friday, April 21, 2006

Not All Development is Infidelity

The Rev. Professor Andrew Linzey, Senior Research Fellow, Blackfriars Hall, Oxford University is the co-editor of Gays and the Future of Anglicanism, which is the best resource available for those desiring to understand the deep flaws embedded in the Windsor Report. We have previously discussed Professor Linzey's introduction to this volume in a post entitled Linzey: "The Church is Homophobic".

The Times has published a new article by Professor Linzey; The Logic of All Purity Movements is to Exclude. This one is a must read, folks. Here's a taste:

...theology actually holds the key to resolving competing claims. "Conservatives" are seen as preserving "historic truth" and "progressives" as wilfully discarding it. So long as the debate is cast in those terms, no resolution is possible. The way forward is to grasp the dynamic of God: as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the teaching God, which, we are promised, will guide believers into all truth (John xvi, 13).

Not all truth is given in the past; the Spirit has something to teach us in the present. It is untrinitarian consistently to oppose God's work in the past to what we may learn here and now. All innovations should be tested, but it is a mistake to assume that all development is infidelity...

...There is one sure way of testing the Spirit: do our beliefs lead to an increase in injustice, bigotry and suffering? If they do, they simply cannot be reconciled with the workings of the creative, compassionate Spirit promised to us.

So far, a policy of appeasement has prevailed. Even a Special Commission of the Episcopal Church has wrong-headedly recommended "repentance", "extreme caution" in selecting bishops, and following the Windsor "process", but even that has been rejected by the leading conservative grouping, the American Anglican Council. That is because the agenda of conservatives is a rolling one: today it is gays, but biblical inerrancy, interfaith worship, women bishops, remarriage after divorce will surely follow. The logic of all purity movements is to exclude.

The only test of whether a church is Anglican is whether it is invited to the Lambeth Conference. With the next Conference in 2008, the Archbishop of Canterbury faces a Rubicon. If he fails to invite all Anglican bishops, or invites them on unequal terms, he will make schism concrete, with incalculable consequences worldwide for every Anglican church, diocese, even every parish. By this one act, his office will become an enduring source of disunity.

The assumption that progressives will swallow the situation should be questioned. When realignment becomes a fact, UK progressives will have to do what the conservatives have done: become effectively a church within a church, and insist on alternative episcopal oversight. Above all, we will not be excommunicated from US and Canada. We shall fight and fight and fight again to save the Church we love.
Thank you, Professor Linzey, for this gesture of Anglo-American-Canadian solidarity.


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Amendments to the Special Commission's Proposed Resolutions

As the days have passed, I've found myself growing more and more uncomfortable with the proposed resolutions from the Special Commission.

In my diocese, we will have an opportunity to meet with the Deputies before they leave for General Convention. I would assume that many of you will have a similar opportunity. It occurred to me that maybe we could come up with some specific amendments to recommend to our Deputies. The full report, with proposed resolutions and explanations, can be found here. If you have trouble with PDF files, a brief summary of the resolutions can be found here

I've not gotten to the point of working with the actual wording of the resolutions, but I have started to be able to identify the specific parts that are causing me increased discomfort:

A160 - The expressions of regret and repentance are troubling. No matter what explanation we give, or how many words we use to explain what it is we regret, the reality is that this will be heard as; "It was a mistake to consecrate Gene Robinson as a Bishop." All of our talk of this being a Church that will have no outcasts will be negated. The claim that we have discerned the movement of God's Spirit will be marked as having been an erroneous claim.

We have been in the discernment process regarding these matters for over 30 years. We made no secret of this process. To now express regret to those who refused to participate in this process, even when mandated by General Convention, and then later by Lambeth, is to severely damage our witness to the world of God's radically inclusive love.

A161 - We regret that we have "caused deep offense". I can think of a number of bishops who "deeply offend" me because of their misogynist behavior, or their inciting Christians to violence (yes, I read his "spin" interview; I'm not convinced), or their incarceration solution to the "gay problem". But, do I expect them to express their regret and mend their ways or hit the road? Of course not. We disagree. But the final judgment does not rest with me, or Bishop Akinola. Should we bend to the will of those who insist on taking on the role of God?

In response to this regret, we will "exercise very considerable caution" in the selection of future bishops. The implication here is that we did not exercise such caution in the selection of Bishop Robinson. Is that what we want to say? I certainly hope not. The other implication is that the sexual orientation of a bishop is one of the most important qualifications to be considered when selecting candidates. I can think of any number of factors that I'd put before that one.

A162 - As I've said before, the separation of "public" and "private" is problematic. It feels, to me, dishonest; a return to the "don't ask, don't tell" approach. But, in further readings, the segment that really bothered me in this resolution was near the end; "...advise bishops who have authorized public diocesan rites to express regret." In other words, responding to the pastoral needs of the people of God in this manner was a mistake. Once again, if we agree to such wording, everything we've said for the last 30 years just went out the window.

A166 - A Covenant. An agreement that will bind us to "stop misbehavin'", or else. An attempt to routinize the Spirit. A peace treaty, signed with the blood of the victims of bigotry within our Communion. No thanks.

Lately I've been wondering why we even need to respond to the Windsor Report at all. We listened. We considered. And we find the recommendations unacceptable.

It feels as if the Episcopal Church is falling into the trap of co-dependent behavior. Someone is upset, so we must rush to fix it. We can't deal with confrontation. We want peace, at any cost.

I recall that Jesus was not always so quick to run from a confrontation. I think that sometimes confrontation is a necessary tool to uncover what is really at the root of being "deeply offended". I think our current situation is such an opportunity to dig deeper.

So, recommendations for amendments. My first recommendation is no resolutions at all; no response to Windsor. The document is too deeply flawed to be of any value in future conversations.

Recognizing that that is too radical for most folks, I'd recommend that all references to "regret" and "repentance" be removed. The agreement to a common covenant be stricken. And references to rites of blessing, both public and private, be taken out.

Of course, that doesn't leave much. Which brings me back to my first recommendation; no response. And then let the Communion do whatever they feel they need to do.

So there's where I am today. There's still a few weeks before Convention, and I may change my mind again.

Now I'd be interested in hearing your suggested amendments to these proposed resolutions.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

From The New Yorker

A good summation of the current situation in the Anglican Communion is offered by Peter J. Boyer in a piece entitled A Church Asunder. Here's a few excerpts:

...The traditionalist Episcopal rebellion over the elevation of Gene Robinson would not on its face seem likely to have much effect on the national church; Duncan and the bishops who joined him in protest represent only a small percentage of the episcopacy. Their purpose, however, is not to persuade the Episcopal Church but to replace it.

The conservative strategy turns on an audacious twist on the old concept of religious schism: forcing a divide within the Episcopal Church that would render the main church, rather than the dissidents, the schismatic party. This depends on convincing the worldwide Anglican Communion that the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, or ECUSA, as the national body of the church is called, has already departed from the faith, and that an alternative body of orthodox Episcopalians should be recognized as the true church in America. The old Episcopal Church, it is envisioned, would drift away into irrelevance, a shrinking sect of aging white liberals...

...The traditionalist Americans see men like Akinola and Orombi as their natural allies, and, of course, as invaluable leverage. Global South church leaders have been inclined to help the efforts to supplant the Episcopal Church as the official Anglican body in the U.S. They have opened mission churches in the United States, and have offered episcopal oversight to those dissident orthodox churches wishing to leave ECUSA while remaining within the Anglican Communion. They are, for the Americans, the key factor in the effort to pressure the world church into recognizing an alternative American church body or persuading ECUSA to repent...
What is being described here is The Attempted Coup, which has been dismissed by some as nothing more than a paranoid conspiracy theory.

...Griswold suggests that it is problematic to try to understand the meaning of the Bible plainly, because the authors of Scripture were, as we are, captives of their time and place. “St. Paul very clearly assumed that everyone was, by nature, heterosexual,” he says. Therefore, in Paul’s time, homosexuality was a willing choice made by the wicked against God’s natural order. Our current understanding, he says, has been altered by God’s unfolding revelation of truth.

“Let’s talk about truth,” he says. “I’m struck by the fact that in the Gospel, in John, Jesus says, ‘I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when the Spirit of truth comes, the Spirit will draw from what is mine, and reveal it to you.’ Now, when we look at how we have come to understand the cosmos over the centuries, how we’ve come to understand the complexities of our physicality, and have seen advances in surgery and medicine and all the rest of it, we can say to ourselves, ‘Why didn’t God simply plant the fullness of this knowledge in us at the beginning? Why has it taken us centuries to be able to cure fatal diseases that existed in the Middle Ages? How unkind and thoughtless of God not to give us all the information at the outset.’ And yet, we’ve been structured in a universe in such a way that truth is progressive”...
This resonates with the writings of Irenaeus on Human Progress and the thoughts of Charles Gore regarding "the movement of God." Being a "Progressive Christian" is to stand in good company among the saints of God.

...On the central point of contention, the consecration of gay bishops, the commission is expected to urge the Church to proceed down the path taken by Gene Robinson only with “extreme caution.” That is the sort of phrasing that might placate conservatives, and could provide convention delegates with the typically Episcopal opportunity to kick the problem down the road, getting them safely past the Lambeth Conference in 2008. In this case, however, evasion may not be possible. The Diocese of California is scheduled to elect a new bishop next month, and three of its seven candidates are openly gay. If California elects a gay bishop, and the General Convention withholds its consent, the Episcopal Church will face a new revolt, this time from the left. At least one church official has already begun to ask whether the Episcopal Church’s most prudent course might not be voluntary withdrawal from the worldwide Anglican Communion, thus taking a stand as a church pledged to human justice...
Plenty of other quotable bits in this article, including a quote from Jim Naughton, communications director for the Diocese of Washington and facilitator for the Blog of Daniel. What leaped out at you?


Monday, April 17, 2006

George Carey Accused of Disloyalty

George Leonard Carey, the 103rd Archbishop of Canterbury, retired in 2002. Before his retirement, he was considered by most Anglicans to be an effective leader who did not involve himself in many controversies, with the exception of his active support of a resolution at Lambeth 1998 which declared homosexuality to be incpompatible with scripture.

Since his retirement, Lord Carey has compiled quite a list of controversies in which he has chosen to insert himself:

In March, 2004, he gave a speech in which he voiced severe criticisms of Muslim culture and politics.

In September, 2004, he confirmed 300 from 10 parishes in Virginia that did not want their diocsan bishop, Peter Lee, to preside over the confirmations because he had voted for consent of the election of Gene Robinson. Although approved by Lee, Carey's willingness to support this form of challenge to the diocesan bishop's authority made it clear that his intention was to actively encourage such behavior.

In January, 2006, he stated he was "ashamed to be an Anglican" in response to the decision of General Synod to cease investments in Caterpillar because of the use of their bulldozers by the Israeli army. Dr. Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, supported this divestment.

In March, 2006, a questionaire was sent to all the bishops of the Episcopal Church by an organization calling themselves "Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion". The cover of this letter included this endorsement:

I commend with enthusiasm this initiative of concerned Lay Episcopalians who wish their Church to remain faithful to Orthodox Christianity.

I am confident they will handle all matters with due regard for the truth.

George Carey
It soon became quite evident that the agenda of the LEAC is anything but the "loving reconciliation" that they claim. Consider their latest ploy:

Episcopal laymen launched a national petition drive today to bring to church trial 35 bishops involved in the installation of a practicing homosexual bishop in New Hampshire, including the new bishop. Its purpose is to determine, in formal trials, the standing of church law, doctrine and practice, the sponsor said.

The bishops were asked in a letter last week from Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion (LEAC), petition sponsor, to announce by April 28 their response to the group’s request that they recant, repent, resign or retire. Copies of the letter were subsequently mailed to 40 bishops who opposed Bishop V. Gene Robinson’s approval. The petitions will be presented to the opposing bishops, encouraging a prompt start in the church’s “presentment” (indictment) procedures...
Must we assume that George Carey also "commends with enthusiasm" this intitiative? One would expect that once the true nature of this organization came to light that he would immediately disassociate himself from such extremism. His silence on the matter suggests his continued endorsement.

Some Anglicans have come to the conclusion that it is time Lord Carey stopped meddling. They have written an open letter:

Dear Bishop Carey

Many of us remember the discourtesy displayed by Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher in retirement when he offered embarrassing critiques of his successor Michael Ramsey, and policies then being implemented by the Church of England.

Your actions in retirement are similarly discourteous to Archbishop Rowan Williams, as he attempts to hold together the Anglican Communion of churches at a particularly difficult time.

By your visit to the USA to conduct a confirmation for 300 candidates unable to accept the authority of their own bishops, and your role in the current survey of American bishops on their attitude to the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson and the future of the Episcopal Church, you appear to be offering yourself as an alternative leader.

The Archbishop of Canterbury deserves our respect and support, not the disloyalty which you currently display.

We respectfully request that you desist from further intrusions into areas now beyond your control, and honour the convention of not undermining the work of your successor.
The authors anticipate that 15 bishops will sign this letter. When the list of signatories is made available, I'll add an update.


UPDATE: Lord Carey has responded to the open letter.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Sturdy, deep green tulip shoots.

How did they know
it was time to push up through the long-wintered soil?

How did they know
it was the moment to resurrect,
while thick layers of stubborn ice
still pressed the bleak ground flat?

But the tulips knew.

They came, rising strongly,
a day after the ice died.

There's a hope-filled place in me
that also knows when to rise,
that waits for the last layer of ice
to melt into obscurity.

It is urged by the strong sun
warming my wintered heart.
It is nudged by the Secret One,
calling, calling, calling:
"Arise, my love, and come."

My heart stirs like dormant tulips
and hope comes dancing forth.

Not unlike the Holy One
kissing the morning sun,
waving a final farewell
to a tomb emptied of its treasure.

-Joyce Rupp
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Holy Saturday

At length the worst is o’er, and Thou art laid
Deep in thy darksome bed;
All still and cold beneath you dreary stone
Thy sacred form is gone;
Around those lips where power and mercy hung,
The dews of death have clung;
The dull earth o’er Thee, and thy foes around,
Thou sleep’st a silent corse, in funeral fetters wound.

Sleep’st Thou indeed? or is thy spirit fled,
At large among the dead?
Whether in Eden bowers thy welcome voice
Wake Abraham to rejoice,
Or in some drearier scene thine eye controuls
The thronging band of souls;
That, as thy blood won earth, thine agony
Might set the shadowy realm from sin and sorrow free.

Where’er Thou roam’st, one happy soul, we know,
Seen at thy side in woe,
Waits on thy triumph—even as all the blest
With him and thee shall rest.
Each on his cross, by Thee we hang a while,
Watching thy patient smile,
Till we have learn’d to say, "Tis justly done,
"Only in glory, LORD, thy sinful servant own."

Soon wilt Thou take us to thy tranquil bower
To rest one little hour,
Till thine elect are number’d, and the grave
Call Thee to come and save:
Then on thy bosom borne shall we descend,
Again with earth to blend,
Earth all refin’d with bright supernal fires,
Tinctur’d with holy blood, and wing’d with pure desires.

Meanwhile with every son and saint of thine
Along the glorious line,
Sitting by turns beneath thy sacred feet
We’ll hold communion sweet,
Know them by look and voice, and thank them all
For helping us in thrall,
For words of hope, and bright examples given
To shew through moonless skies that there is light in Heaven.

O come that day, when in this restless heart
Earth shall resign her part,
When in the grave with Thee my limbs shall rest,
My soul with Thee be blest!
But stay, presumptuous—Christ with thee abides
In the rock’s dreary sides:
He from the stone will wring celestial dew
If but the prisoner’s heart be faithful found and true.

When tears are spent, and Thou art left alone
With ghosts of blessings gone,
Think thou art taken from the cross, and laid
In JESUS’ burial shade;
Take Moses’ rod, the rod of prayer, and call
Out of the rocky wall
The fount of holy blood; and lift on high
Thy grovelling soul that feels so desolate and dry.

Prisoner of Hope thou art—look up and sing
In hope of promis’d spring.
As in the pit his father’s darling lay
Beside the desert way,
And knew not how, but knew his God would save
Even from that living grave,
So, buried with our Lord, we’ll close our eyes
To the decaying world, till Angels bid us rise.

-John Keble

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

O My chief good,
How shall I measure out thy bloud?
How shall I count what thee befell,
And each grief tell?

Shall I thy woes
Number according to thy foes?
Or, since one starre show’d thy first breath,
Shall all thy death?

Or shall each leaf,
Which falls in Autumn, score a grief?
Or can not leaves, but fruit, be signe
Of the true vine?

Then let each houre
Of my whole life one grief devoure;
That thy distresse through all may runne,
And be my sunne.

Or rather let
My severall sinnes their sorrows get;
That as each beast his cure doth know,
Each sinne may so.

Since bloud is fittest, Lord, to write
Thy sorrows in, and bloudie fight;
My heart hath store, write there, where in
One box doth lie both ink and sinne:

That when sinne spies so many foes,
Thy whips, thy nails, thy wounds, thy woes,
All come to lodge there, sinne may say,
No room for me, and flie away.

Sinne being gone, oh fill the place,
And keep possession with thy grace;
Lest sinne take courage and return,
And all the writings blot or burn.

- George Herbert
Visit Via Crucis 2006; a grid blog for following Jesus through the Stations of The Cross.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Altar of Repose

All men go to God in their distress,
seek help and pray for bread and happiness,
deliverance from pain, guilt and death,
All men do, Christians and others

All men go to God in His distress
find Him poor, reviled, without shelter or bread,
watch Him tormented by sin, weakness and death.
Christians stand by God in His hour of grieving

God goes to all men in their distress,
satisfies body and soul with His bread,
dies, crucified for all, Christians and others,
and both alike forgiving.

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This Bread I Break

This bread I break was once the oat,
This wine upon a foreign tree
Plunged in its fruit;
Man in the day or wind at night
Laid the crops low, broke the grape's joy.

Once in this wine the summer blood
Knocked in the flesh that decked the vine,
Once in this bread
The oat was merry in the wind;
Man broke the sun, pulled the wind down.

This flesh you break, this blood you let
Make desolation in the vein,
Were oat and grape
Born of the sensual root and sap;
My wine you drink, my bread you snap.

—Dylan Thomas

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

- G.K. Chesterton

Friday, April 07, 2006

Toward Columbus

The report from the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, entitled "One Baptism, One Hope in God's Call," has been released. The full report (pdf) can be found here. The Episcopal News Service summary of the 11 resolutions is here.

The specific task of the Special Commission is described by ENS:

The Special Commission's official charge was to assist the 75th General Convention in "considering how to maintain the highest degree of communion within the Anglican Communion given the different perspectives held with regard to the place of homosexual persons in the life of the church."
It's important to keep in mind that these are proposed resolutions. They will be debated and possibly amended or rejected by General Convention in Columbus this June.

Having only given the report a cursory reading, I can only offer a few initial responses.

Resolution A159, Commitment to Interdependence in the Anglican Communion...ask the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons to make provision for persons from other provinces of the Communion to serve with voice, but not vote, on each of the convention's standing commissions.

This is an unusual development. It would certainly enhance our ability to immediately hear global voices, and possibly avoid our inclination to sometimes be oblivious to the way our actions might be viewed by other cultures.

Resolution A160, Expression of Regret...our sincerest apology and repentance for having breached the bonds of affection in the Anglican Communion by any failure to consult adequately with our Anglican partners before taking these actions.

Repentance is a much stronger term than regret, suggesting a change of mind and purpose. Possibly A159, including the voices of those from outside TEC in our deliberations, is intended to signal our intention to sincerely change the way we function. Note that there is no reference to any specific action for which we are expressing our repentance. This will not fly with the Global South.

Resolution A161, Election of Bishops...regrets the extent to which we have, by action and inaction, contributed to strains on communion and caused deep offense to many faithful Anglican Christians as we consented to the consecration of a bishop living openly in a same-gender union...urge nominating committees, electing conventions, Standing Committees, and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise very considerable caution in the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.

Now Bp. Robinson is named, but with the term "regret." No indication of changing that decision. "Very considerable caution" is a rather vague expression. Some will be upset with the fuzziness of the phrase. If we took out the "whose manner of life" terminology, and left it as "considerable caution in the...consecration of bishops...who will lead to further strains on communion," we could exercise such caution regarding the upcoming election of a bishop of Fort Worth, for instance. Another bishop who is against the ordination of women, as their current bishop is, would certainly "lead to further strains" in some segments of the communion.

Resolution A162, Public Rites of Blessing for Same-Sex Unions...affirm the need to maintain a breadth of private responses to situations of individual pastoral care for gay and lesbian Christians...not authorize public rites of blessing...advise bishops who have authorized public diocesan rites to express regret...

I don't think anyone is going to like this one. It doesn't go far enough for the Global South, and will be seen as a step backwards by the majority of TEC. Personally, I'm uncomfortable with making the distinction between "public" and "private." Let's have it one way or another. This kind of language encourages us to return to the days of "don't ask, don't tell." Been there, done that, and it felt dishonest. I suspect this one will be amended a few times.

Resolution A163, Pastoral Care and Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight...urge bishops "to seek the highest degree of communion and reconciliation within their own dioceses"...urge "continued attention" to diocesan boundaries and the authority of diocesan bishops".

Delegated Episcopal Oversight(DEPO) has had minimal success so far, due primarily to its rejection by the AAC/Network. They don't want it. They want their own Province. That we can't offer. So DEPO it is. Urging "continued attention" to the Pillagers in Purple sounds pretty weak to me. Something like "prosecution to the full extent of the law" would be more like it.

Resolution A164, Continued Attention to the Millennium Development a sign of the Episcopal Church's understanding that participation in the Millennium Development Goals is an expression of the hunger of this church for far deeper communion with all of God's beloved.

Another expression of repentance, a changing of our ways. We will do what we can to strengthen the bonds of affection. It's also a mother and apple pie resolution. It will easily pass, most likely with little discussion or amendment.

Resolution A165, Commitment to Windsor and Listening Processes...commend the Windsor Report as an "important contribution to the process of living into communion," commit the church to "the ongoing 'Windsor Process'...

If this is passed, it will shift things a bit. The "Windsor Report" will become the "Windsor Process". It will be the beginning of the conversation, not the end result. Windsor will be an evolving concept, not a "rope of sands, which pettie thoughts have made, and made to thee good cable, to enforce and draw, and be thy law."

Resolution A166, Anglican Covenant Development Process

I don't like the idea of developing a "Covenant," but better minds seem to think it is the only way forward. We've got the creeds; one would think they were sufficient. Must we develop yet another litmus test?

Resolution A167, "Full and Equal Claim" for All the and lesbian persons are by Baptism full members of the Body of Christ and of the Episcopal Church," that apologize "on behalf of the Episcopal Church to its members who are gay or lesbian, and to lesbians and gay men outside the Church, for years of rejection and maltreatment by the Church

We've stated this at previous Conventions, and it certainly is worth repeating, but it sounds a bit hollow in light of A161 and A162. Full members, unless you want your union blessed or have a vocational call to the episcopate.

Resolution A168, Human Rights for "Homosexual Persons"...reaffirm "its conviction that homosexual persons are entitled to equal protection of the laws...affirm the Windsor Report statement...that "any demonizing of homosexual persons, or their ill treatment, is totally against Christian charity and basic principles of pastoral care...

And the consequences if one continues the "demonizing" that we witness daily? This is a good statement, but without some way for bishops to enforce it, I'm not sure it will change much. A bishop saying "David, please stop demonizing" will most likely not motivate him to suddenly repent and begin using more virtuous language.

Resolution A169, Amend Canon III.1: Quadrilateral and Exercise of Ministry...No person shall be denied access to any discernment process under these canons or to the exercise of any ministry in this Church on account of theological opinions consistent with (a) the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as containing all things necessary to salvation, and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith, (b) the Apostles' Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith, (c) the two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself - Baptism and the Supper of the Lord - ministered with unfailing use of Christ's words of Institution, and the elements ordained by Him, and (d) the Historic Episcopate...

I like this one, and really hope it passes. The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral needs to be pulled out of the dustbin of "historic documents" more often. It is a concise and thorough summation of our tradition. It served us well as guide toward full communion with the ELCA (although I think we should have been more adamant regarding the episcopate). This particular resolution will clearly identify the specific elements of our common faith that cannot be compromised. It names the essentials, and by so doing, also places any other factors in the realm of nonessentials.

Mark Harris, a member of the Commission that is proposing these resolutions, has some insights worth considering. Since he has first-hand knowledge regarding how these particular proposals were developed, keep an eye on his site over the next few days.

Your initial thoughts?


UPDATE: Sarah Dylan Breuer, a member of the Special Commission, has offered her insights on the Report; A Personal Reflection on the Special Commission's Report.

Confessions of a Post-Christian Episcopalian

The following is Maury Johnston's response to the recent attacks on his character:


by Maury Johnston

It seems as if the battle skirmishes are becoming more frequent; the religious warfare of revisionist vs. reactionary is increasing in its intensity as liberals and literalists face off in a series of spiritual showdowns leading up to the Great Conflict (otherwise known as General Convention 2006). While I lobbed some opening salvos in my initial article Facing the Spectre of Schism, and my follow-up essay entitled Playing the Numbers Game, the enemy forces have regrouped for a frontal assault upon my spiritual identity, my religious character, and my supposed hidden agenda as a willing servant of the Wicked One, a wolf in sheep's clothing insinuating his way into the sheepfold of the Church in order to decimate its flock with the ferocious teeth of false doctrine and heresy.

Recently several right-wing Anglican websites have published an "expose" of yours truly, complete with supposedly scandalous revelations of my past religious affiliations. Included in this list are some of the most incriminating discoveries: I have written a book on the Holy Grail and Goddess spirituality under the pen name of Shadwynn and I was a Wiccan priest for many years. And just exactly what does that prove? That I have a past? That I have varied religious interests? And the crime is...?

It is sadly amusing to see the conservative reactionaries get so worked up over my past. It makes me feel like the object of a celebrity gossip show on night-time television. Such a compliment! But they seem to forget that if I was really trying to hide something from the public I would have been a little more deceitful and concealing. Anyone can get on a computer search engine and put in my name(s) and come up with all sorts of interesting tidbits. Interpreting the data, however, is another matter. For instance, several have accused me of currently leading a group called "Keepers of the Cauldron" and "Grail Quest Wicca" and a Neo-Pagan magazine called Hallows. Sloppy research on their part: all of these groups and/or entities have been defunct for at least a decade. Still another person expressed concern over my "disturbing" poetry, which was totally misunderstood since the poem she referenced was, in reality, an oblique critique of Neo-Pagan pantheism! But then again, distortions, half-truths, and innuendoes make for more juicy journalism; a religious version of the gossip-mongering tabloids.

But what about the "bottom line" of implied accusation: that I am a Wiccan worming my way into an unsuspecting church in order to introduce a virus into its theological and devotional cybersystem? For those conservatives in the Episcopal Church who thrive in the environment of a "seige mentality," this implication makes it easy to project the pall of a sinister shadow over the good intentions of the GLBT community of faith by suggesting some alliance between them and Wiccans, Neo-Pagans, and other groups to totally subvert the edifice of Episcopal tradition. Nothing, of course, could be farther from the truth. But then again, this latest bru-ha-ha on the part of the obnoxiously orthodox is simply a ploy to divert attention from the issues of how we view sexuality in the context of spirituality, and scripture in light of secular knowledge and science, and how the Church must deal with these realities in a way which inclusively mediates divine grace into the lives of our GLBT brothers and sisters through egalitarian acceptance at all levels of Church life. Those are the real issues.

As far as personal spiritual status is concerned, my identity is twofold: I am baptized and I am a believer. That's all anyone really needs to know, and that should be sufficient. But my opponents have an obsession with catagorizing and stereotyping the dynamic of the human spirit and its capacity for growth, where religious labels and/or libels become the defining moniker of a person's Godward identity. They see only the outward trappings of denominational difference; God sees only the hungering heart.

Every seeker of the Holy has a history with God, a spiral of one's spirit ever reaching outward and upward into the spiritual universe in an attempt to see the Unseeable and touch the Lover who whispers to the stardust in their souls. Their feet often take them on pathways new, strange, and unfamiliar as they seek for traces of their Beloved in the varied sacred precincts of the world's religious impulse. Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Wiccan, Jew, Muslim, or Christian, the yearning for intimate union with divinity is the same. My pilgrimage has been no different from multitudes who have preceded me as they attempted to satisfy the inner longings of the pilgrim heart. I have searched through many forms of religious expression and come away with something valuable from each of them; and for that I am now hounded and harassed by the self-appointed inquisitors for Anglican orthodoxy.

Yes, I was (note that--past tense) a practicing Wiccan priest for many years. It was a wonderful, growing, and spiritually productive time in my life. Through it I learned to envision Divinity in its immanent numinosity throughout the beauty of Creation; through it I had my eyes of inner revelation opened to the feminine attributes of Godhead, shattering the truncated tunnel-vision of patriarchal projections upon the nature of Deity; through Wicca I learned to be in love with the changing seasons, the rhythms of life, and the feeling of being free and unfettered in the moonlight of a summer's night. But alas, I later came to realize that, for me, it was Christocentrically deficient. I missed the Jesus I had known and loved in earlier years. (What most of my detractors fail to grasp is that I would not have left Christianity years ago, but for the fact that its homophobic frame of reference made me so uncomfortable in an extremely hostile environment--the very same environment my opponents are attempting to preserve within the Episcopal Church. Wicca, on the other hand, was very accepting of sexual orientation diversity.)

During those years of my Pagan sojourn, I never lost a sense of Christ's presence with me. Over time it led me back to the Episcopal Church, one of the only Christian traditions in which I felt an appreciation for its ritual aesthetics and its theological elasticity. This should not be read, however, as a re-embracing of the parochial mindset of institutional "churchianity," with its doctrinal rigidity, spiritual imperiousness, and moralistic oversimplifications. In that sense, historic Christianity is, in many ways, little more than a repressive instrument of the spiritual and societal status quo, a hotbed for the germination of the seeds of homophobia, and a theological dinosaur which has to be dragged kicking and screaming into the realities of the 21st century. In returning to the Episcopal Church, I most emphatically did not re-commit myself to such a perverted, religious monstrosity. The Christ whom I adore is far more expansive than the humanly forged strictures and idols of Christian traditionalism. For that reason, I can say that I am, in a paradoxical sense, a post-Christian believer in the luminous Jesus who transcends the religious niches that both culture and the Church have attempted to place upon him. Ultimately, this makes me a post-modern, post-Wiccan, post-Christian, Christocentic mystic who worships at the feet of the One Who Was, And Is, And Is To Come (Revelation 1:8). If that poses problems for my detractors, they'll just have to pray about it and deal with it as best they can. That's their quandary, not mine. If they want to argue about me, they can take it to Jesus for arbitration--after they do some repenting for bearing false witness against me by making out my past to be my present.

Even now I can sense the stalking presence of my right-wing, Episcopalian enemies with their bellowings and threatening tirades against me, like Saul of Tarsus as he stood accusing Stephen, a young man who saw different, more expansive visions of Jesus and who even dared to call the smug religious clerics of his day to repentance for their injustices and spiritual blindness. But we know the solution that Saul and his hypocritical minions had in mind to rid themselves of such a prophetic witness against them as they eagerly waited with a stone clenched in every hand (Acts 6-7). Jesus had a few things to say about throwing stones, if I remember (John 8:1-11). Even more disturbingly, he had this uncanny knack for scribbling with his finger in the sand; apocryphal legend has it that with one look at what he wrote, the righteous dropped their stones and walked away....if only my accusers would have the wisdom to do the same.

Thank you, Maury. With that, as far as I'm concerned, this subject is closed. If you have further questions, I ask that you contact Maury privately. We need to end this Inquisition. Maury has been an "issue" long enough. It is time we allow him to become once again a flesh and blood brother in Christ.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Burn the Witch!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it appears that some of the extreme conservatives have decided it is time to launch yet another witch hunt. This time their victim is none other than our own Maury Johnston, the author of two fine essays that were reprinted here.

In their typical fashion, some of the extreme conservatives have decided that since they could not kill the message contained in these essays, they would kill the messenger.

Greg Griffith, who has apparently appointed himself as Grand Inquisitor, launched the attack. Brad Drell soon followed with his own bit of character assasination, which first appeared on the House of Bishops and House of Deputies email list. Brad was so proud of himself that he just had to put it up on his own site.

What do Greg and Brad claim to be so upset about? Some years ago, Maury was a practicing Wiccan "priest". This bit of his past was discovered by the extremists through a google search. Some of you may recall that Maury mentioned this in passing in a comment not long ago. Maury made no attempt to hide his past. Why should he? If having a colorful past disqualified any of us from professing to be Christians, I doubt if many of us would be in the Church today. I know I wouldn't be.

Did Greg and Brad allow Maury to respond before publically denouncing him? No, they did not. How do I know? Because I have been corresponding with Maury. I know his story. And I know he is deeply hurt by these ugly attacks by those who, by their profession to be Christians, must claim Maury as their brother in Christ.

You see, to Greg and Brad, Maury is not a person who is being redeemed by God. He is a means to end; he is a tool, to be used and then discarded (or more likely burned). And what is this end? Greg tells us pretty clearly:

...It is time for Episcopalians everywhere - especially those in the "middle" who may just now be waking up to the crisis in their church - to know that there are more than a few pagans among the left, and that they are uniformly in support of the gay/lesbian/transgender agenda...
Maury is being used, in political language, as a "wedge issue." With General Convention coming up, this is an attempt to scare the undecided middle with the assertion that the Episcopal Church is being infiltrated by pagans. Les Fairfield said as much in his rant on that video they are so proud of. And now, here comes a perfect opportunity to prove that Fairfield was right; liberals are pagans in disguise, who, of course, all support the dreaded gay agenda (whatever THAT means). It's a scare tactic, folks, put into play in the name of God. Never mind that they may destroy a brother in Christ in the process.

If I know Maury, and in the course of our many conversations I think I have gotten to know him fairly well, I doubt very much if such attacks will destroy him. And you know what they say, "If it doesn't destroy you..." If, at some later date, Maury feels inclined to respond to the Inquisitors, I'll certainly give him space here at Jake's place to do so. Regarding his spiritual story, it is not my place to say more than I already have; that decision must also rest with Maury.

Moving on to the realm of my personal outrage; who exactly do Greg and Brad think they are demanding that I remove Maury's essays and disassociate myself from him??? Gentlemen, I do not recognize your authority to demand that I do anything. Your behavior is beyond contempt, as far as I'm concerned.

I could continue with a lengthy essay regarding the need for the extremists to take the plank out of their own eye before shouting about the speck. Such an essay would touch on the close association the American Anglican Council and the Institute on Religion and Democracy have with disciples of Rushdoony (the father of reconstructionism who advocated for the execution of all gays) and a certain archbishop whose response to gays and lesbians is to throw them all in prison. But, I think I've already said enough on this topic.

Greg and Brad owe Maury Johnston an apology. But I won't be holding my breath. In the meantime, to the mobs with burning torches arriving to burn the witch, I'll be using a little 21st century magic of my own to extinguish your flames. Just a click of my finger, and POOF! you're gone.

So, liberals are pagans, eh? Hmmm. Feels like a good night to dance skyclad in the moonlight, doesn't it?


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

All My Stirring Becomes Quiet

I've returned from a brief silent retreat at the Stella Maris Retreat Center Our guide was the Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas. For those looking for a good book of reflections for Holy Week, I highly recommend Margaret's Christ's Passion, Our Passions: Reflections on the Seven Last Words from the Cross. The picture is of Monday's sunrise over the Atlantic.

This was my first silent retreat in seven years. For the ten previous years, such retreats were a regular part of my personal discipline. The long lapse was partially due to circumstances beyond my control, but, if I'm honest, also because I was hesitant to intentionally enter into the silence for a prolonged period. The first half of those seven years were quite traumatic and full of many changes. I really wasn't in any hurry to revisit those traumas; the hurts I had both given and received. But, since things have been fairly stable for about four years now, I figured it was about time to stop running from those painful memories.

When the images from the past did arrive, they certainly stirred feelings of sadnesss. But their power to overwhelm me was much less than I had anticipated. What was surprising was to realize that there was still something else; some unaddressed hindrance behind the memories that kept me from fully engaging in the retreat.

It was during a meditation on God's grace that I was able to uncover this elusive "something else". I found myself only half engaged, allowing my mind to wander. "After all," I thought to myself, "this Grace is for the rest of them; I've used up my allotment." WHAT? Where in the world did that come from? Poor theology at least, and the kind of poisoned self-image that can lead to self-sabotage. I knew better, but there it was, hidden away in some dark corner of my head. I knew that for whatever reason God allowed me to function as a conduit of grace for others, but seemed to believe on some unconscious level that it was not intended for me. All I could hope for was some residual grace left over from being a conduit.

Bringing that to the light allowed it to melt away rather quickly. But, something else was there as well. Prodding it to the surface with the tool of silence revealed this additional stumbling block to be a familiar one; pride. I was rather proud of being a Rebel Angel (to borrow a label from Robertson Davies), or perhaps a character fashioned in the likeness of Prometheus.

Was that what I wanted? Was that what it was all about? No. What I want is to love, and to be loved. What I want is to experience the flow of God's grace, and channel that grace to others. And guess what? Immediately, the grace was there, as it probably always was. Thanks be to God!

Margaret offered us a poem by Wendell Berry that I wanted to share with you:

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Wilderness of Lent

I'll be making a Lenten retreat with some of the diocesan clergy for the next few days. We haven't talked too much about Lent here at Jake's place this year. So, I thought I'd leave you a brief Lenten reflection to ponder while I'm gone:

Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan ... And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan (Mark 1:9-13).

I have lots of problems with this passage. First of all, it seems to have things a bit backwards. Jesus is baptized, claimed as a member of the household of God, and then goes through a period of preparation or purification.

Shouldn't the preparations be made first, and then the baptism? Before an adult is baptized, they prepare themselves. Before we receive communion, we prepare ourselves. Before ordination, the ordinand traditionally makes a retreat.

Just possibly, we have it backwards.

Maybe we need to remind ourselves that there is nothing we can do to earn the sacraments. We cannot earn the right to Holy Baptism, Holy Communion or ordination. These are free gifts of grace offer by God through God's Church. They are given freely. But we do need to keep in mind that the sacraments are a means by which we receive God's grace, and once God's grace gets involved, things are going to change in our lives. Maybe we need a retreat after we have acknowledged the reception of God's gift of grace. Maybe that's when we need to stare in the face the new thing that God has done in our lives.

Jesus is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. He didn't go by his own volition. The Spirit of God drove him, forced him, to undergo this forty day fast. Such aggressiveness on the part of God makes me nervous. What do we do with that? It appears that God was still preparing Jesus, and time was of the essence. Jesus had more to learn before he would be ready for his ministry.

Seminary was not the wonderful experience I had expected it to be. There is a point when almost every seminarian has a crisis of faith. Most seminaries won't admit it, but I think that its built into the process. The seminaries want their students to face their own doubts, fears, and inadequacies while still in school, and not while serving in their first parish. At times, seminary did seem like being driven into the wilderness by God. I didn't like it, but I wouldn't have missed it for anything. Sometimes, God can be rather insistent, whether we like it or not!

Jesus is driven out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. If God drove him out there, then Satan is functioning as an agent of God. This is what we also see in the book of Job. Somehow, we have to get a handle on the reality that Satan has to be under God's authority. This brings up lots of problems with evil in the world, but that's another message. This passage refutes the idea that there are two powers fighting it out somewhere, and that there is some danger that God might lose this bout of cosmic fisticuffs! There is only one God of all.

The season of Lent, the forty days preceding Easter, is a call for each of us to enter the wilderness. The wilderness is a frightening place. We have no map. We don't know what we'll encounter. But we are driven into our own wildernesses just the same.

God calls us to enter those strange places in our lives, the places we normally avoid. God calls us to look into our hearts, and seek out those unexplored wildernesses, and begin to learn who we really are.

Lent is a time to expand our horizons, by charting the unknown wildernesses in our lives. We are called to stretch our understanding of God, and to try on new ways of responding to God. Lent is a time to enter the wilderness within our relationships as well. It is a time to seek reconciliation with those from whom we have been cut off for much too long.

God is pushing us out of our nice, comfortable lives into the unknown of the wilderness. Let us search out those dark places within our hearts, and allow God to heal them and bring them into the light. Let us allow God to stretch us in the wilderness and reveal new ways to respond to God's love with acts of mercy. Let us enter the wilderness with joy, knowing that we will emerge with a tempered heart desiring reconciliation with God and one another.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Historic Moment

It appears a small province of the Anglican Communion has elected a woman as their Archbishop.

Maggi Dawn provides a link to the details.