Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"Shunning Table Fellowship; That'll Show 'Em!"

Last year I wrote about table fellowship as the new weapon:

...First the bible is transformed into a weapon used to beat those with whom you disagree into submission. Now table fellowship is the new tool of destruction to be drawn from the arsenal. We live in bizarre times.

It's difficult to keep track of exactly who is still in communion with whom. Pretty soon, we'll have to answer a questionaire before we can approach the altar...

...It is worth noting that the Episcopal Church has not declared herself out of communion with anyone. I can't imagine a time when we would ever use the threat of excommunication as a weapon. If we did, I would strongly object. It's not our table, after all...
Well, no surprise, I suppose, but it appears that the weapon will be wielded once again at General Convention:

...I believe, as an orthodox Anglican Christian submitted to the Word of God and to the received teachings of the Church throughout the ages and in agreement with my bishop, Robert Duncan, that a state of broken communion exists between those bishops who have supported the schismatic election and confirmation of the Bishop of New Hampshire and myself. In good conscience, I cannot remain in Eucharistic fellowship or sit under the false teachings that supporters of the said election and confirmation promote. I will not, therefore, participate in the daily official General Convention Eucharists of the 75th General Convention, nor will I participate in the Bible discussion groups that follow these Eucharists. I am asking the Diocese of Pittsburgh lay and clergy deputies to agree to these spiritual sanctions. Further, I encourage the deputations of all the Network dioceses to act accordingly and for those orthodox deputies throughout the rest of ECUSA to decline participation as well.


The Rev. David D. Wilson
C4- Pittsburgh
So, one will assume that there will be "alternative" Eucharists offered. But if it is offered by Forward in Faith, an organization that opposes the ordination of women, then the Network will have to offer another "alternative" for those who object to that stance, and then I suppose yet another group will have to offer an alternative to those who object to the Network remaining in TEC too long...and around it goes.

What was it that Bishop Gulick recently said in Louie Crew's interview?

...First of all, there is not rubric or canon that forces people to receive Communion against their consciences. However, Miroslav Volf in his wonderful book Exclusion and Embrace quotes the orthodox theologian Zizioulas. Zizioulas talks about people who think that in the Eucharist they can receive the head without receiving the parts.

One of the things I have come to understand about participating in the Eucharist is that when I receive Jesus I receive every single person who is in Jesus. There is no way that one can receive the head without receiving the parts. If bishops absent themselves and have their own private Eucharist, they are still receiving all of us, because we are in Christ, by God's action in our Baptism. In one sense, it's misinformed theology: [those who absent themselves] are trying to be a part of what they are comfortable with rather than a part of that marvelous body that has been constructed by God's action.

Even if you try to have a private Eucharist of people who are of one mind, God's great trick is that when you receive Jesus you receive everybody in Jesus...
But, of course, if you read the comments following Fr. Wilson's ultimatum, you discover that according to the folks over at Kendall's place, we are no longer "in Jesus." Episcopalians outside of the Network are apostate, heretics, false teachers, etc. The only derogatory label missing from the usual barrage is "satanic." No doubt its exclusion is evidence of Kendall's attempt to "clean up" the comments over there. Which means heretical is now acceptable? Hmmm....may be time to change my subtitle back to the original?

What is the saddest aspect of this whole thing is that the "weapon" of shunning will inevitably backfire. I recall listening to the story of an old timer in recovery from alcoholism. He told of a time when he dropped in on his former wife (who had divorced him because he wouldn't, or couldn't, stop drinking). She sent him away, as he was intoxicated. Enraged, the man decided that he'd really make her pay for that rebuff, and proceeded to get so rip-roaring drunk that he ended up on a psych unit in a straight jacket. At that same time, his wife was at a dinner party, enjoying the attentions of a charming gentleman. Meanwhile, the drunk was shouting at the walls of his cell, "Well, I guess I sure showed her, didn't I?"

We're going to have a party every day at General Convention. If those intoxicated by rage are bound with ropes of sand, made good cable by the "cold dispute of what is fit, and not," and find themselves confined to their self-made padded cells, it will be sad, and they will be missed, but the celebration will go on. After all, the invitation comes from none other than Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. I wouldn't miss it for the world.

So, let's party! There's going to be one particular celebration that I wanted to mention;

The U2charist at General Convention
In Support of the Millennium Development Goals
Tuesday, June 13 at 7:30 pm
Rennaissance Hotel, Hayes Ballroom (second floor)
Columbus, Ohio
Preacher: Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina
Celebrant: Bishop Chilton Knudsen of Maine

I'll be at Convention, as a visitor and a volunteer. No official status. I doubt if I'll even bring clericals. If you're in the neighborhood, let's meet up at the Rennaissance Tuesday night. I'll be the one in boots and shades, packing a laptop.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Exposing the Covert War Against the Mainlines

On May 21, Air America's "State of Belief" program took a look at the attemtpted takeover of mainline Protestantism by a group of extremists. The program was hosted by Interfaith Alliance head C. Welton Gaddy. His guests were Dr. Bruce Prescott, Executive Director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, Dr. John Dorhauer, minister for the St. Louis Association of the United Churches of Christ and Dr. Andrew Weaver, a United Methodist pastor and research psychologist. Talk to Action, co-sponsors of the program, has provided us with a transcript of the show. Here's a few interesting bits:

...Weaver: You could easily call the Institute on Religion and Democracy "The Institute of Sex and More Sex". Because, if you Google homosexuality on their site, an incredible percentage of everything they do is a gay-bashing attack that works, and it really is fearmongering. To the point that the Ku Klux Klan, last summer, endorsed and encouraged on their site, one of the attacks that the Institute of Religion and Democracy made against the United Methodist group with over a dozen bishops attended, in celebration of gay and lesbian Christians. So their target is really fearmongering that turned, in this case, into the Ku Klux Klan endorsing them. That's the level of vitriol that is involved in these groups...

...Prescott: What I think is happening is that they're keeping the mainline congregations in turmoil with wedge issues, and then that allows people that have a secular political agenda to accomplish whatever it is that they're trying to do. I think when you talk about the Institute of Religion and Democracy, you're talking about Catholic neoconservatives who've got some of the same ultimate political goals as neoconservatives in the religious right. And not even the religious right--they just are right. And they're accomplishing those objectives by keeping the mainline congregations' voices silent...

...Weaver: Well, the IRD began out of the first Reagan White House as an attack really on Liberation Theology in Central America. It has morphed over time into a direct attack on mainline churches. The key players , and one of the most disturbing parts of this, are neoconservative Roman Catholics. Six of them sit on the board, that is 35% of the board members. There is not one cent, Welton, spent on any change in the Roman Catholic church, this I consider, and others, the most significant breach in ecumenical good will since Vatian II. ...
These Roman Catholics are the power center of this, that get the money from Scaife and other neocon sources, and the other people involved in this are very minor players. So, the IRD is funded by secular money as a propaganda machine against these churches, and the leadership is also Roman Catholics, which is something that responsible Roman Catholics need to address...

...Weaver: Half of all the money the IRD spends is in attacks on the United Methodist Chuch. It is the big battleship. And if you take out the 45 million people that are represented by the National Council of Churches, you're going to hollow out one of the cores of this democracy. So there's an attack on all of them, the Presbyterians, the Episcopalians, the United Chuch of Christ... And when Rev. Thomas spoke up recently, the head of the UCC, there was a full blast smear of him. And people are intimidated. The United Methodist bishops must have the courage to stand up and take this on, because our church is in peril of being split, and certainly being muted in terms of its conscience...
This is also being talked about in a diary at Daily Kos. Note to the author of that piece; thanks for the kind words about Jake's place.

We have previously discussed the influence of the IRD on the Episcopal Church, and their connection to the American Anglican Council/Network here and here. Daniel Webster's recent commentary, This Schism Brought to You by the IRD provides us with more information. Jim Naughton's report, Following the Money pulls together much of the information into to one place.

We can no longer "play the ostritch" regarding this matter. There is clearly an orchestrated attempt being made by the right (not necessarily the "religious right" btw, who appear to simply be pawns) to take over our churches. It is time for us to challenge this covert attempt, and expose it to the light.

Our ability to witness to the world of the transformative power of God's love made known to us through Jesus Christ is already hindered due to the checkered past of Christendom. We cannot allow another dark chapter to be written. Stand up and speak out. And take heart; you do not stand alone.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Oppose the Federal Marrriage Amendment

The Senate will vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment the week of June 5. Here is the text of this proposed amendment to the Constitution:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States:

Article -

SECTION 1. This article may be cited as the `Marriage Protection Amendment'.

SECTION 2. Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.
If you are a member of the clergy, I encourage you to sign the open letter to the Senate sponsored by Clergy for Fairness. Here's an excerpt from the letter:

...Regardless of judicial and legislative decisions defining the legal rights of gay couples, religious marriage will justly remain the prerogative of individual faith traditions in accordance with their doctrinal beliefs. And this is as it should be. It is not the task of our government and elected representatives to enshrine in our laws the religious point of view of any one faith. Rather, our government should dedicate itself to protecting the rights of all citizens and all faiths...
Members of the Laity are encouraged to contact their Senators and let them know you oppose this discriminatory amendment.

A group of religious leaders gathered in Washington on May 22 to voice their opposition to this amendment. Among those present were two Episcopal bishops; Larry Maze of Arkansas and retired New Jersey Bishop Joe Morris Doss. Here is a quote from Bp. Doss:

Marriage is a theological matter of first importance for the church...It raises some of the most fundamental, complex, and vexing issues of theology… Such issues demand the church’s most careful and profound deliberation, and that is to take place in our parishes, councils, seminaries, publications, and places of theological reflection. It is to take place within national and international units of each denomination and in ecumenical dialogue.

Congress, on the other hand, is not the proper forum for this sort of study, debate, and decision-making [on marriage]. The state is not to dictate doctrine to the church, or pre-empt a lively and extensive debate by precipitously deciding it for us. The church must determine the meaning and the parameters of marriage for itself… An amendment to define matters of theological controversy would set a terrible Constitutional precedent, and those in the church who think that such an action would be helpful to their theological position should take warning about what may come eventually.
The Rev. Dr. Jay E. Johnson, an Episcopal priest and theologian, offers us a sermon entitled Biblical Values for American Families:

...It is important to recognize, for example, that the most common marriage pattern in the Bible is polygamy; it is not a union of one man and one woman. Even in the New Testament, married life as we understand it is not presented as the model. The most prominent models of Christian life in the New Testament, Jesus and Saint Paul, were not married, and neither had children. Paul explicitly ranked being married below being single. And when Jesus was asked about his own family, his reply was radical: “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:48-50). On this basis, the early church developed a model of family that broke totally with ancient kinship patterns, monogamous or polygamous. The family in the New Testament is religious and nonbiological; more than anything else, it is like what we might think of as the “church family.”

The Bible does not provide us with concrete examples that we can directly apply to marriage and family as we understand these relationships today. In fact, the examples of what some might refer to as “biblical family values” are deeply disturbing...

...Religious opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples frequently turns to the Bible for support. For example, one denomination has based its opposition to marriage equality on “the biblical teaching that God designed marriage as a lifetime union of one man and one woman.” But, as we have seen, this claim hardly reflects what the Bible actually says or the ancient cultures in which the Bible was written. The structures of biblical families are rooted in cultural practices far removed from the values of Christians today...

...Societal definitions of marriage and family have changed, and will continue to change, over the course of history. What the Bible presents as the abiding standard is not based on biology or specific forms of legal contract, but on the quality of love that is shared. That is why many Christians today believe that if same-sex relationships exhibit such spiritual values, they deserve the protection and recognition that marriage represents in our society.

If we have any intention of preserving marriage and building strong families, we must base our support on neither ancient practices nor those of secular modernity; instead, our basis must be values that are unchangeable—faith, hope, and love. These are the biblical standards for Christian marriage and Christian families today.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Louie Crew Interviews PB Nominees

The Witness has provided us with a set of interviews of the nominees for Presiding Bishop by Louie Crew, member of the Executive Council and compiler of some of the best resources to be found regarding the Episcopal Church.

The questions are quite revealing of the character of some of these nominees. A couple of quotes beg to be pulled out and highlighted:

From Bp. Alexander...

...For me it is about fundamental principles, the fundamental ideas. I really believe that there is a place at the table in the life of the Episcopal Church for absolutely everybody. When I say everybody, I really do mean everybody. The witness of my ministry, my personal history is clear. I believe the Church should be radically reflective of the hospitality of God. If one gives one's life to Christ and to the Church, then one gives up being able to pick your own friends. God picks them for you. That allows you to relax.
From Bp. Gulick...

...My diocese has been invaded by the Bishop of Bolivia, who has without my permission and against my direct wishes come in and ministered to a group of former Episcopalians in this diocese. I think it is simply wrong.

There are ways that people of good will and good conscience can accommodate each other's consciences, and I think the House of Bishops has been very clear about how to do that. I have certainly let the clergy of this diocese know that any bishop of the House of Bishops under most circumstances can be invited to this diocese, so I think that trespassing in dioceses is chaotic.
From Bp. Jefferts Schori...

LC: What about those who seem bent and determined to leave or to wound the body if they don't get their own way?

Bp. Schori: I think they need to be challenged, more so than they have been. I see signs of hope in the House of Bishops, an unwillingness to continue to put up with bad behavior. We haven't seen any action yet, but I think it is coming.

LC: Do you have any sense of what that action might be? Would a verbal rebuke be enough?

Bp. Schori: It won't be enough in some cases, I am sure. But I have the sense that there is some desire to hold each other accountable for actions that are not canonical, for actions that have the appearance of being downright schismatic.
From Bp. Jenkins...

...I learned a lot of things in Nottingham, Louie, and not just there. People on both sides of the issue -- and those of us on the Right need to hear this closely -- love Jesus, want to honor Jesus, and believe in their heart of hearts that they are in a relationship honoring the Lord Christ. Gay people love Scripture just like straight people do: there is no difference. Gay people believe that they are fulfilling Scripture, honoring Scripture, and living the life to which Christ has called us.
From Bp. Parsley...

LC: Do you have to forfeit your own convictions if you are to lead?

Bp. Parsley: I don't think you have to forfeit your own convictions. You need to be well defined in what you believe. As you know, I am a well-defined moderate. I say that slightly tongue-in-cheek, because not many people think that moderates can be well defined. I am actually a passionate via media Anglican. I think that the middle way has led us into paths of wisdom and reconciliation and courage in the past, and can continue so to lead us in the future.

I think the Presiding Bishop has to contain all voices and help this church contain all voices. God needs us all; and He needs us together, not in warring camps.
From Bp. Sauls...

There is a sense maybe across the spectrum that the House of Bishops may not be a safe place to be. I notice that from our conservative colleagues who say that the minute we start talking about justice, they feel shut down, but the more liberal members of the House, who constitute the majority at the moment, could say the same thing when the conservatives talk about orthodoxy and morality. I think we are in a pattern of using catch phrases to lock others out of the conversation.
I think every one of these nominees would make a fine Presiding Bishop. However, I'm not changing my favorite (I especially liked his forthright answer to the first question...and have gained respect for Bp. Jenkins for being equally clear on his position).

Did these interviews change you opinion of any of the nominees?


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What Should GC 2006 Do?

Lionel Deimel, of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh has provided us with an issues guide subtitled Commentary on the Resolutions Proposed by the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

We have previously discussed some of our initial responses to the 11 resolutions proposed by the Special Commission. Dr. Deimel gives us some in-depth analysis that is worth considering. Here just a few of his insights that leaped out at me:

Resolution A159 Commitment to Interdependence in the Anglican Communion -

In the first resolved, note that the Communion is referred to as a "fellowship of churches."

In the second resolved, Lionel points out a significant choice of words;
...Preambles of constitutions—the Episcopal Church constitution has not always had one—establish context, however, not rules, and this resolve rightly refers to the reference to the Communion in the preamble as descriptive, not prescriptive. Even the Windsor Report (in §128) acknowledges that General Convention acted consistent with its constitution.
This refutes the argument sometimes heard that if the Episcopal Church were no longer part of the Anglican Communion, it would cease to exist, due to the wording of the Preamble. It's always been a weak argument anyway, for reasons that Lionel outlines, but this clarification in a resolution will be helpful.

In the final resolved of this resolution, in which members from other Provinces are offered voice in our Standing Commissions, Lionel suggests the possiblity that we recommend a reciprocal voice being given to our members in the Commissions of other Provinces as well.

The commentary on the explanation to this resolution is relevant to some of our recent discussions, so I want to offer it in its entirety:

There is little sentiment within the Episcopal Church for simply walking away from what has been a longstanding and, in many ways, mutually beneficial relationship. It is to be hoped that the Episcopal Church will never be forced to choose between its ability to pursue its understanding of its mission and unity with the wider Communion. There are surely forces acting to fracture the Communion, however, and, in the end, we may be powerless to prevent schism. If we can do so while preserving our integrity, we should make every effort to remain in the Anglican Communion and, if a break is to come, leave it to others formally to precipitate it.
Resolution A161 Election of Bishops -

Lionel makes the same observation that we previously noted:

...This resolution leaves to the imagination exactly what “manner of life” might present “a challenge to the wider church” and “lead to further strains on communion.” Whereas this resolution may discourage the consecration of gay bishops—some will argue that it will have no such effect—it could have a similar effect on those, say, opposed to women’s ordination, whose consecration would arguably impede the reception process of women’s ordination in the Communion.
Resolution A162 Public Rites of Blessing for Same-Sex Unions -

Lionel points out that there is a misrepresentation of history in the WR and in this resolution. The Primates Pastoral Letter of May 2003 did not warn us to not proceed with blessings. He offers some citations from the Letter for your consideration. He also notes some confusion within this resolution, and emphasizes that it is especially important that we strive for clarity at this GC.

Resolution A163 Pastoral Care and Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight -

I emphatically agree with Lionel that the final resolved, regarding respecting diocesan boundaries, needs to be strengthened. Give it some teeth!

Resolution A165 Commitment to Windsor and Listening Processes -

Lionel reminds us of an historical point that is worth remembering. The "Listening Process" is an extension of the “need for deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality,” first proposed in a resolution at Lambeth 1978, then reaffirmed and expanded at Lambeth 1988, and then further expanded at Lambeth 1998. That's 28 years of mandated listening, and we still have Archbishops addressing the issue through incarceration.

Resolution A166 Anglican Covenant Development Process -

We are reminded that any agreement to a Covenant must come from General Convention, not through our Primate. We're into the democracy thing, and are quite confident that the Holy Spirit can work through our voting process. We do not have a high regard for the "Prince Bishop" model, which seems to still have some appeal in other parts of the Communion.

Resolution A168 Human Rights for “Homosexual Persons” -

Lionel suggests that this is the place for us to "take a stand supportive of the homosexual community in Nigeria"... I wholeheartedly agree.

Dr. Dreimel's paper should prove to be an excellent resource for all bishops and deputies participating in General Convention next month. Make sure you steer your diocesan deputation towards it.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Anglican Covenant

The proposal for an Anglican Covenant mentioned in a news story last week has now been made public in a paper entitled Towards an Anglican Covenant.

The first thing worth noting is that the proposed timeline for such a Covenant is 6 to 9 years, with implementation happening in 4 to 6 years. This is not something that is going to happen this year, or next, or even at Lambeth 2008. This is both a blessing and a bane. We have time to reflectively consider this proposal, which, recalling the pace of past pronouncements within the Communion in the last few years, is a blessing. Yet, to be distracted from the mission of the Church by this process for another 6 years is a very big disappointment.

It appears that the proposers of this Covenant are following very closely to the recommendations made in the Windsor Report. Consequently, one might assume that the proposed text of the actual Covenant will be very similar to the draft offered as Appendix Two of the Windsor Report. If this is the starting point, reviewing the WR draft will be helpful when the time comes for specific recommendations to the body that will be charged with the initial formulation of the text of this Covenant.

The Questioning Christian raises a point that troubled me as I read this paper. Why will the Primates have veto power over a proposed Covenant? That group of purple-clad men is the least representative body of the Anglican Communion among the Instruments of Unity. If we are to give anyone veto power, the Anglican Consultative Council, which includes all four orders, would seem to be the obvious choice. Personally, I don't trust the Primates much. As the newest Instrument of Unity, they have been too quick to claim authority for themselves.

Tobias Haller suggests that we have no need for such an additional Covenant, and points us to an existing document that would serve just as well; The Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council.

The Special Commission has already proposed a resolution for next month's General Convention that would express our support of this Covenant process:

Resolution A166 Anglican Covenant Development Process
Resolved, the House of __________ concurring, That the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, as a demonstration of our commitment to mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Anglican Communion, support the process of the development of an Anglican Covenant that underscores our unity in faith, order, and common life in the service of God’s mission; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention direct the International Concerns Standing Committee of the Executive Council and the Episcopal Church’s members of the Anglican Consultative Council to follow the development processes of an Anglican Covenant in the Communion and report regularly to the Executive Council as well as to the 76th General Convention; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention report these actions supporting the Anglican Covenant development process, noting such missiological and theological resources as the Standing Commission on World Mission and the House of Bishops’ Theology Committee to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates, and the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion; and that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church report the
same to the primates of the churches of the Anglican Communion.

This resolution supports the development of an Anglican Covenant as suggested by the Windsor Report, the Primates’ Meeting of February 2005, and the 13th Meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. It directs appropriate bodies in the Episcopal Church to serve as resources for the development of an Anglican Covenant, and to report to the Episcopal Church regularly as to current covenant proposals.
It is clear from this proposal that there is no need for us to respond to this idea at all, or ever sign such a Covenant:

What of those who say that the content of the Covenant is such that, for the time being at least, they cannot “take it”, and they will have to “leave it”? Do they leave the Anglican Communion as a result? That may not be a necessary result of failing or refusing to sign up. Just as it would be wrong to assume that the Anglican Communion did not exist before the first Lambeth Conference, so it would be wrong to assume that failure to sign the Covenant meant that a Church ceased to be Anglican. The marks of Anglican identity go rather deeper. There is bound to be a lengthy period when synodical bodies are considering the Covenant, prior to adoption. They will not be “less Anglican” during that period than they are now; and it remains to be seen in what sense they might become “more Anglican” if they decide to adopt it for themselves...
What would be the result of not signing?

It might be expected that, as time goes on, stronger presumptions of mutual recognition and interchangeability of ministry and membership would arise between those Churches and Provinces that had signed up than amongst those that had chosen not to do so. That is not to say that the present arrangements for mutual recognition and interchangeability would be swept away by the introduction of the Covenant. What might emerge is a two (or more) tiered Communion, with some level of permeability between churches signed up to the Covenant, and those who are not.
In other words, we would be relegated to second-class citizen status, but as long as we keep paying the bills, we can keep the name "Anglican."

To be quite honest, I'm uncomfortable with such a Covenant, but am certainly open to being convinced of its value. If I recall correctly, Bill Carroll, who has eloquently and insightfully commented on a number of topics here at Jake's place, has mentioned his support of the Covenant idea. Bill, I'd be interested in hearing more.

Responses to Towards and Anglican Communion may be sent (preferably in Word) to:


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Akinola's Harsh, Merciless Christian Fundamentalism

Peter Tatchell offers a fiery condemnation of Archbishop Peter Akinola and the Archbishop of Canterbury:

...In the name of Christianity, Akinola and his Anglican hierarchy are endorsing the state oppression of their gay countrymen and women.

Akinola's harsh, merciless Christian fundamentalism has long whipped up homophobic hatred and intimidation. It poses a grave danger to the spiritual and physical welfare of gay people in Nigeria. I fear for the safety of my Nigerian brothers and sisters, under attack by both church and state.

Thousands of lesbian and gay Nigerians will be at risk of imprisonment if this new law is passed. Right now, it looks almost certain to be approved and will come into force before the end of this year.

To many people's dismay, Dr Williams, has remained silent about this attack on the human rights of gay Nigerians, many of whom are members of his Anglican Communion.

Although the new law will criminalise gay Christian gatherings, blessings and celebrations, the archbishop has refused to condemn this repressive legislation or to support gay Christians in Nigeria. Rejecting the parable of the Good Samaritan, he has chosen to walk by on the other side of the street, ignoring the suffering of Nigerian lesbians and gays.

Dr Williams would not appease a racist or anti-semitic cleric. Why is he appeasing a boastful homophobe like Archbishop Akinola?

The leader of the Anglican communion wants church unity at any price, apparently even at the price of betraying gay people. He would, it seems, rather unite with a self-proclaimed persecutor than with the victims of homophobic persecution.

When it comes to the fate of queers, the sermon on the mount cuts little ice with the archbishop: he prefers to curry favour with modern-day pharisees. For gays and lesbians, especially gay and lesbian Christians, Dr Williams is a huge disappointment. He is a good man who has lost his conscience...
Thinking Anglicans points us to a press release from Changing Attitude that highlights one result of this Nigerian bill becoming law; any Nigerian bishop who engages in the listening process as described in Lambeth 1.10 and the Windsor Report would face imprisonment:

...This deadly bill has the blessing of Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of All Nigeria, who is the self-appointed leader of the conservative group in the world-wide Anglican Communion. Archbishop Akinola is leading a fight against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the Communion. He is not supported by every bishop in Nigeria and wants the bill to be implemented speedily to suppress disagreement.

The bill will make life impossible for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Nigerians. We will be prevented from free association and the ability to be open about ourselves. Our relationships will continue to be lived in fear and secrecy.

Any Nigerian bishop who tries to listen to homosexual experience in accordance with commitments made by the Anglican Communion will be labelled a supporter of homosexual people and be at risk of prosecution under the terms of the new bill, subject to a maximum prison sentence of 5 years.

The bill will make it impossible for any Nigerian bishop fulfil the commitment of the Anglican Church expressed in the Windsor report to listen to the experience of lesbian and gay people...
Who in a position of leadership within the Anglican Communion has spoken out against Akinola's blessing of this bill? So far, only the Canadian bishops and Bishop Chane of Washington.

I give the award for the most outrageous excuse for silence on this crisis to Dean Zahl, who wants the "embargo" of Trinity lifted before he'll even consider the topic:

...The embargo on Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry is an important symbolic symptom of a non-loving, non-space-conceding mind-set on the part of many of our bishops...

...I cannot listen to what the majority has to say – and I would truly like to – until those who hold the cards just now, in a human sense, give a little. When they give us some real space, then I shall listen to what they have to say concerning our co-religionist Peter Akinola...
Such a conversation will probably never happen, at least in Ambridge, for fear that the steamrolling brownshirts might plant a bomb within Trinity's hallowed halls.

The Special Commission is proposing a resolution that would address the situation in Nigeria:

Resolution A168 Human Rights for “Homosexual Persons”
Resolved, the House of _____ concurring, That the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church reaffirm “its conviction that homosexual persons are entitled to equal protection of the laws with all other citizens, and calls upon our society to see that such protection is provided in actuality” (GC 1976–A071); and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention affirms the statement in the Windsor Report paragraph 146: “Moreover, any demonizing of homosexual persons, or their ill treatment, is totally against Christian charity and basic principles of pastoral care. We urge provinces to be proactive in support of the call of Lambeth Resolution 64 (1988) for them to ‘reassess, in the light of … study and because of our concern for human rights, its care for and attitude toward persons of homosexual orientation’”; and be it further

Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Anglican and International Peace with Justice Concerns seek ways to address this concern through the Anglican Communion Office.

The respect and dignity due every human being, and the affirmation of the human rights of every person, require the constant attention of this church. This resolution affirms the need for this attention.

Friday, May 19, 2006

North Americans as Second Class Anglicans

Prior Aelred has pointed us to a story in the Telegraph; Archbishop Backs Two-Track Church to Heal Divisions:

...The proposals, which have parallels with the idea of a two-speed European Union, could permit liberals from North America to push ahead with divisive reforms such as homosexual bishops without destroying the Church.

But they could also allow conservatives from Africa and Asia to form an influential inner core that would edge out the liberals from positions of power and reduce them to a second-class status...

...Under Dr Williams's plan, all Anglican provinces - the 38 autonomous Churches that make up the worldwide Communion - will be asked to sign the covenant, an agreement that will prevent them from acting unilaterally over contentious issues.

The covenant would effectively be the Anglican Communion's first constitution, a notion strongly resisted by liberals who dislike the idea of centralised power or of the Archbishop of Canterbury becoming an Anglican pope.

Those who refuse to sign up because they want to retain their freedom - possibly up to a third of the provinces -would not necessarily be seen as less Anglican, but they could find themselves pushed to the fringes...
From what I understand, Jonathan Petre is a reliable reporter.

So, this is the result of the quiet meetings Dr. Williams has been hosting? No surprise, since, to my knowledge, no representative of the North American perspective, other than Bp. Griswold, were invited to these meetings. Note that under this arrangement the North Americans will be required to ante up without being dealt a hand. If they were simply expelled, this wouldn't be the case. Pretty slick.

Since this plan was hatched after the proposed resolutions from the Special Commission were released, which are most likely very close to the way the final wording of resolutions regarding the Windsor Report that will be passed at General Commission next month will shape up, we can assume that this will be the response from Canterbury, regardless of what we do in Columbus. One might speculate that the timing of the circulation of this proposal is connected to the election in California.

The Communion will do what the Communion feels it must do. At this point, it would seem to me to be a waste of time and energy to try to change this proposal. Hopefully, Petre is right in his prediction that we will not sign any covenant agreement. As Bishop Alexander said, "If we allow the missionary fabric of our worldwide Anglican relationships to be replaced by juridical and canonical structures we will have compromised our greatest strength for accomplishing the mission of Jesus." To encourage our leaders to reject any proposed covenant would seem to be a better use of our energy.

So, we are being asked to pay the bill, but have no seat at the banquet. I can live with that, especially since the alternative would be to compromise our witness to the radically inclusive love of God made known to us through Jesus Christ.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Alexander for Presiding Bishop

The Living Church offers us a Q & A session with Neil Alexander, Bishop of Atlanta and nominee for Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. I really like this guy.

Before highlighting some of his answers, I should probably disclose that I am slightly biased in favor of Alexander. He is the only nominee that I have ever met. Back in 1988, while at Nashotah House, I attended a national program called "The Preaching Excellence Workshop." Neil Alexander, then homiletics professor at General, was one of the facilitators of my small group. One of our activities was to prepare a homily in 20 minutes on a text assigned to us and then preach it before the group. My text was Mary's encounter with the risen Christ. I attempted to speak from Mary's perspective. I bombed, big time, and said as much as I sat down. The other facilitator, an elderly priest, laid into me at high volume. Afterwards, I skipped lunch and went outside to smoke and fume. Neil came out and suggested we take a walk. He listened to me rant, and then offered a line that I've used often over the years; "It seems to me that Roy used a bulldozer when a trowel would have worked just as well." Simple, but enough to diffuse my outrage. We talked a bit about the exercise and he offered some suggestions for future preparations of homilies under pressure. He then asked about my life at the House and my family. As we arrived back at the entrance to the dining room, he invited me in to join him for lunch. A limited interaction, but one that has been etched on my heart as an example of good pastoral care.

Now, on to the particular responses in the TLC article that caught my eye. First, his description of the current state of the Episcopal Church:

I believe the Episcopal Church is much stronger than most people believe it is. Unquestionably, we are distracted these days with all of the conversations regarding human sexuality, and homosexuality in particular. These are important questions that require our best efforts to discover a way forward together. But however important the questions about sexuality and all of the attendant issues may be, they are not the sum total of the church’s mission and ministry. The gospel imperatives that drive the church’s mission are far too important to allow them to languish while we await a new consensus to emerge on the issues of the day. We are tough bunch, we Episcopalians. The great social movements in our nation’s history have challenged us and threatened to divide us before. By God’s grace we have kept moving forward, treated each other with gentleness and grace, and kept our eyes focused on mission while we waited on the Spirit to open before us a way forward…
Regarding the Windsor Report:

First of all, it will be the duty of the Presiding Bishop to carry forth the response of the General Convention to the Windsor Report to our church, the Anglican Communion, and where appropriate, to our ecumenical partners. The Presiding Bishop’s personal positions are less important than his or her ability to articulate the positions established by our church.

Personally I resonate quite strongly with the spirit of the Windsor Report, but there are many details that need to be sorted out. Many of its recommendations were cast under extreme time pressure and should be understood as a place to begin the conversation, not indications that the conversations are over. I think that responding to the Windsor Report uncritically would be just as tragic as responding negatively. It is a fine piece of work by folks I respect. We don’t honor the gift they have given us by a simple up or down vote on the Windsor Report. We honor their work by serious engagement with it and at points that engagement may mean respectful disagreement together with the proposal of thoughtful alternatives.

Our church’s ties to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion are of critical importance with respect to our mission and ministry in the Name of Jesus. I believe the historical frameworks of the Communion serve us well by coordinating partnerships in mission between member provinces of the Communion. Doing gospel mission together across the national, economic, political, and cultural boundaries that divide us is the hallmark of Anglicanism when we are at our best. If we allow the missionary fabric of our worldwide Anglican relationships to be replaced by juridical and canonical structures we will have compromised our greatest strength for accomplishing the mission of Jesus…
And finally, regarding worship:

Contrary to popular opinion, I believe that church attendance in many places is low because people cross the thresholds of a congregation and discover a tired, dumbed-down, undemanding liturgy that is poorly thought through and sloppily executed. People want quality. People join churches that are contagious, that are not embarrassed to be who they are, that dwell on their strengths. Even now, most people who become Episcopalians will say that were drawn to us because of our liturgy and music. So why do we insist on watering it down? Why do we assume that new members cannot learn the liturgy? We did. It was new to all of us at some point, wasn’t it?

If we want to grow the church we need to begin ministries in places where we presently do not have congregations. We need to stop apologizing for being Episcopalians and throw the doors open to everyone who wants a deeper relationship with God in Jesus Christ through our common life of mission and ministry. And we need to play to our strengths—catholic liturgy and evangelical preaching, and hands-on ministry to persons in need…
I found this particular answer very helpful for me right now. I spent last week at a congregational development seminar in Florida. Even though I gleaned much valuable information and new ideas over the week, some of the things I heard about worship, and the examples we were given through our daily worship, were quite troubling. I’ve been sitting with this discomfort, trying to get some distance in order to sort out how much of my resistance springs from my personal inclinations (as one trained at Nashotah House), and how much is from the fact that the ideas presented were faulty. Bp. Alexander’s statement, that we need to stop watering down our liturgy and stop apologizing for being Episcopalians, states in a much more subdued way the sentiments that I’m wrestling with right now. As I might have expected, he uses a trowel, when my inclination was to fire up the bulldozer.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dean Zahl: "Gay Lobby = Steamrolling Brown Shirts"

Just two weeks ago, the Rev. Paul Zahl, dean of the conservative Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, compared the election of a gay bishop in California to “a terrorist bomb". One would think that the high level of negative publicity he received would have been cause for Dean Zahl to be a bit more careful in choosing his words. Apparently not. Here's an excerpt from his latest contribution to the conversation:

...There is a steamroller out there called the gay agenda or lobby, and it is unsparing of all dissent. It is an external force, and is absolutely focused...

...You have this army of Brown Shirts – the steamroller of what we now call "revisionism" - – and it is taking no prisoners...
Now there's a lovely image; a steamroller named "The Gay Agenda", with an "army of Brown Shirts" at the controls.

The rest of his "reflection" is preoccupied with the Creature of the Black Lagoon. Such a fixation might help explain why some of the extreme conservatives are so afraid of anyone who might be slightly different; they watch too many monster movies.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

War on Christians! Lock and Load!

The Revealer offers us a report by Elizabeth A. Castelli of a conference entitled "The War on Christians and the Values Voter in 2006". This event was sponsored by Vision America. Here's just a few excerpts from the report:

...Several interlocking narratives and rhetorics are at work in the Vision America program. One critical piece of the puzzle is a traditionalist, triumphalist historical narrative in which the United States was given to Christians by God to establish a providential nation based on biblical precepts. (No apologies -- nor even passing reference -- to the land’s prior occupants)...

...The historical narrative moves inexorably forward, touching upon the Civil War -- but with no mention of the now-inconvenient role of literal biblical interpretation in the feverish defense of slavery. Indeed, by contrast, these contemporary conservative Christians cast themselves as the rightful heirs to abolitionism (and the women’s suffrage movement and the civil rights movement and so on)...

...It is a movement that resoundingly denies that it is theocratic, dismissing such a characterization as one aimed at provocatively and cynically linking right-wing politicized Christianity to radical Islamism. At the same time, it is a movement that argues that political, social, and moral life must be solely grounded in scripture...

...Conference presenters and audience members seemed convinced that a well-organized, well-financed cabal of homosexual elites are plotting a cultural takeover. Marshalling a wide array of arguments against homosexuality (“it’s unhealthy,” “it’s all lust and perversion,” “it’s disgusting”) and gay marriage (“it’s an attack on the family because that’s where faith is passed on -- the goal is simply the destruction of religion” or “it’s an attack on biblical truth and therefore on God”), some speakers advocated for the reintroduction of the concept of “shame” into the culture. Meanwhile, Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition urged the abandonment of the terms “homosexual” and “gay” in favor of adopting terms such as “sodomites” and “the perverted ones.” Some speakers read graphically explicit material found on gay websites to the conference, apologizing profusely for the shock and disgust they knew they would be generating but insisting that it was necessary for the participants to confront this material. By the end, one was left with the distinct impression that the organizers and participants in the conference spend far more time than the average gay person thinking about, talking about, and fantasizing about gayness...

...Beginning with the premise that there is a war on Christianity, conference organizers and participants were eager to issue calls to arms in response. “We are under spiritual invasion!” intoned Rod Parsley, an evangelist from Ohio. “Man your battle stations! Ready your weapons! LOCK AND LOAD!” (The audience responded to these imperatives with a raucous and exuberant standing ovation)...
The "Contract with Congress" each participate was encouraged to sign included support for the Constitution Restoration Act (previously discussed here) and the Marriage Protection Act.

Just a bunch of fringe militants, right? Surely Anglicans would never associate with such extremism. Take a look a the list of signatures on this petition advocating for the Marriage Protection Act sponsored by the Religion Coalition for Marriage. Episcopal Bishops Ackerman of Quincy, Beckworth of Springfield, Duncan of Pittsburgh and Howe of Central Florida have chosen to align themselves with these folks. One wonders if the above listed Right Reverend Sirs also affirm the sponsor's Top Ten "Scientific" Arguments Against SSM?

Crazy stuff. Keep your powder dry.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

What Witness Will We Make?

The following is from the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, President and Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School:

What Witness Will We Make?

As the Episcopal Church, the most important question before us is not about schism or sexuality. It is about witness. What witness will we make?

Christian witness is the public affirmation of faith. It is how we let the world see that we practice what we preach. Today those of us in the Episcopal Church are being called on to make our witness. We have the opportunity to be what we say we are. The world is watching. What will we do?

The answer is a matter of faith. We witness to what we believe.

In the Episcopal Church, we believe in Jesus Christ. We believe in the Bible. We believe in the Good News. In fact, we believe so strongly in all of these essential parts of our shared faith that we are not afraid to disagree with one another about what they mean to us.

We welcome difference as the active presence of God's Holy Spirit moving amongst us. Our witness is not to conformity but to community. As the Episcopal Church we are not concerned that everyone in the pews believes exactly the same thing, in the same way, at the same time. Instead, we are concerned that no one is left out of those pews because of what they believe, who they are, or where they come from.

Our witness is to the unconditional love of God through the grace of Christ Jesus. Therefore, we accept the risk of grace by not setting limits to love with our own judgment of others. There are no border guards at the doors of the Episcopal Church. We respect the dignity of every human being and are never ashamed of who sits next to us in worship. We are all the children of God just as we are all sinners in need of mercy.

There are no walls around the Episcopal Church. We believe that God is at work in the world. We are not concerned that this world sees us as perfect, pure, or powerful. Instead, we are concerned that people see us practicing justice, doing mercy, and walking humbly with the God we believe loves us all equally.

Our witness is to hope, not fear. We believe that men and women, no matter how separated they may think they are by religious conviction, cultural value, or social location are never truly apart unless they choose to be. We have nothing to fear from one another unless we allow fear to be our witness. While the distance between us may seem great and the path to reconciliation impossibly long, we have the guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we never despair of one another or deny one another for to do so would be to despair and deny the power of that Spirit.

Our witness is to mission. While the Spirit leads us to truth, we carry on with the task God has given us. We do not place pride before discipleship. While we may have many disagreements between us, we have only one mission before us. We never question the faith of the person who seeks to do the work of God. We believe that it is not important to know if that person is "right" or politically correct. It is only important to know if she or he feels welcomed into the servant ministry of Christ. There are no loyalty oaths in the Episcopal Church, but there are many jobs for those who want to help heal a broken world.

Our witness is to the reconciliation of God in a time of fear. In the Episcopal Church, we stand together not even if we disagree, but precisely because we disagree. We practice the radical hope of God. We embody a faith that says there are many rooms in the house of God, but one home for us all if we choose to live together.

It is time to make our witness. In a century already marked by the terror of war, with zealots of all traditions inciting us into the patriotism of fear, what witness will we make? What alternative will we offer? What fresh vision will we share? Will we retreat into yet smaller factions of "true believers," whether from the Right or the Left, smug in our self righteous assurance that we have the truth?Will we struggle over property and power as though these things had lasting importance for us? Will we vilify one another and become agents of suspicion among the very people we love? Will we worry more about what people think of us than what God expects of us?

It is time to make our witness. It is time to take off our halos, our mitres, and our martyr's crown to stand up and be counted. What witness will each of us choose to make?

I can not answer for anyone in this Church but myself. I do not ask that you agree with my theology. I do not demand that you read your Bible exactly as I read mine. I know that you and I may disagree on many subjects and find it hard to live together. But I also know that you are as much in need of God's forgiveness as I am.

You and I need one another now more than ever because there are so many others who need us both in this hurting world. That world, the poor and the hungry, the captives and the prisoners, are depending on us to do more than argue with one another. For them, our witness is not a matter of church politics. It is a matter of life and death. I am counting on the fact that you know that.

Now is the time for us to extend our hands to one another. We will not walk away from the Body of Christ.

Now is the time for us to use our hands. We will not place pride over mission.

Now is the time for us to raise our hands. We will not forget that to God alone goes the glory.

Are you a witness? Will you join me in this affirmation of faith?

In my life I have known many seasons in the Episcopal Church. This is the season for our witness. This is the time for us to do something totally unexpected and wonderful, to confound those who say we have lost our vision. This is our moment to show the world that we can practice what we preach and be who we say we are. Our finest hour will not be when we think we have won something from one another, but when we know we have nothing to lose by loving one another.

I am a witness. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in God's gospel of justice, compassion, and reconciliation. I believe in the community of God and I will work faithfully with every person to bring peace and healing to the world. I open my hands. I open my heart. I want the world to see that I am not afraid. I step gratefully into the unconditional love of God. I stand up to be counted not for what I think is right, but for what I believe to be possible. How about you? Will you stand with me?

Are you a witness?

The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston is president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Bishop Charleston is a member of the Choctaw Nation, has served as the Episcopal Bishop of Alaska, and as the executive director of the National Committee on Indian Work at the Episcopal Church Center. Over his career, Bishop Charleston has been deeply involved in exploring different models of theological training to meet the needsof a changing church. He is an advocate for theological education that is culturally sensitive and meets the needs and concerns of local faith communities.


This statement will be distributed at General Convention. "I am a Witness" pins will also be available.

Episcopal Divinity School is also offering Ten Steps to Reconciliation, a resource that is intended to help congregations:

In response to the growing concerns over issues that threaten to divide the church, Episcopal Divinity School is calling attention to Good News: A Congregational Resource for Reconciliation, written by The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston. In this resource, Bishop Charleston and EDS present congregations with vital strategies for reconnection and reconciliation.

Many may ask, "If we chose to take the risk of reconciliation, what practical steps can we take?" The whole gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer, but The Rt. Rev. Charleston has outlined ten steps to reconciliation that emerge from the gospel. This three-part reflection resource is grounded in the belief that justice can be served without one side having to be "right," that compassion can be practiced with a forgiveness that overcomes fear, and that reconciliation can occur without the need for resolution. The curriculum draws on examples from the life of Jesus of Nazareth to bring hope for justice, compassion, and reconciliation to groups whose members have differing opinions on the most controversial of topics...
A preview of video clips that come with this resource are available here.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Countering "Christian" Hate

A reader recently sent me a link to a posting by Straight, Not Narrow regarding a young man who has recently received hate mail from "Christians."

The young man, Tully Satre, is a Junior at Notre Dame Academy. He is the same young man who wrote the essay that I've linked to on the right (on IT's recommendation) as Speaking Truth to Power. Here are a few excerpts from his recent article in the Advocate:

...Last week I received numerous e-mails full of hatred and containing a consistent message: Every letter stated boldly that the sender’s view, as a Christian, required them to stand up against my actions and attempt to educate me about my “perverse lifestyle.” One letter stated that I needed to read the Bible and “get right with God,” that they “don’t hate [me]” but “don’t want [me] to end up in hell, which is where [I am] headed if [I] don’t get right” while also suggesting that I “should go to church”...

...I feel confident to express everything I am and everything I believe, and I will always say that I am what I believe a Christian should be. But nearly every single letter and act toward me in the name of Christianity or by a Christian person has been hateful, isolating, and completely focused on my “self-destructive actions.”

I am not asking for an explanation; I am asking for a reason: Why have I not received a single letter from anyone saying they accept me because they are a Christian?
Tully Satre can be reached at


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Canadian Bishops Challenge Church of Nigeria

The Bishops of Canada have spoken out against the Nigerian legislation that responds to gay and lesbian persons and their supporters by incarcerating them. The Bishops also "disassociate" themselves from the actions of the Anglican Church of Nigeria which supports this latest form of institutionalized bigotry. From the Anglican Journal:

...The proposed laws, said the bishops, "criminalize civil and religious same-sex marriage as well as the public and private expression of same-sex affection, all public affiliation between gay persons and even publicity, public support and media reporting of the same." The proposals "would make the very act of listening to homosexual persons impossible."

In unusually strong language, the bishops said they "disassociate" themselves from the actions of the Church of Nigeria and called upon Anglicans around the world to listen to and respect the human rights of gay people.
Thinking Anglicans has provided us with the specific wording of the resolution.

The US Department of State is on record as being against this draconian law. Now our Canadian neighbors have shown they have the gonads to speak up. Not a word from the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (with the exception of Bp. Chane), and, even more disturbing, nothing from Canterbury.

Why does Peter Akinola get a pass on this from Dr. Williams and the rest of the communion?

This is enough to cause one to wonder if being an Anglican is necessarily such a good thing anymore.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Interviews of Presiding Bishop Nominees

Trinity, Wall Street has provided us with video interviews of all seven nominees for Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Here's a few things that jumped out at me as I viewed these interviews:

The Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, Bishop of Atlanta -
The priorities of the next Presiding Bishop will need to be attending to the House of Bishops, administratively, pastorally and programatically, and nurturing relationships among other provinces of the Anglican Communion. He emphasized that the Communion is primarily about relationships, not structures.

The Rt. Rev. Francisco J. Duque-Gomez, Bishop of Columbia -
The Presiding Bishop needs to help the Episcopal Church become more international, and learn from multicultural churches that are growing outside the United States.

The Rt. Rev. Edwin F. Gulick, Jr., Bishop of Kentucky -
He sees the role of the Presiding Bishop as one of "lending my eyes to the Church." It is a role that is not as much about authority as it is helping the Church see what is going on; to help refocus the Church's gaze on mission.

The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of Nevada -
The next presiding Bishop will need to call us back to the center. Priorities would include the Millennium Development Goals and making Isaiah's ideal of creation, seen in the vision of the banquet and the vision of shalom, a reality for the whole world.

The Rt. Rev. Charles E. Jenkins III, Bishop of Louisiana -
The Presiding Bishop expresses servant leadership, calling us to be not just a commandment church, but a commissioning church. Mission must be our priority, as mission is much more important than any of the issues that divide us.

The Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley, Jr., Bishop of Alabama -
The Presiding Bishop is the servant of the servants of God. Three primary roles are chief pastor, primate and overseer. The most important of these three in the current climate is chief pastor. The next Presiding Bishop will be called to be a unifier of the Church; calling us from a season of conflict to a season of mission.

The Rt. Rev. Stacy F. Sauls, Bishop of Lexington -
The Presiding Bishop needs to be able to articulate the vision of God and our response to this vision. Our mission must include a response to the needs of the poor.

Take a look. What did you see that is worth noting?


CDSP Seminarian Describes California's Election

Before you read the press reports, make sure you first read Karen's well written eyewitness account of how the day unfolded. Bishop Mark Angus was elected on the third ballot.

In other elections, the Rev. Barry Beisner is bishop-elect of Northern California and the Rev. Dr. Todd Ousley has been elected Bishop Co-adjuator of Eastern Michigan. Tennessee adjourned without an election, and is preparing for a new search process.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dean of Trinity: "Electing a Gay Bishop Like a Terrorist Bomb"

From the Sacramento Union:

What’s left of unity in the Episcopal Church is at stake heading into a weekend election for bishop of California that sets up a major clash over gays’ role in the church.

Three of the seven candidates are openly gay, and choosing one of them to head the Diocese of California would further alienate Episcopal conservatives already feeling betrayed that the church approved a gay bishop three years ago. It could also fracture the strained relationship between America’s 2.3 million Episcopalians and their parent body, the worldwide Anglican Communion.

A vote against a gay bishop would likely preserve the fragile truce.

The Rev. Paul Zahl, dean of the conservative Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pa., likened the election of a gay bishop in California to “a terrorist bomb, which is timed to destroy a peace process"...
(Tip of the biretta to Karen).

This isn't the first time we've heard such militant language from the extremists, and probably won't be the last. You might recall that back in 2003 they described their plan of action as "guerrilla warfare". How such a choice of words can be justified is beyond me.

The Human Rights Campaign was a bit more blunt in their reaction:

...Reverend Zahl should apologize for spouting such harmful rhetoric in the middle of an open and honest conversation happening in the life of the church,” said Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program Director Harry Knox. “To liken the election of an openly gay bishop to a ‘terrorist bomb’ is one of the most outrageous comments made by a radical conservative fringe in the church that has certainly made some outrageous comments in the last few years”...
The Rev. Susan Russell did not mince words either:

...“Paul Zahl's comments comparing the election of a gay bishop to a ‘terrorist bomb’ is hate speech that has no place in any faith-based discourse,” said the Rev. Susan Russell, director of Integrity, the national gay and lesbian Episcopal caucus. “Such language does nothing to advance our public discourse, does everything to further polarize and alienate and is antithetical to the love God calls us all to offer each other. I call for Dean Zahl to apologize for this incendiary rhetoric that attacks not only gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people but the very fabric of our historic faith in the Jesus who called us be peacemakers and to love our neighbors as ourselves”...
The election will be one worth keeping an eye on. Personally, I trust the Holy Spirit to work through the election process, and that the right person will be selected as the Bishop of California. Why are some anxious about it?

Well, here's one scenario; let's say a same sex partnered nominee is elected (which, for some bizarre reason, will be the only criterion that some will choose to focus on). Very possibly, that act alone could trigger more schismatic declarations from places like Nigeria. Beyond that, if indications are true, there is a good possiblity that the House of Bishops will not give consent to such an election at General Convention, which will undo 30 years of work towards making a clear witness to the world that "in this Church, there will be no outcasts". So, to some, it is a lose/lose deal.

Should that be a consideration for those voting on Saturday? I certainly hope not. They must prayerfully seek God's will, and disregard the powers and principalities of this world.

You can learn more about the nominees here. You can follow the ballots of the election on Saturday here.

Remember to keep the Diocese of California in your prayers.

Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on your Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a bishop for the Diocese of California that they may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip them for their ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Global Church Speaks Out

A new book edited by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Terry Brown, Bishop of Malaita, Church of Melanesia, has been released: Other Voices, Other Worlds; The Global Church Speaks Out on Homosexuality. Here's a description from Church Publishing:

Leading Anglican writers from around the world challenge the assumption that the communion is split between a liberal 'north' and an orthodox 'south'.

Anglican churches worldwide are sharply divided on homosexuality. The dominant sterotype is that of a "global south" unanimously lined up against homosexuality as immoral and sinful, and of a liberal and decadent global north that, except for some 'orthodox traditionalists'. The differences between the two sides are fundamental, and irreconcilable.

Nothing is further from the truth: homosexual behavior exists across the whole Anglican Communion, whether it is openly celebrated or quietly integrated into local churches and cultures. In this extraordinary book, in development for several years, exposes this as a myth. Christians throughout Africa, Asia, and the developing world -- bishops, priests and religious, academics and lay writers -- open up dramatic new perspectives on familiar arguments and debates. Topics include biblical interpretation, sexuality and doctrine, local history, sexuality and personhood, the influence of other faiths, issues of colonialism and post-colonialism, homophobia, and the place of homosexual persons in the church. Other Voices, Other Worlds reveals the rich historical and cross-cultural complexity to same-sex relationships, and throws an explosive device into a debate that has become stale and predictable.
Here's an excerpt from a review of the book:

...The book gives voice to those who have found their voices suppressed as a debate which concerns them continues on without their input. Homosexuality and persons’ role in Christian Community is globally unveiled and offered as spiritual challenge to a reader as he/she personally engages information relevant to the debate, such as: the indigenous woman’s perspective; homosexuality in Oceania; Hong Kong’s Tongzhi Culture; homosexuality in India; Muslim attitudes toward homosexuality; homosexuality in Kenya; homosexuality in Nigeria; and Sexuality in the churches of Uganda. These are but a few of the book’s examples...
I came across an article written by Bishop Brown in 2003 that some might find of interest; Something is Very Wrong Here.

Finally a few words from Bishop Brown drawn from an address entitled Communion and Personhood:

...Again, perhaps not following my own advice, I want to close with one short comment on the current controversy in the Anglican Communion on homosexuality, and a plug. I think my main point would be that we – bishops, clergy, lay, synods, dioceses, provinces, hui, whatever – have not yet moved from the “them” stage of discussion to the “we” stage of discussion. We talk about “them”, the “homosexuals” (perhaps we have even worse names), while we should be talking about ourselves – “we”, “us” – we are the gays and lesbians. Why cannot we use that “we” language? In Solomon Islands pijin, iumitufela, the two-of-us, you and I in friendship. “We” are the gays and lesbians, not “them”.

I am not going to speak further on this issue as I have a book coming out on the subject early next year. It is entitled Other Voices, Other Worlds: the GlobalChurch Speaks out on Homosexuality. It has essays from Oceania, Asia, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and the “global north” reflecting experientially and theologically on the homosexuality issue from a positive perspective. Two members of this Hui are contributors, of which I am very proud. I fear some Primates are not going to be very happy. However, I have also had the support and encouragement of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of Melanesia in putting together the book. It will be published in England and the USA in January next year. I urge you to buy and read it...
Thank you, bishop. I just bought a copy, and look forward to reading and discussing it.


Monday, May 01, 2006

Let's Break the Bread and Pass the Wine

From the Rev. Dr. James Bradley; There’s nothing “Anglican” about the Anglican Communion any more...:

... I am sick and tired and beyond exhausted at bending over backwards to appease fundamentalists masquerading as Anglicans, whether in Africa or in the American Anglican Council. I’m ready to stand up straight and say, “Ok, you say you are Anglicans, let’s do this the way Anglicans always have. You have your opinion and I’ll have mine. It complicates both our lives but it is just the way it is. Now let’s break the bread and pass the wine because that is the only thing that defines us as a church and the only way we know who we are as a people of God. You turn from the table because someone is there who doesn’t agree with you…fine, you’ve made the choice to leave this fragile communion of Anglicans. God bless you. We’re here if you want to come back and join us and you will be welcomed back with joy and wonder like a lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost son/daughter. But don’t try to turn my church into a mini-Roman Catholic Church. That’s not who we are. That’s not who God is calling us to be”...
It is a sad state of affairs when table fellowship is wielded as a weapon. Personally, I find it heartbreaking. I imagine God does as well.

Imagine what such fellowship could be, if for just a few hours we could set aside our differences, and gather as one before God.

Real Live Preacher has envisioned such an occasion for us:

...Children would run and play among the tables, handing out bread and getting pats on the head. After the wine had flowed, the conversation would flow as well, and just for one night we would all believe in neighbors and friendship and love.

You there. Lonely girl. Yes, I see you. Even you would come to believe. Because if you were standing around wondering where to sit, a hundred people would pull out a chair and wave you over. You would blush and your heart would pound in your chest because it feels so good to be wanted.

The buzz of a thousand conversations would throb in the air. Some people would close their eyes and sway to the ancient feeling of that sound. Listen to the Om, to the growling roll of the multitude...

...The laughing and the noise would go on into the wee hours of the morning. Slowly people would leave their new friendships and make their way to the doors. All would be comforted to have found that kindred hearts are all around us. How sad it is that we haven’t taken the time to get to know each other.

Then, when no one was left and all you could hear were the crickets, one small man would turn out the lights, lock the door, and walk alone into the parking lot. He would turn his face toward his beloved stars, wipe the tears from his eyes, and say, “We did this; and we remembered You.”
It could happen. We could make it happen, if we really wanted to.

Last Thursday, I had one final dinner with my family in California before Demi and I had to catch a flight back to Jersey. I had been dreading this event. I was seated next to my step-mother, whose mental illness had made five years of my childhood a living hell. She now suffers from Alzheimers as well, which resulted in her asking for my name every few minutes. To her left was my step-brother in a wheelchair. His own mental illness and severe epilepsy caused me to keep one eye on him for most of the meal, never knowing if he would suddenly have a seizure or take a swing at mom. At the other end of the table sat my half-brother, his wife and their two children, who I hadn't seen in over twelve years, at his request. Across from me was my father, trying to keep us all civil. To my right was Demi, my lovely bride, wearing a smile and biting her tongue. What had brought this group together? Certainly not any love for each other. But we all love my father, and we now know that he might not be with us much longer.

And you know what? It was okay. Actually, it was more than that. It was a healing experience. It didn't take away the ugly memories, hurt feelings or crazy behaviors. But no one got angry. No one made a scene. And my father knew that he was loved. And that's all that really mattered.

If I can share table fellowship with that group, who have had such a negative impact on me personally, I think I could probably share table fellowship with anyone on the planet. Not because I want to, or because they deserve it. But because I imagine it would break God's heart if I didn't. And I do love God.

Probably that's why the summary of the law is given in that order; love God, and then love your neighbor. If we sincerely love God, how can we exclude anyone from the table?