Monday, July 31, 2006

Episcopalians in Central Florida Voice Concerns

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Concerned about their fracturing denomination, about 150 Central Florida Episcopalians packed the sanctuary of St. Richard's Episcopal Church on Saturday.

"We take no position on Scripture or theology or morals," said Donna Bott, a leader of a group called Episcopal Voices of Central Florida, which sponsored the meeting. "We are just Episcopalians."

More than anything else, the crowd was determined that the 44,000-member Diocese of Central Florida not break away from the Episcopal Church, USA, over the issue of sexuality.

The crowd represented 23 area congregations. Nearly 20 priests also attended the meeting, which drew many more people than sponsors expected.
We have previously noted the letter of concern regarding the diocesan request for AlPO sent by 32 priests to Bp. Howe. With that many priests and 23 congregations voicing their dissent, it appears that Central Florida is a good candidate for some kind of arrangement that allows those who so choose to remain in TEC if the diocese decides at some later date to become officially under the authority of some offshore bishop.

There is another reason to consider Central Florida as a good location to test such an arrangement. In light of our previous discussion, I'm convinced that Bp. Howe's style of leadership is quite different from other Network bishops, such as Bps. Iker and Duncan. His response to Saturday's gathering is indicative of this difference:

...Reached in England, Howe said in an e-mail message that Saturday's meeting did not trouble him.

"These are good people who love the Episcopal Church -- as do I," he said. "They do not want to be separated from it -- nor do I."

But Howe disagreed with Episcopal Voices' analysis of the dispute.

"It is The Episcopal Church (as a whole) that has chosen to 'walk apart' from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion."
This is a good pastoral response by the bishop, although I wish he would have refrained from repeating the "walk apart" cliche. The ploy of thinking if you repeat something long enough it will become true is becoming tiresome.

That last quote does invite a certain amount of speculation regarding Bp. Howe's current activities. Was his trip to England official or recreational?


8 Women Ordained Priests in the Roman Catholic Church

A press release from Roman Catholic Womenpriests:

Historic Ordinations of Roman Catholic Women in U.S.

On Monday, July 31, 2006, 8 U.S. women will be ordained priests and 4 women will be ordained deacons in the Roman Catholic Church. The ordination will take place on a chartered boat that will depart from Pittsburgh, PA at 3:00pm (1500 hours) E.D.T., and will sail on the Three Rivers: the Allegheny, the Monongahela and the Ohio, Bishops Gisela Forster, Ida Raming and Patricia Fresen of Germany will preside. The women being ordained come from California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin and Kentucky.

On Saturday, June 24, 2006 , the same three bishops will ordain four women in Europe. The ordination will take place on Lake Constance between Germany, Austria and Switzerland. One Swiss, one American and a German woman living in the USA will be ordained to the priesthood. Another American will be ordained a womandeacon.

Just as, by her example, our foremother Rosa Parks led white America to the understanding that they must examine their conscience and recognize the sin of racial prejudice, the womenpriests and womendeacons lift up the issue of gender equality before the Roman Catholic Church. By offering a new paradigm of gender equality, womenpriests and womendeacons affirm that women, as well as men, can and do image Jesus Christ.

The goal of Roman Catholic Womenpriests is to bring about the full equality of women in the Roman Catholic Church. At the same time we advocate a new model of priestly ministry based on union with the people with whom we minister. We desire neither a schism nor a break from the Roman Catholic Church, but instead are rooted in a response to Jesus who called women and men to be disciples and equals in living the Gospel.

Bishops Gisela Forster, Ida Raming and Patricia Fresen were ordained by bishops in full Apostolic Succession. Bishops Forster, a philosopher, and Fresen, a theologian, were ordained secretly by Roman Catholic male bishops in order to avoid Vatican reprisal. Bishop Ida Raming, a renowned scholar, ordained to the episcopacy in June 2006, has done extensive research on the canon laws of the church. She is, together with Dr. Iris Mueller, who will also attend the ordination as priest, a foremother of the women's ordination movement.

These historic ordinations challenge an unjust law that keeps women subordinate in the Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Womenpriests community affirms that the full equality of women in the church, including their inclusion in the priesthood, represents the voice of God in our time and is a gift to the entire church.

Press and Media: Those who plan to cover ordinations in Pittsburgh, contact Joan Houk at
Salon picked up this story. Here's a couple of interesting excerpts:

...The organizer of this event, who will become a priest Monday, is Joan Clark Houk, 66. With a wide smile and cropped salt-and-pepper hair, she is a cradle Catholic who remembers May crownings, daily rosaries and Catholic Daughters. Like many other Catholic women -- myself included -- her love for the faith, the Eucharist and the Mass, the rituals and traditions, is deep and indelible. "From my birth as a Catholic through this day, I have never doubted my Catholicism, never been away from the Church. I am Catholic, and will always be Catholic, " she wrote in her letter to Bishop Donald W. Wuerl, then head of the Pittsburgh Diocese, telling him about her upcoming ordination. She also took aim at Canon 1024, which restricts ordination to baptized men. "It is a sin for the Church to discriminate against women and blame God for it," she declared. "In obedience to the Gospel of Jesus, I will disobey this unjust law"...

...In fact, the womenpriests movement did not spring out of whole cloth but has its roots in the worldwide movement for women's ordination in the Catholic Church. The women who launched the U.S. movement in the 1970s were energized -- as are women today -- by the legendary "Philadelphia 11," who in 1974 forced open the doors of the priesthood in the U.S. Episcopal Church. They were "irregularly" ordained by retired and resigned Episcopal bishops, an action that resulted in the denomination's approval of women's ordination the following year...
This puts Cardinal Kasper lecturing the Church of England on women bishops in a different light, doesn't it?

The response to Cardinal Kasper by Bps. Wright and Stancliffe is a good background document for future discussions of women in holy orders, and the nature of our ecumenical relationship with Rome, although I disagree with some elements of their argument. It concludes with this statement:

...How we move forward in these matters is a question of appropriate and careful strategy, granted our calling to guard the unity of the church. That we may, and indeed must, move forward is a conviction that can be reached, not on the basis of a casual or sloppy attitude to scripture and theology, nor in disregard for our ecumenical partners, but out of a deep conviction rooted in the gospel itself. It may be that the prophetic witness in this matter to which the Church of England is, we believe, called is a greater contribution to the unity of the whole people of God for which our Lord prayed so deeply.
Hard to believe those words were written by the very same Bishop of Durham who only last month inappropriately attempted to pressure General Convention to adhere to his definition of what it meant to be "Windsor compliant."

Today we have 8 new priests to serve God's people. Thanks be to God!


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Go Pisko!

ePiscoSours is in the midst of the 2006 Blogathon in support of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation He's got about 7 posts up so far, which means only 41 more to go! Give him a visit. I'm sure a few words of support would be appreciated. While you're at it, it's not too late to sponsor him.


Friday, July 28, 2006

The Mystery of God and Biblical Morality

In the comments of the previous post, New Here provided a link to a sermon offered by the Rev. Dr. Roy E. McLuen, Rector of St. Andrews, Panama City, Florida. I'm reproducing a substantial portion of that sermon here, as I think it is worthy of our reflection:

...The church has ALWAYS been caught up in the storm of controversy. God is a mystery as is what he desires, so the church will always be riding on this stormy sea of controversy. Jesus is not going to come along and calm this sea. The church was always in controversy in the past, it is in controversy now, and it will be in controversy 10,000 years from now. And there is good reason.

We base our theological and moral decisions on Scripture and Tradition. Some of these are inappropriate. In Deuteronomy chapter 22, beginning with verse 13, we are told that if a man DISLIKES his wife, and THINKS she was not a virgin before he married her, he can take her to her father and mother. If they cannot PROVE that she was a virgin, she is to be stoned at the front door of the parents. DO WE REALLY WANT TO LIVE BY THIS KIND OF BIBLICAL MORALITY?

Later in that same chapter, we are told that if a couple is caught in adultery, they are to be taken outside the village and stoned. DO WE REALLY WANT TO LIVE BY THIS KIND OF BIBLICAL MORALITY?

We are also told that if a son disobeys his father, the son is to be stoned. How many of us over the age of 20 want our fathers to tell us what to do? How many of us believe it is correct to stone such a disobedient son? DO WE REALLY WANT TO LIVE BY THIS KIND OF BIBLICAL MORALITY?

In the Scriptures slavery is not only condoned, but it is encouraged. For 1800 years after these Scriptures were written, the church followed this tradition. Paul tells us somewhere that if we can get free, that's ok, but we shouldn't try to get free
from our masters if we are slaves. DO WE REALLY WANT TO LIVE BY THESE BIBLICAL TRADITIONS?

In Exodus, we are told we can sell our daughters into slavery, in the New Testament, women are told to keep silent in church. For almost 1980 years, women were not ordained. Most churches would fall apart without the women. Women have only been able to serve on vestry since the 1970's. Everything was done by men for hundreds of years. Women couldn't even be on Altar Guild 100 years ago. DO WE REALLY WANT TO LIVE BY THESE BIBLICAL TRADITIONS? I have a personal investment in this issue. I am told in Leviticus that a blind person can not serve at the altar or even get close to it. I DO NOT WANT TO LIVE BY THESE BIBLICAL TRADITIONS!

In the letter to the Romans in chapter one beginning with verse 26, Paul talks about what some say is homosexual behavior. Whether it is or not is controversial. But putting that aside, in verse 32, he says they ought to die. DO WE REALLY WANT TO KILL ALL HOMOSEXUALS? DO WE REALLY WANT TO LIVE BY THIS KIND OF BIBLICAL MORALITY?

Some of the material in the Scriptures is cultural truth bound by time, some is universal truth held in eternity. Some of the material in the Scripture is human truth, some is divine. Not all biblical truth is God's truth. We can say the same for tradition. It is not always easy to tell one from the other. Perhaps, I should say, it is always not easy to tell one from the other.

So what is the solution for the church today? That's where our second reading from 2 Corinthians comes in.

Paul talks about a ministry of reconciliation. He tells us what to do about our controversies, but not in ways specific to each controversy. In every controversy we are to remain reconciled. To be reconciled means to worship at the same altar, serve in the same church, and argue with one another about the controversies without calling each other names, abusing one another, or trying to destroy one another.

We will never understand God fully or even minimally: GOD IS MYSTERY. We will never be able to understand all of God's desires for us: GOD IS MYSTERY.

But we can understand this: God wants us to love him. God wants us to love our neighbors. God wants us to reconcile.
Keep in mind that what Dr. McLuen is stating here is nothing new. His examples of biblical morality that we have rejected are intended to point out that we use scripture, but also priniciples other than scripture, to make moral and ethical decisions within the Church. To understand these other principles, I refer you to our previous discussion of Charles Hefling's essay, How Shall We Know? As a reminder, I'll repeat here two of the relevant quotes:

...What does all this imply about Scripture? Two things. First is that on matters of faith, on what Christians are to believe for their soul's health, scripture is the sole authority. The second, however, is that Scripture is not and cannot be the complete, all sufficient criterion by which to discern our moral duty...

...God is not at odds with our best moral judgement. The human capacity to know the good is not only a capacity that he has created but also, what is more, a likeness and a taking part in his eternal Word, the true light that enlightens every man and woman...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Fort Worth Chooses Limbo

From the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Fort Worth:

...THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, pending final ratification by its 24th Annual Convention, withdraws its consent, pursuant to Article VII of the Constitution of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, to be included in the Seventh Province of the Episcopal Church.
Here's Article VII:

Dioceses may be united into Provinces in such manner, under such conditions, and with such powers, as shall be provided by Canon of the General Convention; Provided, however, that no Diocese shall be included in a Province without its own consent.
"...under such shall be provided by Canon..." What are those conditions? From Title I, Canon 9, Section 1:

Subject to the proviso in Article VII of the Constitution, the
Dioceses of this Church shall be and are hereby united into Provinces as follows...
So the Constitution refers to the Canons, and the Canons refer back to the Constitution. Why is that?

The Constitution uses the vague phrase "Dioceses may be united into Provinces..." which could be interpreted as making the provincial relationship optional. But, by referring to the Canons as setting the conditions, such an interpretation quickly evaporates, as Canon 9 uses much stronger language; "the Dioceses of this Church shall be and are hereby united into Provinces..." Being part of a Province is not optional.

Canon 9 refers us back to Article VII of the Constitution. The only additional information found there is the line, "no Diocese shall be included in a Province without its own consent." This is the particular statement that Fort Worth is referring to in their resolution. From this one line, they justify leaving their Province, with no need to join another one. Is that an accurate interpretation of the Constitution and Canons?

I don't think so. According to the Canons, one can indeed opt out of a Province, but in so doing must agree to join another Province, as is explained in Canon 9, Section 2, Item B:

By mutual agreement between the Synods of two adjoining Provinces, a Diocese or Area Mission may transfer itself from one of such Provinces to the other, such transfer to be considered complete upon approval thereof by the General Convention. Following such approval, Canon I.9.1 shall be appropriately amended.
Before the precedent of Missouri is mentioned, let me remind you of PEP's summation of that particular situation in response to Pittsburgh's announcement that they were leaving Province III:

...Article VII of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church does require that a diocese agree to its placement in a particular province. Pittsburgh did agree to being in Province III. The canons of The Episcopal Church specify the assignment of each diocese to a province. There is no provision for withdrawing from a province, only for transferring to another existing province. Missouri was originally in Province VII, which includes most of the Southwest. In the 1960s, Missouri decided that it had little in common with dioceses in that geographical area and would fit better in a more Midwestern region. It stopped participating but did not try to withdraw formally from Province VII. This situation helped encourage General Convention to pass a canonical change specifying a means by which a diocese could transfer to another province. Missouri then followed the specified procedure to transfer to Province V, which includes much of the Midwest...
It seems quite clear that Fort Worth, following the lead of Pittsburgh, is trying to find a way to be a free floating entity; in the Church, but not of the Church. Why is it so important to remove themselves from the Province? Are they concerned that the Province may force them to do something that would be contrary to their beliefs? This would be a difficult position to support, in light of Canon 9, Section 8: Provincial Synod shall have power to regulate
or control the internal policy or affairs of any constituent Diocese...
So what is Fort Worth trying to accomplish? I think this line from their resolution tells the story:

...provide pastoral and apostolic care to biblically orthodox Anglicans in this country regardless of geographical location...
It's Pittsburgh's "Province 10" idea. Remove yourself from your existing Province, based on a line from the Constitution taken out of context, and then plead for the formation of a new non-geographical Province.

What is highly unusual here is that this plea does not seem to be directed towards TEC, as there is no possibility of considering withdrawals from a Province, let alone the creation of a new Province, outside of General Convention, which will not meet until 2009. This plea seems to be directed to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Do they really think that Dr. Williams can magically whip up a new Province within TEC? That's simply not going to happen.

What Fort Worth and Pittsburgh know is that the minute they declare themselves to no longer be Episcopalians, their sees will be declared vacant. To avoid that, we have these rather bizarre statements being made.

Is Fort Worth part of the Episcopal Church or not? From this resolution, it seems clear to me that they are not.

More opinions regarding Fort Worth's resolution can be found in this article from the Fort Worth Star Telegram.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006


On July 29, 389 bloggers will post every 30 minutes for 24 hours, while also raising money through pledges for the charity of their choice. So far they've already have over $54,000 in pledges.

Among the participants of the Sixth Annual Blogathon is a regular visitor and commenter here at Jake's place, ePiscoSours:


Yep, on July 29, I will be posting every 30 minutes for 24 hours. My charity will be Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, which aims to eliminate extreme poverty in the world. I’ll give you 48 more or less quality posts (suggestions will always be welcome), and in return, you commit to helping heal the world.

Such a deal!

And no, you don’t have to be Episcopalian or even Christian to give to EGR, just have a sincere desire to end global poverty. See you on the 29th!
You can learn more about Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation here.

EGR is an organization that could use our support. Now, I know from the stats that we've got about 1,500 daily readers here. If we all kick in 10 bucks, we could raise $15,000 towards ending global poverty (and besides that, ePiscoSours would proabably win the "most funds raised" award!). Click on the button to the left, now!


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Response to Who is Bishop John Howe?

I have received a response to our discussion of last month regarding Bp. John Howe. The author of this essay is a priest whom I consider to be a friend and a mentor. Even though we may disagree on various issues, I trust this man. He offers us a glimpse of Bp. Howe from the perspective of one who has served under his authority and has known him personally. Here is Canon Powers' response in its entirety:


Who is Bishop John Howe?

I am a priest serving in the Diocese of New Jersey, but in 1999-2001 I served a congregation in the Diocese of Central Florida. I am entitled to receive the clergy ListServe of that Diocese, and on that ListServe I learned of your posting of an article entitled “Who is Bishop John Howe?” In addition to your own opinions, you quote sources identified as an article written by Lewis Daly entitled “A Church at Risk: The Episcopal ‘Renewal’ Movement,” a David Corn description from 1991 (source not identified), and a posting to your site by someone identified as Charlotte. I don’t know if any of these people speak from personal knowledge of or experience with Bishop John Howe, but I would be glad to offer my own observations.

First, in response to certain statements in those sources, I offer Bishop Howe’s own words:

Daly: Howe supported Pat Robertson when he ran for president in 1988 and, more recently, he participated in a charismatic re-ordination service for Robinson held at Regent University.

Howe: I actually urged Pat Robertson NOT to run for President. And Pat’s service was NOT a re-ordination but a rededication. (Bishop Howe’s comments on the ListServe)

Daly: He was formerly president and chairman of the board of the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life.

Jake: Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania was accredited as a seminary of the Episcopal Church in the early 1980s.

Bishop Howe has always been proud of his role in protecting the lives of the unborn and in raising up evangelical leaders with a passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the planting of new churches. To charges about his role with NOEL and Trinity, he gladly pleads Guilty. And I, for one, wonder what is objectionable about fighting to save the lives of the unborn and raising up evangelical clergy for the building up of the church.

Charlotte points out that the Diocese of Central Florida has lost 8.5% of its membership in the last two years. Recent studies by C. Kirk Hadaway and Charles Fulton of the Episcopal Church point to dramatic membership losses throughout the Episcopal Church over the last four years. I suspect that the Dioceses in the conservative sections of the church have indeed suffered serious losses in recent years. You can select your own reasons for that.

Charlotte also states that This Lent just past, Bishop Howe called, in his column in the Central Florida Episcopalian, for priests to make a practice of denying Communion to anyone they identified as ‘notorious sinners.’ Charlotte does not provide a full quote, but regarding that practice, you might refer to the Book of Common Prayer, page 409.

Charlotte also refers to Bishop Howe’s answer to the question: Can you learn to do miracles just like Jesus, as being, Yes. I didn’t attend the workshop mentioned, and cannot comment on the conversation in question. But I can tell you of times when I have prayed with people, and we have been blessed with an outcome that the recipient and I both felt was miraculous. I prayed for healing for a young woman who was scheduled to have polyps surgically removed from her throat in two days. Just before the surgery, the Doctor did a procedure to verify the size and location of the polyps, only to discover that they were completely gone. I can’t confess that I have received the requested outcome of every prayer, but I have seen many prayers answered in ways I would describe as miraculous. The greatest numbers of such “answered prayers” have seemed to occur amongst people who pray with expectation that the Lord can and will heal. I don’t think any of us would consider ourselves to be healers, but we can give witness to those times that the Lord has blessed his people with a miraculous cure. It seems that where expectancy is the greatest, so is the level of miraculous response. I think Jesus experienced this reality amongst the people of his time, as well as the power of unbelief in Nazareth: And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. (Mark 6:5-6)

My time in Central Florida was brief, and now several years past. When I received the call to come to a parish in that Diocese, the very next phone call I received, after that of the Senior Warden, was from Bishop John Howe. He called to welcome me to the Diocese of Central Florida and to offer to do anything he could to help me and my family arrive, and to help me in my ministry to the people of St. Mary’s Church. On many occasions, he fulfilled that promise. He prayed with my wife and me when we first visited the Diocesan office. He introduced me to Canon Ernie Bennett, his Canon to the Ordinary, who went out of his way to make me at home in the Diocese. Bishop Howe never required me to agree with any of his positions: he asked only for mutual respect. I can see that he continues that policy in the many postings he makes on the Central Florida ListServe.

I am privileged to work with Canon Bennett on a CREDO faculty team. Often Ernie is initially subjected to suspicion because he comes from Central Florida. One participant at a conference actually asked him, Do you agree with everything your Bishop says? Ernie’s response was classic, Heck, I don’t agree with everything I’ve ever said. I echo those sentiments.

Over twenty-five years of ministry in the Episcopal Church, I have served under five very different Bishops: Albert VanDuzer, Mellick Belshaw, Joe Morris Doss, John Howe and George Councell. I have found things that I loved in each of them, and I have found things that I thought could be better if different. But I have always supported them if they were being the Bishop they believed the Lord was calling them to be. That support has never been equated with full agreement. Yet I have come to know each of them as my Bishop. None was perfect, and neither am I. I pray for all the Bishops of our church regularly.

I offer these musings as another voice in your question, Who is Bishop John Howe? Please don’t stop with mine. Perhaps you might ask Presiding Bishop Griswold for his answer to this question. He had enough faith in Bishop Howe to ask him to serve on the Committee of Twenty-Five which was asked to review the many proposed resolutions on human sexuality for the 2003 General Convention.

Or perhaps, even better, would be to ask the man himself.

Yours in Christ,
Lee Powers, Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of New Jersey


I ask that in your responses to this essay you keep in mind that this is the viewpoint of a priest who has served God's Church faithfully for many years. It is not the perspective of an extremist. As you can see, it is written with the intention of speaking the truth in love. Of course readers are free to disagree, and discuss various points of disagreement. But, to honor my friendship with this man, I ask that you do so gently.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Consensus or Prophetic Action?

I read an article yesterday in the Church Times that offered extracts from a sermon given earlier this month by the Rev. Canon Marilyn McCord Adams, Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford. I could not locate the entire text of this sermon, so decided not to bring it to your attention. Imagine my pleasant surprise to discover this morning that Jim Naughton has provided us with the complete text! Enjoy your vacation, Jim; it is well deserved.

Here's an excerpt that I think is worth discussing:

...The reason local churches should 'wait upon' the consensus of the world-wide Anglican communion is that 'only the whole Church knows the whole Truth'! Local churches that break ranks to 'act upon what they passionately believe' run the risk of being wrong: prophetic action enjoys no 'cast-iron guarantee' that it's right; one might just be 'settling down complacently with what it or its surrounding society finds comfortable.'

Historically, this sort of epistemology has proved controversial, enjoying ancient and honourable precedents but attracting distinguished dissidents as well. When Luther uttered his famous, 'Here I stand, I can do no other!' he did not wait to act until the Roman Catholic Church could be brought around.

Neither did Calvin or Zwingli or Thomas Cranmer! Still earlier, the Jesus movement and its first generation leaders did not cease and desist until the Jewish establishment could be got to agree. Peter left them to judge whether it was right to abandon personal discernment, to obey human beings rather than what he understood to be God's commands. Mid-twentieth century, Martin Luther King tried in many and various ways to persuade segregationist white church people. But Rosa Parks didn't wait until he was successful before she took a seat on that bus!

Prophetic action is risky. What 'Challenge and Hope' assumes is that groups are less likely to be wrong than individuals. Sometimes this is plausible. If I am the only one in the room who seems to see a pink elephant in the corner, the reasonable conclusion is that I am hallucinating. Since pink elephants don't live in these parts, I should not rush out to buy peanuts, before asking others, rubbing my eyes and looking again.

Nevertheless, other times, where systemic evils - such as racism, classism, tribalism, sexism, and homophobia - are concerned, groups are the ones that are more apt to make mistakes. The reason is simple: such evils are the product of deep structures that constitute the group in question; uprooting them is not surface slicing to remove a mole, but abdominal surgery that reroutes the digestive track. Where the status quo is working well for most people, or at least for the most powerful people, the collective has every incentive to deny the problems and to resist any change. Re-read Acts 7, the speech of Stephen, or Bishop Gore's 'The Holy Spirit and the Inspiration of Scripture', where both retail Israel's history: when her society gets tied in knots of social injustice and big-power-politics idolatry, God has to raise up individuals to declare what the group doesn't want to hear. Put otherwise, the bible tells how status quo conservatism that complacently settles into its accustomed values and lifestyles, is also risky. Where systemic evils are concerned, waiting upon one another runs the greater chance of betraying the Gospel of God!
I recall when the "consensus" model was encouraged for Vestries to use. My experience is that it is the best method if the goal is to put on the brakes and do nothing. I hope that this model is not becoming in fashion once again in TEC. Since when was it a mistake to "agree to disagree" on some matters? My experience has been that most adults can passionately advocate for a position, but if they lose the vote, have no problem with setting aside their passion and moving on to the next item on the agenda, as long as they felt their position was heard and carefully considered.

I think the "consensus" argument, which is clearly what Abp. Williams is advocating, is not only going to be ineffective in addressing our current unpleasantness, but will add to the disconnect more and more people are experiencing in regards to communities of faith. Most of the world recognizes that certain segments of the Church have always been at least 50 years behind the discussions of the general public. By the time the Church begins to address some issues, no one is any longer talking about them. And we wonder why so many folks find the Church to be irrelevant?

There are good reasons to use caution if our brothers and sisters in Christ disagree with our perceived revelation from God. As one who regularly walks the razor's edge of sanity, I know the value of allowing others to be the word of God firsthand. But, after testing that revelation, and finding sufficient evidence that it may indeed be a sign of God doing a new thing in our midst, does it continue to be prudent to wait for a consensus?


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Investigation of the Bishop of San Joaquin Requested

From the diocese of San Joaquin:

We know that many of you are aware of certain rumors that have been floating recently indicating that four California bishops are making charges against the Bishop of San Joaquin that might lead to a presentment (an ecclesiastical trial).

To our knowledge, no action leading to a presentment has taken place. However, four California bishops have requested an investigation by the Title IV Review Committee.

According to a communication from Bishop Dorsey Henderson, who heads up the Review Committee, the Committee itself is still being formed. For our part, the Chancellors have already responded to the initial allegations by challenging the appropriateness of the specific Canon Law [IV.9] being used to bring charges. In short, these allegations are neither relevant nor justified.
Here's Title IV, Canon 9, Section 1:

CANON 9: Of Abandonment of the Communion of This Church by a Bishop
Sec. 1. If a Bishop abandons the communion of this Church (i) by an open
renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this Church, or (ii) by formal admission into any religious body not in communion with the same, or (iii) by exercising episcopal acts in and for a religious body other than this Church or another Church in communion with this Church, so as to extend to such body Holy Orders as this Church holds them, or to administer on behalf of such religious body Confirmation without the express consent and commission of the proper authority in this Church; it shall be the duty of the Review Committee, by a majority vote of All the Members, to certify the fact to the Presiding Bishop and with the certificate to send a statement of the acts or declarations which show such abandonment, which certificate and statement shall be recorded by the Presiding Bishop. The Presiding Bishop, with the consent of the three senior Bishops having jurisdiction in this Church, shall then inhibit the said Bishop until such time as the House of Bishops shall investigate the matter and act thereon. During the period of Inhibition, the Bishop shall not perform any episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts, except as relate to the administration of the temporal affairs of the Diocese of which the Bishop holds jurisdiction or in which the Bishop is then serving.
Has Bishop Schofield made an "open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this Church"? That is what the investigation will attempt to discern. Judging from some of the statements he is reported to have made at a clergy roundtable last year, as but one example, there seems to be some evidence that such an investigation is both relevant and justified:

...Bp. Schofield was pleased to have participated in a phone conference with 18 other bishops in which Archbishop Venables (Primate of Southern Cone) reported on the recent meeting in Ireland. Bishop Schofield told us that the Archbishop assured this group of bishops that the Anglican Communion is yours (i.e. the AAC's with its Network) in three years. Further, he told the bishops not to give over to those in authority, but to seek legal counsel to protect your selves. He told them to stop complaining, be positive, and to start planting churches to build up the Network...

...Bp. Schofield indicated that the separation might happen as soon as in a few months or at least by General Convention 2006. He assured us that the switching sides (understood as the Network taking the place of the Episcopal Church) would happen by next year and we would not have to wait until Lambeth 2008.

He expects the majority of primates, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, to disenfranchise the Episcopal Church by acknowledging the Network as the only Anglican Church in North America . He told us that the decision needs to be made (i.e., we need to make this decision to leave behind the Episcopal Church and align ourselves with the Anglican Communion) because the split is already here.

Bp Schofield gave permission for us to take the name Episcopal out of church signs and replace it with the word Anglican.

A member of the clergy questioned our sending deputies to the General Convention in 2006, because to do so would imply that we place ourselves under the authority of the Convention and this might hurt us in future legal battles. Bp. Schofield responded by assuring us that a guild of lawyers was actively working on that question and that they are looking at the Episcopal Church constitution, diocesan constitutions, and the laws of various states, including our own (California). Bp. Schofield also stated that after our next diocesan convention (and the passing of the non-compliance canon) he can simply state that certain actions of General Convention do not line up with the Word of God and we will not have to accept them...
Here's the "non-comliance" canon passed by San Joaquin in 2005:

“Article II – Accession and/or Incorporation of the Constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States to the Constitution of the Diocese of San Joaquin:

The Diocese of San Joaquin accedes to and/or incorporates the terms and provisions of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America to the terms and provisions of the Constitution of the Diocese of San Joaquin to the extent that such terms and provisions, and any amendments thereto, adopted by the authority of the General Convention, are not inconsistent with the terms and provisions of the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of San Joaquin, as amended form time to time, and ratified by any Diocesan Convention duly called and held.
So, what are your thoughts? Is an investigation appropriate?


UPDATE: The Living Church is now reporting this story, and offers us a little more information:

...At its annual meeting last October, delegates to San Joaquin’s convention approved the second reading of a change to Article II of its constitution to state that it “accedes to” the Canons and Constitution of the General Convention “to the extent that such terms and provisions” are “not inconsistent with the terms and provisions of the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of San Joaquin.” The four believe this fact alone is sufficient to remove Bishop Schofield from office without trial.

If Bishop Schofield and other diocesan leadership were to leave The Episcopal Church and apply that clause of the diocesan constitution to the so-called Dennis Canon, there is concern by the four bishops that the California state courts might rule in San Joaquin’s favor and permit that diocese to retain possession of the property. Title I, canon 7.4 states that “all real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any parish, mission or congregation is held in trust for this Church and the diocese thereof in which such parish, mission or congregation is located,” although it has never been applied to an entire diocese.

In a July 11 interview with The Living Church, Bishop Swing said he and the other three California bishops with jurisdiction at the time the letter was sent are concerned that in several recent church property dispute cases California courts have awarded title to the congregation, applying a “neutral principles of law” rather than deferring to the denomination’s bylaws. Bishop Swing, who was chair of the House of Bishops’ task force on church property disputes until his July 22 retirement, said it was “unfathomable” that someone would try to retain property after having left The Episcopal Church. “It was given to us and we want to pass it on to the next generation,” he said...

Friday, July 21, 2006

A Point of No Return?

A tip of the biretta to Kendall for this one:

The Episcopal Divinity School offers us an essay by Charles Willie, former Vice-President of the House of Deputies of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. I reprint here in its entirety:

A Point of No Return for the Episcopal Church in the USA
By: Charles Willie

The contentious relationship between the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America and the worldwide Anglican Communion is appropriately called a “civil war over homosexuality” by the New York Times. I, also, think it is an event of “civil stress” about love and justice. In 1966, Joseph Fletcher, an Episcopal priest on the faculty of the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, wrote a book titled Situation Ethics in which he declared that “love is the boss principle of life” and “justice is love distributed”.

While other institutional systems in society like government, the economy and education identify principles other than love that are central to their mission, certainly love is the foundational principle of religion – all religions. It is our religious responsibility in society to remind other institutions to do what they are called to do in loving and just ways.

Thus, it is a shocking experience to see a religious institution like the Anglican Communion demonize gay couples and lesbian couples who wish to marry and homosexual people who wish to make a sacrificial offering of their leadership skills to the church as priests or bishops. There is no evidence that one’s sexual orientation limits one’s capacity to love others. So, why is the church so upset about women and homosexual people serving as church leaders?

If a group like the Anglican Communion is unwilling to accept the proposition that “all . . . are created equal” as stated in our Declaration of Independence” and that all institutions should “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed”, the Episcopal Church in the United States may have no alternative but to withdraw from a Communion that proclaims homosexual people are not worthy of being church leaders. It is an inappropriate proposal to suggest that the Episcopal Church in the USA may be willing to remain as an associate member of the Anglican Communion without decision-making status if it does not wish to conform to a covenant which may deny gay people the privilege of serving as bishops.

In 1789, the United States established a democratic nation state governed by a Constitution that did not resolve the undemocratic issue of slavery. Two-thirds of a century later we paid dearly for this miscarriage of justice with a civil war that resulted in more that 600,000 deaths and lingering mistrust to this day between some civil districts in the South and North. Can the Episcopal Church in the USA expect a different outcome if it permits itself to be governed by a covenant of the Anglican Communion that discriminates against gay people? I do not think so! For this reason, I believe that the Archbishop has mentioned a proposal that will not work.

Now may be the time when the Episcopal Church in the United States may have to suffer the redemption of its friends elsewhere in the world by showing forth its love for all sorts and conditions of people and by refusing to compromise on this human rights matter.

Charles Willie, past Vice-President of the House of Deputies of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and honorary trustee of Episcopal Divinity School, wrote this reflection following the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Dr. Willie asked EDS to share this reflection with its distribution lists. This reflection may be reprinted in its entirety, including author information. Please contact Nancy Davidge at for additional information.

Although I agree with the general sentiment of this piece, I do have a couple of problems with it. At this time, there is no rush to withdraw from the Anglican Communion, as the Communion as a whole is not insisting that gay and lesbian Christians are second class citizens in the kingdom of God. Withdrawal at this point would be a mistake, it seems to me, as it would leave a void that others will rush to fill, to the detriment of Anglicanism in North America. There may come such a time, however, when we can no longer remain in the Communion in good conscience. It is helpful to remember that we do have the option of walking away. Feeling trapped is not a good place from which to make decisions. But I see no reason for a pre-emptive separation right now.

There is also the assumption that a future Covenant would discriminate against our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. That remains to be seen. The claim that a majority of Anglicanism is against the actions of TEC is bounced around a lot, but, when push comes to shove, I think we will find that we have many more supporters than the bouncers expected. The Communion needs TEC as much as TEC needs the Communion. I wouldn't be too quick to assume that we will not be welcomed participants in the crafting of a future Covenant.

As far as having some kind of "associate" status in the Communion, although it doesn't feel just, especially if we are expected to continue to pick up the tab, it might not be such a bad postion to be in for a season. I recall Jesus suggesting to take the lower seat, so to be invited to the higher one by the host. It could be a "walking the extra mile" gesture that might become a bridge of reconciliation.

In the meantime, we need to clean up the mess in our own backyard, so we can stop this incessant debate and get on with the mission of restoring all people to unity with God and one another in Christ.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Merry Yarn

Avast me hearties!...Pat tells the tale of the Pirates of the Anglican Communion.

Johnny Depp? Aye, me parrot concurs.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Vulnerability: Our Most Precious Inheritance

Real Live Preacher has a new essay in the Christian Century; Suffering Foolishness. Go read the story of Perry. Most likely we have all encountered characters like him. After reading RLP's piece, I must admit to some feeling of discomfort as I recognized some characteristics of Perry in myself when I looked in the mirror.

How do we respond to such scoundrels? Here's RLP's suggestion:

...In the eyes of the world there must and will always be something foolish about the church. Every pilgrim who walks through our doors and takes up the journey will be accepted and trusted. Our church doors are unlocked, and inside is a terrible power wrapped in velvet and lying in full view on the communion table. It is a temptation beyond what the weak can bear and an easy mark for those who seek spiritual levers and religious fulcrums to move their tiny worlds.

There is no response that can easily undo harm done in the name of religion by those for whom religion is such a tool. There is no protection we can seek that will not destroy us by removing our vulnerability, which is, after all, our greatest power and most precious inheritance. We therefore must carry their reputations along with the reputations we have rightly earned.

Our living must be right enough, our devotion deep enough and our love strong to speak for itself. We will have to be large enough to swallow what they have done and still carry on with our work. And all of this must happen without us becoming defensive or wasting our time explaining ourselves or answering for their sins...
Wonderful words. I would add however, that for those of us who find a bit of Perry within ourselves, we do need to answer for our own sins.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving kindness;
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
Wash me through and through from my wickedness,
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions only too well,
and my sin is ever before me.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One,
have mercy upon us.

Pray for me, a sinner.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Worst Liturgical Invention

Tiny cups of grape juice? Ugly banners? Liturgical dance by the grace-challenged? Incessant altar calls? What's your experience of the worst liturgical invention? Go cast your vote.


Investigation of Bp. Cox Launched

From the Living Church:

Acting on information compiled in part by the bishops of Oklahoma and Kansas, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold has asked for an ecclesiastical investigation into offenses allegedly committed by retired Bishop William J. Cox who on June 21 received a formal inquiry into episcopal acts he performed last year at Christ Church, Overland Park, Kan., in a 21-page legal document signed by John Lankenau, church attorney...
Some background information regarding the alleged offenses can be found here. If the investigation finds that there was a serious violation of the canons, a presentment will be issued.

At the time of this incident, the only voice I can recall that noted the potential seriousness of this lack of respect for diocesan jurisdictions was Mark Harris:

...But my question concerns Bishop Cox: Are not retired Bishops of this church under some constraints in jurisdictions of this Church, even including acting in episcopal functions within the jurisdiction but in other churches? And more so in this particular situation where the church in which he was ministering is itself a church in the Anglican Communion? I have a strong sense we are limited in what we can require of the Archbishop, but don't we have some questions to raise here?

Bishop Cox is quoted in the Living Church article as saying,: "The Archbishop of Uganda asked me to do this on his behalf. I did not know the Episcopal Church had become so narrow.” Perhaps there is a matter of "narrow" interpretation here, but I think it is a matter of clarity. Bishops of the Episcopal Church are accountable to the rules governing actions within jurisdictions of the Episcopal Church, and that being so, I think that means we have a right to ask why Bishop Cox thinks this was appropriate.
It took a year, but it looks like we are finally getting around to seeking some answers to Mark's questions.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Kriss: "No Longer Catholic"

The Living Church has an article up now that I referenced in comments a few days ago;
No Longer Catholic by Gary Kriss, former dean of Nashotah House. Don't let the source, or his resume, allow you to develop preconceived notions about his place in the Church. He has some difficult things to say to both sides of our current unpleasantness. Here's part of it:

General Convention cannot speak for Anglicanism as a whole, but its actions on several fronts indicate very clearly that the leadership of this portion of the Anglican Communion, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, now regards our church unequivocally as a protestant denomination. In truth, this is nothing new, but General Convention 2006 has put an exclamation point on it...

...The Elizabethan Settlement which held us together for four centuries has unraveled. Under the terms of the Settlement, we had diversity and even deep divisions. It was often a struggle to hold both local provinces and the whole Communion together, but we did, and even devised the Quadrilateral, which defined the terms of our common life and identity. Now, however, covenants in the style of protestant confessions of faith and the balkanization of the Communion by means of the realignment of parishes and dioceses, are simply ways of denying reality. The archbishop’s (and the Network’s) apparent vision of a multi-tiered Anglican Communion in which some are members and some are merely associates can be nothing more than a protestant debating society, not the branch of Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church we once claimed to be.
When Bishop Swing was developing the United Religions Initiative, he noticed a strange thing. A Muslim would sit down to work towards common goals with a Christian, but sometimes had difficulty sitting at the same table with another Muslim sect. A Christian would work with a Buddhist, but would sometimes refuse to participate if another particular Christian group was present. The deepest divisions were within the traditions.

It seems to me that if we are to work for Christian unity, it is essential that we have a good grasp of what it means to be an Anglican so that we do not have to constantly be on guard against the loss or dilution of our traditions through close contact with other denominations. If we have a firm grasp on who we are, we won't have to weigh and sift every prayer, statement of belief or theological stance to see how and if it fits within our tradition. We will know, because being a Christian within the Anglican tradition will be part of the very essence of who we are. Then, instead of being defensive, we can freely share with others the gifts that Anglicanism has to offer.

I wrote a bunch of other stuff about this which I just erased. This topic hits too close to home. But, as there was some interest expressed in comments for a discussion of ecumenism, I'll go ahead and post this. Most likely I'll just listen in on your discussion this time.


Pondering the Powers

Thinking Anglicans linked an essay by Monsignor Roderick Strange:

...We recognise that human evil has many causes. Sometimes it may be caused by sickness, mental imbalance or delusion, and sometimes by conditioning, rejection and insecurity. The evil that is done may be carried out by individuals or by groups, by nations or an alliance of nations. We strive to understand in order to prevent such evil happening again. We say that to understand is to forgive, and that too is important. Without forgiveness, without reconciliation, while grudges are still being harboured, evil can grow again. What we call the Second World War is more commonly acknowledged today to be rather the second part of the war that began in 1914.

Such reflection is invaluable, but we must beware of making a false turn. Just as our bewilderment in the face of natural disaster may mislead us into denying the existence of God, so our accounting for human evil may tame it. The mitigating factors may explain it by explaining it away. But we need to take evil seriously. Evil is not merely a name for bad human behaviour which, once explained, can be excused. There are devils to be exorcised.

Evil is more than something negative, the absence of the good. There is a phrase made trite by overuse. We talk of “Man’s inhumanity to Man”, and perhaps we speak more truly than we know. Confronted by grave evil, we are not denying our own responsibility, but acknowledging something which cannot be accounted for within the orbit of human behaviour alone, a dark force which exists on its own terms.

There is no need to lapse into dualism. Good and evil are not equal powers. God is supreme. But there is still another power to be reckoned with. We need only consult our own experience. When conscience brings us to the point of decision and we find we choose deliberately the darker way, what is influencing us? What malign spirit is supplying excuses and pampering our limitations?

When faced with evil beyond mere human fallibility, while we must acknowledge our own responsibility, we should recognise as well that there is more to such evil than human wrongdoing. And if at the root of evil there is a being, spiritual but fallen, committed to corruption, determined on our ruin, then we lower our guard at our peril.

We must take evil seriously and cast out its demons...
In our striving to "understand," we sometimes discount the urgency of the situation. We want to identify who is wearing the black hats, so we can don our own white one. My experience, and undoubedly yours, is that real life is rarely so black and white, and such dissection is often the equivilant of pretending that we are doing something about the crisis, to allieviate our own sense of urgency, while actually doing nothing, or, even more troubling, making the situation worse.

I agree that there is a need to respond quickly to evil. But my concern, especially in light of recent world events, is that in such quick responses, we grab the nearest set of assumptions available regarding the problem of evil. Consequently, I'm suggesting that it may be prudent to engage in alittle dissection after all, at least in regards to the underpinnings of our response to evil. Consider this my own justification for "doing nothing" if you will. And that may be exactly what it is. But, regardless, there's some things bouncing around in my head that I want to liberate by tossing them out.

Sometimes, it seems that we feel compelled to bring order out of chaos, which assumes that chaos is the natural state of things (an element in the still ongoing Locke/Hobbes debate). As Walter Wink, among others, has pointed out, such a view is not rooted in the story from scripture, but finds its origins in another myth, that has become deeply imbedded in our culture; the myth of redemptive violence:

...In this myth, creation is an act of violence. Marduk murders and dismembers Tiamat, and from her cadaver creates the world. As the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur observes, order is established by means of disorder. Chaos (symbolized by Tiamat) is prior to order (represented by Marduk, high god of Babylon). Evil precedes good. The gods themselves are violent.

The Biblical myth in Genesis 1 is diametrically opposed to all this. The Bible portrays a good God who creates a good creation. Chaos does not resist order. Good is prior to evil. Neither evil nor violence is a part of the creation, but enter later, as a result of the first couple's sin and the connivance of the serpent (Gen. 3). A basically good reality is thus corrupted by free decisions reached by creatures. In this far more complex and subtle explanation of the origins of things, violence emerges for the first time as a problem requiring a solution...
Although I find much of value in both the Monsignor's and Wink's thoughts, there's aspects in both that I find myself wondering about.

There is the notion of "casting out demons" (or the Powers, as Wink would speak of them) from the Monsignor, using the language of scripture (translated from the original, of course), that I find troubling. It is troubling on an experiential level, as the most horrendous acts being passed off as "Christian" that I have witnessed has been some of the so-called "deliverance ministries". Having seen the effect of telling a person struggling with schizophreniaa that they are "demon possessed" was one of the main reasons I distanced myself from the Pentecostal movement. But, beyond that, there is this notion that is implied that somehow evil, or the potential for evil (sin) can be surgically removed. Can it?

My experience is that trying to cut out sin, or cast out evil, can often result in it being repressed, but not transformed, and so becomes manifest in another way later on. What has been more helpful for me, as I have prviously mentioned, is to consider sin as "twisted good." The goal then becomes to untwist it, and return to its good root.

Wink suggest something similar in regards to evil. In Engaging the Powers, he explains it this way:

...Nothing is outside the redemptive care and transforming love of God. The Powers are not intrinsically evil; they are only fallen. What sinks can be made to rise again. We are freed, then, from the temptation to satanize the perpetrators of evil. We can love our nation or church or school, not blindly, but critically, recalling it to its own highest self-professed ideals and identities. We can challenge these institutions to live up to the vocation that is theirs by virtue of their sheer createdness. We can oppose their actions while honoring their necessity...
We can transform them, rather than imagine that we can destroy them. Note that this perspective, if taken to its logical conclusion, would suggest that Satan is not beyond the power of being transformed by God's redemptive love. There's a challenging thought!

I would be remiss if I didn't take issue with something Wink has said, however. In the excerpt above regarding redemptive love, he repeats a popular perspective:

...Good is prior to evil. Neither evil nor violence is a part of the creation, but enter later, as a result of the first couple's sin and the connivance of the serpent...
Wink has presented us with Augustine's solution to the problem of evil; a solution that I find quite problematic, as have many others. If evil was not created, then how did it come into being? Is there another creative force? If so, would not that force be considered to be equal to the God of Abraham and Sarah? From there we fall into dualism; the notion that there are two forces engaged in a bout of cosmic fisticuffs, and that there is some danger that the God of our fathers and mothers might lose the match.

As an alternative to Augustine's definition of "the fall" as humanity created perfect, and then fell, Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons in the 2nd century, offers another perspective:

...Here, some may raise an objection. "Could not God have made humanity perfect from the beginning?" Yet one must know that all things are possible for God, who is always the same and uncreated. But created things, and all who have their beginning of being in the course of time are necessarily inferior to the one who created them. Things which have recently come into being cannot be eternal; and, not being eternal, they fall short of perfection for that very reason. And being newly created they are therefore childish and immature, and not yet fully prepared for an adult life. And so, just as the mother is able to offer food to an infant, but the infant is not yet able to receive food unsuited to its age. In the same way, God, for his part, could have offered perfection to humanity at the beginning, but humanity was not capable of receiving it, being nothing more than an infant...
And for this progression towards maturity to occur, there was need of humanity to develop moral reasoning. For this to happen, there had to be choices presented:

...Now it was necessary that man should in the first instance be created; and having been created, should receive growth; and having received growth, should be strengthened; and having been strengthened, should abound; and having abounded, should recover; and having recovered, should be glorified; and being glorified, should see his Lord...
We choose the Powers that dominate us. Evil is a choice. We have free will. It is through the choices we make that we progress towards perfection.

But such choices cannot be relegated to the realm of the personal, or "individual" (which I've argued before is an erroneous comcept). Evil within ourselves cannot be transformed unless the Powers that feed this evil are also transformed, or at least subdued to the point that another perspective can be explored.

We confront evil, not only for our own sake, for our own growth, but also to assist in the transformation of the fallen Powers. To do this requires that we recognize the hold such powers have on us, and resist the temptation to use force against force, violence against violence, and to imagine our mission as bringing order out of a chaotic creation. Our mission is redemption, reconciliation and transformation.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Pray for Those in Danger in the Middle East

I assume that most of you have been following the escalating violence in Lebanon. It looks like things are going to get even uglier in the coming days.

Our focus here for some time now has been primarily on things Anglican, but global events of this sort need our attention as well. Rather than attempt to be a resource for information on this situation, allow me to recommend Happening Here, the blog of janinsanfran, who covers the situation well from a perspective that resonates with my own.

For Peace

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn
but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the
strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that
all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of
Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and
glory, now and for ever. Amen.


Holy Apostles Challenges Bishops' Support of B033

Holy Apostles, NYC, is concerned by the support of the bishops of New York for the last minute passage of the unfortunate resolution B033 at General Convention last month. The Rev. Dr. William A. Greenlaw, rector of Holy Apostles, articulates these concerns in a sermon offered on July 2:

...To paraphrase Jeremiah, we hear the cry, "unity, unity, when there is no unity." For unity without justice is not unity at all. The Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, for whom we offer needed prayers today in the Anglican cycle of prayer, seems interested in unity only on his terms. He is patently not interested in a "listening process." He will almost certainly not sit down at the same table with Bishop Schori, given both her record and her gender. To call him a "conversation partner" is almost beyond imagining. He has said quite simply, or rather simplistically, he is not going to change because the gospel does not change. And Archbishop Akinola seems clearly the most prominent Global South and African spokesperson at this time, and he has not been repudiated by Archbishop Rowan Williams, so far as I am aware.

But it is also unclear what the Archbishop of Canterbury is prepared to discuss in the face of our quite "inadequate" response, not to mention his obvious shock over the election of Bishop Schori as our new Presiding Bishop. I have the clear sense that Rowan Williams is more inclined to tell us what we must do to stay connected than to sit down with us as a true "conversation partner."

I am sorry to say how disillusioned I have become with him, especially given that on his selection as Archbishop of Canterbury, he was hailed as such a progressive, and brilliant theologian. He seems to have bought into an agenda of holding together the Anglican Communion no matter what the cost in terms of those who need to be excluded.

To me, the salient point is that all these things about our ostensible "partners" were well known before our "inadequate" response to the Windsor Report, yet we sacrificed our own people anyway. The conservatives were not satisfied. And progressives were outraged. The worst of all possible outcomes-and the likelihood of that was all too clear. But we had to give the goal of a false unity one more chance-of uncertain duration.

I think it fair to say that many of us right here at the Church of the Holy Apostles have had our very own "Rosa Parks" moment. Something has quite simply snapped inside for us as well, and from here on out, it is simply no longer tolerable for faithful gay and lesbian persons in our church to be treated as anything other than full and equal members of the body of Christ in every respect. Anything less than that is simply unacceptable and anyone who temporizes with this principle is going to be called on it. And that means our own bishops as well, perhaps especially our bishops, even our own dear Cathy Roskam. They have heard, and they are going to hear more from us, for things have changed, and they are changing in much of our church, thank God...
Later on the same day this sermon was given, the Vestry and clergy of Holy Apostles passed the following resolution:

Whereas the General Convention of The Episcopal Church has held that “there should be no barrier to the ordination of qualified persons of either heterosexual or homosexual orientation whose behavior the Church considers wholesome,” [1979] and that the General Convention “intend[s] for this Church to provide a safe and just structure in which all can utilize their gifts” [2000];

And whereas the Conventions of the Diocese of New York are on record as recognizing that “all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ,” [1999] and that “the Standing Committee and Commission on Ministry ought not raise the issue [of the sexual preference of a candidate for ordination] in their consideration of a candidate’s fitness” [1978];

And whereas many members of this parish, both gay/lesbian and straight, have experienced the passage of Resolution B-033 at the 2006 General Convention with a feeling of betrayal of the support and welcome of all the baptized faithful previously declared by this Diocese and The Episcopal Church;

And whereas the affirmative votes of our own bishops for this resolution have left our parish with a deep sense of unease with our chief pastors and in need of clarification from them;

Therefore be it resolved that we, the vestry of the Church of the Holy Apostles in the Diocese of New York, call upon Bishops Sisk, Roskam, and Taylor to demonstrate, before the 2006 Diocesan Convention, their leadership in celebrating the gifts of gay and lesbian people in this diocese and The Episcopal Church, and to declare their intended actions to further the full inclusion of baptized gay and lesbian people in all aspects of the life of the Diocese of New York and The Episcopal Church, including the episcopate in this Diocese and throughout The Episcopal Church.
This resolution looks to me to be a good model for other congregations to use as a template.

How did your bishop vote on B033? Does he or she know of your great disappointment in regards to the passage of this resolution? If not, why not?

For those desiring a more optimistic view, the Mad Priest has returned, and offers us a glimpse of a possible silver lining within the current cloudy skies of Anglicanism, as well as the opportunity to laugh at ourselves a bit. Usually a healthy thing to do once in awhile.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Central Florida Priests Reject Schismatic Actions

We have previously discussed the request of Central Florida for AlPO and the background of their bishop, John Howe. It now appears that there is some dissension among the clergy of that diocese.

From ENS:

The following statement, signed by 32 priests, was sent to Bishop John Howe July 10. The statement came after the diocesan bishop and standing committee's June 29 "open letter" requesting "Alternative Primatial Oversight" after actions of the 75th General Convention. (The open letter is online at

Episcopal Voices moderator Donna Bott said the first portion of the July 10 clergy statement is, in essence, the first paragraph in the purpose section of the Constitution of the Diocese of Central Florida. The second rejects schismatic actions.

"We, the Clergy of the Episcopal Church in Central Florida, acknowledge our allegiance due to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ and recognize the body known as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America otherwise known as the Episcopal Church to be a true branch of said Church, having rightful jurisdiction in all its dioceses, and hereby declare our adhesion to the same and accede to its Constitution and Canons. We do not accede to any action or effort on the part of Central Florida's diocesan leadership or convention which seeks to disassociate us from the Episcopal Church, the actions and authority of General Convention, or the Anglican Communion."

The statement was also made available for others to sign at a July 11 diocesan meeting of the clergy.

More information about Episcopal Voices is online at
So far, we've heard rumblings of rebellion from within the ranks of Pittsburgh and Central Florida, and rumors of actions against San Joaquin next week. It appears that the hope that Albany would join those seeking AlPO is not coming to fruition. And Bp.Wimberly of Texas has made it quite clear that he has no intention of leaving TEC. Dallas has also clarified that AlPO is not their option. Quincy also stopped short of requesting AlPO.

To go off topic for a moment, there's an interesting statement in the Quincy document, however; a quote from their constitution:

...Contingent upon the continuing consent of Diocesan Synod and consistent with the Preamble to and Article XVII of this Constitution, the Church in the Diocese accedes to the Constitution (hereinafter the “National Constitution”) and Canons (hereinafter, the “National Canons) of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (hereinafter, the “Episcopal Church”). The Diocese also recognizes the advisory authority of the resolutions of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.
Note "the advisory authority of the resolutions of GC." I know most folks recognize this fact, but it's worth pointing out that even parts of the Network acknowledge it, as most likely such an advisory role will be denied when it comes to the future election of a bishop for Newark or Olympia.

So, it looks like the final tally of those dioceses requesting AlPO will remain at six. We've yet to hear of reactions from the moderate and progressive congregations or the neighboring dioceses of Fort Worth, South Carolina, and Springfield. I'll predict Springfield will be next.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Curious Rumor

Brad Drell is claiming that a presentment will be filed against Bp. John David Schofield of San Joaquin as early as next Tuesday. He states that this has been confirmed by 5 different sources.

If true, this will be an interesting development. I wonder what the details of the charges will be. If the action that motivated these charges was San Joaquin's request for AlPO, it would seem that Bp. Duncan would have been the obvious first choice, due to his additional demand for a 10th province. As Drell suggests, there may be some specific details regarding property that led to the choice of Bp. Schofield as the first AlPO bishop to be challenged.

I have some personal interest in this diocese, having been baptized by Vic Rivera at St. Paul's, Visalia as a child. Bp. Rivera was an "old school" conservative, and my earliest example of what it meant to be a priest and a bishop.

I had dinner with Bp. Schofield many years ago. He actually offered me a cure, which I declined. I found him to be an unusual man, and, to put it bluntly, was very uncomfortable in his presence. During the years I served in another diocese in California, I heard a few stories from refugees from San Joaquin that affirmed my intial impression.

The sad part of all of this, if it is true, is that it will probably lead to more than a few long and costly lawsuits, which will benefit no one except for the attorneys and the press.


UPDATE: The Living Church is now carrying the story.

Wm. Coats: "Fight Against These Prinicipalities"

Yesterday Prior Aelred sent me a link to the blog of Tom Woodward to read an essay by the Rev. William R. Coats. I was pleased to find Tom's site, as I knew him when he was the rector of St. Paul's, Salinas. I've enjoyed reading Tom's thoughtful comments on the HoB/HoD listserve for the last year. We had the opportunity to talk briefly at Convention. And now I find that he's participating in the ongoing conversation within the Church in yet another way; by offering this rousing manifesto by William Coats. Here's a taste:

...First, we are being asked to ascribe to the view that homosexuality is an impaired condition - remedied only by life long celibacy - and that the life within the church for homosexual persons will always be problematic as well as proscribed.(1) Second, we are being told that agreement on this issue has now become the central tenet of the Gospel as the Anglican Church understands it: not the Creeds, not the divinity of Jesus Christ, not the Trinity, not the resurrection of Jesus Christ, not the atonement by his death, not the Sacraments - but the impairment and proscription of homosexual persons. All now stands or falls on this singular point. There are forces at work that would destroy this church in order to establish another church on these new grounds. In that sense, to fight for the Episcopal church against the Windsor process is to fight anew for the Gospel. This, of course, may mean being shunned by a large portion of the Anglican Communion. At present, there is already a split; we have been "walking apart" from at least one-half of the Communion for more than two years. But recall that being an Anglican is not the same thing as being a member of the Anglican Communion, particularly if sinister forces have indeed hijacked that Communion. It will be good to be apart for a while. What is unacceptable is cooperating in our own death.
Most of us have been trained to seek peace, love and reconciliation. These indeed are optimal values. Few of us like to fight. We see it as somehow a betrayal of Jesus. Circumstances change cases. It is time to call this campaign against our church what it is - the power of death. It is the raising to the status of an idol the demeaning and exclusion of gays and lesbians. It is a sign that the freedom we have been granted in the resurrection continues to be sullied by those enthralled by the idol of homophobia. We must fight against these principalities and power. When we are threatened with extinction, I doubt that Jesus would want us simply to capitulate in His Name. I invite you in his Name, to STAND FIRM AND FIGHT.
Some readers, especially preachers who have not yet started to think about Sunday's sermon, might be interested in taking a look at a brief reflection on Sunday's lessons that I contributed to The Witness. It's based on the Revised Common Lectionary (which becomes mandatory in 2007, btw), but can easily be adapted to fit the texts appointed from the BCP lectionary.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Setting the Record Straight

Since the conclusion of General Convention 2006, there have been many instances of half-truths and even blatant lies being repeated about the Episcopal Church. Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh have produced a brief paper that shines the light of truth on many of these misrepresentations. I reproduce it here in its entirety.

Setting the Record Straight
July 11, 2006

There are a number of pieces of misinformation circulating in the wake of General Convention. The following is an attempt to set the record straight.

Claim: That only two or three of the autonomous churches of the Anglican Communion accept women as bishops.

Fact: A chart provided by the Anglican Communion Secretariat in 2003 lists three autonomous provinces of the Anglican Communion (The Episcopal Church and the Churches in New Zealand and Canada) as having chosen and consecrated women as bishops. However, Brazil, Central America, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Scotland, Southern African, and the Sudan ordain women as priests and have no canonical bars to women bishops. The Church of England is in the process of amending its canons to allow women to become bishops, and Australia very narrowly defeated a similar measure at its last Synod.

Claim: That the Episcopal Church has authorized same sex-blessings.

Fact: General Convention 2006 did not pass any new resolutions or canons concerning this. A 2003 resolution states that the church is divided on this issue, commits the Church to a standard of faithful monogamy, and states that local areas “are operating within the bounds of our common life” if they explore liturgies for such blessings. The church as a whole has not come to a conclusion or authorized any liturgy. In other words, it continues to support local option for pastoral responses.

Claim: That Presiding Bishop-elect, Katharine Jefferts Schori, introduced radical feminist theology by referring to “Mother Jesus” in her homily at General Convention.

Fact: The image of “Mother Jesus” was used widely among patristic and Medieval theologians and Christian mystics including: Julian of Norwich, Adam of Perseigne, Aelred, Albert the Great, Anselm, Aquinas, Augustine, Bernard of Cluny, Bonaventure, Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, Clement of Alexandria, Dante, William Flete, Gilbert of Hoyland, Guerric of Igny, Guigo II the Carthusian, Helinand of Froidmont, Isaac of Stella, Margery Kempe, Peter Lombard, Ludolph of Saxony, Marguerite of Oingt, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Richard Rolle, and William of St. Thierry, as well as in the Ancren Riwle and the Stimulus Amoris. These church heavyweights got their inspiration from the Bible, which itself uses such imagery. See, for example, Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 46:3–4; Hosea 13:8; and Mathew 23:37.

Claim: That Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has defied the Windsor Report by making her diocese a center for blessings of same-sex unions.

Fact: The Diocese of Nevada did approve a resolution at its December 2003 convention allowing blessings of same-sex unions, subject to approval of each case by the bishop. Bishop Jefferts Schori has required that parishes wishing to do such blessings have a fully developed policy on the matter. In two-and a-half years since the resolution was passed, there have been two such blessings.

Claim: That the experience of Missouri provides a precedent for withdrawing from a province of the Episcopal Church.

Fact: Article VII of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church does require that a diocese agree to its placement in a particular province. Pittsburgh did agree to being in Province III. The canons of The Episcopal Church specify the assignment of each diocese to a province. There is no provision for withdrawing from a province, only for transferring to another existing province. Missouri was originally in Province VII, which includes most of the Southwest. In the 1960s, Missouri decided that it had little in common with dioceses in that geographical area and would fit better in a more Midwestern region. It stopped participating but did not try to withdraw formally from Province VII. This situation helped encourage General Convention to pass a canonical change specifying a means by which a diocese could transfer to another province. Missouri then followed the specified procedure to transfer to Province V, which includes much of the Midwest.

Claim: That General Convention 2006 did not respond to the Windsor report.

Fact: General Convention did pass resolutions expressing regret for causing pain to others in the Anglican Communion, expressing a desire to remain in the Communion, committing to continue a process of providing alternative oversight, committing to being involved in the ongoing dialogues of the “Windsor Process” and “Listening Process,” designating specific representatives to follow and report on the development of an Anglican covenant, and calling upon “Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” The General Convention made no statement on liturgies for blessing same-sex relationships, but the church had not authorized such a liturgy.

Claim: General Convention proved its lack of orthodoxy by defeating a resolution that declared an “unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved” and “the solemn responsibility placed upon us to share Christ with all persons when we hear His words, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.’”

Fact: The discussion about this resolution pointed out that the church had already committed to these concepts when it approved the Book of Common Prayer and Catechism, and, more importantly, raised objections to another section of the resolution that insisted on a specific (substitutionary) interpretation of the Atonement, noting that it was not in the Anglican tradition to insist on a single interpretation of basic doctrines. (See

Claim: That the Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a statement supporting a two-tiered version of the Anglican Communion that would result in the Episcopal Church’s being reduced to associate status.

Fact: The Archbishop has encouraged open discussion for moving toward an Anglican Covenant. He also suggested that the Communion would find a way to maintain a relationship with both those churches that adopted the covenant and those that did not (i.e., a potential two-tiered system), and he suggested that any covenant adopted would have to follow the traditional Anglican via media and be broad enough to encompass many interpretations of doctrine. It is not clear which churches would have what status should the Communion develop in this manner.

Claim: That the Archbishop of Canterbury (or his Panel of Reference) has the power to intervene in matters within The Episcopal Church (such as granting alternative primatial oversight).

Fact: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s June 2006 theological paper on the Communion controversy included this disclaimer: “All that I have said above should make it clear that the idea of an Archbishop of Canterbury resolving any of this by decree is misplaced, however tempting for many. The Archbishop of Canterbury presides and convenes in the Communion, and may do what this document attempts to do, which is to outline the theological framework in which a problem should be addressed; but he must always act collegially, with the bishops of his own local Church and with the primates and the other instruments of communion.” Likewise, in a May 2006 “Communiqué,” the Panel of Reference (to whom Canterbury will refer petitions from dioceses and parishes) stated, “It was clear from this that the Panel is not a tribunal or court which can intervene formally to adjudicate in the affairs of the autonomous Provinces of the Anglican Communion” and went on to note that all it could do was to recommend action. (See

Copyright © 2006 by Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh,

Documentation for the statements made above is available on request.
This document may be freely copied and distributed if reproduced in its entirety.

Remember these responses. When you hear or read misrepresentations, firmly correct them. Do not be silent, in the mistaken notion that is the "polite" thing to do. One can challenge such statements respectfully. The alternative is to allow false accusations to be repeated often enough that they are accepted as the truth. We cannot allow that to happen.

Note that the claim of Missouri setting a precedent is the defense offered by Bp. Duncan in his response to the nine parishes in his diocese that are objecting to his most recent actions, which we discussed in a previous post.

Lionel Deimel of PEP has also prepared a lengthier essay entitled An Appraisal of the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s “Withdrawal” of Consent to Inclusion in Province III.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pittsburgh Parishes Challenge Bp. Duncan

Jim offers us a press release from nine parishes in the Diocese of Pittsburgh who voice their objections to the recent actions of Bp. Duncan and the diocesan leadership in calling for AlPO and the formation of a tenth province. The original text can be found here. A few lines from the statement:

...We believe that the action by the Right Reverend Robert William Duncan, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and the Standing Committee of the Diocese, announcing their decision to withdraw from Province III is tantamount to leaving The Episcopal Church...

...The formation of the (Tenth) Province is seen by us as the most recent step in an attempt to create a church separate from The Episcopal Church...

...We believe the request made by the Bishop and Standing Committee for "alternative primatial oversight" is further indication of an intention to depart from The Episcopal Church...

...We believe that any resolutions or constitutional amendments passed at conventions of the Diocese of Pittsburgh which would purport to release the Diocese from compliance with decisions of the General Convention are canonically improper and invalid...

...According to canon law, property owned by a diocese is held in trust for The Episcopal Church. We believe that the repeated claims of the Bishop and Standing Committee to be the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, while at the same time acting to separate the Diocese from the decisions of The Episcopal Church, therefore, constitute an attempt to retain legal possession of property held in trust for The Episcopal Church, while at the same time taking steps to remove the Diocese from The Episcopal Church...

...In light of the foregoing statements, we further believe that we represent those in this Diocese who are loyal to The Episcopal Church. Accordingly, we extend an invitation to others who wish to remain in The Episcopal Church to join us in our efforts. We remain committed to the building up of the Body of Christ in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.
It seems to me that this clearly worded statement will be ignored by Bp. Duncan at his own peril, as most Episcopalians will recognize it as a fair assesment of the situation. These parishes are to be congratulated for taking the initiative, and not waiting for 815 or Canterbury to intervene. The AlPO dioceses need to be challenged on the grass roots level. And we who reside in more stable dioceses need to offer any support we can to these challenges.

In a related note, it appears the Bp. Stanton of Dallas is making it quite clear that he is not asking for AlPO:

...They (Standing Committee) ask me to "appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury for a direct primatial relationship …" Several dioceses have called for "alternative primatial oversight," as you well know through news reports. I will discuss a direct relationship with the archbishop. This will be for the pastoral support of our mission, and assurance of our place in the Communion. I must emphasize that this relationship will be consistent with our constitution and canons, both of the diocese and of the General Church...
A nuanced difference, but one that seems important to Bp. Stanton. My understanding is that after a communication with Bp. Stanton the American Anglican Council had to retract their previous claim that Dallas had joined the other six dioceses requesting AlPO. Most likely Dallas is being cautious, unlike Pittsburgh, who might have avoided such resistance if they had not been in such a rush to make some kind of newsworthy statement.