Thursday, November 30, 2006

Advent is About the Power of Emptiness

Today, as I was preparing for next Sunday, I found myself looking forward to the beginning of Advent. I don't know about you, but right now I could use some of the quiet reflection this season offers.

Bob Carlton points us to a reflection by Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister:

...Advent is about the power of emptiness and the spiritual meaning of smallness.

When we have little to begin with, we have even less to lose. We know, then, that we don't have all the ideas or all of the answers. It means that we have nothing to fight over and even less to boast about in life. We become full of possibility.

When we know who we really are, when we present no disguises and parade no pretensions, when we are honest both with ourselves and with others, we fired ourselves free to be ourselves. We have no image to keep up, no lies to gild in a gilded society. We become full of integrity.

When we learn to live with the basics rather than to hoard what does not belong to us, we can never be made bereft by the loss of life's little baubles because we never depended on them in the first place. We become full of contentment.

When we recognize our own limitations, we need never fear failure. Then we can't possibly be destroyed by losing because we never anointed ourselves entitled to win. We become full of confidence.

Finally, when Advent seeps into our souls, we come to understand that small is not nothing and empty is not bereft. To be small is to need, to depend on the other. Smallness bonds us to the rest of the human race and frees us from the arrogant isolation that kills both the body and the soul. To be empty is to be available inside to attend to something other than the self. We become full of the blessings of life.

Then, emptied out by the awareness of our own smallness, we may have the heart to identify with those whose emptiness, whose poverty of spirit and paucity of life is involuntary. Then, we may be able to become full human beings ourselves, full of compassion and full of consciousness...
If you are looking for a devotional resource to use during this season, the Diocese of Washington is once again offering an Advent Calendar featuring daily meditations.

As we enter this season of preparation for the coming of Christ as a child in a manger and for his coming again in great glory on the last day, may we empty ourselves, and allow Christ to be born anew within our hearts.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

An Open Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury

The following letter originated from The Consultation Steering Committee, a network which includes representatives from the following organizations in The Episcopal Church: Integrity, Episcopal Urban Caucus, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Episcopal Women's Caucus, Union of Black Episcopalians, Episcopal Ecological Network, National Episcopal AIDS Coalition, Province VIII Indigenous Ministries, Episcopal Church Publishing Company, Episcopal Network for Economic Justice, Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry Advocates, and Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission.

To add your signature please email your name, title and organization to

An open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury
Regarding requests for “alternative primatial oversight”

Dear Archbishop Williams:

We write as members of The Episcopal Church to express our deep concern about the requests for “alternative primatial oversight” that have come from eight of our dioceses since the 2006 General Convention. Such a request is unprecedented, and we believe that granting any of these requests would pose a grave danger to the Anglican Communion.

An important aspect of our Anglican identity is our comprehensiveness as a reformed and catholic church in which our unity is expressed in common prayer rather than adherence to a formal confession of faith other than the Creeds. Historically, Anglicans have been willing to live together with a wide spectrum of theological perspectives. As you remind us in your June 2006 statement “The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today,” our distinctive Anglican inheritance includes “a reformed commitment to the absolute priority of the Bible for deciding doctrine, a catholic loyalty to the sacraments and the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, and a habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility that does not seek to close down unexpected questions too quickly.” Drawing on these three components together, we are rooted in Christ, and our focus in Christ enables us to live with diverse and even at times conflicting points of view. Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane has recently commented: “It is because Jesus Christ, second person of the Trinity made flesh, is our goal, our end, our telos, the central focus and direction of our lives, that Anglicanism has found through the ages that we can afford to live with messiness, ambiguity and anomaly at the edges.”

Those seeking “alternative primatial oversight” are in effect asking to walk away from the messiness and ambiguity of our current disputes about gays and lesbians in the church. In so doing, they give to these questions a doctrinal weight not in keeping with historic Anglican understandings. Allowing dioceses to reject the oversight of the duly selected primate of The Episcopal Church because of disagreements about this matter would open the door for others, here and elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, to reject pastoral and sacramental leadership on the basis of non-essential matters. This would lead to fragmentation of the Anglican Communion rather than deeper unity in Christ.

Some of those requesting “alternative primatial oversight” have also claimed that The Episcopal Church has not responded adequately to the Windsor Report. However, we do not view the Windsor Report as an ultimatum dictating precise forms of response by The Episcopal Church. We remind you of Archbishop Eames’ statement in the Foreword to the Report that it is not a judgment but part of a process. We understand participation in this process to include serious study of the report and prayerful consideration of its recommendations to The Episcopal Church. We believe that The Episcopal Church did so in its preparation for and actions at the General Convention, and committed by resolution to continue to do so, even as the process continues worldwide.

As with a response to any other recommendation or resolution from one of the Instruments of Communion or other international Anglican body, our response to the Windsor Report was made in light of our understanding of Scripture, the polity of The Episcopal Church, and sensitivity to the cultural contexts of this Church. We affirmed our desire to remain in the Anglican Communion, gave our support to the process of development of an Anglican Covenant, and committed ourselves to participate in the ongoing Windsor process as well as the listening process commended by the 1978, 1988, and 1998 Lambeth Conferences and the Windsor Report. We expressed regret for straining the bonds of affection in the confirmation and consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, and we urged standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction to refrain from 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 House of Bishops had already developed a plan for delegating episcopal pastoral oversight, and the Convention approved this plan. Although the convention did not adopt any resolutions about blessing same-sex relationships, no such liturgy has been authorized by any convention; instead, any decision to permit celebration of such a liturgy remains with the bishop, consistent with the provisions of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. In sum, we believe that the General Convention of The Episcopal Church has responded with great care to the Windsor Report, and at significant cost to some members of this Church. We urge you to reject claims that The Episcopal Church has not responded adequately to the Windsor Report, particularly as those claims become the basis for division rather than reconciliation. It is now time to allow others in the Anglican Communion, including the Instruments of Communion, to respond.

At least one of the dioceses requesting “alternative primatial oversight” has suggested the formation of a tenth province of The Episcopal Church. Creation of such a province could only occur through a canonical change enacted by the General Convention, and it is doubtful that the convention would approve the creation of a non-geographic province that is based on theological conviction. Beginning in the earliest centuries of the Church, dioceses have been formed geographically, and non-geographic dioceses and other structures have been considered anomalous. For example, during the nineteenth century, the overlapping American, English, and Canadian Anglican jurisdictions in Japan and China posed significant obstacles to missionary endeavors. More recently, the efforts of Anglicans representing the Diocese in Europe (Church of England), the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, the Lusitanian Church, and the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain have shown us the benefits made possible by coordinated efforts. Allowing dioceses of The Episcopal Church to be overseen by primates from other regions would introduce the complexities and challenges of overlapping jurisdictions that historically have presented obstacles to effective mission.

Permitting “alternative primatial oversight” would be further complicated by the reality that within each of the dioceses requesting this oversight, there are individuals and congregations who would understand themselves to remain fully within The Episcopal Church under the oversight of our Presiding Bishop. We anticipate that legal challenges would ensue, requiring significant expenditures of time and money that would be better spent on other essential matters of mission.

Finally, we feel compelled to question the premise of “alternative primatial oversight.” There is no provision in the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church for the Archbishop of Canterbury to exercise jurisdiction in this Province. In the Episcopal Church, the General Convention has sole authority to amend the Constitution and Canons, including the formation of dioceses and the assignment of dioceses to provinces within the Episcopal Church. We recognize that the Primates’ Meeting at Dromantine in February 2005 recommended that you appoint a panel of reference “to supervise the adequacy of pastoral provisions” made for dioceses in dispute with their provincial authorities. We remind you that in the Communiqué from that same meeting (par. 10) the Primates expressed caution regarding “any development which would seem to imply the creation of an international jurisdiction which could override our proper provincial autonomy.” Thus we urge that any work of the panel of reference respect the authority of the Presiding Bishop and the autonomy of The Episcopal Church.

We appreciate your support for the conversations convened in New York City in September 2006 among several bishops of The Episcopal Church, including the Presiding Bishop and the Presiding Bishop-elect, with Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion. This is an important sign that leadership in the Anglican Communion recognizes that the Archbishop of Canterbury does not have jurisdiction over the internal life of The Episcopal Church. We believe that the discussions must widen to include other clergy and lay leaders, particularly the President of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church, since our polity calls for full participation of laity as well as clergy other than bishops in decisions affecting our common life. We ask that you encourage and support a process that includes representatives of the entire Episcopal Church in discussions and decisions about the requests for “alternative primatial oversight.”

We recognize, as you have pointed out in “The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today,” that there continue to be strains in relationships within The Episcopal Church as well as between Churches of the Anglican Communion, and that we continue to be bound together through many different informal networks as well as more formal relationships such as companion dioceses. It is our fervent prayer that we continue to grow more deeply into the unity and the truth that are Christ’s gift. We believe that granting requests for “alternative primatial oversight” would undermine our ability to receive these gifts of truth and unity, and we urge you not to authorize any such plan.

xc: The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate
Ms. Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies of the General Convention

The list of those who have already signed this letter can be found here.

So, why are you still here? Go add your name to this letter NOW!


San Joaquin's Constitutional Changes

This weekend, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin will be considering changes to their Diocesan Constitution.

From the "Explanation":

...Accordingly, the Diocese of San Joaquin now determines, through the following amendments to the Constitution and with appropriate consultation (eg. Archbishop of Canterbury/Primates of the Anglican Communion) to transfer all relationships and communion from ECUSA to an Anglican Province to be determined at a Special Convention called by the Bishop of San Joaquin. (emphasis added)
Here is the first proposed amendment:

Amend Article II of the Constitution as follows:
Acceding to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church Faith, Order and Practice of a Province of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church known as the Anglican Communion -

The Church in the Diocese of San Joaquin accedes to The Constitution the Faith, Order and Practice of a province of that branch of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church known as the Episcopal Church in the United States of America the Anglican Communion. Such accession shall be determined by the majority vote of the delegates of the Diocese of San Joaquin convened at a Special Convention called by the Bishop of San Joaquin of the General Convention of the same and until such action is taken, the Diocese intends to continue in full communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and all Anglican provinces and dioceses which uphold the Catholic Faith.
Lionel Deimel, in an essay entitled Unqualified Accession, points us to Article V, Section I of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church:

After consent of the General Convention, when a certified copy of the duly adopted Constitution of the new Diocese, including an unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of this Church, shall have been filed with the Secretary of the General Convention and approved by the Executive Council of this Church, such new Diocese shall thereupon be in union with the General Convention.
Three other dioceses, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh and Quincy, have recently added "qualifications" to their accession clauses in their constitutions, but none of them approach the extremes being proposed by San Joaquin.

What San Joaquin is attempting to do would seem to be clear to eveyone; "...transfer all relationships and communion from ECUSA to an Anglican Province..." What might be the appropriate response to this? Here's Lionel's recommendation:

...In summary, I believe that amendments to diocesan constitutions to qualify their accession clauses are intrinsically unconstitutional and, even ignoring the transparent plans of the bishops of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes to subvert the polity of The Episcopal Church, the bishops of the dioceses of Fort Worth, Quincy, Pittsburgh, and San Joaquin could be presented, found guilty, and deposed at any time for the constitutional changes they have effected alone. Given the conspiracy against Episcopal Church polity of which these bishops are major instigators, I believe that they should be.
I agree. What are we waiting for?


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bp. Schofield's Deanery Presentations

We have previously discussed the plans of the Diocese of San Joaquin to attempt to leave the Episcopal Church, and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's response to these plans. Bp. John-David Schofield of San Joaguin has been making pre-convention presentations at the various deaneries within his diocese in an attempt to explain why he feels the proposed constitutional changes must be approved at their diocesan convention which begins this weekend. From the reports of those who were present at these deanery meetings, we can glean some new insights regarding what is going on in San Joaquin. What follows is the information that has been passed on to me, without commentary.

Regarding the New York meeting between Bps. Griswold, Jefferts Schori, Duncan, Iker and others, Bp. Schofield stated that at the end of the first day, Bp. Katharine was willing to let the Network have an Alternative Primatial candidate, but she would be the one who selected the alternate.

The next morning, according to Bp. Schofield, Bp. Griswold said that no decision could be made without going through the Executive Council. At that point, Bp. Iker made clear that he could not agree to what had been offered, which ended the meeting.

Regarding the meeting of the Windsor bishops, Bp. Schofield claims they received a message from Archbishop Rowan Williams containing these words; " I believe the Windsor bishops are the hope of the future of the American church. I want to encourage you and I pray that your numbers will grow."

Regarding the recent meeting with the Steering Committee of the Global South Primates, Bp. Schofield offers us some new information. Abps. Gomez (West Indies), Venables (Southern Cone), Akinola (Nigeria), Chew (South East Asia), Nzimbi (Kenya) and Akrofi (West Africa) were present. Those representing the Network that were mentioned by name included Bps. Schofield, Salmon and Duncan and Bill Thompson of All Saints, Long Beach.

The Primates were asking for specific things of the Network;
1. Unity
2. A single spokesman (Bp. Duncan was selected)
3. Signatures on a document which will be submitted to the Primates (all present signed, although the contents of the document were not revealed.)

Bp. Schofield announced that he had received a message from Bp. Duncan stating that the Primates (apparently the 6 listed above) said that they endorsed what was being proposed in San Joaquin, encouraged them to go forward with their plan to make the changes in their constitution (which eliminates all references to The Episcopal Church), but then the Primates said not to have an immediate second reading. They do not want San Joaquin to get ahead of the other dioceses. (The constitutional changes do not technically go into effect until the second reading).

According to Bp. Schofield, the Primates want to see a new Network Province set up, but not just with San Joaquin as a member. They want a number of dioceses represented. The Primates want to see San Joaquin unified with other dioceses, and willing to take direction from them. From this point on, the Primates would call the shots. San Joaquin was to go forward with the first reading and then await further instructions from the Global South Primates.

Bp Schofield stated that if the proposed constitutional changes were passed, that does not take them out of TEC. Nothing will change until the second reading. He stated that it is not an irreversable decision; the diocese would have a year to study it. He stressed that it was important to make the decision to change the constitution now because it makes it possible for them to respond positively to the Primates. He further suggested that not making it says to the Primates that they are unwilling to take their offer of leadership.

As far as what the new Province would look like, Bp. Schofield stated that the diocese of San Joaquin would be free to do evangelism, "even in the deepest darkest Los Angeles, and the deepest darkest San Francisco...wherever." He compared it to planting a church of another denomination in the same neighborhood as an existing Episcopal Church. He mentioned that there would be a number of churches on the West Coast who would be ready to join them, and specifically stated that over 14 different parishes in California have expressed an interest in becoming a part of the Diocese of San Joaquin.

Bp Schofield also said that any congregations wanting to leave the diocese are free to leave, "...and take all that is yours."

After careful study of the information that I have received from those who were present, I am confident that the above is an accurate representation of Bp. Schofield's public statements at the deanery meetings. Make of them what you will.


Bringing Us Together?

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Impact of Birth Rates on Mainline Denominations

From The Baptist Standard:

...The decline in membership of mainline churches over the last century had more to do with sex than theology, research by a trio of sociologists suggests.

The popular notion that conservative churches are growing because mainline churches are too liberal is being challenged by new research that offers a simpler cause for much of the mainline decline--the use of birth control. Differences in fertility rates account for 70 percent of the decline of mainline Protestant church membership from 1900 to 1975 and the simultaneous rise in conservative church membership, the sociologists said.

"For most of the 20th century, conservative women had more children than mainline women did," three sociologists--Michael Hout of the University of California-Berkley, Andrew Greeley of the University of Arizona and Melissa Wilde of Indiana University--wrote in Christian Century...

...During most of the last century, more people moved from mainline to conservative churches than in the other direction. Conservatives were much more successful at retaining their church members, even when they married mainliners.

"The declining propensity of conservatives to convert to the mainline accounts for the 30 percent of mainline decline that fertility rates cannot account for," they concluded.

The researchers investigated other possible causes for mainline decline--support for homosexual and abortion rights, a lower view of the Bible, a higher "apostasy" rate, and fewer conversions from outside the Christian fold. But they dismissed these other factors as irrelevant because none could produce numerical changes significant enough to explain the shift in church membership.

"Higher fertility and better retention thus account for the conservatives' rising share of the Protestant population," they concluded...
From the Institute for the Study of Labor:

...Some religions provide psychic and social rewards to those who have many children, in the form of approval, social status, and blessings. As Stark and Finke (2000) have noted, the high fertility that Mormons have consistently displayed in the United States (Thornton 1979; Heaton 1986; Lehrer 1996a) can be interpreted as a rational response to such incentives. Similarly, the Catholic religion embodies strong pro-natalist ideologies, which raise the perceived benefits of having an additional child. It also has teachings that forbid artificial forms of contraception, oppose abortion, and increase the costs of family planning (Sander 1995). Until the 1970s, these norms had been manifested in a distinctive pattern of very high fertility. More recently, adherence to the teachings of the Catholic Church in these areas has weakened markedly, with a corresponding decline in family size (Jones and Westoff 1979; Mosher et al. 1986; Goldscheider and Mosher 1991).1 Some aspects of conservative Protestant ideologies are also pronatalist, and the fertility of this group has been found to exceed that of mainline Protestants, but only by a small margin (Marcum 1981; Lehrer 1996a).
From C. Kirk Hadaway, Director of Research, The Episcopal Church Center:

...In addition to race and ethnicity, educational attainment and family income are highly related to the birth rate. Not surprisingly, American women with a graduate or professional degree have the lowest birth rate, followed by women with Bachelor’s degrees. Also, women in families earning $75,000 or more have very low birth rates, as do women in families earning $50,000 to $74,999. The Episcopal Church has the highest proportion of members among mainline denominations who are college graduates and in households earning $75,000 or more. As a result, the birth rate among Episcopalians is much lower than the national average—and even lower than the population of non-Hispanic whites. A reasonable estimate, based on education and race, is approximately 1.5 children per woman (compared to the replacement level of 2.1) for Episcopalians.
As the above quotes should make clear, Bishop Katharine was not making this stuff up.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God's own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God's own field, fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take His harvest home;
From His field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store in His garner evermore.

Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified, in Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come, raise the glorious harvest home.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bp. Katharine: "Pay Attention to the Stewardship of the Earth"

Much is being made of a brief segment from a recent interview of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori that appeared in the New York Times:

NYT: How many members of the Episcopal Church are there in this country?

KJS: About 2.2 million. It used to be larger percentagewise, but Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children.

NYT: Episcopalians aren’t interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?

KJS: No. It’s probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.

Let's consider this quote in parts:

Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations

Episcopalians have a greater number of members with college degrees than any other denomination. Those with college degrees tend to have fewer children. Is someone disputing this? If so, I'll be happy to dig up the data.

Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children.

Having never been either a Roman Catholic or a Mormon, I do not know their traditions very well. My understanding has always been that Roman Catholics continue to ban artificial forms of birth control. One would assume this would lead to more children. Is there some error in this statement?

We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.

One would hope that folks know what Bp. Katharine is talking about. If you are unsure, here's a couple of articles that might be helpful:

From The Independent:

...On a global scale the average US citizen uses far more than his or her fair share of the planet's resources - consuming more than four times the worldwide average of energy, almost three times as much water and producing more than twice the average amount of rubbish and five times the amount of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming. The US - with five per cent of the world's population - uses 23 per cent of its energy, 15 per cent of its meat and 28 per cent of its paper. Additional population will mean more people seeking a share of those often-limited resources...

...Lester Brown, the director of the Earth Policy Institute, an environmental group also based in Washington, said: "In times past, reaching such a demographic milestone might have been a cause for celebration - in 2006 it is not. Population growth is the ever-expanding denominator that gives each person a shrinking share of the resource pie. It contributes to water shortages, cropland conversion to non-farm uses, traffic congestion, more garbage, overfishing, crowding in national parks, a growing dependence on imported oil and other conditions that diminish the quality of our daily lives"...
From the Population Institute:

...At the root of many population issues is a lack of basic health services in less developed countries, including reproductive health and family planning. For women and families to improve their standard of living, couples must have the information and means to plan the number and spacing of their children...
There are certainly various theories floating around regading the ethical issue of overpopulation, and those theories might be worthy of debate, but I fail to see any reason for any outrage regarding this statement.

To the extreme conservatives who seem to get great satisfaction in never missing an opportunity to misrepresent Bp. Katharine's words; you are beginning to sound a bit shrill and more than a bit unChristian.

To those Roman Catholics who are outraged, I am sorry that you have chosen to react in this way. But, I'm afraid that at the moment it is better if I not say anything more to you. When your leadership decides to get their nose out of other people's business, and cease their latest sheep stealing raid, then maybe we can talk.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Presiding Bishop Sends Letter to San Joaquin

We have previously discussed the plans of the diocese of San Joaquin to leave the Episcopal Church. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has responded to this development by writing the following letter to the Bishop of San Joaquin, John-David Schofield. From ENS:

My dear brother:

I have seen reports of your letter to parishes in the Diocese of San Joaquin, which apparently urges delegates to your upcoming Diocesan Convention to take action to leave the Episcopal Church. I would ask you to confirm the accuracy of those reports. If true, you must be aware that such action would likely be seen as a violation of your ordination vows to "uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them." I must strongly urge you to consider the consequences of such action, not only for yourself but especially for all of the Episcopalians under your pastoral charge and care.

I certainly understand that you personally disagree with decisions by General Conventions over the past 30 and more years. You have, however, taken vows three times over that period to uphold the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church." If you now feel that you can no longer do so, the more honorable course would be to renounce your orders in this Church and seek a home elsewhere. Your public assertion that your duty is to violate those vows puts many, many people at hazard of profound spiritual violence. I urge you, as a pastor, to consider that hazard with the utmost gravity.

As you contemplate this action I would also remind you of the trust which you and I both hold for those who have come before and those who will come after us. None of us has received the property held by the Church today to use as we will. We have received it as stewards, for those who enjoy it today and those who will be blessed by the ministry its use will permit in the future. Our forebears did not build churches or give memorials with the intent that they be removed from the Episcopal Church. Nor did our forebears give liberally to fund endowments with the intent that they be consumed by litigation.

The Church will endure whatever decision you make in San Joaquin. The people who are its members, however, will suffer in the midst of this conflict, and probably suffer unnecessarily. Jesus calls us to take up our crosses daily, but not in the service of division and antagonism. He calls us to take up our crosses in his service of reconciling the world to God. Would that you might lead the people of San Joaquin toward decisions that build up the Body, that bring abundant life to those within and beyond our Church, that restore us to oneness.

I stand ready for conversation and reconciliation. May God bless your deliberation.

I remain

Your servant in Christ,

I wouldn't change a word. Thank you, Bishop Katharine.


Is It Time to Consider an Alternative to Lambeth?

The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, thinks we may need a global gathering that is more representative of Anglicanism than the Lambeth Conference. His complete presentation at Trinity Theological College in Melbourne, Australia can be found here. A summary of his comments can be found here.

There is much worth noting in his lengthy address. I want to pull out just a couple of quotes for consideration.

First, regarding Lambeth Resolution 1.10:

...I am also very disappointed at the way inordinate attention is paid to some Lambeth Resolutions and not to others.

We hear so much about 1.10 on human sexuality. But we rarely hear of 2.2 which refers to the Lambeth Conference as a 'significant consultative body' - underlining that its resolutions are not binding. Nor is 5.13, which reaffirmed resolution 72 of the 1988 Lambeth Conference on Episcopal Responsibilities and Diocesan Borders, given anything like the status of 1.10. And we must not forget that resolution 5.1, with its particularly strong language condemning homosexual practice, was actually defeated. So we should think twice before attempting to reinsert such language into the debate...
Resolution 72 of 1988, reaffirmed in 1998, is as follows:

Epsicopal Responsibilities and Diocesan Boundaries

This Conference:

1. reaffirms its unity in the historical position of respect for diocesan boundaries and the authority of bishops within these boundaries; and in light of the above

2. affirms that it is deemed inappropriate behaviour for any bishop or priest of this Communion to exercise episcopal or pastoral ministry within another diocese without first obtaining the permission and invitation of the ecclesial authority thereof.

3. urges all political and community leaders to seize every opportunity to work together to bring about a just and peaceful solution.

With the number of issues that could threaten our unity it seems fair that we should speak of our mutual respect for one another, and the positions we hold, that serves as a sign of our unity.
Returning to Archbishop Ndungane's statement, let me offer one more rather lengthy quote, regarding the lack of full representation at Lambeth:

...God is at work, through his Spirit, in all the baptised. As St Paul reminded the Corinthians, every member of the body of Christ is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Cor 12:7). We best pursue that common good, when we pursue it all together.

The whole debate since the election of Bishop Gene Robinson, has been far too much driven by Bishops, and, what is worse, particularly by Archbishops!

It does not help when we issue statements like that from Kigali, which claim to be associated with Provinces which have had no opportunity to share and debate them across all orders.

If we want to pursue a truly Anglican solution to our current predicament, we cannot sideline laity, and parish clergy, as we are currently doing.

Now I am going to make a very radical proposal - which I can freely do, as I shall be retiring on January 31, 2008!

If I were in the shoes of the Archbishop of Canterbury - and I thank the Lord almost daily that I am not! - if I were in Rowan Williams' shoes, I would say that what we most need now is not yet another gathering of Bishops, in the form of the Lambeth Conference.

We have a far greater need for a coming together of a much larger, and much more representative, gathering of Anglicans from around the world.

I do not mean we need another Anglican Consultative Council. The ACC is good, and plays an important role within our structures. But it is also constrained by the procedures and agendas with which we have saddled it.

I would rather see a much larger gathering, with a better balance between Bishops, Clergy and Laity; in which participants can freely speak their own minds. I would like to see a very flexible and open agenda, that concentrates on informal encounter and the sharing of faith. We need space to get to know one another, our contexts, our cultures, our challenges. We need to listen to one another and our faith journeys, and recognise the marks of Christ in one another.

Perhaps if all of us had a better understanding of the lives of Christians in other provinces, we would not have come to the situation we now face.

If we had a large Anglican gathering, brothers and sisters of Christ in all our diversity would be able explore together the questions of how we understand ourselves as Anglicans, and how God want to leads us forward in our common life. We must find such ways to together listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church. As a representative microcosm of our Global Family, we could explore how it is we should live together, and whether a Covenant - and if so, what form of Covenant - would best enhance our shared life and calling.

Whatever preparatory work the Covenant Design Group is able to do before the middle of 2008 must be offered for the consideration of the full breadth of the Anglican Family. It is far too important to be left just to Bishops, even meeting in the breadth of the Lambeth Conference, let alone Archbishops!

And then, after all this had been discussed and debated, I would ask the Design Group to pull the conclusions together, and to present them to a special meeting of the ACC, as the most fully representative of all of our Instruments of Unity. If we are to take the radical step of pursuing a Covenant, I would like this process to be owned and driven by the ACC. And then, of course, any draft will have to be adopted under the due processes within each Province - which again returns it to the full debate of Synods of all orders meeting together.

Let us not forget this.

The task of the Church is not self-preservation. If that were the case, well then, let the hierarchy get on with debating their narrow concerns, and good luck to them!

The task of the Church is to build up God's people for God's mission and ministry within God's world. We desire to be a Church in which abundant, God-given, Christ-shaped, life can flourish, and this life can be shared with the world for the building of God's kingdom, and for his glory.

And the pursuit of such a way of being Church is a task of the whole Church together...
The Archbishop is suggesting that what we need now is not yet another gathering of bishops, but a gathering in which all four orders of ministry are represented and given voice. Among other things, such a truly representative gathering might put an end to Archbishops claiming to speak for all Anglicans in their Province, when they do not, and diocesan bishops from claiming they represent all the perspectives within their diocese, when they do not.

There's been talk of such a gathering for some time. I've seen no concrete plans. Organizing such an event would be a huge and costly job. For this to happen, someone needs to spearhead it. And, since Archbishop Ndungane is the latest voice to advocate for such a gathering, I nominate him as chair of such an effort.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Fort Worth Allows Parishes to Leave the Network

The Diocese of Fort Worth is holding their Annual Convention. Fr. Cantrell is informing us of their decisions. The text of the four proposed resolutions can be found here.

What I found particularly interesting was Resolution 3, which reads, in part:

Resolved, this convention make provision for those Episcopalians in this diocese who wish to withdraw their membership from The Network of Anglican Dioceses and Parishes and to accede to the authority of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church...
Two substitute resolutions were offered;

Resolution 3a - Allowing a parish to withdraw from the Network. A 2/3 majority vote of the Vestry and the Parish Meeting would be required. The resolution passed, 106 for, 72 against and 11 abstentions.

Resolution 3b - Recognition of a minority in the diocese that does not agree with decisions made by the canonical authorities and that they remain valued members of the diocese. Passed unanimously.

Some may not consider this process ideal, but at least there is now an "official" way for those in Network dioceses who wish to withdraw to do so. One would hope that the other Network dioceses will put a similar process in place.

In other actions, Resolution 1, requesting AlPO, and Resolution 2, withdrawing consent from membership in Province VII, both passed by about 80%.

Resolution 4, calling the Diocese to engage in the listening process as described in Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 and reaffirmed by the Primates Meeting of 2003 was ruled out of order. Fr. Cantrell tells us that the explanation given for this ruling was that the resolution "asks for things outside of the convention's authority." A substitute resolution "affirming and endorsing Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10 in its entirety as the official teaching of the Anglican Communion" was passed.

Among the canonical changes that were passed included one to reduced the number of deputies that would be sent to General Convention. Not sure what the background is on this, but it does cause a couple of questions to come to mind. A new canon states that Holy Matrimony is to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman and prohibits the blessing of same sex unions.

All in all, about what one expected from Fort Worth, although I am encouraged that Resolution 3 found so much support. The affirmation of Lambeth 1.10 "in its entirety" does give cause for some hope that Fort Worth recognizes their obligation to engage in the listening process. Will it happen? That remains to be seen.

I'm listening to the Convention live, and Katie Sherrod is asking about diocesan funds designated for the Network. If a parish opts out, will their assessment to the diocese be used to fund the Network? The bishop clarified that the parish can choose to send a portion of their giving to TEC. If I understood correctly, that amount would be considered part of their annual assessment.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Misogynist Mark Warns of Bunny Bishops

You may have heard of Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill megachurch in Seattle. It appears that Mark has a blog in which he regularly flaunts his machismo under the cover of a supposed "Complementarian" view of gender roles.

For instance, consider this quote from Mark regarding the sad story of Ted Haggard:

Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.
So, Ted's wife is not responsible, but maybe she should share the blame, because she was lazy. Thanks, Mark, for clearing up why Ted was using the services of a male prostitute.

As you might imagine, this elicited quite a few responses. There's even a protest planned.

So why am I even mentioning a non-denominational megachurch pastor with issues? It seems last week Mark decided to have some fun at the expense of Episcopalians. The catchy title of his entry is "Episcopalians and Male Tesosterone Show Corresponding Decline":

In a surprising decision, the Episcopal Church voted Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori as the first female leader of the entire church at their General Convention in June...

...In related news, the testosterone levels of male Americans has dropped significantly in the past twenty years. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism...

...All of this has led this blogger to speculate that if Christian males do not man up soon, the Episcopalians may vote a fluffy baby bunny rabbit as their next bishop to lead God’s men. When asked for their perspective, some bunny rabbits simply said that they have been discriminated against long enough and that people need to "Get over it."
In response, Robert Lanham quipped, "Luckily, Mark seems to have enough testosterone for all of us."

Mars Hill appears to be a personality cult, which is not unusual for some megachurches. Unfortunately, this particular personality is a bit twisted. One can only imagine the damage that is being done among those placed in his pastoral care. Sadly, there are probably quite a few Episcopalians in Fort Worth, San Joaquin and Quincy that would agree with his views.

Mark, in the words of the Bard, you are as a candle, the better burnt out.


UPDATE: Someone sent me this pic of a couple of fluffy bishops. I had to let you see it. Now, who is going to be offended by bunnies? If you are, "Get over it."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Supporting Faithful Episcopalians in San Joaquin

Bishop Schofield of San Joaquin has issued a letter in which he unfolds his plans to leave the Episcopal Church. Part of this plan involves passing various resolutions at the diocesan Annual Convention scheduled to conclude December 2. There is some question as to if these resolutions will pass. If they do, then as of December 3, many in San Joaquin will have officially left the Episcopal Church. It is fairly safe to assume that some of those who leave will also take the keys to the buildings with them, which will most likely result in long legal struggles.

There are a number of faithful Episcopalians within San Joaquin. One would hope that the leadership of TEC will respond to their needs. But, if past actions are any indication of the future, we can't count on that happening. Consequently, it is very important that we respond on a grassroots level to the needs of those feeling abandoned with no place to turn.

Andee Zetterbaum, Contingency Representative for Remain Episcopal in the Diocese of San Joaquin, left a comment in our discussion of Bp. Schofield's letter. As it includes some practical suggestions as to how we might reach out to faithful Episcopalians in this diocese, I am lifting it out of comments and reposting it here:

Several of you have asked how you can help those of us in Diocese of San Joaquin who want to remain in the Episcopal Church. As one of the leaders of Remain Episcopal, let me be very practical:

1. If you know anyone in this diocese who doesn't want to leave ECUSA, who is saddened or sickened by what is going on here--put them in touch with Remain Episcopal, or with me personally. One of our greatest problems has been that we have not been able to get a list of Episcopalians (or bruised and dropped out would-be Episcopalians) in these 13 counties, so that we can reach out, support and encourage them.

2. Pray. That kind of goes without saying, doesn't it? But pray for those who are leaving, that God may bless them in their new denomination; pray for all who are hurt and hurting; pray with thanksgiving for the approaching end of this dark time, and being set gloriously free to proclaim the Kingdom of our God of love.

3. Donate. Lots, if you can. A little if you can't. ECUSA may carry the bill for the legal battles over the property, but we're looking at everything involved in healing the injured and rebuilding and growing. The diocese is a 5 hour drive from one end to the other, 3 hours East to West, 50 widely-spread parishes in which there are likely to be small pockets of remaining people to be served. Just the cost of seeking them out, of advertising to tell what the Episcopal church is REALLY like and inviting others to join us, of bringing in supply clergy and training new lay leaders and raising up locally trained clergy... The handful of us who are willing to openly oppose Bp. Schofield, and are committed to building a thriving and healthy renewed Diocese of San Joaquin are definitely going to need your help! Remain Episcopal is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and you can reach us at Remain Episcopal, 2067 W. Alluvial, Fresno, CA 93711.

4. Pass this message on, to everyone you can think of who might be willing to help.

Yours in Christ,
Andee Zetterbaum
Contact information for Andee and other members of Remain Episcopal can be found here.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bishop of San Joaquin Announces Plans to Leave TEC

It appears that the neighboring bishops of San Joaquin had good reasons to be concerned in regards to the past actions and proposed future plans of Bp. John-David Schofield. Judging from this recent letter, it seems that the leadership of the diocese and Bp. Schofield do indeed intend to leave the Episcopal Church. His reasons are based on a number of false accusations and half truths, with a liberal sprinkling throughout of shameful portrayals of the faithful members of the Episcopal Church:

...Much has been said and written about the controversy over the revisionist teachings of TEC. The truth is that TEC (1) denies the unique divinity of Jesus Christ and (2) takes a position on human sexuality which undercuts marriage and is destructive to the family unit designed by God and revealed in Scripture. These are not positions and teachings which are merely "revisionist" or "liberal." These are positions of those who have abandoned the Christian faith...
The evidence for the first accusation is that General Convention did not pass Resolution D058, Salvation Through Christ Alone. The reality is that the resolution was presented near the end of Convention and was recommended to be discharged by the Evangelism Committee because it had already been addressed at previous General Conventions. The House of Deputies voted to discharge the resolution. The resolution itself was never debated or rejected.

However, it is doubtful if the resolution would have passed even if it had not been discharged, because of its poor wording. The affirmation of the unique divinity of Jesus Christ is affirmed every time we recite the creed and reaffirm our Baptismal Covenant. But it was the second part of the resolution that I suspect would have been problematic, as it includes the unusual phrase "the substitutionary essence of the Cross." One must assume this is a reference to Anselm's idea of "substitutionary atonement," which is one way among many to understand what happened on the cross. To prefer Irenaeus' or Abelard's understanding of atonement instead of Anselm's might be controversial, but is certainly not heretical. But such a discussion is irrelevant to the charges being made by Bp. Schofield, since the resolution presented by San Joaquin as evidence was never placed on the agenda for a vote at Convention. A more detailed account of what happened in regards to this particular resolution can be found here.

When this half-truth is exposed for the false accusation that it is, one can then imagine the fall-back "evidence" will be a couple of sentences picked out of Bishop Katharine's interviews with the secular press. We have previously discussed these particular false accusations at some length, so I will not repeat them now.

Regarding TEC undercutting the "family unit designed by God and revealed in Scripture," I'm afraid I'm not clear exactly what "family unit" the bishop is referring to here, as there are many models found in scripture, none of which resemble what we understand a "family unit" to be today. The most common marriage pattern in scripture is polygamy. Women were considered the property of the man. They were listed with the children and cattle. The bishop is selectively picking those parts of the bible that he wants to define today's "family unit." How is this selective reading of scripture any different from what the bishop accuses those he opposes of doing?

I first met Bp. Schofield in 1989. He was convinced then that the Episcopal Church was going to hell in a handbasket. The issues were different, but his attitude was the same. He continues to grab at any hint of heresy in an attempt to depict TEC in a harsh light. Based on these straws that he has grasped, the bishop now declares that those who disagree with him "have abandoned the Christian faith." Do you get that? According to Bishop Schofield, I am no longer a Christian because I agree that resolution D058 was poorly worded and redundant and was appropriately discharged, and because I do not believe scripture offers us a model of "family units" that addresses some of the realities we face today. Imagine that. But let's get back to the letter:

...Major parishes across the country have left and continue to leave in record numbers. (We are not immune in this Diocese having lost one parish already.) The statistics are staggering and clearly demonstrate that TEC is disintegrating. This is not surprising given that TEC has chosen to walk apart from the Christian faith...
Another half-truth. There's been about 200 congregations that have disassociated themselves from TEC, but most of these are groups that have left parishes that remain in TEC. Last I heard, there were about 30 actual congregations that have affiliated with foreign bishops. But even if we go with the larger claim, 200 out of 7,500 is less than 3%. Hardly "record numbers." And, once again, we witness the harsh depiction of TEC as no longer part of the Christian faith. One has come to expect such rhetoric from the internet extremists, but this kind of smear from a bishop is really behavior unbecoming of his office.

...The proposed constitutional amendment will reaffirm our commitment to the historic Anglican Faith and our membership in the Anglican Communion and our relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury without having any direct ties to The Episcopal Church...The flag; the word "Episcopal" will most likely be replaced with the word "Anglican;" Our delegates and clergy will not attend the TEC General Convention...
If these resolutions are passed, those individuals that affirm them will no longer be members of the Episcopal Church, by their own choice. Keep in mind, however, that a diocese cannot leave TEC; only individuals can.

So what will happen? That will be for the lawyers and 815 to sort out. I would imagine that the faithful Episcopalians in San Joaquin will form a Standing Committee, hold a Convention, and select a bishop. Most likely a bishop will be provided for them by 815 during the interim period. It will probably take some time to sort out the property issues. It is doubtful that this group will allow "Pagans" like us to share worship space with them. Since they will hold on to the keys, rented space may need to be used for a time.

We need to reach out to those faithful Episcopalians in San Joaquin who may now find themselves homeless. We also need to keep all the people of the Diocese of San Joaquin, including Bp. Schofield, in our prayers. God knows they are going to need them in the days to come.

I have confidence that the leadership of TEC will address this new development. I think these kinds of accusations need to be challenged, but let's not give into the temptation to match judgment for judgment or meet smear with smear. Let us express our disagreement with Bp. Schofield, but let us never forget that we are called to be witnesses to God's grace, God's unmerited favor.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

End the War in Iraq

One of the resolutions passed at The Episcopal Church's General Convention last June has not gotten the publicity it deserves. Consequently, I'm highlighting it today. It is resolution D020, entitled End the War in Iraq:

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church affirm the conclusion of the October 1, 2002 letter of the House of Bishops to members of Congress, stating that the conditions of the “Just War” tradition have not been met in the national government’s decision to attack the nation of Iraq; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention of The Episcopal Church call upon the Congress and the President to immediately develop for implementation a plan for the stabilization of Iraq, to be followed by the prompt withdrawal of U.S. Armed Forces from Iraq, to provide for transfer of peacekeeping functions to an international peacekeeping force, to work through international and Iraqi organizations in the reconstruction of Iraq’s civil and economic infrastructure, and for the full restoration of Iraqi sovereignty; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention call on The Episcopal Church to acknowledge and confess that our government’s participation in the war in Iraq has resulted in individual and global injustices including passive acceptance of the loss of our military personnel, lack of support and care for those returning home, indifference to the loss of countless Iraqi citizens, silent response to atrocities, illegal confinement without representation or formal charges and torture; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention call on The Episcopal Church to request the Ecumenical and Interfaith Officer to step-up dialogue with the Iraqi Muslim and Christian community to work toward nonviolent resolutions to conflict; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention, as a community of faith committed to reconciliation and nonviolence taught in the gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, direct the Presiding Bishop and the Executive Council to encourage wide use of Christian formation materials that stress nonviolent methods to conflict resolution and change; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention request the Standing Liturgical Commission to commission prayers and liturgies to be used in time of war, and that the General Convention call on Episcopalians to honor and support, through their prayers and actions, the armed service men and women who return home with injuries to body, mind, and spirit that they might be restored to wholeness of life and assisted in recovering from injury and trauma; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention call on all Episcopalians to honor through their prayers and actions the men and women who conscientiously serve their country and especially those who have been killed and wounded; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention call upon all Episcopalians as an act of penitence, to oppose and resist through advocacy, protest, and electoral action the continuation of the war in Iraq, and encourage the President and Congress to take proactive steps to end our participation as soon as possible.

On October 1, 2002, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church sent a letter to members of Congress in which they argued that the conditions for a just war had not been met in the national government's decision to attack the nation of Iraq. Nevertheless, the Armed Forces of the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, based upon the assertion by the national government that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction which presented a threat to the U.S. No such weapons were ever found. And on January 12, 2005, the President officially declared an end to the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

More than 2,400 members of the United States Armed Forces have been killed as part of the ongoing combat operations in Iraq. The Defense Department's official tally of US wounded as of April 28, 2006 was 17,648 . Independent estimates of US wounded range from 15,000 to 48,100. Various estimates place the number of unarmed, innocent Iraqi civilians killed as part of the ongoing combat operations in Iraq between 38,000 and 100,000.

The very presence of 150,000 American troops in Iraq is resented by the majority of the Iraqi population, fueling the insurgency and contributing to the continuing instability. A majority of the people in both the United States and Iraq favor the withdrawal of U.S. armed forces from Iraq.

We certainly recognize that faithful Christians of good will may disagree with one another when it comes to questions of national policy. We trust, however, that all Christians will pray and work for peace, remembering the words, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."

Several measures are being considered in Congress that propose various timelines for withdrawal, many with bi-partisan support. We would urge the adoption of one or more of them as soon as possible.

You can read more of what the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion have said over the years regarding war and violence at the Episcopal Peace Fellowship's site on a page entitled "Cross Before Flag".


Monday, November 13, 2006

The Lust for Power

From The Witness, "Foley's Folly and the Republican Lust for Power":

...The real issue behind the Foley scandal -- the one that won't go away now that both the midterm elections and Foley's career are over -- is lust for power taking precedence over all else. Sexual exploitation of pages by congressmen is about men quite literally "getting off" on their power over others as much as it is about other kinds of lust. And as horrendous as it is interpersonally, it is exponentially more destructive when it takes the form of party political machinery cynically exacerbating division and exploiting those most vulnerable to stroke the egos and consolidate the privilege of the most powerful.

The Republican party built its political successes on the backs of the young, the poor, the queer, and others at the margins. They gained power at the expense of the disempowered. May they take to heart one lesson of the midterm elections: that this strategy can and will backfire...

...Many conservative evangelicals blame Foley's personal immorality for the Republican Party's disgrace. The real immorality and true disgrace would be if the Republican Party responds to their defeat by pursuing with renewed vigor policies that scapegoat LGBT people, trample on civil liberties, and abandon children to poverty.

The Republican Party sold its soul to gain the world. It's an excellent illustration of Lord Acton's famous statement that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." If Republicans want to stamp out immorality, they must begin by taking responsibility for the myriad ways in which their quest for power took precedence over commitment to principle.
I'm not so naive to think that the Democrats are invulnerable to this same lust for power. However, I do believe that with a new balance of power in place, we may finally bring to an end our President's adventure in Iraq that has cost the lives of at least 50,000 Iraqis and 2,800 Americans.

Hopefully those contemplating future adventures will now have good reasons to consider the cost before using military might to quench their thirst for power.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Local Life for Global Good

From Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:

In order to achieve effectively the Episcopal Church's priorities for peace and justice work framed by the Millennium Development Goals, our congregations -- together with the individual spiritual life of each of us -- must be rooted in places of health and strength.

For our congregations, this means practicing a stance of welcome and hospitality, reaching out to invite seekers and neighbors into widened expressions of community. It also means assuring the highest quality possible in public worship, education and outreach programs.

As individuals, this grounding comes in the form of a regular and disciplined prayer life, study of the scriptures, the commitment to participation in a local community of faith, and an attitude of generosity that limits personal excess in order to provide necessities for those in need.

In short, this practice is a matter of living a local life for global good.

For our congregations, I call each local community of faith to a season of careful assessment of your ministries of hospitality, evangelism and service. The 2007 "Groundwork" Lenten-study resources provided by the Mission Office at the Episcopal Church Center can help.

I would also recommend a re-engagement of the 2020 energy that called our Church, through the General Convention in 2000, to work to double its membership within two decades' time. This is doable, even with the challenge of declining birthrates that have an impact upon all mainline denominations at present.

For each of us individually, I recommend a discipline of personal examination of life, focused attention to the needs of others, and a generosity of spirit that seeks to love our neighbors equally as we love ourselves. That is the sort of holy living to which Jesus calls us all. When we meet and love our neighbor, we are meeting and loving God himself in our midst.
The suggested Groundwork III resources can be found here. This series was edited by Charles Fulton and James Lemler. I recently participated in an excellent workshop offered by these two gentlemen. I'm looking forward to using these resources for this year's Lenten study.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Regarding This Week's Elections... which the Democrats won control of both the House and the Senate, I have just one thing to say...


Yes, a Howard Dean moment. Forgive me. Been resisting the temptation to express my joy for two days.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Mystical Christ

The following insightful and challenging essay was written by Fr. John-Julian Swanson, founder of the Order of Julian of Norwich. I reprint it here with John-Julian's permission:

What has been eroding in the Church for the last two generations has been the denial of its central and primal mystical dimensions. We keep seeing Jesus as some historical personage, delimited by time and space. We keep seeing “church” as institutional. We keep seeing the Word as a collection of black scribbles on a page. We keep seeing the core of our ecclesial nature as either canonical or biblical or organizational. We keep refusing the ineffable, immeasurable, and unimaginable dimensions of our Christ, and the universal utter Presence of the Holy Spirit.

Why are young people these days talking about wanting “spirituality” without “religion”? Because religion has been shrunken and withered into law, measurement, emotion, and/or overt certainty about those things we cannot even vaguely comprehend. Why do people turn to New Age religion? Because it recognizes the mystical dimension, albeit in a sad, weak, and occult way.

Meister Eckhardt, Dame Julian, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and dozens of other Christian mystics through the centuries all speak of the “divine” in each human being – something of the Creator God, some image of Divinity, implanted or inherent in our very creation. And that is not dependent upon any specific creeds or canons. The Creator Christ dwells no less in the Muslim or the Jew than in the Christian. We are each a “mini-incarnation”. When the Muslim bows down in his five daily prayers, it is Christ bowing down. When the Jew lights the candles for her Sabbath meal, it is Christ who brings light to that table. When the Buddhist seeks for union with the Eternal, it is the Christ who is both seeking and sought.

John’s plain and unadorned theological statement that “God is love” was extended in our antiphon for the Maundy: “Ubi amor, ibi deus” “Where love is, there is God!” And we can say with the same certainty: “Where love is, there is Jesus Christ.” That same Jesus Christ died not for some, but for all, and he has brought the potential for the fullness of salvation to every human soul – even those who because of some accidental historical or sociological or prejudicial circumstance don’t happen to call him “Jesus” as we do. He is the Way – that is, any human way to God is Christ. He is the Truth – that is, every truth is Christ. He is the Life – that is, every life is Christ. There is no way to the Father except through the Christ, so all ways to the Father are also Christ, even when that is not overtly stated.

The difference is that the Christian sees all this more clearly, understands it more deeply (though no less incomprehensibly), calls him by his name, and worships accordingly. And the Christian is joyously eager to share that insight, that comprehension, and that worship – not as triumphantly righteous or rigidly exclusive or narrowly judgmental, but as eagerly generous and utterly unselfish, so glad that the joy can be shared lovingly (as is the very nature of all true joy and love). Our evangelism cannot be “You are wrong, and we are right” but, your “unknown God”, your Allah, your Yahweh, your Manitou, is also the generous Father whose Son sacrificially cancelled all ideas of divine wrath or judgment.

None of this “demotes” Jesus Christ in any way, nor dismisses him as merely-one-among-many, nor by-passes the Atonement. What it does is to recognize Christ’s infinite ubiquity, his universal mystical incidence, his unlimited enfolding presence, and our own weak inadequacy in comprehending the spiritually immeasurable vastness that is the true Jesus Christ.

And if this is true between religious traditions, it is thrice true within the Mystical Body that is Jesus Christ. Whatever words you may use, you, oh eye, simply cannot cancel me who am a foot. You may curse me or despise me or refuse me a place at table, but you cannot evade the fact that whether you like it or not, we are and will always be one – inside the mystical Christ. And since we are one, you simply cannot live the Christ life without me, no matter how much you may wish it. The Blood of Christ flows out copiously and floods and drowns and washes all of us, forgiving all our sins, enfolding all of us in divine grace. And we are already one, just as the Christ and the Father are one. And may whatever bogus falsehood gives the lie to that cosmic truth shrivel and die.

And so may we go out and allow the Christ in us to serve the Christ in every one of those others who differ from us, who suffer, and who stand in want.

- John-Julian, OJN


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Seeking the Way to God

From a recent Time interview of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:

Time: Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?

KJS: We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.
That statement was enough for some to declare that Bishop Katharine is not a Christian. I know that such judgmental hubris is hard to believe, especially since some of those making this bizarre claim happen to be Episcopalians, but it is true. You'll have to trust me, as I'm not providing links to such demented places.

That quote, and a similar one from an NPR interview, might lead us to want to ask Bishop Katharine to more fully unfold her understanding on the topic beyond the constraints of a secular interview, and may even cause some of us to desire to debate her theological understanding of atonement. But to claim that this is evidence that she is not a Christian is simply way over the top. This is character assasination at its worse, and an extreme example of a serious problem we currently face within Christendom; a lack of Christian charity.

Jim Naughton offers us some good examples drawn from the Christian tradition suggesting that the Evangelical's narrow understanding of how one becomes a Christian is a rather new innovation, and certainly not the only way the Church has understood what it means to draw closer to God through Christ. He cites the Catechism of the Catholic Church and includes a quote from Karl Rahner, who is credited as giving us the term "anonymous Christian". Jim ends with this statement:

...I have no quarrel with people who want to believe that accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior is the only way to heaven. But it simply is not the case that those who disagree with you are in rebellion against some long-settled and universally accepted issue of Christian doctrine.
As a side note, if being a Christian was about "getting to heaven," I personally would not be interested, since, as I've mentioned before, I simply cannot muster up any enthusiasm for the afterlife. It's a distraction. The kingdom of God is at hand...we only encounter the living God in this present've heard all that before, so I'll spare you that particular sermon.

Returning to the question of "who will be saved," Fr. Tony Clavier offers some thought-provoking comments on this as well:

...In reaction our neo-evangelical Anglicans thunder texts about Jesus being the way, the truth and the life, and that in him alone is salvation. By this they seem to mean that only a set of formulae, mostly 16th or 18th Century in precise terminology, although biblical of course, applied precisely to an unbeliever as a challenge and a question, is used by God to determine whether Joe or Mary, a Moslem or a Buddhist are in the Book of Life. So now a confession.

I believe that all people and people come to know God in Jesus. I believe that the Cross is universal in application, and not merely the property of Christianity. I believe that the Cross changed everything.

I believe that the coming, living, dying, rising, ascending Christ is the Lord of all things. I believe that the Trinity creates community, all community, however much we sully the vision and the reality.

I believe that Jesus is all truth, religious, scientific, social, political, communal...
From Dr. Rowan Williams, in his volume On Christian Theology, within the chapter entitled "Trinity and Pluralism":

We do not, as Christians, set the goal of including the entire human race in a single religious institution, nor do we claim that we possess all authentic religious insight - the "totality of meaning," to pick up a phrase used to good polemical effect by Jacques Pohier. And this is a problem only if we expect - as Christians, as religious people of other traditions, as philosophers - to be able to provide a theoretical programme and explanations for the unifying of the human world. If there is such a unification possible - as Christians and others believe - it is attained only in the variety and unpredictability of specific human encounter, and so can only now be a matter of hope; though this is a hope nourished by the conviction that the story of Jesus and the Church, of Logos and Spirit manifest in the world, affords us a truthful vision of how God is - not exhaustive, not exclusive, but truthful. And the practical thrust of this truthfulness is its grounding of hopeful and creative pluralism, its affirmation of the irreducible importance of history, of human difference and human converse.
- On Christian Theology, p. 177.
As you can see, our tradition includes quite a few perspectives on this matter. There's an insightful but challenging one offered by Fr. John Julian that, with his permission, I may post here in the future. But there's one perspective that isn't included that I want to mention. It returns us to the problem I mentioned; the lack of Christian charity.

It is fairly well accepted that those who do not hear the Gospel might still develop a relationship with God through natural revelation. What I sometimes ponder is the way God is revealed to those who are turned off to Christ because of the Christians.

I think it is way past time for us to admit that the type of Christianity revealed by many Christians turns people away from Christ. That is certainly a part of my story. At 15, I was sent to the Nicky Cruz Home for Boys in Fresno, California. Nicky was the main character in David Wilkerson's book The Cross and the Switchblade. He ran a number of homes for juvenile delinquint boys. Although I appreciated the three squares and a bed, I deeply resented being periodically paraded in front of this or that group of Christian donors to "share my testimony." It felt like a scam. I finally left in disgust and returned to the streets. I didn't go near a church for the next decade. Maybe some day I'll tell that story in full.

Many of those outside the Church have a very negative perception of Christianity based on their limited experience of Christians, who come across as arrogant, judgmental hypocrites. As with most generalizations, that is an incomplete characterization of those who follow Christ. But regardless of that, it is the image that we have to live down.

Do we really think that since so many of those who claim to be Christians have failed in their mission to be a window to God, that God, whose love is for ALL people, would not create other forms of revelation?

The problem is not that the Gospel is not being proclaimed. The problem is that the proclamation is made in such harsh, exclusivist, self-righteous ways that it is rejected for the ugly deformity that it has become. But God's mission will not be thwarted. God is still moving among us, touching us, healing us, and making all things new. Unfortunately, many Christians seem to have lost the ability to delight in the myriad of ways God is made manifest. For God's sake, and for the sake of the world, close the book once in awhile and take a walk in the woods!

I hope that Bishop Katharine does not take seriously the shrill voices shouting that she is not a Christian. Actually, these accusations may not be such a bad thing. In today's world, being labeled a non-Christian by the extremists might be the best recommendation you can get if your goal is to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Making Holy Smoke

From Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's sermon at Washington National Cathedral's All Saints' Sunday liturgy:

...There is a fascinating line in the midst of that Wisdom reading that says, "in the time of their visitation they will shine forth and run like sparks through the stubble."

In the time of their visitation - is this the visit of God among the righteous? Or is it an occasion when the saints show up? The word that's translated as visitation might also be translated oversight, or realm of service. In Greek, it is episkopeis. When the saints turn up, or when the Spirit makes a home in the saints, then the saints begin to burn and set the world alight. Their oversight, their ministry, their ability to see and influence and pastor the world, is set afire. All the saints are meant to run like sparks through the stubble, through that dead and no longer fruitful stuff, the dross of this world. You and I are supposed to get lit and set that flame to burning by our willingness to be vulnerable to the suffering around us.

In western Oregon for decades the usual way to clean up the fields after a crop of grass seed was harvested was to set the stubble afire. Clouds of noxious smoke filled the skies, and often drifted for dozens of miles. Air quality issues have led to other ways of controlling the smoke output, but burning is still the very best way to sanitize the fields and get rid of the stubble. What do you think? Can we make holy smoke?

The episkopeis of the saints, their ministry, cleans the fields of that which cannot survive in God's dream of shalom, it burns away whatever limits that dream or cannot contribute to it. The ministry of governance, whether in the legislature, the polling booth, or in raising a child, is meant to prepare the ground for a new and abundant crop of life. Most of us here this morning will have an opportunity to exercise that kind of ministry on Tuesday. Will you consider your vote as an act of "running through the stubble?" Would that we might all be able to answer, "I will, with God's help."

Let the pain of this world seize us by the throat. Listen for Jesus calling us all out of our tombs of despair and apathy. May the shock of baptismal dying once more set us afire. This place we call home is meant to be a new heaven, a new earth, a holy city, a new Jerusalem. It is the sparks in the stubble that will make it so.

Turn inward for a moment and greet the spirit planted within you. When we come to the peace, turn to your neighbors and greet the saints, the fire-lighters in this field. Welcome, saint! Burn brightly and transform this world into God's field for life, full measure, pressed down and overflowing, meant for all humanity and all creation. Burn!

To plant the seeds of shalom, the ground must first be prepared. The stubble, "that dead and no longer fruitful stuff, the dross of this world" must be consumed by purifying fire.

It is time to wake up and respond to the pain and suffering all around us. Only then will the transformation of all of creation into the dream of God be accomplished.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Investiture of Katharine Jefferts Schori

The webcast will begin at 11:00 a.m. EST. You can watch it here.

Pray for our new Presiding Bishop. Pray for the Church.

O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

UPDATE: The complete text of Presiding Bishop Katharine's sermon can be found here.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bishop Katharine Invites Primates to Pay a Call on Her

From ENS:

1 November 2006

The Most Rev. Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria
The Most Rev. Drexel Gomez, Primate of the West Indies
The Most Rev. Benjamin Nzimbi, Primate of Kenya
The Most Rev. Justice Akrofi, Primate of West Africa


To my esteemed brothers in Christ:

While I have not yet had the privilege and honor to meet all of you, I very much look forward to working with you in the coming years as we endeavor to lead the Body of Christ in this portion called the Anglican Communion. I deeply value the possibilities we have in the Anglican Communion for addressing the mission God has given us to reconcile the world he has created. In the spirit of Lambeth 1998, the Episcopal Church has identified the Millennium Development Goals as the framework for our missional work in the coming years. I would hope we might see the common interest we all have for seeing those Goals met, as they provide a concrete image of the Reign of God in our own day, where the hungry are fed, the thirsty watered, and the prisoners of disease and oppression set free.

I understand that you will be in the United States in mid-November for a gathering at Falls Church, Virginia. Considering the difficulty and expense of such a journey, I hope that during your visit you might be willing to pay a call on me, so that we might begin to build toward such a missional relationship. If that is a possibility, I hope you will contact this office as soon as possible. I would be more than happy to alter my schedule to accommodate you.

I look forward to hearing from you, and meeting you. May God bless your ministries and your travels.

I remain

Your servant in Christ,

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The visiting Primates (who are obviously visiting without the courtesy of notifying 815; note Bp. Katharine's wording..."I understand that you will be visiting...") will be meeting with some of those requesting AlPO.

It will be interesting to note the responses to this letter.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Closer Look at Bishop Jon Bruno

The LA Times offers us a lengthy article about Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles entitled A Bishop's Divided House. The entire article is quite good, but two glimpses of Bishop Bruno that it provides are extraordinary. First, a story from his years serving as a police officer:

...He'd been on the force 14 months when, on the night of Nov. 28, 1969, he received a call to help stake out a house on South Sunset Canyon Road. About 10:30, a man named Wallace Noe, a 28-year-old marijuana dealer and suspected kidnapper, drove up, parked and walked toward the rear of the property. Another officer shined a flashlight on Noe, and Bruno shouted, "Freeze! Police!" Noe fired a pistol at the officers, and Bruno opened up with a 12-gauge shotgun, striking Noe in the neck and chest, killing him.

Although the shooting was ruled justifiable — the Magnolia Park Optimist club even honored Bruno for meritorious service — he was profoundly troubled by it. For a year, he relived the shooting in recurring dreams. Finally an Episcopal priest led him through a penance exercise and gave him absolution, and the dreams stopped. "It taught me I really believed all the things of the orthodox Christian faith I'd practiced all my life," he said...
The second story that I found particularly striking was drawn from his time serving as rector of St. Athanasius, the oldest Episcopal parish in Southern California:

...His early years at St. Athanasius coincided with the unimpeded raging of the AIDS epidemic through Los Angeles' gay population. When one of his young parishioners was in the throes of the disease, Bruno expressed frustration at being unable to help. The man told him he would be satisfied if Bruno just hugged him, since no one wanted to come into physical contact with an AIDS patient. So, once a week, the man would go to Bruno's office and the priest would hold him and rock him in a rocking chair.

Jack Plimpton, a retired Los Angeles Unified School District principal who is the diocese's director of AIDS ministries, said he saw Bruno rocking another young man in his arms as the man died. Adds Plimpton: "He's one of the most compassionate people I know"...
The tension between these two stories moves me to want to hear more from this man. He knows well those "inbetween places".

That may be too vague for some readers. To explain what I mean by the "inbetween places", I have to quote, once again, a passage from Terry Holmes' book, Ministry and Imagination:

...In a society that domesticates God and craves certitude more than truth, it is very difficult to accept an image of the local pastor who lives poised amid darkly discerned potencies, exhibiting at the same time a kinship to both beasts and God, both the earth and the stars. Yet, I have written elsewhere of the need for the priest to be "creatively weird" and this is the ground for that dimension of personality.

How does one go about achieving this? Certainly he has to know himself. When I have found myself caught in a potentially destructive force within me, I understand it to be the result of living too much on the right hand. In a sense, the good priest is one who has been there before, as Christ has been there. To be an effective pastor we do not have to have done everything everybody else has. We do have to recognize the power that is there, the real possibility of misusing it, as well as appropriately using it, and what the creative use of power looks like when we do. The mana-person knows the diabols, as well as the symbols. As was Jesus, he is on speaking terms with demons (Mark 1:21-26; Luke 8:26-33). He knows them because he knows himself...if we are to be a mana-person, we have to run the danger of being devoured by the diabols and cast ourselves into the unknown...

Bishop Bruno will be the keynote speaker at the "Remaining Faithful" National Gathering which begins this Friday.