Sunday, April 29, 2007

Can We Agree?

An invitation from Sarah Dylan Breuer:

...I'm going to start a list of points on which I think I and many 'progressives' agree with the vast majority of 'reasserters.' Progressives and reasserters, please use the comments either to add your own points on which you think we'd agree or to let me know if you don't actually agree with one of the points posted up here, and I'll periodically edit the list in light of the comments. I'm not using the most specific or detailed language I could use, as the goal is to come up with the greatest number and most specificity possible while still allowing broad agreement. I'm also not listing everything in this first bunch of points that I believe and I think most reasserters also believe, simply because that would take too long and I've got papers due. I'll add more later, but I hope this is a good start.

That said, here's my initial list of things I believe that I think most reasserters would also affirm:

  • Jesus is Lord.

  • Jesus and the God who created the universe are one.

  • The Old and New Testaments were inspired by God, and are useful for teaching and Christian formation (a la 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

  • Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historical person who was born of Mary, gathered disciples and taught, healed, and confronted evil powers in ministry the first-century Roman province of Palestine, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate's authority.

  • Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Christ of God.

  • The God of Israel raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. I know some Christians struggle with this, but I believe this was a bodily resurrection, and the tomb was empty (and John Dominic Crossan never persuaded me that there was no tomb).

  • Jesus' disciples met the risen Jesus -- some had visions, some corporeal encounters (though Jesus' body was different in some ways -- e.g., he didn't seem to need doors to be opened or unlocked to get into a room), but in all cases reported in the New Testament it was Jesus they met.

  • I think the list of canonical books in the New Testament is a good one. There is no non-canonical gospel that I would have liked to see in the canon, and no book currently in the canon that I'd exclude if I could.

  • I believe that the kingdom of God was inaugurated in Jesus' ministry, and that Jesus will come again to realize fully his work among us.

  • I believe that the God of Israel has chosen Jesus, the Christ, as judge of the nations.

  • I believe that Jesus is really present in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

  • I believe that Jesus is really present wherever people gather in his name...
  • I agree with Dylan's list. In my comment on her site, I suggested one addition.

    If you want to add to this list, or express your disagreement, please post your comment at Grace Notes. Note the title of Dylan's blog; let's be people of grace. Note also that "the goal is to come up with the greatest number and most specificity possible while still allowing broad agreement." From what I understand, this is not an invitation to debate. But, of course, debate here all you want.


    Saturday, April 28, 2007

    Abp. Akinola to Violate Boundaries, Again

    From the NYT:

    The Anglican archbishop of Nigeria, a fierce critic of the Episcopal Church for its acceptance of homosexuality, is arriving next week to install a bishop to lead congregations around the country that want to break from it...

    ...The Nigerian archbishop, Peter J. Akinola, will preside over a ceremony in Virginia on May 5 installing Martyn Minns, former rector of an Episcopal church there, as the bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, an offshoot of the Nigerian church...
    You may want to take a look at what Mark Harris has had to say about this event here and here.

    You may also want to keep in mind that Abp. Akinola is one of the most embarrassing figures in Anglicanism at the moment, due to his support for the Nigerian solution to the "gay problem"; incarceration. Even the U.S. Department of State, which is certainly by no estimation a bastion of liberality, has spoken out against this draconian law that tramples on basic human rights.

    The NYT piece continues with a quote from Bp. Minns of CANA:

    ...Bishop Minns said the convocation that he is to lead was not interfering with the Episcopal Church...
    Oh no? Let's recall the words of Bishop Lee of Virginia at the time Abp. Akinola decided to plant this particular beachhead on American soil without so much as a "How do you do" to the leadership of TEC:

    ...The Church of Nigeria, like The Episcopal Church, is an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion with clearly defined boundaries. Bonds of affection in the Anglican Communion hold that provincial boundaries are not crossed by bishops without expressed invitation. Bishop Akinola’s effort to establish CANA within the boundaries of The Episcopal Church has occurred without any invitation or authorization whatsoever and violates centuries of established Anglican heritage. As the Archbishop of Canterbury has made clear, CANA is not a branch of the Anglican Communion and does not have his encouragement.

    When the membership of these congregations voted to sever their ties with the Episcopal Church and affiliate with CANA, they left remaining Episcopal congregations in those places without vestries, without clergy and without their churches, whether the remaining congregations numbered one or 100 souls. The spiritual abandonment of their Episcopal brothers and sisters of the past, the present and the future, is perhaps the greatest offense for which there is no redress under our tradition...
    If Nigeria had not been waiting in the wings, wooing these congregations away from the diocese of Virginia, this sad debacle might have been avoided. That is speculation, of course. Now we will never know.

    That's but one example of the kind of "interference" being caused by pilfering foreign Primates like Abp. Akinola. One might also mention the case of Don Armstrong, who was able to jump to Nigeria the day before the details of his presentment charges were revealed. This jump was made possible because of the existence of CANA.

    In the NYT article, Bp. Minns continues:

    ..."The reality is that there is a broken relationship between the Episcopal Church and the rest of the communion,” Bishop Minns said.
    No, that is not the reality, and it is quite disheartening to find a bishop making such false statements. There are a handful of Primates (eight out of thirty-eight, I believe), who have announced some form of impaired communion with TEC. Most of these Primates claim that they speak for their people, but that claim is questionable. There has been no change in our relationship with the rest of the Anglican Communion, and none is anticipated in the near future.

    The NYT reporter did at least let our friend Mark Harris get a few words in:

    ...“The archbishop of Nigeria may think the Episcopal Church has acted wrongly, but that is quite different from using that as an excuse to cross boundaries and do things that violate longstanding practice,” said the Rev. Mark Harris, a member of the Executive Council, which governs the Episcopal Church between the conventions it holds every three years...
    Our Presiding Bishop has responded to this planned violation of the boundaries of TEC:

    I have only just become aware of the possible visit by the Primate of Nigeria. Unfortunately, my office has not been directly informed of his pending visit, but we will now pursue extending to him a personal invitation to see him while he is in the United States. I regret that he has apparently accepted an invitation to provide episcopal ministry here without any notice or prior invitation. That is not the ancient practice followed in most of the church catholic, which since the fourth century has expected that bishops minister only within their own churches, except by explicit invitation from another bishop with jurisdiction. This action would only serve to heighten current tensions, and would be regrettable if it does indeed occur.
    EpiScope provides us with the Canons from the first Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in 325 AD which refers to the "ancient practice" mentioned by our Presiding Bishop.


    Friday, April 27, 2007

    Illiberal Winds

    The Rev. Canon Marilyn McCord Adams, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University, has offered an address entitled Leaven in the Lump of Lambeth. Simon Sarmiento, writing in the Church Times, offers a summation. Here's part of it:

    In an address to the annual conference of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement in London on Saturday, she questioned the legitimacy of the Windsor report on a future structure for the Anglican Communion, and accused the Primates of seeking to exercise “dictatorial powers”. She also called for a General Synod debate on the proposal for an Anglican Covenant.

    Reviewing recent Anglican history, she noted: “None of [the] instruments of union or their pronouncements had any legally binding legislative or juridical force.” The Windsor report was nevertheless “written in a tone of presumptive legitimacy”, and set forth “a new authoritarian polity for the Anglican Communion.

    “The Windsor report has not yet been passed or covenanted to by any national Church, and so as yet has no de jure force.” Despite this, it had extended that same principle of presumptive legitimacy to other study documents, for example Issues in Human Sexuality and Lambeth Resolutions — none of which had any legal force, either, she said.

    Now “a clear and present danger arises” from “‘the Windsor process’ that has been accelerating with alarming speed”. She said that the Primates at their meeting in Dar es Salaam had interpreted this new polity so that “the Anglican Communion is to be governed by a collective papacy: an international college of Primates exercising dictatorial powers.
    At the conclusion of this address, Canon Adams spells out what we need to do:

    First and foremost, stick to the Divine Detachment Process: live into Divine good pleasure and be true to yourself.

    Second, create taboo-free zones, safe places outside the Church and (if possible) subcultures within the Church, where we can cheer lead one another and assess one another’s experiments in constructive ways.

    Third, get the covenant issue on the floor of General Synod...One way forward might be a private member’s motion that challenges the nature and purpose of the covenant--one that urges the Church of England not to be party to anything that goes beyond the old Lambeth Quadrilateral.

    Fourth, if Lambeth 2008 occurs and emphasizes small groups, work to set up small group processes in which ‘testimonies’ and ‘stories’ can be exchanged. This might be done either in collaboration with the canon in charge of Anglican communion listening processes, or in satellite sessions that might attract some of the more malleable participants.

    Finally, oppose illiberal polity changes within the Church, wherever and however and by whomever they are suggested, because illiberal coercion--both power-hungry and fearful--is the spirit of this present age!
    Please refer to Canon Adams' complete address to understand the recommended Divine Detachment Process.

    I would add a sixth recommendation, drawn from an article by Elizabeth Zivanov. Let us also honestly evaluate the effectiveness of the leadership of Dr. Rowan Williams, and then ask the difficult question; is it in the best interests of the Communion that he continue as Archbishop of Canterbury?


    Thursday, April 26, 2007

    The Boys of Hall

    On my forty-five minute drive to the Church this morning, I found myself reliving the day that Mike Drew died. Now it is late at night, and I find the story still haunting me. What follows is an attempt to discover some peace, by trying to put this tale into words.

    I left my parents' home at age eleven. After living with various relatives, I struck out on my own at fourteen. The state of Oregon sent me to MacLaren School for Boys at age fifteen. MacLaren was the state reformatory. The decision that I needed to be "reformed" was based on my record of running away from various foster homes, and for usually having a pocket full of drugs when I was finally arrested. I had also stolen a car during one of my escapades.

    MacLaren was located in a rural setting outside of Portland. There were no fences. Instead, there were numerous security guards in cars. To run, one would have to cross miles of open fields. The cars almost always caught up to you before you got too far.

    The living quarters were broken up into about a dozen self-contained cottages. Each one included a dorm, kitchen, shower area and common room. I was originally assigned to Thayer cottage. A number of the residents of Thayer were older and had obviously been there for awhile. Having already spent some time on the street, at first I wasn't too intimidated. Then we had our first locker search. A staff member started to reach into the locker of the young man standing next to me. "Don't touch that watch!" the boy screamed. "That's my watch!" The staff member continued to reach into the locker. "I said get your hands off my watch. I took that off my dad after I shot him! It's mine now!" I was now officially intimidated.

    Within a week, a new policy was adopted at MacLaren. The residents from each county were grouped together by cottage. That meant that I was moved to Hall cottage. It also meant that I now lived with some of my friends from the street.

    There were about forty of us in Hall cottage. There were a few rough characters. There was Mike Cooley, who was known to suddenly punch you, usually before you had any idea what you had said or done to tick him off. And Terry Maggort, one of the scariest psychotics I've ever known. But, for the most part, we were the throw-away kids. Most had little or no family connections. Few of us ever had visitors. Some had been at MacLaren for many years, and when they got out, returned after a few months for doing some stupid thing. For those few, MacLaren had become home; the safe place.

    Life at Hall wasn't really that bad. It wasn't difficult to understand why a boy from a home where he wasn't wanted, and maybe regularly beaten, might find it his preference. We had our bad moments. Of course there were fights, but they were usually broken up by staff before anyone got seriously hurt. Our staff were more of the model of house parents instead of guards. We respected them, and rarely acted out towards them.

    One of the reasons our staff were given so much respect was a little understanding that we had. Tobacco was contraband, as we were all under age. I think all forty of us smoked. All of our tobacco, and our matches, had to be smuggled in. Among the residents, tobacco was our currency; our gold. The shower area; a large, tiled room that also contained the toilets and sinks, was called the flats. The flats had exhaust fans. The "understanding" we had with our staff was that during certain times of the day; early morning, after returning from school or work (I worked in the bakery), and shortly before lights out, they did not enter the flats. That's when we would have our smoke. Since only three boys at a time were allowed in the flats, we were formed into "toking groups". Usually this consisted of at least one boy who had a connection for tobacco, and one large boy who kept us from getting robbed by the other groups.

    Every once in awhile, someone would smuggle in some pot. This was rare, as it was very risky. If you were caught with drugs, you got sent to Benson. Benson was segregation. I was sent there twice; once for a fight, and another time for cussing out a staff member that had ticked me off. Both times I was put in the holding cell; a small room with a padded door that you could throw your body against until you exhausted yourself. After a few hours, I was allowed to return to my cottage. There were some boys who spent weeks or even months in Benson. One of the infractions that could lead to a long stay there was drug possession. Consequently, most of us lived a drug-free life, out of fear of Benson.

    One of our residents who worked in the commissary discovered an interesting amusement. It was a form of drug use for which there was little danger of being busted. It involved inhaling the contents of an aerosol can. I'll not mention what the inhalant was, as this is dangerous stuff. Let it suffice to say that it was a common product that would not raise the suspicions of the staff. The effect was immediate and very powerful. It was very similar to the effect of poppers (amyl nitrate), and had some similarity to lysergic acid dythalamide. The effect wore off within five or ten minutes, which made it ideal for a situation in which you are under close observation. We could go into the flats for ten minutes, and the staff would just think we were having a smoke.

    Although I'd never been a huffer, others had, and so taught us the "safe" way to do it. Since the aerosol was so cold, it would be sprayed into a bread bag first, allowed to warm, and then inhaled. Seemed like harmless fun.

    Mike Drew was the one with the job at the commissary. He would inhale this substance throughout the day at work, and then bring some back to the cottage to share with us. This surprised me, as Mike had always seemed to be one of the more clean-cut kids at MacLaren (if you can be considered "clean-cut" in reform school). Mike had been raised by a Christian family. Since I had also spent many years in a Christian family, we had that in common. Sometimes we would talk about God, church, and even the bible, as long as we knew no one else would overhear us. "God" was not cool in MacLaren.

    Mike also worked the laundry room, which was located in the flats. So, one night, the two boys working the laundry room and the three boys in my toking group are all in the flats getting loaded. Suddenly Mike fell over. We shook him, tried to pick him up, but he was unconscious. He began to turn blue. We ran for staff.

    Most of the residents had gathered around the door of the flats as the emergency crew worked on Mike. After about half an hour, a member of our staff slowly walked out and told us that Mike was dead. He never regained consciousness. The aerosol had frozen his lungs.

    After a few seconds of stunned silence, Maggort shouts out, "Can I have his commissary job?" Cooley punched Maggort. The staff broke those two up, and sent the rest of us to our bunks.

    Over the next few days, the state of Oregon turned our cottage upside down looking for contraband. A staff member now accompanied us into the flats. There was no memorial service that we were allowed to attend. We didn't talk about it much. Actually, we didn't talk much about anything.

    After a couple of days, Alan, my toking partner, broke the silence. He said that he knew that I sometimes read the bible. I was known as the cottage bookworm. The bible was one volume in my small library. He asked if I could read something, and maybe say a prayer for Mike. A couple of the boys overheard this, and asked if they could come too.

    We got permission from the staff to go into the kitchen. The word had spread, and so now there were about a dozen of us. I didn't feel that it was right for me to do this. I certainly didn't consider myself a Christian anymore. But there they were, twelve sets of eyes staring at me, silently waiting. So I read to them from the third chapter of John. I told them about my talks with Mike. I said that I believed he was with God now. And then I said a prayer. I don't remember what was in the prayer. I'm not sure that it mattered.

    One thing I will never forget; there were no tears. Ever. The boys of Hall would never let anyone see themselves that vulnerable. We left the kitchen in silence, each returning to our own bunk. I stared at the ceiling and prayed some more. I like to imagine the other boys did the same.

    Those were the first heart-felt prayers I'd offered to God in a long time. I'd like to say that was the beginning of a rebirth for me. But that's the stuff of fairy tales. The next years were full of more self-destructive behaviors, and included one more term in MacLaren.

    So, this morning, thirty-seven year later, I gave myself permission to grieve the loss of Mike. I cried. And then cried some more for the boys of Hall.

    When I arrived at the church, it was time for the Wednesday morning Eucharist. As I kissed the stole before placing it on my shoulders, I suddenly knew the answer to a question that I've been asked many times over the years, but to which I have never been able to find an honest response. When did I first know that I was called to be a priest? When I looked into the eyes of those twelve boys gathered in the Hall kitchen and saw their hunger for hope.

    Father of all, we pray to you for Michael, and for all those whom we love but see no longer. Grant to them eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them. May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

    Wednesday, April 25, 2007

    More From Bp. Katharine: "Where are the Prophets?"

    From Episcopal Life:

    ..."There is something gravely and sinfully wrong with a world where the division between the rich and poor continues to expand, where some still live in palaces and recline on ivory couches while others starve outside their gates," (Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori) told about 120 parish, diocesan and national church communicators from around the country.

    "In our day, the prophets still speak for a world where the hungry are fed, the ill are healed, where all children are educated and no one is denied the basic necessities of life"...

    ..."Each and everyone sitting here is capable of changing the world. Somewhere, somehow each one of us has the capacity to tame the chaos around us and turn it toward the peace of shalom. So where are the prophets? Who's going to speak those words? Who's going to do that work?

    "What you or I do in this moment can bring hope or wholeness somewhere," she said. "The language or images we use can inspire or move others to be change agents themselves ... to move people to a different place. Your ability to tell stories like these can inspire others to change the world"...

    ...While thanking communicators for their ministry within the church, she added that their task is to "challenge the injustices and death-dealing realities around us and to inspire and encourage others to build toward God's dream of shalom of life abundant, not only for ourselves but for every creature in the cosmos.

    "Prophets have two tasks, to critique what's unjust and to offer strength and comfort to the despairing," she said...
    There is also this quote that I hope every one of us hears loud and clear:

    ..."The communion is not monochromatic and that is often what you see in the secular media, as if the whole church of Uganda and Tanzania are ready to throw us to the wolves at the same time.

    "I'd like for every Episcopalian to know more about the kinds of mission work going on around this church, what people are learning about the church in Tanzania, Haiti, Taiwan, South Korea, China. We can learn from those experiences. The church in Cuba has something to teach us about thriving on minimal resources and where at times the government seems oppressive. We can only learn from hearing those stories."

    She added that "the vast majority of Episcopal churches are healthy and engaged in mission. All the stories we hear about disgruntled churches represent one-half of one percent of the congregations in the church. That's still an eye-opener for many people. They believe what they read in the secular media and they think it's more like 40 percent or like we're splitting down the middle. Talk about the health and vitality of this church. It's an incredible blessing to have my job and get to go around and see that people are doing transforming ministry"...
    Change the world in the name of Christ; critique what's unjust and offer strength and comfort to the despairing; engage in transforming ministry. This is what we are called to do. Let's get on with it.


    PB: "Church Will Not Move Backward"

    From the Boston Globe:

    Saying "I don't believe that there is any will in this church to move backward," the top official of the Episcopal Church USA said yesterday that the election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire has been "a great blessing" despite triggering intense controversy and talk of possible schism.

    In an interview during a visit to Boston, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori compared the gay rights struggle to battles over slavery and women's rights, and said she believes that it has become a vocation for the Episcopal Church "to keep questions of human sexuality in conversation, and before not just the rest of our own church, but the rest of the world"...

    ..."Where the protesters are, in some parts of Africa or in other parts of the Anglican Communion today, is where this church and this society we live in was 50 years ago, and for us to assume that people can move that distance in a year or in a relatively instantaneous manner is perhaps faithless," she said. "That kind of movement and development has taken us a good deal of pain and energy over 40 or 50 years, and I think we have to make some space so that others can make that journey as well"...
    We will not go backward, but we will "make some space." These seem to be conflicting statements to me. In light of the demands from the Primates, the only way to "make some space" that will satisfy them (or at least the two or three Primates that seem to have intimidated the rest of that body) is for us to take a few steps backward.

    My concern is that this sounds like more of the "fast for a season" language. As has been expressed previously, the concept is nice, but the reality is that such a fast will require a sacrifice from only one segment of our membership, effectively creating a second class citizen category within the Kingdom of God.

    On a more postive note, I find it helpful to identify part of the vocation of TEC as keeping questions of human sexuality before the world. To do otherwise, at this point, would be to deny our calling.


    UPDATE: A video presenting the complete interview, which places Bishop Katharine's comments in context, can be found here.

    Monday, April 23, 2007

    Davis Mac-Iyalla is Coming to the U.S.

    Davis Mac-Iyalla, director of Changing Attitude-Nigeria, will begin a speaking tour in the U.S. beginning May 16. This tour is being coordinated by Josh Thomas.

    You may recall the story of Changing Attitude-Nigeria. We have previously discussed this group here and here. Josh offers us a good summary of events here.

    The Church of Nigeria has been trying to silence Davis Mac-Iyalla for a few years. They launched a smear campaign against him in 2005. When those accusations were refuted, the Church of Nigeria then threw their support behind legislation that would make belonging to organizations like Changing Attitude a criminal offense resulting in five years in prison. Since then Davis has had his life threatened.

    Josh is seeking speaking invitations for Davis from churches, seminaries, media and community groups interested in LGBT human rights in West Africa. E-mail him here.

    You can make a donation towards the Davis Mac-Iyalla U.S. Lecture Tour here.


    UPDATE: Christopher will be hosting Davis when he arrives in the Bay area. And, he points us to buttons to show our support for Changing Attitude-Nigeria.

    Sunday, April 22, 2007

    Candidates for Canadian Primate Announced

    From the Anglican Church of Canada:

    Canadian Anglican bishops have nominated four from among their number to be candidates in the election of a successor to Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

    Archbishop Hutchison, who was elected 12th Primate in 2004, has announced that he will retire after the Anglican General Synod in June. The synod, the Anglican church’s chief governing body, will chose the next primate on June 22 in Winnipeg.

    The procedure to elect a Primate, or national leader, is that bishops nominate no more than five candidates at their last meeting before a General Synod. The bishops, however, do not vote in the actual election. Primates are elected by clergy and lay members of the synod.

    Bishops nominated for the election of the 13th Primate are:

  • Bishop George Bruce of the diocese of Ontario
  • Bishop Fred Hiltz of the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island
  • Bishop Bruce Howe of the diocese of Huron
  • Bishop Victoria Matthews of the diocese of Edmonton...
  • Most Episcopalians are embarrassingly ignorant of what goes on among our neighbors and most staunch allies to the north. In light of that, I contacted someone who left a comment here recently who I thought might be able to assist us by offering some background regarding these candidates. He is an Episcopal priest serving and studying for a Th.D. in Canada. He writes the following under the pseudonym "Trinity Matthew":

    Election for Primate of All Canada

    The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada have recently released their nominees for the 13th Primate of Canada. The election is to be held on June 22, 2007 during the triennial General Synod due to the retirement of Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, who has served since 2004. The nominees are: George Bruce, Diocese of Ontario; Fred Hiltz, Diocese of Nova Scotia & Prince Edward Island; Bruce Howe, Diocese of Huron; and Victoria Matthews, Diocese of Edmonton. Both Hiltz and Matthews were expected to be top contenders for the position in 2004. Matthews withdrew due to her breast cancer diagnosis, and Hiltz declined the nomination. While each candidate will have support, Matthews is perceived to be the odds on favorite and most of the interest and speculation will likely center around her.

    Victoria Matthews is the first woman bishop in Canada, elected suffragan in Toronto in 1994, and diocesan in Edmonton in 1997. She is perceived to be a skillful theologian and is doctrinally orthodox when it comes to a matter such as the divinity of Christ. Notably, she was chair of the Primate’s Theological Commission which wrote the St. Michael’s Report on the issue of same-sex blessings. In essence, that report deemed same-sex blessings related closely enough to marriage to be considered “doctrine” but not “core doctrine,” i.e., not pertaining to the theological truths expressed in the Nicene Creed. (Remember that the Walter Righter trial court also made a distinction about “core doctrine” in the U.S., deeming that Righter did not violate core doctrine by ordaining a gay man). The St. Michael’s Report also determined that while very important, the issue of same-sex blessings should not be church or communion-dividing. Rather, regardless of decisions made on one branch of the Anglican family tree, limbs should not be broken or cut off. It remains to be seen how Bp. Matthews would handle the issue of same-sex blessings should the General Synod vote to allow them on a diocese by diocese basis this summer. She holds her cards very close to her chest. My best guess is that she is enough of a “churchwoman” (not a term we use generally, but it seems apt here) that she will express support for what the Canadian church decides, while diligently striving to maintain Canada’s place in the Anglican Communion.

    Bp. Matthews is a past patron of Affirming Catholicism; although, I suspect she would be hesitant to line up 100% behind the fully inclusive view that Affirming Catholicism generally takes. When Rowan Williams recently spoke in Toronto and received honorary doctorates from Trinity and Wycliffe Colleges, Matthews was deemed the best person to represent both colleges (Trinity being high church and generally liberal, Wycliffe low church and conservative) and read a joint citation, saying that Williams is exactly the leader that the Anglican Communion needs at this time. Matthews is on record as being enthusiastic about Katharine Jefferts Schori’s election as Presiding Bishop, and has said that women’s ordination to all orders of ministry must be accepted as normative and consistent with the Anglican tradition.

    Of the other candidates, Fred Hiltz would be deemed the most liberal choice and many will rally around him, in part because he is not from Ontario and because he will be seen to stand in the tradition of the last three Primates who have been progressive: Ted Scott, Michael Peers, Andrew Hutchison. That said, Hiltz would not be considered the most liberal diocesan bishop in Canada by any means. Michael Ingham, New Westminster; Ralph Spence, Niagara; Colin Johnson, Toronto; Bruce Stavert, Quebec, are all probably more liberal. I suspect, though I don’t know for certain, that Hiltz would be sympathetic to efforts to approve same-sex blessings, at least on a diocese by diocese basis. He disappointed many when he declined to stand for the primatial election in 2004, largely due to family concerns. These concerns resolved and progress in his diocese allow him to be nominated this year. With Matthews, Hiltz would have been a strong favorite in 2004. The same is true today. I suspect that ultimately it will be a contest between Hiltz and Matthews. Both are the same age at 53 and could serve until 70, making for long primacies of up to17 years.

    Bruce Howe of Huron, Canada’s second largest diocese, is perceived to be fairly moderate and likely will stand where the church stands. George Bruce of Ontario, having a strong military background, is most reliably conservative of the nominees and has been critical of the Diocese of New Westminter’s move to allow same-sex blessings. Even they, however, would not be as conservative as many bishops in the United States, and by no means are they the most conservative in Canada. For example, both regularly ordain women and neither have called for a parallel conservative province in Canada. From my vantage point Howe and Bruce seem to have less name recognition than Matthews and Hiltz, and appear unlikely to be elected. But as we know from the Presiding Bishop election in the U.S. in 2006, surprising and even unlikely things can happen.

    The electoral process for Primate of Canada is the exact opposite of the process in the U.S. The candidates are nominated by the House of Bishops, without the consultation of the clergy and laity. Nominees require unanimous support of the House. The election, however, is held by the clergy and laity only at General Synod, requiring a majority in both orders on the same ballot. The bishops are not and may not be present. Therefore, they will not know how the voting goes until the result is announced. The Synod, however, may ask the bishops to send more nominees if it cannot elect one from the slate, or if more choices are desired. (This happened in 2004. However, the Synod eventually chose Archbishop Andrew Hutchison of Montreal, who had been on the original slate).

    The Primate-elect, upon accepting the election, is required to immediately resign his or her See. It is my understanding that Matthews had hoped that the canons could be suspended to allow her to maintain her position as ordinary of Edmonton if elected, in similar fashion to the British primates. The House of Bishops defeated that request. The new Primate will be invested at the conclusion of the Synod, not several months later, as is the practice in the U.S. and elsewhere.

    I write this as an American Episcopal priest serving and studying for a Th.D. in Canada. So, I am something of a very interested, although outside, observer. This will be an interesting election on many fronts. As a liberal, Hiltz would be my first choice; however, I would think that many liberals would be willing, ultimately, to compromise and vote for Matthews if Hiltz doesn’t carry enough votes. Many moderates and conservatives will stand with Matthews from the start. If the center holds, I would predict that Matthews would be elected. But anything could happen....

    Trinity Matthew


    Saturday, April 21, 2007

    Good News From Connecticut

    There has been a tense situation existing in the Diocese of Connecticut for the last couple of years. To summarize this dispute, six priests (sometimes referred to as "the Connecticut Six") refused to acknowledge the authority of their diocesan bishop. This led to an unfortunate confrontation which included, among other things, Bishop Smith, accompanied by a diocesan team, showing up at St. John's, Bristol and taking charge of that congregation.

    Following that confrontation, ecclesiastical charges were filed against Bp. Smith. The parishes whose rectors and vestry members filed the charges were Bishop Seabury Church, Groton; Trinity Church, Bristol; St. Paul’s, Darien; Christ & the Epiphany, East Haven; Christ Church, Watertown and some of the former vestry members of St. John’s, Bristol.

    Earlier this month, the Episcopal Church Review Committee decided to drop all charges against Bp. Smith.

    But that is not the good news that I wish to highlight. Yesterday, Bp. Smith sent this letter to the clergy of the diocese. Here's the segment worth noting:

    I am writing to you in advance of your receiving an invitation to the Ordination to the Priesthood of the Rev. Bill Hesse, in Bishop Seabury Church, Groton, on Saturday, May 12, by the Rt. Rev. Henry Scriven, who will be acting for the Bishop of Pittsburgh.

    First, I want you to know that the ordination will be celebrated with my permission. As I have in two other recent Connecticut ordinations by a visiting bishop, I intend to participate and will share in the ordaining.

    Also, on Trinity Sunday, June 3, I will make a canonical Episcopal Visitation in Bishop Seabury Church. I will preside and preach as Bishop of the Diocese at the regular services of the parish that morning...
    Note that Bishop Seabury Church was one of the six congregations that filed charges against Bp. Smith.

    Bp. Scriven, acting for Bp. Duncan of Pittsburgh, will ordain Deacon Hesse. Bp. Smith will be present, and will participate, but not preside.

    A way was found to work through the differences between this congregation and their bishop. It required no decree from the Primates, intevention from Canterbury, directive from the Presiding Bishop or resolution from General Convention. It is not given any fancy name like AlPO, DEPO, or Primatial Vicar. No doubt that neither the congregation nor the bishop are completely happy with this arrangement, but it appears they can live with it. This is good news indeed!

    This is also yet another example of why some of us are so strongly opposed to foreign bishops claiming Episcopal congregations. There has never been a time in the history of TEC when there were not a few congregations in some kind of dispute with their bishop. In such disputes, the goal has always been reconciliation. Sometimes, as in this case of Bishop Seabury Church, such reconciliation may take many years, and require creative solutions. But if there is a foreign bishop standing in the wings wooing the congregation away from TEC, such reconciliation may never get a chance to happen.

    Give thanks to God for this graceful reconciliation. And continue to pray for the Church.


    Friday, April 20, 2007

    Don't be Discouraged

    Four years ago I used to haunt the Anglican forums over on Beliefnet. I still drop in once in awhile, but rarely post. Check them out. There's some good folks over there.

    After a few months, having managed to offend just about everyone over there at one time or another, I came to realize that that particular medium was probably not the best choice for a person of my temperment. That realization, coupled with Bnet deciding to move some of my posts, caused me to seek other avenues of expression. Thus, Jake's place emerged.

    A few of the old BNet gang still drop in here once in awhile (hey Dan, Karen and Joe!). Demi and I developed a friendship with a Lutheran who was a reg at Bnet. That friendship has continued, primarily through exchanged emails, over the years. She now has a blog. I felt many of you might appreciate her latest post. So, without further ado, here is a note of encouragement for all Episcopalians from Mata H:

    ...I have a friend whom I have known since we were both 16, who is a gay man, now 57. He is a brilliant professor and writer. We were chatting on the phone the other day and generally blathering on (as we do) about the condition of the world in general and America in specific. Out of the blue (because we have never discussed it) he said, "I really love the Episcopalians!"

    Now my friend is a VERY, VERY lapsed Catholic, so to hear that he loves any religious group is shocking, and even more so a group that is in agonized upheaval and potential schism over a variety of issues related to GLBT inclusion. But my friend is not IN the church, so what he sees is as a gay man outside the church.

    And he is delighted. Why?

    "Because look at all those straight people putting -- of all things -- their church on the line in support of our right to a full life. Church people, straight people, standing up for us for the first time! It is wonderful, so hopeful!"

    He didn't see any snarkiness, and machinations, or feel pain. He saw a corner of the events. But what he saw, what he took into his soul -- was the fact that many straight people who proclaim a faith in God, stood up for him. They put something dear at risk for him.

    He's lived a whole life where he has not seen that before.

    Sure, there is more to see -- and sure, there is pain -- but those are the easy things to see when one follows this story. Sometimes hope is the hardest thing to see, but my friend saw it -- and if he saw it, others saw it.

    Do not be discouraged, those of you in the Episcopalian or other churches who care about inclusion. Do not fear. Know that as you speak the words of inclusion, people you do not know, people who thirst for the gospel, people who have never seen courage like this -- well, those people are listening, and they are thankful. Those people are gay and straight, rich and poor, urban and rural -- they are the people outside your doors whose hearts will be touched progressively more deeply as your doors open progressively more widely.
    Thanks, Mata.

    Oh, btw, you're now nominated for the Blogger's Choice Award!


    Thursday, April 19, 2007

    Blogger's Choice

    Sometimes I think that we get a little too serious here at Jake's place. It's time to have some fun.

    Dennis alerted us to the ongoing voting for the Blogger's Choice Awards and encouraged us to go vote for the Mad Priest.

    I went on over there, voted for MP in the Best Religion Blog category, and then took a look around. I noticed that of the top nine blogs in that category, there are eight Catholics and one atheist. I found no Episcopalians anywhere. This simply will not do.

    Looking around a little more, I discovered that you can nominate as many blogs as you want, and you can also vote for as many as you want. So I nominated a couple; Susan Russell of An Inch at a Time and Richard of Caught by the Light. When I notified Richard, he responded by nominating Jake's place.

    So, now there's four opportunities for you to make that front runner's page a little more balanced (or at least a little more Anglican).

    First, you need to go register so you can vote. Don't worry about registering. I checked it out; you can make stuff up. So be Ziggy Stardust from Peoria if you want. You will need an active email addy, though. When you're done activating your account, make sure you come back here, as I'll guide you to the specific pages, saving you the headache of scrolling through two dozen of them.

    Mad Priest runs one of the most innovative blogs to be found in the blogosphere. Not only does he offer commentary and cutting-edge humor, but also a nice mix of music. He explores the outer boundaries of what a blog can do, and in the process has gathered together a tightly knit community. Besides all of that, he was nominated first, and so already has a good lead towards bumping some of those Catholics off the front page. Vote for the Priest who is Mad here.

    Susan Russell is the Senior Associate at All Saints Church, Pasadena, president of Integrity USA, convener of "Claiming the Blessing" and a member of the HRC Religion Council. Her blog is a great source for the latest news of what's going on in TEC, as well as some excellent sermons. Susan offered me support during the time that my father was ill. I am honored to call her my friend. Vote for Susan here.

    Richard's blog is fairly new to my reading list. I started paying closer attention to his writing when he was reporting on a seminar that he was attending at CDSP. He writes with intelligence and chooses his words carefully. Most importantly, I sense the heart of a pastor. His blog is one to watch. Vote for Richard here.

    And while you're at it, you might as well vote for Jake's place here.

    Have some fun with this. Nominate someone, or even yourself. Leave a few comments. Check out some of the blogs. There's some good reads listed. For instance, I stumbled across this post that had me almost rolling out of my chair.


    UPDATE: Padre Mickey has been nominated! Vote for him here.

    Debut of The Episcopal Cafe

    Most of you have probably heard Jim Naughton mention that "something new" was in the works for the Daily Episcopalian. That "something new" is now a reality; the Diocese of Washington has launched The Episcopal Cafe.

    Take a look at the familiar names listed as contributors.

    The Daily Episcopalian will still be around, but the "something new" includes the addition of Speaking to the Soul and an Art Blog.

    Something for everyone, all in one place. Great work, Washington.

    Make sure you change your bookmarks.


    Wednesday, April 18, 2007

    From This Week's Mailbag

    This week's church mail included a lovely postcard from San Jose. On the front was a portrait of Father Junipero Serra. Having grown up in California, I was familiar with Fr. Serra, as he is credited with establishing many of the missions along the El Camino Real (the King's highway). We learned about him in grade school.

    Here is the message I found on the other side:

    Dear "Reverend" XXXXXX,

    It appears that the American Episcopal Church is dwindling into EXTINCTION. Geez, that's too bad. But the homosexuals will rejoice in your demise, ironically. Our Catholic Church, by contrast, is eagerly welcoming former Episcopalians. Cheers!

    - J. Serra
    My treasurer, who had collected the mail, was quite nervous about presenting me with this bit of correspondence. My response was to chuckle and say, "Please file this under 'N'...for 'Nuts.'"

    No doubt this is a response to that NYT piece of a couple of weeks ago. If I recall, the San Jose paper picked up the story.

    It is cause for one to wonder about what would motivate someone, who claims to be a Christian, to send such a message. Am I supposed to be cut to the quick now? Burst into tears? Load up my shotgun and go homophobic Catholic hunting? Repent and convert to Rome? What did this person think they would accomplish?

    This is pretty tame when compared to some of the more demented mail others receive. Mike points us to this classic from the best of homophobic mail. I particularly enjoyed this bit:

    ...My wife is not a lesbian and neither is my son. I've never had sex with a man and neither has my wife. I hope that your campaigning for homosexuals is due to your being unknoweable rather than you thinking the things they do are just `sexual preferance.' Keep your sexual perversions to yourself and I'll keep my sexual perversions to myself...
    You just can't make this stuff up.

    Keep the mail coming. I can use the occasional chuckle.


    Executive Council Offers Draft Covenant Study Guide

    The International Concerns Standing Committee of the Executive Council has prepared a study guide to assist the members of the Episcopal Church in responding to the Anglican Covenant Draft prepared by the Covenant Design Group. For more background on this draft covenant, you may want to review the recent presentation made to our House of Bishops by the Rev. Katherine Grieb, a member of the Covenant Design Group. We have also previously discussed the Draft Covenant from the perspectives of two authors; Frederick Quinn and Lionel Deimel.

    The announcement of this study guide provides us with some important information regarding the Covenant process:

    ...The Covenant Design Group, appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in response to a request of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates' Meeting and of the Anglican Consultative Council, held its first meeting in Nassau, the Bahamas, in mid-January and wrote a report and the draft text of a proposed covenant.

    The Primates of the Anglican Communion, meeting in February near Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, received and discussed the report and the draft. They then released the report and draft to the entire Communion, asking for comment from of the Communion's 38 provinces by January 1, 2008.

    Based on those responses, it is expected that a revised version of the covenant will be presented to the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops, to be followed by a final text that would be proposed to the 2009 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). If the ACC adopts the text, it would offer it to the provinces for adoption or rejection...
    This study guide should not be confused with a similar one being developed by the House of Bishops:

    ...The covenant study guide is not the only such tool members of the Episcopal Church can expect to receive in the coming months. At their March meeting in Texas, the House of Bishops asked its Theology Committee to develop a teaching guide for consideration of both the Primates' Communiqué and the proposed draft covenant. The bishops anticipate this guide, which will focus on the Communiqué, will be available by late May for use by bishops and dioceses in preparation for the September meeting of the House of Bishops...
    The Executive Council intends to prepare a response to the Draft Covenant at their October meeting. All Episcopalians are encouraged to submit their responses to this Draft Covenant to the Executive Council. These responses will assist and inform the Executive Council in their task of developing a response that will be representative of the Episcopal Church as a whole.

    Deadline for responses is June 4, 2007. Send your responses to:

    Response to Draft Anglican Covenant
    The Office of the General Convention
    The Episcopal Church Center
    815 Second Ave, New York, NY 10017
    FAX: (212) 972-9322

    Or respond by e-mail to


    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    Canterbury to Meet with Bishops

    Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, has accepted the invitation to meet with the House of Bishops of TEC. He will attend the scheduled Fall meeting of the HoB in New Orleans which commences on September 20. Accompanying him will be members of the Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council.

    Speaking at a news conference in Toronto, Dr. Williams offered these thoughts:

    ...He said he also hoped to understand, from the meeting, the problems the primates’ request is causing for the American church, under its constitution. “I’m still waiting to see what the Episcopal Church will come up with as an alternative. The reaction was a very strongly worded protest against what they see as interference, but if not that, then what? I’ve spoken privately to people in the United States and am waiting to see,” he said...

    ...As leader of churches affiliated with the Church of England, Archbishop Williams said that his aim “is to try and keep people around the table as long as possible, to understand one another and to encourage local churches on this side of the Atlantic and elsewhere to ask what they might need to do to keep in that conversation, to keep around the table”...

    ...It’s not, he said, “just about nice people who want to include gay and lesbian Christians and nasty people who don’t. It is a question on which there is real principled disagreement. What are the forms of behaviour the church has the freedom to bless, and be faithful to Scripture, tradition and reason? That is the question that is tearing us apart at the moment because there are real differences of conviction.”

    A split in the Anglican Communion would be terrible, he said. “I believe passionately that we need each other in the Anglican Communion. A communion divided into a liberal segment and a conservative segment would be very, very much impoverished on both sides and to the degree that it would isolate the churches of the developed world from some of the more vulnerable churches of the global south,” he said...
    This will be considered by some as a positive development. Personally, I think such a visit will make little difference. Dr. Williams decided not to be present for General Convention 2006. He then chose to not be present for the installation of our Presiding Bishop. It took a plea from our HoB and much publicity in the press to get him to agree to meet with the bishops of TEC. I think it is safe to speculate that there is a high probability that he is making this visit under duress.

    Note that there is no mention of meeting with the Executive Council. This will be yet another "bishops only" event. Also note that he is bringing with him a delegation representing the Primates. The message is clear. He will visit, have polite conversations with the Americans, but any conclusive decisions will come from the Primates. The meeting, scheduled for ten days before the imposed deadline set by the Primates' Communique, will change nothing.

    During his visit to the Anglican Church of Canada, Dr. Williams also delivered the Larkin Stuart lecture, hosted by Wycliffe and Trinity theological colleges in Toronto. He spoke about listening properly to the bible. It is an excellent lecture, and worth taking the time to read. Here is a segment that leaped out at me:

    ...But to read Scripture in the context of the Eucharist -- which has been from the beginning of the Church the primary place for it -- is to say that the Word of God that acts in the Bible is a Word directed towards those changes that bring about the Eucharistic community. The summons to the reader/hearer is to involvement in the Body of Christ, the agent of the Kingdom, as we have seen; and that Body is what is constituted and maintained by the breaking of bread and all that this means. For Paul, exploring it in I Corinthians, the celebration of the Lord's Supper is strictly bound up with the central character of the community: what is shown in the Eucharist is a community of interdependence and penitent self-awareness, discovering the dangers of partisan self-assertion or uncritical reproduction of the relations of power and status that prevail in the society around. So if Scripture is to be heard as summons or invitation before all else, this is what it is a summons to. And the reading and understanding of the text must be pursued in this light. We ask what change is envisaged or required in the 'time' of any passage of Scripture; and now we can add that whatever change that is in particular, it must make sense in the context of the formation of this kind of community -- the Eucharistic Body.

    Take Scripture out of this context of the invitation to sit at table with Jesus and to be incorporated into his labour and suffering for the Kingdom, and you will be treating Scripture as either simply an inspired supernatural guide for individual conduct or a piece of detached historical record -- the typical exaggerations of Biblicist and liberal approaches respectively. For the former, the work of the Spirit is more or less restricted to the transformation of the particular believer; for the latter, the life of the community is where the Spirit is primarily to be heard and discerned, with Scripture an illuminating adjunct at certain points. But grasp Scripture as part of the form taken by the divine act of invitation that summons and establishes the community around the Lord's Table, and the Bible becomes coherent at a new level, as a text whose meaning is most centrally to do with the passage from rivalry and self-assertion and the enmity with God that is bound up with these to the community in which each, by the influx of the Spirit, takes responsibility for all, and all for each. The context of the Eucharist, in which everyone present is there simply because they are guests by the free generosity of the host, obliges a reading of Scripture in which what is decisive is always this shared dependence on God's initiative of welcome which removes pride and fear...
    Scripture as an invitation which establishes the community and shapes its character. I like that.


    UPDATE: Bill Carroll has responded to Dr. Williams' lecture.

    Monday, April 16, 2007

    Pray for Those Who Mourn

    Tragedy has struck Virginia Polytechnic and State University.

    Let us pray:

    Almighty God, Father of mercies and giver of comfort: Deal
    graciously, we pray, with all who mourn; that, casting all
    their care on you, they may know the consolation of your
    love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


    Sunday, April 15, 2007

    Half a Dozen Signs of Weirdness

    From St. Pat:

    Six Weird Things Meme

    According to the rules I must:
    1. Reveal six weird things about yourself on your blog, and
    2. Tag six people to do the same.
    Limiting it to only six signs of weirdness might be difficult, so I'll add a qualifier; six benign signs of weirdness:

    1. I rain coins. The floor of my bedroom, office, laundry room and car is usually littered with change. Coins fall from me in public so often that I no longer stop to pick them up.

    2. I don't allow anyone else to touch my clothes. I wash and iron them myself. This started while in the Navy, when the right creases mattered. It's now become a personal idiosyncrasy. I also don't like wearing clothes that have been worn by someone else, even if they have been laundered.

    3. I don't like locked doors. They cause me to feel very uncomfortable. I would rather be regularly robbed than use locks.

    4. My favorite time of day is from midnight until 4 am. There's something soothing about knowing the rest of the world is asleep. Demi claims it is more evidence that I'm part vampire. Could be.

    5. I enjoy observing animals, domesticated and wild. They usually tell me more about what is really going on beyond our human dramas than any other sign. Small children are also good sign-bearers.

    6. I have difficulty keeping track of time. Consequently, I have to keep lots of clocks around. There are five in my bedroom. The most difficult time is dawn or dusk, as sometimes I have no idea if it is 6:00 am or pm.

    Now, let's hear from james, Leonardo, fs, Guidonia, C.B. and Karen+. If you don't have a blog on which to reveal your weirdness, feel free to use the comment feature here. Anyone else willing to voluntarily engage in a bit of self-revelation is also invited to participate.

    We are waiting...


    The White Car

    Saturday, April 14, 2007

    ACI Dissolves Relationship with Grace Church

    Due to the presentment against The Rev. Donald Armstrong, rector of Grace and St. Stephen's Church in Colorado Springs, the Anglican Communion Institute has moved to distance themselves from this situation:

    ...In consequence of the legal and ecclesiastical struggles Grace Church and Fr Armstrong are now engaged with, we judge it proper to dissolve our relationship with the web-site and all activities of Grace Church (CANA or TEC), so that the charges of the Presentment and other matters of public trust and ecclesial jurisdiction might be resolved without interference.

    We will continue to work on matters related to the Anglican Communion in the same way as previously.

    Christopher Seitz, President
    Philip Turner, Vice-President
    Ephraim Radner, Senior Fellow
    In case you have not heard of the ACI, it is one of the think tanks used by the Network. Apparently, the Network, and specifically Bp. Duncan, had to do a bit of wooing to get these "six guys with a website" on board, but, judging from the short list of links on the front page of the ACI website, the Network was successful.

    It appears that Grace Church considered the ACI one of their ministries. Consider this bit of interesting information from Timothy Fuller, a former Vestry member of Grace and a board member of the ACI:

    ...In October 2006, according to Fuller, Armstrong told the vestry that the ACI had borrowed about $170,000 from Grace over several years, and the vestry resolved the Institute would pay it back in $10,000 yearly installments, beginning this year.The vestry meeting was the first time Fuller had heard of the $170,000 the ACI allegedly borrowed. He resigned from the Institute’s board two months later...
    Nineteen former vestry members of Grace Church have now spoken up about their very serious concerns regarding some of these charges against Don Armstrong.

    Adding to the confusion is the existence of the Anglican Institute, which Armstrong also claims is a ministry of Grace. Although it has been reported that the AI merged with the ACI in 2004, Christopher Seitz, President of the ACI, emphatically states that the AI and ACI are unrelated.

    Don Armstrong was to speak about the charges against him today. I have yet to see any report of his statement.

    One of the saddest things about this whole mess is how it is perceived by those from the outside looking in. Consider this recent editorial that appeared in the Colorado Springs Independent:

    ...Imagine having your own church hijacked, supposedly for "theological" reasons but also amid a growing scandal over alleged misuse (or, at least, unexplained spending) of money, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    And people wonder why churches aren't as large or influential as they once were. Especially when a congregation as established and deep-rooted as Grace's can split in such a deplorable manner — with the "breakaway" group seizing control of the church complex and embracing a Nigerian archbishop who believes homosexuals and their supporters should be imprisoned.

    Let's be more specific. Archbishop Peter Akinola supports the idea of Nigeria's government making same-sex relationships criminal. He also favors Nigeria outlawing positive publicity for homosexuals "through the electronic or print media, physically, directly, indirectly or otherwise," meaning up to five years in prison for the Independent staff or any media giving favorable coverage to, say, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance or Southern Colorado AIDS Project.

    That's beyond religious bigotry. It's fanaticism. And it's scary for one of Colorado Springs' most historic churches to be so fractured — with so many embracing another group of Anglicans with such outrageous stances...
    As you may recall, Don Armstrong jumped to Nigeria the day before the official charges against him were revealed. He now claims to be under the authority of Bp. Minns of CANA. How Bp. Minns responds to this situation will be interesting to watch, as Mark Harris points out:

    ...There is serious question as to the timing of Fr. Armstrong's announcement of leaving TEC for CANA, mostly having to do with the feeling that this was an effort to sidestep the charges being brought by the Diocese of Colorado.

    But if those charges are valid, they are valid in either church jurisdiction, assuming that financial malfeasance constitutes conduct unbecoming a clergyperson in both The Episcopal Church and the Church of Nigeria. If for some reason Fr. Armstrong believes those charges disappear by going to CANA, then that is saying something rather damning about his understanding of CANA as an ecclesial entity.

    Bishop Minns is standing by Fr. Armstrong (as it appears from the visits he is making to the Parish), but he must also stand ready at some point to accept the possibility that the charges against Fr. Armstrong are true. In that case Bishop Minns might have to make an Episcopal decision that may run contrary to his friendship with Fr. Armstrong...
    It's an ugly mess. My advice to clergy who find themselves in the midst of a potential scandal, guilty or not guilty, is to walk away. Don't drag your church through the mud. That is what is best for the people. Quietly step aside, and if you are not guilty, your name will be cleared, and the history that will be written will note that you did the honorable thing.


    UPDATE: Dylan raises some good questions regarding President Seitz's denial that the Anglican Communion Institute and the Anglican Institute are related. For instance, take a look at this current page of the ACI site. Scroll down to the footer. Oops!

    FURTHER UPDATE: Here is an early report of today's meeting at Grace Church. Note the not-so-subtle threat near the end. Guilty or not, this is truly poor behavior.

    Friday, April 13, 2007

    Lionel Deimel: "The Covenant We Do Need"

    We spent some time yesterday talking about what is wrong with the proposed Anglican Covenant Draft. For further reading as to why some consider this an extremely flawed document, you may want to review the Rev. Katherine Grieb's recent presentation to the House of Bishops.

    Articulating what we are against may be an important first step. But it seems to me that if we are to be about the work of God's re-creation, we need to also express what we are for. I believe Lionel Deimel offers some ideas that may help begin such a conversation in this essay. Here is part of it:

    ...The foregoing considerations have caused me to change my mind about the need for an Anglican covenant. I now do believe that a covenant is needed. The covenant we need before we begin examining theological differences among provinces, however, is one that specifies clearly the fundamental privileges and obligations of Communion membership. Each province of the Communion should ratify this covenant before any future business not directly related to mission is conducted by the Communion. Among the basic principles that a covenant should establish are the following:

    1. That the Archbishop of Canterbury cannot discriminate in his invitations to the Lambeth Conference. All bishops of a particular kind must be invited or not.

    2. That no primate may be excluded from the Primates’ Meeting.

    3. That diocesan boundaries are inviolable.

    4. That jurisdictions should not overlap.

    5. That breaking communion with one province breaks communion with all.

    6. That Communion-wide rules govern the transfer of ordained persons from a jurisdiction in one province to a jurisdiction in another.

    Well, you get the idea. No doubt, there will have to be rules for which specified penalties apply if they are broken. (This takes us to a potentially slippery slope if we wish to avoid building a cumbersome judicial mechanism for the Communion. I don’t claim to have all the answers here.) Personally, I would like to see the Primates’ Meeting abolished and more responsibility given to the ACC, which should meet more often. No doubt, it has been argued that it is too expensive for the larger ACC to meet more frequently, but I suspect that this is not the case, since the ordinary clergy and laypeople who make up the ACC will likely accept not flying to meetings first-class.

    Oh, I should mention one other essential rule for a covenant. No bishop, priest, or deacon should be allowed to transfer between jurisdictions to avoid ecclesiastical discipline.
    Early in this piece, Lionel makes reference to Bp. Cox, who recently left TEC when he found himself facing presentment. I think an even more timely example of this manuever is the example of Donald Armstrong, who recently left TEC for Nigeria after also facing presentment regarding financial irregularities. Don Armstrong is the Executive Director of the Anglican Communion Institute, which has been, since it's inception, promoters of the Network. Jim points us to new information being revealed regarding the specifics of these rather unusual financial transactions. Armstrong is supposed to defend himself against these charges this Saturday. I'm curious as to how he will explain his parish's "loan" to the ACI of $170,000, which it appears the Institute never received.

    I appreciate Lionel's efforts to identify what kind of Covenant we do need; one that will clarify the "privileges and obligations of Communion membership". But I find myself quite uncomfortable with even such a minimal codification of the "bonds of affection" within the Communion.

    Is there a form of "Covenant" that TEC could support? Or is the previously suggested set of issue-oriented essays proposed by Frederick Quinn sufficient?


    Thursday, April 12, 2007

    Reject Anglican Covenant Draft

    The Covenant Draft can be found here.

    The Rev. Frederick Quinn has presented some good reasons for rejecting this draft proposal in the current issue of Episcopal Life. Here's part of it:

    Like its predecessors, the Tanzanian covenant of February 19, 2007, is a fatally flawed document, long, dull and tediously obvious, except for its invidious final provisions, which change the character of the historic Anglican deliberative process and turn the Primates into a judicial body. The Covenant Design Group, in Trollopian language, says the document emerged from a specific, "stressful" setting, meaning the place of gays and lesbians in the wider communion. But that matter is addressed nowhere in the document.
    Four general comments highlight the document's problems:

    1. Despite the "everybody wants a covenant" language introducing the document in the Anglican Communion website, nobody really wants a covenant except proponents of centralized authority.

    2. Article 5 misrepresents newly named "Instruments of Communion" by changing three loosely organized, collegial consultative bodies -- the Lambeth Conference, Primates' Meeting, and Anglican Consultative Council -- into quasi-judicial agencies.

    3. Article 5.5 then makes the primates judges, and Article 5.6 adds the door-slamming clause, giving primates policy and legal control over what they decide are controversial decisions of autonomous provinces, sharply changing the robust regional diversity that has been our distinctive hallmark for centuries.

    4. What is amazing is, although the triggering issue for the larger dispute is sex, the proposed remedy is a power coup. How unAnglican can you get? The document should be rejected outright.

    What then? At several key historical junctures, Anglicans with sharply differing viewpoints sought to make common cause through sets of issue-oriented essays. Some of the most remembered volumes include Lux Mundi (1889), Foundations (1912) and Soundings (1962).

    If a set of essays was commissioned on the current issues facing the Anglican Communion -- what would the subject matter be? Obvious topics are: the religious impact of postcolonial globalization, the authority and use of Scripture, religious education, the role of bishops (including the spread of Episcopal poaching) and the place of women, homosexuals and other marginalized peoples in the church.

    Such essays should be accompanied by a media educational plan using the Internet, electronic communications facilities such as Trinity Church, Wall Street, employs, and printed educational materials for global use. The articles would represent a set of markings, a roadmap rather than a final destination. They are not for a moment intended to substitute for other forms of robust non-covenantal dialogue at all levels within our broader polity.

    Covenants historically were rejected by Anglicanism, as they should be today. It is time to heed the restless prodding of the Holy Spirit and move the wider church to a fuller sense of witness and mission.
    I agree with this editorial,especially points 2 and 3. If we grant the Primates this kind of power, they will never give it up. And that, my friends, will be the end of Anglicanism.


    Cuteness Personified

    What you see here is the cutest little girl in the whole wide world. (UPDATE: After further thought, I've taken down the pic that accompanied this post. For those arriving late, you'll just have to trust me. She is indeed the cutest little girl!)

    If you disagree with my assessment, I recommend that you keep it to yourself. This is my darling granddaughter. We've been visiting with her and her family for the last few days. I am quite biased in my opinion of her.

    As I've previously mentioned, I'm not on board the move towards a blogger code of conduct. Which means I'll continue to zap any comment that bugs me. And suggesting the possibility that this may not be the cutest little girl in the whole wide world will definitely bug me. Fair warning?

    I must mention one other bit of trivia. We've been staying in a suite at the Hampton Inn. We found small notices propped against the pillows announcing "pillows by Hampton firm". Also included was a flyer describing other "Hampton signature items" available for purchase. Unusual, I thought, until the first night's rest.

    I have never had such a good night's sleep in my life. The Serta mattress, down-filled duvet and over-stuffed pillows were indeed vastly superior to anything I've ever experienced. Each night I have slept for a solid eight hours without awaking once (quite unusual), and awoke each morning feeling refreshed and cheerful (which is even more unusual; I'm normally not a morning person).

    No doubt part of the cheerfulness has to do with time spent with loved ones. But that cannot account for it all. Could it possibly be that a simple thing like a good night's rest might have a substantial impact on our emotional health?

    Check out the Hampton Home Collection. Pricey, but heavenly.


    Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    Wales: "Fight Against Everything That Enslaves and Dehumanises"

    An Easter Message from the Most Rev. Dr. Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales:

    It is not enough for the Church of Jesus Christ to shout on Easter morning that Christ is risen, it needs to show that it tries to live by the values of His Gospel.

    What are those values? Jesus preached about the forgiveness and graciousness of God and sought to free people from everything that enslaved and oppressed them. For him there were no prior conditions for being accepted by God, whatever your sex, status or position. You were a child of God made in his image. His resurrection was a triumph over the forces of evil – the forces of racism, militarism, nationalism, sexism and poverty.

    To be ‘in Christ’ then is an invitation to join in that struggle, to take part in Christ’s mission and to fight against everything that enslaves and dehumanises human beings and, of course, to do so non-violently.

    There are enough issues in our world, country and church that show clearly that men and women are still being oppressed and treated as slaves. Not just child soldiers in Angola or Korea, sweat labour in Thailand and China, and the oppressive regime of Mugabe in Zimbabwe. But also here in Wales where in 2005 there were 20,000 homeless people, 7,000 of whom were children. Sexual trafficking in young people and women is still rife in this country, and foreign nationals are often forced to live on the poverty line because their employers take back for their keep the little they pay them in wages.

    And we still live in a church where it is not possible for women to be bishops and in a church too where most worshippers are women but all the major committees and councils of most dioceses and province are run by men and in a Communion where gay people feel increasingly isolated and marginalised and even persecuted.

    In the end it is not enough to believe in the resurrection as a proposition or as an article of faith, because resurrection is not just about a dead Jesus coming to life again, it is about us allowing God’s spirit to work afresh in us as he worked in Jesus. Resurrection means joining in God’s recreation of his world as and when and where, we can.
    No prior conditions for being accepted by God. It would follow, it seems to me, that there are no entrance exams administered at the entrance to the Church, either. Unless, of course, it is OUR church, and we desire it to be an exclusive club, made up of folks much like ourselves.

    Note that the fight against such exclusionary tactics must be non-violent. In this struggle we cannot stoop to using the tactics of the forces of evil. I think this would include verbal violence, don't you?

    There's been some talk of voluntary adherence to a code of conduct in this strange cyber world. I'm not going to be too quick to support such an idea. I think we do quite well on our own. Yet another rope of sands, " enforce and draw, and be thy law..." may unnecessarily hinder the effectiveness of this medium, it seems to me.

    Regarding the particular recommendation of not allowing anonymous comments; I really don't care, although I must admit that it is much easier to delete an anonymous post that bugs me than it is one with a name attached. And, since technically I'm anonymous (if you believe that, you haven't been paying attention!), how can I begrudge others who might choose that form of self identification?

    Returning to Dr. Morgan's message; we must struggle against evil, while remaining people of grace. This is not easy. But I think we are given one of the keys in his closing comment; "Resurrection means joining in God’s recreation of his world..." Our struggle is for the sake of re-creation. It is to build up, not to tear down. It is to give new life, not to destroy.

    Your thoughts on how to engage in this struggle while remaining people of grace?


    Monday, April 09, 2007

    New Life

    From our Presiding Bishop's Easter Message:

    I write at the close of our recent House of Bishops meeting. On the way from the airport to the meeting, we saw a few wildflowers, of one or two varieties. They stood out from the grass, just beginning to turn to the green lushness of spring. During the week we met in Texas, the trees went from mere hints of green in the topmost branches to having leaves unfolding on all their branches. And on the way back to the airport a week later, the riot of wildflowers was astounding. The new life of resurrection can be just as surreptitious -- we look and things seem quite dead, we look away, and when our focus returns, we discover that God has been at work making all things new. Anyone who has grieved the death of a loved one will recognize the pattern. Those who experience the loss involved in moving away from a beloved community will know it as well. As this Lent draws to a close, take a careful look at your life. Where has God been at work during this fast? What new life can you discern?
    We welcomed 34 new members into our congregation this morning; 11 at 8:00 and 23 at 10:30. I used an adaptation of the welcome for baptized members found in the Book of Occasional Services. This was the culmination of a ten week "Welcome to the Episcopal Church" class.

    This is a sign of new life. With all the bad press we've been getting lately, I thought maybe some good news would be refreshing.

    As you look around your world, your church, your neighborhood, your family, your soul, what signs of new life do you see?


    Sunday, April 08, 2007

    Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

    A portion of the sermon for Easter Day:

    I want to talk about when we were all small children and the games we played. Remember those hot summer days, when late in the afternoon, as the shadows started lengthening and it started cooling off, how we would get together with the other kids in the neighborhood?

    I want to remind you of a particular game as a paradigm of my understanding of Easter. It's a game that's always been popular. It's the favorite of many youth groups. At one parish where I served many years ago almost every EYC meeting ended with at least one game of Hide and Seek.

    There's something intriguing about this game. In many ways, that's what we've been doing during Lent. We have hidden Christ, and have been intentionally engaged in a prolonged period of self examination. Easter then becomes the cry at the end of the game, the cry of "Ollie, Ollie, oxen free," or at least, that's how I always heard it. Of course, it means, Ollie, Ollie, all come free. That, for me, is the meaning of Easter: All come free.

    You remember how to play the game. Someone volunteers to be “IT”, and then everyone goes to hide. The darker and more out of the way our hiding place, the better.

    What is it that we hide from? We hide from our fears; the fear of dying, the fear of pain and suffering, the fear of rejection, the fear that our deepest longings will never be realized. So we venture into a deep dark place within ourselves, and we hide. This place is kind of scary, sometimes, but we feel safe in the dark.

    And who is it that we are hiding from? We are hiding from "IT." “IT” is really the person in control. “IT” decides when the game begins and when it ends. “IT” is the one who decides who wins and who looses. “IT” is the one who can enter a room and flick on the wall switch, bringing to light those things hidden in the darkness. “IT” is the one with authority, the one with the freedom to act. In the game of Hide and Seek, “IT” is God.

    And we don't want God to find us. We hide because we are afraid of God, that we are not worthy. We hide because we don't want to see the things that we suspect God will bring out into the light. We crawl back into our deep dark place, deeper into the tomb, and refuse to come out on Easter morning into the light of day.

    We hide, from ourselves, and from God. We hide from love, because love brings with it upheaval and change. That's one reason why we are sometimes so resistant to love. In everyday life, we make do with anything that might come close to love. When my everyday life becomes just "more of the same", when today becomes very much like tomorrow, sometimes I want to cry out in my loneliness, curl up in someone’s arms, close my eyes, and fall asleep. Now I know that's not a longing for mature love. It's a longing for security and safety. But sometimes I feel like I just need to be held, safe from the fears. I realize that I can no longer crawl onto my mother's lap, so I seek other ways to fill this void; religion, romance, money, power. But those things aren't quite it.

    Let's return to the game. So we hide, as “IT” comes closer and closer to our hiding place. And what happens if we're the first to be found? What happens if we lose? We get to be “IT”! We get to take on the role of God. What a shame! When I used to play this game as a child, every once in awhile there would be this strange kid who always wanted to be “IT”. He'd never hide very well, and loved being the person in control. It kind of ruined the game. And he loved to cry out, "Ollie Ollie all come free". And we would all come out of our hiding places, and return to the base for another game. And what was the base called? It was called home. Easter is God's call to us, our call to come home, to a place that is safe and secure, to a place where God will let us fall asleep in loving arms.

    When we are found by God, we become aware of the very essence of God within each one of us. We become “IT”, and we seek others, bringing light into the darkness, willing to suffer with those who are hurting, and proclaiming the joy of being set free from our dark hiding place, from the tomb of our own pain, set free to know what true love is all about, set free to love without reservation, set free to be “IT”, to be the presence of the resurrected Christ in the world today.

    I know that Jesus is resurrected, because I have seen him in so many of you here today. I have heard your call, Ollie, Ollie, all come free.

    On this day, we make that same proclamation to the world. But the words are slightly different. As we leave this place, let us step into the light of the resurrection, the light burning bright with the love of God, and instead of shouting “Ollie Ollie, all come free”, let us proclaim “Alleluia, Alleluia, Christ is risen”!