Friday, June 29, 2007

Diana Butler Bass: "Longing for Sock Puppet Church"

Diana Butler Bass, author of The Practicing Congregation and Christianity for the Rest of Us, has spent many years studying mainline congregations that have discovered a new vitality without copying the mega-church, evangelical style. She discovered communities in which tradition, practice and wisdom have emerged as the deepest longings for a new generation of Christians. The conservative vs. liberal arguments are of little or no interest to them. These communities that are flourishing are not stuck in the established models of “doing church,” but see their faith as a corporate pilgrimage, “marked by mobility, choice, risk, reflexivity and reflection."

God's Politics, a blog hosted by Beliefnet and Soujourners, has published Diana's latest essay; Sock Puppet Church. She begins by describing her fond childhood memories of helping her mother prepare for Vacation Bible School. Here's part of it:

...We sat on the living room floor sorting through old socks, bits of yarn and fabric, old buttons, and pipe cleaners. From these scraps we would sew sock puppets of biblical characters. We made Moses and Pharaoh, David and Jonathan, and Mary and Jesus for our amateur productions in the church’s handmade puppet theater. We cut up old Christmas cards for shellac projects and paper-mache collages. We made Bible map stencils to mimeograph and color. And we built the Temple at Jerusalem from sugar cubes...

...My daughter is now nine. It has been a long time since I attended summer Bible school, and now it was her turn for the childhood ritual. As I investigated local programs, however, I was in for a big surprise: Vacation Bible School now comes in a can.

All the programs were pretty much the same. Christian publishing companies have developed Disney-quality VBS weeks bearing names like “The Plunge,” “Holy Land Adventure,” “Quest for Truth,” “Great Bible Reef,” and “SonForce Kids.” Prepackaged, these “complete Bible adventures” come in large cans (admittedly, one arrives in a woven basket) advertising that they contain “everything you need” for a successful Bible school, “just add kids”...

...Lately, I have been reading Bill McKibben’s fine new book, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. McKibben argues that growth—based on “hyper-individualism”—does not create human happiness, health, and wholeness. Rather, local community and close connections make us happy. We must shift away from a Wal-Mart economy to what he calls a “deep economy,” defined as “the economics of neighborliness.” Less stuff, he suggests, will create more connections by transforming the human economy and makes a “durable future” for the planet.

Although McKibben writes of economics, his argument carries over to faith. Successful American churches are Wal-Mart type congregations, built on the idea that bigger-is-better, hyper-individual faith, and entertaining programs meet an infinitely expanding religious market. That vision creates a culture of religious sameness across the country—indeed, across the globe—that subsumes local cultures in its wake. Want your church to grow? Attend the latest pastors conference offered by a celebrity minister. Do 40 days of purpose or seven steps toward mission. Put on a dazzling Christmas spectacular. Buy Vacation Bible School in a can. You, too, can have a successful church if you lay out the cash...

...I no longer want to belong to an efficient church, a big one, or even a successful one. I just want to be part of a good sock-puppet church. And, as I have traveled this year, and spoken to many thousands of Christians, I had heard them, too, longing for sock puppet church, a deeper congregation, a community that stitches memory from scraps, one that (as McKibben says) “rebalances the scales” of our religious economy—and, in the process, may well transform the world.
Make sure you go read the complete essay.

As someone who has invested quite a bit of time over the last couple of years attending workshops and reading books on "church growth," I find Diana's words resonating quite strongly with my own experience. There is much wisdom offered by the experts in this field, and I've learned many helpful things from them. But the reality is that there is no magical formula for building a community.

Every member of any group brings with them unique gifts. Over time, shared memories are created. It is through recognizing and empowering the gifts present in our midst, while honoring the shared memories, that a cohesive group is formed. Such a group will not feel threatened by someone new joining them, and will often welcome the new gifts that are offered. And out of this welcoming, new memories will emerge that will be cherished for generations to come.

The trick is to walk that fine line between the "one size fits all" approach to living out our faith, and the individualistic inclination that insists that "different" and "new" is always better.

We aren't called to be clones of Jesus, after all. It is our unique gifts, that often don't neatly fit in the box marked "traditional," that we offer to the greater glory of God. But at the same time, we recall that we are part of a great cloud of witnesses; all those who have gone before us proclaiming the Good News. It is not simply our unique group engaged in this mission. We walk with the saints of God. So we tell their stories as well as our own. Their stories are honored as they become part of our shared memories.

It is these shared memories that inform our search for the new thing that God may be doing in our midst. As each group expresses their longing to connect with God and one another, a community emerges. If the community is healthy, it will begin to transform the lives that it touches. Seeing such transformations is one of the most marvelous experiences we will ever witness.

Our previous discussions of the writing of Diana Butler Bass can be found here, here and here.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

National HIV Testing Day

From Wormwood's Doxy:

You think HIV is old news, right?
Since we have drugs, and HIV is no longer the death sentence it was in the early 1980s (at least in the developed world), we don’t have to worry about it, right?

Tell that to the 40,000+ Americans who will contract HIV this year.

Tell that to the 1 million+ Americans who are living with HIV.

In particular, tell it to the 25% of that latter group who have no idea they are HIV-infected---and who therefore put every one of their sexual partners (and their sexual partners, etc.) at risk out of ignorance.

I’ve been writing about HIV professionally for seven years now. The numbers haven’t come down in that time, despite our best efforts. And all the data I’m seeing now indicate that the numbers are going up. The prevalence rates for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in major metropolitan areas are rising dramatically.
STIs are harbingers of HIV/AIDS. They serve almost as a public address system---“This person is engaging in unsafe sexual practices!” They also make people more susceptible to HIV infection.

Mark my words, HIV is going to be news again. The question is: Will anyone pay attention?
From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

An estimated 250,000 people in the United States are HIV/AIDS positive and don't even know it.

HHS is pleased to support National HIV Testing Day on June 27.

National HIV Testing Day is critical to the fight against HIV/AIDS because it presents an opportunity for people nationwide to learn their HIV status, and to gain the knowledge they need to take control of their health and their lives.

National HIV Testing Day also provides an invaluable opportunity to dispel the myths and stigma associated with HIV testing, and to reach those who have never been tested or who have engaged in high-risk behavior since their last test.
You can find an HIV testing site near you here.

Take the Test. Take Control.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Diocese of Los Angeles Favored in Property Disputes

From Episcopal Life:

...A California Court of Appeal has ruled in favor of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Los Angeles in cases where the majority of members of three Episcopal congregations voted to leave the Episcopal Church for oversight by bishops in another Anglican province.

The decision, which overturns rulings by a lower court, comes in the first of the recent cases brought to recover Episcopal Church property retained by congregations now calling themselves St. James Anglican Church, Newport Beach; All Saints' Anglican Church, Long Beach; and St. David's Anglican Church, North Hollywood. The congregations voted in August 2004 to amend their articles of incorporation, and maintain that they are now part of the Anglican Province of Uganda...
The court documents can be found here. Here's one interesting quote:

...In a word, the lawsuit brought by the plaintiff general church is a property dispute -- basically over who controls a particular church building in Newport Beach -- and does not arise out of some desire on the part of the general church to litigate the free exercise rights of the local congregation. They are free to disaffiliate just so long as they do not try to take the parish property with them. Readers will look in vain in this opinion for any indication of what religious controversy may have prompted the disaffiliation. We may easily reach the merits of the case under both the “principle of government” standard of the Baker-Wheelock line, and the plain language of section 9142, without ever needing to mention the reason for the defendants’ disaffiliation. That controversy is irrelevant to this action....
Richard Zevnik, an attorney who was present for the June 18 hearing, recently left the following comment about this decision:

Procedurally, the disaffected congregations have 30 days to petition for rehearing in the Court of Appeal. Given the standards applicable to granting rehearing and the depth of analysis of the Court of Appeal's decision, there is little likelihood rehearing would be granted if a petition were filed. When the 30 days expires, the congregations then have 10 days to petition for review in the CA Supreme Court. Such a petition is reasonably likely. Review by CA Supreme Court is discretionary. It is also relatively unlikely given the procedural posture of the case.

The Court of Appeal's decision essentially has tied the trial court's hands, and an eventual judgment in favor of the Diocese and TEC is essentially inevitable. There are a number of procedural means by which that result could occur. Essentially what the congregations are left with is discretionary review by the CA Supreme Court, and if none is granted, a petition for a writ of certiorari in the US Supreme Court, which is also discretionary.
You may recognize the name of one of these parishes; St. James, Newport Beach. We have discussed it previously here and here.

To refresh your memory, let me quote a few lines from a Guardian article that is now almost four years old:

Howard F. Ahmanson Jr does not like publicity. The fiftysomething multimillionaire, who lives in Newport Beach, California, is something of a recluse...

...What is known is that in the 1990s Ahmanson, whose family made a fortune in banking, subsidised a number of controversial right-wing causes. These include a magazine called the Chalcedon Report , which carried an article calling for gays to be stoned; a think-tank called the Claremont Institute which promoted a video in which Charlton Heston praises 'the God-fearing Caucasian middle class'; and a scientific body which rejects the theory of evolution.

Now Ahmanson has a new crusade, whose repercussions will be felt far beyond the United States. He is using his cash to stir up the most divisive row facing the Anglican Church, one that threatens to rip it apart when its leaders meet in London this week...

...Leading the backlash is the American Anglican Council (AAC) based in Washington. Until recently the AAC's chief executive officer, David C. Anderson, ran St James Church in Newport Beach, California, where Ahmanson is often to be found in the congregation. The AAC's vice-president, Bruce Chapman, is president of the Discovery Institute, on whose board Ahmanson sits and which publishes research insisting Darwin was wrong...
The parish that brought us Ahmanson, Anderson, the AAC, and its latest incarnation, the Network, may soon once again be a part of the Diocese of Los Angeles. Imagine that.


Bishop Ingham: "Institutional Inertia Rooted in Homophobia"

From the Globe and Mail:

...Bishop Michael Ingham of the Vancouver-area diocese of New Westminster said homophobia, hiding behind interpretations of scripture, remains an acceptable prejudice in Canadian Anglicanism.

"There are members of our church who staunchly defend that. In my view, [it] is a total misreading of scripture and a misuse of the Bible to oppress people. But they clearly want to continue to do that...To say that the blessing of same-sex unions is not in conflict with doctrine is a hugely significant thing," Bishop Ingham said. "But to say at the same time there's no doctrinal conflict but we're not going to [do] anything about it is inertia - it's institutional inertia rooted in homophobia."

The two bishops who voted for the no-conflict resolution but against the blessings were David Torraville of the diocese of Central Newfoundland and James Cowan of the Vancouver Island diocese.

Bishop Cowan said after the vote that, while he favoured same-sex unions, he was still "asking for the theological rationale." Bishop Torraville is known to have faced strong opposition from among his clergy to the blessings...
It may be helpful to remind readers of the definition of "homphobia," as that term is used here. It is drawn from an essay by Andrew Linzey, a member of the Faculty of Theology in the University of Oxford, and Senior Research Fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, which appeared in Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Report:

...But by "phobia", I mean simply "fear", "dread", or, better still, "an aversion" - and in that limited sense, it seems to me that many Christians can, and do, experience that kind of phobia about homosexuals largely unconsciously. That doesn't mean that they wish to harm gays, or persecute them, and they would certainly not want anything to do with the kind of outrageous cruelty exhibited by Nazis during the Third Reich. They just have a residual sense that homosexuality is not natural, and that individual gays, while often pleasant and acceptable as individuals, are in some sense "not quite right"...

...Some people say they are not "homophobic", using the word in its etymological sense. Perhaps they are right - they don't fear gay people. Gay people do, however, turn their stomachs. That's the point. It isn't just being frightened. It's loathing, disgust, an aversion. Persons so inclined want to get away from gay people, not (or not simply) because gay people might harm them (maybe that's "fear"), but because gay people might pollute them...
What Andrew has described is sometimes referred to as "The Ick Factor."

Using the above definition, I find Bp. Ingham's comments to be quite accurate.


Clarifying the Property Issue

The Peoria Journal Star recently ran an article under this headline; "Diocese of Quincy gears up for fight with TEC." Here's part of it:

The Episcopal Church has a question for the west-central Illinois Diocese of Quincy:

Are you ready to rummmmmbbbbblllllllllle?

The denomination's executive council declared last week that certain parts of the constitutions of four dioceses, including Quincy, are "null and void," particularly sections which TEC power-structure higher-ups feel might be used to leave the church...
We have previously discussed this action by Executive Council here.

The Rev. Jan Nunley, quoted in the PJS article, has offered us a response. As Jan has done an excellent job of clarifying some of the current confusion, I'm reprinting her entire response here:

...there's a little misunderstanding here. The issue isn't "leaving the church": anyone can do that. Certainly Episcopalians regret anyone making such a decision, especially in anger; we'll miss you, but it's a free church in a free country.

The issue in question here is not "leaving the church," but leaving the church while attempting to take the property lawfully held by them in trust only for the mission and ministry of The Episcopal Church and no other.

See the difference?

One is a decision made in conscience. The other is...well, whatever you want to call walking off with something that isn't yours without the consent of the owners. Which is, last time we checked, an action not exactly fraught with "Christian love and charity."

Ah, but they paid for that property! someone opines, with their tithes and offerings, and the deed is in their names. (This reminds us somewhat of the cynical logic exhibited by the old preacher who used to take the Sunday offering basket out back of the church, toss the contents up in the air, and declare that God was free to take whatever didn't fall to the ground.)

That's true, as far as it goes. But try that with the National Parks System, for example, and see how far you get taking your share of Yellowstone. Why? Because the National Parks are held in trust by the Federal Government for all Americans. And when you pay your fee, you get to use the Park--subject to certain restrictions designed to protect it for future users. And you don't get to take pieces of it home for your kids. Because your neighbor has a right to expect that it will be there next week when she goes on vacation with her kids.

Similarly, when you declare you are no longer affiliated with a group, you don't get to take any office you might have held with you out the door. The moment you say, "That's it! I quit!", you are no longer the Grand Poobah of the Knights Who Say Nee, and the royal regalia stays behind, even if next week you incorporate as The Knights Who Say Nah. You have to get your own regalia, even if your grandmother made the cape.

There's no problem, of course, as long as you abide by these agreed-upon rules of civil society, or if you don't like them, lawfully try to get them changed. But if you fail to get others to agree with you and then try to create "facts on the ground" by changing the locks on the really shouldn't be surprised if the rest of the members take exception to your actions.

This all seems very self-evident to your editor, but apparently it needed some clarification.
This is how I've always viewed the situation. Since we are a hierarchical church, I hold the bishops and archbishops who claim these churches accountable.

For those not familiar with Monty Python's "The Knights Who Say Nee," you can read the script here.

If this was only about a good shrubbery, one that looks nice, but not too expensive, there might be room for negotiation.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Bishops Defeat ACC's Same Sex Unions Resolution

The resolution, as amended (in italics) was as follows:

Resolution A187

Blessing of Same Sex Unions

Be It Resolved:

That this General Synod affirm the authority and jurisdiction of any diocesen synod,
a)with the concurrence of the diocesan bishop and
b)in a manner which respects the conscience of the incumbent and the will of the parish,

to authorize the blessing of committed same sex unions.
Here are the votes:

Laity - 78 aye / 59 nay
Clergy - 63 aye / 53 nay
Bishops - 19 aye / 21 nay


ACC Declares Blessings Not in Conflict with Core Doctrine

Here is the resolution as amended (in italics).

That this General Synod resolves that the blessing of same-sex unions is consistent not in conflict with the core doctrine, in the sense of being creedal, of The Anglican Church of Canada.

Clergy and Laity - 152 aye / 97 nay
Bishops - 21 aye / 19 nay

Now on to A187.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

ACC Accepts the St. Michael Report

The resolution, as originally proposed, is here. It was amended (in italics) as follows:


That this General Synod accept the conclusion of the Primate’s Theological Commission’s St. Michael Report that the blessing of same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine, but is not core doctrine in the sense of being credal, and that it should not be a communion-breaking issue.
The St. Michael Report can be found here.

Live coverage of General Synod can be found here.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Bp. Fred Hiltz Elected Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada

Elected on the fifth ballot:

Fred Hiltz - 60 clergy / 81 lay
Victoria Matthews - 56 clergy /56 lay

A bit of suspense was involved with this. By the third ballot, they were down to two candidates, who appeared to be deadlocked. If the deadlock had lasted for three ballots, the election would have been returned to the House of Bishops.

Here is how "Trinity Matthew" described Bishop Hiltz:

...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 to 17 years...
The official press release can be found here.


Facing Lawsuits? Make a Bishop and Solve the Problem

The Living Church is reporting a couple of stories of interest. First, Seven Former Episcopal Churches in California Sued:

Seven Southern California congregations previously affiliated with The Episcopal Church were sued on multiple counts in civil court recently. For at least one it will be the third time it will face an ownership challenge over title to the church property.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church USA, the corporate arm of The Episcopal Church, is a plaintiff against all seven, four of which were formerly part of the Diocese of Los Angeles. The other three were previously affiliated with the Diocese of San Diego. The seven continue to worship at the same locations they used when they were part of The Episcopal Church...
At least two of these congregations, St. James, Newport Beach and All Saints, Long Beach, attempted to leave three years ago. They decided to join the Church of Uganda.

The second bit of interesting news from The Living Church is this story; Uganda to Consecrate Virginia Priest as Missionary Bishop to the U.S.:

...The Rev. John Guernsey, rector of All Saints Anglican Church in Woodbridge, Va., was selected by the Ugandan House of Bishops to oversee its 26 congregations in 12 states. He will be consecrated Sept. 2 in Mbarara, Uganda...
The close proximity of these two stories makes it appear that they are related, as if having a North American bishop will give them more validity in the eyes of the California courts. In spite of my headline, I'm not sure the two stories are related. I just liked the headline.

Note that the decision to make Guernsey a bishop was made in December of 2006. Before the Tanzanian Communique. Before the Camp David House of Bishops meeting. Note also that this makes three; Minns, Atwood and Guernsey. It takes three to make a bishop. After this consecration, they can function indepedently of any foreign bishop, if they so choose.

The reasons given by Orombi for deciding to do this now are rather absurd. The House of Bishops have rejected Tanzania? I think they should, but the final word on that is not expected until September 30, the date set by the Primates, including Orombi. There's a meeting with Canterbury planned between now and then as well. And then he mentions the Executive Council. I thought he was one of those who wanted the "little people" kept out of these deliberations? He offers a very weak justification for such a schismatic act. Obviously something else is going on.

I think this was the plan developed at least three years ago. I don't think anything that has happened since 2003 has altered those plans. And I don't anticipate anything that might happen in the near future will change them, either.

What leads me to this conclusion? A document written by Alison Barfoot (who, incidently, is now attached to the Church of Uganda) entitled "Draft proposal For Overseas AEO (Alternative Episcopal Oversight)." It is dated March 3, 2004. Here's the line that I find quite interesting:

...After several conversations with Bill Atwood of Ekklesia, John Guernsey, Martyn Minns and some clergy seeking "offshore" AEO, this proposal is being submitted as a draft for consideration of a process and protocol for establishing Overseas AEO as an interim stage to the way toward the realignment of Anglicanism in North America and the re-establishment of biblically orthodox faith as normative in North American Anglicanism...
There are the three, Atwood, Guernsey and Minns, named as consultants to the Overseas AEO process back in 2004. And now it just so happens that this same trio will be the first North American bishops of this attempt at "realignment." Just a coincidence? I think not.

Events are unfolding as they were initially planned, including the consecration of bishops who were most likely chosen some years ago. What was most likely left flexible was the dates of these consecration. This latest announcement is for September 2. This will mean that by September 30, the "deadline" imposed by the Primates, they will have their three bishops in place, just in case the Primates decide to allow the development of a new Province in North America.

This is unlikely to happen, in light of how many other Primates are fed up with these pillaging Primates, and certainly don't want them going on plum picking expeditions within their Province. But if it did happen, it could indeed influence some of the secular courts, especially in California, known for its unusual judgments on similar property cases.

There's about 45 churches (actually, the more accurate number is about 36, I'm told) currently being occupied by individuals who claim to have left the Episcopal Church. In most of these cases, the actual congregation; those remaining loyal to the Episcopal Church, are being forced to worship in alternative sites. This is simply unacceptable. Regardless of what happens after September 30, or after Lambeth for that matter, I have little doubt that we'll see each one of these gentlemen in court. Theft is theft, after all, regardless of your big stick and pointy hat.


Regarding the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada

The theme of General Synod, currently meeting in Winnepeg, Manitoba, is "Draw the Circle Wide. Draw It Wider Still!" The General Synod, which meets every three years, is the Anglican Church of Canada’s chief governing body with delegates representing 30 dioceses.

Here is part of Archbishop Andrew Hutchison's Primatial Address: do we wish authority to be exercised or limited within our family of churches? And perhaps most important, how will our decisions witness to the Good News of God in Jesus Christ for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters within the Church and outside it. There are of course many other questions to consider in the hard work of discernment over this issue. We are taught that the first principle of moral theology is obedience to conscience, and I ask each of you to embrace that principle, and with it the ethic of respect for the conscience of those who disagree with your own. The second principle of moral theology is to inform your conscience to bring it, if possible, into line with the teaching of the Church. And here careful listening using the Anglican approach of Scripture, Tradition and Reason will be helpful.

At the end of the day, when decisions are made, they will not be unanimous. Differences will remain, but the unanimous opinion of the Theological Commission (and of many other sources) is that the question of same-gender blessings should not be a communion breaking issue. So the alternative to that is that in keeping with a long Anglican tradition, we make room at the table for those whose views we do not share. For the table is the Lord's and not our own. And it is He who invites us to share the life that is offered there for the sins of the whole world...
There are three proposed resolutions regarding same sex blessings; A186, which states that such blessings are consistent with core doctrine - A187, which authorizes blessings - and B001, which affirms the decision of New Westminster to authorize blessings.

Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, is one of the international observers present at General Synod. The Vancouver Sun is reporting that Canon Kearnon made the following statements:

There's no question the Anglican Church of Canada is a valued member of the Anglican communion. There's never been a scenario considered that would lead to the exclusion of the Anglican Church of Canada.
If this is accurate, it is an extremely bold statement. It becomes more understandable when placed in the context of some of Canon Kearnon's other comments reported by the Anglican Journal:

...The Anglican Communion, he stressed, “is neither a world church nor an international federation. It is a communion of Christian people and the root of our communion is our communion through the Body of Christ.”

He said that Anglicans should not be asking, “what do we have to do to stay in the Anglican Communion? Or what is it that the Communion is demanding of us now?” Rather, they should be asking, “how do I act responsibly to my fellow Christians in the body of Christ? And even more deeply, what does responsibility to my fellow Christians in the Body of Christ mean in our current context?”
Another international observer, Dr. John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, addressed the Synod:

...We need to ask ourselves if we aren't being challenged in our application of Canon law and gracious-magnanimity in relation to the question of Human Sexuality. It's a challenge that won't go away. Personally, I take an orthodox view on human sexuality. The word 'orthodoxy ' from Greek means teaching what is right and true; and in Christian tradition, this leads to glorification -- 'being changed from glory to glory' -- orthodoxy is transformative.

That is why I am persuaded that our sexual affections can no more define who we are than our tribe, ethnicity or nationality. At the deepest ontological level, therefore, there is not such thing as a 'homosexual' or 'a heterosexual', or a 'bi-sexual'; there are human beings, male and female, called t redeemed humanity in Christ, endowed with a complex variety of emotional potentialities and threatened by a complex variety of forms of alienation. "In Christ" -- and in him alone -- "We know both God and human nature as they truly are"; and so in Christ alone we know ourselves as we truly are. There can be no description of human reality, in general or in particular, outside the reality in Christ.

Human sexuality must, therefore, be understood and talked about in the context of the reality in Christ.

What is paramount for me are the words of the Apostle Paul that "I resolved to know nothing (while I was with you) but Jesus Christ, and him crucified." My motivation too in relationship to all those I meet is to seek nothing but Christ crucified among them.

And so in my ministry I have learnt to care, hear and listen to those who describe themselves as Gay or Lesbian. They, like me, are called to redeemed humanity in Christ; and what upsets me is the way in which some of my brothers and sisters in Christ refer to members of Christ's Body (Gay and Lesbian Christians) as if they aren't part of that body. I strongly believe that holy communication is part of Holy Communion...
The Lead points us to Andrew's insightful comments on Dr. Semantu's address.

General Synod will also consider the Report of the Windsor Report Response Group. I was especially pleased to see item 6:

...calls upon those archbishops and other bishops who believe that it is their conscientious duty to intervene in Provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own to implement paragraph 155 of the Windsor Report and to seek an accommodation with the bishops of the dioceses whose parishes they have taken into their own care...
Later today the Anglican Church of Canada will elect a new Primate. You may recall that "Trinity Matthew" offered us some excellent background on the four candidates. Keep in mind that the ACC does things slightly different from TEC. In the ACC, the bishops nominate, but the lay and clergy delegates elect.

Raspberry Rabbit has some additional links to videos and bloggers covering General Synod.

Remember to keep our Canadian neighbors in your prayers.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Jim Naughton Goes to Capitol Hill

I would hope that all of you are familiar with Jim Naughton's report entitled "Following the Money," in which he documents the emergence of the strange cast of donors and activists that now make up the Anglican right. If you are not familiar with this report, please stop now and take a few minutes to read it.

One of the key players in this report is the Institute on Religion and Democracy, an extreme right organization whose history reveals a very dark past:

...During the 1980s, you'll recall, the United States did not regard all terrorists as "evil-doers." Some, like the contras of Nicaragua, we regarded as "freedom fighters." In support of such freedom fighters, IRD staffer Diane Knippers set her sights on CEPAD, a relief and development agency coordinated by the evangelical churches of Nicaragua...

...CEPAD ran a network of medical clinics for the poor, as well as a successful literacy campaign. That literacy work had won the admiration and support of Nicaragua's president, Daniel Ortega, and his Sandinista regime.

Ortega's praise of CEPAD gave Knippers what she saw as an opening. The evangelical churches were not supporters of the Sandinistas, but Knippers portrayed CEPAD -- and therefore the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society -- as "guilty" by association. She wrote of CEPAD as a communist front, part of a supposed Soviet beachhead in Nicaragua.

No one in this country paid much attention, but the contras did. CEPAD's clinics became targets for their paramilitary terrorists. Knippers had placed evangelical missionaries -- doctors and nurses -- and the poor people they served in the crosshairs of terrorists...
When the IRD ran out of Communists, they placed the mainline Protestant churches in their crosshairs. They launched the American Anglican Council, which in turn created the Network, an extremist group that has attempted to keep one foot within the Episcopal church while also keeping one foot headed out the door.

The Lead tells us that James Tonkowich, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, recently visited Capitol Hill to testify on climate change. Here is part of the exchange between Tonkowich and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse:

...Senator Whitehouse: Okay.

Now that my colleague has raised the question of funding, I am interested, Dr. Tonkowich, in IRD and where its funding comes from. According to a web site called Media Transparency, IRD received 89 percent of its support in its first two years from six conservative foundations. In an article entitled Follow the Money, which appeared in the Washington Window, Howard F. Amundsen, Jr., alone gave IRD $528,000 in 1991 and 1992, $460,000 in 2001, $150,000 in 2002 to 2003. My question is, are these figures accurate and what percentage of your total funding do those contributions represent?

Rev. Tonkowich: I do not know whether they are accurate or not. I can find out and get back to you. I have been with the organization just over a year. I don't know what the funding was in 1991.

Senator Whitehouse: You say you represent constituents of so- called mainline Protestant churches who feel mis-represented by their denominational Washington offices and by groups like the National Council of Churches. How many constituents is that, approximately? Do you have a number?

Rev. Tonkowich: Our mailing list is somewhere in the neighborhood of 600,000 to 700,000.

Senator Whitehouse: And how do people get on your mailing list? I get stuff that I don't want all the time, and I don't consider myself to be a constituent of the groups that mail to me.

Rev. Tonkowich: Again, people send us their church directories at times, and ask to add their friends to the list. We do very little prospecting. So it is people who have opted on...
So, the IRD is collecting church directories? And they count all of those unsolicited names as supporters? A rather unethical practice, it seems to me.

That may explain the book the IRD recently sent me; someone must have handed over to them the clergy directory for my diocese. I placed it in the circular file, of course. I thought about burning it, but that would be to adopt the tactics of the self- appointed Inquisitors among the right. In hindsight, I suppose I should have put it in the recycle bin, where it could have been redeemed and resurrected into a new creation that focuses on the glory of God rather than the depravity of man.

Jim's work is beginning to get the recognition that it deserves. "Following the Money" is a valuable resource. Make sure you pass it on to those who may benefit from its insights.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Nigerians Don't Fall for Akinola's Tricks

On June 10, Nigeria's Daily Sun ran this story:

...Love of power, it appears, is today threatening the brotherhood of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) following alleged attempts by the out-going National President, Right Reverend Peter Jasper Akinola, to "manipulate the electoral process"...

...the contest has turned into a battle of will as the incumbent, Right Reverend Peter Jasper Akinola, allegedly changed the date of election to favour his candidacy.
The election of the National President of CAN is supposed to end with the ratification of one of the two candidates by the National Assembly of CAN after NEC must have voted in favour of the candidate.

The election of the two candidates who made the list of the Electoral College by the NEC of CAN was to take place on the 6th of July.

But Right Reverend Akinola, who is one of the two contestants and primate of the Anglican Church, is said to have rescheduled the election of CAN President back from the original 6th of July to the 19th of June when Onaiyekan is already scheduled to be in Rome attending a conference of World Catholic Bishops...
One wonders why a supposed rising star like Akinola would have to result to such tricks to win an election. Possibly he is not as popular among those in his own nation; those who have been watching him up close for many years, as his supporters try to make him appear? According to this article, that is apparently the case:

...Sources at the PFN Secretariat in Abuja told Sunday Sun. that the grounds may be shifting under Akinola’s feet as he may be forced to opt out of the race due to stiff opposition to his candidacy by majority of the members.

Signs that more CAN members are uncomfortable with his tenure became clearer two weeks ago during the primaries. According to top CAN insiders, Akinola’s problem have been compounded by his penchant for keeping quiet and not criticizing former President Obasanjo’s government while “it assailed the citizenry with shoddy handling of the economy"...
Of course he's not going to criticize the former President. He owes him at least one favor that we know of. The former President pushed forward Akinola's scheme to silence Changing Attitude Nigeria by proposing legislation to jail all gays and their supporters. This does cause one to wonder what the Archbishop offered in payment for this favor. His silence, perhaps?

It gets worse. Even after manipulating things to make sure his opponent was out of the country, it appears Akinola could not rally sufficient supporters to run his campaign. His creative solution was to recruit his own bishops as campaign workers, since they all owed him a favor:

...Last week, the CAN President and Primate of the Anglican Church reportedly called a meeting of all Anglican Bishops in Abeokuta and reportedly asked the Bishops to recruit campaigners for the task of ensuring victory for the Anglican Church at the poll...
Beyond all of that, it appears Akinola failed to recognize that Nigerians no longer find his "big man" style of leadership acceptable:

...But opposition against Akinola’s candidacy is also waxing stronger with his critics citing several of his alleged misdeeds as reasons for their opposition.

For instance, one of the critics said, “throughout the period Akinola was in the saddle as President, in most meetings, there were no deliberations”, adding “Leaders will now complain about how they came from a distance without being given opportunity of airing their views."

“Again, the fire directorate of CAN did not function well throughout Akinola’s tenure. He was running a one-man leadership and treats his secretary as if the man is an errand boy"...
The election was held on June 19. Here is a report of the results:

CATHOLIC Archbishop of Abuja, Rt Rev John Onayeikan has been elected president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).

In a keenly contested election in Abuja yesterday, Onayeikan polled 72 votes to defeat the incumbent and Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) Most Rev. Peter Akinola who scored 33 votes...
It is anticipated that Peter will not be gracious in defeat:

...According to the association's constitution Onayeikan, who won majority of votes of the NEC, shall be deemed nominated as president while Akinola the runner-up is vice-president (VP), nominee.

However, sources at the NEC said: "Akinola is not likely to accept the position of VP. It may be a bit condescending for him. I will be surprised if he accepts that position when the general assembly meets on July 6"...
I suppose one must have some sympathy for the Archbishop. Most likely his success in manipulating a room of Primates in Tanzania gave him a false sense of confidence that he would be successful using similar tactics in the CAN election. Unfortunately, his countrymen appear to be wise to his tricks. Maybe he should have flown in Martyn Minns to give him instructions from the next room?


Monday, June 18, 2007

Washington Post Gets the Facts Wrong

EpiScope points us to this piece from the Washington Post. The following statement is made:

...So far, the heads, or primates, of Anglican provinces overseas have taken under their wings 200 to 250 of the more than 7,000 congregations in the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism. Among their gains are some large and wealthy congregations -- including several in Northern Virginia -- that bring international prestige and a steady stream of donations...
As Jan Nunley notes, most likely this number of 250 congregations comes from a recent statement from Abp. Akinola of Nigeria:

...It should be noted that there are now more than 250 congregations in North America related to Global South provinces through a growing number of missionary and pastoral initiatives...
That is quite different from 250 congregations leaving the Episcopal Church, it seems to me. Here's how this error is explained by Jan:

...The misleading part is that uninformed readers naturally assume--from what's implied in Cooperman's lead--that "congregations" in these cases means "full duly constituted congregations of TEC, with their physical plants": in other words, just like St. Swithin's-in-the-Swamp down the street.

And that's just not the case. They're either splits off existing TEC congregations (which continue as TEC congregations), or new church plants, or "house churches" meeting in homes or hotels under lay leadership, or--in a great many cases--"continuing Anglican" congregations long outside Canterbury's official fold and seeking a way back in...
There's another curious bit in the WaPo article regarding AMiA congregations:

It has grown at the rate of one church every three weeks and now numbers about 120 congregations, with five bishops...
So, established seven years ago, AMiA has added a new church every three weeks? 7x52=364. 364/3=121.33. For this to be true, AMiA must have started out with just one congregation. But, as Jan points out, that seems not to be the case:

...the majority of those churches were factions of TEC congregations, new plants or "house churches" founded in the first year or so of AMiA's existence...
Someone's using creative math, again.

So where did Abp. Akinola get that 250 number? Once again, EpiScope points us to one possible source:

The Anglican Province of Kenya has appointed its own bishop to oversee about 30 churches in the United States...

...The churches, together with 37 belonging to the Nigerian-affiliated Convocation of Anglicans in America and 116 under the Rwanda-connected Anglican Mission in America, constitute at least 183 houses of worship under African leadership. Several Ugandan bishops also oversee former Episcopal churches...
There may be "200 to 250" congregations aligned with a foreign bishop in the US. But most of these are part of the "continuing" churches, new churches, or house churches. There are about 45 congregations, less than 1%, that have claimed to have left the Episcopal Church. Almost all of these congregation have been reconstituted by a group from within the congregation that remains faithful to the Episcopal Church.

When you hear such creative math being stated as fact, please correct such erroneous statements. And reporters, please take a little more care in checking out your sources.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

El Camino Real Elects Bishop

The Venerable Mary Gray-Reeves is elected on the second ballot.

After serving for ten years in parochial ministry, Mary Gray-Reeves has been the Archdeacon for Deployment of Southeast Florida since 2005.

From Bishop-elect Gray-Reeves' remarks:

...It is often said that the church must change in order to keep up, or catch up, as the case may be. I believe that the church must embrace a lifestyle of change. Jesus modeled agility and sensitivity in his life with the Spirit and the community around him. We must discover ways of being that allow us to be more responsive and flexible as we hold fast to the essentials of our faith. We are called to live daily in the Grace that is gifted to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Spirit “which blows where it chooses” (John 3:8). We must respond to the Spirit’s movement just as Jesus did in his earthly ministry, so that the fruit of transformation may be made known. Lives, whole communities, depend on it. I believe that Anglicanism continues to offer a rich heritage in its expression of the Christian faith, blessing us with great opportunities for exploration within the bounds of our common life...
I served for many years in ECR. They live in the shadow of two very large dioceses; California to the North and Los Angleles to the South. Their two previous bishops left under less than ideal circumstances. It is a difficult time to be a Bishop, but it will be especially challenging in this diocese.

My congratulations (and condolences!) to the Bishop-elect. May we hold her up in our prayers.


UPDATE: Episcopal Life is now offering more information on this election.

The True Gospel of Relative Inclusion...Shriek!

From Padre Mickey:

...AMiA and CANA have their own missionary bishops, the bishop of Bolivia and the bishop of Argentina have been sweeping up parishes in the U.S. and Brasil, and now ACK (!) wants to get in on the act. Well, we of The Real Live Orthodox Episcopal Anglican Protestant Catholic Pentecostal Evangelical Fundamentalist Christian Church of All the Americas and Actually the Entire Globe; Yeah, that's Right, We Include the Global South, the Global North AND the Global Center, So Where Else Ya Gonna Go? also known as the RLOEAPCPEFCCAAAEGYRWIGSGNAGCSWEYGG or The True, Really, I Mean It, Church™ are not going to miss out on establishing our own franchise! We have heard the cries of the faithful throughout the world, begging us to come and save them from perhaps having to meet someone with a different theological understanding or with icky personal practices, and we can not remain deaf to their pleas! Our Primados (Photo 1), His Most Shriekiness, the Rt. Rev. Gallito Mescalito, and His Holiness, the Rt. Rev. Red Mr. Peanut Bank, Bishop of All Legumes and Vegetables, in their infinite wisdom, have realized that there is money to be made that the faithful need protecting, and they have elected (the vote for each new bishop was two for, none against) and consecrated seven new bishops to bring the True Gospel of Relative Inclusion™ to those languishing in well-off parishes with great endowments amongst the apostates and heretics of most of the World Wide Anglican Communion...
World Stoppers may recognize His Most Shriekiness, the Rt. Rev. Gallito Mescalito. Most brujos familiar with a separate reality know that an effective way of stopping the world is to repeat the incantation made infamous by Bishop Mescalito;



Friday, June 15, 2007

From the Center and the Right

From Nicholas Knisely, speaking from the Center, over on the Daily Episcopalian:

...I have also noticed that the African Primates seem to be more than a little impatient with their American allies. They have been made promises that whatever money they turned down for relief and development from the American church would be replaced by gifts by those separating from the Episcopal Church. This has not happened. In addition it appears that the American folks are looking for a solution that is Canterbury centered, and that is becoming less a concern for the sub-saharan African Primates. The tone of the last couple of CAPA conferences has been that African Anglicans should work together to find an African based solution to the present crisis. Perhaps that is what is happening? And perhaps Jonathan Petre wasn’t so far off base in his reporting?

In other words, we could be seeing the first signs of a totally sub-saharan African based response to the present stresses in the Anglican Communion. It appears now that this group of Primates is working to have the broadly based invitations to the North American bishops withdrawn. And if the Archbishop of Canterbury won’t do that, then they are willing to walk on their own away from an England-dominated Communion.

What new implications would a strong and coordinated, completely non-western based strategy bring? Philip Jenkins talks about the rise of African Christianity and how it is fast becoming the leading voice of a global Church. Could we be seeing a thread of this tapestry in these very events?...
Speaking from the Right, Dan Martins:

...There seems to be an inexorable drive to circumvent the organic processes of the Anglican Communion, regulated--albeit informally and, one could say, haphazardly--by the Instruments of Unity, and confect a solution to our conflicts that the "instruments"--most palpably the Archbishop of Canterbury--will be asked to simply accept. Or not, as it may be. In which case--and here's where I break out into a cold sweat--there will effectively be civil war in the Anglican Communion, a schism that may not have the repercussions of the Great Schism of 1054, but which will be no minor tremor. We will be left with Canterburian and non-Canterburian Anglican churches. Only...will the latter actually be Anglican? Isn't communion with Canterbury of the esse of Anglican identity? Or is it only the bene esse...or, perhaps the plene esse?

Frankly, I find such a spectacle horrific in the extreme. The prospect of choosing between a Canterburian Anglicanism that is "ecclesiologically correct" but otherwise theologically and spiritually vacuous, and a non-Canterburian Anglicanism that is creedally orthodox and spiritually vital, but, lacking an organic continuity with a See that, if not apostolic, is at least ancient, and founded by the bishop of an apostolic See--and therefore essentially just one more Protestant denomination--well...this choice is too terrible to contemplate.

I feel like I have an Anglican soul, but it is a Canterburian Anglican soul. To be bereft of that vital organic link would be to surrender the very core of Anglican identity. I would urge my "reasserter" colleagues to exercise more patience. But I know that too many of them are way beyond the point of listening to such a plea...
We've now heard messages of support for the ACK beachhead from Abps. Orombi of Uganda, Akinola of Nigeria and Venables of the Southern Cone. Each claim ownership of Episcopal congregations in the US. The statements were somewhat similar. I suspect Nick and Dan are correct. We are witnessing the emergence of a new Communion centered in the Global South with no ties to Canterbury.

What are the implications? There are many, but the one that comes to mind immediately is that this new entity would not be "Anglican." It would instead be a new denomination. For this denomination to build a new church down the road from an Episcopal church would not be a case of border crossing or foreign intervention. It would be the same as a Baptist church setting up shop in our neck of the woods.

Other implications?


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Executive Council Declares Amendments to Accession Clauses Null and Void

From The Living Church:

"Any amendment to a diocesan constitution that purports in any way to limit or lessen an unqualified accession to the constitution of The Episcopal Church is null and void, and be it further resolved that the amendments passed to the constitutions of the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Quincy and San Joaquin, which purport to limit or lessen the unqualified accession to the constitution of The Episcopal Church are accordingly null and void and the constitutions of those dioceses shall be as they were as if such amendments had not been passed,” council stated in Resolution NAC-023.
In a statement released today, the Council approved the draft proposed yesterday, which included a rejection of the Pastoral Scheme proposed by the Primates.

A press conference is scheduled for 4:00 pm EST.


UPDATE: Episcopal Life offers us more information on the accession clause resolution:

...Resolution NAC023 names the dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin and Quincy.

Some council members argued against naming the dioceses, including Ted Yumoto of San Joaquin, who said the resolution was a "statement of alienation" rather than reconciliation.

Bishop Julio Holguin of the Dominican Republic also urged the Council not to name dioceses but to make the resolution more obviously applicable to all dioceses. He also called on the Council to "soften [the resolution] in favor of dialogue." Bishop David Alvarez of Puerto Rico disagreed, saying that the resolution needed "more teeth."

The Rev. Gay Jennings of Ohio reminded the Council that General Convention had agreed about how to "order our common life" through its Constitution and Canons, and that the specific dioceses' actions have been "injurious to our common life."

Lexington Bishop Stacy Sauls, who helped to draft the resolution, said it was important to name the dioceses, in part because a judge in any future legal action connected with the dioceses' actions might ask why the Church never made a statement against those constitutional changes...

Presiding Bishop Suggests Taking the Long, Calm View"

The Lead points us to a report of Bishop Katharine's visit to Vancouver for the annual meeting of the Anglican Indigenous Network. There's some statements made in this report that are worth repeating, if for no other reason than to help us keep things in perspective:

...In an interview in Vancouver, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America unflinchingly predicts the high decibel back-and-forth currently pre occupying the top level of international church may well go on for another decade or more.

“I think the best outcome would be to ratchet down the level of conflict several notches,” Jefferts Schori said. “We have some very anxious people who need to have this resolved structurally right now.”

Those anxious people, personified by the 38 Anglican primates, have given ECUSA a September 30 deadline to cease-and-desist from same-sex blessings and the consecration of gay bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, will arrive just days before that for the regular fall meeting of ECUSA’s bishops.

“I hope that he can hear and believe the church is far less divided than he believes it is,” said Jefferts Schori...

...The bishop acknowledged the conservatives in her church - those people jarred by 35 years of constant change from the ordination of women through the inclusion of children to revisions in the prayer book - are fuelling the outrage of some outspoken African bishops over the open acceptance of gays and lesbians.

However, Jefferts Schori, who calculates the disgruntled at one half of one per cent of her 2.4 million-member church, calculates the international disgruntlement at a similar level.

“It’s not the whole communion,” she said. “It’s a few people.” At the February primates’ meeting in Dar-Es-Salaam, “there was a handful of primates who were really upset about sexuality issues,” she said, while the bulk of the archbishops were annoyed at seeing their pressing concerns of poverty pushed aside.

And even in places such as Nigeria, where one voice, that of the very vocal Archbishop Peter Akinola, speaks for the church, “there is a diversity of understanding,” Jefferts Schori said...

...For indigenous people, who feel themselves to be a powerless minority often quarreling among themselves, Jefferts Schori recalled members of the Latino community in California letting down their barriers to each other and uniting for the first time, only to discover they were then a large force in the church.

“Together, all the marginalized can change things,” she said. “The secret is those in power are relatively few.”

And to the plea for native priests ordained in and for their own communities, she said, simply: “Continue to challenge your church.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Executive Council to Consider Response to Communique

Episcopal Life is reporting that a draft statement in response to the Primates' Communique was released today:

...The proposed statement, and three resolutions, suggest a response to portions of the communiqué issued by the Anglican Primates at the end of their February meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The communiqué contained the Pastoral Scheme and called for the Episcopal Church "to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges."

The proposed statement would have the Council acknowledge the communiqué as "a good-faith contribution" to the on-going discussion about Anglican identity and authority but state that the "requests of the Primates are of a nature that can only be responded to by our General Convention." The Convention next meets in the summer of 2009.

The statement would have the Council "question the authority of the Primates to impose deadlines and demands upon any of the churches of the Anglican Communion."

"Assertions of authority met by counter-assertions of polity are not likely to lead to the reconciliation we seek," the draft statement says. "Our salvation is not in the law but in the grace of God in Jesus Christ our Savior; so too with our relationships as Anglicans."

The statement would have the Council say that "the only thing we really have to offer in that relationship is who we are -- a community of committed Christians seeking God's will for our common life."

The draft statement claims unity through baptism, says that "we are, whether we wish it or not, God's gift to each other" and acknowledges that the church has historically struggled to embrace people who have been marginalized, including the current debate over the place and vocation of gay and lesbian people in the life of church.

The task group proposes three resolutions for Council. The first would receive and adopt the statement the group has drafted.

The second, titled "Commending the report of the Communion Sub-Group, " refers to the report of an Anglican Communion group which generally gave the Episcopal Church positive marks for its response to various requests to explain its decisions regarding same-gender blessings, the episcopal ordination of an openly gay and partnered priest, and its desire to remain a part of the Anglican Communion. The resolution would have the Council encourage the House of Bishops to consider the report as it prepares to meet in September.

The third resolution, "Executive Council's response to the House of Bishops' Mind of the House Resolution on the Proposed Pastoral Scheme," refers to the House of Bishops' declaration in March that a plan the Primates put forward for dealing with some disaffected Episcopal Church dioceses "would be injurious to The Episcopal Church." The bishops' resolution urged that the Executive Council decline to participate in it and the proposed statement would in fact have Council decline and "respectfully ask our Presiding Bishop not to take any of the actions asked of her by this scheme"...
No response until GC2009, questioning the authority of the Primates, emphasizing our unity through baptism, and rejecting the pastoral scheme. A good first step, it seems to me.

The Executive Council will discuss this draft tomorrow. If it is adopted with few alternations, let us hope it will provide a blueprint for the House of Bishops to follow in September.


Clarification: Kenya Follows Nigerian Model

The Living Church offers more information regarding the report in the Telegraph of a new breakaway group in North America.

Bill Atwood, who recently left the Episcoapl Church, will be consecrated as bishop by the Anglican Church of Kenya. The pattern follows quite closely that of Nigeria and CANA. The only addition is the claimed consultations with other Primates (who have not come forward yet) and the suggestion of some kind of coalition among these breakaway groups.

The Lead has the letter from the Archbishop of Kenya.

So now Rwanda, Nigeria and Kenya are being allowed to consecrate bishops for North America, to better facilitate their pillaging of parishes. None of the entities will be recognized by Canterbury, of course, but I'm not sure that matters to them anymore. Any means, including invasions, to justify their ends; the expansion of their personal kingdoms, which more and more appear to have nothing to do with Anglicanism.

It appears once again that the Telegraph attempted to make much ado about nothing. Just another Primatial Pirate on the horizon, who has decided this is the time to unfurl his Jolly Roger. He condemns himself by his unethical behavior.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Rumors of Schism

The Lead points us to a news item in the Telegragh:

A powerful coalition of conservative Anglican leaders is preparing to create a parallel Church for conservatives in America in defiance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, provoking the biggest split in Anglican history, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

According to sources, at least six primates are planning the consecration of a prominent American cleric as a bishop to minister to Americans who have rejected their liberal bishops over the issue of homosexuality...

...The initiative is understood to have been co-ordinated by senior African archbishops, including the Primate of Kenya, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, who represent the core of the so-called Global South group of conservative primates.

But the group has a wider base and is also thought to include several relatively moderate primates from outside Africa...

...Insiders said the scheme was not being led by the maverick Global South leader, the Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, who has already set up a similar "missionary" Church in America headed by Bishop Martyn Minns...

So much for hopeful optimism.

However, the support of 6 Primates out of 38 is certainly not a "powerful coalition". One can only speculate that the other 32 will not be too pleased by this move. If they get away with it in TEC, they might try it in their Province as well.

The Lead reminds us the Telegraph recently got it wrong. Since the story is not being heard anywhere else, at this point it is simply a rumor.


Some Cautiously Hopeful Signs

Andrew Gerns, writing for the Daily Episcopalian, offers us a "must-read" article entitled Anglican Equilibrium. He ties together the bits and pieces that have been cause for some of us to wonder if we are not witnessing a subtle shift within the Communion. I cannot do justice to the entire article here. There are simply too many points worth pondering. Yet, I do want to highlight a few of them.

It appears that there are two camps emerging among the Anglican extremists:

...It looks for all the world as if the heart of the conservative/reasserter movement is getting ready to leave the Episcopal Church with or without the blessing of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The action could be the creation of an Anglican-heritage coalition in the USA or the precursor of a separate, smaller, Anglican-related gathering of provinces who will stay away from the 2008 Lambeth conference...

...In the meantime, other important leaders of the reasserter movement have urged caution and are making the case for staying within the Episcopal Church.

The Anglican Communion Institute, Inc., cautions conservatives not to act too harshly...
This leads to an analysis of what exactly happened that may have caused this division. Before launching into his analysis, Andrew offer his own note of caution:

... The relationships are so complex and the issues so nuanced that it is hard to pin down one cause, and I do not believe that the Communion is out of the woods on this matter by any stretch. Moderates in search of peace and progressives in hopes of victory, both of whom may be seeing glimmers of some kind of resolution, could still be surprised. This movement still has legs and could coalesce seemingly without notice. Still, I want to highlight some changes to the landscape that suggest that we are on different ground than we were a year or even six months ago...
The changes Andrew mentions might be summarized this way:

1. ...News of the invitations to Lambeth was certainly a shock to the reasserters’ movement. For CANA, AMIA and a similar set-up in Brazil to be ignored deprived these groups of Anglican legitimacy. They have in one stroke been reduced to splinter groups or hangers-on..."

2. ...There is no energy from either Lambeth nor the bulk of the Primates to impose a structure on a member of the communion against its will... The example offered for this lack of will is the statement from the Latin American bishops. As a side note, Padre Mickey gives us some good insight on the impact of this statement.

3. ...Recent court actions may have taken some of the romance out of the movement as well... Examples mentioned are the recent court rulings in Florida and South Carolina.

4. ...improved communications by those who support the actions of our General Convention... With the addition of EpiScope, Episcopal Life Online and the Episcopal Cafe, the Episcopal Church has finally entered into this new world of instantaneous news and commentary made available by the internet.

A personal note on this development. After the Windsor Report came out, it was up to the independent progressive bloggers to provide commentary, news links and "push back," as there was little or no communication from TEC, other than the Episcopal News Service, but much commentary coming from the Network and their allies. That has now changed.

Over the last few weeks, I have started over a dozen news items that were never published. One of the steps before publishing is to make sure that no one else is already providing the information. There's little point in duplicating efforts. Every single news item that I've dug up over the last couple of weeks was already up at The Lead. They've put together a good team over there. They find the news and get it out fast.

This improved communication will result in the independents being liberated from the obligation of being a news resource. We can now feel free to explore other things. I'll be able to offer more book discussions, for instance. And maybe not be so serious all the time. We've been set free to re-create ourselves, again. Thanks be to God!

Back to Andrew's analysis.

5. ...Finally, how long can a movement sing a one-note chant? Since the turn of this century, these groups have coalesced around human sexuality, particularly the blessing of same-sex relationships and the consecration of Gene Robinson. But how long will these groups be able to put aside their own theological diversity in the name of anger over a bishop? The divisions among the Anglican extremists are huge. They cannot be ignored for much longer.

Andrew's closing paragraph is worth noting:

...The movement has, at least for this moment, run out of steam because of the hard lessons of communion over many centuries. Either we choose to come together in the name of Jesus Christ, or we choose to stay apart. What we are learning is that not only is Communion a gift from God, it is an act of the will. Whether these groups stay at the table or leave will depend on each one's tolerance for ambiguity as we all try to live the Gospel together in a complex world.
We have good reasons to be cautiously optimistic. It's not over yet, but there are signs that the predictions of doom and gloom may be overly pessimistic.


God Places Ad in British Paper

From Ekklesia:

In a move which may surprise media commentators and distinguished theologians alike, God – known primarily for moving in mysterious ways – has bought a full page advertisement in The Independent newspaper to persuade erstwhile admirer President George W. Bush to take climate change more seriously.

The advert appeared on page 39 of the UK daily’s print edition dated 4 June 2007...
Here's the ad:

The website hosting this ad offers a German version, as well as this suggestion:

You too can correspond directly with George.
Join me in asking him to lead the World in sorting out Climate Change.

Email him on:

Or write to him at:

Mr George Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
At the G8 Summit in Germany, it appears President Bush initially ignored this divine revelation, but later agreed to at least “consider seriously” a European plan to combat global warming.

The President was feeling a bit ill during one day of the Summit. It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature, Mr. President.

Ekklesia offers these concluding thoughts:

...Some secularist groups are said to be infuriated by the advertisement. They are seeing it as "a deliberate conspiracy by well-funded spiritual forces to subvert the democratic process of largely non-religious corporate interests running the entire world out of existence."

But it seems that God has canny advisers. The Almighty has chosen to speak through a paper with definitely secular leanings and a very humble circulation – in keeping with previous low-key manifestations in stables and elsewhere. Also there is no divine declaration of affiliation to any one creed.

The Church of England is likely to welcome the divine choice of a broadsheet, and above all English, newspaper, and will offer God membership in the Anglican Communion provided that it can be proved that all members of the Holy Trinity are in full accord with the last Lambeth Conference resolution on sexuality.

There is some Establishment disquiet behind the scenes that God chose not to use either The Times or The Church Times for the dramatic message to President Bush. And the appearance of a German translation may lead to textual disputes and a possible global schism among all religions.

God was not available for further comment.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Second Sunday after Pentecost

The following is part of last Sunday's sermon. Since it is somewhat derived from one of our previous discussions, I thought some of you might find it of interest.

Soon after healing the centurion's slave, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep." Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us!" and "God has looked favorably on his people!" This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.
(Luke 7:11-17)
This morning we encounter two processions. One is going into the town of Nain and the other is coming out. Nain is a town in the South of Galilee, a short distance from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth.

At the head of the procession going into Nain is Jesus. The procession coming out is led by a coffin. What will happen when these two processions cross paths at the town gate? Which one will give way?

Jesus sees the grieving mother. What does He do? How does He respond? His heart went out to her. He feels compassion for her. He chose to share in her sorrow.

Moved by compassion, Jesus acts. "Young man, I say to you, get up!" he shouts. And the dead man sat up and began to talk. The compassion of Jesus led to something amazing happening, something unexpected. Death was trampleddownby the Lord of Life.

This is our Christian hope. Through Jesus Christ, death, our ancient enemy, has been cast down and trampled underfoot. Death has been swallowed up in victory. We no longer have to live in fear of death.

But, sometimes, we do anyway, don’t we? It's difficult not to fear death. I’m not just talking about physical death. We die many little deaths throughout our lives. Many of the changes we face feel much like a little death. We grieve the loss of the familiar. We long to relive days from our past.

But the reality is that if we are to continue to grow, we must accept these little deaths. We must allow ourselves to be transformed into the full stature of Christ. And for that to happen, we have to let go of some of the baggage that we are dragging around with us; those old grudges, those past regrets, and those character flaws. There are aspects of ourselves that we have to allow to die.

In our Epistle lesson, Paul speaks about his earlier life in Judaism; about how he was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. You may recall when St. Stephen was stoned to death, it was Saul, who later became Paul, who held the coats of the stone hurling crowd. When Paul encountered Christ on the road to Damascus, he was transformed. But that transformation required a little death as well; the zealous persecutor of the Church had to die.

Congregations have to pass through these little deaths as well, if they are to be transformed and follow the call of God. I was an interim priest for a few years. I would be assigned to serve in a congregation while they made their transition from one spiritual leader to another. Sometimes their former priest was the beloved rector. Sometimes he or she was not so beloved. Regardless of the case, there was always some element of a grieving process going on in that congregation. Interims were expected to allow that process to happen, and attend to any pastoral needs that might result from it. It was only when the congregation faced that that particular chapter in their life was now over that they could begin to dream about the future. There had to be a little death before there could be room for new life.

Sometimes, we fear these little deaths so much, that we are a bit too cautious. We hesitate to do anything new or risky. What if we fail? What if there isn’t enough? What if we make a mistake? We stick to the familiar, to the comfortable, because we are afraid of dying.

Barbara Brown Taylor, an author and an Episcopal priest, recently wrote a thoughtful article in the Christian Century entitled, “The Poured-Out Church”. I want to share part of it with you:

…when I consider my life of faith, this world is clearly where my transformation has taken place. It is in the world that I have met the people who have changed me—some of them believers, but far more of them not—people who have loved me, fought me, shamed me, forgiven me, sanding down my edges on one side while they broke whole ragged chunks of me off the other. The world is where I have been struck dumb by beauty, by cruelty, by human invention and greed. The world is where my notions of God have been destroyed, reformed, chastened, redeemed. The world is where I have occasionally been good for something and where I have done irreparable harm.

The reason I know this, however, is that the church has given me the eyes with which I see, as well as the words with which I speak. The church has given me a community in which to figure out what has happened to me in the world. It has given me a place to love and grieve, within a tradition far older and wiser than I. It is the church that has poured me into the world, in other words—which is counterintuitive. How can a church survive that keeps pouring itself into the world? I cannot possibly say. All I know is the gospel truth: those willing to give everything away are the ones with anything worth keeping; those willing to look death full in the face are the ones with the most abundant lives. Go figure...

“…those willing to look death full in the face are the ones with the most abundant lives.” Can we look death full in the face? Are we willing to pour ourselves into the world? Will we risk much for the sake of the Gospel?

We can. And we will. Because we are Christians. Because we do not live in fear of death. Because we are those who proclaim the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I’m not suggesting we be foolish. There’s a difference between being bold and risking much and being foolish. We are certainly called to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us.

But we must always remember that our mission field is out there in the world. And to be effective witnesses for God, we must pour ourselves into the world, even if it seems risky; even if it seems deadly.

How do we know where to pour ourselves out? In this morning’s Gospel, when those two processions met, one led by life, and one led by death, it was at the moment that Jesus was filled with compassion for the widow that everything was transformed. Life overcame death. Mourning was transformed into laughter and joy. This transformation began with compassion; with Jesus opening his heart to the grief of the mother. Where do we begin to pour ourselves out? In those places where people are hurting; in those places where we find ourselves moved to open our hearts and reveal the compassion of Christ.

Let us always remember that we do not exist for the sake of the Church. We exist for the sake of the world. We are called to pour ourselves out, driven by compassion for those who are hurting in this world. If that means we have to look death full in the face, so be it. Cannot God raise up something new from the ashes of our vanquished dreams?

Let us not live in fear of death, or the little deaths that each of us will face as we walk together with Christ in our midst. Let us be willing to risk much for the sake of the world, and proclaim with our every word and deed the healing power of God’s love.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori: Our Voice to the World

On Thursday, Bishop Katharine testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Here's part of it:

...I believe that each of us must recall ourselves to the vision that God has for us to realize in our own day. It is a vision in which all human beings live together as siblings, at peace with one another and with God, and in right relationship with all of the rest of creation. While many of the faith communities represented here today may disagree on a variety of issues, in the area of global warming we are increasingly of one mind. The crisis of climate change presents an unprecedented challenge to the goodness, interconnectedness, and sanctity of the world God created and loves. This challenge is what has called our faith communities to come here today and stand on the side of scientific truth. As a priest, trained as a scientist, I take as a sacred obligation the faith community's responsibility to stand on the side of truth, the truth of science as well as the truth of God's unquenchable love for the world and all its inhabitants.

The Church's history, of course, gives us examples of moments when Christians saw threat, rather than revelation and truth, in science. The trial and imprisonment of Galileo Galilei for challenging the theory of a geocentric universe is a famous example of the Church's moral failure. For his advocacy of this unfolding revelation through science, Galileo spent the remainder of his life under house arrest. The God whose revelation to us is continual and ongoing also entrusts us with continual and ongoing discovery of the universe he has made.

As one who has been formed both through a deep faith and as a scientist I believe science has revealed to us without equivocation that climate change and global warming are real, and caused in significant part by human activities. They are a threat not only to God's good creation but to all of humanity. This acknowledgment of global warming, and the Church's commitment to ameliorating it, is a part of the ongoing discovery of God's revelation to humanity and a call to a fuller understanding of the scriptural imperative of loving our neighbor...
Yesterday, our Presiding Bishop was interviewed on Bill Moyer's Journal. We heard some of the same themes that were presented to the Senate. From the transcript:

...Christians talk about the body of Christ. A theologian named Sally McFague talks about the body of God as being all of creation. When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. That's an essential piece of Paul's theology. If we're not caring adequately for the other parts of the body, we are not only destroying ourselves, but we're destroying our neighbors here and across the world...

...Religion and science are both ways of knowing, but they go at it from somewhat different perspectives. Science asks questions about-- how things happen and where they've come from. Religion and faith traditions ask questions of meaning, about why we're here and what we should do with what we have here, and how we should relate to the rest of creation...

...Religion is at its best, I think, an invitation into relationship. It's not necessarily a set of instructions for how you deal with every challenging person you run across in the world. It has that at its depth, but it-- does not give one permission to say, "This person is out, and this one's okay and acceptable." And I-- it continually invites us into a larger understanding of that relationship...
There's much more. Take a look.