Saturday, September 29, 2007

Who is Worth Killing?

From Episcopal Life, regarding the recent Common Cause meeting:

...During his short homily at Eucharist, (Bishop) Duncan urged the congregation of about 100 to be fruitful even if their fruit is not what the world wants, and to be willing to face the consequences of their actions. Those consequences in the past, Duncan said, have included death.

"My prayer for us who have gathered here is that...we will be such a threat to the present order that we will be found worth killing, if only Columba's white martyrdom, but, if it be so, let it be the red martyrdom," Duncan said, contrasting the "martyrdom" of asceticism with that of death...
Mark Harris found a further quote from Bp. Duncan's homily:

...During his sermon in the cathedral, Duncan said that there hasn't been an Archbishop of Canterbury worth killing since 1645, citing Anglican historian Philip Jenkins...
When viewed within the context of his entire homily, perhaps Bp. Duncan's comments about who is "worth killing" are actually quite benign. But I still think they were a poor choice of words, considering the volatile nature of the current situation. It is not a great leap to begin with speaking of killing and being killed as a metaphor for spiritual warfare and end up with acts of violence being threatened against those with whom you consider to be "evil."

Is my concern evidence of just being paranoid? I don't think so.

For instance, consider this conversation that occurred recently at Stand Firm, an ultra-conservative site that is managed by Greg Griffith. The responses were to some "notes" from Bob Maxwell of a clergy conference. Here is part of those "notes." "Jeffrey" is a reference to Bp. Steenson of Rio Grande, who recently announced his intention to resign:

...Third, two bishops threatened +Jeffrey, over this agreement with St. Clement. CO and I believe XX were the bishops. He was really upset by this –in tears and shaking- and it included deposition, law suits, not allowing him to resign. . . We were quite angry on hearing this and wondered if they realized they were talking to a NM – TX bishop. Their cities may have a lot of urban gang problems; but, they don’t realize most of us have guns, know how to use them and nobody’s gonna mess with our bishops!
We don't know the full story behind these accusations of "threats" by two unnamed bishops, but if this is true, I think that we can all agree that such behavior is inappropriate for a bishop. I would hope that the bishops involved in this would offer Bp. Steenson an apology.

Regarding the part about "having don't mess with our bishops," one can assume that this is a reference to the cliche "Don't mess with Texas." Most likely, it was an attempt at humor. But, in light of Bp. Duncan's recent homily, I think this was also a very poor choice of words. The comments that followed give evidence that it was indeed a poor choice. Here's just a few of them. Note that the most troubling comments were initiated by the manager of the site:

Greg Griffith: I’m already reaching for my pistol…

Anthony: Threatening in a blog to shoot people is serious. Just sayin’.

Greg Griffith: Anthony, Agreed. However, “reachin’ for my pistol” is an old expression I use around here. No threat is being made.

Charles Nightingale: Alisdair+: Perhaps it’s time for the “Small band of former paratroopers” to mobilize and deploy!

Virg: "they don’t realize most of us have guns, know how to use them and nobody’s gonna mess with our bishops!...”
At last… a perfect solution to all this bickering going on in the church. We’ll just kill the sobs. God help any dissenters on Fr. Maxwell’s vestry.

the snarkster: "I’m already reaching for my pistol…"
Hey, what gives with this? The Commenatrix (Blessed be her name) got on my case for saying a lot less than that.

It should be quite evident to all by now that our Presiding Marine Biologist and all the 815 gang are not liken to a school of angelfish. They are sharks, pure and simple.

Frances Scott: Frankly, Fr. Maxwell, I wouldn’t waste a bullet on her.

Greg Griffith: Of course, no one is threatening anyone with anything here. I’ll caution anyone pondering a real threat to read our comment policy, but I’ll also remind those who think we’re under orders to keep everything here cupcakes and bunny rabbits not to fall for the caricature of Jesus that our Worthy Opponents have tried to sell us… how was it put the other day? - A sort of zoned-out hippie pacifist, wandering from town to town, spouting Zen koans and harmless parables?

Let’s not forget that the people in these churches have in many cases put their life’s work into them; that their parents and grandparents are buried in the graveyard; it’s where their children were baptized, confirmed and married; and that the people we’re up against are nasty - there’s no other way to say it - and they’re playing for keeps.

I won’t criticize those who think the best course is to play the pacifist, but they shouldn’t find fault with those who want to pick up their sword along with their trowel (emphasis added).

The manager of one of the most popular ultra-conservative web sites read by many Anglicans is advocating for a place for those who want to "pick up their sword." Unbelievable.

We need to say something loud and clear. Threats of violence are never to be tolerated among those who call themselves Christians. I can see no other interpretation of the conversation quoted above; a conversation that evolved shortly after discussions of Bp. Duncan's homily (which explains the "wouldn't waste a bullet" comment).

In your responses to these outrageous statements, please keep in mind that this is a Christian site. Further threats of violence are not the appropriate response. We stand up against such behavior that would seek to harm another. But we will not make new victims. Those with whom we struggle are also children of God, regardless of our personal opinions. Threats of violence against anyone separates us from the love of God made known to us through Jesus Christ.

For the sake of our own spiritual health, and for the sake of the world, let us speak out against violence, while also refusing to make new victims.

Pray for the Church.


UPDATE: The manager of the site quoted above has responded. Here's part of it:

...I refuse to conform my posts to the delicate sensibilities of Jake and his gals. This will always be a place where men can feel free to be men… the kind of place our church used to be, once upon a time...

Blessings Abound Throughout the Anglican Communion

From Kevin Holdsworth, Provost of St. Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow, Scotland:

...Today I celebrated a Eucharist in circumstances which were new to me but which felt old and traditional all the same. A new addition to the range of things that human beings have wanted to mark with the sharing of the bread of heaven and the wine of new life. Today it was in celebration of a Civil Partnership between two people whom I have come to know through my work.

Duncan wrote last week of his sense of holiness in being with a couple as they vow to be with one another for life. I know that feeling well, yet every time it surprises me just a little. The most intimate of moments a couple ever have, but shared with their families and friends and in the awesome presence of the living God. Today was no different.

As I helped the two men through their vows and then served communion to them and their friends in thanksgiving, I knew the Eucharist of old. And I knew the Eucharist afresh. I know Christ at that meal every time. Today it was knowing him holding the beloved disciple in his arms as he shared with his friends on his last night and as he has done at every Eucharist since.

People like me have been waiting for services like the one I celebrated today for so long.

Christ the beloved one has been waiting much longer.
From St. Matthews, Auckland, New Zealand:

Same-sex couples are welcome at St Matthew's. The clergy at St Matthew-in-the-City will assist you in planning and holding a blessing of your same-sex union. We are delighted when any couple wishes to pledge their love, trust, and fidelity to each other before God and in the presence of their friends and family.
From the Diocese of New Westminster, Canada:

...We emphasize that we in this diocese continue to do our work of community outreach and care for our parishioners. The blessing of same sex couples is one part of that. The blessing is a way that some priests use to ensure that homosexual people who seek to be included in the Anglican Communion feel safe and respected.
From Resolution C051 of the 2003 General Convention of the Episcopal Church:

...4. That we reaffirm Resolution D039 of the 73rd General Convention (2000), that “We expect such relationships will be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God,” and that such relationships exist throughout the church.

5. That we recognize that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions...
As you can see, this is not a matter of "The Episcopal Church against the World" as it is often depicted by the ultra-conservatives and often in the media. I think it is time for this misconception to be corrected.

What examples have you seen of blessings being offered in other parts of the Communion? If you provide a link, I'll add them to the above list.


Friday, September 28, 2007

The Schism is Official; Time to Clean Up the Mess and Move On

It appears that the final scene of the attempted coup by the ultra-conservatives has finally commenced. From the Network:

...In order to achieve greater unity and strengthen our partnership in the Gospel, we the undersigned commit ourselves to the Common Cause Partnership as set forth in the Articles of the Partnership (see Appendix 1).

We declare clearly that we are taking this as a first step in the formation of the “separate ecclesiastical structure” in North America called for at Kigali in September, 2006...
This group of "disaffected, breakaway bishops" includes members from the American Anglican Council, Anglican Coalition in Canada, Anglican Communion Network, Anglican Essentials Canada, Anglican Mission in America, Anglican Network in Canada, Anglican Province of America, Convocation for Anglicans in North America, Forward in Faith North America and the Reformed Episcopal Church.

Of particular interest is that I would imagine that this "declaration" was also signed by at least four bishops who are still members of the Episcopal Church; Bps. Iker of Fort Worth, Duncan of Pittsburgh, Schofield of San Joaquin and Ackerman of Quincy. This is sheer speculation on my part at this point, as, once again, the document was released without signatures. Such a curious custom among this group. If these bishops have declared that they are working toward the "formation of the 'separate ecclesiastical structure' in North America," they need to be held accountable for such an action. One wonders how much more these bishops need to do before they are judged to have abandoned the Episcopal Church.

Such a judgment needs to be made. Most likely, these four bishops will claim that their dioceses can simply transfer over to this new entity. As has been explained to them many times, that's not how it works. But, they will most likely try anyway. Which means that the faithful Episcopalians within those dioceses need to be making some plans, if they have not already. It would seem to me that they need to be contacting the Episcopal Church Center, and find out how they go about electing a Standing Committee to be their ecclesiastical authority until such time as an interim bishop is appointed.

The court cases over property will be a mess, although this development will not significantly change anything. In order to be recognized as a "replacement" or an "alternative" to the Episcopal Church, this new "ecclesiastical structure" will have to seek approval from two thirds of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council to have their name added to the list of churches recognized as members of the Anglican Communion. Even if somehow this new structure was to get the necessary approvals, the process will most likely take a few years. Until that happens, it is doubtful if a case can be made for the existence of a "denominational split."

I can't imagine that they will gain such approvals from the Primates, let alone the ACC. This collage of organizations include some that have been declared "not in Communion" for some time. To simply graft them in without serious study of the theological difference that divide them from the larger Communion would seem to be foolhardy. Beyond that, if the Primates allow this splinter group full membership, they will have also given permission for similar groups to form in their own backyards. That should be enough to give most of the Primates reason to have serious reservations about this new structure.

Now, indulge me as I reflect a bit on my "glass is half full" perspective, which I know some of you find quite frustrating. When I'm done, you will have the opportunity to offer the other perspective to your heart's content.

I don't necessarily think it is such a bad thing for these folks to form their own church. In the end, it wouldn't be much different from the Missouri Synod Lutherans. There's really not much left to discuss. And one way or another, we need to get past this constant bickering and move on. There's many more mission imperatives that we need to be addressing. Such a division will be tinged with sadness. Some of my friends will be leaving TEC as a result, and that hurts. But I really think it is time to let them go.

Regarding the legal matters and property issues; the leadership of TEC has a fiscal and moral responsibility to not allow our assets to be taken by illegal and immoral means. That's not going to change. But let the leaders and lawyers work that out.

Our focus needs to be those who will remain faithful to TEC but reside within areas where they are a minority. They are going to need our support as they enter uncharted territory.

I hope that some of these congregations will see this as the beginning of an exciting adventure. Imagine going from 60 congregations to 10 overnight. The new leaders, elected from among the faithful remnant, will have to gather together and ask themselves "What do we do now?" And that will be the moment when new possibilities, fresh dreams, and powerful visions will be glimpsed. There will be churches to plant, maybe in innovative ways never imagined before. There will be structures to put in place, and maybe it will be a more shared leadership that in their previous experiences they could have never thought possible. Means to connect pockets of the faithful that are scattered over remote areas will have to be discovered. Maybe a circuit rider on a Harley? I love it.

Our God declares "Behold, I make all things new!" Our Church is being renewed before our eyes. Sometimes such a shift feels painful. Sometimes it can bring us to the point despair. Well, life is painful. And we all sometimes despair over change. But, what an exciting adventure!

Ok. I'll set the glass down now. Your turn.


Scotland: "Attempts to Expel Will Fail"

From Episcopal Life:

...Archbishop Carlos Touche-Porter of Mexico and Primus Idris Jones of the Scottish Episcopal Church are taking part in a conference, titled "Celebrating Anglican Diversity," to uphold the Anglican tradition of open and inclusive theology and consider the future course of the Anglican Communion.

Touche-Porter is a staunch advocate of full inclusion and diversity within the Church, especially in support of gay and lesbian Christians. "Inclusion is a reality in the Anglican Church, despite reports to the contrary," he said. "I am very much looking forward to being in the U.K. as part of our preparations for a positive Lambeth Conference."

"It was very obvious at the recent meeting of Anglican Primates that the vast majority wish to stay with an Anglican church that is open and welcoming and prepared to live with difference," said Jones. "This is Anglican mainstream and we have to make it clear that it represents [the] majority opinion among church leaders. Attempts to try to turn the Communion into something that is controlled from the center, with expulsion the result of disagreement, will fail"...
Thanks, Bonnie.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Nobody Crucifies Nobody Anymore

A few days ago, Harry left us another of his amazing comments. It is too good to get buried in a thread now four posts back. So I'm bringing it out into the light:

One of the central dilemmas in Plato's Republic is how to get the philosopher -- who by virtue of wisdom wants nothing to do with the government -- to accept rule. There is much irony in the discussion, of course, but I don't think this is entirely one of Plato's reductios ad absurdum.

Our solution -- not a wise one -- is to say that the Holy Spirit takes care of this problem for us.

The problem with that approach is that we end up with--that's right--elected bishops.

In an elected body, there are only a few leaders. Who may or may not be able to lead under given circumstances.

We must not forget that the glory of democracy is the measure of our willingness to put up with its flaws -- and this applies to the House of Bishops as well. You get to be a bishop by making most of the people happy most of the time. Chances are that few of us here and few of us at Stand Firm would be really happy with any Bishop who actually spoke her mind. To some extent, we've experienced that with the Presiding Bishop -- who has disappointed glbt folks and supporters even on this list! We get upset with her and then forget about it... A good thing in the long run.

There is, however, a national character--and you find it in the government of the nation as well as in the House of Bishops. It's a character, a constitution if you will, that is little understood by foreign Primates who think they can actually establish an Anglican alternative in the States. It's the 'Don't Tread on Me' factor.

By and large, our congress and our House of Bishops are, by their natures, and by the necessary flaws of democratic action (also it's best lights), never going to do much that impresses many.

But when uboats start blowing up boats by our shores -- and when the potential fall of Britain hints at the potential fall of our own nation, woefully unprepared for war -- we're in.

And if you go on bringing in Primates from around the globe to play havoc with our Episcopal Church, there's going to be a collective case of Hot Under the Collar.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch -- I'm blessed with a parish that already knows this is a bunch of hooey and doesn't spend time fuming about it. We happily sent a check off to JCFs parish when the church burned -- and it was a substantial check considering our miniscule budget. No questions asked. We're not at all afraid to deal with issues. We've got shut ins to visit, and if a kid in the parish is in a school play--an unbelievable number of parishioners go. And I've even been to high school football and Lion's Club Chili Dinners. Trust me, it's not how I thought I'd be spending the best years of my life -- but how amazing to find the best years of one's life in bowls of chili and in kids playing TV theme songs while marching from goal post to goal post. These things -- a church burning down and all of us knowing how devastating it would be for us -- and all the little things that are a life and a day and a person make us pay attention. And we just can't spend that much time on the Communion Falling Apart or the Sky Falling Down.

Amazing moments just happen over time though. A woman, I'll call her Stella, shared with me early on that she had had the hardest time of anyone in the parish in calling a gay rector with his partner. Recently a Nigerian woman was doing laundry in our parish hall (we put a washer and drier in there so people who can't get clothes washed -- or even buy soap with foodstamps -- could clean their clothes!). She said to Stella, "You're Anglican, right? How can you allow these homosexuals to be part of your church? It's terrible." My partner -- possible the finest man I've ever met in my life -- decided not to jump into the conversation. Stella said, "You know, even just a year ago I thought the way you did. But I've changed..."

There is no difference between doing the laundry and talking about who the Children of God are. The good news? Clean underwear. And open arms. And above all -- sharing: soap, time, thoughts...and songs...

I'm so blessed to have a parish that lives this ideal -- openness -- so much so that even people who have had a hard time with the issue of hiring a gay rector have felt completely okay sharing that with me! That was the most welcoming feature of coming here to Michigan.

Alas, the Anglican Communion has some scary places in it. But people, we've got a good thing going in this little corner of it.

And I'm not leaving. And neither are any of the folks at St. John's, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

They can throw us out. Hell, you're not really fully Christian till you've been thrown out of something or been jailed for something. They can throw us out, but that won't change a thing. We will still be Anglican. We will still be Episcopalian. And we'll still be helping people get their clothes washed, raising money for people to buy gas to get their kids to the doctor in Grand Rapids or Ann Arbor... Or the backpacks -- we put together 200 backpacks full of school supplies for kids who really needed them here in our little town.

Our problem is not gay people. Our problem is people. They need things. They get born into problematic families or with problematic disabilities. They grow up. They get married. They get cancer. They have children. Sometimes they get divorced. Sometimes they become widows or widowers. Sometimes they feel God, or love, or the world has abandoned them. And sometimes they suddenly feel the presence of God in their lives and have to share that with people. But they also keep doing this really weird thing that we can't seem to stop them from doing: sooner or later--they all--they die. They're there one moment. And then they are gone. And it hurts so bad, so incredibly bad -- and we all wish we had paid a little more attention to them, been a little kinder, loved them a little more.

And that's when we gather to hear the Good News. Part of the good news is, in fact, that we could have done better. That part allows me to join the human race -- to see myself as I really am. And to imagine a better me. And part of the good news is that God made me, and adores me, and can't imagine a better me than the one he created. And that just takes your breath away.

I look at the Milky Way and I think, "Hey, the guy who made that made me." I look at a buttercup out in a sheep field and I think "Hey, she made this buttercup so gently and so tenderly, and those tender, gentle things in me -- they must be something she loves."

And we gather. And the love of my life stands up at the front of the church and helps us all focus, and holds wine and bread with his great big beautiful hands, and sings, and he tries to tell us the good news and almost always does an extraodrinary job of it. And the deaths, and the births, and the children, and wonderful Jacob who is deaf and blind and 19 but looks likes he's in fifth grade due to many severe developmental disabilities, and Andy who is in high school and on the golf team and recently shot a hole in one -- and always makes me laugh with his ability to be present and in the moment and welcoming and just slightly grin, and his sister Kate, who is perhaps the most beautiful woman I've ever seen and a Freshman in college and on our vestry -- and Shirley, who recently turned to me after mass and said, "O my goodness, when did we start talking this loud right after church?" and my godson Aaron who is still insisting he doesn't believe in God AT ALL (and he's nine!) but is willing to read the Bible with me in terms of the Force from Star Wars (we're making progress) and is willing, at the Peace, to say to me, "The Force Be With You" -- and all the mess and the joys and the hurts and the going on, the just going on and on and on, sits there before us and with us and in us, and Wayne tries to remind us that it is very, very important who we are and what we do, and the Anglican traditions gather that importance together and measure it and say, "Hey, coming up short, but not really -- we've got bread and wine, thanks, well I thought it was Mrs. Frobush but turns out it's God again!" and from moment to moment in stuttered and stumbling reality, but with beautifully fine liturgy, and quiet confidence, we go on. And somehow, going on, we don't go.

And we won't. But, dear beloved friends throughout the communion: don't tread on us. We fiercely protect our own. Nobody crucifies nobody anymore. At least not at St. John's Episcopal, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.


Thank you, Harry.


Were the Bishops Asked to Repent?

Some parts of the Communion are not pleased with the Bishops' statement. Although that in and of itself is no surprise, the reasons they are giving for their rejection of the statement are worth noting.

From Nigeria:

...Instead of the change of heart (repentance) that we sought what we have been offered is merely a temporary adjustment in an unrelenting determination to “bring the rest of the Communion along” as stated by a bishop at one of the press conferences...

From Kenya:

...The Kenyan archbishop said the US church leaders' comments did not go far enough.

"What we expected to come from them is to repent - that this is a sin in the eyes of the Lord and repentance is what me, in particular, and others expected to hear coming from this church," he said...
From Global South Anglican:

...After all, we know that B033 pertains to anyone, including ‘non-celibate gay and lesbian persons.” It does not affect the intent of B033 which avoids responding to the specific Windsor language of regret/repentance or Dar es salem’s request for clarification in this regard...
Was repentance from the bishops asked for in the Primates' Communique? No. Three requests were made; clarification of B033, blessings, and a response to the pastoral scheme. And that is what the bishops did.

The Windsor Report made a request that is similar to what Nigeria, Kenya and some of the Global South seem to have expected, although the word "repent" was not used:

...the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire, and for the consequences which followed, and that such an expression of regret would represent the desire of the Episcopal Church (USA) to remain within the Communion...

In response to this invitation, in June of 2006, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church approved Resolution A160:

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, mindful of “the repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ” (Windsor Report, paragraph 134), express its regret for straining the bonds of affection in the events surrounding the General Convention of 2003 and the consequences which followed; offer its sincerest apology to those within our Anglican Communion who are offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of our actions on our church and other parts of the Communion; and ask forgiveness as we seek to live into deeper levels of communion one with another.
The Episcopal Church has expressed their regret, apologized and asked for forgiveness. If this resolution is not sufficient for some parts of the Global South, so be it. But to suggest that our bishops failed by not including "repentance" in their statement is to ignore the previous work of General Convention and to attempt to place expectations on the Bishops' statement that did not exist prior to their meeting.

I think someone does indeed need to repent...of bearing false witness.


The Price of Unity

Thinking Anglicans points us to a statement from Affirming Catholicism. Here is one quote from Canon Nerissa Jones:

...We recognise the great lengths to which the American Bishops have gone to keep walking with those provinces of the Anglican Communion which take a conservative line on the issue of homosexuality. I hope that the leaders of those provinces will now cease to agitate against the American Church and accept their good faith. However, as long as the Anglican Church does not...authorise the consecration as a bishop...any openly lesbian women or gay man who is in a relationship and refuses to authorise the blessing of same-sex partnerships it continues to place the unfair burden of preserving our Church’s unity on gay people. I pray that one day that burden will be lifted...

A Response From Bp. Kirk Smith

Nick Knisely brings us a letter from Bishop Kirk Smith of Arizona regarding the House of Bishop's statement:

...I am well aware that for some, we went too far. As I have stated before, I am acutely aware of the pain the House's actions have caused our gay and lesbian members, who may view our response as again placing unity above justice. Yesterday's communiqué (the entire three page text is attached below) is a confirmation of the actions of the 2006 General Convention. Our polity is such that the House of Bishops could not have changed that position, even had we wanted to. Even many of the most liberal bishops among us supported today's response to the Primates...

...That being said, the bottom line is that what we did this week is a compromise, and like all compromises runs the risk of pleasing no one. Each side had to give up something in getting to this point. But there is some good news in this. I feel that we are in a much better position to move ahead, both in our own American Church and with the larger Communion. There was a greater spirit of cooperation and consensus among liberal and conservative bishops in the House than I have ever seen. We have also strengthened the bonds of common mission between ourselves and most (not all) of our brothers and sisters in Africa. The clearer language about same gender blessings allows me to revisit this topic, which I plan to do with the clergy at our annual retreat in January.

To those for whom this has opened old wounds, I again counsel patience, even though I understand that might ring hollow. I do believe we are moving in the right direction, even though slower than many would like. Still, the goal of full inclusion is closer than it was before and we now have a better chance of being one people united in Christ when we get there.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Listening, Reflecting and Praying

I must admit to being caught off guard by the level of emotion the statement from the House of Bishops generated. Since it was basically an affirmation of the status quo, I found little that was new, or even inspiring for that matter.

So, I've been listening, trying to understand the outrage. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to get past the emotion and really hear much of what has been said in the comments. So I looked around elsewhere.

I found two items that were very helpful. One offered by Tobias Haller and another by Michael Hopkins. I recommend that you take a look at both of them.

In regards to those who are feeling that they need to leave the Church, I want you to know that I find that response heartbreaking. I hope that as time goes by, and you reflect further on these matters, you may reconsider that decision.

I understand our role as Christians as being primarily about manifesting the Kingdom of God. I do not believe such a radical transformation of this world is possible unless we work together in community.

I don't say this simply because I'm clergy. I believed that being in community was essential long before seminary. And I don't confuse community with the institution. I've gotten fed up with the institution enough to walk away for a few years after seminary. I realize that some of the biggest stumbling blocks in our path toward union with God and one another are placed there by the Church.

But, I need community. In my journey, while traveling to the outer edges of spirituality and back again, I stumbled across this Church. As flawed and frail as she is, this is where I have landed. This Church has become my spiritual home. Where else would I go?

The Church is a harlot. But she's all we've got.

Let us pray,

Gracious God, we pray for your holy Catholic Church. Fill it
with all truth, in all truth, with all peace. Where it is corrupt,
purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is
amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in
want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake
of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior.

Now, go read Tobias and Michael. And I'll go back to listening.


Bill Carroll: "My Word to the Church"

From Anglican Resistance:

"Fear not."

The angel said it. Jesus said it, again and again.

The bishops may not yet be able to say it, but one day they will. Bishops get so caught up in defending the institution and forget that they are apostles and missionaries. If the Church does not always risk our life and indeed lose our life, we will never find it. And the mission of the Church will fail if we do not witness, bless, and celebrate love when we see it.

My hope is that the incarnate witness of our brothers and sisters will break through the death-dealing power of abstraction, which is the power to avert our gaze, to ignore the light of Christ shining from the faces of our brothers and sisters.

Some of what our bishops had to say is heartbreaking, but their unequivocal commitment to civil rights, at least outside the Church, is encouraging. In the end, however, bishops are important, but they are not the most important thing, nor are they the most important order of ministry. What they will not bless and what they will not do, the Church will still do, with or without them. And moreover, the Lord will do it, whether the Church does or not. The Lord is the Spirit, and the Spirit blows wherever she wants to.

Because the Lord has conquered death and is not afraid.
Thanks, Bill.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bps. Robinson and MacPherson Comment on Bishops' Statement

From Reuters:

...While some conservative bishops had left the meeting early to hold their own meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, there was some favorable comment from both sides.

"We have been a bit clearer about what we have done," said Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, a gay whose consecration touched off the controversy. "I think we have offered assurances to the (global communion) who by the way have been, I believe, destabilized by misinformation coming their way."

Conservative Bishop Bruce MacPherson of western Louisiana, who voted against Robinson as bishop but opposes splitting the church, said progress was made.

"I would like to have seen a little greater clarity, but I think this was OK," MacPherson said...
Astonishing that these two bishops seem to agree.

The article goes on to describe how at least one reporter understands the statement:

...The New Orleans statement added that the bishops acknowledge "that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom" the restraint message applies. But there was no outright pledge to ban another consecration should a gay person be elected bishop...

...On the issue of blessing same-sex unions the bishops said they "pledge not to authorize for use in our dioceses any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion ..."

They went on to say that such blessings are not happening in a widespread way and that the majority of bishops oppose them. But they did not pledge to ban them, citing the communion's own call for a "breadth" of response in personal ministry...

Integrity Responds to Bishops' Statement

From Walking with Integrity, under the catchy title, House of Bishops Stands Firm:


NEW ORLEANS—The members of Integrity have prayed unceasingly for their bishops as they met this week to consider a response to the primates' communiqué. The bishops were pressured by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other international guests to comply with the primate's demands. The bishops struggled mightily amongst themselves to achieve a clear consensus on how to respond. Integrity is gratified that the final response from the House of Bishop declined to succumb to the pressure to go backwards, but rather took some significant steps forward.

We are encouraged by their strong language against the incursions of uninvited bishops into this province, their commendation of the Anglican Listening Process, their unequivocal support that the Bishop of New Hampshire should receive an invitation to the Lambeth Conference, and their affirmation of safety and civil rights for LGBT persons.

Integrity President Susan Russell said, "In response to requests for 'clarity' the House of Bishops made it clear today that the Episcopal Church is moving forward in faith. I believe today’s response will be received as a sign of great hope that we are committed to working through the hard ground of our differences. I look forward to taking the support of the House of Bishops for the Listening Process with me when I and other Integrity representatives meet with Anglican colleagues in London next month to prepare for our witness at the Lambeth Conference."

"Integrity is confident that The Episcopal Church will continue to move forward," concluded Russell. "Integrity expects General Convention 2009 to be a tipping point for equality. We will be working hard in the months ahead to repeal B033 and to authorize development of a rite for blessing same-sex relationships as steps toward the goal of the full inclusion of all the baptized into the Body of Christ."
Onward to GC2009.


The Statement from the House of Bishops

House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church
New Orleans, Louisiana
September 25, 2007

A Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by our Anglican Communion Partners

In accordance with Our Lord's high prienstly prayer that we be one, and in the spirit of Resolution A159 of the 75th General Convention, and in obedience to his Great Commission to go into the world and make disciples, and in gratitude for the gift of the Anglican Communion as a sign of the Holy Spirit's ongoing work of reconciliation throughout the world, we offer the following to the Episcopal Church, the Primates, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), and the larger Communion, with the hope of "mending the tear in the fabric" of our common life in Christ.

"I do it all for the sake of the Gospel so that I might share in its blessings." 1 Corinthians 9:23


The House of Bishops expresses sincere and heartfelt thanks to the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates for accepting our invitation to join us in New Orleans. By their presence they have both honored us and assisted us in our discernment. Their presence was a living reminder of the unity that is Christ's promised gift in teh power of the Holy Spirit.

Much of our meeting time was spent in continuing discernment of our relationships within the Anglican Communion. We engaged in careful listening and straightforward dialogue with our guests. We expressed our passionate desire to remain in communion. It is our conviction that The Episcopal Church needs the Anglican Communion, and we heard from our guests that the Anglican Communion needs The Episcopal Church.

The House of Bishops offers the following responses to our Anglican Communion partners. We believe they provide clarity and point toward next steps in an ongoing process of dialogue. Within The Episcopal Church the common discernment of God's call is a lively partnership among laypersons, bishops, priests, and deacons, and therefore necessarily includes the Presiding Bishop, the Executive Council, and the General Convention.


  • We reconfirm that resolution B033 of General Convention 2006 (The Election of Bishops) calls upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

  • We pledge as a body not to authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.

  • We commend our Presiding Bishop's plan for episcopal visitors.
    We deplore incursions into our jurisdictions by uninvited bishops and call for them to end.

  • We support the Presiding Bishop in seeking communion-wide consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.

  • We call for increasing implementation of the listening process across the Communion and for a report on its progress to Lambeth 2008.

  • We support the Archbishop of Canterbury in his expressed desire to explore ways for the Bishop of New Hampshire to participate in the Lambeth Conference.

  • We call for unequivocal and active commitment to the civil rights, safety, and dignity of gay and lesbian persons.


    Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention

    The House of Bishops concurs with Resolution EC011 of the Executive Council. This Resolution commends the Report of the Communion Sub-Group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion as an accurate evaluation of Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention, calling upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." The House acknowledges that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains.

    Blessing of Same-Sex Unions

    We, the members of the House of Bishops, pledge not to authorize for use in our dioceses any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action. In the near future we hope to be able to draw upon the benefits of the Communion-wide listening process. In the meantime, it is important to note that no rite of blessing for persons living in same-sex unions has been adopted or approved by our General Convention. In addition to not having authorized liturgies the majority of bishops do not make allowance for the blessing of same-sex unions. We do note that in May 2003 the Primates said we have a pastoral duty "to respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations." They further stated, "...[I]t is necessary to maintain a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care."

    Episcopal Visitors

    We affirm the Presiding Bishop's plan to appoint episcopal visitors for dioceses that request alternative oversight. Such oversight would be provided by bishops who are a part of and subject to the communal life of this province. We believe this plan is consistent with and analogous to Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) as affirmed by the Windsor Report (paragraph 152). We thank those bishops who have generously offered themselves for this ministry. We hope that dioceses will make use of this plan and that the Presiding Bishop will continue conversation with those dioceses that may feel the need for such ministries. We appreciate and need to hear all voices in The Episcopal Church.

    Incursions by Uninvited Bishops

    We call for an immediate end to diocesan incursions by uninvited bishops in accordance with the Windsor Report and consistent with the statements of past Lambeth Conferences and the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. Such incursions imperil common prayer and long-established ecclesial principles of our Communion. These principles include respect for local jurisdiction and recognition of the geographical boundaries of dioceses and provinces. As we continue to commit ourselves to honor both the spirit and the content of the Windsor Report, we call upon those provinces and bishops engaging in such insurvions likewise to honor the Windsor Report by ending them. We offer assurance that delegated episcopal pastoral care is being provided for those who seek it.

    Communion-wide Consultation

    In their communique of February 2007, the Primates proposed a "pastoral scheme." At our meeting in March 2007, we expressed our deep concern that this scheme would compromise the authority of our own primate and place the autonomy of The Episcopal Church at risk. The Executive Council reiterate our concerns and declined to participate. Nevertheless we recognize a useful role for communion-wide consultation with respect to the pastoral needs of those seeking alternative oversight, as well as the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian persons in this and other provinces. We encourage our Presiding Bishop to continue to explore such consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.

    The Listening Process

    The 1998 Lambeth Conference called all the provinces of the Anglican Communion to engage in a "listening process" designed to bring gay and lesbian Anglicans fully into the church's conversation about sexuality. We look forward to receiving initial reports about this process at the 2008 Lambeth Conference, and to participating with others in this crucial enterprise. We are aware that in some cultural contexts, conversation concerning homosexuality is difficult. We see an important role for the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in this listening process, since it represents both the lay and ordained members of our constituent churches and so is well placed to engage every part of the body in this conversation. We encourage the ACC to identify the variety of resources needed to accomplish these conversations.

    The Lambeth Conference

    Invitations to the Lambeth Conference are extended by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Those among us who have received an invitation to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference look forward to that gathering with hope and expectation. Many of us are engaged in mission partnerships with bishops and dioceses around the world and cherish these relationships. Lambeth offers a wonderful opportunity to build on such partnerships.

    We are mindful that the Bishop of New Hampshire has not yet received an invitation to the conference. We also note that the Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed a desire to explore a way for him to participate. We share the Archbishop's desire and encourage our Presiding Bishop to offer our assistance as bishops in this endeavor. It is our fervent hope that a way can be found for his full participation.

    Justice and Dignity for Gay and Lesbian Persons

    It is of fundamental importance that, as we continue to seek consensus in matters of human sexuality, we also be clear and outspoken in our shared commitment to establish and protect the civil rights of gay and lesbian persons, and to name and oppose at every turn any action or policy that does violence to them, encourages violence towards them, or violates their dignity as children of God. We call all our partners in the Anglican Communion to recommit to this effort. As we stated at the conclusion of our meeting in March 2007: "We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion and peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecutive because of their differences, often in the name of God."

    The above text was made available to us by epiScope. Many thanks to the Rev. Jan Nunley.


  • Summary of the Statement from the House of Bishops

    EpiScope is live blogging from the meeting. Here's a summary of the statement:

    'A response to questions and concerns raised by our Anglican Communion partners

    In accordance with our Lord's prayer and A159 and Great Commission and in gratitude for the Holy Spirit's gift of reconciliation, we offer the following...with the hope of mending the tear in the fabric of our common life.

    1 Cor 9:19-23

    The House of Bishops expresses thanks to the AbC and JSC for accepting our invitation. Honored and assisted us in our discernment. Reminder of unity. Much of our meeting time in discernment.


    Common discernment of God's call includes all

    We reconfirm that B033 of GC 2006 calls upon us to exercise restraint in consents.

    We pledge not to authorize public rites for same-sex blessings.

    Commend Episcopal Visitors plan.

    Deplore incursions by foreign primates and call for them to cease.

    Support PB in consultation.

    Call for listening process.

    Support AbC in desire for Bishop of NH to participate in Lambeth.

    Unequivocal support for civil rights for lgbts.
    Full text to follow when available.

    Thanks, Jan.


    Bp. Steenson Intends to Resign

    Jeffrey Steenson, Bishop of Rio Grande, has sent this letter to the clergy of his diocese:

    ...The reason for this decision is that my conscience is deeply troubled about where the Episcopal Church is heading, and this has become a crisis for me because of my ordination vow to uphold its doctrine, discipline, and worship. An effective leader cannot be so conflicted about the guiding principles of the Church he serves. It concerns me that this has affected my ability to lead this diocese with a clear and hopeful vision for its mission. I also have sensed how important it is for those of us in this position to model a gracious way to leave the Episcopal Church in a manner respectful of its laws.

    I believe that God’s call to us is always positive, always a to and not a from. At the clergy conference next week I hope to be able to share something of this. Many of you already know of my love for the Catholic Church and my conviction that this is the true home of Anglicanism. I will not dwell on this, however, so as not to lose sight of my responsibility to help lay a good foundation for the transition that you must now lead...
    Bp. Steenson addressed the House of Bishops this morning. His address included this statement:

    ...I hope that you will not see this as a repudiation of The Episcopal Church or Anglicanism. Rather, it is the sincere desire of a simple soul to bear witness to the fullness of the Catholic faith, in communion with what St. Irenaeus called ‘that greatest and most ancient Church.’ I believe that our noble Anglican tradition (‘this worthy patrimony’) has deep within it the instinct of a migratory bird calling, ‘It is time to fly home to a place you have never seen before.’ May the Lord bless my steps and yours and bring our paths together in his good time.
    I think it is also worth noting a previous essay written by Bp. Steenson, entitled The New Donatists. Here is the conclusion of that essay:

    ...May I conclude by taking up a point made earlier about the Donatists’ failure of confidence. They feared the intrusion of worldly influences into their community; the future was an ominous place; they wanted to close up the Ark because the rain clouds were on the horizon, and they feared further contagion from the wicked. These are the fears that traditional, orthodox Anglicans experience also. Can they sustain themselves and preserve their identity in a hostile church? Will they be overcome by ordination policies and deployment practices designed to deny them of leaders? Will they gradually change to be more like those whose values they despise and abhor?

    It is such fears that induce faithful people to try schism, and certainly to them
    encouragement must be given. There is a positive value of living under the authority of this church even in those places where it seems hopelessly compromised. It is not
    compromise to live faithfully under the laws of such a church. And if we are in fact on the horizon of a newly aligned ecclesial world, it is crucial that we prepare spiritually for this future: by overcoming anger, by subduing passions, with charity to all. The Church that we experience now will not be the Church that will be gathered in heaven. Are not these words of the blessed Augustine wonderfully ã propos? -- “But let the separation be waited for until the end of time, faithfully, patiently, bravely.”
    Although many of us might disagree with Bp. Steenson on some matters, I hope we can all agree that this is an honorable man, who believes he is doing the right thing. May we respond respectfully, and wish him Godspeed on his journey.


    What is God Thinking?

    While we wait to hear from the bishops, I thought some of you might enjoy the latest cartoon creation from the Mad Priest:

    Heh heh.

    So, what are you waiting for? Start telling God what She thinks!


    A Prayer for Our Bishops

    Our bishops are now in session. Most likely we will receive a statement from them later this afternoon.

    When you read this statement, make sure you read it again, and then maybe a third time. Try to set aside your own personal feelings so as to fully comprehend what the bishops are attempting to communicate.

    It has been a difficult time for our bishops. The pressure is intense. The divisions are deep. Regardless of the end result of their efforts, we need to offer them our thanks. And, as they take counsel together on their last day, we need to offer them our continued support.

    Let us pray.

    Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and
    understanding, be present with those who take counsel
    in the House of Bishops for the renewal and mission of your Church.
    Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide
    us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to
    pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ
    our Lord.



    From the Consultation

    The following is a message from the Consultation which has been delivered to our House of Bishops.


    The thirteen constituent members of The Consultation, representative of the independent justice organizations of The Episcopal Church, meeting September 23-24 in Newark, wish to remind the members of the House of Bishops that they represent one house of the General Convention, and one constituency of the baptized in The Episcopal Church.

    Any message you make must be mindful of the fact that the Executive Council has made a very clear statement on the matter before you and that General Convention will not speak on this matter until its meeting in 2009.

    We have in mind the language of the Baptismal Covenant which calls us to respect the dignity of every human being. It is not respectful of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers when we tell them that they are full participants in the church and then place restrictions on their participation at any level of the church’s life.

    In the preamble of the 2006 platform of The Consultation we affirm that we see the image of God and the Christ in others and ourselves. We believe that all the baptized are called to share in the governance and mission of the Church at all levels. We see the increase of power claimed by the episcopate as imbalance in The Body.

    We urge you to have these things in the forefront of your minds and hearts as you craft this statement. The sacred vows of The Baptismal Covenant and the tradition and heritage of the participatory governance of The Episcopal Church must not be squandered for a single Lambeth conference.

    We urge you as bishops not to walk apart from the rest of the priesthood of all believers in The Episcopal Church, and to embrace the unconditional love of God as made incarnate in the radical inclusion of Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit be with you to guide you in all strength and courage in these difficult days as ordained leaders in the Church.

    The Consultation

    Episcopal Urban Caucus
    Episcopal Peace Fellowship
    Episcopal Women’s Caucus
    Union of Black Episcopalians
    Episcopal Ecological Network
    National Episcopal AIDS Coalition
    Province VIII Indigenous Ministries
    Episcopal Church Publishing Company
    Episcopal Network for Economic Justice
    Episcopal Asiaamerica Ministry Advocates
    Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission

    The Protest Against Abp. Akinola

    From Josh:

    About 50 people showed up at a demonstration against Peter Akinola today in Wheaton, Illinois. Fifty people, not a huge number; 50 people on three weeks’ notice. Fifty fabulous people.

    Toddlers, oldsters, college students, graybeards, Gays and Straights; Episcopalians, Methodists, independents, United Church of Christ, Baptists, Metropolitan Community Church, a closeted Roman Catholic priest from Nigeria; the whole human rainbow.

    The body of Christ, the bread of heaven...

    ...Kudos to the Wheaton College police: they didn’t give us a lick of trouble or deny our constitutional rights. They were completely professional, defined the college turf and enabled our Christian witness to happen. We got closer to the college chapel than I thought possible.

    The Nigerian/Rwandan/American schismatics ignored us, but they knew we picketed them. I’m sure they all felt energized to gather together and hear Peter Akinola’s shouting, fire-and-brimstone sermon about sexual sin; but they also knew 50 people said there are other kinds of sin.

    Scapegoating is sin...
    Thanks, Josh, for making this happen.


    Did the Joint Standing Committee Receive a Statement?

    A couple of items being reported by Steve Warring of The Living Church yesterday are worth noting.

    First, Monday afternoon there was this report:

    The joint steering committee of the primates and the Anglican Consultative Council is scheduled to depart early tomorrow. They have been meeting in private session all day on their own, attempting to prepare a report for Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Their report is expected to help Archbishop Williams and the other primates determine whether The Episcopal Church has satisfactorily responded to the requests made by the primates. Without an approved document from the bishops Monday, it will be difficult for the joint steering committee to complete its work...
    In the press conference held later that afternoon, Bp. Alexander made this comment:

    ..."There is no draft at this point," Alexander said emphatically. "We've made enormous progress today in building a very strong and broad consensus in the House of Bishops but we still have work to do"...
    Does that mean the JSC did not receive a statement from the bishops, and so could not complete their work? Not according to a later report from the Living Church:

    ...The document released Monday morning is no longer a draft being revised. It has been replaced, Bishop Bruno said during the briefing. The new working draft was developed from this document and one submitted by Bishop Bruno and Bishop Charles Jenkins of Louisiana. During the private session, the bishops discussed the two documents simultaneously for an extended period without coming to any consensus.

    Finally Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori proposed an eight-paragraph summary which she had written. An overwhelming majority of bishops agreed her proposal captured many of the salient points in both of the draft documents under debate.

    After receiving approval, Bishop Jefferts Schori briefed members of the joint steering committee of the primates and the Anglican Consultative Council so that they could complete their report to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. The members of the steering committee were under a deadline because many are scheduled to depart New Orleans Tuesday morning. The writing committee will present final draft language for approval by bishops in the morning...
    If this is accurate, it means that after a few attempts, and a shuffling of the members of the writing committee, and then an attempt to synthesize two very different proposals, our Presiding Bishop presented a summary that she had personally written.

    Did the briefing Bishop Jefferts Schori gave to the JSC include the eight-paragraph summary? If so, that will be the document on which they will make their recommendations to Dr. Williams, who will then confer with the Primates before making a statement.

    And, one might speculate that this same summary will be the basis for the statement we hear later today.

    A minor detail, perhaps, but one that I didn't want to miss.


    We Need Leaders, Not Heroes

    A timely reminder from Elizabeth Kaeton:

    ...The good bishops need to remember that they are bishops. Their job is to lead, not save. We have a savior. That would be one, Christ Jesus.

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people don't need to be saved from the big bad 'fundevangelical' - in The Episcopal Church or anywhere in the Anglican Communion.

    This doesn't mean that we don't deeply appreciate the hard work done on our behalf, but with all due respect, this is not about us. It's not about them. It's not even about the church or the communion.

    This is about the work of the gospel. This is the work we are ALL called to do.

    It just happens, this time, to be about LGBT people. It will come around again, to women. It always does. Until it goes around to some other group. It always does.

    The Episcopal Church does not need to be rescued or saved. She's doing just fine, thank you very much. Just a little necessary housecleaning and self-corrective pruning going on, that's all.

    And, despite rumors to the contrary, neither does The Anglican Communion need to be rescued or saved. Even the most cursory read of her history will reveal that She's been through far worse than this, the Old Girl, and come through just fine.

    And why is that, you ask? Well, not because of any salvific action on the part of anyone in a purple shirt, or a tiara for that matter.

    We don't need heroes. We need leaders.

    If the HOB does its job and LEADS, we'll be fine.

    If the HOB is mindful of its place as only one of the four orders of the baptized (that would be: laity, deacon, priest, bishop), and keeps the sacred vows of the Baptismal Covenant close to its heart and mind as it takes pen to paper, they will, I have no doubt, find a way to lead This Marvelous Ship of Fools out of the present storm on the High Seas of Anglicanism and help us find our way safely to dry land.

    We already know how the story ends. As Bishop Gene reminds us, we're all going to heaven. The bishops simply need to act out in their lives what they say with their lips. Or, as the rappers say, they "need to put their bodies where their mouths have been"...
    Cue Tina.


    Monday, September 24, 2007

    Clarification: Two Documents Being Prepared by Bishops

    From Andrew Gerns at The Lead:

    The House of Bishops are working on two different documents, both of which are very time consuming a pastoral letter to the Episcopal Church and a resolution in response to the Primates.

    The pastoral letter is directed to Episcopal Church describing what they have been up to, what they have learned and what they would like us to continue to do as a church. This is what was discussed in open session this afternoon. This letter will be finished tomorrow.

    The other document they are working on is a resolution that is drafted in response to the questions directed to the Bishops by the Primates in the Communique from Dar es Salaam. This is the so-called Jenkins-Chane resolution. This has been discussed in closed session and has not been released. This is the actual response to the Primates. It must be voted up or down and then, if passed, sent along to Primates Council and the Archbishop of Canterbury...
    Thanks, Andrew. See you tonight!


    First Draft of Bishops' Statement

    Integrity brings us a report of draft message presented to the House of Bishops this morning:

    ...The draft expressed concern for conditions in New Orleans two years after the Hurricane Katrina, but largely dealt with the "requests" in the primates' communiqué.

    The draft expressed regret that some bishops choose to leave after the sessions with the Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC) and did not participate in subsequent dialogs. The ABC and other international visitors made it clear to the House of Bishops that The Episcopal Church (TEC) needs the Anglican Communion (AC) and vice versa. It acknowledged that the bishops clearly heard from the visitors that some in the AC are very concerned about TEC's recent actions.

    The draft then listed some very specific responses...

    1. It expressed support for the Presiding Bishop's plan to provide episcopal visitors to parishes who disagree with their bishop's theological position. However, it does not support such episcopal visitors from outside our province.

    2. It expressed a willingness to continue dialog on an alternative primatial oversight plan that meets the pastoral needs of conservative dioceses but which violate TEC's constitution. It supported an immediate end to "incursions" by other primates who have ordained bishops in the United States.

    3. It encouraged all provinces to engage in the "listening process."

    4. It acknowledged that the HoB is divided on B033. It asked the AC to be patient with TEC as it continues its dialog on this issue.

    5. It clarified that TEC has not authorized rites for same-sex blessings. It acknowledged that some bishops allow same-sex blessing as a pastoral response to the needs of LGBT people in their dioceses.

    6. It asked the ABC to invite a group of bishops (appointed by the Presiding Bishop) to help the ABC facilitate Gene Robinsons' presence at Lambeth.

    7. It reaffirmed the full equality of LGBT people within the Episcopal Church.
    The presentation was followed by discussion and public comments. The committee will present a second draft tomorrow.


    UPDATE: Susan Russell has posted the specific wording of this draft, from a source which I cannot in good conscience link to. Thanks, Susan.

    Parallel Jurisdictions, One Communion

    The Very Reverend G. Thomas Luck, Dean and Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, Syracuse, New York, has proposed a creative idea that I think is worth our consideration. Dean Luck's proposal is reprinted here with his permission:
    Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

    I would like to suggest the following way forward out of this impasse.

    1. That we learn from the Eastern Orthodox and the uniate Rites within the Roman Catholic Church.

    2. That we give up the notion of one bishop for one geographical area.

    3. That Anglicanism have within it various Rites in the meaning above, e.g., the U.S. Rite, the Nigerian Rite, etc. which cross geographical boundaries.

    4. That there may be significant variations within these rites so long as there is agreement on the points of the Lambeth Quadrilateral.

    5. That all Bishops within these rites are in full Communion with the See of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion, thus both Bishops Minns and Robinson and other Bishops ordained for ministry in the United States by other Provinces are Bishops of the Anglican Communion and full participants in Lambeth.

    6. That the U. S. Rite allows for the blessing of same sex relationships and the ordination of people to all orders who are in partnered relationships of the same sex.

    7. That The Episcopal Church allow Primates and Bishops from other jurisdictions to exercise juridical authority within the United States, and that other Provinces allow the Primate and Bishops from The Episcopal Church to exercise juridical authority within all other geographical Provinces of the Anglican Communion.

    8. That all real and personal property of The Episcopal Church and its dioceses belongs to The Episcopal Church, but that in those cases where a Diocese or Parish desires to join another Province such property may be purchased at fair market value for use by fellow Anglicans, and that those Dioceses or Parishes who wish to be part of The Episcopal Church in other countries be allowed to do the same.

    Yours in Christ,

    There are aspects of this proposal that I find attractive. Other parts seem cause for concern. But, overall, it is the kind of "out of the box" thinking that I believe we need right now. It just might work.

    Your thoughts?


    Sunday, September 23, 2007

    Hints of the Real Compromise Emerging

    From Stephen Bates:

    Senior Anglican church officials and American bishops were last night meeting in New Orleans to draft a statement aimed at keeping the US Episcopal Church within the worldwide communion in the face of attacks from conservative church members over the Americans' attempt to remain welcoming towards gays.

    The move, which will be discussed within the US house of bishops at its meeting today, seeks to allow liberal clergy to continue offering pastoral support to gay couples while ruling out, at least for the present, formal blessings services or the appointment of more openly gay bishops...

    ...The compromise being worked on over the weekend has seen the US moderate conservative bishops Charles Jenkins of Louisiana and Henry Parsley of Alabama working with liberals Jon Bruno of California and John Chane of Washington DC and Canons Kenneth Kearon and Gregory Cameron, of the Anglican communion council, on a formal statement that would keep the majority of US bishops together.

    The resolution would also allow dioceses out of sympathy with the church's leadership to seek their own Episcopal oversight and also for the setting up of a pastoral council with foreign representatives. No such compromises, however, are likely to appease conservative groups.

    The make-up of the team looks promising. If this is an accurate glimpse of the preliminary proposal, it's about what was expected, although the mention of "foreign representatives" is troubling.


    Voices of the Ages

    This is making the rounds. Thought some of you might appreciate it.


    1st Century:
    "Certainly Gentiles have a place in the church as do all the baptized. The debate is currently about the appropriate limits of pastoral care and the place Gentiles may hold in the offices of the church. The question is how far the traditional theology of the church lets us move in that direction."

    7th Century:
    "Certainly followers of Augustine have a place in the church as do all the baptized. The debate is currently about not only the date of Easter, but the appropriate limits of pastoral care and the place followers of Rome may hold in the offices of the church. The question is how far the Celtic tradition of the church lets us move in that direction."

    12th Century:
    "Certainly Anglo-Saxon people have a place in the church as do all the baptized. The debate is currently about the appropriate limits of pastoral care and the place Anglo-Saxon people may hold in the offices of the church. The question is how far Norman church tradition lets us move in that direction."

    16th Century:
    "Certainly recusants and dissenters have a place in the church as do all the baptized. The debate is currently about the appropriate limits of pastoral care and the place recusants and dissenters may hold in the offices of the church. The question is how far the Established Church and Crown lets us move in that direction."

    18th Century:
    "Certainly colonials have a place in the church as do all the baptized. The debate is currently about the appropriate limits of pastoral care and the place colonials may hold in the offices of the church. The question is how far Parliament lets us move in that direction."

    19th Century:
    "Certainly slaves throughout the Empire have a place in the church as do all the baptized. The debate is currently about the appropriate limits of pastoral care and the place slaves may hold in the offices of the church. The question is how far slave owners let us move in that direction."

    1900 - 1960's:
    "Certainly African Americans have a place in the church as do all the baptized. The debate is currently about the appropriate limits of pastoral care and the place African Americans may hold in the offices of the church. The question is how far white American tradition lets us move in that direction."

    "Certainly women have a place in the church as do all the baptized. The debate is currently about the appropriate limits of pastoral care and the place women may hold in offices of the church. The question is how far the traditional patriarchial theology of the church lets us move in that direction."

    21st Century:
    "Certainly gay and lesbian people have a place in the church as do all the baptized. The debate is currently about the appropriate limits of pastoral care and the place gay and lesbian people may hold in the offices of the church. The question is how far the traditional theology of the church lets us move in that direction." (The Most Reverend and Right Honorable Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, 21 September AD 2007, New Orleans, LA, USA)

    Paul Woodrum

    Withdrawal Suggestion Becomes a Punitive Tool

    Here is Ehraim Radner's version of a "voluntary withdrawal" from Lambeth:

    ...My own hope, in light of this limited sense of the Archbishop’s desires, would be this: that the “Windsor Bishops” resolution be voted upon, and that, following that vote, there be an agreement worked out by which those who cannot, in good conscience (and here Abp. Anis’ plea provides a concrete possibility of direction), abide by the acknowledged teaching and discipline of the Communion, by which they will temporarily withdraw from the Communion’s formal councils for an undetermined time (5 to 10 years was the suggestion of Prof. Grieb at the last House of Bishops’ meeting, a suggestion greeted with much appreciation); and during this time, those dioceses committed to the Communion’s teaching and discipline will move forward with the Communion’s life, and those congregations and clergy in dissenting TEC dioceses will be put under the oversight of Communion dioceses. When this is done, a formal request will be made to the Primates that those providing extra-geogrpahical oversight give up that role, and fold their congregations back into the Communion-linked dioceses and oversight of American bishops. TEC will not cease to exist (though, as with the Communion, not all will participate in its formal life); it will, rather, exist in a state of partition...
    Apparently, in at least one place, this idea was considered a slight alteration of Kendall Harmon's suggestion that all bishops, conservative, moderate and progressive, withdraw from Lambeth. In my opinion, it is a completely different proposal, and one that I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole.

    But, this is the one that the bishops will be considering. From Bishop Howe:

    To My Fellow Bishops:

    We are deeply, tragically, horribly "stuck," not only in The Episcopal Church, but in the Anglican Communion as a whole. In the past three days we have heard again what we already knew, that we have damaged our relationships with many parts of the Communion by failing to give sufficient attention to "common discernment," and by moving ahead with decisions in the area of human sexuality before the rest of the Anglican family is able to accept those decisions. It is clear that the great majority of our Bishops cannot retreat from what they believe to be not only a matter of justice, but a "Gospel imperative." But, in the light of that, we are squandering members, finances, and energy in our deadlock.

    What we need is a comprehensive solution that will end the international interventions, end the defections, end the property disputes, end the litigation, and end the ravaging of our witness and mission to the outside world simultaneously. I believe there is such a solution, but it will require great sacrifice on all sides.

    I propose that we:

    1) Put the Resolution of the "Windsor Bishops" to a vote. It calls for full compliance with the requests of the Primates in their Communique from Tanzania last February.

    2) Those who cannot, for conscience' sake, abide by the acknowledged teaching and discipline of the Communion (Lambeth I:10) will then voluntarily withdraw (at least temporarily) from the official councils of the Communion (as per Professor Katherine Grieb's much appreciated proposal to us in March at Camp Allen).

    3) Those committed to the Communion's teaching and discipline will continue their participation in the councils of the Communion.

    4) Perhaps we will then adopt the Archbishop of Canterbury's terminology of "constituent" and "associate" membership for our dioceses. "Constituent" = fully Windsor-compliant. "Associate" = committed to remaining Anglican, but unable to accept the Windsor proposals.

    5) Those congregations and clergy which are in "associate" dioceses, who wish to continue in "constituent" membership will be transferred to the oversight and care of "constituent" dioceses and Bishops - and vice-versa.

    6) We will then request the Primates who have established extra-geographical oversight in this country to give that up, and fold any congregations under their care back into "constituent" dioceses.

    7) We will endeavor to fold any American clergy who have been consecrated by international jurisdictions into Suffragan and Assistant Episcopal positions in "constituent" dioceses.

    8) Without relinquishing their membership in The Episcopal Church, the "constituent" dioceses will elect their own Coordinator, and function as a parallel provincial entity for a period of 5 years (or perhaps 6 = two General Conventions, or 10 = the next Lambeth Conference).

    9) After 5, 6, or 10 years we determine whether or not a "new consensus" has emerged within the Anglican Communion, and in the light of that determination -

    10) We either recombine as a single jurisdiction, or we fully separate.
    I have a much simpler idea, Bp. Howe. Why don't we just haul all those bishops who disagree with you into the village square and have them publicly flogged? It would amount to basically the same thing, and no one has to wait 5, 6 or 10 years.

    I really thought that just maybe some of our bishops could rise above their petty party politics and do something grand and inspirational. But instead, we get this sorry excuse for a compromise, from a bishop who I really wanted to believe was beginning to see the light.

    If this is to be the result of even entertaining the notion of some kind of voluntary withdrawal, then I am sorry I even brought the subject up.

    On the off chance that any bishop is crazy enough to visit Jake's place....

    Right Reverend Sir or Madam,

    Regarding the two previous posts in which I suggested that a voluntary withdrawal from Lambeth might be a way forward; nevermind.

    Although I do suggest that you strive to come up with some form of innovative public gesture that would express this significant moment in our common life beyond simply words on a page.

    Might I suggest that as a group you toss your mitres into the Mississippi River while singing a rousing rendition of Anglican Pie?


    Saturday, September 22, 2007

    Further Thoughts on Voluntarily Withdrawing from Lambeth

    Marshall offers some additional reasons why the idea of the House of Bishops deciding to not attend Lambeth might be worth consideration:

  • It would define our withdrawal in terms of our interest in mission and peace, and not in someone else’s terms of “discipline.” It would include our understanding that this was not rejection of the Communion, that we were choosing to “fast for a season,” and not to “walk apart.”

  • It would get the Archbishop of Canterbury off the hook well ahead of a crisis, without requiring him to refuse to invite any or all of our bishops. While it is unclear just how much Archbishop Williams agrees with actions of General Convention, allowing others to continue to pressure him does not serve us. While he might or might not be grateful (at least publically), that’s not the point. It shows respect for his office and our own emotional security by refusing to participate in a tug of war for paternal recognition.

  • It would pressure possibly schismatic bishops within the Episcopal Church to declare themselves. If the House has expressed its mind that no Episcopal bishop will attend Lambeth, any bishop who participates demonstrates decision to leave the House. Those who are committed to reconciliation, to remaining the loyal opposition within the House, will be willing to share in this fast for that purpose.

  • It will save a lot of money. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t contribute to supporting the Lambeth Conference, paying for all those other bishops to attend. I think we should. Our dioceses will still save a lot of money for mission in not paying the expenses of our bishops. Paying for others while not attending ourselves follows the Gospel model of going the extra mile. It may also “heap coals of fire....”

  • While there is risk that Lambeth without our bishops will make statements and take positions that we cannot accept, no one will be able to claim our bishops were complicit. Indeed, it will be hard to declare any position as “the standard of teaching for the Communion” if such a large segment of the bishops of the Communion do not participate. Considering that our bishops are a minority at Lambeth, such statements may be expected if we do attend. This would at least undermine the air of dignity and authority of such statements.

  • Declaring early that this is under consideration will give others in the Communion to express their feelings about our participation in Lambeth. Some bishops in the Global South have expressed willingness to see us excluded, however that willingness might be qualified. It would be interesting to hear whether others had a commitment to seeing us included.
  • Thanks, Marshall.

    Apparently, this is not a popular idea. Personally, I think it has great merit, for the above reasons, and a few of my own. But, OCICBW.

    If you are near Chicago, don't forget that tommorrow morning is the protest of Abp. Akinola at Wheaton college.


    What Can the Bishops Do?

    In the previous post, I suggested that the bishops are restrained by the previous actions of the Executive Council. Unlike other parts of the Anglican Communion, the authority of our bishops is balanced by the authority of elected representatives from all four orders. Understanding this unique structure, in which it is not assumed that God will speak only through our bishops, appears to be difficult for those from other parts of the Communion to comprehend. Evidence of this difficulty, and the frustration it causes among our bishops, can be seen in this article from the NYT. The following segment is in regards to the day and a half that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Joint Standing Committee spent with our House of Bishops:

    ...Bishops also said that while the conversation this week was respectful, they felt disappointed it was so brief. And they said the archbishop and other Anglican leaders had failed to grasp and respect how the Episcopal Church was governed. Other provinces are much more hierarchical and bishops can legislate church policy, they said. Episcopal bishops assert that they cannot govern without the votes of clergy members and lay people, too.

    One bishop who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “What was said to us was, ‘All this talk of laity aside, if you acted like a real bishop, what would you do?'”
    The problem is, to be a bishop in the Episcopal Church, you cannot set aside the laity. And thanks be to God for that!

    So, what can the bishops do, other than what has already been done? Is there something radical, creative and unexpected that might just send this whole matter in new direction?

    There has been one suggestion, which I hesitate to mention, as I have my own reservations about it. But it is radical, and it is creative, and it is within the authority of the bishops to put in place.

    Kendall Harmon has suggested that the bishops make the following statement:

    We realize we have caused huge damage to the whole Anglican Communion and therefore, we, as a body, voluntarily withdraw from coming to Lambeth 2008.
    Now, never mind the first part; that we have caused huge damage is certainly debatable. There's always two sides to every disagreement. That part could be cleaned up. Something like, "We recognize the strain caused to our bonds of affection because of our actions..."

    Don't dismiss this too quickly. Note that as proposed, this would include all TEC's bishops. Bps. Iker and Duncan, for instance, would also surrender their seat at Lambeth.

    Our Presiding Bishop has spoken to us about needing to make a "sacrifice," of "bearing our cross." The difficulty with those sentiments has been that those who were being asked to make such a sacrifice were a minority group within the Church. But what if the House of Bishops were the ones to offer up a sacrifice?

    Would such a move have any impact? For one thing, the ugly Americans would no longer be the lightning rod. There are multiple reasons why North Americans are an easy target; some justifiable, some not. Many of those reasons have little or nothing to do with orthodoxy or human sexuality. If we are not present, maybe other parts of the Communion, which have been quietly supportive of our struggle, will speak out more boldly. Maybe then the Communion will acknowledge that there are honest gay bishops in the Communion other than Bp. Robinson. Maybe then it will be noted that same sex blessings are offered in many places within the Communion. It is not a uniquely American phenomenon. Maybe then the discussion will move away from the depiction of it being about "The Americans vs. the Global South." Maybe then the conversation can start becoming an honest exchange of ideas instead of an ever increasing escalation of conflict.

    Is there a down side? Most definitely. Voluntarily removing ourselves from the ACC seems to have accomplished little except emboldening the bullies to press harder because their tactics seemed to have worked. But, most critically, it would remove our voice from the council of bishops, and so could result in harsh and punitive resolutions being approved at Lambeth; resolutions that would make Lambeth 1.10 appear docile.

    But, it would turn the whole debate on its head. Should bishops act like bishops? Most definitely. But that does not limit their role to playing the prince bishop. It could mean being willing to be humble; being willing to don ashes and sackcloth for a season; it could mean climbing up on the cross to reveal to the world the radically inclusive love made known to us through Jesus Christ.


    Recalling the Response of the Executive Council

    What is the Executive Council?

    The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church is an elected body representing the whole Church. In the course of the three years between convention, known as the "triennium", the Executive Council will customarily meet once in each of the nine provinces of the Episcopal Church.

    The Executive Council has the duty to carry out programs and policies adopted by General Convention. It is the job of Executive Council to oversee the ministry and mission of the Church. The Executive Council is comprised of twenty members elected by General Convention (four bishops, four priests or deacons and twelve laypersons) and eighteen members elected by provincial synods.
    The EC represents the whole Church. Membership is drawn from all four orders. Their "job" is "to oversee the ministry and mission of the Church."

    What was the Executive Council's response to the Primates' Dar es Salaam Communique?

    ...We understand the requests made by the Primates from Dar es Salaam in February, 2007 as a good-faith contribution to that on-going conversation. Still, the requests of the Primates are of a nature that can only properly be dealt with by our General Convention. Neither the Executive Council, the Presiding Bishop, nor the House of Bishops can give binding interpretations of General Convention resolutions nor make an "unequivocal common commitment" to denying future decisions by dioceses or General Convention. We question the authority of the Primates to impose deadlines and demands upon any of the churches of the Anglican Communion or to prescribe the relationships within any of the other instruments of our common life, including the Anglican Consultative Council...

    ...We have received from the House of Bishops of our Church a request to decline to participate in the proposed Pastoral Scheme; with an explanation for the reasons our bishops believe that the scheme is ill-advised. We agree with the bishops' assessment including the conclusion that to participate in the scheme would violate our Constitution and Canons. We thus decline to participate in the Pastoral Scheme and respectfully ask our Presiding Bishop not to take any of the actions asked of her by this scheme. We affirm the pledge of the bishops to "continue to work to find ways of meeting the pastoral concerns of the Primates that are compatible with our own polity and canons"
    I would hope that the House of Bishops have reviewed this response. It seems to me that they do not have the authority to take any action by themselves that would be contrary to this statement.

    If they do, GC2009 could prove to be very interesting. The mind of the House of Deputies was thwarted by the forceful way B033 was pushed by the House of Bishops at GC2006. That damaged the trust. For the House of Bishops to now act unilaterally would further damage that trust relationship.

    The House of Bishops cannot "give binding interpretations of General Convention resolutions nor make an 'unequivocal common commitment' to denying future decisions by dioceses or General Convention." The only option that leaves is to affirm what already exists; B033, no authorized rites for blessings, and a pastoral care plan for dissenting congregations that remains within the boundaries of the Constitution and Canons. Anything more must wait for GC2009.

    If anything beyond the Executive Council's statement is adopted by our bishops, it will signal that the subtle move towards a more authoritarian structure of leadership, which we see evidence of in other parts of the Communion, is now emerging within the Episcopal Church. Such a structure would be contrary to who we understand ourselves to be as Christians, Anglicans, Episcopalians and Americans. Rather than alleviate tensions, it would cause a new crisis, and further damage to the Church and our witness to the world.