Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Warning and Some Answers Regarding Bishops Leaving the Episcopal Church

We recently had a conversation in comments regarding the fate of faithful Episcopalians in San Joaquin after the anticipated vote in December that may align diocesan leaders with the Province of the Southern Cone. We now have some answers regarding what the response will be from the leadership of TEC. From Episcopal Life:

...In December the Diocese of San Joaquin is scheduled to hear the second and final reading of its constitutional accession amendment, a proposed act that may prompt "more dramatic action" beforehand.

At some point, assuming that all these and other constitutional changes go forward, the Presiding Bishop could ask the Title IV Review Committee to consider whether the three diocesan bishops who have proposed and supported these changes have abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church...

...If the Presiding Bishop were to present materials to the Review Committee regarding potential abandonment by the bishops in question, and if the Committee were to agree that abandonment had taken place, the bishops would have two months to recant their positions. If they failed to do so, the matter would go to the full House of Bishops.

If the House concurred, the Presiding Bishop would depose the bishops and declare the episcopates of those dioceses vacant. Those remaining in the Episcopal Church would be gathered to organize a new diocesan convention and elect a replacement Standing Committee, if necessary.

An assisting bishop would be appointed to provide episcopal ministry until a new diocesan bishop search process could be initiated and a new bishop elected and consecrated.

A lawsuit would be filed against the departed leadership and a representative sample of departing congregations if they attempted to retain Episcopal Church property.

"These are consequences, not punishments," Robertson said, "consequences that have long been clear, and are now being reiterated by the Presiding Bishop in the letters of warning. The goal is reconciliation, but also accountability."

Beers added, "The consequences can easily be avoided. But the Episcopal Church has the obligation to discipline its leaders under circumstances like this."
First the Title IV Review Committee will consider the matter. That could take a couple of months. The bishops would then have two months to recant. Then the entire House of Bishops would have to meet and vote. It looks like the faithful in San Joaquin will be in a kind of limbo for at least five to six months. That is not good. In a time of crisis like this, it is critical that the Church move swiftly to assure that her members receive the kind of pastoral care such a traumatic situation will demand.

A letter sent to Bp. Duncan of Pittsburgh is attached to the article. Similar letters will be sent to "other bishops," which it is safe to assume means Bp. Iker of Fort Worth and Bp. Schofield of San Joaquin, as they are the other two dioceses that are changing canons and making plans to jump to another Province (Quincy recently decided to wait). Here's part of Bp. Katharine's letter:

...I call upon you to recede from this direction and to lead your diocese on a new course that recognizes the interdependent and hierarchical relationship between the national Church and its dioceses and parishes. That relationship is at the heart of our mission, as expressed in our polity. Specifically, I sincerely hope that you will change your position and urge your diocese at its forthcoming convention not to adopt the resolutions that you have until now supported.

If your course does not change, I shall regrettably be compelled to see that appropriate canonical steps are promptly taken to consider whether you have abandoned the Communion of this Church -- by actions and substantive statements, however they may be phrased -- and whether you have committed canonical offences that warrant disciplinary action.

It grieves me that any bishop of this Church would seek to lead any of its members out of it. I would remind you of my open offer of an Episcopal Visitor if you wish to receive pastoral care from another bishop. I continue to pray for reconciliation of this situation, and I remain

Your servant in Christ,

Katharine Jefferts Schori
It is good to know what our leaders are planning. It helps us identify the gaps. We must fill those gaps.

San Joaquin's Convention will be in a month. We cannot allow faithful Episcopalians in that diocese to feel abandoned for six months while they wait for the slow wheels of canonical procedures to roll forward. It is past time to get organized.


Bishop of Pennsylvania Inhibited

From Episcopal Life:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on October 31 inhibited Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison from all ordained ministry pending a judgment of the Court for the Trial of a Bishop.
The Title IV Review Committee issued a presentment for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy against Bennison on October 28.

The two counts of the presentment center on accusations that Bennison, when he was rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Upland, California, did not respond properly after learning sometime in 1973 that his brother, John, who worked as a lay youth minister in the parish, was having an affair with a 14-year-old member of the youth group. John Bennison was also married at the time, according to the presentment.

The bishop is accused of not taking any steps to end the affair, not providing proper pastoral care to the girl, not investigating whether she needed medical care, taking three years to notify the girl's parents, not reporting his brother to anyone, not investigating whether his brother was sexually involved with any other parishioners or other children, and seeking no advice on how to proceed. The presentment says Charles Bennison reacted "passively and self-protectively."

The second count of the presentment accuses Bennison of continuing to fail in his duties until the fall of 2006. John Bennison became ordained during this time and the bishop is accused of not preventing his brother's ordination, or his ultimately successful application to be reinstated as a priest after having renounced his orders in 1977, or his desire to transfer from the Diocese of Los Angeles to the Diocese of California. John Bennison was forced in 2006 to renounce his orders again when news of his abuse became public...
If the details contained in the presentment are accurate, one would hope that Bp. Bennison will removed from the ordained ministry.

This response is about thirty-four years too late to avoid the damage already done. It raises difficult questions about some of the church leaders involved in this. A predator was allowed to be reinstated to the priesthood? He was able to move to another diocese without any red flags being raised?

If the Church is to be a safe place, a sanctuary in this fragile and dangerous world, those who prey on the innocent, and those who cover up such horrendous acts, must be removed quickly, and turned over to the civil authorities so that they can restrained from creating any new victims.


Defining "Manner of Life"

This strange phrase has been introduced into discussions of things Anglican by Resolution B033, passed under rather questionable circumstances at General Convention 2006:

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report's invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion (emphasis added).
Last month, the House of Bishops attempted to partially define exactly what this "manner of life" might be:

...The House acknowledges that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains...
By singling out one particular "manner of life" that presents a challenge to the Communion, the bishops seem to have excluded a number of other "manners of life" that one would hope are at least as challenging, if not more so. How about bishops in multiple marriages? Schismatic bishops? Slothful bishops? It seems that if we are to be bound by this "manner of life" language, we really need to help the bishops explore a much more complete definition.

Jeremy, from the Anglican Underground has started just such a list of potentially challenging "manners of life". Here's part of his list:

1.) 1998 Lambeth 1.8 Creation

As you can read below the 1998 Lambeth meeting passed a resolution that takes the destruction of the environment seriously. Therefor I propose that anyone currently in the House of Bishops of in an election for Bishop should have to meet certain standards of environmental sustainability to be considered appropriate candidates. Here is a list of Manners of Life that would be unacceptable: 1.) Driving an SUV or any car that does not get at least 40MPG on the Highway. 2.)Anyone who has not switched to compact fluorescent bulbs. (yes I know that it may be intrusive to come into peoples homes and see what bulbs they are using but the communion is at stake we all have to make sacrifices.) 3.) Any one who has not switched to low flow toilets and showers. 4.)Anyone shopping at Wal Mart...

...2.)1998 Lambeth 1.4 War...1.)Any one who does not actively work and use any, active non-violent means to end war does not have a manner of life worthy of being a bishop. 2.) Anyone who may be invested in a company that profits from the "production and proliferation of arms" is unsuitable and causes untold harm to our brothers and sisters in the global south.

3.)1998 Lambeth 1.15 International Debt and Economic Justice
This resolution has so many ways in which to disqualify someones manner of life. I will just point out that Jesus talks about money more than any other topic in his parables and so maybe we should be talking about it too. 1.) Any person who cannot show a consistent pattern of tithing (at a minimum) does not have a manner of life consistent with the episcopacy. 2.) Anyone who has is not giving .7% of their income to the MDG's is also out. 3.)In fact I think a complete financial analysis of every candidate for Bishop is in order to make sure that they are spending their money in accordance with Biblical principals and Lambeth Resolutions. This report should be made public knowledge and there should be an opportunity for the laity to respond...
Yes, indeed, there are many "manners of life" that one would think have a higher potential to be a challenge to the Communion than two people in a faithful relationships rooted in the love of God.

As a matter of fact, there are so many troubling "manners of life" that unless we establish some process for designating some priority to them, it is doubtful if any human being will ever be able to live up to the expectations placed on our future bishops by B033.

Jeremy offers a possible way to establish such priorities, in what he is calling the Manner of Life Quotient:

...This is how it would work. First everyone would agree on a number of criteria upon which a candidate for the episcopacy should be judged. Second each candidate would go through a thorough investigation process and be given a numerical score on each section. Then those scores would be calculated to give you a Manner of Life score. Each section would be weighted differently based on how much importance is placed on it in scripture and our tradition. So homosexuality would be weighted very lightly, while giving and generosity would be weighted very heavily. So someone could be gay and be very generous and score higher that a stingy straight person. This should clear it all up. I hope to have the criteria and scoring worked out by sometime next week. Any comments would be greatly appreciated...
Sounds like a plan to me, Jeremy.

So, what additional criteria would you like to see included?


Monday, October 29, 2007

Mark Lawrence Receives Consents

From Episcopal Life:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori announced October 29 that the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence had received the consents needed for him to become the next bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

The consecration will be held January 26, 2008 at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul in Charleston, South Carolina.

Jefferts Schori has been invited to visit the diocese February 25-26, 2008. "This will give us an opportunity to state with clarity and charity the theological position of this diocese in a manner similar to when we met with [the] Most. Rev. Frank T. Griswold shortly after his installation as presiding bishop," the diocese says in a statement on its website...
After Mark Lawrence was elected the first time, we had a discussion in which I stated my reservations about our Standing Committees and Bishops giving consent to the election:

...Can the Episcopal Church give consent to the election of a bishop who has such a low regard for the constitution and canons of the Church, does not recognize our Presiding Bishop as our spiritual leader, and appears to be an advocate for schism?
The election was declared "null and void" due to "canonical deficiencies" by our Presiding Bishop.

South Carolina held another convention, and elected Mark Lawrence as bishop a second time. In our discussion of this second election, I suggested that it might be appropriate to grant consent this time, due to various statements I had read since the first election regarding Mark Lawrence's loyalty to the Episcopal Church:

...During his attempt to get consents last time, Lawrence danced around the question of his loyalty to TEC. That cost him the consents. However, note the quote above. He made a very clear statement. He declared his loyalty to TEC, and stated that he wouldn't take SC out of TEC.

Now that he has said that, the only way to refuse consents is to believe that he is a liar. Personally, I'm not ready to make such a claim.

Having read some of his writing, and followed some of the stories about him, I do not see any comparison between Mark Lawrence and Don Armstrong as being valid. Lawrence seems to be a good priest. Very conservative, yes. Network even. And there is a good possibility that eventually SC will leave TEC, and Lawrence will go with them. But that is not an absolute. I see no reason to give that diocese an extra push, do you?

But, leaving or not leaving is speculation. Looking at the facts as presented, I cannot see any solid reasons why Mark Lawrence won't get the consents this time. I'll be very surprised if he does not.
Some of you disagreed with my opinion; possibly for good reasons.

Here are a couple of my concerns. Mark Lawrence is canonically resident in the Diocese of San Joaquin. That Diocese voted last year to change their canons so that they would no longer be yoked to the Episcopal Church, and so be free to join another Province, most likely the Southern Cone. The canonical changes required a vote at two conventions. After the first vote, you may recall that Bp. Schofield of San Joaquin threatened our Presiding Bishop by saying that if there was any legal action taken against him or the diocese, he would move up the date of the second convention, originally scheduled for October 2007.

A couple of months ago, it was quietly announced that San Joaquin had rescheduled their Convention for December instead of October. If they are so anxious to leave, why was the date of their exit moved back? We'll never know for sure, but I suspect that the fact that the bishop-elect of South Carolina was canonically resident in San Joaquin was a factor in that decision. If Lawrence would have participated in that convention, and voted to support the break with the Episcopal Church, all his rhetoric regarding his loyalty to the Church would be dismissed as empty words. Even if he abstained from voting, the publicity about the actions of his current diocese could have had a negative impact on his ability to receive the necessary consents.

San Joaquin and South Carolina have both been very quiet as this consent process has played out. South Carolina did not send a delegation to the last Network gathering. Now that the consents have been received, will we see these two dioceses remove their self-imposed gag order and resume their attacks on the Episcopal Church?


Executive Council Responds to the Bishops' Statement

From Episcopal Life:

As it concluded its three-day fall meeting at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Dearborn, Michigan, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church thanked the House of Bishops for its efforts that resulted in a statement to the Anglican Communion issued in September.
However, Council Resolution NAC026 said that where the bishops' statement called "particular attention to the application of [General Convention] Resolution B033 to lesbian and gay persons, it may inappropriately suggest that an additional qualification for the episcopacy has been imposed beyond those contained in the constitution and canons of the church."

Resolution B033, passed by General Convention in June 2006, calls upon diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

The House of Bishops September statement acknowledged that "non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains," but did not describe any other category of persons to whom the resolution applies.

The Council, the church's governing body between meetings of General Convention, said in its resolution that "broader impact" of B033 has been to discourage "the full participation by lesbians and gay persons in the life of the church and enshrine discrimination in the policies of the Episcopal Church."

Finally, the Council acknowledged "with regret the additional pain and estrangement inflicted on lesbian and gay members of the church" and the council pledged "to work toward a time when our church will fully respect the dignity of every human being in all aspects of the life of our church"...
Dennis has provided us with the text of the Executive Council's resolution:

Resolved, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, meeting in Dearborn, Michigan, expresses its appreciation to the House of Bishops for undertaking the monumental task of trying to clarify the conflict between the canons of the Episcopal Church and the demands raised by the Dar Es Salaam communiqué, and be it further

Resolved, the Executive Council affirms with the House of Bishops the essential and renewed study of human sexuality as noted in the “listening process” of the Lambeth Conference of 1998, and be it further

Resolved, that the House of Bishops’ statement exacerbated feelings of exclusion felt by many of the lesbian and gay members of our church by defining Resolution B033 from the 75th General Convention to include lesbian and gay people, and be it further

Resolved, that by calling particular attention to the application of B033 to lesbian and gay persons, it may inappropriately suggest that an additional qualification for the episcopacy has been imposed beyond those contained in the constitutions and canons of the church, and be it further

Resolved, that while B033 focuses on the consent process for bishops, the broader impact is to discourage the full participation by lesbians and gay persons in the life of the church and enshrine discrimination in the policies of the Episcopal Church, and be it further

Resolved, that the Executive Council acknowledge with regret the additional pain and estrangement inflicted on lesbian and gay members of the church, and we pledge to work toward a time when our church will fully respect the dignity of every human being in all aspects of the life of our church.
Thanks, Dennis.

Mark Harris, a member of the Executive Council, offers some commentary on another matter addressed by Council; their response to the Draft Anglican Covenant. Episcopal Life offers the text of Council's response here.


For the Bible Tells Me So

You can learn more about this film and view a schedule of screenings here.

Director Daniel Karslake gave an interview in which he describes why he felt compelled to create this film:

...When I got to In the Life, I noticed they were never doing any stores about religion. I talked to the executive producer about that, and I said, "You know, I think religion is a huge issue both for gay and lesbian people themselves but also for straight people who want to understand what it is to be gay and lesbian, but who are really held back from what they hear the Bible says about it. There's so much going on here; why aren't you guys doing this story?" And the executive producer said, "Well, this is PBS, we get a lot of public funding, and that's just too controversial and too scary. We've shied away from it."

So I pitched them this story about this woman at Harvard who I had read about who had this really amazing life story. She was an African-American woman from Brooklyn who, at 6 months, they think, was found in a garbage can; she'd been thrown out in Prospect Park. She was taken to the New York Foundling Hospital and named Irene Monroe because Sister Irene, who ran the hospital, loved Marilyn Monroe. She was brought up by functionally illiterate foster parents, but by the time she was 18, she ended up at Wellesley on a full scholarship, attended Union Theological Seminary and now is at Harvard. And I thought her story was really interesting, and I also read a lot about how well she talked about religion to people who didn’t even know they were being spoken to about religion; she was called a "street theologian," and she's a lesbian. I pitched that story, they allowed me to do it. It included a theologian from Harvard named Peter Gomes who had the number one best-selling book at that point called The Good Book; he's the university minister at Harvard, and he had a really interesting chapter about homosexuality in which he said that the religious right had gotten it all wrong.

The next day I got an e-mail from a gay kid in Iowa who had seen the story the night before. It was something like five lines: "Last week I bought the gun. Yesterday I wrote the note. Last night I happened to see your show, and just knowing that some day, somewhere, I might be able to go back into my church with my head held high, I threw the gun in the river. My mom never has to know." It was the first of many e-mails like that I got over the next three years because I started doing a lot of religion reporting for In the Life. They realized how many gay people -- especially in the middle of the country -- were not even aware that religious people of all types were really starting to understand the Bible differently. So that e-mail for me was really what fueled all of my work.

And as I produced more and more for In the Life, I got frustrated because In the Life is really hard to find on PBS; it's not part of the feed, so it's on at different times in all different markets, and it was also kind of preaching to the choir a little bit. It's really only watched by gay and lesbian people, and I really wanted straight people to at least start to consider this. That's why I decided to make the film. I wanted to make a film that really appealed to a more mainstream audience, that told stories of non-gay people who were struggling with this. This is not a movie about the gay people and gay kids; it's really about the parents, because I really want straight audiences to see themselves onscreen and see what that struggle is -- and also see where these couple have come from, and where they've arrived...
It appears I've already missed the Philadelphia and New York screenings. I understand it will be coming out on DVD soon.

The film can also be booked to be viewed by organizations, which, apparently, is what All Saints, Pasadena did. If anyone knows of a suitable place in the Philadelphia/New York area that could host a screening, I'd be interested in helping sponsor such an event.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Bishop Tutu: "Is God a Christian?"

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu yesterday thanked Pittsburghers who worked to end apartheid in South Africa and received an unprecedented dual honorary doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.

He also threw down a theological challenge on a doctrine that the worldwide Anglican Communion is threatening to split over.

In his sermon, he poked fun at the belief that only those who accept Jesus as their savior can enter heaven.

"Can you imagine that there are those who think God is a Christian?" he said to laughter from a mostly appreciative audience. "Can you tell us what God was before he was a Christian?"

...The church was filled with those who supported the archbishop's social justice concerns both now and 20 years ago, when black people couldn't enter white South African neighborhoods without a "guest worker" pass. He opened his sermon with thanks to those who had prayed, marched and gone to jail to protest apartheid.

"One of the great privileges ... is to be able to come to places such as this and say to you: We asked for your help. You gave it. We are free. Thank you, thank you, thank you," he said.

He spoke of marching side by side with rabbis and imams.

"They were all inspired by their faiths. I have yet to hear of a faith that says it's OK to be unjust," he said.

"Injustice and oppression isn't just evil, which it is. It's not just painful, which it certainly is for the victim. It's like spitting in the face of God."

He invoked his friendship with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist leader who has been exiled from his homeland for nearly 50 years. Although others would be embittered, the Dalai Lama is filled with "bubbly joyousness," he said.

"You have to be totally, totally insensitive not to know you are in the presence of someone who is holy and good."

He then asked, "Can anyone say to the Dalai Lama, 'You are a good guy. What a shame you are not a Christian'?"

His question drew laughs, but was a direct challenge to conservative Anglicans, who have long said that their deepest concern about the Anglican Communion is not gay ordination but the rejection of classic doctrines about Jesus. One of the most important is the belief that humans can only come into the presence of God if their sins have been forgiven, and that their sins can only be forgiven because Jesus died to atone for those sins.

After equating that with the belief that "God is a Christian," Archbishop Tutu spoke of a human family in which members must love one another even when some relatives are obnoxious. When Jesus said he would "draw all" people to himself, he meant both President Bush and the "gay, lesbian and so-called straight," he said.

He spoke of God having a dream -- and drew laughter when he acknowledged in an aside that Martin Luther King "might have said something like that, too."

"Please help me, says God. Help me to realize my dream," he concluded, to great applause...
We've discussed the matter of "pluralism" previously a few times, such as here. But, I thought some might want to talk about it yet again.

In the comments linked above, I've said about all I can really say on the matter. However, maybe I'll emphasize once again a couple of my personal issues.

Note that these are my personal thoughts. I'm taking off the collar for a few minutes.

First of all, I simply cannot grasp this preoccupation some Christians have with heaven and hell. I'm sorry, but I cannot dredge up any enthusiasm for the topic. Yes, I believe in the resurrection. Yes, I believe there is an afterlife; that life is changed, not ended. But I don't think we can possibly imagine what that reality will be like. Yes, various authors, including some biblical authors, have tried to paint the picture for us. But I think that reality will be so drastically different from this one, that it is impossible to capture it in mere words, or even images.

I find Jonathan Edwards' sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" an amazing piece of literature, but a sickening example of Christian witness. We are told that those hearing that sermon were crying and even fainting from fear. If Christianity is about getting my ticket to heaven, and not much else, then place me with Bartleby the Scrivener, as "I would rather not".

Now those who root their understanding of Christianity in the cross will object to what I have just said. And, a discussion of "atonement" is important. We've had such discussions before, and probably will again. But that is not where my understanding of Christianity begins. The cross is a piece of that understanding; an important piece, but for me, not the starting place.

I begin with the Incarnation; the word became flesh and dwelt among us. That is the amazing part of the Christian story. That is what gets my attention, even when I'd rather not care.

You see, to me, most religion, and almost all "God-talk" is really just navel gazing. Arguing points that we claim as "Truth" that probably don't really matter. Concepts and ideas, proposed by those with too much leisure time. I'm not too interested. There's enough work to be done in this world to keep us all busy. Reflection on the next world seems, to me, to be a distraction from the task at hand.

But, the Incarnation, God made man, now that gets my attention. Why? Because seeing God moving within the created realm has been my experience. And, through the witness of those who have gone before me, which would include the authors of the sacred texts, among others, the fact that "the Kingdom of God is at hand" has been experienced by many throughout history. The chasm between heaven and earth has been bridged. That is the testimony of the texts. That is the testimony of my life.

The divine entering the material realm. God flowing through all things. Yes. That resonates with my experiences of those moments when reality slightly shifts, and we glimpse the glory underneath it all; that elusive "something more." Sometimes I'd describe such glimpses as heaven, when I find myself engulfed by that glory. Other times, when I am in a dark place, and distance myself from that glory, might be described as hell.

That's no pie in the sky by and by. It is only in this present moment that we encounter the living God. Our response to that encounter will decide if we find ourselves in heaven, or in hell.

An encounter with God is what Christianity is all about, or so it seems to me.

Ok, I'm putting my collar back on. The Church teaches many things about the afterlife. And when someone is facing their final struggle, it is the Church that I bring to them, as a representative of the Body of Christ.

Does that make me a hypocrite? Maybe. But at such moments, it is not my personal opinions that those in need are seeking. They are seeking the same thing we all long for; an encounter with God. The difference is that search is greatly intensified at such moments. In my understanding, it is at such moments that I must decrease, that God may increase. My personal opinions don't matter. Actually, they can get in the way of being a clear and transparent conduit of God's grace.

Now, if you all want to debate the Dalai Lama being in heaven, please feel free to do so. But I doubt if I will join you in such a discussion. I would rather not.


UPDATE: You can watch a video of Abp. Tutu's visit to Pittsburgh here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Trinity Church, Asbury Park

Here is the website for Trinity Church in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Not only is it a well designed site, but note the button on the right entitled "Watch our Video Greeting." Here it is:

Pretty simple. And little expense; looks like a regular video cam was used, hosted by Youtube. But quite effective.

This parish is experiencing amazing growth. No doubt the addition of David Stout as rector a couple of years ago is an important factor contributing to that growth. Prior to coming to Trinity, he was associate rector at St. Bartholomew's in Manhattan, where they also grew tremendously.

I've heard David talk about this. What tricks does he use? No tricks. No gimmicks. Just being very intentional about being welcoming and inclusive. Little things like standing outside before the liturgy to greet folks as they arrive at church, making sure the children have a prominent place in the liturgy, and posting a simple video on the website.

Little things. But they matter. It is through the little things that we show how much we really care.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Keeping the Victims of the California Fires in Our Thoughts and Prayers

From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

People started returning today to the homes they were forced to evacuate in Scripps Ranch, south Poway and Del Mar Heights even as officials said fire conditions worsened countywide today.

Four major fires ripping across San Diego County have burned at least 263,000 acres and destroyed or damaged 1,750 homes and 100 businesses. More than 500,000 people have been told to evacuate...

...The firestorms have killed one person and injured 21 firefighters and 22 civilians in San Diego County...
MSNBC is estimating the number of people evacuated to be closer to 900,000.

So, what can we do? We can certainly pray for those who are suffering. We can also take action. From Bishop Mathes of San Diego:

To prepare for the long-term recovery work, we have established a 2007 Fire Relief Fund. Individuals can make a gift to our fund. Please add: “Fire Relief” to the memo line. Please send gifts designated for that fund to:

The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego
2728 6th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103

In addition, we are collecting gift cards to Target, K-Mart, Walmart, and JC Penney to be distributed to people who have lost property. These gift cards can be sent to the above address to the attention of Canon Howard F. Smith. Any communication of these requests would be a blessing.


The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes
Bishop of San Diego


All Saints' 651 Eucalyptus Ave., Vista 760-726-4280

Christ Church 1114 Ninth St., Coronado 619-435-4561

Good Samaritan 4321 Eastgate Mall, San Diego 858-458-1501

St. Andrew's 890 Balour St., Encinitas 92024 760-753-3017

St. Andrew's 4816 Glen St, La Mesa 91941 619-460-7272

St. Dunstan's 6556 Park Ridge Rd., San Diego 92120 619-460-6442

St. James 743 Prospect St., La Jolla 92037 858-459-3421

St. Michael's, 2775 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad 92018 760-729-8901

The above article also includes a link for online donations.

From Episcopal Relief and Development:

...Episcopal Relief and Development is working with the Diocese of San Diego to assist with sheltering and provide psychosocial support for those whose lives are challenged by the trauma and displacement from the fires. “We need to keep our thoughts and prayers with Southern California during and after these fires,” says Rich Ohlsen, Episcopal Relief and Development’s Director for Domestic Response and Preparedness. “The needs, especially of the vulnerable populations, will be great.” Ohlsen will be traveling to the area to assist the Diocese in recovery efforts.

While many people have been able to seek temporary refuge with family and friends, the region’s more vulnerable and marginalized populations – the homeless, low-income and elderly – are in need of immediate assistance, including food, water, and blankets. Several congregations have already opened their doors to offer shelter. Funds are needed for operations and to provide psychosocial support. Once the fires are contained, these same populations will require assistance in rebuilding their lives and finding new homes.

To help people affected by the fires in Southern California, please make a donation to ERD's “Emergency Relief Fund” online at , or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development “Emergency Relief Fund” P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058...
Let us pray:

Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and prayers, and protect all those facing the destruction of the fires in Southern California; that, among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, they may ever be defended by your gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Canterbury's Attempted Clarification

After the confusing letter to Bp. Howe, Dr. Williams' press officer, the Rev. Jonathan Jennings, offered a clarification. Here's part of it:

..."The primary point was that -- theologically and sacramentally speaking -- a priest is related in the first place to his/her bishop directly, not through the structure of the national church; that structure serves the dioceses," he added. "The diocese is more than a 'local branch' of a national organization. Dr. Williams is clear that, whatever the frustration with the national church, priests should think very carefully about leaving the fellowship of a diocese. The provincial structure is significant, not least for the administration of a uniform canon law and a range of practical functions; Dr. Williams is not encouraging anyone to ignore this, simply to understand the theological priorities which have been articulated in a number of ecumenical agreements, and in the light of this not to increase the level of confusion and fragmentation in the church."
Um, that clear now? The theological priority is the diocese, but the province is "significant," for administrative and other "practical" reasons.

Can we then allow that thinking to ripple outward? Might the province be of more theological significance than the Communion, which is really only useful for administrative and other more practical matters?

I think I know what Dr. Williams and his spokesperson are trying to say, but it seems to be unnecessarily muddled, and so more open to interpretation by those currently grabbing at straws to justify schismatic acts. When one is so desperate that "any straw will do," one bearing the signature of Canterbury is indeed a very fine piece of straw.

"Where the bishop is, there is the church." That quote from Ignatius of Antioch is the basis by which we recognize that the diocese is the fundamental unit of the church. Priests represent the bishop. The deacon serves at the will of the bishop. The bishop is the chief pastor of every congregation of the diocese. That is as it should be. It keeps us from the danger of "congregationalism" (my parish is all that matters) and draws us into a vision of God's mission that moves beyond our local concerns.

So far, so good.

Yet, this vision does not end with the diocesan bishop. It is through our bishop that we are connected with the House of Bishops, represented by a Presiding Bishop. This keeps us from the temptation to fall into the faulty thinking that "my diocese is all that matters," which is actually just a slight variation of congregationalism.

There's a big temptation to adopt that mindset right now, on both sides of the current unpleasantness. I am blessed to be in a diocese that will be fine, regardless of what happens within the larger Communion. I also serve under the authority of a bishop whom I trust, making it much easier to accept his guidance. It would make life much simpler if I felt I didn't need to be concerned about what is going on in Fort Worth, or San Joaquin or Pittsburgh. But, God's mission is not limited to the boundaries of my diocese. If other fields are God's concern, then they must be my concern as well.

It is through the Episcopal Church that I am connected with a global mission, through the Anglican Communion. The spirit of the living God flows throughout the world. That seems to imply that, if I want it to be so or not, what happens in Tanganyika, or in Brazil, has to be part of our mission.

This is one of the primary reasons that I am an Episcopalian; we are engaged in a mission that encompasses the entire globe. That is the significant value of being a part of the Anglican Communion. Personally, it is for me the only value added.

I understand that Dr. Williams was making a point that he hoped would stop some clergy in Florida from breaking away from the diocese. My concern is that it gives the impression that the diocese should be our greatest concern. I find that notion quite troubling.

God is moving among us; in our congregations, our diocese and throughout the world. We do not exist for the sake of our congregations, our diocese, or the Episcopal Church. We exist for the sake of the world. If we lose that vision, all our efforts will be as straw.

On a lighter note, I believe Andrew has come up with the best solution to all this confusion. Do go take a look.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The North American Convocation of the Most Holy Order of OCICBW Meeting

A meeting of the NACMHOOCICBW was held this evening at General Theological Seminary.

Mad Priest presided, although he was looking a bit thin and pale, most likely due to poor traveling conditions.

It was nice to finally meet some old online friends, such as Dennis, who did a wonderful job of hosting this affair; Dan, who I've known online for about five years now; Eileen, who is a member of a church just up the Parkway from me; KLady, with whom I share some memories of Wisconsin; Tobias, who I've met before, and already feels like an old friend. A number of this crew joined him and his parish yesterday for worship. And Grandmere Mimi, who proved to be every bit the Southern Belle that I imagined her to be.

Doug (of "blame Doug" fame) provided these pictures. Allie has some more pics up, for those who might be interested. I had a brief conversation with JohnnieB (did I spell that right?), which I hope we can continue another time. There were some other folks there that I really should have made more of an effort to get to know, but being somewhat introverted, (ok; an off the scale "I" according to Myers Briggs), I chose instead to chat with my friends Paul and Catherine.

After Evensong, we dined at Le Grainne Cafe, across the street from General. I barely had time to finish my meal before having to make a quick exit to make it to my 7:00 class.

And wouldn't you know it; shortly after that, Elizabeth arrived, and the party really got hot! Here's her version of events:

...And, I kissed a girl.

Ah, but not just any girl. I kissed Grandmere Mimi. AKA "Wounded Bird". AKA Ms. June of the House of the Louisiana Belles.

While the NYC paparazzi flashed their cameras to capture the moment, Ms. June exclaimed, her voice dripping with the tones of a true Southern woman in distress, "Oh, dear! I do believe you have made me a lesbian!"

To which I responded, "Well, if that's true, then I do believe you have made me straight!"

A great group. Quite mad, of course. But, that is to be expected, I guess, since it is our delight in the Priest Who is Mad that drew us together.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

More Confusion From Canterbury

From a recent letter written by the Abp. of Canterbury to Bp. Howe of Central Florida:

...However, without forestalling what the Primates might say, I would repeat what I've said several times before - that any Diocese compliant with Windsor remains clearly in communion with Canterbury and the mainstream of the Communion, whatever may be the longer-term result for others in The Episcopal Church. The organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial structure as such. Those who are rushing into separatist solutions are, I think, weakening that basic conviction of Catholic theology and in a sense treating the provincial structure of The Episcopal Church as if it were the most important thing - which is why I continue to hope and pray for the strengthening of the bonds of mutual support among those Episcopal Church Bishops who want to be clearly loyal to Windsor. Action that fragments their Dioceses will not help the consolidation of that all-important critical mass of ordinary faithful Anglicans in The Episcopal Church for whose nurture I am so much concerned. Breaking this up in favour of taking refuge in foreign jurisdictions complicates and embitters the future for this vision...
Read the entire letter here.

First of all, there is no such thing as a "Windsor Bishop", as far as I've been able to discern. Those claiming to be "Windsor-compliant" are vocal about moratoriums, witholding consents, etc., but not a word about stopping foreign interventions or honoring the listening process, which are both included in the Windsor Report. What the Archbishop of Canterbury and the self styled "Windsor Bishops" seem to be doing is cherry picking pieces from the Report, and claiming they are the important bits, while ignoring the rest. That is not what I call being "compliant."

Beyond that, when did the Windsor Report move from being a set of recommendations to being law? This is exactly what Marilyn McCord Adams warned us about in Gays and the Future of Anglicanism:

...The polity outlined in the Report was already circulated and discussed in a variety of proposals. But even the original document has a tendency to speak as if the polity were already accepted and in force. It talks as if ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada had failed to meet their obligations - which would exist if there were an Anglican covenant to abide by the instruments of union to which ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada had subscribed, sealing the deal with provisions in their own canon law. As with "Issues in Human Sexuality" in the Church of England, the slide from the status of discussion to official norm, seems all too easy...
Yet now it appears that the Archbishop of Canterbury is claiming that "Windsor compliance" will be the test as to if one is or is not part of the Anglican Communion.

And then, to muddy the waters even more, such "compliance" will be judged on a diocese by diocese basis.

What is the point of having Provinces, Primates, Synods, or General Conventions, then? If each diocese is a free agent, the result will be complete chaos, with the Communion moving further from unity than ever before.

No doubt the Archbishop hoped that by making this statement that he would convince some congregations in Central Florida to not jump to an allegiance with some foreign Primate. But, in the process, he has given certain dioceses the words they needed to refute the claim by the leadership of TEC that "individuals can leave, but dioceses cannot." If a diocese can be in Communion with Canterbury, even if the Province is not, it appears that a diocese can indeed make a unilateral move that will change their status in the Communion, at least according to Canterbury.

If this is an accurate expression of Canterbury's thoughts, one wonders what has happened to cause him to make such an unusual statement. Is he preparing for a future without TEC, and trying to limit his losses?


Saturday, October 20, 2007

California Approves Rites for Blessings

From Susan Russell:

...This just in from a colleague in the Diocese of California: "CA Diocesan Convention OK's Same Gender Blessing Rites by an overwhelming margin -- details to follow ..."
The proposed resolution and the Report of the Commission on Marriage and Blessings can be found here.

The original resolution was as follows:

The Liturgical Covenanting, Blessing, and Sending Forth of Couples in Committed Same-Gender Relationships:

Resolved, That the 158th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of California commends to the Bishop of California the lectionary, rubric entitled “Concerning the Service,” and three rites endorsed by the Commission on Marriage and Blessing, and urges the Bishop to approve the trial use of these forms as resources in the Diocese of California for formalizing the blessing of same-gender unions.
No word as to if this resolution was amended.

The Report from the Commission on Marriage and Blessings includes the following explanation for the above resolution:

The Commission on Marriage and Blessing, in response to a resolution passed at the 156th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of California, has adapted three extant rites for use in the liturgical blessing of same-gender unions in this diocese. The rites are adapted from:

• The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage (as well as The Blessing of a Civil Marriage and An Order for Marriage) in The Book of Common Prayer

• A Rite for the Celebration of Gay and Lesbian Covenants, commonly referred to as The New Westminster Rite, from the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada

• Marriage Liturgy, Second Form, in A New Zealand Prayer Book

In endorsing these rites/resources, the Commission celebrates the intention of the Episcopal Diocese of California to support and bless both same-gender and ‘straight’ couples in godly relationships, while hoping for the day when ‘marriage equality’ will be the reality in our Church and State.

The Commission calls particular attention to the part of the rubric ‘Concerning the Service’ which sets forth, in addition to the familiar material adapted from the Book of Common Prayer, the expectation that the use of liturgies of blessing for marriage and union occur in the context of Christian community and with the community’s understanding of its role in fostering godly relationships.

The rites and other materials referred to in the Resolution may be found in the Commission’s Report to the 158th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of California and on the Commission’s website ( along with other materials such as a bibliography for use in pre-marital/pre-union counseling and examples of particular rites drafted or used over the years which are offered, without endorsement, for informational purposes.


UPDATE: John Kirkley has informed us that the above resolution passed without amendment. A resolution was also overwhelmingly passed that responded to the most recent House of Bishop's statement. John has provided us with the text of that resolution here. Here's part of it:

Resolved, That the 158th Diocesan Convention considers the statement made by the House of Bishops at their September 2007 New Orleans meeting to be non-binding on the Episcopal Church unless adopted by General Convention; and

Resolved, That the 158th Diocesan Convention affirms the unanimous decision of the Standing Committee to refuse to discriminate against partnered gay and lesbian bishops-elect in the consent process as called for in General Convention 2006 resolution B033; and

Resolved, That the 158th Diocesan Convention deplores the lack of access to adequate pastoral care and liturgical rites for the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in most dioceses of The Episcopal Church and the refusal of the majority of our bishops to make provision for it, and calls upon the House of Bishops to publish guidelines for such care...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Montreal Approves Blessings

From a recent email:

As a member of Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal, the host church for the Anglican Synod in Montreal, 2007, the body of Christ voted and the votes were as thus:

"(Be it resolved that this Synod request that) the Bishop grant permission for clergy, whose conscience permits, to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages, including marriages between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized; and that the Bishop authorize an appropriate rite and make regulations for its use in supportive parishes."

44 YES
25 NO

59 YES
32 NO

The Bishop concurred. The measure passed in the Synod without ammendments or changes to the question.
More here.

Watch The Evolution of Jeremiah for more details.

Note that Ottawa approved a similar resolution last Saturday.

Thanks to J. and M. for the heads up.


Taking Seriously the Possibility of Grave Social Sin

The Reverend Canon Dr. Joseph Cassidy, Principal of St Chad's College at Durham University, England, has written an essay that is an absolute must read. Although he identifies his "own theological and ethical instincts" as being "decidedly conservative on most issues," Canon Cassidy wonders why, given the importance of comprehensiveness, humility and openness within Anglicanism, we cannot allow the Episcopal Church to push the boundaries of inclusiveness:

...So here's what puzzles me: Given all this openness, why can't we allow or even authorise the Episcopal Church to experiment with including gay lay-people, gay deacons, gay priests and, yes, gay bishops? Why can't we allow the Episcopal Church to experiment with same-sex/quasi-nuptual blessings? Why can't we ask the Episcopal Church to undertake, on behalf of the rest of the Church, a ministry of discernment within and alongside the various gay and lesbian communities? Why can't we enable the Episcopal Church to push their idea of baptismal inclusiveness to the hilt to see whether it enhances holiness? Why can't we do that? What is the real risk of doing so and what is the real risk of not doing so?

In one sense, the answer is obvious: we can't because many Anglicans in many provinces think the question is closed; others think the timing isn't right; others think more theological reflection needs to occur before testing things in the field; others (hopefully only a few) write off the whole thing derisively as a pandering to modernity.

I take seriously what the Episcopal Church is trying to do. Unlike some, I do not believe that the Episcopal Church are a bunch of uncritical liberals, glibly and mindlessly embracing contemporary values as if they were obvious Christian values. My own theological and ethical instincts are decidedly conservative on most issues, but I do see the Episcopal Church taking a costly road, which admittedly is capable of jolting the foundations, and which would inevitably cause friction. I cannot but see a serious attempt to act with integrity. And that goes for all sides.

In one sense, I'm not surprised that this is occurring in the US, but I wouldn't put it down to Episcopalian American liberalism. Rather, in a culture still barely coming to grips with a long and horribly-recent history of slavery, racial segregation, and racism, it should be impossible for the Church not to wonder whether we're doing it again - only this time to another group identified as different in a different sort of way. That's not American hubris, but real humility, an awareness of the possibility of grave sin. Because, if there's any chance whatsoever that we're doing it yet again, then not to take it seriously, not to take the possibility that we, the Church, might be caught in a long, deep cycle of social sin - well that's dangerous to the soul, a real sin of omission, one that can be profoundly destructive to a great many people. In any event, taking it seriously means testing it, testing the direction the Episcopal Church is moving in to see whether it is 'of the Lord'...
What will be the reaction from those who are convinced that there is no possibility that actions of TEC are "of the Lord"? The bible. Here's Canon Cassidy's response:

...On some issues, though admittedly on only a few (say slavery, usury, the subservience of women to men, perhaps even capital punishment some day), we have departed from clear ethical prescriptions or clear permissive stances in both the New and Old Testaments. We did so for good reason, and we did so by appealing to other scripturally-based principles; but if we are to hold to the inerrancy of Scripture, it is essential, though far from easy, to distinguish between those affirmations whose truth is revealed for the sake of our salvation and those other matters that reflect the then-current faith of the people of Israel or of the early Church as it as developing. Once a single exception is made, then the possibility of further exceptions must be considered. Of course, if individuals aren't willing to grant the need to exercise such hermeneutical judgement, then the conversation is liable to falter before it begins...
He continues with a discussion of "ethical experimentation":

...I think it necessary to say explicitly that ethical experimentation is not imperiling people's souls. To think otherwise is to challenge our Creator, who made us fallible and far less than omniscient. We must explore and discover and create a moral universe, because morality is all about agency: morality is not 'out there' waiting to be discovered. Morality isn't codified in the way nature operates (natural law is about something quite different and is fundamentally about reasonableness, not normative patterns in nature). Giving credit to Aristotle, the good is what good people do. The challenge is to remain true to the dynamism of Christian discipleship, to stay on the road, rather than to stop along the way. And that means testing boundaries; it means sometimes re-receiving the received in a different way from the past...
Canon Cassidy also emphasizes something we have recently discussed here; the importance of building relationships:

...In all this, I am reminded of Stanley Hauerwas's article in Sanctify them in the Truth, where he challenges us to begin to think about such issues not with theology, but through friendship; and, in this case, through close, soul-to-soul friendships with gay people. This is an eminently experimental, and an uncommonly generous, approach. Unless we're willing to do that, unless we get a chance really to see the good that is claimed to occur in gay relationships, we're lacking some important hard data for doing serious theology. It's one thing, for instance, to debate whether it's right to practise medicine on the Sabbath, whether such things shouldn't be done on another day; but it's quite another thing to witness the joy of healing on the Sabbath, and then to wonder about the rules. And Hauerwas suggests that, when you are close friends with gay people, you might experience stories that sound strangely familiar, stories of being lost, of having felt excluded from God's grace, of self-hatred and disgust; stories of all these being transformed by unearned love; stories that sound tellingly like the Christian story; stories that suggest that we might all be part of the same story and so belong together. And you may also discover that, in hearing these stories, the Christian community is built-up, strengthened, nourished - which, for Hauerwas, is key for the discernment of whether homosexual relationships are good: Do they build up the community? And this question can't be answered in an a priori, abstract manner - not with serious Christian brothers and sisters claiming conflicting data. At the very least, such experiences ought to give one pause; and if they give one pause, the theological journey begins - you've got some real data to do a bit of theology. And the theological journey isn't a matter solely for those in favour of full inclusion; it's not just up to the Episcopal Church to prove their case, as Windsor seemed to imply. No, the theological challenge is for everyone: how do we account for these data? Perhaps the theological challenge is principally for those against: How do you account for these conflicting data? These data cannot be dismissed; they can be explained differently, but not dismissed. In the laboratory, conflicting, unexpected data are often the beginning of a discovery. True, experience does not lead ineluctably to understanding. Without asking the right questions, without having the right sort of hunches, without realising the significance of parts of our experience, no understanding emerges. No doubt these experiences of alleged grace can be understood in different ways, as I said, but they cannot be dismissed without risking calling something gracious something evil. And Jesus rather famously warned us about that. In fact, Jesus was himself a victim of precisely that sort of attitude....
He then confronts an issue that has been at the heart of many of the frustrations that have recently been given voice here at Jake's place; the matter of who is making the decisions:

...if you say further that, because of such disagreements, bishops need to be chosen from the heterosexual or celibate end of the things so that they can be symbols of unity, then you need to address gay people not by having bishops talk to bishops about gay people, but address gay people more directly - that is, if we're honest about gay people being part of the church.

I say this because the only good reason I can think of for asking the Episcopal Church to hold back, or to turn back, is if gay members of that church authorise their church to do so, by saying that they are willing as a group to suffer continued exclusion, at least for the time-being. In other words, unless we excommunicate sexually active gay people, they are part of our church: it is not up to us to exclude them from such things as episcopal governance, for they are us -- unless we have classes of membership, say a class for the more righteous and a class for the less righteous. But if we don't segregate people in such ways, it would be for them to decide sacrificially to exclude themselves as the cost of being part of a worldwide communion that cannot or will not change any time soon - if that's the right thing...

...We can only put that question to gay Christians with integrity if the rest of the Church is willing to act as sacrificially as we are calling others to act - which means, I think, that the Church has to be willing to abide by the answer gay people will give to such a request - an invitation to everyone to exercise real spiritual freedom, to reach for real holiness, to act as though we all had profound trust in our God who wants us, who requires us, to work our way through tough ethical issues. I say this because it may be supremely difficult for those who have been excluded to sanctify their continued exclusion by accepting this as a cross to be borne, as God's will for them for the time-being. Because that's what we're asking. If the Church has got it wrong, we, the Church, are asking those whom we have victimised to let us victimise them a bit (or a lot) longer for the sake of the Church; and we're saying that this is Christ's will for the time-being. And, strange as it may sound, as followers of the crucified and risen Jesus, this may well be what is being asked of them, of us. But they need to be asked...
Do take a few minutes to read the complete essay. What did you find noteworthy?

Thanks to Paul for pointing to this.


Congratulations to Bruno and Jerry!

Recently, Susan Russell, the Senior Associate at All Saints, Pasadena, mentioned in passing that she will return from London just in time for the blessing of the union of Bruno and Jerry, two members of the parish.

The self-appointed pistol packing Morality Police simply could not pass up such an opportunity to play "gotcha" with this bit of information. Their intended target was Bp. Jon Bruno. Apparently any "collateral damage" caused by launching yet another ugly attack against people they know nothing about was of little importance.

Jerry and Bruno have been looking forward to this Saturday for some time. They will finally be able to to proclaim their love for one another before God and the people of God. It will be a scaramental moment; a moment when the love of God will become manifest to all present in the vows of love that Jerry and Bruno will offer to one another.

How sad that an attempt was made to create a cloud over what has been intended to be a glorious day. Susan's response is worth noting:

...Why "stir it up" by mentioning it on this blog that I'm heading home to be part of a same sex wedding on Saturday? (And, for the record, I'm not "doing the blessing" ... God has already blessed the couple and the rector is presiding!)

Because it's good news worth telling. Because it's part of the work I've been doing "over here" -- giving folks a glimpse of what the church can and will be when it takes of its blinders and is healed of its heterosexism. Or at least on the road to healing.

And because it's called evangelism.

The meetings I've had here in London have been extraordinarily helpful ... encouraging ... and affirming that the very best thing we can do in the American Episcopal Church is to stay the course and continue to be that beacon of hope and inclusion that is casting Gospel light even as far as the sceptered isle!

The fact that our Presiding Bishop reiterates a vision of a church where there will be no outcasts in SPITE of the fact that the church has yet to catch up with the vision is a sign of great hope and encouragement to those I've met with this week in the CofE who can't even imagine that level of support from their national church leadership.

The reality that I return to a congregation that understands part of its mission to BE spreading the Good News of God's inclusive love AND the witness of a parish that has been in the blessing business for over 16 years is hard for some to even comprehend.

Alert the media. I'd love as many people as possible to share the good news of Bruno and Jerry making vows before God and their faith community to live happily ever after in union with each other and with the One who created them in love and then called them, enabled them, empowered them, to love one another...
Bruno visited Jake's place yesterday, and left a lovely message that I'm going to rescue from the oblivion of the comment box:

I guess my partner and I are the threat to peace in the communion now. Here is my response to those who have taken up the "cause" over our upcoming blessing this Saturday. Details at Rev. Susan Russell's blog.

A note to Stand Firm in Faith:

The big day approaches, and it really shouldn’t be a BIG day, it should remain a Holy day, as should be every day. That is all we wanted really, a day for us to declare, proclaim, if you will, our witness that God has indeed blessed us, and that with all that we are, and all that we have, we thank God for the gifts that have been given us, and that we intend to be in community as we are, together, one resource together, holding up the Good News of God as revealed by Jesus.

That is all, no princess photos, no glamor cake, no over the top costumes or “events”, a chance to celebrate with our family, not just blood family of the legal sense, but our family, those who worship God with us, those who struggle with their beliefs, those who don’t believe, or on not sure they believe. It really is appropriate that our relationship is not recognized by the state, or by much of the church as a governmental body, because we are witnessing to something outside of those limits. Just as we claim each member of All Saints Church as our family, yes even those whom we disagree with or initially dislike or “have difficulty” with, family not recognized by the state, or by treaty, or by covenant, but family in our very creation by God and reaffirmed by Christ Jesus.

To me, it does not matter much that I will not have the same protections under the law that my heterosexual family members have, it would be nice, but for me the most important thing is that, the family that we pray with, the family we share the Holy Meal with, will on this day, and on future days, pray with us and for us. And that we, will continue to stand and pray together for them and their concerns. We will come to the meal together and seek, and journey, offering support to one another, and that on the day that my beloved or I part this world, there will be a family to continue to love and pray for the surviving member of our little family.

My prayer is that we, my partner and I, will continue to try to live the Gospel, which is much harder than just preaching it. That we will continue to challenge one another to see not always Christ in others, but one of God’s children in others, a blessed part of creation, a gift, a light to help us find our way. It sometimes takes us a long time, but it is something we do, we challenge each other to find God’s gift to us in those who might cause us pain, and we try to always be a welcome to them. My beloved is very good at this, and has on several occasions reached out to someone who has insulted or harmed me in some way, and brought us together, and taught us to love, not always come to agreement, but to love, and thus provided the healing to my soul, that is the Good News isn’t it, that God is Love.

My prayer is that we, my partner and I, will continue to give each other strength, and support each other in our journey to God, to heaven in the here and now, to God’s kingdom if you will. That we will continue to find comfort in one an other, in our voices in our bodies. I pray that God’s touch will always be present when I feel my beloveds touch, a reminder that we are wonderfully made, and loved, and that I will continue to find the resources in this reminder that there is enough love in me, to care for the poor, the widowed, the outcast, the sick and infirm, the lonely, the unloved. That in the dark hours when those who hate us, and wish us harm, those who wish us to hide the light that God has lit in us, these resources will give us the strength and boldness to stand as a witness to those who fear that God’s kingdom is not for them, that indeed God loves them and that there is nothing outside of or beyond the grace of God to be transformed into the Holy.

So for those of you who would say we, by declaring our commitment to each other to live thusly, are “torpedoing” the Communion, or destroying the “Church”. I invite you to kneel on that day, and pray with us, pray for God’s will, not ours, or yours, pray for the strength to care for those who are without, pray for those who live in fear, pray for the strength to love the unloved and alone, pray that God’s word become manifest in your being and actions, in our being and actions, pray for the vision of a world healed, and the courage to act towards that goal. And know, that there will be your family in Christ Jesus praying and sharing the meal with you.

May the Love of God and the Peace of Christ be with you.

Bruno Finocchio
Thank you, Bruno. That was beautiful.

The Celebration and Blessing of the Union of Vincent “Bruno” Finocchio and Jerome W. Mersky will be on Saturday, October 20, at 1:00 p.m. at All Saints Church, Pasadena, CA. If you are in the neighborhood, consider honoring these two men with your presence. It will indeed be a glorious day.

O gracious and everliving God, you have created us in your image: Look mercifully upon these men who come to you seeking your blessing, and assist them with your grace, that with true fidelity and steadfast love they may honor and keep the promises and vows they make; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Brutal Honesty

There seems to be a wide variety of expectations floating about regarding the recent and future actions of the Episcopal Church. I've tried to not disturb those expectations, even though often they seemed to me to be quite unrealistic.

I've served in six dioceses in Wisconsin, California, South Carolina and now New Jersey. I've experienced the Episcopal Church in over a dozen congregations. To be quite honest, the Episcopal church I often hear described in our conversations seems to me to sometimes be viewed through rose tinted glasses. It has little to do with reality.

So, time for a reality check. And, just so it is not dismissed as yet another rant from crazy Jake, I'll use the words of another. In this case, the picture is painted by Tobias Haller, offered shortly after the statement from the House of Bishops was released:

...What follows may be hard to hear, but I think these things need to be said. I will frame them simply as bullet points; I welcome commenters who disagree with my assessments to say so — but I am trying to be clearly, if not brutally, honest.

  • It is very easy, in a liberal parish in a liberal diocese to come to think that The Episcopal Church as a whole is much more liberal than it really is. This applies to the Anglican Communion as well.
  • The House of Bishops as a whole — even with the “Network” bishops missing — is not as liberal as its most liberal members. When they gather, something between the Hive Mind and the Stockholm Effect takes place. The whole is often less than the sum of its parts.
  • The idea that gay and lesbian persons are full and equal members of the church is more of a hope than a reality. The ground has shifted considerably from 1979 (when General Convention resolution A053 recommended that bishops and standing committees not allow the ordination of “practicing homosexuals” to any order of ministry) to 2006 (when B033 recommended withholding consent only for the episcopate, for candidates whose manner of life might challenge the wider church) to this week in 2007 when the House of Bishops clarified that yes, this does include partnered gay and lesbian persons.
  • That gay and lesbian persons continue to put up with the church may also be a sign of the Stockholm Effect, or of their great faith. I prefer to think it is the latter.
  • While no one has a right to be ordained, or a right to get married (the hierarchy has veto powers on both matters) still these may have come to be seen as reasonable expectations, to some extent encouraged by a gradual movement towards greater toleration in the desuetude of 1979's A053, and the increasing practice of pastoral provision for same sex blessings in a significant minority of dioceses.
  • This impression was also encouraged by a crucial act in 2003. The consent to the election of Gene Robinson was a “false dawn” — and was not the celebration of gay and lesbian equality it was perceived to be. The consent had more to do with Gene’s superb personal qualities and track-record as an excellent priest than with his sexuality and his partnership. The consent was given in spite of, not in affirmation of, his private life. The consent to his election thus made it appear both to us and to the world that we were moving faster than we actually were.

    So, where are we then, speaking practically, and what can be done to encourage gay and lesbian persons that they have not been abandoned? A number of our bishops have already issued letters or commentary on the House of Bishops’ meeting, affirming their personal commitment in their own dioceses to continuing the struggle. That, I think, is the best that can be said at this point.

    As I suggested in an earlier post, it is high time to proclaim that Lambeth 1998 1.10 does not represent the consensus of the Anglican Communion — and remind people that fully a third of the bishops present voted against the clause on the compatibility of same-sex relationships with Scripture: so that even if this is a majority view, it cannot by any reasonable definition of the term be called a “consensus.”

    Meanwhile, the struggle continues — perhaps made a bit easier by the behavior of the radical right in their essential withdrawal from the process and choice literally to walk apart, both at the national and communion level. I take some hope in this — but it is a hope, not a thing achieved. What I say here may not be of great comfort to those who had come to believe that The Episcopal Church was more welcoming as a whole than it actually is. There are many parishes even in the most liberal dioceses where a gay or lesbian person cannot be honest about who they are. There are many dioceses in which clergy with partners continue to function, faithfully serving their parishes, from the closet. God willing, this will change in my life time. But even if it doesn’t, I know that the theologies of heterosexism are doomed, and that the day will come when the hope to which the bishops referred is realized.

    For the present, a luta continua.
  • Thank you, Tobias.

    I know that some will find this honest view of the current situation upsetting. I really would prefer not to cause any additional pain. But, if we are to move forward, I think we need to take off the rose tinted glasses.

    I realize that some consider the recent bishops' statement as more "justice delayed; justice denied." And so some will no longer be able to continue down this path with us. I find that heartbreaking, but personally, I can no longer deny the reality Tobias has articulated above, and feel it would be irresponsible to do so.

    We've got a lot of work to do between now and General Convention 2009. There are many Episcopalians who are not yet convinced that the time has arrived for us to stand together as witnesses to the radically inclusive love of God made known to us through Jesus Christ.

    I sincerely believe that General Convention 2009 will be a dramatic shift. I think the House of Deputies learned something at GC2006, and will not be as willing to be manipulated by the bishops again. I will be there in 2009, hopefully with voice and vote, and I am not inclined to quickly forget my outrage over how events unfolded during the last days of GC2006. But for the hope of this shift in 2009 to become a reality, we each have to do our part.

    If we are to work together to find solutions, we have to first correctly describe the problem. And the problem is not limited to the Anglican Communion. We've got plenty of work to do in our own backyards. And every one of us will be needed if we are to accomplish our goals. I hope that even in this harsh light, you will be willing to continue to walk with us.


    Presiding Bishop" "No Outcasts"

    Yesterday, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori offered a live webcast, which was co-produced by Trinity Church Wall Street and Episcopal Life Media. It is quite good. Here is part of her opening remarks:

    ...To those who argue from a perspective of justice that delay is immoral, I can only say that our ability to retain our connections within this church and around the Anglican Communion also continues our ability to advocate for the full dignity of gay and lesbian persons around the globe. It also means that our work toward the relief of human suffering, and to putting our gospel beliefs into action, has more possibility when we can work through the vast networks of the Communion than we can alone.

    To those who argue that consideration of a change in our understanding of sexual ethics is inappropriate, I can only say that we have changed our understandings before, for example about divorce and remarriage, about contraception, and about polygamy. There is abundant reason to continue our theological exploration of this topic, and as our Anglican Communion visitors noted, it seems to be the vocation of the Episcopal Church to keep this matter before the rest of the Communion for discussion.

    One of my predecessors was fond of saying, "in this church there will be no outcasts." I concur, and I challenge each one of us to consider who it is we would most like to be rid of. That person, my friends, is the image of Christ in our midst. There will be no outcasts in this church, whether because of sexual orientation or theological perspective. God has given us to each other, to love and to learn from each other. May God bless each and every part of this body.
    Do watch the entire webcast. The question and answer segment will be of particular interest.

    Regarding our previous discussion of the situation in Fort Worth, Bp. Katharine's comment can be paraphrased as:

    Individuals leave the Church. If the leadership of a diocese leaves, they cease to be Episcopalians. It becomes the duty of my office and the remaining Episcopalians to reform in that place. We will tackle that issue if it shows itself.

    I suspect that such a brief and vague answer was intentional. A similar short answer was given to the question of holding bishops accountable. Bp. Katharine mentioned a program now offered to new bishops called "Living Our Vows," which is intended to help our bishops more fully understand the nature of the promises they have made.

    What did you find noteworthy in this webcast?


    Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    Faithful Episcopalians in Fort Worth Need Help as They Saddle Up

    From Katie Sherrod:

    Attention! Legal help requested!

    Here’s the thing -- in places such as Virginia, Georgia, etc., the diocesan bishops are using diocesan resources to help people who want to stay in The Episcopal Church. They seem to be getting ample help from the national church.

    But in the Diocese of Fort Worth, the bishop and all the diocesan leadership and nearly all the clergy are using diocesan resources to try to take all the diocesan property out of The Episcopal Church.

    So here it’s a bunch of lay people who are struggling to keep our property in TEC. Mostly it has been Fort Worth Via Media working on this. Even the clergy who might want to stay in TEC don’t trust us [the bishop has branded us liars, thieves, and troublemakers since the day we formed the organization] or the other clergy enough to band together with us.

    This has made meeting Bonnie Anderson’s challenge to saddle our own horses, well, a challenge.

    We have limited resources, say, to hire our own attorneys or to counter the barrage of misinformation the diocese is putting out in the runup to our diocesan convention at which the bishop wants to pass constitutional and canonical changes that will “take the diocese out” of TEC...
    The changes to the Fort Worth constitution and canons can be seen here.

    Katie also includes a statement from three diocesan chancellors regarding who owns church property. It appears Bp. Iker is going to attempt to claim all the property when he breaks away from the Episcopal Church.

    The faithful Episcopalians in Fort Worth are feeling abandoned by the Church right now. If you are an attorney, a chancellor, or a staff member of the Episcopal Church Center, your advice and support would be greatly appreciated. Contact Katie Sherrod at


    Monday, October 15, 2007

    Pray for Peace: Graham Nash and Bp. Chane at the National Cathedral

    From the Diocese of Washington:

    ...Pray for Peace began as a collaborative effort between Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills and Nash and Bishop John Bryson Chane. For over three years, the vision of Bishop John Chane and Graham Nash has focused on a prayer service and concert centering on global peace at Washington National Cathedral.

    Graham and Bishop Chane were hopeful that if and when His Holiness the Dalai Lama returned to Washington the concert would be based on his ongoing efforts at seeking peace in a troubled and broken world and lifting up the need for all persons to respect the dignity of every human being.

    And now, after over three and a half years the dream has become a reality. A prayer service with the participation of Tibetan monks and a senior lama will be followed by a concert. The concert will feature two songs from each artist, Emily Saliers, Graham Nash, David Crosby, Keb’ Mo’, and Jackson Browne...
    From Bp. Chane:

    People of faith need to make their voices heard both within their temples, cathedrals, mosques and holy places, and beyond. They must take the lead in advocating for an end to violence.
    From Graham Nash:

    To me, it has always been the most ‘un-religious'’ of actions to kill human beings in the name of God. It is time for the religious community to help put a stop to this madness by coming together and denouncing these killings. Many religious leaders are joining us at the Cathedral to literally “Pray for Peace.” I hope you have the courage to join us.
    The two CSN&Y concerts I made it to are by far my best concert memories.

    The prayer service and concert are tomorrow night. Unfortunately, I have to be in Princeton. So, for the benefit of all of us who will miss this grand event, here is part of a 1970 BBC concert by Graham Nash and David Crosby:


    Family Promise

    A few years ago, I hung up my collar and explored other vocational paths. One of these paths led me to being a staff member at a "transitional living center." This is a fancy name for a long-term homeless shelter. Our focus was on women and families. We only accepted those who were employable. Those with mental health or substance abuse issues were referred to other programs.

    One of our requirements was that each resident be fully employed within thirty days of entering the program. To accomplish this, I taught an employment class. A part of this class was to help the residents see that taking a full-time minimum wage job was not going to solve their problems. Some basic math makes this clear;

    Let's develop a survival budget; just the essentials to function daily in this society for one month;

    700 rent
    100 utilities (telephone is optional; this is for electricity and heat)
    300 food (depending on the number and age of children, this may be low)
    100 transportation (public; a car would triple this number)
    1200 total

    If they are making $7.00 an hour, and working 40 hours a week, their monthly income would be, before taxes, $1,260 (7 x 40 hrs. x 4.5 wks. = 1260). Note that the above budget is already in deficit once taxes are taken out, and does not include childcare, medical needs, or a clothing allowance.

    One of the critical ways to alleviate poverty in this country is to pay workers a living wage, which I would suggest is a minimum of $10.00 an hour, but more realistically in the area of $12.00 an hour. Until we do this, we are going to continue to have to find ways to offer a hand up to those in need of shelter in our communities.

    I currently serve in a somewhat rural area, surrounded by a number of urban centers. Consequently, the homeless are for the most part invisible. A shelter, or a "transitional living center" is probably not the best way to meet the needs of those in our area.

    The local clergy have been discussing this matter for awhile. Our focus has started to zero in on Family Promise, also known as Interfaith Hospitality Networks. Here's a summation of the program:

    The Interfaith Hospitality Network program brings shelter, meals, and support services to families without homes.

    IHNs are a cost-efficient, effective, and replicable community response to family homelessness. Because they make use of existing community resources, they can be implemented quickly, without major start-up costs.

    IHN programs vary from community to community, reflecting local needs and resources. However, there are five basic components to an IHN program.

    1. Hosts
    Hosting rotates weekly among the 10 to 12 host congregations in a Network. In turn, each host congregation provides lodging, three meals daily, and welcoming care.

    2. Day Center
    Guests use a local day center from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, where the IHN director, a professional social worker, provides case management services. There, guests pursue employment, tend pre-school children, shower, and do laundry. The day center provides guests with a mailing address and a base for housing and employment searches. Many guests are employed during the day, while older children attend school.

    3. Volunteers
    Volunteers provide various services:

    Cooking and serving meals
    Playing with children or helping them with homework
    Interacting with guests, with respect and compassion

    4. Social Service Agencies
    Local social service agencies refer families to the Network. The agencies may also help guests find housing, jobs, and benefits.

    5. Transportation
    An IHN van transports guests to and from the day center. The van also carries bedding and luggage to the next host congregation.
    I've met with the President of the organization, and am impressed with the program. I realize that it is to some degree "creaming the crop" by focusing only on homeless families, but I think it would be a good start. We will have our first organizational meeting this Thursday.

    What do you know about this program? What other effective programs are you aware of?