Thursday, January 31, 2008

I'm an Irate Fellow, and I'm Okay

You simply must go read this message from Bishop Sergio Carranza of Los Angeles. Here's just a taste:

Here we are, just a few months away from the Lambeth Conference and we find ourselves in an impasse: the Bishop of New Hampshire without an invitation to attend the meeting, the poachers from the Global South hunting in the U.S.A. and Canada, the schismatics trying to steal TEC's property, the Nigerian post-colonial neo-crusader-in-reverse uttering threats, and the Archbishop of Canterbury giving the impression that he is willing to sacrifice the Episcopal Church in order to appease the radical conservatives and thus maintain the unity of an already fractured Anglican Communion.

These are perturbing, bewildering and irritating times for the truly orthodox Anglicans who want to preserve not only the identity, but the essence of Anglicanism, and refuse to accept the new religion crafted by some of the power greedy Third World hierarchs and the lunatic fringe of American conservatism...
Man, that is sure telling it like it is, eh? But what I really appreciated was the Bishop's closing thought:

...And before I am accused of being an irate fellow, let me quote what St. Thomas Aquinas has to say about it: "He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust."
All together now:

I'm an irate fellow, and I'm okay.
I sleep all night. I rant all day.

Choir: He's an irate fellow, and he's okay.
He sleeps all night and he rants all day.

I cut down thugs. I eat my lunch.
I go to the lavatory.
On Wednesdays I go shoppin'
And feed the poor for free.

Choir: He cuts down thugs. He eats his lunch.
He goes to the lavatory.
On Wednesdays he goes shopping
And feeds the poor for free.

I cut down thugs. I skip and jump.
I like to press wild flowers.
I put on...

Err, the rest doesn't really apply. Really. It doesn't.

But do go read Bp. Carranza's piece. Some good straight talk. No pun intended. Really. None at all.

I think I'm done now.


GAFCON: The Gaffes Go On

To be quite honest with you, I have little interest in the Lambeth Conference, let alone the "alternative Lambeth" dreamed up by a handful of extreme consertives and given the unfortunate name of GAFCON. But others seem to think it is important to watch these shenanigans, and maybe they are right.

You can find the background regarding the previous gaffes of this GAFCON group here. Apparently, Chris Sudgen of Anglican Mainstream got together a few Primates and hatched the idea of a global conference for "real" Christians of the Anglican persuasion. Those of more questionable pedigrees would be excluded, of course. And what better place to hold it than Jerusalem? Images of a pilgrimmage to the Holy land, the Council of Jerusalem, etc. are all expected to come to mind. So, on Christmas Eve, they go public with what I'm sure they imagined to be a simply brilliant move.

But, they forgot to consult with anyone beyond their little group, it appears. Acting unilaterally without sufficient consultation with the larger church sounds like a very familiar accusation, doesn't it? Where have I heard that before? Oh, nevermind. I'm sure it's not very important.

Except in the case of GAFCON, it appears that such a slight was indeed rather important among some of those whom I'm sure this small group anticipated would be their allies. Dr. Michael Poon, a prominent voice among the conservatives in the Global South, spoke out against the idea of GAFCON, for which he received an angry response from an unnamed Primate, which could be boiled down to consisting of two words: "Shut up."

But then Abp. Mouneer Anis, Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East, spoke up, and suggested that maybe the timing and the venue for this "conference" was not such a good idea. And then we discover that the Bishop of Jerusalem, the host of this shindig, had not even been consulted before the invitations went out. When hearing about the plans through the press, he voiced his reservations about holding such a conference in Jerusalem. Oops.

So, the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani was recently visited by two of the most extremely conservative leaders in Anglicanism, Bishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, Australia, and Nigeria Archbishop Peter Akinola. They pressured the Bishop of Jerusalem to change his mind. Minutes of their meeting can be found here. As you can see, Jensen and Akinola were not successful. Even if we believe that parts of these minutes were cut out, as some of the extremists claim, the clear mesage at the end of this meeting remains; Bp. Dawani does not want this "conference" happening in his backyard. If the claim that at some time during this meeting he made comments suggesting he thought that it was a good idea are true, they do not really change his bottom line. His answer was no.

But who does this Bishop think he is, anyway? Who is he to stand in the way of a global mission to save Anglicanism from the evil and apostate Americans, who have the audacity to claim that God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life? We cannot let such heresy flourish in the Church, can we?

So, the invitations to the "conference" (or pilgrimage?) went out anyway. And who sent those invitations. None other than our very own Bp. Duncan of Pittsburgh. I hope by now you recognize his name. If not, let it suffice to remind you that Bp. Duncan has recently been charged with abandoning the Church and breaking his ordination vows. It seems to me that his leadership in attempting to get this "alternative Lambeth" off the ground might be added to the already long list of evidence against him that will most likely result in him being deposed by the House of Bishops this Fall.

But, what to do with the troubling Bishop of Jerusalem who doesn't want to host this conference/pilgrimage? How about launching a smear campaign? But it appears that even this ploy was prone to numerous gaffes. The former bishop who was used to make rather lame accusations against Bp. Dawani was not exactly squeeky clean himself, and so the mud thrown back at him appears to have more sticking power than the original onslaught. You can find links to the texts of the accusations being tossed back and forth here.

So, yesterday, Abp. Akinola decided to hold a press conference in which he would make everything clear about the purpose of GAFCON. Nothing we haven't heard from him before. Lots of half truths and generalizations to cover his real issue; how to keep the gays who produce hooligans out of HIS Church.

If you want more detailed commentary of Abp. Akinola's latest pronouncement, go visit Mark Harris. Mark's conclusion is worth repeating:
...GAFCON is about forming a new Communion of bible-belt Anglicans.

The fourth point of the Lambeth Quadrilateral speaks of the historic episcopate locally adapted in the methods of its administration. It turns out that "locally adapted in its methods of administration" has come to include ripping out the leg of reason, trimming the leg of tradition, both of which have a large dose of "modern culture" to them, and sitting on the post of scripture. Well, so be it. When the Archbishop dozes off, he will fall over. When he gets up, the Archbishop will no longer be an Anglican...

Since this group seems to no longer put much value in being Anglican, why not drop the Jerusalem idea, and just come to the New Jerusalem of all former Anglicans? Since Bp. Duncan is already playing the role of host by sending out the invitations, just relocate to Pittsburgh. We'll even greet you upon your arrival. With signs and colorful chants, of course.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cracks Appear in Pittsburgh

From Episcopal Life:

Twelve priests in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh have told Bishop Robert Duncan that they will not support his efforts to re-align the diocese outside the Episcopal Church...

...The Rev. Dr. James Simons, rector of St Michael's of the Valley in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, and one of the signers of the letter, said that the group is "not an organized political strategy group; it's just a group of rectors who came to their own conclusions."

The priests wanted "to let people know that there's going to be an alternative" if Duncan and the rest of the diocese's leadership continue in their plan to realign the diocese.

"This is not a group that is seeking to be in conflict" with anyone, Simons said. "If people feel they need to realign, then they need to do that."

He predicted that a significant number of Episcopal clergy and laity will not follow the leadership out of the Episcopal Church, adding that the group would like to help "create a place that is safe" for as many people as possible to remain in the church...

...Simons said the group would like to be involved in any discussions that might take place within the diocese to establish what he called a "protocol" for how people and congregations would stay in the Episcopal Church. Simons added that the letter was also meant to signal the Presiding Bishop that there are people in the diocese who would like to be involved in and would support any talks she might have with those who want to remain in the church...
You can read the text of the letter sent to Bp. Duncan here.

It is worth noting that, from what I understand, many of the clergy who signed this letter would be fairly described as "conservative." I would imagine that in light of the evidence presented against Bp. Duncan, which resulted in the Title IV Review Committee certifying that there is just cause to depose him, these clergy have had second thoughts about hitching themselves to this particular wagon. This seems like a prudent move to me.

We have seen similar second thoughts arise from among some of the conservative clergy of San Joaquin as well.

As reality begins to set in, I suspect we can expect to see more of this kind of thing happening in the future. May we be full of grace, and welcome those who choose to remain members of this Church.


Jasper Goldberg: "We Must Make Our Stand"

A reader pointed me to an excellent essay that appeared last month on the blog of Bishop Marc Andrus of California. It was written by Jasper Goldberg, a high school student who is a member of the Church of Our Savior, Mill Valley, California, where Richard currently serves as Rector.

A tip of the stetson to Aileen for pointing me to this amazing piece of writing from one of our young adults.

I am reprinting Jasper's essay here, with his permission:

Every year at advent we hear the story of John the Baptist, crying out in the wilderness that something great is coming. We hear also of how crazy he was, how so few people listened, but we know now that he was right. Something wonderful was indeed coming. That something was a someone, Jesus of Nazareth, who would go on to preach a message of love and equality, echoing John’s call to lower every mountain and fill in every valley. We call ourselves Christians because we dedicate ourselves to loving and serving all that God has blessed.

Today, we are that voice in the wilderness, crying out for the earth to be made flat so that every human being may walk on equal ground. We are shunned by “mainstream” Anglicans, cast out by the community that was supposed to be our home. We are told that the split is our doing, that we are to blame for this schism. And in fact, we are. It was our decision to consecrate a gay bishop, to elect a female presiding bishop, and to insist that it is our right to do these things. But let’s be proud of that. Any communion that would not allow us to recognize the equality of God’s children is not a communion we should be a part of.

We see in the stories of Jesus’ ministries to the prisoners, the lepers and the outcasts of society in his day a message that no one is below the love of God. We are all God’s children, and we know that what we do unto the least of the people of God, we do unto God. Every time that we allow an injustice to be perpetrated against a gay man or a lesbian woman, the marginalized of today’s world, we allow the attacker to harm our beloved God, and in our negligence we are guilty. It is not enough to stand on the sidelines, and hope that someday things will be better. We must make our stand for those that society considers “outcasts” if we are to be worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is not easy to take a stand on so divisive an issue. In our fractured world, I would much rather advocate unity and reconciliation. Only one glance at the newspapers is enough to remind me that this world is defined by East vs. West, Shia vs. Sunni, red vs. blue. I do not want to support splitting the world yet another way. But this is not a division on ethnic, religious or political differences. This is liberty vs. inequality. This is right vs. wrong, and there can be no reconciliation with wrong.

This is not just a struggle for members of the gay and lesbian community. I am not gay, but I owe it to my family members and friends who are gays and lesbians to take a stand. I owe it to the individuals who fought and sacrificed for the Goldberg family during the dark years of Nazism. I owe it to all who have taken stands in the past. I owe it to Jesus himself, who gave everything for each and every one of us.

The wilderness is never an easy place to be, but let us not despair as the Anglican Communion leaves us. Someday, those who understand the absolute equality of human life will be more numerous than the stars. In the meantime, it is up to us to proclaim the bold message of Jesus, Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and Harvey Milk, even if it seems that no one is listening. The Anglican Communion divided will not stand, but the “fierce urgency of now” demands us to stand up. We cannot compromise with what we know is wrong. Forget your fears, disregard the prevailing opinions, remember Christ and join us on the journey to the Mountaintop.

Jasper Goldberg


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Rev. Dr. Tim Vivian: "Kissing the Leper"

The Rev. Dr. Tim Vivian is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at California State University, Bakersfield and has authored a number of books on monasticism and the early Church Fathers. He is also an Episcopal priest, canonically resident in the Diocese of Los Angeles. He was recently appointed to serve a growing congregation in Bakersfield, which is within the Diocese of San Joaquin. Here is part of the story of that appointment, as reported in the local paper, The Bakersfield Californian:

...At a Thursday night gathering of 60 to 70 believers and clergy at First Congregational Church and hosted by Remain Episcopal in the Diocese of San Joaquin, a faith community opposed to the split, Moore received hearty applause when he announced he had appointed the Rev. Tim Vivian, a Bakersfield resident, to a “temporary pastoral position as missionary priest under my direct supervision, which puts him within the jurisdiction of the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church”...
Dr. Vivian has a long history with the Diocese of San Joaquin. Many years ago, he became quite frustrated with Bp. Schofield's refusal to allow Integrity to meet in any parish in the diocese. This led him to write an editorial which appeared in The Bakersfield Californian. In response, Bp. Schofield pulled Tim's license to serve as a priest in San Joaquin.

The following is the text of that editorial, reprinted here with Dr. Vivian's permission:


Kissing the Leper

Last Friday I sat with the lepers and outcasts. Inside St. Paul's Episcopal parish, delegates for diocesan convention were meeting, but we were outside because Bishop Schofield refused to allow us inside. Who were we? Members of Integrity, the national organization supporting gays and lesbians in the Episcopal Church. Bishop Schofield not only refused us entrance to St. Paul's, he has refused to allow Integrity to meet in any parish in the diocese; he has forbidden the clergy of the diocese to celebrate Communion for the people of Integrity.

I wish this fear and hatred of gays by many Christians were an isolated event, a simple example of theological racism, but it isn't. Among some Christians, homophobia is just one symptom; others are fear of women, fear of sexuality, fear of the poor, fear of those not like us, and fear of change.

The reasons for these fears--and the hatred that often accompanies them--are complex, but they are bound together by, and find their common expression in, a profound misunderstanding and misuse of the Bible.

With regard to homosexuality, the extreme conservative argument is simple: Homosexuality is evil, a sin, because the Bible says so. Such an argument reduces a complicated human subject to absolutes of good and evil, right or wrong. Those who make this argument conveniently--or blindly--ignore the fact that "the Bible" variously endorses polygyny, slavery, massacre, and the sequestration of women during their periods.

Put more positively, the Bible is a human document (or collection of documents), a human witness to God's being, activity, and presence. As a human witness, it is a fallible one. Since the Bible is a human witness, those who wrote it--however inspired they were--were subject to social, political, ethnic, temporal and religious biases and prejudices, just as we are today.

In ignoring all this, conservative biblicists make a serious mistake; unfortunately, in their use of the Bible they commit a worse one: false use is worse than false understanding. Biblicists mistakenly believe that the Bible is a book of dictates and rules, revealed by God. Once they have this infallible rule book in hand, like a boy scout with his handbook, they selectively decide which issues are most important. Usually for biblicists it is homosexuality or sexuality in general, abortion, and women's subordination. Biblicists are so obsessed with these issues that they usually ignore questions of social justice, poverty, homelessness, or war and peace.

It is a question of priorities, and biblicists have their priorities wrong. While more and more of our people go hungry and homeless, die from drugs and violence, and live lives without meaning, biblicists care more about who is sleeping with whom and what parts of the body are being used to do what.

Those who condemn homosexuality say they are speaking of "biblical" ethics or as a "biblical" Church . But what is this "biblical" belief as it seems to be practiced in this country?

Is it "biblical" to condemn homosexuality while at the same time keeping a patriotic and blasphemous silence (as virtually all of the churches of Kern County did) when the United States slaughtered over 100,000 Iraqis?

Is it "biblical" to oppose abortion while supporting or keeping silent about the death penalty (legalized State murder)?

Is it "biblical" to deny, in the name of scripture and tradition, the full ministry of women in the Church--as the local Episcopal Church does?

No. None of these is biblical. Some who espouse certain "biblical beliefs" are misguided: they naively and simplistically use the Bible to support non-Biblical agendas.

Others, though, who make "biblical" statements--such as certain bishops, priests, and ministers--should by their training know better. Their use of "the Bible" is at best a form of fundamentalism; at worst, it is knowingly mendacious. Such biblicism is not Christian.

Those of us who are not biblicists or fundamentalists, as we listen to their increasingly strident voices, need to remember that--despite their loud shouts--they do not represent the truth of Christianity. Their misuse of the Bible in no way damages its real message: that God is a God of love and compassion, mercy and tenderness; that God became human in order to fully know our humanity; that God loves each of us equally and completely.

The Bible--the true Bible--not only calls us to kiss, like St. Francis, the mouth of the leper. It calls us to claim the leper's mouth as our own.

The Rev. Tim Vivian


Monday, January 28, 2008

More on the San Joaquin Standing Committee

After reading more about the decision of our Presiding Bishop to no longer recognize the members of the Standing Committee of San Joaquin, I find the need to make a couple of corrections to my earlier post as well as admit to some degree of uncertainty as to what is actually going on here.

Here are the specific actions of the Standing Committee that Bp. Katharine identifies as the reason for no longer recognizing them:

...It has come to my attention that in the past several months you have taken actions in support of an attempt to take the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin out of the Episcopal Church and into affiliation with the Province of the Southern Cone. I understand that these have included voting to amend the Diocese's Constitution and canons and attempting to organize as the Standing Committee of an entity that identifies itself as an Anglican Diocese of the Province of the Southern Cone. These actions directly conflict with the Constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church...
In my previous post, I stated that the Standing Committee had voted to leave TEC before and during the December Diocesan Convention, and so the the clergy members could face charges of abandonment. Since then I have not able to find evidence of the Standing Committee voting to move to the Southern Cone prior to the December 8 Convention. I believe I mixed up the actions of the Fort Worth Standing Committee with those of San Joaquin. In regards to the votes at the San Joaquin Convention, we have no record of how those present voted. However, some of us did watch that Convention by video feed. Canon Jim Snell, former President of the Standing Committee, was seated with Bp. Schofield. I did not see him cast any votes at that Convention. aghaveagh, who was present at the December Convention, confirms that Canon Snell did not vote, but also adds a significant piece of information that might support Bp. Katharine's position: none of the members of the Standing Committee voted "no" in regards to joining the Southern Cone.

This causes me to wonder exactly to which vote to amend the Diocese's Constitution and Canons our Presiding Bishop is referring.

Regarding organizing as the Standing Committee of the Southern Cone, it appears that six members were dismissed by Bp. Schofield for not declaring themselves to be apart of the Southern Cone before they ever had a chance to get organized.

So, with the information we have, I am left a little confused as to why Bp. Katharine decided to take this action. Quite possibly there is more going on here that we don't know about. There are certainly good reasons to question the judgment of a Standing Committee that would not speak up and question such a clearly unethical and potentially illegal move. And there is also no question that what is transpiring in San Joaquin must be stopped as quickly as possible. But, since Bp. Schofield had already removed six of the SC members, I fail to see the need for our Presiding Bishop to send this letter.

Regarding Bp. Katharine's canonical authority to remove a Standing Committee, such a situation is not specifically addressed in the canons, most likely because no one ever imagined such an unusual set of circumstances coming to pass. There is no precedent.

A recent news item in the Bakersfield Californian might help us get some idea of how Bp. Katharine is proceeding in this situation. Here's part of it:

...The Rev. Canon Robert Moore, of Seattle, who was appointed by the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, as an “interim pastoral presence” in the San Joaquin Valley, spent the day in the greater Bakersfield area as part of a five-day “listening tour” that will culminate in a valley-wide conference in Hanford on Saturday.

At a Thursday night gathering of 60 to 70 believers and clergy at First Congregational Church and hosted by Remain Episcopal in the Diocese of San Joaquin, a faith community opposed to the split, Moore received hearty applause when he announced he had appointed the Rev. Tim Vivian, a Bakersfield resident, to a “temporary pastoral position as missionary priest under my direct supervision, which puts him within the jurisdiction of the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.”

Moore thus opened the way for Vivian to administer sacraments such as marriage, baptism and the eucharist to local believers who don’t have a parish to go to, as all three diocesan parishes in Bakersfield voted in favor of the split. Vivian is a Remain Episcopal member and a licensed priest canonically resident in Los Angeles, meaning he could perform priestly duties in that diocese but not in San Joaquin without proper licensing or consent.

“There’s no bishop to license him” locally, Moore said, since Jefferts Schori formally declared on Jan. 11 that San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield, who led the diocesan split, had abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church and “inhibited,” or stopped, his duties as a bishop. Vivian’s temporary assignment will cease “as soon as there is a new bishop,” Moore said.

“We’re inventing it as we go,” Moore said about the arduous process of rebuilding the split-up church, and said the night’s meeting was “not confrontational or to change anybody’s mind,” and its focus was “reconciliation and serving those who wish to stay.”

But he also said, “It is the national church’s position that a lot of what has happened here is not legal. People can leave the church. A bishop can leave the church. A diocese cannot.

“There are lawyers on both sides that are getting prepared for whatever legal battles need to happen,” he said. Most of those gathered were in favor of remaining within the Episcopal Church...
"We're inventing it as we go..." I understand why that might be necessary, but must admit that it makes me uncomfortable.

"...which puts him within the jurisdiction of the presiding bishop..." It sounds to me that since there is no bishop, Bp. Katharine is stepping in to fill that void.

If you want more opinions regarding the San Joaquin Standing Committee, Mark Harris and Dan Martins are worth a read.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Standing Committee of San Joaquin No Longer Recognized by Presiding Bishop

From Episcopal Life:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on January 25 wrote to inform each member of the standing committee elected at the last convention of the Fresno-based Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin that she does not recognize them as the standing committee of that diocese. She also assured continuing Episcopalians of financial and legal support in reconstituting the diocese...
From Bp. Katharine's letter:

...Canon I.17.8 of the Episcopal Church provides that "[a]ny person accepting any office in this Church shall well and faithfully perform the duties of that office in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of this Church and of the Diocese in which the office is being exercised." In the light of your recent actions, I find that you have been and are unable to well and faithfully fulfill your duties as members of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin under Canon I.17.8. Accordingly, with this letter I inform you that I do not recognize you as the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

I regret the decisions that you have made to attempt to take the Diocese out of The Episcopal Church and the necessary consequences of these actions. I want you to be fully aware that a future declaration of adherence to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, and, for clergy, a reaffirmation of the Declaration of Conformity, will once again make you eligible for election to office in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. I give thanks for your service in the past, and pray that it may once again be a blessing to this Diocese...
This clarifies the status of the six members of the Standing Committee who were removed by Bp. Schofield because they were not yet ready to declare themselves as members of the Province of the Southern Cone.

However, by voting as the Standing Committeee for the Diocese to leave TEC before and during the December Diocesan Convention, the clergy members could face charges of abandonment already, regardless of their apparent second thoughts a month later. Actions have consequences.

The concern was that these six members would now claim to be the "official" Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. Bp. Katharine's letter refutes any such claim.

But, it does offer them a bridge back. Apparently they will not face charges of abandomnment. If they simply declare that they will continue to honor their ordination vows; "to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church," they will be reinstated as full members. That is a graceful move by Bp. Katharine.

So, we return to the original itinerary for the future of the Episcopal Church in San Joaquin:

In March, Bp. Schofield will be deposed by the House of Bishops. Shortly after that, faithful Episcopalians will gather to elect new leaders, including a Standing Committee. Most likely, an interim Bishop will be selected. Then a Diocesan Convention will be held, to elect a new Bishop. I've already heard the idea of Canon Bob Moore as a possible nominee. After listening to him in Hanford, I think he would be an excellent choice.

Let us give thanks for the leadership of our Presiding Bishop. Let us give thanks for the redemptive love of God, who uses all things to work for good.


"Moving Forward, Welcoming All": Live Stream From San Joaquin

The video stream can be found here. It will become active at 9:30 am Pacific (or 12:30 pm for us Eastern folk).

Anticipated speakers will be Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson and the Rev. Canon Robert Moore.

While you watch the video, keep a window open to Jake's, and we can comment on events as they unfold.

Or, if you prefer, we can use the chat room. If you have trouble getting in with that link, try going here and clicking on the "para chat" button.


Friday, January 25, 2008

San Joaquin Conference Begins Saturday at 10:00 Pacific

Saturday morning, Remain Episcopal will be hosting the Moving Forward, Welcoming All conference being held at Church of the Savior, Hanford, California. Here is part of a recent announcement regarding this event from Episcopal Life:

When Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin gather on Saturday, January 26 for "Moving Forward, Welcoming All" at the Church of the Saviour in Hanford, California, they will welcome an online audience.

Viewers may access the live video stream, to be carried via Episcopal Life Online, by logging on to

The video stream will also bring Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's greetings to continuing Episcopalians gathered at the Central California Valley historic church, starting about 10 a.m. Pacific time (11 a.m. Mountain, 12 a.m. Central, 1 p.m. Eastern), said Mike Collins, Episcopal Life Media Video/Multicast Unit director.

"The situation in the Diocese of San Joaquin is something that is on the minds of Episcopalians across the country," Collins said. "We felt it was important to provide live streaming coverage to the wider church as well as to show support for those who remain in the diocese."

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson and the Rev. Canon Robert Moore, appointed by the Presiding Bishop as the interim pastoral presence for continuing Episcopalians, will keynote the gathering on site to offer support and encouragement, along with other speakers. Anderson's comments to the gathering, expected to draw Episcopalians from across the diocese and the state, will be videocast.

The event will culminate Moore's five-day "listening tour" of the experiences and hopes of clergy and laity remaining in the Episcopal Church in Stockton, Riverbank, Fresno, Bakersfield and Visalia...
If you are in the neighborhood, by all means make it to Hanford Saturday morning. For the rest of us, if you are free, plan to gather here at Jake's at 10:00 Pacific time. I'll have the link to the video stream, and we can comment here for the first two hours of the conference.

The afternoon sessions, which will not be telecast, will include presentations by House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, the Rev. Canon Bob Moore, attorney Michael O. Glass, and The Rev. Charles Ramsden and Holly McAlpren from the Church Insurance Agency Corporation.

Regarding what has been going on in the Diocese of San Joaquin, things continue to be pretty chaotic. You may recall that the latest development was that Bp. Schofield dismissed six of the eight members of the Standing Committee. In the first version of the announcement of these actions, Bp. Schofield claimed that the members of the Standing Committee had resigned. When that version of events was challenged by some of those present at the Standing Committee meeting, who emphatically declared that they had not resigned, the first version was pulled, to be replaced by a sanitized version, in which the term "resigned" does not appear.

You would think whoever it is running this Southern Cone show would have learned their lesson from that embarrassing episode of a couple of weeks ago. You may recall that on the morning of January 12, in response to the news that he had been inhibited, Bp. Schofield claimed to be in the House of Bishops of TEC and the Southern Cone simultaneously. That afternoon, that announcement was pulled, to be replaced by a statement from his new boss, Presiding Bishop Venables of the Southern Cone, stating that he was not a bishop in TEC. Someone needs to work on their communication skills, it appears.

So, after dismissing six members of his Standing Committee, including the elected President, who was "appointed" as the new President? A gentleman by the name of Mr. Ted Yumoto.

But hold on. Yesterday, over on The Lead, JB Chilton noticed that Mr. Yumoto is also a member of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. Since it seems clear that the criteria to be President of Bp. Schofield's Standing Committee is that one be a member of the Province of the Southern Cone, we've got a problem.

So today, we have this announcement from Episcopal Life:

...The Rev. Jack Eastwood, Province. VIII president, said that a decision was made to vacate the seat held by Ted Yumoto of the Fresno, California-based Diocese of San Joaquin after Yumoto told them he "had voted to amend canons and the constitution of the diocese" to realign with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone...
Well, imagine that. Good catch by The Lead, eh?

So what is the response from those who are now part of the Southern Cone? If Rob Eaton is to be considered a fair example of their current state, they are offended. Why? Here's part of the reason:

...Big insensitivity issue. Big inclusivity issue. Big diversionary issue for this Church. Howso? At the same time that Fr. Mark Lawrence will be consecrated the bishop of South Carolina in Charleston — where truly this Church’s attention should be focused — the two elected leaders of General Convention will be on display, in what could now be considered the uninvited intrusion of a bishop in another diocese, the business of Authority being unsettled. It may be the Prerogative of the Presiding Bishop to make visits to all the dioceses within her term of office, but not without the permission of the diocesan. I don’t know that she asked, and I don’t know if she got it, but I kinda doubt it...
Here's a couple of news flashes for you, Rob. First of all, Bp. Katharine, the Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, was told that she was not fit to preside at the consecration of Mark Lawrence. After such a blatant rejection of her authority, granted to her by a majority vote of the House of Bishops, did you really think she would wait around in the reception hall hoping you men would change your minds? I think not. She will go where her gifts are honored, thank you very much.

Second of all, what causes you to imagine that "the matter of Authority is unsettled"? It is quite settled. According to Presiding Bishop Venables, Bp. Schofield is no longer a member of the Episcopal Church. He is certainly not the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. Oh, and by the way, that is not just my opinion. You may want to take a look at this listing in the Provincial Directory of the Anglican Communion. Notice that the position of Bishop of San Joaquin is listed as "vacant." There is no confusion.

Bp. Katharine is offering support for the members of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. Since Bp. Schofield, and I would assume you, are no longer part of that entity, I really don't see how the actions of faithful Episcopalians are any longer any of your business.

Uninvited intrusion? And this accusation from the same people who brought us the invasion of the Southern Cone? The audacity of these folks is simply astounding.

Saturday, 10:00 Pacific, 1:00 Eastern. See you then.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bishop Katharine: "We are God's Beloved"

The "fireside chat" with our Presiding Bishop was, for the most part, a wonderful event. The theme of her opening remarks were "You are God's beloved." Having seen videos and transcripts of Bp. Katharine's addresses to other dioceses, I think it is safe to say that this theme, or a similar one, is the message she is offering to Episcopalians at this time in our common life.

It's a good message, even though it will be most likely twisted by those who are looking for reasons to condemn her. Personally, I think such criticisms can usually be ignored, as rarely are those making them honest about their own personal biases. If they have already decided that Bp. Katharine is in error, either because she is a woman or because she is supportive of Bp. Robinson, then one can expect such a critic to anticipate more errors in her thoughts. They will find such errors, even if it means taking sentences out of context and attaching meanings to them that go beyond the context in which they were offered.

Having said that, I would hope that those to whom Bp. Katharine is offering her message can set aside their own personal biases, in order to receive the gifts being offered by our spiritual leader.

Bp. Katharine reminded us that there are two stories of creation in Genesis. One begins with the creative act of God, after which we are told that God looked upon creation and declared that "It is very good." The other creation account fouses on the fall in the garden.

The divisions among Christians today can be seen to be loosely along the lines of which of these stories we choose to emphasize. Do we begin with recognizing that we were created "very good," that the intention was always for us to be "God's beloved," or do we begin with the story of the fall, beginning our relationship with God with the idea "I am a miserable sinner." Where we begin influences the nature of our conversations, not only among other Christians, but with the world, and with God.

Another way to sum up these differences among Christians today would be to suggest that there are those focused on "the depravity of man" and those who choose to focus on "the glory of God." Of course, in the end it is not a matter of "either/or" but "and/also." However, if we choose to begin the story of God with a blessing, that will lead us to quite different conclusions about the nature of our relationship with God in comparison to beginning with a story whose conclusion involves judgment and punishment.

This is not to suggest that sin does not exist, or is not an important consideration in regards to our relationship with God. Of course it is important. But to suggest it is so important that it must be the primary concept by which we identify that relationship seems to me to be to miss the glorious truth that we were created to be loved by God; that we are, and have always been, God's Beloved. The story of the garden reveals what happens if we somehow attempt to ignore the true nature of our relationship with God, and imagine we have no need for such a relationship. Sin is that which sepatates us from God. To heal that relationship requires confession and amendment of life.

The stumbling block for some seems to be their understanding of what it means to claim "Jesus died for our sins." Some Christians seem to think that it is essential that every Christian believe that Jesus was a sin offering; that God demanded a blood sacrifice before our sins could be forgiven. That is certainly one understanding of what happened on the cross; a belief usually referred to as the "penal substitution theory". It is certainly not the only way to understand what "Jesus dying for our sins" means, however. There are at least five different understanding of this that can be found within the Christian tradition. I'm not going to get into the details of these various theories right now, but if you are interested, we had a rather lengthy discussion of them here. What I will offer is a quote by C.S. Lewis:

...We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ's death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, even if they do help us, not to be confused with the thing itself...
During the question and answer period, Bp. Katharine was asked about the Time interview, in which she suggested that to limit God to acting only according to our understanding of what "through Jesus" means was to "put God in an awfully small box." Our discussion about why there was nothing terribly controversial in Bp. Katharine's remarks can be found here. In response to the question yesterday, Bp. Katharine said something to the effect of; "If Jesus died for the whole world, then it was for the WHOLE world...Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior...I believe he died for the whole world. How God works that out is God's business, not mine."

Another question, which was really a suggestion, was in regards to Bp. Katharine often being misunderstood by the Evangleical wing of the Church. The suggestion was that she learn their language, and strive to meet them where they are. Bp. Katharine graciously accepted that criticism, and admitted that she had spent most of her life in settings that did not include much of the Evangelical rhetoric, and so acknowledge that that may be one of her growing edges.

In response to another question, which I believe was about if Bp. Katharine had ever considered sitting down for dinner with Bps. Iker, Duncan and Schofield to just talk things over, Bp. Katharine made an interesting comment. She inferred that she did have some level of a relationship with Bps. Duncan and Schofield, but none with Bp.Iker, as he had rebuffed any attempts she had made to be cordial. The first time she had the opportunity to meet Bp. Iker, she approached him to introduce herself. His response was to say "I know who you are," and to then turn away.

I had the opportunity to ask one question. I chose to ask about the Title IV charges against Bp.Duncan. Bp. Katharine affirmed that my reading of Title IV Canon 9 is the one that she is using. The inhibition, requiring the consent of the senior bishops, is not connected to the depostion. Bp. Duncan will face the charges of abandonment after his 60 days to recant have passed. The lack of inhibition does not nullify the charges certified by the Review Committee.

We are blessed to have such a competent and inspiring leader.

Pray for our Presiding Bishop.

Pray for the Church.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bishop Katharine: "Bad Behavior Must be Confronted."

Over on The Lead, Andrew points us to an article about our Presiding Bishop on Beliefnet: Episcopal Bishop Keeps Her Cool in the Hotseat. Here's part of it:

..."It's been a year of a steep learning curve," she said in an interview Wednesday (Jan. 16). "But it's been a delightful privilege to travel around and see the ways in which the church is fully engaged in its mission."

Part of that mission, Jefferts Schori said, is demonstrating how a diverse community can "value the person and positions of others who disagree with us"...

...It would be easier to let U.S. conservatives secede to join another Anglican province without a fight, said Jefferts Schori, "but I don't think that's a faithful thing to do."

Episcopal leaders are stewards of church property and assets, protecting past generations' legacies and passing them on to future Episcopalians, according to the presiding bishop. Allowing congregations to walk away with church property condones "bad behavior," she said.

"In a sense it's related to the old ecclesiastical behavior toward child abuse," when priests essentially looked the other way, she said.

"Bad behavior must be confronted"...
Absolutely. Illegal and unethical behavior must be confronted, and let the chips fall where they may.

Today I will have the opportunity to participate in a "fireside chat" with Bp. Katharine. I'm looking forward to it. Here is a description of the event:

...The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori will engage clergy by speaking of her passions for vocation and life and in so doing, invite a similar reflection and hope for renewal among the clergy who attend. This will be a very special and wonderful light-filled event at a time of year that is grey and cold. Hmm. Sounds like Epiphany...
If I have an opening to say more than simply introducing myself, which is doubtful, I do have a couple of question I'd like to ask Bp. Katharine. One of them would be in regards to the planning of a school in Tanganyika. The other one I think I'll not make public right now.

But, just out of curiosity, what questions would you like to ask Bp. Katharine if you had the opportunity?


Monday, January 21, 2008

More From San Joaquin and Some Personal Soul Searching

Dan Martins has offered this update regarding the dismissal of members of the Standing Committee in San Joaquin. He identifies the source of the quote in his previous post as being the Rev. James Snell, President of the Standing Committee and Rector of St. Columba's, Fresno. He also provides a quote from another priest which offers a second verification that resignations were not offered, in spite of Bp. Schofield's claim that they were.

I knew both Dan Martins and Jim Snell in seminary. They were a year ahead of me at Nashotah House.

Before saying anything more, let me stop and offer just a few words about Nashotah House. I became active in the Church after a long absence in 1979. I entered seminary in 1987. I was a postulant from the Diocese of Fond du Lac, known at that time as a very conservative, high church diocese. My bishop didn't give me much choice of seminaries. He said that I already knew how to be a good Evangelical, and it was time I learned how to be a good Catholic. So off I went, with no real knowledge of the Church beyond my local parish.

At times, the "politics" at Nashotah House were awful. But that was by no means a part of the day to day experience. Jim Griffiss, Joe Hunt and Louis Weil were still teaching there. In other words, a quality theological education was offered. The small community (rarely more than 75 of us) was nestled in a beautiful setting about thirty miles west of Milwaukee. We gathered together for chapel twice a day, and usually shared breakfast and lunch together in the refectory. Most of our social events were sponsored by the House.

In such a setting, you get to know each other pretty well. I developed four close friendships during those three years. I also began to question some of the stances of the House on various issues, specifically regarding the ordination of women. Some of my friends disagreed with me. All four of them would disagree with my support of Bp. Robinson. But they are still my friends.

I don't hear from them much anymore, but when I do, we pick up right where we left off. Sometimes we argue, but rarely, and those arguments do not change the friendships. They came to expect me to be a little radical, as that was their experience of me in seminary.

Maybe radical is too tame. They knew I was a bit crazy. Here I use the term "eccentric." Same thing. Out of those four friends, only one of them still picks up the phone to give me a call on a regular basis. He is the other "crazy" one from our group. He disagrees with me on many things, and usually ends up trying to convert me back to the "true faith," while I try to make him "see the light." But, there's a lot of laughter mixed in between our conversion attempts, so we still part as friends.

You see, none of my four friends are part of this new breed of "extreme conservatives" that gets so much press today. We could strongly disagree, but when Michael (the chapel bell at the House) called us to prayer, the argument ended and we knelt with one another to offer our praise and thanksgivings to God.

Since Dan and Jim were a class ahead of me, I didn't get to know them that well. But I can tell you that they were not among what I would call "the extremists." Dan was an exceptionally bright seminarian, and would get passionate about things theological, but I can never recall him engaging in any form of personal attacks. Jim liked to laugh, and was quick with a story or a comment that would make you chuckle. He was one of those people whose mere presence was cause for you to break out in a smile. I suppose they don't qualify as friends, but they are certainly two priests whom I respect, even when we disagree.

And so, I have a bit of a dilemma. I don't want Dan, Jim or my four friends to leave the Episcopal Church. And I don't think there is any reason for them to do so. But some days I feel that by encouraging the kind of radical (ok, crazy) conversations that we sometimes have here at Jake's Place, I am helping push them out the door. That troubles me.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not going to backpedal. I am convinced that the Episcopal Church is fulfilling her vocation by moving forward toward full inclusion of all God's people. And, because of that conviction among many other Episcopalians, there may come a day when my friends will decide that they have been called to no longer be a part of the Episcopal Church. That will be a sad day for me, personally, and I will sincerely wish them Godspeed as they set out on their journey. But that would not be cause for me to compromise what I believe to be God's call.

We must defend the Church from those who seek to destroy her. But in our zeal, let us take care to not attack those with whom we simply disagree, yet conduct such disagreements with an absence of malice.

And, yes, I'm preaching to myself as well.

Pray for the Church.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bp. Schofield Fires His Standing Committee

Things just keep getting more and more bizarre in San Joaquin.

Last year, Bp.Schofield got this strange idea that he could somehow join the Province of the Southern Cone and remain the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. Even after he was informed numerous times that such a scenario was legally and ethically questionable, he proceeded anyway, convincing a majority of the diocesan leadership to follow him into this uncharted territory.

Those who observed the San Joaquin Diocesan Convention on December 8 witnessed a confusing and somewhat embarrassing spectacle. At one point, the entire Convention sat in limbo while the front table conferred among themselves for a good ten minutes. For some reason, the vote tallies kept on coming out differently, which resulted in those voting "yes" being instructed to line up against one wall, and those voting "no" against the opposite wall. During another vote, some kind of "London Bridges" routine was used, with delegates being instructed to pass through a gauntlet of counters to have their votes tallied. All of this occurred at a Convention that was described as "an historical moment in the life of San Joaquin," and with full knowledge that the cameras were rolling.

Bp. Schofield then proceeded to remove Fred Risard, the Vicar of St. Nicholas, Atwater, with his letter of dismissal arriving on Christmas Day. This led to some concern that the Bishop would now be cleaning house by removing all of those who disagreed with him. Apparently, there was good reason for such concerns, as we'll get to in a moment.

But before getting to the latest house cleaning chore tackled by Bp. Schofield, this summary would not be complete without a reference to his response to the news that he had been inhibited by the Presiding Bishop. The next morning, it was announced by the Diocese of San Joaquin that Bp. Schofield was a Bishop in both the Episcopal Church and the Southern Cone simultaneously. By that afternoon, that response had been pulled, to be replaced by a statement that Bp. Schofield was no longer a member of the Episcopal Church.

And now we learn that Bp. Schofield has dismissed six of his eight Standing Committee members. The story comes from Dan Martins, a priest serving in Indiana who had previously served in San Joaquin for thirteen years.

Here's the Bishop's version of what happened:

...On December 8th at our Diocesan Convention the overwhelming vote to transfer from the Episcopal Church to the Province of the Southern Cone was passed. At that time I became a member of the House of Bishops of that Province. Therefore, the Standing Committee, which is my council of advice, must be composed of clergy members who are Anglican priests of the Southern Cone. This is required by Diocesan Canons and the Archbishop of the Southern Cone of South America...

...Therefore, this morning I received the resignation of those members of the Standing Committee who do not meet the above qualifications...
Here is the version from a priest who was present:

...During the Standing Committee meeting of January 19th, the Bishop determined that the elected members of the Standing Committee who had not publicly affirmed their standing in the Southern Cone [whose congregations are in discernment, some over the legality of convention's actions] were unqualified to hold any position of leadership in the Diocese, including any elected office. He pronounced us as unqualified. No resignations were given. The question of resignations was raised and rejected. The members of the committee at this morning's meeting were quite clear on this point, we did not resign, we were declared unqualified to hold office. The Bishop's decision affects up to 6 of the 8 elected members of the Committee including all of the clergy members...
Did they resign of did the Bishop disqualify them? Someone is not speaking the truth here.

To those former members of the Standing Committee; next Saturday there will be a gathering of those who share your concerns regarding the leadership of Bp. Schofield. It will be at Church of the Savior, Hanford, at 9:30 am. Among those present will be an attorney who may be of assistance as you seek the way forward out of this messy situation.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Senior Bishops Speak of Inhibitions

On Thursday, The Lead brought us a brief statement from Bp. Wimberly of Texas regarding why he did not give consent to the inhibition of Bp. Duncan of Pittsburgh. Here's part of it:

...We consented to Scofield because the Diocese of San Joaquin had recently voted to leave the Episcopal Church. We did not consent to the request for Bishop Duncan because the Diocese of Pittsburgh has not held their annual convention yet and therefore has not formalized any change to their membership within the Episcopal Church, as the Diocese of San Joaquin had. Even though waiting postpones the issue coming before the House of Bishops, I believe it is prudent to take every precaution and afford Bishop Duncan the opportunity to remain in the Episcopal Church.
Bp. Wimberly seems to think that it is only the actions of the Diocese that can provide evidence that the Bishop has abandoned this Church. I find that an unusual way of looking at the situation. It is not the Diocese who is charged here, but the individual Bishop. The evidence provided to the Review Committee, which resulted in their certification that the charges were valid, offered details of the actions of Bp. Duncan that prove that he has abandoned the Episcopal Church. If other members of the Diocese decide to leave with him or not seems to me to be an unrelated matter.

Today, The Lead offers us a statement from Bp. Frade of of Southeast Florida regarding why he did give consent for Bp. Duncan to be inhibited. Here's part of that statement:

...I must state that after carefully examining the decision of the Review Committee headed by the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, which recommended the move to inhibit both bishops--of the Dioceses of Pittsburgh and of San Joaquin--and after reviewing all the supporting documents that give evidence of their actions, I was astonished that we neglected to take action any sooner on their obvious violation and breach of their oath to engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church.

I firmly believe that any bishops whose words and actions are in violation of this oath, as stated by church canon, should be equally subject to the appropriate canonical discipline.

I also believe that it is my episcopal duty to assiduously safeguard both the membership and patrimony of our Church as a whole. The faithful of those dioceses that have been betrayed by their bishops need to know that they are not abandoned by their Church.

The Episcopate must not tolerate such actions as these bishops have taken; they have betrayed the trust that was given them when we, their brother and sister bishops, consented to their election. The seriousness of this betrayal is not mitigated by the fact that in one of the cases the goal of turning away from The Episcopal Church has not been fully achieved. As I have learned to say in America, "You can not just be a little pregnant."

It was with great sadness that I concluded I had no other choice but to vote to move to inhibit two of my brothers who have betrayed their trust to be faithful shepherds of their dioceses, which are integral parts of our Episcopal Church...
Bp. Frade focused on the actions of Bp. Duncan, specifically identifying him as having violated the oath he took when consecrated as a Bishop.

You can find the actual text of the oath all Bishops in The Episcopal Church make on page 513 of the Book of Common Prayer. Here's the relevant text:

...I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church...
I can only imagine how Bp. Duncan would respond to the accusation that he is an oath breaker. But, we do have the rather contorted justification for such a violation from another Bishop who is planning schism; Bp. Iker of Fort Worth. His rationale is revealed in this exchange of letters, in which a member of the Diocese shared his concern regarding a statement by Bp. Iker that when renewing his ordination vows, he replaced "The Episcopal Church" with "The Anglican Communion." Here is Bp. Iker's explanation:

Spare me your sarcasm. If you want additional information, just ask for it.

The Preamble of the Constitution of ECUSA states that our identity as a church "is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion... in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order..."

At ordination as a deacon and again as a priest, the ordinand is asked, "Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them?" At the consecration of a bishop, the ordinand is asked, "Will you guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church?" That means the whole, catholic church, not just ECUSA...
The question regarding on what authority Bp. Iker can ignore the vow he took, and arbitrarily change the wording of that vow, is never addressed. Instead, we get this arrogant and dismissive response. It seems to me that the justification for breaking his vow is that he can do it because he is the Bishop, and pity the fool who tells him he can't. Such a fine example of pastoral care, eh? Unless we hear otherwise, one must assume that Bp. Duncan's explanation for breaking his vow would be quite similar.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Is Bishop Iker Engaged in Realignment or Schism?

Ample evidence for the charges that Bps. Schofield and Duncan have abandoned the Episcopal Church has been made readily available. But it appears that Bp. Iker of Fort Worth has not received such close scrutiny, other than that offered by the members of Fort Worth Via Media. Here's a partial list of actions and statements by Bp. Iker that would seem to be cause for one to question his loyalty to the Episcopal Church. To make it simpler to understand, I'll be using Via Media's USA's Schism Quiz to grade Bp. Iker's performance:

The Schism Quiz
Is it "realignment" or schism?

Schism is a break with the official decision-making processes and governing structures of a church. Use the quiz below to see how far towards schism a particular diocese has moved. Each "yes" answer is worth 10 points.

1. Has the bishop and/or diocesan leadership altered their governing documents to deny the authority of General Convention or the governing documents of the Episcopal Church?

The following change to the Constitution of Fort Worth was approved in November, 2007:

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, consisting of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces and regional churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the
historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Old and New Testaments and expressed in the Book of Common Prayer.
This change removed all references to the Episcopal Church from their Constitution.

2. Has the bishop defied jurisdictional authority and/or boundaries or recognized clergy deposed by another bishop?

From an August 2007 statement:

A decision by Bishop Peter Lee of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to declare 21 priests to have “abandoned the communion of this Church,” will not have force in much of the Anglican Communion or in a number of Episcopal dioceses.

The Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, the Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, the. Rt. Rev. Jack Iker of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Rt. Rev. John David Schofield of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin have issued the following statement...

...“Because these Virginia priests are priests in good standing in the Provinces of Uganda and Nigeria, respectively, the deposition is, in fact, of no effect. Each is recognized as a priest in good standing of the Anglican Communion. Therefore we welcome them to exercise their sacerdotal ministries in our Dioceses"...

3. Has the bishop participated in the creation of a polity outside the Episcopal Church's structures, which affiliates or plants congregations physically within the bounds of the Episcopal Church, but independent of the Episcopal Church?

From a report regarding the August 2007 consecrations of Bill Atwood and Bill Murdoch as Bishops to serve in the United States under the jurisdiction of Kenya:

...In addition to this assembly of the major players in the Global South, the following US bishops were present: Bishop Robert Duncan (Pittsburgh), Jack Iker (Fort Worth), Martyn Minns (CANA) and Chuck Murphy (AMiA), plus Bishop Robinson Cavalcanti (Recife) and Bishop Donald Harvey (Canada)...
4. Does the diocese, under the leadership of the bishop, withhold financial support from the Episcopal Church and/or divert those funds to another entity?

From a July 2006 letter from George J. Komechak, President of Fort Worth Via Media, to Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold:

...In the diocesan budget for 2006, funding for Domestic and Foreign Mission was reduced from $30,000 in 2005 to zero, and funding for the Anglican Communion Network was increased from $20,000 to $50,000. Our diocese refuses to meet its requested financial commitment [request is 21 percent of diocesan income] to The Episcopal Church. The Diocese of Fort Worth pays only 3.2%. That amount of money is paid only because a few moderate parishes insist that their portions be forwarded to the national church. Bishop Iker requires that the vestries of these parishes renew that request each year...
5. Has the bishop stopped participating in the councils and governing bodies of the Episcopal Church, and/or has the bishop encouraged other clergy to do the same?

To my knowledge, Bp. Iker has refused to fully participate in any of the House of Bishops meetings since June of 2006. He has been absent from most of them, and only present for portions of those which he did attend. He refuses to share Holy Communion with members of the House of Bishops.

6. Has the bishop signed or supported agreements negotiated directly with other denominations without consulting the offices established by the whole Episcopal Church to coordinate such conversations?

Since the Common Cause Partnership includes various groups who will most likely never be in communion with Canterbury, such as the Reformed Episcopal Church, I think this hybrid would qualify as a new "denomination." Here is part of the September 2007 statement from the Common Cause Partnership:

...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...
Since we know that Bp. Iker attended this meeting, one would assume that he also signed the statement.

7. Has the bishop continued to provide services of the episcopacy to individuals who have withdrawn from the Episcopal Church?

See #3.

8. Has the bishop created and/or supported mission and outreach agencies to directly compete with those of the Episcopal Church?

Fort Worth is a partner with Anglican Global Missions, identified as "A Network Initiative". This partnership is linked to a diocesan program, World Missions, which sponsors projects in Malawi and Mexico. The "outreach" of the Diocese is summarized here:

...Diocesan outreach programs include mission work in Mexico and the African nation of Malawi. Locally, our churches have helped to build seven Habitat for Humanity homes in the last six years. Clergy-led ministries are provided to students at four local colleges and universities...
I could find no references to suggest support for Episcopal Relief and Development or other Episcopal Church sponsored outreach efforts.

9. Does the bishop refuse to allow all clergy in good standing within the Episcopal Church to function within the diocese or parish?

Ordained women priests and bishops are not permitted to function sacerdotally in the Diocese of Fort Worth.

10. Has the bishop created a "chilly climate" for, or threatened clergy loyal to the Episcopal church?

Considering all of the above, I'll let you come to your own conclusions on that one. Speaking personally, I would say that a "chilly climate" would be a huge understatement. I could never in good conscience place myself under the authority of this Bishop. If other members of the clergy would like to offer their personal testimonies regarding their experiences of the Diocese of Fort Worth, we'd appreciate hearing them.

0 - Playing by the rules
10-20 - Opened the door out of The Episcopal Church
30-50 - On the way out
60-80 - Across the threshold
90-100 - Episcopal Church? What Episcopal Church?

Congratulations, Bp. Iker. By my reckoning, you scored 100%!

("Schism Quiz" - copyright 2005 Via Media USA. Permission to reprint granted freely as long as this copyright line is included.)


Thursday, January 17, 2008

One Glimpse into the Bizarre World of Fort Worth

There are many examples that could be offered as to why life in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is quite different from what Episcopalians might encounter in other places. I think the following story will give you an idea of how "bizarre" things are allowed to become in that Diocese.

The following is part of a letter written to Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold by Dr. Ann Tucker in 2003. I discovered this letter elsewhere on the net, but have reproduced it here. Dr. Tucker describes an incident that occurred on August 10, 2003 at St. Michael Church, Richland Hills, Texas. The parish and the rector, the Rev. Deuel Smith, were at that time a part of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. Here is what happened:

...I attended there until Fr. Cooke accepted a call in California. I returned to St. Michael's once again. I went to the 9 AM Holy Eucharist, or a portion of it, there this Sunday, August 10, 2003. It was a day in that church and in my life I shall never forget. The events of that service trouble me greatly.

The service was late in getting underway. Fr. Deuel Smith was at the back of the church. He strode down the center aisle and dramatically threw the staff and flag of the Episcopal Church down on the floor at the foot of the altar and then walked across it. Walking back and forth across the flag he announced a change in the lessons, psalms, music, etc.

He announced that they would not come from the rubric of the Book of Common Prayer. The processional started and again all walked on the flag, even the child acolytes, who of course had no choice. At the reading of the Gospel, again a display was made of four persons walking back and forth across the flag. The sermon was extremely rancorous and dramatic about The Episcopal Church.

He told us he had put black tape on the word Episcopal on the church signs, and a large black cover would be in place the next day on the large curb side sign He informed us we were no longer an Episcopal church and that he was no longer an Episcopal priest and the flag and the word Episcopal would be neither seen nor spoken in that church again. He encouraged all parishioners to wear black ribbons and to sign a statement of withdrawal from the Episcopal Church.

He concluded the statement, walked again on the flag, and resumed the service. He announced that no monies from St. Michael's would ever go to the Episcopal Church, but only to support Bishop Iker. Fr. Smith's wife clapped lightly several times but was not joined in this affirmation. After The Peace Fr. Smith again returned to the lectern to read his formal letter to the congregation and a letter from Bishop Iker. I will include a copy of the letter that Fr. Smith read.

I am sure you already have many copies of Bishop Iker's letter, as I understand he had it be read in all church in the Fort Worth Diocese that same day. Fr. Smith further informed us that he would wear only purple vestments because of the state of his previous church, and that he would no longer call himself an Episcopal priest. Stepping on the flag again he returned to the altar to conclude the Word and begin the Communion...

So, is this the case of a priest who was simply off his meds? It doesn't appear so. He remained the rector of that parish until his retirement. I am told that he received no public rebuke from Bishop Iker. When the Bishop was asked about his response to this ugly incident, I am told that the member was informed that it was none of his business how Bp. Iker chose to discipline his clergy.

Perhaps this is a minor incident within the bigger story. But it is one that seems to me to offer a good glimpse into the bizarre world known as the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bp. Iker of Fort Worth Feels Threatened

Bp. Iker has sent out a message to the clergy and convention delegates of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. Here's part of it:

...I HAVE RECEIVED A SECOND THREATENING LETTER from the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. Interestingly enough, it arrived on the same day as the meeting convened by Bishop Hulsey. As you will recall, in a much-publicized letter in November the PB had threatened me with disciplinary charges of “abandonment of the communion of this church” if I permitted the Diocesan Convention to vote on the proposed constitutional revisions that were put before us. This time she threatens me with charges of a violation of my ordination vows if I continue “any encouragement of such a belief” that parishes and dioceses can leave The Episcopal Church. Well, so much for an invitation to dialogue and conversation! It’s all about threats of dire consequences if you don’t comply with the party line...
Here is our Presiding Bishop's "threatening" letter. One particular passage from it is especially worth repeating:

...You state your concern about those who stand by their convictions being threatened with depositions and lawsuits. I would also note that depositions and lawsuits have no substance if there has been no violation. Fear of same is not rational if there is no basis for same...
If Bp. Iker considers this rather tame letter to be a threat, one is inclined to wonder what the substance of his fear might be. Is it simply a case of paranoia, or might he have good reason to be concerned about his own future when his violations are brought into the light?

There is also an interesting reference to a meeting with the Bishop of Dallas:

...BISHOP STANTON OF DALLAS AND I had a very good meeting yesterday at St. Vincent’s, where we discussed how to make provision for any parishes in this Diocese that may choose to remain in TEC if the Diocesan Convention votes to separate from The Episcopal Church. We were joined by our Canons to the Ordinary, the Presidents of our respective Standing Committees, and the Chancellor of the Diocese of Dallas. You will be hearing more about this in due course...
Bp. Iker is continuing his delusion that he can somehow leave the Episcopal Church and take the congregations with him. Consequently, he has it backwards in the above statement. Regardless of any votes by the leadership, all the congregations and the Diocese will remain part of the Episcopal Church. If some of the members of that Diocese choose to join some other Province, of course they are free to do so. But the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth will remain intact. The idea that it will somehow be merged into the Diocese of Dallas, and that Bps. Iker and Stanton have the authority to initiate such a merger, is simply absurd.

"Bizarre" and "absurd" are common descriptive terms used quite often to describe this Bishop and the leadership of Fort Worth. It may be difficult for some Episcopalians to imagine what it is like to be in a Diocese that is as "unusual" as Fort Worth. In future posts, I'll attempt to offer you a couple of stories that might help you picture how strange the situation is there.

Pray for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

Pray for the Church.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Review Committee Certifies That Bp. Duncan of Pittsburgh Has Abandoned the Episcopal Church

From Episcopal Life:

The Episcopal Church's Title IV Review Committee has certified that Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan has abandoned the communion of the church.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori informed Duncan on January 15 of the certification and sent him a copy.

Her letter told Duncan that she sought the canonically required permission from the House's three senior bishops with jurisdiction to inhibit him, based on the certification, from the performance of any episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts.

"On 11 January 2008 they informed me that such consents would not be given at this time by all three bishops," Jefferts Schori wrote.

"Pursuant to the time limits stated in Canon IV.9, the matter will not come before the House of Bishops at its next scheduled meeting in March 2008, but will come before the House at the next meeting thereafter," the Presiding Bishop wrote in her letter.

"I would, however, welcome a statement by you within the next two months providing evidence that you once more consider yourself fully subject to the doctrine, discipline and worship of this Church," Jefferts Schori wrote in her letter to Duncan...
Most likely it was Bp. Wimberly of Texas who blinked. So, without the consent of all three senior bishops, he is not inhibited. But now it is only a matter of time (60 days) until he faces a vote before the House of Bishops as to if he is to be deposed or not. Inhibition was just a limited, temporary fix anyway. He needs to be permanently blocked from functioning as a Bishop in TEC.

The evidence considered by the Review Committee can be found here. It makes a very solid case that the actions of Bp. Duncan clearly reveal that he has indeed "abandoned the communion of this Church by renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of this Church." Here's just a few examples:

“Bishop Robert Duncan’s Pre-Convention Report” (September 11, 2007)
In this letter to the Diocese leading up to the November 2-3, 2007 Diocesan Convention, Bishop Duncan states that the “time has come to begin the process of realignment within the Anglican Communion.” Thus, constitutional amendments to be considered at the Convention “would begin the process to exercise our right to end the accession of the [Diocese] to the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church,” “would make clear the right to end any claim of spiritual or canonical authority of the General Convention over the [Diocesej,” and “would allow the [Diocese] to realign it self with another Province of the Anglican Communion.” According to Bishop Duncan. the proposed changes “are written in such a way . . that continuing membership in the Episcopal Church remains a possibility if the Episcopal Church were to reverse its ‘walk apart’ from the Anglican Communion”...

...“Anglican Bishops Take First Steps to New Structure” (September 29, 2007)
This news item posted on the Diocese’s website names Bishop Duncan as the “convener” of the first Common Cause Council of Bishops in Pittsburgh on September 25-28, 2007. The bishops of the Council, including Bishop Duncan, issued a joint statement that, among other things. “declare[s] clearly that we are taking this as a first step in the formation of the ‘separate ecclesiastical structure’ in North America”...

...Bishop Robert Duncan Addresses the I42 Convention to the Diocese” (November 2, 2007)
This item contains the text of Bishop Duncan’s address to his Diocesan Convention on November 2, 2007. In it he makes clear his view that there is no hope for reconciliation or healing within the Episcopal Church, but that separation from it is unavoidable. In his words, the Diocese has “come to a fork in the road” where different groups’ “understandings [of the Gospelj are... mutually exclusive, even destructive to one another.” Thus, “[o]ur differences arc presently irreconcilable.” As to disagreement within the Episcopal Church, “there is no prospect of resolution. only of a mediated separation.”

Further, in Bishop Duncan’s view, “[n]ational actions have now dictated that we must [choose between the national Church or the Diocese].” He reports that, for the majority of his Diocese, the choice of “realignment of the diocese with another Province of the Communion ould be preferable” to continuing what he describes as “the fruitless effort at continued federation with the Episcopal Church.”
We discussed the resolutions passed at Pittsburgh's last convention here. Basically, what they did was to insert a new Section 2 of Article I in the Constitution:

The Diocese of Pittsburgh shall have membership in such Province of the Anglican Communion as is by diocesan Canon specified.
All references to the Episcopal Church were removed from the Constitution. Then they approved a new Canon:

Canon _____ (number to be determined)
“Provincial Membership within the Anglican Communion.”

The Diocese of Pittsburgh shall be a member of that Province of the Anglican Communion known as The (Protestant) Episcopal Church in the United States of America.
The only reference to TEC is now within the Canons. To join another Province, according to the new Section 2, Article I of the Constitution, would no longer require a constitutional change (and two Conventions), but a simple canonical change (which, according to the current Canons, does not require the approval of two Conventions). At the same time, as long as the new proposed Canon that identifies the Province as TEC is in place, it was probably assumed that they would be protected from charges of abandoning the Church.

Apparently, the only person buying this slick move is Bp. Wimberly.

It is safe to assume we'll be reading about Bp. Iker in the near future.


UPDATE: There seems to be some confusion as to the process involved here. To help clarify things, note this quote from the Presiding Bishop's letter to Bp. Duncan:

Pursuant to the time limits stated in Canon IV.9, the matter will not come before the House of Bishops at its next scheduled meeting in March 2008, but will come before the House at the next meeting thereafter.
According to the Canons, the consent of the Senior Bishops was needed only to inhibit. They cannot veto a deposition. The matter will still go before the House of Bishops after the required 60 days for Bp. Duncan to recant. Then, if a majority of the House gives consent, he will be deposed.

SECOND UPDATE: The first response from Pittsburgh is carried on their website under this headline: Effort to Inhibit Pittsburgh Bishop Unsuccessful. Nevermind that the charges against him were certified as valid by the Review Committee, meaning he will now face a vote by the House of Bishops to depose him. And his defense?

“Few bishops have been more loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church. I have not abandoned the Communion of this Church. I will continue to serve and minister as the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh."
To accept the salary, pension and all other benefits of his office as a Bishop of the Episcopal Church while working for at least four years to establish "an alternative ecclesiastical structure" to replace the same Church that has nurtured him for all these years is a very bizarre expression of loyalty, it seems to me. Yes, he will continue to serve as Bishop...for 60 more days.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Faithful Episcopalians to Gather in Fort Worth on January 19

From Fort Worth Via Media


2 P.M., January 19, 2008
SID W. Richardson Hall, Lecture Hall 2, TCU
2840 W. Bowie STreet,
Fort Worth, Texas
Sponsored by Fort Worth Via Media

A small group unhappy with decisions made by the majority within The Episcopal Church has been working to undermine the church for nearly two decades. The leadership of The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has been an active part of that effort. They have begun the process of unilaterally taking the diocese and its property out of The Episcopal Church and aligning it with another Province in the Anglican Communion, an action certain to result in expensive litigation. But many Episcopalians in the diocese have no wish to leave The Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Tom Woodward will talk about what is at stake for them on Saturday, January 19, at 2 p.m. in the Sid W. Richardson Hall, Lecture Hall 2, Texas Christian University, 2840 W. Bowie Street. His address will be followed by a question-and-answer session...

...Admission is free, but reservations should be made HERE to insure adequate seating. For further information, please contact Fort Worth Via Media:
Lynne Minor, PR Chair, 682-429-7763George Komechak, President, 817-229-7257
An article about this gathering in the Wichita Falls paper can be found here.

In case you have not been following developments in Fort Worth, here are a few highlights:

In November, the Convention of the Diocese of Fort Worth voted to remove all references to their recognition of the authority of the Episcopal Church within their Diocese and considered an invitation to join the Province of the Southern Cone. Read the resolutions here.

Prior to this convention, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sent a letter to Bp. Iker of Fort Worth in which she alerted him of some of the possible consequences if he moved forward with his plans to try to take the Diocese of Fort Worth out of the Episcopal Church. Bp. Iker issued a response which included this statement:

I have received your letter of November 8th and am rather surprised by your suggestion that I have somehow abandoned the communion of the church and may be subject to ecclesiastical discipline. Such a charge is baseless. I have abandoned nothing, and I have violated no canons...
However, just a month before this exchange of letters, Bp. Iker made these statements:

"There are three Forward in Faith dioceses in the United States, and the three bishops of those dioceses have come to a common conclusion that we have no future in the Episcopal Church," Iker reported to the London meeting. "Our conventions in those three dioceses, Fort Worth, Quincy, and San Joaquin, will be taking constitutional action to separate officially from TEC. Because it is a constitutional change, it must be passed at two successive annual conventions."

On the recording, Iker continued: "…Our plan is not only to disassociate, then, from the Episcopal Church, but to officially, constitutionally re-affiliate with an existing orthodox province of the communion that does not ordain women to the priesthood. These conversations are very far along but cannot be announced until the province that is considering our appeal has made their final decision public."
I'll leave it to you to decide if Bp. Iker has abandoned the communion of this Church (note that in the Constitution and Canons it is made clear that all references to "the Church" are intended to be recognized as The Episcopal Church). You can read more about these letters and statements here and here.

On January 9 of this year, the Bishop and Standing Committee of Fort Worth issued a report regarding accepting the invitation to join the Province of the Southern Cone. It is no surprise that they recommended this move.

It is interesting to note the language in this report. It begins with this statement:

...The Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth in November 2007 took the first step toward dissociating itself from actions of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church...
It is quite clear that the leadership of the Diocese did not simply disassociate itself from the "actions" of TEC, but in fact completely disassociated itself from TEC. What is even more interesting is that at the beginning of this report, they continue to identify themselves as the "Episcopal" Diocese of Fort Worth. Notice how that language changes near the end of the report:

...While nothing will change in the day-to-day operations of the churches in the Diocese of Fort Worth, we expect a significant change in attitude and focus of the clergy and people of the diocese...
They decided to drop the illusion that there remains any connection with these leaders and the Episcopal Church. No doubt the only reason the term "Episcopal" was included in the first place was a weak attempt to protect Bp. Iker from following Bp. Schofield in being inhibited and deposed.

To stay informed about what is happening in Fort Worth, I commend to you these sites:

Fort Worth Via Media
Katie Sherrod's blog: Desert's Child.
Barbi Click's blog: Feathers and Faith.

I'll add to the list as I'm alerted to further resources.

We need to support those faithful Episcopalians in Fort Worth. If possible, plan now to attend the gathering this Saturday. Consider making a contribution. Let's do what we can do to let these folks know that they do not stand alone.