Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Communion of "This Church"

This is probably about the fourth time I've had to make this point, but it is an important one, and it seems that some folks have very short memories.

From the Canons of the Episcopal Church, Title IV, Canon 9:

CANON 9: Of Abandonment of the Communion of This Church by a Bishop
Sec. 1. If a Bishop abandons the communion of this Church (i) by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this Church...
(emphasis added)
Regarding the phrase "this Church," I refer you to the opening sentence of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church:

The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, otherwise known as The Episcopal Church (which name is hereby recognized as also designating the Church)...
All the references in the Constitution and the Canons to "the Church" or "this Church" (such as "the communion of this Church") is understood to be a reference to the Episcopal Church, not the Anglican Communion.

In case that point is not yet clear, let's turn to page 513 of the Book of Common Prayer, which gives us the vows taken when one is ordained as a Bishop in the Episcopal Church:

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I, N.N., chosen Bishop of the Church in N., solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.
(emphasis added)
So, what would be a good example of a Bishop abandoning "the communion of this Church by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this Church"? How about this quote from the Cowboy Bishop of Fort Worth?

"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'd say there's enough in that one quote to depose the man, wouldn't you?

Those who claim that the use of the term "this Church" in the Canons means anything other than The Episcopal Church either don't know what they are talking about, or are hoping you haven't read the Constitution and Canons, and so will not call them on their misinterpretation. Abandoning the communion of "this Church" has nothing whatsoever to do with the Anglican Communion.

When someone tries to make this erroneous argument, call them on it. Every time.

In regards to the quote from Bp. Iker above, it may be of interest to note that according to Title IV, Canon 1, the offenses for which a Bishop may be presented, inhibited and tried includes "(h)Any act which involves a violation of Ordination vows." What is required to start this process? From Title IV, Canon 3:

Sec. 23 (a) A Bishop may be charged with any one or more of the Offenses other than Offenses specified in Canon IV.3.21(c) by
(1) three Bishops; or
(2) ten or more Priests, Deacons, or adult communicants of this Church in good standing, of whom at least two shall be Priests. One Priest and not less than six Lay Persons shall be of the Diocese of which the Respondent is canonically resident...
Just a bit of trivia that I thought some of you might find of interest.

J.

Presiding Bishop Clarifies Canonical Acts One More Time

I don't find arguments about the canons very helpful, especially when these matters are nothing but a smoke screen put in place to distract us from the foreign Primates pilfering parishes in North America. However, someone needs to dispel the smoke, I suppose. Once again, our Presiding Bishop has stepped up and taken on that task by sending a letter to the House of Bishops:

...Title IV has a provision for temporary inhibition of the bishop by the Presiding Bishop with the consent of the three senior active bishops of the Church. These bishops who must consent to the temporary inhibition do not, however, have a veto over consideration of the merits of the deposition by the House of Bishops, any more than those who must consent to temporary inhibitions in other circumstances have a veto over consideration of the charges by a trial court. This understanding of the canon is held not only by my Chancellor, but also by members of the Title IV Review Committee including an attorney who is an original member of the Committee, the chancellors of several dioceses who have been consulted, and the former Chair of both the Standing Commission on the Constitution and Canons and the Legislative Committee on the Canons at the General Convention...
This is in reference to the January certification by the Title IV Review Committee that Bp. Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh has abandoned the Episcopal Church. The three senior bishops did not consent to Bp. Duncan being inhibited until the matter goes before a meeting of the House of Bishops. There has been the argument floated elsewhere that the lack of an inhibition meant that the charges against him had to be dropped. That is simply wishful thinking on the part of a few. The inhibition functions in the same way as a restraining order put in place while someone accused of a crime awaits trial. The lack of such a restraining order does not negate the charges. The House of Bishops will be asked to give consent to the deposition of Bp. Duncan at their next meeting.

On to other matters:

...As the actual vote regarding deposition draws near, it is important to recognize what does and does not constitute a relevant response by the bishop in question. A letter of resignation from the House is irrelevant to the charges brought forward by the Review Committee and the deposition proceedings, since deposition concerns a person's ordination in this Church, not simply participation in the House of Bishops. Resignation from the House thus has no bearing on following through with the charges brought forward by the Review Committee. Deposition in this situation makes clear in an official way that the bishop in question is no longer permitted to exercise ordained ministry in this Church...
This is in reference the resignation of John-David Schofield from the House of Bishops a few days before he was scheduled to be deposed. In that resignation, Schofield made it clear that he had no intention of surrendering his jurisdiction. Consequently, his resignation was judged to be irrelevant to the matter of deposition.

Finally, concerning how the votes to depose Bps. Schofield and Cox were carried out at the last House of Bishops' meeting:

...Regarding how the vote is to be taken, the canon is clear that a vote on deposition must occur at "regular or special meeting of the House." Although we have other canonical consent provisions where consents may be secured by written ballot through the mail, that process does not satisfy the canons here. Every bishop entitled to vote is invited to the meeting and given ample notice that there will be a vote on depositions. Materials surrounding the deposition in question are posted in the "Bishops Only" section of the College for Bishops website. The canon is read that a quorum be present and a majority of all bishops present who are entitled to vote consent to the deposition, as was done in the case of Bishop Davies of Fort Worth in the 1990s and Bishop Larrea of Ecuador Central in 2005. In terms of parliamentary rules of order, any questions about the propriety of a vote are to be raised before the meeting or, of course, during it...
This is in reference to a novel reading of the canons that claims that any deposition that does not include a majority of all bishops, reitired, resigned, assisting, etc., in the vote is not valid. As the Presiding Bishop points out, there are two matters to consider here. First of all, the reading of the canon as requiring a majority of the bishops present at the meeting to consent to the deposition is the way that canon has been understood in previous depositions of a bishop. Secondly, the time for such objections to be voiced was during the meeting. Raising such matters after the fact may give us reasons to review those canons, and propose changes for the next General Convention, but cannot reverse the decision of the House of Bishops. Bps. Schofield and Cox are deposed.

No doubt there will still be a handful of folks that will continue to try to convince us that these matters are of utmost importance, while ignoring foreign Primates prowling the perimeter seeking new assessments to devour. Hopefully the smoke is beginning to clear, and you will see such accusations for what they are; a weak attempt to divert our attention from the plots being hatched to destroy our Church.

J.

More on Canterbury's Ban of Bp. Robinson

Yesterday, a commenter informed us that Bp. Robinson had announced to a group gathered at St. Mary's, Putney that the Archbishop of Canterbury had denied his request to preach and preside while in England. Mary Clara was also present for that gathering, and reported hearing the same announcement from Bp.Robinson. That information has now been confirmed by Jim Naughton over on The Lead:

Citing fears of creating a controversy, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury has refused to grant Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the right to preach or preside at the eucharist in England. Robinson received the news in an email yesterday morning...

...Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who gave his support to a failed legislative attempt to limit the rights of Nigerian gays and their supporters to speak, assemble and worship God collectively. Akinola has yet to respond to an Atlantic magazine article which suggests he may have had prior knowledge of plans for retributive violence against Muslims in his country that resulted in the massacre of more than 650 people in Yelwa, Nigeria.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Bishop Bernard Malango, the retired primate of Central Africa and one of the authors of the Windsor Report. Malango dismissed without reason the ecclesiastical court convened to try pro-Mugabe Bishop Nolbert Kunonga for incitement to murder and other charges.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Bishop Gregory Venables, primate of the Southern Cone, who has now claimed as his own, churches in three others provinces in the Anglican Communion (Brazil, Canada and the United States). Nor has he denined permission to preach and preside to Archbishops Henry Orombi of Uganda, Emanuel Kolini of Rwanda, or Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, all of whom have ignored the Windsor Report's plea not to claim churches within other provinces of the Communion...
If Canterbury is going to use the Windsor Report as his justification for imposing such a ban, there needs to be some consistency if we are to believe such a claim.

Dave Walker has also confirmed this story, and wonders about the canonical validity of such a ban:

...Questions are being asked as to whether Lambeth Palace has the authority to stop Gene Robinson from preaching if he is invited to do so by the incumbent of a parish. Legal minds have been perusing the Canons of the Church of England and it appears that church law would allow him to preach if invited...
This does cause me to wonder what in the world Dr. Williams is thinking. His claim that such permission would be too controversial simply does not ring true, considering the other controversial bishops, some of whom Jim mentioned, that have not been informed of a similar ban.

Does the Archbishop of Canterbury not recognize the Holy Orders of Bp. Robinson? If so, by what standard? Let us assume for a minute that Canterbury considers Bp. Robinson to be an "unrepentant sinner," a flawed vessel, or the wrong "matter" for ordination. In other words, does the Archbishop of Canterbury consider the Bishop of New Hampshire to be an "evil man"? Would that be sufficient reason for such a denial?

It is safe to assume that Dr. Williams affirms the 39 Articles, as I believe all Church of England clergy are required to do. Here is Article 26:

XXVI. Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.

Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.

Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.
What comes to my mind is the scene in the film Romero, in which the Archbishop has come to realize the depth of evil that he is confronting. He is running down the street, in deep anguish, and finally comes to a stop in a poor neighborhood. He is standing in the middle of the road weeping. The people come out of their homes, vest the Archbishop, set up a table, bring out some bread and wine, and there in the middle of the street they celebrate mass. It is one of the most moving scenes that I have ever seen in any film.

I think Dr. Williams needs to recognize that it is the people of God who will give authority to the clergy's vocational call, not an email from Lambeth Palace.

Pray for the Bishop of New Hampshire.

Pray for the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Pray for the Church.

J.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Presiding Bishop Responds to the Southern Cone Invasion

Episcopal Life brings us the text of a letter from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church to the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone:

Dear Gregory,

I write to urge you not to bring further discord into The Episcopal Church. Visiting a special convocation of the Diocese of Fort Worth with the expressed purpose of describing removal to the Province of the Southern Cone is an unprecedented and unwarranted invasion of, and meddling in, the internal affairs of this Province. I ask you to consider how you might receive such a visit to your own Province from a fellow primate. The actions contemplated by some leaders in Fort Worth are profoundly uncanonical. They also prevent needed reconciliation from proceeding within this Province.

I urge you to focus your pastoral ministry within your own Province. May your ministry there be fruitful. I remain

Your servant in Christ,
Katharine Jefferts Schori
Short and to the point, but says everthing that needed to be said. I'll not elaborate.

J.

UPDATE: From the comments:

Okay, all you great people at Jake's place:

Please think up some really good questions to ask Venables at the Saturday convocation. The obvious one is "Why in the world would you WANT the Diocese of Fort Worth?", but I doubt he'll say that it's about the $$$.

This is a serious request and I'm not trying to be funny. Those of you in SJ might really give us some good ideas, and of course I'm not leaving out all the friends of SJ in other places.

Give it some thought. This opportunity will likely not come again.
Kelly in Fort Worth
An excellent suggestion, Kelly.

I would ask him how he intends to expand into North America, when his own Constitution and Canons do not allow for such an expansion.

And secondly, I would want to know if he is concerned about traveling in North America, since if he sets foot on some church property (such as a particular congregation in New Jersey), he would be immediately arrested?

(Note to Kelly: The first one is a valid question,I think....the second is probably too snarky for such a gathering...the bouncers might toss you out!)

For those who would like to ask the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone a few questions directly, he can be reached at:

bpgreg@ciudad.com.ar

SECOND UPDATE: Elsewhere, Bp. Iker has responded to this letter:

Archbishop Venables is coming to the Diocese at my invitation and as an honored guest, which hardly makes it “an unwarranted invasion.” The only meddling going on here is on Katharine’s part. And who is she to accuse someone else of uncanonical actions?
The arrogance of this man never ceases to amaze me.

Bp. Robinson Barred From Celebrating or Preaching in England

From this afternoon's comments:

I had the privilege to hear Bishop Robinson speak tonight in St Mary's Putney (London). I had not heard him speak before and I am greatly saddened that people could threaten such a Christ-filled individual. He, together with the Inclusive Church folk and others present, truly refreshed my flagging desire to remain in the Anglican Church (+Rowan is my diocesan bishop). I am sorry to say that Bishop Robinson has been told today in an E Mail from Lambeth Palace, that he does not have the Archbishop's permission to celebrate or preach in England during the Lambeth period. Bishop Robinson was gracious, if disappointed, by this news. There was much support for him this evening and I know we are all looking forward to welcoming him back here in the summer as a brother and a bishop, regardless of the opprobrium some may wish to express against him and those who consecrated him...
It seems it is not enough for Canterbury to shun an Episcopal Bishop, duly elected and consecrated, from the Lambeth Conference. Now he is banned from all the altars and pulpits of England.

It is Dr. Williams' perogative, of course, to make such a harsh declaration. But it certainly is cause to, once again, question his judgment. On what grounds does he refuse to recognize Bp. Robinson's Holy Orders?

It seems to me this is yet another attempt to embrace "peace at any cost." If that was Dr. Williams' intention, I am afraid he has accomplished just the opposite in some quarters.

For those who may not be familiar with Bp. Robinson, he is much more than just an "issue" to be batted about in some kind of ecclesiastical game. Here is part of a recent Telegraph interview that will give you some glimpse of the man:



The artcile that accompanies this video can be found here.

J.

UPDATE: A commenter at OCICBW has confirmed this report.

Bp. Robinson Threatened With Violence

Bp. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire has received numerous threats of violence since before his consecration, which resulted in him being required to wear a bullet-proof vest. In a recent interview, the Bishop speaks of new threats, apparently as the result of his resolve to attend Lambeth:

Gene Robinson, the openly gay American bishop whose appointment has sparked furore within the Anglican church, said in an interview Monday he had received physical threats in recent years.

Speaking to the BBC while in Britain ahead of this summer's Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, Robinson said the controversy surrounding his appointment was "deeply troubling".

Robinson, who will be attending the fringes of the Lambeth Conference but has not been officially invited, told the broadcaster: "I'll be coming to the Lambeth Conference, and there have already been threats against me and others."

Asked whether he regarded the threats as serious, he replied: "Absolutely. This has been going on ever since I was elected Bishop of New Hampshire, and I have to take them seriously. Certainly the authorities take them seriously"...
What is most alarming about this news is that the response from some of the extreme Conservatives is to treat this like a joke. Here's just a few examples:

...it is in his self interest to recieve as many threats as possible so that he can go on and on and on about “poor me”...I’m sure his tailor is thrilled to get to do the June Bride in Kevlar...Dear simple country bishop - the threats in this life are NOTHING like the threats in the bible, those awaiting you in the afterlife...This is all a bunch of grandstanding, folks. He has a book to sell you know… and an agenda to promote...What goes around comes around Gene, and you set about destroying the church our families have worshipped in for generations and it is bound to be costly...I think he should wear a lightning-proof vest.
Such responses are most likely just casual chatter, with no real threat intended. But, what is of concern is that if some psychotic person was to see such a cavalier response to death threats, they could interpret it as permission to target Bp. Robinson.

Our words matter. That includes the words we use here. As an aside, I need to tell you that I was disappointed by some of the responses to Life Long Episcopalian yesterday. Some of them were just plain mean. In hindsight, I should have removed some of them. In the future I will.

Enough, folks. I will not tolerate rhetorical violence here. And there will not be such responses to this post, either. Yes, I know this kind of stuff makes us angry. And I know some of you have stories full of similar violence. I understand, having been targeted myself a few times. But focusing on that is not productive. Move beyond it. It's time we learned some self-control. When we meet violence with violence, the result is always more violence.

Bp. Robinson has been threatened. What is a productive response?

I'll start. I've made my decision. If at all possible, I'll be going to Lambeth, to do my small part to protect the innocent.

Watch your words, folks. I'm zapping posts and taking names today.

J.

Presiding Bishop Visits St. Thomas, Dallas

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

The head of the U.S. Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, will visit Dallas for a blessing service for a community garden Monday afternoon.

Episcopalians in the Fort Worth Diocese have chartered two large buses to travel to Dallas for the event, and many Episcopalians from Granbury, Wichita Falls and other cities near the Metroplex are also expected to attend, said George Komechak, who is helping to organize the trip.

The 2:30 p.m. service will be at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church's Community Garden, where church members grow vegetables for local food banks.

Schori will also tour restored church buildings, event organizers said.

The Fort Worth group will travel to Dallas for Schori's appearance, even though leaders of the Fort Worth Diocese do not support her...
You can read more about the St. Thomas the Apostle Community Garden here.

Katie Sherrod offers us a brief report:

Two busloads of Episcopalians from the Diocese of Fort Worth left Trinity Church's parking lot at 1 p.m. today to travel to Dallas to see the presiding bishop at St. Thomas the Apostle.

In addition to the people on the buses, there were others who came as individuals from Fort Worth, as well as twenty from Granbury and fifteen from Wichita Falls. Not bad for a Monday afternoon. Many more wanted to come but could not get off work.

We all wore these identifying badges to erase any doubt about why we were there...

...Those of us from Fort Worth came not only to celebrate the new garden, but also to see and hear Katharine. We needed to feed a different hunger, one for connection to the larger church, and for reassurance that we won't be forgotten.

Katharine delivered on both counts. The liturgy blessing the garden was lovely and well done, and her remarks and answers to questions at the reception that followed were handled with her usual calm gracefulness...
Yesterday we learned of a new organizational effort launched by faithful Episcopalians in Fort Worth. Now we hear about Bishop Katharine's visitation to a parish within easy commuting distance from Fort Worth.

Since Bp. Iker intends to abandon TEC this coming November, I would imagine we'll see an increase of activity among the faithful Episcopalians of Fort Worth during the next few months. Stay tuned.

J.

UPDATE: The Dallas Morning News offers us a video and a little more information about this visit. I thought the following was worth noting:

...Bishop James Stanton of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas did not attend Monday. His conservative views have sometimes put him at odds with Bishop Jefferts Schori.

But Bishop Stanton did give permission for the visit – something the Episcopal Church requires when the Presiding Bishop comes into a diocese – and provided a welcoming letter.

He said last week that he had told Bishop Jefferts Schori months ago that a long-standing family commitment would keep him from attending.

"This is not a protest of any sort whatsoever. It's just a matter of differences in schedule," he said. "She has decided to visit in smaller churches, and I commend that choice."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Faithful Episcopalians in Fort Worth Prepare for the Future

In November 2007, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth approved canonical changes in preparation for their announced plans to abandon the Episcopal Church. Bp. Iker has been quite outspoken about his intentions to lead Fort Worth out of communion with this Church, as can be seen in this quote from October 2007:

"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."
That "orthodox" province was later identified as the Southern Cone, the same Province that has made the unethical and illegal claim to other congregations in the US and Canada, as well as the Diocese of San Joaquin.

However, it appears Bp. Iker may be having second thoughts about that affiliation. In a report on a recent presentation by Bp. Iker to the people of All Saints, Fort Worth, Katie Sherrod notes this curious statement by the Bishop:

...He said that if the diocese “leaves” it will still be the “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth," but he also cautioned folks not to “get caught up in the invitation from the Southern Cone. We may not align with the Southern Cone. We asked if we could align with them as a ‘safe harbor,’ just as Fr. Jambor has asked me about a safe harbor for All Saints. I have been in recent communication with the Presiding Bishop and with Rowan. Rowan does have extra-provincial dioceses”...
Regardless of what Bp. Iker has in mind, it seems clear that by November 2008, Bp. Iker, and those who choose to go with him, will be abandoning the Episcopal Church. His statement that they will leave yet still be the "Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth" is nonsensical. We've been there already with the former Bishop of San Joaquin. Such double talk is meaningless.

Faitful Episcopalians are preparing for what appears to be inevitable. From Katie Sherrod:

The Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians has been formed to assist those who wish to remain Episcopalians if Bishop Jack Iker tries to achieve his publicly stated goal of taking the diocese out of The Episcopal Church [TEC] and aligning it with another province of the Anglican Communion.

It is these Episcopalians who will, with the help of the leadership of The Episcopal Church, reconstitute the diocese after the bishop leaves TEC...

...Primary among these has been the already-existing Fort Worth Via Media. It has been joined by daughter organizations North Texans Remain Episcopal in the northern part of the diocese and Remain Episcopal of Granbury in the southwestern part of the diocese as well as by a group in the mid-cities area and a group of diocesan clergy. Another recently formed group is Steadfast Episcopalians, organized explicitly to reach out to conservative Episcopalians. There were also individuals representing almost all parishes and missions who had self-identified as wishing to remain Episcopalian...

...According to Komechak, "The primary objectives of this combined group are to remain in the Episcopal Church and to continue the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth as a constituent part of the Episcopal Church. This umbrella organization has been officially recognized as a Texas nonprofit corporation by the Secretary of State. Bylaws have been adopted and a Statement of Mission and Beliefs has been developed for release to the public. Identifying additional persons in diocesan parishes and missions who support staying in the Episcopal Church is one of the Steering Committee’s first items of business. "

People who will remain Episcopalians can send information to Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians, P.O.Box 100846, Fort Worth, TX, 76185-0846. A web site is under construction.

Media: For more information, contact:

Walter Cabe
817.563.1033 [office]
walter.cabe@redprairie.com
Pray for the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Pray for the Church.

J.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin Sues Former Bishop

From the website of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin:

...Michael Glass, Esq., Chancellor to the Diocese of San Joaquin has announced the filing of a Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief in Fresno County Superior Court to reclaim all property currently being held by John-David Schofield, the former Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, according to a Press Release issued April 25, 2008 by the Stockton-based temporary headquarters for the Diocese.

In a related matter, the Rt. Rev. Jerry Lamb, Provisional Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, has sent a letter of protest to Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. In the April 22, 2008 letter, Lamb reminded the Archbishop that his visit to the Diocese of San Joaquin is a violation of the traditions of the Anglican Communion and of the recommendations of the Windsor Report.
From the letter of protest:

...I strongly protest your visit to this Diocese without my invitation or permission. Your visit would violate the traditions of the ancient church as understood in the Anglican Communion. It also violates the Windsor Report and statements from subsequent meetings of the Primates since the Windsor Report.

I strongly urge that you cancel your meeting in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin scheduled for April 29, 2008. I also strongly urge you to refrain from interjecting yourself into the internal affairs of the Episcopal Church, the only Anglican Church in the United States.

In Christ’s Name,
+The Rt. Rev. Jerry A. Lamb
Bishop of San Joaquin

Cc: The Archbishop of Canterbury
The Presiding Bishop, The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
The Primates and Moderators of the United Churches of the Anglican Communion
This is the second letter like this Abp. Venables has received this week. Most likely he will ignore this one as well.

Since the Southern Cone is known as one of the poorest Provinces in the Communion, I do wonder how Abp. Venables can afford to go jetting about to Canada and California. It couldn't be from the additional assessments he is receiving from the new parishes he is claiming in North America, could it?

Most likely, Abp. Venables will claim that he is visiting "his" Diocese, meaning the Southern Cone Diocese of San Joaquin. The problem with that, as Bp. Lamb pointed out, is that no such Diocese exists.

That's not just my speculation. As we have previously discussed, according to the Southern Cone's own Constitution and Canons, a new diocese in North America cannot be created without amending their Constitution.

From Article 2 of the Southern Cone's Constitution:

2. MEMBERSHIP
The Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, which shall henceforth be called The Province, is composed of the Anglican Dioceses that exist or which may be formed in the Republics of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay and which voluntary declare themselves as integral Diocesan members of the Province.
They might amend this at some future time. Such an amendment will not be easy, however, due to the stipulation included in Article 4.3:

4. AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION
For any changes or amendment to this Constitution, the following procedure is to be used:

...4.3 The proposed change shall then be submitted to the Anglican Consultative Council for consideration and then to each Diocesan Synod for approval...
Since the Southern Cone announced over a year ago their plans to expand North, why have they not started the amendment process and consulted with the Anglican Consultative Council? Most likely it is because the Southern Cone is quite aware that any plan to establish dioceses in places where a Diocese that is part of the Anglican Communion already exists would be rejected by the ACC.

There's a bit more about this being offered by Episcopal Life:

...At issue is control of assets included within "corporation sole … which administers property owned by or under the control of the diocese in accordance with the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church and diocese," according to court records.

The lawsuit does not specify a monetary value, but seeks recovery of: "personal property, bank and brokerage accounts, monies, valuable chattels, personnel records, financial records, real property records and deeds and historical records of the diocese held in the name of "The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin, a corporation sole, " the Episcopal Foundation and the Investment Trust.

On April 3, 2008, according to the lawsuit, Lamb asked Schofield to vacate diocesan offices at 4159 E. Dakota Avenue in Fresno, via letter, and to relinquish "all real and personal property held by the Diocese, the Episcopal Foundation, and the Investment Trust." He requested a response by April 9.

When the request went unheeded, Lamb filed corrected articles of incorporation with the California Secretary of State, which Schofield allegedly had altered by removing references to The Episcopal Church (TEC). The corrected articles clarify that "the name of the corporation sole is 'The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin, a corporation sole'"...
You can view the corrected articles of incorporation here.

This was the next obvious step. In the meantime, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin leaves all this legal stuff to the experts, while they get on with their mission:

...Meanwhile, the continuing Episcopal diocese is moving forward with its goal of creating a culture of reconciliation, Key said. They are preparing for a three-day faith-based reconciliation seminar in June and further rebuilding efforts at its October diocesan convention.

She said the diocese is open to the possibility of reconciliation for all congregations. "The rest of them could come back and declare themselves as part of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and we welcome them and hope they do so."
J.

"Focus" on San Joaquin, Peace, Poverty and Youth

You'll want to see the 30 minute April edition of Episcopal Life Focus. You might spot some folks you know. Here's what you'll see on the video:

1. The opening segment is about the Diocese of San Joaquin. I identified at least one of our vistors here at Jake's place. A briefer video about the Special Convention in San Joaquin, which has some of the same content, can be found here.

2. This is followed by a segment on the people of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Manhattanville, New York City, who are taking their prayers for peace in Iraq out onto the street. They are chanting the Great Litany in procession in Ralph Bunche Park, which is across the street from the United Nations building.

3. Sonia Omulepu talks about the Presiding Bishop's Summit on Domestic Poverty, being held May 14 and 15 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

4. Diane Caruso, Director of Music for Trinity Episcopal Church, Asbury Park, New Jersey, tells us about the Chorister program they have launched, which invites neighborhood children to learn to read music and sing together as a choir. We've previously discussed the great things going on at Trinity here.

5. Our Presiding Bishop offers some reflections on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq.

Do go watch this.

What's up with all the videos lately? A new phase, I think. I'm making a video for a committee on which I serve, so I'm getting more interested in that medium. Who knows; maybe one day we'll be producing our own stuff right here. Who wants to be a star?

One last personal note; Demi and I are considering vacationing in England in late July. This will be my first trip. Any suggestions regarding traveling to that part of the world, especially in regards to accomodations, preferably near Canterbury, would be greatly appreciated.

J.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Some Resources for the "Nature and/or Nurture" Debate

In a recent discussion, Peter O. left this comment:

I'm not asking you to defend your sexuality. I'm asking others to defend their assertion that homosexuality is a biological/genetic phenomena.
First, for us less scientific types, IT sets the stage:

...As a professional geneticist (although not one who studies homosexuality; my gig is cancer research), and a professor who teaches the subject, may I point out YET AGAIN that someone does not understand genetics.

Almost no complex traits can be traced to a single gene. Okay? NONE. Not even blue eyes/brown eyes, although they are pretty close. Certainly nothing as complex as behavior.

Even in fruitflies.

Nothing complex is solely nature or nurture, but both. You may have the genes to be 7 feet tall but if you aren 't eating a good diet you won't get there.

There are plenty of studies showing that human sexuality exists on a continuum, not a binary. It's extremely complex.

However, there are also plenty of studies showing a very strong genetic component to homosexuality; it may not be the single gene absolute concordance that the conservatives want (see preceding) but it is vastly, vastly higher than chance.

Go read Pubmed if you want the citations...The VAST majority of medical and psychiatric opinion is clear on the subject...
With that in mind, here are a few resources that were mentioned in that discussion, as well as additional items that have been suggested in this thread:

Developmental Biology, by Scott F. Gilbert.

Quirks and Quarks,: Searching for the Gay Gene, by CBC Radio.

What Mental Health And Medical Experts Say About "Curing" Gays, by Outfront.

The Robert Spitzer Study by the Rainbow Alliance.

TVC Presents Deceptive and Misleading Information about the APA, by the Rainbow Alliance.

On "left handedness," from Barry and IT.

Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity, by Bruce Bagemihl.

Evolution's Rainbow and A Plea for Diversity, by Joan Roughgarden.

This is just the beginning, of course. Suggest resources in the comments, and I'll add them to this list.

J.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

For Your Earth Day Viewing: "A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash"

This is 90 minutes long, but worth the time. Much to discuss in it, but I'll wait until you've watched it to say more.



For those unable to access the video, you can read about the film here. You can read more about the topic of "Peak Oil" here.

Thanks to Louie Crew for pointing to this film.

J.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Canada to Southern Cone: "Back Off"

MadPriest alerts us to a letter from from Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, to Archbishop Gregory Venables, Primate of the Southern Cone, asking him to cancel a visit to Canada. Here's part of it:

...It has come to my attention that you will be participating in the Anglican Network in Canada conference, "Compelled by Christ's Love" taking place in Vancouver, B.C., April 25-26,2008. Your visit to Canada is without any reference to or consent from my office or that of the Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster. This represents a breach in what is considered normative in protocol among Primates and Bishops throughout the Communion...

...Representing a Province in communion with yours and all others in the world wide Anglican Communion I ask you as a brother Primate to stop interfering in the life of this province. This request is made in the interest of upholding the bonds of affection, and respecting catholic collegiality and provincial autonomy. I believe it is consistent with the ancient canons of the Church, and statements from successive Lambeth Conferences and the Windsor Report. It is also consistent with the commitment that all the Primates, including you, made through the communiqué from the meeting in Dromantine in 2005. That commitment stated that the Primates will, "neither encourage nor initiate cross-boundary interventions." This commitment was repeated in the communiqué from the Primates' Meeting in Tanzania in 2007.In light of these commitments, made by you and your fellow Primates I specifically request that you cancel your visit to Canada...
The Anglican Journal is now reporting that Venables has rejected this request:

...Archbishop Venables, reached by telephone in Buenos Aires, where the province is based, said he did not intend to cancel his visit. “I don’t see any reason to call off the trip. I was invited to share with people who have already separated from the Canadian church. I wouldn’t have done anything had they not already separated,” he said.

Contacting Archbishop Hiltz or diocesan bishop Michael Ingham was unnecessary, he said, since he is “not meeting with people who are members of the Anglican Church of Canada.” He added, “I didn’t encourage them to separate; I simply received their request (to join the Southern Cone).” He said his activities at the conference, called “Compelled by Christ’s Love” would be “to be with them, to talk and share and listen”...
We have previously discussed the Southern Cone's intentional move to plunder congregations in North America here.

J.

Church of Nigeria's American Beachhead Claims to Be "Radically Inclusive"

CANA is a group that describes themselves as "an Anglican missionary effort in the US sponsored by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)." It is centered around 11 churches in Virginia who voted to abandon the Episcopal Church in late 2006. Here is part of Bp. Peter Lee's response to Abp. Akinola claiming those churches for the Church of Nigeria:

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

When the membership of these congregations voted to sever their ties with the Episcopal Church and affiliate with CANA, they left remaining Episcopal congregations in those places without vestries, without clergy and without their churches, whether the remaining congregations numbered one or 100 souls. The spiritual abandonment of their Episcopal brothers and sisters of the past, the present and the future, is perhaps the greatest offense for which there is no redress under our tradition...
To date, the Church of Nigeria has not relinquished the Church property and have continued to occupy the churches and use the property owned by the Diocese of Virginia.

The CANA website has a link on their front page to an explanation of why they are claiming to be an example of "radical inclusion":

Did you know that there are things God doesn't know? For one, God doesn't know a person he doesn't love. God loves you — no matter what.

God loves the world (John 3:16). CANA is leading and building communities of faith where the radical message of Galatians 3:28 is lived out: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” CANA is a place where people of diverse backgrounds show the world that true unity is possible when we are connected by “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). CANA is committed to the Dromantine Communiqué (February 2005): “we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people. The victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us.”
I find this a rather outrageous claim for these folks to be making. Why? Because it is simply not true. Consider just a few examples from their Archbishop, Peter Akinola, whom they have freely chosen to be their spiritual leader:

A quote from Abp. Akinola from 2003:

'This is an attack on the Church of God - a Satanic attack on God's church,' he told the Lagos-based Guardian newspaper.

'I cannot think of how a man in his senses would be having a sexual relationship with another man. Even in the world of animals, dogs, cows, lions, we don't hear of such things.

'When we sit down globally as a communion, I am going to sit in a meeting with a man who is marrying a fellow man,' he added. 'I mean it's just not possible. I cannot see myself doing it.'
Another quote from the Archbishop, from 2005:

...To opine that, unknown to humans, God had hitherto created some people to be homosexuals and lesbians (i.e., sexual orientations) is tantamount to creating God in our own image and introducing a cancerous element into the fabric of the African understanding of marriage and family.

Homosexuality and lesbianism, like divorce, breed a society of single parents which gives rise to a generation of bastards. And in the context of much poverty and lack of education, this further produces an ill-bred generation of hooligans, portending much terror to the peace and stability of the society...
From 2006:

The Church (of Nigeria) affirms our commitment to the total rejection of the evil of homosexuality which is a perversion of human dignity and encourages the National Assembly to ratify the Bill prohibiting the legality of homosexuality since it is incongruent with the teachings of the Bible, Quran and the basic African traditional values.
What was it CANA, a mission of Abp. Akinola's Church of Nigeria, said on their "radical inclusion" page?

...The victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us...
I guess referring to fellow Christians as being Satanic, less than animals, a cancerous element, hooligans, a perversion of human dignity and advocating that they be incarcerated doesn't qualify as "victimization" and "diminishment"?

J.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Falls Church Episcopal to Welcome New Priest in Charge

From the Falls Church News-Press

Falls Church Episcopal recently appointed the Rev. Michael Pipkin to Priest in Charge of the church, after he served four years of active duty as a Navy Chaplain, including time in Iraq. Pipkin aims to focus primarily on youth and young adult education while figuring out ways to reach out to the community. On Sunday, April 20, the church is holding a Celebration Service and luncheon after its 11 a.m. mass, which the retired Revered Peter James Lee, Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia will attend. For more information, please contact Parish Communications Director Robin Fetsch at 703-532-8818.
As was necessary in the previous post, perhaps a word of explanation is needed for you to grasp the significance of this announcement.

Falls Church Episcopal is made up of Episcopalians who remained faithful to the Episcopal Church after the majority of the original Falls Church decided to join the Church of Nigeria. Let me allow Blueweeds to offer a fuller explanation of the situation in Falls Church:

...Let's continue with The Falls Church (Nigerian) ... okay, I really don't know where to start here. George Washington helped start the church as an Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia. It served as a hospital during the Civil War. Then around 1990 it was taken over by Reaganite think tank conservatives who had gotten into trouble in Nicaragua (see Iran Contra) for trying to use the church to overthrow a democratically elected government which turned out to be communist. The Reaganites developed a "secret plan" to use select Episcopal Churches in the US to fight the newest threat, Muslim extremists - the plan requires weakening the US Episcopal Church via a series of wedge issues on the ordination of gays, women, and fights over the ownership of church property. (No I'm not just making this up). The Reaganites evicted a bunch of foreign-owned haberdasheries next door in hopes of expanding. But the church misplaced a bunch of money so it couldn't expand. The church attracted a lot of evangelicals and conservatives. The Diocese of Virginia ordained a gay and then a woman as Presiding Bishop. The Falls Church (Nigerian) stopped sending money to the Virginia Diocese. The Falls Church (Nigerian) congregation formally divorces and disassociates itself from the Episcopal Church. The church no longer refers to itself as Episcopal, but wants to be called by its maiden name (see FCNP story here). The new church refuses to vacate the Episcopal property. Refuses to allow the continuing congregation of Episcopals to access their church. The church then re-marries a Nigerian hottie who wants to imprison gays, women, and incites his followers to riot against Muslims. The continuing Episcopal congregation now lives quietly across the street on a couch in the loft with its Presbyterian friends. The church that ran off with the foreign tart sits in the fancy house it doesn't own, throws wild parties with its new Nigerian in-laws, and regularly refers to its ex as "the gay church across the street," "non-believing neighbors," "non-Christians," and snidely implies that its ex is a pedophile ("I feel so much more in line with [my new Nigerian family]. There are hardly any bishops in the Episcopal Church that I'd even want my children in Sunday school with.")
In case you wonder about the reference to the take over by "Reaganite think tank conservatives," you may want to take a look at this article:

...The announcement about the Virginia parishes has been directed by the skillful spokespeople at the Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD), a neo-conservative Washington think-tank that has innumerable connections, through its board of directors and officers, to the conservative Washington area parishes that have recently left the Episcopal Church. These parishes have been home to prominent conservatives such as Oliver North and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, as well as top-level IRD Episcopalians. For instance, Fox News commentator Fred Barnes is a member of the Falls Church congregation, and serves on the Board of the IRD; Fox has covered this story extensively and sympathetically, interviewing Barnes as part of a roundtable discussion, but never mentioning his IRD connection...
In case you may have forgotten, it was Falls Church (Nigerian) member Fred Barnes who launched the smear campaign against Bp. Robinson the day before the House of Bishops was to vote on giving consent to his election at GC 2003.

Regarding the choice of Falls Church(Nigeria) to reject the "immoral" Episcopal Church and align themselves with Abp. Peter Akinola, Edge has an interesting article about Akinola's "morality." The caption to a picture of the Archbishop says it all:

Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola has worked tirelessly to terrorize LGBT Nigerians. Now, he’s taken his act on the road--to the U.S., to head an anti-gay breakaway mega-archdiocese.
The faithful Falls Church Episcopal members have been barred from the use of their building by the anti-gay breakaway church who still claim the building. The Presbyterian Church has graciously allowed them to use loft space in their building until the Virginia courts eventually evict the Nigerian group.

And, from all appearances, Falls Church Episcopal is flourishing. After more than a year of exile from their historic church home, the continuing Episcopal parish has grown to include members of all ages, has a marvelous music ministry as well as children and youth programs, and has taken on some impressive outreach projects.

May we share in Falls Church Episcopal's celebration of a new ministry. Congratulations to them for their perseverence. We pray that they will continue to press on toward the Kingdom!

J.

UPDATE: For the record, we should note the corrections needed in a couple of the above quotes. In the first quote, the Bishop of Virginia is The Right Reverend Peter James Lee, not "the Revered." And he has not retired. Regarding the third quote, I have been informed that although Oliver North is an Episcopalian, he is not a member of any of the break away Virginia congregations.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

St. Andrews, Peachtree City, Georgia, is Alive and Well

St. Andrew's in the Pines Episcopal Church and The Right Reverend J. Neil Alexander, Bishop of Atlanta, will install Paul Elliot as their new Rector tonight. Here's part of the local news report about the event:

...The Rev. Paul Courtright Elliott, interim pastor since March 2007, will become the permanent rector of Saint Andrew’s in a celebration to be held Thursday, April 17, at 6:30 p.m. at the church, 316 North Peachtree Pkwy. in Peachtree City. A reception will follow in the parish hall. The community is invited.

Elliott, a native of Huntsville, Ala., is a graduate of Birmingham Southern College, has a master of divinity from the General Theological Seminary in New York City, and is completing a doctorate in pastoral counseling at Emory University Candler School of Theology.

Ordained as a priest in 1996, he has served as associate rector and chaplain to the school at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Northeast Atlanta. While at St. Martin’s, and continuing his studies, Elliott served as a counselor at Care and Counseling Center of Georgia near the Emory campus...
So, what is significant about this celebration? Consider this article that appeared in the same local paper just a little over a year ago:

...The downward spiral of The Episcopal Church (TEC) came home to Peachtree City, Ga., this past weekend when a local parish, St. Andrew’s-in-the-Pines, voted 145 to 67 (or 68 percent) on Sunday, Feb. 4 to separate from the national church and the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.

The church’s vestry, or governing board, subsequently voted to honor the parish’s overwhelming desire to depart from TEC.

The vestry also voted to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) – the U.S. missionary branch of the Anglican Church of Nigeria – in order to maintain the parish’s ties to the worldwide Anglican Communion...
From what I can gather, following this vote, Bp. Alexander took a "hands on" approach to this situation. He notified all the members of St. Andrews that he would meet with them on February 15. He was barred from entering St. Andrews by the leadership that had voted on February 4 to join the Church of Nigeria, so the meeting with the Bishop had to occur at a neighboring Episcopal Church. Here is part of Bishop Alexander's statement to the faithful Episcopalians of St. Andrews:

...Moving now to the future. Let me reiterate a few things most of you have already heard from me by way of the mail, but I believe they bear repeating. St. Andrew’s-in-the-Pines Episcopal Church is a parish in good standing within the Diocese of Atlanta. It will continue to be so. I cannot change that fact. Neither can a vote of a congregation or a vestry. The only body that has the authority to alter the relationship between St. Andrew’s and the diocese is Annual Council. In this wonderful country of ours, all are free to practice their religious faith as they see fit. Some of our number choosing personally to disaffiliate with us in no way alters the fact that St. Andrew’s is a parish of the Diocese of Atlanta. To be a part of The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Atlanta was the vision of the founders of St. Andrew’s, and nothing short of an action of Annual Council can alter that vision, nor lessen our resolve toward keeping all of the commitments that vision implies.

So, I take it as a given that those who so desire will continue to be St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church into the future. As the bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta, I can assure all of you that we are commited to rebuilding St. Andrew’s to greater strength than it has ever known before. Given that St. Andrew’s has been abandoned by its vestry, it is important that those who desire to continue with us gather as soon as possible to pray, to identify, and to elect a new vestry to work with me to guide St. Andrew’s life into the future...
So, that's what they did. They voted in a new vestry, and adopted the mission statement "Growing in Grace" and stepped into the unknown. They were able to reclaim their building, and in March, 2007, called Paul Elliot as their interim priest.

It wasn't easy. They had to start over again with about 80 souls, and a big mortgage. Now, a year later, they have about 200 people in church and about 25 children attending "children's chapel" every Sunday.

We hear more than our share of sad stories about continuing Episcopalians being forced out of their churches. It is refreshing to hear one once in awhile that should give us all reason for hope. Much credit needs to be given to Bp. Alexander for his quick response to the need for leadership and pastoral care, as well as the faithful people of St. Andrew's, who were willing to step out in faith in spite of what must have seemed like insurmountable obstacles.

St Andrews in the Pines Episcopal Church is alive and well in Peachtree City, Georgia. Thanks be to God!

Keep the people of St. Andrew's and their new Rector, Paul Elliot, in your prayers today.

Pray for the Church.

J.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Evangelism for Today's World: Radical Welcome

Our previous discussion about evangelism was quite good. It has caused me to reflect on a few other things related to that conversation.

I've been reading Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other, and the Spirit of Transformation by the Rev. Stephanie Spellers. I highly recommend this book, and the downloads you will find on the linked page. You will want to especially note the sermon resource, which includes an excellent message from the Rev. Tracey Lind, Dean of Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland, Ohio.

Here is how Spelling defines the term "Radical Welcome":
A radically welcoming community seeks to welcome the voices, presence and power of many groups—especially those who have been defined as The Other, pushed to the margins, cast out, silenced and closeted—in order to help to shape the congregation’s common life and mission...

...They attempt to listen carefully to, make room for, share power with, and learn from groups who’ve been silenced, closeted and disempowered, and they are open to genuine conversion and transformation based this encounter with The Other. On the ground, that means they allow God’s Spirit and the gifts of The Other to enrich and transform their understanding of who is inside and who is outside, what ministries they undertake, how they select leaders, how they do business, how they worship, what they claim as their mission and purpose, and how they partner with other groups...

...They understand that radical welcome is not merely about diversity, evangelism, multiculturalism, inclusion or getting it “right.” It is simply, profoundly about being faithful disciples of the Christ who welcomed and still welcomes all...
As the chart on page 3 of this document makes clear, "radical welcome" goes beyond being an "inviting", or even "inclusive" Church. For instance, compare the message of those three approaches:

The message of the Inviting Church - " Come, join our community and share our cultural values and heritage.”

The message of the Inclusive Church - “Help us to be diverse.”

The message of the Radically Welcoming Church - “Bring your culture, your voice, your whole self—we want to engage in truly mutual relationship.”

Do you see the difference? Instead of a transaction, in which we assume The Other wants something we have, a radical welcome is an invitation to enter into a mutual relationship.

Is there some risk involved? Of course. And lots of fear. One of the greatest fears of the Church in general, and many of our members specifically, is the fear of change. And if we welcome in The Other, the outcasts, those who are somehow "different," things are definately going to change. And maybe we won't like it.

But, the more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that there is no other way to be faithful to the message of the Gospel:

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:40–42)
In today's world, we simply can no longer assume that Christ can only be found within the walls of the Church. There are many "Christians" who have given up on organized religion, due to the appalling witness that church folk have offered to the world. "Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me." By shunning The Other, we may just be turning away Christ.

But there's something more that I want to touch on here. I think that offering a "radical welcome" is not of value just because it is the embodiment of the message of the Gospel. When we look at the stranger in our midst as if he or she were Christ, we discover something else; we need to be in relationship with that person. It is critical to our own salvation that we be in realtionship with The Other.

Somewhere along the way, Christianity got sidetracked by a focus on "personal salvation." I blame Descarte, but the source of our self- identification as "individuals" is a debate that we can have another time. I believe that one of our biggest cultural problems is this dissection of humanity down to its smallest element.

Another perspective would be to consider the concept of the African philosophy of Ubuntu, derived from the Zulu phrase, Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu, which means "a person is a person through other persons". We affirm our humanity when we affirm the humanity of others.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has described it this way:

...Ubuntu is a concept that we have in our Bantu languages at home. Ubuntu is the essence of being a person. It means that we are people through other people. We cannot be fully human alone. We are made for interdependence, we are made for family. When you have ubuntu, you embrace others. You are generous, compassionate. If the world had more ubuntu, we would not have war. We would not have this huge gap between the rich and the poor. You are rich so that you can make up what is lacking for others. You are powerful so that you can help the weak, just as a mother or father helps their children. This is God's dream.
In his book, God Has a Dream, Abp. Tutu expands that definition:

…It is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong. It speaks about wholeness, it speaks about compassion. A person with ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole. They know that they are diminished when others are humiliated, diminished when others are oppressed, diminished when others are treated as if they were less than who they are. The quality of ubuntu gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanise them...
I welcome you not simply because to do so is a Gospel imperative, and not just because I think I have something that you need, but because my humanity is bound up in yours, as is my salvation yoked to your salvation.

J.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Episcopal Church and the Great Commission

The "Why are you an Episcopalian?" post has already drawn over 100 responses. Thanks to all were willing to share a bit of their faith journey with us. If you haven't yet answered the questions, there's still time. I imagine that is one thread that some of us will return to read again many times.

A few folks requested that Grace's comment be lifted out of that thread for further consideration. For those who might be fairly new visitors, let me simply say that Grace has been hanging around Jake's place for a few years now. Sometimes she disagrees with the majority, and has received many strident responses, as you can imagine. We can be a rowdy crowd at times. But Grace didn't give up on us, and just kept coming back. She has lived up to her name, and has become a respected member of this community. Her questions and responses to others are always sincere. There are no games being played. So I ask that we all show the same grace and respect in our responses to her thoughts about the Episcopal Church. Here they are:

Well, I'm actually trying to decide between the Piskies and the Presbys right now.

I actually agree with the witness of the book of common prayer, and can pretty much give consent to the 39 articles.

I'm moved by the beauty of the liturgy, and am very convicted concerning the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. It all speaks to me.

I like that Anglicanism is a "big tent." It can encompass folks that are Calvinists as well as Anglo-Catholics. It's inclusive of GLBT people, at least more so than most denominations.

Even the government of the Episcopal church seems biblical and right on to me.

But, on the down side, I'm not really progressive theologically, but orthodox, and feel strongly concerning evangelical outreach, and the priority of the great commission. I would see everyone in the world converted to Jesus Christ. I'm not sure TEC is really there in some of these deeper issues that matter to me.

Would it be the best fit for me? I'm not sure. Would appreciate everyone's prayers.

Grace.


J.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Seattle Times Interviews the Presiding Bishop

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was in Seattle for the Healing Our Planet Earth (HOPE) Conference. The Seattle Times is offering this interview. Here's part of it:

...Q: You recently went to the San Joaquin Diocese in California (which voted to secede from the Episcopal Church) to speak with those who remain Episcopalian. You said that healing is possible. How, when the issues seem so intractable and the divide getting wider?

A: The experience of the people present at the convention in San Joaquin is that healing is happening there. In groups of people with a variety of opinions about some of these hot-button issues, it's remembering what it is that originally calls them together.

Q: Property disputes with breakaway churches are a big issue and getting bigger. What do you say to people who feel it's unbiblical to take fellow Christians to court over issues like property?

A: We have a fiduciary and a moral responsibility as leaders in this church to use and steward the gifts ... for the purposes for which they were given. ... Generations before us gave permission in the name of the Episcopal Church and intended them (gifts and properties) for the benefit of communities and generations to come. (The breakaway churches) are clearly saying they're no longer part of the Episcopal Church.

Q: What about the argument of the breakaway churches and diocese that the Episcopal Church left them?

A: The church has changed repeatedly throughout history. The church has struggled with the place of African Americans in the church, the place of slavery in the church, the place of children in the church, women in the church, immigrants in the church, and today, the place of gays and lesbians in the church...
If what we hear from San Joaquin is any reflection of what is going on there, I'd say it is safe to assume that the healing process has been initiated, and is continuing.

Regarding property issues, Bp. Katharine makes clear that it is our "fiduciary and a moral responsibility" to not allow those who have left the Episcopal Church to engage in immoral and unethical behavior as they head out the door. It doesn't matter if we like it, or would rather not do it. Sometimes we all have to do things we don't want to do, especially if we are the person with the responsibility to make sure that the right thing is done, even if that is the more difficult path.

...Q: What do you think is the proper role for the Episcopal Church to play in the Anglican Communion on the issue of ordaining gay men and lesbians and same-gender unions?

A: It appears to be our vocation in this day and age to encourage conversation, to encourage theological reflection about how we're created, what the holiness of life looks like...
This is our vocation. I think this is an important point that doesn't get enough attention. The Episcopal Church did not choose to take on the issue of justice for all. It fell into our laps.

As I've said before, there are numerous other justice issues for which I find much more personal passion. As a straight white male, I've not personally experienced the kind of prejudice and bigotry that we have heard about in the many stories that have been shared here . But, as a former homeless person, poverty issues are something that I don't have to strive to understand. So that is where my personal passion is.

But, it's not just about me, is it? My salvation is yoked with your salvation. If we do not achieve justice for all, there is no justice. And so we have this current matter to contend with, following in the tradition of championing the inclusion of all God's people, regardless of their economic status, race, gender or sexual orientation. We're in this now. We'll not back down, come what may. Why? Because matters of justice are an integral part of the Gospel message. We are doing what we firmly believe God would have us do.

Continuing with the interview:

...Q: Some people find it hypocritical that church members in some parts of the world who are so outspoken against ordaining gays are allowed to have multiple wives. Are they allowed to, and if so, what are your thoughts on that?

A: The (1988) Lambeth Convention (the once-a-decade gathering of the world's bishops) made pastoral provisions for polygamists to be received into the church. ... It seems to me that the church throughout history has made different provisions in different provinces for circumstances that aren't universal...
Here is that 1988 Lambeth Resolution:

Church and Polygamy

This Conference upholds monogamy as God's plan, and as the ideal relationship of love between husband and wife; nevertheless recommends that a polygamist who responds to the Gospel and wishes to join the Anglican Church may be baptized and confirmed with his believing wives and children on the following conditions:

(1) that the polygamist shall promise not to marry again as long as any of his wives at the time of his conversion are alive;

(2) that the receiving of such a polygamist has the consent of the local Anglican community;

(3) that such a polygamist shall not be compelled to put away any of his wives, on account of the social deprivation they would suffer;

(4) and recommends that provinces where the Churches face problems of polygamy are encouraged to share information of their pastoral approach to Christians who become polygamists so that the most appropriate way of disciplining and pastoring them can be found, and that the ACC be requested to facilitate the sharing of that information.
Converts in polygamous marriages were allowed to be baptized. None of the wives were to be "put away" (strange wording, eh?). This was a pastoral response to a unique situation that rose up in certain parts of the Communion. While monogamy was held up as the ideal, authority was given for those in that cultural setting to explore the best way to meet this particular pastoral need.

But then, in 1998, when the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian Anglicans were brought forward at Lambeth, some of the same Bishops who had asked for leeway regarding polygamous converts just ten years before refused to consider any kind of compromise.

As a side note: Someone sent me an email in which they shared a rather interesting story about attending a conference in the US at which a few of the Global South leaders were present. This person bumped into a woman in the kitchen who introduced herself as a prominent Archbishop's "second wife." I cannot locate that email. If you are that "someone," could you please send me your story again? Thanks.

Returning to the interview:

...Q: Do you see the upcoming Lambeth Convention this year as settling any of these issues?

A: The Lambeth Convention's intent is to gather bishops in community and to meet each other as individual human beings. It's never been intended to settle issues...
According to Susan Russell's report, this is the same perspective held by Ian Douglas, a member of the Lambeth Design Team:

...Douglas made clear that the schedule for the Lambeth Conference, in fact, “has no large plenary session” where it would be even possible for “resolutions to be presented and voted up or down.”

In a nutshell, Douglas drew a picture of a 2008 Lambeth Conference dramatically different from its 1998 counterpart: a community of bishops gathered to converse rather than a conclave of bishops convened to resolve...

...During the Q&A following Dr. Douglas’ presentation, Ian was queried about whether the design team had “designed any contingencies” for the potential of having their best laid plans hijacked (I think that’s the word I used) by those who might be coming to Lambeth with juridical intentions in spite of the design team’s missiological intentions.

His response was that no one was more committed to keeping the design of the conference as described than the Design Team … and that the Archbishop of Canterbury had appointed the Design Team to act as the Management Team on the ground in Canterbury...
As Susan said,we shall see.

J.

Gregory Cameron on the "Instruments of Unity"

Susan Russell, who has just returned from the Anglican Covenant Conference, brings us the understanding of Gregory Cameron, Deputy Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, regarding the so-called "Instruments of Unity":

...Regarding the so called “Instruments of Unity,” Cameron reminded that “they cannot command or require; they can only advise and recommend” going on to say “they can only ever be a council of advice and unless we get that particular point exactly right we are in for all sorts of problems.”

Cameron offered a helpful reminder that the primates are, in fact, “no more and no less than the senior pastors of their own provincial jurisdictions” maintaining that “they cannot speak with any more authority than that”...
It's good to hear someone say that so clearly.

I don't know about you, but the more certain bodies (such as the Primates) desperately grasp for more power, the less I'm inclined to pay any attention to them.

J.





Saturday, April 12, 2008

Why Are You an Episcopalian?

As some of you may have noticed, Jake's place is still recovering from a rather severe crash, due to my own incompetence. It's up and functioning again, but unfortunately I'll have to manually restore some segments of the former site over the next few days.

To keep us distracted from the mess and commotion of this reconstruction job, I'm going to suggest we respond to some questions Beryl has asked in the comments:
I love the Episcopal Church for so many reasons, and will defend her and do what I can to preserve her, mere human that I am, in the Diocese of San Joaquin. Have you thought about why you are drawn to the Epsicopal Church? Why were you drawn to the Episcopal Church? What is it about the Episcopal Church that you would commend her and recommend her to others?
If I may, I'll sort those out into categories of past, present and future:

1. What initially drew you to the Episcopal Church?

2. What are some of your current reasons for remaining in the Episcopal Church?

3. When you recommend the Episcopal Church to others, what are some of the aspects of our common life that you mention?

There you go. That should keep the conversation going for awhile. Now excuse me; I've got some stray xml code to hunt down.

J.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Report From the Anglican Covenant Conference

Susan Russell is in New York attending the Anglican Covenant Conference. Here's part of her report of the first session, which included a presentation by Archbishop Drexel Gomez:

...In a nutshell, the Archbishop made the case that "the present crisis" makes it essential that we "articulate the bonds of affection and make explicit what has heretofore been implicit" in order to create "agreed upon mechanisms for managing differences."
.
In a nutshell, the room wasn't buying it. Although +Gomez maintained that an Anglican Covenant was "not intended to calcify the Communion but to enable it to deal with disputes" he also asserted that "the covenant is the only available mechanism to hold the Communion together" -- at the same time referring with some energy to "the present crisis" which has "broken the communion" and "could have been avoided" if there had been a recognition of "the legitimate limits on autonomy."
.
The only real surprise for me was his reference to "Rumors of a bold initiative to advance 'gay marriage'" ... surprising because there's no "rumor" about it -- at least not to anybody who reads this blog...
You will find some background information on the proposed Anglican Covenant here.

Check back at An Inch at a Time for further reports during the next few days.

J.

UPDATE: There is now an additional report from this conference, provided by Jered Weber-Johnson on the Daily Episcopalian. Here is part of it:

...In perhaps the most pointed comment of the evening, Leonel Abaroa Boloña, a student at Trinity College, Toronto, stated that Archbishop Gomez had preached at the consecration of two bishops whose consecration was expressly for the purpose of pastoral care to Anglicans in America disaffected by the Episcopal Church’s stand toward homosexuality. Boloña argued that Gomez’s presence at the consecration, which took place in Kenya, seemed to be inconsistent with the stance of the Windsor Report and the Anglican Covenant, both of which Gomez played a part in producing and is expressly supportive of.

“I need consistency”, said Boloña, “and as the Primate of the West Indies and as a person who says he supports the Windsor Report, you are saying one thing and doing another.”

Gomez responded that his presence at the consecration was not as Primate, but as close friend of the two men being consecrated. He denied that his actions were in any way inconsistent with his words...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mark Harris: "Caution, May Contain Poison"

Mark has had enough of a certain conservative crowd:

...Statements suggesting that the Presiding Bishop is not a Christian or that the staff at 815 are guided by reading Hitler's Mein Kampf are mean spirited and poisonous.

So in addition to being tired of the feigned outrage of the Network bishops, unmoved by the demands for Windsor compliance, it seems to me Stand Firm must be read with a warning label, "Caution, may contain poison." Future references to Stand Firm articles (and I admit I will have to make such references) will be accompanied, when I feel it necessary to warn readers, by this label...
Go read the whole thing, which includes a few examples of the violent rhetoric used regularly by that crowd.

You may want to note that these are not isolated incidents. Here is just one example from last year of what passes for "civil discourse" on that particular site. The latest examples, in articles in which the most civil descriptions of victims of violence is to refer to them as "liars" and "frauds," can be found here and here.

As Mark has said, read this stuff with caution. It is indeed poisonous.

J.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Canterbury Condemns Violence Against Gays and Lesbians

Last month Josh alerted us to new report of more violence in Nigeria:

A shocking story of mob violence has emerged which almost culminated in the death of one of the leaders of the Changing Attitude Nigeria (CAN) group in Port Harcourt. The violent attack occurred in the context of the funeral ceremony being held for the sister of Davis Mac-Iyalla, attended by six members of the Port Harcourt group on Thursday, 20 March 2008...

...Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England, said: “The attack on one of the CAN leaders in Port Harcourt is a terrifying indictment of the attitude of the Church of Nigeria to LGBT people. Violence against LGBT people has been encouraged by Archbishop Peter Akinola and the leaders of the Church of Nigeria. They have attacked the presence of LGBTs in church and society, and supported a bill which would reinforce prejudice against LGBT people.

“Changing Attitude calls on the Church of Nigeria to denounce violence against LGBT people. We challenge the leaders of the global south coalition to repent of their un-Biblical views which fuel prejudice against LGBT people in our Communion”...
In response to these new attacks, 20 Anglicans, including 14 Bishops, published An Open Letter to the Leadership Team of GAFCON. Here's part of that letter:

You may know that there were several instances of actual physical violence and threats of violence and death enacted against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) leaders of Changing Attitude in Nigeria over the Easter Weekend 2008. The leader of a Changing Attitude group was violently beaten. Subsequently, death threats have been issued against the Directors of Changing Attitude in Nigeria and England.

The discourse taking place in the Anglican Communion about the presence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in our churches must be conducted in the context of Christian love and mutual respect. If it is not, then people will continue to perpetrate abuse and violence against LGBT people.

Some Anglican Christians act in this way because they believe that the language of criticism articulated against LGBT people in general and the Episcopal Church in particular gives them permission to perpetrate violence and abuse against Christians who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. We know that is not your intention, but it is the reality as many experience it...

...The language we use has direct consequences on the lives of LGBT Christians. Language affects us emotionally, spiritually and physically. We ask that all of us within the Anglican Communion be mindful of the words we use and the opinions we express when talking about LGBT people. We ask that all of us actively discourage any form of threatening behaviour so that we may all engage in respectful listening and conform the pattern of our lives to the pattern of love embodied by our Lord Jesus Christ.

None of us wishes to encourage or condone violence and none of us wishes to be responsible, indirectly, for murder or violence perpetrated on another person, whatever their sexual identity...
Today, Episcopal Life informs us that the Archbishop of Canterbury has responded:

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has described the recent violence and threats towards "Christians involved in the debate on human sexuality" as "disgraceful."

Responding to a press release from Changing Attitude England announcing that gay leaders of the organization's Nigeria branch were seriously assaulted, Williams said: "The Anglican Communion has repeatedly, through the Lambeth Conference and the statements from its Primates' meetings, unequivocally condemned violence and the threat of violence against gay and lesbian people. I hope that this latest round of unchristian bullying will likewise be universally condemned"...
The early responses from some conservative websites seem to fall into two categories: denial that any violence or death threats ever occurred, or a refusal to admit that Anglicans were involved in any way in these acts of violence.

In other words, they have missed the point, and continue to refuse to take responsibility for the way in which the language they use has direct consequences on the lives of LGBT Christians.

Just so it is not missed by conservatives who might be visiting, here once again is the point being made by the Open Letter and the Archbishop of Canterbury:

Some Anglican Christians act in this way because they believe that the language of criticism articulated against LGBT people in general and the Episcopal Church in particular gives them permission to perpetrate violence and abuse against Christians who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. We know that is not your intention, but it is the reality as many experience it...

...We ask that all of us actively discourage any form of threatening behaviour so that we may all engage in respectful listening and conform the pattern of our lives to the pattern of love embodied by our Lord Jesus Christ...
J.

UPDATE: For the record, Kendall Harmon, who operates Titusonenine, has posted the following entry regarding this matter:

ACNS) In response to reports of violence and threats towards Christians involved in the debate on human sexuality, the Archbishop of Canterbury has given the following statement:

“The threats recently made against the leaders of Changing Attitudes are disgraceful. The Anglican Communion has repeatedly, through the Lambeth Conference and the statements from its Primates’ Meetings, unequivocally condemned violence and the threat of violence against gay and lesbian people. I hope that this latest round of unchristian bullying will likewise be universally condemned.”

This needs to be said repeatedly in the current environment--KSH.
Thank you, Kendall.

Unfortunately, the folks at Stand Firm seem to continue to miss the point, as evidenced by this post and this one. They insist in spinning this into a debate as to the accuracy of the evidence of the attacks, rather than recognizing that the issue is a call to stop the violence, including the rhetorical violence that leads to physical attacks.