Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Canterbury Launches Covenant Push

The latest draft of the Anglican Communion Covenant has been released by The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion (formerly known as Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates). It is being introduced by the Archbishop of Canterbury:

The text of Dr. Williams' statement can be found here. Before we continue, this excerpt from his statement is worth noting:

...The last bit of the Covenant text is the one thats perhaps been the most controversial, because that's where we spell out what happens if relationships fail or break down. It doesn't set out, as I've already said, a procedure for punishments and sanctions. It does try and sort out how we will discern the nature of our disagreement, how important is it? How divisive does it have to be? Is it a Communion breaking issue that's in question - or is it something we can learn to live with? And so in these sections of the covenant what we're trying to do is simply to give a practical, sensible and Christian way of dealing with our conflicts, recognising that they're always going to be there...
That "last bit" of the proposed Covenant is known as "section 4." Episcopal Life offers us a helpful side-by-side comparison of the current and the previous versions of section 4, with the edits identified. Here's just a sampling of the language that appears in the current version:

(4.2.5) The Standing Committee may request a Church to defer a controversial action. If a Church declines to defer such action, the Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences which may specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument until the completion of the process set out below.
Limitations and suspensions. Yet, we are not to consider these to be "punishments and sanctions."

So, what happens if a Church signs up for this Covenant, but then later changes their mind?

(4.3.1) Any covenanting Church may decide to withdraw from the Covenant. Although such withdrawal does not imply an automatic withdrawal from the Instruments of Communion or a repudiation of its Anglican character, it may raise a question relating to the meaning of the Covenant, and of compatibility with the principles incorporated within it, and trigger the provisions set out in section 4.2 above.
We will limit you, we will suspend you, and we may even pull the "trigger" on you, but these are not punishments or sanctions. Oh really?

There is also a bit of bad news for the breakaway groups using the descriptive term "Anglican," but not in communion with Canterbury:

4.1.4) Every Church of the Anglican Communion, as recognised in accordance with the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council, is invited to enter into this Covenant according to its own constitutional procedures.

(4.1.5) The Instruments of Communion may invite other Churches to adopt the Covenant using the same procedures as set out by the Anglican Consultative Council for the amendment of its schedule of membership. Adoption of this Covenant does not confer any right of recognition by, or membership of, the Instruments of Communion, which shall be decided by those Instruments themselves.
Note that the group releasing this draft, The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, is given the authority to oversee and initiate the "limitation and suspension" process.

To get an idea of where the SCAC stands on some of our current controversies, it is worth noting that in addition to releasing this draft of the Covenant, they also made this statement:

The following resolution was passed by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion meeting in London on 15-18 December, and approved for public distribution.

Resolved that, in the light of:

i. The recent episcopal nomination in the Diocese of Los Angeles of a partnered lesbian candidate

ii. The decisions in a number of US and Canadian dioceses to proceed with formal ceremonies of same-sex blessings

iii. Continuing cross-jurisdictional activity within the Communion

The Standing Committee strongly reaffirm Resolution 14.09 of ACC 14 supporting the three moratoria proposed by the Windsor Report and the associated request for gracious restraint in respect of actions that endanger the unity of the Anglican Communion by going against the declared view of the Instruments of Communion.
This Standing Committee now wants to not only define what "triggers" limitations and suspensions, but also assumes the authority required to inform us as to what constitutes appropriate "gracious restraint."

No thanks. If I wanted an ecclesiastical Curia, I'd swim the Tiber.


UPDATE: If the Episcopal Life comparison of the previous and current versions of section 4 was a bit difficult for you, Lionel Deimel is offering a different version of the changes, using the format of strikeouts for deleted text and underlines for added text, along with different colors. Quite fancy, and easy to follow.

The comment section of the The Lead points us to some good background information and commentary from the Covenant Working Group (thanks to Lisa and Ann). Some of the revisions of section 4 are explained. It remains unclear, at least to me, if the Working Group made all the current changes and submitted a finished product to the SCAC, or if the SCAC made additional changes.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Ugandan Trade: Death Penalty for Conversion Clause

The Box Turtle Bulletin points us to an interesting article from Bloomberg:

Uganda will drop the death penalty and life imprisonment for gays in a refined version of an anti- gay bill expected to be ready for presentation to Parliament in two weeks, James Nsaba Buturo, the minister of ethics and integrity, said.

The draft bill, which is under consideration by a parliamentary committee, will drop the two punishments to attract the support of religious leaders who are opposed to these penalties, Buturo said today in a phone interview from the capital, Kampala...
Perhaps some of the pressure from "religious leaders" is starting to have an impact? One can only hope.

However, it's not all good news. There is also this troubling line in the Bloomberg article:

...In addition to formulating punishments for the gay people, the bill will also promote counseling to help “attract errant people to acceptable sexual orientation,” said Buturo...
What is that all about? I'll let Jim Burroway from Box Turtle explain:

...This sounds remarkably like the recommendation that came out of the conference put on last March by Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, Exodus International board member Don Schmierer, and the International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Brundidge. According to that recommendation, LGBT people would receive either a lighter or suspended sentence if they went into disproved, unscientific counseling to try to “cure” them of their “affliction.” Of course, a choice between a Ugandan prison and “counseling” is a false choice as anyone with half decent intelligence can quickly deduce. Unsaid is what happens when that counseling inevitably fails...
Jim also points out that a number of other draconian elements remain in the bill, such as prison terms for gay rights advocates and those who fail to report gays to the authorities.

So, there appears to be some movement, although the trade-off being offered is not a great improvement.

Keep the prayers going for those who are in danger in Uganda. And keep the pressure on Canterbury to break his silence regarding this human rights crisis.


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Canterbury Responds to Los Angeles and Uganda

Within a matter of hours after the event, the Archbishop of Canterbury issued a response to yesterday's episcopal elections in Los Angeles. It's short, so I'll reproduce the complete statement here:

The election of Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan bishop elect raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole.

The process of selection however is only part complete. The election has to be confirmed, or could be rejected, by diocesan bishops and diocesan standing committees. That decision will have very important implications.

The bishops of the Communion have collectively acknowledged that a period of gracious restraint in respect of actions which are contrary to the mind of the Communion is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold.
In a related matter, Jake's Place offers the following exclusive response from Dr. Williams regarding Uganda's Death to All Gays bill, which he has been aware of for about two months:

Less than 24 hours to respond to a valid election in Los Angeles, but almost 60 days and still waiting for a response to a human rights crisis? Perhaps someone needs to get their priorities adjusted?


Saturday, December 05, 2009

LA Elects Bishops Suffragan

Yesterday, the Diocese of Los Angeles elected The Rev. Canon Diane M. Jardine Bruce as Bishop Suffragan.

This afternoon, in a close election that went to 7 ballots, they elected The Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool as their second Bishop Suffragan.

The Constitution describes a Bishop Suffragan in this manner:

It shall be lawful for a Diocese, at the request of the Bishop of that Diocese, to elect not more than two Suffragan Bishops, without right of succession, and with seat and vote in the House of Bishops. A Suffragan Bishop shall be consecrated and hold office under such conditions and limitations other than those provided in this Article as may be provided by Canons of the General Convention. A Suffragan Bishop shall be eligible for election as Bishop or Bishop Coadjutor of
a Diocese, or as a Suffragan in another Diocese.
The Diocese of Los Angeles offers a fuller description:

The newly elected bishops will succeed Bishop Suffragan Chester L. Talton and Bishop Assistant Sergio Carranza, who will retire in 2010 after 19 and seven years, respectively, of service to the Diocese.

Bishop Talton was elected bishop suffragan by the Diocese in 1990 and began ministry in 1991. Bishop Carranza, the retired Bishop of the Diocese of Mexico, was appointed bishop assistant by Bishop Bruno and began ministry in Los Angeles in 2003.

According to the canons of the Episcopal Church (III.11.10), "a bishop suffragan shall act as an assistant to and under the direction of the Bishop Diocesan." Bishops suffragan have historically been elected without right of succession as Bishop Diocesan. The term suffragan is said to come from the Latin suffragari, which has been translated "to support with one's vote."
Bishop-Elect Glasspool offered this statement after her election. Here's part of it:

Gracias con todo mi corazon. I am not unaware of the many complicated dynamics that have been part of this election -- and I want to acknowledge them. Any group of people who have been oppressed because of any one, isolated aspect of their persons yearns for justice and equal rights. My own heart has been stressed deeply today. To Martir, I honor you and pledge you my ongoing love and support. To my Latino and Hispanic brothers and sisters, I say we're all in this together. We are all working to bring forward the reign of God on earth. So thank you with all my heart...
Here is a portion of the statement from the Chicago Consultation:

...At General Convention earlier this year, the Episcopal Church affirmed that God calls partnered gay and lesbian people to all orders of ministry in the Episcopal Church. God has clearly been calling Mary to challenging and important ministries over and over during the course of her career. While there may be a temptation in some quarters to use Mary’s election to foment further controversy in the Anglican Communion, those of us who know her understand that this is simply the next chapter in a lifetime of service to her church. We are grateful to her and to her partner, Becki Sander, for answering a new call in Los Angeles...
For those not familiar with the process following an election, I recommend to you this brief summary; When is a Bishop a Bishop?

Congratulations to the Bishops-Elect!


Friday, December 04, 2009

Request for Executive Council Meeting Withdrawn

On November 23, we were informed of a special meeting of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church:

A teleconference meeting of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council will take place on Dec. 7 to discuss a possible statement on Ugandan legislation that would imprison for life or execute people who violate that country's anti-homosexuality laws.

Sixteen members of the council requested the meeting with a handwritten petition that said a motion would be offered at the meeting "regarding the urgent human rights situation in Uganda"...

...The 16 members who signed the petition are the Rev. Canon Tim Anderson, Hisako Beasely, Sarah Dylan Breuer, Jane Cosby, Martha Gardner, the Rev. Floyd "Butch" Gamarra, Bruce Garner, Anita George, the Ven. Joyce Hardy, Stephen Hutchinson, the Rev. Cristobal Leon, Katie Sherrod, the Rev. Terry Starr, Deborah Stokes, Anne Watkins, the Rev. Sandye Wilson...

...Breuer said that the conference-call meeting is "an opportunity to discuss an issue that the entire church is passionate about [and] to let people know that our response has been considered by clergy, laity and bishops, and has been considered carefully and prayerfully," Breuer said. She added that she hoped such a consideration will show "there's broad consensus" about whatever stance the council takes.
This meeting was initiated by members of the Executive Council, which was unusual, in that the norm has been that the leaders initiated all meetings. Mark Harris hosted a robust discussion regarding the possibility of the Executive Council learning a "new way" to be the Church:

...This Executive Council, with its particular makeup and with its symbolically important leadership in the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies, and with its feisty entering class of 2009, is in no mood to take past Executive Council patterns of action as normative. The fact that members, rather than the Presiding Bishop, would call a special meeting is significant. That they would do so concerning matters that in the past would have been either brought up in regular session of Executive Council or spoken to by the Presiding Bishop is also worth noting. And, to make matters even more interesting, the members of Executive Council are more and more participant members in a very different community of knowledge and authority - one based on knowledge and authority as shared rather than derivative of this or that matter of merit. All of which is to say that the Executive Council, formed as a mechanism for corporate organization is becoming a mechanism within an incorporated - that is to say incarnated - community...
If you read Mark's commentary, and see some of the implications, you will understand why some of us were quite pleased by this development.

However, today we are offered a statement about the Ugandan bill from our Presiding Bishop. It is a good statement. It includes a mention of the American exportation of homophobia.

But, then, in response to my last post, Lee left this comment:

The request for an extraordinary meeting of Executive Council for Monday 7 December has been withdrawn by the majority of those who requested it.
I must say that I am quite disappointed by this development. As Dylan put it in the above article, it is important "to let people know that our response has been considered by clergy, laity and bishops, and has been considered carefully and prayerfully."

I am concerned that the release of a staterment by the PB was cause for some members of Executive Council to think that there was no longer any need for them to make a statement. Speaking personally, I am much more interested in hearing from all four orders, not simply from our Presiding Bishop. The Executive Council is the authority on these matters, as they are our representative body. This feels very much like falling back into past patterns; letting the Bishops call the meetings and make the statements. That is not an image of, as Mark would say, an "incarnated community."

BTW, Mark has a more positive perspective on the PB's message.

We are talking about people being killed in Uganda. This is a human rights crisis. I am troubled by the delay in responses from our leaders, and even more troubled by what appears to be some behind the scenes manipulation regarding who would offer those responses.

Pray for those in danger in Uganda.

Pray for the Church.


UPDATE: Further information regarding why the special meeting was cancelled has now been released:

...One of the signers of the special-meeting petition, Sarah Dylan Breuer, told ENS Dec. 4 that "in conversations and information-gathering among members of council, the President of the House of Deputies and the Presiding Bishop to prepare for the [Dec. 7] meeting, a clear consensus quickly emerged about what needed to be said and how important it was to say it."

"Therefore the work of the special meeting was completed before the meeting began, and we withdrew our request for meeting," she added.

"Where two or three are gathered in his name, Christ shows up -- and that can be true in teleconferences and cyberspace as well," Breuer said of her experience leading up to the Presiding Bishop's statement and the withdrawal of the special-meeting request. "I see this process as a good example of how our polity can work creatively as well as 'decently and in good order' in the 21st century to act as the Holy Spirit leads. I am proud to serve under presiding officers so passionate about the good news of God's justice, and I am deeply grateful for the deftness and grace with which our Presiding Bishop and her staff made this process work."

More Condemnations of Uganda's "Death to All Gays" Bill

About three weeks ago, we participated in a World Day of Prayer in response to the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill. At that time, the only "official" Anglican response came from the Anglican Church of Canada’s Council of General Synod.

On November 30, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson condemned this ugly piece of legislation:

The pending Ugandan legislation that would introduce the death penalty for people who violate portions of that country's anti-homosexuality laws would be a "terrible violation of the human rights of an already persecuted minority," Episcopal Church House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson has said...
Today, we are offered a statement from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church:

...The Episcopal Church represents multiple and varied cultural contexts (the United States and 15 other nations), and as a Church we affirm that the public scapegoating of any category of persons, in any context, is anathema. We are deeply concerned about the potential impingement on basic human rights represented by the private member's bill in the Ugandan Parliament...

...Finally, we note that much of the current climate of fear, rejection, and antagonism toward gay and lesbian persons in African nations has been stirred by members and former members of our own Church. We note further that attempts to export the culture wars of North America to another context represent the very worst of colonial behavior. We deeply lament this reality, and repent of any way in which we have participated in this sin...
Any response from Canterbury? Not really. Ruth Gledhill did manage to get a quote from Lambeth Palace:

It has been made clear to us, as indeed to others, that attempts to publicly influence either the local church or political opinion in Uganda would be divisive and counter productive. Our contacts, at both national and diocesan level, with the local church will therefore remain intensive but private.
The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church will be meeting by teleconference on Monday, December 7, to consider how they might respond to this human rights crisis.

We need to continue to keep the pressure on our leadership, and express our support for the glbt community in Uganda. A new petition is now available, which encourages Anglican leaders to speak out against this Ugandan legislation.


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Leonardo's House Warming Gift

Some of you may recall that my wife and I moved into a new house last year. One of our resident artists, Leonardo Ricardo, generously offered one of his original works of art as a housewarming gift. Well, yesterday, these two pictures arrived:

I wish I could give you a closer look, as the detail is amazing. They are gorgeous, and the colors fit our living room perfectly.

My understanding is that this art made quite the journey in order to arrive on our doorstep here in South Jersey. Perhaps Leonardo will tell us a bit about that story.

They are beautiful, Len. Demi and I offer you our heatfelt thanks.