Friday, December 30, 2005

A Visit to the Land of Enchantment

Earlier this week I made a quick trip to see my youngest son and his family in Albuquerque. I met my new grandson, Trevor David, who entered this world just last month.

This was my first trip to Albuquerque since I enlisted in the Navy there 33 years ago. We went furniture shopping, so we saw a lot of the city. For a desert town, it is quite pleasant. For some reason, one of their main attractions are hot air balloons. No time for Old Town this trip. Maybe next visit.

I found hope reborn within me as I held Trevor in my arms. I was reminded that in the midst of my personal struggles and disappointments, new life is is springing up, and will continue the struggle long after I have exited this stage. In the Land of Enchantment, I was reminded to not be saddened as I draw nearer the light at my end of the tunnel of life, but to instead rejoice to be able gaze upon Trevor, and see remnants of glory reflected in the eyes of one who has so recently come from the light.

During this time, as we celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation, let's not give in to discouragement and desperation that often attempts to beat us into submission. Allow the gift of hope to fill you with the knowledge that God is doing for you what you cannot do for yourselves. We may perceive our days as a series of sad and happy dreams. The perception may not be the reality. God is moving among us, from glory, to glory, working all things for good.

May the new light of Christ, enkindled within our hearts, shine forth in our lives.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Three sermons this year; all geared to particular segments of the local congregation. Unfortunately, they will not translate well into this medium.

The first one was for the 7:00 Christmas Eve liturgy, which included a Children's Pageant. This year we had the most energetic two-year old angel I've ever seen. The sermon focused on the children, and included the story of my youngest son as the littlest Santa, which I've told before a couple of times at Jake's place, most recently here.

The sermon for the late Mass suggested we might need to lighten our load for this last leg of our Advent journey. To grasp the wonder of Bethlehem required that we let go of some of our baggage; that sack of expectations, trunk full of fear of scarcity, the one wrapped in a flag full of prejudice, bigotry and false nationalism, and the heavy one containing bitterness and failures of the past.

Tomorrow, I'll focus on the shepherds; the strangers in the story. We'll explore how bizarre it is that simple shepherds are chosen to receive the news from an angelic choir of a Savior being born. Then touch on how these ordinary folk changed the rather ordinary scene at the stable by becoming themselves the messengers; angelic shepherds, if you will. And conclude with how the events of that night sent them away so transformed that they could not stop praising God. Not even after the stockings and ornaments are all safely stored away after the Epiphany. I'll mention something about Christmas not being one point in time (thanks Dylan!), but continues beyond the "holiday season," as we find Christ born anew within us each day of our lives, and so are compelled toward a new vocation, an angelic vocation, proclaiming to the world every day, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

Local sermons, adjusted extemporaneously according to the people gathered.

Considering shepherds this year reminded me of something I haven't read for some time; Henry Vaughan's The Shepherds:

Sweet, harmless lives! (on whose holy leisure
Waits innocence and pleasure),
Whose leaders to those pastures, and clear springs,
Were patriarchs, saints, and kings,
How happened it that in the dead of night
You only saw true light,
While Palestine was fast asleep, and lay
Without one thought of day?
Was it because those first and blessed swains
Were pilgrims on those plains
When they received the promise, for which now
'Twas there first shown to you?
'Tis true, He loves that dust whereon they go
That serve Him here below,
And therefore might for memory of those
His love there first disclose;
But wretched Salem, once His love, must now
No voice, nor vision know,
Her stately piles with all their height and pride
Now languished and died,
And Bethlem's humble cotes above them stepped
While all her seers slept;
Her cedar, fir, hewed stones and gold were all
Polluted through their fall,
And those once sacred mansions were now
Mere emptiness and show;
This made the angel call at reeds and thatch,
Yet where the shepherds watch,
And God's own lodging (though He could not lack)
To be a common rack;
No costly pride, no soft-clothed luxury
In those thin cells could lie,
Each stirring wind and storm blew through their cots
Which never harbored plots,
Only content, and love, and humble joys
Lived there without all noise,
Perhaps some harmless cares for the next day
Did in their bosoms play,
As where to lead their sheep, what silent nook,
What springs or shades to look,
But that was all; and now with gladsome care
They for the town prepare,
They leave their flock, and in a busy talk
All towards Bethlem walk
To see their souls' Great Shepherd, Who was come
To bring all stragglers home,
Where now they find Him out, and taught before
That Lamb of God adore,
That Lamb whose days great kings and prophets wished
And longed to see, but missed.
The first light they beheld was bright and gay
And turned their night to day,
But to this later light they saw in Him,
Their day was dark, and dim.

"...To see their souls' Great Shepherd, Who was come to bring all stragglers home..." Great stuff.

May Christ, who by his Incarnation gathered into one things earthly and heavenly, fill you with his joy and peace; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you, and remain with you always.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Life of Risk and Suffering

From the Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas Message:

...There is something about Christianity that always pulls us back from imagining that everything will be all right if we can find the right things to say - because for God, the right thing to say at Christmas was the crying of a small child, beginning a life of risk and suffering. God shows us how, by his grace and in his Spirit, we can respond to the tormenting riddles of the world. And, as we agonise over the future of our beloved church, with all its debates and bitter struggles at the moment, it does us no harm to remember that God will not solve our Anglican problems by a plan or a formula, but only by the miracle of his love in Jesus. If we want to be part of the solution, we must first be wholly and unconditionally pledged to that love, with all its costs. May God who works in the weakness and smallness of the Christmas child work in our weakness and smallness; may he bless and strengthen you all at this season.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Vocation to Religious Creativity

The Fall issue of the Anglican Theological Review contains an essay by Paul V. Marshall, Bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem, entitled "A Note on the Role of North America in the Evolution of Anglicanism". Here is a brief excerpt:

These observations are offered in service of a larger point: much of what we value about the character of the Anglican Communion grew up in the vacuum created by a lack of interest in things American on the part of the English church and its leaders. Further, for good or ill, the North American churches have had the peculiar ministry of leading change in the Communion in ways that cannot be erased when a new prompting surfaces. This is not to assert that all things emanating from North America are good or progressive; they are not. From the Mayflower expedition on, however, necessity and circumstances have created a vocation to religious creativity in America.6 The fruit of this wilderness has been received throughout much of Anglicanism as a gift to the entire church, a matter that the Windsor Report disregards to our common peril, if our communion-wide vocation is to hear the Spirit of God.
Some of the examples of this "religious creativity" mentioned by Bishop Marshall include lay representation in Anglicanism's synodical structure, the missionary emphasis of the Church and specifically the episcopate, the emergence of what is now known as the Anglican Communion, and evidence that the Church could not only survive separated from the state, but could flourish.

One of the most significant contributions that the Episcopal Church has offered to Anglicanism is the participation of laypeople in our decision making processes. The Windsor Report and the Primates' Communique both seem to give little value to this important aspect of our ecclesiology. Both assume that our bishops alone can implement changes and issue binding pronouncements. The Primates have asserted their presumed authority by insisting that they be appointed to the only body among the four Instruments of Unity that contains lay representatives, the Anglican Consultative Council. By so doing, they have attempted to muzzle the voice of the lay order . Attempts to return to a time when prelates alone rule the Church must be strongly refuted. To acquiesce to such attempts in the name of unity would be a denial of our vocation within Anglicanism.

Regardless of what happens at GC2006 or Lambeth 2008, it appears that North America will need to continue as the vehicle for the evolution of Anglican ecclesiology. Perhaps what we previously referred to as the Anglican Communion will be replaced by various bodies voluntarily entering into "full communion" covenants, similar to the relationship developed between TEC and the ELCA.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Troubled by the Execution

No, I don't believe Stanley Williams was innocent. But my heart is still troubled by what the state of California has done.

I've written a little bit more about what troubles me over on the Christian Alliance.

Did you hear that the President admitted yesterday that 30,000 Iraqis have died since the invasion? Rather surprising, since early on General Tommy Franks stated, "We don't do body counts."

I used to think I understood the phrase "sanctity of life." I'm not so sure anymore. The definition seems to have taken on a form of fluidity that defies rational, or moral, reflection.

There's a cold wind blowing through this nation. May God have mercy on us all.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

AAC: The Network's Covert Operatives

Last month, at the Conference of Disgruntled Episcopalians, David Anderson, President & CEO of the American Anglican Council, attempted to explain how the AAC differs from the Network. I found this segment rather interesting:

...As a non-ecclesial body that has worked within, but never been under the auspices or authority of ECUSA, its constitution, canons or 815 leadership, the AAC has inherent freedom to move across classic hierarchical boundaries within the Anglican Communion...
In other words, the AAC can ignore diocesan boundaries, encourage and enable foreign bishops to poach parishes, and disregard the authority of any bishop with whom they disagree, which allows the Network to appear squeaky clean regarding staying within the bounds of the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church.

If there was still any question as to the role the AAC plays in the larger Network, Canon Anderson quickly dispels all further doubt:

...We consult with a large number of our constituency on a variety of issues including assistance with legal, strategic and communications issues. This includes some covert activity! One of the major problems we face in the AAC is that a large portion of what we do is under the radar or behind the curtain...
Covert activity? Under the radar? Behind the curtain? Unusual language for those claiming to do nothing more than create a "safe place" for conservative Anglicans. Unless, of course, the Via Media folks have been right all along:

Property, not piety is keeping dissident parishes in the Episcopal Church. In the longer term, the AAC expects to use foreign intervention to trump American law and the Episcopal Church Constitution and Canons. Its leaders are assuring dissident parishes that the Anglican primates, a consultative body with no governing authority or standing in the United States, will ride to the rescue of Network parishes, negotiate property settlements and transfer the assets of 2.3-million-member church to a group representing perhaps a tenth of that body. The Chapman letter reveals the AAC's "realignment" for what it really is -- the overthrow of the Episcopal Church by extra-legal means.
Such commentary is dismissed by the AAC as paranoid and reactionary. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Network would end up with everything. I've heard it argued that since the preface to the constitution refers to the Episcopal Church as a "constituent member of the Anglican Communion," if we
were no longer part of the Communion, we would cease to exist. I can't imagine that happening. Certainly no court is going to buy that. It's a pretty weak case.

I'm sure the Network is aware that 10% of the members are never going to successfully convince the other 90% to join them through argumentation or threats. So what is all this covert activity about? If it's not an attempted coup, what is the AAC/Network's goal?

Whatever their intention is, I think it is time to draw back the curtain, open our eyes to the "covert" machinations going on "under the radar", and identify who it is pulling the levers.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Smokin' O.P.'s

The Revealer points us to yet another interesting discussion going on within the Roman Catholic Church; after 700 years, babies may be freed from limbo.

It appears that a fourth Primate has distanced himself from a rather strident letter sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury by the Global South. Mark Harris has more on this latest misstep by Archbishop Akinola and Co.

Thinking Anglicans rounds up some reports on Changing Attitude Nigeria's first General Meeting. Make sure you read the comments. The response of some to this event appears to be to deny it ever happened.

Tobias Haller succinctly summarizes his understanding of the phrase "the plainness of scripture".

Xpatriated Texan offers some thought-provoking commentary on the 1,000 executions in the United States since 1977.

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington has a great online Advent Calendar available.

Karen preaches the best Advent sermon I have seen so far this season.

The RevGalBlogPals are offering an excellent Advent devotional book; A Light Blazes in the Darkness: Advent Devotionals from an Intentional Online Community.

While you're there, check out Spidey's new book of poetry; Through Mist and Shadow.

Final thoughts from Bob Seger;

...And the years rolled slowly past
And I found myself alone
Surrounded bv strangers I thought were my friends
I found myself further and further from my home

And I guess I lost my way
There were oh so many roads
I was living to run and running to live
Never worried about paying or even how much I owed

Moving eight miles a minute for months at a time
Breaking all of the rules that would bend
I began to find myself searchin’
Searching for shelter again and again

Against the wind
A little something against the wind
I found myself seeking shelter
Against the wind

Well those drifters days are past me now
I’ve got so much more to think about
Deadlines and commitments
What to leave in, what to leave out

Against the wind
I’m still runnin’ against the wind
Well I’m older now and still runnin'
Against the wind.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Vatican Scapegoats Gays

On Tuesday, the Vatican released an Instruction regarding homosexuality and the priesthood. There's a couple of segments of this statement that beg for commentary:

...In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, together with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, deems it necessary to clearly affirm that the Church, even while deeply respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to Seminary or Holy Orders those who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture...
The impediment is sexual orientation. This is a new development, and one that will most likely prove to be quite problematic. As William Saletan has put it:

...Notice two things. First, deep-rooted "tendencies" are now independent and automatic grounds for dismissal, regardless of whether you "practice" homosexuality or "support" gay culture (whatever that is). Second, even if these tendencies are merely a "situation" in which you "find yourself," they "gravely obstruct" you from relating properly to men and women. Through no fault of your own, you're doomed. The Catechism's paths to perfection - self-mastery, chastity, prayer, and grace - no longer suffice. The church won't settle for your self-restraint, even with God's help.
The implications of this statement go beyond the discussion of holy orders. Consider this piece of the "Instruction":

...As regards to deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are present in a certain number of men and women, these also are objectively disordered and are often a trial for such people.
If you are gay or lesbian, you are "objectively disordered," even if you remain celibate. There is no remedy offered for this situation. Such a person will remain, in the eyes of the Church, at best, a second-class Christian.

Why is this Instruction being issued now? Possibly it is because, as William Saletan suggests, we now have homophobic pope. That may indeed be a contributing factor. But most likely the primary reason for the timing is an attempt by the Vatican to show it is responding to the sex scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church for many years. The solution appears to be to blame it on the queers. From the Human Rights Campaign:

..."This is a scapegoat scheme masquerading as Vatican decree," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "What is being released today is a decree serving as a diversion that neither keeps children safe nor holds criminals responsible."
Some will argue that it is disingenuous to claim that the primary error here is the refusal to untangle homosexuality from pedophilia. I think that such a differentiation is a necessary part of any discussion of this Instruction, but would require an agreed upon definition of terms, which is unlikely due to the huge chasm between those who hold opposing views on this issue. Let us simply agree that those who prey on children (those under the age of consent) are criminals. What this Instruction seems to imply is that those who are "objectively disordered" in this manner are more prone to be criminals.

By playing the blame game, the Vatican has once again chosen to stick its head in the sand regarding the real issues brought to light in this latest round of scandals.

What might the real issues be? How about a discussion of celibacy? How about some honest conversation about gay and lesbian Christians who are faithful members of the Church?

What the Roman Catholic Church has done so far is to insist that a person who recognizes that they have a different sexual orientation from the majority remain deeply in the closet. What is a young person who loves God and desires to serve God's Church, but finds himself to be "objectively disordered", to do? Maybe by taking a vow of celibacy God can redeem this disorder?

The problem is that celibacy is a unique vocation, to which few are called. Most people cannot neatly surgically remove such an integral part of themselves. Coupled with the requirement to remain in the closet, such frustrated individuals may develop a twisted view of appropriate and inappropriate personal relationships. Twisted teaching resulting in criminal acts.

With this statement, the Vatican has created new victims. Those priests who have served faithfully, and celibately, for decades, but happen to be "objectively disordered" must feel abandoned by Mother Church. Those members who are so "disordered" cannot help but see the direction of the future Church spelled out clearly in the Instruction. If sexual orientation can bar one from holy orders, it is only a matter of time before it will also bar one from the participating in the remaining six sacraments.

South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, sums up the situation well:

For me, to make someone suffer penalties because of their sexual orientation is on the same level as making people be penalized for their gender, or race.
This is a sad development for the Roman Catholic Church and for all Christendom, for that matter. But at least it brings to light the real goals of those who continue to persecute gay and lesbian Christians in the name of God. If you have a homosexual orientation, you are damned for all time, and have no place in their Church.

Those of us who find such a stance an outrage had better start speaking up. The world is watching. The validity of the Christian message hangs on how we respond to such reprehensible scapegoating tactics.


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Monday, November 28, 2005

Seeking God in the Darkness

I commend to you Dr. Rowan William's recent lecture delivered a the Islamic University, Islamabad. It is an excellent and concise summary of the Christian faith. I want to draw out one brief excerpt from the Archbishop's lecture:

...Some too have written about how the journey into this silence may be a road of great suffering, a following of the suffering of Jesus. Christian mysticism often speaks of the "darkness" in which God lives - not because he does not want to communicate but because our minds and hearts are too small for him to enter fully, so that we experience God as challenging and overwhelming. But it also speaks of light flooding the mind, like the light that flowed from the face of Jesus, according to the gospels, when he was praying in the presence of his friends...
We begin the season of Advent in the darkness. We light one candle each week, allowing their light to slowly overcome the darkness.

But before we move into rejoicing over the increase of light, do we have the courage to sit in the darkness for a moment? Can we consider, at least briefly, the darkness as a blessing?

We are bombarded by so much stimuli each second of the day. To manage this overwhelming flow of sensory data, we develop filters that automatically edit out much of this information. Over time, we forget about this process, and begin to believe that the information we are processing is all there is. We begin to believe that our perception is absolute truth. We begin to believe that we know.

And then some piece of data, derived from experience, a thought or a memory, slips pass the filters and enters into our conscious world. This new information does not fit within our neatly ordered categories of truth. Suddenly the danger of chaos looms, and we are forced to choose a response. We can either build our defensive filters stronger, or we can seek an objective perspective from which we can adjust our filters.

The difficulty in the latter option, which I would suggest is always the better of the two, is finding a way for a creature who is necessarily and primarily subjective to discover a vantage point from which some degree of objectivity can be attained.

One way to achieve this perspective is to intentionally enter the darkness; to strip away the constant bombardment of stimuli and incessant interior chatter. To enter the silence. To be willing to sit quietly in a place where it may appear, according to our sensory data, that God is not.

From this place we have no choice but to look within and to confront those filters, those fears, which we have put in place to keep out unpleasant, and even frightening, elements of our lives. It is from this place that we can reflect on the more uncomfortable aspects of the truth. It is from this place that we can honestly ask the question that drives our quest; where is God?

We know that entering the darkness can be helpful in our search for God because of the testimonies of those who have been forced into the darkness against their will, and have come away with insights that are of value to us all. As but one example, here is a well-known story by Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Prize winning author who survived Auschwitz, in which he describes the hanging of a young boy:

The SS seemed more preoccupied, more disturbed than usual. To hang a young boy in front of thousands of spectators was no light matter. The head of the camp read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was lividly pale, almost calm, biting his lips. The gallows threw its shadow over him. This time the camp executioner refused to act as executioner. Three SS replaced him.
The victims mounted together onto the chairs. The three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses. "Long live Liberty!" cried the two adults. But the child was silent.

"Where is God? Where is He?" someone behind me asked.

At a sign from the head of the camp, the three chairs tipped over.

Total silence throughout the camp. On the horizon, the sun was setting. "Bare your heads!" yelled the head of the camp. His voice was raucous. We were weeping. "Cover your heads!"

Then the march past began. The two adults were no longer alive. But the third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive...

For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. Behind me I heard the same man asking: "Where is God now?"

And I hear a voice within me answer him: "Where is he? Here He is - He is hanging here on this gallows. . . "
Not a pleasant story. One I would rather filter out. But in the darkness, there it is. And it leads me to the cross; to a God who is not distanced from suffering and pain, but a God who is found in the midst of it. My longing for God draws me to those who are hurting.

There is no place where God is not. If we perceive that this is not so, maybe our filters need to be adjusted.

Holy art Thou, Lord of the Universe.
Holy art Thou, whom Nature hath not Formed.
Holy art Thou, the Vast and the Mighty One.
Lord of the Light and of the Darkness.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

News From Changing Attitude Nigeria

From the Changing Attitude website;

The first General Meeting of the Changing Attitude Network in Nigeria is being held November 25 to 27. Over 1,000 delegates are expected to gather at the National Art Council in Abuja including 100 lesbian and 900 gay members of Anglican churches from every part of Nigeria. This will be the largest gathering of lesbian and gay people ever held in Nigeria and the first gathering of Anglican LGBT members...

The General Meeting will also begin to plan how the group can make an input to the process of listening to lesbian and gay people to which the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, committed himself with the other Primates in February 2005 and in the Windsor Report. In the longer term, the Meeting will think about the Lambeth Conference 2008 and the need to advise the bishops of the Anglican Church in Nigeria about lesbian and gay Christian experience.

The theme of the meeting is ‘Coming out of our closet’. Davis MacIyalla, convenor of the CA network in Nigeria, said “We want to use the meeting to encourage our members to go back and begin to tell their families about their sexuality. If we let our families know about our sexuality our parents will begin to influence their local churches. We also want our message about the place of lesbian and gay people in the Anglican Church to be carried to our bishops and other church leaders. One of our goals is to encourage some of the delegates to start new groups in their own location after the meeting"...
These are brave Anglicans. Being gay or lesbian is a criminal offense in Nigeria. In parts of the country, the sentence is death.

I suspect their hope for a "listening process" will be fraught with frustration. Archbishop Akinola may have committed himself to listening to gays and lesbians on paper, but his personal views make it clear that he has no interest in dialogue:

...Peter Akinola, leader of the 17.5 million-strong church in Nigeria, hit out at the recent election in America of the first openly gay bishop.

"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."
Archbishop, these are not decadent North Americans wanting to sit down and talk with you. These are Nigerian Anglican Christians. These are the people God has placed under your pastoral care. Listen to them. Hear their stories. Open your heart to the possibility that they may just be bringing you a word from God. Such a thing may not seem possible to you, but with God, all things are possible.

I ask that you keep the courageous members of Changing Attitude Nigeria in your prayers. Pray also for the Nigerian Church and Archbishop Peter Akinola.


Monday, November 21, 2005

The Rochester Resolution

This resolution was recently passed in the Diocese of Rochester. It appears to be a good model for future diocesan conventions:

RESOLUTION E: A Resolution Responding to the Windsor Report for the 2006 General Convention

Resolved, That the Secretary of the 2005 Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester submit the following resolution to the 2006 General Convention of the Episcopal Church meeting in Columbus, Ohio:

Resolved, the House of ____________ concurring, That this 75th General Convention adopt the following statement as its response to the Windsor Report:

The 75th General Convention expresses its deep desire to remain a member church of the Anglican Communion, which we understand to be a fellowship of churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, committed to mission together for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a spirit of mutual respect and forbearance.

We understand and regret that decisions made at the 74th General Convention have caused a strain in this spirit and, indeed, been received by many in the Communion as an unacceptable deviation from Scripture and the tradition of the Church. We acknowledge that this is true even within our own church. We wish to state clearly that we have no desire to impose a uniformity of position either in our own church or the Communion itself on these matters. We cannot, however, as a church, receive the statement of resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, “rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture,” as definitive Anglican teaching on this matter.

We do not believe that the current controversy regarding different understandings of the place of our members who happen to be homosexual in their orientation is a matter on which our essential unity depends. We believe that our unity as a Church is best expressed by our commitment to serve together in mission to the world, and that the theological essentials that unite us are best expressed in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.

We acknowledge the House of Bishop’s Delegated Episcopal Oversight Plan (DEPO) as an important tool for maintaining our essential unity in a time of strain. We also accept the Executive Council’s decision to voluntarily withdraw our members from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) until the Lambeth Conference 2008. However, we look forward to our full participation in that Conference and our return to full participation in the ACC following it.

We also acknowledge the listening process begun by the ACC in 2005 and urge that in all member churches of the Communion it include the voices of faithful gay and lesbian Anglicans. We commend the document To Set our Hope on Christ as a positive contribution of the Episcopal Church to this process.

Finally, we affirm the place of our members who are gay and lesbian, both laity and clergy. In this affirmation we believe the words of To Set Our Hope on Christ, to be an accurate description of the experience of a majority of us that “For forty years, members of the Episcopal Church have discerned holiness in same-sex relationships and have come to support the blessing of such unions and the ordination or consecration of persons in those unions” (section 2.0).

Proposed by the General Convention Deputies


The 2006 General Convention will consider many responses to the Windsor Report and the subsequent meetings and actions of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). Chief among these will be the Episcopal Church’s presentation to the ACC, To Set our Hope on Christ. Several dioceses have already proposed resolutions to the General Convention, and these will be addressed by a special legislative committee. We think that it would be helpful to add the voice of the Diocese of Rochester to the mix at the General Convention. We therefore propose this resolution believing that it reflects the experiences and the perspectives of our diocese.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Roman Catholic Church Challenges Fundamentalism

I've never been too interested in the Intelligent Design versus Evolution debate, as I've never quite understood why it is such an issue for some folks. However, after Pat Robertson's recent damning of the town of Dover Pennsylvania, who voted out their school board for advocating ID, I offered a commentary on the topic for the Christian Alliance for Progress. Here's an excerpt from that commentary;

...I believe in a Creator, and recognize elements of the teleological argument for the existence of God within Intelligent Design. What I have difficulty with is insisting that a philosophical theory be taught as science. Virtually no scientist agrees with Intelligent Design. There has not been one article accepted for publication by any peer reviewed scientific journal on the topic of Intelligent Design. It’s not science.

It seems to be Creationism in new packaging. If it is an attempt to force folks to believe God created everything in six days, then it is an absurd proposition. As an attempt to expand on Aristotle’s Prime Mover or Aquinas’ fifth proof of God’s existence, it may be a valid exploration. But, in light of the strong support ID has from the fundamentalists, I suspect that it is nothing more than a stealth attempt to sneak the bible back into the public schools.

As a non-scientist and a lightweight theologian, what is my opinion? I think that the creative act of God never ended. God continues to make all things new. One way this happens is through evolution. Consequently, since I believe in a Creator and evolution, I’ve really never understood what all the fuss was about...
I was surprise to stumble across this article later in the week; Intelligent Design not Science. From the article:

The Vatican's chief astronomer said yesterday that "intelligent design" isn't science and doesn't belong in science classrooms...

"Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be," the ANSA news agency quoted Father Coyne as saying on the sidelines of a conference in Florence, Italy.

Mixing the two, he said, is akin to mixing apples with oranges...

In a June article in the British Catholic magazine the Tablet, Father Coyne reaffirmed God's role in creation, but said science explains the history of the universe.

"If they respect the results of modern science, and indeed the best of modern biblical research, religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God or a designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly."

Rather, he argued, God should be seen more as an encouraging parent.

"God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a world that reflects that freedom at all levels of the evolutionary process to greater and greater complexity," he wrote. "He is not continually intervening, but rather allows, participates, loves."
It does not appear that Pope Benedict XVI would agree with Father Coyne, but the fact that divergent views are being allowed to be made public within the Roman Catholic Church, which includes more than half of all Christians, is encouraging.

We heard a report last month about a new study being released by the Roman Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland entitled The Gift of Scripture. According to the report, here are a few examples of the contents of this new study;

...“We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture...

They say the Bible must be approached in the knowledge that it is “God’s word expressed in human language” and that proper acknowledgement should be given both to the word of God and its human dimensions.

They say the Church must offer the gospel in ways “appropriate to changing times, intelligible and attractive to our contemporaries”.

The Bible is true in passages relating to human salvation, they say, but continue: “We should not expect total accuracy from the Bible in other, secular matters.”

They go on to condemn fundamentalism for its “intransigent intolerance” and to warn of “significant dangers” involved in a fundamentalist approach.

“Such an approach is dangerous, for example, when people of one nation or group see in the Bible a mandate for their own superiority, and even consider themselves permitted by the Bible to use violence against others"...

As examples of passages not to be taken literally, the bishops cite the early chapters of Genesis, comparing them with early creation legends from other cultures, especially from the ancient East. The bishops say it is clear that the primary purpose of these chapters was to provide religious teaching and that they could not be described as historical writing.

Similarly, they refute the apocalyptic prophecies of Revelation, the last book of the Christian Bible, in which the writer describes the work of the risen Jesus, the death of the Beast and the wedding feast of Christ the Lamb.

The bishops say: “Such symbolic language must be respected for what it is, and is not to be interpreted literally. We should not expect to discover in this book details about the end of the world, about how many will be saved and about when the end will come.”
Some will most likely see this as a denial of the authority of scripture. Might we expect to soon hear claims that the Roman Catholic Church is also a "non-Christian, foreign, alien and pagan religion"?


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Les Fairfield: "Episcopal Church is a Non-Christian, Foreign, Alien and Pagan Religion"

I know I said a week ago I needed to back off. That was my intention. I may still decide to take some time away from this place. But, today, I'm rather outraged.

What has me ready to spit bullets? By now you have probably heard of the gathering sponsored by the Network held in Pittsburgh. I read a recent news report about this event entitled Anglicans Urge Disgruntled Episcopalians to Join Them. Here's the paragraph that got my blood boiling:

In a DVD titled "Choose This Day" that was shown at the conference Thursday night, Les Fairfield, a professor of church history at Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry in Ambridge, said changes within the Episcopal Church had made it "a non-Christian religion" and its leadership had "embraced a foreign, alien and pagan religion."
Before leaping to conclusions, I decided to take a look at the video myself. If anything, the reporter played down this slick production that portrays the Episcopal Church as the devil incarnate.

I can blow off comments on the internet that accuse those who disagree with the extremists as being apostate, heretical, spawn of satan, etc. But to make the claim in a professionally produced video that the Episcopal Church is a non-Christian religion is more than I can stand. This video is packed with half truths and lies. Those involved in its production need to ask forgiveness for bearing false witness.

News flash to Professor Fairfield; it is because I proclaim Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior that I will not allow you and your kind to force my faithful gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ back into the closet.

I think we are done. Akinola has called for the North Americans to make their decision now, and not wait for GC06. He has also launched his CANA mission which will establish an alternative Anglican presence in North America (so much for the Windsor Report, eh Peter?). The extremists now have a place to go. Then go with God, please, now, today. Take your buildings and your vestments and your hateful videos and just go.

For those of us that remain faithful to the Church in which God has planted us, let go of the illusion that the Windsor Report offers a way forward for reconciliation to happen. These people do not want reconciliation. Even if we affirm the WR, they will still try to destroy us, and we'll be left with a flawed plan that gives the primary authority in the AC to a bunch of male bishops, many of whom seem to be more interested in their personal power and fame than the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

When your diocese meets for convention, and a resolution is proposed to affirm the Windsor Report, get up and grab a microphone. In regards to what you might say, let me suggest an excellent summary statement from Nigel J. Taber-Hamilton, Rector of St. Augustine's-in-the-woods Episcopal Church on beautiful Whidbey Island, Washington, which I reproduce here with his permission:

The WR is a deeply flawed document. It contains questionable assumptions, such as that we will all recognize and agree upon what constitutes an "essential matter." It is consistently suspicious of secular philosophy (especially post-modernism) and it continues to propose the myth of homosexual identity as a mistaken, sinful lifestyle choice. In addition, it glosses over and misrepresents several important issues, such as the supposedly orderly Communion-wide acceptance of women's ordination and the unjust ways the Church has treated its minorities. Its authors propose an unworkable process of seeking consent for episcopal elections from the entire communion, and a Romanesque requirement (an "Anglican Imprimatur" if you will) that biblical scholars seek approval from the Church before publishing any material. It proposes a very un-Anglican Confessional Document and, overall, calls for a more centralized, clericalized form of non-elected authority that has already had patriots reaching for their muskets and the Reformation's heirs crying out against the formation of an Anglican Papacy.
So much for a time of reflection. But enough is enough! Let's end this thing once and for all. We have better things to do.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Some Answers From Canterbury

In a previous post, I referred to Archbishop Rowan Williams' excellent address at the Global South Encounter. It appears that there was a question and answer session following this address. The Archbishop's answers give us a rare opportunity to see exactly where Dr. Williams stands on some of the current struggles within the Anglican Communion.

Context is important. Keep in mind that he is answering questions asked by the Global South. This is the largest group of Anglicans within the Communion. It is also a group that has given signals that it is considering breaking away from Canterbury. Dr. Williams is attempting to meet them where they are.

Even when considered in context, some of Dr. Williams' responses are unexpected. As the Archbishop of Canterbury, his statements carry much weight. Even though his authority is primarily symbolic, as the only Instrument of Unity that is recognized by most Anglicans, his words can have a great influence on future decisions.

Let's consider some of his words in this question and answer session. The first question is if same-sex sex can be holy and blessed. Here's part of Dr. Williams' response:

...the Anglican communion has not been persuaded that same-sex sex can be holy and blessed. Were it to decide that by some process - unimaginable to most of you - it would be by an overwhelming consensus and only at that point would it be possible to say in the name of the church, this is holy and blessed. So I take my stand with the church of England, with the Communion, with the majority of Christians through the ages...
One can understand why Dr. Williams may have made this statement in that particular setting. And, maybe he is appropriately living into the role he has been given within the Church. I still find the statement troubling. The Church, as with most institutions, is always inclined to be conservative. Tradition is guarded like a golden calf. The early Church was not persuaded that Gentiles should be allowed as converts. Yet Paul and Peter persisted, and the tradition was changed. The Church was not persuaded that Galileo's science was correct, but the scientists persisted, and the biblical assumption of a flat earth was eventually exposed as erroneous. The Church was not persuaded that slavery was an evil institution, or that civil rights was a biblical principle, or that women were not second class citizens in God's kingdom. Eventually, because of the witness of a courageous and persistant minority, the Church has changed its teaching on these issues. I find it unfortunate that Dr. Williams is insisting on a consensus. By bowing to the "majority rules" mindset, he has effectively removed the role of prophet from the list of charisms essential for one to be the Archbishop of Canterbury.

He continues with this caveat:

...theologians will go on discussing this and it would not, I think, be possible to stop them...I distinguish as clearly as I can between a question a theologian may ask and an action or determination the church may take, or only the bishop may take. I think that is a necessary distinction for the life and health of the church. It would be a tragedy if the church sought to suppress questions. But it is equally a tragedy when the church creates facts on the ground that foreclose discussions and reflections on such questions.
The curious thing about this excerpt is that is was offered out of context in the press release. Consequently, when I first read the release, I initially assumed that the "facts on the ground" that were "foreclosing discussion" included Archbishop Akinola's homophobic rantings, the border crossings, and the irregular ordinations. Instead, it appears that he is specifically referring to the consecration of Bishop Robinson and the blessing of relationships.

Regardless of what he was specifically referring to, I think we cannot leave things to the theologians. We have more than enough "armchair theologians" whose worth is often found in being an alternative to a sleeping pill. Until a theologian has lived among the people struggling with these current tensions, I doubt their authority to even comment on such topics. The refusal of many within the Anglican Communion to even listen to the stories of faithful gay and lesbian Christians calls into question the pronouncements of their theologians.

Am I advocating liberation theology? Absolutely. A hermeneutical circle of prayer, study and action, followed by more prayer, further study and a new action, is the only way that theological study can address the real concerns of the people of God. The reign of the armchair theologian has ended. Unless you are among the people, sharing their joys and their sorrows, breaking bread with them, listening to their stories and helping them integrate God's story with their own, the fine words of theologians are, as Thomas finally came to see, nothing but straw.

There are a couple of statements within question 4 that we need to hear very clearly:

...I cannot endorse or approve the election that took place in the ECUSA.

...I’m quite clear that actions taken have been outside the fellowship and proper discipline of the communion.

...the prospect of an Anglican Covenant or the prospect of a convergent system of canon law is the best hope we have.
Let those statements sink in for a moment. Don't try to put spin on them. This is the Archbishop of Canterbury speaking. This is the position that is most likely going to become the official position of the Anglican Communion one day soon. There is not going to be any middle way found. Accept it. Learn to live with it. And then, move on.

Question 5 is about Archbishop Eames' statement that the Episcopal Church has met the requirements of the Windsor Report. Dr. Williams' response offers us another important piece of information:

I don’t think that we can say they have satisfied in a simple direct way what Windsor asks because that process is still continuing and will continue until the general convention next year.
The proving ground is General Convention 2006. We may not like that. We may argue that it should be Lambeth 2008. Face the reality that the trigger for the realignment of the Anglican Communion will be GC06. I think it is also critical that we face the fact that regardless of what we do, the realignment will commence at the end of GC06. Why? For the simple reason that Gene Robinson will still be a bishop at the end of General Convention. The Gobal South will never accept that. Accept this reality. Learn to live with it. And then, move on.

Question 6 regarding invitations to Lambeth also reveals some rather disheartening information:

...And as for categories of participants, again I can’t mortgage myself to answer it at this moment. But this and many other questions are under review by the groups that are now beginning to assemble...
The fact that "categories" of bishops is even being considered places a new twist to our understanding of holy orders. It appears to me that there is a chance that there will be some bishops invited, but they will be in a "special category," with such categorization including various limitations, no doubt. In other words, all bishops will be equal, but some will be more equal than others. Would you accept an invitation to tea with the Archbishop if such acceptance required you to submit to being categorized as a second class bishop?

Question 7, regarding the recognition of the Network, has gotten a lot of play lately. Unforunately, the Network has been quoting only the first half of Dr. Williams' answer, and leaving out the clarification offered in the second half. Here is the first part of his answer, which has the Network folks standing on chairs and cheering:

There is no doubt in my mind at all that these networks are full members of the Anglican communion. That is to say, they are bishops, they are clergy, they are people that are involved in the life of the communion which I share with them, which I will share with them...
Here is the second part, which is conveniently left out by the Network:

Formal ecclesial recognition of a network as if it were a province is not simply in my hands or in the hands of any individual. I do want to say it quite simply, of course, these are part of our Anglican fellowship and I welcome that.
Yes, Bishop Duncan is an Anglican bishop, as he is a bishop within the Episcopal Church, not because he is the head honcho of the Network. There was no "formal recognition" of the Network. It remains in the same category as the ECW or the Brotherhood of St. Andrew.

Mark Harris has more on the peculiar spin the Network, and specifically Bishop Duncan, has put on this answer from Dr. Williams.

The Anglican Scotist, in a post entitled Archbishop Williams Erring, offers a more theological critique of Dr. Williams' answers.

When you read the transcript of this question and answer period, don't skip question 11. It is a moving testimony that reveals some of Dr. Williams' personal journey into Christ.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Reflection Required

It's been awhile since I spoke on a personal level here at Jake's place. Initially this was intended to be a personal log. Somehow it managed to morph into something else. If that is a good or bad thing remains to be seen.

What is becoming apparent to me is that it is time to reflect a bit on the direction Jake's place will take in the future. I'm launching a major project for the Church that requires my full attention right now. There's been some developments in my personal life that are also calling for me to re-evaluate my priorities. Beyond that, I'm feeling uncomfortable lately with the tone that has become prominent on this site.

I take responsibility for the tone. Being a bit snarky (or as one commenter recently put it, "cheeky") is one of the qualities that I believe makes this site somewhat unique. The difficulty is that there is a fine line between being "cheeky" and being just plain rude. I'm not sure I always recognize that line.

The season of Advent is quickly approaching. This seems like a good time to engage in some serious reflection, and to be more attentive to some spiritual disciplines that I have been neglecting lately. It is time to get a healthier perspective on life, and seek what it is God would have me do. I need to do this for my own sake, and also for the sake of my family and for the sake of those who have entrusted me with the responsibilities that come with being a spiritual leader.

What changes will there be? Nothing drastic. I'm not anticipating shutting down Jake's place yet. I'll still try to offer at least a couple of posts a week. The most prominent change that I hope for is that the tone will become more positive and less bitter.

I want to thank those who have sent me personal notes of support and encouragement, and those who point me to articles of interest elsewhere on the net (and the grammar know who you are!). I enjoy such personal contact. I continue to believe that it is through one on one communications that bonds of community are built.

I invite each of you to consider this season of Advent as an opportunity for spiritual renewal. As we wait with joyful anticipation and quiet wonder for the birth of Christ in a manger in Bethlehem, may we also prepare for Christ to be born anew within each of our hearts at the conclusion of our Advent journey.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Extreme Conservatives: "Windsor is Law, Except the Bits We Choose to Ignore"

Here's part of a report from Friday's Telegraph:

...In a revolt that threatens to embroil the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, three men were ordained as deacons in south London by a bishop "parachuted in" from South Africa.

The ordinations were backed by Reform, the evangelical network, whose 600 clergy members are increasingly rejecting the spiritual authority of their bishops in protest at their "unbiblical" stance on gays...
From the Windsor Report:

155. We call upon those bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own:

  • to express regret for the consequences of their actions
  • to affirm their desire to remain in the Communion, and
  • to effect a moratorium on any further interventions.
  • From the Archbishop of Brazil to the Archbishop of the Southern Cone:

    I am deeply disappointed by your letter in which you recognised and take under your supervision the deposed bishop and a group of deposed clergy that once belonged to the Diocese of Recife...

    We do follow the Anglican Tradition that intentionally seems not to be of the interest of many nowadays, which is to recognise the right of each province to act according to their canon laws to maintain their discipline, since they avoid that their canons laws would affect the life of and decisions of other provinces. Your action, yes, has been of interference in the Brazilian jurisdiction without any previous contact with its Primate Bishop, as you had once personally given your word to me. We are saddened as well as rebut this action from your side.
    From the Windsor Report:

    155. We call upon those bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own:

  • to express regret for the consequences of their actions
  • to affirm their desire to remain in the Communion, and
  • to effect a moratorium on any further interventions.
  • As a reminder of the identity of the deposed bishop referred to in the above letter, here is the incident that occurred the day after the Windsor Report was released:

    Saying that the Episcopal Church lacked accountability, the rectors of two parishes in the Diocese of Olympia told the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner on Oct. 19 that their congregations had voted overwhelmingly to seek independence from the Episcopal Church and to affiliate with the Rt. Rev. Robinson Cavalcanti, Bishop of Recife in the Anglican Province of Brazil.

    Contacted in London by telephone on Oct. 20, Bishop Cavalcanti said his decision to accept pastoral care for the two parishes was “a temporary pastoral response to an emergency and the continued defiance [of Windsor Report recommendations] by North American bishops.” Bishop Cavalcanti added that he is prepared to offer oversight to at least two other Episcopal churches and that there would be many more unless the American and Canadian bishops honor the moratorium on further same-sex blessings and the ordination of non-celibate homosexual persons called for by the Lambeth Commission on Communion in the Windsor Report.

    “We did not create this problem,” Bishop Cavalcanti said. “There are moments in history when we must be willing to make a stand"...
    The former bishop was also the only foreign bishop to partcipate in the irregular confirmations in Ohio last year. Apparently, Mr. Cavalcanti did not read the Windsor Report, which might be one explanation as to why he is no longer a bishop. If he had read it, he may have noted the following:

    155. We call upon those bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own:

  • to express regret for the consequences of their actions
  • to affirm their desire to remain in the Communion, and
  • to effect a moratorium on any further interventions.
  • There are numerous other examples of this flagrant disregard for the Windsor Report by the extreme consevatives. Allow me to point out just one more, as it is rather unique regarding the form of attempted subterfuge that it utilizes. From Archbishop Akinola's address at Nigeria's recent Synod:

    ...A significant outcome of the current crisis has been the need to cater for the spiritual needs of thousands of Nigerian Anglicans in the USA who must not be abandoned to the vagaries of a confused ECUSA. At least three (3) teams of Bishops (including: The Most Rev. M.S.C. Anikwenwa, Rt. Rev. M. Owadayo, Rt. Rev. Peter Adebiyi, Rt. Rev. E. Chukwuma, Rt. Rev. H. Ndukuba, and Rt. Rev. Ikechi Nwosu) went to the US on our behalf to study the potentials for fruitful ministry and their reports have been a guiding light in further moves.

    Also a considerable number of American Bishops and clergy have indicated a desire to collaborate with the mission of the Church of Nigeria's Mission to America known and called Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Missions in USA (CANA)...
    Archbishop Akinola, have you read the Windsor Report? One last time, let me point out the relevant clause:

    155. We call upon those bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own:

  • to express regret for the consequences of their actions
  • to affirm their desire to remain in the Communion, and
  • to effect a moratorium on any further interventions.
  • In words penned by Dylan, but made immortal by Jimi, "So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late." Some, possibly the majority, of the leadership of the extreme conservatives have no intention of abiding by the recommendations of the Windsor Report, if those recommendations were to ever become actual requirements for all Anglicans. They will pick and choose the parts they like, and disregard the rest.

    Some moderates and even progressives in the Episcopal Church are beginning to show support for the WR, not because they don't see its flaws, but because they believe it is the only way to make peace with the extreme conservatives. This is a false hope, if past behavior is any indication. The extremists appear to have no intention of following Windsor.

    So let's drop this phoney olive branch and start speaking the truth. There have been a number of diocesan conventions over the last few weeks, with many more planned for the months ahead. Quite a few will have a resolution regarding "affirming the WR." If you are a delegate to your diocesan convention, it's time to do your homework. If nothing else, study the book I have been reviewing, Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Report, and be prepared to make your way to a microphone and articulate the many flaws found in this document. At best, it is the beginning of an ongoing conversation. We cannot allow it to become the final word.


    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    From the Global South

    By now most of you have probably read the statement from the Global South conference. I was pleasantly surprised to find the statement to be much milder than I had anticipated. No calls for specific punitive actions. No official break with the Anglican Communion. No enthronement of Archbishop Akinola as Pope.

    I'm still inclined to believe that the original intention was to make a break at this meeting. This belief is not based on some conspiracy theory, by the way. This intention was first announced in an interview released in June of Archbishop Malango of Central Africa by the Rush Limbaugh of Anglicanism, David Virtue:

    ...MALANGO: We shall meet as CAPA Primates in October and one of the questions will be where a new Anglican Communion will be set up. We shall approach that question very carefully. The choice right now is Alexandria. We did not want it to be in Israel....too political, nor any other Middle East nation, nor Africa, for obvious reasons, nor Europe or Southeast Asia. We think Alexandria, Egypt is best as we can trace our historical roots from there. We can then start from an historical basis. The third trumpet is going to produce the right thing for us.
    For reasons unknown, a "new Anglican Communion" was not set up. We can only speculate as to why.

    I would suggest that a good possibility is the work done by Archbishop Rowan Williams. In this instance, he has proven to be able to build an amazing bridge across our cultural differences. His address to the Global South is quite powerful, and worthy of being slowly read and reflected upon. He calls us to always remember to keep our focus on Jesus Christ, as that is where we find our unity. Here is a small excerpt:

    ...Just in passing, I mentioned in passing ‘the instruments of Unity of the Anglican Communion’. I would be much happier, I have to say, if we spoke of the servants of Unity in the Anglican Communion’, because whatever the instruments of unity are, I don’t think that they are in any sense conditions to be met for Christian faithfulness. They are human institutions which seek to serve the unity of Christ’s body and I would put all those instruments of unity, not least the Archbishop of Canterbury, under the rubric of St Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 3; ‘it is not ourselves that we preach, but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake’. Whether it is the Archbishop of Canterbury, the ACC, the Primates or the Lambeth Conference, that must be what they hold in front of them. I think someone recently said that ‘the path to heaven doesn’t necessarily lie through Lambeth’. I agree entirely. The path to heaven lies solely through Jesus Christ our Saviour and the unity he gives, and the only use and integrity of the instruments of unity is when they serve that...

    ...The more we are focussed and drawn in to the mystery of Jesus, the more these things become not matters that we passionately struggle to work to master for ourselves, but things that flow form our relationship with Jesus. Now I don’t suggest that we can forget the practical questions before us; the many appallingly burdensomely difficult question that are laid upon us at the moment in our Anglican fellowship. But I do say that we shall never begin to answer them adequately unless our eyes our minds and our hearts are with Jesus, where Jesus is. Out of that who know what will come, and as we are prepared to be silent and patient with the lord, like John at the Last Supper, who knows what God will do. John listened at the supper; his head resting next to the heart of Jesus, just as Jesus rests next to the heart of God...
    What is beautiful about the Archbishop's words are that they are able to powerfully move me, a product of Western culture, and apparently had the same powerful effect on those of the Global South who received them. Dr. Williams offers us his gift; building bridges over the chasms that separate us by drawing our focus back to where it belongs; on our Savior Jesus Christ. I would like to think that these wise words tempered the statement prepared at the end of this gathering.

    The Global South statement does not leave the West unscathed, of course. There is a call for an "Anglican Covenant". Support is offered for the Network and Archbishop Akinola's "missions". They thank Dr. Williams for "recognizing" the Network (what Rowan "recognized" was that the members of the Network were Anglican. He clarified that he was not recognizing them as an alternative province). They expressed their appreciation for the Southern Cone "stabalizing the volitile situation" in Brazil.

    The most frustrating section of the statement is subtitled "The Current Crisis provoked by North American Intransigence". This section opens with these words:

    The unscriptural innovations of North American and some western provinces on issues of human sexuality undermine the basic message of redemption and the power of the Cross to transform lives. These departures are a symptom of a deeper problem, which is the diminution of the authority of Holy Scripture. The leaders of these provinces disregard the plain teaching of Scripture and reject the traditional interpretation of tenets in the historical Creeds.
    Nothing we haven't already heard. The section continues with more of the same. There is one minor point worth noting at the end of the section:

    Unscriptural and unilateral decisions, especially on moral issues, tear the fabric of our Communion and require appropriate discipline at every level to maintain our unity. While the Global South calls for the errant provinces to be disciplined, we will continue to pray for all who embrace these erroneous teachings that they will be led to repentance and restoration.
    Living a "disciplined" life is indeed an essential part of the Christian walk. But I am quite uncomfortable with the way the term isused here. They call for the errant provinces to be "disciplined". In other words, we must be punished. We are the unruly children, who must be paddled "for our own good." I find such a demand to be unacceptable. This blatant threat of "punishment" is extremely offensive.

    After first getting in their jabs at the West, the statement continues to make some good declarations regarding poverty, HIV/AIDS and corruption. These sections are much shorter, which causes my cynical side to wonder if they were, to some degree, an afterthought.

    Once back on his home turf, Archbishop Akinola reverts to his more familiar style of rhetoric, as evidenced in the statement that appears on the Church of Nigeria's site:

    ...To the revisionists bent on enthroning immorality in the church, the communiqué regretted that they are yet to show any evidence of repentance and may thus end up walking apart...
    Enthroning immorality...catchy phrase.

    Meanwhile, while Akinola and friends were having a grand old time in Egypt, Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, an organization which has recently challenged Akinola, and eight other members of Changing Attitude Nigeria, were beaten, arrested and jailed.

    I know that Dr. Williams is right, and appreciate the bridge that he offers. I will attempt seek the face of Christ in Archbishop Akinola. But I must also see Christ in the man lying in the streets of Abuja, beaten and bleeding. I find it difficult to do both simultaneously. But to not respond is no longer an option. Consequently, I find it is my Christian duty to stand with those who are in the greatest need; those who are bullied and bruised by the powers and prinicipalities of this world. If I am wrong, I pray for God's mercy. But I cannot passively submit to such behavior. As Carter Heyward said, "Oppressed people can either identify with, and mimic, the oppressor or we can commit ourselves, again and again to the struggles for liberation, for others and ourselves."

    And so the struggle continues.

    Monday, October 31, 2005

    Heyward; "Take On the Mantel of Prophet"

    In Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Report, Carter Heyward, the Howard Chandler Robbins Professor of Theology at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, offers an essay entitled "Make Us Prophets and Pastors: An Open Letter to Gay and Lesbian Priests." Heyward suggests that events have forced gay and lesbian priests to take on new roles:

    We Anglican priests who happen to be lesbian or gay must step forward now to fill the breach created by the Primates' rejection of gay men, lesbians, and our allies. These bishops are barricading the doors against our participation, with them, in any genuine mutual engagement and study of human sexuality. Despite their claims of "care and friendship" toward "homosexual people," the Primates' "bonds of affection" do not, in fact, extend to gay people and our friends, and so we priests must take the place of the bishops in extending pastoral, sacramental, and liturgical care to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered sisters and brothers. Although few of us would have chosen this vocation, it has been cast upon us by the bishops' abandonment of the whole people of God.
    Heyward suggests that the Primates are not sincerely addressing the issues, but are instead responding from their fears:

    The Primates, on the whole, seem frightened of women who openly love women and they are probably terrified of men who openly love men. They do not want to get close enough to us to be touched by us, metaphorically or literally. Thus it is up to us, dear brother and sister priests, to work closely enough together and to keep closely enough in touch with one another to help the whole people of God work and pray their way through the fears and hostilities being set in place by the Primates of the Anglican Communion.
    The "fear factor," coupled with the "ick factor," seems to me to be the only probable explanation for the extreme visceral response we are witnessing in some parts of the Anglican Communion. For further understanding of the "fear factor," consider Fear of the Feminine, in which Nancy Myer Hopkins suggests that this fear rises from the belief that "same-sex relationships violate the rules laid down by all patriarchal cultures about how men and women should behave in relationship to one another." Thus the argument that such relationships are destroying the fabric of our society.

    Heyward states clearly why the condescending words of the Primates are unacceptable:

    The message to "homosexual people" from the Primates of the Anglican Communion is that queer people are alien, shameful and wrong: Our lives are wrong - the ways we love, the relational bonds we form, the blessings we seek. Moreover, neither we, nor those who stand in solidarity with us, are welcome in the councils of the Anglican Communion. Still they ask us to "be clear" that we are "deserving of the best (they) can give us pastoral care and friendship." Perhaps this is the best they can give, these Primates of ours. Whatever, it is a far cry from what "homosexual people" either need pastorally or, if we have any self-respect, what we can accept from our bishops or anyone else.
    Heyward reminds us that calls for compromise for the sake of the "unity of the church" have historically been a cry against such justice movements as those which advocated for the abolition of slavery, women's rights and civil rights. Authentic unity would be based on mutual respect, formed from an awareness of cultural differences.

    Heyward clarifies that there are two possible responses to our current situation:

    Oppressed people can either identify with, and mimic, the oppressor or we can commit ourselves, again and again to the struggles for liberation, for others and ourselves. Our choice, as lesbian and gay priests today, is either to make a truce with oppression or to take on the mantel of the prophet.
    This is what some parts of the Communion seem to not understand. Peace at any cost never results in real peace. Compromising is not an option. To do so would place the unity of the Church as a higher priority than our duty to be faithful to God and the whole people of God.


    Thursday, October 27, 2005

    What Shall We Do with the Windsor Report?

    In an ongoing conversation being held elsewhere, a possible response to the WR by General Convention was offered, which included honoring the the two moratoria suggested; blessings and consecrations. In reply to this suggestion, Michael Russell, Rector of All Souls', Point Loma, CA, identified eight "negotiation points" that would have to be considered before agreeing to such a response. With his permission, I am offering these eight points for further discussion here;

    1) We have to look at the WR in light of all the receptive comments made around the communion so far and then draw our own conclusions about its merit in whole or in part. I think there are parts that are important for further discussion: the authority of scripture and who properly interprets it (which I would not leave to the Bishops alone), subsidiarity as it might work in all directions, and a more formal process of reception.

    2) I would not under any circumstances accede to the 4 Instruments of Unity. They have already proven themselves an empty shell because of the absence of checks and balances and separation of powers. They are a bad idea and have proven so. The only evidence we need is that of the primates themselves who have refused to abide by the WR, Dromantine or Lambeth I.10. Recent discussion here has focused on who decides if what TEC has done is enough, and I would add the question of how we discipline the Instruments of Unity?

    3) I might accept a moratorium, might if all the forces of disunion stop cross-Diocesan invasions and poaching. That is a clear part of WR and Dromantine ignored completely since their promulgation. As long as foreign provinces are diddling in US Dioceses I would give them nothing more than what the PB, HOB and Exec. Council have done.

    4) The Lambeth conversation must return to the spirit of 1978 and 1988, whose authority, btw has not been superseded by any resolution in 1998. There are no rules that state that more recent resolutions outweigh earlier ones.

    5) My own personal position is that unless the WWAC calls for decriminalization of homosexuality in all provinces and the primates actively work for it in their own provinces, any claim to restart a "listening" process is a sham. I see no point to accepting a sham as a good faith offering.

    6) We should call for primates to cease interfering with the delivery of aid monies to people in their regions whose lives can be saved or improved. They do not have to agree with us to accept it, but it must be deployed for development or relief purposes. If they refuse, we should make it clear we will work around them.

    7) I believe we should make it clear that we are prepared to support clergy and congregations in any Diocese anywhere who do not wish to be associated with the particular form of curial-biblical supremacism that manifests itself as evangelical orthodox today.

    8) I would insist on creating a process for the formation of an international Constitution and Canon to bring the rule of law to our intra-communion work.
    I could live with a plan that incorporated these eight points, although I am very uncomfortable with #8. That one will take quite a bit more conversation.

    The more I look at the WR, the more I think that it simply won't work. Instead of trying to rework it, maybe what we need to do is to present our own plan?

    What would such a plan look like? A good starting point might be An Immodest Proposal offered by Tobias S. Haller BSG, Vicar of Saint James Church, Fordham, The Bronx.

    So what shall we do with the Windsor Report? Try to refine it, or start from scratch?


    Wednesday, October 26, 2005

    Wales; "Primates Overstepped Their Authority"

    Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, recently offered a lecture entitled Scripture and Sexuality – our commitment to listening and learning. The entire lecture is worth noting, but I wanted to highlight one particular segment that states quite clearly the understanding of many of us regarding the authority of Lambeth and the Primates;

    Provinces have to realise that Lambeth resolutions have no constitutional or canonical authority and primates have to realise that they have no constitutional power to bind the whole Communion by their statements. The first Lambeth Conference of 1867 made it clear that it was not a general synod of churches in communion with the Church of England, and it did not enact canons. As Stephen Sykes and John Booty put it in ‘The Study of Anglicanism, “the Lambeth Conference has remained a deliberating body convened solely at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Whatever the respect accorded to its deliberations, it has no canonical or constitutional status”. Primates have only met regularly since 1979 and that meeting defined its role as “not being a higher synod but a clearing house for ideas and experience through free expression, the fruits of which the Primates might convey to their churches”. Some primates have not fully grasped either of these points and as the chairman of the ACC pointed out at its last meeting the Primates overstepped their authority in asking the representatives of ECUSA and Canada to withdraw from membership of that body. As he put it “a body which exists by means of a constitution agreed to by all the member churches of the Anglican Communion, and that is required by that constitution to be consultative cannot consult fully or properly if all its members are not sitting at the same table. It is surely not for one instrument of unity to disempower another”.
    As I have said previously, I think the issue of authority is emerging as the primary concern in discussions within the Anglican Communion. Regardless of what the presenting issues were that brought us to this place, we now must grapple with how we are to move into the future as a Communion. Do we really want an archbishop, or a council of archbishops, or even a council of bishops, to have the final word on what is fit and what is not?


    Monday, October 24, 2005

    Anglican News Update

    There's been a few news items worth noting over the last few weeks. I've not commented on them as they have been well covered elsewhere, and I have been trying to stay focused on reviewing the content of Gays and the Future of Anglicanism. I intend to continue this review, as I am convinced this book will prove to be an important resource in future deliberations regarding the Windsor Report. However, I'm anticipating possible important developments happening within the Anglican Communion within the next week, so it seems appropriate to mention a few of the most recent news items so that future events might be seen in perspective.

    The extreme conservatives within the Episcopal Church are quite upset over notes from a meeting of Via Media. Since the notes refer to strategies to implement in case the ten Network diocese decide to bolt after General Convention 2006, the extreme conservatives are shouting "Coup!" and "Leftist Conspiracy!" among other colorful accusations. Personally, I think this is much ado about nothing. I find it unfortunate that Via Media is buying into the hype from the extremists, although I can understand their concern, as the group is made up of faithful Episcopalians who reside within dioceses that have been threatening to break with the Episcopal Church for a few years now. The reality of even a worse case scenario is that the possibility of the Network taking over the Episcopal Church is slim to none. They claim to have 10 diocese out of 111 aligned with them. Outside those 10 diocese, they have about 140 congregations signed up, out of 7,500. Assuming that every congregation in the 10 diocese will also break (which is a generous assumption; the existence of the Via Media groups is evidence that not all the congregations in Network dioceses go along with their plans for schism), the Network might be able to claim allegiance of about 1,100 congregations, or roughly 15%. The idea that the remaining 85% will go along with the Network's claim that, due to the term "constituent" in the Preamble, to remain Anglican one must leave the Episcopal Church and join them, is wishful thinking. The cure will be seen as worse than the disease.

    Even though I believe that a scenario in which such a small minority will launch a successful coup to be delusionary, at the same time, plans to protect faithful Episcopalians within the 10 Network dioceses need to be made. One would think that presentments against the 10 diocesans would be a bare minimum response. In this regard, the brainstorming session of Via Media is worth carefully consideration.

    What makes this particular flap rather ironic is that the same folks who are now screaming foul have been planning how to destroy the Episcopal Church and take it over with their own coup for a few years now. Pot, meet kettle. Mark Harris offers more commentary on this incident.

    Related to this is the settlement of the lawsuit against the Diocese of Pittsburgh filed by Calvary Episcopal Church. You might recall that the documents revealed through this lawsuit gave us an inside look of the Network's plans to overthrow the Episcopal Church. The settlement makes the unusual resolution passed at a previous diocesan convention allowing individual congregations to claim ownership of their property and assets null and void. This strange resolution was an attempted end run around future court cases involving property settlements if these congregations tried to leave the Episcopal Church. At least in the state of Pennsylvania, that ploy isn't going to work. This is good news for the people of Calvary and the other faithful Episcopalians in the diocese of Pittsburgh, but will probably have little effect in future court cases outside of Pennsylvania.

    Before leaving domestic issues, it might be timely to mention that there is a distinct difference between what I refer to as "extreme conservatives" and the more traditional "conservatives." A few of the latter can be found in most Episcopal congregations. The former are a rather rare breed, making up, at the most, 20% of the membership. Their leaders are the same folks who were angry about women's ordination and the new prayer book, are now angry about a bishop who refuses to stay in the closet, and, if they stay true to form, will most likely find new issues to be angry about in the future. An example of the difference between the extremists and the more traditional conservatives can be found in the recent address to the diocese of Rio Grande given by their new bishop, Jeffrey Steenson. Bishop Steenson is a well known conservative, who was previously rector of Good Shepherd, Rosemont and St. Andrew's, Fort Worth. Until recently, he was known to oppose women's ordination. Here is a brief excerpt from his address worth noting;

    Breaking communion, cutting relationships with other Christians is dreadful business and goes to the very heart of the Anglican understanding of the Church. The Anglican reformers identified three key principles for the unity of the Church, which they got directly from St. Augustine of Hippo in his writings against the Donatist schism in North Africa:

    1. The true identity of the Church as Christ's Body is in no way diminished by the imperfections and defects of its human members.

    2. As long as we live in this present age, we must accept that it is God's will that saints and sinners are mixed together in the Church.

    3. Breaking communion and separating from the Church is ultimate more damaging than the heretical ideas and practices that may have occasioned them...
    If you take a moment to read his entire address, I think you will see the truth in the point I'm trying to make; it is an unfair generalization to paint all conservatives with the same brush.

    Moving on to some international news, it appears that the majority claimed by the extreme conservatives within the Anglican Communion is showing signs of small cracks of disunity, which may eventually shatter the facade they have attempted to present to the world.

    First is the brave statement from Changing Attitude - Nigeria which challenges Archbishop Akinola. Thinking Anglicans has more discussion on this story.

    Then there is the recent Panama Declaration, in which a number of Latin-American and Caribbean bishops made the following statement;

    ...With deep sentiment, we regret the forced exclusion of the Province of Brazil from the Global South Conference celebrated in Egypt; exclusion promoted by the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, and we also regret the reception and recognition of the deposed bishop and clergy, from the diocese of Recife by the Primate of the Province in the Southern Cone of America. Nevertheless, we express our hope to be in total reconciliation with our brothers and sisters of the Southern Cone and to continue in our journey of total communion with one another.

    These acts of exclusion from events and the intromission and disregard of the authority in jurisdictions among Provinces, represent the breaking away from agreements and commitments established between primates and they are a product of the intolerant tendencies that we face and we hope that these tendencies will quickly disappear as a result of the inspiration and action of the Holy Spirit and our decisive actions geared towards change and renewal...
    For some background on what made such a statement necessary, read the Primate of the Southern Cone's letter and the Primate of Brazil's response. We're seeing this happen more and more; one bishop deposes a priest or a bishop, and some other bishop picks them up, ignoring the previous deposition. The decision to dismiss such depositions seems to be based on the beliefs of the bishop doing the deposition and the one being deposed. This is the road to chaos. Not only does this lead to a priest or a bishop's orders only being valid in a specific geographical area becoming the norm, but it will also call into question any ordinations or confirmations done by a bishop who was previously deposed. The validity of a sacramental rite will become based on the belief system held by the bishop or priest offering the sacrament. Is this really where we want to go?

    Meanwhile, tomorrow the Global South summit will begin. The Archbishop of Canterbury will be present. Stayed tuned, folks. This could get very interesting.