Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Voice from the Desert

I recently stumbled across an article in the Palm Springs Desert Sun concerning the Rev. Dr. Robert G. Certain, rector of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Palm Desert in the diocese of San Diego. He is one of the nominees for the Ninth Bishop of Southern Ohio.

One of the unusual elements in Dr. Certain's background is that before becoming a priest he flew 100 combat missions in Vietnam. He was shot down and was a prisoner of war for 100 days. He has written a book about his spiritual journey entitled Unchained Eagle: From Prisoner of War to Prisoner of Christ.

Among his responses to questions asked of him by the diocese of Southern Ohio, I found the following excerpt to be especially insightful:

...Since our ancient theology holds that the Holy Spirit guides most clearly in ecumenical council, it is in the deliberations of the Communion that we can find our greatest hope. Any insistence to agree on everything sounds like a call to build a new “Tower of Babel.” In the Bible story, unity of language and purpose led to pride, with the people patting themselves on the back for being so smart. In turn, God decided to destroy the tower and to confuse our language in order to keep us mindful that only God creates anything of lasting significance. Differences remind us that God alone is sovereign – not you, me, theologians or doctrines. Divergent ideas and actions, even heretical ones, will not destroy us, our faith, or Our Lord. But they will lead us to ask more questions, find new answers, correct old errors, and rediscover the depths of the love of God in Christ Jesus...
Last week, The Episcopal Majority hosted an essay by Dr. Certain; A House Divided. He labels himself as a "Moderate," and admits to voting for A161 and B033 at GC2006, for the following reasons:

...I voted that way on A161 because the chairman of the Special Committee on Windsor noted that it was the best the committee could report out, even though all of us would find elements in it that were offensive. He also urged us to “hold our nose” in order to pass this flawed piece of legislation because we needed it to stay at the table with our sisters and brothers in other provinces of the Anglican Communion. With only two days to go in the Convention, and a parliamentary process that would prevent us from making anything better, I concluded that the best course of action was to endorse the committee’s recommendation...
Although I disagree with his reasoning for those votes, I can honor that he honestly felt a response to Windsor was essential, and those resolutions were "the best we can do."

Dr. Certain makes an observation that hasn't received much discussion yet, regarding the breakdown of votes for A161 and B033:

...One bit of history that I have not seen discussed concerns the votes by order in the House of Deputies on these two pieces of legislation. In mid-August I received a copy of the record of the House and discovered that these deputations were among those who voted to defeat A161: Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Rio Grande (Lay), San Joaquin (divided clergy, counted as “no”), South Carolina, Springfield, Western Louisiana. These dioceses are all known for their very conservative stances on the issues addressed by A161. All but Western Louisiana are members of the Anglican Communion Network. Except for Quincy, every diocese formally affiliated with the Network is included.

When I looked at the results for B033, which was adopted, I noted again that nine of the ten ACN dioceses (except for San Joaquin this time) voted to defeat this resolution, too. In light of these votes, I have to ask, “Did the Anglican Communion Network dioceses really want to defeat the Episcopal Church’s response to the Windsor Report?”
The breakdown of votes on A161 can be found here.

I have heard the argument from the extremists that the reason they voted against A161 and B033 is that they did not go far enough towards being "Windsor compliant." Since it was made clear at Convention that the proposed resolutions were "the best we can do," those claims do not alleviate my suspicions that the nay votes were actually motivated by a desire to make the Episcopal Church look as bad as possible to the rest of the Communion. As we have previously discussed, there is little question that the extremist bishops who voted for Bp. Jefferts Schori as PB were driven by such unscrupulous motivations.

Although Dr. Certain and I would most likely disagree on many things, what I have read about him today leads me to conclude that he is a fine priest, and would make an excellent bishop. May God continue to grant him the grace to persevere in his service to the people of God.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Canterbury Attempts to "Hold the Center"

By now you have probably read the Archbishop of Canterbury's latest interview. Here's some of his statements:

...I don't believe inclusion is a value in itself...Welcome is. We welcome people into the Church, we say: 'You can come in, and that decision will change you.' We don't say: 'Come in and we ask no questions.' I do believe conversion means conversion of habits, behaviours, ideas, emotions. The boundaries are determined by what it means to be loyal to Jesus Christ. That means to display in all things the mind of Christ. Paul is always saying this in his letters: Ethics is not a matter of a set of abstract rules, it is a matter of living the mind of Christ. That applies to sexual ethics; that is why fidelity is important in marriage...

...In terms of decision-making the American Church has pushed the boundaries. It has made a decision that is not the decision of the wider body of Christ. In terms of the issue under consideration: there are enough Christians of good faith in every denomination - from evangelical to Roman Catholic - to whom it is not quite so self-evident. Who are not absolutely sure that that we have always read the Bible correctly. They are saying: this is an issue we must talk about. But if we are going to have time to discuss this, prayerfully, thoughtfully, we really don't need people saying: we must change it now. The discussion must not be foreclosed by a radical agenda. The decision hasn't been made yet. Or rather, the tradition and teaching of the Church is what it always was...

...Twenty years ago I wrote an essay in which I advocated a different direction. That was when I was still a professor, to stimulate debate. It did not generate much support and a lot of criticism - quite fairly on a number of points. What I am saying now is: let us talk this through. As Archbishop I have a different task. I would feel very uncomfortable if my Church would say: this is beyond discussion, for ever. Equally I have to guard the faith and teaching of the Church. My personal ideas and questions have to take second place...
I assume that the essay Dr. Williams is referring to is The Body's Grace. It is a beautiful piece of writing. It is difficult to accept that it was created simply to "stimulate debate".

I recently noticed that rh is reading A Church At War by Stephen Bates. He offers this quote from Dr. Williams:

In other words, if we are looking for a sexual ethic that can be seriously informed by our Bible, there is a good deal to steer us away from assuming that reproductive sex is a norm, however important and theologially significant it may be. ... If we are afraid of facing the reality of same-sex love because it compels us to think through the process of bodily desire and delight in their own right, perhaps we ought to be more cautious about appealing to Scripture as legitimizing only procreative heterosexuality.

In a church which accepts the legitmacy of contraception, the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous texts or ona problematic and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures.
So what is going on? Has Rowan changed his mind?

I don't think so. I think the key quote from the interview is this segment;
"As Archbishop I have a different task. I would feel very uncomfortable if my Church would say: this is beyond discussion, for ever. Equally I have to guard the faith and teaching of the Church. My personal ideas and questions have to take second place."

Dr. Williams has decided to hold the center, at any cost, it appears. No doubt he considers this his pastoral duty. Unfortunately, because of the extremism of the Global South and a small contingent within TEC, the center has shifted more to the right. The center now shares more with the purists than it does with the message of the Gospel.

It appears to me that Dr. Williams has taken a consequentialist approach in resolving his ethical dilemma, seeking the greatest good for the greatest number. In so doing, most likely he will lose the Episcopal Church as well as all gay and lesbian Christians and their supporters currently within the Anglican Communion. No doubt he has considered the cost and is willing to pay it for the sake of unity.

I would not want to be in Dr. Williams' shoes right now. I recognize how difficult the decision to adopt this stance was for him to make. But that does not keep the deontologist within me from reminding the Archbishop that some things are always right, and some things are always wrong, regardless of the greater good. Achieving unity on the backs of your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters is wrong.

Even if we are abandoned by Canterbury to fend for ourselves, the Episcopal Church will continue to proclaim the radically inclusive love of the living God. We will not reject that calling.

Here's more responses to this interview:

From the Telegraph; Gays must change, says archbishop.

From the Christian Post; Anglican Head: American Church has 'Pushed the Boundaries'

From 365Gay; Anglican Leader Accused Of Deserting Gays

Thinking Anglicans offers a response from the Rev. William R. Coats:

...The fact is a good deal of the Communion - neither the Africans nor the American radicals - has no intention of discussing this matter. For them it is a closed matter, And this part of the Communion has heard nothing from the Archbishop that would encourage them to engage in such a discussion. In fact they continue on their destructive path convinced that he is on their side. Why? Because for them - from first to last - this has been a matter of power. It was the power of Archbishop Akinola and his minions which caused the issue to be framed they way it was, namely as a matter of core doctrine. It was his power that has silenced Canterbury on the high-jacking of Windsor, on the curtailment of any discussion of homosexuality in 2/3 of the Communion, on the implanting of foreign bishops on American soil, on the granting of radical American bishops ecclesiastical privileges beyond that of the good order of the church and legality...
No doubt we will hear statements similar to Dr. Williams', in tones that will get progressively more adamant, from other Anglican bodies in the months and even years ahead. I do not see any reason for the Episcopal Church to even respond to such strident demands. In the words of Canon Edward Rodman; "Leave them alone to stew in their own juice, I have better things to do."

Press on toward the Kingdom.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Preparing for the Post-Christendom Era

I recently read a couple of essays that caused me to wonder once again about the future of the Christian tradition in the Western world. Before commenting on the essays, let me set up the discussion by repeating some of my thoughts from two years ago regarding Loren Mead's The Once and Future Church:

...Mead breaks down the history of Christendom into three eras; the Apostolic, the Christian, and the Emerging. He identifies three different environments in which each era existed. During the Apostolic era, the environment was hostile to the message of the Gospel. During the Christian era (which lasted through most of the 20th century), the environment was primarily Christian, as that was the dominant world view. In the Emerging era, the external environment is, at best, ambiguous to the message.

Some of us have witnessed this shift from the Christian to the Emerging era in our own lifetime. Here's just a few of the indicators;

In the Christian era, all of society was understood to be religious. In the Emerging era, society is often not religious at all.

In the Christian era, most public institutions were permeated with religious values. In the Emerging era, most public activities have no reference to religion.

In the Christian era, most people were expected to be members of a church. It was almost considered un-American not to be. In the Emerging era, church is for religious people, not ordinary people.

In the Christian era, religion was very public. In the Emerging era, religion is private, irrelevant, or optional.

In the Christian era, almost everyone is acquainted with the biblical story. In the Emerging era, few people know anything about the bible.

I think much of the Church is in denial of this reality. The energy seems to be drawn towards trying to recapture the glory days; to turn back the clock. In the meantime, God has continued to work in the world, but not always in the same ways as the Church has perceived the movement of God in the past.

The apostolic mission of the Church has to be rethought; no longer can the mission of the Church be primary. It has to give way to the mission of God, which can often be discovered outside the traditional boundaries of what we understand to be "church" or "religion."

Our mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ is hindered when we understand that to mean we are taking something out into the world that does not already exist; that our message is the most important one. That blocks our ability to see what God might already be doing in the life of someone else. When we insist on others accepting our understanding of God, and use the bible as a weapon to beat them into submission, we turn them away from Christ with our arrogant manner.

The world has changed. Today, we are called to meet people where they are in their spiritual life, and not drag them to where we think they should be. We listen to their story, offer our story, and look for the places that God's story intersects them both.

This doesn't dismiss the need for a catechumenate process, continuing education, amendment of life and spiritual disciplines. Those are elements that will gradually become meaningful to a person who is nurtured into developing a relationship with Jesus Christ. To demand it all from the beginning is blocking the way into the kingdom for others. It seems to me this is the error that Jesus saw within the Pharisees. Are we doomed to continue to make the same mistakes over and over again?

The first recent essay related to those ideas that caught my eye was John Bartley's Renegotiating Christian Polity after Christendom. Here's some excerpts that I found to be especially relevant:

...Ever since Christendom began its decline - around the time of the Reformation and the intellectual movement of the Enlightenment that sought to end the bloody conflict often seen as being caused by religious motivations - the church has been increasingly radicalised by a new awareness that the teachings, life, death and resurrection of Jesus can apply to the political as well as the personal. During the last few centuries of course, much of the vestiges and culture of Christendom has remained, but as it has weakened, so movements such as that which led to the abolition of the transatlantic Slave Trade have periodically emerged.

Within Christendom of course the church did mediate the more negative effects of social institutions, working to improve the lot of slaves, prisoners and the poor. But less often was it prepared to fundamentally subvert or reform them. Whereas before Christendom, Christianity had often posed a challenge to the social order, within Christendom the Christian religion became the glue which held the social order together.

But as Christendom has broken down, so again the church has felt a diminishing need to be the defender of social institutions, and has been prepared to be their radical reformer.

What, then, does the political future hold for the church? It seems likely that the church will continue in its rediscovery of mission to, rather than maintenance of, the social order. A great deal will have to do with the increasing identification of Christians with those on the margins of society, as Christianity also moves to a similar position. It has also to do with the diminishing association of Christianity with the nation state, as Christians rediscover their identity as part of a global church, whose primary citizenship is derived from the Kingdom of God...
What is frustrating in many "in-house" discussions among Christians is that some folks glimpse the obvious future of Christianity, while others seem to be oblivious. We have at least two generations in which the majority have had little or no exposure to Christianity, let alone the Church. All they know is what they hear from the televangelists. They don't care who our bishops are. They have no interest in theories of the atonement. Cliches like "saved by the blood of the lamb" are disgusting. Being told they are going to burn in hell is, appropriately, considered extremely rude and insulting. The Church is seen, at best, as a club, which charges dues. Many of these folks suspect that what the Church is really after is their money.

When Christians reach out to those on the margins of society, when they "show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith," not only are they faithfully responding to the teachings of Jesus, but they are also engaged in the most effective form of evangelism in today's world. When our acts of mercy are offered to those who may never be able to give us a "return on our investment," others who suspect the Church is just another racket after their wallets sit up and take notice. Maybe those Christians really are all about loving their neighbors? And then, when we are asked why we are expending our resources on those who live on the fringes of society, we can give the glory to God. We can tell them our story. We can share how faith in Jesus Christ has transformed our lives.

I was encouraged to hear Bishop Jefferts Schori affirm that the MDGs would be an integral part of the future mission of the Episcopal Church. This is exactly the right approach. In today's world, our actions may be the only Gospel our neighbors ever read.

I think it is essential that we make this shift because I believe the harvest is still plentiful. Humanity still has a spiritual hunger; that hunger is simply no longer necessarily religious. In the above article, Bartley (and to some degree Mead) differentiates between spiritual and religious as pre-Constantine (Christian) and post-Constantine (Christendom). The common cliche sometimes heard among those who avoid the Church to describe the difference is "religion is for those who are afraid of hell, and spirituality is for those who have already been there." You may disagree with that statement. Personally, from my experience, I find more than an element of truth in it. But to agree or disagree is really not the issue. The point is that it is the mindset that we will encounter outside the walls of the Church.

This separation of spirituality and religion presents a whole new set of considerations regarding how we can effectively proclaim the Good News. The latest edition of Anglican Theological Review contains an interesting essay on this topic by Owen C. Thomas; "Spiritual but Not Religious: The Influence of the Current Romantic Movement". Thomas suggests that we are in the midst of a Romantic movement that began in the 1960s. He offers historian Craig Brinton's definition of the Romantic temperment as "sensitive, emotional, preferring color to form, the exotic to the familiar, eager for novelty, for adventure, above all for vicarious adventure of fantasy, reveling in disorder and uncertainty, insistence on the uniqueness of the individual to the point of making a virtue of eccentricity."

Note the focus on the individual. When it comes to things spiritual, the need for community, with shared values and a shared mission, is considered optional, and possibly even irrelevant. Even though I would hope that most of us recognize that such a spirituality would be missing out on much of the joy of being a spiritual being (why celebrate, throw a party, all by yourself?), in today's world it is essential that we meet people where they are, and begin by affirming the positive aspects of their spiritual journey. This also means that we need to offer resources to meet their spiritual needs. Outreach to those on the margins is important, but it must be balanced with inner nurture; opportunities for personal spiritual growth. In his essay, Thomas more fully describes this necessary balancing act between the private and public aspects of our faith:

...Thus I am suggesting that the spirituality movement should balance its emphasis on interiority with an equal concern with the outer life of the body, the community and history. It should harmonize its emphasis on private individual life with equal commitment to the importance of the public life of work and politics. And it should equalize its concern for feeling with an emphasis on the life of reason and reflection. In sum, it should balance its commitment to spirituality with an equal commitment to the life of religion with its concern for tradition, communal life, and involvement in public life...
It seems to me that those of us who are members of the Kingdom of God are called to spend less time debating among ourselves, and more time proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ in ways that today's world can hear. Beyond that, I think it is also past time for us to discern the movement of God, and begin to prepare for a future in which the Christian faith will be transformed, as God continues to make all things new.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Some Common Sente: or Moving Proactively

In our previous discussion, a few commenters noted that responding to accusations is not necessarily the best way forward. I think such charges do require a response, if for no other reason than to expose the unethical tactics being used, but I would also agree that we need to be more proactive.

The following are some concrete suggestions regarding that very topic. They were made by the Rev. Michael Russell, Rector of All Souls', Point Loma, CA, in a conversation being held elsewhere. I offer them here with Mike's permission:

In the game of Go there is a concept called "Sente". It is a move that takes the initiative and forces your opponent to respond. At the moment, all the little meetings happening are a result of the orthopox still having sente. TEC responds to them, not the other way around.

Sente will not be achieved through all the good ministry we do, because it does not set the terms for the public debate.

But if we wish to transform the present moment into sente there are any number of things we could do as a Church --- and the Executive Council could do them --- which would change our tenor from reactive to proactive.

1) Quit apologizing for straining the bonds of affection. We did that at GC, now its time for folks to get over it. If they don't want to, tough, we're done talking about it. Instead we could simply re-affirm the call of the Baptismal Covenant to inclusion (that pesky respecting the dignity bit). Our leaders could all stand up and affirm the inclusion of gay and lesbian folk in the full life of the church (lift up all the GC 06 and previous resolutions that have done that) and our commitment to find the appropriate path to blessing the intention of two people to live in a life long committed relationship. We could go further and indicate that we will not spend another moment in conversation on this, moving instead to deal with all the sorts of important issues ++FTG has been naming right along.

2) Convene an international conference of progressive spirits from the WWAC to formulate a world wide "Merciful and Just Christian" agenda. That agenda would include: a Mission centered campaign around the MDG's: the elevation of the status of women in every province, and establishing a public listening and discourse opportunity in every province. Let's go to Nigeria and meet with the oppressed gay and lesbian community.

3) Extend the jurisdictional umbrella of this group to include any local Diocese or parish in any province of the world that wants to ally with this agenda. Take the money we and the others are now putting into the WWAC and put it into local mission and ministry. Find, train and ordain women and gays and lesbians and establish parishes around them.

4) Extend that same jurisdictional agenda into the ACN Dioceses. Frankly, any diocese that has altered its accession clause to the C&C should be de-credentialed and an alternate structure recognized immediately. It is time to hold Duncan et al accountable for their lawless behavior. If they cry martyrdom and oppression of the orthopox, that's just fine, let them cry. We simply affirm the decisions of GC surrounding women and gays and give aide and comfort to those parishes and individuals who wish to be out from under the oppressive and abusive and misogynist thumb (of some but not all) of the ACN crowd. With the CT decision we should change locks and freeze bank accounts.

5) Take some of the money we are using on the WWAC and spend it on a nation wide television campaign about the mission focus -- MDG's and the other potent ministries in this church -- and run it in all major TV venues. Focus them on ERD, MDG, and what Welcome means. Create a mixture of warm and fuzzy for some and hip-hop/Ipod for others. Put George Martin in charge of this campaign.

Or we can just keep having little meetings to perseverate over talking to and appeasing people who have moved beyond reason to fanaticism: they can't change their minds and they won't change the topic. By seizing sente instead we can watch the birth of a far more courageous and intentionally merciful and just TEC and MJAC (Merciful and Just Anglican Communion)
Sounds to me to be an excellent plan.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Naming the Lies

The Episcopal Majority is hosting an essay by Tom Woodward, former rector of St. Paul's, Salinas, CA, entitled "Falsely Accused." Tom lists some of the lies that are often repeated about the Episcopal Church:

...One of the most frustrating things about being a moderate in The Episcopal Church is the constant need to respond to various bizarre charges made against you by groups like the Anglican Communion Network (ACN), American Anglican Council (AAC) and allied groups. Those groups have now been joined by leaders in the Nigerian church who are organizing a mission to cleanse our church of its traditional teachings.

These groups justify their attacks on The Episcopal Church by claiming our leaders hold and teach “pagan or alien doctrines.” They seem to take delight in claiming we hold beliefs such as the following:

1. Jesus is only one of many paths to God instead of the Only Way (John 14:6).
2. Loving a person means acceptance and love of that person’s sins.
3. The Holy Scriptures are merely historical relics and are not be taken seriously.
4. People can propound any new teaching as long as it makes the listeners feel good (2 Timothy 3:3-4).
5. Heaven and Hell are only figurative terms used in the Bible; liberals believe it is wrong to frighten people with such old ideas in the modern world.
6. The resurrection of Jesus never happened.
7. The Episcopal Church has abandoned its faith and embraced the heresies of Bishop Spong and Marcus Borg.

It is quite possible to find some or all of these views extant somewhere within The Episcopal Church; but you have to look very, very closely to find them. However, it is dishonest and a complete distortion to jump from finding one person holding such a view to charging hundreds or thousands of others with holding the same belief. For example, a couple of years ago a clergy couple was discovered to be interested in Wicca (pagan religion). Anglican Communion Network (ACN) spokesmen immediately rushed to charge the entire progressive leadership of our Church as embracing paganism!

That kind of attack reached its peak in the DVD produced by the ACN for distribution to households across the country loyal to the Episcopal Church. In it an ACN spokesman charges, amongst even more outrageous statements, that “the leadership [of The Episcopal Church] have embraced a foreign and alien and pagan religion.” That sort of thing takes one’s breath away by its sheer ignorance and vindictiveness.

I hope you can begin to understand the frustration of a solidly orthodox Episcopalian upon reading such accusations. But out of a need for both charity and clarity in addressing the characterization of mainline Episcopalians, we respond as follows...
Make sure you read Tom's excellent response to each of these false accusations.

In case you missed the video containing Les Fairfield's rant concerning the "foreign, alien and pagan religion," you can read more about it here.

Let's discuss the seven statements. I have a few thoughts, which would include wondering why Marcus Borg is placed in the same category as Bp. Spong.

Keep in mind that those who want to use our words to condemn us will often pull phrases out of context and string them together. You may recall the controversy involving Paul Tillich, who in one of his books was suggesting that it is best to refrain from the temptation to limit God to the physical realm, and that it was less than accurate to claim that God exists, as we understand existence. As you can imagine, it didn't take long for the word to go out, "Tillich claims God does not exist!" This soon became "Paul Tillich is an atheist!"

Most likely, even if we use the utmost care, our words will be twisted. But I think it is of value to honestly and openly discuss these things that are being said about us. The fear of such accusations cannot be allowed to silence us.

Because of the nature of such a conversation, anyone who has made such accusations in the past, or is affiliated with organizations who refuse to repent of the sin of bearing false witness against their brothers and sisters in Christ, is asked to not participate in this discussion. If such persons do not honor this request, well, you know the routine by now. No, I'm not a hard-line inclusivist. Haven't you heard? According to Dr. Williams, the church is not inclusive. Imagine that.

Now, having gotten that bit of unpleasantness out of the way, let us continue without the distraction of having to look over our shoulders for the next flame. After reading Tom's response to these false claims, what would you add?


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Book Lists

MataH tagged me for the latest book meme. Although the questions ask for one book to be identified in each category, I find that restriction not only impossible, but unrealistic. So, I'm going to change the question to two books, which to me is the bare minimum in any situation:

1. Two books that changed your life.

The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan Watts.

I read this as a young man before going to college. It was a relief to find someone else grappling with some of the paradoxes of life. It reassured me that I might not be insane after all!

I discovered the next transformative book as I was completing my undergraduate studies and a few people had started talking to me about seminary. Most of the volumes I found regarding the priesthood were Roman Catholic, and simply did not resonate with me. Then I stumbled across this treasure:

Ministry and Imagination by Urban T. Holmes. If you are considering a vocation to holy orders, I strongly recommend this book. It is a bit theoretical in parts, but the chapters that address the many facets of the priesthood are worth slogging through the sections that focus on Holmes' rather complex system. I've referred to his definition of the priest as a "mana person" in a previous entry.

2. Two books that you have read more than once.

The Christian Priest Today by Michael Ramsey.

This small volume can easily be read in one day. I try to read it at least once a year. It is very helpful in reflecting on priorities. One of the definitions of a priest that Abp. Ramsey offers is "a priest is a person of prayer, with the people of God on their heart."

The Passion of the Western Mind by Richard Tarnas.

This is a large volume, which I refer to often, as it is the best compliation of Western ideas presented in an understandable format that I have ever encountered. There is an excerpt from Tarnas in this post.

3. Two books you'd want on a desert island.

I'm afraid that my answer to this will be a bit predictable: The Book of Common Prayer and the Bible. Actually, I could get away with one volume for this category, as the two resources have been fused. I do want to mention that I've listed these two by priorites; the Prayer Book would be my first choice. It is 2/3 scripture. That's why so many Episcopalians are so fond of the bible, btw: it contains so much Prayer Book! Why would the Prayer Book be my first choice? If I was stranded on a desert island, I would need the Daily Office as a constant reminder that we are never alone.

4. Two books that made you laugh.

I'll just list the most recent ones I've read:

Thud! by Terry Pratchet.

Skin Tight by Carl Hiaasen.

5. One book that made me cry (I'm sticking to one here...avoiding becoming too depressed).

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt.

6. Two books that you wish had been written.

Pay Attention to the Money
Sometimes Victimhood is a Matter of Perspective

7. Two books that you wish had not been written.

Anything by Aleister Crowley, including those penned during his sane years. He has too darkly tainted all metaphysical studies.

The Anarchist's Handbook. A popular volume when I was young. It offered way too much information on topics that I probably would have been better off never knowing.

8. Two books that you're currently reading.

Other Voices, Other Worlds: The Global Church Speaks Out on Homosexuality by Terry Brown (editor).

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

9. One book you've been meaning to read.

The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions by Karen Armstrong.

Now, who to tag?

Demi (hello, my dear!)





And anyone else who wants to talk about books. If you don't have a blog, feel free to use the comments.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Blogging Episcopalians

Aaron, a visitor and commenter here at Jake's place, wrote an article for The Living Church entitled Blogging Episcopalians.

In preparation for writing this article, Aaron sent me a few questions about blogging. I found responding to his questions a good reflection tool regarding this addictive hobby. I want to thank Aaron for giving Jake a few good quotes, including the last word:

...Ultimately, it all comes down to a common love of writing. “The blog is a hobby,” says Fr. Jake. “I do it because I enjoy it. Some ministry does occur among those who gather there, but that was never the intention. I do it because I find it to be an enjoyable way to unwind at the end of a day, and because others seem to enjoy it as well. When it quits being fun, I’ll probably shut it down."
There are sites that offer news and debates. There are sites that exist to further a particular cause. And I'm told there are websites that even attempt to do ministry. Sorry to disappoint some folks, but this blog is none of the above, even though those things do happen here once in awhile.

I'm considering taking Jake's place in some new directions. The news regarding the current unpleasantness within Anglicanism continues to get uglier each day, and tends to draw the more unsavory aspects of my own character to the surface. This is becoming not only spiritually unhealthy for me, but is also providing a poor witness to the world.

The reality is that the current unpleasantries, with their associated discourtesies, have absolutely nothing to do with the ministry that I am currently engaged in. I've taken on a project that is quite exciting, and after a year of work is beginning to bear fruit. As new developments emerge, it is demanding more and more of my attention. It is fulfilling work, and I love the people who have joined me in this adventure. Maybe one day I can speak more freely about this quest. Unfortunately, today is not that day.

Jake's place will continue, because I'm addicted to this strange world of squiggly lines on a screen. But, to keep it from slipping over the edge into the realm of anger and dreariness, there may be a broader range of topics introduced in the future.

Thanks Aaron, for the opportunity to step back and get a better view of the road ahead.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

There is a Brokenness

Shortly after General Convention a reader sent me the following words from a Sufi mystic. I stumbled across them again recently, and felt it was time to share them with you:

There is a brokenness

Out of which comes the unbroken;

A shatteredness out of which

Blooms the unshatterable.

There is a sorrow

Beyond all grief which leads to joy

And a fragility

Out of whose depths emerges strength.

There is a hollow space

Too vast for words

Through which we pass with each loss,

Out of whose darkness

We are sanctioned into being.

There is a cry deeper than all sound

Whose serrated edges cut the heart;

As we break open

To the place inside which is

Unbreakable and whole;

While we learn to sing.



Friday, August 18, 2006

Canterbury Calls for Meeting of Bishops

From the Anglican Communion News Service

Following consultation with the Presiding Bishop the Archbishop of Canterbury has asked Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia and Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida to convene a small group of bishops from the Episcopal Church (USA) to meet together to discuss some of the difficult issues facing the Church and to explore possible resolutions. Along with Bishop Griswold, those invited include Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, Bishop Bob Duncan, and Bishop Jack Iker . The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion will also attend. The first meeting will be taking place in New York in the first half of September.
Since this meeting was initiated by Dr. Williams, it will be difficult for anyone to refuse such an invitation. Hopefully, no one will be required to sign any "statements of faith" to attend this one.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

"Remaining Faithful" - November 3rd in DC

From the Episcopal Majority:



November 3–4, 2006

Purpose: To Build a National Coalition of Individuals and Groups Who Are Committed to the Values and Vitality of The Episcopal Church

And who:

  • Affirm the orthodoxy of our Church, and its adherence to the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral

  • Affirm the traditional Anglican values of national autonomy and toleration of views involving matters of Church discipline

  • Affirm the consecration of the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson and the full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in the sacramental life of the Church

  • Oppose all attempts at home and abroad to curb or demean this Church, dismember it or evict it from the Anglican Communion

  • Desire to establish ties with national churches or groups abroad who are sympathetic to The Episcopal Church

    The meeting will be held at St. Alban's School in Washington, D. C., beginning at 1:00 p.m. on November 3 and continuing from 8:30-10:30 a.m. on November 4...

    That's not too far of a drive for me, although I don't think I'll take the pony this time. Bad memories and all that.

    Could be fun. Shall we make it a Jake's place meet-up?


  • Tuesday, August 15, 2006

    The Nigerian Shell Game

    Mark Harris points to the new web site for Nigeria's CANA mission, for which Martyn Minns will be consecrated bishop on August 20.

    What is CANA? That's difficult to say, as the definition keeps moving. Let's see if we can follow it.

    We first hear of it in a letter from Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria on April 7, 2005:

    ...After much prayer and careful discernment with appropriate colleagues and advisors over the last two years, and in full consultation with the Nigerian congregations in America, together with the enthusiastic endorsement of the Episcopal Synod and the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) we announce the formation of the Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America.

    This Convocation will function as a ministry of the Church of Nigeria in America. Our intention is not to challenge or intervene in the churches of ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada but rather to provide safe harbour for those who can no longer find their spiritual home in those churches. While it will initially operate under our Constitution and Canons, it will have its own legal and ecclesial structure and local suffragan episcopate. I will be asking the next General Synod of the Church of Nigeria, which will meet in September 2005, to make the necessary constitutional amendments.
    (emphasis added)
    Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America, which will not "challenge or intervene in the churches of ECUSA," but provide a "safe harbor." Keep your eye on that, as the name and the mission is going to start shifting, and things are going to get much messier.

    Next we have a press release from Nigeria, dated September 15, 2005:

    ...The Constitutional change also allowed the Church to create Convocations and Chaplaincies of like-minded faithful outside Nigeria. This effectively gives legal teeth to the Convocation of Anglican Nigerians in Americas (CANA) formed to give a worshiping refuge to thousands in the USA who no longer feel welcomed to worship in the Liberal churches especially with the recent theological innovations encouraging practices which the Nigerians recognize as sin. (emphasis added)
    The "Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America" has morphed into "Convocation of Anglican Nigerians in Americas," which may seem like a subtle change to allow for the catchy acronym "CANA". Note that it is now offered to "thousands in the USA" with a reference to "Nigerian sin" to infer that maybe it is still a mission to Nigerian Anglicans in America, but just maybe it is something more.

    The next shift is seen in a letter from Archbishop Akinola dated November 16, 2005:

    ...Earlier this year we announced CANA - a mission of the Church of Nigeria, a Convocation for Anglicans in North America. We see this as a creative way to provide pastoral and episcopal care for those alienated by the actions of ECUSA. As we said in our letter of April 7th, 2005, “Our intention is not to challenge or intervene in the churches of ECUSA or the Anglican Church of Canada but to provide safe harbour for all those who can no longer find their spiritual home in those churches.” While CANA is an initiative of the Church of Nigeria it is our desire to welcome all those who share our faith and vision for the Church. (emphasis added)
    So now the "Convocation of Anglican Nigerians in Americas" has shifted to the "Convocation for Anglicans in North America," and "welcomes all those who share our faith..." Is it becoming obvious what is going on here? If its not clear yet, allow another piece by Mark Harris, written at the time of this subtle metamorphisis, provide a bit more clarity.

    As a reminder, the Windsor Report, released in October, 2004, and claimed by Akinola and Minns as the standard by which TEC will be judged, contains this recommendation:

    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.
    We also call upon these archbishops and bishops to seek an accommodation with the bishops of the dioceses whose parishes they have taken into their own care.
    We further call upon those diocesan bishops of the Episcopal Church (USA) who have refused to countenance the proposals set out by their House of Bishops to reconsider their own stance on this matter. If they refuse to do so, in our view, they will be making a profoundly dismissive statement about their adherence to the polity of their own church.
    One must assume that this clear admonition is the primary reason for the subterfuge (is CANA Nigerian or American?). Apparently, the need for the shell game has ended. Minns makes the following statement on the CANA site:

    Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria attempted to meet the needs of Anglican Nigerians in this country himself. But, he soon realized that maintaining a vital mission in the US could not be sustained without the presence of a domestic church structure and a local bishop. Thus, my election as CANA's missionary bishop.

    Archbishop Akinola is also well aware of the pastoral crisis that ECUSA has caused for Anglicans of all races and ethnicities in the US. And so, he is committed to seeing that CANA is welcoming of everyone-whether they're from Nigeria or not-who believe in the uniqueness of Jesus the Messiah, the authority of the Bible in our lives, and the historic faith of the Anglican tradition.
    It's also interesting to note that the mailing address of this new mission/Convocation/Province/denomination called CANA is the same as that of Truro Church, which is supposedly a parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.

    What an unusual sequence of events. Undoubtedly they have developed as the situation shifted, without any overall plan. We can never suggest all of this was done intentionally, as that would be dismissed as the ravings of a "conspiracy theorist", complete with tin foil hat.

    Regarding the shell game, the operator is sometimes called a thimblerigger or shell man. His collaborator is referred to as a shill. Just a bit of trivia that may be helpful to know one day.


    Monday, August 14, 2006

    Coats: "What Must Be Done"

    Episcopal Majority brings us another essay from the Rev. William R. Coats. In this one, he recommends specific actions:

    ...Strategically there is a need to define our Church in a more assertive and positive way. It will no longer do to apologize for what we have done; we must speak positively of who and what we are. Some of the opportunities are as follows:

    1) A more assertive theological defense of the consecration of Gene Robinson and a more rigorous biblical and theological case for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians.

    At the same time we must attack those forces which stand in opposition. This entails, as well, a firm denial that our actions constitute a fall from orthodoxy. The right-wing case rests on the preposterous notion that certain so called "liberal" actions symbolize a complete fall into heresy and apostasy. This conservative mantra is to be attacked at all times.

    2) A full defense of our Church’s use of "experience" in doing theology; and the assertion that this is fully compatible with traditional Anglican orthodoxy

    3) A full defense of the claim that there is a distinction between core doctrine and certain ethical matters

    4) Our firm belief that even those who disagree with our views on the matter of Gene Robinson are still entitled to their views and their full participation in the Church. We still tolerate dissent. But we treat dissent within the context of respectful conversation. We stand for traditional Anglicanism.

    5) We support the view of Anglicanism as a big tent. We do not believe that narrowing the Church to strict right-wing evangelicalism is theologically or ecclesiastically correct. Moreover it narrows the Church’s "market" to that small portion of the population which is "evangelically oriented."

    6) We must create a very active web-site so as to be able to gather material stating our case.


    A) To mount a challenge against any and all moves by our right-wing radicals as they attack us and to oppose the notion that an elaborate right-wing evangelicalism is a viable alternative Anglicanism

    B) To resist all efforts by the right-wing radicals to withdraw assets from the Church

    C) To be open to tactics that either support legal moves to constrict the illegal activities of the right-wing radicals or ask them to leave the church entirely

    D) To organize forces for the next General Convention that uphold our theological views


    A) To challenge the Archbishop of Canterbury

    B) To answer rigorously all attacks from forces such as Archbishop Peter Akinola

    C) To challenge the Anglican Covenant (the best that can be hoped for is that the document will be watered down and benign).

    D) To encourage our Executive Council and our Presiding Bishop to become more aggressive in their defense of the Church - which would mean:
    1) a more critical view of the Windsor Report and the Anglican Covenant.
    2) a demand that we be seated at the Anglican Consultative Council

    E) To establish relations with friendly forces overseas. Efforts should begin immediately to explore the possibility of a separate set of concordats with friendly national Churches
    Although I agree with these recommendations generally, I find myself somewhat uncomfortable with the way they are presented.

    First of all, it seems too defensive to me. It gives too much validity to the small group of Episcopalians (roughly 10%) that have been slinging mud and issuing ultimatums for the last few years. Yes, we need to respect the dignity of every human being and challenge bigotry whenever it shows its ugly head. Yes, we need to respond to those faithful Episcopalians trapped in dioceses threatening schism. Yes, we need to stop foreign bishops from pilfering Episcopal parishes. But a siege mentality will incline us to respond on their terms. I think that is a mistake.

    Making the theological case is an ongoing development, which has been advanced by To Set Our Hope in Christ. I think that is a good beginning, but much more attention does need to be paid to this effort. But let's not reinvent the wheel. Let's build on the work that has already been done.

    "...attack those forces which stand in opposition..." I'd need to understand more clearly what is meant by "attack" before I could support this kind of language. It is essential that we always remind ourselves that among the 10% of the mud slingers probably more than half of them are not "right wing radicals" (Coats attempt to label the new breed that is neither conservative, orthodox nor catholic). There is a very small group in positions of leadership in the AAC/Network/IRD that are leading many faithful Episcopalians astray with the wild accusations of apostacy and heresy leveled at TEC. To declare war on all of the members of these organizations is to make the same kind of sweeping generalizations to which we so strenuously object when made against us. I would suggest that some Network members have no idea of the unethical schemes and maneuvers plotted by their leaders in secret. Exposing these tactics is indeed our obligation. But the goal needs to be to draw those who have been misinformed back into the Body, not a "seek and destroy" mission.

    I've never been comfortable with placing "experience" as a fourth leg on our theological stool. I've always understood experience to be a subset of "reason." The raw data of experience is of no use by itself. It only develops meaning as it is included within the reasoning process.

    "...treat dissent within the context of respectful conversation..." This would seem to address my concern regarding the "attack" language, although it would seem to me that if it is indeed a clarification, it needs to be included with that statement. Placed by itself, in the midst of other issues, it rings a bit hollow.

    Once again, we encounter the term "evangelical." As we have discussed before, the term means different things in various parts of the globe. I always stumble when I see it, as I cannot imagine how a Christian could not be an evangelist. Doesn't that make us all "evangelicals"? Claiming to be an "Evangelical Christian" seems to me to be as redundant as referring to a "pizza pie," or as seen in a recent local menu, beef "with au jus".

    Regarding the strategies, I agree with all of them, but still have some concerns.

    Yes, we need to protect our assets. That's simply being responsible stewards. But using all legal means? That sounds to me like using the tactic of justifying the means by the end. This is what we find so objectionable in some of the AAC/Network/IRD tactics. I would hope that we would hold ourselves to a higher ethical standard than the secular law. After all, many of those laws were developed by professional politicians, who one would hope we recognize as not always being the best resource for moral and ethical theological considerations. On this I have to come down as a deontologist. Some legal maneuvers are simply wrong, regardless of the greater good they might accomplish. We should not use such tactics (btw, such reasoning is also behind my objection to B033; it is wrong, period; any good that may result from it should not have been a consideration when debating the ethical implications).

    "...organize forces..." Once again, I don't find such militant language helpful. Yes, we need to challenge those whom we feel are acting in a way that is detrimental to our Christian witness. But the goal is not so much to "win" as it is to convert. When we stand aginst oppression, the change of heart of the oppressor is as much the goal as the salvation of the victim. Transforming the oppressor is the only way to assure the creation of no new victims in the future. The only other option is the elimination of the oppressor through the use of force. That is a method that humans use, but it is not the way of Christ.

    Challenging Dr. Williams is necessary. But in making that challenge, there's some obstacles that need to be recognized. For instance, I found it insightful to be informed that some of the staff at Canterbury are from the George Carey era. I've been told, although I cannot confirm such stories, that much of the correspondence that actually reaches the Archbishop's desk is from the extreme fringes of the Communion. The rest is screened before ever reaching him. It is questionable if Dr. Williams is even aware of the nefarious intentions of the extremists. Creative ways to communicate with Canterbury need to be explored.

    Mentioning Peter Akinola as a specific "force" with whom we contend is something that I find myself doing quite often. He is an easy example of the mindset that I oppose. His aggresive voice is being heard as a postive corrective within some corners of the Communion, and that concerns me. In hindsight, however, I think that giving the Archbishop so much attention is really counter-productive. It seems to me that Peter has some serious personal problems, and could benefit from professional help. Consequently, until he seeks such help, when he speaks in the role of an Anglican global leader, his inappropriate language must be challenged. This does not mean that he is not a Christian. Nor does it mean that he is beyond redemption. The goal cannot be to crush him. We are called to convert him.

    Challenging the Covenant suggests that it is in and of itself a bad idea. That may be so. But, if such a challenge is rooted in a fear that the end result will exclude TEC, I think it is based on a false premise. If a Covenant was developed, I would certainly assume that TEC would have a role in such a development. Let's not lose the important point that the Anglican Communion needs TEC as much as we need her.

    I would hope that our leadership would be more "assertive" (rather than aggresive) in making it clear that TEC considers the Windsor Report to be a terribly flawed document. But, that assertion should have started some time ago. The actions by our leadership at GC2006 will make it quite difficult to make such an assertion now. It still needs to be made, but I won't be holding my breath.

    Making alliances overseas is a positive idea, although I think we need to be careful here. Foreign bishops raiding TEC is a big domestic problem right now. I would not want to start using similar tactics. I think we need to be very cautious when acting overseas. That role is appropriately given to our Presiding Bishop and his/her staff. If that team is not effectively establishing such alliances, I think that our energy needs to be focused on building up that team, not launching iniatives on our own.

    So, there are a few of my initial thoughts. Yours?


    Saturday, August 12, 2006

    Archbishop of York Calls for Week of Prayer and Fasting

    Thinking Anglicans points us to this press release:

    The Archbishop of York is encouraging people to join him in a week of prayer and fasting for the situation in the Middle East

    The Most Rev. Dr. John Sentamu is to embark on an act of ‘public witness’ to encourage people throughout the country to join him in a week long campaign of prayer and fasting for Peace in the Middle East.

    Starting on Sunday August 13th, the Archbishop will forego his seven days holiday to Salzburg in order to camp inside York Minster where he will be asking people from all over the country to join him in heart and mind to pray every hour for peace in the conflict between Israel and Lebanon, and for good community relations in Britain.

    “In the Middle East there are thousands of people sleeping in churches, bunkers, underground car parks and shelters in an attempt to escape from the bombs and rockets that are falling on both sides of the border” said the Archbishop.

    “This act is a rallying call to people of all faiths and none, to encourage them to feel that there is something that can be done. The UN has a role, diplomacy has a role and our Government has a role to play in bringing this conflict to an end. But we as people also have a role to play in showing our common humanity with all those who are suffering.

    “We have an opportunity to stand up and be counted with those in Israel, Lebanon and Palestine and all over the world who seek after Peace. This is what this week will be about, people coming together for one purpose alone – to pray for peace in our troubled world and to pray especially for the Middle East.

    “I will be inviting people from all over the country to pause for a prayer and light a candle for peace. I will lead every day, on the hour, every hour for seven days. Just like those sleeping on the floors of bunkers, car parks and churches, I will also spend the week camped out sleeping in the Minster.

    “Many thousands of people have been denied access to food and water as a result of the fighting. Why not join me in a spirit of fasting during the week by being prepared to forego a meal and donate the money to charities, like Save the Children fund, who are working in the conflict zone? At a future date we must all give generously to the reconstruction of Northern Israel, Lebanon and Palestine.”
    The Archbishop joins other religious leaders in calling us to prayer:

    We, leaders of several religious traditions have come together to encourage you, our religious communities to engage in prayer for peace in the Middle East.

    We encourage you to do this as you gather for your regular worship or faith observances. We also encourage you to engage with other religious communities in your neighborhood in events offering a joint witness to peace. We will post prayers, litanies, scripture texts, hymns and other prayer aids on this web site.

    We also encourage you to send new and creative liturgical material that you have composed or used to post on this web site for others to use.

    As religious leaders we are deeply concerned about the escalating violence in the Middle East. We pray for all those who are suffering, both those of our own communities and those we consider the “other.” We pray for an urgent end to hostilities that will both save lives and lead to a just, lasting, and secure peace.

    Pray like everything depends on God
    Work like everything depends on you.
    Let us pray:

    Remember, O Lord, the peoples of the world divided into many nations and tongues. Deliver us from every evil that gets in the way of your saving purpose; and fulfill the promises of peace to your people on earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Silence)

    From the curse of war and the human sin that causes war;
    O Lord, deliver us.

    From pride that turns its back on you, and from the unbelief that will not call you Lord;
    O Lord, deliver us.

    From national vanity that poses as patriotism; from loud-mouthed boasting and blind self-worship that admits no guilt;
    O Lord, deliver us.

    From the self-righteousness that will not compromise, and from selfishness that gains by the oppression of others;
    O Lord, deliver us.

    From the lust for money or power that drives people to kill;
    O Lord, deliver us.

    From trusting in the weapons of war, and mistrusting the councils of peace;
    O Lord, deliver us.

    From hearing, believing, and speaking lies about other nations;
    O Lord, deliver us.

    From groundless suspicions and fears that stand in the way of reconciliation;
    O Lord, deliver us.

    From words and deeds that encourage discord, prejudice, and hatred; From everything that prevents the human family from fulfilling your promise of peace;
    O Lord, deliver us.

    O God our Father: we pray for all your children on earth, and for members of the military of every nation; that they may strive for justice, kindness and peace. (Silence)

    We pray for the Church in the world.
    Give peace in our Time, O Lord.

    For the United Nations;
    Give peace in our time, O Lord.

    For international federations of labor, industry, and commerce;
    Give peace in our time, O Lord.

    For departments of state, ambassadors, and diplomats;
    Give peace in our time, O Lord.

    For worldwide agencies of compassion, which bind wounds and feed the hungry;
    Give peace in our time, O Lord.

    For all who in any way work to further the cause of peace and goodwill;
    Give peace in our time, O Lord.

    For common folk in every land who live in peace;
    Give peace in our time, O Lord.

    Eternal God: use us, even our ignorance and weakness, to bring about your holy will. Hurry the day when all people shall live together in your love; for yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

    Thursday, August 10, 2006

    B033 Still Stings

    From Lisa:

    ...there are some in my beloved Church who are expressing gratitude that I endured that whoosh and crack! of B033 without crying. They try to tell me that it shows “character” that I continue to support my Episcopal parish, despite that whoosh and crack! that was B033. Yes, here I remain in The Episcopal Church. Doing my bit in all my roles. Giving my offering. Giving my service. Giving my devotion. But feeling, too, that when another sacrificial offering needs to be made, the Anglican Communion, The Episcopal Church, my Bishop, and my Deputies won’t very much mind if they have to do the whoosh and crack! routine once more on the backs of the gay and lesbian members of the Body of Christ. They already did it in Columbus. I hear it gets easier with practice.
    As one commenter put it, "Abuse is abuse is abuse. Period."

    There are those who are calling for us to move on. And, yes, eventually we will need to do that. But let us never forget the pain caused by the actions of GC2006. Never again.


    UPDATE First of all, please read Lisa's complete post before responding. She has now offered an update.

    And finally, if you want an even larger context from which to understand the strong feelings surrounding this most unfortunate resolution, consider the history of horrors that preceded it.

    Tuesday, August 08, 2006

    The Life and Election of Gene Robinson

    A couple of years ago I stumbled across The Cassandra Pages, a blog that consistently offers excellent writing and beautiful photographs. Another aspect of this blog that I've found intriguing is that Beth, the author, has been writing a book about Bishop Gene Robinson.

    Yesterday I received an email from Soft Skull Press informing me that the book, Going to Heaven: The Life and Election of Gene Robinson is now available.

    This volume appears to not only offer us an opportunity to walk with Bishop Robinson through the last few years, but also may help us grow in our understanding of how we have arrived at the current situation we find ourselves in within the Anglican Communion.

    Here's part of the publisher's description of the book:

    ...Through a lively text based on extensive interviews with Bishop Robinson, his closest associates, family, colleagues, and observers, and illustrated with photographs from all phases of his life, this book paints a portrait of Bishop Robinson not as a symbol but a human being who is, as he puts it, "neither the angel nor the devil some would make me out to be." It illuminates his life; his struggle with - and eventual acceptance of - his sexual orientation; his calling to become a priest and later a bishop. It tells the story of the critical, central events of his election and consecration amid intense opposition, huge security concerns, and media attention. The book follows him through the next two years as he juggles dual roles - Bishop of New Hampshire, and symbol of gay achievement and the progressive church - while the opposition stirred by his election creates increasing pressure for schism in the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Communion at large. The book concludes with a discussion of the deep theological and historical significance of Gene Robinson's election and personal vision for the future, and what this means both for individuals and for a Church seeking to be relevant in a post-modern world.
    The sample chapter, Centering, opens with a sobering description of the degree that security became a very real concern shortly after Gene was elected:

    “I knew what it was right away,” said Paula Bibber. “I was the only one who handled the letter: I opened it, and I bagged it—and then I only let the bishop look at it, because I didn’t want to let anyone else get their fingerprints on it. So I had a little experience with the police department. They were kind enough to come here to fingerprint me, as opposed to having me go down to their office.”

    As the bishop’s executive assistant, Paula opened all the mail for Bishop Doug Theuner and for Bishop-elect Gene Robinson. There had been some hate mail after the New Hampshire election, but it increased dramatically after all the media coverage at General Convention made it clear that the consecration would go forward. The date for the consecration was set for November 2, immediately following the annual New Hampshire Diocesan Convention.

    The hate mail was taken seriously from the beginning but, perhaps because this was New Hampshire, unused to hate crime and still a little slow to grasp just how big a tidal wave was being created by the ripple in their small pond, the idea that anyone would truly want to harm, or even kill, their bishop-elect to prevent his consecration seemed astounding. But when this particular piece of mail arrived— a clear death threat to Gene—the Concord police contacted the FBI, and the New Hampshire Standing Committee and bishop’s staff realized they had a serious situation that must be addressed. The envelope contained a picture of Gene and Mark from an article in an out-of-state newspaper. Gene’s head was circled in red and an arrow led from the circle to the margin, where words indicated that he was either dead or would be killed. “The threat was more visual than verbal,” said Paula, “but its intent was very clear”...
    In this chapter Bp. Robinson offers what he refers to as his "Cliff Notes" version of his response to the inevitable question he is asked about scripture. His answer is quite relevant to many of our recent conversations, so I'm going to reproduce it here, without the italics and indentation, as it is rather lengthy:


    ...In almost every audience, someone rose to ask Gene about how he interpreted the Biblical passages that seem to clearly denounce homosexual behavior. Gene often said his answer would be “the Cliffs Notes version” and that if the discussion could go on for two days, “we could really do it right.” He usually began his answer by saying that, as Christians, we take Scripture very seriously—and then adding that Episcopalians have always taken Scripture seriously, and never literally. “Some of the critics are calling themselves traditionalists,” he said, “and yet are trying to take us to a place that has never been our tradition. Ever. We’ve never been a denomination that literally read and believed every word of the Bible. On the other hand, we take it all seriously. But what I’m going to end up telling you is that I don’t believe the Bible addresses what we are addressing today, which are faithful, lifelong, monogamous relationships between people of the same gender. The Bible doesn’t talk about this.”

    The Bible contains seven brief passages that seem to speak to homosexuality. Gene divides them into several different categories. The Old Testament contains the Book of Leviticus, a part of the Hebrew Bible which contains the “Law.” Leviticus spells out rules about how the Jews were to live, and much of this is a so called “purity code,” detailing how the people were to keep themselves pure and untainted by the pagan cultures around them. That involved keeping kosher, not wearing cloth and leather at the same time, and a number of other rules. To his audiences, Gene explained his view that the Levitical code also included instructions for survival, as a race. At the time, all that was thought to be necessary for continuation of the race was contained in a man’s sperm, and the woman “sort of just provided a nest in which it could grow up.” The woman didn’t contribute anything; what was precious was the sperm. So to “spill one’s seed on the ground” was sinful, and therefore masturbation, sex between two men, and other acts that didn’t preserve the sperm for procreation were excluded. “That doesn’t seem to be about faithful, committed relationships between people of the same sex,” he said.

    The often-quoted Sodom and Gomorrah1 story, in the Book of Genesis, is an example of the wide difference between literal interpretation and the interpretation of scholars who examine ancient texts according to linguistic, cultural, historical, and archaeological evidence. The ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were located in Palestine, near the Dead Sea. According to the Biblical story, because of the unacceptable behavior of the inhabitants—their specific sin is not spelled out— God tells Abraham that he intends to destroy Sodom. Abraham asks God what would happen if he found there were any righteous people in Sodom. God promises Abraham that he will spare the city if it contains ten righteous people, and sends two angels to investigate. Near the city gates, the angels find a man named Lot, who invites them to his house for a meal and shelter:

    But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.”
    Lot refuses to give the visiting angels to the men of Sodom and instead offers them his two virgin daughters. The crowd refuses to accept this compromise. The angels then save Lot from the crowd; Lot and his family are told to leave the city, and God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone.

    In speaking about this story, Gene explained that showing hospitality to guests is, and always was, of great value in the Middle East. Travel was difficult; not to offer strangers shelter and food put them in grave danger. “But,” he continued, “even if you want to look at the homosexual part of Sodom and Gomorrah, it’s about homosexual rape, not faithful, loving relationships. And, when the two angels do not offer to be raped by the townspeople, Lot offers his daughters, his virgin daughters, instead. I mean, hello? Are these the kinds of Biblical values we want to espouse? Even Ezekiel,4 and even Jesus, mention that inhospitality was the sin of Sodom, and its failure to take care of the poor, the fact that it lacked justice, and so on. Neither mentions homosexuality. So even within the context of the Bible itself, homosexuality was not thought to be the point of the story.”

    Paul mentions homosexuality in the New Testament, but those passages also strike Gene as murky. He uses an interesting analogy when explaining this difficulty: “I think the passages written by Paul are very difficult to be certain about, because no one knows exactly what those words mean. There are a number of theories. But the fact is, we’ve lost the primary knowledge. Let’s say the game of baseball were lost to us, and a thousand years from now, someone discovered a novel, and it said, “Erik is a little out in left field.” Well, you could claim to know what that meant, because you know what left is, and you know what a field is: you would know what each of the words meant, but if you didn’t know anything about the game of baseball, you wouldn’t get the meaning of the text. You wouldn’t know that most people are right-handed batters, and that if you’re playing left field you have to back way up. The term ‘being in left field’ came to mean a person who’s a little out of touch, a little bit isolated and so forth. It’s the same here: some of these texts are pretty difficult to understand unless we can figure out what they meant to those who wrote them and what they meant to the people who heard them at that time.”

    Jesus never mentions homosexuality at all. In Gene’s view, in the New Testament passages most often cited, Paul may have been speaking against the common Greek practice by which an older man took a younger boy sexually, as well as intellectually, into manhood. “Today we would call that child abuse, and no one’s arguing for that,” Gene said.

    He continued: “It’s very difficult to take a modern psychological understanding, like homosexual orientation, and plug it back into an ancient text, in which it was unknown. Those texts were written at a time when everyone was presumed to be heterosexual. So to act in any other way was to be against one’s nature. The whole psychological construct of sexual orientation is a little better than 100 years old. So we can’t take something that we know now, and plug it back into a text that’s several millennia old, and think that they meant what we mean.”

    Gene agrees that the seven passages are all negative. But, he says, “they are not talking about what we are talking about today.” Likewise, he says he values being in a church in which different interpretations of the same passages can and do coexist.

    “It’s pretty easy to say that everything in the Bible is literally true, or none of it is true. But the way we have traditionally done Scripture in our denomination is that any one verse must be seen in the context of the whole. In other words, you can’t take one verse and raise it to a position of importance if it flies in the face of the whole of the Scriptures. Conversely, just because we decide that one part of Scripture is not eternally binding on us, it doesn’t mean that the whole thing comes tumbling down”...

    Thank you, Beth, for offering us this closer look at the life of Bishop Robinson and the wider issues we face as a justice seeking community. I hope that it will help open a few hearts.

    Click on the picture of Gene to order the book.


    Monday, August 07, 2006

    Minns: Episcopal Rector AND Nigerian Bishop?

    From the Washington Times:

    The rector of Truro Episcopal Church announced yesterday that he will be consecrated a bishop on Aug. 20 at the Anglican cathedral in Abuja, Nigeria, a move that could lead to further schism among U.S. Episcopalians...

    ...The parish is walking a tightrope. Virginia Bishop Peter J. Lee, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, has called Mr. Minns' election "an affront," adding that it would be "impossible" for Mr. Minns to act simultaneously as rector of Truro and as a bishop for the Nigerian church's Convocation of Anglican Churches in North America (CANA).

    Yet, Mr. Minns intends to do precisely that until his successor at Truro is chosen next year.

    Originally set up for expatriate Nigerians, CANA also will shelter displaced church conservatives in ongoing Episcopal battles over issues of Scripture and sexuality. In July, Nigerian bishops released a statement calling the U.S. Episcopal Church a "cancerous lump" that should be "excised" from the worldwide Anglican Communion...
    If Minns chooses to place himself under the authority of Abp. Akinola, that is certainly his decision to make, unwise at it may seem. But, to also continue as the Rector of a parish in the diocese of Virginia is to invite chaos.

    The statement that CANA was "originally set up for expatriate Nigerians" perpetuates the subterfuge initiated by Abp. Akinola. CANA is a weak attempt to justify what some consider criminal actions. It is part of the unfolding plans launched years ago by the AAC/Network.

    One would hope that Bp. Lee of Virginia will not wait for 815 to act. Minns needs to receive a swift message that such maneuvers will not be tolerated.


    Friday, August 04, 2006

    Speaking of Real Conservatives...

    From the Living Church:

    The Bishop of Texas, the Rt. Rev. Don A. Wimberly, is interested in assembling all members of the House of Bishops who are willing to stand firmly with the recommendations of the Windsor Report. In a letter dated July 28, Bishop Wimberly announced a consultation to be held Sept. 19-22 at Camp Allen near Navasota, Texas.

    “It is my hope that you will be able to accept this invitation and enter with fellow bishops into a consultation that can produce a way forward that both prevents some in our Church from ‘walking apart’, and others from seeking irregular means of preserving their Anglican identity,” Bishop Wimberly wrote. “I want to emphasize that this invitation is to a consultation rather than a conference”...
    Do I disagree with just about all of their discussion points? Most definately. Do I respect their right to hold a different perspective on this matter? Absolutely. If their goal is as stated above, to "produce a way forward that both prevents some in our Church from ‘walking apart’, and others from seeking irregular means of preserving their Anglican identity," then I applaud Bp. Wimberly for calling for this consultation. It is past time to hear from some sane conservative leaders.

    A tip of the biretta to Widening for this one.


    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    Don't Call Them Conservatives

    My concern, since the early 90s, has been the rise of a new breed within the Church that does not fit into our former classifications. They are neither High nor Low, conservative nor liberal. A parallel could be made between this new group and the emergence of what is sometimes called the "neo-conservatives" in the political realm. It is a stretch to think of the administration of George Bush as "conservative," in light of the astronomical deficit we currently face and his Wilsonian idealism regarding the exportation of democracy.

    This new breed is certainly not "conservative" in the same way that I came to understand that term until recently. There have always been conservatives within the Church, who, even if you disagreed with them, you still respected and read their work, often discovering nuggets of wisdom. Names that come to mind would include Newman, Wesley, Gore, Ramsey, Carey, Mascall, Stott and Lewis.

    This new breed, which I first encountered as a seminarian at Nashotah House, can be most quickly identified by their anger and their militant language. It is as if they have declared war on the Episcopal Church, and, as the cliche goes, "all's fair in love and war." The tactics they are willing to use to further their cause are shameful. They sully the reputation of all respectable conservatives within Anglicanism. I have yet to find an appropriate name for this group, although one commonality seems to be that most of them have chosen to align themselves with the Network.

    I was recently pointed to an essay that does an excellent job of attempting to identify this new breed, and explains why it is erroneous to consider them as representative of the "conservative" position within Anglicanism. The author is Teresa Mathes of the Diocese of San Diego, wife of Bishop James Mathes:


    Don't Call Them Conservatives
    by Teresa Mathes

    I was raised by conservatives. In Southern California, where I now live, this is rather like saying you were raised by wolves. But I like to think the people who raised me did a good job: they gave me a strong sense of family and of community obligation; they taught me to respect social institutions. Conservatives, my mother often said, valued what was best in society and tried to preserve it. She abhorred mob tactics, half-truths and secrecy. “If you have to hide it,” she’d say, “You shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

    I was also raised Episcopalian. My grandfather helped build the church in which my mother was married, then my cousin, then my sister and I in our turn. I was graduated from Sewanee, a liberal arts college owned by the Southern dioceses of the Episcopal Church. I have sung Evensong in Canterbury Cathedral, lunched with a Primate of New Zealand and dined with an Archbishop of Canterbury. By the time I was twenty-eight, I was on a first name basis with Jack Allin and Cecil Woods, and if you don’t know those names, it only proves how pathetically, arcanely Episcopalian I am.

    Of course, if you do know those names, you know how un-Anglican all this boasting is. The Episcopal Church in which I was raised was a church of civility, a church that thought before it spoke. Some would say we thought too much and spoke too circumspectly. So I am being very clear here about the position from which I speak. Because what I have to say is that the AAC and the ACN do not represent true conservatives.

    Like many Episcopalians, I had scarcely heard of these organizations; then, just over a year ago, my husband was consecrated Bishop of San Diego. Over time, I learned that AAC stood for American Anglican Council, a group of parishes that objected, among other things, to the consecration of Gene Robinson. The Anglican Communion Network (ACN) appeared to be an association of bishops with similar views. These names were used interchangeably with “the conservatives,” so when the groups began to distinguish themselves by their actions, I was astonished to see those actions labeled “conservative.”

    For instance, both the AAC and the ACN attack the idea of gay marriage as a violation of orthodoxy, yet they enforce no position on divorce, even among their own clergy. Now, I’m inclined to be merciful when it comes to divorce, having been abandoned by a deadbeat father and raised by a single mother, but if you’re going to take the Scriptural hard line on sex and relationships, you have to face what Jesus said about divorce, which is, “Don’t.” As a social institution, the American family is far more endangered by divorce and its attendant poverty than by monogamous gay couples. Trust me, I was there. Maybe that’s why the only time Jesus mentions sex and relationships is to tell people to keep it together. If the AAC and the Network truly represent conservative values, they would work for better premarital counseling, support of young families in our transient society, and mediation between troubled couples. Maybe they’re working on these things, but there’s nothing on their websites about it.

    When it comes to community obligation, the AAC and the Network look good at first. Their websites are heavy with associated parishes, presumably working together for a greater purpose. They hold regional meetings and conferences to advise new members and generally pump up the faithful. Problem is, they’re more clique than community. AAC priests in this diocese routinely avoid diocesan gatherings, even social ones. When we held a series of four receptions in our home, less than a third of the AAC clergy came; at diocesan convention, one was too busy handing out pamphlets to meet my eyes, even after I put my hand on his shoulder to say hello. At this year’s consecration of deacons, only one vested for the service.

    As for the Network, the majority of their bishops attend House of Bishops meetings by booking rooms nearby and holding their own meetings; the Network bishop nearest San Diego has not attended the last three meetings of the House. These are men (all men) who were asked at their consecration to “share with your fellow bishops in the government of the Whole Church.” People who neglect their responsibility to govern have nothing to say to me, especially in times of conflict. As my mom used to say, “If you don’t vote, you’ve got no right to complain.”

    Which brings me to that business about preserving what is best in society. To many conservatives, Gene Robinson’s election represented a profound challenge to the traditional understanding of moral fitness for ministry, and it did so without even stopping to define what a new understanding might be. To people who consider preservation important, this is a reckless way to proceed. It is throwing out the baby and keeping the bath water in hopes that you’ll find another baby beneath the surface.

    So how have these self-described champions of conservatism responded? Sadly, by throwing out even more of our venerable traditions. They have spent the last three years crossing diocesan boundaries to perform Episcopal functions, violating an understanding that dates back before the Fourth Century Council of Nicea, and they have actively worked to siphon church property to such cradles of Anglican tradition as the Diocese of Bolivia.

    This is where the AAC and ACN fall farthest short in my view. The Internet now bristles with memos leaked to the press or uncovered during lawsuits that reveal a common theme: threats to “separate,” plans to secure church property, commitments to “realignment” and to “guerrilla warfare.” There is nothing preservationist in this behavior, and it is especially repugnant for its air of secrecy and deceit. The memos are marked “Confidential” and “For Discussion Only;” letters advise parishes to “innovatively move around, beyond or within the canons” and caution against passing information electronically.

    The conservatives I know would be ashamed of such behavior. I know I am. I am ashamed that the AAC and the ACN are now synonymous with conservatism and I wish to give genuine conservatives back their name. The conservatives I know are honest, civil people who would scorn secret memos and “innovations” meant to skirt the canons. Let’s face it, that kind of behavior also represents a profound challenge to the traditional understanding of moral fitness for ministry. As Mother would say, “If you have to hide it, you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”