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.


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