Monday, October 30, 2006

There's a New Boss in Town...

...and her name is Katharine Jefferts Schori. From The Living Church:

On the eve of Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s investiture as the 26th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, her chancellor, David Booth Beers, has written identical letters to the chancellors of two traditionalist dioceses demanding that they change language “that can be read as cutting against an ‘unqualified accession’ to the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church...

...In recent years, four dioceses – Fort Worth (Texas), Pittsburgh, Quincy (Ill.) and San Joaquin (Calif.) – have amended their constitutions to qualify the diocese’s accession to General Convention, reserving the right of the diocese to reject bylaws which in their view contradict scripture and/or historic church teachings. Spokespersons for Pittsburgh and San Joaquin reported being unaware of receiving a similar letter. Fort Worth, Quincy and San Joaquin are the only three dioceses in The Episcopal Church which do not ordain women.

Mr. Beers concludes his letter stating “should your diocese decline to take that step, the Presiding Bishop will have to consider what sort of action she must take in order to bring your diocese into compliance”...
“The timing of this letter is shocking,” Fort Worth Bishop Jack L. Iker told The Living Church. Is it really, Bishop? Let me suggest to you what I find even more shocking:

  • That a bishop and the leadership of a diocese think they can change their constitution and canons so that they are no longer under the authority The Episcopal Church and not be deposed for Abandonment of the Communion of this Church. The Constitution and Canons are quite clear on this point. First, to define our terms, from the Preamble we find this statement:

    The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, otherwise known as The Episcopal Church (which name is hereby recognized as also designating the Church)...
    Within the Constitution and Canons, "the Church" is understood to refer to "The Episcopal Church." Now consider Title IV, Canon 9; Of Abandonment of the Communion of This Church by a Bishop:

    If a Bishop abandons the communion of this Church (i) by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this Church...The Presiding Bishop, with the consent of the three senior Bishops having jurisdiction in this Church, shall then inhibit the said Bishop until such time as the House of Bishops shall investigate the matter and act thereon.
    I think "qualifying" all references to "The Episcopal Church," refusing to recognize our Presiding Bishop, and planning to leave Province 7 certainly qualifies as an "open renunciation," don't you? This is indeed shocking behavior.

  • In the 2006 budget for the Diocese of Fort Worth, the giving to The Episcopal Church was reduced from $30,000 to 0, while raising the amount given to the Network from $20,000 to $50,000. I find that shocking.

  • Bishop Iker has refused to share in the Holy Eucharist at meetings of the House of Bishops or General Convention. Shockingly rude, at best, with some suggestion of a Donatist tilt, it seems to me.

  • Bishop Iker has instructed his clergy not to include Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in the local parish's Prayers of the People. He has used his position of authority to mandate his personal biases throughout his diocese. His level of arrogance is indeed shocking.

  • At the meeting in New York with Bps. Griswold and Jefferts Schori, which he has the audacity to mention in the LC article, he entered the room, in which was a large table, and proceeded to the far end, sitting by himself. He had to be cajoled into moving closer. During the "discussion," he announced that he would not participate in any further conversations. Such raw displays of egoism are shocking.

    I must admit that I am really not all that shocked by any of this. I saw Bp. Iker once during General Convention. That one glimpse was enough to read the character of this man. It was during the hearings on the Windsor resolutions. There was a long line of those preparing to testify before the committee. Bishop Duncan spoke just before Bp. Robinson. As Bp. Robinson began his statement, Bp. Iker and his entourage stood up and sauntered out of the hall.

    This Bishop may assume he is coated with teflon. The inaction of 815 may have encouraged him to act in such an arrogant manner. I would remind the bishop that our new PB has recently returned from a visit with the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which they had a "frank conversation about challenges in the Communion..." Bp. Katharine is known for her sharp intellect. I think it is safe to assume that these letters were a part of her "frank conversation" with Dr. Williams.

    Anticipating this quick action on the part of our new Presiding Bishop may explain the bit of backpedaling we have recently witnessed by the Diocese of Dallas. We can anticipate more cracks to appear in the solidarity of the "AlPO" dioceses in the weeks to come.

    Bishop Katharine has called your bluff, Bp. Iker. Raise or fold? Regardless of how you decide to play, betting your mitre, and the well-being of all those congregations placed under your pastoral care, was a shocking gamble.


    UPDATE: Jim Naughton offers some wise words for us to think about. Here's a taste:

    ...I generally agree with Jake and Mark on the issues confronting our church, but I am more uneasy than they about these letters. My unease may be rooted in reasons peculiar to myself, or to a person in my profession, but I think it hints at a broader problem: namely, the seeming unwillingness of our leadership to recognize the virtue of dealing more openly with the press and with Church members regarding the problems before us.

    When your organization is involved in an ongoing controversy, it is extremely advantageous to be able to control the content and timing of news stories. The Episcopal right understands this well, and keeps creating well-timed news events that get reporters’ attention, and foster the impression that they are on the march while the Church leadership is in retreat. Here was an occasion, however, where both the content of the next news story (“Chancellor sends letters”) and the timing of the news story (a clock that starts ticking when the letters are mailed) were entirely in Church Center’s control.

    If it is a given that the content of the letters will become public, the most media-savvy thing to do is to release the letters broadly with an explanation of why you were doing what you were doing and why you were doing it now. This not only insures that your side of the story leads whatever pieces might be written, it also guarantees that your interpretive framing of the story will be taken seriously...
    There's also a good discussion going on at Mark's place.

  • Saturday, October 28, 2006

    National Gathering Begins Next Friday

    From The Episcopal Majority:

    The first gathering of The Episcopal Majority, “Remaining Faithful,” to be held at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church, in Washington, DC, November 3 and 4, has topped 100 registrants. The Rev. David Fly announced today that a “wonderful cross-section” of our church will be represented. “So far, 42 dioceses are represented among attendees, with a good mix of laity, clergy and bishops,” said Fly. Some journalists and popular Episcopalian bloggers will also be present at the gathering which begins at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, November 3rd...
    Who will be there?

    Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles will be the keynote speaker.

    David Booth Beers, Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop, will lead the "Legal Issues Confronting Parishes and Dioceses" workshop.

    Sarah Dylan Breuer, editor of The Witness and author of Dylan's Lectionary Blog will lead the "Communications" workshop.

    The Rev. Canon Mark Harris will lead "The Matrix and the Compass Rose" workshop. Mark is a member of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church and serves on the Standing Commission on World Mission. Most of you probably know him as the author of Preludium.

    The Rev. Bill Coats will lead the "Confronting the Covenant" workshop. We have previously discussed a couple of Bill's essays here at Jake's place.

    Christopher Wilkins, facilitator of Via Media USA and author of the the recent letters regarding bishop-elect Mark Lawrence, will lead the "Waging Reconciliation" workshop.

    I'll be there, at least for the Friday sessions. May have to drive home that night, as things are shaping up. I won't be offering any workshops. Probably won't be saying much either. Just listening, and showing my support for this effort.

    So who else is going? Jim, I assume you'll be there? What about you, rh? A day trip for you now. And John, you're in DC, right? Come join us.

    We've briefly talked about having a meet-up of Jakites Friday night. Let's plan it. I'll even buy the first round. Coffee for me, of course, but y'all can pick your own poison.

    Directions to St. Columba's can be found here.


    Friday, October 27, 2006

    Getting Out of the Marriage Business

    This weekend the Diocese of Massachusetts will gather for their Annual Convention. Among the resolutions they will consider will be this one:

    Resolution Regarding the Ministry of Blessing Marriages,
    submitted by The Rev. Barbara Edgar, The Rev. Mally Lloyd, The Rev. Steve Smith, The Rev. Pam Werntz and the Rev. Skip Windsor.

    Resolved, that it is the sentiment of the 221st Convention of the Diocese of Massachusetts that beginning January 2008, Episcopal marriages be presided over by an agent of the state; and be it further,

    Resolved, that it is the sentiment of the 221st Convention of the Diocese of Massachusetts that marriages in the Diocese of Massachusetts be limited to the blessing of the union as a holy act and that clergy not act as an agent of the state for any form of civil marriage.

    It is time to question whether clergy ought to act as agents of the state in Massachusetts. The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States enunciates the importance of the separation of Church and State to protect the religious liberties of all Americans. The Church and its clergy are in the ministry of blessing, and not in the vocation of conducting, marriage ceremonies. In many other parts of the world the role clergy play is strictly that of blessing civil marriages or unions.
    The Diocesan site offers further explanation:

    ...The proposers say their resolution stems from concern about separation of church and state, as well as a desire to equalize the role of Episcopal clergy in all marriage ceremonies in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal. Currently Episcopal clergy may bless but not officiate same-sex marriages...
    And from the Boston Globe:

    ...Episcopal priests in Massachusetts have been particularly engaged in the issue of gay marriage, because the diocese here has been strongly supportive of gay rights, but the national church's regulations define marriage as a heterosexual institution. The local bishop, M. Thomas Shaw , a supporter of same-sex marriage, has decreed that local Episcopal priests cannot sign the marriage licenses of same-sex couples, but can bless those couples after they are legally married by clergy of another denomination or by a civil official.

    "I feel this is a way to equalize an inequity in what Episcopal clergy can do for gay folks and straight folks," said the Rev. Margaret (Mally) E. Lloyd , rector of Christ Church in Plymouth. Lloyd is one of five Episcopal priests sponsoring the resolution.

    "Right now, we can only offer blessings for gay folks who are married, and it's not fair," she said. ``The church moves slowly to make changes in canon law, so what can we do in the meantime? This is something good for the diocese to wrestle with."
    It's about time we started seriously considering such a proposal. I've never been comfortable with the clergy's role in the whole marriage license bit.

    Being a resident of New Jersey, I'll be watching this resolution closely. It may be a good template for our Diocesan Convention.

    Elizabeth Kaeton offers some good commentary on the New Jersey ruling. After you've read it, make sure you go sign the petition.


    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    Ignatius: "Schism as the Source of Mischief"

    We recently commemorated Ignatius, the second bishop of Antioch, martyred in 115. During his march from Syria to Rome as a prisoner, he wrote seven letters to various churches. Some of his quotes seem quite relevant to our current unpleasantness.

    For instance, consider this one regarding the authority of written texts:

    When I heard some people saying, ‘If I don’t find it in the ancient documents, I don’t believe it in the Gospel,’ I answered them, ‘But it is written there.’ They retorted, ‘That has got to be proved.’ But to my mind it is Jesus Christ who is the ancient documents.
    And this one, regarding schism and the authority of bishops:

    Flee from schism as the source of mischief. You should all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ did the Father. Follow, too, the presbytery as you would the apostles; and respect the deacons as you would God’s law . . . . Where the bishop is present, there let the congregation gather, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.
    You'd think that after 2,000 years we would have learned a thing or two. Apparently not. The same controversies keep on popping up.


    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    Seeking Christian Community

    Joe Perez is a former Roman Catholic who is currently a homeless Christian seeking a spiritual community. He is considering the Episcopal Church. As part of his research, he is fisking the catechism.

    Joe is quite honest in his critique, and doesn't pull any punches. By so doing, he has provided us with a great service. I think it is helpful to hear how others view a belief system that many of us may have taken for granted for much of our lives.

    In order for such a bold commentary to spark dialogue, it is important that we first read it with the intention of seeking to understand the author, not to engage in a debate. We begin by listening. Later we might go back and develop responses to specific points.

    Here is one section:

    Q. How did God first help us?
    A. God first helped us by revealing himself and his will, through nature and history, through many seers and saints, and especially through the prophets of Israel.

    Oh, oh. Just reading the question I can tell that the questioner is asking for a story here. Mythic amber alert! Yup... I have no problem with stories about God. I have no problem with saying that some stories appeal to a religious community more than others and have a deeper resonance. But something tells me this story's gonna start with an opposite-sex couple, an apple and a snake and the terrible crime of a bad, disobedient, independent-thinking woman who is really to blame for everything wrong with the world. A few words later and we learn that God is a "He" who revealed "Himself" in many ways (the "many ways" part, at least, is good to see), and "especially through the prophets of Israel."

    Guess what? I have a problem with the word especially here. No, no, no, no, no. Especially from what perspective? Especially based on what set of traditions which are owned explicitly by what faith communities in what particular set of circumstances? I have a feeling I'll be coming back to this again and again, but this catechism doesn't speak to me. So long as it asks me to check my modern and postmodern brain at the door and think like a premodern/child, it pushes me away.

    I hear my inner voice saying: "I can do better than this... I can experience Christian community in ways that are deep, meaningful, loving, and respectful of the brains and hearts of all, not just a few." But then I sigh. Are other Christian denominations or sects really any better? If the Episcopal Church weren't one of the most progressive and enlightened of all the communions, would I even bother investigating the Church as a prospective home? It's a painful, sad state of affairs. Let's see if the Episcopal Church's catechism gets any better... I'm not sure I'll make it to the end, but it's a very concise document so I'll try my best.
    The above is from the first of a five part series on the catechism. The other sections can be found here, here, here and here.

    I know that I don't need to remind most readers of this, but for the benefit of visitors, please keep in mind that we try to meet everyone where they are in their spiritual life, and avoid the temptation to drag them to where we think they should be.

    I think there are more folks than we might imagine that would agree with many of Joe's comments. You'll find some in our pews on any given Sunday morning. You'll find others in our pews who are there for the music, but don't have much interest in all the God talk. And others are there to keep peace in the family. And still others who simply enjoy being part of the community.

    Does it matter why they are there? Must we insist on uniformity of motive? I certainly hope not.

    Our worship attempts to offer an encounter with the living God. If we are successful or not in that attempt is another discussion. As sacramental Christians, we offer signs to point the way to such encounters in many different concrete forms; through scripture, water, wine, bread, words, prayers, candles, music, incense, bells, vestments and the people gathered. The catechism, and for that matter the creeds, are one of these signs, but not necessarily the most important one, it seems to me.

    We offer these signs. We don't force them on anyone. The day we start doing that is the day I hang up my collar.


    Saturday, October 21, 2006

    Via Media Urges Closer Scrutiny of Bishop-elect Lawrence

    In letters to all the Bishops and Standing Committees of the Episcopal Church, Christopher Wilkins, Facilitator of Via Media USA, urges careful consideration before giving consent to the election of Mark Lawrence as Bishop of South Carolina:

    ...Fr. Lawrence’s episcopacy would represent a threat to the unity of our church and to the cohesion of the Diocese of South Carolina. The case against consenting to Fr. Lawrence’s election is not based on his theology or personal beliefs, but on the way these are likely to affect the polity, and hence the unity and integrity, of this church. Fr. Lawrence has endorsed separating the Diocese of South Carolina from the Episcopal Church and has advocated that the authority of the General Convention be surrendered to the primates of the Anglican Communion. Under the circumstances, it is difficult to see how Fr. Lawrence could be asked or expected to take the required vow to “guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church,” (BCP page 517)...
    We have previously discussed some concerns regarding the election of Mark Lawrence. Lionel Deimel offers a much more thorough examination of his past statements in an article titled No Consents:

    ...The Rev. Mark Lawrence, rector of an Episcopal parish in the Diocese of San Joaquin, has been elected by the Diocese of South Carolina to become its next bishop. He is on record as saying that the polity of The Episcopal Church is informed more by notions of democracy and nationalism than Anglicanism, disqualifying it as being appropriate for the current age. He wants to replace it immediately and, without sanction of the General Convention, allow the Anglican primates to govern The Episcopal Church. The election of Mark Lawrence offers a clear indication of just how radical the Diocese of South Carolina has become; he was generally viewed as the most centrist of the three candidates in the episcopal election that took place in South Carolina on September 16, 2006!

    Is a person holding such views someone we want to see become a member of the House of Bishops and, thereby, part of the governing structure of The Episcopal Church? This question needs to be asked now because Lawrence cannot be consecrated Bishop of South Carolina unless a majority of bishops with jurisdiction, and a majority of diocesan standing committees, give their consent. In the history of The Episcopal Church, fewer than a dozen priests elected bishop have failed to receive the necessary consents, and it has been more than half a century since anyone has been denied consecration this way. Lawrence’s election poses an unprecedented challenge, however. When confronted by such a clear and present danger to its very existence—the South Carolina election is part of the wider assault on The Episcopal Church—can our church rally the resolve to protect its faith and order? I believe that it must, and that the outcome of the South Carolina election should not be allowed to stand...
    Take a careful look at the documents Lionel cites. If some of the answers to the clergy survey (note especially 17-21) are not enough evidence of a serious impediment, consider this quote from Lawrence:

    ...As I see it at present, of the four instruments of unity, the only one capable of such inclusive yet negotiable action is the most recently established of the four, the primates. They alone have a sufficiently representative authority to set theological boundaries and perimeters for the individual provinces until the Communion can do the necessary constitutional work to realize the intercultural, inter-provincial unity we have claimed for ourselves over the past two centuries.

    Such primatial authority in things doctrinal and moral will cause much distress, as will the separate matter of developing a unifying constitution. It will mean that Episcopal Church polity, as well as the polity of the other autonomously governed provinces, will be supplanted by a new, emerging form of Anglican governance sufficient for the age of globalism...
    We have a bishop-elect who believes there should be no room in the Episcopal Church for priests and bishops who accept homosexual conduct as a valid, non-sinful choice, the church should divide over this issue, and if the Diocese of South Carolina separates in some formal way from TEC, he will leave with the diocese. He advocates for the polity of TEC to be replaced by governance by the Primates. He champions schism.

    I think we have good reasons to be concerned about Mark Lawrence becoming a Bishop in TEC. I believe it is time to openly discuss these concerns.

    It is my understanding that Via Media USA seeks to bring more light than heat to this discussion. That is my hope as well. Take a deep beath, rein in your emotions............and now let the conversation begin.


    Friday, October 20, 2006

    God is Resistant to Cheap Certainty

    Giles Fraser offers a critique of Richard Dawkins’s new book, The God Delusion. He suggests that the error that some modern atheists make is that the Christianity they challenge is a very conservative model which does not even begin to capture the experience of many progressive and moderate Christians:

    ...The root of the problem is that too many modern atheists adopt a position that is a photographic negative of a sort of Christianity believed only by the most conservative. God is X, says the modern atheist, giving a short definition that allegedly captures what all believers believe. This means that the God they reject doesn’t look anything like the God that most of us meet in our prayers.

    Yet the one thing that we learn from the Hebrew scriptures is that there is no X that can articulate the infinite mystery of the divine. Again and again, the Bible puts us off trying to achieve definitions. What else is "I am what I am" but a very Hebraic way of refusing to allow God to be put in a box?

    The God of Israel is the God of the burning bush, the God who exists in the cloudy mountain-top, whose face cannot be seen. This is not the God who doubles as my best pal, or who fits a snappy one-line definition. The God who has been at the centre of the Church’s life for centuries is a God who is disconcertingly inscrutable, and utterly resistant to cheap certainty...

    ...Unfortunately, public discussion no longer involves enough people who are prepared to say: "I don’t know." This is not a problem just because it lacks modesty. What is wrong is the attempt to force the unknown into declaring itself in the terms of our own limited imaginations. That, surely, is the makings of a real God delusion.
    It seems more and more in the conversations going on in the Episcopal Church, and beyond that in the Anglican Communion, we find a list of "beliefs" that one must adhere to in order to be classified as a "REAL" Christian. Just recently, in another setting, I witnessed such a list being used in a successful attempt to kill a conversation. I find such lists not only terribly arrogant, but downright sinful, as they place unnecessary stumbling blocks before those seeking the kingdom of God.

    Do we really think that we can know the full nature of God? I recall the well-known story of St. Augustine, who was walking along the beach contemplating the nature of the Trinity. He encountered a young boy, who had dug a hole in the sand. The boy was running into the waves, filling a pail with water, and then running back to empty it into the hole. He did this over and over again.

    After watching this for awhile, Augustine finally asked, "Boy, what are you doing?"

    The boy replied, "See that ocean out there? I'm going to pour it into this hole."

    "That is absurd," responded Augustine. "You cannot possibly contain a vast ocean in such a tiny hole!"

    The boy looked up at Augustine, and said very quietly, "And neither can you, Augustine, contain the Trinity in such a tiny mind." The boy then disappeared, of course, because, as the story goes, he was an angel.

    We cannot contain God in our tiny minds. This doesn't mean we give up on trying to know God, however. And, within the limits of our humanity, aided by divine revelation, we can gain some knowledge of God. But it is always incomplete knowledge. Whenever we say, "This is God," we need to add, "But God is more than this."

    Does this mean we embrace an "anything goes" perspective? I don't think so. If you want to know what Episcopalians believe, worship in an Episcopal Church. It's all there in the liturgy. When we offer our praise and thanksgivings to God, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, we are attempting to express, in our own finite and limited way, using time-tested forms and customs, the way we have found to build a closer relationship with the living God.

    However, our ushers do not administer entrance exams at the door. I do not test those who come to the altar before offering the sacrament. When the world wants to know who we are, and who God is, our response is "Come and see."

    If we like it or not, the religious landscape of the world has shifted. Christianity is no longer THe Main Event. We have become simply another booth at the fair. Such a shift requires that we rethink how we present our faith.

    The area in which I live grows a lot of blueberries. Imagine going to a farmer's market, approaching a booth offering blueberries, and being told that before you can make a purchase, you must state without reservation that these are the best berries, and in fact the only REAL berries. Further, you must renounce all previous berry purchases, and believe in the stated formulary and history regarding the creation of these berries, which is included in the 25 page booklet that the vendor thrusts in your face. I don't know about you, but I know I would avoid such a booth in future trips. It's not the pedigree of berries that interests me. The question on my mind was "Do they taste good?" ...Taste and see...

    I've got some other thoughts regarding divine revelation, but enough for now. In the meantime, let's help shatter the generalized image of Christians as arrogant absolutists who have no respect for mystery. And, good heavens, stop thinking you must respond to the interrogations of the self appointed Grand Inquisitors!


    Thursday, October 19, 2006

    A New "Holey" Bible

    From Ekklesia:

    A new Bible translation is causing controversy after it cut out difficult parts surrounding economic justice, possessions and money.

    The new bible version, released by the Western Bible Foundation in the Netherlands, has created a storm by trying to make the Christian gospel more palatable.

    According to Chairman Mr. De Rijke the foundation has reacted to a growing wish of many churches to be market-oriented and more attractive. "Jesus was very inspiring for our inner health, but we don't need to take his naïve remarks about money seriously. He didn't study economics, obviously."

    According to De Rijke no serious Christian takes these texts literally. "What if all Christians stopped being anxious, for example, and started expecting everything from God? Or gave their possessions to the poor, for that matter. Our economy would be lost. The truth is quite the contrary: a strong economy and a healthy work ethic is a gift from God."

    The foundation wanted to "boldly go where no one else has gone before" by cutting out the confusing texts.

    “We don't use them anyway! There's no single Christian selling his possessions and giving them to the poor."

    The Western Bible is published – in Dutch only so far – by the well-known Christian publisher Buijten & Schipperheijn. In it, some of the most important passages of the Bible: the Ten Commandments, sections of Isaiah, Proverbs, and the Sermon on the Mount, contain holes where the original translation urged radical actions around money, justice or affluence...
    There's more. Make sure you go read the entire article before commenting.


    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    Grace Finds Goodness in Everything

    There's a song by U2 that's been going on in my head for about the last week. It's not a very pretty song. The lyrics are not especially profound. Bono's voice is a bit strained, and even off at times.

    The more I listen to it, the more I think these flaws may not be accidental. It just may be that the imperfections emphasize one of the themes of the song; "grace finds beauty in ugly things."

    The title of the track is Grace, from their album All That You Can't Leave Behind. Here's the lyrics:

    Grace, she takes the blame
    She covers the shame
    Removes the stain
    It could be her name

    Grace, it's a name for a girl
    It's also a thought that changed the world

    And when she walks on the street
    You can hear the strings
    Grace finds goodness in everything

    Grace, she's got the walk
    Not on a ramp or on chalk
    She's got the time to talk
    She travels outside of karma, karma
    She travels outside of karma

    When she goes to work
    You can hear the strings
    Grace finds beauty in everything

    Grace, she carries a world on her hips
    No champagne flute for her lips
    No twirls or skips between her fingertips
    She carries a pearl in perfect condition
    What once was hurt, what once was friction
    What left a mark no longer stains
    Because Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

    Grace finds beauty in everything
    Grace finds goodness in everything
    As I said, not terribly profound. But, there's a couple of lines worth noting. For instance, this bit about "travels outside karma." Here's Bono's expansion on that idea in a Christianity Today interview from last year:

    Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?

    Bono: Yes, I think that's normal. It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

    Assayas: I haven't heard you talk about that.

    Bono: I really believe we've moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

    Assayas: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.

    Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.

    Assayas: I'd be interested to hear that.

    Bono: That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep s---. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.

    Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

    Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there's a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let's face it, you're not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled. It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven...
    "Grace defies reason and logic." Dr. Bob unpacks that a little more:

    ...Grace is a disgrace to the logical mind–it’s just so, well, unfair, so un-American. After all, we get what we deserve and earn what we get–God helps those who help themselves, and all that. But grace intervenes when we arrive at the point where we cannot help ourselves–or worse, when our best self-help program has impossibly screwed up our lives. Grace gives you what you haven’t earned, and doesn’t give you what you justly deserve. Grace is scandalous, insulting, humiliating, an affront to our pride–indeed, it is the very enemy of our pride.

    Everything we do to fix ourselves, to control our lives and those around us for our own gain and benefit, is at once both natural and self-destructive. It is natural because our inborn drives are self-protective–call it natural selection, call it survival of the fittest, call it enlightened self-preservation, call it selfishness and self-centeredness. It’s me first, and the hell with you. Of course, we wrap this up in social niceties because we live in a world with other people–people who can do us harm if we step on their toes too hard. But even this is fundamentally self-preserving. We are born to take care of ourselves, first and foremost.

    But it is self-destructive, in ways that are not always obvious. We are social beings, designed for relationships: we reserve solitary confinement for our most reprobate criminals; loneliness is the deepest of emotional pains. We are not crafted to be self-dependent, but interdependent. But we are possessed of the notion–inherently anti-social–that self trumps other. And our mental skills are such that we can rationalize, deny, minimalize, excuse the harm done to others in the name of self. Self-serving brings temporary relief but long-term misery: it is a proven path to an unhappy, unsatisfying life.

    And that is why grace is revolutionary.

    Grace says someone else can do it better than you–if only you ask. Its message is an affront: it says we do not have all the answers–and the answers we do have are wrong–often disastrously so. Grace does not excuse our wrongs–it covers our wrongs. It doesn’t nullify Karma–it simply puts the bill on someone else’s tab. When we receive grace, someone else is bearing the price, the consequences for the hurt and the harm we have done. When we give grace, we choose to pick up the tab for another’s shortcomings, wrongdoing, destructiveness, evil. And that’s where we draw the line: we are happy to receive grace, but it is too much to ask of us to give it in return.

    And that is the roadblock–ironically–which we need grace to overcome.

    What is needed is a core inner transformation: we must become someone different. We are hard-wired to take–we need to be transformed to give. Trying to be other-oriented–following the rules, being a good person–without this transformation is counter-productive: it breeds resentment, self-righteousness, pride, self-sufficiency. But this inner transformation cannot be brought about by ourselves–it must come through others, and above all, from Another. But once this happens–and our will must be broken before it can–the miracle of motive change begins to take place.

    When I act, I do so for one of two reasons: I do so because I have to, or I do so because I want to. While these motives may overlap, it is–not surprisingly–much easier to do the things I want to do than those I have to do. Karma is about doing that which I have to do–to placate a demanding God, to save my own skin. The miracle of grace is the willingness–the desire–to do that which is contrary to my nature, yet beneficial to my spirit...
    Grace, God's unmerited favor...that's what Christianity is all about, as far as I'm concerned. And my understanding is that each of us is called to be a conduit of that same free gift of grace.

    One last comment on another line..."Grace finds goodness in everything"... This is related to what I have said before about my discomfort with dualism that is often passed off as "Christianity" in some places today. So often we hear the story of creation beginning with the fall. We skip over the bit where God looked upon creation and declared "it is very good." Being good, being holy, being exactly what God intended us to be, is our natural state. When we fall from that state, when we sin, we cannot somehow surgically remove the sin, without damaging the rest of our being. I refer to sin as "twisted good." At the root of every sin is the original goodness. Metanoia, repentance, is about untwisting the sin by reorienting ourselves back to God. And God, whose property is to always have mercy, restores the goodness in everything. Thanks be to God!

    Eternal God, in you we live and move and have our being. Fill us with your grace, that we may know in our lives, and proclaim with our every word and deed, the healing power of your love. Open our hearts to receive, and our eyes to see, your gift of grace, which finds goodness in everything.


    Monday, October 16, 2006

    Our Church is in an Abusive Relationship

    Katie Sherrod, drawing on her many years of writing about domestic violence, suggests that the Episcopal Church is in an abusive relationship. After listing the "warning signs" of such a relationship, she begins pointing out how these same symptoms are evident in TEC:

    ...This list could well be a strategy memo for those conservatives who are determined to wreck the Episcopal Church and/or to replace it with their own “purified” NeoPuritan version.

    One can go down the list and check it off.

    Uses emotional abuse and calls you names? Try “pagan” and “revisionist” and “heretic.”

    Tries to make you feel guilty? Try claiming that Christians are being killed in majority Muslim countries because TEC elected and confirmed an honestly gay man.

    Plays mind games? Try claiming that Lambeth resolutions have the power of laws, or that TEC has been “kicked out of” the Anglican Communion, or that the Windsor Report is some kind of judgment from on high against us.

    Uses coercion and threats? Try threats of leaving, again and again and again and again.

    Uses economic abuse. Try withholding money from the national church.

    Uses gender privilege. Surely I don’t have to explain this one.

    You do it. Go down the list and see what you come up with.

    So. Once it is determined someone is in an abusive relationship, what happens next?

    The number one thing to do is GET AWAY FROM YOUR ABUSER...

    ...It’s time to name the abuse, use the laws to contain or punish the abusers, and to help those suffering under the abuse.

    To do less is to become complicit in your own abuse.
    I think this diagnosis is pretty accurate. The recent temper tantrums of Bp. Beckwith are just the latest examples of abusive behavior that has been allowed to continue for much too long.


    Saturday, October 14, 2006

    Padre Mickey's Story

    Last week, there was some interest displayed in the comments for a place to tell our stories. In response,I added a new "Stories" Messages category in the community. Padre Mickey has made the first offering. It is a fascinating account of a spiritual journey that I think will resonate with many of us who gather here. As encouragement for you to go read the entire story, here are the opening and closing paragraphs:

    I am not a Cradle Episcopalian. My great-grandfather was a Baptist minister who lost his church after he received the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” so he became a minister in the newly-formed Assemblies of God. His daughter, my grandmother, married a young man from the congregation and they became missionaries in China, and, later, the Philippine Islands. My parents were “saved” in the local AofG church when I was about four years-old, and then became missionaries with the Far East Broadcasting Company (an evangelical, Protestant missionary organization with radio stations throughout Asia) and we moved to Okinawa when I was almost six years-old (1961). As the eldest, I am the only one of the kids who remembers the time before we started going to church all the time, and I must admit that I was never comfortable in the AofG; there was a vibe that I found frightening...

    ...I joined the Episcopal Church because it was the one church where I felt accepted for who I am. I was not expected to leave my brain at the door, there was no demand that I accept everything with out question. In the Episcopal Church I have been able to study and explore and wrestle with my relationship with God and others. I love the liturgy, the music, and the traditions, but most of all I love the acceptance and understanding that God is not finished with me yet. I say the Creeds without crossing my fingers and I confess my sins often and I know that I am forgiven. I know that I am a child of God. It causes me much pain when I see movements of exclusion in this church. The idea that one must sign on to this communiqué or adhere to this bishop’s idea of Anglicanism goes against the very reasons I came to the Episcopal Church.
    Thank you, Padre Mickey.

    Tell us about your spiritual journey. If such a topic seems overwhelming, let me offer two questions that might help you focus your story:

    1. Why are you an Anglican/Episcopalian?

    2. Why did you join the Church?


    UPDATE: To post your story, you have to sign in using a "net passport." You can get one here. Yes, it is free.

    After signing in, if you go to this page, you will see near the top, next to "Previous 50 - Next 50" a link entitled "New Discussion." If you click on that link, it will open a window that will allow you to compose your story. After you are done, you can publish it on the site by clicking the "send message" link on the bottom of that page.

    Friday, October 13, 2006

    Panel of Reference's Report on New Westminster

    The Archbishop of Canterbury's Panel of Reference has issued a report regarding the Diocese of New Westminster. It contains a few things worth noting. For instance, paragraph 8 includes this statement:

    ...The stated aim of both TWR (Windsor) and of the Panel is to achieve reconciliation and healing. Steps which formalize the transfer of Episcopal ministries on a long term basis cannot be justified unless formal reconciliation has demonstratably proved impossible to achieve...
    In case their position is not yet clear, the Panel expands this point in paragraph 21:

    The argument that in order to remain ‘in full communion with the Church of England throughout the world’ it is necessary for dissenting clergy and parishes to separate themselves from the diocese of New Westminster, adopting a title for their organisation which implies that they represent the Anglican Communion in New Westminster, in addition to or instead of the diocese and Bishop Ingham, can not be sustained. The Church of England itself remains in full communion with the Diocese of New Westminster and Bishop Ingham, pending resolution of the presenting issue, and therefore with all of its clergy, members and parishes, unless they formally withdraw themselves from the Anglican Church in Canada. Even if this were not the case there is no evidence that communion with dissenting parishes would in fact be broken since such provinces which have declared impaired communion have made it clear that they remain in communion with those whom they regard as faithful...
    In other words, according to the Panel of Reference, the Global South's recommendations contained in the Kigali Communique "cannot be sustained."

    This is probably as close as we're going to get to an official refutation of Kigali. One would hope that it would be sufficient to make clear to the Network that to proceed with their plan to establish a 39th Province (thank you, Bp. Ackerman, for that clarification) will be viewed as an act of schism.


    UPDATE: We now have responses to this report from Drexel Gomez, Archbishop of the West Indies, and Gregory Venables, Primate of the Southern Cone. Bottom line, they don't like it.

    Archbishop Andrew Hutchison of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Diocese of New Westminster have both responded to the report. They welcome it.

    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    Bishop of Springfield Punishes Parish

    From the Chicago Tribune:

    Unable to reach an accord with their conservative bishop, a progressive parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield asked for temporary alternative pastoral leadership this week.

    If the request is granted, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Edwardsville would become the second progressive parish in the U.S. to take advantage of an option originally designed to allow conservative congregations to seek alternatives to liberal leadership...

    ...St. Andrew's rector, Rev. Virginia Bennett, the first and only female parish priest to serve in the southern Illinois diocese, said the request seemed like the only option left for her parish to function. After Bennett asked to bring a lesbian into the church, Springfield Bishop Peter Beckwith refused to confirm any newcomers at St. Andrew's, she said...

    ...In November 2005, Bennett contacted Beckwith to ask if he was opposed to confirming a lesbian who wished to join the Church. At that point, Bennett said, the bishop declared he would confirm no one in the parish because "the faith was not being taught" there...
    Jim Naughton asks the question that this article caused to wander through my mind:

    Am I wrong in thinking that even in these contentious times that this constitues derelection fo episcopal duty? I'm pretty sure that if a liberal bishop refused to confirm someone who disagreed with him on issues of human sexuality, we'd hear about it.
    I think you're absolutely right, Jim. Note that the bishop also pulled all LEM's licenses. Note also that Bennet is "the first and only female parish priest to serve in the southern Illinois diocese." And also note that there is no mention of any same sex relationship, only the orientation of the woman requesting confirmation.

    It appears "the faith" that the bishop is demanding be taught would insist on the exclusion of those whose sexual orientation he didn't approve of (unless they stay in the closet), women in positions of leadership, and the members of a parish who supported such persons. The sacraments would only be administered to those whom the bishop deemed worthy to receive them. That pretty much excludes everyone, doesn't it?

    I think Bishop Beckwith has cracked under the strain of the current unpleasantness and is beginning to throw temper tantrums, in which he is revealing his true colors.

    It is going to be interesting to watch what becomes of this request for DEPO.


    From Wales

    The Presidential Address of the Rt. Rev. Dr. Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, adresses nuclear weapons, just war theory, the Government of Wales Act, and developments within the Anglican Communion. It is a segment of the latter that I want to highlight. Keep in mind that Dr. Morgan was a member of the Commission that authored the Windsor Report:

    This is what I believe the Archbishop of Canterbury was implying when he wrote to all provinces about the implications of the break up of the Communion. He was not advocating a two tier Communion – one for true believers and another for those who could not swallow the full faith as it were, who would be in some form of loose association with the Communion. He was merely pointing out the danger we are in. The Windsor Report advocated that provinces should covenant with one another and consult with one another before making decisions, which might affect the life of the Communion as a whole. As a member of that Commission, we did not have in mind a covenant that was prescriptive and detailed and intrusive. What we did have in mind was what ECUSA did at its convention in July when:

  • It re-affirmed its abiding commitment to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and sought to live into the highest degree of communion possible.

  • It reaffirmed that it was in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.

  • It went on to make a commitment to the vision of inter-dependent life in Christ, characterized by forbearance, trust, and respect, and commended the Windsor Report and process as a means of deepening understanding of that commitment.

    I do not know about you, but I could sign a covenant such as that. For, just as we have to recognise that the theory of the just war does not answer all the difficulties raised by modern methods of warfare, so too we have to recognise, as far as the Anglican Communion is concerned, that globalisation and instant communication have changed the nature of our relationships with one another and that what happens in one part of the church does affect another for good or ill. A covenant, setting out our mutual inter-dependence would remind us all of that fact. But that is totally different from the kind of covenant that some people want – a kind of prescriptive one, setting up an inter-provincial constitution that would set out theological boundaries and perimeters for individual provinces in both belief and behaviour, policed by a central curia of the primates or Archbishop of Canterbury. That would go much further than what ECUSA has done, or the existing agreement of the Lambeth quadrilateral, based on the acceptance of the scriptures, the creeds, the two dominical sacraments and the historic episcopate. It would cut at the root of the Anglican Communion as it has been traditionally understood with to my mind, disastrous consequences. We are after all a communion not a confession. We all need reminding of the words of St Augustine ‘In certis, unitas. In dubiis, libertas. Et in omnibus caritas.’ ‘In fundamentals of faith there must be unity. In disputable matters there must be freedom for debate. But in everything there must be love.’
  • I'm not so sure I could personally sign such a covenant, if "commending the Windsor Report" was a part of it. I simply don't think that document is salvagable.

    The Windsor process seems more promising, but even that would be building on a flawed foundation, which would seemed destined to crack and eventually crumble.

    But, I must say that it is refreshing to hear a voice that is suggesting that TEC has modeled more what the authors of the WR had in mind, and beyond that, what Dr. Williams had in mind. Even more importantly, Dr. Morgan spells out what the authors of the WR did not have in mind (a Covenant that was "prescriptive and detailed and intrusive...policed by a central curia of the primates").

    On a lighter note, MadPriest offers us a sampling of the new stand up routine of AlPO Bishop Ackerman of Quincy:

    ...He said Americans were responsible for exporting McDonalds, "then we exported McSacraments, then the McBible, then McPreists and now we are debating in some quarters, McBishops." This, he said, often times bring indigestion...

    ..."The American province was asked to say 'sorry'. The American province responded with one word 'Schori.'"

    ...The last two primates in ECUSA promised to take us to a deeper place. By electing a professionally trained oceanographer she may actually do so," he said to roars of laughter...

    My suggestion? Keep your day job, Bishop.


    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    Facing the Reality of the Schism

    From Elizabeth Kaeton:

    ...Which is why, I think, we've got to acknowledge and be reconciled to the full reality of the schism which some have labored long and hard to bring upon us. It has happened. It is happening now, even now, as I type these words into my computer and as your are reading them on yours. They have achieved their goal. All the rest is details.

    The 'dirty little secret' is that this is precisely what many have wanted since the ordination of women more than 30 years ago. There are still those who insist that we have not developed a theology which "justifies" that or any future action. Many are members of the AAC, AMiA, ACN, and the rest of the alphabet soup of the conservative, neo-Puritan, orthodox evangelical movement in the church...

    ...I think we ought to gracefully allow those who wish to exchange their membership in The Episcopal Church for a membership anywhere else in the Anglican Communion and we should do so without undue haste...
    Maybe we've reached the point where "the rest is details." I'm not fully convinced, however. I'm still not willing to give up on those who have been misled by the propaganda of a small band of extremists.


    Who, What and When

    Guess the author, topic and time period of the following quote:

    ...To-day we are living in a world which has widely revolted from the obedience of Christ. Our literature is saturated with this spirit. He Himself bade us be prepared for such an experience, even in its extremest form. 'When the Son of man cometh,' He asked, 'shall He find the faith on the earth?' Our business, then, is to uphold the full standard of the good life, through evil report and good report. The worldly world must go its own way and may seem to prevail. We must not attempt to pronounce any final judgement on individuals. We can 'judge nothing before the time.' If the Church has been slack in the past, it must expect God's sharp judgements on itself; but it is still its business to open the eyes of all its members to the true implications, social and individual, of the 'life which is life indeed,' and under persecution or unpopularity to consolidate the faithful remnant, who are to nourish their souls in the readiness to suffer with Christ and in the secret security of final victory in Him. We have no right to sanction the 'second best.'
    The first person to get all three correct will be awarded dinner in Washington DC on November 4.


    Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    No Cardinals and No Curia

    Thinking Anglicans points us to a statement by InclusiveChurch regarding the current shenanigans of the diocese of San Joaquin. Within it is a clear summation of a point that I think it is important we keep straight:

    ...4.1 It is in this context that we believe that what we are seeing is a serious distortion of Anglican polity and theology. In particular, bodies which have no legal or executive status in Anglicanism - notably the Lambeth Conference and the Primates Meetings - are being promoted to a position where they are being used to override fundamental Anglican principles - provincial autonomy and synodical government. Resolution 1.10 – which came at the end of a notoriously unedifying debate and is the flawed result of a badly managed process – apparently justifies the elevation of the Windsor Report to a quasi-legal status with the Primates sitting as judge and jury on the “Windsor compliance” of the Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC).

    4.2 None of this is acceptable. Primates are not cardinals. The Primates’ meeting is not the Curia. Primates of any part of the Anglican Communion do not have the right to commit their provinces to action without implementing detailed and comprehensive synodical processes. The Windsor Report was an attempt to find a way through the apparent impasse we had reached. We acknowledge that it has, in the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, been “widely accepted as a basis for any progress”. As a result and in order to go the extra mile, TEC and the ACC have agreed in the interests of unity both to withdraw from the meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council and to major amendments in provincial practice. But the notion that TEC has in some way “broken the rules” has no place in Anglican ecclesiology...
    Over the last few years, we've heard some folks insisting that this group or that group is the REAL authority in the Episcopal Church. I think they believe if they say it enough times, it will eventually become accepted as true.

    I think we need to start correcting those who make such inaccurate claims. The Archbishop of Caterbury, Lambeth, the Primates and the ACC have, at the most, an advisory role within TEC. We make our decisions at General Convention, at which all four orders of ministry are represented.

    For those who desire a more authoritarian structure, I suggest that they quit trying to reinvent the wheel. There are existing communities of faith with solid pedigrees that I am sure would accomodate such desires. The Episcopal Church simply doesn't happen to be one of them.


    Saturday, October 07, 2006

    Dinner with Rowan Williams

    While at General Convention, I had the good fortune to meet the Rev. Donald Schell, co-rector of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, San Francisco. Make sure you check out their liturgy. Donald is also President of APLM (The Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission), and was one of the nominees for bishop of California.

    Donald recently offered some thoughts regarding Rowan Williams that I found particularly insightful. He has given me permission to reproduce them here:

    1. Two weeks ago I was part of a group of a dozen or so people who had the fascinating opportunity of a two hour dinner with Rowan Williams. The conversation was wide-ranging and fascinating. One thing that was quite clear was that Rowan Williams regards Windsor as an invitation to conversation (not the beginning of a law defining who is in and who is out). From his perspective the American church hasn't responded to that invitation.

    The conservative spin on that is that the American Church has been defiant or hasn't been "Windsor-compliant." But as I heard it, Williams's understanding of Windsor is quite different from that, not at all laying down a standard of compliance, but trying to define grounds for a committed conversation and inviting us to participate in it. In the way that he is listening Williams hasn't heard the American church taking the opportunity to offer its rationale, coherent arguments from scripture and tradition. To me some of this feels impossible to address - 'The American Church' acts in legislative session, a democratically elected body of bishops, presbyters and deacons, and laity. There are plenty of arguments from scripture, tradition and experience as resolutions move toward defined action, but the convention's resolutions stand in the end by themselves. Our process isn't made to offer a rationale.

    Our people do offer good apologia at least sometimes - in what they/we write and say. But are we consistent in offering serious discussion of God and our experience of God...? Sometimes not. Sometimes it's a rhetoric of plain exasperation, not surprisingly. Matthew Shepherd's death, people being spat on scapegoated and marginalized, a transgendered person murdered every month produce exasperation. "How much longer Lord?" is the cry that goes with this experience.

    I read some of the conservative blogs on the Camp Allen document. The really rabid folk think their bishops have betrayed them and are trying to keep in conversation with us by this betrayal, they read the document and say their bishops are backing down on a promise to lead them out of ECUSA and into some other relationship to Canterbury or the communion. One of these bloggers cautioned fellow bloggers to beware the statement since Mark MacDonald (who had ordained an out lesbian) had signed it. That may have been a discerning warning insofar as what I hear from Mark is a clear commitment to conversation, and the grace to go talk with 'them' with an open mind and heart.

    On the question of moratorium, what I heard from the English clergy and laity (and this is not Rowan, but the group in our meetings before) was that it had become clear to them that the loudest voices from the Global South and from the American AAC etc. were consciously attempting to put conditions on the American Church that the American Church COULD NOT IN CONSCIENCE accept, that their strategy was specifically to pit our church's discernment and considered, conscientious action against a condition for 'unity.' What I heard from these self-described centrist Anglicans in England was a hearty thanks to the American church for being a conscience to England, an acknowledgment that as they move toward ordaining women bishops and the beginnings of honesty about their gay priests and bishops, that it has been the pressure of American action that has made change possible.

    2. a little more on this conversation with Rowan.

    We were American and UK Anglican/Episcopalians, four of academics from both sides of the Atlantic, Bob Scott and Jamie Callaway from Trinity Wall Street, two third generation Anglo-African clergy-theologian-trainers, born in Central Africa, trained in South Africa and serious participants in the anti-Apartheid movement, both now living and working in the UK, director of clergy formation for the Canterbury Diocese, a layman (former academic) who runs a center at Glastonbury, Phyllis Tickle and her husband and daughter, Megory Anderson (Sacred Dying Foundation) and me. Three of them had known Rowan Williams since he was Lady Margaret Professor of Theology at Oxford. The two Trinity Church people had been with him on 9/11. We'd been meeting for two days before our dinner and spent Saturday afternoon talking and thinking about what conversation from a UK/US open-hearted consensus on schism, Gene Robinson, and Katharine Jefferts Schori would make a difference to Rowan.

    It was heartening in this preparation time to hear how STRONGLY the UK clergy supported ECUSA, and how some of them had shifted to that support over the eighteen months or so of our three meetings after seeing so clearly in the conservatives gleeful hostility to Katharine Jefferts Schori that, 'Their intent is to pose impossible conditions on the American church, and you, in conscience can't operate that way.' One of these voices had been a strong supporter of a moratorium a year ago. We went into conversation with Rowan prepared to ask hard questions and really talk.

    History (and the quirky English process of selecting bishops and archbishops) have given us a remarkable teacher for Archbishop of Canterbury. He listens well. He thinks deeply in conversation. He keeps his sense of humor. He's got a breadth of Biblical and historical vision in mind when he thinks. He talked about the sixty years it took the church to accept NIcaea.

    He is also emphatically NOT a warrior-politicians, which may be another facet of what we want, need, or hope for. In the afternoon session before we met, I heard how exasperated his English clergy and lay friends were at Rowan over pulling the rug out from under Bishop Tom Butler in Southwark when (as they reported it) the threat of American-funded litigation without end pushed Rowan to overturn Butler's disciplining of a priest for bringing in "Church of England South Africa" bishops to do ordinations in Southwark. Church of England South Africa is not Desmond Tutu's Anglican Church South Africa, but a racist group that went schismatic to keep the church white when our Anglican church began taking a strong and very risky justice stand in the apartheid era. (One of our Afro-Anglican participants said that there was a Boer expression, "Beware the Church of the Romans, Beware the Church of the English," after the two Archbishops made a courageous public stand against the miscengenation, announcing from the steps of the Anglican Cathedral in Johannesberg that any RC or CofE clergy person who consented to the documentation required by the state in the marriage law would be deposed. Some bishops are warrior-politicians. In Southwark, Rowan caved to pressure, and we heard how disappointed his friends have been at his handling of crisis and threat from the right (very like the Jeffrey Johns business).

    All that said, as dinner began I felt grateful to be part of it and wished our whole church could engage him this way, a few at a time. All the grace of the teacher and good listener was there. We raised our questions and challenges and he listened carefully, worked with us, thought with us. It felt full of hope and promise. And yet, here's the specter of Windsor. I believe Rowan does understand Windsor to be a call for conversation. He doesn't reproach people who put other spins on it. He doesn't stand down Peter Akinola for calling our APLM churches (US/Canada) a cancer. And he seems genuinely puzzled that, as he hears it, the American Church hasn't responded. Is this a failure to comprehend our system? He knows American groups, delegations, voices, and theologians have responded. How do we tell him that (and our legislative actions) are how we talk?
    I've got some thoughts of my own, but would rather wait and hear from some of you first.


    Friday, October 06, 2006

    Forgiveness in the Midst of Grief

    The way the Amish of Pennsylvania have responded to their recent tragedy is a testimony to the world:

    ...Mr Zook was among the many Amish villagers who also rallied behind Mrs Roberts and her three children. Within hours of the shootings, it emerged yesterday that a neighbour knocked on the Roberts family's door to pray for them and extend forgiveness.

    Another neighbour, Daniel Esh, a 57-year-old Amish artist and woodworker whose three grandnephews were inside the school during the attack, said: `I hope they stay around here. They'll have a lot of friends and a lot of support.'

    Community leaders said that Mrs Roberts and her children may even receive money from a fund established to help victims and their families.

    Although the Amish do not usually accept help from outside their community, even shunning social security payments, Kevin King, executive director of Mennonite Disaster Services, an agency managing the hundreds of thousands of dollars already sent in, quoted an Amish bishop: "We are not asking for funds. In fact, it's wrong for us to ask. But we will accept them with humility."
    Funds have been established for those who would like to donate to assist those who are affected by the tragedy at Nickel Mines School, including the family of the shooter, Charles Roberts. Send donations to the Nickel Mines Children's Fund and the Roberts Family Fund to Coatsville Savings Bank.

    Grant, O Lord, to all who are bereaved the spirit of faith and courage, that they may have strength to meet the days to come with steadfastness and patience; not sorrowing as those without hope, but in thankful remembrance of your great goodness, and in the joyful expectation of eternal life with those they love. And this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

    UPDATE: In the comments, Mumcat has pointed us to an article regarding Episcopal Relief and Development's response to this tragedy.

    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    Are Primates a Good Idea?

    The Daily Episcopalian points us to a new blog by the Rev. Michael Hopkins; From Glory into Glory. Some of you will recognize the title as a line from the hymn "Love Divine," which is one of Michael's favorites. It is without question my favorite.

    In a sermon based on a Gospel lesson we have previously discussed, Michael makes this observation:

    ...More importantly, however, my point is how dangerously close we are as a church—be it Episcopal/Anglican or Roman Catholic—to acting completely antithetical to the Gospel we are called to proclaim in word and deed. Those of us who live in “high church” traditions have always lived in this danger, mind you, and frequently succumbed to it. The Church ends up getting in the way of the Gospel because it begins to consider itself more important than Jesus himself.

    For Anglicans, one of the principle reasons we remain separated from Rome is that we do not trust that particular system not to succumb to that temptation (and I don’t mean to score debating points with my Roman Catholic sisters and brothers here, I am just describing what is real), and yet, here we Anglicans are, in the full nature of human hypocrisy, screwing it up just as royally ourselves. We’ve created a system with rules of behavior that determine who is in and who is out and created a super-hierarchy with persons we call “primates.” Can anyone in their right minds imagine Jesus—or even Paul, for that matter—thinking it was a good idea for Christians to call some people “primates” who have “primatial authority?” It’s enough to make this good catholic boy a mad-raving protestant!
    The authority claimed by this newest group identified as one of the Instruments of Unity is indeed troubling.

    Beyond the concern of a developing rigid hierarchy, I've often wondered if we might come up with a title for our leading bishops that does not cause smirks, and sometimes giggles, when first used in the context of Inquiry classes. One can only imagine the image that the term causes to wander through the minds of our newcomers.


    Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    Jesus Our Mother

    We recently had a rather long tangential discussion in the comments regarding Presiding Bishop-elect Jefferts Schori's sermon at General Convention in which she referred to "Jesus our Mother." I haven't commented on this, as I don't find anything that unusual in the phrase. I've used similar images in my sermons. So have many others in our tradition. What is unusual, and worth noting, is the knee-jerk reaction from the right.

    There's a couple of good commentaries now available on this topic, for those who are interested. One by the Rev. Ann Fontaine and another by the Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton.

    The "outrage" from the right makes little sense to me, unless it is simply attributed to a fear of the feminine.

    In other news, all charges against Bp. John David Schofield of San Joaquin were dropped. That diocese responded by moving forward with their plans to leave the Episcopal Church. It looks like their neighboring bishops had good reason to be concerned after all. Mark Harris offers a discussion on this bizarre situation.


    Tuesday, October 03, 2006

    Imagining a New Old Church

    I’m attending a clergy conference at which the we are hearing a series of presentations by Diana Butler Bass, author of The Practicing Congregation and Christianity for the Rest of Us. The dust jacket of the latter book offers a good summation of her work:

    For decades the accepted wisdom has been that America’s mainline Protestant churches are in decline, eclipsed by evangelical mega-churches. Church and religion expert Diana Butler Bass wondered if this was true, and this book is the result of her extensive, three-year study of centrist and progressive churches across the country. Her surprising findings reveal just the opposite – that many of the churches are flourishing, and they are doing so without resorting to mimicking the mega-church, evangelical style.

    Christianity for the Rest of Us describes this phenomenon and offers a how-to approach for Protestants eager to remain faithful to their tradition while becoming a vital spiritual community. As Butler Bass delved into the rich spiritual life of various Episcopal, United Church of Christ and Lutheran churches, certain consistent practices - such as hospitality, contemplation, diversity, justice, discernment and worship – emerged as core expressions of congregations seeking to rediscover authentic Christian faith and witness today.
    It appears that there are not just a few “mutant” mainline churches discovering a new vitality. There are enough of them to suggest that something new is going on among the mainlines that the media, who are stuck on emphasizing our “conservative/liberal” divisions, have yet to notice.

    Three things that Butler Bass found that was drawing folks to these churches were;
    1. A renewal of interest in tradition.
    2. A desire to be intentionally engaged in Christian practices.
    3. The desire to be on a quest to put into action ancient wisdom.

    Tradition, practice and wisdom are emerging as the longings of a new generation of Christians. The conservative vs. liberal arguments are of little or no interest to them.

    Butler Bass suggests that the liberal/conservative axis needs to be supplemented by another new axis; established/intentional. The communities that are flourishing are not stuck in the established models of “doing church,” but see their faith as a corporate pilgrimage, “marked by mobility, choice, risk, reflexivity and reflection." As congregations move more towards being "intentional," the conservative/liberal divisions begin to fade away.

    If you haven’t guessed by now, yes, what we are talking about here is Postmodern Christianity. Butler Bass refers to the Traditional/Evangelical Conservatives who have moved from “established” to “intentional” as the “Emergent Church.” Old-style Mainline Liberals who have moved to being “intentional” are referred to as “Practicing Congregations.”

    Much of this is new to me, but it rings true, not only of the dynamics I have observed within the congregations in which I have served, but also in describing my own personal internal struggles. Raised in an era when most questions had a simple right or wrong answer, yet holding degrees in literature and preferring art to science, while feeling obligated to support an establishment that I sometimes feel misses the whole point, has been cause for more than a few internal paradoxes.

    I need to study this, and then let it sink in, before saying more. But my initial response has been a sense of relief, that finally someone has called our attention to the new thing that God is doing in our midst.

    For further reading, here's an interview of Diana Butler Bass, and here is an article she recently wrote for the Christian Century on the topic of contemplative worship.


    Sunday, October 01, 2006

    Church Times: Kigali's Decision a "Schismatic Act"

    The Church Times offers some commentary on the Kigali Communique. After pointing out the unusual depiction of the disaster in Rwanda, blaming it on "fate" and the abandonment of the rest of the world instead of addressing any of the root causes, we find the following:

    ...a determination to "stand against evil" is not a normal starting point for discussions about the better working of the Church Catholic. It helps to explain the Primates' antagonistic stance towards the leadership of the Episcopal Church in the United States, though this is cloaked as a willingness to respond to those inside the US who have asked for outside assistance and oversight. But, however explicable, the decision to set up a parallel organisation in an existing province - unbidden - is a schismatic act; for what is a "separate ecclesiastical structure" but a Church?

    The Kigali Primates speak of proceeding "in consultation with the instruments of unity in the Communion". This is a perverse idea in the circumstances. None of those instruments - the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates' Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Lambeth Conference - could countenance such a move. It is possible that the Global South Primates believe the US Episcopal leadership to be so discredited that the rest of the Communion will allow a new organisation to take its place as the official Anglican body there. It is more likely that they are not particularly interested in seeking permission...
    If it looks like schism, and smells like schism...