Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Network's "Pledge of Allegiance" to the Global South

An entry by Jim Naughton from last month regarding the court case of Calvary Church vs the Diocese of Pittsburgh has gotten my attention. To explain the issue, allow me to quote extensively from Jim's article:

Last October, Calvary Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Pittsburgh, led by Bishop Robert Duncan, moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, reached a settlement in a lawsuit in which the parish charged, in essence, that the diocese was unlawfully attempting to appropiate the property of the Episcopal Church.

The settlement upheld "current church law that parish and diocesan property belong to the denomination," wrote Steve Levin of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Calvary believes that recent activities by the diocese, including its decision to withdraw from Province III of the Episcopal Church, its withholding of money from the Episcopal Church, and its request for Alternative Primatial Oversight, violate the settlement agreement, and so, on Tuesday, the parish filed a petition "asking the Court of Common Pleas [to] enforce what we believe to be the correct reading of the Stipulation and Order entered October 14, 2005."

Calvary has requested an expedited discovery process to allow it to receive "equitable relief in advance of an international meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion scheduled for February 14-17, 2007 in Tanzania. On information and belief ... [that] Bishop Duncan and Primates of foreign countries are planning to use the occasion of the meeting... to promote Bishop Duncan's organiation and to implement actions directed at impairing the ability of Plaintiffs, TEC and TEC's constituents to maintain or recover their lawful interests in the Property."

Calvary is particularly interested in the November meeting in Falls Church, Va., attended by Duncan, various conservative Episcopal bishops and several African Primates. Citing Bishop John-David Schofield's presentation to his deaneries in the Diocese of San Joaquin, they argue that Duncan and others agreed at that meeting to "submit to the authority of certain foreign Primates"...
In regards to that meeting between Network members and some of the Global South Primates, here is what I included in my report of Bp. Schofield's Deanery Presentations:

...Regarding the recent meeting with the Steering Committee of the Global South Primates, Bp. Schofield offers us some new information. Abps. Gomez (West Indies), Venables (Southern Cone), Akinola (Nigeria), Chew (South East Asia), Nzimbi (Kenya) and Akrofi (West Africa) were present. Those representing the Network that were mentioned by name included Bps. Schofield, Salmon and Duncan and Bill Thompson of All Saints, Long Beach.

The Primates were asking for specific things of the Network;
1. Unity
2. A single spokesman (Bp. Duncan was selected)
3. Signatures on a document which will be submitted to the Primates (all present signed, although the contents of the document were not revealed)...
I have rechecked my sources, and stand by the above as being an accurate reporting of Bp. Schofield's comments.

In an ENS article, the Rev. Rick Matters, rector of St. John's, Lodi, CA, affirms that this is what he also heard Bp. Schofield report:

...Matters said that in pre-convention meetings Schofield told the diocese's deaneries that in November he signed a "pledge of allegiance" to six Anglican Communion bishops, including Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola and Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone (South America), who addressed the convention Eucharist by an internet downlink.

"He is now taking orders from them in terms of how to leave and separate from the Episcopal Church and how to realign," Matters said, adding that Schofield told the meetings that those bishops were setting the timetable for such a move and determining who would be involved...
It is this mysterious "pledge of allegiance" that Calvary Church is requesting from the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

In the Diocese of Pittsburgh's Answer (scroll down to document 6) to this request, we find the following statement:

...neither the Diocese nor Bishop Duncan has signed any document submitting themselves to the authority of the foreign Primates. Plaintiffs have mischaracterized the application for Alternative Primatial Oversight, which was intially submitted to the Archbishop of Canterbury...
The full text of the Request to the Global South Primates, dated November 6, 2006, has recently appeared on the Diocese of Pittsburgh's website, no doubt because of this court case making it public.

I have a couple of problems with Pittsburgh's Answer. First of all, this request for AlPO is clearly not the same one that was submitted to Canterbury, as it is addressed to the Global South Primates, and refers specifically to that relationship. Secondly, and of greater concern, is the denial of the existence of any "pledge of allegiance" to the Primates with whom they met in November.

Bishop Schofield claims everyone at the meeting signed a document that would be submitted to the Primates. Since the request for AlPO was specifically from Pittsburgh, it is doubtful that Bp. Schofield, or others from outside Pittsburgh would have signed it. So, if Bp. Schofield is correct, another document exists. Bp. Duncan is claiming to not have signed this second document.

Obviously, someone is not telling the truth.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Bp. Epting Invited to Primates Meeting

From the Living Church:

The Rt. Rev. C. Christopher Epting, Presiding Bishop’s deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations and retired Bishop of Iowa, will join the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh and moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, and the Rt. Rev. D. Bruce McPherson, Bishop of Western Louisiana and president of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice. Bishop Epting will speak to the state of The Episcopal Church, according to sources in London who spoke with a reporter for The Living Church...

...The session will not be part of the primates’ meeting itself, a spokesman for the Anglican Consultative Council noted. The primates’ meeting will go into recess in order to hear the presentations from the three bishops, and reconvene at the close of the hearing. The American bishops are guests of Archbishop Williams and not of the collegial gathering, the spokesman said...
Bishop Epting just launched a blog; That We All Might Be One. Here's a couple of lines from a recent post:

...If God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, demonstrating love for all people, offering forgiveness to sinners, and eternal life for those who trust in him, no longer judging us on “a righteousness of our own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ,” then we must welcome and fully include all those who confess “Jesus as Lord.” All of them! Absolutely everybody!

If that makes us outcasts, then — as Paul clearly says in his case — so be it!

Bp. Howe on Being "Windsor-Compliant"

We have discussed Bp. John Howe of Central Florida, former Rector of Truro Church, on two previous occasions; one critical commentary, and a response that was much more supportive.

In the Bishop's Address to Convention, given two days ago, Bp. Howe has many things to say that some of us might be quick to criticize. But there is one segment that I was quite pleased to read:

... Beyond all of that there is the very serious issue of Archbishops and Provinces establishing outposts in Dioceses other than their own. The Anglican Mission in America, and the Provinces of Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Southeast Asia, and the Southern Cone all have congregations here in the United States. This practice has been thoroughly condemned by the Windsor Report and the Primates of the Anglican Communion. Nevertheless, it goes on. That some members of our congregations, and even some of our clergy, may be entertaining thoughts of affiliating with one or another of these jurisdictions is deeply disturbing to me, and I believe it should be to all of us. We have voted, overwhelmingly, twice, to be a “Windsor-compliant” Diocese (and Resolution “A-2B” proposes that we affirm the Windsor Report yet again, today).

Well, you can’t be “Windsor-compliant” if the only parts of Windsor you comply with are those you like!
Well said, Bp. Howe. Thank you.

Now, can we expect to hear similar statements from the rest of the so-called "Windsor Bishops"?


Cultivating Trust

Earlier this month, the Archbishop of Canterbury announced the members of the Covenant Design Group, charged with moving forward the Windsor Report's proposal of developing an Anglican Covenant. ENS is reporting that this Group will deliver a "draft covenant" to the Primates next month as a part of their report.

Two members of the Group are quoted; the Rev. Dr. Katherine Grieb, associate professor of New Testament at Virginia Theological Seminary, and the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, rector of Church of the Ascension in Pueblo, Colorado. They represent two very different perspectives on the importance of the upcoming Primates Meeting, as can be seen by the following comments:

..."For some in our group, the voice that matters is the voice of the Primates," Grieb said. "The Anglican Communion, as important as the Primates are, is much bigger than the Primates. We need to hear the voices of women, of laity and of clergy. They are the Anglican Communion on the ground."

Radner said "everything depends on [the primates' response]"...
As I've stated numerous times before, I'm uncomfortable with the Primates having the final word on any matter, for the reasons Dr. Grieb has listed above. I have also struggled to see any reason for such a Covenant to be developed. It has sounded to me as nothing more than a whip to keep everyone in their "proper" place, with certain individuals given the authority to define the term "proper," and also apparently being allowed to brandish the whip whenever they feel it is deemed necessary.

I may have to reevaluate that assessment in light of Richard's recent commentary on Dr. Radner's recent presentation at Epiphany West. Consideration of the dark side of "autonomy," as can be witnessed in numerous global conflicts, is a strong argument for the need of some agreement of principles by which we can strive for the "common good." I tend to agree with Richard, however, in that I think the claim that what the Episcopal Church seeks is "pure autonomy" is overstating the case.

What I found especially helpful was some details regarding the Covenant Design Group that Dr. Radner was willing to offer:

1. Through study and discussion, the group has generally settled that covenant is understood biblically and traditionally as centered on trust and word keeping. The Design Group is taking this seriously as a modus operandi.

2. There should be nothing "new" in the formulation and articulation of an Anglican Covenant. In other words, the Covenant will be based on agreements and theological expressions that are already extant in the Communion and rooted in Christian tradition. In this case, the baptismal covenant (even as found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer) is figuring prominently as a resource.

3. The Covenant will not be addressing the particular disputes on the table at present (i.e. human sexuality, women's ordination, etc.) but will rather provide a touchstone for how future disputes may be addressed in the Communion in the future

4. Ways of living together in Communion that have been ad hoc in the past may be made more intentional for the future through the Covenant.
Here is Richard's note of caution regarding the above points and his commentary on them:

I found this hopeful, but I urge caution on drawing too many conclusions at this point, as we bloggers are overly prone to do! I will say that Dr. Radner did seem to make clear, however, that there are expectations, particularly on one "side" of the present mess, that will not be met by this covenant process: namely, expectations that a definitive answer to the present theological controversies and questions of biblical interpretation and polity will be forthcoming. Rather, the group is focused on creating a covenant structure that will help cultivate and engender trust so that further disagreements in the Anglican Communion will have a bounded context in which disputes may be negotiated and/or mediated.
"...creating a covenant structure that will help cultivate and engender trust..." Regardless of what happens in the future, I think that this is extremely important. Somehow, the trust must be reestablished. We simply cannot continue as things are right now.

I'm now more inclined to be open to the idea of some kind of Covenant, especially if it is closely yoked to the Baptismal Covenant. But I'd like to see the details of this draft before giving it full support. I want to trust the Covenant Design Group, but when I read articles like this, which clearly suggests that the chair of the group does indeed have an agenda he is pushing, it is very difficult to do so.

I think the goal of reestablishing trust relationships is worth pursuing. Off the top of my head, I can think of quite a few individuals with whom I disagree on many matters now being debated within the Church who I continue to trust. Unfortunately, there are also many, such as those involved in border crossings, that it is going to take quite a bit of time, if ever, for those bonds of trust to heal.

So, what do you think of the Covenant idea? Do you think there is still a chance that we might be able to cultivate trust among the various perspectives within Anglicanism? Is a Covenant the only way this might be accomplished?


Friday, January 26, 2007

Is Dr. Williams Being Even-Handed?

We recently discussed Bishop Paul Marshall's letter regarding Archbishop Rowan Williams, in which he addresses the issue of Dr. Williams' "shunning" North American bishops. Now it appears that the secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, Canon Kenneth Kearon, has stated that Bp. Marshall's letter is "very accurate."

We learned yesterday that Dr. Williams has decided to invite the Moderator of the Network to attend the Primates Meeting next month. Here's part of Mark Harris' response:

...What is the Archbishop thinking?

It doesn't matter who else he brings into the conversation. The fact is the Moderator is in the building. If the Primates were to decide to invite someone not the Primate of the Episcopal Church to sit with them as an American Anglican presence what would there be to prevent them? If they decide to disinvite the Presiding Bishop, what then?
The Church Times has given us an opportunity to vote on the following question:

Is Dr Williams being even-handed with the Episcopal Church in the United States?

Vote here.

A tip of the "fancy hat" to David for this one.


For Karen...

...on the occasion of being ordained a priest in Christ's holy catholic Church:

The Collar
by George Herbert

I struck the board and cried, "No more;
I will abroad!
What? shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free, free as the road,
Loose as the wind, as large as store.
Shall I be still in suit?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me blood, and not restore
What I have lost with cordial fruit?
Sure there was wine
Before my sighs did dry it; there was corn
Before my tears did drown it.
Is the year only lost to me?
Have I no bays to crown it,
No flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted?
All wasted?
Not so, my heart; but there is fruit,
And thou hast hands.
Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures; leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit and not. Forsake thy cage,
Thy rope of sands,
Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw,
And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
Away! take heed;
I will abroad.
Call in thy death's-head there; tie up thy fears.
He that forbears
To suit and serve his need,
Deserves his load."
But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild
At every word,
Methought I heard one calling, Child!
And I replied, My Lord.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Two Conferences Worth Noting

The Trinity Institute Conference, hosted by Trinity Church, Wall Street, ended today. The theme was "God's Unfinished Future: Why it Matters Now." Among the presenters were Jürgen Moltmann, emeritus professor of theology at Tübingen University, Germany and Peter Gomes, Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard University and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals. ENS provides us with a summary of their presentations.

Gomes, speaking on the theme "Can We Afford a Positive Future," recommends five things to do to point ourselves towards hope. His fifth point is quite relevant in light of our previous discussion:

"Preach to the future [because] there is no salvation in the past. There is no hope in history." Gomes warned against a nostalgia that longs for what he said is a non-existent time in the past when all was right. "The only place worth going to for believers is to the place where we have not yet been," he said. "Preach the future then not as a place of terror and fear and intimidation but as the place where we shall finally be fully known even as we; where we shall see God face to face."
"...forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal..."

CDSP launched Epiphany West yesterday. This year's theme is a timely topic; "Re-visioning Anglicanism - Where do we go from here?"

Richard is attending Epiphany West, and blogging about it. He's got some insightful things to say. Here's part of the conclusion to his reflection entitled Anglican Romanticism:

...It strikes me that we all suffer from our own forms of "Anglican Romanticism." Appeals to Hooker, Cranmer, or the missionaries who founded our particular Churches may, in the end, not help the present impasse or bring us towards reconciliation.

What the AAC, and, to some extent, the AMiA and CANA and other alphabet-soup networks are up to is really nothing new, but they are simply re-articulating an age-old position of puritanical theology and thought that can be traced back in the history of the Episcopal Church and even to the foundation of the Church of England in the sixteenth century. That's their "Anglicanism," and they have some justification from a particular reading of the historical record.

But they risk, like the Reformed Episcopal Church, becoming yet one more mere splinter in our common history. Their truly romantic and over-inflated notions, it seems to me, lies in their implicit and explicit desire to become some kind of new Province of the Communion or develop some polity that, despite contradicting over 1,400 years of jurisdictional tradition, will fly in the greater Anglican Communion. Or even to see The Epsicopal Church "kicked out" of the Anglican Communion. Now I think that one's probably over the top, but it helps to explain the strong inclination to get close with the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Primates in the hope that a divorce from The Episcopal Church will not set them adrift as far as the rest of the Communion goes. Romanticism par excellence, I'd say!

UPDATE: Richard has posted a second reflection, entitled A Mess of History. It is drawn from the lectures of The Rev. Dr. Rebecca Lyman and The Rev. Nak-Hyon Joo. Of special note is the section subtitled Understanding Akinola.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Personal Sense of Loss

Take a moment to read some thoughts from Dylan Breuer. Here's part of the last paragraph:

...When evangelicals or Anglo-Catholics leave The Episcopal Church, I feel a personal sense of loss; I find myself thinking, "crap -- there goes someone I wanted to learn more from," as well as "drat -- it's going to be much harder for us to accomplish things in God's mission without that person." Even strictly in terms of my own agenda in church politics, I lose out when people leave The Episcopal Church -- I'm losing an ally in advocating for biblical literacy, or for beautiful and excellent liturgy, or for justice for the poor, or for other things, and most likely in multiple categories. I guess that's what happens when you're a charismatic Anglo-Catholic evangelical progressive. And I know that for personal as well as theological reasons, I'd like it to happen less often.
To expand on this a bit, it seems to me that it is appropriate for us to recognize the grieving that accompanies any loss. Elizabeth Kubler Ross suggested that there is a grieving process:

Shock stage: Initial paralysis at hearing the bad news.

Denial stage: Trying to avoid the inevitable.

Anger stage: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.

Bargaining stage: Seeking in vain for a way out.

Depression stage: Final realization of the inevitable.

Testing stage: Seeking realistic solutions.

Acceptance stage: Finally finding the way forward.
I think, if we are honest, we have to admit to seeing all of these stages played out here at Jake's place at one time or another over the last couple of years. The Church as we once knew it is no more. And that is sad, but also frightening in some ways. As William Auden said:

We would rather be ruined than changed
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And see our illusions die.
"We would rather be ruined than changed." That is certainly an option. We have a choice. We can hold on to the past, which in truth may be much more of an idealistic illusion, or we can let it quietly die, and place our hope in the new thing that God might be doing in our midst. As Paul wrote to the Philippians:

I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
Let us not be overwhelmed by our grief. Press on toward the goal.


Monday, January 22, 2007

No Boycott of Primates Meeting

Last month, Archbishop Orombi of Uganda announced that the Global South Primates told the Archbishop of Canterbury that "they cannot sit together with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the upcoming Primates Meeting in February." Dr. Williams invited our Presiding Bishop. This led some to wonder if Abp. Orombi and his fellow Primates would make good their threat of a boycott.

Earlier this month, there were reports that the boycott was off. That has now been confirmed by some of those present at the recent Anglican Mission in America Conference (AMiA is a breakaway group that is not in communion with Canterbury). The Rev. Robert Hackendorf identifies eight Anglican Primates from the Global South as being present at this conference. He also includes the following comment regarding a panel discussion with the eight Primates:

...The second and final question concerned the Primate’s meeting in Tanzania and the GS primates posture towards Katherine (sic) Schori.

++Yong Ping stressed the need for prayer. He said that we should pray that the Lord would “shut the mouth of the Devil…and open the mouth of the orthodox leaders in that meeting.”

++Mtetemela said that as a host in Africa, you do not kick out a stranger in your home, but you might ask why they are there. He asked for prayer since there is a certain amount of “righteous anger” on the part of many primates, that the Lord would give them grace to speak the truth in love. The focus of the meeting will be the entire Church, not Katherine. The issue is not ECUSA, but how the Devil is tearing apart the Church by distorting the truth.

++Kolini said that the problem with Katherine (sic) is not a gender issue, but a faith issue. The primates are going to Tanzania in obedience to the Holy Spirit. The GS primates will “do what the HS tells them to do.”
Another source (warning - do not follow the link to the primary source unless you have a strong stomach; it is a toxic wasteland) is more explicit:

...Asked if they would be seated with revisionist American Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, at the Primates’ Meeting, Kenyan Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, another of several Anglican leaders attending the AMiA meeting, said, “In Africa whether you are a friend or [enemy] normally we welcome you, but welcoming you does not mean we agree with what you are doing. When you are called to a meeting you don’t say no, but you can say no to the agenda for that meeting. We can begin the meeting, but the agenda itself will tell whether we can continue with everybody or not.”
So it appears that all 38 of the Primates will be present in Tanzania next month. Some may choose to stand for the entire meeting, rather than sit at the same table with a female leader and thus acknowledge her as a peer. No doubt others will once again, in true Donatist fashion, wield the issue of table fellowship as a weapon. And others may choose to walk out in protest at some predetermined point in the meeting.

Regardless of the reprehensible depiction of those who disagree with them as "the devil," and the rude and offensive displays planned for the gathering of Primates in Tanzania, I have little doubt that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will comport herself the same dignity, strength and grace that we have witnessed over the months since her election.


UPDATE: Another article offers a couple of additional quotes from the Primates attending the Jacksonville conference.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Will Abp. Akinola be "Disciplined" by the Primates?

By now you are all familiar with the Convocation for Anglicans in North America, aka Convocation of Anglican Nigerians in Americas, aka Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America, the mission launched by Peter Akinola to establish a beachhead within TEC.

Bp. Peter Lee referred to this breach of boundaries in his recent letter:

...The Church of Nigeria, like The Episcopal Church, is an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion with clearly defined boundaries. Bonds of affection in the Anglican Communion hold that provincial boundaries are not crossed by bishops without expressed invitation. Bishop Akinola’s effort to establish CANA within the boundaries of The Episcopal Church has occurred without any invitation or authorization whatsoever and violates centuries of established Anglican heritage. As the Archbishop of Canterbury has made clear, CANA is not a branch of the Anglican Communion and does not have his encouragement...
You may recall the statement of last month from the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion:

The Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) is, to my knowledge, a "mission" of the Church of Nigeria. It is not a branch of the Anglican Communion as such but an organsation which relates to a single province of the Anglican Communion. CANA has not petitioned the Anglican Consultative Council for any official status within the Communion's structures, nor has the Archbishop of Canterbury indicated any support for its establishment.
Our Presiding Bishop has reiterated Bp. Lee's charge:

...The recent decisions by some members of congregations in Virginia to leave the Episcopal Church and ally with the Anglican Church of Nigeria have no cognizance in our polity. Ancient precedent (from as early as the fourth century) in the Church requires bishops to respect diocesan boundaries, and to refrain from crossing into or acting officially in dioceses other than their own. As a Church we cannot and will not work to subvert that ancient precedent by facilitating the establishment of congregations which are purportedly responsible to bishops in other parts of the Anglican Communion within the diocesan boundaries of the Episcopal Church...
And, just so you know they aren't making this stuff up, let's recall the following from the Windsor Report, that document supposedly so cherished by Abp. Akinola and his "missionary bishop" Martyn Minns:

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...
The charges have been made by our leadership. It seems to me Abp. Akinola has some explaining to do. Next month in Tanzania would seem like an appropriate setting for him to respond to these charges. If he refuses to remove CANA from within the boundaries of TEC, will he be willing to face the consequences?

Personally, I don't think it is the Primates' place to try and "punish" anyone. Yet, it does seem rather ironic for Peter Akinola to find himself in the same position that he once attempted to force TEC to take. It's not a pleasant perspective, is it Archbishop?


Presiding Bishop Supports Bp. Lee

A statement from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:

The Episcopal Church, in consultation with the Diocese of Virginia, regrets the recent votes by members of some congregations in Virginia to leave this Church. We wish to be clear, however, that while individuals have the right and privilege to depart or return at any time, congregations do not. Congregations exist because they are in communion with the bishop of a diocese, through recognition by diocesan governing bodies (diocesan synods, councils, or conventions). Congregations cannot unilaterally disestablish themselves or remove themselves from a diocese. In addition, by canon law, property of all sorts held by parishes is held and must be used for the mission of the Episcopal Church through diocesan bishops and governing bodies. As a Church, we cannot abrogate our interest in such property, as it is a fiduciary and moral duty to preserve such property for generations to come and the ministries to be served both now and in the future.

The recent decisions by some members of congregations in Virginia to leave the Episcopal Church and ally with the Anglican Church of Nigeria have no cognizance in our polity. Ancient precedent (from as early as the fourth century) in the Church requires bishops to respect diocesan boundaries, and to refrain from crossing into or acting officially in dioceses other than their own. As a Church we cannot and will not work to subvert that ancient precedent by facilitating the establishment of congregations which are purportedly responsible to bishops in other parts of the Anglican Communion within the diocesan boundaries of the Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church continues to seek reconciliation with those who have decided to leave this Church, and reminds all parties that our doors are open to any who wish to return. Together with the Diocese of Virginia we seek to be clear about who we are as Episcopalians, and to continue to reach out in healing to this broken world. The overwhelming majority of the more than 7,600 congregations of the Episcopal Church are engaged in doing exactly that.
I wouldn't change a word.

A tip of the "official" biretta to David C. and Jim Naughton for pointing to this.


Bethlehem Challenges Canterbury

Yes, I know this is old news now, but since folks still seem to be floating it about, I decided to stop fighting the current. Also, there's some new commentary regarding Bethlehem vs. Canterbury now available that might be worth discussing.

The news, of course, is a scathing letter that Bishop Paul Marshall of Bethlehem sent to the members of the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops. It is in regards to the leadership, or lack thereof, of Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. Here's a taste:

...I am sadly impressed that my friend and neighbor Bob Duncan, peace be to him, and a few of his supporters, have had more time with Rowan Williams than has our entire House, or even our Church gathered in Convention. The long-distance intervention in our process during the last moments of the Columbus convention has made us a laughing-stock. (Katharine wonderfully rolled with that without losing her integrity, a marvelous first inning.) The public words of welcome he gave to our new primate would have made a Laodicean proud for their restrained enthusiasm. The widely-publicized Lambeth Palace photograph of Rowan, Frank, and Katharine all standing as far away from each other as the camera lens would allow has not been without its effect on many among us. A dismal icon of formal communion without a hint of affection or connection has been sent to the entire inhabited world...

...The situation of the shunning of North American bishops would be painful under any circumstances. The pain is more intense here because it comes from the withdrawal of a human who was friend, teacher, and colleague to many in this church – with no notice that either his opinions or commitments were in flux. The archbishop has appeared to my knowledge only once in the US since 2003, and that was the briefest of visits to raise money for a function of the Communion. He cancelled a date for a joint meeting with Canadian and US bishops with no real excuse, and has made no effort to reschedule what could have been a fellowship-redeeming encounter...
Andrew Gerns offers a good summary of how this letter has been addressed within the blogosphere. And for the sake of keeping peace with our friend from across the pond, note that Mad Priest was the first to report it.

The Episcopal Majority offers us some thoughts on Bp. Marshall's letter from Dr. Gordon Gritter of the Diocese of El Camino Real. Dr. Gritter suggests that Canterbury's aloofness towards TEC does not necessarily indicate that he is either antagonistic or dismissive of us. To understand Dr. Williams' actions, or lack thereof, one must consider various factors; his concern to maintain the proper structure and function of the Communion, the fear of the US that exists in parts of the developing world, the most unChristian behavior of some of the Southern Primates and the apparent alliance these Primates have formed with conservatives in TEC. In light of these factors, how should the Archbishop proceed? Here is Dr. Gritter's estimation:

...In my opinion, Archbishop Rowan has every reason to expect that the Episcopal Church will continue to be his ally, even though he hears our indignation at having been snubbed. He can rely on us to understand his dilemma and to behave rationally in the long run. There are other people within the Anglican Communion about whom he can have no such confidence. Indeed, some of them are capable of planting "bombs" and behaving very destructively. He sees the urgent need to try to maintain constructive communication with them lest the entire Anglican Communion go up in flames because of disastrous sectarian leadership.

I applaud Bishop Marshall for his honesty, candor, and insistence upon accountability, while at the same time maintaining respect and dignity. I do not applaud those others who are being partisan, rude, and insulting, thus confirming the worst stereotypes about Americans.
Two perspectives, both expressing respect for Dr. Williams while still questioning his behavior. Without becoming "partisan, rude, and insulting, thus confirming the worst stereotypes about Americans," how do you think the Archbishop of Canterbury should proceed?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Virginia Declares 11 Churches Abandoned

Jim Naughton provides us with the text of a media release from the Diocese of Virginia:

Today, January 18, 2007, the Executive Board of the Diocese of Virginia took a step forward in preserving the mission and ministry of the Diocese and the Episcopal Church for current and future generations of Episcopalians and adopted a resolution concerning the property of 11 Episcopal Churches where a majority of members -- including the vestry and clergy -- have left The Episcopal Church but have not relinquished Church property and have continued to occupy the churches and use the property owned by the Diocese.

Specifically, the Executive Board declared the property of those churches – real and personal – to be abandoned in accordance with the Canons of the Diocese...
This is followed by a letter from Bp. Lee:

...In some of our congregations, members led by their lay and ordained leadership, have voted to leave The Episcopal Church and to affiliate with a non-recognized organization of churches purportedly under the authority of Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola. The organization is known as CANA, or Convocation of Anglicans in North America.

The Church of Nigeria, like The Episcopal Church, is an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion with clearly defined boundaries. Bonds of affection in the Anglican Communion hold that provincial boundaries are not crossed by bishops without expressed invitation. Bishop Akinola’s effort to establish CANA within the boundaries of The Episcopal Church has occurred without any invitation or authorization whatsoever and violates centuries of established Anglican heritage. As the Archbishop of Canterbury has made clear, CANA is not a branch of the Anglican Communion and does not have his encouragement.

When the membership of these congregations voted to sever their ties with the Episcopal Church and affiliate with CANA, they left remaining Episcopal congregations in those places without vestries, without clergy and without their churches, whether the remaining congregations numbered one or 100 souls. The spiritual abandonment of their Episcopal brothers and sisters of the past, the present and the future, is perhaps the greatest offense for which there is no redress under our tradition...
It's about time. Let us hope that the resolve witnessed in these words is appropriately translated into action.


Anderson: "Panel's Recommendations are Inappropriate"

Bonnie Anderson, President of the Episcopal Church's House of Deputies, has written a letter to the Anglican Communion's Panel of Reference, who recently gave their approval for the rejection of women priests. Here is part of Ms. Anderson's letter:

...It appears that the panel has misunderstood our polity regarding the primacy of General Convention and our overall structure that requires nearly every major decision in The Episcopal Church to have the agreement of bishops, priests and lay persons. The House of Bishops cannot alone make decisions for The Episcopal Church...
It is still a novel idea in some places within the Anglican Communion that God might actually call some of our laity to be leaders in the Church. In the Episcopal Church, we not only affirm this vocational call, but feel it is a better way to discern God's will than leaving everything up to the purple shirts. We are not inclined to give up this innovation, regardless of who disapproves. We're into the democracy thing, you see.

...The panel interprets our 1976 Canons on the ordination of women to have been "permissive," meaning that they did not have to be followed by everyone. The panel then interprets the 1997 adoption of the additional Canons on women and ordination as mandatory. The interpretation of The Episcopal Church's Canons is the responsibility of our ecclesiastical trial courts when a clergy person is charged with a violation of them and of the General Convention in all other matters. The same is true for the question of whether or not the "Dallas Plan" complies with the Canons. Only our ecclesiastical courts or the General Convention are authorized to make those interpretations. In the polity of The Episcopal Church, only the General Convention or the ecclesiastical trial court interprets our Canons...
Ms. Anderson correctly challenges the hubris of the Panel in suggesting that it is their place to interpret our Canons. The perspective of one standing on the outside looking in almost always offers a distorted picture of the situation.

...The panel appears to misunderstand the importance of the fact that our Church's ordination process is carried out at the diocesan level. The discernment process happens with the Commission on Ministry, bishop and Standing Committee within a diocese. The panel's recommendations propose that a diocese or diocesan bishop may ignore the provisions of the Canons specifically stating that gender cannot be a factor in access to the ordination process, licensing to function, acceptance into a diocese, or approval of rectors as long as women are allowed to be ordained and serve in other dioceses.
Did the Panel consider what kind of chaos such a recommendation might cause? By giving permission to ignore the Canons, they have given credence to the notion that the Canons are optional.

...If the percentage of people supporting or opposing the ordination of women is important to the panel's analysis, then the panel's incorrect inferences that a substantial number of people in the Church oppose the ordination of women should be corrected. If any of the panel's recommendations were influenced or based upon this misinformation then the panel should revisit those conclusions with the evidence that support for the ordination of women in The Episcopal Church is extremely widespread and strong and joyfully embraced.
A "substantial number"? We're talking about three diocesan bishops out of 110. One wonders what source the Panel used in its research.

...We have made our decisions regarding the ordination of women and 108 of our dioceses have been celebrating and living into that decision with great joy during these past 30 years. In all these years no one, including Bishop Iker, has been brought up on disciplinary charges for the alleged violation of the Canons for refusing to ordain, license, accept into the diocese or approve women as rectors. We are clear that women are not to be denied access to ordination. We have been tolerant of Bishop Iker.
But, since Bp. Iker has chosen to push the issue, I think our tolerance of his disdain for the Canons needs to be revisited, don't you?

...I respectfully request that the panel acknowledge that lack of full understanding of the polity of The Episcopal Church may have resulted in recommendations by the panel that would be antithetical to our polity and therefore not appropriate.

I further request that future bodies charged to make recommendations to the Archbishop of Canterbury on any topics that have to do directly with a particular province of the Anglican Communion, have adequate representation from the province directly affected by the recommendations of the panel. I would also ask for clarification of the process by which submissions to the panel of reference are investigated and researched.
In other words, next time, please do your homework before making statements that do nothing more than add fuel to a fire that is already blazing quite nicely without your assistance.


Duckworth: "Sexism Flushed from its Cover"

The Rev. John Yates and Os Guinness of Falls Church wrote an editorial earlier this month describing their supposed reasons for leaving the Episcopal Church and placing themselves under the authority of the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola. Their claim is that the Episcopal Church abandons the fidelity, negates the authority, severs the continuity, destroys the credibility and obliterates the very identity of faith.

The Rev. Penelope Duckworth, vicar of Christ Episcopal Church, Sei Ko Kai, in San Francisco, has responded to their accusations:

...Yates and Guinness began by stating that the issue is not women's leadership, rather it is the ``intellectual integrity of faith in the modern world.'' They say that the Episcopal Church has revised the orthodox faith, and they give examples. However, in more than 20 years of ministry, I know of no Episcopalians who would say the incarnation is ``nonsense,'' the resurrection ``a fiction,'' or the Bible ``pure propaganda''...
Duckworth continues with a meticulous dissection of their five charges against the Episcopal Church, revealing that they are all completely illusionary. This leads to the following conclusion:

...But there are really no points to be made, no actual discussion, no debating of the issues. The reasons stated cannot be genuine. They are a smoke screen.

And so what is the real reason? It is notable that the authors did not leave after the approval and consecration of the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson (the first openly gay bishop) in 2003. The schism occurred in 2006 and followed the election of the first female presiding bishop. Up until then, those who opposed women's leadership were cushioned by allowances which permitted male episcopal authority if requested. With the consecration of The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, there was suddenly no man who had more authority, and so sexism was flushed from its cover. Like many schismatics, the authors claim to represent the true church. But, in fact, they are objecting to decisions made democratically by duly elected representatives...
This should not be surprising of those who make common cause with the likes of bishops Iker and Schofield. At least those bishops own up to their sexism. Hiding it behind a list of poorly articulated false accusations tells us more about the accusers than it does about the accused. They are acting out of either cowardice or malice. To be generous, I'm inclined to assume the former is the most accurate.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Paul Woodrum: "Because it is Right"

The Episcopal Majority brings us an essay by the Rev. Paul Woodrum:

...This is what I long for in our present leadership when it comes to discrimination against women and LGBT people: for the Presiding Bishop and other bishops to say simply that we will not tolerate any more discrimination and bigotry and challenge the church to live into this, not because it is politic or impolitic, acceptable to some but not to others, but because it is right. No more of this namby pamby hiding behind commissions, committees, conventions and policy directives. No more tolerating seasons, years, decades or centuries of waiting for justice.

Heaven knows Bishops Akinola and Iker and Duncan and their ilk are not shy about making pronouncements that are wrong, immoral, and unjust. Presiding Bishop Browning called for no more outcasts but took six of his nine years to begin to live into that himself where gay people were concerned. Presiding Bishop Griswold was genetically too nuanced to make a direct statement. It's a new day. I hope we will hear loud and clear the old prophetic call for justice to run down like rivers and integrity like an everlasting stream. Shalom. Shalom.
Notice the reference to "discrimination against women and LGBT people." In light of the ugly attacks on our Presiding Bishop, and the Panel of Reference's recent approval of the Diocese of Forth Worth's rejection of women priests, this is how we need to begin framing the postion that we oppose.

The situation in Fort Worth can no longer be ignored, as can be seen by the picture painted by Katie Sherrod and Fort Worth Via Media. For the Panel of Reference to approve such clear gender discrimination suggests that that they either limited their consultations to those who were willing to whitewash the situation, or they actually believe that there is some validity to declaring certain members of our Church second class citizens in God's Kingdom. Regardless of the reasons, their decision is unacceptable.

It appears some within the Anglican Communion do not understand the situation as some of us within the Episcopal Church see it. It does not matter what the Primates do. It does not matter what Dr. Williams says. Because, regardless of the consequences, discrimination based on race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or age, is always wrong, and contrary to the Good News of God made known to us through Jesus Christ.

In the words of Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning, "in this Church there will be no outcasts." Let those who desire to once again put in place a human hierarchy of being do what they must. We will not be swayed by threats of exclusion or punishment. We will not repent, because we believe, with no equivocation, that we have not only done nothing requiring such repentance, but that we are championing God's vision of the Kingdom. We will continue to stand against discrimination and bigotry because it is the right thing to do.


UPDATE: Just in case anyone was wondering, the list of specific discriminations was drawn from the Canons of the Episcopal Church; Title III, Canon 1, section 2:

No person shall be denied access to the discernment process for any ministry, lay or ordained, in this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or age, except as otherwise provided by these Canons.

Martin Luther King

"I Have a Dream..."

(Note: The video tries to play quicker than it downloads. If all the stops and starts bug you, just let it play while you go do something else for about 10 minutes, and then come back and start it again from the beginning.)

An excerpt from Letter from Birmingham Jail:

...I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "An Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this 'hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to 6e solid rock of human dignity...
Let us pray:

Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last: Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Stuff Happens

From connexions by way of maggi dawn; an oldie but a goldie:

Stuff happens. What do the world’s religions have to say about this vexing existential problem?

Taoism: Stuff happens. Who gives a stuff?

Hinduism: This stuff has happened before and will happen again.

Buddhism: The stuff that happens doesn’t really.

Zen: What is the sound of stuff happening?

Islam: The stuff that will happen will happen.

Judaism: Lord, why is this stuff happening to me?

Evangelicalism: Jesus, we praise you and just wanna ask why this stuff isn’t happening to someone else?

Catholicism: Stuff happens because you deserve it.

Open Theism: Stuff happens to God too.

Pentecostalism: Tuffs appensh.

Anglo-Catholicism: Verily, verily, stuff happeneth.

Atheism: Stuff happens. Then you die. No more stuff.

Rastafarianism: Let’s smoke the stuff.

...and then a few more from maggi's comments...

Hare Krishna: "Stuff" happens! "Stuff" happens! "Stuff" happens! "Stuff" happens! . .

Jehovah's Witnesses: Let us in and we'll tell you why stuff happens.

Quakers: Quietly praise God for the blessings that stuff brings.

Calvinists: Stuff won't happen to you if you work hard enough.

Christian Scientists: Agree that there is no stuff.

Televangelists: Stuff won't happen to you if you send in your love offering.

Any we missed?


Friday, January 12, 2007

The Mask Slips

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has given another interview, which has once again resulted in the extreme conservatives screaming that she is a pagan, a heretic, and similar colorful epithets. What struck me about these passionate attacks was that Bp. Katharine did not say anything in the interview that has not been said before by various leaders of the Church throughout the ages. More specifically, her theology does not differ from that of her predecessors, Bps. Griswold and Browning. So what is fueling these current character assassinations? Nothing else explains such voracious pronouncements except the fact that she is a woman.

Other recent developments suggest that it is indeed gender issues that is behind the current venom being spewed in the direction of our Presiding Bishop. There are a handful of men in the Episcopal Church who continue to attempt to keep women in their place, meaning out of leadership roles in the Church. One of the chief champions of chauvenism is Bishop Iker of Fort Worth, who petitioned the new Panel of Reference to justify excluding women from holy orders. Recently the Panel responded to Bp. Iker's petition, giving their support for the rejection of women priests.

There's a couple of things that are quite troubling about this. First of all, the Panel's decision is contrary to the Canons of the Episcopal Church:

No person shall be denied access to the discernment process for any ministry, lay or ordained, in this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or age, except as otherwise provided by these Canons.
Fort Worth claims that shipping women with a vocational call to Dallas meets the requirements of this Canon. It may barely pass the letter of the law, but certainly denies its spirit. The Bishop of Fort Worth will not ordain women, and will not allow them to serve in his diocese. These postulants and candidates are sponsored by Dallas, not Fort Worth. And now the Panel has sanctioned this subterfuge.

Since when do we allow another body to dictate how we do things in the Episcopal Church? We might as well stop holding General Conventions, if this is the case. Why allow all four orders to work together to discern the movement of God's Spirit if their decisions can be vetoed by some outside group? Do we really want to establish an Anglican Curia, with the Primates as our College of Cardinals? One would think that our observance of the Roman Catholic Church, which allows a group of celibate men to decide matters pertaining to gender and sexuality, would make it obvious that this is the wrong direction to move.

Then there is the matter of what this development reveals about the exclusionary inclination of the extreme conservatives. Consider Bp. Iker's response o the Panel's report:

This is the first specifically positive development in a long time for those who hold traditional views.

People who want to act in a militant and mandatory way will not be dissuaded. The great value is the moral force of an international forum saying our position is recognized and our provisions adequate. It gives us the moral high ground in all this.
An outside group recognizing your right to be a misogynist gives you the moral high ground? Setting aside that absurd logic, note that this is being proclaimed by Bp. Iker as a positive development "for those who hold traditional views," which can be translated as all of the Network and the so-called "Windsor Bishops." If this was not so, certainly we would have heard some objection to Fort Worth's assertion that they all share in this "victory." I've read much cheering from the extreme conservatives, some of whom claim they are supportive of women clergy (except, of course, for Bp. Katharine), yet not one word of objection regarding Bp. Iker's presumption that they all support his position. One must then assume that they quietly agree with him, but lack the courage to say so publically. After all, it would be poor PR to alienate 50% of the members of TEC, right?

This development should make clear to us all what the real issue regarding our current unpleasantness is all about. The objections to full inclusion of women and gays and lesbians in the Church are linked, as pointed out by Susan Russell:

This confirms what Integrity has long maintained--that scapegoating of gay and lesbian vocations and relationships is part of a wider agenda of discrimination and is antithetical to the Gospel message of Jesus. We believe that excluding a percentage of the baptized from a percentage of the sacraments grieves the heart of God. Whether that exclusion is based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity, we believe it misses the mark of God's will for God's church. Therefore we do not accept discrimination as a valid theological position; rather we name it as sin...

...Substitute the word 'homosexuals' for each instance of 'women' in the report and the dovetailing of these efforts is clear to anyone familiar with the attacks on LGBT people in the church. The real question now is who is next? It's is not only impossible to predict just how far such efforts to 'purge' the church will try to go, it is impossible to ignore that such actions are patently contrary to the comprehensiveness of classical Anglicanism.
So what is the real issue? As I have suggested before, I think it is primarily about male dominance, or more specifically, fear of the feminine:

"What is driving the intensity of our current church infighting?" Is it really just about what people do sexually with each other?

Probably not. A more likely reason for a significant amount of the negativism is that same-sex relationships violate the rules laid down by all patriarchal cultures about how men and women should behave in relationship to one another. The same rules also narrowly define acceptable relationships between people of the same sex.

Looking through this lens, we can see that the offenses pile up rapidly. If a lesbian woman does not need a man to satisfy her, protect her and keep her in line, the threat of the feminine is there; if a gay man is able to access the feminine side of his being, his every move can be considered suspect and an affront to many. If long-term relationships between two people of the same sex toss the age-old formulas attached to male dominance and female submission out the window, what are we left with? And if we must allow people who are partnered in this way to live openly and with our blessing -- so that we can't pretend that this is not happening -- how offensive is that? It is only offensive if we continue to cling to a patriarchal framework which keeps the feminine in her "proper" place...
Unfortunately, it appears that many among the extreme conservatives believe their leaders' litany; it is all about the bible and moral values. It is sad to see so many being hoodwinked by men who are driven by their need for power and dominance.

What is even more sad is to see how this exclusionary campaign is damaging our witness to the world. As Ruth Gledhill notes:

...Tell anyone outside the Church that you're a Christian these days, and they make one assumption about you. It is not that you are spiritual, or ascetically-minded, or dedicated to helping others, or opposed to the culture of consumerism. It is that you are a homophobe...
It appears as if the Anglican Communion may continue to sanction the need of a small minority of men to claim God's blessing on their pathetic attempts to lord their authority over others.

So, now, among Anglicans, it is appropriate to treat not only gays and lesbians as second class citizens in God's kingdom, but also women. There may come a time in the near future when we will have to seriously consider the cost to our witness to the world if we remain a part of the Anglican Communion.


UPDATE: For further thoughts regarding "considering the cost," see Mark Harris' excellent essay, Enough: It is Time to Move On.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Rest in Peace, Dad

I've been out in California for the last week as my father entered his final struggle with leukemia. He moved on into the nearer presence of our Lord at 12:30 today.

My words cannot contain my sentiments at the moment. Please allow the Book of Common Prayer to speak for me:

From the Note on p. 507:

The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its meaning in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too, shall be raised.

The liturgy, therefore, is characterized by joy, in the certainty that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This joy, however, does not make human grief unchristian. The very love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend. So, while we rejoice that one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord, we sorrow in sympathy with those who mourn.
From The Commendation, p. 499:

Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints,
where sorrow and pain are no more,
neither sighing, but life everlasting.

You only are immortal, the creator and maker of mankind;
and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and to earth shall we
return. For so did you ordain when you created me, saying,
“You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” All of us go down
to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia,
alleluia, alleluia.

Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints,
where sorrow and pain are no more,
neither sighing, but life everlasting.

From The Committal, p. 502:

Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord;
And let light perpetual shine upon him.

May his soul, and the souls of all the departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
I love you, Dad.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Bp. Katharine: "Begin in Listening"

From Episcopal Life:

...But even more deeply, we have to figure out how to tell our story in language that a person who doesn’t know anything about Christianity can begin to understand. I’m going to suggest that our telling of that great story has to begin in listening. Not only does it say to the other person, “Your story is of great importance, and I recognize your equal dignity by listening,” but it also gives us an opportunity to discern where to help connect that story with the larger story of God’s love known in Jesus Christ.

Frederick Buechner famously said that ministry happens when a person’s great joys meet the deep hungers of the world. We cannot engage in ministry until we recognize where the hunger is.

I have had the remarkable gift and opportunity in recent months to speak to people who don’t know much at all about the Episcopal Church or Christianity. Those opportunities have come through the secular media. Those interviews intentionally have avoided the language of Christian insiders for the reasons above.

The unfortunate result in some places has been anger when Episcopalians don’t recognize their own familiar language. Let me suggest a challenging exercise: How would you tell the great truths of our faith without using overtly theological language? How would you tell a new neighbor that God loves him or her without measure, and invite him or her to learn more? If we are going to hear that person’s story with grace, we have to leave the door open for a while.
I hope that some of the above words from our Presiding Bishop were familiar to you. We have had a few conversations about effective evangelism in today's world, and have suggested a similar approach. We meet people where they are, and don't try to drag them to where we think they should be. We listen to their story, share our story, and look for the places in which God's story intersects them both.

It is also worth noting that those who shout so loudly that our Presiding Bishop is not a Christian, and base this most uncharitable charge on statements from interviews with the secular media, have seemed to miss what Bp. Katharine was attempting to accomplish. They were not the intended audience. Her comments were not for the benefit of those who are already within the Church. Their anger, although not surprising, is terribly misplaced, and tells me much more about them than it does about our Presiding Bishop.

This latest ploy, of publically stating that those who disagree with you are not Christians, and even telling others that the Episcopal Church is no longer Christian (well documented in the Network's "Choose This Day" video; see especially Les Fairfield's rant), is beneath contempt and has no place within Christian dialogue. It is a conversation stopper, effectively shutting down any communication. Those who use this tactic know this, and that is why they utilize it. They have no desire to be contaminated with those of us who have the audacity to preach the radically inclusive love of God revealed to us through Jesus Christ. They don't want our kind in THEIR Church. Conversation might mean that "those people" may have to be allowed to share their pews.

As you can tell, the tactic of someone claiming to be a self-appointed doorkeeper into the Kingdom of God is an issue that deeply troubles me. Those who stand in the doorway and block others from the Kingdom will be held accountable one day for their most unChristian behavior.

This poor witness to the world of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ must be countered. I think that many of us who visit here may just be the ones who are called to be such a counterweight.

So, to begin, let's respond to our Presiding Bishop's questions:

1. How would you tell the great truths of our faith without using overtly theological language?

2. How would you tell a new neighbor that God loves him or her without measure, and invite him or her to learn more?


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Regarding Abp. Akinola's New Churches in Virginia

Jim Naughton points us to an item in the Washington Post:

At least two-thirds of the worshipers are Methodists, Presbyterians or Baptists, and there is no pressure on them to be confirmed as Episcopalians, said the Rev. Rick Wright, associate rector.

Wright said the diverse membership of both congregations illustrates one of the great changes in American religion of the past half-century: The divisions between denominations are far less important today than the divisions within denominations.

"I tend to feel very comfortable rubbing shoulders with folks at McLean Bible or Columbia Baptist . . . that are real orthodox, evangelical, biblical churches," said Truro's chief warden, or lay leader, Jim Oakes, referring to two Northern Virginia megachurches. "We share core beliefs. I think I would be more comfortable with them than with anyone I might run into at an Episcopal Diocesan Council meeting."
From Title 1, Canon 17:

Sec. 1 (a) All persons who have received the Sacrament of Holy Baptism with water in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, whether in this Church or in another Christian Church, and whose Baptisms have been duly recorded in this Church, are members thereof.
(b) Members sixteen years of age and over are to be considered adult members.
(c) It is expected that all adult members of this Church, after appropriate instruction, will have made a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism and will have been confirmed or received by the laying on of hands by a Bishop of this Church or by a Bishop of a Church in communion with this Church. Those who have previously made a mature public commitment in another Church may be received by the laying on of hands by a Bishop of this Church, rather than confirmed.
It appears that 60% of the members of these congregations had no interest in living into the expectations of what it means to be an Episcopalian. It is not surprising that they would vote to leave TEC, since they were never a part of it. One wonders if this congregationalist approach to defining membership will be embraced by Abp. Akinola?

I agree with Jim's comment; "...it seems to me that it relieves us of the responsibility of listening to these folks when they start lecturing us about what it means to be truly Anglican."


"Windsor Bishop"...A Species Yet to be Seen

From the ENS:

Second meeting of self-styled 'Windsor Bishops' begins...

A group of Episcopal Church bishops gathered beginning January 3 at Camp Allen Conference and Retreat Center, northwest of Houston, Texas, for a three-day meeting to continue discussing the church's relationship with the rest of the Anglican Communion's provinces.

According to a story in the January edition of the diocese's newspaper, Texas Bishop Don Wimberly sent a letter to the clergy of the diocese saying that his correspondence with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, following the first meeting of self-styled "Windsor Bishops" in September, "encouraged" him to hold the second gathering.

The "Windsor Bishops" are a group of bishops who have said they agree that the terms of the Windsor Report provide a roadmap for a way forward in the midst of disagreements among the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion. They say they have come together in conversation about the church's future.

Wimberly is quoted in the newspaper as saying "the purpose of the gathering is not to form another 'group' or to issue proclamations, but to continue the conversation as requested in the Windsor Report...

In late November, (Archbishop) Williams, responding to a letter from the group Episcopal Majority, said that he was "not seeking to impose any new structure" on the Episcopal Church.

Williams wrote that he fully accepts that he has no jurisdiction in the Episcopal Church.

"I have had informal discussions with a number of parties in [the Episcopal Church], of very diverse opinions, as to what future possibilities there are, but I do not approach this with a pre-cooked agenda of my own," Williams wrote...
From the Rev. James Stockton, a priest in the Diocese of Texas:

I received the letter that Bishop Wimberly sent to all the diocesan clergy telling us about this meeting. He took some heat from us back in October for failing to inform us of the September meeting, of which we learned only through popular media. In his letter of December 19, he implies that, 'following a conversation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, [he was] encouraged to hold another meeting.' This, despite the fact that he'd already told us in October that he was holding another meeting with these dissidents in January. My guess is that he is trying to imply, as he did with the September meeting, that he is holding this meeting with the blessing of the Archbishop of Canterbury, despite the plain statements to the contrary from the Archbishop of Canterbury and our own Presiding Bishop...
From Richard:

...But yes, another group is being formed here, Wimberly's statement notwithstanding. This group is what they call themselves: Windsor Bishops. They have flown in bishops from other provinces, tried to get as close as possible with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and they meet outside the ordinary jurisdictional structures of The Episcopal Church and then issue a statement.

This time, in addition to Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies and Bishop Michael Scott-Joynt of the Diocese of Winchester (Church of England), they reportedly bring in Tanzania's Archbishop, Donald Mtetamela.

The House of Bishops in Tanzania recently anathematized The Episcopal Church, our Presiding Bishop, and a large number of Anglican Provinces...in one "foul swoop" as my grandmother used to say.

Forgive me, but I am indeed suspicious. Are these meetings at Camp Allen genuine discussions for the good of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, or just another ploy to lend "network bishops" and flying archbishops a platform to further their schismatic agendas?
So, less than two dozen bishops are meeting again, claiming the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury and flying in two foreign Primates (one wonders if our Presiding Bishop received a courtesy call). What will be the result of this meeting? I make one prediction; their statement will not be "Windsor compliant."

Let's review the five specific issues that the Windsor Report addressed:

The Commission regrets that without attaching sufficient importance to the interests of the wider Communion:

  • the Episcopal Church (USA) proceeded with the consecration of Gene Robinson

  • the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA) declared that “local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions”

  • the Diocese of New Westminster approved the use of public Rites for the Blessing of same sex unions

  • the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada issued a statement affirming the integrity and sanctity of committed same sex relationships

  • a number of primates and other bishops have taken it upon themselves to intervene in the affairs of other provinces of the Communion.
  • There's little doubt that there will be much discussion of the first two issues, and maybe a reference to the next two. But what about that last one? I suspect we won't hear one word about it, which is rather strange, as the Windsor report makes a clear recommendation regarding these "interventions":

    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.
  • Without addressing the issue of foreign pillagers in purple, none of the bishops in this group can justify claiming the title of "Windsor Bishop."

    If that is not enough evidence that only select segments of the Windsor Report are being addressed by those championing "Windsor compliance", consider this quote from the document:

    We remind all in the Communion that Lambeth Resolution 1.10 calls for an ongoing process of listening and discernment, and that Christians of good will need to be prepared to engage honestly and frankly with each other on issues relating to human sexuality. It is vital that the Communion establish processes and structures to facilitate ongoing discussion. One of the deepest realities that the Communion faces is continuing difference on the presenting issue of ministry by and to persons who openly engage in sexually active homosexual relationships. Whilst this report criticises those who have propagated change without sufficient regard to the common life of the Communion, it has to be recognised that debate on this issue cannot be closed whilst sincerely but radically different positions continue to be held across the Communion. The later sections of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 cannot be ignored any more than the first section, as the primates have noted. Moreover, any demonising of homosexual persons, or their ill treatment, is totally against Christian charity and basic principles of pastoral care. We urge provinces to be pro-active in support of the call of Lambeth Resolution 64 (1988) for them to “reassess, in the light of study and because of our concern for human rights, its care for and attitude toward persons of homosexual orientation.”
    The incarceration of all gay and lesbian Christians, which is supported by some foreign Primates, and some of the extreme conservatives in the Episcopal Church, is a strange expression of "basic principles of pastoral care" and "our concern for human rights." Will we hear any condemnation of such "ill treatment"? I rather doubt it.

    Maybe I'm mistaken. Maybe these issues will be addressed. But, if they are not, then the ENS headline got it right; these are nothing more than "self-styled" Windsor Bishops.


    Tuesday, January 02, 2007

    GOEs Begin Today

    Kiturgy informs us that the General Ordination Examination (taken by all seminary seniors) begins today. We are asked to "please keep all of us who are taking them, along with those who will be proctoring and supporting us, in your prayers!"

    My memory of GOEs is that the horror stories I heard before were much worse than the actual experience. For most of the sections, the most important thing was knowing which reference work to use, and have it close at hand, so you didn't waste time researching. The "coffee hour questions" were a bit trickier, as no amount of research can help when the situation calls for a pastoral response.

    I do recall, at some point during that week, climbing upstairs from my study in the basement, noticing that it was getting dark, and honestly not knowing if the sun was coming up or going down.

    Here is the 2001 exam. Questions from other years, and an excellent list of resources, can be found here.

    In some dioceses, all postulants and candidates for holy orders are required to pass all 7 of the areas. Other dioceses don't even consider GOEs as criteria for deciding if one is fit to be ordained. There appears to be no consistency from one diocese to another as to the weight these exams are given. I find that troubling.

    But I also find it troubling that one might relocate to seminary, invest 2 and a half years in the process, and then be "weeded out" by a national exam. Since every bishop is given "quarterly reports" regarding the progress of their seminarians, one would think that if there is a problem, it would have surfaced some time before their senior year.

    Keep those who are taking these exams, and those who will be reading them, in your prayers.


    Monday, January 01, 2007

    Jane Smiley: Most Informative Book of 2006

    Novelist and essayist Jane Smiley offers us Jane's Bingo! Award for Most Informative Book of 2006. The award goes to Albion's Seed, by David Hackett Fischer, Oxford University Press, 1989. I have not read this volume, so must depend on various reviews and Jane Smiley's summation to get a glimpse of what this work is all about.

    According to Fischer, American culture can be best understood if it is seen as being formed by four emigrations from four regions of Britain. Beginning in the early 17th century, the Puritans, mostly from East Anglia, settled in New England. Next came the southern English cavaliers and their servants to Virginia during the mid-17th century. Then, beginning about 1675, the Quakers began to settle in Pennsylvania. The final group were the Scots and Irish from the borderlands who settled in Appalachia in the early years of the 18th century.

    Smiley expands on Fischer's original premise:

    ...Fischer's thesis, in Albion's Seed, is that the four major emigrations from England to the US came from four distinct regions and cultures in England, set sail at four different periods of English history, and settled in four different US regions. These cultures have remained more or less distinct; they have set up the structures of American political and cultural life; and they have often rendered Americans inexplicable and hostile to one another. What is most important, from my point of view, is that one of these cultures has taken over American life, denigrating and threatening all of the others, and that it was almost inevitable that it do so. Hackett wrote the book in the eighties, when the four cultures seemed to be in balance. My view is that now, fifteen years later, if we don't come to understand how these subcultures work in American life, we will be unable to regain the democracy we have often (but not always) had in the past...
    This commentary is worth a read. It not only offers some real insight into our current political tensions, but I would suggest it also sheds some light on our Current Unpleasantness within the Episcopal Church. It is also helpful in identifying potential allies in the years ahead.

    Smiley's article, and the glowing reviews that I've seen, have caused me to place Albion's Seed at the top of my "must read" list. I'd be interested in hearing from those who are familiar with this work, and also some feedback on Smiley's view that one of these cultures has taken over American life.

    A tip of the biretta to Mike for pointing to this article.