Monday, February 26, 2007

Choosing Silence for a Season

This will be my last post for the duration of Lent. For personal, spiritual and vocational reasons, I need to step away for awhile. I may return after Easter. I can't promise that at this point, however, as I need to wait and see what the silence reveals.

Feel free to use comments (when they work) to continue your conversations here.

Thank you to all who have offered your wisdom, stories and passion over the last few years. I think that together we may have, at times, made a positive contribution to the larger conversation.

May we observe a holy Lent, resulting in abundant Easter joy.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Generous Rage

From rh:

Things are getting pretty ugly out there. Progressives and self-described moderates are now fighting with each other over where to draw the line between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

I fear this is exactly what the other side intended. It paints us into a corner and doesn't readily serve anyone. The trouble is, I think it may be very necessary.... for a season.

Two observations based, in part, on my own level of pure rage and pain in the midst of this dreadful mess.

First, I don't believe our beloved TEC has ever really known the depth of pain of its LGBT members. Some of that pain lessened by our church. Some of that pain amplified by our church. But the pain is undeniably real and often goes to the core of our being. The very necessity of this conversation hurts in a way I believe few can comprehend. I don't hear anyone not acknowleding the pain, but I do sometimes feel that, unless you've lived it, you really can't begin to understand it. I don't at all meant that to be disrepectful because I do believe we're all trying.

If nothing else, the blogosphere is giving space for some of that rage to be expressed and witnessed. We need a place where we don't have to be nice at the expense of our own integrity. Christianity isn't about niceness and too often we allow our practice of it to devolute into that place where we manage the inequities of this world but do not challenge and transform them. Transformation is difficulty and sometimes bloody busines. I'm sure the other side is delighted at our ability to tear one another apart-- and I fear this is exactly what they intended. Those of us who study systems theory realize that we are all falling nicely into our assigned roles. I do believe we are better than that, but I don't think we can be better if can't let the toxins out.

Secondly, it seemed to me that the way B033 was passed at GenCon06 passed over the costs to our integrity as it necessarily violated otherwise intentionally included members of the body and the ver integrity of our baptismal ecclesiology. A new PB, with her remarkable presence that invites trust, persuaded the Deputies to do something they had already agreed they could not do. Without casting judgment on that act (I already made that point at the time), it left me feeling deeply betrayed and without voice. The current circumstance now amplifies that experience and encourages feeling hopeless. Maybe we're now doing what we were not able to do at that time-- expressing that fear and outrage. The risk is that, once again, no one is really listening.

One more thing, those who continue to say that the requests of the Primates do not really change anything on the ground in our everyday ministry simply are not making the connections. If all are not fully welcomed, then no one is safe.

I desperately wish the church had a way to talk with us instead of about us. I know it's our historic pattern, but I'd hoped we had learned better by now.

So let's be generous with one another by allowing the full force of our rage to come forth knowing that, together, we can hold it with one another. There's no need to fracture over this, but only if we can speak our truths to one another.
This is from someone that I trust. Maybe I don't understand.

I'll try to have more faith in all of you. Rage away if you must. I'll not interfere.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Just Listen

Go listen to this. Listen to understand, not to debate.

I hear honesty. I hear someone I desperately want to trust.

I need to sit with this for awhile before saying more.

Thanks Ann and Lisa.


Friday, February 23, 2007

From the House of Deputies

Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church, has issued a statement. Here is part of it:

...Our baptismal promise to seek and serve Christ in all people must be very carefully considered when we are being asked as Episcopalians to exclude some of our members from answering the Holy Spirit's call to use their God-given gifts to lead faithful lives of ministry. Our promise to strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of all people binds us together. The Episcopal Church has declared repeatedly that our understanding of the Baptismal Covenant requires that we treat all persons equally regardless of their race, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities, age, color, ethnic origin, or national origin.

To honor all of the Primates' requests would change the way the Episcopal Church understands its role in the Communion and the way Episcopalians make decisions about our common life. Our church makes policy and interprets its resolutions and Canons through the General Convention and, to a lesser extent, the Executive Council.

As president of the 800-plus member House of Deputies, it is my duty to ensure that the voice of the clergy and the laity of our Church will be heard as the Church discusses and debates the Primates' requests and that that process will not be pre-empted by the House of Bishops or any other group. I have already begun to work toward that end...


Thursday, February 22, 2007

(Yet Another) Modest Proposal

Today I received a message from an old friend, Bill Bartosh (Bart) of the Diocese of El Camino Real. I have fond memories of my family and I being guests at Bart and Tony's ranch. One could feel the Spirit of the living God within their home. The same Spirit could be found in the surrounding hills and hovering above the valley that stretched out before us. It was a glorious place, and those were wonderful times.

Bart has poured his heart and soul into working within the Church to further the Kingdom of God. He is currently serving as the Lay-vicar of St Matthews, San Ardo, and as the Western Region Vice-President of Integrity. I found my own heart breaking as I read his message. In light of recent events, Bart finds himself being forced to seriously consider leaving the Episcopal Church. You can find his message here.

I encourage you to read Bart's entire statement before continuing here. Note that even in this time of personal grief, Bart continues to seek ways forward for the Church that he loves. I want to focus on one particular proposal that he makes:

...The time has come to be VERY pro-active (note that I am speaking of my own views here). In particular, it is time to go to our supportive bishops, as many as feasible, and ask them to resurrect the gist of D017, the elegantly simple proposal to expand the rites of matrimony in the BCP to same as well as opposite gender couples (easily done) at their upcoming (March 16) meeting at Camp Allen (where the "Windsor Bishops" have been meeting - perhaps not a good sign). It would be the in effect the church’s equivalent to the states opening marriage to same-gender couples, an obvious application of “equal protection” in terms of logic. While GenCon as a whole needs to pass on this (and a special convention is not out of the question), the Bishops, meeting much sooner and for sure, can ask the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music to make such a document ready for study...
Here is the introduction to Resolution D017:

Resolved, the House of _____ concurring, That the 75th General Convention authorizes use of the rites for Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage and The Blessing of a Civil Marriage in the Book of Common Prayer for same-sex couples in those civil jurisdictions that permit same-sex marriage, and further authorizes modification of gender references in the rites to accommodate such marriages, and be it further
Resolved, That Canon 18: Of the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony, be amended to permit such usage by making the following changes...
The rest of it can be found here.

Why reintroduce this resolution now? Let me give you part of Bart's explanation:

...One other aspect which might be included under “omissions” is the question of being true to one’s beliefs. A recent statement by a conservative Petaluma priest who has chosen to leave the Northern California diocese, reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, said that it was wrong to be “temporarily hiding” one’s beliefs. Is this not what our PB is doing herself, and asking her church to do, “for a season”? Note that I am not quite the absolutist this priest seems to be, but I do believe if you are going to dissemble in this fashion, you need to be damn sure the outcome will be the good one you have in mind...
Some of you may recall that 15 years ago, when the mandated dialogues on human sexuality were going on within TEC, one of the popular statements being made was that TEC was confronting the "h" word...and that word was "honesty".

Yet, just this week, included among a number of very good quotes from Bp. Sisk in the NYT, we find this line:

...“Blessings happen, sure,” said Bishop Sisk of New York. “But I didn’t authorize them.”
Is this where we are headed? Are we going to make our stand on the old "don't ask, don't tell" cliche? Where is the honesty, which this was supposed to be all about, in that?

No. There is nothing honorable in such a stance. It is time to get honest. It is time to decide, right now, if we are truly about full inclusion of all of God's people, or not. If we are, then all must be given full access to the sacramental rites of the Church.

The world is watching. Will we make an honest stand, or will we try to force the message of God's radically inclusive love back into the closet?


A Communal Fast

Canon Naughton brings us a response to the Primates' recommendations from the Rev. Ann Fontaine of the Diocese of Wyoming:

...I think we can say to the Primates –

1. We do not have official rites for same sex blessings

2. Consents are made according to our Constitution and Canons

3. We know our stance on the role of gays and lesbians (and women for most provinces) offends you, but we do not ask you to take our stance for your own.

4. We deeply appreciate your willingness to engage in the listening process and to take all this time about TEC in an era of global disaster.

5. We want to work with you to address the pressing needs of poverty, global warming, HIV/AIDS, malaria (more people dying every day than died in the tsunami btw)

6. If you do not want us at Lambeth 2008 - we accept that and will use all the funds we would have spent on that meeting for the relief of suffering around the world (including all that the dioceses will spend to send our bishops and our contribution to the ACC for this, as well as encouraging Compass Rose to donate their funds to relief and development too).
This will be our communal fast.

7. If you decide that we are no longer a part of the Anglican Communion we will continue to work with churches around the world who wish to be companions on the Way with us. The bonds of our affection are rooted in Baptism and gathering at the Eucharist. We are brothers and sisters in Christ not through our own doing but because Christ has made it so...
I'd recommend that the bishops print this out, sign it, and get it in the mail to Canterbury now.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

We Confess to You, Lord

Here's a novel idea. How about, for the rest of the day, we forget about other people and focus on doing some personal Spring cleaning?

After all, it is questionable if we can ever change anyone else. But we know we can change ourselves.

As we prayed this litany this morning, I felt some of the confessions slap me right in the face. Lord, have mercy.

Take a moment to become quiet. Then read these words, preferably aloud.
Litany of Penitence

Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved
your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation
of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to
commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our
indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our
neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those
who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of
concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn
from their wickedness and live, has given power and
commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to
his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of
their sins. He pardons and absolves all those who truly
repent, and with sincere hearts believe his holy Gospel.

Therefore we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his
Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do on
this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure
and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Comments will be off for the remainder of the day.

Go in peace.


Ash Wednesday

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

- T. S. Eliot


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

From New York

The Salty Vicar brings us a statement from The Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk, Bishop of New York. Note this segment:

...Over the years I have been prepared to make certain accommodations to meet the concerns of those whose view of the Gospel promise differs somewhat from my own. I am fully aware that those accommodations have not been uncontroversial. Now, I want to make it abundantly clear that I am not in the least prepared to make any concession that strikes at the heart of my conviction that gay and lesbian people are God’s beloved children. They are we. Our witness to the Gospel would be unthinkably deformed if by some tragic misjudgment we willingly submitted ourselves to vivisection. We are one body in Christ. Each and all of us rely upon the love of God, as revealed in Jesus, to attain to the life that is ours in Him. We have all been called by God to offer ourselves for the transfiguration of our lives in order that we “may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory.” This vision of a God who embraces all in the arms of Divine self-offering love is the vision that is at the heart of the Gospel as I know it...
Bp. Sisk repeats this pledge to the NYT:

“Being part of the Anglican Communion is very important to me,” said Bishop Mark S. Sisk of New York. “But if the price of that is I have to turn my back on the gay and lesbian people who are part of this church and part of me, I won’t do that.”

Good to hear from you, Gawain.


From California

A response to the Communique from the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop of California:


I am writing in response to the Communique coming out of the primates meeting in Tanzania. While many are reacting to the words of the Communique, I would like to respond from an awareness of the foundation of the day-to-day ongoing commitment of Christians to the gospel of Jesus. As bishop to the Diocese of California, I make the following affirmations:

  • The inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the full life of the Church is a matter of justice: as we are all part of the world, and the kindom of God is like a net laid over that same world. All on the earth are connected by this net, whether perceived or not. Actions of justice and injustice reverberate throughout the whole, promoting either integrity, remembering, and shalom, or diabolic isolation.

  • Understood as expressed above, our task in the Church is not actually to include or exclude anyone, but to show forth an intrinsic co-inherence that simply is, created and sustained by God.

  • Gay and lesbian people who come to the Church seeking the blessing of the Church for their unions are people seeking to lead holy lives, exactly like heterosexual couples. The Church must respond to gay and lesbian people seeking the blessing of counseling, community support, prayer, and sacrament in the same way it does to heterosexual couples.

  • The Diocese of California is a place within the Church -- not alone, but prominently -- where gay and lesbian people have been freer to offer their gifts: Both professional gifts and those of lay and ordained ministry. As a result, the Diocese of California has been immeasurably enriched. As bishop of this diocese, I know very well that the Christian rights of gay and lesbian people are intrinsic and must be supported, and that without these gifts, this diocese would be as immeasurably impoverished as it is now enriched. Immeasurably as the spiritual gifts of all God's people know no measure.

  • The polity of The Episcopal Church requires the deliberation and consent of two bodies, the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, to properly respond to the requests made by the primates in their Communique.

  • The Episcopal Church should make every effort, including an extraordinary meeting of the two houses, and redoubled efforts to help the other provinces of the Communion understand both our theology relating to marriage and human sexuality and our polity. We should make these efforts, and at the same time not compromise the essentials of theology or our polity.

  • I will call on the Diocese of California to come together at Grace Cathedral during the Easter Season (at a time and on a date to be determined) when we affirm the triumph of Christ over all that destroys the creatures of God, filling that great house of prayer for all people with the full diversity of the people of God: people who differ in mind but not heart; gay and straight people; men and women; the young with the old; the poor and the rich; people of every ethnicity, all together to show our understanding of Christ’s gift of new life in the Church.

    +Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop of California
    Shrove Tuesday, 2007

    Is it time to call a Special Convention?

    A tip of the biretta to Richard.

  • A Fast for All

    The Rev. Susan Russell and Canon Kendall Harmon were on the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour tonight. The transcript is here. Note this statement by Susan:

    ...From my perspective, the American Episcopal Church has now been very strategically and very intentionally painted into a corner by those in the American church who have been advocating for a schism for many years.

    And we're now faced with what I would call a Sophie's choice of having to choose our vision of the inclusive gospel over our inclusion in the communion. It's a profoundly un-Anglican way to make decisions, given that historically we have been a people of God who have not required common belief in order to be in communion with each other.

    So I think the greater challenge we face has much less to do with gay and lesbian people or bishops or blessings, but how we're going to be church together. I think that is really under attack by the radical religious right, who is willing to split this church if they can't recreate it in their own image...
    That's a good summary of the situation, in my opinion.

    What I found especially interesting in this interview was Susan's response to the PB's call for a fast for a season:

    ...If we're going to ask the church to fast for a season and bear each other's burdens, then perhaps we should fast from all ordinations and from all marriages. The two essential sacraments in the church are baptism and holy communion...If we can fast from the rest and let the heterosexual community bear the burden, as well, that would be truly bearing each other's burdens.
    Christopher has proposed a similar idea:

    ...It's time to offer ourselves together queer and straight, single and married and unioned and vowed as a living sacrifice. Not the one-way sacrificing of the centrists, but a full and living offering together that mutually submits and mutually surrenders. I recommend hard "compliance". No more rites of marriage, no union, no celebration of celibacy. No new bishops until 2015.

    We pledge to move on down to the LORD together, no longer allowing ourselves to be divided amongst one another across organs devoured piece by piece as others in teh Communion feast on our bones and entrails. We will suffer together and rejoice together as one Body not willing to sacrifice any one organ for the sake of the whole. We end the scapegoating mechinisms now and we do so by mutual kenosis, placing ourselves at the foot of the Cross as we prepare for a holy observance of Lent.

    Just as Jesus drew a fence around the Law of Love, walking the extra mile, giving even his undershirt, so do we draw this fence around the Law of Love that none are scapegoated or made to bear the burden any longer...
    Your thoughts on such a proposal?


    From the Presiding Bishop

    A Season of Fasting. Here's part of it:

    ...The Episcopal Church has been asked to consider the wider body of the Anglican Communion and its needs. Our own Church has in recent years tended to focus on the suffering of one portion of the body, particularly those who feel that justice demands the full recognition and celebration of the gifts of gay and lesbian Christians. That focus has been seen in some other parts of the global Church, as inappropriate, especially as it has been felt to be a dismissal of traditional understandings of sexual morality. Both parties hold positions that can be defended by appeal to our Anglican sources of authority - scripture, tradition, and reason - but each finds it very difficult to understand and embrace the other. What is being asked of both parties is a season of fasting - from authorizing rites for blessing same-sex unions and consecrating bishops in such unions on the one hand, and from transgressing traditional diocesan boundaries on the other...

    ...God's justice is always tempered with mercy, and God continues to be at work in this world, urging the faithful into deeper understandings of what it means to be human and our call as Christians to live as followers of Jesus. Each party in this conflict is asked to consider the good faith of the other, to consider that the weakness or sensitivity of the other is of significant import, and therefore to fast, or "refrain from eating meat," for a season. Each is asked to discipline itself for the sake of the greater whole, and the mission that is only possible when the community maintains its integrity.

    Justice, (steadfast) love, and mercy always go together in our biblical tradition. None is complete without the others. While those who seek full inclusion for gay and lesbian Christians, and the equal valuing of their gifts for ministry, do so out of an undeniable passion for justice, others seek a fidelity to the tradition that cannot understand or countenance the violation of what that tradition says about sexual ethics. Each is being asked to forbear for a season. The word of hope is that in God all things are possible, and that fasting is not a permanent condition of a Christian people, nor a normative one. God's dream is of all people gathered at a feast, and we enter Lent looking toward that Easter feast and the new life that will, in God's good time, be proclaimed.
    Make sure you read the whole statement. Sit with it for a few minutes. Then respond.


    Monday, February 19, 2007

    The Primates Strike Out

    At first glance, there's some serious problems imbedded within the Primates' Communique and the attached "Key Recommendations".

    First of all, it appears to the Primates who wrote this document that the "recommendations" are intended to be much more than that:

    ...The Primates request that the answer of the House of Bishops is conveyed to the Primates by the Presiding Bishop by 30th September 2007.
    If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion...
    That's an ultimatum, not a recommendation. Strike one.

    Then consider the makeup of the proposed "Pastoral Council." It will consist of four Archbishops who are not members of the Episcopal Church. As such, they can advise and recommend various things, but cannot exercise any authority outside of their jurisdiction. Yet look at a couple of the descriptions of the proposed role for this Council included in this proposal:

    ...authorise protocols for the functioning of such a scheme...take whatever reasonable action is needed to give effect to this scheme...
    Allowing foreign bishops to make authorizations and take actions that will effect the Episcopal Church? I think not. Strike two.

    And then there's the actions demanded of our House of Bishops:

    ...In particular, the Primates request, through the Presiding Bishop, that the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church
    1. make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention (cf TWR, §143, 144); and
    2. confirm that the passing of Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention means that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent (cf TWR, §134); unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion...
    It is certainly within the power of the House of Bishops to offer such a covenant and confirmation, but it is doubtful if they will, as to do so would be to attempt to trump the mind of General Convention, which includes a House of Deputies (a factor that the Primates repeatedly seem to ignore). Any response by the Bishops, without the support of the clergy and laity of TEC, would be empty and meaningless. In light of GC2006, in which B033 was a real stretch, and one that would never have passed if not for the intervention of Bishop Katharine, it is rather clear that the House of Deputies is not prepared to approve either of these ultimatums issued by the Primates. For the House of Bishops to bend to the will of the Primates in order to assure they can have tea with Rowan at Lambeth would be to run the risk of a further deterioration of the trust relationship between the Deputies and the Bishops. To expect our bishops to do such a thing, and to once again place them in such a position, was an error on the part of the Primates. Strike three. That's enough for this proposal to be outa there.

    Since the Primates took a couple of other swings, I would be remiss in not mentioning them. There is much concern expressed for "those groups alienated," which is clearly intended to be a reference to the extreme conservatives, yet not one note of concern for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters or the Via Media parishes trapped in extremist dioceses. Strike four.

    And finally, there is this bit of twisted logic regarding border crossings:

    ...Those who have intervened believe it would be inappropriate to bring an end to interventions until there is change in The Episcopal Church...
    So, those Archbishops who are plundering the assets of TEC, in clear non-compliance with the Windsor Report, will be allowed to continue their plundering raids until TEC becomes Windsor compliant??? We live in bizarre times. Strike five.

    It amazes me that the leaders of the Anglican Communion continue to believe that the Episcopal Church is so desperate to stay in their club that we will agree to anything to make peace. Peace at any cost is always a false peace. In this case, it seems to me that the cost is much too high.

    This is no longer solely about issues of sexual diversity. That is the presenting issue; the canary in the coal mine. The foundational issue is about where the locus of authority will reside in the Anglicanism of the future. This proposal by the Primates is a direct challenge to our polity.

    The Primates have not been, until now, like the Roman Curia. In our discipline, it is General Convention, with representatives from all four orders having voice and vote, that sets policy, within the confines of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. We believe that this process allows us to discern the movement of God within the Church quite well. We are not inclined to grant veto power to some outside agency.

    Thanks for playing, Primates, and better luck next time.


    The Primates' Communique

    You can read it here. Some sections to note:

    Regarding TEC's response to the Windsor Report:

    ...20. We believe several factors must be faced together. First, the Episcopal Church has taken seriously the recommendations of the Windsor Report, and we express our gratitude for the consideration by the 75th General Convention.

    21. However, secondly, we believe that there remains a lack of clarity about the stance of The Episcopal Church, especially its position on the authorisation of Rites of Blessing for persons living in same-sex unions. There appears to us to be an inconsistency between the position of General Convention and local pastoral provision. We recognise that the General Convention made no explicit resolution about such Rites and in fact declined to pursue resolutions which, if passed, could have led to the development and authorisation of them. However, we understand that local pastoral provision is made in some places for such blessings. It is the ambiguous stance of The Episcopal Church which causes concern among us.

    22. The standard of teaching stated in Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998 asserted that the Conference “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions”. The primates stated in their pastoral letter of May 2003,

    “The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological consensus about same sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorisation of such rites.”.

    23. Further, some of us believe that Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention does not in fact give the assurances requested in the Windsor Report.

    24. The response of The Episcopal Church to the requests made at Dromantine has not persuaded this meeting that we are yet in a position to recognise that The Episcopal Church has mended its broken relationships...
    Regarding Alternative Primatial Oversight:

    ...32. Second, those of us who have intervened in other jurisdictions believe that we cannot abandon those who have appealed to us for pastoral care in situations in which they find themselves at odds with the normal jurisdiction. For interventions to cease, what is required in their view is a robust scheme of pastoral oversight to provide individuals and congregations alienated from The Episcopal Church with adequate space to flourish within the life of that church in the period leading up to the conclusion of the Covenant Process...
    Regarding border crossings:

    ...33. Third, the Presiding Bishop has reminded us that in The Episcopal Church there are those who have lost trust in the Primates and bishops of certain of our Provinces because they fear that they are all too ready to undermine or subvert the polity of The Episcopal Church. In their view, there is an urgent need to embrace the recommendations of the Windsor Report and to bring an end to all interventions.

    34. Those who have intervened believe it would be inappropriate to bring an end to interventions until there is change in The Episcopal Church. Many in the House of Bishops are unlikely to commit themselves to further requests for clarity from the Primates unless they believe that actions that they perceive to undermine the polity of The Episcopal Church will be brought to an end. Through our discussions, the primates have become convinced that pastoral strategies are required to address these three urgent needs simultaneously...
    Lots to consider here. Let's chew on this a bit before responding. Keep in mind, as the Primates note in this statement, these are recommendations. They do not yet have the authority the draft covenant wishes to grant them.

    UPDATE: The Schedule of Recommendations is here. The House of Bishops are given until September to respond. Once again, the Primates fail to recognize that the House of Bishops does not have the authority to respond by themselves.

    There's a number of points that we cannot possibly agree to. No point in detailing them all right now. Once again, I wonder why only TEC is being asked to agree to such a cumbersome process? No mention of Canada or New Zealand. And no mention of how we are to meet the pastoral needs of our members under such recommendations.

    I await an explanation from our Presiding Bishop.


    A Glimpse of the Anglican Blogs

    As we wait for some kind of news from Tanzania, I thought I'd note Dave Walker's unofficial, and, as he readily admits, possibly quite inaccurate top ten list of Anglican blogs, rated by the number of visitors sent to his recent Primates' Meeting cartoon.

    Visitors from Jake's place ranked #2, right after Titusonenine. Imagine that.

    Go read the cartoon if you haven't already. It is quite good.

    Also see Dave's version of the Primates' Communique.

    Real news to come in the next hour, or so we've been promised.


    The Anglican Covenant

    You can find the draft text here. It's a lengthy document, but the critical piece seems to be the following:

    Each Church commits itself

    1. in essential matters of common concern, to have regard to the common good of the Communion in the exercise of its autonomy, and to support the work of the Instruments of Communion with the spiritual and material resources available to it.

    2. to spend time with openness and patience in matters of theological debate and discernment to listen and to study with one another in order to comprehend the will of God. Such study and debate is an essential feature of the life of the Church as its seeks to be led by the Spirit into all truth and to proclaim the Gospel afresh in each generation. Some issues, which are perceived as controversial or new when they arise, may well evoke a deeper understanding of the implications of God’s revelation to us; others may prove to be distractions or even obstacles to the faith: all therefore need to be tested by shared discernment in the life of the Church.

    3. to seek with other members, through the Church’s shared councils, a common mind about matters of essential concern, consistent with the Scriptures, common standards of faith, and the canon law of our churches.

    4. to heed the counsel of our Instruments of Communion in matters which threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness of our mission. While the Instruments of Communion have no juridical or executive authority in our Provinces, we recognise them as those bodies by which our common life in Christ is articulated and sustained, and which therefore carry a moral authority which commands our respect.

    5. to seek the guidance of the Instruments of Communion, where there are matters in serious dispute among churches that cannot be resolved by mutual admonition and counsel:
    1. by submitting the matter to the Primates Meeting
    2. if the Primates believe that the matter is not one for which a common mind has been articulated, they will seek it with the other instruments and their councils
    3. finally, on this basis, the Primates will offer guidance and direction.
    6. We acknowledge that in the most extreme circumstances, where member churches choose not to fulfil the substance of the covenant as understood by the Councils of the Instruments of Communion, we will consider that such churches will have relinquished for themselves the force and meaning of the covenant’s purpose, and a process of restoration and renewal will be required to re-establish their covenant relationship with other member churches.
    The Primates officially get the authority they've been attempting to grab over the last few years. The buck will stop with them. There's some other parts that cause me to hesitate (the 39 Articles and the 1662 BCP?), but all in all, nothing terribly draconian in this, it seems to me.


    Presiding Bishop Elected to Primates' Standing Committee

    Ruth Gledhill gives us the story.

    The other Primates elected to the Standing Committee are Mouneer Anis of Egypt, Luke Orombi of Uganda, Phillip Aspinall of Australia and Barry Morgan of Wales.

    In this capacity, Bishop Katharine will also serve on the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council.


    Sunday, February 18, 2007

    Quote of the Day

    The NYT provides us with these wise words from the sermon offered today in Zanzibar by the Archbishop of Canterbury;

    There was a great saint who said God was evident when bishops are silent...There is one thing a bishop should say to another bishop; that I am a great sinner and Christ is a great savior.
    May this message be taken to heart in the Global South, in Maryland and in all points in between.


    Friday, February 16, 2007

    Best Report of the Primates' Meeting

    You must see this.

    Thanks for helping us keep things in perspective, Dave.


    The Ugly Americans

    I want to revisit the final paragraph of the Sub-Group's Report:

    ...We recognise that the Windsor Report was addressed to the whole of the Anglican Communion. This report has been concerned with the response by the Episcopal Church to that Report. We understand that the Anglican Church of Canada is in the process of preparing its response. We have to express our concern that other recommendations of the Windsor Report, addressed to other parts of the Communion, appear to have been ignored so far...
    It is a curious thing that it is TEC under the microscope at the Primates' Meeting. Do the Primates really believe that we are the only Province seeking a pastoral response to the realities we face today?

    As but one example, let's consider the one area that the Report felt TEC fell short; public rites for blessings. Consider this recent comment by Dan:

    ...The SF crowd has a stronger case for blessings but I have always found the blessing thing confusing. I went to gay blessings in the Anglican Church in New Zealand at St Matthews-in-the-City when I lived there in 1991-1992. They advertise them on their website even now (as does St. John's Northcote.) I have also attended them in the Anglican Church of Canada - Diocese of Toronto in 1995 and in the ECUSA in 1994 (All Saints Pasadena). The Telegraph (UK) did an exposé where they found that 4 out of 5 Church of England vicars said ok when asked if they would do a gay blessing...
    So why is TEC in the crosshairs? I suspect it has much more to do with the way the USA is currently viewed by the world, with TEC carrying the weight of that image. We find ourselves caught up in our national struggle to balance empire and democracy, to borrow the terms used by Chalmers Johnson. Although it is not usually spoken of, as it may not even be a conscious reaction, I wonder if some of the distrust we are experiencing among some segments of the Anglican Communion isn't connected to the suspicion that TEC is another expression of the American assumption of cultural superiority, with the move towards dominance that usually accompanies such false hubris. Unfortunately, such a depiction of TEC blinds others to one of the gifts we have to offer; a democratic model of Church governance in which all four orders are involved in the discernment process.

    In Tanzania, we have had yet another example of the suspicion of "Episcopal (or should I say American?) cooties." A statement has been issued by seven Primates in Tanzania informing the world that they cannot share communion with the leader of TEC. Note that in issuing this statement those seven Primates have broken the agreement they made to not make any public statements until the conclusion of the meeting. I suppose in their zeal to use table fellowship as a weapon such matters of the trust relationship among their peers was a lower priority. I wouldn't give this matter too much attention. It is just another example of bishops behaving badly.

    Unfortunately, from the reports of yet more clandestine meetings, with Abp. Akinola leaving the official meeting to plot with his cohorts, most likely we can expect more examples of bad behavior before Monday.

    In other news, The Tempest at the Keegan Theatre was great. Prospero was magnificent, and Caliban was a believable monster. Ariel was interpreted in a rather unusual way; more borg than sprite. Her robotic movements and speech patterns were interesting, but detracted from her final scenes with Prospero, in which they grieved their parting.

    This morning we attended a performance workshop, "Bill's Buddies," at the Folger Libray and visited the National Cathedral this afternoon.

    Or cab driver for our trip back to the hotel was a Yoruban Nigerian. He was a delightful man, quick to laugh and eager to be of assistance. When I asked him about Abp. Akinola, who is also a Yoruban, he had nothing but glowing praise for him, especially his support these were his words..."putting all the sodomites in jail." I asked if this was primarily a Christian reaction or a cultural one, specifically how the Yoruba viewed such matters before they became Christian, and he described some purification rite that was used to cleanse such evil in their pre-Christian days. We also discussed the upcoming Presidential election in Nigeria, which has him deeply concerned, as the current President is backing a Muslim candidate. An interesting conversation.

    Tonight we will return to the Folger Library for a production of King Lear. Then tomorrow we head home.

    In the meantime, remember to not get too worked up over the "unofficial" news reports. Wait for the final statement from the Primates due to be released early next week.

    A final quote to ponder from King Lear:

    Love is not love
    When it is mingled with regards that stand
    Aloof from the entire point.

    Thursday, February 15, 2007

    Evening Press Briefing

    Jim points us to Scott Gunn's summary of the evening press briefing in Tanzania:

    ...Other news: Katharine was seated all day, and so was John Sentamu, Archbishop of York. The place of both had been questioned in some quarters, but they were in the meeting all day. Also, the primates prayed the Great Litany together at lunchtime instead of Eucharist. My recollection (possibly clouded by heat and hunger) is that we were told there would be Eucharist today. Not sure what significance to attache to this. We are told they'll celebrate Eucharist every day for the remainder of the meeting. It will be interesting to see who attends and who does not.

    The day was described as a day of "intense listening" characterized by "graciousness and patience." So they were civil, I guess. At least I can confirm that no gunshots were heard emanating from the primates' compound.

    The four American bishops (+Katharine plus the theological buffet of three invited bishops) made presentations today, but no details were provided. The three guests are reported to be on their way home. I believe that includes +Bob Duncan, though I'll check that one at the dinner table in a few minutes...
    So much for worst case scenarios.

    With that, I'm outa here. We've got tickets for a production of The Tempest in DC tonight. Time to hit the road.


    Report on TEC's Response

    Last March, the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council nominated four of its members to assist the Archbishop of Canterbury in "discerning the response of the Anglican Communion to the decisions of the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church," specifically in regards to the Windsor Report. That report is now avaialble here.

    A few passages worth noting:

    ...The response of the 75th General Convention to the Windsor Report as a whole in its resolutions was positive – Resolution A159 affirmed the Windsor Report, and its vision of the interdependent life of the Communion, including the appointment of a person to carry forward work on this proposal; the proposal for an Anglican Covenant was welcomed (Resolution A166[2] ); resolutions reflecting what the Windsor Report had had to say about the pastoral care of dissenting groups, and provincial autonomy were passed (A163)...
    Regarding the election of bishops, specifically resolution B033:

    ...The group noted that while the Windsor Report restricted its recommendation to candidates for the episcopate who were living in a same gender union, the resolution at General Convention widened this stricture to apply to a range of lifestyles which present a wider challenge. The group welcomed this widening of the principle, which was also recommended by the Windsor Report[4] , and commend it to the Communion.

    The group believes therefore that General Convention has complied in this resolution with the request of the Primates...
    Regarding Public Rites for Unions:

    ...It is therefore not at all clear whether, in fact, the Episcopal Church is living with the recommendations of the Windsor Report on this matter. The Primates in their statement of March 2003 did admit that there could be “a breadth of private response to individual pastoral care”, but it is clear that the authorisation by any one bishop, diocese or Province, of any public Rite of Blessing, or permission to develop or use such a rite, would go against the standard of teaching to which the Communion as a whole has indicated that it is bound. We do not see how bishops who continue to act in a way which diverges from the common life of the Communion can be fully incorporated into its ongoing life. This is therefore a question which needs to be addressed urgently by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church...
    Note that the above conclusion was offered after acknowledging that TEC has not authorized any public rites.

    Regarding the resolution that included our expressions of regret:

    ...The group was unsure how these words should be understood. On the one hand, there does not seem to be any admission of the fact that the action of consenting to the particular election at the centre of this dispute was in itself blameworthy. On the other, there is the use of the strong language of “apology” and the request for “forgiveness”. These words are not lightly offered, and should not be lightly received. Taken with the apparent promise not to repeat the offence (Resolution B033 discussed above) we believe that the expression of regret is sufficient to meet the request of the primates...
    And their concluding comment:

    ...We recognise that the Windsor Report was addressed to the whole of the Anglican Communion. This report has been concerned with the response by the Episcopal Church to that Report. We understand that the Anglican Church of Canada is in the process of preparing its response. We have to express our concern that other recommendations of the Windsor Report, addressed to other parts of the Communion, appear to have been ignored so far...
    That seems to me to be referring to border crossings, among other things.

    So, there you have it. The group feels that TEC responded well to the Windsor Report, with the noted concern regarding diocesan bishops continuing to sanction blessings. This is a well written presentation. It is difficult to imagine the Primates as a whole deciding to go against it.


    Wednesday, February 14, 2007

    The Consultation's Letter to Dr. Williams

    ENS draws our attention to a letter delivered to the Archbishop of Canterbury before he left for Tanzania. The letter originated from The Consultation Steering Committee. The specific issue addressed by the letter was the requests for AlPO (alternative primatial oversight). As I reviewed the letter once again, I was struck by how clearly it outlines the understanding of many of us regarding a number of issues. For instance, consider this passage:

    ...Those seeking “alternative primatial oversight” are in effect asking to walk away from the messiness and ambiguity of our current disputes about gays and lesbians in the church. In so doing, they give to these questions a doctrinal weight not in keeping with historic Anglican understandings. Allowing dioceses to reject the oversight of the duly selected primate of The Episcopal Church because of disagreements about this matter would open the door for others, here and elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, to reject pastoral and sacramental leadership on the basis of non-essential matters. This would lead to fragmentation of the Anglican Communion rather than deeper unity in Christ...
    This should be one of the primary concerns for all the Primates gathered in Tanzania regarding consideration of any form of an "alternative province" in North America. Such a decision would result in an eventual fragmentation not only within their provinces and dioceses, but also within some of their congregations. Once you open that door, it is going to be difficult, if not impossible, to close it again.

    As I've recently mentioned, this letter also contains an excellent summary of the response of General Convention 2006 to the Windsor Report:

    ...Some of those requesting “alternative primatial oversight” have also claimed that The Episcopal Church has not responded adequately to the Windsor Report. However, we do not view the Windsor Report as an ultimatum dictating precise forms of response by The Episcopal Church. We remind you of Archbishop Eames’ statement in the Foreword to the Report that it is not a judgment but part of a process. We understand participation in this process to include serious study of the report and prayerful consideration of its recommendations to The Episcopal Church. We believe that The Episcopal Church did so in its preparation for and actions at the General Convention, and committed by resolution to continue to do so, even as the process continues worldwide.

    As with a response to any other recommendation or resolution from one of the Instruments of Communion or other international Anglican body, our response to the Windsor Report was made in light of our understanding of Scripture, the polity of The Episcopal Church, and sensitivity to the cultural contexts of this Church. We affirmed our desire to remain in the Anglican Communion, gave our support to the process of development of an Anglican Covenant, and committed ourselves to participate in the ongoing Windsor process as well as the listening process commended by the 1978, 1988, and 1998 Lambeth Conferences and the Windsor Report. We expressed regret for straining the bonds of affection in the confirmation and consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, and we urged standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction to refrain from consenting to “the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” The House of Bishops had already developed a plan for delegating episcopal pastoral oversight, and the Convention approved this plan. Although the convention did not adopt any resolutions about blessing same-sex relationships, no such liturgy has been authorized by any convention; instead, any decision to permit celebration of such a liturgy remains with the bishop, consistent with the provisions of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. In sum, we believe that the General Convention of The Episcopal Church has responded with great care to the Windsor Report, and at significant cost to some members of this Church. We urge you to reject claims that The Episcopal Church has not responded adequately to the Windsor Report, particularly as those claims become the basis for division rather than reconciliation. It is now time to allow others in the Anglican Communion, including the Instruments of Communion, to respond...
    Bookmark this letter, as it may become useful in the days to come. It is a solid rebuttal to those who may claim that we did not listen or "adequately respond" to the Windsor Report.

    You may recall that solicitation for signatures to this letter began last November. I encouraged those who visit here to sign it. The letter received over 900 signatures before it was sent to Dr. Williams. As I scanned the list, I was pleased to recognize quite a few names that have become familiar here at Jake's place.

    Then there are those, like myself, who for various reasons prefer to use another name here. Out of curiosity, without anyone "outing" themselves, I'm wondering if those who affixed their signature to this letter might be willing to speak up?

    So, the question is, did you sign the Consultation letter? My answer is YES! Next?


    Happy Valentine's Day

    There is only one happiness in life,
    to love and be loved.

    - George Sand -

    Note to those on Safari (as in Mac, not in Africa): I've activated blogger comments. We'll have 2 threads for awhile, until I figure out the problem.


    Tuesday, February 13, 2007

    Is Schism Inevitable?

    Those who are new to Jake's place, and those who may not be Episcopalians, might be a bit confused about what is going on at the Primates' Meeting. If so, give The Big Question a read. Adrian Hamilton summarizes the situation quite well. Here's his conclusion:

    Is a split in the worldwide communion now inevitable?


    * For the traditionalists there can be no compromise on a matter of biblical authority

    * The North American churches will never accept the retraction demanded of them

    * The Anglican provinces are self-governing and could manage on their own


    * The churches could agree to disagree on the issue and still keep in communion

    * The splits are not only between provinces but within them so there is a shared interest in compromise

    * For most of the laity, sexual politics are not of paramount importance
    A tip of the biretta (without tassels) to Jim.

    Fr. Matthew on Diversity


    Trading Gossip While Waiting for the Schism

    As some anticipated, most of the "news" from Tanzania is that which has been allowed to be "leaked" by the extremists. Here's a couple of reports from sources not sucked in by their tactics:

    From the Rev. Caro Denton Hall from Integrity USA (by way of John Robison's Journal):

    ...Here in Dar es Salaam there is a severe absence of any hard news and so little incidents become much more important than they really are - which perhaps also says something about the Anglican Communion. In the absence of a galvanizing mission based on the gospel of God's unconditional love, are we just sitting around trading gossip while we wait for the schism which will surely come tomorrow. Or the day after?
    From Colin Coward of Changing Attitude:

    ...If the conservatives were not so fearful, they would not need to be here 4 days in advance, meeting and planning their strategy. And be sure, the reports posted by Steve Bates of the Guardian and Jonathan Petre of the Telegraph are accurate - these Primates and their supporters are planning a campaign against Archbishop Rowan Williams, a campaign in which they are determined to get their own way and ultimately exclude Katherine Jefferts Schori and John Sentamu from the meeting. This is a high risk strategy for them. If they fail, they have to eat humble pie. If they succeed, they will undermine the authority of Rowan Williams. They have no conscience about doing this, but I suspect the majority of Anglicans will not be impressed by their campaign to destroy the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
    If you're desperate for news without the extremists' spin on it, check in with the Daily Episcopalian and EpiScope over the next few days.

    Just keep in mind that security is tight, so most "news" is mere speculation. The name to watch for in any "news" reports is the Most Rev. Philip Aspinall, Archbishop of Australia, as he is the official spokesperson for the meeting.


    Monday, February 12, 2007

    Some Points to Ponder About the Primates' Meeting

    There's a number of things that it might be wise for us to keep in mind as the events of this week unfold:

    1. First of all, don't pay too much attention to the early news reports coming out of Tanzania. Make sure you read Jonathan Petre's report to get an idea how tight security is at this meeting. Note that an "alternative" headquarters has already been established by the extreme conservatives. So, when the reporters are turned away at the door of the actual meeting, there's little doubt where they will go for some tidbit of news. And there is also little doubt that the extremists have already written their press releases. Early reports will be quite biased. Take them with a grain of salt. Wait until at least next Monday for any real news.

    2. Keep in mind that, regardless of what anyone else tries to tell you, the Primates do not have the authority to make changes within the Episcopal Church. That authority rests with General Convention, which will not meet again until 2009. Any statement from the Primates is advisory. The notion being floated about that they have the authority to reject our elected leader and select one of their own is simply absurd. Our membership would never stand for such high handed tactics. Consequently, what we do know for sure is that come Monday morning, nothing of any immediate importance will have occurred at this meeting. Most likely there will be various recommendations. We may choose to consider these recommendations at GC2009. And then again, we may not. It seems to me we have dwelt on these issues long enough. Other than rescinding B033, I think it is time that we moved on to other concerns.

    3. There is little doubt that our elected leader will be treated rudely, and most likely will be subjected to verbal vilolence. Those who participate in such behavior need to be noted. As far as responding to such unChristian acts of violence, I think it would be wise to follow Bishop Katharine's lead on this. There is no question that we are called to stand up against oppression, but responding to violence with violence usually results in more violence. This whole mess has already created enough victims. It's time we brought things to a close. As Josh said in a recent comment, let's disarm the extremists with the truth, so that reconciliation can commence. Once again, let's avoid the temptation of making knee-jerk responses. Wait until we have heard from our Presiding Bishop. Let's let her show us the way forward. Let's allow her to lead.

    4. Don't be too quick to discount the Archbishop of Canterbury. Regardless of our frustrations, those of you who are familiar with Dr. Williams' writings are aware that he is a deeply spiritual man; and first and foremost a man of prayer. As ABC, he is caught in the middle of some very concrete and practical dilemmas. He is called to figure out how to keep the largest and fastest growing segment of the Communion and the wealthiest Province, on which the Communion has come to depend, from each going their own way. In the end, I don't think that paradox is his utmost concern, although it may be the highest priority among many of his advisors, which has succeeded in keeping these more practical matters in his line of vision. I sincerely believe that Dr. Williams is seeking God's will in all of this. I have little doubt that he will spend many hours in prayer during the days ahead. Let's remember him in our prayers.

    5. Please don't misread what I have said above as a dismissal of our current unpleasantness. This struggle is of great importance to me, but not for the reasons that you might assume. I see it in light of some of Walter Wink's insights in his Powers series. Whenever there are struggles on the physical realm, they are symptomatic of struggles within the spiritual realm. This same idea can be seen in the perspective that is often boiled down to the saying "as above, so below." My point is that we can no longer deny the nature of this struggle; it goes beyond mere human personalities. It includes the powers and principalities. It matters very much.

    Having said that, I've probably already lost many of you who do not traffic in such speculations. For those of you who are still tracking with me, let me say this, which I consider very important. I can discern the struggle. But I cannot know without a doubt which powers are aligned with whom. Using my limited understanding, and judging from the fruit that I see, I have made my best assumption regarding the will of God, and have attempted to move with it. But, in the now infamous words of the Priest who is Mad, "of course, I could be wrong." Recognizing that is essential. It keeps us humble. It keeps us from imagining we know the will of God and plunging forward, only to make a further mess of things. Let's avoid playing God. And if we can't do that, let's at least avoid making any new victims.

    6. And finally, let's never forget that, as Christians, we believe in redemption. As Paul wrote to the Church in Rome, "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." We may see our lives as a series of good times and bad times. As Episcopalians, we may see this as one of our bad times. I think it is beneficial for us to remember right now that the movement of God is always from glory, to glory. We are called to move from faith, to faith, trusting that God is moving among us, working all things for good.

    Will I be monitoring the events in Tanzania? Sure, but not as closely as past events. On Wednesday, my focus will be on those near me whom I love. On Thursday and Friday, I'm planning to get out of Dodge for a couple of days with Demi. Saturday is our parish Mardi Gras. Sunday, of course, will be set aside for the worship of God. So, we'll see what we shall see next Monday. It probably won't be until then that we have real news, anyway.

    I want to leave you with another quote from Paul's letter to the Romans:

    For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, 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.
    May our hope rest in things eternal.

    Pray for the Church.


    Sunday, February 11, 2007

    The Right Leader at the Right Time

    From a NYT article on Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:

    ...In an interview in her office last week, Bishop Jefferts Schori said the conflict was more about “biblical interpretation” than about homosexuality.

    “We have had gay bishops and gay clergy for millennia,” she said. “The willingness to be open about that is more recent.”

    She said that what she wanted to convey to her fellow primates was that despite the highly-publicized departure of some congregations (a spokesman said 45 of 7,400 have left and affiliated with provinces overseas), the Episcopal Church has the support of most members, who are engaged in worship and mission work, and not fixated on this controversy.

    “A number of the primates have perhaps inaccurate ideas about the context of this church. They hear from the voices quite loudly that this church is going to hell in a handbasket,” she said. “The folks who are unhappy represent a small percentage of the whole, but they are quite loud”...

    ...Bishop Jefferts Schori said that if she is rebuked at the meeting, it will not be anything new; she experienced that before as an oceanographer: “The first time I was chief scientist on a cruise, the captain wouldn’t speak to me because I was a woman.”

    Asked how she would respond if primates walked out on her, she said, “Life is too short to get too flustered.”
    I find such statements alleviating some of my anxieties regarding next week's Primates' Meeting. Even reports of a band of clerics lurking in the shadows has little effect on my sense of peace.

    Pray for the Church.


    Saturday, February 10, 2007

    Bp. Duncan Hopes to be Rid of Troublesome Parishes

    The mention in the comments here at Jake's place regarding a curious statement made by Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh at a recent Diocesan Council meeting has now been confirmed by Lionel Deimel:

    ...Duncan apparently plans to rid himself of these troublesome parishes. At a Diocesan Council meeting on February 6, he explained that, should his diocese be granted some status independent of The Episcopal Church, “those choosing to remain in Province III will no longer be in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.” (This quotation is taken from the notes of a member of the Council. Recall that the Pittsburgh convention voted to leave Province III of The Episcopal Church last November, although I have argued elsewhere that this action was improper.) Loyal Episcopal parishes in the diocese have repudiated Network membership and sent funds to The Episcopal Church, something the diocese no longer does. In light of the recent diocesan action distancing itself from Province III, some of these parishes have reaffirmed their membership in Province III, as well as in The Episcopal Church. Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh even sponsored a meeting in Pittsburgh for parish leaders and leaders of Province III. Seemingly, Province III affinity will mark a parish as in or out of the diocese, however. (It was mistakenly reported two days ago that the bishop planned to expel such parishes. Essentially, he has said that they will have removed themselves from his diocese.) My own parish, St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, recently wrote the bishop reiterating our membership in The Episcopal Church and in Province III. If we are declared not to be a part of the diocese, where are we? The diocese might argue that the property of parishes such as mine, property that, after all, is held in trust by the diocese, should revert to the diocese. This is surely the worst fear of Calvary Church and its attorneys.

    If Bishop Duncan is offered status as head of some entity independent of The Episcopal Church, it is not clear that the loyal Episcopal parishes of the Diocese of Pittsburgh can save themselves. The Episcopal Church must come to the rescue. It should, in such an eventuality, be obvious that Bishop Robert Duncan will have indeed abandoned the communion of the church in which he took his vows. This will be a major test for the church; its disciplinary mechanism is of no avail if its leaders are unwilling to use it even in response to egregious rebellion...
    Why Bp. Duncan, who clearly no longer considers himself an Episcopalian, is allowed to continue as the Bishop of Pittsburgh is beyond me.

    I would hope that he understands that, regardless of who claims otherwise, individuals can leave the Church, but a Diocese cannot. Nothing that happens in Tanzania next week is going to change that.

    One would hope that the leadership of TEC notes this threat, and prepares to respond. It is past time for us to take our heads out of the sand, as Jim Naughton recently noted:

    ...My point is that our Church has numerous opponents, and some of them don’t regard us as friends from whom they must regrettably estrange themselves, but as enemies who, in the words of one pugnacious right winger must be “taken down.”

    In this context, to behave as though all will be well if we just keep our mouths shut and embrace the dream of a moderate covenant is simply poor stewardship. We need to be discussing our response to the various scenarios that might unfold in and after Tanzania. We need to be talking with the people in our pews about the choices that may lie before us. We need to be cultivating allies whom we can work with whether we are in the Communion or outside it.

    But if any of these conversations are happening, it is news to me. Indeed, I think it is more likely that they are being suppressed...
    We cannot abandon those faithful Episcopalians in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Alert those you know in leadership positions within TEC of this development. We need a ready response.


    Friday, February 09, 2007

    Presiding Bishop Adresses the Episcopal Urban Caucus

    Susan Russell has reported on the recent Episcopal Urban Caucus held in Raleigh, North Carolina. Here is part of her summation of the presentation offered by the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church:

    ...She rejected out of hand the misapprehension that we have to choose between the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. "I do not believe God has any patience with those who insist we must choose between evangelism and social justice. One cannot love God and our neghbor without doing both," she said. "Scripture tells us that we cannot love God who we don't see if we don't love our neighbors who we do"...

    ...Speaking of the press, when asked what had been the greatest challenges she's faced so far as the first woman primate she noted wryly, "The press see me as fair game but I see them as an opportunity for evangelism" -- to much applause from the gathered Assembly. Equally well received was her response to a question about the Iraq war: "It is long past time to beat our swords into plows."

    Asked about the upcoming meeting of the Primates in Tanzania and how we might pray for her and for them she noted the message to the church sent out yesterday through ENS and urged all gathered to pray that God "bless the best of the people we encounter" -- especially those with whom we disagree. In regard to the wider communion, she went on to say she believes there is "a much wider acceptance and diversity of opinion on this issue [human sexuality] than is represented by the primates" and shared her communication with African bishops committed to working beyond those differences. The energy she is taking with her to Tanzania was summed up for me when she said, "Our task is to focus on what our mission is and not on what divides us."

    Another questioner took on the "life after B033" issue, noting that for many in this church -- including some in this very room -- life after General Convention 2006 was lived with the reality that their vocations were negotiable and that B033 gave them cause to question whether or not they were truly fully included in the church -- questions that were hampering both ministry and evangelism.

    It got very quiet.

    And +Katharine didn't flinch. She continued to look directly at the questioner and said in a low somber voice, "I continue to be troubled by that." She went on to say that B033 was the cause of much suffering in the church and that her hope was that out of that suffering would come clarity that would move the church forward. "I think when we come to the next General Convention," she said, "we will be clearer."
    Here is the local press coverage of this event and a celebration later in the day in Chapel Hill honoring the 30th anniversary of the first black woman ordained in the Episcopal Church. I understand there are some among us who were present in either Raleigh or Chapel Hill. Would you care to add to Susan Russell's report?


    False Accusations of "New Teachings" Continue

    You may recall the video put out by the Network in 2005 in which Les Fairfield, a professor of church history at Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry in Ambridge, said changes within the Episcopal Church had made it "a non-Christian religion" and its leadership had "embraced a foreign, alien and pagan religion." Unfortunately, this kind of false witness continues. Consider this lovely quote from a regular contributer to one of the Network-friendly sites:

    ...Archbishop Carey is incorrect in his reasons why faithful Episcopalians have left. It is not because of their hurt feelings, because they were not sufficiently affirmed or "heeded, valued or respected". It is because they do not believe that one side of the "debate" preaches or believes the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, one side of the debate is touting a different religion from Christianity. In all conscience they are unable to remain a part of a denomination/church that is no longer believes the Christian faith at its highest -- or even its mid-level -- leadership. They see the Episcopal church -- and increasingly the Anglican Communion, in its delay at dealing with the gross, rank heresy -- as a corrupt, vile body with which they wish to have nothing at all to do -- no connection, no interest. It's not a matter of the "people in the pew", the clergy, the bishop in their diocese, or whatever -- it's the entire ghastly anti-Christian denomination.
    Gross, rank, heretical, corrupt, vile, ghastly and anti-Christian. Obviously, someone has had a very negative experience within the Church. But to project that personal experience onto the entire Episcopal Church is nothing more than bearing false witness.

    I've participated in over a dozen Episcopal congregations in one capacity or another over the years. Some were conservative, others were progressive. What I have encountered is much more like what is described in this letter that recently appeared in the Boston Globe:

    The article "Worshipers vacate Episcopal church" (City & Region, Jan. 29) states that "traditionalists" who have left All Saints Episcopal Church in Attleboro have rejected "new Episcopal teachings." It is unclear what these new teachings might be. The church's teachings are outlined in the catechism in the Book of Common Prayer and they have not changed. Among them is that Scriptures are the "word of God because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks to us through the Bible" and that "We understand the meaning of the Bible by the help of the Holy Spirit, who guides the church in the true interpretation of the Scriptures." The faithful Episcopalians who continue to worship at All Saints Episcopal Church and their denominational leaders never stopped believing in Jesus Christ or the role of Scripture in guiding their spiritual lives. For dissenters to suggest differently is a ruse for a divisive agenda.

    Communications director
    Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts
    I have yet to discover this "alien, vile, anti-Christian denomination" described above. What I have found within the Episcopal Church are communities that faithfully worship God in word and sacrament. But they've got me curious. Where might one experience these "new teachings" on a Sunday morning?

    A tip of the biretta to EpiScope for the Boston Globe letter.


    Thursday, February 08, 2007

    Coming Soon: The Tanzanian Circus

    Andrew describes next week's Traveling Anglican Circus and Medicine Show. Here's part of it:

    ...Akinola of Nigeria will no doubt have something up his sleeve, ready to spring it on us. We can only imagine. I hear they are changing their constitution again and it will be historic. Maybe they will annex the rest of Virginia or perhaps they will finally send an Anglican bishop to England at long last.

    I wonder how many people will be vacationing in Tanzania next week? I wonder how they will get all those pruning shears through airport security?

    Bishop Wright of Durham has decided to let the world know that he and Rowan are such good buddies that he can tell the rest of us what he ought to think. In Wright's view, the Episcopal Church is schismatic for adhering to its polity and doing it's theology out in public for all to see. Meanwhile, he says that Duncan is not schismatic because holding the exit door open and shaking hands with those walking out is not the same as leaving...
    Andrew also reminds us that we need to keep the Primates, and especially our Presiding Bishop, in our prayers:

    ...Just think. Our Primate and Presiding Bishop will have face all this, as if the pressure of being the first woman primate weren't enough. She has been called everything from a heretic to an apostate to a blasphemer. So if they don't talk to her, it certainly won't be because she's a woman, which is such a relief.

    Katharine is asking us to pray for everyone who gathers next week. And she is right. We need to surround everyone there with the power of prayer. Her graciousness and prayerfulness is a sign and signal to the rest of us as to why this circus is worth all the agony.
    The only objection I have to Andrew's comments is my need to assert that I run the medicine shows in these parts, and I have yet to receive my invitation from Canterbury. Any other reptilian ointments being hocked at this shindig must be considered inferior and potentially dangerous, regardless of the opinion of the majority of the Primates present.


    Haloscan Woes

    It seems some of you are having difficulties posting comments. I apologize for that, but am afraid there's not much I can do, as I made the decision to use haloscan a few years ago, and don't want to lose all those past comments, so am stuck with it.

    One commenter noted that the problem was in Safari. When they switched to Firefox, the problems ceased. I use IE, and rarely have problems.

    One thing I could do is activate blogger comments. I won't disable haloscan, as then past comments would disappear. The problem then would be two threads for each post...less than ideal.

    If anyone else has an idea as to how to solve this problem, please let me know. In the meantime, remember that you can always email me your comment (, and I'll add it. It won't be as timely, but better than nothing.


    Tuesday, February 06, 2007

    Durham Lobs Charges in the 11th Hour, Again

    You may recall that Bishop Nicholas Thomas Wright of Durham dropped a 4,000 word paper, declaring that TEC's proposed resolutions regarding the Windsor Report were insufficient, on our General Convention just a few hours before the final public hearing of the legislative committee responsible for presenting those resolutions. Now, one week before the Primates' Meeting in Tanzania, he's done it again, this time through an interview with Ruth Gledhill.

    To be fair to Bp. Wright, I do want to point out something that has already been mentioned elsewhere. Note the following comment in an article on the SORs by Ruth Gledhill dated January 29:

    ...But the strongest statement came from Bishop Tom Wright of Durham. I was talking to him this afternoon on something else, to be blogged separately soon, and took the chance to ask him what he thought. He did not mince his words, and launched into an excoriating attack on almost every aspect of the present "Labour" Government. In fact, he was so angry he almost forgot to mention Iraq, throwing it in for good measure only at the last minute...
    The next mention of Bp. Durham by Ms. Gledhill is today's entry; eight days after the interview. Possibly it is the reporter, and not the Bishop, who held back this interview for some unknown reason. The other noteworthy element is the depiction of the Bishop as launching an "...excoriating attack..." as "...he was so angry..." Possibly the comments gleaned by Ms. Gledhill regarding the Primates' Meeting also contained some of this same heat, which would explain some of the the Bishop's language, which sounds to me at times to come close to being hysterical.

    The Bishop begins by suggesting that the decisive event will not occur until "late 2007," when invitations to Lambeth will have to be sent out. He also predicts that some form of a Covenant will be ready by Lambeth 2008.

    Then comes the first of a few strange statements:

    ...The more sharp-edged question is who is seen to be speaking for the American evangelicals. Rowan has invited to Dar Es Salaam two of the leading Windsor bishops, the ones holding the ground around the Windsor report, who are not secceding and going to Nigeria but who are not going to waver in the terms that Ecusa got it wrong and it is still getting it wrong and needs to be called to order. The question is how that is going to be resolved in the first few days of the meeting.
    American Evangelicals? Is that who Bishop Duncan and Bishop MacPherson represent? A very strange choice of words. I'll let others speculate on the implications there. To suggest that these two bishops represent the same segment of TEC ("leading Windsor bishops") is to show a lack of knowledge of these two leaders. Bp. Duncan has had one foot out of TEC for many years, and never misses an opportunity to encourage those who have already left. Bishop MacPhearson, on the other hand, is a conservative, but not an extremist. He currently serves as Chair of our Presiding Bishop's Council of Advice. It is doubtful if they will present similar perspectives to the Primates. Beyond that, it is curious that the third bishop invited, Bp. Epting, is not even mentioned by Bp. Wright. I suppose that does not fit in with his rather ominous projection that ECUSA TEC will be "called to the first few days..."

    The assumption, voiced in this interview and elsewhere, is that after hearing from our three bishops, our Presiding Bishop will not be allowed to be seated for the remainder of the meeting. That could happen. Considering the cast of characters, anything could happen. But let's be clear here. That would require a vote by the Primates. Currently, the Global South Primates aligned with the Network are counting on 20 votes out of 37 (with the ABC abstaining as Chair). Thus their frustration over learning that the Abp. of York will be present, which might just make a vote come out to 20 to 18, which is a little too close for comfort, especially in light of the importance of the concept of hospitality among some of the Global South Primates, meaning they cannot be assured of all 20 votes on this particular topic.

    Continuing our consideration of Bp. Wright's comments, we then find this gem:

    ...Those who want to go and do their own thing do not like it when the Archbishop of Canterbury says the unity of the Church means you cannot"...
    I wholeheartedly agree. Those who want to trade in their bishop for another because they disagree on something cannot continue to be allowed to "do their own thing." By doing so, they damage the unity of the Church.

    We then have this rather over-the-top statement:

    ...There are many in America who are trying to have their cake and eat it, who are doing the schismatic thing and then accusing those who object of being schismatic. That is the bizarre thing"...
    Am I understanding the bishop correctly? Did he just call "the Americans" schismatics? One must assume he is referring not only to TEC, but our Canadian neighbors as well. What lovely language, bishop. Perhaps you have been spending too much time reading blogs?

    And then we finally get to the rub; the bishop of New Hampshire;

    ...As for what would happen to Gene Robinson? Pass. I really do not think there is a good answer to that one. The Windsor Report quotes the Archbishop of Canterbury himself saying in 2003 that if Robinson were in most other provinces of the Anglican Communion, he certainly could not be a bishop. As a priest he would be under discipline because of what has happened in terms of his marriage and partnership. In most provinces he could not have been a bishop. Therefore to ask other provinces to come to Lambeth and accept Gene Robinson as one of their number is a very big ask...
    Although the Windsor Report did not ask for it, here is what Bp. Wright and the extreme conservatives he has aligned himself with really want; they want Bp. Robinson gone. Nothing else will satisfy them. And that simply is not going to happen. And so here we are.

    Of course throughout the interview Bp. Wright reasserts once again that the Windsor Report is the new law, rather than the recommendations, or "process" it was intended to be:

    ... I think if the Windsor report is followed through then we have to say that those who have taken certain actions and who have not expressed regret in the way that Windsor requested should voluntarily absent themselves from the councils of the Communion"...
    One wonders if the Bishop of Durham has taken the time to consider what TEC actually did at our last Convention in regards to the Windsor Report. Here's a good summation provided by The Consultation:

    ...Some of those requesting “alternative primatial oversight” have also claimed that The Episcopal Church has not responded adequately to the Windsor Report. However, we do not view the Windsor Report as an ultimatum dictating precise forms of response by The Episcopal Church. We remind you of Archbishop Eames’ statement in the Foreword to the Report that it is not a judgment but part of a process. We understand participation in this process to include serious study of the report and prayerful consideration of its recommendations to The Episcopal Church. We believe that The Episcopal Church did so in its preparation for and actions at the General Convention, and committed by resolution to continue to do so, even as the process continues worldwide.

    As with a response to any other recommendation or resolution from one of the Instruments of Communion or other international Anglican body, our response to the Windsor Report was made in light of our understanding of Scripture, the polity of The Episcopal Church, and sensitivity to the cultural contexts of this Church. We affirmed our desire to remain in the Anglican Communion, gave our support to the process of development of an Anglican Covenant, and committed ourselves to participate in the ongoing Windsor process as well as the listening process commended by the 1978, 1988, and 1998 Lambeth Conferences and the Windsor Report. We expressed regret for straining the bonds of affection in the confirmation and consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, and we urged standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction to refrain from consenting to “the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” The House of Bishops had already developed a plan for delegating episcopal pastoral oversight, and the Convention approved this plan. Although the convention did not adopt any resolutions about blessing same-sex relationships, no such liturgy has been authorized by any convention; instead, any decision to permit celebration of such a liturgy remains with the bishop, consistent with the provisions of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. In sum, we believe that the General Convention of The Episcopal Church has responded with great care to the Windsor Report, and at significant cost to some members of this Church. We urge you to reject claims that The Episcopal Church has not responded adequately to the Windsor Report, particularly as those claims become the basis for division rather than reconciliation. It is now time to allow others in the Anglican Communion, including the Instruments of Communion, to respond...
    I think that says everything we of TEC need to say at this time in regards to the Windsor Report.

    Regarding why our Presiding Bishop was invited to the Primates' Meeting, Bp. Wright seems to think it is so she can be interrogated. That is a rather offensive supposition. Excuse me, Right Reverend Sir, but I believe our Presiding Bishop was invited because she happens to be the duly elected Primate of our Province.

    And then Bp. Wright can't resist insulting our members:

    ...My sense is that there are a lot of people in America, ordinary folk in the churches who have not really caught up with what is going on...
    The "little people" are oblivious. Never mind that in our decisions at General Conventions, and in our episcopal elections, the "little people" are given both voice and vote, unlike other places in the Communion ruled by purple shirts. Since the bishop's speculation may be true for the people of Durham, maybe it is necessary to inform him that some consider the lay membership of TEC to include some of the most knowledgable voices on matters both theological and ecclesiological within the Anglican Communion.

    There is little question that there is a high probability that the situation in Tanzania will be unpleasant. Keep all of the Primates, and especially our Presiding Bishop, in your prayers.

    I want to add one last comment regarding this current unpleasantness. What some simply do not seem to grasp is that the messages being transmitted by the Episcopal Church, and by our Presiding Bishop, through both word and deed, are not intended for those already in the Church. To some degree, we are indifferent to how other religious communities react to our understanding of the appropriate ways to proclaim the Good News. To parpaphrase Abp. William Temple, the Church is the only institution that exists to serve those who are not yet members.

    We live in a time in which Christianity is no longer the dominant faith tradition. More and more people have become apathetic, if not downright antagonistic, towards the message the Church has offered in the past, primarily because of the fear tactics and aggressive manner in which such proclamations were made. It is past time to reconsider our witness to the world, and maybe even repackage the message.

    There is no abandonment of scripture. Regardless of what the extremists might claim, there is no place in scripture that directly addresses the specific ethical issue with which we are currently struggling. There is much in scripture in regards to lust, promiscuity and infidelity, but nothing that speaks directly to the reality we face today. We are not abandoning our tradition, which continues to inform our corporate life. However, we do not value some of the "unspoken" traditions, such as "don't ask, don't tell," which appears to be the way the Bishop of Durham has chosen to address this issue in his diocese.

    Nor do we feel obligated to wait for a consensus of all of Christendom before moving in the direction we feel the Spirit of the living God has led us. If we had done so in the past, slavery would not be recognized as an evil institution today and the gifts that women have to offer the Church would still be in debate, to mention just two examples.

    There is no doubt in my mind that 100 years from now, when the Church looks back on this era, the Episcopal Church will be considered one of the champions of the Good News of the radically inclusive love of God made known to us through Jesus Christ. That is the message those who have turned away from the Church long to hear. And that is the message we will continue to proclaim, whatever the cost may be. If those in other parts of the Church do not want to walk with us, then we will gather others in from the highways and byways. This is our mission; "to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ." We will not compromise it.


    UPDATE: More from Jim, Mark, Richard, Marshall, Raspberry Rabbit and Thinking Anglicans.