Thursday, May 31, 2007

Diana Butler Bass: "No Nose Thumbing From TEC"

We have previously discussed the work of Diana Butler Bass here and here. She recently offered an article at God's Politics entitled A Post-Colonial Pageant. It is a commentary on how the Miss Universe pageant, which recently occurred in Mexico City, has changed over the years, with the insight that in some ways this change mirrors a global shift:

...As I watched, I realized that I was witnessing a kind of Philip Jenkins (The Next Christendom) meets Miss Universe, a pop culture sort of post-colonial, post-feminist, and post-modern global gala – one to which Western Europeans were not being invited.

Of course, we were not very good hosts when we were the ones handing out invitations, as we expected everyone to come to our party our way. But as the gravity of pop culture moves south – as the gravity of religion already has – it might help for Miss USA’s fellow citizens to be prepared for some big changes, shifts in power, influence, understandings of truth, and yes, even the idea of beauty...
Here is one of the comments in response to Diana's commentary:

Dr. Bass’ commentary is insightful. I think it is ironic though, that she seems to welcome the non-western people’s influence in world affairs (including beauty pageants) while her church thumbs its nose at them in matters of religious doctrine.
"Her church" is a reference to TEC.

Let's stop right there for a moment. We all encounter these kind of comments on a regular basis. We know that they misrepresent the truth. We also know that they are intended to cast TEC in a bad light. How do we respond?

If you're like me, the first thing I try to do (not always successfully) is to get a bit of distance from the emotion of the moment. Such statements hurt. The dishonesty is also cause for me to get a bit angry. And anger tends to cut off the blood flow to the brain.

After getting a little emotional distance, a response can be made. At this point, the problem becomes our willingness to still respond. We've gone through this so many times that it probably makes us weary just to think of plodding through it yet again. And it is going to consume so much time composing a response; time that might better be spent on more important matters. After all, it's just another opinion. And everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if it is a wrong one. Right?

Wrong. This is how the misconceptions get planted in the public consciousness. When such statements go unchallenged, over time they become accepted as the truth. Even if it is a pain to do so, we must challenge every single misrepresentation of our Church that we encounter.

Diana Butler Bass offered an excellent response. It is so good that I am reprinting it here:

I don't often jump into the comments, but my church--The Episcopal Church--does NOT thumb its nose at non-western brothers and sisters on matters of faith. The Episcopal Church has been greatly enriched by a willingness over the years to learn from our global friends, an opennesss to non-western theologies and political expressions of the Gospel.

In Episcopal pews (not the desks of the evangelical seminary from which I graduated, one that was relentlessly Euro-centric--even to to point of ridiculing the rest of the world), I first learned various African, South American, and Asian theologies, heard the voices of African and Asian preachers, prayed the liturgies of Native New Zealanders, Native Americans, South Africans, and Indians. As a church we weren't always historically very sensitive--and too often outright oppressive--but, overall, we learned from our mistakes and have been moving toward a much more generous theological vision, one that includes the insights, perspectives, struggles, and hopes of the God's beautifully diverse world.

That said, the Episcopal Church is struggling with SOME African, South American, and Asian church leaders at the moment over one issue: What is a deeply Christian understanding of sexual identity? (Although we probably should be struggling over the roles of women and children, the sex trade, poverty, and political oppression, too--if we were as faithful as we should be). That one issue, and the myriad of cultures in which the question is being addressed, should in no way obscure what has been, over the last half century, an increasing open, charitable, and mutually beneficial relationship between members of a great communion of Christians across the West and well beyond.

If we were just snubbing the non-western churches, this all wouldn't hurt so much. And, if you doubt me, ask any Episcopalian--even the most theologically liberal, pro-gay ordination one you can find--and ask how terribly painful, conscience-stirring, and prayerful this all has been. Nothing that has happened in the last six years has been done in the trivial, dismissive way your post suggests.

But pain doesn't go away by ceasing to be one's authentic self in God in order to please other people and make conflict disappear. Diversity, and true openness to diversity, will always cause conflict and tension because we are all different--even if we all live into the baptism acclamation that Jesus is Lord. Indeed, conflict suggests that people take one another more seriously than not (I fight with my husband more than anyone else!) and suggests that, as a church, the Episcopal Church has genuinely opened itself to being a true partner in global Christianity. We are trying to find ourselves in ubuntu theology--the theology expressed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu--that "I am a person insofar as you are a person." In mutual humanity, we find wonder, love, and God.

As we have opened to others and their voices and visions of God, we have also found God in new ways in our own midst--with our unique voice, history, and perspective. Indeed, being able to listen to people from the rest of world taught me how to listen to my closest neighbors--including my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. To communicate the biblical passions of the American Episcopal Church, our historical experience, spiritual insights, and the pain of our prayers is our vocation in the midst of all this global change. It is a noble task, even if we don't always get it just right.

And the struggle makes it a great time to be an Episcopalian. You can't avoid tough questions, you have to know what you believe, you have to delve into God's embracing heart of love and justice. Frankly, as churches go, it is a really pretty good one (How's that for a church sign? "The Really Pretty Good Church"). You just wouldn't know that from the partisan blogosphere or from reading the New York Times.
"Diversity, and true openness to diversity, will always cause conflict and tension because we are all different...We are trying to find ourselves in ubuntu theology--the theology expressed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu--that 'I am a person insofar as you are a person.' In mutual humanity, we find wonder, love, and God." Rather than thumbing our noses, we are willing to struggle with global diversity, because we take such differences seriously, because we care.

Thank you, Dr. Bass, for this powerful example of how to respond to those who attempt to misrepresent the character of our Church.

The Really Pretty Good Church...I like it. From now on, at Jake's place, TRPGC will be an synonym for TEC.


A Timeline to Help Counter Biased Reporting

The Lead points us to an article of interest; LEFT BEHIND:
The Skewed Representation of Religion in Major News Media
. From the report:

Among the study's key findings:

  • Combining newspapers and television, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed in news stories 2.8 times as often as were progressive religious leaders.
  • On television news -- the three major television networks, the three major cable news channels, and PBS -- conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed almost 3.8 times as often as progressive leaders.

  • In major newspapers, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed 2.7 times as often as progressive leaders.
  • In a related discussion, Get Religion identifies part of the problem in a commentary about a particular story that appeared in the Baltimore Sun :

    Clearly, the Anglican vs. Episcopal warfare is just getting started at the local level here in the United States, which means that more and more religion reporters are going to have to wade into this journalistic swamp in the weeks, months and years ahead...

    ...The heart of the story comes early, in the grit-your-teeth-and-write-it background paragraphs that reporters simply have to write in order to help readers understand what is, supposedly, going on.
    Reporters, scrambling to meet deadlines, are going to gravitate towards the best summations of our current unpleasantness. To assist them, one of Get Religion's recommendations is this article, which points to this timeline. Get Religion does identify this particular timeline as "conservative" (which, it seems to me, is quite the understatement). But, a reporter trying to get a quick grasp of things Anglican will most likely click right through the article to get to the meat; who, what, where and when. Since there is no alternative timeline available, to my knowledge, reporters will most likely lean on this particularly bias presentation of events to write their stories.

    Thanks to Richard, that is no longer the case. He has provided us with another timeline that presents most of the same material, but from a more progressive perspective. I've posted a shorter version of it over in the Community.

    Bookmark this. Print it out. When the media ask you for a summary of how we got to where we are right now, this will provide you with the necessary background information.

    Is this bias? Sure. But now a good reporter will have both perspectives to consider, which just may result in more balanced news coverage.


    Wednesday, May 30, 2007

    Jesus' Table, Without Barrier

    In her book, Take This Bread, Sara Miles describes her first impression of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco:

    ...The rotunda was flooded with slanted morning light. A table in the center of the open, empty space was ringed high above by a huge neo-Byzantine mural of unlikely saint figures with gold halos, dancing; outside, in the back, water trickled from a huge slab of rock set against thehillside. Past the rotunda, and a forest of standing silver crosses, there was a spare, spacious area with chairs instead of pews, where about twenty people were sitting.

    Later I learned much about the mission of St. Gregory's, founded by two priests determined to reform the ossified Episcopal liturgy by reclaiming the ancient Middle Eastern roots of Christian worship. I'd learn about their struggles with the hierarchy, their theology of open communion and baptism, their radical ideas about architecture and music. And I'd learn, also, about the blindness inside the vision, the contradictions inside the prophecy, the struggles inside the community. I couldn't forsee then how I'd be changed and moved by the people I was meeting, or how much I'd come to love the very beams of the building...
    You can watch a slideshow of St. Gregory's liturgy here.

    Donald Schell, a presbyter at St. Gregory's, describes the significance of the open and inviting Communion Table:

    ...St. Gregory's was among the very first congregations in the Episcopal Church to go beyond the familiar (and originally bold) invitation to communion, "All baptized persons are welcome to receive communion in this church." For the sake of the integrity of our sign and to remember that Jesus' community broke down barriers, we began welcoming the unbaptized to share communion. About 1980 we began formulating a new invitation to communion, saying, "Jesus welcomes everyone to his Table, so we offer communion to everyone, and to everyone by name."

    Our congregation of largely unchurched people and of lapsed, disaffected Christians welcomed this practice. The open invitation supported our basic work of mission. The invitation to friend and stranger in the name of God defined a gathering that would continue reshaping and being a part of their daily lives outside of church.

    In 1995, when we built the new St. Gregory's church building, we defined our architectural space around this open invitation to communion. Arguing from Jesus' practice, we did our best to remove any barriers so our building would also declare our theology and practice of Jesus' open table fellowship. The Communion Table beckons immediately to friends and strangers entering St. Gregory's Church. It stands open, undefended, and accessible to all, with no intervening baptismal font, no steps that raise it above the people, no altar rail - simply Jesus' Table greeting them without barrier.

    Some would say our architecture contradicts Christian tradition. What we have built is particularly unusual for a congregation committed to renewing the liturgy. Placing the baptismal font as a noticeable barrier or entrance marker at the door is much more typical of contemporary congregations renovating old structures or building new church buildings, though such a barrier is also a break with tradition. In fact the tension between these two new approaches reminds us that we are among many congregations and faithful communities seeking ways to renew (and reinvent) the sacraments. This, we maintain, is the living witness of Christian tradition, two millennia of faithful communities reinventing the sacraments generation by generation, making their best response to their sense of the Spirit's work in the church community and to the missionary opportunity of that community's moment in history...
    Some who look at this may disagree with parts of it. I ask that you keep in mind that this expression of worship has not been developed casually, or "on the fly." It has been carefully crafted after many years of study and prayer.

    Liturgy is not something that can be simply "studied." It must be lived. It must be prayed. You may recall the various "trial liturgies" that are periodically produced. Before any final decision is made regarding their inclusion into our corporate life, various communities were invited to pray them first, and then engage in an evaluation process.

    Personally, I'm not immediately inclined to embrace everything I see going on at St. Gregory's, but considering what they are doing has been quite helpful. It has informed some of the "issues" I'm currently confronted within the "project" I've been working on for the last couple of years.

    I think there's some wonderful and creative things going on at St. Gregory's. I would hope that we would all encourage their explorations, as I have little doubt that one day their efforts will deeply enrich the worship of the Episcopal Church.

    Having said that, I don't think there's one right way to "do church". St. Gregory's appears to be meeting a need in San Francisco. I'm not sure how well that experience can be transferred to South Jersey, for instance. But the questions that are raised seem to me to be indeed universal:

    How do we invite the stranger to experience the radically inclusive love of God through our liturgy? In what ways might we be excluding them?

    It is Jesus' table, after all. All are welcome.

    Now I must be off to set up tables for our second Free Community Fellowship Dinner. Fried flounder is on the menu. All will be welcomed, with no strings attached. And I have little doubt that we will encounter the living Christ in our midst at this feast.

    More about this, and the connection between communion and service, next time.


    Monday, May 28, 2007

    Sara Miles: A Radical Conversion

    I am currently reading Take This Bread by Sara Miles. Here's Sara's description of the book, from the Prologue:
    ...Mine is a personal story of an unexpected and terribly inconvenient Christian conversion, told by a very unlikely convert: a blue-state, secular intellectual; a lesbian, a left-wing journalist with a habit of skepticism. I'm not the person my reporter colleagues ever expected to see exchanging blessings with street-corner evangelists. I'm hardly the person George Bush had in mind to be running a “faith-based charity.” My own family never imagined that I'd wind up preaching the Word of God and serving communion to a hymn-singing flock.

    But as well as an intimate memoir of personal conversion, mine is a political story. At a moment when right-wing American Christianity is ascendant, when religion worldwide is rife with fundamentalism and exclusionary ideological crusades, I stumbled into a radically inclusive faith centered on sacraments and action. What I found wasn't about angels, or going to church, or trying to be “good” in a pious, idealized way. It wasn't about arguing a doctrine--the Virgin birth, predestination, the sinfulness of homosexuality and divorce––or pledging blind allegiance to a denomination. I was, as the prophet said, hungering and thirsting for righteousness. I found it at the eternal and material core of Christianity: body, blood, bread, wine poured out freely, shared by all. I discovered a religion rooted in the most ordinary yet subversive practice: a dinner table where everyone is welcome, where the poor, the despised and the outcasts are honored.

    And so I became a Christian, claiming a faith that many of my fellow believers want to exclude me from; following a God my unbelieving friends see as archaic superstition. At a time when Christianity in America is popularly represented by ecstatic teen crusaders in suburban megachurches, slick preachers proclaiming the “gospel” of prosperity, and shrewd political organizers who rail against evolution, gay marriage and stem-cell research, it's crucial to understand what faith actually means in the lives of people very different from one another. Why would any thinking person become a Christian? How can anyone reconcile the hateful politics of much contemporary Christianity with Jesus' imperative to love? What are the deepest ideas of this contested religion, and what do they mean in real life?

    In this book I look at the Gospel that moved me, the bread that changed me and the work that saved me, to begin a spiritual and an actual communion across the divides...
    I'm only half-way through this book, but have already been so deeply touched that it was necessary to put it down for awhile. There is so much that is worth commenting on already that I know I cannot contain it all in one post. From the first half alone, I can already identify three separate topics that call for further reflection; conversion, liturgy and service. In this first post I'll be focusing on conversion.

    After many years as a cook and then a journalist covering wars and revolutions in Central America, Sara found herself walking past a church in San Francisco. Here is what happened next:
    ...Early one winter morning, when Katie was sleeping at her father's house, I walked into St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. I had no earthly reason to be there. I'd never heard a Gospel reading, never said the Lord's Prayer. I was certainly not interested in becoming a Christian -- or, as I thought of it rather less politely, a religious nut. But on other long walks I'd passed the beautiful wooden building, with its shingled steeples and plain windows, and this time I went in, on an impulse, with no more than a reporter's habitual curiosity.

    The rotunda was flooded with slanted morning light. A table in the center of the open, empty space was ringed high above by a huge neo-Byzantine mural of unlikely saint figures with gold halos, dancing; outside, in the back, water trickled from a huge slab of rock set against the hillside. Past the rotunda, and a forest of standing silver crosses, there was a spare, spacious area without pews, where about twenty people were sitting...

    ...I walked in, took a chair and tried not to catch anyone's eye. There were windows looking out on a hillside covered in geraniums, and I could hear birds squabbling outside. Then a man and a woman in long tie-dyed robes stood and began chanting in harmony. There was no organ, no choir, no pulpit: just the unadorned voices of the people, and long silences framed by the ringing of deep Tibetan bowls. I sang too. It crossed my mind that this was ridiculous.

    We sat down and stood up, sang and sat down, waited and listened and stood up and sang, and it was all pretty peaceful and sort of interesting. "Jesus invites everyone to his table," the woman announced, and we started moving up in a stately dance to the table in the rotunda. It had some dishes on it, and a pottery goblet.

    And then we gathered around that table. And there was more singing and standing, and someone was putting a piece of fresh, crumbly bread in my hands, saying, "the body of Christ," and handing me the goblet of sweet wine saying "the blood of Christ," and then something outrageous and terrifying happened. Jesus happened to me.

    I still can't explain my first communion. It made no sense. I was in tears and physically unbalanced: I felt as if I had just stepped off a curb, or been knocked over, painlessly, from behind. The disconnect between what I thought was happening – I was eating a piece of bread; what I heard someone else say was happening - the piece of bread was the "body" of "Christ," a patently untrue, or at best metaphorical statement; and what I knew was happening -- God, named "Christ" or "Jesus," was real, and in my mouth – utterly short-circuited my ability to do anything but cry...
    (Take This Bread, pp. 57-59)
    If you read the beginning of Sara's story, this "Aha!" moment can almost be anticipated. It may seem unusual for the act of receiving communion to initiate a conversion of heart, but, if you think about it, isn't that exactly what the Eucharist is intended to do?

    I think one big factor in this moment of conversion for Sara was the setting; St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco. It was the right place at the right time. We'll talk about that in another post.

    Some of us may not recall a particularly ecstatic moment of conversion. Others may have such experiences regularly, even daily. I think that difference has more to do with our personalities than anything else. What I hope we can all acknowledge is that God is madly, head over heals in love with each and every one of us, and is constantly wooing us into being. Sometimes, when the veil is thrown back, and we glimpse the depth of this love, "something outrageous and terrifying" happens...Jesus happens.

    Those of you who, like me, were raised with a Baptist/Pentecostal understanding of conversion might need to be reminded of two more things about conversion that we may not have learned in our formative years; first, that "conversion" is not simply about my personal relationship with God, and second, that it is not a one time experience.

    Regarding the first, some time after that winter morning, Sara was asked to serve the Sacrament to others. Here is how she described that experience:
    ...What happened once I started distributing communion was the truly disturbing, dreadful realization about Christianity: You can't be a Christian by yourself...

    ...Just like the strangers who'd fed me in El Salvador or South Africa, I was going to have to see and understand the hunger of other, different men and women, and make a gesture of welcome, and eat with them. And just as I hadn't "deserved" any of what was given to me - the fish, the biscuits, the tea so abundantly poured out back in those years - I didn't deserve communion myself now. I wasn't getting it because I was good. I wasn't getting it because I was special. I certainly didn't get to pick who else was good enough, holy enough, deserving enough to receive it. It wasn't a private meal. The bread on that Table had to be shared with everyone in order for me to really taste it.

    And sharing it meant I was going to be touching Christ's body at St. Gregory's, through Donald and Rick and the angry older deacon with the clenched jaw. Looking into Christ's eyes outside of church, through the cheery atheist yuppie with the sports car and the veiled Muslim clerk at Walgreens. Listening to Christ's voice in other churches, through the middle-aged woman with the annoying nasal whine, and the self-righteous homophobic radio evangelist, and the conservative African bishop. I was not going to get to sit by myself and think loftily about how much Jesus loved me in particular. I was not going to get to have dinner, eternally, with people just like me. I was going to get communion, whether I wanted it or not, with people I didn't necessarily like. People I didn't choose. People such as my parents or the strangers who fed me: the people God chose for me.

    I ate the bread...
    (Take This Bread, pp. 96-97)
    The summary of the law is love God and love your neighbor. Sharing Holy Communion is never a form of personal piety. It forces us to stretch our understanding of the household of God to embrace all people, including those who we may feel like strangling at the moment.

    And finally, Sara makes the important point that conversion is not a one-time experience:
    ...Conversion isn't, after all, a moment. It's a process, and it keeps happening, with cycles of acceptance and resistance, epiphany and doubt. As I struggled with bread and wine and belief over the following year at St. Gregory's, it stayed hard. I began to understand why so many people chose to be "born again" and follow strict rules that would tell them what to do, once and for all. It was tempting to rely on a formula-"accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and savior," for example-that became itself a form of idolatry and kept you from experiencing God in your flesh, in the complicated flesh of others. It was tempting to proclaim yourself "saved" and go back to sleep.

    The faith I was finding was jagged and more difficult. It wasn't about abstract theological debates: Does God exist? Are sin and salvation predestined? Or even about political/ideological ones: Is capital punishment a sin? Is there a scriptural foundation for accepting homosexuality?

    It was about action. Taste and see, the Bible said, and I did. I was tasting a connection between communion and food-between my burgeoning religion and my real life. My first questioning year at church ended with a question whose urgency would propel me into work I'd never imagined. Now that you've taken the bread, what are you going to do?
    <Take This Bread, p. 97)
    I don't know about you, but I'm converted to becoming a follower of Jesus Christ every morning. Usually after my first cup of coffee.

    Conversion is an ongoing process. It is from that perspective that we can remain open to the Spirit of the living God breathing new life into us each day, refreshing us and empowering us to work with God in the act of creation, in the work of making all things new.

    Next time we'll talk about liturgy, the "work of the people," specifically as it is explored by Sara Miles at St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco.


    Sunday, May 27, 2007


    Painting by Iain McKillop

    And I have felt
    A presence that disturbs me with the joy
    Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
    Of something far more deeply interfused,
    Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
    And the round ocean and the living air,
    And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
    A motion and a spirit, that impels
    All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
    And rolls through all things

    - Wm. Wordsworth


    Friday, May 25, 2007

    Davis Mac-Iyalla Begins US Speaking Tour

    From Episcopal Life:

    ...Nigerian Anglican Davis Mac-Iyalla, 33, founder of his country's only gay-rights organization, Changing Attitude Nigeria, has embarked on a six-week speaking tour of the United States.

    Among his stops will be the Episcopal Church's Executive Council June 11-14 meeting in Parsippany, New Jersey. He will be an invited guest of the Council's National Concerns Committee.

    Mac-Iyalla will visit about 20 cities and participate in 52 events before departing July 5 to attend the General Synod of the Church of England. His tour is being sponsored by which was founded by Josh Thomas primarily as a means of supplying the Daily Office of prayer to internet users...
    On May 20, Davis spoke with the people of Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens, Ohio:

    ...Mac-Iyalla is the founder of Changing Attitude Nigeria. The 34-year-old man has been plunged right into the middle of a major social conflict that affects both society and church in Nigeria, said a press release. As a result, he has faced anonymous death threats, has been fired from his job as a school principal, suffered ostracism from family and friends, and has been denied communion by his church.

    "This is a special opportunity to see firsthand the state of the movement for LGBT liberation in other countries," said the Rev. R. William Carroll, Good Shepherd's rector, in the news release. "Davis' experience reminds us that this is not an absract issue. LGBT folk are flesh and blood human beings, often scapegoated to advance other political agendas, and the issues at hand are really about physical, emotional, and spiritual violence against persons, who can and do speak for themselves."
    Here is a portion of Bill Carroll's sermon for 7 Easter:

    ...As you’ve seen in our newsletter and in other press reports about his visit, Davis is the founder of Changing Attitude Nigeria, an organization working for the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people in both Church and society in Nigeria. This morning, he spent some time with our adult education group, and this afternoon at 3:00 he will speak to a community forum right here at Good Shepherd. I suspect he will share from his personal stories of persecution as a gay man, as well as his vibrant Christian faith which has seen him through so many struggles. Davis is a man who’s been fired from his job, cut off from family members, and indeed has had his life threatened.

    His crime? Daring to say, “I exist,” at a time when leaders in the Nigerian Church were saying that there are no gay and lesbian people in the Church of Nigeria—not even ONE. Archbishop Akinola has recently supported legislation that would make it a crime to advocate for equality under the law for LGBT people—which would deny freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly to those who advocate for basic human rights, including the right to exist free from violence and persecution. If this became law, as a priest in Nigeria, I could face years in prison just for hosting Davis today. YOU could face prison time for being here. The right to exist is conferred in creation. It is a gift from God, the Creator. And I am here to tell you that when we threaten this right, God will not permit us to continue. God will not be mocked...
    On May 21, Renee heard Davis speak:

    ...At last night's meeting, Davis Mac-Iyalla described being arrested after one of the early meetings of his organization. He and his fellow members were beaten, and were held for three days without food or water (and without charges), before finally being able to get the bribe money so that his jailers would release him. And not long after that experience, he led the first national meeting of CAN, which was attended by over 1000 GLBT Anglican Nigerians...
    Some of you may recall our commentary on that particularly ugly incident.

    On Tuesday, June 19, at 6:15 pm, Davis will join Bishop Gene Robinson at Holy Apostles in New York. This gathering is being jointly sponsored by Holy Apostles and Wake Up! I plan on being at this one.

    On June 24, Davis will join Bishop Marc Andrus in marching in San Francisco's Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade.

    To support Davis Mac-Iyalla's Speaking Tour, visit Josh's Daily Office and scroll past the first set of pictures to the donation link. Then take a look at the first pic. You'll see Josh Thomas and Bill Carroll with Davis.

    A schedule of Davis' tour can be found here.


    Will We be Accomplices to Sin?

    From The Rev. Susan Russell:

    ...The Archbishop had an explanation for his decision not to include Bishop Robinson: “I have to reserve the right to withhold or withdraw invitations from bishops whose appointment, actions or manner of life have caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the Communion.”

    What he doesn’t have is an explanation for the stunning hypocrisy of excluding the Bishop of New Hampshire because he is gay while including the Archbishop of Nigeria who supports legislation criminalizing gay and lesbian people so draconian that it has been condemned by the international Human Rights Watch.

    What he doesn’t have is a response to those who increasingly use the word “irrelevant” to describe a church more interested in how many bishops will attend the elite gathering at Lambeth Palace in 2008 than it is in how we can help end the AIDS pandemic by 2008. Or stop the spread of malaria. Or find a way to end the genocide in Darfur...
    It appears that Father Jones doesn't think much of Susan's opinion:

    The far left is continuing to blow it. The bishops of California and Washington have joined with Integrity spokesperson Susan Russell in lockstep condemnation of the Archbishop of Canterbury's decision not to invite Gene Robinson to Lambeth. But, as is often the case with shrill one-issue advocates and those who seem beholden to them, the story is not quite what these people are saying it is. The leftist activist wing of the gay lobby is myopic here, and they are failing to see what is obvious to reasonable people. The invitations issued by Canterbury are going to be much more likely to be in favor of the Episcopal Church in the long run than not. That this can't be seen by the likes of Susan Russell, and those who reiterate her every press release and talking point, is further evidence that reasonable folk somewhere in the middle must continue to question the big-picture vision of folks out on the activist fringes...
    So, let me see if I've got this straight. Since TEC is going to be "favored" in the long run, this gentleman, who fancies himself to be a "centrist," has no problem with this "favor" coming at the cost of excluding a segment of the Body of Christ?

    I'm sorry, but that is not a "centrist" position. Actually, I'm not sure if it is even a Christian position.

    Usually it is the progressives who are blamed for often being too quick in taking the consequentialist approach to most ethical questions; the greatest good for the greatest number is the right thing to do. The problem with this approach is that it can create victims. Sometimes, that cannot be avoided, when faced with difficult moral decisions. Apparently, the "centrists," or at least one of them, are now choosing to use this ethical approach to justify bigotry.

    The decision made by Dr. Williams does not fall into the category of being an ethical choice in which unavoidable victims must be created for the greater good. He has unnecessarily sent the message that gay and lesbian Christians are, at best, second class Anglicans. He has done this to appease the greater number. This could have easily been avoided by simply offering an invitation to all the bishops, and then let the bishops make their own decisions about accepting or declining.

    In a departure from the norm, it is now the progressives who have taken a deontological ethical stance on this decision; some things are always wrong, regardless of the consequences, and regardless of the benefit to the majority.

    This decision by Dr. Williams is wrong. It is sinful. It asks us to participate in the sin of bigotry. It asks us to set aside our Baptismal Covenant, in which we promised to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

    And no, I'm not buying the "gradualist" approach; that if we are patient, maybe in 10 more years Bp. Robinson will get his invite. That's "the end justifies the means" approach to ethics again. It encourages us to allow a little bit of sin now, and we'll all repent later. What kind of twisted theology is that?

    It is important that we keep in mind that this not about one bishop not getting his invite. This is about the Church's response to her gay and lesbian members. Father Jones acknowledges that it is not just about Gene in his previous post:

    ...Certainly, Gene and Martyn are representative of others -- they are not the only two bishops in this whole fracas -- but bishops need to get used to the idea of being symbolic of larger groups. That's their job!
    Exactly, Father. Which why Dr. Williams' decision is unacceptable. Bp. Robinson is symbolic of every gay Christian in the Church. The clear message is that if you are gay, your status as an Anglican is in question. And by exclusion from the Anglican household, the implication is that one is excluded from the Kingdom of God. That message must be refuted and condemned by every Anglican, and by all those who follow Jesus Christ, who revealed to us the radically inclusive love of God.

    Beyond that, our witness to the world has been deeply damaged by this unnecessary scapegoating maneuver. The world is watching to see if at least one segment of the Body of Christ will reject the self-righteous bigotry that they have come to expect from those who call themselves Christians. Will we show them that we're not any different from the Robertsons and Phelps of this world who regularly make a mockery of our faith? Or will we stand up and say no to such exclusionary tactics?

    This self-styled centrist is not content with throwing just the gays and lesbians under the bus. He wants all those he judges to be on both extremes to be excluded:

    ...Maybe if Martyn and Gene -- and those who stand by them -- don't show up -- Lambeth will be a good conference. And presumably, tea will be served.
    Need I say more?

    Actually, I'm not going to say much more. My position is clearly the minority one on this issue. But I'll stand by it just the same. Dr. Williams has caved in to the Anglican conservative extremists, and is asking our bishops to become accomplices in this sin against God and against humanity. No good result that could possibly come out of Lambeth can justify such behavior.


    Thursday, May 24, 2007

    Did Non-Invitations Go Out?

    From Mark Harris:

    ...One question. We know invitations went out. Did non-invitations go out as well? That is, did Bishop Robinson and Bishop Minns receive letters that began, "Dear Bishop, I am sorry to inform you that I cannot at this time invite you to Lambeth 2008 because you are too much a bother…?" What does a rejection letter look like?

    Of course they would have to be different, wouldn't they?

    The Bishop of Harare might get one that begins, "Dear Bishop: You are an awful man supporting an awful regime. I have no need of you…."

    The bishop of anti-Recife might get one that begins, "Dear Bishop: You have forced me to choose between you and, you know, the bishop of the real Diocese of Recife. I have chosen the latter. I know, I know, you are a bishop. You are just not my bishop."

    About Bishop Robinson, "Dear Bishop: I know I said in the past that Gay and Lesbian persons are fully members of the Church. I exaggerated a bit. I meant you are full members so long as you are not a bother and talk too much. I really don't have time to listen. Sorry I can't invite you. People will talk."

    Bishop Minns might get a really special one. "Dear Bishop: Knowing that you don't like to be told what I think at the last minute I am writing well in advance of Lambeth 2008 to say that I am not inviting you. Of course you are a real bishop in a real province of the Anglican Communion, but you are a real pain. If you are from Nigeria work there until you get permission from The Episcopal Church – then you can go do your stuff in the US. Meanwhile, don't phone us, we'll phone you."

    For the Archbishop of Canterbury to get into the judgment business is inviting baby dividing behavior. Perhaps BB is right and the ABC can step back. Better to invite both Bishop Robinson and Bishop Minns, and for that matter any other bishop whose primate certifies him or her as an active bishop of jurisdiction in the province to which they belong – including the scoundrel bishop of Harare, the befuddled bishop of Bolivia, the outrageous Archbishop of Nigeria, and the renegade bishop of non-Recife (if he is actually a bishop in the house of bishops of the Southern Cone.) After all, if we believe IT IS JUST A MEETING, its OK...
    I tend to agree with Mark. If Lambeth is intended to be an outward and visible sign of our unity, then a large dose of grace is needed to manifest that sign. A meeting in which only the pure, or those who have earned the right, are invited is deeply lacking in grace.


    Wednesday, May 23, 2007

    Reactions to the Scapegoating: Something for Everyone

    From Integrity:

    ..."Integrity calls on all the bishops and the leadership of the Episcopal Church to think long and hard about whether they are willing to participate in the continued scapegoating of the gay and lesbian faithful as the price for going to the Lambeth Conference. It is purported to be a conference representing bishops from the whole Anglican Communion. That can’t happen when Rowan Williams aligns himself with those in the Communion such as Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria who violate human rights while explicitly excluding gay and lesbian voices from their midst," Russell said. "Our bishops must ask themselves this question: 'Is complicity in discrimination a price they are willing to pay for a two-week trip to Canterbury?'"
    From Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire:

    ...It is with great disappointment that I receive word from the Archbishop of Canterbury that I will not be included in the invitation list for the Lambeth Conference, 2008. At a time when the Anglican Communion is calling for a “listening process” on the issue of homosexuality, it makes no sense to exclude gay and lesbian people from that conversation. It is time that the Bishops of the Anglican Communion stop talking about gay and lesbian people and start talking with us...
    From Bishop John Chane of Washington:

    ...I am deeply troubled by the decision reached by the Archbishop and believe that the real issue is not about Bishop Gene; instead this is about leadership within the Anglican Communion. Until we are able to separate ourselves from our fixation on human sexuality as the root of our divisions and address the dynamics of power and leadership in the Communion, we are doomed to fail in Christ's call to engage the world in the act of inclusive love and a mission-driven theology that claims justice, the rule of law and the respect for human rights as the core of our work as a Communion...
    From Bill:

    ...If I were a bishop of the Episcopal Church, I would not go, until all my brothers and sisters were invited. And I would write the people of my diocese, the Presiding Bishop, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, politely explaining my absence. I don't see it as a boycott per se, so much as a temporary suspension of any participation in the life of the Anglican Communion, which has clearly become toxic and which doesn't want the Episcopal Church to participate as we are. Katharine Grieb of Virginia Seminary suggested as much at the House of Bishops, and it is time to consider her idea carefully. I would devote myself to the human and divine relationships that form the fabric of real communion, and stop worrying about large, expensive meetings of bishops. There is no equivalence between Gene Robinson, a duly elected bishop of the Episcopal Church, and Martyn Minns, part of a schismatic attempt to break our fellowship apart and realign (i.e. destroy) Anglicanism into a fundamentalist shadow of its true self...
    From Elizabeth:

    ...Gene can attend, but can not vote. However, the ABC also made it very clear that there will not be any "voting" - that Lambeth is not nor now nor ever has been intended to be a "legislative session."

    So, in actuality, the "invited guest" does everything an "invitee" does. The status is primarily symbolic - which does not, in any way, reduce its sting.

    What is confounding to me is that if this is the ABC's way of appeasing those who would object to Gene's very presence at Lambeth, it has failed miserably. If Gene chooses to accept the invitation with the status of "invited guest," he'll still be present and able to attend all sessions with the other bishops, archbishops and Primates. He'll still have the opportunity to be incarnational to those who profess never to have seen an LGBT person. He'll still have an opportunity to tell his story...
    From Tobias:

    ...So it should come as no surprise to anyone that Martyn Minns is not regarded as a "legitimate" bishop but rather as "irregular" -- joining the ranks of Rodgers and Murphy in that select group of modern Anglicoid episcopi vagantes. +New Hampshire, on the other hand, is commended as legal but as he is seen as a source for anxiety, he is simultaneously not sent an invitation but told he might attend as a guest; and I leave it to more subtle minds than mine to tell the difference, since +Cantuar is also clear this Lambeth Conference is not to be a legislative or doctrinal assembly or synod, but rather more along the lines of what +Peter Abuja has called a "jamboree."

    So it appears to me that this current action on the part of the wily Welshman is a diplomatic move that gives +Abuja every reason to refuse to remain in Communion with Canterbury. As the Church of Nigeria constitution has already been amended to pave the way, it is now a simple matter to stroll apart in a globally southern manner.
    From Andrew:

    ...If Akinola goes to Lambeth, he will be going to a place where he and his bishops would be voices among many. He will go on Canterbury's terms.

    If Akinola stays away and forms his own meeting, he frees the rest of the Communion to deal with Bishop Robinson and to take on the listening process without further delay. If he stays away he will have taken himself out of the game.

    Those who would disassemble or replace the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion, and those who would turn the Communion into a confessional world body, have to realize that their dream of a grand re-alignment has suffered a significant set back.

    Canon Kearnon said that Williams would invite Robinson as a special guest. If that invitation should arrive, he should go without hesitation because while the path to full inclusion is still foggy and indirect, the path towards division, exclusion and punishment has been firmly and soundly rejected.
    From InclusiveChurch:

    ...It is our continued hope and prayer that all bishops will receive invitations to the Lambeth Conference. We especially hope that Bishop Gene Robinson will receive a full invitation, so that he can engage with the other bishops of the Communion. Should Bishop Robinson not receive a full invitation, we hope that, as the only openly gay bishop, he will be at the Conference. And we hope that the American bishops of the Episcopal Church will be there to witness to the full inclusion of all people as expressed so clearly in its understanding of the Baptismal Covenant...
    No doubt by now you are aware as to which particular statements I favor. But I've said enough about that. So, here's a nice blend. Everyone should be able to find something to which they agree. Take your pick. May peace reign once again within this backwater blog!

    Oh, one more that you must visit; Dave Walker's take on the situation. If we must have a scapegoat, let's blame it the wonky legs.


    California Responds to the Scapegoating of Bp. Robinson

    From Bishop Marc Handley Andrus of California:

    ...The tactic of exile and isolation has been among strongest tools of oppression against the human spirit. We were created to be in communion, and there is a deep-seated intution on the part of those who wish to hem in human freedom that the best way to do this is to separate us, one from another.

    The ground-breaking work of Rene Girard has revealed the mechanism of scapegoating. Girard teaches that Jesus and the Hebrew prophets began loosening the chains of scapegoating. This action of isolating Bishop Robinson is retrogressive, taking us backwards to a shadowy, scary place from which we have already been delivered by Christ and the Prophets.

    The isolation and exile of Bishop Robinson has implications for the Communion too, within the larger framework of scapegoating. A former Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, once said that if you touch one bishop of the Anglican Communion, you touch them all. This refers to the idea that bishops represent the unity of the Church. The bishop as a symbol of unity is usually understood at the level of a diocese, but there is a larger horizon of meaning - when we look at one bishop our spiritual vision can see all bishops everywhere, for the unity represented is most importantly the unity of the Church throughout the earth.

    The isolation and exile of Bishop Robinson rebukes the bright vision of the unity of the Church, and substitutes the mechanism of the diabolic, the shattering of communion and integrity. I cannot overemphasize how important it is to meet this action on our Archbishop's part with the weapons of the spirit. I will be praying that my response and our response will be in solidarity with Bishop Robinson, mindful of our relatedness worldwide, full of shalom, and creative, in the manner of Jesus Christ.
    "...weapons of the spirit..." Strong words. Maybe too strong for some. Personally, I think Bp. Andrus has got it right.

    The exile of Bp. Robinson must be our line in the sand. Our response must be equal to the gravity of this diabolic decision. If the House of Bishops make a strong statement that they will not be party to such scapegoating, there is a possibility that further invitations might be extended over the next fourteen months.

    I'm not suggesting that our bishops make idle threats. If they decide to to make a bold statement, such as refusing to participate in Lambeth unless Bp. Robinson is granted full voice and vote, they will need to be willing to live with the consequences of that statement, regardless of the response from Canterbury.

    But, if all we have from the bishops are strong words, but no action, then Canterbury will assume that they will show up for Lambeth, and, beyond a few ruffled feathers, all will be well. Dr. Williams must be dissuaded from making such an erroneous assumption.

    The bishops have fourteen months. What occurs during that time will depend very heavily on the initial responses we see over the next few weeks. Waiting to see which way the wind blows simply will not do. What Dr. Williams has done is wrong. It is unacceptable. May our bishops state this clearly and boldly, both in word and in deed, in the days to come.


    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    No Invitations for CANA and AMiA

    From the Living Church:

    ...The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, Bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) and the Rt. Rev. Charles Murphy and his suffragans, the bishops of the Anglican Mission in North America (AMiA) will not receive invitations either, the conference organizers said...

    ...The bishops of the AMiA would not be invited to Lambeth because of the decision taken by Archbishop George Carey in 2000. Archbishop Carey “wrote to them saying he could not recognize their ministry” and that their “consecrations were irregular,” Canon Kearon explained. This decision was “confirmed at Oporto” by the primates in 2000, and the “decision was already fixed” by Archbishop Williams’ predecessor.

    The case of CANA Bishop Martyn Minns exhibits “no difference” from the AMiA and he falls into the same category, Canon Kearon said.
    Keep this in mind the next time someone tries to tell you that CANA is a viable Anglican option.

    The article also clears up another point:

    ...Invitations to two other diocesan bishops, including the Bishop of Harare, Zimbabwe, the Rt. Rev. Nolbert Kunonga, have been held pending further “consultation,” said Canon Kearon...
    Apparently, these are the "one or two" invitations that Dr. Williams was referring to in his letter. It appears the decison regarding Bps. Robinson and Minns has been made.


    Lambeth Invitations

    From the ACNS:

    ...The first set of invitations are being sent today to over 800 bishops of the provinces of the Anglican Communion. In his letter of invitation the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, pays tribute to the Conference Design Group whose members, led by the Archbishop of Melanesia, have, with his full support, proposed a programme with an emphasis on fellowship, study, prayer, the sharing of experience and discussion, all aimed at equipping bishops for their distinctive apostolic ministry:

    “Their vision and their advice has been an inspiration at every stage so far. I am hugely excited by the possibilities the programme offers for a new and more effective style of meeting and learning, and for greater participation, which will help us grow together locally and internationally. … it will also be an opportunity for all of us to strengthen our commitment to God’s mission and to our common life as a Communion. In connection with this latter point, we shall be devoting some time to thinking about the proposals for an Anglican Covenant, and about other ways in which we can deepen our sense of a common calling for us as a coherent and effective global Church family.”

    “The Conference is a place where experience of our living out of God’s mission can be shared. It is a place where we may be renewed for effective ministry. And it is a place where we can try and get more clarity about the limits of our diversity and the means of deepening our Communion, so we can speak together with conviction and clarity to the world. It is an occasion in which the Archbishop of Canterbury exercises his privilege of calling his colleagues together, not to legislate but to discover and define something more about our common identity through prayer, listening to God’s Word and shared reflection. It is an occasion to rediscover the reality of the Church itself as a worldwide community united by the call and grace of Christ.”

    Mindful of the speculation that has surrounded the issuing of invitations to the Conference Dr Williams recalls that invitations are issued on a personal basis by the Archbishop of Canterbury and that “the Lambeth Conference has no ‘constitution’ or formal powers; it is not a formal Synod or Council of the Communion”, and that invitation to the Conference has never been seen as “a certificate of doctrinal orthodoxy”. Nevertheless Dr Williams recognises in his letter that under very exceptional circumstances an invitation may be withheld or withdrawn. Under this provision, there are a small number of bishops to whom invitations are not at this stage being extended whilst Dr Williams takes further advice...
    The exact wording that Dr. Williams used regarding not inviting some bishops follows:

    ...At this point, and with the recommendations of the Windsor Report particularly in mind, I have to reserve the right to withhold or withdraw invitations from bishops whose appointment, actions or manner of life have caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the Communion. Indeed there are currently one or two cases on which I am seeking further advice. I do not say this lightly, but I believe that we need to know as we meet that each participant recognises and honours the task set before us and that there is an adequate level of mutual trust between us about this. Such trust is a great deal harder to sustain if there are some involved who are generally seen as fundamentally compromising the efforts towards a credible and cohesive resolution...
    "...there are one or two cases on which I am seeking further advice..." That is the official position.

    However, according to WaPo, Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, said something quite different:

    ...Bishops V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire and Martyn Minns of the breakaway Convocation of Anglicans in North America were not among more than 850 bishops invited, said Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary-general of the Anglican Communion...

    ..."The question of Gene Robinson ... I think has exercised the archbishop of Canterbury's mind for quite some time," he said, and there was no question that Robinson was duly elected and consecrated a bishop in accordance with the rules of the Episcopal Church.

    "However, for the archbishop to simply give full recognition at this conference would be to ignore the very substantial and very widespread objections in many parts of the communion to his consecration and to his ministry," Kearon said...
    The Rev. Martin Reynolds, Press Officer for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, is being reported as having offered this response:

    ...He said today: “We would respectfully remind the Archbishop of Canterbury of the Dromantine Communiqué where it says: 'The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us.' This is a flagrant example of victimisation that quite clearly intends to diminish Bishop Robinson’s status.”

    Martin continues: “If the Archbishop of Canterbury is unable to follow the dictates of the Primates Group, yet alone the dictates of his own conscience, we are in a very unsafe state. We are deeply sorry for the failure of the Communion to live up to its own standards. Bishop Robinson and the diocese he was duly and canonically elected to serve have our full support and we believe they deserve much better. This decision places the vast majority of American bishops along with other through out the world in an embarrassing position. If they accept their Lambeth invitations this might appear to support Bishop Robinson’s victimisation, while if they reject the invitation they will abandon our Communion to the homophobes”...
    Does it seem absurd to anyone else for bishops to gather and discuss matters touching on the lives of gay and lesbian Christians in the Church, and not invite the one bishop who is qualified to speak for that group?

    I would hope that if Bp. Robinson does not receive an invitation, that the rest of the House of Bishops will make their apologies to Dr. Williams. It would then seem appropriate for the funds designated for the Lambeth Conference to be expended on a more worthwhile endeavor, such as, perhaps, the Millennium Development Goals.


    UPDATE: A response from Bp. Robinson:

    ...While I appreciate the acknowledgement that I am a duly elected and consecrated Bishop of the Church, the refusal to include me among all the other duly elected and consecrated Bishops of the Church is an affront to the entire Episcopal Church. This is not about Gene Robinson, nor the Diocese of New Hampshire. It is about the American Church. It is for The Episcopal Church to respond to this divide-and-conquer challenge to our polity, and in due time, I assume we will do so. In the meantime, I will pray for Archbishop Rowan and our beloved Anglican Communion.

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    APLM Statement on the Draft Covenant

    The proposed Anglican Draft Covenant, in a revised form, will be presented to the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops, to be followed by a final text that would be proposed to the 2009 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). If the ACC adopts the text, it would offer it to the Provinces for adoption or rejection. There has been much discussion about the flaws found within this Covenant, and questions regarding the need for such a document. For background on how this Draft Covenant came into being, you may want to review the presentation made to our House of Bishops by the Rev. Katherine Grieb, a member of the Covenant Design Group. We have also previously discussed the Draft Covenant from the perspectives of two authors; Frederick Quinn and Lionel Deimel.

    The Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission has now issued their Montreal Statement, which I find to be an excellent response to the proposed Draft Covenant. Please read it carefully, and pass it on to others. A summary of the statement can be found here. What follows is the conclusion:

    ...The gift of God in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the healing of the divisions among us. The Gospel holds up the hope that our identity and oneness as members of Christ is strong enough, calling us to drop those defenses by which we define ourselves against others. Instead, we are called to the risk of bringing all of humanity into the Reign of God—especially those who are most unlike ourselves. In the world of the Gospel, the only true outsiders are those who, by their own choice, refuse to enter into this ever-wider healing of humanity and creation.

    To try to effect an artificial unity of the Body of Christ through doctrinal enforcement will only lead to yet another scandalous division in the Body of the Lord. It is also idolatrous, substituting a written agreement for the saving work of Christ on the cross, and the living, catholic call of the Gospel to incarnate Christ’s ministry in all places and in all times.

    We therefore ask our Anglican brothers and sisters to be steadfast in bearing witness to our faith and to resist the temptation to define our unity through the signing of the proposed Covenant. Instead, let us ponder God’s promise, spoken through Isaiah, the promise that God has already given us as a covenant, a living promise to all people:

    In the time of favor I have answered you and on a day of salvation I have helped you. I have kept you and given you as a Covenant to the peoples to establish the land, to apportion desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners, "come out!" to those who are in darkness, "show yourselves!" (Isaiah 49:8-9)

    Through our Baptism and Eucharist we will find unity, beyond any enforced conformity, which is the real basis for our Communion and our common life in Christ. May we who have been entrusted with Christ’s mission live out with integrity what it means to embody God’s promise, face to face, person to person, that all might share in God’s life, and have that life abundantly.

    The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church has invited all Episcopalians to respond to this Draft Covenant. To help us formulate our responses, Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh are offering a response worksheet and a collection of documents entitled Evaluating the Draft. Included are the Study Guide from the Executive Council, the Covenant Design Group report with the draft covenant itself, the Windsor Report with its own covenant draft, and various background materials.

    The Executive Council intends to prepare a response to the Draft Covenant at their October meeting. All Episcopalians are encouraged to submit their responses to this Draft Covenant to the Executive Council. These responses will assist and inform the Executive Council in their task of developing a response that will be representative of the Episcopal Church as a whole.

    Deadline for responses is June 4, 2007. Send your responses to:

    Response to Draft Anglican Covenant
    The Office of the General Convention
    The Episcopal Church Center
    815 Second Ave, New York, NY 10017
    FAX: (212) 972-9322

    Or respond by e-mail to


    Saturday, May 19, 2007

    Diction Matters

    Here is what one must assume was this congregation's intention.

    Tip of the saturno to Susan, who is too preoccupied with sermonizing to post this right now, as all responsible clergy types should be.

    That makes me irresponsible, doesn't it? And this is news?


    A Response to Gerson's Praise of Akinola

    Last week Dennis alerted us to an op/ed in WaPo by Michael Gerson, a former speech writer for George Bush, who brought us the infamous "axis of evil" line. Since some may have difficulty accessing the article, here's part of it:

    ...This month, Archbishop Peter Akinola, shepherd of 18 million fervent Nigerian Anglicans, reached the end of his patience and installed a missionary bishop to America...The American presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, condemned this poaching of souls on her turf as a violation of the "ancient customs of the church." To which the archbishop replied, in essence: Since when have you American liberals given a fig about the ancient customs of the church...

    ...the religion of the global south has a great virtue: It is undeniably alive. And it needs to be. A mother holding a child weak with AIDS or hot with malaria, or a family struggling to survive in an endless urban slum, does not need religious platitudes. Both need God's ever-present help in time of trouble -- which is exactly what biblical Christianity claims to offer...

    ...the largest adjustments are coming on the religious left. For decades it has preached multiculturalism, but now, on further acquaintance, it doesn't seem to like other cultures very much. Episcopal leaders complain of the threat of "foreign prelates," echoing anti-Catholic rhetoric of the 19th century. An activist at one Episcopal meeting urged the African bishops to "go back to the jungle where you came from." Not since Victorians hunted tigers on elephants has the condescension been this raw.

    History is filled with uncomfortable turnabouts, and we are witnessing one of them. Serious missionary work began in Nigeria in 1842, conducted by a Church Mission Society dedicated to promoting "the knowledge of the Gospel among the heathen." In 2007, the Nigerian outreach to America officially began, on the fertile mission fields of Northern Virginia. And the natives here are restless.

    Jim Naughton has responded with a letter to the editor entitled The Price of an Archbishop's Crusade:

    In his May 16 op-ed column, "Missionaries in Northern Virginia," Michael Gerson did Christians in the developing world a disservice by assuming that leaders such as Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria have their best interests at heart.

    Mr. Gerson wrote: "A mother holding a child weak with AIDS or hot with malaria, or a family struggling to survive in an endless urban slum, does not need religious platitudes." Yet he failed to mention that Archbishop Akinola and others in his movement would deny that child food, medicine or a mosquito net if it were provided by a donor with whom they differ over theology.

    Children die, but the bishops retain their reputation for righteousness among their conservative supporters in the United States. This is an inversion of the Christian ethic. No longer do I sacrifice for others; they sacrifice for me.

    Mr. Gerson predicted that this brand of faith is about to sweep the country, but after four highly publicized years of trying, Archbishop Akinola has won the loyalty of only one-third of 1 percent of the parishes in the Episcopal Church, in part because his support for draconian anti-gay legislation in his country has alienated potential allies.

    The archbishop's grass-roots support is trifling, but he remains useful to high-profile cheerleaders such as Mr. Gerson who are willing to ignore his egregious views, and their effects on African Christians, in order to gain advantage in the American culture wars.

    Canon for Communications and Advancement
    Episcopal Diocese of Washington
    Excellent response, Jim.

    Let me take this opportunity to say a word about sources for news on the net. I often assume most visitors know where to go to get the latest update on things Anglican. Possibly that is an erroneous assumption.

    In regards to what is going on in the Episcopal Church, Jim Naughton's writing is the best out there, in my opinion. Jim is a former reporter for The New York Times and The Washington Post and has authored a few books. His expose of the behind the scenes manueverings of the extreme right in TEC, Following the Money, is the singular document that resulted in finally capturing the House of Bishop's attention at their last meeting. Quite a few of us have been sounding the alarm for a few years, to no avail. Jim understands the world of communications. He made it possible for this important information to finally be heard by our leaders.

    Jim is also the editor in chief of The Episcopal Cafe. The Cafe is a collaborative effort from contributers from all around TEC. It grew out of The Daily Episcopalian, a blog hosted by the Diocese of Washington. It is by far the highest quality resource we now have available. News can now be found at the Cafe on The Lead. This is an essential daily read.

    In regards to "official" news sources, there is Episcopal Life Online, which was formerly known as the Episcopal News Service. I agree with someone who recently mentioned that this site will probably continue to be referred to as ENS. Sorry, but ELO will always be a reference to Electric Light Orchestra. This is where press releases, official statements, and good resource materials will regularly appear, making it also a daily read.

    Another relatively new resource is EpiScope, which is usually written by the Rev. Jan Nunley, another professional communicator. The big advantage of this site is that Jan does most of our work for us. If there's anything out there in the media about TEC, you'll find it here, with the added benefit of Jan pointing out the bits that the reporters got wrong.

    Expanding out to things Anglican, the Anglican Communion News Service is the official source for news. Thinking Anglicans is probably the best overall source for Anglican news. It falls in the "daily must read" category. Anglicans Online is also a good resource, although it is only published weekly. Check out their News Centre on Mondays.

    Regarding good commnetary on the news, there are just too many sites to list them all. But, a bare minimum of daily reads would have to include Mark, The Episcopal Majority, Susan, Tobias, Elizabeth, Dylan and Richard.

    This, of course, is not an exhaustive list, but enough to keep you happily clicking for awhile, I hope!


    UPDATE: Now that MadPriest has returned from his holiday, of course he must be included among your daily reads.

    Friday, May 18, 2007

    From Mike: "Don't Blame Texas!"


    High Church Hip-Hop at Ascension

    Last night we joined the Diocese of New Jersey in celebrating the beginning of a new life at Church of the Ascension in downtown Atlantic City. The occasion was the installation of The Rev. Timothy Holder as their new rector. The local paper coverage can be found here. Tim, also known as "Poppa T," is an amazing person. He claims to be an introvert who is trying to let his inner extrovert come out. I think he's accomplishing that quite well. His energy and creativity is phenomenal.

    This is good news for Ascension. The parish, which has a long history of Anglo-Catholic worship, has fallen on difficult times, as have many of the former parishes that were once in Atlantic City. With the exception of St. Augustine's, they have all closed and moved to the suburbs.

    The diocese is to be commended for being willing to take a risk to keep this important presence in Atlantic City alive. They developed a plan to fund a priest for a few years, and then intentionally sought someone with the unique gifts necessary to guide this parish, nestled in the midst of the casinos, to flourish. The way Bp. Councell (now also known as "Big Poppa G") put it was that they had to find a priest crazy enough to take on Ascension. Well, they found one in Tim. But, in this case, "crazy" is a complimentary adjective.

    The architecture of the church itself is very Anglo-Catholic, and was obviously at one time a beautiful shrine. It is still beautiful, but has become a bit worn around the edges. Tim is inclined towards high church liturgy, but with one big difference; he is the founder and creator of the Hip Hop Mass at Trinity in the Bronx.

    So, last night we had a quite unusual solemn high mass. Smells, bells, Anglican chant and rap. During the traditional presentation of gifts to the new priest, which includes a bible, water, bread and wine and a set of keys, additional gifts included a new pair of Nikes, a black jogging suit and three bottles of rum (representing the flavor of the Caribbean).

    The preacher was Jim Lemler, Director of Mission for the Episcopal Church. Some of you may recognize Jim as the co-author with Charles Fulton of a booklet entitled Truth and Hope. If you have never heard of this booklet, I highly recommend that you get a copy and read it.

    I must admit that I was uncomfortable swaying with my hands in the air, keeping time by clapping and shouting out "Word!" periodically. I watched, and smiled, as my brother and sister clergy tried to join in. It's just too radical of a switch for this liturgical conservative. Give me some time, and maybe, someday...but no promises!

    Afterwards the reception was held at the entrance of the church, with a hip hop concert beginning at the transept. When it finally became time to head home, we stepped out onto the sidewalk, and the music poured out of the open door. A number of people walking by stopped and peered in, checking out this new thing going on at the corner of Kentucky and Pacific.

    God is doing a new thing in Atlantic City. Thanks be to God!


    Thursday, May 17, 2007

    Church Leaders Call on Congress to Fight Poverty

    Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori joined four other church leaders in writing to the US Congress to urge that the federal budget address the issues of poverty and disease:

    ...In February, following the release of the President's FY 2008 Federal Budget, we wrote to the Congress regarding our vision of the federal budget and our belief that the nation's budget must represent a shared vision of justice and compassion for all of God's people, both in our own nation and around the world. In particular we expressed deep concern for cuts to programs that serve the health, education and well-being of millions of people living near or below the poverty line in the United States. We applauded the important investments our country is making in combating deadly poverty and disease abroad.

    We are reminded in the Gospel of Luke that "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded" (Luke 12:48). The United States is a nation of great wealth and resources and, indeed, much is expected of us individually, as communities of faith and as a nation. Our denominations continue to do ministry in the areas of our historic Christian calling -- working for reconciliation and serving those most vulnerable in our world.

    We continue to express profound concern regarding the cost of the war in Iraq and the cost of extending large tax cuts to those to whom much has been given, particularly in view of the deep need to fund efforts aimed at alleviating poverty and disease both at home and abroad...

    ...Our world continues to live in tumultuous times, and it is clearer than ever that our nation must reclaim its historic destiny as a source of hope and opportunity for its own citizens and for all people around the world. We pray for the Congress and all the leaders of our nation. And we pray for peace and a world restored and reconciled. We urge the Congress to seek peace and pursue it and, as the budget process continues, to embrace a vision of justice and compassion for all of God's children.

    Signed by:

    The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
    Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

    The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
    Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church

    The Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick
    Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

    Bishop Beverly Shamana
    President of the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society

    The Rev. John H. Thomas
    General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
    This is living out the Gospel, not just in words, but in deeds; "...serving those most vulnerable in our world."

    In the meantime, Abp. Akinola held a press conference, in which he had a message for Congress as well:

    ...The breakdown in marriages in the USA is a scandal. It is causing a massive crisis in their own society and the rest of the world. But instead of admitting the problem and finding creative ways to strengthen traditional families we see a relentless promotion and protection of so called ‘alternative lifestyles.’ Recent legislative bill H.R. 1592 (Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007) passed in the House on May 3rd 2007, and the H.R 2015 (Employment Non-Discrimination Act.) being discussed are worthy of note. God will not be mocked.
    So now the Primate of All Nigeria feels that, since his efforts to thwart basic human rights in his own country have been so successful, he can speak with authority on human rights in the US?

    What was it Jesus said?

    Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.
    Let's get on with proclaiming the Good News of God made known to us through Jesus Christ with our every word and our every deed.


    An Ethic of Transparency

    From The Episcopal Cafe:

    As regular Web travelers know, freedom of expression and Christian charity are sometimes in conflict in the blogosphere. At Episcopal Café, we hope to establish an ethic of transparency by requiring all contributors and commentators to make submissions under their real names...
    I initially was uncomfortable with this policy, but after giving it some thought, I've come to see the wisdom in it. If our contributions to the conversation are to be of value, an ethic of transparency, of honesty, needs to be upheld.

    No, I'm not going to adopt this policy at Jake's place. As one who has used a nom de plume for many years, I understand the need some folks have to protect their privacy. However, I am encouraging those who are comfortable doing so to begin using their real names.

    To launch this effort towards more tranparency, it seems appropriate to begin with myself. Even though my real name has been associated with Jake's place for some time, including even in the New York Times, I think it is necessary to officially "out" myself.

    Hello. My name is Terry Martin, and I am an eclectic and sometimes eccentric Episcopal priest. I'm the one in the picture not wearing purple. I would imagine that most of you recognize the gentleman standing with me.

    In an attempt at further transparency, I will tell you that I began in the diocese of Fond du Lac and received my M. Div. from Nashotah House. During my first year at the House, I preached a sermon in my home parish that attacked Bp. Spong. The parish gave me a standing ovation, which is quite unusual in TEC. My stance on inclusivity began to shift during my second year at the House, under the instruction of such great minds as Jim Griffiss, Joe Hunt and David Ruppe.

    My thoughts here at Jake's place do not represent the opinions of my diocese or the congregation in which I serve. As a priest, I understand my role as being one called to stand in the center, calling all those entrusted to my care to grow into the full stature of Christ. There are no outcasts. Jake represents my own thoughts, which are not always appropriately expressed within the environments in which I have been called to serve.

    I'll be changing the "about Jake" page to include some of this information.


    Wednesday, May 16, 2007

    Fort Worth Demands AlPO, Again

    There seems to be quite a stir about a news item which broke today in which I fail to see any real "news".

    It appears the Diocese of Fort Worth has issued a statement, which can be summarized as "we want Alternative Primatial Oversight (AlPO), and we really mean it this time!"

    For those who are not familiar with the Diocese of Fort Worth, it is considered by some to be the Golden Fortress of Anglo-Catholicism in TEC. They oppose women's ordination. They oppose openly gay or lesbian ordination (those closeted are allowed, but they cannot bring their significant other to the dinner parties). They tolerate Evangelicals, but encourage smells and bells. They tilt towards Rome, rather than Geneva.

    Their current bishop and leadership has a deep disdain for the Episcopal Church. Here's a few examples as evidence of that disdain:

  • Bishop Iker and the leadership of the diocese changed their constitution and canons so that they are no longer under the authority The Episcopal Church. This is grounds to be deposed for Abandonment of the Communion of this Church.

  • In the 2006 budget for the Diocese of Fort Worth, the giving to The Episcopal Church was reduced from $30,000 to 0, while raising the amount given to the Network from $20,000 to $50,000. Yet, they still sent a delegation to General Convention in 2006.

  • Bishop Iker has refused to share in the Holy Eucharist at meetings of the House of Bishops or General Convention.

  • Bishop Iker has instructed his clergy not to include Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in the local parish's Prayers of the People. This is documented in a letter dated July 7, 2006 from Fort Worth Via Media. He has used his position of authority to mandate his personal biases throughout his diocese.

    There's more, but you get the idea. So, as to the content of today's demand from this prince bishop and his leaders; here's part of it:

    ...While we remain open to the possibility of negotiation and some form of acceptable settlement with TEC, it appears that our only option is to seek APO elsewhere. This may entail a cooperative effort with other appellant dioceses in consultation with Primates of the Anglican Communion, to form a new Anglican Province of the Communion in North America. A second possibility would be for the diocese to transfer to another existing Province of the Anglican Communion. Athird possibility would be to seek the status of an extra-provincial diocese, under the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury, as presently recognized in several other cases...
    None of these options are viable, as explained quite well by Mark Harris. But, I doubt if that will stop Fort Worth from proceeding. Damn the torpedoes, and all that other machismo stuff.

    What do I speculate will happen? I think it already has happened. Some Network bishops, specifically those who oppose women's ordination, have already entered into an agreement with a foreign Primate to be moved under their authority. There was a hint of this contained in a post by Dan Martins from late April. Note that Dan is a priest in the diocese of San Joaquin.

    Who is this Primate? Not Peter Akinola, as he's become an embarrassment to all Anglicans. Besides, he's not clear enough on the matter of women's ordination. We were told who this Primate was some time ago by Bp. Schofield of San Joaquin in a letter he wrote to the diocese:

    ...Is Our Place In The Anglican Communion Assured? Yes. First, we have a commitment from the Southern Cone (Archbishop Greg Venebles) that the bishops of his dioceses are open to our joining their Province...
    Gregory James Venables is the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone and also bishop of the diocese of Argentina. One of his most recent notorious actions was reinstating the deposed bishop of Recife. This deposed bishop is the same one who scooped up two parishes of TEC the day after the Windsor Report was released. The Bishop of Bolivia, who has plundered a few congregations that belong to TEC, is one of his lieutenants.

    The Southern Cone only allows women to be ordained to the Diaconate. I understand that the Province is considered to lean towards the more Evangelical side of things, but the Bishop of Bolivia is a Son of the House (Nashotah grad), so obviously Anglo-Catholics are welcome. Seems like as good a fit as Fort Worth and San Joaquin are going to find.

    I'll also speculate that there won't be five diocese trying to make this jump, but only the two who still get all worked up about women's ordination; Fort Worth and San Joaquin. It is being reported that the third possibility, Quincy, has claimed that they are not involved in this latest demand for AlPO.

    Why are these two dioceses so insistent in their demand for Alternative Primatial Oversight? The answer to that is obvious. Our Presiding Bishop is of the wrong gender. All the rest of their words are nothing more than attempts to cover up this simple fact.

    So, what will happen? Who knows. One thing for sure; TEC is not going to step away from the tradtion that individuals may leave the Church, but congregations and dioceses cannot. Time to elect a new bishop and a new standing committee for both these dioceses, it seems to me.