Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Radner Resigns From Network

At the Network's Annual Council, Bp. Duncan of Pittsburgh made these statements:

...Bishop Duncan expressed his disappointment that the Archbishop of Canterbury has not supported Network members in ways that he and other Network leaders had hoped.

“Never, ever has he spoken publicly in defense of the orthodox in the United States,” Bishop Duncan said of the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, adding that “the cost is his office.

“To lose that historic office is a cost of such magnitude that God must be doing a new thing,” he said.

A reporter for The Living Church asked Bishop Duncan to expand on his remarks about the cost of the archbishop’s office. “I was actually expanding on a remark that the Archbishop of Sydney made during a breakfast I had with him two weeks ago,” Bishop Duncan said, explaining that both the See of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference have been lost as instruments of communion.

“The fact is that the Archbishop of Canterbury has not led in a way that might have saved his office and might have saved Lambeth,” Bishop Duncan said...
In response to Bp. Duncan's dismissal of two of the four Instruments of Communion, Dr. Ephraim Radner has resigned from the Anglican Communion Network:

...Bishop Duncan has now declared the See of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference -- two of the four Instruments of Communion within our tradition - to be "lost". He has said that God is "doing a new thing" in allowing these elements to founder and be let go. I find this judgment to be dangerously precipitous and unfair under circumstances when current, faithful, and hard work is being done by many to bolster these Instruments as servants of our common life in Christ. The judgment is also astonishingly self-confident and autonomously prophetic in a mode not unlike the baleful claims to visionary authority of those who have long misled the Episcopal Church. Finally, the declaration in effect cancels out the other two Instruments of Communion that also uphold our common Anglican life - the Primates' Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council. It is the entire Anglican Communion, therefore, that Bp. Duncan is declaring to be "lost". The judgment is far too sweeping.

Bp. Duncan has, in the end, decided to start a new church. He may call it "Anglican" if he wishes, though I do not recognize the name in these kinds of actions that break communion rather than build it up - for such building is what I have long perceived to be the "thing" God was "doing" with the earthen vessel of our tradition. In founding his new church, furthermore, he is, I fear, not working for the healing of our broken Body, but repeating the mistakes of Christians in the past, whose zeal has not only brought suffering to themselves, but has wounded the Church of Christ. It is not only his own diocese that his statements and actions will affect; it is many others, including parishes within them, many of which have worked for faithfulness and peace, truth in love, for some time, and for whom new troubles and divisions are now promised. Enough of this. I cannot follow him in this way...
Note that Dr. Radner is a member of the Anglican Communion's Covenant Design Group. He offered a presentation on the Proposed Anglican Covenant to TEC's House of Bishops last March.


Davis Mac-Iyalla Needs Our Prayers

Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude, Nigeria, has recently received some disturbing news.

Gun men invaded his family house in Nigeria and started shooting. They killed 20 people. The family was gathered for the swearing in ceremony for one of his brothers. He had just been appointed as Commissioner by the Rivers State Governor.

His mother was shot in the leg and is still in the local hospital. His cousin Opali was killed. Davis' brother, who was the main target, managed to escape.

Please remember Davis and his family in your prayers.


UPDATE: To clarify the above, I offer you the words of Josh, who is much closer to this situation than I am:

Careful, folks. Other new commissioners (members of the new governor's cabinet) in Rivers State were also targeted, not just the Iyallas. Several other people were also killed.

This appears to be the work of anti-government gangs. Rivers State is oil-rich and very violent.

Prayers, of course, are much needed. Davis is very close to his mother.

Network Tries to Reinvent the Wheel

The Anglican Communion Network's Annual Council began on Monday. I watched parts of it throughout the day.

One thing that was said numerous times was that the Episcopal Church is beyond reform. It sounded like those present wanted it to appear that they have given up, and are making their final plans to leave. The assumption, of course, is that there was ever any intention to reform TEC. Personally, I have my doubts if that was ever their real reason for being.

The Council approved a Theological Statement, which, among other things, included the rather unusual insistence that the standards for Anglican doctrine, discipline and belief are to be found in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 1562 Articles of Religion. My understanding was that this statement is intended to give the Network and their "Common Cause" partners a place to begin their future discussions regarding working towards common goals.

Bp. Duncan of Pittsburgh fielded questions. Many of the kinds of false accusations against TEC that we've grown used to hearing were tossed around. One point that Bp. Duncan made that I found most outrageous was the repetition of the line that the Network was launched to keep conservatives in TEC; it was never intended to lead them out. We've heard that line many times before. It is one of Kendall Harmon's favorite chants. The problem with it is that the facts just don't support such a statement.

A brief look at some of the things that the Network leaders have said among themselves over the last three or four years (since that organization came into being) makes it pretty clear that the intention to stay in TEC was, at best, a minority view. Instead, they committed to "guerrilla warfare."

For instance, there is this March 2004 email from Father Jim McCaslin, Dean of the Southeastern Convocation of the NACDP to all the Network leaders. Fr. McCaslin is upset that Don Armstrong, Executive Director of the Anglican Communion Institute, wants to maintain "the broadest appeal" for the Network, and is afraid that appeal "waters down our direction and commitment to the point that our ultimate purpose is compromised..." As an example of this compromise, McCaslin cites that "Don mentions 'exit' and 'parallel church' strategies negatively and a 'staying' strategy positively."

And then, of course, there is the 2003 Chapman Memo, with plans to begin using "offshore bishops."

Earlier this month, Ephraim Radner, who has been quite involved with the Network since the beginning, wrote an essay in which he depicts the initial purpose of the Network in this way:

...There was always, from the beginning, a tension in play among traditionalists between those who believed that a separate or parallel province in North America was necessary quickly – and hence that the “movement” aspect of this witness needed to be immediately translated into structural independence –- and those that did not. That tension was manifest in the reluctance of many conservative TEC bishops to join the Network at its inception, because of their fear that this tension was not resolved within the group, and worries they held over precipitous structural disengagement from TEC, that would decimate congregations, rain down law-suits, and split the Communion. This reluctance was viewed by some – although not all – of the Network leaders as a failure of nerve on the part of non-Network bishops, and a kind of moral distaste grew up between the two groups, a distaste that has poisoned trust and dampened communication to this day...
The attempt by Bp. Duncan and others to rewrite the story so as to make themselves look like faithful conservatives who were driven out of TEC is ridiculous. Only those who have not been following the real story would fall for such absurd exaggerations. The fact that they would attempt to pass off such a falsehood as truth really damages their integrity.

Monday afternoon, visitors representing the Common Cause partners were allowed to offer their greetings to the assembly. As I listened to the representative from the Reformed Episcopal Church, I found myself wondering why all these dissenters don't just join the REC.

It would appear to be a good fit. The REC has been around since 1873. They recently entered into a covenant with the Anglican Church of Nigeria, which is expected to lead to full communion. They share the same disdain for TEC. The REC has five seminaries, and some stability, with moderate growth. Why is the Network going through this long and tedious song and dance? Just leave and join the REC. Seems simple enough.

Of course, most likely the reason that such an obvious option is not being considered is the notion, heard over and over again today, that dioceses and parishes will be able to leave intact and join some future entity not yet identified. Why they insist on holding on to this idea, when it is fairly clear that it will never meet the demands of the canons or slip past the scrutiny of the courts, is beyond me.

It appears that what happens at the next House of Bishops meeting, or the next Lambeth conference, is not really a factor anymore. These folks are headed out the door, regardless of what anyone does. Mark Harris has some thoughts on the Network's apparent recent shift away from Canterbury.

Before the Network drags this out any longer, and wastes more money on lawsuits and new bishops' vestments, maybe it would be prudent for them to take a closer look at the REC?


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Mark Harris on Christians Suing Christians

Go read Mark's excellent reflection on this matter. Here's a taste:

...So why all the fuss about Christians suing Christians? Well, the answer is simple. The object of the fuss is to make the various dioceses of the Episcopal Church who have entered into civil action against groups who wish not only to leave the church but take the silver feel guilty, and particularly guilty as concerns an understanding of Scripture. The fuss gets nicely packaged as the good guys – those who are true believers against the bad guys – those who consistently misuse Scripture. The accusation of scandal and unscriptural actions is invoked; they say, "See, The Episcopal Church, that terrible gang, is even taking us to court!- how unscriptural!" Liberal and progressive Christians dislike the criticism that we are not too well versed or understanding of Scripture. The hope is that we will then back off.

I see no reason to give in to this ploy.

Scandal is real, but it is not the litigation that is the scandal (although there can indeed be scandalous litigation) it is the misery of schism that is the scandal...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Bp. Howe Offers Another Network Perspective

In our previous discussion, we considered the preparations being made by Bp. Duncan of Pittsburgh to leave TEC and take the diocese with him. It is worth noting that this is the plan of about half of the ten Network bishops.

A good example of a completely different perspective on the matter of leaving or staying is offered by Bp. John Howe of Central Florida. Bp. Howe is a Network bishop. He also claims to be a Windsor bishop (whatever THAT means). He has stated many times that if he must choose between being Anglican or being Epsicopalian, he will choose the former. He is very conservative, and has been a strong voice against what he perceives to be serious errors in the recent actions and teachings of TEC. I would imagine that Bp. Howe and Bp. Duncan would agree on most things.

But, on the matter of leaving TEC, these two bishops represent quite different perspectives. We have recently discussed the difficulties that Bp. Howe has encountered because of his refusal to allow the leadership of the diocese to follow Bp. Duncan's (and Bp. Schofield's) model. Pat offers us a new letter from Bp. Howe that makes these differences quite clear. Here are a few quotes worth noting:

...There are some matters which may not legitimately be addressed by a Diocesan Board or Convention, among them the continuing accession on the part of a Diocese to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. It is entirely legitimate for an individual to wish to no longer accede, but if s/he chooses to act upon that wish s/he effectively ceases to be a member of The Episcopal Church, and thereby ceases to hold office on either the Board or Standing Committee (or as a member of the clergy) of a Diocese within The Episcopal Church.

The argument that “other dioceses have done this with impunity” is not really relevant, for at least two reasons: a) if something is improper it simply should not be done, regardless of whether or not others have done it; and b) the fact that there have been no consequences UNTIL NOW does not mean there will be none in the future. The action of Executive Council suggests there will be an attempt to bring consequences. All of these matters are (tragically) headed toward court...

...There is an honorable way of disagreeing with The Episcopal Church (leave, as about 2/3 of St. John’s , Melbourne did, “without a single paper clip.”) And there is a dishonorable way of doing so (attempt to take “your” property with you). The part of the congregation that departed St. John’s, by the way (now “Prince of Peace Anglican Church”), is flourishing, with more than three times the membership they had when they left us...

...Eric has quoted back to me the statement that I have twice made publicly, that if we reach the point where it is no longer possible to be both Episcopalian and Anglican, "I will choose Anglican." That remains true, up until the dissolution of the Communion as we have known it (which may be sooner rather than later), and then it becomes irrelevant But, "choosing Anglican" may well mean that I simply need to resign, retire, renounce my orders or transfer to another Province, and relinquish my present responsibilities. There is no way I can imagine that I would or could attempt to remove the Diocese from The Episcopal Church. And should the Board or the Convention attempt this it would be a kind of ecclesiastical Civil War that would be absolutely horrible in every way imaginable...

...If the “compromises” of The Episcopal Church are such that one can no longer remain a member of it, if s/he can no longer function under its Constitution and Canons, then there really is no alternative but to leave: “Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.” But, please do not try to find ways to take property that does not belong to you. That is dishonest and illegal...
Bp. Howe speaks of attempting to leave and take your congregation or diocese with you as improper, dishonorable, dishonest and illegal. If he chooses to leave, he will first resign from his office.

Bp. Howe and I will clearly disagree on many things. But, I have to give him credit. He is an honorable man.

The difference between Bp. Howe and Bp. Duncan is primarily a question of ethical priniciples. This brings me to reflect on a question asked by TnCANA in one of the comment threads. Would I welcome Network leaders that chose to stay in TEC? I would certainly welcome Bp. Howe. Bp. Duncan (and Bp. Schofield) would be more difficult. Because of their improper, dishonorable, dishonest and illegal actions, I no longer trust them. If there was evidence of repentance and true amendment of life, of course reconciliation would be possible. But rebuilding the trust would take some time.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pittsburgh Continues Plans to Split

In the Diocese of Pittsburgh, District meetings are being held to discuss their future. From my understanding, a "District" is very similar to what others might call a "Deanery" or a "Convocation"...small groupings of churches from a particular geographical area. Representation from these groups are usually included on various diocesan governing bodies.

These District meetings were proposed at the May Diocesan Leadership Retreat, at which the options presented to the Districts were first identified.

Bp. Duncan was present for the recent District X meeting. Those who attended were handed this document as they entered. The second page, entitled "Choices to Make," identifies the topic for discussion at this meeting:

After a number of discussions, three basic options are gaining support in the diocese given TEC's unwillingness either to return to mainstream Christian belief or to make room for Episcopalians like those who represent the majority here in Pittsburgh by providing Alternate Primatial Oversight.

1. Diocese does not alter relationship with TEC, but declines to participate in national structures:

Pros: No escalation of conflict by diocese, pastoral care for parishioners regardless of convictions.

Cons: No resolution to conflict, national structures maintain veto power over diocese's election of bishops, continuing strain on people and leadership. Parishes and individuals wanting stronger action would separate.

2. Diocese alters relationship with TEC (Note: Two distinct ways of proceeding in this direction are being discussed. Some believe that the diocese should simply "leave the keys" to property and diocesan financial resources - thus bringing lawsuits to an end. Others believe that the diocese has a responsibility to protect the resources in its care).

Pros: Clarity and consistency with past decisions, keeps the majority of the diocese united.

Cons: Expensive and ongoing litigation (see note above), a number of individuals and parishes would separate from diocese, not yet clear what Anglican structure the diocese would be a part of.

3. Diocese takes no corporate action but helps parishes who believe they must separate to do so.

Pros: Procedure outlined in lawsuit settlement, negotiations could be non-adversarial.

Cons: Fragmentation of diocesan majority, eventual diocesan leadership turnover, no guarantee that parishes would not be sued individually, parishes may split, those that remain will be part of a weakened diocese.
The group gathered for this District meeting was overwhelmingly in support of choice #2. There was debate regarding leaving the keys or facing lawsuits.

A question and answer session with Bp. Duncan revealed a few items of interest:

A. The Calvary lawsuit has raised the concern that the diocesan leadership and vestry members could be jeapordizing their personal assets if option #2 was taken. Bp. Duncan has placed his wife's name on all of his personal property. He advised all members of vestries that would vote to leave TEC to make sure that their personal property has a co-owner and than that the co-owner is not on the vestry.

B. Bp. Duncan claimed that David Booth Beers, PB's chancellor, had told Bishop Love of Albany and another bishop that if he (Duncan) "steps out of line" TEC will take action against him. Bp. Duncan seemed confident that he will not be inhibited, as TEC does not want to make him a martyr.

C. Regarding the Network dioceses, Dallas and Rio Grande were identified as going with option #3. Parishes that wish to leave will be assisted by the diocese, but all assets will be returned to TEC.

Albany and Central Florida were reported as not having declared a postion.

South Carolina is anticipated as going with option #2, but they have to get Mark Lawrence elected as their bishop first, before declaring their intention of leaving (note that this is what all the noise about "proper" consent forms not being used in Virginia and other places is about; a last ditch effort by South Carolina to play the martyr card, and so pick up some sympathy votes from bishops and standing committees to get consents this time around, so that they can then leave).

The implication is that the remaining five dioceses, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, San Joaquin, Quincy and Springfield, are chosing option #2, and are preparing to leave. If you reside within any of these dioceses, you may want to take note of this. Your leaders are conspiring to jump ship in the near future. Time to make alternative plans.

D. Bp. Duncan stated that a vote will be taken at Diocesan Convention regarding leaving TEC. That vote will have to be reaffirmed at the next Convention. During that year, the Primates will form an alternative Province for them to join. Pittsburgh's next Diocesan Convention is scheduled to commence on November 2, 2007.

The difficulty for Bp. Duncan is that although he has much support within his diocese, it is debatable exactly how much support he has for the option of leaving TEC, especially when the final destination is unclear. Many of the congregations are conflicted on this. If he leaves, there will be a large enough faithful remnant remaining to reconstitute the diocese.

What is troubling is that for some reason he seems to believe he can leave, but still be the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. You would think that by now he would have gotten the message that TEC is serious when we say that individuals may leave, but dioceses and congregations cannot.

There is, of course, the strange case of the trial balloon for all this manuevering known as the Diocese of San Joaquin. They did indeed vote to leave, and are simply waiting for the second affirmation of that vote at their next Diocesan Convention before bolting. Yet, no action has been taken against them. Most likely, this hesitation by TEC's leadership is what is encouraging Bp. Duncan to follow their model.

As I learn more about Pittsburgh's plans, I'll try to pass that information on.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Who Represents the "Global South"?

A week ago, a statement was issued by a group calling themselves "The Global South Steering Committee." In it, they made statements such as "We in the Global South..." which appear to imply that they are the Anglican voice in that part of the world. No signatures were affixed to this statement, leading some to assume that it had been issued by all the members of the Global South Steering Committee. We were told that Abp. Orombi of Uganda, who is not a member, was also present for the meeting that issued this statement.

Now, a week later, we learn that three Primates, Abps. Malango, Venable and Gomez, were not present for the meeting. That means that this strong statement, intended by the authors to represent "We in the Global South," was the product of four Archbishops, Akinola, Chew, Anis and Kolini, and Archbishop Orombi, present as a guest.

Contrast this with the Walking to Emmaus consultation currently being held in Spain, at which five Global South Primates are present, and ten of twelve African Provinces are represented.

Let us not mistake those who shout the loudest to necessarily be the true voice of those they claim to represent.


No Rehearing of LA Property Cases

You may recall our discussion last month regarding a California Court of Appeal ruling in favor of the Diocese of Los Angeles in their attempt to recover the property held by St. James Anglican Church, Newport Beach; All Saints' Anglican Church, Long Beach; and St. David's Anglican Church, North Hollywood.

I've been informed that the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division 3, entered an order yesterday denying those congregations' petition for rehearing. They now have 10 days to petition for discretionary review by the California Supreme Court.


Partners in Faith and Mission

From Episcopal Life:

Bishops from 22 dioceses in the United States and 29 dioceses in Africa joined the congregation of Madrid's Iglesia Episcopal de España for a Eucharist on July 22. Joining the Rt. Rev. Carlos Lozano Lopez, bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain, at the altar were the primates of Burundi, Central Africa, Congo, and Southern Africa, as well as the primate of Brazil...

...Following a reception, the visitors made a stop at the Museo del Prado, before returning to El Escorial where the "Walking to Emmaus, Discovering New Mission Perspectives in Changing Times" consultation continues through Thursday, July 26. The consultation is being convened by New York's Trinity Church, Wall Street, as an opportunity for bishops of the Anglican Provinces in Africa and their companions in the Episcopal Church of the United States to strengthen relationships, develop mission partnerships, and discover new opportunities to bear witness to the Gospel.

The Rev. Canon James Callaway, deputy for faith formation and development at Trinity Church, said: "The consultation is offering partners in faith and mission a communal space to further existing partnerships and find commonalities on which to build new relationships. This week, as bishops share their hopes and vision for mission as Anglicans in today's world, we look forward to a stronger communion committed to providing important resources to those in need around the world."
Yes, I know, it is "just bishops," a group in whom some seem to no longer have much faith. If we can get past that, I think we may discover this to be a very positive sign of things to come.

If our bishops, our designated representatives, can work together toward common mission goals, one might say that is a strong indication that they are "in communion." Such shared mission priorities might become a primary determining factor in defining being "in communion" in the future.

The Living Church tells us that 10 of the 12 Anglican Provinces in Africa are represented at this consultation. This event should make it clear that the "Global South" is much more diverse than some might lead us to believe.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

No Day But Today

The other day I stumbled across the film version of the musical Rent. I must admit to previously not knowing anything about it, but Demi said it had been on Broadway for years, so it might be good.

It was unbelievable. Quite possibly the best musical I have ever seen. It went into production in 1996, and earned a Tony and Pulitzer. It was made into a film, with many of the original cast, in 2005. It is loosely based on Giacomo Puccini's opera La Bohème. The story is about the lives of a group of poor young artists. The tragic element in Puccini's 1896 opera was tuberculosis. In Rent, it is AIDS.

It is still playing at the Nederlander Theatre in New York. I am so blown away by the film, I'm taking Demi to see the stage production next month.

Here is Finale B. Enjoy.


Monday, July 23, 2007

From York: Boycotting Lambeth Would Sever Link with Communion

From Jonathan Petre in the Telegraph:

The Archbishop of York has warned conservative Anglican leaders that they will effectively expel themselves from the worldwide Church if they boycott next year's Lambeth Conference.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Telegraph, Dr John Sentamu pleaded with them to attend the conference despite their war with liberals over homosexuality.

But he told them that if they "voted with their feet" they risked severing their links with the Archbishop of Canterbury and with historic Anglicanism, a breach that could take centuries to heal.

"Anglicanism has its roots through Canterbury," he said. "If you sever that link you are severing yourself from the Communion. There is no doubt about it"...

...Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Dr Sentamu told the conservatives that there could not be a meaningful alternative to the official conference.

He said that the primates - the archbishops and senior bishops who head the 38 self-governing provinces that make up the Anglican Communion - had always seen the Archbishop of Canterbury as "a primate among equals but nonetheless as primus inter pares [first among equals]".

"If that goes and they think they can then say they are Anglicans, that is very questionable," he said. "Whatever you set up, I don't think it could ever be called the Anglican Communion.

"So I am hoping that my brothers and sisters, whatever they are trying to set out, will come to the Lambeth Conference."

Dr Sentamu, a close ally of Dr Williams, said that as long as Anglican bishops did not deny the basic Christian doctrines they should all be able to remain within the same Church.

While liberal north Americans disagreed with conservatives over sexual ethics, these were not core issues, he said.

If the conservatives boycotted Lambeth "they would be the ones voting with their feet and saying, as far as we are concerned, we are the true Anglicans".

He added: "Whenever we break there is a lot of pain and the healing of it is very difficult. I want to warn people, don't spend the next century trying to find a way back."

But he also warned the American bishops that Dr Williams reserved the right to withdraw their invitations if they were not prepared to engage in the decision-making processes of the Communion in the future...
Well, things are getting clearer each day, so it seems. It will be interesting to see how Akinola and Company respond to this one.


Friday, July 20, 2007

The Way Forward: Confrontation or Collaboration?

Our Thursday night class is currently studying Louis Weil's A Theology of Worship. There was one quote that jumped out at me during our last class:

...A person cannot be a Christian "in general." We are baptized in a specific place at a specific time, so that although we are baptized members of the universal church, our membership is always experienced within a specific ecclesial context, in a specific parish or mission church made up of a particular group of people. We live out this membership within the social and cultural realities of one particular community or many different communities over the course of a lifetime...
In other words, one size does not fit all, which identifies the problem with so many church "programs." I think an essential piece of engaging those in our immediate vicinity is to identify the "social and cultural realities" in our own backyards.

These different cultural realities are also one of the factors in the current tension within the Anglican Communion. Its not a matter of having two different religions. It is a matter of responding to many different cultural settings.

My personal reaction to a different culture is often, at a minimum, a feeling of discomfort. Sometimes that discomfort can grow into frustration, or even fear, because of my own lack of understanding. "How can 'they' act...look...feel...talk that way? Why can't they just be normal, like us?"

Such a reaction can often lead to confrontation. For instance, consider this statement from eight Anglican Primates who refer to themselves as the Global South Steering Committee. They are quite upset; one might even say confrontational. Their frustration in regards to how the Episcopal Church is responding to our own cultural realities seems to continue to grow. Here is Episcopal Life's report on this statement. What follows is a few excerpts from that report:

...In a statement dated July 18, the group claimed they had "no choice" but to exercise oversight for dissident Episcopalians in place of their American bishops, because the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops failed to embrace a "pastoral scheme" that would have provided dissident dioceses with an alternative to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori...

...Both the 1988 and 1998 Lambeth Conferences, the 2004 Windsor Report, and the 2005 Primates Meeting Communiqué from Dromantine all stated that boundary crossings contradict ancient precedent in the Christian Church and are unacceptable behavior in the Anglican Communion, as did the Dar es Salaam statement...
Note that four of the eight Primates who made this statement are engaged in claiming Episcopal congregations as their own. It is obvious that they are much more than objective bystanders.

There's nothing really new in the statement. A repeat of the various accusations made against TEC. A shot at Canterbury. A threat to invade Canada next unless they shape up. Lots of threats. Lots of anger.

It might be helpful to these Primates if they took a little time to understand American culture. One thing that most people recognize is that normally Americans do not respond well to threats. That tends to make us just get more stubborn.

That is my personal first inclination when reading this statement. I don't understand it, as it is springing from another cultural reality. But what I do understand I find quite offensive. I want to tell all eight of them to just go jump in the lake. That might make me feel better for a few minutes. But, I have to ask myself, is that really the best response? More to the point, is that a Christian response?

I don't think it is. So, is there another option? Perhaps. Just maybe, when confronted with a different cultural reality, our response might be a prayer, specifically, to borrow some words attributed to St. Francis; ...Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love...

Maybe what we need to do is seek to understand this different culture before we allow our outrage to find its full voice and so bring this confrontation to the point of no return?

I think it is worth a try. Apparently, others think it is as well. Episcopal Life also brings us this story about the effort to strengthen mission partnerships with some of the bishops from the Global South:

... Trinity Wall Street is convening a group of bishops from Anglican Communion provinces in Africa and their companions in the Episcopal Church "for a consultation to strengthen relationships, develop mission partnerships, and to discover new opportunities to bear witness to the Gospel," according to a Trinity news release.

Hosted by Iglesia Episcopal Reformada de España, "Walking to Emmaus: Discovering New Mission Perspectives in Changing Times" will be held in El Escorial, Spain July 21 through July 26.

The consultation will be rooted in prayer and breaking bread together; using different liturgies from the provinces of the Anglican Communion to enrich the experience of the participants, the release said.

"Mission flourishes best through collaboration," said the Rev. Canon James G. Callaway, Jr., deputy for faith formation and development at Trinity Church. "This gathering provides an opportunity for people of shared faith and mutual responsibility to come together to further develop partnerships that address important needs in the world."

The Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper, the rector of Trinity Church-St. Paul's Chapel, noted that Trinity Church is an "active partner in the global south, especially strengthening the church in Africa by facilitating the ability of its leaders to take control of factors that influence their lives."

"Diocesan partnerships are a vital route to achieving important goals both locally and globally," he said. "We look forward this week to challenging conversations, inspired thinking, and renewed commitments to partnership and mission"...
In an interview, Ian Douglas, Angus Dun Professor of Mission and World Christianity at the Episcopal Divinity School, further explains the role of these mission partnerships. Douglas (ID) is being inteviewed by site editor Nathan Brockman (NB) :

...NB: The success of the 19th-century missions has something to do with the current conflict over human sexuality in the Anglican Communion, correct?

ID: Oh, absolutely. But I don't see it necessarily as a conflict.

NB: Why not?

ID: Well, there are indeed conflicts with respect to the particular differences over human sexuality. But the real question has to do with the plurality cultural contexts in which Anglicanism is now located. I tend to see our present situation as the logical outgrowth of the work of the Holy Spirit. The Anglican Communion is moving from a historically mono-cultural, Christian experience of a North Atlantic Alliance, to a radically multi-cultural, diverse family of churches.

NB: Does controversy in the Communion right now affect every-day life in the pews?

ID: God works in mysterious ways. I would say the attention being paid to such matters has in some ways been a positive force for furthering the cause of mission in the Anglican Communion. Today more Episcopalians are knowledgeable about and committed to the life of the Anglican Communion than ever before in our history. A few years ago, if we had 25 people at a legislative committee meeting on world mission at the General Convention, we would've felt we're making headway. At the last General Convention we had over 2,000 people attending the legislative committee hearing on The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion...

...NB: Have you seen people who fundamentally disagree about certain things working together?

ID: Happens all the time. At the level of primatial politics, the Diocese of Massachusetts and dioceses in East Africa are not supposed to be talking to each other. Yet in common action together, particularly in response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, mission relationships have been nurtured and gone into very deep places of mutuality, while not compromising beliefs...

...NB: Let's say you have a magic wand that you can wave and have a single wish for the Communion fulfilled.

ID: I would wish for us all to say, "Get thee behind me Satan." I believe so much in the possibility of this incredibly diverse and plural global family of churches called the Anglican communion. The Devil is going to spend more time trying to rent division or bring about division because the Anglican Communion, in all our plurality, has never been better poised to serve God's mission. There's nothing the Evil One wants more than for us to get concerned with matters of the Church and thus neglect matters of God's mission of reconciliation and restoration in the wider world.
Seeking to understand our cultural differences, at least to the point that we can work together towards common goals, is much more difficult than confrontation. But, in the end, I think it just might be worth the extra effort.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Speaking the Truth

From Tom Ehrich in Episcopal Life:

...Religion, while claiming to be in the "truth" business, seems more concerned with preserving its franchise through selective interpretations of Scripture, resisting science, seeking political allies, and telling congregants what they want to hear.

With membership declining in most historic denominations -- and with partisans using those declines to bash each other, rather than to contemplate fresh approaches -- it can seem prudent to give truth-telling a rest. It's a rare preacher who will tell the truth to people wanting comfort, especially when probing for truth leads inexorably away from the false certainties of doctrine and institution and toward self-examination and self-sacrifice...

...Religion must stop making franchise-protection its top priority and partisan shouting its preferred voice. Religion's staying in business means little if it cannot speak the truth boldly. Part of boldness is seeing the gray areas, seeing the ambiguities and emulating Jesus in valuing parable over law.

Speaking with false certainty, just because people crave certainty, trivializes the religious enterprise and underestimates the faithful. We, in turn, must seek that maturity which doesn't need false certainty...
Time for a little self-examination, specifically in regards to our loss of members, and even more specifically, in regards to membership decline within the Episcopal Church.

Keep in mind that most causes are over-determined. No doubt there are multiple reasons for our decline. I'm going to speak from my experience, then invite you to share yours, and conclude with a question.

I am old enough to remember a time when the social mores were such that everyone went to church on Sunday. If you didn't, your neighbors would talk about "those heathens" next door. Not a good way to climb the social ladder.

Some time during the 60s, those mores shifted. It became acceptable to sit on the patio and read the Times instead of bundling the family off to church. Even a game of golf became an acceptable alternative to sitting in a stuffy church listening to yet another boring sermon. The dead wood dropped off. Those who were going to church simply for appearances quit going.

That explanation is not to completely let the church off the hook, however. No doubt that because of their apparent success, many churches got too comfortable, and lost their challenging edge.

The result of the dead wood dropping off was that church participation became redefined as a voluntary activity. It has always been such, but the shift in mores made this more apparent than it had been in past decades. This led to a view of potential members (often referred to by the most unflattering label, "the unchurched") as consumers. Churches became extremely competitive. In response, some accepted this label, and, as all good consumers are prone, began "church shopping." Denominational loyalty became a thing of the past, with families seeking the church that would give them the biggest bang for their buck.

In a scramble to respond to this new mentality, churches began to quickly grab the latest gimmick (often packaged as "programs") to attract new members. Which reinforced the consumer mentality, with the church offering a "product" that they must "sell" to the public.

Before even mentioning our most recent history, let me just comment on the above, which I would suggest outlines some of the causes for our steady decline up to at least the early 90s. Note that nowhere in the above have I mentioned God, Jesus Christ, scripture or the creeds. Of course, a relationship with the living God is our intended "product." But in this new consumer mentality, such matters seem often to become secondary to rears in the pew.

Does that seem harsh? Maybe it is. Here's my concern; to what degree can we respond to the "felt needs" of those coming through our doors at the expense of "real needs"? As Ehrich puts it; "Religion, while claiming to be in the 'truth' business, seems more concerned with preserving its franchise through selective interpretations of Scripture, resisting science, seeking political allies, and telling congregants what they want to hear."

Let me say it even more radically. I don't think church has much of anything to do with what people think they "want." I think it has everything to do with offering our praise and thanksgivings to God.

So, there's the tension. How do we invite those seeking God to become a part of our communities, without losing our focus on God? Or, put another way, how do we live out both the vertical (love God) and horizontal (love neighbor) dimensions of the cross?

Now, regarding our most recent decline. Keep in mind that many of the numbers tossed around are less than accurate. But in an effort to speak the truth, we need to admit that the Episcopal Church is losing members, at an alarming rate. And that loss seems to be accelerating.

Is this the result of our support of women's ordination, contraception, and, in some cases, divorce and remarriage? Partially. Those that seek certainty are uncomfortable with TEC's willingness to grapple with the gray areas of life.

Is our current decline the result of the consecration of Gene Robinson and the upheaval that has resulted within the Anglican Communion? To some degree, yes. About one half of 1% of our membership has left over this. But, it seems to me, these departures are unique, for a number of reasons.

They are unique in that, for the first time in my memory, there is a small group of Episcopalians that have launched a very aggressive and mean-spirited attack on the Church. They have used blatant lies, half-truths, and the most ugly words to convince our members, and our potential members, that we are not Christians. Here is but one example of this attack. This propaganda has been accepted as truth by some, resulting in their decision to leave, or continue to church shop.

We have foreign Anglican leaders setting up shop within TEC. This is also a new innovation. What this has done is to allow those who are in disagreement with their bishop to have a new option available to them. Being able to jump ship so easily has resulted in a lack of a serious attempt at reconciliation among members and their bishop. Susan Russell offers us a good example of one case in which the attempt to be reconciled was abruptly cut off as a result of foreign leaders prowling the perimeter.

Another reason for our current losses is defined by Ehrich in this way: "Religion must stop making franchise-protection its top priority and partisan shouting its preferred voice." Who wants to join a church that seems to consider "holy wars" to be its primary inclination? Some have left because they got fed up with all the arguments. To be honest, I can't really blame them.

So, there are a few causes that I suggest are some of the reasons for our loss of members. What additional ones might you add?

What is most important is that we stop denying the truth. We are losing members. It is past time for some honest self-examination about this. If you have not already done so, I highly recommend that everyone get their hands on this booklet; Truth and Hope: A Time of Truth and Hope for the Episcopal Church by Charles Fulton and James Lemler.

Now, let's explore ways that we might reverse this trend. How can we be faithful in our mission to proclaim the Gospel while still responding pastorally to the felt needs of those who enter our doors?

Let's make that into an easier question to answer. In your life, what has drawn you to participate in the life of the Church?


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

From All Saints: A Blessing

A tip of the skufia to Susan.


Three Questions

Our discussion of Paul Stanley's Agreement to Disagree continues. There are currently 372 comments; a new record for Jake's place. For those who would rather not wade through all those words, please feel free to go read Paul's proposal, and leave your response on this thread.

Our discussion identified three questions that some felt might be worth pursuing:

1. What is it that you seek that would make it worthwhile to remain in TEC?

Note that this question is directed towards those who have considered leaving TEC in the last few years. This is not limited to conservatives, btw. We have seen a few progressives and moderates get fed up and consider leaving as well.

Also note that this question is not directed towards those who have already decided to leave. I am saddened that they have made that decision, but am willing to accept it. However, such a decision disqualifies them from participating in this discussion.

And finally, keep in mind that the question asks about remaining in the Episcopal Church. Remaining in the Anglican Communion is a different discussion.

2. Which matters do Progressives, Moderates and Conservatives in TEC hold in common?

Sarah Dylan Breuer asked a similar question last April. Take a moment to go read her list, and those added in the comments. Personally, I would include every item on Dylan's list.

3. What if anything would you regret (in what senses would you feel diminished) if all conservatives/liberals just left the church? Who or what would you miss?

So, there you go. Continue to discuss Paul's proposal, or respond to any of the above questions.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

NYT Jumps the Shark

In one of the worst cases of shoddy reporting that I've seen in quite awhile, the New York Times ran this story about Ronald Boyer, a former porn star, who is supposedly preparing to become an Episcopal priest. As one who has his own colorful past, I would never suggest that anyone is beyond God's redemption. The problem I have with this article is that it is primarily a work of fiction. The reporter went for sensationalism and ignored the facts.

Jan Nunley of EpiScope contacted the Rev. Hank Mitchel, Mr. Boyer's rector, to do a little fact checking. It turns out that Boyer is not being trained for any type of ministry, including the diaconate, and has never met with Bp. Talton or Bp. Bruno to discuss such training.

If someone wants to criticize the Episcopal Church, I'd suggest they check their facts first, instead of basing their attack on sensational fiction created to sell papers. It really harms their integrity when they stand firm in their support of a fabrication. One might even call such a desperate tactic a case of bearing false witness.


UPDATE: Bp. Bruno writes to the NYT:

I would like to clear some factual errors in the article...

...Mr. Ronald Boyer is not in any process for ordination in The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Los Angeles...

...The article stated that Mr. Boyer met “with the second-ranking official of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, Bishop Suffragan Chester L. Talton, to gain approval to establish a ministry among sex workers.” In fact, Mr. Boyer has not met with any of the bishops of the Diocese...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

An Agreement to Disagree

In the comments of the previous post, Paul Stanley proposed "An Agreement to Disagree." I think it is worth further consideration. Here it is:

(Note that the ordering of the specific points has been amended from the original, with Paul's permission. The original order, to which the early comments refer, can be found here - J.)

1) We agree to disagree. We accept that some Christians conscientiously believe that same sex relationships are legitimate and holy. We accept that some Christians consider them to be sinful. We do not regard the expression of either of these views as incompatible with full membership of the Church, and we specifically resolve that we remain in communion with those of both views.

(2) We agree, however, that where people choose to live in a same sex relationship, that relationship must be lived on the same principles as marriage between people of different sexes--with faithful and loving stability. We provide accordingly for the marriage of persons of the same sex.

(3) No minister will be compelled to marry people of the same sex. But if asked to do so, a minister whose conscience does not permit him or her to perform such a marriage must ensure that the couple are referred to a minister who is willing to do so, and must treat the request with pastoral sensitivity. Pastoral sensitivity is not necessarily inconsistent with making it clear that the minister's own view is that same sex marriage is wrong, but due restraint must be exercised, and the minister must always make it clear that this view is his own and one on which others disagree.

(4) No church will be required to have as its priest in charge or as an ordained minister a person who is married to a person of the same sex.

(5) No church will be required to have as its priest in charge or any ordained minister a person who is conscientiously unable to perform marriages for persons of the same sex.

(6) Where a diocese has a bishop who is married to a person of the same sex, arrangements will be made to delegate episcopal functions to a bishop who is not so married in relation to any parish that requests it.

(7) Where a diocese has a bishop who is conscientiously unable to perform marriages for persons of the same sex: (i) the bishop may not refuse to permit clergy in his or her diocese to perform such marriages and (ii) arrangements will be made to delegate episcopal functions to a bishop who does not have such conscientious objections in relation to any parish that requests it.

(8) But nobody may (i) refuse communion to a person on the grounds that he or she is married to a person of the same sex or (ii) deny the validity of the orders of any member of the clergy on the ground that he or she is married to a person of the same sex.

I don't think either side would or ought to be altogether happy with this. But I don't see why it couldn't be a modus vivendi.


The primary advantage of such a proposal is that it is practical. It does not engage in splitting theological hairs, nor does it favor one position over another, while still honoring everyone's perspective.

I think this is a possible way forward. If diocesan bishops would adopt this policy on their own, which would certainly seem to be within their authority to do, it could be put into action immediately.

So, what are your thoughts? Additions? Corrections? Clarifications?


UPDATE: In order for this conversation to be fruitful, we all need to consider Paul Stanley's further recommendations as to some basic principles that we need to follow:

When people ask "How can we live together if we disagree?" I do not regard that as a rhetorical question.

"In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas" [unity in essentials, freedom in uncertain things, love in everything] ... this seems to me to be the right starting point; it needs to be coupled with:

(1) a rigorous insistence that "necessary" REALLY means necessary (the creeds, not the whole-nine-yards);

(2) a humble understanding, that a thing may be "uncertain" (objectively) even when I have no doubt about it all;

(3) a determined focus on caritas, that greatest of Christian virtues. It must surely be true that if we actually understood and lived out that most paradoxical of commandments that we should love one another we could not find ourselves in the position that we are in. It is not enough that we merely refrain from grotesquer forms of nastiness towards each other--though that would be a start!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Bp. Howe: "We Wish to be in the Episcopal Church"

There was an interesting meeting last month in the Diocese of Central Florida. As background, you may want to recall our previous discussions of their Bishop, John Howe. I offered a critical review of him, which was followed by a more positive one offered by a personal friend of mine. In January, Bp. Howe spoke out against border crossings. In March, we discussed the Bishop's positive comments about our new Presiding Bishop.

Bp. Howe is unusual among the Network bishops, in that he is not a follower. He is willing to row against the current, if he must. What happened at last month's meeting of the Diocesan Board and Standing Committee of the Diocese of Central Florida provides further evidence of the unique qualities of this bishop. Pat offers us some details, as well as a message from Bp. Howe explaining, from his perspective, what occurred. Here's part of that message:

...At last month's meeting of the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church a motion was presented by Bishop Stacy Sauls of Lexington that passed (with two negative votes), declaring that any legislation by Dioceses of this Church that have amended or withdrawn their "accession clause" to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church is "null and void"...

...One of the members of our Board proposed a resolution to respond to this action. It had three parts:

1) that the Board "declines to accept the limits on our freedom...to qualify or withdraw our accession to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church in order to maintain our primary allegiance...to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ."

2) that the Board "does not recognize...any trust between this Diocese and the general Episcopal Church...upon the real or personal property of this Diocese...." and,

3) "that in the event such trust has been...asserted...the Board...hereby specifically revokes any such trust."

Before allowing any discussion of this resolution, I asked our Chancellor, Butch Wooten, to give us his opinion regarding it. He said he believed it reached so far into the doctrinal and spiritual affairs of the Diocese - which according to our Diocesan canons are in the "exclusive charge" of the Bishop - that it could not be considered by the Board. Our Vice Chancellor, Bill Grimm, agreed with this opinion.

I then ruled, as Bishop, not as Chair, that the motion was "out of order."

The President of the Standing Committee, Don Curran, who is a member of the Board, ex officio, immediately moved to "over-rule" my ruling, and he was seconded by several members.

I would not allow the motion to over-rule to be considered.

It was a very difficult meeting for all of us. Several members of the Board and members of the Standing Committee, some of whom were present, believe that as Chair I do not have the authority to prevent the motion to over-rule and that our Chancellors were wrong in their judgment that this motion falls within the arena of the Bishop's "exclusive charge over the spiritual affairs of the Diocese." They have argued this forcefully, and (with only one exception), I believe entirely respectfully...

...To remove our accession to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church would be - in my understanding, that of our Chancellors, and that of the Executive Council - a matter of abandoning one of the requirements for being a Diocese in The Episcopal Church. The fact that other Dioceses have done (or attempted to do) this is irrelevant. (If something is improper, it simply should not be done, no matter how many others have done or tried to do it. And, if the Executive Council says their attempts are "null and void," have they actually done it, or have they not?)...

...The Board cannot act on this matter because we, the Diocese, wish to be a Diocese of and in The Episcopal Church, and those members of the Board who wish no longer to be such are free to leave, but they cannot decide for the rest of us that we are no longer part of The Episcopal Church...
It may be wise for us to keep this incident in mind. We cannot simply put all conservatives in the same box and be done with them. We may disagree on any number of things, but those who express their faithfulness to the Episcopal Church must be granted a place in our common life, if we like it or not.

This insistence on including our conservative brothers and sisters in Christ is not just my personal opinion. The leadership of Integrity share in this commitment. Consider these words from the Rev. Michael Hopkins, Past-president of Integrity:

We are absolutely committed to this Church and we are absolutely committed to the Continuance of as broad a diversity—including theological—as is possible for us to maintain together. This commitment is, in part, a commitment to continued messiness and frustration … Liberals and conservatives, progressives and traditionalists, must learn to live together in this Church or there will be no Church in which for us to live. But learning to live together must mean “mutual deference” not moratoriums or some insistence that we all convert to being “moderates”...
The Rev. Susan Russell, current President of Integrity, also expresses the same commitment:

As we struggle together as members of this beloved church of ours to find our way forward in mission and ministry it seemed a good time -- once again and for the record -- to restate a critical plank of Integrity's "platform" ... a key component of our "agenda." It involves the critical issue of where we stand on diversity of opinion and whether or not we believe there is room in the Episcopal Church for those who disagree with us.

In a word: we do...

...So please -- the next time someone writes or blogs or emails the urban myth that "both sides" are insisting on the expulsion of the other send them this "Message to the Church" -- or have them talk to me. I'll be happy to set the record straight...

Pray for the Diocese of Central Florida. Pray for the Church.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Presiding Bishop Visits Brazil

From Episcopal Life:

Health and strength for the whole body of Christ were a guiding focus throughout July 6-10 meetings in Brazil where Anglican leaders nationwide welcomed Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church...

...Recife's Gameleira spoke of his diocese's increasing health and rebuilding after a series of widely reported schisms in which hundreds of parishioners departed, and the previous bishop, Robinson Cavalcante, was deposed amid conflict over views of theology and human sexuality. The diocese is steadily stabilizing, said Gameleira, and a new cathedral has been consecrated earlier this year in the Espinheiro suburb.

Commenting on church conflicts, Jefferts Schori later told the group assembled July 9 in Porto Alegre that focus on mission keeps dioceses healthy.

"Conflict to the side, that [mission focus] is what will keep us together," she said. "In the Episcopal Church, as in Brazil, the dioceses focused on mission are healthy. They don't fall into consuming conflict."

Jefferts Schori added that the Episcopal Church's 10 overseas dioceses "are clearly focused on mission; they're not concerned with the conflict within the Anglican Communion" as a primary issue.

That afternoon in another session devoted to dialogue with lay and ordained women gathered in Porto Alegre from across Brazil, the Presiding Bishop and other participants reiterated that homophobia and racism are inconsistent with receiving all people into the body of Christ.

The group also discussed ways in which women are engaged in uniting the Anglican Communion through new initiatives, including the Anglican Women's Empowerment organization...
It is refreshing to see us celebrating our common mission with our global partners instead of being so focused on interior maintenance, isn't it?


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

From Chuck Blanchard: "Next Steps"

In a contribution that should assist in the continuation of our previous discussion, Chuck Blanchard offers The Anglican Communion: Next Steps.

Before I quote Chuck's steps, I want to mention a couple of concerns that I have. Please note that I'm preaching to myself as well right now. I have no problem with the occasional emotional outburst. I'm pleased that folks find this to be a place that is safe enough for such expressions. Also, I do not mind tangential conversations. I think that is how real conversations unfold. Some of our best discussions have had nothing to do with the post. However, I do hope that we can all keep in mind that those reading our words may see our discussions as an example of what it means to be part of a Christian community. An eccentric and sometimes heretical community, of course, but hopefully still one that is rooted in Christ. We are offering a witness to the world.

Now, regarding Chuck's steps; I don't agree with all of them. Some of you will disagree as well. But, we have to start somewhere. Feel free to voice your disagreements, but try to stay focused on the issues. And, even better, if you disagree, offer an alternative idea.

As a refresher, Nicholas Knisely offers a summation of the points made in our previous discussion, which originated from a comment by Mad Priest:

...If I'm reading this right, it would appear that one of the reasons the Episcopal Church should be willing to stay in the Communion rather than just walking away on its own is that by doing what needs to be done to remain, we would be taking on the role of the loyal opposition.

Being loyal opposition is not something that we Americans have managed to do well - witness the behavior of some conservatives within the Episcopal Church or the behavior of the Episcopal Church within the larger Communion - but I take the "MadPriest's" point and offer it as an additional rationale to those who have called to just pull the plug and walk off without delay.
Chuck suggests four steps that would keep us at the table:

So, in light of this responsibility, what should the Episcopal Church do? I offer the following thoughts:

First, another response by the House of Bishops that speaks of polity and the independence of the Episcopal Church will not be helpful. We have made our points about polity and independence. It is time to offer a way ahead to reconciliation within the Communion.

Second, we need to end our obsession with Archbishop Akinola and the most vocal Global South Primates. They are not the audience for our response. I doubt even defrocking of all gay priests would be enough for them. Instead, our audience includes Anglicans across the world who want to preserve the Communion, members of our own Church for whom the issues of the day are of no import, and yes, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the majority of the Primates. This audience will not demand capitulation, but it will expect a respectful (and yes, compromising) response.

Third, we need to stop talking about the issues of same sex unions as if they were political issues that can be decided by majority votes. These are theological issues, that deserve theological attention. Quite frankly, the TEC has moved in a direction without such a formal theological process--at least not one that gets much attention today. The Canadian Church's St. Michael's Report was quite useful. The House of Bishops should start a serious and open theological discussion and study among Episcopalians on all sides of this issue. If we are to move in the direction of recognizing same sex relationships (which I think we should), we need to do some serious theological work--now. And we should invite Anglicans in other provinces to participate.

Fourth, I think the House of Bishops can offer at least something to the Communion in addition to a willingness to engage in a serious and open theological examination of the issues. The House of Bishops can clarify what we all know what was intended by General Convention in 2006--that at least until the next General Convention, a majority of the House of Bishops will not vote to approve a bishop that would cause angst in other provinces. And, I think that the House of Bishops could agree to wait for the next General Convention, and the results of the theological discussions, before proceeding with official rites for same sex blessings.

If we care only for the Episcopal Church, we need not do any of this. If we are about our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in the rest of the Anglican Communion, we need to take heed of what the Mad Priest has to say.
I agree with steps one and two. I find step three quite frustrating, but understandable. There has been much theological work done. To Set Our Hope on Christ is a serious examination of all the issues. The section that addresses same sex blessings, which begins on page 23, is an excellent summation of how many of us in the Episcopal church view that particular development. But, for some reason, that document, and others, are, for the most part, ignored. So we need more documentation. Fine. We'll develop it.

Step four is going to be where we run into some disagreement. The actions of General Convention 2006 went far beyond what many of us can accept. To go further is asking too much. We cannot continue to ask for a sacrifice from only a segment of our membership.

We have resolution B033 regarding the election of bishops, which some of us, even though we feel it got shoved down our throats and can still taste its bitterness, have accepted as the official statement of TEC. That should be sufficient. Any further clarification would simply be the interpretation of the House of Bishops, and rather than add clarity, will most likely make things even more unclear.

Regarding blessings, we have not authorized rites, and we cannot do so until, at the earliest, General Convention 2009. If stating that fact is what Chuck is suggesting, I'd have no real disagreement with it, as long as bishops are still allowed the freedom to offer pastoral care to all members of their diocese.

Ok, enough from me. Your thoughts?


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

From the Office of the Inquisition: "You are All Heretics"

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Roman Catholic Church, formerly known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition, has decided it is time to start suppressing doctrinal heresy once again. The particular doctrine they feel the need to defend this time is the idea that they are the only Real Church. Even the Orthodox cannot be part of their club:

... However, since communion with the Catholic Church, the visible head of which is the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Peter, is not some external complement to a particular Church but rather one of its internal constitutive principles, these venerable Christian communities lack something in their condition as particular churches...
Close, but not quite enough.

The Protestants, however, can just forgetaboutit:

...According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called 'Churches' in the proper sense...
So, why do we need to be reminded of the exclusivity of Rome? According to the statement, it is all being done in the name of ecumenism:

...Apart from dealing with certain unacceptable ideas which have unfortunately spread around the Catholic world, it offers valuable indications for the future of ecumenical dialogue...
Well, the indications are certainly valuable if your intention is to kill any possibility of dialogue.

Nothing really new here, except that this new Pope continues to attempt to undo anything that was accomplished through Vatican II.

So, remember when you enter through those pearly gates and walk past the Roman Catholic mansion to drop your voice to a whisper. It is the polite thing to do. It would be poor form to destroy the illusion that they are the only ones there.


Accepting Responsibility Beyond Our Borders

A couple of items have given me cause to rethink some of my previous positions. The first one is from an interview of Davis Mac-Iyalla by John Johnson. The section that caught my eye was this:

...Q: What do you think is most important for the Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Transgenerdered community here in the United States to know about the lives of gay and lesbian Nigerians?

A: We have no access to information about gays worldwide. Most of the gays and lesbians in Nigeria have no idea about the lives of the GLBT community in the U.S. and no ability to share ideas and information. A gay American is no different than a gay Nigerian. And we need to know more about each other.

Q: How would that communication help gay Nigerians?

A: In many ways…One of the connections I have made with the GLBT community in the U.S. is your vocal efforts to secure your own rights. You have the freedom of speech here and I think you should use it to fight oppression in Nigeria and not just with your members of Congress but your bishops and priests and members [of your churches] too...
Do we have a responsibility to fight oppression in Nigeria? Or to broaden that question; what is our responsibility when it comes to standing against oppression around the world?

I must admit to an inclination at times to see our primary responsibility as ending at the borders of the US. This is partially derived from a dated understanding of global politics. I still consider Teddy Roosevelt's approach as the most effective; no foreign powers in our hemisphere, speak softly but carry a big stick, the golden bridge, etc. The reality is that the world today is quite different from his era. We are more connected globally than ever before in history. What happens across the globe does effect us. And, more to the point, our actions will impact those in Nigeria.

Mad Priest, speaking from an English perspective, makes this point quite clear in a comment he left on Chuck Blanchard's blog. MP reposted his response at OCICBW. I'm also going to repost it, because I think we need to hear it, even if it makes us squirm a bit:

A disciplined TEC will gain more support and the schismatics will lose support because Americans will see any such move as an attack on America and will side with those being attacked. Other than the loss of status abroad and a few freebie trips that TEC's higher officials enjoy at present there will be little noticeable change in the American Church.

As I keep saying. The primary concern of TEC should not be itself, which is strong enough to weather this storm, but their weaker brethren abroad whose forseeable future is very bleak as they will have to make the decision of leaving the church they love, without any other home to go to, or living a lie.

The truth is, although I am 100% behind TEC's recent policies, their unilateralist decisions are not a sacrifice for Americans but a sacrifice for their supporters throughout the world who had no say in the decisions. That is why I believe TEC has a primary duty to the spiritual welfare of those fellow travelers outside of the States.
In case we still don't get it, MP added a comment that cuts away any last shred of bs:

Too damn right you should come to the rescue and with no feelings of righteousness. America started all this, and with their usual isolationist view of the world, have not thought through the effect their actions will have on progressives elsewhere in the world. Your actions are in serious danger of putting gays and their straight supporters, elsewhere in the world, in an even worse position than they were in before. Therefore, TEC has a responsibility that extends beyond its borders.
Does saying it so bluntly make me wince? Sure. But I think the wincing is the result of hearing a truth that I'd rather not face.

I think some of you have attempted to make this point before, but I couldn't, or wouldn't, hear it. Saying to hell with the rest of the Communion and just breaking off to do our own thing is not an option. We have a responsibility to stay at the table, even if it is in some diminished capacity. Boycotting Lambeth is not really an option, as we would be abandoning our brothers and sisters around the globe.

It's not just about us. It really never was. But now that we've started this thing, we have a duty to see it through to the end, even if it means having to take a few lumps along the way.

The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. That mission does not end at the US border. We do not exist for our own benefit alone. We exist for the sake of the world.


Monday, July 09, 2007

The Gay Expulsion Plan

Ruth Gledhill has written an article about the recent decision by the Synod of the Church of England to move forward in the development of an Anglican Covenant. She has entitled her piece Church takes a step back from schism with gay expulsion plan. Here is how the article begins:

The Church of England took a step towards averting schism over gays yesterday when the General Synod backed a process that would allow the expulsion of rebel provinces from the Anglican Communion.

Some liberals in the established Church oppose the introduction of an Anglican “covenant” outlining a common doctrine that is to be endorsed across all 38 provinces worldwide, because they fear it will limit the traditional diversity that has become a hall-mark of Anglicanism.

But the Synod, meeting in York, voted overwhelmingly to “engage positively” in the creation of the covenant after a series of speakers warned that the dispute over homosexuality had exposed deep flaws in how Anglican unity is maintained. The covenant would prevent any province from consecrating an openly gay bishop, as the US did in 2003 with the election of Gene Robinson to New Hampshire, without risking expulsion...
So, what do you think? Is the proposed Covnant concept a Gay Expulsion Plan? Is that what it is all about?

Let's look at how others are talking about it. Consider the presentation given to the Synod by Abp. Gomez, chair of the Covenant Design Committee:

...Rumours abound that there are plots to carry forward in some provinces a bold agenda on gay marriage, and to require toleration of it across the Communion. Other rumours inform us that the primates are plotting to impose a “collective papacy” on the Anglican Communion. Bishops and archbishops are taking over the care of churches outside their own provinces; new jurisdictions are being erected and bishops are being consecrated and set up in a spirit of competition. People are taking up more and more extreme positions and then defending them; no matter how well founded or sincere the objections...

...For decades, Anglicans have been wondering whether increasing diversity might force the Provinces apart, and asked what holds us together. The days of undefined affection are sadly over, yet this is also not a time when proposals which are brand new would win a broad consensus across the Communion...
Is this a roundabout way of proposing the Gay Expulsion Plan (GEP)? If you are familiar with Abp. Gomez' previous statements on this issue, you are most likely quite aware that this is exactly what he hopes to accomplish.

Stephen Bates' report makes the intention of a Covenant quite clear:

The Church of England yesterday bowed to pleas from two archbishops to help draw up a disciplinary covenant for the worldwide Anglican communion, despite fears that it will lead to the expulsion of liberal believers...

...The proposal for a covenant has been most strongly supported by conservatives and evangelicals within the church, confident that it will enshrine their theology and enforce doctrinal order. They see it as a means of disciplining member churches such as the American Episcopalians who have pressed ahead with the recognition and inclusion of gay members and elected an openly gay bishop in 2003.

Liberals claim the church has never needed a framework before and that the proposal goes against Anglicanism's traditional national autonomy and diversity of practice.

One member, Kevin Ward, representing the northern universities, said: "Gay Anglicans have reason to be suspicious of a covenant. Its sole aim is to punish and discipline dissent ... its whole raison d'etre is one of threat, hardening and solidifying a divisive neo-Anglican communion on a narrower, less tolerant and less joyful basis."

But Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham and one of the covenant's strongest supporters, told the synod: "Our present framework simply isn't working. We need a framework to enable us to live in the house together. We are not being asked to sign a blank cheque. It is a commitment to a way of working together. It simply will not do to live with differences"...
"It simply will not do to live with differences." It is difficult to believe that an Anglican, let alone a bishop and a scholar, could ever utter such a statement.

I suggest that any future Covenant proposal be referred to as the Gay Expulsion Plan. Lazy typists may want to use GEP. An additional advantage to using the acronym is that in explaining what it stands for one might have an opportunity to speak out about the real agenda behind this flawed Covenant concept.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Synod Approves Covenant Proposal

There were no amendments. The Proposal was carried as presented:

That this Synod:

(a) affirm its willingness to engage positively with the unanimous recommendation of the Primates in February 2007 for a process designed to produce a covenant for the Anglican Communion;

(b) note that such a process will only be concluded when any definitive text has been duly considered through the synodical processes of the provinces of the Communion; and

(c) invite the Presidents, having consulted the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council, to agree the terms of a considered response to the draft from the Covenant Design Group for submission to the Anglican Communion Office by the end of the year.’
The Covenant Draft is now the primary consideration of the Church of England.

Yesterday, before this vote was taken, Dean Colin Slee of Southwark spoke against the proposal in the Guardian:

Tomorrow the general synod of the Church of England will be asked to pass a resolution from the House of Bishops that hands a blank cheque to the archbishops in negotiations with the rest of the Anglican communion for a "covenant"...

...Will the Anglican communion fall apart without a covenant? The communion is voluntary - let the independent provinces choose to belong, or not; but let none of us dictate terms to one another and determine who's in and who's out; let the church be as mature as the Commonwealth and accommodate differences of opinion in something more durable than toleration: love.
It appears that the Dean's words were ignored. As the Church of England goes, so goes the Communion. There is now a very strong probability that we will soon have some kind of covenant to contend with.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Giles Fraser: "I Always Fear 'Real' Believers"

From the Church Times:

...the most dangerous people in the world are those who are absolutely convinced of their own moral virtue and innocence. It is not the scoundrel who is responsible for the darkest moral evil in the world, but the person who is assured of his or her own virtue.

The man who tried to blow up the airport was reported to have emerged from the car, covered in flames. As the fire melted his flesh, he kept repeating the name of God, punching anyone who tried to put his fire out. Here was a man thoroughly convinced that he was doing the right thing. Make no mistake: it was faith that provided him with his moral alibi.

I always fear “real” believers. Whatever their belief system, there are those who think it is so morally watertight that it allows them carte blanche. You can sometimes see it in their faces: not a flicker of self-doubt; not an iota of self-critical awareness. It is not the bad person from whom society has most to fear. The person to be afraid of is the “good” person. I wager there has never been an agnostic suicide-bomber.

All those with religious conviction are called to recognise how dangerous faith can be. That is why it needs a whole raft of checks and balances. And, thank God, these checks and balances are there throughout the Bible. The Gospel passage on Sunday was itself a warning about faith.

This is why the people of faith need more epistemic humility, a great deal more self-awareness, a longer pause before answering the big questions of faith, a more open reflection upon our less flattering motivations. It might be difficult to find the confidence to develop self-critical vigilance when so many others want to disparage faith. But develop it more we must. The people of faith are on the front line in the war on terror.
The Revd Dr. Giles Fraser is Team Rector of Putney. His most recent book is Christianity with Attitude.

A tip of the kamelaukion to John Henry for pointing to this.


Friday, July 06, 2007

General Synod of the Church of England Meeting at York

General Synod will be in session beginning today through next Tuesday. Although General Synod is similar to TEC's General Convention, in that it represents the national assembly of the Church of England, it differs in a few significant ways. It is made up of three houses; bishops, clergy and laity. All three houses meet in joint sessions twice a year; in London in February and in York in July.

Another important difference is the matter of passing "Measures." Synod is the only entity that can pass Measures which will become English law if approved by Parliament. In regards to canonical matters, the Synod can legislate without the approval of Parliament, although such changes or additions must be submitted for Royal Assent.

There's a couple of matters on the Synod's agenda that may be of interest to us. I want to focus on one item; the Anglican Covenant. Synod will debate the Anglican Covenant Proposal on Sunday. Some good background on this, and other Synod matters, can be found at Thinking Anglicans.

Although it is the concept of the development of a "covenant relationship" within the Anglican Communion that is the intended topic for Synod, it appears that the existing Covenant Draft is having a strong influence on all considerations of any kind of covenant arrangement. Consequently, a review of the draft may provide us with some necessary background.

The Anglican Covenant Draft has been widely discussed over the last few months. 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 responses to the Draft Covenant by Frederick Quinn, Lionel Deimel, Abp. Njongonkulu Ndungane and APLM.

A more recent response by Inclusive Church is worth noting:

The growing number of bishops created by African provinces for "pastoral oversight” in North America (and potentially in other provinces), the attempts to create a Covenant that defines Anglican doctrine and ethics, and the apparent intention to organise an alternative to the Lambeth Conference in London next year all point towards one thing. The strategy to destabilise the Anglican Communion is moving into another phase...

...Clearly there are outstanding issues over how the Communion should respond to the reality that many Provinces include lesbian and gay Christians who live with partners in loving, faithful relationships. But the extraordinary way in which this issue has been allowed to dominate the life of the Communion over the past ten years is not coincidence.

There can be little doubt that the issue is being used by some, mainly conservative, Christians as a lever to try to change the Communion into something it is not; from a conciliar church into a confessional one. From a praxis-based Communion where the bonds between us are the bonds of fellowship and love to a codified Communion where exclusions are legally determined and legally enforced, and where the Communion defines itself not by who it includes but by who it excludes.

The Covenant process has been moved, by this group, away from its original intention which was to affirm the bonds of fellowship which exist. The way in which the draft was received by some at the Primates meeting in Tanzania is indication that, whatever the intention, it will be used to enforce a particular interpretation of the Scriptures to the detriment of the life of the Communion. We do not need a Curia, and the process of drafting a Covenant is already giving more power to the Primates than is justified by our history, by our life and by some of their actions to date.

Hard cases make bad laws. We wish to see, urgently, greater understanding between provinces, and we can see the value of a Covenant which enables this to happen . But the proposed draft before us is likely to be an instrument of further division, not unification. Some of our structures may need reform - but it is already clear that this Covenant process is unlikely to help...
The Telegraph is reporting that there is a conservative coalition forming that will attempt to push forward the covenant concept at Synod on Sunday. Church Times offers the details regarding two amendments to the Covenant Proposal.

What troubles me is that the discussion seems to be framed as a debate between some kind of strict formation of mandated beliefs that one must adhere to and a less formalized covenant that would include some basic principles that would be required for one to be called an Anglican. Those two poles suggest a compromise that would give the Primates too much power and would exclude the attributes of diversity and inclusivity, which are also basic Anglican principles.

The discussion needs to be reframed to include the position that no Covenant, of any kind, is necessary or required. We have the creeds. We have the Quadrilateral. Nothing additional is needed. Anything more would severely alter the flavor of Anglicanism, and hinder our witness to the world. Reject the concept of a Covenant altogether.

No doubt that there will be more news on Sunday. In the meantime, what have you spotted of interest in regards to General Synod?