Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Evangelicals Rush to War

Charles Marsh, professor of religion at the University of Virginia, offers us an essay in the Boston Globe entitled God and Country. Here's part of it:

...Why did American evangelicals not pause for a moment in the rush to war to consider the near-unanimous disapproval of the global Christian community? The worldwide Christian opposition seems to me the most neglected story related to the religious debate about Iraq: Despite approval for the president's decision to go to war by 87 percent of white evangelicals in April 2003, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts poll, almost every Christian leader in the world (and almost every nonevangelical leader in the United States) voiced opposition to the war...

...These past six years have been transformative in the religious history of the United States. It is arguably the passing of the evangelical moment -- if not the end of evangelicalism's cultural and political relevance, then certainly the loss of its theological credibility. Conservative evangelical elites, in exchange for political access and power, have ransacked the faith and trivialized its convictions. It is as though these Christians consider themselves to be recipients of a special revelation, as if God has whispered eternal secrets in their ears and summoned them to world-historic leadership in the present and future...

...Franklin Graham, the evangelist (and son of Billy Graham), boasted that the American invasion of Iraq opens up exciting new opportunities for missions to non-Christian Arabs. This is not what the Hebrew or Christian prophets meant by righteousness and discipleship. In fact, the grotesque notion that preemptive war and the destruction of innocent life pave the way for the preaching of the Christian message strikes me as a mockery and a betrayal.

But if Franklin Graham speaks truthfully of the Christian faith and its mission in the world -- as many evangelicals seem to believe -- then we should have none of it. Rather, we should join the ranks of righteous unbelievers and big-hearted humanists who rage against cruelty and oppression with the intensity of people who live fully in this world. I am certain that it would be better for Christians to stand in solidarity with compassionate atheists and agnostics, firmly resolved against injustice and cruelty, than to sing "Amazing Grace" with the heroic masses who cannot tell the difference between the cross and the flag.
One would hope that we are seeing the American evangelicals' trend of depicting Jesus as the new Rambo finally coming to an end. Enough innocent blood has been shed because of our President's most un-Christian adventure in Iraq.

The damage already done to the good name of the United States of America may never be repaired. But that is almost a secondary tragedy to me. The damage that has been done to the name of Jesus Christ breaks my heart.

In the name of God, clear the troops out of Iraq, and get rid of the fanatics suffering from megalomania in the White House.


From Canada: "Actions of the Southern Cone are Inappropriate, Unwelcome and Invalid"

From a statement issued by the Primate and Metropolitans of the Anglican Church of Canada:

...It is in this context that we deplore recent actions on the part of the Primate and General Synod of the Province of the Southern Cone to extend its jurisdiction into Canada through the Essentials Network Conference. This action breaks fellowship within the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Communion.

We affirm the statement unanimously agreed to by the Council of General Synod which appeals to the Archbishop of Canterbury “to make clear that such actions are not a valid expression of Anglicanism.” We too appeal to him in his capacity as one of the instruments of communion and as chair of the Primates' Meeting to address the very serious issues raised by this intervention.

The actions by the Primate of the Southern Cone are not necessary. Our bishops have made adequate and appropriate provision for the pastoral care and episcopal support of all members of the Anglican Church of Canada, including those who find themselves in conscientious disagreement with the view of their bishop and synod over the blessing of same-sex unions. These provisions, contained in the document known as Shared Episcopal Ministry, were adopted by the House of Bishops and commended by the panel of reference appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The actions by the Primate of the Southern Cone are also inappropriate. They contravene ancient canons of the Church going as far back as the 4th century, as well as statements of the Lambeth Conference, the Windsor report and the Communiqué from the Primates' Meeting earlier this year. Furthermore these actions violate Canon XVII of the Anglican Church of Canada which states that “No Bishop priest or deacon shall exercise ordained ministry in a diocese without the license or temporary permission of the Diocesan Bishop.”

Any ministry exercised in Canada by those received into the Province of the Southern Cone after voluntarily relinquishing the exercise of their ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada is inappropriate, unwelcome and invalid. We are aware that some bishops have, or will be making statements to that effect in their own dioceses...
A tip of the campello to Nicholas Knisely at The Lead for this one.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Church of England Newspaper Gets It Wrong

You may recall our recent discussion of the summary of responses from the Primates and members of the Anglican Consultative Counsel to the report of the Joint Standing Committee. The JSC gave the most recent House of Bishops' statement a passing mark. You can see the summary of the Primates' and ACC's responses here and here.

To refresh your memory, here's the breakdown of responses:

Responses from the Primates to the JSC Report (38 total):

12 - Agree
10 - Disagree
3 - Mixed Response
1 - Will Respond Later
12 - No Response

Responses from the Anglican Consultative Council to the JSC Report (73 total):

13 - Agree
2 - Disagree
2 - Mixed response
8 - JSC Member
48 - No Response

The lack of responses within 30 days, as requested by the Archbishop of Canterbury, results in these numbers adding little to our understanding of the mind of the Primates or the members of the ACC. But, those are the numbers we have. They show agreement with the JSC report by a very small margin among the Primates, and agreement with JSC report by a much larger margin from the members of the ACC.

Note that there is no indication in the summary, or from statements from Canterbury, that an updated report will be issued when and if there are additional responses after the 30 day deadline. Since the Archbishop of Canterbury is expected to release his statement on this matter within the next few days, it is safe to assume that this is the information on which he will base his statement.

What is quite curious is this article written by George Conger, which will appear in the Church of England Newspaper on November 30. Here is how it begins:
The Primates have returned a vote of no confidence in the Episcopal Church. Lambeth Palace reports that a majority of primates have rejected the conclusions of the ACC/Primates Joint Standing Committtee (JSC), and have told the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams the Episcopal Church has failed, in whole or in part, to honor the recommendations of the Windsor Report and the Primates’ Dar es Salaam communiqué...
A majority of primates have rejected the conclusions of the JSC? Where in the world is Conger getting this?

Apparently, he begins to justify this clearly erroneous statement by getting the numbers wrong:
...Of the 38 primates, including the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, Lambeth Palace reported it had received 26 responses, and no reply from 12. Of the 26, 12 stated they could accept the JSC’s findings, 12 stated they rejected the JSC’s findings, while three offered a mixed verdict, and one said it was continuing to review the matter...
I think you need to look again, George. In the pie charts, and in the text of the summary, it is clearly stated that 12 Primates agreed with the JSC, and 10 disagreed. The numbers you offer add up to 28 responses, not 26.

Conger goes on to point out what he perceives as the errors in the summary:

...Details of who voted how were not released, nor did the summary stand close comparison to the body of the report. While the summary graph reported 10 provinces as not having responded, the paper identified 12 no responses. Twelve provinces were stated to have rejected the report in the summary, while the body of the paper stated this number was 10. Three provinces were listed as having given mixed responses in the summary, while the body of the paper said two provinces had so spoken...
No, George. I suspect you have mixed up the shades of purple used in the graph. The pie chart shows 12 Primates not responding, as is repeated in the text. The chart also identifies 10 Primates as disagreeing, which is also affirmed in the text.

We can agree that there is some discrepancy regarding the number of mixed responses: the chart shows three while the written report identifies two.

Conger's error brings him to the mistaken conclusion that there was a draw regarding Primates agreeing or disagreeing with the JSC; 12 to 12. How does he get from there to "a majority of primates have rejected the conclusions of the ACC/Primates Joint Standing Committee"? By speculating on how the non-responders might have responded:

...Of those who had not responded, three were from Africa, three from the Indian subcontinent, two from Central and South America, and four from other areas. However, based on past statements from the African and South Asian provinces, the majority reporting a mixed or negative response will be increased to roughly a two third’s margin once their views are communicated to London...
That's an interesting opinion. It is certainly not a fact, as suggested in his opening paragraph. There is also the assumption that late reports from the Primates will change anything. Since Canterbury's response will most likely have already be made by the time such reports are submitted (if they ever are), they will really have little, if any, impact on the final result.

I understand that George Conger reports not only for the Church of England Newspaper, but also for the Living Church. I would suggest that he spend a bit more time reviewing his articles before publishing them, if he wants to keep his credibility as a reporter. If a parish priest running a little backwater blog can spot spin based on errors, it is safe to assume that more prominent personages are also not blind to such things.

Maybe this was just a mistake? Possibly. I've certainly made my share. Just pull the story, or at least correct the errors, and we'll all move on.


UPDATE: Apparently, the article written by George Conger has been revised. The new version can be found here. It covers much of the same material, but the errors are corrected, and the spin is slightly subdued.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Should Lambeth be Cancelled?

In October, the Diocese of Utah, meeting in Convention, endorsed a recommendation from Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish that the 2008 Lambeth Conference be cancelled. Here is part of the letter of explanation that Bp. Irish sent to the Presiding Bishop:

...We urge you to ask the Archbishop to cancel the Lambeth Conference for 2008.

• The Communion is in such disarray over who recognizes whom, and the participation of “irregularly consecrated” bishops, that little good can come from the fragmented gatherings sure to take place at the Conference, and even attendance at common worship is unlikely.

• We are unclear about the “other issues” being raised around the Communion, although the Archbishop suggests they are “very specific.” Within the constitution and canons of our church we have responded faithfully and courteously to the demands of others, even though questioning their authority to set the conditions of our continued participation in the Communion.

• We are leery about using the occasion of the Conference to present a Covenant that is exclusionary, that centralizes authority, or that adds to the core doctrine of our faith.

• The cost of holding the Lambeth Conference under the present circumstances is disproportionate to its benefits, and to the good we can do elsewhere in the mission of the church.

• Given the disarray we referred to above, we think that a Lambeth Conference in the near future would be disastrous to our public image around the world.
The Diocese of Olympia soon passed a similar resolution at their Convention:

...The text approved by the convention said, “We are leery about using the occasion of the [2008 Lambeth] Conference to present a Covenant that is exclusionary, that centralizes authority, or that adds to the core doctrine of our faith. The cost of holding the Lambeth Conference under the present circumstances is disproportionate to its benefits, and the good we can do elsewhere in the mission of the church”...
The bishops of Nigeria want to call it off as well. One of the reasons they list is their fear of protesters (go Josh!).

The Daily Episcopalian is hosting an essay by the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, former Bishop of Alaska and current president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School, in which he explores the question of canceling Lambeth. Here's part of it:

...But would cancelling Lambeth be a mistake? Should we not come to the table, perhaps most especially when we disagree? The knee jerk answer should be yes, that sounds right, but the realities of past experience should caution us to think twice before we respond. The performance of some bishops at Primates’ gatherings demonstrates that unless there is a firm hand at the tiller of Lambeth, any amount of childish posturing and manipulating is likely to reoccur. In addition, the sad sight of bishops refusing to worship with one another is hardly a global invitation to join such a fractured community. And finally, with special authority being granted and cited for pronouncements coming from non-legislative meetings like Lambeth, running the risk that some partisan “resolution” will be adopted and enshrined into dogma is a risk not worth taking.

But perhaps the most persuasive thing about the Utah suggestion is that it forces us to confront our own dysfunction. More meetings enable more silly behavior. The waffling of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the manipulation of meetings by some bishops, and the lame rhetoric of other bishops who have made a cottage industry out of doom and gloom prophecies has to be faced. For too long we have all been watching this soap opera called Anglican leadership and wondering when the adults would come back into the room to make the kids play nice.

That may not happen unless we take some serious steps. What the diocese of Utah raised is an idea for just this kind of wake up call and action. Perhaps if we call off the party, some people will sober up. It may be disconcerting to many that we have decided not to have another Lambeth right away, but after all, when did we start to worship Lambeth anyway? Even more disconcerting would be the spectacle of global religious leaders playing political gotcha over issues that most Anglicans find pointless and diverting from the mission of the gospel...
So, what do you think? Shall we call off the party?


Monday, November 26, 2007

Canterbury Speaks Out Against Violence

There are some dramatic headlines attached to news stories about comments made by the Archbishop of Canterbury in an interview that appears in Emel. Let's look at part of what he actually said. Then I'll offer some commentary, from the perspective of a veteran who enlisted during Viet Nam and a priest who believes it is the Church's duty to protect the innocent:

I ask him if America has lost the moral high ground since September 11th, and his answer is simple: “Yes.” There is no mitigation. He has obviously thought through what he feels the US should do now to recover, “A generous and intelligent programme of aid directed to the societies that have been ravaged; a check on the economic exploitation of defeated territories; a demilitarisation of their presence. All these things would help.”

He describes violence as “a quick discharge of frustration. It serves you. It does not serve the situation. Whenever people turn to violence what they do is temporarily release themselves from some sort of problem but they help no one else.” A long term critic of the war on Iraq, he feels that this perspective on violence also applies to Britain’s presence there. “A lot of the pressure around the invasion of Iraq was ‘We’ve got to do something! Then we’ll feel better.’ That’s very dangerous.”

In a country where faith and politics are essentially divided, in Alastair Campbell’s infamous words, “we don’t do God”, the Archbishop does feel he has a role to play within the political arena. On the Iraq war he wants to “keep before government and others the great question of how you can actually contribute to a responsible civil society in a context where you’ve undermined most of the foundations on which that society can be built”...

...Christian Zionists support the return of Jews to Israel because they believe the second coming of Jesus will not occur until all Jews are in Israel. The Archbishop is scathing, accusing them of being connected to “the chosen nation myth of America, meaning that what happens in America is very much at the heart of God’s purpose for humanity.”

In today’s world it is easy to see why people would believe such an idea; America seems so intrinsically involved in everything. The Archbishop recognises that: “We have only one global hegemonic power at the moment.” But, he propounds, “It is not accumulating territory; it is trying to accumulate influence and control. That’s not working.” Far from seeing this positively, he describes it as “the worst of all worlds,” saying, “it is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources into administering it and normalising it. Rightly or wrongly that’s what the British Empire did – in India for example. It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put things back together –Iraq for example”...
Has America lost the moral high ground? The Bush administration pushed us into an invasion of Iraq four years ago based on false intelligence. Since then, over 70,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed. The killing continues, even though we have yet to be given an honest answer as to why we are even there. Here is a brief glimpse of what is going on in Iraq right now:

The American military has expressed regret “that civilians are hurt or killed while coalition forces search to rid Iraq of terrorism,” after the 11 October killing of 15 women (one pregnant) and children in an air raid near lake Thar Thar. The civilian death toll by US fire was 96 in October, with 23 children among them, while in September US forces and contractors killed 108 Iraqi civilians, including 7 children. In August US troops killed 103 civilians, 16 of them children, and in July they killed 196. In fact, during the last five months US forces in Iraq have killed over 600 Iraqi civilians. Regrettably, as always...
There is little question that this invasion will be remembered as one of the ugliest chapters of American history. Of course we have lost the moral high ground. And the only way I can see to regain it is to stop the killing, condemn the actions of this President, and hold him accountable for what could be defined as war crimes.

The arrogance of this administration is quite evident in the invasion of Iraq. George Bush has claimed that he believes himself to be called by God to launch this bloody adventure. He personifies the "chosen nation myth" quite well. We ignore global voices, convinced that it is our destiny to be God's agents to those we judge to deserve death. We appoint leaders of our troops who encourage them to kill in the name of Jesus. And then we act indignant when the "collateral damage" count of civilian deaths rises to over 70,000, and our morality is questioned. It is difficult to believe that anyone could consider such consequences of this invasion to be "God's purpose for humanity."

The Archbishop said that this is "the worst of all worlds," as in the worst case scenario. He is absolutely right. As far as suggesting that the way the British Empire "administered and normalized" India is a better example, I'd personally have to disagree. There was plenty of bloodshed involved in that adventure as well. The comparison is not terribly helpful. The British Empire has plenty of its own ugly chapters.

As Christians, it is most definitely our place to speak out against such violence. This has nothing to do with politics. It is about killing innocent people. If Christians cannot stand against this horrible waste of human lives, I fail to see the point of continuing to claim to be followers of Jesus Christ.

I disagree with Dr. Williams on many things. But in this case, I must applaud his willingness to speak out against this unnecessary bloodshed.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Order and Chaos

MadPriest offers us an insightful quote from Mary Clara. Here's how it begins:

This is the first time it has been made completely clear to me that the schismatics' obsession with same-sex love is not about personal morality at all. It has to do with a perceived threat to cosmic order. In their view, the very 'nature of reality' is being profaned and violated by any sexual act other than one between fertile heterosexuals bent on procreation. The 'tear in the fabric of the Anglican Communion' actually represents for them a rending of the fabric of the universe.

In a certain sense I can understand this. I do believe that in the shape of our lives, even in small everyday acts, we can and should show respect for cosmic order and participate in God's plan as we understand it. Our relationships are symbolic, and by the way we tend them we can either contribute to chaos or help bring about the flourishing of God's reign...
Mary Clara goes on to make a very good point. Do go read the whole thing. However, although I agree in principle with what she has to say, the above paragraphs got me to spinning in a slightly different direction. A recent brief conversation with klady took me even further afield from Mary Clara's original point.

"...rending the fabric of the universe..." I think that is the phrase that got my attention. Let's talk about this "rending." Specifically, let's talk about the tension between "order" and "chaos" that I suspect is at the root of this "rending."

I think that chaos has gotten a bad reputation throughout history. Of course "order" is the obvious preference, as it represents what we "know." And by that knowledge, we feel we have some control over things. Chaos represents the unknown, and thus is the source of much fear, as we feel powerless to have any control over it.

I want to suggest that it is from chaos that springs all creativity, while order tends to routinize all things, and thus has a greater potential for stifling, if not killing, the spirit.

That's not quite right, of course, but it is a sufficient summary of my point, and counter-intuitive enough to get your atttention.

The truth is that creativity is born from the tension between order and chaos. My point is that chaos is not the enemy, but an integral part of the creative process.

To explain further, I have to delve into the realm of science, which is by no means my area of expertise. I hope those who are more scientifically inclined will correct my errors.

"Chaos Theory" is the term for the apparent lack of order in a system that would be expected to obey particular laws or rules. Probably the best known example of this is the "butterfly effect," introduced by Edward Lorenz in a paper he entitled ""Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas?" Lorenz stumbled across this concept while making weather predictions in which he simulated certain factors by inserting numbers from previous predictions. But he rounded off the numbers by three decimal points, while the computer based its forcasts on six decimal points. The forcasts were dramatically different from what they should have been. That miniscule change caused dramatically different results.

We think of chaos as randomness and a complete lack of order. What chaos theory suggests is that this is only apparent randomness, resulting from the complex interactions of many systems. In other words, the appearance of chaos is formed by our lack of knowledge of these interactions. There seems to be some order within chaos, as well as some chaos within order. The tension between order and chaos is not an "either/or" kind of relationship.

This brings us to Complexity Theory, which suggests that there is a transitional phase between order and chaos, in which the system is not rigid, yet not random either. An example might be the process of ice becoming water and then steam. Order moves to complexity which moves to chaos. It is this transitional stage between order and chaos where creation can occur. Or, to put it another way, in terms of human thought, it is when we let go of enough of our ordered thought to embrace chaos, but not enough that we have no foundation for thinking, that we can draw from the chaos a new thought.

There are some parallels with these ideas and how our human psyche functions. "Order" represents our conscious selves. "Chaos" represents the unconscious. Fearing our inability to properly control the unconscious inclines us to repress it. Once again, our automatic perception is that order is good and chaos is bad. But the more we repress the unconscious, the more we find ourselves on the verge of slipping into total chaos. It is through integration, through slowly bringing the unconscious into the light, that we discover our own creativity, and so become a complete person, no longer living in fear of our "dark side."

And then there are those "unexpected" daily occurances that disrupt our orderly lives. This is also an example of living in the tenion between order and chaos. There is an accident on the Parkway making us late for an appointment. An ill child forces us to cancel our evening plans. Such apparently random chaos is usually seen as always a negative thing. But isn't it as we deal with these unexpected situations that we expand our understanding not only of the world, but of ourselves? These are opportunities to dip into the that place of complexity between order and chaos and draw from it a new way forward.

I've wandered far enough, I suspect. So lets bring this all home again. Our Anglican tradition is often considered quite rigid when it comes to liturgy, confining ourselves to the time tested forms of worship contained within the Book of Common Prayer. However, we are also often accused of being too "fuzzy" when it comes to some of our responses to developments in this world. We live in the tension between order and chaos.

I think our current unpleasantness is, to some degree, a result of this tension. From the complexity of human systems (relationships), we have drawn out something new, and are attempting to give it form and order. There are those who champion order, and demand that all matters Anglican take on a rigid form. And there are those who champion chaos, refusing to acknowledge the authority of any restrictions. Of course, neither of these extremes will allow us to integrate a new understanding into our consciousness. It is out of the struggle between these two forces that something new is emerging. And for that, as painful as it may seem right now, I think we can be thankful.

The fabric of the universe is being rent asunder. Good. Because that fabric is made of the finite thoughts of limited beings, fashioned into a curtain to hide from us the Creator, whose glory will consume us if revealed all at once. We need the curtain, our very human reason, to protect us from being consumed. But I think sometimes it is beneficial for a corner of it to be torn away, so that we can glimpse the Creator, and so be reminded of who we are; finite beings straddling order and chaos, which are both a part of the creative process of a power greater than ourselves.

Holy art Thou, Lord of the Universe
Holy art Thou, whom nature hath not formed
Holy art Thou, the vast and mighty One
Lord of the light and the darkness.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Introducing a New Chat Room

The folks from the Episcopal/Anglican MSN Group have opened a chat room. You can find it here. I've also added a link on the sidebar.

I've known some of the members of this group for a few years. They're good folks. And this particular chat format is user friendly. No complicated registration or passwords. Simple design for the room. And it is hosted, meaning troublesome visitors will be dealt with by someone else, so you can relax and just talk.

If you're interested in talking with each other in real time, this might be a feature that you'll enjoy. Go check it out.


Primates and ACC Respond to the House of Bishops' Statement

In September, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church issued a statement in response to the recommendations made by the Primates in the Dar es Salaam Communique.

The Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion considered the House of Bishops' statement, and then issued their own report. The JSC found that the Episcopal Church had fulfilled the request for clarity made by the Primates.

Rowan Williams received the report of the JSC, and asked for responses from the 38 Primates and the 73 members of the Anglican Consultative Council. They were given one month to make their response. A summary of the responses from the Primates and the ACC has now been released. It can be found here. If you want to see the graphs, you may have to open the pdf file, found here.

The responses are not identified by Province. The specific comments that are quoted are primarily from those who disagree with the report of the JSC. That is no surprise, as those who felt the Bishops had responded sufficiently to the Primates wouldn't have much else to say except "Agree." But, if you are going to challenge the findings of the JSC, the expectation would be that you would provide an explanation for such a challenge.

By all means do read all 11 pages of this summary. But without knowing who said what, I'm not sure how helpful the document really is. However, the categorization of the numbers is certainly interesting. Here's the breakdown:

Responses from the Primates to the JSC Report (38 total):

12 - Agree
10 - Disagree
3 - Mixed Response
1 - Will Respond Later
12 - No Response

Responses from the Anglican Consultative Council to the JSC Report (73 total):

13 - Agree
2 - Disagree
2 - Mixed response
8 - JSC Member
48 - No Response

The ten Primates who disagreed were identified as being part of the "Global South."

I think the most significant thing to be seen from these numbers is that almost one third of the Primates and almost two thirds of the ACC members did not respond! Out of 111 requested responses, Canterbury received 51; less than half.

This is difficult to even imagine. The Archbishop of Canterbury made this request. They were given thirty days to accomplish this simple task. We might expect one or two excuses due to extenuating circumstances. But for over half of the respondents to simply ignore Canterbury's request is quite troubling.

Perhaps apathy has begun to set in regarding these matters? Or maybe we have placed incompetent people in these positions? Or could this be a signal that the authority of Canterbury is even weaker than we even imagined?

I suspect that the first speculation will probably be proven to be the most accurate. The members of the Communion are getting weary of all these meetings, reports, threats and counter-threats. All this fighting has become a distraction from our mission; to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. The Communion has had enough. They want to move on.

So, for what it's worth, there's the summary. Based on that information, Abp. Williams will make a final statement on this matter in his annual Advent letter. And that will be the end of the Dar es Salaam recommendations.

Maybe the denouement of this drama has finally commenced.

Thanks be to God.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God's own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

Let us pray:

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and
the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A Litany of Thanksgiving

Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us.

For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea.
We thank you, Lord.

For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ,
We thank you, Lord.

For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends,
We thank you, Lord.

For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,
We thank you, Lord.

For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play,
We thank you, Lord.

For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity,
We thank you, Lord.

For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice,
We thank you, Lord.

For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
We thank you, Lord.

Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;
To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

Count your blessings this day, and give thanks. And then commit yourselves to becoming a blessing to others.

How do you pass on a blessing? It can be a simple thing. For instance, go find someone who needs a hug and give them one. How difficult could that be?

Free Hugs Campaign

Happy Thanksgiving, folks.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Southern Cone's Operative in North America

The Southern Cone, lead by Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables, has decided to offer shelter to some of the disgruntled conservatives in North America. The leadership of the dioceses of San Joaquin, Fort Worth and Pittsburgh are anticipated to take them up on this offer. The latest development is that a Canadian renegade bishop has also decided to accept this offer. Bishop Michael Ingham of the diocese of New Westminster is not pleased:

...“This is a full-blown schism now within the Canadian church and it is a direct attack upon the catholicity of the church and the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Ingham. “It is one thing to hold differing opinions as many Anglicans obviously do on matters of sexual ethics. It’s quite another thing to establish alternative ecclesial bodies, which is schism.”

He added: “I believe our church and certainly the diocese of New Westminster has bent over backwards to accommodate mutual respect and tolerance of genuinely held theological convictions. What we cannot tolerate is schism and the setting up of bodies that compete with one another within the same jurisdiction. As Jesus said, a house divided against itself cannot stand”...
So, what do we know about the Southern Cone, the latest player to step upon the stage of the ongoing Anglican drama?

We know that this is not the first time PB Venables has done something like this. He took Robinson Calvacanti, the deposed bishop of Recife, under his wing. Calvacanti is not listed as a bishop on any of the Anglican Communion sites. He did not recieve an invitation to Lambeth.

And we know that the face of the Southern Cone seen here in North America is usually that of Frank Lyons, Bishop of Bolivia.

So, who is Bp. Lyons? Watch the following video from January 2007, made while he was making a visitation to one of "his" churches in San Diego, and see for yourself:

Bp. Lyons speaks of the "active, growing" churches in the Global South. Is he including his own diocese, which appears to consist of four churches? If I recall, it had four churches three years ago. Exactly where is the growth?

Here's what the Bishop of San Diego had to say about Bp. Lyon's method of "growing" churches:

...Last week, in a statement about Lyons' upcoming visit, Mathes said he was “distressed” that the Anglican bishop is not abiding by a centuries-old tradition of honoring the authority of the local bishop.

Mathes also noted the disparity between the number of churches Lyons oversees in Bolivia and the United States. Lyons said yesterday he supervises 35 congregations in the United States and has five churches, including one that will open later this year, in Bolivia.

“Rather than growing the church in his mission field, he has inserted himself in the affairs of another part of the communion and exacerbated the conflict,” Mathes said in his statement. “I suspect his reasons are more driven by economics and ego rather than theology”...
Bp. Lyons makes the same old false accusations about the Episcopal Church that we've heard so many times before; "It is difficult for conservative folks who believe in the authority of scripture, who believe in the uniqueness of Jesus, who believe in the resurrection of Jesus, to get through any kind of process in the US..." I must imagine that he is speaking about the ordination process. So, to get ordained in the Episcopal Church, one must deny scripture, the Incarnation and the resurrection? Give me a break.

Most likely there's more than a little projection going on here. Bp. Lyons entered the ordination process in Washington DC, where he was a member of a parish he describes as "Charismatic." He admits to having problems with the diocesan leadership. Eventually, the diocese decided not to ordain him. Consequently, he now makes the above accusation.

And then in response to those bishops who are perturbed by his trespassing on their turf, he states that he "feels really bad that these bishops don't understand Anglicanism..." And Bp. Lyons does? Is this understanding derived from his time at a "slightly non-Anglican, fuzzy huggy Charismatic" church, or from his residency at the only seminary in the Episcopal Church that will not allow women to perform sacerdotal functions on their property? Misogynist Pentecostals are the model of Anglicanism now? We live in bizarre times.

Bp. Lyons tosses out the comment that "two thirds of the Primates are in impaired communion with the Episciopal Church." Oh really? Love to see that list. Last I heard, there were about half a dozen out of 38, and some of those are questionable.

Bp. Lyons claims to have picked up 35 churches in North America, and is on the prowl for more. Remember his face. If you see him, you will have to make up your own minds as to what is the appropriate response. Personally, I'll be calling 911 to have him arrested for trespassing.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Episcopal Life Looks at the Blogs

From Episcopal Life:

They're like monks of old, scribing texts on Scripture and theology, prayer and meditation, church governance and liturgics -- topics that resonate with them and their experiences of faith in the current day.

They're bloggers -- writers of Internet weblogs ("blogs," for short) -- whose readers respond with comments for posting online.

Together they populate the "blogosphere," a communication environment that, spiritually speaking, includes content that comes as fresh air to some and rhetorical smog to others.

But an informal sampling of blogs shows that Episcopalians, for the most part, blog to build Christian community. Mainly, these blogs are virtual locations for gathering groups of people who love their church and express that love in diverse ways. A few writers may sow discord, yet most work to widen connections and collegiality that might otherwise remain untapped...

...Readers grow to trust a blogger's credibility based on the number of other bloggers producing worthwhile information who link to that blog, said Dave Kim, blogger and global sales intranet manager of Symantec Corporation, based in Cupertino, Calif. The more that other bloggers or trusted websites link to a blog, the more likely readers are to return there for information, he said, noting blog trust is similar to brand loyalty.

"Blogs in and of themselves are rarely reliable," Kim said in an interview conducted via online instant messaging. "They must have other sources — links to groups talking about the same issues. Over time, you grow to trust blogs for different reasons. Some group blogs you simply grow to rely on over time: i.e., reading for tech news"...
Jake's place got mentioned in the last line, and they got the link right. Thanks, Sean.

So, welcome to those visiting from Episcopal Life. Please make yourselves at home. And don't leave without checking out the comments. That's probably the most unique thing about Jake's place...we get lots of comments. The conversations which naturally unfold here are the heart of this community.

Feel free to join in the conversation. You don't have to sign up for anything, and can use whatever name fits your fancy at the moment. I promise we won't bite (unless you bite first...then watch out!).


Abp. Tutu: "Anglicans Homophobic"

Susan Russell points us to an article from the BBC:

..."Our world is facing problems - poverty, HIV and Aids - a devastating pandemic, and conflict," said Archbishop Tutu, 76.

"God must be weeping looking at some of the atrocities that we commit against one another.

"In the face of all of that, our Church, especially the Anglican Church, at this time is almost obsessed with questions of human sexuality."

Criticising Dr Williams, he said: "Why doesn't he demonstrate a particular attribute of God's which is that God is a welcoming God"...

...He said the Anglican Church had seemed "extraordinarily homophobic" in its handling of the issue, and that he had felt "saddened" and "ashamed" of his church at the time.

Asked if he still felt ashamed, he said: "If we are going to not welcome or invite people because of sexual orientation, yes.

"If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn't worship that God"...

...In the interview, Archbishop Tutu also rebuked religious conservatives who said homosexuality was a choice.

"It is a perversion if you say to me that a person chooses to be homosexual.

"You must be crazy to choose a way of life that exposes you to a kind of hatred.

"It's like saying you choose to be black in a race-infected society."
Encouraging words from a great man.

He doesn't just talk about being inclusive, by the way. For instance, consider that he allowed himself to be included in a photo with an eccentric and sometimes heretical rabble rouser.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Canterbury's Solution: A Lambeth Purge

From the Telegraph:

The Archbishop of Canterbury is preparing to target individual bishops whose pro-gay policies threaten to derail his efforts to avert schism, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.

In a high-risk strategy, Dr Rowan Williams may even snub them by withdrawing their invitations to next year's Lambeth Conference.

He has told friends he will challenge any bishop he believes is coming to the conference with an agenda "very much at odds" with his attempts to maintain unity in the worldwide Church...

...Dr Williams has been under great pressure from conservatives to punish the entire American Episcopal Church for bringing the worldwide Church to the brink of schism.

But aides to the Archbishop hope his new strategy of focusing on individuals rather than national Churches may appease conservatives who are threatening a damaging boycott of the conference.

Insiders point out, however, that Dr Williams could also target hardliners if he believes they are breaching guidelines against bishops intervening in foreign dioceses, as some Africans have done.

If he decides to take the drastic step of withdrawing the invitation to bishops on either the liberal or conservative wing, he will risk a barrage of criticism and could provoke further damaging boycotts.

But the Archbishop can remind Church leaders that he allowed for the eventuality when he issued the invitations, making clear in an accompanying letter that he was reserving the right to withdraw them in extraordinary circumstances.
I am so tempted to return to the call for a boycott. One of our bishops has already been excluded. How many more must be singled out by Canterbury as sacrifices to the extremists before the entire House of Bishops decide to stand in solidarity with them?

With B033 and the latest bishops' statement, we have gone further than many think we should have to appease those who desire to rid the Church of those who hold different opinions from themselves. Clearly our bishops have made statements that would never have been agreed to by our senior house.

It is getting to the point that I wonder if any price is too high for us to be expected to pay in order to send our bishops to a tea party with Dr. Williams.

If one of our dioceses is not represented at Lambeth, none of them should be, it seems to me.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Clergy and Laity of the Diocese of Niagara Approve Blessings

Here is the resolution:

Whereas the Diocese of Niagara wishes to express to the House of Bishops and the Council of General Synod the conviction that we believe that God is calling us to move forward now; to wait before the faithful relationships of our gay and lesbian members are blessed by the Church would be unloving and cause further pain and suffering and

Whereas the Diocese of Niagara respects and honours those within our Diocese who, because of their theological position or as a matter of conscience, cannot agree with the blessings of same sex unions.

Be it resolved:
That this Synod request the Bishop to allow clergy, whose conscience permits, to bless the duly solemnized and registered civil marriages between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized, and to authorize rites for such blessings.
After much debate, the resolution passed by a wide margin:

In favour: 82

In favour: 157
Abstained: 2

Motion carried by 81% of combined houses with 18% opposed.

Niagara becomes the third diocese in the Anglican Church of Canada to pass such a resolution. Ottawa and Montreal approved similar resolutions in October.


A Report to the Church From the Royal College of Psychiatrists

From Church Times:

THE Royal College of Psychiatrists has challenged Anglican bishops to support gay clergy and laity as an example to parents struggling to come to terms with having gay or lesbian children.

“The Church has a wonderful opportunity to lead rather than to be dragged along kicking and screaming. Christianity is such an inclusive religion,” said Professor Michael King, an executive committee member of the College’s special-interest group of 200 to 300 psychiatrists who work with lesbians, gay men, and bisexual and transsexual people.

His committee has submitted a report to the Church’s Listening Exercise on Human Sexuality, to inform a study guide for next year’s Lambeth Conference.

The report, endorsed by the full College “from the President down”, said that there were no scientific or rational grounds for treating lesbian, gay, and bisexual people differently, Professor King said on Monday.

If there were theological reasons for treating lesbian, gay, or bisexual people differently, that was for the Church to decide; but the Church had already changed its mind over slavery and the position of women in society. “It is odd to see why this should be a sticking point.”

Professor King said that he no longer attended church because of its “disappointing attitude” to this issue (and to that of women bishops), which had contributed to social exclusion...
From the Report:

...There is now a large body of research evidence that indicates that being gay, lesbian or bisexual is compatible with normal mental health and social adjustment. However, the experiences of discrimination in society and possible rejection by friends, families and others, such as employers, means that some LGB people experience a greater than expected prevalence of mental health and substance misuse problems. Although there have been claims by conservative political groups in the USA that this higher prevalence of mental health difficulties is confirmation that homosexuality is itself a mental disorder, there is no evidence whatever to substantiate such a claim...

...A large part of the instability in gay and lesbian partnerships arises from lack of support within society, the church or the family for such relationships. Since the introduction of the first civil partnership law in 1989 in Denmark, legal recognition of same-sex relationships has been debated around the world. Civil partnership agreements were conceived out of a concern that same-sex couples have no protection in law in circumstances of death or break-up of the relationship. There is already good evidence that marriage confers health benefits on heterosexual men and women and similar benefits could accrue from same-sex civil unions. Legal and social recognition of same-sex relationships is likely to reduce discrimination, increase the stability of same sex relationships and lead to better physical and mental health for gay and lesbian people. It is difficult to understand opposition to civil partnerships for a group of socially marginalised people who cannot marry and who as a consequence may experience more unstable partnerships. It cannot offer a threat to the stability of heterosexual marriage...

...Although there is now a number of therapists and organisation in the USA and in the UK that claim that therapy can help homosexuals to become heterosexual, there is no evidence that such change is possible. The best evidence for efficacy of any
treatment comes from randomised clinical trials and no such trial has been carried out in this field. There are however at least two studies that have followed up LGB people who have undergone therapy with the aim of becoming heterosexual. Neither attempted to assess the patients before receiving therapy and both relied on the subjective accounts of people, who were asked to volunteer by the therapy organisations themselves or who were recruited via the Internet. The first study claimed that change was possible for a small minority (13%) of LGB people, most of whom could be regarded as bisexual at the outset of therapy. The second showed little effect as well as considerable harm. Meanwhile, we know from historical evidence that treatments to change sexual orientation that were common in the 1960s and 1970s were very damaging to those patients who underwent them and affected no change in their sexual orientation.

In conclusion the evidence would suggest that there is no scientific or rational reason for treating LGB people any differently to their heterosexual counterparts. People are happiest and are likely to reach their potential when they are able to integrate the various aspects of the self as fully as possible. Socially inclusive, nonjudgemental attitudes to LGB people who attend places of worship or who are religious leaders themselves will have positive consequences for LGB people as well as for the wider society in which they live.
Now the question is; will the Church listen?


Interventions Unwelcome in Canada

From the Anglican Journal:

The retired bishop of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, Don Harvey, has left the Anglican Church of Canada to become a bishop in the South American province of the Southern Cone, a decision that the primate of the Canadian church acknowledged would pose “complications” for the already fragile unity within the local church and the worldwide Anglican Communion...
Thinking Anglicans brings us a response from the Council of General Synod. Here's part of it:

...To this end we wish to make clear that interventions in the life of our church, such as ordinations or other episcopal acts by any other jurisdictions, are inappropriate and unwelcome. In particular, we cannot recognize the legitimacy of recent actions by the Province of the Southern Cone in purporting to extend its jurisdiction beyond its own borders. We call upon the Archbishop of Canterbury to make clear that such actions are not a valid expression of Anglicanism and are in contravention of the ancient and continuing traditions of the Church. They aggravate the current tensions in the Anglican Communion...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Bp. Schofield of San Joaquin Headed for the Southern Cone

From the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin's website:

The Diocese of San Joaquin today announced that the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of South America has extended an invitation to offer the Diocese membership on an emergency and pastoral basis.

The announcement comes three weeks before the Diocese is scheduled hear the second and final reading of Constitutional changes first adopted on December 2, 2006. Should the second reading of the Constitutional changes be approved at the Diocesan Convention on December 8, 2007, the Diocese is free to accept the invitation to align with the Province of the Southern Cone and remain a diocese with full membership within the Anglican Communion.

According to the Rt. Rev. John-David M. Schofield, Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, “We welcome the invitation extended by the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone. The invitation assures the Diocese’s place in the Anglican Communion and full communion with the See of Canterbury”...
We previously discussed this uninvited intervention by Gregory Venables, Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone, here.

A discussion of the changes to San Joaquin's Constitution and Canons from a year ago, and an announcement at that time of their intention to "realign" with "an Anglican diocese from Argentina" can be found here.

If you are unfamiliar with "the Southern Cone," the best description I have found is offered by Dave Walker here.


Fort Worth Convention Commences

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth's Convention begins this afternoon and concludes sometime tomorrow. Among matters to be considered is this resolution:

Presented to the Twenty-fifth Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

Right Reverend Sir:
On behalf of the Committee on Constitution and Canons, we present the following amendment to Article 1 of the Constitution of this Diocese, as proposed by the Standing Committee:

Existing text:


The Church in this Diocese accedes to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, and recognizes the authority of the General Convention of said Church provided that no action of General Convention which is contrary to Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Teaching of the Church shall be of any force or effect in this Diocese.

Proposed text:


The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, consisting of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces and regional churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.

The Committee on Constitution and Canons unanimously recommends adoption.

A recently proposed resolution will also be considered by this Convention:

A Response to the Invitation of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone

Whereas, it is the resolve of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth to remain within the family of the Anglican Communion while dissociating itself from the moral, theological, and disciplinary innovations of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America;

And whereas, the Synod of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, meeting Nov. 5-7, 2007, voted to "welcome into membership of our Province on an emergency and pastoral basis" those dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America who share this resolve;

Therefore, be it resolved, that the 25th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth extend its sincere thanks to the Synod of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, and to its Primate, the Most Reverend Gregory J. Venables, for the generous and fraternal invitation to join their Province;

And, be it further resolved, that the Bishop and Standing Committee prepare a report for this diocese on the constitutional and canonical implications and means of accepting this invitation.
Tobias Haller offers some thoughts on the consequences if these resolutions are approved:

We have a Canon (IV.9) in The Episcopal Church concerning abandonment of the communion of this church by a bishop. This Canon came into being as an ad hoc reaction to the departure of a bishop to the Roman Catholic Church. Over the years, the Canon has been amended to cover various other forms of departure. The crucial factor in this Canon is that it concerns renunciation, not mere violation, of the discipline, doctrine, or worship of TEC — which is covered by other canonical regulations. It is a form of saying, “Your rules no longer apply to me"...

...The Diocese of Fort Worth is in the process of considering a resolution that includes a clause “dissociating itself from the moral, theological, and disciplinary innovations of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.” What form this dissociation might take remains unknown, although there has been a move afoot to realign the diocese with the Church of the Southern Cone.

There is a procedure for clergy to transfer their membership to other provinces of the Anglican Communion. Many have made use of this in recent times. There is also a procedure for a priest or deacon or bishop to renounce the Ministry of The Episcopal Church. There is no procedure for a diocese to do so. It appears that the intent of the Bishop and some of the clergy of the Diocese of Fort Worth is to separate the diocese itself from the discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church. This has all of the appearance of renunciation and abandonment on their part — not of the faith of the Church, but, as the Canon says, “the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this Church”; that is, The Episcopal Church. Two out of three appear to be at play in this current proposed action.

The Bishop and Clergy of Fort Worth cannot have it both ways. They are either under the discipline of TEC, or they reject it; and rejection, in this case, constitutes abandonment...
For those whose blood pressure can handle it, tomorrow's proceedings in Fort Worth will be streamed live here.

Pray for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

Pray for the Church.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bp. Robinson's Invitation to Southwest Florida Withdrawn

Susan Russell points us to some sad news. Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire accepted an invitation to be guest and speaker at Saint Boniface Episcopal Church, Sarasota, Florida on January 16-20, 2008. Bishop Dabney Smith of Southwest Florida gave permission for Bishop Robinson to visit, and even described it as "an important part of the listening process which is key to the Windsor and Lambeth recommendations for the Anglican Communion."

Yesterday, the following memo was released:

Bishop Dabney Smith just called to tell me that he has contacted Bishop Gene Robinson again and asked him to decline the invitation to speak here in January. Bishop Smith said he took this action because of all the heat he is getting. Previously Bishop Smith had given his permission for the visit and said it was not a problem for him although he anticipated a reaction. He told me that it has been more of a reaction than he anticipated. Bishop Robinson is on sabbatical and is out of the country (he was in New Zealand when they talked). I anticipate that we will hear from his office in New Hampshire to confirm this.

Many people will be disappointed about this but we can choose to see this as an opportunity to continue the conversation about what it means to be the Episcopal Church in the 21st century. I believe it may be important for Bishop Smith to hear from people who thought that Bishop Robinson's visit would have furthered the conversation called for throughout the Anglican Communion.
Louie Crew offers this response to Bp. Robinson being un-invited by Bp. Smith:

You know opposition is losing when opposition resorts to the tyranny of ideas, afraid to allow anyone even to listen to a point of view not approved by the one in power.

This country was built on strong advocacy for the right -- even the obligation -- of persons to expose themselves to all points of view before holding a point of view themselves.

Probably Bishop Smith is thoroughly within his rights as a bishop to cancel any presentation if doing so helps him save his skin. I hope that he can sleep in that skin.

When you want to know why most young people don't give the church the time of day, you need look no farther. Bishop Smith's cowardice gives me the creeps and makes me embarrassed to be an Episcopalian.
The Rt. Rev. Dabney T. Smith can be contacted at:

7313 Merchant Court
Sarasota, FL 34240
(941) 556-0315
Toll-free: (800) 992-7699
Fax: (941) 556-0321


Remember to show respect for the office by being courteous.

And for your efforts, here's a new button to add to your collection.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Virginia Lawsuit Game

From the Charlottsville Daily Press:

An obscure Virginia law from the Civil War era might play a deciding role in whether two of the Episcopal Church's largest and most prominent congregations will be permitted to leave the flock amid a standoff over sexual morality and other theological issues.

A two-week trial began Tuesday in Fairfax County Circuit Court that will determine whether the 1867 law governs the dispute between 11 Virginia congregations that voted to leave the church and Episcopal leaders who reject the validity of those votes...
This has prompted Pisco Sours to propose The Episcopal Lawsuit Drinking Game:

When an opinion in In re Multi-Circuit Episcopal Church Property Litigation comes in, go to your conservative Anglican blog of choice and read through the comments dealing with the decision. (Conservatives, feel free to come up with your own drinking game to play should TEC and the Diocese of Virginia lose.) With your favorite Tasty Beverage in hand, drink at the following mentions or events:

  • “Activist judge[s]”: 1 drink.

  • “You [have] hit the nail on the [proverbial] head!”: 1 drink for the first 5 mentions in a single thread. 2 drinks thereafter.

  • “Mrs. Schori”, “Vicki Gene”, or anything involving squid: 1 drink...

  • Commenter states he will take up his sword: 1 drink.

  • Commenter states he will load his gun: 2 drink.

  • Commenter states he will take a weapon and go after a specific person: sober up and call the authorities...
  • Another option is to donate $1 per drink to TEC’s legal defense fund.

    Go visit ePiscoSours and propose your own "rules" for this game.


    Tuesday, November 13, 2007

    The Cost of "Saddling Up" in Fort Worth

    Last September, Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies, addressed Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth. Here is part of what she had to say:

    ...Anderson advised Episcopalians to "saddle your own horse" if they wanted to see changes in their diocese. She advised them to pay attention to the issue of governance, reminding them that parishes and dioceses remain a part of the Episcopal Church even if some members decide to leave...
    Katie Sherrod offers us an example of what happens in Fort Worth when faithful Episcopalians "saddle up":

    By way of introduction, my name is Marvin Long, a parishioner of Christ The King Episcopal Church in Fort Worth Texas since 1992. I am 67 and was confirmed an Episcopalian in 1963. I have served on the vestry and as Senior Warden and as Lay Minister. Until last week I edited Celebration, the church news letter. I would like to recount what happens in the diocese of Fort Worth when one `saddles up his own horse and stands up for ECUSA.'

    On October 2, 2007, the diocesan office released the amendments to the diocesan constitution and canons that would "begin the process of affiliating with another Province of the World Wide Anglican Communion." Subsequently, my wife and I wrote the vestry of Christ the King parish and requested that they pass a resolution stating their intention to remain with ECUSA and withdrawing the congregation from the Anglican Communion Network.

    On Sunday morning Oct. 21 at both services our interim priest preached a sermon maliciously attacking ECUSA. The senior warden attended the vestry meeting that day and handed out the old attack on ECUSA by Bishop Harold Miller of the Church of Ireland with a cover letter from Bp. Jack Iker.

    I decided to include four polite articles in the November issue of Celebration that support ECUSA. For my efforts, I was removed by the interim priest as editor of the newsletter and from all other church functions. My lay minister's license was revoked (an act reserved for the bishop) and I was forced to shut down the church's web site. The small weekly healing service I and a few other liberals regularly attended was cancelled until further notice.

    On Sunday, Nov. 4, I was publicly excoriated for the Celebration in both church services by the priest and the Sr. Warden. So there you have it: what happens when you saddle up your horse in Ft. Worth.

    The bright side is that there is support for ECUSA here. Although I am saddened by the current state of affairs, I hopefully look for the national church to reassert itself. Come soon. I'm still on my horse.

    UPDATE: The issue of the Celebration newsletter that resulted in such a strong response from the priest and warden can be viewed here.

    Monday, November 12, 2007

    The Prince Bishop Responds with Great Pomposity

    Last week, Bp. Katharine sent a letter to Bp. Iker of Fort Worth in which she alerted him of some of the possible consequences if he moved forward with his plans to try to take the Diocese of Fort Worth out of the Episcopal Church. Bp. Iker has issued a response:

    I have received your letter of November 8th and am rather surprised by your suggestion that I have somehow abandoned the communion of the church and may be subject to ecclesiastical discipline. Such a charge is baseless. I have abandoned nothing, and I have violated no canons...
    Bp. Iker has advocated for removing any reference to the Episcopal Church from the Constitutions and Canons of the diocese. In public statements he has said that it is his intention to "realign" the diocese with another Province (the recent FiF address comes to mind as but one example...I'll add a link later). Bp. Iker has met with Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone to plan his break with the Episcopal Church. Those are just a few examples off the top of my head of actions by this bishop that can clearly be identified as "abandonment" of the Church (clearly identified in the Constitution and Canons as referring to "the Episcopal Church") and his ordination vows.

    ...It is highly inappropriate for you to attempt to interfere in the internal life of this diocese as we prayerfully prepare to gather in Convention. The threatening tone of your open letter makes no attempt to promote reconciliation, mediation, or even dialogue about our profound theological differences. Instead, it appears designed to intimidate our delegates and me, in an attempt to deter us from taking any action that opposes the direction in which you are leading our Church...It grieves me that as the Presiding Bishop you would misuse your office in an attempt to intimidate and manipulate this diocese...
    Bp. Katharine has fulfilled her responsibilities as our leader by informing Bp. Iker of the consequences of his actions. That Bp. Iker doesn't like it, or finds it "inappropriate" or "intimidating" has nothing to do with Bp. Katharine's decision to do her duty.

    ...While I do not wish to meet antagonism with antagonism, I must remind you that 25 years ago this month, the newly formed Diocese of Fort Worth voluntarily voted to enter into union with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. If circumstances warrant it, we can likewise, by voluntary vote, terminate that relationship...
    Not according to the Constitutions and Canons, which is part of the "discipline" of this Church, if Bp. Iker wishes to acknowledge that reality or not. There is no process by which a diocese can leave the Episcopal Church. Such an attempt will not be recognized, just as it was not recognized during the Civil War.

    ...In closing, let me be very clear. While your threats deeply sadden us, they do not frighten us...
    It would seem to me that it might be a good idea for Bp. Iker drop the machismo stance and hear the clear message being offered to him from the leadership of TEC. If he continues on the path he is on, he will be deposed, a new standing committee will call for the election of a new bishop, and lawsuits will be filed against those who attempt to retain Episcopal Church property.

    This is no threat. This is a promise. And nothing that PB Venables, Dr. Williams or the Primates might do is going to change that response.

    So continue to swagger into the future if you must, Bp. Iker. But do note that your continued arrogance is going to become increasingly costly to you, and to those placed under your care, in the months to come.


    UPDATE: Episcopal Life provides us with a quote from Bp. Iker made at the recent Forward in Faith meeting:

    ...In an October 20, 2007 address to the Forward in Faith International Assembly in London, a recording of which is available on the group's website, Iker stated that the three Forward in Faith dioceses -- Fort Worth, San Joaquin, and Quincy -- intend to leave the Episcopal Church by 2009.

    "There are three Forward in Faith dioceses in the United States, and the three bishops of those dioceses have come to a common conclusion that we have no future in the Episcopal Church," Iker reported to the London meeting. "Our conventions in those three dioceses, Fort Worth, Quincy, and San Joaquin, will be taking constitutional action to separate officially from TEC. Because it is a constitutional change, it must be passed at two successive annual conventions."

    On the recording, Iker continued: "…Our plan is not only to disassociate, then, from the Episcopal Church, but to officially, constitutionally re-affiliate with an existing orthodox province of the communion that does not ordain women to the priesthood. These conversations are very far along but cannot be announced until the province that is considering our appeal has made their final decision public."
    What did the bishop say in his letter?
    ...(I am) surprised by your suggestion that I have somehow abandoned the communion of the church and may be subject to ecclesiastical discipline. Such a charge is baseless. I have abandoned nothing, and I have violated no canons...
    I think the bishop needs to ponder his own words before feigning such great indignation in the future.

    From Colorado Springs

    I received the following press release by email:

    November 10, 2007, Colorado Springs, Colorado — Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and the Bishop and Diocese of Colorado today announced that the parish and the Episcopal Diocese are requesting permission from the court to add claims for repossession of the church property and monetary damages in their legal battle. The church’s property has been taken by a secessionist group led by Father Don Armstrong that left the Episcopal Church and affiliated with a Nigerian church faction (The Convocation of Anglicans in North America or CANA).

    In its response to the suit filed last spring by the secessionist group, the diocese has made it clear that its primary objective is to regain rightful possession of property now wrongfully occupied by the secessionists. Bishop Robert O’Neill has stated from the beginning that the diocese will pursue all necessary and appropriate legal means to regain rightful possession of the Church’s property. This filing is another step in that process. Colorado law is clear that all Episcopal churches hold their property for the diocese and the Episcopal Church. Time after time, in Colorado and other states, courts have ruled that while individuals can leave the church, they may not take church property with them.

    In accordance with Colorado law, which requires that all essential persons be included in a suit, the Episcopal parish and diocese are requesting that the court add as parties those individuals who have led the secessionist group in taking the property. These include the Rev. Donald Armstrong III, Jon Wroblewski, Chad Friese, Robert C. Balink, Charles C. Brown, Dareleen Schaffer, Alan Crippen II, Jack Gloriod, Craig Whitney, Keith Stampher MD, Marge Goss, Susan Spencer, Kevin Dibble, Edwin J. Montgomery, Jason Huntley, Rip Hollister MD, Michael Barber MD and Emily Kline.

    According to Clelia deMoraes, Senior Warden for Grace Episcopal Church, “Colorado law is clear that when a faction of a parish leaves the Episcopal Church it cannot take the property with it.” DeMoraes added, “People need to understand that the only victims here are the people whose property was stolen.”
    Background regarding Don Armstrong, who was recently deposed by the Diocese of Colorado, can be found here.

    Background on Alan Crippen, listed among those being added to the suit, can be found here.

    The Rocky Mountain News is running this story regarding this new development.

    Thanks to S. for sending me this and to Thinking Anglicans for pointing to the story in the RMN.


    Sunday, November 11, 2007

    A Conservative Speaks Out Against Schism

    The Post Gazette brings us an essay by Jerry Bowyer, who is a conservative activist, Episcopal vestry member and financial journalist residing in the Diocese of Pittsburgh:

    ...This past summer, Bishop Duncan instructed my wife and hundreds of other readers in the diocese to omit the prayer for Katharine. Katharine Jefferts Schori has been a frequent target for conservatives in the U.S. church ever since she was elected presiding bishop last year. Coming on the heels of the installation of an active and outspoken homosexual bishop, the elevation of a woman of liberal sympathies seemed a bridge too far for many conservatives.

    It appeared at the time that omitting the prayer for Katharine was a steppingstone to where the bishop was really trying to take us -- outside of the Episcopal Church. You see, to include Katharine in the prayers was to acknowledge her office, and to acknowledge her office was to acknowledge our obligation to her...

    ...Secession is not the biblical pattern of resistance to flawed authority. Young David served under a tyrannical and apostate King named Saul. David submitted to Saul's authority and he resisted the urge to revolt or secede. He remained faithful to Israel and Saul until the end, and then, because of his patience, became king himself.

    David's great (28 times) grandson, Jesus, was a reader in the synagogue despite its shortcomings. He worshipped in the temple despite its corruption and oppression. King Herod was a murderous crook and the temple priesthood were his hired cronies and yet Mary and Joseph and Jesus were there year after year, making offerings, saying prayers, talking with rabbis.

    When St. Paul was beaten by the high priest he showed him deference, not contempt. "You salute the rank," as they say in the military, "not the man."

    That's because the authority of a priest or bishop doesn't come from him; it comes from God. The failings of the man, or woman, don't erase that authority. Saul would regularly try to murder David. He disregarded God and took on the responsibility to offer sacrifices himself. He murdered faithful priests. Through all of this, David saluted the office long after the man had outlived his merit.

    On Oct. 31., the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church USA sent a letter to the bishop of Pittsburgh, directing him not to split the diocese from the denomination. Bishop Duncan replied by quoting Martin Luther, "Here I stand. I can do no other."

    It's a powerful quote, but a misuse of history. Martin Luther didn't leave the Roman Catholic Church; he was kicked out. He decided to "stand" and fight. It's ironic that Bishop Duncan quoted Luther's pledge to "stand" in order to justify his intention to "walk"...

    ...Yes, there are times when it's necessary to leave one authority for another. When the New Testament writers were forced to deal with this issue, they concluded that they were compelled to obey higher authority at all times, except when it commanded them to disobey God. Roman Emperors were monstrous beasts. The church preached against them and prayed for them to repent, but Christians still obeyed the law. It wasn't until Rome ordered them to stop preaching the gospel and to offer sacrifices to Caesar that the early church was forced to disobey.

    By analogy, New Hampshire can install a whole pride of gay bishops, but we don't break our oath of loyalty to the Episcopal Church until they order us to start installing them here.

    Until then, the pattern of David and Jesus holds: Be faithful. Be patient. Be active in good works. And be in prayer for all in authority ... "for Katharine, our presiding bishop; Robert and Henry, our bishops; and Jay, our priest, I pray. Lord, hear our prayer."
    The above thoughts are quite similar to those I have heard from many conservatives within the Episcopal Church. All are disturbed to some degree by various aspects of our current unpleasantness. Some are quite upset, as sometimes becomes evident when I voice my disagreement with them. But the only conservatives that I know that believe their only option is to leave the church are the ones I meet on the internet.

    I think it is important to point out this false image of conservatives that is displayed online. Those who insist they must leave to remain pure are a strange new breed, which we have yet to define by an appropriate term.

    I often refer to this new breed as "extreme conservatives" or "extremists" for short. Others use the terms "neo-cons" or "ultra conservatives," and even "neo-Calvinists." None of those descriptions seem quite right.

    Let us avoid the temptation to lump all those who disagree with us into one camp. This new breed has many identifying characteristics that might suggest a myriad of labels, but, out of respect for those who are willing to agree to disagree without breaking fellowship, don't call them conservatives.


    Friday, November 09, 2007

    Blaming Bp. Robinson is the Problem

    The Lead points us to an interesting article from the Concord Monitor:

    Is the Episcopal Church's impending schism really about the theological rift that sprung up after the consecration of its first openly gay bishop, the Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire?

    Or is the brouhaha really about a church in battle with itself about how to be financially solvent and theologically relevant in today's competitive religious marketplace?

    Last weekend, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh voted in favor of separating from the national church over theological beliefs on homosexuality. "What we're trying to do is state clearly in the United States for the authority of Scripture," Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh said after the vote.

    But "authority of Scripture" doesn't hold weight here because the Episcopal Church has always been challenged on this issue.

    In the 1970s, the argument for authority of Scripture came up with the ordination of women - and so, too, did the threat of a schism. But in 1989, the church consecrated its first female bishop, Barbara Harris.

    Conservatives like Duncan were not only theologically outraged but also racially challenged because Harris is African-American.

    Just last year, gasps of exhilaration and exasperation reverberated throughout the Anglican Communion when it was announced that Katharine Jefferts Schori would be the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church USA. Schori not only supports gay unions, but she also backed the holy consecration of Robinson.

    All this is no surprise, however, since the Episcopal Church has a history of taking the moral high ground on social justice issues...

    ...With the changing demographics of this ecclesial body, the church's former "Frozen Chosen" leaders, whose anti-gay initiatives had a stranglehold on the church's governing future, find that their efforts to maintain a respected voice among its constituents is like that of today's Republican Party - dead on arrival.

    While many would like to believe that the financial crisis in the Episcopal Church is brought on by secessionist congregations battling with liberal bishops endorsing sodomy, the church's coffers were bare prior to Robinson's consecration. The reason? Decline in its membership over four decades; the rise of its Third World bishops from countries in Africa, South America, and Asia; and its egregious act of inhospitality and exclusion of its lesbian and gay population.

    Using Robinson as the reason for the church's problem is the problem.

    Canterbury Sends Diwali Greeting to Hindu Community

    You may recall that a few months ago we had a discussion regarding Christians in a pluralistic world. Specifically, we were exploring how we might interact with other faith traditions without compromising our own tradition.

    In that discussion, I noted the work of Terry Holmes and John Westerhoff, Christian Believing, which offers these guidelines for interfaith interactions:

    We need not enter into a dialogue with a Buddhist or a member of Islam to win or lose. Our intention ought to be that we will both win. It is highly doubtful, given the cultural context in which Buddhism exists, that such a dialogue will result in the baptism of many who were previously Buddhists. It is improbable that it will result in theological agreement between the representatives of two very disparate systems of belief. It is altogether possible, however, that in our point of contact we will find enrichment which will flow over into the beliefs of each religion...
    Holmes and Westerhoff list these "points of contact" between the major world religions, as identified by Friedrich Heiler, a German historian of religion. The following are common beliefs held by Judaism, Islam, Zorastrianism Mazdianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Christianity:

    1. A belief in the reality of the transcendent; the "holy other."
    2. That the transcendent is immanent in human hearts.
    3. This transcendent and immanent reality is the highest good.
    4. The reality of the divine is ultimate love.
    5. The way to God is through sacrifice.
    6. In loving one's neighbor, one is loving God.
    7. It is the love of God that leads to union with God.

    An example of how to highlight these "points of contact" without compromising our own beliefs was recently offered by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury in a greeting he offered to the Hindu community:

    ...The desire and the ability to celebrate is a profound part of the human personality and is a gift of God in creation. When celebration is from a perspective of love of God and is in thanksgiving for the blessings that we receive from God, then it is all the more to be welcomed and encouraged. I congratulate you on the way in which you have brought the celebration of the festival of Diwali to the communities of this country and have enabled the perspective of faith to be more widely appreciated.

    The Hindu communities have brought so much to the life of this country, and in so many different aspects. In business, education, culture and religion, Hindus have led the way in demonstrating what it means to be a lively, integrated and distinctive community to the great benefit of all. It is my hope that especially at this time of year, this contribution should be more widely recognised and acknowledged.

    Each of our festivals has its own distinctive character and meaning and is rooted in our respective understandings of the nature of God. But Diwali, coming as it does when Christians are approaching the season of Advent and Christmas, provides an opportunity to celebrate those things that we hold in common. It is my hope that Christians and Hindus should renew and further develop the local and national frameworks within which we can explore and appreciate both our common and our distinctive characteristics...
    The five day Hindu festival of Diwali, also known as "The Festival of Lights" includes some customs that are quite similar to our Christmas traditions, such as the exchange of gifts and festive meals. You can learn more about Diwali here.