Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Canterbury Launches Covenant Push

The latest draft of the Anglican Communion Covenant has been released by The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion (formerly known as Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates). It is being introduced by the Archbishop of Canterbury:

The text of Dr. Williams' statement can be found here. Before we continue, this excerpt from his statement is worth noting:

...The last bit of the Covenant text is the one thats perhaps been the most controversial, because that's where we spell out what happens if relationships fail or break down. It doesn't set out, as I've already said, a procedure for punishments and sanctions. It does try and sort out how we will discern the nature of our disagreement, how important is it? How divisive does it have to be? Is it a Communion breaking issue that's in question - or is it something we can learn to live with? And so in these sections of the covenant what we're trying to do is simply to give a practical, sensible and Christian way of dealing with our conflicts, recognising that they're always going to be there...
That "last bit" of the proposed Covenant is known as "section 4." Episcopal Life offers us a helpful side-by-side comparison of the current and the previous versions of section 4, with the edits identified. Here's just a sampling of the language that appears in the current version:

(4.2.5) The Standing Committee may request a Church to defer a controversial action. If a Church declines to defer such action, the Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences which may specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument until the completion of the process set out below.
Limitations and suspensions. Yet, we are not to consider these to be "punishments and sanctions."

So, what happens if a Church signs up for this Covenant, but then later changes their mind?

(4.3.1) Any covenanting Church may decide to withdraw from the Covenant. Although such withdrawal does not imply an automatic withdrawal from the Instruments of Communion or a repudiation of its Anglican character, it may raise a question relating to the meaning of the Covenant, and of compatibility with the principles incorporated within it, and trigger the provisions set out in section 4.2 above.
We will limit you, we will suspend you, and we may even pull the "trigger" on you, but these are not punishments or sanctions. Oh really?

There is also a bit of bad news for the breakaway groups using the descriptive term "Anglican," but not in communion with Canterbury:

4.1.4) Every Church of the Anglican Communion, as recognised in accordance with the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council, is invited to enter into this Covenant according to its own constitutional procedures.

(4.1.5) The Instruments of Communion may invite other Churches to adopt the Covenant using the same procedures as set out by the Anglican Consultative Council for the amendment of its schedule of membership. Adoption of this Covenant does not confer any right of recognition by, or membership of, the Instruments of Communion, which shall be decided by those Instruments themselves.
Note that the group releasing this draft, The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, is given the authority to oversee and initiate the "limitation and suspension" process.

To get an idea of where the SCAC stands on some of our current controversies, it is worth noting that in addition to releasing this draft of the Covenant, they also made this statement:

The following resolution was passed by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion meeting in London on 15-18 December, and approved for public distribution.

Resolved that, in the light of:

i. The recent episcopal nomination in the Diocese of Los Angeles of a partnered lesbian candidate

ii. The decisions in a number of US and Canadian dioceses to proceed with formal ceremonies of same-sex blessings

iii. Continuing cross-jurisdictional activity within the Communion

The Standing Committee strongly reaffirm Resolution 14.09 of ACC 14 supporting the three moratoria proposed by the Windsor Report and the associated request for gracious restraint in respect of actions that endanger the unity of the Anglican Communion by going against the declared view of the Instruments of Communion.
This Standing Committee now wants to not only define what "triggers" limitations and suspensions, but also assumes the authority required to inform us as to what constitutes appropriate "gracious restraint."

No thanks. If I wanted an ecclesiastical Curia, I'd swim the Tiber.


UPDATE: If the Episcopal Life comparison of the previous and current versions of section 4 was a bit difficult for you, Lionel Deimel is offering a different version of the changes, using the format of strikeouts for deleted text and underlines for added text, along with different colors. Quite fancy, and easy to follow.

The comment section of the The Lead points us to some good background information and commentary from the Covenant Working Group (thanks to Lisa and Ann). Some of the revisions of section 4 are explained. It remains unclear, at least to me, if the Working Group made all the current changes and submitted a finished product to the SCAC, or if the SCAC made additional changes.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Ugandan Trade: Death Penalty for Conversion Clause

The Box Turtle Bulletin points us to an interesting article from Bloomberg:

Uganda will drop the death penalty and life imprisonment for gays in a refined version of an anti- gay bill expected to be ready for presentation to Parliament in two weeks, James Nsaba Buturo, the minister of ethics and integrity, said.

The draft bill, which is under consideration by a parliamentary committee, will drop the two punishments to attract the support of religious leaders who are opposed to these penalties, Buturo said today in a phone interview from the capital, Kampala...
Perhaps some of the pressure from "religious leaders" is starting to have an impact? One can only hope.

However, it's not all good news. There is also this troubling line in the Bloomberg article:

...In addition to formulating punishments for the gay people, the bill will also promote counseling to help “attract errant people to acceptable sexual orientation,” said Buturo...
What is that all about? I'll let Jim Burroway from Box Turtle explain:

...This sounds remarkably like the recommendation that came out of the conference put on last March by Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, Exodus International board member Don Schmierer, and the International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Brundidge. According to that recommendation, LGBT people would receive either a lighter or suspended sentence if they went into disproved, unscientific counseling to try to “cure” them of their “affliction.” Of course, a choice between a Ugandan prison and “counseling” is a false choice as anyone with half decent intelligence can quickly deduce. Unsaid is what happens when that counseling inevitably fails...
Jim also points out that a number of other draconian elements remain in the bill, such as prison terms for gay rights advocates and those who fail to report gays to the authorities.

So, there appears to be some movement, although the trade-off being offered is not a great improvement.

Keep the prayers going for those who are in danger in Uganda. And keep the pressure on Canterbury to break his silence regarding this human rights crisis.


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Canterbury Responds to Los Angeles and Uganda

Within a matter of hours after the event, the Archbishop of Canterbury issued a response to yesterday's episcopal elections in Los Angeles. It's short, so I'll reproduce the complete statement here:

The election of Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan bishop elect raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole.

The process of selection however is only part complete. The election has to be confirmed, or could be rejected, by diocesan bishops and diocesan standing committees. That decision will have very important implications.

The bishops of the Communion have collectively acknowledged that a period of gracious restraint in respect of actions which are contrary to the mind of the Communion is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold.
In a related matter, Jake's Place offers the following exclusive response from Dr. Williams regarding Uganda's Death to All Gays bill, which he has been aware of for about two months:

Less than 24 hours to respond to a valid election in Los Angeles, but almost 60 days and still waiting for a response to a human rights crisis? Perhaps someone needs to get their priorities adjusted?


Saturday, December 05, 2009

LA Elects Bishops Suffragan

Yesterday, the Diocese of Los Angeles elected The Rev. Canon Diane M. Jardine Bruce as Bishop Suffragan.

This afternoon, in a close election that went to 7 ballots, they elected The Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool as their second Bishop Suffragan.

The Constitution describes a Bishop Suffragan in this manner:

It shall be lawful for a Diocese, at the request of the Bishop of that Diocese, to elect not more than two Suffragan Bishops, without right of succession, and with seat and vote in the House of Bishops. A Suffragan Bishop shall be consecrated and hold office under such conditions and limitations other than those provided in this Article as may be provided by Canons of the General Convention. A Suffragan Bishop shall be eligible for election as Bishop or Bishop Coadjutor of
a Diocese, or as a Suffragan in another Diocese.
The Diocese of Los Angeles offers a fuller description:

The newly elected bishops will succeed Bishop Suffragan Chester L. Talton and Bishop Assistant Sergio Carranza, who will retire in 2010 after 19 and seven years, respectively, of service to the Diocese.

Bishop Talton was elected bishop suffragan by the Diocese in 1990 and began ministry in 1991. Bishop Carranza, the retired Bishop of the Diocese of Mexico, was appointed bishop assistant by Bishop Bruno and began ministry in Los Angeles in 2003.

According to the canons of the Episcopal Church (III.11.10), "a bishop suffragan shall act as an assistant to and under the direction of the Bishop Diocesan." Bishops suffragan have historically been elected without right of succession as Bishop Diocesan. The term suffragan is said to come from the Latin suffragari, which has been translated "to support with one's vote."
Bishop-Elect Glasspool offered this statement after her election. Here's part of it:

Gracias con todo mi corazon. I am not unaware of the many complicated dynamics that have been part of this election -- and I want to acknowledge them. Any group of people who have been oppressed because of any one, isolated aspect of their persons yearns for justice and equal rights. My own heart has been stressed deeply today. To Martir, I honor you and pledge you my ongoing love and support. To my Latino and Hispanic brothers and sisters, I say we're all in this together. We are all working to bring forward the reign of God on earth. So thank you with all my heart...
Here is a portion of the statement from the Chicago Consultation:

...At General Convention earlier this year, the Episcopal Church affirmed that God calls partnered gay and lesbian people to all orders of ministry in the Episcopal Church. God has clearly been calling Mary to challenging and important ministries over and over during the course of her career. While there may be a temptation in some quarters to use Mary’s election to foment further controversy in the Anglican Communion, those of us who know her understand that this is simply the next chapter in a lifetime of service to her church. We are grateful to her and to her partner, Becki Sander, for answering a new call in Los Angeles...
For those not familiar with the process following an election, I recommend to you this brief summary; When is a Bishop a Bishop?

Congratulations to the Bishops-Elect!


Friday, December 04, 2009

Request for Executive Council Meeting Withdrawn

On November 23, we were informed of a special meeting of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church:

A teleconference meeting of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council will take place on Dec. 7 to discuss a possible statement on Ugandan legislation that would imprison for life or execute people who violate that country's anti-homosexuality laws.

Sixteen members of the council requested the meeting with a handwritten petition that said a motion would be offered at the meeting "regarding the urgent human rights situation in Uganda"...

...The 16 members who signed the petition are the Rev. Canon Tim Anderson, Hisako Beasely, Sarah Dylan Breuer, Jane Cosby, Martha Gardner, the Rev. Floyd "Butch" Gamarra, Bruce Garner, Anita George, the Ven. Joyce Hardy, Stephen Hutchinson, the Rev. Cristobal Leon, Katie Sherrod, the Rev. Terry Starr, Deborah Stokes, Anne Watkins, the Rev. Sandye Wilson...

...Breuer said that the conference-call meeting is "an opportunity to discuss an issue that the entire church is passionate about [and] to let people know that our response has been considered by clergy, laity and bishops, and has been considered carefully and prayerfully," Breuer said. She added that she hoped such a consideration will show "there's broad consensus" about whatever stance the council takes.
This meeting was initiated by members of the Executive Council, which was unusual, in that the norm has been that the leaders initiated all meetings. Mark Harris hosted a robust discussion regarding the possibility of the Executive Council learning a "new way" to be the Church:

...This Executive Council, with its particular makeup and with its symbolically important leadership in the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies, and with its feisty entering class of 2009, is in no mood to take past Executive Council patterns of action as normative. The fact that members, rather than the Presiding Bishop, would call a special meeting is significant. That they would do so concerning matters that in the past would have been either brought up in regular session of Executive Council or spoken to by the Presiding Bishop is also worth noting. And, to make matters even more interesting, the members of Executive Council are more and more participant members in a very different community of knowledge and authority - one based on knowledge and authority as shared rather than derivative of this or that matter of merit. All of which is to say that the Executive Council, formed as a mechanism for corporate organization is becoming a mechanism within an incorporated - that is to say incarnated - community...
If you read Mark's commentary, and see some of the implications, you will understand why some of us were quite pleased by this development.

However, today we are offered a statement about the Ugandan bill from our Presiding Bishop. It is a good statement. It includes a mention of the American exportation of homophobia.

But, then, in response to my last post, Lee left this comment:

The request for an extraordinary meeting of Executive Council for Monday 7 December has been withdrawn by the majority of those who requested it.
I must say that I am quite disappointed by this development. As Dylan put it in the above article, it is important "to let people know that our response has been considered by clergy, laity and bishops, and has been considered carefully and prayerfully."

I am concerned that the release of a staterment by the PB was cause for some members of Executive Council to think that there was no longer any need for them to make a statement. Speaking personally, I am much more interested in hearing from all four orders, not simply from our Presiding Bishop. The Executive Council is the authority on these matters, as they are our representative body. This feels very much like falling back into past patterns; letting the Bishops call the meetings and make the statements. That is not an image of, as Mark would say, an "incarnated community."

BTW, Mark has a more positive perspective on the PB's message.

We are talking about people being killed in Uganda. This is a human rights crisis. I am troubled by the delay in responses from our leaders, and even more troubled by what appears to be some behind the scenes manipulation regarding who would offer those responses.

Pray for those in danger in Uganda.

Pray for the Church.


UPDATE: Further information regarding why the special meeting was cancelled has now been released:

...One of the signers of the special-meeting petition, Sarah Dylan Breuer, told ENS Dec. 4 that "in conversations and information-gathering among members of council, the President of the House of Deputies and the Presiding Bishop to prepare for the [Dec. 7] meeting, a clear consensus quickly emerged about what needed to be said and how important it was to say it."

"Therefore the work of the special meeting was completed before the meeting began, and we withdrew our request for meeting," she added.

"Where two or three are gathered in his name, Christ shows up -- and that can be true in teleconferences and cyberspace as well," Breuer said of her experience leading up to the Presiding Bishop's statement and the withdrawal of the special-meeting request. "I see this process as a good example of how our polity can work creatively as well as 'decently and in good order' in the 21st century to act as the Holy Spirit leads. I am proud to serve under presiding officers so passionate about the good news of God's justice, and I am deeply grateful for the deftness and grace with which our Presiding Bishop and her staff made this process work."

More Condemnations of Uganda's "Death to All Gays" Bill

About three weeks ago, we participated in a World Day of Prayer in response to the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill. At that time, the only "official" Anglican response came from the Anglican Church of Canada’s Council of General Synod.

On November 30, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson condemned this ugly piece of legislation:

The pending Ugandan legislation that would introduce the death penalty for people who violate portions of that country's anti-homosexuality laws would be a "terrible violation of the human rights of an already persecuted minority," Episcopal Church House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson has said...
Today, we are offered a statement from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church:

...The Episcopal Church represents multiple and varied cultural contexts (the United States and 15 other nations), and as a Church we affirm that the public scapegoating of any category of persons, in any context, is anathema. We are deeply concerned about the potential impingement on basic human rights represented by the private member's bill in the Ugandan Parliament...

...Finally, we note that much of the current climate of fear, rejection, and antagonism toward gay and lesbian persons in African nations has been stirred by members and former members of our own Church. We note further that attempts to export the culture wars of North America to another context represent the very worst of colonial behavior. We deeply lament this reality, and repent of any way in which we have participated in this sin...
Any response from Canterbury? Not really. Ruth Gledhill did manage to get a quote from Lambeth Palace:

It has been made clear to us, as indeed to others, that attempts to publicly influence either the local church or political opinion in Uganda would be divisive and counter productive. Our contacts, at both national and diocesan level, with the local church will therefore remain intensive but private.
The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church will be meeting by teleconference on Monday, December 7, to consider how they might respond to this human rights crisis.

We need to continue to keep the pressure on our leadership, and express our support for the glbt community in Uganda. A new petition is now available, which encourages Anglican leaders to speak out against this Ugandan legislation.


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Leonardo's House Warming Gift

Some of you may recall that my wife and I moved into a new house last year. One of our resident artists, Leonardo Ricardo, generously offered one of his original works of art as a housewarming gift. Well, yesterday, these two pictures arrived:

I wish I could give you a closer look, as the detail is amazing. They are gorgeous, and the colors fit our living room perfectly.

My understanding is that this art made quite the journey in order to arrive on our doorstep here in South Jersey. Perhaps Leonardo will tell us a bit about that story.

They are beautiful, Len. Demi and I offer you our heatfelt thanks.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"The Family" Connection in Uganda

Jeff Sharlet is the contributing editor for Harper's and Rolling Stone, and editor of The Revealer, which has been a link on the sidebar of Jake's since we opened our doors. He was also one of the founding editors of Killing the Buddha, which is where I first noted his work.

In 2003, Jeff wrote an article for Harper's, Jesus Plus Nothing, in which he introduced us to "The Family," a secretive fundamentalist group of politicians living communally just outside Washington D.C. He has now expanded that article into a book; The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.

To get an idea of how alarming The Family is, consider this description from the bookjacket:

They are the Family—fundamentalism’s avant-garde, waging spiritual war in the halls of American power and around the globe. They consider themselves the new chosen, congressmen, generals, and foreign dictators who meet in confidential cells, to pray and plan for a “leadership led by God,” to be won not by force but through “quiet diplomacy.” Their base is a leafy estate overlooking the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia, and Jeff Sharlet is the only journalist to have written from inside its walls.

The Family is about the other half of American fundamentalist power—not its angry masses, but its sophisticated elites. Sharlet follows the story back to Abraham Vereide, an immigrant preacher who in 1935 organized a small group of businessmen sympathetic to European fascism, fusing the Far Right with his own polite but authoritarian faith. From that core, Vereide built an international network of fundamentalists who spoke the language of establishment power, a “family” that thrives to this day. In public, they host prayer breakfasts; in private they preach a gospel of “biblical capitalism,” military might, and American empire. Citing Hitler, Lenin, and Mao, the Family's leader declares, "We work with power where we can, build new power where we can't."
Yesterday, as I was driving back for New York, I happened to catch an interview with Jeff by NPR's Terry Gross. What was new information for me was the direct connection Jeff made between "The Family" and the Ugandan "Death to All Gays" Bill.

You can listen to the complete interview here. What follows is from the transcript of the section of the interview related to Uganda:

GROSS: Let's talk about The Family's connection to Uganda, where there's, really, a draconian anti-gay bill that has been introduced into parliament. Uganda already punishes the practice of homosexuality with life in prison. What would the new legislation do?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, the new legislation adds to this something called aggravated homosexuality. And this can include, for instance, if a gay man has sex with another man who is disabled, that's aggravated homosexuality, and that man can be - I suppose both, actually, could be put to death for this. The use of any drugs or any intoxicants in seeking gay sex - in other words, you go to a bar and you buy a guy a drink, you're subject to the death penalty if you go home and sleep together after that. What it also does is it extends this outward, so that if you know a gay person and you don't report it, that could mean - you don't report your son or daughter, you can go to prison.

And it goes further, to say that any kind of promotion of these ideas of homosexuality, including by foreigners, can result in prison terms. Talking about same sex-marriage positively can lead you to imprisonment for life. And it's really kind of a perfect case study and the export of a lot of American largely evangelical ideas about homosexuality exported to Uganda, which then takes them to their logical end.

GROSS: This legislation has just been proposed. It hasn't been signed into law. So it's not in effect and it might never be in effect. But it's on the table. It's before parliament. So is there a direct connection between The Family and this proposed Anti-Homosexual Legislation in Uganda?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, the legislator that introduces the bill, a guy named David Bahati, is a member of The Family. He appears to be a core member of The Family. He works, he organizes their Uganda National Prayer Breakfast and oversees a African sort of student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which The Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda.

GROSS: So you're reporting the story for the first time today, and you found this story - this direct connection between The Family and the proposed legislation by following the money?

Mr. SHARLET: Yes, it's - I always say that the family is secretive, but not secret. You can go and look at 990s, tax forms and follow the money through these organizations that The Family describe as invisible. But you go and you look. You follow that money. You look at their archives. You do interviews where you can. It's not so invisible anymore. So that's how working with some research colleagues we discovered that David Bahati, the man behind this legislation, is really deeply, deeply involved in The Family's work in Uganda, that the ethics minister of Uganda, Museveni's kind of right hand man, a guy named Nsaba Buturo, is also helping to organize The Family's National Prayer Breakfast. And here's a guy who has been the main force for this Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda's executive office and has been very vocal about what he's doing, and in a rather extreme and hateful way. But these guys are not so much under the influence of The Family. They are, in Uganda, The Family.

GROSS: So how did you find out that Bahati is directly connected to The Family? You've described him as a core member of The Family. And this is the person who introduced the anti-gay legislation in Uganda that calls for the death penalty for some gay people.

Mr. SHARLET: Looking at the, The Family's 990s, where they're moving their money to - into this African leadership academy called Cornerstone, which runs two programs: Youth Corps, which has described its in the past as an international quote, "invisible family binding together world leaders," and also, an alumni organization designed to place Cornerstone grads - graduates of this sort of very elite educational program and politics and NGO's through something called the African Youth Leadership Forum, which is run by -according to Ugandan media - which is run by David Bahati, this same legislator who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

GROSS: Now what about the president of Uganda, President Museveni? Does he have any connections to The Family?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, first, I want to say it's important that you said it, yeah, it hasn't gone into law. It hasn't gone in to effect yet. So there is time to push back on this. But it's very likely to go into law. It has support of some of the most powerful men in Uganda, including the dictator of Uganda, a guy named Museveni, whom The Family identified back in 1986 as a key man for Africa.

They wanted to steer him away from neutrality or leftist sympathies and bring him into conservative American alliances, and they were able to do so. They've since promoted Uganda as this bright spot - as I say, as this bright spot for African democracy, despite the fact that under their tutelage, Museveni has slowly shifted away from any even veneer of democracy: imprisoning journalists, tampering with elections, supporting - strongly supporting this Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009.

He's come out just this - just last week and said that this bill is necessary because Europeans are recruiting homosexuals in Uganda, that Europeans are coming in and trying to make Ugandans gay. And he's been rewarded for this because this is sort of where these sort of social issues and foreign affairs issues and free market fundamentalist issues all come together.

GROSS: How did The Family create its relationship with Museveni?

Mr. SHARLET: In 1986, a former Ford official name Bob Hunter went over on trips at the behest of the U.S. government, but also on behalf of The Family, to which - for which both of which he filed reports that are now in The Family's archives. And his goal was to reach out to Museveni and make sure that he came into the American sphere of influence, that Uganda, in effect, becomes our proxy in the region and that relationship only deepened.

In fact, in late 1990s, Hunter - again, working for The Family - went over and teamed up with Museveni to create the Uganda National Prayer Breakfast as a parallel to the United States National Prayer Breakfast into which The Family every year sends representatives, usually congressmen.

GROSS: What's the relationship of Museveni and The Family now?

Mr. SHARLET: It's a very close relationship. He is the key man. Now.

GROSS: So what does that mean? What influence does The Family have on him?

Mr. SHARLET: It means that they have a deep relationship of what they'll call spiritual counsel, but you're going to talk about moral issues. You're going to talk about political issues. Your relationships are going to be organized through these associates. So Museveni can go to Senator Brownback and seek military aide. Inhofe, as he describes, Inhofe says that he cares about Africa more than any other senator.

And that may be true. He's certainly traveled there extensively. He says he likes to accuse the State Department of ignoring Africa so he becomes our point man with guys like Museveni and Uganda, this nation he says he's adopted. As we give foreign aid to Uganda, these are the people who are in a position to steer that money. And as Museveni comes over, and as he does and spends time at The Family's headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, a place called The Cedars, and sits down for counsel with Doug Coe, that's where those relationships occur.

It's never going to be the hard sell, where they're going to, you know, twist Museveni's arm behind his back and say do this. As The Family themselves describes it, you create a prayer cell, or what they call - and this again, this is their language from their documents - an invisible believing group of God-led politicians who get together and talk with one another about what God wants them to do in their leadership capacity. And that's the nature of their relationship with Museveni...
You can't make this stuff up.

If you haven't already, use the list provided in the previous post to contact those involved in pushing this ugly piece of legislation. And pick up a copy of Jeff's book.


The American Global Perspective

My wife found this on some young person's Facebook page:

Funny, yet sad. (After viewing it a few minutes after posting it, I really don't see the humor anymore; it's just plain sad)


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Exporting Homophobia

If you haven't seen it yet, you simply must go read the report Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches and Homophobia. Here is part of the Public Research Associates' press release about it:

Sexual minorities in Africa have become collateral damage to our domestic conflicts and culture wars as U.S. conservative evangelicals and those opposing gay pastors and bishops within mainline Protestant denominations woo Africans in their American fight, a groundbreaking investigation by Political Research Associates (PRA) discovered...
There's a few things in this report that might by of interest to those who have been following the attempted Anglican coup.

For instance, remember when some of the Anglican Provinces announced that they would no longer accept funding from TEC? At the time we assumed that they had received promises of funding from other sources. Apparently, that was indeed the case. But, the way those funds are distributed is rather unusual:

A retired bishop in Uganda explained, "Americans send money to the archbishop's office, who later distributes [it] to dioceses." The Rev. Aaron Mwesigye, the provincial secretary in the Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi's office, confirmed this, saying that U.S. conservatives had been "contributing towards the renumeration and salaries of provincial staff since 1998." He added that "American conservatives provide money to Africans not as donors but as development partners in mission."
The report goes on to tell us that Alison Barfoot (now working for Orombi, but most well known as the person who championed the use of "offshore bishops" in the secret memos uncovered in 2003; see "The Attempted Coup" above) handles all the U.S. funding to Uganda. In the U.S., John Guernsey handles all American donations. In other words, no African accountants have access to the records of funds coming from the U.S.

As one example of how this "secret funding" works, remember GAFCON? You might recall that most Ugandan bishops chose to attend GAFCON over Lambeth. All kinds of reasons were given for this choice; refusal to sit with the Western apostates, solidarity with their brother bishops not invited to Lambeth, etc. Well, as it turns out, their expenses to travel to GAFCON were paid by "unnamed friends" of Abp. Orombi. Imagine that.

Another example is this strange bit of information, which has been most concisely summed up by Jim Naughton, who was a member of the advisory panel for this report:

...Among its interesting findings: that an organization run by Diane Stanton, wife of the Rt. Rev. James Stanton, Bishop of Dallas, is among the primary funders of Uganda Christian University, which is led by the Rev. Stephen Noll, who advocates the expulsion of the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion, and owned by the Church of Uganda, which has claimed ownership of Episcopal parishes in the United States...
My, my...what a tangled web...

What is most bizarre about all these secret funds, often distributed directly to the Primates of the various provinces, it appears, is that the accusation used to get these African provinces to refuse any funds from TEC was that we were trying to "buy their support." Never mind that all funds that went through TEC budget, or funds contributed through a diocese or other organization affiliated with TEC, made public reports available regarding the distribution of those funds, and put in place responsible accountability standards, to avoid the possibility of corruption. Instead, we have secret funds from the extreme conservatives in the U.S. being placed in the hands of individuals in Africa, with no apparent system of checks and balances regarding how those funds were spent. Who is "buying support" here?

This point is not lost on some of the Anglicans in Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria. Here's more from the report regarding some of the "irregular" consecrations happening in Africa:

...Dissident U.S. Episcopalian leaders Bill Atwood, John Guernsey and Martyn Minns were consecrated as bishops under the leadership of African archbishops without proper consultation with their respective synods. A senior clergy member complained, "I don't know how they were ordained and why they were ordained. The matter was not discussed at the provincial or even at the diocesan level." One respected professor said, "By consecrating those bishops, the Anglican Church of Kenya violated its own constitution." Another argued, "If it was about rescue of American clergy, they should have asked for an African priest to be consecrated and sent to America," and speculated that the reason the African bishops ordained the Americans had to do with the money the prelates received from U.S. conservatives. In other words, he accused the U.S. conservatives of having bought their bishoprics from African prelates...
The report also highlights other conservative U.S. groups that are using funds and the wedge issue of gay rights to court the African churches. Prominent among them, of course, is the Institute on Religion and Democracy. In my book, the IRD is ranked right alongside Fred Phelps. Actually, because they hide behind flowery rhetroic and sweet smiles as they commit their most unChristian acts, I think they should be put lower than Phelps. At least Fred doesn't use subterfuge when he spews his hate.

The main point that the report makes clear is that it is not same sex attraction that is foreign to Africa. What has been imported in by the West is homophobia.

It also offers us a foretaste of future "wedge issues." Islamophobia will no doubt be next in line. We can see the foundations of that struggle already being built by the extreme conservatives in the U.S.

Read the report. See what jumps out at you. Then, let's talk about it.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Uganda World Prayer Day

The Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a nasty piece of work which would make the death penalty the sentence for some homosexual acts.

Anglicans have been urged to condemn this bill, but so far there has been silence from Canterbury and York. The Anglican Church of Uganda backpedaled just a little from their normal strident homphobic stance, suggesting that the death penalty may be a bit much (you think?). But not a word from Henry Orombi, which I suppose isn't a big surprise, considering his past performance when confronted with the suffering and torture of gay and lesbian Ugandans.

If our leaders won't respond, perhaps we can. First of all, today you are invited to join in the Uganda World Prayer Day. Since some of you may not be into Facebook, I'll post the instructions:

We know that there are many of you in this group who are not religious, and we are not asking you to do something you are not comfortable with. But for those who do have a faith tradition we ask that on Tuesday November 17th, you take at least 30 minutes to pray for the following:

1. That Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 would be withdrawn;

2. For protection and peace for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters living in this oppression in Uganda and around the world; and

3. That the Ugandan Church realize this legislation is not morally or Scripturally correct - as there has been disturbing news recently coming from some of my contacts in Uganda and Parliment that the Ugandan Church is starting to make official statements in favor of this bill. I will be posting those as soon as they are official.

Other matters of prayer relating to Uganda can be suggested to Andrew Marin and/or added to the wall.
The hosting group for this event offers us some information for contacting those involved in promoting this bill. Once again, its on Facebook, so I'll reproduce it here:

...We call on the Facebook community to join in opposition to this bill and to contact the various stakeholders named below to express your views.

Contacts to express one's views about Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009:

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
State House Nakasero

Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi

Speaker of the Parliament
Edward Ssekandi Kiwanuka

Minister of Gender, Labour, and Social Affairs Honorable Opio Gabriel

Chair of the Uganda Human Rights Commission
Med Kaggwa

Directorate for Ethics and Integrity

Chair of the Uganda Diplomatic Human Rights Working Groups
Mathisen Gørild

Please also send a copy to:
Ambassador to the Republic of Uganda Embassy of the United States of America
Jerry P. Lanier

Christian pastors in Uganda:
Martin Ssempa

Stephen Langa
Let us pray:

Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in every land who live with injustice, terror, disease and death as their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

UPDATE: Thinking Anglicans points us to a resolution passed by the Anglican Church of Canada’s Council of General Synod:

COGS passed a resolution that expressed its dismay and concern over the draft proposed anti-homosexuality bill currently before the parliament of Uganda. COGS resolved to call upon the church of the province of Uganda to oppose this private member's bill, and called upon the Government of Canada, through the Minister of External Affairs, to convey to the government of Uganda a deep sense of alarm about this fundamental violation of human rights and through diplomatic channels, to press for its withdrawal; and asked the Primate to send this message to the appropriate bodies.
The Canadians continue to impress me.

Now, who will be next to speak up? Canterbury? New York? Anyone? Anyone?

FURTHER UPDATE: Ekklesia is offering an online petition which demands that all Christian leaders, and specifically Dr. Williams, oppose this legislation.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

An Historic Day in Fort Worth

Today, at 5:00 pm Central Time, Deacon Susan Slaughter will be ordained to the priesthood and installed as rector of St. Luke's in the Meadow in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. This will be the first time a woman has been ordained to the priesthood in that Diocese since its creation in 1983.

Here is more information about this historic event. To grasp the full significance of this day, consider the summation of the history of the Diocese offered within the above linked press release:

...The Diocese of Fort Worth was formed from the western part of the Diocese of Dallas, in part out of opposition to the ordination of women to the priesthood. The founding bishop, A. Donald Davies, and both his successors, Clarence C. Pope and Jack L. Iker, all left the Episcopal Church over women's ordination. Under those bishops, women feeling called to the priesthood either had to give up their call or leave the diocese to be ordained elsewhere. At least fifteen women have done so—and all have been invited "home" for the ordination.

The diocese reorganized after Iker's departure and elected Bishop Gulick as provisional bishop in February. Under his leadership two women priests have been licensed to serve in the diocese—the Rev. Ms. Maurine Lewis who retired to Fort Worth from the Diocese of Milwaukee in 2008 and does supply work among the displaced parishes; and the Rev. Ms. Melanie R. Barbarito, who was hired in August by All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Worth as parochial associate for evangelism and engagement. She came to Fort Worth from the Diocese of Missouri. She is the first woman to be hired on the staff of a parish here.

But the Rev. Ms. Slaughter is the first woman from this diocese to be ordained a priest, an event that marks a historic turning point in the life of diocese and perhaps more than any other one event, signals what a new day it is in the Diocese of Fort Worth...
If you would like to help with the expenses of this event, or desire to send Susan a card or a letter, please see Katie Sherrod's post Celebrate With Us for instructions.

The Diocese will be streaming the ordination live over the Internet through their diocesan website. You can find the live stream here.

Congratulations to Deacon Slaughter and all the people of Fort Worth!

Let us pray:

Oh God of unchangable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; the the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were being cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Marking Veterans Day

I usually don't do much to commemorate Veteran's Day, but tonite, I got a phone call from my son, who is one of the chefs at a local restaurant.

"Hey Dad, vets eat for free tonight."
"We're serving veterans for free tonight. Get down here before we close."
"But I'm not hungry."
"You're gonna pass on a free meal?"
"Well...ok...what kinda proof do I have to bring?"
"I dunno...bring what you got."

So, I rummaged around, and came across this ancient thing:

It's my Naval Reserve ID, issued in 1977. I haven't looked at it for a couple of decades now. The edges are a bit torn up, as I used it to open the door of our apartment when I forgot my keys, which happened regularly.

I enlisted in 1973 for a six year hitch; four years active duty, and two years inactive reserves. I served in Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Six out of Norfolk, VA. I was assigned to the Executive Transport Division. We had five H-3 Sea Kings we used to shuttle the brass between Norfolk and the Pentagon.

The strange thing about my enlistment was that even though I strongly protested the war in Vietnam while in my teens, when I became of age, I enlisted anyway. The Paris Peace Accord, which started the process of bringing that war to an end, was signed in January, 1973. I enlisted in April, 1973. I received all the benefits of being a Vietnam era veteran, even though I spent all four years in Norfolk.

Stranger still is that my father also enlisted when he became old enough during WWII. That conflict ended shortly after he commenced his first cruise.

And yet even stranger is the fact that my grandfather also enlisted right after High School during WWI. Those hostilities ended before his company was issued rifles.

So, in my family, we have three generations that enlisted during wartime, only to have the war end within months of taking the oath. Imagine that.

None of my friends were killed in Vietnam. We were all too young to be canon fodder for that one. But I did serve as a chaplain at a VA hospital in Wisconsin for a season. On the psych ward, I heard many blood curdling tales of what happened over there. I cannot even fully imagine what some of them experienced. But I know it sounded much like a hell that surpasses anything even Dante could have ever dreamed up.

I must admit that when it comes to serving in the military, I am somewhat conflicted. I am a firm advocate for non-violent resistance, and believe that when violence is used against violence, the result is almost always more violence. However, I'm not a pacifist.

It seems to me that if we see an act of violence being committed against an innocent victim, we have the moral obligation to stop that violence, by whatever means necessary. If we do not, we share some responsibility for that act of violence.

I believe that the young people who volunteer to serve our country are driven by a sense of duty and honor. Those two motivations do not always easily fit into our carefully dissected categories of right and wrong. For this reason, regardless of our moral opinions about war, I believe it is just and right to honor those who serve in our armed forces on this day.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Northern Michigan: Standing at the Crossroad of History and Hope

During my recent visit to the Diocese of Northern Michigan, I had the pleasure of hearing an excellent sermon, offered by their Convention chaplain, Dr. Fredrica Harris Thompsett, Mary Wolfe Professor Emerita of Historical Theology at the Episcopal Divinity School. You may know Dr. Thompsett as the author of Living with History, volume 5 of the New Church's Teaching Series.

Dr. Thompsett's sermon was a much needed word of hope for the people of Northern Michigan; a hope rooted in the realities of history. To grasp the full message, I encourage you to consider the entire sermon, but here is part of it:

...It will not surprise anyone here that I am a “big fan” of and “in favor of” the authority of the baptized. When we are standing and rooted in the authority, the deep waters, of our baptism history and hope meet with boldness and audacity. Growing up here in Michigan, the “water wonderland,” taught me to stand literally and confidently by great, fresh, life-giving waters. My beloved biblical mentor, Verna Dozier, taught me to read Scripture with care and authority. She would not let me lose my daily consciousness of baptism. The solidarity of baptism is a theological grounding that admits no exclusions. The energizing, liberating power of Baptism abides, a resource to be cherished now and in days ahead. Over the past year, as I have dipped my hands in the fresh water of the baptismal font, you, the people of this Diocese, have often been in my heart. Do not be afraid to be different in your wide embrace of baptismal authority. Stand, as Jeremiah suggests, planted by the greening waters of new life.

History, like Scripture, is replete with those who have witnessed the cost of discipleship, the cost of holding fast to hard truths and high goals, of not being afraid to be dismissed, or wronged by others. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the revered German pastor imprisoned and killed in 1945 resisting Hitler’s Third Reich, in his last days described the church with hope as “Christ taking form in a body of believers.” Bonhoeffer’s insight signals a deep, hard won, and long-standing resource you already have that will continue to serve you well in days ahead. You have built healthy communities rich in trusted and mature relationships. Standing by your side, in your home parish and diocese, are steadfast companions, who invite you to walk together with newness of purpose. You know the dangers of walking alone. In my experience, you are the church of Christ taking form in the body of believers. This is a holy place to stand...
Yes, there is sometimes a cost to holding fast to hard truths and high goals. But, when we live in fear of that cost, we can never become what God has always intended us to be; Christ taking the form of the body of believers.

Let us not be afraid. Instead, let us press on, with boldness and audacity.


Friday, November 06, 2009

Strategic Goals for Episcopalians

It appears the Strategic Planning Committee has identified five stategic goals for the future of the Episcopal Church.

Here is the list of the five areas listed as "very important" by the majority of respondents to a recent survey:

1. Reaching youth and young adults
2. Evangelism/proclaiming the good news of Christ
3. Worship, music and liturgy
4. Leadership
5. Strengthening congregations

What I find ironic is that the programs represented by 2 and 3 were cut from the budget of the Episcopal Church Center by General Convention last Summer.

Am I bitter because the elimination of 2 resulted in the termination of my position? Perhaps. But I was already fully aware that I needed to move on. That environment was not a good match for me. And, to be honest, I didn't do a good job of networking with the movers and shakers. So, to some degree, I understand why I might have been cut from the budget.

But what continues to astound me is that it wasn't just my position that got the axe; they eliminated the entire Evangelism program, resulting in about four evangelism resolutions to now be unfunded.

If I had been consulted, instead of being informed 30 minutes before the elimination of the program was announced to the House of Deputies, I would have suggested that Evangelism be folded back into Church Planting, as it had been in 2007. That would have lessened the public relations fiasco such a cut might cause, if nothing else. But, that's not what happened. So it goes.

This situation can be redeemed, however. Evangelism must now be championed at the diocesan and congregational level. Since most effective evangelism must take into account the cultural setting, this could be a good thing.

However, I am still concerned, especially in light of the revealing of these five areas of importance, that there is no one responsible for tracking the responses to the evangelism resolutions, no funds designated for their implementation, and no one to make a report to the next General Convention regarding the progress made in those areas.

If the areas of importance identified by the Strategic Planning Committee are indeed a reflection of what most Episcopalians desire to be our focus in the coming years, I would hope that in the future the Program, Budget and Finance Committee will consider those priorities before eliminating more programs at the Episcopal Church Center.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Northern Michigan Prepares for the Next "Trial by Internet"

Last weekend, I traveled to Escanaba, Michigan expecting to encounter a disappointed and perhaps even bitter crowd at the Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan. I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted with warm smiles and numerous outbursts of laughter. After having the opportunity to speak with a few people individually, I'm convinced that their upbeat mood was not simply a show of false bravado, but an expression of the deep current of joy that seems to flow freely throughout that Diocese.

No doubt that there were moments in the last year in which that joy was stifled. In a recent Living Church article, Linda Piper, President of the Standing Committee of Northern Michigan, describes the deep shock experienced by the entire Diocese when their bishop-elect did not received the necessary consents:

...I don’t believe that any of us were prepared for the shock and disappointment, the anger and the sorrow, that came as a result of the failure of the consent process,” she said. “We weren’t ready for trial by internet. We never imagined that what we know to be true and right for us would cause such a reaction from the wider church...
Those that I witnessed gathered last weekend to do the work of the Diocese seemed to have gotten past their shock and anger. They shared stories of their encounters with God and joined their voices in songs of praise and thanksgiving. Their joy may have been stifled for a season, but it was not snuffed out.

Then they got down to the business of the diocese, which is outlined in their press releases, found here and here.

One significant piece of legislation was their approval of a resolution entitled "A Plan for an Episcopal Search Process." Here it is:

The Diocese of Northern Michigan, meeting in convention, October 30-31, 2009, adopts the following elements for the next Episcopal Search Process:
  • Build on the work of the Episcopal Ministry Team
  • Communicate effectively with the wider church
  • Form a Search Committee engaged in discernment
  • Be open to working with a search consultant
  • Use a broad process of collectiing potential candidates
  • Intend to present multiple candidates to the Special Convention
  • Use the "Petition Process" for adding names
  • There was some discussion about that last element, with a motion to strike it altogether. Some of the visitors were invited to address that particular point. The concern was that the Diocese might end up with a candidate who had little knowledge of Mutual Ministry, or even one who was antagonistic to the concept. The chances of that happening seem pretty slim to me, but that concern effectively highlights how important Mutual Ministry is to the people of this Diocese.

    After a healthy discussion (much passion, but no heat), the amendment to strike the petition process was voted down. Then, after a few changes in the wording, the resolution was passed.

    It's a good resolution, in that it should silence the critics of "the process" that were shouting so loud during the last election. To those critics...perhaps you might want to learn a little bit about Mutual Ministry before deciding to challenge what these folks are doing?

    Regardless of who Northern Michigan's next candidate is, no doubt there will still be those who love a good witch hunt expending hours googling up every statement, sermon or liturgy that person ever made public. These hunters appear, at first glance, to have high standards.

    Thomas Merton would be condemned by them. He might be a Buddhist, don't you know. William Temple wouldn't make the grade either, as he was known to say some rather shocking things when he was having a bad day.

    Come to think of it, if all candidates had every sermon they ever preached, or every liturgy they ever designed, carefully scrutinized, I doubt if we'd have any candidates fit for Episcopal election, at least according to the standards of the self appointed watch dogs.

    However, this same group of witch hunters/watch dogs actually commend their own leaders who bear false witness against their brothers and sisters, attempt to steal property from their Church, and strive to exclude great swaths of people from the kingdom of God, based on their personal biases. So much for their high standards.

    One would hope that in the future our Bishops and Standing Committees will think twice before taking the accusations of such angry mobs seriously.

    But, I digress. Back to Northern Michigan.

    A big "thank you" to the people of Northern Michigan for allowing me to join your family for a few days. May your joy continue to flow. And may God grant you the courage to pursue what is right, and the grace to accomplish it.

    And finally, if any of you reading this ever visit Escanaba, Michigan, you must check out the Swedish Pantry. The dining room walls are lined with clocks, all set to different times, causing a constant melody to ring out as they each strike the hour. The Swedish pancakes are heavenly. I had them with peaches, but the locals tell me they are best with lingonberries. Thanks, Rayford.

    Oh, and Ernesto, next time you are seeking Upper Peninsula pasties, try to remember that the word has a short "a."


    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    Clericalism: An Institutional Challenge

    I enjoyed my visit with the folks of the Diocese of Nevada. My new friend Rick has posted some generous thoughts about what I shared. Thanks, Rick.

    When I arrived for their Annual Convention, I was somewhat surprised to see that I had overdressed for the occasion. There was only one other person in the room wearing a clerical collar. As I got to know them all a bit better, I came to realize that was not accidental. They didn't see themselves as "clergy" and "laity." They were simply the people of God, gathered for ministry. It was a very refreshing perspective.

    I want to talk about that division between "clergy" and "laity" that we make in most places around the Church. Consider this a continuation of our discussion on bishops, which grew out of a previous post on authority.

    I've been talking with a few folks about possible positions. I look at their "historic" buildings (which are often in need of immediate repair), take a look at their numbers, and am usually struck by that sinking feeling as the realization hits that they can't afford me. Most likely I'll accept a position somewhere soon, but it will probably be in a less than full time capacity.

    And that's ok with me. Often it is not ok with the parish, though. To not have a full-time seminary trained priest is a loss of prestige. It means they have failed somehow.

    We've got a problem. A serious problem. To explain the nature of the problem, I'll start with an example of the financial reality, even though I think the problem is rooted in something much more deeply troubling than money matters.

    To have a full-time professional clergy person on staff costs a congregation about $75,000 to $80,000 annually, if you figure in health insurance and pension payments. That means, if you have 80 families ("pledging units") giving $2,000 a year, your clergy person is going to be half your budget, leaving you about $80,000 a year for maintenance of the physical plant and mission beyond your walls. In some places, that's enough to just get by, but you won't be putting anything away for the long-term maintenance projects that come with the territory when you're in an "historic" building.

    Many Episcopal congregations have far fewer than 80 pledges. That's just the reality, especially if you are in a small rural setting. To keep on telling them that they need to grow is not the answer. That not only gives them an inferiority complex, it also makes "evangelism" be driven by trying to balance the budget.

    The clergy who serve in these small congregations see the financial reality, and often carry a heavy weight of guilt around with them because they know that they are drawing half the budget. And here's where the bigger problem comes in.

    Often, without realizing it, clergy in a small congregation will work long hard hours, feeling that since they consume so much of the pledge income, they need to earn it. They will not only offer the sacraments and visit the sick, but will also offer three classes, make a schedule to visit every member, attend every meeting, get involved in ecumenical events, do the newsletter, change the lightbulbs and mow the lawn.

    There's nothing wrong with staying busy. But, much of what many clergy do on a day to day basis can just as easily be done by someone else. And by doing it all, the clergy person is actually taking away ministry opportunities from the rest of the members of the community.

    Now, it may be the case that in some places the expectation is that the clergy should indeed do everything. Keep in mind that one of the three shifts we are witnessing is the move to a more "consumer society" orientation. When we begin to see the clergy as THE ministers, then the members become simply passive consumers of ministry. That is not a healthy model for a Christian community.

    I've served in quite a few congregations, and, although the "consumer" mentality was not true for all of them, it was the norm. Often, it is during the interim period, when they don't have a permanent priest "in charge" that some congregations come alive. But, when the search ends, they sigh with relief, because now they can stop making those hospital calls, or chairing those meetings, or teaching that class.

    Something is not right here.

    The Diocese of Wyoming has this quote from Elton Trueblood on their Ministry Page:

    If you are a Christian, you are a minister. This proposition is absolutely basic to any understanding of the Christian movement. A non-ministering Christian is a contradiction in terms. The Christian faith is not made up of spectators listening to professionals, and it is not for individuals who are seeking, primarily, to save their own souls. It is necessarily made up of persons who are called to serve as representatives of Christ in the world, and to serve means to minister. Ministry is intrinsic to the Christian life. Ministry is not something added or means to an end; it is central and ineradicable.
    Is there a way that we can recognize the gifts of every baptized member of the Church, and allow the full expression of those gifts?

    Yes, there is, but it requires some radical rethinking of our whole concept of ministry. Some, especially many of the professionally trained clergy, are going to buck against this rethinking, as it is going to require them to get out of the way.

    I'm not suggesting that we simply eliminate seminary trained clergy. They have their place. But possibly that place is more along the lines of being a resource person for the ministry of all the baptized.

    As a starting point to rethink our "consumer model" of ministry, I recommend that you consider some of the work already being done in the Dioceses of Alaska, Nevada, Northern Michigan, North Dakota, Montana, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Western Kansas, Western New York, West Virginia, Vermont, Northern California, Minnesota, Oregon and several others. The concept that they are exploring is usually known as Total Ministry, but is sometimes referred to as Mutual Ministry. It's not perfect, but I think they are moving in the right direction. This idea was all the rage just a few years ago. We don't hear about it so much anymore. I think it is worth considering as one possible way for us to move into the future. Here is how it is described by the Diocese of Northern Michigan:

    ...we seek to honor the uniqueness of each baptized person and each local community in our diocesan community. We understand that the responsibility for mission and ministry in any place belongs primarily to the people of God in that place. In most settings, we do not send ministry to a community in the form of a professional, seminary trained rector or vicar who might minister to and on behalf of the baptized. Rather, we seek to develop the ministry of all the baptized in each community. Seminary trained persons serve as resource, offering support and encouragement, sharing in the ongoing formation and education of God's people living the Baptismal Covenant.

    We use the term mutual ministry to describe this partnership. It is a partnership between God and God's people. It is a partnership among all God's people, among congregations on the regional level, on the diocesan level and beyond to the province, the national church and the world. In all arenas, we seek to extend this partnership beyond our denominational boundaries, working together with our sisters and brothers of other faith traditions as well.

    The role of the missioner is not to deliver ministry, but to midwife the birth of giftedness already present in the baptized into ministry for mission. In each congregation a unique ministry development strategy is designed and pursued by the members of the congregation themselves, supported and nurtured by the regional missioners...
    The Diocese of Minnesota offers some good links here and here.

    The Diocese of Oregon has a Total Ministry site here.

    The Diocese of Northern California offers a few links here.

    The Diocese of Northern Michigan has been engaging this approach to ministry for over twenty years. You may recall that this innovative approach caused a few problems when they elected Kevin Thew Forrester as their Bishop/Ministry Developer. Actually, they selected an Episcopal Ministry Support Team, of which Kevin was only one member. The "process" raised more than a few eyebrows. Then, some of the more toxic blogs found out Kevin practiced Buddhist meditation (lions and tigers and Buddhists...oh my!) and the witch hunt commenced. Old sermons and iffy liturgies were dug up, and Kevin did not receive the required consents.

    As you might imagine, the people of Northern Michigan were deeply troubled by all the ugly things being said about them and their choices for their Episcopal Ministry Team. Tomorrow, they will gather for their Diocesan Convention and plan for their future. Hopefully, they will be able to shrug off all the mud slung their way, and will not be tempted to abandon their ideals, which I happen to believe are the way of the future for us all.

    Back in 1994 Northern Michigan made some significant changes to the way they run their Conventions. For example:

  • Every baptized person is entitled to seat and voice at Convention.

  • Each congregation (regardless of size) may send four voting delegates.

  • Clergy have vote if they are one of the four selected delegates from the congregation in which they worship.

  • No voting "by orders".

    This should be a fascinating Convention. I think I'll join them. But, for this trip, perhaps I'll leave my clerical collar at home.

    More tomorrow, from Escanaba, Michigan!

  • Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Swimming the Tiber? I'll Pass, But Thanks for the Offer

    So, Rome has decided to stick their nose into the current Anglican unpleasantness. Apparently, some Roman Catholic spin doctors seem to be unable to resist the temptation to use this occasion to take a jab or two at various Anglican leaders.

    Now, will I use this opportunity to take a couple of pot shots at the Roman Catholic Church? I think not. My experience in local "Ministerial Associations" in which the Roman Catholic clergy participated has been that the Catholics told better jokes, served better liquor, and had a better grasp of sacramental theology. So, I'm not inclined to belittle their tradition.

    I know such a swim is not for me, or for most Anglicans that I know. It is simply not an option, for numerous reasons. But I also realize that it may be a real consideration for some folks. For those Anglicans who are so inclined to join Rome, my only response is to say "Go with God."

    But, for those who may be considering it, I hope that you take a look at Bosco Peter's commentary before making any final decisions. Here's part of it:

    ...Anglican orders are not accepted by the Vatican. Anglican “priests” joining Anglican Personal Ordinariates in order to function as priests will have to be ordained twice (or at least conditionally ordained twice). And they will have to be males. Anglican “bishops” joining Anglican Personal Ordinariates in order to function as bishops will have to be ordained thrice (or at least conditionally ordained thrice). And they will have to be males. And celibate...
    Additionally, if later on you get upset by something your bishop does, don't even think of trying to leave and take your building with you. Such "congregational" ideas might get some play in the "via media," but I can guarantee you that they won't find a friendly reception in Rome.

    In other news, I'm leaving for the Diocese of Nevada in the morning, to participate in their Diocesan Convention. The theme is "I Love to Tell the Story." I'm looking forward to it.

    My daughter lives about 2 hours away, so we'll have some time togther as well. Since that area of the world is closer to both my daughters, I've often thought about retiring there some day, so I'll also be checking out a couple of horse ranches that I have my eye on.

    Be back on Monday.


    Saturday, October 17, 2009

    Keith Ackerman Removed From the Ordained Minstry of This Church

    Press release is here, which states, in part:

    According to the statement, Jefferts Schori had thanked Ackerman in an October 7 letter "for your follow up note regarding your plans to function as a bishop in the Diocese of Bolivia in the Province of the Southern Cone. As you know, there is no provision for transferring a bishop to another Province. I am therefore releasing you from the obligations of ordained ministry in this Church.”
    A little background regarding the former Bishop of Quincy might be in order.

    He was elected as the Bishop of Quincy in 1994. As he has always been opposed to the ordination of women, there was some question as to if he would receive the necessary consents. Obviously, he did, with less difficulty than Jack Iker, no doubt because Keith strives very hard to be a "nice guy."

    My experience is that he is indeed a "nice guy." He does not say or do the rude and obnoxious kind of things for which some of his peers are well known. He is courteous and pleasant, saying little most of the time. I am told he is an excellent retreat conductor.

    However, following GC2003, he did attend the American Anglican Council's "A Place to Stand" conference in Texas, which was held in October, 2003. He supported the statement that came out of that conference, "Call to Action". Here's just a couple of points included in that statement:

    6. We redirect our financial resources, to the fullest extent possible,toward biblically orthodox mission and ministry, and away from those structures that support the unrighteous actions of the General Convention. We will support our partners in the Anglican Communion.

    7. We appeal to the Primates of the Anglican Communion to intervene in the
    Episcopal Church to:

    1. Discipline those bishops in the Episcopal Church who, by their actions,
    have departed from biblical faith and order;

    2. Guide the realignment of Anglicanism in North America;

    3. Encourage orthodox bishops as they extend episcopal oversight, pastoral
    care, and apostolic mission across current diocesan boundaries; and

    4. Support isolated and beleaguered parishes and individuals in their life
    and witness as faithful Anglican Christians...
    Redirect funds, punish TEC, start the "realignment" (code for replacement of TEC), and engage in border crossings. These tactics were all supported by Bp. Ackerman.

    Bp. Ackerman is also the President of Forward in Faith North America, which is an Anglo-Catholic group that rejects women's ordination as well as gay and lesbian ordinations.

    As President of this group, Ackerman has made a number of brief statements on various developments over the years, for instance;

  • How pleased he was to get invited to GAFCON

  • .
  • How disappointed he was that his friend, John David Schofield, was deposed for trying to steal an entire diocese.
  • How saddened he was when Robert Duncan was deposed for trying to run off with his diocese.

    So, as you can see, we have every reason to assume that Keith Ackerman, regardless of his pleasant manners, was one of the leaders of the attempted coup from the very beginning.

    Following GC2006, Ackerman led the Diocese of Quincy in their attempt to seek Alternative Primatial Oversight, since the new Presiding Bishop was, in their minds, of the wrong gender.

    On October 29, 2008, Ackerman announced that he would retire on November 1 (in three days). A week later, the diocese's annual synod voted to leave TEC and join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. No doubt Ackerman felt that this manuever would protect him from being deposed.

    After "retiring," he continues to serve as President of Forward in Faith and on the executive committee of ACNA (formerly the Common Cause, the Network and the American Anglican Council...same individuals, different organizational names).

    One of his most recent adventures during retirement was to participate in exporting schism to other shores:

    FIVE English Bishops are to take part in the launch of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in London on July 6, expressing the breadth of support the fellowship, which had its roots in the Gafcon conference in Jerusalem last year, is experiencing...

    ...Bishop Ackerman, who is President of Forward in Faith in the USA, said: “One of the reasons I am really looking forward to being with my friends in England is so that I might be able to share with them the anointing of the Holy Spirit that has occurred at this gathering (of the installation of Archbishop Bob Duncan as Primate of the Anglican Church in North America at Christ Church Plano on June 24) here in Texas...
    Did you notice where he is headed next? Bolivia. Yes. He is teaming up with the notorious pirate bishop of Bolivia! Imagine that.

    It is sad to see such a nice guy having to renounce his ministry in this Church. But, in light of his record, and the company he's currently keeping, I think he's more than earned the same fate as the rest of the scoundrels.

  • Sunday, October 11, 2009

    The Emergence of the Hidden Wisdom of God's People

    In the last three posts, I've been talking about shifts that are happening in our culture, and how these shifts are impacting the Church. Authority, or the "freedom to act," no longer resides only with our institutional leaders, or even with the scholars. Instead, the authority rests within complex networks of relationships. Truth claims are refined and tempered as they run back and forth through this web of networks. While it is understood that scripture and tradition are part of this network, it is the living traditions, the people of God, informed through a discipline of prayer, study and action, that will discern the movement of God in the world today.

    Last week, Bishop Peter Selby gave an address at the Inclusive Church's residential conference. It is entitled When the Word on the Street is Resist. It is quite good, and contains much worth noting. Mark offers some commentary on it here. Tobias offers a slightly different take on it here. But, what really caught my eye, as it is directly related to our recent conversations, is the section that Richard chose to highlight.

    Here is that section again:

    ...First, though, a story: a colleague and his partner were to register their partnership, and a number of us were invited. There was no suggestion that there would be a blessing of this union, or anything else that might cause incongruity or unrecognisability. But it did so happen that the ceremony was arranged to take place closely after the usual time of the eucharist in the local Church, to which the guests were also invited. Not surprisingly prayers were offered for the pair, and the eucharist proceeded as usual - or not quite.

    When time came for the distribution of the Sacrament, nothing had been said about what was to happen. But the congregation knew what was to happen: they remained in their seats until the pair whose partnership was to be registered had received together. Where was this unscripted choreography learned? Obviously through the attendance of many in the congregation at wedding eucharists. But this was not of course a wedding - or was it? Might not this event in the distribution of the Sacrament have been a picture of what at an earlier time the Archbishop would have called 'The Body's Grace', the mediation of truth through the liturgical actions of the people, while the official Church was still struggling to avoid an affirmation it was unwilling to make.

    I tell the story not to argue against those others who have decided simply to disobey the rules. I tell it rather to show that while the Primates of our Communion labour at the question of incongruity, a different perception of the truth is being recognised in the actions of the people. Nor am I telling the story to suggest that actions of that kind can serve as a substitute for a just and faithful resolution of a conflict which has hurt too many and lasted too long. I tell the story because even as hierarchies struggle to maintain rigidities in place, even as persons are hurt and their ministries denied, something else is going on, namely the emergence of the hidden wisdom of God's people, a choreography of promise, a recognition which the official Church will surely have to take seriously. That will not be (as the Archbishop quite wrongly suggests) because the Church will have ended up conforming to social mores rather than critiqued them; it will be because truth has been discovered precisely in the context of biblical and theological reflection and acted out in worship; and what the pew sheet I quoted accurately called 'the current panic' will not outlast the God whose message is not to be afraid.
    Do you see the significance of those words? Here is the key line again:

    "...even as hierarchies struggle to maintain rigidities in place, even as persons are hurt and their ministries denied, something else is going on, namely the emergence of the hidden wisdom of God's people, a choreography of promise, a recognition which the official Church will surely have to take seriously..."

    This is an excellent example of the kind of "authority" I've been trying to find words to talk about.

    Listen for the Word of God. And expect that Word to come from the living traditions, who give voice to "the God whose message is not to be afraid."