Friday, March 31, 2006

Math IS a religion!

My favorite EVER theological cartoon: of COURSE it's a Calvin & Hobbes!

Those Halcyon Days of Yesteryear ...

From the Primates Communique (Porto 2000):

We believe that the unity of the Communion as a whole still rests on the Lambeth Quadrilateral:

  • the Holy Scriptures as the rule and standard of faith
  • the creeds of the undivided Church
  • the two Sacraments ordained by Christ himself and
  • the historic episcopate.

Only a formal and public repudiation of this would place a diocese or Province outside the Anglican Communion.

Ah, to return to those halcyon days of yesteryear when such statements claimed the high calling of preserving the unity of the communion in the interest of mission rather sinking to the level of exploiting the unity of the communion in the service of polarization.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

First things first!

the swift and varied changes of the world

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

So doing the noonday Eucharist today I thought this Collect for Lent V might just be one that would be worth adopting as a pre-Convention prayer mantra ... remembering
  • that in spite of all our whereases and therefores it is God who brings order out of chaos,
  • that to love what God commands and desire what God promises keeps our eyes on the prize and our anxiety at bay
  • EVEN while the swift and varied changes of the General Convention "buzz" tempts us to lose heart, faith and resolve.

The Iron Lady on "Consensus"

According to Margaret Thatcher, consensus is "the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner 'I stand for consensus'?"

So here's my question going forward toward General Convention and beyond: If we truly stand for the proclamation of the Good News of God in Christ Jesus made available to all and for the full inclusion of all the baptized in the Body of Christ then how dare we abandon those beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of a "consensus" that priortizes institutional unity while perpetuating sacramental apartheid!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Crocus, Anyone?

Spring has sprung -- just as the pre-General Convention anxiety level seems to have sprung a leak into my email inbox which is filling up with questions and concerns, predictions and speculations, rumors and rumblings about what will happen next to our life together in this Big Fat Episcopal Family. Happily, however, there weren't ONLY anxious emails in my inbox this morning -- I also got this nice e-card from a friend with these happy crocus springily blooming their optimistic perky selves. They reminded me of this poem from my seminary days -- and made me wonder if we shouldn't be stocking up on some crocus for Columbus!


It takes courage
to be crocusminded.

Lord, I'd rather wait til June
like wise roses
when the hazards of winter are
safely behind
and I'm expected
and everything's ready for roses.

But crocuses?

Highly irregular
Knifing up
through hard frozen ground and snow;
sticking their necks out,
because they believe in spring
and have something personal
and emphatic to say about it.

Lord, I am by nature roseminded.
Even when I have
studied the situation here
and know there are wrongs that need righting
affirmations that need stating
and know that my speaking out
might even rock the boat,
Well, I'd rather wait til June.

Maybe things will work themselves out
and we won't have to make an issue of it.

Lord, forgive.
Wrongs don't work themselves out
Injustices and inequities and hurts
don't just dissolve.
Somebody has to stick her neck out,
somebody who cares enough to think through
and work through hard ground
because she believes
and has something personal to say about it.

Me, Lord?
Could it be that there are things that need
to be said, and you want me to say them?
I pray for courage. Amen.

Mark Harris on the Bishop of Exeter

The Bishop of Exeter's Ecumenical Concern
From Mark Harris' blog: PRELUDIUM

A thought on the Bishop of Exeter's Reflections Offered to the House of Bishops of ECUSA Opining on what might happen if there was a breakdown in the Anglican Communion, the Bishop said, “It would immediately become impossible to claim that there was any body that spoke for the Communion as a whole, and several existing relationships would be irrevocably altered. All the signals seem clear that for example there would be no further round of ARCIC and that the dialogue process with Al Azhar would end.”

I am committed to the work together that constitutes the reality of the Anglican Communion and deeply convinced of the need for ecumenical and interfaith engagement. But I have to say that the Bishop of Exeter’s remark provides an amazingly strange argument, for it rests on the proposition that there is NOW “any body that (speaks) for the Communion as a whole.”

This proposition is false, although obliquely so. NO body speaks for the Communion as a whole. It may be argued that the "instruments of communion" and the Archbishop of Canterbury speak FROM the whole Communion, but even these do not speak ex-cathedra FOR the Communion.The representatives to various ecumenical conversations speak FROM particular locations within the Communion and are responsible to their sending organization – ACC, the Primates, the Lambeth Conference, the General Secretariat of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office, etc, none of whom “speak for the Communion as a whole,” or at least not in a binding way.

So while there may be a breakdown in ecumenical relations, it is not because we suddenly don’t have a single body with a single voice. We don’t have that now, and there have been plenty of complaints about that fact in the past. The breakdown will be because there will have to be different tracks with particular churches who used to work together.

Would a breakdown in the Anglican Communion make ecumenical life more difficult? Sure.

Would it be much different than the current state of multi-church parallel discussions? No.

ARCIC would have to decide if it continues its work to think about “branching” what was first a two way conversation, or by continuing with one and opening a second with another set of representatives. The charge that disruption in the Anglican Communion will spoil our ecumenical relations is a horse already beaten to death. It is based on a naïve premise and an implied accusation of spoiler.

Or at least that is how I see it.

Defending the Sanctity of Marriage

Here's the text for the radio commentary I gave on Air America's March 26th
State of Belief show defending the sanctity of marriage.


OK -- I'm convinced. The sanctity of marriage DOES need defending and I want to sign up to be on the defense team. I want to be part of making the case that two people making a life-long commitment to each other benefits not only the couple and their family but all of us. I want to argue that such relationships are indeed foundational to so much that is good and strong and solid and healthy about our society -- our culture -- our civilization.

I want to make the case that Britney Spears did more in the 55 hours of her quickly annulled Las Vegas marriage to undermine the sanctity of matrimony than any gay or lesbian couple I have ever known. I want heterosexuals to take responsibility for what has happened to the institution of marriage on their watch -- and I want those determined to save it to partner with gay and lesbian couples yearning for the kind of commitment and responsibility so many straight couples take for granted. I want us to work together to shift the conversation from the gender of the individuals who make up a couple to the quality of the values that make up a marriage – challenging the ridiculous fiction that somehow the orientation of those seeking to love and promise themselves to each other is more important than the values, love and commitment they bring to the relationship.

As a priest and pastor I want to make it perfectly clear that the James Dobsons and Pat Robertsons who claim to have sole possession of “Christian Values” on the issue of marriage equality do not speak for me. They do not speak for All Saints Church, Pasadena. And they do not speak for countless other faithful Christians who understand God’s inclusive love as available to all: rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight. We have Christian Values, too – and they are values of love, inclusion and justice standing in direct opposition to the narrow, exclusivist bigotry being marketed by the rabid Religious Right.

As an American citizen I am horrified by the concerted efforts of these narrow ideologues to derail our democracy with their theology by writing discrimination into the Constitution. In a country where we proclaim “liberty and justice for all” as a core collective value is it unconscionable that the 2006 mid-term election campaigns are once again making gay and lesbian families sacrificial lambs on the altar of partisan politics. In a nation where separation of church and state is an essential aspect of our very identity as Americans it is unacceptable that any faith-based perspective should be allowed to elevate its theological positions above our democratic principles.

Marriage clearly needs a defense team – and so does democracy. Where do I sign up?

Moving Toward Columbus

I found this piece VERY helpful in putting the approaching work of General Convention in context. Written by Katie Sherrod (Diocese of Fort Worth) for Ruach -- the EWC (Episcopal Women's Caucus) magazine -- it is a great antidote to the "spin" coming from those who keep claiming as "fait accompli" that which they wish would be: the end of the Anglican Communion as we know it and its replacement with a curia-esque magesterium empowered to enforce their theological litmus tests on the rest of us.

Read, mark, learn, inwardly digest -- and forward to anyone you know who cares about the Church and the Gospel. ~ Susan


"Moving Toward Columbus" -- by Katie Sherrod

I have been pondering the concept of productive waiting.

It is a concept with which most women will be familiar. God knows women and our male allies working for change in our church have had to learn patient and productive waiting or go mad in the process. We have learned that productive waiting is as action-filled a process as it is a reflective one. It allows us time to think before we act, an increasing rarity in these days of instantaneous Internet hyperbole.

Our church is now moving through what many describe as a time of turmoil. There are those who are working hard to keep things as stirred up as possible in the wake of the prophetic actions of General Convention 2003. One tool they are using to great effect is the Windsor Report. They make loud and repeated demands that The Episcopal Church “submit” to it and use disinformation to stir up as much anxiety as possible.

It is at times like these that The Women’s Caucus’ gift of being a calm presence is most valuable. This has been especially true at recent General Conventions, when the hysteria of a few privileged white males threatened to infect usually calmer folks.

So how to turn the remaining time until General Convention 2006 into a time of productive waiting instead of a time of anxiety, name-calling and fear? Information is our best weapon against the fog of words being put out by those threatening schism.
Here are facts some are trying mightily to obscure:

The Anglican Communion is not a church. It is a fellowship of highly autonomous provinces.

Lambeth has no legislative power. In “The Study of Anglicanism,” John Booty and Stephen Sykes wrote, “The Lambeth Conference has remained a deliberating body convened solely at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Whatever the respect according to its deliberations, it has no canonical or constitutional status.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council, the Lambeth Conference and the Primates Meeting were first grouped in the 1997 Virginia Report which preceded Lambeth 1998. In that report these entities were called “World-Wide Instruments of Communion” in a chapter discussing ideas that the bishops at Lambeth might choose to explore. The authors of the Windsor Report introduced the term “Instruments of Unity” for the first time in 2004.

The Primates have met regularly only since 1979. At that first meeting, the Primates themselves defined the meeting’s purpose as “not being a higher synod but a clearing house for ideas and experience through free expression, the fruits of which the Primates might convey to their churches.”

Who decides who is a member of the Anglican Communion and who is not? We might look for an answer in the Canons of the Church of England. Rule 54(5) of the Church Representative Rules provides that “if any question arises whether a Church is in communion with the Church of England, it shall be conclusively determined for the purposes of these rules by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.”

And as for the Windsor Report itself, it is a flawed document that focuses so tightly on Institutional Preservation that it leaves no room for the workings of the Holy Spirit.

It does recognize that The Episcopal Church and the Canadian Church acted within the bounds of their Canons and Constitution, but after that, it goes downhill.

The WR is not a piece of legislation, it is a report that seeks to start a discussion, not end one. It contains a laughably inaccurate account of the history of the ordination of women and its reception in the Communion, and skates very lightly indeed over the way the Communion historically has dealt with anyone other than white males.

Worse, it proposes a completely un-Anglican confessional document and calls for a highly centralized non-elected authority of clerics to run the Anglican Communion. It also calls for a convoluted process by which all Episcopal elections anywhere -- and one assumes appointments in the places where bishops are appointed, not elected -- would have to be approved by the entire Communion, as would other controversial matters. One assumes this unelected Curia would get to decide what is “controversial” and what it not.

It calls on The Episcopal Church to impose indefinite moratoria on the episcopal election of any more gay people living in committed relationships and on same-sex unions, quite offensively placing the entire burden on one small of group of our sisters and brothers in Christ.

The General Convention is the only body in The Episcopal Church with the authority to respond to the Windsor Report, so no matter how much sturm und drang the Schismatic Gang tries to arouse, nothing can happen with the WR until General Convention meets.

But events are overtaking the WR, and by Convention the whole thing may be moot. Many Primates already are dismissing it as inadequate and ignoring its request that Primates not interfere with the business of Provinces not their own. Meetings in Cairo and Pittsburgh are making clear that many already have decided to split from The Episcopal Church no matter what.

In the midst of all this, Caucus members may find it helpful to remain focused on our vision “… of a church that honors and rejoices in the ministries of all women. We know that such a church will honor and rejoice in the ministries of all people.”

All people.

We will not sacrifice our lesbian sisters and gay brothers on the altar of false unity in a centralized communion that handcuffs the Holy Spirit in the interest of institutional preservation.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Another Voice from "Across the Pond"

While the latest episode of "As The Anglican News Spins" focuses on elevating the comments of the Bishop of Exeter to the ECUSA House of Bishops from personal perspective to Anglican authoritative let's not forget there are a variety of perspectives represented "across the pond" on the choices and challenges facing our Anglican Family. Here's what Marilyn McCord Adams has to say:

Face to faith: "Liberal Anglicans should not sacrifice their beliefs in order to hold on to church unity at all costs"
Marilyn McCord Adams
Saturday March 25, 2006

[From the Guardian]

Liberal tolerance is easy even for liberals to misunderstand. Liberal societies do and should respect the right of citizens to hold whatever beliefs they like and to organise groups around them, so long as they do nothing to jeopardise the life, liberty, health or property of outsiders. Typically, however, liberal tolerance does not extend any entitlement to set public or institutional policy. In the US for example, the Ku Klux Klan is still a legal organisation, whose members meet to reinforce one another's racist beliefs. But the government's respect for their conscience does not grant them any right that schools be segregated.

In recent Church of England controversies over women priests and bishops, the notion of conscientious objection looms large. Conservatives insist that they could not, in conscience, stay in the C of E, if it makes them accept the offices of women priests and bishops, or even of male bishops who ordain women. Knowing that liberals have a soft spot for tolerance, conservatives demand respect for their conscientious convictions in the form of institutional accommodation. Knowing that liberals have a penchant for inclusivity, conservatives confront advocates of women bishops with a forced choice: either stop pressing your convictions, or split the church.
Even liberal bishops are congratulating themselves after February's general synod, on their steering "a via media between clarity and charity".

They boast that the endorsed scheme for transferred episcopal arrangements will forward the process of ordaining women bishops, while changing ecclesial polity to guarantee parishes in dioceses with female bishops or male bishops who have participated in the ordination of women the option of working instead with male bishops whose hands are clean. Inclusivity has been secured, albeit by a move that will compromise the symbolic authority of liberal and women (but not of conservative male) bishops.

Certainly, conservatives have been "wise as serpents" in setting up the dilemma. But in trying for the "innocence of doves", liberal leaders have betrayed their own cause. Liberal beliefs - that conservative positions on gender and sexuality evidence the grip of oppressive taboos - are also conscientious. Sacrificing such beliefs in order to hang on to already impaired communion with those who will remain only if you do what they tell you sends the message that dividing the church is more sinful than misogyny and homophobia, and more important than first-class ecclesial citizenship for women and for homosexual Christians. Conservatives thereby win a double victory: not only do they co-opt the church's institutional structures; they confirm the widespread suspicion that liberals do not have enough backbone to be conscientious at all.

There is no health in this, because "going along to get along" is not the gospel. The synoptics virtually guarantee: because the reign of God stands in judgment over any and every human social system, its coming by successive approximations is sure to violate our socially constructed identities repeatedly. Our part is to discern for all we're worth and to live up to the light that is in us. Because we are fallible, we are not entitled to make undermining other people's lifestyles our ends or chosen means, but we have to accept that it may be a known but unintended side-effect of putting our conscientious convictions into effect. Refusing to do so shows no charity to the oppressed whose cause we feel called to sponsor. Nor can we consistently believe that it shows charity to those who are dug in against us, because our considered opinion is that they are imprisoned by illogic and taboos.

Finally, liberals must not make an idol of unity. In institutions, as in biology, differentiation and division may be in service of richer and more mature integration. John's Jesus prays for unity, but the Jesus-movement precipitated a schism within Judaism. It was not his first choice, but it is how the gospel spread.

-- The Rev Marilyn McCord Adams is Regius professor of divinity and canon of Christ Church, Oxford
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

Reflection on John 3:16

I wrote this piece a while ago but it seemed worth revisiting on this 4th Sunday in Lent with the text once again the Gospel du jour!


“For God so loved the world …” John 3:16 is arguably one of the most familiar, most memorized, most quoted, most beloved, most likely-to-be-held-up-at-a-sporting-event passage in all of Christian Scripture. It is also the passage that a homiletics professor threw down like a gauntlet in my senior year in seminary, declaring “it is not possible to preach this text in a post-modern, multi-cultural context.”

A very literal reading of John 3:16 -- and the verses which follow -- would seem to agree with him. Believe that Jesus is the Son of God and you'll go to heaven. Nothing else matters. And I suspect that this is what those who hold their John 3:16 banners up at baseball playoffs and in football end zones mean to proclaim. I would feel a little better about it if they would occasionally hold up something else: maybe Mark 10:21 ("sell what you have and give it to the poor")? Or Matthew 5:43 ("love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you")? Or even Micah 6:8 ("What does the Lord require, but that you do justice, and love mercy, and walk humbly with God")?

If they would once in a while do that, then I might assume that they had a broader interpretation of the meaning of John 3:16 and of Christian faith -- that it involved living a life and not just believing. But unfortunately, I have been disappointed in this, and so I’m sticking with my assumption that they mean John 3:16 to be taken in a literal, and thus exclusivist, way. And yet this first verse I ever memorized in Sunday School remains near my heart and so I remain as committed to reclaiming today as I was when I preached my seminary senior sermon on – you guessed it: John 3:16.

To me, arguably the most important part of the verse is right there at the beginning: "God so loved the world...." Rather than being a stand-offish creator, who simply set things in motion and went away, God is involved in an ongoing relationship with the creation, remains a part of it, and passionately cares for it. This is seen throughout the Biblical story, as God calls creation good, and through relationship with the people of Israel, leads them to the Promised Land. And through the prophets God speaks to the people, and seeks to get them to respond by living in the right way. God so loved the world ... that God did all this, and finally, in the great act of love gave it Jesus.

And in John's understanding Jesus was given so that we might believe in him and thus receive the gift of eternal life. OK – but what does it mean to believe? Is it to ascent to certain facts, or as John A. T. Robinson once put it, "swallow nineteen unbelievable things before breakfast?"

If so, then I fear Christianity is reduced to what one colleague has called “The religion ABOUT Jesus, rather than the religion OF Jesus.” Rather is it possible that to believe in Jesus is to believe in the things he taught and the way he lived, more than to believe certain things about him?

Stacy Sauls, Bishop of Lexington, shared a great insight into the whole “believing” thing at a retreat we were part of last spring when he talked about the difference between believing IN and believing THAT in reference to his decades-long marriage to his wife, Ginger. “To say I believe that we are married is to assent to a certifiable set of facts that are as easy to verify as checking with the hall of records for our marriage license or the parish register for the service record. To say I believe in our marriage is a whole different thing: it is to name not facts about our relationship but faith in it.”

To believe IN is to take belief out of the realm of facts and into the world of faith; and to have faith is to trust. To say "I believe in" is to say, "I trust," and then (perhaps the biggest leap of all) to live as if I do trust. It means living life in trust that God is good, that God cares, that God is love, that God surrounds us with love, that we are called to love and serve others. It is placing trust in God -- not in all the things we usually trust for our security and well being: money and status, power and politics, stockpiling weapons of mass destructions and beefing up border patrols. Rather it means trusting Jesus' vision of the realm of God in our midst, and claiming both the possibilities and responsibilities this sets before us. Believing means trusting means doing. It means taking to heart the words of Verna Dozier: “Don’t tell me WHAT you believe – tell me what difference it MAKES that you believe!” That’s eternal life.

The point of Christian faith is not "believe in Jesus now for the sake of heaven later", but "trust in the vision that Jesus proclaimed and live eternal life now." Or, as I heard my friend Kristi Wallace once say, “It’s not about pie in the sky when you die but about making sound on the ground while you’re around!” That kind of eternal life is the life that is lived in the awareness of God's presence, life lived in the manner of Jesus, life lived in the realm of the spirit, life that is full, whole, abundant. Eternal life is about quality, not quantity.

So – in a nutshell – here is how I have come to understand John 3:16 ... God loves this world so much that God enters the world, is in relationship with us, comes to us in the person Jesus, calls us to trust in the vision of life that Jesus proclaimed, and bids us give our hearts and lives to following and seeking and serving, and thus experiencing that quality of life called eternal.

It is, as Luther said, the gospel in miniature: the good news bigger than any end-zone picket sign – wider, broader and more inclusive than any narrow set of doctrines or dogmas. It is the good news I want us to reclaim and to proclaim – and toward that end offer these words of Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis written while on a spiritual retreat with some monks at the foot of Mt. Sinai after meditating upon a crucifix.

"I kept gazing at Christ's virile, ascetic figure in the gentle glow of the candles. Perceiving the slender hands which maintained a firm grip on the world, and kept if from falling into chaos, I knew that here on earth, for the full span of our lives, Christ was not the harbor where one casts anchor, but the harbor from which one departs, gains the offing, encounters a wild tempestuous sea, and then struggles for a lifetime to anchor in God. Christ is not the end, he is the beginning. He is not the welcome, he is the bon voyage! He does not sit back restfully on the clouds, but is battered by the waves just as we are, his eyes fixed aloft on the North Star of God, his hands firmly on the helm. That was why I liked him; that was why I would follow him!"

May God give us grace to follow in the footsteps of the One who loved us enough to become one of us to show us how to love one another. O Christ, as much as question as you are an answer, as much as prodder as you are a comforter, save us from too much gazing into the clouds in hopes of your return ... lead us instead to recognize you as already present in the face of our neighbor ... that by sharing your love, we may declare with our lives that you are indeed with us always. Amen.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Proclamation for the Episcopal Church

"So what exactly is "Claiming the Blessing" going to DO at General Convention?" is a really good question -- and here's the really good answer: the "hot off the presses" Claiming the Blessing Platform just crafted by the CTB Steering Committee meeting in conjunction with members of the Integrity Board in Beautiful Downtown Columbus.

Claiming the Blessing Platform
A Proclamation for the Episcopal Church

The Claiming the Blessing (CTB) Steering Committee is an all-volunteer committee representing a broad constituency of progressive Episcopal voices. Members are LGBT and straight, lay and ordained, old and young –all with a deep love of The Episcopal Church and a firm commitment to classic Anglicanism.

As baptized Christians, we commit our lives to:
· the celebration of the goodness of all creatures and creation as given to us by God;
· our relationship with Jesus the Christ;
· the discernment of truth as revealed in Holy Scripture and the work of the Spirit;
· the indivisibility of spirituality, prayer and politics as modeled by the prophets and apostles;
· peace with justice as proclaimed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.;
· truth and reconciliation as articulated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu;
· the vision of the Beloved Community as revealed in the table fellowship of Jesus.

We come to the 2006 General Convention in Columbus compelled to communicate our identity, articulate our beliefs and convey our sense of call to prophetic action and pastoral presence.

Therefore, we call the Church to:
· Work for full civil marriage equality.
· Clarify our theology of marriage, family and human sexuality.
· Oppose the limitation of adoption and other civil contracts on the basis of sexual orientation, marital status, gender identity and expression.
· Study the role of clergy as civil magistrates in marriage.
· Reaffirm the sacredness of long-term committed relationships, as articulated in D039” “We expect such relationships will be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.” (GC 2000)
· Authorize the development of liturgical rites of blessings where civil marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships are a reality, and elsewhere.
· Support universal domestic partnership benefits.
· Affirm human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide.
· Work for an end to the violence against LGBT people throughout the global village.
· Engage the international community in a listening process which includes the active voices and full presence of LGBT people.
· Embrace a theology of abundance; reject the theology of scarcity, fear and scapegoating; and commit ourselves to proclaim and live the good news of Christ Jesus.
· Reaffirm that all orders of ministry are open to all the Baptized who are otherwise qualified.
· Establish as church policy the commitment not to meet in those places where justice and liberation for all God’s children, including LGBT people, are absent in state law or local ordinance.

For the Claiming the Blessing Steering Committee: Peggy Adams, J. Edwin Bacon, Jr., Cynthia Black, John Clinton Bradley, Kim Byham, Louie Crew, Cy Deavours, Lyn Headley-Deavours, Ethan Vesely-Flad, Michael Hopkins, Elizabeth Kaeton, John Kirkley, Joseph Lane, Christine Mackey-Mason, Susan Russell, Jason Samuel, Katie Sherrod, John Simonelli, Jim White

Friday, March 24, 2006

"Defense of Marriage" on Air America

Posting from Columbus where -- we're having pre-Convention steering committee meetings -- I just got confirmation that the commentary I recorded last week defending the sanctity of marriage will air on Sunday on "State of Belief" ... the Air America show on religion in the USA.

Listen in and let me know what you think!

Quote du jour

"Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are." - Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

On anger, fear and empathy

So here's a quote from comment on titusonenine on a profile article on the new Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in Buffalo --

"To claim that her same-sex partner is “family” is a departure from what God ordained as family and denigrates the word beyond recognition. If hers is a “family”, then my wife and children are something other. I have yet to coin a word for it, but we are not as she is. If the GLBT folks want to use that word, they may certainly do so; but it has now taken on a new meaning. We are of different tribes and the gulf is beyond reconciliation. I think I shall begin using the word “kin” or “kinfolk” when referring to my wife and children."

-- forwarded to me by a parishioner who asked, "Help me understand what it is about her family that threatens his. I really, REALLY don't get it!"

I'll admit I still don't "get it" either -- but the stark pain in this guy's post is clarifying in its own sobering/sad way. "If hers is a "family" then my wife and children are something other." Imagine how terrifying that must be to live with that kind of fear nagging at you – that if “they” get to be “family” then you aren’t anymore! No wonder he’s angry.

Now, the idea that anger is most often generated by fear of a real or imagined threat is not a new one – in fact it is one I have called to mind often during these troubled times in the Episcopal Church. I try to remember that when I experience anger directed at me or my theological position it is often the manifestation of someone’s fear: that if there’s room for me – or my family – or my theology or hermeneutic – then there isn’t room for them and theirs.

When I can get past the anger to the fear then I can find empathy for someone who loves this church as much as I do – who loves the Lord as much as I do -- and who just can’t reconcile what we understand as God’s inclusive vision for what the church should be with their understanding of what the Bible says. Doesn't mean I change my mind -- or my position -- but it does mean I can do a better job of seeing the person behind the polemic; of striving to respect their dignity in spite of our deep differences.

Are our differences reconcilable? Some say no – but I continue to maintain that those insisting that their criteria for inclusion is being agreed with bear the responsibility for whatever schism looms. Try as they might to “spin” it otherwise, those who are choosing to walk apart are those who are choosing to abandon dialogue and discernment with those with whom they disagree – not those who are committed to staying in conversation – in communion – in community – in spite of our differences.

Is there hope that we can get past the fear and the anger – the polarization and the polemic? Clearly the jury is still out on that one – but reading the Acts of the Apostles might just give one a little – hope, that is. The first century church was not exactly of one mind when the issue of baptizing Gentiles was first brought to the floor – the eleventh chapter of Acts preserves for us the “push back” Peter got from his “communion” for baptizing Cornelius et al.

“The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them." Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened [and]… when they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life”[NIV]

“Even” the Gentiles … imagine! And imagine how the outcome might have been different if Peter had held off with the baptisms until “consensus” emerged on the issue – if instead of hearing Peter out about his experience of the Holy Spirit working in these Gentiles they instead put together a Jerusalem Report requiring a moratoria on the Holy Spirit and then compiled a laundry list of proof texts from Hebrew Scriptures supporting the continued exclusion of Gentiles from their numbers.

Were the Jerusalem Christians afraid – threatened – angry that the inclusion of Gentiles into the Body of Christ would depart from what God had ordained and give new meaning to the word “Christian?” I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that were the case. Unfortunately (or maybe it’s “fortunately!”) we don’t have the comments of 1st century bloggers to turn to. What we do have is he example of the 1st century Christians who listened to Peter – and the Holy Spirit.

Let’s pray that this beloved church of ours is given the grace to do likewise.

Monday, March 20, 2006

"California Dreamin': More on the Diocese of CA election

Another clergy colleague, Tobias Haller, has a great reflection on the upcoming Diocese of Calfornia election process on his blog: In A Godward Direction.

You'll want to read it all but here's a taste: "Let me be frank. It is certainly true that out gay and lesbian bishops are a stumbling block to some Anglicans. The election of another such bishop may indeed lead to some of the provinces of the Anglican Communion severing their ties with the Episcopal Church (how many in addition to those who have already done so remains to be seen.) That would be their choice. I do not believe “the Communion” is going to vote us off the island in this case, as I do not feel that a majority of provinces feel that strongly about the matter; and if I am mistaken, and they do, it will still be their choice to do so. It would not be the first time that a part of the Body has suffered exclusion because it did what it thought was right."

Let the people say, AMEN!

Boston Legal to the Rescue

Thanks to colleague Dan Webster for forwarding the link to an inspiring moment from the "Boston Legal" TV drama and to actor Alan Shore whose monologue makes me remember what patriotism sounds like. (You'll need a video player to watch it but it's WELL worth the few minutes of time away from the things undone on your desk which -- trust me -- will still be there when it's done!)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Belated Prayer for St. Patrick's Day

We've got a lost kitty at our house -- Walden the Bold has wandered off and has so far eluded all our best efforts to lure him back. Those "best efforts" have consumed a large percentage of my time this week, so I am a day-behind posting this meant-for-St Patrick's Day prayer but am adding it anyway as it's a prayer not just for March 17th but for 24/7.
(AND it's a great opportunity to add this photo of Luna at almost-four-months dressed up in her St. Patrick's Day Best!)

St. Patrick's Breastplate

I arise today
Through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

ENS Reports on HoB Speical Commission Briefing

Episcopal News Service
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Special Commission members brief bishops on progress
By Bob Williams

[ENS, Hendersonville, N.C.] The co-chairs and three members of the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion provided a preliminary overview of work to date -- begun at the request of the Windsor Report, Primates Meeting, and the Anglican Consultative Council -- in a March 18 morning briefing to the House of Bishops.

Co-chairs Mark Sisk, bishop of the Diocese of New York, and Ian Douglas, priest and General Convention deputy from the Diocese of Massachusetts, emphasized the ongoing process of the committee's work -- the results of which will not be finalized until late March and published on or about April 10, 60 days prior to the opening of General Convention's 75th triennial meeting.

"It is important to note that the House of Bishops did not consider any draft document, and no legislative process was engaged," Sisk said after addressing the bishops, who are meeting here through March 22 at the Kanuga Conference Center."The Commission representatives are highly mindful that this is the work of both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops," Sisk said. "We utilized this forum to hear what the bishops have to say," even though the Special Commission's final report is not yet in hand.

"We have worked to respond directly and clearly to the invitations received from the Windsor Report, the Primates and the members of the ACC," Sisk said of the Commission's activity -- which will culminate in a report likely to include an executive summary, main sections of content, and draft resolutions.The Special Commission's official charge is -- by reviewing resource texts and proposing Convention resolutions -- "to assist the deliberations the 75th General Convention" in "considering how to maintain the highest degree of communion within the Anglican Communion given the different perspectives held with regard to the place of homosexual persons in the life of the church."

"As co-chair from the House of Deputies, I felt it was very important to share the work of the Special Commission so the bishops can begin to know about its direction," Douglas said. "At the same time, the Episcopal Church has a bicameral polity, so the final report of the Special Commission will be released to both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies at thesame time."

"There seemed to me to be a good spirit," Sisk said of the bishops' response to the briefing, "and people are taking it very seriously. I hope this will lead to some thoughtful conversation, and that the work will lead us into new and deeper ways of relating to the Communion at large."

Douglas added that the Special Commission's work seeks "to foster constructive conversation about how the Episcopal Church can live into the fullest level of Communion possible."The co-chairs said the Special Commission's final report would be published in English, French, and Spanish, and with a brief outline in Mandarin.

Also sharing in the presentation to the bishops were bishops Dorsey F. Henderson of Upper South Carolina, Katharine Jefferts Schori of Nevada, and Henry Louttit of Georgia. Special Commission members are:The Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk (Co-Chair) New York, II; The Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas, (Co-Chair) Massachusetts, I; Ms. Sarah Dylan Breuer, Maryland, III; The Rev. Dr. A. Katherine Grieb, Virginia, III; The Rev. Dr. Mark Harris, Delaware, III; The Rt. Rev. Dorsey F. Henderson Jr., Upper South Carolina, IV; The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Nevada, VIII; The Rt. Rev. Henry Louttit, Georgia, IV; The Rev. Charles E. Osberger, Easton, III; The Rev. Canon Rosemari G. Sullivan, Virginia, III; Mrs. Katherine Tyler Scott, Indianapolis, V; The Rev. Francis H. Wade, Washington, III; Mr. Christopher Wells, Northern Indiana, V; The Rev. Sandra A., Wilson, Newark, II.

Appointed in 2005 by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and House of Deputies President George Werner, the Special Commission met November 7, December 20, February 13-15 and March 6-7. Its final meeting is set for March 27, 2006.The Special Commission's Interim Report to the "Blue Book" report to General Convention reads in part as follows."The Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion (SCECAC) was constituted late in 2005 by the Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, and the President of the House of Deputies, the Very Rev. George L. Werner.

The charge of the SCECAC is to help the 75th General Convention to consider recent developments in the Anglican Communion with a goal to maintaining the highest degree of communion possible. To this end, the SCECAC will seek to clarify for the 75th General Convention the recommendations, requests, and resolutions of key inter-Anglican texts made since the last General Convention.

Of these, the primary documents are: The Windsor Report of the Lambeth Commission on Communion, the Communiqué of the Primates Meeting in Dromantine, February 2005, and the Resolutions of the 13th Meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham, June 2005."SCECAC is committed to assisting the 75th General Convention to consider constructively all that has transpired in the Anglican Communion since the 74th General Convention. SCECAC thus will help the 75th General Convention to respond to the Windsor Report, the Primates Meeting Communiqué, and the ACC Resolutions by reflecting upon the terms of the discussion, and offering some suggestions for ways forward together. SCECAC also will consider, as appropriate, other texts and voices from the Communion, including pastoral statements and resolutions from the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, The Executive Council of the General Convention, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and other pertinent theological texts and reports. SCECAC seeks, through this work, to contribute to a response by the Episcopal Church through the General Convention that will affirm our commitment to, and indeed strengthen, the fullest level of communion with and among our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the Anglican Communion."

Since the SCECAC was constituted in the later part of this triennium, this brief report represents an initial interim report. The Commission will continue to meet in the first three months of 2006 and will offer a full report to the 75th General Convention approximately 60 days prior to Convention."

-- Canon Robert Williams is the Episcopal Church's director of communication.

Grace Cathedral Dean on Dio Cal Election

Dean Alan Jones of San Francisco's Grace Cathedral recently posted this commentary on the May 6th election of a new bishop for the Diocese of California to his blog: Alan's Journal. While I might argue that for many race and gender are not yet as "irrelevant" as the good dean would like them to be I do think he makes some important points about discernment and the challenge facing the diocesan electors: electing the best bishop for the Diocese of California. May God bless them all in their discernment process!


A Gay Bishop for California? Obsessed with Irrelevance

The Episcopal Diocese of California has just revealed the list of candidates for the election in May of a new bishop. What the public has learned so far is that two of them are openly gay.
In the past, it would have been noted that two of them are women and one of them is black. The fact that this is of no interest is, perhaps, a sign of progress.

The media has shown no interest whatsoever in the qualities of the five candidates -- their vision for the church or their qualifications to lead the diocese of California. And although there are fewer than forty thousand Episcopalians in the Bay Area, how we vote in May is of concern and interest to all Christians. Secular "church watchers" of all types are also interested -- particularly those who want to make religion the fount and origin of all evil.

With all the problems and challenges facing the world -- environmental degradation, poverty, hunger, war and injustice -- the church, with the media's encouragement, will be focused on one issue and one only -- two of the candidates, so far, are gay. On this issue depends, some say, the future of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

This, of course, is an absurdity but it is, nevertheless, real. The gay issue has become the lightening rod for all the obsessions and fixations of the church. For the intellectually indolent and the theologically ignorant on both sides of the issue, gayness has become the litmus test of orthodoxy. When we are angry or frightened, we often invoke an "authority." Some call for justice, others appeal to tradition, still others cite the authority of the Bible. These are ways of deflecting the real issue, which is our pain, confusion and fear. On one side, we hear the pleas of those who feel they have suffered injustice. It is as if they say, "Because, I've suffered, I should get my own way." On the other side, they say, "I hate change. It scares me. Please don't destroy my church." Both sides need to be honest about their terrors and respect the visceral concerns of the other.

How, then, do we proceed in the face of these distortions? How are we to give them the attention they deserve but no more than they deserve?

When it comes to my gay friends and colleagues, being gay is part of their truth, but that is the least interesting thing about them. In fact "gayness" or "straightness" rarely comes up in the conversation. We enjoy each other's unique individuality.

So there are some questions I will be asking myself in the weeks ahead as I prepare to cast my vote in May. Anglicanism is known for its pursuing a middle way between extremes. It is known for its moderation and restraint. Is this such a time for these virtues? Should we hold back for the sake of unity? Or is restraint (i.e. not voting for a gay candidate no matter how well qualified because the time isn't ripe) merely cowardice -- a capitulation to injustice?

The challenge for us in the Diocese of California is to vote for whom we discern to be the best candidate for us and for our times. If some in the wider church wish to react schismatically, that's their prerogative. I was raised in a Church, which lived with an amazing level of diversity and, on occasions, animosity. But we stayed together -- liberals and conservatives, Catholics and Protestants. I will be voting for the candidate who best understands and embodies this sane and inclusive vision.

I hope Episcopalians in the Bay Area will turn a deaf ear to those who appeal to the gay issue either positively or negatively as a reason for voting one way or the other. It is irrelevant, as was the issue of gender and/race in the past.

Thank God we've moved on.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Do we detect a pattern here?

Former ABofC Steps Up

From a recent interview with +George Carey in the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

"How we deal with our differences, whether it's the ordination of women or homosexuals or the definition of marriage, will determine how we survive," Carey said. "I think people want instant answers instead of slowing down to study these things."

"Instead of trying to settle everything at breakneck speed, perhaps we'd be better suited to have more face-to-face meetings while trying to figure it out."

While these words of faithful wisdom will not sit well with those determined to make General Convention 2006 the "make or break" moment for the Anglican Communion they should be words of encouragement for those of us striving to balance our call to be both a prophetic and a reconciling church.

The hard truth is the "instant answer" folks would have us be neither -- itching instead for an Anglican version of Survivor's "Tribal Council" primed to vote anyone who doesn't meet their litmus test for orthodoxy off the Anglican Island.

News Flash: What makes for great Reality TV does NOT make for great Anglican polity.

There is no "quick fix" to the complex questions that face us a church, as a communion, as a community of faith and -- as Lord Carey notes -- it is "how we deal with our differences [that] will determine how we survive." If we come up with an Anglican Litmus Test then we might indeed "survive" -- but we would survive as another-of-many confessional churches rather than as the unique incarnation of comprehensiveness that has been our heritage as Anglicans.

Rather, Carey's call for us to "slow down to study" embraces that heritage. It call us to continuing the conversation -- engaging in a listening process -- being willing to stay in relationship with those with whom we disagree: hallmarks of both comprehensiveness and reconciliation. It is a call that is admittedly problematic for those whose criteria for being included is being agreed with but there you go -- there's a point at which I believe the church must refuse to allow its mission to be held hostage by demands for quick fixes -- lines in the sand -- up or down votes. And I think we're at that point.

For in the end how we deal with our differences WILL determine how we survive -- and it seems to me that the tide is turning toward being ready, willing and able to do the hard work we need to do not only to survive but to thrive: to survive without sacrificing our distinctive identity as inheritors of the Anglican ethos and to thrive as bearers of the Good News of God in Christ Jesus made available to all.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Wedding Album

Louise & Susan: February 18, 2006

The definition of a sacrament is "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace" -- which makes the photograph below an icon of a sacramental moment of blessing that was part of the February 18th Blessing of our Covenant at All Saints Church.

It captures the point in the service -- just before the Peace -- where the priest blesses the commitment the couple has made to Christ and to each other. At our wedding, Ed invited the whole congregation to be part of that act of blessing -- laying hands on those laying hands on those laying hands on us -- until the 400+ in attendace became this outward and visible sign of the blessing God has already given us in the love we share for each other. And then the prayer of blessing:

Most gracious God, we give you thanks for your tender love in
sending Jesus Christ to come among us, to be born of a human
mother, and to make the way of the cross to be the way of life.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, pour out the abundance of your
blessing upon Louise and Susan. Defend them from every enemy.
Lead them into peace. Let their love for each other be a seal upon
their hearts, a mantle about their shoulders, and a crown upon
their foreheads.

Bless them in their work and in their companionship; in their
sleeping and in their waking; in their joys and in their sorrows; in
their life and in their death. Finally, in your mercy, bring them to
that table where your saints feast forever in your heavenly home;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit
lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.
And the people said, "AMEN!"

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Where's Elizabeth when you need her?

That would be Queen Elizabeth I -- the one who managed against all odds to pull of what we still call "The Elizabethan Settlement" putting to rest (at least institutionally!) the theological wranglings between the firmly entrenched camps who were frankly more interested in keeping the argument going than they were coming to some kind of settled compromise that would let the church get back to the work of being the church and quit burning each other at the stake.

The Elizabethan debate du jour was over questions that make today's divides look positively "bridgeable": Transubstantiation or Real Presence: was "it" the Body of Christ or not? Was the Church of England going to be Protestant or Catholic? (to name just two of the "biggies.")

If Elizabeth had waited for agreement -- consensus -- to come on these and other theological issues that consumed the 16th century equivalent of the "blogs" of her day there would have BEEN no Church of England ... and no Anglican Communion for us to be arguing about these many centuries later. Perhaps there would have been no Golden Elizabethan age at all, as the energies of those who turned their attention to securing their borders, exploring the "New World" and writing the sonnets and plays we still treasure today would have been used up by continuing to beat each other up over the church splitting theological issues of their day.

Instead we had the brilliant "Elizabethan Compromise" -- believe what you want about the bread made holy but come to the rail to receive it -- summed up in the quote attributed to Her Majesty: "I have no desire to make windows into men’s souls. There is only one Christ, Jesus, one faith. All else is a dispute over trifles."

And couldn't we do with a good-sized dose of that kind of leadership about now? The kind that was willing to recognize that the coming together in communion is far more important than the differences we bring to the rail? The kind that was willing to give up the fantasy that we could achieve agreement over differences that are in a very real sense irreconcilable and leave them instead to be reconciled in Christ?

That IS the tradition we inherit as Anglicans -- and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the "orthodoxy" being championed by the revisionist neo-Puritan ideologues who insist that agreement with their understanding of the “clear truth of scripture” is the criteria for communion and demand that anyone whose theology fails their litmus test be voted off the Anglican Island.

A case in point this week is the conservative blog site titusonenine. While not exactly known for its hospitality to diverse perspectives on a good day, the recent posting of the Eucharistic Prayer Louise and I chose for the liturgy for the Blessing of our Covenant last month has elicited a feeding frenzy of theological outrage. Adoptionist, Gnostic, Lucifer-designed and Pagan were but a few of the descriptors in the 70+ comments so far on a text that from my perspective falls firmly within the bounds of Anglican Eucharistic theologies.

Imagine how much closer the kingdom would be to coming if that level of outrage was focused on … say … those whose lives hang in the balance in Darfur. Those who remain homeless and hopeless in New Orleans. Those suffering from the AIDS pandemic with no access to the drugs that would make survival at least a possibility.

Nope … we’re too busy making windows into men’s souls and bedrooms for that – too busy protecting our precious orthodoxy from the pollution of inclusive language, incarnational theology and (God forbid!) couples who want to commit themselves to Christ and to each other and make a life together.

The rabid insistence on theological uniformity consistently reflected in the polemic of the conservative fringe is yet more evidence that they are indeed committed to keeping the “fight” going rather than seeking a settled compromise. Nothing short of complete capitulation will be enough to keep us in communion with each other.

Elizabeth had an answer for that: get over yourselves and come to the table anyway. Like I said, where is she when we need her?

Mark Harris on the Anglican Communion

I just about always find whatever Mark Harris has to say worth "reading, marking and inwardly digesting" -- and in this case I think he has completely hit the nail on the read regarding the conflict du jour in the Anglican Communion. (From Mark's blog: PRELUDIUM)


Not a Worldwide Church, but a Fellowship

A snippet from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lenten letter to the Primates: “I hope that we shall be continuing to think and pray about the challenges that face us as a worldwide church.”

Perhaps this is part of the problem we face: the Archbishop of Canterbury believes there is a worldwide church called the Anglican Communion, rather than communion among a worldwide fellowship of churches. The difference between the one and the other is clear:If one believes that the Anglican Communion is a worldwide church, then matters of ecclesial life are indeed central. If there is such a worldwide church, such concerns as constitutions, ordinances, covenants (as between persons and institutions) and the exercise of power by persons or groups ordained by God or ordered by commonwealth, state, or ecclesial power provides the final arbitration of inclusion or exclusion in membership.

If to the contrary “communion” in “Anglican Communion” is not simply part of the name of a church, but rather a description of relationship, and if on the contrary the Anglican Communion is not a worldwide church but rather a fellowship of churches, then matters of commonality are of vital importance, and matters of ecclesial and hierarchical powers of no importance at all.

The Anglican Communion as a “worldwide church” would be no more and no less an example of the fractured principalities and powers that corrupt the body of Christ than is the Church of Rome and any other such organ of the body. Who needs it?

The Anglican Communion as a fellowship of churches at least has the vitality and possibility of being a community of drawn together and pulled apart both by the many layered connections of family likeness, common faith, and uncommon experience. Power in such an environment is dispersed, and sometimes even confused. It is certainly unlike power and authority as exercised by worldwide churches. Indeed, power is less interesting and less compelling then the possibilities of relationships of loving kindness and broken relationships of mutual distrust. In such relationships there is at least life, abundantly and shared.

In all the wringing of hands and wagging of heads about the possible breakup of the Anglican Communion we have come to believe what the Archbishop let slip…that we are a worldwide church on the brink of fracture. Perhaps we have missed the abundance of God’s grace to us… that we are not a worldwide church at all, but rather a fellowship. This is abundance because we are not one thing but many things, held together not because we are one in ourselves, but because we are one in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I find it interesting too that the Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed concern that the Anglican Communion might end up being a fractured federation rather than a communion. This concern seems to make of Communion a parallel to either English empire or commonwealth, and federation parallel to some sort of unseemly amalgam of German principalities, each with its own potentates, (thus the reference to the Lutheran world federation) or worse a federation (like, say the Federal Government of the United States.)

Fair enough: I am not at all sure that honest Empire (which is after all the end reach of worldwide bodies politic, spiritual or temporal) is any worse or better than dishonest Empire under the guise of a gargantuan federal system that runs roughshod over the world (as the US or the Episcopal Church is accused of being.)

But if communion is about the actual, real and entirely local participation in communion (and there is no other) neither the open aspirations to worldwide ecclesial authority nor the de facto exercise of such power is relevant.

I believe communion (as in the Anglican Communion) has as its final proof of being the genuine, immediate, incarnational activity of sharing the Meal. The proof of the vitality of the Anglican Communion will continue to be seen when Anglicans seek out one another in that special way that old friends, family and even old enemies do, to have that one last meal together before the onslaught of the day.

I believe we must learn again and again to understand who we are for one another against the backdrop of the future, not the past. The past only provides division, power and the foolishness of princes. We must know one another as in communion because we eat today the bread of tomorrow.

Friday, March 10, 2006

"The United States is concerned "

Nigerian Legislation Threatens to Limit Rights of Sexual Minorities

Press Statement - Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC - February 1, 2006

The United States is concerned by reports of legislation in Nigeria that would restrict or prohibit citizens from assembling, organizing, holding events or rallies, and participating in ceremonies of
religious union, based upon sexual orientation and gender identity.

This proposed legislation has not been adopted. The freedoms of speech, association, expression, assembly, and religion are long-standing international commitments and are universally recognized. Nigeria, as a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has assumed important obligations on these matters. We expect the Government of Nigeria to act in a manner consistent with those obligations.


News from Executive Council

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Thursday, March 09, 2006

[ENS] The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, meeting March 6-9 in Philadelphia, advised members of the church to follow the call of the Baptismal Covenant to "seek and serve Christ in all persons" in ministering to illegal immigrants, despite any laws that would criminalize such assistance.

The council also agreed to allocate $100,000 from short-term reserves to provide seed money for a "national coordinated defense" for dioceses and congregations faced with efforts by congregants and clergy to take real and personal property belonging to the Episcopal Church with them if they choose to leave and affiliate with other Anglican bishops or church bodies.
The council declared "strong opposition" to any legislation that would make it unlawful for faith-based organizations to relieve "the suffering of undocumented immigrants in response to the Gospel mandate to serve the least among us and our Baptismal covenant to seek and serve Christ in all persons."

The council accepted Lexington Bishop Stacy Sauls' request to amend the resolution (NAC 044) so that it "calls upon the people of the Episcopal Church to act on their baptismal covenant without regard to such unjust legislation."

House Resolution 4437, sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr., an Episcopalian from Wisconsin, and Rep. Peter King of New York, would expand the definition of "alien smuggling" in a way that could include such actions as working in a soup kitchen. The bill would classify undocumented aliens as "aggravated felons," thus making it a crime to aid them.

Sauls said the council resolution is "one of the most important resolutions that have come before the Executive Council in this triennium." Bishop Wilfrido Ramos-Orench of Connecticut said the resolution was true to the church's call to be prophetic.

Episcopal Migration Ministries director C. Richard Parkins reminded the council that it called for comprehensive immigration reform in June 2005 and that this resolution is part of that effort. "We have spoken boldly, often and eloquently on this subject," he said.

As a case in point, a letter from Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno was read March 8 to the Los Angeles City Council prior to its vote to oppose H.R. 4437. He wrote that he sees "a great and irrational fear overtaking our country" in regard to homeland security.

"An outcome of this fear is making scapegoats of millions of members of our immigrant population with measures reminiscent of the rounding-up of Japanese immigrants in this city during World War II or the hatred and blame cast at the Jewish community prior to the horrors of the Holocaust," Bruno wrote.

"I am a Bishop in a faith tradition that calls us, through our sacred Scriptures, to welcome and embrace the strangers in our midst, for in them we see the face of Christ," he wrote.

Bruno said that Los Angeles' economy would collapse if legislation such as H.R. 4437 is signed into law. Immigration reform is needed, Bruno wrote, but this bill is not the way to do it.
The council resolution says in its explanation that the church also supports other faith-based bodies who have expressed similar opposition to the immigration measures. On Ash Wednesday, Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles said that he would tell his priests and lay Catholics to defy any law that would make it a crime to shield or offer support to illegal immigrants.

Defense fund aims to coordinate efforts

The House of Bishops' Ad Hoc Task Force on Property Disputes proposed resolution AF 112 in part because of a concern that some Episcopal dioceses and congregations could face future litigation placing "their financial existence, integrity and stability" in jeopardy.

The coordinated defense would include the collection of legal memoranda, briefs and decisions from dioceses which have already faced such issues. It would also organize the preparation of draft "white papers," response timelines and talking points "in the event of widespread and serious litigation."

Sauls, a member of the task force, said that it is important to be prepared in case there is an increase in the number of property disputes and to have a clearinghouse of information for dioceses and congregations. "In the Diocese of Lexington I would not be able to litigate for long if I have to start from scratch," he said.

Sauls also said that the task force feels that a coordinated effort is needed to help reduce the chance that an unfavorable court ruling in one state could be used as a precedent elsewhere.
Council member Kim Byham said the coordination project will serve to "calm" those who worry that the Episcopal Church is not doing anything substantive about efforts to remove congregational property from diocesan rolls. Ramos-Orench said that the effort will give hope to the entire church and especially to dioceses that are "agonizing with increasing legal costs."
The Rev. Carl Gerdau, canon to Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, told the council that the church spent $500,000 in 2005 to defend congregations and dioceses in such disputes. Griswold pointed out that such an expenditure is evidence that the coordination effort is "building on what has already occurred."

The effort would also "develop a more permanent organizational and financial structure" for the defense work. The task force anticipates raising money beyond the initial $100,000 "through its own efforts and sources." California Bishop William Swing convened the task force after an initial meeting prior to the House of Bishops meeting last October, and that diocese will establish an account for the seed money and any future income.

The resolution's explanation notes that "a few parishioners and clergy have expressed an intention to leave...and affiliate with other Anglican bishops," and "in violation of Canon some cases seek to take with them to their new affiliation the real and personal property belonging to The Episcopal Church." Such actions fail to protect and "make certain that this property is available to those who presently and in the future wish to worship in an Episcopal Church."

The explanation also notes that there may be times when recourse to the judicial system may not be best, and so the task force wants to examine mediation as a way to resolve disputes.
Sauls said that the task force will ask the House of Bishops meeting next week at Kanuga to make it a committee of the house. The council resolution calls for the group to report regularly to the council on its work.

The council also heard from Bishop Michael Ingham of the Anglican Church of Canada's Diocese of New Westminster, who praised them and the Episcopal Church at large for living out what he called "the six marks of an authentic church in the Anglican tradition": to be at once catholic, evangelical, liberal, prophetic, missionary and inclusive.

Its catholic nature, he said, is shown in its being centered in the sacraments and the value placed on living an ordered-but not narrow-life. "It seems to me that what you want to preserve is a spacious order," he said.

It is evangelical because it is rooted in the Gospel, he said, and tries "to maintain the priority of the Gospel before the priority of the church."

The church is liberal in the sense that it is attentive to God's Spirit "from whatever direction" the Spirit may be speaking, he said.

Ingham sees the Episcopal Church "working hard to be a truth-telling church," and thus prophetic. It is missionary, because it is not just concerned about its own survival. "You know this is a Gospel you simply can't keep to yourselves," he said.

And, he concluded, the church is "unique in the Anglican Communion" for the inclusive diversity of its leadership and for regularly inviting members of other Anglican provinces to its meetings.
The Executive Council carries out programs and policies adopted by the General Convention and oversees the ministry and mission of the Church. The council is comprised of 38 members, including bishops, priests or deacons, and lay people, 20 of whom are elected by General Convention and 18 by provincial synods.

Doing the Math

Some clarifying comments from clergy colleague Tobias Haller:

"To read some of the blogs out there, one would think that the Episcopal Church was already no longer a member of the Anglican Communion. Certainly the bonds of affection have been weakened, and in a few cases actually disconnected by our overseas partners' letting go of their end, so to speak.

But the Episcopal Church still seems to be on Canterbury's mailing list. The letter that went to all 38 primates about Lambeth, came to +Second Avenue as well as +Abuja.

More important than Lambeth, however, is the Anglican Consultative Council. This is the sole constitutionally established "instrument" of the Communion. And according to its constitution, it will take a vote of 2/3 of the present member provinces' Primates (including the US) to "expel" the US from the Anglican Consultative Council by amending its roster of membership. As I count it, there are fewer than 1/3 willing to take that step, perhaps less than 1/4. Others may read the situation differently, but for all the noise from the "Global South" I do not think it amounts to 2/3 of the Primates."

Maybe those madly playing "Spin the Anglican News" on the AAC/Network side of the aisle would benefit from taking a remedial math class while they're brushing up on their Anglican theology!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Quotes of Note: Urban T. Holmes

One of the books I can ALWAYS lay my hands on is a slender, worn paperback copy of Urban T. Holmes' "What is Anglicanism?" It is a book I virtually devoured when I discovered it back before I went to seminary and was trying to put into language what I knew my cradle-Episcopalian-heart believed but my arrested-theologically-educated brain didn't know how to articulate.

It helped me through three years in seminary, five years of parish day school chaplaincy and more adult education hour forum presentations than I have the energy to shake a stick at. And I turn to it still ... and here are a couple of the reasons why:

ON THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE: “The Puritans taught that the Scriptures provided a certainty that transcended all other certainty, including reason, which reason they wished to confine to “science” (e.e. all forms of human learning). They believed that the Scriptures must be read for themselves and devoid of subsequent interpretations, namely, tradition. Hooker’s answer to this was that the Scriptures when read apart from reason and tradition and were subject to the all kinds of private interpretations, which would of necessity be biased. Hence, Hooker articulates for Anglicanism its answer to the question of what is our authority. Our authority is the association of Scripture, tradition and reason … Scripture for the Anglican is a fundamental source of authority for the church; but apart from reason it is dangerous. It becomes the mirror for the misdirected person to project his or her own opinions and give them the authority of God. The sin of schism in the result.” – Urban T. Holmes, “What Is Anglicanism” pg. 11-13

ON ANGLICAN COMPREHENSIVENESS: "We often speak of Anglican "comprehensiveness." If this is a way of making relativism palatable or a means of accommodating all shades of opinion with no regard for truth, then it needs to be rejected. If by comprehensive we mean the priority of a dialectic quest over precision and immediate closure then we are speaking of the Anglican consciousness at its best." – Urban T. Holmes, “What Is Anglicanism” pg. 7

ON CLARITY OF AUTHORITY: "Clarity of authority should not be expected-- in fact, it should be suspect -- when we are attempting to make clear the infinite mind of God for the finite minds of humankind. When Anglicanism is true to its concept of authority, this apparent hesitance to say, "Thus saith the Lord!" -- only to have to spend the next hundred years subtlely qualifying "what the Lord said" -- is not a sign of weakness but evidence of strength and wisdom." - Urban T. Holmes, “What Is Anglicanism” pg. 16

Holmes reminds me in clear, concise, accessible language of all that is best -- and worth preserving -- about the historic Anglicanism we inherit as American Episcopalians. It is the tradition we are currently struggling to defend against those urging us to abandon the dialectic quest in favor of immediate closure, to accept a clarity of authority that has never been a hallmark of the Anglican ethos and to replace Hooker's "three legged stool" approach to the authority of scripture with a narrow literalism that echoes the Puritan insistence on "sola scriptura" and is driving the communion to the brink of the schism Holmes warned against.

Finally, he reminds me that there is a point to all we do as Anglican Christians that transcends the political, eccleisal and theological wranglings that seem to consume so much of our energy:

ON FAITH AND BELIEF: Ultimately the authenticity of faith and belief is measured at the bar of justice. All religious questions merge into the one query: What shall we do? There is an inevitable course to our religious profession which can be aborted only by denying its Lord. That course leads to living in the world as God sees the world. We can debate the trivial points, but the vision is largely clear. To love God is to relieve the burden of all who suffer. The rest is a question of tactics." - Urban T. Holmes, “What Is Anglicanism” pg. 95

And let the people say, Amen!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Twenty Pounds of Trouble

Luna is now 15 weeks old and weighs in at 20 pounds. She has mastered climbing up on chairs, sleeping through the night and walking on her leash. We're still working on not chasing the cats and chewing toys rather than shoes, rugs and what's left of the bird of paradise plants in the backyard. The recent southern California rains were a tremendous shock to her little system -- clearly too delicate of constitution to be expected to go outside and deal with WET grass under her dainty little feet she was much happier to revert to the newspapers we thought we had put behind us.

Oh well -- sometimes I guess it's two inches forward and an inch back -- at least when it comes to puppies!

Louise is threatening to take her to see "Eight Below Zero" to help her claim her hearty sled dog heritage ... I swore off dog movies after "Old Yeller" so that part of her education will have to rest with her "other mommy." Posted by Picasa

Anglican Apology Opens Executive Council

Keep the ECUSA Executive Council in your prayers as they meet this week to continue to chart the course ahead. And give thanks for the witness and ministry of Bishop Paterson -- a representative voice of all that is best about our "Big Fat Anglican Family."

"I suspect that a study of the history of the Episcopal Church might discover much evidence of a respect for, encounter with, and an inclusion of, a number of issues. This church was way out in front in respect of the ministry of women. What is now evident is that there is a need for a theology of inclusion, whereby those who may differ from others theologically and perhaps in their ecclesiology, are still able to remain in the same room."


Apology opens remarks from Anglican Consultative Council chairman

Paterson addresses Executive Council
[ENS, Philadelphia] John Paterson, bishop of Auckland and chair of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), told the Executive Council that he hopes General Convention will rigorously debate the Windsor Report while keeping in mind the communion that Anglicans share."The Anglican Communion needs the Episcopal Church," he said. "I would be so bold as to say that the reverse is also true.

The Episcopal Church needs the Anglican Communion. The ACC needs the Episcopal Church."Paterson, speaking to the Council's opening session March 6, also apologized for the ACC's decision to limit the participation of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada's delegations to the last ACC meeting in Nottingham, England in June 2005.Noting that the vote to ask the churches to voluntarily withdraw their members passed by two votes, Paterson said the decision "ostracized" the delegations."I apologize and at the same time I commend your representatives for the manner in which they managed to somehow stay with the body that was treating them so badly," Paterson said.

The delegations made presentations to the ACC during the Nottingham meeting answering the Windsor Report's concerns over consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire and the blessing of same-gender unions. The delegations gave up their seats and votes at the meeting. The ACC, which meets every three years, is the Communion's principal consultative and representative body.The full text of Paterson's remarks follows.Address to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, USA, 7 March 2006.

I want to begin with an expression of appreciation to the Presiding Bishop for making it possible for me to be here in person to address matters relating to the Anglican Consultative Council and the Episcopal Church. The warmth of your welcome and the extent of your hospitality to me as Chair of the ACC is in marked contrast to the manner in which the body that I chair treated the representatives of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada last June in Nottingham.

One of the pleasures of my six year term as Primate of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, quite apart from the relief that that term has now ended, was to sit alongside Frank Griswold, as a colleague and as a friend, and to appreciate that here was a man of integrity, with a faith that is insightful, and a mind that is able to communicate that faith.The second word I have is one of apology.

I was saddened personally by what took place at ACC13 in Nottingham. I chaired the session at which a vote was taken to “endorse the Primates' request that 'in order to recognise the integrity of all parties, the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the ACC, for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference'”.

Your representatives were not permitted to speak or to vote on that resolution. It was carried by two votes. The effect of it was to ostracise the American and Canadian representatives, who were forced to live apart and walk apart. I apologise and at the same time I commend your representatives for the manner in which they managed somehow to stay with the body which was treating them so badly. There was a dignity in their bearing in the midst of their sadness and the Episcopal Church can be quietly proud of your people. Nevertheless, it happened on my watch, and this is my personal apology.

In my address as Chair of the ACC in Nottingham I had some fairly strong words to say about what I saw as happening in the Anglican Communion. I said those things because I happen to be one of a small number of people who have first-hand experience of three of the four so-called 'Instruments of Unity' or 'Instruments of Communion' as the Windsor Report has recommended they be called – namely the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council. Only the Archbishop of Canterbury has experience of all four.Allow me to quote from that address briefly:We are in fact experiencing changes in the inter-relationships of the Instruments of Unity as we speak.

The Primates' Meeting met for years without making any recommendations or passing resolutions, with the one exception in the late 1980's expressing reservations about constitutional changes in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. But that is now changing, and the 'enhanced responsibility' which successive Lambeth Conferences and the Inter Anglican Doctrinal and Theological Commission recommended is finally being taken on board. Yet the ACC needs to take care lest such enhanced responsibility on the part of one of the Instruments of Unity move from the art of gentle persuasion to what has been called 'institutional coercion'.

The fact that the Lambeth Commission on Communion was asked to report to the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose office is itself one of the Instruments of Unity, 'in preparation for the ensuing meetings of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council' yet has found that the Instrument which happened to meet first, has taken steps to recommend that the Instrument which was to meet subsequently can only meet without its full membership, is at least slightly premature, if not coercive and somewhat punitive.

A body which exists by means of a constitution agreed to by all the member churches of the Anglican Communion, and that is required by that constitution to be 'consultative' cannot consult fully or properly if all of its members are not sitting at the same table. It is surely not for one Instrument of Unity to disempower another? My next word is one of commendation. Along with a number of others in the Communion, I take the view that the Episcopal Church thus far has been exemplary in the attention that you have given to the recommendations of The Windsor Report.

Of course you have your General Convention soon, and that body will make up its own mind about these matters. The process of reception is moving along, and at considerable cost to your own ministry and mission the Episcopal Church has acted carefully and well. I hope that the call in The Windsor Report for all Provinces to exercise generosity and charity as the process gathers pace does not go unheeded. Those qualities are yet to be shown by some.Despite its partial exclusion from participation in the structures of the ACC, the Episcopal Church has demonstrated a quality of leadership in relation to Windsor that I have greatly admired. The paradox is that in the midst of our apparent disunity the Episcopal Church as an opportunity to be a living symbol of Anglican unity. You have within your ranks a wide cross-section of Episcopalians. Labels are notoriously unhelpful, but they help to identify the rich diversity of Anglicanism. Many in the Communion are holding out the hope that the Episcopal Church's ultimate response to Windsor will be an inclusive one, a response which both liberal and traditionalist might be able to own.

Last June in Nottingham I sat and listened with growing appreciation to the two presentations made by representatives of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church. Both groups had gone to great lengths to prepare detailed presentations, within a limited time frame, and they were sensitive, inclusive and courteous. Both of those presentations are important contributions to what we have now called 'the listening process' as mandated by Lambeth Resolution 1.10, by the Primates Meeting, and by a Resolution of ACC 13. An English priest has been employed at St Andrew's House in London, at the Anglican Communion Office, to facilitate that process.

Many of us hold the hope that we have begun a conversation, not only within the Episcopal Church and across its differences, but a conversation which might invite other Provinces into dialogue and hopefully mutual understanding.

The same is true of my own Church. Parts of the New Zealand Church rejoiced at the election, confirmation and consecration of Gene Robinson. Other parts found it very difficult to accept, and it has thus sharpened the debate and heightened the differences in our Church. We are attempting the dialogue, and as God knows, it is not easy. But it has to take place.

Another important aspect of all this is the ecumenical dimension, and further than that, the interfaith dimension. The Anglican Consultative Council is charged with bringing together and facilitating the various ecumenical dialogues, so that our partner Churches can speak to one central Anglican partner rather than try to work with 43 independent member churches of the Anglican Communion. Little wonder, then, that the ACC is particularly cautious about the conduct of the listening process, and the manner in which the conversations proceed about human sexuality, out of respect for the very different views that are held in particular by the Roman Catholic Church, and in the wider sense by the Muslim world. Not that we are to be dictated to by the views and values of others, but if a wider consensus is ever to be reached on these matters, then a sensitivity to others and a respect for difference is going to be essential. And those are Anglican virtues are they not?

I suspect that a study of the history of the Episcopal Church might discover much evidence of a respect for, encounter with, and an inclusion of, a number of issues. This church was way out in front in respect of the ministry of women. What is now evident is that there is a need for a theology of inclusion, whereby those who may differ from others theologically and perhaps in their ecclesiology, are still able to remain in the same room. For all its imperfections, The Windsor Report is the document before the Communion, with suggestions for a way ahead. I hope the General Convention debates it rigorously, and then generously shares its conclusions with the Churches of the Communion.

The Anglican Communion needs the Episcopal Church. I would also be so bold as to say that the reverse is also true. The Episcopal Church needs the Anglican Communion. The ACC needs the Episcopal Church. I used to take some pride in stating that the ACC is the most representative body in the Anglican Communion. That suffered a body blow from the Primates Meeting in Ireland and from ACC 13. But let me conclude with what I said in Nottingham: The ACC gives voice and hope and strength and dignity to those 80 million or more Anglicans who say they belong to us, and look to us to represent them, but who are not themselves Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Deacons or ACC members.

They are the laos, they are the people of God, and they are our people, and they are importantly and impressively represented in the ACC, and I believe they want us to stay together, to live with difference, and not have difference forced upon them. Many Anglicans know what it is to have been colonised, and have no wish to repeat that experience in a new colonising of the mind and heart. Let ACC-13 declare to our watching and rather anxious church that our Communion is indeed a living Communion, that God lives, that God loves, and that we can continue to worship and serve God from our many different perspectives, while still proudly calling ourselves 'Anglicans'.