Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Voices of Witness

Stories of the Episcopal Church's Witness to God's Inclusive Love
We know first-hand the moving stories of wounds that have been healed, hearts that have been touched and lives that have been changed by the Holy Spirit working in and through the ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Episcopal Church. We believe that telling these stories, sharing these witnesses, is a gift we have to offer – and we believe that there has never been a more important time for us to commit ourselves to offering that gift in a way it can be the most widely received throughout the church and the communion. Now that the Anglican Communion “pledged afresh” to a listening process we want to seize the moment by offering these stories in a video/DVD format.

"Voices of Witness" will premiere on Tuesday, June 13th at Trinity Church in Columbus and will be available for distribution after that date in the Claiming the Blessing booth in the General Convention Exhibit Hall. Click here for a video preview of "Voices of Witness" -- for more information on the project or reservations for the June 13th premiere contact the CTB Office.

Monday, May 29, 2006

On Memorial Day

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.

Biblical Values for American Families

The Rev. Dr. Jay E. Johnson -- Episcopal priest and theologian -- reflects on Biblical Values for American Families:

...It is important to recognize, for example, that the most common marriage pattern in the Bible is polygamy; it is not a union of one man and one woman. Even in the New Testament, married life as we understand it is not presented as the model. The most prominent models of Christian life in the New Testament, Jesus and Saint Paul, were not married, and neither had children. Paul explicitly ranked being married below being single. And when Jesus was asked about his own family, his reply was radical: “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:48-50).

On this basis, the early church developed a model of family that broke totally with ancient kinship patterns, monogamous or polygamous. The family in the New Testament is religious and nonbiological; more than anything else, it is like what we might think of as the “church family.”

The Bible does not provide us with concrete examples that we can directly apply to marriage and family as we understand these relationships today. In fact, the examples of what some might refer to as “biblical family values” are deeply disturbing......Religious opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples frequently turns to the Bible for support. For example, one denomination has based its opposition to marriage equality on “the biblical teaching that God designed marriage as a lifetime union of one man and one woman.”

But, as we have seen, this claim hardly reflects what the Bible actually says or the ancient cultures in which the Bible was written. The structures of biblical families are rooted in cultural practices far removed from the values of Christians today......Societal definitions of marriage and family have changed, and will continue to change, over the course of history.

What the Bible presents as the abiding standard is not based on biology or specific forms of legal contract, but on the quality of love that is shared. That is why many Christians today believe that if same-sex relationships exhibit such spiritual values, they deserve the protection and recognition that marriage represents in our society.

If we have any intention of preserving marriage and building strong families, we must base our support on neither ancient practices nor those of secular modernity; instead, our basis must be values that are unchangeable—faith, hope, and love. These are the biblical standards for Christian marriage and Christian families today.

Across the Pond: Bishop of Oxford Supports Full Inclusion

Bible supports gay partnerships, says leading Anglican bishop
-28/05/06 -- Ekklesia News

The Rt Rev Richard Harries, the Bishop of Oxford, has declared that anti-gay proponents in the churches need to be "converted" to see that homosexual unions are supported by a faithful, modern reading of the Bible.

He also reaffirmed his conviction that an openly gay man should be allowed to be appointed a bishop – as has already happened in the USA, with Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Bishop Harries, who is one of the Church of England’s most senior bishops, and who retires this week, expressed his regret that Canon Jeffrey John, now Dean of St Albans, had been forced to withdraw as Bishop of Reading
after it emerged that he had a long-term partner.

In 2003 Archbishop Rowan Williams bowed to pressure not to appoint Dr John, even though his relationship was celibate."I'd still like him to become a bishop," Bishop Harries told Jonathan
Wynee-Jones. "He has all the gifts … but there is still a process of discernment going on. For there to be change, evangelicals have to be convinced that a permanent, faithful same-sex partnership is congruous with biblical truth."

Dr Harries continued: "It's difficult to have gay partnerships fully accepted by the Church, a Church in which evangelicals are a valued part, if they are so strongly opposed to it. There has to be a conversion to a new way to see that gay partnerships are not contrary to biblical truth. They are congruous with the deepest biblical truths, about faithfulness and stability."

The Rev Dr Giles Fraser, the chair of Inclusive Church and an Ekklesia associate, responded: "His comments will be received with joy by the majority of ordinary churchgoers. It is absolutely clear that the Church needs to have a more welcoming and loving attitude to

Bishop Harries, who was made a life peer last week, said that the Jeffrey John affair had made people think about the issue in way that they never had before, reports the Sunday Telegraph.
The Anglican Communion is currently embroiled in a spat over the Bishop of Guildford, John Gladwin, who was forced to cut short a pastoral and aid visit to Kenya when the media accused him of belonging to "a gay club", actually the respected group Changing Attitude.

The Rev David Peak, the Archbishop of Canterbury's Secretary for International Development, who has been in Sudan, is going to Kenya to try to calm the escalating row. And in a recently published book 'Other Worlds, Other Voices', Esther Mombo, Academic Dean at St Paul’s United Theological College, Limuru, in Kenya expresses an understanding approach to homosexuality. She is a member of the Inter-Anglican Doctrinal Commission and served on the Lambeth Commission that produced the Windsor Report.

Oxford New Testament professor Christopher Rowland is among the many other Christian academics who say the Bible can support an affirmative approach to homosexuality. The conservative Anglican pressure group Reform was today among the first to condemn Bishop Harries remarks.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Women Reflect on "The DaVinci Code"

A great new website to check out ... (A Project of Faith and with this invitation: "The Da Vinci Code has touched a nerve in our culture. As a woman, what does this national dialogue mean to you?"

To whet your appetite, here's an excerpt from "I just knew they weren't telling us everything!" by the Reverend Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite, President of Chicago Theological Seminary and a member of the HRC Religion Council:

I have spoken with several people, not just women, but men too about this book, and I think that one of the reasons that The Da Vinci Code has been so important to people is that in general they feel they have not always been told the truth by religious authorities. Their experience of the divine, the movement of the spirit in their lives so to speak, doesn’t always match the church’s teaching. Many have felt like they were not being told all the facts or the whole story.

Dan Brown’s fictional work highlights a Mary Magdalene who was not, in fact, the repentant prostitute she has been portrayed in church teaching and art to be. There is simply no biblical evidence that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute though the church has taught that she was.

The Bible does explicitly say, on the other hand, that Mary Magdalene was a witness to the resurrection. One of the definitions of apostle is “resurrection witness.” This would, if unchallenged by the church, have given her apostolic authority.

Read it all here.

On Growing Up

Elizabeth Kaeton -- General Convention Deputy from Newark, Integrity Board member and Rector of St. Paul's, Chatham (among other things!) -- has generously consented to let me share these pointed and ON-point reflections on faith, baptism and the Windsor Report originally posted to the Bishops and Deputies listserve.


To all the very nice, well-intentioned, devout Christian, straight, white men who pay their tithe/pledge to their church and are otherwise good citizens of the universe who:

(1) have Anglo Catholic or evangelic friends (mostly other men but some female and some even gay men) who support the resolutions in the Windsor Report

(2) believe that church's teaching should meet a "higher standard of biblical warrent, patristic corroboration, theological coherence, formal pronouncement, and sustained consensus of the faithful over a period of generations"(not the doctrine or even the written or maintained standard of TEC or AnglicanCommunion, BTW),

(3) think that the Church's teaching ought to be upheld and not 'deconstructed' or changed in order to preserve the unity of the communion and/or

(4) Believe that the church is in "impaired" communion over the ordination of women, but somehow don't think that's such a big problem or has anything to do with the current "troubles" in the communion.

(My, my, but it must be true what they say: institutional memory is very short. Never mind that we lost entire churches over the ordination of women and many around the communion at that time predicted schism and all other kinds of ecclesiastic calamity - which turned out to be true and remains so).

I want to say these things as clearly as I know.

1. RE: MORATORIUM: To build unity in the communion at the expense of one group - even for a season - is neither charitable nor Christian. Jesus calls us ALL to sacrifice - not to sacrifice some for the good of the rest. Such unity, to borrow a phrase from Moderator Duncan, is counterfeit, and said moratorium inherently evil.

2. RE: AUTONOMY: Anyone who had a good liberal arts education learned in Psych 101 about Eric Erickson's Eight Stages of Development in a healthy human being.

The first is BASIC TRUST vs. BASIC MISTRUST (Hope). This is attained in the period of infancy through the first one or two years. The second is AUTONOMY vs. SHAME (Will) which is attained in the period of about 18 months to 4 years. Without the development of these two milestones, a healthy human being can not go on to mature and attain the other milestones, which include

Initiative vs. Guilt PURPOSE
Industry vs. Inferiority COMPETENCE
Identity vs. Identity Diffusion FIDELITY
Intimacy vs. Isolation LOVE
Generativity vs. Self Absorption CARE
Integrity vs. Despair WISDOM

(I think that's right. Somebody check me. It's been a while since I learned it or taught it. See also Fowler's stages of faith development.)

The point is that without Autonomy in the individual there is no health in the community - much less maturity.

I'm going to say that one more time, and in capitol letters and bold type so we all hear it clearly: WITHOUT AUTONOMY IN THE INDIVIDUAL THERE IS NO HEALTH IN THE COMMUNITY - MUCH LESS MATURITY.

Personally, I believe we, as a church and a communion, are perennially caught in the developmental stage identity vs. identity diffusion FIDELITY (adolescence) and struggling to attain intimacy vs. isolation LOVE.(young adult)

Whenever we have a season of growth or maturity in our faith, it produces a crisis which drives us right back to the first building block of TRUST. Whatever work was not fully completed before we moved on comes back to haunt us until we complete the tasks of maturity and healthy growth.

The present "trouble" in the church is just one more manifestation of this struggle to gain maturity - individually and in the body.

Am I saying we need to "grow up"? You bet I am. Indeed,

I would even join my voice with St. Paul (not my favorite character) and say we need to "grow into the full stature of Christ." That's partof a prayer said at Baptism. Check it out.

3. RE: UGLY AMERICANS: Yes, we Americans must learn to appreciate the situations of our sisters and brothers in other parts of the communion. But, they must learn to appreciate the situations in which we live here in America.

I'm committed to walk a mile in Akinola's purple sacristy slippers. Let Akinola walk a mile my proper Episcopal pumps.

One last thing: We cannot deal with the Windsor Report - which is NOT LEGAL - until we deal with the fact that we have lack of compliance with the canons in our own church regarding the ordination of women. What, then, shall we do about that?

Or, about those who have not contributed to the spiritual or financial well being of the church in the past 3-6 years and who are sworn to destroy or "replace" TEC?? I know that's probably not significant to those who are already ordained and never had even an eyebrow (much less a question) raised about their capacity for ordained ministry because of either their gender or sexuality. I assure you that it is very significant to women and those who are our allies who work toward achieving 'the full stature of Christ' in their lives and in the lives of the church, the sacred body of Jesus.

And, we who believe in freedom, in the liberation of the human spirit promised in the Gospel of Christ Jesus, will not rest until it comes.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Damning Week with Eighteen Days to Go

Don't miss Mark Harris' reflections on 18-days-and-counting til General Convention: "A Damning Week with Eighteen Days to Go"

As we get closer to the Episcopal Church’s General Convention multiple lines are being drawn in the sand, bullies are threatening to take their marbles and go home, and Anglicans are generally acting badly. Here are some of the highlights: read it all.

Episcopal bishops join opposition to marriage amendment on Capitol Hill

by John Johnson
Friday, May 26, 2006

Bishop Larry Maze of Arkansas and retired New Jersey Bishop Joe Morris Doss, now living in Louisiana, joined a diverse spectrum of clergy and religious leaders on Capitol Hill May 22 to speak against passage of the so-called “Federal Marriage Amendment” (FMA).

The bishops are part of “Clergy for Fairness,” a coalition of religious leaders working to oppose passage of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage. The Senate is scheduled to debate the measure during the week of June 5. Maze and Doss participated in a news conference and lobby day in Washington to express their opposition to the amendment and to ask their senators in Washington to oppose the proposal. Their participation was part of a full day of activities and a national petition effort organized by the Clergy for Fairness coalition.

“Marriage is a theological matter of first importance for the church,” Doss said during a press conference in the Dirksen Senate office building. “It raises some of the most fundamental, complex, and vexing issues of theology… Such issues demand the church’s most careful and profound deliberation, and that is to take place in our parishes, councils, seminaries, publications, and places of theological reflection. It is to take place within national and international units of each denomination and in ecumenical dialogue."

Read it all here and give thanks for bishops willing to offer this prophetic voice!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Out of Africa

[Kenyan] Archbishop Nzimbi said yesterday: "Those who speak differently from what we adhere to, we are sorry but we cannot continue our companionship with you."

Kenyan hosts abandon bishop due to his liberal views on gays
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent,
The Daily Telegraph
(Filed: 25/05/2006)

The Archbishop of Canterbury's official envoy will fly into Kenya today in an attempt to resolve an embarrassing impasse that has left a Church of England bishop and 20 clergy abandoned by their hosts during a visit to Africa. The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev John Gladwin (pictured here) has been told that their official programme has been cancelled because the Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Rev Benjamin Nzimbi, has learned of his liberal views on homosexuality.

The bishop, his wife Lydia and 20 curates are halfway through a fortnight's visit to Kenya aimed at strengthening the 20-year links between the dioceses of Embu, Mbeere, Kirinyaga and Meru in Kenya and Chelmsford.

The Rev David Peak, the Archbishop of Canterbury's Secretary for International Development, is travelling from Sudan for a meeting with Archbishop Nzimbi in Nairobi at which he will try to smooth sensitivities.

The Rev Christopher Newlands, the chaplain to Bishop Gladwin, said that Mr Peck would use the opportunity to stress that Bishop Gladwin had the full support of Dr Rowan Williams and was "not some sort of maverick".

Bishop Gladwin's trip has been planned for more than a year and began well, with the clergy being warmly received, including at a courtesy meeting with Archbishop Nzimbi. But the archbishop abruptly changed his stance after being informed that Bishop Gladwin last month became one of four patrons of Changing Attitude, a pressure group campaigning for homosexual rights.

Evangelicals in the Chelmsford diocese put out a statement decrying Bishop Gladwin's decision to back the group, which aims at the "full inclusion" of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people in the Church of England. The Anglican Church in Kenya is part of the conservative "Global South" group that is implacably opposed to any relaxation of the Anglican Church's traditional teaching about homosexuality.

Archbishop Nzimbi said yesterday: "Those who speak differently from what we adhere to, we are sorry but we cannot continue our companionship with you." The Church of England group was staying yesterday in a hotel in Embu, a diocese to the north-east of Nairobi, and have to stay a further week in the country before they can return to Britain.

They are hoping to continue with those parts of their tour that do not officially involve the diocese of Kenya. Bishop Gladwin is also planning to meet workers from the charity Christian Aid, of which he is chairman. Mr Newlands said that the Bishop had been "shocked" by the episode, especially as Africans are famed for their hospitality. But the dispute is one of the clearest examples yet of the growing rift over homosexuality between conservatives in Africa and Asia and liberals in the West, especially north America, that could end in schism.
Mr Newlands denied that Bishop Gladwin's views on homosexuality were exceptionally liberal, but said that he was keen to listen to the experiences of homosexuals, something called for by the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

He said that difficulties arose because African countries were not so far advanced in this "listening process".

Louie Crew Interviews PB Candidates

A major task of General Convention 2006 is the election of a new Presiding Bishop for the Episcopal Church. Witness Magazine has just published a great set of interviews with the candidates, available online and highly recommended.

Read them here

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


LOTS of continuing conversation/commentary on what ECSUA's response to the Windsor Report could or should be -- including a couple of "late entries" this week from Pittsburgh (posted below) and New Zealand (posted on Blog of Daniel today). Here's a handy-dandy compilation for those who like the point-counterpoint at their fingertips (yes, one of those would be me!)

The Anglican Communion Institute

The American Anglican Council

Integrity USA

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh

Dr. Jenny Te Paa -- Commissioner of the Lambeth Commission (AKA the Windsor Report folks)

And now, a word from Pittsburgh

The Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh have just published their commentary on pending General Convention resolutions pertaining to ECUSA's response to the Windsor Report. From their website:

"Lively discussion [n.b. I think they call that an understatement.] can be expected at Columbus about what the church should be trying to accomplish in its response to the Anglican Communion and about what measures, whether embodied in the resolutions proposed by the Special Committee or not, are needed for the purpose.

According to the introduction to [this] report, it is not a voter’s guide intended to tell General Convention participants how to vote. Instead, it provides commentary on each resolution, suggesting considerations that should be a part of the discussion in Columbus. “The resolutions can be subtle,” explained author [Lionel] Deimel. “We thought we could help the whole church by providing commentary on them. The annotations should be useful even for those who do not share our point of view.”

Here's an excerpt:

The church’s proper response to events that followed General Convention 2003 needs to be considered in the context of those events and of longstanding movements in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Com-munion. Deputies should familiarize themselves with that history, which is documented and explicated elsewhere. Above all, the following questions must be kept in mind as resolutions are considered:

1. What problem are we solving?
2. How is any proposed resolution supposed to contribute to a solution?
3. What are the likely (and possibly even unlikely) negative consequences of any proposed reso-lution?

Discussion should be conducted in a spirit of generosity, of course, and with a bigger question always in mind: What is the Holy Spirit calling us to do at this time and place to further the mission of the Church?

“What Should General Convention 2006 Do?” is available here in PDF form. It may be reproduced freely if accompanied by its copyright statement.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Towards an Anglican Covenant

[From the Anglican News Service]

At their meeting in March 2006, the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and of the Primates' Meeting considered how the proposal in §117-120 of the Windsor Report for an Anglican Covenant could be carried forward. They commended the paper "Towards an Anglican Covenant", which had been presented to them as basis for discussion and reflection in the Communion, and requested that the Secretary General, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, should move to the appointment of a Task Group to work on the proposal.

The paper "Towards an Anglican Covenant" is therefore available on this site, and Provinces, Anglican Communion commissions and networks, theological institutions and all who are interested are invited to respond to the questions set out in the paper in preparation for the
work of the Task Group. The Anglican Communion Office is aware that several groups around the Communion are already looking at this question, and particularly invite the participation of our groups who have already developed material to contribute.

Responses to the paper should be submitted in electronic format (preferably in Word) to this address:

The paper can be found here

Longing to Hope Again

A comment by a blog reader earlier today on reconciliation caused me to dig through my "archives" and resurrect this piece from May 12, 2003 -- written as we headed into the LAST General Convention. I revisit it here in part to answer the commenter's questions and in part to remind myself -- and all of us -- about what it is we're called to as those given Christ's ministry of reconciliation.


We filled a parish hall for four days -- lay and ordained, gay and straight – men and women from the east and from the west. We were gathered together for conversations about reconciliation -- focused on the issue “Conflict in the Episcopal Church.” What brought us to those ubiquitous round tables set up for small group discussion was the “conflict du jour”: the blessing of same sex unions. What kept us at them was the deep desire for a ray of hope that there was indeed a way to be reconciled with each other in spite of our deep differences of opinion.

That longing was expressed in these words set to music by Missouri lay deputy Mike Clark:

God who embraces all of this Earth
Heal those in sorrow, burdened with pain.
For many are broken
Many are fearful
Many are longing to hope again
Longing to hope again.

Longing to hope that this “faith based reconciliation process” might actually offer tools to enable us to communicate beyond the sound-bite, position paper rhetoric to which our discourse has been reduced. Longing to hope that there is a way to maintain the integrity of our deeply held convictions and yet stay in relationship with those who differ from us. Longing to hope that this church we love can continue to hold us all in the embrace of Anglican comprehensiveness.

Read the rest here.

Position Statement from "Network" Bishops

At the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2003, just moments after consent was given to the consecration of V. Gene Robinson to be bishop of New Hampshire, over twenty bishops stood in the House of Bishops and made this declaration:

“The bishops who stand before you are filled with sorrow. This body, in willfully confirming the election of a person sexually active outside of holy matrimony, has departed from the historic faith and order of the Church of Jesus Christ. This body has denied the plain teaching of Scripture and the moral consensus of the Church throughout the ages. This body has divided itself from millions of Anglican Christians around the world, brothers and sisters who have pleaded with us to maintain the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage and sexuality.

“With grief too deep for words, the bishops who stand before you must reject this action of the 74th Convention of the Episcopal Church.”

They went on to say that they made this declaration as “faithful Episcopalians, and members of this House.”

The Bishops of the Anglican Communion Network reaffirm this statement in its entirety.
As the Primates of the Anglican Communion warned in October of 2003, if the consecration given consent by the action of General Convention proceeded, it “will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level.” Sadly, this very thing has happened.

It is important to understand that the issues of sexuality are not alone, or even primarily, the cause of this rupture. Rather, a crisis of faith runs deep in the Episcopal Church over the uniqueness of Jesus as Savior and Lord, the sacred authority of the Apostles’ teaching in the Holy Scriptures, and the responsibility Christians have to act in charity and accountability with each other. All these have been relativized and, in turn, this “accommodation” to the culture of North American individualism has been the context in which division has already occurred and may yet continue.

What is now to be done?

The issue for the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in June 2006 is whether the 2003 decision can be reversed and the tear in the fabric of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion can be repaired. Failing this reversal, the state of impaired or broken communion among those formerly together in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion can be expected to become permanent. We, the Network Bishops, are prepared to be part of the efforts to reverse the situation, precisely because we are committed both to the Anglican Communion and the Constitution of the Episcopal Church, and because we long to be instruments of healing and reconciliation in the face of division.

To that end, we unanimously support the recommendations of the Windsor Report as the basis on which our divisions may begin to be mended. We pledge to work with all bishops of this Church and of the Communion who also support the Windsor report, and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates in particular, in working toward greater unity and mutual responsibility under Scripture and within the Anglican heritage.

The Rt. Rev. Keith Lynn Ackerman, SSC, DD, Bishop of the Diocese of Quincy
The Rt. Rev. James M. Adams Jr., Bishop of the Diocese of Western Kansas
The Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon, Jr., Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina
The Rt. Rev. Daniel W. Herzog, Bishop of the Diocese of Albany
The Rt. Rev. Peter H. Beckwith, Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield
The Rt. Rev. Robert Wm. Duncan, Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh
The Rt. Rev. John W. Howe, Bishop of the Diocese of Central Florida
The Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth
The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin
The Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton, Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas
The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey N Steenson, Bishop of the Diocese of Rio Grande
The Rt. Rev. David J. Bena, Bishop Suffragan of Diocese of Albany
The Rt. Rev. Stephen H. Jecko, Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas
The Rt. Rev. Henry W. Scriven, Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh
The Rt. Rev. William J. Skilton, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of South Carolina
The Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison, Retired
The Rt. Rev. William J. Cox, Retired
The Rt. Rev. Alex D. Dickson, Retired
The Rt. Rev. Andrew H. Fairfield, Retired
The Rt. Rev. William C. Wantland, Retired

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Better Than This

Better Than This

A foretaste of the Not-So-Heavenly Argumentation to come from Kendall Harmon's recent commentary on his blog titusonenine: A compromise on a compromise is not a compromise. This is what the Episcopal Church’s leadership is trying to do: exercising very considerable caution instead of implementing a moratorium; sitting in judgment on other’s work instead of weighing our own actions, elongating the process instead of seeing General Convention 2006 as the very end of the road; and, finally, evading clear choices by the false construction of new alternatives. At the end of the day it is all about the same thing: avoiding solving the massive problem that we bear the major responsiblity for creating, and rebelling against the call of mutual submission and interdependent life. One prays hard for better than this–KSH.


I'll agree wholeheartedly with the Canon Theologian on one thing: one certainly DOES pray hard for better than this. But the "better than this" I'm praying for would be better than the hubris of presuming to declare "game over" when you don't like the score.

The "better than this" I'm counting on may just be "new alternatives" that we haven't even thought of yet but will -- as we continue in conversation and communion with those with whom we disagree.

The "better than this" I believe the Holy Spirit is calling us ALL into is a place where a compromise on a compromise is not only a compromise but a way forward from an impasse manufactured by those drawing lines in the sand and asserting that unless we assent to their "clear truth" answers to the complex questions facing our communion we are "walking away" when the clear truth is that we have committed to stay.

Efforts to turn General Convention 2006 in an Anglican Eschaton ("... seeing General Convention 2006 as the very end of the road") echo the "sky is falling" rhetoric that has dominated the right wing discourse for these last three years. Here is but an outline of a triennium of "end of the road" moments on a journey that is far from over:
  • "If Gene Robinson is elected ..." (June 2003)
  • "If General Convention consents to his election ..." (July 2003)
  • "If he is consecrated ..." (November 2003)
  • "When the Windsor Report is released ..." (October 2004)
  • "When the primates meet at Dromantine ..." (February 2005)
  • "When the ACC votes ECUSA off the Anglican Island ... " (June 2005)
  • "When the Special Commission takes a U-Turn on inclusion ..." (April 2006)

The "better than this" I'm counting on is the faithful mainstream of the Episcopal Church to finally say "enough is enough," affirm the actions of General Convention 2003 and confirm our commitment to continue to stay at the table no matter who chooses to walk away.

At the end of the day, solving the massive problem we face as Anglicans striving to stay in relationship with our God and with each other will not be solved by ultimatums, threats or bullying. The "better than this" we pray for may just be "elongating the process" so the work we have been given to do as a people of God is done in GOD'S time -- not ours.

Friday, May 19, 2006

More on the "Anglican Covenant" Conversation

From The Living Church -- an interesting "corrective" to Petre's story in the UK Telegraph (and a timely reminder that secular journalists are charged with writing stories that will sell newspapers -- not getting all the nuances of Anglican polity and politics figured out!)

Anglican Covenant Unlikely in Less than Five Years

The formulation and adoption of a covenant will not resolve the current division in the Anglican Communion, but could assist the process of reconciliation in the “post-Windsor” period, according to a report which has been adopted for discussion and reflection in the Communion.

The report, titled “Towards an Anglican Covenant,” was accepted by the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) at a recent meeting in London.A common covenant could help reconcile opposing factions “by focusing on that which unites us, reaffirming our commitment to one another, and thereby helping to heal and strengthen the bonds of affection that have been damaged in recent years.“

Any covenant also has the potential of providing what is currently lacking – an agreed framework for common discernment, and the prevention and resolution of conflict,” the report states. “It could do this by bringing together and making explicit much that until now has been a matter of convention with the Communion’s common life.”

Read it all here

The Gospel According to Nigeria: Partners in Prejudice

The UK Guardian's Peter Tatchell offers quite a scathing critique of Nigeria's Akinola and of the Archbishop of Canterbury's failure to call him on his support for homophobic persecution. Click here to read the whole piece -- but here are a few excerpts to get you started:

With the full blessing of the Anglican Church of Nigeria and its leader, Archbishop Peter Akinola, the Nigerian government has begun legislating one of the world's most repressive anti-gay laws. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, leader of the global Anglican communion, has declined to criticise this church-endorsed homophobic persecution. Instead he embraces Akinola and the Nigerian church, appeasing their prejudice in the name of Anglican unity.


Dr Williams would not appease a racist or anti-semitic cleric. Why is he appeasing a boastful homophobe like Archbishop Akinola? The leader of the Anglican communion wants church unity at any price, apparently even at the price of betraying gay people. He would, it seems, rather unite with a self-proclaimed persecutor than with the victims of homophobic persecution. When it comes to the fate of queers, the sermon on the mount cuts little ice with the archbishop: he prefers to curry favour with modern-day pharisees. For gays and lesbians, especially gay and lesbian Christians, Dr Williams is a huge disappointment. He is a good man who has lost his conscience.


In contrast to Dr Williams's sad abandonment of gay people, Episcopal Bishop John Bryson Chane of Washington DC has courageously spoken out against the victimisation of lesbians and gay men by the Nigerian government and condemned the cruel sermonising of Akinola and the Anglican Church of Nigeria. Bishop Chane's support for the human rights of gay Nigerians accords with a gospel of love and compassion, while Akinola's homophobia embodies only hatred and ignorance.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Rumor Has It ...

A report from

Archbishop backs two-track Church to heal divisions
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
(Filed: 19/05/2006)

An audacious plan to save the worldwide Anglican Church by allowing it to divide into two tracks, one fast and the other slow, is being backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

The proposals, which have parallels with the idea of a two-speed European Union, could permit liberals from North America to push ahead with divisive reforms such as homosexual bishops without destroying the Church.

But they could also allow conservatives from Africa and Asia to form an influential inner core that would edge out the liberals from positions of power and reduce them to a second-class status.

The blueprint, which has been seen by The Daily Telegraph, was drawn up by senior advisers and approved by Dr Williams and Church leaders at a private meeting in March.

It is expected to form the basis of a "covenant" aimed at averting future crises over issues such as homosexuality, which has brought the 77 million-strong worldwide Church to the brink of schism.

Dr Williams hopes that it may help to dilute some of the acrimony and distrust that has grown up between the rival factions in the Church.

The idea will, however, be greeted with huge suspicion by liberals who will fear that it could be used to marginalise them and hand control to the conservative majority.

Conservatives, meanwhile, may see the plans as an attempt to buy their compliance at a time when they are demanding the expulsion of the liberal American Church for consecrating Anglicanism's first openly homosexual bishop.

Tensions are rising in the run-up to a crucial meeting next month of the United States Church's general convention, its equivalent of the General Synod, at which it will come under huge pressure to "repent".

Under Dr Williams's plan, all Anglican provinces - the 38 autonomous Churches that make up the worldwide Communion - will be asked to sign the covenant, an agreement that will prevent them from acting unilaterally over contentious issues.

The covenant would effectively be the Anglican Communion's first constitution, a notion strongly resisted by liberals who dislike the idea of centralised power or of the Archbishop of Canterbury becoming an Anglican pope.

Those who refuse to sign up because they want to retain their freedom - possibly up to a third of the provinces -would not necessarily be seen as less Anglican, but they could find themselves pushed to the fringes.

The document develops the Windsor Report, which was commissioned by Dr Williams and published in 2004, a year after the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.
It was adopted by the joint standing committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council, two of the Communion's ruling bodies, at a meeting in London. A 10-strong group will be appointed by Dr Williams to flesh out the proposals before they are debated at the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops.

(And check out "Against Anxiety" -- interesting commentary on this story by Jim Naughton on Blog of Daniel)

New on the side bar

Rumor has it there actually IS life beyond General Convention but at this precise moment there is so much energy focused there that I've added a "Speaking of General Convention" section to the blog sidebar. I hope it will be a convenient parking lot for documents and commentaries germaine to GC06 that would otherwise migrate into the archives and be harder to locate on a moment-or-two's notice. Suggestions for additions gratefully received ... although not necessarily guaranteed to be added! :)

Blogging As Blood Sport

Interesting piece by AP's Rachel Zoll which highlights some of the questions I want to ask moving ahead to Columbus and looking beyond: Who's talking terrorist bombs and brown shirts and who's talking continuing conversations and coming to the table in spite of our differences? Who's talking "our way or the highway" and who's talking ongoing listening process? Who's insisting that agreeing with them is the criteria for inclusion in the Anglican Communion and who's insisting that living with differences is one of the chief hallmarks of classical Anglicanism?

Finally, where are the "left wing polemicists" hurling insults, threats and ultimatums at their conservative colleagues in Christ? If I'm missing them, someone point them out to me, please, so I can use my standing as Archlesbian of the Episcopal Church (an honorific bestowed at one point by conservative bloggers and one I wear proudly) to tell them to knock it off and get with the program of fully including all the baptized into the Body of Christ -- INCLUDING the baptized who disagree with us -- and get on with the mission and ministry of the Gospel.


Episcopal Gay Feud Rages Online, by Rachel Zoll, Associated Press

(New York City) Kendall Harmon has to monitor his blog these days, so he can delete insults and offensive language from the comments section. His topic: the Episcopal Church, a member of the worldwide Anglican communion.

As a critical church meeting nears over homosexuality, the debate online and in public comments has grown so intense that one publication has dubbed it ``blood sport.''
``I think people are dreading possible outcomes and when you're dealing with the unknown, fear kicks in in a big way,'' said Harmon, a minister and conservative leader in the diocese of South Carolina. ``And I do think things are more polarized now.''

The Episcopal General Convention, which begins June 13 in Columbus, Ohio, must respond to fellow Anglicans worldwide who were outraged by the 2003 consecration of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop -- V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. The votes will shape not only the church's future, but also its role as the U.S. representative of the Anglican communion.

The emotion of the moment is visible in the explosion of blogs since the convention three years ago, when delegates voted to confirm Robinson's election. A quick web search yields at least 20 dedicated to the plight of the 2.3 million-member denomination. The Living Church, an independent magazine, compared the tone of the discussion to ``a wrestling cage match'' in an editorial titled Blood Sport.

Some bishops have complained of being flooded with hateful e-mails and of being personally attacked on the web. Harmon, who runs the widely read titusonenine blog, has had to take down comments he said were ``cynical, angry and alas, even petty.'' He now reviews all statements before they are posted. Some liberal-leaning blogs have had to do the same.

``The Internet and blogs do give megaphones to anonymous bigots, but they also allow you to organize more quickly and, in some instances, trade opinions across ideological lines,'' said Jim Naughton, a liberal who runs the blog for the diocese of Washington and has had to warn people about the language they use there. ``It intensifies the conversation for better and for worse.''
But the debate goes beyond the Internet. Episcopalians with traditional beliefs on homosexuality, a minority in the denomination, feel persecuted and silenced by the majority _ and their public statements reflect a deep anger over their circumstances.

A conservative group called Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion is pressing for a church trial of Robinson and the dozens of bishops who consecrated him. A spokesman for the advocates, James Ince, said his group was engaged in ``a fight to the death of our church.'' The debate is becoming more direct and truthful, not harsh, he said.

``You can expect the liberals not to appreciate the clear, straight language from lay organizations because they're used to this goody goody two-shoes pantywaist stuff,'' Ince said.
Rev. Paul Zahl, dean of the conservative Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pa., said in a May 10 letter posted on the school's website that an ``army of Brown shirts'' was falsely interpreting Scripture to fuel ``the gay-agenda steamroller.''

Some moderates and liberals have responded by accusing traditionalists of being more concerned with power than with faith. In a recent edition of The Washington Window, the newspaper of the diocese of Washington, Naughton wrote a two-part report called Following the Money, linking conservative Episcopal advocates to right-wing donors intent on fighting the political stands of liberal Protestants.

Perhaps the most inflammatory commentary can be found on the website virtueonline, where founder David Virtue offers his own and others' traditionalist views in ways that even some fellow conservatives find offensive. For example, Virtue refers to one of the church's first openly gay priests as the ``First Sodomite.'' Virtue caused an uproar at the 2003 general convention when he published last-minute claims of impropriety against Robinson that bishops quickly deemed baseless.

Delegates will be entering the convention in Columbus under a heavy burden. They will decide whether to fulfill a request from Anglican leaders for a moratorium on electing partnered gay Episcopal bishops and on creating blessing ceremonies for gay couples.

Anglicans worldwide will be watching closely. The communion teaches that gay sex is ``incompatible with Scripture,'' and if overseas archbishops think the General Convention has not moved far enough toward following that teaching, it could split the 77 million-member communion.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Luna at Six Months

She looks like quite the lady in this picture but don't let her fool you: she's still chewing shoes to shreds in thirty seconds at the drop of a hat and trying to remember that "stay" means "STAY!"

Monday, May 15, 2006

Theology of Blessing 101: A Refresher Course

"But you haven't 'done the theology,'" is a sometimes-argument against moving ahead with offering the church's blesssing to the already-blessed-by-God relationships of gay and lesbian couples.

Well, here's the start Claiming the Blessing made in the theology statement published in 2003. By all means, let the church continue the conversation on the theology in Columbus and beyond -- but let's challenge those who contend it "hasn't been done."


“BLESSING” is perhaps the most controversial word in the church’s consideration of the treatment of same-sex households in its midst. Because of this fact, we must take great care to be precise about what we mean when we use the word.

The following are the building blocks for a theology of blessing: Creation, Covenant, Grace and Sacrament. Creation itself is the fundamental act of blessing. Creation is a blessing (gift) to humankind from God and humankind blesses (gives thanks to or praises) God in return.

The Hebrew word for “blessing,” barak, means at its core the awesome power of life itself. A fundamental claim of the Bible in regard to creation is that there is enough, in fact an abundance, of creation, and therefore of blessing, to go around.

“Blessing” is a covenantal, relational word. It describes the results of the hallowed, right, just relationship between God and humankind. Blessing is what happens when God and humankind live in covenant. It is important to remember here that the relationships between human beings and the relationship between God and human beings cannot be separated.

“Blessing” and “justice”are inseparable biblical concepts.

When we ask for God’s blessing, we are asking for God’s presence and favor. In Christian terms this favor is what we call “grace,” God’s disposition toward us that is not dependent upon our merit, but is a sure and certain gift to the believer in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In our tradition, the sacraments are the primary ways the grace/blessing of God is communicated to us (“a sure and certain means,” BCP, p. 857).

The two “great” sacraments “given by Christ” (BCP, p. 858) are Baptism and Eucharist. In them we see the two fundamental aspects of blessing: the blessing of life from God and the blessing of God for that life.

Five other rites are traditionally known as sacraments, but they are dependent for their meaning on the two sacraments and are not “necessary for all persons.” A whole host of other actions in the life of the church, and of individual Christians, are “sacramental” in nature, i.e., they mediate the grace/blessing of God and cause us to give thanks and praise/blessing to God.
In our tradition, priests and bishops have the authority to pronounce God’s blessing within
the community of faith.

They do so not by their own power, but as instruments of the grace (blessing) of God within the church. Their authority to bless, too, finds its meaning in the two great sacraments.

When the church chooses “to bless” something it is declaring that this particular person or persons or thing is a gift/blessing from God and his/her/its/their purpose is to live in (or, in the case of things, to assist in) covenanted relationship with God (and with all creation), i.e., to bless God in return.

To bless the relationship between two men or two women is to do this very thing: to declare that this relationship is a blessing from God and that its purpose is to bless God, both within the context of the community of faith. If the church believes that same-sex relationships show forth God’s blessing when they are lived in fidelity, mutuality and unconditional love, then this blessing must be owned and celebrated and supported in the community of faith.

Just what are we blessing when we bless a same-sex relationship?

We are blessing the persons in relationship to one another and the world in which they live. We are blessing the ongoing promise of fidelity and mutuality. We are neither blessing orientation or “lifestyle,” nor blessing particular sexual behaviors. “Orientation” and “lifestyle” are theoretical constructs that cannot possibly be descriptive of any couple’s commitment to one another. And every couple works out their own sexual behaviors that sustain and enhance their commitment. We don’t prescribe that behavior, whether the couple is heterosexual or homosexual, except to say that it must be within the context of mutuality and fidelity.

Isn’t marriage and same-sex blessing the same thing?

That they are similar is obvious, as is taking monastic vows, i.e., blessing a vocation to (among other things) celibacy. Each (marriage, blessing unions, monastic vows) grounds a relationship that includes sexual expression in public covenant which gives them “a reality not dependent on the contingent thoughts and feelings of the people involved” and “a certain freedom to ‘take time’ to mature and become as profoundly nurturing as they can” (Rowan Williams, “The Body’s Grace,” in Our Selves, Our Souls and Bodies, Charles Hefling, ed.).

The question remains as to whether “marriage” is appropriately defined as the covenant relationship between a man and a woman only, as is the church’s long tradition. The church must continue to wrestle with this issue.

To wait until it is solved, however, in order to celebrate the blessing of a faithful same-sex relationship is pastorally irresponsible and theologically unnecessary.

Speaking of orthodoxy ...

One God, Two Testaments, Three Creeds, Four Councils, Five Centuries

Reflections on orthodoxy by C. Christopher Epting, the Presiding Bishop's deputy for ecumenical and inter-faith relations from a January 2004 issue of The Living Church.

As ecumenical officer of the Episcopal Church, I am often asked today, either implicitly or explicitly, whether we are still "orthodox" or not. In other words, now that we have revised our liturgy (and continue to experiment with "supplemental" liturgical texts), ordained women and homosexual persons, and have acknowledged that, at least in some of our churches, same-sex unions are blessed, have we departed completely from what might be called "orthodox" Christianity?

Obviously, we are not Orthodox (with a capital O). That designation is reserved for the Eastern or so-called Oriental Orthodox churches, tracing their identities back beyond the Great Schism of 1054. By this definition, the Roman Catholics, as well as protestants and Anglicans, agree that we {are all "non-Orthodox." The question is, are we orthodox (with a small "0") -- do we hold "the right opinions" on essential matters of the Christian faith?

Read it all

In the Sense of Humor Department ...

OK ... maybe you have to be the mother of two boys to think this is as funny as I do but this little video clip sent to me just before Mother's Day has continued to both tickle my funnybone and universalize the sibling-stuff that is so much a part of our family dynamic.

True to my mantra that blogs are for people who have no unexpressed thoughts and want to make sure there are no stones left unturned in expressing them I just can't resist making sure anybody who missed it gets a chance to check it out. Called "Mother's Day" you can see it here.

"The Episcopal Church Welcomes You"

Finding a spiritual home
Locating a house of worship that makes them feel welcome is difficult, but many gays say they are grateful when they do

[Hampton, VA: May 14, 2006 ] Sometimes acceptance shows itself in small ways. Every year, on or about July 1, the bulletin at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Hampton will note that the flowers for a particular service are in celebration of the anniversary of John Childers and Glenn Collie. That date marks the day they met in 2000, and the day of their commitment ceremony one year later in their home."

Just a little mention like that means so much," Collie says. "It's great to be recognized like that. Everyone should be recognized."

And they are recognized together."At the church," Childers says, "no one ever talks about 'John' or 'Glenn.' They talk about us together. It's always 'John and Glenn did this' or 'Where are John and Glenn?' We're a couple."

Childers and Collie - 45 and 46 years old, respectively - spent much of their adolescence and early adult lives struggling to reconcile their spiritual lives with a culture that depicted homosexuality as incompatible with Christian values. But in recent years, many religious people have re-examined the issue of homosexuality as it relates to church teachings, the ordination of ministers and rites of marriage.

Amid this shifting religious landscape, more and more gays and lesbians have found a spiritual home, even within denominations split on the gay issues. While some Episcopal churches are threatening to leave the denomination over the nomination of a gay bishop, Collie and Childers found a "home" at St. Mark's, a small church that has become recognized as a friendly place for gays and lesbians to worship.

Read it all

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Shocked! Shocked, I Tell You!

Reflections on this morning's lectionary from clergy colleague Michael (no relation that I know of) Russell:

I was shocked, shocked! to read Acts this morning and realize that Philip took unilateral action to include the outcast eunuch. Who in the world authorized him to circumvent Deut. 23 which excludes men with genital disfigurement?

Did he check with the rest of the Apostles? Was there a Council? Was there 30 years of discussion?

Nope, there was water nearby and so, violating the scriptures, and without an authorized liturgy for the purification of the permanently outcast, he just Baptized the eunuch.

In the same Deut passage the children of illicit marriages are excluded to the tenth generation. No purification or restoration possible for that. Who changed that and was it done unilaterally too? Shocking morning.

Geesh that Holy Spirit just blows where it wills, hasn't it heard about councils and reception and making sure everyone is on board with these kinds of massive changes? Who is in charge of informing the Holy Spirit of proper Anglican process?

Would he or she get on the ball, please!

Michael Russell, Rector
All Souls' Point Loma

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mother's Day Past

In the Mother's Day flurry of flowers and brunches and gifts and cards let's remember that long before there was Hallmark there was Julia Ward Howe's 1870 "Mother's Day Proclamation" that got the whole thing started.

Happy Mother's Day!


Mother's Day Proclamation

Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.

We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.
From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own.

It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession."
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women,
to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Archbishop Ndungane Calls for Acceptance of Gay Episcopal Cleric

"I've got great confidence that in spite of our differences, that within our diversity, the vast majority of Anglicans and Episcopalians want to get on with work," Ndungane said. "They want to make a difference in other people's lives, want to be true to the ethos of Anglicanism -- which is living with the difference in others."

Archbishop Challenges the Church
by Jason Kane [Washington Post]

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Twelve years ago, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu successfully fought for the end of legalized racism in apartheid South Africa. Now, his successor, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, has turned his sights on his own church and says the time has come to abandon its "practices of discrimination."

Ever since the 2003 consecration of openly gay Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson, Ndungane has made himself an anomaly in Africa by raising a liberal voice on a continent where Robinson and the American church have been loudly condemned.

"The Anglican Communion should be on the forefront of fighting social ills and not bothering about what Gene Robinson may be doing or not doing," Ndungane said in an interview here. "He has been elected by his people and the people are comfortable with that."

Calling homosexuality a "pastoral, secondary problem," the archbishop of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa estimates that 70 percent of the world's 77 million Anglicans have grown tired of discussing the divisive topic and wish to return to the "life and death issues of this world."

Included in Ndungane's fundamental issues are alleviation of severe poverty, the HIV-AIDS epidemic and educational inequalities.

Read it all here

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

What Witness Will We Make?

Steven Charleston is someone who can preach my socks off when I'm barefoot so I'm used to him hitting the ball out of the park AND the nail on the head -- but this this piece takes me to a whole new level of admiration for his prophetic witness. Read, mark, learn, inwardly digest and then let's move on to Columbus where we will have a chance to witness to the hope that is in us, the faith that sustains us and the love that sets us free.

What Witness Will We Make?
By The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston
President and Dean, Episcopal Divinity School

As the Episcopal Church, the most important question before us is not about schism or sexuality. It is about witness. What witness will we make?

Christian witness is the public affirmation of faith. It is how we let the world see that we practice what we preach. Today those of us in the Episcopal Church are being called on to make our witness. We have the opportunity to be what we say we are. The world is watching. What will we do?

The answer is a matter of faith. We witness to what we believe.

In the Episcopal Church, we believe in Jesus Christ. We believe in the Bible. We believe in the Good News. In fact, we believe so strongly in all of these essential parts of our shared faith that we are not afraid to disagree with one another about what they mean to us.

We welcome difference as the active presence of God’s Holy Spirit moving amongst us. Our witness is not to conformity but to community. As the Episcopal Church we are not concerned that everyone in the pews believes exactly the same thing, in the same way, at the same time. Instead, we are concerned that no one is left out of those pews because of what they believe, who they are, or where they come from.

Our witness is to the unconditional love of God through the grace of Christ Jesus. Therefore, we accept the risk of grace by not setting limits to love with our own judgment of others. There are no border guards at the doors of the Episcopal Church. We respect the dignity of every human being and are never ashamed of who sits next to us in worship. We are all the children of God just as we are all sinners in need of mercy.

There are no walls around the Episcopal Church. We believe that God is at work in the world. We are not concerned that this world sees us as perfect, pure, or powerful. Instead, we are concerned that people see us practicing justice, doing mercy, and walking humbly with the God we believe loves us all equally.

Our witness is to hope, not fear. We believe that men and women, no matter how separated they may think they are by religious conviction, cultural value, or social location are never truly apart unless they choose to be. We have nothing to fear from one another unless we allow fear to be our witness. While the distance between us may seem great and the path to reconciliation impossibly long, we have the guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we never despair of one another or deny one another for to do so would be to despair and deny the power of that Spirit.

Our witness is to mission. While the Spirit leads us to truth, we carry on with the task God has given us. We do not place pride before discipleship. While we may have many disagreements between us, we have only one mission before us. We never question the faith of the person who seeks to do the work of God. We believe that it is not important to know if that person is “right” or politically correct. It is only important to know if she or he feels welcomed into the servant ministry of Christ. There are no loyalty oaths in the Episcopal Church, but there are many jobs for those who want to help heal a broken world.

Our witness is to the reconciliation of God in a time of fear. In the Episcopal Church, we stand together not even if we disagree, but precisely because we disagree. We practice the radical hope of God. We embody a faith that says there are many rooms in the house of God, but one home for us all if we choose to live together.

It is time to make our witness. In a century already marked by the terror of war, with zealots of all traditions inciting us into the patriotism of fear, what witness will we make? What alternative will we offer? What fresh vision will we share? Will we retreat into yet smaller factions of “true believers,” whether from the Right or the Left, smug in our self righteous assurance that we have the truth? Will we struggle over property and power as though these things had lasting importance for us? Will we vilify one another and become agents of suspicion among the very people we love? Will we worry more about what people think of us than what God expects of us?

It is time to make our witness. It is time to take off our halos, our mitres, and our martyr’s crown to stand up and be counted. What witness will each of us choose to make?

I can not answer for anyone in this Church but myself. I do not ask that you agree with my theology. I do not demand that you read your Bible exactly as I read mine. I know that you and I may disagree on many subjects and find it hard to live together. But I also know that you are as much in need of God’s forgiveness as I am.

You and I need one another now more than ever because there are so many others who need us both in this hurting world. That world, the poor and the hungry, the captives and the prisoners, are depending on us to do more than argue with one another. For them, our witness is not a matter of church politics. It is a matter of life and death. I am counting on the fact that you know that.

Now is the time for us to extend our hands to one another. We will not walk away from the Body of Christ.

Now is the time for us to use our hands. We will not place pride over mission.

Now is the time for us to raise our hands. We will not forget that to God alone goes the glory.

Are you a witness? Will you join me in this affirmation of faith?

In my life I have known many seasons in the Episcopal Church. This is the season for our witness. This is the time for us to do something totally unexpected and wonderful, to confound those who say we have lost our vision. This is our moment to show the world that we can practice what we preach and be who we say we are. Our finest hour will not be when we think we have won something from one another, but when we know we have nothing to lose by loving one another.

I am a witness. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in God’s gospel of justice, compassion, and reconciliation. I believe in the community of God and I will work faithfully with every person to bring peace and healing to the world. I open my hands. I open my heart. I want the world to see that I am not afraid. I step gratefully into the unconditional love of God. I stand up to be counted not for what I think is right, but for what I believe to be possible. How about you? Will you stand with me?

Are you a witness?

The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston is president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Bishop Charleston is a member of the Choctaw Nation, has served as the Episcopal Bishop of Alaska, and as the executive director of the National Committee on Indian Work at the Episcopal Church Center. Over his career, Bishop Charleston has been deeply involved in exploring different models of theological training to meet the needs of a changing church. He is an advocate for theological education that is culturally sensitive and meets the needs and concerns of local faith communities.

Friday, May 12, 2006

From the mouths of babes ... and journalists!

Observations on the current state of ECUSA affairs from Dallas Morning News journalist Jeffrey Weiss:

Horse apples happen
May 12, 2006

When I came onto the religion beat more than 10 years ago, I was hoping for a bit less spin and fewer horse apples than I had to deal with when covering secular politics and stuff. My naive hope was dashed pretty quickly, as I recall. But I’m not so jaded that I can’t still be disappointed.

Here’s the set-up: Last weekend, the Episcopal Diocese of California elected a new bishop.

It says something about the state of that denomination and American culture that the big headline out of the election was something like “Californians elect openly heterosexual male bishop.” But that’s not my point.

A minority of American Episcopalians have been loudly viewing with alarm decisions made by the national body over the past several years. Top of that list of decisions is the ratification at the last General Assembly of the denomination’s first openly gay bishop, the Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. (Much of the leadership of the Anglican world ain’t happy with that idea, neither.)

It’s just another argument about who is accurately discerning God’s will.

Fast forward to last week. Three of the candidates for the California post were openly gay. The Viewers With Alarm viewed that with, well, alarm. Warning in the weeks before the vote that California’s decision could further rupture the ECUSA and the Anglican Communion.

So the Californians overwhelmingly approve Rev. Mark Andrus. How did the conservative American Anglican Council respond? Would you guess that the group’s statement:

A) Graciously congratulated the Californians on a wise selection, suggesting it might indicate a way to bring the various factions together.

B) Gloated a bit about how the Californians took the conservatives’ advice and offered some additional pointed suggestions.

C) Condemned the Californians for not being conservative enough and hinted that this election could result in further splintering.

Exactly. Here are some key quotes:

"How will activists respond to the fact that a diocese which has for years been a bastion of amorphous Christianity and aggressive revisionism chose a white, heterosexual, Southern male as bishop? Did the diocese succumb to reported pressure from the national Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA), including Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, to avoid electing a partnered homosexual? Is such pressure in fact part of a coordinated strategy intended to mislead the Communion?"

"…Moving slowly with caution is not stopping, and ECUSA is practicing a theology contrary to Scripture, Anglican doctrine, and 2,000 years of Christian teaching. The life and practice of ECUSA clearly illustrates its commitment to a new gospel despite claims and protestations to the contrary.”

Sez I: The only thing worse than a bad loser is a bad winner.

I’ll grant that the California election was hardly a slam-dunk for the conservatives. The Rev. Andrus agreed with the consecration of Bishop Robinson. But surely there was way for the AAC to find a hint of graciousness? Whether or not it’s good theology, it’s good manners.

I’m not saying, by the way, that the spin-and-horse-apples phenomenon is linked only to religious conservatives. This was just the example in my e-box this week.

Yr hmbl srvnt,
Jeffrey Weiss

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Go, Canada!

Bishops speak out against Nigerian laws on homosexuality:
Nigerian church called to account for its support of legislation

[From the Anglican Journal]

Niagara Falls, Ont., May 4, 2006 - Canada's Anglican bishops unanimously endorsed a motion expressing "grave concern" about proposed legislation in Nigeria that "would prohibit or severely restrict the freedom of speech, association, expression and assembly of gay and lesbian persons." Their motion also called criticized the (Anglican) Church of Nigeria for its support of the legislation.

The legislation is inconsistent with the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the bishops said in their motion, which was passed at their spring meeting held April 22-27. They said they were "especially grieved" by the support for the legislation given by the Church of Nigeria, noting that the 1998 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops called upon churches to "listen to the experience of homosexual persons."

The proposed laws, said the bishops, "criminalize civil and religious same-sex marriage as well as the public and private expression of same-sex affection, all public affiliation between gay persons and even publicity, public support and media reporting of the same." The proposals "would make the very act of listening to homosexual persons impossible."

In unusually strong language, the bishops said they "disassociate" themselves from the actions of the Church of Nigeria and called upon Anglicans around the world to listen to and respect the human rights of gay people.

In the "All Schism All The Time" Department

It's "all schism, all the time" for George Conger in this article from the Church of England Newspaper. It seems to me that no matter WHAT we do at this point we're "one step closer to schism" unless we capitulate to the increasingly shrill demands of the radical religious rightists. It is way past time for the leadership of this church to say "enough is enough" and get on with the mission and ministry of the Gospel. (See also: There are only thirty-two days until General Convention!)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE ANGLICAN Communion came one step closer to schism on May 6 following an election of a new bishop in California. The crisis came not in the much touted election in San Francisco, where the three partnered gay and lesbian priests lost to the suffragan Bishop of Alabama in the election for Bishop of California, but in the diocese of Northern California which elected a twice divorced and thrice married priest to be its next bishop.

The Rt Rev Marc Andrus, Suffragan Bishop of Alabama was elected on the third ballot to succeed the Rt Rev William Swing as Bishop of California. The three partnered gay and lesbian priests on the ballot ran far back in the polling, taking the last three spots in the voting. The election of Bishop Andrus does not mark a swing to the right but a preservation of the status quo in the progressive diocese of California. The Rev John Kirkley, president of Oasis/California, a gay and lesbian church advocacy group, stated Bishop Andrus was elected “because he won our hearts and minds during the walkabouts. His authenticity and vulnerability indicated a man willing to stand in solidarity with a suffering world, rooted in profound contemplative practise.”
Bishop Andrus was also “elected with very strong support from gay and lesbian clergy and laity,” Fr Kirkley noted. In an acceptance speech at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Bishop Andrus, speaking with his wife Sheila at his side, stated: “Your vote today remains a vote for inclusion and communion — of gay and lesbian people in their full lives as single or partnered people, of women, of all ethnic minorities, and all people. “My commitment to Jesus Christ’s own mission of inclusion is resolute,” Bishop Andrus said.

Across the state that same day, the Rev Barry Beisner was elected on the fourth ballot in succession to the Rt Rev Jerry Lamb as Bishop of Northern California. Appointed Canon to the Ordinary [bishop’s assistant] to the Bishop of Northern California in 2002, Canon Beisner has been divorced twice and married three times. The election of Canon Beisner has caught American conservatives off guard. While primed to contest the possible election of a ‘gay’ bishop in California, conservatives contacted by The Church of England Newspaper were divided over a response to Beisner’s election.

Several conservative delegates to General Convention told The Church of England Newspaper they were troubled by Beisner’s election. To have opposed Gene Robinson’s election on moral and Scriptural grounds and not to oppose Beisner’s election would “reek of hypocrisy” one delegate said. While there have been over a dozen American bishops who have been divorced and remarried, Canon Beisner will be the first priest to have been divorced twice and married three times before being consecrated as bishop. In 1946 the Episcopal Church permitted divorcees to remarry in the Church upon special licence of their bishop. Clergy were generally not permitted to remarry after divorce and retain their orders until the 1960s.

The current rules for clergy remarriage after divorce varies by diocese across the Episcopal Church as no national church canon governs. The Beisner election has the potential for upsetting the political calculus worked out among the Episcopal Church’s fractious factions by the bishops to hold the Church together through Lambeth 2008. Conservatives and moderates pushing for acceptance of the recommendations of the Windsor Report may well fall out over the Beisner election.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Recommended Reading

I was doing some research on Dan Wakefield, who is coming to All Saints in July to talk about his new book, and I came across this interview from the April online edition of The Nation. I think it makes an interesting companion piece to the Andrew Sullivan blog.

A Conversation With Dan Wakefield
[posted online on April 10, 2006]

In his new book, The Hijacking of Jesus, longtime journalist and author Dan Wakefield turns his sharp analytic eye on the religious right. Through careful research and interviews with religious leaders across the country, Wakefield has developed a unique understanding of the rise of this new political juggernaut and thoughtful insights into what can be done about it.

When did the religious right enter the political arena, and how did they become such a force in the United States?
Well, I think they really entered it at the lowest point for the Republicans, which was the Barry Goldwater defeat in 1964. There were a couple of very savvy young guys at that time, Republicans, who saw the potential of the conservative, fundamentalist religious people. One of them was Morton Blackwell. When he looked out imagining all the numbers in their ranks, he said that he saw "virgin timber."

Paul Weyrich, another of the guys who was in on the beginning of this, saw a kind of backlash in the 1960s from people who were fearful and upset about communes and young people smoking dope. He went after conservative parents who were worried about their children. He also teamed up with Jerry Falwell, and really thought up the term "Moral Majority." Moral Majority then became big, and after that the Christian Coalition was created, and it just grew from there. Probably the key point, however, was in the 1970s. The oil man Lamar Hunt and Nelson Baker Hunt got together with other millionaires and pledged $1 billion to, as they put it, "win the nation for Christ" by the year 2000. That money funded a lot of these very powerful right-wing foundations and think tanks and organizations that have helped build this up.

How is it that so many in the ranks of the Christian right are missing the message of love in the New Testament?
They've missed the words of Jesus. One of the most hopeful developments is that just recently a group of progressive evangelicals led by Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo and people from a movement called the Emergent Church have gotten together, wanting to distance themselves from the Pat Robertson/Jerry Falwell crowd. They call themselves "Red-Letter Christians," which refers to the fact that in many versions of the New Testament the words of Jesus are printed in red letters. So they are saying: "Let's just get back to what Jesus himself actually said." If you were to do that, then there would be a much greater focus on the Sermon on the Mount, treating your neighbor as yourself, helping the Samaritans and everything else that was in Jesus' message.

In your book you write about the precarious relationship that the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has with the televangelists.
The NAE--from what I've been told by some evangelicals--is afraid that they would lose their base if they separated themselves from Falwell and Robertson. They have mass appeal. However, there are people still in the NAE who are embarrassed by them. So while the NAE has advocated on paper a lot of good things, as Tony Campolo told me, "They don't then carry it out." He said that he and Jim Wallis could stay and work within the NAE, but that it could take years to get them to change to some real activism. That's one of the reasons why they split apart with this new movement.

It seems that now that they've gained power, they don't want to give it up, even if it compromises their message or beliefs.
Well, I'm sure a lot of them do believe those things. It's hard to think of anybody being able to follow Pat Robertson, yet his 700 Club television program is very popular. When you go around recommending the assassination of presidents of Latin American countries, it would seem that you've even gone outside the fringe, and yet people still follow him.

What do you think is so attractive about the theology of the religious right? Is it simply the "sophisticated marketing" and plethora of services and activities that you found at the mega-churches, or is it something in their message?
I think also that it's the belief factor. While I'm not sure what it is now that they believe in--since they don't believe in a lot of the messages of Jesus--they do have a strong belief in whatever they conceive of as Jesus and his resurrection. I think that one of the problems with the mainline Protestant churches especially is that they seem to have lost a lot of that. They have become very intellectualized, and have lost some of the belief that was last present in the work of Martin Luther King. It's kind of ironic that when African-American leaders like King were talking about faith, liberals or progressives could join in and sing hymns and say "Amen," but now they seem embarrassed. There is a real kind of milquetoast quality to a lot of mainline Protestantism now.

In the book you speak fondly of King and the civil rights movement, and how the church was more alive during that struggle. Are there no issues that similarly invigorate the church today, or is there a lack of leadership?
There are more issues than ever. Part of it is fear. A very large church in New York where I've spoken before did not want me to come and talk about this book. They said that after several guest ministers spoke against the Iraq War, people had left the congregation and threatened to resign their membership. These issues have become really matters of keeping your job.

My Problem with Christianism

A believer spells out the difference between faith and a political agenda

Are you a Christian who doesn't feel represented by the religious right? I know the feeling. When the discourse about faith is dominated by political fundamentalists and social conservatives, many others begin to feel as if their religion has been taken away from them.The number of Christians misrepresented by the Christian right is many.

There are evangelical Protestants who believe strongly that Christianity should not get tooclose to the corrupting allure of government power. There are lay Catholics who, while personally devout, are socially liberal on issues like contraception, gay rights, women's equality and a multi-faith society. There are very orthodox believers who nonetheless respect the freedom and conscience of others as part of their core understanding of what being a Christian is. They have no problem living next to an atheist or a gay couple or a single mother or people whose views on the meaning of life are utterly alien to them--and respecting their neighbors' choices.

That doesn't threaten their faith. Sometimes the contrast helps them understand their own faith better. And there are those who simply believe that, by definition, God is unknowable to our limited, fallible human minds and souls. If God is ultimately unknowable, then how can we be so certain of what God's real position is on, say, the fate of Terri Schiavo? Or the morality of contraception? Or the role of women? Or the love of a gay couple?

Also, faith for many of us is interwoven with doubt, a doubt that can strengthen faith and give it perspective and shadow. That doubt means having great humility in the face of God and an enormous reluctance to impose one's beliefs, through civil law, on anyone else. I would say a clear majority of Christians in the U.S. fall into one or many of those camps.

Yet the term "people of faith" has been co-opted almost entirely in our discourse by those who see Christianity as compatible with only one political party, the Republicans, and believe that their religious doctrines should determine public policy for everyone. "Sides are being chosen," Tom DeLay recently told his supporters, "and the future of man hangs in the balance! The enemies of virtue may be on the march, but they have not won, and if we put our trust in Christ, they never will."

So Christ is a conservative Republican? Rush Limbaugh recently called the Democrats the "party of death" because of many Democrats' view that some moral decisions, like the choice to have a first-trimester abortion, should be left to the individual, not the cops. Ann Coulter, with her usual subtlety, simply calls her political opponents "godless," the title of her new book. And the largely nonreligious media have taken the bait. The "Christian"vote has become shorthand in journalism for the Republican base.

What to do about it? The worst response, I think, would be to construct something called the religious left. Many of us who are Christians and not supportive of thereligious right are not on the left either. In fact, we are opposed to any politicization of the Gospels by any party, Democratic or Republican, by partisan black churches or partisan white ones. "My kingdom is not of this world," Jesus insisted.What part of that do we not understand?

So let me suggest that we take back the word Christian while giving the religious right a new adjective: Christianist. Christianity, in this view, is simply a faith. Christianism is an ideology, politics, an ism. The distinction between Christian and Christianist echoes the distinction we make between Muslim and Islamist. Muslims are those who follow Islam. Islamists are those who want to wield Islam as a political force and conflate state and mosque.

Not all Islamists are violent. Only a tiny few are terrorists. And I should underline that the term Christianist is in no way designed to label people on the religious right as favoring any violence at all. I mean merely by the term Christianist the view that religious faith is so important that it must also have a precise political agenda. It is the belief that religion dictates politics and that politics should dictate the laws for everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike.

That's what I dissent from, and I dissent from it as a Christian. I dissent from the political pollution of sincere, personal faith. I dissent most strongly from the attempt to argue that one party represents God and that the other doesn't. I dissent from having my faith co-opted and wielded by people whose politics I do not share and whose intolerance I abhor. The word Christian belongs to no political party. It's time the quiet majority of believers took it back.

Visit Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish, at

Monday, May 08, 2006

On the Radio

Had a chance to talk about "things Episcopal" on a local radio show this morning ... check it out by going to KPFK online and clicking on 2006 05 08 russell ... (Ah, the marvels of modern technology!)

From "Across the Pond": The UK Church Times Reports

Family trusts ‘fund ECUSA’s Right’
By Pat Ashworth

MILLIONS of dollars contributed by a handful of donors have allowed a small network of theologically conservative individuals and organisations to mount a global campaign that has destabilised the Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA) and may break up the Anglican Communion, an investigation in the diocese of Washington has concluded.

A report, "Following the Money: Donors and activists on the Anglican Right" by the diocesan communications officer, Jim Naughton, in Washington Window, the diocesan newspaper, says that Anglicans have no full account of how much money is being spent, and for what purpose, in the struggle for control of the Communion. Half the operating budgets of the American Anglican Council (AAC) and the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) have frequently come from charitable foundations established by families with politically conservative views, he says, notably Howard F. Ahmanson Jr and the Bradley, Coors, Olin, Scaife, and Smith-Richardson family foundations.

Mr Naughton charts the growing visibility of the conservative Episcopalian lobby and its increasing involvement with Primates of the Global South, as evidenced at the Primates’ Meeting at Newry last year (News, 4 March 2005).

The General Convention of ECUSA will meet next month, he says, "in a politically charged atmosphere created in some measure by conservative organisations supported by a small number of wealthy donors". The organisations’ lack of transparency and openness about their budgets will leave bishops and deputies able only to "guess at the intentions and resources of the American conservatives and bishops from the developing world who are pressing the Church to change its course or pay a price".

Since the Primates’ meeting, leaders of the Communion have begun to ask whether these organisations and their financial backers are the real power behind a movement that claims to draw its strength from Africa and Asia, suggests Mr Naughton. His views echo those of the Bishop of Washington, the Rt Revd John Chane, who criticised the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, in the Washington Post earlier this year for supporting "institutionalised bigotry" over proposed laws criminalising homosexuality in Nigeria.

Bishop Chane warned: "Because the conflict over homosexuality is not unique to Anglicanism, civil libertarians in this country, and others as well, should also be aware of the Archbishop and his movement. Gifts from such wealthy donors . . . allow the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy to sponsor so called ‘renewal’ movements that fight the inclusion of gays and lesbians within the Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran Churches, and the United Church of Christ.

"Should the Institute succeed in ‘renewing’ the Churches, what we see in Nigeria today may well be on the agenda of the Christian Right tomorrow."