Thursday, January 31, 2008


by Bishop Assistant
Sergio Carranza, Diocese of Los Angeles

Here we are, just a few months away from the Lambeth Conference and we find ourselves in an impasse: the Bishop of New Hampshire without an invitation to attend the meeting, the poachers from the Global South hunting in the U.S.A. and Canada, the schismatics trying to steal TEC's property, the Nigerian post-colonial neo-crusader-in-reverse uttering threats, and the Archbishop of Canterbury giving the impression that he is willing to sacrifice the Episcopal Church in order to appease the radical conservatives and thus maintain the unity of an already fractured Anglican Communion.

These are perturbing, bewildering and irritating times for the truly orthodox Anglicans who want to preserve not only the identity, but the essence of Anglicanism, and refuse to accept the new religion crafted by some of the power greedy Third World hierarchs and the lunatic fringe of American conservatism.

The truly orthodox Anglicans reject the selective literalism of the biblical exegesis propounded by the new religion, as well as the hypocritical morality based on that kind of hermeneutics.

They reject the notion that lay people and priests do not have an equal share with the bishops in the governance of the Church. The truly orthodox Anglicans reject the allegation that gay and lesbian people are not beloved children of God and cannot be fully included in the ordained ministry of the Church.

They reject the Primates Meeting pretension to define doctrine, to enact legislation and to impose discipline on the autonomous Provinces of the Anglican Communion, as the new religion would have it.

And the reason why the truly orthodox Anglicans reject all these enormities is because they disfigure Anglicanism and destroy its very being.

I do not believe for a moment that the Archbishop of Canterbury would be so naïve as to think that, by ceding to the demands of the Global South radical Primates, he will keep them in the flock and remain himself as the titular head of the Communion. This notion is wishful thinking, at best, since the new religion advocates have been increasingly disrespecting him and his office, and are already making plans to set up their own international ecclesial body. As we know, last December 26 the Primate of Nigeria and a coalition of his minions announced a conference in the Holy Land to chart the Church's future course, that will take place next June, just before the Lambeth Conference which some of them have said they plan to boycott.

The truly orthodox Anglicans, while respecting each other's autonomy, want to preserve the bonds of affection which have kept us together across the world, as well as to maintain the centuries-old concept of unity in diversity.

The truly orthodox Anglicans uphold justice, because justice is God's passion and an inherent characteristic of God's Kingdom.

And before I am accused of being an irate fellow, let me quote what St. Thomas Aquinas has to say about it: "He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust."
From today's ANGELUS (Los Angeles Clergy Newsletter) and shared here with Bishop Carranza's permission

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Antidote to Anglican Anxiety

Overwhelmed by the details of life?

Stressed out by the imminent arrival of Super Tuesday?

Eating the bread of Anglican Anxiety?

Whatever ails you today, I have an antidote. Sit back. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes and remember that you belong to the God of all hope. And then ...

and read this brief essay by Diocese of California high-school student, Jasper Goldberg.*

And THEN ...
... give thanks for the witness of the youth of this church who are being raised up to SPEAK up. Give thanks for the spirit of hope Jasper brings to those anxious about what the future holds. And most of all, give thanks for the Spirit of the Living God who continues to pour out grace and power and courage upon those anointed to speak truth to power, to give voice to hope and to make justice roll down!

And let us all say together:

Thanks be to God.




*thanks to Jim White for sending this my way and to Fr. Jake for spotlighting Jasper's words of witness.

Is he is or is he ain't???

Some discussion continues on the inhibition of the former Bishop of San Joaquin, John David Schofield ...

While +Schofield is on record (according to The Living Church) on not being "answerable" to Episcopal Church and therefore "ignoring" his January 11th inhibition by the Presiding Bishop, it is evidently not being "ignored" by the wider Communion ... at least not according to this page on the Anglican Communion Office website. (Thanks to Greg over at Stand Firm for the heads up on this.)
Meanwhile, I might note, there seems to be NO confusion at the Anglican Communion Office about who the Bishop of New Hampshire is!

So now that we're clear about THAT, what I'm still not clear about is how the ABofC rationalizes letting his invitation to the inhibited, former Bishop of San Joaquin to the Lambeth Conference stand and NOT revisiting his exclusion of the duly elected, consecrated and sitting Bishop of New Hampshire from the tea party.
Doubtless there are conversations in progress about untangling this Gordian knot. And a question for +Rowan at this point might reasonably be: "Is he or ain't he" going to quit being blackmailed by the Reactionary Right and do the right thing by inviting ALL the ACTUAL bishops of the Episcopal Church. Stay tuned! Film, as they say, at eleven ... or with elevenses (for all you Brits out there!)
has some interesting observations from "the other side of the aisle" on this one ...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Violence, Religion and the American Soul

Lent Looms. And so do plans for our annual "Lent Event" -- held this year February 8-10 here on the campus of All Saints Church in Pasadena. Here's the scoop for those you are interested and might event want to come join us!
Lent calls us into the desert of self-examination.

We are challenged by the life of Jesus and of the prophets before him, to enter into periods of sobering solitude, periods in which we look ourselves clearly in the eye, searching for authentic elements of self which we somehow dropped and abandoned along the journey’s edge.

This is difficult work, it requires courage, and is best accomplished when Easter’s oasis of hope and unconditional love shine at the other end of the 40 day spiritual trek.

This year the All Saints Church Lent Event invites us into a community experience of self-reflection, an examination of our individual conscience and that of our collective soul.

· How do we process the violence and injustice, which spin around and through us without becoming numb to self?
· What happens to our spirit when the world seems so far from our control that we choose to turn our backs on injustice and violence in order to function in our daily lives?
· And what about the guilt in all of this, once we seek to reclaim those elements of conscience and self, abandoned along the way in order to survive?
· How does America heal itself into wholeness and how do we begin to reconcile ourselves with the people of the world whom we have dominated, assaulted and forgotten?

These are desert questions, questions which require faith and courage, best asked and explored in community, with guides and gear, compasses and beacons, and most of all with God’s promise of healing grace and restorative love.

We have invited three great teachers to guide us in an exploration of our collective self, to share their understanding of the human condition, and to illustrate hope for change and renewal.

Michael Battle has taught and written out of his experience in residence with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and offers stunning insight into the nature and practice of reconciliation.

JoAnne Terrell brilliantly illustrates theologies of suffering and injustice and challenges Christianity to turn away from oppressive violence, racism, sexism, and domination.

James Carroll continues to invite us into the discovery of authentic Christianity and illustrates the fundamental flaws of atonement theology as a justification for Christian anti-Semitism, Zionism, and war.

In this, our 125th year, All Saints Church has the opportunity to take on the enormous challenges of these and other questions of systemic violence– and we are up to the task. Don’t miss this opportunity to be part of this crucial conversation!


For more information, check our our website or contact Anthony Parker.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Does it have to be either or?

I had a few minutes this morning before I had to get off to church and so I wandered by some of the blogs to see what was "up" in the neighborhood.
Titusonenine was leading this story: "The head of the Episcopal Church gives social justice top billing" -- an article in the Roanoke VA paper about +Katharine Jefferts Schori's visit there yesterday. The comments were predictable ... here's one, for example:

AAAaaarrrrrgggg! The first task of a Christian should not be economic evangelism” but “Christ Evangelism.” By focusing on “social justice” or “economic justice” we lose focus on Jesus Christ. Rather than trying to turn clergy and lay church politicians (those who attend the various conventions) into economists and politicians, lets be sure they first understand the Christian faith and then get them to turn politicians and economists into Christians.

Which got me thinking about the either/or thing. And got me posting my own comment (not a thing to be done unadvisedly or lightly on Titusonenine!), which read:

It’s the “two world view” thing again. Here’s how Ed Bacon put it in his speech last week on the IRS:

The focus of this Christianity is not the salvation of individual souls but seeking the salvation of the entire human community through radically inclusive love, justice and peace – for all – particularly for the marginalized and vulnerable both in our neighborhoods and in the world.

So what I’m wondering this morning is if we’ve really gotten beyond the place where there isn’t room in Christianity for both ... if we couldn’t yet find a way to be a people of God who believe in individual salvation not for individual salvation’s sake and who are committed to social justice not for social justice’s sake, but see it all as part and parcel of belonging to the God who called us to walk in love as Christ loved us and love our neighbors as ourselves.

It’d never work if my litmus test for your welcome at the table is how you vote on social issues and your litmus test for mine is if we agree on the same theological explanation for the salvific power of the cross.

But what if we could agree that good people of deep faith WILL come to different conclusions on how God calls us to walk in love with each other—and what if we could regain that historic gift of Anglican comprehensiveness that leaves room for different theological understandings of the same God and Creator of all?

Not saying it will happen. Just wondering if it isn’t worth thinking about. Happy Sunday, T19ers!

And I'm still wondering. And now I'm off to church. Happy Sunday, Everybody!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

What happens in Las Vegas ...

...doesn't stay in Las Vegas!

At least it doesn't if you're All Saints, Pasadena rector Ed Bacon and you're addressing members of the American Bar Association on the subject:


That's a mouthful! The presentation was at the January 18th luncheon meeting of the American Bar Association Tax Exemption Section and it focused on our journey at All Saints Church with the IRS.
Here's a link to the whole paper ... here are some highlights to get you started:

Challenging bigotry and violence are expressed at All Saints in our preaching about and organizing letter writing campaigns against the current immoral and unjust war in Iraq, the practices of torture that accompany it, the resultant depletion of funds for basic care of the vulnerable and marginalized among us, and the erosion of civil liberties and the First Amendment attendant in this war’s wake.
These issues are not some liberal or progressive political agenda. Rather they come from a deeply held religious conviction shared by many compassionate people of differing religious traditions. All Saints Church’s practice of religion has deep roots in the belief in what Gandhi called, "the democracy of souls." We believe that all policies mitigating against the sacredness of every human being must be criticized from the pulpit, protested in public, and organized against.
I find it both reductive and dismissive to call our social and political activism a result of All Saints being a Liberal or Progressive Church. There are important theological foundations at stake in what we say and do. This is our religion.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel put my point this way when he was marching with Dr. King in Selma, Alabama, "When I was marching I felt that my feet were praying." Faith without works and action is dead. Many religious people are so concerned about getting to heaven that they are no earthly good. Jesus’ primary concern was what he called "The Kingdom of God," which has less to do with getting to heaven and all to do with bringing heaven to earth – especially for the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized.


All Saints and many other churches offer a very different perspective on Jesus and the Christian message. Rather than having our tap root in evangelicalism (although we express the news we share as "good news," the literal translation of the root word, "evangel") All Saints’ grounding is in what is commonly referred to as prophetic Christianity – a religion, which, like Crusade Christianity, is also deeply prayerful, but which seeks to balance prayer and faithful action.
The focus of this Christianity is not the salvation of individual souls but seeking the salvation of the entire human community through radically inclusive love, justice and peace – for all – particularly for the marginalized and vulnerable both in our neighborhoods and in the world.
This we believe is the faith that Jesus observed, forming his own religious practices and shaping his own view of God from the tradition of the 8th century Hebrew prophets. Jesus focused much of his ministry on the message and behaviors of those prophets who went before him. Jesus saw himself as a prophet (Luke 4: 24). Albert Nolan has written, "He does not seem to have ever contradicted anyone who referred to him as a prophet. In its basic inspiration, therefore, Jesus’ spirituality was like that of the Hebrew prophets. (Nolan, Albert, Jesus Today; A Spirituality of Radical Freedom, p. 63)
Prophetic religion is given not to claiming that Christians are advantaged before God over other religionists. Rather, prophetic religion is given to authentic interfaith collaboration in the service of increasing the quotient of compassion, justice, and non-violence in one’s interpersonal relations and in one’s nation and the world.


All of this political activity is for us at All Saints fundamentally an act of expressing our spirituality which is rooted in a supreme unifying principle of the sacredness of every human being, equally precious before God. Starkly put, an Iraqi human being is just as worthy as an American human being, and we have a moral responsibility to protest any leader whose policies are intentionally destructive of any segment of humanity. This is for us the core of our spirituality. It also very often is intrinsically political.


We teach at All Saints that when God made us God said that we were good – that each of us has an intrinsic goodness and godliness which is not removed by the reality of evil and sin in our behavior. There is so much in that article of faith, but one small item is that all of our feelings are important messengers. And the message carried by the feeling of anger is that there has been a violation and there is a need for setting limits, establishing boundaries, and verbalizing resentments. I think we have done the latter.

However my parish and I still believe that a rather recent regulation ruling from the IRS shows that our practice of religion is still vulnerable – particularly in situation 16 which paints a scenario of a non-profit taking a position on a value which has been central in a political campaign.

It is easy to extrapolate a situation for All Saints or any other pulpit next November to continue not being silent about the issues of the day – from immigration reform to the brokenness of our country to the fact that we are "a torture nation, a nation in an unjust war; a nation with three million men in prison, disproportionately African-American; a world broken by the gulf between the rich north and the desperately impoverished south; and a world on the edge of environmental disaster." (James P. Carroll, "Church: According to Constantine?" A Presentation to All Saints Church, Pasadena, Ca., Monday Evening June 11, 2007)
We will not and cannot be silent about these issues which prevent us from our religious responsibility to help God turn the human race into the human family. . Many of us thought there were certain issues that past years of American history had settled and put to bed.

We have jadedly learned through our case that fear itself – a manifestation of evil Jesus preached against over and over in his words, "Do not be afraid," – fear can still cause reasonable people and even reasonable governmental services to do democracy-destructive things.

So we at All Saints think that the task of addressing the government regarding basic First Amendment principles may well again cause us to speak truth to power and tell the government to get on their side of the line.



Today in San Joaquin ...

Thoughts while watching the streaming video from the Remain Episcopal Event in San Joaquin ... (and kudos to "815" for making this live video stream available ... and to Fr. Jake for the "chat room" option!


It was great to see the "standing room only" crowd and to spy a few familiar faces ... including Stephen Bentley, a former parishioner from Rancho Cucamonga!
Loved that the processional hymn was "Gather Us In" ... one of my all time favorites!
Here are some words of reassurance from Canon Moore's sermon:

"We are not here to establish a "new" Diocese of San Joaquin ... you ARE the Episcopal Church in this part of the world."

"We are called not simply to imitate Christ but to incarnate the Gospel in everything we say and do."

And how refreshing to see a woman priest among the altar party!

And now, words from Cindy Smith, President of "Remain Episcopal"

"We are a rallying point for those wanting to remain in the Episcopal Church and rebuild a welcoming church committed to mission and worship."

Remain Episcopal has two goals:

Reconciliation within the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin -- reconciling those with differences within a church committed to the Gospel.

Planning for the day when "Remain Episcopal" can cease to exist

And then Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies:

The Episcopal Church is alive and well ... and because of you and our faithfulness, the Episcopal Church is alive and more well because of you.

It's a new day in this diocese -- but it's a new day based on an old promise we make ... over and over and over again ... in our baptismal covenant: to seek and serve Christ in ALL persons.

It takes two to tango, but someone has to make the first step -- and those committed to "remaining Episcopal" -- have the opportunity and challenge to reach out to those who you do not trust, who have hurt you -- and to be vehicles of reconciliation.

The overarching goal is to seek order out of complexity -- and Bonnie called those gathered to the Christ-centered courage it takes to reach out to those with whom they disagree.

Then, after Bob Moore read a letter from the Presiding Bishop, we get a brief but very well done bit from +KJS herself to the San Joaquin Remnant, which included this "take away quote:"

"This may feel like a long Lent, but Easter is coming! You are not alone!"


And here's the link to a just posted ENS article, which includes more from the Presiding Bishop on San Joaquin:

"The Presiding Bishop has asked for the formulation of a broad based steering committee on the local level who will work with her and her Office in a variety of ways, including working with her on a process for the calling of a special convention," said the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop.

"This convention will, among other things, elect a new Standing Committee and make provision for an interim Bishop. It is unclear when the special convention will be called," Robertson said.

The response comes in part to earlier reports that Bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin had closed mission congregations and fired vicars who did not support his move away from the Episcopal Church.

"The Episcopal Church is prepared to provide financial support to those mission priests who are dismissed and remain loyal to the Church and to assist in expenses related to the reorganization of the Diocese," Robertson added.

He said TEC "will also assist local diocesan leaders in bringing any necessary lawsuits to protect diocesan and parish property for the mission of the Church. It is important for the clergy and laity to know that they are supported in their ongoing mission and ministry in San Joaquin."


Friday, January 25, 2008

Louie Does Fort Worth

Fort Worthians are proud to share the news that on March 1, 2008, Integrity Fort Worth will host Dr. Louie Crew, founder of Integrity USA at a "not to be missed" afternoon gathering at Celebration Community Church.

The afternoon will begin with Eucharist led by The Rt. Rev. Sam Hulsey, retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas. The service will be followed by Dr. Crew's address, "Exceedingly Glad in Times Like These" and Louie's address will be followed by a reception.

More information is available on the Integrity Fort Worth website

Having myself enjoyed the Fabulous Fort Worth hospitality, I know Louie is in for a treat. And having myself been inspired by Louie's grace-filled message of hope, inclusion and love, I know Fort Worth is in for a treat.

Which makes it a "win/win" -- right?

Stay tuned!

On the Episcopal-Hindu Hoo-Rah

I haven't weighed in on this one up until now but maybe it's time to say a word or two about what I've come to think of as "The Hindu Hoo-Rah."

BACKGROUND: From our Diocesan News Service:

"Indian Rite Mass celebrates ties between two

In a colorful rite that honored the traditions of both the Christian and Hindu faiths in India, some 260 participants gathered for an Indian Rite Mass on January 19 at St. John's Pro-Cathedral. Bishop Chester Talton, who attended the service, read a statement from Bishop J. Jon Bruno that offered friendship to the Hindu people of the Indian community and apologized for past harsh treatment of the Indian people by Christians.

During the service, trays of flowers were offered to God, as is traditional in India. At the Eucharist, Hindu attendees were invited forward to take a flower as a sign of friendship: Indian Christians, some of whom were also in traditional garb, took part in the Eucharist. Indian, Orthodox and tradition Western church music were offered by the choir of St. John's and two Indian bands.

Sounds like fun. Sorry I missed it. What I didn't miss, however, was the furor by the Communion Police who were horrified that a Hindu might have snuck through and received the bread and wine made holy. (If you missed it, it's been blogged on here and here and here and here ... and the subject of much coversation over at the HoB/D (AKA "House of Bishops & Deputies") List.

My, my, my!

Now, the debate about "open communion" is a lively one throughout the Episcopal Church at the moment and I'm all for lively debate. Gary Hall (of Seabury-Western fame) wrote a great piece in the Living Church a few months back (the link to the TLC page seems to be broken but you can read excerpts here at Episcopal Cafe) and I commend it to you.

But in this case, what got the Communion Police going was a line in the L.A. Times report on the event that read:

All were invited to Holy Communion, after the Episcopal celebrant elevated a tray of consecrated Indian bread, and deacons raised wine-filled chalices. In respect to Hindu tradition, a tray of flowers was also presented. Christians and Hindus lined up for communion, but since Orthodox Hindus shun alcohol, they consumed only the bread.

Turns out the reporter got it wrong, as noted in this correction issued by the Times yesterday:

An article in Sunday's California section about a joint religious service involving Hindus and Episcopalians said that all those attending the service at St. John's Cathedral in Los Angeles were invited to Holy Communion. Although attendees walked toward the Communion table, only Christians were encouraged to partake of Communion. Out of respect for Hindu beliefs, the Hindus were invited to take a flower. Also, the article described Hindus consuming bread during Communion, but some of those worshipers were Christians wearing traditional Indian dress.

"Secular reporter gets it wrong on finer details of Episcopal liturgy. Film at eleven" ... NOT! Hardly breaking news, so why all the fuss?

Here's my favorite commentary (used with permission) from a contributor to the HoB/D list discussion:

Given the midrash of going out to the highways and byways to bring in people to the wedding banquet, I have never refused Communion to those who desire to share with the Lord in the Lord's Supper. There is precedent in the "ready and desirous" rubric from the days we thought Baptism was not complete until Confirmation. If, erroneously, we thought that those not truly baptized could receive in that they desired confirmation in order to receive Communion, and given that the desire was not for confirmation but what confirmation conferred, then anyone desirous of partaking of that which symbolizes common union with those present have put on the appropriate garment for the wedding banquet.

Further, just as stated in Article XXVI of the XXIX, that the unworthiness of the Minister does not hinder the effect of the Sacraments, so the Eucharist will be what God intends it to be regardless of the unworthiness of the receiver---meaning that those we may consider unworthy may receive and the determination of their unworthiness is made at another time. It is sad to have to strain gnats in order for God's children to swallow the Sacred Elements.

The Rev. Tim Solon
Cheyenne, WY
Not likely to be the end of the conversation, but enough for today. Because when it really comes down to it, this squabbling is getting as much done for the kingdom as Clinton & Obama's squabbling in the South Carolina debate did for the country.

Can you see it?

There -- peeking out between the clouds above the roof of my neighbor-across-the-street -- SNOW!!!! Actual, white, sticking-to-the-ground, white frozen stuff on the foothills above Pasadena!

Now, if you're in Chicago or New Hamphshire or Rochester I'm imagining your reaction is going to be something like, "You call that SNOW????" But for a Southern California native, I can tell you it looks like snow to us ... and it sure isn't anything we're used to seeing in the hills above the Rose Bowl!

(Here endeth the weather report -- back to our regularly scheduled blogging in a bit!)

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Do NOT miss
this MOST excellent
online exhibit from
the Archives of the Episcopal Church:
What an extraordinary walk through the history of the struggle for justice within the Episcopal Church AND witness to the difference "a church awakening" can and has had on the society around it!
Audio and video clips, photos and biographies as well as a time-line that demonstrates the truth we keep preaching about: the arc of history is long but it does lean towards justice ... and sometimes it helps to step back and see just how far it has "leaned" in a lifetime in order to board up and keep on keepin' on getting it to lean some more!
I clicked on the link just to "check it out" and wallowed around for a good long while -- and found myself encouraged, enlightened AND enlivened -- a great "combo plate."
I invite you to "go and do likewise" -- and then to join me in saying:
Job VERY Well Done!!!

"An Anglican Covenant: Divisive or Reconciling?"

News from New York:
For Immediate Release
January 24, 2008


to be held at Desmond Tutu Center,
April 10-12

"This gathering is an outstanding opportunity for church people to deliberate about a major issue facing the Anglican Communion," said conference co-convenor Canon J. Robert Wright, Professor of Ecclesiastical History at General and Historiographer of the Episcopal Church. "Many are concerned about the covenant process, but there have been few public opportunities to discuss it before the Lambeth Conference."

New York City -- "An Anglican Covenant: Divisive or Reconciling?" is a public conference to be held at the new Desmond Tutu Center in New York City, April 10-12, The General Theological Seminary announced today.

An Anglican Covenant has been proposed as a way to resolve conflicts and clarify polity in the Anglican Communion, especially in the sexuality controversy. In February 2007, the Anglican Primates Meeting invited commentary on a proposed covenant in preparation for the Lambeth Conference to be held in England in July 2008.

The Tutu Center conference is an opportunity to engage the issues. Will an Anglican Covenant clarify Anglican identity and strengthen mutual interdependence? Or will it be a tool of exclusion and dominance? Is a covenant a biblical way forward, or would it impose a uniformity foreign to Anglicanism? Would a covenant assist or impede reconciliation among Anglicans?

Three keynote speakers from parts of the Anglican Communion outside North America will present diverse views about the advisability of a covenant, the current draft, and the dynamics of current covenant discussion. Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the Province of the West Indies chairs the Covenant Design Group and is a strong advocate for a covenant. Offering a different analysis will be Dr. Jenny Te Paa, Dean of the College of St. John the Evangelist in Auckland, New Zealand, who also served on the Lambeth Commission on Communion. Canon Gregory Cameron, Deputy Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, will speak on the theme "Boundaries Old and Boundaries New: Views from the Edge of the Anglican Communion."

All interested persons from congregations, dioceses and the ecumenical community are welcome to the conference, as are persons who hold views anywhere along the wide spectrum of views in the current controversies of the church.

"The conference's focus on reconciliation responds to a yearning in the church," said co-convenor Titus Presler, Sub-Dean and Professor of Mission and World Christianity at General. "The Tutu Center's opening conference last September highlighted global reconciliation, and this event will bring that theme to bear on the need for healing among the diverse groups in the Anglican Communion so that God's mission can flourish through us." The conference will begin with Thursday evening, April 10, and conclude Saturday noon, April 12.

Registration begins February 1 on the website of the Desmond Tutu Center -- or by phone at 212-243-5150. Registration deadline for attending the conference is April 5, while the registration deadline for conference accommodation at the Tutu Center is earlier: March 5.

Further information about conference registration and costs is available at the Tutu Center website and by calling Conference Planning Director Chris Ballard at 212.243.5150.


More info & registration details here ... Sounds like GTS is "the place to be" in April!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Go, Gore!!!!

Thanks to Ann Fontaine for the lead on this one!

Bravo, Al Gore! (And no, of course he couldn't be saying this if he was running for office ... and isn't THAT a shame!)

Smart "San Joaquin" Move!

This just in from the Episcopal News Service:
[Episcopal News Service] When Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin gather on Saturday, January 26 for "Moving Forward, Welcoming All" at the Church of the Saviour in Hanford, California, they will welcome an online audience.

Viewers may access the live video stream, to be carried via Episcopal Life Online, by logging on to the Episcopal Church website. The video stream will also bring Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's greetings to continuing Episcopalians gathered at the Central California Valley historic church, starting about 10 a.m. Pacific time (11 a.m. Mountain, 12 a.m. Central, 1 p.m. Eastern), said Mike Collins, Episcopal Life Media Video/Multicast Unit director.

"The situation in the Diocese of San Joaquin is something that is on the minds of Episcopalians across the country," Collins said. "We felt it was important to provide live streaming coverage to the wider church as well as to show support for those who remain in the diocese."

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson and the Rev. Canon Robert Moore, appointed by the Presiding Bishop as the interim pastoral presence for continuing Episcopalians, will keynote the gathering on site to offer support and encouragement, along with other speakers. Anderson's comments to the gathering, expected to draw Episcopalians from across the diocese and the state, will be videocast.

So mark your calendars now. Plan to gather-round-the-monitor and be one of the cyber-communion-of-saints sending prayers and best wishes to those at work in the fields of the Lord in the Diocese of San Joaquin. (And kudos to 815 for making this kind of outreach possible! Bravo/a!!!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New Study, Old News

Breaking News on "The Gay Lifestyle"...

Episcopal Cafe is points us to a new study in the journal Developmental Psychology, on committed gay, lesbian and heterosexual relationships. A key paragraph from the conclusions:

The current study adds to this literature by demonstrating that, controlling for demographic differences, gay males and lesbians in our studies were generally not distinguishable from their committed heterosexual counterparts on measures of self- and partner reported relationship quality, as well as in how they interacted with one another—and responded physiologically—while attempting to resolve conflict in their relationships.

Translation: Far as these researchers can tell, gay and lesbian committed relationships look to be as psychologically healthy as committed heterosexual relationships. (A link to the pdf of the paper is here)

SOOOOOOOO ... The "breaking news" on "The Gay Lifestyle" is ... THERE ISN'T "ONE!"

Our relationships are just as stable or unstable, as boring or exciting, as healthy or unhealthy, as satisfying or frustrating as EVERYBODY ELSE'S!

My first response to this study, emailed by a colleague earlier today, was the title I chose for this blog, "New Study, Old News." His response was to point to the importance of "scientific verification" ... which in and of itself is a GOOD thing, no question about that.

But let's face it ... the same folks who are going to continue to picket our ordinations and insist on our exclusion and wring their hands about "family values" are the same ones who insist that "creationism" is a "science" and who reject evolution as an apostate, heretic theory.

Why bother with facts when you have absolute truth on your side? (And that makes them different than other manifestations of rabid fundamentalism riping the world apart how????? Exactly!)

For the Bible Tells Me So...

... coming soon to a DVD-player near you!


Monday, January 21, 2008


Whatja think????

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Anybody WATCH the South Carolina Debate? Anybody change their mind about anything? Anybody got any YouTube footage of Bill Clinton dancing?

Lambeth "Launched"

It has "begun"!

The official Lambeth Conference website offered this notice:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams today launched the official programme for Lambeth Conference 2008 Equipping Bishops for Mission at Lambeth Palace. Joining Dr Williams on the panel were Archbishop Ellison Pogo (Archbishop of Melanesia and Chairman of the Design Group) and Archbishop Ian Ernest (Archbishop of the Province of the Indian Ocean). Mrs Jane Williams outlined the plans for the Spouses’ Conference which is being held alongside the bishops’ conference. Jane Williams was joined by Margaret Sentamu. 30 bishops from 17 provinces around the Anglican Communion also joined the press conference.

The full statement is here.


UK Press reports included:

* Six hundred bishops sign up for Lambeth despite threats of schism (London Times)
Launch of Lambeth Conference 2008 (ACNS)
Gay 'climate of controversy' clouds Anglican gathering (UK Guardian -- which included this "what-were-they-thinking?" photo of His Archbishopness):


Finally, my award for best headline goes to Ruth Gledhill's blog, entitled: The Importance of Archbishop Ernest. Why?

[from Gledhill's blog] In October, Archbishop Ian Ernest, Primate of the Indian Ocean, was along with other leading Global South primates co-signatory to a document in which they called for Lambeth to be postponed and said that 'what is at stake in this crisis is the very nature of Anglicanism.' Today he sat next to the Archbishop of Canterbury at the press conference at Lambeth Palace to launch the 2008 Lambeth Conference. ... His is not the only view to suggest possible fracturing in the conservative ranks.


So what does it all mean?

1 - In July the every-ten-year gathering of Anglican bishops will happen. In spite of the best efforts of the schismatics to keep it from happening, bishops from around the communion will spend weeks together in prayer and study and worship -- seeking unity in the Christ who binds us altogether as diverse members of His Body in the world.

2 - We will be there ... to witness to the Good News of God in Christ Jesus working in and through the lives of vocations of the LGBT faithful.

3 - There will be Life After Lambeth Conference. In August, we will not be celebrating the Kingdom Come nor will we be grieving the End of the World. The bishops will meet, pray, cogitate, negotiate and then we'll all fly back home and work on being the church in the world. And in this part of the world, that church looks like a community of faith inching ever-closer to the full inclusion of all the baptized into the Body of Christ.


It may have "begun" ...
... but it isn't even close to being over!

Martin Luther King Day

Some suggested reading/reflection material
for this Martin Luther King Holiday Monday:

Read Martin Luther King, Jr's
Hear Ed Bacon's MLK Sunday Sermon:
Watch Dr. King call the nation
to turn from waging war ...

And pray for another generation of courageous leaders to call this nation to reclaim its commitment to liberty and justice for ALL!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A year from today ...

... will be Bush's last day.

When we wake up tomorrow morning, it will be less-than-a-year until we have a new president. (Now that's what I call good tidings of great joy!)

MLK Sunday @ All Saints Church

January 15, 1929 - April 4, 1968

[From the liturgy today at All Saints Church, Pasadena]

Minister: We hold these truths to be self-evident.
People: that all people are created equal.

Minister: Let justice roll down like waters,
People: and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last: Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

From “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”; a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept – so readily dismissed as a weak and cowardly force – has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of humankind. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door, which leads to ultimate reality.

This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. The one that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and God’s love is perfected in us. Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation.

The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

Minister: Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people.
People: Thanks be to God.


I'll post the rector's sermon here as soon as we manage to load it up online.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The polls have closed in North Carolina ...

The DIOCESE of North Carolina, that is. And here's Good News from a colleague in that Diocese :

I'm delighted to report that the annual convention of the Diocese of North Carolina passed the following resolution today:


Resolved by the 192nd Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, that the Diocese continue to demonstrate its commitment to radical hospitality and, that in accordance with the House of Bishops' Statement, Fall 2007, we "proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church" by:

1) Urging the Archbishop of Canterbury to extend to the duly elected and consecrated Bishop of New Hampshire an invitation to full participation in the Lambeth Conference of 2008;

2) Encouraging our Deputies to the 2009 General Convention to ensure compliance with Title III. Canon I. Section 2, which supports the full and equal participation of all persons regardless of sexual orientation in all aspects of the Church's ministries, lay and ordained;

3) Encouraging the General Convention to call for the development of public liturgies for the blessing of same sex unions.

The debate on the resolution by convention, which was abbreviated because of the threat of winter weather, was civil and respectful, in the Spirit of Jesus, as Bishop Curry observed after the vote.


Thanks for the "update from the front!" Onward and upward!

Bravo Bishop Frade!

Episcopal Cafe is reporting that +Leo Frade, Bishop of Southeast Florida, voted to consent to the inhibition of Pittsburgh Bishop Bob Duncan.

While the whole statement is posted below, here's my "take away" for the WHOLE of Christ's Church & the World:

"... after reviewing all the supporting documents that give evidence of their actions, I was astonished that we neglected to take action any sooner on their obvious violation and breach of their oath to engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church."


And the more the light of day is focused on the actions of the schismatic bishops, the more the rest of the church will awake to that truth and wonder, along with Bishop Frade, why we've put up with their divisive, destructive energy as long as we have.
In the end the "truth will out" -- and the truth is this schism-du-jour is a power grab by narrow minded malcontents who, tired of representing a minority opinion in the Episcopal Church, carefully charted the course they are sailing now.
It was never about a bishop in New Hampshire or a blessing in Pasadena -- or any of the other dozens of straws that have been blamed for breaking the camel's back over this last decade or so. It was always about power and patriarchy. And it is time for us to call "time" on this testosterone temper tantrum. It is time to end the collateral damage being done to the LGBT faithful whose lives and vocations have been the scapegoats in this struggle. And it is WAY past time to get on with the mission and minstry of the church without the distraction of Duncan and his ilk.

Thanks be to God for strong leadership from our Presiding Bishop and House of Deputies President -- and for Bishop Frade for his strong, clear words of clarity.


Dearly Beloved in Christ:

Greetings from the Holy Land! While leading my yearly pilgrimage of the faithful to the land of our Lord Jesus, I have been asked to comment on the decision of the Three Senior Bishops to unanimously move to inhibit the Bishop of San Joaquin, but not to inhibit the Bishop of Pittsburgh.

I must state that after carefully examining the decision of the Review Committee headed by the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, which recommended the move to inhibit both bishops--of the Dioceses of Pittsburgh and of San Joaquin--and after reviewing all the supporting documents that give evidence of their actions, I was astonished that we neglected to take action any sooner on their obvious violation and breach of their oath to engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church.

I firmly believe that any bishops whose words and actions are in violation of this oath, as stated by church canon, should be equally subject to the appropriate canonical discipline.

I also believe that it is my episcopal duty to assiduously safeguard both the membership and patrimony of our Church as a whole. The faithful of those dioceses that have been betrayed by their bishops need to know that they are not abandoned by their Church.

The Episcopate must not tolerate such actions as these bishops have taken; they have betrayed the trust that was given them when we, their brother and sister bishops, consented to their election. The seriousness of this betrayal is not mitigated by the fact that in one of the cases the goal of turning away from The Episcopal Church has not been fully achieved. As I have learned to say in America, "You can not just be a little pregnant."

It was with great sadness that I concluded I had no other choice but to vote to move to inhibit two of my brothers who have betrayed their trust to be faithful shepherds of their dioceses, which are integral parts of our Episcopal Church.
The beauty and flexibility of Anglican polity has allowed since its foundation disparate and disagreeing parties to remain in full communion. It is my sincere hope and prayer that these two bishops, who once pledged of their own free will to engage to remain faithful to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church, will in a spirit of reconciliation choose to fulfill their previous promises.

If they are unable to do so, we in the HOB must do our sad duty to discipline them and move in a timely manner to protect and provide for the many remaining faithful of these dioceses.

The Rt Rev Leopold Frade
Bishop of Southeast Florida and Senior Bishop with Jurisdiction of TEC.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Hail to the (Drama) Queen!

I actually went and looked it up:

drama queen
Function: noun
: a person given to often excessively emotional performances or reactions

The inspiration for my little foray into Merriam Webster land? The weekly email newsletter from the AAC (American Anglican Council) ... which included this Message from Bishop [David] Anderson ... which included this nominee-for-drama-queen-of-the-week worthy quote (in reference to Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori's disciplinary actions against the schismatic bishops of San Joaquin and Pittsburgh):

In her inner councils she was laying the fire not only for John-David, but also for Robert William Duncan, bishop of Pittsburgh. Her intention seemed to be to make a Ridley and a Latimer of them.

A Ridley and a Latimer of them???? He's got to be kidding!

Duncan & Schofield have decided to shake the dust of the Episcopal Church off their feet and are trying to make it out of town with the silver and property deeds in their pockets.

Ridley & Latimer (you'll remember from Church History 101) were burned at the stake for refusing to return to Rome when Roman Catholic Mary I succeeded her Protestant-leaning brother Edward VI.

Sorry, David. Not EVEN close. You can't work, pray, fundraise, politic and network in order to pull off a schism hoping to create a church that suits you better than the one you're leaving and then cry "victim" when you're nailed on taking stuff that doesn't belong to you as you head out the door.

Ridley & Latimer were martyrs. Duncan & Schofield are perpetrators. .

So HERE'S the part where we all say together:

.... as we present our Drama Queen of the Week award to:
The Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson, Sr.
President & CEO
American Anglican Council

Letter from HoD President Bonnie Anderson

This letter from President Bonnie Anderson is directed to members of the House of Deputies but is well worth reading for EVERY member of the Episcopal Church ...

The President of the House of Deputies
January 17, 2008

Greetings in the name of Christ,

As by now you are well aware, the Episcopal Church Title IV Review Committee that Bishop John-David Schofield has abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church. In accordance with Title IV, Canon 9, Sec. 1 consent for inhibition from three senior Bishops has been given and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has inhibited Diocese of San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield.

Following is a list of links providing background, history and current status of the situation to date:

Remain Episcopal of the Diocese of San Joaquin has planned an upcoming day long gathering called "Moving Forward, Welcoming All" to be held at Church of the Saviour, Hanford, CA, January 26, 2008. This event will be the culmination of a five-day listening tour in the diocese by the Rev. Canon Bob Moore, whom Bishop Katharine has appointed to be an interim pastoral presence in San Joaquin.

I have been invited by Remain Episcopal to participate in the event and I look forward to the worship, discussion and celebration.The future will be revealed through the grace and abundance of God's inclusive love. Remain Episcopal is working to rebuild and renew the diocese with those who wish to remain within the Episcopal Church. Its vision is one of a church that welcomes all, regardless of theological perspective.

There are a number of ways General Convention deputies can provide much needed support to our sisters and brothers in Christ in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. You can pray regularly for Episcopalians in San Joaquin, and urge the people in your diocese to do the same.

Part of the charge to all deputies is to help keep the members of their dioceses informed. You can urge people to read the information listed above so that they understand what is happening in San Joaquin. If you or your diocese want to support Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin, Remain Episcopal has identified specific assistance that is needed. The need includes liturgical items, clergy assistance, and monetary support. A specific list and details about how to help are listed at the bottom of this message.

Through my visits and communications with those living through this time of transition, I can assure you that your prayers are felt and appreciated. It is my deepest hope that the listening process and culminating event will reveal a new path forward paved with our baptismal promises. We are all called to live out those promises and I am grateful that within the House of Deputies there is a deep and abiding commitment to that truth.

I continue to hold each of you in prayer and I ask the same from you.

Bonnie Anderson, D.D.
President, The House of Deputies

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ten Years Ago Today ...

... God willed and the people consented to my ordination as a presbyter in the Church of God at St. John's Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Los Angeles ...

... by the Right Reverend Frederick Houk Borsch (still one of my favorite purple people on the planet!) And here I am ...

... (having a VERY flat hair day!) with both of my boys immediately following the ordination service outside St. John's. (And no, Jamie was not angry about anything ... he pretty much looked like that from the ages of 13-17 ... and still hates having his picture taken!)

Swamped as I am today by the business of being a presbyter in the Church of God I might have had this anniversary date pass by altogether unrecognized if not for a note from one of my fellow ordinands reminding me that today was INDEED the day -- and reminding me to rejoice and be glad in it!
So, rejoice and be glad with me ... and let us continue to pray, as was prayed for us that day at St. John's:

May the Lord who has given us the will to do these things give us the grace and power to perform them. Amen.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Voting Your Values

We're offering a "talking across the divide during the election season" adult education option here at All Saints Church in a few weeks and so I was doing some research online this afternoon about what other congregations might be doing.

Came across this Church of the Holy Trinity webpage and PDF designed to help parishioners vote their values. It comes with this introduction:
Members of Holy Trinity’s Peace & Restorative Justice Community wish to offer you a gift: a national agenda addressing major election-year issues of public policy. The agenda examines the issues through a Christian lens and makes specific public policy recommendations, taking into account the wisdom of scripture, the teachings of The Episcopal Church, and the consensus views of the Community.

The Community members are not telling you what to think, and certainly not for whom to vote, yet they do hope Setting the 2008 National Agenda: From A Christian Perspective will encourage you to examine you own perspectives and to participate in the 2008 elections.

Check it out. And then check out the reaction from "across the aisle" ... where Stand Firmites Greg Griffith and Jackie Bruchi have readied, aimed and fired at the folks from Holy Trinity for daring to suggest that progressive Christians not only HAVE Christian Values but should VOTE their Christian Values.


Shocked, I tell you!

Anyway, check it all out and give thanks that we live in a nation great enough to hold all this diversity in one big messy container. AND remember this Gospel According to Ed Bacon:
Faith in action is called politics. Spirituality without action is fruitless and social action without spirituality is heartless. We are boldly political without being partisan. Having a partisan-free place to stand liberates the religious patriot to see clearly, speak courageously, and act daringly.

P.S. -- And go ahead and call the IRS. Trust me ... we've "been there/done that" and lived to tell the story!

Another shoe drops ...

Pittsburgh bishop has abandoned communion of The Episcopal Church,
Title IV Review Committee says

I'm coming late to blog-land today ... busy, busy, busy in parish-land ... but wanted to stay abreast of the latest delevopments in "As the Anglican World Turns."

The latest shoe to drop is the Title IV Review Committee's determination that +Bob Duncan has INDEED abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church ... the story is outlined in this ENS article and a PDF of +Katharine's "Dear Bob" letter is available here.

Here's the "bottom line" -- from the ENS article:

Her letter told Duncan that she sought the canonically required permission from the House's three senior bishops with jurisdiction to inhibit him, based on the certification, from the performance of any episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts.

"On 11 January 2008 they informed me that such consents would not be given at this time by all three bishops," Jefferts Schori wrote.

"Pursuant to the time limits stated in
Canon IV.9, the matter will not come before the House of Bishops at its next scheduled meeting in March 2008, but will come before the House at the next meeting thereafter," the Presiding Bishop wrote in her letter.

"I would, however, welcome a statement by you within the next two months providing evidence that you once more consider yourself fully subject to the doctrine, discipline and worship of this Church," Jefferts Schori wrote in her letter to Duncan.

The three senior bishops with jurisdiction --
Leo Frade of Southeast Florida, Peter Lee of Virginia, and Don Wimberly of Texas -- did give their permission on January 11 for Jefferts Schori to inhibit Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield in another case where the Title IV Review Committee certified an abandonment of the communion of the church. The House will consider the case matter involving Schofield in March.

So what next? Well, looks like similar action pending regarding Fort Worth's Bishop Jack Iker, at least based on this "Dear Jack" letter made public today by the Diocese of Fort Worth, wherein +Katharine writes,

I believe you misinterpreted my previous letter. I gave no "acknowledgement that dioceses can and do leave The Episcopal Church." On the contrary, I continue to aver that individuals may leave, but congregations and dioceses do not. I continue to urge you to withdraw from any encouragement of such a belief, or action toward departure, as I believe it to be violation of the vows we have both repeatedly taken to "conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church."

Seems clear enough to me. And ALSO seems clear to me that there are going to be more "shoes dropping" before all is said and done. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lambeth Conference "Launched"

Lambeth Conference has begun ... or has it? (My money is on this question having as many answers as last week's question of the week: Is +Schofield in or out of TEC?)
Episcopal Cafe , however, is reporting that The Lambeth Conference IS underway with the first event to be held next week. It seems the media received the following invitation for January 21:

Official Launch of the 2008 Lambeth Conference and Spouses’ Conference with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Mrs Jane Williams. Briefing panel includes the Archbishop of Melanesia, the Archbishop of the Indian Ocean and Mrs Margaret Sentamu, Spouses Programme to be followed by a photo call with Bishops from around the Anglican Communion.

Monday, 21 January, 2008 at 2.30 p.m.
Refreshments will be served

An interesting side note:
The nugget of news tucked in this announcement is that the Most Rev. Ian Ernest, Primate of the Indian Ocean, will be on hand. Ernest recently succeeded Archbishop Peter Akinola as the chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA.) It would appear that the efforts of Akinola and his American allies to organize an all-African boycott of the conference have failed.

So there you have it ...

PS - Here's the link to the official Lambeth Conference website and there's also a Lambeth Conference blog to bookmark for future reference.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Speaking of Misogyny

Bravo, Bob Herbert, for this Op-ed in the January 15th New York Times:
Politics and Misogyny

With Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s win in New Hampshire, gender issues are suddenly in the news. Where has everybody been?

If there was ever a story that deserved more coverage by the news media, it’s the dark persistence of misogyny in America. Sexism in its myriad destructive forms permeates nearly every aspect of American life. For many men, it’s the true national pastime, much bigger than baseball or football.

Little attention is being paid to the toll that misogyny takes on society in general, and women and girls in particular.

Read it all here ... but here's the bottom line:

If we’ve opened the door to the issue of sexism in the presidential campaign, then let’s have at it. It’s a big and important issue that deserves much more than lip service.

Sermon for "Baptism of Our Lord" Sunday

I'm ready for the "push back" from those who will find this sermon "soft on sin" and want to know where's the part where we're saved by virtue of our baptism from our fallen nature as members of the wretched human race.

I'm remembering this morning a homily I heard last year on retreat with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Philadelphia from one of the Roman priests who came to preside in the convent chapel. He talked about his early days in ministry, doing missionary work in Guatemala and the deep friendship he developed with his Protestant roommate.He said they had MUCH in common as they worked among the poor of the city and they had lots of great conversations about theology, mission and ministry.

The one chasm they couldn't bridge, however, was the one between their different views on the nature of humanity. His roommate, the priest recounted, was convinced humans are inherently evil beings who can only accomplish good through our baptism into the Body of Christ. The priest, on the other hand, was convinced that humans are inherently good and that our baptism into the Body of Christ enables us to resist evil and participate with God in making the world a better place.
I was struck by how concisely he articulated what is arguably the greatest theological division we face ... and not only in the Episcopal Church/Anglican Communion. So many of the arguments about faith, sexuality, gender and mission come back, again and again, to what it means to be created in the image of God as human beings and what it means to be “saved” as Christians.
All that was part of the “back story” in writing this sermon … one I hoped would help the congregation contextualize both theologically and historically the sacrament we were all about to experience together.


Be Yourself
January 13, 2008 ~ Epiphany 2A ~ All Saints Church, Pasadena
Click here for the video

The gospel appointed for this “Baptism of Our Lord” Sunday is a Gospel According to Matthew. We’ll get to that in a minute, but I want to start out this morning with a different gospel … a Gospel According to Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

It is a gospel message I hope the young people being baptized today will take to heart and make their own – and that the parents and sponsors of our baptismal babies will do the same for them. For as we work together as a community of faith – as the Body of Christ – to help these children grow into the full stature of Christ – it is a gospel they will need to hear over and over and over again in order to claim it as their own – in order to believe that they ARE beloved of God, that they ARE anointed by the Holy Spirit in order to make a difference in the world, that they ARE deeply and abundantly loved, treasured and valued because of who they ARE … not because of what they do or believe or will achieve or accomplish.

Our agenda today – as we witness and participate in this baptismal celebration – is to be those “balcony people” the rector talks about – the ones who say, particularly in the bleakest and most anxious of moments, “Go for it. You can do it. You can make it. You’re made from good stuff. Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken!” And when, in a few minutes, we are asked to answer the question, “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?” our chance to sign on to the balcony brigade is our answer: “We will” – an answer that makes this ritual of baptism a sacramental moment for ALL of us.

Jesus’ baptism was a sacramental moment for all who gathered on the banks of the Jordan that day as well -- and Matthew, the gospel writer, has his own agenda in telling the story the way he does. He wants to show his predominately Jewish audience how the story of Jesus is not just a story, but their story – and so he begins with a genealogy that puts Jesus squarely in the line of Abraham & Sarah and ends with Jesus, like his Hebrew ancestors before him, emerging from the water into the Promised Land on the banks of the Jordan.

In Matthew’s account of the baptismal moment, Jesus is anointed by John and the Holy Spirit as the new bearer of God's hope for the people, the new fulfillment of God's promise -- a promise which at the end of Matthew's Gospel we discover is not just about the people of Israel but "all nations" … a radical notion, indeed!

For in point of fact, Jesus’ coming out of the Jordan was a radical act -- an intensely political act. John first -- and then Jesus -- were setting themselves directly against those in Jerusalem who used their power to oppress God's people. And this “Baptism of Our Lord” we celebrate all these centuries later was a first step toward the showdown that would come between them.

And because this is one of the years when Lent comes about as early as it possibly can, we’ll very soon be hearing again the stories that leads to Jerusalem, to Golgotha and to the Resurrection – stories not of a violent march to the throne but a loving journey to the cross and beyond. But for today, we are at the Jordan River, where our focus is on God’s blessing and the anointing of Jesus as Beloved. That, Matthew says, is our story of promise. That, Jesus says, is our journey, too.

It is a journey that is not about making us feel more comfortable with the status quo of our lives, when so much of that status quo thrives on the backs of the poor. It is about challenging us to cast aside our own oppressive use of power and join Jesus on his journey of speaking truth to power, giving voice to the voiceless, being agents of change.**

I’ve been around this church a VERY long time – and I’ve seen a lot of change. I’ve seen enough to know that change is not only possible but attainable. I was baptized into a church where girls couldn’t grow up to be acolytes … much less deacons, priests or bishops. When, as a young mother, I served at my first Diocesan Convention as a delegate, my credential badge read “Mrs. Anthony Russell” … never mind that MR Anthony Russell’s participation in the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church was to come on Christmas Eve and Easter Day.

My Aunt Gretchen, who died with a “Save the 1928 Prayer Book” bumper sticker on her car, was part of a Glendale parish that tried to – can you imagine such a thing? – leave the Episcopal Church over changes they couldn't handle: over the ordination of women. I could not in my wildest imagination – and I have a pretty wild imagination – have imagined that this church of my birth and baptism would change so much that in 2008 we would, under the leadership of a woman Presiding Bishop, be challenging the rest of the Anglican Communion to catch up with us as we continue to strive to fully include all the baptized in the Body of Christ.

We’re not quite there yet – but let’s not let the fact that we’re not quite there yet get in the way of celebrating all the changes that have brought us, as a community of faith, closer to the “full stature of Christ” as the Body of Christ in the world.

And I am convinced that a primary reason these changes that we celebrate this morning ARE changes we can celebrate this morning is that the sacrament we are about the celebrate – baptism – became the central organizing event in the theology, worship and work of the Episcopal Church with the adoption in 1976 of what some are still calling “The New Prayer Book” – a new prayer book with some very BIG changes.

For example, I remember when “good Episcopalians” would talk about “having the baby ‘done’” in scheduling the christening. And it was a “christening” … I didn’t hear so much about baptism growing up. I think it might have sounded, well, a little “Baptist.”

No, we “christened” our babies … and once they were “done” we went back home for a nice glass of sherry with the immediate family who had slipped in the side chapel for the sacramental moment that had no direct connection with the mission, ministry or witness of the church gathered on Sunday morning.

The “new prayer book” helped to change our theological focus – and my response to that change is “thanks be to God.” It was the shift to focusing on baptism that spawned the buttons we saw during the struggle for the ordination of women in the 70’s, “Ordain Women or Stop Baptizing Them.” And it is the centrality of our baptism that forms the foundation of our inclusion ministry today – it is the commitment to the ministry of ALL the baptized that sets us apart from some of our Anglican siblings.

I think it is, at least in part, my experience of that change that makes me hopeful we can actually make other changes – both in our church and in our nation – changes that cry out to be made at this time in our life together as Americans and as Episcopalians. It is my experience of that change that makes me both hopeful AND optimistic. Change and experience – they’re all the rage, aren’t they? Or at least they have been in the news of late – from places like … oh, Iowa and … New Hampshire.

Hear what our friend Jim Wallis has to say about that: “Even a candidate who runs on change, really wants it, and goes to Washington to make it, will confront a vast array of powerful forces which will do everything possible to prevent real change.” Which is why, Wallis says, “it will take a new spiritual revival to finally make serious social change really possible. Changing hearts and minds and forging a constituency who will demand nothing less than a new direction. Remember, President Lyndon Johnson didn't become a civil rights leader until Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks made him one. And that's what we need again now.”

That is EXACTLY what we need again now … and that is why what we do here this morning is so important. Not just important for Micah, Luke, William, Alexander, Nolan, Vanessa, Charlie and Nora who are being baptized today but for ALL who dare to take on the brave, audacious challenge of taking up the ministry of Jesus on earth – of BEING the Body of Christ in the world – of daring to, once again, say “I will” to the covenant questions asked at each and every baptismal occasion:

· Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
· Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
· Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

These promises – this covenant – is our job description, our strategic plan and our marching orders as Christians all rolled into one. It is what empowers us and sustains us to be part of that “spiritual revival” committed to making serious social change really possible.

I began this morning with a gospel according to Oscar Wilde and so I’ll end with a gospel from this side of the pond … a gospel according to Ed Bacon: Faith in action is called politics. Spirituality without action is fruitless and social action without spirituality is heartless.

Micah, Luke, William, Alexander, Nolan, Vanessa, Charlie and Nora – in a moment we will baptize you into the household of God, invite you to proclaim with us Christ’s resurrection and to share with us in Christ’s eternal priesthood. And we will invite you to join us in being agents of change – of working together to turn the human race into the human family – to join us by putting your faith into action as we go about the work of bringing heaven to earth -- God’s Kingdom come, God’s will be done -- as we strive to proclaim by word AND example the Good News of God in Christ Jesus.

There’s a hurting world out there in dire need of dramatic change. May the experience of this baptismal celebration empower each and every one of us to go out and be the church in the world -- to be agents of change on behalf of the Gospel of our Lord.

Oh – and remember: Be yourself. Because everyone else is already taken! Thanks be to God. Alleluia. Amen.


**Credit to Mike Kinman of EGR (Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation") for this connection between the spiritual and political implications of Matthew's baptismal account.