Thursday, November 30, 2006

"Clarity" On ALPO: An Early Christmas Present

What a nice surprise this morning to find an early Christmas present in my email inbox: the long awaited "clarity" on the "Alternative Primatial Oversight" issue. It is a proposal steeped in classic Anglican both/and ... protecting the integrity of the polity of the Episcopal Church and offering a pastoral response to those who hold a minority theological opinion. And the language "in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury" -- given that Kenneth Kearon was at the table for both the September and November meetings -- clearly indicates Canterbury "buy in" and perhaps ... just perhaps ... an end to the schimatic-generated fantasy that +Rowan was going to sweep in and vote TEC off the Anglican Island.

There's an ACNS (Anglican Communion News Service) news release ... an ENS (Episcopal News Service) release ... the titusoneniners, of course, hate it ... (here's one comment: It kind of reminds me of the Five-Year Plans the Stalinists promulgated in the Soviet Union in the 1930’s. All wind and no rain) ... my, my, my.

If you haven't time wade through all the links, here's the gist of the proposal:

The proposal provides for the appointment by the Presiding Bishop, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury of a Primatial Vicar as the Presiding Bishop's designated pastor to bishops and dioceses that have requested such oversight. The Primatial Vicar, in episcopal orders, could preside at consecrations of bishops in those dioceses. ThePrimatial Vicar, accountable to the Presiding Bishop, would report to an advisory panel that would include the designees of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of
Deputies, and a bishop of the Episcopal Church selected by the dioceses petitioning for pastoral care by the Primatial Vicar.

The response makes clear that the arrangement does not affect the administrative or other canonical duties of the Presiding Bishop except to the degree that the Presiding Bishop may wish to delegate some of those duties to the Primatial Vicar. The response also specifies that the Primatial Vicar and the Advisory Panel shall function in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.


afternoon addendum

There's an Anglican Communion Network press release: " first glance what is proposed is neither primatial, nor oversight, nor is it an alternative to the spiritual authority of one who, by both teaching and action, has expressly rejected the Windsor Report and its recommendations. This is obviously not what was asked for.” click here to read it all

And the AAC's David Anderson had comment: “The proposal does not take into account the heart of the issue and problem which is that Katharine Jefferts Schori has adopted a form of faith, theology and Christology that is so seriously out of step with historic Anglicanism and Christianity that it calls into question her capacity to give appropriate leadership on this matter. It keeps all the power in her hands. The proposal is to be in consultation with not the consent of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Thus she makes all the decisions. It is a non-starter.”

And INTEGRITY has issued a press release which included: Integrity urges those dioceses that have requested alternative primatial oversight to accept this proposal so we can all get on with the work of the Gospel. It is long past time to put these divisive issues to rest and unite as one to do the work of God—such as striving to end the AIDS pandemic and proclaiming together the Good News of God in Christ Jesus. Read it all click here to read it all

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Christian Statement on Civil Marriage Equality

Christian Statement on Civil Marriage Equality

No single religious voice speaks for all faith traditions on issues of sexuality and marriage, nor should government take sides on religious differences. Therefore, each religious group must have the right to discern who is eligible for marriage in its own tradition, and all clergy should be free to solemnize marriages without state interference. In fact, many religious traditions perform same gender unions and weddings. As Christians, we call on the state to recognize all religious bodies’ marriage ceremonies as legal. The best way to protect our nation’s precious religious freedom is to respect church-state separation and full equality under the law.
From the California Council of Churches IMPACT group ... click here to add your congregation to the list. (And stay tuned for breaking Marriage Equality News from the Golden State!)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

President Bush Explains It All

You can't make this stuff up:

Iraq Is Not 'Civil War,' Just Al-Qaeda Causing Trouble
by E&P Staff and The Associated Press

Amid a new media debate over use of the phrase "civil war" to describe deteriorating conditions in Iraq, President Bush said Tuesday that the sectarian violence rocking Iraq is not civil war but part of an al-Qaida plot to use violence to goad Iraqi factions into repeatedly attacking each other.

Right ... and the Weapons of Mass Destruction are just around the corner. Really!
Read the rest here ... or not ... and pray for peace.

Open Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury

The following letter originated from The Consultation Steering Committee, a network which includes representatives from the following organizations in The Episcopal Church: Integrity, Episcopal Urban Caucus, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Episcopal Women's Caucus, Union of Black Episcopalians, Episcopal Ecological Network, National Episcopal AIDS Coalition, Province VIII Indigenous Ministries, Episcopal Church Publishing Company, Episcopal Network for Economic Justice, Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry Advocates, and Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission.

An open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury
Regarding requests for “alternative primatial oversight”

Dear Archbishop Williams:

We write as members of The Episcopal Church to express our deep concern about the requests for “alternative primatial oversight” that have come from eight of our dioceses since the 2006 General Convention. Such a request is unprecedented, and we believe that granting any of these requests would pose a grave danger to the Anglican Communion.

An important aspect of our Anglican identity is our comprehensiveness as a reformed and catholic church in which our unity is expressed in common prayer rather than adherence to a formal confession of faith other than the Creeds. Historically, Anglicans have been willing to live together with a wide spectrum of theological perspectives. As you remind us in your June 2006 statement “The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today,” our distinctive Anglican inheritance includes “a reformed commitment to the absolute priority of the Bible for deciding doctrine, a catholic loyalty to the sacraments and the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, and a habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility that does not seek to close down unexpected questions too quickly.”

Drawing on these three components together, we are rooted in Christ, and our focus in Christ enables us to live with diverse and even at times conflicting points of view. Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane has recently commented: “It is because Jesus Christ, second person of the Trinity made flesh, is our goal, our end, our telos, the central focus and direction of our lives, that Anglicanism has found through the ages that we can afford to live with messiness, ambiguity and anomaly at the edges.” Those seeking “alternative primatial oversight” are in effect asking to walk away from the messiness and ambiguity of our current disputes about gays and lesbians in the church. In so doing, they give to these questions a doctrinal weight not in keeping with historic Anglican understandings. Allowing dioceses to reject the oversight of the duly selected primate of The Episcopal Church because of disagreements about this matter would open the door for others, here and elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, to reject pastoral and sacramental leadership on the basis of non-essential matters. This would lead to fragmentation of the Anglican Communion rather than deeper unity in Christ.

Some of those requesting “alternative primatial oversight” have also claimed that The Episcopal Church has not responded adequately to the Windsor Report. However, we do not view the Windsor Report as an ultimatum dictating precise forms of response by The Episcopal Church. We remind you of Archbishop Eames’ statement in the Foreword to the Report that it is not a judgment but part of a process. We understand participation in this process to include serious study of the report and prayerful consideration of its recommendations to The Episcopal Church. We believe that The Episcopal Church did so in its preparation for and actions at the General Convention, and committed by resolution to continue to do so, even as the process continues worldwide.

As with a response to any other recommendation or resolution from one of the Instruments of Communion or other international Anglican body, our response to the Windsor Report was made in light of our understanding of Scripture, the polity of The Episcopal Church, and sensitivity to the cultural contexts of this Church. We affirmed our desire to remain in the Anglican Communion, gave our support to the process of development of an Anglican Covenant, and committed ourselves to participate in the ongoing Windsor process as well as the listening process commended by the 1978, 1988, and 1998 Lambeth Conferences and the Windsor Report. We expressed regret for straining the bonds of affection in the confirmation and consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, and we urged standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction to refrain from consenting to “the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.”

The House of Bishops had already developed a plan for delegating episcopal pastoral oversight, and the Convention approved this plan. Although the convention did not adopt any resolutions about blessing same-sex relationships, no such liturgy has been authorized by any convention; instead, any decision to permit celebration of such a liturgy remains with the bishop, consistent with the provisions of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

In sum, we believe that the General Convention of The Episcopal Church has responded with great care to the Windsor Report, and at significant cost to some members of this Church. We urge you to reject claims that The Episcopal Church has not responded adequately to the Windsor Report, particularly as those claims become the basis for division rather than reconciliation. It is now time to allow others in the Anglican Communion, including the Instruments of Communion, to respond.

At least one of the dioceses requesting “alternative primatial oversight” has suggested the formation of a tenth province of The Episcopal Church. Creation of such a province could only occur through a canonical change enacted by the General Convention, and it is doubtful that the convention would approve the creation of a non-geographic province that is based on theological conviction. Beginning in the earliest centuries of the Church, dioceses have been formed geographically, and non-geographic dioceses and other structures have been considered anomalous. For example, during the nineteenth century, the overlapping American, English, and Canadian Anglican jurisdictions in Japan and China posed significant obstacles to missionary endeavors.

More recently, the efforts of Anglicans representing the Diocese in Europe (Church of England), the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, the Lusitanian Church, and the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain have shown us the benefits made possible by coordinated efforts. Allowing dioceses of The Episcopal Church to be overseen by primates from other regions would introduce the complexities and challenges of overlapping jurisdictions that historically have presented obstacles to effective mission.Permitting “alternative primatial oversight” would be further complicated by the reality that within each of the dioceses requesting this oversight, there are individuals and congregations who would understand themselves to remain fully within The Episcopal Church under the oversight of our Presiding Bishop. We anticipate that legal challenges would ensue, requiring significant expenditures of time and money that would be better spent on other essential matters of mission.

Finally, we feel compelled to question the premise of “alternative primatial oversight.” There is no provision in the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church for the Archbishop of Canterbury to exercise jurisdiction in this Province. In the Episcopal Church, the General Convention has sole authority to amend the Constitution and Canons, including the formation of dioceses and the assignment of dioceses to provinces within the Episcopal Church. We recognize that the Primates’ Meeting at Dromantine in February 2005 recommended that you appoint a panel of reference “to supervise the adequacy of pastoral provisions” made for dioceses in dispute with their provincial authorities. We remind you that in the Communiqué from that same meeting (par. 10) the Primates expressed caution regarding “any development which would seem to imply the creation of an international jurisdiction which could override our proper provincial autonomy.” Thus we urge that any work of the panel of reference respect the authority of the Presiding Bishop and the autonomy of The Episcopal Church.

We appreciate your support for the conversations convened in New York City in September 2006 among several bishops of The Episcopal Church, including the Presiding Bishop and the Presiding Bishop-elect, with Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion. This is an important sign that leadership in the Anglican Communion recognizes that the Archbishop of Canterbury does not have jurisdiction over the internal life of The Episcopal Church. We believe that the discussions must widen to include other clergy and lay leaders, particularly the President of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church, since our polity calls for full participation of laity as well as clergy other than bishops in decisions affecting our common life. We ask that you encourage and support a process that includes representatives of the entire Episcopal Church in discussions and decisions about the requests for “alternative primatial oversight.”

We recognize, as you have pointed out in “The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today,” that there continue to be strains in relationships within The Episcopal Church as well as between Churches of the Anglican Communion, and that we continue to be bound together through many different informal networks as well as more formal relationships such as companion dioceses. It is our fervent prayer that we continue to grow more deeply into the unity and the truth that are Christ’s gift. We believe that granting requests for “alternative primatial oversight” would undermine our ability to receive these gifts of truth and unity, and we urge you not to authorize any such plan.

To view signatures click here
To add your name please email your name, title and organization to

World AIDS Day

Presiding Bishop's Statement on World AIDS Day

"Words, words, words won't help us in our fight against the pandemic. Now is the time for action."

As people across the world pause to commemorate another World AIDS Day, my mind is drawn to these words, spoken by my brother Archbishop, Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town, earlier this year at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS.

My purpose in writing on World AIDS Day, then, is not simply to add more words to a debate that is already long on rhetoric but short on action. Rather, I hope my words will remind Episcopalians that our voices –- if united as ONE –- can make a critical difference in the fight to rid the world of a pandemic that claims the lives of 8,000 of God's people each day, destabilizes entire regions, and keeps hundreds of millions of people living in extreme poverty.

On this World AIDS Day, I urge all Episcopalians to join the "ONE Episcopalian" campaign, a unique partnership between the Episcopal Church and ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History. By becoming a ONE Episcopalian, you can unite your voice with more than 2.4 million Americans who are working, ONE by ONE, to create a world free of AIDS and deadly poverty. You can sign up online and it takes less than ONE minute.

The resources and strategies for preventing HIV and treating AIDS are fully within humanity's reach. Mobilization of resources by the United States and other countries over the past four years has increased treatment rates more than eight-fold in Africa and brought new hope to millions of people. Still, HIV-prevention efforts lag as infection rates continue to rise in many of the world's hardest hit regions. At least 4.3 million new infections occurred in the past year alone, with more than six in ten coming in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In order to turn the tide, governments must put full resources behind efforts like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Moreover, existing programs have to be continually adapted to ensure that they are as dynamic as possible in meeting the needs of local communities. Most importantly, prevention and treatment efforts must be combined with efforts to fight poverty, empower women, and build the sustainable communities envisioned by the Millennium Development Goals.

2007 promises to be a significant year as both the U.S. Congress and the international community will face key decisions in the fight against AIDS and poverty worldwide. More than ever, the voices of citizens like us will be critical, and by joining the ONE Episcopalian Campaign, we can ensure that our voices are heard.

On Sunday, Christians around the world will enter into Advent, the season of preparation for the great feast of the Incarnation. Our belief that, in order to redeem the world, God put aside all heavenly glory to make his dwelling in our midst –- challenges us to carry our worship of God out of our churches and homes and into the world around us. May the Child of Bethlehem, the tiny and vulnerable One in whom all the fullness of God is pleased to dwell, inspire us anew to worship him in the world by working to end HIV/AIDS and build a creation that truly shows forth the glory of God.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Posted on Episcopal News Service

Monday, November 27, 2006

Update on "As the Anglican World Turns"

"Thanks But No Thanks" .... The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh, and the Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth, have declined an invitation from the Rt. Rev. Peter Lee, Bishop of Virginia, to attend a second Summit Meeting of bishops requesting Alternate Primatial Oversight with the Presiding Bishop .... read the rest here

"Voting To Walk Apart" ... Meanwhile, Fr. Jake is reporting the over in San Joaquin that "Bp. John-David Schofield of San Joaquin has been making pre-convention presentations at the various deaneries within his diocese in an attempt to explain why he feels the proposed constitutional changes must be approved at their diocesan convention which begins this weekend" .... read the rest here.

And in the Diocese of Fort Worth nothing short of Civil War will do for some ...

"Secede: the only option" ... [Tracey Smith's commentary in the 11/27 Fort Worth Star-Telegram] The Episcopal Church today is like the United States in 1860 -- on the verge of civil war. Abraham Lincoln's inauguration in 1861 forced South Carolina rebels to attack the Union stronghold of Fort Sumter, beginning a four-year conflict. This month's inauguration of Katharine Jefferts Schori as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church had the same effect. Rebels against Schori see secession as their only recourse. ... read the rest here.

"Let The Record Show" ... Finally, here's Katie Sherrod's Letter to the Editor printed in Sunday's Fort-Worth Star Telegram as a rebuttal to the "Civil War" commentary referenced above:

Here's a fact checklist for those trying to make sense of Tracey Smith's extraordinarily misinformed piece about the Episcopal Church.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori holds views almost identical to those of her two immediate male predecessors, Edmond Browning and Frank Griswold, on issues of full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the church, on same-sex blessings and on salvation. Jack Iker managed to remain in communion, however impaired, with both of them.

The election and consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire has nothing to do with the rise of AIDS in Africa. AIDS in Africa is almost entirely a heterosexual problem. Trying to connect this tragedy with Robinson was a specious argument used to stir up fear.

The Anglican Communion isn't a church. It's a fellowship of highly autonomous provinces. The archbishop of Canterbury has no authority in or over the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church is the Anglican church in America, and its primate is Schori.

Episcopalians, like all Anglicans, believe that Scripture holds all things necessary for salvation. We take the Bible seriously, not literally. We believe that Scripture can best be understood through the lens of history, tradition and reason. Episcopalians are encouraged to love God with all their hearts and all their minds. We are encouraged to think.

There are 111 dioceses in the Episcopal Church, not 104. Of these, seven refuse to accept the leadership of their new presiding bishop.

No Episcopal bishop, including Iker, can be forced to ordain a gay or lesbian person -- or anyone else, for that matter. No Episcopal priest can be forced to perform a same-sex blessing. No one is forcing "recognition of homosexual practices" on church members.

Episcopal Church membership is dropping, as is membership in all mainline Protestant denominations. That trend began after World War II, long before Robinson and Schori were issues.

The Star-Telegram failed to apply its usual standards to Smith's "special" commentary. I hope that future essays on our church will be better informed.

Katie Sherrod, Fort Worth

Sunday, November 26, 2006

John Kirkley: Defending +Gene Robinson Again!

From John Kirkley's meditatio

Douglas Page’s editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle, A congregation divided,” is a toxic mix of ignorance and invective. Mr. Page misunderstands the role of the Lambeth Conference of Bishops, whose pronouncements are commendatory and occasionally edifying, serving to deepen conversation and communion among bishops of the Anglican Communion. It does not exercise a binding teaching authority nor does it define church doctrine.

The Episcopal Church, which is an autonomous member church of the Anglican Communion, has included sexual orientation in its non-discrimination canon governing access to church offices. It largely has left decision making regarding the qualifications of candidates for ordination as bishops, priests, and deacons to local dioceses. Most Episcopalians are quite convinced that gay and lesbian clergy make their vows with utter sincerity and in keeping with a faithful, though not always literal, interpretation of Holy Scripture.

Bishop Robinson was elected bishop of New Hampshire by the people of his diocese, who came to know, respect, and love him through his more than twenty years of service with them as a priest. I doubt the good people of New Hampshire, overwhelming heterosexual in their orientation, considered themselves the pawns of a “homosexual agenda.” They elected a good priest to be a good bishop. They chose well.

Bishop Robinson did not refuse his election because it wasn’t his decision to make. It was the decision of the people of New Hampshire and of more than two-thirds of the bishops, clergy, and laity gathered in General Convention in 2003 who voted to confirm his election. Imagine if Jackie Robinson had refused his “elevation” to major league baseball because “now was not the time” to address racism. Bishop Robinson would have been a coward if he had refused to face the heterosexism that infects our church and society.

Bishop Robinson has taken up his cross. The Episcopal Church has taken up its cross. Our Church is now enduring the consequences of bearing with discrimination, disdain, and demonization in solidarity with queer people. The way of the cross is painful, confusing, even frightening at times. But I am confident that new life, Resurrection life, is being offered through the faithfulness and courage of all-too-human disciples of Jesus like Bishop Gene Robinson. Bless you Gene!

And bless you, John, for this thoughtful, well-reasoned response to yet another wave of reactionary blather passing for editiorial comment. Bless you for stepping up, once again, and setting the record straight rather than letting shoddy journalism continue to perpetuate half-truths and wishful thinking as point-in-fact.

The world is flat. The bible says so.

by Larry Graham

The world is flat. The bible says so.

That was the teaching, until human investigation discovered otherwise. What happened to all of those flat-Earth people? With a few exceptions that are still around today, they either (a) became educated in the matter or (b) died off. No amount of intense belief; no amount of impassioned prayer will make the Earth flat.

But the Church tried very hard to make it flat anyhow.

Question: Who was responsible for the disruptions caused by this discovery? The astronomers? The church? Galileo took the blame, under pressure, and the Church was in the wrong.

While I agree that cultural differences lie at the root of our current Communion difficulties, I find it impossible to accept that we should give equal time and importance to ignorance and truth. While all cultures should be appreciated and all persons honored, all cultures are not created equal. It's time we stopped pretending that they are.

Cultures that practice blood sacrifice, female genital mutilation, or sell their children into slavery are not on a par with those that don't. Uneducated persons, in any society, are apt to be frightened of new ideas that they don'tunderstand or that their culture holds as wrong. Saying that homosexuality doesn't exist in Africa, or that it's an anomaly of decadent Western culture may play well among ignorant populations -- here and abroad. But it isn't true.

And we are supposed to be on the side of truth. It may be appropriate to acknowledge that we have rocked the boat. It is inappropriate to say that we're sorry for doing so. And it is flat out wrong to fail to acton what we know as true, just because somebody is offended by it.

I suggest that we should say something like "we have been blessed by Divine Providence with the knowledge, insight, scientific tools and time to inquire into the nature of homosexuality. We acknowledge that the new truths that have emerged can be distrubing. We have acted on these new truths through the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and we understand this has caused tension. We can see that God is doing a new thing. We desire to share this understanding with the wider Communion."

We do not need to dumb down our beliefs. (We can leave that to the fundamentalists who do a very good job of it.) We must not be the Galileos of the present age.

Thanks to Larry Graham (Verger at All Saints, Atlanta) for not only "telling it like it is" but giving permission for me to share his reflections here.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Birthday At Our House

Our MalaMutt Luna is celebrating her first birthday today ... so join me in giving thanks for all those creatures great-and-small who enrich our lives with their unconditional love and faithful companionship ... and check out the birthday festivities over at "Harvey and Luna."

Speaking of Christ the King ...

"Christ the King" tomorrow caused me to pull up a sermon from a few years back and to find that it still "preaches to the preacher:

The rule of God—the kingship of Christ—is not about earthly power or political authority, revenge or judgment; it’s about wholeness, it’s about restoring creation to the fullness of peace and justice, truth and love that God intended. It’s about all lands—ALL people—not just a chosen few. It’s about the primary moral value of prizing the interconnectedness of all humanity—of loving our neighbors as ourselves. The kingship of Jesus is AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN vastly different from a worldly kingship. When we celebrate Christ the King, we’re holding up a king who is, first and foremost, a reconciler, a redeemer, a servant. This is a king who comes to show us how to live as a people of God in the kingdom of God—a shepherd willing to lay down his life for his sheep.

Read the rest here -- and give thanks for the Kingship of Christ as well as the Motherhood of God!

Come, ye thankful people, come!

Come, ye thankful people, come!
Homily for THANKSGIVING EVE: 2006

This is the week when counting blessings competes with counting holiday catalogues piling up in the mail box while the TV commercials are already telling us we need to start counting shopping days until … well, let’s not go there tonight! This is the day when our op-ed pages and email inboxes are full of reflections on "what Thanksgiving means to me" and our to-do lists are full of all the last minute things that need done in order to pull off the "perfect Thanksgiving" - no pressure, now! And this is the point in the service where we hear - as we hear every year in the lessons appointed for our Thanksgiving worship - Jesus telling us in Matthew’s Gospel, Therefore I tell you, do not worry …

Louise tells me I haven’t been preaching long enough to repeat stories from the pulpit, but I’m going to anyway - repeat something I said last year: I remember the many years I sat in the pew listening to one preacher or the other waxing eloquent about not being anxious about earthly things. Well, I looked like I was listening. What I was actually doing was thinking, "Easy for you to say! I’ll bet someone else is at home right now digging through the sideboard desperately looking for matching napkins, watching the clock praying the turkey will thaw out in time and wondering how on earth to arrange the place cards for dinner so Aunt Diane doesn’t end up sitting next to Uncle Billy and we have a repeat of last year’s disaster!"

I risk using that illustration again this year not only because I want to make sure anyone here tonight in that place knows they have company but because I’m once again "preaching to the preacher" - reminding myself that [A] as much as I want, need, desire and strive for everything to be "perfect" it never will be because [B] the outward and visible signs of our Thanksgiving feast - the place cards, napkins, turkeys and such - are not the ends in themselves but the means by which we celebrate the abundant blessings we receive not just on this holiday in November but 24/7 from the God of abundant love. And so I’m particularly thankful for this evening - this oasis in the holiday hoopla - this time and space and community gathered - as we intentionally give thanks for all we have to be so very thankful for. So …

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

We are thankful people come once again to "raise the song of harvest home" in our worship tonight and our celebrations tomorrow, come once again to pray that we might be faithful stewards of the bounty we have received for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need. Note that this Collect for the Day appointed for this and every Thanksgiving prays for the provision of our necessities - not the fulfillment of our desires.

For the hard truth of this Thanksgiving prayer is that many of us all too readily confuse the two. To be faithful stewards of the bounty we have been given is not to amass more bounty - to pile up more "stuff" -- but to partner with God in sharing that bounty with the world in need. And once again I’m preaching to the preacher - the preacher who was profoundly convicted by this morning’s New York Times op-ed commentary offered by Rick Moranis who was counting not just his blessings but his "stuff." Here’s an excerpt --

I have nineteen remote controls, mostly in one drawer.
I have three computers, four printers and two non-working faxes.
I have three phone lines, three cell phones and two answering machines.
I have no messages.

I have forty-six cookbooks.
I have sixty-eight takeout menus from four restaurants.
I have one hundred and sixteen soy sauce packets.
I have three hundred and eighty-two dishes, bowls, cups, saucers, mugs and glasses.
I eat over the sink.

I read three dailies, four weeklies, five monthlies and no annual reports.
I have five hundred and six CD, cassette, vinyl and eight-track recordings.
I listen to the same radio station all day.

I have twenty-six sets of linen for four regular, three foldout and two inflatable beds.
I don’t like having houseguests.

I DO like having houseguests, but that’s not the point. The point is how busted I am about how blind I can be to the bounty that surrounds me and how much I need to be called - again and again - to be given the grace to be not just mindful but responsive to the needs of others.

Here’s what my colleague Jim Naughton has to say about grace: It is easier to believe in chance than in grace. Chance requires nothing from us. In fact, if life is a succession of random events, than any response to good fortune is superfluous. Grace is different. In receiving grace, we are challenged to become channels of grace. This is more than a matter of a few good deeds (although those help); it is an invitation to place one's self in God's hands, and devote one's self toward what we perceive as God's ends. Thanksgiving, then, is a call to action: a gentle poke to awaken our collective conscience - to remind us that to whom much is given … well, you know the rest.

Grace requires - as the reading from James reminds us this evening - that we be doers of the word, not just hearers - a lesson that at first glance is not very "Thankgiving-y." There are in scripture other verses that have much more to do say about thankfulness than these, speaking of the bounty of God, the abundance of the harvest - the things more traditionally associated with this great feast day. Rather these passages challenge us to think of Thanksgiving beyond the perfect turkey laden table on the cover of Gourmet Magazine - moving us instead to a heartfelt thanksgiving of action - challenging us to proclaim by word and deed our thanks to God in our behavior as well as in our beliefs.

Katharine Jefferts Schori - our new Presiding Bishop - spoke of what that thanksgiving of action looks like to her in the sermon she gave earlier this month at her Investiture in Washington DC. There's a wonderful Hebrew word for that vision and work - shalom. It doesn't just mean the sort of peace that comes when we're no longer at war. It's that rich and multihued vision of a world where no one goes hungry because everyone is invited to a seat at the groaning board, it's a vision of a world where no one is sick or in prison because all sorts of disease have been healed, it's a vision of a world where every human being has the capacity to use every good gift that God has given, it is a vision of a world where no one enjoys abundance at the expense of another, it's a vision of a world where all enjoy Sabbath rest in the conscious presence of God.

Shalom means that all human beings live together as siblings, at peace with one another and with God, and in right relationship with all of the rest of creation. It is that vision of the lion lying down with the lamb and the small child playing over the den of the adder, where the specter of death no longer holds sway. It is that vision to which Jesus points when he says, "today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

To say "shalom" is to know our own place and to invite and affirm the place of all of the rest of creation, once more at home in God. That homecoming of shalom is both destination and journey. We cannot embark on the journey without some vision of where we are going, even though we may not reach it this side of the grave. We are really charged with seeing everyplace and all places as home, and living in a way that makes that true for every other creature on the planet.

None of us can be fully at home, at rest, enjoying shalom, unless all the world is as well. Shalom is the fruit of living that dream.

There it is: the bottom-line, the money-quote, the foundational call to us as peace-makers, Christ-bearers, Thanks-givers in the world: None of us can be fully at home unless all the world is as well. None of us can truly raise the song of harvest home until all are safely gathered in. The child in Ramallah and the soldier in Tikrit. The foster child in Monrovia and the AIDS patient in Malawi. The homeless in Pasadena and the hopeless in Darfur. And of all the abundant gifts we celebrate this Thanksgiving, perhaps the greatest gift is the one we have been given to give away: the shalom of God that is both destination and journey.

So come, ye thankful people come - come to this altar where we will eat together the holy food of new and unending life - will receive strength for that journey.

And then go, ye thankful people go - out into the world to partner with God in the long-term strategic plan of realizing God’s dream of shalom here on earth as it is in heaven.

Go - remembering that we proclaim a Kingdom of God - a Reign of God -- that is both already and not yet.

Go - recognizing both the opportunity and the challenge of this work we have been given to do and claiming this prayer … translated from Arabic by our Director of Peace & Justice, Vivien Sansour … as the road map for our journey.

* God, please do not allow me to be inflicted by arrogance if I succeed nor with despair if I fail; instead remind me always that failure is the first step before success.
* Teach me that forgiveness is the highest level of strength and that the desire for revenge is the first sign of weakness.
* If I were to lose the blessing of good health grant me the blessing of strong faith and if the blessing of wealth is to leave me, grant me the blessing of hope.
* If I am unkind to people, give me the courage to apologize and if people are unkind to me, give me the ability to forgive.
* If I forget you, do not forget me. I am your child.
* Make me more faithful and empty my heart of envy, jealousy, and sadness.
* Fill my heart with love and love only. Amen

Say WHAT?????????

Family Planning Farce -- Editorial from 11/24/06 NYTimes

It sounds like a late-night parody of President Bush’s bad habit of filling key posts with extreme ideologues and incompetents. To head family planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services, Mr. Bush has tapped Eric Keroack, a doctor affiliated with a group vehemently opposed to birth control and someone nationally known for his wacky theory about reproductive health.

Before his appointment, Dr. Keroack served as the medical director of A Woman’s Concern, a network of pregnancy counseling clinics across Massachusetts whose method of trying to dissuade women from having an abortion includes spreading the scary and medically inaccurate myth that having an abortion steeply increases the risk of breast cancer. The group also has a policy against dispensing contraception even to married women. It has stated on its Web site that the distribution of contraceptive drugs or devices is “demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality and adverse to human health and happiness.” Dr. Keroack now claims that he disagrees with these approaches, a repositioning that seems very belated.

When speaking at abstinence conferences across the country, and in his writings, Dr. Keroack has promoted the novel argument that sex with multiple partners alters brain chemistry in a way that makes it harder for women to form bonding relationships. One of the researchers cited by Dr. Keroack has called the claim “complete pseudoscience” unsupported by her findings.

Armed with these credentials, Dr. Keroack has been drafted to lead the federal office that finances birth control, pregnancy tests, breast cancer screening and other critical health care services for five million poor people annually, and to advise Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt on family planning issues.

Americans who were expecting a more moderate administration in the wake of this month’s elections may find all this shocking. But to the unchastened Bush White House, apparent opposition to contraceptives, abortion and science was the opposite of disqualifying. It was a winning trifecta.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

On Counting Our Blessings

From today's op-ed page in the NYT

My Days Are Numbered

The average American home now has more television sets than people ... according to Nielsen Media Research. There are 2.73 TV sets in the typical home and 2.55 people, the researchers said. -- The Associated Press, Sept. 21.

I HAVE two kids. Both are away at college.
I have five television sets. (I like to think of them as a set of five televisions.) I have two DVR boxes, three DVD players, two VHS machines and four stereos.

I have nineteen remote controls, mostly in one drawer.
I have three computers, four printers and two non-working faxes.
I have three phone lines, three cell phones and two answering machines.
I have no messages.

I have forty-six cookbooks.
I have sixty-eight takeout menus from four restaurants.
I have one hundred and sixteen soy sauce packets.
I have three hundred and eighty-two dishes, bowls, cups, saucers, mugs and glasses.
I eat over the sink.

I have five sinks, two with a view.
I try to keep a positive view.
I have two refrigerators.
It’s very hard to count ice cubes.

I have thirty-nine pairs of golf, tennis, squash, running, walking, hiking, casual and formal shoes, ice skates and rollerblades.
I’m wearing slippers.

I have forty-one 37-cent stamps.
I have no 2-cent stamps.

I read three dailies, four weeklies, five monthlies and no annual reports.
I have five hundred and six CD, cassette, vinyl and eight-track recordings.
I listen to the same radio station all day.

I have twenty-six sets of linen for four regular, three foldout and two inflatable beds.
I don’t like having houseguests.

I have one hundred and eighty-four thousand frequent flier miles on six airlines, three of which no longer exist.
I have “101 Dalmatians” on tape.
I have fourteen digital clocks flashing relatively similar times.
I have twenty-two minutes to listen to the news.
I have nine armchairs from which I can be critical.
I have a laundry list of things that need cleaning.
I have lost more than one thousand golf balls.
I am missing thirty-seven umbrellas.
I have over four hundred yards of dental floss.
I have a lot of time on my hands.
I have two kids coming home for Thanksgiving.

Rick Moranis is the creator of a country music album, “The Agoraphobic Cowboy.”

When religion loses its credibility

This commentary from USA Today made the email-rounds earlier this week but today is the first time I've had time to post it here -- it's a real "keeper!"

When religion loses its credibility

What if Christian leaders are wrong about homosexuality? I suppose, much as a newspaper maintains its credibility by setting the record straight, church leaders would need to do the same:

Correction: Despite what you might have read, heard or been taught throughout your churchgoing life, homosexuality is, in fact, determined at birth and is not to be condemned by God's followers.

Based on a few recent headlines, we won't be seeing that admission anytime soon. Last week, U.S. Roman Catholic bishops took the position that homosexual attractions are "disordered" and that gays should live closeted lives of chastity. At the same time, North Carolina's Baptist State Convention was preparing to investigate churches that are too gay-friendly. Even the more liberal Presbyterian Church (USA) had been planning to put a minister on trial for conducting a marriage ceremony for two women before the charges were dismissed on a technicality. All this brings me back to the question: What if we're wrong?

Religion's only real commodity, after all, is its moral authority. Lose that, and we lose our credibility. Lose credibility, and we might as well close up shop.

It's happened to Christianity before, most famously when we dug in our heels over Galileo's challenge to the biblical view that the Earth, rather than the sun, was at the center of our solar system. You know the story. Galileo was persecuted for what turned out to be incontrovertibly true. For many, especially in the scientific community, Christianity never recovered.

This time, Christianity is in danger of squandering its moral authority by continuing its pattern of discrimination against gays and lesbians in the face of mounting scientific evidence that sexual orientation has little or nothing to do with choice. To the contrary, whether sexual orientation arises as a result of the mother's hormones or the child's brain structure or DNA, it is almost certainly an accident of birth. The point is this: Without choice, there can be no moral culpability.

So, why are so many church leaders (not to mention Orthodox Jewish and Muslim leaders) persisting in their view that homosexuality is wrong despite a growing stream of scientific evidence that is likely to become a torrent in the coming years? The answer is found in Leviticus 18. "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination."

As a former "the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it" kind of guy, I am sympathetic with any Christian who accepts the Bible at face value. But here's the catch. Leviticus is filled with laws imposing the death penalty for everything from eating catfish to sassing your parents. If you accept one as the absolute, unequivocal word of God, you must accept them all.

For many of gay America's loudest critics, the results are unthinkable. First, no more football. At least not without gloves. Handling a pig skin is an abomination. Second, no more Saturday games even if you can get a new ball. Violating the Sabbath is a capital offense according to Leviticus. For the over-40 crowd, approaching the altar of God with a defect in your sight is taboo, but you'll have plenty of company because those menstruating or with disabilities are also barred.
The truth is that mainstream religion has moved beyond animal sacrifice, slavery and the host of primitive rituals described in Leviticus centuries ago. Selectively hanging onto these ancient proscriptions for gays and lesbians exclusively is unfair according to anybody's standard of ethics. We lawyers call it "selective enforcement," and in civil affairs it's illegal.

A better reading of Scripture starts with the book of Genesis and the grand pronouncement about the world God created and all those who dwelled in it. "And, the Lord saw that it was good." If God created us and if everything he created is good, how can a gay person be guilty of being anything more than what God created him or her to be?

Turning to the New Testament, the writings of the Apostle Paul at first lend credence to the notion that homosexuality is a sin, until you consider that Paul most likely is referring to the Roman practice of pederasty, a form of pedophilia common in the ancient world. Successful older men often took boys into their homes as concubines, lovers or sexual slaves. Today, such sexual exploitation of minors is no longer tolerated. The point is that the sort of long-term, committed, same-sex relationships that are being debated today are not addressed in the New Testament. It distorts the biblical witness to apply verses written in one historical context (i.e. sexual exploitation of children) to contemporary situations between two monogamous partners of the same sex. Sexual promiscuity is condemned by the Bible whether it's between gays or straights. Sexual fidelity is not.

What would Jesus do? For those who have lingering doubts, dust off your Bibles and take a few hours to reacquaint yourself with the teachings of Jesus. You won't find a single reference to homosexuality. There are teachings on money, lust, revenge, divorce, fasting and a thousand other subjects, but there is nothing on homosexuality. Strange, don't you think, if being gay were such a moral threat?

On the other hand, Jesus spent a lot of time talking about how we should treat others. First, he made clear it is not our role to judge. It is God's. ("Judge not lest you be judged." Matthew 7:1) And, second, he commanded us to love other people as we love ourselves.

So, I ask you. Would you want to be discriminated against? Would you want to lose your job, housing or benefits because of something over which you had no control? Better yet, would you like it if society told you that you couldn't visit your lifelong partner in the hospital or file a claim on his behalf if he were murdered?

The suffering that gay and lesbian people have endured at the hands of religion is incalculable, but they can look expectantly to the future for vindication. Scientific facts, after all, are a stubborn thing. Even our religious beliefs must finally yield to them as the church in its battle with Galileo ultimately realized. But for religion, the future might be ominous. Watching the growing conflict between medical science and religion over homosexuality is like watching a train wreck from a distance. You can see it coming for miles and sense the inevitable conclusion, but you're powerless to stop it. The more church leaders dig in their heels, the worse it's likely to be.

Oliver "Buzz" Thomas is a Baptist minister and author of an upcoming book, 10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can't Because He Needs the Job).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Argumentum ad antiquitatem

Thanks to David Huff for my new favorite sound bite term: argumentum ad antiquitatem which translates "appeal to tradition." (See definition and examples below!)


Appeal to tradition, also known as appeal to common practice or argumentum ad antiquitatem or false induction is a common logical fallacy in which someone proclaims his or her accuracy by noting that "this is how it's always been done." Essentially: "This is right because we've always done it this way."

An assumption behind this argument is that whatever reason led to the old methods of thinking is still valid today. If circumstances have changed, this may be a false assumption. Moreover, the "old" method may never have been proven correct. Also, the argument takes for granted that status quo is desired, which may or may not be correct.

"Our society has always ridden horses. It would be foolish to start driving cars." (rebuttal: we want to travel farther and horses are no longer adequate for traveling such great distances)

"Your invention is a bad idea because it has no historical precedent." (rebuttal: the fact that something has not been previously attempted does not guarantee it will ultimately fail)

"These rules were written 100 years ago and we have always followed them. Therefore, there is no need to change them." (rebuttal: the society in which the rules were written has changed, and thus those rules may no longer be applicable)

"Marriage has always been between one man and one woman, therefore same sex marriage is wrong."(rebuttal: society changes with time, therefore things that were not acceptable at one time may be acceptable today.)

Read the rest at Wikipedia and let's all pray that we are coming to the end of the argumentum ad nauseum that has for too long consumed the energy and attention of this church!

Monday, November 20, 2006


I continue to be encouraged by both the proactivity and transparency of our new Presiding Bishop. Case in point: this just-published-by-ENS letter from her Most Reverend Self to +John-David. In short: You Go, Girl!

Episcopal News Services reports: Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori -- concerned by current affairs in the Fresno-based Diocese of San Joaquin, California -- has written to its bishop, the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield. The diocese, which is scheduled to meet in convention December 1-2, includes an estimated 10,000 Episcopalians in some 48 congregations. The text of Jefferts Schori's November 20 letter follows.

The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield
Diocese of San Joaquin
4159 E. Dakota Avenue
Fresno, California 93726

My dear brother:

I have seen reports of your letter to parishes in the Diocese of San Joaquin, which apparently urges delegates to your upcoming Diocesan Convention to take action to leave the Episcopal Church. I would ask you to confirm the accuracy of those reports. If true, you must be aware that such action would likely be seen as a violation of your ordination vows to "uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them." I must strongly urge you to consider the consequences of such action, not only for yourself but especially for all of the Episcopalians under your pastoral charge and care.

I certainly understand that you personally disagree with decisions by General Conventions over the past 30 and more years. You have, however, taken vows three times over that period to uphold the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church." If you now feel that you can no longer do so, the more honorable course would be to renounce your orders in this Church and seek a home elsewhere. Your public assertion that your duty is to violate those vows puts many, many people at hazard of profound spiritual violence. I urge you, as a pastor, to consider that hazard with the utmost gravity.

As you contemplate this action I would also remind you of the trust which you and I both hold for those who have come before and those who will come after us. None of us has received the property held by the Church today to use as we will. We have received it as stewards, for those who enjoy it today and those who will be blessed by the ministry its use will permit in the future. Our forebears did not build churches or give memorials with the intent that they be removed from the Episcopal Church. Nor did our forebears give liberally to fund endowments with the intent that they be consumed by litigation.

The Church will endure whatever decision you make in San Joaquin. The people who are its members, however, will suffer in the midst of this conflict, and probably suffer unnecessarily. Jesus calls us to take up our crosses daily, but not in the service of division and antagonism. He calls us to take up our crosses in his service of reconciling the world to God. Would that you might lead the people of San Joaquin toward decisions that build up the Body, that bring abundant life to those within and beyond our Church, that restore us to oneness.

I stand ready for conversation and reconciliation. May God bless your deliberation.

I remain
Your servant in Christ,

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate

Sunday, November 19, 2006

NYT Q&A w/+Katharine

Published: November 19, 2006 in The New York Times Magazine

You just took office as the first woman to head the Episcopal Church, and curiously enough, you come from a science background, having worked as an oceanographer for years.
I worked on squids and octopuses.

As a scientist with a Ph.D., what do you make of the Christian fundamentalists who say the earth was created in six days and dismiss evolution as a lot of bunk?
I think it's a horrendous misunderstanding of both science and active faith tradition. I understand the great creation story in the scientific sense — big bang and evolutionary theory — as the best understanding of how we have come to be what we are: not the meaning behind it, but the process behind it. Genesis is about the meaning behind that.

Your critics see you as an unrepentant liberal who supports the ordination of gay bishops. Are you trying to bolster the religious left?
No. We're not about being either left or right. We're about being comprehensive.

How many members of the Episcopal Church are there in this country?
About 2.2 million. It used to be larger percentagewise, but Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children.

Episcopalians aren't interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?
No. It's probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.

You're actually Catholic by birth; your parents joined the Episcopal Church when you were 9. What led them to convert?
It was before Vatican II had any influence in local parishes, and I think my parents were looking for a place where wrestling with questions was encouraged rather than discouraged.

Have you met Pope Benedict?
I have not. I think it would be really interesting.

He became embroiled in controversy this fall after suggesting that Muslims have a history of violence.
So do Christians! They have a terrible history. Look at history in the Dark Ages. Charlemagne converted whole tribes by the sword. I think Muslims are poorly understood by the West, and it is easy to latch onto that which we do not understand and demonize it.

What do you make of Ted Haggard, who just stepped down as the head of the National Association of Evangelicals, after he was accused of cavorting with a gay escort?
I think it's very sad. We're always surprised when we see people's clay feet. Our culture seems to delight in exposing them. I think we have a prurient interest in other people's failings.

You can't blame the Haggard case on the culture or the media. It isn't a story about sex so much as the disturbing hypocrisy of a church leader.
But we're all hypocrites. All of us.

You're very forgiving.
I like the word "shalom." I use it in my correspondence, I use it in my sermons, and that's how I sign my e-mails — "shalom." To me it is a concrete reminder of what it is we're all supposed to be about.

Because it means peace in Hebrew?
It means far more than peace. I think it's a vision of the human community. Those great visions of Isaiah — every person fed, no more strife, the ill are healed, prisoners are released.

You were previously bishop of Nevada, but your new position requires you to live in New York City. Do you and your husband like it here?
He is actually in Nevada. He is a retired mathematician. He will be here in New York when it makes sense.

I hear you're a pilot.
I got my license when I was 18.

You have many talents.
Many crazinesses, many passions.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Partisan Politics In the Pulpit ... Or Not?????

From an article in today's L.A. Times ... reviewing the IRS v. All Saints Church and previewing "The War, the Pulpit and the Right to Preach" -- the interfaith conference being held at All Saints tomorrow.

[L.A. Times November 18, 2006]

So what exactly did a priest say to get a Pasadena church in trouble with the IRS?

The federal agency has launched an investigation into the activities of All Saints Episcopal Church, asking whether a sermon by a former rector before the 2004 presidential campaign constituted campaigning. As tax-exempt organizations, churches are barred from campaigning for candidates. The sermon, delivered Oct. 31, 2004, by the Rev. George F. Regas, was framed as a debate involving Jesus, President Bush and his Democratic challenger, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts.

In September, the church announced that it would not comply with an IRS summons demanding that All Saints turn over materials with political references, such as sermons and newsletters, produced during the 2004 election year. The current rector, the Rev. Ed Bacon, did not obey a summons that ordered him to testify before IRS investigators.

The church continues to set a defiant tone. On Sunday, All Saints will sponsor a conference called "The War, the Pulpit and the Right to Preach." It will include workshops on conflict resolution, tax law and "Prophetic Traditions and Free Speech." Regas and Bacon are scheduled to speak.But did Regas' speech violate federal laws?

The answer, mostly likely to come from the courts, hinges on how one defines campaigning and interprets his remarks. An extended excerpt from the sermon appears below. It represents about a third of the text. The complete address can be found here

Fr. Jake on Ft. Worth

This is one of those Saturday's that started with LEM training at 8 a.m. and will end with an 80th birthday party for a Parish Council member -- with three other meetings and a 5:00 Family Eucharist in between -- so I have been only sporadically and briefly checking in on "As the Anglican World Turns." Happily, Fr. Jake has been keeping track of what's going on in the Fort Worth "corner of the kingdom": From Fr. Jake Stops the World

Fort Worth Allows Parishes to Leave the Network

The Diocese of Fort Worth is holding their Annual Convention. Fr. Cantrell is informing us of their decisions. The text of the four proposed resolutions can be found here. What I found particularly interesting was Resolution 3, which reads, in part:

Resolved, this convention make provision for those Episcopalians in this diocese who wish to withdraw their membership from The Network of Anglican Dioceses and Parishes and to accede to the authority of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church...

Read it all here.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Integrity Info Letter

Hot off the presses:
The newest edition of the Integrity InfoLetter -- check it out!

Fort Worth Convention This Weekend

This Star-Telegraph article gives the overview of what's at stake for Fort Worthians this weekend. For a more personal reflection, see Katie Sherrod's blog: Desert's Child -- and ponder for just a moment what we could be accomplishing if all the energy being expended on fomenting this schism was pooled with the energy being expended trying to preserve the unity of the church and instead concentrated on -- oh let's say Darfur. Or AIDS in Africa. Or childen without health care or senior citizens without medication or the homeless and helpless among us. I think Jesus cares a whole lot more about any one of those things that He does about who gets to go to Lambeth or who gets to call themselves "Anglican" this week.

Diocese delegates consider alternate leader
By Terry Lee Goodrich
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

ARLINGTON -- Delegates in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth this weekend will consider whether to affirm Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker's appeal to give local Episcopal churches separate leadership from Katharine Jefferts Schori, who became the denomination's national leader this month.

About 250 clergy and lay delegates are expected to attend the diocese convention Friday and Saturday at St. Peter and St. Paul Episcopal Church in Arlington. The Fort Worth diocese has about 20,000 members.

Iker and six other American bishops have appealed to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, leader of world Anglicanism, to provide an alternative to Schori, who supports gay relationships, diocese spokeswoman Suzanne Gill said. Those who have appealed the leadership reject same-sex unions as incompatible with Scripture.

The Episcopal Church, which has 111 dioceses, represents Anglicanism in the United States, Haiti, Ecuador, Puerto Rico and elsewhere.

Iker leads one of three U.S. dioceses that also prohibit female bishops and priests as a violation of biblical and church traditions.

The archbishop has proposed two tiers within the church -- "constituent" and "associate" members -- to allow for differing views on scriptural interpretation about homosexuality and other issues. Associate members would not vote on church doctrine and practice, Gill said.
Other resolutions to be considered by delegates state:

That a "broken communion" exists within the Episcopal Church; and that the Fort Worth diocese should ratify the July decision by the diocese's standing committee to disassociate from Episcopal Province 7 in the Southwest, one of nine U.S. provinces. The resolution states that the diocese wants to remain a part of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion and to be a constituent or voting member if two tiers are established.

The proposed resolution also asks that the diocese be associated with a new 10th province sharing faith and practice rather than geographic boundaries.

That while a minority of parishes, missions and lay people in the diocese do not share Iker's views, they should be recognized by others in the diocese.

"Even though we disagree on these issues, we believe it is possible to live together in love while working for reconciliation to which we are called by Christ," the resolution reads.

That a diocese commission be appointed to develop a "listening process" between parishes, gays and lesbians and those who study sexuality.

The Rev. Frank B. Reeves of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Southlake said he is one of seven clergy members in the diocese who question Iker's actions. Reeves criticized the proposal to withdraw from Province 7. "It's like saying, 'We're the Episcopal church, but we don't like it.' It's a strange game," he said.

He also said the resolution supporting alternative leadership to Schori amounts to rubber-stamping the appeal Iker made to the archbishop after Schori was elected presiding bishop in June.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Christopher Cantrell of the Church of the Holy Apostles in Fort Worth said the resolution recognizing the minority doesn't seem to be needed.

"No one is contesting that a minority exists," he said.

Cantrell said the resolution seeking a "listening process" commission is unnecessary because Anglican bishops have for many years urged parishes to communicate with and minister to homosexuals.

"The resolution asks that be done in a formal way, and I don't see how that would be all that helpful," Cantrell said. "It seems to me that would have only one outcome: advocating support for blessing same-sex unions."

Nationwide, the Episcopal church has about 2.3 million members.; click on Information Package 2

From this morning's web surfing ...

Cartoon from today's Washington Post:

Commentary by Jim Naughton (The Daily Episcopalian) on Rowan on the Covenant

I don't think he's given much encouragement to people who want the Episcopal and Canadian churches tossed out of the Communion. In fact, I think that for the near term, that ship has sailed. It may return at the conclusion of the covenant drafting process, and we may be faced with the choice of swallowing our principles to retain our membership, but, again, in the near term, I think the notion that we will be anything other than full members of the Anglican Communion has no basis.

Fr. Jake (Father Jake Stops the World) on Supporting Faithful Episcopalians in San Joaquin

There are a number of faithful Episcopalians within San Joaquin. One would hope that the leadership of TEC will respond to their needs. But, if past actions are any indication of the future, we can't count on that happening. Consequently, it is very important that we respond on a grassroots level to the needs of those feeling abandoned with no place to turn.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

War, religion, and gay rights

Brilliant commentary by James Carroll in this week's Boston Globe ...

War, religion, and gay rights
By James Carroll November 13, 2006

IN JERUSALEM, Muslims and Jews have found common cause: attacking gay people.

A gay pride parade was scheduled for Friday. In Palestinian areas, Muslim leaders vigorously condemned homosexuality as criminal, and in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, Jewish demonstrators staged raucous protests. As a result, organizers canceled the parade. One of them said, "Now we are being dragged back into the dark world of religion."

In US elections last week, while a wave of change was reversing the nation's conservative direction, a counterwave crested, and it, too, attacked gays.

On the ballot in eight states were amendments defining marriage as between a man and woman, a direct repudiation of the right of homosexual couples to marry. In seven of those states, the amendment passed. One of those was Colorado, where a leader of the anti-gay-marriage movement, Pastor Ted Haggard, had, the week before, been forced out of his position as head of New Life Church in Colorado Springs because of an alleged relationship with a male prostitute. In his resignation letter, Haggard confessed, "I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all my adult life."

In Massachusetts, ahead of last week's constitutional convention, the Commonwealth's four Catholic bishops took a rare political initiative, calling on Catholics to pressure legislators to support an anti-gay-marriage amendment here. The convention recessed without taking action, but the bishops had demonstrated the absolute priority of rolling back the right of gays to marry. When public crises are defined by an immoral American war, universal cuts in social services, violence among young people, resurgent nuclear arsenals, rising global inequity, unprecedented jeopardy of the earth itself, why are the bishops obsessed with this particular question?

Same-sex erotic love is not the issue. Humans, including Catholic bishops, have long accommodated it. But that accommodation assumes denial and shame. What brings demonstrators into streets across cultures, and what shows up in the United States as "values" politics, mobilizing bishops, is the movement to bring homosexuality out of the dark.

When gay people openly assert their identities as such, whether through parades or through the demand for full and equal social recognition, reactionaries cannot stand it. Why?

Two answers, one personal and one political. The open affirmation of gay identity can pose a mortal threat to people whose own sexual identity is insecure. The Haggard story is a cautionary tale. As it happens, I was present last year to hear Pastor Ted preach a sermon at his mega-church, and it included a digressive attack on homosexuals that was as venomous and it was gratuitous. He equated gay sex with bestiality.

Even at the time, I wondered about the dark energy of his hatred. That it is revealed now as self-hatred comes as no surprise. One needn't draw a direct line from Haggard's behavior to the private morality of Catholic bishops to sense that the church's own deepening insecurity on all matters of sexuality, especially those surfaced by the still unresolved crisis of priestly sexual abuse of children, informs its exceptional opposition to gay rights.

And so in Jerusalem. The insecurities of male establishments, whose dominance over women is threatened, readily explode in contempt for any expression of gay pride. Patriarchy is at issue.
There is a deflection here, and that points to the political use of gay bashing. At the end of the Cold War, when the Pentagon defined itself as the world's largest closet by decreeing "don't ask, don't tell," the issue of gays in the military was being used to deflect attention from the military's real problem: how to maintain Cold War levels of spending, and a Cold War nuclear arsenal, without a Cold War enemy?

The real "don't ask, don't tell" was "Don't ask us about our budgets and nukes, and we won't tell you about the future wars they will enable." All of the Sturm und Drang about gays in the military deflected American attention from the real issue of the moment, and it worked. The American Cold War ethos is still with us.

The human race is undergoing a massive cultural mutation. The meaning of sexuality is being transformed as biology revolutionizes reproduction. Women are demanding equality across the globe. Men are being forced to reimagine their familial and social roles. Gays and lesbians are at the center of these changes. Their refusal to be silent and invisible is one of the era's great resources, a magnificent sign of hope.

James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Boston Globe.
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On Baseball and Broadway and Turning the World Upside Down for the Better

A sermon I preached a couple of weeks ago that finally made it up online to link to so I did:

I don’t know if the fact that my father was originally from New York had anything to do with it but when I think back to my childhood I remember two major cultural influences: Baseball and Broadway. A diehard Dodger fan, my father considered it a sign of the essential goodness of creation that the Brooklyn Bums came west to Los Angeles not long after he did – and my childhood summers began with the first Vin-Scully-Spring Training broadcast from Vero Beach and ended with the last out in the last inning of the last game of the season – the later in October the better!

Some seasons were better than others but we were there through thick and thin: sometimes in seats at Chavez Ravine but more often listening to Vinny, Jerry and the Boys in Blue through the speaker my father had wired from the living room hi-fi out to the umbrella over our patio table. A lot of my childhood lessons I remember from my father were baseball connected, including: "You win some and you lose some but you always dress out for the game."

Read the rest here

News from the "Happily Ever After" Front

I've fallen a little behind on the "good news on the marriage equality" front but evidently Mexico City took a big step forward in recognizing civil unions last week and now the South African Parliament has ruled in favor of marraige equalityby a 230-41 vote (according to the New York Times report):

Parliament on Tuesday voted resoundingly to legalize same-sex marriages in South Africa, making the nation the first in Africa and the fifth in the world to remove legal barriers to them, according to advocates.

The nation’s highest court ruled last December that South Africa’s marriage statute violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equal rights. The court gave the government a year to alter the legal definition of marriage. That left the government with three choices: legalize same-sex marriages, let the court change the law by fiat or alter the Constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Melanie Judge, the program manager for OUT, a gay rights advocacy group, said Parliament had taken a courageous stance in the face of strong political pressure.

Although some countries recognize civil partnerships between same-sex couples, she said, only the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada now allow same-sex marriages.

Ms. Judge credits South Africa’s liberal Constitution with forcing change. “This has been a litmus test of our constitutional values,” she said. “It forced us to consider: What does equality really mean? What does it look like? Equality does not exist on a sliding scale.”

Bingo. Bravo. Alleluia!

Voices of Witness: Onward and Upward!

Released in June 2006, "Voices of Witness" is making its way around the church and the communion ... a witness at a time, a heart & mind at a time, an inch at a time. Recently, Jeff Martinhauk, an Austin seminarian and member of the Integrity National Board led a presentation of "Voices" in Austin. From Jeff's opening remarks: It is an exciting time to be in seminary, in fact it is an exciting time in our church history- not just our church but the church catholic- the Body of Christ. We have, for the first time, begun to be recognized as members of the body as GLBT people. The Spirit is speaking, and She won’t be ignored.

It’s also a time of great pain for a lot of people. Like so many of us, those who are against us are now starting to understand the pain of the perception that the church excludes them. It doesn’t matter whether the church actually excludes them or not – what matters is that we share the perception that we are excluded.

That gives us something in common. Funny, isn’t it, that the very thing we fight about is the very thing which ties us together. But instead of focusing on the unity which is possible in that one thing we focus on the division. Unfortunately, that is just how we are as humans all too often. We forget that we are all the same: That we share a common humanity, a common plight, a common purpose, a common God.


Read the rest on Jeff's blog ... Leaning Towards Justice ... and consider "going and doing likewise" ... leading an opportunity for a group to gather and view, study, reflect and be inspired by "Voices of Witness." The Reverend Dr. Gary Hall, Dean and President of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary has generously and happily written a wonderful study guide to accompany the documentary. Click here to download the PDF from the Voices of Witness website

Want to watch the video online? Click here to watch it on Google video.

Want to order a copy of the DVD? Click here to order one (or more!)

Let's Hear It For Strong Women!

First Katharine Jefferts Schori ...

then Nancy Pelosi ...

and now Linda Watt!

[Episcopal News Service] Bringing 30 years of diplomatic and management skills proven most recently as U.S. ambassador to Panama, Linda E. Watt of Utah has been named new chief operating officer of the Episcopal Church. The Church's Executive Council, meeting in Chicago November 15, confirmed Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's appointment of Watt to this position, officially known as executive director of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS).

Set to begin work officially in January, Watt will serve as chief operating officer at the Episcopal Church Center in New York City, where she will assist in overseeing the 200-member staff based in newly renovated offices located two blocks west of the United Nations.

"My sense is that Linda is going to be an ambassador of Good News we are all called to share," Jefferts Schori said, citing Watt's "enormous skill in managing operations and personnel in challenging locations around the world."

The Presiding Bishop further underscored Watt's "culturally bilingual" skills including fluency in Spanish and "her strong interest in social justice" consonant with the Episcopal Church's current top ministry priority of peace and justice work framed by the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. While ambassador to Panama from 2002-2005, Watt led an embassy staff of 386 American and Panamanian employees, plus 130 Peace Corps volunteers. There she guided operations in which U.S. staff represented 21 government agencies, and she oversaw an annual program budget of more than $40 million -- comparable to the DFMS's $152 million triennial budget.

Read it all at ENS ... and give thanks for new blood, new energy and new vision for the church!

And then there's Fort Worth ...

Read all about it on Katie Sherrod's blog ... and give thanks for those "voices in the wilderness!"

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fun Facts to Know and Tell About the Diocese of San Joaquin

My, my, my ... And after you've read this, don't miss Fr. Jake's great commentary on this latest episode of "As The Anglican World Turns"

From Bishop John David Schofield of San Joaquin

Constitutional amendments are being offered at the Diocese's 47th Annual Convention on December 1-2,2006, which are designed to preserve our place in the Anglican Communion but which will eventually alter our relationship with The Episcopal Church (TEC). The 47th Annual Convention will be a test of where we as a diocese stand. The worldwide Anglican Communion will be watching to see how we vote.

Do we recognize Holy Scripture as authoritative? Will we follow the Lord? Will we be leaders to
disenfranchised Anglicans across the country? Our actions at the 47th Annual Convention will answer these questions for the entire world. As your Bishop, I ask you prayerfully to consider the information below and to prepare yourselves to vote your faith through your clergy and delegates to the Annual Convention on December 1 - 2,2006.

The Spiritual Crisis In The Episcopal Church. Much has been said and written about the controversy over the revisionist teachings of TEC. The truth is that TEC (1) denies the unique divinity of Jesus Christ and (2) takes a position on human sexuality which undercuts marriage and is destructive to the family unit designed by God and revealed in Scripture. These are not positions and teachings which are merely "revisionist" or "liberal." These are positions of those who have abandoned the Christian faith.

Jesus says in the Bible that "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." ( John 14:6) This is a cornerstone of the Christian faith and Anglican worship. It is what we believe in the Diocese of San Joaquin. It is our mission, and that of the
Church, to bring all people into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

TEC at GC 2006 refused to pass a resolution endorsing John 14:6. By extension, TEC questions the validity and authority of Holy Scripture. According to the leadership of TEC, Jesus simply represents one of many ways of coming to a relationship with the Father. According to the leadership of TEC, the mission of the Church is "social justice" and "world peace" and not the Great Commission as set forth in Matthew 28.

TEC's unrepentant adherence to these heresies has wrought havoc within the American Church and throughout the world-wide Communion. At least 22 of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion have declared impaired or broken communion with TEC. Vast numbers of faithful Anglicans have left and continue to leave TEC on a daily basis. Major parishes across the country have left and continue to leave in record numbers. (We are not immune in this Diocese having lost one parish already.) The statistics are staggering and clearly demonstrate that TEC is disintegrating. This is not surprising given that TEC has chosen to walk apart from the Christian faith.

Does This Spiritual Crisis Really Affect Us? You already know the answer to this question: it's "YES". Heresy is insidious by nature and, over time, the victim becomes desensitized to its effects. There are four recognizable stages from prolonged exposure. Initially, there is condemnation of the heresy; then it is tolerated; then it is accepted; and, finally, it is practiced. TEC is currently preaching and practicing heresy and the majority of TEC's leadership will not repent as evidenced by, among other things, TEC's refusal to comply with the Windsor Report. Continuing in communion with TEC poses a clear and present danger to the spiritual health of the Diocese and its parishioners. TEC's continued membership in the Anglican Communion is tenuous and excommunication or isolation is a reality which, in turn, threatens the Diocese's place in the Anglican Communion. We must remember, we are Anglicans first and Episcopalians second.

What Does Scripture Tell Us To Do? When faced with unrepentant and public false teaching, Scripture is very, very clear. Christians are called to withdraw from Eucharistic fellowship. There are many biblical references directly on point, among them: "If anyone comes to you bringing a different doctrine, you must not receive him in your house or even give him a greeting. To greet him would make you a partner in his wicked work." (I1 John, 10-1 1. Also Mt. 8: 17, I Cor. 5:11-13, Gal. 1:8, 2 Thes. 3:6, Rev. 2:20; BCP, p. 409.)

What Will The Constitutional Amendment Do? The proposed constitutional amendment will reaffirm our commitment to the historic Anglican Faith and our membership in the Anglican Communion and our relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury without having any direct ties to The Episcopal Church. We will continue to worship in the historic Anglican tradition as we have for the past 100 years and without fear that the actions of TEC will disenfranchise us from the rest of the Communion

What Changes Will You See If The Amendment Passes? First, you will be surprised by the changes you will not see. You will see no change in the worship services; they will follow the historic Anglican Faith as they always have. The prayer book and hymnals will remain the same. You will worship and attend services in the same buildings. Your clergy will remain the same. Best of all, Holy Scripture will continue to be our ultimate authority. What will change? The flag; the word "Episcopal" will most likely be replaced with the word "Anglican;" Our delegates and clergy will not attend the TEC General Convention.

On the other hand, the Diocese could experience rapid growth if the amendment passes. For example, there are many large parishes in southern California which have seceded from TEC
and have expressed interest in affiliating with an Anglican diocese headed by an American bishop. Initial discussions with a number of priests and parishes indicate a desire to find a way to become part of an orthodox diocese in Communion with the rest of the Anglican world and with the rchbishop of Canterbury.

Is Our Place In The Anglican Communion Assured? Yes. First, we have a commitment from the Southern Cone (Archbishop Greg Venebles) that the bishops of his dioceses are open to our joining their Province. Second, the Global South, representing 80 percent of the Anglican Communion, issued a public statement known as "The Kigali Communique" in which it pledged to "take initial steps toward the formation of what will be recognized as a separate ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican Communion in the USA."

Diocesan representatives have been invited to meet with Primates of the Global South November 15-17, 2006, to begin work on this plan. The Diocese could be the vanguard of a new 39th Anglican Province in North America. At present, there are seven or more dioceses lined up behind us waiting to follow our leadership example.

Are There Risks? Yes, of course. TEC is highly litigious and will likely file lawsuits in the California state courts seeking to take our property away. Our lawyers tell us we can successfully defend ourselves but there are risks inherent in any litigation. There will be significant costs of defending such lawsuits. However, property considerations are, and should
be, secondary to our spiritual salvation and well being. Ours is a spiritual decision which should not be driven by property issues. We can seek guidance from the parable of the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-22.

Is there risk to our clergy? There has been considerable risk to me which is one reason why the release of this information comes just a few weeks before our Annual Convention. If you have been following the news, you know that standing strong for the Lord subjects one to reprisals and persecution from the leadership of TEC. I have been repeatedly threatened for my ppposition to the heresy of the American Church. Formal charges were levied against me this summer by four California bishops. Immediately after a clergy wide meeting this October about the proposed constitutional amendment, the chancellor to the Presiding Bishop, David Beers, phoned and threatened to take action against me and Diocese. Clergy concerns over pensions they have been accruing are real.

Yet, those with pensions of five years or more have vested (or protected) insurance against losing anything that is already due to them. Those who have been with the Pension Plan of the Church fewer than five years may be surprised to learn that other financial institutions are prepared to offer similar plans with a vesting taking place from the first day of participation. Clergy already assured of pensions that could be capped at the present level would also be able to add to their pensions in a new plan.Equally, medical insurance as well as dental plans will be made available to clergy and lay employees.

It is all of you who will be voting your faith on December 1 and 2.