(as they say in Hawai'i!)
Monday, December 31, 2007
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Because we are gathered together and gathered with God in a church, we must note the elephant in the room. Furthermore, because every soul in this room is enveloped and held like a shawl by the love of God – a love, which is undying, unconditional, and victorious over every one of love’s foes, you and I must celebrate that the elephantine reality in the room has already been put in its place. Of course I’m referring to the reality of disease and death.
Whereas the disease of cancer attacks certain organs, alcoholism attacks the mind and the self. Alcoholism attacks one’s own inner genius and keeps its victims from seeing and feeling and experiencing that every moment is full of grace and prevents its victims from allowing all the love that surrounds us every moment of our lives from getting in. Addiction attacks the soul so perniciously that it makes little if any room for letting love in.
But the overwhelming, larger reality this morning is that disease and death have their moments and then they pass, but they are not what is eternal. What lasts – what is eternal – is the power of love and love’s sacraments – the outward and visible and tangible signs of love that are eternal. Love always wins. Love always defeats disease and death. That is the hope we call Easter hope. God is always on the side of Love overcoming disease, hopelessness, isolation, despair, and death.
My father was a very complicated person. Despite a joyful successful public persona, personally he struggled with an inner sadness and tough emotional battles, but after his death I had a dream about my father and it gave me the confidence with which I say the following words to you: I know that there is life after death. I know that Jeff now lives without disease and death. Love has overcome those impediments to love. Nothing in Jeff’s mind now resists letting deep into his core all the love that surrounds him. It is from Jeff’s position in the Greater Life of Unimpeded Love that he now reaches out to grab our hands asking us to reach out to the hands around us to squeeze them and let others know how much they matter to us.
Because of Jeff's new life of wholeness, you and I can know a future that is full of hope and that can be seen as “all is calm, all is bright.” Amen.
Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
Saturday, December 29, 2007
... but I did get a nice note from Greg Griffith (of Stand Firm fame) in response to my inquiry about the blog-blackout on the St. Nicholas, Atwater story in Stand Firm Land. His answer to my inquiry was, in part: "I just don't see what the story is. A bishop decided not to continue funding a failing mission with an ASA of... what, about 20? I don't see where the story is ... have I missed something?"
Feel free to weigh in but, yes ... yes, I think he has. Missed something.
Meanwhile, more commentary on the San Joaquin mess by blogger "Anglocat:"
What was it Tertullian identified as the distinguishing feature of Christians even in the eyes of disapproving Roman society? "See how they love one another."
Hardly in evidence, here--I'm an experienced litigator, and have seen timing of letters and documents as a ploy, but this takes my breath away. To put it with more charity than is probably reasonable, Schofield's unrestricted warfare against the public dissenters whose conscience he claimed that he would respect--"no one is being asked to act against his conscience," after all--gravely undermines any claims that he has to act as a Christian leader.
His actions have further deepened the rancor between factions in the Church; to take but one example, The Anglican Scotist, who previously praised the "surprisingly irenic tone" of Schofield's response to the Presiding Bishop, now understandably laments that "Schofield ... made an utter fool of me." (He didn't, Scotist; you're still one of the best. Your take on this story manages to go beyond passion and to tease out the theological dangers revealed by Schofield's action).
Interestingly, the "reasserter" blogs have been silent about this; as chronicled by the tireless Father Jake, neither Kendall Harmon nor Stand Firm have addressed it--indeed, SF, as above linked, deleted a post on this story from what it called an "open thread" asking for "the most outrageous Episcopal stories of 2007," only to have a commenter declare it "[i]nteresting that not one of the revisionistas has posted on this particular thread."
Similarly, on another thread, SF cut at least 8 comments on this matter, and subsequently banned the commenter.At a minimum, the "reasserters" seem aware that this action casts them and their cause in a revealing, and unpleasing, light. And, I would argue, this profoundly unchristian course of conduct--even if you agree with Schofield that he is still entitled to exercise authority over what was, after all, founded as a mission of TEC, he's violating the standard he set for himself, and punishing the parishoners for the dissent of their vicar--and all this on Christmas Day!--is consistent with the authoritarianism and self-righteousness displayed by other prominent "reasserters."
To take an example I've quoted before, it's of a piece with Archbishop Akinola's official support for legal persecution of gays, lesbians and those who support their civil rights, and his astonishment that a gay man would dare shake his holy hand, which I would call quite literally pharisaical, except it gives the pharisees a bad rap. And the "burying the lede" by our "Worthy Opponents" (as they like to style us)? Rather like Martyn Minns's bland denial that Akinola is "an advocate of jailing gays" which was neatly bracketed--both before and after--by official written statements by Akinola advocating passage of a law which would do just that.
The plating is wearing through, revealing the base metal beneath.
Friday, December 28, 2007
ABERNETHY: Meanwhile, some U.S. Episcopalians are separating themselves from the main Episcopal Church and putting themselves under the authority of Nigerians or others in Africa or South America. Bring us up to date on that.
Ms. ZOLL: Sure. The Christians overseas tend to have a very theologically conservative view on the moral issues that we're grappling with here, and what's happening is that theological conservatives in the United States are making common cause with like-minded conservatives overseas. The Episcopal Church is not cracking up.
It's a very small comparative number of churches that have actually left the Episcopal Church, about 55 as of this date out of more than 7,000 congregations in the United States. But it's not just the numbers. It's the -- a lot of those churches are some of the most vibrant churches within the Episcopal Church, and just recently an entire diocese voted to leave.
ABERNETHY: But do you expect more of that separating?
Ms. ZOLL: It's not clear how many more will happen, but what we know that what will happen next year is a lot of litigation, and that is going to be very difficult for the Episcopal Church and for people who are trying to leave. It's going to be expensive. It's going to be ugly, and it's going to take a long time to play out.
Yep, yep, yep! The part of the story Rachel didn't get was how hard is going to be for people who are trying to STAY ... St. Nicholas, Atwater, for example. And for some wider context on that whole sorry mess, here's some background from San Joaquinian Stephen Bentley's comments on an earlier report about his:
"... personal experiences with the then-Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin. Well, now you're witnessing a hint of the lies and underhanded dealings of what he can do and has done in closing missions who disargee with him.
Trinity in Madera, St. Dunstan's in Modesto and St. Stephen's in Stockton were closed and the property sold in order to place money in the warchest of J-D for the anticipated departure from TEC. If you were to look at the 2009 Budget you would see that positions were eliminated and programs cut, putting more money into the already top-heavy administrative budget, topping a wopping 51 percent. J-D and his cohorts have been preparing for this since the first vote last year using the excuse that these missions and programs were not financially stable for the diocese.
Wow... a youth program not fianancially stable. It's no wonder there are no young people coming to the Diocese of San Joaquin. They are being told they are not worth spit for shionola.
This isn't a time for saying "I told you so", it's a time to ask, when is something going to be done to put a stop to this madness so faithful Episcopalian in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin can get back to doing the business of the mission of the church rather than being worried that another mission will be closed if they don't submit to the will of the Anglican Bishop of the Southern Cone."
Episcopal Church Of St. Anne, Stockton,
And STILL this is not a story for our neo-con blog friends! Go figure!
I'm working on "year in review" piece and suggestions for inclusion in my "Top Ten Episodes of 'As The Anglican World Turns'" would be gratefully received.
In the meantime, I did a little blog cruising this morning and found the OTHER clock ticking away is the how long until the breaking news of the premiere of "The Grinch Who Locked Out St. Nicholas" in San Joaquin makes it onto the "reasserter" blogs.
Titusonenine is leading with: "Finding Alzheimer’s Before a Mind Fails," "Elmer Gantry Turns 80" and "Religious Based Family Planning." (Give them a "A" for "ecclectic" but hardly breaking news!)
Stand Firm is focusing on: "Most Encouraging Stories in 2007," "Most Outrageous Stories in 2007," and a "Spongian Flashback" about Lessons & Carols. (Hmmm ... a 1997 piece by Jack Spong is more newsworthy than a renegade bishop changing the locks on a mission vicar ... of ST NICHOLAS Church ... on CHRISTMAS DAY??????)
And Baby Blue is waxing eloquent (as usual) about Bob Dylan and (wait for it ...) JACK SPONG!!!!!!! (Do we detect a pattern here???)
In the interest of fairness, I'm also wondering why this hasn't been a story picked up by ENS. The last thing we heard about the situation in Atwater was this December 20th article about letter from St. Nicholas' vicar Fred Risard asking for clarification from the erstwhile bishop of San Joaquin on his proposed December 23rd visit to the congregation.
The letter engendered no response, the visit is detailed over at Fr. Jake's ... and we now know that the Christmas Day Lock Out was the final act of this shocking abuse of power by the Grinch of the Southern Cone.
We know that NOT because the neo-con blogs have breathed a word about it all but because of courageous faithful folks in San Joaquin determined to "Remain Episcopal" who are getting the story out from behind the Purple Curtain maintained by the erstwhile Bishop of San Joaquin.
For more details, see Fr. Jake's "Sunday Worship for St. Nicholas in Exile" ... Tom Woodward's "Plastic Man" a Episcopal Majority ... Elizabeth Kaeton's "Ho, Ho, Ho?" ... Mark Harris' "Bishop Schofield in Denial" ...
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Instructions to get off the property!
"...he said, there was a rumor that he was closing St. Nicholas. He said that was absolutely not true. Second, he said there was a rumor that he had or was going to “fire Fr. Fred.” Again, he said that was simply not true at all. He said that he had no intention of closing this church or firing their Vicar."
“I have to say that this church does not have the financial means to continue as it is ... It certainly had nothing whatsoever to do with Fred’s position or the congregation’s position vis-à-vis the “realignment.” It was completely, totally, and only a financial decision."
My, my, my!
Dear Jo and Deacon Buck,
The attached document is the letter notifying Fr. Risard that his deployment at St. Nicholas is now over. We wish you to know that the Bishop and the Diocese are fully behind the continuation of your church in Atwater and will do all that we are able to support you during this transition.
There are many details to take care of, and many questions which you probably have for the Bishop or me. The most important Directions from the Bishop to accomplish immediately include:
Change the exterior locks immediately, including the interior lock to the priest's offices and any file cabinets.
Retrieve the bank statements of any accounts that Fr. Risard had signature authority to: the discretionary account, and any other accounts.
Notify me of any minutes from past Bishop's Committee meetings for the past three months and forward them to me. This is especially important if there are commitments made to Mr. Michael Glass, an attorney referenced in the letter of Fr. Risard to the Bishop.
We will assume that the Deacon will be able to lead worship for a short period of time, especially this next Sunday. Reserved sacrament will be provided by the Rural Dean, Fr. Ron Parry, or by me if necessary.Our prayers are with you during this time of transition.
The Rev. Canon Bill Gandenberger
So there you have it. "Breaking News" that for some odd reason doesn't seem to have "broken" on the "usual suspects" neo-con blogs ... imagine JUST FOR A MOMENT that such a thing had happened in, oh, let's just pick the Diocese of Los Angeles out of a hat ... or Connecticut or San Diego or ... oh well -- I think you get my point!
No double standard ... no Sirree Bob ... just a "financial decision" ... made by a bishop no longer an Episcopal Bishop in regards to a mission congregation of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.
I'm thinking it's time for some Wise Folks to come from Country Far bearing some gifts to San Joaquin ... and let's skip the gold, frankincense and myrrh this year and opt for some lock changes, signature card switches and a new bishop-in-residence for the EPISCOPAL Diocese of San Joaquin.
Enough is enough, folks. Pray for the Diocese of San Joaquin -- for Fred Risard, his family & his congregation -- and most of all for the mission and ministry of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus ... held hostage to the power struggles of those who would recreate the Church in their own image ...
... forgetting that we are intended to BE the Body of Christ in the world -- the Christ at the celebration of whose birth we sang just a few short days ago, "Peace on earth, Good will to All!"
Happy Third Day of Christmas, everybody! (No wonder why Jesus wept!)
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
We question ourselves.
It is the Glad Season.
Hope is born again in the faces of children
In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.
Into the great religions of the world.
Peace, My Brother.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Advent 4A – December 23, 2007 – All Saints Church
Isaiah 7:10-16; Matthew 1:18-25
When my boys were little, lighting those Advent candles on the dining room table was a really big deal. I'd like to think it was because they had grasped the significance of the holiness of this Advent season as a time of spiritual preparation for the coming of our Lord. However, I'm sure it was because if the Advent Wreath was there, the tree and presents couldn't be far behind! And it was a tradition that “stuck” in our family long after they had outgrown many others.
I’m remembering this morning a particular evening in Advent. The boys would have been about twelve and fifteen. It was after I had come out and their father and I had separated and while we were working away at what my therapist called “reconfiguring the family on the other side of the marriage.” We were at the dinner table together with the Advent wreath in the middle and -- that particular night -- my younger son, Brian, was on about something he couldn’t live without and his father and I were ruining his life by not getting it for him. I think it was a dirt bike.
He didn’t want to hear reasoned explanations that dirt bikes were not in the budget for newly ordained parish priests. “So how long do we have to wait until there’s some money in this family?” he asked. “What about those big jobs at those fancy churches? Why don’t you go be in charge of one of those?” And I must have run out of patience at that point for I remember saying, “You have be ordained longer than I have been to get those jobs, Brian – and besides, they usually go to the straight, white men.”
“Well, so much for that idea!” he said. And then, unable to resist one last parting shot added “I just hope you know I always expected my mom to be straight!” And his father, without missing a beat, piped in, “So did I!” And we all laughed … and Brian did NOT get the dirt bike.
Another thing Brian did not get was the family he expected – but that didn’t mean we quit being family to each other. And that’s because the values that made us family to each other transcended even the expectations we had for each other. And the icon of what that family looks like for me is my mental picture of the year both of my sons and their father joined my partner Louise in the pew here at All Saints Church on Christmas morning – after a Christmas Eve dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding the night before! I looked out at them from the chancel with deep gratitude for the family we had become. We may not be a family James Dobson focuses on but that doesn’t make us any less family. And it doesn’t make the values that bind us together any less holy.
Joseph didn’t get the family he expected, either – and today’s Gospel according to Matthew tells us that his first reaction to the “unexpected” was to dismiss his pregnant fiancé … an act which would fallen firmly within the bounds of the traditional family values of his day – and would have made Mary and her child outcasts. Instead, Joseph did as the angel commanded and took Mary as his wife and named the child Jesus – and the rest is Holy Family History.
The Christ Child made the Holy Family holy – what made them a family were the values that bound them together as an icon of God’s love for the whole human family. Those values have nothing to do with either the gender or the genetics of those who make up a family and everything to do with the inclusive love of the God whose deepest desire is for this human race – created in God’s image – to become the human family it was meant to be.
Sadly, one of the things that has far too often gotten in the way of proclaiming that love to all people is the very thing that was created in order to proclaim that love to all people – and that thing would be The Church.
A case in point this morning is this story from the blog of a young Florida man who writes, “I was kicked out of the church when I was 16 for coming out. The pastor and youth minister both called me the devil and said I wasn’t welcome and my parents and family all used religion as a weapon against me … saying I was going to hell.” Not surprisingly he ended up with what he describes as “… a negative view of religion in general and Christians in particular. I found them to be disingenuous, non-thinking sheep at best and hate-filled, bigoted extremists at worst. That is," he says ... "until I met Bishop Robinson.”
Describing his experience of +Gene when he spoke recently to a forum in Ft. Lauderdale, the young man goes onto say: “ … my views on religious people have shifted dramatically. Sure there are still the hate-filled bigots who use religion as a weapon. But that doesn’t represent them all.
There are people like Bishop Robinson who simply want to use the lessons of God to make true change in the world. Honestly, he forced this jaded gay man to try and accept religious folks, or at least not write them off completely. If he can do that, I have every confidence that he can open the eyes of the world …”
This young man didn’t get the family he expected OR the church he expected – and rejected by both he rejected them in return. Yet Gene Robinson’s witness changed that – or at lease “budged” it. And if he can do that, I too have every confidence that he can open the eyes of the world.
Yes, the schism du jour presents challenges to both the Episcopal Church and our wider Anglican family. It is rare to pick up a paper or open your email and not find yet-another plot development in what I’ve come to think of as the real-life reality-show: “As the Anglican World Turns.” And yet they are also times of great opportunity. We are surrounded by people who didn’t get the family they expected or the church they expected … and who have not yet heard about a church where Holy Family Values have nothing to do with gender or genetics and everything to do with grace and the good news of God’s inclusive love available to all.
Did you see the ad placed by the national Episcopal Church in the Los Angeles Times yesterday? It read in part:
The Episcopal Church is emerging stronger for its insistence that all are welcome and full participants in Christ’s body. If this Christmas you are seeking a faith community that welcomes diversity of opinion and room for many voices building on more than four centuries of history, please consider visiting an Episcopal Church congregation near you.
No, God is not yet finished with the Episcopal Church. In fact, I think God has her work cut out for her in the weeks and months ahead getting the Episcopal Church to the point where “all are welcome and full participants in Christ’s Body” is not just ad copy but reality. But I’m hopeful.
I’m hopeful that we can open the eyes of the world – or at least of the worldwide Anglican Communion. I’m hopeful that just as Brian had to get over not having the family he expected in order to embrace the family he had, the rest of the Communion can get over not having the uniformity it expected – and can embrace those in the American and Canadian churches celebrating the Holy Family Values being lived out in the lives and witness of the gay and lesbian faithful.
Maybe it’s my own lived experience of reconfiguring a family on the other side of a marriage that gives me the hope we can also reconfigure a church on the other side of a schism.
Or maybe it’s because, as we prepare to welcome again the Prince of Peace into this war torn world, we prepare to glimpse again in that baby in the manger the hope of all humanity for relationships restored, creation fulfilled and God’s love so alive and so real we can reach out and touch it – love described in these words from John Shelby Spong’s “Christpower:”
O Come, O Come Emmanuel – make us agents of the power to live in the Eternal Now and give us grace to live your Holy Family Values all the days of our lives. And may the God of hope fill us -- those we love, serve and challenge -- with all joy and peace in believing, these last days of Advent and always. Amen.
Here in this life we glimpse
almighty life-giving force
of this universe
in startling completeness
in a single person.
Men and women tasted
the power that was in him
and they were made whole by it.
They entered a new freedom,
a new being.
They knew resurrection and what it means to
live in the Eternal Now.
So they became agents of that power,
sharing those gifts from generation to generation,
creating and re-creating,
making all things new.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
On December 14th, ENS reported that the Presiding Bishop wrote to +John David "saying that she assumes his declaration that he is now under the authority of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone "means you understand yourself to have departed the Episcopal Church and are no longer functioning as a member of the clergy in this Church."
This morning, Kendall Harmon posted +Schofield's (lengthy) response over at titusonenine. And I read it pretty carefully. And I have to admit I just wasn't exactly sure what his point was.
Fr. Jake offered his usual thorough analysis, reaching the conclusion "Temporary or not, becoming a member of another House of Bishops does indeed define his relationship with the Episcopal Church."
But the most clarifying analysis came from Dr. Louie Crew who offered this concise summary:
I'm out if you want to consider me in; I'm in if you want to consider me out. Gotcha! +JDS
I think that about covers it.
If you want to read more there's a Living Church interview with Steve Waring. But for "clarity," I commend this comment posted on the Living Church website in response to the interview:
It is ridiculous for Bishop Schofield to say that he has nothing against the national church or the leadership in the church. I live in the Diocese of San Joaquin and I have heard him malign the national church over the 20 years he has been a bishop and, more recently, he has maligned Presiding Bishop Schori. He has decimated the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of San Joaquin. He has divided churches with his views and actions, and he could care less about the people in the pews who have been hurt. For more than 40 years, I was a faithful member of a church in Turlock, CA, and I was opposed to his attitude toward the national church. We were without a priest, and Bishop Schofield brought in a priest, deposed in the national church, to serve in our parish. 5 members of the vestry, including me, resigned and left because we could not be in our church in these circumstances. Have the rest of you forgotten integrity? Why do you believe whatever this man says?
Posted on: December 21, 2007 8:50 PM
... to the leadership at 815 for stepping up offer both a history lesson AND a dose of Good News in this ad running today in the Los Angeles Times. "If this Christmas you are seeking a faith community that welcomes diversity of opinion and room for many voices building on more than four centuries of history, please consider visiting an Episcopal Church congregation near you."
The challenges we face are real, my friends, but so are the opportunities for evangelism -- and today's ad is a great step in that direction!
The EPISCOPAL CHURCH welcomes you
California dioceses, congregations share historic, continuing mission
IT WAS ALONG California’s coast that common prayer in the Anglican tradition was first observed in the Americas – in 1579 when Sir Francis Drake’s explorer ship made landfall near Point Reyes just north of San Francisco. It is in this tradition that the Episcopal Church was also born.
Soon after, in 1607, the keeping of Christmas -- the “Christ Mass” – began in North America’s first permanent English settlement, Jamestown. From that first congregation developed The Episcopal Church, now active with 2.3 million members in more than 7,500 congregations in 110 dioceses in 16 nations and territories.
Then followed in 1849 the founding of The Episcopal Church’s “missionary diocese” of California, continuing today in the Bay Area complemented by five additional dioceses based in Sacramento, Fresno, Monterey, Los Angeles and San Diego through which some 175,000 parishioners are united in community outreach serving thousands of recipients of much-needed food, shelter, medical care, and other social services annually.
Through these daily ministries, The Episcopal Church’s mission in California continues on course despite recent headlines describing the decisions of some members to disaffiliate. As at other times in history – such as following the Civil War and the end of slavery – The Episcopal Church is emerging stronger for its insistence that all are welcome and full participants in Christ’s body.
If this Christmas you are seeking a faith community that welcomes diversity of opinion and room for many voices building on more than four centuries of history, please consider visiting an Episcopal Church congregation near you.
View a PDF of the ad here ... which offers overviews of the six California dioceses, including this bit about San Joaquin:
The Episcopal Church continues in Central California amid a current change in diocesan leadership. Assisting in this transition are members of Remain Episcopal and Holy Family Parish in Fresno. Resonating with the season of the Nativity, the Fresno parish’s name recalls Mary and Joseph’s faithfulness in overcoming their challenges in welcoming the Christ Child into the world. The Church’s historical tradition holds that Mary’s own parents, Joachim and Anne, also responded uniquely to God’s call during their lifetimes. It is for Joachim that California’s San Joaquin Valley and the local Episcopal diocese is named.
Friday, December 21, 2007
In this Christmas truth is the core message of the Christian Gospel – the Good News of God become incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. It is the message we have been entrusted with as members of the Body of Christ to proclaim. And it is the “Gospel Agenda” Integrity is committed to, as we continue to call the Episcopal Church to live up to its commitment to fully include all of the baptized into the Body of Christ.
It is what Howard Thurman calls, “The Work of Christmas.”
The Work of Christmas
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and Princes are home,
When the shepherds
are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins -
To find the lost
To heal the broken
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoner
To teach the nations
To bring Christ to all
To make music in the heart.
(Howard Thurman, “The Work of Christmas”)
The work of Christmas does not end when the presents are opened or the eggnog is gone or the liturgical season moves on to Epiphany. Finding the lost, healing the broken, feeding the hungry and releasing the prisoners is the 24/7 job description of the church in the world. It is the work Integrity has had the privilege to do -- on behalf of the LGBT faithful and in partnership with our justice allies -- for over thirty years. And it is the work we will continue to do as we move forward in faith together into God’s future.
Merry Christmas from Integrity USA! And may the God of hope fill you -- those you love, serve and challenge -- with all joy and peace in believing, this Christmas and always.
(The Reverend) Susan Russell, President
Thursday, December 20, 2007
This past week, I returned to the windy city of Chicago to participate in an amazing consultation of Anglicans from around the world: bishops, priests, deacons and laypeople; academics, pastors, and activists; gay and straight; black, white, and Hispanic; Global southerners and northerners.
We came together, in the words of, Dr. Jenny Plane Te Paa (an indigenous, New Zealand, Anglican scholar and activist) to reclaim who we are as “relatives in the Anglican family” and to work toward “a global Anglican communion recovery plan.” We gathered, as what Dr. Te Paa called: “a small portion of the global tribe of God’s imperfect, vulnerable, ambitious, generous spirited, self-serving, sacrificial, complex, contradictory, faith-filled, and to a large extent, indecently obedient Anglicans” to articulate a path through the wilderness crisis in our beloved and broken church.
We came together as members in the communion of saints to develop a strategy for moving forward toward the gospel promise of God’s justice, love and mercy for all people with a commitment to nonviolence, story telling and active listening, repentance and restorative justice.
On the first snowy day of winter in Chicago, a group of Anglicans took the first steps of making common cause: setting our hope on Christ, rejecting the theology and practice of scapegoating and pitting one group of oppressed people and concerns against other, and embracing instead a theology and practice of full inclusion and justice for all God’s people.
Read the rest here ... and in these waning days of Advent give thanks for the hope of new ways through the wilderness!
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
So carry on ... some Advent 4 and Christmas reflections coming ... but not until I get a whole lot of other things checked off my "to do" list! Later, alligators!
Monday, December 17, 2007
For Advent is a season of expectancy – and my favorite description of that expectancy is one I’ve used before. The expectancy of "waiting" during Advent is different than some of the other kinds of "waiting" we do -- waiting for a bus, for example. Waiting for a bus is both boring and anxiety producing. Will it be on time? Will I make my connection? Am I waiting at the right bus stop ... what if I looked at the schedule wrong? Where IS that bus, anyway? That's waiting in anxiety.
Waiting in expectancy is more like being seated in the concert hall, waiting for the curtain to rise. We know something wonderful is about to happen: and everyone else is waiting with the same expectation. We may know what to expect -- we've bought the tickets, looked over the program -- but the experience is yet to happen: and we wait -- expectantly; we wait in the tension of both knowing and NOT knowing -- open to the experience about to unfold.
I believe that is the kind of "Advent Attitude" God calls us to aim for: to live in both the trust and the tension. And though Christmas Carols abound, we ARE still in Advent: and there's one Advent hymn that has traditionally carried the essence of that call:
O come, O come Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel
A song of yearning -- of longing -- but also of promise. "Emmanuel" -- a symbolic name to be given to the child whose birth was foretold by the prophets as the sign that God would deliver a people from their enemies: the incarnation of the covenant between creatures and the Creator that is as old as Genesis; as Abraham and Sarah; and as new as today.
It's a longing for a restored creation -- restored relationships -- with God and with each other. "The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom ... they shall obtain joy and gladness and sorrow and sighing shall flee awa,." Isaiah wrote to a people who had been exiled in Babylon for decades. And in our reading from Amos tonight, the prophet offers God’s promise: “I will bring back my exiled people … they will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.”
They were a captive people -- without homeland or hope -- and yet they waited for God's promise to them ... made through Abraham and renewed through Moses ... proclaimed by Amos and Isaiah -- to be realized. Did they wait in anxiety or in anticipation? My money would be in anxiety ... like my example of the bus stop: did we get right? WAS there a promised land? Will we ever get back there? Who IS this God, anyway ... how will we know him when we see him?
And so the prophets paint a vivid picture of the Zion for which they yearn ... helping them remember the promise they fear they'll forget ... urging them to hope ... to trust ... to wait expectantly for the deliverance God has promised will come: "O come, O come Emmanuel" they prayed: and yet, when he came, they didn't recognize him because he was not what they expected. It was as if they were waiting for a bus ... and God was inviting them into the concert hall.
It's a standing invitation ... and it has our name on it. Each and every one of us ... wherever we are on our journey. God calls us all into deeper relationship ... with God and with each other. Calls us to dare to hope for what we may not even be able yet to imagine ... to believe that the God of Sarah and Abraham, of Moses and Miriam, of all the faithful of every generation offers to us the same promise of fullness of life -- abundance of love -- "thy Kingdom come."
Will we recognize it when we see it? Can we dare to trust a God who promises us "more than we can ask or imagine"? In these waning days of preparation ... of Advent ... my prayer is that we can be open to the hope that God can indeed redeem even the darkest and most challenging obstacles that stand between us and that promised land Isaiah proclaimed and Amos described.
And also that we can be open to the challenge that God may be calling us to participate in overcoming them. Overcoming them by:
· Preaching peace in a time of war – whether or not we’re in an election cycle
· Bringing hope to the homeless and hungry – not only by providing Christmas food baskets and supporting wet-weather shelters but by challenging unjust economic systems that continue to oppress the marginalized
· Proclaiming God’s love available to ALL – by giving voice to the voiceless in the Anglican Communion; to the gay and lesbian faithful whose relationships and vocations continue to be treated as sacrificial lambs on the altar of global Anglican politics.
Preaching peace, bringing hope and proclaiming love: these are among the signs of hope – of peace, of love & of peace – that our Advent candles represent.
Are there other signs of hope among us that we don't even recognize yet? My money is on the answer "yes" -- and my prayer is that in the coming year we may be given the grace to recognize them ... and the courage to act on them! The New Year ahead of us will no doubt offer both opportunities and challenges. So let us give thanks this evening for the gift of this time of preparation... as we wait -- expectantly -- in the tension and trust that is Advent.
O come, Desire of nations bind
in one the hearts of all humankind
bid thou our sad divisions cease
and be thyself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia. Amen.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
The experience of Changing Attitude’s work in the Church of England for the past 13 years leads us to endorse the Archbishop’s belief that is only in the context of prayer, mutual spiritual enrichment and development of ministry that divisive issues can usefully be addressed. Changing Attitude has engaged in fruitful, if unresolved, prayerful conversations with many who disagree with us. We know from this experience that more, not fewer, such encounters are needed. We accept the challenge “to pray seriously together in the hope of seeking a resolution that will be as widely owned as possible.”
We cannot refuse God’s invitation to purse conversations with each other across our current divisions. Direct contact and open exchange of convictions are crucial. We want to extend our networks to help resource the “fruitful ways of carrying forward liaison with provinces whose policies cause scandal or difficulty to others.”
We LGBT Anglicans present the bishops of the Communion with a challenge by our very presence and our relationships. We ask the Communion questions about “fidelity to Scripture and identity in ministry and mission, not only about the one issue of sexuality” and “about what it means for the Anglican Communion to behave with a consistency that allows us to face, both honestly and charitably, the deeply painful question of who we can and cannot recognise as sharing the same calling and task.”
We are not going away. We will slowly become more visible and vocal. We are already present in every Province of the Communion and will continue to be present in every Province, diocese or congregation that secedes. We are the children, parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, work colleagues and friends, present wherever Christians gather to worship God.
We live in Advent hope. We LGBT Anglicans know change is possible. God challenges and changes lives and God is challenging and changing our church.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
“We are especially troubled,” they added, “by the absence of openly gay members on the bodies that may ultimately resolve the issues at hand. The archbishop’s unwillingness to include gay and lesbian Christians in this process perpetuates the bigotry he purports to deplore.”
I have supported our bishops’ attendance despite Bishop Robinson’s lack of an invitation because I felt it was and is important that we “be at the table.”
I still lean in that direction, but I also think it is important that someone play “devil’s advocate” here. What if the table is in itself so distorted that nothing good can come of it? What if the table is, by design, not credible. And it is clearly not given that despite three previous Conference’s promise to listen to the experience of lesbian and gay persons, there is no evidence whatsoever that the next Conference intends to do so.
If nothing else, the one person who could be there as an active participant in such a listening process from the side of gay and lesbian persons is not being allowed to participate. If our bishops’ are to go to the Conference are they willing in no uncertain terms, to protest strongly this state of affairs and state that they will do everything in their power to see that the conversation happens at the Conference?
Archbishop slams the splitters
by Stephen Bates
Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the worldwide Anglican communion, yesterday condemned attempts by conservative church leaders to undermine the US Episcopal Church for its support for gay rights and effectively refused calls to disinvite American bishops from next year’s Lambeth Conference of all the church’s bishops.
In a long-anticipated Advent message to the 38 primates of the communion at which the archbishop had promised to respond to the crisis, Dr Williams criticised African and other church leaders who have consecrated their own American bishops and offered to look after the small number of dioceses whose conservative American bishops have said they wish to separate from the US church and seek oversight from foreign provinces. The first American diocese, San Joaquin in California, formally announced its secession at its synod last weekend and its intention to align itself to the tiny Anglican archdiocese of the Southern Cone, which covers most of South America.
In words which directly rebuke conservatives who claim theirs is the true and only voice of authentic Anglican identity, Dr Williams stated: “Not everyone carrying the name of Anglican can claim to speak authentically for the identity we share as a global fellowship….A great deal of the language that is around in the communion at present seems to presuppose that any change from our current deadlock is impossible, that division is unavoidable and that such division represents so radical a difference in fundamental faith that no recognition and future co-operation can be imagined. I cannot accept these assumptions and I do not believe as Christians we should see them as beyond challenge.”
In a passage which will be particularly galling to conservative evangelicals, especially those who regard the archbishop as Biblically unsound, Dr Williams cited St Paul, the sole author in the New Testament to explicitly condemn homosexuality and so regarded as a definitive spokesman for orthodoxy, saying: “The gospels and the epistles of Paul alike warn us against a hasty final judgement on the spiritual state of our neighbours….The challenge is not best addressed by a series of ad-hoc arrangements with individual provinces elsewhere…this is not doing anything to advance or assist local solutions that will have some theological and canonical solidity.”
Dr Williams’s lengthy and detailed statement, which went through numerous revisions by his staff at Lambeth Palace, is likely to infuriate conservative Anglican pressure groups who have been demanding that the church should discipline or expel the Americans for electing the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. The archbishop met all the US bishops in New Orleans in September when they formulated a statement agreeing not to endorse any further gay bishops or to authorise formal blessings services for same sex couples.
His silence since that meeting has created a vacuum which has exasperated both liberals and conservatives anxious for him to give a lead. The statement now directly contradicts the assertion of the Most. Rev. Gregory Venables, the English Evangelical presiding bishop of the Southern Cone, who has made no secret of wishing to recruit disaffected American dioceses and who let it be known, following a meeting in London with Dr Williams in September that he believed the Archbishop thought the plan was “a sensible way forward”. Lambeth Palace did not publicly criticise Bishop Venables until this week.
One senior insider at the Palace told the Guardian that the idea that Dr Williams supported the move was complete nonsense.There are signs of divisions between senior members of the archbishop’s staff and frustration over his perceived dithering. As the message makes clear that Bishop Robinson will not be invited to next year’s conference either, the official said it contained “something to annoy everyone.”
Dr Williams put forward two proposals to keep the American Church inside the Anglican communion: “professionally facilitated conversations” between US leaders and their American and outside critics to see if they can achieve better mutual understanding, reduce tensions and clarify options and the setting up of a group of primates to produce proposals to put to next year’s Lambeth Conference on the issues that the gay crisis has thrown up. Neither last night seemed likely to satisfy the church’s conservatives who have maintained for several years that the time for listening is past.
Friday, December 14, 2007
A number of news sources, including the Times UK are reporting that Foster:
"after guarding her private life fiercely for 15 years ... has publicly acknowledged her lesbian partner.
The Oscar-winning actress thanked "my beautiful Cydney" after winning an award at the Women in Entertainment Power 100 breakfast in Los Angeles. She went on to praise Cydney Bernard, saying the film producer "sticks with me through all the rotten and the bliss."
Despite more than a decade of speculation, questions over the paternity of her two sons and critics calling for her be “out and proud,” Foster has refused to discuss her sexuality.
And may they live happily ever after!
Dear Integrity members and friends:
By now you have read the Archbishop of Canterbury's Advent letter. In contrast to the well-known hymn quoted above, Rowan Williams' letter gives LGBT Anglicans scant hope of liberty from the bonds of ecclesiastical discrimination. He erroneously states that Lambeth Conference 1998 Resolution 1.10—which rejects "homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture"—is the clear consensus of the entire Anglican Communion. He decries General Convention 2003's approval of the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson and its affirmation of local rites for blessing same-gender relationships.
He expresses frustration at our House of Bishops' failure to implement clear moratia on additional LGBT bishops or blessing rites. He denigrates the Episcopal Church's polity—which includes all orders of ministry in decision making. He defends his decision not to invite Bishop Robinson to the 2008 Lambeth Conference. He expresses his intention to appoint yet another task force to talk about LGBT Anglicans rather to us—again ignoring the now 30-year old commitment to listen to our witness.
With prophetic leaders like Rowan Williams at the helm of the Anglican Communion, one could despair that LGBT Anglicans will continue to mourn in exile until Jesus comes again!
But, lo, we are promised that Emmanual will come to us. Despite the present oppressive reality, we are invited to rejoice in our future liberation. There are glimmers of hope. For example, a broad coalition of individuals and organizations around the world is emerging to ensure that the voices of fairness and inclusion are heard at the Lambeth Conference next summer. Groundwork is also being done to move beyond B033 and advance marriage equality at General Convention 2009.
You can help Integrity prepare for our witness at the Lambeth Conference and beyond by making a year-end donation for this important work. Secure, online gifts can be made by going to http://www.integrityusa.org/ and clicking the blue DONATE NOW button in the left margin. All contributions to Integrity are tax deductible.
Integrity remains committed to the full inclusion of all of the baptized into the Body of Christ. With your prayers, witness, and support we will continue to work within the Episcopal Church to accomplish that Gospel Agenda.
The Rev. Susan Russell, President
The Archbishop still does not appear to grasp that the House of Bishops in the Episcopal Church is an equal partner with the House of Deputies in the General Convention. They do not have any "decisive" power to operate contrary to the decisions of that Convention; although as part of that Convention they do hold an absolute veto power over any decisions of that Convention (as, of course, do the Deputies). If this is what the Archbishop means (that the Bishops alone can hold the line at GC 2009) then he is spot on.
But if not, it appears the place of Bishops in our governance is one of those things that simply will not penetrate the Archbishop's psyche. They are not the primary theologians of the church; and in the Episcopal Church they are only one strand of its governance. At least the Archbishop has finally acknowledged that this may be a matter in which there is a difference between what TEC believes and what he thinks is believed "elsewhere in the Communion." And yes, it does need to be addressed.
From Fr. Jake, Canterbury's Advent Letter
This letter will probably manage to hold the Communion together through Lambeth, although it is doubtful if it will be enough to carry us through GC2009.
Dr. Williams has chosen to support those who would exclude others from the Church based on the questionable translation of seven verses from scripture. The concrete act which exemplifies his decision to support that position is his insistence on continuing to exclude Bp. Robinson from Lambeth. He seems to not recognize that by barring Bp. Robinson, he has silenced the most qualified representative of those being persecuted in the Church today. In so doing, it is Dr. Williams who has expressed a "refusal of the cross - and so of the resurrection."
From the Steering Committee of the Chicago Consultation:
“The archbishop’s lengthy letter contains not a word of comfort to gay and lesbian Christians. In asserting the Communion’s opposition to homophobia, he gives political cover to Archbishop Peter Akinola and other Primates whose anti-gay activities are a matter of public record. We are especially troubled by the absence of openly gay members on the bodies that may ultimately resolve the issues at hand. The archbishop’s unwillingness to include gay and lesbian Christians in this process perpetuates the bigotry he purports to deplore.”
The Presiding Bishop, quoted in an ENS article
"Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori welcomed Williams' Advent Letter. 'In this season, as we focus on hope and preparation, I am glad to hear of the Archbishop's interest in facilitating further conversations,' she said. 'While I have repeatedly offered to engage in dialogue with those who are most unhappy, the offer has not yet been seriously engaged. Perhaps a personal call from the Archbishop will bring to the table those who have thus far been unwilling to talk. Advent is both a time to ready our eyes to see God in unlikely guises, and to put our hope in God's ultimate graciousness.'"
Kendall Harmon in his "Initial Response ..."
"The bottom line for me is this: we have here truth, but no consequences."
And David Anderson, newly ordained BISHOP Anderson of Nigerian fame, has this to say in his weekly AAC newsletter:
"Dr. Williams announces in his letter that he is seizing yet more power and initiative, principally to punish the orthodox, by several new actions. He is launching "professionally facilitated conversations" between TEC and those they are most in dispute with to see if there is any better level of mutual understanding. What part of the last ten years does he not understand? The TEC revisionists do understand us and fear us. That is why, like pharaoh, they are trying to prevent our multiplying. And we do understand the revisionists, and we are determined not to go to hell with them, no matter what the cost of our resistance. In launching this new action, he also announces that he knows who he will pick to do it. This is not collegial. This is power."
(But wait, there's more ...)
The questions for today are, "Do we have to go through Canterbury to be Christian?" and "Do we have to go through Lambeth Palace to be Anglican?" Many will be searching their souls to deal with these questions. Dr. Williams also asks "who speaks for Anglicanism?" and I would suggest that the faithful orthodox Anglicans themselves speak for the Anglicanism of today and the future. Dr. Williams speaks for the dead and dying Anglicanism of a tired and confused structure.
There will be much conversation about this missive in the hours and days to come, but for starters I don't think we can do better than Mark Harris' concise summary:
The message to the Primates continues the Archbishop's slow dance around the issues troubling the Anglican Communion. It is a difficult document in that it leaves us with little to go on except that: (i) he thinks the Episcopal Church (TEC) has gone about as far as it can go at the moment, (ii) he is puzzled why bishops in TEC can't just make decisions concerning ordinations and blessings on their own, (iii) that Bishop Robinson (who the ABC calls Gene Robinson, finding it difficult to acknowledge that Gene is indeed a bishop) is still not invited as a diocesan to Lambeth, and (iv) there may be bishops uninvited to Lambeth still, as well as bishops uninvited to engage in the life of the Communion, on the basis of their enthusiasm for the Windsor and Covenant process. The letter is something of a mess and a disappointment.
What Mark said. AND note that the Archbishop's suggestions for moving forward NOWHERE includes the voices of the gay and lesbian faithful the Anglican Communion has been committing to "listen to" for the last 30 years.
More to come.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
I am pleased beyond measure that this conference has elected to include a consideration of polity along with that most dreaded fifth horseman of the Apocalypse, canon law. Neither is really as mysterious, and certainly not as malevolent, as some would suggest. Neither is arcane nor, despite the fact that they are legal, legalistic. Both are simply applied ecclesiology, which means they are entirely theological in nature. Both are disciplines that may well help us think through our current challenges. Both are relationally and spiritually
healthy, as they express the agreed-upon boundaries of our community life. Both are important to our life together because the alternative to the rule of law on this side of the kingdom of heaven is not grace, but the rule of men (and I use the gender-exclusive term quite intentionally), men who equate their prejudices with God’s word, their ambitions with God’s will, and their agendas with the tradition of God’s Church. Polity and canon law are the security of God’s people against the wrongful exercise of power.
Entitled "Our Constitutional Heritage: Why Polity and Canon Law Matter" it is the work of +Stacy Sauls (of Bishop of Lexington fame) and it quite clearly and methodically outlines the history of our Episcopal Church polity.
HIGHLY recommended -- whether you need a refresher course or never TOOK the course -- it's "Episcopal Polity 101" in a nutshell and many thanks to Bishop Sauls for making it available!
And now, back to All-Advent-All-the-Time-at-All-Saints-Church!