Sister Joan Chittister famously said, "We are each called to go through life reclaiming the planet an inch at a time until the Garden of Eden grows green again." Reflecting on that journey -- a blog at a time -- is the focus of this site.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Off to Diocesan Convention
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Poll finds more Americans believe in devil than Darwin
It is the latest survey to highlight America's deep level of religiosity, a cultural trait that sets it apart from much of the developed world.
It also helps explain many of its political battles which Europeans find bewildering, such as efforts to have "Intelligent Design" theory -- which holds life is too complex to have evolved by chance -- taught in schools alongside evolution.
My, my, my!
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Alternative Christmas Market
OK ... I know it's not even ADVENT yet but I want to brag on the amazingly, extraordinarily fabulous Alternative Christmas Market being offered here at All Saints Church on Sunday. It's our annual invitation for giving hope rather than "stuff" for Christmas and this year's catalogue is the BEST EVER.
Whether it's across the border through our Agua Verde ministry, across town with the Foster Care Project or around the globe through ERD, opportunities abound to reach out in the name of the One who calls us to love one another as He has loved us.
Check it out here ...and give thanks for those whose creativity and generosity inspires both amazing grace and abundant giving!
(PS - If you have trouble with this link -- which worked fine for me -- try going through the All Saints Church Website.)
Christ the King of Forgiveness
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness. Easier said than done, methinks -- when darkness and division dominate the discourse within the church, violence and oppression dominate the world news and the peace on earth, goodwill to all incarnate in the One whose birth we prepare to celebrate seems further away than ever.
Which is precisely why I am so grateful for this Collect which begins our church New Year by asking God to give us the grace to cast them away in order to choose life and hope and joy instead. Because the truth is we can't possibly do it on our own. And that brings me back to last Sunday -- Christ the King Sunday (or "The Reign of Christ Sunday," if you prefer!)
Here are a couple of snaps from Sunday ... me and my kids having the rare opportunity to all sit together in a pew on a Sunday morning: the three of us out front of church ....
... and Brian with one of the great saints of All Saints -- Lydia Wilkins, who is planning her January birthday party to celebrate turning ... (wait for it) ... 104.
It was a great Sunday and what I'm thinking about this morning is Ed's sermon -- which I believe points us to exactly what we need to take on that hard work of Advent -- of casting away the works of darkness.
It points us to Jesus and it points us to forgiveness. Check it out here and let's give thanks, in these waning days of the old church year, for the gift of the One who loved us enough to become one of us in order to show us how to love -- and forgive -- each other!
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Archbishop Tutu on BBC Radio Today
Tuesday 27 November 2007 20:00-20:40 (Radio 4 FM)
Repeated: Sunday 2 December 2007 17:00-17:40 (Radio 4 FM)
Michael Buerk reports on the divide over homosexuality in the worldwide Anglican Church. He talks to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who gives vent to his feelings of shame over homophobia.
Monday, November 26, 2007
2 YEARS OLD TODAY
GLOBAL ANGLICANS SHARE CALL TO AN INCLUSIVE GOSPEL VISION AND MISSION
[26NOVEMBER] Last week, 180 people gathered in Derbyshire, England for “Drenched in Grace,” Inclusive Church’s first residential conference.
We met as Anglicans, committed to our church. We met as evangelicals and charismatics, as catholics, liberals and conservatives. We met at the Lord’s table - the unifying core of the conference. We reclaimed with confidence the orthodoxy of the inclusive Gospel we celebrate in the Anglican Communion.
We offered a model of engagement to the Communion at large. In our disagreements we acknowledged the primacy of God’s love in which we are all held together, but we did not keep silent about our differences.
Dr Jenny Te Paa (St John’s College, Auckland NZ) opened the conference. In a strong speech, Te Paa reminded us “how pervasive the reach of enmity has become amongst us.” She urged us “not so much to focus too intently and singularly on the bad behaviour of the few, but rather to focus anew on the very good behaviour of the many.”
Revd Dr Sharon Moughtin-Mumby in her talk “Out of the Silence” said “I believe it is vital for us to .... refuse to skip over the difficult and challenging or awkward passages of the Bible, just as in Inclusive Church we are committed to refusing to skip over those who can be made to feel like the difficult, challenging or awkward members of the people of God.”
Revd Dr Louis Weil (Berkeley, California) spoke about the central place baptism holds in our ecclesial understanding. Speaking of the sacraments of baptism and communion, he said “our obsession with validity has weakened the boldness of the sacramental signs. This creates a low level of expectation and weakens our understanding of mission.” We are in communion with one another by God’s grace, not by any human action. “I am in communion with Peter Akinola (the Archbishop of Nigeria)” he said. “I will remain in communion with Peter Akinola until we are both on the other side.”
Canon Lucy Winkett (St Paul’s Cathedral) spoke of the need to “forge relationships on the anvil of profound disagreement.” “The worry that we have as Anglicans is that our faith can be so driven by fear that our liturgy is tedious and our public pronouncements shrill and irrelevant.” In a powerful and wide ranging address she called for engagement with others across the theological spectrum.
Mark Russell, the Chief Executive of Church Army, sent us out into the world, calling passionately for the church to unite. “Unity is not saying that we will always agree with each other, unity is a deeper spiritual concept. Unity allows me to love my brothers and sisters even when I don’t always agree with them. Love allows me to hold difference and diversity.” He challenged us to “go from here, with a renewed vision to pursue a costly unity, and a vision to bring a gospel of hope to all.”
Many present are increasingly alienated and distanced from the church which they see as home. They are being rendered spiritually homeless. A common question was – why are our episcopal friends, who value and support classical Anglican comprehensiveness, so silent? Why do they, with few exceptions, leave the field clear to those who continually seek to undermine the Communion and deny its profound unity?
We have a Gospel to proclaim in a world disenchanted by the actions of those who proclaim a message which excludes. We invite them to meet with us, so that we can together move into the world with a vision of costly unity and hope for all in Jesus Christ.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Wisdom from New Westminster
“Above all, let’s get on with the normal work of being the church,” he stated on Nov. 23 in a memorandum sent to his 125 active clergy.
His letter followed the announcement by a breakaway group, the Anglican Network, announcing in Burlington, Ontario, that it was setting up a parallel Church structure in Canada, but attempting to maintain Anglican ties through a South American Province of the Anglican Communion.
Bishop Ingham said the announcement was not surprising, for there have been signs of today’s developments for years.
At least ten years ago some groups have been laying the groundwork for separation from their national Anglican Churches, stating their intention to be in communion only with those who held their view of human sexuality, the bishop said.
For the groups to attempt now to lay blame for their departure on the Diocese of New Westminster’s actions in 2002 or the US Episcopal Church’s decisions in 2003 is “a denial of history and an avoidance of responsibility.”
“The seeds of this breakaway movement were laid long before same sex blessings were authorized in [the Diocese of] New Westminster or a partnered gay bishop was elected in New Hampshire.”
“Every effort has been made, both in New Westminister [diocese] and across the Anglican Church of Canada, to provide space for genuine differences of conviction on non-essential matters of faith,” said Bishop Ingham.
“We have recognized the difficult place in which many of those of minority opinion find themselves--and there are many minorities, not just one—and have sought to foster mutual respect and mutual support,” he said.
“The vast majority of conservative and traditional Anglicans in Canada understand and accept this, and will stay with their church. This is not a ‘conservative breakaway.’ It is a decision to leave by those who feel uncomfortable with reasonable accommodation within the body of Christ.”
“No Canadian Anglican is being compelled to act against their conscience in matters of doctrine or ethics, and so there is no need for ‘safety’ from ecclesiastical oppression,” he insisted. He advised his clergy to emphasize in their preaching and leadership the church’s mission of outreach to the community and care of parishioners—and not church “politics.”
“Challenge the false stereotypes that foster polarization,” he said, “the “heartless conservative” or the “unbiblical liberal.’ “
“Give thanks that our church, for all its messiness, is honestly and openly facing issues some other bodies cannot,” he advised.
“Take the ‘long view’ – i.e., remember the consistent triumph of the Gospel over the historic fragmentation of the church, and the persistence of faith through the failures of human discipleship.”
It has been the cry of every breakaway group that “we haven’t left them – they’ve left us.” Apart from the tiredness of the cliché, it is an attempt to avoid responsibility for personal choices. Every effort has been made, both in New Westminster and across the Anglican Church of Canada, to provide space for genuine differences of conviction on non-essential matters of faith. We have recognized the difficult place in which those of minority opinion find themselves (and there are several minorities, not just one) and have sought to foster mutual respect and mutual support.
The vast majority of conservative and traditional Anglicans in Canada understand and accept this, and will stay with their church. This is not, therefore, a conservative breakaway. It is a decision to leave by those who feel uncomfortable with reasonable accommodation within the Body of Christ.
Christ the King
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 if you're so inclined -- and as we give thanks for kids home for holidays and the blessings of family, time off and leftover turkey -- let's give thanks for the Kingship of Christ as well as the Motherhood of God!
Friday, November 23, 2007
Our friend Giles Fraser posts from Pittsburgh
Happy to read Giles' conclusions that their 21st century ideological descendants will ultimately fail in their efforts to impose their narrow dogmatism in Pittsburgh -- but let's not discount the collateral damage inflicted by the schsimatics in the meantime.
This week’s stop (my final one) on my American adventure is Pittsburgh, the belly of the beast. The good people of Calvary Church have been looking after me and sharing their fears.
These are not radicals or revolutionaries, just puzzled suit-and-tie churchgoers doing their best to follow God’s call. What are they to do when their Bishop, the Rt Revd Robert Duncan, wants to lead their whole diocese out of the Episcopal Church because he does not like its theology?
How did Pittsburgh diocese get so bad? The answer has something to do with the establishment of the reactionary Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in the diocese back in 1976. This school saw itself as a bridgehead for ridding the Church of progressive theology. It has been feeding clergy into churches all over south-west Pennsylvania, dramatically changing the complexion of the diocese.
In the world of business, it would be called a hostile takeover. For those who worry about the intentions of Wycliffe Hall, now that it has been claimed in an anti-liberal putsch, there is a lesson here for all those who have ears.
Will Bishop Duncan really lead his diocese out of the Church, taking its property into the bargain? I doubt it. I reckon he might not be around as an Episcopalian bishop too much longer. The Presiding Bishop, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori — whom Bishop Duncan has ordered his clergy not to pray for — has warned him of impending disciplinary action.
“Abandonment of communion” is an offence against the canons of the Episcopal Church. And if a disciplinary process gets him up before the House of Bishops on a charge, they will surely kick him out. They are sick and tired of his behaviour.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu preached about inclusion here at Calvary Church recently. Bishop Duncan squirmed through the sermon with a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp.
All the world’s religions have dangerous and arrogant people who think they are the only ones with the truth. Anglicanism has generally had a more modest and generous view, allowing various viewpoints to co-exist. But these new puritans have taken advantage of Anglican theological hospitality to mount a raid on the soul of the Church. They want to close down the very openness that allowed them space to flourish in the beginning.
They will fail. The only thing that keeps this conspiracy of conservatives together is what they are against. And it will be people from churches such as Calvary that will have to pick up the pieces and put things back together again.
Focus on the Family
Or at least most of it. Here we are ... post Turkey Feast for the "official" Thanksgiving photo: Mother, Brother, Boys & Niece ... (Louise gets the photo credit!) ... wishing you and YOUR familes the gift of gratitude for God's many blessings and much Joy in the coming season of preparation for the birth of the Prince of Peace!
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Over the river and through the hills ...
Happy Thanksgiving Eve, everybody! And may the God of love fill you and your families with love enough to share with those who do not yet know that God's love includes them and gratitude enough to reach out to those in need of hope or help this holiday and always!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Episcopal Life focus on church blogosphere
[Episcopal Life] They're like monks of old, scribing texts on Scripture and theology, prayer and meditation, church governance and liturgics -- topics that resonate with them and their experiences of faith in the current day.
They're bloggers -- writers of Internet weblogs ("blogs," for short) -- whose readers respond with comments for posting online.
Together they populate the "blogosphere," a communication environment that, spiritually speaking, includes content that comes as fresh air to some and rhetorical smog to others.
But an informal sampling of blogs shows that Episcopalians, for the most part, blog to build Christian community. Mainly, these blogs are virtual locations for gathering groups of people who love their church and express that love in diverse ways. A few writers may sow discord, yet most work to widen connections and collegiality that might otherwise remain untapped.
Read the rest here ...
Read, Mark, Learn & Inwardly Digest
Monday, November 19, 2007
Episcopal leader seeks to mend church rift
In the face of defection threats, the bishop urges members to look beyond divisive issues and focus on helping people in need.
SAN JOSE -- Anxiety crept into the priest's voice as he addressed the leader of his unsettled church. Was she finding a way to bridge the widening rifts in the Episcopal Church and its parent Anglican Communion? he asked. Or was it an impasse?
TUTU: Time for Williams to take on homophobia
In a BBC radio interview to be broadcast next Tuesday, 27 November 2007, Archbishop Tutu says that he is depressed by the Church's "obsession" with the issue of gay priests, and believes that its Gospel message is being undermined by "extreme homophobia".
Tutu says Christians should instead be focusing on global problems such as combatting prejudice, poverty, AIDS/HIV and the environment.
"Our world is facing problems - poverty, HIV and Aids - a devastating pandemic, and conflict," said the archbishop, who is now aged 76 and has survived ill health to continue his work for a more just world.
"God must be weeping looking at some of the atrocities that we commit against one another. In the face of all of that, our Church, especially the Anglican Church, at this time is almost obsessed with questions of human sexuality."
Read the rest here.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Giles Fraser: California: where the giving is cheerful
"For Christians, stinginess is not understandable prudence taken a little too far. It is a lack of faith."
MOST DAYS, the Revd J. Edwin Bacon Jr rises at 4 a.m. for his prayers. He is in the gym at 5 a.m. Church meetings begin at 7 a.m. All Saints’, Pasadena, is Anglicanism on steroids: more than 2000 people in church on Sundays, an impressive and committed staff team of dozens, and an annual budget of several million dollars. They praise the Lord, feed the poor, include everyone, and speak the truth to power. This is what confident, progressive Anglicanism looks like, California-style.
The first day I arrived here, a film crew was on All Saints’ Campus — yes, campus — making the latest Hollywood blockbuster. (As it happens, the church has its own film crew to capture Sunday worship for those who cannot make it.) Clint Eastwood’s trailer was parked behind Mr Bacon’s office. And was that Angelina Jolie who just walked past me in church? Of course, it was.
I tried hard to look nonchalant and unimpressed. But there is a huge amount to be impressed about around here. It is not just the super-size-me facilities. People take their faith very seriously in these parts. It makes a difference to their lives. Not least, it makes a difference to what they do with their money.
We Brits are often terribly stingy — at least, the richer among us commonly are. Though there are many people who practise sacrificial giving — and most of those are probably from the Evangelical tradition — many more of us make do with offering back to God the money that has fallen down behind the sofa. We don’t even like discussing money. '
In the United States, generosity is preached about, expected, and received. Parishioners are challenged to tithe. I was slack-jawed as Mr Bacon came back from lunch after what he described as a “$15-million ask”.
It is not the number of zeros on the end of the cheque that impresses me, it is the confidence of the whole thing: the confidence of asking for it, and the confidence of giving it. I now see that, for Christians, stinginess is not understandable prudence taken a little too far. It is a lack of faith.
We tell ourselves self-justifying stories about the greed of US tele-evangelists or the administration costs of charities. It helps us keep our wealth to ourselves and within our families. What sort of way is that to respond to the love of God that freely overflows into creation for the benefit of all?
Our mistake might be to speak too much of “sacrificial giving”. That makes it sound like something one would rather not do. In contrast, the people here think of giving as a joy.
From the 16 November CHURCH TIMES
The Revd Dr Giles Fraser is Team Rector of Putney.
Photo credit: Anthony Parker
In case you missed the News from Niagara ...
Bishop Ralph Spence, who had refused to implement a similar vote three years ago, this time gave his assent, making Niagara the third diocese since the June General Synod convention to accept same-sex blessings.
We do SO have fall in California!
Taking Out the Trash
Here are some candidates for trash to be taken out at the end of the day in Anglican-land. (see my previous blog "The limits of Provisionality.")
Bishop Schofield's remarks (please note, not the Bishop. He is not trash, he is a child of God):
He said this,
This is trash on several counts:
Bishop Jack Iker produced trash as well:
"...Our plan is not only to disassociate, then, from the Episcopal Church, but to officially, constitutionally re-affiliate with an existing orthodox province of the communion that does not ordain women to the priesthood. These conversations are very far along but cannot be announced until the province that is considering our appeal has made their final decision public."
The deal is, the Diocese of Fort Worth did not affiliate with the Episcopal Church, as if it were shopping around for a convenient place to land, it was created by act of General Convention on the recommendation of the Diocese of Dallas. So it can't "re-affiliate." No matter that conversations with the Southern Cone are in progress, no matter that the bishop and many if not most people are prepared to move on. The Diocese of Fort Worth is a diocese in the Episcopal Church and is not up for bid, re-affiliation or unilateral whatever.
On that day, religiously motivated people highjacked both a religion and four passenger airplanes, using them as missiles against the United States in the name of Allah.
The President responded to those crimes against humanity not by leveraging the phenomenal international sympathy for us to employ the rule of law, but by declaring a War on Terrorism. Using religious imagery, he called it a “crusade” and divided the world into us versus the “evildoers.” He employed the rule of war, not the rule of law. Across the world, religious people engaged in escalated levels of violence calling it holy even when it was clear to so many that to do so was suicidal.
Suddenly it was clear that to be religious in the 21st century was to be interreligious. As Karl Rahner had earlier put it, “Today everyone is the next-door neighbor and spiritual neighbor of everyone else in the world.”
Several months ago at All Saints we began critiquing those Christian theologies which claim that God cannot forgive persons without a sacrificial penalty being paid by Jesus on the cross. That became our first tectonic shift. There have been others.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
And another thing ...
Isn't it the same as someone in a United Way office who leaves to work in the Salvation Army?
The United Way member/employee, in leaving, cannot take furniture or bank accounts or office building on his or her way to the Salvation Army -- no matter what the reason for leaving. Nor can that employee kick and scream that the United Way officials are mean spirited because they won't negotiate over the building, bank accounts and furniture!
If people want to leave the Episcopal Church for any reason whatsoever, let them leave -- but it is unseemly and irresponsible for them to demand a "negotiation" over assets they are abandoning in their leaving.
It is also irresponsible to toss around charges of "threatening" and "intimidation" when our Presiding Bishop explains the consequences of the actions being threatened by bishops like Duncan, Iker, Schofield and others.
In the real world, when an executive informs others about the likely consequences of the actions they are contemplating against the organization, that is called "common courtesy."
Precisely. Couldn't have said it better myself! So please consider this my response to those commenting on the "Say What?" post from yesterday.
And while the plot of "The Anglican World Turns" continues to thicken this weekend, we're taking a break from things-Anglican and heading off to a Presidential Forum on Global Warming being held here in L.A. this afternoon.
I understand it's "full up" but if you're interested you can watch it online here beginning at 2pm Pacific.
All for now. Later, alligators!
Friday, November 16, 2007
sue 11 churches
... screamed the headline.
"I told Bishop Lee I could not support negotiations for sale if the congregations intended to set up as other parts of the Anglican Communion," Bishop Jefferts Schori said, referring to the 77 million-member worldwide body of which the Episcopal Church is a part.
Bishop Jefferts Schori defended her actions "as a means to preserve assets of the Episcopal Church for ministry and the mission of the Episcopal Church." Efforts by overseas archbishops to set up competing churches for disenfranchised conservatives "violates our integrity as a church," she said.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Update on SW Florida
Fr Jake offers this new button to add to your collection ...
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
So Much for "Listening!"
"Why?" you ask. Because they're not. Listening, that is. Not only NOT listening but not even going to be "allowed" to have the OPPORTUNITY to listen.
Here's what's being reported on Louie Crew's blog:
For weeks this announcement has circulated in a flier:
Bishop Robinson to be
2008 Boniface Speaker
Saint Boniface Episcopal Church, Sarasota, is pleased to announce that the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire has accepted the invitation to be our guest and speaker January 16-20, 2008. We are especially grateful to
Assistant Rector Wes Wasdyke for helping invite Bishop Robinson. Wes is canonically resident in the Diocese of New Hampshire where he served the church and medical communities for many years.
Bishop Robinson is an astute speaker and spiritual leader with a passion for shared ministry and well known for his pastoral support of clergy and congregations in New Hampshire. While he is the focus of much attention in the Anglican Communion, his visit to us is a personal one where he will be able to share his own journey of faith and encourage each of us in ours.
As is always the case in the visit of a bishop from another jurisdiction, The Rt. Rev. Dabney Smith, Bishop of Southwest Florida, was consulted, and has given permission for Bishop Robinson to be our speaker in residence. Bishop Smith has encouraged us by describing this visit as an important part of the listening process which is key to the Windsor and Lambeth recommendations for the Anglican Communion.
The Boniface Speaker series was created to bring the brightest and best in religion to this parish and community. Bishop Robinson will speak at a community wide forum Thursday evening January 17, a clergy study morning Friday January 18, and at the parish services and forum Sunday January 20. Saint Boniface Church is at 5615 Midnight Pass Road on Siesta Key in Sarasota.
The Rev. Canon Edward M. Copland, Rector http://www.boniface/.
The flier was replaced today after Bishop Dabney Smith asked Bishop Robinson to decline the parish's invitation, with this new memo:
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
To: Boniface Parish Leaders, and other interested friends
Re: Cancellation of planned visit of Bishop Robinson
From: Ted Copland
Bishop Dabney Smith just called to tell me that he has contacted Bishop Gene Robinson again and asked him to decline the invitation to speak here in January. Bishop Smith said he took this action because of all the heat he is getting. Previously Bishop Smith had given his permission for the visit and said it was not a problem for him although he anticipated a reaction. He told me that it has been more of a reaction than he anticipated. Bishop Robinson is on sabbatical and is out of the country (he was in New Zealand when they talked). I anticipate that we will hear from his office in New Hampshire to confirm this.
Many people will be disappointed about this but we can choose to see this as an opportunity to continue the conversation about what it means to be the Episcopal Church in the 21st century. I believe it may be important for Bishop Smith to hear from people who thought that Bishop Robinson's visit would have furthered the conversation called for throughout the Anglican Communion.
Here are Louie's comments:
You know opposition is losing when opposition resorts to the tyranny of ideas, afraid to allow anyone even to listen to a point of view not approved by the one in power.
This country was built on strong advocacy for the right -- even the obligation -- of persons to expose themselves to all points of view before holding a point of view themselves.
Probably Bishop Smith is thoroughly within his rights as a bishop to cancel any presentation if doing so helps him save his skin. I hope that he can sleep in that skin.
When you want to know why most young people don't give the church the time of day, you need look no farther. Bishop Smith's cowardice gives me the creeps and makes me embarrassed to be an Episcopalian.
On the Saddling Up of One's Horse
The bright side is that there is support for ECUSA here. Although I am saddened by the current state of affairs, I hopefully look for the national church to reassert itself. Come soon. I'm still on my horse.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
We're loving Giles Fraser at All Saints Church!
Here's us looking very Anglican in our cassocks, don'tcha think?
And a good time was had by all ...
Speaking of Pittsburgh ...
The Sunday Post-Gazette ,to be specific, where this op-ed ran on 11/11/07:
Conservative activist JERRY BOWYER takes issue with the conservatives' split from the Episcopal Church, finding no support for it in biblical or Christian tradition
My wife is a reader at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in McKeesport. This means that she sometimes leads the people in prayer, including a prayer "for Katharine, our presiding bishop; Robert and Henry, our bishops; and Jay, our priest." These are our leaders. Katharine Jefferts Schori is the elected head of the U.S. branch of the church. Robert Duncan along with his assistant, Henry Scriven, leads the diocese, and Jay Geisler is the priest at St. Stephen's in McKeesport.
This past summer, Bishop Duncan instructed my wife and hundreds of other readers in the diocese to omit the prayer for Katharine. Katharine Jefferts Schori has been a frequent target for conservatives in the U.S. church ever since she was elected presiding bishop in 2006. Coming on the heels of the installation of an active and outspoken homosexual bishop, the elevation of a woman of liberal sympathies seemed a bridge too far for many conservatives.
It appeared at the time that omitting the prayer for Katharine was a steppingstone to where the bishop was really trying to take us -- outside of the Episcopal Church. You see, to include Katharine in the prayers was to acknowledge her office, and to acknowledge her office was to acknowledge our obligation to her.
Our suspicions were confirmed on Nov. 2, when the Diocese of Pittsburgh voted overwhelmingly to change its constitution to permit separation from the Episcopal Church USA.
When my wife, Susan, asked me for advice about the prayer directive, I told her that Katharine was elected lawfully under the standards of the Episcopal Church. Robert was using his authority to tell her to disregard Katharine's authority. When there is a disruption in the chain of authority, I said, "look to the highest authority." He said, "Love your enemies, pray for those who despitefully use you." If you should pray for your enemies, should you not pray even more for friends with whom you disagree?
I am not a liberal. I think the Episcopal Church made a terrible mistake when it installed Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2004. It did the church no favors when it trod the historic standards of Anglicanism under foot in a rush to make some sort of political point. It did Father Robinson no good to turn this deeply wounded man into a cause celebre with no thought to the pressure it would impose (driving him eventually into rehab). It did the world no favor to turn the church into an echo of the sexual revolution rather than a beacon out of it. Many commandments were broken, most notably that "they should be one, Father, even as You and I are one."
But the solution does not lie in breaking more commandments. The priests who voted overwhelmingly for secession this month had taken an oath of loyalty to the Episcopal Church at the time of their ordination. That oath holds whether our guys win every battle or not.
I know Republicans who simply refused to acknowledge Bill Clinton as president in the 1990s. I know Democrats who did the same regarding George W. Bush. But both presidents were elected under the rules laid out in our national Constitution.
The same thing has happened in our church. My side lost on the Gene Robinson issue. It was bitter, but it was fair.
Secession is not the biblical pattern of resistance to flawed authority. Young David served under a tyrannical and apostate King named Saul. David submitted to Saul's authority and he resisted the urge to revolt or secede. He remained faithful to Israel and Saul until the end, and then, because of his patience, became king himself.
David's great (28 times) grandson, Jesus, was a reader in the synagogue despite its shortcomings. He worshipped in the temple despite its corruption and oppression. King Herod was a murderous crook and the temple priesthood were his hired cronies and yet Mary and Joseph and Jesus were there year after year, making offerings, saying prayers, talking with rabbis.
When St. Paul was beaten by the high priest he showed him deference, not contempt. "You salute the rank," as they say in the military, "not the man."
That's because the authority of a priest or bishop doesn't come from him; it comes from God. The failings of the man, or woman, don't erase that authority. Saul would regularly try to murder David. He disregarded God and took on the responsibility to offer sacrifices himself. He murdered faithful priests. Through all of this, David saluted the office long after the man had outlived his merit.
On Oct. 31., the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church USA sent a letter to the bishop of Pittsburgh, directing him not to split the diocese from the denomination. Bishop Duncan replied by quoting Martin Luther, "Here I stand. I can do no other."
It's a powerful quote, but a misuse of history. Martin Luther didn't leave the Roman Catholic Church; he was kicked out. He decided to "stand" and fight. It's ironic that Bishop Duncan quoted Luther's pledge to "stand" in order to justify his intention to "walk."
Are my fellow conservatives fully aware of the biblical and patristic teachings on schism? How do they justify a break with the Episcopal Church to which they have literally sworn loyalty? How do they justify taking Episcopal property with them? Given Paul's command to the first-century Corinthian Church not to address church issues in secular courts, how do they justify the inevitable legal battles that accompany a schism? How much will the litigation cost? Will the money come from our offerings?
There are moral questions, too. If we break with the Episcopal Church in America over gay priests, how can we then align ourselves with African bishops who tolerate polygamist priests? Paul says that a church leader is to be "the husband of one wife." Do we think that the word "husband" is inerrant but the word "one" is not?
If the Episcopal Church really has become apostate and its current leaders really are enemies of God, then how can we justify leaving the church, its resources and its sheep in their care? If not, how can we justify this separation?
Yes, there are times when it's necessary to leave one authority for another. When the New Testament writers were forced to deal with this issue, they concluded that they were compelled to obey higher authority at all times, except when it commanded them to disobey God. Roman Emperors were monstrous beasts. The church preached against them and prayed for them to repent, but Christians still obeyed the law. It wasn't until Rome ordered them to stop preaching the gospel and to offer sacrifices to Caesar that the early church was forced to disobey.
By analogy, New Hampshire can install a whole pride of gay bishops, but we don't break our oath of loyalty to the Episcopal Church until they order us to start installing them here.
Until then, the pattern of David and Jesus holds: Be faithful. Be patient. Be active in good works. And be in prayer for all in authority ... "for Katharine, our presiding bishop; Robert and Henry, our bishops; and Jay, our priest, I pray. Lord, hear our prayer."
Jerry Bowyer is an Episcopal vestryman, a financial journalist and the chairman of Bowyer Media (www.jerrybowyer.com).
Monday, November 12, 2007
Belated Blog on Veteran's Day
Yesterday we prayed, at our morning services: "On this Veterans Day, bless all those men and women who, for devotion to their country and to the common good have offered themselves in service to our nation."
And last night we heard, at Evensong, a moving meditation from Giles Fraser on what the Brits call "Remembrance Day" about "The Lies of War & The Lies of Peace." (Wish there was a text to post but there is not. You'll have to take my word for it that it was great.)
And then, this morning, I finally got to yesterday's papers and saw Frank Rich's Op-ed -- The Coup at Home -- which is a must-read for anybody concerned about the soul of this nation and for anybody committed to preserving what is best about this nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all are created equal.
On Veteran's Day, the day we remember and honor those who risked their lives to preserve freedom and democracy, Rich calls us ALL to account for our complicity in the undermining of the foundational American values our veterans have served. An excerpt:
In the six years of compromising our principles since 9/11, our democracy has so steadily been defined down that it now can resemble the supposedly aspiring democracies we've propped up in places like Islamabad. Time has taken its toll. We've become inured to democracy-lite.
To believe that this corruption will simply evaporate when the Bush presidency is done is to underestimate the permanent erosion inflicted over the past six years. What was once shocking and unacceptable in America has now been internalized as the new normal.
We are a people in clinical depression. Americans know that the ideals that once set our nation apart from the world have been vandalized, and no matter which party they belong to, they do not see a restoration anytime soon.
Veteran's Day IS a time to honor and a time to remember ... AND a time to strengthen our resolve to nurture peace and hope in our hearts.
May it also be a time for us to speak truth to the powers that vandalize our values, to refuse to allow torture to be committed in our name and to refuse to allow the sacrifices our veterans have made to be squandered by those by subverting the rule of law and selling out the Constitution they pledged their lives to defend against all enemies, foreign AND domestic.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Bits & Pieces
The Bishop-elect of Chicago as quoted in the Chicago Tribune: When asked about his stance on gays in the church, Lee said he supported full inclusion."I believe God is calling us to full inclusion of gays and lesbians in ministry of this church. . . . There is a place for everyone in the church, and the church has to catch up with God's vision," he said.
Irene Monroe in the Concord Monitor: While many would like to believe that the financial crisis in the Episcopal Church is brought on by secessionist congregations battling with liberal bishops endorsing sodomy, the church's coffers were bare prior to Robinson's consecration. The reason? Decline in its membership over four decades; the rise of its Third World bishops from countries in Africa, South America, and Asia; and its egregious act of inhospitality and exclusion of its lesbian and gay population.
Tobias Haller writes: We gather at the table because of what each of us brings to the table, and what we derive from that gathering: no one comes empty-handed, but all are given more than they can ask or imagine when they are open to the multiplication of gifts. It is not for any of us to tell any others to leave the table because we might not like their gift.
Finally, my own reflections on "Soundbites and Sadducees."
Maybe it's because some of our work this week was about media and messaging but I am finding myself struck by how media savvy Jesus was. Long before "Crossfire" & "Point Counterpoint," media trainers and soundbite queens, Jesus had mastered the art of reframing the question.
In Sunday's gospel he turns his "Meet the Sadducees" appearance into an opportunity to once again "stay on message" -- eluding their "gotcha" line of questioning about whose wife the hapless seven-times-widow would be in heaven. Insead, Jesus reframes the question and offers a testimony to the greatness of God -- the God of the living, not the dead -- so compelling that it ends up in all three synpotic gospels.
That was his core message: The Good News of a God who loved us enough to become one of us and then called us to walk in love with each other.
Maybe if we think of Jesus as not only our Lord and Savior but our "media trainer" we can go and do likewise. Following his example we can reframe the debates that threaten to sideline the mission and ministry of the church back TO the mission and ministry of the church: to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor -- bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free.
Jesus stayed on message and so can we.
Here endeth the "bits & pieces."
Also in Chicago ...
WHEREAS our Lord “is not one to show partiality” (Acts 10:34-35) and calls us to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19);
WHEREAS our baptismal covenant call us to “respect the dignity of every human being;”
WHEREAS undue discrimination limits the ability of the faithful to elect qualified persons to leadership, including the position of bishop;
WHEREAS Title III, Canon 1, Section 2 of the Canons of The Episcopal Church clearly states that “No person shall be denied access to the discernment process for any ministry, lay or ordained, in this church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or age;”
WHEREAS Resolution B033, if interpreted to mean that a person living in a same-sex partnership should be excluded from consecration, stands in conflict with Title III, Canon 1, Section 2 of the Canons of the Episcopal Church;
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT
The Diocese of Chicago calls upon the 76th General Convention to abide by the canons of The Episcopal Church;
to respect the responsibility of each diocese to prayerfully discern the will of God in calling leaders;
to refrain from restricting the potential field of candidates on the basis of sex and sexual orientation;
and thus to repeal Resolution B033.
More from Giles Fraser
The radicals who met in my church in 1647 demanding the franchise for all men, irrespective of birth or wealth, were soon thwarted by the machinations of the fearful Oliver Cromwell (Comment, 26 October). The leaders of the first stirrings of English democracy were rounded up and shot in Burford Church. Others were cowed into silence.
Yet the dream was kept alive. Ships that sailed west to find a new land took with them the dream of democracy. What was first whispered in Putney came to fruition in that great experiment in democracy that is the United States.
Looking around Los Angeles, as I have just done, it is easy to miss the moral seriousness of the US. This is the spiritual home of cocaine-snorting movie producers, drive-by shootings, plastic breasts, and gas-guzzling Hummers. As I sit with my feet in the Pacific Ocean on the Malibu seafront, enjoying a great Chardonnay, the Puritans of Putney seem a million miles away.
Yet this is the land they created, a land greatly shaped by the Christian convictions of the Levellers: that all human beings are equal in the sight of God (hence levelled); and that the fight against tyranny (Pharaoh, Caesar, the Pope, the British monarch) is a religious imperative.
Of course, the Levellers would have been horrified to discover what many people have chosen to do with their freedom. But the decision to restrict freedom, even the freedom to be wastefully rich and superficial, can be a dangerous game. The more freedom is restricted, even in the name of some obviously higher good, the more chance there is for oppressive tyranny to assert itself. This is why, odd as it may seem, the LA party-set are sentinels on the outer flanks of human liberty.
But — and here is the great and painful contradiction of the United States — freedom is often defended at the expense of that other pillar of Leveller conviction: equality. Just behind the glitz of the Kodak Theater, where the Oscars are dished out, a huddle of black vagrants, dressed in little more than rags, hang out on the steps of the United Methodist Church. What freedom is there for such as these?
“The poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he,” said Thomas Rainsborough in Putney. His brother-in-law, John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts, made an even more famous speech: “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken . . . we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.”
That is uncomfortably near the knuckle.
A New Bishop for Chicago
Episcopal Life Online has this report and Integrity has issued the following statement:
Integrity congratulates Jeffrey Lee on his election as the next Bishop of Chicago. "We look forward to working with Bishop-elect Lee in continuing Chicago's long history of working for the full-inclusion of the LGBT faithful in the life and witness of the diocese," said the Rev. Susan Russell, President of Integrity.
"Integrity also commends the Search Committee of the Diocese of Chicago for including the Very Rev. Lind as a candidate despite the chilling effects of Resolution B033-and Dean Lind herself for standing for election in spite of the House of Bishops' recent statement in New Orleans," continued Russell.
"We may never know how significant a factor Resolution B033 was in the outcome of the Chicago election. However, we do know that Resolution B033 is noncanonical and discriminatory. Two dioceses -- California and Rochester --have already passed resolutions to General Convention 2009 that will nullify B033. We strongly urge all bishops and deputies to support such resolutions and their intent to end B033's inequity when we get to General Convention 2009 in Anaheim."
Giles in The Guardian this morning
The American civil war began with the secession of South Carolina from the United States. They left so as to defend their "right" not to have a liberal agenda imposed on them by campaigning progressives from the north. Interfering do-gooders weren't going to force proudly independent southerners to accept that slavery was wicked.
Parallels with the escalating crisis within American Anglicanism are now being made. The diocese of Pittsburgh, led by Bishop Bob Duncan, has just voted to quit the Episcopal church, and other conservative dioceses in the south might follow suit. They are sick to death of liberals telling them that gay is the new black. They want independence to protect their homophobia. And so they have reinvented the idea of the confederacy.
Whatever else can be said about this analysis - and conservatives do their nut about it - this is the script through which liberal US Christians understand the theological culture wars over homosexuality. To them the argument over gay bishops is manifestly a civil-rights issue that requires strong leadership and moral determination: General Grant and Abraham Lincoln. That is why US progressives are so frustrated with Rowan Williams, for the only thing he has in common with Lincoln is the beard.
In 1858 Lincoln famously quoted from Matthew 12:25 to insist that "a house divided against itself cannot stand". For Lincoln, all talk of compromise was useless: the idea that each state determines its own attitude to slavery was morally indefensible and politically unsustainable.
The nightmare for Williams is that if Lincoln's basic philosophy is correct then Anglicanism is in deep trouble - and so too is the Church of England, which is, almost by design, a house divided against itself. The fact that 46 members of the church's general synod, its parliament, have this week written to Bishop Duncan expressing their support for his secessionism, bodes very ill.
Effectively, the C of E is a peace treaty between Puritans and Catholics forged in response to the religious culture wars of the 16th and 17th centuries that drenched Europe in blood. As a reaction, compromise and a deep dislike of ideology became the defining genius of the English church - and, through that, the English national character.
The C of E was a peculiar settlement that kept most Christians, despite their huge theological differences, around the same communion table. The moral of the American civil war - at least for progressives - is that what is right requires strength of purpose to force through the cause of justice. In contrast, the moral of the English civil war is that unqualified belief in one's own rightness can lead to violent and destructive chaos.
Thus far the Archbishop of Canterbury has maintained the traditional Anglican via media with impeccable impartiality, trying to hold things together with a generous policy of being kinder to his enemies than his friends. But the truth is, the only people who now believe that Anglicanism can survive the current crisis in one piece are those holed up in Lambeth Palace.
Both conservatives and liberals agree that a house divided cannot stand. The battle lines are drawn. Conservative theologians once defended slavery by refusing to accept the Bible as radically inclusive. Similarly, today's conservative theologians are twisting the Bible into bad news for homosexuals rather than good news for all. It's the very opposite of the gospel message of God's generous and inclusive love.
The head of the US church, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, has threatened the neo-confederate leadership with disciplinary action. Some US liberals hope she is leading the church to a new Gettysburg, a decisive victory over prejudice. Yet they may also recall that Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest days in US history. The fight for right is seldom cost-free. And this fight will be no exception. Glory, glory. Alleluia.
The Rev Dr Giles Fraser, the vicar of Putney, is currently on placement at All Saints in Pasadena, California