Friday, January 04, 2008

Presiding Bishop's action "defies explanation"

Just when you think the "As the Anglican World Turns" saga can't get weirder ... well ... something else comes out from the Diocese of Fort Worth!

The latest is this missive, sent by the Fort Worth Standing Committee to all Fort Worth clergy and 2007 Convention Deputies:


To the Clergy and 2007 Convention Delegates,

The members of your Standing Committee thought you should be aware of this. The Presiding Bishop has done something which defies explanation. This is the Christmas card she sent to Bishop Iker and presumably other TEC bishops. Given the increasing polarization in TEC (and the Anglican Communion) today, the only reason we can see for her to make this choice is that she is only interested in pushing the polarization just that much further.

The Presiding Bishop is an intelligent woman, so this re-interpretation of Scripture to exclude masculine images must be intentional. This card illustrates in many ways the core problem of the General Convention Church. Scripture cannot be made to conform to us, we must conform our lives and our faith to Scripture. We will continue to stand for the traditional expression of the Faith.

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth


The "something that defies explanation?" This Christmas Card ...

... described on the Narrative in the card and on the designer's website (where you can also order cards for your OWN bishop!) as:

Wise women throughout time and in every culture know themselves to be seekers and seers of the Divine. In Janet McKenzie’s interpretation of the Magi, women around the world find an image of the Epiphany that includes and validates their encounters with the One Who Saves, celebrated here in the powerful, protective and tender manifestation of a mother and her child, embraced and nurtured by a loving community.

Here is global inclusiveness and a vision of mutuality and interdependence – the giving and receiving of the three gifts essential to life itself: presence, love and daily bread. Epiphany proclaims again and anew: Christ for all people. God’s favor extends to all!

Shocked! Shocked, I tell you! Imagine believing that the Grace of God matters more than the Gonads on the Guys! How dare she? Defies explanation only begins to describe it ... because what Katharine Jefferts Schori has really done is defy not explanation but the patriarchy.

And there's only one response to that ...



Ann said...

What ever was the PB thinking -- that there were women at the birth of Jesus???
How could that possibly be? Of course the Greek plural only being masculine if there was even one man in the room may have misled FW - perhaps they need to go back to their Greek language classes.

Anonymous said...

I love the PB's card but can't stop laughing at the sheer stupidity of those guys on the FW Standing Committee. "Morons" is not even a strong enough word.

Kirstin said...

Good Lord, what's horrible about that?

(And I don't need to do it, but how did you get your comment guidelines to show up here?)

Barbi Click said...

Did it never occur to these guys (and sadly far too many women) that God chose a WOMAN to bear the holy babe and needed no man at all?
oh wait...I forgot...God is a man, according to Jack. The Gospel according to Jack Leo saith the lord. (please not the little "l".)

Unknown said...

How could anybody be surprised by the response of the Ft. Worth group: pigs grunt. In this case, male chauvanist porkers.


kirstin ... you mean the comment guidelines folks are coming close to ignoring in their high-energy responses to our Fort Worth brethren????

On your Blogger Dashboard if you go to "Settings" and then "Comments" there's a space to enter "Comment Form Message" ... I just found it a week or so ago myself!

Kirstin said...


Jim Costich said...

Re-interpretation of scripture? It's a Christmas card with an image of the Holy infant cradled by a representation of all the world's madonnas. What's not to like? It's symbolic. How can you be Episcopal/Anglican/Catholic or one of the Orthodox's and not get symbolism? But they don't. There really isn't enough common ground for them to stay in the EC, that's why they're leaving.

The good Reverend Vicki Gene Robinson is shown on U-Tube saying that the end of Patriarchy is upon us. I think he's hit the nail on the head. This is the best news women, gay men and trans people have EVER had. But it's throwing misogynists into a state of chaos. We can't grave dance because we love our enemies (remember?) and because they're going to get violent. Hate crimes will go up over this and we still can't get the Federal government to pass a hate crimes bill, nor will most States.


Jim Costich

JimB said...

Aided by Bp. Iker's letter and the former bishop of SJ's interview, I have discerned a trend emerging in 2008. It will be a very bad year for satirists. Reality is grabbing all the good material!


Ann said...

And if Jack Iker had not posted it all over FW - no one would have seen it -- now the world knows!

Anglocat said...

What, he wanted Dogbert in a Santa suit?

Please tell me this is a little spoof you're playing. The man's going ballistic because there aren't any guys on the front of the PB's Christmas card?

Not that I'm in love with the card, mind you; nice thought, but I'm just not a fan of cards with long explanations of their symbolism...

But it's a bleedin' Christmas card. Accept the holiday wishes, bin it if you don't like it, and move on.

And, if Iker feels excluded by the lack of male representation on a [sputtering again] Chistmas card, maybe he could use the experience to gain a tiny sliver of understanding of how women feel in his diocese.

Oh, as usual, dear.


anglocat ... I'm half-bright but not actually clever enough to think up such a "spoof" ... sad, but true, it's yet-another-episode of the real-life reality show "As the Anglican World Turns"

Andrallen said...

In my opinion the words of the Fort Worth Standing Committee validate the decision of the PB's choice in cards (thankfully they use their valuable time to monitor such vital issues)as well as the artist's statement and vision. "How is that?" You ask. Clearly, there are not three wise men in Fort Worth.
(John Bellamy; St. Paul's Church in Kingsport, TN)

William said...

These are the same people who do not understand Jesus as our Mother either.

Thank you Julian of Norwich

I am amazed by Orthodox Anglicans who know so little of what Anglicanism is all about.

Perhaps if the artist had protrayed Jesus in the nude on his mother's lap the Bishop's need for a masculine image would have been fulfilled.

I used to think penis worship only happened in Japan.

I acknowledge just how wrong I was.

Lisa Fox said...

Help me out here, Susan. (Maybe we need an official historian.) Would this be the first time in the history of the Episcopal Church that a duly elected Standing Committee has felt the need to pronounce upon the orthodoxy (or lack thereof) of a Presiding Bishop's Christmas card? Fer-god-sakes! Those people need to get day jobs!

LOL! and thanks for the laugh.

W said...

I love the card! I'm sure Jack will soon come to see the light :)

Jeffri Harre said...

I wonder if Bishop Iker was the "at least one bishop" referred to in the StandFirm outrage ath Katharine's card ( last month. I have some of my own thoughts at Telling Beads (12/21).

Suzer said...

What a beautiful card! What a pity some in FW could not see beyond their own childish egos to appreciate this artist's rendering of Madonna(s) and child. I thought that our focus on Christmas was about Madonna and child anyway?

Muthah+ said...

Now you are seeing just how far the Dio of Ft. Worth has slipped from the Episc. mainstream. I have been yelling for 30 years about the kind of isolationism that Ft. W has kept up. It isn't Iker's fault--it is the fault of a sucession of bishops who set up their own feifdom many years ago. And as long as TEC allows the unfettering of bishops the church will continue to have this kind of provincialization. The changes cannot be centered on San J or FTW or Pitt or whatever. The changes to the power of bishops has to come from the House of Deputies!

GraceCan said...

I think barbie click's comment says it all and hits the nail on the head. God chose a WOMAN to bear his son, and the guys have been trying to make up for that ever since. I think it's called "womb envy" or something like that! FW seems determined to see to it that no one takes them seriously.

Hiram said...

The trouble with this card, from a conservative point of view, is not that there are women involved in the birth of the Lord Jesus, or that women greeted and praised him, as they no doubt did, based on the testimony of the shepherds to the people of Bethlehem.

The problem with this card is that it seeks to "improve" Scripture. It makes evident the idea that the account of the Magi is insufficient, and must be added to -- and rather than simply adding women to the picture, it "inclusively" excludes men.

Furthermore, rather than speaking of the gifts actually offered by the Magi, it speaks of "the giving and receiving of the three gifts essential to life itself: presence, love and daily bread." While it is doubtful that the Magi understood the significance of their gifts to Jesus' later ministry, gold, frankincense, and myrrh portend Jesus' roles as king, priest, and atoning sacrifice -- which furnish us with an assurance of God's merciful presence, his forgiving and sacrificial love, and the offering of spiritual bread as we feed in faith upon the Lord Jesus.

By "improving upon" Scripture, the card and its explanation negate what Scripture explicitly says. The explanation, furthermore, is quite vague. It can certainly be understood from a Christian perspective -- but it does not present an explicitly Christian picture. The explanation begins, "Wise women throughout time and in every culture know themselves to be seekers and seers of the Divine." This does not speak of creedal Christianity, but a vague and fuzzy spirituality.

Certainly people are entitled to believe whatever they want to believe, and to express their faith as clearly or as murkily as they desire. But for a bishop in a Christian Church to send a card that seems to value spirituality and "inclusivity" above and beyond the story as it is found in Scripture, and a card which seeks to "improve" on what Scripture says -- well, it seems less than Christian to me and to many others.

One of the differences between conservatives and progressives is that we conservatives take Christianity as a revealed religion. It is something that God has told us, and that we could not have discovered on our own. It is not fitting for us to improve upon it. We can simply take it and live it. Progressives, on the other hand, seem to regard Scripture as the product of people "encountering the Divine" and reflecting upon that encounter. Any experience of "the Divine" is a fresh experience and can change the core teachings of the faith, if it seems reasonable to one and get others to validate one's new insights.

To me, there are far more problems with this card than simply a lack of men in the picture. There is an attitude toward God and his Word that makes the goal (inclusivity) the master of the Story -- instead of the Story forming the goal.

Caminante said...

"The changes to the power of bishops has to come from the House of Deputies!"

Problem is, so many resolutions dealing with that sort of matter go to the HOB first and if they axe it, we're stuck in the HOD.

Jim of L-Town said...

Dear Rev. Russell:

God so loved the world he DID NOT send a committee (read HOD or HOB) to save it.
An old joke that seems to fit.

A sinner saved by God's Grace

Jim of Michigan

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Hiram does show the problem with the "conservatives" of today. It is a lack of religious imagination -- the freedom (so evident in the patristic era) to expand and embroider upon the bare scriptural text, gaining new insights through the expansive imagery. Look at the Protoevangelium, with its enhanced roles for women in the story (such as the midwife, and more for Mary herself to do and say). This is the catholic tradition, not the bare "if it isn't in the scriptural account we cannot imagine it" sort of fundamentalism that has falsely cloaked itself in the mantle of orthodoxy.

JimB said...

Rev. Susan,

The love-of-my-life points out that the problem is the card is politically incorrect. Which given some of the (err) stuff one reads on conservative sights, is pretty funny.

Sometimes, Sue-z just nails it!


uffda51 said...

A beautiful card.

Isn't it possible that this is a snapshot of the baby shower and that the wisemen and shepards are out of frame, watching a bowl game on cable? Assuming that Jesus was actually born during bowl season?

I think that the card and the event depicted on it, Jesus's birth, refer to a time before there was a "creedal Christianity" so I dont' think we can blame the women pictured for going all vague and fuzzy on us.

I also don't think we can impute the motive of trying to "improve" scripture to the creator of the card.

How can we can talk about what Scripture "explictly" says when the four gospels, written decades after the event, cannot agree? It's unlikely that Jesus was even born in Bethlehem. Paul never mentions the virgin birth, which would be a little like writing a biography of Muhammed Ali without mentioning that he was born Cassius Clay. But I digress.

Thanks, Susan, for sharing this.

Suzer said...

Hiram -- dude -- chill. It's a card. You are treating this greeting card as if it were scripture, and you are reading waaaaay too much into it. It's a card. It's a beautiful card. It depicts several women with Jesus. Jesus is male, and therefore maleness is represented in the card. See? No worries. You, and other men, have not been left out.

Your interpretation of this card as seeking to "improve on scripture" is, frankly, ludicrous. You are obviously an intelligent person, and your intelligence could be put to much better use than condemning a greeting card with a lovely picture on it. I'm no theologian, nor am I much of an intellectual, but I've seen you write much better than this, even when I disagree with you. It is really a stretch to make anything offensive out of this card. It's beneath you, really it is.

Anglocat said...

Frankly, Hiram, I think you're missing the big picture. The Standing Committee is so eager to find fault, and to assume that the PB is trying to provoke a fight, that they assume that the card is meant to be a homily and not a card. Maybe KJS liked the artwork. Maybe something else about it touched her, and she wanted to share that with her Christmas card list. Maybe she liked the focus on women, who are so often left out in religious discord, or marginalized. At the end of the day, it's just a card.

And, frankly, in view of the fact that the Bishop of Ft Worth has denied the validity of the PB's orders, applied for non-TEC alternative primatial oversight within 24 hours of her election as PB, has discouraged priests within the diocese from praying for her, and routinely calls her a heretic, the fact that he got any card at all from her shows that the graciousness to be found in this spuddle isn't with Ft. Worth.

No,the eagerness to find fault, assume provocation, critique the theological underpinnings of a Christmas card (didn't the reasserters pile on the ABC for critiquing the popular Christmas story for lack of scriptural fidelity, too?), show a devotion not to Christ, but to discord. St Francis--and St. Paul--would weep at the utter lack of grace in this petty bit of backbiting.

Jack Sprat said...

I, for one, have never in my life felt in the least threatened by the power of women (and/or things deemed "feminine" in our society). It blows my mind that the very idea of "equality" scares so many in the patriarchy (sadly, this includes some women and some of my fellow gay men). Women and men are different, surely, and they are the same, surely. What matters to me is their humanity, not their gender.

By the way.... didn't Jesus hang out with women a lot (at a time when that was definitely NOT the thing to do)? I'll have to go back and check my bible...

The bottom line for me is that my priest, Rosa Lee, has brought me further and deeper into a life of spiritual awakening than any other person I've ever known. If that isn't godliness, what is?


P.S. Hiram, I have a spare xanax. I think you could use it.


phil swain said...

One of the things that confuses me about the art work is that Mary appears to be of a different ethnic origin than the Child Jesus. The only two possibilities that come to mind are either the Child Jesus does not share Mary's flesh or He shares the flesh of someone in addition to Mary.

In either case this would be a distortion of the doctrine of the incarnation. On this level alone the work would fail as Christian art. Though, I suspect that it was not intended as Christian art.

Hiram said...

Jack -- send it off to the PB; she needs it more.