30 September 2007

Habemus papam!

As shown in this photo, which appeared in the Church Times, white smoke has been seen in Pittsburgh. It appears that we have a pope!

TPOP (note this, "The Pope Of Pittsburgh," the latest acronym to infest blogospheria Anglicana) must be just a wee bit disappointed by the lack of media coverage. Save this blog, and a few other Christian media sources, it seems that His Holiness was covered only in Virtue Online. I'm not sure what to make of that. It's certainly odd company for this blog to keep!

What does the smoke mean? Well, it may augur a new papacy of Pure Undefiled True Religion, or it may be some kind of sign of bad grammar or sloppy theology. Here's the opening of their statement (or should I be calling this an "encyclical" now?):
In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, to whom belong all might, majesty, dominion and glory.
This was ripped apart by a commenter on T19:

The proper Trinitarian invocation would be "In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" or "In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." The annunciation used in this communique, however, "God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit" has an inherently modalistic ring to it, which is precisely why it is not a part of classical theological exposition of the Trinity in either East or West. ...

I might be more apt to forgive such sloppiness if the grammatical structure of the sentence did not only amplify the theological problem. The grammatical plural "to whom belong" (as opposed to the singular "to whom belongs" further creates the impression that we’re talking about three gods or one God who manifests himself in three modes) rather than the One God. The Holy Trinity is properly referred to as "he" in good orthodox theology, not as "they"!

So, given that auspicious start—and the fact that not a single one of the 51 unnamed bishops who reputedly signed it did not catch such a basic theological error—I’ve got to start with a healthy skepticism on the rest…

Ouch. And that was only the invocation. The statement itself may propel some ECUSA bishops to resign soon, if they are loyal to their ordination vows, says Mark Harris.

What good can come of this? Vestment companies and church sign makers will do quite well. I expect airlines and lawyers to make out pretty well on this one. Sadly, parishioners will not do so well, distracted from the mission of the church by an argument over a minor point of moral theology. The crux of this disagreement, by the way, was not mentioned by Jesus Christ, was hardly addressed in the church fathers, and does not appear as a point of faith in any of the historic creeds.

It's all sad. But, hey, at least TPOP won't have to worry about skipping any more work trips with his fellow bishops.

Two primates speak for inclusion

ENS carries this brief today on a conference that InclusiveChurch sponsored at Manchester Cathedral in the UK.

Archbishop Carlos Touche-Porter of Mexico and Primus Idris Jones of the Scottish Episcopal Church are taking part in a conference, titled "Celebrating Anglican Diversity," to uphold the Anglican tradition of open and inclusive theology and consider the future course of the Anglican Communion.

Touche-Porter is a staunch advocate of full inclusion and diversity within the Church, especially in support of gay and lesbian Christians. "Inclusion is a reality in the Anglican Church, despite reports to the contrary," he said. "I am very much looking forward to being in the U.K. as part of our preparations for a positive Lambeth Conference."

"It was very obvious at the recent meeting of Anglican Primates that the vast majority wish to stay with an Anglican church that is open and welcoming and prepared to live with difference," said Jones. "This is Anglican mainstream and we have to make it clear that it represents [the] majority opinion among church leaders. Attempts to try to turn the Communion into something that is controlled from the center, with expulsion the result of disagreement, will fail."

You can read more about the conference here. Stay tuned for further reports.

Stained glass ceiling, busted again

From today's Sydney Morning Herald:
The Anglican Church's highest court has cleared the way for women bishops - but the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, will carry on the fight against them.

The Appellate Tribunal, by a 4-3 majority, found there is no constitutional barrier to women becoming bishops in the Australian church. The decision could lead one day to a woman leading the Australian church.

The Church of England, mother church of the world's 77 million Anglicans, voted a year ago to consecrate women bishops.

But the Australian decision to break the stained glass ceiling is likely to exacerbate divisions in church ranks. The national church is considering ways to provide oversight to traditionalists unwilling to accept women bishops.

This will pose a big problem for +Peter Jensen. Will he spend his time trying to hold back the tide of history, or will he push ahead with his radical innovation to allow lay presidency at the Eucharist?

Anyway, I rejoice that another province of the Anglican Communion will soon enjoy the ministry of women bishops.

(Tip of the miter to Thinking Anglicans. The news link came from a commenter.)

28 September 2007

Quaking in humility

I don't know what to say. Actors crave Oscars. Scientists crave the Nobel. Smart people want the MacArthur. Bloggers want to be a MadPriest "Hero of the blogosphere".

Yes, dear reader, it's true. This blog has been named. We'll try to live up to the high honor.

Breaking news on the Presumptive Pontiff

On Tuesday, I wrote about the Pope of Pittsburgh. You know who I mean. There have been some developments.

First, Raspberry Rabbit has uncovered a photo of the presumptive pontiff. I guess RR snuck into the conclave with his camera. I'll bet dollars to doughnuts his disguise included a purple shirt, which probably made the whole escapade easier. Anyway, enjoy the photo.

Then, over at Thinking Anglicans, and eagle-eyed reader spotted earlier evidence that this papacy was long in the making. Right there on the ACN website, you can enjoy a pallium-clad bishop. At least that's what it looks like. I didn't think we'd had one of those in Anglicanism since, say, 1558. But, hey, if you're starting up your own church, I guess you get to pick your own vesture.

Since neither T19 nor SF seems to have had a word about the conclave since it opened, I'll continue to offer this space as the sole outlet for news developments. Of course, don't be upset when most of the updates concern sartorial matters. What does this have to do with an "inclusive church," you ask? Well, I favor the inclusion of people who like to play dress-up and who like to play church (with the "church" being the Sistine Chapel).

Stumbling forward

I wrote about clarity just before the HoB statements. The folks on the right really liked what I had to say. I hope that they understand my plea for clarity applied not only to the left, but to the right. Over on Stand Firm a few weeks ago, I was savaged for calling for transparency on the right.

In case all those T19 and SF readers finding their way here now wonder, it is my 100% firm conviction that the church is blessed by the presence and ministry of GLBT Christians. I long for the day when our church is inclusive, in every way, of people without regard to their sexual orientation. I am convinced that this is in keeping with the Bible and with the traditions of the church.

Where I part ways from some progressives is my own sense that how we get there will have much to do with our relationships with our global partners in mission. I think it would be tragic if ECUSA became separated from other provinces. We need their spiritual witness, and they need our witness of inclusion. There is great cost to our whole church (and especially to GLBT Christians) in our current path. I grieve that. But there is even greater cost if we say to moderate Anglicans, "we have no need of you."

What of the Akinolites? We won't please them. No matter what. If we demoted +Gene Robinson to acolyte, uttered imprecatory liturgies instead of SSBs, and resume usage of the 1928 prayer book, that crowd would still not be happy. They, simply put, have no more use for the catholic episcopate or an Anglican sensibility at this point than I have use for pallia and conclaves.

I think our bishops have spoken well (with a caveat to come in a future posting). They spoke with unusual clarity. They spoke with candor. They spoke with astonishing near-unanimity.

Is their allowance for the place of LGBTs in the church our final destination? I hope not. Will we be able to stay in conversation with the entire Communion as we walk forward together? I think so. This is not our ideal place, but I think we have continued to stumble ahead in a forward direction in this earthly pilgrimage.

26 September 2007

The missing item in the HoB statement

Over at T19, we find this, in a posting titled, "From the Bishops in New Orleans, a Key Deafening Silence on one Subject the Primates Addressed":
From the Tanzania Communique:

The Primates urge the representatives of The Episcopal Church and of those congregations in property disputes with it to suspend all actions in law arising in this situation. We also urge both parties to give assurances that no steps will be taken to alienate property from The Episcopal Church without its consent or to deny the use of that property to those congregations.

They said not a word about it. Not one.
Yes, that is missing. I wish they had addressed the subject, and I'll be interested to learn why not over the next few days. For now, may I just point out that the mention of pernicious lawsuits is a red herring. The conservatives always seem eager to move right past the preceding fact, which is that they're trying to take things that don't belong to them.

Example: suppose I donate a new Gospel book to the parish I serve. I move on to the next parish, and I think, "Gee, I really like that book. I think I'll take it with me." That's stealing, which is addressed quite clearly in the Bible as wrong. Now if I work out a deal with the parish ("It was a bit scuffed up, so we'll give it to you for a modest donation.") then I can remove it legally. It's like that with churches. We're not a congregational church, and these congregations need to get over their victim complex on this one. Don't try to steal, and you won't run afoul of the law.

MadPriest on the HoB

I often turn to MadPriest for a good dose of irreverent levity. This morning I was not disappointed with his graphical take on the HoB statement. However, I was moved by his prose response as well.
Okay, gay Christians are being asked, yet again, to suffer for expediency's sake and this is an evil that the liberal bishops of TEC will be called to account for. However, this ongoing debate has forced the issue of the injustice being perpetrated against gay Christians out from under the carpet. Even in my backwater diocese in England, intelligent clergy and laity are talking about gay people in an open and sympathetic way, which was not happening before Gene's consecration. TEC's recent history has made such people face up to the reality of the situation and to think about it.

However, most important of all, Christian deviants and their supporters are so much stronger, so much more confident, so much more convinced of the righteousness of their "manner of life," than they were before all this began. We have made friends and contacts that will last forever. We would give our very lives for each other. You cannot put a genii like that back into the bottle.

We have come together because of love. Those who seek our oppression have come together because of hatred. Love will conquer all.
Indeed, MadPriest. Love will triumph. Tomorrow would be nicer than next week, wouldn't it?

The extra mile

I woke up this morning to hear the BBC say that the Episcopal Church had "suspended the consecration of gay bishops". My heart sank at the thought that perhaps the Bishops in New Orleans had suddenly been pressurised to take a much more conservative line than they have been previously. So I was relieved when, over breakfast, I read the Statement itself. It seems to me and to those I've spoken to in the UK that the Bishops have done a good thing. They have gone the extra mile to meet ++Rowan's desire to hold the Communion together and to keep talking. Clearly the moratorium continues and that's a big price to pay - clearly the ministry of LGBT clergy cannot yet be fully affirmed and that's a huge price too. And clearly SSB's are not yet to become routine parts of the ministry of local churches although I welcome the recognition that local pastoral needs must be recognised.

But under the Statement discussion and dialogue can continue. That's the important thing, conclaves and councils in Pittsburgh notwithstanding! It may be that there is a splintering, and a few churches in the US decide to go their own way under the Southern Cone or wherever else. If t'were done, tis well t'were done quickly. The result of that would be that those who remain are committed to working TOGETHER and trying to understand each other. I hope that the Lambeth Conference (including Gene) will be a place of growth; we at IC are looking forward to working with people from all over the world to try to make it so.

I'm reading "Exclusion and Embrace" at the moment by Miroslav Volf; it's a brilliant book. At its heart is the need for each to recognise the other, as the father recognised the prodigal son from far off. And if we can start to do that, then God willing we'll make progress towards acknowledging the full humanity before God of all Christians. And then we can get on with the mission of preaching the Gospel.

First thoughts on the HoB statement

As I wrote earlier, I spent most of the evening with the Altar Guild in the parish I serve. Less dramatic than the trembling Anglican Communion, but infinitely more profound. Now that we've solved problems ranging from Advent greens to crufty holy water, from new lectionary books to old microphones, I'm prepared to return to blogospheria Anglicana.

I've had a very quick look at the HoB's statement, and an even quicker look at some other early reactions. Taking Kendall Harmon's advice to heart, I'm going to sleep on this before I write too much. That said, a few thoughts. Sorry for the shorthand and jargon -- will have more to say tomorrow.
  • This statement was less verbose than I expected.
  • I'm grateful for their clarity on B033, even though I believe that we should not deny the possibility of the Holy Spirit calling a GLBT person as a bishop. For now, I think this is a sound answer to the primates' requests, and it should keep us in the conversation. We needed to do that, I think.
  • I think their SSB response is more of the same fudge, but it's just a bit less fudgy this time. Our bishops have said, again, that they haven't authorized official rites (i.e. published liturgies), but they are more clearly acknowledging the pastoral response (i.e. SSBs in parishes) that is taking place. This satisfies the letter of the law in the primates' requests, but it won't satisfy hard-line primates who want a total cessation of SSBs.
  • The bishops were clear in their wish for an immediate end to incursions from other provinces. I wonder if they'll consider discipline against their own number who have traveled to Africa to consecrate some of these bishops.
  • Their mention of Bishop Gene Robinson's exclusion from Lambeth seemed about right -- duly noted, and not unduly demanding.
  • Their support of the Presiding Bishop is clear, as well as their support for the latest DEPO (with a bit of ALPO thrown in?) scheme.
  • This was all more clear than I would have expected. I wish the language included more scriptural references, but I think they were trying to economize words.
  • I hope there's no minority report from the left. That would really undermine the potential goodwill that this statement will generate with moderate primates. On the other hand, the minority report from the right is now taking place in Pittsburgh. I expect mass defections very soon.
  • Somehow the bishops have managed to answer the primates' requests without rolling back the place GLBTs in our church. If Integrity can be happy with this, and if it keeps us talking with the Communion, this is close to a miracle.
Thanks be to God.

The Pope of Pittsburgh

I couldn't make this up. Bishop (or should I begin to practice, "Archbishop") Duncan is referring to his episcopal gathering as a conclave.
During the early hours of yesterday, the Lord reminded me of the word "conclave." Bishop's meetings are sometimes "with the key withheld," the literal meaning of the Latin root. Bishops gathering in conclave cannot come out until they have a successful result. While there will be no one "locking us in," the whole Anglican world is expecting something great of us in this meeting.
During the late hours of today, I am reminded of the word "pretentious."

First, Duncan compares his lot to that of our Savior on Good Friday. Every moment is the "moment of decision" or the "decision point" or the "crucial time" or the "instant of importance." Just when I thought we had reached the height of melodrama, now he's practically crowning himself in a papal tiara. Quick -- someone call the news chopper. Watch Pittsburgh for white smoke!

What's really happening in Pittsburgh is a gathering of disaffected bishops who have banded together in fear and anger. A movement built on that energy will not go far. But at least they'll have plenty of bishops, archbishops, and assorted prelates.

I actually feel sorry for them. I wish they could see that most of us in ECUSA -- even if we poke a bit of fun at them -- would be happy to have them here. Sadly, they feel unwelcomed. I fear that this feeling will continue for them, and they'll have division upon division upon division.

(For the record, I'm perfectly willing to have some fun at the expense of the left too -- and I can take a good ribbing myself. Lest I be accused of picking on the future pontiff...)

25 September 2007

BREAKING: HoB is finalizing statement now

You can get live blog coverage of the HoB from both epiScope or Stand Firm. Commentary will appear here once I have a chance to digest the statement. Oh, and I have an intervening meeting of the parish Altar Guild to attend. First things first!

Afternoon sundries

While we're waiting for actual news from the HoB, I thought I'd cover a few bits of miscellany. In no particular order...
  • At T19, there's a posting titled "The Episcopal Church Plays and Loses the Numbers Game." I continue to be puzzled about the conservatives' desire to talk about the numbers game. Some of their own dioceses (have a look at Quincy, or even Fort Worth) are not exactly bastions of evangelism, judging from only the numbers. I'll say it again, if you want big numbers, follow Steenson right on over to Rome. If you want big growth, follow folks to Mecca or Salt Lake City. I don't mind talking about numbers, but it's not healthy to be fixated on them.
  • Which brings me to my next point. Folks on the right seem boggled by the Presiding Bishop's statement that "The conflict that you read about in the headlines is not reality for 95 percent" of the church. That seems about right to me. This is a really big deal to a bunch of people on the right and a few people on the left. This is an annoying distraction to many, many more people, who would like to just come to church and give thanks and offer prayers. And it's utterly perplexing to lots of others. I live in a diocese with one parish that has left, and two more that receive varying provisions for DEPO (my bishop of +Geralyn Wolf). That said, our diocese spends less than 5% of our energy on this, and within the parish I serve this just doesn't come up. And, by the way, we're not all of one mind. As a diocese, and as a parish, we're diverse in our views. It's just that the "conflict," as in active bickering, simply isn't present. This is, as I keep saying, a big deal in places where the clergy have made it a big deal. 95% conflict-free? Seems about right.
  • This segues into my next point. Right after clergy, this "crisis" is driven by media. You can't easily write a compelling newspaper story about another person finding God or the way a church took care of one of its members or a generous outreach program. It's much easier to write about impending doom and rampant schism, even if it isn't quite true. Take, for example, my favorite poster child for misguided reporter, Ruth Gledhill. Offering this gem today, she writes about "an Episcopal Church in disarray, led no longer by a 'house' but by a 'community' of bishops, with a songbook of praise to Mother Earth, Sister Moon and Brother Sun. Thank you BabyBlue for finding out what the bishops are singing in New Orleans and thus reminding us that this whole affair actually has very little to do with homosexuality." OK, on the "community" thing you have a point. "House of Bishops" is the canonical language, so let's use it. But what's her beef with Mother Earth, Sister Moon? I guess she thinks her readers won't know the ancient -- very orthodox origins of this phrase, and she'll whoop up a good dose of outrage? Apparently, she thinks her readers don't get to the end of her pieces, or else a fact-checker did some work after she finished. Turns out that even Ruth Gledhill's piece says that this comes from words of St. Francis. But it's not exciting enough to write that "Bishops sing ancient hymn by St. Francis" so she titles this thing, "Goodbye Father Jeffrey. Hello, Sister Moon." Nice.
  • Oh, one more about Ruth Gledhill. In the same piece (see previous bullet), she ends with this: "What puzzles me is, given the small numbers still attending The Episcopal Church, why are we giving them all this attention?" See the first bullet for her numbers comment. As for the question about attention, I think you might look in a mirror. Why are you writing about us all the time?
  • The Standing Committee in Forth Worth has announced its intention to abandon the communion of the Episcopal Church. I do wish them well in their new spiritual home, but I also hope the clergy on the Standing Committee will resign quickly and honorably. As these folks are leaving, they need to learn to leave gracefully (taking lessons from Bishop Steenson) and not to be surprised if there are canonical charges if they fail to resign while simultaneously embracing some other church.
  • On the opposite side of the ideological divide, The Consultation has issued a statement today. It says, in part: "We have in mind the language of the Baptismal Covenant which calls us to respect the dignity of every human being... We believe that all the baptized are called to share in the governance and mission of the Church at all levels. We see the increase of power claimed by the episcopate as imbalance in The Body... The sacred vows of The Baptismal Covenant and the tradition and heritage of the participatory governance of The Episcopal Church must not be squandered for a single Lambeth conference." Well, this is all true as far as it goes. I agree with the aims and the destination of The Consultation, but I'm not sure about the path they advocate. Bishops do, in my view, have a different vocation from lay people or the three orders of the church. Their particular vocation is to guard the unity of the church, and I'd expect them to see things differently from, say, a convocation of deacons. We must also remember the beginning of the Baptismal Covenant, to "continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship." I believe that our present direction on human sexuality is consonant with these ancient understandings, but we need to start there, not with rights. I hope we progressives can ensure that we're placing Gospel before polity, and grace before governance. When the bishops (HoB or primates) exceed their grasp, we should tell them. But we should not tell them not to lead. I'm unclear what The Consultation is asking, exactly. I hope it's something other than "don't argue with the Executive Council" or "You cannot lead, only General Convention can do that."
  • Finally, make sure you read Mark Harris for his take on the process of crafting statements. Very helpful, indeed. Maybe not before dinner though.

A new thing? Or lots of new things?

Archbishop Orombi or Uganda has been in the US this week, getting ready for next week's Common Cause gathering in Pittsburgh. He spoke in Kentucky recently, and Northern Plains Anglicans has the report. I noticed a couple of things while I was reading the report.
Archbishop Orombi consecrated John Guernsey so that there would be an Anglican bishop in close proximity to deal with emergencies. As he expressed it: "It took me 16 hours to arrive in Virginia. If you need a fire truck to come all the way from Uganda, what would be left of the building?"
Hmmm. OK. I can buy that. You don't like ECUSA episcopal care, so you need something else. Fine. But here's what I don't comprehend. If the conservatives represent the True Unified Teaching of Christ Eternal, then I still don't understand why we need a Ugandan bishop in the US. Isn't Minns good enough? Or the AMiA bishops before that? Or the Kenyans? Or....?

Someone please explain to me why the conservatives all need their own particular brand of bishops traipsing around. And please, in your answer, explain it in the way that is Anglican, Catholic, and historic. I've been asking this for a while, and there's still no answer. (Well, there is one answer, but I'm hoping for a better one.)
When asked about the importance of Canterbury, the Archbishop responded, "Anglican identity is not tied to Canterbury." While Anglicans recognize Canterbury as one of the oldest sees, "there are other significant sees." In this matter His Grace follows Church tradition in recognizing the authority of older sees such as Jerusalem, Alexandria, Rome and Antioch.
Well, I suppose this is right. It also seems to be radical innovation within the Anglican stream of Christianity to suppose that our identity is not tied closely with the See of Canterbury. Could some of the conservatives at least acknowledge that innovation is not unique to progressives?

Also, I'll be interested to see how the secessionists play this one out. Is +Peter Akinola going to become the Titular Patriarch of Alexandria? Or maybe the Titular Patriarch of Rome? Wait, maybe....Anglican Pontiff....?

Really, I can see the logic of differentiating between communion with Canterbury and the Anglican flavor of Christianity, but this new Anglicanism -- and it will be new -- will be a radical departure from 500 years of history. Meanwhile, the rest of us authentic, orthodox Anglicans will be continuing in the apostles' teaching and fellowship. I'll be sad to see you leave, Archbishop. I wish you Godspeed in your new church -- or churches.

From The Lead: What is the church for?

There's a fine essay posted at The Lead now. Kathleen Henderson Staudt writes about the nature of the church. I encourage you to read the whole essay. I was particularly drawn to this quote from Evelyn Underhill:
The Church is in the world to save the world. It is a tool of God for that purpose; not a comfortable religious club established in fine historical premises. Every one of its members is required, in one way or another, to cooperate with the Spirit in working for that great end: and much of this work will be done in secret and invisible ways,. We are transmitters as well as receivers. Our contemplation and our action, our humble self-opening to God, keeping ourselves sensitive to his music and light, and our generous self-opening to our our fellow creatures, keeping ourselves sensitive to their needs, ought to form one life, mediating between God and His world, and bringing the saving power of the Eternal into time.
That makes our present squabbling seem silly, doesn't it?

Jim Naughton hopes for the best

We all need to laugh. If we had a bit more humor, our church would be in a better place. I'm convinced of that. So I was delighted to read of Jim Naughton's hopes for the House of Bishops:
During General Convention when conservatives suggested that the Episcopal Church was thumbing its nose at the Anglican Communion, I disagreed, pointing out that thumbing your nose requires enough coordination to get your hand to your face.

I am praying for an improvement in the House of Bishops' gross motor skills.

Thanks, Jim. We'll all be watching the final press briefing today very carefully to check the bishops' hand-eye coordination.

TEM asks, "Who is drifting from biblical truth?"

There's a great essay over at The Episcopal Majority. It should be required reading for all those who accuse ECUSA of losing biblical grounding. The author says, in a thought-provoking way, that actually ECUSA is more biblical these days, not less.

Here's a sample:
For over five years I have asked "orthodox" bishops, priests, and laypeople at General Conventions, diocesan conventions, and in every other forum possible to provide a justification of their "orthodox" stance on Biblical theology that references the Synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark, and Luke] instead of vague statements about the Bible in general and the usual three to five verses from John's Gospel. There have been no takers. I want to be very clear here: close to six years of asking in a quiet, respectful tone – and no takers. I am amazed that those who are willing to use the Bible as a weapon are unwilling to converse about a central part of it. I keep hoping someone will prove me wrong here.

In a similar vein, I have searched the statements of the Anglican Primates who are most upset about our "abandoning the Bible" for any evidence of the life, the teachings, and the actions of Jesus Christ in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, or Luke – and I have found none.

Here are some questions for anyone who wants to charge the leadership of the Episcopal Church with "abandoning the Bible" or failing to acknowledge the real authority of the Bible. I ask these questions not rhetorically, but out of genuine concern:
  • Whom did Jesus heal – and which of the healing stories involve repentance or conversion?
  • How did Jesus choose Levi, the tax collector, as disciple/apostle – apparently without evidence of personal belief or repentance?
  • What do you make of the parables that speak so movingly about sufficient faith outside Jesus' faith community?
  • What is the relationship between Jesus' community and the religious establishment?
  • What is the relationship between Jesus’ community and the marginalized people of his time?
  • Is there any group or class of people that Jesus excluded from his welcoming embrace?
  • How was it, when scholars tell us that Jesus honored women completely, that our church was able to marginalize them for nineteen hundred years?
  • Are there reasons we do not use the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11) and Paul’s list of the indications that the Holy Spirit is present in individuals and groups (Galatians 5:22-23) as the basis for our moral judgments on committed human relationships rather than the regulations of the purity code that even Conservative and Reformed Jews have rejected?
These are not difficult questions. They are questions, though, that reveal the ignorance of the attacks of those who believe that the Episcopal Church does not concern itself with the authority of the Bible. I believe it is disgraceful to ignore the teachings, the parables, the healings, and the loving and affirming relationships of Jesus Christ while charging those who not only affirm, but also treasure those realities with disregard of the Bible.

If there has been a change within the Episcopal Church over the past few decades, the change has come from our reading the Bible and taking its core message with complete seriousness. The change has also come from our willingness to subject our morality to the overwhelming evidence of the morality preached by the Incarnate One – even when it conflicts with the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans. Is that a kind of change to fear or to attack? No, it is not an occasion for attack – or really to fear. It represents the authentic voice of our Lord – and while that voice has often provoked fear, even in the faithful, it is also the path to our salvation.
I wish there were more. I'd like to see a book-length project take this up, including the work of academic biblical experts. This is a tantalizing argument, and it could change things if it could be made persuasively. One might quibble with privileging the synoptic Gospels over other books here, but then this makes one realize the unarticulated assumption that the Pauline corpus should trump the parables of Jesus.

We need a book to take this up. Anyone?

Good advice from Kendall Harmon

Over at T19, Canon Kendall Harmon has provided some helpful advice for all of us in blogospheria Anglicana as we parse tomorrow's statement from the ECUSA House of Bishops. After encouraging us all to read the text very carefully (and to respond carefully), he ends with this:
Expect the discernment to be a corporate activity. We still seek to be part of the Church of Jesus Christ, and we need one another. May the way we respond demonstrate this.
Read the whole thing. And let's all follow Kendall's sound advice.

Clarity, please -- and my own "radical solution"

Not too long before the House of Bishops began to meet, Kendall Harmon made this plea:
So let the TEC leaders have the courage of their convictions and say what they actually believe before God and the global Anglican leaders. If they fail to do so, where is the justice in that?
I'm in full agreement with Kendall here. Too often, we progressives in ECUSA have been willing to duck behind polity or otherwise obscure our actions. The bishops needs to acknowledge their authority and their responsibility. (I read a great blog posting about this last week, which I can't find just now.)

Yesterday, Kendall wrote this:
Any attempt to put out a mushy statement and then have people go home and do what they have done before will be a disaster. And that has been the pattern again and again. A system that is stuck needs a breakthrough; a radical proposal that actually creates space, movement, and offers real hope for the future to all as well as calling for sacrifice from all. Pray with me for that.
Again, I heartily agree. We do need a fresh idea, and Kendall's (widely blogged) proposal is for every ECUSA bishop to absent herself or himself from Lambeth 2008. I think that's a lousy idea, as does the other blogger in these parts, Giles Goddard.

We need clarity now, not obfuscation. In the draft statement our bishops are now mulling over (as reported on BabyBlueOnline) the reader will find this:
No rite of blessing for persons living in same sex unions has been adopted or approved by our General Convention. We wish to make it clear that the House of Bishops has not voted to authorize such liturgies.
Well, I suppose in a Pharisaical sense that might be true. But SSB's are happening all over the place, with official sanction of diocesan authorities in a few places. Now I happen to believe that SSB's are completely in line with Christian practice and belief. And I long for the day when we can celebrate these blessed moments publicly as a church. But we're trying to have it both ways here. We're doing them, but we're saying that they're not sanctioned.

As a province, I think we should do one of two things. We should either come out and say what we're doing and why (with strong biblical and theological support), or we should stop doing it. If we take the first option, let's face the consequences, if any. It is neither honest nor helpful to do something and then say we're not doing it. It smacks of the worst kind of American imperialism to tell the primates that we've honored their requests, when we really haven't.

Here's another example. Resolution B033 from General Convention 2006 talks about refraining from the consent of candidates whose "manner of life" is problematic for others. Since we're talking about GLBT people, let's name them. It's hardly honorable to place a burden on a class of people (and on the whole church, I think) without showing the burdened class the simple respect of at least naming them. Why didn't we do that? Because our constitution forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation, perhaps. Or maybe because a motion that named LGBT people might not have passed that last-minute effort in Columbus. Either way, we've done something without saying what we've done.

Here's my radical proposal -- as solicited by Kendall Harmon -- for breaking the impasse. (I'm sure it's too late to have an effect in New Orleans, and I'm not sure any bishops other than my own bishop read this corner of cyberspace.)

Let's say what we mean, and let's mean what we say. All of us. Liberal and conservative. American and Nigerian. All of us.

If our bishops have discerned that now is the right time for ECUSA to move ahead with SSB's and GLBT bishops, so be it. Let's say that, go to Lambeth, and face the music. If we say that we're not ready to authorize SSB's, then let us ensure that they are not happening in our churches. Then if some priest (possibly including this one) wants to do them anyway, let's face the consequences.

Our House of Bishops needs to get its act together soon. Bishop Duncan and his ilk should not pretend to be a part of something they obviously no longer support. It's not right to fly to Africa to consecrate invading bishops and then say you're still acting in good faith within ECUSA. Likewise, if Bishop Chane and his ilk don't like what happens in Columbus or New Orleans, they should not issue a "statement of conscience" explaining how they intend to flout the mind of the house. You see, bishops, unlike other orders, have a special vocation to guard the unity of the church. It's not acting with integrity to practice subterfuge, from either right or left.

Now, it will be objected that prophetic witness cannot wait until there is consensus. Of course. I agree completely. Then let these prophets stand up, say what they've done, and let us all say how we'll respond. We should think of what we are called to do more like civil disobedience (if we're departing from the consensus) and less like word-smithing.

I happen to think that if there were more honorable, faithful action on right and left, we'd get through this. It won't make us agree. But it could allow us to see each other as people of faith, trying to serve God in this early pilgrimage.

Hear what I am not saying. I am not saying we should "sell out" our GLBT members any further. I am not saying we should ask conservatives to leave. Just the opposite. I think we can follow what I understand as Christ's invitation to offer blessing to the world, and I think we can provide a home for people of diverse theological views.

Will Peter Akinola change his mind about us? No, but he and his friends are gone already, in spirit if not in fact. The moderate primates and provinces of the Communion would be very likely to have patience toward us if we said what we're up to, and why. We'd be respecting them, and they would almost certainly respect our conscience in return.

It can work, but only when we say what we mean, and mean what we say.

UPDATE: Kendall has written more about our need for clarity here and here.

Trading real bishops for virtual bishops

Giles Fraser, writing for the Church Times, says this:
Call me old-fashioned, but I think the diocese is necessarily a geographical unit. It is geographical because communities are necessarily geographical. It may be the web that is responsible for the idea of non-geographical communities. On the web, I can be a member of a discussion group for dachshund-lovers, Star Wars fanatics, or like-minded Christians. But these are virtual communities, not real ones. Real community cannot be had at a computer screen, behind a fancy security system and high fences. Community is not a safe cyber gathering of the like-minded. That is why these new bishops are effectively virtual bishops, perfectly appropriate for the unreality of cyberspace. They are just not real bishops.
Setting aside some of Fraser's disdain for Cleveland (a fine American city) that permeates the rest of his piece, he makes some good points.

The church is not meant to be a place for like-minded, similar people. It is meant to be an icon of the Kingdom of God, a place where the invitation of Jesus Christ is extended to all. When we form virtual church communities (whether they're online, or extra-provincial prelatures) we are missing an essential charism of the church.

There is something remarkable about a parish or a diocese. You run into people who astound you -- sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a troubling way. You run into people who inspire you. You run into people who challenge you. But you're always running into surprising people, ready to manifest the mystical union of of all Christians in a fresh way.

As +Rowan said last week to the ECUSA bishops, we are not complete without others. All these parishes (and dioceses, apparently) keen to sever local ties are missing out. They're missing out on the fullness of the surprising grace of God.

God speed, Bishop Steenson

Yesterday, news came that Bishop Steenson of the Diocese of Rio Grande is going to resign his post and leave the Episcopal Church to join the Roman Catholic Church. Here's a bit from his letter (via BabyBlueOnline):
...my conscience is deeply troubled about where the Episcopal Church is heading, and this has become a crisis for me because of my ordination vow to uphold its doctrine, discipline, and worship. An effective leader cannot be so conflicted about the guiding principles of the Church he serves. It concerns me that this has affected my ability to lead this diocese with a clear and hopeful vision for its mission. I also have sensed how important it is for those of us in this position to model a gracious way to leave the Episcopal Church in a manner respectful of its laws.

I believe that God’s call to us is always positive, always a to and not a from. At the clergy conference next week I hope to be able to share something of this. Many of you already know of my love for the Catholic Church and my conviction that this is the true home of Anglicanism. I will not dwell on this, however, so as not to lose sight of my responsibility to help lay a good foundation for the transition that you must now lead.

I also want to acknowledge with gratitude the pastoral support I have received from the Presiding Bishop and her office during this time. She has offered to visit, and I have invited her to be with us at the clergy conference the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 26, and perhaps also for that evening, for mutual conversation and the opportunity to know each other better in this time reserved for the clergy.
I am sad to see this man, clearly of great integrity, depart. More than that, however, I hope and pray that he finds a spiritual home in his new branch of the Church. I admire his gentle tone -- without a hint of anger or bitterness -- and his desire for the best for the diocese he has served. I commend this letter to all of us. Note how he is even kind to the Presiding Bishop, though he must disagree her direction in innumerable ways.

I'll write more about this soon, but mostly I admire his sense of vocation for himself and for the church. I wish more people in all this conflict had more of Bishop Steenson's integrity. He acknowledges that he cannot obey his ordination vows, and he is seeking a place where his own vocation will match his church's mission.

Let us all pray for Bishop Steenson, and for the Diocese of Rio Grande.

UPDATE: I encourage you to read the account of +Steenson's remarks to the House of Bishops, as reported in The Living Church. His conclusion:
In concluding remarks, Bishop Steenson asked for forgiveness from his fellow bishops "for any difficulty this may cause and for anything I may have said or done that has failed to live up to the love of Christ." [He continued:] "I hope that you will not see this as a repudiation of The Episcopal Church or Anglicanism. Rather, it is the sincere desire of a simple soul to bear witness to the fullness of the Catholic faith, in communion with what St. Irenaeus called 'that greatest and most ancient Church.' I believe that our noble Anglican tradition ('this worthy patrimony') has deep within it the instinct of a migratory bird calling, 'It is time to fly home to a place you have never seen before.' May the Lord bless my steps and yours and bring our paths together in his good time."

23 September 2007

Lambeth's for everyone

Murmurs abound on T19 and Stand Firm about the possibility of TEC Bishops' voluntarily withdrawing from Lambeth.

Over here in the UK, we can't stress strongly enough what a really, really bad idea that would be.

The whole point of the 2008 Lambeth Conference is that it is intended to be a place and time when ALL the duly elected and consecrated Bishops of the Communion can be present together (and we hope the Bishop of New Hampshire will be there as a duly elected consecrated Bishop). So that they can listen, pray, worship, take Communion and understand each other better. As some Bishops did recently at the meeting in Madrid.

Clearly some maths has been done and a little analysis of what would be left if TEC withdrew. It's no surprise that the suggestion emerges from the more conservative position... because ... hey presto .... the orthodox, open, inclusive, classical Anglican voice is reduced. Result, for those who are not keen to celebrate the ministry and God-given gifts of all people whatever their sexual orientation or gender - happiness!

The Archbishop of Mexico spoke very powerfully yesterday to a meeting of Inclusive Church in London. His comments on the marginalisation of Primates from the smaller churches in the Communion were very relevant. Clearly in terms of voices listened to in the Communion, size does matter.

The agenda of the Lambeth Conference is carefully organised to try to ensure that real encounter happens. For TEC to withdraw, for what may undoubtedly be good and constructive motives around ensuring unity, would simply mean that the issues which bedevil us would still continue to be around for another 10 years, and then another.....

It is vital for the future health of the Communion that all the Bishops who have been invited are there. If we don't talk we'll never make progress towards the deeper understanding of one another and of God to which the Spirit is calling us.

Newsflash: Scott Gunn and BabyBlueOnline agree?!

Just read this over at BabyBlueOnline:
The media campaign from 815 is that this division is over an issue of justice. If that is true, then why don't they courageously stand up and take the consequences for their convictions? They have publicly framed the debate in those terms and not in the terms of the Dar Es Salaam Communique - for them the division is over justice. Is the Anglican Crisis one of Biblical Doctrine or Social Justice? What say you?
Hear, hear. We in ECUSA have spoken too often about justice, and not often enough about biblical authority for what we're up to. I've been saying that on this blog for months, for what it's worth.

I would add that I might describe this as a debate about "scriptural hermeneutics" or "Christian authority" rather than either Biblical Doctrine or Social Justice. And, yet, there is more at work too. For the conservatives especially (thought this is true of the left at times too), it seems that the response has been disproportionate to the "causes." I don't fully understand that.

Now, back to our agreement. If I can agree with Mary, then maybe other miracles of reconciliation are possible. Like her, I would hope that the HoB could provide some clarity -- both right and left need to hear it. And I would also hope that we all begin to talk about authority within the church, not talk past each other about different subjects. Oh, and by "authority" I mean the Bible, ancient tradition, and human reason -- not just ECUSA polity.

(On a related note: I'm grateful to Mary for her blog always, even though agreement is rare. I like her multimedia mix, and I'm glad she's in New Orleans dishing up her unique bloggish take on things.)

Is the sky (or the Pension Fund) falling?

The hyperventillating self-victimization is getting tiresome. My latest example, from Quad-Cities Online (covering the Diocese of Quincy), via Stand Firm:
ROCK ISLAND -- The Rev. Steven McClaskey really didn't want to retire right now from his pastoral post at Trinity Church in Rock Island.

Yet, he also didn't want to risk losing his pension, which advisers and he felt was endangered, by the continued dispute between Episcopal Church leaders and the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Puh-lease. If +Steven doesn't want to retire, he shouldn't retire. And if he wants to retire, he should do that. But he should not blame is decision on the current "crisis."

I don't have it handy to check the number, but I just got my annual Church Pension Fund report in the mail. The accumulated funds number is big. Very big. Huge. Something more than umpteen gajillion. So there's no way some squabble over moral theology or whatever is going to matter in a financial sense. And it turns out that all of these secessionist clergy will get their (100% vested) benefits when they leave. So, basically, there's no way any of this has to do with +Steven's retirement.

Then I started thinking -- maybe he's being harassed by one of the few badly behaved liberal bishops who go after conservatives. Nope. Bishop Ackerman isn't bothering him. Bishop Ackerman, and the Diocese of Quincy, of course, aren't going to be bothered by anything that's happening at 815, or Pittsburgh, or Abuja.

So this is another case of a reported who got suckered into reporting that the Anglican sky is falling. When, in reality, any "crisis" that Steve is experiencing is a product of his own doing.

The headline reads "Internal bickering leaves [Quad Cities] Anglican churches in turmoil." I guess that's accurate, if the "internal" applies to the inside of one person's head, or if it means internal to a congregation that's been stirred to a frenzy by its clergy.

22 September 2007

Spin, spin, spin

As a blog aficionado, you must know, dear reader, that most of what is emanating from mainstream media ("MSM" to the kids) and blogospheria Anglicana is about spinning both the events and the speculation about events in New Orleans.

Maybe someone could come up with a clever game to play. If I weren't a teetotaller, this would have been made into a drinking game by now. Don't let me stop you. Perhaps some intrepid commenter can devise something terribly fun and novel.

Let us take some examples for inspiration:
  • Ruth Gledhill -- she'll have to be the cause of either bonus points or subtraction, but certainly something -- is always good for spin-ology. A recent article is entitled, "Pro-gay agenda pushes Church closer to schism." Well, no. "Pro-dissident agenda pushes Church closer to utter irrelevance" would have been more accurate but less sensational. Her subject, +Peter Akinola, is worried about schism? Maybe he should stop consecrating schismatic bishops. I seem to remember something about the beam in one's own eye...
  • In an encore, the Gledhill/Akinola duet delivers another dazzling aria of spin. Now Akinola is pretending as if he's dithering over whether or not to hold a parallel pseudo-Lambeth Conference next July for his buddies. The reality is that Peter has been looking for space in England for months now. This dithering is all for show. It's to his advantage to make petulant statements as if he's coming and then to also make petulant statements about not coming. Someday he'll make up his mind publicly, but the space is almost surely booked by now.
  • Every dissenter's favorite "spin machine," Episcopal Life Online, has churned out a beauty of a headline: "Archbishop of Canterbury 'encouraged' by bishops' meetings" and the subhead is "Nearly $1 million raised for hurricane relief efforts." Just the opposite of Gledhill's a-crisis-under-every-rock take on the situation. I'm not there, obviously, but I'm quite confident there's a truth somewhere between impending schism and fundraising/encouragement. You pretty much have to expect the house organ to have an optimistic take on things. To be sure, the ELO article is less spin-ish once you get past the cheery headlines, though that won't stop the howls from the right. (Let the reader know: I serve on the Board of Governors of Episcopal Life.)
  • Many secessionist bishops bought their plane tickets with the intent to split as soon as Rowan left. They have to get rested up for the big shindig in Pittsburgh, after all. But that didn't stop them from huffing off and making it seem like a sad/angry retreat.
Commenters -- please submit more spin examples, and maybe suggest a way we can use all this spin to good advantage, if not edification.

Inclusion without "inclusion"?

The Anglican Centrist has a compelling post. Ironic for the "InclusiveChurch" blog, but I actually think Greg+ makes some great points about how we should move our rhetoric beyond "inclusion."
The Anglican Communion doesn't need 'inclusion.' It needs faithfulness in the New Covenant to Jesus Christ, because if it has faithfulness to Jesus Christ all the members of His body will be cherished. It doesn't need 'Biblical authority.' It need faithfulness to Jesus Christ because if it has faithfulness to Jesus Christ, the authority of the Eternal Word of God (which breathes mightily through Scripture study when prayerfully engaged by the Body of Christ) will be heeded.

I believe a faithful Christian can be openly gay and in a committed relationship, and a person such as this would be fit to be ordained in God's Church, if they were in all other ways qualified, and above all, called by God.

I also believe that there are many in the Anglican world who can tolerate this and remain in communion with the Episcopal Church -- but who nonetheless would like to see the American Church demonstrate just a bit more humility and mindfulness of the fuller Communion.
It's not just our destination that matters. It's how we get there. I like where ECUSA is headed, and I hope we can find the right path for our journey. Whether we do this will determine if we are able to walk with much of the developing world.

+Mouneer Anis speaks plainly

Thanks to BabyBlueOnline, we have a report of the sermon Bishop Mouneer Anis preached to the HoB. Here's a snippet:
I understand that it is difficult for you in your context to accept the tandard teaching of the Anglican Communion. This is why you refused to accept Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10. You also ignored all the warnings of the Primates in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Your response to the Windsor Report is seen by the Primates as not clear. You cannot say you value being a member of the Anglican Communion while you ignore the interdependence of the member churches. The interdependence is what differentiates us from the other congregational churches. I would like to remind you and myself with the famous resolution 49 of the Lambeth Conference of 1930 which declares "the Anglican Communion is a fellowship of churches that ... are bound together not be a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference." With respect, I have to say that those who would prefer to speak of laws and procedures, constitutions and canons, committees and process: you are missing the point! It is our mutual loyalty and fellowship, submitting to one another in the common cause of Jesus Christ that makes us of one Church on faith and one Lord.

It is clear that your actions have resulted in one of the most difficult disputes in the Communion in our generation. You may see them as not core doctrinal issues. Many like me see the opposite but the thing that we cannot ignore is that these issues are divisive and have created a lot of undesired consequences and reactions. For the first time in centuries, the fabric of our Communion is torn. Our energies have been drained and our resources are lost; and it is difficult for both of us to continue like this.

My friends, if you really believe that the truth revealed to you is different from that shown to the rest of the Communion, then you need to uphold that claim with boldness even at the risk of losing unity. If you think it is right and necessary to ordain and consecrate practicing homosexuals and that you should bless same sex partnerships or even marriages, you should be true to what you believe is right and accept the consequences.

However, if you appreciate being members of the global Anglican family, then you have to walk along side the members of your family. Those who say that it is important to stay together around the table, to listen to each other and to continue our dialogue over the difficult issues that are facing us are wise. We wholeheartedly agree with this, but staying around the table requires that you should not take actions that are contrary to the standard position (Lambeth 1:10) of the rest of the Communion.
This is, frankly, a position that we Americans need to hear. The Communion moderates (again, these folks will seem "conservative" to most folks from ECUSA) would like to be sympathetic, but they need to hear an articulation of what we're doing and why. It will not do to duck behind polity and say we haven't done what we've done.

Now, it should also be noted that Lambeth 1.10 also talks about pastoral care for GLBT people, and that provision has been roundly ignored in the so-called Global South. The Lambeth resolutions on this topic of 1978, 1988, and 1998 have called for a "listening process" which has never gotten off the ground. Moreover, in the past, Lambeth Conferences have changed their positions on matters of moral theology. Oh, and no one seems to want to juxtapose Lambeth resolutions 1.9 (Ecology) with 1.10 in view of all the airplane travel to sustain a bitter feud over who has sex with whom. So what we have is an effort to elevate this one resolution to the status of inerrancy, but even these people only want to enforce one part of the resolution.

But back to the sermon. Much of what he says should be listened to by Americans -- listening works that way too! We have acted at times with hubris and insensitivity. But it is also true that this "crisis" was not precipitated by +Gene Robinson. Anglicans have never been of a single mind on all matters of moral theology, and this situation has been the result of systematic effort of wealthy Americans and a few Africans.

In my view, the ECUSA's direction toward approving same-sex blessings and toward ordaining GLBT people in partnerships is the way we should be headed. But we should tread carefully and deliberately, always saying why we're doing it -- as Christians, not just based on human rights -- and taking responsibility for our positions. If we can remain faithful, there is a good chance, I think, that we can stay in relationship with faithful Anglicans around the world, even as we may not agree on some matters dear to us.

Let us make sure we all hear the Gospel in the sermon. Let us make sure we all hear the whole Gospel.

Anglican Communion polity 101

I'm surprised by an item over at T19. Canon Kendall Harmon is a smart man, and I believe he is a person of great faith and integrity. In responding to something he saw at Walking with Integrity, he quotes this:
The AP wanted to know, "who is going to decide whether the Episcopal Church has responded to the Dar Es Salaam Communique…?" Bishop Rabb said, "it is the Primates who will have to decide that."
Kendall then says this:
I agree. The Primates asked for the Windsor Report, they received it and modified it slightly in Dromantine, and then in response to the TEC's response to Windsor and Dromantine, they issued the Tanzania Communique. Now the American House of Bishops is meeting in response to the Primates Tanzania Communique and before their September 30th deadline. So where is the Primates meeting on the Anglican Communion schedule? That would seem to be quite important--KSH.
Here's the thing. Just because the primates did something doesn't make it right. No one gave them the authority they've claimed for themselves. Though it's hard to say, since they have no constitution, it seems to me that they were -- prior to the Present Troubles -- primarily a consultative body.

The primates have requested a response from ECUSA. This was not, we are assured by +Rowan Williams some kind of threat or ultimatum. The HoB will surely offer a response. This is a courtesy. The response date was set based on a pre-existing meeting of the HoB, not the other way around.

The jurisdiction for deciding Important Anglican Things lies with +Rowan Williams and the Anglican Consultative Council. The Lambeth Conferences, by tradition, have articulated an Anglican view on topics of interest. Ultimately, they'll sort this out all. (It will soon be easier, because the Akinolites will be long gone before these groups meet.) So, it seems to me, the date of the next primates' meeting is less important than the dates of other upcoming meetings -- Lambeth, the ACC, and of course, Duncan's big party in Pittsburgh in a few days. And let us not forget, no one has elevated +Peter Akinola and his friends to the office of cardinal.

21 September 2007

+Andrus gives the prologue -- where's the finale?

It was widely reported today in the blogosphere that +Marc Andrus from California addressed the Bishops. From Marc's own site, I quote:
With respect to sexual orientation, it must be said that the Episcopal Church is the main refuge for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people who are seeking to lead a Christian life. These people are primarily not natives of the Bay Area, they come from all over the United States and indeed the world. They have come to San Francisco and the Bay Area seeking a life where they are not subjected to discrimination and violence, where they can lead normal lives, and in some cases, Christian lives. It is my responsibility to provide a context for this search for holiness of life.

It is also important to say here that the Episcopal Church in the Bay Area is immeasurably enriched by the presence of LGBT people in our parishes and missions. These are gifted, faithful Christian people, lay and ordained, passionate about their faith and church. It is hard to imagine what the Diocese of California would be like without these great people, but I can get something of a picture by remembering the many places I’ve lived from which they have come to the Bay Area, places where they were barred from employment, pushed out of their homes and families, and yes, found cold welcome in churches, and tragically in some instances, were subjected to physical violence. For every one of these men and women enlivening the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of California there are empty places all over the United States where their graceful presences are missing.
All that is true. However, we cannot expect to talk about justice and experience and think that we will nurture conversion among the wider Communion. We Americans had better start talking about biblical and traditional grounds for our innovation.

Obviously, writing for a blog called by the name "InclusiveChurch" and affiliated with IC in the UK, I favor the full inclusion of GLBT Christians in all aspects of the life and ministry of the church. However, I support this "new thing" because I believe this change -- and it is a departure from the historic practice of the church -- is warranted. I believe this change is warranted on scriptural grounds, and I believe it is warranted on grounds of tradition. And, finally, my experience tells me that it's the right thing to do.

The progressive bishops in the US need to realize that not every conservative is +Peter Akinola. Not everyone who resists this innovation is homophobic. The global moderates (which appear to Americans to be conservatives) want to stay in communion with us. They just need the rationale -- the theological and biblical support -- for what we're doing.

So, keep up the talk Marc, and everyone else. But keep talking right on past experience, and talk about your faith in Jesus Christ. Talk about scriptural grounds and the witnesses from history. We all need to hear that.

Covenant is going nowhere

The proposed Covenant will not come into force in the Anglican Communion. Wales has said no, and so will many other provinces. This particular brand of innovation will not be welcomed by Anglicans, except for those who see this as an opportunity to further their takeover agenda. This is what got reported: "Dr Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales said he fears the draft covenant will lead to one voice on controversial issues, such as homosexuality, which members would have to sign up to or leave." In other words, we are not, nor do we wish to be, a confessional church.

Some people don't like that, and those are the folks who are setting up their dissident Communion in Pittsburgh later this month. Of course, the problem is that those who favor litmus tests usually can't agree for very long on what matters. That's why we have a proliferation of parallel jurisdictions in place now, and it's why there's an ever-increasing number of "continuing" churches.

Here's the thing. For those who take catholicity seriously, two things become clear. First, I may not innovate without a good reason (and without consequences). Second, I will be willing to accept variance on non-essentials, because I accept that notion that the Church is for everyone, not just for those who agree with me. What we have here is not, primarily, a battle over bible-versus-culture. Instead, much of our struggle is catholic-or-confessional. And, to be fair, many so-called progressives have secularized the church to the point where it is no longer recognizably Nicene -- but those examples are a minority, despite conservative attempts to pretend that ECUSA is a "new religion."

But I digress. My point is this. As I have said all along, the proposed covenant is an attempt to hijack authentic Anglicanism. It will not succeed, especially once the Akinolites leave the table, and the rest of us progressives and moderates are left to figure out how to get along with one another.

Rowan reminds us all of what matters

Amidst all the shouting and finger-pointing -- and snarky comments, of which yours truly is sometimes guilty -- it's easy to lose sight of what matters. In his sermon in New Orleans, +Rowan Williams gets it just right (video at Episcopal Life Online):

People speak about the recognition of dignity owed to one another. About the respect that we owe to one another. But I wonder whether or not we're not missing some thing? When I say to a friend, I owe you one, it's away of saying thank you. And perhaps the bottom line is that what we owe to one another most deeply of all, is gratitude. Not even respect. Not even the recognition of dignity so much as gratitude.

We are indebted to one another. I am indebted for your existence. Because I would not be myself without you. And a society, a community, a city that can get to that level of recognition, is one that lives from a deeper place than one that simply talks about contract or even respect. And it's this perspective which I believe, this perspective above all that the church brings to bare. Because the church is a community which lives from and in gratitude. And if the church does not live by thanksgiving, I don't know what the church lives by. And when the church fails as it so often does to live from thanksgiving, I wonder whether it lives at all.

Why is it that the most central and important action we do as Christians is called the thanksgiving? That's the well spring of who we are and what we are.

So as Christians we recognize our indebtedness to one another. My indebtedness to you for just being there. Never mind anything else. And the gospel reading opens up that further and deeper dimensions which says that what we owe to one another is exactly what we owe to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, who gives us life, Jesus Christ has given us a new creation, the humanity renewed, restored and reset that we are celebrating tonight.

Jesus Christ gives us hope. Who gives us the capacity to move away from our fears. Who gives us the strength and the joy to (inaudible).

We owe Christ big time as they say.

Among progressives, I can see that we often fail to maintain a sense of gratitude. We talk about respect, but it's sometimes a code for the furtherance of our own agenda. We talk about thanksgiving, but we rarely acknowledge the fact that who we are comes from God, and it is contingent on others -- even those with whom we disagree.

Among conservatives, I observe a sense that the church should be mired in some static place (pick the 17th century, or 1928, or 1955, or...). The church loses its sense of gratitude, and there is certainly no abiding thanksgiving for the presence of everyone -- including LGBT Christians.

What if we really experienced God's grace? What if we acted as if we really believed that it is right to give thanks, "always and everywhere"? What if we had a view of the church catholic imbued with the notion that the church is complete only when it is undivided?

I think progressives would be a little slower to jettison those with whom they disagree. I think conservatives might be a bit more flexible, moving more of our common life into the category of adiaphora.

My friends, Rowan is right. It's all about grace. It's all about Jesus. When we talk only about rights, or autonomy, or justice, or experience, we have missed the boat. When we talk only about tradition, or law, or unanimity, we have missed the boat.

Let us follow Rowan's advice. Let us give thanks.

Catching up

As regular readers of this blog know, I place this writing -- which I enjoy doing -- on the back burner behind parish ministry. Not to sound self righteous, but I think we wouldn't be in this mess if more people placed local ministry ahead of internecine doctrinal squabbling.

In any case, I was about to hold forth on the presently happening HoB meeting, but my blogroll is full of bookmarks to things I meant to comment on. So, please indulge me as I clear the backlog so that I can soon be oh-so-current with blogospheria Anglicana in the New Orleans happenings.
  • In order to correct a desperate shortage of bishops, CANA has elected four more. OK, I know the irony is probably over the top. Numbers are hard to come by, but I really can't figure out why they need one bishop to every ten congregations. Someone on the right, please help me with an explanation other than the cynical take: a bunch of priests want to play dress-up in pointy hats. I can't keep track of this lot, but it's a big number of bishops for a small number of people.
  • Speaking of numbers, Simon Sarmiento has tried to get some firm numbers on how many people are really leaving ECUSA. Despite all the rantings of bloggers and sensational stories from media types, it turns out that the number of parishes who have left ECUSA is quite small. Quite, quite small. These conservative types love to cite numbers (majority of primates, number of Anglicans in Nigeria, etc.) when it's to their favor, but they seem reluctant to supply hard numbers when it makes their case look grim.
  • Bishop Iker is a piece of work. First he heads over to Africa to join in an episcopal consecration that violates the spirit of his ordination vows (to uphold the discipline of the church, not to mention the unity) and the letter of the Windsor Report. Then he expresses shock and outrage when the President of the House of Deputies appears in his diocese to speak. He issued a release stating that this was arranged without his knowledge. Then Fort Worth Via Media published their email to him inviting him to come, and his reply declining the invite. Oops. Better check next time. And, of course, as much as it must pain Bishop Iker, bishops do not control lay people, and this (woman -- gasp!) leader did not need his permission to speak within his diocese. Ironic, isn't it, that he subverts the order of the church when it looks good to him, but then doesn't like it when someone licitly criticizes him?
  • One Australian bishop gets it. Lambeth 2008 is critical to our common life, and everyone should come. ''All legitimate bishops in the Communion should attend the Lambeth Conference,'' Bishop Browning said. ''We need to be challenged by one another and to try to understand each other.'' (Hat tip to T19.)
  • I would be remiss to omit mention of Bishop Spong's letter to +Rowan Williams. Where to begin? This is another example, in my view, of the American hubris that is largely responsible for our Present Troubles. "Either you're with us, or your against us" is not appealing to me when it comes from the White House, or when it comes from Abuja, or when it comes from Jack Spong. Most of points have been made more articulately elsewhere, and I'm quite sure that Rowan is not likely to change his mind when he receives a public, patronizing letter. Frankly, Jack's letter is counter-productive, because Rowan is generally disposed to lean progressively anyway. Please spend your time writing more books, and less time meddling in the affairs of the church.
  • Speaking of bishops who should mind their manners, +Peter Akinola was up to his usual tricks. In an open letter, he had the audacity to complain that conservatives might not be "safe" at Lambeth. If I didn't know better, I'd think this was some kind of joke. This is a man to works to pass legislation that would imprison people for merely speaking up for GLBT rights, and a man who remains silent when LGBT Christians are killed for being who they are. And he's complaining about safety? Peter, there is a big difference between danger and unpleasantness. Your side continues to miss that distinction. Unlike many of the members of your own church who live in Nigeria, you will be perfectly safe at Lambeth, and you will only have to endure a few people speaking their mind to you. Sorry, but you don't get to silence the whole world. Oh, and I thought you were protesting the whole thing anyway? Why are you now worried about your travel arrangements?
  • Here's another one that won't make the right happy. Turns out that not every primate is in lock step with the Akinolites. "Two Archbishops are to speak at Manchester Cathedral, calling for the Church of England to be inclusive. The Archbishop of Mexico and the leader of the Scottish Episcopal Church are taking part in a conference Celebrating Anglican Diversity, which will celebrate the long tradition of a diverse Church that welcomes all people. It is being held on September 29." From here, with a hat tip to the Episcopal Cafe. More info here.
  • Why isn't the right howling about the news from Sydney? "The Sydney Anglican Church has revived its radical push to let church elders preside over Holy Communion despite strident opposition from Australian Anglicans and the worldwide church and at the risk of antagonising international churches it has courted to stop the consecration of gay bishops." That's a bigger deal, it would seem, than points of moral theology. As Bob Dole once said, "Where's the outrage?" (Thanks to Covenant Communion.)

12 September 2007

Lost perspective

I've been accused of being insane, so maybe I shouldn't be casting aspersions. That said, I think the Diocese of Pittsburgh is joining the growing herd of conservatives headed away from the Land of Reality.

Today we learn that the Diocese of Pittsburgh is planning to expand itself to, well, the whole world. At least any parish that they like will be free to sign up. Anywhere. On the planet. Guess that's quite a promotion for +Bob Duncan. Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and All Places. I guess, with that kind of geographic spread, maybe we should be calling him Archbishop or Pontiff or something. Maybe the purple shirt people are getting into cahoots with the white vestment people.

Anyway, I digress. Mark Harris+ has done a thorough job of walking us through the many problems of some proposed resolutions for their Diocesan Convention. (Soon they'll be renaming that to Interplanetary Convention?) To name a few problems: Canterbury will not enjoy having individual dioceses decide which provinces they align with; Canterbury will not enjoy having dioceses take on parishes any old place; these changes are moot, because they're flatly in contradiction to the Constitution & Canons of the Episcopal Church. Again, go read Mark's incisive analysis.

Here's what I'll add. This is from the press release:
The Episcopal Church has been steadily moving away from biblical Christianity for more than 30 years. Church leaders are on record denying basic Christian truths, especially concerning the uniqueness of atonement and salvation by Jesus Christ and the primacy of Scripture in determining moral and theological teaching.
OK, the first sentence should be re-written to read: "The Episcopal Church has been steadily moving theologically, just as Christianity has done for the preceding two millennia." The second sentence is true, and I agree this is a problem. In some future posting, I'll be happy rant about my sisters and brothers on the left who have done all of the above. It's a problem, though a much smaller one than some people imagine. I'm a Nicene Christian, and I think any Anglican cleric should be the same. Most of the progressive priests I know are solidly orthodox. As far as biblical moral teaching goes, the Bible has much more to say about economics than sex (if you actually bother to read it), and I don't hear much about that topic emanating from Pittsburgh or Abuja. Money and power are major points of moral and theological teaching. Who has sex with whom is important, but it's a minor point compared with other things.

Now, this is my favorite bit of delicious irony. Pay attention to this. ECUSA leaders are accused of denying the "uniqueness of atonement and salvation by Jesus Christ." Just a few weeks ago, the very same Bob Duncan is reported to have stood in front of a bunch of people and said that "This is Good Friday and we have to face it."

No, Good Friday was when Jesus Christ died as part of God's salvation of the world. Your own problems, and those of your conservative friends are merely inconveniences to you. No one is dying, and it is certainly not part of the atonement. The atonement was a one-time affair. Check it out, maybe in Article 31.

So, whatever you might accuse us progressives of in the Department of Theological Confusion, do not preach to us about confusing atonement and salvation. I can't speak for others, but I believe I get it. And it has everything to do with Jesus Christ, and very little to do with the Anglican Communion Network's woes.

This time, I'm afraid it's Pittsburgh's Diocesan Council and their good bishop who may have lost touch with Anglican reality.

07 September 2007

Selective democracy in Fort Worth

Gotta love it. Bishop Iker of Fort Worth has posted his latest missive. In it we find this:
By the end of this month, the House of Bishops will have decided the future direction of TEC, and as a result we too will have to declare our future as a diocese. I do not expect that TEC will comply with the requests of the primates in their Dar es Salaam Communiqué. In that case, we will see further fraction and division in the Communion during the months ahead. We will then have to choose in favor of the Anglican Communion majority at the expense of our historic relationship with the General Convention Church.
Several things are worth pointing out here. First, it goes without saying that a diocese cannot leave the church, though +Iker is free to leave any time. So, on the diocesan level, a democratic vote is moot, because the concept of leaving is also moot. Second, I find it intriguing that he refers to the Episcopal Church as the "General Convention Church." Of course, Iker's love of diocesan democracy doesn't filter up. General Convention -- to which Fort Worth could send Deputies, like everyone else -- takes votes. That principal is enshrined in tradition and in the Canons & Constitution to which Iker has sworn obedience. Why does that democracy not count in his eyes?

Third, he mentions the "Anglican Communion majority." Interesting. The only one of the Instruments with a constitution, and the only one with the ability to admit or exclude members, is the Anglican Consultative Council. At their last meeting, the relevant votes passed by such narrow majorities, that if the US and Canada had not voluntarily excluded themselves, the results would have been flipped. Doesn't seem like much of a majority there.

When Iker speaks of the "majority" is he talking about primates? A very careful reading of the Dar communique, or a study of who shared the Eucharist with Bishop Rowan or Bishop Katherine may reveal a different majority than Iker imagines. Is his "majority" the number of lay people who might support his views? How would we know? I think that not very many people, a very slender minority, in fact, would like to tear the church apart over human sexuality.

So it seems to be that Iker invokes democratic principles (voting, majorities) when he fancies that the results will match his predilections. And even then, he might be mistaken.

As an aside, I found this to be of interest as well:
Pray that the Bishops of The Episcopal Church will turn back, even at this late hour, from the course they have been pursuing, a course that has sown seeds of discord and broken fellowship far and wide. Pray too for the leadership of this diocese as the realignment continues, that we may remain faithful to the received faith and practice of historic, biblical Christianity.
Personally, I find it most helpful to pray for wisdom, and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I pray for the grace to be a faithful disciple. I think it's presumptuous in the extreme to imagine that we should ask God to buttress our own foregone conclusions, on anything. To pray for anything other than strength, wisdom, and grace is to pray in hubris. To pray for strength, wisdom, and grace is...faithful, historic, biblical, and Christian.

Titus Presler: Keeping the Communion

Via the Admiral of Morality, I learned about an essay of Titus Presler+. You can find the full essay here (PDF, 41MB!).

Here's a sample:
Search out opportunities to get to know personally Anglicans from other parts of the world. Your congregation may have visitors or members with whom conversation about the issues would be illuminating. Explore how you and your parish can participate in the diocese’s international progams and missions. Sometimes we Episcopalians are global citizens in our work while remaining very limited in our Church awareness.

If your work takes you abroad, make a point before traveling to find out about the Anglican province where you’ll be. Begin web-surfing at www.anglicancommunion.org, which can lead you to service times at and directions to parishes in Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Nairobi, Mexico City or wherever. Episcopal missionaries working in the area are especially valuable contacts, and you can find them by checking the missionary roster at www.episcopalchurch.org.

A hurting world needs desperately the kind of global network for companionship in mission that the Anglican Communion historically has provided. Now in the hurt and alienation of our own Communion, each of us can play a part in rebuilding the trust, the companionship and the mission.
Prior to ordination, I did a fair amount of international travel, and I've done some since then as well. I fully agree with Pressler's advice. For example, when I had a chance to talk with ordinary Tanzanians during the Primates' Meeting last February, I got a wholly different picture of the church in Tanzania. Primates do not speak for every Anglican in their provinces.

We need to make these personal connections, and our world needs a global voice that has a greater purpose than making a buck. There are many reasons to treasure the Anglican Communion, but one of them must surely be the global view that can inform Anglican Christianity, and help us share the Gospel with the whole world.

06 September 2007

Additional explanation, and an idea

In case my previous attempt to understand the proliferation of bishops was misguided, I wanted to devise a backup theory. Conveniently, right there in my blogroll was this gem from the MadPriest.

That makes as much sense as anything else. Hey, I have an idea! As long as we're promoting priests, let's consecrate the MadBishop. At least one of the purple-shirts would inject some levity into all this. Who's with me?