31 August 2007

Show me the money: works both ways

Back in July, I supported the call of four retired ECUSA bishops for transparency from 815 with regard to funding litigation expenses. Now these four, plus one more, have issued another public letter. The conservatives insist that there's a vast left-wing conspiracy, and they want to know all the details about the money. I'm not sure about the conspiracy part, but I do think a healthy dose of transparency would be a Good Thing.

Among others who have undertaken this challenge, Fr. Jake has supplied some numbers. Jan Nunley+ posted an unofficial report on her quasi-official 815 blog. These are pretty good reports, but of course it would be even better for 815 to publish an official report to quell critics.

Also in Fr. Jake's recent blog posting is a set of questions (originally written by Nigel J. Taber-Hamilton) for the conservative groups. As long as the right is posing questions, maybe they'd like to answer questions similar to the ones asked of 815 by the retired bishops?

Here they are:
1 ) How much money has the Network, the American Anglican Council, and the other affiliated groups spent since 2003 on preparing to abscond with real property rightfully belonging to all Episcopalians?

2) In what budget(s) are those expenditures accounted for? Where have you published the information?

3) Has any income intended for mission been diverted for use in this theft? If so, how much and from what sources?

4) How much compensation has any law firm whose principles are part of your various affiliated organizations received for servicing this theft and the consequent litigation?
OK, folks on the right, show us the money. Surely you'll publish a report quickly, since you feel that this information should be public. As we work toward an inclusive church -- and some of us work against this -- we should all avoid secrets and seek transparency.

Mitred scofflaws

Some of the so-called Global South primates are astounding. They claim that ECUSA has departed from church tradition, imperiling the unity of the church. And then, in a departure from church tradition, they proceed to create four parallel Anglican jurisdictions in the US. I'm not counting the alphabet soup of "continuing" churches that aren't really in communion with anyone else. Now we have Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, and we're on the eve of a Ugandan bishop operating in the US. I would expect the Southern Cone to join the crowd any day now.

OK, so I can kind of understand the idea of providing pastoral support for conservatives, if it were true that there is inadequate care from ECUSA. But why do we need so many bishops of so many persuasions? How does that manifest of the truth of Jesus Christ's one church?

And then there's +Drexel Gomez. His time as chair of the Covenant Design Group should be over now. Neither +Katherine Jefferts Schori (as primate of the province at the center of the controversy) nor a public dissenter should be responsible for finding the common covenant that will re-unite the Communion. By his participation in the recent consecrations in Nairobi, +Gomez has shown that he does not believe reconciliation is possible. Fine. But he shouldn't carry on the charade by participating in initiatives aimed on bringing the Communion back together. For a long time, I celebrated +Rowan William's choice to invite +Gomez to chair the CDG, believing that it would help one more primate see the big picture. Sadly, that seems to have failed.

And what of +Bob Duncan and +Jack Iker? They have clearly just violated their ordination vows to uphold the discipline of the church. Our canons (and by "our," I include +Duncan and +Iker for now) clearly do not provide for parallel jurisdictions.

Since the Windsor Report was published, progressives have not consecrated openly GLBT bishops, and we have not authorized rites for same-sex blessings. Those were the requests of the Report. Meanwhile, the conservatives have pursued a relentless agenda of division, dissent, and destruction. I respect their difference of opinion, but I do not respect the duplicitous participation in the very institutions they seek to undermine.

+Duncan and +Iker should resign as ECUSA bishops. +Gomez should resign from the CDG. And some of this lot should not be surprised when they are not invited to Lambeth.

Inclusive means that everyone is welcome. But inclusive does not mean that every kind of illicit behavior is allowed. Make no mistake: any ECUSA cleric who participated in the Nairobi consecrations was engaged in canonically illicit behavior.

I do not want a homogeneous church, in terms of theology or sexuality, or anything else. I would gladly worship and serve with conservatives of very different theological convictions from my own. But the day they stop believing in the possibility of grace in the Episcopal Church is the day they should leave. The same goes for liberals, by the way. If I ever began to pursue an agenda to destroy the Episcopal Church, someone should suggest that I find another home. Let's hope the "Windsor Bishops" hold their colleagues accountable to the vows they've all taken.

(See also what Mark Harris and Greg Jones have to say about this.)

Inclusive -- one person at a time?

There's another side of the coin to what Giles posted today. In addition to the prevalent practice of relegating GLBT people to the closets of our churches, we often manifest an unconscious bias in favor of nuclear families with about two children, a minivan, and maybe a pet or two. Consider this example:
I had been attending a new church for a little over two months, when something changed. I was active in this church, attending Sunday school and participating in the hand bell choir, among other things. During that time a few people made me feel very welcome, especially those people who sat around me or who were in my Sunday school class. Then, one Sunday, I was welcomed with a fervor I had not seen before. I was offered a name tag, asked to sign the guest registry, and asked my name more often and with more enthusiasm than had previously been the case.

You might be wondering what changed that week, but I don't have to wonder. It’s not that people began to see that I might have some gifts to offer the church. No one seemed interested in the fact that I had taught Sunday school at my previous churches, or that I had served as deacon at those churches, or that I preached at those churches, filling in for the ministers when needed. No one seemed interested that I am a well-educated, 30-something male, despite the fact that churches say they clamor for this demographic group. Most churches, you see, don't really seek out people in that demographic group - unless they’re married, that is.

And that should explain what happened that Sunday. The woman l was dating, who happened to live in a different state, was visiting me. Thus, I was no longer all of those things I mentioned above; I was a part of a couple, and now the church actively sought me out and almost begged me to return.
I saw this in my weekly Leading Ideas email, which I recommend. And I also recommend that we consider what it means to be inclusive. It's much more than just being "gay-friendly," though that's a good start. To be inclusive means no more and no less than welcoming all of God's children. All of God's children. Even when there's no minivan involved.

(Vignette from “A Single Voice” by Kevin Brown, first published in The Clergy Journal)

Partners, spouses and friends welcome?

As part of IC's preparations for Lambeth 2008, our Patrons (the Archbishop of Mexico and the Primus of Scotland) are coming to England at the end of September for a series of seminars and events.

We're also having a party to thank those who've worked hard for an inclusive church over the past five years.

On the invitation I put "partners, spouses and friends are welcome". Then I started to reflect on that.

The Church of England still has a culture of secrecy and avoidance around lesbian and gay relationships. Although there a great many LGBT clergy in the C of E, and many have entered into civil partnerships, the official line seems to be that we (grudgingly acknowledging we exist!) are single and celibate. Civil partnerships receive hardly any official acknowledgement.

I was surprised recently to receive an informal invitation from one of my senior colleagues inviting "you and your partner or spouse." A chink of light.

We still have a long way to go, in the C of E, before the church will be able to be openly and fully inclusive. We have to reach a position, not yet reached by Synod and the House of Bishops, where same-sex relatioships are seen as part of God's blessing. But then we still have to reach a position where women are consecrated as bishops. And many other provinces have further to go before they are willing to recognise how many ways the Spirit moves within the Churches....But in spite of that thank God for the Communion with all its complexities - painful though it is

I can well understand the frustration in TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada about the slow pace of change. We're working hard on this side of the pond to bring about movement - we're trying to do it through welcoming people who aren't yet convinced about the legitimacy of both developments, through discussion, prayer, contact and fellowship. It's slow.

We're also trying to do it through showing that the church hasn't fallen apart - in fact it's flourishing - despite or even because of the presence of happy and integrated LGBT clergy. Through being there right at the heart of the church's life - across the hierarchy. And that's all happening too. Slowly because in many Dioceses there's a culture of fear.

But I'm hopeful about the future. Progressive means "moving forward...." I hope and pray, alongside all shades of Anglican praxis and theology.

Partners, spouses and friends are welcome - or will be!

29 August 2007

Fun with rumors! Plots! Secrets! Shhh....

Not too long ago, I posted news of rumor I heard. My interest was less in rumor-mongering than in pointing out the absurdity of our present situation. Shouldn't it be utterly ridiculous to imagine a parallel jurisdiction in England, because England isn't properly Anglican? Interestingly, those who checked on the veracity of the rumor did not hear vehement denials, and it seemed to have some legs.

In the last few days, there's been a flurry of speculation over the news that the computer of +Martyn Minns was used to edit +Peter Akinola's latest tirade. Personally, I think it's fine if Minns wrote bits of Akinola's rant. No doubt, Akinola agreed with whatever appeared under his name, and it seems reasonable for colleagues to work together. On the other hand, it might be helpful to tone down the angry reactions from conservatives whenever someone suggests that Virginia (with piles of American money) is having a big influence on Abuja. Now, personally, I picked up on a detail that other blogs have dropped, I think. Did you notice the list of names of people who worked on the document? Yes, Chris Sugden was on the list! Would a mere priest be allowed to change episcopal punctuation? I think not! But a bishop-elect would do just fine. Hmmm...

Speaking of secessionists, the Anglican Centrist had a fun rumor lately. There's some buzz around the idea that a large chunk of dissenters may flee Canterbury for Rome. I doubt if it's true, and I hope they speak with some Romans before they head over. They'll be in for a rude awakening. Will Benedict contemplate giving them property if they decide to split? Not even for a nanosecond. Will congregations be allowed to vote their preference on matters of doctrine? No way. Will priests be able to flout their bishop's authority? Not likely. For all the complaining about the ECUSA hierarchy, most of the right-wing hijinks have been allowed to continue unfettered. I can assure these future Romans that they'd better think twice if they imagine their congregationalist notions will fly outside ECUSA.

Lastly, you may have seen the cloak-and-dagger manual over at Stand Firm. I couldn't even satirize that. Our church has become a place where we need to learn to hide our work? We need to master the skill of techno-obfuscation? This veil of secrecy should reveal something to all of us. God's love is open and transparent. In the Gospels, just as in life, the good guys don't plot in secret. In life, as in James Bond movies, all the plotting happens secretly, sometimes even in fake volcanoes. Shouldn't it tell us something that these dissenters gather in secrecy, to engage in secret business? Contrast that, if you will, with the progressive side. Our plans for Lambeth 2008 are right out in the open. Anyone can come to a meeting of the St. Anne's network, and the minutes are posted for all to see. We meet in a church, not in a fake volcano.

Here's my idea. Let's talk about rumors, but only for humor and jest. We could use a few laughs in the Communion. And let's stop the schoolyard whispering. It's not polite, and it's probably not God's love at work.

Luke Timothy Johnson on scripture and human sexuality

We progressives are often accused (with good reason, sadly) of biblical ignorance. We're told that we are ignoring the "plain words" of the Bible. Too often, we do indeed state our case based on rights or experience, without reference to the Bible.

I was very interested then, when I saw (over on the Anglican Centrist) a link to a piece with analysis by Luke Timothy Johnson on human sexuality and the Bible. Johnson, as you may know, is no Bible slouch. He's a serious academic, well respected by people of many points of view. Here's a bit of Johnson's writing:

Our situation vis-à-vis the authority of Scripture is not unlike that of abolitionists in nineteenth-century America. During the 1850s, arguments raged over the morality of slave-holding, and the exegesis of Scripture played a key role in those debates. The exegetical battles were one-sided: all abolitionists could point to was Galatians 3:28 and the Letter of Philemon, while slave owners had the rest of the Old and New Testaments, which gave every indication that slaveholding was a legitimate, indeed God-ordained social arrangement, one to which neither Moses nor Jesus nor Paul raised a fundamental objection. So how is it that now, in the early twenty-first century, the authority of the scriptural texts on slavery and the arguments made on their basis appear to all of us, without exception, as completely beside the point and deeply wrong?

The answer is that over time the human experience of slavery and its horror came home to the popular conscience-through personal testimony and direct personal contact, through fiction like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and, of course, through a great Civil War in which ghastly numbers of people gave their lives so that slaves could be seen not as property but as persons. As persons, they could be treated by the same law of love that governed relations among all Christians, and could therefore eventually also realize full civil rights within society. And once that experience of their full humanity and the evil of their bondage reached a stage of critical consciousness, this nation could neither turn back to the practice of slavery nor ever read the Bible in the same way again.

Many of us who stand for the full recognition of gay and lesbian persons within the Christian communion find ourselves in a position similar to that of the early abolitionists-and of the early advocates for women’s full and equal roles in church and society. We are fully aware of the weight of scriptural evidence pointing away from our position, yet place our trust in the power of the living God to reveal as powerfully through personal experience and testimony as through written texts. To justify this trust, we invoke the basic Pauline principle that the Spirit gives life but the letter kills (2 Corinthians 3:6). And if the letter of Scripture cannot find room for the activity of the living God in the transformation of human lives, then trust and obedience must be paid to the living God rather than to the words of Scripture. ...

The Pharisees’ sin has come to be called “scotosis,” a deliberate and willful darkening of the mind that results from the refusal to acknowledge God’s presence and power at work in human stories. If the neglect of Scripture is a form of sin, John suggests, a blind adherence to Scripture when God is trying to show us the truth in human bodies is also a form of sin, and a far more grievous one. Both our own sense of integrity as Christians, and our hope of entering into positive conversation with those who disagree with us, obligate us to engage Scripture with maximum devotion, love, and intelligence. If it is risky to trust ourselves to the evidence of God at work in transformed lives even when it challenges the clear statements of Scripture, it is a far greater risk to allow the words of Scripture to blind us to the presence and power of the living God.

Amen. Let's all open our Bibles, and let's also open our hearts, our minds, and our arms.

Speaking the truth -- with love

Via The Episcopal Majority, I see that Episcopal Life Online has published an essay by Ken Howard+. It reads, in part:
Reading yet another story about schism in Episcopal Church ("More U.S. Episcopalians Look Abroad Amid Rift -- Overseas Prelates Lead 200 to 250 Congregations," June 17, 2007), I found myself growing a little bored with the topic. While we all know that divisions exist and that some congregations have seceded or are planning to, it gets tiresome after a while seeing the same tired old story repeated for the umpteenth time.

There seems to be a generally accepted storyline that runs something like this: Conservatives vs. Liberals. Traditionalists vs. Revisionists. Conservative congregations growing. Too-liberal Episcopal Church shrinking. Unfortunately, the storyline does not fairly portray the reality. Yet sheer repetition has given it an aura of "truthiness."

Take the title of the article for example. The term "rift," coupled with the estimate of 200-250 departing churches, makes it seem that a congregational exodus of seismic proportions is underway. Yet compared with the more than 7,500 congregations that make up the Episcopal Church nationwide, even that number barely registers as a tremor. But the article's estimate is much too high. To date, only a majority of members of 45 Episcopal congregations (less than 1%) have voted to leave the denomination (the higher figure quoted by the article includes congregations who were never a part of the Episcopal Church.) Compare this to the more than 1,200 Southern Baptist congregations that left their denomination to form the more moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship after the Southern Baptist Convention was taken over by its ultraconservative wing. Similar migrations of liberal and moderate parishioners have occurred from Episcopal congregations that have grown more conservative. But trends like these that don't fit the popular presumptions seem to fly under the reporting radar. There are some significant shifts going on in the Church at present, but the realignment runs in both directions.

The article also reported uncritically the "overseas prelates" (and their disaffected American congregations) self-portrayal as protectors of traditional Anglicanism against an aggressively anti-orthodox U.S. Episcopal Church. Unreported is their selectivity about which traditions they want to protect, rejecting traditions that do not suit them in favor of some very non-Anglican practices. The current rush of overseas prelates to outsource the Episcopal oversight of American congregations, for example, violates not only traditional Anglican practice, but ancient Christian practice as well. The reason most often given for violating this ancient tradition is to preserve orthodoxy. But this plethora of prelates raises the question of whose interpretation of orthodoxy will be enforced. Some of these foreign Anglican Churches, for example, accept the ordination of women as orthodox practice, while others do not. And the overarching enforcement body that some of them propose looks very much like a "magisterium" (i.e., top-down interpretation of Scripture by the hierarchy of the Church), a concept the Anglican Church has rejected since its inception.

Well said. I encourage you to follow the link and read the whole essay.

Disproportionate response?

I try to be empathetic as I relate to other people, especially those with whom I disagree. Most of the time, I can manage to see things from another's perspective. It doesn't always help me agree with someone else, but I can usually find some common ground.

In the present "crisis" in the Anglican Communion, I am finding this increasingly difficult. I can understand that there are people who believe that sexual orientations (other than heterosexual) are choices. I can understand that there are people who believe that the church should not ordain GLBT people, nor should we bless GLBT relationships. Much of the time, I can understand the reason, whether it's cultural context, biblical hermeneutic, change resistance, or some other factor.

What I cannot understand is the increasingly shrill tone coming from the right. I do not see rampant persecution of conservatives in the US, though you would think so from various blogs. While some progressives (and a few progressive bishops) have behaved badly toward conservatives, I think most progressives would like to find a way to coexist with those of diverse points of view. It does not help to achieve reconciliation when describe a reality that does not seem to exist. (I keep saying this, and I'll say it here again: correct me if I'm wrong about the real absence of persecution.)

Lately we have reached new heights in rhetorical extremism.
  • We have countdown clocks to the September 30 primates' deadline. One commenter on that blog puts that angle in perspective, I think: "Q. What will happen after September 30? A. October 1"
  • +Peter Akinola has written about his "agonizing journey" to Lambeth. I can understand "unpleasant" or "irritating" but "agonizing?" Really?
  • +Bob Duncan says that "this is our Good Friday." That's an exaggeration, if ever I heard one. Who is suffering death because of this crisis? Good Friday, as this "orthodox" bishop should know, was a one-time event, part of God's saving work for the world. We are not redeemers, and our sacrifices are not to be compared with those of Christ. On further reflection, this comparison is more than an exaggeration, it's quite probably heretical. (I use that word advisedly; this is not an attack on Duncan, but a theological critique of this particular speech. I do not think Bob Duncan is, generally, a heretic.)
  • Now Peter Ould has produced a frightening video. It implies, I guess, that if things don't go well for conservatives, people will be burned at the stake, like the Reformation bishops of the 1550s? Ironically, it is only GLBT people who risk death these days. Mark Harris has some things to say about this video.
Let's all take a deep breath. For a time, liberals were the ones using rhetorical license, talking about people "being sacrificed on the altar of unity." Inflammatory language is not helpful as we seek reconciliation, whether it comes from right or left. Let's be careful with our words, and let's acknowledge that those with whom we disagree are generally acting in good faith, most often because they care about the church and about the salvation of the world.

Members of ECUSA take baptismal promises to "respect the dignity of every human being." Any Christian should know that all people are created in God's image. Whatever the reason, we should respect others, and that means being respectful. This suggests that our messages and our words matter. It's not just what we say, it's how we say it.

23 August 2007

+Tutu speaks up

Thanks to Fr. Jake, I noticed this over on Episcopal Life Online:
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate's plea came in a letter to the present Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, in which [Tutu] also called on all Anglican bishops to be "more welcoming and inclusive of one another." Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu has appealed to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to invite all bishops to the 2008 Lambeth Conference, "even those irregularly consecrated or actively gay." ...

"Our Communion has always been characterized by its comprehensiveness, its inclusiveness, its catholicity," he said. "...we are really family, held together not so much by law as by bonds of affection. There is no family that is unanimous on every single subject." ...

"In a world where difference has led to alienation and even bloody conflict, the Church is God's agent to demonstrate that unity in diversity is in fact the law of life," Tutu said in his letter to Ndungane. "...We are most like God when we are welcoming and when we are as inclusive as possible, when we have broken down all middle walls of partition." ...

"Our Lord is weeping to see our Communion tearing itself apart on the issue of human sexuality when the world for which he died is ravaged by poverty, disease, war and corruption," Tutu said. "I beg you all in our Lord's name agree to disagree, argue, debate, disagree, but do all this as members of one family."

I have nothing to add. +Desmond Tutu has said what needs to be said. Amen.

22 August 2007

40 days of anxiety

Take a look. Babyblue Online has a countdown clock to the September 30 deadline. Now we all know, from action movies, that countdown clocks always spell imminent doom. But does the September 30 deadline carry such dire implications?

Let's think about this. No matter what happens on September 30, people in the parish I serve will be there for Sunday services. The next week, they'll be much more interested in all the dogs, cats, birds, and other creatures who will join us for the Blessing of Animals than what happened in New Orleans, Canterbury, Abuja, or Pittsburgh. And that's as it should be.

The Communion matters, but not that much. +Bob Duncan and his friends are having a big pow-wow immediately after the House of Bishops. If the Akinolites' demands are not met, then perhaps the extreme right will walk apart from the Anglican Communion. I will be sad that Christ's church has been divided again, but it will not change the mission of ECUSA or of the Anglican Communion.

So why the anxiety? Why the countdown clock? Simply put, the conservatives need to beat the crisis drum. It's not nearly as exciting to say "We agree on the fundamental truths of Christianity, but we disagree on a few points of moral theology." No one wants to donate money or consecrate new bishops when the stakes are low. Gloom and doom is the order of the day. It's the same tactic the Bush administration uses to get people to yield civil rights. Fear propels action, while suppressing articulate conversation.

Let's pray that lots of people will get some perspective on the September 30 deadline. Is division possible? Yes. Is this sad? Yes. Will it prevent Christians from being Christians? No. On the other hand, while we're busy putting up countdown clocks and writing dire messages, people are starving for food and for the bread of heaven. That's a real crisis, but we're too busy looking the wrong way to see it.

Clavier's thoughts on bishops

Tony Clavier+ has written a thoughtful piece on bishops, communion, and autonomy. I suspect that neither right- nor left-leaning folks will care much for what he has to say. He's appealing for a genuine Communion, the mutual interdependence so often spoken of, but rarely contemplated in practice. This would suggest that neither ECUSA nor Nigeria may go it alone. I for one find Tony's writing compelling.
If the view triumphs that constituent Provinces are totally and completely free to do as they please, if that is what autonomy means -then I doubt there's much Christian to salvage. Who among us is so autonomous that she or he may do exactly as one pleases? Even God doesn't claim such an autonomy! If the view triumphs that individual provinces or groups of them are free to determine the ecclesial status of another Province without some mutual agreement that in a specific area they are free to determine the limits of communion, then what we mean by Communion is rendered nonsense. If provinces are free to set up shop in another jurisdiction unless mutual consent or at least an authoritative consent by the instruments of unity has been forthcoming, then what we mean by Communion is merely anarchy.

I have said elsewhere they I don't approve of deadlines. Well we have one coming up. I hope our bishops won't take umbrage about the deadline imposed by the primates, won't let pride assert itself, resist a "Bushish" response, don't wrap themselves in a Cause which assumes the mantle of total Gospel at the expense of that which is affirmed in our baptisms. I hope they will be humble in asserting that which they believe they are called to say and that say that clearly and will be equally clear in striving to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Jesus prayed that "They may be one." Please Lord, make that our prayer. It would be tragically odd if Twenty-first Century bishops by action or inaction embrace Sixteenth Century means and methods and rend the church for the sake of whatever. Do I believe that schism, who ever is responsible or who ever walks apart is worse than heresy? I think I now believe that schism is heresy and heresy is schism for both tear apart that very fabric designed to enable us to learn from God and from one another in God.
Those on the left are quick to point out the infractions of Nigeria, while wanting to press ahead of the Communion on teachings related to human sexuality. Those on the right are quick to criticize liberals, while wanting to violate the boundaries and authority of others. Suppose we said that we must live together? How would that change our collective behavior?

Let me be clear. I believe (as does nearly everyone in InclusiveChurch, I should think) that all orders of ministry and sacraments of the church should be open to all of God's children, without regard especially to sex and sexual orientation. At the same time, I believe that there are individuals, congregations, dioceses, and provinces who do not share this view, and they should not be compelled to agree. Imagine if people on the right and left cared passionately about those with whom we disagreed. Perhaps those of us on the left would act more empathetically and show some genuine humility. Perhaps those on the right would be willing to see that we agree on the central core of Christian teachings.

I commend Tony's essay, and I share his prayer for unity.

17 August 2007

Proper response to an improper request?

The Living Church has this:
Bishops who have made a public commitment to support the Windsor Report have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to be clear and articulate in explaining what the consequences will be if the House of Bishops fails to give the assurances sought by the primates.
The self-styled Windsor Bishops could have asked me that question, and I would have provided an answer for less travel expense. The consequences will be that many primates are miffed.

I remind everyone that since the Windsor Report has issued, ECUSA has made no further "anti-Windsor" actions (i.e. ordaining openly GLBT bishops or authorizing same-sex blessings). Meanwhile, the so-called Global South bishops have habitually invaded others' jurisdictions -- in violation of the Windsor Report they love to selectively quote.

In addition to the question of consequences for ECUSA if our HoB rejects the terms of the Dar es Salaam communique, I'd like to ask a few questions:
  • What are the consequences for the primates of assuming more power than anyone has given them?
  • What are the consequences for ignoring requests to cease and desist provincial incursions?
  • What are the consequences for failure to begin the Listening Process requested by successive Lambeth Conferences in 1978, 1988, and 1998? (Fake "listening" doesn't count.)
  • What are the consequences for the church of sinful exclusion of many of God's children from God's house?
  • What are the consequences of spending all our energy on battles over (minor) points of moral theology, rather than focusing on our Gospel imperatives of evangelism and discipleship?
So, Windsor bishops, don't preach too much about consequences and the communique. There are more important matters are stake. The communique is an attempt to hijack the church and turn us from Anglican comprehension toward confessional extremism. The request itself is a symptom of the problem, and I think the best response might be a gentle "no thanks" and an invitation to honor the Lambeth resolutions from 1978 onward.

16 August 2007

Of demons and decorum

Bishop John Rucahana of the Shyira Diocese in Rwanda has achieved some blogospheric notoriety for his recent comments about the Anglican Communion. The most widely quoted line was this one, just to give you a flavor:
the Anglican Church in Rwanda will not be pushed into adopting the satanic behaviour of the "whites because they are whites."
Clearly the legacy of colonialism is still real, because the evil things that white imperialists did will linger for generations. While not every white person is tied directly to these forces, plenty of us still are. Anger at whites is then, if not always rational, at least comprehensible. I am more concerned about labeling things as Satanic, and the general tone of +John's remarks.

We are getting good, in Anglican debate, of shouting about one another, rather than listening and speaking. There's another way of being, as Richard Helmer+ reminds us:
So how can we best respond? The examples are already out there to behold: in our Presiding Bishop, amongst a number of the Primates, amongst many in our House of Bishops and many of their sisters and brothers elsewhere in the Communion, and amongst ordained and lay members of the church engaging with our Rwandan and other Anglican sisters and brothers around the world directly, in person, on the ground:
  • To such rhetoric, silence can often be the most charitable response.
  • When necessary, we need to allow people to find the door. We should never be in the business of shutting people in or taking hostages for any cause, even the most noble we can imagine, and that includes preserving unity.
  • Simple charity for those in deepest need: those scapegoated by the present rhetoric as well as the uncountable hungry and suffering around the world who are forgotten in the midst of a caustic in-house fight over red herrings.
Poisonous rhetoric screams for nothing short of a Divine response -- the true judgment and justice of compassion, the strength of the cross, the forbearance of Joseph, Job, and Jesus -- and a continuing patient calling forth of the struggling and pained humanity that is masked and hidden by vehemence and the truly demonic.
Much of that advice works just as well for the extremes on the left as on the right. We would do well to begin with empathy and live in charity. It's not only the Gospel way, it's just plain old good manners.

15 August 2007

Conservatives continue to ignore Windsor

I do not hold the Windsor Report and its "Windsor Process" in the same low regard as do many progressives. I am also not willing to elevate it to near-biblical authority in the same way that many conservatives, who quote it chapter and verse. The Windsor Report has some good recommendations, that if followed would help us to heal division and ease pain in our church.

Conveniently, many conservatives continue to ignore the Windsor Report's call for a cessation for illicit boundary crossings. Here's the latest article to cross the wire about the more recent in a long series of incursions:
"We are not undermining anybody’s authority. We are saving a situation of people who so much need us," Nzimbi told Reuters in response to criticism that African bishops were violating church rules.

Ugandan Archbishop, Mr Henry Orombi, also supported the decision. "In Uganda, we have provided a home for refugees from Congo, Rwanda and Sudan," said Orombi, who is consecrating John Guernsey of Virginia on September 2. "Now, we are also providing a home for ecclesiastical refugees from America," he added.
Well, how is this not undermining authority? Saying something is so does not make it so. And in what possible way are the situations of dissident Episcopalians comparable with actual refugees in Congo, Rwanda, or Sudan? +Orombi's choice of this melodramatic language is unfortunate. It cheapens the reality of the human tragedy that is unfolding, and I'm surprised he would do that. He certainly knows better, so perhaps he was misquoted. While some liberal bishops have indeed behaved badly, there is no actual broadly-rooted persecution of conservatives here, and almost no one is being spiritually orphaned.

Ironically, progressive ECUSA is accused of imperiling church unity. Meanwhile, we now have at least five parallel jurisdictions at work in the US, not counting the out-of-Communion groups that are impossible to keep track of. If the conservatives are truly concerned about unity, maybe the better response would be to refrain from schism and ecclesiastical incursions.

Finally, it's worth nothing that since 2004, when the Windsor Report was published, there have been no more GLBT bishops consecrated, and same-sex blessings have never been authorized by ECUSA (and only one or two dioceses can be said to have authorized them). Meanwhile, there have been untold episcopal boundary crossings by the right (and none by the left, that I know of). Progressives, like all Christians, have plenty of repenting to do. But these days, I think it is the conservatives who need to do some Windsor Process soul searching.

14 August 2007

A perspective on blogging

I'm catching up today on "old" bloggish things. I had marked a thoughtful post from Chuck Blanchard, and here it is, for your consideration. I've said similar things, so it's not surprising that I agree with Chuck.
When I was first seeking elective office, I received sage advice--don't assume that most voters are as interested in the ins and outs of the campaign as the political junkies who are actively following the campaign. Most voters have far more important things to do with their lives--they are earning a living, raising a family, and enjoying their hobbies. Politics may be yout hobby, but it is not theirs. The best way to run a campaign is to ignore the political junkies, and instead focus on what most voters really care about.

It seems to me that the Anglican blogosphere needs to hear this same advice. We are "Anglican junkies." We (on both sides of the great issues of the day) follow every word coming from the Archbishop of York or Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh. Heck, we even follow (and often blog about) the nuances of the comments at Stand Firm. Titus One Nine or Father Jakes' blog. Yet, at best, we number in the thousands. The Anglican Communion number in the millions. Anglican politics is our hobby, but it is not a hobby shared by most of our fellow Anglicans.

So what do our fellow Anglicans care about what is happening? To be truthful, not much. From what I can tell, most Episcopalians care far more about what is happening in their own congregation than what is happening in their Diocese, much less at 815 or Canterbury. It is of no help to a GLBT worshipper that [Gene] Robinson is a Bishop, if their own congregation is not welcoming. And it is of little concern to a conservative Episcopalian that they belong to a Network Church if they are not spiritually enriched by their worship service.
Too often, blogs have merely fanned the flames of controversy, rather than serving as a further connection among the faithful. Too often, blogs tear down, rather than building up. Too often, blogs have pointed toward extremism, rather than pointing toward Jesus Christ, our center. Amen, Chuck.

The +Senatmu interview

It's been widely posted in the usual places, but those few readers who may have missed it, I encourage you to read a recent interview with +John Sentamu in its entirety. When +Ebor speaks, it's worth listening -- especially considering that he can plausibly speak from both a true Global South and a Global North perspective.

People on the extreme left and the extreme right will be disappointed in what he says. That seems about right to me -- fitting for someone who is seeking a via media. Some choice bits:
Stephen Crittenden: On another issue, Archbishop Sentamu, where do you stand in this seemingly endless debate about gay clergy and gay bishops that's breaking the Anglican communion apart?

John Sentamu: I think, for myself, that the 1998 resolution was very clear on where the church stood, and it actually invited everybody to engage in the listening process to gay and lesbian people. I still think it was not a good thing for the Episcopal church, while we are still in conversation, to proceed the consecration of [Gene] Robinson. I happen to think they actually pre-empted the conversation and the discussion. Now what I don't think should happen now [is] that the whole question of gay and lesbian people -- when we said we should listen to their experiences -- should now become the kind of dominant theological factor for the whole of the communion. Because really the communion, at the heart of it, has got to do a number of things. While on one hand upholding Christian teaching, [it] must also be very loving and kind towards gay and lesbian people because that's part of the resolution. And it must also continue to listen. And I'm not so sure, when some people speak as if the debate has been concluded, or we cannot engage with this, you're being very faithful to the resolution.

Secondly, the Windsor Report has made it very clear that the four instruments of unity -- that is, Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Primates Meeting -- should be the kind of instrument that actually allows all of us to talk. So those who now say, for example, that they don't want to come to the Lambeth Conference in 2008 because there may be people from ECUSA, well all I want to say is that church history has always taught us that churches have always disagreed. I mean, over the nature of Christ, the salvation of Christ, there were bitter, bitter, bitter disagreements in the early church, but everybody turned up at those ecumenical councils to resolve their differences. So my view would be, if you're finding this quite difficult, please do not stop the dialogue and the conversation.

Stephen Crittenden: Well indeed, you've warned -- just in the last few days --warned the conservative bishops of the global south that if they don't come to Lambeth, they'd effectively be severing themselves from the rest of the communion. That's a bit tough, isn't it?

John Sentamu: Well, the Lambeth Conference is an invitation from the Archbishop of Canterbury to all bishops of the Anglican communion to come to Lambeth and talk of matters of common concern. Now if there is already a fracture within the communion, I would have thought everybody would want to turn up in order to work out how we as a communion are going to go forward. Secondly, the Primates Meeting in Tanzania set out a fairly clear way ahead in its communiqué, as well as the whole question of the covenant. Now if we're going to continue to talk about the covenant at Lambeth Conference, and some people absent themselves from this, what is it that actually they think they're going to be achieving? You see, again I want to challenge them in terms of the debate about the nature of Christ and the salvation of Christ -- no church in the seven Ecumenical Councils absented themselves from it, because they were trying to represent the faith as they saw it. And only by people meeting around the table and having a conversation are you likely to find some kind of thing. I think the thing I was reacting to was a question that some people were planning an alternative Lambeth Conference, and my view was there can be no alternative Lambeth Conference, because the Lambeth Conference is always at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury in line with the four instruments of unity. And I cannot see an alternative, actually, for another Lambeth Conference. I mean that's the logic for it.

Stephen Crittenden: Or if you're going to have an alternative Lambeth Conference, you can't pretend at the same time that you're not pushing the whole communion towards schism, can you?

John Sentamu: You can't. You just can't. That to me is the logic, and the Windsor process was very clear of the need first of all for the Episcopal Church as well as the church in Canada, to actually express regret. But you know it went on also and said that those Primates in other provinces should also desist from going into the other people's provinces, and that hasn't actually been observed yet, and it was re-emphasised again at the Primates' meeting in Tanzania. So my view is to say to both sides, 'Come on, hold your fire. Let's get together the communion and gather at Canterbury and go through our conversation properly with Bible study, prayer, and reflection. And don't cut yourself off at this particular point, when what is needed is listening, is discernment, is holding on to the very basic beliefs which we've all got.' And I want to say the only way that I may not turn up to a meeting is if suddenly everybody was saying that the Lambeth Conference is going to redefine the doctrine of salvation or the doctrine of the nature of Christ, or the doctrine of creation. Those are not on the agenda. Everybody believes those truths.

13 August 2007

Sizing up Lambeth too soon?

Today's Telegraph has the latest sensationalist story about the Anglican Communion, entitled "Archbishop faces conference snub." Apparently in journalism school, reporters have been instructed to use the word "snub," "row," or "schism" in every headline, whenever possible. That's what sells papers, I guess.

The article's lede says "only a couple of hundred" bishops have responded. Later, the article says "several hundred" bishops have accepted invitations. How can that be? I can only imagine a copy editor, eager to ensure a bold story, added the "couple of hundred" bit.

Over at Stand Firm, the throngs are cheering. T19's posse is engaging in some (refreshing) witty banter over the whole thing. But is it too early for gloating? Last week, the Church of England newspaper had this:
A spokesman for the Anglican Consultative Council, whose general secretary Canon Kenneth Kearon serves as the Conference secretary told The Church of England Newspaper the invitations to Lambeth had been "coming in, in their hundreds."
It seems to me that there is much ado about nothing happening in blogospheria Anglicana today. Or, more precisely, a copy editor at the Telegraph went a bit too far. Jonathan Petre himself says "several hundred" bishops are coming. Canon Kearon is on record saying the same thing. My own sources tell me that many bishops from so-called Global South provinces have accepted invitations. So this isn't likely to be a "snub" of +Rowan at all.

Canon Jim Rosenthal (now deacon, thanks be to God), has said that the deadline for RSVPs was extended because of postal problems. There are "issues" both in the UK and in developing countries. So, Stand Firmers and others, remember: sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes a postal problem is just a postal problem.

Or to put it another way, just as we shouldn't count our chickens until they're hatched, we shouldn't count our RSVPs until they're received. I think this story will turn out favorably for the Anglican Communion -- with a good turnout at Lambeth. Only the die-hard Akinolites will be absenting themselves (more on that in a future post).

09 August 2007

More Lambeth posturing

Today Ruth Gledhill writes:

The deadline for bishops to respond to their invite to the Lambeth Conference has been extended, according to a report in the Church of England Newspaper tomorrow.

The extension comes after Sydney's six bishops told the Archbishop of Canterbury that they could not reply to the invite until they knew the response of American bishops to demands made by Primates in February at Dar es Salaam.

I certainly don't have enough information to have a fully-baked opinion, but that never stopped a blogger. So here goes. It seems to me that, if true, this delay reinforces a very unfortunate trend away from Anglican Christianity and toward a rigid, extremist Christianity.

Let's take the "worst case" scenario. Suppose the ECUSA House of Bishops does not comply with the requests of the Dar es Salaam communique at the September meeting. It seems to me that rather than shunning those with whom we disagree, it would be better for people to speak with one another face-to-face. Jesus invites us to be reconciled, and we can't do that when we're pouting in the corner. Reconciliation requires engagement.

My own country has perfected the art of the either-you-are-with-us-or-against-us stand. High handed unilateral behavior is never the path to peace. It saddens me that this tactic has been adopted by others in the world, and it grieves me that our church is devolving into many sects of theologically "pure" believers, unwilling to look into the faces of their sisters and brothers in Christ.

My understanding is that many bishops of diverse points of view have accepted the Lambeth 2008 invitations, and that even bishops whose primates are part of the so-called Global South are planning to come. That's surely a good thing, and I hope it helps ECUSA understand how our actions have been hard for others. I hope it helps others see that ECUSA is full of faithful people, seeking to be disciples of Jesus Christ. I don't imagine that ECUSA has all the answers, nor do I imagine that the criticisms coming from +Akinola are all wrong. I hope the dissenters could admit that they might have some room in their hearts for conversion, and that they might be willing to share their perspective with ECUSA and Canada.

The only way it makes sense to stay away from Lambeth -- or to threaten to stay away -- is if one imagines one is 100% right and that the direction of the Anglican Communion is 100% wrong. The Gospels should provide ample warning to anyone who imagines they have all the answers. God help us all when we think we can no longer grow in Christ, and may God give us the grace to help others grown in their discipleship.

07 August 2007

+Bruno reports from Spain

I have previously posted two reports from the consultation among Anglican bishops recently held in Spain.

+Jon Bruno of Los Angeles has filed his report (found on Susan Russel's blog, via The Lead):
My hope is that the model of consultation employed at this gathering could be the new mode of operation for Anglicans, a trademark minus pronouncements and press conferences; not worrying about the perfectly crafted communiqué but liberating us all, big time. People spoke the truth in love. That's not just a phrase, but an attitude that was displayed in session after session.

The sacrament of unity, the Eucharist, in the final offering of the gathering, confirmed for me the essence of what it means to be a pilgrim, seeking the kingdom of God and its values of justice, peace and salvation for all. To me, unity at the altar is not an option; it is the outward sign, symbol and reality of encounter. As Cardinal Newman said, "essence all divine." The real presence indeed.

I felt so aware of those around me each day. Our small groups became more like prayer cells, not stranger, but pilgrims. They also became a safe place for honesty and clarity. This is so refreshing in this time in our history, when people who are being open are demonized. As Anglicans we claim John 8:32 as our motto, emblazoned on the Compass Rose, albeit in Greek; "The Truth Shall Make You Free!" Maybe we should have multi-language versions to help us own the message.
I find everything coming from the gathering in Spain to be refreshingly Spirit-filled and hopeful. Let's hope Lambeth 2008 brings even more of the same.

A holy day in cyberspace

Out in meatspace, we all celebrated the Transfiguration yesterday. Here in cyberspace, today is a holy day of another kind. On August 7, 1991, sixteen years ago today, Tim Berners-Lee posted a message to the alt.hypertext newsgroup announcing his World Wide Web project.

Today seems to be a fitting day to mull over the importance of the www for the church. Have we used this technology well? Has it been good for the church, or bad for the church? I'm not sure, frankly.

In the parish I served for two years, around one-third of our new members during my time there came to us via Google. They looked for a church online, checked out our website, came to church, and then joined our community. Chalk that one in the "good" column. Churches are able to tell their story to people who might otherwise miss it. Church communities can stay in touch in ways that would otherwise be impossible. That's all good.

Now turn your gaze the present controversies within the church. It is clear to me that we would not be in this mess to our current depth were it not for the blogosphere. Anyone can publish, which is part of the positive, democratizing influence of the web. But perhaps not everyone should publish, or at least not without a deep breath first. Inflammatory messages are written, posted, and then read by thousands of people. Counter-arguments emerge. Soon people are vilifying one other, without every having met, and without knowing the other side well.

Sure, technology does not cause bad behavior. But it makes it much easier. There's no barrier to entry -- no stamps, no telephone toll charges, no need to get in the car -- so sometimes we say things that we might not say if more time passed. And, of course, the Internet is available all over the world, so our partially-formed thoughts can be read by people everywhere.

Of course, this is not a new problem. Print media helped foster Reforming zeal 500 years ago, and the church was improved as a result. On the other hand, vitriolic prose was quickly distributed throughout Europe, leading to hasty schism and perhaps even to wars.

I am no Luddite. I'm writing this on a shiny new computer, using WiFi, sitting in a coffee shop. My phone has a better Internet connection than most businesses had 10 years ago. You are reading this because I offer my own (often half-baked) thoughts in blogospheria Anglicana. If I am so concerned about the www, why do I contribute my voice to the din?

My point is not that the web has been all bad, or that we should bemoan technology. Rather, I think we should give thanks for what the web has been possible, even as we are repenting of our often bad behavior. As a church, we need to find ways to engage technology to God's glory and to the benefit of God's people. In our present controversies, perhaps we should think of the ways we might use the web to learn more about those with whom we differ. This would be much better than merely using the web to talk with those of our own ilk as we denigrate others.

So today, on the Commemoration of the Invention of the Web, give thanks. Maybe we should utter a kyrie eleison for good measure.

(Photo of Tim Berners-Lee, from the Wired article linked above.)

02 August 2007

Another report from Spain

On Sunday, I posted a link to Jim Cooper's sermon at Trinity, Wall Street, in which he reported on his time at the bishops' gathering that recently concluded in Spain. Today (via The Lead) brings a report by +Kirk Smith of Arizona. Read it all, but here's a sample:
It seemed clear to me that what unites us is far greater than any divisions we might have. I came away with the strong feeling that we are family and we are not going to allow anyone or anything to break that bond.

The other positive outcome was the strengthening of our common commitment to mission. Many of us were able to spend significant time together and learn about what is happening in our respective dioceses. Many new and deep friendships were made as we worshiped and did Bible study together. I got to know many new African bishops, and to bring greetings back from several Sudanese bishops to our own St Paul's mission...

One speaker summed up our time together well: "Jesus did not say, 'Be right as I am right'. He said, Love one another". I felt that love this past week. It is not limited by boarders, cultures, or theology. It is what makes us Christ's family.
At the risk of being annoyingly repetitive, I'll say it again. This is why we need Lambeth. This is why we need to stay together in Eucharistic fellowship. This is why we must listen to one another, rather than scream about one another. Our promise is to "seek and serve Christ in all persons," and you can't do that if you refuse to come together.

Let's hope there are more gatherings like the one in Spain. Let's hope there are more mission trips. Let's hope lots of bishops go to Lambeth next summer. And, most of all, let's hope there is room in our hearts for God's grace to be manifest.

+Armagh on the Anglican Communion

I don't like to recycle posts from other blogs, but here's an exception. For the readers of this blog who may have missed it, Thinking Anglicans posted the conclusion of +Alan Harper's sermon at Clonmacnoise. Read the whole sermon, and visit TA for the lively comments.

Here's the sample of the sermon (lifted shamelessly from TA):

Archbishop Drexel Gomez, addressing the General Synod of the Church of England on the issue of an Anglican Covenant, said recently:

Anglican leaders are seriously wondering whether they can recognize in each other the faithfulness to Christ that is the cornerstone of our common life and cooperation. While some feel there will be inevitable separation, others are trying to deny that there is a crisis at all. That is hardly a meeting of minds. Unless we can make a fresh statement clearly and basically of what holds us together we are destined to grow apart.

I doubt if anyone believes that there is no crisis. Rather, in the context of Archbishop Drexel’s key test, that is, recognizing in each other the faithfulness to Christ that is the cornerstone of our common life and cooperation, a spirit of arrogance on both sides is causing people of genuine faith and undoubted love for the Lord Jesus to bypass the requirement for patience and for making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

I have yet to meet any “leader” who does not treat with the utmost respect and indeed reverence the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. I have heard no one in this crisis deny the fundamental tenets of the faith as Anglicans have received them. Yet I have heard believing Christians attack other Christians for not believing precisely as they themselves believe. Equally, I have heard believing Christians attack other Christians for not attaching the weight they themselves attach to this biblical text compared with that.

This is not the way of Christ; it is the way of fallen humanity. It is a boulder of our own creation and I do not know who will help us to roll it away.

Some fear, and I am among them, that an Anglican Covenant, unless it is open and generous and broad, may simply become a further means of obstruction: a boulder, rather than a lever to remove what obscures and impedes our access to the truth that sets us free.

The truth is that the tomb is empty and we are called to live a new life in which resurrection and not death is the new reality; a life freed from the narrow constraints of human expectation, predictability and conformity; a life that confidently expects the disclosure of new vistas offered by the God whose very nature and purpose is to make all things new and make us part of His new creation.

Throughout history the way of the Church has been strewn with boulders of her own making. Those boulders conceal from us what God has already done and is continuing to do. They are boulders compounded of pride, hypocrisy and conceit, envy, hatred and malice and all uncharitableness.

From such things, good Lord, deliver us! And deliver especially this tortured Anglican Communion of Churches.

01 August 2007

And now for something on the lighter side...

Amidst all the angst of the Anglican Communion and threats of schism, I thought I'd post something on the lighter side. Last night, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, author of Failing America's Faithful, was on the Colbert Report. If you haven't seen the show, Stephen Colbert does a brilliant job of satirizing all the screaming talking heads that clog American television news channels.

In any case, Kathleen and Stephen engage in a quick debate about Christianity and contemporary cultural issues. They touch on family values, biblical hermeneutics, and the Great Commandment. Enjoy.

Note: You might see an ad before the video plays.

Bob Duncan says this is Good Friday

Read Katie Sherrod's report from the ACN meeting. It begins:
"If only." These slightly petulant words seemed the leitmotif of the July 30-31 meeting of the Anglican Communion Network.

If only
the Archbishop of Canterbury had spoken even one encouraging word about the Network, it would be so much bigger than it is now.

If only
some of the Network's biggest financial supporters weren't tied up in their own legal battles as they tried to take property out of The Episcopal Church, the Network wouldn't be facing financial "challenges."

If only
other bishops had spoken up in support of the Network bishops.

If only
all the other splinter groups didn’t see themselves as the body into which all the other "orthodox" would come, the Network could have served as that body.
The glass is clearly half empty for the Network. Optimism was in short supply while mistrust was rampant in the room. There were lots of questions about what happens in the future when they are not all so willing to gloss over differences -- like those over the issue of ordaining women to the priesthood -- in the interest of unity. But these misgivings were brushed aside as something to be expected among a group of wounded people who have been so abused and persecuted by The Episcopal Church.

On Monday morning, about 80 delegates, observers, and spouses met in a stuffy room at St. Vincent’s Cathedral in Bedford, a suburb of Fort Worth, to hear the Anglican Communion Network Moderator, Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, sum it all up:

"What is needed is a completely new structure. Lambeth is failing, Canterbury is failing, the Anglican Consultative Council is prejudiced in a Western way and the primates are sadly divided north and south.

"We’ll leave and they can take the stuff with them to hell, because that is where they will take it. This is Good Friday and we have to face it."

As the meeting got underway the primary mood was one of deep sadness underlain with anger. This very white, very male -- I counted at most twenty women delegates -- very cleric-heavy group seemed bewildered by how they ended up in these "emotional and spiritual depths," facing financial challenges and feeling that The Episcopal Church no longer has any room left "for me or anyone like me," as Duncan put it.

"How brutal the rejection, how total the failure," he said.
Where's the joy? Shouldn't Christians, above all else, have a deep sense of abiding gladness? Maybe Katie just didn't report that part. If the meeting was filled with this despair, I worry about the future of their movement. I worry about whether there is room for grace when walls of fear, doubt, and despair are surrounding the movement.

And there's another thing. +Bob Duncan has totally lost perspective, it is now clear. He is reported to have said, "This is Good Friday and we have to face it." Bob, this is not Good Friday. No one is being crucified over Anglican Communion squabbles. No one in your movement is sacrificing much more than church property. That's a big sacrifice, but it's hardly Good Friday. Good Friday was once and for all time, not to be repeated. You should know that. It's in the 39 Articles, referenced in your Common Cause theology statement.

To compare our problems getting along with Good Friday cheapens Christ's sacrifice and it suggests an inability to grasp the (lack of) importance of our present "crisis." I have read much hyperbole from both left and right over the past few years, but the suggestion that the ACN is experiencing Good Friday is disrespectful at best. At worst, I suppose it falls short of blasphemy, but it is quite possibly heretical. I can only hope Bob was misquoted, and someone will correct the record.

Here's my prediction. This joyless, despair filled bunker mentality won't sustain people for long. Either these groups will disintegrate into even more sparring factions, or they will discren a hope-filled vision, or they will realize that they are welcome to come home to ECUSA. (This assumes that ECUSA will ensure it is a welcoming place for conservatives, and that we have a hope-filled vision ourselves. There's a challenge for us!)

This man is tearing the fabric?!

It's well worth the time to read Andrew Collier's recent interview with +Gene Robinson. I personally find the bits about Jesus to be the most interesting, though other writers found the bits about hypocrisy to be of interest.
Q. Where do you see yourself positioned in the church?

'As a matter of fact I’m more evangelical than almost anyone you would run into in the Episcopal Church. I come out of evangelical roots and see my ministry as one of evangelism. When I speak to gay and lesbian groups I don’t talk to them about gay rights, I talk to them about their souls. My goal is to get them to church and bring them to Jesus. I speak that language and believe it with my whole heart. I believe that Jesus is standing at the doorway to our hearts every moment of the day and my mission is to encourage people of all stripes to open that door and let Jesus in.'

Q. What do you think Jesus would make of all this?

'I think Jesus is terribly disappointed when we close the door on anyone – when we make it harder for anyone to access God’s love. Looking at this debate I think Jesus both understands how hard change is and for me I believe Jesus thinks the debate and the pain of it is worth it in the end. It was either Gandhi or Dr Martin Luther King who said the ark of history bends inevitably towards justice. I may be wrong. Only time will tell. But I do think this has to do with the ark of history bending towards justice.'

I'll say it again. Gene Robinson is not tearing the fabric of the Anglican Communion. Other people are choosing to do that, at least partially in response to Gene. In fairness, I'd encourage Gene Robinson, his supporters (among whom I count myself), and all Americans to behave with more humility and less Cowboy Americanism, but this crisis is certainly not Gene's doing, and it is not ECUSA's doing exclusively. Read the interview. You can see that Gene Robinson is a faithful man of the Gospel, trying to follow Jesus and lead others into God's loving, saving embrace.

Ephraim Radner has had it

Ephraim Radner+, who has always been an articulate voice on the conservative side, has written a resignation from the Anglican Communion Network, now posted over at T19.

It reads, in part:
Bishop Duncan has now declared the See of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference -- two of the four Instruments of Communion within our tradition – to be "lost." He has said that God is "doing a new thing" in allowing these elements to founder and be let go. I find this judgment to be dangerously precipitous and unfair under circumstances when current, faithful, and hard work is being done by many to bolster these Instruments as servants of our common life in Christ. The judgment is also astonishingly self-confident and autonomously prophetic in a mode not unlike the baleful claims to visionary authority of those who have long misled the Episcopal Church. Finally, the declaration in effect cancels out the other two Instruments of Communion that also uphold our common Anglican life -- the Primates’ Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council. It is the entire Anglican Communion, therefore, that Bp. Duncan is declaring to be "lost." The judgment is far too sweeping.
I don't have much more to say. My sense is that Ephraim is right to observe that it +Bob Duncan is "walking apart" from Anglicanism. This is another sad chapter in the unfolding tragedy of schism that we're now seeing. I hope Ephraim finds a place to call "home." For that matter, I hope we can all find a spiritual shelter, in the same home. Anglicanism was always good at accommodating diverse views, and my prayer is that this will be true again.

Those of us on the progressive side must not, even for an instant, take glee as the conservative side struggles. This schadenfreude has no place in the Christian heart. Our only response can be a generous prayer, and perhaps a Kyrie eleison.

Barbara Crafton: Leave God in our story

Barbara Crafton has written a great -- and very brief -- essay over at The Episcopal Majority. I encourage you to read the whole thing, which brilliantly articulates what many progressives have been trying to say for some time now.
A questioning mind is not the devil's work. It is one of the fruits of baptism. We pray for it at the font.

That is why we have married priests, why we have women priests. It is why we have restored the ministry of deacons in the Church. It is why the disabled are not barred from serving in ordained ministry. It is why women who have recently given birth are not considered ritually unclean. It is why Christians need not observe the large and complex corpus of Jewish law. It is why the Church is very different in our century from what it was in the 19th. Or in the 16th. Or the 4th.

This is not a betrayal of principle. It is the way human beings live. We live in history as fish swim in water, and history only moves forward. The realm of God to which we look is without time, but the world in which we now live is bound to history. Eyes open, brain in gear and spirit available for instruction, we move with its current.

Don't try to abandon history, for you cannot, not while you are here. Don't try to stop it. Instead, talk to it. Look at it. Listen to it. The human family has many ways of being in the world, and all are instructive in some way. It is the height of hubris to think that we know all there is to know about God's ways because we understand our own. It cuts God out of our story, and makes it a very local story indeed. A story about us alone.
We on the left don't always do a good job of articulating why we push for change. It's about more than justice. It's about salvation history. So let's open our Bibles, let's read our history, let's study our theology, and then let's situate our work in that deep river of Christian life.

If we don't change, we are idolaters of the past. If we don't keep ourselves firmly grounded in the faith once -- and yet today -- delivered, we are mere cultural relativists. Let's leave God in the story. That means knowing our story, and it means seeking God. But make no mistake about it. The church cannot be the same today as it was yesterday, and it must change again tomorrow. Salvation history, after all, is not just something from the past. It is the present, and the future, too.