Admiral of Morality: October 2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

In the Wake of the Chancellor's Letters

The Episcopal Chancellor's admonitory letters to the dioceses of Fort Worth and Quincy have elicited various reactions. Some, breathless and seeing in every action of the Church, a new betrayal, read in them the echos of jackboots. Others see a lawyer doing his job well. Others wonder if maybe the Church can do a better job of handling its own PR. Here, what is seen is the legitimate leaders of the Church working to ensure its integrity and wholeness. Nothing less can be expected.

When he received his Chancellor's letter, Jack Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth, reacted swiftly: he immediately faxed a copy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who at the time was meeting with Presiding Bishop-Elect Katharine Jefferts-Schori. Iker writes that he faxed the Archbishop so that the Archbishop might know that he had just gotten a letter from the Chancellor and that he immediately thought to fax the Archbishop. Very good.... And? It's the sort of thing a younger person might do when he is caught in the act of disturbing a nest holding a precious, delicate egg--go to the favorite (sometimes odd) uncle and tell him, "I didn't mean any harm, I've been doing this for years, oh it's been very fun."

Of course, the matter of the Episcopal Church and its relations and status with the dioceses who have signaled that they think the Episcopal Church is to some degree heretical and its new Presiding Bishop unacceptable, is not a question of fun or of business as usual. No doubt, this last inference is what so troubles many of the dissidents.

In this delicate environment, Bishop Iker has delighted in playing the ornery bully and in inciting and encouraging others to do the same. His favorite behaviors to this end include getting up and leaving when certain other bishops speak or enter a room; directing his clergy to not include (+)+Katharine in their prayers for the people; refusing to participate financially or otherwise, in the work and mission of The Episcopal Church. And of course, altering his constitution to make continued inclusion in The Episcopal Church, his decision. In the matter of the letters, he has again reacted in the worst way: with a shrillness and a sullenness that calls into question the authority and grace he is expected to possess, and display.

The general principle informing all of this is that he doesn't want anything to do with The Episcopal Church, all the while being, of course, an Episcopal Bishop. Make sense? No. Not much sense at all.

If Iker wishes to be an ass, that is his right, and his right to make a mockery of himself is hereby defended. But since he is a bishop, the Church who ordained him and which he swore to serve, has a right and obligation to make certain he is a good and faithful steward of her.

The chancellor's letter suggests something else, too. It suggests that neither Iker nor his friends in The American Anglican Council and their front group, The Network, will be permitted to alter the historical status and relation between the Church and a diocese it's created. This is all very common sensical and simple. Yet it seems to have been lost in the months and years of back and forth semantics. If you belong to an organization and you no longer like the organization, you leave it. You don't get to break up the organization. If you try, the organization probably won't let you. Any freshmen in logic understands this, or at least, anyone not interested in making as much trouble as possible.

For years, Iker and the other mutineers have been inching along trying to get away with as much as possible. Iker himself notes that it is absurd, when he has been undermining The Episcopal Church for so long, for the Church to send him a letter now. He is correct. It is absurd. It should have been done long ago. But of course, (+)+Katharine wasn't in charge before.

Bishop Iker and his friends in the Network, have gotten passes for playing alone up in their trees. At a minimum, the letters suggest they are going to have to explain themselves to the satisfaction of the new Presiding Bishop, if they want to start breaking things.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Episcopal Church Warns Secessionist Dioceses

The Chancellor of the Episcopal Church, Mr. David Booth Beers, has sent letters warning at least two dioceses that have expressed interest in separating from the wider Church, that they must undo recent changes to their constitutions or face action by the Presiding Bishop "to bring your diocese into compliance." The chancellor may have sent letters to other dioceses, The Living Church Reports.

The dioceses, Fort Worth and Quincy, Ill., told The Living Church that they were "shocked" at the timing of the letter.

But at recent conventions, Fort Worth (Texas), Pittsburgh, Quincy (Ill.) and San Joaquin (Calif.) have amended their constitutions to further weaken their allegiance to and participation in, The Episcopal Church.

The changes not only qualify each diocese's accession to General Convention, reserving the right of the diocese to reject bylaws which in their view contradict scripture and/or historic church teachings, but in the case of Quincy, call outright for "realignment" from The Episcopal Church.

The constitutional changes also clearly suggest that the dioceses are preparing legal justification to assert that were some bylaw or doctrine not agreeable to them, they would then no longer be bound by or part of, The Episcopal Church.

The Diocese of Fort Worth constitution, for instance, reserves to the diocese, a creation of The General Convention, the authority to reject whatever action of The General Convention it deems "contrary to Holy Scripture and the Apostolic teaching of this Church."

At its upcoming Convention in November, its "Resolution 2" proposes that Fort Worth refuse to consent to its further inclusion in Province VII of the Church.

At a special convention in September, the Diocese of Quincy passed a resolution "withdrawing diocesan consent to be included in Province V of the Episcopal Church; and suspends requirements that the diocese send deputies to the Provincial Synod or General Convention."

At its Diocesan Convention earlier this month, Quincy resolved: "that the Diocese of Quincy reaffirms the commitment made by our 126th Synod (2003 Resolution RM-3-D), to move forward with the realignment of the Communion in order to preserve a faithful, orthodox Anglican Province within the United States, working together with all bishops, dioceses, congregations, and Provinces of the Anglican Communion who uphold the primacy and authority of Holy Scripture and the historic faith and order of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church."

The bishops of the Dioceses reporting receipt of the letter are well known as opposing recent events in the life of the Episcopal Church, as sanctioned by The General Convention. Jack Iker, Bishop of Forth Worth, is a trustee of the American Anglican Council, which works to have the Episcopal Church "expelled" from the Anglican Communion so that a minority of the Church, may set up their own church.

Keith Ackerman, Bishop of Quincy, recently told a meeting of "conservatives" in England: "You want the creation of a third province. This is extraordinarily important. I don't want a 10th another province in the US as part of The Episcopal Church. I want a 39th province of the Anglican Communion and that is what we are working diligently for in the American Church. "

The Chancellor of The Episcopal Church, the legal advisor to the Presiding Bishop, is a litigation partner in the law firm of Goodwin & Proctor, Washington, D.C. He is scheduled to chair the "Legal Issues Confronting Parishes and Dioceses" workshop at the meeting of The Episcopal Majority on November 3 in Washington, D.C

Quincy and Forth Worth join 4 other dioceses requesting some form of oversight besides The General Convention and Presiding Bishop-elect Katherine Jefferts-Schori. They are Central Florida, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin (California), South Carolina and Springfield (Illinois). The bishops of Fort Worth, Quincy and San Joaquin will not ordain women to the priesthood. Dallas recently announced it had withdrawn its request for alternative oversight.

NB: Curiously, or perhaps not, given their generally sympathetic reporting of the activities of the secessionist dioceses, The Living Church refers to the sent letters as "threats," casting the mutineers as victims of a bullying new Presiding Bishop. What is more curious, as Father Jake notes on his blog, is that Iker of Forth Worth proclaims "shock" that the Church objects to the unwarranted changes in Fort Worth constitution that undermine the intergity and standing of the Church vis a vis the diocese. As Jake notes, perhaps this first wave of letters is just that, only the first wave signalling the arrival of a new Presiding Bishop who, fresh from Canterbury, is prepared to act boldly and swiftly in the name of Christ and His Episcopal Church.

Jim Naughton at The Daily Episcopalian notes: "Folks who don't think that dioceses have the right to decide which of the Church's canons they will comply with think it is shocking that it took so long for these letters to be written."

'Allah is my Lord and yours'

The President of Iran Writes the President of the United States And the Christian Century Wonders What it all Means

Yes, the letter written by President Ahmadinejad of Iran to President Bush last spring is a political document, and is no doubt duplicitous, multilayered and deliberately deceptive.

Yet the letter, framed as an address by one believer in God to another, received little sensible comment in the American media. Suppose the appeal to Bush to take his Christianity seriously is at least in part genuine. Can we American Christians hear this appeal?

Read it all.

Joe Public as Moral Arbiter? God Forbid

Joe Public loves it: how flattering to be asked to adjudicate in these megastars' private lives. But this new approach introduces a new relativism: you are only as good or bad as public opinion rules. It was bad enough to know this existed in politics; now that it has seeped into other areas as well, we really do look morally bankrupt.

Read it all.

NB: There is something to be said for taking into account, certainly in politics and commanding a ship, the states of mind and morale of the crew. This is not to say that the captain is confined to leading based on what the crew tell him or that he can only lead where the crew is willing to follow, unbidden. He must show the way. Naturally he must be the best person for the job.

The obverse is true, of course: a bad captain can scuttle the ship.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

From the Sunday Readings

On the Road to Jerusalem, Jesus Heals a Blind Man
Mark 10:46

"They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimae'us son of Timae'us, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you." So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.' "

An interesting dynamic is evident amongst the people traveling with and following the Lord. The group is on the road to Jerusalem. The disciples, courtesy of The Sons of Thunder, have just been in an argument based on a simple and all too human request: "Lord, let us sit next to you in your glory." They wish to be made great, and ask the Lord to make it so, knowing full well that He has the power.

Into the wake of this request and argument, stumbles the blind beggar. He approaches the Lord, begging for mercy. Many of those on the road with the Lord shout the poor man down with "stern orders."Not the Lord. As He does each and every time someone seeks Him out, the Lord stops, and makes room for the man, telling the crowd, "Call him here." Jesus talks to the man, hears him out, and in the process the man stops screaming and is energized. Then a miracle: the man sees.

It is amazing that even the disciples, who ate and drank and slept and walked with Him, themselves did not understand the full majesty and scope of His Incarnation. Time and again they display their blindness to what is directly before them, and must be instructed that the first will be last, and the last will be first. Even then, after the transfiguration and the feeding of the five thousand, they still do not see. They argue about who is greater. They insist they can sit next in power to the Lord because they too "drink from the same cup" as He.

The blind man begging for mercy gives the lie to their claims. They would just as well see the poor man go away, or at least shut up. It is the Lord alone who hears the man's cries, who calls him near, and dispenses the grace that is His alone to give. Amidst the petty squabbles and complaints, stands the Lord, extending His hand and His love.

Pray for our Gay Brothers and Sisters in the Roman Church: Catholic Bishops Continue Schizophrenic Policies Towards Faithful Gays

A new set of guidelines drafted by U.S. Catholic bishops and expected to be approved at their meeting next month, continues the Roman church's hostility to openly gay and lesbian lives, while urging Roman Catholic parishes to reach out to gay parishioners who "might feel alienated" by the Church.

The report, "Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care," reaffirms chastity for those with "homosexual inclinations," counsels gays and lesbians not to adopt children, and recommends that gays and lesbians not make their orientations public. Those doing so, the report urges, should have their participation in parish leadership severely curtailed.

The guidelines have not yet been published on the Web. The Boston Globe reported on them last week; The New York Times reports on them for Sunday.

Friday, October 27, 2006

++Griswold and +Katharine Lunch with ++Rowan at Lambeth; Still No News on Whether +Katharine Flew Herself, or Chartered

There are new reports that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams--hosting a discussion that affirmed the Episcopal Church's commitment to the shared ministries of the Anglican Communion -- welcomed Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori to Lambeth Palace October 27 for a 90-minute meeting described as a "cordial and collegial" exchange.

Archbishop Williams greeted Griswold and Jefferts Schori in the State Room of Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop's official London residence since the year 1197. After their meeting in the Archbishop's office, Williams accompanied his guests downstairs onto the new tarmac being outfitted in one of the Palace courtyards (photo), and according to one observer, helped +Katharine put on her flight suit by holding her left sleeve, not her right sleeve, a move that outraged two or three conservative Epsicopal clergy who saw in this subtle manuever a further indication that ++Rowan favors the positions espoused by The Episcopal Church.

According to The Anglican Communion News Service, the three also spent "time alone without observers," with one report leaking out that the three seized the opportunity of the "clergy timeout" to play cribbage and eat rum chocolates.

From the Mailbag

Sir: My son, [name redacted] currently serves as a boatswain’s mate onboard the USS Patrick, in the Bay of Bengal. Is it possible for you, Admiral, to contact the captain and have my son transferred to a base, preferably one closer to our home in Jacksonville? Signed, Mrs. H. Matterson
Madam: After several enquiries I have been rebuffed in my attempts to reassign your son. He is needed where he is. I am assured that he is healthy and hale and spending his leave hours not enjoying to the fullest the temptations and wiles of Madras, but studying the Scriptures in his berth. Yours, The AoM

Sir: I write to you from the Anglican Reformed Episcopal Orthodox Catholic Church of Christ (Apostolic). May I point out that we have a fine web site, developed and maintained by one of our many young people.We wish you to develop a link to us so that others seeking the one, true, Anglican Reformed Episcopal Orthodox Catholic faith, might find fellowship with us. Our web portal includes an interactive version of our Book of Common Prayer, the 1928 Niagara Recension with the pages in the corrected order and the various patterns of worship simplified and corrected to capture the faith as it was best transmitted and received in the month of September, 427 A.D. Signed, Mr. A. Jenison, Junior Warden
Sir: I am delighted to discover in your words, the strength of your faith. My best wishes to you and your parish. I will take the request under advisement. Yours, The AoM

Sir: We are unable to access your pages. Our servers redirect our browsers into an infinite loop. If possible, could you send us the hardcopies, which we will recycle judiciously. Signed, The Editors, Propinquus: A Silliman Miscellany.
Gentlemen:Your request brings to mind a similar request I made several years ago while stationed in Buenos Aires. My duties included occasional research at the National Library there for my commanding officer. Is it possible, I asked one of the many knowledgeable and helpful librarians, that I might move a chair thusly, to afford a better view of the sea, from which distant vantage, arises plume of battle? (This was during the British-Argentine War or as it is also known, The Falkland Islands War.) I was told, Sir, your request is impossible, the chairs are bolted. Gentlemen, my apologies. Yours, The AoM

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

In Sydney, Highest Ranking Woman Leads Opposition to Women Priests

As the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, Australia, meeting in annual Synod, voted again to not revisit the issue of whether women should be ordained priests, one of the loudest voices leading the charge against women priests was the diocese's highest ranking woman, Archdeacon Narelle Jarrett, Principal of Mary Andrew's College, formerly the diocese's "deaconess college."

"People keep saying to me there are no positions for women. There are,'" said Archdeacon Jarrett.

The diocese, historically evangelically conservative, is run by two brothers, Archbishop Peter Jensen, and his brother Phillip, whom he appointed to Dean of the Sydney Cathedral in 2003. Clergy in the diocese, part of the Anglican Church in Australia, have an historically developed independence from other dioceses in the Australian church, where women in fact do serve as priests and clergy wear traditional clerical garb. Archbishop Jensen, or Dr. Jensen, as he prefers to be called, wears a suit and tie, for instance, and in church he is often mistaken for a dentist or taxidermist by those who do not know him.

Various reports from their synod are available here. An interesting compilation of the history of female ordination in the Anglican Communion and its national churches, may be accessed here.

NB: Next month, Bishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori will be installed as the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church in the United States, making her the first woman primate, or head bishop, of a Province in the Anglican Communion. At regular primates' meetings, of note will be how she gets along with Peter Jensen and other primates opposed to women's ordination. Perhaps if they meet below the equator, she will be able to fly herself away (she is a pilot) and land on the lawns of the "deaconess college" to speak to some of the other girls, letting them see firsthand that outside of Sydney, the Biblical grounds for female ordination are live, breathing persons called by God.

Washington Diocese to Have Flying Bishop

The Diocese of Washington reports that All Saints Parish in Chevy Chase, MD, will have certain activities supervised and performed by Bishop Edward Salmon of the Dicoese of South Carolina as part of a "supplemental oversight" pastoral arrangement to resolve disagreements between the parish and their bishop, John Chane. Bishop Chane appointed Bishop Salmon to visit the parish from time to time, to confirm on his behalf, and to supervise the process of discernment of individuals who wish to explore their potential call to ordination. Bishop Chane will continue to make canonical visitations to the parish and work with candidates for ordination under Bishop Salmon's oversight.

In a letter to the parish outlining the agreement, Bishop Chane noted that "It has become evident in recent months that the current leaders and a substantial majority of the congregation believe that they have significant theological disagreements with me. By initiating the invitation to the leadership of All Saints to consider supplemental pastoral oversight and by asking Bishop Salmon to assist me in this way, I have sought to provide a path toward continued relationship. The goal before us remains, as the Archbishop of Canterbury has said, for us to seek to be in “the highest degree of communion” with one another."

The diocese reports on the development at their website and at their blog, The Daily Episcopalian. The letter by Bishop Chane may be read in full here.

NB: The agreement is a sound and workable flying bishop arrangement that recognizes the integrity of all parties, including the diocesan bishop. Such canonical visitation agreements have an old provenance, as "flying bishops" or "provincial episcopal visitors" in the Church of England and wider Anglican Communion; and less commonly, as "apostolic visitors" in The Roman Catholic Church. As an arrangement with historical precedence and practical application, it could serve as a model approach throughout The Episcopal Church.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Lies About Commitment to Faith Will Cost Republicans, Report says

President Bush, strategist Karl Rove and other top Republicans have wooed Latino and black leaders, many of them evangelical clergy who lead large congregations, in hopes of peeling away the traditional Democratic base. But now some of the leaders who helped Bush win in 2004 are revisiting their loyalty to the Republican Party and, in some cases, abandoning it.

Read the entire thing here.

NB: Part of this backlash is the result of Tempting Faith by David Kuo, former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. As his expose makes the rounds and is more widely read by conservative and/or evangelical Christians who believed (or made themselves believe) they were doing right by becoming a functioning arm of a political party, they may be shocked to discover what many of the rest of us discerned some time ago: they were being manipulated and used by a political party for political benefit. What is perhaps worse since it is damaging to the Good News and the institutions of the Church universal, is how easily and willingly, many evangelical and conservative Christians have been to become part of a right wing political machine utterly divorced from the imperatives and dictates of the actual words of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Archbishop Tutu Preaches as Nathan Baxter Consecrated Bishop of Central Pennsylvania

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa was on hand with nearly 5,000 other lay and clergy as the Rev. Nathan Baxter, a third generation clergyman, was consecrated the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold was the chief consecrator at the October 21 event; 25 other bishops from around the Anglican Communion, and representatives from ecumenical partners, also attended.

Baxter has been rector of St. James, the largest parish in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, since October 2003. The diocese has more than 16,000 Episcopalians in 71 congregations and one mission.

A native of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the seat of the diocese, Baxter was graduated in 1976 from the Lancaster Theological Seminary. After canonical studies at the Diocesan School of Christian Studies, he was ordained deacon in June 1977 and priest the following December by Bishop Dean T. Stevenson.

From 1991 to 2003, Baxter was the dean of Washington National Cathedral. During that time, he led the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance Service following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and officiated at the memorial service for the crew of the space shuttle, Columbia. He presided over the funerals and memorial services of many prominent Americans including Thurgood Marshall, William Colby, William Fulbright, Clark Clifford, Pamela Harriman, Ron Brown and Katherine Graham, as well as the American memorial service for Princess Diana.

Bishop Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and a family friend of Bishop Baxter, preached that like the good shepherd in the Gospel John, the bishop is one "who lays down his life for his flock," especially sheltering the vulnerable, the hungry, the poor, the abused, and anyone else "with no clout."

NB: It is difficult to disagree with nearly anything Bishop Tutu says or preaches. He was Archbishop of Cape Town during some of the worst abuses of the apartheid system and at every turn disarmed this evil system and its proponents with the clear power of the transformative and liberating truth of the Word. Throughout his life he has reminded us all of the reality of the living God and that He demands justice and mercy.

Those Anglican bishops and clergy in Africa, who sadly too often seem to be little more than extensions of their (often corrupt) political establishments or who spend their energies condemning other Christians and scapegoating the most vulnerable of their populations, should feel humiliated when they compare themselves to Bishop Tutu.

National Council of Churches Reissues "Christian Principles in an Election Year"

Just in time for the elections, the nation's leading ecumenical organization, of which the Episcopal Church is a founding member, highlights 10 principles which it says should inform voting.

1. War is contrary to the will of God. While the use of violent force may, at times, be a necessity of last resort, Christ pronounces his blessing on the peacemakers. We look for political leaders who will make peace with justice a top priority and who will actively seek nonviolent solutions to conflict.

2. God calls us to live in communities shaped by peace and cooperation. We reject policies that abandon large segments of our inner city and rural populations to hopelessness. We look for political leaders who will re-build our communities and bring an end to the cycles of violence and killing.

3. God created us for each other, and thus our security depends on the well being of our global neighbors. We look for political leaders for whom a foreign policy based on cooperation and global justice is an urgent concern.

4. God calls us to be advocates for those who are most vulnerable in our society. We look for political leaders who yearn for economic justice and who will seek to reduce the growing disparity between rich and poor.

5. Each human being is created in the image of God and is of infinite worth. We look for political leaders who actively promote racial justice and equal opportunity for everyone.

6. The earth belongs to God and is intrinsically good. We look for political leaders who recognize the earth's goodness, champion environmental justice, and uphold our responsibility to be stewards of God's creation.

7. Christians have a biblical mandate to welcome strangers. We look for political leaders who will pursue fair immigration policies and speak out against xenophobia.

8. Those who follow Christ are called to heal the sick. We look for political leaders who will support adequate, affordable and accessible health care for all.

9. Because of the transforming power of God's grace, all humans are called to be in right relationship with each other. We look for political leaders who seek a restorative, not retributive, approach to the criminal justice system and the individuals within it.

10. Providing enriched learning environments for all of God's children is a moral imperative. We look for political leaders who advocate for equal educational opportunity and abundant funding for children's services.

Finally, our religious tradition admonishes us not to bear false witness against our neighbor and to love our enemies. We ask that the campaigns of political candidates and the coverage of the media in this election season be conducted according to principles of fairness, honesty and integrity.

Your church, your communion, and the National Council of Churches USA do not endorse any political party or any candidate.

Be that as it may, our Christian faith compels us to address the world through the lens of our relationship to God and to one another. Public discourse is enhanced as we engage civic leaders on the values and ethics affirmed by our faith. At the same time, religious liberty and the integrity of our democracy will be protected as candidates refrain from using faith-based organizations and institutions for partisan gain. We offer these 10 principles to those seeking to accept the responsibility that comes with holding public office.

These principles were developed by the National Council of Churches USA's Justice and Advocacy Commission and approved by the NCC's Executive Committee.

NB: The list seems to me a fine enumeration of the various qualities to be desired and priorities to be worked at as voters decide for whom to pull the lever. The issue is not whether these are the correct principles, (although some might argue each and every one) but whether the possibility exists that any politician, could do them all justice. No one politican comes immediately to mind.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Episcopalians Are Shifting on Blessings of Civil Unions; ++Robinson Speaks At General Theological Seminary

The New York Times reports Monday that The Episcopal Church is pushing ahead with steps to normalize the participation of gay, lesbian and bisexual parishioners and clergy in the life of the church, despite opposition by some conservatives. The report follows the announcement by the Bishop of Connecticut over the weekend at the Diocesan Convention, that the Diocese of Connecticut will permit parishes to recognize civil unions under certain circumstances. The article may be read here.

A few reports on Bishop Robinson's visit and address to the General Theological seminary earlier in October are now available.

"Bishop Robinson Welcomed at General Theological Seminary"
"Openly Gay Bishop Spreads The Gospel of Inclusion"
"Seminary Must Survive for Gay Rights and for Chelsea"

Updated Tuesday: Meanwhile, The Diocese of Sydney, Australia, meeting in annual synod, has issued a warning "that looming changes would adversely affect the status of the Archbishop of Canterbury." The diocese, perhaps the most evangelical diocese in the entire Communion, has also decided to formally oppose openly gay clergy and the blessing of same sex unions, while recognizing that The Episcopal Church has assumed a "missionary-like" stance on the issue. One report is here; another, here. A third report published Tuesday, focuses more on Jensen's opposition to gay clergy than on the implication in the other reports, that such differences may be matters for each province to decide.

Disestablish the Church of England, Ekklesia Urges

Britian has become "post-Christian" and Christianity has been corrupted by its easy alliance with the status quo, the think tank Ekklesia says in a new release. One solution: disestablish the Church of England and allow the Church to become more "marginal" and less controlling, so that it may regain its moral authority.

The release disseminated over the weekend may be read here. The report noted in the release, first promulgated over the summer,"Redeeming Religion in the Public Square," may be read here.

NB: One possible result of the disestablishment of the Church could be how the seat of Canterbury is filled. Currently the Archbishop of Canterbury is selected by the monarch. If the Church were disestablished, it might open the way for a more Communion-wide process. Certainly, honey to ease the swallowing of any "Anglican Covenant" substantially altering the historical interaction amongst bishops and provinces.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

From the Sunday Readings

Job 38, The LORD Answers Job

1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:
2 "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
4 "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements--surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
7 when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy? "

The Lord's response to Job is a good reminder that though we might want to know the precise parameters of truth, and insist that we have it at all times, we will not be able to do so. We know that Gods's fullest understanding is the divine Word as He incarnated in Christ. But our ability to grasp the precise scope and shape of His truth completely, is limited.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Saturday Reviews and Opinion

Belief in God Foolish: Oxford Professor
In his new book The God Delusion, reviewed for tomorrow's Times, Oxford Professor of Science Richard Dawkins argues that belief in God is a foolhardy delusion, and that to be an atheist is a "brave and splendid" aspiration.

Belief in God is not only a delusion, he argues, but a "pernicious" one. On a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is certitude that God exists and 7 is certitude that God does not exist, Dawkins rates himself a 6: "I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there."

Oh dear. I think I may be a 1 or 1.5 on the God scale. What about you?

Read the full review here.

America is finally revolting against the Republicans
Sex, money and Iraq are a triple-whammy of reasons for voters to turn against President George Bush and his party, Andrew Rawnsley writes for The Observer. Perhaps one or two people might shed a tear at such a development; but even then, it might be the whiskey talking.

The Prestige Debuts
In 1995, British author Christopher Priest wrote an excellent novel called The Prestige, about two dueling Victorian magicians. It won the 1996 World Fantasy Award. It has premiered as a movie starring Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johannson, and Michael Caine. The two magicians start out as friends but become enemies for life as they utilize the fantastical new powers of electricity and the secrets of radical inventor Nikola Tesla.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Via Media: Church Should Refuse Consent to Secessionist Bishop-Elect of South Carolina

Updated Saturday
In letters sent October 19 to bishops with jurisdiction and all the Episcopal Church's diocesan standing committees, Via Media USA argues that the episcopacy of the bishop-elect of the Diocese of South Carolina "would represent a threat to the unity of our church and to the cohesion" of the diocese.

In response to one of three questions presented to the South Carolina candidates prior to a series of meetings with the diocese, the bishop-elect, the Very Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, 56, said he approved of the APO requests, calling them "a temporary gasp for air" that is needed while the Communion works out a new "Anglican ecclesiology."

Via Media USA's letters argue that "Father Lawrence's episcopacy would represent a threat to the unity of our church and to the cohesion of the Diocese of South Carolina."

The diocese of South Carolina is regarded as one of the dioceses most hostile to the leadership and General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

In the face of this, The Episcopal Forum, a group of South Carolina Episcopalians, has been working
to preserve unity with diversity in the Diocese of South Carolina and within The Episcopal Church, through the inclusion of a broad range of Scriptural understandings, and by upholding the democratic actions of its Constitution and Canons, conventions and elected leadership. They have a gathering scheduled for October 26.

Read more on the Via Media development at Episcopal News Service.

Update: It would be absurd and destructive to approve the consent of a clergyman who may be prepared to try to withdraw his diocese from The Episcopal Church or who views such actions favorably. In naval terms the equivalent would be promoting to captain a man who has stated he may sink his own ship once he has command of it.

In their letter, Via Media point out that "Father Lawrence has endorsed separating the Diocese of South Carolina from the Episcopal Church and has advocated that the authority of the General Convention be surrendered to the primates of the Anglican Communion. Under these circumstances, it is difficult to see how Father Lawrence could be asked or expected to take the vow required of each bishop in The Episcopal Church to 'guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church' (BCP page 517)."

The obvious solution is to demand assurances he will not do so or barring this, refuse to give him consent.

The Church should not consent to put in a position of authority a man who will work to undermine this very Church.

Trustees of Canterbury: We Need £50 Million

Trustees say Cathedral is
"Once Again Under Attack"

The trustees of Canterbury Cathedral, never exactly known for mincing words, recently reached new heights of stewardship (if not chutzpah) when they launched a "worldwide programme" to save Canterbury Cathedral.

Declaring the Cathedral "under attack" from dirt, children, tourists, the gargoyles, a woman with a red hat, and various balls of dust collecting in the yards since the days of Alphege, the trustees hope to excite the worldwide Anglican Communion to pony up more than £50 million desperately needed to repair several pipes, some missing bricks, and the wheelchair ramp in the back.

Coming as it does at a time when the Anglican Communion is deciding if it wants to be a Communion anymore, the dire missive sent out over the Anglican Communion News Service (which apparently anyone can send anything over no matter how galling or inaccurate) tends to prove that Archbishop Rowan Williams does indeed have his eyes set on a bright future.

"This great Cathedral is home for everyone in the Anglican Communion wherever they may be around the world," Rowan Cantaur said. "It is also a place of welcome where visitors from every continent, regardless of belief or creed, can come to experience this unique centre of worship, of education and learning, of craftsmanship and heritage, of music and culture, and of friendship and understanding."

In news unrelated to the drive to remove every penny from their parishioners' pockets, the Church of England recently reported that attendance at its churches had continued to level off, but at a pace slower than before.

One idea floated to improve attendance, especially amongst the children (in the CoE this is anyone under 47) is the insertion in weekly bulletins, of seek-a-word inserts under the rubric, "Now What Did He Say."

Under the plan, the mystery words would be selections of Dr. Williams' uncannily dense pronouncements on this or that current matter of burning Anglican issue, which the plan's advancers see as the makings of a puzzle for the ages, or at least as unsolvable by end of service time. The key to the success of this plan would be to collect each insert from each parishioner, so that they would have to return the following week in order to complete it. The plan is currently being discussed at the highest levels, but not on the Internet, in order to avoid confusion and any possibility of schism over the precise ordering of the word clues.

The full appeal for the Cathedral can be viewed here.

A Blueprint for the Network: Less Spin, More Torture

Torquemada, I decided as we rounded the soft cliffs of the Bay of Fundy, would be very much at home in the rooms of the American Anglican Council and its front group, the Anglican Communion Network.

For those of you who were born yesterday or have been at sea for 521 years, Torquemada ran a tight ship, a quality which if we excise his other shortcomings (torture, murder, branding and the like) would locate him as an endearing figure in naval villainy. He would be right at home on The Bounty, The Caine, or The Pequod:

1420-98, Spanish churchman and inquisitor. A Dominican, he became confessor to Ferdinand II and Isabella I and in 1483 was appointed inquisitor general of Castile and Aragón, charged with the centralization of the Spanish Inquisition. He was largely instrumental in bringing about the expulsion of the Jews in 1492. His great authority was contested by colleagues and was diminished in some measure by the pope, but he remained preeminent until his death. Torquemada owes his reputation for cruelty to the harsh rules of procedure that he devised for the Inquisition and to the rigor with which he had them enforced. (TCE, 6th)

As they move from spinning, propaganda, insults and emotional infantilism into the heavy lifting of rooting out heresy and all love-related paganisms from our beloved Church and Communion , the leadership of the AAC and ACN are advised to look to Torquemada for inspiration.

They may all be bloodbrothers.

For years, these Episcopalians who define themselves primarily by being anti-Episcopalian, have been doing really little of positive significance.

Their fundamentalist and reactionary funds have been spent on trying to destabilize their own church. Too many of their clergy leaders-all of them sworn to uphold and protect the Episcopal Church, and being paid by it-have spent I calculate: 75.7 percent of their energies yelling at priests, laymen, bishops, deacons and anyone else they don't like or have a grudge against; 10% of their energies on picking out the color of Martyn Minns's shorts and arguing over which "Windsor Diocese" gets to wash them; 10% figuring out ways to destabilize General Convention and get a pension at the same time; 5% entering the words of Rowan Williams into a Cray supercomputer so that plain English may be outputted; and the remaining 10% of their lives, mooing over Bob Duncan. (All told this equals 110.7 percent but in Christ all things are possible.)

It is time for the leadership of this spidery Network to stop spinning and get real work. To this end I hereby offer a blueprint for what they deep in their hearts, wish to do anyway: Reinstate the Inquisition across the entire Communion to ferret out heresy and weak doctrine, and return us all to the glorious days of an Inquisition dedicated to ferreting out heresy and weak doctrine.

We all know where they would begin.

With the gays and the lesbians who have been with us in our pews, altars, berths, and wardrooms since we have been gathering together in these places, but who in the name of Christ because life in Him is is truth, wish to end the lies they may have assumed and live as God created them. Aye, as he meant them to be, full members, fully alive, of the Body of Christ.

We know the general thrust of the Inquisitors' pokers because they have been brandishing them for years on the Internet, at conventions, in secret meetings and memos, in requests for DEPO and ALPO and purity, and wherever good Christians have gathered to proclaim the Gospel of Christ: Have you now or at any time harbored or otherwise felt, love for another of your own sex, my brother? (T19 crosses himself.) Confess it, that your soul may be saved.

Father Johns, of late rector at a parish not at all preaching the Network screed but preaching instead the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ: I have loved. I confess it. I fear that this love will cost you your soul and that of others in your pew, especially that nice young couple with 6 children who give $50 every week. Repent.
Father Johns: I will not. By what authority do you question me? By the authority of this red hot poker.

The Inquisitors would begin with our gay/lesbian brothers and sisters but would not end there. After this first group, they would then pursue those who see in the virtues of love between two people, the work of Christ, because these people have "facilitated and allowed this slippery slope of apostasy for going on 30 years now."

And after them, who?

Perhaps all those who are divorced, especially if they are divorced and remarried; or if they are divorced and remarried and happy, and clergy.

And then, those who fail to meet their criteria for this or that "essential doctrine" of faith as promulgated and enforced by them. Or those who fail or refuse to sign their names to a confessional screed developed by them.

Then, perhaps those who were not born Episcopalian but who are anyway welcome in our churches; or who came late to the Episcopal Church, for example because they were not baptized until they were 2 years old.

The point is not so much where it would go, but that their race for purity would not end, once begun. Why would it?

The Inquisitors are already working hard to ferret out heresy and wrong doctrine in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, by working mightily to wound His body in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

Once the gates of Torquemada were opened, nothing would get in their way, much less the protestations of their own Christian brothers and sisters, who in the name of love and in grace, have loved. Since they see in such, nothing human, but in fact, the work of evil and apostasy, why don't they simply get down to work? What better way to confront evil, then at the end of a red hot poker?

It often appears as if it is a dark time in the life of our Church. But that is mere appearance. The reality is that the light is always dawning because the Light has already won, and He won it before any of us reading these words was ever born. And this victory came not by our doing and not by our own wills; but by the Grace and Love of God the Father and of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Quo vadis? This is an easy question to answer in His glare. I go with those chained against the wall, choking on the Garrotte, and roasting alive, in the name of love, mercy and truth. Because it is there that I find Christ on the Cross.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Raison d'Etre (French/Freedom for "He got it from Me")

It recently came to my attention that Peter Beckwith, the Vice Chairman of the American Anglican Council, a group devoted to breaking up the Episcopal Church, is himself a bishop in The Episcopal Church, of Springfield Diocese.

Shockingly, he styles himself "the admiral of morality" in his Diocese apparently since he holds the rank of Rear Admiral in the service reserve and served as a Navy chaplain.

I am offended. I am the Admiral of Morality. Beckwith was never aboard my ship. Furthermore I have been using the term longer than he has. He may be older than me but that is not pertinent as I outrank him. Hence this blog.

It's not important to note that a bishop of a church can also be a vice chair of a group dedicated to breaking that church up, so I won't note it very much, because as we all know what is really important is just doing what you want despite what you should be doing. I have served aboard many ships and doing whatever you like despite your pay grade and mission, is tantamount to insubordination, or at least irony.

Perhaps Beckwith is an ironic bishop in the way that some of us are ironic bowlers? For example, after Bishop Beckwith began his episcopacy in Springfield in 1992, he initiated "Vision 2000," a plan to emphasize and promote pastoral care, Christian formation, and stewardship. Apparently he concludes it is best to promote pastoral care and and formation by working to undermine TEC, revoking lay episcopal ministers' licenses, and not confirming anybody in a parish.

Forgive me. I digress. I simply wanted to emphasize that I am the Admiral of Morality, I have been using the title for quite some time, and this blog will be reminding us all of this from time to time.