Admiral of Morality: November 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Declare San Joaquin Vacant

Current bishop has a well earned "F" in polity, Christian charity, and humility

In a stark and deliberate shirking of his responsibilities to the Episcopal Church and to his own episcopacy, which must now be regarded as a failure in need of immediate repair, the current bishop of San Joaquin has replied to the November 20 letter of ++Bishop Katharine with language richly attesting to his abandonment of our Church.

The particulars of his letter need not be referenced in detail because at this date the Network's blusterous and stiff-necked statements have become well-worn caricature. What is somewhat new in this instance is that the elderly Schofield seems to have so gleefully accepted the role of public test case (or crazy uncle) for the Network.

His letter is mostly strident language, threats to not prevent the "intervention" by primates interested in snapping up Episcopal parishes and monies, and the sad self-fueling anger and isolation that has characterized too many Network clergy and bishops since the coalescence of the group in 2004.

The letter, composed on Episcopal Church letterhead, is a mishmash of threats, lack of good will, and an unswerving refusal to build up or in any way recognize the Episcopal Church, its people, and work. In any person, the freedoms to assume such positions are guaranteed. In a bishop of the church, they are not tantamount to, but in fact are, an abandonment of the Church he has sworn more than once, to protect and build up.

The final withering of Schofield's authority and legitimacy may arrive by this weekend's upcoming diocesan Convention, which he has urged repeatedly and publicly to disown its own Church. ++Katharine has reminded him in her letter that urging such, invites inhibition and a new bishop of San Joaquin.

And yet, the destabilization and division of the Church, are the very activities that Schofield's new letter again so eagerly anticipates and promotes.

If every Network bishop were graded independently of the other there no doubt might be some variation along the bell curve in the areas of Christian charity, humility, honesty, unity, and Episcopal polity.

But not so in the case of John Schofield. He has richly earned an "F" in polity, humility, honesty and in basic episcopacy. He may be forgiven these shortcomings, but the Church must not continue to countenance them in a Bishop of San Joaquin.

To maintain the integrity of the Episcopal Church, to protect the spiritual well being of its people and institutions, and to hold to account a rogue episcopacy, he should be presented at the first opportunity.

Episcopal Church proposes "Primatial Vicar"

A response to requests for "alternative primatial oversight"
A bold plan that could work, provided the goal is in fact "the highest degree of communion possible"

The Episcopal News Service has released preliminary details regarding plans for a "Primatial Vicar" who would represent the Presiding Bishop in dioceses that have expressed a need for an alternative pastoral arrangement.

The plan would have the vicar under the authority of the Presiding Bishop and reporting on his work to an advisory panel composed of the designee of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop's designee, a bishop of The Episcopal Church selected by the petitioning dioceses, and the President of the House of Deputies (or designee).

Here is the full release:

A group of bishops, including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, has developed a proposal responding to "An Appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury" addressing what other petitioning bishops and dioceses have termed "alternative primatial oversight" or "alternative primatial relationship." Full texts of the group's response and accompanying statement follow here.

A Response to "An Appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury"

Some bishops and dioceses of the Episcopal Church have requested that the Archbishop of Canterbury provide what they have variously called "alternative primatial oversight" or an "alternative primatial relationship." In consultation with the Presiding Bishop, the Archbishop of Canterbury proposed that a number of bishops from the Episcopal Church meet to explore a way forward. A first meeting took place in September, and a second meeting in November developed the following proposal that seeks to address the concerns of those parishes and dioceses which for serious theological reasons feel a need for space, and to encourage them to remain within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

1. Taking seriously the concerns of the petitioning bishops and dioceses, the Presiding Bishop, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, will appoint a Primatial Vicar in episcopal orders to serve as the Presiding Bishop's designated pastor in such dioceses. The Primatial Vicar could preside at consecrations of bishops in these dioceses. The Primatial Vicar could also serve the dioceses involved on any other appropriate matters either at the initiative of the Presiding Bishop or at the request of the petitioning dioceses.

2. The Primatial Vicar would be accountable to the Presiding Bishop and would report to an Advisory Panel that would consist of the designee of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop's designee, a bishop of The Episcopal Church selected by the petitioning dioceses, and the President of the House of Deputies (or designee).

3. This arrangement for a Primatial Vicar does not affect the administrative or other canonical duties of the Presiding Bishop
except to the degree that the Presiding Bishop may wish to delegate, when appropriate, some of those duties to the Primatial Vicar. The Primatial Vicar and the Advisory Panel shall function in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.

4. Individual congregations who dissent from the decisions of their diocesan leadership are reminded of the availability of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight and its process of appeal.

5. This arrangement is provisional in nature, in effect for three years, beginning January 1, 2007. During that time, the Presiding Bishop is asked to monitor its efficacy and to consult with the House of Bishops and the Executive Council regarding this arrangement and possible future developments.


A group of bishops, including the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, gathered at the initiative of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has developed a proposal for the appointment of a Primatial Vicar in response to those bishops and dioceses that have requested what they termed "alternative primatial oversight" or an "alternative primatial relationship."

Those present at the September meeting, in addition to Bishops Griswold and Jefferts Schori, included Bishops Peter James Lee of Virginia, and Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida, as co-conveners, and Bishops James Stanton of Dallas, Edward Salmon of South Carolina, Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, Jack Iker of Fort Worth, Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina, Robert O'Neill of Colorado, and Mark Sisk of New York. Bishop Don Wimberly of Texas was invited but did not attend. The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion was also present at the September meeting.

The same bishops and Canon Kearon were invited to the November meeting with the exception of Bishop Griswold who had completed his tenure as Presiding Bishop. Bishop Don Johnson of West Tennessee joined the group in November. Bishops Salmon, Stanton, Iker, Duncan and Wimberly did not attend the November meeting. Bishop Lipscomb, who had been
involved in the planning of the meeting, was unexpectedly hospitalized at the time of the November meeting, sent his sincere regrets, and was briefed on the meeting at its conclusion.

The proposal provides for the appointment by the Presiding Bishop, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury of a Primatial Vicar as the Presiding Bishop's designated pastor to bishops and dioceses that have requested such oversight. The Primatial Vicar, in episcopal orders, could preside at consecrations of bishops in those dioceses.

The Primatial Vicar, accountable to the Presiding Bishop, would report to an advisory panel that would include the designees of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies, and a bishop of the Episcopal Church selected by the dioceses petitioning for pastoral care by the Primatial Vicar.

The response makes clear that the arrangement does not affect the administrative or other canonical duties of the Presiding Bishop except to the degree that the Presiding Bishop may wish to delegate some of those duties to the Primatial Vicar. The response also specifies that the Primatial Vicar and the Advisory Panel shall function in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

The response drafted at the New York November 27th meeting is provisional in nature, beginning January 1, 2007 and continuing for three years. The New York group asked the Presiding Bishop to monitor its efficacy, and to consult with the House of Bishops and the Executive Council regarding the arrangement and possible future developments.

The response has been submitted to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to the bishops of the petitioning dioceses.

Bishop Lee of Virginia, co-convenor of the meetings that drafted the response said: "The group was conscious of the need to respond quickly to the needs of parishes and dioceses which felt themselves to be under pressure and sought a proposal which could be put into place without delay. Accordingly, this is a provisional measure that is entirely within the discretion of the Presiding Bishop and requires no canonical change nor any action by the General Convention. It is intended to provide some space for dioceses and congregations that feel they need it while the Anglican Communion sorts out more lasting measures to deal with differences. Those of us who drafted it hope it will be received and used in good faith."

Have a Walker Texas Ranger Christmas

There are some days where the Rapture seems closer than others. Not because of any particular Biblical sign, mind you, but simply because of some ephemeral, wafting scent through the air, a scent that seems to convey stupidity like nothing else, and which seems to hint that the end must surely be near, because the human race reached apogee with the invention of tempered safety glass, and it's been all downhill since then.

In this case, that particular scent of apocalypse smells like a mix between weak pot and strong battery acid, which is pretty much exactly what I would expect a World Net Daily commentary by Chuck Norris -- yes, that Chuck Freaking Norris, the commentary in this case about how to keep Christmas holy via your shopping habits -- to smell like.
The National Retail Federation, the largest retail trade association, is projecting only a 5 percent increase in Christmas season sales over last year, to the tune of $457.4 billion. That compares with last year's 6.1 percent increase. [...]

What alarms me most, however, are not any economic forecasts, but the progressive disappearance of retail Christmas terminology.

What ever happened to ''Christmas?"

Dude, it's f@$#ing November. If someone in retail did wish me a "Merry Christmas" on November twentysomethingeth, I'd probably have to give them a roundhouse kick to the mistletoe just out of personal spite.

But just out of morbid curiosity, how many people here believe that Chuck Freaking Norris keeps close tabs on the doings of the National Retail Federation and their holiday retail forecasts?

Read it all at Daily Kos.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The end of the United Kingdom?

David Goodhart, founder and editor of Prospect magazine, the London-based current affairs monthly, fears that one of the world's most successful multinational states, and a key ally of the United States, could in a few months time start to unravel.
"I mean, of course, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The process will be set in motion if the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) ends up the largest party in the Scottish parliament after elections next May. This is a distinct possibility. The break up of the UK will not be inevitable even if the SNP do dominate the parliament, but it will certainly make the political classes of Britain -- and perhaps of the U.S. and the main EU states too -- think hard about the point and value of the union to them. (Ironically, the elections will come just a matter of days after the 300th anniversary of the creation of modern Britain when the Scottish and English parliaments were merged in 1707.)"

Read the rest of his comment here. The Prospect carries the story on its December cover here.

The idea of the UK breaking up because the Scots wish to exercise greater control over their domestic affairs is spectacularly unlikely.

Still, as Scots prepare for the May 2007 referendum on the question of increased local control through its national parliament, reintroduced in 1997 after nearly 300 years, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church is reminding all Brits of the historic ties of affection binding Scotland and England.

In Independence or Union, The Most Rev Dr Idris Jones says,
“The future for Scotland lies in the development of inter-dependence. The world’s peace is not best served by having everyone living with a sense of separateness - we are debating now about how to promote integration within our own nation. Nor is the world’s health served without being able to sustain and harness distinctiveness of cultures and nations as well. The way forward is not by opposing Union to Independence but by working towards inter-dependence based on mutual respect and trust."

And now for something slightly different--Creature Comforts

No neutral corner: Being Anglican in a time of angry polarization

God's quarrel is with the whole human race, white and black, male and female, liberal and conservative, rich and poor, gay and straight

Almost overlooked in the media frenzy over the spectacular fall from grace of megachurch pastor Ted Haggard was the installation on Nov. 4 of Katharine Jefferts Schori as the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the 78 million-member Anglican Communion.

Like Nancy Pelosi, who will become the first woman speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007, Bishop Jefferts Schori is also a pioneer, becoming at her installation in the National Cathedral the first woman ever to preside over an Anglican province in the nearly 500-year history of the Anglican Communion. Both women assume their new roles in troubled times.

The Anglican troubles began in 2003, when the Episcopal Church decided to consecrate an openly gay man as the bishop of New Hampshire. This act ignited a religious civil war that spread rapidly around the world.

Conservative Anglicans regard the election and consecration of an openly gay bishop as a repudiation of biblical authority. In their view, gay sex is a forbidden activity for Christians, as St. Paul and the holiness code of Leviticus make clear. Indeed, conservatives regard attraction to members of one's own sex as a disordered form of love that needs to be overcome rather than expressed - a traditional position recently reiterated by the American bishops of the Roman Catholic Church.

Liberal Anglicans - including Jefferts Schori - disagree. In their view, homosexuality is not a choice. Human beings are born gay. They no more choose to be gay or lesbian than they choose to be tall or short. What they can decide is whether to be promiscuous, taking their pleasures where they find them, or to be faithful to one partner in a lifetime commitment of mutual love and respect.

Liberals believe that Jesus calls heterosexuals to a life of sexual fidelity as heterosexuals and homosexuals to the same standard of fidelity as gay and lesbian. Both are included in the general call to holiness, and no one stands outside the circle of God's loving acceptance.

And that is where the argument stands at the present time. Simply put, the two opposing positions, liberal and conservative, could not be more sharply different. Either gay sex is a disordered form of love and needs to be renounced, or it is part of God's good creation and needs only to be faithful.

This polarized state of affairs has left moderates in the Anglican communion depressed and dispirited. Moderates are people who are appalled by the willingness of both liberals and conservatives to accept schism as the price of defending the truth, however differently both sides define "the truth."

They agree with the late Reinhold Niebuhr that God's quarrel is not with this or that faction of the human family. God's quarrel is with the whole human race, white and black, male and female, liberal and conservative, rich and poor, gay and straight.

Jefferts Schori echoed Niebuhr when she suggested that the present crisis in the Anglican Communion is not the fault of liberals only or of conservatives only, however much each side would like to blame the other. The crisis represents the failure of everyone, liberal and conservative alike, to nurture, love and pray each other into the greater holiness and wisdom these trying times demand.

Speaker-designate Pelosi faces a similar crisis. Can political liberals and conservatives declare a truce in their culture wars long enough to identify and work collaboratively toward a common good? If not, the failure will not be the fault of conservatives only or of liberals only. The failure will be the fault of both. Or, as Pogo once memorably put it, "We have met the enemy and it is us."

Of course, the question is always posed in morally sharper terms to the church than it is to society in general. After all, liberal and conservative Anglicans are joined to each other by the waters of baptism, a bond they believe is thicker than blood. They share a common history and liturgical tradition, celebrate an identical list of saints and martyrs, laugh at the same self-deprecating jokes, support many of the same charitable projects, recite a common creed, and participate in a common Eucharist.

If, given these shared memories, Anglicans cannot love and forgive each other, whom exactly can they love and forgive?

David C. Steinmetz is the Amos Ragan Kearns professor of the history of Christianity at the Divinity School of Duke University in Durham, N.C. He wrote this for the Orlando Sentinel.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Episcopal Church: Top Ten Things you won't hear in a Network Diocese

#10. "Good morning, Bishop Katharine!"

#9. "I love the smell of 815 in the morning."

#8. "Oh, can I get back to you? We have plans with +Gene on Thursday."

#7. "I always get goosebumps when Jesus says, "Love your neighbor as yourself."

#6. "Don't be silly. Of course you won't burn in hell for disagreeing with me."

#5. "Did this Carey fellow fall off a turnip truck or what?"

#4. "Did you hear the one about the lion, the giraffe, and the desolating sacrilege?"

#3. "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You!"

#2. "Easy with that--that's a gift from ++Rowan."

#1. "God save The Episcopal Church!"

Sunday, November 26, 2006

From the Sunday Readings

The Gospel According to John: The Lord Stands Before Pilate

John 18:33-37 (NRSV) Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Duly Noted

Notes from the blogosphere

The Mad Priest of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England, warns poachers that they have come this far, but no farther.

The Rector of St. Francis, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England, has had enough of Anglicans who use the name and resources of the Church without contributing a whit to it, besides bad practices and condemnation for others. One particular poor approach he notes is limiting the Good News to the already churched:
"Unfortunately, my church is surrounded by preying (not praying) evangelical churches, Anglican and others. The ordinary churches are constantly losing young people to these cults who tempt them with music and people of their own age and then indoctrinate them with beliefs that are definitely not of their age. IT'S A CON TRICK. Afterwards, when we get the chance, we have to try and clear up the mess made to these young persons's lives.

THIS IS ALL A REALITY. I have to live with this rubbish. I don't want to stop evangelicalism - I just want them to stop interfering with me and mine. There is no other part of the Church that demands that the rest of the Church should, compelled by law, do what they want - most of us get on with our own thing. As far as I know nobody has said that priests against gay marriage will have to conduct gay marriage so why do they want to stop those of us who do from doing it? That's like me saying charismatics should be stopped from falling over during services."
Read it all, and the occasional paeans to Brian Eno, at "Of course, I could be wrong..."

The Archbishop's visit to Rome and his call for greater Christian unity, inspired spirited commenting at Thinking Anglicans, where some wondered about the usefulness of unity with those they do not consider Christian.

Ford Elms, a regular commenter, wondered,
"I am not saying this sarcastically, nor angrily, nor am I accusing you personally. It has been my experience that those who call themselves Evangelicals believe, and are quite free in saying, that non-Evangelicals are not Christians. I am still genuinely surprised when I find one who does not think like that, to the point that I wonder if they are actually speaking the truth when they say it or just not wanting to cause a fuss.

"Is everyone a Christian? what makes a Christian?" And this was my issue: why do we ask these questions? What are the motives behind us wondering whether or not someone is a Christian? I know that my attitudes towards "Evangelicals" were shaped by long experience. It doesn't make these ideas right, but it explains them."

In Schofield's Closet, Lisa Fox of The Episcopal Majority wonders whether recent developments in that diocese may be linked to a mortification of the bishop's own sexuality.
"Over the past many months, I have been an avid reader of many Episcopalians' blogs. Time and time after time, I have heard folks supposedly "in the know" comment that Gene Robinson isn't our first gay bishop, but only the first gay bishop with integrity.

Many a time, I have asked folks to urge these other gay bishops to "out themselves." No one has done so.

And now this Schofield thing has finally reached the point where I just can't stand it anymore!

Something about his demeanor in the Anglican TV interview motivated me to do a bit of research about Bishop John-David Schofield. And I found Meditatio, in which he states:
This is complicated by the bishop of San Joaquin, the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, being in such poor health. . . . Perhaps even more ironically, Bishop Schofield is a "recovering homosexual" committed to celibacy . . . .
Now, it all begins to make sense to me. I am familiar with this kind of self-loathing person who attacks gay men and lesbians! Lord knows, we saw African-Americans like this during the civil rights movement in the 1960s and '70s. We had a word for them.

It seems to me that an entire volume of psychiatric texts could be written about this guy. Is this the best-kept secret in the Episcopal Church? or does everyone in the House of Bishops know him to be a self-avowed "recovering homosexual"? I would love to hear more about his "manner of life."

It's time he came out of his own precious closet."

Episcopal Life: Why Canterbury Matters

You do have to go through Lambeth to remain Anglican

The following is the December "From the Edge" column in Episcopal Life newspaper, which this month carries Douglas LeBlanc. Since the column is not yet online, it is reprinted here in full. The column alternates between Mr. LeBlanc and the Rev. Winnie Varghese, the Episcopal chaplain of Columbia University. Mr. LeBlanc is a member of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Va.

FOUR YEARS AGO, when it was becoming clear that Rowan Williams would be the 104th archbishop of Canterbury, I quoted his hope, from an address at Uganda Christian University, "not to impose a view from America or Britain or anywhere else on any other province, but to see if we can go on talking with each other, reading the Bible together with each other, to see what we can learn."

Then I added this sentence, which now sounds so flip and patronizing that it makes me cringe: "None of us should rule out that Williams would grow in office, or that such growth could take him in redemptive directions."

Four years later, I must say that Archbishop Willi,mnis has been good to his word. He has repeatedly emphasized that Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (sic) (1998), which ''cannot advise the legitimizing or blessing of same-sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same-gender unions," still represents the consensus of Anglican thinking. Those repeated affirmations have brought him scorn from the left.

Likewise, his repeated emphasis that the archbishop of Canterbury cannot unilaterally impose polity on any Anglican province, including the Episcopal Church, has brought him scorn from the right.

I do not recall hearing much serious talk among conservatives, before the 74th General Convention in 2003, doubting the importance of being in communion with the archbishop of Canterbury. When I first heard Archbishop Peter Akniola's remark, '' We do not have to go through Canterbury to get to Jesus,'' I considered it an amusing but exciting challenge to Western hegemony.

Since reading Allen Guelzo's For the Union of Evangelical Christendom: The Irony of the Reformed Episcopalians, I'm no longer so readily amused or excited by challenges to Canterbury. Something in Guelzo's book about the Reformed Episcopal Church's early history of infighting and fragmentation helped remind me that Anglicans simply do not do schism well.

I will not dwell on my fellow conservatives' valid points that rejecting Christianity's historic teaching (whether on human sexuality or on a creedal matter) is itself an act of schism, and that Anglicanism itself exists because of a schism from Roman Catholicism.

Some of my fellow conservatives talk about Archbishop Williams as if one more meeting, usually of the primates, will force him to cast his lot either with the Global South or with the Episcopal Church. Some conservatives talk, with what seems to be utter seriousness, about their vision for an Anglicanism that does not depend on being in communion with the archbishop of Canterbury.

I can think of only one thing to call this: crazy talk. Churches do, of course, declare themselves Anglican and in the same breath declare their independence from the archbishop of Canterbury. As the editors of Anglicans Online have pointed out, there is no copyright on the word Anglican.

But honest Anglicans who are serious about catholic order will recognize that a Canterbury-free Anglicanism carries the same ecclesial credibility as the late Marcel Lefebvre's decades-long insistence that he, not the bishop of Rome, represented true Catholicism. How many legions has the pope? Quite enough to make Lefebvrites look like buffoonish upstarts.

As Episcopalians' arguments with one another grow more pointed and angry, I sense a fairly widespread denial that Archbishop Williams intends to oversee an Anglican Communion that still includes the Episcopal Church, the Church of Nigeria, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church of Uganda - you get the picture. Both sides will continue wishing that he would slap the other side upside the head. Both sides will keep wishing that one radical action too many will bring sudden clarity to a debate that only grows messier with each passing month.

I have a feeling that Archbishop Williams will remain the coolest head of the Anglican Communion in the months and years ahead. With the other three Instruments of Unity (the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates Meeting and the Lambeth Conference), he will affirm the mind of the communion and work to keep its body from blowing itself into a thousand pieces. He will continue to befuddle his critics. The archbishop will abide.

© Episcopal Life

Friday, November 24, 2006

Stirrings of an Australian Mainline

New Center Heralds Arrival of "Mainstream" Christian Cooperation in Australia

In Australia, the Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Uniting Churches have banded together to establish the Centre for an Ethical Society,which describes itself as a body promoting "mainstream" Christianity. The Centre is to be chaired by The Right Reverend George Browning, the Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn.

The Centre will be an autonomous body supported by the three churches in the model of the National Council of Churches in the USA.

In a period of somewhat heightened religious divisions and debate, the Centre can be a good model of ecumenism for other churches, especially in that part of the world, who may be examining new avenues for cooperation, unity and mission.

Bishop Browning told The Sydney Morning Herald that the Centre's mission is clear. "The question for the 21st century is: 'Can the common good prevail over self-interest and the desire for personal gain?"'

The centre was launched in Sydney, and chapters will be formed in every capital city and in regional centres throughout the country.

The Centre's constitution says its objectives are "to promote Christian social justice within Australia's democratic traditions and to co-operate in the development of a more just and compassionate Australia".

This language parallels that of the National Council of Churches in the United States, which states, "the NCC works for peace and justice in the United States, addressing issues ranging from poverty and racism, to the environment, family ministries, and much more."

The work of the NCC, which includes mainline denominations, has participants drawn not only from the NCC's member churches, but from a total of more than 50 denominations representing a broad spectrum of American Christianity, from Evangelicals to Roman Catholics to Pentecostals.

Terry McCarthy, a former ambassador to Ireland and the Vatican and a driving force in the Centre, said at the groundbreaking: "People say that you don't need all this welfare; you don't need to talk about fairness or Christian love - the market will solve it all. The market didn't do it in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, so it's certainly not going to do it in the 21st century."

The Centre's website, still being established, already contains useful documents outlining the philosophies, theologies and plans for the Centre.

Fr Michael Fallon, MSC, writes that the scriptural imperatives clearly show that for a Christian, the pursuit of social justice is an obligation and not an option.
"Again and again the prophets spoke out against this failure, especially when it was supported by legislation and administration that made it hard, if not impossible, for the poor to find redress. Amos proclaimed: ‘Thus says the Lord: I will not revoke my punishment on Israel, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way’ (Amos 2:6-7). Religious cult, too, is phony when it disregards justice and has no regard for the poor: ‘I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies ... Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream’ " (Amos 5:21-24).

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Day of Thanksgiving

Matthew 6:25, The Lilies of the Field
Matt 6:25 (NRSV) "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, "What will we eat?' or "What will we drink?' or "What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

President-elect of Christian Coalition resigns

He wanted to tackle poverty and injustice
Group refused to move beyond abortion and same sex issues
Minister learns, again, the price of witnessing to the Gospel

(The Associated Press)--The man elected to take over as president of the Christian Coalition of America said he will not assume the role because of differences in philosophy.

The Rev. Joel Hunter, of Longwood's Northland, A Church Distributed, said Wednesday that the national group would not let him expand the organization's agenda beyond opposing abortion and gay marriage.

This is the latest setback for the group founded in 1989 by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson. Four states - Georgia, Alabama, Iowa and Ohio - have decided to split from the group over concerns it's changing direction on issues like the minimum wage, the environment and Internet law instead of core issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

Hunter, who was scheduled to take over the socially conservative political group Jan. 1, said he had hoped to focus on issues such as poverty and the environment.

"These are issues that Jesus would want us to care about," Hunter said.

He resigned Tuesday during an organization board meeting. Hunter said he was not asked to leave.

"They pretty much said, 'These issues are fine, but they're not our issues, that's not our base,'" Hunter said.

The group's base has typically been extreme right wing social conservatives who wish to mold the public life of the nation in the image of their radical right wing policies and theologies.

A statement issued by the coalition said Hunter resigned because of "differences in philosophy and vision." The board accepted his decision "unanimously," it states.

The organization, headed by President Roberta Combs, claims a mailing list of 2.5 million.

"To tell you the truth, I feel like there are literally millions of evangelical Christians that don't have a home right now," Hunter said.

One newspaper account is here.

Vatican to Ponder condoms, again

Cardinal hand delivers 200 page report on using condoms
Next step: A 300 page report on the feasibility and Christian-ness of sewage treatment systems

David Willey reports for the BBC from Rome

The Roman Catholic Church is due to discuss the use of condoms to fight AIDS at a conference on infectious diseases opening at the Vatican.

The Catholic Church formally opposes any use of condoms, advising fidelity within marriage, sexual abstinence, or slow and painful death by easily preventable disease.

A senior Vatican cardinal has publicly questioned the efficacy of condoms as a barrier to disease. But since he is celibate and has not matured sexually since the age of 13 when a terrifying but somehow wonderful dream produced a nocturnal emission and the impetus to discern his call to the priesthood, he may not be a good source of information on the health benefits of condoms.

But, as the UN reports growing levels of infection, there are signs a shift of Vatican policy is being discussed, a development not necessarily leading to anything else anytime soon.

Pope Benedict XVI has commissioned a report on the scientific and moral aspects of the use of condoms.

The head of the Vatican's Council for pastoral health care, Cardinal Lozano Barragan from Mexico, announced that the 200-page report has now been passed on to top theologians for possible use in a papal document rejecting, of course, the use of condoms.

The Cardinal's document reportedly has 199 pages stating "condoms greatly assist in preventing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases" and one page stating "but that is not very important, now is it."

The BBC item in full.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ten things to do while waiting for the Second Coming

Notes from a young seminarian

1. Be a pilgrim. You don't need Canterbury or Compostela. Pick a destination that's meaningful to you, walk mindfully, and be open to surprises along the way.

2. Budget. Or rather, budget with a view toward achieving the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which include cutting extreme poverty in half by 2015. Commit 0.7% of your income — personal and parish — to work that will achieve the MDGs.

3. Eat ice cream. One spoonful triggers the part of the brain known to activate when people enjoy themselves. Combining ice-cream consumption with a swing set may produce even greater amounts of pleasure.

4. Be a minister, regardless of whether or not you wear a collar.

5. Plant a native tree. There is theological significance in planting a seed and watching it grow into something that will stand long after you are gone.

6. Look beyond the soup kitchen. The church's tried-and-true methods of hospitality are important, but think of how your parish can transform society, making soup kitchens unnecessary.

7. Reconcile. Contact estranged relatives and slighted prom dates. Before Jesus comes back, begin the work of forgiveness by offering it to others and receiving it yourself.

8. Watch a movie. Specifically, create a parish event around Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Challenge attendees to change one thing about the way they live their lives for the sake of future generations.

9. Tithe. No, seriously. It's an ancient Christian practice that can transform your sense of community and ideas of what really belongs to God.

10. Join life. Pray ceaselessly. Go skinnydipping. Sing boldly in the shower and in church. Waiting for the Second Coming shouldn’t be about cowering in fear of a terrifying future event. If we love God, we trust God. Enjoy one another in the world, while we’re here. Life speeds by unless we catch it in meaningful moments.

The list is by Lindsay Lunnum, a second-year seminarian who serves on the Young Adult National Coordinating Committee for the Episcopal Church. The list appears in the Eschatology issue of Trinity News, the magazine of Trinity Church-St. Paul's Chapel. The Eschatology issue of Trinity News looks at the study of the end times, from perspectives of hope and trust in God's grace. This issue coincides with the 2007 Trinity Institute national conference: God's Unfinished Future: Why it Matters Now.

A test for the Episcopal Church: Do not consent to South Carolina bishop-elect

Lawrence has indicated he is willing to work to divide the Church from itself, and that he is not opposed to the further and continued division of the Church

If Standing Committees are not convinced of his good faith then consents must not be given

Lionel Deimel of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, from where the secessionist Network is run, has written a provocative and useful essay on the state of affairs in the Church. In it he argues for denying consent to the elevation of Mark Lawrence as Bishop of South Carolina.
"Imagine a candidate running for the U.S. Senate who was on record as being opposed to maintaining the Constitution as the basis of our government. Imagine further that this person wants to replace our current government by a ruling committee consisting of the heads of various English-speaking nations. I suspect that such a candidate would be soundly rejected by voters, irrespective of his or her sincerity or positions on other issues of the day. That rejection would be utterly justified."

This scenario seems absurd, of course. How could such a candidate entertain even the remotest hope of being elected? Bizarre as this situation sounds, however, it is not much different from one that has arisen in The Episcopal Church."
"When confronted by such a clear and present danger to its very existence—the South Carolina election is part of the wider assault on The Episcopal Church—can our church rally the resolve to protect its faith and order? I believe that it must, and that the outcome of the South Carolina election should not be allowed to stand."

These are very sound points. The Episcopal Church has given its dissenters wide latitude to dissent on matters of theology and polity. This is an historic and valid principle at the root of our Church. But it is one that has always presumed that such dissent is part of the seeking and building up of the Church, not its destruction. In the use of this core Anglican principle of dissent and difference, many of the loyal dissent have ceased being loyal members who work to build up the Body. Too many of them have turned to outright hatred and undermining of the Church.
"Although Mark Lawrence's Anglo-Catholic theology is hardly mainstream Episcopal thinking, it is not his theology, but his unwillingness to abide by the canons of The Episcopal Church that disqualify him from becoming a bishop. Even if he sincerely believes that he is correct and the church is wrong, he has no right to expect that others in the church who as sincerely believe otherwise should grant him license to disobey the canons. He has an obligation to deal faithfully with his brothers and sisters in the church as long as he is part of it."

The question is not whether we forgive the secessionists, or forgive them 70x7 times. The question is whether The Episcopal Church's stewards, will permit further spiritual violence and damage to the integrity, health and well-being of the Church. The Episcopal Church should not elevate as a bishop, a man who has already indicated he is willing to work to divide the Church from itself, and that he is not opposed to the further and continued division of the Church.

This is illogical and dangerous, particularly for a bishop, yet this is precisely what Lawrence indicated repeatedly in many of his questions during the bishop selection process. (His responses are available here as a pdf and also on the Dicoese of South Carolina website. Thinking Anglicans is a good repository of other information.)

How does such a willingess to ensure more division, to participate in it, and to tolerate it, build up members, and the Body itself? At a minimum Lawrence must be asked these questions and more. If Standing Committees are not convinced of his good faith then consents must not be given.

The rest of Dr. Deimel's essay can be read at his website or at Via Media.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Presiding Bishop Warns the Network

The choice: "Uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them or find a home elsewhere"

San Joaquin Bishop could be deposed and new bishop named

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has written to the Bishop of San Joaquin, John Schofield, asking him to repudiate his statements that he intends to undermine the work and integrity of the Church. The letter likely serves as a warning to the rest of the Network bishops and many clergy who have passed from loyal dissent to actively undermining the Church.

Most Network bishops and many clergy, have turned their offices and mission, to denouncing the Church. Some in the Network may consider their membership a sign of loyal dissent or a vehicle for increased fellowship or advocacy. But many of its clergy and bishops actively seek to undermine the Church at home and abroad by attacking its mission, clergy, and laity who do not agree with them. ++Katharine writes that Schofield may be taking up the Cross for division and antagonism rather than building up the Body.

Schofield, recently cleared of abandoning the Church, stated in interviews that he intends to do precisely this at the upcoming dicoesan convention, by working to sever the diocese from the Church, which created the diocese as a missionary diocese in 1911.

The Presiding Bishop states in her letter that she stands ready for conversation and reconciliaton, but indicates clearly she is prepared to have Schofield removed as bishop if necessary in order to prevent any further spiritual violence to the Church and the people of the diocese.

The text of her letter:
My dear brother:

I have seen reports of your letter to parishes in the Diocese of San Joaquin, which apparently urges delegates to your upcoming Diocesan Convention to take action to leave the Episcopal Church. I would ask you to confirm the accuracy of those reports. If true, you must be aware that such action would likely be seen as a violation of your ordination vows to "uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them." I must strongly urge you to consider the consequences of such action, not only for yourself but especially for all of the Episcopalians under your pastoral charge and care.

I certainly understand that you personally disagree with decisions by General Conventions over the past 30 and more years. You have, however, taken vows three times over that period to uphold the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church." If you now feel that you can no longer do so, the more honorable course would be to renounce your orders in this Church and seek a home elsewhere. Your public assertion that your duty is to violate those vows puts many, many people at hazard of profound spiritual violence. I urge you, as a pastor, to consider that hazard with the utmost gravity.

As you contemplate this action I would also remind you of the trust which you and I both hold for those who have come before and those who will come after us. None of us has received the property held by the Church today to use as we will. We have received it as stewards, for those who enjoy it today and those who will be blessed by the ministry its use will permit in the future. Our forebears did not build churches or give memorials with the intent that they be removed from the Episcopal Church. Nor did our forebears give liberally to fund endowments with the intent that they be consumed by litigation.

The Church will endure whatever decision you make in San Joaquin. The people who are its members, however, will suffer in the midst of this conflict, and probably suffer unnecessarily. Jesus calls us to take up our crosses daily, but not in the service of division and antagonism. He calls us to take up our crosses in his service of reconciling the world to God. Would that you might lead the people of San Joaquin toward decisions that build up the Body, that bring abundant life to those within and beyond our Church, that restore us to oneness.

I stand ready for conversation and reconciliation. May God bless your deliberation.

I remain

Your servant in Christ,


The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Oraborus and the Bishop of San Joaquin

Wherein the elderly bishop of San Joaquin invites his diocese and himself to self-consumption, with a smile on his face.

Read it all at Mark Harris's Preludium.

Dear Drexel Gomez

The fox in the henhouse?
The Episcopal Majority writes to the new chair of the Anglican Covenant design group

Dear Archbishop Gomez,

Greetings and peace to you in our Lord Jesus Christ!

We are writing to you on behalf of The Episcopal Majority, a newly constituted organization representing what our former Presiding Bishop and Primate, the Most Reverend Frank Griswold, has aptly called the "diverse center" of the Episcopal Church. With some concern, we have noted the tenor and general direction of discussions on a possible "Anglican Covenant." We are writing at this time to appeal for a common reaffirmation of the de facto covenant that already binds our beloved Anglican Communion and indeed has done so since 1888, namely the Lambeth Quadrilateral.

Read the rest at The Episcopal Majority.

From the Sunday Readings

Psalm 16
Conserva me, Domine

1 Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;
I have said to the Lord, "You are my Lord,
my good above all other."

2 All my delight is upon the godly that are in the land,
upon those who are noble among the people.

3 But those who run after other gods
shall have their troubles multiplied.

4 Their libations of blood I will not offer,
nor take the names of their gods upon my lips.

5 O Lord, you are my portion and my cup;
it is you who uphold my lot.

6 My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;
indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

7 I will bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
my heart teaches me, night after night.

8 I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

9 My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;
my body also shall rest in hope.

10 For you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor let your holy one see the Pit.

11 You will show me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy,
and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Update on Secessionist Conventions

Fort Worth and South Carolina in Convention: Secession and Increasing Isolation from the Church

Besides Fort Worth, another secessionist diocese, South Carolina, also met in Convention today. Its bishops and many of its clergy stridently denounce the Episcopal Church, its leadership, and many of its laity. The leadership of both dicoeses regularly coordinate.

According to a statement on their website, a majority in South Carolina approved a resolution for "alternative primatial oversight," meaning, those attending the convention wish to have someone other than ++Katharine Jefferts Schori as their Primate, and obviously, another body besides the Episcopal Church as their organizational body. This is clearly reflected in the language of their resolution:
"Be it resolved that this 216th Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina endorse the action of the Standing Committee, taken June 28, 2006 in requesting from the Archbishop of Canterbury an Alternative Primatial Relationship.

And be it further resolved that this Convention authorize the Diocesan Bishop (with Bishop Salmon acting in his stead until the consecration of Fr. Lawrence), together with the Standing Committee and Diocesan Council, to implement the details of this request, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, his Panel of Reference, the Primates of the Communion, and the leadership and bishops of the Anglican Communion Network."
Notice that those voting in the majority at the convention, want many other parties involved, except the legitimate bodies of The Episcopal Church: they mention the Network, the Primates, the ABC, etc. With such a position there is no hope whatsoever for any request for "an alternate primate" to succeed, becasue the first body they must deal with is the Episcopal Church, the body that created them and which sustains their mission, their name, and their very legitimacy.

The bishop-elect of South Carolina, after this convention, likely faces strong opposition to his approval by the wider Church.

In Fort Worth, a similar resolution passed. Another resolution calling for the listening process so that those demonizing gays and lesbians would have to come face to face with them, was ruled "out of order." A substitute "affirming Lambeth I.0 in its entirety" passed, meaning that Fort Worth will very likely not establish a listening process.

Why would they? The secessionist clergy and bishop there long ago decided that there is no point to a listening process because they already know everything they want to know, and no one speaking up in the listening process would say anything worth hearing anyway.

There is little "Episcopal" left in the leadership of either diocese. They do not wish to pass on the name and the buildings despite all their wild protestations, because if they did, they would have nothing left.

The overarching issue they refuse to accept is that they are not Anglican if they are not also Episcopal. There is no way around it, though they have striven mightily to try to change it, in the process regularly displaying a schizophrenia about wanting everything associated with the Church, except having anything to do with the flesh and blood people who comprise her.

When this point is reached, as sometimes it is in any institution, the solution is for the displeased entities to depart, rather than insist that the institution dissolve itself, or give itself over to them. On a ship of the service, the solution is to relocate the mutineers to the brig until land is reached, and then transfer them to a stockade pending courts martial.

In the meantime, groups of faithful Episcopalians continue to gather in those dioceses and petition the national Church to assist them in their efforts to remain true to the Church.

Fr. Jake's and Thinking Anglicans have timely entries on the conventions.

Episcopal Church: Secessionist Diocese of Fort Worth Meeting in Convention

The secessionist Diocese of Fort Worth meets this weekend in Convention, to consider how best to further isolate itself from the wider Episcopal Church. The Diocese opposes openly gay clergy, and upon this fact has built a flimsy basis for insisting it may withdraw from the work and governance of the Church that created it in the first instance. Among the proposals expected to be voted down this weekend is one setting up a diocesan commission to facilitate a listening process to bring gays and lesbians face to face with those who demonize them.

Five questions for the secessionist bishops

1. The Diocese of ________ was created by The General Convention in _____. You are a bishop duly authorized by this same Convention, to function within The Episcopal Church. (a) Upon what basis do you believe it is within your canonical authority to alter the historic relation and status of the diocese? (b) If your basis is theological or pastoral, how does your theological/pastoral position become canonical?

2. Why do you believe or expect, The Episcopal Church must agree to your interpretations or actions?

3. (a) How do you propose to continue within The Episcopal Church when you do not consider yourself part of The Episcopal Church? (b) On what basis do you expect The Episcopal Church to permit the undermining of a diocese it has created?

4. (a) Why if you are not pleased with The Episcopal Church, do you continue to operate within it? (b) If you consider the Church apostate, would it not be preferable to immediately depart the church, rather than risk your salvation? ( c) Which statement best describes your attitude towards the Episcopal Church? (1) It is the rightful Anglican province. (2) It must be replaced as the rightful Anglican province.

5. You have recently received letters from the Episcopal Chancellor. Have you replied to his request to cease and desist from altering your constitution to sever it from The Episcopal Church? Why or why not?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Pope blocks move to allow Catholic priests to marry

Next week, ++Rowan goes to Rome with pictures of Jane in his pocket
Ruth Gledhill is on the case for the
Times of London

THE POPE said yesterday that there would be no change to the rule of celibacy for Roman Catholic priests, after summoning advisers to the Vatican to consider the actions of a rebel excommunicated archbishop.

Sounds of gilded chairs breaking, grown cardinals weeping, hair shirts being fitted, and gallons of neapolitan ice cream being consumed in a rakish manner were heard from the rooms where Pope Benedict XVI was meeting prelates for a three-hour "reflection" on the issue. The Vatican said simply: "The value of the choice of priestly celibacy, according to Catholic tradition, has been reaffirmed."

The Vatican added that it could take upwards of 1256 years for it to consider receiving a 2-page report entitled, "Is it possible for priests to marry and still be Roman Catholic?"

No change on the celibacy rule was expected from the meeting, which was no reason not to hold the meeting anyway. The meeting to announce that nothing had changed, a favorite Vatican tactic to convince observers that something of interest had occurred, was prompted by the latest "disobedience" of the Archbishop of Zambia, Emmanuel Milingo, who was automatically excommunicated in September when he ordained four married American men as bishops.

In 2001 Milingo took a South Korean woman as his wife in a Unification Church wedding. The Vatican excommunicated Milingo when he ordained four married American priests as bishops and not when he himself married because nothing is worse than making an American a bishop without permission, the Vatican said.

Next month up to 1,000 married Catholic priests from his new movement, Married Priests Now, will meet in New York City to continue their campaign for change. The meetings at the Vatican where Pope Benedict wagged his finger and tossed blessed water yet again at cardinals and prelates asking simple questions like is it possible to be married and still minister, came on the eve of a visit to Rome by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who may bring framed pictures of his wife Jane to show the Pope.

In an interview with The Church Times, Dr Williams said: "I have visions of saying to Pope Benedict, 'I don’t believe you’re infallible'. I hope it doesn’t come to that."

The Vatican replied simply, "We have visions of running Dr. Williams out on his ear after the count of two if he comes to the point of acting on his vision even after hearing about our vision. We hope it doesn't come to that."

With Ruth Gledhill and Sarah Delaney

Blogging the Global Center

Padre Mickey, well known to readers of Father Jake and Thinking Anglicans, has opened up a new blog. Padre Mickey pastors to the faithful and seekers in Panama City, Panama. It's an area of the world quite receptive to The Episcopal Church, where Latin American bishops and other clergy call for a Global Center that is rooted in the traditional middle way of Anglican inclusion and tolerance. Once the American Anglican Convocation is formalized with structures and meeetings, we'll no doubt hear the growing Spanish voices of our Church more clearly and loudly.

The American Convocation shows great promise in presenting new opportunities for mission, fellowship and communication for all orders of ministry. It would also afford more opportunities for clergy to interact in the periods between the decennial Lambeth Conferences of bishops. What might each church bring to the table and add to the experiences and missions of the others?

The Anglican Church of Canada, for one, may help us to better appreciate our traditions and history in the Church of England. The Church of Canada may be the most Anglophile national church in the Americas. It has an historically close relationship and affection to The Church of England. Many of its parishes still point with pride to their "Loyalist" founders and uphold "Loyalist" values as a hallmark of their worship. For the American whose Episcopal Church was founded in the War of Independence, this may be a somewhat curious fact. And perhaps too, for a growing number of Canadians, who in the past 50 years, have become less Anglo-centric and much more multiracial and multicultural as Canada has happily welcomed millions of immigrants. Perhaps their closer ties to us, would help them better minister to a nation that is less "Loyalist" than ever.

The churches of Central and South America and the West Indies, may highlight what for many Episcopal parishes, is a fairly new phenomenon--intentional faith communities of Episcopalians for whom English is the second language. Forging closer bonds and providing opportunities for one on one interactions would certainly go far for many who have only a limited or abstract appreciation of these faith communities.

From the Mailbag

My Good Admiral: Some weeks ago the other Confirmants and I were referred to your pages from [redacted], a fine site representing the one, true Anglican Reformed Episcopal Orthodox Catholic faith as passed down through the ages from time immemorial and best received on June 4th, 1957, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

After much deliberation it was decided that I should write on behalf of myself and the other Confirmants Resisting All New Knowledge & Science (The CRANKS).

It has taken me some time to compose my thoughts into a semblance of Christian charity and restraint. I would apologize to your readers if I were to fail at times to reflect such charity and restraint. But since such a damning letter as this will never see the light of day, I in truth see no need to apologize for what is, in fact, a ray of the light of God shining upon your sins of gross error and willful commission.

I do not write because I pretend to a holiness or a perfection that neither of us may attain; I write because the egregious nature of your willful errors and unrepentant, unrelenting sinning is a blot, a blot plain for all to see. Let all those with ears to hear listen!

You write quite clearly and repeatedly, that we must treat one another with love and mercy and that we must work diligently, if not moreso, to succor the sick, speak up for the weak, and etc. You have more than once offered up to this idol of love, justice and mercy, as a vehicle for its further idolization, the Millennium Development Goals.

In all respects you are in error. God does not want us to love and show mercy through any "goals." He is not interested in ending poverty, feeding the poor, or "human rights." What he commands and expects, is obedience. This is clearly stated in many Biblical passages and expositions of the one, true Anglican Reformed Episcopal Orthodox Catholic faith as passed down through the ages from time immemorial, beginning with [redacted for exceeding bandwidth].
Signed, J.M. H. Benters-Lee, on behalf of The CRANKS

Sir: I thank you for your lengthy and heartfelt disputation. Please consider an invitation to write again, but perhaps with less heat, and more light! Walk in peace. Abide in Christ. Pray for me, a sinner. Yours, The AoM
My Good Admiral: The Episcopal Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Placentia, California is probably the most orthodox and traditional parish in the Diocese of Los Angeles. We have chosen to remain in ECUSA. We are a vibrant and fast growing church. Our Rector, Father David, recently started a blog at It is really full of thoughtful postings. Please visit and if you like what you see, establish a link to it.
Yours in Christ's Peace, Power and Love, Stewart Roberts

Sir: Your parish and rector are indeed full of life and faith. I am happy to see you witnessing to your faith in The Episcopal Church. It is plain to me that your rector lives in the love and faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that his days walking His Earth, are devoted to helping others know the power and life of His light. While I cannot agree with some of his characterizations of our Church and its faithful, I agree wholeheartedly with his recent comment:

"Jesus did not command us to "love our neighbor"; he commanded us to 'love our neighbor as ourselves.' That's a much harder thing to do. When the command was first given in the days of Moses, it must have been electrifying. Well, it still is."

Peace be with you, and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yours, The AoM

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Swinish Episcopacy

Network Bishops roll in the Mud, Again
When will the Church remove from authority those determined to destroy it?

The latest statements and activities from the bishops of Springfield and San Joaquin show, again, the need for the Episcopal Church to put its house in order. It is high time the Church came to terms with the fact that it cannot maintain its integrity and offer effective mission in the world, while permitting some of its own bishops and clergy to operate to destroy her. This is illogical, destructive, and dangerous.

The activities and words of the bishops of Springfield and San Joaquin have long since passed from loyal dissent into outright hostility and hatred for the wider Episcopal Church. They work regularly to divide the Church from itself, and from the wider Communion. In their statements about the leadership of the Church and anyone else they disagree with, their words show none of the cardinal, much less heavenly, virtues. What they do reflect is the very worst of a partisan inspired politicking that has no place in our Church.

In a recent interview with The Chicago Tribune, Peter Beckwith, the bishop of Springfield, uses the word "prostitute" when discussing Presiding Bishop Katharine, even as he would have us believe it is not her, but her theology, that he calls the prostitute. He also arrogates to himself the authority and insight to determine which dioceses of the Church Springfield is in communion with, and which not. In the name of spreading the Good News, he refuses to confirm anyone and cancels the lay licenses, of anyone whom he suspects of some wrongdoing. In this case, of course, the wrongdoing is disagreeing with Beckwith.

John Schofield, bishop of San Joaquin, only recently cleared of abandoning the communion of the Church, is preparing to do just this. In a recent letter to his diocese, he reserves to himself the right and authority to remove property from the Church as he sees fit. He calls on his upcoming diocesan convention to alter its constitution to sever all ties to the Episcopal Church. To get there, he relies on lies and accusations.

Both of these men are nearing mandatory retirement age, a fact which may give the wider Church some hope that their destructive activities and words will be limited in their impact.

But limiting the destruction should not and must not be the goal. These men preach division, hatred, and a warped view of Christianity that in the name of abstractions or adherence to what they consider the faith, does spiritual violence to living people whose only goal is to follow and worship Christ.

The Episcopal Church has not once offered a rationale for why it is acceptable for bishops and other clergy to preach such hatred, lies and condemnation and to do such spiritual violence to the Church, much less to the souls who comrpise her. It has not once delivered a rationale stating why preachers of division must be given free reign to attack and undermine the Church from inside itself. It has not once made the case for why bishops, especially, must be the ones to undermine and attack the Church.

The Church must not continue to suborn this type of hatred and bile by turning a blind eye to it. It is a spiritual violence that has spread too far and that must be confronted and stopped. The Church must take clear action to remove such men from their positions. They are supposed to be symbols for, and real examples of, Christian unity. But what too many of them have become are real examples of a corrupt and swinish episcopacy.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The New Evangelists: Yale Divinity School and the Future of Protestantism

The Coming Liberal Revival

A new article out of Yale locates the Yale Divinity School at the epicenter of mainline Christianity and at the forefront of a nascent liberal Protestant revival. Among graduates of the Yale school are the current heads of the Presbyterian Church in America, the United Church of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, and a number of prominent Episcopal bishops, including John Chane, Bishop of Washington, D.C.

Warren Goldstein, chair of the American Studies Department at the University of Hartford, writes for the Yale Alumni magazine that the school is at the head of a reviving mainline Christianity preaching radical inclusion and "extravagant welcome."

The article is online here.

NB: The report is provocative. It links some of the recent challenges at the Yale Divinity School and the Berkeley Episcopal Seminary, to the challenges facing mainline churches. The report sees in the Divinity School’s renewed confidence and strength of mission, the "beginnings of a revival of liberal Protestantism -- long after many political observers had declared it dead. Along with that goes a new embrace of evangelical fervor on behalf of the Gospel: what Sharon Watkins, head of the Disciples of Christ, calls ' a new way of being church.' "

The report notes that five years ago, Watkins' denomination, set a 20-year goal of growing itself by 1,000 churches. They have already added 400 new churches since then, almost half of the total target.

Monday, November 13, 2006

People do like me, George Carey says

Bangor cathedral dustup unbelievable, he says

Former ABC surprised he was banned just because he wrote a book detailing his private meetings with Charles and Camilla, said the Anglican Communion is a mess, didn't go to Oxford, blackballed ++Rowan, went to the mat for Pinochet, sided with angry Episcopalians, and said he was ashamed to be Anglican

George Carey, licking his wounds from the recent throwdown by the Dean of Bangor Cathedral, The Very Rev. Alun Hawkins, tells The Living Church that the Dean should have told him about wanting to ban him before he did it.

"I don’t see myself as a troublemaker and I don’t see myself as divisive," the former archbishop said undivisively. "I have written to the dean a very pleasant letter. I wish I had known he felt that way before all this publicity." The worst thing about all the publicity over his banning is that now, it is all public, an aide to Carey said.

Observers noted that the Dean may not have wanted to tell Carey how he felt before he banned him, thereby lending a somewhat more dramatic and impressive effect to the revelation that he did not wish Carey to step one divisive foot inside his beautiful cathedral, the oldest in Britain.

In calling for a pre-ban notice that would have permitted him to possibly present his side in an angry and divisive manner before the Dean still banned him anyway, observers in Wales and elsewhere noted that Carey misses the point that a pre-ban would have destroyed the very purpose of the embarrassing public banning--an embarassing public banning.

The Living Church carries the full story, which also includes Carey calling on the Communion to "give ++Katharine a chance."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

From the Sunday Readings

In the temple, the Lord denounces the scribes and speaks up for the widow
Mark 12:38 (NRSV) As he taught, he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation." He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."

The Lord tells us throughout His Gospel that the first will be last, and the last will be first. The Gospel reading here illustrates the principle well.

In the passage, the Lord has arrived in Jerusalem and is teaching in the Temple. He has just been asked who He is, and has quoted Psalm 110 to identify Himself as the Lord of history and of all creation. The passage presents us with two contrasting symbols: the powerful scribes who control teaching, and the poor widow who has no voice. The Lord warns against the scribes, famous symbols of hypocrisy and a legalism that thwarts the Word and the will of God. The words are simple and clear: "They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers." And since she has no one speaking for her, the Lord himself speaks up for the poor widow who brings a gift for God out of her love and faith. The scribes are in positions of prominence and use their status to proclaim themselves, maintain their status, and harm others. They have inverted the way of God. He demands justice, love, and mercy. The widow is powerless, penniless—but faithful. She has no power or status, yet still thanks God with the gift of a penny.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Church of God, not The Church of Caesar

As a generous mainline Christianity rouses, it must avoid political alliances

In the wake of the November 7 midterm elections in the US, the expected slew of reports detailing recriminations, successes, and failures, have not failed to live up to their form.

There are plenty of items detailing who should have done what and when; off the record accounts of so and so being really terribly crushed, or just plain terrible, when not in view of the cameras; and the usual calls to end politicking once and for all and usher in a new era of working together, so long as everyone can still deliver gossip and innuendo on deep background. The reviews and prognostications tend to reflect the broad view that there is a good appetite for gossip, silliness, and pledges to work together.

A number of other reports, play up a "resurgent" Christian progressive body.

These can be found at The Christian Century, Ekklesia, USA Today, The Washington Post, and many other outlets and blogs. In general, they present instances of collaboration between Christian progressives and political parties, as evidence of the resurgent progressive Christianity that played leading roles in the civil rights work of the 1950s and 1960s. (Sometimes, the articles conflate "progressive" with "mainline.")

The reports differ on some specifics but tend to go generally like this:

Progressive Christians in the US played essential roles in promoting justice, peace and equality, but after cementing these gains in the 1960s and 1970s, they became complacent. In the 1980s and 1990s and up to the present election, they were outmaneuvered by very theologically and politically conservative evangelicals who formed a close alliance with Republicans as a way of institutionalizing their theological principles. This alliance between evangelicals and Republicans coincided with a decline of membership in mainline denominations that often fed the ranks of progressive Christians, clearing the way for evangelical dominance, right-wing Republican control, and battles over where best to place Ten Commandments displays at public facilities. This all came to an end on November 7, 2006, however, because of two related events: (1) the revelation that many Republican leaders did not in fact share conservative evangelical beliefs and were in fact simply allied with evangelicals out of convenience and a desire for votes; and (2) the resurgence of a progressive Christianity fighting to reclaim authentic Christianity from a politicization of the Word that has corrupted and turned Christianity into a predatory offshoot of right wing politics.

So far, so good. The reports note participation in the electoral process, by Christians preaching the virtues of love, tolerance, charity, and grace. The strength and resilience of a generous, loving, compassionate Christianity that notes that all are welcome to the Lord’s table, because it is His table, and not ours, is something to be celebrated.

This is not the same thing as a Christianity that is a political organ or vehicle, however. Some of the reports tend to suggest that Christian progressives are now organizing themselves into political constituencies, in a way that could corrupt and blind just as well as the too often misguided alliances between evangelicals and Republicans.

"Christian progressive," in fact, may be somewhat of a misnomer in terms of secular politics, apart from its purpose of contrasting with evangelicals who vote Republican. Still, along with "conservative evangelical," the term may enter communities of faith as an extension of political differences. Do we really want to imbed a confessing political component within our status as followers of Christ?

To the extent that such terms occlude actual beliefs and the possibilities for community and reconciliation, they should be avoided. To the extent that such terms move entire portions of the Body of Christ into rigid doctrines and alliances with political bodies who may then try to control the faith community or exploit it for political purposes, they are a wounding of the entire Body.

There is no doubt a usefulness for a shorthand like "progressive Christian" and "conservative evangelical." They can often be used to indicate theological differences, which may unfortunately be used as wells of division. They should not so easily identify political differences, however. These have no place in the Kingdom of God. Whatever the reason for their use, the shorthands should not extend into facilitating and ensuring divisions in the Body based on voting patterns.

We should keep in mind that we are too easily pressured and led by our weaknesses and fears, into divisions that defy the Lord’s assurance that in Him there is only one. The Church is not an extension of political parties and we must guard against the introduction of political categories and mindsets that would color the Lord's Church. It is His church, not ours. It is certainly not the Church of political parties or systems.

A generous, compassionate, mainline Christianity may have taken itself for granted for too long. It may only now be rousing from a slumber that helped to create an echo chamber drowning out core Gospel imperatives. As it stretches forth, it must remember that it is not enough for it to preach love, mercy and grace—it must walk in them, lest it fall prey to the same excesses of zeal and division that have marked too much of the Body for too long.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Church Unfazed by Conservative Defections

Saying Some Defections Not Unexpected, Church Remains Upbeat
Next Steps: More prayer, "intentional evangelism"
Query: When was the last time a bishop barnstormed for Christ?

In a recent Christian Century article reporting that in the period 2003-2005, the Episcopal Church membership rolls dropped by 115,000 with average Sunday attendance down by 7,800 in 2005, church officials sounded a cautious but upbeat note. Kirk Hadaway, director of research, said the increase in losses from 2004-2005 was "precipitous." James B. Lemler, Episcopal director of mission, said in the interview with the Century that the losses were "not more than we expected."

More than half the losses, they said, were attributable to parishes already in conflict over the ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire in 2003.

The Episcopal Church's membership now stands at 2,205,376, they said, meaning that out of a U.S. population of approximately 300 million, approximately 0.75 of Americans belong to the Church. In 1995, the numerical percentage was 0.92 of the population. Over the past 176 years for which reliable records are available, Church membership has ranged from 0.03-2.1% of the population, with 0.6-1.0% being the typical range for most of that time.

Lemler, the director of mission, indicated in the report that the Church plans to make "intentional evangelism" resources available to dioceses and parishes. The claim is rather vague and mysterious, and in fact quite hard to believe, given the way the Church permitted the 20/20 initiative (to double membership by 2020) to wither so terribly on the vine.

One must also wonder at the success and scope of such "intentional" measures given the lack and quality of training in evangelism per se, offered in the leading Episcopal seminaries. The church must examine, at the highest levels, meaning this must be a charge of the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies, its efforts, skills, and training at evangelism.

To the question of absolute membership numbers being a gauge of anything, some may respond, "We offer a quality product." Indeed. This is a good first step in "intentionally growing" our Church. Some may respond, "Giving has stayed above the rate of inflation." Very good. So there is plenty of money to grow our Church. Some may respond, "XYZ has been accomplished in the xyz manner for 50 years." Very good. So the value of establishing strong, generous foundations is understood.

The Church must be prepared to move on evangelism in the spirit with which it approached it in 2000 and with the concrete work of the 19th century, when bishops like William Henry Hobart and Jackson Kemper single-handedly barnstormed across the valleys and plains and with the power of the Word, made thousands of disciples for Christ. The reason the Episcopal Church continues to this day is in no small part because of bishops such as these. Their lives, work and spirit breathed life, work and spirit into the Church.

It is such life and spirit that has too commonly drained from our Church in this season of semantic volleys and retreads of the same arguments. The Church has a new Presiding Bishop and she must move forcefully to spread the sails of our Church.

This time, the Church must follow through on its evangelism efforts, and do so forcefully, by returning us to the days when bishops themselves led evangelization efforts. It is high time the bishops stepped out of property meetings, refinancing meetings, and meetings where they consider how much they may like each other in a future meeting, and into the air, to do the Lord's work.

A bishop is a focus of unity and doctrine. Their authority derives from the apostolic succession. The apostles were evangelists. For evangelism to be a focus of our Church, we must have bishops who evangelize.

Bishops, deacons, priests, lay people--every order of ministry in our Church must be outfitted with the faith and courage to make disciples for Christ.

It is a too common refrain that "evangelism is a parish issue." This is a very fine, abstract statement that means, "If you are growing, let us know, and we will have the bishop make an appearance."

Evangelism is a Church issue. Now more than ever.

Chancellor: Church "Will Prevail" In Communion (and courts)

In presentaton to Episcopal Majority Gathering, Booth Beers Goes on the Record

Episcopal Chancellor David Booth Beers, speaking at last week's Gathering of The Episcopal Majority in Washington, D.C., does not anticipate that the Archbishop of Canterbury will make any formal change in the church’s membership status in the Communion nor does he expect any dioceses affiliated with the Anglican Communion Network to attempt to leave, Steve Waring reports for The Living Church.

When asked by a number of conference participants what would happen if a diocese voted to cut its ties with the constitution and canons of the General Convention, Mr. Beers, the Presiding Bishop's legal advisor, said the Presiding Bishop can declare a diocese “vacant” of leadership. A decision as to when legal action against a diocese would become necessary is nominally up to the Presiding Bishop, although presumably she could be overruled by General Convention, a precedent the chancellor cautioned against. The chancellor said he does not foresee any diocese attempting to "withdraw" from The Episcopal Church. To his consternation, The Living Church writes, Mr. Beers feels a badly behaved and vocal minority has left some Episcopalians with the mistaken idea that their church is under siege.

The Living Church carries the full story.

NB: An excellent report by Mr. Waring. Of note in his item is that the Chancellor last summer, sent a letter to the diocese of San Joaquin, "reminding" them of The Episcopal Church's unqualified accession clause. He recently sent at least two other dioceses, similar letters.

Second Group Calls for "Caution" in consent to South Carolina Bishop Candidate

Episcopal Forum of South Carolina Joins Via Media in Calling for Close Look at Bishop-elect Lawrence

A second group of Episcopalians has called on bishops and standing committees to consider seriously South Carolina Bishop-elect Mark Lawrence's stance toward the diocese's continued affiliation with the Episcopal Church, as they decide whether or not to consent to his ordination.

The Episcopal News Service reports that the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina's October 31 letter to diocesan bishops and members of diocesan standing committees stopped short of calling for rejection of Lawrence's September 16 election, as did letters sent to the same groups earlier in October by Via Media USA, of which the South Carolina group is an affiliate.

Calling itself "an assembly of Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina who are working together to retain and strengthen ties with The Episcopal Church," Episcopal Forum wrote, "It is important that you know, as you consider our concern, that the Diocese of South Carolina is not unified in its support of the Anglican Communion Network and its positions, nor is it unified in a desire to disassociate from The Episcopal Church."

The group's letter said that "only candidates who had declared themselves ready to sever their ties to The Episcopal Church were on the ballot" even though "several more moderate candidates were proposed by both nomination and petition."

The full story by ENS may be read here.

The Episcopal Forum is online here.

The Episcopal Forum and gatherings like it in other dioceses controlled by Network bishops, are often the only avenues for faithful Episcopalians to gather for fellowship and worship that is consistent with the wider Episcopal Church. For their prayers and meetings in support of the Episcopal Church and the historic via media of Anglicans and the Anglican Communion, they are met with active hostility by diocesan leadership and exclusion from dicoesan governance. The leaders of our Church must be keen to remember, that the secessionist attitudes and divisive actions of certain bishops, by proclaiming their dioceses hostile to the Episcopal Church and its leadership, have divided these faithful Episcopalians from their own church. The national Church must take more and greater steps to ensure that these faithful Episcopalians are not further alienated.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Episcopal Life: (-)+Frank Griswold Says Goodbye

Every month or so--less often if I do not inform the Episcopal Church Center in New York that I am at sea, or if they forward the newspaper to the wrong ocean, or if whiskey is somehow spilled on it--Episcopal Life delivers a good snapshot of the state of things in the Church. The column by the Presiding Bishop is always noteworthy for its pastoral and theological reflections. This month, the issue arrived somewhat late as it had been rerouted rather tardily from our last position in the Bay of Fundy.

In the understandably great clamor of the investiture of our new Presiding Bishop, accompanied by the interest in her historic role, there has been some degree of oversight to the gifts and role played by our now former Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold.

In his last, farewell column for Episcopal Life, "Encountered by the Word," we are again reminded of the man's great generosity of heart, mind and spirit. He steered the Church with a vision of enlargement and a constant striving towards Christ, that was admirable.

His last column notes:

"What most stands out as I look back is a sense of gratitude for how we as a community of faith have struggled to discern the mind and heart of Christ. Though this season has been far from easy, it has brought with it learnings and affirmations.

One of these is that discernment only can be accomplished when we are deeply grounded and available to God's unfolding purposes. Essential to our grounding is a radical availability to Christ who is God's Word. We must be truly rooted in the one who declares himself the Way, the Truth and the Life."

It is this "radical availability" to the Word that is quite difficult for some Episcopalians, other Anglicans around the Communion, the Church catholic, and in fact, whole other parts of the Body of Christ. Indeed, not being "radically available" to Christ is often the state of affairs in each and every one of us, for various reasons.

Be that as it may, The Episcopal Church, as Dr. Peter Jensen of Sydney Diocese has noted, and as Bishop Griswold reminds us in his column, has assumed a missionary stance on this issue of radical availability. It has applied this principle on a corporate basis in a fundamental way. In one of its most striking manifestations, it has made room for everyone at the Lord's table, and urges them to come forward and take the spot in Christ, that is waiting for them.

This encouragement and yearning for others, may not come without cost or pain, but this is very much beside the point. The point is to realize that baptism has revealed to us "that our lives are inextricably bound up with another and that together we form one body, the body of the risen Christ."

It is words such as these that +Griswold has spoken again and again during his tenure. At the moment he passed his bishop's staff to ++Katharine, and she knocked with it on the National Cathedral doors to be admitted as Primate, it was clear that these words had passed into our Church as well.

Bishop Griswold's words are part of his gift to the Church. They are a gift that we must now take to the world as boldly and as surely as he brought them to us.