Admiral of Morality: December 2006

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The President's Pew

St. Margaret's prepares for President Ford's service
State Funeral at National Cathedral to Follow

Hours after Gerald R. Ford's death, workers at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church began preparations for his public viewing on a pulpit just feet from where he sat every Sunday--"The President's Pew."

Staff at the church he and his wife attended for years cleared away a sea of decorative Christmas poinsettias to make space on the pulpit for his casket. Now they're rushing to order funereal floral arrangements and call up reserve ushers for a private family prayer service and public viewing Friday.

"This is the biggest memorial we've had," the Rev. Daniel Rondeau, associate rector, told The Associated Press."The Fords are our big celebrities."

Ford's casket will arrive at the church at 12:20 p.m. Friday accompanied by his widow, Betty, and family. After a 12:30 p.m. private prayer service, close friends will have visitation, followed by public viewing starting about 4:20 p.m. and continuing through the night. The casket will remain closed throughout.

At 9 a.m. Saturday the casket will be taken, with ceremonies, to Palm Springs International Airport for a 10 a.m. flight to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and motorcade to Washington, D.C. Ford will have a state funeral in the Capitol Saturday, lie in state and have a funeral at the National Cathedral on Jan. 2.

Ford's body will then be flown to Grand Rapids, Mich., for services and viewing before interment Jan. 3 in a hillside tomb at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

Ford, the nation's 38th president, was 93 when he died Tuesday at his home in Rancho Mirage, near Palm Desert.

The Fords began worshipping there in 1977 after leaving the White House and retiring to Rancho Mirage.

They sat one row back from the front in a spot marked with a plaque labeled "The Presidents Pew." Another plaque is inscribed "The Honorable & Mrs. Gerald R. Ford."

Church officials say Ford has kept high-power company at the church over the years. Notables who have joined the Fords for services include former President George H. W. Bush, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.


Theocrats losing their rigid hold on evangelical Christians

For a few decades now, a narrow view of Christianity has dominated the public square; it's a pinched theology consumed with sexuality but also taking a variety of conservative positions -- such as opposition to tax hikes -- that don't seem to have much to do with the Gospel. That hard-shell Christianity has as its standard-bearers such men as Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and Pat Robertson.

The good news of this Christmas season is this: Not only have those theocrats seen their political clout erode with Republican losses in the mid-term elections, but their brand of Christianity is also losing its monopoly on the public square. Moderate-to-liberal Christians such as Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., have given voice to a competing theology, as have more conservative Christians such as evangelist Rick Warren. Indeed, some of the most energetic opponents of the Falwell-Dobson axis are other conservative believers who want to reclaim the traditional emphasis on helping the needy.

There was always a cognitive dissonance in the ideology of groups such as the Christian Coalition of America. The political network of conservative Christianity grew into a formidable force after the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial ruling in Roe vs. Wade in 1973, a decision that still angers social conservatives, who view abortion as murder.

But the same groups who so forcefully denounce abortion have cheapened their claims to morality by actively opposing policies that might help poor, single mothers support their children. As much as they proclaim themselves "pro-family," those groups have shown little enthusiasm for welfare, Head Start, the earned income tax credit or other programs designed to help struggling families. They love children fiercely right up until the time they leave the womb.

That dissonance has finally strained the evangelical movement, which is starting to splinter as some high-profile preachers seek to broaden their political agenda to include issues such as global warming, the AIDS epidemic and poverty. The Rev. Rick Warren -- pastor of a California mega-church and author of the popular book "The Purpose-Driven Life" -- continues to oppose embryonic stem cell research and abortion. But he has also criticized the use of torture on terrorism suspects.

The Rev. Joel Hunter, pastor of a mega-church near Orlando, Fla., believes that evangelicals must embrace an agenda that more closely hews to New Testament values of social justice and compassion. "My position is, unless we are caring as much for the vulnerable outside the womb as inside the womb, we're not carrying out the full message of Jesus," Hunter told The Washington Post.

Admittedly, not all conservative Christians are prepared to support causes that sound so suspiciously, well, liberal. In fact, Hunter resigned as the incoming president of the Christian Coalition in November, when he realized that its board was not comfortable with his views. Four state chapters -- Ohio, Alabama, Iowa and Georgia -- had already abandoned the Christian Coalition of America for fear that an agenda emphasizing compassion might carry the day.

"We decided to stick with the original mission (of the Christian Coalition)," said Sadie Fields, formerly head of the Georgia Christian Coalition, now chairman of the newly formed Georgia Christian Alliance. She views that mission as "pro-life, pro-family" -- phrases elastic enough to include not only opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion but also support for a harshly restrictive voter ID law pushed by Georgia Republicans.

"Elections are critical to the family -- who is going to represent us in the Congress and the White House," Fields said, adding, "So we need to protect the integrity of the voting process." (As it happens, harsh voter ID laws also help to protect Republican majorities, since those without driver's licenses are more likely to be poor and more likely to support Democrats.)

There have long been evangelical Christians who disagreed with the fundamentalism -- and the blatant political partisanship -- of people such as Fields. But as long as Congress was dominated by Republicans allied with the rigid fundamentalists, those less exclusionary evangelicals received little notice.

The Rev. Jim Wallis, editor in chief of Sojourners magazine, has spent much of his career fighting to ameliorate poverty and broaden social justice. His latest book, "God's Politics," published last year (2005), provides a harsh critique of conservative policies that comfort the comfortable while punishing the poor. "Let's tell it as the prophets might have: The decision to drop tax credits for America's poorest families in favor of further tax cuts for the rich is morally offensive," he wrote.

Amen.

Cynthia Tucker is editorial page editor for The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
©Atlanta Journal Constitution

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

More on Nigeria and Virginia

Lying liars and the lies they tell

The New York Times reporting on Akinola of Nigeria speaks for itself. The headline is "At Axis of Episcopal Split, an Anti-Gay Nigerian."
ABUJA, Nigeria, Dec. 20--The way he tells the story, the first and only time Archbishop Peter J. Akinola knowingly shook a gay person's hand, he sprang backward the moment he realized what he had done.

Archbishop Akinola, the conservative leader of Nigeria's Anglican Church who has emerged at the center of a schism over homosexuality in the global Anglican Communion, re-enacted the scene from behind his desk Tuesday, shaking his head in wonder and horror.

"This man came up to me after a service, in New York I think, and said, 'Oh, good to see you bishop, this is my partner of many years,' " he recalled. "I said, 'Oh!' I jumped back."
All the long-winded, circuitous, pathetic defenses of this man coming from the leaders of schismatic churches in Virginia is yet again exposed for what everyone knows they are--lies.

Whenever the positions espoused by this man are discussed, these schismatics begin to cry about being victims and being subject to personal attacks, etc, etc. It is all hogwash. There is no way to polish this turd. This man is an embarrassment to Christendom and with the exception of the African Anglican bishop who steals from his congregations and tries to protect accused murderers, the very worst Anglican bishop.

The local paper out of the town of Falls Church, Virginia, the Falls Church News Press, has been writing about the abuses and conflicts stirred up by the schismatic churches in their own backyards. They are not well liked in their own home towns, because instead of trying to be good members of their communities, the churches instead try to bully them. Headline: "No surprise to us locals."
[I]t wasn't until the Republican neo-conservatives who'd taken over nearby Washington in the mid-1990s and began flocking, along with their well-heeled patrons, from considerable distances to assemble at the church to hear the likes of Ken Starr and hob-knob with board members of the Bush White House's personal favorite Weekly Standard magazine, that the church's leaders started making pushier demands on its neighborhood. They bought a next-door shopping center, booted everyone out, and tried to bully the little Falls Church City Council into closing a busy public street and giving it to them.

That led to years of acrimony that included a successful push-back from the local community. Meanwhile, many in the community whose families were members of the church for a half-century and longer, became caught up in the church's recent frenzied crusade to defect. Some now claim the church was less than up front to those folk about its real chances of keeping its current location upon defecting.

All in all, this week's news comes as no surprise for those who've suffered the current church leadership in our midst for this long.
Headline: "Descent into the Abyss"
The actions of the Falls Church Episcopal's leadership, and that of the Truro Church of Fairfax and some others across the U.S., is a mild replay of the same sad history of centuries of division, slaughter, discord and tyranny within Christendom. This week's action will not trigger another Inquisition, but the mentality is the same.

Rather than affirming a generosity of spirit and Good Samaritan compassion that can embrace and nurture a complex and multi-faceted humanity, in this case, the leaders of the Falls Church Episcopal have chosen to stand against the civil authority of the U.S. Constitution that promises equal rights for all, just as happened in all those pulpits that, in the past, denounced what they called the ''un-Godly" acts of freeing slaves, ending segregation, or more recently, ending prohibitions on interracial marriage. Church folk experience such hate, emotionally, as a burning righteous indignation.

If this week's vote results in the departure of Falls Church Episcopal from the Episcopal denomination, the church will go down in infamy as a regrettable and despised bastion of bigotry, prejudice and hatred.

In order to earn this legacy, the church's leadership is willing to disenfranchise its members from access to one of the nation's most historic church structures and histories. On this one issue, of the consecration of an otherwise completely qualified, but gay, bishop in New England, this church's leadership is descending from the heights of grandiose plans for a major expansion in 2000, to years of development paralysis, to now being expelled from its property by the Diocese of Virginia following this week's vote and its flock sent wandering. The power of hate can be so strong.
All of this is just more of what we already know. These are not Episcopal Churches, except for the name. These are evangelical right wing churches that have usurped hundreds of years of Episcopal tradition in those places and are now trying to steal Episcopal property. They must be challenged and stopped. They have no right to use what has been nurtured by the Episcopal Church and Episcopalians for hundreds of years.

Sunday, December 24, 2006



Friday, December 22, 2006

Bethlehem

A special report from the Anglican Communion News Service

A special pilgrimage of religious leaders for these last days of Advent to Bethlehem has been welcomed by local Christians as a "sign of hope" in the midst of a devastating situation. As Christians dwindle in numbers in Bethlehem, it is becoming an increasing concern for the future of what one bishop calls "the living stones" as well as the great shrines that one Christian from Beit Jala told the Archbishop of Canterbury, "must not become museums". The streets, shops and hotels are "virtually empty" said one civic leader. The pilgrims met a couple from Australia, two people from the USA and one young man from Canada who simply stated "I wanted to spend Christmas where Jesus was born". The local authorities hope many will share this young man's decision and do so all through the year.

Along with the Most Revd Rowan Williams, the other pilgrims are the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Armenian Primate of Britain and the head of the Baptist World Alliance. All are co-presidents of Churches Together in England. Baptist leader, the Revd Dr David Coffey said he hoped many "would follow their example and come to Bethlehem on pilgrimage".

The pilgrims held stational prayers complete with English carols in Bethlehem after walking across the check point, "the wall", midday after a visit to the Tantur Centre. They prayed in St Joseph's Roman Catholic Chapel and ended their vigil in the Church of the Nativity grotto. The day began with a liturgy in the Notre Dame Chapel in Jerusalem, a visit to the Church of the Resurrection and a lecture by Jerome Murphy O'Connor, a well known expert on the Holy Land.

The story has wide coverage in the British press, with the Guardian, the BBC, and the Telegraph all filing reports.

Here is a bit from the Telegraph article:
Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was visibly shocked yesterday as he encountered the 30ft high security wall built by Israel around Bethlehem when he led a pilgrimage of Christian leaders to the birthplace of Christ.
The party had to request special permission from the Israeli authorities to be allowed to walk the section of the ancient pilgrimage route between Jerusalem and Bethlehem now cut by the screen of grey concrete.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Let your yes be your yes and your no, no--but if you must lie, go ahead and do that

How it's done in Virginia and Nigeria

There is legislation currently under debate in Nigeria. Here is what it says: (link)
[O]n January 19, 2006, Mr. Bayo Ojo, Minister of Justice, presented to the Federal Executive Council a "Bill for an Act to Make Provisions for the Prohibition of Relationship Between Persons of the Same Sex, Celebration of Marriage by Them, and for Other Matters Connected Therewith". While the Council reportedly approved the Bill, it has not yet been submitted to the National Assembly ...

[I]n its article 7 (1), the Bill prohibits the "registration of gay clubs, societies and organisations by whatever name they are called [...] by government agencies."

Furthermore, the Bill provides in its article 7(3) five years imprisonment for "any person involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organisations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private." It also provides the same sentence to anyone who "goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex, and "performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage" (article 8).
One month later, in February, 2006, Peter Akinola of Nigeria approved the following: (link)
At the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) focusing on the theme “Stewardship of Time and Money”, presided over by the Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, CON, DD, the Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, the following message is hereby sent to the Nation:

The Church commends the law-makers for their prompt reaction to outlaw same-sex relationships in Nigeria and calls for the bill to be passed since the idea expressed in the bill is the moral position of Nigerians regarding human sexuality.
This past September, Akinola reaffirmed his support of this legislation. (link)
The Church affirms our commitment to the total rejection of the evil of homosexuality which is a perversion of human dignity and encourages the National Assembly to ratify the Bill prohibiting the legality of homosexuality since it is incongruent with the teachings of the Bible, Quran and the basic African traditional values.
There is no question about it; Akinola supports the bill that calls for imprisoning people who even display same sex affection or who "support" it directly or indirectly. He has the church in Nigeria behind the bill not once, but twice. Anyone denying this is simply denying it, lying, or refusing to see what is plain.

As we near the end of 2006, several parishes in Virginia have decided their churches would find a better home under Akinola's guidance. As part of this guidance they have issued releases saying Akinola does not in fact support the law noted above, despite the fact that he sent the Church's good wishes to speed it along not once, but twice.

Here is what Minns of Virginia said on December 7 on his church homepage, to defend Akinola. (link)
"In a recent Washington Post article, Archbishop Peter J. Akinola was characterized as 'an advocate of jailing gays.' That is not true."
Yes, it is true. By the way, The Washington Post did not issue a retraction, correction, or apology.

Akinola does support putting gay people in jail, Mr. Minns. He wants this to be a law, in fact. The part that is not true is that he is a supporter or friend of gay people. He is not. That is why you are allied with him.

On December 17 in a report on the Virginia churches, noting how they are mobilized by antigay sentiment, The New York Times said Akinola is
an outspoken opponent of homosexuality who supports legislation in his country that would make it illegal for gay men and lesbians to form organizations, read gay literature or eat together in a restaurant.
Four days later, on December 21, in new letters from Minns and Akinola (link), they say Akinola does not support jailing gays, even though Akinola twice commended the legislature in Nigeria for wanting to do this very thing.
That is a distortion of our true position. We are a church that teaches the truth of the Holy Scriptures and understand that every person, regardless of their religion or sexual orientation, is made in the image of God, loved by God, and deserving of the utmost respect. Akinola said he does not want to see his nation follow the path of license and immorality that we have witness in other parts of the world.
What does this mean? As stated in his commendation to the legislature in Nigeria, to Akinola the "truth of Scripture" is that gays are evil, abominable, and sinful. And as he sees it, this is also the position of all of Nigeria. That is why it is then alright to push for their imprisonment.

The Virginia churches are allied with Akinola, because they look fondly on such a position. They too think that gays are evil and sinful.

They have spoken for quite some time about how sinful and evil gays are, yet when asked outright, perhaps they are as appalled as everyone else, by what they are saying and doing, and so now have some great difficulty letting their yes be their yes, and their no, no.

We'll leave the light on.

End Times for the "Christian Coalition"

The once influential group circles the drain

Last month, the incoming president of the Christian Coalition was pushed out after the group refused to move into areas like poverty, the environment and homelessness, signaling that the group is crumbling under the weight of a narrow focus on right-wing politics and religious fundamentalism.

Like Spain's Fascist dictator, Generalísimo Francisco Franco, who was kept alive so that his death would coincide with the anniversary of the death of another well-known fascist leader 39 years earlier, the Christian Coalition's demise is taking a dreadfully long time to play itself out.

While Reports of Franco's death made it into the popular culture--it became a recurring item during the satiric Weekend Update segment on the then-new "Saturday Night Live" program--the death of the Christian Coalition probably won't get the same comedic treatment.

It should be noted that in its day, the Christian Coalition became the heir and-then-some to the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority. Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition (CC) set the gold standard for Christian conservative grassroots organizing efforts, fundraising ability and lobbying efforts well into the 1990s.

At its peak, one of the organization's claims to fame was its highly partisan Voter Guides. In 2000, it distributed over 70 million voter guides in churches all across America, including over 5 million in Spanish (approximately 2 million of which were distributed in Florida alone). In the 2004 election cycle, the group claimed that it distributed around 30 million voter guides, but this time in targeted states and congressional districts, choosing instead to focus its efforts on areas that were more politically competitive.

"The once-mighty Christian Coalition founded 17 years ago by the Rev. Pat Robertson as the political fundraising and lobbying engine of the Christian right, is more than $2 million in debt, beset by creditors' lawsuits and struggling to hold on to some of its state chapters," the Washington Post reported in April of this year.

"In March, one of its most effective chapters, the Christian Coalition of Iowa, cut ties with the national organization and reincorporated itself as the Iowa Christian Alliance, saying it "found it impossible to continue to carry a name that in any way associated us with this national organization."

Stephen L. Scheffler, president of the Iowa affiliate since 2000, said that "The credibility is just not there like it once was. The budget has shrunk from $26 million to $1 million. There's a trail of debt...We believe, our board believes, any Christian organization has an obligation to pay its debts in a timely fashion."

In reality, the organization hasn't been the same since Ralph Reed, the organization's baby-faced point man who garnered serious face time on television pushing the organization's agenda, and Robertson, the founder and chief operating officer left the Coalition. "After the founders left, the Christian Coalition never fully recovered," James L. Guth, an expert on politics and religion at Furman University in South Carolina, told the Washington Post's Alan Cooperman and Thomas B. Edsall in April 2006.

Read the entire piece here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Shrinking Conservative Bloviators

The real 'real America'
It's conservatives who seem out of touch

When a nation alters its philosophical direction and changes its assumptions, there is no press release to announce the shift, no news conference where The People declare they have decided to move down a different path.

Yet 2006 is looking more and more like one of history's hinge years, a moment when old ideas are cast aside, new leaders emerge and old leaders decide to speak in new ways. The changes in politics and culture are visible in the many sudden and outright reversals of the conventional wisdom.

Nowhere is the evidence of change more striking than among the young, whose attitudes and behavior are usually leading indicators of social transformation.

In 1984, three exit polls pegged Ronald Reagan's share of the ballots cast by Americans under 30 at between 57 percent and 60 percent. Reagan-style conservatism seemed fresh, optimistic and innovative. In 2006, voters under 30 gave 60 percent of their votes to Democratic House candidates, according to the shared media exit poll. Conservatism now looks old, tired and ineffectual.

When the right seemed headed to dominance in the early 1990s, the hot political media trend was talk radio and the star was Rush Limbaugh, a smart entrepreneur who spawned imitators around the country and all across the AM dial.

Now, the chic medium is televised political comedy and the cool commentators are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Their brilliant ridicule of the Bush administration and conservative bloviators satisfies a political craving at least as great as the one Limbaugh once fed. Stewart and Colbert speak especially to young Americans who rely on their sensible take on the madness that surrounds us. The young helped drive their popularity, and the Droll Duo, in turn, shaped a new, anti-conservative skepticism.

It wasn't all that long ago that Democrats and liberals were said to be out of touch with "the real America," which was defined as encompassing the states that voted for President Bush in 2004, including the entire South. Democrats seemed to accept this definition of reality and they struggled -- often looking ridiculous in the process -- to become fluent in NASCAR talk and to discuss religion with the inflections of a white southern Evangelicalism foreign to so many of them.

Now, the conventional wisdom sees Republicans becoming merely a Southern regional party. Isn't it amazing how quickly the supposedly "real America" was transformed into a besieged conservative enclave out of touch with the rest of the country? Now, religious moderates and liberals are speaking in their own tongues, and the free-thinking, down-to-earth citizens of the Rocky Mountain states are, in large numbers, fed up with right-wing ideology.

Only a few months ago, it was widely thought (and not just by Republican consultants) that accusing opponents of wanting to "cut and run" in Iraq would be enough to cast political enemies into an unpatriotic netherworld of wimps and "defeatocrats."

Now, the burden of proof is on those who claim that fighting in Iraq was a good idea and that the situation can be turned around. The call for a "surge" of additional troops is greeted with skepticism because Americans have been told too often that this or that new approach would transform the situation in "three to six months."

The Iraq Study Group's grim description of what's going on is the accepted definition of reality. Polls show majorities embracing the report not, I suspect, because most Americans are conversant with its every detail. Rather, they see its take as closer to the truth than the president's accounts over the last three years, and because it appears to point toward disengagement.

Since the 1970s, supply-side conservatives have been brilliantly successful in redefining economic thinking. They shifted the popular focus from workers to entrepreneurs, from incomes to wealth, from job creation to share-price increases, and from government policy innovation to private-sector autonomy.

Suddenly, economic inequality is a problem even conservatives are taking seriously. Corporate America is looked upon, let us say, in less heroic terms. Economic security is no longer a dirty phrase and staunch capitalists aren't quite so eager to preach the virtues of "creative destruction" to displaced industrial workers. Government -- with some wariness, to be sure -- is being invited back into the economic story to redress grievances and to right imbalances.

How durable are these changes? In both politics and culture, the side that thinks it's losing usually accommodates itself to the ascendant order. My hunch is that we will be seeing many new claims to moderation and social concern on the right, and many fewer fake NASCAR fans on the left.

E.J. Dionne is a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post.

©Washington Post writers group

Bishop restores Eucharistic licenses he stripped without justification

Beckwith of Springfield comes to his senses

Peter Beckwith, the bishop of Springfield who in 2005 stripped all 15 lay ministers at St. Andrews parish of their Eucharistic licenses with no justification, last week reinstated them.

He also asked to meet again with the vestry of St. Andrews, in order to reconcile with them. The parish, in Edwardsville, Illinois, about 20 miles east of St Louis, has filed a request for Delegated Episcopal Oversight partly because since 2005, Beckwith has refused to confirm anyone from St. Andrews.

Beckwith is a Network bishop and the vice chairman of the American Anglican Council, which works to undermine and destabilize the Episcopal Church.

In 2004, Beckwith summoned St. Andrews' rector, The Rev. Virginia L. Bennett, to diocesan offices and told her her parish did not "support the orthodox faith."

Then, in 2005, he refused to confirm an openly gay woman at St. Andrews, and, later, anyone at all at St. Andrew's. When many parishioners refused to take communion from Beckwith when he went to the parish anyway, he demanded the names of all of them.

Rev. Bennett refused to provide any names, and in response, Beckwith revoked the licenses of all the eucharistic ministers.

On December 11th, Beckwith met with the vestry, reinstated the eucharistic licenses, and on Sunday St. Andrew's worshipped with eucharistic ministers for the first time in nearly a year.

What precipitated Beckwith's campaign against St. Andrews? Rev. Bennett was the lone General Convention deputy from Springfield diocese to vote to confirm Bishop Robinson in 2003, and at their website, St. Andrews proclaims that "all baptized Christians are invited to partake of Holy Communion." This includes the openly gay woman that Beckwith refused to confirm.

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 concluded it is best to promote pastoral care and Christian formation by working to undermine TEC, revoking lay episcopal ministers' licenses, and not confirming anybody in a parish.

He may have learned the errors of his ways but we shall not hold our breath. If he has repented of his wrongful acts and truly wishes reconciliation then we will have to wait to see the fruits of his repentance.

Here is a background story about Beckwith's shenanigans.

Here is a report about the licenses being reinstated and Beckwith "accepting responsibility" for his actions against the lay ministers.

Here is the ENS story about St. Andrew's request for DEPO.

Here is the November interview in The Chicago Tribune where Beckwith uses the word "prostitute" when discussing Presiding Bishop Katharine, and where he also says he has the authority and insight to determine which dioceses of The Episcopal Church Springfield is in communion with, and which not.

Here is a comment about Beckwith using the name "admiral of morality."

In Cuba, 100 years of Protestant worshp

HAVANA --A top executive of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) helped Cubans celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the capital's first Protestant house of worship, giving a sermon in which he urged all Christians to do more to eliminate global inequality.

The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, the Presbyterian stated clerk, spoke in both English and Spanish to hundreds of followers and diplomats at the Dec. 10 ceremony in central Havana. Delegations from Florida and Washington D.C. were also present.

"A better world is possible," said the U.S. clergyman. He said Christians must work toward creating a planet where everyone has a dignified life and enough to eat and drink.

Kirkpatrick first came to Cuba 20 years ago. He spoke of the history of the church, which was inaugurated in 1906 and hosted the founding of the Cuban Council of Churches in 1941, the membership organization for Protestant groups in the country.

"This church has been witness to very difficult, very complex times," he said.

Churches on the island nation have struggled under the government's efforts to control religious expression.

Cuba is home to some 20,000 Protestants, according to Rev. Hector Mendez, who leads the Havana church. Protestants are a minority on the island, where the Roman Catholic Church and followers of the syncretic Afro-Cuban Santeria religion dominate.

Mendez said Kirkpatrick's participation in Sunday's ceremony symbolized the brotherhood between the people of the United States and Cuba, despite tense relations between the two governments. He said he is against a series of U.S. regulations which squeeze the Cuban economy and limit religious contact between U.S. citizens and Cubans.

"We must set an example of love, of reconciliation," he said.

The Havana church offers home Bible study, music courses and assistance to the elderly.

By The AP in Havana.

West Indies: "Consensus, not divisiveness"

"Lord Bishop of the Anglican Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, the Right Reverend Dr. Alfred Reid, says the Anglican Church of the West Indies is not supporting the move made by two congregations in the United States to split from the Espicopal Church.

In a statement to the press last night, the bishop said that while the West Indian province disagrees with the ordination of a gay priest, Gene Robinson, it also disagrees with the schism being pushed by the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola.

"Archbishop Akinola knows full well that the leadership of the worldwide Anglican Communion has been at pains to seek to deal in a holistic and timely manner with the issues raised ever since Robinson's ordination," he said in the statement.

He added that the decision made by the Episcopal Church in the United States was not binding on the whole Communion and therefore should not be confused with the mission of the Anglican Church in the West Indies.

"It should be emphasised that the Church in Jamaica in collegiality with others in the Province of the West Indies and the rest of the worldwide communion seeks to work for consensus not divisive-ness and to maintain the fellow-ship of the communion without compromising its integrity. It is in that spirit that ongoing discussions on the most contentious and often painful matter will be conducted," he said.

He said the Archbishop of the West Indies, Reverend Drexel Gomez, has been appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to chair a committee that will guide the whole Anglican Communion forward on such issues."

Gomez has been a critic of the American Church and many of the dissidents have pointed to him as a sort of supporter for their schism. Apparently he does not support them in schism.

The reason is simple. Schism threatens to destroy the Anglican Communion and the laity and clergy of the Anglican Communion do not wish to see the Anglican Communion destroyed.

The link is here. Mr. Jim Naughton of The Daily Episcopalian reported on this here.

Episcopalians Against Equality

Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson weighs in

"The Episcopal Church owes its existence directly to the American Revolution; it broke away from the Church of England during the war and was reborn as a distinctly American entity between 1784 and 1789. Fully two-thirds of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were active or (like Washington) nominal Anglicans, and, having repudiated the political authority of the king of England, they could scarcely have gone on affirming his ecclesiastical authority.

The founders of the church believed, within the context of their time, that all men were created equal. Today's defectors have thought it over in the context of our own time, and decided that they're not."

Read it all at The Washington Post.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Australia: "This bizarre concoction of an African bishop must have other conservatives rolling their eyes"

In comments to The Age of Australia, several Anglican leaders weigh in on recent developments in The Episcopal Church.

"Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen, a leader of evangelicals in the Western church, said Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, could no longer avoid decisions that would disappoint one side or both.

"His method has been to put off those choices and give people a chance to reconcile, which has been sensible, but in the next 18 months he will have to make decisions that will lead to a great deal of antagonism," he said.

Archbishop Jensen said the loss of the parishes in Virginia sent a powerful message to the American church that the threats it faced were internal, rather than external, while the evangelical covenant in England was a signal that conservatives would stay in the church but would be more politically active. "The church will be less easy to govern than ever before."

Leading Australian liberal Andrew McGowan, warden of Trinity College at Melbourne University, said there was more fall-out to come.

He said it was difficult to predict whether the departure of the American churches was "another round of dominoes or just a couple of conservative churches having had enough and deciding to jump ship".

"This bizarre concoction of an African bishop must have other conservatives rolling their eyes."

The English covenant had received scathing criticism from leading evangelicals, showing that the Church of England had a strong core from all the main traditions. In Australia, Anglicans wanted to hold things together. Liberals were more circumspect, even though it meant they could not carry forward their agenda."

The full article may be read here.

It includes the occasional statement that is not supported by facts and that cannot be supported by facts, such as, "the churches that have voted to schism, are 'some of the most famous.' " Unless they have been following the odd developments, few outside Virginia likely know the names of the churches or what they stand for or do, since they have steadily isolated themselves from the greater Episcopal Church for years. What has made their names more common, are their acts of schism. Their roles in any ministries and activities of the greater Church have tended to be obstructionist and divisive, not collaborative. Their financial support for the work of the Church outside their own yards, has been paltry.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Mail

My good Admiral: Admiral, I am almost breathless as I write this. Have you heard about the churches in Virginia leaving the Episcopal Church? From what I read in the paper The Episcopal Church is on the verge of breaking up and the only thing left to do is what those churches did, and...Admiral, I admit some confusion. What did those churches do?What does it all mean? Signed, Mrs. Winfred Taylor Jones, Clearborn, Ohio

Madam: Thank you for your timely letter. The churches in Virginia, after decades becoming more and more evangelical, have decided that they are far too conservative and evangelical for the Episcopal Church. Some within the churches, and their friends, claim that they stand where they have always stood, and that where they stand, is true Episcopalianism. If the Episcopal Church has changed, a close look at these churches reveals that so have these parishes, by very wide degrees indeed. One of them is proud of the fact that President George Washington served on the vestry, back when it was still an Episcopal Church. Alas, it is doubtful that President Washington would recognize or even worship in that same church today much less bother to stand for vestry, given how widely it has veered from its Anglican moorings and how eagerly it embraces a blurring of the boundaries between faith, politics, and good taste. But that is neither here nor there--back to your question of, what does it all mean? I believe, Madam, that it means that in the United States of America, one is guaranteed the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ must be no bar to this. That is, if one cannot find life, liberty and happiness in his own church because it does not give him what he wants on demand, then he is free to declare the wider church idiotic, and henceforth announce his need for instant gratification using fine turns of phrase, long-winded justifications, poor excuses, and elaborate constructs with little if any bearing to reality, and always with this precept in mind: "Give me what I want now." In short, Madam, it means that the curious American phrase "My way or the highway" is alive and well in Virginia, to the detriment of the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ. If I may be so bold, Madam, may I suggest, that you continue to attend church, and work, pray and give for the spread of the Kingdom of God? Yours, The AoM

My good Admiral: I saw recently on the telly that the ABC was in Rome meeting with the Pope and praying with the other Romans. It seems a very odd choice to me given how deep rooted it all already is there. It seems a lost cause. Does the ABC really believe he will be able to convince the Pope and his men of the need to repent with so short a visit? After being educated on the Romish abuses by The DaVinci Code I wonder whether the Pope shouldn't scrap it all and begin again? And mightn't the ABC be better served by traveling to other parts of the world more in need of a strong Christian man of principle and example, like Scotland and large swaths of South Carolina. Signed, Mrs. Alice N. Halmshir, Aylsebridge-on-Derwent

Madam: While it is indeed taut and often convincing, I am afraid that The DaVinci Code is a work of fiction, so we mustn't base what the ABC should or should not do on this or any other fiction. That being said, I do admire his willingness to pursue closer relations even with those who at times point to him in order to further their own paths and desires. The ABC seems to seek and want better relations for no other purpose than for the sake of closer and better relations. Whether this is reciprocated by the pope or anyone else, does not in the least appear to dilute his desire for it or his work towards it. As you say, such a man and sentiment would be welcome in many parts of the world. Yours, The AoM

My good Admiral: I write to you on behalf of the Reformed Episcopalians Embracing Kairos (REEK). It has come to our attention, that you, sir, willfully and regularly [redacted for exceeding bandwidth]. What do you propose to do about this, sir? How do you propose to satisfy us? Time is short, He comes like a thief, and all those with ears to hear will listen. Signed, Andrew Coffmans, on behalf of The REEK

Gentlemen: Your learned and lengthy, even sleepy, dissertation, is not compelling. Yours, The AoM

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Presiding Bishop on NPR

++Katharine is interviewed on the Sunday, December 17 edition of National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," hosted by Michelle Norris.

The interview runs about 9 minutes. About 8 minutes in, we have the following exchange:

++Katharine:
"I think my leadership, in this season, is about reminding the Church of its mission, its broader mission. Reconciling people over issues of sexuality is a piece of our work, but the larger piece is about human suffering around the world."

Norris:
"Do you think there's too much emphasis being put on the debate over homosexuality in the Church?"
++Katharine: "It's a very easy way to neglect, to ignore, the other suffering in the world. It's important but it's not the centerpiece of what we're about...."

Norris:
"What other reforms do you hope to bring to the Church under your leadership?"
++Katharine: "I think my basic hope is that we remember that, as the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 40's said, the Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members, that our focus needs not to be so much on internal politics but on serving the world, on helping to heal a world that's broken."

Listen to the entire interview at NPR.

Duly Noted

Notes from the blogosphere
A Surprising Encounter with the Lord and a Collect for Teaching Assistants

"Pisco Sours," a frequent contributor to Father Jake's and other places, has his own blog, not surprisingly titled "Episcosours." The blog is composed from the perspective of a newly minted disciple of Christ in the Episcopal Church.
The week before New Years 2006, I felt compelled to find God in my life again, and my search took me to Grace Episcopal Church. There, after a year of increasing isolation, and 20 years of disbelief, I started to awaken again.
In one of his first entries Pisco Sours wrote:
I think I felt the Son first, when I cried in church. That surprised me. I thought Jesus would be the part of the Trinity that I would have the most difficult time with.

Then I felt the Spirit calling me.

And just yesterday, as I was struggling up a hill towards home, bone tired and freezing, a strong gust of wind propelled me forward and I swear I could have felt the touch of the Father on me, steadying me and helping me walk the last bit home.

For years and years I had no opinion of God one way or the other. If He wanted me to believe in Him, He would have to show Himself first. Now He has, and I’m trying my best to hold up my end of the bargain.
Who hasn't been surprised when the Son makes His presence known in our lives? You're in good company, Pisco.

Another recent addition to the Episcoblogosphere is "Episcopalia," maintained by JM from Chicago. He combines running, meditations, and observations on various church practices and aspects of Episcopal life. JM describes himself as
A poet- and scholar-in-progress, fervently crossing himself while running absurd distances and trying not to freeze in his hyperborean paradise. Going to church twice on Dec. 24.
JM recently composed a "Tract on Hell."
I sure do hope those theological liberals who have gotten rid of Hell are right. Not only for my sake, but for the sake of everyone else, Christian or otherwise.

That said, I've got this intuition right now that Hell really does exist. And that's because I'm currently experiencing a small fraction of it. It's called the Hell of Grading Essays. That's right, folks. Hell is being a T.A. for all eternity and grading papers of college freshmen. We're talking about inifinite numbers of overpriveleged white girls writing about racism in the early twentieth century. Infinite numbers of J.D. Salinger wannabes writing about having no identity and being alienated from society. Infinite numbers of young Susan Sontags writing pretentiously about Virginia Woolf. (Sorry, Ms. Sontag. I like you. Just not your young imitatrices.) And the really hellish thing about it is, the papers are each infinitely long. And the stack of them is infinitely high. And you sit there, at your bituminous desk, for all eternity, trying to say to them, "You totally suck," without hurting their feelings, because that would be unprofessional.

So you see, while it's not fashionable amongst my fellow religious liberals to talk about Hell and about people going there, I must tell you: it exists. Be afraid. Be very afraid. We are sinners in the hands of an angry God, folks, and if we don't right ourselves, it's comma splices and reliance on plot summary for the everlasting hereafter.
He ends his meditation with "A Collect for T.A.s," which at some Episcopal Churches, may need to be a regular part of the Advent liturgy.

Almighty God, who did send the Word your Son to us to be for us the way, truth, and life: look with mercy upon graudate teaching assistants, especially those who traffic in words, that they may be delivered from abominations of grammar and unstructured or nonexistent argument, that they may teach as best as they are able, that their grading may be merciful and judicious at all hours of the night; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

From the Sunday Readings

Luke 3:7-18: He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire
(NRSV) John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, 'You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our ancestor"; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.'

And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" In reply he said to them, 'Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.' Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, 'Teacher, what should we do?' He said to them, 'Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.' Soldiers also asked him, 'And we, what should we do?' He said to them, 'Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.'

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered all of them by saying, 'I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.'

So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.
As John sees it, too much of Israel relies on the knowledge that having Abraham as an ancestor is sufficient righteousness. Not so, he says, for if He wishes God may raise up stones and declare them children of Abraham. The lineage itself is not dispositive. John is asked repeatedly, "What must we do?" What does God expect and demand? He tells them, do justice. Show mercy. Do not proclaim a false witness against another. The words he spoke were amplified throughout eternity by the One whose arrival he proclaimed.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Bishop of Southeast Florida Addresses His Diocesan Convention

The Rt. Rev. Leo Frade connects the dots
"I don't know if it is because of my new recently acquired senior status or due to the fact that I am actually getting old that I have been recently meditating on my ministry. I have been pondering during the past months looking back at my ministry throughout the years as a lay person, a deacon, a priest and a bishop.
Has it all been worthwhile, all the effort and work throughout the many years of my life?

Have I done what was required from me as a Christian?

As your bishop I wonder: Are you and I doing what God wants us to do as a Diocese?

What about our mission? Are we on the right track?

Should we concentrate more on evangelism or should we focus more on social work to alleviate the suffering of our world?

Throughout time I have always tried to do my utmost to be faithful to the Christ that I serve. I have been committed to do my best and to obey Christ's commandments for me and his Church.

How can I be sure that what we are doing is what God wants us to do?

Well, throughout the years I have always tested my life and my work based on Christ's teachings from the Scriptures.

When I read God's Word I have found two major teachings of Christ that have guided me throughout the years to model my life and my ministry.

One of those teachings is the Great Commission of our Lord to his disciples found in the 28th Chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew:

''Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.'' (MT. 28:19-20)

The second teaching from Christ that keeps guiding my life, my work and my decisions in the Church can be found in the 12th Chapter of Mark verses 28 to 31. Our Lord is asked: ''Which commandment is the first of all?'' Jesus answered: 'The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this. 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these.' "
In noting that membership was up 2%, average Sunday attendance was up 2%, and Plate and Pledge was up 3% over the previous year, the bishop said: "Yes, we can rejoice in our growth—our commitment to bring others to Christ--but we also can rejoice in our commitment to love our neighbor as ourselves."

Read his full address here.

Biographical information on the bishop, born in Havana, Cuba, is here.

Trinity Cathedral, Miami, is here.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Father Matthew: just how much is 0.7%?

The 27-year-old curate of St. Paul's, Yonkers, on the MDGs



In his own words: "I am a newly ordained priest who is married to a professor and the proud overseer of two cats. I am trying to replant an Episcopal church that came close to death. Won't you join me as I bring you along for the ride?"

Father Matthew has a YouTube page with many other videos.

His church is here.

Anglican Communion: Sorry, CANA. No Status for You

From the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion:

'In response to a number of queries, and following consultation with The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion has issued the following statement:

"The Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) is, to my knowledge, a "mission" of the Church of Nigeria. It is not a branch of the Anglican Communion as such but an organsation which relates to a single province of the Anglican Communion. CANA has not petitioned the Anglican Consultative Council for any official status within the Communion's structures, nor has the Archbishop of Canterbury indicated any support for its establishment." '

The Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon
It is sometimes challenging to unpack Communion-speak but this time Secretary Kearon is clear.

What he is saying is that if we were in the Old American West, then the CANA settlers would be called the Donner Party, and they are heading out on their own through the beautiful mountains into uncharted territory, where after the burst of idealism fades and winter sets in, they will eat each other and live on in the annals of religious cannabalism.

The statement is at the Anglican Communion website.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

That Old Time Religion

The Episcopal Bishop of Alabama asks Dr. Martin Luther King to follow the rules and stand down
In his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Dr. King says no
The issue: Breaking the rules to ensure human dignity


In April, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested and thrown in prison in Birmingham. The occasion of King's arrest was a sit-in at a stand-up lunch counter in a local discount store. When he and five others sought service they were told that the counter was closed. When they refused to leave, they were arrested.

In the demonstrations that resulted from their arrest, police used dogs against those objecting to segregated lunch facilities. The police refused bail and permitted no visitors to the jail. The local papers reported that the demonstrators were from Ohio in an effort to assure people that these problems were simply the result of outside agitators.

The year before, the City of Birmingham had closed all public parks, and other public facilities, to keep from them from being integrated. T. Eugene "Bull" Connor, the chief of police, had no qualms about using fire-hoses or German shepherds on non-violent marches and pickets organized by African-Americans in Birmingham.(1)

Despite the non-violent nature of these protests, white church leaders in Birmingham responded with a statement calling the demonstrations "unwise and untimely." Among those signing this statement were C.C.J. Carpenter, the Episcopal Bishop of Alabama, and George M. Murray, the Bishop Coadjutor.

The text of their letter displays a clear preference for following the rules even if they are unjust. The bishops and other clergymen "warmly commended" the Birmingham police for "keeping order" and "containing violence." What they said can be read in full at the archives of the Birmingham Public Library.

Their suggestion that Dr. King stand down remains a shortsighted failure.

Dr. King replied to the clergyman with his eloquent and historic "Letter from Birmingham Jail," where he reminded the clergymen that he and his fellow men had waited 340 years for justice. In it he argued quite well that there is a litmus test for differentiating between just and unjust laws.
You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.
He also wrote about the Church's responsibility to take the lead in promoting liberty and justice, as it had in the early days of the Church.
So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom.
The full letter can be read at the King Archives at Stanford.

As a fellow clergyman, Dr. King took the concerns of the bishops seriously. They were the religious power structure, supporting the rules, because they are the rules. And they were wrong.

Dr. King's response, as always, was to use peaceful persuasion, as was cited by the Nobel Foundation when it awarded him the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964.
We will only say to the people, "Let your conscience be your guide." Our actions must be guided by the deepest principles of our Christian faith... Once again we must hear the words of Jesus echoing across the centuries: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you."

Throughout his letter and his life, Dr. King applied a simple rule of thumb evidenced by the Lord himself: if human life and well-being is improved by so doing, break the rules.

It's a good rule of thumb.


(1) Some material adapted from Professor Terry Matthews, Ph.D (Church history).

The Bishop of New York on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion

The Right Reverend Mark Sisk, Bishop of New York, at the Convention of the Diocese of New York:

Unfortunately, in my opinion at least, when the Church gathered in Convention the desire to reach a common understanding, though prevalent, was by no means universal. What makes that fact so potent is the breadth, size and complexity of General Convention. Doing convention business consists of dealing with two sets of committees presenting matters to roughly 1200 official deputies sitting in two houses but meeting for a very limited amount of time; it requires only a dedicated handful of knowledgeable people to really gum up the works. And those folks were there, and clearly well prepared. There were determined efforts to use cleverly worded resolutions to draw lines between people and to drive them into warring camps. There were attempts to obscure the issues or assert that there were issues where none existed. Perhaps the most dramatic example of this distortion was the frequently repeated claim that the Windsor Report called on the Episcopal Church to renounce the consecration of Gene Robinson. The simple and irrefutable fact is the Windsor Report simply never made such a request, nor was it made by the Primates nor was it made by the Anglican Consultative Council; persistent claims that it did so were misunderstandings at best, if not an outright distortions at worst. Despite the facts the assertion that such a request had been made was repeated with such determination and singleness of voice that one media outlet after the other assumed that it was true.

The primary strategy however, appears to have been to slow the cumbersome Convention process to the point of paralysis, and then claim to international forums that the Episcopal Church was uninterested in listening to our brothers and sisters around the world. I am pleased to say that at the end of the day this strategy failed. A difficult but not uncontroversial accommodation was reached.

Personally I have few illusions as to what might be achieved by this temporary accommodation. But I am pleased that our Church has, without in any way repudiating its previous actions or its pastoral care and support of all its members, gay and lesbian persons prominent among them, said that it wants to continue to be in conversation with those who disagree with us. I know full well that there are those on all sides of these issues who are tired of dialogue and have given up on its potential.

I have not. I have seen too much evidence of the fruit of dialogue.

Read his full address at the diocesan website.

Episcopal Church on YouTube

It's called TECtube and can be accessed at this YouTube location.

Here's the "Grow in Peace" video.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

From the Sunday Readings

The Gospel According to Luke: Prepare the Way of the Lord

Luke 3:1 (NRSV) In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness
"Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"

Friday, December 08, 2006

Tornado in London takes city by storm

George Carey denies involvement. Pope Benedict mum as well
Akinola: "No comment"


A tornado formed by gigantic currents of hot and cool air colliding with each other touched down in north London Thursday, causing severe damage and injuring at least six people. Officials immediately turned to some of the largest known purveyors of hot air as the most likely suspects to have caused or at least contributed to the tornado.

"We have zeroed in on a few individuals," a Disaster Relief of Lower London junior minister said. "They emanate large volumes of superheated nonsense on a regular basis. On the basis of these high volumes and on reports that the faces of these individuals were seen in the tornado just as it touched down we are pursuing further inquiries."

While the DROLL minister would not classify the suspects as buffoons or name them, other reports point to the suspects as George Carey, Pope Benedict, and Peter Akinola, who was last seen fleeing from reporters when he was in America recently. Suspicions naturally turned to them because the three are commonly in the vicinity when upended lives, flying objects, and wholesale destruction are evident.

The tornado caught London by surprise, but many climatologists point out that there is little cause for alarm since a tornado touching down in London is simply part of a regularly occurring 15 billion year cycle of the destruction of all matter. We are now nearing the peak of the destruction part of the cycle, they said.

Those in the storm, were less sanguine.

Just before 11am in a fashionable part of north London, Caroline Hill, a freelance writer, thought the apocalypse had come. Sitting at the front window of her home writing about the benefits of complementary therapy, she looked up to see the sky turn black. "I dived under my desk and started screaming hysterically," she said. "I had my arms over my head. I heard the windows shatter. I thought George Leonard Carey, Baron Carey of Clifton, the 103rd Archbishop of Canterbury and a gigantic purveyor of hot air, was outside my door making more divisive statements about Rowan Williams."

Not quite Carey but close--it was the grey tornado, taller than a house, spewing debris and roaring like a jet, heading straight for her. Hill's neighbor, Margaret Wallace , says she saw the mitred, cackling head of Peter Akinola in the very middle of the cloud.

"I had never heard of this man before he made this tornado touch down in my street, truth be told, " Wallace said. "I will probably forget about him soon."

Homeowners barely had time to lock their windows and shut doors before cars were blown across the street, tiles smashed windows and garage roofs peeled off like "lids on tins of baked beans."

One shopkeeper described the tornado as "like the Wizard of Oz, except the wizard is George Carey and he's not kind and Oz is England and there are no witches except for on a few streets in Glastonbury."

"The sky turned black, the air grew cold, and we heard rude comments about Rowan Williams--it was like being in a movie about the sermons of George Leonard Carey, Baron Carey of Clifton, the 103rd Archbishop of Canterbury and a gigantic purveyor of hot air," said another victim.

Sally Johns, an estate agent, said: "I'm just so shaken up. I thought the whole office was going to be lifted off the ground and we were going to be dropped in the middle of a church where George Leonard Carey, Baron Carey of Clifton, the 103rd Archbishop of Canterbury and a gigantic purveyor of hot air, was prattling on. Thank the Lord we were only dropped in front of Bangor Cathedral in Wales, where Carey can't go because the Dean has banned him."

"There was so much damage in such a short space of time," her neighbor Roberts Cyfe-Wyldon said. "Northwest London is not the place where you expect this to happen because George Leonard Carey, Baron Carey of Clifton, the 103rd Archbishop of Canterbury and a gigantic purveyor of hot air, wouldn't be caught dead in this part of town."

Akinola did not confirm or deny that he may have caused the tornado and would not comment on the fact of tornados existing. Investigators began to look into his complicity after hearing reports of a devilish face in the cloud and after discovering that he had strongly promoted a new law in Nigeria called "In Support of Destructive Weather touching down in heavily populated areas of the Global North, particularly London."

A spokesman for Akinola said Akinola's support for the law has been misconstrued, because not all destructive weather has to touch down, and out of the destruction, come large sources of money.

Pope Benedict has been under investigation as well, but since he only recently returned from barnstorming Turkey and other countries whose culture he has made fun of, investigators believe that he may have dissipated enough hot air in those parts of the world to keep the rest of us safe for the moment.

The Daily Mail has its own reporting on the tornado and its aftermath.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Conservative Judaism takes first steps towards inclusion of gays and lesbians

Will permit gay ordinations and blessings
While not all agree, leading rabbi says, "our community understands and appreciates the potential for having two opinions. It’s part of our culture"


(AP) Conservative Jewish scholars eased their ban Wednesday on ordaining gays, upending thousands of years of precedent while stopping short of fully accepting gay clergy.

The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, which interprets religious law for the movement, adopted three starkly conflicting policies that nonetheless gave gays the chance to serve as clergy. Four committee members who wanted to uphold the ban on ordaining gays resigned in protest after the vote.

One policy upholds the prohibition against gay rabbis. Another, billed as a compromise, maintains a ban on male sodomy but permits gay ordination and allows blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples. The third policy upholds the ban on gay sexual relationships in Jewish law and mentions the option for gays to undergo therapy aimed at changing their sexual orientation.

That leaves seminaries and synagogues to decide on their own which approach to follow.

It will also test what Conservative Jewish leaders call their "big tent" _ allowing diverse practices by the movement's more than 1,000 rabbis and 750 North American synagogues.

The 25-member panel made its decision in a two-day closed meeting in an Upper East Side synagogue. Students from a gay advocacy group at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the flagship school of Conservative Judaism, stood vigil nearby while the results were announced.

The Jewish Week, Reuters, and The New York Times have reports.

Christmas Message from Archbishop of Canterbury

"Jesus of Nazareth was born, lived, died and rose because human beings were not free. Since the dawn of human history, men and women had been trapped--even the very best of them--by the heritage of suspicion and alienation towards God and fear of each other. They had been caught up in the great rebellion against God that began even before human history, the revolt of God's creatures against God out of pride and self-assertion. Satan, the fallen angel, stands as a sign of this primordial tragedy, showing that even the most highly endowed being can be corrupted by self-assertion. All of the intelligence and spiritual dignity belonging to the angels did not stop Lucifer from the ultimate madness of rejecting the God in whose presence he stood."

Read the Archbishop's full message at the Anglican Communion website.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Bishop of New Hampshire Takes Questions at the Center for American Progress

"I tell my clergy, if they aren't in trouble, then they're not preaching the Gospel"

Bishop Gene Robinson recently participated in a talk called "Working for Justice and the Common Good" at the Center for American Progress in Washington. He participated with the Rev. Jennifer Butler, until recently the Presbyterian Church (USA) Representative to the United Nations; and Winnie Stachelberg, who worked for years with the Human Rights Campaign.

The Center is a progressive think-tank dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action. It's headed up by John D. Podesta, former chief of staff to President Clinton and a professor at Georgetown University Center of Law.

Here's an excerpt of +Gene:
People will tell you that Scripture says "God helps those who help themselves." It's not in there. What is in there is this mandate to care, not only just for everyone, but especially for the marginalized, for the poor, for those who have been pushed to the sides of society for whatever reason. We seem to be at no loss for finding yet more reasons to push someone to the side.
...
I think that the greatest enemy of the common good is anxiety. And probably every age has felt anxious, but boy, let me tell you, this one feels like it's right up there with the greatest times. And we have an administration right now that is using that anxiety, promoting anxiety, I think, to forward its own agenda.

Because, if I'm anxious enough, I'm willing to give up all kinds of things to make the anxiety go away--whether that's in the name of Homeland Security or--well the list goes on. Our anxiety is even color coded...you go to the airport and find out how anxious you should be that day.... We're told to be anxious--but we can't tell you what to be anxious about, we can't tell you where you should be anxious, or what to do about it, or how to avoid it, just be more anxious. And it's just in the air that we breathe these days.
Renee at the Religious Left Blog has put up a transcript and commentary of the talk, which is worth reading.

The Center itself is carrying audio and video of the event.

Wrong answers

The serious concerns about having Mark Lawrence as a diocesan bishop of The Episcopal Church are richly confirmed by his new answers to the bishops and diocesan standing committees that must approve him. (Lawrence's answers are posted at Thinking Anglicans.)

Throughout, he seems appalled that The Episcopal Church is asking him about anything of significance at all, as if he does not have to answer to anyone for anything.

Wrong. In order to gain consent, he must win approval by a majority of the Standing Committees and the House of Bishops, by the end of January. They are quite right to question him.

They must now be prepared to refuse consent and to make preparations for the continued pastoral care and spiritual direction of that diocese, because Lawrence cannot possibly be given consent.

His answers to legitimate questions are evasive and dismissive Network-speak. He insists that he is being asked questions because he "dares" to ask questions like, "Does the emperor have no clothes?"

Wrong. He is being asked simple questions, like, "What would you do if the diocese were to try to secede?"
I don't think that speculative questions of this nature as to what a person will do in some imagined future are either reasonable or helpful. I mean no disrespect by this, but I will say in all fairness, I can think up many such questions of an imagined future crisis that could send any of us into a conundrum of canonical contradictions.

Wrong answer. The answer is, "I will do everything in my power to stop it."

Anther simple question he is asked is, "Do you recognize Katherine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and as your Primate?"
I recognize Katherine Jefferts Schori as the legitimately elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Sadly, I also recognize that her actions as bishop of Nevada in condoning same sex blessings, for which she has expressed no regret, put her in violation of the Windsor Report and, consequently, compromise her ability to function in primatial authority and relationship. This is not merely a consequence of her stated views, (which is one thing), but her considered actions after the Primate’s Covenant in 2003, as well as subsequent Primatial Communiqués, i.e. Dromantine, regarding the bonds of affection. How one parses the difference between elected Presiding Bishop and Primatial representation is one of the ecclesial challenges that, to a greater or lesser degree, those who have asked for APO must presently grapple.

Wrong answer. The answer is, "She is the Primate of the Episcopal Church. She is the Primate of South Carolina." Why is this the right answer? Because this is what ++Katharine is.

Lawrence is being questioned because during the search for a new bishop he indicated quite clearly that as bishop he will simply reinforce divisions and hostilities. In his answers then, he said he agrees strongly that flying bishops are of no use (so the only solution is secession or separation), that the national Church is a hindrance to his ministry, and that he believes it is fine for the Church to divide over the issue of sexuality. (Thinking Anglicans has a fine page where his old answers may be read. Go here.)

Before the selection process, he wrote a piece called "In Defense of Dissociation."

There he said that the Church had abandoned the Gospel in a misguided passion to be culturally sensitive and intellectually flexible.
In its desire to be more relevant than thou, TEC has cast aside scriptural faithfulness, particularly the broad and demonstrable teachings of the New Testament that would convict our lifestyle of sin, and call into question our overly permissive approach to morality. Even more disturbing is our grave disregard of fundamental Christian doctrines such as the nature of God, the uniqueness of Christ, the integrity and unity of the Spirit's work, and the need of humankind for the redemptive work of the cross—for instance, assuming our sexual proclivities, given by nurture or nature, are, by that fact, necessarily God-given.

If Lawrence believes his Church is not Christian, then what is his point in being a bishop in it? Answer: to be in a position to remove from it, "a faithful remnant."

Would he face much opposition? Hard to say. Many clergy in the Diocese of South Carolina have long since passed from loyal dissent to outright hostility and hatred for The Episcopal Church. In fact, they voted for Lawrence, knowing full well what he has written and said.

When he lost to Lawrence, Ellis Brust, one of the other candidates the secessionists nominated as their bishop, immediately left The Episcopal Church and assumed the role of President for the Anglican Mission in America, which is not in Communion with Canterbury, and tries to absorb Episcopal parishes. Before that, he was CEO of the American Anglican Council, a group of "Episcopalians" who regularly undermine and attack the Church.

That South Carolina would nominate a person of so little fealty to their own Church, to be their bishop, does not inspire confidence in their ability to discern a positive way forward. The nomination of Brust alone is enough to warrant heightened scrutiny.

Lawrence complains in his answers that he has not demonstrated any "action" to warrant denial of consents. This is his only defense, that he hasn't yet actually divided the Church.

He's right on that score. And the Church should not give him the opportunity to do it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Episcopal Church: ++Rowan Writes to the Episcopal Majority

He says, "I fully accept that I have no jurisdiction in the USA and I have not sought and am not seeking to impose any new structure."

On November 9, the Rev. Bill Coats, on behalf of the Steering Committee of The Episcopal Majority, sent two letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding alternative primatial oversight and the Anglican Covenant.

In a letter dated November 20, the Archbishop has responded.

The first Episcopal Majority letter urged the ABC to reject the requests of a few bishops of The Episcopal Church for "alternative primatial oversight" (or a "commissary").

The second recommended that the Archbishop ask the Most Rev. Drexel Gomez, Archbishop of the West Indies, to step down as Chairman of the Covenant Design Group.

About ++Cantaur's reply, the Rev. David K. Fly, President of the Episcopal Majority, says , "we are grateful for the clarification of his thinking on these issues. We, too, continue to pray for this 'troubled but very precious fellowship.'

The text of the Archbishop's letter follows. (Hat tip to Lisa Fox of the Episcopal Majority.)
Dear Mr. Coats,

Thank you for your letters about various questions affecting the Episcopal Church and its future. Without going into detail, there are one or two things I ought to say for clarity's sake. I fully accept that I have no jurisdiction in the USA and I have not sought and am not seeking to impose any new structure. I share your own concern that we avoid so far as humanly possible both rhetoric and action that further fracture the Episcopal Church and other Anglican provinces. I have had informal discussions with a number of parties in TEC, of very diverse opinions, as to what future possibilities there are, but I do not appproach this with a pre-cooked agenda of my own. The principle of a 'covenant' has been brought forward chiefly because of a widespread recognition that existing historic links and bonds are not proving effective as expressions of mutual accountability. This conclusion is sufficiently widespread to give some ground for thinking that the Quadrilateral may need some glossing or expansion. What the shape of that will be is far from clear, but the support of the Windsor commission and the Primates has to be taken seriously. The group that will be working on this will certainly include people who hold differing perspectives on the question, whatever the views of the chair. Since nearly every primate in the Communion has some sort of 'record' on the divisive questions of the day, I simply note that it is practically impossible to find a chair unequivocally acceptable to all.

Thank you for your continuing prayers for this troubled but very precious fellowship that is the Communion at present.

Yours sincerely,
+Rowan Cantaur

Sunday, December 03, 2006

"A New Commandment I Give You"

Fr. Tony Clavier has written an interesting piece on his blog called "All Politics," which is excerpted below.
To my mind the report of the latest bishops' meeting at 815 is excellent. The response of at least one of the Network bishops is predictable and so American. The bishop basically said, "We have a better offer." The choleric Bishop Schofield says that our PB is an heretic. It's easy to blacken one's "enemy".The ad hominem always works in the land of the National Enquirer.

What is really being said is that TEC is in error, at least heterodox if not heretical, and the virtuous dioceses and parishes cannot come as close to TEC as the Presiding Bishop's offer suggests.

It's all politics. If one is an evangelical one can merrily go around deciding whether a person or an ecclesial institution is saved or damned, because one has no theology of the church at all. There's an invisible church, true. There are unsaved people in every church true, but the church is supposed to be a gathering of the elect.

Holding such a view -one typical of the evangelical/charismatic people in the "Global South" - it is easy to combine one's ecclesiology with one's politics. In politics one leaves a political party or joins it based on its platform and the expressed views of the leadership. So one may judge TEC and find it wanting on the basis of the agenda of the majority in General Convention or the views of the leadership.

But the faith of TEC is to be found in its Constitutional formularies. The formularies are based on the faith and doctrine expressed in the rites and ceremonies of the church to be found in the Book of Common Prayer and in the Catechism. Until these are altered in an heretical manner, the Episcopal Church is sound in doctrine and sound in worship. It is manifestly unsound in discipline as was witnessed in the consent to the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire and in illegal blessing services to couples of the same gender and the offering of communion to the unbaptized. It seems one is free to break the Canons if it is an issue of love and compassion.

If The Episcopal Church sometimes skirts its rules in order to further love, compassion, and care for real people, then we are in good company, for our Lord and Savior did these very things Himself. He did them not as a way of skirting the rules, but as a way of showing us the ultimate rule. It is the golden rule we recite every week, the new commandment He Incarnated to personally deliver--love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.

The fact of His Incarnation itself is a testament that what is controlling is the fact of His love and care for the world, which we must strive to emulate. It bears repeating, because it is so easy for us to forget it. If love, compassion, and justice come up against rules that stymie them, then we don't abandon love, compassion, and justice. We apply the Lord's supreme rule to the others, and if they conflict, we know which one trumps, because He said so. His world, His rules.

Before proceeding to read Fr. Tony's entire entry at his blog "West Virginia Parson," pause a moment to consider Fr. Tony the man, as kindly provided recently by the Rev. Elizabeth Keaton, Rector of St. Paul's, Chatham, New Jersey.
Who is Tony Clavier, you ask? Ah, let me tell you.

Tony is, first and foremost, an amazing human being. A child of God, he is the very embodiment of one who keenly understands that the treasure of the inheritance of our baptism comes from Christ and the richness of the legacy of our faith comes from the Anglican Church.

As Christians who are Anglicans, we are abundantly blessed.

Tony has paid his dues, many times over. A priest in the Church of England, he left over the ordination of women to become, for 20 years, a Bishop in the Reformed Anglican Church. After a serious illness left him hospitalized, he experienced a conversion, having been visited by a Chaplain who happened to be a woman.

As a wise person once said, there are no coincidences.

When he "confessed" his newfound faith in the ordained status of women, there ensued a scandle and controversey, which kicked him out of the church and onto the street. (See above aphorism about there being no coincidences.)

Long story short: Newly minted presiding bishop Frank Tracy Griswold recieved him and he became the Episcopal priest in charge of a flock in Arkansas.

His journey has been, for lack of a better word, interesting, if not absolutely fascinating. He is now rector of a church in West Virginia, via a short stint working for The Convocation of American Churches in Europe.

I first met Tony at a gathering of the New Commandment Task Force - back when The Episcopal Church seemed serious about reconciliation - and I instantly fell in love.

Hear me clearly: Tony and I disagree on almost every major doctrine of the Christian church. But, we love each other, pray daily for each other and absolutely cherish being priests in the same church together.

This sort of relationship has not been news or necessarily of interest for hundreds of years in the churches of the Anglican Communion. It is the sort of prayerful and Godly love of the Church and our fellow man, that has characterized it from the very beginning.

What is notable is that now in too many outposts of our beloved Communion, including The Episcopal Church, this sort of relationship is being easily and willingly sacrificed on the altar of politics. Differences of opinion have led to vices contrary to faith and charity and become the basis for some to work for and declare schism. This is sinful.

In his post, Fr. Tony locates these vices and sins where they properly belong, in a focus on politics that is alien to our Church and Communion. As a priest who began in one of our Churches, then left it, and then was warmly received into it again, his is a voice of experience and faith worth listening to.