Admiral of Morality: January 2007

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Church vs state in UK

In the United Kingdom the government has passed a law stating that adoption agencies getting public money cannot discriminate against gays and lesbians wishing to adopt children. These couples must be considered equally with any other couples. Prime Minister Tony Blair says that there is no exemption from this law for religious groups who use public money to provide their services.

The Roman Catholic Church in the UK and the Church of England oppose this anti-discrimination language.

They state that churches must be free to ignore this law even when they are receiving government money to run adoption services. The head of the UK's Roman Catholics says that the anti-discrimination law is "a new morality."

Oh dear. A new morality of anti-discrimination. If this is what constitutes new to this man, consider for a moment what the old must be.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, continuing a long tradition of alienating his friends, squandering goodwill, and giving the average person another reason to equate churches with discrimination and bigotry, says the church is against discrimination "absolutely," but that churches should be free to discriminate against gay couples adopting children since it's impossible for laws to do anything.

In both cases the men do not appeal to reason or evidence or anything else they can point to beyond their beliefs, to justify their claims for special treatment. They simply appeal to their beliefs, and urge others, including the government, to act on this basis, with regard to all matters.

For a Roman Catholic bishop of England, this may be fine thinking.

For the head of the Church of England, which extols the application of reason, it is another sign that the day may soon be coming when the church and the British government part company for good.

It's also another sign that this ABC fellow takes seriously his role to protect the status quo, no matter what it might be.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Archbishop of Canterbury clarifies his actions

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bishop Robinson at Sundance Film Festival

He's featured in a documentary being screened there

Bishop Robinson of New Hampshire is at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, attending screenings of a film featuring him. He appears in the documentary "For the Bible Tells Me So," which has been nominated for the festival's Grand Jury Prize.

The documentary focuses on five "very Christian, very American families" with gay family members. Others in the film are Bishop Desmond Tutu, and the families of Richard Gephardt and Bishop Robinson. The film includes interviews and discussions with Bishop Robinson's parents. Bishop Robinson told The Hartford Courant his own parents talked more openly to the filmmaker than they had to him after his own announcement at age 39 that he was gay and getting divorced.

The Sundance site about the film is here.

Two interviews with Bishop Robinson about the Church, mentioning the film and his trip, are online. The Hartford Courant article is headlined "At the Center of the Divide" and The Associated Press article running in several outlets runs with "Gay bishop says divisiveness in Episcopal church is exaggerated."

Photo © 2005 For The Bible Tells Me So

Monday, January 22, 2007

Religion of mass distraction

The board chair of Sojourners/Call to Renewal on the religion of division

I was recently interviewed by a "secular" journalist who had read some of my books. He said, "Your religion doesn't seem to keep you constantly dividing the world into us and them, in and out, good and bad. Is that legitimate, or is that compromise?"

I explained that as a follower of God in the way of Jesus, I am taught to see every person as my neighbor. The first thing I think upon meeting someone is not, "I wonder if she's a Christian?" but "This is my neighbor. This is a beautiful person, a bearer of the image of God, someone I have the opportunity to know and appreciate and perhaps even serve in some way." Seeing others this way isn't a compromise of my Christian commitment; it's an expression of it, I explained.

The reporter responded humorously, "What good is being religious if you can't feel superior to anybody?" We both laughed, but after the interview, I couldn't stop thinking about the serious point conveyed by his ironic comment.

What is religion for? Is it for creating an in-group that feels superior? Or is it for turning us into neighbors who want to appreciate, love, and serve one another?

Of course next to nobody would ever say overtly that the purpose of their religion is to feel superior. In fact, it just struck me that at this very moment, my act of writing, and your act of reading, could turn us into a kind of elite "in-group" who share the superiority of having one kind of religion over another.

The danger of in-grouping and out-grouping is, I think, subtle, inescapable, and universal, whatever the religion (or irreligion, or political party, or ideology) one holds. No wonder Jesus said, "A tree is known by its fruit;" Paul said, "If I don't have love, I'm nothing;" James said, "Faith without works is dead;" and John said, "Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother."

Last time I checked, three of the top 10 "religious" books were in praise of atheism and against religion in all its forms. In these times of snarky religious cold wars in some quarters and hot religious violence in others, I'm not surprised. Those of us who see religion in a different light – who see religion as a powerful motivation to care for the widow and orphan, to seek justice and peace, to love our neighbors and our enemies – shouldn't feel superior, but we should keep practicing, and preaching, with humility and focus. It's so easy to get distracted, and a lot is at stake.

Brian McLaren ( is an author, speaker, Red Letter Christian, and serves as board chair for Sojourners/Call to Renewal. His most recent book is The Secret Message of Jesus, and his next book, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope, will be released later this year. This was originally posted at "God's Politics," a blog by Jim Wallis and friends.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Dear Panel of Reference: you bore me

The Panel of Reference is a boring and stodgy group that seems to get all of its information about The Episcopal Church from the Encyclopedia Britannica edition of 1811. Whoever put this panel together (*cough* Archbishop of Canterbury *cough*) needs to let on that they know that The Episcopal Church is just a little bit different than the Church of England. They know this right? Stop pulling our leg you cheeky monkeys!

Did you know that many of the bishops of the Church of England, sit in the Parliament by virture of their office, and are not elected?

Did you know that the Church of England enjoys legal protections and privileges, specifically denied other religious groups in the United Kingdom?

Did you know that nearly 1/4 of state funded schools in England are Church of England schools?

These three points reflect more knowledge about the Church of England than the recent Panel of Reference opinion, reflects knowledge of the Episcopal Church.

(The substance of these three points, by the way, are all unconstitutional in the United States of America.)

For reference:
(1) the letter of the President of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church, to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
(2) the letter of the Bishop of Bethlehem, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, inviting him to have tea with the people he's always talking about.
(3) Map of the world, showing a large ocean easily traversable by jet, to the left side of which lies the United States of America.

Monday, January 15, 2007

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 in Birmingham and thrown in prison. The occasion of Dr. 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, the Birmingham police used dogs against citizens objecting peacefully to segregated lunch facilities. The police refused to grant Dr. King bail and permitted him no visitors. 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. (Partly because of his interactions with Dr. King, Bishop Murray later became a leader in the church for civil rights and women's ordination.)

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. This is understandable in light of Dr. King's training as a minster and his faith as a Christian, but given the circumstances and the odds, it was remarkable enough that the Nobel Foundation awarded him the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964. Quoting Dr. King, the Foundation said:
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).

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Bishop of Wales does a u-turn on women's ordination

Ten years ago, the Church in Wales began ordaining women to the ministry. The Church in Wales has been in existence since the first Romans arrived in Britain, and it retains the character of much of its ancient Celtic Christian roots. The Church is highly regarded for its intellectual and scholarly contributions. (The current Archbishop of Canterbury hails from the Welsh church.)

As can be expected from such an ancient church, there are many ancient sites of worship and pilgrimage, and St. David's Cathedral, dating from the 6th century, is one of the oldest in Britain.

Its bishop, Carl Cooper, Bishop of St. David's, was a leading opponent of ordaining women, but since then he's had a change of heart. The single most important element in his u-turn? His direct, personal experience with ordained women and their gifts. His comments and experiences should be instructive for those who view the issue, and women called by God, as abstractions, because as Bishop Carl notes, once you get to know them, you begin to know that they are called by God to do His work.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

When the Church in Wales first considered the possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood I was one of the most vocal opponents. For reason of theology and Christian Unity I was convinced that it would be a disastrous decision. I campaigned against it and addressed the Church's Governing Body in April 1994 when the 'No' vote carried the day, much to the disappointment and annoyance of many, including some of my own parishioners.

Margaret Thatcher gained notoriety for her unwillingness to perform U-turns in policy and ideology. Whether one considers it a U-turn or a conversion, I came to change my mind on the issue of women in the priesthood. Changing one's opinion is never an easy decision for any person in public life. People will always suspect one's motives and question one's agenda. Ultimately, integrity can only be demonstrated by consistency of behaviour and character and I leave that judgement to others.

Why did I change my mind? There are 3 reasons: 1) My own Church decided to ordain women to the priesthood. Either members of the Church in Wales believe that our Church is competent to discern God’s will for us, or it isn't. Even those who take part in a debate by opposing the proposal are part of the ultimate decision. We must all own it, support it and rejoice in it. 2) I came to see the inconsistencies in the theological standpoint I had espoused and proclaimed. However, no theological standpoint is ever perfect and without flaw. 3) The 'No' vote in 1994 brought home to me the pain and anguish we were causing to our sisters in Christ. I could no longer justify denying the validity of their calling.

Ever since the ordination of the first women priests in 1997 it has been my privilege to minister with a number of close, female colleagues. The last 10 years have demonstrated that our Church has been enriched, blessed and made more whole by women's priestly ministry. It now feels as if the Church of the past was incomplete. I am looking forward to the honour of presiding at the Eucharist this coming Saturday in St Davids Cathedral (13th January), together with my women colleagues, to celebrate the historic decision taken a decade ago and all that it has achieved. We will be joined by many clergy and people from around the diocese.

What of the future? Despite the decision to ordain women priests, we still have some way to go before we can claim to be a fully representative Church. There are now women in very senior parochial posts. We have women serving as Cathedral Canons and Area Deans. However, the Church in Wales has yet to appoint a woman Archdeacon or Cathedral Dean, and it still prevents women from becoming bishops. Later this year we will begin the process of deciding whether or not to allow women to be bishops. I am convinced that this will happen, hopefully sooner rather than later. It will have my unreserved support.

Friday, January 12, 2007

All along the watchtower

Episcopal steeples+Coldplay soundtrack=good video

Father Matthew is the 27-year-old vicar of St. Paul's. His YouTube videos are a close-up view of the replanting of an Episcopal Church for the 21st century. He is certainly having alot of fun doing it.

Visit Fr. Matthew's YouTube page.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"No authority to diminish the personhood of a single one of God's children for any reason whatsoever"

Some thoughts from a member of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, including this question: "When will be get back to the mission and ministry of this church that calls us to restore right relationships between ourselves and each other and between us and God?"

Bruce Garner is a member of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church who regularly corresponds with others on the Episcopal Church's "House of Bishops/Deputies Listserv." The HOB/D Listserv predates any Episcopal blogs or other forums by many years, and surpasses any of them by several degrees of quality and significance.

Mr. Garner lives in Atlanta and has been an active member of All Saints' Episcopal Church there, for more than 25 years. He has served on quite a number of parish, diocesan, and national church bodies. His posts to the HOB/D listserve are exemplary for their grace, compassion, and wit. They display his clear commitment to the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ, The Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion.

Recently Mr. Garner sent to the email discussion an extraordinary post. But before getting to it, here is a bit of background on the Executive Council and the HOB/D Listserv.

The Executive Council is an elected body representing the whole Church. In the course of the three years between General Conventions, known as the "triennium", the Executive Council customarily meets once in each of the nine provinces of the Episcopal Church.

The Executive Council has the duty to carry out programs and policies adopted by General Convention. It is the job of Executive Council to oversee the ministry and mission of the Church. The Executive Council is comprised of twenty members elected by General Convention (four bishops, four priests or deacons and twelve laypersons) and eighteen members elected by provincial synods. In its diverse membership, it embodies the very best traditions and teachings of our Church.

Mr. Garner was elected to the Executive Council during the past General Convention in Columbus, and he will serve until 2012.

The HOB/D Listserve was founded in 1996 by Dr. Louie Crew, the chair of the Newark, NJ deputation to The General Convention, as a way for bishops and deputies to converse online with one another. Dr. Crew is highly regarded around the Church for his unwavering commitment to building up the Church and for his long years of service as a lay minister. To quote Dr. Crew about the listserve:
'The discussion here enriches our common life, and I am deeply grateful to those who post and to those who read. I am especially grateful for the wide diversity of points of view and for the articulate witness of those with whom I disagree and of all who challenge me to re-think and to grow. It is an enormous privilege to help you connect in any way that I can'.

The Listserv is generally a private, confidential discussion on matters of importance to the Episcopal Church and in the lives of its contributors. It displays a range of ideas, positions, interpretations, and sensibilities, but one thing common to all its contributors is their desire to discern the will of God and follow our Lord Jesus Christ.

The discussion is always as civil as possible, between parties and contributors who sometimes disagree strongly, but who continue talking and sharing their experiences regardless. At its best, the Listserv is a model for any other blog and Internet discussions. At its worst, the Listserv is a model for any other blog and Internet discussions.

Mr. Garner recently contributed an exemplary comment. With his kind permission, I share it here in full.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
A few hours ago I returned home from a two day intensive retreat for the staff of my parish (All Saints' Atlanta). Our retreat topic was anti-racism. (I can see some grins and shaking heads from my Executive Council and Commissions, Committees, Agencies and Boards colleagues because we went through similar training last November! But I have learned, there really can't be enough training to combat racism..or sexism, or heterosexism, or homophobia, or classism or any of the isms that haunt us.)

The retreat leaders were a mixed-race heterosexual couple, who are, as far as I know, not Episcopalians. They approached the topic from what was for me, a different perspective. They also took a broader than usual view of diversity issues that included sexism, homophobia, ageism, classism, etc. as all being intricately linked in more ways than most of us might realize.

Bottom line: Oppression is oppression.

Pre-retreat reading included a paper by Valerie Batts, PhD, entitled "Is Reconciliation Possible?" Subtitled: Lessons from Combating "Modern Racism." Our colleague Ian Douglas had a role in this, but I will let him explain that for himself.

The term "modern racism" generally refers to the more covert, somewhat less obvious, much more subtle ways that racism plays a role in our society today as opposed to the more blatant version of some years past (Jim Crow laws, KKK, separate restrooms and water fountains, etc. are just a few examples.)

This was NOT a "guilting" experience. It was truly an enlightening experience, an educational experience, a horizon broadening experience and a wonderful experience.

One of our homework assignments was to read a paper by Archbishop Desmond Tutu entitled "Why as Christians we must oppose racism." It was from a talk delivered in 1994 in Australia. The copy we got was from the St. Mark's Review in Australia.

Having said all of this as background, let me clearly state, in my opinion and as a result of this training, the Covenant Design Group, the Dallas and Ft. Worth "plans", the Texas meeting and so much of the other "stuff" going on are simply further sometimes covert but often not manifestations and examples of sexism, racism, heterosexism and homophobia.

Now we can place theological position names on these actions and attitudes and we can dress them up with different code words and new dresses and suits, but they remain very real manifestations of "modern racism."

Characteristics are attributed to groups of people using a very broad brush.

Those characteristics are intended to somehow diminish those who are in the groups as children of God. It becomes ok to label them in an effort to figure out how they don't really "fit in" with everyone else. It becomes ok to very subtly treat them differently because of characteristics that are inherent in them. (Let's not go into the nature/nurture issue or the orientation/behavior distinctions...they are in themselves simply further manifestations of ways to diminish the worth of individuals by those who either can't accept or understand them, fear them, hate them or whatever happens to bounce through one's head at the moment. ) And of course, in some cases, the different treatment is far from subtle. Witness [the dioceses of] Ft. Worth, Quincy, Dallas, SC[South Carolia]. CFL [Central Florida] just to name a few. And yes I can hear the howls of protest, but don't waste time or postings with those. Actions have clearly spoken louder than words used in denial of the reality that exists for a variety of "target group" folks in those places. FYI, the victims of oppression are identified as "target groups" in this exercise while the oppressors are the "non-target groups." And let me also share with you how very telling it is, not to mention painful to realize how many target AND non-target groups of which we each may find ourselves members!

As much as I have tried, I just can not find any evidence where any of us has been given the authority to judge another of us in our relationship to God or our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Yet some do that on a daily basis in the name and cover of theological purity or some other such nonsense. Let's be clear: Jesus did not give us that authority over each other. Despite our best efforts to justify exceptions or qualifications to the "second and great commandment," there are none. Love your neighbor as yourself is simple, direct and clear. We don't get to choose. We don't get to qualify. We don't get to except anyone from that commandment.

Similarly, Jesus' commandment that we love one another as He loves us, does not include exceptions or qualifications either. (If you paid attention to this past Sunday's lesson from the Acts of the Apostles, it was obvious that Peter and John weren't allowed to make exceptions either when they got sent to Samaria. Remember, Samaritans were those folks you wouldn't want one of your children to marry! They were not one of "us." They were different. Now does that sound racist or what?)

So Rowan Williams can create all the Design Groups he wants. Jack Iker and Jim Stanton can cook up schemes to keep women from being ordained. "Windsor Bishops" can gather and look for ways to keep lesbians and gays from being full members of the Body of Christ. And Peter Akinola can subtly or covertly support legislation that criminalizes and condemns and executes his own countrymen/women because of their sexual orientation. They all engage in these acts of racism, sexism, heterosexism and homophobia without authority. For every "authority" one might cite from Scripture (even N.T. Wright) many others can cite counter "authorities."

And I must repeat that the greatest authority comes from Christ Jesus Himself in his commandment to love one another and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Now I ask you, whose authority carries more weight here? Given the choice, I will hang with Jesus...probably more literally than I might like!

Yes my sisters and brothers I probably sound a bit tired and weary. I own every bit of that, but not for the reasons you might think. I'm tired and weary of people trying to tell me I am less than the full fledged, living and breathing child of Almighty God that I know in my heart and soul that I am. And as I learned at the retreat I mentioned earlier, it's time for me to call some folks out on that. I will be respectful. I will exercise the patience and grace expected of a follower of and believer in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, but I will call folks out.

So let me be even more plain: You boys, whether white or black or brown or old or young or middle aged or whatever, you do not have the authority to diminish the personhood of a single one of God's children for any reason whatsoever.

I will close with a question I have asked on this list before: When will be get back to the mission and ministry of this church that calls us to restore right relationships between ourselves and each other and between us and God?

When will we get back to making sure the hungry are fed, the thirsty are watered, the naked are clothed, the sick and imprisoned are visited and the Good News of God's love is preached (even with words sometimes) to absolutely everyone? Can I get an amen? Can I even get an answer?

Bruce Garner, Executive Council

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Mail

My dear Admiral: I have heard that recently, the Windsor Bishop has been visiting the United States of America. I think it is excellent that he has been visiting our sister church in America but am concerned about his continued absence at Buckingham Palace. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the Windsor Bishop the one appointed by the crown to preside at special functions? It is my understanding that he is the one sent into the room to calm the man who breaches the walls of Buckingham Palace, and the one who blesses the steward who brings the Queen her silverware for breakfast. I heard that the Queen refused to let the Windsor Bishop preside at Princess Diana's internment, but will she have him preside at the marriage of Prince William to Miss Kate Middletown? Signed, Miss Clarrisa Mcdiarmid, Shropshire

Miss: It is easy to confuse the Windsor bishops with bishops who perform special functions. The Windsor bishops are bishops who like to meet and talk about how they are fully committed to the church, to each other, and to meeting more at future dates to further discuss their ongoing commitment to talking and meeting. They regularly issue releases about how much they talk.

They do not serve at Buckingham Palace or at the pleasure of the Queen, but many have noted that they may serve at the pleasure of someone. Your confusion about their roles is understandable, and I see that you do place them in their historically important role alongside other fine bishops, among them the Morphy bishop, the French defence bishop, and sitting Bishop. Yours, The AoM
My dear Admiral: I'm sorry to trouble you about this more, but my son is incommunicado again. If you recall, Admiral, he serves as a boatswain aboard the USS Patrick, and you have had some success in the past in rallying him and his commanding officer. Might you, sir, find a moment to communicate to him, that his father and mother love him very much, and missed him dearly at the New Year? If possible, could you also fix it to have him transferred closer to home? Signed, Mrs. H. Matterson.

I was happy to pursue a few enquiries and am assured that your son is not incommunicado, but simply doing the work to which he is assigned onboard. It is I see your fervent desire to have your boy home. Madam, he is needed where he is. I am assured that he is strong, healthy, and well, reading the Scriptures daily, and keeping you and his father in his prayers. Yours, The AoM
My dear Admiral: On the heels of reports of gay marriages and unions, I now read that the Archbishop of Canterbury himself fears the gay schisms. My question is, if he is so concerned that gays are divorcing, what is he doing about it? If he is so concerned with the private affairs of couples, then what is he having the church do to help couples stay together? Signed, Mr. Richard Dutten

Sir: I believe that the Archbishop of Canterbury was referring to something else. Just as gays may of course legally marry in many places throughout the European Union and North America, their divorces are called just that--divorces. Some places do in fact use terminology distinct from ''marriage'' to describe legally protected gay relationships, such as civil unions, committed same sex relationships, and the like; but a gay schism is not the gay equivalent of a heterosexual divorce. You likely read an article referring to the Archbishop's ongoing concern over how the differences of opinions on the status of gays in our churches, may impact our ministries and witness to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. As to your question about what the church and the Archbishop are doing to help couples stay together, this will of course vary by parish. The Archbishop himself, however, is far too concerned with much more important matters to concern himself directly with this sort of matter. Yours, The AoM

Monday, January 08, 2007

Episcopal Church: Schismatic blather

Oh, the irony. In an op-ed in today's Washington Post by the rector and a layman of one of the right-wing churches in Virginia where 2/3 of the members aren't Episcopalians, the very first paragraph is this:
Fundamental to a liberal view of freedom is the right of a person or group to define themselves, to speak for themselves and to not be dehumanized by the definitions and distortions of others. This right we request even of those who differ from us.

Where to begin?

The right wing political rector of a church appealing to liberal values?

The right wing political rector defending right wing churches who spend much of their time attacking and undermining the Epsicopal Church with political attacks and propaganda, inisting that a group is defined by what it says it is, and not by the attacks of others?

The right wing rector of a church where 2/3 of its members aren't Episcopalian, calling for and urging a vote on what being Episcopal means?

These are not Episcpalians. They may consider themselves Anglican, but we also consider that the moon is made of blue cheese, since it is more delicious than moon dust.

The assaults on the church have become an end in themselves. Why do non-Episcopalians waste so much time attacking something they keep saying they don't even want to bother with?

(And if they aren't even Episcopalion to begin with, they can't properly be considered schismatics. They're trespassers.)

There must be a pathology for this sort of thing. "Blather" is a fine shorthand, however.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Episcopal Life: A Word from the Presiding Bishop

Evangelistic listening: to reach the unchurched, we must learn new words and ways to tell our story

ONE OF THE significant challenges in our life as a church has to do with reaching out to the unchurched. I come from a part of the country where few people are active in religious communities, and the culture is quite clearly non-Christian. That makes evangelism a rather different proposition than it is in communities where most people know the basic shape of the Christian story. If we are going to be effective in reaching out to those beyond our walls, we are going to have to learn new language and ways of telling our story.

I taught a World Religions course in a secular university for several years. The course required students to attend several worship services in traditions outside their own (if they had one).

They had to find the house of worship, join in as much as was possible and reasonable, and later write a reflection paper on their experiences. The students often told about their surprise when they were welcomed as human beings and their chagrin when they felt they were only being received as potential converts and/or possible monetary additions.

I know I certainly have heard vestries and others say, "We have to grow, if we're going to balance our budget." But when these students were welcomed with curiosity and a genuine interest in knowing them as persons and individuals, they responded with warmth, even if they had no intention of joining the community.

Part of our evangelical task is making our worshiping communities welcoming in a deep, human, relational sense. The gospel is about radical hospitality, after all, and that is what we are meant to model.

The other side of this challenge is how we might speak good news in language and forms that people uneducated in Christianity can understand and welcome. If our language engenders fear, it is likely to drive people away. If it welcomes and invites, the possibility can be quite different.

This may not be seen in many places in the Episcopal Church, but consider your own reaction to "If you don't believe the way we do, you're going to hell." Not only does hell not have much reality for the unchurched, there is an arrogance in that approach that many find repellent.

There are more subtle forms of that message, however, that are rampant in this church. We use language that is understandable only by insiders--and not just the arcane terms of our liturgy and polity (and those words themselves won't be understood by many!).

There is an underlying message in many faith communities that says, "The way we worship (or hold Sunday school or run our vestry meetings or...) is the only right way."

And the implication that is heard is, "There can be no welcome here for you if you can't do it our way." There is an aspect of that message that is quite unAnglican, if we really want to live up to our value of comprehensiveness.

But even more deeply, we have to figure out how to tell our story in language that a person who doesn't know anything about Christianity can begin to understand. I'm going to suggest that our telling of that great story has to begin in listening. Not only does it say to the other person, "Your story is of great importance, and I recognize your equal dignity by listening," but it also gives us an opportunity to discern where to help connect that story with the larger story of God's love known in Jesus Christ.

Frederick Buechner famously said that ministry happens when a person's great joys meet the deep hungers of the world. We cannot engage in ministry until we recognize where the hunger is.

I have had the remarkable gift and opportunity in recent months to speak to people who don't know much at all about the Episcopal Church or Christianity. Those opportunities have come through the secular media. Those interviews intentionally have avoided the language of Christian insiders for the reasons above.

The unfortunate result in some places has been anger when Episcopalians don't recognize their own familiar language.

Let me suggest a challenging exercise: How would you tell the great truths of our faith without using overtly theological language? How would you tell a new neighbor that God loves him or her without measure, and invite him or her to learn more?

If we are going to hear that person's story with grace, we have to leave the door open for a while.

The Presiding Bishop's column from this month's Episcopal Life is reprinted here in full, since it is not yet posted to their website.

The Presiding Bishop invites your response to her comments this month. Write to Episcopal Life at Episcopal Life, 815 Second Ave., New York, NY 10017 or e-mail your comments to

Copyright Episcopal Life 2007

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Washington Post shows its true colors

When in the world did that newspaper become such a bastion of the liberal-gay-pagan-pansexual John 3:16- splicing agenda

As we raised anchor this morning my wireless device was beeping and chirping and vibrating in a way that made me wonder, could there be such a thing as a digital cognate for being slain in the Spirit? Can pda's speak in tongues? There must be a YouTube video or Wordpress entry on it somewhere.

The focus of the chirping and burping and etc of the little device was the contents of The Washington Post's article on the schismatic churches in Virginia. The article is well researched and lengthy and has some good points.

If you are a schismatic the article may convince you to reenlist in the forces opposing evil, which regrettably must now include The Washington Post. If you are the more quiet type of schismatic who hisses only when he is asked to, the article may force you to take out your blessing chalk and draw yet another protective circle around yourself. At the churches,
At least two-thirds of the worshipers are Methodists, Presbyterians or Baptists, and there is no pressure on them to be confirmed as Episcopalians, said the Rev. Rick Wright, associate rector.

Wright said the diverse membership of both congregations illustrates one of the great changes in American religion of the past half-century: The divisions between denominations are far less important today than the divisions within denominations.

"I tend to feel very comfortable rubbing shoulders with folks at McLean Bible or Columbia Baptist . . . that are real orthodox, evangelical, biblical churches," said Truro's chief warden, or lay leader, Jim Oakes, referring to two Northern Virginia megachurches. "We share core beliefs. I think I would be more comfortable with them than with anyone I might run into at an Episcopal Diocesan Council meeting."

In some popular services, Truro and The Falls Church blend the traditional liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer with such megachurch touches as huge choirs, bass guitars and drums. Neither offers "smells and bells," the incense and chimes favored by "high church" Episcopal congregations. But some parishioners affectionately describe Truro as "McLean Bible with candles."
"McLean Bible with candles"--such a fine warden and vestry. Yes, Virginia, it is possible if we read very carefully and talk only to others who think, speak, believe, dress, look, and etc, just like ourselves, that on this phraseology can be built the seeds of a very fine church that is not at all Episcopalian.

The article points out that many parishioners and clergy at the churches speak in tongues.
For more than 30 years, Truro and The Falls Church have been part of a "charismatic revival" within mainline Protestantism, said the Rev. Robert W. Prichard, professor of Christianity in America at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria.

Charismatic, in this case, refers to an ecstatic style of worship that includes speaking in tongues, a stream of unintelligible syllables signifying that the Holy Spirit has entered the worshiper. It is a hallmark of the fast-growing Pentecostal movement but unusual for Episcopalians, who are so thoroughly associated with solemnity and tradition that they are sometimes referred to teasingly as "the frozen chosen."

"Teasingly"? My dear liberal agenda reporter, to be frozen and chosen is a mark of honor in many places.

Sit back and click to the article and the comments following the article.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Life of Decency, Service and Quiet Faith

Gerald Ford refused to take his private faith public, even when doing so might have saved his political career

The question of what to do about Nixon landed hard on Ford from the moment he was sworn in. Apart from everything else, Nixon was a longtime friend. Ford worried about what putting the disgraced President in prison would do to him, as well as to a country so shaken by the betrayals of those years. Mercy and healing were very much on Ford's mind on Saturday, Aug. 31, when he spent the morning discussing an amnesty plan for Vietnam draft evaders. When the meeting was over, Ford went back to the Oval Office and called evangelist Billy Graham to talk about their mutual friend. "There are many angles to it," Ford said of Nixon's fate. "I'm certainly giving it a lot of thought and prayer." Graham, who was arguing for a pardon, told Ford he was praying for him and, before the two men finished their conversation, Graham recalled, "we had a prayer over the telephone."

A week later, on Sunday, Sept. 8, Ford went to St. John's Episcopal Church, directly across Lafayette Square from the White House. He took Communion with some of the 50 other worshipers and knelt in prayer. There was no sermon that morning — at least until Ford delivered one of his own. He went back to the Oval Office, practiced his speech aloud twice, moved to a smaller adjoining office and alerted congressional leaders of his plans. At 11:05, Ford told the nation he was pardoning Nixon in a statement that invoked God's name six times. "The Constitution is the supreme law of our land and it governs our actions as citizens," he said. "Only the laws of God, who governs our consciences, are superior to it. He invited the congregation to think of the Nixon family: "Theirs is an American tragedy," he said. "It could go on and on and on, or someone must write 'The End' to it... Only I can do that. And if I can, I must."

Even as his faith inspired him to save Nixon, he refused to use it to save himself.

Read it all at Time Magazine.