Admiral of Morality: February 2007

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Bishop Epting: what we are being asked to do

The Rt. Rev. Christopher Epting, the retired Bishop of Iowa, has been serving as Bishop for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations for the Episcopal Church since 2000. He accompanied ++Katharine to Tanzania and was one of the bishops addressing the primates.

Bishop Epting has served on the Standing Commissions on Evangelism and Ecumenical Relations, as liaison from the House of Bishops to the National Episcopal Cursillo Committee, and on the Executive Council. He has made significant contributions to the success of the Called to Common Mission agreement with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He served as president of Province VI and, as such, sat on the Presiding Bishop's Council of Advice. He has served as Bishop Visitor to the Society of the Transfiguration, a community of Episcopal nuns in Cincinnati, and as co-patron of Affirming Catholicism, a renewal movement of catholic faith and practice within the Episcopal Church and wider Anglican Communion.

He has a blog called "That We May all be One." A quick glance at Louie Crew's Anglican Pages tells you that Bishop Epting has come down on different sides of different issues affecting our Church.

Bishop Epting has two entries on the primates meeting. In his most recent one, he makes two very good points about the substance of the proposals. Here is what he says about the Pastoral Council:
We now have a proposal for a "Pastoral Council" (the majority of which would be appointed by Primates outside the Episcopal Church) to work with disaffected congregations and dioceses in cooperation with the Presiding Bishop and the Episcopal Church....I hope we will take the requests seriously and find a way forward, but I have to say they are hugely problemmatic! To give such authority to a Pastoral Council which is a totally extra-canonical body made up of those not subject to the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of the Episcopal Church seems very dangerous to me.

On the demands to the House of Bishops:
And we have a request for the House of Bishops to "make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorize any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention" and "confirm that Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention means that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consents."
And, while I would hope the House of Bishops could agree to a covenant not to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions until a broader consensus emerges (while preserving the right of pastoral provisions to minister to gay and lesbian people as the Windsor Report itself allows), I would guess there will be bishops and dioceses who will not agree to this. Therefore, we are set up for some kind of vote which will divide and not unite us. Once again.

I also believe it is unnecessary, and unhelpful, for the House of Bishops to begin ”confirming” or re-affirming actions of General Convention. We have passed B033. All that remains is for us to live up to its provisions. So far, we have.

Bishop Epting ends his comments with a call to prayer and discernment on these matters. Our Presiding Bishop has also invited us more than once, to reflect on these very points, as has the President of the House of Deputies.

The people and institutions offering these proposals certainly believe they have very good reasons for doing what they propose.

We must discern in this period if those reasons are our reasons.

We must also discern how best to convey the fruits of our discernment.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Canterbury reaches a new low

In a column in the Daily Telegraph, the Archbishop of Canterbury submits the following statement:

One of the hardest things in all this has been to keep insisting on the absolute moral imperative of combating bigotry and violence against gay people, and the need to secure appropriate civic and legal protection for couples who have chosen to share their lives. These are different matters from whether the Church has the freedom to bless same-sex unions.

One of the hardest things in all this is that Canterbury continues to pursue this line of reasoning with a supposedly straight face. At minimum this line of reasoning presupposes that God works only through the Church and that this work is somehow sanitized from the rest of the world. The corollary of course is that God does not do anything moral or just apart from what he does through the Church as interpreted by those arrogating to themselves the authority to state conclusively the nature of God's work inside and outside the Church. In essence, the Church is far above morally where any society apart from the Church, may be.

As archbishop Rowan Williams may or may not hold such beliefs; he may consider himself compelled to stake out such positions.

This distinction is irrelevant. Either intent still bears false witness against reason and common sense. He also rejects not only the morality of society outside his Church but appears to claim that such morality is always independent of and inferior to, the morality of his Church, and even perhaps of God. This belies not only the Scriptural record of God's work prior to the existence of the Church but the reality of God's work before us that we can discern conclusively with our very own eyes.

In the end what people see is not a clergyman defending the right of the Church to be independent from the state, which in the United Kingdom at any rate, is not the case. The very issue of whether and how much longer the Church of England may continue to discriminate against its own clergy when the civil law protects them, is an open question.

What we see is a clergyman not only arguing that his Church is free to ignore the human rights of its people when they come within its purview, but a clergyman actively defending this freedom to discriminate.

That it is the Archbishop of Canterbury may not be enough to convince the House of Commons or the Prime Minister, if recent history is any guide.

But it is enough to signal that Canterbury has hit a new low.

The Bishop of Washington

The Bishop of Washington has issued a statement on the primates meeting. He says in part:
Christians throughout the world are born into cultures that persecute, stigmatize and deny the dignity of God's gay and lesbian children. We marginalize them, make them scapegoats and refuse their manifold gifts. The Episcopal Church is as guilty of these offenses as any other, and in recognizing this we have begun a journey of repentance. In its fourth decade, this journey is still incomplete, and its success, as ever, is in doubt. How agonizing then, in this holy season of Lent, to see the Archbishop of Canterbury succumb to the Archbishop of Nigeria and call upon us to remain in our sins.

In Christ's Peace, Power and Love,
The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, D.D.
Bishop of Washington

His full statement is at the Diocese homepage.

Living in sin

The brokenness of the world and the work of the Evil one does not stop at the doors of our Christian institutions or nominal leaders. The Lord Himself assures us that the gates of Hades itself will not prevail against His church. This does not mean that it will not prevail against some of those in it nor that the stink of the Evil one’s corruption will not enter and become fixed in its body before the final victory.

We can see the stink of this corruption and the festering of sin in the recent meetings of the primates. They consider themselves Godly and just men (and one woman) seeking to do the will of God and build up His church. Whether they actually do it is entirely another matter.

At the conclusion of the meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury, who chaired the meeting, was asked about the communique, “What message is this sending to people”?

The Archbishop responded that the communique reflected 97% of what the Communion is doing in regards to the healing and feeding of the world.

The Archbishop is a learned and perhaps gracious man but on this point he is very wrong. It is actually the other way around. If the communique is a gauge then 6% of what the Communion is doing is ministry, joint work and Christian witness. The other 94% is given over to obsessing over divisions and attacks upon its own members. The communique runs to approximately 5500 words. Of that, beyond the introductory salutation, 350 words, at most, deal with issues of Christian witness and ministry.

The message that this meeting sent to people is that the Communion cannot be bothered to do much of anything besides obsess on and wallow in its own brokenness and sin.

This is a perverse and wicked witness to the Gospel of the Lord. His commands to us are simple: Love God, love one another as I have loved you, and feed My sheep.

For bringing this message to the world and the councils of the Communion unceasingly and completely, the Episcopal Church has been cast as a pariah, a modern day leper. So be it. If we are crucified for preaching this we are in good company.

The Anglican communion continues to embrace its own brokenness with a speed and rapaciousness that is shocking in its sinfulness. It has grown the perceived mote in its own eye into a lodestone paralyzing it to the very commandments given directly to us by the Lord, in person.

If this is not the stink of corruption then what corruption in fact is, is beyond the human spirit to discern.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Bishop of New York

Sighted: a Bishop defending our Church from foreign influence

The Rt. Rev. Mark Sisk, Bishop of New York, has given a pair of interviews, to The New York Times and to Newsweek. The Bishop of New York needs no introduction.

It is useful to recall that Bishop Sisk chaired the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. This Commission wrote the original resolutions on the Windsor Report debated at the General Convention in June, 2006. It is these resolutions (and the ones based on them) that the primates communique calls inadequate.

Here is what Bishop Sisk told the NYT:
"Being part of the Anglican Communion is very important to me. But if the price of that is I have to turn my back on the gay and lesbian people who are part of this church and part of me, I won’t do that."

And Newsweek:
"The challenge is how far are we prepared to go in working with the Communion and squaring that against the relationships we have in our community with members who are gay and lesbian. I would like to think that the Communion needs to hear the voice of the Episcopal Church as well. I am prepared to work quite hard to maintain connections in the Communion, but if it comes to having to choose between the Communion and abandoning my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters—much as I value the Anglican community, I think they will be the losers."
Thank you to Canon Jim Naughton of the Diocese of Washington for pointing these stories out.

Many statements and observations about the primates meeting and communique, state somewhere, that the primates "don't understand" our polity.

They do understand. They just don't care about it. They want what they want and if that means overruling or damaging or changing our polity, so be it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Bishop of California

Sighted: A Bishop defending our Church.

It is something that is too rare when we are at sea, as our Church and communion so often now seem to be.

The Bishop of California needs no introduction. His statement is excellent and stands strongly for the Gospel and our Church.

Thank you to the Rev. Susan Russell of Integrity, for pointing it out.

∞ ∞ ∞

I am writing in response to the Communique coming out of the primates meeting in Tanzania. While many are reacting to the words of the Communique, I would like to respond from an awareness of the foundation of the day-to-day ongoing commitment of Christians to the gospel of Jesus. As bishop to the Diocese of California, I make the following affirmations:

  • The inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the full life of the Church is a matter of justice: as we are all part of the world, and the kindom of God is like a net laid over that same world. All on the earth are connected by this net, whether perceived or not. Actions of justice and injustice reverberate throughout the whole, promoting either integrity, remembering, and shalom, or diabolic isolation.
  • Understood as expressed above, our task in the Church is not actually to include or exclude anyone, but to show forth an intrinsic co-inherence that simply is, created and sustained by God.
  • Gay and lesbian people who come to the Church seeking the blessing of the Church for their unions are people seeking to lead holy lives, exactly like heterosexual couples. The Church must respond to gay and lesbian people seeking the blessing of counseling, community support, prayer, and sacrament in the same way it does to heterosexual couples.
  • The Diocese of California is a place within the Church -- not alone, but prominently -- where gay and lesbian people have been freer to offer their gifts: Both professional gifts and those of lay and ordained ministry. As a result, the Diocese of California has been immeasurably enriched. As bishop of this diocese, I know very well that the Christian rights of gay and lesbian people are intrinsic and must be supported, and that without these gifts, this diocese would be as immeasurably impoverished as it is now enriched. Immeasurably as the spiritual gifts of all God's people know no measure.
  • The polity of The Episcopal Church requires the deliberation and consent of two bodies, the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, to properly respond to the requests made by the primates in their Communique.
  • The Episcopal Church should make every effort, including an extraordinary meeting of the two houses, and redoubled efforts to help the other provinces of the Communion understand both our theology relating to marriage and human sexuality and our polity. We should make these efforts, and at the same time not compromise the essentials of theology or our polity.
  • I will call on the Diocese of California to come together at Grace Cathedral during the Easter Season (at a time and on a date to be determined) when we affirm the triumph of Christ over all that destroys the creatures of God, filling that great house of prayer for all people with the full diversity of the people of God: people who differ in mind but not heart; gay and straight people; men and women; the young with the old; the poor and the rich; people of every ethnicity, all together to show our understanding of Christ’s gift of new life in the Church.

+Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop of California
Shrove Tuesday, 2007

Coming about

On the matters coming to light in the past week in the life of our Church, further guidance from the Presiding Bishop, the Executive Council, the House of Deputies, the bishops, and the other bodies of the Episcopal Church will be required and helpful.

It should be a simple thing for the House of Bishops to issue a statement noting that a provision to refrain from consenting to the episcopate those whose manner of life constitutes a challenge to the wider communion until a new consensus emerges, includes those in same sex unions. The bishops' statement can read:
"A provision to refrain from consenting to the episcopate those whose manner of life constitutes a challenge to the wider commuion, includes those in same sex unions. Some of our number do not agree with this. This House remains committed to working towards a new consensus on this matter throughout the wider Communion."

They can also issue a statement noting that the church has not and will not authorize a rite for same sex blessings. It can read:
"The House of Bishops has not authorized a rite for same sex blessings and does not authorize one. Some of our number do not agree with this. This House remains committed to working towards a new consensus on this matter throughout the wider Communion."

Obviously on this matter there is another house, the Deputies, who may have their own opinion, and this fact may also be included in any statement coming from the House of Bishops. As a way of respecting the continuing prerogatives and authority of the House of Deputies, no doubt something like it will be issued from one or both Houses.

And of course there is the rest of the church, which has shown a strong willingness to work towards a new consensus on these matters. This willingness will no doubt find renewed strength and focus not only in our Church, but in the councils of the Communion.

Such statements from the bishops will proceed in parallel with an end to incursions and any further attempts to alienate any Episcopal churches without the consent of the national church.

The dissidents will have a primatial vicar agreed to by the PB. Her consent to the person is required. Her oversight and agreement is explicit and her ongoing consent and participation in their councils is mandatory.

As always, the wider Church will have power to agree or not, to any and all candidates for diocesan bishop.

If the dissidents anticipate in this mechanism a further widening in their relations to the greater Episcopal Church, they may be surprised to find themselves being held even closer for the foreseeable future.

The dissenting dioceses as their bishoprics become vacant, may find themselves in receivership, without a diocesan bishop, and under the direction of this council and the primatial vicar reporting to and consulting with the presiding bishop.

If the primatial council mechanism is a way of tying the primates closer to the Episcopal Church, it is also a mechanism for tying the Network dioceses much closer to the Episcopal Church.

Tacking into the wind

Depending on who you ask and what document coming out of the primates meeting you are citing, and which section, the Anglican Communion either loves the Episcopal Church to death, or it is loving the Episcopal Church to death. The devil is in the details.

There are quite a few details and documents and not all of them speak with the same mind, though they all purport to speak to the same end--the preservation of a Communion.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's panel on Communion found the Episcopal Church response to Windsor positive, faithful, and sufficient. ++Katharine was well received and like her predecessor, she has been elected to the Joint Standing Committee. She was seated by right, not by invitation. The primates called for an end to foreign interventions, terming them a contributor to the breakdown in the bonds of affection and church order. The Millennium Development Goals, which ++Katharine has emphasized in her ministry, was high on their list of discussions and figures at the top of their communique.

All this gives the Episcopal Church and its head-scratching friends around the country and Communion, quite a bit of hope.

The primates' communique, which reads like a poorly drafted therapy session, gives the small dissident group in the Episcopal Church and their allies who are primates, some reason to keep shaking their fists. It recommends that the Church work to establish a primatial vicar arrangement for the dissidents, many of whom believe the church apostate, under the direction and oversight of the presiding bishop. The dissidents already rejected the substance of this arrangement when it was first proposed. But with the primates also calling for it, and another layer of episcopacy on top, the schismatics may return to being just red-faced angry dissidents.

Why they would want to remain in a church whose people they regularly call apostate--people, truth be told, the majority of whom do not seem very interested in whether the dissidents are with them or not--is still a question the dissidents are not very good at answering. Perhaps too many simply stay to fight, energized by this, and not much else.

The communique also recommends that we be clearer about not consecrating another person living in a same sex union to the episcopate. It says nothing about not consecrating an openly gay celibate person to the episcopate. It says our Church should abide by a moratorium on bishops in same sex unions until a wider consensus supporting this emerges--language speaking clearly to the future when more and wider groundwork has been laid in councils, civil law, and hermeneutics, to ordain to the episcopate those in same sex unions.

This language in itself is a victory for our church, which works for this inclusion at great cost, since many reject even the possibility of there being such a future in our Church and Communion. The serious, measurable work towards this future is clearly spelled out in the language of the communique and in the draft Covenant. These elements will surely be strengthened and added to as our church and others, debate and amend it.

That is, if our Communion lasts long enough.

For one thing is sure. The Anglican Communion has decided that Communion is worthwhile, and our Church so far has decided this too. But the Communion can barely muster up enough good will for its leading bishops to talk to each other in the same room for very long, much less worship together. Their communique, though designed to speak to an entire global communion, is schizophrenic and obsesses almost totally on one Church, which, many like to tell us, has little real significance once you think about it. That may be--but it is ours, and we love it.

The Covenant proposal elevates these primates to a level they have not heretofore enjoyed, but which they have been more than willing to grab. If these are the primates whom the Covenant envisions will provide more and greater unity, then the communion will be tacking into a wind that may be too stiff for it to bear.

It is also these selfsame primates, and a subset of them, that their own communique recommends be given some say over the governance of the Episcopal Church. Their results and behaviors at their triennial meetings, do not bode well for any role they may play in the life of our church, indeed in any church beyond their own borders, advisory though it may be. If the only way they can guide and direct is through force, the ignoring of entire populations, and angry letters and threats, we should all be concerned.

As symbols of and real maintainers of unity, the primates overall get an "F." They create more discord than any other 1,000 Anglicans put together. Thankfully in America, we have a strong and visible ministry of the laity to keep these troublesome bishops in check. As part of any Covenant, such an informed and equipped laity in other national churches is something else our Church needs to call for.

Because Lord knows, when you have bishops calling in "sick" to mass and sitting by a pool being served iced drinks when just 100 feet away stare underfed and underclothed children, having someone hold them to account should be at the top of our list.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Dateline Zanzibar Cathedral: Akinola is odd man out

Archbishop of Canterbury leads Sunday service with all but one primate attending--Akinola too "ill" to attend

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the other primates appear to have worked successfully to keep the primates working and worshiping together despite repeated and coordinated attempts to divide them and the Communion.

Akinola of Nigeria went into Tanzania early last week with a list of demands aimed at dividing the group and the Communion itself, but his claims appear to have fallen on deaf ears at every turn. If anything, Akinola's demands and threats to weaken Canterbury appear to have rallied the rest of the Communion, including The Episcopal Church, to Canterbury.

Based on the Zanzibar Cathedral service this morning, it is becoming increasingly clear that it is Akinola and his plans for division and schism that are the odd man out. Akinola was too "ill" to attend the Cathedral service, an unnamed official said.

All the other primates attended mass at the Zanzibar Cathedral, which stands over a former slave post, Reuters and The Associated Press report.

The Archbishop told the assembled primates:
"Very early in the history of the church there was a great saint who said God was evident when bishops were silent," Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said to some laughter in a packed cathedral in the predominantly Muslim Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar.

"There is one thing a bishop should say to another bishop ... that I'm a great sinner and Christ is a great saviour."

The Reuters story with dateline "Zanzibar" is all here.

From the Sunday readings

Psalm 99, Dominus Regnavit

1 The Lord is King;
let the people tremble; *
he is enthroned upon the cherubim;
let the earth shake.

2 The Lord is great in Zion; *
he is high above all peoples.

3 Let them confess his Name, which is great and awesome; *
he is the Holy One.

4 "O mighty King, lover of justice,
you have established equity; *
you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob."

5 Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God
and fall down before his footstool; *
he is the Holy One.

6 Moses and Aaron among his priests,
and Samuel among those who call upon his Name, *
they called upon the Lord, and he answered them.

7 He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud; *
they kept his testimonies and the decree that he gave them.

8 "O Lord our God, you answered them indeed; *
you were a God who forgave them,
yet punished them for their evil deeds."

9 Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God
and worship him upon his holy hill; *
for the Lord our God is the Holy One.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Power of One, Revisited

With one stroke the Archbishop of Canterbury has reduced the realignment to rubble.

Actions based on statements that Canterbury or the Communion countenance schism or isolation of the Episcopal Church can now clearly be viewed as nonsense.

For years we have been hearing how the Windsor Report (it is now "The Windsor Process" on the communion website) is the only way forward.

Just last week, Tom Wright was yelling at anyone still in the room that Windsor is "of course" the same as Scripture and it is the only way to go and all must be compliant.

The panel charged with discerning the Episcopal Church's response finds our response positive, faithful, and sufficient. If Windsor is the only way forward, then the Episcopal church is on the path forward by showing its commitment to Communion-wide unity.

Because what other church has been asked to so strongly comply with Windsor as ours?

Answer: not a one.

What other church has debated Windsor as thoroughly and struggled with it at the highest levels, besides ours?

Answer: not a one.

And we know why. Because the hopes of the schismatics was to pin their schism on findings and statements by the Archbishop of Canterbury, that the Episcopal Church was not a "Windsor church."

This has now been rejected by the Archbishop of Canterbury and his panel.

The Archbishop's panel is authoritative. In fact we may consider it to be the final authority on this matter. It is a group of the joint committee bringing together 3 Instruments of Unity--the Archbishop himself, primates (some of whom by the way spoke out regularly against the Episcopal Church) and laity. It is a group of the same committee that is working on the Anglican Covenant.

This panel's findings are going to be very difficult to lay aside, because laying aside the findings means laying aside Windsor.

This panel or another like it, should now direct its discernment to the other elements hinted at in the recent findings--uninvited and unwanted episcopal intrusions and the failure of national churches to actively engage in the required listening process.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Report on Episcopal Church response to Windsor Process is released

Group formed by Archbishop of Canterbury says Episcopal reception of Windsor is "positive" and "sufficient"

At their meeting in London in March 2006, the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council nominated four of its members to assist the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion in discerning the response of the Anglican Communion to the decisions of the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Some of these decisions related to requests made of the Episcopal Church in the Primates' Statement of February 2005 at Dromantine, which incorporated the Primates' response to the recommendations of the Windsor Report. The group appointed met in London in September 2006.

The members of the group are:
The Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Central Africa
The Archbishop of Wales
Chancellor Philippa Amable, Province of West Africa
Canon Elizabeth Paver, Church of England
The Secretary-General

The group released its report today at a press briefing in Tanzania. The primates are in receipt of the report.

Though it doesn't say this specifically, the report makes plain its belief that The Episcopal Church is committed to the Anglican Communion and that it has done its best to maintain the highest degree of communion possible, even though some of its approaches to ministry and Biblical interpretations differ from other national churches in the Communion.

The schismatics within the Episcopal Church and their allies, have been pinning their hopes for action against the Episcopal Church, on a statement from this working group that the Episcopal Church's response to Windsor, is insufficient.

They will be disappointed, because the group finds that the Episcopal Church's response "has been sufficient to meet the request of the primates" and the Windsor Report itself.

This is a major blow to the schismatics' attempt to divide the Episcopal Church and the Communion.

Here is the relevant text from the report, with emphasis:
It is clear to this group that in the period following the Dromantine meeting, the Episcopal Church took the Windsor Report and the recommendations adopted by the Primates extremely seriously, establishing a Special Commission to work on its response, dedicating a particular legislative Committee (Special Legislative Committee 26) at the 75th General Convention to carry forward business associated with the Windsor Report, and devoting a lot of time to considering this work.


The response of the 75th General Convention to the Windsor Report as a whole in its resolutions was positive.


Finally, we must turn to the issue of the statement of regret requested by the Windsor Report, and affirmed by the Primates at Dromantine. It is to be noted that the Windsor Report did not request "repentance", although this request has been voiced in some quarters in the Communion. Equally, the Windsor Report went beyond asking for an acknowledgement of the hurt and offence caused by the implications of the decision to consecrate a bishop living in an openly acknowledged sexual relationship outside marriage in contradiction to the teaching upheld in Lambeth Resolution 1.10. The report argued that there had been a breach of the proper constraints of the bonds of affection, and it was this breach for which regret ought to be expressed.
  • In the event, the relevant resolution, approved by General Convention is as follows:

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, mindful of "the repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ" (Windsor Report, paragraph 134), express its regret for straining the bonds of affection in the events surrounding the General Convention of 2003 and the consequences which followed; offer its sincerest apology to those within our Anglican Communion who are offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of our actions on our church and other parts of the Communion; and ask forgiveness as we seek to live into deeper levels of communion one with another.

  • A number of things have to be noted about this resolution. In the first place, General Convention voted down a proposal to adopt the precise wording of the Windsor Report, arguing that it was impossible to know what "the proper constraints of the bonds of affection" were. The group has some sympathy for this view. Instead, however, Convention expressed regret for "straining the bonds of affection", and offered its apology "to those offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of our actions on our church and other parts of the Communion". It goes on to "ask forgiveness".
  • The group was unsure how these words should be understood. On the one hand, there does not seem to be any admission of the fact that the action of consenting to the particular election at the centre of this dispute was in itself blameworthy. On the other, there is the use of the strong language of "apology" and the request for "forgiveness". These words are not lightly offered, and should not be lightly received. Taken with the apparent promise not to repeat the offence (Resolution B033 discussed above) we believe that the expression of regret is sufficient to meet the request of the primates.

The report also says this, possibly a reference to episcopal incursions on North America:
We recognise that the Windsor Report was addressed to the whole of the Anglican Communion. This report has been concerned with the response by the Episcopal Church to that Report. We understand that the Anglican Church of Canada is in the process of preparing its response. We have to express our concern that other recommendations of the Windsor Report, addressed to other parts of the Communion, appear to have been ignored so far.
The full report is all here.

Jim Naughton offers some thoughts about this at Daily Episcopalian, Father Jake at his place. At Preludium Mark Harris says he's pleased the Archbishop's advisory group recognized the hard work that went into the Episcopal Church's response.

No more Bob Duncans

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina has begun circulating a letter to dioceses opposed to the consecration of Mark Lawrence as bishop of South Carolina. It is all here.

The letter is a last ditch effort to secure approval for a man whose statements and writings proudly argue that he considers the Episcopal Church heretical and that he would take his diocese out of the Episcopal Church at the drop of a hat.

The new letter does nothing to dispel this clear sense and in fact only heightens it.

On the issue of why South Carolina does not want the Presiding Bishop at the consecration of the new bishop, the standing committee writes that the bishop-elect had nothing to do with this decision, it was the old bishop who demanded this. True--but this is not a sign of good will in the Diocese of South Carolina. And Lawrence himself has said more than once that having ++Katharine at his consecration would disgrace and weaken his ministry.

Lawrence could simply say: "We would love to have her. She is the presiding bishop of our church and it would be right and proper." That he doesn't only shows that he is committed to maintaining the pattern of division and antagonism of the diocese.

On the issue of alternative primatial oversight, the standing committee says it has only sought it in order to secure the unity of the whole church. What about the unity of the Episcopal Church? On this the standing committee, and the bishop-elect, are silent. An alternative primate weakens and divides our church. They know it, that is why they ask for it.

On the issue of whether the diocese and its bishop-elect will continue to participate in the Episcopal Church, the standing committee says that present behavior is the best indicator of future behavior.

We couldn't agree more. The present behavior of the Diocese of South Carolina and its bishop-elect is a sad chapter in the life of the Episcopal Church. Lawrence will do nothing to end it, he will in fact only make it worse.

The diocese could easily devote more resources to national church initiatives, but it has withdrawn more and more from national collaborations--except, that is, when it uses them in order to criticize the church and malign its leadership. On those occasions it is first in line.

For its candidates, the diocese selected men who are primed to divide the Episcopal Church. None of them has stated or will state unequivocally, their intent to work hard and do everything in their power to keep our Church united.

In fact, the diocese's questions to the candidates during the search asked them to rank their willingness to schism.

The entire slate of final candidates indicated their strong and it must be said, eager willingness to do so. One of their candidates when he lost, immediately left the Episcopal Church to head up another organization which, dissidents hope, can be setup as a replacement to the Episcopal Church. This week in Tanzania, Akinola's list of replacement churches includes this very group.

The diocese's director of communications administers an internet site regularly condemning the Episcopal Church as heretical, apostate, and unChristian. That the diocese devotes its resources to activities undermining the Church does not inspire confidence in its claims to fealty towards our church nor in the propriety of a bishop selection process that offers up men who so easily walk out of the church.

In the end the standing committee's new letter is just more of the same that has come out of South Carolina in all this--dishonesty, prevarication, veiled threats, and spin.

It could all be over, with consent, if the bishop-elect and the standing committee said unequivocally: we will work for the unity and strength of the Episcopal Church.

They haven't said this, and won't, because this is not what they will do. They believe schism is a great idea.

The Episcopal Church already has a bishop who thinks this--his name is Bob Duncan. Our church doesn't need another one.

Mark Lawrence should not be given consent to be a bishop in our church.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Say no to the chest pounding bully boys

Early reports from the primates meeting in Tanzania are running par for the course.

As expected the bully boys--Akinola, Duncan, Minns, et al-- are again pounding their chests and yet again demanding their pipe dream: a new Anglican province in America, to be run by a bishop of their choice, to replace the Episcopal Church, which they want excommunicated.

This has been their game plan for years and they are again playing the same tune. They keep playing the same tune because so many have rolled out the red carpet for them to do it.

The time has come for Archbishop Rowan Williams and the rest of the primates to say no to these bully boys. The bully boys want two things. First, is to be in control. Second, is to be in control.

Anyone at this primates meeting who values what Anglicanism in general and the Episcopal Church in particular have offered the world in Christian witness must make up their mind during this week. Either they will cave to the bully boys, or they will tell them no thanks.

They should tell them no thank you in no uncertain terms. This is how they should say it: no thank you.

They shouldn't be coerced by threats of what the bully boys may do if they don't get what they want because it will only satisfy them (if that) until the next round of chest pounding. Nor should the primates be coerced to "expel" the most senior church in the Communion when time and again the Episcopal Church has come to the table, and with only one condition: come to the table.

If this condition of fellowship, which is in fact a prerequisite for any kind of community at all, is too much for the Anglican Communion primates to stomach, then the Anglican Communion is finished.

The Power of One

The cynic tells us that one person is not enough to make a difference but we know from our faith and experience that this is not so. It is often one person who makes all the difference in the world.

Perhaps one of the primates attending the conference this week in Dar es Salaam will be the one who makes a decisive difference, for the better, in the life of our church, our communion, and our world.

What would such a person look like? What would the person say? We might get 100 different answers if we asked enough.

One answer might be that the persons in attendance at the primates meeting have such a poor track record of ensuring and expanding the sacred deposit entrusted to them that any hope of anything useful and good coming from the group, much less from just one of them, is fanciful and foolish.

We hope that we hear a better answer than that.

Let us make no mistake about it. The Lord Himself sees and knows our every move and He will no doubt be watching every move made by the discordant and dissimilar group meeting in Dar es Salaam to promote and protect the community He has given us.

The issue is whether they will see Him.

They all proclaim Him as Lord and Savior. Many pride themselves on what they consider their intimate knowledge of and relationship with Him. Very good. Perhaps secure in such knowledge and faith, they can then forego some of their prerogatives and bombast, and look for Him one more time, in the hearts of their fellows gathered there because they feel precisely the same way.

If not, then He will forgive them, and us, if we ask it and are truly sorry. But to the billions of unchurched around the world who by a more fruitful and humble conference of primates might one day have come to know the grace and power of the One who has given us life, that will not make any sense at all.

Friday, February 09, 2007

++Katharine: Three mission questions

We need to identify ourselves, why we're here and how to act on it

HOW DO WE understand our mission--as Christians, as Episcopalians, as congregations in this church? We might begin with the catechism's definition of it as "to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ" (p. 855 in The Book of Common Prayer). We're meant to understand that in the broadest possible terms, involving us in mind, body, spirit, community and all of creation.

How is that broad understanding of mission lived out in your life and the life of your congregation? For several years, I've used three questions to frame that issue of mission in congregational settings: Who are you? Why are you here? What are you doing about it?

Mission is particular, in the same sense that the Incarnation happened in a particular human being in a specific time and place. None of us has the same bundle of gifts, and each of us is invited to put those gifts to work in different settings and contexts. Each congregation has a unique constellation of gifts in its members and a unique context in its neighborhood and community.

Answering the mission challenge begins by recognizing who we are. Identity, giftedness, the values and images we find most important--how would you name and define those for yourself?

Sometimes congregations begin to engage this by asking how their identity is reflected in their names. What does it mean to be the congregation called "St. James" or "Holy Trinity" or "Resurrection?" Do you as a congregation claim that name in a conscious way? Does it inform your way of being?

In a very real sense, we can't love others until we love ourselves. We only can give out of what we have and if we are unaware of the gifts we have, we haven't anything to share. Beginning to know and love the body you are is essential to mission.

Maybe it is the gift of being a small and rural congregation that's survived and thrived for 130 years, the ability to welcome a stranger passing through, a small group of folks who are willing to challenge each other to look beyond the surface of things, or even a bunch of guys who like to eat breakfast together once a month. Perhaps part of your identity is a big building in the middle of a blighted urban area. Maybe you've rebuilt after a fire, and you've learned something about finding the blessings in unexpected loss and change. All can be gifts if they are claimed.

Why are you here? The old catechetical answer that immediately rises from deep within me is "to give glory to God."

The next question becomes, "How?" Why are you on this earth? What particularities of your identity lead you into ministry? Do you love to sing or explore or work with children or work with numbers? Knowing who you are, in all your particularity, becomes one of the sources for vocation and the ministry to which each of us is called in baptism.

As Frederick Buechner said so eloquently, "Ministry is where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need." What gift, when used well, brings joy in your life? How can it be used to meet the world's deep need? That implies that we have a sense of the community, the context, in which we're planted. Who are your neighbors? Do you have an accurate understanding of the community in the five-mile radius around your church? What does the neighborhood look like, where does it suffer, where is it broken and in need of healing? What are we being sent to do (which is literally what mission means)?

What are you doing about it?

That's the evaluative and direction-giving part of the mission endeavor. It might be a useful way to frame an annual review--what have we learned about ourselves in the past year, how have we grown in our understanding of the world around us and how have we met the challenge in action?

An example. I first heard about St. James, Cathlamet, about 1990. It's a small congregation on the banks of the Columbia River in Washington state. In the mid 1980s, the bottom fell out of all of the region's employment: logging, dairying and fishing. Mothers who had stayed home with children suddenly needed any employment they could find, or were going back to school.

The congregation of 15 or 20 people began to ask what they might do to provide some child care, and a teacher in the congregation went to the vestry and said, "Well, if you let me use the Sunday school rooms, and if I can find six or seven children, I think we can break even."

They started off, and within a few short years the St. James Family Center had built a large facility on the piece of land they'd been saving to build a proper sanctuary. The center was providing day care for infants and toddlers, Head Start, after-school care. youth and teen programs and parenting classes and managing the county’s domestic-violence shelter. It has become the third largest employer in the county, and it continues to transform the community.

St. James's members are reconciling their corner of the world, because they know who they are and why they're there.

Learn more about the St. James Family Center here.

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, February 08, 2007

The Bishop of Windbag

In his recent interview-cum-tirade with the always interesting Ruth Gledhill of the Times of London, the Bishop of Durham releases a torrent of charges, misperceptions, errors and outright spiritual and verbal assaults against the Episcopal Church and its people. This is his preferred method of assuring others that he is in the right, others are in the wrong, and that if they do what he tells them, they may continue to be his friend.

For a man letting it all hang out with work buddies over pints after a long shift on the husbandry grounds, his language may be understandable. For a bishop of God's church it is a curious display of intemperate politicking reflecting poorly on the man himself and compounding the sense that the Church of England's appointed leaders on most controversies consider themselves backed into a corner. From that corner continues to come a curiouser and curiouser brand of friendship revealing itself as a shaking fist.

Notably, Durham in his comments draws a bright line between rights and justice, and the pattern of Scripture--for a scholar of the Bible, a difficult line to argue under any circumstances, but for a politicking bishop, an easy and expedient case to make. Ms. Gledhill lets Durham go on and on for far too long, and one would hope that in future she or a thoughtful sub-editor might take the pruning shears to more of his offerings.

Certainly the interview makes clear that to his successes as Bishop of Durham and his accolades as a scholar of the New Testament, N.T. Wright has garnered another honorific--the Bishop of Windbag.

Monday, February 05, 2007

++Katherine profiled in USA Today

The article is headlined "Episcopal Church's new dawn" and can be read here. The article assumes a curiously if only slightly adversarial stance, that seems more at home in an interview with a politician than a religious leader.

At any rate an interesting exchange is about midway through:

"What about breakaway churches?

She's sad to see them go, but not so sad that she won't fight for their properties. "The institution cannot give away its birthright and the gifts that belong to future generations. Our desire to reconcile continues, but if (the seceding churches) would prefer to be part of another tradition, then they are welcome to go. They just can't take what doesn't belong to them," she says, leaning forward.

"The church's laws are broad but they are there, and beyond these lines you cannot go. Crossing boundaries has consequences." "

Fr. Matthew hits his sermon groove

The curate of St. Pauls, Yonkers, NY, works out a sermon

Visit Fr. Matthew's YouTube page for more videos.

Call him Bishop Walkabout

Bishop of Melbourne walks his city using this greeting:"Hi, I'm Philip, and I'm the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne"
Why? To learn firsthand the hopes, wishes, and needs of his city

"AN ANGLICAN meets a Catholic." Now there's a sentence you kind of hope might lead to an ecclesiastical joke. Something, perhaps, by Irish funny man Dave Allen.

Such were the possibilities when Melbourne's new Anglican Archbishop, Philip Freier, left St Paul's Cathedral at lunchtime yesterday, crossed Flinders Street, and parked himself on a Federation Square step.

There he chatted with Narre Warren alpaca farmers Barbara and Adrian Corkeron, the latter of whom told Dr Freier he had history with the Jesuits.

Schism was averted in the spirit of ecumenism. It's all right, Dr Freier indicated, I'm just here to ask people what I should understand about Melbourne.

The Corkerons were among the first people approached by the senior cleric on day one of his Prayer4Melbourne Quest — a two-month tour of Melbourne public spaces to find out our hopes, wishes and prayers for the city.

Each week of his quest, Dr Freier will journey to places such as Fountain Gate. At the end of his mission, he will write a prayer for Melbourne, based on the themes brought to his attention.

Read it all at The Age of Australia.

Photo and text courtesy of The Age.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The View from Lambeth

At mid-month the Presiding Bishop will join 37 other presiding bishops/primates for about a week near the beaches in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Africa. Chairing this meeting will be Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who personally and as steward of that storied office, has seen better days.

From Lambeth Palace the view is quite precarious.

There are all the jurisdictional and theological disputes undermining its continued position as a center of unity and vision, aided and compounded by its own missteps in its Windsor Report, its Panel of Reference and its procedures for an "Anglican Covenant."

There are the challenges and problems in Lambeth's own province, which has become even more inhospitable to the course it has unsuccessfully and haplessly, it must be said, tried to chart for it. If Lambeth is deaf to America, it is stopping up its ears to Britain.

In all of its responses to the current debates within its country and throughout the Communion, Lambeth has proceeded from a resolutely English conviction that its role and advice is essential to the continued well-being of both. It has urged all parties to all conflicts and controversies, to examine themselves and precisely why it is they stake out the places they do.

The singular shortcoming of Lambeth through all of this has been its unwillingness to direct these very questions at itself. It has displayed a penchant for secrecy, presumption, self-selection, hardheadedness, self-interest and, remarkably given its conviction that it is essential, fear.

In the process it has enlarged the very real risk that one way or another, it will lose the continued good will and partnership, of its most enduring ally, its first, oldest and most generous friend--The Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

Perhaps it is only this spiritual earthquake that would result in a Lambeth more responsive and relevant to its age.