Admiral of Morality: November 2007

Friday, November 23, 2007

Eight heroes of nonviolence (you never heard of)

Every community holds any number of extraordinary, everyday humanitarians. Leah Reddy of Trinity News, the magazine of Trinity Church, Wall Street, highlights eight hidden heroes of nonviolence from around the world.

Investigative journalists are an important part of our newshungry society. But before there was a Woodward, a Bernstein or a Christiane Amanpour, there was Ida B. Wells-Barnett. She was a black woman born in Mississippi in 1862. She became a teacher at 14, but lost her position when she took up journalism and the cause of civil rights in her editorials. And then she turned her pen to the horrors of lynching. Much like a war correspondent, Wells-Barnett lived through the atrocities she investigated: three of her friends were lynched for running a grocery store that was competing with white-owned businesses. After her Memphis newspaper office was ransacked due to her civil rights advocacy, Wells-Barnett moved to New York and then Chicago, and continued writing pamphlets and articles exposing the truth about lynching.

The brutal Salvadorian Civil War in the 1970s and 1980s drove thousands of families to seek refuge in the Pico Union section of Los Angeles. In L.A. these traumatized youth — hardened by poverty, grief, and their status as outsiders in American society — eventually formed violent street gangs. Gang activity often led to arrest and deportation back to El Salvador, where gang members reconnected and continued their turf wars. Alex Sanchez was one of those deported gang members. But when he learned that his girlfriend was pregnant he came back to the U.S. illegally, determined to shake his old life. He found help from Homies Unidos, a nonprofit gang violence prevention and intervention organization. With Sanchez’ help, Homies Unidos became the first transnational gang prevention initiative, addressing the root causes of gangs in the U.S. and El Salvador. Today, as program director for Homies Unidos, Sanchez helps L.A. youth find productive outlets for their energies and emotions.

Javier Stauring believes in restorative justice — and he has risked his career to build a better juvenile justice system. Stauring, a Catholic lay chaplain and co-director of the Office of Restorative Justice for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, has worked with inmates, victims, and their communities since 1996. In 2001, he began counseling juveniles held in an adult jail and found the youths living in intolerable conditions: confined to their cells for more than 23 hours a day and denied schooling and vocational programs. He spoke out against these conditions and subsequently lost clearance to visit the jail. His clearance was reinstated after a lawsuit, and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors ruled that the jail was unfit for juvenile inmates. Mr. Stauring continues to work toward transformation of the juvenile justice system.

Known as the “Frontier Gandhi,” Abdul Ghaffar Khan built an army dedicated to nonviolent resistance and self-improvement. A devout Muslim from the North-West Frontier Province of British India (now Pakistan), Khan was frustrated by years of oppression by the British and the violence endemic to his Pathan society. The lives of Pathans, he felt, could be improved only through a combination of self-improvement and nonviolent resistance to British rule. Beginning in the 1930s, Khan formed the Khudai Khidmatgar — the Servants of God — a 100,000-member nonviolent army. During their 17-year existence, this unusual army built schools, helped maintain order, and generally sought to improve the lives of Pathans. They were arrested, poisoned, attacked, and sometimes killed by British soldiers, but never turned to violence.

“Citizen-to-citizen diplomacy,” the Rev. Dr. Ellen Francis Poisson, OSH, writes, “is based on the conviction that direct dialogue can challenge stereotypes and change the attitudes of people, on both sides.” As co-leader of interfaith peace and reconciliation delegations to Iran and Afghanistan, Poisson — who is an Episcopal priest, a member of the Order of St. Helena, and an iconographer — builds understanding and respect one relationship at a time. Poisson’s leadership gives ordinary citizens of the U.S. and Middle East the chance to say with conviction, “We’ve met people from there who want peace with us.”

In 1990, the Rev. Michael Lapsley, an anti-apartheid activist and Anglican priest, lost both hands, one eye, and suffered shattered eardrums in a letter-bomb attack. The perpetrator was never caught. Despite his life-changing injuries, Lapsley returned to South Africa and worked at the Trauma Center for Victims of Violence and Torture, which assisted the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He later developed the Institute for the Healing of Memories, which offers worldwide workshops and resources for helping people forgive and heal from emotional and psychological trauma.

Verónica Cruz Sánchez empowers the people of her community to resist and change a culture of violence against women. In Guanajuato, Mexico — her home — battered, abused, or raped women are routinely denied their legal rights. Three hundred women in Guanajuato have been killed by their husbands or family members in the last five years. Cruz Sánchez, executive director and a founding member of Centro Las Libres de Información en Salud Sexual, is determined to fight that violence. Las Libres (The Free Women) helps victims of domestic violence when the government will not, providing psychological counseling, legal help, and support.

More than one million people live in crowded refugee camps inside the war zone of Darfur, Sudan. Suleiman Jamous, humanitarian coordinator for Darfur’s rebel groups and a widely respected “elder statesmen” is committed to caring for these displaced, endangered people. He co-authored The Black Book — a documented exposé of the ethnic favoritism and corruption of the Sudanese government — in 2000 and was detained by the Sudanese government for three years. He fled to Darfur, where he began communicating with rebel groups and aid organizations, helping to ensure that humanitarian aid reached those in need in rebel-held regions. Jamous has also been an essential consensus-building voice in the ongoing peace process. He was confined to a United Nations hospital for over a year with intestinal problems, but the Sudanese government recently allowed him to seek advanced medical care in Chad. Jamous hopes to recover and return to his work in Darfur.

This article appears in the "Religion and Violence" issue of Trinity News. The issue serves as a companion piece to Trinity Institute's 38th national conference, an interfaith examination of religion and violence.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Provincial and ACC replies to New Orleans bishops meeting begin to trickle in

Over at the redesigned Anglican Communion homepage, the Anglican Communion Office has begun compiling the responses to the Episcopal bishops meeting from this past September.

The responses are collated into two groups: provinces,which includes responses from the primates and provincial synods, if these were consulted as part of the response process; and responses from members of the Anglican Consultative Council.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, as chair of the Joint Committee of Primates and ACC, requested the replies by October 31, and they are being sent to him. The Communion office notes that the Archbishop himself, will include reflections on the report and responses to it, in his annual Advent letter, which is expected sometime in the next few weeks.

As of November 6, Canterbury has received 26 responses from Primates, with no reply from 12 Provinces.

Of these 26, 12 view the Episcopal responses favorably. Ten provinces, all of them from the "global south," view the response unfavorably. Two responses are described as mixed. Figure one (below) charts the numbers. Click on the figure, for a legible image.

Twelve provinces have yet to reply. These are:

• CAPA Provinces (3) – the Archbishop of Central Africa retired in September, and the primacy is vacant at present. The (retired) Archbishop of Central Africa was a signatory of the recent CAPA communiqué, as were the Provincial representatives from the two remaining CAPA Provinces where a reply has not yet been received (the Archbishop of Sudan is currently in hospital, and is due to retire at the end of this year).
• South and Central American Provinces (2)
• United Churches (3)
• Other Provinces (4) although the Primate of one of these is on the JSC.

As for the Anglican Consultative Council, 27 of the 75 members have sent in their views. Only one so far, says the Episcopal Church reply is inadequate. Figure 2 (below) charts these numbers. Click on the figure, for a legible image.

Overall, the replies tend to support the Episcopal Church. There is an "extended comment" section highlighting responses that have been sent in; many of these highlight that The Episcopal Church has undergone an historic and unprecedented intrusion into its internal affairs.

There appears to be little support for having a special meeting of the primates on this matter, or indeed on any matter, as several replies evidence a growing uneasiness with the authority the primates have attempted to arrogate to themselves.

The link to this report, which no doubt will be updated as more replies arrive, is here. It is also formatted as a pdf here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The work of the Evil One

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold on more than one occasion characterized the disputes over sex in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as the work of the Evil One. It may be impossible to state with any certainty that Bishop Griswold was correct in his view but there can be no doubt that he was certainly on the right track.

Consider for a moment the words and actions of so many of the Episcopal dissidents. Though they consider themselves to be acting in righteous indignation, by their fruits we know them. In Virginia and other places, often with the aid of overseas bishops who consider themselves equally righteous, they have proceeded with lies, subterfuge, and doublespeak, along an arc of division and hostility. That they consider themselves in the right, does not alter that they proceed with lies, subterfuge, and doublespeak, along an arc of division and hostility.

Also in this country, the bishops of Pittsburgh, Fort Worth and San Joaquin regularly insist they are doing nothing to divide our Church yet work actively and vocally, to foster this very thing. Their relishing of hostility and confrontation and their eagerness to heap scorn, and their lies, are perverse. That they remain bishops of our church is an outrage.

The dissidents regularly claim that their unceasing hostility for all manner of persons and positions, turns on the authority of Scripture. That they read Scripture is not in question. The question is, whose Scripture? They promote their positions on sexuality as catholic and universal but their approaches, discernment, and conclusions, are not catholic or universal. If anything they are Calvinist and Reformed. The catholic churches do not accept or promote the primacy of Scriptures on every question. In fact, The Roman Catholic Church, to give one example, bases much of its Marian theology, which is essential to it, on revelation to the Church outside of Scripture, in the course of human events.

Nor are the questions and answers the dissidents use to circumscribe their church and by which, they would try to bind ours, as fixed as the dissidents would like to believe. On the precise issue of sexual orientation, the very Scriptures these dissidents regularly promote with such enthusiasm, are by the Jewish rabbis, interpreted as they are by the Episcopal Church. These Old Testament passages are no bar to the rabbinate and in fact, are no bar to a holy life at all. Why? Because in the discernment of the rabbis, the Spirit of God has revealed to us and them, in the course of human events, that it is not.

Whose Scripture is this, then? We claim it as ours, and they claim it as theirs, the only difference being, they claim it as theirs exclusively, meaning, that their claims negate all others, and in fact, reject the fact of there being others.

It is this sort of claim that identifies many of the Episcopal dissidents as being part of the strong current of the language and actions of election, exclusion, denial, and yes, evil. This is a conclusion that must be stated, for their idle chatter is often Godless, and unchecked, can spread like a gangrene, both in themselves, and to the unknowing hearer, who, hearing, turns away from the Light, which is life.

This turning away from and rejection of the Lord's mercy and light; and the severing of the gift of fellowship in our Church, as a result of the words and/or actions of the dissidents, who work actively to see that both of these things are not possible in our church-- this is the most perverse of their actions. To their minds--stress, to their minds--they are not turning away others from the light, but in fact, are leading them on the correct path, which, they alone in our church, have discerned. Perversity upon perversity.

The dissidents purport to know without question the mind and Spirit of God so well, that they then act and behave in ways producing not the fruits of the Spirit, but the evidence of confusion and wickedness. They regularly flout love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and, their most glaring shortcoming as persons and Christians, self-control. There is no law against any of these, yet they speak and act so regularly as if there were. They act hastily, in anger, to divide, and revel in talk of battle, bullets, hostility, and harm. If this is not the work of the Evil One, it is certainly along the way to it.

And for us, what? What is to be our witness?

We must remember and put into effect the greatest commandment, the royal law; and at the same time, reject the positions and actions of those who would seek to divide based on what, to their minds--stress, to their minds--is valid. Because quite often, what they promote, in their idle chatter, is in direct contradiction to the fruits of the spirit, and hence, cannot be of the Spirit.

In the process, we must also reject acting with spiritual expediency, which would be tantamount to destroying our Church. We must act with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generoisity, faithfulness, and gentleness, because the laws of heaven require it and our own God-given reason shows these all to be true. Together these are a lamp to the world and if we do not act with them, there is no light.

We must continue to act in the fruits of the Spirit and to speak honestly and forthrightly about our experiences, discernment, and welcome. We must defend our Church, and if this means a season of litigation in some dioceses to protect and maintain what is rightfully hers for her mission, then so be it.

We do not need the permission of one single dissident to do this. We do not need their permission or approval, to protect our Church, to defend it against attacks, and to preserve its resources to carry its mission into the world. We do not need the permission of any of them, to lift high the Cross and carry before us into the world, our faith, beliefs, and lives.

This is the great and irrevocable gift of the Holy Spirit, that it fills us with the power, love and self-discipline, to do precisely these things. This Church, comes from and is, of the Holy Spirit, and so is imbued by right with the power, love and self-disciplne, to declare the Good News and be a lamp for the world.

This right cannot be taken away; or squandered by anyone except ourselves. And so we must take care, all of us who lift high the Cross and do the work of our Church in the name of the Lord, wherever we may be, to remember, that we must be about our Father's business in a way that gives glory to Him, brings people to Him, and lets us all know, that our Church, is the fruit of the Spirit.