Admiral of Morality: March 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008

Regula, dear readers, and thank you

Since no entries were made to the website for a short period this past winter, several readers wrote to inquire as to my whereabouts, and as to the status of the site.

In the Episcopal contemplative tradition modeled on The Rule of St. Benedict, there are regular periods of prayer, meditation and contemplation. Much of this tradition occurs within a monastic or other contemplative community, of which The Episcopal Church has several.

These communities generally follow the rule of life formulated so well by St. Benedict. This rule, or regula, to use the Latin—which gives us the more expansive sense of the word's term, which is as a method or approach to spiritual formation—does not require holy orders, and many have written elsewhere, about the rules' usefulness and development in their lives.

In my own life, there are regular periods of contemplation, study, and prayer, during which no posts may appear, and no correspondence may be answered.

Alas, these periods might seem extended by the instantaneous standards of electrical impulses; by human standards, these times are surprisingly short.

Notwithstanding,—thank you, dear readers, for your notes of interest and concern, and your continuing visits.

Grace and peace in the name of the Lord.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

For Bishop Gene, "moving on" means moving on to "the next round"

The Boston Globe this morning has an interesting story on its front page about Bishop Gene.

Reporting from diocesan headquarters in Concord, N.H., the report reviews some of the events since +Gene's consecration five years ago "in a nearby hockey arena, wearing a bulletproof vest under his new golden vestments," and previews +Gene's upcoming schedule, including Lambeth and his civil union in June.

A good section of the report is a bit of a rehash of the past several years, using many of the phrases that, to regular readers of Episcopal/Anglican news reports, have become very familiar.

+Gene says in the interview that "he agrees with assertions by the presiding US bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, that he is not the only gay Anglican bishop, simply the only one willing to be open about his sexuality."

He also says that because of his visibility, his personal safety may be at risk, but that he's not afraid.

"I'm not afraid, I'm just realistic. There are angry people, and there are crazy people out there. And as far as we know, not a single one of the disciples died of old age at home in bed. The kind of confidence that they felt after the resurrection just enabled them to go out and make their witness and then what happens happens, and that's the way I feel."

The article in full is here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Chaplains mark grim milestone with salute to each of the fallen

As the news spread around the nation over Easter night that the number of U.S. dead in Iraq had reached 4,000, newspapers and broadcasts over the world marked the milestone with reports on the lives of the soldiers and their families.

Sharon Cohen of The Associated Press, covered the experiences of four chaplains:

Rev. David Sivret, rector at St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Calais, Maine, and chaplain in the Maine National Guard;

Captain Kevin Wainwright, U.S. Army, a Presbyterian minister and chaplain to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment;

Jesus Perez, a Messianic Jew, chaplain to the First Calvary Division at Fort Hood;

and Lt. Colonel Irvine Brye, Army Reserve, a Baptist minister and chaplain to the 3rd Medical Command at Camp Victory, Baghdad.

Read their stories here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rowan Williams, apophaticist

The interested who might have a moment or two during Holy Week (a spell between Maundy Thursday and choral evensong on Easter Sunday, say) can feel free to thumb through a slender new volume of essays that help us to navigate and find discernible landmarks, "inside the mind of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, Britain's most impressive theological virtuoso." (This, according to the review of the new volume in the Times Literary Supplement.)

The book, Wrestling with Angels: Conversations in Modern Theology, is reviewed favorably there.

The new volume covers pieces Williams wrote only between 1978 and 1998, dates which are significant in the life of the Anglican Communion and in the career of Rowan Williams.

Those years saw major Prayer Book revisions, the first female bishops (priests, in some nations) and the growing prominence of African Anglicans, notably Archbishop Tutu in South Africa.

Williams writings and thought during this period, reflected these developments and indeed, laid intellectual and theological groundwork for them. Into 1998 and even through his elevation to the seat of Cantaur, Williams often wrote and spoke eloquently, about an expansive, generous orthodoxy rooted in the diverse voices and traditions, of Scripture itself. Doing this is how he made his reputation.

Regularly working against this very history of himself, is how he has come to be identified since his elevation.

The book itself mirrors this intellectual and pastoral 180 degree turn, cutting off anything post Lambeth 1998, a time—our time—when the very abstractions teased out and expounded upon from 1978 to 1998, have become concrete realities needing to be defended, given pastoral care, and recognized for always being at the foot of the Cross.

Here is how the TLS describes the significance of the essays in the new book, and the cutoff for dates:

....[P]ieces – all originally published between 1978 and 1998 – that deal directly with the thought of modern philosophers and theologians, and that therefore might be described as exercises in philosophical or systematic theology (as opposed, say, to historical theology, another field in which Williams has long distinguished himself). This sort of approach suits Williams well. He is not a theologian who has ever attempted to develop a “system” of his own, or to establish a particular school of theology within the greater theological world, or to enucleate a set of basic principles by which then to determine where and how other thinkers ought to be situated within his own thought. Rather, what he does extremely well is to “think along” with the author whose work he is considering, to measure the strengths of that author’s ideas, to seek out certain of the subtler currents within those ideas, and to identify what can and should be criticized therein.

The period between 1978 and 1998, when Williams expounded and help nurture an expansive Gospel, is seen as an intellectual exercise.

The period after this—our here and now—when the exercises can be put into practice and defended? Silence. The book snaps shut.

The TLS review is a fine one. It can be read in its entirety here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

++Katharine in Jerusalem for "historic moment"

Marking the annual Palm Sunday celebrations and the start of a week-long visit to the Holy Land, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori made Anglican history on March 16, becoming the first woman ever to preach at St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem.

The Presiding Bishop's visit to the Holy Land comes at the invitation of the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, who was consecrated Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem in January 2006.

++Katharine was met with smiles and jubilation as she joined ++Dawani in greeting each member of the congregation following the service.

"We joined in a remarkable multicultural worship experience today -- Arabic and English speaking Christians celebrating Palm Sunday in the midst of East Jerusalem, with palm and olive branches, singing old standard Holy Week hymns in both languages," ++Katharine said.

The morning Eucharist, celebrated in Arabic and English, was preceded by the blessing of palm branches and a procession from St. George’s College Square into the Cathedral, located on Nablus Road in East Jerusalem.

The Rev. Canon Hosam Naoum, acting dean of St. George's, described the Presiding Bishop's visit as a historic moment. "With all the differences in the Anglican Communion today, I see her as a uniting figure who brings beliefs and understandings and cultures of other people around the world," he said.

Audio of the sermon, and more on ++Katharine's visit, is at Episcopal Life Online.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

From the Sunday readings

Matthew 21: 1, The Lord enters Jersualem
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Beth'phage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, "The Lord needs them.' And he will send them immediately." 
This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
"Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey."

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
"Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!"
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?" The crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee."

The Lord enters Jerusalem as the city is preparing for Passover. Many are streaming into the city from all corners of Palestine, the Near East, Africa, Achea, and points beyond, to mark the Passover in the holy city, fittingly so, for many of these will then return to their corners of the world with the good news on their lips, of the Lord's triumphant resurrection and promise of life. The Lord constantly tells his disciples and apostles, that all is happening as it has been laid out in Scripture--down to the very detail of precisely when and how the Lord is to enter into the city. Prior to their arrival the Lord has performed several miracles and has notably, instructed that "the first will be last and the last will be first." He has also explicitly told them that the Son of Man will be given unto his enemies by one of his very own, flogged and crucified, and rise again on the third day. It is a miraculous sequence of events, venerated for millennia as Holy Week in all of Christendom.

Friday, March 14, 2008

"Shock and sorrow" at murder of Archbishop

Lambeth Palace reports via the Anglican News Service that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has expressed his deep shock and sorrow at the appalling murder of Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul.

"Our prayers are daily with the people of Iraq, especially with the vulnerable Christian community, and particularly today with the Chaldeans and Archbishop Paulos' family," ++Rowan said.

As of this Friday, Christians from across Iraq have been attending the murdered archbishop's funeral, the BBC reports.

Surrounded by armed guards, mourners wept and held flowers as the coffin was carried through the village of Kremlis, near Mosul in northern Iraq.

Christians are a tiny fraction of Iraq's population, but their religious sites and leaders have been targets of increasing violence since the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Chaldean is a form of Aramaic, spoken at the time of Jesus.

The Chaldeans, an Eastern-rite Church that recognizes the authority of the Pope, converted to Christianity in the first century A.D., and the Chaldean branch of Christianity has been in Iraq since then.

The Chaldean Church comprises the bulk of Iraq's remaining Christians, 2/3 of whom have fled or been displaced, since the U.S. invasion.

The archbishop's body was found in a shallow grave on Thursday, two weeks after he was kidnapped.

His abductors had telephoned the church authorities to say where he was.

The killing has been condemned by Pope Benedict XVI, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Maliki, and Iraq's Sunni and Shia leaders.

Archbishop Rahho was kidnapped after mass at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul on 29 February. Three of his aides were killed in the abduction.

His kidnapping and murder came only months after another Chaldean priest and three subdeacons, were murdered outside the very same church from where the Archbishop was kidnapped.

Canon Andrew White, the only Anglican priest working in Baghdad, told the Times of London that the Archbishop's death was "inevitable." Other leaders in the Church there fear that to survive in Iraq, Christianity will be driven underground.

"The fact is that since the surge in Baghdad, Al Qaeda has moved north to Mosul," Canon White told the Times. "What is more, we know that they are very short of money, and that they hate Christians. A huge sum was asked for, but the church could not pay it. Sadly it was therefore inevitable that the Archbishop would be killed.

"This killing shows the very real danger faced by Christians in Iraq. This awful event happened in the very heartland of Iraqi Christianity in Nineveh. We are in tears—we are devasted. We are not giving up our faith in Jesus and I am not leaving this beloved land of Iraq."

O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our
prayers on behalf of your servant, and grant him an
entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of
your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for
ever. Amen.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


John Schofield, the former Bishop of San Joaquin, has officially been deposed, Episcopal Life online reports. ++Katharine requested his removal as bishop, and a "clear majority" of his brother and sister bishops in the House have agreed to her request.

The move comes after Schofield guided his diocesan convention to "remove" the diocese from The Episcopal Church.

Readers may recall that ++Katharine inhibited Schofield this past January.

Now, following the required two month window that afforded Schofield time to recant his schism, during which he only became more bellicose and opaque concerning the Church, the full House of Bishops has deposed him, meaning any ecclesial authority he attempts to wield to bind the Church or any of its people or institutions, is null and void. He is no longer a cleric in this Church.

For years, Schofield had assumed a belligerent, spirituality violent, and vulgar position towards much of the rest of the Church and its institutions.

He typically warned that any one not agreeing with him, or his opinions on gays and lesbians and a host of other issues, or actions of his therefrom, was not only stupid and terribly misguided, but heretical.

For some reason, when he was called to account for the abandonment of communion of his Church the first time in 2006, he was cleared.

The only thing this accomplished, was give Schofield time to pursue even more spiritual violence and material damage to the Church and its people.

By now the bishops of the Church have perhaps recognized that not acting to halt or forestall such violence in their own Church is not unChristian or wrong—but an abandonment of their own responsibilities to protect and guide this Church.

++Katharine is to be commended for bringing this to their attention.

The resolution, from Episcopal Life:

RESOLVED, that pursuant to Canon IV.9.2 of the Episcopal Church, the House of Bishops hereby consents to the Deposition from the ordained ministry of the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin.

EXPLANATION: On January 9, 2008, the Title IV Review Committee certified to the Presiding Bishop, pursuant to Canon IV.9.1, that the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, has repudiated the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church and has abandoned the Communion of the Church by, inter alia, departing from the Episcopal Church and purporting to take his Diocese with him into affiliation with the Province of the Southern Cone. In the intervening two months since the Presiding Bishop gave notice to Bishop Schofield of the foregoing certification, Bishop Schofield has failed to submit to the Presiding Bishop sufficient retraction or denial of the actions found by the Title IV Review Committee. Accordingly, the Presiding Bishop has presented the matter to the House of Bishops and requested consent to Bishop Schofield's Deposition.

Episcopal Life notes that more information from the House regarding the matter will be forthcoming this evening.

Other places covering the announcement include The Episcopal Cafe and Thinking Anglicans.

Canada asks, What's a middle of the road Anglican to do?

The Anglican Church of Canada is experiencing some of the troubles with separatist parishes and clergy, that the Episcopal Church in America, has been working through for some time. Go here for some background.

This may all play like a broken record in some parts, but for our brothers and sisters in Christ who face these troubles head on in their parishes and dioceses, the experiences are very real and very unsettling. They threaten to uproot and even destroy a way of life and a reliance on faith and communion, that have proven inseparable.

Connie Woodcock of the Toronto Sun, who has been writing about Canada's Anglican ne'er do wells for some time, asks how things have come to this and wonders, "What's a middle of the road Anglican to do?"

Her piece sparked quite a few letters, which can be read by following the link to the entire column and clicking towards the letters.
"Anglicanism has always been a big tent that has made room for a broad range of belief. Those on the far right, who call themselves orthodox Anglicans, a small group despite the noise they make, believe the Bible literally, right down to Adam and Eve. Their sympathies lie with the Third World Anglicans although they don't seem to realize that beliefs there can seem outrageous to the rest of us -- those African leaders who despise homosexuality, for instance, but tolerate men with multiple wives. Some Canadian congregations have asked to be supervised by a South American bishop rather than their own.

There are those on the far left who have gone so far as to leave the Christ story itself behind and yet still feel comfortable within the church because, after all, we are supposed to love our neighbour as ourselves, no matter what our neighbour believes.

And then there are the rest of us in the middle, wondering why we can't just go back to the way we were -- worshipping in peace and tolerance."

One small fish, one giant lesson for mankind

The Age sits down for lunch with Bishop Walkabout of Melbourne, illustrating once more why he's popular around these parts:

"That was some fluke yesterday. Just as Mr Diary set off for a long-arranged gluttony-free lunch with the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, a new batch of mortal sins were trumpeted from Rome. The original seven deadlies apparently were no longer enough and seven extra nasties, such as pollution, obscene riches, drugs and social injustice, were now on the charge sheet too.

Fortunately, none covered our midday repast and, anyhow, Anglicans were not necessarily included. "We don't seem to have the codification of things as much as the Catholic Church does," Dr Freier said. "But I suppose the seven deadly sins have been worked over pretty hard down the years."

Of course, Dr Freier was first to nail one new sin: he got stuck into obscene wealth last June, rating it the modern-day citizen's "greatest moral blindness".

Said His Grace at the table yesterday: "You do encounter people who are less stuck on the grasping and the grabbing. It is possible to live with wealth and the responsibilities that come with it. But we've seen a different attitude since the 1980s and the West Australian mining boom, where people took to conspicuous wealth. People will spend $70 million on a yacht and they are probably so busy they don't have time to use it. Some of it doesn't make sense."

We didn't like to tell Dr Freier that yachts have long since gone past that mark: Greg Norman's yacht Aussie Rules sold last year for $77 million.

"Wealth is one of the things Jesus speaks most about," says His Grace.

No coincidence that the addled antics of the ridiculously rich seem to occupy a disproportionate amount of this page.

Frugality note: Dr Freier had a humble barramundi with nothing on the side."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The last good man

Eliot Spitzer campaigned for governor as the last good man in New York, the only one with enough integrity and chutzpah, to root out the corruption and waste that permeates all levels of New York’s byzantine government.

No one could challenge Spitzer on his claims to integrity, only fear him and hope he wouldn’t cast his righteous indignation in their direction.

He’d done an impeccable job as New York Attorney General. He reined in titans of Wall Street for corruption and malfeasance, when no one else, much less the federal government, could be bothered.

He went after companies and businesses that nickled and dimed and cheated citizens on everything from photocopies and plumbing to insurance and electricity, in the process winning the affection and respect of millions who, rightly, viewed him as their honorable advocate.

Informing his sense of mission and obligation were a deep rooted faith and sense of personal honor. They were twin strengths he’d hoped would flow from him into government, as honesty and transparency. In the glare of his public humiliation and personal failing, these, his greatest strengths and the sources of his ability to live and govern, seem dim shapes on a misty horizon.

With him, for a season at least, go his hopes for a more representative and responsive government.

With him, for a season at least, also goes the notion of the honorable man, for who was more honorable than Eliot Spitzer? His name was synonymous with integrity. As the knives sharpen in the days and weeks ahead, it may come to mean something else entirely.

He is not alone in his personal failings and human weaknesses but to see it happen before our eyes with such rapidity and definitiveness, is saddening and terrible.

Monday, March 10, 2008

ENS: Lambeth Invitation "not possible" for +Robinson

But he encourages other bishops to attend and says he will visit Canterbury during Lambeth

The Episcopal News Service, reporting from the House of Bishops meeting at Camp Allen, Texas, notes that the House was informed March 10 that it is "not possible" for the Archbishop of Canterbury to issue a full invitation to include Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as a participant in this summer's Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops.

Bishop Robinson, addressing the House, urged the other bishops of the Episcopal Church to participate fully in the conference, and thanked all who are willing to "stay at the table."

Bishop Robinson told the House that he respectfully declined an invitation to be present in the conference's "Marketplace" exhibit section.

Robinson confirmed for ENS that he plans to be in Canterbury during the July 16-August 3 once-a-decade gathering, but not as an official conference participant or observer.

Word about the invitation came in a report from three U.S. bishops, speaking in the House's late-afternoon session, who worked with Lambeth Palace staff to seek provision for Robinson's participation in the conference.

The House of Bishops is in session through March 12 at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas.

+Robinson, an openly gay man ordained a bishop in 2003, was informed last year that an invitation to the Lambeth Conference would not be extended to him at that time.

Update: Bishop Robinson's statement on the announcement (as a Word document) and further reports from the House's meeting, have been posted at the ENS site for Camp Allen updates. Bishop Robinson says:
Maybe this is what God has in mind. I had hoped to focus on the community of bishops at Lambeth, making my own contribution to its deliberations. But now, I think I will go to Lambeth thinking about gay and lesbian people around the world who will be watching what happens there. I will go to Lambeth remembering the 100 or so twenty-something's I met in Hong Kong this fall, who meet every Sunday afternoon to worship and sing God's praise in a secret catacomb of safety - because they can't be gay AND Christian in their own churches. I will be taking them to Lambeth with me. They told me that the Episcopal Church was their hope for a different, welcoming church. They told me they were counting on us. Yes, the things we do in the Episcopal Church have ramifications far, far away - and sometimes those ramifications are good.