Admiral of Morality: June 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Another pre-Lambeth story

This one is from the Economist. It is a preview of sorts of the upcoming Lambeth, and also surveys the recent controversy from the London blessing.

Here is a snippet:

"The Anglican ethos rests on an unspoken consensus, a tacit understanding that all manner of crankiness and eccentricity can be tolerated as long as the family somehow stays intact. But as any marriage counsellor will admit, there is not much you can do in a situation in which people are truly determined to put asunder a partnership which they once regarded as joined together by the hand of God."

Like the Catholic News Service piece noted below, the Economist piece positions Lambeth as a "high noon."

If tradition is any indicator, Lambeth will be just the latest in a series of Christian "high noons" dating back to the Crucifixion. But that turned out alright, didn't it?

Read: The Economist article is here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Obama VP Top 10 picks

Two women, two former Republicans, an independent, and a Hispanic make the top 10.

The following list reflects who's hot and who's not in the search for Barack Obama's vice presidential running mate. It's compiled by senior political editor Vaughn Ververs and the rest of the political team and reflects media speculation, buzz, reporting and a lot of guesswork.

1 Hillary Clinton
She won 18 million votes in the Democratic primaries, walloped the presumptive nominee in key states and retains the loyalty of a sizable chunk of the party. Conventional wisdom says this pairing will never happen but until that becomes crystal clear, Clinton has to remain high on the list.

2 Jim Webb
If being a Vietnam veteran, former Navy Secretary and the very face of the party's anti-war wing isn't enough, he's also from a key battleground state. Early media vetting has not been kind, however, and the Old Dominion isn't large enough to make the election all about Virginia, Virginia, Virginia.

3 Bill Richardson
The best choice if winning New Mexico and courting the Latino vote are paramount concerns. He may also have the best overall resume of anyone Obama will look at -- but his chances might be better if he had not run himself and turned in a puzzling performance.

4 Kathleen Sebelius
A rising star who suddenly has Republicans wondering what's wrong with Kansas. She's not an insider, has executive experience and bolsters the "change" theme of Obama's campaign. But could it be too much change?

5 Tom Daschle
An early and eager supporter for Obama, who appears to have forged a close relationship with the former Majority Leader. A consummate insider helps soothe concerns of inexperience but also brings a lot of insider baggage. And what happened to Obama in South Dakota?

6 Sam Nunn
A growing presence in the speculation because of his national security credentials, the former Georgia senator has veteran experience and moderate credentials. He's well-respected on both sides of the aisle, and is seen as a grown-up, but may be too much of a greybeard for the Obama generation.

7 Ed Rendell
One of Clinton's staunchest supporters in the primary and a seasoned politician who isn't afraid to jump into a fight. Obama's loss in Pennsylvania has Republicans looking to steal a blue state and Rendell could bring stability. He was careful not to trash Obama in the primaries but there are plenty of things he did say that would be thrown back at him.

8 Evan Bayh
The Midwestern moderate was supposed to be among the presidential field. Instead he backed Clinton from the get-go. It was a good way to get on her ticket, but just being one of the most popular politicians in Indiana might be enough to get on Obama's.

9 Tim Kaine
Not as appealing a Virginian as Webb, he may be a safer one. The governor has executive experience and isn’t steeped in the ways of Washington and is Catholic to boot. With as many as three prospects from the same state though, the chances narrow.

10 Michael Bloomberg
The only name to appear on the list for both presumptive nominees, the mayor appears to be a better fit for Obama. The two have publicly flirted throughout the campaign and this pick could help soothe uneasy Jewish voters unsure about Obama. But a New York City mayor might not be the kind of change voters can believe in.

For full bios and more on the hotlist, go to the VP bios pages at CBS.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Blessings and anguish for pastors in California

Gay partnerships, unions, and marriages and Christian responses to them, continue to dominate the news.

Some clergy members in California spent Tuesday officiating at same-sex weddings made legal by a State Supreme Court ruling that took effect on Monday night. Others spent the day speaking out against same-sex marriage.

And there were those who spent the day in anguish, torn between the laws of their state and the laws of their church.

The Rev. Kimberly A. Willis said she had not decided what to do because she wanted to be able to minister to all of her congregants at Christ Church United Methodist, in Santa Rosa, about 10 percent of whom are gay. But if she officiates at a same-sex wedding, she could be charged with violating the United Methodists’ Book of Discipline, put on trial and defrocked.

“It was surreal to watch this and think, How can I not bless these people?” Ms. Willis said. “I can bless a car, and I have. I’ve been asked to bless animals, children, homes, bread, grape juice, but I can’t bless a gay and lesbian couple. That’s unreal to me.”

The tension could also be seen in Bakersfield, where the Rev. Tim Vivian of Grace Episcopal Church and about a dozen of his parishioners sat on the edge of a courtyard outside the Kern County Clerk’s Office, where same-sex couples were marrying. Mr. Vivian said he was “in solidarity” with the couples but would not participate in the ceremonies because his diocese was in turmoil over the gay issue and his superiors had asked him to refrain.

When asked whether he expected one day to marry same-sex couples in his church, Mr. Vivian said, “Very much so.”

Read the whole piece at The New York Times.

There is often a rather remarkable disconnect between the teachings and preaching of a Church and reality. In the past, one has given way to the other, to be reformed for the better.

When the subject has been Church teachings that have in some way dehumanized or limited real living persons, the solution has been to give powerful witness to our shared humanity.

The source of this powerful witness has regularly been and continues to be, the gift of grace and Spirit freely given. There is no way to dam it up.

Pray for our brothers and sisters in our Churches.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

London priest: Why I blessed my friends' civil partnership

The rector of St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London, in the eye of storm over gay 'marriage,' explains why he decided he must bless a gay relationship

Today, the New Statesman has posted a full comment by Rev. Martin Dudley, titled, "Why I blessed gay clergymen's relationship."

On May 31 in a ceremony at his London parish St Bartholomew-the-Great, Rev. Dudley blessed the civil partnership of two friends and fellow priests, Peter Cowell of England and David Lord of New Zealand.

The church, is one of the oldest in Britain, dating back to 1123. The blessing followed the 1662 Prayer Book rite for the solemnization of marriage, which with a few changes, is used in marriage ceremonies around the English-speaking world.

In Great Britain, same sex couples may enter into civil partnerships, giving participants rights and responsibilities identical to civil marriage. But neither the Church of England nor the Diocese of London have officially adopted ceremonies blessing them.

Needless to say the event has set off quite a bit of discussion, debate, and repercussions.

One of the civilly partnered men, the Rev. Dr. Lord of New Zealand, has apparently resigned his license as an Anglican minister.

The Bishop of London calls all involved "reckless and self-indulgent" and is instituting "an investigation."

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, earlier today issued a rather unusual joint response to the blessing: they listen to the reports of the recent service with "great concern"; they cannot say more due to the bishop of London's "investigation"; clerics are free to "disgaree with the Church's teaching" but cannot disregard it.

In his defense, Rev. Dudley tells the Guardian of London, "I am surprised and disappointed by the fuss. It was a joyful, godly occasion. Why turn it into a controversy? It was not a rally or a demonstration.

"Nor is it the first time there have been prayers, hymns or readings following a civil partnership. It may be that this ceremony had rather more knobs on. It may also be the only one we know about."

Here is part of what Rev. Dudley says in the New Statesman today:

"For today’s Church of England it is as if the 1970s never existed; the lessons have been forgotten. There has been a retreat from exploring the depths, pushing the boundaries to the point where words strain, crack and sometimes break as we struggle to express in a suffering world the foolishness of God and the all-embracing love found in Jesus Christ.

There has been a return to uncritical fundamentalist use of biblical “proof texts”, ripping verses from their theological and literary contexts. There has been a flight to the safety of rigid law and inflexible dogma and a consequent desire to unchurch those who will not conform.

So on a day late in 2007 when my friend and colleague Peter Cowell asked me to bless the civil partnership that he was to contract with David Lord in May this year I was ready to answer “yes”. I did so not to provoke the so-called traditionalists and to deliberately disregard the guidelines published by the English House of Bishops, not to defy the Bishop of London, whose sagacity I respect, or Archbishop Rowan, who I have known and admired for 25 years, but because to respond in any other way would have been a negation of everything I believe, of everything that makes me who I am, as a man and as a priest."

Read it all at The New Statesman.

Why I love the Episcopal Church

A sermon recently preached by the Rev. Terence L. Elsberry, Rector, St. Matthew's Church, Bedford, NY:

I’m preaching this sermon in response to a request. When I told someone a few days ago that at today’s ten o’clock service we were going to commission our vestry, the person said, “Terry, why don’t you preach a sermon on what the vestry does and where the word comes from in the first place?”

My friend went on: “We have all these quirky words in The Episcopal Church—vestry, warden, glebe, verger—but how many of us know what they really mean? Why don’t you tell us?”

So in response, I have for you this morning not a typical sermon but a teaching of sorts. And I also offer a confession: all the quirky words are part of the reason why I love The Episcopal Church.

Read it all here (scroll to last page).

Monday, June 16, 2008

The power of witness

Many Episcopalians/Anglicans are so reserved and grim faced even in the midst of a wonderful liturgy, that a newcomer might think he'd just walked into a wake.

The giveaway that the congregation isn't a funeral service is that there is no casket. Or there is a baby happily tumbling around in the the pews and being snatched up from the edge of the baptismal font by a flustered parent.

Being the frozen chosen might be a badge of honor in some parts and is every Episcopalian's God-given right. It may even be an attractive characteristic for many seekers.

True, being frozen is sometimes the result of five, six-verse funereal hymns. But it can also be an impediment to attracting and keeping newcomers, and to living a life of full discipleship.

Too often, we're so reserved we don't even speak about our own faith in a way that is accessible, open, and honest.

A life of discipleship should encourage and permit this. Because sometimes, the best testimony about our faith is not only a life lived, but a life shared.

One good example of the power of witness is currently online at Newsweek. The author is named Jimmy Doyle and he was recently confirmed in The Episcopal Church, at St. Thomas the Apostle in Los Angeles.

He writes that even as a boy he felt called to Christ, but that as a gay person, he did not live a life of discipleship until he encountered our Church.

Here, he found "a Christianity that was alive and evolving, one that delighted in difference and saw God's creation in many things."

Take some time out of the day to read Doyle's story. (Go here.) It is simple, honest, and a strong witness to the Lord.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Catholic News Service on Lambeth: "Time of reckoning for ecumenical dialogue"

The Catholic News Service (CNS), may be the oldest and biggest wire service specializing in religious matters. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which shapes policy and governance for the Roman church in America, created it in the 1920s.

As Lambeth 2008 gets closer (we are only 32 days out), we are bound to see quite a few stories about the Conference, from quite a few different perspectives.

CNS has run a piece with a headline baldly stating that this summer's Lambeth is "a time of reckoning" for Anglican-Roman dialogue. What are Episcopalians/Anglicans to make of this?

On the one hand, the piece presents the Roman view in somewhat usual fashion. The piece quotes "the Vatican" anonymously; and otherwise, revisits many events that Roman Catholics as a body, do not agree is possible—-women's ordination, women's consecration, +Robinson.

On the other, in a fine display of "schism" euphemisms, the piece makes clear that "splintering," "factions," and "new groups," do not improve dialogue. Hear, hear.

CNS's review of Lambeth itself, is given short shrift. They do say that, "Over the last 140 years, even without legislative authority, the Lambeth Conference has been the Anglicans' most effective unifying instrument." Ecce signum!

But there isn't much in the piece about the conference per se, other than that the Romans tend to view the idea of a strong Covenant as very good, and the notion of a strong, primal Archbishop of Canterbury, as even better. Tsk, tsk--do we really need bandwidth to understand that this is the Roman position? (No.)

The CNS piece gives the sense that many Romans are still somewhat miffed that Anglicans have the following: decentralized authority, public disagreements, women priests and bishops, openly gay clergy, and a dynamic theology.

Could be.

Perhaps we Anglicans, will have to keep meeting with the Romans to dialogue about this?

The CNS story is here.