19 July 2008

What's up in California with Prop 8

In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the famous Letter from Birmingham Jail. In that letter, he wrote:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

There is a good post on Friends of Jake by fellow blogger IT. Go read it here. And after you read it, tell your friends.

According to a poll released Friday, 51 percent of all Californians now agree that same-gender marriages should be legal. Let's help keep it legal.

18 July 2008

Howe abandons Network

The Rt. Rev’d. John W. Howe announced that he is jumping ship and is giving his allegiance behind the Anglican Communion Institute, The Episcopal Church and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Imagine that; a bishop of TEC throwing his support behind TEC. Will wonders never cease.

The Living Church reported that

[H]e was to remain in The Episcopal Church and in full communion with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Bishop Howe announced in his July issue in the diocesan newspaper that he has switched his allegiance to the Anglican Communion Institute.

“In my opinion, the Anglican Communion Institute has inherited the original vision of the Network: to work to promote orthodoxy within The Episcopal Church, and to maintain our relationships with the broader Anglican Communion,”

Howe went even farther by criticizing Duncan’s leadership

Bishop Duncan is clearly committed to forming “a new ecclesiastical structure” in North America, hoping to draw together the so-called Anglican diaspora. This group includes, among others, the Anglican Mission in the Americas (Rwanda), the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (Nigeria), the Reformed Episcopal Church, which broke away from The Episcopal Church over ecumenism and ritual in the 1870s, as well as various other groups associated with African or South American jurisdictions.

Bishop Howe said he has grown increasingly disenchanted with the direction of the Network in recent years, noting that the organization now has more people who have left TEC than those who have stayed.

Scores of parishes have experienced the same kinds of splits and ‘disaffiliation’ of some of their clergy and parishioners that we have experienced here,

Bishop Howe worked out a protocol that avoided protracted court litigation.

Peter Frank, authorized representative for the Network, confirmed that Bishop Howe had resigned from the Network, but said, “The situation with the Diocese of Central Florida was less clear.”

All of this sounds as if Howe saw the light, to quote the old gospel song. I do not think he saw the light at all; I think he heard the ricochet.

The dis-invite to Mr. Schofield is the major factor in Howe’s apparent change of loyalties. Regardless of the spin, it is clear that Schofield has been sent down from the Communion because he is the only bishop with enough hubris actually to walk the walk. Rescinding the invitation was a clear and certain shot over the bow of the schismatic boat, in my opinion. It was a game of chicken, and Howe flinched. Now, let’s wait and see what Duncan does.

Ah, to read a Jake post on this! Of course, he would have reported it two days ago.

For those of you who wish to read the Gang of Seven's reply to the ABC's scathing rebuke, will find it here.

And they're off!

The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev’d. Dr. Rowan Williams has opened the Lambeth Conference. I am sorry to day I was unimpressed by the ABC’s opening speech.

He told the assembled bishopric of the Anglican World “There are no magic words to heal the wounded body of the Anglican Communion.”

According to Church Times writer, Pat Ashworth,

Williams’ own prayer for the conference was “not that after two weeks we will find a solution to all our problems but we shall, as I have written more than once, in some sense find the trust in God and one another that will give us the energy to change in the way God wants us to change.”

Williams continued that he wishes the conference to be a place where every voice can be heard. Noble words from the man who ensured the one voice that needs to be heard is silent. The Rt. Rev’d. Gene Robinson is not there, Archbishop, how, exactly, will every voice be heard?

Dr Williams described as “a great grief” the absence of the bishops who had chosen to stay away – “because we need their voice and they need ours in learning Christ together.”

How, exactly, will you be learning from the single legitimate Ordinary (with recognized jurisdiction) you told to stay away?

Williams did say that he hopes that in these weeks we shall daily be remembering those who are not with us, upholding them in our prayers, in our respect and in our love.

The problem with that statement is that he is talking about those who boycotted the conference. He was not talking about Bishop Robinson. He continued:

I don’t imagine that simply building relationships solves our problems but the nature of our calling as Christians is such that we dare not – and I say very strongly, dare not – pretend that we can meet and discuss without attention to this quality of relation with each other, even if we disagree or find ourselves going in different directions.

The Lord of the Church commands that we must love one another in the process and there is no alternative to that. I trust you are here in that confidence, in that willingness to love one another.”

He urged the bishops, in retreat until Sunday morning, to “be there and let God come to you.”

It is just carefully chosen words with no substance. If Rowan truly wanted this conference to be what he just said he wants it to be, he’d have walked out in the square, found +Robinson and said, “hey, Gene, take your place with your fellow bishops. We are waiting for you.”

Now for a little leaven in the midst of our daily lives, take a minute to visit the Anglican Centrist (which is quickly becoming a favourite blog) and read Toby’s Tale. It will put a smile on your face.

17 July 2008

The Spirit is blowin' all over

A friend sent a link to a new article and asked me to comment on it. (They think I'm an expert in things Anglican -- shows how much they know!) My comment was, "Amen! Preach it sister!"

The article by The Rev. Canon Marilyn McCord Adams of Christ Church, Oxford, starts out with the typical argument we've heard at Jake's place for far too long. Then it breaks out into some new territory. I didn't even get a second cup of tea because I was riveted to what Canon McCord Adams was saying.

My favourite bit is her expose of the primate's exaggerated sense of self-importance:

Not only has TWR-polity been set down on paper three times. Thanks to TWR’s tone of presumptive legitimacy, it has already had ‘a trial run’! The Windsor process against TEC and New Westminster gave TWR-polity a primate-dominant interpretation. If TWR spoke of submitting novelties to the instruments of (comm)union, it was the primates who acted at Dromantine to request that TEC and New Westminster explain themselves at Nottingham and to put TEC and New Westminster on probation. It was the primates who acted at Tanzania to override the report of the Joint Standing Committee and to reject 2006 General Convention’s responses to TWR. It was the primates who issued ultimata that TEC impose moratoria on ordinations and blessings of coupled homosexuals by 30 September 2007. It was the primates who declared foreign incursions (by one province into the turf of another) not to be on a moral par with North American breeches of faith. It was the primates who moved to set up a primatial council to handle appeals from TEC’s conscientious objectors. Even after the Joint Standing Committee had given TEC a passing grade for its New Orleans responses, it was the primates’ estimates that the ABC still sought. Thus interpreted in the enacting, TWR-polity seemed to mean veto power for foreign primates in no way accountable to the province in question.

Run, don't walk, to your nearest mouse and click on this link. When you’ve read the excellent paper, let me know what you think.

16 July 2008

What Lameth Palace and Conference are at Lambeth to learn

The following is a letter to the editor of The Scotsman, one of Scotland's leading newspapers. It has erroneously been attributed to the Episcopal Bishop of Edinburgh.

I will be watching the Lambeth Conference avidly over the next few days when I expect to see the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, slowly hang himself, having already shot himself in both feet. He will spend more time trying to cope with a bishop coming out of the gay closet than a quarter of the world population trying to find the source of tomorrow's food, or indeed if tomorrow's food will turn up.

Because his bishops live in fear of rational argument, he has not invited [the] Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson to the conference; in doing so, he shows the Christian Churches to be monuments of intolerance where people lose freedom of speech.

Glencairn Crescent


Lest you think I just made that up, read it here. Thanks to YosemiteGreg for bringing it to our attention.
Several weeks ago, I would have shared Mr. Hegharty’s opinion. Lately, I believe that Rowan has found his course. I do not believe that all things will go “our” way but I do believe that major the voice of the bishops’ majority will speak loud and clear.

I also believe it will be up to the bishops if Lambeth is just about an out gay man. If you have not read or listened to +Robinson’s sermon yet, I urge you to do so as soon as possible. You will find it here and here.

In his blog from the UK, the Rt. Rev’d. Gene Robinson wrote of his preaching experience. After the protest died, after +Robinson asked the large congregation to pray for the man who must be filled wit so much sadness, +Robinson went on to say that during the distribution of the Body and Blood:

I noticed Nick in the congregation. He was the young waiter from the cafe that is built right into the entrance to the church. He had served me lunch the day before, and then later told me that he was gay and Christian. He said his mother was Catholic and had told him that although it made her sad, he was going to hell. Nick was there to receive the Body and Blood of Christ with a large congregation who did NOT think he was hellbound.

And then, after the service, there was Emily. I had been told about her by her vicar. She's about twenty years old and has muscular dystrophy. Her mobility is impaired, and her speech is labored. And she has recently announced to her family and friends that she is lesbian. She told her mother and her vicar that she wanted to be there to meet Bishop Robinson. I made sure she was brought up to the private space where we all gathered after the service.

She walked onto the terrace tentatively. I greeted her, noticing that her hands were very weak. With great difficulty, and needing time to shape each word as carefully as she could, she told me what my words and my ministry have meant to her. I asked her if I could hug her, and she melted into my arms for a long embrace. In that moment, I remembered why I was here in London, why I was talking about God's love for all of God's children. I remembered how MANY of God's lgbt children have never heard those words about themselves, or believed them. I was here for Emily, and Nick, and countless others I will never know. God loves them so much, and it must break God's heart that they doubt it. My job is to help rid them of that doubt.

I believe that this has happened to the vast majority of bishops attending Lambeth and to Rowan himself. I believe they have remembered why they were called to ordained ministry in the fit place: to proclaim the love of God in Christ Jesus. To proclaim liberty to the captive, to raise up those who are bruised; to comfort those who need a hug; and to speak the words “God loves you, just as you are; let God worry about what should be changed, if anything should be changed.”

I believe that after a long, long absence, the pastoral aspect of the bishopric is being restored. And I am convinced that it is so because of a man named Gene Robinson. He has been the mirror into which each bishop has had to look – and to see if it was Christ looking back in the reflection. That is what they've come to Lambeth to learn, whether they know it or not -- or want to admit it.

Peter, do you love me? Then feed my sleep.

GAFCON's huntin' dog don't fly

I am ever amazed at the multitude of ways schismatics are able to spin any possible statement to prop up their one legged stool. After delivering a blistering denunciation of the Puritan-donatist schism we are supposed to believe Rowan has reversed himself and said that the group is welcome to stay and attempt to infect as much of the communion as they wish.

Will the real Rowan please stand up? Well, there are only two of them:

  • The fiery stand-up for-what-is-right Welshman
  • The “Let-them-go-after-the-colonials” Archbishop

I am still betting, based on recent comments, that the former Rowan stood up, took a suit-of-armour gauntlet off his hand and slapped GAFCON across the other cheek. But they simply cannot admit what’s happened.

The world’s Anglican Bishops are gathering and the GAFCONites cannot stand the fact that the world is watching the sane 4/5 of the communion and ignoring the schismats. Big egos just can’t live with that. Conveniently, there is a new development. I’m sure the Rev’d. Mr. Minns burned the candle late into the night to figure out how to shift, or rather, try to shift, the attention back to the malcontents.

I’m always been sceptical (sceptical) of quotes that offer no documentation. Where is the letter postmarked days, weeks or months before Lambeth? Like everything else from GAFCON, we are expected to believe it simply because they said so.

This is all propaganda and a certain non-bishop and his alleged “boss” and their whole movement was sent down as they say in the United Kingdom.

But for the sake of argument, let’s believe for a moment that the quote is correct. The troubling bit is this:

I understand that Bishop John-David Schofield has been accepted as a full member of the episcopal fellowship of the Province of the Southern Cone within the Anglican Communion and as such cannot be regarded as having withdrawn from the Anglican Communion. However, it is acknowledged that his exact status (especially given the complications surrounding the congregations associated with him) remains unclear on the basis of the general norms of Anglican Canon Law, and this constitutes one of the issues on which we hope for assistance from the Windsor Continuation Group. Bishop Schofield has elected to decline the invitation to the Lambeth Conference issued to him last year although that decision does not signal any withdrawal from the Communion. I hope there may be further careful reflection to clarify the terms on which he will exercise his ministry. [Emphasis added.]

As I recall, the “norms of Anglican Canon Law” do not permit a diocese to withdraw from the province/church that created it.

Let’s see;

  • Braking ordination/consecration vows
  • Not following norms of Anglican Canon Law
  • Properly deposed
  • Admittance to another province after deposition (which is against norms of Anglican Canon Law) and breaking the canons of that province by said action.

Nothing “unclear” about that even in cricket. End of story.

But, all of that was for the sake of argument. We aren’t dealing with the recent Bishop Williams, we are dealing with the old-new Bishop. The former bishop of San Joaquin’s absence is a sure and certain slap in the face of GAFCON.

According to Ruth Gledhill the archbishop has told the world’s Anglican bishops to stop their backstabbing and in-fighting. He also accused the conservative bishops of “breatching their duties and damaging the welfare of Christians.” Ouch! But, but, but that’s not what he meant at all, let us explain it to you…..where’s Minns?”

What troubles me about the above alleged statement is the bit about the Windsor Continuation Group. Who and what are they and what role are they to play and who has given them or will give them what authority?

After watching the waves and wind for far too long, the Archbishop has finally launched out into the deep (read it in the gospel) and he's chosen the boat of the Anglican Communion, not the Puritan Communion.

When Lambeth 2008 is over, the Communion will probably look a little different; it not immediately, in th next two or three years. Exactly what it will look like is still anyone's guess -- but the GAFCONites will not be at the helm.

The only interesting bit is to see who actually walks away from the Altar. But that's not our decision -- we are to be in the father's place, watching and waiting for the prodigal children to come back home where they belong. And, most important, to do our best to act as if they'd never left in the first place.

There is an old Southern saying for when someone tries to do something in a grandiose way, but fall flat on their face so hard it can be heard three counties away: "So your huntin' dog don't fly." I think that applies here.

14 July 2008

Why TEC is valuable to the Lambeth Conference

As we head into Lambeth, I offer this reflection for your edification. It is part of an article by the Rev’d. Samuel Gregory Jones (left), rector of St. Michael's Raleigh. He is also on the board of General Theological Seminary. Fr. Jones blogs at The Anglican Centrist. My thanks to Fr. Jones for permission to use part of his article.

The quote is from a larger article about the consecration of William White, second bishop of The Episcopal Church. White was the most important figure in our church’s founding. You really should take a few minutes to read the whole article, Recognizing Bishop White. Fr. Jones has done an excellent job explaining the importance of Bishop White.

One fact that I would like to point out is that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the bishops of Bath and Wells, and Peterborough consecrated White. This secured an English Apostolic succession for us.

As we go into a Lambeth Conference season - let us not forget that The Episcopal Church has a significant place in the Communion - not because we are Americans, but because, by providence, our own founding effectively gave rise to the Anglican Communion itself. Not only does The Episcopal Church owe this in great part to the leadership of William White - but so too does the entire Anglican Communion. White led the process which established the reality of Anglicanism bigger than the established churches of Great Britain, resulting in a global communion of Anglicans united by affection, faith and common prayer. All of us should bear that in mind as we continue in this life of Christ together - in this province and all.

I believe that White may be seen as a representative figure of the comprehensive Anglican leader. Like him, we continue to need leaders in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion who:

· Treasure the faith and order of the Prayer Book tradition, allowing revision as provided for in the first preface of 1549, while not requiring it to be radically revised either;

· Value the doctrinal witness of that Prayer Book, and the prayer books and articles of faith which have followed since 1549; understanding that the Articles of Faith in particular, contain a number of differently understood points, and in general have not been required in the Episcopal Church ever, or the wider Anglican Communion for decades;

· Cherish the continuity of connection and communion with the See of Canterbury;

· Believe in the equal honor and dignity of all four orders of ministry, and works toward a truly conciliar ecclesiology in which all orders share in authority and governance;

· Supports high-level theological education for all leaders, especially clergy;

· Manages to bridge gaps cultural and theological within the wider Anglican fellowship for the sake of the unity which the Holy Trinity calls us to exhibit as a people called to inhabit in the triune life of God

13 July 2008

The Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

Sundays will be a "toxicfree" days. Unless something world stopping happens, I will not post about the Anglican Communion. Instead, I shall post a sermon based on the lectionary of the day. If you write sermons and would like to have one posted here, let me know.

Proper 10 - Year A [RCL] Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

By the Rev. Ken Kesselus

Today’s gospel reading is very familiar – the parable of the four soils. Many of us learned it in Sunday school. Millions enjoyed the graphic enactment of the parable in the movie “Godspell.” For centuries, paintings and stained-glass art have represented it. Easy to remember because of the vivid description, we readily envision an ancient farmer striding through a rough field with a bag hanging on one side as he casts handfuls of seed on the other. We can also imagine a wider-angle view around the field - with birds flying over a hard-packed path, rocks among shallow earth, and thorny weeds growing menacingly.

At the same time, anyone familiar with a twenty-first century farming community will recognize that the parable presents an awfully peculiar and unproductive method of agriculture. Modern practices include a much more efficient operation – a neater, more productive one, with nothing but rich soil devoid of rocks and sprayed with weed retardant. Paths do not cross fields; tractors even plow within a few feet of farm houses and barns. Sophisticated implements plant seeds precisely and nothing is left to chance.

Jesus undoubtedly would be unimpressed, because he was not really interested in telling us about growing crops. He simply took a familiar activity of his time and used it to illustrate an important factor in human life. From this perspective, the lessons are as important today as they were 2,000 years ago. Though our agricultural techniques are much different from those of former centuries, our lives are not so different from those who lived in Biblical times.

We might pause to observe that in trying to apply the parable to our lives, the odds are against us: three kinds of bad soil and only one that is truly productive. Yet the Christian life is never free of challenge and our presence in church today reminds us that it is worth the effort. Today’s challenge comes from Jesus’ wonderful extended metaphor that can help us discipline our lives and provide helpful self-evaluation. If we have the courage to examine ourselves in light of the four kinds of soils, we can become more like what God hopes for us.

How can we clean out the rocks and the weeds that infect us? How can we avoid pathways that are useless? How can we turn ourselves into well-tilled, well-fertilized soil? What can we do to help God’s seed take root in us and empower us to produce loving, spirit-filled fruit? How can we so live that our story can become one with a more beneficial ending – one in which little that God gives us has fallen among weeds or rocks or worthless avenues?

What are the aspects of our lives that tend to be so hard-packed that God cannot enter? Where are our blind spots? What spiritual necessities do we tend to avoid? What psychological encrustations keep us from opening up so the power of the spirit can transform us? How often are we apathetic about the cries of human need? In what “sounds of silence” do we hear but not listen? What mind tricks do we play to protect ourselves from risking intimacy? What can we do to soften our hard side and open ourselves to letting God motivate us for the sake of the gospel?

Where do we find in ourselves spiritual and emotional shallowness? In what ways do we lack commitment to God and the values of God? When do we tend to speak big but act little? How have we been “flashes in the pan” without cooking anything up for the good? How often do we grab hold of a new cause that comes along without following through with it? How often have our well-intended promises failed to materialize?

What can we do to reach a greater depth of character and find the integrity of our faithfulness to live up to the values of the Baptismal Covenant and Ten Commandments?

And, woe unto the thorns and weeds of our lives! What distractions do we allow to keep up being about the work of God? How does our busy-ness with one thing or another keep us from following the steps of our Lord? What banality saps away our spiritual energy? Which “weeds” choke us out? What temptations stand between us and God? Materialism? The drive for power? The desire of popularity and success in the eyes of others? Putting ourselves first?

What can we do to destroy parasites that feed off of and destroy the good, allowing us to follow through on the command to love God completely and to love our neighbors as ourselves?

How well we examine ourselves and clear away the impediments to growth will determine how much of the “rich soil” our lives entail. Still, there is more to do if we continue following this metaphor of suitable soil. To produce an abundant crop, we can further extend the imagery of agriculture. To increase the value of the inner environment of our lives, we need to do what farmers do after planting seed: tilling, fertilizing, pruning, providing the proper balance of acidity and alkalinity.

Envision how this process can work in making your Christian life richer. Let your imagination go; search for ways to apply the metaphorical examples. Think about plowing and hoeing, for example. Loosening soil and exposing it to air might remind us to keep a fresh perspective and constantly expose ourselves to new ways of understanding what God has in mind for us in every situation.

Fertilizing? Can anything better illustrate how much we need to have added to our consciousness? Read and understand the Bible. Hear and understand stories of the saints of old and the committed examples of contemporary Christians whom we admire. Emulate them and follow in their steps.

Pruning? It’s a matter of priorities, isn’t it? Keep and nurture the portion of our spiritual growth that is most in keeping with God and cut away what is less productive.
Supplying the proper ratio of acid to base? It’s almost always about balance, isn’t it? For instance, it’s not a matter of worship and prayer verses good works and social action, but attending to both, letting each inform the other. Finding the right priority for the given moment, emphasizing what love most demands at a certain time, can produce the most abundance when we keep the many aspects of our Christian lives in proper balance.

God created us good and with every potential to find fullness of life. God gives us all we need to well receive the seed – the seed that represents God’s love and the values of God’s realm.

Finally, consider what lies far beyond anything we can do in making the “soil” of our inner lives the most receptive for God to work in us. Let us not forget that only God produces the miracle of growth, the wonder of creation. God gives us all we need for love to grow and for us to put it to use, enriching ourselves and those around us.

-- The Rev. Ken Kesselus, author of John E. Hines: Granite on Fire (Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, 1995), is retired from full-time, active ministry and lives with his wife, Toni, in his native home, Bastrop, Texas. Email: Kesselus@juno.com.