26 July 2008

The "Third Document" or Rowan's Folly

There has been talk of a third document to be released to the bishops. This document is supposed to be the atom bomb. It is supposed to have the full weight of +Williams behind it. According to an article in The Sunday Telegraph, it may well be a “Shot heard ‘round the world.”

Apparently, “liberals” will be expelled from the inner circle of the AC if they do not line up like blind mince behind this document.

The proposal, commissioned by Williams, to be distributed Monday, will ban any future consecrations or ordinations of persons with same-gender orientation, unless such persons are celibate. According to Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs,

It is set to start the first real clash of the conference, with liberal bishops expected to fight any attempt to restrict their autonomy.

However, Dr Williams is determined to impose tighter governance of the Anglican Communion to try to hold it together.

The paper, "How do we get from here to there?", stresses that it is vital that an Anglican Covenant be agreed so that churches around the world are mutually accountable and united by a common set of beliefs. This must happen as soon as possible, it says, to prevent further haemorrhaging of the Anglican Communion over the issue of homosexual clergy.

If they do not, they will face being pushed to the margins of the communion and find themselves excluded from the councils that are central to the governance of the Church.

Excuse me, but I thought we were all united in a common set of beliefs – the Chicago Quadrilateral. It’s worked for a long time—one hundred twenty-two years, to be exact. What the above statement means is, of course, that Rowan is willing to deny full membership to GLBT Anglicans to keep the GAFCON crowd in the Communion. Sorry, Rowan, but that's not going to happen. Nothing short of a total take-over of the Communion will make the Donatists stay.

I also distinctly remember Williams stating Lambeth ’08 would not be a legislative assembly, but one of reconciliation. Once again, if this is true, Williams has eradicated his credibility.

Wynn-Jones also states

There have been reports that [The Episcopal Church] is prepared to consecrate more gay bishops while the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, told this newspaper that he would be willing to do the same.

Until a consensus is reached, the American and Canadian churches must refrain from consecrating more bishops that are homosexual and carrying out blessing services for same-sex couples, the paper says.

Perhaps it is time to compile a list of all known gay bishops in the Anglican Communion. With 800 (+/-) bishops, I think it's safe to say 80-150 are gay although not officially out.

But Rowan has bad news for the GAFCONites too,

The African churches, which oppose having practising homosexuals in the clergy, will be told that they must stop intervening in the affairs of other churches as their actions are deepening the rift.

Poor Rowan, he really is delusional about all of this. The African bishops are going to do whatever they want to do, and the Communion be dammed. He just does not want to realize the prognosis. They have called the roll of the ABC "irrelevant." what does Rowan not understand about these folk?

Wynn-Jones continued

The paper from the Windsor Continuation Group is central to the stance that Dr Williams would like the conference to take. If the conference agrees to the recommendations, it will give him a mandate to exclude rebel churches.

As well as the covenant, Dr Williams has argued for new canon laws, which would govern how bishops and clergy acted. "We need ways of knowing who is supposed to do this or that and who is entitled to do this or that, so that we can act economically and purposefully, instead of being frustrated by a chaotic variety of expectations and recriminations," says the archbishop:

The introduction of a covenant and canon law would be further steps on the path to a more concrete notion of Anglican identity and limits on what is acceptable behaviour, following the more centralised model of the Catholic Church.

Liberals in the Church of England who have stood by the American church will be dismayed by this return to a conservative position as will the Church of Wales whose primate has already said he is not opposed to the ordination/consecration of GLB members of his church. Then there is the Scottish church that will be opposed to any such covenant. The Irish Church, too, will not be sanguine about it. That leaves Rowan and a few CoE dioceses accepting the covenant.

Even those who are opposed to GLB ordination/consecration are not happy:

The Rt. Rev'd. John Saxbee, the Bishop of Lincoln, said that he supported dialogue, but was opposed to the idea of a covenant. "We need to be a broad Church offering hospitality to everyone," he said.

According to the Rt. Rev’d. Kirk Smith, bishop of Arizona,

After worship tonight, Rowan Williams commented that the planning committee had decided not to change the schedule for next week, an idea that was floating around a lot. He also indicated that there we could expect to have some kind of document at the end of our time which would be more than simply--"We met, we had a good time, we have many differences yet to be resolved." We should expect something much more substantial and "prophetic" based on the feedback we were giving to the planners.

Now, since this blog is named the Three Legged Stool, we need to use that third leg and ask, “Is all of this reasonable?”

Certainly the press has and will put the worst possible spin on this document (if it actually is forthcoming), and given the fact that they have been virtually banned from the Lambeth events, they are looking for something to sell papers.

Regardless of the press' spin, given Rowan’s track record of obfuscation, appeasement and blunders, I believe the reports are reasonable. Perhaps things are not as dire as we are being told, but the report is reasonable to believe, nonetheless.

It will be interesting to see the reaction to this third document if the rumours are correct. We may end up with three Communions: TEC Communion with 17-22 provinces, GS with 7-8 provinces, and a third with 8-12 provinces.

One must wonder how Rowan will react when most of the dioceses in the CoE head west for the US/Canadian Communion with 90 percent of his flock under the age of forty.

UPDATE: Mark Harris has just weighed in on this subject. You'll find his thoughts here.

US Bishops accused of arriving with an agenda

Yesterday Riazata Butt reported that an unnamed U.S. Bishop accused the rest of our bishops of manipulating the Lambeth summit by “providing its 125 representatives with briefing notes explaining how to promote liberal attitudes towards gay clergy.”

What the bishop is implying, of course, is that the U.S. bishops are the only people who came with an agenda and a plan to get the agenda accepted.

Keith Ackerman (Ordinary of Quincy) weighed in on the subject by calling this unseen document “Embarrassing.” Ackerman calling anything “embarrassing” is a travesty. His actions for years have been an embarrassment to the word “Christian.”

He went on to say,

We should come to Lambeth spiritually prepared, not tactically prepared. It is a clear attempt to dominate the debates we are having and push them in a certain direction.

The Episcopal Church is attempting to manipulate this conference hoping to convince the rest of e Anglican Communion that its innovations should be incorporated and respected.

I’m afraid with the Puritan track record it is going to take an angel from heaven to convince me that the Donatists were not well prepared for this conference. The wee archbishop of Sudan didn’t just happen to mention he would be talking, if the press wanted to show up; he didn’t accidentally lob his live grenade to the press. That was all planned. And more is planned, we can bet on that.

Today, there is news that at least some Nigerian bishops are in Lambeth but no one will say which bishops. A press conference by the Nigerian bishop(s) was scheduled for 10 a.m. but a fax was received stating that the bishop(s) would not be available until about 3 p.m. I absolutely remember Peter Akinola stating that neither he nor any bishop in his province would be at Lambeth.

But our friend Mark Harris quotes from Bishop Howe’s blog – dated Wednesday

Tonight I have just come from a meeting of seven of the "Global South" Primates, several of the British Bishops, and 14 of our American Bishops, some involved in "Common Cause" and some in "Communion Partners." The point was again made that CP is an "inside" strategy, and CC an "outside" one, but that both are needed; and we want to do the best we can to support each other. The Primates were very clear in repeating several times their promise of solidarity with both efforts.

Now, keep in mind that there are only seven Global South Primates. At least official GS press releases have only seven signatories. This means that Akinola is there. And they have a strategy. That sounds like they came prepared. More duplicity and deceit.

The U.S. and Canadian bishops are not trying to take over this conference. They have held no press conferences to spread an agenda. What most of our bishops are trying to do is promote understanding of both the issue and our polity. That is not true of the Donatist Curia; they are trying to force their innovated agenda on the communion.

To do this, the über-conservatives are forcing the indaba groups to take votes on the incompatibility of homosexuality and the bible. Ackerman said

I am putting my hand up in my group. I invite my brothers and sisters to do the same thing when they get the opportunity.

It is a way to take the temperature, to remind people that we do not all think the same. It is a bit like a festering wound. It is not going away and we will not let it.

What a Christian attitude. Let’s not try to apply healing balm of Christian love. That won’t help us win. And believe me, this is about winning - at any cost.

By bringing the matter to repeated votes, the Puritans hope to seize control of the middle ground and eradicate the “progressive agendas espoused by churches in the U.S. and Canada.”

For at least five years, the malcontents have plotted and planned a coup of the Communion. Now, we are expected to believe they came un-briefed and un-prepared at least to attempt to hijack the conference. I’m sorry, but I just don’t by that propaganda.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the duplicity of the Donatists--well, that and their unmitigated hubris.

25 July 2008

St. James and Fr. T

One of the nice things about having one’s own blog is that one may write about anything one wishes. Today is the such a day. I rather think that I am taking the day as a toxic free day, although I strongly urge you to read yesterday's post then read Bishop Robinson's post for today found here.

Today is the Feast Day of St. James the Apostle (St. James the Greater). It is my name day. It is the patronal feast day of the my life-long parish.

O gracious God, we remember before you today your servant and apostle James, first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ; and we pray that you will pour out upon the leaders of your Church that spirit of self-denying service by which alone they may have true authority among your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today is also the anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of the Rev’d. Terry L. Martin, better known as “Fr. Jake” to a huge portion of The Episcopal Church and a significant portion of the AC.

On the anniversary of your ordination, I say, “God knew exactly what he was doing when he decided he couldn’t trust you as a layperson.” Or, as Minni Pearl used to say, "I'm just so proud to know ya!"


I hope you will take five minutes to watch last night's Colbert Report which featured a segment on Lambeth. You'll find it here. My favourite moment was when Colbert asked, "Why can't the Anglicans just ordain all the gay priests they want and not talk about it, like the Catholics do."


On a different subject, my condolences and prayers for Susan Russell, attending Lambeth, whose mother died yesterday. Requiescat in pace, et lux perpetua luceat eis. You may read Susan's thoughts here.

24 July 2008

Today's radicalism, tomorrow's orthodoxy

If I ever have the opportunity to meet the Rt. Rev’d. Gene Robinson, I know exactly what I will do; I will take off my shoes. (Ex 3.5) This man is one of the best examples of a Christian that the world has seen in at least fifty years.

I urge you to read the 23 July post on Bishop Robinson’s blog, Canterbury Tales from the Fringe. Here is a wee excerpt:

The day is littered with chance meetings with brother and sister bishops from the Episcopal Church -- always helpful and comforting to me. There are the chance meetings with others from around the Communion -- some warm and friendly and supportive, some averting their eyes when they see me coming, choosing to withhold returning even a smile in passing.

Almost invariably, though, I am stopped by each of the conference stewards -- mostly college-aged young people from England and around the Communion, who want to shake my hand and tell me of their support. These young people are so interested in the Church, so committed to being here and helping in any way, yet mystified by some of the words and behaviors they witness, all in the name of the Church. They want me to know how much they are praying for me. The fellow behind the cafe counter in the Marketplace insists that I accept a [cappuccino] he has made for me, a free gift he insists. Many want their pictures taken with the Bishop of New Hampshire, as if it will be a reminder of something important and hopeful for them. I am awed and honored by their interest and their kindness, and am reminded that "my congregation" right now is anyone who will listen and engage. Being "on the Fringe" is a blessing indeed.

Brothers and sisters, all is well with the church. Our youth recognize hypocrisy when they see it -- and they hate it. Their generation is probably the most honest-straight-forward group in history, and certainly since the 1960s. They usually do not keep silent about justice issues That is a radical change from times past when parents' values were accepted with out question.

The 'radical change' of today is the orthodoxy of tomorrow. This has been true since the founding of the church. We see this in the younger generation of our Anglican Communion. They do not blindly accept what has "always been."

When I was young, another bishop was the whipping boy of the Anglican Communion. His name was James Pike. He happened to be ‘my’ bishop – the Bishop of the Diocese of California. He was a radical, an apostate who was ‘out to rewrite Christianity and the bible.’ For those of you who are not old enough to remember him, or were not in TEC ‘in the days,’ let me give you a couple examples.

  • The virgin birth (didn’t believe it)
  • The incarnation (didn’t think it happened the way the bible said it did)
  • Original sin (didn’t believe it)
  • The Trinity (didn’t believe in the 'historic' interpretation)
  • Said that Christianity was not the only path to God (even the Roman church agrees today)
  • Said that the bible was neither infallible nor inerrant
  • Said it was quite possible that Jesus was married

Forty years ago, he was a heretic. There were parents who would not let him confirm their children. As I recall, there was even a presentment before the House of Bishops. Today, Bishop Pike would be considered absolutely in the middle of the conservative/liberal spectrum. It only took forty years.

This next radical change into orthodoxy will not take that long. In five to ten years, this nonsense will be largely over and the ‘issue’ will be well on the way to being orthodoxy. "Why?" because Anglicans under forty years of age are already over 'it' now. This demographic will be moving into leadership positions all over the Communion. In fact, they already are.

Yes, there will be pockets of resistance, but even there, we will recognize the shift from “radical revision” to orthodox. It will take much longer in such pockets, but it is going to happen. It has to. I read somewhere that Tradition is the faith of a living church; traditionalism is the epitaph of a dead church.

Perhaps James R. Lowell’s great poem Once to Every Man and Nation puts it best:

New occasions teach new duties,
time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward,
who would keep abreast of truth.

That could be the motto of the 'under forty' demographic.

And in this time of change, we hear the words of Jesus, "Go tell the disciples – and Peter – that I go before them …" We have only to say, Thanks be to God, Alleluia, Alleluia!

What are some other examples of radical change that became orthodoxy?

23 July 2008

Is he, or isn't he? Where is Pete?

It’s bad form to post more than once per day, I think. But the following gobsmacked so much that I have to post it.

Here is a very curios bit from the 23 July issue of The Guardian by Riazat Butt.

The spat between the Sudanese and the Americans has added a new meaning to the word "frenemy". A few weeks ago, the Africans enjoyed the hospitality of the Salisbury diocese with - wait for it - members of the US Episcopal church.

Fast-forward to Lambeth and it is mitres at dawn - well, from the Sudanese, anyway.

But what will happen on Saturday, at a cheese and wine party the Africans have been invited to? Will there be razors in the Roquefort? Bleach in the Burgundy?

And those divisions at Canterbury keep on coming. First there were flying bishops, then super bishops, and now there are secret bishops. Organisers will confirm how many bishops have registered but, unlike at previous conferences, will not name them. "Unspecified security reasons" prevent the release of their identities.

Less than 24 hours later, it became a privacy matter. When pressed, a spokesman could not confirm whether the archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, had left Canterbury, puzzling those who assumed he never arrived in the first place.

Eighteen months ago, I commented on a "friend's" blog that Akinola could not stay away from Lambeth. I went on to say I postulate that he would show up and hold secret meetings. This curious bit from The Guardian makes me wonder if I was correct.

Are there any life sightings of Akinola outside of England? And where, exactly, are Minns and his computer?

Sudan's archbishop sticks his foot into his mouth

One of the demands a certain insignificant archbishop made yesterday was that TEC cease litigation over stolen property. Well, well, well. The hypocrisy just never ends, does it?

Consider this too-good-to-be-true news published in The Lead.

Yesterday, the Episcopal Church of Sudan urged the Episcopal Church to suspend all litigation against breakaway churches attempting to leave the denomination but maintain possession of the parish property. Their call has an ironic twist, as is evident in the latest newsletter of the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan. (See pages 10-11.)

In brief, the Episcopal Church of Sudan lost control of its guesthouse to the Reformed Episcopal Church of the Sudan. The RECS said that it broke from the ECS because the ECS condoned homosexuality. The guesthouse was then sold to a Sudanese corporation. The Episcopal Church of Sudan sued. In March, it won. An Episcopal church in Virginia and members of American Friends of the Church of Sudan helped pay for the lawsuit. [Emphasis added.]

Yet, TEC must forsake litigation of stolen property. Folks, you just cannot make this stuff up! I wonder which Virginia Episcopal Church funded the lawsuit.

Every time a GAFCONITE opens his mouth (and yes, they are male mouths) more hypocrisy and lies are exposed to the world.

UPDATE: This is off topic, but, The Three Legged Stool has "arrived." It has been referred to over at Stand-for-nothing. I'm so proud!

22 July 2008

Terry Martin appointed Program Officer for Evangelism of The Episcopal Chruch

Recognizing his outstanding leadership abilities, The Episcopal Church has extended a call to Fr. Martin who has accepted the position of Program Officer for Evangelism and Congregational Life.

What a validation of his life experience his work as a priest, and his tireless efforts to evangelize the church and the world.

When Father Martin closed “Jake’s place” he listed three reasons. Reason number three was that he felt God was calling him to a new work; indeed God was calling him to an even greater work.

As Program Officer for Evangelism, Fr. Martin will visit dioceses and provinces as a staff member, Prepare resources, manage some communications, including web-based tools. According to Father Martin, there will also “be some other innovative ideas that are still being hatched.”

This will include a new blog of course: "Father T. Listens to the World; Seeking God Around the Globe"

When asked about the new appointment, Fr. Martin modestly said, “God is good, and always full of surprises, eh?”

Not surprises, Father Martin; God rewards faithful servants. Like the parable of the talents, you were given many talents and you multiplied them. Well done, Father Martin.

All of those who know Fr. T though his former blog (and they are legion) and from before in his parish work, wish him much joy and fulfillment in this new ministry to the World Wide Anglican Church.

Please take a momet to visit the Evangelism page for the Episcopal Church. The link is here.

The offical announcement is here.

21 July 2008

Jacob's Ladder

Our brother blogger, Nathan, over at The Wayward Episcopalian, has an excellent post on yesterday's Old Testament reading about Jacob's ladder. Go read it; it's well worth a couple mouse clicks. You'll find it here.

A tangled web of deceit

I hate to admit it, but I love a good GAFCON story and they are in “it” again. In June, the Most Rev’d. Peter Akinola stated that he was detained at the Jordanian border so long that he gave up trying to get into the country and left for Jerusalem to prepare for the pilgrimage. The archbishop said

No matter the humiliation I suffered, I took it as a body lotion, rubbed it all over by body so that I can shine for Christ.

As you recall, because Akinola decided to go directly to Jerusalem, and because he was the linchpin of the conference, the GAFCON decided to move the conference to Jerusalem. They also said that part of the reason was because a Sudanese delegation was not able to get into Jordan, either.

Well, the things that we read put out by GAFCON aren’t necessarily so. According to a story on Thinking Anglicans, Evangelicals Now (August edition) reporter Chris Sugden Akinola was most assuredly denied entrance to Jordan. I tried to locate a copy of the EN August edition but I could not do so. Given TA’s accuracy, I’ll take their word for it.

According to Sugden:

A preparatory Conference for 140 was held in Jordan from June 17. However, on June 18 the Jordanian authorities announced that sufficient high-level permission had not been granted for the conference to take place. The conference hall was shut and no meeting allowed. At the same time Archbishop Akinola, travelling on his diplomatic passport was denied entry. So on June 19, the 140 people relocated early to Jerusalem. The hotels concerned, in the chain, transferred the costs. [Emphasis added.]

Now let’s consider the GAFCON press release

The pre-GAFCON preparatory consultation in Jordan wound up early, and the participants moved to Jerusalem on Thursday, 19th June. Hotel and meeting rooms previously unavailable in Jerusalem became available at the same time GAFCON leaders learned that previously granted permission for the Jordan consultation was deemed insufficient. [Emphasis added.]

Obviously, someone is lying. The question becomes, then, who has the most to gain by manipulating the facts?

I think I’ll let Jesus have the last words of this post:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

John 8:44 (English Standard Version)

20 July 2008

Rown fouls out, again

Saturday, I read a post by the Rt. Rev' V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire. He expressed his deep hurt that the American Bishops will meet next Tuesday but that he will be excluded from that meeting, too, because Rowan does not want Robinson present at the meeting.

My first reaction was incredible anger; that bothered me because I am not an easily angered person.

As Archbishop of Canterbury he has the prerogative of invitation to official Lambeth Conference events. The meeting of our bishops is not a Lambeth event. Every time I cut him some slack, or he scores a point, he fouls out. (I cannot believe I just used a sports metaphor!)

After I cooled down and reason returned, I decided to wait and see what the facts are about this insult. In his blog today, Bishop Robinson writes:

I learned more about today's planned meeting of the House of Bishops and the official thinking behind my not being able to attend. I don't "get" their reasoning, but here it is: (And the fact is, most of our House of Bishops is probably totally unaware of the "negotiations" going on behind the scenes.) The Lambeth planners do NOT consider this a meeting of our House of Bishops. Rather, they say, this is a part of the Lambeth Conference, and therefore, as a non-invitee, I will not be allowed on the premises where the meeting is taking place. It seems a flimsy distinction to me, but I have decided not to pursue it. It really puts all of us in a lose-lose position: if I abide by their ruling, I am excluded; if I fight it or simply show up, then I'm the troublemaker and rebel. If the House of Bishops takes some action on this, necessitating a vote, then it divides our House -- a further and unnecessary division that I refuse to encourage. So no matter how you slice it, someone loses. I have decided, on my own, to let it go, sad as it is. This is not a ditch I feel called to die in. I will just mourn the sadness of it, and move on. (There's something about shaking the dust off your sandals and moving on that I've read somewhere!)

And there is the voice of Christ, again, in the worlds of +Robinson.

As I understand the canons, the bishops are not “House of Bishops” except at General Convention. At all other times they are just bishops – a college of bishops, perhaps. So, technically this is not a meeting of the House of Bishops.

Bishop Robinson adds, with typical generosity

What I want all of you to know is that there are some amazing people in our House of Bishops who are working constantly behind the scenes to support me. Their support means the world to me. They are as dismayed, discouraged and frustrated as the rest of us. They need to play their roles inside the Big Top … and I need to play mine, outside, as our beloved ++Katharine told me back in March. So that's what we'll do.

In the Eucharist Lectionary for Pentecost X, yesterday, we read these words

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you.”

This reminded me of Bishop Robinson. Regardless of all the insults the foreign prelates, God has a work for +Gene. Nothing will prevent that work from being accomplished. Thanks be to God!

Venables' writes to Schofield

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

14 July 2008

Dear Bishop John-David and Beloved Brothers & Sisters of the Diocese of San Joaquin,

I greet you in the name of the Lord from the UK where the Lambeth Conference is only just about to begin. First of all, let me thank you for the wonderful prayer support so many offered when Sylvia was injured a few weeks ago. Although it was a difficult time, we were sustained by those prayers and are happy to report her recovery. Please keep praying.

Though I will be in touch about the Lambeth Conference at a later date, at this critical time in the Anglican Communion, I have several things to share with you to address some of the aspects of the current crisis. Let me tell you what a wonderful experience the GAFCON gathering in Jerusalem was. There was Christ centered worship, biblical teaching from some of the best leaders in the Anglican Communion and unified fellowship centered in Christ.

The Anglican Communion has been in chaos for a number of years. As a whole, the structures of the Communion seem to have been unwilling to speak clearly and definitively about theological foundations and limits. There has also been an unwillingness on the part of some Provinces to moderate their behaviour even when told how destructive their actions are to other Provinces. GAFCON clearly articulated Anglican theological foundations that many innovating Provinces have proven they are not willing to accept. It also recognized the cooperation and mutual accountability of a group of small (but growing) group of Primates who are willing to be clear in affirming the authority of the Bible and other Anglican tenets. We have agreed that we will seek consensus before implementing changes that impact other Provinces in the circle. That is the way the whole Communion should be operating. We also agreed with the historical perspective that the structural authority of the bishop of a diocese is not absolute. The church has always taught that bishops are accountable for their teaching and their actions. The difficulty in our day has come when there are Provinces that are unwilling to hold bishops accountable to any discipline in the face of unbiblical actions and pronouncements.

We have not broken with the Anglican Communion. We have not broken relations with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Sadly, a number of people have attempted to paint GAFCON as a breaking away from the Anglican Communion and from the Archbishop of Canterbury. That may reflect their desire for us to leave so they can change the faith without challenge, but we are not going anywhere. We remain committed to be linked by shared theological principles and shared relationships that, quite frankly, should be the way the whole Communion operates. After a great deal of prayer and conversation, it is our hope that our commitments can widen a circle of health in the Communion and bring some fresh order to what has been chaos for a number of years. Though there have been some noble attempts by the Primates to address the crisis in the Communion at Dromantine and other gatherings, with the Windsor Report, the Panel of Reference and the Dar es Salaam Communiqué, these attempts have not born fruit of any substance. At GAFCON we agreed to standards of faith and order by which we will live within the Anglican Communion in hopes to build a more orderly (and less chaotic) fellowship. If there are those who reject the Jerusalem Declaration from GAFCON, I would ask the question, “Why?” What part of genuine Anglican or Christian faith do they think the Declaration forbids? What in it do they think is not compatible with being Anglican Christians?

As I write to you from the Lambeth Conference, there are painful reminders that all is not well and that the clarity, hope, and charity of GAFCON are desperately needed. Those who have by their action “torn the fabric of the Communion,” are being welcomed as if all is well, and tragically many godly bishops and archbishops are not present having decided that they are bound by conscience not to attend with others who have disregarded the faith. Other godly leaders have not even been invited despite the fact that they were consecrated lawfully and in broad consultation and agreement with many provinces. This is not a joyful time, quite the contrary. For me, it is one of those necessary times to attend to the order of the church even when it is painful. Remember, the situation has been created by the actions of the Episcopal Church. Despite the fervent requests and the fact that the consequences of choosing a unilateral course would precipitate anguish at levels the Anglican Communion has not previously known, they proceeded. There are many, like you in San Joaquin, that are unwilling to continue with such moral and theological compromise. As you know, by the concerted and agreed action of both the House of Bishops and the Provincial Synod, we are glad to give you full membership and a safe haven in the Southern Cone while a long term solution is found. The imperatives of the Gospel give us clear direction.

In addition, I have been in conversation with Archbishop Rowan. Over the weekend I received the following message from him:

“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.”

This statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury is clear, even though we are in somewhat new territory; you remain within the Anglican Communion. Given the rigors of international travel and the work that there is to do in the Diocese, I am in agreement with Bishop John-David’s decision not to attend the Lambeth Conference. I am also aware of statements by Bishop Jerry Lamb in which he makes statements and demands that miss the mark of Christian leadership and fall short of what many consider propriety. I would encourage the clergy and lay members of the diocese to ignore this.

We are glad to have you as full members of the Southern Cone. As you can see, you are well regarded as members of the Anglican Communion. May God richly bless you!

2 Cor. 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard- pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

Your brother in Christ,

Who are you? Who are your people?

Sundays are "toxic free" days at TTLS. No posting will take place unless there is a major news item.

Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
Proper 11 - Year A [RCL] Genesis 28:10-19a,; Psalm 86:11-17; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Who are you? Who are your people? Who are your kin?
By the Rev. Dr. Susanna Metz

These are questions we’re asked in many different ways every day. Culturally, in the South, “Who are your people?” is an essential question – usually the first question a new person in town, or a new boy or girlfriend is asked.

Think about it. We ask this type of question in so many different ways of just about everyone we meet, that it’s become habit. We assume the person we’re talking to has a family, a place to belong, to talk about, and we’re often taken aback or don’t know how to respond if a person says, “I don’t know, I was brought up in foster homes,” or “My family doesn’t care about me anymore, I just got out of drug rehab.”

If we’re caring people, we feel for people who find themselves adrift and alone for whatever reason, because that sense of belonging is so important to us as human beings.

You remember the old song, “People, people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.” But if we’re honest, hasn’t each one of us has had a time in our lives when we felt completely alone – cut off even from family and friends?

What happens to us when all we see or feel is darkness? What happens to our sense of self if we feel that the darkness is our own fault? What happens when it is our own fault – a bad decision, sin, deliberate selfishness? There’s no one there to reach out to.

Have you ever felt that way? It’s really hard. What do we do? Some despair, others stay wrapped in anger, others hang in with hope. How do we choose?

Lots of questions. These questions may be overwhelming or they may be questions we’ve never really thought about, but the mere asking makes us think about some of our more difficult days.

Are they unanswerable questions? Not at all, because all of our readings today give us a reason to hope. All of our readings today give us ways to have relationships with others, even when we’re not kin.

Being part of a family is what each reading today is all about: God’s family. Paul gives a wonderful definition of how we belong to God’s family.

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”

There we have it! None of us ever need to fear being completely alone even if we don’t have an earthly family. We all are part of God’s family. We can cry “Abba!” We can be absolutely sure that, as the spirit of God is within every single one of us, we are brothers and sisters of Christ and heirs of God’s glory. Paul also reminds us that this family connection doesn’t break down when we suffer. Christ suffered – we suffer, but we are not left alone as he was not left alone.

But then we wonder about suffering, don’t we? When people get sick or we see that people’s suffering is not of their own doing, we often hear things said like, “God never gives you more than you can handle” or “This suffering will make you a stronger person.”

But think about how some folks react to suffering they think is brought on by a person’s bad life choices. A homeless person asks for some change, a single mother with children is getting welfare, a young man who’s just gotten out of jail can’t find a job – that’s their problem, isn’t it? We often hear some folks say, “It’s their own fault,” or “They’re lazy,” or “My hard-earned taxes have been supporting that bum in jail, he doesn’t deserve a break.”

If we’re really honest about it, it’s hard to imagine a loving God living in us, calling us children, and yet deliberately giving us something to suffer in order to test us or make us stronger. If we’re honest about it, the homeless and poor and those who have made bad choices are still children of God, our brothers and sisters, and we must be willing to love them and reach out as we’re able.

What Paul shares with us is that God is with every one of us through whatever happens in our human lives, whether we acknowledge God’s presence or not. Thomas Keating in his teachings on Centering Prayer says that God is present no matter what and waits for us to say yes to that presence. God is a very patient and loving God.

Now we might be thinking that this all sounds too easy, that we don’t have to worry about anything but knowing God’s spirit is within us and we’re all set. Of course, we know better.

The wonderful symbolism found in Jacob’s dream in Genesis gives us a place to start thinking about our responsibility as children of God:

“He dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!”

What a wonderful dream! Jacob realizes what a powerful message was in that dream and so he set up a pillar – set up an altar – and gave it a name, Bethel, setting that place aside as a holy place. Jacob received his own message from God in that dream, the promise of a family that would reach far and wide, even down through generations. The promise of family was as important then as it is for us today.

We’re also offered a message in this reading. That ladder connecting heaven and earth is there for us. As those angels are going up and down, connecting humanity to heaven, so we who say we are Jesus’ followers, must be like those angels. We must be people who play a part in connecting the world with heaven by the way we live our lives.

Now that sounds like work, and of course it is. Being human, living in a very human world will have its hard days – lots of them – more, it seems, for some than others. If we’re serious about claiming to be Christian, then we must accept that angelic role.

What it means for us is that what sounds like work is actually our ministry. Each one of us has been given some talent, some gift of personality or ability that we can use as we travel up and down that figurative ladder between heaven and earth. Each of us is called to be a messenger of God’s love to others. That may be something like speaking to a homeless person, treating that person like the loved child of God he or she is. For some, doing missionary work is their gift. For others, it may be sharing a talent or offering hope to someone with problems. There are certainly millions of ways, each way pleasing to the God who lives within us.

Hard work or easy, whatever our gift, whatever our own suffering may be, we can be sure we’re never alone. God’s promise is all through both the Old and New Testament, but the way it’s described in Jacob’s dream is especially lovely:

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you.”

We might look at that land God promises us as eternal life. Here God promises to be with us and keep us. God promises to stay with us until we are with God in eternity. That’s a promise and a source of strength for us that’s as awesome as Jacob’s experience of God was for him.

We are all very fortunate because when someone asks us about our family, we can all say, “My family is all God’s people and we have God’s promise that we will never be alone.”

-- The Rev. Dr. Susanna Metz is Executive Director of the Center for Ministry in Small Churches at the School of Theology, Sewanee, Tennessee, and Assistant Professor of Contextual Education. She is also publisher of Tuesday Morning, a quarterly journal of ministry and liturgical preaching.