02 August 2008

A decade of Sharing and Generosity -- a melodrama

Well, it is out (pun intended). You will find it here with a few comments from bishops. The document itself is a dysfunctional committee’s dysfunctional report.

There is a plethora of rhetoric and all the old arguments are there. Robinson is the Anti-Christ and TEC and the Canadian Church are apostates who care nothing for the rest of the church.

What else could we have expected from five people who are blatantly anti justice and very opposed to the ordination of GLBT people.

Section 103 sums the whole document up:

The ordination of an openly partnered homosexual bishop and the open blessing of same sex relationships has had many negative results including:

· Partnership in mission is lost and damaged.

· In some provinces, there is an experience of betrayal of the teaching of the missionaries who brought the faith, and it is experienced as a new form of colonisation

· Confidence in the validity of the Anglican Communion, the bonds of affection and our mutual interdependence is severely damaged

· It is dishonouring to former Lambeth Conference decisions.

· It diverts us from our primary focus

· It is seen as leading to “sexual license”

· It damages ecumenical and interfaith relationships.

· Bishops cannot be a symbol of unity when their consecration itself divides the church. The unique focus for catholicity in the Communion is lost.

· In some regions the issue has become a test of orthodoxy and a basis for hostile actions

· In some places the church is ridiculed as the "gay church", so membership is lost.

They forgot to add it was responsible for the Lindberg kidnapping, the death of the Princess of Wales, and 11 September and global warming.

There is a wee bit of good, though: There have also been positive effects in parts of Canada, the US and England when homosexual people are accepted as God’s children, are treated with dignity and choose to give their lives to Christ and to live in the community of faith as disciples of Jesus Christ with fidelity and commitment. (104)

However, the report states that a ban on gay consecration/ordination will be a “generous act of love the communion is looking for.” (131) I have always said that shoving people under a speeding bus was a loving act. Why is it that the oppressed are always the ones who have to sacrifice for the "good of all."

After all of this, I invite you to read David Crabtree's post today at the WRAL (Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville) site. The article is "Relentlessly optimistic."

Lambeth's aftermath -- the collateral damage

Lambeth 2008 is over. Monday the big-tent will be taken down, folded, and put away. The foreign bishops will pack their bags, bid the Anglia adieu, and head back to their respective dioceses. There will be a few more drinks parties before the last rochet is packed away, but as they say in the Deep South, “it’s all over but the shouting’” unless Rowan does something remarkably stupid, which I very much doubt.

For all of the fear and press’ spin, this has probably been the most “boring” of all the Lambeth conferences. Although we'll know the rest of the story about 9 a.m. Pacific Standard Time when the big press conferences start. What we do know is that as this week has progressed the indaba groups have become more tension filled thanks to certain bishops taking orders from the grand pooh-bah of the Gacfonites.

Ten years ago, the Primate of All England railroaded an unpopular (and dead-on-arrival) document though the conference. It did not reflect “the mind of the Communion” and one tiny portion of it took on a monolithic status. This bigotry set the stage for a major migraine. This year there have been no resolutions, as it should be. There have been pontificating and many behind-the-scene conclaves with primates who said they would not be at Lambeth. However, the plans have not come to fruition as they had hoped. But, again, we await this morning press conference when the final draft of the recommendation is released. There will be no surprises there. All five member of the committee are opposed to the ordination of GLBT people. One member of the group has even supported the formation of an alternative Communion.

Ten years ago, a large group of bishops arrived looking for a fight. This year a very small number of bishops arrived with that agenda. It is true that many bishops arrived with less than charitable feelings towards other bishops, but the majority came with the desire to keep the communion intact. The pervasive spirit has been one of collegiality, despite some sabre rattling.

For the most part, the U.S. and Canadian bishops have made a herculean effort to heal and to promote understanding. They have succeeded beyond most people’s expectations to the vexation of a few bishops.

The star of this Lambeth was Bishop Robinson, the best possible ambassador for the U.S. and Canadian churches. Everyone who took the time to meet him came away with a different perspective of Robinson. They might still disagree with his consecration, but at least they know Gene Robinson and not “that gay bishop.”

Robinson was also the favourite bishop for the Communion’s youth gathered to assist with the conference. In forty years, when the names of all the “players” in the current drama are mere footnotes in history, these young people will still revere the name of Gene Robinson. I’ll go out on a limb and say he will be in Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Too bad I won’t be around to say, “I told you so!”

I believe that the real success of this conference is that the bishops now see people with whom they disagree, and not groups of “them” and “us.” They know one another as individuals struggling to come to grips with biblical exegesis, changing attitudes, science, and justice; people who need certainty in uncertain times. But there is a danger in such familiarity; the justice issue becomes blurred. Do our bishops do what is righteous, or do they try to avoid "offending" new friends who have differing opinions.

I have to give credit where credit is due – Rowan has managed to have a peaceful conference despite the terminal prognosis. Yes, Rowan and his team can tell each other, “jolly well done.” But, the lion’s share of the credit goes to the participants themselves. The bishops came to Lambeth with one overriding desire – to preserve the Anglican Communion. Too bad the schism was a done deal before the opening event at Lambeth.

I will wager that Sunday night Rowan rings downstairs and asks for the largest gin and tonic in history to be delivered to his drawing room. I can see him slumped in his chair, his shoeless feet up on the ottoman, drink in hand, head leaning back, thanking God that this conference was over and it didn’t blow up like the fireworks on Guy Fawkes’ Day.

What remains now is what the bishops and primates will do once they return home -- the price tag for this conference and a false sense of Communion. I believe the cost will be dear, and it is not good. TEC's bishops have inbibled the Lambeth Kool-Aide with the tea and biscuits.

We can ignore the split issue. That is a done deal, nothing this conference could have done would satisfy the biblical literalists who chose emotion rather than exegesis. They want power not Communion. They are gone. The only person who truly does not realise this is Rowan Williams.

As an Episcopalian, I am concerned that the majority of our bishops will choose the more conservative way forward – no honest gay bishops will received consent and a “with all deliberate speed” move toward blessing legal same-gender marriages. I hope you all understand the "all deliberate speed" reference. Google it if you don't.

I was dismayed to hear a report that some of our bishops are apologizing for Robinson’s consecration. According to a very reliable soruce (known to me personally) The Rt. Rev’d. Barry Beisner (Northern California) a thrice-married openly heterosexual serial polygamist was apologizing for TEC’s actions. Beisner evidently feels his adultery is completely acceptable and is willing to call Robinson’s consecration wrong. Well, he has radical bishops of years past to thank for his consent. Had bishops over the past 30 years not questioned the literal interpretation of Jesus’ teaching on divorce, Beisner would be an obscure cleric in some out of way mission. I will gladly give +Beisner a space to refute the information here, if he so desires.

I’m concerned that my bishop, the Rt. Rev’d. Mary Grey-Reeves, will deeply disappoint us. Her pastoral letter on same-gender blessings was not pastoral. She has called for a time of waiting. Waiting for what? The bigots to agree to bless loving relationship? That is not going to happen – their train left the station.

Then there is the bishop of San Diego, the Rt. Rev’d. James Mathes. He’s been a man true to his conviction heretofore [that means he has been very supportive of the GLBT community], but he’s going to back off from what he believes to be right. Read his letter to the diocese from Lambeth and tell me what you think it means. [After I wrote this article Episcopal Life published this.]

I do not see justice flowing down like rivers (Amos 5.24) for the GLBT members of our church. That's wrong. Dr. King Jr said "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Fortunately, we have general convention just months away. That is when the rubber will meet the road. This time the deputies are not going to be manipulated and duped. The Genie Robinson is out of the bottle and it is never going back in again.

The bishops can, and for the foreseeable future will, withhold consent to any qualified gay/lesbian who is out and partnered/married. The bishops will drag their feet about marital blessings for all members of the church and forbid clergy to officiate at GLB weddings but continue to officiate for hetrosexual weddings (most of whom are, according the bible, foricators). Bishops will find "other reasons" to nix qualified candidates from holy orders because of orientation.

And all of this because of fear. FDR told us all we need to know about fear – “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” As a whole, the college of bishops doesn’t seem to understand that. They can't seem to remember that Jesus goes before us: "Go tell the disciples -- and Peter -- that I go before them into [the unknown]. (Mk 16)

The Communion still stands for better, for worse, in sickness and in health. The question is whom will it forsake?

I hope I’m wrong, but I’m sorry to say, I don’t think I am. What do you think?

While you're thinking, go over and read a great wee "play" at Padre Mickey's Dance Party. You'll be glad you did.

UPDATE: Go read the Scotsman; you'll be glad you did. It's nice to know TEC received its first bishop from the hands of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

01 August 2008

I am my beloved's and he is mine

I’m taking a “personal day” today. My treatment yesterday didn’t go too well and I’m really wiped out today. Look for my Lambeth and aftermath post tomorrow.

Today, I would like to share with you a photo of my friends, Tony and Bart (Tony! on the left) about whose marriage I wrote on 11 July. I was going to post a picture of them in their "monkey suits" but this one captures who they really are -- a couple of kids! I would also like to share the note they sent me.

Tony and I were married 12 July at 6 PM in a lovely garden in Montecito, California. We got our license a couple weeks earlier on 24 June (our 20th anniversary of being together!).

[The license was issued] in the small town of Hollister, California, to which we have historic ties (the staff there were very sweet to us, and somewhat apologetic about the marriage "handbook" they give people, with a somewhat "dated" illustration on its cover, especially of the "groom" in morning coat.

A friend of ours, John Parke, authorised by the State of California to do the solemnisation, constructed the service, though Tony and I wrote our own vows, and those we stated to everyone in attendance. John asked to officiate since we helped him and his wife Marilyn understand that the solemnisation of a union helps the entire community by holding up the couple to do more together for the community than they possibly could separately.

It was by choice a very small service (including my sister Brandy, who orchestrated most of the details!, and our good friends Brian and Henry who acted as "best men" and witnesses).

The rings we used looked fine from a distance, but were actually key rings (we bought an inexpensive pair we misplaced somewhere at the ranch - that way we will "always know where they are" (a line from archetypal movie Harold and Maude).

After a toast, Tony and I got out of our monkey suits and of course had to have obligatory cake (chocolate on chocolate - the only flavour!). The desert table was graced with a candleholder with two grooms in a similar ceremony and outfits - a fun gift from our long-time friend.

31 July 2008

Holy Hour - a date with Jesus

One of the spiritual exercises that I find enormously beneficial is making a weekly Holy Hour. This is widely practiced in the Roman tradition but largely unknown in our Anglican/Episcopal churches except for some Anglo-Catholics.

The biblical basis for this practice is traced to the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus asked the disciples, “could you not watch with me just one hour?”

A holy hour is simply an hour spent in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. However, is it is so much more than that technical definition. It is really like a “date with Jesus.”

We naturally want to be with people we love—in whatever way we love them. Sometimes we talk non-stop. Sometimes we sit in silence and just enjoy the nearness of the other person. There is the communion of just being together. This is, or should be, true of our relationship with Jesus.

When I first began to make a weekly holy hour, I thought, “I’ll never last an hour; what will I do?” It was difficult.

I said every prayer I had ever memorized. Okay, fifty-eight minutes left. I opened the BCP and looked for prayers. Okay, fifty minutes to go. I counted all the crosses in the building (my parish has 184). Okay, forty-five minutes to go. Somehow I survived that hour but I vowed I would never go back.

However, the next week, I felt inextricably drawn back to the church for that one hour. I have returned almost every week for the past 20 years. Even when I was not “in TEC” for a while, I continued to make my holy hours.

So, how does one make a holy hour? First, find a church that has the Blessed Sacrament reserved. It is difficult to have a date with someone who’s not there, physically. It is acceptable to make a holy hour in your home, or out in nature. However, the distractions will be difficult to overcome. A web site exists for those who wish to make a Eucharistic Visit but are unable to leave home. You'll find the live feed here.

Go and sit with him. It is not necessary to kneel the whole time. You might begin by kneeling and praying a while and then sit.

Talk to Jesus. Formal prayers are helpful, particularly in the early stages. I usually begin with meditating on one of the three sets of the rosary or I say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. If I make the hour in the morning, I put off saying Morning Prayer until I’m in the church. If I have to make my hour in the late afternoon, I sing Evensong.

Other times I just go in and collapse into the pew with no formalities. That’s probably what Jesus likes best. When we visit a good friend, we seldom exchange formalities; we just go in, collapse into the chair or couch and let out a long sigh. Our friend says, “What’s wrong?” and we unload.

Then, I sit in silence waiting for him to talk to me. I also try to keep my mind from distraction. Someone once said, “Not even a saint can say one Ave without some worldly thought creeping in.” That is so true, and I’m not a saint!

Sometimes I hear Jesus clearly and at other times he is completely silent. He is just enjoying my visit. Occasionally, I have a real “experience,” and rarely, I have an epiphany of sorts. But what I am always sure of in that hour is that Jesus does love me, unconditionally.

I was moved and thankful when Mother Theresa said that she had not heard Jesus speak to her in fifty years, yet she continued to make daily holy hours.

When the hour is over, I go back to the problems of my life and the world. Somehow, that hour makes my week bearable until Sunday when I receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

30 July 2008

Prayers for our sister Elizabeth Kaeton who who is flying back to the US after learning her mother just died.

Prayers for her mum, too.

Requiescat in Pace, et lux perpetua luciat eis.

Rowan: the very model of a British Academic

I have never withheld my opinion of the Most Rev’d. and Rt. Honourable the Lord Archbishop of Canterbery, Primate of All England as the man who presided over and assisted the end of the Anglican Communion, as we have known it. However, there is an aspect of +++Williams that I’ve recently realized that we need to consider.

As I have reflected this week about his actions over the past few years, I can see the British academic world in action through Rowan. It is there even in this Anglican Inquisition committee he favours. From the time he entered the public school system (what Americans call ‘private school’), until now, Rowan has never been outside of the academic world.

In the British academic setting, when there is a dispute all sides come together. They talk, they have tea, they go away and have supper, then they talk some more and come to a “civilized” compromise or solution. The conclusion is binding and the academic senate is there to see that all parties live up to it, and are, above all, British gentlemen.

The problem is that this process rarely works in the real word for many reasons. Foremost is that we are not dealing with British gentlemen inculcated in the public school sense of propriety. True, many of the Gafconite bishops were educated in the UK, but they were not products of the public school and "uni" system.

It’s akin to the first British encountering the American Indians – a culture clash – in this case not of sexual ethics, but of the rules of the game.

One hundred yeas ago, fifty years ago, even thirty years ago, the clash was not so pronounced. During the past 30 years or so, the world has become dramatically different and the cultures, despite what we are being told, have not come closer, but have become even more diverse.

When I was growing up our priest was an English gentleman who had become an American citizen. He was the product of the English educational system prior to the Second World War. He may have held American citizenship but he was a British as afternoon tea. He would frequently say, “Yes, but that’s not British” or “That is one possible solution, but, is it British.” Once he said, and this is my favourite one, “Why can’t the whole world just act British?”

That is what Rowan is expecting, that everyone involved will act like proper British gentlemen. What he wants to know is why can’t the whole Communion act like proper British gentlemen?

I do feel sorry for the archbishop; he is the product of a world that no longer exists, even in the Mother Country.

29 July 2008

There is a season

I’ve spent a great deal of my day reflecting on yesterday’s report submitted by the Windsor Commission. I’ve prayed a lot, too – prayed for the Communion, for our bishops, for the African bishops, for Rowan, and for me. Why me? So that I understand whatever it is that is about to come forth.

I’ve also read too many posts about the report. There is one report, however, I would like you to consider. It is by the Rt. Rev’d. Michael Ingham, (right) Ordinary of New Westminster, Province of Canada. It is published in The Anglican Journal.

In his statement, Bishop Ingham said that the WCG’s proposals

“[Seek] to impose a singular uniformity upon the complex diversity of our Communion.” He said that while in some parts of the Communion “homosexuality is subject to criminal law and cultural prohibition,” in Canada, homosexual people “enjoy the same rights and responsibilities under the law as every other citizen.”

If the proposals are accepted by the Communion, “it will put the Anglican Church of Canada in the position of having to support and defend irrational prejudice and bigotry in the eyes of our nation,” he added.

Bishop Ingham said that he had hoped to take something back to his diocese that was “something of value with respect to the difficulties facing our Communion. Unfortunately, the document handed out today is a non-starter where I live."

This part is most important for you to read. Bishop Ingham gave four reasons:

The Windsor Report is just that a report. It is not yet an agreed policy within the Communion. It is not yet a doctrine. Some of our Provinces have responded to it, some have not, and many of the responses raise critical questions that have not so far been addressed. And yet the Windsor Report is being introduced today as an agreed benchmark from which it is assumed we can move forward. This is not so.

[Second], the document we have today is punitive in tone, setting out penalties and the like, instead of inviting us into deeper communion with one another through mutual understanding in the Body of Christ. Furthermore, it entrenches the principle of outside interventions. The suggestion of a Pastoral Forum in fact institutionalizes external incursions into the life of our churches.

[Third], it seeks to impose a singular uniformity upon the complex diversity of our Communion. I quite understand that in some parts of the Anglican Communion homosexuality is subject to criminal law and cultural prohibition. However, I live in a country where homosexual people enjoy the same rights and responsibilities under the law as every other citizen. To discriminate against homosexual people, as this document suggests, is no more acceptable in Canada than to discriminate against women, black people or Jews. If this becomes the position of the Communion, it will put the Anglican Church of Canada in the position of having to support and defend irrational prejudice and bigotry in the eyes of our nation.

Of course, there is a great deal of diversity in the Anglican Communion already. Issues such as the ordination of women, divorce, re-marriage, non-baptized and non-confirmed people admitted to Communion are but a few examples.

[Fourth], it ignores reality. Whatever this document says, illegal incursions will continue. We have heard already how they continue to happen even in places that maintain the traditional position of the Church on homosexuality. And furthermore, gay and lesbian people will not go away, nor will they be healed, because they are not sick. It is the church that is suffering from blindness and prejudice, and it is we who need to repent and be healed.

It is an old-world institutional response to a new-world reality in which people are being set free from hatred and violence.

It will not do to impose a rigid uniformity on a body so diverse as this Communion. The document will further divide us if it attempts to do so.

As I read his comments, an old song kept running though my mind. It was a “top 10” version of some familiar bible verses as recorded by The Byrds.

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to laugh, a time to weep
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones,
A time to gather stones together
A time of war, a time of peace,
A time of love, a time of hate
A time you may embrace,
A time to refrain from embracing
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate

A time of peace, I swear it's not too late!

For the majority of the Anglican Communion, it is not too late and they will work for that peace.

But for some it is too late because they do not want peace. They have invested too much in the game. Now, at the end of the fourth quarter, they do not have the ball, and their quarterback says he is not interested in playing anymore; but like a delusional general, he demands the majority forfeit the communion to him. And Rowan askes to to please understand Akinola's pain. I would like to ask Rowan, how about the pain of their victims; are you feeling any of that?

What I learned as I sat and listened for God to talk to me for a change was, “how sad.” Jesus came to bring liberty yet some want law not liberty, hate, not love.

I'm so thankful that God has moved me beyond that place into a place of complete love and acceptance.

28 July 2008

The Report -- much ado about nothing new

Reports regarding the “bomb shell” that was delivered at Lambeth today are coming in. The report can be summed up in two double letters: SSDD (Same stuff, different day.) No surprises at all. The full text is here.

The bombshell is exactly what we have been hearing for several years.

The Windsor Report sets out requests for three moratoria in relation to the public Rites of Blessing of same sex unions, the consecration to the episcopate of those living in partnered gay relationships and the cessation of cross border interventions.

There have been different interpretations of the sense in which "moratorium" was used in the Windsor Report. Our understanding is that moratorium refers to both future actions and is also retrospective: that is that it requires the cessation of activity. This necessarily applies to practices that may have already been authorised as well as proposed for authorisation in the future.

The request for moratorium applies in this way to the complete cessation of (a) the celebration of blessings for same-sex unions, (b) consecrations of those living in openly gay relationships, and (c) all cross border interventions and inter-provincial claims of jurisdiction.

The three moratoria have been requested several times: Windsor (2004); Dromantine (2005); Dar es Salaam (2007) and the requests have been less than wholeheartedly embraced on all sides.

The failure to respond presents us with a situation where if the three moratoria are not observed, the Communion is likely to fracture. The patterns of action currently embraced with the continued blessings of same-sex unions and of interventions could lead to irreparable damage.

The call for the three moratoria on these issues relates to their controversial nature. This poses the serious question of what response should be made to those who act contrary to the moratorium during the Covenant process and who should make a response.

Notice that the request for moratorium, by the way it is worded, gives tacit approval to the ordination of non-celibate heterosexuals. I wonder how that one slipped though?

Also, note that this report completely ignores the fact that a previous committee said TEC had met all the requests of the Windsor Report.

This is, of course, dead on arrival.

Our bishops cannot sign on the dotted line; they do not have that authority. If they do (and some probably think they can and will), GC 09 will take care of all of that. If the bishops go for this, I believe we will see a GC that the bishops will wish they had never seen.

I cannot see a majority of the AC’s bishops supporting of a curia of inquisition that will have supremacy over any and all autonomous provinces.

Gafcon sympathizers won’t believe this goes far enough nor will they cease border crossings

Rowan has once again shot himself in both feet.

I suppose the only “bomb shell” was in the members of the committee chosen.

The Most Rev’d Clive Handford, former Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East (chair)
The Most Rev’d John Chew, Primate of South East Asia
The Right Rev’d Gary Lillibridge, Bishop of West Texas
The Right Rev’d Victoria Matthews, former Bishop of Edmonton
The Very Rev’d John Moses, former dean of St Paul's, London
The Most Rev’d Donald Mtetemela, Primate of Tanzania

You will notice that these folk are to the right of the original Windsor commission. There is not a single via media Anglican in the bunch. None is evenly overly friendly to women’s ordination (Well, Matthews may be). Talk about a stacked deck! Only one side of the debate is represented. What was the bomb shell in the list? Well, there is at least one adulterer in the bunch passing judgement on GLB folk. I guess that statement by Jesus forbidding divorce doesn't apply?

Keep in mind that this is a "work in progress" and not the final document. This is just a glimps of the direction things might go. Many things will change as the church's bishops make their feelings known.

I asked earlier, “Is this the last Lambeth Conference?” After reading the reports and seeing who the committee is, the answer is, "probably"—at least the Lambeth Conference as we have known it. Thank you cards should be addressed to Rowan Williams chief architect of the death sentence.

I don’t think there will be three communions, though. Moderates have far more in common with the progressives than they do with the Gafconites. The progressives and moderates will form the continuing AC and the Gafconite sympathizers will go off on their own. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Now, go read the document and tell me what you think.

UPDATE: Bishop Matthews biography can be found on Wikipedia here.

The last Lambeth Conference?

One of the things that you can bet on today, and win, is that bloggers are going to be glued to the web looking for any bit of news coming from Lambeth Conference. So, it’s highly probable that today will see me posting twice depending upon what we learn about 4 p.m. GMT, 8 a.m. Pacific time. If I do post twice today, this post will go the way of the Dodo Bird.

It is always nice to have one’s opinion validated. In today’s Telegraph, Damian Thompson agrees with my three-communion Anglican world hypothesis.

I like the way he describes the possible trinity split

Despite the Lambeth Conference’s Soviet-style attempts to keep the media in the dark, news is leaking out of battles by the three factions – conservatives, liberals and Rowan’s dwindling band of loyalists – to seize the imitative by the end of he conference next weekend. [Emphasis added.]

Supporters of he Archbishop of Canterbury are trying to create an “alternative Global South” movement of moderate conservatives who think Gafcon went too far. Up to 200 bishops favour this move according to [an evangelical website], which is predictable furious at what it regards as a Lambeth plot to subvert and split Gafcon.

I love the wee dig at the Gafcon supporters. But at the same time, I think a Laurel and Hardy quote is applicable here, "Well [Rowan] this is another fine mess you've gotten us into."

Thompson makes an interesting observation about the “covenant,” too

Well, anything is worth a try, particularly since the much-heralded "covenant" to tie together the Anglican Communion has turned into one of the conference's standing jokes. As far as I can work out, the covenant will be little more than a glorified "indaba" – the Zulu-style pow-wows into which the poor bishops have been herded. Likewise, the toothless code of canon law being drawn up to try to hold things together

I think I have to agree with Thompson. There is no way any province except the Gafconites will accept proscription on what the can or cannot do. That’s just not Anglican. It is one of the reasons the split between the Roman and English churches took place. (Remember that the rift was there at the time of William the Conquer.)

Thompson gives us an interesting quote supposedly by our Presiding Bishop

Meanwhile, what of the liberals? Here's an interesting rumour. Bishop Jefferts Schori, leader of the American Episcopal Church, has apparently said that its initials "TEC" could equally stand for The Episcopal Communion – that is, a communion of gay-friendly provinces that ordain women bishops.

So that would make three Anglican Communions: the official one meeting (for the last time) at Lambeth, Gafcon and TEC – and that's not counting the breakaway communions that have left the official structures of Anglicanism.

Yet hope springs eternal in the Anglican breast. The official line is still that by the end of the week delegates are expected to reach consensus on tricky issues such as homosexuality. We shall see.

I really like the bit “Yet hope springs eternal in the Anglican breast.” I really, really like that because it is so true. And why is it true, because Jesus goes before us and we follow in his steps.

The sad thing, though, is that Thompson, a Roman Catholic, and most of the press do not realize that this is not over sexuality or even gender: it is over power, who wields it (abuses it), and who is abused by it.

I wonder, is this the last Lambeth Conference?

The Most Rev'd. Katherine Jefferts Shori and her husband. Photo (c) 2008 Susan Russell

27 July 2008

Life begins with accepting God's love

Sundays are "toxic free" days at TTLS. Today, enjoy the following sermon by the Rev'd. Kirk Allen Kubicek.

Pentecost XI

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Proper 12 - Year A [RCL]
Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11, 45b; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Jesus asks, “Have you understood all this?”

Without hesitating, the disciples respond, “Yes!”

Now that “Yes” coming from the very same disciples who only back in Verse 10 were asking, “Why do you teach in parables?” has to strike us as somewhat unbelievable. Add to that 2,000 years or so of church history with extended periods and frequent episodes in which we, the church, quite clearly have not understood all of this, and one can begin to sympathize with Paul who appears to get it just right: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness: for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”

We do not know how to pray as we ought. A tiny book called Prayers and Graces of Thanksgiving, by Paul Simpson McElroy, includes this prayer by an anonymous writer:

“Lord of the Universe, I am a simple man, an ignorant man. Oh, how I wish I had the words to fashion beautiful prayers to praise thee! But alas, I cannot find these words.

“So listen to me, O God, as I recite the letters of the alphabet. You know what I think and how I feel. Take these letters of the alphabet and you form the words that express the yearning, the love for Thee that is in my heart. Amen.”

Have we understood all this?

If we are honest, we might say, “No, not really.”

Years ago, long before becoming Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, Tom Shaw, spoke to a group of clergy and addressed one of the Parables of the Kingdom, “The Pearl of Great Value.”

Bishop Shaw began by saying that our God is a very frugal God and does not waste one iota, not one jot or tittle, of our life experience. Each moment we live and breathe on this fragile Earth, our island home, God values and savors who we are and what we are doing – especially the work we do for God’s kingdom.

A hidden truth embedded in the Good News of Jesus, and hidden in these parables like yeast in dough, is that at the end of the day each one of us is the Pearl of Great Value. Through our Baptism, we are made God’s beloved. To show how much our God loves us, he sends his only Son to walk among us, dwell among us, to show us the way of the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus.

So much does God savor our life experience that he did not let us get away with killing his Son, his only Son whom he loves, but returned him to us, so that wherever communities of Christians gather in his name, Jesus himself is in the midst of them, calling us back to the God from whence we come: We come from love, we return to love, and love is all around. We are God’s beloved.

Bishop Shaw urged us to think of ourselves as Pearls of Great Value, hidden in this world, for which God was willing to pay a great price: the ultimate price. He sold all that he had to obtain us, to retain us, to bring us home to him.

So precious are we in the eyes of our God, said Bishop Shaw, that we really need to take time each day in our prayers to allow God the time to thank us for what we have done for God today. Every day we are to sit in silence in our prayer time and allow ourselves to feel God thanking us for all that we do for God in this world.

Are we really capable of believing and knowing that God loves us that much? Can we feel like Pearls of Great Value? It is central to the life of faith to accept and receive God’s love – to know how much our God values us and everything that we do.

This is why all these kingdom parables are so important to us. They each point to the hidden-ness of God’s reign in our midst. They each suggest that the life of faith begins with something as small as a little bit of yeast or a single grain of mustard seed. And like the yeast, this faith of ours often remains hidden and unseen – unrecognized.

This is why the disciples ask Jesus for more faith before he sends them out into the world to continue the work of the kingdom. But Jesus replies, “You just need a little bit of faith. With just the smallest amount of faith you can move mountains. With just a little bit of faith you can raise the dead. With just a little faith you will do the things that I do, and greater things than these will you do!”

We do not need to do big and heroic things. Though in truth, as God’s own pearls of great value, every little thing we do brings a smile to God’s face. And the more we let God thank us for what we can do for God, the more confident and empowered we become as God’s own people. And soon the people around us and the people we meet begin to feel like pearls of great value as well.

It does begin with faith. But all we really need is faith as small as a mustard seed to make the whole creation new. To give new life to our own tired bodies. To put a smile on the face of a stranger. To plant seeds of God’s love throughout the neighborhood in which God has made his home.

How ought we to pray? Like the anonymous author of the alphabet prayer, we can recite the letters and leave it to God to put our thoughts together for us. But as Pearls of Great Value to God, we would do better to be still, and know that God is with us. In the stillness and in the silence, give God the time to thank you for who you are: God’s Beloved with whom God is well pleased. And allow God to thank you for what you have done for God today.

The life of faith begins with accepting God’s love into our hearts, minds, and souls. Without that, we are nothing. With God’s love poured into our hearts we become Pearls of Great Value.

-- The Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek is rector of St. Peter's Church in Ellicott City, MD, a parish in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. He also travels throughout the church leading stewardship events for parishes, dioceses, clergy conferences, and diocesan conventions. He has long been involved in the work of The Episcopal Network for Stewardship (TENS), and the Ministry of Money. He frequently uses music and storytelling in his proclamation of the Word. E-mail: kkub@aol.com.