23 August 2008

Good on ya, Mr. Mitcham

I apologize for posting on sports, but this one is just too good to not comment on.

In what is being hailed as one of the most tremendous upsets of the Beijing games, Australian diver Matthew Mitcham won a gold medal today after his string of perfect 10's recorded this highest scoring dive in Olympic history. Good on you Mr. Mitcham!

I am not really a sports enthusiast, but I do like watching the "Straight Games." And what I really enjoy is seeing an athlete perform at his/her best. Watching some of these athletes is liking watching a ballet!

Mr. Mitcham dropped out of diving for a while because of severe depression. Thank goodness he found the strength to return to the sport! One person who has been by his side for the entire tumultuous and now brilliant journey is his partner, Lachlan, he was in the crowd courtesy of a Johnson & Johnson Olympic sponsorship. Mitcham is one of only a few "out" gay athletes in Beijing and the first Australian to openly declare his homosexuality going into an Olympics.

I couldn't find a clip of the ceremony at Beijing, but here is the Australian Anthem from the 2000 games.

22 August 2008

The Bare Necessities

On one of the blogs I frequent there is a debate about the essentials of faith. By that, they mean what things one must believe to be “saved” or considered a Christian. I find the discussion both simulating and interesting because there are so many opinions.

One “good Episcopalian, not Anglican” wrote that it is necessary to believe the bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God. That means if one believes Jesus fed 5001 people, not 5000 people on that hillside, one will be consigned to the fires of hell. I have to admit that that post made me laugh. However, the discussion has caused me to “look for the bare necessities” of the faith.

I say the Daily Office, daily. Usually I go though Morning Prayer with the speed of a hummingbird looking for the next flower. I can probably get though all of Morning Prayer in about five minutes, including the readings for the day.

Evensong is different. I like to take my time with this office partly because the canticles are so much more beautiful. When I get to the Apostles’ Creed (or Nicene Creed a couple of times a week), I really use it as a time for self-reflection about my faith. As I read each statement, I ask myself “Do you believe this, or just say you do?” Every evening, the answer is “credo”—“I believe.”

I do not believe that it is necessary to understand the statements, fully. For instance, I believe God created the heaves and the earth. Was it biblically miraculous or was it evolution (which is the most logical explanation as far as I am concerned)? I don’t know; I was not there when it happened. However it happened, God had a hand in it.

These two creeds are the bare minimum of what is necessary to believe to be a Christian because they contain the major parts of the faith. I also believe that they are the maximum of what one must believe to be a Christian.

What do you think? Are there things in addition to the creed you feel a Christian must believe?

21 August 2008

Lambeth Videos available from Trinity

I aplogize for a second post today, but, this bit of news is worth breaking my own rule.

As most of you know, each morning of the Lambeth Conference began with worship and a video presentation. Trinity Episcopal Church, Wall Street has made the videos available on their site. Make sure to watch at least some of the videos -- you learn a few things about the Communion. The Lambeth page is here. You may see exactly what your bishop watched each morning.

Trinity is the wealthiest Episcopal Church in the U.S. (it owns a lot of Wall Street real estate) It has a wonderful Online TV section that includes video casts of the principal weekly Eucharist and other special events. (Go to the page and scroll down to the list of TV casts.) If you are unable to attend church on any Sunday, you may tune in for a live web-cast of the Eucharist or watch is anytime thereafter.

I enjoy coming home from the church-job (at a UCC) and clicking on the Trinity site to watch Trinity’s mass. One of the fun things is that I can fast-forward though the sermon.

For those of you who might not know, Trinity’s two church buildings were almost grand central for care after the 11 September disaster. St. Paul’s was used as a temporary trauma centre and Trinity’s clergy staff did an astounding job ministering to the wounded souls.

Act II, Scene I

The next meeting of the U.S. college of bishops will begin on 19 September in Salt Lake City. In addition to discussing the recently completed Lambeth Conference, the bishops will debate the future of the Rt. Rev’d. Robert Duncan, Ordinary of Pittsburg. The meeting has not yet begun, but the fundamentalists are already crying “foul!”

If one surfs the World Wide Web, one will learn that certain sites are already damning the Presiding Bishop to perdition for violating the canons of the Episcopal Church. Now, mind you, those howling are those who are leaving or who have left TEC. Why they care about the activities of bishops of a church they have left is beyond me.

We will hear the same argument that we heard when Mr. Schofield was “laicized.”

· Not enough retired bishops present to fulfill the required number of assents to the deposition.

· Because of that, the “yes” vote is really a “no” vote because the required number of “yes” votes will not be met.

· Therefore, the Presiding Bishop will sign an illegal document that will have no “force” because of the above.

We went though this drama when Mr. Schofield was deposed. The vote was certified and no one objected until much later. This time I predict that there will be objections on the floor coming from Texas or perhaps Florida.

I am not certain of the number of bishops what would have to be present. The canons seem to be open for interpretation and there are as many opinions are there are bishops in the Anglican Communion. Even if every bishop with voice and vote show up, it will not satisfy the fundamentalists. I believe GC09 must address this issue and amend the canons in question so that only Ordinary, Suffragan, or Coadjutor bishops have a vote. There is no reason why retired bishops should have a vote. I do not know of any corporation that give voting rights to retired executives a vote.

There will be a new objection in the case of +Duncan:

Canon IV.9 states that a bishop must be inhibited before deposition

It is true that he has not been deposed thanks largely to the Rt. Rev’d. Leo Frade of Southeastern Florida, one of the three senior most bishops who must approve any inhibition.

One of two scenarios will happen:

Bishop Duncan will show up for this meeting.He will make some Martin Luther type speech wherein he says he can do nothing but what he is doing to preserve the faith once delivered, a lamb being led to the slaughter, a martyr for the faith. He will also object to the proceedings because he has not been inhibited. Like the famous scene in The Disappearance of Sister Amy, he will proclaim it is all a liberal plot hatched in hell by the apostate leaders of TEC.

He will not attend, but will assert that he has not, nor does intend to abandon TEC. He will rub the humiliation all over himself like ointment so that he may shine for Jesus.

In either case, however, there is the little matter of the recent “Duncan Memo” that somehow found its way into the e-mail boxes of unintended recipients. One paragraph of that memo states:

The three dioceses of Pittsburgh, Quincy and Fort Worth have taken first constitutional votes on separation with second votes just weeks away. We all anticipate coming under Southern Cone this fall, thus to join San Joaquin. This process cannot be stopped -- constitutions require an automatic second vote, and to recommend against passage without guarantees from the other side would be suicidal. [Emphasis added.]

Duncan has declared he will be “under Southern Cone this fall.” In his delusional world, that does not constitute abandoning the Episcopal Church. (Was he born in South Carolina?) It will be difficult to convince any one, bishop or not, that he has not in the process of abandoning TEC.

In light of this memo, it is difficult to understand this statement on one of the fundamentalist sites:

And the Rev. Kaeton and others like her circulate purloined private correspondence in an effort to drum up enthusiasm for taking yet more illegal action, so that the invasion of privacy becomes the justification for what those who will vote to depose already think they know: that “abandonment” has indeed occurred, and Bishop Duncan is guilty as charged.

We do not “think we know” we do know – we have his own words, from his own computer, in his own e-mail. It is fact.

It is almost comical that, given the way the fundamentalists are attempting to steal TEC property that they would say +Duncan’s email was purloined. Ah, what is it the bible says? Oh, yes, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17.9

Well, that’s one man’s opinion, any road.


Here is the full text of the Duncan Memo:

From: Duncan, Bob [mailto:Duncan@pitanglican.org]
Sent: Monday, August 11, 2008 12:35 PM
Subject: Windsor Contiuation Group Concerns

Dear *******,

It was very good to be with you at Lambeth. I especially appreciated the time we spent together looking at the relationship between the Common Cause Partners and the Communion Partners, as well as considering issues that are before the WCG.

I thought that you might appreciate hearing from me about concerns the approach of the WCG has caused for me and for all the Common Cause Partners.

The WCG proposes "cessation of all cross-border interventions and inter-provincial claims of jurisdiction." There are at least four serious problems with the thinking surrounding the work of the Windsor Continuation Group in this regard.

The first difficulty is the moral equivalence implied between the three moratoria, a notion specifically rejected in the original Windsor Report and at Dromantine.

The second is the notion that, even if the moratoria are held to be equally necessary, there would be some way to "freeze" the situation as it now stands for those of us in the process of separating from The Episcopal Church.

The three dioceses of Pittsburgh, Quincy and Fort Worth have taken first constitutional votes on separation with second votes just weeks away. We all anticipate coming under Southern Cone this fall, thus to join San Joaquin. This process cannot be stopped -- constitutions require an automatic second vote, and to recommend against passage without guarantees from the other side would be suicidal.

The third reality is that those already separated parishes and missionary jurisdictions under Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Southern Cone (including Recife) will never consent to the "holding tank" whose stated purpose is eventual "reconciliation" with TEC or thevAnglican Church of Canada. (It was obvious to all at Lambeth that the majorities in the US and Canada have no intention of reversing direction.)

The fourth matter is that the legal proceedings brought by TEC and ACC against many of us have been nowhere suspended by these aggressor provinces, with no willingness to mediate or negotiate though we have proposed it repeatedly, not least since Dar es Salaam.

For your information, I have written to John Chew and Donald Mtetemela in a similar way. I have also written to the Global South Primates who signed the open letter dated 3 August.

I hope this finds you well. As I pledged when we saw each other, I will do what I can to keep you informed of thinking among the Common Cause Partners, and will do what I can to see that any solutions imagined include both the Communion Partners (on the inside) and the Common Cause Partners (most of whom are on the outside of TEC, or on their way out.)

Blessings to you and yours,


20 August 2008

Where there is faith, there is no fear

God is preparing me for something. What it is, I don’t know but it’s dang uncomfortable. I like to be in charge of me (and everything else, too, although, I am an INFJ). I know, however, that I have no control over what whatever is coming.

Because of that, during the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about fear. This was prompted in part by what was going on with the Lambeth Conference, of course and also because of some health problems.

Fear is the underlying force “guiding” behind so much of our lives and all that goes on in the world.

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of change
  • Fear that what we know is completely gone
  • Fear that if one thing changes, everything else will crumble

Fear is the best motivator – rather, the best thing to rally the troops.

It is also the motivator behind much of what we do, but we don’t realize it. We don’t drive 100 mph down the US 101 because we fear jail. We don’t sleep in that extra hour in the morning because we fear the retribution of our employer. Fear is all around is – it is the second guiding force in the world. (Power is number one.)

But fear and faith cannot abide in the same place. Either fear will kill faith, or faith will overwhelm fear. Michael Phelps, one of the greatest athlete in history and who I am proud is a fellow American, remarked that he had "faith" that he could "do it if he just didn't let fear kill that faith."

My Baptist relatives have a peculiar practice for biblical inspiration (the LDS do this, too). Open the bible to a random page, close your eyes, run your finger down the page and stop it any place on that page. The verse your finger points out is supposed to be a direct message from God to you. You have to be careful, though because it might be that bit about Samson taking the jawbone of an ass and killing a ton of Philistines or Judas hanging himself.

I decided to chance it, and that’s what I did yesterday in my holy hour after an appointment with my surgeon. (I keep writing about holy hours! It is not intentional believe me.) The act was a bane and a blessing because my finger stopped on 1 Cor. 13.4-7:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves.

There was no need to read it. Most of us have heard those verses so many times that we can quote it from memory.

So, I tried again. This time was no different. 1 John 4.18

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

There is was – the 2x4 up side he head. After reading the John verse, I realized Paul was not talking about “love.” He and John were writing about God’s love for us.

God does not boast in what he did for us – God just loves us. God does not keep a record of our screw ups – God just loves us. God doesn’t require anything from us at all – God just loves us. He doesn’t punish us – God just loves us as we are.

I thought of the connection these two verses have to John 15.15

If you love me, keep my commandments.

And what are Jesus’ commandments?

Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Mt. 22:36-38)

Love God, and love your neighbour as you love yourself. That is all God requires from us in return for that unconditional and all embracing love.

Where there is love, there is faith; and where there is faith, there is no fear; apprehension yes, but fear, no. He has gone before us to prepare for our arrival.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
"Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!"
And he replied:
"Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way."
So, I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night
And He led me toward the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

Marie Louise Haskins 1876 - 1957

I am about to step into the new era. The church is stepping into a new era. Whatever the change for TEC, the AC and for me, we need not fear. We must simply place our hand in God's hand, and know that all will be well.

We have an update from Fran. It is here.
Scot has posted a report on the service. You will find it here.

19 August 2008

A Modern explanation of the Eucharist

I am a fan of Fr. Matthew Presents, the You Tube ministry of a young Episcopal Priest. He presents videos on a wide range of things. His latest is the Seven Sacraments. Below is his video clop of the Holy Eucharist. This is my least favourite of his videos, but, it is very moving.

I would like to ask you to watch the clip and then tell me what you think it means.

18 August 2008

Prayers for Fr. Scott

I ask you to remember our brother Scott Hankins in your prayers tonight and tomorrow. He must officiate at the funeral of an 18-year-old whose family is Christian but who, himself, was never baptized.

According to Scott, "His death was peaceful, but, shall we say, accidental in a self-medicating sort of way."

Hundreds of young people are expected to attend the service. Please pray that Scott can find the words to minister to these hurting people and let them know that God loves them, and loves the young man who died.

Pray also for the young man's family, and for the young man, himself.

UPDATE: Scot has posted an report on the service. You will find it here.
The painting is "Jesus Rising" by
our friend Counterlight.
It is used with permission.

Why do the fundamentalists so furiously rage together?

Each morning I conduct a “web search” in an effort to keep up to date on the activities of TEC, the Anglican Communion and the fundamentalists. [1] The search is always an interesting adventure and it is truly amazing some of the things I stumble upon.

When I first joined Fr. Jake Stops the World, one of the first comments I read was from someone to said s/he was not going to visit the fundamentalist blogs because of the vitriolic nature of the posting there. I decided to stay away if things were that toxic.

As I am not having a good day, as a treatment did not go well Friday, I have done something that I have not done heretofore. But I did t by accident. One of the links I thought interesting proved to be for a fundamentalist site. The quote at the top of the page led me to believe it was not fundamentalist. “Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible. - Søren Kierkegaard” I thought that the quote was good. We do have to defend ourselves against being abused by the use of biblical texts. The site did not see it that way, and I discovered the quote was there to show how apostate everyone but the fundamentalists are.

That led me to read a few other fundamentalist blogs postings. What I found saddened me a great deal. I really was socked by the hatred expressed for anyone who doe not agree with the fundamentalists, and particularly the hate directed at the Presiding Bishop and The Archbishop of Canterbury. What I read was nothing short of hate-speech.

Okay, I (and we non-fundamentalists) have expressed our displeasure with what the fundamentalists are trying to do to our Anglican tradition, that’s true. However, I cannot remember a single post that was hate-speech. Jake was very careful about removing or editing such posts. And, yes, we have used a few choice terms for the leaders of the fundamentalist movement, but we have not disparaged their personhood.

One poster, a Jewish person said, “If I ever thought about becoming a Christian, reading your comments would cause me to change my mind. What are you all so filled with hate?” That is a paraphrase, I cannot recall he exact words. However, his/her comment was spot on. I have read statements by White Supremacists that were more genteel and Christ-like.

I was raised to believe the way of Jesus brought joy and an inner peace (which I have always had). Why, I wonder, are they so filled with hate? They must be terribly unhappy people. We must pray for them – I mean, we must really pray for them, not just say we will.

Speaking of prayers, please remember to keep Tim and Fran in your prayers.

Also, please pray for the repose of Millie Allen and Hariet Arant who died this week. With the death of Millie, my parish has only ten people who were members prior to 1970. Her death has hit us "old timers" hard.

[1] Henceforth, I will not use the term “conservative” or any derivation thereof when referring to those in the Anglican Communion who are supporters of Puritanism and the many incarnations of Garcon or its sympathizers. We must “name the heresy” and it is fundamentalism.

17 August 2008

Abide with me ...

As I sit here, looking out the window on my back garden, the day is almost over. I am feeling particularly "lonesome" for people and times past, tonight. I decided to make a wee post of my favourite evening hymn, The Day Thou Gavest, Lord is Ended.

Pentecost XIV

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecst

Genesis 45:1-15, Psalm 133; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

Try as we may, we do not always find ourselves comfortable when we are among people we don’t know. Visiting a new church can be nerve wracking, unless we are among the extroverted class.

Even within our own country we find cultural and ethnic differences that may challenge the best of us. Traveling abroad may similarly pose challenges, particularly if we stray outside the usual tourist bubble and find ourselves lost among people whose language we don’t speak and who look different.

It is easy for us to be caring at a distance. Writing checks to help other people in need is a vital and good service, but it is perhaps made easier because we don’t have to rub shoulders with the people we are helping. If we volunteer in a thrift shop or help feed the needy, we may wonder what on earth we would say to such people if we had to be in their homes or on the street.

In the gospel today, Jesus has a discussion about the way we think. He points out that what we say, perhaps how we act toward others is much more indicative of how we think than keeping certain religious rules about what we eat or drink.

It seems his comments offended the pious. One is reminded of the story Jesus told of the pious person who went into the temple to pray. He stood there in the attitude of prayer and said, “Thank God I am not like other people.” It would be dreadfully offensive if we said, “Thank God I am not of another race or culture.” Yet we do find ourselves thinking such things as we watch the news or engage in heated conversations about those people who don’t agree with our politics or religion or social attitudes. It makes it worse when we are sure we are right and they are wrong.

Being bigoted against bigots is no virtue!

The gospel today goes on to tell a story about Jesus leaving his homeland and going into what we would now call Lebanon. There are only two recorded occasions when Jesus leaves Jewish territory.

There was a long-standing ethnic feud between the people of the Holy Land and the people of Lebanon. There still is. This might well be a contemporary story.

Jesus is approached by a local woman who wants him to heal her daughter. The Israelites called such people “dogs.” And remember that dogs didn’t enjoy the privileged place in society then as they do for many of us now.

It was obvious that the woman was desperate. She would have been brought up to despise Jews. She risked being rebuffed and insulted. There are moments of desperation in our lives when we are impelled to step out of our safety zone, our secure society. Our need overcomes fear and even prejudice.

Jesus tests the woman. He even uses the common racial slur. “We don’t give dogs human food.” Please note that Jesus is not merely saying that dogs shouldn’t beg at a table. He is using a dreadful slur to test the faith of the woman. We may find that shocking. Please note he is not being a racist. He is testing the boundaries that have been set. May they be crossed? The woman is desperate, but can she, is she able, to step through pride and prejudice and reach the point of acceptance and healing?

Yes, Jesus comes to us, but we also must make that step of faith toward him.

In the Rite 1 Eucharist there is a lovely prayer that begins with the words “We do not presume to come to this thy table, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercy.” The prayer is built around the gospel lesson we are using today. [Emphasis added.] Jesus is different. He isn’t a nice friendly American or a person we would meet at church. We have to admit our need as we approach him. “Our own righteousness” won’t hack it. By “righteousness,” we can mean pride, or confidence in our own culture, or learning, or intellect, or good taste, or manners. We might mean our own racial, or political, or national roots.

Jesus is for all; and because he is for all, he belongs to no one.

The woman replies with some good humor. She points out that even dogs get the scraps that fall from a table. Jesus tells her that her trust has made it possible for her daughter to be healed. The woman is being a conduit for another. There is an extraordinary reminder here that we may become “go-betweens” for others and be the means by which God’s gift of healing love may be extended to others.

All too often our prayers are safe. They are prayers at a distance. They cost us little. They trip off the tongue at bedtime or even in church when that long list of sick people is read during the Prayers of the People. We risk nothing when we say, “God bless Annie.”

When Jesus says that if we are to follow him we must be cross-bearers, he invites us into uncomfortable, painful, and hurting places where those who need our prayers live. He invites us out of our comfort zones. He invites us to experience the tragedy and hurt another one is suffering. He invites us to be with those who may be called “dogs,” or think of themselves as “dogs” – unclean, apart, perhaps at the bottom of the social or class ladder, or perhaps “apart” because of their lifestyle or habits.

The woman from the region of Tyre and Sidon came to Jesus where he was. He came to her. They met and exchanged barbed words, and another was healed. Here is an extraordinary example of reconciliation and grace.

It is clear that none of us has the strength to reach out beyond our comfort zones. Yet at the table spread each Sunday we step from our own world into the unknown place where Jesus is and he feeds us with more than crumbs or scraps. We receive him. We live in him and he lives in us. The question remains, For who is our encounter with the Lord intended? Is it intended for another, a person who may live in a place or have an experience outside the normal routine of our life, or whose habits or lifestyle may offend us greatly?

Perhaps in this holy place this day we can think of a group, or a person who cries out to be healed in one way or another. Dare we step out to the table at which the Lord sits and beg for his aid? Dare we be a channel of healing and love to that other person or group who, too, belongs to God and for whom Jesus died?

-- Fr. Tony Clavier is rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, La Porte, Indiana, in the Diocese of Northern Indiana. He is also dean of the Michigan City deanery. His email address is anthony.clavier@gmail.com.