19 September 2008

TTLS Finally arrives!

Well, TTLS has finally arrived. The fundamentalists hit the blog hard tonight and I had to put the blog on moderation, temporarily, and I've had to ban a poster.

Till Eulenspeigel, IP is banned.

How the bishops voted

Here is the roll of bishops and how they voted. I'm very glad to see that +ECR voted yes.


Consecration Number Consecration Date Name Role Diocese Vote re: Duncan
627 11/26/67 William Frey Assisting Rio Grande n
665 9/12/71 Otis Charles Resigned y
721 10/31/77 Bob Jones Resigned y
722 2/11/78 Robert Anderson Assistant Los Angeles y
779 1/21/84 James Ottley Assistant Long Island y
780 1/25/84 Leopold Frade Diocesan Southeast Florida y
785 5/19/84 Peter Lee Diocesan Virginia n
804 2/15/85 Allen Bartlett Resigned y
812 10/11/86 Arthur Williams Resigned y
819 2/24/87 E. Don Taylor Assistant New York y
830 9/27/88 C. Christopher Epting Bishop for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations y
835 2/25/89 John Buchanan Assistant Southern Virginia y
839 4/15/89 John Howe Diocesan Central Florida n
844 8/20/89 Sergio Carranza Assistant Los Angeles y
854 3/24/90 Charles Keyser Assisting Florida y
861 1/26/91 Chester Talton Suffragan Los Angeles y
864 3/15/91 Victor Scantlebury Assistant Chicago y
865 3/23/91 Steven Charleston Assistant California y
868 6/9/91 Jerry Lamb Provisional Bishop of San Joaquin y
869 6/15/91 Alfred Marble Assisting North Carolina y
870 8/16/91 Julio Holguin Diocesan Dominican Republic a
872 2/29/92 Peter Beckwith Diocesan Springfield n
876 11/19/92 Jane Holmes Dixon Resigned y
879 3/6/93 James Stanton Diocesan Dallas n
883 9/11/93 F. Clayton Matthews Bishop for Pastoral Development y
885 10/29/93 James Jelinek Diocesan Minnesota y
891 4/17/94 Edwin Gulick Diocesan Kentucky y
894 5/24/94 Russell Jacobus Diocesan Fond du Lac a
900 10/29/94 Kenneth Price Suffragan Southern Ohio y
901 1/21/95 Henry Louttit Diocesan Georgia y
902 2/3/95 Dorsey Henderson Diocesan Upper South Carolina n
904 3/25/95 Vernon Strickland Resigned y
907 6/24/95 David Jones Suffragan Virginia y
909 10/21/95 Robert Ihloff Resigned y
912 1/27/96 Catherine Roskam Suffragan New York y
913 2/17/96 Geralyn Wolf Diocesan Rhode Island n
917 5/4/96 Andrew Smith Diocesan Connecticut y
918 5/31/96 Carolyn Irish Diocesan Utah y
919 6/29/96 Paul Marshall Diocesan Bethlehem y
922 9/21/96 Clifton Daniel Diocesan East Carolina y
924 10/12/96 Gordon Scruton Diocesan Western Massachusetts y
925 10/26/96 F. Neff Powell Diocesan Southwestern Virginia y
926 1/4/97 Richard S.O. Chang Resigned y
929 6/7/97 Catherine Waynick Diocesan Indianapolis y
930 6/28/97 C. Wallis Ohl Diocesan Northwest Texas n
933 9/13/97 Mark MacDonald Diocesan Navajoland a
934 9/26/97 Bruce Caldwell Diocesan Wyoming y
936 1/31/98 Charles Jenkins Diocesan Louisiana n
937 3/14/98 Barry Howe Diocesan West Missouri y
938 3/28/98 Chilton Knudsen Resigned y
939 4/25/98 Mark Sisk Diocesan New York y
940 6/6/98 Harry Bainbridge Diocesan Idaho y
942 10/10/98 John Rabb Suffragan Maryland n
944 2/27/99 Charles vonRosenberg Diocesan East Tennessee n
945 3/13/99 William Persell Resigned y
946 4/10/99 Keith Whitmore Assistant Atlanta y
947 4/24/99 J. Michael Garrison Diocesan Western New York y
949 10/9/99 D. Bruce MacPherson Diocesan Western Louisiana n
950 2/5/00 Wendell Gibbs Diocesan Michigan y
951 2/12/00 George Packard Bishop Suffragan for Chaplaincies n
952 3/18/00 Edward Little Diocesan Northern Indiana n
953 4/29/00 J. Jon Bruno Diocesan Los Angeles y
955 6/17/00 Michael Curry Diocesan North Carolina y
956 6/17/00 Duncan Gray Diocesan Mississippi n
957 9/23/00 William Gregg Assistant North Carolina y
958 9/30/00 Stacy Sauls Diocesan Lexington y
959 10/14/00 James Curry Suffragan Connecticut y
961 10/21/00 James Waggoner Diocesan Spokane y
963 2/24/01 Katharine Jefferts Schori Presiding Bishop y
965 4/28/01 Thomas Ely Diocesan Vermont y
966 5/12/01 Philip Duncan Diocesan Central Gulf Coast y
968 7/7/01 J. Neil Alexander Diocesan Atlanta y
969 7/14/01 Francisco Duque Diocesan Colombia y
970 10/13/01 William Klusmeyer Diocesan West Virginia n
971 10/20/01 Lloyd Allen Diocesan Honduras n
972 10/27/01 Gladstone Adams Diocesan Central New York y
973 11/18/01 Pierre Whalon Suffragan American Churches in Europe a
974 2/7/02 Marc Andrus Diocesan California y
975 3/2/02 G. Wayne Smith Diocesan Missouri y
976 3/16/02 James Adams Diocesan Western Kansas n
979 6/1/02 John Chane Diocesan Washington y
981 1/18/03 Gayle Harris Suffragan Massachusetts y
982 1/25/03 James Shand Diocesan Easton n
983 4/5/03 Alan Scarfe Diocesan Iowa n
984 11/28/97 David Alvarez Diocesan Puerto Rico y
985 9/13/03 Joe Burnett Diocesan Nebraska y
987 9/27/03 C. Franklin Brookhart Diocesan Montana n
989 10/4/03 Robert O'Neill Diocesan Colorado y
990 10/18/03 George Councell Diocesan New Jersey n
991 10/18/03 Steven Miller Diocesan Milwaukee n
992 11/1/03 S. Johnson Howard Diocesan Florida y
993 11/2/03 V. Gene Robinson Diocesan New Hampshire y
994 11/8/03 Dean Wolfe Diocesan Kansas y
995 2/21/04 Gary Lillibridge Diocesan West Texas n
996 4/24/04 Kirk Smith Diocesan Arizona y
997 4/17/04 Mark Hollingsworth Diocesan Ohio y
998 5/8/04 Michael Smith Diocesan North Dakota n
999 9/18/04 G. Porter Taylor Diocesan Western North Carolina y
1001 1/22/05 Bavi Rivera Suffragan Olympia y
1002 3/5/05 James Mathes Diocesan San Diego y
1003 6/11/05 E. Ambrose Gumbs Diocesan Virgin Islands n
1005 8/26/06 David Reed Suffragan West Texas n
1006 9/9/06 S. Todd Ousley Diocesan Eastern Michigan y
1007 9/16/06 William Love Diocesan Albany n
1008 9/30/06 Barry Beisner Diocesan Northern California y
1010 10/26/06 Nathan Baxter Diocesan Central Pennsylvania y
1011 1/6/07 Larry Benfield Diocesan Arkansas y
1012 1/27/07 Mark Beckwith Diocesan Newark y
1013 1/27/07 John Bauerschmidt Diocesan Tennessee n
1014 3/10/07 Dabney Smith Diocesan Southwest Florida n
1015 3/10/07 Robert Fitzpatrick Diocesan Hawaii y
1016 4/28/07 Thomas Breidenthal Diocesan Southern Ohio y
1017 5/26/07 Shannon Johnston Coadjutor Virginia n
1018 6/30/07 Laura Ahrens Suffragan Connecticut y
1019 9/8/07 Sean Rowe Diocesan Northwestern Pennsylvania y
1020 9/15/07 Edward Konieczny Diocesan Oklahoma n
1021 9/15/07 Gregory Rickel Diocesan Olympia y
1022 11/10/07 Mary Gray-Reeves Diocesan El Camino Real y
1023 1/5/08 Dan Edwards Diocesan Nevada y
1024 1/12/08 John McKee Sloan Suffragan Alabama n
1025 1/26/08 Mark Lawrence Diocesan South Carolina n
1026 2/2/08 Jeffrey Lee Diocesan Chicago y
1027 1/25/94 Sylvestre Romero Assisting New Jersey y
1028 5/3/08 Stephen Lane Diocesan Maine y
1029 5/31/08 Prince Singh Diocesan Rochester y
1030 6/28/08 Eugene Sutton Diocesan Maryland y
1031 7/12/08 Paul Lambert Suffragan Dallas n

Why not Iker?

Fr. Scott asked a good question. I was going to answer him in a comment, but decided his question deserved its own thread.

What about Iker; why do you suppose he wasn't also deposed?

The short answer is because no one from his diocese brought charges against him.

Keep in mind that the presiding bishop has no power other than to preside at meetings of the college of bishops. She cannot initiate presentment without the consent of the three senior bishops. One of those bishop’s actions shows him to be supportive of the fundamentalist cause.

The reason that Duncan was deposed was because members of his diocese initiated the action. It is doubtful that, on its own, "815" would have done so until the October vote and Duncan was “safely,” yet illegally and dissolutely in the Southern Cone after embezzling church property. Perhaps the National Church was working behind the scenes assisting members of the diocese to initiate the charges, but regardless of how it happened, it was a grass roots action.

Members of Iker's diocese must begin the process to depose him. If I lived there, I would have done so years ago. (Unfortunately, I don't think that those living outside a diocese can bring charges – other bishops can, though as was the case with Bishop Pike.)

Regrettably, the majority of Episcopalians do not know that they have any recourse against their clergy.

What complicates this process is that the bishops (and priests) in question have spent years brainwashing their flock into believing that the bishop is a prince bishop. They have also carefully "guided" the search process so that the clergy rolls are stacked with like-minded presbyters who will spout the bishop’s party line and are crafty in how they disseminate information to the parish/mission. The clergy carefully “guide” the selection process for vestry/bishop’s committee members and diocesan delegates.

This neo donatist movement has been a “from the top down” movement. To accomplish their goals, the leadership has manoeuvred every election for the past twenty years.

Chapman's memo is only the final stage of a plot that is decades old and the leaders vigilantly implemented that plan.

In the case of San Joaquin, the period was at least thirty-five years, predating Schofield’s episcopate.

If I were in charge of the parish development and/or publicity of TEC, I would do my best to let the members in the pews know that they do have recourse – they can bring charges against the clergy. But, I’m not in charge. And, aren’t we all glad I’m not in charge!

Now, regarding Mr. Duncan, he said that

I am unanimously welcomed into the House of Bishops of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, an act applauded by Anglican archbishops, bishops, clergy and people all around the world. They have eight bishops.

Does that "unanimous" number include Schofield. And other than the usual suspects, what archbishops and bishops does he mean? Like the choice of the word "unanamous," this is just Duncan's over active hubris speaking.

18 September 2008

It's Mr. Duncan Now

The Blogger lost my original post, so I've had to recreate it.

While I was lunching with my honorary son and our friend, the House of Bishops found the brass to do it. I didn't think they would, but they fooled me.

The Episcopal Church's House of Bishops has deposed Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh for abandonment of communion. Eighty-nine bishops voted in favor of deposing Duncan, 35 voted against and four abstained according to several sources in the House of Bishops. Further details to come. What I would like to know is, who are the thirty-five who voted no.

And, Duncan has been made a "bishop" in the Southern Cone even though the canons and constitution of the Southern Cone don't allow it.

This is not a time for rejoicing, my brothers and sisters; it is a time to mourn the loss of a bishop. I believe that he was guilty of the actions for which he was charged, and I believe that deposition was the only possible choice given that he would not repudiate his actions or renounce his intention to lead a significant portion of the Episcopalians in his diocese out of The Episcopal Church. Nevertheless, Duncan is a brother who is in distress.

Pray for Mr. Duncan; pray for the Church; pray for the diocese and people of Pittsburgh.

I apologize for the tone of my original post on this news. The post had a decided unchristian flavour. I will make my Friday Holy Hour for Mr. Duncan's spiritual well being.


According to the Rt. Rev’d Paul Marshall, Bishop of Bethlehem, the vote came at about 3:15 today to authorize the Presiding Bishop to carry out the deposition.

Bishop Marshal said in a letter to his diocese:

I will have a good deal more to say about this at our clergy retreat and diocesan convention. Like many bishops, I came here willing to have the matter postponed, but information revealed last night, along with other factors discussed in this morning's session, led to all four Pennsylvania bishops voting yes at the roll-call vote, which I am sure someone will publish.

It is a matter for some rejoicing that a house that described itself as "dysfunctional" in 1991 carried itself through this deeply-felt matter w/o any acrimony or even raised voices. Strong positions were taken on both sides, but with respect, charity, and restraint.

The four PA bishops also met this morning to determine ways we can support the remaining Episcopalians in Pittsburgh, and I will keep you posted on those developments as well.

I’m a bit confused by his first paragraph. Certainly the bishops read the indictment for presentment before they arrived in Salt Lake City. What new information did they discover in the meeting. Or was it a case of hearing it for the first time as it was with many of the bishops and the Chapman Memo. Or, was it a case of “hearing” it was worse than reading it? We will probably never know.

The Rt. Rev’d Gary Lillibridge of West Texas (you have to love that name – so Wizard of Oz) said:

As difficult as this decision is for me and many others in our Church, it is important to realize that the decision in the House today was not based on the theological convictions of Bishop Duncan, but rather on the evidence presented regarding statements and actions concerning moves to take the Diocese of Pittsburgh out of the Episcopal Church.

The Most Rev’d Katharine Jefferts Schori said:

The House of Bishops worked carefully and prayerfully to consider the weighty matter of Bishop Duncan. The conversation was holy, acknowledging the pain of our deliberations as well as the gratitude many have felt over the years for their relationships with, and the ministry of, Robert Duncan. The House concluded, however, that his actions over recent months and years constitute “abandonment of the communion of this church” and that he should be deposed. Concern was expressed for the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in the face of leadership which has sought to remove itself from The Episcopal Church. In the days and months ahead, this Church will work to ensure appropriate pastoral care and provision for the members of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, so that mission and ministry in that part of Pennsylvania may continue in the name of Jesus Christ and in the tradition of the Episcopal Church.

Make sure to keep up to date by reading The Lead.

It's Mr. Duncan, now

The "blogger" programme deleted my post, but not the comments. I have no idea how all of this happened, or how to recover it, so, I recreated the post as a new post.

Wales reject flying bishops, covenant, and homosexuality as a communion breaker

[Updated and revised]

Well things just keep getting worse for the Most Rev’d Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England.

In a move that must have made him groan, the bishops of The Church In Wales have decided they will no longer cater to those priests and laity who reject women in Holy Orders.

According to an article in Wales Online, The Most Rev’d Barry Morgan, Primate of the Church in Wales made the announcement yesterday.

We reaffirm as Diocesan Bishops our commitment to securing a continuing place in the life of the Church in Wales for those who cannot in conscience accept the ordination of women to the priesthood. However, we no longer consider that the continuation of additional Episcopal provision for one part of the church on grounds of belief or doctrine on one particular issue is either necessary or consistent with Anglican ecclesiology

From 1996 until this past June, The Rt. Rev’d David Thomas has served as a Provincial Assistant Bishop for those whom Bishop Morgan described.

In April, the Church in Wales rejected the consecration of women by three votes. In light of that decision, I’m not sure I understand the new move. “No women bishops and no male bishops for those who reject women’s ordination.”

One really must feel sorry for the fundamentalists. The world is getting smaller for them and the only place to hide is in Africa or a wee spot in South America. I propose that all the fundamentalists move to Nigeria where 99 percent of the world’s Anglicans worship on any given Sunday. Well, if one believes the hyperbole, that is.

And it just kept getting worse for Rowan. Dr. Morgan rejected the idea of homosexuality as being a “communion breaker” and also rejected the “covenant” in a rather strong condemnation of the fundamentalists.

[One] of the glories of Anglicanism has been about being held together by our beliefs as contained in historic creeds and formulas but not by agreement to particular statements about that faith in each generation. That is the difference between belonging to a Communion rather than a confession.

Moreover, GAFCON members do not believe in engaging in dialogue with people with whom they disagree on human sexuality because it means being open to the possibility that the position of one’s opponent might be true when the plain sense reading of Scripture shows, in their view, that it is not.

Why is it that, as far as Anglicanism is concerned, we do not interpret the Scriptures literally when it comes to issues such as usury or marriage and divorce to name but two, but insist on a literal interpretation of texts that allegedly deal with homosexuality?

He said that while certain leaders are focusing on homosexuality, the fact is the vast majority of Britons who are married with Church of England Rites come to marriage having lived together for a considerable time before marriage or are divorced yet the church blesses such couples.

It is difficult to believe that we have boxed ourselves into this particular corner.

Allegorical, symbolical and mythical interpretations are allowed and have been allowed from the time of the Fathers to the present day for every part of the Bible, except for those that deal with sexuality and one is also left wondering why there cannot be diversity on this issue as on so many other moral issues.

Ouch! To quote a histrionics expert, “That must have sent chills though Lambeth Palace…” Remember that although ++Rowan is Archbishop of the Church of England, he is a member of the Church In Wales. As such, Dr. Morgan is Rowan’s archbishop. Here Rowan Williams’ own primate has called Rowan’s position a load of rubbish.

Dr. Morgan acknowledged that the severity of the current crisis was “unleashed” when the Rev’d Gene Robinson was elected bishop of New Hampshire. But, at least Dr. Morgan said “elected” which is a fact the fundamentalists like to ignore. The prefer to believe he was appointed by TEC.

[T]he consecration of a bishop living in a same-gender union has caused deep upset and outrage and questions both the view of Scripture and tradition, has hampered mission in some parts of the Communion and led to the persecution of Christians in others, and has impaired ecumenical relationships as our Roman Catholic observers told us.

On the other hand, in other places, it has sent positive messages about the place of homosexuals in God’s church.”

For Morgan, the highlight of Lambeth was the march in London to honour the UN Millennium Goals.

As the Prime Minister reminded us, 10 million children each year die avoidable deaths from Tb, polio, diphtheria and malaria; 77 million children have no schools to attend and 100 million people face starvation in our world today.

I am left wondering that had we spent our energy on promoting these goals, rather than on debating sexuality over the last 10 years, how different things might be now.

To that, I say a hearty “amen.”

[Unless otherwise noted, all emphasis is added.]

16 September 2008

Two Strikes for +Duncan

As you know from my post on Monday, on the House of Bishop/Delegates list there has been a debate raging over the expected deposition of The Rt. Rev’d Robert Duncan, Ordinary of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Some delegates are yelling “depose him!” while other delegates are arguing that any deposition will be illegal under canon law for a myriad of reasons. It is interesting that some delegates who argue the coming action will be illegal actually believe +Duncan “must go.”

Most, if not all, of the priests who are defecting from TEC were ordained under the 1979 Rite of Ordination. The bishops who are attempting to lead their clergy and laity to defect were all consecrated under the 1979 Rite of Consecration. Read what the candidate vows.

In the ordination rite for a priest:

The Bishop says to the ordinand

Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them? And will you, in accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop and other ministers who may have authority over you and your work?


I am willing and ready to do so; and I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.

In the consecration rite for a bishop, the candidate says:

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I, N.N., chosen Bishop of the Church in N., solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.

Notice what each rite requires each person to vow: obedience to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church.

Notice that it does not say “of the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” It says “of the Episcopal Church.”

Today the Rev’d Thomas Woodward posted the following message on the House of Bishops/Deputies list. I reproduce it with his permission:

[My] advice is to look up the meaning of "apostate," then refer to your ordination vows. I don't think you and I are free agents as priests. We serve the church [that] ordained us and are under the authority of our bishop and the doctrine and discipline of the church. That does not order our private thoughts, but is sure does order and constrain our public

Regardless of what may or may not be the legal standing of +Duncan’s pending theft of church assets, one thing is indisputable: he has refused to conform to the discipline of The Episcopal Church. Furthermore, he has publicly repudiated the person of the Presiding Bishop and church to which he belongs and from which he received Holy Orders. He considers both the Presiding Bishop and TEC “apostate.”

The Rev’d Mr. Woodward continued his post with an excellent example:

If one of your parishioners, working for a woman, were to excoriate her in public by calling her a wonton whore . . .and the business she owns a fake enterprise bilking its customers, would you consider that "company loyalty?" What do you think about his prospects for continuing employment there?

This is what +Duncan has done at a bare minimum.

If there is doubt that deposition is legal based on what it is presumed +Duncan will do at the coming convention in Pittsburgh, there is no doubt that Duncan has abandoned the discipline of The Episcopal Church. For this alone he must be deposed and removed from office.

But it goes much deeper. +Duncan orchestrated the first vote to remove the accession clause. The vote could not have happened without +Duncan’s support and approval. IF he did not approve of the action, he has never said so. And, if he disapproved of the action he could have resigned as the bishop. But he has done neither.

There is only one conclusion possible: he was behind the action and he heartily approves of it. That is abandonment of the discipline of The Episcopal Church.

By calling TEC “apostate,” he has abandoned the doctrine of said Church.

By his own actions and words, +Duncan has broken two of the three things he vowed when consecrated a bishop of The Episcopal Church. There is only one option the bishops of this Church can take – Remove him from office.

But, will they?

My thanks to Fr. Woodward for allowing me to quote him for this post.

15 September 2008

Second verse, same as the first

Well, this is the week of the “show down” in Salt Lake City. But the question is, will they or won’t they depose the Rt. Rev’d. Robert Duncan, Ordinary of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. My two pence is that they will not do it. I base this on a variety of reasons, one of which is a desire not to aggravating the fundamentalists still in the Episcopal Church.

It has been interesting to follow the debate over on the House of Bishops/Deputies list service. There are definitely two camps: Depose him remove him from the diocese, and the Dan Martin crowd that is screaming that anything the HOB does will be illegal and part of the new “Schori doctrine.” The fundamentalists refuse to use her proper name making sure to reduce her to some Mr. Schori’s wife, not the person she is in her own right.

The “it’s illegal” crowd has strange logic, to my understanding. They want us to believe that the canons aren’t being followed properly so any action to discipline/depose Duncan will be null and void. They state that he has done nothing for which to be deposed. The reasoning is that until he actually absconds with the assets and flees for asylum in one of the other provinces poaching in the United States, he is as innocent as a new born lamb.

I simply do not understand that logic. I suppose that I’m just stupid. I believe that if there is a rattlesnake in the house, coiled and rattling like mad, one does not wait until it bites someone before action is taken. And make no mistake, Duncan is a rattlesnake.

The facts are that the Rev’d. Mr. Duncan has stated he is leaving and taking the assets with him. To that end, he has courted the GAFConites in an attempt to become the primate of a new province in North America. He has taken legal actions to remove the assets of the diocese from the Episcopal Church. He has been very open and defiant about these actions where are contrary the same canons he claims are being violated by others.

Now, Duncan refuses to attend the meeting of bishops this week. Why? Because he there is a conspiracy to depose the poor, innocent, humble man. Can we say, “I am not a crook.” Gilbert and Sullivan didn’t write anything this good.

In the ‘real world’ of corporations, Duncan would have been removed a long time ago. However, this is the Episcopal Church where we truly believe everyone is Christian and will always act in a Christ-like manner. Therefore, we allow corporate espionage, sabotage, defiance of the governing rules, and grand theft to be openly practiced and accomplished.

For my two pence, we have the college of bishops to blame. They have a responsibility to the church and they failed to act in the interest of the church. They should have dealt with the crooks in their house; and they should have done so several years ago. Had they acted with any ‘spine’ we would not be in this mess. But, instead, the bishops won’t do anything and the crime will be allowed to take place. And then the bishops will act shocked that this has happened, and the litigation will begin. Remember that 1960’s song “I’m Henry the Eighth?” What was that bridge line – ah, yes, “Second verse, same as the first.”

Pray for the church, my friends.

14 September 2008

Evensong for Pentecost XVIII

This evening, I chose Love Divine as the even song.

For the BBC's Evensong for Holy Cross Day (14 September), click here.

Pentecost XVIII

Proper 19 - Year A [RCL]

By Katerina Whitley

Genesis 50:15-21; Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35

The Old Testament scholar Gerhard von Rad wrote: “Real forgiveness is not a purely interpersonal matter, but it reaches deeply into the relationship of men before God.”

The three lectionary passages today, taken from the end of the book of Genesis, from St. Paul’s Letter to the Roman Christians, and from Matthew’s retelling of Jesus’ parable to his disciples, present us with profound lessons on tolerance and forgiveness.

In the very last chapter of Genesis we read the finale of the Joseph story. There is nothing easy or light or sentimental in the ending of this story, one that reads like an exciting short novel.

Out of jealousy and spite, the sons of Jacob had committed a grave crime against their brother Joseph. Years later they discover that their victim has survived and has become a great man in another land: Egypt. They, too, eventually go to this land to escape starvation, and their wronged brother is the only one who can save them and their huge clan.

Today’s lesson picks up the story right after the death of the patriarch, Jacob. Now that their father is dead, the brothers, filled with guilt, are afraid that Joseph will take revenge on them. They tell him, probably falsely, that it was their father’s last wish that Joseph should forgive them. Joseph’s answer is surprising, even today: “Am I in the place of God?” he asks. “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good.”

This is the crux of the story. God takes evil and turns it into good in order to achieve God’s purpose of salvation. A human being cannot change this. We can hear Joseph’s thinking: What good would it do for me to take revenge on you, when God has changed your evil act against one person into a great good for so many?

Today, we are bound to wonder how different world history would be if all persons and nations thought this way: History is in God’s hands; how can we become gods and change it through war, revenge, and evil?

In the second lesson, St. Paul is not confronting evil but cultural differences that stand in the way of what is good for all. There is that marvelous verse that says, “Welcome those who are weak in faith but not for the sake of quarreling over opinions.”

This hits at all of us. We love to quarrel with others over attitudes, opinions, and customs, over petty things that ultimately have very little to do with who God is and God’s desire for us to live in communion and peace.

The same old arguments that the Pharisees used in their efforts to make Jesus stumble in his answers are now being confronted by Saint Paul in today’s reading. The Jewish converts to Christianity are scandalized by the Gentile converts who are used to eating meat and drinking wine, and who don’t have any traditional commitment to Sabbath observance. So they pick fights with one another. Who here is the weaker and who is the stronger, Paul doesn’t say, but we can guess. He seems to be comfortable with those who eat meat and who don’t agonize over all the minutiae of keeping the Sabbath, but he is also understanding about the differences and a bit amused with the pettiness. We can see him smiling under his beard.

Paul’s reaction is founded on tolerance of differences and respect for those who seem weak to the strong. This is an excellent lesson for us in this age of multicultural encounters and global concerns. Two thousand plus years ago, when people prided themselves on not being tolerant of strangers, comes this early Christian who urged us to respect and tolerate what today we would call cultural differences. We need to remember this urging as we contemplate the differences in our Anglican Communion.

The passage in Matthew delves much, much deeper into the realm of forgiveness, which is profoundly more serious than tolerance.

Like all parables, it is set in its own context, and portions of it may seem harsh to modern sensibilities.

Two points must be clarified about the context of this parable. The law of Moses as presented in the book of Leviticus says this about poverty and being sold into slavery: “If any who are dependent on you become so impoverished that they sell themselves to you, you shall not make them serve as slaves.” We see that being sold into slavery is allowed by the law but the mean treatment of poor people who have to sell themselves into slavery is forbidden.

The second point that must not be ignored is this: Jesus makes it clear that God’s forgiveness is unlimited; that’s what he means by seventy times seven. But the story also presents an obstacle to forgiveness and we will come to that in a moment.

The king in the parable acts with magnanimity and compassion. When the slave begs to be forgiven the debt and not to be sold, the king releases him and forgives the whole debt, which is enormous. The problem comes when the man who is forgiven does not have the same grace and compassion toward those who are indebted to him. This parable makes tangible the meaning of the pleading in the Lord’s prayer: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

Like so much else in the life of faith, it is a paradox. God cannot forgive us until we forgive others. Instead of the Creator initiating the act, it is the creature who must make the first move in forgiveness. This is the only obstacle to God’s forgiveness: our own refusal to forgive.

Forgiveness is much more beneficial to the one who forgives than to the one who is forgiven. All of us know that this is not just theory but understand its truth from experience. Jesus told it as a story that fitted the context of his time. Centuries later, human understanding of emotions would assert this in psychology: forgiving, letting go of feelings of revenge and retribution, is a potent healing act.

As individuals, most of us have experienced the great release of being able to forgive. It has nothing to do with sentiment; it is a powerful act of will. As nations, we have failed miserably. As communities, we have not learned to forgive.

The last verse, with its harshness, is appropriate for all those who seek war instead of peace and who hold on to revenge and meanness instead of practicing forgiveness. “So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

We, as individuals and as nations, need to take this very seriously indeed. “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”

-- Katerina Whitley is an author and retreat leader. For more on her books, retreats, and workshops, visit www.katerinawhitley.net or e-mail katewhitley@charter.net.