04 October 2008

Pittsburgh votes to leave

I was writing this post as the convention was taking place, live, following it on Anglican TV. Then, just as the vote was being announced by server went down, so by now you all know what happened. So much for the pride of trying to be first with the convention report. Any road, here is my report on what happened.

The debate started with The Rev'd Dr. Gundersen making a motion that the amendment was out of order because of Robert's Rules of Orders stating that "no rule may conflict with a higher rule" and Article V of TEC Constitution is a higher order. The chancellor said article V does not apply. (Are we surprised?) Ruled the amendments are in order. (Are we surprised?)

Highlights of the debate:
One female deacon said she is leaving because TEC is anti women.

One male priest, a graduate of Trinity School of the Ministry, emotionally urged the convention to stay in TEC. He said he refuses to believe that the Holy Spirit is behind the fracture and wants the diocese to leave.

One lay woman said she had left TEC and wanted the convention to vote to leave. Why was a delegate who "left the Episcopal Church" still a delegate?

Another lay woman delegate said that they had been told the priests would not be able to preach from the pulpits unless realignment happened and that TEC was changing the books of the bible.

Another woman delegate said that she was voting for realignment because she wanted to be part of the catholic church and TEC is no longer catholic. She said that the vote was not to "leave TEC, but to take the AC seriously."

A male delegate said "there is no doubt that over the last 30 years our leaders have been demonized by TEC leadership" but he urged the convention to stay in TEC.

One male priest (speaking against the realignment) with a wonderful British accent said, "If any of you are feeling uneasy about how to vote, it's because Christ is calling you to stay."
And guess who was mentioned in the debate -- Yes, it was Pike and Spong! Are we surprised? A former male lay missionary to Mongolia brought them up. He also said, that in the mission field when the other missioners learned he was Episcopalian they "were shocked because they knew the Episcopal Church was not Christian."

I was surprised that so many clergy spoke for rejecting realignment. They were definitely in the conservative camp, but they recognized that realignment is wrong, dead wrong.

When a motions was made to extend the debate for ten minutes, it was soundly rejected by the delegates.

Ruled blank ballots are, in effect, no votes because they will be counted to show the number present to determine the majority.

And wouldn't you know it, my Internet service went out at the end of Midday prayers -

The Vote on Articles I, XII, and XIII (all dealing with succession)
121 aye out of 160 clergy deputies present (39 no)
122 aye out of 191 lay deputies present (69 no)
We knew this was coming but notice the vote to steal TEC property was not nearly as successful as they expected. And remember who the delegates are -- hand picked and promoted by the secessionist leaders.

In other matters, the convention voted to pass a budget they acknowledged would be useless the moment the result of the vote to schism or not was made known. The treasurer said that regardless of the outcome of the vote to schism, parishes and members were going to leave.


Three Rivers has posted a press relase on today's vote. You'll find it here.

Across the Aisle has posted a letter to the Faithful Episcopalians in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. You'll find it here.

Mark Harris now has a good commentary at Preludium. Make sure to read it by clicking here.

03 October 2008

Bennison to be deposed

From the AP:

Charles E. Bennison Jr., 64, deserved to be ousted from the clergy because of his "very significant failures to fulfill his responsibilities" and "a fundamental lack of professional awareness," the special Court for the Trial of a Bishop said in documents released Friday.

The unanimous nine-person panel of bishops, priests and church members chose the harshest sentence for Bennison, who has been bishop of the nation's fifth-largest Episcopal diocese for a decade. He could have faced a reprimand or a temporary suspension of his duties.

"The court finds that even today (Bennison) has not shown that he comprehends the nature, significance and effect of his conduct and has not accepted responsibility and repented for his conduct and the substantial negative effects of that conduct," the ecclesiastical panel wrote.

After Bennison's four-day trial in June, the court found him guilty of two counts of "conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy."

The victim, now 50, said she had no doubt Bennison was aware of the sexual contact between her and his married brother, John Bennison, which started when she was 14 and continued for more than four years. She testified that she turned from a self-described nerd who enjoyed school, sewing and church into a young woman battling depression, suicidal thoughts and alcohol abuse.

The bishop's attorneys said the church did not have any guidelines in the 1970s for reporting sexual abuse and Bennison handled the situation in the best way he knew how.

Bennison testified that he confronted his brother, who denied any wrongdoing, and decided not to tell the victim's family or pursue an investigation to save the church from scandal and protect the girl, who would have "been regarded as licentious (and) immoral." He also said he didn't know long-swirling rumors about his brother's conduct to be fact until years later.

The Associated Press typically does not identify victims of sexual abuse.

Attorneys for Bennison were not immediately available Friday to comment on the sentence.

Bennison was chosen in 1998 to head the Pennsylvania diocese, which has 53,000 members in Philadelphia and its suburbs. At the time of the abuse, he was rector of St. Mark's Church in Upland, Calif., in the Diocese of Los Angeles, and his brother was a lay minister there.

John Bennison, who never faced criminal charges, left the priesthood two years ago.

Let's see how the donatists spin this one.

Associated Press comments on the situation in the Anglican Communion

The headline says it all: "Episcopal dioceses mulling split over Bible, gays." Well, that says some of it, any road, but it leaves out the bit about "no women" and "power, power, greed, and power."

AP religion writer, Rachel Zoll posted the following:

NEW YORK — Three theologically conservative Episcopal dioceses will soon vote whether to secede from the liberal church in a dispute over how they should interpret what the Bible says on many issues, including homosexuality.

In 2006, the Diocese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno, Calif., became the first to break away. The Diocese of Pittsburgh, Pa., plan to vote on secession during a meeting Saturday. Dioceses in Quincy, Ill., and Fort Worth, Texas, are set to cast ballots on withdrawing next month.

At stake is church unity, tens of millions of dollars in Episcopal assets and the shape of Episcopal relations with the rest of the world Anglican Communion.

The 77 million-member fellowship, which includes the Episcopal Church, has roots in the missionary work of the Church of England. Most overseas Anglicans believe Scripture bars gay relationships, and some Anglican leaders have intervened in the U.S. on behalf of conservatives.

Here are the key issues behind the votes:

Q: Why are Episcopal dioceses considering secession?

A: Episcopalians have been divided for decades over what Scripture says on many topics, including salvation through Jesus, Christ's resurrection and gay relationships. But the rift broke wide open in 2003 when the Episcopal Church consecrated the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Some Episcopal conservatives said they could no longer remain with the denomination.

She forgot to mention that they have been saying that since 1928 when the new, radical, ROMAN, prayer book was published. And she completely forgot that bit about no women priests. But of course, it’s not a good thing to mention that these fundamentalists are again’ wimmin and wimmin’s rights.

Q: What happens when a diocese secedes?

A: The breakaway Diocese of San Joaquin has affiliated with the conservative Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, based in Argentina, in an effort to remain Anglican. Other seceding dioceses could do the same.

Well, she forgot that Schofield’s “diocese” is 1) illegal under Southern Cone canons and constitution, and not recognised by the Sea of Canterbury. Therefore, it’s not Anglican. But, reporters should never let facts get in their way.

Q: What happens to parishioners who want to stay with the Episcopal Church?

A: In San Joaquin, parishioners aided by the national denomination elected a new Episcopal bishop to reorganize the Episcopal diocese alongside the breakaway diocese. The national church meanwhile sued the breakaway diocese for control over millions of dollars in parish assets. In Pittsburgh, parishioners opposed to secession have spent years planning how they can reorganize their diocese and parishes, and maintain service programs, in the case of a split.

Yes, Duncan and his minions have spent years figuring out how, exactly, they can commit theft, fraud, and libel, and get away with it.

Q: Is the entire Episcopal Church coming apart?

A: No. Most of the 2.2 million Episcopalians don't consider their theological differences cause to leave the church. Although the exact figure is in dispute, Episcopal leaders say that less than 100 of their more than 7,000 parishes have voted to split off since Robinson was elected. Still, it's a significant blow when even one of the 110 dioceses walks away and tries to take church assets along. Secessions can lead to complex, costly legal fights.

Well, she got that right; TEC is not falling apart as the fundamentalists want the world to believe. Nor is TEC apostate nor is our primate a pagan. If she is a pagan as Akinola called her, then I’ll go for the pagans; at least they are honest.

Q: Are other denominations facing similar conflicts?

A: Yes. Several mainline Protestant groups, including Presbyterians, Methodists and Lutherans, have also wrestled for decades with how they should interpret the Bible and whether they should accept same-sex partnerships. Leaders of those denominations are monitoring the Episcopal situation for any lessons on how they can handle their own differences.

What she fails to mention in the case of TEC or the other denominations is that this is more about power than anything else. The Southern Baptist Convention lost a power struggle between fundamentalists and sane Christians in their church. It was about power, but disguised in theological nonsense. That is what is happening in all the mainline, sane, churches in America.

And what is that group that is behind and funding the American religious putsch? I noticed that she forgot to mention them. Hum, let's see -- three wee initials. Any guesses?

02 October 2008

Exodus to Fundi-land or a limp and a wimper?

Being the great and powerful Oz, who knows all things (yeah, right!), I feel confident in offering my prediction about Saturday’s event in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

We cannot examine the coming events without keeping in mind what happened last December. David Schofield had twenty years to lay his dominoes in order so that when he was ready to really play the martyr card, all the dominoes went down in order as planned. He very nearly succeeded, too. But there were a few sane individuals in the diocese and his putsch was not a exactly the world stopping even his ego expected it to be.

So, how do I assess the situation in Pittsburgh.

First, Duncan only had twelve years to do his dirty work. Compare that to Schofield’s twenty-year reign that followed a long reign by a bishop just as conservative, although far less mentally unstable, as Schofield.

Second, we are dealing with a group of Episcopalians who are long-time Episcopalians. Per capita, there are more Episcopalians whose families have been Episcopalians for generations in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. By comparison, the Episcopal Church in the San Joaquin Valley is a relative newcomer. It has a disproportionate percentage of people whose ancestry is in the Mid West/South (think Dust Bowl migration), and Baptist/Pentecostal.

Third, Pittsburgh has a more educated membership, per capita, than in San Joaquin. That is not a “bigoted” statement. Statistically, San Joaquin has fewer college graduates. I learned that at CPSU a couple of years ago. In all of California, San Joaquin’s college graduate population is lower than the rest of the state. Also, the central valley is still largely a farming community. Farming skills are more valuable than English degrees (and I completley agree with that!).

Fourth, we have the events of December 2007. Instead of Schofield being the leader of the pack (that his ego thought he would be), he has been the source of reassessment. Schofield didn’t have all his ducks in a row, nor did he even know what ducks needed to be lined up. His was the test case, as it were, and the other Donatist bishops have watched and learned valuable lessons.

Fifth, the realignment changed absolutely nothing for the people in the pews and the priests. In David-land, absolutely nothing has changed. Schofield and his clerical minions wanted no female priests; they already had that. They wanted no out clergy; they already had that. They did not want a female primate telling them what to do; they already had that. The requested APO was proposed to them; they rejected it. They wanted to teach a charismatic-fundamentalist version of Christianity; they were already doing that. Everything they said they had to leave to obtain they already had. Well, except power but in Schofield's case he had power and he abused people with that power.

So, what did realignment actually do? It gave them more headaches than they had already and fed Schofield's immense ego. But it did not give him the ultimate power he craved -- it ended in an insult from Canterbury.

Pittsburgh doesn't want more headaches. Like David-land, everything that the Duncanites want, they already have, except for more power which the polity of TEC does not allow them to have, and the pride of saying "me, me, me," and false martyrdom.

But, not only were the bishops watching the Schofield show; the laity were watching, too. And they were learning. They do not want the mess that Schofield created. They do not want to be in limbo in the Anglican Communion. Schofield’s invitation to Lambeth was rescinded.

Regardless of what the donatists want to believe, the World Wide Anglican Communion has not opened its arms in welcome and admiration to Schofield or Duncan. Yes, the Gafconites have, but they are not the people who count in the communion. (That will come as a great shock to them, I’m afraid.) Unless Rowan completely loses what mind he has left,and welcomes these two former bishops, they remain persona non gratia.

So, what is going to happen.

The vote will be taken and a majority will vote to flee the apostate church and the evil witch of 815. But, the vote will not be reminiscent of last December’s vote in California. In fact, the vote may be very close. Too many people and parishes in the Diocese of Pittsburgh are going to vote “no.” Although they still feel TEC is headed in the wrong direction, they’ve seen the writing on the wall and will stay in TEC. In fact, twenty-five percent of the congregations have already declared that they are stying in The Episcopal Church,. That statistic is from Across the Asile who have a list of "no" parishes/missions.

And, there is room for them at the table. TEC needs communicants from all perspectives. If we are not diverse, we cannot grow nor can we see our reflection, correctly. I know that that statement is not going to be popular, but it is truth, none the less. We must have the ultra conservatives in our midst just as we must have the ultra progressionists in our midst. We have much to learn from one another.

But on Saturday, expect to see Bob on the tele yelling “we just stole a ton of stuff from TEC and we are going to FUNDI-LAND where the most popular ride is delusion."

It is an ironic tragedy that 4 October is the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. Blessed Francis, pray for us.

- - -

On an unrelated personal note, I would like to mention two good friends, Jack and Marian Smith. Jack died last Friday. He was a WWII veteran and sang in a professional choir I directed for a decade. He had an absolutely wicked sense of humour and found something funny in every situation. He had Alzheimer’s the last few years, but fortunately, he was able to write his war experience and it is now part of the permanent record of World War Two. He and Marian were married 64 years. They were my bridge partners as well as close friends.

Yesterday, 1 October, Marian quite unexpectedly died – just five days after Jack did. After 64 years, I wouldn’t want to be separated from my spouse, either. Please pray for them and for their daughter/caregiver, Helen.

I leave them, and you, with an Osage blessing:

My you long travel the path in days that are calm and peaceful.

01 October 2008

Melodrama: Iker's Foley or how to be a thieving wolf in a miter and cope

On Monday, my treatment did not go well, and I've been "laid low" and, consequently, not been up to posting.

So, today, I ask you to please take a moment to go over and read Mark Harris' observations on Bishop Iker's reasons to flee with the family silver and gold. Mark says it well. Click here for Mark's page. I swear, if i hear the word "orthodox" used again to describe the schismatic, thieving, bigoted, fundamentalists, I'm going to scream.

And, pray for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. They need our support.

30 September 2008

Update on Tim and Fran

Fran has given us an update on Tim. You'll find it here. Keep praying, friends.

L'shanah tovah tikatevi v' taihatemi

L'shanah tovah tikatevi v' taihatemi!
May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!

Happy New Year to all our Jewish sisters and brothers

29 September 2008

St. Michael and All Angels, and you, too, Jane

One of the nice things about having one's own bog, is that one may post on anything one so chooses, and it doesn't matter if the material is relevant to anything whatsoever. Today is one of those posts.

Each year on the feast day of St. Michael and All Angels (29 September), my thoughts turn to a grand woman I knew, Jane Luce Yeats. She was organist and mistress of the choir for thirty-eight years in our small, rural parish. Jane wasn't one of "those" organists; she was really, really good. In fact, she was good enough to have played for services at West Point.

Jane's favourite hymn was Ye Holy Angels Bright. Consequently, after Easter Day, Michaelmas was her favourite feast day. We always had Evensong on this day, and the closing hymn was always Ye Holy Angels. I can still her diminutive form sitting at the console of our 1862 Wm Stevens' tracker organ, beatific smile on her face, as we sang "her hymn" at the top of our lungs. We did it that way because we weren't singing for God at that moment, we were singing for "our Jane. Jane has been "gone" for a long time now, but she is not forgotten. Her birthday is tomorrow.

So today, on the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, while TEC contemplates the events coming this weekend, this post is for you, Jane. May you continue to go from light to light, in that land of perfect freedom.

I still love you, Jane. Thank you for all you shared with me, and gave me, and taught me about music and about God' love.

Ye holy angels bright, who wait at God's right hand,
or through the realms of light fly at your Lord's command,
assist our song, for else the theme too high doth
seem for mortal tongue.

Ye blessed souls at rest, who ran this earthly race
and now, from sin released, behold your Savior's face,
his praises sound, as in his sight with sweet
delight ye do abound.

Ye saints, who toil below, adore your heavenly King,
and onward as ye go some joyful anthem sing;
take what he gives and praise him still, through good or ill,
who ever lives!

My soul, bear thou thy part, triumph in God above:
and with a well-tuned heart sing thou the songs of love!
Let all thy days till life shall end, whate'er he send,
be filled with praise!

28 September 2008

Evensong for Pentecost XX

Tonight I'm feeling particularly nostalgic. Remembering things and people long past has caused me to choose a hymn from my childhood. I heard the Voice of Jesus which was one the favourite hymns in TEC in the 50's and 60's.

Evensong from the BBC is located here. It is from Blackburn Cathedral.

Pentecost XX

Proper 21 - Year A [RCL]

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Psalm 25: 1-8; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32

What do you believe? This question may seem very simple to answer at first. But if we are being truthful, it is not an easy question to answer unless, of course, we have memorized the answer from catechism or intentionally discerned the answer and have practiced articulating it to others.

The gospel today demonstrates why it is important to know the answer to this question. Without knowing exactly what you believe, you are sure to be caught in the situation that the priests and elders are in as they are confronted by Jesus. It would have served them well if they had been prepared and could answer confidently. But more importantly, they would have brought together the community if their interests were not self-serving, selfish, and without integrity.

Based on where we are in our corporate lives in the church, articulating our beliefs has become essential. But before we can be building blocks for growing a larger community of faith, we must know what it is in our hearts and souls. This is not to say that our focus should remain there, only that it must begin there. In the end, we are still called into a corporate life in Christ where, together with our sister and brother believers, we continue the work of building up the Kingdom of God in our world.

If Paul’s letter to the Philippians has any ring of truth for us today, then there cannot be community without unity in a corporate belief. Paul tells us that we must be of the same mind as Jesus, and the only way to accomplish that is through love, humility, and reconciliation – not through conceit or selfishness.

It is very difficult to be a community in our world today. Yet it is essential for a holistic, healthy, and happy life. The world we live in today causes us to struggle for balance between the individualism that is encouraged by society and our desperate need to belong. We struggle to reconcile ourselves and be at peace in a world that is connected by technology but knows little about anyone outside our circles.

Let us not trivialize Paul’s message – love, humility, and reconciliation are not just buzz words. They are deeply connecting words that speak through our hearts and souls. They are foundational words used throughout the gospels as Jesus models love, humility, and reconciliation for us.

These characteristics are evident in the parable we heard in today’s gospel. The father, who is the owner of a vineyard, has two sons, and he asks them both to come to work with him. The first son refuses to honor his father’s request but he changes his mind, repents, and then goes to work in the vineyard. The son has a change of heart that he acknowledges through his repentance – a sign of humility, love, and his willingness to discern and reflect reconciliation. The second son says he will go to work but he does not. His actions are an example of selfishness and lack of integrity.

Jesus does not just tell the story about the father and his two sons, but further describes community-building to the elders and chief priests in the temple through their own attitudes about John the Baptist. Jesus tells them that they had a chance to hear what John had to say about justice and righteousness, but they chose to remain fixed on their laws and those things that secured their power. He confronted their selfishness and lack of integrity directly while simultaneously demonstrating that this did not build up the community of faith.

Jesus uses the faith of the tax collectors and prostitutes who heard John’s message and changed their ways to show community-building at its best. They model the personal responsibility we each have to change, seek justice, listen, and hear the truth in differences. The prophetic words of Ezekiel say clearly that those who have considered and turned toward a change for justice and willingness to hear truth in difference will live. They will find a new heart and a new spirit.

As we listen to these readings and discern our own hearts and souls, we begin the process of answering the question, “What do you believe?”

Listening and hearing our readings in the context of celebrating our corporate lives is another step. The next step requires that we share our hearts with each other and then with everyone we encounter in our lives. This doesn’t mean that we “evangelize” to everyone everywhere. But as St. Francis is attributed as saying, “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”

What do you believe? It needs to be evident in the way we live and relate. Living with integrity means that there is no break between our words, actions, and faith. Living with integrity means that we can discerns God’s voice in those expected and unexpected places and that we not only listen but are willing to change as we grow in our personal and corporate faith.

We want to be people who, when asked who we are, can reply with confidence because we know our hearts and souls and live accordingly. We want to be a people who dismantle injustice and practice humility as we listen to the Spirit’s call on our lives. In short, we want to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. We just need to begin with knowing what we believe.

-- The Rev. Debbie Royals is a regional missioner for Native Ministry Development, based in the Diocese of Los Angeles. She is the Province VIII Indigenous People's Network chair and a CREDO health faculty member. E-mail: debbieroyals@sbcglobal.net.