13 December 2008

Rio Grande disaffiliates from ACN

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande voted unanimously at its December 9 meeting to disaffiliate from the Anglican Communion Network and to reaffirm its commitment to The Episcopal Church.

In response to the announcement that the Anglican Communion Network (ACN) has chosen to leave the Episcopal Church and join in forming the Anglican Church in North America, the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande voted unanimously to disaffiliate from the ACN," according to a December 11 press release. "The Area Deans, and the Cathedral Dean, added their unanimous endorsement to this action of the Standing Committee.

The Very Rev. Mark Goodman, dean of the Cathedral of St. John in Albuquerque, said the ACN's future direction had been a source of concern for several months. "The threshold was reached on December 3 when the network moved its allegiance under the Common Cause Partnership and the new province," said Goodman, who is not a member of the standing committee.

He added that the diocese is "a pretty diverse mix. I think the picture people have in their mind about the Diocese of Rio Grande being a very conservative and evangelical diocese is, in many ways, not an accurate picture of where we are today.

There are a good many parishes, the Cathedral being one, that are diverse theologically and socioeconomically; the differences with the Episcopal Church were differences of primarily the (former) episcopal leadership.

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey N. Steenson was elected the diocese's eighth bishop on October 24, 2004. He had served as canon to the ordinary under Bishop Terence Kelshaw, who had joined 20 other bishops in dissociating from General Convention 2003's decision to ratify the election of an openly gay bishop. Kelshaw retired in 2004 and subsequently joined the Anglican Church of Uganda. Steenson announced his resignation September 25, 2007, in order to join the Roman Catholic Church. Retired Bishop William C. Frey of Colorado is serving as assisting bishop; a search process for the ninth bishop of Rio Grande is in its early stages, according to the diocesan website.

The standing committee's statement acknowledged congregations "who have sympathy with the work of the Anglican Communion Network" and offered reassurance that "they are valued parts of the Body of Christ that is the Diocese of the Rio Grande."

Goodman said that "a good many parishes and congregations . see their relationship with the leadership of the national church in a much more positive way. That's not to say everyone agrees with everything, but I think there's a sense of positive engagement and wanting to be part of TEC and seeing that as something to be worked toward."

While some congregations may still feel estranged from TEC as well as decisions of Executive Council and General Convention, "most of those congregations are remaining engaged and working hard to do so," he added.

I would venture a guess that Mr. Duncan is not amused.


I've been rejoicing today because it's Santa Lucia Dag! This is a big day in Scandinavia. Lucia is the saint of light. Each year the oldest daughter dresses up like Lucia and delivers Lucia buns to the family in bed. Most communites used to chose a Lucia for the celebration. She has to be blond.

So, for me, and for Goeren, here is a lilla musik for you. It's also for all those Sweds who helped me grow up.

12 December 2008

A Christmas without toys

I grew up in a family that was, to be honest, economically less than blessed. As children and teenagers, we really didn't know we were on the poor side of life. The "poor" were those we took meals to, or went over and helped in other ways.

Mom and dad always found a way to see we had something to make our eyes light up Christmas morning. I don't know how they did it, to be honest. Our gifts were never extravagant, but no one we knew ever got anything extravagant. There were always the dreaded socks, too, to our regret.

I just saw that the USMC's Toy's for Tots is about 25,000 toys short of their typical stockpile at this time of year. The toy bank in my local community has received requests form 700 additional families than it normally receives.

Friends, the economy is bad and we know that. There are thousands of children who will not have a Christmas this year unless we help.

Ask your coworkers to help. Skip lunch today or tomorrow and give that money to make a child's eyes light up on Christmas morning. A child you will never know, a young person who will never be able to thank you. Trust me, you won't miss the few dollars.

Adults understand, but children and teenagers do not understand why there is nothing under the tree.

Yes, this is an appeal to emotion; I hope it worked.

PS I just received an Advent present - a short note from "our" Luiz! He says he is doing well, just busy with the dual degree. What a great Advent present to receive!

11 December 2008

Gay marriag rite? No, a new marriage rite.

It takes a lot of impress me and I'm not known for handing out compliments unless they are well deserved. I've lost friends because I wouldn't hand out gratuitous compliments.

Today I'm both impressed by and handing out a compliment to the Rt. Rev'd J. Jon Bruno who has released a new form for the blessing of marriage in his the Diocese of Los Angeles. You must read the released document.

The rite begins
We have gathered to celebrate the joining of N and N in a covenant of love. This covenant is the promise of hope between two people who love each other, who understand their love as a gift of God, who trust that love, and who wish to share the future together.

It enables two separate people to share their desires, longings, dreams and memories, and to help each other through their uncertainties. It provides the encouragement to risk more and thus to gain more. In this covenant, these two people belong together, providing mutual support and stability, and if it be God’s will, a place in which their children may
That sums it all up in my opinion. Love is being stressed here, not the legal transfer of a woman to a man. I've long said our present forms really do not recognize the "love factor" of the commitment. The collect reflects that love and commitment:
O gracious and everliving God, look joyfully upon N. and N., who come before this assembled community to make a covenant of love, fidelity and life-long commitment. Grant them your blessing and assist them with your grace, that, with true fidelity and steadfast love, they may honor and keep the covenant they make, through Jesus Christ our savior, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever.
What I found most interesting - and inspired - was the lack of sexist language. As I read the document, I kept thinking "This is wonderful!" For years I've thought that our present forms (whether BCP or otherwise) stress the fact that the woman is losing her individual identity and becoming, instead, a man's spouse. That is traditional marriage, after all. This document doesn't do that. The God-given integrity of both people is preserved. The service stresses the companionship and friendship aspect of marriage. Yet, all the things we have come to see as necessary are there including the "til death do us part" bit.
N., will you have this man/woman to be your spouse; to live together in this covenant of love? Will you love him/her, comfort him/her, honor and keep him/her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him/her as long as you both shall live?
Even the community's support and approval is there, but it's not just a "we will" statement - it is an affirmation. The priest asks if the assembly supports the two people and the reply is:
We do in the belief that God has blessed N. and N. by calling them into their covenant with each other.
Then the priest asks the best question of all:
Will you, brothers and sisters in Christ, give your pledge to honor and uphold N. and N.; to recognize them as a family in this community, to guide and pray for them in times of trouble; to celebrate with them in times of joy, to respect the bonds of their covenant, and to seek to discern the continuing presence of Christ within them?
And then there is the priestly blessing of the couple - it actually made me go all "moist eyed."
Most gracious God, we give you thanks or your tender love in sending Jesus Christ to come among us, to be born of a human mother, and to make the way of the cross to be the way of life. By the power of the Holy Spirit, pour out your abundant blessing upon NN and NN. Defend them from every enemy. Lead them into all peace. Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts, a mantle upon their shoulders, and a crown upon their foreheads. Bless them in their work and in their companionship; in their sleeping and in their waking, in their joys and in their sorrows, in their life and in their death. Finally in your mercy, bring them to that table where your saints feast forever in your banquet; through Jesus Christ our Lord who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns one God, now and forever.
I love it! And I particularly love this part: "Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts, a mantle upon their shoulders, and a crown upon their foreheads." That's absolutely beautiful -- the imagery is stunning.

I see Bishop Bruno's form replacing the ancient forms we have had heretofore.

As those who've been with me for a number of years (First at Fr. Jake's and now here) know, I am really a conservative in most things and I see Right II as heresy. But this conservative Anglo-Catholic would have no problem attending any marriage ceremony using this form. It is perfect in every way, in my opinion. Okay, it will be perfect when it is put into Elizabethan English.

If I were a priest in the Diocese of Los Angeles, this is the only form I would use for anyone, "straight" or "Gay."

A tip of the biretta and a hearty thank you to Bishop Bruno and his liturgical commission for the best new liturgy I've seen since 1928.

Go read the document.

UPDATE: Thinking Anglicans has a link to the suggested readings. All the usual readings are there and some very interesting readings have been added. Check it out the readigns here.

10 December 2008

Jon Stewart gets it right

ACN and the delusional Duncan

News was received today that the Anglican Communion Network has voted itself out of existence. As you will recall, they were formed in 2003 at the "suggestion" of the Most Rev'd Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. Their memorandum was signed by ten bishops of the Episcopal Church.

The purpose of the group was to call TEC "back to the faith once delivered to the saints." Credit must be given where due -- they did their best, that fact cannot be denied.

As their structure developed, the member groups elected the Rt. Rev'd Robert Duncan (deposed) as their "Moderator" a Calvinist term.

The group issued a statement today announcing their demise. Their asserts will be turned over to Duncan. This was to be expected since the group is now part of the faith community of Luddites. What is interesting is the statement by Mr. Duncan:
God did not use the Network to change the direction of The Episcopal Church as we had originally hoped. He has used it and us to create a Biblical, missionary and united Anglican province-in-waiting here in North America. We are deeply thankful to Him and to all who have supported its work... [Emphasis added]
Notice what wee word, "united." I had to laugh when I read it. To call conglomeration Duncan heads "united" is like saying the Baptists are a united group of Christians.

From the moment it created itself, one of its leaders announced that he was in "impaired communion" with members of another joining group. The charismatics are not united with the Anglo-Catholics. Members are disjointed over women. The only thing that they are really united on is rabid homophobia that has caused them to lose touch with reality and sanity.

The other interesting bit is that Duncan calls the organization a "province-in-waiting." Now, wait a minute, they call themselves a Province of the Anglican Communion -- all their press releases have made that claim. They couldn't wait to launch their "province" until all the moths had been shooed out of the 16th century theology of Edward VI. And, now, they are downgraded to "province-in-waiting."

That's really interesting. It appears that the baby whose birth was announced and celebrated on 3 December was not born after all, in fact, it isn't even close to labour pains. One must feel sorry for Mr Duncan whose psychosis leads him to the mistaken conclusion that he is not only the most important person in the history of the world since 1540, but also the sole possessor of the Midas touch.

There is a saying in the Deep South that sums it all up rather well, "So, your huntin' dog don't fly, huh." There is also that phrase we hear each day in Evening Prayer
He has cast down the mighty from there seat ... he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart ...
Oh, yes, and from Proverbs:
Pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
If you'd like to read the whole press release, you'll find it here.

07 December 2008

The schism - a reporter finally gets it right

I am breaking the Lord's Day rest for the first time since I began this blog.

An article appeared 7 December in the Huffington Post. It is by Logan Nakyanzi Pollard. When I saw the headline, I thought, in a sarcastic manner, "Oh, great, this out to be good." But in her article, Who will be the History Makers, Pollard demonstrates that she really understands the real issue, not the rally point.

Pollard had interviewed both Bishop Lamb and Mr. Schofield for a radio programme. She cuts to the heart of the matter, rather quickly:

But in actuality the breaking of the union is over a battle over a literal versus non-literal read of The Bible. As breakaway "Anglican" [Mr] John-David Schofield and (non-breakaway) Episcopalian Bishop Jerry Lamb agreed (both interviewed on a radio show I produced this week, both from the same San Joaquin region in California) this is really about scripture, namely who has the power to interpret words: present day 'you' (says the Anglican Communion) or the 'you' (say the breakaway folks) who wrote the words in the past. It's about a fundamentalist reading of The Bible.

Schofield and his minority followers want to stick with the old ways; they've been agitated about gays (and ordained women) for a while. By contrast, the majority of the Anglican Communion is willing to live-and-let live and change with the times.

She then nail the schismatic movement

So the question is this - when do you know when the agitating is wrong or right? Is the breakaway church really proposing "new" thinking or is it re-packaging old ideas? And why now?

Uganda was colonized by the British and most of my father's side of the family grew up with the teachings of the Church of England. These days, some of my relatives have turned to a different shade of religion. They're born-again Christians. This brand has a ghoulish strain of piety, some think that AIDS is cured by faith (so you die of AIDS for lack of devotion) others believe that anyone who is not "saved" is damned... [it]is not especially funny. Nor is it stupidity...It's years of ... all sorts of deprivations that make them feel afraid, hopeless, lacking. (Sound familiar? Sure it does, this cycle repeats itself other places).

My relatives are looking for stability in a shifting environment and they've found it in this brand of fundamentalism. It's also precisely because of this pain that that their ill-conceived beliefs cannot be underestimated. I do not underrate how strongly they will hold onto their ideas, nor what they will do to "defend" them. There's hardly a thing I could say or do to snap them out of it.

I'm telling you this to underline a point. We might laugh at the ignorant or the intolerant, but there are consequences to disregarding them both.

Case in point: In 2001, a cult which grew out of a quasi-Roman Catholic sect in Uganda killed most of its followers, some 1,000 men, women and children. When I was in Uganda in 2001, reporting on this story for ABCNEWS, my base question was, how could this happen?

It was a regular day and all these people died at the hands of folks they were literally praying with the day before. It was banal and easy. Even more disturbing, I remember speaking with followers from other thriving fundamentalist Christian churches and coming home to the relatives I staying with and hearing the same views parroted back. It wouldn't take much for the 2001 tragedy repeat, if only for the prevalence of these views.

As my granny used to say, "And that's how the cows eat the cabbage, kids." That is the danger in the fundamentalist movement.

It seems to me, we have to be vigilantly aware of the power we have to make history. I'm not saying the breakaway Anglicans are suicidal cultists, but I am saying that both groups do converge at some point.

And I think it comes together here: Fundamentalists, cultists ... and what I'm calling old thinkers are about trying to find comfort in things that cannot protect anyone.

The breakaway Anglicans, for example, claim they are unifiers in order to disguise their actions: dividing the community and excluding gays and sometimes women from leadership positions. As the breakaway group advertises:

"Some of us have been praying for this for decades. Instead of focusing on things that divide us, we as orthodox Anglicans are focusing on the things that unite us."
And then she nails the coffin closed:
But the truly terrible and crazy among us are happy to make history. They see the power of the individual and they become the history makers because their individual influence delights them.
It's nice to see a reporter finally "get it" for a change.

Advent II

Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2,8-13;2
Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8

We encounter two voices crying out from the wilderness on this Second Sunday of Advent. The prophet Isaiah calls, “Comfort, O Comfort My People,” and John the Baptist shouts, “Prepare the Way of the Lord.” These stories are joined by more than the prophetic voice. In both our gospel reading and the reading from Isaiah, we take up a story after a significant gap of time.

The gospel reading for this morning was the opening eight verses of the Gospel of Mark. And after a brief preamble, in which the evangelist writes, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” letting us know what sort of story we are going to hear, we get a quote from the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah foretold of one who would come to make straight the paths before the coming of the Lord. Then, so there will be no mistake about who this text refers to, Mark introduces the wild and wooly prophet of the New Testament, whom he calls John the Baptizer.

This is how Mark bridges the distance of roughly five centuries. Mark reduces that time gap of half a millennium by following the words of the prophet Isaiah with the words of John the Baptist. In doing so, Mark reveals that the story of God's love, begun in the creation, is ongoing. As it was foretold long ago, so now God’s story takes up anew with the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God.

This gap between the Old and New Testaments is one more familiar to us. Even if you did not know how long a gap was involved, you probably already knew that there was a break between the two testaments. We encountered a similar break in Isaiah 40, though this one was less obvious.

The earliest Christian writers whose works were revered, but not included in the Bible are usually called as a group, the Church Fathers, and they wrote in the first five centuries of Christianity. These early commentators on scripture agree with modern scholars that there is a considerable gap of time between Isaiah 39 and Isaiah 40. In chapters 1-39, the prophet warns that if the people do not repent and return to the Lord then Jerusalem will fall to its enemies. History shows that this very thing happened.

In 587 B.C., the Babylonian army defeated Israel and took the bulk of the populace, including all of the leadership, into captivity in Babylon. The Jewish people remained in this Babylonian captivity for 48 years. Isaiah chapter 39 was written about Israel’s impending doom. For example, in chapter 39, verse 6, the prophet wrote, “Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left says the Lord.”

This prophecy did nothing to make Isaiah popular. You see, the people of Israel had assumed that as God’s people, God would protect them from any real harm. Surely God would not let Jerusalem and its Temple fall into the hands of the enemy.

Yet the prophets warned that the people were to repent – to turn away from sin, to turn back to God. The prophets warned that unless Israel acted like the People of God they were created to be, God’s protection would not hold.

Jerusalem did fall to the Babylonians, bringing a great social, political, and theological tragedy. After all, how do we know if God loves and cares for us when we see all we care about crumbling around us? Where is God when your dreams lie smashed at your feet?

Isaiah 40 comes into the crushing reality of defeat with a very different word from God. In the midst of the distress created by their defeat in battle and deportation to a foreign land, God sends the prophet to call out, “Comfort, O comfort my people.”

Then we get the words that connect this passage in Isaiah 40 to the opening of Mark’s gospel, for the prophet writes:

“A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’”

Prepare the way for the Lord. This was Isaiah’s message, and it is John’s message as the New Testament opens more than five centuries after Isaiah. Isaiah goes on with a not-too-comforting message, reminding us of how transitory human life is from God’s perspective. He writes, “All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass.”

What then is permanent? What then shall we count on?

The prophet answers that it is God’s word that never fails. He writes, “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.” It is this word of God that endures.

Isaiah, having reminded the people of how temporary they are, then reminds them of the everlasting nature of God’s word. Why do this? Because it was God’s word that the people ignored before they found themselves in captivity. And it is this word of God that has the power to reinvigorate them and return Israel to acknowledging that they are God’s people and to living into that knowledge.

The prophet then describes the comfort God gives with a reassuring image, “He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” These were written as words of comfort to a people who had come to wonder if God cared for them. They were not worried whether God existed. In experiencing judgment, they more likely came to the conclusion that there is a God, but that God is unloving. Then the prophet gives these words of comfort, reminding the people that “the Lord is our shepherd.”

The pattern is all too familiar. Tragedy strikes and the question rings out, “Where was God when this happened?”

How can we account for all the chances and changes of this life, from child abuse to wild fires? Scripture does speak to those concerns, but one can have trouble hearing the voice of God in scripture if the context for hearing the answer is wrong. Tragedy strikes; then we run to the Bible for answers. The text wasn’t designed to work that way. The Bible is not a troubleshooting guide for life. The Bible is God’s living word created to speak to your heart each day.

This has long been the Episcopal Church’s way to encounter scripture – as part of a pattern of daily reading. The daily offices of The Book of Common Prayer were designed centuries ago with daily reading of scripture in the context of worship for all the church. Forward Day by Day, a free daily devotional booklet that the church puts out each year, was created to encourage that daily reading of scripture. The same lectionary readings that are used in The Book of Common Prayer for morning and evening prayer are used in Forward Day by Day. Either source will take less than half an hour to read each day.

With this brief commitment of time added to your morning routine or your commute time, you can marinate your life in God’s word. What this will do for your outlook over time is revolutionary. Rather than encountering issues in life and running to the Bible for answers, you will immerse yourself in the Bible daily and live into the answers from that new outlook.

From God’s standpoint, human life is as fleeting as the grass of the field. Yet God has given our fleeting lives something enduring to which we can anchor – the words of scripture. These are the words that bring comfort and challenge as needed after a long pause of being away from God. These are the words that reveal God’s glory.

Take the challenge. Transform this coming year of your life. Read the Bible a little each day, and in so doing, prepare the way of the Lord.

-- The Rev. Frank Logue is a church planter in the Diocese of Georgia and the vicar of King of Peace Episcopal Church in Kingsland, Georgia. Email: frank@kingofpeace.org.