14 February 2009

Senator? Jesus on the Line about Prop 8

What better St. Valentine's Day present could we give our sisters and brothers than to help restore the constitutionality of marriage.

You have been given a unique opportunity today. We have been given the opportunity so express our outrage that Proposition 8 was allowed to pass and thereby deny constitutionally guaranteed rights to be ruthlessly taken away from some of our sisters and brothers.

Tuesday our California House and Senate will consider two resolutions - not legislation, but resolutions. Basically, they say that prop 8 was improper, and violates the equal protection clauses in the state constitution.

Since the legislature makes the laws and represents the people, these resolutions will send a strong message to the court. Even more important, these resolutions provide solid legal arguments to overturn prop 8.

If you would like to make your views known on these resolutions, it will take less than ten minutes of your time.
  1. You need to know your State Assemblyman (or woman) and State Senator. Go to this website and submit your zip code. It'll give you both of them, along with all their contact info. (30 seconds)
  1. Call your Assembly person. Most likely, a staff member will answer the phone. Tell them that you're a constituent, and ask for your Assemblyman's (or woman's) position on HR 5. If they support it, then tell them thank you very much. If they don't, then tell them that they should support it, and you'll be thinking about this next time elections roll around. This conversation will probably be surprisingly short and easy. (3-4 minutes)
  1. Call your State Senator. Ask about their position on SR 7. If they don't support it yet, then tell them that they should and remind them that you vote. (3-4 minutes)

If you want further information, you can check out Equality California's website here. They've got some great fact sheets, as well as the full text of the resolutions.

If you would like to use an email to make your views known, go here. You'll need to register but it takes only a minute. Sign in here and then use the "form" email by simply clicking send.

If you are not sure you want to do this, remember that Jesus always stood up for the persecuted and outcasts. He broke bread with them. WWJD? He'd make the telephone call right now.

There is a very old hymn one line of which reads:
    He has no hands but ours
    He has no feet but ours
    He has no voice but ours
Sisters and brothers, go be the voice of Jesus.

Friday, Third Week of Lent - The Way of Sorrow

This week the Stations of the Cross are found here.
We adore thee, O Chirst, and we bless thee because by thy holy cross thou hast redeemed the world

Almighty and eternal Father, accept our prayer of thanksgiving for your Beloved Son, our Saviour and Lord. As we recall his Sacred Passion send the Spirit of Christ into our hearts, we beg You, so that whether we pray or work we might do all in union with Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

12 February 2009

A prayer request for Roseann

One of our Fr. Jake cyber-family members, Roseann, has been hospitalized. She was vomiting all day and spiked a temp to 103.
Heavenly Father, watch over thy child Roseann, and grant that she may be restored to that perfect health which it is thine alone to give; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Alexandria Communique though the eyes of a seminarian and Honors Fellow

"Are we a global church, or are we a federation of local bodies?" So begins the best analysis of the recent primates' meeting that I've read. It comes from First Things, a Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life - a publication for academics and clergy in institutes of higher learning.

Seminarian Jordan Hylden, a graduate student at Duke Divinity School, has given us his interpretation of what the Alexandria meeting means to the future of the Anglican Communion. In my opinion, he is spot on. Hylden tells us that the answer to the above question is "A global church, there there's a lot of work to do before we get there."

Hylden, who describes himself as "an Episcopalian interloper studying at a Methodist seminary", does not see the Communion as a lost cause.
To be sure, Orombi did not change his mind about the deep theological differences separating his church from more liberal Anglican churches; communion for him as for other conservatives, was still very much broken.

But that is not the same thing as saying that the communion does not matter, and is not worth working towards. For Orombi and his compatriots, it would seem that a genuinely Anglican communion, stretching around the globe, rooted in Canterbury, and united in the truth of the Gospel, is indeed worth fighting for, and even now is far from out of reach.
That, in a very real way, is bad news for the progressives in the Communion, in my opinion. "United in the truth of the Gospel" is t he troublesome part of the above statement. What that means is that "there is hope for a global church as long as the fundamentalists are in charge of that church. And it will not be inclusive."

That is the real message of the Alexandria conference. That is why the GS cohorts were seemingly so congenial.

He also comments on the WCG Report

The report of the Windsor Continuation Group, commissioned for the meeting and released alongside the primates’ communiqué, frankly acknowledged the deep and widening divisions in the Anglican world. While most Anglicans agree that there simply must be “some limit to the extent of the diversity which can be embraced” regarding faith and morals, there has not yet been any agreement reached as to where those limits are found or who decides what they might be. “What,” the report asked, “are the sources that need to be brought to bear on any [disputed] issue? What are the structures through which discernment takes place?”

The answers to those crucial questions, as has become embarrassingly and painfully obvious in recent years, are simply not clear. Anglicans do not agree on the content of the faith, the authority of Scripture, or the loci of ecclesial authority. In fact, Anglicans do not even agree on how far or whether it is necessary to agree on such matters.

It is just this, the primates argued, that Anglicanism needs to change if it is to survive as a genuine communion. Although Anglicans have historically been jealous of their autonomy, the primates contended that their emphasis ought to shift from autonomy to “communion,” “accountability,” and “interdependence.” They signaled that these points must be made concrete in terms of binding doctrine and institutional authority.

He is correct about that. It is a matter of greater importance to the GS primates than it is to the primates of the rest of the communion.

Commenting on William's statement that "Unless the covenant is robust and accepted the federal model [of communion] does loom on the horizon" Hylden has this to offer.
But it is precisely the “federal model”—Anglicanism as a federation of autonomous, doctrinally diverse local churches—that did not fare well at Egypt, just as it found disfavor last summer at Lambeth. We have seen, in both cases, something of a consensus emerging. The great majority of Anglicans worldwide seek a “deeper communion” with each other, and are prepared to cede a certain amount of their autonomy to achieve it.
Again, he is correct, but it is many primates who are willing to cede a certain amount of autonomy. It is not the people in the pews. The primates represent the pinnacle of the polity of each province - a presidents' meeting, not a meeting of the Communion members. I continue to submit that ninety percent of the world's Anglicans do not care about the "schism" -- the schism is a leadership obsession.

Hylden concludes
All of these issues and then some remain to be worked out in due time. “There is,” as the WCG report said, “a fundamental ecclesiological question” at stake: “do the churches of the communion wish to live as a communion?” No doubt some do not, but in Egypt as at Lambeth, it has appeared that most of them do. For their part, the primates in Egypt showed a remarkable willingness to work together for the good of the communion, rejecting both the easy disunity of atomized purity and the false, surface-level harmony of smiles and happy feelings, determining instead to seek the unity in fellowship that comes only in the truth of the gospel and at the foot of the cross.
But, for me, the question that remains is, who will be sacrificed for that unity?

Please take the time to read Hylden's article The Anglicans in Egypt: A Deeper Communion. You should also read his article Anglican, or Episcopalian. It is worth the time to read.

11 February 2009

Being undone by the power of the spirit

Our cyber-friend Katie Sherrod has a blog called Desert's Child. She reports on the events in Ft. Worth. It's really a blog you should read frequently.

Last Sunday her post was a report of the special convention to reorganize the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth. I've read the post about a dozen times because of one small detail she relates. You really must read - it gave me "Holy Ghost Bumps." Knowing that most people won't click the link and read the whole article, here is the part that really captured the whole essence, in my opinion:
As the service ended, and the clergy and choir recessed and began to gather outside the big double doors, Bishop Katherine emerged. She stepped to one side until one of the clergy asked for her blessing.

As she stepped forward and raised her hand, nearly all the priests spontaneously knelt, surprising her and themselves. One of them said to me later, “I fell to my knees, undone by the power of the moment. I wasn’t expecting that, but it seemed so right.”
When I read that, to use a Baptist phrase, "I felt the witness of the spirit." I wish there was a photo of that moment. I'd print it and put it on my refrigerator - and post it on TTLS.

Katie's report makes me so thankful that I worship in a relatively healthy diocese. And it makes me weep for those who've suffered so much from maniacal clergy.

Go read Katie's blog.

10 February 2009

DV: The adulterer and bigamist who fans the fire of schism

At the press conference following the Alexandria meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, an interesting thing happened.

While the Most Rev'd Daniel Deng, Archbishop of Sudan, answered questions about the situation in Sudan -- which was the only reason he said he was at the press conference -- one reporter, unhappy that the primates' meeting had been so "nice." attempted to derail the press conference. Adulterer and bigamist David Virtue wasn't concerned about the starving, suffering masses of Sudanese; his primary concern? +Robinson's sexuality.

Not only did his question come from left field, he took the answer and, in true Virtue style, misrepresented the it to invent a sensational story to his satisfy the blood lust of his readers.

Of course, not to be "scooped," a few other reporters picked up the story, including Riazat Butt who also said there was a renewed call for +Robinson's resignation and the resignation of all those bishops who were in attendance at +Robinson's ordination.

Neither Virtue nor Riazat accurately reported the answer. ++Deng said his opinion had not changed on the subject since Lambeth 2008. That is not the same as a "renewed call" for resignations. ++Deng went on to say that he had no plans to break communion with provinces that disagreed with that position.

Virtue and Butt also ignored the fact that relations between the Province of Sudan and TEC are stronger now than before Lambeth 2008.

Although Butt was merely reporting the question (and putting the best "selling" spin on it), her article has been questioned. It appears that she is a bit thin skinned about the sting. Her reply to the criticism at Thinking Anglicans was:
...[W]hy don't you read the whole story . . . you might be pleasantly surprised although your disapproval is so intense right now that it would take a miracle for you to think better of me. Anyway, you've made your mind up already so I shall say goodbye to [Thinking Anglicans] - remind me not to get involved again.
I actually do feel sorry for her - she was caught in one of DV's attempted coups.

DV is a pit bull about homosexuality. I've only encountered two other persons as rabidly obsessed with homosexuality as DV is: one was J. Edger Hoover (and we all know what they found in his closet - a gay marriage and several dresses) and the other a school mate who came out of the closet thirty years after we graduated.

Jerry Falwell, while being driving though San Francisco, encountered a group of gay rights protesters. He turned to his assistants and said, "Ah, where would I be without them." Virtue can say the same thing.

Like Falwell, both Virtue and Akinola have used gay rights as the escalator upon to fame. All three would be obscure pipsqueak clerics were it not for the equal justice movement.

For a long time I've wondered just who Virtue is. The research revealed an interesting picture.

First, Virtue, is not Episcopalian. He is not even Anglican.* He is a Baptist minister. It gets better folks -- he was ordained in the American Baptist Conference - the liberal wing of the Baptist world. The Westchester, Pennsylvania resident served as associate pastor of St. Paul's Baptist Church in Montclair, New Jersey for two years.

The American Baptist Conference is/was the continuation of the original Baptists. They believed in freedom of conscience, religious belief, and personal interpretation of scripture. However, that group recently split into a new ultra-fundamentalist wing and the continuing Baptist group. The split was over homosexuality -- whether to welcome them into worship or not. Most of the ABCUSA congregations in California affiliated with the new organization.

Virtue, a Wellington, NZ native, studied English at Scots College in Wellington before going to London Bible College (Now London School of Theology) where he completed a diploma in theology. He also studied at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield Illinois.

It was this Baptist minister, an flagrant adulterer and bigamist, who walked up to the microphone of TEC's General Convention and told a premeditated lie about Robinson's web page in an attempt to prevent Robinson from being consecrated. DV said,
Did you know that Robinson's web site is linked by one click to 5,000 pornographic websites?
The truth was that, after clicking a link on the website to an organisation Robinson had not been affiliated with for two years, then clicking a link on that site (and doing repeating this process six more times) there was link to a pornographic site. That is eight links removed from Robinson's site.

What was the "upstanding" Baptist minister's reply when his lie was exposed? No apology, no admission that he was wrong, no admission that he had deliberately lied. Instead, the open adulterer said
The links were up last night when I looked at that time. I think that the Presiding Bishop must have spanked Gene Robinson and had him remove them overnight.
Research also uncovered that Virtue is currently living in sin - he divorced his first wife, Linda Greenberg Virtue who is still living. Divorce is a blatant sin - Jesus said so - except in cases of infidelity. So, either Virtue was virtueless and unfaithful to his marriage vows or he is living in sin. Additionally, like so many of the right wing politicians, Virtue divorced his wife after she was diagnosed with a life altering medical condition.

But as the fundamentalists are expert cherry pickers. Jesus' teaching on divorce no longer applies. They are not part of "The Faith Once Delivered to the Saints" that the fundamentalists have as their motto. It is too bad that Jesus' words do not count for much with the fundamentalists.

I also discovered that there is the question of DV's doctorate degree. He frequently adds "D.D." to his list of titles. In the Western World, doctorate of divinity degrees are not earned - they are honorary. If he earned it, the degree would have to be from an obscure Eastern European institution. I can't find which institution granted it to him. Of course, there are places where one may purchase a Doctor of Divinity Degree.

This, then, is a small portrait of the man behind the voice of the schism. A divorced Baptist minister peddling intentionally manipulated stories and blatant lies to Calvinists who, in their hatred, are swallowing it hook, line, and sinker. Oh, yes, and praising the DV for his righteousness.

My question remains: Why is a Baptist minister, an adulterer and bigamist, so obsessed with the affairs of the Anglican Communion. There are only two possible answers in my mind: 1) This was the only way a second rate journalist could become "famous" or 2) Someone is compensating very well for his propaganda. As I've been unable to "follow the money," I'm left with the former as my answer.

- - -

* Tip of the biretta to reader "Anglican" who provided a link to a statement by DV that his "parish is the Church of the Good Samaritan, Paoli, PA". The CGS is still in TEC.

So the new question is, what brought this ordained Baptist minister, a fundamentalist, to the Episcopal Church from the Baptist denomination?

08 February 2009


(Seventy days until Easter)

Isaiah 40: 21-31; Psalm147: 1-12, 21c; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1: 29-39
    Introit: The sorrows of death surrounded me, the sorrows of hell encompassed me; and in my affliction I called upon the Lord, and He heard my voice from His holy temple. -- (Ps.17. 2, 3). I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength: the Lord is my firmament, my refuge, and my deliverer.

At first sight, it may seem odd that the lectionary offers us a reading from Isaiah that is all about God the cosmic creator and giver of power, and then there is a reading from Mark’s gospel that includes the small scene of Jesus’ healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. How does the might, majesty, dominion, and power of God the Creator, as set forth in Isaiah’s poetry, shed light upon Jesus exorcising demons and healing people in the Gospel of Mark?

The first clue lies in our liturgical context: the season of the Epiphany, which began with twin themes of our baptismal identities and the light of Christ shining in the world.

These themes led us first into readings about God’s call to us. By trying faithfully to understand the shape of that call, we have revisited our responsibilities as outlined in our baptismal promises. As we have been engaged in this, we have invoked the light of Christ to shine ever brighter upon our path, helping us to discern our ministries and mission in the world.

Now we turn to pick up another side to the Epiphany message: that Christ is a light “to the Gentiles” – to those who lie outside our usual framework.

Our Isaiah reading today shows the prophet encouraging his despondent hearers. It was a long moment of great crisis for our ancestors, who continued to live in exile away from the Land of Promise, without Temple or monarchy, and under the rule of a foreign, pagan people. Isaiah wants his hearers to know that their God is a lot bigger than they seem to think he is. Not only is God the maker of their covenant relationship, the maker and savior of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the savior manifest in the mighty acts of the Exodus, the God of Moses, the God of David, and so on; their God is also the Creator and maker of the universe.

In a magnificent reinterpretation of the first chapter of Genesis, our reading from Isaiah slowly and deliberately shows that in calling into existence the whole cosmos, God has also called into existence all the peoples of the earth. They are consequently under his divine jurisdiction as are the sun, the moon, the stars, and everything else “on high.” Therefore, although God’s understanding of the various nations and peoples may be quite inscrutable, the reach and scope of God’s activities are universal and endless in scope.

Beneath and behind the vicissitudes of any given political situation, this God is hard at work; for the God of Israel is also the God of the Gentiles. So even in crisis and in a situation where they cannot see any positive outcome, Isaiah’s hearers are instructed to “wait for the Lord.” By “waiting,” Isaiah means trusting, even when things look hopeless we are still to trust this God.

When we turn to the first chapter of Mark’s gospel, we find Jesus the Son of God manifesting the universal reach and scope of God’s activity. Because his gospel is first and foremost the Good News about Jesus, Mark does not worry about cosmic matters.

Unlike Luke, for example, Mark does not even fill out the historical and political context for us; he simply rushes Jesus onto the stage and shows the Son of God in action. Unlike Matthew, Mark does not paint in the background of Torah and the rest of the Sacred Writings. With Mark, it is for us to infer that this Jesus is Son of the same “God of the whole universe” whom Isaiah was talking about, and that the people of God are, once again, in some sort of historical and political crisis.

In last week’s gospel reading we saw that Jesus has the authority and power to cast out demons, and now we have a scene of Jesus with the power to heal bodily illness. In terms of Mark’s first-century audience, both episodes demonstrate the universal reach and scope of God’s activity embodied in Jesus. You and I would call psychiatrists, doctors, and spiritual directors when we have mental, emotional, psychological, or physical symptoms of some sort. In the world of the New Testament writers, such symptoms were understood as the manifestations of cosmic spiritual disorders.

What Mark shows right up front in the first chapter of his gospel is that God is establishing the beginning of His kingdom on earth in the person and work of his beloved Son, Jesus. This kingdom is about reordering the condition and priorities of peoples’ lives – not only in opposition to the political order established in King Herod and the Temple priesthood in Jerusalem, but also against what St. Paul and others generally call the unseen “principalities and powers” that operate outside the control of human beings.

These principalities and powers were every bit as important to the people of Galilee in the first century as their political oppressors. Jesus’ healing brought Peter’s mother-in-law back into everyday life in God’s presence. She is the first of several nameless women in Mark’s gospel whom Jesus heals and thus reestablishes to their proper social and religious lives.

The good news of God in Christ is intended to set us all free from everything that blocks our ability to “get up and go” into the kingdom of God in our time. Nobody is beyond the scope of God in Christ, no matter the crisis: not the people of Zimbabwe, not the Palestinians in Gaza, not the population of Mosul and Basra, not the men and women in the poppy fields of Afghanistan and Kurdistan, and certainly not your best friend with breast cancer or your uncle with Alzheimer’s.

Nobody and no circumstance is outside the reach and scope of this God. Yet for us, as for Isaiah, the ways of God in dealing with Zimbabwe, Gaza, Mosul, and Kabul are often hard to understand. What we have to do is trust in this God and live into our Baptismal Covenant as best we can. This means focusing on our own political reach, attending prayerfully to the scope of our created gifts and skills in the communities where we work and vote, sending the fruits of our life and labor to assist in God’s liberating work in places of crisis, praying for the peace of God, which alone can reestablish order in everyday life.

The Epiphany light is still shining on our paths so that we can be a light to the world.