23 May 2009

Church of Scotland General Assembly says "aye" to gay minister

According to The Press Association, The Kirk of Scotland's highest governance assembly has rejected an attempt to block the appointment of The Rev'd Mr. Scott Rennie as a minister of the Scottish Kirk. The vote took place about two hours ago.

According to The Herald
Commissioners voted 326 to 267 in favour of appointing the Rev'd Scott Rennie, 37, currently at Brechin Cathedral, who had the support of the majority of the congregation at Queen's Cross in Aberdeen and the presbytery.

The gathered commissioners at the supreme court meeting of the Church of Scotland heard how left handed people were once considered "not normal", how in Roman times faithful homosexual relationships were accepted, and how the Kirk had previously changed its mind over controversial issues such as its stance on female ministers.

We don't stone women, we don't stone adulterers, we've moved on from that. The living word is Jesus and I think the question is, what would Jesus have done?
I should point out that the Church of Scotland is the Presbyterian Church, and should not be confused with the Anglican Church in Scotland which is, officially, The Scottish Episcopal Church.

The Scotsman reported that tough times are ahead for the Kirk
The debate on the subject of the acceptance of Rev Scott Rennie as Minister of Queen's Cross Church in Aberdeen, will certainly divide the church, as I believe it will be impossible to come to any sort of compromise.

The polarisation of conservative evangelical Christians and those of a more moderate and liberal stance has become more evident in recent years. The issue of homosexuality which the church wished would just "go away" must now be faced.
The article continues:
Around 10 per cent of the male population is gay. This has not altered as a statistic for generations, and is constant throughout all races.

These men do not "choose" their sexual orientation. They are born with it.

We know that gay men are often particularly skilled in the areas of art/music/theatre, and also in the "caring professions" such as nursing, and in the hospitality sector.

Where is the church's respect for the individual? Scott Rennie has already been labelled "the gay minister" in people's minds. What about him as a person with feelings, talents and a life to live without fear of discrimination.
Dani Garavelli puts it in perspective:
If there is to be a schism in the Church of Scotland over this matter it will not have been caused by Scott Rennie but by those who quite clearly may feel more comfortable in a church which places more store in the Old Testament than that which celebrates and promotes the teachings of Christ.
And so it is and so it will be. Are we to live in the Old Testament Law with its bondage or in the life Jesus brought us?

22 May 2009

Armstrong arrested, fingerprinted, and released on bail

The rumours I heard yesterday are, in fact, true. The Grand Jury returned a 20-count indictment of felony theft charges ($291,000) against "the Rev'd" Donald Armstrong, former priest of The Episcopal Church. The Gazette has the details here.

After the arrest warrant was issued, Armstrong surrendered himself to the legal authorities. He was fingerprinted, photographed, and released, presumably on bail. Please note that he was not removed from church property in handcuffs as some have stated.

According to the article,
If convicted on all 20 felony counts, Armstrong, 60, could spend the rest of his life in prison. Each count comes with a possible prison sentence of 4 to 12 years, said Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut. Fines against Armstrong could mount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
With so much evidence against him, and from what we know of his conduct, it is difficult not to prejudge him. We must remember that until the verdict is delivered he is presumed to be innocent according to the law.

The indictment and arrest is a major blow for the schismatics. Armstrong was the shining and "comes-with-lots-of-money" star. Now he has been arrested on charges of grand theft. Ever the spin-doctor, Armstrong said
I will, after years of unbridled false accusations, have my day in court, so this is a good step in that direction.
We shall see exactly what direction that step takes - I'm betting on incarceration. One must wonder what the charges would be if the shredded documents were available to the authorities.

According to the article,
    Grand juries convene when an attorney general or district attorney concludes there is probable cause that a crime has been committed.

    Wednesday's indictment concludes a long chapter in Armstrong's ongoing saga that began in December 2006 when the rector was placed on leave by the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado for alleged financial misconduct.
A Grace Episcopal vestry member put it best, perhaps, "He's got great gifts, but also tremendous failings. He has a sense of entitlement about himself that can lead to this type of behavior." Entitlement is his middle name.

Armstrong's schismatic community is solidly behind him, of course - the Stockholm syndrome at work. According to Kathleen Buzby, a CANA parish member
Until someone actually proves something against Father Armstrong, I'm backing him. He's straightforward and honest.
Another member, Marge Goss (and according to "James in Colorado," a vestry person), said,
The church is totally behind Don, but we will be glad when this is behind us.
Straightforward, yes, but the courts will tell us about Armstrong's honesty.

We should also ask what this arrest means to the credibility of the CANAnites? Remember they pronounced all Armstrong's financial dealings as above-board and legal. Now that he has been officially arrested, will the schismatic leaders inhibit him? Does the U.S. have extradition agreements with Nigeria and Argentina?

But, CANA's irregularly consecrated bishop Martin Minns said:
[T]he indictment was a painful but necessary step in Armstrong's journey of publicly proving his innocence.
After being booked, fingerprinted, jailed and released on bond Thursday, Armstrong returned to St. George's to preside over the evening Ascension Day service. Ah, the hubris.

We are fast approaching the "three-strikes" rule for the ecclesial community of schismatics in the Americas. One must wonder how many aspirin they needed yesterday.

The Denver Post has a good article as well. As of 23 May there is an updated article here. Take note of the lengthy list of links to other Denver Post articles about Armstrong and the ongoing investigation.

For some background, read Fr. Jake's reports here and here. Also see TTLS' posts here and here.

Guess what story a certain site that has the same initials as San Francisco had not posed on even though said story has been out for about 24-hours?

[Updated at 9 AM 24 May]

PS Thanks "Acolyte"

More on Forrester

There was an interesting article in the 17 May edition of Marquette's The Mining Journal regarding the "Christian controversy" that the election of Kevin Thew Forrester has caused. It's worth a read as it is well balanced. You'll find the article here.

After I made this post, I went looking about the web for more information about Fr. Forrester. One one of the "usual sites," there is a post that is a great analysis of the consent situation. I use it without permission of "Karen" whose comment it is.
Theoretically, the vote totals could still be close. We’ve heard from more of the “conservative” (expected NO voting) bishops and dioceses - about 60% of each, as compared with only about 38% of the “liberal” (expected YES voting) bishops and dioceses.

So… don’t be surprised if the YES totals climb quite a bit while the NO totals stay fairly stable for awhile.

There are at least 35 liberal bishops yet to be heard from. Theoretically, if they all voted Yes (very doubtful at this point) Forrester could have a total 49 Yes votes among bishops if past voting patterns held. However, the liberal bishops would now have to ALL vote YES for that to happen. So far only about 62% of the “liberal” bishops who have voted have voted YES. Among the “conservative bishops” 97% have voted NO as expected.

It is a similar story among Standing Committees. We still have yet to hear from 60% of the “liberal” dioceses. Theoretically, if they all voted YES, Forrester could get 53 YES votes and 58 NO votes. Consent would be denied. I don’t see how Forrester can pull off consent among the Standing Committees unless some current NO votes are switched. Forrester has lost the votes of 12 “liberal” dioceses whom we would have expected to vote YES. i.e. only 54% of the liberal dioceses are voting YES, while 97% of the conservative dioceses are voting NO.

For those who are curious, the “Swing” vote on the conservative side in both the bishop and the standing committee column is San Joaquin. So, it is not even really a “swing” since all the past voting record is for the Anglican Diocese under Bishop Schofield, now part of ACNA, whereas the YES votes are by +Lamb and the new Standing Committee. There have been no other “defections” among conservative bishops or dioceses.

Of course, the usual schismatic sites are abuzz with the story. One must wonder why a group that has departed from "the apostate TEC" is so concerned about whom that church picks as a bishop.

Could the answer be that the only uniting element in the entire schismatic movement is hatred for TEC? Could it be that without TEC to bash they have no reason to exist or to blog.

I found it amusing that the discussion could not be constrained to Forrester - it quickly reverted back to bashing the Presiding Bishop, Bishop Lamb and the "illegal" diocese of San Joaquin which they consider the TEC diocese to be. They chose to ignore the troublesome fact that the US legal system has recognized both Lamb and the TEC Diocese of San Joaquin and declared the schismatic "group" null and void.

Ah, how blessed are those who can live in the Isle of Grand Delusion.

21 May 2009

Viri Galilaei - The Ascension of Our Lord

The Ascension of our Lord
Viri Galilaei

Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47 or Psalm 93; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

    Introit: Ye men of Galilee, why wonder you, looking up to heaven? alleluia. He shall so come as you have seen Him going up into heaven, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. -- (Ps.44. 2). O clap your hands, all ye nations; shout unto God, with the voice of exultation.

“He came singing love,
and He lived singing love
He died…singing love
He arose in silence
For the love to go on, we must make it our song
You and I be the singers!”

So begins a song from the New Zealand Hymnal. What was promised is removed for a time, so it can be more fully given.

This moment in the story of Jesus, God-with-us, is fascinating.

So much has happened. We have now walked through the story of His life, death, and resurrection. Now, with the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, so much more is promised – but not yet fully given.

Jesus’ last words in The Gospel According to Matthew restate the promise, “Remember: I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Yet, before we receive this gift in its fullness, we will pass through a time when it feels as if we’ve been left to our own devices. What is there to be learned in that time?

In our collect for this feast day of the Ascension, we recite that “our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all the heavens that He might fill all things.”

We may have thought that Jesus came just for some of us, to redeem only a portion of God’s creation. Those who first followed Jesus and were blessed to be personally reconciled with the Risen Lord, face to face, and who returned to rejoin the fold – they probably believed that at first.

But in this magnificent mystery of Jesus’ Ascension, the glory shared so far with but a few radiates out to fill every corner of creation – including those places we had presumed were irredeemable.

The Ascension is essentially a festival of the future. By it, we see that the life we receive by faith has a destiny, and that destiny includes far more than we have yet asked or imagined.

We are called to move with God in the power of the Spirit as it is being given, to move outside our usual circle to seek and serve God’s presence and life in every corner of creation. This will be for us both a struggle and a delight.

Of course, we need to believe we share this calling and give ourselves to be lifted up by Christ and with Christ, allowing God to forgive and heal us, to send us forth empowered, just as Jesus was sent into the world. With Jesus, we are to be incarnate in daily life, to speak truth to power, to extend a healing touch to those from whom others would flee, and to be ready to take up the cross we are given daily. We are to follow Jesus, even through death, into new life.

Are we ready to embrace so full a calling for ourselves?

There is a wonderful mystery play from the Middle Ages about the Ascension. It is said that after Jesus was lifted up from the earth and was ascending to heaven, the two men dressed in white follow after, straining to catch up with Him. These angels cry out: “Jesus! Jesus! Wait for us!”

Jesus turns to greet them, and as they continue to ascend together, says: “Yes, my friends! Well done!”

One of the angels replies: “That is what we should say to you, dear Lord, for you have done all that has been asked of you! But what will happen next? Isn’t there more to be done?”

Jesus answers: “Well, of course! There is always more to be done! But weren’t you paying attention down there? Didn’t you hear me give them what they will come to call ‘the Great Commission’? Now they will go forth and baptize all people into my continuing life and work, reconciling the whole world to myself!”

The two angels look at one another somewhat hesitantly, and then look back at Jesus. One of them cautiously says: “Well, certainly we heard all that. But haven’t you been paying attention to them? Do you really think you can count on that lot?”

“He’s right, you know,” the other angel says. “Honestly, what’s your back-up plan? What will you do if those you have left behind don’t continue your work?”

Jesus pauses for a moment and then says, simply, “There is no back-up plan.”

There is no back-up plan because the grace set free by the Resurrection, the Ascension, and ultimately the gift of the Holy Spirit is sufficient to affect God’s plan of salvation. The abiding question is whether and how we will choose to join in that work. Will we participate fully in the mending of creation, or will we choose to stand back and watch from a comfortable distance? And what a tragedy that would be, a choice to refuse the invitation to be fully alive.

It is a gift of love, this calling we have received to be as Jesus was and do as Jesus did, as members of Christ’s body. By baptism, we are embraced and challenged to receive the love God offers us in Jesus, and then to move out to share that love unconditionally.

We can choose not to move with God as the life of God radiates out to fill all of creation. We can choose to turn inward and cling to what we have previously recognized as signs of God’s presence among us. Or we can turn in our circles of faith and face outward, rejoicing to recognize and celebrate where God is present and active, even with many who will continue to serve God’s purpose while totally unaware of it.

There is a word in this for each of us personally. Most of us gravitate toward a limited circle of acquaintances, a comfort zone, to which we stay near. So much of our life energy goes into maintaining the borders of that comfort zone, and keeping close to that safe place. And that is a shame. For we know in our hearts that when fully alive, we will find ourselves stepping out of that circle again and again, to discover the Reign of God in ever new ways.

There is a word in this for us as a church and as congregations as well. In these most challenging and difficult times, with great change underway in our finances, our culture, and our global relationships, most will try to keep steering church life back to our personal comfort zones, to hold on dearly to church life as we’ve always known it. But the Risen and Ascended Lord, who is filling all things, beckons us to step out of our comfort zone and discover new ways to celebrate life and love, and to share boldly in the work of reconciling the whole world to God.

All of creation is being filled with the life and healing power of God. When we remember this, it changes how we experience everything. For then we will have confidence that whatever we are called to endure now will lead us in God’s time and in God’s way to be raised and lifted up with Jesus to draw the whole world into deeper companionship with God and one another in Christ.

This truly is grace.

A wonderful prayer from the New Zealand Prayer Book, is born of this very moment in our salvation history:
    it is night.
    The night is for stillness.
    Let us be still in the presence of God.
    It is night after a long day.
    What has been done has been done;
    what has not been done has not been done;
    let it be.
    The night is dark.
    Let our fears of the darkness of the world
    and of our own lives rest in you.
    The night is quiet.
    Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
    all dear to us, and all who have no peace.
    The night heralds the dawn.
    Let us look expectantly to a new day.
    new joys,
    new possibilities.
    In your name we pray.

Steve Kelsey is missioner of the Greater Hartford Regional Ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. Over the years he has been privileged to minister primarily with smaller, more remote congregations in New England, Alaska, New York, and Northern Michigan. E-Mail: steve.kelsey@juno.com.

20 May 2009

Forrester's real problem

It is rather clear that the Rev'd Kevin Thew Forrester will not be given the necessary consents to become the bishop of Northern Michigan. Fr. Forrester was canonically and properly elected by the delegates. There seems to be some "question" regarding his theology.

I believe there is something much more sinister involved in this denial of consent. I've had my suspicions for quite a while but today's announcement by the Rt. Rev'd Barry Beisner has confirmed my hypothesis.

Beisner, a thrice married man has announced that Forrester's theology is simply too out of the ordinary for Beisner to give consent. I really find this tragically funny.

I remember the time in TEC when the announcement that a priest had separated from his wife was accompanied by a letter of resignation to the vestry/bishop's committee. Divorced priests were simply unacceptable even when the "wronged party" in that divorce. Yet here is Beisner, with two divorces to his credit, stating he cannot, in good conscience, consent to a man whose theology Beisner questions.

As far as I'm concerned, that judgment is hypocritical. Beisner said,
As I have said, many issues have been raised; I will name only one: Kevin’s revision of our liturgy of Holy Baptism.
Beisner had no problems rewriting Jesus' teaching on marriage - one spouse for life - as he has three living spouses. He also had no problem revising the marriage liturgy that plainly states: "Til death do us part." But, that revision was beneficial to Beisner. Like all theological hypocrites, it is the log in the other person's eye that must be the focus of discussion. "We aren't talking about me, thank you very much; we are talking about you. And, I find your position unacceptable."

I see the entire consent process in this instance as fallout from Lambeth 2008. Just as the GLBT community was and continues to be sacrificed for the sake of "unity," Forrester is the latest sacrificial victim to be offered to the puritans so that they just might, miraculously, change their spots and stay in the Communion.

Standing committees, guided by bishops who still have that warm, fuzzy feeling they acquired at the tea party, are unwilling to stand up and do the right thing. They are afraid to do anything that will antagonize the puritan party in the Anglican Communion.

In a few words, we cannot do anything that might piss off the fundamentalists who aren't going to stay regardless of what we do.

Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis know that I am a theological conservative. Give me the 1928 BCP or the Anglican Missal any day.

Although I disagree with Forrester on the nature of baptism, Northern Michigan chose the best qualified candidate for their diocese, and we should respect that. If TEC can consent to a theological conservative who will, mark my words, lead his diocese into that non-existent ecclesial community headed by and led by a gaggle of deposed bishops, then TEC can dang well give consent to a loyal child who holds theological differences not shared by a majority of the members of TEC.

But, there, like the 1950s threat of nuclear bombs, is Lambeth and Rowan urging everyone not to make waves -- everyone that is, except the puritan mob who have no desire to be part of the Communion unless they get the deed thereto.

Shame on Beisner and shame on those bishops and standing committees who have capitulated to the puritans. The message is clear, "Not all are welcome in this church and we ain't just talking about gays and lesbians, neither. We're talking about anyone who might piss off the Puritans."

17 May 2009

Vocem - Easter VI

The Sixth Sunday of Easter

44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17

    Introit: Declare it with the voice of joy, and make it known, alleluia: declare it even to the ends of the earth: The Lord hath delivered His people, alleluia, alleluia. -- (Ps. 65. 1, 2). Shout with joy to God, all the earth, sing ye a psalm to His Name: give glory to His praise.
As we move from Easter to Pentecost our lessons highlight the broad spectrum of what the Christian faith brings to the people of God. The Gospel lesson and the Epistle remind us of the Commandments of God, while in Acts we hear of the necessity of baptism, even for those who may have already received the Holy Spirit. Finally the Psalm awakens us to one of David’s great songs of praise. Each Lesson is a message within itself. Today, though, let us concentrate on the message of 1 John and the Gospel of John: “For the love of God is this…”

Both the Epistle and the Gospel lesson are about the great commandment that God gives “to Justify Fulllove one another as I have loved you.” Most of us have a basic understanding of this simple message. The question is: How well are we able follow this commandment of God?

1 John is a guideline to developing a fellowship with Christ. In our lesson we discover that it takes confidence in our lives to be able to relate to such a fellowship. To express the truth of love toward others as we love ourselves is no easy task. The great glory of our Christian faith is that it is gloriously secular. It is designed to prepare us for life and to fit us for living that life. God, indeed, created us to be that kind of person -- to be confident, adequate, and full of the assurance that we can do that which God has planned for us.

This epistle from John lays out the secret of this confidence we seek. It is in the fellowship of sharing the life of Jesus Christ. This confident life will be manifested as truth, righteousness, and love. This is authentic Christianity.

John is very specific about this fellowship. He says, “If we claim to know God, but yet walk in the darkness of disobedience, we are a liar.” Back in the second chapter of this same epistle, John says, “To claim to possess the Father and yet deny the deity and incarnation of the Son is to be a liar.” Finally, John says in chapter four, “You are a liar if you say you love God and yet do not love your brethren.” These actions are not genuine. As Christians we cannot have life both ways.

Often we are asked when talking about this expression of love, “What does it really mean to love my brother or sister? Who is my brother or sister?” In verse one we hear it said, “Everyone who believes that Jesus Christ has been born of God … is a child of God.” We are family. If we love the Father, we will likewise love the other children of the family. We are talking about the extended family of God. We are talking about relationship with each other in the body of Christ.

We ask ourselves, “Are we to love others who are not Christian?” Yes. We must find ways to share God’s creative love for them in ways they will understand. Non-Christians do not have to be outside the circle that makes up the family of God. If we are able to unconditionally love those in the family circle we know are believers, then we will be better able to love those outside that circle. The love of a Christian is never limited.

John says in verse three, “His commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world.” As humans, there are times we simply do not agree. This is true within any family situation. There are times when we must do things that may offend one another. Does this mean that we don’t love that person? Not if we are keeping the commandments of God. It may mean that we need to find ways of better understanding each other. It may take great prayer on our part to override some prejudices or opinions we may have. Or it may take great prayer on our part to seek God’s wisdom in bringing us together for His sake and His glory.

Sometimes love must do unpleasant things. Sometimes love must be cruel to be kind. Back in the late 1980s “tough love” was a new buzz phrase for dealing with the crisis of drugs and other personal problems within family settings. It was not easy to intervene with someone you loved. At times we have to acknowledge in our relationships that “the rubber has met the road.” Then we must pause, regroup, and seek God’s enduring love for us and those we have tried to help in our own strength. God is the healer. He can heal our sinfulness, our hurts, our mistrust, and our inability to see the goodness in someone special to us. He can even heal our own self worth. It all comes back to obeying the commandments of God.

Finally, our Gospel -- as the Gospel of Jesus always does -- ties these commandments all together. Jesus says, “I am giving you these commandments that you may love one another.”

Jesus says the same thing as part of the greatest commandment. The first part is “to love God with all your heart, mind, strength, soul”; the second part is “to love your neighbor as yourself.” In this gospel Jesus emphasizes how our love for one another is how we show our love for God. The evidence that we follow Christ is not in our theology, or that we go to church. The evidence that we follow Christ is seen in how we treat one another.

Jesus taught many things, but the one thing he taught more than anything else was about love. It was not romantic love. It is that love that binds people together in a very relational and spiritual way. It is a love that thinks of the other before the self. It is the love that is willing to lay down one’s life for a friend. It is such love that Jesus is talking about.

He was describing a radical relationship, not just social acquaintances. He was talking about a lifestyle of love for one another because we need one another. Jesus set the example. Remember, He said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” His disciples -- his friends -- did not know it then, but Jesus was doing for them what he wanted them to do. It is also what he wants us to do.

Love and action are interconnected, bound up together. When we love like Jesus then we will want to follow the commands of God. When we love like Jesus, we will want to show it, not because we have to, but because we want to. Real love isn’t blind. It isn’t ignorant of the facts. Real love is love that continues despite the facts. Real love finds the way to move on despite failure and disappointment.

Does all this talk about love sound too simple? It may be simple, but it is not easy. Loving God is easy because God loved us first and God is perfect. Loving someone else -- a member of the family of God -- is much more difficult. We may be the best of friends, but we are humans, with our own unique sinful nature of expectations, judgments, lack of understanding, and frustration.

God is the transforming power within the family. As a community of faith we are called to be a family gathered together in the name of Jesus Christ. When we do that, we find ways to love each other, and our joy increases and becomes complete.

Loving our neighbor … our brothers and sisters … is a long-term commitment. It requires us to take one step at a time. It takes the reality that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. In the life of a believing Christian that is the greatest day of our lives. That is the time and place when God’s unconditional love reached out and touched us. Good Friday brings us to Easter, Easter brings us to Pentecost, and Pentecost allows us to express through our gifts of the Holy Spirit the love God has for us and for his family.

That is the sort of love Jesus was talking about. Is that the sort of love we are able to give?

Harry Denman is a lay communicant of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Broken Arrow, OK. He has been an active Episcopalian for more than 40 years. He and his wife, Emma, live in an independent retirement community.