13 June 2009

Chuch of Sweden moves closer to same-gender marriage

According to The Local, Sweden's English Newspaper, the Church of Sweden is moving closer to same-gender marriage rites for the church.

The broad church board decided that it had two choices according to Anders Lindberg, interim secretary general.
The board proposed the church continue to perform wedding ceremonies following new legislation which came into force on May 1st and grants same-sex couples in Sweden were granted the same legal marriage status as heterosexuals.

We have noticed a deeply entrenched desire, that the Church of Sweden, as a church of the people, should continue to perform weddings.

The alternative would have been that the church was no longer allowed to perform ceremonies, which is why, despite internal resistance, Friday's decision was expected.
As remarkable as that is, this statement by Archbishop Anders Wejryd:
When the church takes a stance on the issue of same-sex marriages, it is worthwhile to ask whether or not this is harmful or beneficial.

The church wants to support faithful relationship, and for us, from a biblical-theological perspective, the commandment of love supersedes other commandments and proscriptions in the Bible.
That, in my opinion, is a man who has listened to the Holy Spirit.

Read the whole article here. A tip of the biretta to Gören for the news.

12 June 2009

A chaplain's take on General Convention

The Daily Episcopalian published this article today. It's worth reading.
I think Episcopalians don't know enough about General Convention. That's largely because between Convention years, it hardly ever comes up in the local congregation. It doesn't help that in Convention years General Convention largely comes up in responses to whatever is notorious enough to raise the interest of the commercial media. I realize that here at the Café I’m largely preaching to the choir; but beyond the Episcopal and Christian blogosphere (and perhaps to some extent within it), the General Convention is, I fear, imagined like the Czar in "Fiddler on the Roof," inspiring prayers not unlike, "May God bless and keep the Czar – far away from us."

In fact in General Convention our deputies make decisions and pass policies that speak to common concerns right down to the life of the person in the pew. This General Convention is no exception. There will certainly be a lot of attention to the flashier issues – how shall we incorporate all the baptized fully into the life of the Church, and how shall we relate to our Anglican siblings around the world, some of whom disagree with us loudly – along with Anglican siblings and others in our own territories. However, there will be many issues raised that will or should affect the life and worship of every Episcopalian.

There is the effort under the Church Medical Trust (a subsidiary of the Episcopal Church Pension Group) to develop a single health insurance program for the Episcopal Church that all dioceses, congregations, and other Episcopal institutions must participate in, and that must be available not only to all clergy but also to lay employees working half time or more. If the plan is approved, within three years (and for many within the next year) this will affect the budget of every congregation. Over time it holds great promise to slow the increase in our health insurance costs. At the same time, Church Medical Trust programs have never before been mandatory for all dioceses and congregations.

There is an extensive revision – really a replacement - of "Lesser Feasts and Fasts," the Church’s publication of information about, and proper lessons and prayers for the feasts and fasts of the Church Year. "Holy Women Holy Men" proposes adding many more observances to the Calendar. For congregations that have daily services this would add many options – indeed, so many as to require some difficult decisions about what to observe and not to observe. There might be disagreement about some of the observances added, and some about the principles used in choosing who to include and who to exclude in the Calendar of the Episcopal Church; but either passage or failure of this revision would affect how we worship.

There have been a number of resolutions regarding issues of our health, including substance abuse, persons with disabilities, HIV/AIDS, and health care at the end of life. Health issues affect all of us, whether directly or indirectly. There are also resolutions on the environment and the economy. There’s even a resolution encouraging dioceses to require candidates for ordination to become conversant in a language other than English.

So, while the hot-button issues will get the most attention from the news media, and will get the most questions from individuals in the pews, there will be many issues addressed that will strike much closer to home. Those of us involved in making the decisions want both to express the best of the Episcopal Church as we know it now, and also the direction the Spirit seems to be leading. We want to succeed in that expression whether we’re considering the ordination of bishops or the health needs of our neighbor in the pew.
The Rev. Marshall Scott is a chaplain in the Saint Luke’s Health System, a ministry of the Diocese of West Missouri. A past president of the Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains, and an associate of the Order of the Holy Cross, he keeps the blog Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside.

11 June 2009

A new wrinkle in the Armstron case

Chanel 13 News reports that the Rev'd Donald Armstrong appeared in court yesterday. Armstrong, as you all know is suspected of having embezzled nearly four hundred thousand dollars from Grace and St. Stevens.
Police say Rev. Donald Armstrong took the funds to pay for his kids' college tuition. "It has been a very lengthy investigation," says Lt. David Whitlock with the Colorado Springs Police Department, "[investigators] have been putting a lot of hard work into it and they're not done yet."

An affidavit from CSPD states that Armstrong misused $392,000 and that he wrote monthly checks from July 1999 to March 2006. Those were the years Armstrong's children were in college. "There are hundreds upon thousands of pages of information that need to be looked at," says Whitlock of the lengthy investigation, "as well as computer records."
Armstrong's claim is that he was using the funds for scholarships for his children andthat he was authorized to do so by former wardens. However, police found no such documentation. Armstrong's attorney counted that the police had done away with the exonerating documents Armstong needs.
They took files of financial documents and computers. "It has to be done that way," says Whitlock, "when you have those kinds of disposable evidence that someone could get rid of if they [k]new we were coming."
Here is the really interesting bit and something I haven't heard heretofore. Whitlock said
It's not clear to us that he's the only suspect, certainly he's named in the warrant as being someone questioned about what happened to some of the monies there.
Who? Peter Akinola? Gregory Venables? Bob Duncan? The church janitor? The "think tank" housed at Armstrong's fortress?

10 June 2009

Ridely Draft committee announced

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev'd and Right Honourable Rowan Williams, Primate of All England and titular and spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, has announced the committee members charged with the official "review" of Section Four of the Ridely Draft of the manifesto, I mean "Covenant."

I will give credit where credit is due, and ++Williams has selected two liberals and two conservatives.
  • The Most Rev'd Alan Harper OBE, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland
  • The Most Rev'd Dr John Chew Hiang Chea,
  • The Very Rev'd Gregory Kenneth Cameron Cameron, bishop of Asaph (Wales) who was former chaplain to Williams
  • Dr Eileen Scully of the Anglican Church of Canada (I couldn't find any biographical information on Dr. Scully)
That's a rather august group of people, in my opinion. The problem is that they must come up with a compromise on Section Four (discipline) that will be acceptable to everyone - and it will not and cannot be acceptable to everyone.

The recently ended meeting of the AC Primates was not a congenial meeting and it was evidence that many wish a major change in the structure of the Communion. Religious Intelligence reports
Commonly observed rules of parliamentary procedure were not observed, she noted, as the chairman of the meeting exercised “a great deal of discretion in referring or declining to entertain resolutions; elections are not straightforward ballots for a single individual; discussion of any proposed amendment requires the support of 10 members; the president (the Archbishop of Canterbury) steps in fairly frequently to ‘steer’” the sessions.
And here is what is even more troubling to me. According to Canon John Rees, legal adviser to the ACC,
The ACC was not bound by rules of parliamentary procedure. The ACC had moved away from a “western parliamentary way of doing our business,” and now relied upon its chairman to discern “the general assent emerging” from its meetings.
The translation of that last bit is "We are headed for an Anglican Curia where the primates have all the power and the peons have no say in the governance, theology, or worship of the Anglican Communion."

If I wanted Roman Catholic monarchy I would be Roman Catholic. As it is, I rather enjoy our historic Anglican polity.

It seems clear to me that TEC and The Anglican Church of Canada with a handful of other provinces are the only churches interested in being the continuing Anglicanism. The rest simply want to play power games in the name of Christ.

09 June 2009

Requiescat in Pace, Ed

I am Resurrection and I am Life says the Lord;
Those who die in me shall live forever.

For several weeks we have been praying for Bonnie's husband, H. Edward Spivey Ph.D.

On 23 May I received an e-mail from Bonnie informing me that Ed died 22 May, 2009. Bonnie requested that I not post the news until the family could all be notified and arrangements finalized.

Services will be held 12 June at Calvary Episcopal Church in Fletcher, North Carolina.

Many of us remember Ed from his comments on Fr. Jake's blog. He didn't post often but when he did his comments were noteworthy.

Our prayers are extended to Bonnie and her family, and for Ed as he has begun the greatest journey of his existence -- the journey into eternal life.

Let us pray:
    O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servant Ed, and grant him an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

    Almighty God, Father of mercies and giver of comfort: Deal graciously, we pray thee, with Bonnie and her family, and all those who mourn, that casting every care on thee, they may know the consolation of thy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord,
And light perpetual shine upon him.
May his soul, and the souls of all the departed
though the mercies of God, rest in peace.

07 June 2009

Benedicta - Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday
Benedicta sit

Exodus 3:1-6; Psalm 93; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-16
    Introit: Blessed be the Holy Trinity and undivided Unity: we will give glory to Him, because He hath shown His mercy to us. -- (Ps. 8. 2). O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful is Thy name in all the earth!


Abba I Adore You
God's Love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)
It is Trinity Sunday. So we are meant to be thinking about God. Now it would seem that we should be doing this thinking about God all the time, but there is not a lot of evidence inside or outside the church that many of us really do that. The fact can, and perhaps should, cause us some anxiety, worry, or fear.

So isn't it comforting that one we call the Son of God urges us not to worry? "Do not be afraid," he says. "Do not be anxious...even the hairs on your head are counted...you are worth more than a sparrow, and God even watches over them!" (Matt. 10:29-31) So it would appear that even when we are not thinking about God, God is busy thinking about us, even counting the hairs on our heads! Granted, as time goes by it takes God less and less time to do that! The point being, that maybe all we need to know about God is that God loves us enough to be watching over us all the time.

Which is why Ignatian Spirituality teaches us that we come from love, we return to love, and love is all around. If we know that, really know that deep down inside ourselves, such knowledge forms the core of our belovedness: knowing that it is God who loves us first; that it is God who calls us Beloved; that it is God who is well pleased with us. Jesus knows this from the moment of his own baptism. And in our own baptism we are incorporated into His Body, the church.

That this is true is a great and sacred mystery. Nevertheless, from the very beginning of the church, from the very beginning of the writings of the Hebrew people, perhaps from the very beginning of time itself, people have made every effort to know and be able to describe this great and sacred mystery of God's love for us.

Which is what really brings us to this day we call Trinity Sunday. For Christians, knowing God as Abba or Father is to know God as Jesus knows God. And to know God as the Son is to know God as Peter and Paul and Barnabas, and Mary and Mary Magdalene and the Samaritan Woman at the Well, all know God. And to know God as Spirit is to know God as all the disciples on Pentecost experienced God, and as people of all faiths have known God throughout all time: God as holy breath, spirit, and wind. God as the wind that comes from we know not where and carries us to we know not where until we return home to the heart of God's mysterious love.

Abba, Son and Spirit God are all aspects of God's Being -- capital B! This is what our Creed tries to say. Sometimes we experience the one and only God as Abba, sometimes as Son, sometimes as Spirit.

It comes from the language of the theatre. And we might do well to remember that the great theologians who tried to describe our experiences of God in the Creed borrowed their language from the theatre arts: dramatis personae. The language of theology is always, in the end, a borrowed language, not some original set of ideas. Because all language, all life, and all the created universe, reflect different and various aspects of God's Being and God's Love. So just as one actor can wear three masks and thus be listed as three personae in the playbill, so it is with God.

It can be said with tremendous certainty that God cannot be limited to these three personae represented by these three masks, but these are the three that we know, as Christians, are reliable in every dimension of our lives. Thus we say, "We believe...." These are three aspects of God's Being that we all believe. We are making a community statement more than a personal statement. We are describing, in summary form, the One in whom Christians put their trust.

Knowing Abba, Son, and Spirit we know we need not be afraid. It is in knowing the Love of Abba, Son, and Spirit that we can begin to think about God at all. And by changing one letter of the word think, all our thinking inevitably leads us to thank God as well: to thank God for life as God's own beloved. Such thankfulness, or eucharistia, also teaches us not to be afraid.

All our life can then become one great thanksgiving and expression of our Love for God, Abba, Son, and Spirit. And so our lives sing over and over again:

Abba I adore you/Lay my life before you/How I love you
Jesus I adore you/Lay my life before you/How I love you
Spirit I adore you/Lay my life before you/How I love you
God's Love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)

The Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek is rector of St. Peter's Church in Ellicott City, Maryland, a parish in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. He also travels throughout the church leading stewardship events for parishes, dioceses, clergy conferences, and diocesan conventions.