30 June 2010

Another homophobic minister exposed

I usually do not post on post written by a fellow blogger, but today Counterlight points us to an article in the Minneapolis Post about another prominent homophobic minister with a same-gender skeleton in his closet.

Generally, I have a problem with "outting" anyone. The decision to openly acknowledge to one's self and to others that one is a person of same-gender attraction is, for most people, a gut wrenching decision. To be forced "out" is injurious to one's psyche.

I believe that in some cases, "outting" is justified. If one is an active vocal opponent of equal rights for the GLBT community and vilifies them while at the same time one is a member of that community, that hypocrisy needs to be exposed. In this case, Lavender was correct to expose Block.

Block blamed the tornado that destroyed the convention centre on the homosexual community and the ELCA's decision to ordain openly gay ministers
Last year, Brock notoriously linked a tornado that struck the Minneapolis Convention Center and a nearby church to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)’s decision to accept homosexual relationships and ordain gay ministers in monogamous relationships. As the gay-oriented website Queerty put it, “Lutheran Pastor Tom Brock Blamed ELCA's Tornado on Homosexuality. Which, Uh, He Suffers From."
Block is a pastor of the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations. They are, in a nutshell, the Calvinists of the Lutheran world. Here is a brief summary of their doctrines to establish they are, in fact, Calvinists
  • Recognizes the Bible as the inspired and inerrant authority in all matters of faith and life;Recognizes that the teaching and preaching of God's Word is the main task of the Church, to be conducted in such away that the saints are built up and unbelievers see their need for salvation;
  • Believes that the congregation is the right form of the Kingdom of God on earth, with no authority above it but the Word and the Spirit of God;
  • Believes that Christian unity is a spiritual concept, not a man-made organization such as the World Council of Churches or the National Council of Churches;
  • Believes that Christians are called to be a salt and light, separated from the ways of the world, and that this difference is to be reflected in the life of the congregation as well as in the institutions of the church body.
I believe it is a Christian moral obligation to expose hypocrites hiding behind the name of Jesus, the Christ, to both justify and legally safeguard their bigotry. They embarrass the Church,and give the world the impression that all followers of The Way are homophobic.

A bit of ood news, read SCOTUS: Christian group not excused from anti-discrimnation rules over at Gay Married Californians.

29 June 2010

The "Covenant" is off to the races

And their off! 

The first province of the Anglican Communion has accepted the so-called Covenant. No, it's not one of those provinces whose leaders have been creating havoc in the Anglican world for the past ten years. It's Mexico. Who'd have though, eh?

One must wonder why not one of the schismatic leader provinces has adopted the document they've nearly destroyed the Communion to get. Other provinces have considered the document, but none has voted to accept it and its provisions for papal powers. Where, oh where, are the provinces of Nigeria, Uganda, Southern Cone ...... nothing but the "sound of silence" from the ringleaders.

28 June 2010

News from Fort Worth

The Second Court of Appeals issued it's ruling that
Thus the Southern Cone parties failed to achieve their goal of getting the Court of Appeals to declare that Bishop Iker represented the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and its Diocesan Corporation.
The decision continues:
We are aware of no statute or common law rule allowing attorneys to prosecute a suit in the name of a corporation or other entity on behalf of only one faction or part of that corporation or entity against another part or faction.
The Southern Cone has not responded, yet, and I'm sure they will file an appeal. Remember, the schismatics are not interested in the property, folks, but don't hold your breath.

Read the decision here.

27 June 2010

Pentecost V - Trinity IV

The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
Proper 8

The Lectionary: 1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21; Psalm 16 or 16:5-11; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62

Collect: Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Are there many people today who understand "what putting a hand to the plow" means? Does someone operating a machine instead of a hand-held plow understand the meaning of these words? Perhaps. The key seems to be in the concentration and commitment of the one setting the direction -- looking straight ahead, not back. When farmers plowed with the aid of a mule or an ox, they were the ones giving the direction to the plow. During those hours nothing mattered but to cut the furrows through the prepared soil so that none of the seeds would be wasted. It was an act that took the farmer's full concentration. Turning the head back, looking back, might mean disaster for animal, for farmer, for the future of the crop, especially in a land where so many rocks cover the soil.

Against this picture that Jesus paints in the Gospel of Luke with a few stern, spare words, we are given a different picture in the story of the anointing of Elisha in the Old Testament lesson. Here the young man who was chosen by God to follow in Elijah's footsteps is seen plowing his fields. It is a fascinating picture. The twelve yoke of oxen, a very large number, is probably symbolic; this is a number used repeatedly in the Scriptures -- we see it in the twelve tribes of Israel, in the calling of the Twelve to be Jesus' disciples, and in many other instances. Elisha is plowing with the last set of oxen, the twelfth. The strange old prophet, Elijah, who probably looked wild after his sojourn in the wilderness of Damascus, as the story has told us earlier, has heard the voice of God "in the sound of sheer silence," one of the most powerful descriptions in the Old Testament. God tells him to do three things, and the third one is to anoint Elisha as his successor.

Elijah starts with this third command. He sees the young man plowing, walks by him, and throws his mantle over him. And Elisha is ready on the spot. Instead of being terrified of the old man, instead of throwing the mantle back, he leaves the oxen and follows Elijah. But first, he says, "Let me go kiss my father and mother goodbye." And Elijah gives him permission. What he has done to the younger man is very important and Elisha must return to him, he warns him. We are not told if Elisha kissed his parents, but we are told that he offered the oxen as food for the people, a concrete act of mercy before leaving everything known to him and following the prophet.

In today's Gospel, we have some vivid pictures of various other callings. These are mentioned only by Luke and they are startling in their simplicity and spare, laconic quality. The journey begins with the strong words that show us a determined Jesus, prepared to meet his painful death. "He set his face to go to Jerusalem," Luke tells us. These few words, offered without further explanation, without any descriptive phrases, are some of the most powerful in Scripture. We know what awaits Jesus in Jerusalem, for we know the story, and it stirs our hearts. The protagonist in this drama, Jesus himself, knew what awaited him in Jerusalem; he did not choose to go somewhere else instead to avoid the painful cross. He set his face to go to his death.

After this announcement, the statement that "those who set their hand on the plow and look back are not fit for the Kingdom," does not come as a surprise. In the ten verses in between these two sentences we are offered a number of vignettes on how difficult it is for one to enter the Kingdom or, in other words, to follow Christ.

First we encounter the Samaritans. Treated sympathetically elsewhere in Luke by Jesus, these same Samaritans refuse to welcome Jesus and to offer him hospitality. Their excuse is that Jesus is going to Jerusalem; they are sure that it is not the place one should choose for worship. And they reject the one who is the object of their worship. In ignorance and prejudice they don't see the truth. Two of the disciples immediately want revenge. How dare the Samaritans not welcome the Master? Let's burn them, is the solution the disciples offer. But Jesus turns and rebukes them. One of the ancient copies of the Gospel expands on this rebuke; we have the words of Jesus: "You do not know what spirit you are of, for the Son of Man has not come to destroy the lives of human beings but to save them."

How do we react to those who do not welcome the good news of God? These days, we probably ignore them, which in itself is a form of rejection.

The other scenes of discipleship claimed and then rejected are equally brief and dramatic. Here is Jesus walking toward Jerusalem, his disciples following him. They pass through villages and throngs of people who hear of the fame of the prophet and want to see him. How can anyone resist the grace and power of his personality? Some are there because they have heard of the young prophet and want to hear his words; others are there wanting to be healed of disease; there are also those who have a dream of a more meaningful life, so they come to hear him and see him, hoping he will give meaning to their existence. One of these listeners, fascinated by the personality, grace, and power of Jesus, perhaps deeply and honestly moved tells him, " I'll follow you wherever you go." Instead of welcoming him, Jesus looks into the heart of the man and tells him in effect how easy it is to say the words and how difficult it is to put them into action. He is really asking him, "Are you willing to give up everything, including the comfort of a home, a place to lay your head, to follow me?" We are not told what the man's answer is. From the silence we assume that he turned his back and returned to the comforts of home.

In the next instance, it is Jesus who asks another person to follow him. The man says he will, but there are family responsibilities that come first. After I fulfill them, the invited follower says, "after I bury my father," I will follow you. But the call of Jesus is uncompromising. Nothing is allowed to be used as an excuse, even family responsibility. And like most of us, the man turns and leaves also. The demands of Jesus are too hard for him as they are for us.

The third encounter seems, again, to be a most familiar person to all of us. "Yes, I will do the will of God," he says, "I will follow the narrow way of Jesus, but first I must spend time with those I love; I must say farewell to all that has been familiar to me up to now, to all that makes me feel secure, to 'those at home.'" But Jesus knows the human heart. He who set his face toward Jerusalem and the fulfillment of the Father's will, accepts no empty excuses. You don't look back when I call you, he is telling these hopeful disciples. The Christian life is not a life shared by the many other loyalties that take us away from the call to obey the will of God. We cannot be fractured, we cannot be distracted.

It is probable that all those people who thought they wanted to follow an easy Master turned around and went away sorrowfully. How many times do we meet God's invitation with excuses and rejection? Responding to the call to the Kingdom is not easy. When life is comfortable, we don't want to be disturbed.

It seems then as one of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith when we hear St. Paul telling the Galatians that the call of Jesus is the call to perfect freedom. "It is the freedom of the Spirit," he tells them. "Watch out," he tells them. "You have chosen the narrow way, but it is the way of perfect freedom." "Yet, the kingdom of God is not for those who become slaves to other desires and to the idolatry of the flesh," he warns. "Don't let God's freedom lull you into thinking that you can be enslaved to the desires of the flesh, the passions and idolatries that tempt human life." In his injunctions, Paul becomes much more specific than his Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul lists the vices to be avoided by those who walk in the Spirit. Fortunately for us, he doesn't stop there; he lists also the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. What lovely gifts.

We sit here today, hearing the call of God to follow Christ. It commands our unswerving love and commitment -- placing the hand on the plow and not looking back. Not looking back, not longing for what enslaves us, even if that is a relationship to a close person. Jesus Christ asks for our whole person. And when that surrender occurs, all these loyalties and loves fall into place. Then, as St. Paul tells us, we find perfect freedom. Thanks be to God.

--Katerina K. Whitley, who lives in North Carolina, is an active Episcopal layperson with a ministry realized in many parts of the church. She is a writer, a lecturer, and an actress, and makes full use of these gifts in her ministry.

26 June 2010

Celebrating the Journey - 41 years and counting

In much of the Western World, this is Pride Weekend. There will be scores of parades to celebrate "Gay Pride." I must say that I don't really understand "Gay Pride." I don't understand what "pride" there is in being GLBT or Straight, or Asexual. I don't  see sexuality as being something to be  proud of or ashamed of. It's just who "you" are. However, I do understand the real need to celebrate how far along the journey of equality GLBT brothers and sisters, and society itself, has come.

I was just a kid when on 28 June 1969 the patrons of New York City's Stonewall bar beat the hell out of the NYCPD officers who were sent to harass, abuse, and arrest the patrons. I wonder how many of those patrons are still around to be honored in the parades this weekend?

In the same way the Declaration of Independence wasn't the catalyst or the moment the rebellion began, the "gay rights movement" wasn't born that night in the Stonewall. It was simply the moment gay rights became a household word, as it were.

TTLS salutes those patrons and their courage. And TTLS salutes all those who have and who are working for the equal rights for GLBT people throughout the world.

The media will have all the "right" pictures on the news this weekend - the most outrageous picture the journalists can snap. That sells papers. I chose a much more appropriate and significant photo. It shows a NYCPD officer waving a rainbow flag and because those on the float are "veterans" of that night in 1969. 

To quote that old cigarette commercial, "You've come long way, baby!" so celebrate that journey.

Sadly, not all of our friends from the journey are with us today. Three are foremost in my memory - David, Matthew, and Steven.
  • David Ballinger was the first friend who died because of AIDS in the "early days" of the disease. Twenty years later I've not really recovered from his death. 
  • Matthew Tuss was a singing buddy and died just three days before our Christmas Concert. He was just 20-years old. He could find humor in any situation. When he began to get weaker, I would pick him up for rehearsals and we would laugh all way there and back.
  • Steven Housel was also a musician friend - a tenor with a wonderful voice and a wicked sense of humor but unbelievably kind to everyone.
Take a moment in your celebrations this weekend to remember. And to envision the day when "Pride" festivals are something our descendants read about in the history books and wonder why there was a need for such events. That day is coming, brother and sisters.

As this is basically a religious blog, I have to include something religious I've chosen the last line of "I Walk the King's Highway" to celebrate and to remember all those who've worked for equality.

The countless hosts lead on before,
I must not fear nor stray;
with them, the pilgrims of the faith,
I walk the King's highway.
Through light and dark the road leads on
till dawns the endless day,
when I shall know why in this life
I walk the King's highway.

25 June 2010

Diana Butler Bass's mother in need of prayers

Diana Butler Bass's mother was taken to hospital a few hours ago and is in critical but stable condition. Her mum is stable "but not in a good way. [We are] awaiting test results and trying to find out if [mum] can breath on her own." Please keep Diana's mum and family in your prayers.

24 June 2010

One book+One Parish+One Summer 2010

This summer thousands of Christians from ten different Christian denominations are joining together to read Forgiving Ararat by Gita Nazareth.

Based on the popular “One Book One City” and “Big Read” programs, National One Book+One Parish+One Summer 2010 has become the single biggest Christian reading event of 2010.

Visit the web site for more information and join the FaceBook page.

St. John the Baptist

Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist*

The Lectionary:Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85; The Acts 13:14b-26; Luke 1:57-80

Collect: Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

If John the Baptist came striding down the aisle today, we might recoil in horror and ask the ushers to remove him. Yet the unkempt man we encounter as an adult was once a child, wrapped like Jesus would be, in baby clothes rather than camel skin. What he became looks like the sort of holy person we might meet in India today. What he was at birth was someone who looked a good deal like you and me.

When a baby is brought to the font to be named and baptized, perhaps we contemplate for a moment what she or he may grow up to be. Perhaps this helpless baby may be a bishop or a priest or deacon, a leader, a teacher, a diplomat, or heaven help us, a politician!

The story of John’s birth is a bit more dramatic. His father, Zachariah, a priest of the temple in Jerusalem, is told by God’s Messenger, that his aged wife, Elizabeth, is to give birth. How old Elizabeth was we don’t know. Time was measured a good deal less precisely in those days, and a person was counted as aged in their forties. Elizabeth, Saint Mary’s cousin, had reached the age when it was not normal for women to have children. Zachariah the priest is skeptical. Don’t think it is just we moderns who have our doubts.

The Messenger deals with Zachariah’s doubts by making it impossible for him to speak, rather like St. Paul after he met the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Perhaps the shock of the encounter gave the old priest a mild stroke. Who knows?

In the gospel today we discover what happens when the child is born. It was common then, as it is now, for children to be named after a parent. Indeed in some families it is necessary to place a number after the child’s name, rather like a monarch, to denote how many have gone before. It was therefore expected that the baby would be given his father’s name, Zachariah. Instead, the old priest defies tradition and writes that the child’s name shall be John, as if to say that this child is special and is chosen by God for a special purpose or mission.

It is a great pity that today the suggestion that a baby may grow up to be a priest is greeted with the sort of horror that might be provoked if it were contemplated that the baby might become a criminal. It is high time we overthrew the tradition that a vocation to ministry is odd. There was a time when a family thought it an enormous honor to have a child called to a vocation as a priest.

And if not a priest, a Christian whose life is dedicated to God and to God’s church, to tell the Good News and point to Jesus, just as John one day would point and exclaim, “Behold the Lamb of God.”

The birth of John the Baptist is all about dedication to the service of God as the overriding narrative of a life. It reminds us that the calling to be a Christian – for being a Christian is a calling or vocation – is not about having a religious hobby among all the other hobbies of life, down the list from work and family, and competing with time spent on sports and television. One of the reasons why our Episcopal Church has dwindled in size is that so many of us have thought of “church” as an option, a choice rather than thinking of our baptism in terms of a calling that defines who we are and every other part of life.

John the Baptist, as a priest’s son, was a priest himself. The office was hereditary. But we too, through our baptisms, are described in the New Testament as “priests for God.” We stand as intercessors between God and the human race in this troubled and divided world. Like John, in the context of home, family, friends, work, and recreation, we must pattern a “turned about” life and way of living, and call those we meet to newness of life.

John, as an adult, thundered “Repent!” – turn around, walk in a new way. He was called to this message. So are we.

-- Fr. Tony Clavier is rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, La Porte, Indiana, in the Diocese of Northern Indiana. He is also dean of the Michigan City deanery.

*I am not an expert when it comes to iconography, but I know a wee bit. In any icon there are usually many events in the same icon. You'll notice that the man on the right is Zacharias (John's father) who is wring "his name is John" as the scriptures tell us he did. Also, you'll see the person with a jar of water in the background - that's to tell us what John's mission was - to baptize.

23 June 2010

On the Lite Side - the BCP

For a change of pace in my usual weightier posts, I'd like to tell you about one of the new forms of evangelism. YouTube is really a wonderful site and its potential for evanelisation is really underrated. One of the few mainline YouTube Evangelists is Fr. Matthew.

Fr. Matt has a variety of clips on YouTube and they are a immensely popular. His presentations are hip, upbeat, informative and fun. His latest is a presentation on the Book of Common Prayer as authorized for use by The Episcopal Church.

If your are looking to spice up your confirmation classes, Fr. Matt's clips are one of the best ways to do it. Both young and old will enjoy watching him and Jehoshaphat explain things Episcopal. (You really have to see his presentation on the schism.)

You will find his web page here, and his Facebook fan site here. And if you aren't "on" Facebook, lose your Ludditeness and create an account - it is the present and future. Even my parish has a Facebook page here.

Here is his Book of Common Prayer in under four minutes. Enjoy!

Virginia Secessionists appeal for new hearing

"It's not about the money or the buildings - it's about The Episcopal Church (TEC) departing from the faith once delivered for all times." How many times in the past six years have we heard that mantra?

Well, guess what folks, the schismatics lie. To prove it's a lie and that the schism is about property and money, John Chilton in the The Lead reports that the schismatics in Virginia have filed a motion for a rehearing. The schismatics are unhappy that the Court took their argument at face value and ruled against their claim. So, the schismatic thieves are crying "redo, redo" like children on the playground.

For a group that has told the same lie for six years, they've spent a lot of money trying to keep the stolen goods they claim are not important to them.

22 June 2010

Telling it like it is - a report on the EC meting by Katie Sherrod

Much cyber ink has been spilled about the recent meeting of the Executive Committee (EC) and the Very Rev'd Kenneth Kearon. Canon Kearon was present at the request of the EC to talk about the recent actions of Lambeth Palace.

Blog sister, and member of the EC Katie Sherrod has provided us the most thorough report to date at Desert's Child. Here is the $64,000 dollar question and answer:
Bishop Wendell Gibbs, Bishop of Michigan, asked the stumper, “The Church of England remains in full communion and ecumenical dialogue with the Old Catholic Church, which blesses same-sex unions, and the Church of Sweden, which has a partnered lesbian bishop and blesses same-sex marriages. Given this fact, how are we to reconcile the removal of Episcopal Church members from ecumenical bodies?

LONG silence ensued. He looked at Wendell like a calf looks at a new gate. He clearly didn't know where to go.

Canon Kearon hemmed and hawed and finally said that there are different types of full communion and that the sticking point is being able to represent the Communion vis a vis faith & order. Wendell stressed the point of who the Church of England is in communion with, but Canon Kearon had nothing more of substance to say.
I checked the ODE and I can only find one meaning for "full" - it never means partial or conditional. Perhaps the Canon needs to consult his dictionary.

It is very interesting that certain blogs are vilifying the EC for it's "grilling" of the Rev'd Mr. Kearon. They are presenting the Q&A session as just short of the Spanish Inquisition. It gives one pause to wonder just what reality they are operating under. 

Make sure to read Katie's post; it is enlightening.

Tanganyika, Gloucester and El Camino Real at the Altar together

This was the photo I intended to use with the previous post, but the HTML was giving me fits and I included the wrong picture. So, here is the photo of the three bishops, mitred, in Gloucester Cathedral.  The photo must have been taken at the end of the Creed as two of the bishops are making the sign of the cross (and there are no Eucharistic vessels on the Altar).

21 June 2010

Comments from ECR and Gloucester on recent events

The Rt. Rev'd Mary Gray-Reeves is in the Diocese of Gloucester. She reports that at the partnership event with Bishop Michael and Bishop Gerard of the Diocese of Western Tanganyika, there is a feeling of hospitality everywhere she goes. She forwarded to me a note to ECR from +Michael of Gloucester.

She has given me permission to post it providing I include her introduction and did not post until her message appeared here. My thanks to +Mary for allowing me to post her thoughts and +Michael's thoughts as well..
Dear Friends,

Some of you may have heard that on a recent visit to England, +Katharine Jefferts-Schori was asked to verify her orders of ordination and asked not to wear her miter. As you know, I am here on a partnership visit in the Diocese of Gloucester. Attached is a greeting and explanation from Bishop Michael regarding our own correspondence with Lambeth Palace, hopefully clarifying a policy that has been in place but not enforced. The incident with +Katharine was of course exacerbated by +Rowan’s Pentecost letter and +Katharine’s response. I must say that I have not met anyone here that is happy with +Rowan’s letter and the actions that it announced; but are rather many are embarrassed and upset.

As you will see from an update that Celeste Ventura and Channing Smith will send shortly, we are having a wonderful time in Gloucester being treated very well and shown great hospitality. There are no major issues regarding the wearing of my miter or being a woman bishop, although of course there are those who do not approve of women’s ordination. It is a very live issue here and there are lots of feelings and emotions as the Church of England approaches another vote, hopefully towards women in the episcopate, in just a few weeks.

In the meanwhile, I send greetings from everyone participating on this triangular partnership and ask your continued prayers. I will send another update at the end of the week after my return late on Wednesday night.

With love and blessings,
From The Rt. Rev'd Michael Purham:
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Diocese of El Camino Real

I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, rejoicing as always in our partnership, drawing together your diocese, the Diocese of Western Tanganyika and my own.

It has been a great joy to have Bishop Mary with us these last few days, sharing in our partnership meeting, speaking to our Diocesan Synod, preaching in the Cathedral and visiting parishes. It will be a particular joy when, on the last day of the partnership gathering, she presides at the Eucharist in the Lady Chapel of our Cathedral.

People here in the Diocese of Gloucester share my respect and affection for Bishop Mary. Once again having her here has been a delight and an encouragement to us all. Her graciousness is a wonderful gift to our partnership and companion relationship and I believe the partnership is a gift to our troubled Anglican Communion.

I am attaching a note I have written to try to explain some of the difficulties we have run into in England these last few days in relation to the ministry of visiting bishops. The difficulties have felt to be a long way away from the happy acceptance of one another here.
Begin attached note:
Background explaining the need for permission to her diocese

Under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure of 1967, which in my view needs urgent revision, but which is still in force and which must therefore be respected, clergy from abroad (Anglican or otherwise) need the permission of the Archbishop to officiate here. My understanding is that over the years, this rule has not been tightly followed in the case of those visiting partner dioceses for short periods of time, but only for those seeking to take up a ministerial post here. However, with all the present tensions in the Communion and with some people prepared to use legal processes to challenge bishops and others who do not follow the letter of the law, the Archbishop’s office has thought it best to ensure that the rule is strictly adhered to. Thus I have sought and obtained permission for Bishop Mary for preside at the Eucharist in Gloucester Cathedral. (Bishop Gerard is also presiding at the Eucharist while here, but in his case in a private chapel where no such permission is required.) [Emphasis mine]

The Measure makes no reference to what the bishop wears. As it happens, the simple weekday Eucharist at which Bishop Mary will preside is not one when either she or I would expect her to wear a mitre. However in the Cathedral on Sunday, when she stood at my side when I presided at the Eucharist and again when she preached at a Partnership Service later in the day, she did, like me and Bishop Gerard, wear her mitre.

The triangular partnership that draws the dioceses of Western Tanganyika, El Camino Real and Gloucester into a companion relationship emerged from the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops. There has never been any doubt within our dioceses that the three bishops are equally bishops of the Anglican Communion and not for a moment would we have treated one bishop differently from the others. We recognise and honour the ministry of all.

So, I'm prepared to cut +Rowan a sliver of slack on the issue, knowing now that some were prepared to bring legal action against him. He was wrong as rain, though, to give into the right wing.

Rowan goes down in flames in Round 1: TKO expected in Round 2

According to Ruth Gledhill in the Times, apparently the Church of England doesn't respect the ABC or ABY very much.
    A desperate joint effort by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to prevent schism over women bishops was dismissed today by both opponents and supporters of female ordination in the Church of England. Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu intervened with an unprecedented joint amendment to legislation on women bishops to be debated at the General Synod in York next month. 
    Their plan envisages the creation of “co-ordinate” bishops who would stand in for a woman diocesan in parishes unable to accept women’s ordination. But their scheme drew criticism from both sides of a debate that is regarded as more likely to lead to schism than those over the ordination of gays or women priests. 
    Even senior officials at the centre of the Church establishment struggled to understand what the Archbishops had in mind and what a “co-ordinate bishop” would be. Initial details of the Archbishops’ plan were published as the Synod prepares for a marathon 24-hour debate over women bishops, spread over three days in July. Their full proposal will not be made public until next month. 
    Under the legislation, women will be consecrated bishops in England by 2014 at the earliest. But hundreds of male priests in England oppose women priests and bishops. Because of this they will not accept the authority of a male bishop either, where it has been “delegated” by a woman. In their text the Archbishops say: “Once women become bishops, it will be possible to maintain something like the present mixed economy in the Church of England only if there is provision for someone other than the diocesan bishop to provide episcopal oversight for those who are unable to accept the new situation.” 
    The need for this provision was widely accepted, but the problem was how the structure should be set up legally. “The amendments we intend to propose involve neither delegation nor depriving a diocesan of any part of his or her jurisdiction,” the Archbishops say. “Instead we seek to give effect to the idea of a co-ordinate jurisdiction.” 
    After the synod voted in 1992 to ordain women priests, a new form of traditionalist bishop, dubbed “flying bishop”, was created to care for Anglo-Catholics. The problem is more difficult this time because of the nature of authority in a Church modelled on a Catholic hierarchy. Traditionalists refuse to accept that women can be bishops, while women refuse to cede any ground that would render them less important than their male episcopal counterparts. 
    Other Anglican provinces around the world have created women bishops without making special provision. There are 28 Anglican women bishops in New Zealand, Australia, Cuba, Canada and the United States. But the Church of England is in a more delicate position because of its position as the “mother Church” of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion. 
    The contradictions of the Church’s stance were illustrated last week when the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US, Katharine Jefferts Schori, was told she could carry her episcopal mitre but not wear it on a visit to Southwark Cathedral. An attempt to find a compromise two years by the creation of “super” flying bishops had the backing of the Archbishops but was voted down by the Synod. 
    The auguries for the new effort to prevent a split are not much better. At the precise moment that the Archbishops’ motion will hit the floor of the Synod on Saturday July 10,traditionalist Church of England clergy will be meeting the Roman Catholic bishop of Nottingham, Malcolm McMahon, in Leicester to discuss converting to Catholicism. The meeting is organised by the Federation of Catholic Priests, an Anglican organisation with more than 400 members that is affiliated with the traditionalist Church Union. Bishop McMahon is a member of the committee set up by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales to set up the Ordinariate, a new body that will allow Anglicans to convert while retaining their cultural and liturgical heritage. 
    John Broadhurst, the Bishop of Fulham who is chairman of Forward in Faith, said: “The Archbishops’ amendment is a brave effort to answer some very serious questions about the dispossession of orthodox Anglicans. “But I do not quite understand how a traditionalist bishop can work in partnership with a woman bishop while he actually rejects the concept of her ordination.” 
    Campaigners for women bishops also said the proposals from the archbishops raised several questions. Hilary Cotton, vice-chairwoman of Women and the Church, said the group had already made significant compromise on women bishops. “We cannot give an immediate response to whether we can support this amendment. But I would want to say that supporting the legislation as it is drafted is a significant compromise from us.”
Well, at least his own Church stood up to him and told him to "get stuffed." Too bad the Anglican Communion can't find the brass to do so, too.

20 June 2010

Pentecost IV - Trinity III

The Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
The Third Sunday after Trinity
Proper 7

The Lectionary: 1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a; Psalm 42 and 43; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39

Collect: O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Let’s look for a minute at the story of the Gerasene demoniac; it’s about time somebody did. The story doesn’t get a lot of attention in preaching these days, and that’s a shame. There’s some really good stuff here, and it’s pretty funny if you come at it from the right angle. Also, it’s very handy to have it coupled with Paul’s words in Galatians. The two readings help each other.
First of all, let’s look at the issue that seems to get in the way of engaging it the most these last few centuries – those poor doomed demons. The fact is, the New Testament world had a different way of seeing reality than we do, or than the 10th century did, or than the 17th century did. And I’m confident that in just a handful of decades there will be a still different way of seeing the world – different categories, different ways of naming and organizing the stuff we experience. And so on. That changing never changes.
These days, we don’t do demons, at least not much. We don’t have a category for that. But it’s not a big deal; and it’s sure not worth all the effort folks put into trying to force this square peg into the round hole of our current categories. Instead of that, let’s see what’s going on here; and let’s see where the gospel is.
On one really important level, the story is a hoot – it’s somewhere between a political cartoon and a graphic novel. The whole scene is bizarre. You’ve got a naked crazy guy, chatty demons, charging pigs doing swan dives, tombs, chains, shackles, freaked-out locals, and a small riot. All in gentile territory where, as far Luke was concerned, Jesus had no business being in the first place.
The folks who first heard this story must have loved it. In addition to the great action and dialogue, there was ancient regional rivalry.
What could be more fun for the good Jews of Galilee to hear than a story about how un-kosher, unlucky, and generally weird the gentiles on the other side of the lake really were; and about how all those unclean pigs came to a well-deserved and hilarious end.
Then there’s the political subtext. Everybody knew instantly both that it was no accident that the demons called themselves “Legion” after the famous and feared Roman legions, or that pigs were a staple of both the Roman army and the Roman economy. Caesar’s legions, and Caesar’s rations, were mere child’s play for Jesus – a quick flush and they’re gone. What fun. And most Romans who heard the story probably wouldn’t even get this part.
But as delightful as all this is, this is much more than a mildly comic interlude in Jesus’ Galilean ministry. It’s really good news, and it’s good news about power – all sorts of power. The Gerasene demoniac appears just after the more familiar account of Jesus calming the storm on the lake. In fact, the storm was on the very same trip that took Jesus and the disciples to Gerasene. Both of these accounts are part of Luke’s run-up to the big question Jesus asks his disciples in the next chapter: “Who do you say that I am?” In fact, all of these stories are hints about what the right answer is; so they all are not so much stories about what Jesus did, but about who he is.
And who Jesus is has to do with power. It has to do with which, of all the powers in the universe, regardless of what categories we use to talk about them, are the strongest, which powers will have the last word.
You see, there are a lot of powers out there, powers that can, and do, hurt and isolate and torment and destroy – in all sorts of ways. The categories we use to describe them don’t really matter that much. Whether we live in a world full of demons or schizophrenics, of storm-gods or indifferent natural laws, of illness or of possession – regardless of the categories we use, we live in a dangerous world, a frightening world, a world that seems at both first and second glance to be pretty much against us. We live in a world that doesn’t seem to care about us or our pain. We know this all too well.
And the story of the Gerasene demoniac, like the story of the calming of the sea, like so many of the other stories about what Jesus did, and about who Jesus is, these are ways of saying that all of those powers out there, regardless of how we name them or organize them, regardless of how real they are, and regardless of how awful they are – none of them is ultimately powerful, none of them has or will have the last word, none of them will prevail, ultimately. In the end, when all is said and done, we are safe. And the power that Jesus brings, the power of love, the power we see most clearly on the cross, that power will prevail. And this victory is ours by gift.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what is lined up against us. Look, the Gerasene demoniac had more to worry about than his demons. He was also a pariah, cut off from family, friends, community, relationships – from all those connections that together weave the fabric of our humanity. That isolation, that apart-ness, was also the victory of powers, perhaps powers we humans create, powers that can destroy as effectively, and as completely, as madness or storms.
Still, by the time Jesus got through with him, our demoniac was on the other side of those as well. He was not only in his right mind, but he was, as they say, dressed appropriately; and Jesus told him to go to his home, a home he didn’t have when our story began. He was given the fullness of his life back. Remember, there are all sorts of powers out there; and all sorts of victories.
This is part of what Paul is talking about when he insists that, in Christ, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female.” Paul is saying that these distinctions, and others, these powers of the social, economic, ecclesiastical, and political structures – as ancient, hallowed, destructive, and potent as they were, and as they are – these are powers that will fall, and that have fallen, before Jesus. Their voices are not the strongest voices, and they will not have the last word. It is our vocation to oppose them, and by God’s grace they should not, and ultimately they cannot, separate, isolate, define, or destroy us.
Because the love that Jesus is, and the love that Jesus brings, is stronger than anything, even the worst, the very worst, that the world can throw at us. That’s who Jesus is – that’s what these stories are all about, that’s the metanarrative or “big story,” regardless of the categories and the worldviews we use to talk about them.
And that is good news.
-- The Rev. James Liggett is Rector of St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church in Midland, Texas. He is a native of Kansas and a graduate of the University of Houston and the Episcopal Divinity School. He has served parishes in Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma.

18 June 2010

Moravians vote for full communion with TEC

This evening the Moravian Church Northern Province voted to enter full communion with the Episcopal Church. There was only one "no" vote. In September the Southern Province will vote on the issue and both votes will need to be approved by the international body of the Unitas Fratrum which will meet next in 2012.

It's interesting that they should move closer to full communion with us today mere hours after Lambeth Palace (LP) told our Executive Council that "ecumenical relations are at an all time low" because of TEC's actions. It would appear that TEC's ecumenical talks are proceeding in a healthy manner. Perhaps Lambeth's talks are not going well because of Lambeth Palace itself.

Although the Moravian Church does not allow openly gay and lesbian persons to function as ordained clergy, TEC's full inclusion was deemed "not a matter of doctrine" by the Unitas Fratrum the international governing board of their church.

According to their blog, David L. Wickmann, president of the Provincial Elders' Conference of the Northern Province said
This is an important day in the life of our churches. This communion means our Church has the opportunity to engage with one of our historic partners in a more complete and meaningful way.
One must wonder why LGTB clergy is not a problem for the Moravian Chruch but is a "communion breaker" for Fundamentalists in the Anglican Communion.

The Moravian Church was founded in 1457 by followers of Jan Hus. It was founded 50-years before Luther nailed his thesis to the door of the Church in Wittenburg.

The graphic on this post is the seal of the Moravian Church.

Is Communion worth the price?

In the recent hostilities as the sun ostensibly sets on the Anglican Communion as we have known it, one must wonder why we care, and if we should care. Why should we suffer the slings and arrows coming from Lambeth Palace and the Global South.

A strong supporter of the Anglican Communion, I have lately advocated pulling our money from the Anglican Communion Office and channeling it to other important works in the Communion, and, walking away from the bigoted primates' club.

I was wrong.

When our presiding bishop preached in London last Sunday, it was more than a Primate preaching and presiding at the Lord's Table. It was more than a female bishop preaching and presiding. It was a beacon of hope in a stormy See (Sorry, but I couldn't resist the pun).

As I write this post the Rt. Rev'd Mary Gray Reeves, bishop of the Diocese of El Camino Real is in England visiting our partner diocese of Gloucester. The home page of Gloucester reports that
The Bishop of El Camino Real in America, Mary Gray-Reeves and the Bishop of Western Tanganyika in Africa, Gerard Mpango will spend a week in the Diocese of Gloucester with others from their countries. They will enjoy a full programme, which involves special services, a pilgrimage and visiting parts of our diocese including Cheltenham, Gloucester, the Forest of Dean, the Cotswolds, Stroud and Cirencester.

One of the joys of being part of the Christian Church is the series of international friendships that can develop, which help us to understand what it means to be part of a worldwide community, whether that community is the family of the church or whether it is the human race. The teams coming here from Tanzania and California, led by Bishop Gerard and Bishop Mary, will enable us to explore and deepen that friendship and so to play our part in the building of unity within the Church and beyond it.
That is an important and telling statement.

There is another, far greater joy that +Mary is there even though she and the organizers probably don't realize it: pastoral care to the oppressed simply by being there - being seen.

I cannot imagine how much it must mean to oppressed women in the Church of England to see women bishops. I cannot imagine the hope it gives to disheartened GLBT members of the Church of England to see bishops who support their full dignity and inclusion in the life of Christ's Body on earth.

The presence of ++Katharine and +Mary also gives encouragement to those in the Church of England "establishment" who are trying to move the Church of England and the Communion itself into the Future.
  • Encouragement - it can change
  • Hope - it will change
  • Support - we are not alone
And things are changing. Did you know that Changing Attitudes, the English version of Integrity has given relatively good marks to the Rt. Rev'd Michael Perham for his support of LGTB and The Episcopal Church? For an Church of England bishop to support the GLBT community is a huge, folks. For a Church of England bishop to openly be supportive of TEC, at this time, is really commendable. Anglican Mainstream has this to say about +Michael:
In an urbane presentation +Michael argues that same-sex issues are second-order issues and that the difficulty with the Glasspool consecration is its timing; TEC has again failed to honour restraint. However, +Michael's clear trajectory is towards the acceptance of partnered gays and lesbians in the priesthood and episcopate in a plural (for now) church. [Emphasis added.]
And there is also a credible rumor (if rumors can be credible) that David Cameron will soon be pressuring the Church of England to perform same-gender blessings. [See Selictive gay rights from the coalition.]

As for Lambeth Palace, well, its actions are not popular in England. They are an embarrassment to the English Church. A friend of mine worshiped in a parish in Yorkshire last Sunday. He wrote that
Nearly everyone in the congregation of about one-hundred came up to offer apologies for 'recent developments in the Communion' and to assure me that the people in the pews are TEC's friends. The most repeated comment was 'Please tell your friends that the [Lambeth] doesn't speak for most of the Church of England'.
This was in Yorkshire folks, "out in the sticks". However it is not an isolated event; other Americans are hearing the same comments. There are even those in the Church of England who would welcome a Missionary Diocese of the Episcopal Church coming to England. Indeed, some have asked for that very thing.

Lambeth Palace's unilateral actions, based on a covenant that isn't yet, and its personal insults to ++Katharine, are creating a much stronger centre in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. A centre that is working for a Church where all of God's children are welcome at the Table and in the councils of the Church.

TEC has many, many friends in the Communion and they do not want to lose us or our voice "[proclaiming] liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof". Leviticus 25.10 They value The Episcopal Church and recognise that we are the whipping boy for all that is wrong in the Communion and, indeed, the world.

Of the coming Messiah, Isaiah said
The bruised reed he shall not break, and smoking flax he shall not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. Isaiah 42.3 Douay-Rheims
That is why we need to stay.

If the Communion dies God will still be God. If The Episcopal Church is "sent down" (Rowan's final trump card - if he plays it), God will still be God. But we will not leave in disgrace as some hope.

We must leave in a procession carrying the banner of Christ unfurled singing "We walk the King's Highway". Hymnal, 647 Our witness will be untarnished and the world will take note of how we acted in all of this and it will be counted to us as righteousness.

We shall continue to "to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners". Isaiah 61.1 NAS

Some primates will rage and snort and refuse to be seen at the Lord's Table with us, but they represent only their princely selves. The majority of people in the pews throughout the Anglican world will continue kneel at the Altar rail next to us and be fed by the same Lord.

And that, my friends, is the Anglican Communion. The other thing, the thing that is transmogrificating into a something either the Vatican or fundamentalists would embrace, that is just a bureaucracy founded in 1861.

Enduring the insults is the price of prophetic mission. Are we willing to pay that price? Our presiding bishop appears to be willing. Jesus was, too. Can we do less?
Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Luke 6:22 NSA

About the photo: The photo was taken at the consecration of the Rt. Rev'd Mary Gray Reeves. I wanted to use it for our parish directory and I erased the background and substituted the interior of our parish as a bit of humor. The Presiding Bishop has NOT been to our parish. If you are reading this, ++Katharine (and I know you aren't) we'd love to have you preside any time and bring all your mitres!

13 June 2010

The Presiding Bishop's Sermon for Pentecost III

A friend emailed me this morning about today's sermon in Southward Cathedral. London, England. He'd driven to Soutwark to hear the Most Rev'd Katharine Jefferts Shori preach at the principle sermon today (13 June). Ian said that the sermon was the best he'd heard in several years. I broke my rule of Sunday rest to track down a copy of the sermon and I found it. Here is an excerpt:
I come from a notorious place. Gambling and prostitution are legal in Nevada. Ministry there means that many congregations host 12-step programs not just for alcoholics and drug addicts, but for those addicted to gambling. There are a few groups for sex addicts, too. A story quietly circulated when I was there, about a priest who encouraged the local madams and their employees to visit the churches he served. One congregation made a warm enough welcome that the women of the night returned frequently. Other congregations acted more like Jesus' fellow dinner guests – "who let her in here?" The women didn't return to those dinner tables. ...

Jesus invites us all to his moveable feast. He leaves that dinner party with Simon and goes off to visit other places in need of prodigal love and prodigious forgiveness. His companions, literally his fellow tablemates, are the 12 and "some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities." Hmmm. Strong, healthy women, and three of them are actually named here: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna. Together with many others they supported and fed the community – they became hosts of the banquet.

Those who know the deep acceptance and love that come with healing and forgiveness can lose the defensive veneer that wants to shut out other sinners. They discover that covering their hair or hiding their tears or hoarding their rich perfume isn't the way that the beloved act, even if it makes others nervous. Eventually it may even cure the anxious of their own fear by drawing them toward a seat at that heavenly banquet. There's room for us all at this table, there are tears of welcome and a kiss for the wanderer, and the sweet smell of home.

Want to join the feast? You are welcome here. Love has saved you – go in peace. Lean over and say the same to three strangers: you are welcome here. Love has saved you – be at peace.

Read it all at Episcopal Life.

Pentecost III - Trinity II

The Third Sunday After Pentecost
The Second Sunday after Trinity
Proper 6

The Lectionary: 1 Kings 21:1-10, 15-21a; Psalm 5:1-8; Galatians 2:15-21; Luke 7:36-8:3

Collect: O Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s story from Luke could easily be a contemporary one-act play – a single scene where characters, conflict, and social norms clash together to reveal an unexpected and utterly transformative truth. The set: a well-decorated dining room, simple but expensive looking. The characters: Simon the Pharisee, a curious intellectual with an eye for the interesting; Jesus of Nazareth, the guest of honor and eventual game changer; and the Woman with the Alabaster Jar, a character with no name who is the source of the scene’s most uncomfortable moments.

Like any good drama, this story begins with the mundane. A Pharisee asks Jesus over for dinner, Jesus accepts, and the two sit down for a meal. So often in the gospels the Pharisees are cast as the villains. Unable to accept Jesus’ teaching, confused by his deliberate opposition to certain devout customs, this group of religious leaders is often understood as an organized faction out to get Jesus. But here, we see a different side of the Pharisees. Simon is obviously open minded enough to invite the renegade rabbi over to his house for dinner. As we find out later, he is not quite excited enough about the event to make a big show of it – to ask a servant to wash Jesus’ feet, for example – but he is willing to hear what the increasingly popular teacher has to say. There is no evidence to indicate that the dinner invitation is a plot or a trick. It’s simply a dinner, and Simon has at least an intellectual interest in this man named Jesus.

Enter the Woman with the Alabaster Jar. Luke does not give her a name, nor does he give her any lines. We know very little about her aside from the fierce gossip spoken behind her back – “Sinner!” – yet she provides the action that drives the rest of the story. We don’t know how she entered the house, how many people she defiantly walked past before finding Jesus as the table. She stands behind him, then crouches on the ground. She begins to cry, allowing her tears to collect at his feet, bathing them, washing away the day’s dust. Without a towel or even a scarf – maybe she didn’t think this through – she unties her hair and dries his feet, wet with her own tears. Finally, she takes expensive oil and anoints him again and again, kissing him as she does it.

Imagine the room. Imagine Simon, whose carefully casual dinner just became shockingly uncomfortable. Simon’s reaction – or the emotional response that we might picture him having – is not difficult to understand. If he is shocked, there is a good chance that we are too. Even contemporary readers thousands of years removed from the first telling of this story, readers thoroughly on board with Jesus and his message, may find this part of the scene more than a little awkward. A woman overcome with emotion for reasons that we do not know, her tears washing a man’s feet, her hair drying them, her kisses, the oil … it all seems a little voyeuristic on our end, as if we are spying on an a moment so raw, so vulnerable, that it was never meant to be seen at all.

Only Jesus remains unflappable. Only he – the God in him, the man in him – is able to understand this woman’s extravagant gesture, her otherwise inappropriate actions, as a full-body attempt at reconciliation, a plea for forgiveness. If she is a sinner like the rest of us, only Jesus knows her sin.

If this story was a one-act play, it might be titled “Forgiveness.” Here, we get a sense of God’s love, of God’s composed and collected way of accepting our broken pleas, our vulnerable moments, and refusing to turn away from them. While we may find it difficult to forgive, we see that forgiveness is natural to God. While we may find ourselves cringing away from the brokenness of others, we see that God never blinks. For Simon, and maybe for us, this introduction to a God so full of love and so ready to reconcile with us can be almost too much to bear.

In today’s reading from Galatians, we find Paul taking a stab at using theological language to describe the type of forgiveness that Jesus displays at Simon’s house. While the Woman with the Alabaster Jar ignites the right side of our brains, Paul goes to work on the left. “We know that a person is justified not by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ,” he writes. “But if in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!”

“Justified,” “faith,” “works,” “law,” “sin”: Paul throws around heavy religious words that can be hard get a handle on. The underlying theme of this and many of Paul’s points is that through the person of Jesus – his whole life, his death, his resurrection and ascension – we, as individuals and as a gathered community, find unity with God. It is through faith in Jesus that all of our sins are forgiven. Even that sin, whether it be one or many, that we cannot even name, that causes us to weep as we crouch at Christ’s feet.

Back in Simon’s dining room, Jesus is about to show his true colors, revealing that he doesn’t care too much for fancy dinner parties or the invitations of respected hosts. While Jesus may have been a bit of a curiosity to Simon, the Pharisee’s status was of little interest to his guest. When Simon questions Jesus’ status as a prophet, claiming that if he really was what he said he was, he would know that this woman with her tears and her kisses was a sinner, Jesus calmly responds. I imagine him meeting Simon’s gaze across the table, setting down his glass, staring for a while. In case we were wondering who is in charge here, we are about to find out. “Simon, I have something to say to you,” Jesus begins, and then he tells a story.

The parable is a simple one. A creditor has two debtors, one who owes a lot of money and one who owes less. Neither of them could pay, so the creditor cancels both debts. In the end, the one with the greater debt loved the creditor more, Jesus and Simon agree. “The one to whom little is forgiven loves little,” Jesus says. Then he turns to the woman and tells her that she is forgiven. Her sins, known to him alone, have been wiped away like the dust on his feet, and she is free to go and live a new life in the assurance of God’s grace.

This final exchange is the resolution of the one-act play and it is the perfect image to go along with Paul’s words about sin and justification. The audience knows that something important has happened, for the Woman with the Alabaster Jar, for us. Like any good play, when the lights go down, the attention shifts from the stage to the silent working of the audience’s hearts and minds, where the lessons learned struggle to take root and grow.

Like Simon, we all might have an intellectual interest in Jesus, an interest that extends about as far as a carefully casual dinner party with Christ as the guest of honor. But we have our “alabaster jar” side, too – that part of us that yearns for reconciliation and forgiveness, that wells up with emotion when we think of the pain and the wrong that we cannot name. Here we learn that Jesus knows us better than anyone else, that he accepts our offerings no matter how awkward, how ugly, and forgives.

-- The Rev. Elizabeth Easton is the associate rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Omaha, Nebraska. A native of Washington State, she graduated from Church Divinity School of the Pacific in 2009.

12 June 2010

Albany accepts "Covenant"

Meeting in a convention called "Take Up Your Cross; Follow Me", the Diocese of Albany, voted to accept the so called Anglican Covenant. The voting (not by orders) was 314:76 with each delegate having a vote.

They went one step farther and voted to recommend the acceptance of the "covenant" to other dioceses of The Episcopal Church.

This should be no surprise to anyone familiar with the diocesan leaders.

The Presiding Bishop addresses Scotland

From the Raspberry Rabbit:
    The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schiori was invited to speak to the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church this afternoon. She was sitting in the pews during the final presentation of the Inter-Church Relations Committee and a presentation by a delegate at the Edinburgh 2010 Mission Conference. At long last she took the podium and spoke about elements of our shared history, the importance of the Baptismal Covenant in the Episcopal Church and in those churches in whose prayer books it appears in some form and the future shape of our shared ministry in the world.

    There will be an video version of this appearing on the Scottish Episcopal Church website and Kelvin's blog. In the mean time, you have an audio version of what was said during Bishop Katharine's talk to us this afternoon. Enjoy!
It is well worth your time to listen to the address given by ++Katharine.

- - -

On a not related subject, TTLS is having significant problems with the blog. Posts are disappearing only to reappear, parts of posts also disappear and the blog template is crazy. My apologies for the inconvenience.

11 June 2010

Newport Beach schismatics headed to State Supreme Court

The schismatics at St. James' , Newport Beach, have been granted a hearing by the California Supreme Court.

As you recall, in March, the California Court of Appeal ruled 2 to 1 that the Episcopal Diocese owns St. James. The schismatics claimed that the decision was made before St. James could go through the discovery process and present evidence to the court. They appealed to the State Supreme Court and, I'm surprised to say, the court granted the hearing.

Remember, folks, they keep saying "It's not about the property." Apparently they prevaricate because it is all about the property.

The CASC agreeing to hear this case is most interesting in light of their refusal to hear the La Cresenta case last March. Could this hearing have anything to do with the fact that ueber-rich < Ahmanson, the chequebook of the schismatics worships at St. James', Newport Beach? I'm just wondering.

NOTE: This post was sent out at about 3:30 a.m. but I've changed the post time to keep it at the top of the list for today because it's more newsworthy than the Druid in Lambeth Palace.

Also, make sure to read Fr. Jake today. He presents a very thought provoking explanation to the current power play by Mr. Williams, Druid practitioner.

Williams: Druid and promoter of Shariah

It's interesting that Mr. Williams, who has campaigned for Shariah Law in the United Kingdom, and who has been inducted into and participated in Druid rituals, is still in office and believes he is the best judge of what is acceptable to Anglican Christians.

It's amazing that he can promote two non-Christian religious system and then castigate TEC for a Christ-like compassion for GLBT people in the United States. The temerity of his hypocrisy boggles the mind.

Make sure to read Fr. Jake today. He presents a very thought provoking explanation to the current power play by Mr. Williams, Druid practitioner.

10 June 2010

Canada bows down before Rowan I

I commented over at Fr. Jake's that Rowan Williams' actions regarding TEC was his shot across the bow - a warning to smaller provinces, and to the Anglican Church of Canada that he would obeyed. Screw the gays or "We will not be amused and punish you for not bowing before Our authority".

Well, it worked. Canada has rolled over and played dead. They've decided displeasing Rowan, a foreign bishop, was more important than the souls of their GLBT members and supersedes Canadian law.

Here is the document of appeasement.
    Sexuality Discernment report, June 9, 2010
    Discernment on Sexuality
    General Synod 2010

    The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada met in Halifax, Nova Scotia in June of 2010. Together we entered into intentional conversations in order to hear where our Church is at this time in its life in relation to the matter of blessing of same gender unions. Our conversations were marked by grace, honesty and generosity of spirit towards one another. There was robust participation in the conversations. In dialogue we shared our passion for the mission of God in the world and our thoughts, feelings and convictions. We were attentive to each others’ perspectives, experiences and stories and we shared a commitment to continued theological reflection and scriptural study as a foundation to our ongoing dialogue and discernment.

    We engaged these conversations within the particularity of our Canadian context – a country that is diverse and many cultured. Canadians have been learning how to dialogue across their diversities over the course of our national life. We do so with deeply held commitments to transparency and openness, an approach that is not without risk and that we affirm as a great gift. Often, in processes of discernment, the task is to see our way through a paradox.
    Our conversations affirmed the full inclusion of gay and lesbian members in our churches, aboriginal voices in our midst, and the wide range of perspectives on the issue of same gender blessings across all dioceses. Our dialogue has been a positive and helpful step in our discernment. At this time, however, we are not prepared to make a legislative decision. Above, in and through all of this, and despite all our differences we are passionately committed to walking together, protecting our common life.

    We acknowledge diverse pastoral practices as dioceses respond to their own missional contexts. We accept the continuing commitment to develop generous pastoral responses. We recognize that these different approaches raise difficulties and challenges. When one acts there are implications for all. There can be no imposition of a decision or action, but rather we are challenged to live together sharing in the mission of Christ entrusted to us, accepting that different local contexts call at times for different local discernment, decision and action.

    We are in a time of ongoing discernment which requires mutual accountability through continuing dialogue, diocese to diocese and across the wider church. It also requires continued theological and scriptural study and dialogue on the wide range of matters relating to human sexuality.

    For many members of General Synod there is deep sadness that, at this time, there is no common mind. We acknowledge the pain that our diversity in this matter causes.

    We are deeply aware of the cost to people whose lives are implicated in the consequences of an ongoing discernment process.

    This is not just an ‘issue’ but is about people’s daily lives and deeply held faith commitments. For some, even this statement represents a risk. For some the statement does not go nearly far enough.

    In the transparency and openness we have experienced with one another, we have risked vulnerability but it is in such places that we grow closer in the body of Christ and behold each other as gift. Abiding with each other, and with God we are sustained through struggle, patient listening, and speaking from the mind and heart together. We have experienced these conversations as a gift for us here at Synod and hope that they will be a further gift to the Anglican Church of Canada and to the wider Church.
I had thought that the Canadians would at least stand firm in equal rights if not go forward, alas, they, too, lack the spine to buck Rowan I, Pontifex Maximus.

Shame on you, Anglican Church of Canada.

This whole debacle reminds me of a South Park episode. But, in this episode it is Cartman Williams running around screaming "respect my athouri-tay, respect my authroti-tay."

To quote Henry II, "Will no one rid [us] of this meddlesome priest?"

TEC has friends in the "Global South"

The Episcopal Church does not stand alone in its desire for full inclusion and "justice for all."

One of the first provinces to come out of the closet to support TEC is actually in the geographical global south - the Province of Brazil. This was posted by the General Secretary of the Irreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brazil.
    The decision to remove representatives of The Episcopal Church and the Church of Canada from ecumenical networks is the most drastic change of all amidst the theological conflict within the Anglican Communion.

    In my point of view the Archbishop of Canterbury's action is highly risky and it is impossible to predict the consequences of such recommendations. The Pentecost Letter addressed to the Communion was one of the most contradictory documents in our history as Communion.

    At the heart of a feast of unity, we heard a message of discipline and exclusion. It is absolutely strange for time when other Christian traditions were celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit empowering the Church to be in one faith and witness. For us, the Archbishop`s letter showed our fracture and incompetence to stay at the table of dialog, wishing to hear the God`s will.

    In our Provincial Synod, we heard from Archbishop Mauricio's own mouth that in God's heart there is no place for boundaries. Our delegates unanimously approved a motion of solidarity with our brothers and sisters from TEC and Canada, and a letter will be sent to the Communion regarding this and the punitive actions against those Provinces who have been searching for ways to welcome all people without barriers and prejudices.

    Pentecost, as I wrote in a previous post, means to jump into newness of life. To surpass the ignorance and to know the language of love. The disciples were afraid yet they were freed to speak, to welcome, and to build a new community with people who were unlike themselves in every way: language, customs and values.

    At the installation in the National Cathedral of the Province of Brazil in Porto Alegre on Trinity Sunday, we had a true Pentecost. There were Buddhists, Afro religions, Roman Catholics, Muslims, and representatives of many different religious backgrounds. An unforgettable demonstration of fraternity. It is for that purpose the church exists: To be a sign of reconciliation and welcome.

    Regrettably, our Communion has not been able to overcome the challenges of diversity. Now, besides this difficulty, we have the mark of fear and exclusion.

    The Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil stands in solidarity with our sister churches in the USA and Canada an our hope is that we can reaffirm our commitment in welcome to all people to live their faith fully and with confidence in the gracious love of God!
As you can see, TEC is not standing alone to face the dragon of Canterbury. The above is from the blog of the Rev'd Francisco Silva, general secretary of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil.

My thanks to Mike Vierra for smoothing out the translation from the Portuguese.

Virginia property dispute news

The Virginia Supreme Court has stated the lower court erred in its judgment regarding the Truro property.

They did rule that a "division" as occurred in The Episcopal Church - no surprise there. But, here is the important bit of the ruling.
In light of our holding that the circuit court erred in granting the Code § 57-9(A) petitions, the control and ownership of the property held in trust and used by the CANA Congregations remains unresolved. Accordingly, the declaratory judgment actions filed by TEC and the Diocese, and the counterclaims of the CANA Congregations in response to those suits, must be revived in order to resolve this dispute under principles of real property and contract law."

For these reasons, we will reverse the judgment of the circuit court and remand with direction to dismiss the CANA Congregations’ Code § 57-9(A) petitions. We will further direct the circuit court to reinstate the declaratory judgment actions filed by TEC and the Diocese and the counterclaims of the CANA Congregations to those actions, and conduct further proceedings thereon consistent with the views expressed in this opinion.
This is a huge "victory" for TEC. What the decision means is that when the lower court rehears the case they cannot use 57.9 to make a determination. Remember 57.9 was what the lower court used to base their ruling in favour of CANA - now they cannot use the statute. CANA is now without their ace-in-the-hole, to use the vernacular.

This leaves only two arguments as I see it. They will argue that the Dennis Cannon is not valid. and they did not agree to it even though they lived with it for years, and thereby consented to it by not having objected. The Virginia courts ruled in favour of TEC in the 1970s before there was a Dennis Cannon so I cannot see how this argument will fly.

The other argument they will use is the fact that Truro was a parish before there was an Episcopal Church in the United States. That is a fact. However, for over 200 years they've been part of TEC. Virginia law tends to favour hierarchical churches.

The matter has not been resolved and the matter will be in litigation for years because CANA will not vacate the property until the local constabulary arrives to escort them from the property. But the light at the tend of the tunnel can be seen, now, even though it's just a faint light.

Remember to pray for those who are most unhappy about this ruling. Even though they caused a lot of pain to their fellow Christians, they, too, are hurting now. And pray for TEC, too.

Read the decision here.

More later.