03 July 2010

And can it be? Jeffrey Johns to be a bishop?

Today's Telegraph is reporting that the Very Rev'd Jeffrey Johns has been nominated to become the Bishop of Southwark. That means that the Most Rev'd Rowan Williams has approved the nomination. Willimas is chair of the Crown Nominations Committee.

The committee is "liberal" but this possible nomination is truly surprising given the recent actions of Williams in retaliation for The Episcopal Church consecrating an openly gay and partnered bishop.
According to today's article,
Promoting him to one of the most senior offices in the Church would trigger a civil war between liberals and conservatives and exacerbate existing divisions within the Anglican Communion.

The appointment of Dr John, who entered a civil partnership with his long term partner the Rev Grant Holmes in 2006, would mark a major victory for the pro-gay lobby in the Church of England, which has been disappointed at the lack of progress under Dr Williams.

Conservatives, on the other hand, would be incensed at the promotion of a cleric who has strongly argued for a more liberal attitude towards sexuality and is in a long-standing, though celibate, homosexual relationship.
Could Rowan have multiple personalities? The whole "mess" just gets stranger and stranger.

UPDATE: From Colin Coward at Changing Attitudes in England
If true, then the implications are huge. The Church of England would gain a bishop of immense intelligence and passion. LGBT Anglicans would gain renewed confidence that the Church of England retains a capacity to be (cautiously) radical, inclusive, broad and generous. It would signal a dramatic change of direction in the Communion. Further resignations by conservative members of the Primates meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Anglican Communion Standing Committee might be expected.
Coward continues:
The balance of power between conservative and radical groups in the Communion might change dramatically given such a huge reversal following the successful campaign by those claiming to be traditional in blocking Jeffrey John’s appointment in 2003. England might at last be able to stand with our Episcopal Church friends in being honest about the numbers of LGBT deacons, priests and lay people (and bishops) who lead exemplary Christian lives in the service of the gospel.
UPDATE 2: Episcopal Cafe has some good information for us.

02 July 2010

"I'm Sorry" at Pride Chicago

Last Sunday the offertory hymn was When Christ Was Lifted From the Earth which has become one of my favourite hymns. And, no, not because of any "of course you do" reasons. The hymn really tells it like it is.

God knows us in that intimate way that we know ourselves, behind the closed door with the curtains drawn. He knows the "us" we are when we are completely alone. He knows if we drink milk from the carton and put it back in the refrigerator. He knows if we really throw away the hot dog that fell on the floor if we pick it up off the floor and eat it without even brushing it off. He knows if we would rob a bank if you knew we would get away with it.

And yet, he loves us anyway. He is reconciled to us and we to him.

There is a large difference between 'acceptance' and 'reconciliation.' The former says 'I'll put up with you.' The latter says, 'You are restored to me.'

I read a wonderful blog entry today by Nathan over at It seems to me ... and I'd like to ask you to go read it. It's called, simply, I hugged a man in his underwear and I am proud. It's about Nathan's experience at Pride Chicao - no, it's not what you think it is going to be. Here is a quote from the post.
Acceptance is one thing. Reconciliation is another. Sure at Pride, everyone is accepted (except perhaps the protestors). There are churches that say they accept all. There are business that say the accept everyone. But acceptance isn’t enough. Reconciliation is.

But there isn’t always reconciliation. And when there isn’t reconciliation, there isn’t full acceptance. Reconciliation is more painful; it’s more difficult. Reconciliation forces one to remember the wrongs committed and relive constant pain. Yet it’s more powerful and transformational because two parties that should not be together and have every right to hate one another come together for the good of one another, for forgiveness, reconciliation, unity.
If we, the Church of God, mean what we profess, and truly wish that all people give God a second chance - including those whom the Church has wounded deeply - then we come practice reconciliation, not just acceptance.  God has called us to tear down the wall erected to keep "those people" out. That is our job.

Go read the post; you'll be glad you did. And make sure to read the followup post here.

Photo Credit: Michelle maladjustedmedia.com.

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.