Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Resisting Rick Warren

December 23, 2008

My initial reaction to the President-elect’s invitation to Rick Warren to offer an invocation at the inauguration was that it was a smart move. Mr. Warren is a well known pastor through his best selling ‘purpose driven’ books. He had hosted a conversation with Senators McCain and Obama during the campaign, and he would have general appeal to a more conservative base that Obama needs to have true national unity while facing some serious challenges where partisanship is particularly unhelpful. There are plenty of people who dislike me who are quite capable of praying and I was embarrassed to read the comments of the Bishop of New Hampshire saying that Mr. Warren and he pray to different gods.

That said, I have great sympathy with those who resist and criticize the President-elect’s decision to invite him. As one friend of mine put it: “I have zero tolerance for those who would denigrate my full humanity.” I have long since moved beyond considering homosexuality as a theoretical problem. It is quite possible, --even likely—that Mr. Warren would think that a person who engages in homosexual acts is denigrating her or his humanity, and that this is a debate between reasonable people. Maybe the president-elect thinks some such thing. I don not think such a view is reasonable once we accept the reality that some people are (whatever the etiology) homosexual. Once we accept that as reality, then views such as those of Mr. Warren or the many members of our own communion who really do not accept GLBT people as such denigrate the full humanity of brothers and sisters in Christ. Those views must therefore be challenged at every turn even when we ourselves find such a need to be tiresome. At the same time we do not need to denigrate the humanity of those whom we challenge. Jesus set the model for non violent resistance or resistance with integrity in his own life, fully recognizing that he was therefore vulnerable to a lynch mob,--and in his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount—in which turning the other cheek and walking the extra mile are attitudes and actions of non violent resistance to those who would denigrate the humanity of others. (For more on this see Walter Wink’s Engaging the Powers, especially Chapter 9)

Monday, December 22, 2008

An Update on Church Politics

December 22, 2008

Things have been ticking along since I have last written on these topics that seem so tiresome in the midst of watching Obama pick his cabinet and the Fed cutting interest rates as low as they have ever been. The most significant thing that has happened in recent weeks is that Judge Bellows has issued a final series of rulings in the Virginia property disputes. (You can read about that here: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/81803_103915_ENG_HTM.htm) It is clear that under the unique laws written for racist Methodists during the civil war that what has happened in the Diocese of Virginia with eleven congregations acting in concert to leave the Episcopal Church is that the judge has ruled this a church split which means they may continue to use and claim ownership of property that was being held in trust for the Episcopal Church (but apparently never registered as such following legal formalities). The Diocese will now appeal to the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the law that has defined the Judge’s decisions. This will doubtless take a long time before a decision is clear.


December 22, 2008

Reading has replaced writing in recent weeks hence my silence in blogging. I have been dipping into Feasting On the Word, a commentary on the Revised Common Lectionary edited by Barbara Brown Taylor and David Bartlett. Each entry includes commentaries from four perspectives: theological, pastoral, exegetical and homilteical. When you consider that the lectionary offers readings from Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament and Gospel, that makes for sixteen substantial comments on any given Sunday or Feast Day. It is a great resource for preachers and others and the first volume or two are out now. I’m not a disinterested bystander as I am published in a book for the first time as one among many contributors.

Jeffrey Salkin, who taught Sunday School for us this fall has published Righteous Gentiles in the Hebrew Bible, a series of reflections on sacred relationships, especially between Jews and Gentiles. This is the only time I have had a book dedicated to me, an honor I share with Richard Burnett, currently rector of Trinity, Columbus, Ohio with whom I was in seminary.

I have enjoyed again James Alison’s fist book called Knowing Jesus, a great introduction to Girardian thought as applied to the Gospel.

On the fiction front I enjoyed Tolstoy’s War and Peace fro the first time since I was twenty. One wag seeing me reading in the gym commented that it was probably the same as when I read it before to which I was able to respond that I am not the same. It took me a while to get into the story but a majestic story it is moving seamlessly between the personal and the political, between the heat of battle and the intricacies of freemasonry, between theories of land management and the relationships of emperors, between theories of history and the accidents that make it up. I was reminded of Paul Johnson’s marvelous work called The Birth of the Modern in which he writes a history of the years 1815-1830 from perspectives of English villages, French alliances, particular industries, personal reminiscences from diaries and the like. In other words a multi layered and multi perspective history, avoiding over simplifying complex events. Both Tolstoy and Johnson, without using the phrase, are describing the effects of a butterfly flapping its wings and changing the weather. They show history to be less a matter of cause and effect and more like what happens to an ecosystem when a stone is thrown into a pond. In this way they both point to good theology.

Marilynne Robinson’s Home was another well written and worthy novel which I did not particularly enjoy. John Le Carre’s A Most Wanted Man on the other hand was fabulous. My theology group is looking at allegiance and apologetics this year and the intricacies of allegiance and identity are front and center in this book in which Le Carre returns to Hamburg as his primary setting and which is among the strongest of his novels.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bishop Chane Responds

December 10, 2008

Bishop Joohn Chane of Washington has written to his diocese in response to the proposal of a new Anglican province in North America. It is first class and you can read it here: http://www.edow.org/news/media/releases/2008/chane-providence.html

Monday, December 8, 2008

Anglican Antics and What Matters

December 6, 2008

I was asked at a dinner party why I had not made a comment about the new ‘Anglican’ province being formed in North America and claiming 100,000 members. I really don’t have anything to add to what I have already said. The Archbishop of Canterbury has met, eaten and prayed with some of the leading schismatics and appears to be open to the process of this new province seeking recognition through formal channels. Martyn Minns, the Nigerian bishop, originally from Nottingham, England, now residing in New Jersey, has made some comments to the effect that the new province really doesn’t need to operate according to the rules of an English charity (under which the Anglican Consultative Council operates), and suggests that the Archbishop of Canterbury would ‘clarify’ things for Anglicans if he would get behind this innovation. I’m tired of it all and continue to suspect that The Episcopal Church will continue to be marginalized, --or at least those parts of the church that are willing to move beyond tolerance of GLBT people to affirmation.

At the same time, I hope that my predictions will not come to pass. At All Saints’ we continue to contribute in tangible ways to the reality of belonging to a worldwide communion that we understand most in terms of relationship. We support the Compass Rose Society http://www.compassrosesociety.org/

And I have just accepted appointment to the board which supports the Anglican Observer to the United Nations http://www.anglicancommunion.org/un/

While I applaud the programmatic concerns of the office, what really excites me about that work is that we are providing a voice for the poor in the councils of the United Nations. All too often the poor are not well represented by their governments, and a voice of a Church that recognizes the generous, abundant grace of God and the special concern of Jesus for the poor can only be a good thing. We continue our informal relationship with the Diocese of Western Tanganyika in Tanzania, supporting Fred Kalibwame at Uganda Christian University and providing a small measure of support to Emmanuel Bwatta studying at Sewanee. We are exploring what relationship with the Diocese of Juba in the Sudan might look like and are excited about moving forward with our relationship with the Cathedral of Sao Paulo in the Diocese of Rio de Janeiro. The Anglican Communion matters. It is an expression of the kind of relationship we talk about when we gather around the table week by week.

At the same time it is around the Lord’s Table that the Catholicity of the Church is most manifest, not in some ecclesiastic form of supra-national Corporation. We will gather this Christmas as we have always done. This year we will do so in the midst of a recession, wondering how to be faithful with the gifts that are released for the work we have been given to do and making sure that we do not reduce our work with the neediest among us. In fact I hope that we may be able to expand that work in time of need. That would be something to celebrate.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An Open Letter

December 2, 2008

The following open letter has been offered to the Episcopal Church by Ed Rodman, a distinguished member of the faculty at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge. It is worth reading, especially as we consider the ‘shape’ of our ministry at All Saints’ in years to come. I have also sent it to our strategic thinking group.

An Open Letter to Various Leaders in The Episcopal Church


The Evolving Implementation of the 2006 General Convention Resolution A123

It is with some trepidation that I feel called to write this open letter at this time. I would ask you to indulge me by taking the time to read it in its entirety so that any things that you may have heard or assumed about my various public statements on this issue can be viewed in their full context. This letter is intended to affirm, educate, chastise, and invite us to a deeper dialogue toward the beloved community. Before I begin I should make certain biographical comments, for those who do not know who I am, so that you can appreciate that this comes from a working knowledge of much that has brought us to this point on this issue.

I am a sixty-six year old Black Episcopal priest, who has served his Church as faithfully as I have been able since my ordination in 1967. Prior to that I was a history and political science major at Hampton Institute in Virginia, and one of the founders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Hence I can claim a forty-eight year history as an advocate for social justice and an unyielding opponent of all forms of oppression. During my career I have had the pleasure of helping to found the Union of Black Episcopalians (originally UBCL), the Episcopal Urban Caucus, the Consultation and the first three iterations of the National Church Anti-Racism Program. Much of this was made possible by the good graces of the several bishops of the Diocese of Massachusetts (Anson Stokes, John Burgess, Ben Arnold, John B. Coburn, David Johnson, Barbara Harris, David Birney. and M. Thomas Shaw) who permitted me to exercise my ministry as Canon Missioner in these arenas for the national Church on an unpaid seconded basis except for the years 2000 to 2003 when I was a paid consultant to the Anti-Racism Committee; as well as local struggles…from prison abolition, Boston School Desegregation Crisis and many other struggles for justice too numerous to mention here. I am currently a professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts where I work in the area of Pastoral Theology, Urban Ministry and Anti-Oppression Studies. I say these things not in pride but in order to establish a foundation of credibility and commitment that I have been blessed to have been able to maintain over these many years.

Having said this, I wish to be very clear that I affirm, support and commend the current leadership of the Presiding Bishop and her staff, as well as that of her predecessor in their willingness to stand tall on this issue and commit their time and the programmatic resources of the Church to see that we remain faithful to the task of combating the sin of racism. In whatever follows, I hope that this ringing affirmation is crystal clear and informs the rest of this letter as a teaching tool and an invitation to deeper dialogue. I should note here that since my election to Executive Council in 2003 by the General Convention, I have felt a strong obligation to be faithful to those who voted for me in the full knowledge of my strong sense of commitment and willingness to speak truth to power. One by-product of that election was to resign as the paid consultant to the Anti-Racism Committee, so that there could be no conflict of interest and equally important, exercise an oversight function on this an other social justice programs that are too often under threat, misunderstood or ignored by too many in the Church. And, it is in this capacity as an elected Executive Council member that I write today, in the full confidence that I speak for many on these matters. What now follows is the education which I promised at the outset.

Many of you may be surprised to know that this is the third such letter that I have written to the leadership of the Church over the last fifteen years. The first was in 1993 when as the convener of the Black Leaders and Diocesan Executives Think Tank in support of Black Ministries that I called into question the serial termination of nearly all the Black male executives on the staff of the national Church in less than a year. It precipitated a frank meeting, with then Presiding Bishop Browning, which attempted to educate him on the appearance of institutional racism that these terminations exhibited on their face. While I was unable to convince him of this fact at the time, subsequent events enabled him to respond more positively to my second open letter in 1995 on the subject of “A Lost Opportunity,”

which can be found in the Episcopal Urban Caucus publication, To Heal the Sin-Sick Soul. The presiding officer’s prompt response to that letter led to the creation of the Anti-Racism Training Program which was a necessary programmatic response to the House of Bishops Pastoral Letter on the Sin of Racism and the several General Convention resolutions which had committed the Church to a three triennial year cycle focused on this issue. This was extended at the General Convention in 2000 and the formal committee on Anti-Racism was established and an appropriate staff person was hired to oversee the effort. In the previous three years it had been done on an ad hoc basis with a $100,000 contribution from the Diocese of Massachusetts, and my seconded time. There is a long story which I will not bore you with in this letter of institutional resistance and personality clashes which would make a wonderful novel but are beside the point of the primary objective of the training. Sadly because of the controversies over mandatory versus voluntary in regard to who should take the training and how it was to be administered obscured the fact that the objective was to bring about change on all four levels of our corporate life, i.e. individual, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural. It was to that end that Resolutions A 123 and A 127 were brought forward to the General Convention in 2006 and whose implementation is in no small measure an objective test of the effectiveness of the training and other actions to bring about an authentically welcoming and anti-racist institution. The jury remains out on this latter question, but, the circumstances surrounding the first public effort to implement a key portion of Resolution A 123 is instructive while A 127 remains unattended.

And, now I will give the chastisement. It is not my purpose to cast aspersions or to make accusations, what I do know is that the resolution clearly called, in part, for a public apology by the national Church at the National Cathedral for its complicity in, and the benefits derived from slavery in the United States of America. This did not happen. Further no satisfactory answer has been given to explain this decision. Many have urged the presiding officers in light of this fact to consider some major event at the General Convention in which a better expression of the intent of the resolution could be made manifest and the several dioceses who have attempted to do the historical research as requested by the resolution in other sections might have a national platform to educate the church on their findings. This may in turn inspire others to do likewise and still others in the spirit of this resolution and A 127 to examine the Church’s less than glorious relationship with Native Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. Let us hope that this will occur. What did happen was a two day event at the historic St. Thomas African Episcopal Church in Philadelphia on the 3rd and 4th of October 2008. Many of us had great difficulty with this decision inasmuch as it created the curious dynamic of those seeking to apologize to those who had been aggrieved inviting themselves to the house of those who had been offended. This and other “curiosities” were more than amply addressed by the Reverend Doctor Harold Lewis and the Honorable Byron Rushing in their remarkable presentations on the first day. It is their talks which need to be widely circulated in the Church, both in print and on DVD, as they address the critical issues of the legacy of slavery and how we might approach the future, in light of the fact that the first step was being taken by the Church in publicly acknowledging its sins of omission.

Had the program ended there, it would have been a great success on its face, because those to whom the apology was being offered were able to articulate in some detail those things for which the apology was needed. Sadly, on the second day a service was planned in which there was to be a liturgical expression marking this event and providing an opportunity for our current Presiding Bishop to lead the service and address the issue. She did her job with grace, clarity, amazing insight and honesty, however, the decision was made to begin the service with a litany which was neither historically correct nor appropriately structured to acknowledge that one group of people was apologizing to another group of people who for all of the history of slavery and most of the history of the Episcopal Church have been separate and unequal, and the people of color specifically excluded from the Councils of the Church. Hence a litany which did not permit the group aggrieved to respond or to acknowledge their presence, especially in their own house, was the ultimate of racism and insulting to many of us who could not understand how people of color were to participate in a litany which correctly chronicled the sins but of which we were the involuntary subjects or as Tonto said to the Lone Ranger, “what do you mean WE” . Of equal importance the litany did not recognize nor give legitimacy to the history of protests begun by Absalom Jones and carried forward by Alexander Crummel and all those lay and clergy leaders who endured exclusion from the House of Deputies and General Convention until the 1930’s. Also, the litany did not acknowledge nor give legitimacy to the many white Church leaders, known and unknown, who protested slavery, established the colonization societies, and dutifully took messages to the General Conventions from the Conference of Colored Church Workers during the long period when Black folks had no voice much less a vote.It also ignored the many efforts at uplift carried on by black laity and clergy,particularly in education,which continue to be supported by the Nat. Church to this day. As Maya Angelou has so eloquently said, “History with all of its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage need not be lived again.” It is to this dictum that we must rededicate ourselves as we go forward.

To conclude, I would like to offer you an invitation in the form of a quotation that I used to open my remarks at the conclusion of the Friday educational event, they were penned by the noted peace maker Vern Neufeld Redekop in his seminal book From Violence to Blessing. In the introduction to his chapter on reconciliation he makes the following observation:

“Reconciliation means to stop imitating the entrenched patterns

of past violence, and to imagine, imitate and create life patterns

of well being meeting the identity needs of Self and Other.

I firmly believe that we are struggling mightily to live into this understanding of reconciliation and that we have enough time and effort invested in it to not allow this little bump in the road to set us off track and keeping our eye on the prize. One of the reasons that I delayed writing this letter until after the election was that I was hopeful that Barack Obama’s one person anti-racism training program would prevail, and as he noted, now gives us a chance to make a change. Regardless of how you feel about the election or the growing fears that the alarming economic crisis are raising, now more than ever the Church has to stand up and continue the internal dialogue and the external struggle to combat racism. History teaches us that in these critical moments of transition and the promise of change, the desire to return to the fleshpots of Egypt often keep us prisoners of our fear rather than having the Gospel eyes to see the Red Sea being parted. Now more than ever we must attempt to live into every way that we can find the profound truth of my favorite saying “Let there be peace among us and let us not be instruments of our own or others oppression.

Thank you for reading this and let us march on until victory is won.


Ed Rodman

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Joint Standing Committee of Primates and ACC

November 26, 2008

Reports are out today suggesting that the meeting underway of this select group of primates (including ours) and leaders of the Anglican Consultative Council might take some kind of action against the Province of the Southern Cone (such as asking them to refrain from being voting members at some future meetings rather as was done with Canada and TEC) for their role in seeking to undermine the polity of TEC. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article5232937.ece There is no rumor that this will be extended to Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria. The two conservative primates on the committee have declined to attend the meeting. I wouldn’t hold my breath that there will be any action taken, or at least any action that really makes a difference in where we are headed. The underlying challenge of a more or less formal schism is that there a number of churches, --most notably the C of E who have significant leadership who would want to go with the GAFCON crowd. This will make for a really tricky situation for an established church, but could open up some really fruitful missionary fields for expressions of Anglicanism not tied up with the incredibly top-heavy and top-down structures of the C of E in which major issues for clergy seeking positions are questions like ‘will you wear vestments?’ This sense that there is a potentially exciting mission field in England can be held by conservatives and liberals alike.


November 26, 2008

Two of my favorite journals arrived in the same week: The Anglican Theological Review (Fall 2008, Vol.90, No.4) and The Journal of Anglican Studies (Vol. 6.2, December 2008). They both contain articles offering cautionary notes with regard to the proposed ‘Anglican Covenant’. In ATR, Christopher Craig Brittain writes Confession Obsession? Core Doctrine and the Anxieties of Anglican Theology, arguing that the notion of ‘core doctrine’ (sometimes expressed in terms of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral—see your Prayer Book) is a slippery thing and not as foundational as it might seem. In JAS, Frederick Quinn writes Covenants and Anglicans: An Uneasy Fit recalling us to our Anglican roots that declined the confessional route in the Reformation and chose a path different from that of both Rome and Westminster.

These ideas become important in a series of articles about Anglican Christianity in Asia asking questions similar to those I asked during a visit to the Anglican Church of Brazil as to why anyone would want to follow this path outside of English Heritage. The answer keeps on building on those roots which provide a serious and relational alternative to purity type churches.

The purity church is taken on in some ATR articles, but none more so than an excellent piece by the Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, an Episcopalian formerly at Yale and someone whom I enjoy and respect: Marilyn McCord Adams. She has written Shaking the Foundations: LGBT Bishops and Blessings in the Fullness of Time. Her argument is compelling and straightforward. Liberals should not compromise their conscientious content-beliefs while in the majority. It si legitimate and desirable that beliefs that were once held by a tolerated minority who could not set institutional direction should now be given unqualified institutional form as an expression of good news made incarnate, and conservative beliefs should become a tolerated minority. Compromises like flying bishops and ‘moratoria’ and a pan-Anglican covenant, all at the expense of LGBT Christians, are ways in which the conservative minority is attempting to ensure a conservative expression of the faith for a long time to come. The way forward, she argues, is to give institutional expression to liberal content-convictions by authorizing the ordaining and blessing of non-celibate LGBTs. You can read this in our parish library.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A New Province?

November 24, 2008

How will the proposed new anti-gay province play out internationally? It is unlikely to win a large measure of formal approval. Even in the unlikely event that a majority of primates wanted to support the new province, they would be making a recommendation to the Anglican Consultative Council who would only be able to recognize said province with a two thirds majority.

More possible is something like this: some primates (the usual culprits) declare themselves in communion with the new province. The Archbishop of Canterbury remains silent and keeps putting his eggs in the covenant basket. Some kind of covenant is widely approved in the communion that has some element of centralized control to it and The Episcopal Church (along with a few others) declines to consent. The main C of E lawyer, The Rev’d Canon Gregory Cameron has floated the idea that individual dioceses may be able to sign on to the covenant even if their province does not. (I’m still looking for that reference –can anyone help?) and so some of those who wish to remain Anglican at any price sign on bringing a further disintegration of the Episcopal Church in particular and Anglican polity in general. Eventually Anglicanism is redefined or realigned in some way and TEC is left looking for its own network. Goodness knows what happens to the C of E in all this.

I hope that will not happen but am not sanguine. What is an alternative picture? The idea that the ABC might simply declare GAFCON and the new province out of order, the GAFCON crew formally depart and start something like ‘Africanism’ or ‘Sydneyism’ is, I fear, a fantasy coming from my notion of broad and traditional Anglicanism.

Secretary of State

November 24, 2008

I wonder if Barack Obama reads my blog. Here is part of my entry from March 15 of this year:

“I am persuaded that Barack Obama should be the Democratic nominee. While I would prefer Hillary Clinton, it seems that her only chance is to persuade enough super-delegates to go against the popular democratic vote which I fear would be a pyrrhic victory at best. I find it difficult to imagine that either democratic candidate would see Hillary Clinton as Vice President, but shouldn’t they begin having private conversations about a role for her? How about her at the State Department (with Bill as a kind of ‘roving ambassador’ or perhaps ambassador to the UN)?”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Differing View from Communion Partners

November 19, 2008

A differing point of view to my previous post (which I find quite hopeful) is expressed by Ephraim Radner for the “Communion Partners. He does not think that the Primates or Anglican Communion Council will recognize a parallel province for North America. Communion partners is a gathering of self-styled ‘traditionalists’ within TEC who, if I’m reading their material correctly, would be completely congenial to me except that they resist any affirmation of GLBT people. You can read it here: http://covenant-communion.com/?p=983

Archbishop Duncan

November 18, 2008

So December will see the official ‘launching’ of an additional Anglican Province for North America with the deposed Bishop of Pittsburgh (now a bishop of the border crossing province of the Southern Cone) as Archbishop. A number of primates (the usual suspects) have said that they will ‘recognize’ the new province. (http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/17952/) Cantaur meanwhile maintains his customary and unhelpful silence, although The Washington Times reports that he invited Bishop Duncan to submit an application for a new province in October. (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/nov/18/breakaway-episcopalians-to-unveil-constitution/) If he condemns the new province as a travesty of catholic faith and order he will help formalize the fragmentation of Anglicanism and bring enormous problems upon the Church of England who are deeply divided but hanging together under the law of the land. If he supports the province either overtly or tacitly by his silence (my best bet for his initial response) he will continue the process of the Episcopal Church being cast out of the communion in some formal way for advocating and acting upon the full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons as such in the life of the church. This will be seen as the price of Anglican ‘unity’ and will mean that Anglicanism will be willing to be defined, less by broad, relational, graceful, generous, inviting theology and more, (like Rome in the view of many) by what it is against. At that point the battle over who ‘represents the brand’ or ‘holds the franchise’ would not be worth fighting as we would not want to be associated with the ’brand name of bigotry’ dressed up as gospel in a kind of Orwellian twist.

I would see the recognition of a ‘parallel province’, as an extraordinary innovation, and significantly more destructive of traditional polity than ‘border crossing’. In such a brave new world I hope the Episcopal Church would move swiftly to begin seeking partners throughout the world in order to sustain the possibility of broad, relational graceful, generous, inviting catholicity. One of the first steps would be a move to begin planting churches in England in which our way of living and proclaiming the gospel would be welcomed by many as a breath of fresh air (while doubtless condemned by others as American arrogance).

My question is how we would do such a thing decently and in order. Would England (or elsewhere) become a missionary district established by General Convention? A Suffragan operation akin to the Bishop for the Armed Forces or Bishop in Europe? An extension of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe (although we would be seeking to introduce English Episcopalianism rather than extending an essentially ex-pat operation)? A somewhat random diocesan mission?

I will be writing to some friends seeking response, thoughts and ideas to this bare bones, but quite serious, proposal, and would appreciate, welcome and encourage vigorous debate and response here. (I will even break a rule of this blog and join in the responses if a real conversation gets underway.)

Monday, November 17, 2008


November 17, 2008

The Annual council of the Diocese of Atlanta took place last Friday and Saturday with All Saints represented by the clergy, Tom Cox, Bruce Garner, Richard Hall, Florence Holmes and Robert Wadell with Mimi Spang present as an alternate. There were wonderful presentations on Millennium Development Goals including a video presentation prepared by our own Amanda Meng. A number of resolutions were passed including one that asks us to begin every meeting, Bible study, class or other gathering in the life of our parishes for one year beginning with the First Sunday of Advent with a question. That question is along the lines of ‘what difference does what we are doing here make to the poor?’ I hope it will be a useful spiritual exercise for us. It is not the kind of resolution that I expect to be honored in very many places and would have preferred to see it tabled, a motion that was made and which failed.

More memorable were two resolutions, one of which asks General Convention to prepare liturgies for same gender unions and another which asks General Convention to repeal a resolution which among other things urged ‘restraint’ in the election of a gay or lesbian person to the episcopate. While these generated discussion in committee they both passed with neither amendment nor debate on the floor of Council. This suggests to me both a kind of acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships as within the bounds of our common life among the leadership of our diocese. It might also mean that the voices of opposition have left the Episcopal Church. While I welcome the lack of heat that these resolutions generated, I hope that my suspicion that conservative voices have gone elsewhere is wrong. It is a loss that I would mourn. On the other had perhaps these votes represent spiritual growth. That we could celebrate.

The Bishop of Rio de Janeiro was with us for Council and attended All Saints’ for worship yesterday. He clearly welcomes our relationship with his Cathedral and has a vision for the growth of the diocese among not only the poor, but also the educated middle classes of Brazil who sometimes find themselves disenfranchised by the church of their birth for a variety of reasons. This attention to a sustainable and sustaining infrastructure for the mission of the church is good news and a hopeful sign to me.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Autonomous Dioceses?

November 8, 2008

Gregory Cameron is "the top canon lawyer who helps run the headquarters of the worldwide Anglican Communion" and Deputy Secretary General of the church (according to Wikipedia) and has recently been quoted during an American visit saying that in the event that an Anglican Province did not sign on to an Anglican Covenant, individual dioceses within that church might be able to do so. (I cannot find this reference and would be glad if anyone could point me to it.) This is both bizarre and destructive of Anglican polity, but it does reveal that the Covenant, on which the Archbishop of Canterbury seems to be pinning his hopes for an Anglican future is meant to function as some kind of ‘constitution’, if not ‘confession’, and could be the basis for affirming a new Anglican province in North America. The Living Church refers to the schismatic Diocese of Pittsburgh that has joined the Southern Cone as “the continuing Diocese of Pittsburgh”— a piece of spin that would make George Orwell shudder—and their “re-elected” bishop Bob Duncan has said that he expects the official formation of a new Anglican province in the US before long.

I have been asked what are the pros and cons for the Episcopal Church remaining Anglican. There is no short answer but it has to do with continuing to be part of a worldwide communion that holds together (after the Elizabethan settlement) some diverse and even contradictory beliefs under a common practice. The common practice part is being monkeyed with by English evangelicals who seem to think the most important thing in their ministry is to disobey canon law regarding vestments, some Australians in Sydney who don’t care for Catholic view of Holy Orders and so on, and vicars throughout the world who think that dropping the creed at major celebrations of the Eucharist is an OK thing to do and still allege that we are held together by ‘common prayer’. The idea of a liberal (in the sense of allowing some diversity of doctrine and practice) worldwide communion whose unity, such as it is, is understood as a gift of God found most fully in baptism and Eucharist, and which bears witness to the Good news of God in Christ in its life and preaching, is a wonderful and graceful thing. That is being replaced with juridical solutions to the fact that many if not most Anglican Christians have declined to deal with the reality of GLBT people in our midst and now want to exclude or punish those who have begun to act in ways that undermine the destructive nature of this taboo for individuals, the church and the wider societies in which we find ourselves.

If Gregory Cameron is correctly quoted and if his position is in any sense official (hard to tell with the ‘leadership style’ of the current occupant of the chair of St. Augustine) then it once again looks as though Anglicanism is going to be defined in some way by a single doctrine that gays are unacceptable as Christians unless they keep quiet and don’t rock the boat. Can someone really argue that I am wrong on this? Where have I missed it? The wider communion that I value seems to be becoming something other than it has been. Perhaps there needs to be a new ‘Elizabeth II settlement, but it looks as though that will only be a reality at the cost of crating a scapegoat , condemning or otherwise excluding gay and lesbian people and their experience as people of Christian faith from the mix. At that point we find our friends and start a mission in England first where there are many people who will find the Episcopal way of being Christian to be a liberating breath of fresh air.

Ballot Initiatives

November 7, 2008

The overwhelming support that Barak Obama received in his election to the Presidency was not a mandate for a socially liberal agenda. I remember how President Clinton got embroiled in the issue of gays in the military very early in his tenure. (I remember a military family leaving the parish I was serving when I suggested that the generals might want to remember that Clinton was their elected commander-in-chief in spite of the fact that they did not like him or anything he appeared to represent.) Ballot initiatives designed to prohibit the marriage of gay and lesbian people passed in three states, an initiative designed to prohibit gay and lesbian people adopting children passed in at least one state, and –most worrying to me—a Colorado amendment to define ‘personhood’ as a fertilized egg received support from more than a quarter of the voters (and as one friend has suggested, might well pass if, as and when it comes up in Georgia.)

We know that attitudes toward gay and lesbian people in general are changing and that we are very close to a generational ‘tipping point’ if we are not there already. It is clear that in California, where gay marriage was banned by a narrow margin there is significant support for full and equal civil rights for homosexual couples, but that for many, marriage just doesn’t make sense except between a man and a woman (as it is defined in the constitution of The Episcopal Church.) I’m of two minds on this and am much more concerned about the civil rights of gay and lesbian couples than what the relationships are called. I also think that these relationships look like marriage between a man and a woman in every significant respect. I could see gay and lesbian couples adopting an argument that draws on the work of some feminists who see marriage as a heterosexist institution that dignifies the violence of men against women. I could see arguing that therefore these civil unions (or whatever) are creating a new and different institution that could and should be open to heterosexual couples as well. At the same time I have some sympathy with the argument that this resistance to gay marriage is a version of ‘separate but equal’ and ultimately serves to allow room for fear and prejudice to hold sway in some places. My concern about these ballot initiatives is that they are being promoted and funded by conservative Christians who see any kind of affirmation of gay and lesbian people as such to be immoral and unacceptable. That kind of thinking must be resisted as being about power and fear in the face of the ending of a taboo.

The Colorado initiative is a move to limit or ban the availability of safe and legal abortions. I have one friend who believes with all his heart, mind and soul that a zygote or fetus has the moral status of a human being and that any abortion is therefore murder and further that America is blessing genocide worse than anything we have seen from Hitler or Pol Pot. This also seems to me to be a matter of definition, but in this case, one that the majority of people (actual humans or ‘persons’ as opposed to potential ones) can’t quite go there. While the constancy of the argument and the apparent moral clarity that it brings might be attractive, it just doesn’t quite make sense. I doubt that there is any law that couldn’t be improved in some way, including the laws and regulations around abortion, but once again I will resist any absolutist thinking on this, especially from my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Amy-Jill Levine

November 7, 2008

Last night just over three hundred people gathered to hear Dr. Amy-Jill Levine (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/gradschool/religion/faculty/facultypages/levine.html ) give the fifth Ann Evans Woodall lecture at All Saints. Some groups had read her book on Jesus and we had been prepared by a series of talks from local rabbis Jeffrey Salkin (http://judaismmatters.org/blog ) and Benyamin Cohen (http://myjesusyear.com ). Dr. Levine share from her current work on Jesus’ parables, sometimes challenging traditional Christian readings and sometimes affirming them. Her basic understanding of a parable was that a parable is a story that is more about what it does than what it says, and what it does is effectively ‘rock our world’ (my phrase rather than hers). The parable is something that we chew on and talk about asking both about how Jesus’ audience may have heard the story and also how we hear it today.

Among others she spent quite some time on the parable of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal, both of which we talk about extensively on Adult Enquirers’ Retreats. I was struck by her emphasis on the Samaritan as ‘enemy’, a person who wanted to kill you if you were a Jew, and a person from whom you would rather not receive help. I’ll have to do some more thinking a reading about Samaritans but this was a new idea for me and I suspect she has overstated the case for the majority of Jews and Samaritans, but probably not at the expense of the point of the story. I found myself thinking about people who would not have an organ transplant if the organ came from someone they disliked or of whom they were afraid. What matters is the gift.

On the prodigal, she covered much of the same ground that we cover on retreats: looking at both of the sons, the absent mother, the question as to whether the story is really about repentance or not, and the rather weak father. She did a rally good job on the resonances of ‘a man who had two sons’ with the stories of Genesis and on through the tradition. A good time was had by all.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Resident Aliens

November 4, 2008

It is a joy to see a line of our neighbors around the block waiting to get into Ellis Hall to cast their votes in the election today. It s now 9 am and the line has been this way since 6 am this morning. We have put out coffee and water and some information about All Saints’ for anyone who wants it.

I have been asked a number of times today whether I have voted and have had to say that I am not a citizen and so do not have that privilege. (I’ve written before about my scruples about the oath of allegiance that includes renouncing all other allegiances.) I am reminded of a book by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon called Resident Aliens which was the image they used for Christians who are “in the world but not of it”. I am officially and gratefully a ‘resident alien’ in this land and it is election days when I am most aware of it. I have usually been confident in the past that my vote would not make a difference in Georgia, although it seems that this year might be different. I was appalled to hear of one of our senators urging his supporters to vote because “the other folk” were voting. Is it possible to interpret that in any other way than the most craven reference to African American voters with a view to inciting racial conflict? Unbelievable in this day and age.

I am grateful to live in a democracy and grateful for those institutions and people who serve to protect that freedom as well as all those who claim the privilege and right of voting.


November 4, 2008

Our Strategic Thinking Group has had long and fruitful conversations among ourselves and with the vestry around questions of our identity as a parish and why we might be relevant to anyone’s life in three or five or twenty years from now. What follows is a very first cut at a concise summary of all those conversations. I have tried to avoid any language that might be considered technical (salvation, righteousness, atonement, holiness, witness, catholicity etc.) and talk about the heart of what brings us here and keeps us coming back: a story that frames and shapes how we live, and a community of mutual care and concern that tells the story in word and deed.

"We are a people formed in and by a story throughout our lives. It is a story that helps us make sense of and live in ways that lead us to grow in love and trust, a sense of freedom, generosity and purpose. That story is told in Scripture and in the history of the Church. It is preeminently the story of Jesus in whose self-giving love and absolute integrity, we see the way of life. We choose to follow Jesus and join this particular community of faith, less in search of answers to theological questions and more in the way of navigating through the realities of life in an ever changing world as we tell the story in word and deed.

There are many stories we tell about All Saints’ which show that we especially value our commitment to social justice for all people, our place in the center of a great city, our diversity relative to other places and communities in which we find ourselves, and our sense that we offer the best that we can offer be it in worship, other celebrations, music, ministry or giving, always mindful that we live only by the grace of God.

We are at a time in our common life when we are ready, once again, to address the future in creative ways to ensure an inviting, vibrant and faithful church in the years to come."

What do you think? What is missing? What misses the mark or ‘feels off’? How can this be improved without being unduly lengthened? What is the role of the Holy Spirit in all this? Have at it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Little Baddow

November 3, 2008

A number of you asked about the parish church that I mentioned in yesterday’s sermon and in which I sang in the choir as a schoolboy. Here is what I have been able to find.

Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin

The church stands a mile away form the village, on a slight rise overlooking the beautiful Chelmer Valley. The early Norman church is seen in the north wall of the nave and incorporates Roman brick. The tower was added in the 14th century and in the early 15th century the chancel was rebuilt. There is a large wall painting of St. Christopher c.1375 opposite the south door, adjoining recently uncovered earlier works of art. In the south wall of the nave are two fine oak effigies c.1330 of a man in civilian dress and a woman. There is an elaborate monument to Sir Henry Mildmay (d.1639) and his two wives

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Presiding at the Eucharist

October 26, 2008

The Diocese of Sydney in Australia has approved a motion allowing deacons to preside at celebrations of the Eucharist. This is significant for a number of reasons, one of them being that it enables women (who may not be ordained priest but may be ordained deacon) to preside in that diocese. More significant in my mind is that the resolution as passed (http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/content.asp?id=65336) also sees no impediment to lay people presiding at the Eucharist but apparently the bishop of Sydney, out of respect for his colleagues in the GAFCON movement, has said that he will not license lay people at the moment.

For many Anglicans this is a significant departure from the traditional faith and order that has defined Anglicanism and is most certainly a problem for those inclined to more ‘catholic’ views of holy orders (often the foundation for arguments against the ordination of women). This is a much more complex matter than I can deal with here, but my own instincts tend to the idea that a) this is not worth causing division over and b) that there are times when it would be an aid to the growth and health of the church if celebrations presided over by people other than presbyters could be licensed from time to time. I am thinking particularly of the development and ongoing life of certain kinds of small group within a parish for example. I share the Diocese of Sydney’s belief that there is no biblical impediment to such a move, but recognize that there are historical, institutional, organizational and ecumenical concerns that make this far from simple.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The End of Anglicanism

October 24, 2008

In early October I wrote about my disappointment in the inscrutable decisions of the Archbishop of Canterbury as to when he speaks and when he stays silent and what he does or doesn’t do in the meantime. He has now met with the deposed Bishop of Pittsburgh in London. (http://www.episcopalchurch.org/81808_101796_ENG_HTM.htm) This is described as a ‘private meeting’ not unlike that he held with the duly elected bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, but which could not happen during the Lambeth Conference to which said bishop was not invited. Bishop Duncan, who has been adopted by the Province of the Southern Cone and supported by a number of English Bishops and international primates all of whom say they ‘recognize’ him as an Anglican bishop without a squeak from the ABC furthers the disintegration of the Anglicanism that I have known, valued and supported. I’m up for planting an Episcopal Church in London and starting an international network that could take the form of something like a religious order for people and congregations of many denominations bound by some basic principles that are as simply stated as the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago-Lambeth_Quadrilateral) Any takers?

The Meta-Narrative

October 24, 2008

Two books have kept me wondering about the feasibility of Christianity providing a ‘meta-narrative’ or story that is at least potentially for everyone in a pluralistic age. The first is from William T. Cavanaugh, Theopolitical Imagination: Discovering the Liturgy as a Political Act in an Age of Global Consumerism (T&T Clark, 2000) who argues that the Christian Story transcends time and space (in a sense) most particularly in the Eucharist which itself transcends geopolitical boundaries, class distinctions and the like. The other is by Lamin Saneh, Disciples of All Nations: Pillars of World Christianity (Oxford, 2008) who explores what amounts to a shift in Christianity’s ‘center of gravity’ from the West to the post-colonial world. In the course of his encyclopedic work he makes the case that part of the genius of Christianity (and part of what contrasts it with some other major strains of religion) is its use of the vernacular and its consequent ‘translatability’ allowing it to take root in may differing forms in many differing cultures. In different ways, both authors are retaining the possibility of entering into serious conversation with people of other faiths and none with both a proper humility and also a sense that our story could be for others in the grace of God.

So far, so good. But where this begins to become problematic for me is when we come up against someone who also believes that their story is for everybody, that it ‘trumps’ all other stories, and is the pre-eminent vehicle for the will and grace of God. Is the ‘Christian stance’ to sit by and let that happen (as will happen in Europe as a matter of demographics)? Barring some major shift it seems that the majority of people born in Europe with in a couple of generations will be born into a Muslim household. Or is our stance protectionism, as in the various proposals for a European constitution defining Europe as ‘Christian’?

This is a similar concern as that within Christianity. I am not terribly worried about the end of Western hegemony and see it offering some real possibilities for the development of faith in our time. I am not worried insofar as I see such ‘hegemony’ as problematic for people of faith. It is the issue that Lamin Saneh spends time sorting out as to when missionaries were purveyors of Western colonial culture and when (as happened more frequently than we might realize) they stood in opposition to such in favor of the development of indigenous expressions of the faith. I don’t mind letting go of some kind of coercive ‘power’ for the good of the whole, but I do mind letting go of it so that you or anyone else can have it. That is a real issue of faith and a real stumbling block to my full embrace of a pluralistic vision for the world. All direction and help welcome.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Interfaith and Pluralism

October 13, 2008

Yesterday I attended a town hall meeting sponsored by 100 People of Faith a new interfaith organization. http://www.100peopleoffaith.org/ The conversation there raised the question for me once again about the underlying vision of ‘pluralism’ in society. We were urged to think of religious differences on campuses, for example, as another kind of ‘diversity’ and work on what I call ‘understanding and appreciating difference’ following the work of Visions Inc. (http://www.visions-inc.org/) about which I have written before.

While I think I agree with the goal of a genuinely pluralistic society I see two major and related problems. One is that pluralism means that every individual or grouping of people must give up power to define and shape the world according to their vision. This means that I am not willing to give up any possibility of self determination that I might enjoy only to find myself being determined or defined by you instead. In other words the ‘salad bowl’ must not develop a predominant taste.)Organizations concerned with ‘diversity’ or ‘interfaith’ or whatever tend to take on their own (predominant) cultural norms and styles which is blessed as being ‘diverse’ but on an experiential level can seem to be a new hegemony of sorts.

The second challenge is that pluralism, especially religious pluralism is calling for recognition that no one faith or group within a faith has the ‘meta-narrative’ or the defining story (world view/perspective) for everyone. And yet religions are generally trying to make sense of the whole world and claim that their world view either can or should make sense for everybody. That is the basis for evangelism, crusades, turn or burn theologies and, I suspect, the basis for conservative movements within religions. I share with conservatives an unwillingness to give up the possibility that the Christian story is for everybody even if I differ from conservatives in my desire to approach people of other faiths with humility such as appears to be the goal of 100 People of Faith.

Church Antics

October 13, 2008

Giles Fraser, our Kanuga speaker, has published a column in the Church Times reflecting on his experience with us and how The Episcopal Church is alive and well in parishes that are getting on with being the church and are not could up in what he calls the ‘ridiculous’ Pittsburgh secession. You can read it here: http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/content.asp?id=64541

I am wearied beyond belief by our church goings-on. We have a situation in which a bishop has been deposed by a significant majority of the house of bishops for clearly ‘abandoning the communion of this church’. Some have raised questions about the process and so the ‘legality’ of such deposition, while others have attempted to muddy the waters in other ways. Six bishops of the C of E have declared themselves ‘in communion’ with Bishop Duncan now a cross territorial bishop of the Southern Cone and the Archbishop of Canterbury has said nothing. He has been unwilling to support the Episcopal Church (especially after he forced Jeffrey John to withdraw nomination to be Bishop of Reading in 2003 following the advice of his conservative council (York, London, Winchester and Durham). And he has been unwilling to speak strongly against the kind of antics of Archbishop Venables and his ilk who are seeking to step into the vacuum created by Archbishop Williams’s silence. The Windsor Report tried to deal with ‘process’ without dealing with the underlying issue of homosexuality and so became (among other things) a kind of way for those of conservative instinct to hammer the Episcopal Church. Conservatives keep declaring that Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire is not the issue but the symptom of much deeper division in the church but can’t really say what those are. So the Anglican Communion as I have known and valued it is falling apart as rich Americans try and homosexual-hating Africans try and impose their will instead of figuring out how to live together.

I can live with the end of white Western hegemony but resist its being replaced buy some African or ‘global south’ alternative. I think it is time for the Episcopal Church –the one described by Giles Fraser in which people are bound by their fellowship in the gospel rather than by political allegiance or opinion against the affirmation of homosexuals-- to be about creating intentional international alliances within national churches and planting churches where such alliances cannot be found.


October 12, 2008

I have recently attended the twentieth iteration of something called ‘the gentlemen’s dinner’ to which I have been going on and off for eleven years. It is a gathering of friends put together by two graduates of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. They are ten years apart, one black and one white and the dinner is similarly balanced racially. There are more lay than clergy and more Episcopalians than others. The value of the occasion (apart from food wine and fellowship as though that were not enough) is that after dinner everyone is offered a chance to speak about what is going on in their lives or in the world. I will never forget the first time I attended in the wake of President Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal. There was such a stark difference of view or ‘take’ between black and white that the contrast was stunning. This year the contrast was more in the level of fear expressed in various ways by black members of the group rather than white. The fear was that Obama might not win when racism rears its head in the secrecy of the voting booth, or that assassination is a real fear when someone is allowed to shout ‘kill him’ at a McCain-Palin rally without any response from the candidates. (A weak response in the form of a call for civility came a couple of days later.) Some white members of the group had things to say about the state of the country and our political life, but without the fear factor. Republicans in the room were silent.

David Abshire, currently President of the Center for the Study of the Presidency has published extensively on the issue of civility in our society http://www.thepresidency.org/Publications/publications.html#Character and ahs even applied such ideas to the Anglican world. I remember when republicans and democrats could have dinner together in a perfectly civil way and how that is tricky now if there is to be any political conversation. The joy and perhaps model of the gentlemen’s dinner is that we have honest conversation across lines of demarcation. Could there be a political equivalent and could the church be a place for that to be nurtured?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Market

October 9, 2008

The Templeton Foundation has published a number of scholars and politicians from around the world asking whether the free market corrodes moral character. (www.templeton.org/market) Many of the answers are worth reading but I was surprised given the religious interests of John Templeton that no theologians were included in what is a theological question at one level. A few years ago the retired Bishop of Durham, David Jenkins published a book that I have found helpful called Market Whys & Human Wherefores: Thinking Again About markets, Politics and People (Cassell, 2000). In it he does a number of things first examining the language of faith and belief of the proponents of free markets suggesting that all too often talk of the markets reach the level of idolatry as proponents talk of Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand’ and the free (meaning largely deregulated) markets as being ‘the only way’. He calls the following ‘the Gospel According to Economics:

God may not be in his heaven but all is still well with the world. The Market h as taken over and will provide increasing prosperity for rising numbers of the worlds inhabitants. We should not fret too much about poverty or pollution. We certainly should not attempt to regulate financial markets. Indeed we should rejoice at the increasing globalization and sophistication of markets in trade and finance, for this enhances their capacity to enforce the necessary restraints and disciplines of the market on all and sundry in ‘the real economy’ –governments, the governed, the managers of savings and capital, let alone the users of that capital in industry, commerce and services. This system ensures the greatest possible smoothing out of market volatilities and inefficiencies so maximizing the possibilities of production and consumption. The Market’s discipline is often tough but always benign. Such is the Gospel According to Economics. (p.21)

There is an old joke about the definition of an economist (probably better told about a theologian) being “someone who sees something working in practice and wondering whether it will work in theory.” He cites Professor Krugman (then of MIT, now of Princeton http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/) pointing out that economists tend to write nuanced work with the discipline of the academy keeping them honest as a opposed to the entrepreneur (or politician) whose interest is in keeping things simple even when professors are doubtful that there are easy answers to be found (p.85). Krugman also stated:

Economists know a lot about how the economy works, and can offer some useful advice on things like how to avoid hyper inflation (for sure) and depression (usually). They can demonstrate to you, if you are willing to hear it, that folk remedies for economic distress like import quotas and price controls are about as useful as medical bleeding. But there is a lot they can’t cure. Above all, they don’t know how to make a poor country rich, or bring back the magic of economic growth when it seems to have gone away.” (p.85)

Those who would claim more for ‘The Market’ than should be claimed often assume that the market is driven by human (read consumer) choices that are essentially predictable and rational. A group of behavioral economists are challenging that however. I have mentioned before Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (Harper, 2008) which demonstrates the faulty logic of such arguments. Certainly heavily regulated or completely ‘managed’ economies such as we saw attempted in the former Soviet Union are discredited, but the visions of Milton Friedman and his disciples Ronald Reagan and Lady Thatcher have brought us no closer to Utopia that those of Marx and Lenin (even admitting that I prefer the former economics than the latter).

In the current collapse of world markets, I have little sense that ‘bailouts’, ‘adjustments’ or ‘rescue plans’ will be much more than band-aids. I hope I am wrong and that a world recession is avoidable. I worry that we are going to enjoy too little ‘management’ coming too late and that we are going to have to take our medicine. In the old days the prophets would have attributed such disaster on a massive scale to the judgment of God on human greed and folly. And I agree with them provided hat we do not attribute the manipulation of the economy to God (which I consider as idolatrous as giving divine power to The Market itself,--another entry for another time). These days which are already resulting in some serious adjustments in the lives of many people with many more such adjustment to come (even if the rescue plans and interest rate cuts serve to restore confidence among investors, thus making credit available once again so that we can get back to ‘business as normal’) have the effect of demonstrating how completely interconnected we are to one another throughout the world, how fragile are our alliances where money is concerned (watch the members of the European Union acting independently of each other to some extent), and how The Market invested with divine power as though we have nothing much to do with it is a capricious God to which we have all too often sold our souls. In the Church we talk of God who founding economic principles are concern for those most vulnerable in society (the widow, the stranger, the orphan and so on) and who calls us to recognize what is of true and ultimate worth, revealing our folly and granting grace for us to move toward right relationship with God, one another and all of creation. Troubled times lead some people to look to God for a fix to the trouble. God looks to us to remember what matters and adjust our lives. It is time to seek the true community of faith in God’s economy taught (sometimes well and sometimes badly) and lived (sometimes well and sometimes badly) among those who follow Jesus, the Savior.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kanuga Weekend

October 7, 2008

This Kanuga weekend was one in which all the parts worked together to make a spectacular and integrated whole. The programs, parties and worship all came together, thanks to most of us in attendance volunteering to leading one or another aspect of the weekend, around the theme of ‘baptized in dirty water’. I will remember all of it for a long time with Will White’s baptism in the lake and that meditative procession to the chapel that followed with white streamers in the procession and the chiming of handbells as we made our way up the hill for a fantastic sermon from Giles Fraser, (our speaker for the adult program on Saturday). We gathered singing “Down to the river to pray” and our choir sang “Wade in the water” at the offertory as we remembered that baptism is less cleansing than drowning and that we are made a new people. I discovered that I am not too old to receive the gift of a genuinely religious experience in the palpable presence of God and be filled to overflowing with affection for you who I am called to serve.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

October 7, 2008

At our parish weekend at Kanuga, our speaker Giles Fraser (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giles_Fraser) defended his friend and former tutor Rowan Williams by explaining that the English reformation and Elizabethan Settlement was essentially a peace treaty between various ecclesiastic factions (primarily Puritan and Catholic) within a national church. The purpose of that ‘treaty’ was to keep the largest number of people possible within the same church. Giles is of the belief and opinion that such a vision and treaty is informing the Archbishop’s decisions with regard to the Anglican Communion as a whole.

My ‘take’ in response and in light of our own bishops response to Lambeth (see previous entry) is that he may very well be right but that the reason the Archbishop’s decisions are not good in this regard is that he is viewing the communion (in spite of his own experience in the Church of Wales) through a thoroughly English lens. The rest of the constituent provinces of the communion do not have the same ‘container’ in the form of a state church with a particular history in law. From where we sit his attempts to keep the maximum number of people at the table through compromise looks like on one hand placating conservatives at the expense of the Episcopal Church in particular; and on the other hand looks like a leadership vacuum that the likes of Peter Akinola and Greg Venables are rushing to fill. Meanwhile Pittsburgh continues down the road of San Joachin (with Fort Worth and Quincy not far behind) with their continuing attempts to bring about the non catholic, non traditional and schismatic idea of a second North American province calling itself Anglican. From an English perspective this would be quite simply illegal. From where we sit, our PB says people and clergy can leave but parishes and dioceses cannot and the schismatics are saying ‘watch me’ and long costly law suits result.

What would be so dreadful if The Episcopal Church as a whole withdrew from the Anglican Communion? It would make many Anglicans throughout the world quite happy and we could get on with planting vibrant congregations in England and elsewhere instead of sitting on our hands while the communion disintegrates over its fear and loathing for gay and lesbian Christians and our (tentative, timid and painstakingly carefully slow) affirmation of them.