Sunday, February 15, 2009


February 15, 2009

I find myself in the curious position of finding merit in the position of the critics of the economic stimulus package that will be passed into law this week. I was schooled in the thinking of Maynard Keynes and taught to be critical of the Monetarism of Milton Friedman so beloved of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Nonetheless I am nervous about what is going on now. It is unclear to me that the idea behind the package is anything other than ‘putting lots of government (i.e. taxpayer) money into the economy will restore confidence and ‘stimulate’ all that makes it go’. If that is the thinking then many of the projects that were cut in the negotiation process were just fine because it doesn’t really matter where the money goes as long as it released for spending.

It seems to me that the confidence or trust that underlies the economy has been damaged and investors are not responding positively if the stock markets are a measure of confidence.

I’m all for helping people keep their homes and creating jobs. Those things make sense to me, but spreading out the pain of change over a longer period of time and at great expense does not make sense. It makes for more debt in the future doesn’t. I smell putting good money after bad and would love some help in understanding why I am wrong about that, which I earnestly hope I am.

Theopolitical Imagination

February 15, 2009

I have not been writing blog entries too much recently as I have been preparing for one of the occasional meetings of a continuing education group of parish pastors who read and write theology. The theme for this year is ‘Allegiance and Apologetics’ or how the church can be relevant in a ‘Post Christian Age’. Our primary texts for the year are Daniel and Augustine’s Confessions. The other primary test for this meeting is William Cavanaugh’s Theopolitical Imagination. I have been writing an introduction for the group.

In essence he looks at the development of the modern nation-state as something that instead of saving us from the wars of religion, rather dominates religion rendering it ‘private space’. He argues that the dominance of religion by the state has actually increased conflicts over power, further exacerbated by globalization and multi-national entities. This gross over simplification of his complex argument get s him where he wants to be which is arguing that the Church is not like (and should not be like) a multi-national corporation. The Church contains the universal in the local celebration of the Eucharist.

I find this quite helpful in thinking about the current state of Anglicanism and what I have understood to be our long standing commitment to allowing relationship to shape doctrine when push comes to shove, rather than by demanding intellectual assent to doctrinal propositions as a precondition to relationship. This could also be expressed as a commitment to being shaped more by liberating story than liberating ideas while fully recognizing the importance and interrelatedness of both emphases. There is something about our discussions of sexuality that make that emphasis worth discarding in favor of a more centralized (and juridical) ‘authority’ in the Anglican Communion, allegedly necessary in order to ensure ‘communion’ and argued for by primates some of whom are currently unwilling to gather at the Lord’s table with other primates with whom they disagree. I, for one, resist this move, and look to local celebrations of the Eucharist worldwide to undermine this well meant but likely misguided effort to find unity at the expense of a scapegoat population.

I reconnected with an old acquaintance this week who is a natural political conservative and who is ‘hanging on to the Episcopal church by his fingernails’. He likes his local clergy but not the ’national leadership’. I responded that I hope he was able stay with his church, that our conflicts (always claimed as the ‘last straw’ by some are ephemeral, and that tricky conversations are always best held by people who have engaged common prayer around the Lord’s Table.

Conversation with a Muslim

February 15, 2009

I enjoyed lunch this past week with our Senior Warden and his equivalent from the Atlanta Masjid (the 14th street Mosque) We were able to give him a tour and some of the history of All Saints’. Dr. Hisham Hiwasli is a cardiac specialist at South Fulton Hospital and one of the leading visionaries that began buying property around the small mosque with a vision of a large mosque and school in Mid Town. He was concerned about the ‘new atheists’ (notably Bart Ehrman of UNC) and w spent time discussing the relationship of our fundamental stories with the world of propositional ideas especially in relation to the problem of evil which Dr. Ehrman declares he can no longer square with a loving, all powerful God. I shared my belief that the story of Jesus, while not solving the problem of evil, shows that the worst thin in life is not suffering, pain or death, but breaking faith with the source of all life.

For him an antidote to such fears that we may have it wrong is found in acts of charity and his awareness of how many organizations have been started by Christians for the relief of the needy. He knew of our refugee ministries as Louisa Merchant who co-ordinates that work used to work with his wife at the school on 14th Street. He seemed interested in Covenant Community (and the number of Muslims who have been in the program) along with Mid Town Assistance and Threads. I shared my dream of one or more dinner groups between members of the Masjid and All Saints’ in time to come. Who knows what can happen in the world if American Christians could find a measure of true friendship with Muslims? We are taking some very tentative first steps.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Primates Communiqué

February 7, 2009

The Primates released a number of good statements after their meeting in Alexandria, Egypt this past week, particularly in respect to Zimbabwe and Sudan. They also released a ‘communiqué’ that repeated the same old stuff about tensions in the church, calling for continued ‘gracious restraint’ on the part of those who might be tempted to think it is OK for a bishop to be gay or lesbian, or who want to push forward with some kind of official rites that celebrate the relationships of gay and lesbian people, or who want to invade other dioceses to ‘minister’ to those who are ‘deeply alienated’ or ‘wounded’ by such decisions when a majority in their own churches have come to the conclusion that such actions are right and urgent as a matter of good news for all people. They continue to be unable to either recognize or condemn those who are seeking to establish a parallel jurisdiction for conservative Anglicans in North America.

I do not understand how they can continue to ask for ‘gracious restraint’ from a whole population of Anglicans. They seem do it on the basis of a resolution from Lambeth 1998 that keeps trying to have the status of doctrine, namely that a majority of Bishops think that homosexuality is not OK. I’m wearied by it and hope that the General Convention of our Church will continue to act with dignity and clarity next summer seeking to stay in communion certainly, but not art the expense of gay and lesbian Christians.

There is no way that some of the Primates are going to be able to accept that homosexual people are alright as such any time soon and so at what point do we say ‘I’m sorry you have such a hard time with this. We would like to stay in communion with you but must move forward as a matter of proclaiming the gospel in our setting with integrity.’

The Primates continue to feel that a ‘relational’ covenant is critical to the future of our common life. And I continue to suspect that such a covenant will give an effective veto to conservatives in the communion for the foreseeable future and that had it been in place sooner would have stopped the ordination of women. I want to be part of a world wide communion, fully recognizing great cultural differences among us. (I, for example, do not care for the traditional roles of women that I see in those parts of Africa I have visited. They make me uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean that I either need to change their ways or stop speaking to them.) At the same time I do not want to be part of a world wide communion that defines itself as against homosexuality which is what I fear is happening.

Governor Barnes

February 6, 2009

Downtown Connector is a wonderful ministry of St. Luke’s Church that gathers people interested in and concerned about what is going on in Atlanta. We hear about development projects like the beltline, about the needs of the poor, about what we can expect about water policy and so on. This week we heard former Governor Roy Barnes addressing the historical tension between Atlanta and the rest of the state. He was a marvelous speaker with that Georgia politician’s facility with down home folksiness in the service of addressing c0omplex political matters without over simplifying. One friend said it was like listening to someone who had retired from singing the blues but when pressed into playing found that the music was still deep in his soul. That was not a bad analogy for what we saw and heard. You did not have to like what the governor was saying to realize that you were watching a true professional at work.

He commented on many things but saw the tension between Atlanta and the rest of the state being at heart a racial matter. He saw the development of the Atlanta metro region as the golden goose for business in the state. He expressed dismay as to what is going on at the capitol, reminding us of his idea that the first job of any governor is to keep his or her state of the front page of the New York Times and bemoaning how hard it is to get investors in a tight market when they ask ‘Do you really want to carry concealed weapons at the airport?’ He talked about how George Wallace’s commitment to segregation in Alabama allowed Atlanta rather than Birmingham to emerge as the ‘capital’ of the new South. All in all a tour de force from the governor.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Proposed Anglican Covenant

February 2, 2009

This regarding the Primates Meeting in Alexandrian, Egypt from Ruth Gledhill of The Times:

“The proposal, set out in a document of responses after discussions at the Lambeth Conference last summer on an early draft of the covenant, would enable a split to be avoided with provinces such as Canada, where one diocese, New Westminster, has already authorised same-sex blessings and at least one more wishes to follow suit.”

She goes on to opine that the effect of ‘the proposal” (namely the most recent draft of the proposed ‘covenant’ for the Anglican Communion) will bring about a ‘two tier’ communion, further allowing the C of E to stay in communion with both ‘tiers’ (

The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church (of which our own Bruce Garner is a member elected by the General Convention) has offered a response that cautions against an overly juridical approach to the fostering and maintaining of relationships. (Read it here: )

I remember hearing that the first time the ‘tow-tiered’ communion was floated the Bishops of New Zealand asked to book a place in the second tier.

I don’t have a prediction as to where this will lead but continue to suspect that proponents of some kind of covenant that includes a mechanism whereby some provinces can exert their will over others are willing to define Anglicanism as ‘anti gay’. I hope that even those who disapprove of provinces moving forward toward acceptance of LGBT people as such would be nervous about allowing that conversation to define the church. It is also pretty clear to me that there would be legal hurdles to overcome in adopting a covenant with what appear to be legal provisions in it, (not least for the Church of England) as provinces will be asked to give up ‘sovereignty’ to some other body such as the Primates Meeting. If that is what we want, we should all join the Romans who already have it working perfectly well by all accounts.

My own view is that if our leading bishops cannot gather around the Lord’s Table with one another then no ‘covenant’ is going to create real communion.