Following the money

We sent this press release out today. The series it refers to can be found here.

Episcopal Diocese of Washington publishes
“Following the Money: Donors and Activists on the Anglican Right”

When the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets in Columbus, Ohio, in June, a small network of theologically conservative organizations will be on hand to warn deputies that they must repent of their liberal attitudes on homosexuality or face a possible schism. The groups represent a small minority of church members, but relationships with wealthy American donors and powerful African bishops have made them key players in the fight for the future of the Anglican Communion.

Now, in a two-part series in its diocesan newspaper, the Washington Window, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington examines these organizations, their donors and the strategy that has allowed them to destabilize the Episcopal Church.

“Following the Money: Donors and Activists on the Anglican Right” will be published on Monday as an eight-page section of the Window. It will also available on the diocese’s Web site at: www.edow.org/follow

The first part of the series, “Investing in Upheaval,” draws on Internal Revenue Service Forms 990 to give a partial account of how contributions from Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr., the savings and loan heir, and five secular foundations have energized resistance to the Episcopal Church’s decision to consecrate an openly gay bishop and to permit the blessing of gay and lesbian relationships.

The article sets contributions to organizations such as the American Anglican Council (AAC) and the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) in the context of the donors’ other philanthropic activities which include support for conservative political candidates, think tanks and causes such as the intelligent design movement.

The second article, “A Global Strategy,” uses internal emails and memos from leaders of the AAC and IRD to examine efforts to have the Episcopal Church removed from the worldwide Anglican Communion and replaced with a more conservative entity. The documents surfaced during a Pennsylvania court case. The article also explores the financial relationship between conservative organizations in the United States and their allies in other parts of the world.

The series was written by Jim Naughton, a former reporter for The New York Times and The Washington Post, who is the director of communications for the diocese.

Comment registration

We've just finished a few major projects in the diocesan communications office, and will soon be turning our attention to updating this blog. As you have probably noticed, we still call it The Blog of Daniel, although the television show The Book of Daniel is no longer on the air. That will change soon. We also hope to include audio content in the not-too-distant future. And perhaps we will have some new partners to help provide content.

As step one, though, we are going to do what is easiest to do, which is to ask you to register to post comments here. When the blog first started, and our principal purpose was to capitalize on the attention generated by The Book of Daniel, we were happy to publish remarks from just about anybody. But now that the blog has been up for awhile, we thought it was a good time to build a little accountability into the commenting process. So if you are intersted in sharing your thoughts with us, please click the "Comments" button at the end of this entry, and sign up.

Thanks.

A question of relationships

This is the piece I mentioned on Monday that won the Award of Excellence in the Polly Bond competition sponsored by Episcopal Communicators. It originally appeared in the Washington Window in April 2005, just before the Anglican Consultative Council met in Nottingham.

By Albert Scariato

At its June meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council will hear presentations by theologians from the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada explaining why churches believe there is no Scriptural or theological barrier to the consecration of a gay bishop or to the blessing of monogamous same-sex relationships.

It is fitting that these presentations will focus on "relationship," for embodied in that word is the very core of the current situation that no written document can ever hope to overcome. Christianity is above all else about incarnation. We make the audacious claim that God lived among us as a human being, Jesus, son of Mary. This one person, born of woman through the unhindered Spirit of God, is, we say, God's ultimate revelation to humanity.

Notations on paper or papyrus, no matter how old, venerated or insightful, can hope only to approximate the divine revelation we have in Jesus Christ. The Bible itself admonishes us that beyond its pages much remains to be learned. Indeed Jesus told his disciples that there were matters that they were unable to bear while he was still with them. God's Holy Spirit would, however, guide them ultimately into all truth (John 16:12).

Spanning the history of the church, the Holy Spirit has striven to guide the world, both outside and inside the church, into a more complete understanding of truth. A vital question in Jesus' time and in our own comes from Pilate's lips (John 18:38), "What is truth?" Accessing that truth has been the work that the church has been commissioned to explore, incorporate and proclaim. Never has so great a task been undertaken by mere mortals. Truth has within it the power to create freedom (John 8:32). Freedom itself represents the ultimate gift of our God. From Eden to Sinai to Calvary to the new Jerusalem, we hear a story of God leading humanity from the bondage of self-seeking agendas to a place and time where God is all and in all. When the truth that rushes from God's being and is accepted and inhaled into God's vessels of love - each of us - the incarnation of the divine will dwell beyond the physical and temporal limits of what we now can perceive.

Sadly, it is most often difficult to recognize, let alone to accept, what is truth. Much of what has been revealed to the church and to the world over the years as being ultimately consonant with the Gospel was welcomed not with joy and hope, but rather with skepticism and disdain, or rejected - its messengers often sharing the fate of the one who
"preached peace to those who are far off and those who are near." A rehearsal of this litany would include but not be limited to the truth concerning: the complicity of the church in justifying the often harsh rule of temporal kingdoms, the torture inflicted by the inquisitors, the stifling of Galileo, the conscious encouragement and perpetuation of anti-Semitism, the reactions to the reformers, the use of Scripture to justify slavery, the repression of women, institutional racism, and the list goes on. We have read of it. We have heard it - over and over, council after council, convention after convention, document after document. Today we hear it as well as the bloodiest of centuries, the 20th, has given way to a new millennium in which we hope and pray that we can be led away from yet another stumbling block, sexuality, which keeps us away from the work of bringing the Gospel of peace to a world at war.

God's holy words, the Scriptures, are often manipulated today in an attempt to thwart God's ultimate word, Jesus, who ushered us into an era in which God's will is made known not in written word but in relationship. Divine will entered into relationship with and expressed solidarity with the human condition by seeing, hearing, knowing and coming down to rescue a group of desperate slaves (Exodus 3:7-8). Today, other groups are experiencing God's compassionate response to their cries. Each of us has unique windows, our relationships with other people created in God's image, that reveal the love and truth of God that is revealed in Jesus Christ. Those interpersonal relationships, even with all their foibles and frailties, where we encounter love give us an approximation of the love that God has for each and every human being.

For gay and lesbian Christians, relationships with loved ones are the most vivid reminders of God's love. These relationships, no less than faithful, life-long heterosexual ones, reveal the "mystery of the union between Christ and the church" to men and women who by their very nature are attracted sexually and otherwise to members of their same sex. The business of the church is meant to be about finding God within the bonds of these relationships rather than determining by vague, rather primitive, psychologically twisted, and medically dubious standards that they are immoral.

Scripture has, is, and unfortunately may always be employed to defend the indefensible. Read sermons from the 1850s from Boston and Richmond. Compare and contrast. Where is God? Where is truth? Where is the word made flesh? The Emancipation Proclamation of a secular leader and the amending of a human document, The U.S. Constitution, settled the matter of slavery - not the churches who divided themselves over the issue, and not the bible that was used by slave-holders and abolitionists alike to support their positions.

Somehow the Episcopal Church and most of the Anglican Communion has come to realize correctly that in some instances divorce may be the path of healing in a relationship fraught with hurt and harm. Yet the Gospels speak more clearly on that matter than on the current issues of sexual relationship confronting the church. The
church, the institution of marriage, and society managed to stay intact when the teaching of Jesus in Mark 10:4-12 was reexamined and reinterpreted in the power of the Spirit of God that Jesus promised would lead us into all truth. How did the church come to this interpretation? Was it because more people could empathize with the plight of a lifeless marriage than can understand the basis of same-sex attraction? One would hope that this is not the case. Yet, how can the rigid adherence to what is contrived by some to be the biblical prohibition on homosexuality be squared with the relaxed position of many of these same people on prohibitions of divorce? Questions of logic, bias, and subjection of the minority by the majority (the mighty versus the weak?) come to fore.

Ultimately, one has to face some simple truths. No biblical author addresses the contemporary model of two people of the same sex living with each other in a relationship of equals, faithful and caring. Biblical reference of supposed same-sex relationships is open to a wide range of interpretations. Sides on the present-day debate have staked out their claims. A two-fold truth emerges - the debate will not be settled this way, and in perseverating over this issue so long and so intractably, the church has been driven away from its commission to preach the Gospel.

At the core of the issue of human sexuality is the truth of the incarnation - that God took
on humanity, and in so doing brings humanity into the sacramental realm. One aspect of that humanity is that some are homosexual and others heterosexual. "God looked at everything he had made, and behold it was very good." May our eyes behold God's creation through divinely inspired eyes, ears, hearts and minds. Pen, ink, paper, and even, yes, computers are finite, limited. The Spirit that is at our threshold knows no limits. How then can we impose a boundary on what is boundless? As the Spirit presses against the walls of division and discord, truth will emerge – the truth that liberates - the truth that Jesus promised, that now is hard to bear, but which will lead us to what Anselm called "that than which no greater can be conceived."

The Rev. Albert Scariato, M.D., priest in charge at St. John's, Georgetown. He is completing work at the Catholic University of America on a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies.

Interesting doings elsewhere

We will be on deadline for the May issue of our diocesan newspaper Washington Window today and tomorrow, so blogging opportunities may be few. But I wanted to mention that Mark Harris is writing an excellent series called Windsor Nosh on his blog, Preludium and that Father Jake is hosting a discussion based on a fascinating blog posting by the Rev. Geoffrey Hoare, rector of All Saints, Atlanta. The posting is six months old, and lengthy, but quite insightful about the current troubles of the Anglican Communion.

Our own horn

Every year Episcopal Communicators, a group of, well, Episcopal communicators gathers for an annual meeting which includes an awards dinner. Our diocese won 13 awards of various sorts this year, and while some of them were for date-specific stuff whose shelf life has ended, or for things best appreciated by an audience of other communicators, we did pick up a few honors for work that some of you may find interesting. Some of this material will be familiar to regular visitors to the site if you will permit me:

Have a look at our diocesan movie by Hugh Drescher of Drescher Films, which won an award of excellence (the top award) in its category.

Bishop Chane won an award of merit (runner-up award) for this commentary on the Middle East.

The Rev. Albert Scariato of St. John’s in Georgetown who an award of excellence for commentary. You can find it on page 15 of this pdf. We will try to get a more easily accessible version up later.

The Rev. Martin Smith won an honorable mention and an award of merit in the “devotional and inspirational” category. The latter piece is on page15 of this pdf. We will try to get a more easily accessible version up later.

And photographer Walter Calahan won an award of excellence for a photo essay on walking the Labyrinth at the National Cathedral. You can find an online version of that essay here, or in a printed version here, beginning on page 8.

Washington National Cathedral and St. Columba’s parish in northwest D. C. also won multiple awards. You can find the full list here.

Bishop Griswold on the California election

In an interview with Stephen Bates of The Guardian, Frank Griswold, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church has gone about as far as he can go in asking the people of California not to choose a gay bishop.

Griswold said: "The diocese needs to respect the sensibilities of the larger communion. It will note what is going on in the life of the church and make a careful and wise decision. It will then be up to the house of bishops to give or withhold their consent. Given what has happened over the last three years, I think there will be increased sensitivity."

The seven candidates to succeed Bishop William Swing are in California now meeting people, giving talks, etc. California votes on May 6.

I tell ya, mainline Protestant Churches can't get no respect

The United Church of Christ has taken the lead in pointing out cable news networks' preference for putting the likes of Jerry Falwell forward as a spokesman for all Christians on holy days such as Easter. Courtesy of Street Prophets and Accesible Airwaves.

Faith-based black hole

"Less noticed during all the comings and goings over at the White House this week was the resignation of Jim Towey, who has run the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for the past five years. Towey is a good man--he is perhaps one of the only people in government, Democrat or Republican, who passionately cares about the fact that there are very few ways to track whether programs that receive federal funds actually accomplish anything, making it impossible to tell whether an organization like Head Start, for instance, is meeting the educational goals set out for it or whether faith-based programs are as effective as secular ones.

But Towey also chose to mouth the Bush administration's fiction that government discriminated against faith-based groups until George W. Bush came to save them. And he stayed in his position long after it was clear to most observers that the faith-based office was little more than a political showpiece for the White House. On that score, it may turn out to be very difficult to replace him."

Amy Sullivan has the story on the Washington Monthly's blog.

A Church Asunder

You can find the full text of The New Yorker story on the Episcopal Church here. Have a look and leave a comment.

Update: Please visit Political Spaghetti for a comprehensive discussion of the article and the current campaign by the Anglican Church of Nigeria to pass anti-gay legislation.

John Updike's Seven Stanzas at Easter

Anyone who runs a Web site can tell you that part of the job is pushing things that you think people will want to see toward the top of the site. But sometimes, browsing the data on which pages people are visiting most frequently, you realize that you've fallen asleep on the job.

This morning I learned that people are accessing John Updike's wonderful poem Seven Stanzas at Easter at a surprising rate, despite the fact that we've made no effort--this year--to let them know that it was there.

So, let me tell you, belatedly: that you can find the poem, which is a stirring defense of the notion of a physical resurrection, in the Easter and Holy Week section of our spirituality site.

An excerpt:

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

Mark 16: the empty tomb

Happy Easter to everyone, especially Daniel, ACermak and Rick Harris who have been faithful commentators on our march through Mark. Before beginning, I also want to put in another plug for the wonderful online Easter meditation that diocesan internet technologies specialist Peter Turner has created for us. Have a look.

I think it was about 20 years ago that I learned that the last chapter of Mark's gospel as I had been reading it for moat of my life was actually about twice as long as the gospel received by Mark's community. The original ending may have been lost. Or, it may simply have ended after verse eight, with frightened women fleeing the empty tomb. To me this seems in keeping with the abrupt, make-of-this-what-you-will quality of this gospel. Whatever the case, the verses that describe Jesus' post-Resurrection appearances almost certainly weren't in the original.

I don't take that to mean there were no post-Resurrection appearances. But I do think that in some measure, one needs to take each gospel on its own terms, and this ending is especially intriguing because it asks quite simply: Given what you've just read, what do you make of an empty tomb?

If you had no evidence beyond what was presented in the previous 15 chapters, would that be enough to move you to faith, and if so, what kind of faith? What did Jesus just do? What did he mean?

For me the answer lies in the statement by the young man in the white robe (was he pre-figured by the young man in the loin cloth who appears and disappears in a single verse when the guards seize Jesus on Maundy Thursday?). He tells the women to tell the disciples to return to Galilee where they will meet the Risen Christ.

And so we return to the place that Jesus first found us wondering whether he will be there and in what form; wondering, too, what he will want from us, and how our lives will change, because, clearly, if he is there, something not merely life-changing, but world-changing has happened, and we must respond.

Mustn’t we?

So, did you find him? In what form? And how are you responding?

Opening our eyes to the Risen Lord

Happy Easter, everyone.

Please visit our diocesan Web site to see the Easter meditation created by our information techologies specialist Peter Turner. Peter has blended the artwork of He Qi, a professor at the Nanjing Union Theological Seminary with a Melchite chant for the Passion sung in Arabic. The result is contemplative, yet oddly uplifting two minutes that we hope you will share with friends and family.

Again, Happy Easter from Bishop John Bryson Chane and all of us at the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

Vai Crucis online

Click here to walk the Way of the Cross online with an eclectic interfaith collection of bloggers and artists.

Onward Christian Liberals

If you live near a good bookstore or newsstand, you owe it to yourself to hustle on out and buy the Spring issue of The American Scholar. It contains an excellent essay by Marilynne Robinson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead, explaining how the Christian right has perverted not only Christianity, but evangelicalism. And how the mainline Churches let them.

Why the Gospel of Judas is no big deal


Adam Gopnik's excellent review in The New Yorker gets it just right:

"By making the Gospel story more occult, one also drains it of its cosmic significance; making it more mysterious makes it less mystical. (If Dan Brown or the authors of “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” are right—and they aren’t—then Jesus is reduced from the Cosmic Overlord to the founder of a minor line of Merovingian despots.) “The Gospel of Judas” turns Christianity into a mystery cult—Jesus at one point describes to Judas the highly bureaucratic organization of the immortal realm, enumerating hundreds of luminaries—but robs it of its ethical content. Jesus’ message in the new Gospel is entirely supernatural. You don’t have to love thy neighbor; just seek your star. The Gospel of Judas is, in this way, the dead opposite of the now much talked of Gospel of Jefferson, the edition prepared by the third President, in which all the miracles and magic stuff are deleted, and what is left is the ethical teaching."

E. J. Dionne is on to something similar in his column:

Judging by the Gospel of Judas, the "knowledge" claim of the book's author or authors is to a rather bizarre cosmology. The detailed description of a divine realm of assorted angels and an emphasis on the stars -- "Stop struggling with me," the Jesus of the story says. "Each of you has his own star." -- reads like a rejected screenplay for a Spielberg movie.

A Lifelong Disturber of the peace

From The New York Times:
The Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr., a civil rights and antiwar campaigner who sought to inspire and encourage an idealistic and rebellious generation of college students in the 1960's from his position as chaplain of Yale University, then reveled in the role of lightning rod thrust upon him by officials and conservatives who thought him and his style of dissent dangerous, died yesterday at his home in Strafford, Vt. He was 81.

The full Times obit is here. The Washington Post obit is here.

The Rev. Coffin was a friend and an inspiration to our bishop, the Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, and preached the sermon when Bishop Chane was consecrated in Washington National Cathedral on June 1, 2002. His text was "The Good Samaritan," and his remarks included the following:

Had I but one wish today for the Christian churches of America, I think it would be that they come to see the difference between charity and justice. Charity is a matter of personal attributes, justice a matter of public policy. Charity seeks to alleviate the effects of injustice, justice seeks to eliminate the causes of it. Charity in no way affects the status quo, while justice leads inevitably to political confrontation.

Especially I would hope that Christians would see that the compassion that moved the Good Samaritan to act charitably – that same compassion prompted Biblical prophets to confront injustice, to speak truth to power, as did Jesus, who, though more than a prophet, was certainly nothing less. Most recently, religious leaders like Desmond Tutu and Martin Luther King have seen once again that compassion frequently demands confrontation.

Christians are called so to live “that in everything God may be glorified.” Clearly, then, religion and politics, although distinct, do mix – and to claim otherwise is to misunderstand both. I underscore this for the sake of our presently tormented and endangered planet. To survive, it will require of far more religious leaders a politically committed spirituality.

To read the whole thing, click below. And to reminisce or comment, click on comments.

Read more »

Mark 15: The Silence of Christ

When I was a child, well, actually, until I was in my mid-40s, I was always extremely frustrated by the fact that Jesus, at least in Mark’s passion, makes no attempt to defend himself before Pilate. I thought like Peter while he was in Get-behind-me-Satan! mode that Jesus should “win” his confrontation with Rome and with the Temple leadership in a way that I understood. And surely, that would include making mincemeat of the charges against him and dazzling Pilate rhetorically. I mean, I felt like I could do it, so why didn’t he do it?

I’d had this view challenged in two ways: one by the priests of my childhood who preached that Jesus knew that by dying he would atone for all of our sins and he more or less wanted to get on with it. (Some of these guys were very big on the virtues of “suffering in silence.”) I didn’t find that persuasive. I believe that Jesus had good reasons for dying, and I don’t doubt the theology of atonement (though I don’t fully understand it, either) but this explanation, to me, denies Jesus’ human nature by relying on his complete understanding of divine purposes. It also suggests, I think, that atoning for sins was all Jesus accomplished on the cross. Not that that isn’t plenty, mind you, but it cuts the scroll too short.

The other challenge came from J. D. Salinger. If I am remembering correctly, Zooey Glass (in Franny and Zooey) says that Jesus’ silence before Pilate was “brilliant,” that no one else would have understood that silence was precisely what was called for at this moment. As I recall, he then takes a swipe at St. Francis of Assisi, who would have had time to “bang out a few canticles.” Though I have been a huge Salinger fan, I never really appreciated what he was getting at there. But reading the Passion this time, it occurred to me that Jesus may have realized that dying bravely, and with as much dignity as the situation allowed, was his best chance to make people understand a message he had been preaching to uncomprehending ears for three years. Greater love hath no man, etc.

Laying down his life was Jesus way of saying, with ultimate emphasis, that he stood—ultimately—behind everything he had said; that he continued to assert it, even in the face of death, that the Kingdom of God was among us. To the smaller audience of his frightened disciples it said: What we have begun together is so important, that I will die for it, so that you will understand and carry it on. In this context, speech, especially defensive speech, or the slick rhetorical footwork he had demonstrated in recent Temple debates would have seemed cheap. It would have diminished what he was doing. Silence, on the other hand, was brilliant.

Holy Week online

If you are stuck at your computer, Holy Week can seem pretty much the same as any other week. So if you are looking for a way to immerse yourself, however, briefly, in the journey that Jesus made this week, please visit the Stations of the Cross and the daily meditations in the Spirituality section of our Web site. We also recommend this Holy Thursday homily from Mark Harris, and this Good Friday sermon from Reid Hamilton. Both are brought to you by The Witness.

Sarah Dylan Breuer on the work of the Special Commission

Sarah Dylan Breuer, a member of the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion has posted a wonderful piece on that group's work on The Witness , an online Anglican magazine.

A sample:

I'm an openly gay and partnered Christian who is passionately progressive. I've got a photo on my refrigerator of the moment when then-Canon Gene Robinson heard the news that General Convention had given consent to his election; that photo reminds me of what's best in our life together in the church, and that's why I keep it in a place where I'll see it several times a day. I am gladdened, not grieved, when I see that photo and when I think of that moment.

I'm also a person who first encountered and fell in love with the Anglican tradition in Africa. I'd gone to Kenya for a summer with InterVarsity's Overseas Training Camp program as a young evangelical who'd thought about being a missionary. But when I was there, I saw up close just how much harm can be done by a theology that is centered so much about going to heaven after death that it's almost exclusively about the afterlife. I lived with an African pastor in Dagoretti, a shantytown outside Nairobi, and listened to many American missionaries who drove in from the wealthy suburbs to tell families in Dagoretti that it didn't matter that their children had no clean water to drink and no decent health care, as those who accepted Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior would live in a mansion in heaven. I remember vividly one sermon along that theme that literally made me sick -- I had to go outside to throw up. But I did find a gospel that was actually Good News in the preaching and, more importantly, in the lives of Anglican clergy in Kenya who put their bodies literally on the line in protests for human rights. Seeing that made me want to check out this Anglican church, and that's what brought me here.

All that's to say that I'm a person who values the communion we share as Anglicans not despite my desire for justice, but because of it. I believe that we Americans need to hear the voices of others around the world. Without that, we run the risk of becoming "McChristians," preaching a "gospel" co-opting Jesus' name for an agenda that, however unintentionally, is far too much about American hegemony. We need the voices of other Anglicans so that we preach a Christian rather than simply American gospel.

Having read The New Yorker piece...

I’ve expressed some real misgivings about some of the comments made by Peter J. Boyer of The New Yorker about the Episcopal Church in an online Q and A. Boyer is the author of A Church Asunder, a piece in this week’s issue of the magazine, which hit newsstands and most mailboxes today.

Having been prepared for the worst, I must be quick to say that I think the piece, which I’ve finally had the chance to read, is quite good. By which I don’t mean necessarily good for the Church, but good in a journalistically accomplished sort of way. It is fair, nuanced, and he treats most of the issues on which he touches in some real depth—the one exception being evangelism, where he buys the conservative boilerplate—“If you just preach what we tell you, you will grow.”—uncritically. His miniature portraits of Bishops Gene Robinson and Bob Duncan, accomplished primarily by narrating their spiritual biographies, bring them both alive.

Boyer he leaves one major area of our current situation unexplored: who is paying for the pro-schism initiative? I hope to address that in some detail fairly soon. Otherwise, I think he’s written a good primer for people who are new to the issue, and elicited some telling quotes from a number of the individuals he spoke with. (For disclosure’s sake, I should mention that I am quoted at the end of the piece.)

Here are three quotes I’ve culled that I think fair usage rights permit me to pass on.

The first is from Peter Akinola, who makes what, to me, is a breathtaking claim:

“It is simple,” Akinola told me. “We believe we know the mind of the Lord. We believe we know what he’s asking us to do in his holy word, and we simply respond to his command. . . . It is the power of the word, and the Lord has blessed our efforts.”

The second is from Bob Duncan:

“I’m not in a fight over sexuality, gracious sakes,” he says. In his earlier career in campus ministries, he often ministered to young gay and lesbian people. “I loved them and cared for them,” he says. “We brought them in and helped them understand that God loved them. And actually not all of them came out of their same-sex affection, but they grew a lot toward God. We just made it clear we can’t bless the relationships. Everybody’s a sinner; you’ve got to break yourself.”

And the third is from Gene Robinson:

“The reason that I have trouble with Bob Duncan and that bunch is that they are seeking to align our church with Peter Akinola, who says that homosexuals are lower than the dogs,” he recently told me. “That is very close to saying ‘inhuman,’ which is very reminiscent of what Germans said about Jews and so allowed them to devalue Jews, that it was O.K. to exterminate them. Bob Duncan wants to ally our church with the church of Kenya, where the primate there said that, when I was consecrated, Satan entered the church. What most people don’t realize is that homosexuality is something that I am, it’s not something that I do. It’s at the very core of who I am. We’re not talking about taking a liberal or conservative stance on a particular issue; we’re talking about who I am.”

The Episcopal Church in The New Yorker

Peter J. Boyer of The New Yorker has apiece onthe "revolt" in our Church in this week's issue. The story isn't online, but an interview with Mr. Boyer is.

A reflection on the Windsor Report by Bishop David Beetge

The Rt. Rev. David Beetge, Bishop of the Diocese of the Highveld in the Province of Southern Africa was a member of the Lambeth Commission, the group that wrote the Windsor Report. He writes, in the Passiontide reflection, that the experience has never left him. Have a look:

The Windsor Report – A reflection by a member of the
Lambeth Commission


I recently attended an HIV/AIDS consultation at St George’s Windsor and memories of two meetings of Lambeth Commission came flooding back. The experience of being part of the Lambeth Commission has never left me and I have constantly thought of our report and the impact it might have on our Communion especially when reading the many comments and reviews that have been written on the Windsor Report.

Of one thing I am now even more certain. We, as Anglicans, need space and time to consider the way forward. Perhaps a time of holy waiting that is so clearly described in the second letter of Peter:

“But there is one thing, my dear friends, that you must never forget: that with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance.”

(click for more.)

Read more »

Mark 14 b

Mark spends only three verses on the institution of the Eucharist. That seems odd given its centrality to Christian worship. He doesn’t give us the washing of the feet. Rather the story hurtles toward Jesus’ death. I admire Jesus for praying that “the hour might pass.” That, and his cry of desolation from the cross, makes it easy for me to accept that he did indeed have a human nature.

While Jesus is a still point amidst the churning confusion and brutality of this chapter, you don’t get a sense of him controlling the action, as much as letting events unfold around him. His surrender is absolute, as, I suppose, ours must be. I find such total surrender impossible, and console myself with the fact that Jesus was clear on what and whom he was surrendering to, and that that clarity makes the surrender possible. So my prayer today is for clarity.

I am always mystified by verses 51-52: A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

Does the young man symbolize Jesus’ soul making its escape? Or is this a reference that an earlier community understood, but that is lost on us. Or is it just stuck in there because it happened. I doubt the latter. Mark is a ruthlessly economical storyteller, and these two verses don’t add a lot if they are purely descriptive.

I identify with Peter’s betrayal of Christ. Not just because I am a sinful person, but because I can imagine Peter calculating, as I tend to, whether this is the time and place to make my stand, or whether I should fight on ground of my own choosing.

A troubling situation in Nigeria

I have alluded before to a troubling situation in Nigeria where a man named Davis MacIyalla is attempting to establish a chapter of Changing Attitude, an organization in the UK that is not unlike Integrity, the gay and lesbian caucus in the Episcopal Church. I think Americans need to get up to speed on this situation, because if Mr. MacIyalla is telling the truth, and the evidence does seem to be with him, then he is being smeared by the Church of Nigeria, and it would seem that his personal safety is in danger.

The Church Times has written two stories on this issue: 1 and 2.

One peculiar feature of the story is that Canon Akintunde Popoola, the official in the Church of Nigeria making the charges, sometimes discusses them in the comments section of Simon Sarmiento's invaluable Thinking Anglicans. Here is one example.

Kairos in prison

Brother Rick Harris, O. P., from the Diocese of Alabama posts regularly on this blog. Whe he mentioned recently that he was about to make a Kairos Weekend at a prison in Alabama, I asked him to write about it for us. Click for his engrossing account. (And thanks, Rick.)

Read more »

Prediction: UConn v Duke

My NCAA brackets didn't work out so well--George Mason, who knew?--so I have some sympathy with the many reporters who predicted--on not much evidence--that the Episcopal Church was about to change its thinking on blessing same-sex relationships, etc.

Turns out they were picking Connecticut v. Duke in the final.

The Church hasn't spoken yet, and won't until its General Convention meets in June. But here are the resolutions that will be on the table. And here is the full report of the Special Commison that didn't do what some reporters (you know who you are, so we won't link to your stories--yet) predicted it would.

Mark 14 (a)

If you are a writer and a Christian, it is difficult to tell whether your appreciation of the Passion is colored by your sense of plot, theme, etc. or whether your sense of plot, theme, etc. is formed primarily by the Passion, which you hard a few dozen times growing up.

Anyway, Chapter 14.

We start with another great example of Mark’s economy. I realize that we cant describe our finished product here to a particular individual. But at some point, somebody with a terrific, and oddly contemporary, sense of timing had his or her hand on this. It takes only two verses to give a sense of heightened emotion.

(Click!)

Read more »

Special Commission releases report on Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion

This just out from Episcopal News Service. To read the whole report, go here. To read just the resolutions recommended in the report, go here. And if you want to see how the Associated Press is treating it, go here. (One could have sent you to any number of sites to read Rachel Zoll's story, but this one gives you the easiest access to news about the Red Sox.)

For some insightful commentary from a member of the actual Commision its own self, visit Mark Harris' blog entires here, and here.

The response of Integrity, the GLBT caucus is here. Haven't heard yet from those less likely to be pleased.

By Mary Frances Schjonberg

[ENS] The Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion has issued its report, including 11 resolutions to be debated by the 75th General Convention at its meeting June 13-21 in Columbus, Ohio.

In a joint cover letter, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and the Rev. George Werner, president of the House of Deputies, observed that the report is "first and foremost... a theological document" focusing on "our understanding of our participation as members of the Anglican Communion in God's Trinitarian life and God's mission to which we are called." The letter stressed that the report "is intended to start the conversation and not conclude" discussion about the Windsor Report's recommendations, and to be an invitation into "the Windsor Process and the further unfolding of our common life together in the Anglican Communion."

click for more

Read more »

The Report of the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion

This much discussed report, the subject of countless rumors, will probably be online somewhere soon, and I will provide a link. In the meantime, click here to see the resolutons that the commission recommends.

Read more »

Judas was framed!

Have a look at this story in The Washington Post. It begins:

"The National Geographic Society today released the first modern translation of the ancient "Gospel of Judas," which says that the most reviled villain in Christian history was simply doing his master's bidding when he betrayed Jesus.

"The 2nd century text, denounced as heresy 1,700 years ago by orthodox Christian clergy, describes conversations between Jesus and Judas Iscariot during the week before the Jewish holiday of Passover in which Jesus tells Judas "secrets no other person has ever seen.' "

Then have a look at the document on The National Geogrpahic Society's Web site.

I am passing this along before forming any sort of opinion about it. (So I hope you didn't take the healdine of this article seriously.) In general, I think the non-canonical gospels are historically interesting, but not theologically compelling. And I think that all claims to secret knowledge, especially secret knowledge of God, are suspect.

Mark 13

Today I happen to be reading from the New Revised Stardard Version published by the American Bible Society. The sub-heads in chapter 13 convey the message: destruction (of the Temple), persecution (of the disciples). The Desolating Sacrilege. So, it's an upbeat kind of text.

This chapter suggests, even more strongly than some of the material we've already discussed, that Jesus did indeed think that he was living in an end time. The emphasis on watchfulness has an urgency to it that goes beyond the sort of "live a good life so you are ready to meet your maker" sermonizing that this chapter sometimes inspires. And if Jesus did think he was living in an end time, it opens up an avenue for some interesting speculation about what Jesus knew and didn't know, about the interplay between his human and divine natures in shaping his awareness of the world. To what extent, in his moment to moment mental processes was he the omniscient God, and to what extent was he confined the limitations of time and place?

There is something about this chapter that I find perversely appealing. It undercuts the sort of "Jesus is my buddy, and if I hang with him, things will work out all right for me," sort of spirituality that is flourishing in the United States right now, especially among the disciples of prosperity theologians. What is on offer here is neither comfort, nor reassurance, but rescue from the brink of catastrophe.

As someone who thinks that the phrase "personal savior" sounds a bit too much like "personal trainer"--and therefore seems to relegate the salvation of the world to a sector of the service economy)--I take an odd pleasure when God becomes too frightening for us to cuddle up with him.

This perhaps says more about me than about the deeper meanings of this passage, but there it is.

Where in the world is Peter Akinola?

The globetrotting archbishop of Nigeria was recently in Texas. You can read about his meeting with Bishop Jack Iker of Forth Worth here. Bishop Iker's is one of four dioceses in the Episcopal Church that doesn't ordain women. Apparently he's decided to support Akinola's thus-far futile effort to build himself a constituency in the United States.

What is curious is what a low profile the archbishop is keeping. If the Diocese of Fort Worth hadn't posted this letter, only Akinola's closest advisors would have known he was in the country. That is a stark contrast to his previous very public excursions to the United States when he gave speeches, accepted awards and sat for interviews. It makes you wonder what, or who, he is afraid of. And it makes you wonder if his supporters in this country have realized what a liability he has become.

Were Akinola to make a public appearance, reporters would ask about his ill-chosen words regarding the sectarian violence in his country, about his support for repressive anti-gay legislation that has raised concerns in the U. S. State Department and among human rights groups, and about his church's ongoing attempts to smear the man who is trying to start a group for gay Christians in Nigeria.

And they might also ask why, having declared two days of mourning for the victims of the recent violence in his country, the archbishop didn't feel it necessary to actually be in the country on those days.

The difficult fact for Akinola and his American acolytes like Bishop Robert Duncan and Canon Martyn Minns is that the more people see of him, the better they like the Episcopal Church.

Mark 12

Earlier in our discussion about the Gospel of Mark, I mentioned that the passages about the feeding miracles had occasioned some of the best sermons I had ever heard. Conversely, I don't think I've ever heard a satisfying sermon on giving to Caesar what is Caesar's and giving God what is God's. And I have to admit I have never understood the verse. I assume that all things are God's, so the duality Jesus speaks of here is lost on me. Likewise, I don't grasp what Jesus is saying when he describes the afterlife in verse 25. I can understand that life in the Resurrection will be different than life on earth. But Jesus seems to be saying, at least here, that the relationships we formed in our lifetimes won't matter in the Resurrection--that even a relationship as central as the one we had with our spouse will be as nothing. This seems to go against Trinitarian theology, which posits a three-person godhead in relationship with itself. I have always been vexed by it.

In the midst of this vexing chapter, however, comes verse 29, in which we find Jesus doing what people in my line of work try to do all the time: boil a message down to its essence: Love God, and your neighbor as yourself. This priority-setting passage is honored primarily in the breech. It is too simple for us to accept, and so we build intricate systems of rules that make it easier for us to judge our neighbors than to love them.

The chapter closes with Jesus' observation about the window's mites. This story always makes me uncomfortable because, unlike the widow, I give from my surplus much more frequently than I give from my substance.

The Anglican spin cycle

The Rev. Susan Russell has an excellent analysis of how the Anglican spin cycle works on her blog.

A snippet:

I think we've all had it happen: one minute the washer is happily turning dirty laundry into clean clothes and the next there's the telltale thump-thump-thump-THUMP of the spin cycle spinning crooked. The only solution is to get up, lift the lid, rearrange the wet laundry and start over again.

Well, it happened to me today. Only it wasn't the spin cycle on my washing machine -- it was the spin cycle on the Anglican News Machine. One minute I was happily working at home, getting Holy Week texts in order and coming up with a Good Friday sermon title ahead of the noon-today-or-else deadline and the next I was getting calls and emails by the drove from reporters about the "U-Turn" the Episcopal Church was about to make on gay inclusion -- thump, thump, thump, THUMP!

The only solution was to get up, "lift the lid" and check out what was spinning around in there.

Justice for immigrants

From Episcopal News Service

[ENS] On April 10th, the Mall in Washington, DC will be the scene of a major rally urging the Senate to adhere to the principles embodied in the draft immigration reform bill set forth by the Judiciary Committee. Rallies in cities across the United States, coinciding with what is expected to be a push this week for final Senate action, continue to express support for key elements of the bill.

The bill before the Senate provides for a guest workers' program that anticipates permanent residence and citizenship for a considerably expanded number of visas for workers, along with a process for allowing some number of those in now in the country without status to seek permanent residence and citizenship. These were two controversial pieces of the Senate bill that advocates hope will survive the Senate debate and ultimately action by the entire Congress.

Episcopal Migration Ministries and the Church's Office of Government Relations have been contacting church leaders and church networks around the country, urging participation in the April 10th event either in Washington or in cities around the country where they have a presence.

Richard Parkins, EMM director, noted that "advocacy in favor of a balance immigration bill which acknowledges the rights of migrants workers including a pathway to citizenship has registered with many legislators on both sides of the aisle. The voices of faith communities have been vital to bringing the immigration debate to a point where there is a good chance of a just and fair bill emerging. Continuing to show support for such legislation is critically important as the process moves forward this week."

The bill offered by the chair of the Judiciary Committee, Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, faces amendments from those who want legislation that reflects an earlier House bill, which was characterized by an enforcement-only approach.

A more critical look

Andrew Brown offers a tougher take on the Archbisop of Canterbury than the one I sketch out in the entry below.

Here is a excerpt from Brown's piece in the the Guardian:

The figures you use to justify your belief that a split may be inevitable are the two heroic German Christians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoeller, who left their own church rather than side with the Nazis. At a time when the official church supported Hitler, they set up their own parallel bodies at every level of the Church's hierarchy. When the war came, they were punished severely. Most of the priests in their movement were sent off to the Eastern Front; Bonhoeffer was jailed, then hanged; Niemoeller spent the war in concentration camps.

Naturally, when secular English people hear you speak of their inspiring example, we imagine you standing up - at last - to thugs like Archbishop Malango of Central Africa, a supporter of Robert Mugabe, or Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria, who has incited pogroms against Muslims, called gay men and women lower than pigs and backed a law that would jail people who even discussed equality for them. In our silly, English way, we suppose that these activities have something in common with the fascism that martyred Bonhoeffer.

Silly English liberals. I fear that what you actually mean by references to anti-Nazi martyrs is that you are on Akinola's side against the liberals, because that's where the majority is

The company we keep, 2

Last week I was among a group of 10 people who had breakfast with Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was participating in a conference at Georgetown University. That afternoon, I had lunch with his press secretary the Rev. Jonathan Jennings, whom I have had the privilege of having lunch with a time or three before. The previous week, I’d had a chance to interview Sue Parks, the conference manager of the Lambeth Conference, and we will have a piece based on that interview in the May issue of the Washington Window.

I mention all of this not to show how well-connected I am (the Archbishop always has breakfast with somebody, unless he has breakfast alone) or to prepare you for any juicy revelations—I leave that for people who think they can determine the future of the Anglican Communion by an exceedingly close analysis of a handful of choice paragraphs culled from the recent speech of the Bishop of Exeter.—But to offer my own admittedly partial and subjective sense of where things stand in the Episcopal Church’s relationship to the rest of the Anglican Communion as we approach our General Convention in June.

click for more

Read more »

Mark 11

This chapter begins with Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem which we will celebrate a week from today on Palm Sunday. I wish there were a way to get a sense of how popular Jesus was, and how big a threat he posed to Temple authority and to Roman authority. Obviously he was known by many in the crowd, but just as obviously the deserted him days later. I also wish there were some way to know what his motives were both for his very public entrance into Jerusalem, and for his confrontational cleansing of the Temple. (Speaking of the Temple does the cleansing tell us anything about Jesus attitude toward commerece, or should the passage be read more narrowly?)

If you believe, as seems plausible, that he was taking the actions he took to fulfill the Scriptures regarding the Son of Man (which Mark has quoted numerous times) then you could argue simply that he was embracing his destiny. But I have always wondered whether Jesus did indeed intend for his earthly (perhaps pre-Resurrection would be a better description) ministry to fail.

I think it is obvious that he went to Jerusalem to provoke a confrontation. The entrance, the cleansing, the combative banter with the Temple insiders would seem to support this. But what if, rather that seeking to fulfill the Scriptures, Jesus thought of this strategy as his last best chance to get the Jewish people to hear what he was saying to them. Such an interpretation makes better sense given Jesus words and actions amidst the pathos of what is about to unfold. At least to me.

By the way, anybody know what to make of the cursed fig tree? Even my Oxford Annotated says Jesus meaning is unclear.

Advertising Space