Blog forecast

Expect only light percipitation over the holiday weekend.

Tributes to Judi Greene

Judi Greene died unexpectedly last weekend. She was Bishop Chane's verger and liturgical assistant, and had worked in a number of parishes in our diocese. She also had many friends at the National Cathedral.

Here is some of what Washington Times columnist Adrienne Washington had to say:

"Judi," as she was known to those fortunate to come into contact with her quick tongue, wit and infectious laughter, suffered a heart attack in her Northwest home Friday. She had turned 62 this month.
"Judi was a daughter of Washington," D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp said during the presentation of a council proclamation honoring her neighbor.
Note that the standing-room-only congregation had as many white clerical collars as the Virginia Theological Seminary's cafeteria at lunchtime.
Mrs. Cropp recalled that when her family moved to the District, Judi "came across the street and brought rolls and gossip and we became fast friends."
Bishop Chane called her "a pistol of a woman" -- all 4 feet 10 inches of her.
But no one ever dared mistake her size for her stature.
"We all have Judi stories," said Bishop Chane, noting that he spent more time with her than anyone else, save his wife.
During a solemn occasion when they were walking out of the Washington National Cathedral, he said, Judi stopped and reached over to Bishop Chane's wife and put the couple's hands together. That move raised some eyebrows.
"Hey, you didn't get here by yourself," he recalled her saying.


Click the "keep reading" button to read the eulogy offered by the Rev. Susan S. Keller of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Wheaton at Judi's funeral on Wednesday at St. Luke's in D. C.

Read more »

Still fogged in

The Diocese of Central Florida has joined the list of those appealing to the Archbishop of Canterbury for "alternative primatial oversight"--which Father Jake has nicknamed "ALPO."

I am still trying to understand what is being requested. People who understand the canons and constitution of our Church better than I do inform me that the Presiding Bishop doesn't exercise "oversight." The General Convention does. So in asking for alternative oversight, is one asking to get out from under the PB, or the GC. If the first, these requests seem pointless. If the second, they seem incoherent, because it is hard to understand how an organization that didn't accept the authority of the Convention could continue to be part of the Episcopal Church, as at least one or two of these dioceses seem to want to do. (And remember, I am not necessarily opposed, as many of the folks I usually agree with are, to dioceses eventually negotiating some kind of arrangement with other provinces that allows us all to move on in mission while maintaining some level of fellowship. I just truly don't understand the nature of these requests.)

Another thing that puzzles me about the appeal from Central Florida is the explicit disassociation from the resolution that General Convention passed urging “municipal council, state legislatures and the United States Congress to approve measures giving gay and lesbian couples protection[s] such as: bereavement and family leave policies; health benefits; pension benefits; real-estate transfer tax benefits; and commitments to mutual support enjoyed by non-gay married couples” and opposing “any state or federal constitutional amendment that prohibits same-sex civil marriage or civil unions.”

The confusing thing here is that Central Florida has requested alternative oversight from the Primate of a Church of which it would seem to be in significant disagreement on the issue of civil unions. The United Kingdom permits civil unions. While the Church of England has been at pains to emphasize that its acceptance of such unions does not change its traditional teaching on the nature of marriage or sexual intimacy, it does permit its clergy to enter into such unions. And it does not oppose extending to gay and lesbian partners the types of benefits enumerated in the legislation from which Central Florida has disassociated itself. (The CofE's House of Bishops' pastoral letter on this issue is here.

One blogger worth watching as the Central Florida story unfolds is the Anglican Scotist, a member of that diocese. He has posted on this issue here and here.

Elsewhere...

We have a steady diet of Anglican issues here on the blog lately. As a result I missed Sen. Barak Obama's recent sppech on people of faith in public life. Here is E. J. Dionne's take on it. And there is a good conversation going on over at Street Prophets.

The Church Times on GC, etc.

The Church Times in London has an excellent editorial that begins with this imagined scenario:

IMAGINE the Provincial Synod of the Church of Nigeria. At its meeting, it first reasserts its total opposition to homosexuality. Not only will it keep the bar on priesthood and the episcopate, it will also support state discrimination against homosexual people. But then Archbishop Akinola steps in: the Church of Nigeria is part of a worldwide Communion; it is committed to Lambeth Resolution 1.10, pledging it to listen to the experience of homosexual persons. In his global travels, the Archbishop tells his Synod, he has heard that gay people are distressed by such discrimination. He therefore pleads with his Synod to put aside their deeply held convictions for the sake of the wider Church. As a result of his intervention, the Synod passes a substitute motion permitting the ordination to the priesthood and the episcopate of "those whose manner of life presents a challenge" to churchgoers in that country, i.e. gay people. For, says Archbishop Akinola, what is Christianity about if it isn't challenge?

This conceit may help to convey the magnitude of the passing of motion B033 at the US General Convention late on Wednesday of last week. ...

Visit the link to read it all.

Bishop Peter Lee writes to the Diocese of Virginia

June 29, 2006

Dear Friends:

In a story in today’s Washington Times newspaper (June 29, 2006), reporting on the election by the Nigerian Episcopal Synod of the Rev. Canon Martyn Minns as a bishop of the Church of Nigeria, it is asserted that Truro Church, Fairfax and The Falls Church, Falls Church have informed me that they plan to leave the Diocese.

I have had no such conversation with either church. In fact, I received a call today from the Rev. John Yates, rector of The Falls Church, to apologize for the assertion in the story and to assure me that there is no such plan on the part of The Falls Church. I also received today an e-mail from the Rev. Martyn Minns assuring me that no such decision had been made at Truro.

The election of the Rev. Martyn Minns as a Bishop of the Church of Nigeria with oversight of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America is an affront to the traditional, orthodox understanding of Anglican Provincial Autonomy. Archbishop Akinola acknowledges as much in his letter to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. How that situation resolves itself remains to be seen. However, the request by Archbishop Akinola that Martyn be allowed to continue as rector of an Episcopal congregation while also serving as a Nigerian Bishop seems to me, at this point, to be impossible. I raised this issue with Martyn when he and I spoke yesterday.

While these and other developments around the Church are troubling, it is clear to me that the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia is focused on the mission and ministry of proclaiming the Gospel message of love and hope to a world desperate for that message.

I ask your prayers for our common life as a Church, especially as we endeavor to live into Christ’s charge to be the hands of reconciliation in the world today.

Faithfully,
Peter James Lee

from thediocese.net

Individuals, groups and the nature of membership

Have a look at The Episcopal Church News Service's story on yesterday's developments.

It includes this:

"Dioceses and congregations, however, do not officially 'leave' the Episcopal Church simply because leaders or
any number of members depart, said the Rev. Jan Nunley, deputy for Communication at the Episcopal
Church Center in New York. 'Parishes are created by dioceses and dioceses are created by action of the
General Convention,' she said. 'People are free to leave,' but congregations and dioceses continue within
church structures.

"Nunley confirmed that the Episcopal Church's elected leadership may, if necessary, declare a diocese
vacant, and that in such a case the Presiding Bishop would call for the election of a new diocesan bishop,
among other actions."

This raises an interesting philosophical question, I think. Obviously, individuals leave churches all of the time. And I'd be surprised if any of them, whatever the duration of their membership, expected to get back money they contributed during their membership. Does the situation change if lots of people want to leave at the same time for the same reasons? Do they have rights, or perhaps a better word would be standing, as a group that they wouldn't have as individuals? There are interesting legal, ecclesiastical and theological issues here that I would love to here people's views on.

Don't forget ...

...Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, our presiding bishop-elect is on The Diane Rehm Show on NPR this morning. You can listen here.

Hmm. Maybe this is what I was missing

Another longish piece, much of which is hiding under the keep reading button.

Boy you get up from the computer for just a little while and all heck breaks loose. In the last three hours, the dioceses of Pittsburgh, San Joaquin and South Carolina have appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury for alternative primatial oversight, and the Church of Nigeria has announced that it has elected the Rev. Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia as the bishop of its North American operation.

I think Dr. Williams release yesterday of a reflection on the future of the Anglican Communion, and his outlining of a two-tiered membership system was intended to head all of this off. Obviously it didn’t.

Can we agree that the timing here is a bit suspicious? (I mean how did they know that I’d be leaving work early to pick up the kids at baseball camp?) And can we also agree that this alternative primatial oversight business is a little silly? The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church doesn’t exercise authority over dioceses. I hope that somewhere in the coverage of this publicity stunt, someone will point out that out.

I said in the post just below this one that I would be happy to see some of the dioceses that are unhappy in the Episcopal Church link up with other provinces in the course of the covenant process that the archbishop outlined yesterday. But I was assuming at the time that the parties to our potential separation would act in good faith.

This isn’t what good faith looks like.

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Am I missing something?

A longish essay on why I am guardedly optimistic about this convenant business that the Archbishop of Canterbury is proposing. Most of the piece is hiding under the "keep reading" button.

Most of the news reports and commentary on the yesterday’s reflection from the Archbishop of Canterbury have rightly focused on the proposed covenant with opt-in and opt-up mechanisms and a two-tiered membership of “constituents” and “associates.”

I don’t have a scholarly background that I can draw on in responding to this sort of proposal in abstract terms. On the one hand, I’ve been impressed by arguments from people like the Rev. Bill Carroll, who, if I am not misrepresenting his thinking, believes that covenants are bad business, and that an association of independent churches bound only by affection is the truest form of Church. On the other hand, what a mess.

Having recently returned from Columbus, I am predisposed to embrace Rowan Williams’ covenant because it seems to me to point a way out of a predicament that is exhausting the energy and diminishing the witness of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. I can’t tell whether it is the best way—Perhaps better ways will emerge as the process moves forward.—but it is certainly a way, and it is put forward by a man we’ve all been hoping would become a bit more directive in his leadership. It seems to me, therefore, that it is worth exploring.

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A little push-back from the Diocese of Newark

The Diocese of Newark today released the names of the four candidates in its upcoming episcopal election. One of the candidates, the Very Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, Congregational Development Officer for the Diocese of California, is a gay man whose partner is also an Episcopal priest. You can read about all four candidates here.

Another gay candidate, the Rev. Tracey Lind, dean of Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland had removed her name from consideration.

Barlowe was a candidate in the recent election in his home diocese, and didn't run well. Whether that is significant, I don't know. Sometimes a diocese decides to make a new start when a bishop leaves, and Barlowe works is on the staff of he retiring Bishop Bill Swing.

If he does get elected, I don't think he will get a sufficient number of consents from diocesan bishops and standing committees, although, of course, I could be wrong.

More airtime

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold is the guest today on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. The show air in the midafternon--alonga bout 3 p. m.--on most NPR outlets. But you can also listen online here.

A thoughtful response from the Rev. Frank Wade

The Rev. Frank Wade, who co-chaired the committee that handled Windsor-related resolutions at our General Convention had this to say in a presentation at St. Margaret's Church in D. C. on Sunday:

The desire for purity of thought and clarity of expression are powerful in all of us. We want our faith community and its statements to be strong so that they can support us on our faith journeys, both uphill and down. Those instincts and desires inevitably lead us into smaller and more isolated communities as we achieve such clarity by separating ourselves from conflicting views. Jesus, however, calls us away from the comforts of smallness and out onto the road toward unity through reconciliation. The Gospel calls us away from the purity and clarity of our own thinking so that greater Truth might emerge. The 75th General Convention reluctantly, painfully and haltingly responded to that call.

The Archbishop of Cape Town responds to the Archbishop of Canterbury

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane released this statement today:

I am grateful to the Archbishop of Canterbury for his lengthy and careful reflection on being an Anglican today, and look forward to considering this in detail.

However, I would like to stress that constant talk of schism from various quarters does not address the heart of the matter which is living with difference and otherness.

It is our nature as human beings to be diverse and therefore the modern world requires the church to deal with diversity. This reflects the unity and diversity we find within the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in whose image we are created.

We need to be tolerant of difference.

The Anglican Church in Southern Africa knows what it is to live with difference and otherness. We were born in conflict but, in spite of our problems and disagreements, we have agreed on the fundamentals and recognised that we are together despite our differences. You do not find us today divided into a black church and a white church, for example.

At present there is a lack of appreciation for the governing structures of the Anglican Communion. The worldwide Anglican Church is made up of autonomous provinces which make their own laws.

The Episcopal Church in the USA is one of the most democratic of our autonomous provinces. The Diocese of New Hampshire elected Bishop Gene Robinson democratically, according to their constitution and canons. The same can be said of the recent election of the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. Those elections were not illegitimate within the rules of the American church which is an orderly church – as is our church in Southern Africa. There was a clear majority in favour of both candidates.

A proper understanding of how the institutional life of the Anglican Communion has served our spiritual life and ministry is fundamental to avoiding a knee-jerk resorting to talk of schism whenever any disagreements arise among us.

And while you are praying...

...please pray for the repose of the soul of Judi Greene. She was Bishop Chane's verger and liturgical assistant. Her funeral is today at St. Luke's Church in D. C.

Please say a prayer ...

... for Peter Gammons. He is a real gentleman, and a tender heart in a tough business.

Exegesis, hermeneutics and your newspaper

The Associated Press is moving a story out of London by Robert Barr headlined: Leader of Anglicans urges coexistence. Contrast that with the Times of London's: Gay clergy ultimatum set to split Anglicans. Then have a look at Daniel Burke's story for Religion News Service: Williams lays out two-tier membership for Anglicans.

You can be excused for thinking that reporters one and three were not looking at the same document as number two.

Updated Wednesday morning with the Post, the NY Times and the Guardian.

I'm finding it useful to read the netire stories because even those that run with the most simplistic "split" angle have more nuanced things to say as they go along.

As always, Thinking Anglicans has an excellent round-up.

A good view from Track Two

The sense I am getting from conversations with various reporters is that conservative Episcopalians are pleased with the reflection that the Archbishop of Canterbury released today. Things being what they are, they assume that liberals are therefore wailing and gnashing their teeth. Tobais S. Haller is having none of it.

Airtime

Our Presiding Bishop elect, the Rt. Rev Katharine Jefferts Schori is going to be on the Diane Rehm Show at 10 AM EDT on Thursday. The show can be heard on many NPR stations. It originates from WAMU (88.5 FM) here in Washington, and I believe you can listen to it online.

The press reflects on Rowan's reflection

Jonathan Petre of the Telegraph has the best story I've found so far on the significance of the reflection on the future of the Communion that the archbishop released this morning.

Update: the other stories I had cited here have been rewritten for later editions, and no longer contain the judgments with which I took issue.

The New York Times piece is here.

Of Rowan and Aretha

I have read the archbishop’s statement a few times. There’s much to discuss, and I think it will keep us busy for a few days. But there’s one essential point that I think might easily be missed, and I won’t to focus on it, because, alas, I think he’s got it entirely wrong.

As I read the archbishop, he, like many others, is suggesting that the struggle in the Anglican Communion is not about homosexuality but about how we make decisions in concert. To me that is similar to saying that the American Civil War was not about slavery but about states' rights. Both arguments allow you to ignore sins against humanity while you debate the nature of polity.

People say that the Communion needs structures to help it handle future controversies, such as the one over lay presidency. Maybe, but the comparison doesn't shed much light on our current situation.

Ask yourself how some parents react when they find out their children is being taught by a gay man. Now imagine that those same parents have just learned that their child is being taught by a lay person who has presided at the Eucharist?

Lay presidency may inspire disagreement, or even distaste. But it does not inspire panic or revulsion. And it does us no good to pretend that panic and revulsion do not shape this debate. I agree with the Archbishop when he says that an inability to “remain fully in communion with the [Episcopal] Church …should not be automatically seen as some kind of blind bigotry against gay people.”

But the key word there is “automatically.”

If you don’t acknowledge the widespread existence of anti-gay bigotry in the Communion, and in this country, then it is easy to portray the Episcopal Church as an impatient group that broke ranks with its more prudent, but essentially likeminded friends.

But, as the eminent theologian Aretha Franklin once asked, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?”

Did the AofC commit news?

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s reflection (one item down) deserves a long and thoughtful response. This isn’t it. In this post I am mainly interested in whether you think he committed any news today.

I’d make one point.

Dr. Williams says that the communion has “some very hard work to do” to shape the covenant he is touting, and says that the next Lambeth Conference “ought to address this matter directly and fully as part of its agenda.” This would seem to indicate that our bishops are going to be invited, as we can hardly be asked to sign on to a covenant that we play no role in shaping.

Agreed?

The Archbishop of Canterbury writes:

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury has written to the Primates of the Communion in the wake of our General Convention. The text of the letter is below. The Lambeth Palace press release that accompanied it is beneath the "keep reading" button for those who want to cut to the chase. Not that I have actually found a chase to which to cut. Indeed Williams says as much:

" . the idea of an Archbishop of Canterbury resolving any of this by decree is misplaced, however tempting for many. The Archbishop of Canterbury presides and convenes in the Communion, and may ... outline the theological framework in which a problem should be addressed; but he must always act collegially, with the bishops of his own local Church and with the primates and the other instruments of communion."

Here is the full text (and when you have finished reading, Mark Harris' instant analysis is well worth a look) :

"Following last week's General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA), I have been preparing some personal reflections on the challenges that lie ahead for us within the Anglican Communion. I have addressed these reflections to a wide readership in the Anglican Communion and they are being made public today on my website. I wanted to bring them to your attention accordingly, for you to draw to the attention of members of your Province in whatever way you see fit.

These reflections are in no way intended to pre-empt the necessary process of careful assessment of the Episcopal Church's response to the Windsor Report. Rather they are intended to focus the question of what kind of Anglican Communion we wish to be and to explore how this vision might become more of a reality.

I am also sending you a copy of the press statement I issued at the close of General Convention, which you will see mentions the Joint Standing Committee working party that will be assisting in evaluating the outcome of the 75th General Convention.

I shall be writing to you again later this week, to invite your own response to me to various questions as the Communion's discernment process moves ahead.

Rowan CANTUAR:

Text of reflection

The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today: A Reflection for the
Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion

The Anglican Communion: a Church in Crisis?

What is the current tension in the Anglican Communion actually about?

Plenty of people are confident that they know the answer. It's about gay bishops, or possibly women bishops. The American Church is in favour and others are against - and the Church of England is not sure (as usual).

It's true that the election of a practising gay person as a bishop in the US in 2003 was the trigger for much of the present conflict. It is doubtless also true that a lot of extra heat is generated in the conflict by ingrained and ignorant prejudice in some quarters; and that for many others, in and out of the Church, the issue seems to be a clear one about human rights and dignity. But the debate in the Anglican Communion is not essentially a debate about the human rights of homosexual people. It is possible - indeed, it is imperative - to give the strongest support to the defence of homosexual people against violence, bigotry and legal disadvantage, to appreciate the role played in the life of the church by people of homosexual orientation, and still to believe that this doesn't settle the question of whether the Christian Church has the freedom, on the basis of the Bible, and its historic teachings, to bless homosexual partnerships as a clear expression of God's will. That is disputed among Christians, and, as a bare matter of fact, only a small minority would answer yes to the question.

Unless you think that social and legal considerations should be allowed to resolve religious disputes - which is a highly risky assumption if you also believe in real freedom of opinion in a diverse society - there has to be a recognition that religious bodies have to deal with the question in their own terms. Arguments have to be drawn up on the common basis of Bible and historic teaching. And, to make clear something that can get very much obscured in the rhetoric about 'inclusion', this is not and should never be a question about the contribution of gay and lesbian people as such to the Church of God and its ministry, about the dignity and value of gay and lesbian people. Instead it is a question, agonisingly difficult for many, as to what kinds of behaviour a Church that seeks to be loyal to the Bible can bless, and what kinds of behaviour it must warn against - and so it is a question about how we make decisions corporately with other Christians, looking together for the mind of Christ as we share the study of the Scriptures.

Anglican Decision-Making

And this is where the real issue for Anglicans arises. How do we as
Anglicans deal with this issue 'in our own terms'? And what most Anglicans worldwide have said is that it doesn't help to behave as if the matter had been resolved when in fact it hasn't. It is true that, in spite of resolutions and declarations of intent, the process of 'listening to the experience' of homosexual people hasn't advanced very far in most of our churches, and that discussion remains at a very basic level for many. But the decision of the Episcopal Church to elect a practising gay man as a bishop was taken without even the American church itself (which has had quite a bit of discussion of the matter) having formally decided as a local Church what it thinks about blessing same-sex partnerships.

There are other fault lines of division, of course, including the legitimacy
of ordaining women as priests and bishops. But (as has often been forgotten) the Lambeth Conference did resolve that for the time being those churches that did ordain women as priests and bishops and those that did not had an equal place within the Anglican spectrum. Women bishops attended the last Lambeth Conference. There is a fairly general (though not universal) recognition that differences about this can still be understood within the spectrum of manageable diversity about what the Bible and the tradition make possible. On the issue of practising gay bishops, there has been no such agreement, and it is not unreasonable to seek for a very much wider and deeper consensus before any change is in view, let alone foreclosing the debate by ordaining someone, whatever his personal merits, who was in a practising gay partnership. The recent resolutions of the General Convention have not produced a complete response to the challenges of the Windsor Report, but on this specific question there is at the very least an acknowledgement of the gravity of the situation in the extremely hard work that went into shaping the wording of the final formula.

Very many in the Anglican Communion would want the debate on the substantive ethical question to go on as part of a general process of theological discernment; but they believe that the pre-emptive action taken in 2003 in the US has made such a debate harder not easier, that it has reinforced the lines of division and led to enormous amounts of energy going into 'political' struggle with and between churches in different parts of the world. However, institutionally speaking, the Communion is an association of local churches, not a single organisation with a controlling bureaucracy and a universal system of law. So everything depends on what have generally been unspoken conventions of mutual respect. Where these are felt to have been ignored, it is not surprising that deep division results, with the politicisation of a theological dispute taking the place of reasoned reflection.

Thus if other churches have said, in the wake of the events of 2003 that
they cannot remain fully in communion with the American Church, this should not be automatically seen as some kind of blind bigotry against gay people. Where such bigotry does show itself it needs to be made clear that it is unacceptable; and if this is not clear, it is not at all surprising if the whole question is reduced in the eyes of many to a struggle between justice and violent prejudice. It is saying that, whatever the presenting issue, no member Church can make significant decisions unilaterally and still expect this to make no difference to how it is regarded in the fellowship; this would be uncomfortably like saying that every member could redefine the terms of belonging as and when it suited them. Some actions - and sacramental actions in particular - just do have the effect of putting a Church outside or even across the central stream of the life they have shared with other Churches. It isn't a question of throwing people into outer darkness, but of recognising that actions have consequences - and that actions believed in good faith to be 'prophetic' in their radicalism are likely to have costly consequences.

Truth and Unity

It is true that witness to what is passionately believed to be the truth sometimes appears a higher value than unity, and there are moving and inspiring examples in the twentieth century. If someone genuinely thinks that a move like the ordination of a practising gay bishop is that sort of thing, it is understandable that they are prepared to risk the breakage of a unity they can only see as false or corrupt. But the risk is a real one; and it is never easy to recognise when the moment of inevitable separation has arrived - to recognise that this is the issue on which you stand or fall and that this is the great issue of faithfulness to the gospel. The nature of prophetic action is that you do not have a cast-iron guarantee that you're right.

But let's suppose that there isn't that level of clarity about the significance of some divisive issue. If we do still believe that unity is generally a way of coming closer to revealed truth ('only the whole Church knows the whole Truth' as someone put it), we now face some choices about what kind of Church we as Anglicans are or want to be. Some speak as if it would be perfectly simple - and indeed desirable - to dissolve the international relationships, so that every local Church could do what it thought right. This may be tempting, but it ignores two things at least.

First, it fails to see that the same problems and the same principles apply within local Churches as between Churches. The divisions don't run just between national bodies at a distance, they are at work in each locality, and pose the same question: are we prepared to work at a common life which doesn't just reflect the interests and beliefs of one group but tries to find something that could be in everyone's interest - recognising that this involves different sorts of costs for everyone involved? It may be tempting to say, 'let each local church go its own way'; but once you've lost the idea that you need to try to remain together in order to find the fullest possible truth, what do you appeal to in the local situation when serious division threatens?

Second, it ignores the degree to which we are already bound in with each
other's life through a vast network of informal contacts and exchanges.
These are not the same as the formal relations of ecclesiastical communion, but they are real and deep, and they would be a lot weaker and a lot more casual without those more formal structures. They mean that no local Church and no group within a local Church can just settle down complacently with what it or its surrounding society finds comfortable. The Church worldwide is not simply the sum total of local communities. It has a cross-cultural dimension that is vital to its health and it is naïve to think that this can survive without some structures to make it possible. An isolated local Church is less than a complete Church.

Both of these points are really grounded in the belief that our unity is something given to us prior to our choices - let alone our votes. 'You have not chosen me but I have chosen you', says Jesus to his disciples; and when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, we are saying that we are all there as invited guests, not because of what we have done. The basic challenge that practically all the churches worldwide, of whatever denomination, so often have to struggle with is, 'Are we joining together in one act of Holy Communion, one Eucharist, throughout the world, or are we just celebrating our local identities and our personal preferences?'

The Anglican Identity

The reason Anglicanism is worth bothering with is because it has tried to find a way of being a Church that is neither tightly centralised nor just a loose federation of essentially independent bodies - a Church that is seeking to be a coherent family of communities meeting to hear the Bible read, to break bread and share wine as guests of Jesus Christ, and to celebrate a unity in worldwide mission and ministry. That is what the word 'Communion' means for Anglicans, and it is a vision that has taken clearer shape in many of our ecumenical dialogues.

Of course it is possible to produce a self-deceiving, self-important account of our worldwide identity, to pretend that we were a completely
international and universal institution like the Roman Catholic Church. We're not. But we have tried to be a family of Churches willing to learn from each other across cultural divides, not assuming that European (or American or African) wisdom is what settles everything, opening up the lives of Christians here to the realities of Christian experience elsewhere. And we have seen these links not primarily in a bureaucratic way but in relation to the common patterns of ministry and worship - the community gathered around Scripture and sacraments; a ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, a biblically-centred form of common prayer, a focus on the Holy Communion.

These are the signs that we are not just a human organisation but a community trying to respond to the action and the invitation of God that is made real for us in ministry and Bible and sacraments. We believe we have useful and necessary questions to explore with Roman Catholicism because of its centralised understanding of jurisdiction and some of its historic attitudes to the Bible. We believe we have some equally necessary questions to propose to classical European Protestantism, to fundamentalism, and to liberal Protestant pluralism. There is an identity here, however fragile and however provisional.

But what our Communion lacks is a set of adequately developed structures which is able to cope with the diversity of views that will inevitably arise in a world of rapid global communication and huge cultural variety. The tacit conventions between us need spelling out - not for the sake of some central mechanism of control but so that we have ways of being sure we're still talking the same language, aware of belonging to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ. It is becoming urgent to work at what adequate structures for decision-making might look like. We need ways of translating this underlying sacramental communion into a more effective institutional reality, so that we don't compromise or embarrass each other in ways that get in the way of our local and our universal mission, but learn how to share responsibility.

Future Directions

The idea of a 'covenant' between local Churches (developing alongside the
existing work being done on harmonising the church law of different local
Churches) is one method that has been suggested, and it seems to me the best way forward. It is necessarily an 'opt-in' matter. Those Churches that were prepared to take this on as an expression of their responsibility to each other would limit their local freedoms for the sake of a wider witness; and some might not be willing to do this. We could arrive at a situation where there were 'constituent' Churches in covenant in the Anglican Communion and other 'churches in association', which were still bound by historic and perhaps personal links, fed from many of the same sources, but not bound in a single and unrestricted sacramental communion, and not sharing the same constitutional structures. The relation would not be unlike that between the Church of England and the Methodist Church, for example. The 'associated' Churches would have no direct part in the decision making of the 'constituent' Churches, though they might well be observers whose views were sought or whose expertise was shared from time to time, and with whom significant areas of co-operation might be possible.

This leaves many unanswered questions, I know, given that lines of division run within local Churches as well as between them - and not only on one issue (we might note the continuing debates on the legitimacy of laypresidency at the Eucharist). It could mean the need for local Churches to work at ordered and mutually respectful separation between 'constituent' and 'associated' elements; but it could also mean a positive challenge for Churches to work out what they believed to be involved in belonging in a global sacramental fellowship, a chance to rediscover a positive common obedience to the mystery of God's gift that was not a matter of coercion from above but of that 'waiting for each other' that St Paul commends to the Corinthians.

There is no way in which the Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment. Neither the liberal nor the conservative can simply appeal to a historic identity that doesn't correspond with where we now are. We do have a distinctive historic tradition - a reformed commitment to the absolute priority of the Bible for deciding doctrine, a catholic loyalty to the sacraments and the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, and a habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility that does not seek to close down unexpected questions too quickly. But for this to survive with all its aspects intact, we need closer and more visible formal commitments to each other. And it is not going to look exactly like anything we have known so far. Some may find this unfamiliar future conscientiously unacceptable, and that view deserves respect. But if we are to continue to be any sort of 'Catholic' church, if we believe that we are answerable to something more than our immediate environment and its priorities and are held in unity by something more than just the consensus of the moment, we have some very hard work to do to embody this more clearly. The next Lambeth Conference ought to address this matter directly and fully as part of its agenda.

The different components in our heritage can, up to a point, flourish in
isolation from each other. But any one of them pursued on its own would lead in a direction ultimately outside historic Anglicanism The reformed concern may lead towards a looser form of ministerial order and a stronger emphasis on the sole, unmediated authority of the Bible. The catholic concern may lead to a high doctrine of visible and structural unification of the ordained ministry around a focal point. The cultural and intellectual concern may lead to a style of Christian life aimed at giving spiritual depth to the general shape of the culture around and de-emphasising revelation and history. Pursued far enough in isolation, each of these would lead to a different place - to strict evangelical Protestantism, to Roman Catholicism, to religious liberalism. To accept that each of these has a place in the church's life and that they need each other means that the enthusiasts for each aspect have to be prepared to live with certain tensions or even sacrifices - with a tradition of being positive about a responsible critical approach to Scripture, with the anomalies of a historic ministry not universally recognised in the Catholic world, with limits on the degree of adjustment to the culture and its habits that is thought possible or acceptable.

Conclusion

The only reason for being an Anglican is that this balance seems to you to be healthy for the Church Catholic overall, and that it helps people grow in discernment and holiness. Being an Anglican in the way I have sketched involves certain concessions and unclarities but provides at least for ways of sharing responsibility and making decisions that will hold and that will be mutually intelligible. No-one can impose the canonical and structural changes that will be necessary. All that I have said above should make it clear that the idea of an Archbishop of Canterbury resolving any of this by decree is misplaced, however tempting for many. The Archbishop of Canterbury presides and convenes in the Communion, and may do what this document attempts to do, which is to outline the theological framework in which a problem should be addressed; but he must always act collegially, with the bishops of his own local Church and with the primates and the other instruments of communion.

That is why the process currently going forward of assessing our situation in the wake of the General Convention is a shared one. But it is nonetheless possible for the Churches of the Communion to decide that this is indeed the identity, the living tradition - and by God's grace, the gift - we want to share with the rest of the Christian world in the coming generation; more importantly still, that this is a valid and vital way of presenting the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. My hope is that the period ahead - of detailed response to the work of General Convention, exploration of new structures, and further refinement of the covenant model - will renew our positive appreciation of the possibilities of our heritage so that we can pursue our mission with deeper confidence and harmony.

Read more »

To no one's surprise...

...or at least not to mine, Kim Lawton, Gail Fendley and the crew from PBS's Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly did an excellent job covering our General Convention. Find it here.

"Not today"

I believe it was Buzz Lightyear who made those words famous. But they serve Lambeth Palace as well. Apparently the Archbishop of Canterbury will be making a statement tomorrow.

Send Skidmore flowers

...or perhaps he would prefer White Sox tickets.

David Skidmore, the communications director for the Diocese of Chicago has compiled an invaluable resource for General Convention buffs, a legislative summary of General Convention. Thanks, David.

Democracy is good for the Church

As there has been a certain amount of handwringing about the messiness of governing a Church democratically, I thought that those of you who have risked your lives for democracy, or had kith and kin do so, might appreciate this piece from the Guardian.

By the way, there is a rumor a foot that Rowan Williams may make some kind of statement today. We will try to keep on top of it.

Sifting through the Sunday morning offerings

I have nothing in particular to add to the online conversation this morning, but others do. So here they are:

Stephen Bates, religion reporter for The Guardian has an interview with Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. Asked what she will say when she meets Peter Akinola and others who oppose blessing same-sex relationships she says:

" 'I will ask him what encourages him to see some of God's children as less than human and less worthy of the dignity that our liturgy believes is the right of all human beings.'

"And if the Episcopal church gets thrown out of the Anglican communion - or, more likely, if its bishops get disinvited by Archbishop Williams from the next Lambeth conference of the world's bishops in two years' time? 'It will be unfortunate if we don't have partners, but the reality is lived at the level of local relationships, at local levels: folks from Nevada going out and helping in Kenya.' "

Steve Bates also has an analysis of our convention at The Tablet. He points out that:

"... the laborious process was scarcely helped by the intervention of certain English bishops, which went down extremely badly with the Americans. Bishop Tom Wright of Durham told the Episcopalians in a statement that they just had to fall into line. Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester proceeded to trump that, by turning up in Columbus to inform the Americans, via the Daily Telegraph, that they were setting up a new religion – something that may have surprised the Episcopalians at their Sunday Eucharist service. Neither approach had apparently been cleared with Archbishop Williams in advance.

"In the circumstances it was unsurprising that, while Bishop Robinson was attracting a congregation of more than 1,000 for a sermon, Bishop Nazir-Ali in direct competition a short distance away could manage only 80."

Elsewhere, Bishop Gene Robinson has penned an exhortation to gay and lesbian Christians for The Witness. He says:

"Keeping us in conversation with the Anglican Communion was the goal -- for which the price was declaring gay and lesbian people unfit material for the episcopate. Only time will tell whether or not even that was accomplished. Within minutes -- yes, MINUTES -- the conservatives both within our Church and in Africa declared our sacrificial action woefully inadequate. It felt like a kick in the teeth to the ones who had gotten down on their knees to submit to the will of the whole, even though the price of doing so was excruciating. Such a quick, obviously premeditated and patently cruel reaction from the Right can be seen only as the violent and unchristian act it was."

Father Jake has two informative posts (and you've got to visit just to see the t-shirt.)

I especially recommend Bishop Peter Lee's letter to the Diocese of Virginia. He writes:

"The far right of the church already is filling blogs with statements of disassociation and repudiation. The fact is the General Convention has responded substantially and seriously to the Windsor Report. But some did not get their way: gay and lesbian people and their supporters who feel we have stepped back, and the extreme right, who find it so difficult to work with those with whom they disagree.

"The vital center of the church is intact. Much of what Convention accomplished is in the budget and in unheralded resolutions that strengthened the mission of the church."

I think these words really mean something coming from Bishop Lee. I sat in on several sessions of the special committee that dealt with Windsor-related resolutions. The bishop was a member, and he worked hard to push those resolutions to the right.I opposed every amendment I heard him offer. Yet, I have absolutely no trouble saying that I belong to the same Church as Peter Lee. In fact, I am humbled to be able to do so.

And that brings me to Nick Knisely, who wonders whether all this "two churches under one roof business" is actually true.

"[It]seems to be more of a talking point than it is a valid point.

"Why two churches? Why not three? (Left/Middle/Right) Why not four or five? Where exactly are the boundaries of these two churches? Where are the moderates (which Bishop Duncan claims in his press release to have collapsed, but which are the cause of so much pain at the moment to the people on the "left") supposed to fit into this bicameral model of our denomination?

"Or is this just rhetoric?"

Post-Convention round-up

The post-convention spinning is underway. Regular readers know that I don’t use the word “spin” in a derogatory way. If you’ve ever thrown a baseball, you know that any ball that leaves your hand spins. If you are playing catch, the ball that lands in your glove was spinning and the ball that leaves your hand is spinning. The lone exception is a perfectly thrown knuckleball. And if you’ve ever watched a major league catcher struggle to handle a knuckleball, you realize that it lacks the, um, clarity, of pitches that spin.

So then…Bishop Duncan and his folks have said what they have to say here.

I will be interested to know what their next move is going to be. It wouldn’t seem that the ball is in their court at the moment. All they, like we, can do is wait to see how the rest of the Communion responds to what we have done. If they don't like the response, I am not sure what recourse they have other than lawsuits that seem likely, in most instances, to fail. They are solid strategists, however, and, as I've pointed out in the Following the Money series, they haven't, thus far, lacked for resources. So perhaps something else is afoot.

One interesting response has already come from the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa. It’s here.

I may regret saying this, but I do believe these gentlemen are speaking in a more charitable tone of voice. Note they express sadness, not outrage, that they express gratitude for our express gratitude for our statements of affection for the Communion and say they are “moved by your generosity as you have rededicated yourselves to meet the needs of the poor throughout the world, especially through your commitment to the Millennium Development Goals.”

It isn’t as though they are agreeing with us. It isn’t as though they have promised to stop crossing our borders, and it isn’t as though the September gathering of Primates from the “Global South” might not come out with something harsher. Still, the letter is signed by Archbishop Peter Akinola, and I think that counts for something.

The key paragraph, I think, is this one:

We have observed the commitment shown by your church to the full participation of people in same gender sexual relationships in civic life, church life and leadership. We have noted the many affirmations of this throughout the Convention. As you know, our Churches cannot reconcile this with the teaching on marriage set out in the Holy Scriptures and repeatedly affirmed throughout the Anglican Communion. All four Instruments of Unity in the Anglican Communion advised you against taking and continuing these commitments and actions prior to your General Convention in 2003.

This seems more along the lines of a statement of fact than a rattling of swords to me, and I welcome that. (I am also happy to note the absence of Episcopal Church bashing in the communiqué from the CAPA Primates meeting.) I would point out a misstatement, though in the response to our Church. No instrument of Anglican unity that I am aware of us has opposed gay civil rights, as the statement implies.

That is why so many of us are concerned about Akinola’s support for a regressive Nigerian law that does, in fact, support the active repression of gays and lesbians’ role in civil life. For an excellent summary of this law and the political and ecclesial maneuverings it has engendered, see Matt Thompson’s work on Political Spaghetti.

I can’t close without mentioning the consider controversy manqué that some on the Anglican right attempted to gin up just after Convention. In her sermon at the closing Convention Eucharist, our Presiding Bishop-Elect, Katharine Jefferts Schori said that our “Mother Jesus” had given birth to a new creation.

I can understand why people found this statement challenging. The bishop was using a sophisticated rhetorical device that we professional writers recognize immediately as… a metaphor. You know you are in the presence of a metaphor when a speaker likens Thing One, to Thing Two. The speaker isn’t saying Thing One is Thing Two. She is saying Thing One is like Thing Two. (Only she doesn’t use the word “like” because that would be a simile, and, oh, never mind.)

We learn about these things in grade school, but then, apparently, we forget.

Neglected Convention news: The Young Adult Festival

Dustin Cole of Saint John's Church, Georgetown was nice enough to provide us with this report on his experience at the Young Adult Festival, which was going on in Columbus at the same time as General Convention. Here's Dustin:

I believe that the Episcopal Church's slogan of "Come and Grow" has understated the impact that general convention has had on my spiritual growth. During the convention, I participated in the Young Adult's Festival (YAF) with people from all over the country (and the world). Our involvement ranged from forums, panel discussions, committee hearings, to Holy Eucharist, young adult led Compline services, and an earth-shaking Integrity service. The experiences have left me with not only a deeper knowledge and faith in the Episcopal Church's community, but shared a spiritual growth that continues to radiate from me after I left the boundaries of Columbus, Ohio.

This being my first convention, I had no expectations on what should or might happen. When I first arrived, I was welcomed warmly with open arms and everyone was so excited to be a part of our community. Participants in the YAF were eager to learn about each other's experiences with the church, our ideas for being a current leader (not a future leader, mind you), and how our differences in ideas made us stronger. After seven days of listening, sharing and partying with one another, I believe we all left with expectations on how to grow our lives outside of convention.

The past week has given me a stronger sense of how to find the sacramental in my daily living. Although there is such an awesome presence of Christ in sharing Holy Communion, we tend to overlook God's presence in our daily tasks and relaxations. It became more apparent to me that Christ can be present in our work, our art, or even dancing late at night. Dozens of us young adults learned how to knit and how we can use that as channel of prayer. We also discovered how the movement of our bodies through meditation, walking and simply standing can help to center our thoughts.

After watching and reading about the remainder of convention I continued to see our church's arms wide open, continuing our call to "welcome everyone." Of course we must make sacrifices for one another, but I believe that we did our best to reject statements and boundaries that aimed to create restrictions on proclaiming God's love for all people. We allowed the Holy Spirit to speak through us during our times of conflict and process of reconciliation. We all left the convention knowing that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." I am so thankful for God continuing to speak to us in ways that we can understand and our ability to listen to God's word made flesh.

Heading home

Striking the set and heading home this morning. Had a quick look at the morning papers. I think the press did a good job explaining that the resolution the Convention passed yesterday urges but does not compel the rejectioin of gay candidates to the episcopacy. I've got two nephews and a niece coming to town this weekend to spend a week at the baseball camp where my older son is a junior counselor, so the blogging may be light for awhile. But feel free to talk amongst yourselves. Thanks for all the supportive comments. I really appreciate them.

Father Nick Knisely of the Diocese of Bethlehem has a moving post up on his blog Entangled States.

Conflicted people in a conflicted Church

A very emotional day today, which has left me wrung out. I have a news story up over on our main site, edow.org, but it is written for a general audience, and may not tell you blog visitors much that you don’t already know. We’ve also posted a copy of the letter assented to by about 20 liberal bishops. I say assented to rather than “signed” because the bishops demonstrated their assent by standing after it was read in a closed session of the House of Bishops this afternoon. So I have few names to offer.

Working with the drafting group on that letter (Bishops of Chicago, Newark, Northern Michigan, Rochester, Vermont, Washington, Wyoming) kept me busy for most of the afternoon, and has also delayed my process my thoughts and feelings about what took place today.

I am not feeling the outrage over Resolution B033 that I’ve heard from some of my friends here, and read online. This may be because I lack the energy for it. Or it may be that I don’t think this resolution, much as I dislike it, does much more than articulate an emerging understanding in our Church—that we are unlikely to muster the political will to consecrate another openly gay bishop any time soon.

It is important to remember that the resolution doesn’t bind bishops or Standing Commissions, and thankfully, it doesn’t even mention nominating committees and electing conventions which, of course, it couldn’t bind either. That said, it sure does make it extremely unlikely that could muster sufficient consents if a gay candidate were indeed elected.

The resolution—which, in case you are just joining us—calls upon “Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." It would not have passed without the support of our PB-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori. She spoke in favor of the resolution in the House of Bishops and then, in an unusual move, was allowed to speak in favor of the resolution the bishops passed when it came to the House of Deputies.

I have to admire her willingness to take a stand that has probably cost her some support among the folks who were cheering the hardest for her on Sunday. That takes moral courage. (You can argue, I think, that the Convention did not do a morally courageous thing by passing the resolution because it doesn’t cost the straight majority anything to attempt to appease the Communion by voting to set back the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the Church. But I don’t think you can argue that she didn’t do a morally courageous things by supporting the resolution because she has put herself at risk, and will, I think, pay a political price for it.)

Even as I admire her resolve, however, I wonder at the wisdom of this decision. We’ve already seen that it hasn’t appeased the bishops of Network dioceses who continue their troublesome practice of insisting that they are somehow responsible for all those who are in theological agreement with them, even when those folks who live in other bishops’ dioceses. And I don’t foresee Peter Akinola coming over to give us a great big hug any time soon. But this resolution just may be enough to keep us in conversation with a sufficiently large segment of the Anglican Communion to make membership in the Communion seem worthwhile.

The House of Deputies, I think, felt stricken by this resolution, especially those deputies who voted to support it—and most especially those gay and lesbian deputies who voted to support it. (It was affirmed by 70+ percent of the deputations in both the clerical and lay orders.) In the House of Bishops, on the other hand, a healthy minority of members felt that Presiding Bishop Griswold had run a bit roughshod in what he admitted was an attempt to secure legislation that would at least keep open the possibility that our bishops will be invited to the Lambeth Conference in 2008.

I am grateful that nothing the Convention has done compromises our ability as a Church to minister to gay and lesbian lay people, but sorry that we did not signal more vigorously our desire to include them fully in the Body of Christ – right now. We spoke a lot this week about the message we were sending to the Communion. I hope I don’t seem to be discounting the importance of that communication when I say that it isn’t the Communion that sits in our pews on Sunday mornings, or comes to our committee meetings and potluck suppers on Wednesday nights. What we did today probably turned off some people our Church had previously turned on. I hope when they get a chance to know Bishop Jefferts Schori, and watch us struggle to be true to our consciences in our treatment of gay and lesbian Christians, we can win them over once again.

Bishop Jefferts Schori's sermon

Sometimes at Eucharist, no matter how many people are in the church, you get the feeling that the preacher is speaking directly to you. I had that feeling this morning. Bishop Jefferts Schroi spoke of believing something is so essential that it “takes the place of God.”

That thing, she said, can be a bank account, or a theological framework. For me, and perhaps for other participants in the Episcopal/Anglican debate, that thing is winning the argument, getting the best quote out there, having the last word.

The sin in this, she said is a failure to understand one’s self as “beloved of God.” It is only when we know ourselves as beloved of God, that we can “respond in less fearful ways” to others. Among those others she listed “a rhetorical opponent.”

“We children of Jesus can continue to squabble over our inheritance,” she said, or we can claim it, and live in a way that reflects our claim.

On one level, it is in the nature of my job to have rhetorical opponents. But there is a danger that I am particularly aware of this morning in living primarily—during General Convention, one might say exclusively—on that level. Developing and articulating strategy and executing tactics become the things that “take the place of God.” Trying to shape the future of the Church gets in the way of actually being a Christian.

Yesterday in the House of Bishops, Bishop Gene Robinson, reflecting on the dilemma our Church finds itself in—alienate others in the Communion or cause pain to our gay and lesbians brothers and sister—said “I don’t know what humility looks like in this context.”

I am not sure what it looks like either, but I think I have a better idea, after these 10 days, of what it sounds like. And I am in hopes of reproducing that sound in what I write and what I say as this struggle continues.

Wednesday morning: What we can do; what we can't do; what we won't

(edited later Wednesday morning for brevity and charity)

Regular readers may find this repetitious, and, as it will be 2:15 a. m. or so by the time I post this, all readers may find it ungrammatical and innocent of proper spelling. But just to make sure that we all know where we are tomorrow morning, whatever the press may say:

Know that the Episcopal Church could not have effected a moratorium on the consecration of bishops in same-sex relationships, nor could it have authorized a moratorium on same-sex unions. Eeither of those moratorium would have required a change in our canons, and such changes require the assent of two consecutive conventions. We are not dodging the Windsor Report to say that we could not do in one convention what it takes us two conventions to do. Nor was it encumbent upon those of us who don’t want to embrace the discrimination that the Report commends to point out to those who advocate that discrimination, that their efforts to achieve such discrimination could not pass canonical muster at this convention.

Tomorrow, after our PB-elect preaches at the Eucharist, we will take our best shot at giving the Archbishop of Canterbury a sense of how far OUR CONSCIENCES, and those of the people who sent deputies here will allow us to bend toward the sin the urges upon us. As I am a calculating son of a gun, I don’t mind a little sin among Communion-mates, for the time being, assuming that the time being is short, and there isn’t a need for us to organize a Communion-wide revolt. This, no doubt, owes to my corrupted moral calculus.

Assuming the times comes for revolt, and the un-corruption on my moral calculus, I’m in.

Last ditch joint session

The Houses of Bishops and Deputies will meet tomorrow morning after the Eucharist (at which Bishop Jefferts Schori is preaching!) to make a last stab at working out some fuller legislative response to the Windsor Report.

The Special Committee co-chaired by the Rev. Frank Wade, retired rector of St. Alban's is being called back into existence to put some sort of resolution before the Convention. They may not be able to begin meeting until after 9 tonight, because the bishops just adjourned and none of them have eaten dinner yet. Meanwhile, the deputies, who are slogging through a legislative backlog have just reconvened for a night session that will last at least until 9.

Those are the time constraints on the front end. On the back end, most bishops and deputies have flights home tomorrow afternoon (I am here until Thursday and assumed I would be spending most of Wednesday reflecting in tranquility on convention developments for an article for the July issue of our diocesan newspaper. Hah!)

As perhaps you've guessed, I think that their only opportunity to get something passed is to adopt the language of "considerable caution."

One thing about covering fast-breaking news events is that you get sucked into believing that what you are writing about is important. (Why would a person of your obvious significance waste time and energy on these events if they weren't?) What I wonder tonight is whether the difference between "obliged to urge....to refriain" from and "exercise considerable caution" make any difference outside the little bubble we've all been living in for the last ten days here.

And the answer is, I have no idea. One thing I can say, though, after the experience this Convention has put itself through, is that if the Archbishop of Canterbury should issue an immediate response saying the compromise that our Church has worked so hard to achieve isn't good enough for him, it would greatly increase the number of Episcopalians who thought it was no longer worth trying to please him.

Dinner anyone?

The outmaneuvered middle

The House of Deputies has been frustrating to watch this afternoon. There seems to be a clear majority interested in embracing the langue of "considerable caution," but it can't get the resolution on the floor. Hence, it is possible that we won't make as strong a response as we might like to the Windsor Report.

Here's what's been happening: the substitue resolution under consideration this morning was ruled out of order on the constitutional grounds I outlined two posts down. Then the original motion, including the "urge to refrain" language was defeated, getting only about one-third of the votes in a vote by orders.

Later, supporters of the "caution language" put forth a motion to reconsider with the intention of amending the "refrain" lingo to the caution lingo. This needed a two-thirds majority, and it only got 59 percent.

What's happening is that the left, which doesn't want to restrict us on the gay bishops issue, and the right, which wants us to fail to respond to Windsor in any meaningful way so that this failure can be used against us in the Communion, are outmaneuvering the middle.

It is still possible that the House of Bishops could tack the "considerable caution" lingo on to one of the more inocuous Windsor resolutions already before it, or that the deputies will use the one Windsor resolution that has come back from the bishops with a small amendment as an opportunity to tack on the "caution."

But there is still an awful lot of business to get done, so whether people will have the patience for this isn't at all clear.

Unfortunately, the defeat of A161 is already being interpretted by the media as our final word on Windsor, which, of course, it may not be. But the vote did come down close to early deadlines in the US and late deadlies in the UK. So keep you eyes open for Episcopal Church thumbs nose at Communion stories tomorrow.

I don't think we are thumbing our noses because that would require enough coordination to get our hands to our faces.

I have just received a phone call

Apparently I have a wife and children.

On the clock

The Deputies didn't accomplish much this morning. The Rev. Christopher Cantrell of the Diocese of Fort Worth, managed to get a substitution resolution on the floor that has no chance of passing. It would call for a moratorium on the consecration of a bishop living in a same sex relationship, and a moratorium on the authorization of blessings for same sex unions. If this resolution gets voted down, conservatives will be able to argue that the Convention had a chance to affirm the requests of the Windsor Report, but refused to do it.

As we adjourned for lunch, however, two challenges arose questioning whether the resolution was in order. Those making the challenge contend that a moratorium on consecrations would violate our existing canons. The canons can be changed, but that process requires two conventions. They also argue that the Convention cannot restrict a bishop's power to authorize new rites. That power, they say, is conferred in the Book of Common Prayer, which has canonical status.

Comment on the challenge is beyond my expertise, and, in this instance, I am going to let that stop me.

My hunch is that A161 is dead, unless some currently non-existant coalition comes together to substitute the phrase "exercise considerable caution" for "refrain from" in the resolve regarding gay bishops. I think on a straight up or down vote, that language, which was put forward by the special commission on Windsor, but then altered by the special committee here in Columbus would have a decent chance of passing.

But I doubt we will ever find out.

As we watch the clock wind toward adjournment tomorrow, it is worth mentioning that the Convention still has to pass a budget, and deal with a passel of resolutions required to keep the Church running for the next three years.

The Deputies have already agreed to a night session beginning at 7:30. More later.

Turmoil mongering

(UPDATED)

I have yet to read a story in the mainstream media that captures even a hint of the excitement that Bishop Jefferts Schori's election has engendered here in Columbus. People still can't believe that the bishops were brave enough to do it, and we are delighted with her initial encounters with the media. Amidst the forecasts of doom and gloom, I just want to offer a reminder that women with young children make most of the decisions in this country about who is going to go to church where. I think these women are going to respond very positively to what we've done, especially when they have a chance to see and hear Bishop Jefferts Schori. She is a powerful messenger. Looking at it from my own rather narrow viewpoint--My primary professional concern is making the Church look good so that we can grow--I think we chose the person most likely to help us do that.

As an example of the general lunkheadedness of the coverage so far, have a look at this piece in the Detroit Free Press.

The lead: COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The global Anglican Communion was in an uproar Monday over Sunday's decision by its U.S. branch, Episcopal Church USA, to name a woman as its next presiding bishop.

Only problem is, not one Anglican leaders worldwide is quoted in the story. Possibly because only Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury has issued a statement and it courteous, if rather over modulated. The story fails to support its primary assertion.

The first prize for hyperventilation, however, goes to the Times of London. Here is the lead it took two writers to devise:

"The Anglican Church descended into “ecclesiastical anarchy” last night as American traditionalists refused to accept the authority of a woman and asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead them instead."

For those of you not following the convention closely, what actually happened, was that one diocese, Fort Worth, which has already petitioned the Communion's panel of reference for alternative oversight, has renewed its request, this time with an appeal to Dr. Williams.

It is a curious requests because in the Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop does not exercise authority over dioceses. So Fort Worth is asking to get out form under that which is not on top of it. I am filing a request this morning to be free of the tyranny of the British king! It is as sensible a maneuver as what Forth Worth pulled yesterday, but I don't think it will make the papers.

Be not afraid folks. No matter how hard they try to scare you.

Tomorrow and tomorrow

The takeaway—as magazine editors of a certain sort like to say—from today’s developments at our General Convention is that tomorrow is going to be exceedingly intense. The House of Deputies had supposedly blocked out more than two and a half hours, beginning at 3:45 to handle three controversial Windsor resolutions with the understanding that they’d stay in session late in order to pass the full package and present them to the House of Bishops tomorrow.

Instead, the House didn’t take up the first, and least controversial, of these resolutions until 5 p.m., passing it in an amended version (about which, more in a second) before suspending debate in the midst of the second and most controversial piece in the three-resolution package.

This means that tomorrow will being with the resumption of debate—and, no doubt, a flurry of amendments—on the lengthy resolution that includes this:

“we are obliged to urge nominating committees, election conventions, standing committees, and bishops with jurisdiction to refrain from the nomination, election, consent to and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the winder church and will lead to further strains on the communion.”

And this:

“this General Convention not proceed to develop or authorize Rites for the blessing of same-sex unions..”

And this:

“this General Convention apologize to those gay and lesbian Episcopalians and their supporters hurt by these decisions.”

Meanwhile, the bishops, busy themselves with other less pressing matters. They might easily take what the Deputies send them tomorrow, and amend it, meaning that it would then have to return to the Deputies. All this, and the convention wraps up on Wednesday afternoon.

There was one modestly encouraging development for liberal tea leaf readers in this afternoon’s session. The Rev. Gay Jennings of the Diocese of Ohio proposed an amendment to what we’ve been referring to as the “regret” resolution.

It originally read: "Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, mindful of ‘the repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ’ (The Windsor Report paragraph 134), express its regret for breaching the proper constraints of the bonds of affection in the events surrounding the General Convention of 2003 and the consequences that followed; offer its sincerest apology to those within the Anglican Communion who are offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of our actions on our church and other parts of the Communion; and ask forgiveness as we seek to live into deeper levels of communion one with another."

Jennings’ amendment, which replaced the words “breaching the proper constraints of” with “straining” passed with more than 60 percent of the vote. I like the amended version better than the original, but I don’t know that either was especially significant in and of itself. More significant, I think, is that an amendment proposed by one of the leading liberals in the House was passed despite the committee’s hope that the resolution would not be amended.

This may indicate that the quasi-moratorium on non-celibate gay bishops is in trouble.

People made some particularly eloquent remarks on both sides of the issues today, but, to tell you the truth, I don’t have the energy to transcribe them right now. Maybe after dinner and the deputation meeting.

Morning news


I just heard a rumor that the Diocese of Forth Worth, which doesn't ordain women, has appealed to the Arcbishop of Canterbury for pastoral oversight. As this diocese has already appealed to the archbishop's council of reference, I am not sure of the significance of this event, but I imagine it will make headlines nonetheless.

Here are a few of the stories that appeared in today's papers. I am leading of with this one from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution because it features a quote from our very own Karla Woggon, moderator of our Diocesan Council and rector of St. Andrew's Church in College Park.

The Chicago Sun Times.

Here's AP.

The press, alas, continues to treat anyone who flew here from London as though they speak the mind of the entire Anglican Communion.

The story they missed

schoriblog.jpg

I got to see Bishop Jane Dixon just after the election was announced, she was still drying her tears. I caught up with Bishop Barbara Harris tonight. She told me that she said to Bishop Dixon when the election was announced on the fifth ballot, “Jane, thank God we lived to see this day.” And Bishop Dixon said, “Thank God we didn’t have to hear the news in heaven.”

As I may have said before, it is hard to underestimate that boost this has given the convention. No one thought the bishops would have the courage to make this choice, and, frankly, it is making us feel a little better about the whole notion of having bishops.

Earlier in the week it seemed that bishops existed primarily to be pressured by British bishops. It is apparently bad form to exert colonial-type pressure on African bishops, but perfectly okay to send bully boys like Bishop Nazir-Ali over here to try to push us around. I suppose it could be that those wily conservative Brits are so subtle that they actually want us to push us toward the radical left. Hard to understand the pachyderm-footed interventions of the Bishop of Durham (down blog) and the Bishop of Rochester (the above-mentioned Nazir-Ali) in any other light.

Although I will say one thing for these Episcopal Church-haters like Nazir Ali and Akinola: They come an awful long way at great expense to talk to a really, really small groups of people. (See Akinola’s nearly invisible Convocation of Anglican Churches in America.) While the runner-up for Archbishop of Canterbury, and then for Archbishop of York—that’s Nazir-Ali—was preaching to 80 people at a Eucharist sponsored by the American Anglican Council, the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson was speaking to a turn-away crowd of more than 1,000 at the Integrity Eucharist.

Scanning the wires tonight, I have become weary of the privileged place that the Anglican right is receiving in news stories about the election. What about these brave campaigners who are still less than 1/10th of the house of bishops (12 of the 180+ voting today) who have endured years of condescension from their brother bishops who don’t know enough to recognize their own sexism? Where were they in today’s stories? Katharine Jefferts Schori wouldn’t even be a priest without the likes of Barbra Harris. So why is it that she isn’t in today’s stories and the usual American Anglican Council-types are? (Not that I mind people quoting the Rev. David Anderson speaking against he Episcopal Church. As the Larry King show demonstrated the other night, there are few things more beneficial for our Church than to have David Anderson speak against it.)

The press loves conflict and the quick interview, no matter how small the group causing the conflict might be. It is worth repeating here that when the clergy and lay deputations of each diocese were asked to confirm Jefferts Schori’s election, she received what amounts to 90 percent of the vote. In politics this is a landslide. In the Episcopal Church, somehow, it shows we are rent asunder.

Help me out here, brothers and sisters in the media. What is the fascination with a group of people that despite investing millions of dollars in upsetting the Church, have achieved so little influence on their native soil? I agree that from a media relations point of view they are valuable…

(It was Bishops Duncan and Stanton who bolted out the doors of Trinity Cathedral today to contact their allies by cell phone as soon as Bishop Jefferts Schori was elected—thus violating the confidentiality that the other bishops, who had given up their cell phones when they entered the Cathedral, thought was in effect. And it was the fact that several people from our diocese overheard these conversations that allowed us to tip you to the fact that a surprise might be in the offing. Conservative bishops are special, special people and they deserve special, special rules. Especially when they are betraying the trust of their brother and sister bishops for whom they show no regard.) …

…but having said that, at some point, don’t you expect them to produce something along the lines of results? I mean, is this the great schism? That the eight or ten diocese (out of more than 100) that got themselves together to oppose Bishop Jefferts Schori are going to walk? I would hate to see it happen, but schism has been your guiding narrative for three years, and what if that is all you ever have to show for it? Meanwhile, you fail to notice that we’ve know got an Episcopal Church united behind a female Primate who speaks Spanish and was elected with the support of her Latin American brethren, leaving us better positioned than we have ever been to evangelize not only the United States, Central and northern South America and beyond.

If you were financial reporters and people kept predicting a recession that never came, you’d eventually stop paying attention to them, no? Or, if you were Charlie Brown and you’d been out with Linus on Halloween waiting for the Great Pumpkin, eventually you’d start wondering whether the Great Pumpkin was ever going to come.

You go ahead and wonder. I am pretty sure we will still be here when you are done.

Jubilation and whatnot

My more formally journalistic coverage of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's election as our next presiding bishop is online at edow.org, along with a couple of pictures. I will have more to say later, but let me just quickly mention that people are really excited about what the bishops have done and hardly believe they had the courage to do it. There has been a tide of anxiety building all week as we approached some final decision on the Windsor-related resolutions, and now it has been at least partially dispelled.

Let me say four quick things before I get something to eat:

1. The conservative press came at her pretty pointedly with questions about how she will be received by the rest of the Anglican primates. I don't know how she will be received, but I can tell you that the press didn't lay a glove on her. She responded in utter charity, with total equanimity, and still got the best of the exchanges. If she were my client I'd say, "You don't need my help. Keep doing what you are doing."

2. The mood among women at this convention, especially female priests, is ecstatic. "Tears of joy," as one deputy put it. Lots of moms talking about what this will mean to their daughters. Lots of oldtimers reminiscing about all the fights they fought and slights they endured. We dive back in to all of the Windsor stuff tomorrow, but this is a triumphant moment tonight. And as someone who left the Roman Catholic Church primarily over the ordination of women, who was received into the Episcopal Church by Bishop Jane Dixon, and who gets a chance to work with Bishop Barbara Harris, all I can say is YAHOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

3. I don't know how the politics of this is going to shake out in the Anglican Communion yet. On the one hand, this is another "first" from the Episcopal Church, and maybe that won't be well received. On the other hand, the hand I favor, it now becomes clear that attacking the Church that deals fairly with gays and lesbians also means attacking the Church that deals fairly with women. The cause of the small, vulnerable gay population is now linked to the large and much less vulnerable female population.

Seems to me the Episcopal right can either accept Bishop Jefferts Schori as a woman and go after her as someone who supported the consecration of Gene Robinson, or pursue the nutball logic, already on the Web although I won't link to it, that her election is a "slap in the face to the Global South." (Good luck with that by the way. She had heavy support from the Latin American countries in our Church and probably speaks better Spanish than any of the mostly Anglo bishops of the tiny but ultra-conservative province of the Southern Cone.)

4. Bishop Jefferts Schori served on the Special Commission on Windsor, the precursor of the Special legislative Committee on Windsor. Her election gives additional momentum to a trend that was building earlier in the day. The deputies, but not necessarily the bishops, seem to be giving the committee a good reception. Its recommendations are passing despite attempts to amend from both left and right.

I think the showdown will come over the language the Special committee endorsed tonight regarding the consecration of non-celibate gay bishops. It says that they are "obliged to urge" that bishops and standing committees "refrain" from giving consent to the election of what from now on I am going to call an NCGB.

As it has been explained to me, this isn't as harsh as it sounds (to my two left ears) because a) the General Convention cannot bind standing committees and bishops via resolution. Binding them would take a change in the canons, and that would require approval of two conventions. As we aren't in a position to consider such a change at this convention, the earliest it could be imposed would be six years from now, so... b) saying the committee is "obliged" to urge the convention suggests it woueldn't urge the convention if left to its own devices. I appreciate, actually, I really admire the wordsmithing here. It is first class. But it shouldn't have to be. The original resolution urging considrable caution was good enough, and, as far as I think we can go without domestic consequences.

At some point we need to recognize, just for self-preservation, that meeting the needs of Rowan Williams's diplomatic agenda could cost us evangelical opportunities here in our own backyard. We have already alienated the people our actions were likely to alienate, but we haven't reached out as energetically as we should have to the un-churched people who might find our actions appealing, who might think that finally there is a Church that takes them seriously.

Bishop Jefferts Schori's election gives us a new opportunity to do so. Let's not blow it by going all "wobbly", as a certain conservative British icon once said, on Windsor. We keep trying to be some of what God calls us to be and avoiding the pain. Let's be all of what God calls us to be, and reap the benefits.

Inching along

Episcopal News Service
Saturday, June 17, 2006

Special Committee refines pastoral-care, expression-of-regret resolutions

By Herb Gunn

[ENS] The Special Legislative Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion put final wording to two resolutions during a pair of committee meetings June 17.

Resolutions A160: "Expression of Regret" and A163: "Pastoral Care and Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight" could reach the floor of the House of Deputies June 18.

In formulating an expression of regret, the committee replaced the statement proposed by the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communication. The Special Commission had prepared the legislation following its extensive study of the Windsor Report.

Not only did the committee seek to incorporate the divergent and passionately expressed views from the June 14 open hearing, which drew more than 1,200 people, the committee also struggled to balance the divergent perspectives of its own members.

The final draft from the committee reads, "Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, mindful of 'the repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ' (The Windsor Report paragraph 134), express its regret for breaching the proper constraints of the bonds of affection in the events surrounding the General Convention of 2003 and the consequences that followed;
offer its sincerest apology to those within the Anglican Communion who are offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of our actions on our church and other parts of the Communion; and ask forgiveness as we seek to live into deeper levels of communion one with another."

Michael Howell, member of the committee from the Diocese of Southwest Florida, sought even stronger language of penitence.

"I have some concerns about the resolution as it stands amended, in that it seems what we are expressing regret for, is starting to move along the trajectory that we did not anticipate the impact of what we [did]," said Howell, rather than "the communion made its mind very clear that we shouldn't do this and we went ahead and did it anyway."

"We are trying to find baby steps that bring us closer together," said committee member the Rev. Canon Ian T. Douglas, deputy from the Diocese of Massachusetts, "rather than running straight into each other."

Bishop Robert O'Neill of Colorado said, "The vehicle of legislation will never be adequate to sufficiently express regret or apologize."

Despite hearing little direct testimony on resolution A163 on pastoral care and Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO), the committee made two modest amendments to the legislation and sent it to the House of Deputies.

The Rev. Dan Martins, deputy from the Diocese of San Joaquin, sought to strengthen the role of DEPO in dioceses where persons believe that pastoral care from their own bishops is not possible. The original resolution of the commission called for using DEPO "when necessary." Martins asked the committee to replace the language so that DEPO would be available "when requested in good faith."

The language, said Martins, "puts more pressure on diocesan bishops to be amenable and cooperative in responding to requests."

Rebecca Snow, a deputy from the Diocese of Alaska, moved to strengthen the resolution's language that calls for other Anglican bishops to respect the diocesan boundaries across the communion. The committee approved her amendment that would have the General Convention "urge continued maintenance of historical diocesan boundaries, the authority of the diocesan bishop, and respect for the historical relationships of the separate and
autonomous provinces of the Anglican Communion."

The complete text of the amended resolution follows:

"Resolved, that the House of Bishops concurring, that the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church affirm the centrality of effective and appropriate pastoral care for all members of this church and all who come seeking the aid of this church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention commit the Episcopal Church to the ongoing engagement of and sensitive response to the request and need of all the people of God - in particular, but not exclusively, those who agree and those who disagree with the actions of this body, those who feel isolated thereby, and gay and lesbian persons within and without this Church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention recognize the agonizing position of those who do not feel able to receive appropriate pastoral care from their own bishops, and urges the members of the House of Bishops to seek the highest degree of communion and reconciliation within their own dioceses, using when requested in good faith the Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) process detailed in the March 2004 statement of the
House of Bishops, 'Caring for All the Churches'; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention urge continued maintenance of historic diocesan
boundaries, the authority of the diocesan bishop, and respect for the historical relationships of the separate and autonomous Provinces of the Anglican Communion."

The committee will resume its work at 7:30 a.m. June 18, in the Hayes conference room of the Hyatt Regency, addressing resolution A161: "Election of Bishops," and A162: "Public Rites of Blessing for Same-Sex Unions."

-- Herb Gunn is editor of The Record, the newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan,
and a member of the Episcopal Life team at General Convention.

"No quotes, no votes, no nothing"

The press is really having a difficult time here at the Convention. As one reporter, who called me to check in on the status of our Thurgood Marshall resolution said, “I’ve got no quotes, no votes, no nothing.”

[The Marshall resolution seems certain to be referred to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. That is what the legislative committee that considered the resolution recommended, and their recommendation has passed the House of Deputies. In presenting the resolution to the deputies, Dean Sam Candler of Atlanta said his committee had been impressed with our diocese presentation, especially the statement of Darren McCutchen, the 18-year-old alternate deputy from St. Timothy’s who spoke in support of the resolution. (Darren’s statement is hiding under the keep reading button at the bottom of this post.)]

The most significant of the Windsor resolutions, those addressing the report’s request for moratoria on the consecration of non-celibate gay bishops and on the authorized of public rites for blessing same-sex relationships, have not yet emerged from the special legislative committee that is handling them. The Convention leadership had dearly hoped to deal with these issues before the election of the next presiding bishop. But, as I right, there is only about one hour left in the legislative session today (Saturday) and the bishops adjourn to nearby Trinity Cathedral for the election at about 10:30 a. m. tomorrow, so having Windsor off the table is no longer a realistic possibility.

I have no interesting PB scuttlebutt. The field is large and there is no clear front runner, so there is no talk of voting blocs, kingmakers, etc. If the candidates are doing any electioneering, they are doing it behind closed doors.

While our response to the Windsor Report is still a work in progress, there have been several votes that I found suggestive. The House of Bishops yesterday passed by 76-67 a resolution opposing state and federal constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriages. They also amended one of the Windsor response resolutions that had been passed by the House of Deputies by inserting languages that stressed the independence of the Churches that make up the Communion. This amendment, which is generally perceived as making the resolution more “liberal” had been attempted in the House of Deputies, but failed. The bishops’ action, which must now be approved by the deputies, seems to contradict the “conventional wisdom” (pun not so much intended as recognized at not removed) that the deputies are the more liberal house.

The bishops continue to discuss in smaller groups whether there is some way to move toward the language of the Windsor Report without discriminating against gay Christians. They don’t seem to be making much progress, but to give you a sense of the range of ideas under discussion, some have seriously proposed postponing the consecration of any bishops until after the Lambeth Conference in 2008. There was even conversation about forestalling the selection of the next presiding bishop, and agreeing on a short-term caretaker instead. The name of Claude Payne, the retired bishop of Texas, was mentioned in this context.

Neither of these ideas makes a lick of sense to me. As a temporary measure, I thought the total moratorium on consecrations that the bishops adopted last year made sense. But two years is a long time for dioceses to be without elected leadership. And pegging consecrations to the Lambeth Conference invests whatever statement Lambeth might make on the issue with more significance than it should have. Putting off the election of a PB would not only create a leadership vacuum, but it would, I think, demonstrate that our existing leadership lacks the conviction and the will even to attempt a solution to our current problems.

(Don't forget to click and read Darren's speech.)

Read more »

Bowie's pictures, Sean's podcast

Bowie Snodgraass, whom some of you know as a columnist for Washington Window is also web content editor for episcopalchurch.org. She's roaming all over the convention take photographs that you can find here.

Meanwhile, Sean McConnell has his first podcast from the Convention up at episcopod. It is a lot of fun, and well worth the time it takes for it to dowload.

The Archbishop of York makes his case

UPDATED NEAR END

John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, who seems like a smart and subtle fellow, is pressing our bishops to enact full moratoria on the consecration of non-celibate gay bishops and on the blessing of same-sex relationships. He is meeting with various bishops, in smallish groups, I think, to press his case.

Those of us who were in the second floor bar of the Hyatt last night along about midnight (that was ginger ale in my glass) saw him walk through in the company of Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles, an interesting site because Bruno is built like a tight end, and Sentamu like a marathoner.

His argument, as I understand it, goes something like this:

(A caution here: I haven’t heard this directly from the Archbishop, and some of what people are portraying as his argument may be their own developments on his thinking).

If you don’t enact full moratoria, several things might happen, none of them good: either you will be marginalized within the Communion, or the Communion will have to cope with intra-provincial splinters as the Akinolians attempt to assemble an orthodox international fellowship.

On the other hand, if you vote for moratoria, you will be on the right side of Windsor whereas Akinola of Nigeria, Orombi of Uganda and Venables of the Southern Cone, among others who have crossed your provincial boundaries to lay claim to parishes or start churches, will be on the wrong side, and then they will be the ones subject to whatever discipline it is that the Communion can muster.

In addition, if we accept the moratoria, we buy ourselves time, the argument goes. Akinola won’t be a primate forever, and Orombi’s has a weak hold on his bishops’ loyalty (north-south tensions in Uganda). If the Communion outlives their tenures, perhaps the storm will pass.

Looking at this argument strictly in tactical rather than moral terms, I don’t find it persuasive.

While a moratorium on consecrating gay bishops is easily effected (in fact, I think the chances we will elect a gay bishop before Lambeth ’08 are already quite small), a moratoria on the blessing of same sex unions would present enormous problems. If you ban something, you have to police the ban. Most of our Church would have no stomach for this, and I think most of our bishops would hope never to learn about whatever blessings might occur. But you could count on watchdogs in each diocese to ferret out violations of the moratoria and demand that the priests, and perhaps the congregations involved be disciplined. (I know there are several people in our diocese who would relish this role.) If the bishops failed to punish the people involved, this failure would be used by groups like the American Anglican Council here in the US, Anglican Mainstream in the UK, and a number of foreign primates, as evidence that we were acting in bad faith. Hence, as a means of pacifying Anglican waters, and improving out standing in the Communion, it would gain us nothing.

If, on the other hand, the bishop disciplined the priest involved, and then the next priest involved, and the next priest involved, he or she might very well face a popular revolt. This moratorium would have an effect precisely opposite to the one its proponents suggest. It would not “create space” in which a conversation could occur.” It would not “buy time” for reconciliation. It would not “put this issue behind us” and allow us to focus on mission. Rather, it would convulse the Church

In return for taking an action that would alienate perhaps the majority of the people in our pews, we have the promise, if that is not too strong a word, that Communion pressure would be brought to bear on the primates who have claimed control of some of our churches. This would be easier to believe if Communion pressure had been brought to bear when the primates of Rwanda and South East Asia came to this country in 2000 to ordain bishops for the Anglican Mission in America. As nothing effective was done to then, three years before the consecration of Gene Robinson, it seems unlikely that the Communion can rouse itself to do much now.

UPDATE: Second thoughts on this paragraph I had written:

"Finally, while I am convinced that the Archbishop of York, and probably N. T. Wright, the Bishop of Durham, are speaking for the Archbishop of Canterbury, I am not so sure that they are speaking, for the Communion. The chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council, Bishop John Paterson is here, as is the Secretary General of the Communion Canon Kenneth Kearon. (I saw Paterson last night. And I think Kearon is still in town.) They have been conspicuously uninvolved in the effort to get us to go farther than the current crop of Windsor-related resolutions take us. I am not sure what to make of that, but it doesn’t strike me as though we are looking at a fully-coordinated effort to get us to abandon our gay brothers and sisters, and that gives me reason for hope."

However, while I was writing an interesting thing took place in the morning press briefing. After Bishop Ed Little of Northern Indiana said that the Arch of Y was here representing the Arch of C, Canon Jim Rosenthal, communications director for the Anglican Communion office rose, very politely and with apologies I am told, to say that in fact, while York had read Rowan's message to the Convention he was not here as Rowan's rep.

He said: "`The Archbishop of York is here on his own right, he is not here on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury."

He emphasized that York is a powerful primate on his own (indirectly delinking him with Canterbury) "I`if you live in England, you know the Archbishop of York is a very, very powerful seat."

This leads me to ask whether it is possible that thei bishops' believe they are under pressure from the entire Communion, when, in fact, they are under pressure from a handful of British bishops, and the usual suspects on the Anglican right.

Larry King alert

He's doing a show on our situation tonight at 9. An interview with the Presiding Bishop beings at 9:30. I have been aiming for a night away from the convention with a friend, so feel free to use this as an open thread for reactions to the show.

"The idol of clarity"

Susan Russell's blog is a must-read today. See particularly her posting on "the idol of clarity," and her link to the new Claiming the Blessing video.

My colleague at the Cathedral College, Wayne Floyd, is also blogging.

Windsor, the least

Not too long ago, the House of Deputies passed what is by far the least controversial of the Windsor-related resolutions. It is hiding below the keep reading button. I have left in the words that were struck out, and underlined the language that was added by amendment. Attempts to further amend the resolution to include the words “independent” and “autonomous” were defeated, probably (as Father Jake sagely observes) because Prof. Ian Douglass of Episcopal Divinity School, perhaps the leading liberal on the committee that proposed the resolution, spoke against them.

The House of Bishops has yet to consider this resolution.

Read more »

Jack Danforth meets the press

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The Rev. John Danforth, formerly a U. S. Senator and U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations is the keynote speaker at tonight’s Presiding Bishop’s Forum on Reconciliation. He gave a small press conference this afternoon that drew reporters from the Associated Press, the Guardian, National Public Radio, Religion News Service, Religions and Ethics Newsweekly (PBS) and a few Church folks.

Here’s a sneak preview of some of the themes he will touch on tonight:

“I think our country and the world call out for reconciling. I think there is a calling to the Episcopal Church to be in a ministry of reconciliation, and the Episcopal Church, historically, is positioned to answer that call.”

He cited the Anglican heritage of the Via Media, a middle road between Catholic tradition and Protestant reform. In the last election, some Catholic bishops wanted to withhold Communion from pro-choice politicians. “That is the opposite of the way the Episcopal Church has approached political issues,” Danforth said.

He expressed his hope that the Church, for its own sake, and the sake of the world could put disagreements over same-sex relationships behind it. “The idea that a Church of less than 1 percent of the American population should be engaging itself in inside baseball is kind of ridiculous, really,” Danforth said.

The other 99 percent of the American population “doesn’t care who the bishop of X or Z isis,” or whether a rite for blessing same-sex relationships “is available in the Prayer Book or on the internet,” he added.

“I am not into the wording of any resolutions,” Danforth said. “My argument is ‘What comes first? You have to keep your eyes on the prize, and I would say the prize is answering Christ’s call to a ministry of reconciliation.”

Danforth has been speaking out recently on what he sees as the negative impact of the religious right in national politics. At the press conference he said Americans are asking themselves: "Why are religious people driving us apart? Why aren't they trying to bring us together?"

Rachel Zoll of the AP was at the press conference. Here is her story.

Conventioneers experience direct sunlight

downings.jpg

I was on my way back from former Senator John Danforth's afternoon press conference, about which more in a minute or two, when I ran into these three Diocesan Council members looking suspiciously lighthearted, perhaps because they were not indoors breathing convention center air. Left to right, the Rev. Karla Woggon, rector of St. Andrew's, College Park, council moderator and convention deputy (one of our four alternate was taking her place on the floor); the Rev. Richard Downing, rector of St. James, Capitol Hill, and the Rev. Patricia Downing, alternate deputy and rector of Good Shepherd, Silver Spring.

The morning papers

The Associated Press has a solid report on last night's hearing.

The Houston Chronicle says Integrity, the gay and lesbian caucus in our Church feels confident that it has the votes in the House of Deputies to defeat calls for a moratorium on the consecration of partnered gay bishops. I think they are right, but the House of Bishops is another matter, and because a majority of diocesan bishops must consent to the election of any new bishop, the bishops can enact an undeclared moratorium unilaterally. Whether they would do so is an open question.

The Telegraph says three dioceses are proceeding with plans to break away from the Church. I would imagine that one of these is Pittsburgh, and I am curious whether the settlement in Calvary v. Duncan will complicate Bishop Duncan's plans. It seems that it would. At least that is my impression after reading this, this and this.

Matthew Davies' account of the meeting for Episcopal News Service is here.

And have a look at this blog posting from the Rev. Andrew Gerns of the Diocese of Bethlehem.

The big shebang

Would you be disapointed if I told you that no one committed news?

More than 1,500 people packed into a hotel ballroom, maybe another 120 out in the hall. All the big names stepping to the microphone to have their three-minutes' say. Tens of thousands of words spoken. Some of them eloquently, others not so much. One humorous moment--yup, just one--when, by the luck of the sign-up sheet, Bishop Dorsey Henderson of the committee called the name of Gene Robinson right after calling the name of Robert Duncan, and that juxtaposition drew a laugh from the crowd. ("I was reading the list," Bishop Henderson said.)

I don't think anyone said anything I hadn't heard before. And I am not sure that anyone said anything that will be remotely helpful to the committee. Its 19-members basically served as something for the speakers to look at. God bless them.

My hunch is that reporters who don't lead their stories with: "Division was on display as Episcopalians approached the final deadline for responding to etc...." will lead with Bishop Duncan's claim that reconciliation "at this point in our life is impossible." What he means by that, or whether he meant anything other than "I 'm the decider," is unclear, but you can build a nice doom and gloom lead out of it, and reporters seem wedded to the idea that if 12% of the Church of thereabouts were to take a hike, the remaining 88 percent, which includes most of our largest dioceses, would wither, while the remaining 12 percent would flourish.

I will pick through my notes and serve up some of the better quotes tomorrow. And I will have links to the press coverage. It seems utterly unlikely to me that any Windsor-related resolutions will be on the floor before Friday, and that's being optimistic.

N. T. Wright: another possibility

In the posting just below I suggested that the Rt. Rev. N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, noted Scripture scholar, etc. was either supremely egotistical or brutally calculating in sending a 4,400+ word critique of our two-month old Special Commission's report to our Convention just a few hours before the last public hearing on the resolutions contained in that report. I think perhaps I was being harsh.

It is also possible that he is criminally naive.

N. T. Wright: Le Communion c'est moi

Bishop N. T. Wright, noted Scripture scholar, Bishop of Durham and member of the commission that produced the Windsor Report has released a paper stating that the resolutions proposed by the Special Commission that I've been writing about are insufficient.
I am going to post the paper down beneath the keep reading button, but I'd like to say how deeply disappointed I am that the bishop, with whom I had a long and, for me, quite meaningful interview a few weeks ago, has chosen to insert himself in our Church's affairs at this delicate time and in this ham-fisted way.

Here we have a closely-argued 4,400+ word analysis of preliminary resolutions that were published more than two months ago that arrives at our convention just hours before the final public hearing of the legislative committee that will craft the resolutions that will eventually be sent to the floor. It is either wildly egotistical or exceedingly calculating to intervene in another Church’s life in this fashion. Either one supposes that the Convention can drop whatever else it is doing, make a close reading of arguments that for some reason could not be put before it earlier, and adopt one’s position without modification, or one realizes that this is outcome is unlikely and this effort insulting, and one doesn’t care.

That the report materialized at the afternoon meeting of the Windsor-related legislative committee in the hands of a board member of the American Anglican Council, suggests the latter interpretation. Bishop Wright can now rise back above the fray, while the Howard Ahmanson-funded interest groups within our Church claim that we were “warned” about whatever consequences the bishop and his allies intend to advocate.

While there is much that I object to in Bishop Wright’s paper, my principal concern is the bishop’s attempt to speak as though “the Communion c’est moi.”

He writes:

“I speak therefore, not as an Englishman telling my American cousins what to do (I am well aware of the dangers of that position!) but as a member of an international and multicultural team which produced a unanimous report for the benefit (we hope) of the whole Anglican Communion.”

While the bishop writes as a member of a team, he is not, in any respect, writing for that team. The notion that his interpretation of the Report is the interpretation of the Report is an attempt to speak for other panel members who have not awarded him their proxy. Nor does he speak for the provinces which have found fault with various parts of the Windsor Report. He writes as one individual drawing on his own experiences within the Communion. As do we all.

Despite my disappointment at Bishop Wright’s 11th hour descent upon our convention, I do recommend reading his entire paper. If you don’t you will miss this sentence: “In particular (references are to paragraphs of the Report), there is a strong note of sorrow for the way in which ECUSA has 'contributed to division in the Body of Christ' (7) and followed the pattern of America's imperial actions in the world.”

If I am not mistaken this equates the consecration of a duly elected bishop of our Church (an action which is “imperial” if that word now means neither requiring nor even suggesting that other Churches follow suit) with a preemptive war that has taken tens of thousands of lives and diverted billions of dollars from alleviating human misery.

This is not a compass we should consult for moral direction.

My one consolation is that the inelegant way in which Bishop Wright has entered the arena almost assures a reaction against his position. He did not intend to push our convention to the left, but through tactical ineptitude, that is likely what he has done. That, and making the task of the legislative committee striving to find a way forward for our Church and our Communion much more difficult than it was six hours ago.

Click below to read the paper

Read more »

The Special Commission

Some of the liberal deputies I have spoken with are uneasy about the way the Special Commission that is handling all the Windsor Report-related legislation is proceeding. It has spent what to some folks seemed like an inordinate amount of time perfecting a resolution that involves inviting members of other Anglican provinces to serve with seat and voice, but not vote, on our Standing Commissions.

This, in some eyes, has left insufficient time for a real give and take on seemingly more significant resolutions such as whether to approve a moratorium on the consecration of non-celibate gay bishops, and the nature of the Anglican Communion.

The Rev. Mark Harris, proprietor of the excellent blog Preludium, is sounding fairly downcast this morning. Mark, who was on the commission that proposed the 12 resolutions before the committee seems to feel that progresive voices aren't being heard.

Appropos of the lack of conversation about the place of gay Christians in the Church, one deputy told me. "It turns out that the elephant in the room isn't pink. And, in fact, it isn't even in the room."

I am reserving judgment on the procedings so far. The Rev. Frank Wade, chair of our deputation, is co-chair of the committee, and he's one of the smartest guys I've met through this job. I am hoping that he and his colleagues can cobble something together.

Darren McCutchen wows'em

DarrenMcCutchen.jpg

This is Darren McCutchen, and some day you are going to vote for hiim for something.

Darren, a former member of our Committee on Youth, made the diocese's case to include Thurgood Marshall's name in the Book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts this morning at the unholy hour of 7:30. (I've got a story on the outcome over on our main convention news page at edow.org)

The committee recommended referring the Marshall resolution to another committee, a so-so outcome from our point of view. But committee members spoke of how moved they were by Darren's presentation. Darren, who worships at St. Timothy's, told them that were it not for Marshall's work in desegregating America's schools, the chances that he would be giving a speech anywhere to anyone would be "nil."

You must visit...

... episcopod.com. Seriously, you must.

Sean McConnell, my counterpart from the Diocese of California, is kicking off a podcasting site, and the first cast, should be online within the next few hours. Sean is also laying out the convention newspaper, Convention Daily, so perhaps it will be more than a few hours, but I am sure it will be posted by noon tomorrow.

He did a joint interview with Sarah Dylan Breuer of sarahlaughed.net and I in the exhibit hall this afternoon, and I will be interested to hear how much of it survives editing.

Sean and I are working together on another web-based project I hope to be ableto say more about after the convention.

Night came the second day

Our deputation meets in the room adjacent to deputation chair the Rev. Frank Wade’s hotel room. The room is always packed because everyone from the diocese who attends the convention is invited. Tonight, at one point, there were 28 people in the room and others standing in the hall. We are monitoring a number of committees. The biggest news I heard that I haven’t reported elsewhere on the blog concerned the disciplinary canons contained in the rewrite of Title IV. The committee hearing testimony on those canons closed its hearing after an hour, and went into executive session. I can’t imagine an 11th hour rewrite of such complex legislation can succeed. People won’t have time to examine it carefully, and they won’t believe that the committee could transform it overnight. So my bet is that it won’t make it to the floor.

After the meeting, I headed to the U2charist. It was packed. I’d estimate that there were at least 500 people in the Renaissance Hotel ballroom, and I counted more than 100 in the doorways and in the hall.

Mary Dail from Trinity Upper Marlboro, Iris Harris and Darren McCutchen from St. Timothy’s and the Revs. Randolph Charles (Epiphany, DC), Karla Woggon (St. Andrew’s) and Preston Hannibal, canon for academic ministries, were on hand Preston and Karla even found a seat. The rest of us milled about, or sat in the hallway.

Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina preached a rousing sermon, but I couldn’t really hear it, having surrendered my seat inside after I finished taking pictures. Look for them eventually over on edow.org

The U2charist, like the Overseas Bishops’ Dinner, is an event I am going to need a little bit of time to digest. I can say, though, that there was tremendous energy in the ballroom, and a healthy minority of the crowd was currently young, as opposed to the many U2 fans who are previously young.

The Millennium Development Goals are becoming a real focal point for our Church. I support them. But I am not sure we’ve done the hard work of rallying support among our rank and file. (Excuse the labor lingo, but I was born and raised in coal country.) We are on the verge of passing legislation here that will force dioceses to make some tough choices regarding our domestic mission at their next conventions. We will be asking them to devote $70,000 of every $1 million toward the MDGs. That money has to come from somewhere, and my hope is that we don’t take it from poor people in one place to give it to poor people in another.

Early evening skuttlebutt

A friend of mine is supporting Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori of Nevada for presiding bishop. Bishop Schori is generally believed to be an attractive candidate who has no chance of winning because she is a woman. My friend says, half-jokingly, that if everyone who says they plan to vote for her on the first ballot actually does vote for here, she may surprise people.

I meandered in and out of committee meetings and the exhibit hall for most of the afternoon. One person monitoring the Title IV legislation (disciplinary canons that, if passed, would apply to the laity for the first time) said the Canons committee is on the verge of deciding whether to try an extensive last minute edit/rewrite, or to scrap the whole thing. Most of the feedback at the hearings was negative.

The committee dealing with Windsor Report related resolutions apparently hasn’t moved into its new digs yet. I dropped by their hearing this afternoon and found the door jammed with people. Wiggled inside to find every chair occupied, and people lining the walls and sitting on the floor. I’d estimate there were 600 people there. Funny thing is, the committee was talking about a resolution involving letting people from other provinces sit in, but not vote, on our governing committees. This is a resolution that, were it not yoked to the Windsor Report resolutions, wouldn’t draw a crowd large enough to fill my bathroom. Meanwhile there was enough space in some of the other hearing rooms for an impromptu game of polo.

I met Kendall Harmon at the door of one of these empty-ish rooms. He and I have traded friendly emails and not-so-friendly opinions on the Windsor Report, but had never met. Kendall runs the best conservative Episcopal blog, Titus 1:9. I have been wanting to meet him for a long time.

I also ran into Ellen Washington of St. Philip’s Laurel, a South African partnership and Absalom Jones scholarship stalwart in our diocese, who is working as a volunteer; Rev. Randolph Charles, rector of Epiphany, D. C. and an alternate deputy, who said he’d been hearing great support for the Millennium Development Goals all day long; and Darren McCutcheon, alternate deputy from St. Timothy’s. Darren, a high school student, moves into the spotlight tomorrow morning about 7:30 when he will be one of the lead speakers in our diocese’s efforts to have Thurgood Marshall’s name added to the book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Say a prayer for him. And say a prayer that I get a decent picture of him.

By the way, if you skip over to the Convention news page on edow.org you will find a few of the pictures I’ve been able to transmit so far.

I am off to our deputation’s nightly meeting, and then on to U2-chairst.

Canterbury via York

This just in:

Text of a greeting from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, given to the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies of the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America meeting in Colombus Ohio. The message was read by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

"Greetings to you all in Christ's name as you meet to pray and deliberate about the life and witness of your church and the demands of God's Kingdom. May God grant you discernment as you meet and listen to each other in patience and love.

As all those involved will be acutely aware, this General Convention takes place in a climate of intense and perhaps rather oppressive attention worldwide. At the meeting last week of the Bishops of the Church of England, we recognised the pressure under which you meet, and committed ourselves to praying more deeply and more constantly for all
of you during these days. Please be assured of our loving concern for the Episcopal Church and our hopes that we in the Anglican Communion may learn again to walk with each other more trustfully.

The recommendations of the Windsor Report will be much in your minds and your deliberations, and I appreciate the work your Commissions and Committees have done in responding to the Windsor Process. I hope that the theological vision there set out in the Report of the ground and character of our communion in Christ will be clearly before you. We cannot survive as a Communion of churches without some common convictions about what it is to live and to make decisions as the Body of Christ; Windsor is not the end of the story, but it sets out a positive picture of what that might imply as together we strive to serve the mission of God.

We thank God for all that the Episcopal Church has contributed over the years to our fellowship and commend you to the One "who is able to establish you according to...the proclamation of Jesus Christ” (Rom.16.25).

Grace be with you all.

Rowan CANTUAR

The Passion of the Cucumber Sandwich

I passed on some bad information in a now-corrected posting below. The House of Deputies doesn't meet in the worship space. It meets in the exhibit fall next door, the floor of which now looks a bit like an old time political convention, with all of the deputies sitting in rows puncuated by signs bearing the name of their diocese.

My friend Charley, a deputy from the convocation in Europe, tells me that at this morning's session, in an exercise conducted to help deputies learn to use a touchpad voting system, deputies voted down a resolution to make the cucumber sandwich the official food of the Episcopal Church. Charley thought this did not bode well for the convention because it seemed to him to indicate that deputies lakced a sense of humor.

The Rev. Frank Wade, retired rector of St. Alban's is co-chair of the committee handling Windsor-Report related resolutions, announced at the end of the morning session that due to the great interest in these resolutions, the committee will now be meeting in a ballroom that can seat 1,500. They are holding hearings today at 2 and tonight at 7, but the hearing on the two key issues--twin moratoria on the consecration of gay bishops and the authorization of public rites for blessing same-sex relationships--won't be discussed until tomorrow night.

Insights from the Rev. Mark Harris

Mark, a deputy from Delaware, is doing the best blogging from convention that I have read so far. Visit him here.

I nominate Lionel Deimel...

...for something or other. He deserves to be recognized for the intelligence and civility he has brought to the same-sex dispute. Here, he and Christopher Wells of the Diocese of Northern Indiana engage in what strikes me as a pretty high-class debate.

Belated first impressions

Although this is my fourth of fifth posting from General Convention, I am just getting around to setting down a few first impressions. I spent so much of yesterday getting here, setting up equipment and racing to “must cover” events that I didn’t get a chance to reflect at all on what I was seeing.

The first thing that struck me about the Convention was its vastness. It kind of reminds me of the Olympics, with life concentrated in a “village”—in this case, a village of high rise concrete and sloping glass-enclosed skywalks—and many events occurring in multiple “venues,” as they say in Olympic-speak, simultaneously.

The main hall, where where we worship is a dark modernist furrow at least 80 yards long by about 50 yards wide (I am guessing) and only about half occupied by the 200 (or so) 10-seat, round tables that have been set up to accommodate deputies, bishops, guests and the media. It’s got a “show the infrastructure” type of ceiling with the heating ducts and electrical working visible, and this adds to the feeling that one is underground. The main stage juts up from amongst the tables about three-quarters of the way down the lefthand wall as one enters. Media and guests sit at the tables closest to the door. From that distance, it is impossible to verify if the person at the podium is indeed who they say they are. I’ve been closer to Bruce Springsteen at the Meadowlands and Carrier Dome than I was to Bishop Griswold yesterday during his opening remarks.

The ceiling above the main stage is hung with banners bearing lilies of the valley. They’d look lovely someplace else, I think, but here the industrial quality of the surroundings overwhelms them.

The exhibit hall, a short walk down the main corridor of the convention center, is even larger than the meeting area, but brighter, and broken up into neighborhoods. What Diagon Alley is for wizards (That’s a Harry Potter reference for you muggles.) the exhibit hall is for Episcopalians. You can buy vestments, books, tapes, software and art. You can learn about our seminaries, publications and interest groups. You can also buy fudge—alas, it is Amish Fudge, not Anglican Fudge, so the sight gag potential is zero.

The National Cathedral’s exhibit may be the best looking one in the hall. Lots of colorful Donovan Marks photographs, great items from the museum shop and the friendly faces of his eminence Greg Rixon, my Cathedral counterpart, and Canon Michael Wyatt and Wayne Floyd of the Cathedral College. The Cathedral’s exhibit sits beside the exhibit for the American Anglican Council, an arrangement that I believe neither group finds ideas.

Roaming about yesterday, I ran into Father Richard Downing of St. James, Capitol Hill, who is here with is wife the Rev. Patricia Downing of Good Shepherd, who is an alternate deputy; the Rev. Elizabeth McWhorter of St. Patrick’s, an alternate deputy who was wearing her volunteer apron and giving directions to lost souls; Bishop Jane Dixon, who I learned to my delight is a fan of this blog; Canon Carol Cole Flanagan, who understands how the Convention works better than anyone on our diocesan staff; my friend Tim Boggs, of St. Alban’s, who is now at General Seminary and has some kind of staff-type job to do up on the main platform when the deputies are in session, and the staff of our Office of Government Affairs, Maureen Shea of St. Mark’s Capitol Hill, John Johnson of St. Thomas, Dupont Circle, Alex Baumgarten and Molly Keane.

Just to finish the Washington round-up, at the Overseas Bishops Dinner, I chatted with Rose Longmire of Holy Trinity, Bowie, president of our chapter of Episcopal Church Women. She had just gotten in to town, and had barely had time to dress for he dinner, but she said friends had told her that if she was only going to make one dinner other than the ECW’s own event, which I think is tonight, this was the one.

Maureen and I sat with Bishop Chane and Karen Chane at the dinner. We were joined by Canon Habacuc Ramos-Huerta, provincial secretary of the Church of Mexico, an old friend of the Chanes’. He met them first when the bishop was a rector in the Diocese of Massachusetts, but really got to know them when he was in Baja California and they were in San Diego.

I keep promising to write more about the international bishops and the dinner, and I will eventually. It’s not that it was a stunning event, but it was food for thought, and I haven’t digested it all yet.

It is 10:30 here, and even though today looks like a pretty slow day newswise, I’d still like to get down to the Convention Center and see what is going on. More later, either before or after the U2-charist tonight.

Bishp Sisk speaks up

Gannett News Service has a story on Bishop Mark Sisk of New York and his view on the issues before us. If there is to be an onslaught of press coverage at this Convention as there was in 2003, it probably won't materialize until Friday.

Overseas Bishops' Dinner

The Church Periodical Club sponsored its triennial dinner for bishops from other countries. I will write more about it tomorrow, but just wanted to mention that there were bishops from the Middle East, Tanzania, Uganda, Central Africa, Brazil and Mexico, as well as bishops from the many countries that you might not think of when you see the abbreviaiton ECUSA, including Ecuador, Venezuela and Panama. Neither the notion that the Episcopal Church is isolated within the Anglican Communion, or that left to itself would be nothing more than a "northern sect" survive an evening like this one.

Opening remarks

Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, and the Very Rev. George Werner, President of the House of Deputies made their opening remarks to the Convention this afternoon. Neither committed news.

Bishop Griswold said that the “inner dispositions” of those at the meeting would determine the nature of the Convention. Anxiety, he said, would produce disorder, whereas, well, you can fill in the rest. This is an appealing sentiment, but it doesn’t gibe with my experience. An irenic disposition is frequently maintained by avoiding unpleasant realities. And anyone’s who has ever been in school play or worked on a newspaper knows that a chaotic process sometimes culminates in a terrific performance.

Tonight I am attending the Church Periodical Club Overseas Bishops Dinner. I am taking my camera. But given my photographic and technical skills, that is no guarantee you will see pictures.

Budget blogging

It's about 4:30 as I begin to write, and I think I can safely say that not a whole lot has happened today. There was an open hearing on budget priorities which took place before I arrived. Melodie Woerman, my counterpart from the Diocese of Kansas said that many of the speakers spoke on behalf of a proposal to devote 0.7% of the Church’s budget to the Millennium Development Goals. http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/. The MDGs have strong backing from Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation http://www.e4gr.org/index.html, which is sponsoring a U2charist tomorrow night that I plan to attend. It seems likely to me that the spending on the MDGs will pass. What remains to be seen is whether there will be much opposition to the request from the Anglican Consultative Council for an additional $550K contribution from the Episcopal Church over the next three years.

As part of the compromising that has kept the Anglican Communion together to date, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada accepted an invitation from the Primates of the Communion not to send voting representatives to the Council’s meeting last summer in Nottingham, England. It strikes at least some deputies as rather nervy to ask us to shoulder more of the expenses of a Communion that seems eager to marginalize us. (No taxation without representation, etc.) But others point out that our voting representatives will once again be seated at the ACC’s next meeting in two years’ time, and that increasing our contribution will be viewed by at least some of the primates as a gesture of good will and good faith.

I think it will be difficult to amend the budget, but I’ll be interested to see whether those who oppose increasing the allotment to the ACC will be able to muster additional support from advocates for Appalachian Ministries and Historically Black Colleges, the group’s widely seen as taking the budgetary hit to find this extra money for the ACC.

Hello Columbus

Got here okay. Had a nice chat at the airport with a bishop from one of the provinces that has been most vociferous in its opposition to our policies on same-sex relationships. More about that later. Running off to cover the opening remakrs by Bishop Griswold and Dean Werner.

Before departing

I leave for General Convention on Monday, and plan to spend the weekend doing laundry, packing and watching my older son's baseball game. While I think the convention will be invigorating I am dreading being away from home for 10 nights. When I covered the NHL and Major League Baseball, I was on the road all of the time, but I never really mastered the art of traveling well. One consolation is the opportunity to spend some time with my friend and former Post colleague Charles Trueheart, who is a deputy from the convocation in Europe.

Yesterday I was drawn into a few conversations about the Presiding Bishop's race. I thought I would share a little bit of those here with the understanding that these don't even rise to the level of rumor, more like water cooler conversation.

There is no real front runner, but, as gossip abhors a vacuum, Bishop Alexander of Atlanta has been dubbed the sort-of, kind-of front runner.

Many people think very highly of Bishop Schori, and she apparently did quite well during the candidates' presentations at the House of Bishops meeting at Kanuga. Electing her would be a bold move. The House of Bishops is not a bold group.

Bishop Sauls has more support than people kibbitzing about the race seem to realize. But he and Bishop Schori may very well draw votes from one another, especially in the first round.

I can't imagine that we are going to elect a presiding bishop who voted with the minority on the defining issue of the day, so I don't think Bishops Jenkins or Parsley--both of whom voted not to confirm Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire--will win. But it has been pointed out to me that to unify the church after the Civil War, the bishops elected a pro-slavery Northerner. So...

I do think that these two, like Sauls and Schori, are likely to draw from the same base of support. If the presiding bishop were elected by the entire convention, I think Bishop Jenkins would have a better chance than Bishop Parsley . He has spoken very movingly about the ways Katrina changed him. But I think Bishop Parsley is regarded as the more skillful inside player, so perhaps he will be the one around whom moderate conservatives rally. On the other hand, Bishop Gulick, who voted for Gene Robinson, but whom I think is viewed as less liberal than Alexander, Sauls and Schori, could be the centrist choice.

Another factor: the bishops all know one another personally. So affection, disdain, etc., may play a more important role in the voting than ideology, administrative experience, etc. While we are discussing how Bishop A might handle situation B, the bishops are also asking themselves whether candidate C "want it too much," and whether candidate D is too interested in getting out of his/her diocese.

I haven't said anything about Bishop Duque-Gomez of Columbia because his is a curious candidacy. He does not speak much English. This would seem to present certain problems in a Church whose members, unfortunately, speak little else. He wasn't nominated by a bishop form his own province, Province 9, which includes Honduras and Haiti, among others, so it isn't as though he is viewed as their representative to our predominantly northern church.

In my more cynical moments, I wonder whether he will draw support from Bishop Duncan and the Network. Backing Bishop Duque would allow them to say a) we participated in the election, thus proving we aren't separatists and b) we backed a minority candidate from the Global South, while you supposed liberals all voted for a English-speaking Anglo. We are the tribunals of the new Communion.

And as Bishop Duque is in no danger of actually winning the election, they could collect all of these public-relations-type benefits at no cost.

I hope my cynicism is unfounded.

Gratuitous cuteness

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This is not the Friday Cat Blogging that is popular on some sites. I am just trying to learn how to upload images to the blog, and this was the cutest one I could lay my hands on.

I doubt my pictures from General Convention will be a sweet, and I am sure they won't be as accompished as this shot that Walter P. Calahan took at a blessing of the animals service at St. John's, Norwood two Octobers ago.

The ebb and flow of Convention news

A little marginally informed speculation on the ebb and flow of General Convention:

While most of the 800+ deputies and alternates, the 280+ bishops and the several thousand exhibitors and interested parties will be in Columbus by Monday night, my hunch is that significant news will no be made until Thursday or perhaps Friday. It takes awhile for legislative committees to organize themselves, and our veteran deputies tell me that when they do get organized, they tend to dispense with Mom and Apple Pie resolutions first, just so that they have something to move forward for consideration in the full legislative sessions of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. Those sessions begin on Tuesday morning.

The committee dealing with issues raised by the Windsor Report will hold its public hearing on Wednesday night. Given the topic, I imagine that this hearing could run well on toward midnight. Having met late, I can’t imagine that the committee will have modified resolutions crafted by morning. It may even be difficult to have anything to put before the Houses until Friday. But perhaps I underestimate the committee.

It seems possible that these resolutions, once formulated, will be introduced quickly because I would imagine that the Convention will want this piece of business finished before the election of the new presiding bishop on Sunday. This would spare the Church the possibility that a new PB would make an 11th hour decision to put his or her personal stamp on resolutions that committees have been laboring over for more than a year.

My hope is that whatever we do about the Windsor Report, we don’t do it on Thursday. Senator John Danforth is the keynote speaker at the Presiding Bishop’s forum on Thursday night, and I think it is in our Church’s best interest to let the world hear what he has to say. If we introduce Windsor-related legislation on Thursday, reporters may give his presentation short-shrift and focus on the latest development in our sex saga. And that would be dispiriting.

The big event

No, not General Convention. The really big event, the World Cup.

Ekklesia, a progressive Christian think-tank in the U. K., has come up with a clever campaign to "give injustice the red card."

The campaign highlights five key football focussed messages:

1. End sports-related labour exploitation
2. Tackle World Cup sex slavery;
3. Boot out economic inequality;
4. Send-off nationalist and religious aggression;
5. Support Fair Trade football.


Click below to have a look.

Read more »

Good company

Folks who contend that the Episcopal Church is an outcast in the Anglican Communion have some 'splainin' to do. Among the Primates who will be with us at our General Convention in Columbus next week are:

The Most Rev. Orlando Santos de Oliveira of Brazil;
The Most Rev. Andrew Hutchison of Canada;
The Most Rev. Martin de Jesus Barahona of Central America;
The Most Rev. Clive Handford of Cyprus and the Gulf;
The Most. Rev. Nathaniel Uematsu of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (Japan);
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Shin, Acting Primate of Korea and Bishop of
Taejon;
The Most Rev. Sir. Ellison Pogo of Melanesia;
The Most Rev. Carlos Touche-Porter of Mexico; and
The Most Rev. Ignacio Capuyan Soliba of the Philippines.

Click below for the full story from Mathew Davies of Episcopal News Service.

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Father Jake makes a long list

The redoubtable Father Jake has compiled an impressive list of General Convention resources. This page is a must for the true Episcopal Church junkies, and for journalists who are parachuting into GC without much sense of what the heck is going on.

Bishop Sauls on What is at Stake in Columbus

The Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls, a candidate for presiding bishop, has written a lengthy essay in this month's issue of his diocesan paper on what is at stake at General Convention. I am grateful to Kendall Harmon at Titus 1:9 for pointing it out. I was going to try to pull out an excerpt, but it is hangs together in a way that makes that difficult--which is by way of saying that the bishop writes well. Click on the keep reading button and read it all.

Read more »

Progress against homelessness

The New York Times carries the first upbeat story about the battle against homelessness that I have read in a long time.

It reads in part:

"In this campaign, promoted by a little-known office of the Bush administration, 219 cities, at last count, have started ambitious 10-year plans to end chronic homelessness.

The cities include New York, which is stepping up efforts to house the estimated nearly 4,000 people huddling on sidewalks or sleeping in parks, and Henderson, N.C., population 17,000, which recently counted 91 homeless people, 14 of them chronic cases.

Many of the early starters are reporting turnarounds. In Philadelphia, street dwellers have declined 60 percent over five years. In San Francisco, the number of the chronic homeless is down 28 percent in two years, in Dallas 26 percent and in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., 15 percent."

Part of the credit, those interviewed said, "goes to Philip F. Mangano, a Bush appointee who has spent five years visiting every mayor and governor he can, brandishing successful examples, cost-benefit studies and his own messianic fervor along with modest amounts of federal money."

At various points during the 1980s, I spent time reporting on homelessness, though never enough to come up with a comprehensive sense of why it remained such a persistent problem. To simplify my own experience: some of the people I interviewed were homeless in the most literal sense of that word. They just didn't have a home at the moment. But when they got one, they'd probably be able to pick up their lives and go on. I met a lot of people like this in shelters when I was a reporter in Syracuse.

Then there were people who were homeless, but for whom that was among the least of a long list of problems. Once in the late '80s I worked on a story for The Washington Post that involved talking to people who slept on the streets about their plans for hte coming winter. The great majority of these folks had problems that made it impossible for them to keep a home or a job. Many needed treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, but just as many were mentally ill and needed (in this lay man's diagnosis) extensive psychiatric care. The de-institutionalization of mental patients in the late 1970s has been a disaster--maybe because the community health clinics that advocates of deinstitutionalization pinned their hopes on never materialized. Maybe because the plan was wildly naive from the start. Then again, institutionalization was pretty much a disaster, too.

A population that used to suffer privately now suffers publicly. Until we come up with some coherent ideas about how to help them, the problem of homelessness won't go away.

Invertebrates and jellyfish?

Stephen Bates, the religion reporter for The Guardian offers a rather tart appraisal of some of the more recent goings-on in the Church of England. His column makes clear what was perhaps fairly clear already, that liberals in the Anglican Communion churches of the United Kingdom feel that Rowan Williams is putty in conservative hands.

I don't know enough about the case in question to say whether I agree. I see Dr. Williams as someone striving mightily to play the role of honest broker--trying to keep everyone engaged in conversation (if only with himself) until final decisions about the future of the Communion can be made. In the meantime, though, minor league provocateurs like the Rev. Richard Coekin, the priest involved in the case Bates is writing about, can get away with some bad behavior because Dr. Williams doesn't want to elevate a bit player in a sidshow to the starring role as new martyr for the Anglican right.

That, at least, is my hopeful take on the Archbishop.

ONE by ONE

[ENS] At its General Convention next week, the Episcopal Church will launch a new grassroots partnership with ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History. The new initiative, called ONE Episcopalian, seeks to rally Episcopalians -- ONE by ONE -- to the cause of ending extreme poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

"Strong advocacy from a wide array of Americans -- including people of faith
-- is needed so government leaders will commit the resources necessary to meet the Millennium Development Goals," said Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold. "The ONE Episcopalian campaign will provide an opportunity for all Episcopalians to unite their voices with the large and growing movement to end global poverty in our time."

The ONE Campaign is a movement of Americans of all beliefs and every walk of life, united as ONE to help make poverty history. ONE is a coalition of more than 70 of America's leading advocacy and humanitarian organizations and more than 2.3 million people, joining together to fight global AIDS and extreme poverty. The goal of ONE is to direct an additional ONE percent of the U.S. federal budget toward providing basic needs like health, education, food and clean water to transform the futures and hopes of an entire generation in the world's poorest countries.

The Episcopal Church -- which endorsed the MDGs at its 74th General Convention in 2003 -- has been a member of the ONE Campaign since its first year of existence. ONE Episcopalian builds on this energy by equipping dioceses, parishes, and individuals to be more effective advocates and join with people across America and the world in the fight against extreme poverty and global AIDS.

Look for more information during next week's General Convention. Bishops, deputies, and visitors at the Convention Center are invited to visit the Peace and Justice Ministries display area in the Episcopal Church Center's booth. Other Episcopalians can look for information next week from the Episcopal News Service, as well as additional information as the campaign progresses.

By speaking with ONE voice, in common language, Episcopalians have the opportunity to show the power of ONE!

Contacts:

Alex Baumgarten,
The Episcopal Church,
202-547-7300

Meighan Stone,
ONE Campaign,
202-468-0791

Elective reading

When it comes to engaging your propensity for intellectually enriching procrastination, there's no place quite like Arts and Letters Daily.

A few morsels from today's buffet:

the moral theology of Homer Simpson (not fresh, but well-done)

the aesthetics of athletic performance

and an examination of whether Gnosticism ever actually existed.

One Spirit, many gifts

Working the non-anxious presence beat, I came across this refreshingly calm perspective on the current divisions in the Anglican Communion from Marshall Scott, a hospital chaplain in Missouri.

He writes:

"We have always looked at Jesus in John, praying that “all may be one as You, Father, and I are one,” and held that to mean, ultimately, an institutional unity. But what if Jesus meant an organic unity? After all, Paul’s image is, again and again, of a body, with many members. Suppose that when Paul talked about “many members” he wasn’t talking about individuals, but about whole churches – congregations, or the city-churches that paralleled the city-states in which they functioned.

.... So what if Paul understood the members not simply as individuals with discernable vocations, but whole churches with discernable and different vocations? That body image also allows for a lot of diversity. You don’t want the skin on the back of your hand to weep moisture, but you don’t want the membranes in your mouth to be dry. The digestive acids in your stomach will, if forced out of place, painfully damage the tissues of your esophagus. The bacteria that are perfectly safe, and indeed necessary, there in your colon will cause life-threatening disease if let out into your viscera.

Perhaps that would suggest that denominationalism is not the scandal of the Church, but a provision – providential! - for reaching more of us unique, individual, and individualistic human beings."

This takes the edge off some of the dire warnings of schism that are becoming predictably more numerous in the run-up to General Convention.

Child Protective Blogging 3

The Washington Post found room on its front page today to inform us that some schools in the area give extra credit to children who don't take bathroom breaks.

Here's the lead:
Even though Daniel Thornton occasionally needed to go to the bathroom during his AP history course last year, he also needed a B on the midterm to maintain his grade. So he did what lots of students at Forest Park Senior High School in Woodbridge do in their Darwinian pursuit of academic success: Thornton endured a full bladder and instead hoarded his two restroom passes, which, unused, were worth six points of extra credit.

And here is perhaps the best quote I have read in a newspaper in a long time.

"What's the correlation between holding your urine and succeeding on a history test?"

I am not sure this was intended as a serious question, but by all means, have a go at answering it.

Reclaiming the Common Good

The liberal Center for American Progress has released a new report aimed at shifting the "values" debate onto turf more hospitable to Democratic candidates.

Among the key findings:

• 71% of voters strongly agree that “Americans are becoming too materialistic,” including 71% of Democrats, 70% of Independents, and 72% of Republicans (92% total agree).

• 68% of voters strongly agree that the “government should be committed to the common
good and put the public’s interest above the privileges of the few” (85% total agree).

• 73% of Democrats, 62% of Independents, and 67% of Republicans strongly agree with a common good focus for government. A similar percentage of voters (68%) strongly
agrees that “government should uphold the basic decency and dignity of all and take
greater steps to help the poor and disadvantaged in America” (89% total agree).

And:

In terms of the role that religious and moral teachings should play in public debate about key issues, American voters focus most on “poverty and hunger” (75% leading or major role); “homelessness” (61% leading or major role); “government corruption” (58% leading or major role); “terrorism” (56% leading or major role); “the environment” (54% leading or major role); and “health care” (52% leading or major role). In a lower tier of issues, 44% of voters believe that religious and moral values should play a leading role in public discussion of abortion and only 37% believe similarly about gay marriage.

The accompanying slideshow is here.

Changing the subject

I am in Day One of attempting to be what church people (and probably therapists) refer to as a NON-ANXIOUS PRESENCE.

(Do all those upper-case letters work against the impression I am trying to create?)

So, rather than link to various predictions about what will happen when our General Convention gets underway in Columbus next week, I thought I would mention that I agree pretty much entirely with Heather Havrilesky's downbeat assessment of The Sopranos, which wrapped up its most recent season last night.

Watch a brief ad, and then read it on Salon.

Happy Birthday, church

The Diocese of Washington wishes everyone an inspiring Pentecost.

A failure of empathy

Michael Kinsley's got an interesting column in the Post this morning about health care. Here is the part that caught my eye:

What is the most ridiculous thing about the American health care system? Is it that 45 million Americans don't have health insurance? That is the most embarrassing thing, but it's not beyond all rational explanation. It's a failure of empathy. We -- the majority of Americans who are lucky enough to be covered -- apparently don't care enough to do something about the minority who aren't.

Against Loving (v. Virginia)

President Bush is supporting a constitutional amendment against gay marriage. Today in his radio address he said decisions about the nature of marriage should be decided by voters and not by the courts.

This got me thinking about the case of Loving v. Virginia , decided in 1967, in which the U. S. Supreme Court struck down a Virginia law criminalizing interracial marriage, and with it the laws of 15 other states which still had such laws (Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.) So, following the President's logic, I guess we are going to need a massive do-over.

By coincidence, I happened to know a little bit about the origins of some of the laws that Loving overturned. Sixteen years ago, while working on a book at Michael Jordan, I was exploring the cultural impact of previous Africa-American sports stars. Jack Johnson was my starting point. His emergence as the first black heavyweight champion inspired can only be described as a crisis of white masculinity.

"The white man must be saved," wrote no less a live-r of the rugged life than author Jack London in 1909. This proclamation came as Johnson, who had defended his title five times, was preparing to meet the Great White Hope, Jim Jeffries. Johnson knocked Jeffries in the 15th round of their fight in Reno, and racially-motivated violence erupted around the country. Nine governors banned the fight film from their state. A Baltimore minister declared that Johnson's victory made it unsafe for white women to walk the streets. A popular comic book captured the sexual roots of this paranoia: "Black Ape Splitting the White Princess."

In this climate, in 1912, Rep. Seaborn Roddenberry of Georgia introduced a constitutional amendment banning interracial marriages. In supporting his amendment he said: "Intermarriage between whites and blacks is repulsive and averse to every sentiment of pure American spirit. It is abhorrent and repugnant. It is subversive to social peace. It is destructive of moral supremacy, and ultimately this slavery to black beasts will bring this nation to a fatal conflict."

The amendment failed. But influenced by Rodddenberry, ten states introduced similar laws in 1913. Eventually thirty states had laws banning interracial marriage.

Lest we see these as vestiges of a the distant past, here is a Virginia judge Leon Bazile defending his state’s miscegenation law in passing sentence on the Lovings in 1965: Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

In this example, we move from Roddenberry’s overt racism to Bazile’s bizarre appeal to natural theology. This is a common trajectory. The initial panic that inspires prejudice is too ugly a thing to live long in daylight. So it gets baptized, theologized. The case gets made from Scripture. (Read the latest book by the great evangelical historian Mark Noll to see how this happened in the case of slavery.) Eventually, you can support the policies inspired by the original prejudice while denying any desire beyond conforming your will to that of God.

We've seen this trick pulled so many times that you would think it would lose its effectiveness. But apparently not.

Entering the Octave

The Octave of Prayer for our 2006 General Convention begins tomorrow. Please join in. Resources are available here.

Father Alison, again

Longtime blog readers might recall that I am a fan of the Catholic theologian Father James Alison. Katie Sherrod of the Claiming the Blessing steering committee has just written a comprehnesive new essay about him.

He's also got an article in the most recent issue of The Tablet. (Thanks to Simon Sarmiento for noticing it.)

The Foreign Correspondent

It is a happy day in our house when Alan Furst publishes a new book. Not quite as happy as the days on which J. K. Rowling publishes a new book (and Jim Dale does the book on tape!) but happy nonetheless. Furst's writes intensely atmospheric, historical spy fiction set in Europe in the late 1930s and early 1940s. His latest is The Foreign Correspondent (reviewed here) about an expatriate Italian journalist running an antifacist newspaper that is written in Paris and then smuggled into Muzzolini's Italy. It appeared in our house about three days ago, and my wife has already finished.

You can read an interview with Furst, and read his Wikipedia entry.

Getting ready for GC2006

The June issue of Washington Window is online.

We've got a story on some recent forums on the Windsor Report, and some capsule profiles--culled from Episcopal Life--on the candidates for presiding bishop. We've also got some interesting comments from Bishop N. T. Wright, the well-known British Biblical scholar who was a member of the panel that wrote the Windsor Report.

Lastly, I am afixing beneath the "keep reading" button a sidebar on some of the non-Windsor related legislation that the Convention will consider.

Read more »

Paul Zahl can't help himself

Regular readers will be acquainted with Dean Paul (T-Bomb) Zahl, of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry near Pittsburgh, a leading figure on the Episcopal right.

Before the recent episcopal election in the Diocese of California, he liked the potential election of a gay candidate to the detonation of a "terrorist bomb" designed to stop a peace process. Then, in a column on his school's Web site, he likened his theological opposition with the Church to Brown shirts.

Now, he offers this analogy to the Associated Press in a story about reparations for slavery:

"We just find it hard this moment to take it seriously, when we ourselves feel like African-Americans did 50 years ago."

Those of us who disagree with the dean theologically can only hope that he keeps talking.

Doc Gooden, 20 years later

Twenty years ago I covered the New York Mets for the Daily News in New York. They won the World Series that year, and 21-year-old Dwight "Doc" Gooden was the toast of the town, as he had been the previous season when he became the youngest person ever to win the Cy Young Award, going 24-4 with an earned run average of 1.53, 268 strike outs, 16 complete games and eight shutouts.

Gooden is in jail in Florida now, and as this heartbreaking if overwrought story in The New York Post makes clear, he is haunted by regret.

"I kept looking back to the day I got drafted out of high school [in 1982] and remembering all the joy," Gooden said. "Now I'm in this little box where two people couldn't fit in there. You keep asking yourself, 'What went wrong? What went wrong?' "

For me, his story, even more than that of his friend and former teammates Darryl Strawberry, is the ultimate cautionary tale of what can happen when life seemingly blesses you with too much, too soon. Those of us who covered him thought of Gooden as baseball's Mozart, because he was so gifted, and had seemingly harnessed his gifts at such an early age. (He went 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA and 276 strikeouts at the age of 19.)

But he was a shy kid who once told me that the first time the Mets flew him to New York (just after the 1982 draft, I think) he was so frightened by the big city that he stayed in his room at a hotel near LaGuarida Airport and peered out the fish eye in his door for a good long time even before admitting the waiters who were bringing him his room service meals. No matter how fast he threw the ball, or how sharply his curve broke, or how much poise he showed on the mound, he wasn't ready to be the most famous athlete in the largest media market in the country. And like many people who find themselves traveling extensively at a young age, he wasn't ready for life on the road.

Gooden was on the cover of Time during the week that the season opened in April of 1986. But there were already signs that something was going wrong. He missed a spring training game because of a fender bender. Later, he and his girlfriend got into a spat with a clerk while returning a rental car. And though he was the starting pitcher in the All-Star game that season, he didn’t look like the same pitcher. The numbers were still very good—17-6, 2.84 ERA, 12 complete games—but sports editors around town began urging their reporters to find out what we could about Gooden’s personal life. I can remember sitting in various bars, known as players’ hangouts, wondering if he would come in, but he seldom did. If you hung around the Mets that season, you had a sense that maybe Strawberry’s ability to suck down gin and tonics deep enough to drown in might land him in trouble. But Gooden, despite the off-the-field dust-ups, always seemed as though he were more under control, and that he learned a lesson from that pair of highly publicized run-ins. (I can remember, after the rent-a-car thing, him saying that he felt like he needed to move all of his furniture into the clubhouse and just live there.)

As it turns out, Gooden didn’t begin using cocaine until after the ’86 season. Had that not happened, I think the conversation about his decline as a pitcher would have focused on whether he had pitched too many innings at too young an age—834 before his 22d birthday. Perhaps something could have been done about that.

As it was, he tested positive for cocaine before the 1987 season and entered rehab. I had moved to Washington by then, so I don’t know what he was like when he came back to the game. Despite everything he and early fame did to him, he still had a remarkable career, but a miserable life, and this most recent chapter just breaks your heart if you knew him when he was barely out of high school and had New York City at this feet.

Click if you'd like to read a piece I wrote for The Washington Post when he went into rehab.

Read more »

A thoughtful essay

Lionel Deimel of Progressive Episcopalians for Pittsburgh has written another thoughtful piece about the decisions facing our General Convention when it opens in Columbus in less than a week.

He writes:
"Our object, then, despite what the militant traditionalists say, must be to save Anglicanism not to save the Anglican Communion, which we cannot allow to become an object of idolatrous veneration. Recent history suggests that our response in typical Anglican rhetoric—the subtle, nuanced, ambiguous language that has allowed us to, as the traditionalists say, “fudge” so often in the past—will, in the current climate, be misinterpreted, ridiculed, and used to stage new attacks on our church. Perhaps the decision of General Convention will be that this is a chance we must take, but it is not our only option.

We should consider making a more principled, straightforward, and courageous response. We should consider the novel ideal of proclaiming the Gospel as we understand it and defending the approach to theology that most theologians in our church actually use. In simple, clear sentences we could express our sorrow for the hurt that others have experienced and express our sincere desire to remain in communion with all our sister provinces. We could remind others of Bishop Desmond Tutu’s explanation for how we have always maintained communion—“we meet”—and insist that removing the Episcopal Church or its representatives from Communion discussion is hardly characteristic of the Anglican way. Before the Communion creates more rules, we could insist that existing ones be observed. Before we cede authority to others, we could insist that those to whom we have ceded no author-ity refrain from intimidation. And we could declare that that name-calling, misrepresentation, and subversion are unbecoming a Christian and unacceptable in a bishop.

We could, in other words, insist that we have as much right to make claims on the Communion as it does on the Episcopal Church. Most importantly, however, we could declare our commitment to save Anglicanism at all costs and to save the Anglican Communion if at all possible."

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